Statement on Venezuela by the Anti-War Committees in Solidarity with The Struggles for Self-Determination

A man is detained during clashes with the Bolivarian National Guard in Urena, Venezuela, near the border with Colombia, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Venezuela’s National Guard fired tear gas on residents clearing a barricaded border bridge between Venezuela and Colombia that day, heightening tensions over blocked humanitarian aid that opposition leader Juan Guaidó has vowed to bring into the country over objections from President Nicolás Maduro. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

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 5/6. Originally published on News and Letters on 12 February 2019.

  • No to the U.S. Intervention in Venezuela!
  • Oppose Trump’s threats to send troops!
  • No confidence in Maduro or Guaidó!
  • Corrupt Venezuelan generals and foreign creditors profit while the people face hunger!

A severe economic crisis coupled with a deepening crisis of leadership has left Venezuela vulnerable to U.S. attempts to orchestrate a political transition that protects the military high command and creates a regime directly subordinate to Washington. Nicolas Maduro offers no alternative to the economic crisis and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV by its acronym in Spanish), created by Hugo Chávez, is an obstacle to the popular mobilizations and struggles required to overcome the crisis.

Although the U.S. has recently taken economic measures to cut the Maduro government’s access to vital oil revenues, throughout the Chavista “revolution” of “21st Century Socialism,” the U.S. has been the biggest buyer of Venezuelan oil. Trump’s sanctions preventing Maduro and members of his inner circle from receiving oil revenues are effectively a blockade on oil sales to the US, but this recent development does not explain the hyperinflation and scarcity of food and medicines driving popular protests against the government.

The root cause of the hyperinflation immiserating the people is the Chávez regime’s attempt to purchase the loyalty of the military high command, keep paying the foreign debt and avoid directly challenging the economic power of Venezuela’s criollo elite through serious land reform and nationalizations aimed at breaking the power of landlords and monopolists, and securing food sovereignty and the ability to overcome Venezuela’s dependency on imports.

Chávez coopted the popular struggle that challenged IMF-imposed austerity in the Caracazo of 1989. That popular struggle swept aside the power pact between corrupt political parties in 1998 and defeated a coup attempt in 2002. Initially enjoying deep popular support, Chávez replaced the old political regime, and carried out a redistribution of oil revenues in popular social programs to alleviate poverty and increase access to housing and healthcare.  But these policies could only be maintained as long as oil prices remained high. Chávez did not break the country’s exclusive reliance on oil revenues to purchase imports of consumers goods. With the collapse of oil prices, the needs of the people competed with the colossal waste of resources spent purchasing the loyalty of the military high command and, worst of all, the uninterrupted service on the foreign debt.

Historically, the resistance against austerity in Latin America has been associated with struggles against measures imposed upon governments in or at risk of default to international banks. The populist redistribution of oil revenues by Chávez was praiseworthy. Today, however, the government’s policies following the collapse of oil prices have tightened the belt on Venezuela’s people in order to purchase the loyalty of the army; the result is a massive transfer of wealth to the generals. Workers’ wages are eaten up by hyperinflation. Venezuela imports everything except oil, and an artificially low exchange rate is reserved for the regime’s allies—in particular, the high command of the military. The result is a black market that fuels inflation. The military is in complete control of food imports and distribution, and it has become an enormous parasite sucking the lifeblood from the Venezuelan people. Under Maduro, the Chavista regime has gone from populist programs to aid the poor to effectively forcing Venezuela’s poorest to bear the burden of the crisis, while enriching the generals who maintain control over the military and guaranteeing debt service to foreign creditors.

The question of control over the military is key to understanding the political crisis in Venezuela. Up until recently, Juan Guaidó was largely unknown to Venezuelans. He has seized upon popular discontent to present his leadership over the simmering revolt, but his planned transition is based on amnesty for the same corrupt, criminal generals whose loyalty Maduro buys. The Trump administration, European governments, together with reactionary governments like Brazil’s and Colombia’s, have backed Guaidó’s claims that Maduro’s election in 2018 was illegitimate, but although much noise was made about corruption, none of the opposition candidates in that election opposed the foreign debt service nor seriously challenged the military’s control over food imports. In any case, no election result or constitutional crisis can bind millions of Venezuelans to endure years of misery. Political struggles aside, Guaidó and the National Assembly are in fact in agreement with Maduro on protecting the generals and continuing the debt payments.

Continue reading “Statement on Venezuela by the Anti-War Committees in Solidarity with The Struggles for Self-Determination”

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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”

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)”

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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Frieda Afary, “How Did We Go from the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement to the Destruction of the Syrian Revolution and the Global Rise of Racist Authoritarianism?”

20107106_1778673848827686_269116435_o

Frieda Afary, Alliance of Syrian and Iranian Socialists

Comments presented at the July 14 launch of the Coalition for Peace, Revolution and Social Justice at a public meeting at the Westside Peace Center, Culver City

In 2011, the world was abuzz with the spirit of the Arab Spring, a revolutionary movement for social justice, freedom and human dignity which aimed to overthrow authoritarian states in the Middle East.   This movement seemed to come out of nowhere but was actually the result of decades of deep mass dissatisfaction with worsening poverty and political repression under authoritarian regimes such as those of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria.

The revolts in Tunisia and in Egypt involved the participation of youth and women as well as large labor unions. They led to the overthrow of the dictators, Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt.   The uprising in Syria against the regime of Bashar al-Assad had the most diverse composition, involving youth, workers, women, and not only the Sunni Arab majority but also the Kurds, an oppressed national minority, as well as members of the Alawite Muslim minority, Christians, Assyrians and the Druze Shi-a community.   The Arab Spring was really a Middle Eastern Spring that involved non-Arabs and even extended to protests against poverty and corruption in Israel. It was also preceded by the Iranian Green movement, a mass protest movement against the fraudulent presidential election in 2009 which lasted several months before it was brutally crushed by the Iranian government.

Continue reading “Frieda Afary, “How Did We Go from the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement to the Destruction of the Syrian Revolution and the Global Rise of Racist Authoritarianism?””