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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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.

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

Sidewalk Rally, March 28th: Protest the Racist Assassination of Socialist Feminist Marielle Franco in Brazil!

marielle-franco
“Survival is our best form of resistance.”

Wednesday, March 28, 5-7PM
outside Brazilian Consulate
8484 Wilshire Blvd (corner La Cienega)
Beverly Hills

Sponsored by the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice
https://cprsj.wordpress.com/

Socialist activist and immensely popular Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman Marielle Franco was an unapologetically Black, lesbian, and feminist champion of Brazil’s favelas and oppressed. On March 14, only days after exposing another police atrocity in the favelas, she and her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, were brutally murdered by gunmen using police-issued ammunition. We call this rally to honor her legacy and to call for justice. We stand with the tens of thousands in Brazil and around the world condemning this latest crime in the long war against Black people, women, LGBTQIA folks, and the working classes.

Suggested slogans:
Stop the Genocide of Black People in Brazil
Who killed Marielle Franco?
Marielle Franco Presente e Marielle Vive! (Marielle Franco is Present and Marielle Lives!)
Black, Queer, Woman, Socialist: Murdered because she was all.
#SayHerName
For Marielle, I say no! I say no to military intervention!
Down with Brazilian fascism! Down with police gangsters!
Justice for Marielle! Justice for the favelas!

More information:
https://www.blackrosefed.org/marielle-franco-presente/
https://www.blackrosefed.org/brazil-farj-interview-marielle/
https://www.imhojournal.org/articles/black-feminist-marielle-francos-assassination-reveals-the-banality-of-death-in-brazil/

For the People of Eastern Ghouta, Syria

Al Ghouta
“A man and three children, who were wounded in air strikes carried out by warplanes of the Syrian government, sit at a makeshift hospital.” Photograph: Samer Bouidani/dpa/Alamy Live News. 20 February 2018

By Zachary Medeiros


In Eastern Ghouta, people are dying. Only a stone’s throw away from the seat of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the luxury hotels of UN officials, they are dying in the hundreds. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Doctors Without Borders, the Syrian-American Medical Society, and residents and activists on the ground, nearly 600 people, including over 100 children, have been killed since February 18 alone. At least 2,100 have been injured, and nearly all of the hospitals and clinics in the area have been targeted, with most now out of commission. Despite the heroic work of the doctors, nurses, and other medical workers still serving this besieged community of 400,000, they lack the supplies and manpower to fully cope with the resurgent violence. These words and cold statistics cannot come close to expressing the horrors the people of Eastern Ghouta have been forced to endure: years of siege, starvation, shelling and bombardment, and the worst chemical massacre in the history of the war.

Continue reading “For the People of Eastern Ghouta, Syria”

“Trump’s War Threats and a World in Crisis” by Kevin B. Anderson

Marshall Islands

Presented in Los Angeles at a January 14, 2018 public forum sponsored by the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice

The missile alert scare in Hawaii this morning has far larger significance than its immediate cause, a glitch in the warning system plus the absence of a quick way of correcting and reversing the alert. For at no time since the Cold War have U.S. citizens felt so vulnerable to nuclear attack. This is not only because, as we are told daily, North Korea may already have nuclear tipped missiles within range of the Hawaii (and soon the US mainland) and because its leader, Kim Jong-Un, is volatile and aggressive. Also, and more importantly, mass panic broke out today because the possibility of nuclear war from the US side seems more real than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

In fact, the US has for the first time in its history a president, Donald Trump, who gives every impression of itching to start a nuclear war, who openly states that he may destroy an entire country of 25 million. Therefore, the biggest danger today was that Trump might also have been fooled by the Hawaii alert and launched the kind of “fire and fury” on North Korea he has been threatening for months, and which as president he has the power to do, on a moment’s notice. That is the hair-trigger world in which the so-called civilized United States finds itself, especially the White House. Let us not hesitate to call that place under Trump what it is, a shithole reeking of militarism, sexism, racism, and nativism.

Continue reading ““Trump’s War Threats and a World in Crisis” by Kevin B. Anderson”

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!”