“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”

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.

Continue reading “Response to Struggle-La Lucha’s John Parker”

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.”

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

What Were Stalin’s Real Crimes? Critique of “A Marxist-Leninist Perspective” on Stalin (Part II/III)

By Javier Sethness

Fergana
The meaning of forced collectivization: an irrigation project in Fergana, Eastern Kazakhstan, 1935 (courtesy David Goldfrank)

“It is in the nature of ideological politics […] that the real content of the ideology […] which originally had brought about the ‘idea’ […] is devoured by the logic with which the ‘idea’ is carried out.”

– Hannah Arendt1

What’s the biggest problem with the “criticisms” of Stalin raised by the “Proles of the Round Table”? That they are so disingenuous and anemic. One of the three critiques raised—about Spain—in fact isn’t critical of Stalin, while we’ve seen (in part I) how the “criticism” on deportations is entirely misleading. A related question might be to ask how it looks for two presumably white U.S. Americans to criticize Stalin for some (1-2%) of his deportations of ethnic Germans, but not to do so when it comes to the dictator’s mass-deportations of Muslims, Buddhists, and other indigenous peoples. At least Mao Zedong judged Stalin as being “30 percent wrong and 70 percent right.”2 For Jeremy and Justin, though, Stalin appears to have been at least 90%, if not 95%, right. Maybe we can soon expect the “Proles of the Round Table” Patreon to begin selling wearables proclaiming that “Stalin did nothing wrong.”

Besides the aforementioned Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the May Days, and the mass-deportations of ethnic minorities, let’s now consider five of Stalin’s real crimes.

1. “Socialism in One Country”: Stalinist Ideology

His revision, together with fellow Bolshevik Nikolai Bukharin, of the tradition of socialist internationalism to the reactionary, ultra-nationalist idea of “socialism in one country.” Stalin and Bukharin arrived at this conclusion to compete against Lev Trotsky’s rival concept of “permanent revolution,” which calls first for a European and then global federation of socialist republics. This Stalinist doctrine, which demanded that the interests of the Soviet bureaucracy be considered first within the Third International (or Comintern), can explain both the General Secretary’s demand to crush the anarchists in Spain in 1937 and his effective facilitation of Hitler’s rise to power by means of the disastrous Comintern policy that considered the social-democratic (that is, non-Stalinist) opposition to Hitler to be “social-fascist.” The General Secretary would only reverse course and endorse a “Popular Front” strategy after Hitler had taken power.3 Stalinist ultra-nationalism finds contemporary purchase among neo-fascist, national-Bolshevik movements, whereas—perhaps ironically—the Comintern doctrine on “social fascism” has echoes today among ultra-leftists disdainful of coalition-building with more moderate political forces (e.g., as in the 2016 U.S. presidential election). Moreover, Stalin’s preference for “socialism in one country” can help us understand the Soviet Union’s continued sale of petroleum to Mussolini following this fascist’s military invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935.4 Within this same vein, and anticipating the affinity of today’s neo-Stalinists for campist “analyses” of international relations, Moscow variously supported the feudalist Guo Min Dang (GMD) in China, the Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the Iranian Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the Afghan King Amanullah Khan, and Ibn al-Sa’ud (founder of Saudi Arabia) during this time on the grounds that these leaders staunchly opposed the West, despite their great distance from any kind of socialist paradigm.5

Civilizatsia
Courtesy Voline, The Unknown Revolution

2. Stalinist Imperialism

His “Great-Russian” chauvinism, as manifested in his brutally imperialist policies toward ethnic minorities—particularly the deportations of Muslims (as mentioned above in part I)—and other subject-peoples of the former Tsarist empire, whose colonial project Stalin enthusiastically embraced. Though Georgian by origin (his birth name was Ioseb Jughashvili), Stalin (whose Russian nom de guerre means “man of steel”) was “the most ‘Russian’ of the early leaders” who advanced not only “socialism in one country,’ but […] a socialism built on a predominantly Russian foundation.”6 According to Dunayevskaya, Stalin’s “national arrogance” was “as rabid as that of any Tsarist official.”7 In contrast to his mentor and supervisor Vladimir I. Lenin, who at least formally supported the right of self-determination for the oppressed nationalities of the Tsarist empire while greatly violating this principle in practice, Stalin was openly imperialist on the national question: according to the terms of this relationship, the colonies were to be “plundered for raw materials and food to serve the industrialisation of Russia.”8 It therefore remains clear that, under the Soviet Union, “Russia was not a nation state but an empire, an ideological state. Any definition as a nation-state would probably have excluded at least the non-Slavs, and certainly the Muslims.”9 Accordingly, the official history taught in Stalin’s USSR rehabilitated the mythical Tsarist narrative that the Russian “Empire had brought progress and civilisation to backward peoples.”10

Map_of_the_ethnic_groups_living_in_the_Soviet_Union
Ethnographic map of the former Soviet Union. Date unknown

In Georgia, a former Tsarist-era colony located in the Caucasus Mountains, the social-democratic Menshevik Party declared independence in 1918 to found the Georgian Democratic Republic, otherwise known as the Georgian Commune, wherein parliamentary democracy and a relatively collaborative relationship among the peasantry, proletariat, and political leadership lasted for three years, until Stalin and his fellow Georgian Bolshevik Sergo Ordzhonikidze organized a Red Army invasion in 1921 which crushed this courageous experiment in democratic socialism. The errant ex-colony of Georgia was thus forcibly reincorporated into the ex-Tsarist Empire—by then, the “Transcaucasian Federated Soviet Republic,” part of the Soviet Union.11 Besides Georgia, this “Transcaucasian Federated Soviet Republic” would include Azerbaijan and Armenia, which had also been occupied by the Red Army in 1920.12

In the Muslim-majority provinces of Central Asia, otherwise known as Turkestan, the poorest region of the former Tsarist Empire, Lenin and Stalin sided with the interests of the Russian settlers against the Muslim peasantry.13 In Orientalist fashion, the Bolsheviks considered Central Asia’s “Muslims as culturally backward, not really suitable to be communists and needing to be kept under a kind of tutelage.”14 Yet in light of the sustained Basmachi revolt waged by Muslim guerrillas against Soviet imperialism in the first decade after October 1917, Stalin also recognized the significant threat these colonized Muslims could pose to the Soviet Union—hence his active discouragement of pan-Islamism and pan-Turkism by means of cutting off the USSR’s Muslims “subjects,” many of them ethnically and linguistically Turkic, from the rest of the Ummah (Islamic global brotherhood or community) abroad. An early 1930’s law punishing unauthorized exit from the USSR made observation of hajj, or the pilgrimage to Mecca, quite impossible.15 The expulsion from the Communist Party (1923) and subsequent imprisonment (1928) of the Volga Tatar Sultan Galiev, a pan-Islamist “national-communist” who envisioned organizing the Turkic Muslims into a fighting force against Western imperialism, followed a similar logic.16

Continue reading “What Were Stalin’s Real Crimes? Critique of “A Marxist-Leninist Perspective” on Stalin (Part II/III)”

Saudi Autocracy Apparently Murders Pro-Democracy Intellectual: We Demand #JusticeForJamal Khashoggi!

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

Jamal

Last Tuesday, October 2, 2018, the Saudi critic and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, 59 years of age, disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. To date, while no definitive evidence of his fate has been presented to public light, it is presumed that Khashoggi was assassinated in the consulate that same afternoon, shortly after arriving. While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is certainly no friend of a free press, given that his State imprisons about one-third of all journalists incarcerated globally, it appears that he may have initially been seeking to play a delicate balancing act in treating Khashoggi’s disappearance as a murder case while simultaneously seeking not to antagonize Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who appears to have ordered the assassination, a move that could jeopardize Turkey’s mutually profitable relations with the Saudi kingdom. The evidence of Khashoggi’s grim fate seems clear, since camera footage shows him entering, but the journalist was never seen to have left the consulate that day.

In fact, a consular source said to have been present that day has reported to have heard sounds of struggle, screams, and subsequent silence that afternoon, consistent with the journalist’s torture and possible murder. The Washington Post investigation triggered by Khashoggi’s disappearance has revealed that two private Saudi planes arrived in Istanbul on October 2, and since then, the Turkish government has published the list of the names of the 15 Saudi operatives reportedly involved in the operation, including an Air Force lieutenant and an autopsy expert. This same team fled the country just hours after their crime, while it is understood that the second Saudi plane included a forensics team to “clean up” the murder site. Though the Saudis officially deny these lurid charges, The Onion’s satirical approach appears to be more honest: “Saudis Insist Missing Journalist Was Already Dismembered Before He Left Consulate.” Turkish sources have indicated they have video recording of Khashoggi’s murder.

If it is true that this journalist was in fact assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the question that logically follows is, “Why?” Mehdi Hasan insists that Khashoggi was not a “dissident,” and that he supported the Saudi monarchy, but that he disagreed with the ascendant 33-year old bin Salman’s highly authoritarian approach. His friend Dr. Daud Abdullah, who dined with him just days before his disappearance, notes how Khashoggi had expressed concern over certain of his compatriots chastising his opposition to the “Saudi-led blockade of Qatar; [the kingdom’s] support for Egypt’s military rulers; and its incarceration of hundreds of religious scholars, university lecturers, journalists and human rights activists.” Indeed, Khashoggi’s last Washington Post column calls on bin Salman to declare an immediate cease-fire in the Yemen war to stop the “loss of innocent life” and express support for the “value of human life,” thus representing restoration of the “ethics [and dignity] of Islam” in its historical birthplace. Khashoggi even compared bin Salman to Bashar al-Assad in this column. While accurate, when considering the vast extent of human suffering in Yemen, and Assad’s targeting of journalists, such a charge, taken together with the implications the journalist makes regarding the Crown Prince’s defilement of Islam and the Ummah, or global Muslim community, must certainly have offended bin Salman’s vanity, and may partly explain the abduction and suspected assassination.

Continue reading “Saudi Autocracy Apparently Murders Pro-Democracy Intellectual: We Demand #JusticeForJamal Khashoggi!”

On Sunday, August 19th: “Double Crisis Over Iran: Trump’s Warmongering and Anti-Regime Struggles of Working People and Women”

2007_6_15-Ahwazi-childrenAhwazi_children
Ahwazi family (courtesy Wikipedia)

Sunday, August 19
6:30-8:30 PM
Westside Peace Center
3916 Sepulveda Blvd., near Venice Blvd. (free parking in rear)
Suite 101-102, press #22 at door to get into building
Culver City (LA area)

Speaker: Ali Kiani, longtime Iranian Marxist and translator

Trump’s bellicose threats against Iran reached new heights in recent weeks when he tweeted in all caps, “YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” an obvious reference to a US nuclear attack. These are no mere threats, as Trump has been working since his election to build up support for war with Iran, meeting with hostile regional powers like Saudi Arabia and Israel, supporting Saudi war crimes against Yemen, and stirring up a Republican “base” long itching for such a war.

At the same time, working people and women inside Iran have since last winter been engaged sustained unrest, whether the street uprisings of rural working people that chanted “Down with the Dictator,” the young women casting off their headscarves, or the most recent unrest in the South where Arab and Persian-speakers came together to protest economic conditions and dwindling water supplies brought about by regime policies that take no account of climate change.

How can we as progressives and revolutionaries oppose Trump’s imperialist warmongering while not falling into the trap of taking an uncritical stance toward the regime? How can we be antiwar and anti-imperialist while at the same time supporting our Iranian sisters and brothers as workers, women, and oppressed minorities?

We need to fight in the U.S. on immediate social justice issues like Black Lives Matter or immigrant rights at the same time as we oppose the entire system of racial capitalism. Similarly, we support all over the world those who struggle against class, ethnic, national, or gender oppression, even as we oppose global capitalism, war, and imperialism in all of their forms.

Sponsored by the West Coast Chapter, International Marxist-Humanist Organization

Co-sponsored by the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice

More information: <arise@internationalmarxisthumanist.org>
https://www.imhojournal.org
https://www.facebook.com/groups/imhorg/
https://www.facebook.com/LAMarxists/