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Trotskyist “Permanent Revolution” is Counter-revolution

Trotskyist “Permanent Revolution” is Counter-revolution

–Jacob Brown

(llco.org)

Trotskyism in its various forms has outlasted most other revisionist lines of the same time period, going on 80 years since Leon Trotsky’s demise. The reasons for Trotskyisms persistence has very little to do with the successes of Trotskyist practice. Trotskyism’s persistence today has more to do with Trotsky’s excellent rhetorical skills in his speeches and writings, alongside a heavy dose of fawning by the agents of the imperialist bourgeoisie. The many different and often conflicting lines expressed by Trotsky are the basis for the dozens of splinter sects calling themselves “Trotskyist” today. We are not going to get distracted by Trotsky’s many wavering and conflicting positions, and focus only what political line is revealed by actual historical Trotskyist practice.

Trotskyism takes the current capitalist-imperialist system and its major superstructural components for granted, from the military to economic development. Trotsky’s theory of “Uneven and Combined Development” is an elaborate restatement of the revisionist Theory of the Productive Forces. In the preface of the American Edition of his work “The Permanent Revolution”, Trotsky writes:

“If we take England and India as the opposite poles of capitalist types, we must state that the internationalism of the British and Indian proletariat does not at all rest on the similarity of conditions, tasks and methods, but on their inseparable interdependence. The successes of the liberation movement in India presuppose a revolutionary movement in England, and the other way around. Neither in India, nor in England is it possible to construct an independent socialist society. Both of them will have to enter as parts into a higher entity. In this and only in this rests the unshakable foundation of Marxian internationalism.” (1)

Trotskyism glosses over the exploitative relationship between the imperialist exploiter nations and the colonized exploited nations. In the place of exposing this global social relationship for what it is, Trotsky refers rather to the “interdependence” of exploiter and exploited nations. Unlike many other revisionist lines that pretend that there are no great differences between exploiter and exploited, Trotskyism acknowledges these differences. Like other revisionist lines however, Trotskyism denies the contradiction between the two opposing forces.

The Trotskyist strategy of “Permanent Revolution” is based on this revisionist theory of “Uneven and Combined Development”. It is an adjustment of the more classic revisionist and chauvinist outlook that makes the imperialist country working bourgeoisie into the motive force. Since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution proved false the notion of “advanced” imperialist countries coming to socialist revolution first, the Trotskyist line on world revolution allows for the “backward” countries to breakout into proletarian revolution first.

According to this social-chauvinist theory however, such revolutions can only succeed in building a viable socialist transition to communism if revolution in the “advanced” imperialist countries immediately follows. For Trotskyists today, this especially implies the exploited Third World proletariat cannot build and expand the New Power without neocolonial “assistance” by the social motion of the First World working bourgeoisie.

Contrast “Permanent Revolution” with the strategy of Global People’s War. With the Global People’s War strategy of the Leading Light, the masses in the Proletarian World (the Third World) build the New Power. The New Power expands to deepens its roots, creating a “state in miniature”. The New Power of the Leading Light in command in the poorest places across Asia, Africa, and Latin America will gain the confidence of the masses, and their confidence in the old powers will wane.

The determination of the masses to defend the New Power institutions that serve them will pave the way to the next wave of People’s Wars. These People’s Wars will reinforce one another, and become a global tidal wave to sweep away the old powers and expand the New Socialism of the Leading Light all over the planet. The final phase of this Global People’s War will encircle and conquer the citadels of the Bourgeois World (the First World). The Global People’s War strategy of the Leading Light Communists turns the counter-revolutionary Trotskyist strategy of “Permanent Revolution” on its head. The end point of our strategy declares that the victory of Global People’s War will impose socialism on the populations of the Bourgeois World, whether these bourgeois populations want it or not! (2)

The revisionist rot of “Permanent Revolution” is further informed by the historical practice of Trotskyism regarding the role of the military. Leon Trotsky’s leadership of the Red Army during the Russian Civil War is often credited for preserving the newborn Soviet regime. However, this was not done without the use of heavy coercion towards Red Army officers, soldiers, and the masses alike. Trotsky emphasized the need for experts in the Red Army command, which meant the employment of ex-Czarist officers under the coercive supervision of political commissars. A harsh policy called “War Communism” was instituted that requisitioned all grain surpluses from the peasantry, to feed workers in the cities who were often coerced into production for the war effort. (3)

With the Russian Civil War coming to a close in 1921, the Kronstadt rebellion broke out among thousands of the Bolshevik Revolution’s most notable original participants. This signaled a course change for the Bolshevik leadership called the “New Economic Policy” with a retreat towards state capitalism. This was a way to soften the harshness of the War Communism policy for the masses. As Trotsky was the one to give the go ahead to crush the Kronstadt rebellion, it did not benefit his political profile in the eyes of the masses to oppose the NEP.

The experience of the NEP from 1921-1928 became something that 20th century rightists within the communist movement have sought to permanently implement, from Nikolai Bukharin to Deng Xiaoping. Again, policies like NEP were not part of Trotsky’s preferred revisionist line. The Trotskyist line fundamentally seeks to permanently implement a harsh policy like War Communism. Trotsky writes in his book “Terrorism and Communism”:

“While every previous form of society was an organization of labor in the interests of a minority, which organized its State apparatus for the oppression of the overwhelming majority of the workers, we are making the first attempt in world-history to organize labor in the interests of the laboring majority itself. This, however, does not exclude the element of compulsion in all its forms, both the most gentle and the extremely severe. The element of State compulsion not only does not disappear from the historical arena, but on the contrary will still play, for a considerable period, an extremely prominent part.”

“The introduction of compulsory labor service is unthinkable without the application… of the methods of militarization of labor.”

“Why do we speak of militarization? …No social organization except the army has ever considered itself justified in subordinating citizens to itself in such a measure, and to control them by its will on all sides to such a degree, as the State of the proletarian dictatorship considers itself justified in doing, and does. Only the army—just because in its way it used to decide questions of the life or death of nations, States, and ruling classes—was endowed with powers of demanding from each and all complete submission to its problems, aims, regulations, and orders.” (4)

There is a stark contrast between Trotskyist “Militarization of Labor”, and the role of the People’s Liberation Army under socialist China. The slogan of the People’s Liberation Army was “Serve the People”. Instead of using coercion against the masses, the PLA upheld Mao’s famous line on guerilla warfare, “move among the masses as a fish swims in sea”. The PLA was viewed by the masses as their own army, rather than the masses being the hostage possession of the standing army.

The 1960 “Four Firsts” campaign, the 1964 “Learn from the PLA” campaign, and the “Flying Leap” campaign by the PLA led by Lin Biao during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution emphasized communist politics and the mass line. (5) In contrast, “one-man management” and technical expertise was emphasized by the Red Army under Trotsky, as well as his “Militarization of Labor” line on economic development. The Trotskyist line has no reservation in putting the masses through the militarist meat grinder in the name of defending and consolidating socialism, so long as it aids a social-imperialist First World “workers revolution”. Trotskyism takes the customs, habits, “experts”, and politics of the capitalist-imperialist system for granted, rather than putting communist politics in command.

On gender oppression, the Trotskyists also take the current imperialist-backed global patriarchy for granted. The various Trotskyist sects are notorious liberals when it comes to the institutions that systematically oppress women and children in the Third World. They take the sex trade and the culture of pornography as a “given” under socialism, and tend to refer to their elimination under socialism as simply a matter of “guaranteeing full employment”. (6) Leading Light Communists believe that the masses of sex workers in the Proletarian World should not simply be paid more to rent their compliance to men’s sexual advances, or to simply make sex work process “safer” until the socialist economy develops. Rather, Leading Light Communists believe the masses of sex workers can actively combat the whole patriarchal system that sexually commodifies women and children. The masses of women in the Third World demand not only full equality, but total liberation!

It is possible to cut through many of Trotsky’s eloquent and conflicting statements based on the historical practice of Trotskyism. We can then condense the essence of Trotskyist revisionism, which is at its core a misanthropic anti-People ideology. In the same work calling for the “militarization of labor”, Trotsky explains his position on the relationship of the human species to labor:

“As a general rule, man strives to avoid labor. Love for work is not at all an inborn characteristic: it is created by economic pressure and social education. One may even say that man is a fairly lazy animal. It is on this quality, in reality, that is founded to a considerable extent all human progress; because if man did not strive to expend his energy economically, did not seek to receive the largest possible quantity of products in return for a small quantity of energy, there would have been no technical development or social culture. It would appear, then, from this point of view that human laziness is a progressive force.” (7)

Contrast this to how Karl Marx describes the relationship of the human species to labor:

“It is just in his work upon the objective world, therefore, that man really proves himself to be a species-being. This production is his active species-life. Through this production, nature appears as his work and his reality. The object of labor is, therefore, the objectification of man’s species-life: for he duplicates himself not only, as in consciousness, intellectually, but also actively, in reality, and therefore he sees himself in a world that he has created. In tearing away from man the object of his production, therefore, estranged labor tears from him his species-life, his real objectivity as a member of the species and transforms his advantage over animals into the disadvantage that his inorganic body, nature, is taken from him…

Estranged labor turns thus…[m]an’s species-being, both nature and his spiritual species-property, into a being alien to him, into a means of his individual existence. It estranges from man his own body, as well as external nature and his spiritual aspect, his human aspect.” (8)

Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky have diametrically opposite views on what makes human beings human! For Marx, humans have “species-being” through their productive interaction with the natural world (labor), unlike most other species on this planet. It is only in a class divided society, where humans are alienated from the product of their labor, that labor itself becomes dehumanizing.

In a general sense, Trotsky is correct that in class society “human laziness is a progressive force”, he obscures the fundamental point Marx makes about human labor being affirmative of what it means to be a human being. Trotsky takes alienated human labor for granted when he makes the false and misanthropic claim that “Love for work is not at all an inborn characteristic…One may even say that man is a fairly lazy animal.” Is there any wonder why Trotskyists don’t make a point about applying the mass line, putting communist politics in command, and building institutions that serve the people? Is there any wonder why the Trotskyists instead seek to impose “experts” who will slave-drive the masses with “military labor discipline”? Real communists, Leading Light Communists, seek to Serve the People. Fake “communists”, revisionists like the Trotskyists, seek to slave-drive the masses “for their own good”. What outrageous, reactionary poison!

Nevertheless, the call to “return to Marx” will do nothing to negate revisionist lines like Trotskyism. Indeed, all revisionist lines claim to have some thread back to the “original Marx”, whether emphasizing Marx’s Labor Theory of Value or other basics of Marxist social science. However, very few revisionist lines in existence today deal concretely with Marx’s Theory of Alienation. The reason is that this thread of Marxist thinking has consequences for one’s practical view of social class in the 21st century. This thread affirms the Leading Light Communist view on global class, much more than it affirms the retrograde lines of any other “return to Marx” cult group. (9)

Leading Light Communism breaks with a view of social class that is strictly tied to one’s relationship with the means of production. In turn, Leading Light Communism has revisited what the proletariat actually is today, based on an global egalitarian distribution principle. (10) Marx presented his Theory of Alienation as it affected the industrial worker, before the 21st century “Planet of Slums”. Even so, the same thinking from Marx about how human alienation in class society applies as much to the “declassed” slumdweller and subsistence farmer as it does the Third World factory worker. Each of those exploited social groups belong to the proletariat, because they are alienated from their fair share of the global social product, and thus alienated from their own humanity and from other humans.

Likewise, Marxism-Leninism and Maoism (including “Maoism-Third Worldism”) is also not enough to combat Trotskyism and other revisionist lines that uphold the Theory of the Productive Forces. There are many ways which the Leninists did not break sharply enough with some of these backward productivist ideas that Trotskyism represents, like “one-man management” and other organizing methods that undermined the proletarian dictatorship. The Maoists went even further in their break with Trotskyist and other productivist ideology. (11) Even still, the Maoists in China did not fully break with productivism, as evidenced by how they sought to “catch up” to the First World during the Great Leap Forward.

Of course, this productivism is fundamentally a revisionist line, nesting inside a basically correct “train is on two tracks” orientation of socialist development. It is not possible to “catch up” to the First World that has enriched itself off of imperialist plunder. The only way for the Third World to “catch up” to the First World, is for the Proletarian Third World to encircle and defeat the Bourgeois First World! (12) The consequences of not fully breaking with the Theory of the Productive Forces has led Maoism itself to represent a “crypto-Trotskyist” line since the 1970s. Both historically inside China and around the world today, Maoists uphold a crypto-Trotskyist line that centers on the social motion of the bourgeois First World majority populations. (13)

Even when we speak of the “Second Road” of Lin Biao’s PLA during the Cultural Revolution as a contrast to historical Trotskyist practice, we are not going far enough. The PLA until 1971 was indeed a model of a communist revolution breaking with the Theory of the Productive Forces. (14) This was especially the case during the Flying Leap, in correcting the errors that derailed the original Great Leap Forward. Due to the border clashes with the social-imperialist Soviet Union in 1969, Lin was compelled to derail the motion of the social experiments in the border regions of China.

More generally, if we don’t move beyond the “barracks socialism” of Lin, then we are in danger of falling back into Trotskyist military organizing principles, and not Leading Light Communist military organizing principles. This is why “Maoism-Third Worldism” is no longer sufficient to combat revisionist ideologies like Trotskyism. As comrade Prairie Fire writes:

“I led the charge to rehabilitate Lin Biao. Even so, I admit that we need more than simply “barracks egalitarianism,” which is a term I have used to describe the Lin Biao trend, which was really the only Maoist trend with an articulate program for transforming the Cultural Revolution into something permanent. I was listening to interviews with ex-Maoist red guards. The same Maoist youth who were rising up in 1967 were, by 1976, coming out to support Zhou Enlai. They were disenchanted with constant Maoist calls for mobilization, especially with little results to show for them by the end. I got the sense there was a kind of collective burn out there.”

“…Yes there were mass mobilizations and the New Power that arose in the People’s Liberation Army, but there was also a lot of police suppression, police method, police narrative and falsifications, lack of due process, brute force happening. At their best, the Maoists wanted a more structural and ideological analysis of counter-revolution, a more structural and ideological method of preventing it, in reality, they used the old methods probably as much as the new methods, often mixing them together. In practice, the Maoist break was not always as great as one would hope.” (15)

All in all, the “Permanent Revolution” of Trotskyism is counter-revolutionary in fact. The only way to combat Trotskyism and all revisionist ideology is to uphold Leading Light Communism, to build the New Power and prepare the way for world revolution!

Notes:

1. Leon Trotsky, “The Permanent Revolution” (https://archive.org/stream/permanentrevolut035092mbp/permanentrevolut035092mbp_djvu.txt)
2. PF, “Is Peoples’s War universal?” (http://llco.org/is-peoples-war-universal)
3. John G. Wright, “Trotsky and the Red Army” (https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/wright/1941/10/redarmy.htm)
4. Leon Trotsky, “Terrorism and Communism”, Chapter 8 (https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1920/terrcomm/ch08.htm)
5. PF, “Lin Biao as Barometer”, (http://llco.org/lin-biao-as-barometer)
6. Spartacist League (http://www.icl-fi.org/english/esp/58/conference.html)
7. Leon Trotsky, “Terrorism and Communism”, Chapter 8
8. Karl Marx, “Estranged Labour” (https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/labour.htm)
9. Shah Alam, “Communist Revolution Universal”
10. PF, “Revisiting Value and Exploitation” (http://llco.org/revisiting-value-and-exploitation)
11. Kao Hung, “From Bernstein to Liu Shao-chi” (http://marxistphilosophy.org/BernLiu.pdf)
12. PF, “On counter-revolution: Just pointing to revisionists is not enough” (http://llco.org/on-counter-revolution-just-pointing-to-revisionists-is-not-enough)
13. PF, “Who and What are Trotsky-cons?” (http://llco.org/who-and-what-are-trotsky-cons)
14. PF, “Lin Biao as Barometer”
15. PF, “On counter-revolution: Just pointing to revisionists is not enough

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Who and What are Trotsky-cons?

trotsky1937

Who and What are Trotsky-cons?

(llco.org)

The term “Trotsky-con” has become part of the lexicon of populist paranoia in the First World. Despite its currency with red-baiters and anti-Semites, especially during the years of the Bush administration, the term does correctly refer to the  link between Trotskyism and a certain group of policy thinkers within the new generation of conservatives that emerged after World War 2. The SWP USA, a party from which many Trotsky-cons emerged, feebly dismisses any connection as fascist conspiracy theory, as though the link were a pure invention of the paranoid delusions of Lyndon LaRouche and Pat Buchanan. (1) Despite their protests to the contrary, there are deep theoretic links between Trotskyism and imperialism. Neo-con Stephen Schwartz proudly defends his Trotskyist past and prefers that “neo-cons” be called “Trotsky-cons.” (2) He goes so far as to say he will defend Trotsky “To my last breath, and without apology.” (3)

Very early on, Trotsky was engaged in various power struggles within the Soviet Union against the proletarian line of Lenin and Stalin. As early as 1926, in the infamous Clemenceau Declaration, Trotsky sought to use imperialist invasion of the Soviet Union as a way for his forces to seize power. Just as the Bolsheviks were able to take power during World War 1, Trotsky saw his forces similarly positioned to seize power. Into the 1930s, as Europe was polarized between fascists and anti-fascists, Trotsky, even though he criticized fascism, he did not see fascist invasion as the main danger.  Once again, Trotsky increasingly saw Stalin as the main danger to the Soviet Union, even on the eve of World War 2. Once one understands the essence of Trotskyism, it becomes apparent why one of the only times that Trotsky supported national liberation was for the Ukraine in 1939. (4) Trotsky advocated civil war in the Soviet Union and Ukrainian succession on the eve of Nazi invasion:

“In the Russian Bulletin of the Opposition (82-3), February-April, 1940, the following long paragraph appeared in place of the opening two sentences of the Sunday Express version: ‘…I consider the main source of danger to the USSR in the present international situation to be Stalin and the oligarchy headed by him. An open struggle against them, in the view of world public opinion, is inseparably connected for me with the defense of the USSR.” (5)

No doubt Trotsky saw his Clemenceau Declaration in the 1920s and, later, de facto support for the Nazis as having a parallel with 1917. Trotsky was hoping that an imperialist invasion of the Soviet Union, even one carried out by the Nazis, could catapult him to power just as the German invasion of World War 1 was a factor in the October Revolution of 1917. Trotsky was hoping to turn an imperialist war into his own brand of “revolutionary war” against Stalin and Soviet socialism. Trotsky saw himself riding to power on the backs of Nazi tanks. Just as Lenin’s strategy of turning imperialist invasion into revolutionary war has been named “revolutionary defeatism,” Trotsky’s strategy could be called “counter-revolutionary defeatism” since it turns Lenin on his head.

This extreme reactionary position is one element of Trotsky’s politics, a very important one. However, this does not exhaust Trotsky’s politics. Trotsky held contradictory, conflicting, confused positions, which is why Trotsky, at the same time, can appear to be anti-imperialist and anti-fascist. It took another, Trotsky’s follower, Max Shachtman, to work out the kinks, to put forward a more coherent form of Trotsky’s counter-revolutionary defeatist line. Shachtman called Stalinism, “the new barbarism.” In 1939, following the Soviet invasion of Finland, Shachtman followed James Burnham in arguing against the SWP USA’s nominal and weak-kneed defense of the USSR. They argued that the Soviet Union was not socialist and did not even deserve nominal support. Shachtman came to support the Western imperialists against the Soviet Union. Like Trotsky, Shachtman came to see Stalin as the main danger to the world. Like Trotsky, who agreed to testify on the crimes of Stalin to the anti-communist witch hunters in the Congress of the United States,  Shachtman was not above selling himself to the imperialists. The original Trotsky-cons, like Shachtman, are those who evolved from supporters of Trotsky’s so-called “Fourth International” into Cold Warriors for Western imperialism. If Trotsky is the father of the Trotsky-con movement, Max Shachtman is its mother. In addition, there has emerged a second generation of high profile intellectual Trotskyists, who mostly came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, who, like the earlier Trotsky-cons, have converted to become stooges for U.S. empire. Trotsky continues to have imperialist offspring, even to this day there is another generation of First Worldist, so-called socialists who support imperialism for similar reasons.

Although twisted opportunism surely played a role  in uniting Trotskyists and empire, the roots of the Trotsky-con phenomenon are much deeper, found within the ideology of Trotskyism itself. At the core of Trotskyism is the Theory of Productive Forces and its twin, the Theory of Permanent Revolution. The Theory of Productive Forces overemphasizes economic development as a factor in advancing revolution. According to such a  mechanical misreading of historical materialism, a society is unable to build socialism if it has not developed an economic base that approximates that of Western Europe at the time; it is, according to such Trotsky-cons and those with similar outlooks, impossible to build socialism unless a country has already gone through Western style capitalism. Much of Maoism is a rejection of and answer to this kind of phony Marxism. Mao showed how it was possible to bridge the gap between the most backward semi-feudal conditions and socialism with his theory of New Democracy. Mao showed how by harnessing the power of the masses, a communist party can lead countries whose development has been stunted by imperialism forward to socialism. The whole history of socialism validates Mao’s view. In the 1930s, under Stalin’s leadership, the Soviet Union had developed socialism at a breakneck pace in unfavorable conditions. Stalin had correctly predicted that it was necessary to build socialism as rapidly as possible; Stalin famously said the Soviet Union must catch up to the West or be annihilated. Not only were the Soviet masses able to build an economic base, they did so while making ever greater strides toward proletarian democracy. By the 30s, the Theory of Productive Forces had been refuted in practice by the living example of the Soviet achievement. By the late 30s, there was no excuse for anyone to uphold the Theory of Productive Forces or Permanent Revolution. Yet Trotskyists continued to ignore the reality in front of them. They continued to reject “Socialism in One Country” on a priori grounds. As Harry Haywood correctly points out, Trotskyist veered between defeatism and utopianism:

“From late 1922 on, Trotsky made a direct attack on the whole Leninist theory of revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. He denied the possibility (and necessity) of building socialism in one country, and instead characterized that theory as an abandonment of Marxist principles and a betrayal of the revolutionary movement. He published his own theory of “permanent revolution,” and he contended that a genuine advance of socialism in the USSR would become possible only as a result of a socialist victory in the other industrially developed nations.

While throwing around a good deal of left-sounding rhetoric, Trotsky’s theories were thoroughly defeatist and class collaborationist. For instance, in the postscript to Program for Peace, written in 1922, he contended that “as long as the bourgeoisie remains in power in the other European countries, we shall be compelled, in our struggle against economic isolation, to strive for agreement with the capitalist world; at the same time it may be said with certainty that these agreements may at best help us to mitigate some of our economic ills, to take one or another step forward, but real progress of a socialist economy in Russia will become possible only after victory of the proletariat in the major European countries.” (6)

Many Trotskyists rejected the possibility of socialism in the backward Soviet Union, or they rejected socialism there as “deformed.” According to view of Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution, real socialism’s only hope was for a more developed country to come to the aid of the Bolsheviks. Those who uphold this position today state that revolution in the underdeveloped countries of the Third World is impossible without the help of the “advanced” First World. So, they argue, it is necessary to have a revolution in Western Europe or the United States in order to develop socialism in the  the Third World generally. For these reasons, Trotsky and his modern followers reject the idea that the principal contradiction in the world is between imperialist and exploited nations. They see national liberation movements as incapable of making real proletarian revolution in Third World conditions. They are First World chauvinists who uphold versions of both the Theory of Productive Forces and Trotsky’s Theory of Permanent Revolution. This kind of position is echoed today by many overt Trotskyists and many covert ones. Such a view is found, for example, in the writings of many who were in the orbit of the RIM, another defunct fourth international.

James Burnham and Max Shachtman carried Trotsky’s criticism of Stalin to its conclusion. Not only was the mode of production in the Soviet Union not socialist, its mode of production was “bureaucratic collectivist,” worse than capitalism. Shachtman even suggested it was based on slave labor. (7) Anti-communist conservatives and liberals had long made exactly these kinds of claims. Thus it wasn’t long before Shachtman was on the side of the Unites States in the Cold War. Such Trotskyists end up supporting Western imperialism as progressive because it allegedly brings development, paving the way for future social change. In other words, Western-style capitalism and modernity are prerequisites to socialism. And, they argue, since imperialism brings Western-style capitalism and modernity, imperialism is progressive and should be supported. Such lines are CIA lines. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t long before such “communists” dropped any pretense to socialism at all. After abandoning any pretense of socialist revolution, the Trotsky-cons opted to use imperialism to export Western liberalism and modernity as, what they saw as, the best realistic option for the world. Stephen Schwartz noted the parallels between Bush’s grand designs of nation-building and exporting Western modernity with Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution in Bush’s Second Inaugural Address:

“‘The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.’ This sounds like it came right out of Trotsky’s bottle: The survival of socialism in the Soviet Union increasingly depends on the success of socialism in other lands. Neo-con Stephen Schwartz said that ‘those who are fighting for global democracy should view Leon Trotsky as a worthy forerunner.’” (8)

Trotsky’s Theory of Productive Forces, Theory of Permanent Revolution, and criticism of socialism as it existed in the Soviet Union, are linked. There is a clear path from Trotsky’s First World chauvinism to the imperialism expressed in paternalistic terms by the neo-conservatives. It is no accident that ex-Trotskyists became Reaganites and the movers and shakers establishment far-right policy thinkers. James Burnham founded National Review. Some of these new conservatives passed through Shachtmanite Young People’s Socialist League at one point or another or passed through the Socialist Party when Schachtman was still a leading figure.  Jeane Kirkpatrick, Joshua Muravchik, Carl Gershman, Penn Kemble are worth mentioning. (9) Ex-Trotskyist and Public Interest founder Irving Kristol (father of William Kristol editor of the Weekly Standard) founded an anti-Soviet CIA front, the International Congress for Cultural Freedom. (10) (11) Kristol wrote in 1983 that he was a “proud” member of Trotsky’s Fourth International in 1940. (12) Public Interest co-editor Nathan Glazer was close to the Trotskyist movement. (13) Also, defense intellectual Albert Wohlstetter had been a Shachtmanite in the late 1940s. Later, he was mentor to Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. (14) (15) These figures were the brainpower behind much of the conservative revival in the past decades.

There is another trend worth mentioning who are similar to Trotsky-cons, but do not identify as conservatives. Christopher Hitchens, an ex-Trotskyist, has been moving in a similar direction as  Trotsky-cons. Hitchens revels in his new found fame as one of the top promoters of war against Afghanistan and Iraq. Faux News never misses a chance to give Hitchens a soapbox to condemn “Islamofascism” and the anti-war movement. Hitchens was also a consultant to the Bush administration despite still claiming to be some kind of “leftist.” Because of his imperial “leftism,” Hitchens, like Sidney Hook who traveled Trotskyist circles and later worked for the CIA, is similar to Trotsky-cons, but is outside their conservative milieu. Some compare him more to the anti-Soviet liberals of the Cold War era. Even so, the underlying phenomenon is similar whether it is Hitchens or Irving Kristol. If one believes that socialism is impossible in the Third World, where development is lacking, one can easily come to see the “civilizing mission” and “manifest destiny” of the West as progressive and necessary — even though, as Lenin understood, decadent imperialism plays no progressive role in the contemporary world.

Another variation is the development of crypto-Trotskyism. Crypto-Trotskyism is Trotskyism under a Maoist cover. It is Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution disguised under false praise for the Cultural Revolution. For example, the RCP USA, at one point, claimed to be a Maoist party even though they rejected global people’s war as Lin Biaoism. (16)  In his infamous Conquer the World, their leader Bob Afakean, in all but name, upholds Trotsky’s Theory of Permanent Revolution and Theory of Productive forces. RCP USA advanced the claim that socialist revolutions can’t be sustained in the Third World without revolution carrying over into the developed First World, “the imperialist citadels.” Like Trotskyists before them, they sought to coordinate Third and First World revolutions through a fourth international led by First World organizations whose revolutions were deemed key, more important than those in the Third World. Thus they turn the Maoist truth, articulated by Lin Biao, that “the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggle of Asian, African, and Latin American peoples” on its head. They see the First World as the key, not the Third. With such a reactionary ideology, it is no surprise that they have disrupted and spread confusion within the communist movement worldwide.  Today, their Trotsky-con kin denounce “Islamo-fascism,” and the crypto-Trotskyists join the choir with their attacks against Iran. What kind of “Maoist” party holds anti-Iranian demonstrations in a climate where the imperialists are imposing sanctions and on the verge of military action? In fact, their Iranian fraternal party echos Trotsky when it writes that the Islamic state as a bigger enemy than the United States. They issue statements that parrot the imperialist denunciation of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program and the alleged treatment of women there. They, along with RCP USA and similar groups, were de facto supporters of the recent CIA-backed attempted color revolution in Iran. What is really going on is that the Iranian “Maoists” implicitly seek a confrontation between the imperialists and the Islamic regime in order to advance their own interests, like Trotsky. Along with upholding, in all but name, the Theory of Productive Forces and the Theory of Permanent Revolution, RCP USA and its allies  increasingly attacksthe record of Lenin, Stalin and Mao in the same terms as the Cold War anti-communists. (17) They criticize revolutionary nationalism and reject the true Communists who understand that the vast majority of the First World population is thoroughly reactionary. These are not merely opportunist errors of Maoist organizations, they are systematic, reactionary errors. (18)(19) (20) This isn’t too say that there are not legitimate criticisms to be made of the communist tradition. However, the criticisms made by the Trotskyists and crypto-Trotskyists are, even when they happen to be correct, part of a reactionary package that must be rejected as a whole. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, but that is not any incentive to buy the broken clock.

Contrary to Trotskyist claims, the experiences of the Soviet Union and China are proof that it is possible to build socialism in unfavorable conditions. In fact, revolutions are always born in unfavorable conditions. Revolutions happen, as Lenin stated, in the weakest links. They happen when the old society is failed. The proletariat and its allies are very resilient. They have shown that they can overcome the problem of development. By the end of the Stalin era, for example, the Soviet Union had become an atomic power and had become a match for the West technologically. They had raised life expectancy to nearly the level of the West. (21) Real existing socialism has shown that development and empowerment of the masses is not an antagonistic contradiction. Empowering the masses is key to development, as Mao understood. The Soviet Union and China, under proletarian leadership, traversed in a few decades what took hundreds of years and the bloody legacy of imperialism to accomplish in the imperialist nations.

According to Trotsky-con Stephen Schwartz, there is “a psychological, ideological and intellectual continuity” between Trotskyism and conservatism. (22) Some might suggest that these Trotskyist-to-conservative political evolutions are accidental, just coincidence. Although similar conversions can be found among the social democratic “left,” which has been hostile to communism from the outset, it would be hard to find such a congealed group of Washington ideologues coming out of any other trend claiming to be “socialist.” At bottom, Trotskyism is First Worldism. It fights for the First World against the Third World. In this respect, it is not different than any number ideologies in the First World, including fascism. Long before they embraced conservatism, the Trotsky-cons were advocating imperialism and White chauvinism. All Trotskyists are Trotsky-cons at heart.

Notes

1. Sam Manuel. “Jew-hatred, red-baiting: heart of claims of ‘neo-con’ conspiracy ” The Militant Vol. 68/No. 24 June 28, 2004 http://www.themilitant.com/2004/6824/.html

2. Dale Vree. “What Is A Neocon? & Does It Matter?” New Oxford Review December 2005
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news//posts

3. Stephen Schwartz. “Trotskycons? Pasts and Present.” National Review June 11, 2003 http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-schwartz.asp

4. Writings of Leon Trotsky, , “Ukrainian Independence and Sectarian Muddleheads.” Pathfinder Press, New York: 1973. Also see: http://www.etext.org/Politics/MIM/classics/text.php?mimfile=trotskyukraine.txt

5. Leon Trotsky. Writings of Leon Trotsky: NY: Merit Publishers, p. 124 (quoted from MIM, http://www.etext.org/Politics/MIM/classics/text.php?mimfile=trotskystalin.txt)

6. Harry Haywood. Black Bolshevik Liberator Press Chicago, Illnoisa USA 1978 p 178

7. Tony Cliff. The theory of bureaucratic collectivism:A critique 1948 http://www.marxists.org/archive/cliff/works/1948/xx/burcoll.htm#n12

8. Stephen Schwartz. “Trotskycons? Pasts and Present.” National Review June 11, 2003 http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-schwartz.asp

9. John B. Judis. Trotskyism to Anachronism: The Neoconservative Revolution Foreign Affairs, July – August 1995 http://www.foreignaffairs.org/19950701fareviewessay5058/john-b-judis/trotskyism-to-anachronism-the-neoconservative-revolution.html

10. Leon Hadar. “The “Neocons”: From the Cold War to the “Global Intifada”” April 1991 http://www.washington-report.org/backissues/0491/.htm

11. Paul Greenberg. “The ‘Shocked’ Treatment” Commentary December 9, 2005 http://www.washingtontimes.com/commentary/-1714r.htm

12. Flirting with Fascism June 30, 2003 http://www.amconmag.com/06_30_03/feature.html

13. John B. Judis. Trotskyism to Anachronism: The Neoconservative Revolution Foreign Affairs, July – August 1995 http://www.foreignaffairs.org/19950701fareviewessay5058/john-b-judis/trotskyism-to-anachronism-the-neoconservative-revolution.html

14. http://www.lycos.com/info/albert-wohlstetter–paul-wolfowitz.html

15. Trotsky’s ghost wandering the White House National Post June 07, 2003
http://www.prisonplanet.com/trotskys_ghost_wandering_the_white_house.htm also see

16. Bob Avakian. For a Harvest of Dragons. RCP Publications. USA:1983. p 150-151. “ ….to cling to at least aspects of Lin Biao-ism. Lin Biao was a top leader of the communist Party of China in the 1960s and he is associated with the line of singling out U.S. imperialism for a common onslaught from the “third world,” with simultaneous national liberation wars defeating U.S. imperialism throughout the “third world,” and even possibly destroying it altogether. His line (as expressed in a 1965 pamphlet [written by Lin Biao], Long Live The Victory of People’s War) represented the absolutizing of what was then the principal contradiction in the world (between oppressed nations and imperialism) — raising it out of context of world relations and contradictions in which it actually exists and treating it as a thing unto itself and virtually the only significant contradiction in the world. While recognizing the existence of revolutionary situations and favorable revolutionary prospects in many countries in the “third world” it exaggerated this into a tendency to treat the “third world” as an undifferentiated whole, ripe everywhere for revolution. Related to this, in upholding the importance of armed struggle as a necessary means for replacing the old order with the new and insisting on the fact that in many places in the “third world” it was possible and necessary to make armed struggle the main and immediate form of struggle — in opposition to the Soviet revisionist line that attempted to make economic development the main task in the “third world” neo-colonies — Lin Biao’s line exaggerated this to a point of virtually insisting that everywhere in the “third world” revolutionary warfare could and must be launched right away (in Long Live the victory, whether one dares to wage a people’s war is made the touchstone of distinguishing Marxism-Leninism from revisionism). As part of this whole line, the objective fact that the proletarian revolution had been delayed in the imperialist countries and that there was as yet no proletarian revolutionary movement there was absolutized, so that the prospect of such revolution in the imperialist countries was all but dismissed…
…But to attempt to cling to Lin Biaoism in the world situation of today, with all its profound changes since the 1960s, including the principal contradiction, can only have very serious and disastrous consequences…”

17. Bob Avakian. From Ike to Mao And Beyond Insight Press USA:2005 p 241-245

18.  Bob Avakian in a Discussion with Comrades on Epistemology-
On Knowing and Changing the World Revolutionary Worker #1262, December 19, 2004 http://revcom.u s/a/1262/avakian-epistemology.htm

19. Bob Avakian. Conquer The World https://irtr.org/archive/marxleninmao.proboards43.com/index797a223fb67a05dea8905ab852594d01.html?board=math&action=display&thread=

20. Bob Avakian. From Ike to Mao And Beyond Insight Press USA:2005 p 245

21. Maoist Internationalist Movement. Stalin page http://www.etext.org/Politics/MIM/faq/sovietcomputers.html

22 Trotsky’s ghost wandering the White House National Post June 07, 2003
http://www.prisonplanet.com/trotskys_ghost_wandering_the_white_house.htm

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Documents show Stalin went to great lengths to stop Hitler

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Documents show Stalin went to great lengths to stop Hitler

(llco.org)

In 1939, Stalin tried to make a deal with the West against fascist Germany. Recently declassified archive documents show the extent that Stalin went to in an attempt  to stop Hitler by offering an alliance to Britain and France on August 15, 1939. According to the documents, Stalin offered to commit one million troops to stand watch on the German border to deter Hitler from expanding World War 2. According to one source:

“The Soviet offer – made by war minister Marshall Klementi Voroshilov and Red Army chief of general staff Boris Shaposhnikov – would have put up to 120 infantry divisions (each with some 19,000 troops), 16 cavalry divisions, 5,000 heavy artillery pieces, 9,500 tanks and up to 5,500 fighter aircraft and bombers on Germany’s borders in the event of war in the west..” (1)

Had the deal been taken seriously, Stalin was prepared to up the level of support to double the number of Hitler’s fielded forces at the time. However, Stalin was rebuffed by the West.

A week later, August 23, 1939, Stalin made a treaty with Hitler after Germany attacked Poland. Stalin’s detractors criticize the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact as a purely opportunist move on behalf of a power hungry Soviet dictator. However, these documents indicate that, on the contrary, Stalin attempted to prevent World War 2. According to Major General Lev Sotskov, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact would not have happened had the West accepted Stalin’s offer of an alliance. It was only after being rejected by the West that Stalin was forced to sign a pact with Hitler in order to buy time to build up Soviet military strength.

Conservative leader Neville Chamberlain in Britain and the French had earlier, in 1938, enabled Hitler by allowing the German annexation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia in the Munich agreement. The West warned Czechoslovakia not to invoke its treaty with the Soviet Union. The reality is that the West had more of a de facto treaty with Hitler than the Soviet Union. Later, the Soviet Union, not the West, would do the bulk of the fighting against the German armies.

It is estimated that around 50 million people died in World War 2. The Soviet peoples suffered 27 million deaths, more than all the other allied nations put together did. Stalin tried to prevent this catastrophe, the West sold-out humanity and enabled the Nazis. More than any single leader, Stalin prevented the victory of fascism in Europe.

The Western view of Stalin was shaped by imperialists, fascists, and other anti-communists, especially Trotskyists. In Russia, Stalin is viewed very differently. In poll after poll, Stalin, a Georgian, tops the lists as a great Russian leader. (2)(3)(4)(5) This latest revelation about Stalin shows just how skewed Western history is.

Notes

1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnew….ops-to-stop-Hit ler-if-Britain-and-France-agreed-pact.html�

2. Surprisingly enough, many Russians still miss Stalin’s strong handhttp://english.pravda.ru/russia/history/10-07-2008/105747-stalin-0

3. Last Tsar Leads Stalin in Poll on Greatest Russian http://www.javno.com/en/world/clanak.php?id=165426

4. GEORGIA: GEORGIAN PUBLIC CHOOSES STALIN AS IDEAL LEADER – POLL.(Brief Article)http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb6465/is_200108/ai_n26275688�

5. Could Josef Stalin be made a saint? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnew….de-a-saint.html

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Molotov, MIM, Dogma, and Stalin’s support for Israel

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Molotov, MIM, Dogma, and Stalin’s support for Israel

(llco.org)

Stalin was a great socialist leader, but it is important to tell the truth about his mistakes. Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov was a high-ranking, important member of Stalin’s regime. Today’s Stalinists occasionally choose him as their favorite candidate to have succeeded Stalin in  “what if” fantasy histories. “What if Molotov had led the Soviet Union rather than Beria or Khrushchev?” they ask. One of the biggest questions about both Molotov and Stalin is why they supported an apartheid state like Israel. Decades later, Molotov states in his memoirs:

“Everyone objected [to recognizing the State of Israel] but us — me and Stalin. Some asked me why we favored it. We are supporters of international freedom. Why should we be opposed if, strictly speaking, that meant pursuing a hostile nationalist policy? In our time, it’s true, the Bolsheviks were and remained anti-Zionist… Yet it’s one thing to be anti-Zionist and anti-bourgeois, and quite another to be against the Jewish people. We proposed, however, an Arab-Israeli union, for both nations to live there together. We have supported this version if it could have been arranged. Otherwise we favored an Israeli state… Israel has turned out badly. But Lord Almighty! That’s American imperialism for you.”  (1)

The Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) extrapolates on Molotov’s defense of Stalin:

“Stalin has been criticized for his recognition of Israel. There is a limit to what the revolutionary forces are capable of. In the case of the existence of Israel, the progressive forces were not able to stop its creation as a separate, exclusive state. Once created, the question became whether or not to recognize it. From Molotov’s quote above, it is clear that Stalin would not recognize the right to self-determination of only those nations with progressive impact, and that he said Molotov thought that not recognizing Israel would have been ‘against the Jewish people.’ They believed they should not oppose the fait-accompli in Israel, though they would have preferred a different outcome.” (2)

These are good examples of how not to approach political errors and history. In his memoirs, Molotov washes his hands of responsibility for Israel even though he had a big role in policies that aided Israel’s creation. Rather than accepting his errors, Molotov obfuscates. He shifts the blame onto United States, who subsequently became the main supporter of Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian peoples and wars against the Arabs. The genocide and wars continue to this day. MIM does not confront Molotov on his dishonesty. MIM articulates Molotov’s excuse better than Molotov. According to MIM, Stalin’s power was limited and he had no choice but to recognize Israel. Since the Zionists had won their war, what is gained by an infantile refusal to recognize them? This might make sense if all you had to go on was Molotov’s word. However, the reality is that Molotov is lying by omission. And MIM doubles down on the lie.

Stalin’s regime did more than extend de jure recognition to an already victorious Israel on May 18, 1948, they were the first. Several Eastern Bloc countries followed suit, extending de jure recognition to Israel before the United States, which only got around to de jure recognition by January 31, 1949. Golda Meir, one of Israel’s founding elders and Israel’s Fourth Prime Minister, wrote in her memoirs:

“… [T]he Soviet recognition of the State of Israel on May 18 was of immense significance to us.  It meant that the two greatest powers in the world has come together, for the first time since World War II, to back the Jewish state, and although we were still in deadly danger, we knew, at last, that we were not alone. It was in that knowledge – combined with sheer necessity – that we found the spiritual, if not the material, strength that was to lead us to victory.” (3) *

Stalin’s recognition of Israel gave a tremendous morale boost to the Zionists. It also boosted their international legitimacy and gave them diplomatic cover. What Molotov and MIM fail to mention is that  Stalin’s support for the Zionist movement goes back prior to the Israeli victory. The Eastern Bloc played a key role in the victory of the Zionists.

The Jewish Agency, an organization that later became the state of Israel, between June 1947 and October 31, 1949, began seeking weapons for Operation Balak. Weapons were procured using communist help in Czechoslovakia. As the communists became more influential after World War 2, material support for Zionism increased. The communist coup increased Czechoslovakia’s support for the Zionists. The Soviet Bloc arms shipments were very significant. Most of the arms were of German design. They were either leftover arms from World War 2 or new arms manufactured in Czechoslovakia using German designs. The arms shipments up to October, 1948 included: 34,500 P-18 rifles, 5,515 MG 34 machine guns with 10,000 ammo belts, 10,000 vz.24 bayonets, 900 vz. 37 heavy machine guns, 500 vz. 27 pistols. Other infantry weapons: 12 ZK-383 submachine guns, 10 ZK 420 semi-automatic rifles, 500 vz. 26 light machine guns (shipped, yet delivery not confirmed in Czech sources). Ammunition: 91,500,000 7.92×57mm Mauser cartridges, 15,000,000 9mm Parabellum cartridges, 375,000 13mm cartridges for MG 131, 150,000 20mm cartridges for MG 151, 375,000 7.65mm cartridges for vz. 27 pistol. Aircraft: Israeli Avia S-199, 1948, 25 Avia S-199 fighters, 61 Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IX fighters. (4) The Israelis continued to receive arms and support after 1948. In addition, the Soviet bloc provided weapons and tactical training the the Zionist insurgency. Eighty-one pilots and 69 crew specialists were trained. Some of these later formed the first units of the Israeli air force. The equivalent of a brigade of Jewish-Czech volunteers were trained on Czechoslovakian soil from August 20, 1948 until November 4, 1948. The Czechoslovakian codename for the operation was “DI,” an abbreviation for “Důvěrné Israel,” which means “Classified Israel.” A motorized brigade was also trained, but the war had been won before they were deployed. (5)

Golda Meir was especially appreciative of Stalin’s help, which saved their movement:

“Had it not been for the arms and ammunition that we were able to buy in Czechoslovakia and transport through Yugoslavia and other Balkan countries in those dark days at the start of the war, I do not know whether we actually could have held out until the tide changed, as it did by June, 1948. For the first six weeks of the War of Independence, we relied largely (though not, of course, entirely) on the shells, machine guns, bullets – and even planes – that the Haganah had been able to purchase in Eastern Europe at a time when even the United States had declared an embargo on the sale of shipment of arms to the Middle East. ” (6)

Elsewhere, she states:

“I shall always remember the profound understanding shown by the Russian authorities to the many problems of our young state.” (7)

Stalin’s aid to the Zionists is not some big secret. On May 14, 1947, before the Zionist victory that led to the Israeli state, the Soviet ambassador Andrei Gromyko announced:

“As we know, the aspirations of a considerable part of the Jewish people are linked with the problem of Palestine and of its future administration. This fact scarcely requires proof…. During the last war, the Jewish people underwent exceptional sorrow and suffering… The United Nations cannot and must not regard this situation with indifference, since this would be incompatible with the high principles proclaimed in its Charter…The fact that no Western European State has been able to ensure the defence of the elementary rights of the Jewish people and to safeguard it against the violence of the fascist executioners explains the aspirations of the Jews to establish their own State. It would be unjust not to take this into consideration and to deny the right of the Jewish people to realize this aspiration.” (8)

Although the Soviets said they preferred the partition, they also supported an Israeli state. So the Soviet support for Israel was not because Israel was a fait-accompli, as MIM claims. The socialist bloc had been giving moral, diplomatic, and material support to the Zionist insurgency long before its de jure recognition of Israel.

It is easy to see how the dishonest historical narrative arose. MIM approaches history as other dogmatic revisionists do. Their method is to construct a narrative in favor of their pantheon of revolutionary icons, then gather information that appears to support it, ignore what does not support it, make excuses, avoid political responsibility for errors. In this case, they present a small tidbit from Molotov that appears to the uneducated to sound reasonable. MIM leaves out the rest of the story because they are not interested in truth. The are not interested in the genuine historical record, they are interested in deflecting criticism from Stalin. They do not practice historical science, they practice apologetics. Truth does not matter. Defending Stalin on all things matters most, even if it means sacrificing truth. MIM uses this same method in their work on the Maoist era. All the more damning is that two of MIM’s cardinal points of unity involve historical claims about when the Soviet and Maoist revolutions were reversed. Either MIM was demanding unity about historical eras it did not understand or MIM was consciously misrepresenting these eras in an effort to be in line with Maoists internationally. Whether MIM was sloppy and ignorant or dishonest, their approach was not scientific. Unfortunately, MIM’s “cutting the toes to fit the shoes” approach to history is all too common among revisionists that claim to be communist. By contrast, the scientific, true communist historian goes where the data leads. He does not begin with picking good guys and bad guys, then proceed to cherry pick data to support the good guy and defame the bad guy. A serious historian looks at and presents all the data, even data which goes against his political instincts. A serious historian examines all possible reasonable narratives, weighing them against each other and the data. A serious historian integrates his narrative with what we know about systems of oppression. A serious historian is out to discover truth, even if truth goes against his political instincts.  We must uphold what is good in all things, all leaders, and reject the bad. We must uphold what is good in Stalin and come to terms with what is not. Writing history should not be like writing a novel.

Several factors led to Stalin’s support for Israel. After World War 2, the Soviet policy continued to be based on Lenin’s idea of continuous intra-imperialist conflict. Stalin thought that the Western allies of World War 2 would break down. As the imperialists sought more and more expansion, they would inevitably lead the world into another great war. Stalin saw the British empire as the strongest of the European powers after World War 2. The Zionist insurgency could be used to weaken British rule over Palestine. In addition, the British still wielded power and influence over those lands neighboring the Soviet Union’s southern flank. The Soviets had their buffer zone of satellite states in Eastern Europe, but were encircled in the south. The Zionist war against the Arabs was also a war against the British who had restricting migration and enforcing an embargo on Palestine in hopes of keeping the peace with the indigenous Palestinians. The British did not want to see their colonial possession destabilized or fall into sectarian conflict. Stalin was hoping to fan the flames of the conflict between the Zionists and the British. Golda Meir states, “There is now no doubt in my mind that the primary Soviet consideration was to get the British out of the Middle East.” (9) Furthermore, the Zionist movement had a strong pole that was perceived as leftist, socialist, anti-capitalist. The Kibbutz movement and Golda Meir herself represent this trend. Golda Meir and Molotov’s wife briefly discussed collective property in 1948:

“I had a much more interesting and rewarding encounter with another Soviet citizen at the reception given by Mr. Molotov on the anniversary of the Russian Revolution, to which all the diplomats in Moscow are invited each year… After I had shaken hands with Molotov, his wife, Ivy Molotov, came up to me. ‘I am so pleased to meet you, at last,’ she said with real warmth and even excitement. Then she added, ‘I speak Yiddish, you know.’

‘Are you Jewish?’ I asked in some surprise.

‘Yes,’ she said, answering me in Yiddish, ‘Ich bin a yiddishe tochter.’ (I am a daughter of the Jewish people.) We talked together for quite a long time. She knew all about the events at the synagogue and told me how good it was that we had gone. ‘The Jews wanted so much to see you,’ she said. We touched on the question of the Negev, which was being debated at the United Nations. I made some remark about not being able to give it up because my daughter lived there and added that Sarah wa with me in Moscow. ‘I must see her,’ said Mrs. Molotov. So I introduced Sarah and Yael Namir to her, and she talked to them about Israel and asked Sarah dozens of questions about kibbutzim, who lived in them and how they were run. She spoke Yiddish to the girls who were overjoyed when Sarah answered in the same language. When Sarah explained that everything in Revivim was owned collectively and that there is no private property, Mrs. Molotov looked troubled. ‘That is not a good idea,’ she said. ‘People don’t like sharing everything. Even Stalin is against that. You should acquaint yourself with Stalin’s thoughts and writings on the subject.’ Before she returned to her other guests, she put her arm around Sarah and, with tears in her eyes, said, ‘Be well. If everything goes well with you, it will go well for all Jews everywhere… after that conversation with us, Ivy Molotov had been arrested, and how earlier that day, we had watched the military parade in Red Square. I had so envied the Russians all those weapons on display – the tiniest fraction of which was beyond our means – and, as if he read my thoughts, Molotov had raised a glass of vodka to me later and said, ‘Don’t think we got those in a single day. The time will come when you, too, will have these things. It will all be all right.” (10)

Because there was some perceived ideological overlap between parts of the Zionist movement and the Soviet Union’s ideology, there was a hope that Israel might emerge as not just friendly to the Soviet Union, but as a satellite country, similar to the Eastern European people’s democracies. In this way, Israel could help not only break up the imperialist encirclement on the Soviet southern flank, but an Israeli people’s democracy could also become a southern buffer against imperialist attack.

The Arab world suffered in more ways than one. The Zionist war led to the racist, apartheid state of Israel. The genocide against the Palestinians continues. Israel has become the right hand of imperialism in the Middle East. Israel is on the front lines suppressing resistance movements and regimes on behalf of the First World. Israel is a kind of permanent, giant aircraft and troop carrier in the troubled region, always ready to do battle with the people. Recently, Israel has been called on to check Iran’s growing power in the region. In addition, in  almost every large region of the Third World there have been communist or nominally communist parties that seized state power: Asia, Latin America, Africa, all had genuine Marxist or nominally Marxist movements seize power. Even though the Arab world is very large, spreading over the whole of northern Africa and much of the Middle East, very few Marxist or nominally Marxist movements have gained any real significance. Conditions there are not fundamentally different than in other Third World countries. In the Middle East, nationalism, Baathism, and Islamic movements have, for the most part, led the concrete anti-imperial struggle, not Marxists nor revisionists. There was South Yemen’s pro-Soviet regime and forces in Oman connected to Yemen, but, on the whole, both real Marxism and revisionism have lacked strength in the Arab world. Even though Stalin changed his policy toward Israel in the following years, the international communist movement suffered from Stalin’s error.

During World War 2, Stalin’s regime had to resurrect Russian nationalism as a way of motivating the people to fight the Nazi invader. This carried over into the post-war years. Stalin’s Israel policy placed Russo-Soviet national or imperial interest above the interests of the global proletariat, including the Palestinians who were suffering an invasion by a racist enemy that eventually led to occupation and depopulation. Stalin placed the narrow geopolitical concerns of the Soviet Union as a country above the international proletariat. Even if Stalin was able to win Israel to his side on a more permanent basis, it should have been obvious that support for such an invasion and occupation would taint communism in the eyes of the Arab people. Stalin’s approach does not calculate in the agency and potential of the Arab people, a poor and colonized people. Instead of the masses making history, in such a worldview, geopolitical machinations by powerful states make history. Stalin was looking too much to powerful states, not class struggle as the motor of history. In the case of Israel, the Soviet outlook does not seem totally different from those of the Western imperialists. No matter what superpower won, the Arabs lost.

Other changes were afoot in the Soviet Union. The Soviet regime edged toward traditionalism in gender and culture during and after World War 2. Traditional roles were recommended to women again in Soviet art. After World War 2, for example, a genre about overambitious wives who neglect their children develops in Soviet literature. The Soviet support for Israel is another indicator of regression. Soviet foreign policy seems to be operating, in this case, according to the national interests of the Russo-Soviet state, not the global proletariat. The fight for communism appears to be taking a back seat both domestically and in foreign policy.

Maoist China split with the Soviet Union over its imperialist policies after Khrushchev delivered his famous “secret speech” criticizing Stalin at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on February 25, 1956. Mao used Stalin as a battering ram against Khrushchev’s domestic capitalism and imperialist foreign policy. However, these tendencies that Mao so criticized pre-dated Khrushchev’s rise to power. Even though Mao posed as an orthodox Stalinist to criticize Khrushchev, the reality is that the these tendencies began to arise under Stalin’s watch. Interestingly, Stalin’s inner circle – Molotov, Malenkov, and Beria – all moved for a less confrontational Soviet foreign policy after Stalin’s death. At Stalin’s funeral, Malenkov unveiled a “peace initiative.” “There are no contested issues in U.S.-Soviet relations that cannot be resolved by peaceful means.” (11) The idea of “peaceful coexistence” between the Soviet bloc and the United States was mainly blamed on Khrushchev by the Maoists. This was one of the main reasons for the Sino-Soviet split. The claim that the contradiction between socialism and imperialism is non-antagonistic is thoroughly revisionist. Thus the Maoists correctly identified Khrushchev as a social imperialist. By the Khrushchev era, the Soviet state was really imperialist even if claimed to be socialist. When Mao’s own revolution went off the rails in the 1970s, Mao too began to place China’s narrow interest above that of the international proletariat. This is why Mao began to align with the West. This is why Mao aligned with the West in Angola, Bangladesh, Chile, etc. Just as such policies discredited the Soviet Union as it slid into revisionism, they also discredited Mao in the 1970s. Nationalism has proven a big danger to socialist regimes.

Leaders often play important, decisive roles. Leaders are often representatives of and concentrations of  great social forces. Great leaders, great geniuses, great warriors, can be indispensable. Even so, the analysis of history has to go beyond leaders. We should not organize our analysis of revolution and counter-revolution around a hero and villain. To do so is really just a version of what Marx criticized as the Great Man Theory of History. A truly scientific, materialist approach to history is looks beneath the surface. It is important to be honest with the masses. It is important to tell the truth, to have a real scientific attitude, about past revolutions. We are initiating the next great wave of revolution. It is important that we go further than all past revolutions. It is necessary that we achieve total revolution, Leading Light Communism. Only through a scientific account of the history of revolution can we really understand the errors of the past so that we can avoid them the next time we have power.

Friedrich Engels stated, “without theory, practice is blind.” Dogmatism blinds the people. It keeps the masses ignorant. Those who espouse dogma show a basic lack of trust in the masses. The masses can handle the truth. They are waiting for it. They demand it. Leading Light Communism is about rejecting all dogma. It is about advancing the science, pure and simple. It is about advancing the science in an all-round way, in history, in political economy, in aesthetics and culture, in power struggle, in military science, in constructing communism, in epistemology, and on and on. The proletariat must be given the weapons they need to liberate themselves, not dull knives, but sharp blades. Open your eyes. There is a new breakthrough, a new science, a new organization, a new leadership capable of leading us to victory. It is not about individuals. It is about the science, the masses, and the Earth.  There is a way to victory.

Notes

1. MIM. MIM Theory: The Stalin Issue. MIM. 1994 p. 43

2. ibid. p. 45

3. Meir, Golda, My Life. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. New York, USA: 1975 pp. 230-231

4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arms_shipments_from_Czechoslovakia_to_Israel_1947%E2%80%9349

5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arms_shipments_from_Czechoslovakia_to_Israel_1947%E2%80%9349

6. Meir, Golda, My Life. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. New York, USA: 1975 pp. 230-231

7. Syrkin, Marie. Golda Meir: Israel’s Leader. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. New York, USA: 1969 p. 234

8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_Union_and_the_Arab%E2%80%93Israeli_conflict

9. Meir, Golda, My Life. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. New York, USA: 1975 pp. 230-231

10. Meir, Golda, My Life. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. New York, USA: 1975 p. 254

11. Zubok, Vladislav and Pleshakov, Constantine. Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War. Seventh Printing. Harvard University Press. USA: 2003 p.155

* Golda Meir mentions, contrary to most accounts, that the Soviet recognition occurred after the US recognition. She may be confusing de jure and de facto recognition.

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The Anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution

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The Anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution

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November 7th, 2010 is the 93rd anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution. Today we celebrate the great breakthrough of the first successful sustained victory of the proletariat. Prior to 1917, there had been other revolutions, but they were not able to successfully consolidate power. They were quickly defeated by counter-revolution. However, the Bolshevik revolution lasted over three decades before it too was defeated. The Bolshevik revolution was the peak of the first great wave of proletarian revolutions. Let’s look at some of the accomplishments of the Soviet Union:

1. The first proletarian state. Lenin said that without state power, all is illusion. For the first time in history our class was able to consolidate its hold on state power. Rather than being a tool of the reactionaries to oppress the people, the state was used to suppress the counter-revolutionaries and advance the revolution. From the commanding heights of state power, we were able to begin to remake all of society.

2. First successful planned economy. The Soviet Union was the first attempt by the proletariat to create an economy organized to serve the people. It was the first attempt to create an economy where the oppressed were not at the mercy of cold market forces. The proletariat and the oppressed escaped the anarchy of production that is capitalism. Instead, production was brought under the control of the state and the party of the proletariat.

3. Great leap. Under proletarian leadership, the Soviet Union went from an undeveloped backwater to a modern superpower able to challenge imperialism on the world stage. Under the Czar, only a few cities were industrialized. Under the leadership of our class, a whole country was modernized. Even the atom was conquered. The Soviet Union became the second most powerful country on Earth.

4. Defeat of fascism. During World War 2, the Soviet peoples suffered over 26 million deaths, more casualties than all other countries combined. The Great Patriotic War against fascism was a people’s war against fascism. It was the Soviet people who were the front line fighters in this struggle against Hitler and his vile racist ideology. Had the Soviet Union not existed, Hitler’s troops would have marched to the Pacific ocean. They would have won World War 2 and done to Eastern Europe and Asia what the United States did to its Indigenous peoples. In fact, Hitler took the genocide and “Manifest Destiny” carried out by the United States as his model. The Soviet Union, its Red Army, our Party led by Stalin stopped Hitler’s genocidal armies in their tracks.

5. New proletarian culture. The old culture was one that promoted racism, chauvinism, sexism, privileges, and inequality. For the first time in history, the oppressed and exploited were in control of art and media. A new proletarian culture was born to promote the values of peace, equality and self-determination. Our art and our song were seen and heard across the world.

6. Advancing and spreading revolutionary science. The Bolshevik revolution advanced our understanding of revolutionary science. It was out of the Bolshevik revolutionary experience that Lenin developed his theory of the state, of dual power, of the vanguard party, of the self-determination of nations. Lenin’s contributions have become a key part of Marxism today,  Leading Light Communism. A country spanning one sixth of the world’s land mass was now liberated, serving as a base area to spread our science and revolution around the world. It was through the Bolshevik experience that Marxism became Marxism-Leninism. Revolutionary science was advanced to a whole new stage. Marxism-Leninism was the second stage of revolutionary science. The revolution spread revolutionary science across the globe; it spread Marxism-Leninism.

The Soviet Union was not perfect. Our revolution in the Soviet Union was lost to counter-revolution. A new capitalist class emerged and reversed our great accomplishments; they finally  consolidated their counter-revolution after World War 2. All was not lost. The first great wave of revolution inspired a second. Under Maoist leadership, the Chinese revolution advanced even further. We must learn and improve on the past, so we can do better next time. Even with its errors, the Soviet experience has much to teach us today.

Today, the people of the world are demoralized. They do not see a way out of the madness of capitalism-imperialism: poverty, starvation, war, inequality, chauvinism, racism, national oppression, patriarchy, ecological catastrophe. The vast majority of humanity starves in the Third World while those in the First World grow fat. A minority lives at the expense of the vast majority. The imperialists claim that communism is dead,  that history is at its end. They say that socialism and communism are impossible. We answer by pointing to history. The Soviet Union was a shining light, despite its flaws. It represented hope to people everywhere. Its existence proved that another world is possible. It is possible for people to control their own lives. Exploitation and oppression are not the only way to live.  Communists have always been at the forefront of struggles to create a better way. We are leading lights showing the way out of the madness.

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Thoughts on Stalin

Thoughts on Stalinstalin-bio

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Many revolutionaries still stumble on the question of Stalin. They just can’t get by the Stalin issue, even though Stalin is still revered in much of the world despite the best efforts of the bourgeoisie to tarnish him. Stalin is a controversial figure, even within our own movement. Yet we say that he was still more right than wrong. Mao said that Stalin was 70 percent good, 30 percent bad. Perhaps Mao’s number is too positive, perhaps too negative. Mao made many errors too. Regardless, the thing we always have to remember about Stalin is that he faced problems which are unimaginable for most First World peoples.

From day one, the Soviet Union was encircled by the imperialists. There we inherited a country that was ravaged by violence and poverty. There the first breakthrough was made. There we built sustained socialism for the first time. Only a few decades after socialism was born, we were hit by the catastrophe of another world war. Twenty six million or so Soviet people died in World War 2. Had Stalin not industrialized as he did, with all the sacrifice that required, Hitler may  have been able to roll on to the Pacific ocean exterminating everything in his path. Or the conflict would have been more long and drawn out. More lives would have been lost. One of the most important lessons of Stalin that we must learn is that we revolutionaries will have to face problems for which there is no perfect solution. Sometimes the world presents us with hard choices. Stalin represents the hard choice.

Making revolution is not going to be easy. We are going up again thousands of years of reactionary social programming. We are going up against thousands of years of reactionary culture and social inequality. For thousands of years we have been taught that one group is better than another: rich better than poor, whites better than blacks, men better than women, etc. It is going to take a lot of hard work to overcome these and other divisions. The road will be long. There will be many twists and turns. Errors will be made, big errors. And, sometimes, we will be faced with hard choices. This is the sad reality of revolution.

Like most things, there is another side to Stalin than the one portrayed in the reactionary media. Many of the finest revolutionaries of the last century spoke well of him. Black communist W. E. B. Du Bois said of him:

“Stalin was not a man of conventional learning; he was much more than that: he was a man who thought deeply, read understandingly and listened to wisdom, no matter whence it came. He was attacked and slandered as few men of power have been; yet he seldom lost his courtesy or balance; nor did he let attack drive him from his convictions nor induce him to surrender positions which he knew were correct. As one of the despised minorities of man, he first set Russia on the road to conquer race prejudice and make one nation out of its 140 groups without destroying their individuality.”

“His judgment of men was profound. He early saw through the flamboyance and exhibitionism of Trotsky, who fooled the world, and especially America. The whole ill-bred and insulting attitude of Liberals in the U.S. today began with our naive acceptance of Trotsky’s magnificent lying propaganda, which he carried around the world. Against it, Stalin stood like a rock and moved neither right nor left, as he continued to advance toward a real socialism instead of the sham Trotsky offered.” (1)

When looking at history, we have to take a sophisticated view. Things are rarely simple when it comes to revolution. Was the Stalin era a harsh one? No one should deny that. But, as Mao said, revolution is not a dinner party. When we take power again, we too will be faced with hard decisions. Enemies will try to destroy us, just as they always have. We will, at times, need to deal with them harshly. This has been shown again and again. Enemies do not simply go away because we wish them to. The enemy will try to drown us in blood. We are not foolish utopians.

One thing about Stalin’s approach that we should try to avoid, which was also common during the  Mao era too, is looking at the problem of counter-revolution through the police paradigm. Now, the Chinese revolutionaries did reject the police approach on the level of theory, but the reality is that they did not always reject it fully in practice.  Usually their practice was muddled. A quick look at material from the period reveals that all of those leaders denounced in the period, both communist and capitalist, were seen through the police paradigm. They were seen as spies, wreckers, agents on the payroll of foreign states. The verdicts against them were police verdicts. Counter-revolution was seen through the lenses of the police. This is the wrong approach.

Of course there are real spies. Of course there is real wrecking. We are not fools. In fact, there are probably more FBI and CIA agents in the US than activists organized in self-described “socialist” organizations; there are probably more Hare Krishnas too — a sad indicator  of the lack of revolutionary social base in the First World.  While there are genuine cases of infiltration by spies and wrecking, such infiltration is not the main reason for counter-revolution. Maoists in China began to see the problem structurally, even if they were not always consistent. They saw that the continuation of inequalities and the continuation of  backwards ideas will solidify, congeal and spread if not continually attacked. Those structural and ideological problems will result in a new capitalist class arising within the organs of power, within the Communist Party and state. The problem of counter-revolution, therefore, is not mainly an issue of perfecting policing measures. Rather, combating counter-revolution and advancing socialism are a matter reducing inequalities in power, privilege and decision making. And, it is a matter of combating the backward culture, the backward social programming. Replacing old culture with new culture. This is part of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is continuous revolution, Cultural Revolution. It is key that we look at the problem of counter-revolution through the lenses of power, of structure, not through the lenses of the police. In many ways, the police paradigm of counter-revolution shares similarities with the Great Man theory of history, the idealist conception that historical progress is achieved by the acts of individual great men. The Leading Light Communist approach to counter-revolution is really just Marx’s historical materialism applied to the problem of counter-revolution.

We uphold the Stalin period in a general, but non-dogmatic way. Their errors are our errors, so to speak. We do not simply wash our hands. We do not simply walk away. Accepting this is part of what being a real leader is. Yet, we see the limitations of Stalin’s approach, one that was also shared by Maoists to an extent. However, the Maoists began to break with that, even if they did not break with it consistently and even if their practice lagged. Revolution is a long road. We will make many mistakes, twists and turns, false starts, retreats. This is why it is so important to put revolutionary science in command. Today, this means putting Leading Light Communism in command. Science learns. And, quite frankly, we have learned many powerful lessons from Stalin. Let’s not shrug our responsibility. We are Leading Light Communists, the vanguard of the world revolution. The people deserve an honest accounting  from us.

Red Salute to all those who came before!

Sources
1. W.E.B. Du Bois, The Oxford W.E.B. Du Bois Reader (NY: Oxford University
Press, 1996), p. 287.

Comments on the evolution of empire

Comments on the evolution of empireus-imperialism-latuff-latin-america-racism

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Empire is constantly evolving to thwart the people’s movement. Imperialism has changed significantly since its beginning. The period of traditional colonialism during which the imperial powers literally occupied colonial lands mostly came to a close around the end of World War 2. The shattered empires of Europe could no longer occupy vast lands around the world. Their weakened armies could not match the people’s movements and decolonial struggles that emerged. Decolonization did not mean real independence for most former colonies. Even though former colonies were granted formal independence, real power was held by the imperialists. The United States emerged as the main leader of the Western imperialists. The nature of the Soviet Union also changed in the last decade of Stalin’s life. Like all major socialist revolutions, the Soviet Union wasn’t defeated by invasion by imperialists, but by the internal enemy, by revisionism. The revisionist Soviet Union emerged as another imperial bloc, but one that opposed the West. These two imperial blocs contended for power over the countries of the Proletarian World. Both created vast neocolonial empires that channeled resources and labor from the neocolonies to themselves. The entire Proletarian World became a battleground between these two imperial blocs. All the world was threatened with nuclear destruction by the power struggle between the Western and Soviet imperialists.

Today, empire is changing again. Just as the revolutionary movement learns from our past, just as revolutionary science evolves, the forces of reaction also learn. Even though there remain some conflicts in the world between powerful countries, these conflicts will not result or even risk world war. The cycle of world wars predicted by Lenin’s generation is over. Both world wars so weakened the capitalist system that proletarian revolution was able to erupt on a massive scale. During the first world war, the Bolshevik revolution created a wave of liberation that would not only spread throughout the old Czarist empire, but also into Eastern Europe, even Germany. Not long after World War 2, China, a quarter of the world’s population, raised the red flag. Although defeated now, at the time, these waves of revolution shook the capitalist system to its core. The capitalists do not want a repeat of the past. Thus the capitalist system has evolved. International institutions have arisen to mediate conflicts. National capitalism is surpassed by transnational capitalism. The global capitalist class is less and less tied to particular countries, rather they’ve become more and more transnational. The capitalists have a mutual interest in jointly exploiting the Proletarian World in a way that does not lead to intra-imperialist war. Thus the economies of the bourgeois countries are more and more intertwined with each other such that intra-imperialist wars do not make economic sense. At the same time, the Bourgeois World, the wealthy imperialist bloc, is penetrating and controlling the Proletarian World in ever new ways. Transnational corporations play a bigger and bigger role in today’s economy and politics. There is an increased overlap between big corporations and government.  As governments have downsized, corporations have been charged with managing those sectors of society once under the state’s control, or in other cases, corporations have been charged with the sell-off of massive state sectors as economies of weaker countries are forced to restructure by their creditors, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, etc. At the same time, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have an increased role as the traditional state has declined. The network of NGOs taking on the role of social services, population management, etc. are beholden to global interests, not to the communities they serve. They too are part of the new globalized, neoliberal face of empire.

Two antagonistic worlds have emerged, the Bourgeois World versus the Proletarian World. Contradictions within the Bourgeois World are becoming less and less antagonistic. Power and wealth are becoming more and more socialized. Social divisions have become less and less relevant in the Bourgeois World. The Bourgeois World is a world of comfort. The Proletarian World, by contrast, is a world of poverty, hunger, environmental devastation, instability, etc. The contradictions between the rich and the poor, between those who hold political and economic power and those who do not, is sharper than ever in the Proletarian World. The gap between the rich and poor grows.  The dogma of the past is not enough to win. Ideology is a weapon. If we are to really win, we must develop ever more advanced revolutionary science to place into the arms of the masses. With all our hearts we follow the Leading Light of the most advanced science applied to the task of reaching real communism.

We are the organization of the global poor, exploited, truly oppressed and their real allies. We are the organization of the true proletarians, the Proletarian World, who “have nothing to lose but their chains.” We have a world to win.

Turning Money into Rebellion edited by Gabriel Kuhn part 3

Turning Money into Rebellion edited by Gabriel Kuhn part 3KUF_Plakat-212x300

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Turning Money into Rebellion: The Unlikely Story of Denmark’s Revolutionary Bank Robbers (Kreplebebad, 2014) edited by Gabriel Kuhn documents the story of one of the most interesting revolutionary trends to emerge from the First World. It is the story of Mao-friendly, modern-day Robin Hoods from Denmark, the so-called “Blekingegade Group.” This trend began in 1963 as the Kommunistisk Arbejdskreds (KAK). Later, in 1978, it split into two groups. One retaining the original name. The other became the Manifest-Kommunistisk Arbejdsgruppe (M-KA). What made this trend unique was that it saw revolution in the West, including Denmark, as hopeless at present because the workers were simply too comfortable to support revolution. So, this trend saw it as their proletarian duty to support Third World liberation movements by providing material aid. They ended up financing the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to the tune of millions of dollars through bank robberies. Once the split happened in 1978, the KAK regressed toward typical, traditional solidarity, symbolic activism. The M-KA continued their illegal work providing material aid. It is the latter group that the book focuses on. In the previous parts of this review, the focus was on political economy and practice. In this final part, there are some final reflections on the M-KA and their own summations of their work.

Sino-Soviet split

The KAK had originally taken the Chinese side of the Sino-Soviet split. However, the KAK broke off the relationship with Beijing in 1968. They protested to the Chinese that their coverage of the First World was grossly inaccurate. The Chinese Communist Party continued to churn out First Worldist articles that overestimated the revolutionary potential in the First World despite the KAK’s objections. The KAK originally took its analysis very seriously. After the 1978 split between the KAK and the M-KA, the KAK patched up relations with Beijing. The KAK became a Danish mouthpiece of the Chinese state after 1978. Even though Mao was dead and the Gang of Four were arrested by 1978, even though China was now reversing its revolution and aligning with the Western imperialists more than ever, the KAK submitted to their leadership of the internationalist communist movement. The M-KA did not follow the KAK’s lead. Even though the M-KA was sympathetic to the Cultural Revolution and the Maoist domestic policy, the M-KA were always critical of the rightward turn in Chinese foreign policy in the 1970s:

“Jan: Ideologically, we found ourselves in a dilemma. We did see that the Cultural Revolution in China as a positive attempt to revise communism, but China was no ally in the support of liberation movements. In that respect, the progressive force was the Soviet Union, It had an objective interest in the liberation movements’ success and in the global expansion of socialism. Its leaders also chose their allies wisely. Their criteria were  very similar to ours: they were looking for socialist movements with popular support. The Chinese leadership, on the other hand, was so hostile toward the Soviet Union that it basically supported anyone who shared that sentiment. China developed ties to the most obscure political groups, and its foreign policy began to border on the absurd. In Angola, for example, they supported UNITA and worked alongside the CIA.

Torkil: In the late 1970s and early 1980s, China held the position that the Soviet Union was the most dangerous of all imperialist powers, and they encouraged the liberation movements to side with Western European nations and the U.S. As Jan said, it all became petty grotesque, and it also changed the perception of China among many liberation movements and their allies. KAK was far from the only organization that had a falling-out with the CPC around that time. If you go back to the early 1970, the PFLP was very pro-Chinese and hugely inspired by Mao’s guerrilla strategies. They were not very close to the Soviet Union. All this would change in the next decade.” (106-107)

Also:

“Torkil: …What I said before concerned exclusively the Soviet Union’s foreign policy — and even there, we would have wanted the Soviet government to be more radical and stronger in its support of Third World liberation movements. Regarding the country’s political and economic system, we had no sympathies at all. In the so-called ‘real socialism,’ a ‘democratic economy’ meant ‘nationalization,’ which, in turn, meant the state apparatus owned all the means of production. However, just because the state owns the means of production, the mode of production doesn’t necessarily change. The mode of production in the Soviet Union was very similar to capitalist ones, and sometimes worse. Look at Volkseigener Betriebe, the so-called ‘publicly owned companies,’ in the former East Germany: people never felt they were really in charge. It was the state that was in charge, and the people were not the state. The planned economy of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies was not democratic but very hierarchical. That is why the Soviet Union was never a model for us. However, it was a tactical ally in the support of liberation movements. One must not forget that the simple existence of the Soviet Union as a global superpower was very important to them, It created a space for them to be active. Had it not be for the Soviet Union, the U.S. might have used nuclear weapons to wipe out the Vietnamese resistance. Without the international balance of power guaranteed by the Soviet Union — also with regard to armament — things would have looked very different.” (105-106)

The fall of the Soviet Union, even though it had long gone off the rails, even though it was revisionist and social-imperialist since around the end of World War 2, was a setback for many liberation forces. Heightened contradictions between the imperialists gave liberation movements and independent, progressive regimes room to maneuver, to play one imperialist against another, to play East against West. With the fall of the Soviet empire, the armies of Western empire got a boost. Western imperialism had a freer hand to exploit and control the Third World. The fall of the Soviet Union created more global, transnational imperial unity. The fall of the Soviet Union was a further step in the emergence of a transnational First World empire. The Maoists, even outside China, had seen the Soviet Union as the main imperialist threat in the 1970s. They celebrated its fall in 1990s. Yet that fall had terrible repercussions of liberation struggles around the world. Numerous popular struggles folded or sued for peace as a result. This is something many contemporary Maoists have not come to terms with honestly.

More on the United Front

The M-KA had correct intuitions about the limits of nationalism. For revolutionaries, national liberation is merely a means to a greater end, not an end in itself. It is a means toward achieving socialism and communism. Similarly, anti-imperialism is not an end in itself, but a means for revolution:

“Torkil: For us, there has never been any valid anti-imperialism without a socialist base. We have always been primarily socialists. Anti-imperialism is important as a means to strengthen socialism, and it  doesn’t serve that purpose, it is not relevant for us. The principle of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is way too simple — and dangerous.” (164)

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is usually associated with the tactic of the United Front. The idea is that one should strive to unite as many forces as possible against the main enemy at any given moment. Smaller enemies ought put aside their differences to unite against the main oppressor. Interestingly, the M-KA seem to bend to the United Front when it came to the Soviet Bloc. They considered the Soviet Bloc a partner in the United Front against imperialism. At the same time, they seem to simply dismiss the idea that the Islamic Republic of Iran or other Islamists could be partners in some contexts. “The religious regimes that claim anti-imperialist values have not liberated anyone.” (164) The PFLP that the M-KA supported, for example, has accepted Hamas as a legitimate part of their broader struggle. The Palestinian struggle has received aid not simply from the Soviet Union, but also Iran and the Gulf states. The PFLP has received aid from very reactionary regimes at times. It is odd that the M-KA don’t apply their argument consistently. They themselves acknowledged the Soviet Union could be worse than the liberal capitalist regimes, but it was still a tactical ally. No so with Iran.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” can quickly become inadequate in practice. There are multiple layers of alliances, some are apparent, but others hidden. Alliances can shift rapidly, which makes applying such a principle difficult or impossible in practice at times. There are also considerations about who is the main enemy in the long term versus the main enemy immediately. Even if the United Front is not perfect, one should nonetheless strive to make it a reality. Revolutionaries of the past have had to make all kinds of unsavory tactical alliances to win. There is nothing special about religious forces that make them unworthy of tactical alliances. Remember, the United Front is for our benefit first and foremost, not theirs. Has the Islamic Republic of Iran murdered leftists? Yes, but so had the Soviet Union. At the same time, the Islamic Republic is in the crosshairs of the First World, of imperialism, of Israel, of the Gulf states. The situation here is somewhat similar to the revisionist-era Soviet Union, although Iran is not imperialist on anywhere near the scale the revisionist-era Soviet Union was. Iran is more of a regional hegemon than an imperialist. The revisionist-era Soviet Union had snuffed out revolution inside and outside its borders. It had snuffed out revolutionary energy in many of those forces and regimes it controlled. Yet, despite its terrible policies, the Soviet Union played a progressive geopolitical role sometimes. Similarly, Iran is extending support to Hezbollah, the Palestinians, and fighting the Gulf states, Israel, and sometimes the West. The bigger problem in the “left” in the First World is not one of making unwise tactical alliances, but rather the bigger problem with “left” forces is the rejection the United Front. Those who reject the United Front often  end up as useful idiots for neoliberal efforts at regime change, for imperialist attacks on the Third World. There are plenty of First World “left” forces who have allied with imperialism, who supported imperialist intervention to further regime change in places like Zimbabwe, Libya, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, etc. Neoliberalism has its origin in Trotskyism and social democracy in the service of empire. Even Maoists have ended up serving neoliberalism. Once the United Front is rejected, it is easily to slide into social imperialism.

Looking back and forward

The M-KA interviewees reflect on their practice:

“Torkil: Marxism in general has underestimated capitalism’s ability to adapt and transform. Since the days of Marx, capitalism’s ‘final crisis’ has been announced many times. It was no different than during the 1970s.

Second, I think the imperialist powers have learned a lot from the war of the era. The U.S. has changed its tactics since Vietnam and has confronted liberation movements much more effectively since…

Third, I think we overestimated the socialist element in the liberation movements, especially in its relation to the national element. Many of the movements were deeply nationalistic, but wore socialist colors. Not to be misunderstood: they weren’t consciously deceiving, and the socialist attire wasn’t fake, the socialist convictions just didn’t run very deep. Socialism promised a better life and it gave people hope. But it wasn’t at the core of the struggle, and national liberation rarely led to social liberation.

Fourth, I think we believed too strongly in the possibility of ‘delinking’, that is, of a nation being able to detach itself from the global economic system and introducing a socialist economy within the framework of a liberated nation state. This is a much more daunting task than we thought…

Fifth, whatever one’s opinion of the Soviet Union, its demise also meant the disappearance of the strategically most important counterpower to the U.S. No matter how you want to look at it, this was a strong blow to socialism.” (162-163)

On all these important points, the Leading Light is in agreement. Capitalism has proven very resilient. It should not be underestimated. Just as capitalism refines its science of oppression, so we advance our science of liberation, of Leading Light Communism. A transnational, global empire has emerged, the First World. Just as capitalism is globalizing, so too must resistance to it. Leading Light emerges to lead the transnational Global People’s War against Empire. The future is ours.

Zapatistas or Leading Light?

Further highlighting the contrast between the M-KA and Leading Light Communism are the M-KA interviewees’ comments on the future. When asked about movements today that are contributing positive, new visions, that might point the way forward, the M-KA interviewees identified the Zapatista movement of southern Mexico:

“Torkil: I think the Zapatistas provide an example. They are expressing socialist ideas in a new language. They are also anti-imperialists, although this might be anti-imperialism 2.0. In any case, the perspective of their struggle is global, not national.

We can see similar tendencies in many struggles, addressing everything from privatization to copyright issues to the ‘discursive struggles’ that Foucault has written about. Of course there are important struggles happening on the governmental and institutional level, but there are many small struggles in everyday life that concern very basic questions about what is good and bad, right and wrong, and so forth. All of them include the potential to strengthen socialist ideals. Here, too, the Zapatistas are a good example. They have a Foucauldian understanding of power: the micro level is very important; they don’t have power concentrated in institutions.” (174-175)

It may be true that the Zapatistas are not simply nationalists, especially Mexican nationalist. They are focused on their local communities with less emphasis on Mexico as a whole. It may be true they have raised awareness of their struggle to an international audience very successfully. They are very worldly in their outlook. However,  the M-KA interviewee has a mistaken view about their potential as revolutionary or anti-imperialist force.

As it happens, this reviewer worked, albeit briefly, with the Zapatista National Liberation Front (FZLN) and Indigenous National Congress (CNI) in Mexico in the mid-1990s. Although the Zapatistas were very worldly, they had lowered sites of what was possible. When I was there, the Zapatistas and allied institutions seemed unwilling to seriously ally themselves to other militant struggles in Mexico for fear of tainting their image. The Zapatistas were deeply rooted in a social base in Chiapas. However, outside Chiapas, they played to the Mexican social-democratic and liberal bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. They also directed their message to Western liberals in North America and Europe. Marcos t-shirts were as popular as Che ones. Rage Against the Machine used an image of the Zapatistas on one of their albums. The Zapatistas were part of the people’s struggle, but they were always armed reformists. The Zapatistas themselves denied they sought state power on numerous occasions. They were very successful at appealing to the social-democrats and liberals in Mexico and abroad. They very consciously erected a personality cult around the romantic figure of subcomandante Marcos. Marcos was playing for the cameras when he shared a meal with Danielle Mitterrand in 1996. In typical Marcos style, he handed the former first lady of the French social-democratic, imperialist state a rose. “Madame, I am but a paper knight and all I can offer you is a paper rose.” They did not seek power by uniting popular classes across Mexico through a people’s war. Rather, a large part of their strategy seemed to be aimed at garnering sympathy with social-democrats and liberals in Mexico and abroad. They hoped these forces would pressure the Mexican regime into granting greater rights to Mayan and indigenous communities. To appeal to the conscience of imperialists and social-democrats is not a realistic nor sustainable anti-imperialist strategy. Whatever ideological rhetoric is used to justify this orientation, it is an orientation that is very much idealist. It fails to recognize that revolutionary social change is not made by appealing to the mercy of the exploiter. Revolutionary social change is made by broadly mobilizing the masses, by forming New Power, by people’s war, by putting revolutionary science in command. Maoists were fond of saying “the masses are the real heroes” and “the masses are the motive force in history.”

Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano was an important candidate for the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), a social-democratic, liberal bourgeois party in Mexico. In the context of Cardenas’ election bid for mayor (head of government) of the Federal District (“Mexico City”) in 1997, the Zapatistas had distanced themselves even further from revolution. They had distanced themselves from groups like the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) and even broad mass organizations that had suffered repression like the Broad Front for the Construction of a National Liberation Movement – Organization of the Peasants of the South Mountains (FAC-MLN-OCSS), victims of the Aguas Blancas massacre in 1995. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had ruled Mexico for 80 years at the time, but was feeling pressure to step down. It began looking like the PRI would turn over power to the social-democratic “left,” the PRD, at the country-wide, national level. Eventually, they handed power to the National Action Party (PAN), a neoliberal party to their right. In any case, La Jornada and liberal media were happy to juxtapose the “good guerrilla” of the Zapatistas to the “bad guerrilla” of the EPR and others. Sometimes the EPR were falsely called “the Mexican Shining Path” in an effort to malign them in the media. As it happens, the EPR had little to do with hard Maoism or the Communist Party of Peru. The EPR was a more traditional, nominally Marxist, guerrilla organization. The liberal media, through its speculations, seemed to be advocating a reconciliation and negotiated settlement between the Zapatistas and the Mexican state upon a PRD takeover at the country-wide level, which never happened. The Zapatistas presented themselves as cultured, literary, worldly, kind and gentle poets. They presented themselves as people the establishment could do business with, not as sectarian ideologues. However, their politics were localism combine with appeals to be saved by the liberal establishment. We should have no illusions that their path is a dead end.

I worked the entrance to the second CNI. The CNI was an organization allied with the Zapatistas, a coalition in which they played a leading role. I volunteered as a security guard at the CNI at the National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH) in DF. When the FAC-MLN-OCSS approached the CNI, it seemed they were given the cold shoulder at the time. I know because I had been to the FAC-MLN-OCSS congress in defense of indigenous communities as a representative, part of a delegation, of the ENAH-CNI coordinadora. In addition, those of us wearing the purple security badges were instructed to not allow the Maoists or anarchists into the ENAH compound, not to allow them to agitate inside. Yet we were instructed to allow representatives from traditional parties like the PRI and PRD. At that time, the Zapatistas, although taking up arms and having deep connections to their own communities, seemed like liberal sectarians that was more interested in building alliances with the social-democratic establishment than with other militant peasant and worker organizations.

The Zapatistas were not offering a new vision of socialism. Rather, they were offering social-democratic reform, albeit in a ski-masked. pipe-smoking poetic form. At the time, one of the EPR commanders rebuked the poetry-writing subcomandante of the Zapatistas for what he perceived as their lack of seriousness. Alluding to Clausewitz, the EPR stated, “poetry is not war by other means.” Shortly following this, there were defections back and forth between the two organizations. I have not followed the twists and turns of the Zapatistas in the many years since then. Time flies. However, nothing I have seen in the media to make me reevaluate my assessment. The Zapatistas, for a time, became the darlings of the college and hipster activists in North America and Europe. All stripes of First World activists projected their politics onto the Zapatistas. To the anarchists, they were the living example proving anarchism can work. For  the Chicanos, they were a proud example of la Raza. For the less-rigid Maoists, the Zapatistas had so mastered the mass line, they were real Maoists even if they didn’t recognize it themselves. No doubt, there were even Trotskyists who saw the second coming of the man who organized the Red Army in the pipe-smoking masked man. Marcos himself joked about how people projected their aspirations onto their movement. I wonder if that is not what is happening with the M-KA interviewees. The Leading Light had not emerged in the 1990s. The “far left” was a bleak place indeed. It was a landscape of dogma and liberalism. In such a circumstance, the Zapatistas gave many people hope. Many people, who should have known better, did not examine the movement closely. Many people let their fantasies get the better of them. It is important to look beneath surfaces when examining movements. This is not to say the Zapatistas are not part of the United Front. They are part of the broad United Front. However, they are not offering a new “vision of socialism” nor “anti-imperialism 2.0.”

The level of the science

I discovered an archive of the KAK and the M-KA’s works online.* Although this trend hit upon many correct ideas about imperialism, the class structure, and practice for First World revolutionaries, the documents in the archive were relatively primitive when compared to the Leading Light. Although the M-KA was probably one of the most advanced groups to have emerged from the First World, they never advanced science in the all-round way that Leading Light has. Their lack of all-round scientific development was one the reasons they were not so much a communist vanguard. They seem more like a disciplined, independent support network for others who were leading struggles. The M-KA never merged with its Third World allies to become part of a global organization. Instead, they gave money at those who had a broad similarity with their vision. The PFLP fit the bill, even though the PFLP did not share their Third Worldist political economy necessarily. By contrast, Leading Light thinks the problem the world faces is much deeper. It is not just First World anti-imperialists who must ask “what is to be done?” So too must Third World forces. The worldwide revolutionary movement is at an impasse. The last great waves of revolution are defeated. What remains are dying fragments of the past. More money will not be the deciding factor reversing this trend. More than a vague leftist vision is needed to initiate the next great wave of revolution. What is needed is to adapt and update the science of revolution to today’s conditions. Just as Marx advanced the ideas he inherited, just as Lenin advanced Marx, just as Mao advanced Lenin, revolutionaries today must advance even further. The story of the KAK and the M-KA only highlight just how important our Leading Light work is. It shows how unprecedented and groundbreaking Leading Light Communism is. What we have is precious. We are writing a new chapter is the history of the world. We invite those individuals from the KAK and the M-KA and their circles to join us. We invite those inspired by their heroism to join us. Let your next chapter be our next chapter. You took a first step in the right direction. Now, take another. Pick up the sword again; pick up all-powerful Leading Light Communism. We have a world to win, together.

Kuhn, Gabriel. Turning Money Into Rebellion (Kersplebedeb, 2014)

* An archive of writings this trend can be found here: http://snylterstaten.dk/

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Soviet Women, Traditionalism, Revisionism

Soviet Women, Traditionalism, RevisionismBigWoman

(llco.org)

These comments are a reaction to Gail Warshofsky Lapidus’ “Women in Soviet Society: Equality, Development, and Social Change.” Much of Lapidus’ essay covers the same ground as these other  works: Wendy Goldman’s Women at the Gates, Sheila Fritzpatrick’s Everyday Stalinism, and Hiroaki Kuromiya’s Stalin’s Industrial Revolution.  What is refreshing about these authors, even though they are not communists, they approach the Stalinist era in a reasonable, less sensationalist way. Their work is rigorous and detailed, using a broad range of primary sources, including the Soviet archives. They also address the complexity of the Stalin era. They do not see the Stalin regime as a monolith. They do not embrace the totalitarian paradigm so popular in anti-communist propaganda. They also don’t fall for the “Stalin as madman” view that is so popular in the work of Daniel Pipes, Robert Conquest, and the Trotskyists. One good thing about this short essay is that it covers some of World War 2 and post-World War 2 periods. In the end, the analysis sees the Stalin regime as a contradictory mix of radical social revolution and traditionalist authority. There is some truth that the Stalin era involved this complexity, and the regime fell into old ways despite its revolutionary pretense. Even so, the analysis fails to look at just how difficult social revolution is. The revolution was encircled, all the capitalist empires sought to snuff it out. Nazi Germany invaded, killing 27 million Soviet citizens. Internal enemies confronted the regime. At the same time, the regime was trying to erase thousands of years of reactionary social programming. There were bound to be complicated, difficult contradictions. This is part of the revolutionary process. Although her analysis is very detailed, she looks at the regime through idealist lenses. She does not take into account that revolutions are born in blood, that terror and authority are necessary components of survival. Forward motion, twists and turns, backward slides, all happen. Although she avoids the worst elements of anarchist and Trotskyist “madman Stalin” narratives, her conclusions are not all that different from the “deformed workers’ state” formulation of the Trotskyists. One wonders what, given Stalin’s situation and the level of revolutionary science at the time, what a non-deformed workers’ state would look. What would a non-deformed workers’ state would look like given the incredible pressures placed against the regime by internal enemies and imperialist encirclement, including the Nazi’s bloodbath? There is a lack of reality to her ultimate conclusions despite the details of her work.

Feminists in the 1920s discussed the liberation of women primarily in terms of “byt” or lifestyle. This means liberating woman from the drudgery of housework and the patriarchal family. Some of these goals sounded far fetched in the 1920s, but they were realized to some extent during Stalin’s era, especially during the Five Year Plans from 1928 to 1937, not because of the struggle against patriarchy as patriarchy. What ultimately doomed the opponents of women’s liberation was that their sexist policies were incompatible with the needs of production, of the Five Year Plans. The Five Year plans involved massive industrialization. By November of 1939, roughly two years after the Second Five Year Plan, women accounted for 41.6 of the work force. And this percentage is even greater in heavy industry. (1) This was in sharp contrast to pre-revolutionary times when women’s participation was much less.  Not only did women enter the workforce in record numbers in the Stalin era, but ghettoization of women’s work was struggled against, sometimes this struggle was successful, other times it failed. Between 1930 and 1937, percentage-wise, the largest influx of women was into construction, a traditionally male field. (2) Interestingly, “[t]he reception of women in traditional male fields was hostile… although this was less often the case in the Eastern region of the USSR where the demand for new laborers was particularly great and where the absence of entrenched male traditions permitted more flexible hiring practices.” (3) Within the top levels of the Party, Stalin represent the faction that pushed against those, especially the unions, who wanted to restrict union membership, including the power and benefits that went with it, to the traditional or “pure proletarian” who happened to be Russian, male, and urban. Unions also pushed for the restricting of hiring practices. This had the objective effect of keeping women, ex-peasants, the de-classed, and non-Russians unemployed. It kept them out of the good union jobs. The unions and  leaders like Tomsky sought to keep power in the hands of the “pure proletarians,” the Russian, urban men, who were the vast majority in the unions, but did not represent the majority in Soviet society. Those who opposed the unions also pushed for the employment of youth alongside women, non-Russians, and the de-classed. (4) Generally, it was less the fight against patriarchy per se that justified these policies that sought to bring women and youth into the workforce than concerns with production. Economic reasons were given in support of the liberation of women against its opponents. Economic realities necessitated a larger workforce. Stalin recognized this. Women, non-Russians, the de-classed, and youth ultimately won their struggle to enter the labor force thanks to Stalin.

Construction sites, whole cities, popped up over night. Industrialization brought women and others into the workforce. Collectivization was required to feed the new workforce. This massive development allowed for more communalization from the ground-up since in many of these new industrial centers, there was not entrenched traditionalist opposition. So, the state’s production policies ended up addressing many of the concerns of the feminists who wanted to revolutionize daily life in the domestic sphere through communalization. Collectivization in the countryside meant women were allowed to migrate to the cities to become employed. Collectivization also had big implications for women who remained in the countryside. It destroyed the old peasant economy, which empowered patriarchs. It took the means and organization of production out of the hands of the patriarchal family. The traditional domestic sphere suffered a huge blow because collective farms had communal facilities: kitchens, laundries, childcare, etc. Women were employed and lived in the collective farms where there was substantially less traditional oppression in the domestic sphere. Production demands required women, children, and also some of the de-classed be educated. Socialization now happened outside of the old patriarchal family and church. Women now had autonomy and freedom of movement for the first time since the new economy gave them a means to exist apart from the husbands. (5) Thus divorce became a more realistic option for wives.

“The forced collectivization of agriculture, with its stunning impact on authority and social relationships in the rural milieu, and massive entry of women into the industrial labor force during the 1930s, a process given still further impetus by the outbreak of World War II, were central features in this social transformation with the vast expansion of educational opportunities. The spread of networks of institutions for the education and care of children, and enactment of protective labor legislation and social programs designed to ensure the compatibility of women’s domestic responsibilities with industrial employment. These changes reverberated across the whole range of social institutions including the family itself.” (6)

Anna Louise Strong, a famous communist writer, describes the complexity of the struggle in the Soviet frontiers:

“The change in women’s status was one of the important social changes in all parts of the USSR. The Revolution gave women legal and political equality: industrialization provided the economic base in equal pay. But in every village women still had to fight the habits of centuries. News came of one village in Siberia, for instance, where, after the collective farms gave women their independent incomes, the wives ‘called a strike’ against wife-beating and smashed that time-honored custom in a week.

‘The men all jeered at the first woman we elected to our village soviet,’ a village president told me, ‘but at the next election we elected six women and now it is we who laugh.’ I met twenty of these women presidents of villages in 1928 on a train in Siberia, bound for a Women’s Congress in Moscow. For most it was their first trip by train and only one had ever been out of Siberia. They had been invited to Moscow ‘to advise the government’ on the demands of women; their counties elected them to go.

The toughest fight of all for women’s freedom was in Central Asia. Here, women were chattels, sold in early marriage and never thereafter seen in public without the hideous ‘paranja,’ a long black veil of woven horsehair which covered the entire face, hindering breathing and vision. Tradition gave husbands the right to kill wives for unveiling; the mullahs — Moslem priests supported this by religion. Russian women brought the first message of freedom; they set up child welfare clinics where native women unveiled in each other’s presence. Here, the rights of women and the evils of the veil were discussed. The Communist Party brought pressure on its members to permit their wives to unveil.

When I first visited Tashkent, in 1928, a conference of Communist women was announcing: ‘Our members in backward villages are being violated, tortured and murdered. But this year we must finish the hideous veil; this must be the historic year.’ Shocking incidents gave point to this resolution. A girl from a Tashkent school gave her vacation to agitating for women’s rights in her home village. Her dismembered body was sent back to school in a cart bearing the words: ‘That for your women’s freedom.’ Another woman had refused the attentions of a landlord and married a Communist peasant; a gang of eighteen men, stirred up by the landlord, violated her in the eighth month of pregnancy and threw her body in the river.

Poems were written by women to express their struggle. When Zulfia Khan, a fighter for freedom, was burned alive by the mullahs, the women of her village wrote a lament:

‘O, woman, the world will not forget your fight for freedom!
Your flame — let them not think that it consumed you.
The flame in which you burned is a torch in our hands.’

The citadel of orthodox oppression was ‘Holy Bokhara.’ Here, a dramatic unveiling was organized. Word was spread that ‘something spectacular’ would occur on International Women’s Day, March 8. Mass meetings of women were held in many parts of the city on that day, and women speakers urged that everyone ‘unveil all at once.’ Women then marched to the platform, tossed their veils before the speakers and went to parade the streets. Tribunes had been set up where government leaders greeted the women. Other women joined the parade from their homes and tossed their veils to the tribunes. That parade broke the veil tradition in Holy Bokhara. Many women, of course, donned veils again before facing their angry husbands. But the veil from that time on appeared less and less.

Soviet power used many weapons for the freeing of women. Education, propaganda, law all had their place. Big public trials were held of husbands who murdered wives; the pressure of the new propaganda confirmed judges who gave the death sentence for what old custom had not considered crime. The most important weapon for freeing women was, as in Russia proper, the new industrialization.

I visited a new silk mill in Old Bokhara. Its director, a pale, exhausted man, driving without sleep to build a new industry, told me the mill was not expected to be profitable for a long time. ‘We are training village women into a new staff for future silk mills of Turkestan. Our mill is the consciously applied force which broke the veiling of women; we demand that women unveil in the mill.’

Girl textile workers wrote songs on the new meaning of life when they exchanged the veil for the Russian head-dress, the kerchief.

‘When I took the road to the factory
I found there a new kerchief,
A red kerchief, a silk kerchief,
Bought with my own hand’s labor!
The roar of the factory is in me.
It gives me rhythm.
it gives me energy.’” (7)

World War 2 also changed the situation for women. The war further brought women into the workforce. Men were mobilized into the military. Thus women often filled the need of production, as they did in other countries. In 1945, women were 56 percent of the workforce. One important criticism of Wendy Goldman’s Women at the Gates is that she writes as though women’s struggles were going on in a vacuum, so she seems to find fault with Stalin for not going far enough and directing more energy to communalization. Lapidus’ also points out that communalization of domestic sphere did not keep pace with industrialization in general. (8) But again, this can be partially explained because of the massive amount of resources needed for World War 2. This is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. It is impressive is how the Soviet Union pushed forward considering the dangerous military situation that existed. However, during and war and after, the specific issues of women would get a lower priority. The war effort, then efforts to rebuild, trumped social revolution.

Throughout the Stalin period, before and after the war, Soviet economists studied the benefits of communalization in great detail. They came to the conclusions that it was necessary for a rationally organized economy. Yet those forces opposed to the collective economy blamed women for economic problems and the feeling of social chaos and instability of this revolutionary period. Later, “Measures designed to protect and give more freedom to women were whittled away.” (9) Unfortunately, her essay barely scratches the surface of this opposition to women’s liberation. It fails to ask, when, where and who. Goldman’s book answers these questions much better, especially outlining the conflict between the unions and those associated with the women’s organizations, and the struggle of both of these trends with Stalin. Stalin ended up more on the feminist side, but primarily for productionist reasons. The only opposition covered in Lapidus’ essay is that of male managers and engineers in the later Stalin period, presumably after World War 2.

Even though much progress was made for women in the Stalin era, new and old forms of patriarchy emerged. In the earlier part of the industrialization under Stalin, managers were on the side of giving women more opportunities generally because there were labor shortages. The shortages were so great that managers went around the labor rolls and official channels to an underground market of people looking for work. These people were often women who could not get on the labor roles for various reasons. The unions fought to keep them off, the unions were trying to protect the privileges of the traditional “pure proletarian,” the traditional Russian, male worker. Chaos spread through the planned economy. There was both a labor shortage and high unemployment at the same time because industrialization created a need for more laborers but the unions created obstructions to keep women, ex-peasants, non-Russians, etc. unemployed. As the economy changes, so too did opposition to women’s liberation. According to Lapidus, the managers and engineers became part of the conservative trend. Although Lapidus doesn’t say, this was probably after the second Five Year Plan, and later, after World War 2, when the was more wealth and consumer goods. This more affluent group now wanted their wives at home.

It is well known that the regime produced a great deal of art promoting the new status of women. Women tractor drivers, for example, became a cliche in Stalin-era art. This art was especially associated with the Five Year Plans. This progressive art was not the only art. Especially after World War 2, another art emerged that promoted the idea that women should be good workers and good, traditional wives. Lapidus writes, “the ranks of proletarian heroines were now joined by the wives of the new Soviet elite of managers, praised not for heroic feats of production but for introducing civilization to the lives of men by planting flowers outside power stations, sewing linen, and opening fashion studios.” (10)  One example is a fictional account of a female heroine that meets a fictional Stalin:

“‘Our feminine hearts are overflowing with emotions,’ she said, ‘and of these love is paramount. Yet, a wife should also be a happy mother and create a serene home atmosphere, without however, abandoning work for the common welfare. She should know how to combine all these things while matching her husband’s performance on the job.’

‘Right,’ said Stalin.” (11)

Another example is Marya by Georgii Medynsky, a story that criticizes the effects of women’s liberation:

“He was used to being boss in his house. He used to walk along the villages with an unhurried step holding his head high and proud.. And, she moves about, gives orders… And, the more she grows, the smaller he gets… And, it seems she needs her husband and then again it seems she does not. ” (12)

In this story, the struggle for power ends with Marya being criticized by a Party secretary for her misuse of power rather than the Party encouraging her independence. After World War 2, a genre about overambitious heroines who neglect their husbands and children develops. (13)

It seems that the Stalin era was not consistent toward women. In the earlier period, women were liberated from much traditional oppression in order to fill the needs to economic development. However, especially later, after World War 2, the Party and state promoted the idea of limiting women to the traditional domestic sphere as necessary to socialism. The patriarchal family was now seen as a microcosm of socialist society as a whole. Stalin’s cult of personality often portrayed him as a kind of father figure. No doubt this fed the conservative trend.

This conservative trend in Soviet society continued. Delinquency was tied to a breakdown of the family. Homosexuality was criminalized. Housework, criticized by Lenin, was now extolled. Low birthrates were linked to instability in the family. Motherhood was now romanticized. And, after World War 2, this romantization was connected to the desire to replenish those who had died. Abortion was outlawed even though studies showed that banning abortion does not raise birthrates in the long term. (14)

Trotskyists often like to pinpoint the conservative turn to the early years of Stalin’s regime. One thing they point to is the strengthening of the marriage laws during the heavy industrialization period. The real story is that there was grassroots support from women to strengthen these laws. This is described in Sheila Fritzpatrick’s Everyday Stalinism. The massive industrialization allowed laborers to move from town to town. New cities and construction sites popped up overnight. This meant that husbands could easily abandon their families or avoid paying child support. There was so much mobility of the population that the state could not keep track of individuals and their obligations. Initially, the Party was resistant to strengthening the marriage laws that would make it harder to divorce because their heads were filled with bourgeois notions inherited from Western European feminism. However, the women’s organizations eventually educated the Party that stronger laws were required to address the phenomenon of Soviet deadbeat dads. This particular change in policy is really not indicative of the conservative turn.

Different people locate the conservative turn in Soviet society to different years. The Trotskyists claim that the conservative turn occurs with the death of Lenin in 1924. Some Trotskyists even claim that the revolution was totally lost at that point. The Trotskyist view is contradicted by the amazing accomplishments of the Stalin era, including the huge progress for women that mostly happened in the early and middle years of the Stalin era. Others pinpoint the conservative turn to the assassination of Sergei Kirov in December of 1934. This led to a rise in terror and the police state. Others located the conservative turn with the need to draw on nationalism and traditionalism as a tool in the fight against the Nazi invasion. Perhaps the rebuilding of society after World War 2 and the growth of consumerism in peacetime also contributed to the slide rightward. Of these views, the Trotskyist one is the least supported by the facts. There are always political and social struggles during socialist construction. The Stalin era had its conflicts. When exactly, Soviet society began to slide back toward capitalism is an open question. However, regression on women’s issues along with the promotion of traditionalism surely aided counter-revolution. Uprooting thousands of years of reactionary patriarchy is no easy task. Only the power of the people led by the most advanced revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism, will liberate women and men once and for all.

Notes

1. Lapidus, Gail Warshofsky.  “Women in Soviet Society: Equality, Development, and Social Change” in  Stalinism edited by David Hoffman. Blackwell Publishing, UK:2003. p.  220
2. ibid. p. 200
3. ibid. p. 220
4. ibid. p. 219
5. ibid. p. 217
6. ibid. p. 217
7. Strong, Anna Louise. Women in The Stalin Era http://www.northstarcompass.org/nsc9903/women.htm
8. Lapidus, Gail Warshofsky.  “Women in Soviet Society: Equality, Development, and Social Change” in  Stalinism edited by David Hoffman. Blackwell Publishing, UK:2003. p. 225
9. ibid. p. 218
10. ibid. p. 229
11.  ibid. p. 230
12.  ibid. p. 234
13.  ibid. p. 234
14. ibid. p. 229

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein reviewed by Prairie Fire200px-Shock_doctrine_cover

(llco.org)

The Shock Doctrine (2007) by Naomi Klein was a New York Times bestseller that appeared in 2007 at the height of the wave of public anger toward the George W. Bush administration in the United States. It was one of many books that made the rounds amongst outraged liberals in those years. In many ways, reading the book years after its original popularity allows us to absorb its claims without seeing them in the context of the left Democratic Party’s “anybody but Bush” political campaign. The book documents the evolution of what the author terms “disaster capitalism” from the classrooms of the University of Chicago to Pinochet’s stadiums-turned-death camps to the restoration of capitalism in China to the fall of the Soviet bloc to the compromises the African National Congress made in South Africa to the Green Zone in Iraq to the economic reforms enacted during the tsunamis in Asia and hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Even though the book is, ultimately, First Worldist, it contains important insights that help our understanding of neoliberalism and the new forms that imperialism has taken since the fall of socialism and the fall of the Soviet revisionist bloc. Klein holds that because of the radical, extreme nature of neoliberal economics, policy makers have come to understand that in order to impose such extreme, neoliberal reforms, populations have to be shocked, stunned, de-patterned as victims of electro-shock therapy are. Such is the only way to get populations to go along with reforms that are in opposition to their interests. Shock and awe crisis combined with radical, capitalist reform is the hallmarks of the emerging neoliberal corporate order. So argues Klein.

Intellectual origin of neoliberalism

A forerunner of the Chicago school was the Austrian school. Austrian school economics is represented best by Friedrich Hayek who also had taught in Chicago for a time in the 1950s. The immediate intellectual origin of the neoliberal economics is the University of Chicago, but it really is just a continuation of the Austrian tradition. The University of Chicago school of economics of the 1950s, Milton Friedman and his students, has been mythologized in the media and intellectual imagination. Their radical brand of capitalism appeared when real socialism was reaching its height, with Stalin’s victory in World War 2 and Mao’s victory in China. This was a time, after the Marshal Plan, when European social democracy was seen as the kinder, gentler future of imperialism for Europe, North America, Japan, and Oceania. This was a time when anti-colonial, patriotic nationalist regimes sought to develop their countries with large state sectors and large welfare programs. Among liberals, social democrats, and nationalists, Keynesianism ruled the roost. The economic battle on the world scene was largely between Stalinist and Maoist economics versus Keynesianism and social democracy. It was in this climate that Milton Friedman played the capitalist rebel. Contrary to popular opinion at the time, Friedman echoed Hayek, arguing that free markets were true freedom. Hayek, Friedman’s personal guru, argued that any state intervention in the market, be it Marxist or Keynesianism, was a “road to serfdom.” (pp. 66-67) State involvement in the market inevitably lead to a kind of feudalism that reduced the bulk of humanity to unfree paupers who toil for their state overlords. For Friedman, free markets solve all economic problems. Markets create freedom and abundance — never mind the ugly realities of capitalism in the real world or the problems of sustainability. For the neoliberals, all problems are a result of interference, hindrance of the free market. Contrary to the consensus at the time, they argued that the invisible hand must be freed to solve all problems:

“Friedman dreamed of de-patterning societies, of returning them to a state of pure capitalism, cleansed of all interruptions — government regulations, trade barriers and entrenched interests… Friedman believed that when the economy is highly distorted, the only way to reach that prelapsarian state was to deliberately inflict painful shocks: only ‘bitter medicine’ could clear those distortions and bad patterns.” (p. 60)

The advocacy of unbridled, unregulated, anti-state capitalism had been largely discredited not only in socialist regimes, but in both the post-colonial Third World and in the social-democratic First World ever since the Great Depression. The neoliberals needed an intellectual revolution; they needed to gain credibility by building public opinion for their views among intellectuals. Such pro-corporate views could not be sold to intellectuals or even politicians unless they found an academic advocate. Arguments by corporate robber barons to enrich themselves would fall on deaf ears. The corporations needed a champion who could convincingly argue for a return to unregulated capitalism, a return to a mythological capitalism, a time before the rise of socialism, before the state capitalism of the social democracies, social imperialists, and welfare states. Milton Friedman and his students fit the bill:

“The enormous benefit of having corporate views funneled through academic, or quasi-academic, institutions not only kept the Chicago school flush with donations, but, in short order, spawned the global network of right-wing think tanks that would churn out the counterrevolution’s foot soldiers worldwide.” (p. 68)

A new generation of radical capitalist ideologues and policy makers was born. The new wave posed as the radical, rebel capitalist among the evil, status quo statists. Anti-communism. Anti-social democracy. Reverse the new deal. Privatize everything. These young turks would come to dominate economic thinking in the capitalist world. They would preside over coups, depressions, wars, and other catastrophes over the next few decades. They would preside over whole new wave of imperialist terror against the world. They would preside over and profit from disasters in both the Third and First Worlds.

Disaster as opportunity

Marxists have often seen crisis as an opportunity that can create the conditions for revolution. However, crisis is not only a gift to the revolutionary forces, it can be used as a way to restructure society by others also. Fascists used economic crisis to catapult themselves to power. Now, it was time for the neoliberals:

“Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.” (p. 174)

Crisis situations are ones in which people are willing to experiment with new policies, are willing to accept radical solutions, both left and right, as necessary, even inevitable. Chicago School economists called this “the crisis hypothesis.” Not only did Chicago School economists create the policies to implement in times of crisis, but they participated in the generation of crisis themselves by closely collaborating with the imperialist militaries and their proxy dictatorships, but also by their role advising and working for transnational corporations and in the global financial institutions like the World Bank and IMF. Later, the “crisis hypothesis” would inform the U.S. military policy of “Shock and Awe” that was first advanced in the mid-1990s, but formed the basis of the military and economic strategy used against the people of Iraq in 2003. In the 1996 paper that articulated the concept. The paper states that an invading force should “seize control of the environment and paralyze or so overload an adversary’s perceptions and understanding of events so that the enemy would be incapable of resistance.” (p. 184) Disasters, be they a result of war, economy, or nature, are opportunities, according to the neoliberals. An overwhelming crisis can be used to shove any radical reform on a people incapable of mounting resistance.

Indonesia’s shock, a forerunner for the neoliberal counter-revolution

During World War 2, the old imperialist powers of Europe had annihilated each other. The old empires of Europe — England, France, Germany, and others — were no longer able to hold onto their colonies. European powers were forced out of the Third World. Sometimes they were forced out to as communist-led revolutions swept places like China. They were also forced out of other parts of the Third World as the patriotic bourgeoisie seized power and sought to implement economic reform that favored national development. Mao freed a quarter of the world from the “two mountains” of feudalism and imperialism. Ho Chi Minh sought to do the same in Vietnam. Mossadegh in Iran, Gaddafi in Libya, Nasser in Egypt, Arbenz in Guatemala, Sukarno in Indonesia, and many others across the Third World sought to implement limited reform that would reduce the imperialist hold on their economies. Their reforms pursued developmental strategies that increased the state sector, often at the expense of imperialists and transnational corporations. Washington fought back with economic terrorism, bombings, wars, coups and death squads. In 1954, Mossadegh was overthrown in a CIA-backed coup in Iran. He was replaced by the brutal Shah, a friend of the West. Again, in 1954, the CIA came to the rescue of the United Fruit Company in Guatemala. The CIA disposed of the Arbenz regime that had dared to move toward land reform. This happened over and over, in country after country. Indonesia was to be a battle ground.

Indonesia was one of the first experiments in using shock therapy to restructure an economy, although not along strictly neoliberal lines. Prior to the pro-Western restructuring, Sukarno’s regime in Indonesia was a nationalist one that sought a course independent of both the Western and Soviet imperialists. The regime was one of national development and social democracy that made concessions to poor peoples and their organizations, including the powerful, Maoist-Influenced Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). A high-level CIA directive sought to “liquidate President Sukarno, depending upon the situation and available opportunities.” (p. 81) After several false starts, the CIA’s goal was accomplished by a military coup in October of 1965. The military, led by general Suharto, began a bloody campaign to eliminate the left. Death squads went from door to door, from village to village, torturing and executing anyone suspected of being sympathetic to communism. Educated people, teachers, students, worker and peasant organizers, human rights activists, nationalists, social democrats and communists were murdered by the new regime with the blessing and support of the CIA. Within one month, at least a half million people were killed, “massacred by the hundreds of  thousands,” according to Time magazine.  “Travelers from those areas tell of small rivers and streams that have been literally clogged with bodies; river transportation has at places been impeded.” (p. 82)

Indonesia’s economy was then restructured to serve the West. This restructuring was planned by a group of intellectuals funded by the Ford Foundation. This group was called “the Berkley Mafia” in the press and in intellectual circles. They were Indonesian students who studied at Berkley as part of Ford Foundation funded program. When they returned home, they founded a Western-style economics department at the University of Indonesia’s Faculty of Economics. John Howard, then Director of Ford’s International Training and Research program states, “Ford felt it was training the guys who would be leading the country when Sukarno got out.” (p. 83)

The Berkley Mafia got to work. They recorded lectures on economics for the generals. They personally tutored general Suharto, who was reported to have been attentive, closely taking notes. They filled important positions in the new regime. They became the new economic technocrats. They made Indonesia friendly to foreign capital. “They passed laws allowing foreign companies to own 100 percent of these resources [food, basics, oil and mineral wealth], handed out ‘tax holidays,’ and within two years, Indonesia’s natural wealth — copper, nickel, hardwood, rubber and oil — was being divided up among the largest mining and energy companies in the world.” (pp. 83-84) Even though the Berkley Mafia were less explicitly ideological, even though they were not as anti-state as future neoliberals, the parallels with later neoliberals, such as the “Chicago Boys” in Latin America, would be striking. (p. 84)

“Suharto… had shown that if massive repression was used preemptively, the country would go into a kind of shock and resistance could be wiped out before it even took place. His use of terror was so merciless, so far beyond even the worst expectations, that a people who only weeks earlier had been collectively striving to assert their country’s independence were now sufficiently terrorized that they ceded total control to Suharto and his henchmen. Ralph McGehee, a senior CIA operations manager during the years of the coup, said Indonesia was a ‘model operation… You can trace back all major, bloody events run from Washington to the way Suharto came to power. The success of that meant that it would be repeated, again and again.”’ (p. 85)

It was the Indonesia experience of mass terrorism against the populace that would interest the architects of the neoliberal, orchestrated disasters and counter-revolutions to come.

Latin America, the real beginning

Even though there were forerunners like Indonesia, it was in the southern cone of Latin America that the Chicago school would get its big break. It was in 1953, that Adbion Patterson, director of the U.S. International Cooperation Administration in Chile, the agency later would become part of the infamous USAID, met with Theodore W. Shultz, chairman of the Department of Economic at the University of Chicago. USAID is known as being part of the “carrot” side of the United States’ “carrot and stick” foreign policy. USAID tries to project a more humane face for U.S. imperialism. USAID is known to collaborate with the CIA, death squads, and dictators across the Third World. The neoliberals came to the conclusion that Latin America was in a life-and-death struggle with Marxism. They began a collaboration to recreate the Chicago school in Chile, to create cohorts of capitalist intellectuals to save the continent. Similar to the creation of the Berkley Mafia in Indonesia, they created exchange programs between the Chicago School and universities in Chile. Because of lack of interest at more the prestigious campuses of Chile, they decided to create and finance a whole new school of economics at Chile’s Catholic University, a lesser institution. This was paid for by foundations and U.S. tax dollars. The student ideologues were described as “more Friedmanite than Friedman himself.” “Los Chicago Boys” would become the ideological vanguard of the coming neoliberal revolution that would begin in Chile.  (pp. 72-74)

By 1968, 20 percent of U.S. foreign investment was tied up in Latin America. There were 5,436 U.S. subsidiaries in the region. In previous decades, over a billion dollars was invested in Chile’s mining industries by U.S. corporations. Chileans saw few benefits. Following the typical pattern, value and resources left Chile at an astonishing rate. 7.2 billion in Chilean mining dollars ended up in pockets in the United States. (p. 78) In the early 1970s, Salvador Allende sought to reform the Chilean economy, which was dominated by foreign-owned corporations. Fearing that Allende would set a regional example, the U.S. state and corporations began waging a covert war to destabilize the economy and the Allende regime. When the U.S. State Department, CIA, and corporations failed to muscle Allende to reverse course early on, they began implementing a plan to overthrow him. (pp. 78-80)

“The other 9/11” occurred on September 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet launched a coup d’etat. Allende’s civilian defense leagues were no match for Pinochet’s military and police. Pinochet described his coup as a “war.” Allende was killed. The Presidential Palace was in flames. The Allende government was imprisoned. In the days that followed, 13,500 civilians were rounded up. They were sent to the National Stadium, which was turned into a torture center and death camp. Thousands were tortured and killed. 80,000 imprisoned. 200,000 escaped the country for political reasons. (pp. 93-95) Books by Marx, Freud, and Neruda were burned. Chilean society was thrown into disarray.

The Chicago Boys saw their chance. “To us, it was a revolution,” one recalled. The capitalist intellectuals went into action. Pinochet knew nothing about economics, which allowed the Chicago Boys free reign to push through drastic reforms very quickly. As blood flowed in the streets, the Chicago Boys rushed to put together a statement, a program, that advocated privatization, deregulation, and cuts to social spending. With military approval, the Chicago Boys got the right-wing newspaper El Mercurio to print a long document that came to be known as “The Brick.” By noon, on September 12, 1973, government workers had the plan on their desks. The plan heavily resembled Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom. To implement their radical agenda, they no longer needed to win anyone’s approval except a handful of military men. They could impose their ideas at gunpoint. Several of the Chicago Boys were named advisers to the dictatorship. (pp. 94-96)

A year after the coup, inflation reached 375 percent. This was the highest rate in the world, double that of the rate under Allende. The markets were flooded with cheap imports, putting local manufactures out of business. Unemployment hit record levels as hundreds of thousands lost manufacturing and public-sector jobs. In that first year, domestic industrialists began to resist the Chicago Boys, whose policies were only benefiting foreign importers, financiers and compradors. The National Association of Manufactures declared that the experiment of the Chicago Boys was “one of the greatest failures of our economic history.” (p. 97) Feeling the experiment in jeopardy, Friedman himself arrived. He was treated like a rock star by the dictator-controlled press. Friedman advised that the dictatorship was off to a good start, but to really succeed, Pinochet had to go further. Friedman said “shock treatment is the only medicine.” Friedman promised an economic miracle. Inflation could be ended and unemployment brought under control. All problems could be solved. However, it was necessary to act quickly, gradualism was not an option. More radical solutions were needed. Pinochet, reportedly, liked the ring of “shock treatment.” With a Chicago Boy newly appointed as Pinochet’s economic minister, they went forward with more neoliberal reforms. Public spending was cut by 27 percent in 1975. By 1980, public spending was half of what it was under Allende. Five hundred state-owned companies and banks were privatized. Some were almost given away. More trade barriers were removed. 177,000 industrial jobs were lost in the decade since the coup. The manufacturing sector shrank, returning to pre-World War 2 levels. Seventy five percent of a family’s income went to bread alone. Milk and bus fare were now luxuries for many. Chile’s economy was in ruin. The Chicago Boys and the dictator had taken Chile into a deep recession. (pp. 99-102)

In 1982, the economy got worse. The situation was to bad that Pinochet broke with the Chicago Boys out of necessity. He returned to Allende-type nationalization of major industries. The Chicago Boys were fired from influential government posts. Several came under investigation for profiteering and corruption. What prevented total collapse was that Pinochet never nationalized Codelco, the major copper company that generated 85 percent of Chile’s export revenues. Even in the worst period of neoliberal reform, the regime still had a revenue stream from copper profits. (p. 104) It was only in 1988 that the Chilean economy began to rapidly grow. The growth occurred only after 45 percent of the population had been forced under the poverty line by neoliberal policies. Neoliberals often point to the “Chilean miracle” as an example of the success of their policies. However, the “Chilean miracle” is a myth. The Chilean economy began to bounce back rapidly only after being first destroyed by neoliberal policies. The recovery happened by abandoning neoliberal policies, not because of them. And, even then, the recovery was uneven. In 2007, Chile was one of the most unequal societies in the world. The top ten percent saw their incomes rise 83 percent. Out of 123 countries counted by the United Nations, Chile ranked 116 in terms of inequality. (p. 105) In Chile, the “shock therapy” amounted to the rapid plunder of state assets. There was a massive redistribution of value from the middle and poor classes to the bourgeois classes, especially the compradors and the imperialists. The reality is that what developed was far from the free-market utopia of academics. The vision of Friedman and the Chicago Boys was made possible by a U.S.-sponsored police state that exterminated all opposition. The rapid economic hardships combined with the terror campaign waged by the state were a key part of subduing the Chilean people and expediting the neoliberal reform.

Klein describes the Pinochet dictatorship that streamlined the neoliberal “shock therapy”:

“Corporatism, or ‘corporativism,’ originally referred to Mussolini’s model of a police state run as an alliance of the three major power sources in society — government, businesses and trade unions — all collaborating to guarantee order in the name of nationalism. What Chile pioneered under Pinochet was an evolution of corporatism:  a mutually supporting alliance between a police state and large corporations, joining forces to wage all-out war on the third power sector — the workers — thereby drastically increasing the alliance’s share of the national wealth.” (p. 105)

While not meaning to, Klein has made an important observation. Despite anti-fascist propaganda at the time, in some fascist states, the workers — for example, in Germany — were not always on the receiving end of state violence or economic terrorism. The fascist state in Germany saw itself as above class, not unlike social-democratic regimes have since Lenin’s time. Although the fascist state served corporate and banking interests, it also sought to accommodate the bourgeoisified, German worker. It did this through social-democratic reform and also by redistribution of wealth from conquered peoples to Germans. Thus the state sought to deliver a higher standard of living to Germans, including German workers at the expense of other peoples. Not so in Chile. As a Third World country, fascism doesn’t typically seek an alliance with its own proletarian workers, at least not in the long term. Fascism, as Georg Dimitrov, theorist of Stalin’s Comintern around World War 2, put it, is “the open terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialist elements of finance capital.” However, fascism, in a Third World country like Chile, does not really seek any real alliance with the workers. Fascism does not seek to benefit the workers so much as cannibalize workers in the interests of local compradors and imperialists. Police, military and paramilitary terror facilitates the transfer of value from the poor and workers to compradors: generals, police, state bureaucrats, corrupt officials, middlemen for the imperialists, landed and other oligarchs, etc.  State and extra-state terror facilitate the transfer of value to the imperialists: multi-national corporations, financial institutions, global entities and bureaucracies, imperialist states and populations, etc. Pinochet’s regime subdued the Chilean workers. It did not court them.

The “shock therapy” that occurred in Chile happened elsewhere in Latin America, but with variations. When Pinochet took power in Chile in 1973, Brazil was already under the jackboot of a military junta. In the Brazilian junta, Friedman’s students held key posts. At the height of the junta’s brutality, Friedman traveled to Brazil to declare the neoliberal experiment there “a miracle.” External debt in Brazil would go from 3 billion to 103 billion. In Argentina in 1976, a military junta seized power. The Chicago Boys occupied positions in the military government: secretary of finance, president of the central bank and research director for the Treasury Department of the Finance Ministry, and other lesser posts. Although the neoliberal reform did not go as far there, state-ownership of the oil sector and social security survived, the neoliberal reforms were enough to push the middle classes into the poverty. Argentina’s external debt grew from 7.9 billion to 45 billion after the coup. Uruguay was also ruled by the military with similar results. The external debt doubled.  Arnold Harberger and Larry Sjaastad and their team, along with Chicago graduates from Argentina, Chile, and Brazil were tasked with reforming Uruguay’s tax and commercial policy. Similarly, in Bolivia, the unemployment rate increased dramatically. Real wages were reduced by 60 percent. Per capita income dropped from $845 to $789 two years later. Shanty towns and tent cities multiplied as people lost their land and homes. At the same time, Bolivians eligible for social security dropped by 61 percent. The majorities grew poor. A few grew wealthier. Countries that had previously had enjoyed a higher standard of living through economies with large national sectors and active state intervention were turned into Washington-backed neoliberal experiments accompanied by state and economic terror to pacify the populations. Henry Kissinger, who has been indicted for his role in these murderous regimes, was pleased with the neoliberal shock. Friedman and the Chicago Boys provided the ideological cover. Dictators, CIA, death squads, murderous police and military terrorized populations into submission. The juntas of the region cooperated in hunting down refugees and dissent. Through Operation Condor, the juntas and the U.S. intelligence and military shared information to hunt down, torture and kill opposition and perceived opposition. U.S. military and intelligence provided extensive training, even going so far as to produce torture manuals. Klein points out that Condor foreshadowed the system of secret prisons and “extraordinary rendition” that has developed today. Condor and the murderous suppression of dissent and resistance across the region was packaged as a “war on terror” in its day. (pp. 106-112) (pp. 185-186) (p. 196) Countries were subdued by military terror and economic strangulation under the cover of so-called anti-terrorism.

Eastern Bloc

Similar neoliberal restructurings occurred with the fall of the Soviet Bloc. Although the Soviet Bloc had long ceased to be socialist nor were the regimes there led by communists, the fall of the state-heavy regimes there was helped along and planned by neoliberals. As many of the Eastern European regimes reached a breaking point, those who had originally advocated Western European-style social democracy were either transformed or outmaneuvered by neoliberals. In the case of Poland, Solidarity took power from the Soviet-backed regime. Solidarity transformed itself from a trade union movement into one that advocated neoliberal “solutions.” In Poland, when Solidarity gained power, they now had to come up with the funds to pay the state apparatus, including the police. The IMF originally allowed the Polish economy to fall in the face of a debt crisis. The Unites States made statements that it expected the new regime to make good on its payments. The United States offered very little relief to the crumbling economy. In the face of an economic meltdown due to debt, the Polish regime turned to the Chicago School economists.  Jeffery Sachs dubbed “the Indiana Jones of Economics,” adviser to the Bolivian military regime, now advised the Solidarity regime. The Polish regime adopted what was known as “the Sachs Plan” or “shock therapy.” It was only after the regime adopted the plan that the IMF agreed to provide loans. Poland was strong-armed into accepting the emerging neoliberal consensus. (pp. 221-233) It caused a  depression in Poland. There was a 30 percent reduction in industrial production in the first two years. Unemployment skyrocketed, reacting a quarter of the population in some places. (pp. 241-243) Eventually, there was a backlash in Poland. Solidarity was defeated at the ballot box. (pp. 242-243) Similarly, Gorbachev in the Soviet Union originally advocated Western-style social democracy but was displaced by the more neoliberal-friendly Yeltsin. Like elsewhere, ideological and technical help was provided for the neoliberal transformation of the economy:

“To provide ideological and technical backup for Yeltsin’s Chicago Boys, the U.S. government funded its own transition experts whose jobs ranged from writing privatization decrees, to launching a New York-style stock exchange, to designing a Russian mutual fund market. In the fall of 1992, USAID awarded a $2.1 million contract to the Harvard Institute for International Development, which sent teams of young lawyers and economists to shadow the Gaidar team. In May, 1995, Harvard named Sachs director of the Harvard Institute for International Development, which meant that he played two roles in Russia’s reform period: he began as a freelance adviser to Yeltsin, then moved on to overseeing Harvard’s large Russia outpost, funded by the U.S. government.” (p. 281)

What followed was a massive selling of state assets, especially to foreign corporations and corrupt bureaucrats. The public assets were sold off at rock bottom, undervalued prices.

“Forty percent of an oil company comparable in size to France’s Total was sold for $88 million (Total’s sales in 2006 were $193 billion.). Norilsk Nickel, which produced a fifth of the world’s nickel, was sold for $170 million — even though its profits alone soon reached $1.5 billion annually. The massive oil company Yukos, which controls more oil than Kuwait, was sold for $309 million; it now earns more than $3 billion in revenue a year…” (p. 293)

The average Russian consumed 40 percent less in 1992 than 1991. There was a drop in the standard of living. (p. 283) A massive transfer of wealth occurred. Like in Latin America, the economic masterminds of the process often got a piece of the action, selling influence and profiting off of the plunder of the public sector. Enormous profits were moved offshore at the rate of 2 billion dollars a month. A new oligarchy of new millionaires and billionaires arose from the bureaucrats and their advisers that oversaw the process. (p. 291) So much so that the regimes of the post-Soviet Bloc were often described as kleptocracies. This pattern was repeated again and again in Eastern Europe and ex-Soviet bloc.

China, the restoration of capitalism on overdrive

Deng Xiaoping, one of the main architect of China’s counter-revolution and restoration of capitalism, was a big supporter of moving toward a neoliberal, corporate-based economy. In the 1980s, the Chinese regime invited Friedman to tutor hundreds of top-level civil servants, professors and Party economists in the wonders of the free market. Friedman spoke to audiences in Beijing and Shanghai. Deng sought to open up China’s economy, but also maintain the regime’s monopoly on political power. Klein describes the model in China as something close to Pinochet’s Chile. And this was acceptable to Friedman, for whom political freedom is the same as so-called economic freedom, free markets. In 1983, Deng opened the country up to foreign investment. He reduced protections for workers. He created a new 400,000-person People’s Armed Police charged with quashing all signs of “economic crimes.” Prices soared when prices ceased to be regulated. Job security was eliminated. Unemployment rose. Inequalities increased. Dissent grew. Klein suggests that this was the catalyst for the 1989 protests that were crushed by the Chinese state. But the violent suppression of the protests at Tiananmen threw the country into a shock that allowed Deng Xiaoping to go even further.  (pp. 232-239) Five days after the violence, Deng Xiaoping stated:

“Perhaps this bad thing will enable us to go ahead with reform and the open-door policy at a more steady, better, even a faster pace…” (p. 238)

The crackdown paved the way for reorganizing China’s economy along neoliberal lines. Klein characterizes Deng’s philosophy as “Friedmanism without the freedom.” (p. 293) Klein continues:

“It was this wave of reforms that turned China into the sweatshop of the world, the preferred location for contract factories for virtually every multinational on the planet. No country offered more lucrative conditions than China: low taxes and tariffs, corruptible officials and, most of all, a plentiful low-wage workforce that, for many years, would be unwilling to risk demanding decent salaries or the most basic workplace protections for fear of the most violent reprisals.” (p. 239)

For the Chicago School, China is a success. China is now the sweatshop of the First World, producing cheap goods for the populations of the United States. Along with the imperialists, the new bourgeoisie within the Chinese ruling party benefited:

“For foreign investors and the party, it has been a win-win arrangement. According to a 2006 study, 90 percent of China’s billionaires are the children of Communist Party [sic.] officials. Roughly twenty-nine hundred of these party scions — known as ‘the princelings’ — control $260 billion.” (p. 240)

The conflicts within China’s ruling elite today reflect a conflict between a more globalist, comprador-oriented bourgeoisie and a more patriotic bourgeoisie that seeks to retain China’s independence vis a vis the Western-dominated global market and the neoliberal consensus. Although neither pole within China’s elite is revolutionary, it is the more nationalist wing of the bourgeoisie that resists the extension of Western power in the Middle East and Africa. With the global markets in crisis, the nationalist wing of China’s elites have been able to assert themselves.

U.S. policy makers seek to remake the Middle East using Iraq as a model

The imperialists had similar plans for the Middle East and Islamic world. After the First Gulf War between the United States and Iraq, Saddam Hussein retained power in Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s regime was a Baathist one where the state managed much of the economy. It had a large public sector, nationalized industries, a large welfare state. Even though the regime was not truly socialist, it promoted a socialist rhetoric at time. It also promoted nationalism, even though the regime often compromised with the imperialists. Like most regimes in the Third World, the Iraqi regime was a regime ruled by the national bourgeoisie. The national bourgeoisie in the Third World has a patriotic pole that favors independence and development. The national bourgeoisie also has a comprador pole that favors accommodation with imperialism and maldevelopment. The regime in Iraq veered between these two poles. At times, the regime was mainly comprador. At other times, especially after coming into conflict with the United States, the regime was forced to take on more patriotic policies in opposition to the United States. After the First Gulf War, the Iraqi state was severely weakened, but continued to exert control of much of the national economy. The imperialists plundered and exploited Iraq after the First Gulf War through sanctions and reparations after that war ended in 1991. However, with Saddam still in power, they were unable to completely restructure the economy along neoliberal lines. So, their victory in Iraq was incomplete. The events of September 11 gave the imperialists their excuse. Not only could they finish the job in Iraq, Iraq could also serve as a regional example in the Middle East and Islamic world much as Pinochet’s Chile had in Latin America. To this end, Bush II would wage Gulf War II beginning in 2012, a war and occupation that continues to this day. Policy makers and economists had big plans for the post-Saddam Iraq:

“Since the entire Arab world could not be conquered all at once, a single country needed to serve as the catalyst. The U.S. would invade that country and turn it into, as Thomas Friedman, chief media proselytizer of the theory, put it, ‘a different model in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world,’ one that would set off a series of democratic/neoliberal waves through. Josh Muravchik, an American Enterprise Institute pundit, forecast a ‘tsunami across the Islamic world” in Tehran and Baghdad,’ while the arch-conservative Michael Ledeen, an adviser to the Bush administration, described the goal as ‘a war to remake the world.’” (p. 415)

From the beginning, Gulf War II was not simply about Iraq, but a new Middle East and, ultimately, a new world:

“[T]he architects of the invasion had unleashed ferocious violence because they could not crack open the closed economies of the Middle East by peaceful means, that the level of terror was proportional to what was at stake.” (p. 414)

The stakes were big, not just Iraq, but the world. The future of the world was at stake. The neoliberals saw it as  a war of civilizations, a war between two ways of life. Friedman wrote, “We are not doing nation-building in Iraq. We are doing nation-creating.” (p. 417) The Middle East was to be cleaned of terrorists and radicals. Shortly after declaring the fighting over in Iraq, Georg W. Bush announced plans for the “establishment of a U.S.-Middle East free-trade area within a decade.” (p. 416) A giant free-trade zone was planned. (p. 415) This was seen as a unified project to “bring democracy” to the Middle East, and the world. In reality, the “democracy” and “freedom” that neoliberalism brought was only for corporations and Western contractors.

The war planners and neoliberals ran into a problem: Iraq is not a blank slate. Iraq’s civilization is an ancient and rich one. Its popular culture is fiercely proud and anti-imperialist. It had a deep history of Arab nationalism. In addition, the majority of the adult male population had military training. (p. 417) Whole cultures would have to be uprooted to create a neoliberal-capitalist utopia in the region. In order to create the blank slate, a new type of war was to be waged. Donald Rumsfeld promoted a Pentagon-research paper, Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance. (p. 416) The paper prides itself on not merely targeting the enemy military, but “society writ large.” Fear on unprecedented scales is a key component of the theory. (p. 420) Like shock therapy, the goal is “rendering the adversary completely impotent.” (p. 421) A society is completely erased in order to be rebuilt. “Shock and Awe” states:

“In crude terms, Rapid Dominance would seize control of the environment and paralyze or so overload an adversary’s perceptions and underlying understanding of events.” (p. 421)

And:

“With a far larger canvas, that was the invasion and occupation strategy for Iraq. The architects of the war surveyed the global arsenal of shock tactics and decided to go with all of them — blitzkrieg military bombardment supplemented with elaborate psychological operations, followed up with the fastest and most sweeping political and economic shock therapy program attempted anywhere, backed up, if there was any resistance, by rounding up those who resisted and subjugating them to ‘gloves-off’ abuse.” (p. 419)

Iraq was a great experiment in this mass terror for months. The citizens of Baghdad were subject to sensory depravation on a mass scale:

“…real-time manipulation of sense and inputs… literally ‘turning on and off’ the ‘lights’ that enable any potential aggressor to see or appreciate the conditions and events concerning his forces sand ultimately, his society… depriving the enemy, in specific areas, of the ability to communicate, observe.” (pp. 421-423)

Not only did the bombing terrorize the population, it helped erase Iraq’s cultural history:

“The hundreds of looters who smashed ancient ceramics, stripped display cases and pocketed gold and other antiquities, from the National Museum of Iraq pillaged nothing less than records of the first human society,” reported the Los Angeles Times. (p. 425) “Gone are 80 percent of the museum’s 170,000 priceless objects.”  (p. 425)

And:

“The national library, which contained copies of every book and doctoral thesis ever published in Iraq, was a blackened ruin. Thousand-year-old illuminated Korans had disappeared from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which was left a burned-out shell. ‘Our national heritage is lost,’ pronounced a Baghdad high-school teacher. A local merchant said of the museum, ‘It was the soul of Iraq. If the museum doesn’t recover the looted treasures, I will feel like a part of my own soul has been stolen.’” (p. 425)

Also:

“The Baghdad International Airport was completely trashed by soldiers, who according to Time, smashed furniture and then moved on to the commercial jets on the runway: ‘U.S. soldiers looking for comfortable seats and souvenirs ripped out many of the planes’ fittings, slashed seats, damaged cockpit equipment and popped out every windshield.’ The result was an estimated $100 million worth of damage to Iraq’s national airline — which was one of the first assets to be put on the auction block in an early and contentious partial privatization.” (p. 426)

U.S. troops failed to prevent the looting in most cases. In some cases, troops even joined in. The behavior of U.S. troops mimicked the behavior of the Nazi troops who personally plundered the countries they occupied in World War 2. Despite the danger, it was a bonanza for U.S. troops. Not only could they walk away with Iraq’s wealth in hand, life in the Green Zone was fun and luxurious compared to the surrounding war zone. It was a kind of Disneyland island for the troops and contractors:

“Baghdad’s Green Zone is the starkest example of this world order. It has its own electrical grid, its own phone and sewage systems, its own oil supply and its own state-of-the-art hospital with pristine operating theaters — all protected by five-meter-thick walls. It feels oddly, like a giant fortified Carnival Cruise Ship parked in the middle of a sea of violence and despair, the boiling Red Zone that is Iraq. If you can get on board, there are poolside drinks, bad Hollywood movies and Nautilus machines. If you are not among the chosen, you can get yourself shot by standing too close to the wall.” (pp. 522-523)

The bombing and looting also helped sweep away the old state institutions. Reagan-era bureaucrat and senior economic advisor to Paul Bremer, Peter McPherson was a true Chicago School believer. He did not mind the plunder of the public sector, especially the public education system. The looting of state property did not bother him. He referred to the pillage of the public sector as “shrinkage.” Thus the massive loss of state assets into private pockets was by design, all the better to create a clean slate for nation building. (p. 427) Iraq’s public education system, the best in the region with 89 percent of Iraqis literate, a number higher than much of the United States, was lost within weeks. (p. 428) This was all part of the plan:

“It’s hard to believe — but then again, that was pretty much Washington’s game plan for Iraq: shock and terrorize the entire country, deliberately ruin its infrastructure, do nothing while its culture and history are ransacked, then make it all okay with an unlimited supply of cheap household appliances and imported junk food. In Iraq, this cycle of culture erasing and culture replacing was not theoretical; it all unfolded in a matter of weeks.” (p. 429)

Neoliberals gloated over their new power. Joe Allbraugh, Bush’s ex-FEMA director, remarked that “One well-stocked 7-Eleven could knock out 30 Iraqi stores; a Wal-Mart could take over the country.” (p. 430) Iraq’s large state firms, or what was left of them, were sold off, two thirds of the employees lost their jobs to make the companies attractive to Western capital. (p. 446) Iraq was flooded by foreign goods. Foreigners bought up factories for very little. (p. 445) Just as Pinochet slashed 25 percent of state employees, so did the imperial occupation de-Baathify the Iraqi state and economy. (p. 444) However, it was not smooth sailing for the neoliberal invaders.

“As is now well known, nothing about Bush’s anti-Marshall Plan went as intended. Iraqis did not see the corporate reconstruction as ‘a gift’; most saw it as a modernized form of pillage, and U.S. corporations didn’t wow anyone with their speed and efficiency; instead they have managed to turn the word ‘reconstruction’ into as one Iraqi engineer put it, ‘a joke that nobody laughs at.’” (p. 442)

The people of Iraq saw their standard of living fall dramatically while foreign contractors and corporations cashed in. Sectarian gangs and death squads roamed the streets. Ethnic and religious conflict tore the country apart. The post-Saddam regime was corrupt and not in control of the country. National liberation, Islamist, and sectarian forces all fought for power. As chaos reigned, it was a free-for-all for foreign corporations who plundered and exploited the economy. The chaos of Iraq, according to Klein, was created by the careful and faithful application of Chicago School ideology. (p. 444)

Natural disasters: Sri Lanka and New Orleans

It is not only coups and wars that can provide the chaos and shock necessary to implement neoliberal restructuring of economies. In recent decades, neoliberals have used the trauma and social dislocation caused by natural disasters to implement their economic vision. 2004 and 2005 were great back-to-back years for neoliberals, but terrible years for humanity. The Asian tsunami and hurricane Katrina devastated populations on two sides of the planet. In December 26, 2004, Sri Lanka was hit by a tsunami that claimed the lives of a quarter million people and left 2.5 million homeless throughout the region. (p. 488)  Prior to the disaster, there was a neoliberal plan called Regaining Sri Lanka.

“Like all such shock therapy plans, Regaining Sri Lanka [the World Bank approved plan] demanded many sacrifice  in the name of kick-starting rapid economic growth. Millions of people would have to leave traditional villages to free up the beaches for tourists and the land for resorts and highways.” (p. 497)

It was defeated at the polls by a “center-left” coalition, but after the tsunami, all bets were off. (p. 498) The tsunami accomplished what could not be done through ordinary channels. It cleared the beach; it created a clean slate sought after by neoliberal reformers. No people, no problem.

“When the tsunami came, it did what the fire couldn’t; it cleared the beach completely. Every single fragile structure was washed away — every boat, every fishing hut, as well as every tourist cabana and bungalow. In a community of only 4,000, about 350 were killed, most of them… who make their living from the sea. And yet, underneath the rubble and the carnage was what the tourism industry had been angling for all along — a pristine beach, scrubbed clean of all the messy signs of people working, a vacation Eden. It was the same up and down the coast: once the rubble was cleared away, what was left was… paradise.

When the emergency subsided and fishing families returned to the spots where their homes once stood, they were greeted by police who forbade them to rebuild. ‘New rules,’ they were told — no homes on the beach, and everything had to be at least two hundred meters back from the high-water mark… The beaches were off-limits.” (p. 490)

Armies of NGOs poured in to keep the lid on social discontent as the neoliberals sold off the beaches to the tourist industry. (p. 494) This would not be the first or last time that natural disasters would create the stage for the radical capitalist reformers. Similarly, the Maldives used the tsunami to clear out its poor people. (pp. 504-506) Earlier, in 1988, Central America was hit by Hurricane Mitch. Water and landslides killed over 9,000 people in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Whole villages were destroyed. With its population in shock, Honduras used the opportunity to push through privatization laws that sold off its airports, seaports and highways and fast-tracked plans to privatize its telephone company, the national electric company, and parts of its water sector. Protections on land were overturned, making it easier for foreign capitalists to buy and push out local and smaller farmers. Environmental standards were lowered. People were evicted from their homes to make way for foreign-owned mines. Similarly, Guatemala used the opportunity to sell off its phone company and Nicaragua sold off its electric company. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund strong-armed Nicaragua by making 4.4 billion in debt relief tied to the implementation of neoliberal policies. (p. 500) “Destruction carries with it an opportunity for foreign investment,” announced Guatemala’s foreign minister on a trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos in 1999.

Even people in the United States were not immune to natural disasters or the neoliberal ambulance chasers. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit. Parts of New Orleans was flooded. Images of families, usually from the poorer  and Blacker areas, stranded on roofs were broadcast on TV. Black refugees from the disaster were described and treated by the racist authorities as “looters” and criminals. Over 1,800 people died. There was an estimated 81 billion dollars in property damage. Americans witnessed on their TVs a refugee crisis at home. The football stadium, the Superdome, became a giant refugee camp. The disaster was one of the greatest in the history of the United States. In a propaganda move, even Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro offered help to a hapless United States. The weak state proved itself completely incapable of responding to the disaster.

“There was a brief window of two or three weeks when it seemed that the drowning of New Orleans would provoke a crisis of economic logic that had greatly exacerbated the human disaster with its relentless attack on the public sphere. ‘The storm exposed the consequences of neoliberalism’s lies and mystifications, in a single locale and all at once,’ wrote the political scientist and New Orleans native Adolph Reed Jr. The facts of the exposure are well known — from the levees that failed, to the fact that the city’s idea of disaster preparedness was passing out DVDs telling people that if a hurricane came, they should get out of town.” (p. 516)

In the previous year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had turned down a request by the State of Louisiana to develop a contingency plan in case of a hurricane.

“Just as the U.S. occupation authority in Iraq turned out to be an empty shell, when Katrina hit, so did the U.S. federal government at home. In fact, it was so thoroughly absent that FEMA could not seem to locate the New Orleans superdome, where twenty-three thousand people were stranded without food or water, despite the fact that the world media had ben there for days.” (p. 517)

Baghdad’s Green Zone was recreated in New Orleans:

“Within weeks, the Gulf Coast became a domestic laboratory for the same kind of government-run-by-contractors that had been pioneered in Iraq. The companies that snatched up the biggest contracts were the familiar Baghdad gang: Halliburton’s KBR unit had a $60 million gig to reconstruct military bases along the coast. Blackwater was hired to protect FEMA employees from looters. Parsons, infamous for its sloppy Iraq work, was brought in for a major bridge project in Mississippi. Flour, Shaw, Bechtel, CH2M Hill — all top contractors in Iraq — were hired by the government to provide mobile homes to evacuees just ten days after the levees broke. Their contracts ended up totaling $3.4 billion, no open bidding required.” (p. 519)

The American population was getting a taste, albeit a small one, of what its government and corporations were dishing out across the Third World. Even populations in the United States, which are generally some of the most advantaged and wealthiest in the world, were hit by neoliberal policies. Attacks on the disadvantaged were being carried out under the name of relief both abroad and in the United States. (p. 522)

In most places, despite attempts to quash resistance, these neoliberal attacks did not go unanswered. Across the Third World, progressive forces mobilized against the imperialists and their agents. They recognized that their interests were fundamentally opposed to the policies being foisted upon them. In Latin America, the dictatorships  were always challenged by an array of forces, including armed guerrillas. Today’s resurgence of the nationalist left in Latin America can be seen as a response to the failure of neoliberalism. The Iraqi population, both Sunni and Shia, responded to defend themselves from the imperialist occupiers. This kind of resistance was not witnessed among people in the United States. Even with the decline of the traditional social-safety net and economic decline, most Americans, even those most victimized by the system, still identify with the system itself. They still correctly see themselves as having more to lose by opposing the system than by supporting it. What Katrina showed is that even in the face of a huge crisis and failed state, that most Americans will still side with their system. Even the small and marginal populist movements within the United States, like Occupy, framed their opposition to neoliberalism mostly within the capitalist-imperialist framework. Rather than rejecting Americanism, capitalism, imperialism and First Worldism, Occupiers framed their demands as a way to save America, as a return to a capitalism uncorrupted by corporations and cronyism, as a return to a happier time, the era of the Democratic Party of FDR. Anti-imperialism is mostly an afterthought, if that, among U.S. populists. Only handfuls framed their dissent as an opposition to capitalism, inequality, and unsustainability as such. Most frame their opposition as an attempt to preserve their First World privilege, not reject it.

911

George W. Bush’s administration represented the continuing privatization of the public sector in the United States. The elimination of and contracting out of state services had been a trend long before the administration of George W. Bush. Both the Republican and Democratic Party since Reagan had supported the downsizing of the public sector. Clinton’s administration, like George Bush’s before him, embraced the corporatization of the public sector. However, it was under the administration of George W. Bush that the downsizing was elevated to a matter of principle. Bush II corporatism went back to his days as governor of Texas. George W. Bush in his prior role as governor of Texas did not distinguish himself in too many ways. According to Klein:

“[T]here was one area in which he excelled: parceling out to private interests the various functions of government he was elected to run — especially security related functions, a preview of the privatized War on Terror he would soon unleash. Under his watch, the number of private prisons in Texas grew from twenty-six to forty-two, prompting The American Prospect magazine to call Bush’s Texas ‘the world capital of the private-prison industry.’” (p. 371)

Similarly, top Bush Jr. appointees were drawn from circles of neoliberal ideologues and the corporate world. Donald Rumsfeld when he was appointed Secretary of Defense under Bush Jr had a personal fortune of over 250 million dollars. He spent decades in top positions of multi-national corporations. He had a personal relationship with Milton Friedman, who he considered a friend and teacher. Rumsfeld saw himself as representing the new economy and new neoliberal state. The neoliberals were on a mission and so was Rumsfeld. He was a man on a mission to reinvent the Pentagon and modern warfare. He would head up a controversial program to cut and slash the public sector within the military. He did not cut the military budget though. Under Bush Jr., it increased significantly. However, he headed up a program to hollow out the military, to contract out as much military work as possible. Bush Jr. said of his defense secretary, “Don’s work in these areas did not often make the headlines. But the reforms that set in motion — that he has set in motion — are historic.” (p. 358) Klein describes the neoliberalization of the state:

“During the 1990s, many companies that had traditionally manufactured their own products and maintained large, stable workforces embraced what became known as the Nike model: don’t own any factories, produce your own products through an intricate web of contractors and subcontractors, and pour your resources into design and marketing. Other companies opted for the alternative, Microsoft model: maintain a tight control center of shareholder/employees who perform the company’s ‘core competency’ and outsource everything else to temps, from running the mailroom to writing code. Some called companies that underwent these radical restructurings ‘hollow corporations’ because they were mostly form, with little tangible content left over.” (p. 359)

She continues:

“Rumsfeld saw the army shedding large numbers of full-time troops in favor of a small core of staffers propped up by cheaper temporary soldiers from the Reserve and National Guard. Meanwhile, contractors from companies such as Blackwater and Halliburton would perform duties ranging from high-risk chauffeuring to prisoner interrogation to catering to health care. And where corporations poured their savings on labor into design and marketing, Rumsfeld would spend his savings from fewer troops and tanks on the latest satellite and nanotechnology from the private sector.” (p. 360)

Milton Friedman had always been disappointed that Ronald Reagan had not chosen Rumsfeld for the Vice Presidency. Like other members of Bush Jr.’s administration, Vice President Dick Cheney was a champion of neoliberal reform:

“Dick Cheney, a protégé of Rumsfeld’s in the Ford administration, has also built a fortune based on the profitable prospect of a grim future, though where Rumsfeld saw a boom in plagues, Cheney was banking on the future of war. As secretary of defense under Bush Sr., Cheney scaled down the number of active troops and dramatically increased reliance on private contractors. He contracted Brown & Root, the engineering division of the Houston-based multinational Halliburton, to identify tasks being performed by U.S. troops that could be taken over by the private sector for a profit. Not surprisingly, Halliburton identified all kinds of jobs that the private sector could perform, and those findings led to a bold new Pentagon contract: the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or LOGCAP. The Pentagon was notorious for its multi-billion-dollar contracts with weapons manufactures, but this was something new: not supplying the military with gear but serving as manager for its operations.” (p. 367)

Cheney was very connected to Halliburton. During the Clinton administration, Cheney was head of Halliburton. Under his leadership, Halliburton sought to transform the nature of war along neoliberal lines. Halliburton would provide all the infrastructure of war. The Pentagon need only supply bodies, the troops.

“The result, first on display in the Balkans, was a kind of McMilitary experience in which deploying abroad resembled a heavily armed and perilous package vacation. ‘The first person to greet our soldiers as they arrive in the Balkans and the last to wave goodbye is one of our employees,’ a Halliburton spokesperson explained, making the company’s staff sound more like cruise directors than army logistics coordinators. That was the Halliburton difference: Cheney saw no reason why war shouldn’t be a thriving part of America’s highly profitable service economy — invasion with a simple.

In the Balkans, where Clinton deployed nineteen thousand soldiers, U.S. bases sprang up as mini Halliburton cities: neat, gated suburbs, built and run entirely by the company. And Halliburton was committed to providing the troops with all the comforts of home, including fast-food outlets, supermarkets, movie theaters and high-tech gyms. Some senior officers wondered what the strip-malling of the military would do to troop discipline — but they too were enjoying the perks. ‘Everything with Halliburton was gold-plated,’ one told me. ‘So we weren’t complaining.’” (pp. 368-369)

Cheney’s family was involved in the selling off of the public sector. His wife, Lynne, was earning from stock options from her work as a board member of Lockheed Martin, which in the mid-nineties, began taking over the information technology divisions of the U.S. government, including running its computer systems and data management. (pp. 369-370) The Bush Jr. administration’s selling off of the state would get a new boost with the events of 9/11.

The events of 9/11 was a shock that allowed the Bush jr. administration, and later Obama’s, to streamline the corporatization of society. The population demanded a response, the neoliberals answered. They had long planned the neoliberal reorganization of the world economies. They had long planned for a war against Iraq. Now, they were able to go forward with little opposition at home. The United States had lost its Cold War opponents. Now,  the United States had a new enemy. It was fighting a new, endless, open-ended “War on Terror.” It was this war that would be used to justify neoliberal restructuring in the United States and abroad.

“Although the stated goal was fighting terrorism, the effect was the creation of the disaster capitalism complex — a full-fledged new economy in homeland security, privatized war and disaster reconstruction tasked with nothing less than building and running a privatized security state, both at home and abroad. The economic stimulus of this sweeping initiative proved enough to pick up the slack where globalization and the dot-com booms had left off. Just as the Internet had launched the dot-com bubble, 9/11 launched the disaster capitalism bubble.” (p. 377)

This resulted in a corporate free for all:

“That was the business prospectus that the Bush administration put before corporate America after September 11. The revenue stream was a seemingly bottomless supply of tax dollars to be funneled from the Pentagon ($270 billion a year to private contractors, a $137 billion increase since Bush took office); U.S. intelligence agencies ($42 billion a year to contractors for outsourced intelligence, more than double 1995 levels); and the newest arrival, the Department of Homeland Security. Between September 11, 2001 and 2006, the Department of Homeland Security handed out $130 billion to private contractors — money that was not in the economy before and that is more than the GDP of Chile or the Czech Republic. In 2003, the Bush administration spent $327 billion to private companies — nearly 40 cents of every discretionary dollar.” (p. 380)

Billions of dollars was spent on new security cameras. 4.2 million security cameras were installed in Britain, one per every 14 people; 30 million in the United States. New software and technologies, such as facial recognition were developed and purchased. Snooping boomed: wiretapping, phone logs, financial records, mail, internet, and cameras. New information technology developed. New security systems. Prisons were expanded or adapted to suit the needs of this new war. The most famous is the Guantanamo maximum-security prison. (pp. 382-384) This boom had a special effect on the Mexican border. The border became even further militarized as a result of the war on terror. More security, more cameras, more personnel, more fencing. Today, even drones are used by the United States to monitor unauthorized crossings. More and more jobs in security, prisons, and policing. And the United States turned to Israel, who had already been waging their war on terror for decades. The same technologies used against the Arab populations there were adapted for use by the United States. The United States would copy Israeli’s cutting-edge methods and technologies of oppression. “[B]ig business and big government [are] combining their formidable powers to regulate and control the citizenry.” (p. 388)

Power, not intelligent design

The instability and chaos of today has been good for business, at least some business. This has always been true to some extent within the capitalist system. War profiteering is an ancient enterprise. However, because some disasters have been so big as to threaten the whole system, the capitalists put in place stabilizing institutions. World War 1 was part of a world crisis that opened up the possibility of the Bolshevik revolution and the first sustained wave of proletarian revolution. Similarly, the Maoist revolution in China and the other social revolutions that piggybacked on anti-imperialist struggles occurred in the context of a world system weakened by both the Great Depression and World War 2. Since that time, capitalists and imperialist states sought to create ways to stabilize the system. The growth of the UN and other global institutions after World War 2 was part of this effort. Globalization, the growth of transnational corporations, transnational capital, NGOs, charities, and other intuitions etc. also was thought to help prevent chaos. Stability was seen as profitable for the most part. Not so for the neoliberals:

“For decades, the conventional wisdom was that generalized mayhem was a drain on the global economy. Individual shocks and crises could be harnessed as leverage to force open new markets, of course, but after the initial shock had done its work, relative peace and stability were required for sustained economic growth. That was the accepted explanation for why the nineties had been such prosperous years: with the Cold War over, economies were liberated to concentrate on trade and investment, and as countries became more enmeshed and interdependent, they were far less likely to bomb each other.” (p. 536)

So dramatic has the disaster profiteering been today that conspiracy theories dominate public discourse as never before:

“The recent spate of disasters has translated into such spectacular profits that many people around the world have come to the same conclusion: the rich and powerful must be deliberately causing the catastrophes so that they can exploit them. In July 2006, a national poll of U.S. residents found that more than a third of respondents believed that the government had a hand in the 9/11 attacks or took no action to stop them ‘because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East.’ Similar suspicions dog most of the catastrophes of recent years. In Louisiana in the aftermath of Katrina, the shelters were alive with rumors that the levees hadn’t broken but had been covertly blown up in order ‘to destroy the black part of town and keep the white part dry,’ as the Nation of Islam’s leader Louis Farrakhan, suggested. In Sri Lanka I often heard that the tsunami had been caused by underwater explosions detonated by the United States so that it could send troops into Southeast Asia and take full control over the region’s economies…The truth is at once less sinister and more dangerous. An economic system that requires constant growth, while bucking almost all serious attempts at environmental regulation, generates a steady stream of disasters all on its own, whether military, ecological or financial. The appetite for easy, short-term profits offered by purely speculative investment has turned the stock, currency and real estate markets into crisis-creation machines, as the Asian financial crisis, the Mexican peso crisis and the dot-com collapse all demonstrate. Our common addiction to dirty, nonrenewable energy sources keeps other kinds of emergencies coming: natural disasters (up 430 percent since 1975) and wars waged for control over scarce resources (not just Iraq and Afghanistan but lower-intensity conflicts such as those that rage in Nigeria, Colombia and Sudan), which in turn create terrorist blowback…” (p. 539)

It is true that those with power sometimes consciously create disasters and exploit them, as in the case of Chile or Indonesia. However, the popular idea that there is one over-arching plot is inaccurate and counter-productive. Many conspiracy theories parallel the Christian outlook of so-called “intelligent design.” Christians often will see the patterns in nature, then they conclude that such a natural order must be the work of a creator. In 1802, the theologian William Paley argued that because a watch contains order that is a result of a designer so too nature’s order must be the result of God. Christians, extrapolating on Aristotle, argued that animals and plants were perfectly fit to their environments and each other. Thus, they argued, there must be intelligence behind it all. As early as David Hume, writing in the mid-1700s, intelligent design was challenged. Hume argued that order in nature can be a result of simple processes. This can be seen in snowflake formation or crystal generation. This idea would be confirmed later in biology with the publication On the Origin of Species in 1859. Charles Darwin showed how order could arise in species from simple, natural processes over great periods of time, creating the illusion of intelligent design. The order found in animal and plant kingdoms is a result of natural selection over millions of years.

Just as Christians see patterns in nature, conspiracy theorists see patterns in society and events. Both look for a non-existent single creator, a God or Illuminati, to explain the world or society. Such a view is inaccurate and unscientific. Karl Marx, the founder of revolutionary science, admired the work of Charles Darwin. Just as Darwin showed how evolution in nature results form wholly natural laws, so did Marx show how the order and evolution of society can be explained similarly, by material laws. Instead of looking for a master conspiracy or master plotter, revolutionary scientists examine the social forces and systems that produce such events. Even if an Illuminati, a master plotter, did exist, its members’ actions would still be largely determined over the long-term by their position in the power structure, by class, gender, national, etc. interests. In other words, even if there were an Illuminati, explanations that referred to individual plotters would be largely superfluous to scientific explanation of society. In addition, such conspiracy-theory approaches are disempowering. They encourage the masses to look at revolution and social change through a police paradigm instead of a power paradigm. Even if one knew who the make-believe Illuminati were, it is not as though one could go arrest and put them on trial. Instead, such theories mystify power and make the masses powerless victims of an all-powerful plot. By contrast, the power paradigm teaches the masses to apply revolutionary science, to unite the social forces necessary for revolution, to build New Power, to seize power, to create a new mode of production, to redesign all of society in order to reach Leading Light Communism, the end all systematic oppression.

The principal contradiction

The Shock Doctrine is well worth reading. Klein’s book is full of detailed information about neoliberalism and its disasters. It convincingly argues that the neoliberalism has features and implications that differ from other configurations of capitalism. Neoliberal restructuring, whether in the First or Third World, is a kind of radical act that is bound up with disaster and crisis. Klein argues that few have escaped negative consequences of the shift from traditional Keynesian capitalism and social democracy to neoliberalism. Third World and Second World peoples have suffered under terrible radical-capitalist economic policies implemented at bayonet point in places like Indonesia, Chile, in parts of the old Eastern Bloc, China and elsewhere. First World peoples have suffered too, as their social-democratic programs have been ended, as their welfare states have been downsized, as their public sector has been sold off, as their infrastructure deteriorates. If Klein were to name a principal contradiction in the world, it would be the contradiction between neoliberalism versus Keynesianism, the corporatist state versus the social-democratic one. Klein’s politics foreshadow the Occupy movement’s populism and social-democratic reformism. Klein’s outlook corresponds to the politics that views the world as one where corporate elites and their allies rule over the global population, the one percent versus the 99. Whereas it is true that neoliberal policies since the 1990s have, at times, resulted in a fall in the standard of living for populations in the United States, the loss of privilege that neoliberalism inflicts on First World peoples is nothing compared to the pain and death inflicted on Third World peoples. On the whole, whether under traditional Keynesianism or neoliberalism, First World populations receive far more than a fair share of the global social product while Third World populations receive less. The First World standard of living is not even sustainable, to maintain it is incompatible with socialism and communism. The vast majority of humanity is exploited along with future generations and the Earth to maintain the First World standard of living. This is true under neoliberalism and social democracy. Whether corporations are at the head or state bureaucracies, First World populations mostly benefit from the continued existence of capitalism. Third World populations, by contrast, have a more immediate interest in the radical reorganization of society along egalitarian and sustainable lines in order to reach Leading Light Communism, the end of all systematic oppression. Klein’s outlook assumes a unity that simply does not exist between First World and Third World populations against corporations. By adopting such an outlook, her politics does not just misunderstand the balance of forces globally, her politics panders to First World populism, liberalism, social-democratic imperialism. Although she would surely count herself an anti-imperialist in most cases, such politics puts opposition to imperialism on the back burner while stroking populism that seeks to preserve and increase First World privilege, which is based on imperialist exploitation of the Third World. In the United States, it ends up ultimately channeling energy into the Democratic Party, which is the only reformist game in town for social democrats. They end up providing grassroots cover for imperialist war in exchange for domestic reform. This can end up fanning up the flames of fascism and social fascism. Klein also overlooks the possibility that neoliberal restructuring may, as some of its proponents claim, be necessary to maintain First World privilege, that old-style social-democratic imperialism is no longer viable. This is the case in parts of Eastern Europe where standards of living have, in some cases, gone up due to integration into Western imperialism despite neoliberal conditions placed upon their economies. Neoliberal restructuring in the First World may be part of a package that, in the long term, benefits First World peoples even if it subjects them to a loss of privilege. Klein is blind to these possibilities. The reality is that, on the whole, First World peoples, when push comes to shove, will align with their own system be it Keynesian or neoliberal against Third World peoples. Even if neoliberalism ends up reducing the privileges of First World populations, it does not do so to such an extent that they break left toward proletarian internationalism en masse. First World populations have more unity with their own bosses than they do with workers, peasants and lumpen in the Third World. This is one reason that the principal contradiction is the First World versus the Third World. For this reason, the principal form of revolutionary resistance is not networks of social-justice movements and street protests in the First World, but anti-imperialist and Leading Light people’s wars in the Third World. Although Klein’s book is useful in explaining the neoliberal turn amongst imperialists, it falls far short of revolutionary science, of Leading Light Communism.

Source

Klein, Naomi, The Shock Doctrine (Picador,USA:2007)