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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Accountability for Assad’s Murder of Marie Colvin: A Precedent for Justice?

By Javier SethnessColvin RIP

Originally published on Notes Toward an International Libertarian Eco-Socialism

On Thursday, January 31, a U.S. judge found the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad responsible for the targeted assassination of U.S. journalist Marie Colvin in Homs in 2012. A reporter for The Sunday Times, Colvin had been covering the regime’s besiegement of the Baba Amr district of Homs, whose population had rebelled against Assad’s rule as part of the Revolution which had begun in the southern city of Der’aa in March 2011. Though evacuated with other internationals and journalists within days of her arrival as a precautionary measure in light of a threatened regime offensive, Colvin returned with the French photojournalist Rémi Ochlik and British photographer Paul Conroy to the improvised community media center from where they had been reporting. As Conroy describes, he, Colvin, and Ochlik believed that, by reporting on the regime’s besiegement of Baba Amr, they could affect world opinion and bring relief to civilians under fire.  It was from Baba Amr that Colvin courageously went live on CNN, the BBC, ITN News, and Channel 4 News, on February 21, 2012, to belie the Assad regime’s fabrications that its assault on the district was exclusively targeting so-called “terrorists.” It was for this reason that the regime killed her, the very next morning after the broadcast. They triangulated her location via her cell signal due to Colvin’s bravery in broadcasting the devastating truth to the world, murdering her and Ochlik in a targeted artillery strike. As judge Amy Jackson observes in her ruling, Colvin was “specifically targeted because of her profession, for the purpose of silencing those reporting on the growing opposition movement in the country.”

Colvin’s remarkable story is told in two recent films: Under the Wire and A Private War. I will not here be discussing Under the Wire, which is brilliantly reviewed by Muhammad Idrees Ahmad in the New York Review of Books here. Instead, I will offer some comments about A Private War, a 2018 dramatization of Colvin’s life, directed by Matthew Heineman and written by Marie Brenner and Arash Amel.

Though Colvin covered armed conflicts for three decades, in A Private War, we follow her in her later assignments to war zones in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. It is amidst covering Sri Lanka’s civil war that Colvin suffers a disfiguring injury, leading her to wear a distinctive eye-patch over her left orbit. While there is little sense in the film that Colvin had an anti-imperialist critique of U.S. participation in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, the film depicts her dynamic and increasingly humanist approach to journalism, culminating in her martyrdom in Homs in February 2012. During the Libya segment, which takes place shortly after the outbreak of protests against Mua’mmar al-Qaddafi, we see Colvin outright interviewing the autocrat. Though Colvin never had the chance to question Assad—she was no Vanessa Beeley, a neo-fascist propagandist, but rather the Syrian despot’s direct victim—we get the sense that the writers and director are here channeling Assad’s specter through Colvin’s interaction with Qaddafi, given their similarities, from political authoritarianism to inter-personal repulsiveness and sexism, and their common opportunistic use of nationalist, ‘socialist,’ and ‘anti-imperialist’ rhetoric to legitimize their crimes. It follows logically that both Qaddafi and Assad would present essentially all opposition to their rule as “al-Qaeda” and/or “terrorists,” as they have.

Continue reading “Accountability for Assad’s Murder of Marie Colvin: A Precedent for Justice?”

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.

javier

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?””

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”

Turkey Is ‘Intensely’ Preparing a New Offensive against Kurdish Militants East of the Euphrates River

By Ali Kiani, for the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice

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At today’s action outside the Turkish consulate in LA

President Trump has ordered a quick withdrawal of US forces from Syria. The Wall Street Journal comments, “In Shift, Trump Orders U.S. Troops Out of Syria.” This is in conflict with the State Department and Pentagon, because it marks an abrupt shift of the U.S.’s posture in the Middle East regarding ending a four-year so-called campaign against the Islamic State in favor of Turkey, resulting in James Mattis departing as Defense Secretary over Trump’s order to pull out of Syria. In a letter to Trump, Mattis said the president has the right to a Defense Secretary ‘whose views are better aligned with yours.’ A day after Trump’s pull-out order, Jim Mattis announced that he would resign at the end of February.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the withdrawal will be from the northeastern region of the country where Kurdish militants are strong, leaving them open to attack by Turkey. But according to The New York Times, unnamed official sources believe a “full withdrawal” is imminent. The “anti-war leader and human rights promoter” Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday praised President Trump’s surprise decision to pull out of Syria, even as the United States’ closest allies criticized the move and said they would remain in the war-ridden country due to the threat still posed by Islamic State. CodePink also applauded the prospect of all U.S. troops leaving Syria. Trump proclaimed victory over ISIS, saying: “And we’ve won against ISIS. We’ve beaten them, and we’ve beaten them badly. And now it’s time for our troops to come back home.” The French government also disagreed with the White House’s assessment that the fight against the Islamic State is over. France’s Defense Minister Florence Parly said, “Islamic State has not been wiped from the map nor have its roots. The last pockets of this terrorist organization must be defeated militarily once and for all.”

The United Kingdom expressed a similar view, releasing a statement reiterating that it will continue its actions in Syria, claiming that the Islamic State still poses a threat even if it no longer controls much territory. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas seconded this view, tweeting a statement saying the 1,200 personnel German personnel in Syria will remain.

The Turkish Defense Minister has declared that Syrian Kurdish militants will be “buried in ditches when the time comes.” This means that Turkey will likely attack Syrian Kurds, an outcome that was likely negotiated with Erdogan, who days ago announced a new offensive against the remaining SDF-controlled region of Syria. Turkey perceives the US-backed YPG as a security threat in northern Syria, and Ankara’s upcoming military operation is aimed against the group.

TRT mao
Courtesy TRT World

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked US forces to clear the contentious Manbij town of YPG forces so as to avert any direct confrontation with Washington. The upcoming operation aims to target the YPG-controlled areas east of the Euphrates River in northeastern Syria. The YPG recruits most of its cadres from the Kurdish-populated areas of northern Syria, which neighbours Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish-populated southeastern region.

Soon after the Assad regime withdrew from northern Syria during the civil war, the YPG moved in, creating ‘cantons,’ or autonomous areas, in the region in 2012. Turkey has repeatedly said that the country will not allow a PKK-imposed Kurdish corridor ranging from northern Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea.

The Turkish and Iranian presidents just met to discuss “regional stability.” Turkey is ‘intensely’ preparing for a new operation east of Euphrates.

 

A “Hands Off Syria Forum”… at the Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice?

by Javier Sethness, for the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ)

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First of all, it is extremely unlikely that Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist leader of the Underground Railroad and anti-Confederate fighter during the U.S. Civil War, would ever countenance a “forum” uncritical of a fascist dictatorship engaged in a genocidal counter-revolution taking place anywhere bearing her name!

The International Action Center’s (IAC) announcement for an event that took place on Saturday, September 22nd, declares its opposition to the supposed U.S. war “against the people of Syria!” Certainly, the more than 15,000 airstrikes launched by the U.S. since 2014, mostly against supposed Islamic State targets, have involved many atrocities, including the destruction of Raqqa. Yet the announcement is silent about the origins of the Syrian uprising as class struggle against despotism and the clear counter-insurgent war waged by Bashar al-Assad alongside his reactionary allies: Putin’s Russia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah, Liwa Fatemiyoun from Afghanistan, and other affiliated paramilitary groups from Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Instead, the announcement parrots pro-Putin and pro-Assad propaganda, claiming that the regime is about to “liberate” Idlib from “Western-backed terrorist groups.” Such framing silences the estimated 100,000 detainees who have been killed by torture in Assad’s prisons since 2011, and seeks to downplay the horror that the conquest of Idlib would entail, echoing the fate of Darayya, Homs, Eastern Aleppo, Ghouta, and Der’aa. Besides, the rebel groups in Idlib are closer to Turkey than the West. To claim these to be “contra armies,” as the IAC does, is to present an extremely misleading and false equivalence between the Sandinista Revolution and the Assad Regime.

Continue reading “A “Hands Off Syria Forum”… at the Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice?”

Coalition Hosting Two Panels at Left Coast Forum: “Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism: What is Internationalist Socialist Solidarity?” and “One Year of the CPRSJ: A New Kind of Anti-War Coalition”

The Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice is pleased to announce its hosting of two panels at Left Coast Forum at the Los Angeles Trade Tech College (LATTC) next Saturday, August 25th: “Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism: What is Internationalist Socialist Solidarity?” and “One Year of the CPRSJ: A New Kind of Anti-War Coalition.”

anti-imp true

The first session, “Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism: What Is nternationalist Soialist Solidarity?”, will run from 11:30am-12:45pm. Panelists include Frieda Afary, John Reimann, Alexander Reid Ross, and Sina Zekavat, with Javier Sethness moderating. The description follows:

In light of the fate of the Syrian Revolution, which has been crushed by the bloody counter-revolution carried out by Bashar al-Assad together with his Russian, Iranian, and Lebanese allies, there has debate in the global left about the meanings of imperialism and anti-imperialism, and the political implications these carry. Many authoritarians claiming leftism cross-over with the white-supremacist right’s open support for the Assad Regime by denying its crimes and overlooking the imperialist role played by Russia and Iran in Syria, focusing exclusively on the U.S.’s supposed opposition to Assad’s rule.

This tendency is a worrisome development, suggestive as it is of a red-brown alliance (or axis) that is not consistently anti-imperialist but rather, only opposed to U.S. Imperialism. It also fails analytically to see how the U.S. has increasingly accommodated Assad’s counter-revolution. In contrast to such approaches, participants on this panel will present anti-authoritarian class analyses of militarism and imperialism. Panelists will discuss the red-brown alliance (or axis) as recalling the “Holy Alliance” and fascism; the concept and reality of imperialism in the Middle East; the current wave of popular protests in Iran; left and right interpretations of geopolitics and political geography both historically and today; the lessons of the Bosnian genocide; and the tragedy of the Syrian Revolution.

Anti-war

The second panel, “One Year of the CPRSJ: A New Kind of Anti-War Coalition,” runs from 5pm until 6:15pm. Panelists include Mimi Soltysik (Socialist Party Los Angeles), Javier Sethness (Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation [personal capacity]), and Kevin B. Anderson (International Marxist Humanist Organization).