Saturday, April 09, 2011

From The Archives Of The Spartacist League (U.S.)-"Lenin And The Vanguard Party"-Part Six-"The Final Split With The Mensheviks"

Lenin And The Vanguard Party-Part Six-The Final Split With The Mensheviks

Markin comment on this series of articles:

Oddly enough, when I first became serious about making a revolution in the early 1970s, a socialist working class-led revolution, in the eternal quest for a more just and equitable society, there were plenty (no enough, there are never enough, but plenty) of kindred spirits who were also finding out that it was not enough to “pray” such a revolution into existence but that one had to build a party, a vanguard party in order to do so. The name "Lenin," the designation "Bolshevik," and the term "world socialist revolution" flowed easily from the tongue in the circles that I began to hang around in. As I write this general introduction, right this minute in 2011, to an important series of historical articles about the actual creation, in real time, of a Leninist vanguard working class party (and International, as well) there are few kindred, fewer still in America, maybe, fewest still, and this is not good, among the youth, to carry the message forward. Nevertheless, whatever future form the next stage in the struggle for the socialist revolution takes the question of the party, the vanguard party really, will still press upon the heads of those who wish to make it.

Although today there is no mass Bolshevik-style vanguard party (or International)-anywhere-there are groups, grouplets, leagues, tendencies, and ad hoc committees that have cadre from which the nucleus for such a formation could be formed-if we can keep it. And part of the process of being able to “keep it” is to understand what Lenin was trying to do back in the early 1900s (yes, 1900s) in Russia that is applicable today. Quite a bit, actually, as it turns out. And for all those think that the Leninist process, and as the writer of these articles is at pains to point it was an unfolding process, was simple and the cadre that had to be worked with was as pure as the driven snow I would suggest this thought. No less an august revolutionary figure that Leon Trotsky, once he got “religion” on the Bolshevik organizational question (in many ways the question of the success of the revolution), did not, try might and main, have success in forming such a mass organization. We can fight out the details from that perspective learning from the successes and failures, and fight to get many more kindred.
Markin comment on this article:

Reflecting over a long life of political struggle probably, going back to when I first became politically aware around age fourteen or fifteen, the hardest idea to understand was, at least among those of us who were progressives, that some political differences placed us on different sides of the barricades. In the world of bourgeois politics those edges are rather blurred. However, even as wet-behind-the ears wannabe bourgeois politico, I knew enough to sense that a liberal pro-civil rights Northern democrat like me and Bull Connors, also a democrat, but of the Southern arch-segregationist sort, were not on the same page. And that our paths would divert sharply at some point. That point was brought home to me very pointed in 1964 when the Fanny Lou Hamer-led Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party was NOT seated as the official delegation from that state. Christ, how could it not be, given the platitudes about civil rights from Bobby Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey on down. That is one kind of lesson about the need for clarity, politically and organizationally. It took a while to figure it out but I did.

More perplexing is the question of what I, as other have, call the notion of the “family of the left.” It is easy to see that it cannot work when the opponent is Bull Connor (or George Wallace, you name your favorite political villain). It is more problematic when the others are self-proclaimed progressives, socialists and communists. That lesson, the lesson of separate banners, and striking together over common issues-the question of the united front was harder to understand, and undertake. And that brings us to the max daddy of all leftist disputes- the struggle between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks to stay in a single “party of the whole class” without coming to blows. But, and here is where I have picked up a little wisdom, modern (at least since the dawn of the 20th century) leftist politics just worked out that way. Not every progressive, socialist, or communist cares about making socialist revolution, the only solution to the current crisis of human organization. Thus it is best to maintain political and organizationally clarity, if not for out generation, then for those future generations who will carry out the revolution. For use though we will use that old united front like crazy, when appropriate, to address the issues of the day.
To read about the overall purpose of this pamphlet series and other information about the history of the document go the the American Left History Archives From-Lenin and The Vanguard Party-Preface To The Second Edition And Part One, dated March 15, 2011.

Following Stolypin's coup of June 1907, the RSDRP was illegalized and its Duma representatives arrested. Party fractions could continue to exist in legal and semi-legal workers organizations (e.g., trade unions, cooperatives), but the party as such could only exist as an underground organization. The party's full program could only be presented in an illegal press. By late 1907-early 1908, the RSDRP local committees had to go underground if they were to survive as functioning bodies.
The necessary transformation into an underground organ¬zation would in itself result in a considerable contraction of the party. Many raw workers and radicalized intellectuals won to the party during the revolutionary period were unwilling or incapable of functioning in an underground network. Furthermore, the wave of despair which passed over the working masses with the victory of tsarist reaction rein¬forced the exodus from the illegal and persecuted RSDRP. By 1908, the RSDRP could exist only as a relatively narrow network of committed revolutionaries.

Menshevik Liquidationism and Its Purposes

Thus the conditions in 1908 resurrected the original organizational differences which had split Russian Social Democracy into the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. As we have seen, at the 1906 "Reunification" Congress the Mensheviks accepted Lenin's definition of membership because, under the relatively open conditions then prevailing, formal organizational participation and discipline were not a bar to broad recruitment. But by 1908 the old dispute between a narrow, centralized party versus a broad, amorphous organization broke out with renewed fury.

Most of the Menshevik cadre did not follow the Bolsheviks into the underground. Under the guidance of A.N. Potresov, the leading member of their tendency in Russia, the Menshevik cadre limited themselves to the legal workers organization and devoted themselves to producing a legal press. These social-democratic activists, subject to no party organization or discipline, nonetheless considered themselves members of the RSDRP and were so regarded by the Menshevik leadership abroad. Lenin denounced this Menshevik policy as Liquidationism, the de facto dissolution of the RSDRP in favor of an amorphous movement based on liberal-labor politics.
The Bolshevik-Menshevik conflict over Liquidationism cannot be taken simply at face value as an expression of antagonistic organizational principles. Menshevik Liquidationism was strongly conditioned by the fact that the Bolsheviks had a majority in the leading bodies of the official RSDRP.
Liquidationism was an extreme form of a more general tendency of the Mensheviks to dissociate themselves from the Leninist leadership of the RSDRP.

In late 1907 the RSDRP delegation to the new Duma, in which the Mensheviks were a majority, declared its independence of the exile party center, arguing that this was a neces¬sary legal cover. Publicly denying the subordination of the Duma delegates to the exile party leadership could have been a legitimate security measure. But the Menshevik parliamentarians gave this legal cover a real political content. The opportunist actions of the Menshevik parliamentarians reinforced the Bolshevik ultraleftists, who wanted to boycott the Duma altogether. (On the ultraleft faction within the Bolsheviks, see Part Five of this series.)

In early 1908, the Menshevik leadership in exile (Martov, Dan, Axelrod, Plekhanov) re-established their own factional organ, Golos Sotsial-Demokrata (Voice of the Social Democrat). In mid-1908, the Menshevik member of the Central Committee resident in Russia, M.I. Broido, resigned from that body ostensibly in protest against the Bolsheviks' armed expropriations. About the same time, the two Menshevik members of the Central Committee abroad, B.I. Goldman and Martynov, circulated a memorandum stating that, in view of the disorganized state of the movement in Russia, the official party leadership should not issue instructions, but instead limit itself to passively monitoring social-democratic activity.
Had Martov, rather than Lenin, been the head of the official RSDRP, the Mensheviks would no doubt have been utterly loyal toward the established party organization (and moreover have ruthlessly used the party rules as a sword to cut the Bolsheviks to pieces). However, as against the Leninists, the Mensheviks were opposed in principle to defining the social-democratic party as an underground organization. Martov's position on the relation of an underground organization to the party is precisely stated in the August-September 1909 issue of Golos Sotsial-Demokrata:

"A more or less defined and to a certain extent conspiratorial organization now makes sense (and great sense) only in so far as it takes part in the construction of a social-democratic party, which by necessity is less defined and has its main points of support in open workers organizations." [emphasis in original]
—quoted in Israel Getzler, Martov (1967)

This position for limiting the significance of the underground represented both a desire for bourgeois-liberal respectability and a tendency to identify the party with broad, inclusive workers organizations.
The Mensheviks were prepared to engage in illegal, clandestine activity to further their own program and organization, while opposing an underground party as such. Beginning in 1911 the Menshevik Liquidators created their own underground network, though this was not as effective as the Bolsheviks' nor did it attain the latter's mass influence.
Menshevik Liquidationism of 1908-12 was an extreme expression of social-democratic opportunism resulting from the following major factors: 1) a desire for bourgeois-liberal respectability; 2) a general bias toward identifying the party with broad, inclusive workers organizations; 3) the fact that such organizations were legal, while the party as such was not; 4) Lenin's leadership of the official RSDRP; and 5) the organizational weakness of the Mensheviks.

The Battle Is Joined

The battle over Liquidationism was first formally joined at the RSDRP conference held in Paris in December 1908. At this conference the Bolsheviks had five delegates (three of them ultraleftists) and their allies, Luxemburg/Jogiches' Polish Social Democrats, had five; the Mensheviks had three delegates and their allies, the Jewish Bund, had three.
All participants at this conference (except the ultraleft Bolsheviks) recognized that the revolutionary situation was definitely over, and that an indefinite period of reaction lay ahead. The party's tasks and perspectives would have to be changed accordingly. In this context Lenin asserted the need for the primacy of the illegal party organization. Lenin's resolution on this question passed, with the Mensheviks voting against and the Bundists splitting:

"The changed political conditions make it increasingly impos¬sible to contain Social Democratic activity within the framework of the legal and semi-legal workers' organizations.... "The party must devote particular attention to the utilization and strengthening of existing illegal, semi-legal and where possible legal organizations—and to the creation of new ones—which can serve it as strong points for agitational, propagandistic and practical organizational work among the masses....This work will be possible and fruitful only if there exists in each industrial enterprise a workers' committee, consisting only of party members even if they are few in number, which will be closely linked to the masses, and if all work of the legal organizations is conducted under the guidance of the illegal party organization" [our emphasis]
—Robert H. McNeal, ed., Resolutions and Decisions of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1974)

Lenin used his majority at the 1908 RSDRP conference to condemn Liquidationism by name, presenting it as an expression of the instability and careerism of the radical intelligentsia:

"Noting that in many places a section of the party intelligentsia is attempting to liquidate the existing organization of the RSDRP and to replace it by a shapeless amalgamation within the framework of legality, whatever this might cost—even at the price of the open rejection of the Programme, tasks, and traditions of the party—the Conference finds it essential to conduct the most resolute ideological and organizational struggle against these liquidationist efforts." — Ibid.

As we have already discussed (in Part One), Lenin regarded Menshevism as an expression of the interests and attitudes of the radical intelligentsia, rather than as an opportunist current internal to the workers movement. In this Lenin followed Kautsky's methodology, which located the sociological basis of revisionism in the petty-bourgeois fellow travelers of Social Democracy.

The Mensheviks likewise accused Lenin's Bolsheviks of representing a petty-bourgeois deviation...anarchism. For example, in early 1908 Plekhanov described the launching of the Menshevik organ, Golos Sotsial-Demokrata, as a first step toward "the triumph of social-democratic principles over bolshevik Bakuninism" (quoted in Leonard Schapiro, The Communist Party of the Soviet Union [I960]). The Men¬sheviks explained away the Bolsheviks' working-class support by arguing that the Leninists demagogically exploited the primitiveness of the Russian proletariat, a proletariat still closely tied to the peasantry.

Thus both sides accused the other of not being real social democrats (i.e., working-class-oriented socialists). The Bolsheviks viewed the Mensheviks as petty-bourgeois demo¬crats, the left wing of bourgeois liberalism, the radicalized children of the Cadets. The Mensheviks condemned the Bolsheviks as petty-bourgeois anarchists, radical populists disguised as social democrats. These mutual accusations were not demagogy nor even polemical exaggerations; they genuinely expressed the way in which the Bolsheviks viewed the Mensheviks and vice versa. Since both sides adhered to the principle of a unitary party of all social democrats, the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks could justify their split only by declaring that the other group was not really part of the proletarian socialist movement.

Pro-Party Mensheviks and Bolshevik Conciliators

In late 1908, Lenin's campaign against the Liquidators got a boost from a most unexpected source...Plekhanov. The grand old man of Russian Marxism broke sharply with the Menshevik leadership, established his own paper, Dnevnik Sotsial-Demokrata (Diary of a Social Democrat), and attacked the abandonment of the established party organizations in words and tone similar to that of Lenin.

Plekhanov's political behavior in 1909-11 is on the face of it puzzling since he had hitherto been on the extreme right wing of the Mensheviks on almost all questions, including vociferously advocating a split with Lenin. Subjective considerations may have played a role. Plekhanov was extremely prideful and may well have resented being eclipsed by the younger Menshevik leaders (e.g., Martov, Potresov). He may have considered that a "pro-Party" Menshevik stance would enable him to re-establish himself as the premier authority of Russian Social Democracy.

However, Plekhanov's anti-Liquidator position is not at such variance with his general political outlook as might first appear. Plekhanov always believed in the need for a Marxist (i.e., scientific socialist) leadership over working-class spontaneity. It was this belief that impelled him into intransigent struggle against Economism in 1900. Paradoxically, Plekhanov's right-wing position on the revolution of 1905 reinforced his distrust of mass spontaneity. For Plekhanov, a strong social-democratic party was needed to restrain what he believed were the anarchistic, primitivist impulses of the Russian proletariat. In the conflict between Plekhanov and the Menshevik Liquidators we see the difference between an orthodox, pre-1914 Marxist, committed to a bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia, and a group of labor refor¬mists primarily concerned with defending the immediate economic interests of Russian workers.

Plekhanov's "pro-Party" Mensheviks were small in number and only some of these eventually fused with the Bolsheviks. Plekhanov himself opposed Lenin when, at the Prague Conference in January 1912, the latter declared the Bolsheviks to be the RSDRP, thus creating a separate Bolshevik Party. However, the impact of Plekhanov's "pro-Party" Mensheviks on the factional struggle was greatly disproportionate to their meager numbers. Plekhanov retained great authority in the international and Russian social-democratic movement. His strident accusations that the main body of Mensheviks were liquidating the social-democratic party enormously enhanced the credibility of Lenin's position, since Plekhanov could not easily be accused of factional distortion or exaggeration. The few "pro-Party" Mensheviks who did join the Bolsheviks in 1912 greatly added to the legitimacy of Lenin's claim to represent the continuity of the official RSDRP.

By 1909, the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in Russia had split into two separate groups competing for mass influence. At a conference of the Bolshevik leadership in mid-1909, Lenin argued that the Bolshevik faction had in fact become the RSDRP:

"One thing must be borne firmly in mind: the responsibility of 'preserving and consolidating' the R.S.D.L.P., of which the resolution speaks, now rests primarily, if not entirely, on the Bolshevik section. All, or practically all, the Party work in progress, particularly in the localities, is now being shouldered by the Bolsheviks." [our emphasis]
-"Report on the Conference of the Extended Editorial Board of Proletary" (July 1909)

At the same time he stressed the importance of uniting with
Plekhanov's "pro-Party" Mensheviks:

"What then are the tasks of the Bolsheviks in relation to this as yet small section of the Mensheviks who are fighting against liquidationism on the right? The Bolsheviks must undoubtedly seek rapprochement with this section, those who are Marxists and partyists." [emphasis in original] —Op. cit.

Lenin's position that the Bolsheviks (hopefully in alliance with the Plekhanovites) should build the party without and against the majority of Mensheviks ran into significant resistance among the Bolshevik leadership and also ranks. A strong faction of conciliators emerged, led by Dobruvinsky (a former Duma deputy), Rykov, Nogin and Lozovsky, which stood for a political compromise with the Mensheviks in order to restore a unified RSDRP.

In a sense the forces of conciliation were stronger in Berlin than in St. Petersburg or Moscow. The German Social Democratic (SPD) leadership remained ever desirous of Russian party unity. In a particularly sentimental mood, Kautsky expressed his attitude on the antagonistic Russian factions in a letter (5 May 1911) to Plekhanov:

"These days I had visits from Bolsheviks,...Mensheviks, Otzovists [ultraleftists], and Liquidators. They are all dear people and when talking to them one does not notice great differences of opinion."
—quoted in Getzler, Op. cit.

The SPD leadership opened up their press to the most important of Russian conciliators—Trotsky. Trotsky's articles in the influential SPD press turned international social-democratic opinion strongly in favor of unity of the Russian party and against the extremists on both sides, Lenin for the Bolsheviks and Potresov for the Mensheviks.

Lenin Fights for a Bolshevik Party

Faced with a strong pro-unity group within his own ranks and under pressure from Plekhanov's "pro-Party" Mensheviks and the SPD leadership, Lenin reluctantly agreed to another attempt at unity. This was the January 1910 plenum held in Paris. Representation at the plenum closely replicated the last, 1907 party congress. The Bolsheviks had four delegates (three of them conciliators) as did the Mensheviks. The pro-Menshevik Jewish Bund had two delegates as did the pro-Bolshevik Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL) of Luxemburg/Jogiches. The nominally pro-Bolshevik united Latvian Social Democrats and the ultraleft Vperyod group had one delegate each.

At the plenum the conciliatory elements imposed a series of compromises on the leadership of the two basic tendencies. The factional composition of the leading party bodies (the Editorial Board of the central organ, the Foreign Bureau and Russian Board of the Central Committee) established at the 1907 congress was maintained. Parity between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks was maintained on all party bodies, thus placing the balance of power in the hands of the national social-democratic parties.

On the key question of the underground, a compromise resolution was worked out. Opposing or belittling the underground organization was condemned, but the term "liquidationism" was avoided because of its anti-Menshevik factional connotation. In turn, the Mensheviks got the moral satisfaction of condemning the Bolsheviks' armed expropriations as a violation of party discipline.

The artificiality of the 1910 "unity" agreement was indicated by the Mensheviks' refusal to allow Lenin to administer the party funds. The party treasury was therefore placed in the hands of three German trustees—Kautsky, Klara Zetkin and Franz Mehring. (Kautsky, who was not sentimental where money was concerned, later kept the Russian party treasury on the grounds that it had no legitimate, representative leading body.) Lenin's critical and distrustful attitude toward the results of the Paris Central Committee plenum was expressed in a letter (11 April 1910) to Maxim Gorky: "At the C.C. plenum (the 'long plenum"—three weeks of agony, all nerves were on edge, the devil to pay!)...a mood of 'conciliation in general' (without any clear idea of with whom, for what, and how); hatred of the Bolshevik Center for its implacable ideological struggle; squabbling on the part of the Mensheviks, who were spoiling for a fight, and as a result—an infant covered with blisters.

"And so we have to suffer. Either—at best—we cut open the blisters, let out the pus, and cure and rear the infant. "Or, at worst—the infant dies. Then we shall be childless for a while (that is, we shall re-establish the Bolshevik faction) and then give birth to a more healthy infant."

Lenin's distrust of the Mensheviks was quickly borne out. The Menshevik Liquidators in Russia, led by P.A. Garvi, flatly refused to enter the Russian Board of the Central Committee as agreed at the Paris plenum. Thus Lenin was able to place the blame for the split on the Mensheviks and put the Bolshevik conciliators on the defensive. Years later, Martov still berated Garvi for his tactical blunder, which greatly aided Lenin.
In late 1910, Lenin declared that the Mensheviks had broken the agreements made at the Paris plenum and so the Bolsheviks were no longer bound by them. In May 1911, Lenin called a rump meeting of leading Bolsheviks and their Polish allies, which set up ad hoc bodies to replace the official RSDRP organs established at the Paris plenum. For example, a Technical Committee was set up to replace the Foreign Bureau of the Central Committee as the party's highest administrative body. For Lenin this was a decisive step in building a party without and against most of the Mensheviks.

At this point Lenin's plans were impeded by the emergence of a new and temporarily powerful conciliator—Leo Jogiches, leader of the SDKPiL. Jogiches was a formidable antagonist. Together with the Bolshevik conciliators (e.g., Rykov) he had a majority on the leading party bodies, such as the Technical Committee. Through Rosa Luxemburg he influenced the German trustees of the RSDRP funds.

The 1911 fight between Jogiches and Lenin is often dismissed, particularly by bourgeois historians, as a personal power struggle. However, underlying the SDKPiL-Bolshevik schism in 1911-14 was the difference between an orthodox social-democratic position on the party question and emerging Leninism. Luxemburg/Jogiches were prepared to support the Bolshevik faction within a unitary social-democratic party. They would not support the transformation of the Bolshevik group into a party claiming to be the sole legitimate representative of social democracy. And Jogiches understood that this was what Lenin was in fact doing. In a letter to Kautsky (30 June 1911) concerning finances, he wrote that Lenin "wants to use the chaos in the party to get the money for his own faction and to deal a death blow to the party as a whole" (quoted in J.P. Nettl, Rosa Luxemburg [1966]).

Lenin's attitude to Jogiches and the other conciliators is
clearly expressed in a draft article, "The State of Affairs in
the Party" (July 1911):

"The 'conciliators' have not understood the ideological roots of what keeps us apart from the liquidators, and have therefore left them a number of loopholes and have frequently been (involuntarily) a plaything in the hands of the liquidators.... "Since the revolution, the Bolsheviks, as a trend, have lived through two errors—(1) otzovism-Vperyodism and (2) concil-iationism (wobbling in the direction of the liquidators). It is time to get rid of both.

"We Bolsheviks have resolved on no account to repeat (and not to allow a repetition of) the error of conciliationism today. This would mean slowing down the rebuilding of the R.S.D.L.P., and entangling it in a new game with the Golos people (or their lackies, like Trotsky), the Vperyodists and so forth." [emphasis in original]

In late 1911, Lenin broke with Jogiches and the Bolshevik conciliators. He sent an agent, Ordzhonikidze, to Russia where the latter set up the Russian Organizing Committee (ROC) which claimed to be an interim Central Committee of the RSDRP. The ROC called an "all-Russian conference of the RSDRP," which met in Prague in January 1912. Fourteen delegates attended, twelve Bolsheviks and two "pro-Party" Mensheviks, one of whom expressed Plekhanov's opposition to the conference as an anti-unity act.

The conference declared that the Menshevik Liquidators stood outside the RSDRP. It also scrapped the nationally federated structure established at the 1906 "Reunification" Congress, in effect excluding the Bund, SDKPiL and Lat¬vian Social Democrats from the Russian party. The conference elected a new Central Committee consisting of six "hard" (anti-conciliator) Bolsheviks and one "pro-Party" Menshevik for symbolic effect. The Prague Conference marked the definitive organizational break between Lenin's revolutionary social democrats and the opportunist Mensheviks. In that important sense Prague 1912 was the founding conference of the Bolshevik Party.

Did Lenin Seek Unity with the Mensheviks?

Even before 1912, Lenin was commonly regarded as a fanatical splitter, as the great schismatic of Russian Social Democracy. The world-historic significance of the Bolshevik-Menshevik split is now universally recognized, not least by anti-Leninists. It is therefore astounding that anybody, particularly a group claiming to be Leninist, could maintain that the Bolshevik leader was a staunch advocate of social-democratic unity, while the Mensheviks were the aggressive splitters.

Yet this is just the position taken by the revisionist "Trotskyist" International Marxist Group (IMG), British section of Ernest Mandel's United Secretariat. As a theoretical justification for a grand regroupment maneuver, the IMG has revised the history of the Bolsheviks to make Lenin out as a unity-above-all conciliator. Referring to the post-1905 period, the IMG writes:

"Far from Lenin being the splitter, far from posing merely 'formal unity,' the Bolsheviks were the chief fighters for the unity of the Party.... It was the Mensheviks in this period who were the splitters and not Lenin."
—"The Bolshevik Faction and the Fight for the Party," Red Weekly, 11 November 1976

The complete falsity of this position is demonstrated by a series of incredible omissions. This article does not mention the real Bolshevik conciliators, like Rykov, and Lenin's fight against them. It does not mention the 1910 Paris "unity" plenum and Lenin's opposition to the compromises made there. It does not mention that Lenin's erstwhile factional allies, Plekhanov and Jogiches/Luxemburg, opposed the Prague Conference in the name of party unity and subsequently denounced Lenin as a splitter. This is the IMG's analysis of the Prague Conference: "The task of the Bolsheviks and the pro-Party Mensheviks in reconsolidating the illegal RSDLP had been accomplished by the end of 1911—although by this time Plekhanov himself had deserted to the liquidators. This reconsolidation was finalised at the Sixth Party Congress [sic] held in Prague in January 1912.
At this congress there was not a split with Menshevism as such—on the contrary...Lenin worked for the congress with a section of the Mensheviks. The split was not with those who defended Menshevik politics but with the liquidators who refused to accept the Party." [emphasis in original] —Op. cit.

It was precisely the Mensheviks 'politics on the organizational question which generated Liquidationism. From the original 1903 split right down to World War I the Mensheviks defined "the party" to include workers sympathetic to social democracy, but who were not subject to formal organ¬izational membership and discipline. It was on that basis that the Mensheviks continually rejected and disregarded Lenin's formal majorities and consequent party leadership.

The statement that Plekhanov rejoined the Liquidators in 1911 is false. And in this historical inaccuracy the IMG demonstrates its fundamental miscomprehension of relations between the Bolsheviks and "pro-Party" Mensheviks. Plekhanov did not rejoin the main body of Mensheviks. Like Trotsky and Luxemburg, he adopted an independent stance in 1912-14, urging the reunification of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.

The IMG cannot explain why Plekhanov, who fought the Liquidators for three years, then refused to split with them and unite with the Leninists. When Plekhanov, who was notoriously arrogant, began his anti-Liquidator campaign in late 1908, he undoubtedly believed he would win over the majority of Mensheviks and possibly become the leading figure in a reunified RSDRP. Even while blocking with Plekhanov, Lenin had occasion to debunk the dissident Menshevik leader's self-serving illusions:

"The Menshevik Osip [Plekhanov] has proved to be a lone figure, who has resigned both from the official Menshevik editorial board and from the collective editorial board of the most important Menshevik work, a lone protester against 'petty bourgeois opportunism' and liquidationism."
—"The Liquidators Exposed" (September 1909)

By 1911, it was clear that the Plekhanovites were a small minority among the Mensheviks. Had Plekhanov united with the Bolsheviks at the Prague Conference, he would have been a small and politically isolated minority. He could never hope to win the Bolsheviks to his pro-bourgeois liberal strategy. He would simply have been a figurehead in a de facto Bolshevik party. Being a shrewd politician, Lenin sought to "capture" Plekhanov in this way. But Plekhanov had no intention of serving as a figurehead for the Leninists. In refusing to participate in the Prague Conference, he wrote: "The makeup of your conference is so one-side'd that it would be better, i.e., more in the interests of Party unity, if I stayed away" (quoted in Bertram D. Wolfe, Three Who Made a Revolution [1948]).

Even before 1912, the Bolsheviks were essentially a party, rather than a faction, because Lenin would refuse to act as a disciplined minority under a Menshevik leadership. The Menshevik leaders, including Plekhanov, reciprocated this attitude. Unity with the numerically small "pro-Party" Mensheviks did not challenge Lenin's leadership of the party as he reconstructed it at the Prague Conference. Had the Plekhanovites been larger than the Bolsheviks, Lenin would have fought for another organizational arrangement which would allow his supporters to act as revolutionary social democrats unimpeded by the opportunists.

Unity Attempts After Prague

After the Prague Conference, the Bolsheviks were bombarded with continual unity campaigns involving most major figures in the Russian movement and also the leadership of the Second International. These campaigns culminated in a pro-unity resolution by the International Socialist Bureau (ISB) in December 1913, which led to a "unity" conference in Brussels in July 1914, Less than a month later most of the unity-mongers of the Second International were supporting their own ruling classes in killing the workers of "enemy" countries.

The first attempt to reverse Lenin's action at the Prague Conference was taken by Trotsky. He pressured the Menshevik Organizing Committee into calling a conference of all Russian social democrats. The Bolsheviks naturally refused to participate as did their former allies, the Plekhanovites and Luxemburg/Jogiches' SDKPiL. The conference met in Vienna in August 1912. In addition to Trotsky's small group, it was attended by the main body of Mensheviks, the Bund and also the ultraleft Vperyod group. The "August bloc" thus combined the extreme right wing and extreme left wing of Russian Social Democracy. Naturally the participants could agree on nothing except hostility to the Leninists for declaring themselves the official RSDRP. In fact, the Vperyodists walked out in the middle leaving the conference as a Menshevik forum.

Trotsky's "August bloc" was a classic centrist rotten bloc—a fleeting coalition of the most heterogeneous elements against a hard revolutionary tendency. After he was won to Leninism in 1917, Trotsky regarded the "August bloc" as his greatest political error. Polemicizing against another centrist rotten bloc in the American section of the Fourth International in 1940, Trotsky looked back on the 1912 "August bloc":

"I have in mind the so-called August bloc of 1912. I participated actively in this bloc. In a certain sense I created it. Politically I differed with the Mensheviks on all fundamental ques¬tions. I also differed with the ultra-left Bolsheviks, the Vperyodists. In the general tendency of policies I stood far more closely to the Bolsheviks. But I was against the Leninist 'regime' because I had not yet learned to understand that in order to realize a revolutionary goal a firmly welded centralized party is necessary. And so I formed this episodic bloc consisting of heterogeneous elements which was directed against the proletarian wing of the party....

"Lenin subjected the August bloc to merciless criticism and the harshest blows fell to my lot. Lenin proved that inasmuch as I did not agree politically with either the Mensheviks or the Vperyodists my policy was adventurism. This was severe but it was true."
—In Defense of Marxism (1940)

The consolidation of a separate Bolshevik Party at the Prague Conference coincided with the beginning of a new rising line of proletarian class struggle in Russia. In the next two and a half years the Bolsheviks transformed themselves once again into a mass proletarian party. In 1913, Lenin claimed 30,000-50,000 members. In the Duma elections in late 1912 the Bolsheviks elected six out of nine delegates in the workers curia. In 1914, Lenin claimed 2,800 workers groups as against 600 for the Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks' legal organ, Pravda, had a circulation of 40,000 compared to 16,000 for the Mensheviks' Luch.

Privately the Mensheviks admitted the Bolsheviks' predominance in the workers movement and their own weakness. In a letter (15 September 1913) to Potresov, Martov wrote: "The Mensheviks seem unable to move away from the dead center in the organizational sense and remain, in spite of the newspa¬per and of everything done in the last two years, a weak cir¬cle" (quoted in Getzler, Op. cit.).

While the transformation of the Bolsheviks into a mass party at this time was of enormous significance to the revolu¬tionary cause, in one sense it could be said to have impeded the theoretical development of Leninism. Developments in 1912-14 appeared to confirm Lenin's belief that the Men¬sheviks were simply petty-bourgeois careerists in Russia and emigre' literati standing outside the real workers movement. The Bolsheviks' claim to be the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party seemed to be empirically vindicated. And thus Lenin believed that he hadn't really split the social-democratic party.

The Prague Conference in January 1912 represented the definitive split between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, but the split was not comprehensive. The six Bolshevik deputies elected to the Fourth Duma in late 1912 maintained a common front with the seven Menshevik deputies in a unitary social-democratic fraction. Among the less advanced workers, sentiment for unity was still strong and this created resistance among the Bolsheviks to splitting the Duma frac¬tion, a public act. Lenin oriented toward splitting the Duma fraction, but did so with considerable tactical caution. Only in late 1913 did the Bolshevik deputies openly split and create their own Duma fraction.

The split in the Duma fraction had a far greater impact on international Social Democracy than the Prague Conference since it made the division in the Russian movement all too public. At Rosa Luxemburg's initiative, the ISB intervened to restore unity in the seemingly incorrigibly fractious Rus¬sian social-democratic movement. The ISB's pro-unity policy was necessarily damaging, if not outright hostile, to the Bolsheviks. Luxemburg's motives were clearly hostile to Lenin. In urging the International's intervention, she denounced "the systematic incitement by Lenin's group of the split among the ranks of other social democratic organisations" (quoted in H.H. Fisher and Olga Hess Gankin, eds., The Bolsheviks and the World War [1940]).

In December 1913, the ISB adopted a resolution calling for the reunification of Russian Social Democracy. This resolution was co-sponsored by three German leaders, Kautsky, Ebert and Molkenbuhr:

"The International Bureau considers it the urgent duty of all social democratic groups in Russia to make a serious and loyal attempt to agree to the restoration of a single party organization and to put an end to the present harmful and discouraging state of disunion." —Ibid.

The ISB then arranged a Russian "unity" conferente in Brussels in July 1914. The authority of the German-led International was such that all Russian social democrats, including the Bolsheviks, felt obliged to attend this meeting. In addition to the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, the Brussels
Conference was attended by the Vperyodists, Trotsky's group, Plekhanov's group, the Latvian Social Democrats and three Polish groups.

Needless to say, Lenin was hostile to the purpose of the Brussels Conference. While he wrote a lengthy report for it, he showed his disdain by not attending in person. The head of the Bolshevik delegation was Inessa Armand. Lenin drafted "unity conditions" which he knew the Mensheviks would reject out of hand. These involved the complete organizational subordination of the Mensheviks to the Bolshevik majority, including the prohibition of a separate Menshevik press and a total ban on public criticism of the under¬ground party. When Armand presented Lenin's "unity conditions," the Mensheviks were furious. Plekhanov termed them "articles of a new penal code." Kautsky, the chairman of the conference, had difficulty keeping order. Nonetheless, the respected German leader dutifully presented a motion stating that there were no principled differences barring unity. This resolution carried with the Bolsheviks (and also the Latvian Social Democrats) refusing to vote.

Lenin's Justification for the Split

The report to the July 1914 Brussels Conference was Lenin's most comprehensive justification for the split and creation of a separate Bolshevik party. It was intended to present the Bolshevik case in the most favorable way before West European social-democratic opinion. Thus, the report probably doesn't fully express Lenin's views on Bolshevik-Menshevik relations.

The report presents two basic arguments, one political, the other empirical. Lenin's basic political argument is that the majority of Mensheviks, by rejecting the underground organization as the party, stand qualitatively to the right of the opportunists (e.g., Bernstein) in the West European social democracies:

"We see how mistaken is the opinion that our differences with the liquidators are no deeper and are less important than those between the so-called radicals and moderates in Western Europe. There is not a single—literally not a single—West-European party that has ever had occasion to adopt a general party decision against people who desired to dissolve the party and to substitute a new one for it!

"Nowhere in Western Europe has there ever been, nor can there ever be, a question of whether it is permissible to bear the title of party member and at the same time advocate the dissolution of that party, to argue that the party is useless and unnecessary, and that another party be substituted for it. Nowhere in Western Europe does the question concern the very existence of the party as it does with us.... "This is not a disagreement over a question or organization, of how the party should be built, but a disagreement concerning the very existence of the party. Here, conciliation, agreement and compromise are totally out of the question." [emphasis in original]
—"Report of the C.C. of the R.S.D.L.P. to the Brussels Conferences and Instructions to the C.C. Delegation" (June 1914)

This view of Menshevik Liquidationism is superficial, focusing on the specific form, rather than the political substance, of social-democratic opportunism. Lenin's belief that the Russian Mensheviks were to the right of Bernstein, Jaur£s, etc. turned out to be false. The war found the small group of Martovite Internationalists who had served as a fig leaf to the Mensheviks not only far to the left of the German social-patriots Ebert/Noske, but also to the left of the SPD centrists Kautsky/Haase. The root cause of the Mensheviks' organizational liquidationism in 1908-12 was not that Martov/Potresov stood qualitatively to the right of Bernstein and Noske, but rather that Lenin, formally the leader of the RSDRP, stood to the left of Bebel/Kautsky.

Most of the report to the Brussels Conference seeks to demonstrate empirically that "a majority of four-fifths of the class-conscious workers of Russia have rallied around the decisions and bodies created by the January [Prague] Con¬ference of 1912." It is important to emphasize that this was not an argument just for public consumption. For Lenin one of the decisive criteria of a real social-democratic party was the extent of its proletarian following. In his private notes to Inessa Armand, he wrote:
"In Russia, nearly every group, or 'faction'...accuses the other of being not a workers' group, but a bourgeois intellectualist group. We consider this accusation or rather argument, this ref¬erence to the social significance of a particular group, extremely important in principle. But precisely because we consider it extremely important, we deem it our duty not to make sweeping statements about the social significance of other groups, but to back our statements with objective facts. For these objective facts prove absolutely and irrefutably that Prav-dism [Bolshevism] alone is a workers' trend in Russia, whereas liquidationism and Socialist-Revolutionism are in fact bourgeois intellectualist trends." [emphasis in original] —Ibid.

As can be seen from the above quote, had the Mensheviks in this period acquired a significant proletarian base, Lenin would have had either to adopt a more conciliatory attitude toward them or justify the split on more general principles.

Lenin's view of the Mensheviks as a petty-bourgeois intellectualist trend external to the workers movement was impressionistic. The wave of patriotism and national defensism which swept the Russian masses in the first years of the war benefited the opportunistic Mensheviks at the expense of the Leninists, who were intransigent defeatists. When the Russian Revolution broke out in February 1917, the Mensheviks were far stronger relative to the Bolsheviks than they had been in 1914.
During 1912-14, Lenin's innumerable polemics against unity with the Mensheviks presented a number of different arguments. Some of these arguments were narrow or empirical, as in the report to the Brussels Conference. However, in other writings Lenin anticipated the split in principle with opportunists in the workers movement which defines the modern communist party. Thus in an April 1914 polemic against Trotsky, entitled "Unity," Lenin writes:

"There can be no unity, federal or other, with liberal-labor politicians, with disrupters of the working-class movement, with those who defy the will of the majority. There can and must be unity among all consistent Marxists, among all those who stand for the entire Marxist body and the uncurtailed slogans, independently of the liquidators and apart from them. "Unity is a great thing and a great slogan. But what the workers' cause needs is the unity of Marxists, not unity between Marxists, and opponents and distorters of Marxism." [emphasis in original]

However, it was not until 4 August 1914, when the parliamentary fraction of the German Social Democracy voted for war credits, that Lenin was made to understand the epochal significance of the above passage, of his break with the Russian Mensheviks. Only then did Lenin seek to split the consistent, i.e., revolutionary, Marxists from all the liberal-labor politicians and all the opponents and distorters of Marxism. In so doing he created communism as a world-historic revolutionary doctrine and movement, as the Marxism of the epoch of capitalism's death agony.

Part Seven Of This Series Will Be Dated April 15, 2011

The Latest From The Private Bradley Manning Website- A List Of Solidartiy Actions For April 9th and 10th 2011- Free Bradley Manning Now!

Click on the headline to link to a Private Bradley Manning website entry for the solidarity activities scheduled for the weekend of April 9-10, 2011.

Markin comment:

Free Bradley Manning Now!

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Anti-War Protest Season Continues-New York City Anti-War Rally April 9

Markin comment:

During this February and March I have called for and placed a number posts in this space in support of a March 19th Veterans For Peace-led march and action in Washington, D.C. I also gave my reasons for such support in commentary in those posts. Mainly from a sense of solidarity with my fellow veterans and because they were ramping up their opposition to Obama's wars beylond yet another march. This march in New York on April 9th, while necessary as an action to oppose Obama's wars, is a more traditional one and while we will attend it does not have the dramatic impact and bonds of solidarity attached to it of the Veterans' march.

March and Rally: Bring the Troops Home Now!

When: Saturday, April 9, 2011, 12:00 pm

Where: Union Square • New York, NY

Start: 2011 Apr 9 - 12:00pm

Endorse the call to action from the United National Antiwar Committee (UNAC)

Bring the Troops Home Now!

March and Rally

April 9th, 2011

New York City and San Francisco

(Union Sq. at noon) (Time and place to be announced)

Bring U.S. Troops Now: Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan! End the sanctions and stop the threats of war against the people of Iran, North Korea and Yemen. No to war and plunder of the people of Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa! End U.S. Aid to Israel! End U.S. Support to the Israeli Occupation of Palestine and the Siege of Gaza!

Trillions for jobs, education, social services, an end to all foreclosures, quality single-payer healthcare for all, a massive conversion to sustainable and planet-saving energy systems and public transportation and reparations to the victims of U.S. terror at home and abroad.

End FBI raids on antiwar, social justice, and international solidarity activists, an end to the racist persecution and prosecutions that ravage Muslim communities, an end to police terror in Black and Latino communities, full rights and legality for immigrants and an end to all efforts to repress and punish Wikileaks and its contributors and founders.

immediate end to torture, rendition, secret trials, drone bombings and death squads

From The Jan Laaman Blog- On Tunisia and Egypt- Free Jaan Laaman and Tom Manning The Last Of The Imprisoned Ohio Seven Now!

Click on headline to link to the Free Jan Laaman Blog - Free Jan Laaman and Tom Manning The Last Of The Imprisoned Ohio Seven Now!

From The Free Jaan Laaman Blog-On Libya-Free Jaan Laaman and Tom Manning The Last Of The Imprisoned Ohio Seven Now!

From The Free Jaan Laaman Blog- On Libya

Markin comment:

Free Jaan Laaman and Tom Manning The Last Of The Imprisoned Ohio Seven Now!

The missing Malcolm -An Interview with Manning Marable -ISR Issue 63, January–February 2009

The missing Malcolm
An Interview with Manning Marable

MANNING MARABLE is a professor of Public Affairs, Political Science, History and African-American Studies at Columbia University in New York City, and the founder of the Center for Contemporary Black History (CCBH) at Columbia University. He is the author of numerous works, including How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America (Boston: South End Press, 1983), Race, Reform and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction in Black America, 1945–1990 (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1991), and Living Black History: How Reimagining the African-American Past Can Remake America’s Racial Future (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2006). His current works in progress include a new comprehensive biography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (New York: Viking, 2009).

Simon J. Black, a freelance writer and PhD student at York University in Toronto, interviewed Dr. Marable in New York City. You can find his writing at

DR. MARABLE, when we speak of W.E.B. Du Bois, A. Phillip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, and Martin Luther King, we are not only speaking of great intellectuals and civil rights leaders, but of democratic socialists. Malcolm also moved to the left in his later life. Much of this has been suppressed or written out of mainstream civil rights history. What effect has that had on how African-Americans relate to the left and how the left, Black and white, relates to the African-American community?

AFRICAN-AMERICANS who identify themselves with socialism or left projects have been drawn to that body of politics based on their realization that racialized injustice is not simply a dynamic of color, but, rather, has something very directly to do with accumulated disadvantage driven by market economics and by the hegemony of capital over labor. Black people in the United States and the Americas who came here were brought here involuntarily due to the demand for labor and the unquenchable thirsts on the part of those who own capital and invested in means of production to find the cheapest way to develop a labor pool to exploit and to extract surplus value that is accrued to them through excess profits.

The engine that drove the trans-Atlantic slave trade was capital, as Eric Williams in Capitalism and Slavery pointed out fifty and sixty years ago. Malcolm, on Jan. 15, 1965, a month before he dies, does an interview in Canada, I believe in Toronto, where he says, “All my life, I believed that the fundamental struggle was Black versus white. Now I realize that it is the haves against the have-nots.” Malcolm came to the realization, King came to the realization, that the nature of the struggle was between those who have and those who are dispossessed. [Frantz] Fanon came to this same conclusion in Wretched of the Earth. So this led to what some scholars have written about as Black Marxism, the tradition of Black radicalism that comes organically from the critical reality of the super exploitation of Black labor worldwide and a response to that politically. That is, that we didn’t gravitate toward Marx simply because we liked his beard or we were seduced by his manipulation of prose, even though I loved the 18th Brumaire. Rather, we were attracted to Marx because it helped to illuminate and make clear the objective material circumstances of poverty, unemployment, and exploitation in Black people’s lives. Which is why we became socialists or Marxists, because we understood that there could not be a path toward Black liberation that was not simultaneously one that challenged the hegemony of capital over labor.

IN YOUR new biography of Malcolm, Malcolm X: A Life of the Invention, you discuss three missing chapters from Alex Haley’s collaboration with Malcolm, The Autobiography of Malcolm X. What’s happened to them? And what’s their importance to understanding Malcolm’s life?

THEY’RE IN the safe of an attorney named Gregory Reed. He’s in Detroit, Michigan. They’re in his safe. And, he has them and doesn’t show them to people. Now why does he have them? How did that happen? Well, in late 1992, I believe October, there was an auction of the Alex Haley estate and for $100,000, he bought these chapters that were discarded from the autobiography.

Alex Haley was the ghostwriter and co-author of the book. You have to remember that Haley went on to great fame as the author of Roots, one of the largest-selling books in American history and a docudrama on television that had a profound impact on race relations in the late 1970s. Haley was deeply hostile to Malcolm X’s politics. He was a Republican, he was opposed to Black nationalism, and he was an integrationist. He had been in the Coast Guard for twenty years. But, he also knew a good thing when he saw it.

A charismatic, handsome, articulate Black leader who had a controversial past as a hustler, a pimp, a drug addict, a numbers runner, “Detroit Red,” “Little Gangster,” “Little Bugsy Siegel,” who supposedly terrorized the Harlem community in the 1940s and went to jail and was given ten years in prison. He goes through a metamorphosis, he becomes a Black Muslim, he comes out, he explodes onto the scene. He creates seventy to eighty new mosques in less than ten years, turns a small sect of 400 people into fifty- to one hundred thousand by 1960–62. Then, he turns more overtly to politics, he breaks from the Nation of Islam (NOI), he builds two new organizations, the Muslim Mosque Incorporated in March 1964 and the Organization of Afro-American Unity in May 1964. He goes to Africa and the Mideast. He is treated as the head of state. He is welcomed at the Fateh by the Saudi royal household. He sits down with Gamal, eats breakfast with Anwar Sadat in Egypt. He caucuses and meets and gets to know Che Guevara while he’s in Africa, as he alludes to in a talk in 1964 at the Audubon Ballroom. So Malcolm is this extraordinary figure, dies at the age of thirty-nine. It’s a hell of a story. Haley understood that. And so, it was on those terms he agreed to work with Malcolm to write the book. But, what Malcolm didn’t know was that Haley already was compromised and had basically been a purveyor of information—a kind of, not informant, but a client of the FBI in this disinformation campaign against the NOI. Haley had collaborated with the FBI. Malcolm never knew that. In the summer of sixty-four when Malcolm was in Egypt, Haley was taking the book manuscript and giving it to an attorney, William O’Dwyer, rewriting passages of the book trying to get it passed as Malcolm’s survey. Malcolm’s on the run, people are trying to kill him, they’re trying to poison him in Egypt. He’s not going to have time to look at the book carefully. Then, he dies.

Haley adds a seventy-nine-page appendix to the book where he has his own integrationist and liberal Republican interpretation. And then, they have M.S. Handler of the New York Times writing in the front of the book. I mean, you know Malcolm respected Handler. But this is not who you want to lead in to a Black revolutionary’s text. So Haley did a variety of things to reframe the book. And, toward the end of the book, there’s a lot of language in it that simply doesn’t sound like Malcolm. It doesn’t sound like him. There’s a lot of information that is just wrong in the book. They misspelled “As-Salamu Alaykum” several times. They give the story of Johnson Hinton. They have Hinton Johnson. They put the date of this very tragic beating of this brother who’s in the Nation, Brother Johnson, in 1959, rather than the year it actually occurred, which was April 1957. So there are simple mistakes in dates, of names, events that clearly show Malcolm did not have access to the final manuscript. He didn’t see it. And it was published nine months after Malcolm’s death. Betty Shabazz was in no shape to check and recheck facts. So all that says to me is you have to read the autobiography very, very carefully, very suspiciously. It’s a wonderful book. It is a great work of literature. But it is a work of literature. It is not an autobiography. It’s a memoir. And it’s gone through the prism of Haley who was a Republican, integrationist, and a defender of U.S. power. You should read the anticommunist articles he wrote for the Reader’s Guide in the mid-fifties on Hungary. This is the man you’re dealing with. So we must be very careful. I learned I had to deconstruct the autobiography to write the biography. If you go to, you will see my biography, the architecture of that, and how I had to deconstruct the autobiography. That’s why we put up the Web site.

WHAT DO you suspect is contained in these missing three chapters?

WELL, I’VE seen them for about fifteen minutes. I met with Gregory. I’ve written about this in my book, Living Black History, which came out last year. Living Black History has a whole chapter on this. I couldn’t use it in the autobiography, but I had to tell the story to somebody. I talked with Gregory on the phone. He’s an attorney. He bought it for $100,000. He wanted to make money off of the material. So I phone him up, we talk. He says, “Fly out to Detroit. Meet with me. Come to my law office. There, I’ll show you the chapters.” As honesty suggests, I get to Detroit. He said, “Don’t come to my office. Are you downtown?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Meet me at this restaurant in an hour.” I go there. He’s about a half hour late. He eventually shows up. And he’s carrying a briefcase. And then he said, “I’ll let you see these for fifteen minutes.” I’ve flown from New York and I have fifteen minutes to read the text. “I’ll let you sit here and read them and I’ll leave and I’ll come back.”

I’m sitting here frantically reading these pages. But it only takes me a few minutes to recognize what they are. They were obviously written sometime between August 1963 to December 1963. There’s a presumption in the text that Malcolm is still in the Nation of Islam. So he hasn’t broken with the Nation yet. What they call for is the construction of an unprecedented Black united front, uniting all Black organizations, led by, get this, the Nation of Islam. So Malcolm is envisioning the Nation actively participating in antiracist struggles and building various types of capacities: economic strategies, housing strategies, health-care strategies with the NAACP, with the Urban League, with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). So he wanted to push this religious kind of semi-Islamic organization into Black civil society in an aggressive way. He wanted to open up the Nation. And, I strongly suspect that Malcolm’s drive and push to reach out to the civil rights community and SNCC and CORE is what got him into trouble inside of the NOI, because the bulk of the NOI had been thoroughly against Malcolm’s proselytization efforts that brought in tens of thousands of new members. The old guard felt threatened by that. Then on top of that, since April 1962, the turning point in Malcolm’s career was the murder of Ronald Stokes in the Nation of Islam’s mosque in Los Angeles. Malcolm flies out to LA and spends over a week there and he calls for a grand coalition, very much like the coalition he talked about in the deleted chapters, with CORE, the NAACP, with SNCC that would be anti-police violence against Black people. And, he was talking about the Nation of Islam participating in that coalition. Elijah Muhammad said “time out,” called Malcolm down and said “you better chill that out and get the hell out of Los Angeles.” Malcolm was deeply embarrassed and humiliated that they had to end the mobilization after they had a member murdered by the LAPD. Other men in the Nation in the mosque were dragged outside, strip-searched naked to humiliate them. And Malcolm had mobilized people and he had to back down.

Malcolm came back to New York and by July 1962 is speaking at a Local 1199 union protest. I have a photo of him speaking at a protest rally in July for the labor union, King’s favorite union, 1199, the largest union today in New York City. In Christmas time in 1962, two members of the Nation, who were selling Muhammad Speaks in Times Square, get arrested by the police. How does Malcolm respond? He puts 140 to 150 Fruit of Islam members—the paramilitary organization, the men in the NOI—demonstrating in Times Square on New Year’s Day. Elijah Muhammad called for no demonstrations, no overt political activity. That’s not what Malcolm’s doing. That’s exactly what he’s doing. And he starts doing that a year and a half before the silencing, before the break.

So you know what happens? The Nation of Islam’s newspaper Muhammad Speaks in late 1962 stops covering Malcolm X. If you go through methodically the last year from December 1962 through December 1963, guess what? You see Malcolm once in his own newspaper. And he’s the national spokesman. You see him more often in the New York Times. And this is like a year before the break. So you can already see where he’s going. It doesn’t take a mind reader to see that Elijah Muhammad only used the “chickens coming home to roost” statement [by Malcolm X, in response to John F. Kennedy’s November 1963 assassination] as an excuse to do what they wanted to do, which was to eliminate Malcolm’s influence, curb his politics. I think that they believed he would submit. Most of Malcolm’s closest followers within the Nation thought he would also submit. They weren’t prepared for a break. Malcolm contemplated a break. I think maybe he wasn’t prepared either. But he did anticipate a possibility of it.

He began, in early 1964, talking with a number of people outside of the Nation of Islam to develop the OAAU, the Organization of Afro-American Unity. When he left the Nation, very few members of the NOI went with him, perhaps maybe 100. The mosque in Harlem had as many as 7,000 members. Only 100–150 left. They became the Muslim Mosque Incorporated (MMI), and Sunni Muslims. But the OAAU was the secular organization with largely working-class and middle-class Blacks and many professionals, writers like Huey and Mayfield, historians like John Henrik Clark. The key organizer was Lynn Shifflet of NBC News, a producer, a young Black woman in her late twenties. There were real tensions between the OAAU and the MMI over ideology and their relationship to Malcolm, because Malcolm increasingly was moving toward the politics of the OAAU, away from the MMI, even though these were people who had put their lives on the line to leave the NOI out of personal loyalty to him. So there were tremendous tensions between these two groups, which I will document in the biography.

SO THE Organization of Afro-American Unity really is the culmination of, or the product of, the development of Malcolm’s thought that was written about by Haley in these last three chapters?

THE CHAPTERS that are missing are written prior to the split. Haley says that Malcolm changed his mind after he went to Mecca and decided to deep-six the chapters. Maybe that’s true. We’ll never know. What is true is that it would be nice to print the things that were deleted, put an addendum and appendix on the autobiography. It would be nice to see it. Well I’m not sure. Don’t hold your breath. I saw it for fifteen minutes. Maybe I’m the lucky one. But eventually they will appear. We will see them.

There has been an active suppression of Malcolm’s work and his intellectual legacy for more than forty years. And the suppression has been deliberate and for various reasons. First, many of the key people in his entourage in the Nation and in the OAAU had to go underground. I just interviewed this week James 67X Shabazz (Abdullah Razzaq) who went underground and lived in Guyana for nineteen years, because he was threatened with murder and also threatened by the FBI. So it’s only now in his mid-seventies that he’s returned to the United States several months a year. He lives in Brooklyn with his son. James 67X was Malcolm’s chief-of-staff and his secretary for many years. The others who were closest to Malcolm are now dead. There is Herman Ferguson who is the best eyewitness to the murder. I’ve interviewed him several times and I’m interviewing him once more next week, which will be fun. His eyewitness to the murder, his recount to me, which has partially been published in my journal Souls, is absolutely stunning and it raises many questions about the assassination.

We have, over the last seven years, worked very hard to develop a forensic accounting of the murder. And, we believe we have figured out how the murder took place. That is, the forensics of it. We think we know how that happened. We don’t know who gave the order. But I can tell you what our theory is. The murder took place on February 21, 1965, as a result of the culmination of three separate groups. There was no classic conspiracy, no direct collusion, but, rather, a convergence. Three things had to happen for the murder to take place, and they all did. Law enforcement, the FBI and the NYPD, and its Bureau of Special Services (BOSS), which was its red squad, actively wanted to do surveillance disruption of Malcolm X and possibly eliminate him; certainly the FBI, because their nightmare was seeing King and Malcolm embrace. That was their nightmare. And they realized much to their horror that they were far better off with Malcolm in the Nation of Islam than outside of it, because then he was being treated like a head of state in Africa. They had never anticipated that he would be a houseguest of a Saudi royal family, or that he would be speaking to parliaments from Kenya to Ghana to French Guinea. Malcolm goes to Alabama, three weeks before he’s murdered and reaches out to Dr. King. King is in prison after leading demonstrations. Malcolm goes to Coretta Scott King and he says, “I want you to convey to your husband my deepest respect for him and that I am not trying to undermine Dr. King’s work. My goal is to be to the left of Dr. King, to challenge institutional racism so that those in power can negotiate with King. That’s my role.” So Malcolm understood what his role was. This was the FBI’s nightmare. And so they actively wanted to curtail his influence, if not silence him permanently.

Then you have the Nation of Islam. But what people need to understand is that there were different points of view in the NOI about Malcolm. Some of the leadership, especially in Chicago, the national secretary John Ali, the national head of the Fruit of Islam Raymond Shareef, Elijah Muhammad’s son-in-law Herbert Muhammad, the sons of Elijah Muhammad, Jr., and several others wanted to silence Malcolm permanently. Joseph X, who was a captain of the Fruit of Islam and the Northeast regional security director at Mosque No. 7, formerly Malcolm’s associate and friend, as was John Ali—they actively sought to eliminate him, to blow him up with bombs, to kill him, or firebomb his home or whatever. But other members of the Nation of Islam were against the murder and it is questionable if Elijah Muhammad ever gave the order. It could have been a situation very much like Henry II and Thomas Becket where somebody’s ridding him of his priest. So he doesn’t have to give the order, but the deed is done. It’s understood what needs to be done. But he doesn’t technically give the order.

Then there’s a third group and that’s Malcolm’s own entourage. There were police informants in the group. Gene Roberts who tries to resuscitate Malcolm after he’s shot is an NYPD police officer. He’s a police officer who walks right directly out of the line of fire only seconds before the fuselage goes off—maybe by accident, maybe by design. What is true is that whenever Malcolm spoke, there were at least two dozen cops. There were only two police officers in the Audubon that day and they were assigned as far away in the distance as possible in the building. They were in the rows, in very small-rows in a ballroom adjacent to the large grand ballroom, but separated by a wall and then a vestibule. It was impossible for them to protect Malcolm. There was one police officer in a small park directly across the street from the entrance of the Audubon. No other police officers. They’d been pulled back to the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital four blocks away. No captain, and the guard is usually sitting in the second floor in a booth where they collect money that directly faces the ballroom. You have to walk right past it to get out of the building. No police in the building. Why?

Malcolm gets shot. The hospital, they try to get the ambulance. They can’t get an ambulance. It’s only four blocks away. So men run to the hospital’s emergency room, grab a gurney, and carry his body in a gurney in the street. Seems odd, doesn’t it? His own men, no one checks for weapons at the door. None of the guards are armed. I’ve gone through New York’s Municipal Archives, the police reports of all the guards that day, of every guard. We’ve gone through all that. We know who they were and their names and the changes of the guards. There were three changes of the guards. One around 2:00, one around 2:30, and one about 2:55. We know that several people who were guarding Malcolm that day were not generally part of the OAAU and were assigned to sensitive positions. Guards like William George, who normally guarded Malcolm on the roster were assigned to be as far away from him as possible that day at the front of the building, not next to Malcolm on the rush. The guards who were there rolled out of the way. And Malcolm was naked and alone on the stage.

There’s only one man who could have placed the guards there that way and that was Malcolm’s head of security, Reuben Francis. Francis is the one who does shoot Hayer, who did indeed shoot Malcolm. But Hayer is interviewed very briefly by the NYPD, he’s arrested briefly. They let him go on bond. Then he disappears off planet Earth. And the FBI said, “We can’t find him. We believe he’s in Mexico.” But prior to his disappearance, he’s not even called to the grand jury, even though he’s the only one who shot anybody who was an assassin.

The NYPD doesn’t even interview Capt. Joseph, the head of the Fruit of Islam, at Mosque No. 7, even though, to a room of over 120 people, he cold orders Malcolm’s death. There are witnesses to this. And the FBI doesn’t interview him? We found a folder that said Joseph X and it was empty. There were six men who killed Malcolm, not three. Two of the men who were incarcerated and given life sentences were innocent, Norman Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson. They were innocent. They were sent to prison for life. Why? They weren’t even physically there. Johnson used to be Malcolm’s chauffeur. He used to stand out in the rain in front of Mosque No. 7 or in the snow, holding and reserving a parking space for Malcolm when he drove up. He used to phone him and tell him that he was coming before he arrived. Once a month, he went to go grocery shopping for Betty, Malcolm’s wife. You would know this guy if he came to kill you. Everybody would’ve known him if he had walked into the Audubon that day. He wasn’t there that day. Butler was an enforcer for Capt. Joseph. He was a notorious thug in the Nation. They would have known if they walked into the Audubon that day. The two men weren’t there that day and yet they were convicted of murdering Malcolm X. Why?

I believe the district attorney was protecting informants within Malcolm’s group and within the NOI. And perhaps some of those informants were collaborators and committed the crime. So they convicted the wrong people to cover and protect the anonymity of their own agents. That’s a theory. I can’t prove it, but I think we ought to explore it and we should reopen this case. And, hopefully my book will help reopen it. William Kunstler tried to reopen it back in 1977–78 and he failed because he didn’t have the evidence I have. Hopefully, we can reopen it again.

THE DOMINANT understanding of Malcolm’s life and meaning in mainstream American popular culture really comes from two sources: Haley and Spike Lee’s film. Spike Lee’s interpretation of the assassination shows a Malcolm, who seems to be prepared for his own martyrdom and orders his guards not to be armed on that day, in a way that King with his mountaintop speech also appears to be prepared for what he seems to think is his inevitable fate. Is that a damaging interpretation?

NO, IT’S not and it may be true. Malcolm clearly knew he was going to die. He didn’t know when and I strongly suspect that Malcolm was not going to run away from death and he had the courage to face death. Not that he wanted to die, he didn’t have a death wish. But he had the courage to face death. There is a story, a very influential legend within Shia Islam, about Ali and his grandson Husayn, both of whom perished in a kind of murder in the cathedral, in the case of Ali in the mosque, and in his grandson’s case at Karbala where he was killed in, I believe, 682 in common era. About four years later, women came to Karbala, in today’s Iraq, and began to beat themselves and lament that they had not protected the grandson of Ali. In Shia, Ali is the Shia that we have today. They still gather every year at Karbala. Now hundreds of thousands and maybe a million people lament the events of Karbala. There is nothing greater in Shia Islam than martyrdom, the embrace of death for a higher belief. And to some extent, I think that Malcolm embodied that at that moment. Not that he sought death, but that he did not fear it. That he saw in his martyrdom a way to transcend death that there would be a life after death. I’m sure he was familiar with the legend. Who knows? Perhaps that influenced his actions.

WHAT WILL your biography broadly do to assert a new Malcolm X, itself a reinvention of Malcolm X, as your book is titled, because he reinvented himself many times? What will it do to displace Haley and Spike Lee as the dominant understanding of Malcolm X’s life and meaning?

THERE ARE three core things in the book. The first is what I call a kind of a life of reinvention. Malcolm’s tale is a hero’s tale that’s not unlike Odysseus—a story of travel, of learning, of experience, of ordeals and tests, a classic kind of hero story. It’s a classic Greek story, which frequently or usually ends in death. But at the end, there’s a broader, richer, deeper, critical consciousness that’s achieved. The thing about that story is that Malcolm’s growth comes through a series of artful creative reinventions. He reinvents himself even to the point these reinventions have different names. He was “Jack Carlton” in the summer of 1944. When he was nineteen years old, he wanted to break into show biz and he was at Lobster Pond bar on Forty-Second Street in Midtown Manhattan working as a drummer and professional dancer for about three or four months. He doesn’t write about that in the autobiography. You just have to find out about that. He worked in a bar and grill in Harlem, Jimmy’s Chicken Shack, alongside of the funniest dishwasher and server in Harlem, a guy who had red hair. Malcolm had red hair. So they called Malcolm “Detroit Red” cause nobody had ever heard of Lansing, Michigan, and they called the brother from Chicago “Chicago Red.” His last name was Sanford. We know him today better as Red Foxx, the comedian. So Malcolm and Red Foxx worked in the same restaurant in 1943 and early 1944. He does mention something of this in the autobiography. Malcolm in prison called himself at times Malachi Shabazz. He was Malcolm X. He was El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. He had many, many different names: “Detroit Red,” “Homeboy,” “Mascot,” “Satan” when he was in prison. Yet, through these transformations, he was able to navigate brilliantly a life of reinvention.

What makes Malcolm different from every signature Black figure in American history is that he combines the two central characters of Black folk culture. He is both the trickster and the minister. He’s both. That’s “Detroit Red”—the hustler, the gambler, the outlaw. And, he is also the minister who saves souls, who redeems lives, who heals the sick, who raises the dead. He’s both. King is one. Jesse Jackson is one. Malcolm’s both and he understood the streets and the lumpen proletariat. I hate that phrase, but it comes from Marx. As well as, he saw himself as a minister and an Amun, a cleric. He was always this. And he embodied the cultural spirit of Black folk better than anyone else. When I asked one student about a decade ago, “What was the fundamental difference between Malcolm and Martin?” He said, “Dr. Marable, that’s easy. Martin Luther King, Jr., belongs to the entire world. Malcolm X belongs to us.” There is a tremendous degree of identification on the part of people of African descent, and globally on the part of Muslims, invested in the figure of Malcolm. The very first postage stamp honoring Malcolm X was issued not by the United States but by the Ayatollah Khomeini government of Iran, in 1982, by the Shia Muslims. Perhaps they knew something that everybody else didn’t know.
The second theme in the book is a spiritual journey and Malcolm’s growth in a spiritual sojourn from the periphery of Islam represented by the Nation of Islam to Sunni Islam. There was a price in the journey because he also had to embrace Nasser’s definition of what Islam was in the Pan Arab world. So we have some excellent very interesting articles and speeches Malcolm gave in Cairo. The writings that he did, very critical of the state of Israel in the summer and September 1964, cast Malcolm in a very interesting kind of light as it relates to the Arab struggle and the Palestinian struggle, that heretofore, in the United States, we have rarely seen.

The third theme is betrayal. Malcolm had a capacity ethnographically to read an audience better than any public speaker of his generation. He knew people. He could walk into an audience, read it and give a brilliant address. He could debate at Harvard and Oxford, as well as on 125th Street and Lenox Avenue/Seventh Avenue. He was just a remarkable public speaker. But where his failure came was his consistent inability to make critical accurate judgments of the people closest to him who would betray him. And those included his two brothers Philbert and Wilfred Little who sided with Elijah Muhammad against Malcolm; his chief protégé Louis X/Louis Farrakhan who proclaimed Malcolm to be a man worthy of death, who led the jackal’s course leading to his murder. How do we explain Farrakhan? I sat down with Louis for nine hours in an interview a year and a half ago. We had a fascinating conversation about it. The question I ruminate over is, how much of it is true? Then we have Joseph X, the leader of the Fruit of Islam at Mosque No. 7, who Malcolm had promoted, pulled out of the gutter in Detroit in 1952–53, raised him up to be his chief right-hand person, who then would be betray and try to murder him. John Ali, who had been Malcolm’s secretary at Mosque No. 7, who he promoted to the national leadership, who then conspired to murder him. A variety of people. His closest personal friend Charles Kenyatta had been turned out by the police and was probably a police agent, Malcolm’s best friend, which I’ve only just discovered last week because I just got the file. We have some interesting info. So I think between this data and the other things, a big chunk of the book is about the forensic discussion of the murder and our theory of the murder. I think people will have more than enough information.

LET’S BRING this full circle. We’re now sitting in your office in 2007 in Bloom?berg’s New York. We’ve gone through a period of social cleansing that was Giuliani’s New York, characterized by police brutality, intense gentrification, privatization of public housing. And I was today at Friday Juma at the Malcolm Shabazz Mosque in Harlem and the message today was one about homosexuality, as an abnormal and immoral practice. The other message was about self-help and the idea of the community needing to raise itself up and take care of its own problems. What does the Malcolm X of your book say to this current political economic conjuncture?

WELL, AN honest representation of Malcolm should show the whole person and his trajectory and his evolution. The trajectory of Malcolm was increasingly anti-corporate capitalist. He talked about the need not to appeal to the United States to redress grievances, but to take the criminal to court, that is, the court of world opinion at the United Nations. He called for what is today known as a South-South dialogue, that is, between the Caribbean, Blacks in Latin America, Africa, and South Asia that would span across continents that would be in part Arab and Muslim, and part Black and Brown. And, he envisioned a global kind of jihad of worlds against Western imperialism and a need for people who had experienced colonialism to take back the power through international bodies that built broad-based unity transnationally. That was what Malcolm’s politics were. It was not bootstrap capitalism, nor was it gentrification. Nevertheless, once you’re dead, your image is up for grabs. By 1972, Richard Nixon had invited, and Betty Shabazz had agreed to be on the dais of the re-elect Richard M. Nixon for president dinner party in Washington, D.C. This was only six or seven years after Malcolm X’s assassination. So once you’re murdered, you can’t control what people who had some sort of relationship to you—whether they’re married to you, or they’re political affiliates or associates—what choices they make. Sad but true. It is particularly sad that from the masjid or mosque, one hears a kind of message that’s more appropriate to Booker T. Washington than Malcolm X. But, nevertheless, the struggle continues.

The Latest From The Private Bradley Manning Website- A List Of Solidartiy Actions For April 9th and 10th 2011- Free Bradley Manning Now!

Click on the headline to link to a Private Bradley Manning website entry for the solidarity activities scheduled for the weekend of April 9-10, 2011.

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Free Bradley Manning Now!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

From The Free Jaan Laaman Blog- The April Actions

From The Free Jaan Laaman Blog- The April Actions

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Free Jaan Laaman and Tom Manning Now!

From The Renegade Eye Blog-The nature of the Gaddafi regime – historical background notes

The nature of the Gaddafi regime – historical background notes
Written by Fred Weston
Wednesday, 06 April 2011

We provide a brief historical outline of the development of the Gaddafi regime from the bourgeois Arab nationalism of the early days, to the period of so-called Islamic socialism, to the recent period of opening up to foreign investment, with major concessions to multinational corporations and the beginnings of widespread privatisations.

Gaddafi came to power in a young officers ´coup in 1969, which was clearly influenced by the panarabism of Nasser’s Egypt. Under the previous rule of King Idris, Libya had been totally under the thumb of imperialism. He became associated with the Free Officers' movement, a group of junior officers in the Libyan Army who had a deep sense of anger and shame at seeing the Arab armies defeated in the 1967 war with Israel. Gaddafi's aim was to modernise Libya and develop the economy. However, as he attempted to do this on a capitalist basis he came into conflict with the interests of the imperialists, for example taking over the property of former Italian colonisers or, as in 1971, nationalising the assets of British Petroleum. In the process he also expelled US bases from Libya.

Retaliatory measures by the British government contributed to pushing Gaddafi to seek economic help from the Soviet Union. This came in 1972 when the Soviet Union signed a deal with Libya to help develop its oil industry.

During the same period, however, Gaddafi was very clear in expressing his anti-Communism. In 1971, he sent a plane full of Sudanese Communists back to Sudan where they were executed by Nimeiry. In 1973 the regime published an official document to commemorate the fourth anniversary of Gaddafi’s rise to power, under the title “Holy War Against Communism” in which we read that, “the biggest threat facing man nowadays is the communist theory.”

The Nixon administration, in spite of Gaddafi having expelled US bases, saw him as a beneficial influence in the Arab world, precisely because of his anti-communism. This was expressed also on the international arena. Initially Gaddafi was not pleased at Egypt’s close relationship with the Soviet Union. In the Yemen he was for unification of the North and South, but on the basis that the South should abandon its pro-Moscow stance. He supported Pakistan against India in the 1971 war on the basis that India was aligned with the Soviet Union.

What produced a radical change in Gaddafi’s stance was the worldwide recession of 1974. This had deep repercussions within Libya, leading to growing social unrest. This in turn produced divisions within the regime, with some sections reflecting the interests of the weak capitalist elements within Libyan society, while Gaddafi himself proceeded to move against these elements.

The inability of the nascent Libyan bourgeois to develop the economy, led Gaddafi to shift from his earlier policy of attempting to develop indigenous Libyan capitalism to what was to become an economy dominated by state owned enterprises.

Some of the army officers involved in the initial 1969 coup against the monarchy that brought Gaddafi to power broke with him on this specific question and organised an attempted coup in 1975 to try and stop his programme of nationalisations.

Some of these are now playing a role in trying to overthrow Gaddafi today, such as Omar Mokhtar El-Hariri the newly appointed Minister of Military Affairs in the present Interim Government of the opposition.

Gaddafi successfully crushed the 1975 coup and proceeded subsequently with his programme. He ended up by taking over most of the economy and leaning towards the Soviet Union. By 1979 the private sector had been almost completely eliminated.

Gaddafi's Green BookTo provide some kind of ideological backing to what he was doing, he wrote the first part of his famous Green Book in 1975 and in 1977 he changed the official name of the country to the “Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya”, Jamahiriya meaning the “state of the masses”. In his book he presents his version of “socialism”, an Islamic version that rather than viewing the class struggle as the key to moving society forward, sees the class struggle as a dangerous deviation. In effect his book was simply a cover for a regime that allowed no freedom of organisation or strike for the workers, but claimed to be building some kind of socialism, which of course it was not.

It was in this period that some groups on the left became open cheer-leaders for Gaddafi, uncritically supporting his regime. This ignored some not unimportant details. For example, in 1969 Gaddafi had banned independent trade unions and strikes were completely banned a few years later. Once real labour organisations had been banned, state-controlled “unions” were set up. What was thus created was a totalitarian regime, under the tight control of Gaddafi himself.

In spite of this brutal dictatorship, a combination of large oil reserves, and thus income, and a large public sector, allowed for the development of an extensive welfare state. In this we have to understand that Gaddafi was able to build a significant base of support for himself among the population. Some of that support has survived to this day as we can see in Tripoli and other areas of the country.

A layer of the population, particularly among the older generation, will remember what it was like under King Idris and will also recall how Libya developed subsequently under Gaddafi.

F-14 preparing for mission in 1986. Photo: PHAN David Casper, USNSince then, however, many important changes have taken place on a world scale that deeply affected Libya. A key element was the fall of the Soviet Union and its East European satellites that ushered in the return to capitalism in all these countries. These events had a major impact on the direction taken by China towards capitalism. How could a small country like Libya escape such a process?

It is in fact in 1993 that we see the first tentative steps of the regime to begin a process of “economic liberalisation” or “infitah” as it was known. Decree No.491 in 1993 allowed for the liberalization of the wholesale trade. This was followed later that year and in 1994 with legal guarantees to cover foreign capital investment as well as the convertibility of the Libyan Dinar.

However, it is also true to say that although the intention was there, in practice this led to very little movement in the direction of full-fledged privatisation. The main beneficiaries of the nationalised economy, the middle and senior managers, the officer caste, the technocrats who ran the oil industry as well as the state bureaucrats, had little interest in changing the status quo.

The relative independence that Libya enjoyed while the Soviet Union existed determined the conflict with imperialism that put Libya in the position of being classed as a “rogue state” together with other regimes such as that of the Ayatollahs in Iran or of Serbia under Milosevic. In 1986, Reagan ordered a bombing raid against Libya with the declared aim of killing Gaddafi. He survived, but the raid caused some 60 victims. The 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland also helped to provide the excuse for the sanctions that were imposed on the country. This, together with falling oil prices in the nineties and into the early 2000s, caused significant economic pain to the country. The 2003 invasion of Iraq by imperialism, leading to the death of Saddam Hussein and the overthrow of his regime served also as strong pressure towards abandoning any pretence of an anti-imperialist stance. The excuse for the invasion of Iraq had been the alleged presence of weapons of mass destruction, something imperialist powers were also accusing Libya of. The combination of all these factors is what determined a radical shift in policy.

In June 2003 Shukri Ghanem, considered a “reformist”, i.e. a free marketer in favour of privatisations, was appointed as Prime Minister. In the same year Decision No.31 put forward the proposal for 360 state owned enterprises to be privatised over a period from January 2004 to December 2008. By the end of 2004, 41 enterprises had already been privatised. This was slower than expected, but the process had clearly begun. As part of this process in January 2007 the Libyan government announced plans to lay off 400,000 public sector workers, more than one-third of the overall government workforce.

In December 2003, Libya renounced its programme to develop “weapons of mass destruction”. This was just after the US had invaded Iraq. Gaddafi’s shift allowed Bush to present his policy in Iraq as one that was paying off, as a former “rogue regime” such as the Libyan was now being brought back into the fold. UN sanctions were thus lifted in 2003 and a year later the US lifted most of its sanctions also. Diplomatic relations were re-established in 2006.

As a result of all this Libya started attracting a lot of foreign direct investment, mainly in the energy sector, but also in civil engineering. Many contracts were signed giving concessions to western oil and gas companies, such as Italy’s AGIP, British Petroleum, Shell, Spain’s Repsol, France’s Total and GFD Suez, as well as US companies such as Conoco Phillips, Hess, and Occidental, Exxon and Chevron, as well as Canadian, Norwegian and other companies.

In this period the Gaddafi regime moved closer and closer to the imperialists. The press of recent years is full of stories about western businesspeople and politicians visiting Libya and making lucrative deals. An example is an article, “The Opening Of Libya”, that appeared in Business Week on March 12, 2007:

“Much of the progress [in opening up the Libyan economy] is due to an unusual partnership with Harvard Business School professor and competitiveness guru Michael E. Porter, who is advising the Libyans through Boston consultancy Monitor Group. For the past two years, more than a dozen Monitor consultants have been working in Libya, studying the economy and running a three-month leadership program intended to create a new pro-business elite (..)

“Porter was persuaded to take the job by Qaddafi's son, Saif al Islam. The former London School of Economics graduate student is a lean man who favors expensive European suits and Western-style economic reform. Since first meeting Saif at several dinners in London, Porter has traveled to Libya three times and met top government officials, including the elder Qaddafi.”

Saif al Islam, one of Gaddafi’s sons, is renowned for being in favour of “liberalising” the economy, and has been pushing for more and more “liberal” economic policies, i.e. greater privatisation! But as Business Week quoted, Saif explained that, "We need to change from a state economy to an open economy, but without it being out of control."

What Saif meant with these words was an opening up of Libya’s economy, with privatisation of state owned enterprises, but making sure that the Gaddafi family and its entourage gets the lion’s share of these enterprises in collaboration with western multinational corporations... and without renouncing the dictatorial powers of the regime itself.

Since Libya was taken off the list of “rogue states”, a whole swathe of western politicians have been to Libya, shaking hands and embracing Gaddafi... and signing excellent deals for their respective national companies.

In 2008 Berlusconi signed a deal to pay Libya US$5 billion in compensation for Italy’s colonisation of Libya in the past. Part of the deal also involved Libya policing the Mediterranean coast to stop African immigrants getting to Italy. The fact that Gaddafi used brutal means to achieve this seemed to be of no concern to western governments at the time.

This was followed by an official visit from the then US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice the same year, the first such visit since 1953. But it was Tony Blair who started the process when he visited Gaddafi back in 2004, establishing a “new relationship”... and bringing home some very lucrative oil contracts for Shell!

Thus we see how the aura of “anti-imperialism” that Gaddafi may have had in the past evaporated in the past decade. He has been collaborating fully with imperialism, de facto returning to the Gaddafi of the early 1970s. His regime has been based on making deals with imperialism and even helping them directly as the case of Italy demonstrates.

He was also helping them in their so-called “war on terror”, passing information to both the CIA and MI6 on suspected Islamic fundamentalists from Libya. A leaked cable from the US embassy in Tripoli from August 2009, described how “Libya has acted as a critical ally in US counter-terrorism efforts, and is considered one of our primary partners in combating the flow of foreign fighters”. The cable emphasised that the US-Libya “strategic partnership in this field has been highly... beneficial to both nations”. It is therefore clear that Gaddafi is not an anti-imperialist. He had become a useful collaborator of the imperialists in the recent period.

All this also explains his surprise at being attacked by NATO forces in the recent period. He felt he had done everything that he needed to do to avoid ending up like Saddam Hussein. However, because of his past, Gaddafi was never fully trusted; he was a bit of a wild card. He was collaborating yes, fully and willingly, but when the imperialist powers saw a chance of replacing him with someone even more subservient they did not hesitate in seizing the opportunity.