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

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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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Invitation: Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice Partnership Meeting

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Wednesday, March 21st, 730pm

Socialist Party LA, 2617 Hauser Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA

The Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice will be hosting a partnership meeting on March 21st in the hopes of inviting others to joining the coalition as members. We will be prepared to answer any questions you might have.

The Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ) aims to resist capitalism, imperialism, and authoritarianism in the Trump era. We are helping to develop a thoughtful, multidimensional, and proactive opposition to the intensifying authoritarianism that has become evident around the globe, as exemplified by Donald Trump in the U.S., Vladimir Putin in Russia, and Xi Jinping in China. We oppose NATO and U.S. imperialism because they underpin capitalist-militarist hegemony around the globe. In general, we target rampant class oppression, imperialism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, nativism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, and environmental destruction.

Since its founding in May 2017, the CPRSJ has held three public forums, a freeway banner drop, a Black Friday banner drop at the Westfield Mall in Culver City, a protest outside an Army recruitment center, and a rally at the Los Angeles Federal Building. While much has been accomplished in a short period of time, we feel we are just scratching the surface and are looking to grow with additional partners.

The CPRSJ currently includes the Socialist Party USA, the International Marxist Humanist Organization, Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation, and members of Solidarity. See our Principles of Unity here.

For any questions, please write cprsj@protonmail.com

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

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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”

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?”

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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?””

Launching the Los Angeles Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ)!

You are invited to a panel discussion: LAUNCHING THE LOS ANGELES COALITION FOR PEACE, REVOLUTION & SOCIAL JUSTICE!

This coalition aims to develop a thoughtful, multidimensional, and
proactive opposition to the warmongering authoritarianism that has become evident around the globe, as exemplified by Donald Trump in the U.S., Vladimir Putin in Russia, and Xi Jinping in China. We target the connections among capitalist class oppression, imperialism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, environmental destruction, nativism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism.

The panel, to be moderated by Mimi Soltysik (Socialist Party USA), will consist of these speakers/topics:

Frieda Afary, Alliance of Syrian and Iranian Socialists
How Did We Go from the Arab Spring & the Occupy Movement to The
Destruction of the Syrian Revolution and the Global Rise of Racist Authoritarianism?

Zach Medeiros, Socialist Party U.S.A.
Solidarity with the Oppressed, Not the Oppressors: Why We Must Support Syrian Revolutionaries

Javier Sethness, Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation
Communalist, Autonomous & Indigenous Movements in Latin America: Concrete Hope for an Alternative to Capitalism

Kevin B. Anderson, UCSB Sociology professor & member of International Marxist-Humanist Organization
Rightwing Populism, Neofascism, & Imperialism in the Trump Era: Where Do We Go from Here?

Friday, July 14, 2017, 7-9 p.m., Peace Center, 3916 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City

For more information, see https://www.facebook.com/events/1930493243895210/ or call 310-409-3932

Please see a PDF of our Points of Unity here.

Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ) Principles of Unity

 

The Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ) aims to resist capitalism, imperialism, and authoritarianism in the Trump era. We are helping to develop a thoughtful, multidimensional, and proactive opposition to the intensifying authoritarianism that has become evident around the globe, as exemplified by Donald Trump in the U.S., Vladimir Putin in Russia, and Xi Jinping in China. We oppose NATO and U.S. imperialism because they underpin capitalist-militarist hegemony around the globe. In general, we target rampant class oppression, imperialism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, nativism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, and environmental destruction.

Domestically, we resist Trump’s absurd and deranged proposals to build a vast border wall with Mexico, deport millions of people, broaden the prison-industrial complex and police powers in the name of law and order, cut tens of millions off from healthcare access, further deregulate the economy, suppress climate science, and greatly expand U.S. military and nuclear capabilities. We note that Trump is in sync with neofascist movements in Europe, especially in France, Austria, the UK, and Hungary.

In contrast to liberals who oppose Trump on the basis of the neoliberal politics of Clinton and Obama, we believe that the problems facing us lie in the very structure of contemporary capitalism.

In contrast to the authoritarian left, we oppose and organize against the machinations not only of U.S. imperialism and its subimperialist allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia, but also those of Russian imperialism and of subimperialist powers like Iran.  Thus, we oppose the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Saudi Arabia’s barbarous war on the people of Yemen, and the untold brutality of Assad’s suppression of the Syrian Revolution, which has been abetted by Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and other Shi’a militias.

In the U.S., we support issues and movements like Black Lives Matter, women’s rights, free abortion on demand, climate and environmental justice, a living wage, the rights of immigrant labor, justice for Latinx, struggles of Indigenous peoples for autonomy and liberation, healthcare for all, and full rights for transgender people.

Our class politics recognizes the fundamental importance of an affirmative, liberatory, and humanist alternative to capitalism and the unity of all working people across national borders on the basis of international solidarity.

Our principles of unity follow:

  1. We strive for the firmest unity of working people in the U.S. across racial and ethnic lines, and across rural/urban and regional divides, together with all those who oppose capitalism’s inhumanity on the basis of affirming Black and Latinx liberation, women’s rights, LGBTQIA rights, the rights of people with disabilities, immigrant rights, prisoners’ rights, and climate/environmental justice.
  2. We note the specific detrimental role of white supremacy in U.S. history as a factor in undermining working-class unity. We also note that African Americans have been in the forefront of progressive and revolutionary movements throughout the history of this country.
  3. We proclaim the underlying importance of class analysis and anti-authoritarianism in our theory and practice.
  4. We oppose all forms of imperialism and state terrorism, including the U.S. and NATO’s military interventions in the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, Africa and elsewhere, even if under the guise of humanitarianism.
  1. We also oppose terrorism by non-state organizations such as ISIS, the Ku Klux Klan, and fascist groups. Instead, we call for people to people solidarity with those who oppose both fundamentalist terrorism and authoritarian regimes.
  2. We hold the growing influence of Trump and Putin and the growth of neofascist movements in Western Europe to be key manifestations of the increasingly authoritarian direction of global capitalism, as also seen in China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.
  3. We envision a liberatory and humanist social movement opposed to capitalism, imperialism, and militarism that equally opposes reactionary regimes that happen to be at odds with the U.S.
  4. We believe that power must be devolved to the people through grassroots democracy and that democracy without social justice is meaningless.
  5. We do not consider authoritarian states that have claimed to be socialist or communist to be models of socialism or democracy in any sense. We strive instead for real human emancipation.
  6. We uphold the principles of internal democracy and transparency in our own efforts, and commit ourselves to these ends.

We invite other organizations and individuals who share these views to join this coalition.

Initial conveners include the following socialist and anarchist organizations:

Alliance of Syrian and Iranian Socialists

Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation-Los Angeles

International Marxist-Humanist Organization, West Coast Chapter

Socialist Party, Los Angeles Local

Members of Solidarity: A Socialist, Feminist, Anti-Racist Organization, Los Angeles Branch

 

Adopted May 11, 2017