Report-Back on “Eco-Socialism or Extinction: Can We Overcome the Existential Threat of Capitalism?”

On Sunday, January 6th, 2019, around 80 people gathered at the Westside Peace Center to attend a panel discussion entitled “Eco-Socialism or Extinction: Can We Overcome the Existential Threat of Capitalism?” Organized by the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ), co-sponsored by Extinction Rebellion Los Angeles and Sunrise Movement Los Angeles, and endorsed by System Change Not Climate Change-Los Angeles (SCNCC-LA), the event brought together a panel comprised of eco-socialists and climate-justice organizers, followed by a lively group discussion with participants.

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First, moderator Javier Sethness, Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation (personal capacity), introduced the panel and its speakers. Reviewing recent “climate alarms” and the August 2018 “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene” paper, which describes the risks the “Earth system” faces due to biosphere degradation and the violation of environmental boundaries, beyond which feedback loops would render global warming a self-perpetuating phenomenon, resulting in the grim reality of “Hothouse Earth.” Identifying the primary obstacle to the realization of a global eco-socialist transition away from the path of climate breakdown as being capitalist hegemony and concentrated State power, whether in the hands of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Mohammed bin Salman, or Jair Bolsonaro, he recommended a radical strategy characterized by managed decline, ecological restoration, “natural” geo-engineering, and green syndicalism.

Next, Mariah Brennan Clegg, from the Bonfire Anarchist Collective and UC Santa Barbara Campus Marxist-Humanists, spoke in favor of eco-decentralization, following from their analysis that ecological devastation results from hierarchy, and that participatory solutions can help build popular community resilience. Clegg emphasized the dysfunctionality of centralized economic systems, resulting in the dyads of ‘sacrifice zones’ (such as the “cancer villages” of Louisiana or China) and ‘sanctuary zones’ (Beverly Hills, malls, gated communities). Instead, they argued in favor of the unification of bio-regions (or biological regions) with “techno-regions,” by which they mean spaces in which the trans-human dimension is integrated into production and social institutions designed for use-value in place of profit and self-management in place of domination.

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Sydney Ghazarian, from the Democratic Socialists of America-Los Angeles Climate Justice Committee and DSA Ecosocialist Working Group, dedicated her comments to thinking through many of the implications of the October 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report for leftist organizing: that is, given that it warns us clearly that mass-extinction is a very real near-term possibility, due to the hegemony of capitalism. She emphasized firstly that the findings of this report must inspire a strong sense of urgency on the part of the radical left, considering that we have at most 11 years to prevent catastrophic climate breakdown. Ghazarian added that the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) estimates that, 1-2 years before the deadline for the Aichi Targets on biodiversity (2010), “average wildlife population sizes could decline by two-thirds from their 1970 levels.” Secondly, that left organizing strategy under these conditions should take advantage of the multiple emerging crises to bring about a wide-ranging eco-socialist regeneration of society. Ghazarian calls this the “people’s shock doctrine,” and it echoes Andreas Malm’s recommendations on eco-socialist strategy, based on an observation and analysis of the Russian and Syrian Revolutions. Rooted in a vision of an interconnected, multi-level plan to project people power against hegemonic capitalist power, Ghazarian’s proposal would unite the climate movement and the left to transform the economic and political spheres into a zero-emissions society that would restore devastated ecosystems and human communities. Citing a letter published in Nature in 2017 which concludes that we have approximately a 5% chance that global warming will be limited to 2°C, she underscored that ecological revolution might be humanity’s last chance.

Continue reading “Report-Back on “Eco-Socialism or Extinction: Can We Overcome the Existential Threat of Capitalism?””

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

By Javier Sethness

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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

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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.

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

Report-back from Year 2 of Trump: L.A. Rise Up!

Last night, January 26, 2018, the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ) sponsored a banner drop on the theme of observing the onset of Year 2 of the Trump Regime, calling on L.A. to Rise Up! in downtown Los Angeles. We had positive responses from several motorists and passersby, and also held a brief rally with speeches by Mimi Soltysik of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition on police surveillance, Ali Kiani of the International Marxist-Humanist Organization (IMHO) on war threats and imperialism in the Middle East, and Silvia La Rote of the Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation (BRRN) for an update on the J20 protesters and resisting the criminalization of social movements.

Call to Action: Stop U.S. War Threats Against North Korea and Iran!

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Call for Demonstration by the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ)

Friday, October 27, 6PM: Westwood Federal Building, Veteran and Wilshire

 

Stop US war threats against North Korea!

Stop US war threats against Iran!

Abolish nuclear weapons everywhere and the capitalist system that produced them!

 

Trump’s aggressive moves over Korea and Iran have taken us closer to nuclear war than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. In threatening before the United Nations to destroy both the regime and the 25 million people of North Korea, Trump crossed a barrier not seen even at the height of the Cold War. Therefore, it is imperative that concerned people who see these threats as madness gather publicly to express our opposition, not only to Trump and to the capitalist system on which he stands, but also to all other powers, great and small, which threaten their neighbors and their own people with war and repression. As citizens and residents of the US, we feel a special responsibility to do everything we can to stay the hand of the most vicious, authoritarian, and warmongering administration in our history.

Please join us on October 27!

 

Sponsors of the CPRSJ:

Alliance of Syrian and Iranian Socialists

Black Rose/Rosa Negra Los Angeles

Campus Marxist Humanists, UC Santa Barbara

International Marxist-Humanist Organization, West Coast branch

Socialist Party of USA, Los Angeles chapter

Members of Solidarity, a Socialist, Feminist, Anti-Racist Organization

Endorsers of the October 27th action:

San Gabriel Valley Anarcha-Feminism

Los Angeles Anarchist Book Fair Collective

Stop LAPD Spying Coalition

Dyne Suh, JD UCLA and Korean-American rights activist

Douglas Kellner, UCLA professor

Rev. Jim Conn, former mayor of Santa Monica and social activist

Peter McLaren, Chapman University professor

John Foran, UCSB Professor

Javier Sethness, “Communalist, Autonomous, and Indigenous Movements in Latin America: Concrete Hope for an Alternative to Capitalism”

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Javier Sethness, Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation

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

Communalism: relating to the community or Commune; referring to communal or popular power; also collectivism

Autonomy: resisting the State and capital

Indigenous: Native, non-mestizo; most oppressed

“Concrete hope”: Ernst Bloch, The Principle of Hopeconcrete utopia

  • “concrete” here in its Hegelian sense as con crescere, a dialectical growing together of tendencies and latencies
  • The struggle for liberation is a constant effort to realize “the Not-Yet-Become, towards viable possibilities of the light”

 

The following is an excerpt from the introduction to Angel Cappelletti’s Anarchism in Latin America, forthcoming from AK Press. Reproduced with permission.

 

The environmentalist and ecological movements in Latin America have produced their own martyrs, including Chico Mendes and Berta Cáceres, as well as Mariano Abarca and Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez, anti-mining organizers from Chiapas and Oaxaca, respectively, together with countless others. Indeed, ecologists and land-defenders have been singled out for repression at the hands of States and private interests in Latin America, with hundreds of organizers killed annually in the past few years. The severity of such suppression reflects the fears of the ruling classes regarding the potential for autonomous indigenous, communalist, and anarchist movements engaging in radical ecological praxis: recovering and communizing the land, expropriating the expropriators, employing agroecology, abolishing or at least minimizing alienated labor, completely redistributing wealth and resources, redesigning the cities for collective living and sustainability, overthrowing pollution and productivism, halting economic growth, delineating biosphere reserves, and equilibrating the overall relationship between humanity and nature.

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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?”

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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?””