Repudiating the Stalinist Legacy: Critique of “A Marxist-Leninist Perspective” on Stalin (Part III/III)

By Javier Sethness

“In a totally fictitious world, failures need not be recorded, admitted, or remembered. […] Systematic lying to the whole world can be safely carried out only under the conditions of totalitarian rule.” – Hannah Arendt1

tank prod
Soviet women working on wartime production of tanks (courtesy David Goldfrank)

So far, in parts I and II of this response to “A Marxist-Leninist Perspective on Stalin,” we have seen how the “Proles of the Round Table” and their host Breht Ó Séaghdha have systematically lied on their infamous ‘Stalin podcast’ about the history of the Soviet Union, from covering up the Barcelona May Days (1937), the GULAG slave-labor camp system, the Hitler-Stalin Pact (1939), and the NKVD’s mass-deportation of Muslim and Buddhist minorities during World War II to declaring mass-death through Stalin’s forced collectivization of the peasantry to have been “extremely successful.” It is clear why Jeremy and Justin confidently present such a fraudulent version of history: were they even to mention any of these realities, it would become clear that their presence as Stalin apologists on a radio show ostensibly dedicated to an examination of “revolutionary left” history and theory would be immediately revealed as absurd. Yet here we are.

In this final third of my critique of this travesty, we will examine Jeremy and Justin’s genocide denial and their enthusiasm for the Moscow Show Trials. In contrast to the “Proles of the Round Table,” we will explore how anti-Semitism, ultra-nationalism, and sexism are essential aspects of the Stalinist legacy. We will then close with some comments about Soviet ecocide and a critical analysis of neo-Stalinist international relations today, which cover for pseudo-anti-imperialist executioners.

Holodomor Denial

While the breadth of Jeremy and Justin’s Stalin’s apologia on this interview is quite astounding, few aspects are as vile as their denial of the genocidal Ukrainian famine of 1932-1933. Justin is very clear about their view: “there was no mass-famine,” and the idea of Holodomor (the “Great Ukrainian Famine”) is a “myth.” Jeremy jumps in to claim that “Ukrainian nationalists” sought to undermine Stalin and “intentionally starv[e] the Soviet Union.” First, let’s note that, in making the latter claim, Jeremy unwittingly admits that the Soviet Union was imperialist, and should be that way: the implication is that Ukraine and other former colonies of the Tsarist Empire exist to serve Russia, or, in this case, Stalin’s regime. Beyond that, certainly there was famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933: the “Proles of the Round Table” are almost unique among neo-Stalinists, in that, rather than claim that the reported Holodomor death-toll has somehow been exaggerated for political purposes, they claim that it never happened. In so doing, they quite literally ape Stalin’s refusal to accept the reality of famine in Ukraine in spring 1932 upon receiving word of it from Vlas Chubar, Bolshevik leader of Ukraine, after which the General Secretary denied famine relief and banned the use of the word from all official correspondence.2 While climatic conditions played a part, it was arguably the unrealistic quotas for the extraction of grain from the Ukrainian peasantry following in the wake of the “extremely successful” experience of forced collectivization that tipped the peasants into the first famine (spring 1932); once Stalin doubled down on the confiscation of grain and cattle after hearing initial reports of the famine, adding reprisals against those villages that failed to meet production quotas by cutting them off, this exacerbated an already disastrous situation. The result was the death of nearly 4 million Ukrainians, more than 10% of the population, with an additional 1-2 million Caucasians, Russians, and Kazakhs succumbing as well.3 Unsurprisingly, Justin and Jeremy have nothing to say about these Central Asian and Caucasian Muslim victims of famine.

To advance their lies about Ukraine, the “Proles of the Round Table” rely on one Grover Furr, a Stalin propagandist who also denies the Holodomor by citing the work of Mark Tauger, a supposed historiographer who actually quite fraudulently argues against the idea that the British Empire or the Soviet Union were responsible for the Great Irish Famine or the Bengal Famine, in the former case, or Holodomor, in the latter. As Louis Proyect has shown, Tauger wants to exclusively blame “environmental conditions” for these devastating catastrophes, and thus hide the role of political economy, power relations, and imperialism. This is the kind of ideology that the “Proles of Round Table” hold up as legitimate historical investigation.

Following the argument of the Jewish Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, originator of the concept of genocide, historian Norman Naimark holds Stalin responsible for genocide, if we consider the term’s original definition, which meant to include social and political groups. In targeting the “kulaks” for elimination and thus provoking the Holodomor, Stalin certainly was genocidal. This conclusion becomes even clearer when we review Stalin’s imperialist policies, his regime’s concurrent purging of most of the Ukrainian Communist Party leadership for their putative “nationalism,” and his August 1932 letter to fellow Politburo member Lazar Kaganovich, in which the General Secretary “set [forth] the goal of turning Ukraine into a real fortress of the USSR, a truly model republic.”4

Apologism for the Moscow Show Trials and Terror

“The insane mass manufacture of corpses is preceded by the historically and politically intelligible preparation of living corpses.” – Hannah Arendt5

While we have examined the Purges in parts I and II, let us now focus specifically on Justin and Jeremy’s apologism for the infamous Moscow Trials of the “Old Bolsheviks” (1936-1938), which were clearly nothing more than show trials. Justin begins by mistaking the Bolshevik leader Gregory Zinoviev for “Alexander Zinoviev,” a Soviet philosopher, and then mentions Trotsky’s analysis of “Soviet Thermidor” without in any way clarifying its application to Stalinism in power: that is, with reference to its historical antecedent—the French Revolution—whereby the bourgeois Directory seized power after overthrowing the Jacobin leaders Maximilien Robespierre and Louis de Saint-Just. To be clear, Stalin’s counter-revolution is highly suggestive of the legacy of the Directory—which is not to suggest that either Lenin or Robespierre were revolutionaries. In parallel, the “Proles of the Round Table” will mention Trotsky’s analysis of Stalin’s guilt over Hitler’s rise—written years after his expulsion from the party—and somehow consider this as retroactive criminal evidence for Trotsky’s supposed conspiracy against the General-Secretary-to be (as in the Left and United Opposition). Yet tellingly, they will not present the actual content of Trotsky’s argument: namely, that Stalin’s Comintern policy on “social fascism” facilitated the Nazi takeover of Germany.

Continuing on, Justin states that Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev “recanted” following their joining with Trotsky in the United Opposition to Stalin—but no reason is given as to why. Certainly, as in the case of Nikolai Bukharin, Zinoviev and Kamenev feared for their lives and that of their loved ones, particularly after seeing the example made of Trotsky, who was expelled ignominiously first from the Communist Party, and then the Soviet Union altogether (in 1928). Instead of contemplating such factors, the “Proles of the Round Table” begin to attempt to explain “why […] the Purge [is] beginning to become a necessity [sic].” Attempting to insert a victim-blaming narrative, Justin and Jeremy suggest that not all the “Old Bolsheviks” were “Communists”—meaning Stalinists—and therefore imply the necessity of their liquidation—and, in many cases, that of their families, who were also murdered so as to prevent revenge attacks against the Party emanating from the “clan” of those executed.6

Continue reading “Repudiating the Stalinist Legacy: Critique of “A Marxist-Leninist Perspective” on Stalin (Part III/III)”

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Massacre of Peaceful Gaza Demonstrators: An Israeli Crime Against Humanity

By Kevin Anderson

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KHAN YUNIS, GAZA – MARCH 31: A girl, affected by tear gas, is being carried away by a boy after Israeli forces’ intervention in a demonstration within the “Great March of Return” at the Israeli border east of Khan Yunis, Gaza on March 31, 2018 (Ashraf Amra, Anadolu Agency)

 First appeared in New Politics Online

On March 30, over 30,000 Palestinians — children, women, and men — gathered near the Gaza border with Israel. As they assembled several hundred yards away from the border fence, 18 peaceful demonstrators were gunned down by Israeli military snipers using live ammunition, with over a thousand reportedly suffering bullet wounds. Many of the demonstrators had come as whole families, with picnic supplies.

The Palestinian protests continued for a second week on April 6, when Israeli snipers again used live ammunition, killing 10 demonstrators. Time will tell whether this turns into a new Intifada.

March 30, 2018 showed Israel’s descent into unabashed crimes against humanity, carried out openly by its military, and defended afterwards equally openly by its political and military leadership.

Continue reading “Massacre of Peaceful Gaza Demonstrators: An Israeli Crime Against Humanity”

Reportback from 3/28 Sidewalk Rally to Protest Racist Assassination of Socialist Feminist Marielle Franco

Two weeks to the day after her brazen assassination, members and friends of the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice gathered near the Brazilian Consulate in Los Angeles to protest the murder of socialist activist and councilwoman Marielle Franco, apparently by government agents in Rio de Janeiro.

Our slogans emphasized Marielle’s legacy as as a fighter for Black people, women, LGBTQIA folks, and poor and working-class communities in Brazil, accountability for her killers, and an end to police murder and fascism in Brazil and the US, among other issues. We handed out scores of fliers to pedestrians and drivers, and received a largely positive response from the public, especially from bus drivers and other working-class people.

The CPRSJ will continue to stand with and for all the Marielle Francos of the world, and in solidarity with the democratic struggles of all oppressed people. If you share this goal, get in touch with us.

Marielle presente!

In Defense of Freedom and Humanity in Afrin!

by Ali Kiani

Afrin

Response to Fredo Corvo, “Is the defense of Afrin proletarian internationalism?” (Libcom, 5 March 2018)

Over the past decade, the Kurdish people of Rojava and Afrin under the threat of internal war in Syria have surprised the world in their struggle for freedom by creating a democratic model of self-government that empowered women to rise to the top leadership of every aspect of society, including the Peshmerga militia, to a greater degree than all the authoritarian and reactionary regimes of the Middle East. Women holding key positions in self-government and army, reflecting the belief that women’s rights should be at the center of every important decision-making process in society, is one of the important breakthroughs in the struggle of people in the Middle East for freedom and democracy.

This is one of the important reasons for not only jihadist but also all ideological and religious authoritarian regimes that are united to destroy this liberty phenomena that is growing among the freedom movement in the Middle East, as we have seen in the example of a Yazidi women’s liberation militia that was shaped after this model.

Continue reading “In Defense of Freedom and Humanity in Afrin!”

Afrin Under Attack by Neo-Ottoman Erdoğan: We Must Defend Afrin!

Beginning on Saturday, January 20, 2018, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered his military together with allied elements of the Free Syrian Army to begin a major assault on the Kurdish-controlled Afrin region, the northwestern part of the Democratic Confederation of Northern Syria, otherwise known as Rojava. Though preceded by two days of preparatory shelling, the attack commenced with heavy bombardment by 72 aircraft of over 150 targets in Afrin, including the city center. As of Sunday morning, January 21st, Turkish ground troops and tanks have started to invade. This aggression, which clearly violates the Nuremberg Principles on war, comes days after the Trump Regime announced it would begin training a 30,000-strong “Syrian Border Security Force” among Kurds in Northern Syria to block infiltration to resurrect Da’esh (ISIS/ISIL). Hence, while the Orwellian-termed “Operation Olive Branch” launched by Erdoğan seeks to crush the Kurdish Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (People’s Protection Units, YPG) and the allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for being supposed affiliates of the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê (Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK), against which the Turkish State has been at war for more than three decades, this assault also targets the Syrian Kurds as a people.

According to Hawzhin Azeez of the Kobane Reconstruction Board of Rojava, the initial aerial bombardment indiscriminately struck civilian areas, and FSA fighters, who reportedly speak only Turkish, captured by the SDF/YPG report that they have come to “kill all the Kurds” of the region. Considering that the Turkish State has cut off all cellular and internet coverage in the area, and in light of the recent Russian withdrawal of forces from the region, there is a grave risk of nationalist massacres against the Kurdish civilian population, both as part of the strategy against the SDF/YPG, and also as reprisal, should the latter be pushed back or defeated. On Saturday, Erdoğan declared that the attack on Afrin, if “successful,” would be followed by a new campaign against Manbij. See a map of northwestern Syria/southwestern Turkey below:

 

Yellow = SDF/YPG    Turquoise = Turkish military/Free Syrian Army     Red = Assad Regime    Green = anti-Assad rebels

Syria map

Courtesy https://SyrianCivilWarMap.com

Continue reading “Afrin Under Attack by Neo-Ottoman Erdoğan: We Must Defend Afrin!”