“No Trump, No Maduro, No War: Socialists Should Take a Stand on Venezuela” by Charles Davis”

Courtesy the BBC

There are a number of different perspectives regarding the current situation in Venezuela within the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice, and so we have chosen six articles that reflect that diversity in perspectives. This is part 6/6, written by Charles Davis. Originally published on The Daily Beast on 21 February 2019.

Donald J. Trump, the oppressively dim president of these United States, was elected by a majority of white people who cast ballots but only a minority of the popular vote, and only then with the actively solicited help of a foreign intelligence service. His closest allies are gaudy authoritarians who murder their critics without so much as a plausible cover story. He does not, one must conclude, give half a goddamn about democracy—not in the United States, not in Saudi Arabia and certainly not in Venezuela, where his point person is a man, Elliot Abrams, whose obituary will include the term “right-wing death squads.”

It is an obvious point, but one necessary to make in a world where implausible statements from an incoherent president are still treated with legitimacy by a class of reporters and pundits trained to show undue respect to those who wield power, corporate or political and nowadays both. Trump cares about Venezuelans, whom his government routinely deports, about as much as he cares about his own children, which is not to say “a lot.” If he cared about corrupt elites ignoring the opposition-held legislature on their way to bankrupting a country for profit, he would resign, or at least hand back the $500,000 he received from the Venezuelan state for a party on his inauguration.

It is good and just to be an irritant on this point, but it is equally important that it not be the only one that is made. When Trump talks about democracy and poverty in Venezuela unconvincingly, what he says that is discernible is not necessarily wrong; the former is indeed lacking, in Caracas and Washington, and the latter abundant. As in the imperial core, the Venezuelan government has usurped its constitutional authority. I know, in part, because I was paid by it, working as an editor at the state-sponsored teleSUR, based in Ecuador, a former sponsor (its governing social democrats recently withdrew).

In late 2015, when the opposition coalition won the National Assembly with 56 percent of the vote, the expectation was that my employer would go down with the dethroned ruling party—the expectation being that legislatures, not presidents, determine spending priorities. And the opposition did not like us.

That did not happen. Maduro, instead, claimed the authority to pass budgets by executive fiat—in the U.S. democracy, presidents declare a “national emergency” to do that—helping preserve the delicate balance of power that has led the military, enriched by smuggling and the self-inflicted currency exchange system that fuels it, to stick with his administration. He then created an extralegal body, called a Constituent Assembly, that has the purported power to rewrite all laws.

Filled with party loyalists, the assembly was declared illegal by Venezuela’s attorney general, Luisa Ortega Díaz, who had been appointed by Hugo Chavez in 2007; she was forced to flee the country, another Chavista labeled a right-wing plotter by a government that has betrayed the poor. Maduro then won a presidential election, after banning his leading opponents, in a vote that, according to the United Nations, “does not in any way fulfill minimal conditions for free and credible elections.”

The international left, then, should have taken notice and—supporters of Maduro or not—urged against the dismantling of democracy, and walking back from the precipice; friendship is not telling a drunk comrade that they are a great driver and thus ceding the moral high ground to the cop that pulls them over.

It is also true that the Venezuelan government, not the U.S., is largely responsible for the state of the Venezuelan economy.

Continue reading ““No Trump, No Maduro, No War: Socialists Should Take a Stand on Venezuela” by Charles Davis””

“‘Humanitarian Aid’ As a Weapon of Regime Change in Venezuela” by Diego Sacchi

(Courtesy Camilo Rozo/El País and Andrés Martínez Casares/Reuters)

There are a number of different perspectives regarding the current situation in Venezuela within the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice, and so we have chosen six articles that reflect that diversity in perspectives. This is part 2/6, written by Diego Sacchi. Originally published on Left Voice on 26 February 2019.

Last week [two weeks ago now], Venezuelan right-wing coup leader Juan Guaidó called for a “human wave” to mobilize at the country’s barracks in order to pressure the military into turning against President Nicolás Maduro. He also called on supporters to gather at the border with Colombia on Saturday to receive the “humanitarian aid” sent by the United States. The goal was to present an image of chaos to the world and force the Army and National Guard to let in the trucks carrying supplies—signaling a break with the Maduro government.

This maneuver was defeated, sparking an aggressive response by the Venezuelan right, the U.S. state department, and several high-ranking American officials, who have been beating the drums of war since the crisis began last month.

On Saturday evening, Guaidó stated, “The events of today have forced me to make the decision to formally declare to the International Community that we must consider all options to liberate this country, which is fighting and will continue to fight.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Guaidó’s threats, maintaining that “Every option is on the table. We’re going to do the things that need to be done.”

After Saturday, Marco Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida, focused on searching for a “casus belli” that could justify a military response, using his Twitter account to spread lies, such as the claim that shots were fired into Colombia from Venezuela. [There have been reports of Venezuelan forces firing tear gas over the border into Colombia.]

Continue reading ““‘Humanitarian Aid’ As a Weapon of Regime Change in Venezuela” by Diego Sacchi”

“The Venezuelan people, not Trump, must decide”

Courtesy Reuters

There are a number of different perspectives regarding the current situation in Venezuela within the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice, and so we have chosen six articles that reflect that diversity in perspectives. This is part 1/6. Originally published on Socialist Worker on 25 January 2019.

AS INTERNATIONALISTS and anti-imperialists, we look to the people of Venezuela to defend their own sovereignty. We recognize that the greatest threat to peace, democracy and prosperity in Latin America has always been the U.S. state and U.S. big business.

President Donald Trump must have choked on his words when he claimed to stand up for “freedom and the rule of law.” This from a man who has imprisoned thousands of Central American children in cages. We hold him and his administration responsible for the deaths of 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo and 7-year-old Jakelin Caal.

And Vice President Mike Pence’s accusation that “Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power” rings hollow from a man who, along with Trump, won office after losing the popular vote, and who regularly defends the reactionary monarchy in Saudi Arabia.

We unconditionally oppose all U.S. aggression against the people of Venezuela and demand that the Trump administration refrain from any provocative military actions. Unfortunately, there is broad bipartisan consensus in Washington, D.C., to target the people of Venezuela. Let us not forget that almost two years ago to the day, President Barack Obama declared Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat.”

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Report-Back on “Eco-Socialism or Extinction: Can We Overcome the Existential Threat of Capitalism?”

On Sunday, January 6th, 2019, around 80 people gathered at the Westside Peace Center to attend a panel discussion entitled “Eco-Socialism or Extinction: Can We Overcome the Existential Threat of Capitalism?” Organized by the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ), co-sponsored by Extinction Rebellion Los Angeles and Sunrise Movement Los Angeles, and endorsed by System Change Not Climate Change-Los Angeles (SCNCC-LA), the event brought together a panel comprised of eco-socialists and climate-justice organizers, followed by a lively group discussion with participants.

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First, moderator Javier Sethness, Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation (personal capacity), introduced the panel and its speakers. Reviewing recent “climate alarms” and the August 2018 “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene” paper, which describes the risks the “Earth system” faces due to biosphere degradation and the violation of environmental boundaries, beyond which feedback loops would render global warming a self-perpetuating phenomenon, resulting in the grim reality of “Hothouse Earth.” Identifying the primary obstacle to the realization of a global eco-socialist transition away from the path of climate breakdown as being capitalist hegemony and concentrated State power, whether in the hands of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Mohammed bin Salman, or Jair Bolsonaro, he recommended a radical strategy characterized by managed decline, ecological restoration, “natural” geo-engineering, and green syndicalism.

Next, Mariah Brennan Clegg, from the Bonfire Anarchist Collective and UC Santa Barbara Campus Marxist-Humanists, spoke in favor of eco-decentralization, following from their analysis that ecological devastation results from hierarchy, and that participatory solutions can help build popular community resilience. Clegg emphasized the dysfunctionality of centralized economic systems, resulting in the dyads of ‘sacrifice zones’ (such as the “cancer villages” of Louisiana or China) and ‘sanctuary zones’ (Beverly Hills, malls, gated communities). Instead, they argued in favor of the unification of bio-regions (or biological regions) with “techno-regions,” by which they mean spaces in which the trans-human dimension is integrated into production and social institutions designed for use-value in place of profit and self-management in place of domination.

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Sydney Ghazarian, from the Democratic Socialists of America-Los Angeles Climate Justice Committee and DSA Ecosocialist Working Group, dedicated her comments to thinking through many of the implications of the October 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report for leftist organizing: that is, given that it warns us clearly that mass-extinction is a very real near-term possibility, due to the hegemony of capitalism. She emphasized firstly that the findings of this report must inspire a strong sense of urgency on the part of the radical left, considering that we have at most 11 years to prevent catastrophic climate breakdown. Ghazarian added that the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) estimates that, 1-2 years before the deadline for the Aichi Targets on biodiversity (2010), “average wildlife population sizes could decline by two-thirds from their 1970 levels.” Secondly, that left organizing strategy under these conditions should take advantage of the multiple emerging crises to bring about a wide-ranging eco-socialist regeneration of society. Ghazarian calls this the “people’s shock doctrine,” and it echoes Andreas Malm’s recommendations on eco-socialist strategy, based on an observation and analysis of the Russian and Syrian Revolutions. Rooted in a vision of an interconnected, multi-level plan to project people power against hegemonic capitalist power, Ghazarian’s proposal would unite the climate movement and the left to transform the economic and political spheres into a zero-emissions society that would restore devastated ecosystems and human communities. Citing a letter published in Nature in 2017 which concludes that we have approximately a 5% chance that global warming will be limited to 2°C, she underscored that ecological revolution might be humanity’s last chance.

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Emergency Demonstration in Solidarity with Syrian Kurds threatened by Erdoğan, Assad, Russia, and Iran! Friday, December 21, 11am-1pm

By Javier Sethness, for the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice

SDF Syria

Friday, December 21, 2018, 11am-1pm

6300 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048

 

On Wednesday, December 19, 2018, Donald Trump abruptly announced that the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL, or Da’esh) had been defeated in Syria, and that it’s “time to bring our great young people home.” Whereas this kind of haphazard decisionism is typical from Trump, his immediate mandated withdrawal of an estimated 2,000 U.S. special forces from northeastern Syria, otherwise known as “Rojava” or the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS), was apparently agreed to only in coordination with neo-Ottoman Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with whom Trump spoke by telephone on December 14. Against the advice of senior members within the Trump administration, apparently without even consulting Republican legislators, and shocking coalition partners UK and France, Trump ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Syria within 100 days. Vladimir Putin responded by celebrating the decision.

In a public statement released today, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—a military coalition founded at U.S. behest in October 2015 which comprises Kurds, Arabs, and Assyrians/Syriacs, among others—declared that Trump’s sudden move will negatively affect the ongoing campaign against IS/Da’esh, which, contrary to the president’s conclusion, has not yet been defeated. See map below:

Screenshot_2018-12-20 Map of Syrian Civil War - Syria news and incidents today - syria liveuamap com

Key: Red refers to Regime-controlled regions; black to Da’esh/IS; green to anti-Assad opposition/Turkish-supported occupation; yellow to Kurdish self-administrative forces (courtesy https://syria.liveuamap.com/)

Indeed, Trump’s announcement may very well allow for Da’esh to reconstitute itself, considering that a deadly ailment must be fully treated, if it is not to recur. To this point, the SDF has warned that it may have no other choice but to release its suspected Da’esh detainees with their families “very soon.” In this sense, the president’s mandated withdrawal from Syria appears quite hypocritical and self-defeating, when juxtaposed with his public condemnation of the Obama administration’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq, which according to him, led to the rise of the Islamic State.

This is not to defend the U.S. military presence in Syria, whether in terms of bases, troops, or air support—for the U.S. air strikes over the past four years have killed thousands of civilians, involving attacks on hospitals, prisons, and family-members of suspected IS militants. Instead, we wish to recognize the grave danger that Trump’s impulsive decision-making implies for the Kurds and other ethnic minorities of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS), in light of Erdoğan’s own declaration on Wednesday, December 12, of an imminent offensive combining an estimated 24,000 Turkish military and Turkish Free Syrian Army (tFSA) fighters against the remaining northeastern region of Syria east of the Euphrates River, where Kurdish-majority self-administration forces hold control. As with established precedent vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the war in Yemen, it is clear that Trump made a deal with Erdoğan over the DFNS that at least in part involves arms sales—though it is not clear at this moment if $3.5 billion was the only “win” Trump negotiated in this impersonal, neo-colonial “deal.”

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War, Imperialism, and Class Polarization on a Global Scale: From East Asia to the Middle East and from South Africa to Europe

by Kevin B. Anderson, International Marxist-Humanist Organization

Earth

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.

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KPFK’s “Indy Media on Air” Brings Fascism to the Airwaves

by Javier Sethness

Antifa banner
Courtesy North London Antifascists

The red-brown convergence, or the seemingly puzzling political alliance between far-left (red) and far-right (brown), is a serious and worsening problem around the world—evermore so since Donald Trump’s election and inauguration. Beyond the divisions between authoritarian and libertarian socialism on the left, both authoritarian and anti-authoritarian socialist traditions share with fascism an emphasis on revolutionism, or the need to transform society radically, rather than incrementally. In practice, this has meant that Italian Fascism grew out of the Cercle Proudhon, an intellectual circle dedicated to the study of this French anarchist; that the Strasserite faction of the Nazi Party had an (admittedly racist) anti-capitalist orientation; and that the Russian neo-fascist and Vladimir Putin adviser Aleksandr Dugin has developed a “fourth political theory” which combines Stalinism with Nazism.1

While this axis has important implications for social life across the globe, the red-brown convergence is seen mostly clearly in Syria and in the discursive struggle over the Syrian Civil War. Since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution in March 2011, an estimated half-million Syrians have been killed, including 200,000 civilians. Syria’s Assad Regime, Putin’s Russia, and the Islamic Republic of Iran have been found to be responsible for killing 94% of these civilians. Moreover, in a new analysis of cyber warfare in the Syrian Revolution, an anonymous observer identifies three main stands adopted by those confronted with the events in Syria: the pro-Assad, anti-U.S.-imperialism stance; the silent stance; and the stance in solidarity. It is unfortunate to consider that, rather than provide coverage in solidarity with Syrian dissidents across borders, Pacifica Radio/KPFK 90.7 Los Angeles gave a platform to fascism on March 21st and 28th of this year on the radio show “Indy Media on Air.” (Link available here.) While the program description states the show’s mission as being the “creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of the truth,” readers of this commentary will judge for themselves whether its pro-Assad orientation can be viewed in any way as radical, accurate, or truthful.

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