Response to Struggle-La Lucha’s John Parker

Free Saraqib by Bill Bragg

On Friday, December 21, we held an emergency demonstration outside the Turkish consulate in Los Angeles to protest against the Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar’s threats to commit war crimes against the Kurds, Assyrians, and Arabs within the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) during an invasion of Syria east of the Euphrates that has been announced by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The prospect of this new Turkish offensive has been been facilitated by Donald Trump’s sudden order on Wednesday, December 19, to withdraw all U.S. special forces from Syria within 100 days. As a result, SDF spokesperson Kino Gabriel has warned that “More than four million are exposed to the danger of massive displacement, escaping from possible genocide.” Meanwhile, while Erdoğan has reportedly postponed the offensive to coordinate with U.S. withdrawal, his military still has been making preparations for the invasion.

Shortly after our action ended, John Parker, a writer for the new Struggle-La Lucha online periodical who was not present at the action, wrote this about our demonstration over the Action LA listserv:

“This is actually reactionary and encourages the U.S. war against Syria. Iran and Syria are primary targets of U.S. imperialism.”

Please allow us to respond publicly to this problematic framing of our demonstration.

We invite Parker, our comrades, and our readers to review the content of our coverage of the Syria withdrawal, with particular emphasis on the slogans from our action, which can be found here. Readers will find that these are not remotely reactionary, but rather internationalist and based in humanism. They follow our choice to support Syrian workers and peasants of all ethnicities in their struggles against Bashar al-Assad’s bourgeois-terror regime and his authoritarian backers, Russia and Iran.

As to Parker’s assumptions that Assad is a primary target of U.S. imperialism, and that there is a “U.S. war against Syria,” we would direct comrades to Saturday’s news:

“United States special representative for Syria James Jeffrey confirmed that the Trump administration is not seeking to oust dictator Bashar al-Assad….”

Solidarity with Popular Struggles in Iran

Regarding the charge that we serve U.S. imperialist interests vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran: we deny this accusation as well. We have covered the popular uprisings in Iran from late 2017 to early 2018 in multiple fora; held multiple actions against U.S. war threats against Iran; cosponsored one public event critical of both Trump’s militarism and the regime, as well as a panel in solidarity with Middle Eastern—including Iranian—political prisoners; and just recently signed onto an open letter published on Oakland Socialist that criticizes CodePink’s planned visit to Iran for appearing too uncritical of the regime’s propaganda.

We wish to emphasize here that, although we are highly critical of the Islamic Republic and openly proclaim our solidarity with Iranian workers, women, prisoners, and ethnic, religious, and gender/sexual minorities—this does not mean we favor imperialist war-mongering against Iran, whether this comes from the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia, or other reactionary Gulf kingdoms.

Against Campism

That Parker so quickly concludes that our open criticism of Erdoğan, Assad, Putin, Trump, and the Iranian State translates to “imperialism” clearly reveals his own adherence to campism, an approach to international relations that neo-Stalinists have propagated notoriously, supposedly from the “left,” such that the globe is divided up into rival military blocs, or “camps.” Since these campist-Stalinists effectively accept the Islamic Republic’s analysis of the U.S. as “the Great Satan,” they also tend to uncritically support reactionary and even fascist leaders and regimes out of a belief that they are supporting “anti-imperialist struggles.”

Indeed, a cursory review of Struggle-La Lucha’s “Imperialism and Global Politics” section illuminates this campist tendency well.

In a new article on Saudi Arabia’s genocidal war on Yemen, John Parker himself movingly describes the devastation of Yemen, condemning U.S. participation in this ongoing atrocity. Whereas he rightly denounces the U.S. military’s use of white phosphorus (WP) during the siege of Fallujah in 2004, and the U.S. sale to Saudi Arabia of WP for apparent use in Yemen, Parker does not appear to be opposed to the use of chemical weapons as such. He implicitly denies Assad’s numerous well-documented chemical-weapons attacks by referring conspiratorially to the “U.S. war against Syria,” and pointing out that only the U.S. and Saudi Arabia’s use of WP “on civilians violates international law.” Our view is different: of course, any employment of WP on civilians violates international law, but so does Assad’s use of sarin and chlorine.

In parallel, the editors of Struggle-La Lucha have published an article declaring that “Trump, not China, is Our Enemy”: as though one could not oppose both Donald Trump and Xi Jinping! It is very telling that this op/ed, which openly defends the Chinese Communist Party’s rule, has not a word about the Chinese government’s mass-incarceration in concentration camps of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang province. Neither does it contain a critical word about Xi’s recent naming himself what many are calling “dictator for life.”

Lastly, a news-analysis piece on the Russian navy’s imprisonment of dozens of Ukrainian soldiers from late November openly defends the Russian State’s impressment of these sailors in the waters adjoining Occupied Crimea. The author, Greg Butterfield, claims that the Russians acted in “self-defense.” Yet how can anyone legitimately claim that defense regarding military operations in occupied territory?

Butterfield recognizes that Putin’s government is “capitalist” and based on “reactionary policies at home” (emphasis added), but rationalizes occupation and war crimes in Ukraine and Syria as being supposed necessities of survival. Going further, he reassures “[w]orking-class people in the U.S.” that they “have nothing to gain from supporting war fever against Russia and its allies.” What war fever does he mean? He refers to a hypothetical future war while denying the atrocities of the very real and ongoing wars that Putin perpetuates. Butterfield goes so far as to assert that U.S. workers should instead support the “anti-fascist [sic], anti-imperialist [sic] resistance waged by the Donbass republics,” which are led by pro-Russian separatists who have received heavy military support from Putin since 2014, in a move considered in Kyiv (Kiev) to have been a second Russian invasion in the past four years—the first being Crimea, that is.

The experience of “Novorossiya” in East Ukraine has attracted hard-line Communists, anti-Semites and conspiracy theorists, would-be White-Guardist reenactors, “Great Russian” nationalists, international far-rightists, and ultra-fascist followers of Aleksandr Dugin to the defense of Russian State interests. What does this say about campist neo-Stalinists?

Conclusion

All of these points from Struggle-La Lucha’s writers on Syria, Iran, Yemen, China, Russia, and Ukraine are consistent. They show how neo-Stalinists are simply more interested in propaganda than collective human liberation. Tellingly, the periodical’s ‘About’ section claims that it “is dedicated to all working and poor people.” But this simply cannot be true, as its editors and contributors actively support Xi Jinping, Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, the Donbass separatists, and the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran. These are all the enemies of the people.

To reiterate, that does not mean that the U.S. and its allies aren’t enemies of the people. Of course they are!

Our view is that campism and neo-Stalinism are highly negative facets of the so-called “anti-war” movement in the U.S. We encourage our readers to build organizations that engage with questions of international solidarity from the perspectives of humanism, internationalism, equality, and support of the right of peoples to self-determination.

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