Thursday, February 11, 2010

*Are You Now, Or Have You Ever In The Past Knowingly Been A.......Bolshevik?

Click on the title to link to an "American Left History" blog entry "*Barack Obama Ain't No Bolshevik, He Ain't Even A Menshevik", dated January 31, 2010.

Markin comment:

The English political writer and satirist, George Orwell, who in the final analysis was more than willing to “outsource” the struggle for our communist future to the democratic imperialists like dear old Mother England, nevertheless once wrote a key essay on the need for precision and clarity in political language. "Politics and the English language". For that essay, and of course his early heroic soldiering in a POUM militia in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, every labor militant today should take as required reading, and act on it. (Advice this writer tries to adhere to, although not always successfully, as some of the entries in this space attest to). What brings Orwell’s essay to mind is the recent flare-up between American President Democrat Barack Obama and his erstwhile adversaries in the Congressional Republican Caucus. The specific charge that Obama was defending himself against was some benighted predilection for “bolshevism”, highlighted by his dogged determination to get some form of national health coverage (watered down, of course). For my commentary on this mini-flare-up see my entry “*Barack Obama Ain’t No Bolshevik, He Ain’t Even a Menshevik”, dated January 31, 2009.

What this all brings to mind is the need for some precision in our political language, especially in these days of debased political rhetoric and the rise of “shorthand” English through the dramatic increase in Internet use as a way to communicate to both attract attention and to “dumb down” political discourse. Of course, other than as a foil for my above-mentioned earlier commentary American President Barack Obama is not now, and has never been, a Bolshevik. Moreover, even a marginally politically aware person should know that the American ruling class circles are not in the habit of turning over the reins of their imperial state to Bolsheviks, knowing or unknowing ones. Certainly the Republican know that, the only question is why the tern “Bolshevik” would come up in mainstream American political discourse in the year 2010. And I confess, that is a mystery to me, as well. They are on much more “solid ground”, if they want to muddy the waters, with whether Barack Obama is actually, as required by the U.S. Constitution, a citizen.

This catch phrase “Bolshevik” , has a long pedigree, although it has been a long time since I have heard it used seriously back in the 1960s when, at the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, it had a semblance of reasonable usage in political discourse. Or, even earlier, in the aftermath of the Russian revolution when the American government was rounding up every known radical that it could get its hands on. Better still for our side, in the 1930s when militant trade unionists were on the picket lines to get better contracts or to get their unions the expression, “We have to talk Bolshevik” to the bosses would come up. And so on.

Let me finish up with this little anecdote from my youthful past. When I was in high school, in the 10th grade I believe, during the heart of the Cold War in the 1960s I took a European History course from old Mr. Kelly. Now in those days Mr. Kelly was the well known and beloved, I think, head football coach for the school team and a veteran of World War I. Like I said, he was old. He was moreover one of those old-school type teachers prevalent then who latched onto a teaching job through political influence and got to teach History because there was no “heavy lifting” to it. I, of course, devoured history by the gallons.

One day when I was called upon by Mr. Kelly to give an answer I did so but in an off-hand, rather surly way, which was my style, my statement of individuality if you will, in those days. Old school Mr. Kelly took umbrage and the long and short of it was that I had to stay after school for him. When I showed up and we “talked” suddenly the old man stunned me with this remark. “What are you, some kind of Bolshevik? I defiantly answered no. And truthfully as well. In those days I was nothing but a folk music and blues-loving, card carrying young member of the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), an anti-communist, liberal organization trying to push the New Deal back onto center stage in American political life. So you see the point, I hope. I was no Bolshevik then. Obama is no Bolshevik now. And old Orwell is right, get the language of political discourse back on track, at all costs.

*From The Pen Of George Orwell- "Politics And The English Language"

Click on the title to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for George Orwell's well put "Politics And The English Language".

Markin comment:

Although we turned out to be political opponents of each other (if posthumously on his part) his essay "Politics and the English language" has always been a useful tool that I have tried to follow in my writing. Unfortunately, I have honored those six rules of wisdom more in the breech than the observance on too many occasions. Oh, well.

*From The Pages Of The "Revolutionary History" Journal- The Back Issue Index

Click on the headline to link to the journal "Revolutionary History" Website for an index of their online back issues.

Markin comment:

Whatever the current muddled politics of the editorial staff of this journal and whatever the tendency of the articles presented to apologize for backsliders,, reformists and the lot, like Andreas Nin and the POUM in the Spanish Civil War, this is a valuable source of neglected history, our history. A revolution, or two, will straighten out the politics.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

*Films to While Away The Class Struggle By- The Halls Of Injustice 101- “Chicago 10”

Click on the title to link to a "YouTube" film clip of the movie trailer for"Chicago 10".

Recently I have begun to post entries under the headline- “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”-that will include progressive and labor-oriented songs that might be of general interest to the radical public. I have decided to do the same for some films that may perk that same interest under the title in this entry’s headline. In the future I expect to do the same for books under a similar heading.-Markin

DVD Review

Chicago 10, animated and film footage, starring the Chicago 8 plus defense lawyers, government lawyers, presiding Judge Julius Hoffman, assorted rogue cops, and "youth nation", circa 1968, 2006

Okay, I have spilled plenty of ink over the past couple of years trying to look at some of the events in the key political year for my generation, 1968, and draw some conclusions, lessons if you will, from that period. And as fate would have it I am eminently qualified to do so here on this particular film, in an odd sort of way. The events of that decisive year are brought into focus by the central subject of this film, the debacle of the Democratic Party Convention in Chicago in August of that year. I know this one well.

And why am I a good witness to those events as portrayed here? In a certain sense I was on the other side of the barricades. Then. As I have explained elsewhere in more detail in 1968 I was knee-deep, no waist-deep, in the main task that I had set for my political life at the time, beating one Richard Milhous Nixon, without question the major political villain of my youth. Starting out that year totally devoted to the Robert Kennedy campaign (and actually earlier as I was part of the movement that tried to draft him to run for president in 1967), after his assassination in June I dusted off my pants and went to work for the campaign of one Hubert Horatio Humphrey. Therefore I was inside the “big tent” of the Democratic Party at that time and no one can accuse me of anything but the mildest bemused sympathy (on the Vietnam war question, if not the solution) with the doings outside the "tent".

Fast forward. Now, however, as this film footage of the events around the convention site amply demonstrates, and as the graphically captured brutal actions by the rogue Chicago police and other officials amply reveal this was a sickening display of governmental hubris (on all levels), and authority run amok. The verdict on those governmental actions at the time? No, not, as a rational person might expect, a skewering of police and their superiors but the bringing of charges against the leaders of the demonstrators, those who were maimed, gassed and otherwise abused by governmental actions.

And the harassment did not end there. Obviously the government thought it had a slam-dunk case to put before a Chicago jury with a cast of characters like Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Bobby Seale, who to be kind, in those days, if you were respectable citizen you would not want living next door to you, particularly in Chicago. In the end, as has occurred on more than one occasion, the charges against the “conspirators” were, mostly, overturned. But there is a lesson to be learned about the price of such actions, those charges were not overturned before many financial and political resources were brought to bear for the defense. This is hardly an argument against such actions, but rather to point out that when you go after the “monster” you best be prepared for the blowback.

This film works on two tracks as it tries, I think, to reach a younger audience not familiar with the events that the rest of us have permanently etched in our brains. The producers have used the eminently respectable one of the actual film footage interspersed with the more experimental one of using animation to do the heavy duty work of portraying the antics on both sides, in the circus-war, oops, inside Judge Julius Hoffman’s courtroom. I believe that the jury is still out (no pun intended) on the effectiveness of that medium to bring out the drama of the events portrayed. Perhaps for a younger audience not familiar with the events this is an adequate teaching tool. However, the segueing between, let us say, defendant Yippie Abbie Hoffman in animation ridiculing his having the same last name as the judge presiding over the trial and then flipping to a "real time" pep talk to the gathered Yippie tribes was disconcerting, at least to this viewer. Still, all in all, any time that we get to look back at events which formed a decisive part of our youth we should grab it with both hands. And hope today’s youth now have it permanently etched in their brains as well.

From The "Rag Blog"- On The Opening Of The G.I. Coffeehouse At Fort Hood In 2008

Click on the title to link to a "The Rag Blog" entry for the of the "Under The Hood" Coffeehouse at Fort Hood at Killen, Texas in 2008.

Markin comment:

Note the picture of a smoking Jane Fonda in this blog entry. We were kinda fonda Jane in those days. And that ain't no lie.

*The Latest From The "Citizen-Soldier" Website

Click on the title to link to the "Citizen Soldier" G.I.-supportive Website linked here in the interest of helping G.I.'s find information to help them in their lives and struggles.

*The Latest From The Freedom Road Socialist Organization

Click on the headline to link to the "Freedom Road Socialist Organization" Website.

Markin comment:

I am not that familiar with this organization, although there appears to be some residual Maoist thought hanging over it. More later, as I learn more.

*The Latest From Socialist Action

Click on the headline to link to the "Socialist Action" Website.

*The Latest From Socialist Alternative

Click on the headline to link to the "Socialist Alternative" Website.

*The Latest From "Solidarity"

Click on the headline to link to the "Solidarity" Website.

*The Latest From The Pages Of The Journal-"Against The Current"- "The Road From Copenhagen"

Click on the headline to link to the journal "Against The Current" Website to read the named article.

Markin comment;

This is the theoretical and issue discussion journal of the "Solidarity-U.S."- organization.

*From The Marxist Archives- The Trotsky-Stalin Struggle Over Communist War Policy-"On The Seventh Congress Of The Comintern" (1935)

Click on the title to link to a "Leon Trotsky Internet Archive" 1935 article, "The Seventh Congress Of The Comintern (Communist International)".

Markin comment:

As I mentioned some time back in a commentary on the need to study the Trotsky-Stalin controversy as part of our communist and anti-imperialist education, we of the American ostensibly communist anti-war left are in desperate need of learning the lessons of previous communist work against imperialism. (See "On The Front Lines Of The Struggle Against The Afghan War...”, dated December 6, 2009.) That learning, of necessity, requires a look back at some of the historic struggles within the communist movement, primarily for our purposes today the struggle between Trotsky and Stalin in the aftermath of Lenin's death and the isolation of the Russian revolution in the early 1920s. The Trotsky polemic here is one of the early examples of the fight of the Russian Left Opposition, that he led, against the increasingly Stalinized Soviet state and Communist International apparatuses that were "trimming their sails" on the questions of peace and the proper communist attitude toward imperial states. Read on.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

*From The Marxist Archives- The Trotsky-Stalin Struggle Over Communist War Policy- "Against National Communism"-Germany In 1931

Click on the title to link to a "Leon Trotsky Internet Archive" 1931 article,"Against National Communism".

Markin comment:

As I mentioned some time back in a commentary on the need to study the Trotsky-Stalin controversy as part of our communist and anti-imperialist education, we of the American ostensibly communist anti-war left are in desperate need of learning the lessons of previous communist work against imperialism. (See "On The Front Lines Of The Struggle Against The Afghan War...”, dated December 6, 2009.) That learning, of necessity, requires a look back at some of the historic struggles within the communist movement, primarily for our purposes today the struggle between Trotsky and Stalin in the aftermath of Lenin's death and the isolation of the Russian revolution in the early 1920s. The Trotsky polemic here is one of the early examples of the fight of the Russian Left Opposition, that he led, against the increasingly Stalinized Soviet state and Communist International apparatuses that were "trimming their sails" on the questions of peace and the proper communist attitude toward imperial states. Read on.

*From The Marxist Archives- The Trotsky-Stalin Struggle Over Communist War Policy-The Anglo-Russian Committee In The 1920s

Click on the title to link to a "Leon Trotsky Internet Archive" article, "The Struggle For Peace And The Anglo-Russian Committee".

Markin comment:

As I mentioned some time back in a commentary on the need to study the Trotsky-Stalin controversy as part of our communist and anti-imperialist education, we of the American ostensibly communist anti-war left are in desperate need of learning the lessons of previous communist work against imperialism. (See "On The Front Lines Of The Struggle Against The Afghan War...", dated December 6, 2009.) That learning, of necessity, requires a look back at some of the historic struggles within the communist movement, primarily for our purposes today the struggle between Trotsky and Stalin in the aftermath of Lenin's death and the isolation of the Russian revolution in the early 1920s. The Trotsky polemic here is one of the early examples of the fight of the Russian Left Opposition, that he led, against the increasingly Stalinized Soviet state and Communist International apparatuses that were "trimming their sails" on the questions of peace and the proper communist attitude toward imperial states. Read on.

*"Glory"-The Story Of The Heroic Massachusetts 54th In The American Civil War

Click on the title to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry honored in this " American Left History entry today.

February Is Black History Month

Glory, starring Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick, and Morgan Freeman,1989

Over the past several years that this space has existed I have touted the heroic experiences of the American Civil War pro-Union black volunteer regiment, the Massachusetts 54th Infantry, many times. Recently in preparing materials for this space to be posted in honor of Black History Month I noticed that I had not reviewed the subject of this entry, the Oscar-winning film “Glory”. I make amends here.

This fictionalized version of the creation of an all-black volunteer regiment (at least in the ranks) hews pretty closely to the actual events in that process, taking into account the inevitable dramatizations required by the “laws” of cinematic license. And that fact is important. In other commentary on the history of the 54th, and in previous recollections of my own personal history of “discovery” of the regiment, I have noted that in my high school years in the 1960s no mention was ever made of the exploits of this hardy band of soldiers fighting for their freedom and the preservation of the American union. None. And that, my friends, was here in Massachusetts the home of the regiment and of the famous, if then obscure, Saint-Gaudens memorial plague to the regiment that in front of the State House that, at one point in my life, I passed every day.

Lincoln and other Northern war leaders hesitated to create all black regiments for a number of reasons despite the need for man power on the battlefield as the war drew out inconclusively for a long period. Those reasons did not include the fact that the likes of the revolutionary black abolitionist Frederick were clamoring for black soldiers not only to preserve the union but to actively gain their own freedom, to prove their manhood and worth in the parlance of the time. This film details the struggle by hard abolitionist Massachusetts Governor Andrews and a significant portion of the white Boston citizenry, including the eventual leader of the regiment, Robert Gould Shaw and his parents, to create such a unit.

The film goes on to look at the actual creation of the unit , its training, the troubles over pay, the racial animosities on both sides of the class/race line that were then current in that American time, the deployment of the regiment South and the mauling that it took at Fort Wagner, including the deaths of Shaw and many brave black soldiers. I will tell you the best part though, although this is not brought up in the film. At war’s end what was left of the Massachusetts 54th marched through Charleston, South Carolina, in many ways the ideological and political center of the Confederacy, singing “John Brown’s Body”. That seems just about right. Hat’s off to the 54th.

Note: I have not mentioned the very good performances here by Denzel Washington as a testy recruit and Morgan Freeman as the wise "old man" of the regiment. Let me put it this way, if you had a choice these days, wouldn’t you have this pair in this type of film. No-brainer, right? Matthew Broderick also shines in an understated performance as Colonel Shaw.

*The Latest From The "Green Left Global News" Blog- "The Fight Against The Right In American Politics"

Click on the title to link to the "Green Left Global News" blog for an entry on American bourgeois politics.

Markin comment:

Thanks "Green Left Global News" blog (and other such spaces) for providing coverage of the American bourgeois political scene. My hat is off to one and all who try to do such coverage. I tried to do so a couple of years ago and found it so boring, tedious, demoralizing, and essentially vacuous except to inside "pros" that I was happy to resume my real work of propagandizing for such little things as a workers party that fights for a workers government and the struggle for our communist future. Those propositions seem far less utopian (and more realizable) that the daily fare dished out by traditional bourgeois politics.

Monday, February 08, 2010

*A Whistle-blower’s Whistle-blower- “The Most Dangerous Man In America: Daniel Ellsberg And The Pentagon Papers”- A Film Review

Click on the title to link to a "The Boston Sunday Globe" interview with Daniel Ellsberg concerning the documentary, "The Most Dangerous Man In America: Daniel Ellsberg and "The Pentagon Papers".

DVD Review

The Most Dangerous Man In America: Daniel Ellsberg And The Pentagon Papers”, Daniel Ellsberg and a rogue’s gallery of crooks, war criminals and their aiders and abettors, 2009

No government really likes a whistle-blower, especially when that person blows the facade off a seemingly until then justified war. There is something in the ethos of Western civilization that, whether the exposure is done for good and without expectations of remuneration or evil, that would rather not know the messy details of what goes on in the backrooms and is as likely to ‘shoot the messenger’ as those who created the vast illegality. The word “snitch” comes to mind. However here in this documentary, based on the life and times of one Daniel Ellsberg, and his brave, no heroic, efforts to get the truth out is well done, well thought out, and worthy of commemoration.

For a younger generation not familiar with the virtual civil war that was going on in American society in the latter stages of the Vietnam War this will serve as a primer, of sorts. Virtually every institution from the local PTA to the White House was subject to analysis and to questioning about the purposes of its existence. Although such intense scrutiny only lasted for a short while it provided enough political space for the previously, seemingly, non-heroic ex-Marine Daniel Ellsberg to do his expose. And for the mainstream mass media, like the “New York Times”, “Washington Post”, and “The Boston Globe” very connected to the governmental levers of power, to take a chance on publishing the whole of Ellsberg’s discoveries. Frankly, with the partial exception of Watergate, there have been very few subsequent efforts like this from inside the establishment.

Needless to say, most of this documentary is driven by the highlights in the case from initial attempts of Ellsberg to get the expose published, to going to the courts and, ultimately, the decision to dismiss the criminal charges against him brought by a rabid and vindictive Nixon administration. This film has none of the fawning over of its main figure that “Fog Of War” has, the so-called documentary of the late, if unlamented, former Defense Secretary, Robert Strange McNamara, who as fate would have it originally commissioned “The Pentagon Papers” giving his take on his handiwork. This production is like a breathe of fresh air in comparison. Whatever you may think of whistle-blowers in other contexts, here, hats off to Daniel Ellsberg. Thanks, brother.

*Films To While Away The Class Struggle By- A Slice Of Cold War History- “Charlie Wilson’s War”- A Guest Review

*Films To While Away The Class Struggle By- A Slice Of Cold War History- “Charlie Wilson’s War”- A Guest Review

Click on the title to link to a YouTube film clip of the movie trailer for Charlie Wilson's War.

Recently I have begun to post entries under the headline- Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-that will include progressive and labor-oriented songs that might be of general interest to the radical public. I have decided to do the same for some films that may perk that same interest under the title in this entry’s headline. In the future I expect to do the same for books under a similar heading.-Markin

Markin comment:

The other day I made a short comment on another political blog after viewing this film and reading a long review that gave the real details behind the CIA efforts and the long-term political implications behind the maneuvers that Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson used to get secret appropriations to fund the mujahadeens in Afghanistan back in the earlier 1980s, the previous heyday of American covert operations around the world, during the early years of the Reagan administration. In that comment I noted that the reviewer made all the key points about the political meaning of this film, including the obvious ones that there was disturbing absence of context about who these 8th century-loving mujahadeen “allies” were and, more importantly, their political program (other than the obvious anti-Soviet one) that Congressman Wilson was so earnestly attempting to help and why the then legally-constituted secular government in Kabul sought out help from the Soviets against this threat. But those are merely just ‘little’ picky points on my part now, right?

I would only add that in politics, any kind of politics, as the American government now has been learning under successive Republican and Democratic administrations in relationship to Afghanistan under different circumstances than those portrayed in the film- the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend. I believe that you learn that basic lesson in your youthful schoolyard days, no later. Ouch! The only other point worth noting is that Congressman Wilson surely deserved the citation from the American governmental “combined intelligences services” for his services on their behalf in long ago Afghanistan. However, the rest of us are still living with the fall-out from his “innocent” escapades.


Workers Vanguard No. 921
26 September 2008

We Said “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan!”

Charlie Wilson’s War Was the ISO’s War

After spending decades in bed with the most vile anti-Communist and woman-hating forces around the world—from Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan and Iran to clerical reactionary Polish Solidarność and Tibetan monks—the International Socialist Organization (ISO) has suddenly decided it was time for a morning-after pill. A September 9 Web posting by the ISO is promoting a petition by faculty at the University of Texas objecting “to the establishment of a chair in Pakistan studies named for former Texas congressman and misguided cold warrior Charlie Wilson.” Democratic Congressman Wilson played a key role in winning billions in CIA funding and high-tech weaponry for the Afghan mujahedin fighting the Soviet Red Army in the 1980s. For its part, the ISO would have preferred a less “misguided” Cold Warrior.

Earlier this year, in a column by Joe Allen (Socialist Worker, 25 January), the ISO disparaged the movie Charlie Wilson’s War, which, the ISO complains, paid “a fawning homage to America’s ‘clandestine services’,” who were “recruiting largely reactionary Islamic forces to the mujahedeen.” Allen’s article, “Charlie Wilson’s Not-So-Good War,” declares that “Hollywood’s liberals portray the Afghanistan war as a great triumph in the struggle for freedom, when it should be seen as another savage war for empire in which the people of Afghanistan continue to be the prime targets.” Reading these articles, one wouldn’t know that the ISO was for the Afghan mujahedin long before they were against them.

Well before the Soviet intervention into Afghanistan in December 1979, Washington started funneling arms to the mujahedin from the moment the Soviet-allied People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) came to power in April 1978 in what was essentially a left-wing military coup with popular support among intellectuals and government workers. The PDPA embarked on a program of reforms that included canceling peasant debts, carrying out land redistribution, prohibiting forced marriages and lowering the bride price to a nominal sum. They made schooling compulsory for girls and launched literacy programs for women, building 600 schools in just over a year. These measures threatened the mullahs’ stranglehold on social and economic life and immediately provoked a murderous backlash. The earliest bloody confrontations were over women’s literacy, as PDPA cadres and women literacy workers were driven from villages and killed.

The PDPA could not quell the mujahedin insurgency, which was heavily backed by the U.S., Pakistan and Iran (where the Islamic theocracy under Ayatollah Khomeini had come to power in early 1979). After ignoring repeated requests for military aid, including troops, the Soviet Union, fearing the PDPA regime was about to collapse, finally sent in 100,000 soldiers to combat the Islamic reactionaries. The imperialists seized on the Red Army intervention to launch a renewed Cold War drive. As the CIA undertook its biggest covert operation ever, Afghanistan became the front line of the imperialists’ relentless drive to destroy the Soviet Union. The threat of a CIA-backed Islamic takeover on the USSR’s southern flank posed pointblank unconditional military defense of the Soviet degenerated workers state. As we wrote at the time:

“A victory for the Islamic-feudalist insurgency in Afghanistan will not only mean a hostile, imperialist-allied state on the USSR’s southern border. It will mean the extermination of the Afghan left and the reimposition of feudal barbarism—the veil, the bride price. Moreover, the Soviet military occupation raises the possibility of a social revolution in this wretchedly backward country, a possibility which did not exist before.”

—Spartacist (English-language edition) No. 29, Summer 1980

We unambiguously declared, “Hail Red Army! Extend the gains of the October Revolution to Afghan peoples!” For their part, the ISO howled with the imperialist wolves when the Soviets entered Afghanistan, and popped champagne corks when the Red Army was withdrawn nine years later. Since Charlie Wilson’s war was the ISO’s war, we are left wondering, “What’s their beef?” The exposures of CIA waterboarding, extraordinary rendition and secret prison black sites may make being on the same side as the CIA torturers a bit awkward. Or perhaps lauding the virtues of the veterans of the war against the Red Army isn’t the kick it was before the September 11 attacks. Or it just could be that the ISO—historically allied with the international tendency led by the late Tony Cliff—is irritated that no credit is being given to their role in drumming up support for the CIA-backed cutthroats at the height of Cold War II. Maybe a “Tony Cliff chair” is what they are after.

Screaming “Troops Out of Afghanistan” was not enough for the ISO’s then-parent group, the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP). SWP leader Paul Foot succeeded in provoking an anti-Soviet frenzy on the floor of Parliament, by right-wing Tories and Labour Party “lefts” alike, through incendiary “exposés” in his Daily Mirror column of the possibility that British meat—“our beef”—exported to the Soviet Union might be sent to Soviet soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

Today, the ISO calls Charlie Wilson’s War “thoroughly reactionary.” There is, for example, the scene where wealthy right-wing socialite Joanne Herring, played by Julia Roberts, tells Wilson, played by Tom Hanks, “I want you to deliver such a crushing defeat to the Soviets that Communism crumbles.” But such was exactly the position of the ISO. When Soviet forces pulled out of Afghanistan in 1988-89, in a futile attempt by the Kremlin Stalinist bureaucracy to appease the imperialists, the ISO gloated: “We welcome the defeat of the Russians in Afghanistan. It will give heart to all those inside the USSR and in Eastern Europe who want to break the rule of Stalin’s heirs” (Socialist Worker, May 1988). Three years later, the British SWP exulted: “Communism has collapsed…. It is a fact that should have every socialist rejoicing” (Socialist Worker [Britain], 31 August 1991). The ISO could have scripted the lines for crazed anti-Communist Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser under Democrat Jimmy Carter and today a foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama, when he ranted: “What was more important in the world view of history? The Taliban or the fall of the Soviet Empire? A few stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

Charlie Wilson’s War is a thoroughly reactionary movie. The film peddles anti-Soviet lies discredited long ago, such as that Red Army troops planted toys containing bombs on roadsides in order to maim Afghan children. Nowhere does the film even hint that long before the Red Army intervention, the U.S. was funneling aid to the mullahs who rose up against the Afghan government’s modest reforms for the brutally enslaved women. Ronald Reagan’s “freedom fighters,” with whom the ISO sided, were exemplified by one Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the largest recipient of American aid, who had a penchant for throwing acid at the faces of unveiled women. Though the mujahedin fought to maintain women in purdah (seclusion), forced them to wear the suffocating head-to-toe burka and deprived them of education and medical care, the film ludicrously shows unveiled women mixing freely with men in refugee camps.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Neale of the ISO’s erstwhile comrades of the British SWP (they split in 2001) has suddenly discovered, doubtless after much research, that “feminism is now very weak in Afghanistan”! The cause? “In the 1980s Afghan feminist women supported the Russians and their violent occupation” (Socialist Worker [Britain], 19 January). The “lesson for today,” Neale lectures, is “if the left allies with the invader, the eventual resistance will hate the left.” In blaming the present condition of Afghan women on the Soviet Union and those women who fought alongside the Red Army, the SWP sounds much like the Southern “redeemers” after the U.S. Civil War who condemned former slaves for joining with the Union Army as it marched through the South.

The Soviet military intervention into Afghanistan was one of the few genuinely progressive acts carried out by the Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy, opening the vista of social liberation to the downtrodden Afghan peoples. It underlined the Trotskyist understanding that despite its degeneration under a Stalinist bureaucratic caste, the Soviet Union remained a workers state embodying the historic gains of the October Revolution of 1917, centrally a planned economy and collectivized property. A Red Army victory posed the extension of the social gains of the October Revolution to Afghanistan through a prolonged occupation and the country’s integration into the Soviet system. The Red Army troops, many of them recruits from Soviet Central Asia, who fought against the CIA-backed mujahedin genuinely believed they were fulfilling their internationalist duty. And so they were!

This military intervention in defense of the Soviet degenerated workers state not only opened up the possibility of tremendous gains for the hideously oppressed Afghan peoples but offered the prospect of reanimating the Bolshevik program of proletarian revolutionary internationalism in the Soviet Union. As we stressed at the time, a genuinely internationalist perspective toward Afghanistan required a proletarian political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracy and return the Soviet Union to the road of Lenin and Trotsky.

By the mid 1980s the Red Army had the mujahedin on the run. But as we warned from the outset, the Kremlin bureaucracy cut a deal with the imperialists and pulled out. When in 1988-89 Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev withdrew Soviet forces from Afghanistan, we denounced this as a crime against both the Afghan and Soviet peoples. We stressed to Soviet workers and soldiers that it was far better to defeat counterrevolution in Afghanistan than to confront it in Leningrad. Events have bitterly and amply verified our warning that the Soviet pullout from Afghanistan would mean a bloodbath for women and leftists. And the Stalinist bureaucracy’s treachery in Afghanistan was the direct precursor to the 1991-92 capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union, destroying the homeland of the October Revolution.

As the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan, we extended an offer to the beleaguered PDPA regime to organize international brigades to “fight to the death” against the mujahedin cutthroats. This offer was refused, but the Partisan Defense Committee—a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League—took up the PDPA’s appeal to organize an international aid campaign for the besieged city of Jalalabad, raising some $44,000. For the next three years, the Kabul government forces, especially the women’s militias, fought valiantly, but were finally overrun by the U.S.-backed fundamentalists. A few years later, the Taliban, born and bred under the patronage of Pakistan’s ISI secret police and supported by the U.S., emerged as the strongest of the mujahedin factions in the internecine feuding that broke out after the fall of the PDPA regime, coming to power in Afghanistan in 1996.

The ISO greeted the Taliban’s rise to power by grotesquely declaring, “Tragically, the Taliban has no answer to the terrible crisis of the country”! The Cliffites have always displayed a certain penchant for Islamic fundamentalism. As the Shi’ite mullahs fought for power in Iran in 1979, we put forward a program for proletarian revolution, declaring: “Down With the Shah! Down With the Mullahs! Workers Must Lead Iranian Revolution!” In contrast, the ISO ran laudatory articles on the mullahs’ “mass movement” with headlines like, “The Form—Religious, the Spirit—Revolution!” In 1994, the Cliffites published a pamphlet by SWP “theoretician” Chris Harman titled, The Prophet and the Proletariat, complete with a green cover and Arabic-looking lettering, while the British SWP declared, “Islamists have now replaced socialists and the left in terms of being in the frontline against the state in many countries” (Socialist Worker [Britain], 20 August 1994).

The Cliffites’ genuflection before religious reaction is not a bizarre aberration. They have historically sided with any and all counterrevolutionary forces against the Soviet Union, no matter how reactionary. In this, they stand completely in line with U.S. imperialism, which, notwithstanding its current reactionary crusade against Islamic fundamentalism, fostered the growth of Islamic reaction for decades as a bulwark against “godless” Communism and even secular nationalism. In 1950, John Foster Dulles, who was later Secretary of State during the Eisenhower presidency, wrote: “The religions of the East are deeply rooted and have many precious values. Their spiritual beliefs cannot be reconciled with Communist atheism and materialism. That creates a common bond between us, and our task is to find it and develop it.”

Just as it was obligatory to fight for the unconditional military defense of the Soviet Union and East European deformed workers states, so it is the elementary duty of workers around the world to defend the remaining deformed workers states of China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea. Today, the ISO continues to fight Charlie Wilson’s war. In “Tyrannies That Ruled in the Name of Socialism” (Socialist Worker, 28 August), Paul D’Amato reasserts the ISO’s “Where We Stand” call for capitalist counterrevolution: “China and Cuba, like the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, have nothing to do with socialism. They are state capitalist regimes.” The ISO sides with the forces of “democratic” imperialism and capitalist counterrevolution, reprinting in Socialist Worker online (27 August) a piece by Dave Zirin, a regular contributor to that paper, that chides the bourgeois media for insufficient China-bashing during the Olympics and condemning them for supposedly not asking “why the State Department last April took China off its list of nations that commit human rights violations.”

As Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky taught, you can’t win new gains without defending those already won. The capitalist counterrevolution welcomed by the imperialists and their social-democratic lackeys like the ISO was a world-historic defeat for the international proletariat, creating a “one superpower” world where the U.S. imperialists feel they can run roughshod over the world. It paved the way for the brutal wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, where women continue to be enslaved. U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan! Defeat U.S. imperialism through workers revolution! For new October Revolutions!

*Memories Of The Late Radical Activist Howard Zinn From "The Oleo Strut" G.I. Coffeehouse Days At Fort Hood, Texas

Click on the title to link to an appreciation of the recently departed radical activist, Boston University Professor Howard Zinn, from a staff member of the old "Oleo Strut" Coffeehouse at Fort Hood, Texas during the Vietnam War days.

Markin comment:

Listen up- read this one for the information given, and the inspiration imparted.

*The Latest From The "HistoMat" Blog- On The Marxist Historian E.P. Thompson

Click on the title to link to an "HistoMat" blog entry, dated February 8, 2010.

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-Big Bill Broonzy's "Black, Brown And White"

Click on the title to link a "YouTube" film clip of Big Bill Broonzy performing "Black, Brown and White".

February Is Black History Month

In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here.

Markin comment:

The Broonzy lyrics below seen very, very appropriate today, reading almost every indicator of black experience, despite the seventy years span since they were written. Some "post-racial" society. I do note though some stirrings-from the white left and the black left, as well. Black is back. Praise be!

Note: Big Bill wrote and sang many other songs like this, as well as the traditional jazz and blues pieces that he is noted for from the period. I will post more of the political ones as I run across them.

"Black, Brown And White"-Big Bill Broonzy

This little song that I'm singin' about
People you know it's true
If you're black and gotta work for a living
This is what they will say to you

They says if you was white, should be all right
If you was brown, stick around
But as you's black, m-mm brother, git back git back git back

I was in a place one night
They was all having fun
They was all byin' beer and wine
But they would not sell me none

They said if you was white, should be all right
If you was brown, stick around
But if you black, m-mm brother, git back git back git back

Me and a man was workin' side by side
This is what it meant
They was paying him a dollar an hour
And they was paying me fifty cent

They said if you was white, 't should be all right
If you was brown, could stick around
But as you black, m-mm boy, git back git back git back

I went to an employment office
Got a number 'n' I got in line
They called everybody's number
But they never did call mine

They said if you was white, should be all right
If you was brown, could stick around
But as you black, m-mm brother, git back git back git back

I hope when sweet victory
With my plough and hoe
Now I want you to tell me brother
What you gonna do about the old Jim Crow?

Now if you was white, should be all right
If you was brown, could stick around
But if you black, whoa brother, git back git back git back

*The Latest From Gaza -A Report From The Front Lines Coming Up At A Boston Meeting

Click on the title to link to a "UJP" (Boston) Website announcement of a meeting, featuring a report by a woman just back from the struggle in Gaza.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

*On The Question Of Revolutionary Defeatism In The Struggle Against American Imperialism- A Note For Discussion

Click on the title to link to the "American Left History blog entry, "*From The Archives Of Bolshevik Anti-War Work- V.I. Lenin On Imperialist War And The Tasks Of Socialists", dated February 1, 2010, that is referred to below.

Every Month Is The Struggle Against American Imperialism Month

This entry started as a short note in response to a "Renegade Eye" comment about the place of revolutionary defeatism in the revolutionary catechism. As, seemingly, was inevitable on such a central subject for our movement in the fight against American imperialism the note grew and so I am placing it here as a discussion point.


Ren-I have a few more thoughts on the inner workings of the concept of revolutionary defeatism, its programmatic importance and its place in our struggles against imperialist war today.

Let us put this thing in perspective from our vantage point as radicals in the United States, the number one imperialist power by a wide margin on the military front with no serious contenders in sight, and the main enemy of the peoples of the world. Those two factors go hand in hand. We of the left have done our fair share, one way or the other, in letting the imperial “monster” grow until it is virtually out of control. Moreover, each day that this system survives without us being clear about our goals only adds to their side of the equation.

I confess that in my early political days I thought that it might be possible to ‘tamp down’ the militarization of the American imperial state without having to do the heavy lifting that standing on the ground of revolutionary defeatism entails, and I see and hear much talk on the left today that echoes those early naïve sentiments of mine. One therefore needs to be clear about perspectives. In order to effectively fight American imperialism, which would also put a very big dent in the world imperialist system, we must hope for, pray for, shout out for, stomp the ground under our feet for the defeat of any military adventure the American ruling class and their agents have up their sleeves. And, most importantly, get soldiers, sailors and airmen infected with that same spirit.

We can disagree about many things but if you, I, or anyone else on left have a different perspective than one to that seeks the defeat of every American military adventure, and in some cases supporting victory to the other side, then we are doomed from the start. We can, maybe, keep a few illusions about this and that part of the system but no blinkers are allowed on this one. It is not just bad policies that drive the American imperial system, and most people are now beginning to see that with the replacement of Obama by Bush (oops, Bush by Obama, sorry), even if they are not yet ready to "storm heaven". Therefore a few bandages will not do, it’s the system itself that needs to go. And every foreseeable American military defeat no matter how small, and by whom, can accrue to us and assist our efforts.

How we present today’s version of revolutionary defeatism, and to whom, is another and, frankly, trickier matter. And that perspective too is conditioned by our failure, and the failure of our forebears, to end this capitalist system long ago. Pure pacifists, simple-minded or not, hardened bourgeois democrats, including the left-leaning types that supported Obama are not the audience for this perspective today. I agree with your point there. This failure has, moreover, left open the door for others, internationally, to propose their “solutions”, solutions far from our communist perspective, like those currently being espoused by political Islamic fundamentalism and in the past by various Stalinist trends. That situation, combined with the attenuation of any links to past revolutionary traditions leave us today, practically, with a somewhat watered down version of the tactic. Thus, we are left for the most part with negative slogans when confronting American military aggression- “Down with American Imperialism”, “Immediate Unconditional withdrawal”, “Troops Out” and so forth. That is the programmatic axis of revolutionary defeatism today. Political labor strikes against the war, and actions spear-headed by and with soldiers, sailors and airmen may be that axis tomorrow.

Beyond that we are trending on dangerously thin ice, even if our propaganda goals are directed at left militants. Toward the later part of the Vietnam War more than one militant proudly carried the flag of the South Vietnamese Liberation Front (NLF), and more than one militant, including this ex-soldier, carried signs calling for military victory to those same forces. Today such actions in support of the other side would be incomprehensible to even the best of young militants, even if there were forces on the other that we could identify to support. There are none that I see, whatever individual anti-imperialist actions we might find supportable by those who directly confront the American military machine.

Moreover, the real axis in today’s struggle against imperialism as it has unfolded requires that we carry out some old-fashioned class struggle actions here in America, such as labor strikes and other militant actions to prepare the working class to govern in its own interests. This rather than trying to find some virtuous "anti-imperialist" fighters in the maze of Iraq or Afghanistan politics is where we should be directing our energies. That will help slow down the imperial machine until we can get enough Bolsheviks on the ground, here and there, to make a difference. Then we will very definitely have a side to support. Agreed, brother?

*Make Every Military Installation A Soldiers And Sailors Solidarity Committee Fortress- No Anti-War Soldier, Sailor Or Airman Should Stand Alone!

Click on the title to link to an "American Left History" blog entry, "*From The Archives Of Bolshevik Anti-War Work- V.I. Lenin On Imperialist War And The Tasks Of Socialists-"Appeal To All Soldiers", dated February 1, 2010, referred to in today's entry.

Every Month Is The Struggle Against American Imperialism Month

Markin comment:

As our local anti-war activists circle was making the rounds of various workshops at a New England-wide anti-war conference held in Cambridge last month, trying to garner support for creating anti-war soldiers and sailors solidarity committees, I was approached by a young militant who told me that she was very interested in the idea but that in the section of Vermont that she came from there were no military bases. As least any known to her. Well, this time, my friends, old Internet technology was our friend indeed. After Googling for a while I did find one small military support unit that was housed in a larger federal building. Who would have thought? Right?

I only bring this up to make a point that it is almost impossible not to be near some military installation, or as here some military support unit, of the United States government not only here but any place in the world. Which only mean that our job is very hard if, as the headline for this entry states, we want to make every installation an anti-war fortress. But I am here to you tell, especially after listening to some of the stories from current and ex-service personnel,we must do it. I will be hammering on this theme as long as it takes, the anti-war soldiers, sailors and airmen must not stand alone, and we must make sure that they know that they do not stand alone.

Note: The answer that we received from our Internet efforts to the question that the young woman militant brought up is another important point concerning where to spent our limited resources. Although we now have proof positive that unless you live on an iceberg somewhere and, probably not even there now, you will have some kind of American imperial military installation to focus on.

The real question is whether, as in the Vermont case, it is worthwhile to do anything at such a spot or, as I proposed, join with others at more visible and populated installations where you are liable to get a better response, and some media coverage. I feel that it is very important to focus on military installations in our anti-war work these days to bring the message home more clearly but some spots have more value than others. The real key is to link up the with work in places like Fort Hood, Fort Lewis, Fort Bragg and Fort Drum that are critical to the current Obama war policies and have some history of G.I. anti-war work already. I do not know if you can Google for this kind of information or not but I would think that while the area around every military installation of any worth has its big share of military retirees it also has its small contingent of anti-warriors as well. You just have to dig down and find them. Again, the anti-war soldiers, sailors and airmen must not stand alone.

*The Recent Links Mania At The "American Left History" Blog- A Note

Click on the title to link to the "American Left History" blog homepage for a view of the links mentioned in this entry.

What’s up with this large increase in the number of links that appear on the homepage of “American Left History”? Good question. I was somewhat unaware of the size of the increase until it was pointed out to me by a fellow member of a local militant anti-war circle that I belong to these days. What the increase reflects, mainly, is an increase in the getting out and about by our circle in the interest of propagandizing for independent labor candidates to run for election this year, the increased need we feel to aggressively oppose the Obamian war policies in Iraq, Afghanistan and, more ominously, Pakistan, and the struggle to create those anti-war soldiers and sailors solidarity committee that I have been hammering away in favor of in this space recently.

The increase also reflects, in some sense, our circle's response to the fact of a “wake up” call, finally, on the part of the American left that for all of 2008 and most of 2009 got caught up in the Obama drift, or worst, gave him a pass despite his obvious and upfront imperial political agenda. The mea culpas are strewn all over the landscape these days as groups and organizations back peddle away from the "Messiah" and thus we have an opening to get a hearing for our more radical political perspectives.

A graphic case in point on this shift in the winds and, therefore, our need to pay attention to the vast cohort of groups, tendencies, organizations, pre-party formations, leagues and so on that define the American left today (and whose very scattered-ness reflects one of the fundamental problems that we face organizationally and politically) was our attendance at a recent New England-wide anti-war conference in Cambridge. Normally our circle would not attend such an event because the conference was set up as a series of panels and educational workshops and there is not much we do not already know about imperialism and the ways to fight it that could be learned there.

Going into detail about the politics and organization of the event is beyond what I want to comment on. However, what such a gathering of left activists is good for is to present ideas, our ideas, and to make contacts with interested militants that we would not run into otherwise, especially those who live close to New England military installations. That said, expect to see more links as we try to sort out who is ‘real’ and who is just “trimming their sails” in reverse just in case Obama gets back on what they perceive is his ‘real’ track. That is their real tack.