Adapted from a presentation to the Chicago Convention of the International Marxist-Humanist Organization, July 13, 2018.
Today’s Nuclear World, Capital, and the State
In January, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved their famous “Doomsday Clock” on the danger of nuclear holocaust to “two minutes to midnight–the closest the Clock has ever been to Doomsday, and as close as it was in 1953, at the height of the Cold War.” This resulted, they wrote, primarily from Trump’s threats of “fire and fury” against North Korea and his vow to upend the Iran nuclear pact, and also from North Korea’s continuing weapons tests and “Russia’s deployment of a new ground-launched cruise missile” (“It is 2 minutes to midnight: 2018 Doomsday Clock Statement,” Jan. 25, 2018). Even after tensions eased with North Korea, the administration continued plans for an estimated $2 trillion buildup of US nuclear weapons. While some of this began under Obama, according to arms control expert Lawrence Wittner, Trump’s escalation includes plans for “low-yield” nukes that the military could use under a new “nuclear posture” that “lowers the official threshold for use of U.S. nuclear weapons,” allowing the military to “employ them in response to non-nuclear attacks upon civilians and infrastructure, including cyberattacks” (“Trump’s Getting Us Ready to Fight a Nuclear War,” History News Network 6/18/18). Related to this is a massive buildup of US naval forces in what the Pentagon is suddenly calling the “Indo-Pacific,” and which is clearly aimed China as a rising power (see “Tomgram: Michael Klare, Is a War with China on the Horizon? TomDispatch 6/19/18)
This brought to mind the sixtieth anniversary of Raya Dunayevskaya’s Marxism and Freedom, first published in 1958 during the most fraught days of the Cold War, when threats of nuclear annihilation filled the discourse and Marxism had to be reconceptualized for our time as Marxist-Humanism. One of the book’s greatest achievements was its development of the theory of totalitarian state-capitalism for the nuclear age, in terms of the Hegelian absolute, of life “in an age of absolutes, on the threshold of absolute freedom out of the struggle against absolute tyranny” (p. 24). Nothing signified the absolute development of the contradictions of capitalism more than nuclear weapons, which threatened, then as now, to wipe humanity off the face of the earth at the same time that new, humanist liberation movements were developing everywhere, from civil rights, to African liberation, to the peace movement itself.
Just as the Great Recession a decade ago bared the danger of outright systemic collapse after decades of complacency about the underlying stability of the capitalist system, Trump’s wild nuclear threats last fall laid bare the fact that we are still in the nuclear age, wherein a single leader can order mass destruction far beyond anything even Hitler carried out.
Since those wild threats of last year, Trump has held his photo op with Kim Jong-un, but who besides his apologists believes that peace is at hand on the Korean peninsula and in the region? At the same time, the Trump administration continues to move closer toward war with Iran, continues to support Saudi Arabia’s murderous war on Yemen, while accelerating its war at home against immigrants by forcibly separating thousands of children from their parents in a policy reminiscent of slavery or the Nazi concentration camps.
The latest news from southern Syria is that Assad Regime forces, backed by heavy Russian aerial bombardment, Iranian artillery strikes, and allied paramilitary infantry, have fully retaken the revolutionary city of Der’aa near the southwestern border with Jordan. This is the very “birthplace” of the Syrian Revolution, as it was in this city in March 2011 that 15-year old Mouawiya Syasneh and his comrades, expressing their youthful sympathies for the ongoing Arab Revolts—which by that time had toppled Zine al-Abidine bin Ali and Hosni Mubarak—wrote graffiti on a wall in southern Der’aa, proclaiming in Arabic, “Your turn, Doctor,” “Freedom” (حرية), and “The People Want the Fall of the Regime” (الشعب يريد السقوط النظام).
The indignation felt at the regime’s callous threat to disappear fifteen teenage boys accused of collectively authoring such seditious messages was the spark for the Syrian Revolution against Bashar al-Assad and the Ba’ath Party. As of mid-June 2018, Syasneh was still alive and fighting the Regime, following his taking up of arms, presumably with the Free Syria Army’s (FSA) Southern Front, in 2013. At that time, he declared that his “opinion of the revolution ha[d]n’t changed. For us, the revolution continues,” whereas his comrade Samer Syasneh recalled that, “In the beginning, I was proud of being the reason for the revolution against oppression. But with all the killing, the displacement and the homelessness over the years, sometimes I feel guilty.”
There is no lack of evidence of destruction in Syria. Since March 2011, armed conflict in Syria has caused 3 million homes to be razed, with the Regime accused of responsibility for 90 percent of this destruction. More than half a million Syrians have been killed, including 200,000 civilians, and the Assad-Putin-Iran axis has been found responsible for more than 90 percent of these civilian deaths. More than half the country’s population, or about 12 million people, have been displaced either internally or across international borders—though in the face of a resurgent chauvinism both in Europe and the United States, as in countries neighboring Syria, increasingly more refugees are being forced to return, in violation of international law, despite the immense risks. The fate of Der’aa, bombed into submission by Russia, Iran, and the Regime and thus violently reintegrated into the Ba’athist State, resembles that of Darayya, Eastern Aleppo, and Eastern Ghouta, other rebel-held territories that have fallen in the recent months and years, after having been subjected to devastating scorched-earth tactics.
An estimated 350,000 Syrians fled the Regime’s offensive against the Der’aa governorate which began on June 12, being so forced to enter the desert and request asylum from neighboring Jordan and Israel, both of which cruelly maintained their borders closed, notwithstanding the plea by the United Nations’ special envoy for Syria that 750,000 lives were at risk. Several displaced children have been reported as dying already due to thirst, scorpion bites, and exposure, and the Regime has repeatedly bombed field hospitals for the displaced. At least two hundred civilians died in Regime and axis attacks on the city. Many of those displaced lacked rudimentary shelter against the desert heat and winds, with little to no food. Meanwhile, the Jordanian government shamelessly has refused entry to these would-be refugees, and even clarified that it would provide material aid to these “enemies of the State” only insofar as Assad would permit this. Indeed, in a telling manifestation of capitalism’s basis in accumulation by dispossession, both Jordan and the Syrian Regime have celebrated Assad’s capture of the Nasib-Jaber border crossing from FSA control, anticipating a reactivation of exploitation and extraction within the free-trade zone that had existed there until the Revolution. Nevertheless, the Jordanian people have mobilized in a spirit of mutual aid to support those fleeing Assad and Putin’s war machine.
As in Aleppo and Ghouta, rebels in eastern Der’aa ultimately surrendered on July 6, negotiating a relinquishing of their heavy weapons to the Russians in exchange for their forcible transfer to the Idlib province, the last region of Syria controlled by the opposition (which does not include Turkish occupation forces or Kurdish militias). Even so, the Regime violated these terms and refused exit to certain rebel groups from Der’aa three days later, leading to fears for the safety of hundreds of journalists in the city. The one concession gained by the rebels, that Der’aa be occupied by Russian military police rather than Assad Regime forces, does not appear reassuring with regard to the fate of those displaced by the fighting, even assuming it is observed in good faith.
As of July 11, most of those asylum seekers on the Jordanian border had returned to Der’aa, whether their homes were still there or not. As Saeed, one of the displaced, put it, “I came back because we were left with two options: either to die of dehydration on the Jordanian border, or to admit that we have lost this war and accept life under a government which Dera’a sparked an uprising against.”
In surveying this outcome, the crushing of the Syrian Revolution, we see that the Trump Regime, like the Obama administration before it, has sought to appease Assad rather than confront him, as is reflected in its cutting-off of the White Helmets and its inaction in light of the offensive against previously US-supported rebel groups in Der’aa. As during its symbolic limited strikes against Assad Regime targets in April 2018 following the Douma gas massacre, the Pentagon reiterated to the FSA that it should not expect further military support amidst the assault on Der’aa. Clearly, this standing-aside was coordinated with Putin, whom Trump will be surreptitiously meeting for a summit in Helsinki today—the indictment of 12 alleged Russian intelligence officers for hacking into the Clinton campaign’s servers on Friday notwithstanding. In this, Trump is joined by Israel, which paradoxically enough considers Putin and Assad almost as allies. All four of these regimes share a common hostile view toward Sunni Muslim Arab masses: Trump, Putin, and Netanyahu as part of their overall white supremacism, and Assad due to the brutally sectarian strategy he employs to survive, and which he is currently advancing to reshape Syrian “demographics” in favor of the Alawi and Shi’a minority he represents, as well as the Sunni bourgeoisie and Iranian and Russian State interests—being an approach that is not dissimilar from white supremacy. The ethno-religious hierarchies upheld by these regimes are on full display due to their militarism.
As an aid worker in Der’aa observed, it is as though “the entire world is fighting against the revolution, and therefore it cannot continue.”
On June 3 in New York, the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice was represented at the walkout at the Left Forum after Green Party leader and Assad apologist Ajamu Baraka began to speak at a plenary session. Protesters carried signs denouncing Baraka, the murderous Assad, and all forms of imperialism, including both US and Russian. A couple dozen of us walked out silently from the front rows with our signs in order not to antagonize the audience of about 100, many of whom may not have been fully aware of Baraka’s support for Assad. This worked reasonably well, in that we experienced little overt antagonism from the audience as we walked out, with a number nodding in approval or giving us the thumbs up. Outside on the streets, we rallied briefly, chanting Syria revolution and anti-Assad slogans. This was preceded by three panels — sponsored by the Anti-War Committees in Solidarity with the Struggles for Self-Determination (AWC) — on Syria and the Left, where US and Syrian activists discussed their experiences engaging with the left and the antiwar movement over Syria.
Members and friends of the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ) rallied outside an ICE detention center in Downtown LA on June 9. Our slogans included, “No ICE,” “Melt ICE,” “Deportation Is a Crime Against Humanity,” and “US Hypocrisy – Bomb Syria But Don’t Admit Refugees.” We singled out in particular the recent ICE murders of Roxana Hernández and Claudia Patricia González. Our posters and flyers received very positive responses from motorists, with lots of horn toots, thumbs up, and raised fists.
(Courtesy Encyclopedia Britannica and It’s Going Down)
Monthly Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ) Demonstration Saturday morning, June 9, 10:00am-12:00pm
Support Immigrants and Refugees Everywhere!
Immigrant Rights Is a Women’s Issue!
Immigrant Rights Is a Labor Issue!
US Hypocrisy: Bomb Assad but Don’t Admit Refugees!
Smash racism! Smash white supremacy and capitalism!
Against War and Imperialism Everywhere!
MEET 10 AM at Junipero Serra Park next to Union Station, downtown LA
Rally then march over to nearby ICE headquarters
Conveners of CPRSJ:
Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation-Los Angeles
Colectiva Contra Autoridad
International Marxist-Humanist Organization, West Coast Chapter
Socialist Party, Los Angeles Local
Members of Solidarity: A Socialist, Feminist, Anti-Racist Organization, Los Angeles Bran
Co-Sponsors of this demonstration (list in formation):
On Saturday morning, May 12, members and friends of CPRSJ demonstrated outside the Federal Building in Westwood, LA, and then marched over to the Israeli Consulate. We did so two days before the Gaza protests were to reach their culmination, four days after Trump’s abrogation of the Iran nuclear agreement, a few weeks after Trump’s missile attack on Syria, and amid ongoing wars in Yemen, Syria, and vs. immigrants inside the US.
Our slogans included the following:
No War! No Trump!
Stop Trump’s War Threats over Iran!
Protest US attacks on Syria!
Stop Israeli Murder of Peaceful Demonstrators!
Stop the Wars on the Syrian people!
Stop Saudi-US War on Yemen!
US Hypocrisy: Bomb Assad but Don’t Admit Refugees
Support Immigrants and Refugees Everywhere!
Although we had not requested a permit, the LAPD showed up and seemed to know a lot about us and our event, all the while videotaping us too via bodycam during an ostensibly amiable conversation.
This is first of our monthly Saturday morning demonstrations, with topics varying according to events. Keep in touch for news about our next one with a focus on ICE, which is scheduled for Junipero Serra Park, Union Station, 10am, June 9.
Date: Sunday, 5/27/18, 1-3pm
Location: The Public School, 951 Chung King Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90012
In the face of the ongoing counter-revolutionary offensive in the Middle East, as reflected in the estimated 100,000-200,000 political prisoners in Syria and the 6,300 Palestinian political prisoners held in Israel, the Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists, along with various socialist and labor activist organizations and individuals, have initiated a new campaign in solidarity with Middle Eastern political prisoners.
The aim of this campaign is four-fold:
1. To shine a spotlight on the political prisoners who are labor, social justice, feminist, anti-racist and human rights activists opposed to war, imperialism, occupation, authoritarianism, religious fundamentalism and extremism.
2. To oppose all the global and regional imperialist powers in the Middle East: The U.S., Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey and Iran.
3. To demand that both state actors and non-state actors responsible for perpetrating war crimes in the Middle East be put on trial.
4. To show that demanding the immediate release of political prisoners in the Middle East is a crucial part of fighting the rise of authoritarianism and racism at home.
The following speakers will present on the methods and goals of this Campaign in Solidarity with Middle Eastern Political Prisoners:
Frieda Afary, Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists, on Iranian prisoners
Omar Abbas, Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists, on Syrian prisoners
Celine Qussiny, Palestinian Youth Movement, on Palestinian prisoners
You can find the promotional brochure for the Campaign here.