Category: Marxism-Leninism Today (MLToday.com)
Insurrection in the Heartland

http://mltoday.com/article/2602-insurrection-in-the-heartland/90-frontpage-stories

By Zoltan Zigedy
Nov. 20, 2016The 2016 US Presidential elections produced a surprising result and a glaring contradiction. Donald Trump will guide the affairs of the most powerful country in the world. And that same person, a rapacious billionaire, enjoyed the votes of a substantial portion of the US working class.

In a rational society, the two thoughts — democratic ascension to power by a tyrannical, vulgar, unsparing capitalist bully and the consent, even support of a desperate working class — could not come together. But the US is not an idealized rational society.

The US, from the time of its founding by wealthy merchants and lawyers, is a state with institutional features meant to dampen or eviscerate any potential electoral movement that might challenge the rich and powerful. The “separation of powers” between three modes of governance, the balanced tension between states’ power and federal power, the bizarre “Electoral College,” and the evolved two-party system virtually assure a republic nearly immune to radical change or electoral insurgency.

Major democratic advances (the ending of slavery, women’s suffrage, desegregation, etc.) have been won on the battlefield and the streets and not in the voting booth. And the ownership of both of the two major parties by monopoly capital virtually guarantees that working people have a minor voice in affairs of the state.

The fate of this election hinged on US states that were battered by the flight of capital to cheap foreign labor markets and the resulting de-industrialization. The ease of capital movement, lower labor and other costs, and advances in logistics caught US workers in the scissors between job loss and radical cuts in pay and benefits. Add the effects of the 2007-2008 economic collapse, and the industrial core of the US working class was devastated.

Social scientists have well documented the dramatic rise in suicides, alcoholism, and drug abuse plaguing the working class over the last decade. What is unique about this moment is that white workers have also felt the brunt of capital’s abandonment of US manufacturing. In the past, the corporate policy of “last hired, first fired” and other racist barriers have insulated white workers from the harshest effects of policies and crises. Because minorities and women were on the workplace margins, they inordinately absorbed the shocks.

But today, white advantages have deteriorated in the face of twenty-first century corporate hyper-exploitation. With the threat of Communism (temporarily) abated, global capitalism doesn’t need to buy the white working class with privilege as often as it did in the past. Consequently, the economic pains of corporate pillage are felt by many white workers as well.

Predictably, white workers responded in different and contradictory ways. Many returned to old patterns of scapegoating, blaming African Americans, women, and immigrants for job losses and declining economic growth.

Still others blamed the elites of both parties and their policies for allowing, even encouraging the destruction of US manufacturing, the exiting of jobs, and the destruction of Midwestern communities.

Of course some embraced both responses.

Alienated white workers voted in large numbers twice for Obama– the Obama of “hope and change.” It was not racial tolerance that drove all of them to vote for Obama, but the desire for a break from the neglect of the Bush years.

We now know from the election data that many of the same predominantly white communities voted for Trump in 2016. Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, formerly industrial strongholds, all showed a 10-point or more turnaround in favor of Trump from 2012 to 2016. It was not all racial intolerance that drove so many white workers to vote for Trump, but the desire for change, in this instance, from the neglect of the Obama years. Exit polls show that voters wanted someone who “can bring needed change.”

This strange brew of legitimate anger, ignorant racism, and years of endless war and media-stoked xenophobia was exploited by Trump. With more voters opting out of what they see as inconsequential elections every year, the 2016 election was a contest fueled by anger, fear, and disappointment with the insipid choices offered by the bankrupt two-party system.

The failure of traditional institutions to address the pain and hardships endured by workers must be added to that volatile mix. Organized religion, organized labor, and, of course, the political party that workers identify with — the Democratic Party — have offered workers little beyond a cold shoulder.

After Shock

Worldwide, equity markets reminded us that the capitalist class owns both major US parties. Despite capital’s strong vocal and financial support for Hillary Clinton, stocks rebounded from a pre-election eight-day decline with record-breaking peaks in the US. Investors are confident that President Trump will not wander too far from the reservation; he will cater to the interests of capital first and foremost.

With the pollsters, pundits, and consultants in disarray, the day-after brought widespread paralysis followed by a right and left reaction. Racists and immigrant-bashers emerged from their crevices and loudly proclaimed a new day. To their surprise, lynch mobs did not form in a country that largely rejects crude, violent racism, but remains deaf to institutional patterns of oppression.

Anti-Trump rallies sprang up spontaneously on many campuses throughout the US. While they passionately rejected Trump’s ethnic and gender vulgarity, they have yet to advance many demands, or hints of a common program, though they have sought to force university administrations and a few cities to make campuses “sanctuaries” for diversity.

There will be many other opportunities in the months to come for a fight-back to take shape and for the left to offer leadership as the Trump agenda unfolds. To be sure, the Democratic Party operatives will work diligently to deflect this energy from core economic issues of inequality that anger the working class toward the social liberalism that occupies urban elites.

Missing from the analyses of most commentators is any recognition of the secular trend in US two-party politics towards dysfunctionality. Trump and Clinton are only the latest instantiation of this festering neglect of race and class, a neglect producing greater and greater social fissures with every electoral cycle.

It is only the left, essentially the Marxist-Leninist left that grasps the unique intersection of race and class arising at this moment. It offers the only analysis that explains the historical role of racism and xenophobia in solving capitalism’s problems through war and division and that can lead people through the minefield laid by the cynical Trump candidacy.

In the last instance, it is as the Greek Communists remind, commenting on the two-party system on the occasion of the Trump election: “The people will stop being trapped between ‘Scylla and Charybdis’ when they chart their own course, for rupture with and the overthrow of the system which creates poverty, crises, wars.…”

This article first appeared in the Morning Star (UK)

The Meaning of the 2016 US Presidential Election

The Meaning of the 2016 US Presidential Election

http://mltoday.com/article/2586-the-meaning-of-the-2016-us-presidential-election/90-frontpage-stories

By the Editors, Marxism-Leninism Today

November 15, 2016

To date, much of the liberal and left commentary has focused on President-elect Donald Trump, and the danger that his ascension to the White House portends.

While that is a matter of great and serious concern, it should not overshadow the meaning of the election — what the election says about the two-party system and the mood of the electorate. Without a class analysis, without an understanding of what the vote expresses and a diagnosis of the condition of the institutions of succession, future results will be even more disappointing.

The Election

Donald Trump won the US presidential election by winning enough popular votes in several key US states to enable him to accumulate the most votes in the Electoral College, the peculiar US institution devised as a bulwark against too much direct democracy. Trump did not garner the votes of most citizens, most “eligible” voters, or even most voters; that victory belonged to his opponent. Of course winning the Electoral College and not the popular vote is not an entirely uncommon outcome. Trump’s party — the Republican Party — kept its majority in both houses of Congress.

The general election leaves the Democratic Party in disarray, just as the primaries created disarray among the Republicans.

Trump represents right-wing populism, not fascism. Right-wing populism, a contradictory ideology, combines attacks on socially oppressed groups with distorted forms of anti-elitism based on scapegoating. Trump’s populism represented an amalgam of white racism, anti-immigrant xenophobia, isolationism, anti-intellectualism, American nationalism, nostalgia for a golden past (Make America Great Again!) and hostility to “establishment” elites.

He campaigned as a right-wing populist. Now a key question is: will he seek to govern as one?

Though the Trump movement has certainly attracted fascistic elements of the so-called “alt-right” (a phrase which refers to the Internet presence of far right ideologies, including white supremacism, Islamophobia, and anti-feminism) and could conceivably morph in a fascist direction, as of now it lacks, except in embryonic form, most of the classic elements associated with fascism: anti-democratic terrorism, attacks on unions and an independent judiciary, attacks on the rights of free press and free assembly, anti-Semitism, and anti-Communism.

And of course, unlike Germany in the early 1930s, as of now there is no existential political crisis in which the US ruling class feels threatened enough by revolution to turn away from normal bourgeois democratic methods of rule. The internal governance of the two monopoly parties is in disarray, not monopoly capital’s  grip on state power.

Right-wing populism has a long and essentially racist history—from the Know Nothing Party in the 19th century, to rightwing populists like Tom Watson at the turn of the 20th century to Huey Long in the 1930s and George Wallace in the 1960s. Make no mistake this is populism, but not the left-wing populism of Bernie Sanders but the right-wing populism of George Wallace. It is driven by the preposterous idea that government social programs benefit African-Americans and other minorities more than whites and the pernicious idea that minorities are criminals who refuse to work.

Trump’s victory was a surprise when measured by the historically reliable indicators of electoral success: money and media. Clinton had an uncommon advantage in fundraising and spending. With the Supreme Court decision, Citizens United, the door opened to largely unrestricted campaign contributions, a decision widely and correctly condemned by liberals and the left. Consequently, 57% of super PAC donations were made from 60 billionaires and millionaires.

It is important to note that nearly 85% of those super PAC contributions went to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, a fact that should have identified her clearly as the candidate of the rich and powerful. Similarly, the media showed a clear bias for Clinton. Nearly every major newspaper endorsed her. And Wikileaks revealed the widespread collusion between media figures and political operatives working in her favor. Like most of monopoly capital, most of the vast news and entertainment empires favored Hillary Clinton.

Among the big losers in the November 8 US federal elections were the commentators, the media, the electoral consultants, the pollsters, and the two major political parties. With Donald Trump winning the presidential election, the multi-billion dollar election-industry failed to produce the desired and expected results that most of the rich and powerful had financed. Trump won in spite of the decided, but not decisive advantages enjoyed by his opponent: enormous corporate campaign contributions, an aggressively pro-Clinton media, a polished Clinton campaign machine, the support of a reasonably popular incumbent President, and favorable party demographics.

The Democrats lost because they refused to address the issues that mattered most to the electorate. By nearly twice the number of the next most popular trait, voters sought a candidate who “can bring needed change”. Instead, Clinton offered experience and continuity.

Voter participation this year continued the historic decline that  had been briefly interrupted by the turn-out for Obama. This decline shows the long-term disillusionment with the two-party system. In 2016 voter participation for eligible voters was 57 percent. In 2012 it was 58.6 percent and 61.8 percent in 2008.

Moreover, this was the first presidential election since the 1965 without a Voting Rights Act (gutted by the US Supreme Court in 2013) . Consequently, countless number of African-Americans and other minorities were effectively disenfranchised by various devices designed to suppress their vote.

The two-party system is effective in channeling discontent away from true political independence. In spite of a great deal of dissatisfaction with the status quo, “the establishment,” and the economy, most of this discontent paid heed to Trump’s demagogic promises and scapegoating. Jill Stein and the Green Party, representing an extension of Bernie Sanders’s reformist program, received only one percent of the vote.

Nearly three-fourths (70%) of the electorate were “dissatisfied” or “angry” with how the government was working. Clinton was identified closely with the upper echelons of aloof federal government for over two decades. Indeed, no public figure was more closely associated with distant government than Hillary Clinton.

Voters (62%) thought the economy was “not so good” or “poor”. Clinton hailed the “recovery” after the 2007-8 collapse, citing misleading employment figures that masked the loss of good-paying jobs, benefits, and homes — the pain and insecurity of working people.

Thus, Trump’s victory was fueled by a great disillusionment with neo-liberalism (free trade, open borders and “regime change” wars abroad) felt by workers in rural areas, in the South, and in the Midwest’s former industrial and mining areas. These were the folks who experienced the loss of 50 percent of mining jobs and over 30 percent of industrial jobs in the past quarter century. These working people experienced the loss of 11 million jobs and 12 million homes while seeing the banks benefit from $1 trillion in government bailouts after the economic crash of 2008. What made Trump different from his rivals in the Republican primaries and from Hillary Clinton was his rejection of this neo-liberalism.

The Democratic Party failure is demonstrated clearly by the electoral returns. For example, a Democratic Party stronghold like Luzerne County in Eastern Pennsylvania accounted for 40% of the state’s margin for Trump. In 2012, President Obama won the county by a 5% margin; in 2016, the results swung, giving Trump a 20% margin. Luzerne County is a predominately white working class area. Hunger for change, dissatisfaction, anger, and economic distress were overwhelming factors in the swing.

Three key states — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan — voted Democratic from 1988 (1992, Pennsylvania) through Obama’s two terms ending in 2012. All exhibited a double digit or greater turnaround from Obama’s last Presidential run. All were de-industrialized regions neglected by successive administrations, regional and local governments.

Undoubtedly, racism, misogyny, and xenophobia — fear-driven nativism — were factors in these results. The Trump campaign tolerated, even encouraged open expressions of derision for vulnerable groups from the physically disabled to Muslims. Trump’s public language was the contemptuous private language of the country club and the board room. His policies exploit fear of the ‘other’. Emboldened by the electoral results, organized and outspoken racists have crawled out from their hiding places. They must resolutely be driven back.

Yet it would be a mistake not to see the economic distress, frustration, and anti-elitist anger as the central force in the Democratic Party defeat. Many key, if not most, predominantly white, working class areas that abandoned the Democrats in 2016 backed Obama in 2008 and 2012. And they backed Obama, not necessarily from racial identity, but from a thirst for change. They voted for Trump — a corrupted, wind bag businessman — for the same reason.

Ironically, the Democratic Party very likely would have better addressed the issues pressing upon these voters with the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s primary election opponent. But elites in the corporately owned Democratic Party covertly blocked an insurgent, modestly social democratic victory that might have paved the way to the Presidency. We know, thanks to leaked documents, that the Democratic National Committee worked tirelessly to undermine  Sanders’ candidacy. We already knew that the system was stacked structurally against insurgency with its undemocratic “at-large” delegate system. Sanders didn’t lose the nomination, it was stolen.

Trump

Trump shrewdly exploited voter dissatisfaction, pain, and anger. He made wild, often contradictory promises targeting constituencies ignored or demeaned by elites and the media. He stoked the ugly sentiments of xenophobia and racism, while taunting, to great effect, powerful and self-satisfied leaders of the Republican Party. Trump used his histrionics and outrageousness to draw free media attention and separate himself from the vapid conformity of mainstream politicians. His approach mimicked the equally demagogic buffoonery of the former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Politics as vulgar entertainment.

Conservatives, like everyone, are uncertain of what to expect from the renegade, Trump, a born-again politician with no policy track record. The divisions within the Republican Party are deep, so locating Donald Trump is critical for Republicans who hope to bridge the differences. One prominent conservative, National Review editor Reihan Salam, writing in The Wall Street Journal, depicts Trump in the “anti-elitist”, “pro-government” Republican tradition, a tradition that he identifies with Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon.

Salam makes note of the “hybrid” nature of all four candidates, how they pragmatically (or opportunistically) combine libertarian doctrine with some defense of New Deal policies. Regardless of how accurate that observation may be, all three Republican Presidents re-defined the Republican Party and re-aligned its support. Nixon and Reagan successfully won over disgruntled Democrats, as has Trump. Nixon exploited President Johnson’s unpopular war and racial fears and Reagan gained from Carter’s betrayal of the most progressive platform since the war as well as the economic stagnation of the late 1970s. Trump similarly exploited Democratic Party failings.

Increasingly, in the besieged two-party system, the mantra of “change” and the posture of “outsider” drives outcomes.

Monopoly capital, while voting with its cash for Hillary Clinton, has tried to quickly repair its relations with Donald Trump. Global equity markets were initially roiled with news of the Trump victory, but quickly settled and rebounded smartly in the aftermath. US stocks set new highs following the election. Trump, like Clinton, will ultimately serve the interests of the corporations. However uncertain they are about the details of his program, they are confident that Trump will be no class maverick.

Market reactions to the Trump victory suggest that investors see a shift from the eight years of monetary policies to fiscal stimulation (Trump promises one trillion dollars invested in infrastructure over 5 years). They see a retreat from global trade and a focus on domestic growth with accompanying inflation.

The Left and the Labor Movement

The 2016 election season brought forth an impressive left insurgency in the spring Democratic primary, centering around Bernie Sanders. Millions of voters — many of whom were quite young — worked passionately to re-direct the corporate-minded Democratic Party.

While, after Clinton’s nomination, many were shepherded back into the Democratic Party fold by the Party’s cry of impending doom, still others saw clearly the corruption and corporate-complicity of the Democratic leadership. They recognized the impossibility of securing real change through the vehicle of the Democratic Party. They give hope to the emergence of a truly independent movement, one that understands the need to replace capitalism with people’s power — socialism. This election could well mark an important step in that direction.

Nevertheless, social democrats and liberals are already busy trying to “rejuvenate” the Democratic Party, keeping masses of people from even considering the possibility of a breakaway from the two-party system.

Democratic Party operatives are working feverishly to channel the anti-Trump sentiment into nothing more than a fresh campaign of uncritical support for Democrats. Their liberal allies are attacking the Electoral College, even proposing secession in California, and urging Electoral College electors to cast their tradition-bound votes for Clinton — anything, but addressing the profound social justice failings that cost the election for the Democrats. They assiduously avoid any remedies to the inequalities, declining living standards, and indebtedness that plague working people. Instead, they rail against Trump’s personal failings and vulgarity, but make no demands on his administration.

As for US labor leaders, they are hoping that Trump will stick to his pledge to overthrow trade deals, build a virtual trade wall against corporate competition from abroad, and spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure construction projects. They demand little more, hoping that Trump will aid corporations that will, in turn, pass on some crumbs. They have learned little from the Democratic Party fiasco.

For the people, this election marks a further deterioration, a deepening crisis, of the US two-party system. The distance between the interests of the masses and the actions of elected public officials are, today, virtually unbridgeable. The working class loses again, as it would have if the Democratic Party candidate had won.

Nonetheless, there is an anger — often misdirected, but understandable — that can serve as a spark for a genuine challenge to the rich and powerful, a movement for socialism.

US Trotskyism: Behind the Socialist Masquerade

Friday, October 14, 2016

US Trotskyism: Behind the Socialist Masquerade

 https://communismgr.blogspot.com/2016/10/us-trotskyism-behind-socialist.html
Behind the Socialist Masquerade.
By Zoltan Zigedy / Source: Marxism-Leninism Today.
 
Ashley Smith recently wrote an essay (Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution) ostensibly about Syria and imperialism but more properly understood as a rekindling and re-statement of anti-Communist “leftism.”

Smith, an ideologue of the International Socialist Organization, unveils his true target when he inveighs against the “Stalinists”: “Stalinist groups like the Workers World Party, Party for Socialism and Liberation, and Freedom Road Socialist Organization…”
Not content with these examples, Smith, in McCarthy-like fashion, feels the necessity to name further names. He sees the UK’s Stop the War coalition as also duped by the Stalinists, along with the US United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC). Jill Stein of the Green Party and her Vice Presidential partner, Ajamu Baraka, are similarly infected with the “Stalinist” virus.
Laughably, he ominously links the recent bold, fact-finding mission to Syria organized by the US Peace Council to the “American Communist Party,” an association meant to conjure up the specter of Stalin; but it is an untenable association with a moribund CPUSA that has long distanced itself from “Stalinism” and the Soviet legacy with a fervor equal to the US Trotskyist groups.
Without re-visiting the old ideological wars (Trotsky has been dead for 76 years, Stalin for 63 years, and the Soviet Union for 25 years), it is nonetheless useful to point out a common characteristic shared by US Trotskyist organizations: they invariable live and breathe anti-Communism. Since the Cold War began, they traded on their distance from the “enemies” of Western Imperialism. The grip that these groups often had on middle class youth was predicated on the denial of Red connections.
For a university student, the McCarthyite stigma of Communism could be evaded by joining an anti-Communist organization that proclaimed that its anti-Communism was even more radical than Communism!US Trotskyism is part of the “Yes, but…” left. Yes, Communism, Stalinism, Maoism, Marxism-Leninism, etc. etc. are bad, but we’re not like that! Like you, we’re against them, too! We’re the unthreatening, friendly advocates for change…
In the Cold War period and after, this was a safe tactic to appear radical without poking the bear of repression. Of course it didn’t always fool those entrusted with thwarting even the most lame rejection of capitalism. Communists victimized by Cold War repression often joked that a US socialist was someone without the guts to be a Communist. The easy assimilation of much of the Trotskyist intellectual apparatus into the anti-Communist hierarchy and the subsequent entry of many into ruling circles certainly underscores the opportunism of this tactic.
Since the demise of the Soviet Union, US Trotskyism has been in crisis. With the departure of a foil of sheer evil, the appeal of anti-Communist radicalism has lost its punch. Apart from the intellectual Neanderthals serving Eastern European reaction (sponsored by the New York Review of Books, The Washington Post, and a few other inveterate anti-Communist organs), the epithet “Stalinist!” means little in current discourse.
Ashley Smith hopes to revive its relevance for the twenty-first century. He sets out to buttress Trotskyism as a thin and tortured alternative to the anti-imperialism of the “Stalinists.” As with his Cold War predecessors, Smith hopes to trade on distancing Trotskyism from the rivals or antagonists of US and European Imperialism. In the absence of a Soviet Union, capitalist Russia will suffice as the source of evil.
And Syria’s Assad will play the role of the bloodthirsty despot– a mini-Stalin– in this Trotskyist fantasy. Smith offers an unvarnished choice: “Which side are you on? Do you support the popular struggle against dictatorship and for democracy? Or are you with Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime, his imperial backer Russia, his regional ally Iran and Iran’s proxies like Hezbollah from Lebanon?”
It is breathtaking how simplistically, but presumptuously Smith characterizes the Syrian tragedy. It is equally astonishing to recognize how wrong he gets it. To be so blind to sources of information apart from Western reporters in Beirut, Amman, and Ankara, to rely principally upon a London-based, unfiltered, and non-independent anecdote collector like the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and to credit US and European sponsored “revolutionaries” implies an indifference to the pursuit of truth.
Whatever grievances Syrians may have had against Assad, it is hardly credible to hail an armed struggle that began literally weeks after the alleged peaceful demonstrations that Smith praises. No insurrection has ever proceeded so swiftly and effectively against security services and a modern army without outside assistance. We now know from revelations exposed by the US media’s fixation on the Benghazi fiasco that the CIA was vigorously engaged in shipping weaponry to Syria from stockpiles snatched from its Libyan venture. We know that regimes on the Arabian Peninsula were equally vigorous in supplying military equipment and recruiting volunteers.
Even US and Western European sources concede that the most numerous and most effective anti-Assad fighters are not democrats or reformists, but radical fundamentalists driven by religious fervor and feudal ideology, hardly the idealistic revolutionaries portrayed by Smith. In fact, US and European advisors complain of the difficulties of vetting anti-Assad forces sufficiently credible to receive advanced weapons. The few recipients of US supplied anti-tank missiles have displayed a troubling propensity to pass them on to the worst of the worse jihadist.
Smith shows an enormous conceit, from his secure perch, joining Western politicians in intuiting the sentiment of the Syrian people. Cavalierly dismissing the Syrian elections, he– along with the Western media– somehow divines that most Syrians hate Assad and that the opposition overflows with democratic, progressive sentiment. Where we have evidence of an independent vote– for example, the May, 2014 national election vote of Syrian refugees in Lebanon– the Washington Post’s rabid anti-Assad reporter, Liz Sly, conceded that uncoerced refugees supported Assad.
One has to notice that, unlike previous chapters of the so-called “Arab Spring,” there are no embedded Western reporters recording the march of democracy or the defeat of tyranny. Cannot CNN find any democrats in the Syrian opposition? Are there no freedom-loving fighters for NBC reporters to interview?Of course the Assad regime’s invitation to allow Western reporters goes cynically unaccepted. To find on-the-spot reporting from Syrian battle zones, one has to turn to Lizzie Phelan, an independent UK journalist whose frequent front line footage appears most often on RT (her recent 20-minute cab ride through Aleppo gives a decidedly different picture of the city from that rendered by Western media reporting a Syrian “Stalingrad” from afar).
Smith does not hesitate to embrace the Libyan debacle as a pro-democracy revolution as well. One would think that the disastrous destabilization of Libya would serve as a sobering tonic for Smith’s fantasies. As with Syria, the pro-democracy revolutionaries were largely a figment of the imagination of US and European politicians and journalists, a group that our erstwhile “socialist” seems happy to join. But that is not just my opinion or the opinion of other “Stalinists.” On Wednesday, September 14, the UK parliament’s cross-party Foreign Affairs Committee released a report on the UK’s 2011 intervention in Libya. According to The Wall Street Journal, the committee found that the engagement was “based on ‘serious erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding’… [and] failed to identify that the rebels included a significant Islamist element and that the [Gadhafi] threat to civilians was overstated.” (my italics) It is striking that the UK government can shed its illusions, but Ashley Smith clings to his.
It is no accident that Ashley Smith’s long essay makes only a passing mention of workers or class. Like most US Trotskyist organizations, ISO draws support significantly from the petty-bourgeoisie. Thus, the question of workers and their fate never arises in his argument. There is no notice taken of the Syrian General Federation of Trade Unions, a supporter of Assad, an opponent of class collaboration, a leader in Arab trade unionism, and a pillar of the class struggle trade unionism of the World Federation of Trade Unions. There is no attention to either the opinions of workers or the effect of a violent insurrection upon the working class. These issues are of little count for one who calls for all to “collaborate with Syrian revolutionaries” who exist only in the minds of political romantics.
Rather than concern himself with the fate of Syria’s working class, Smith prefers to repeat the US and European media’s obsession with civilian-targeted barrel bombs and poison gasses, claims that have defied objective verification. But he exceeds Western fear-mongering by attributing the entire UN estimate of 400,000 deaths in the war to “Assad’s massacre.” Recently, a delegation organized by the US Peace Council visited Syria and met with a number of Syrians, their organizations, and even oppositionists. They left the US with the notion that Syrians should decide the fate of Syria. They returned with the same notion, but even more strongly felt.
But, in addition, they returned with the view that events in Syria are far more complicated than the simplistic picture presented by the US State Department. They returned with the idea that peace in Syria would not be secured through the intervention of foreign powers or by supporting media-manufactured fantasies. Unfortunately, many on the left like Ashley Smith and some in the more conservative peace groups do not want to hear the Peace Council report, preferring to embrace the self-serving constructions of the regime-changers.
On the Upcoming Centennial of 1917: CP Portugal

On the Upcoming Centennial of 1917: CP Portugal

http://mltoday.com/article/2550-on-the-upcoming-centennial-of-1917-cp-portugal/91
Portuguese Communist Party (PCP): Centennial of the October Revolution – Socialism, necessary today and for the future

September 18, 2016.

The year 2017 marks the centennial of the October 1917 Socialist Revolution.

The October Revolution is the major event in the historical process of emancipation of the exploited, the oppressed, the workers and the peoples, a process which has been marked by important revolutionary events from the days of primitive society, through slavery, feudalism and capitalism.

After thousands of years of societies in which the socio-economic systems have been based on the exploitation of man by man, the October Revolution began a new epoch in the History of Humankind, the epoch of the transition from capitalism to socialism. It was the first revolution that, through far-reaching democratic transformations in the political, economic, social and cultural spheres, and by ensuring social progress and justice, and corresponding to the yearnings of the workers and the peoples, undertook the edification of a society without exploiters, nor exploited people.

1
In our times, after the course of the Twentieth Century and 100 years after the October Revolution, when the capitalist system, with its exploitative, oppressive, aggressive and predatory nature and the tragic consequences which it entails, is afflicted by its worsening structural crisis, it has become even more evident that capitalism is responsible for the growing problems and dangers confronting Humankind. The reality of the world today proves the importance and scope of the October Revolution’s goals, and affirms socialism as a requirement of today and for the future.

2
To commemorate the centennial of the October Revolution means to assert it as the most advanced achievement in the milennia-long process of the liberation of Humankind from all forms of exploitation and oppression.

To commemorate this centennial is to expose the nature of capitalism, with its dramatic social scourges and the threats which it poses for the life of the peoples and even for Humankind’s survival. It is to highlight the relevance and the validity of socialism, to reaffirm the need and the possibility of a revolutionary overcoming of capitalism, by socialism and communism.

To commemorate this centennial is to value the role of the working class, of workers and peoples, in the transformation of society. It is to underscore the strength that results from their unity, organization and struggle. It is to reaffirm that the success of the resistance against the current offensive by big capital and imperialism, and the achievement of their social and national emancipation, lies in their own hands.

To commemorate the October Revolution is to pay tribute to those who made it and to assert socialism’s great political, economic, social, cultural, scientific, technological and civilizational achievements in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and its immense contribution to the advancement of the emancipation struggle of the workers and the peoples.

To commemorate this centennial means to make good use of the teachings of the, previously unheard of, processes of building socialism in the Soviet Union and in other countries, of the successes and defeats, of the advances and retreats, of all the long struggle that preceded them, as important experiences that enrich and inspire the ongoing struggle for socialism and communism.

To commemorate the October Revolution is to, on the basis of Marxism-Leninism, take the initiative and oppose the ideological offensive against socialism and communism, stressing the roots and the role of anti-communism and anti-Sovietism, as tools of capital in the class struggle.

The October Revolution and the subsequent historical experience of building socialism should not be marked as historically dated, fixated events from the past, but rather as the source of important teachings, and an example of transformations and achievements which are reflected and are updated in the revolutionary praxis of today, and which project into the future.

To commemorate the October Revolution is to assert that the future does not belong to capitalism, it belongs to socialism and communism.

3
On November 7th, 1917 (October the 25th according to the old Russian calendar), the Russian proletariat, with the Bolshevik Party’s vanguard role, guided by a revolutionary theory, with the notable contribution of Lenin, took its future into its own hands. It rose to power and launched, in a victorious revolution, the foundations of a new society, in a country that had been ravaged by imperialist war (World War I), and with a people that suffered exploitation, repression, hunger and illiteracy.

The revolution embodied the yearnings of the millennia-long struggle of the exploited and the oppressed, from the slave revolts of Antiquity, to the peasant revolts of the Middle Ages, the French Revolution of 1789 – which was part and parcel of the defeat of feudalism and the advent of capitalism – to the working-class insurrections of the 19th Century.

The October Revolution had, as historical harbingers, from which it drew important lessons, the 1871 Paris Commune – the first, albeit short-lived, historical experience of the conquest and exercise of power by the proletariat, clearly superior also in terms of political democracy; the 1905 Russian Revolution – the first great popular revolution with an organized role of the working class and working people; and the February 1917 Revolution, which marked the end of Czarist power, already with a tested working class and a Party that was organizationally and ideologically prepared to assume the leadership of the struggle of the working and popular masses in taking power.

The October Revolution undertook the task of putting an end to all forms of social and national exploitation and oppression, and significantly adopted, as its first measures, the decrees on peace and on the abolition of latifundio property of the land.

The October Revolution was an inspiring revolutionary undertaking which, resisting and overcoming complex situations and difficulties – boycotts, sabotage, intervention by imperialist powers, civil war, economic blockade, treason – and, in an irregular and bumpy process, transformed into reality the aspirations and dreams of the workers, the exploited, the oppressed, those who were discriminated against, paving the way for the construction of a society hitherto unknown to Humankind.

The Socialist Revolution transformed the old and backward Russia of the Czars into a highly developed country, capable of containing, as it did for decades, imperialism’s goal of world-wide domination.

The USSR, in a historically short time span, achieved significant industrial and agricultural development, eradicated illiteracy and generalized access to education and sports , did away with unemployment, ensured public healthcare and social protection, guaranteed and promoted the rights of women, children, young people and the elderly, expanded the impact of vanguard artistic movements and of the forms of cultural creation and fruition, achieved high scientific and technological standards, putting into practice forms of democratic participation of the workers and the masses of the people, undertook to solve the complex issue of oppressed nationalities, raised the values of friendship, of solidarity, of peace and cooperation between the peoples.

The Soviet Union was the first country in the world to put into practice, or develop like no other, fundamental social rights, such as the right to work, the 8-hour maximum working day, paid holidays, the equality of rights of men and women in the family, in society and at work, maternity rights and protection, the right to a home, free medical care, a universal and free social security and free education. The Soviet Union scored pioneering achievements for Humankind, such as putting the first artificial satellite into Space – Sputnik – and the first man in Space – cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

The Soviet Union, the Soviet people under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, achieved successes and conquests of major international impact, that stimulated the struggle of the workers and the peoples of the whole world.
Under the impact of the victory of the October Revolution, numerous Communist Parties were created all over the world, the international Communist movement arose, the workers’ movement and its ideals became stronger, the ideals of Marxism-Leninism propagated among the masses – as happened in Portugal, where on March 6, 1921, the Portuguese Communist Party was founded.

The USSR, the Soviet people, the Red Army, gave a decisive contribution towards the victory over Nazi-fascism in World War II, in a heroic struggle that cost over twenty million lives.

After the victory over Nazi-fascism, and due to its example and enormous prestige, to the strength of the ideals of socialism which it projected, and to its solidarity and activity in international affairs, the USSR gave major support to the peoples who chose, and fought for, the edification of socialist societies, to the struggle for and achievement, by millions of workers, of rights and freedoms in capitalist countries and to the dynamic of struggle of the national liberation movement, the downfall of colonialism and the achievement of independence for numerous peoples and nations that had, for centuries, been subjected to colonial yoke.

The Soviet Union stood in solidarity with the Portuguese Communists and people in their struggle against the fascist dictatorship in Portugal, and with the April [1974] Revolution – an achievement of the Portuguese people, an assertion of freedom, social emancipation and national independence.

The USSR and the socialist system were an often decisive factor for achievements and advances that were, for the first time ever, won by the workers and peoples in their world-wide struggle for emancipation.

4
The disappearance of the USSR and the defeats of socialism in eastern Europe, the causes of which were analyzed by the 13th, 14th and 18th PCP Congresses, had an undeniable and profound negative impact on the world balance of forces, on the consciousness of the masses and on the development of the struggle for socialism. An enormous regression occurred, in the political, economic, social and cultural conditions of the peoples of those countries and for other peoples of the world.

The world’s evolution following the defeats of socialism thus highlighted, even further, the importance of socialism’s historical achievements and the civilizational advances associated with it, and underscored the superiority of the new social system in solving the problems and in materializing the aspirations of the peoples.

The nature of capitalism did not change, and the need for its revolutionary overcoming persists. The Twentieth Century was not that of the “demise of Communism”, but the Century in which Communism was born as a new and superior society.

5
The current world situation reveals the exploitative, aggressive and predatory nature of capitalism.
Submerged in its structural crisis, capitalism has nothing more to offer the peoples than further accumulation, centralization and concentration of wealth, heightened exploitation, more social inequality and injustice, attacks against social and labour rights, the denial of democratic rights and freedoms, the plunder and destruction of resources, interferences and aggressions against national sovereignty, militarism and war which are being taken to all corners of the world in its imperialist stage.

Millions of workers are driven to unemployment, precariousness, the most violent forms of exploitation. Millions of human beings are deprived of their fundamental rights, and left to poverty, hunger, undernourishment and subjected to child labour, slave labour and all kinds of trafficking. Millions of human beings are the victims of imperialist aggressions and are fleeing war and destruction. Entire peoples are doomed to underdevelopment, dependence, national oppression.

Capitalism, by its own nature, cannot overcome its irreconcilable contradictions – namely between capital and labour, between the social character of production and its private appropriation – and embarks on an inexorable concentration of capital, with productive disorder. Hungry for the appropriation and concentration of capital, capitalism not only does not give answers to the problems of Humankind as, with the capitalist appropriation and instrumentalization of the immense potential opened up by labour, by scientific and technological progress and development, it increases social injustice, contradictions and inequality.

Capitalism is a system that permanently clashes with the needs, the interests and the aspirations of workers and peoples.
More than ever, socialism emerges with redoubled relevance as a requirement of the process of emancipation of the workers and the peoples.

6
The PCP raises as a goal for the Portuguese people the building of a socialist society, based on the reality and experience of the Portuguese Revolution, and critically assimilating the world revolutionary experience.

In proposing its Programme «An Advanced Democracy – The values of April in the future of Portugal», the PCP considers that the materialization of this project – an economic, social, political and cultural democracy – is a process of profound transformation and development of Portuguese society. However, as the Programme states, «the liquidation of capitalist exploitation is a historical task that can only be achieved with the socialist revolution».

The PCP reiterates the need to cover with determination all the necessary phases and stages that are necessary to achieve that supreme goal. Today’s battles to protect, restore and win rights, for a break with right-wing policies and to achieve a patriotic and left-wing policy, are part and parcel of the struggle for an advanced democracy, in the same way that the latter is part and parcel of the struggle for socialism.

In its Programme, the PCP «states as fundamental goals of the socialist revolution in Portugal the abolition of exploitation of man by man, the creation of a society without antagonistic classes, inspired by humanist values, democracy understood as complementary in its economic, social, political and cultural aspects, the permanent and creative participation of the masses of the people in all aspects of national life, the constant raising of the material and spiritual well-being of the workers and the people in general, doing away with discriminations, inequality, social scourges and injustice, materializing the equality of rights for men and women in life and ensuring the participation of young people in the country’s life, as a dynamic and creative social force».

And it adds that «in the framework of the essential goals, the socialist system in Portugal will inevitably assume specificities and originalities that will result, not just from the country’s objective reality, but also from the concrete forms that the class struggle will take on until then, as well the economic, social, cultural and political evolution and the reality of the international affairs».

Faithful to its ideals of liberation, we celebrate the centennial of the October Revolution, whose values grew profound roots and are a demand for today, which project into the future as goals, experiences and aspirations for the future of Portugal and of Humankind.

7
The Central Committee of the Portuguese Communist Party decides that the commemorations of the Centennial of the October Revolution will take place under the slogan «Centennial of the October Revolution – Socialism, necessary today and for the future». The programme of these commemorations will be revealed in a Public Session to be held on November 7 of the current year.

The programme of commemorations will take place throughout 2017, with a high point in the Meeting of November 7 – Centennial day – and will end on December 9, with an event with a strong cultural component.

The programme of the commemorations, which will begin in January, with an event coinciding with the anniversary of the liberation by the Red Army of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, will mark important historical events with significant relation to the October Revolution, and will encompass initiatives and activities that will express multiple facets, events, dimensions and aspects of the October Revolution and of the process of building socalism, and will expose the nature of capitalism and its disastrous and ruinous repercussions for Humankind, asserting socialism as a necessary thing, today and for the future.

Among other initiatives, we highlight: the holding of a series of debates and other topical activities, namely a Seminar on «Socialism – necessary today and for the future»; an important expression in the 2017 Avante! Festival, namely with a major exhibition; an initiative on May 9 (Victory Day) on the issues of Peace; a specific treatment in the pages of Avante!, O Militante, and on the Internet, with the creation of a dedicated site; the publication of information materials, namely an exhibition in print for wide circulation, leaflets and posters; on an editorial level, the re-edition of works on the October Revolution and the construction of socialism, namely by Lenin and Álvaro Cunhal, promoting their study, as well as specific editions for the centennial; the promotion of initiatives and activities specifically geared toward young people; the promotion of cultural (cinema, theater, music, literature, visual arts, etc.) and scientific initiatives.

The programme of the commemorations, in its scale, scope and contents, must express the importance and the political and ideological significance of this event for the struggle of the workers and the peoples in defence of their rights and sovereignty, confronting imperialism’s offensive and for progressive and revolutionary transformations, for socialism.

So that the commemorations may take on the necessary scale and repercussion, their programme must be prepared as of now, with guidelines and initiatives integrated within the Party’s overall activity.

The Central Committee calls on all those who stand for peace, justice and social progress, and who fight for a society of freedom and plenty – in which the State and policies are entirely at the service of the well-being and the happiness of human beings – to join in these commemorations.

***
Achieved through different paths and stages, Socialism is becoming with increasing clarity, the goal of the peoples, a prospect and pre-requisite for a future of full human liberation and fulfillment.

The PCP reaffirms that «over a shorter or longer historical period, through the struggle for the social and national emancipation of workers and peoples, it is the replacement of capitalism by socialism which, in the 21st century, continues to be the real possibility and the most solid prospect for the evolution of Humankind».

The PCP reaffirms its unshakable commitment to fight so that socialism may become a reality in the future of the Portuguese people.

Via In Defense of Communism

Wall Street Hates Trump, too

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Wall Street Hates Trump, too

http://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/
http://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/2016/09/wall-street-hates-trump-too.html
What does it mean when The Wall Street Journal, the popular mouthpiece for the right wing of the US ruling class, joins The New York Times (its left-wing counterpart) in vicious attacks on the Republican Presidential nominee?
WSJ staff writer Andy Pasztor’s Trump story was featured on the Friday, September 2 edition front page and continued by occupying the entire page facing the paper’s opinion section. Provocatively headlined Donald Trump and the Mob, the article sought to tie Trump, the developer, to Mafia linked contractors, with a sidebar recounting Trump’s employment of the sleazy, corrupt lawyer, Roy Cohn.
It is hardly unusual for developers associated with both parties to engage questionable contractors, a category of employment notorious for insider connections, corrupt deals, and, yes, unsavory characters. Thus, the WSJ piece stands out because it highlights behavior that usually gets a pass by the paper, especially for Republicans. The thin charges, largely based solely on association, stand out for their failure to make Trump seem any different from innumerable businessmen/politicians who slither through election cycles with barely a whisper from the mainstream media.
As for the employment of the late Roy Cohn– a truly despicable creature– it never bothered the conscience of the WSJ when he worked for Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, or a host of equally heralded right-wing politicians. So, why the outrage now with Trump?
Is there any doubt that when The Wall Street Journal coalesces with The New York Times and The Washington Post to demonize a candidate, the resulting united front speaks to more than a mere coincidence of opinion? Does even the most jaded observer think that unanimity among representatives of all factions of US elites– the most powerful forces in US affairs– does not signal a wholesale rejection of Trump? A repudiation of any charge that he currently represents ruling class interests?
Supporters of Hillary Clinton’s campaign refuse to address this fact. They refuse to acknowledge that she, rather than Trump, enjoys the broad and deep support of nearly the entire class composed of the most rich and powerful. They refuse to confront the meaning of a campaign that paradoxically aligns the mouthpieces and moneybags of US elites solidly behind the Democratic Party candidate. Marxists would call it a “contradiction” and search for its meanings. “Left-wing” apologists for the Clinton candidacy simply ignore it.
The peculiar choices offered voters are lost in the clamor of personal attack, the clash of shallow issues, and the orgy of fund-raising. Barring any new, dramatic, and sleazy revelations, debate stumbles, or blunders, Hillary Clinton will likely win the election in November. After the celebration of Trump’s defeat, liberals and organized labor will wake up to the reality that they have not moved their agenda one step. At best, they will avoid losing what they believe Trump threatens. That may satisfy many. But for those hoping to change the US for the better, this awakening should be sobering. Apart from permanent war, growing inequality, deteriorating living standards, intensifying racism, what will this election bring the next generation? What can reformers build upon?
Even more alarming, this election stands as the low point of an unrelenting process, a process of both a diminishing of the differences between the two parties and a continual rightward drift of the political center. Since late in the Carter administration, the Democratic Party leadership has sought to occupy the political space only minimally to the left of the Republicans. Recognizing this, corporate Republicans have steered their agenda rightward, seeing an opportunity to dismantle any and all remnants of the New Deal and the War on Poverty. If this election cycle does deviate in any way from this trend, it is in the promise to continue the process primarily through the agenda of Clinton rather than the vague and shifting positions of Trump. That is, of course, the basis for ruling class support for Clinton.
We have witnessed this process take us through a cast of worsening, ever more outrageous characters: a petty Cold-War demagogue, a self-righteous moralist, a theatrical con artist, a dishonest backslapper, a crusading alcoholic, and the two integrity and candor challenged candidates belched up in this election cycle.
Those who will celebrate the Clinton victory (like those who were ecstatic over Obama’s victory) will bear responsibility for the continued course of this process, the process of the corruption and trivialization of two-party politics.
The electoral fear-mongering grows thin, as the lesser-of-two-evils stance enables more and more evil. Scapegoating those who are trying to find a way out of the two-party trap remains the sport of those too cynical or lazy to look at options, too complacent to recognize the futility of trying to drag a corporate-owned Democratic Party toward popular change. Decades of self-righteous prattle warning of ultra-right dangers has not slowed the rightward drift of US politics one iota, whether Democrats win or not.
Surely if Marxists have anything to contribute to understanding bourgeois politics, it is to pull the curtain back and expose how it functions. What we see is not a pretty sight.
Zoltan Zigedy
zoltanzigedy@gmail.com
Colombian Communists Speak Out on Peace Agreement

Colombian Communists Speak Out on Peace Agreement

Aug. 24, 2016
http://mltoday.com/article/2518-colombian-communists-speak-out-on-peace-agreement/91
 

By W. T. Whitney Jr.

 

For a half century both the Colombian Communist Party (PCC) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) have held up as their goal peace with social justice. And until the 1980s the two Marxist – oriented organizations did so together; many FARC-EP members, and especially leaders, belonged to the PCC.

They shared strategic understandings, particularly the “thesis of combination of all forms of mass struggle,” which the PCC introduced at its 10th Congress in 1964, the year the FARC-EP was formed. (1) The idea was that armed struggle, the province of the FARC-EP, would accompany regular political agitation for rights, for change. That thesis fell by the wayside when, following the PCC Congress in 1980, “the way of a political solution” steadily took precedence over armed struggle. And relations between the two groups cooled.

Now the armed struggle of the FARC-EP is finished, courtesy of the agreement the insurgency signed August 24 with the Colombian government. Does the PCC deserve applause because its approach prevailed?  Marxist theorists of an earlier age cast armed struggle as the last-resort mode for defending the revolution.  Is the FARC-EP showing weak resolve as it gives up on armed struggle?

Commentary from Marxist – oriented participants in these struggles may add to our understanding of the historic agreement and of developments on the way.   Their opinions, which may shed light on our questions, appear below in the participants’ own words, which surely carry an authenticity lacking in any summary devised by a distant observer.

Cause for Celebration

On August 25, the PCC’s Executive Committee took notice. Its communication reads in part: “The conclusion of agreements reached at the negotiating table in Havana is the most transcendental happening in the life of the country. Joy is legitimate; it’s the triumph of the way of a political solution, of constructive dialogue, and of the view that the signing definitively nails down the end of military confrontation between the government and the FARC-EP.

“ … The Colombian Communist Party sends congratulations for this achievement gained after four years of arduous and complicated talks culminating in a happy ending. The beginning of the most difficult part comes now, specifically the coming together of the people and a commitment by all to a Colombian society mobilized to monitor implementation of what was agreed to and carefully to assure that anticipated outcomes are realized.

“The first and most important task will be carrying out the plebiscite of October 2 and mobilizing patriotic citizens for backing the agreements that were achieved with a “Yes” vote. They open up horizons of democratic changes, of social reforms, and provide a stimulus to a future people’s intervention toward deciding a new direction for the country, and doing so through a primary constituent [assembly].” (2)

Class conflict and the balance of forces.

Carlos Lozano, director of the Communist Party’s Voz newspaper, wrote an article August 12 entitled “FARC: ‘Without an amnesty, there’s no signing of a final agreement.’” Excerpts appearing below illustrate Lozano’s key ideas on the matter: one, that the insurgency and government reached agreement as equal partners and, two, class conflict will inform struggles in the post-agreement period. The full Spanish – language version of Lozano’s article is accessible athttp://prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?article1996. He writes that:

“In the press conference after the signing of the protocols on August 5, Commander Carlos Antonio Lozada in straight-forward fashion stated that, ‘Without amnesty there’s no final agreement, and there’s no transfer of the guerrillas to the zones [where arms will be given up.’ The cock doesn’t crow any clearer, says the popular refrain. It’s obvious that agreements without amnesty and without a roadmap make no sense. There wouldn’t be any guide for their implementation. The national government must fulfill every commitment made at the table in Havana, as dictated by the bilateral nature of the agreements. There must be no delays or vacillations and certainly no concessions to the enemies of peace that President Santos and government spokespersons often want to slip in.

“It doesn’t generate confidence, for example, to minimize social investments in the national budget for 2017. They are indispensable for carrying out what was agreed upon in regard to agrarian development and other social gains. The same is true with adoption of the Army’s Damascus Doctrine, a plan for war in the “post-conflict” era. Continued non-fulfillment of the agreements with the Agrarian Summit (3) and with labor organizations has a similar effect … It seems that following the peace agreement, in the new democratic conditions, contradictions between capital and labor will accentuate and will stimulate popular mobilizations.   It’s the dynamic of class struggle in social and popular confrontation with neo—liberalism and exploitation by capital.

“… The road of a negotiated political solution – this is proven – is the only possible one in the face of the failed military way.  The government is mistaken when it thinks that the guerrillas are sitting at the negotiating table under conditions of defeat. The discussion takes place among equals; it’s conditioned by a rigid concept of bi-laterality.”

Jaime Caycedo serves as the Colombian Communist Party’s secretary general. His observations in response to preliminary agreements reached by the peace negotiators on June 23 and to the Constitutional Court’s authorization of a plebiscite for endorsing the final agreement appeared August 2 in the party’s Voz newspaper and its web site. After briefly noting these milestones, he presented an analysis which, translated, appears in full below. It’s accessible in Spanish at:https://www.semanariovoz.com/2016/08/25/razones-del-si-en-el-plebiscito-desde-la-lucha-popular/  According to Caycedo:

“Each point agreed upon implies a complex chain of measures taken to implement it, both politically and in the courts. And most of the time, institutions dominated by counter-insurgent power will be doing the implementing.

“As part of the campaign “Yes, Peace is Yours” (La Paz Sí es Contigo), we are defending a vision differing from the “Yes” campaign promoted by the government and so-called National Unity. The main challenge of the plebiscite is that for the first time the people will be intervening with their vote on the decision to move from war to peace. In the crude debate among factions within the bourgeoisie, agreement on a Yes vote involves much more than supporting the President so he might give a clue as to some commitments. Basically, it’s a manifestation both of the defeat of the military solution for counterinsurgency and of consolidation of the way of dialogue, of the political solution, and of agreements for overcoming the social and political armed confrontation, so traumatic and prolonged. Despite limitations, it’s a civilizing advance for the country. The challenge for the left and for advanced forces is to agitate for Yes while making demands for the people along with raising the flags of an authentic democratic opening and pressing social reforms.

“The government discounts the seriously negative effects of mistreating citizens’ demands and protests against unpopular measures. They include: the ZIDRES law (4), privatization of Isagén, (5) removal of public entities like ETB and GTI away from majority ownership by Bogota’s city government 6), the police code, reinforcement of ESMAD and its heinous criminal role (7), and the announced tax and pension reforms which will aggravate the situation of the middle class. Under that logic of class dynamics, the government and the Capital District (Bogota) are linked.   However, one must not underestimate their estrangement, thanks to which dialogue may open up.

“The slogan of No at the head of Uribe’s ultra-right formations is in fact a utopian proposal for ‘renegotiating the accords’ in order to send ex-combatants to prison and prohibit their participation in political life. What they could not achieve on the battlefield they want to accomplish now through electoral play-acting aimed at blocking the course of the process. The uncertainty they provoke may lead to abstention from the polls.  Their opposition to “pedagogy for peace” in favor of the Yes vote is grotesque, sneaky, and irrational.

“But some sectors campaigning on the left are offering a radically-mistaken short term analysis; they end up providing a favor to people specialized in torpedoing the political solution and dialogue. Their campaign is distracting and deceitful.  The moderate and extreme right understands what is happening but marks their red lines on different points. Distracted forces on the left don’t understand the sense of the historical moment, nor do they calibrate the possibility that they may close the accords off from future use in struggles by the people.”

The role of armed struggle: revolution or reform

The FARC-EP, having long proclaimed Marxism as its north star, is now after 52 years giving up on armed struggle as its route to revolutionary change.   In a recent article, quite long, Gabriel Angel, a FARC combatant and writer on political themes, deals with the accusation, real or imagined, that the insurgency has given up also on revolution and will be content with agitating for reforms within the context of regular politics.  Angel’s article, dated July 5, 2016, appears in Spanish on one FARC-EP web site and in English on another.  Here we present excerpts of his analysis, titled “Pathways for revolution and socialism are still being explored.” Parts of the English translation have been re-done for clarity.

Angel evokes a hypothetical criticism from the “radical left.” He envisions a charge from that quarter alleging that the FARC-EP, “champions of armed insurgency and violent revolution, have now become reformists, traitors and simple social democrats.” He continues:

“According to the accusers, the world is divided into two clearly distinguishable camps, imperialism and its lackeys on the one hand, and on the other, peoples in struggle to bring about the revolution and socialism. If these last haven’t been able to triumph, it’s basically because they’ve not applied the correct line drawn by Marxism-Leninism.

“… The line is clear, the revolution is a violent clash promoted by a peasant-worker vanguard that takes away power from the capitalist class through armed insurrection, which in turn results from a maturing of objective and subjective conditions. … The latter are the heritage of the most loyal followers of Marxism and are revealed in the works of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Vladimir Lenin. They yield a set of immutable principles that should be applied without any variation. Capitalism is a decadent system that is about to collapse and therefore its fall depends solely on the audacity and coherence of the vanguard party. … [That’s why] the FARC-EP must send the Peace Talks and the signed agreements to hell, and instead call for the general uprising of the population.

“… With all the respect that these critics may deserve, we have to say that they are deeply mistaken. Revolution, like any other human activity linked to a dispute over state power, is first and foremost a political situation. And politics consists of gaining the support of others towards a political purpose. A victorious politician is the one who has an overwhelming number of followers.

“Therefore, a revolution will only be victorious when the great masses don’t just figure in the mind of spinners of dreams but appear in the reality of struggle.  … As long as the evil bourgeoisie can rely on the acquiescence of majorities who, for whatever reason, prefer to take refuge in the shade rather than fight, then no matter how loud rebels shout or how noisy their guns are, it will be impossible to gain victory.

“Moreover, only a fanatic could deny that they rely on an enormous military and repressive apparatus, hold the reins of formal education, and are owners of the mass media dedicated to shaping people’s opinions. And they control scientific and technological knowledge, and by virtue of all this, they can impose a cultural hegemony that traps and shapes awareness.

“We think we’ve moved beyond old debates on Marxist dogma. For all of us, Marxism is clearly a valuable source of economic and social knowledge. We regard its invaluable dialectic heritage as a guide rather than a series of commandments. Abraham Lincoln liked to repeat that a compass shows us where north is and the direction we want to take, but it doesn’t show us the chasms, deserts, or the mud of the road.

“… In politics, it never will be enough to think that we alone are right and, more to the point, rely on that idea to drive us forward. Massive support from others will always be needed and that doesn’t happen through spontaneous generation, and not easily under the unequal conditions affecting the people’s movement as it confronts ruling – class power. To gain massive support requires conditions that allow us to reach out to people, talk with them, create class consciousness, organize and mobilize.

“…We still continue to live in a capitalist world as was the case in 1917, but it is wrong to consider that the situations of a century later must be examined with the same criteria that Lenin applied to his time and place. The system has developed much more, today’s world is more complex, the ruling classes have acquired their own counter-revolutionary experiences and even the proletariat is qualitatively different.

“… We live in the historical period that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and socialism in Eastern Europe, which opened the door to the globalization of capital and its neoliberal policies. We live in a moment of absolute arrogance of imperialism. Its capacity for plunder and its amply-demonstrated ability to subjugate people cannot be ignored. We are obliged to recognize the disorderly retreat of the revolutionary movement we are part of, but such an interpretation, we add, ought not to be understood as a recognition that it’s defeated … Fortunately, all over the world there still are people and organizations who haven’t abandon hope and are committed to upholding the validity of revolutionary causes and socialism

“… We regard ourselves as part of this wave that needs to be strengthened on order to advance. Coinciding with the revolutionary chaos that followed the fall of the Soviet Union, the Eighth National Conference of the FARC-EP launched its proposal for national reconciliation and reconstruction, which presented a more elaborate version of our old approach to find a political solution to the conflict, within the framework of democratic and anti-neoliberal proposals … We, revolutionaries, had to survive and it was essential to find a discourse that would find a response from the masses.

“People … in the capitalist countries experienced … the end of social welfare model, the closure of one factory after another and their transfer to the Far East, the tide of layoffs, privatization of basic services formerly owned by the state, precarious working conditions, bankruptcies due to liberalization and foreign competition, social decline, and overwhelming insecurity.

“These dire consequences of the neoliberal model played out in Colombia, where agents of the underground drug economy quickly seized the State, and initiated, in partnership with major sectors of the traditional parties, a violent onslaught against those who opposed their plans. The State itself became their ally in fighting the insurgency, providing legal and social status to paramilitarism.[We see] multinational financial investment in infrastructure, mega-mining, and agriculture for export … Millions of peasants were stripped from their land.

“A revolutionary organization as experienced and responsible as the FARC-EP understood what the moment required: debate over the validity of the revolution and socialism gave way to proposals dealing with this tragic reality. Responding to the deepest longings of the people, we arrived at an interpretation calling for the people to be prepared for struggle for the most profound transformations.

“ … But at a time when all voices of the establishment and significant leftist groups were trying to convince us of the need to demobilize, the FARC-EP took on intense military confrontation; we fought without hesitation against the state and its paramilitaries. We shed our blood and many valuable combatants gave their lives.

“….Indeed, it has been our armed resistance that gained for us the space of the peace process in Havana. It joined the outcry of millions of Colombians for peace and for the end of neoliberal policies threatening the very existence of the human species. In Havana we waged a political battle of historic dimensions to assert our idea of ​​peace with social justice and democracy. The agreements signed so far show that.

“Since the beginning of the government of Belisario Betancur (mid 1980s), the FARC-EP has worked tirelessly to achieve a political solution to the internal armed conflict in order to democratize national life, defeat state terrorism, and direct our country towards a destination other than one imposed by savage capitalism. The proof of our make-up as consistent revolutionaries lies in our 34 years of intense military and political confrontation.

“To achieve a politicalsolution requires an ample dose of political realism, specifically of Marxism applied to Colombian conditions today….The FARC-EP will transform into a legal political movement, preserving our cohesion and historical unity with the purpose of broadly working with the masses of exploited people in Colombia, for the fulfilment and extension of all that was agreed to in the negotiations. … And, we have not abandoned, nor will we abandon, our ideological and political convictions for revolution and socialism.

“We think it’s impossible, what with the objective correlation of forces, to continue our armed struggle within new conditions of legality and guarantees [created through the peace process] … The giving-up of arms represents the culmination of everything achieved through their use and through the strength of the masses.

“ … Today’s revolutionaries are still exploring pathways for revolution and socialism. History does not stop; class struggle beats within stronger than ever. They say David really did defeat Goliath with a simple slingshot. We remember this story merely as a religious myth but do suggest they each had their own mass support. We remember too that it takes the right kind of mass movement to achieve victory.

Translations by the author

Notes:

  1. “Gilberto Viera – Pensamiento, Obra, y Vida,” Ediciones Izquierda Viva,  Bogotá, 2005, p.64

  2. A primary constituent assembly aspires to establish a new state and new political system; it’s different from a derived constituent assembly which reforms an existing constitution.

  3. The Agrarian Summit, formed in the wake of an agrarian and indigenous strike in 2013, convened first in March 2014, and since has advocated for rural populations.

  4. ZIDRES is the acronym for Zones of Interest for Rural, Economic and Social Development for which legislation was introduced in 2015 aimed at economic and social development of remote, little-used land, but which, according to critics, interferes with small farmers’ access to land and thus with the agreement on agrarian rights fashioned by the peace negotiators.

  5. In January, 2016, the Colombian state sold its majority share in the Isagén energy corporation to a Canadian company

  6. ETB is Bogota’s publically – owned telecommunications company which the mayor wants to privatize.  GTI signifies Grupo Técnico Interinstitucional.

  7. ESMAD is the acronym in Spanish for Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron, which functions as Colombia’s national police riot control unit.

Obama Has Bombed Seven Nations. Clinton Claims He Has Not Been Militaristic Enough

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Obama Has Bombed Seven Nations. Clinton Claims He Has Not Been Militaristic Enough

Obama Has Bombed Seven Nations. Clinton Claims He Has Not Been Militaristic Enough
Via Democracy Now!

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and one of the founding editors of The Intercept,  Glenn Greenwald looks at the foreign policies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

“You have President Obama, who himself has been very militaristic—he has bombed seven predominantly Muslim countries in the last seven years—and yet Secretary Clinton’s critique of his foreign policy is, in every case, that he’s not aggressive enough, he’s not militaristic enough,” Greenwald said. “And in Syria, in particular, they seem to really be itching to involve the U.S. a lot more directly and a lot more aggressively in that conflict.”

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re continuing our conversation with Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, one of the founding editors of The Intercept. InPart 1, we discussed the U.S. elections, also the impeachment trial of the suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Today we’re going to Part 2 of the conversation.

Glenn Greenwald recently wrote an article, “Hillary Clinton’s Likely Pentagon Chief Already Advocating for More Bombing and Intervention.” We spoke to him at his home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and I asked Glenn to talk about the article and just who Michèle Flournoy is.

GLENN GREENWALD: She, by all accounts, is the clear front-runner to be the Pentagon chief under Hillary Clinton. She was probably the second-place finisher the last time that President Obama chose a Defense Department chief, when he chose Ash Carter. She’s sort of this prototypical Pentagon technocrat, who has been integrated into bipartisan military policy for a long time, so very much along the lines of how Hillary Clinton views foreign policy and military policy.

And one of the most notable parts of Clinton’s approach to foreign policy that has gotten relatively little attention is that one of the few areas where she has been openly critical of President Obama has been by complaining that he’s been insufficiently militaristic or belligerent or aggressive in a number of areas, in particular, in Syria, where she criticized him in her book and then also in various interviews for not doing enough in Syria to stop the Syrian dictator, Assad, from brutalizing the Syrian people. She has advocated—Secretary Clinton has—a no-fly zone, which could lead to military confrontation with Russia, who’s flying over Syria. And then Michèle Flournoy, in an interview, made clear that she not only believes in a no-fly zone, but also more active boots on the ground in Syria, American boots on the ground.

And given that the Russians are already there, that there is ISISthere, that there are al-Qaeda elements, that there’s still a civil war ongoing, it would be extremely dangerous to involve the U.S. further in military involvement in Syria. And yet, you have President Obama, who himself has been very militaristic—he has bombed seven predominantly Muslim countries in the last seven years—and yet Secretary Clinton’s critique of his foreign policy is, in every case, that he’s not aggressive enough, he’s not militaristic enough. And in Syria, in particular, they seem to really be itching to involve the U.S. a lot more directly and a lot more aggressively in that conflict.

AMY GOODMAN: And how do you think Donald Trump’s foreign policy would be carried out?

GLENN GREENWALD: It’s always difficult to say what Donald Trump’s policy would be, because he has very few cogent ideas that remain constant from one day to the next. But if there’s any ideological strain that’s identifiable in Trump’s statements, not just over the campaign but over the year—the years, it does seem to be that he comes from this kind of more nativist, isolationist strain of American politics represented by Pat Buchanan, previously by Charles Lindbergh, this American-first ideology that says that the U.S. should never involve itself in military conflicts to nation-build or to help people or to prevent oppression; it should only do so when there’s a direct threat to the United States that needs to be engaged.

And so, Trump’s attitude has very much been along those lines in Syria, which is to say, “Let the Russians continue to bomb ISIS. Let the Russians continue to bomb Assad’s enemies,” many of whom, in Trump’s view, are al-Qaeda elements. “There’s no reason for the United States to engage in any of that. And the only thing the U.S. should be doing in Syria,” he says, “is directly attacking ISIS,” where he wants even greater bombing than Obama has already ordered.

And so, in one sense, he’s calling for more limited involvement in Syria by limiting the United States’ military action only to ISIS and letting the Russians handle everything else, but on the other hand, he’s calling for massive bombing, the use of torture, other forms of war crimes in killing, targeting suspect—terror suspects’ family members, in order to fight ISIS. And so, it’s very difficult to say whether it’s more militaristic or less. It’s probably some combination of both, to the extent that it can be predicted at all.