No 1551 24th February 2019
US Mexico wall “emergency” really about tearing up legal and constitutional restraints for American “democracy” to step on domestic resistance to escalating US isolationist belligerence and trade war. Trumpite path increasingly resembles the ascent of Hitler’s Nazis, elected by democratic mechanisms then used to impose draconian dictatorship. This is no “maverick” course but the inevitable path of bourgeois monopoly capitalist rule, as it faces rapidly deepening crisis, soon to return again as the full Catastrophic meltdown of 2008, held back only by subsequent swamping credit “creation” through valueless QE and tax cuts. Dollar collapse or similar cannot be held off much longer. But fascism shows disastrous weakness, tearing up the democratic façade which is capitalism’s most effective tool to fool the masses. Its illusions, tragically maintained by revisionist “leftism” and Trotskyist anti-communism still hold back the revolutionary struggle, hampering the Venezuelan masses for example threatened by bloody US invasion
However ludicrous appalled bourgeois liberal opinion declares Donald Trump’s “state of emergency”, to get his anti-immigrant wall built on the Mexican border, it makes perfect sense in the only context that matters, the devastating collapse of the world capitalist system.
That is to say, only a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary perspective of insoluble world crisis can begin to make sense of such seemingly insane unfolding developments.
Trump and his cronies’ bullying moves are really about trampling across the legal and constitutional principles of American “democracy” using scaremongering about non-existent “external threats” (migrants, Venezuela, ISIS, Iran) and internal “enemies” (FBI, other agencies, the legal system), beating up “fake news folks” and satirists, and demonising tepid liberals and “left” democrats as “dangerous socialists” - as if!! - along with constant seemingly arbitrary shake-ups and personnel changes to keep everything on the hop, fragmented and disoriented.
It all increasingly resembles Adolph Hitler’s consolidation of power in the early 1930s - also elected during a devastating Slump by the “democratic” system itself, before shutting it down in order to drive the whole world to war (with the tacit support of all imperialism).
That is exactly what it is going on now whether or not this particularly American huckster-flavoured turn to repression, isolationism and belligerence in all directions, be called incipient “Nazism” or not.
Fascism never meant shiny jackboots, but the stripping away of as many layers of the “democracy” façade as needed to ensure the crisis-pressed bourgeoisie could hold onto its dictatorship control of wealth and exploitation, the permanent underlying reality of all bourgeois democracy even the “nicest” or most “open” during boomtime periods.
All the handwringing and outrage about breaking the rules, ignoring the law and bypassing Congress, is revealed to be so much impotence because there is nothing that the “opposition” can do about it – unless they challenge this power grab directly.
But that would mean unleashing all kinds of popular and class forces outside the boundaries of “the constitution” and the “democratic way”.
And those could – almost certainly would – steadily and necessarily head in a revolutionary direction, a Pandora’s Box of potential class war that is the last thing that any of the conventional bourgeoisie wants or dares to open, however dismayed by Trumpite crudity (as the elegant German patricians so despised, but tolerated, the Hitler crew).
So they fluster:
On Friday, Donald Trump declared a national emergency to gain additional funds for his much promised border wall, bypassing Congress and raiding the Pentagon for $3.6bn, already a legally dubious proposition in the eyes of the justice department. So much for Mexico paying.
Once upon a time, Trump and his legal minions brayed against unilateral executive actions, calling them tyrannical. Not any more. Barack Obama is out of the White House. Hail Caesar, hello his praetorian.
Take Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer. In April 2016, in a brief to the supreme court attacking Obama’s unilateral expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program, Sekulow painted Obama as a despot.
Echoing James Madison, founding father and fourth president, Sekulow thundered that the “accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judiciary, in the same hands … may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny”. He also compared Obama and his executive order to Harry Truman’s unconstitutional seizure of America’s steel mills during the Korean war.
According to Sekulow, Truman “violated controlling precedent and abdicated [his] constitutional duty to faithfully execute the law”.
In other words, by expanding Daca without a congressional green light, Obama had committed an impeachable offense.
There is also Noel Francisco, now Trump’s solicitor general, the man charged with representing the government before the supreme court. In the Obama years, as a private litigator, he successfully contended that the president could not thwart the Senate’s power to approve presidential nominations by resorting to the “recess appointment” process when Congress was actually in session.
“As much as presidents may desire an escape-hatch from Senate confirmation, the constitution does not provide one”, Francisco wrote. Channeling his inner Cicero, he added that the separation of powers between the president and Congress “protects against the abuse of power” that “is critical to preserving liberty”.
Completing this tableau, Sekulow and his client, then House speaker John Boehner, sided with Francisco. As for Senator Mitch McConnell and 44 of his Republican colleagues, they accused Obama of seeking to “usurp” their powers.
Apparently, McConnell has since found the 30 pieces of silver that were just right for him. On Thursday, the Senate majority leader threw his weight behind the president, announcing on the floor: “I’m going to support the national emergency declaration.”
Earlier this month, McConnell voiced his opposition to Trump invoking emergency powers. Time flies.
Make no mistake, Republican politicians have embraced Trump as strongman-lite. In a 2016 radio broadcast Paul LePage, then governor of Maine, treated Trump’s authoritarian streak as a plus. “Our constitution is not only broken,” LePage declared, “but we need a Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power in our country.”
Disturbing but not surprising. From the outset, Trump’s core backers wanted a wall and a socially conservative president who felt no need to play by the rules. Except for the second amendment, everything was on the table.
Tea Party patriots decked out in tricorn hats and waving copies of the constitution – over and done with. In the words of Joe Sitt, an early Trump backer and a major player in New York real estate: “We don’t have a president, we have a king.”
Other Trump backers are less muted. Franklin Graham, the late Rev Billy Graham’s son, threatened Americans with God’s wrath if they had the temerity to criticize the president. Sarah Sanders, the president’s press secretary, gushed: “God wanted Donald Trump to become president.”
Like McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, the house minority leader, Mark Meadows, head of the Freedom Caucus, and Senator Lindsey Graham have fallen into line. Other Republicans, however, are less sanguine about Trump running roughshod over the constitution and Congress’ power over the purse.
Senator Marco Rubio found his inner straddle, saying: “We have a crisis at our southern border, but no crisis justifies violating the constitution … a future president may use this exact same tactic to impose the Green New Deal.”
In a burst of predictable handwringing, Senator Susan Collins characterized Trump’s emergency declaration as being of “dubious constitutionality. It undermines the role of Congress.”
Destroying its authority is the real purpose of all this, with the wall just the populist “justification”.
Far from being some “loose cannon” “replete with own goals” as complacent revisionism paints him, Trump is exactly what the hard core bourgeoisie needs as the capitalist system plunges towards more and more cutthroat trade war and to-the-death competitive struggle for ever more saturated world markets.
His White House is a logical step on from the New American Century aggression under George W Bush, and sinister controller vice-president Dick Cheney, cynically aiming to “shock and awe” the world into continued compliance and subservience to US world domination despite its bankruptcy, using blitzkrieg, torture and terrorising on a new scale, on top of the “routine” imperialist policing of the post-war period.
Total lies were used to deliberately start that initial war outburst from 2001 onwards, reined in only because of the ever increasing resistance from the waves of “terrorism” and “jihadism” it inevitably stirred up in an already hate-filled and resentful exploited Third World, (becoming the eventual mass revolutionary eruptions of the Arab Spring street revolt in Egypt), with US troops bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan (still!) and financial costs and domestic war fatigue escalating.
With the world economy tanking in the 2008 global bank collapse Obama-ism was a temporary withdrawal to buy time for the defeat-discredited presidency (all PC-larded with feminism, black civil rights and gay rights to sell to the craven fake-“left” delusions in the “democratic system”), though keeping the drone blasting and occupation pot boiling, backing the Libyan invasion, provoking the Syrian war and carrying out Latin American coups too, like Paraguay and Honduras, as well as backing the Saudi invasion of Yemen, potentially one of the greatest atrocities of all time with 12 million facing famine.
But far greater deliberate war is still the only answer imperialism has to its crisis Catastrophe and more urgently than ever.
The full, gigantic and unstoppable breakdown of the entire world monopoly capitalist economic system is storming shorewards like a tsunami wave - the shattering impact due any moment as the global credit implosion returns in one form or another as the bourgeoisie understand full well (and the fake-“left” essentially ignore).
Its impact has been only partially and temporarily held at bay since 2008 by Quantitative Easing’s valueless injections, and its return will now be much worse because of that insane credit, swamping the dollar even more (plus Trump’s additional tax credit multi-billions already losing their “American jobs folks” effect).
Hence the jingoism and scapegoating stirring everywhere, with Europe, and even within Europe with Brexit chauvinism; France and Italy at each others’ throats “diplomatically”; ditto the British and Spanish skirmishing around Gibraltar; East European Swastika-type reactionaries on the march; the same in Germany; viciously in power in the Ukraine as part of bogeyman anti-Russian campaigns; torn-up nuclear treaties; and arrests, naval provocations, and threats against China, to cite just a few recent incidents.
But to get the real devastation going, despite the setbacks and defeats, needs even more.
It is hard to do in a world that has already experienced the horrors of two world wars, and has been promised sunlit uplands and social progress “now the communist threat has ended” (the old Cold War lies).
So, like Hitlerism, increasing illogic and bizarre theatricality is needed to stampede public opinion into the needed aggression and hate-inducing chauvinist irrationality.
It is the only way to get past the tangles of “democracy” and the complications of its wider extension, during the relatively stable period of the Cold War and post-war “boom”, into international peace alliances, war-crimes conventions and “the rule of law” decades.
As the EPSR has many times explained, while “democracy” is a giant fraud established over centuries as the most useful tool ever invented, to disguise the real dictatorship rule of the bourgeoisie (see last issue for Lenin quote eg), its pretences have always needed some cosmetic substance at least for verisimilitude which can still trip up the ruling class.
Now all that, and the “international community” and alliance structure too, has to be torn up as the EPSR has analysed recently (see issue 1548 eg).
And why? Because far from the imperialist powers lining up against constantly demonised China and Russia alone as the obvious targets for further world domination (as existing or former communist powers), or simply suppressing left nationalism in Latin America with the foulest subversion and sanctions strangling, it is the bitter inter-imperialist conflict and deadly rivalry for markets which is the driving contradiction pushing the world towards world war.
It was the battle between the capitalist “Great Powers” for the “right” to plunder the colonies and exploit the world market, exporting capital to escape domestic “overproduction” crisis, which produced the 1914-18 World War One depravity.
These inter-capitalist antagonisms dominated the 1930s crisis too, despite the complications of the growing Soviet Union whose inspiring communism was a hated target for all the imperialists.
When the Depression finally produced a Second World War, it was German and Japanese attacks on the West which were primary, before the eventual onslaught on the Soviet Union, with the splits in the capitalist camp actually aiding the survival of the workers state through the desperate need of the “Western powers” to fend off the Nazi invasion, by allying temporarily with the USSR.
Europe is increasingly in the bombsights again, metaphorically for the moment, but more and more clearly as even the reactionary bourgeois commentators can see, as in this astonishing outburst, worth quoting in full:
The Trump administration not only dislikes the European Union, it is out to destroy it. The trip by the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to Europe last week was episode three of the onslaught, designed to play on east-west divisions within the EU. Episode one was Donald Trump’s 2017 Warsaw speech, infused with nativist nationalism. Episode two was Trump’s 2018 moves on tariffs, and his tearing up of key agreements such as the Iran nuclear deal and the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. To which should be added his open encouragements to Brexiteers, and his decision to pull out of Syria. All of the above affect European (including British) interests in very concrete ways, unlike mere tweets or insults thrown at allies.
Europe is trying to put up a resistance. Angela Merkel, Trump’s favourite political target in the EU, received a standing ovation on Saturday at the annual Munich security conference for her speech on the virtues of multilateralism. But perhaps we have yet to fully fathom what the EU is dealing with in this new Trump era. The man now whispering into Trump’s ears is John Bolton, his national security adviser. His brand of anti-EU ideology was on full display during Pompeo’s tour of Budapest, Bratislava and Warsaw.
Pompeo has done two significant things. First, he in effect took possession of this year’s 30th-anniversary celebrations of the fall of communism in eastern Europe by waxing lyrical on US closeness to nations that fought for their freedom – all the while giving a free pass to rightwing populist governments that the EU has put on notice for their democratic backsliding. Second, through his choice of destinations, Pompeo amplified divisions between countries formerly behind the iron curtain and those that weren’t. This astutely plays on sensitivities, manipulated by demagogues, that have marred the EU’s capacity to unite in recent years.
Some of it smacked of 2003 when, in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, coined the terms “old Europe” (bad) and “new Europe” (good). But one big difference today is that the European project is struggling to keep afloat; back then optimists believed it would “run the 21st century”. An article Bolton penned in 2000 helps to bring the Trump strategy into sharper focus. Headlined “Should we take global governance seriously?”, it reads today like a roadmap of the Trump administration’s intent to destroy the EU. In it, Bolton lashes out at “globalists” who seek to tie nation states into a web of international norms and agreements that restrict sovereignty. He says a truly democratic mandate can only exist at the national level. Along the way, he hammers NGOs and civil society (“which sees itself as beyond national politics”) and the “limitless” breadth of multi- or supra-national institutions. The EU, he says, is “the leading source of substantive globalist policies”.
Bolton goes further: he identifies the EU as a threat to US interests (last year Trump called it “a foe”). “European elites” are “not content alone with transferring their own national sovereignty to Brussels, they have also decided, in effect, to transfer some of ours to worldwide institutions and norms, thus making the European Union a miniature precursor to global governance”. And he depicts the EU as “tinged with a discernable anti-Americanism”.
Never mind that Trump has arguably done more to bolster anti-American sentiment in Europe than any other US leader. What this reveals is that conventional explanations often given for Trump’s attacks on the EU are only one part of the picture. Trump’s anger at the EU as a trading bloc, his tactics to boost US armament exports to the continent, as well as his personal aversion to Merkel, are but the translation of a wider ideological battle about global governance.
Beware of thinking Bolton’s 2000 writings are outdated. They will only appear so if you believe the Trump administration has no ideology whatsoever, only commercial interests. It’s true that it’s a bit of a stretch to think of Europe today as capable of challenging the US on the global stage: in comparison it is a military weakling, and has endured a decade of crises. Yet it embodies something Trump and Bolton detest. And some of its larger member states are now trying to stand up in ways that clearly irk the Trump team – as with the new mechanism to sidestep sanctions against Iran.
Meanwhile, though liberal central Europeans may hope for positive US engagement in the region – such as Pompeo’s promise to support an “independent media”, and Nato deployments facing Russia – that glosses over what I’d describe as the “newspeak” contained in last week’s visit. Words such as “freedom” and “independence” flowed from Pompeo’s mouth as he paid tribute to those who broke away from communist dictatorship. But there was no mention that the EU helped to anchor democracy. The value-based dimension of the EU is arguably stronger than that of Nato – an alliance that for years included authoritarians (think Portugal’s Salazar regime, and the Greek colonels in power in the 1960s), and does again with Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey.
Pompeo’s talk of freedom, above all, echoed Bolton’s thinking. “All Americans celebrate their own individual freedoms, and are at least well wishers for others around the world to enjoy the same freedoms,” Bolton noted in 2000. However, attacking the EU, he added that the “‘human rights’ rubric has been stretched in a variety of dimensions to become an important component of globalists’ effort to constrain and embarrass the independent exercise of both judicial and political authority by nation-states”. Today, that thinking fits perfectly with rightwing populists in Warsaw and Budapest who complain about the EU’s response to their curtailing of independent judges and media.
With less than 100 days before the European parliament election, Pompeo had dinner in Hungary with its prime minister, Viktor Orbán, who wants to redraw Europe’s political map to suit his vision of “illiberal democracy”. They may have disagreed on Russia, and it’s true Pompeo did also meet NGO representatives in Budapest, but there was little sign of divergence with Orbán over values. It’s true also that Pompeo visited Slovakia, whose government thinks of itself as a constructive member of the EU, not a disruptor. But this was possibly aimed at drawing Slovakia deeper into the embrace of European illiberals, not the other way around.
Pompeo’s visit was a vindication of the enemies of a values-based EU, and another attack on the EU’s very existence. Postwar Europe was able to build itself up as a collective project thanks to US protection and financial support. Today the EU is the target of multi-faceted political offensives from both Washington and Moscow, not just because of what it does, but what it is. The earlier Europeans take stock of this, the better.
The hypocritical blather here about “European values” is so much horsedung of course, since the point of the European Union was never one of “peace”, but of forced cooperation between the rapacious gangster bourgeois this side of the Atlantic who far from merely “cooperating with the US to fend off communism” (as the laughable shallowness of the Brexit-supporting revisionists characterise things) were trying to fend off the overwhelming financial and economic power of the USA’s rapacious monopoly gangsters by creating a market big enough to foster their own giant monopolies.
Repeated French-German talk of a European armed force, which would obviously be outside US-dominated NATO, simply underlines the point
So yes, of course Europe is a “bosses club “ as the “left” Brexiters declare and the Remainers’ support for it as such is reactionary, a point just underscored by the slimy pro-Europe Blairite MPs’ breakaway from Labour (with assorted Tories), consciously and deliberately trying to scupper even the tame “left” pretences of the Corbyn leadership.
But the issue here is that the whole of capitalism is nothing but bosses clubs and all of it heading for fascist disaster and conflict stoppable only by the most ruthless class war to overturn and end it.
It all needs bringing down and defeating, just as the Bolshevik WW1 policy was “defeat for your own ruling class”.
The Brexit split tearing open the Tories (echoed by the fractures in Labourite class collaborating stoogery) is only about which side of the inter-imperialist division offers the best hope to the moribund British ruling class, stripped of Empire and now hopelessly outclassed (and mostly bought out) by the international monopolies who will continue to dominate and exploit the working class, whether they are from Germany, Japan, India or the US.
For the “left” to get themselves caught up on either side of that argument reflects their failure to place the overall crisis of the capitalist system at the heart of all analysis, and to confront the revolutionary challenges which are more and more sharply posed for the austerity hammered working class.
Class war to bring down the whole capitalist system is the inescapable necessity as austerity tightens its grip and the fascist face of the bourgeoisie is made more obvious.
It is not done by keeping in with the European monopolies bloc while fantasising about Europe-wide “trade union pressure” for reforms, but no more is it done by swallowing the nonsense of a “standalone Britain” allowing supposed “restored sovereignty”.
What say (ie sovereignty) has the working class ever had in how things go???
Continuing to foster such illusions is to fool and mislead the working class with the same old class collaborating opportunism which has tied them to the ruling class and its system for the last 200 years through the parliamentary racket.
It plays into the hands of the most reactionary wing of the ruling class, the most patrician “Empire” elements and the “British” jingoism which leaves workers open to the influences of the very worst fascist nationalist backwardness and scapegoating.
These are the elements in the ruling class most intent on maintaining an American alliance and having the closest links to the thuggish reactionaries around Trumpism.
The general hostility to Europe expressed by the more “traditional” working class in the referendum reflects discontent and disgust with ever-worsening Slump imposed on them by the capitalist system but they are being misled if they are directed to see this as the cause of their troubles or to blame increasing closures, shutdowns and economic disruption on “the failure to carry out Brexit”.
Nor of course are they caused by Brexit, as the panicking middle-class and many state-employed workers fear, but by the collapsing markets of the world capitalist system as a whole.
The continuing uselessness and ultimately misleading treachery of the 50-shades-of-red pretences making up the fake-“left” is strongly demonstrated by this Brexit question all of them either taking sides or, for the one or two groups who ostensibly see the chauvinist traps for the working class, “abstaining” but without a hint of the revolutionary questions being raised (see EPSR 1547 and 1549).
Failure to grasp the depth of the world crisis and the ruling class degeneration it is leading to, is the problem, or rather the petty bourgeois class blinkers they all wear which prevent them wanting to see the profound depth of the crisis and, more importantly, its revolutionary implications and the need for establishing workers states, in other words, the dictatorship of the proletariat, which they hate for all their claims to be “Marxist”.
The continuing counter-revolutionary coup attempt organised by an ever-more vicious Washington against “left” orientated Venezuelan nationalism, and the reformist/revisionist “Bolivarian revolution” it is at the heart of, is further exposing this continuing uselessness of the entire fake-“left” and its reluctance or inability to grasp the revolutionary nettle particularly, still idiotically pumping out notions in “democratic change”, “left pressure”, “no to war” pacifism and “step by step” advances free of any mention of ending this degenerate and degenerated class society.
The bloodcurdling threats of military intervention and heavy handed bullying against the popular government, trying to topple the elected president Nicolás Maduro, take “normal” western skulduggery and subversion to a new level of direct and open bullying intervention in its attempts to topple this anti-imperialist regime and its locally popular pro-working class reforms.
And it makes even more urgent the question of proletarian rule which is brought right to the fore by this latest “constitutional coup” attempt, playing as it does on the “Bolivarians’” continuing illusions in bourgeois “democratic” mechanisms as the way to achieve socialism.
That has left wide open the chance for bourgeois propaganda and manipulation to pull the dirtiest of tricks, such as the laughable declaration by the Quisling “opposition” leader Juan Guaidó that he is now the “real president” backed by a dementedly Big Lie campaign to discredit Maduro, pumped out and coordinated by the world intelligence agencies’ huge disinformation departments and eagerly embraced by a craven bourgeois media worldwide.
For the moment anti-socialism (anti-communism) class interests of the bourgeoisie everywhere still override the growing splits and trade war tensions, with a non-stop deluge pouring out of lies and vilification to pretend the desperate consequences of this siege savagery are somehow the responsibility of “socialist mismanagement” instead of being the result of the global credit breakdown and the oil price collapse caused by world “capitalist mismanagement” ramped up with deliberate strangulation by sanctions, and to lyingly declare that Maduro’s still extensive support is “fraudulent”.
The grotesque nonsense of Trump’s latest speech to the fascist expatriate Venezuelan opposition in Florida - home to every gangster anti-communist from Latin America, led by the reactionary Cuban exiles – declaring he stands for “freedom and democracy” while lauding such outright violence as dropping hand-grenades on the government, (no denunciations of “terrorism” there) is clearly a sick joke from a US regime busy arming and organising the gruesome feudal gangster killers in not-remotely-“democratic” Saudi Arabia for their Yemen genocide; turning a blind eye to the 5-year military dictatorship in Thailand and its latest suppression of the opposition; supporting the endless Jewish occupation butchery of the Palestinian people and now trampling across the 200 year old American constitution.
It underscores how the increasingly open fascist turn in imperialism, is ready to tear up all pretences with these crudest of threats now being applied against the Venezuelans, via the unsubtle warnings of US troop involvement from the warmonger par excellence, national security advisor John Bolton, and the appointment of such figures as Elliott Abrams as “special envoy”, a long time “specialist” in decades of dirty wars waged by US imperialism to control its Latin American “backyard” and up to his neck in the utmost barbarity, death squad atrocity and butchery of hundreds of thousands.
No amount of “hands off” fake-“left” “support” protests or even more weasel-level opportunist “calls for dialogue”, like those from the craven Corbynites, can suffice to counter this potential onslaught of open class war savagery built on top of several years of failed but debilitating, CIA coordinated, violent middle-class “opposition demonstrations” and deliberate economic strangulation through international sanctions, market manipulation and local bourgeois sabotage by production strikes and withholding of supplies to create artificial shortages.
It will continue non-stop as it has effectively from 2002 when the CIA-local bourgeoisie organised the first black-is-white propaganda deluged coup attempt against Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chávez (EPSR No 1132-34).
But virtually the entire fake-“left” still fails to draw the crucial lessons from all this, of the need for a clear revolutionary perspective to be fought for, for Venezuela itself and for the entire international class struggle.
There can be no respite from endless sabotage and subversion for any attempts to build socialism anywhere, or even simply to improve the lot of the poor and downtrodden without total class war to end bourgeois rule and control.
Only with the most vigorous defence against non-stop counter revolution is there any chance for any struggle that tries to do so and that can only mean through a full workers state, taking all the property and holdings of the bourgeoisie into working class hands, and dismantling its state control structures (army, police, surveillance etc) and propaganda tools, and then defending this common ownership property, by the firmest class rule complete with working class security services and armed working class militias, as socialism is developed under the guidance of party led worker production committees, proletarian education and propaganda and other structures.
Without such “smashing up” of the old bourgeois state, it remains a permanent threat and source of counter-revolution exactly has been experienced throughout the “Bolivarian Revolution”, manipulated and twisted by the local bourgeoisie in cahoots with the non-stop intervention of imperialist intelligence, propaganda and finance.
No lesson remains more archetypical than the overthrow of Salvador Allende in 1973 in Chile, his revisionist delusions in peaceful and democratic paths to socialism being shattered by the bloody massacres and torture of the General Augosto Pinochet coup, killing thousands and imposing 20 years of repression (still extant in its effects to this day).
But such was the by then entrenched orthodoxy of authoritative Moscow-dominated revisionism across the world’s communist parties, built on the developing philosophical errors from at least the time of the Spanish civil war and extended post-war by Stalin’s disastrous Economic Problems analysis (declaring imperialism now so hamstrung by socialist advances it was unable to expand) that this critical lesson has been effectively ignored theoretically, (despite its brilliant local implementation in practice by remaining workers states like Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam and China).
The only challenge to such Stalinist influence has come from the even-worse biliousness of Trotskyite “opposition”, completely hostile to the workers states themselves - about as useful as using raw turpentine to “restore” an old master painting.
The question now over Venezuela is whether some partial lessons were learned at least and what impact they might have had, particularly in the trust that can be put in the military when there has not been anything other than a socialist-oriented anti-imperialism developed, and whether such nationalism invoked by Maduro has enough resilience to stand firm.
Maduro’s government is claiming defiantly that it has weathered the initial challenge from Guaidó’s stoogery and it might have slowed up the coup plot at least, as even the highly untrustworthy and deeply one-sided distortion of the bourgeois press concedes (while as always only reporting the minority middle class provocations, and only interviewing reactionaries, while ignoring the much larger working class marches and supporters):
Venezuela’s embattled leader, Nicolás Maduro, has claimed he has seen off a dramatic opposition challenge to his rule, as those efforts appeared to falter and the United States conceded it was “impossible to predict” how long he might remain in power.
In an interview with Euronews, Maduro boasted that his political foes had “failed totally” in their quest to topple him. Opponents “could march every single day of their lives” and achieve nothing, Maduro said.
Venezuela’s newly emboldened opposition continues to insist Maduro’s days are numbered, with about 50 governments now recognizing its leader, Juan Guaidó, as the country’s legitimate president.
Tens of thousands of supporters poured back on to the streets of Caracas and other major cities on Tuesday to demand the resignation of a politician they accuse of leading their oil-rich country into economic ruin.
But three weeks after Guaidó electrified the previously rudderless opposition movement by declaring himself interim leader, there are signs his campaign risks losing steam.
An anticipated mass defection of military chiefs – which opposition leaders admit is a prerequisite to Maduro’s departure – has not materialized, and Maduro’s inner-circle has begun claiming it has weathered the political storm.
“In the end, nothing will come of [this challenge]. We will prevail,” Maduro’s second-in-command, Diosdado Cabello, tweeted on Wednesday.
Addressing a congressional hearing, the US special envoy on Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, claimed “Maduro and his band of thieves” were finished. He claimed international pressure meant “there is a storm brewing inside the Maduro regime that will eventually bring it to an end”.
But while Abrams said Washington was “hopeful and confident” of Maduro’s demise he admitted it was “impossible to predict” when it might come. The US would maintain pressure “over the next weeks and months”, he added, suggesting a quick resolution is no longer expected.
Opposition leaders have spent recent days trying to dampen expectations that Maduro’s exit is imminent.
Juan Andrés Mejía, an opposition leader and Guaidó ally, admitted that goal “could take some time”.
“We want it to end very soon because we know that every day that passes by people are suffering. But Maduro still has control of the military and basically that is the reason we haven’t been able to move things forward,” he told the Guardian.
At a late-night vigil remembering students killed protesting against Maduro, another opposition leader Lilian Tintori urged Venezuela’s youth to continue their struggle. “We are on the right path with our interim president Juan Guaidó,” she insisted.
Anna Ferrera, a student leader from the Universidad Metropolitana in Caracas, said she was convinced international support meant this year’s protests would succeed where previous revolts – in 2014 and 2017 – had failed.
But even accepting this crudely propagandising “journalism” from the reactionary Guardian at face value, and that the “anticipated mass defection” (obviously meaning “CIA attempts to subvert”) has not yet happened, it leaves major doubts about the eventual political trustworthiness of the state forces or at least their resilience in the teeth of American threats.
It may be that the anti-Yanqee nationalism can mobilise at least some resistance and do significant damage to any invasion force.
Certainly Chávezism seems to have replaced elements of the army with its own people, and to have trained and armed at least some militias from the working class, which is different to the Chilean situation, where Allende simply relied on the existing military, refusing to arm the working class and on inviting Pinochet into the cabinet to “restore order”.
There are Cuban security advisers working with Caracas.
Rejecting the obvious Trojan Horse “aid” border crossing stunt by the CIA funded USAID organisation is a good sign too.
But would it not be even more important simply to arrest this treasonous Guaidó and the accomplices around him???
It is a bit late to hold back out of concern for “democratic principles” if that is the reason – the bourgeois lie machine has already painted that calumny onto Maduro.
The key question however remains just what understanding the masses are armed with, as much as with what physical weapons they might have to fight off an external aggression.
It certainly has not been with the Marxist-Leninist perspective of world crisis and class war to completely establish revolutionary dictatorship, nor one giving an understanding of the world balance of class forces within which this struggle is developing.
And it is hard to know how much of such a perspective comes in the advice and analysis from Caracas’ international allies.
What has China got to say on this outrageous subversion, and much closer to home, Havana??
The fact that the international working class is not getting to hear a full perspective from these sources, or anything remotely like it, on this and every other questions, in itself undermines confidence that the heavily revisionist influenced leadership from either of them is going to give the best advice.
Just the opposite; the bone-headed idiocies of revisionist delusions in “peace struggle” and “democratic paths” continue to prevail as is clear in the moralising condemnations of the FARC’s armed struggle in Colombia – (ironically even by Fidel Castro himself despite his own heroic leadership of the armed revolution which ignored similar revisionist CP hesitancy in the 1950s to overthrow the US stooge dictator Fulgencio Batista and established a proletarian dictatorship, whose living practical example (despite its theoretical shortcomings) has been a gigantic inspiration ever since for the world), – and their eventual persuasion to abandon the armed struggle in favour of parliamentary methods.
The result has been disastrous in Colombia as death-squad assassinations have continued of human and civil rights activists and the country has stepped up its reactionary alliance with the US by joining NATO.
It is disastrous for the Bolivarian “revolution” too, with Colombia a leading part of the potential military threat to Venezuela and providing a home for US military bases which are even more of a threat.
The guidance for the rest of the “Bolivarian Revolution” has not been encouraging either – starting with the naming of this wave of essentially class-collaborating left reformism as a “revolution” without raising the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat.
It has left the door wide open for the subversion and rolling back that has been underway for a decade, toppling one “left” reform government after another with a string of highly similar “legal” and “constitutional coups”, using every filthy propaganda trick, bribery, corruption and lie in the book, not to mention outright coup violence in Honduras in 2009 and the deliberately instigated rightwing “popular” violence in Nicaragua, and Bolivia, echoing almost exactly the similar CIA disruption in Venezuela.
Paraguay’s landed oligarchy toppled its “left” liberation theologist president with an impeachment; Brazil saw several years of carefully prepared “corruption” propaganda used by its much more deeply corrupt bourgeois establishment to entangle and bring down Lula and Dilma Roussef’s compromising “left” reformism with a “legal coup” to establish the nasty little fascist Jair Bolsonaro; Cristina Kirchner in Argentina was toppled by a CIA-Zionist fostered “conspiracy scandal” of supposed “Iranian links” to the murky 1994 AMIA bombing and more “corruption” allegations, installing the rightwing pro-US, austerity imposing demagogue Mauricio Macri; Ecuador’s left leaning presidency of Rafeal Correo allied to the Bolivarians, has been hijacked by US pressure on the current incumbent, the misnamed Lenín Moreno.
The real surprise is that it has taken so long for Washington to coordinate its subversion, with the unfortunate effect of reinforcing some of the delusions that electoral methods, “left-pressure” and reforms were getting somewhere, particularly in the first decade of “left” advances across South America.
That is clearly because it has had its hands full, most of all in the Middle East and against the great wave of “terrorism” and insurgency, growing steadily in the 1990s and then hugely escalated by the US turn to blitzing and torture destruction to demonstrate its ruthless determination to stay on top despite the crisis contradictions eating its domination hollow like termites.
But that only raises further criticism of the revisionist perspective which capitulated down the line to the demented nonsense of a “war on terror” by denouncing terrorism and jihadism as “morally wrong” and an unacceptable way to fight, as Havana has done and China too failing to see beyond the barmy ideology and religious nonsense, to the anti-imperialist content of this great ferment.
Chávez’s and now Maduro’s, Venezuela sits at the centre of the remaining “Bolivarian” movement and has always been the main target for imperialism’s total hatred (with Cuba’s communist workers state beyond that an even more fundamental hate objective) once it could strip away the fake-“left” alliances around it.
And while it remains to be seen if the limited nationalism from Maduro, and its “21st century socialism” garble, consciously rejecting the Marxist-Leninist perspective as “so last century”, can hold out further against the Trumpite barbarity, the Leninist understanding is that all this disastrous revisionist advice can only hamper the capacity of the working class and peasantry to coordinate its fight and be inspired with the fighting determination.
Worse still it is potentially leading it up the garden path into a coup if trust in the army is built solely on its “national honour” (just as Allende’s faith in the Chilean army was founded) and which might be different only to the extent that the army has been given a different perspective.
But there are no signs of such politics, whatever changes have been made in its ranks with Chávista loyalists.
And even if that is avoided, there will still be no end to the subversion, which imperialism will continue and escalate until it can pull off a counter-revolution, just as the press piece indicates is the Western plot.
A major question now is how far the disastrous weakening of class understanding and morale caused by such illusions will go.
In the end such revisionist flaws saw the downfall of the Soviet Union, not in “collapse” or “failure” of its workers state economy (which was still growing, with not a capitalist owner in sight until the very end) but in the abandonment of the struggle by the complacency of revisionist bureaucratic leadership around Gorbachev, the 1989-91 end result of steadily increasing revisionist philosophical retreat from revolution already showing its effects by the early 1930s despite gigantic achievements.
As the EPSR has put forwards (see eg issue No 870 10-09-96 and Perspectives for 2001), this self-liquidation by the revisionist perspective which had become entrenched after 70 years of colossal Soviet achievement, was clearly if tragically, an historical necessity.
Revisionism had saturated the world struggle despite, or in fact because of, the enormous and irreversible influence of the first workers state, built on titanic and heroic revolutionary struggle (including the Second World War defeat of fascism), giant social, scientific, military and cultural advances, and inspiring waves of further revolution throughout the 20th century.
Its liquidation proved to be the only means to clear its embedded confusions away and give space once more for the development of Marxist-Leninist revolutionary philosophy which alone can change the world and end its agonising degeneration under decaying capitalism.
But the revisionist hampering still continues, as this Latin America debacle shows, and Leninism is still not being brought to the fore.
It needs to be fought for, to avoid the Latin American struggle becoming yet another part of the same historic “clearance”.
That will not be done by the 50-shades of fake-“leftism”.
Their response on Venezuela has been the usual mixture of political “charity” and “no to war” “hands off” pacifism laced in some cases with relentless defeatism.
But as the EPSR has said before (No1086 24-04-01):
these large-scale movements of ‘left reformist pressure’, sharing the petty-bourgeois mentality of ‘sympathetic support’ for some far distant revolution or other, objectively ensure that there is little political space in the West for the only serious solidarity with revolutions abroad to flourish, the advocacy that revolution will be the only way to guarantee real progress in the home country too, in the long run.
The Marxist-Leninist understanding of ‘revolutionary solidarity’ is that what the masses elsewhere need bringing to their attention about a particular revolution is simply the fact that the power was taken BY REVOLUTION, necessary everywhere, - rather than admirable details, however splendid, of the revolution’s new universal health service, for example, and how the beastly imperialist trade blockade was making certain pharmaceuticals or other life-saving supplies impossible to obtain, etc, etc, - as important as such campaigns might also be for raising anti-imperialist political consciousness. The fact that planned public ownership and a socialist philosophy of equal treatment can produce far better social services than the market in the right circumstances, - is NOT a secret, not to any majority area of international public perception, even in the USA. Many Western countries have flourished for decades with many publicly-owned social services.
What is a secret is that communist revolution is NECESSARY everywhere to guarantee civilisation’s progress, - EVERYWHERE, - and is also inevitable everywhere.
But it is precisely these crucial life-giving secrets for mankind that every middle-class solidarity movement that has ever existed in the West is most determined not only never to mention but to make sure that no one else ever mentions either (that might be taking part in a public meeting or helping in some other solidarity activity). This huge ‘left reformist pressure’ movement does exactly the same thing around any solidarity action with trade union disputes, invariably insisting for example “We are here to raise money for the railwaymen/Cuban hospitals/the miners/(etc) - not to discuss cranky revolutionary theories”, etc, etc.
The long Revisionist nightmare which paralysed civilisation’s revolutionary socialist progress for so long and eventually put it into reverse, had its main class support in this ‘left reformist pressure’ movement.
And that revisionism has reached almost childish levels around Venezuela with the museum Stalinists in Proletarian, still insisting it is a “war for oil”, the shallow “explanation” for everything from Iraq onwards ignoring world crisis collapse, and still demanding “action to stop the warmongering” a Stalin inspired social-pacifist nonsense for which Lenin had nothing but contempt, declaring that the only way imperialist war can be stopped is to overturn imperialism.
So far has the CPGB-ML Brarite group gone from any class understanding that it can seriously print this:
The overwhelming majority of the soldiery of all ranks are standing firm to defend their homeland and to defeat all attempts by foreign interests to take over control.
The current US agenda is in all probability to try to mobilise those governments in the region that it has bought and paid for – in particular Colombia and Brazil – to invade Venezuela to try to provide the fat-cat minority with the military might to confront the Venezuelan army and armed masses organised in colectivos, backing them up with a US bombing campaign against Venezuelan civilians and the infrastructure on which they depend – the tactic used in the failed US adventures in the middle east.
Of course, if they do launch such a war, they will fail again, but at what cost to the Venezuelan people?
Can we, the British people, proud of our sense of fair play, really stand by and do nothing to try to prevent all this happening? Although the chief aggressor is US imperialism, the British government is right up there with the cheerleaders egging them on.
Meanwhile, the Bank of England is holding $1.3bn worth of Venezuelan gold (31 tonnes) and refusing to give it back.
We must use all our ingenuity and creativity, of which we have no shortage, to pull Britain out of this atrocious and criminal war game.
“British ingenuity”!!!! “Our sense of fair play”!!!! Even the Radio 4’s shallow “Thought for the Day” vicar’s platitudes would be embarrassed by such trivial “patriotism” and rampant bourgeois nationalism.
Brains have clearly been addled by the Little Englander opportunism around the Brexit diversion, that has become the revisionist Lalkar/Proletarian’s main agenda, tailing along behind the opportunist and petty bourgeois influenced upper layers of the working class, still held back by the empire-corrupted traditions of narrow trade union class collaboration and a million miles from the revolutionary understanding they pretend to uphold.
Not only class war, but class itself has disappeared and “we” are all “good honest yeomen” now.
The same, spilling over into a gushing endorsement of “love of homeland” as the lead for the Venezuelan masses becomes completely treacherous misleadership – Pinochet might never have existed.
And the steady overturn of the “Bolivarian revolution” which they just as uncritically supported, is left unexplained; just as the Brarites leave every other mistake and error unexplained and unexamined, their own and those of their hero Stalin’s (see Unanswered Polemics EPSR Book 21).
But at least there is an attempt at boosting morale against imperialism, albeit fostering dangerous complacency, unlike the relentless defeatism ladled all over the struggle by another thread of former revisionism, long almost indistinguishable from Trotskyist poison, the Weekly Worker CPGB-ites.
Their commentary on the Guaidó stunt in Venezuela sneers highhandedly that it has always been clear that the whole experiment was a disaster, with a disdainful wave of the hand that the CPGBers effectively “could have told you that from the beginning”.
So were they at all the support rallies and meetings(?), warning of the dangers and firmly exposing rest of the fake-“left”, as they were talking up the Chávistas as a new way forwards, as nothing but “dupes” taken in by essentially a conman in Hugo Chávez who
“would tell people what they wanted to hear, quoting Trotsky to the Trotksyists and Castro to the Castroites”,
all allegedly to cover up that his
“21st century socialism was nothing but 20th century nationalism.”
Did they make all this clear to the working class as a vital and urgent lesson in clarifying revolutionary understanding?
Did they explore and analyse the weaknesses and the strengths in the advice and aid coming from the Cuban workers state, in a spirit of unconditional solidarity but comradely criticism?
Did they hell - they hate the workers states and have poured out just as much bile against them - starting with the Soviet Union – as any of the bourgeois media sewers, writing off all their great achievements as nothing but a “Stalinist nightmare”.
This retrospective pretence of a superior understanding is arrogant posturing, jostling for position in the cosy little clubby world of fake-“left” groups (which is why the WW mountebanks take them all at their self-declared face value as “revolutionaries” instead of exposing that fraudulence too).
Certainly there is plenty to criticise among all of them, as discussed, but the Weekly Worker, and its Kautskyite pursuit of abstract “democracy”, hostile to Leninist understanding of the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat, is going in entirely the wrong direction, dragging the working class back in Britain to the parliamentary racket (and like the Trot groups, supporting the treachery of bourgeois Labourism).
It is just those democratic path illusions which are the greatest weakness in the understanding of Chávism, needing the most urgent debate.
Neither is the doom laden defeatism poured out here giving the working class anywhere, in Venezuela or Britain, a clear grasp of the weakness and failures of world imperialism, split asunder by its paralysing Catastrophe.
The economic crisis is only mentioned, without any perspective of its historically shattering significance, as yet another reason to despair at the prospects for the Latin American masses – and world revolution too – and to further denigrate Chávezism for having relied so heavily on oil sales to make its reforms. Despair is larded on:
it looks like the end of the ‘Bolivarian revolution’ as we know it.
The surprise is not that Bolivarian ‘socialism’ is in a state of collapse, but that it held on for so long.
Guaidó...has been chumming up with Jair Bolsonaro ever since the latter’s election; add a fanatical middle class revolt against a left regime to a foreign-backed coup, and the result is just such a regime of foul reaction
Though the ‘Bolivarian armed forces’ are not likely to put up much resistance to the conventional army of the United States, there remains, of course, the question of winning the peace, and another protracted and bloody conflict after the fashion of Colombia or other places in the USA’s backyard in the post-war era cannot be ruled out if the Yankees are too obviously to blame. There remains the question of whether the army will even try to fight back in such a case, and Maduro’s prima facie bizarre failure to arrest his usurper - combined with frequent frantic visits to military units - suggests a level of worry about their loyalty that bodes ill.
So two decades of anti-imperialist movement and struggle across Latin America is written off and world imperialism presented once again as being invincibly and almost effortlessly in charge, the craven and cowering position always taken by these mountebanks whose petty bourgeois mindset is totally in awe of the big bourgeoisie.
Gigantic victories of anti-imperialist struggle, such as the ANC overthrow of brutal apartheid in South Africa, and the Sinn Féin/IRA Irish national-liberation victory against the British occupation in the north of Ireland have been declared “sell-outs” and defeats, and particularly because they were “nothing but nationalism” and “had not attained real socialism”.
Imperialism was allegedly firmly and easily putting down these “hotspots” said the WW.
But even though they never were socialist struggles, those and other nationalist achievements were and remain significant blows against imperialist world control.
There is still no explanation for example as to why the Good Friday Agreement remains an intractable obstacle for even the backwoodsmen of the DUP in the Brexit turmoil, if the nationalist struggle had been so firmly suppressed and absorbed in the 1990s.
The vilely insulted Chávez had a thousand times more revolutionary spirit than this crew of up-their-own-fundament poseurs.
His demagoguery and anti-theory confusions – and now Maduro’s – are major weaknesses not because the Venezuelan revolt has a large component of anti-Yanqee nationalism – if anything a possible strength as the longer quote above is forced to concede in its talk of “prolonged conflict” – but because they leave the working class bereft of Leninist grasp and prey to just the kind of poisonous anti-communism being pumped out here.
That is the real criticism to be made against one specific group, the Trotskyist International Marxist Tendency, which the WW singles out for a particular putdown, laying into it for not being sufficient wet blanket, declaring its call to “mobilise the revolutionary energy of workers and peasants” and to arm them as all “too late”, built on an
enormous overestimation of the popular support for revolutionary socialism in the Venezuelan population.
But the problem with the IMT is not calls to:
repudiate the foreign debt, expropriate the food distribution chain, give the land to the peasants and arm them to defend it; and plan the economy democratically under workers’ and peasants’ control
but that all this is demanded in a vacuum, without any notion of building revolutionary understanding and a world perspective; or even worse, in a perspective of Trotskyist hostility to the workers states.
Of course that should have started years ago – but however late it is, and whatever turmoil is undergone, such a battle for Leninism cannot be “wasted”.
Nobody can eat revolutionary energy, or drink defiance.
the doomladen Weekly Workerites intone on doomily.
But that is more or less what the Cuban revolution has done for 60 years against all the odds, and particularly in the early 1990s after the Soviet liquidation, not only surviving siege strangulation but demonstrating its huge international support and sacrifice for world anti-imperialist struggle. North Korea likewise.
But workers state class dictatorship has been critical in their survival; recognition of its importance needs to be made theoretically in the advice to the “Bolivarians”.
Back to the top
Environmental devastation, global warming, species extinction and superbug resistance are all consequences of capitalist anarchy and plundering – alongside oncoming war and Slump they are solvable only by ending this entire system
The schoolkids’ protest on global warming, and science warnings on mass species extinction, “insectageddon”, “superbug” resistance to antibiotics, fracking and plastics pollution are all telling signals of growing public alarm at the devastation wrought by capitalist society.
But these demonstrations and other “green protest”, while sincere, still fail pin down the only possible answer to these problems - the complete ending of this disgusting profiteering system and its revolutionary replacement by a communist cooperative society.
And while all these issues are profoundly serious, it is the total crisis disintegration of the monopoly capitalist system, torn apart by its internal contradictions, which ultimately underlies all this agitation.
Only the revolutionary ending of that system provides a solution to any of them.
These largely middle class eco-fears have a real basis in both current and longterm growing geophysical and biological threats to humanity.
But until they make the connection to the greed and anarchy of the capitalist system and its foul warmongering, blitzkrieging, torture and exploitation tyranny, they are also a distraction and ultimately a diversion from finding a solution (as a largely positive bourgeois press response to the demonstrators confirms).
The gross and cynical trampling across scientific consensus and alarms, by the increasingly Hitler-like Trumpism commanding the giant wealth and armed might of the US, and by stooges like Brazil’s new fascist president Jair Bolsonaro, unlocking even more rain forest destruction, genetic plundering and corporate mineral and oil piracy and pollution, make the real problem clear - the ruthless drive for international monopoly profit.
Casual and careless corporate plunder “justified” with deliberately backward philistinism and denial will prevail for as long as such profit is the underlying class-dominated rational of society and its economic foundations, only changeable by revolutionary overthrow.
Not only will “reforms” or partial measures fail to set a new course for human production, in harmony and balance with nature – even the inadequate and limited pretence of “protections” established so far (in the richer countries only), will be contemptuously torn up and the more so, the more desperately the ruling class is faced by the total Catastrophic breakdown of its system.
Even if “regulations” for social conditions, work standards, “fair taxes”, environmental limits, or anything else, could really make a permanent difference (they cannot) such restraints would be swamped by the rapidly intensifying contradictions tearing the world economy apart, forcing the corporations to get round them or to bribe and lobby the legislators (the reality of “democracy”) to rescind them, in order to keep on making a “return”.
Environmental devastation is anyway only one reflection of the gigantic crisis collapse of this degenerate system heading for world war.
The whole of capitalist life becomes increasingly intolerable daily, from the savagery of grinding and humiliating austerity imposed everywhere on the working class, to the breakdown of societal cohesion in out-of-control knife and gun crime, ever growing drugs degeneracy, education breakdown, housing hopelessness and street-sleeping homelessness, – even as wasteful, pointless and environmentally damaging consumerism escalates alongside grotesque inequality, indolent wealth and “celeb” vacuity.
Alienation, personal, local and regional antagonisms, tread-on-the-head rivalries and the universal stressed-out ratrace facing even the “successful”, let alone the dead-end hire-and-fire existence imposed on the overwhelming majority of the working class, doomed to “loser” status from the moment they are born, just get worse.
Beyond that is the viciousness of rising scapegoating and jingoistic hatred, and the monstrous pretence of the “war on terror” all fostered everywhere to drag public opinion back into a warmongering atmosphere, to divert them from any coherent struggle against the ruling class, and to allow the continuation of this vile system by the only means it knows, bullying “might is right” savagery and the worldwide sweatshop exploitation it tyrannically imposes on the great majority of the world’s population (who get an even rawer deal, (and most of the waste products), than those in the “metropolitan countries” – by a long chalk).
Beyond crude fascist suppression of any “upstart” revolt like the Houthis in Yemen, or of “rogue nations” and intimidation of competitors, comes eventual all-out conflict as the great contradictions of the system’s “competitiveness” escalate into ever more cutthroat trade war and the explosive world war which is the unavoidable end point.
Forced competitive bankruptcies on a massive scale internationally and finally war destructiveness are the only way for the system to get rid of its “surplus” production (surplus for profit realising sales purposes that is, not mass human needs) and to clear out the capital accumulation clogging its pores (see EPSR economics box, the Communist Manifesto and Marx’s Capital).
It was only the “clearing of the decks” by the unprecedented ruination of World War I and II which allowed the brief return to a “boom” post-1945 for the investments of the remaining, mostly American, capitalists who “won” the topdog position in the inter-imperialist sort-out.
Now oncoming barbarism threatens far greater horrors than ever, both from the incredible scale and destructiveness of nuclear, chemical and other modern weaponry to the sheer worldwide reach of potential conflicts by a system which has expanded even further and penetrated and drawn into its scope the entire planet; and this threat is even more immediate and deadly than the slow(er) strangling of the environment it is also causing.
Eco and pacifist protest, however well meaning, will itself become part of the problem if it does not take up the urgent question of how to end this system so that a scientifically planned and rational economy can be built, peacefully and cooperatively serving real human needs in harmony and balance with the natural world.
All the technical means are there but it can only come about through a total overturn of the existing class system, ending forever the anarchic “free market” and building workers states with the firmest of control over the means of production, held in common ownership.
In other words by establishing communism across the whole world.
It will come and not least because of the decades long unfolding crisis collapse which broke in full in 2008’s US centred bank collapses, undermining the confidence and capacity of the ruling class to keep on as it did before.
The Catastrophic crisis turmoil has already pushed all sorts into rebellion from 9/11 to Black Lives Matter and waves of Third World jihadism and Arab Spring street revolt, to the “yellow vest” turmoil in France.
Haiti is in uproar:
The impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti, hit by days of violent demonstrations that have claimed four lives, has suffered a mass prison breakout after 78 inmates escaped while police were dealing with protesters.
The demonstrations, the culmination of months of anti-corruption protests over the fate of almost $4bn (£3.1bn) in missing funds earmarked for social development – delivered via a controversial deal for Venezuelan petrol – have swelled in recent days under the slogan: “Kot kòb Petrocaribe a?” (“Where’s the Petrocaribe money?”).
The protests have all but emptied streets normally clogged with traffic and pollution as schools, shops and municipal offices closed for fear of more violence. With at least four people dead, an air of uncertainty is hanging over the government of Jovenel Moise, with demonstrators demanding the president stand down.
Describing the escape from the prison in Aquin, a police official said the prisoners had initially left their cells for a scheduled shower but refused to return before fleeing when police were distracted by a nearby demonstration.
The discontent has been driven by a long-running scandal over the fate of money from a deal that first emerged in a government report in 2017, in which it was suggested large sums had been embezzled by officials during the course of the Petrocaribe deal.
Amid major protests in the centre of Port-au-Prince, a city that was devastated by the 2010 earthquake, protesters in the wealthy Pétion-Ville neighbourhood have blocked the road to Moise’s house and stoned his property.
The Petrocaribe deal has become a lightning rod for wider discontents that have bubbled under the surface since the January 2010 earthquake that killed more than 100,000 people.
Despite a large international aid effort, Haiti remains the Americas most impoverished country and was again hit by disaster in 2016, when Hurricane Matthew struck.
According to the World Bank, about 59% of Haiti’s population live below the national poverty line of $2.41 a day, while the estimated 24% living in extreme poverty on less than $1.23 a day now face rocketing inflation.
And in Brazil, despite, and because of imperialism’s manipulation into power of outright fascist backwardness, there are signs of potential revolutionary upheaval too:
But as Jair Bolsonaro marks his first month as president on Friday – an anniversary overshadowed by a mining disaster that has claimed at least 99 lives and left 259 people missing – not everyone is so sure.
In his inaugural address, Bolsonaro promised an anti-sleaze crusade to free his homeland “from the yoke of corruption”.
But already those vows are starting to look shaky as suspicions of political shenanigans and ties to organised crime hover over one of Bolsonaro’s politician sons – and some supporters begin to fret over their leader’s disorderly opening act in power.
“It smells dirty,” one rightwing activist, Guto Zacarias, grumbled last week after Bolsonaro’s international debut at the World Economic Forum was overshadowed by a snowballing scandal linking his son with a Rio de Janeiro death squad.
In mid-December, questions emerged over the financial dealings of his eldest son, Flávio Bolsonaro, a recently elected senator, amid mounting allegations he had engaged in an illegal, tithe-like practice known as the rachadinha by which politicians siphon off part of their employees’ wages.
Last week the plot thickened when the Brazilian newspaper O Globo alleged that Flávio Bolsonaro had employed the mother and wife of an alleged death squad leader whose gang was suspected of involvement in the assassination of the Rio councillor Marielle Franco last year.
The potential severity of the scandal is such that, just days into Bolsonaro’s presidency, one prominent rightwing site pondering whether Bolsonaro might have to be replaced by his vice-president, Hamilton Mourão.
Bolsonaro’s opening act has also been blighted by the collapse of a mining dam near the south-east city of Brumadinho. Hundreds of bodies remain lost under the flood of mining waste, and five people have been arrested in the ongoing investigation.
Bolsonaro has attacked environment agencies for holding up development with what he describes as excessive licensing requirements and has advocated freeing up mining in protected indigenous reserves.
His decision to appoint a pro-Donald Trump foreign minister who claims climate change is a Marxist plot has raised eyebrows.
Brazilian activists have taken to the streets in five major cities after the death of a young black man who was restrained by a supermarket security guard.
Campaigners said the protests are feeding a nascent Black Lives Matter movement in Brazil, where nearly three-quarters of all homicide victims are black.
Outside the Extra supermarket in the upscale Barra da Tijuca neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro, demonstrators chanted the name of Pedro Gonzaga, who died of a heart attack in hospital on Thursday after being immobilised with a “sleep hold” by a security guard. Protests were also reported in São Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Fortaleza. Another took place on Saturday in Recife.
Lyz Ramos, 19, a student painting placards in Rio, said: “We have to take a position against this to stay alive. It’s a basic issue.”
Gonzaga, 19, was immobilised by Davi Amâncio. Video footage showing the prone Gonzaga underneath Amâncio while onlookers pleaded for him to be let go generated widespread anger. One woman can be heard saying: “He is suffocating him.” He was taken unconscious to hospital, where he died.
As the outcry grew, the hashtag #VidasNegrasImportam (Black Lives Matter) began circulating, and black Brazilians compared his death to that of Eric Garner, who died after police in New York immobilised him in 2014.
Rene Silva, one of the organisers of the Rio protest and the founder of the Voz das Comunidades, a newspaper from Rio’s Complexo do Alemão favela complex, said: “There has never been a Black Lives Matter [movement] in Brazil to compare to the United States, but this year I think it will happen more often because the black community is more and more united.”
Silva said the protest was for all the black people being killed, citing the case of Jenifer Gomes, 11, who died last week in Rio. Residents blamed the city’s police – recently accused of executing 13 unarmed men in a Rio favela, including drug gang members – but officers have denied responsibility.
“We want to talk about more about black lives matter, for society to understand we can’t stand racism anymore,” he said.
According to the government-produced 2018 annual Violence Atlas, 71.5% of the 64,000 people killed each year in Brazil are black or mixed race. Black or mixed race people make up just over half of the Brazilian population.
Vanderlea Aguiar, 42, a public servant taking part in the protest, said it was nearly a year since Marielle Franco, a black city councillor, was killed, yet nobody had been charged with her murder. “Every day we get more news of more youth dying,” she said. “A big movement is growing every day and we are making more people aware.”
Thailand too faces such underlying turmoil that its pretences of re-establishing “democracy” have been torn up again by the five-year old military dictatorship (which the “rule of law” and “freedom loving” West never makes the tiniest murmur against):
Political turbulence in Thailand has continued to escalate in the build-up to the election, with a political party likely to be forcibly dissolved, the military suspending a critical TV station and the king’s sister apologising after she was disqualified from running for prime minister.
The latest incident in a week that has stunned Thailand, saw the election commission recommend the Thai Raksa Chart party be dissolved by the constitutional court, preventing it from running in the election, for violating the rules of a constitutional monarchy. The constitutional court is expected to approve the election commission’s request to take the case.
It came just hours after Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi released a statement on Instagram on Tuesday night, apologising for causing “problems” for the Thai people.
On Monday, the election commission had already ruled to disqualify Ubolratana as a prime minister candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart party in the upcoming election on 24 March. Ubolratana’s ban did not come as a surprise after the strong condemnation of her candidacy by her brother King Maha Vajiralongkorn last week, who decreed that her bid was “inappropriate” as royalty should be “above politics”.
The recommendation for the dissolution of Thai Raksa Chart, a newly-formed party closely aligned with ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, came as a huge blow to the party, who, in a fight for their political life, wrote to the election commission on Wednesday morning, stating that the forced dissolution of the party would contravene Thai law. However, their pleas fell of deaf ears.
If the constitutional court agrees to dissolve Thai Raksa Chart, its executives could be given a 10 year or even a lifetime ban from both voting and running in elections.
The dissolution of Thai Raksa is a further indicator that Thaksin’s gamble in nominating the princess as their only prime ministerial candidate, without apparent full approval of the king, was a gamble that did not pay off and will likely hurt the chances of pro-Thaksin parties gaining a majority in the March election. Thaksin lives in exile but still hold considerable power and influence in Thai politics.
The saga has played into the hands of the military junta government, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), who are seeking to maintain their power through the newly-formed pro-military party, Palang Pracharath.
In a move possibly emboldened by the turmoil and uncertainty enveloping pro-Thaksin parties, the junta also announced a 15 day suspension of Voice TV, one of the more progressive Thai TV stations which is owned by Thaksin’s children and often gives a platform to those critical of the military.
The move has been seen as an attempt by the junta to closely control all public discourse
Hundreds of millions increasingly feel the impact of the savagery, collapse, war turmoil and havoc being forced onto them by ever more openly fascist imperialism (itself a sign of historic weakness), confronting them with need to take up the struggle.
Many more will face shattering breakdown once the economic artificial respiration of Quantitative Easing credit fails (as it must - see past EPSRs).
But to get there requires a gigantic theoretical and philosophical struggle, not least against the anti-communist and anti-revolutionary brainwashing deluge that pours onto everyone’s heads from birth until death, from waking moment to falling asleep, from books and films to teachers and tweets.
The delusions remaining in abstract “democracy” and the false notion that “communism failed” or is just a “horrible grey system” of “totalitarian oppression” remains a major problem, blocking the way forwards.
It is not overcome by any of the clutter of fake-”lefts” who swamp the political scene from the class collaboration of TUC/Labourism to the assorted bogus “revolutionaries” of the revisionist parties and the Trotskyists.
Most of the opportunist Labour movement and the Trotskyists, pump out just as much anti-communist poison and confusion as the bourgeois propaganda machine itself through Hollywood, education and a willingly venal media.
The ostensible pro-communists are of no help either, either ignoring or deliberately covering-up the difficulties and errors which after 73 years brought to an end the first gigantic working class achievements in the Soviet Union and its later satellites.
The record of the USSR is one of staggering victories over endless genocidal military interventions by the massed forces of imperialism (with far greater capacity initially) including the horrors of the Nazi invasion in 1941-5, to the huge social and economic advances it made for the working class, delivering universal cheap housing, free education to university level, all-round health care, almost cost-free utilities, widespread cultural development (including some of the best ballet, circus, symphonies and cinema in the world) brilliant scientific advances, and massive aid to the world anti-imperialist and communist movements, providing assistance and arms for struggle, and training tens of thousands of their youth in engineering, teaching, science,sports and arts.
But defence of the brilliant record of the Soviet Union gets nowhere if there is no explanation of how revisionist bureaucratic complacency, founded on Stalin’s mistaken assessments of the still virulent capability of imperialism to expand particularly post-war, led to a retreat from the understanding of revolution into the “permanent peaceful coexistence” view of Cold War “stability” with “non-aggressive” imperialism and from there to the eventually Gorbachevite dismantling of the Soviet planned economy in favour of “free market principles” and the liquidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat safeguarding it.
Far from collapsing, the USSR was given up on by its by then hopelessly unLeninist leadership and its delusions in “democracy” and class collaborating cooperation in “our common European home” (Gorbachev), letting in carpet-bagging capitalism to plunder the great wealth built-up by the working class at such huge cost.
The refusal to face up to the mistakes, errors and possibly sometimes criminal misleadership of especially the earlier years of the Soviet state, when it was most hard pressed by the still powerful counter-revolutionary forces internally and constant subversion and attack from outside, instead of dialectically grasping both the huge flaws in leadership and the titanic world progress made by the Soviet Union (often guided by the same leadership) leaves the working class floundering and particularly unable to understand the necessary firmness of the workers state in defending itself when it did or why the liquidation came about which has left the world working class confused and dismayed.
What is needed is a gigantic discussion to examine all these questions, guided by a purpose built party of disciplined open polemic, to develop constantly Leninist understanding.
The fight must be to establish workers states once more, but done better and without abandoning the struggle for revolutionary science and consciousness, which is not only required to build communism but will become the central and guiding aspect of human existence.
Back to the top
Discussion (continued from No 1549)
Distorting Lenin’s April Theses
Combatting attempts to undermine Leninism by the fake-“lefts” (arising out of their hatred of the dictatorship of proletariat) by distorting the historical record of the Soviet Union’s revolutionary history up to 1989 –– Part Four
[The fatal flaw running throughout Lih’s series of articles, as he strives to drag Lenin down, is that he shows no understanding whatsoever that Lenin, in his April Theses and corresponding texts, had demonstrated that the “revolutionary-democratic dictatorship” had been made obsolete by the circumstances of the February revolution, because that dictatorship had already taken power, was already in existence as a “semi-government” in the form of the Soviets, and had immediately begun to hand its power over to the bourgeois provisional government.] His confusion can be seen here:
The hegemony scenario … tells us why a worker-peasant vlast was created in 1917, as well as why it survived in the civil war that followed.
He is referring to the Second Congress of Soviets that was in session on October 25 and 26 1917 [OS] (although power was actually wrested from the bourgeoisie by the armed uprising of the proletariat and poor peasants, not won in the Congress through votes and exposure) and presents this (without being explicit – perhaps because of his Kautskyite aversion to the word ‘dictatorship’) as the accomplishment of the “revolutionary-democratic dictatorship” that Lenin had demonstrated had already been in existence since February. The October revolution saw the establishment of a workers’ state in alliance with the poor peasantry, not a “workers’ and peasants’ state”.
The idea of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry was developed in 1905 in recognition of the peculiar historical conditions of Russia’s stunted development under Tsarism. Russia’s backwardness meant that the proletariat’s revolution against the bourgeoisie found itself merging with the peasant revolution against the landowners. The Bolshevik’s idea was recognition that these revolutions were emerging and developing simultaneously.
The attitude of the proletariat towards the peasantry had a positive impact on the proletariat’s ability to influence the poorer proletarianised peasantry, and was one of the factors that helped to facilitate the transition from the bourgeois revolution to the socialist revolution that began in October 1917 (see Lenin, the Third International and its place in history, Collected Works Volume 29, May 1919).
Lih’s “worker-peasant vlast survived the civil war that followed” comment is just hot air, firstly because he does not identify the class nature of the post-October revolution (it was a workers’ state in alliance with the peasantry, not a workers’ and peasants’ state), and secondly because he does not explain how the proletariat were able to maintain their leadership influence over the course of the peasant revolution, as well as ensure the survival of the workers’ state once the bourgeoisie and the Tsarist remnants, and their imperialist backers, had launched their vicious civil war.
As Lenin explained, the only way that the proletariats’ alliance with the peasantry would survive was because its dictatorship was not simply one of force; it was also a far superior form of state organisation than that of the bourgeois dictatorship. The organisational abilities of the new workers’ state, and the freely-accepted proletarian discipline and heroic sacrifices that backed it up, would allow it to begin to solve the practical problems faced by the peasantry, as well as the workers.
The alliance could not be taken for granted. Limited economic concessions needed to be made to the peasantry to keep them on side and prevent the restoration of capitalism, whilst simultaneously preparing them for the communist economic relations that would eventually see them disappear as a class. This would only happen once the general economic development of Soviet society makes an agricultural system based on the peasantry unnecessary:
If the proletarian organisation proves to the peasants that it can maintain proper order, that labour and bread are fairly distributed and that care is being taken to husband every pood of grain and coal, that we workers are able to do this with the aid of our comradely, trade union discipline, that we resort to force in our struggle only to protect the interests of labour, that we take grain from profiteers and not from working people, that we want to reach an understanding with the middle peasants, the working peasants, and that we are ready to provide them with all we can at present—when the peasants see all this, their alliance with the working class, their alliance with the proletariat, will be indestructible. And this is what we aim at.
[Lenin, First All-Russia Congress on Adult Education, Collected Works Volume 29, May 1919]
Since we, being the party of the proletariat, are leading the peasantry, we must pursue a course towards strengthening large-scale industry, and must therefore be prepared to make economic concessions. The proletariat led the peasantry, and did it in such a way that during the Civil War the peasantry obtained more economic benefits than the proletariat. In Martov’s terms, this is Zubatovism. Economic concessions have been made to the peasantry. These concessions were made to a section of the working people constituting the majority of the population. Is this policy wrong? No, it is the only correct one! And no matter what you say about Martov’s catchwords, about it being impossible to deceive a class, I ask you nevertheless: where is our deception? We say that there are two paths to choose: one following Martov and Chernov—and through them to Milyukov—and the other following the Communists. As for us, we are fighting for the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of communism. Ours is a very hard road, and many are weary and lack faith.
The peasants lack faith. But are we deceiving them? It is ridiculous to say that we are deceiving a class, and have lost our way amidst three pines, or even two, for the working class and the peasantry are only two classes. The proletariat leads the peasantry, which is a class that cannot be driven out as the landowners and capitalists were driven out and destroyed. We must remould it by prolonged and persistent effort, entailing great privation. It depends on us, the ruling party, how much of the suffering will fall to the lot of the proletariat and how much to that of the peasantry. How is this suffering to be shared? Is it to be on a basis of equality? Let Chernov and Martov say that. We say that we must be guided by the interests of the proletariat, that is, we must obtain safeguards against the restoration of capitalism and ensure the road to communism. Since the peasantry is now wearier and more exhausted, or rather it thinks that it is so, we make more concessions to it in order to obtain safeguards against the restoration of capitalism and to ensure the road to communism.
That is the correct policy, and we are guided exclusively by class considerations. We tell the peasants frankly and honestly, without any deception: in order to hold the road to socialism, we are making a number of concessions to you, comrade peasants, but only within the stated limits and to the stated extent; and, of course, we ourselves shall be the judge of the limits and the extent. The concession itself is being made with an eye to distributing the burdens which, up to now, the proletariat has borne to a larger extent than the peasantry. During the three and a half years of the dictatorship of the proletariat, it has voluntarily borne more hardships than the peasantry. This is an absolutely obvious and incontrovertible truth. This is how the question stands in regard to the relations between the proletariat, and the peasantry: either the peasantry comes to an agreement with us and we make economic concessions to it—or we fight. That is why all other arguments are but evidence of a terrible confusion. As a matter of fact, any other road leads to Milyukov, and the restoration of the landowners and capitalists. We say that we shall agree to make any concession within the limits of what will sustain and strengthen the power of the proletariat, which, in spite of all difficulties and obstacles, is unswervingly advancing towards the abolition of classes and towards communism.
[Lenin, Summing Up Speech on the Tax in Kind, Collected Works Volume 32, May 1921]
We must strive to build up a state in which the workers retain the leadership of the peasants, in which they retain the confidence of the peasants, and by exercising the greatest economy remove every trace of extravagance from our social relations.
We must reduce our state apparatus to the utmost degree of economy. We must banish from it all traces of extravagance, of which so much has been left over from tsarist Russia, from its bureaucratic capitalist state machine. Will not this be a reign of peasant limitations?
No. If we see to it that the working class retains its leadership over the peasantry, we shall be able, by exercising the greatest possible thrift in the economic life of our state, to use every saving we make to develop our large-scale machine industry, to develop electrification, the hydraulic extraction of peat, to complete the Volkhov Power Project, etc.
In this, and in this alone, lies our hope. Only when we have done this shall we, speaking figuratively, be able to change horses, to change from the peasant, muzhik horse of poverty, from the horse of an economy designed for a ruined peasant country, to the horse which the proletariat is seeking and must seek—the horse of large-scale machine industry, of electrification, of the Volkhov Power Station, etc.
[Lenin, Better fewer but better, Collected Works Volume 33, March 1923]
Lenin always started from the material conditions of the real world and developed Marxist theory from that, not from fixed ideas drawn up long ago that make no concessions to the constant shifting and developing reality. There is no sense of this material basis for all understanding in Lih’s pseudo-academism, which starts with the idea and uses phrases of formal logic, such as “syllogisms” and “the axiom of the class ally” to give it an appearance of veracity and intellectually intimidate anyone who senses that it is all just hot air.
Lih continues to make a fetish of “the idea” when discussing the Bolshevik demand that the secret treaties between the major imperialist powers on the division of the spoils once the imperialist war had ended be published. He falsely claims to have identified a contradiction in Lenin who denounced the “old Bolshevik” strategy of making demands on the bourgeois Provisional Government because such demands create illusions that capitalism can be reformed, whilst simultaneously demanding the publication of the treaties:
What did Lenin think of the slogan, ‘We demand the publication of the secret treaties’? Lenin did not himself come up with the idea of making a scandal of the secret treaties, but he instantly saw its potential. His role here is thus very similar to the one played by the sister slogan, ‘All power to the soviets!’ (he noticed the slogan on a banner and then promoted it). Lenin did have a scruple - not about the content, but about the form of the treaty slogan: he objected to making a ‘demand’ on a bourgeois government, because, he reasoned, there was no chance whatsoever of the government fulfilling the demand. Why spread illusions among the masses? This scruple had zero impact on the work of Bolshevik agitators in the barracks and factories, who were confident that such ‘demands’ tore the mask off the government and exposed its real nature.
At a certain point,
Lenin seems to have shrugged his shoulders about ‘demands’,
(Again, says who??)
but he never stopped pounding the table about the secret treaties.
Lenin talked about Miliukov’s endorsement of the tsarist government’s secret treaties for the first time on March 12, in one of the ‘Letters from afar’ that never made it to Petrograd. Most likely his attention was called to the issue by Zinoviev, whose article was written a few days later.
What a topsy-turvy inversion of reality! So we are to suppose that Zinoviev was likely to have influenced Lenin because he wrote an article exposing the secret treaties a few days after Lenin had exposed the bourgeois Cadet leader, Milyukov’s endorsement of them on 12th March. Surely chronology alone would suggest that Lenin is more likely to have influenced Zinoviev, if publication dates is all we have to go on??!!- Milyukov was the foreign minister of the bourgeois Provisional Government and exposing his collusion in covering up and maintaining the secret treaties was a crucial part of the strategy to break the poor peasants in the Soviets away from the influence of bourgeois national chauvinism.
...From this point on, Lenin brought up the secret treaties continuously. His scruple about demands did not stop him from appreciating the power of the issue:
“The promises of the present government about repudiating imperialist policies should be accorded absolutely no confidence. Our line here should not be to give any indication that we demand the publication of the treaties. That would be an illusion. To demand this from a government of capitalists - this would be just the same as if we demanded the uncovering of commercial frauds. If we say that annexations and indemnities must be repudiated, then we need to show how to do this. And if we are asked, who will do it, we will say that this would be essentially a revolutionary step, and only the revolutionary proletariat can do it.”
Lenin could avoid making ‘demands’ because he was not out there on the factory floor, proposing a resolution or preparing a banner of a demonstration. At one point, when he came close to such activities, he almost slipped. In a draft for instructions for Bolshevik deputies in the soviets, he included the following:
“3. Our deputy must be for the immediate publication of the secret robber treaties (about the crushing of Persia, the carve-up of Turkey, Austria and others) that the former tsar Nicholas concluded with the capitalists of England, France and so on.”
To “be for” something is getting pretty near to demanding that something! Perhaps Lenin caught himself in time, since this draft was not published in 1917. [Weekly Worker issue 1197 Supplement: Biography of a sister slogan]
It is not possible to check the final assertion because Lih creates obstacles by referring to the Russian version of Lenin’s Collected Works for the (out-of-context) Lenin quotes and neglecting to provide a title. However, his arguments against Lenin are pure sophistry and supposition, intermingled with backward anti-theory workerist notions that the narrow concerns of workers on the factory floor (struggles over wages and working conditions, etc.) take precedent over the party-led struggle to develop a Marxist understanding of the inter-imperialist war and the revolutionary steps that need to be taken to bring it to an end.
When recommending a resolution on the imperialist war to the Seventh (April) All Russia Conference of the RSDLP(B) in his report on the current situation, Lenin explained his position on the secret treaties clearly. Lenin was not “shrugging his shoulder about ‘demands’” as Lih pompously suggests. He was demonstrating to the working class and poor peasantry how imperialist annexations could be renounced, practically by revolutionary means, as opposed to the false promises of the bourgeois governments, whilst making it clear that he was not making any futile ‘demands’ on the Provisional Government whatsoever:
“Nor can any trust be placed in the present government’s promise to renounce annexations, i. e., the conquest of foreign countries or the forcible retention of any nationality within the confines of Russia. For, in the first place, the capitalists, bound together by the thousand threads of Russian and Anglo-French banking capital, and intent on protecting the interests of capital, cannot renounce annexations in this war without at the same time ceasing to be capitalists, without renouncing the profits from the thousands of millions invested in loans, concessions, war industries, etc. And secondly, the new-government, after renouncing annexations to mislead the people, declared through Milyukov (Moscow, April 9, 1917) that it had no intention of renouncing them. Finally, as revealed by Dyelo Naroda, a newspaper in which Minister Kerensky co-operates, Milyukov has not even sent his statement on the renunciation of annexations to other countries.
“Therefore, in warning the people against the capitalists’ empty promises, the Conference declares that it is necessary to make a clear distinction between a renunciation of annexations in word and a renunciation of annexations in deed, i. e., the immediate publication of all the secret predatory treaties, of all acts of foreign policy, and the taking of immediate steps to fully liberate all peoples who are being oppressed, kept bound to Russia by force or kept in a state of subjection by the capitalist class, which is continuing the policy of ex-Tsar Nicholas II, a policy that is a disgrace to our nation.”
The second half of this part of the resolution deals with the promises made by the government. For a Marxist, perhaps, this part is superfluous; for the people, however, it is important. That is why we must add the reasons why we do not believe those promises, why we must not trust the government. The present government’s promises to abandon its imperialist policy are not to be trusted. Our policy in this respect should not be in saying that we demand that the government publish the treaties. This would be a vain hope. To demand this of a capitalist government would be like demanding an exposure of commercial swindling. When we say that it is necessary to renounce annexations and indemnities, we should indicate how this can be done; and if we are asked who can do it, our answer will be that this step is by its very nature a revolutionary one, a step which only the revolutionary proletariat can make. Otherwise these promises will remain empty pledges and wishes used by the capitalists to keep the people in leading-strings.
[Lenin. The Seventh (April) All Russia Conference of the RSDLP(B)
Back to the top