Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 25, 2014

The anti-Semitism canard

Filed under: anti-Semitism,zionism — louisproyect @ 7:06 pm

Israel right-wing protesters attack left-wing activists after they protested in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A Google search on “Gaza”, “protests” and “anti-Semitism” produces a jaw-dropping 5,300,000 results. Among them, you can find the Daily Mail, a British tabloid, reporting:

Jewish people are being attacked and abused on the streets of Germany as though the country were back in the Nazi era, political and religious leaders warned yesterday.

Escalating violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has prompted a disturbing rise in anti-Semitism in Europe in the last few days.

Murderous slogans dating back to the days of Hitler have been chanted at pro-Palestinian rallies in Germany. Jewish-owned shops were attacked and burned in riots in France at the weekend.

The Israeli ambassador to Germany, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, said: ‘They pursue the Jews in the streets of Berlin… as if we were in 1938.’

That this sort of thing can be reported while the death toll in Gaza tops 500 strikes me as obscene New York City has about 4 times as many people as Gaza. Can you imagine if bombs and artillery shells had killed 2000 people here in a month? The Zionists direct a lot of their hasbara to New Yorkers, arguing that they should consider what it would feel like if they were being shelled from New Jersey. Since the rockets from Gaza kill nobody, that seems like a piss-poor analogy but what else would expect from a regime drenched in blood and bullshit?

Even more in the spotlight is France, which has experienced the most massive protests against the Israeli blitzkrieg. Vox.net informed its readers:

France has the third-largest Jewish population in the world, after the United States and Israel. It appears to have seen the worst anti-Semitic violence in recent days.

“Eight synagogues in France have been targeted in the past week,” The New York Times reports. Over the July 19-20th weekend, “a radical fringe among pro-Palestinian protesters in the French capital clashed with police, targeting Jewish shops, lighting smoke bombs, and throwing stones and bottles at riot police,” the Times reported.

“They are not screaming ‘death to the Israelis’ on the streets of Paris, ” Roger Cuikerman, head of French Jewish political group CRIF, said. “They are screaming ‘death to the Jews.’”

According to The Independent, a peaceful protest in the northern Paris suburb Saracelles “degenerated” into anti-Semitic violence. “Several cars were burned,” the Independent reported, and “three shops, including a Kosher grocery, were burned and pillaged. A railway station was severely damaged.”

For an alternative take on France, I recommend this article that appears on the Quartiers Libres blog:

In the hours following the skirmish between protesters and JDL members, more messages were posted by JDL members and supporters saying the JDL had acted out of self-defence using only their bare hands against pro-Palestinian thugs, a version that is fully inconsistent with the many pictures and videos of the scene that were widely circulated by independent media websites and militants.

The JDL is banned in the USA and in Israel on account of its extremism and explicit racism. In France, where it is legal, the organisation is regularly guilty of taunts and attacks, as was the case only the week before, when they targeted a rally in support of Gaza. On July 13, by jeopardizing the safety of people gathered in a Synagogue, the JDL has shown it’s now moving on to a new tactical step. Yet although the street fight outside the Synagogue was all over the media, journalists first failed to so much as mention the JDL’s provocations or even the rally itself, sometimes making it sound as though the pro-Palestinian protesters had intentionally planned to attack a Synagogue.

There was never an attack against a Synagogue in previous pro-Palestinian demonstrations, just like there wasn‘t one on July 13: the skirmish broke out in the street between the JDL and antifascist protesters, and there was never an attack on either the Synagogue or the people inside, which all videos shot on that day bring evidence of.

Why didn’t Jewish authorities and non-extremist organizations such as the UEJF condemn the JDL’s rally and why did the police protect the JDL? Could it be that the French authorities are hoping to criminalize pro-Palestinian support?

Ever since I have been involved with the left, I have heard the charge that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are the same.

Beyond that, there is also a tendency to smear African-Americans as anti-Semitic any time they step out of line. When Jesse Jackson’s campaign was gathering steam, they crucified him for referring to New York as “Hymietown” in an unguarded chat with a Black reporter.

When a limousine carrying a Hasidic rabbi ran over a Black child in Brooklyn in 1991, the protests were routinely labeled as anti-Semitic even though they were primarily directed at Jewish privilege. When a troubled Black youth stabbed a rabbinical student, the press howled at the Black community, treating it as if it were bent on genocide. The hysteria paved the way for Mayor Giuliani’s administration that had the deaths of a number of Black men and the torture of Abner Louima to account for.

Stepping back from the immediate furor over Gaza, it would be worthwhile to examine the question of anti-Semitism in a dispassionate and historical materialist fashion.

When I was in the SWP, I developed an understanding of racism quite different from the one I had absorbed growing up in a relatively liberal household and attending an even more liberal college. The issue was not about “intolerance”; it was about institutions that kept Black people in a subordinate position. This included red-lining that made it impossible to get a mortgage in the Black community, white owned businesses in the ghetto that gouged their customers, police brutality, underfunding of primarily Black public schools, etc. In other words, what might be called institutional racism.

There was a time when Jews suffered from institutional racism. At the turn of the century, Jews lived in the slums on the Lower East Side and could easily identified by their Yiddish accent. They suffered from discrimination and poverty on a level that matched that of Blacks or other oppressed groups historically. In Germany they were less oppressed despite the specious arguments of Daniel Goldhagen. It was only the Great Depression and the massive influx of Eastern European Jews into Germany that allowed Hitler to make use of the Jews as a scapegoat.

All that changed after WWII when Jews moved out of the tenements and into the mainstream. The second generation (my mom and dad’s) opened small businesses, went to colleges (most often state universities), lost their Yiddish accent, and even changed their last name to fit in. Bernard Schwartz became Tony Curtis and Issur Danielovitch became Kirk Douglas. If you were fortunate enough to make big bucks on Wall Street, you didn’t even have to change your name.

I strongly urge those who have doubts about this to get their hands on Lenni Brenner’s 1986 “Jews in America Today”. I wish some of it was online but unfortunately the only place to go to get a handle on his analysis is a 2003 article he wrote for CounterPunch titled “The Demographics of American Jews”. He writes:

Why then is the Zionist lobby so powerful when their own scholars write endlessly about the alienation of their youth from the movement? The answer is simple: the Jews are the richest ethnic or religious stratum in the US. Because their standard of living is so high, they are the most educated. Because they are the most educated, they are the most scientific oriented, hence most inclined towards atheism or religious skepticism. But the true believer minority still has an unbelievable amount of money to throw at the politicians.

In 1991, I interviewed Harold Seneker, then the editor of the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, for an article in The Nation. I told him that I found Jews, 2.2% of the population, to be about 25% of the 400. He told me that he thought this a success story, both for American capitalism and for the Jews, and that he wanted to write a story on it. But Forbes wouldn’t let him. The then publisher had gone thru the Hitler era, when talking about Jewish money was an anti-Semitic specialty.

This mentality is still common on the left as well, and it is wide spread among elderly Jews. Forbes, much of the left, and old Jews share what must be called a ‘folk Marxist’ mentality. Despite the differences in their politics, they all believe that history repeats itself. Someday there is going to be another 1929 Depression. The capitalists will, once again, call up central casting and get another Hitler to smash the left.

This is fantasy. It’s a projection of the past, and Germany’s past at that, into America’s future. In reality, journalists constantly turn out articles for Zionist publications about how Jewish campaign contributors play a major role in funding both parties and, very rarely, the topic is touched on in the mainstream media. “The Political Future of American Jews,” a1985 American Jewish Congress pamphlet by Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab, declared that “While there have been few reliable statistics on the subject — and some reluctance to gather any — the journalistic and anecdotal evidence is overwhelming that more than a majority of Democratic funds on a national level, and as much as a quarter of Republican funds have come from Jewish sources.” They were referring to private contributions, as was an article in the 1/5/93 NY Times announcing that “Jews contributed about 60 percent of Mr. Clinton’s noninstitutional campaign funds.”

My estimate is that 84 of the latest 400 are Jews. The magazine doesn’t list religious affiliations unless the person involved is distinctive in giving to religious charities, etc. And not all of the Jews are pro-Zionists. Some listees are among the educated disaffiliated we are discussing. But Zionist money is prodigious. James Tisch, chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations isn’t on the list, altho he is CEO of Loews Corp., listed on the Fortune 500 list. But daddy, Laurence, is, at $2 billion, and uncle Preston is worth $2.3 billion. His predecessors at the Conference were Ronald Lauder, $1.8 billion, and Mort Zuckerman, who struggles along with a penny ante $1.2 billion. Chaim Sabon, $1.7 billion, is a University of California regent. Mayhaps he got the job because he gave the Democrats the largest campaign contribution in American history?

If you really care about anti-Semitism in Europe, the place to go is where you would expect it, not in the Paris banlieues but in the neo-Nazi movements that are growing rapidly in a period of economic hardship.

To put things into perspective, the Anti-Defamation League issued a report on anti-Semitics attacks in 2013 that covered the entire world. Not a single death was reported. Most of the incidents were of the sort that turns up in New York routinely, a swastika scrawled on a Synagogue wall or a gravestone overturned. Compare that to the fate of Muslims who face racism and murder every where they look, from Burma to Kashmir.

In the unlikely event that Jews ever become targets of the ultraright again, I would strongly advise my brethren to think twice about whether to align themselves with the POV expressed in the Daily Mail, the tabloid I quoted at the beginning of this article in light of what Wikipedia reports:

[The publisher] Lord Rothermere was a friend of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, and directed the Mail’s editorial stance towards them in the early 1930s. Rothermere’s 1933 leader “Youth Triumphant” praised the new Nazi regime’s accomplishments, and was subsequently used as propaganda by them. In it, Rothermere predicted that “The minor misdeeds of individual Nazis would be submerged by the immense benefits the new regime is already bestowing upon Germany”. Journalist John Simpson, in a book on journalism, suggested that Rothermere was referring to the violence against Jews and Communists rather than the detention of political prisoners.

Rothermere and the Mail were also editorially sympathetic to Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists. Rothermere wrote an article entitled “Hurrah for the Blackshirts” in January 1934, praising Mosley for his “sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine”, and pointing out that: “Young men may join the British Union of Fascists by writing to the Headquarters, King’s Road, Chelsea, London, S.W.”

 

Enough!

Filed under: Palestine — louisproyect @ 5:50 pm

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Smoking hot soap operas

Filed under: Counterpunch,popular culture,television — louisproyect @ 12:01 pm

Smoking Hot Soap Operas

by LOUIS PROYECT

For most of my life I have remained immune to the dubious charms of the soap opera, either the daytime or evening varieties.

In the 1970s and 80s when shows like “Dynasty” and “Dallas” captivated the nation, I much preferred to listen to the radio. TV held very little interest for me except for football games on Sunday or shows like “All in the Family” that spoke to American social realities.

More recently a couple of evening soaps struck a chord in a way that nothing in the past ever did. I say this even as the creative team behind them would most likely disavow the term soap opera. After making their case to CounterPunch readers looking for some mindless entertainment (god knows how bad that it needed in these horrific times), I want to offer some reflections on why this genre retains such a powerful hold.

A couple of weeks ago, while scraping through the bottom of the Netflix barrel, I came across “Grand Hotel”, a Spanish TV show that has been compared to “Downton Abbey” on the basis of being set in the early 20th century and its preoccupation with class differences. Having seen only the very first episode of “Downton Abbey”, I was left with the impression that it was typical Masterpiece Theater fare, where class distinctions mattered less than costume and architecture.

 

read full article

July 24, 2014

A short history of the Syrian revolution

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 8:50 pm

As Syrians commemorate the first anniversary of the chemical attacks, we the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the millions of Syrians who have been struggling for dignity and freedom since March 2011. We call on the people of the world to act in support of the revolution and its goals, demanding the immediate end of the violence and the end of the illegitimate Assad regime.

August 21st marks the frst anniversary of the chemical attacks on Eastern Ghouta in the suburbs of Damascus. Several hundred people, including many children, died within minutes of the attacks. A few hours later, the Syrian regime launched a massive media campaign accusing the opposition of perpetrating the attacks. The regime and its allies knew they wouldn’t be able to win the heart and minds of people around the world but they could confuse them and tarnish the image of the revolution. That has been the regime’s strategy since the beginning of the uprising. Even renowned journalist Seymour Hersh became a victims of said strategy. He wrote a long article where he argued al-Nusra Front, the al-Qaeda affiliated group, of being behind the attack. The intention of the terrorist organization, he explained, was to blame the regime and trigger Western intervention that would ultimately topple Assad. His argument was not only implausible but also illogical. Knowing it would be the target of any Western airstrikes, al-Nusra threatened to kill anyone showing support for intervention. In the following months, a number of independent organizations and experts showed that only the Syrian regime could have planned and executed the chemical attacks in al-Ghouta. Despite overwhelming evidence of the Syrian army’s role in the attacks, the regime was able to turn the table, reshuffe the cards, and even gain a certain respectability in international arenas, after agreeing to surrender its chemical arsenal. The unraveling of events and the debates surrounding the chemical attacks are paradigmatic of the Syrian tragedy and the regime’s ability to effectively manage its horrific war against Syrians.

Progressive intellectuals, concerned citizens, and humanists were shocked on August 21st but they felt powerless. Their neutrality, under the pretext that both sides are evil, and their silences and inactivity allowed the Syrian regime to isolate and besiege the Syrian revolution. As the revolution became increasingly invisible, the regime’s narrative became more hegemonic. Many progressive intellectuals dismissed the revolutionary struggle of several hundred thousands Syrians in a myriad different arenas, and portrayed the situation as a civil war between Shia and Sunnis, a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, or a violent conflict between global Jihadists and a regular army. As the revolution became unthinkable, the regime propaganda turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sadly, in such a conjuncture the silence of progressive intellectuals became a license to kill Syrians.

The dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons program was very good news for Israel and the West but a tragedy for most Syrians. It means a despotic regime could use all types of what is euphemistically referred to as conventional weapons against its population, as long as it cooperates with the West. Tens of thousands of Syrians were killed in a thousand different ways by conventional weapons after August 21, 2013. This new chapter in the Syrian conflict created confusion in the West and parts of the Arab World. In Syria however, people who endured the Assad family’s rule for more than forty years, are aware the root of the problem is dictatorship. This confusion affected many cultures and political groups. For example, in the weeks following August 21st, the anti-war movement in the US and Europe demonstrated against potential airstrikes that were to target Syria, but was silent about Assad’s siege of entire neighborhoods, and other atrocities. Syrians living in besieged areas were puzzled by these movements political alignment with the regime. How can anyone dismiss the siege of around 20,000 Palestinians in Yarmouk camp for more than a year and the starvation to death of 128 residents? While certain Western and Arab journalists argue that the main issue is the increasing number of al-Qaeda sympathizers in Northern Syria, many secular and pious inhabitants in Aleppo, Azaz, Anadan, and other cities in the North think about how to escape the terrifying death of explosive barrels dropped on them by Assad’s cruel war machine. Often times, pilots drop a second bomb on the same location, a few minutes later, to kill rescuers and cause more damage. While professionals in humanitarian assistance discuss useless strategies to compel Assad to distribute UN aid more fairly, poor families who never received assistance from the regime, leave their villages and seek better opportunities elsewhere. For some of them the journey ends in al-Zaatari camp in Jordan where the most unfortunate who can’t buy blankets will be powerless as they watch the freezing body of their child gesticulate before surrendering to a treacherous death. While self-described impartial observers argue the problem in Syria is not the regime’s monumental savagery but ISIS’s medieval barbarism, most Syrians know this is a false dichotomy and both forms of violence are cruel and should end. While progressive intellectuals explain in Manichean fashion, that neutrality in Syria’s turmoil is the preferred position because both sides of the conflict are war criminals, Syrian activists feel such a stance is based on false equivalence and a flawed logic. Their struggles cannot be equated to the regime’s collective punishment of entire cities or the killing of revolutionaries after long and painful hours of torture in a dark cell at the Palestine Branch of military intelligence.

Creating confusion is part of Assad’s brutal war against Syrians but it is always combined with other strategies. To kill the revolution, the Syrian regime pursued four strategies: 1) militarization of the revolts through a six-months long campaign of violent repression of peaceful protests 2) islamization of the uprising by targeting secular groups and empowering Jihadists, 3) sectarianization of the conflict through the recruitment of an increasing number of Shia fighters from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and Afghanistan, coupled with the targeting of Sunnis cities and villages, and 4) internationalization of the war by inviting Iran, China, and Russia to play a central role in the conflict and consequently inciting the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to use Syria as a battleground against these forces.

Since the first week of the protests the Syrian regime launched a massive campaign of repression by kidnapping and torturing intellectuals and peaceful activists. The goal was to delegitimize the uprising by arresting or killing the most experienced grassroots activists. During this initial period, the regime killed between 6,000 and 7,000 protesters. Assad was sending a clear message: either the end of the protests or military confrontation. While the frst option was preferred, the regime didn’t mind the militarization of the revolt since it felt only a minority would fight, and the uprising would quickly lose legitimacy, and would therefore be easily crushed. It is in this context that revolutionaries started forming the first brigades of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The initial role of the FSA was to defend protests in certain neighborhood. It gradually evolved into a regular army whose aim was to liberate and protect various areas. It was a vicious cycle since the violence of the regime and the cruelty of its intelligence apparatuses pushed for increased militarization of the revolt.

Second, in parallel to its campaign of incarceration, torture, and assassination of journalists, human right activists, and protesters, the regime released more than a thousand jihadists from the notorious Sednaya prison, many of whom became leaders in the largest factions of the Islamic Front, al-Nusra Front, and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). These groups gradually isolated and weakened the already decentralized and heterogenous FSA. Activists working with the revolutionary councils, journalists, and the FSA fighters found themselves fighting on two front: the regime and ISIS. ISIS rarely fought the regime and focused instead on taking over areas already liberated by the revolutionaries in Northern Syria. It was arresting, torturing, and publicly executing activists and innocent civilians. While Jihadists were fighting and suffocating secular struggles, the Assad regime played the terrorism card very effectively, claiming the vast majority of its opponents belong to al-Qaeda and its offshoots. Domestically, the regime used this narrative to scare secular groups and religious minorities and effectively neutralize them. Internationally, the regime’s effort to tarnish the image of the revolution and present it as a sectarian war was also successful. It didn’t matter that the FSA was actually fighting ISIS, while the regime hardly ever targeted its headquarters in the liberated North. In January 2014, the entire opposition declared war to the terrorist group, which cost the lives of 8000 to 9000 fighters so far. The regime’s official position about fighting terrorism didn’t deter it from buying oil from al-Nusra Front in Mayadin, an eastern city close to the Iraqi borders. Despite these facts and the regime’s reluctance to fight ISIS, Assad was increasingly seen in the West as the only effective barrage against Jihadists, while the revolutionaries were depicted as extremists or affiliated to al-Qaeda. Assad’s media war reinforced al-Qaeda Manichean narrative, according to which Syria is the first line of defense of Islamic values and the Mecca of global jihadism. Saudi Arabia and Qatar played a central role in backing the most reactionary Jihadist groups and in facilitating their journey to Syria.

Third, Assad ordered his militias to massacre Sunnis civilians in Darayya, Baniyas, and Houla, to provoke a Sunni reaction and interpellate sectarian impulses on both sides. It wasn’t long before al-Nusra and ISIS jumped on the opportunity to turn the revolution into a sectarian confict by killing Shiite civilians in Aqrab and Hatla. Once again the revolutionaries were caught in-between unable to stop an infernal spiral towards sectarianism. Iran, the regime’s main ally understood that the only way to maintain its hegemony in the region was to impose a sectarian logic to the confict. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar played the exact same role from the other side. Iran provided weapons and logistical assistance early on, while the Hezbollah sent fighters initially covertly, and overtly since May 2013. Iran claims the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is fighting extremists in Syria and protecting Shiite holy sites, an argument it is now using in Iraq. Despite the support of Iran and Hezbollah, Assad was unable to stop the revolutionaries’ advances in several regions in 2012-13. The regime sought the support of Nuri al-Maliki, Iran’s protege in Iraq, who responded promptly by sending more than 10,000 Shia fghters. These takfri death squads, whose violence is only matched by Al-Nusra and ISIS, fght under the banners of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and Liwa’a Abu Fadl al-Abbas. Their sectarian rampage is well documented in places such an-Nabek, Homs, and Damascus.

Finally, the Syrian regime prospered under advantageous regional and international contexts codified by a common interest to end the momentum of the Arab revolts. The group of countries who unabashedly call themselves “the friends of Syria” have crucified the Syrian revolution a thousand time. This group includes countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, France, and the United States, some of which are as totalitarian as the Syrian regime, and yet they claim to support a revolution for freedom and dignity. In reality, these countries have their divergent agendas, but what they had in common is hatred toward the Syrian regime and fear from a successful revolution that would have lasting impact on their respective societies, and more generally on the world order. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, funded the most fundamentalist groups and sought their allegiance because of their destructive impact on the terrain. By strengthening various Salafist and Wahhabi groups, they created rivalry, but perhaps more importantly, they prepared the terrain to destroy nationalist and progressive struggles. After initially supporting the Syrian regime for several months in 2011, Saudi Arabia felt it would gain more by pushing for militarization and jihadist holy wars, thereby sending a clear message to the populations of the Arabian Gulf about the high cost of starting a revolt there. In the past three years, Saudi Arabia showed, on multiple occasions, that it can repress violently any populations with aspiration for freedom as it did in Bahrain or Qatif in Saudi Arabia. It also built a tripartite alliance with like-minded regimes, Egypt and Algeria, and openly declared its intensions to suppress the Tunisian and Yemeni revolutions after temporarily crushing the Egyptian revolution. The government of Erdogan played a more subtle role in undermining the revolution. While it welcomed many refugees for pragmatic reasons, it was more interested in supporting the Muslim Brotherhood than helping Syrians establish an authentic democracy. Finally, the United States and Europe were more worried about scoring points against Iran, the security of Israel, and regional stability to maintain a smooth flow of oil, than any real democracy in Syria or the Arab World. The Syrian stalemate was actually not a bad option for the West and Israel since it involved an open war between al-Qaeda and its offshoots on the one hand, and Hezbollah and Iran on the other, all of whom are despised by the West.

Despite the complexity of the Syrian situation and the large number of players involved in the conflict, what is taking place in Syria is quite simple: people rose up to overthrow a tyrant. The past three years have shown that ruling elites in the West and the Arab World have done everything to crush the Syrian Revolution. They have done so either through a complicit silence, a well orchestrated campaign that tarnished the image of the revolution, the funding of the most reactionary factions, or barring refugees from reaching Europe or the US. No government was genuinely willing to help Syrians in their struggle. While some Syrians believed their salvation would come from the West, the vast majority had no such illusion as the slogans and songs of the revolution had amply shown. The banners created by activists in Kafranbel are indicative of such popular mood. One of the banners they were holding in 2011 read, “Down with the regime, down with the opposition, down with the Arab and Islamic nation all together. Down with the security council, down with the world. Down with everything!”

The first anniversary of the chemical attacks is an occasion to reaffirm the importance of the revolution not only for Syrians but for the entire Arab World. The Syrians’ struggle against dictatorship, global jihadism, and western imperialism should not be viewed as local or even regional. It is part of an insurrectionary moment where the world has become the battlefield. The new development in Iraq, among other developments, have shown that the fate of the Syrian revolution will have tremendous implication on the new world order. The struggle of Syrians for dignity, freedom, and self determination cannot therefore be delinked from the Palestinian historic rebellion against Zionism, Egyptian women struggles against military despotism and sexual harassment, the Bahraini courageous uprising against totalitarianism, the Kurdish battles for justice, and the Zapatista and other indigenous populations’ resistance against racism and neoliberalism. Failure to stop the counter­revolutionary wave in Syria will have tremendous repercussions on the revolutions in Egypt, Yemen, or Bahrain. A successful revolution in Syria however would unleash long-repressed revolutionary aspirations in the Arab world and beyond.

Signatories

  • The Global Campaign of Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution
  • Syrian Revolution Bases of Support
  • MENA Solidarity Network-US

July 23, 2014

Stephen F. Cohen on the 2001 Ukrainian shoot-down of a civilian airliner

Filed under: Ukraine — louisproyect @ 1:44 pm

Stephen F. Cohen

From time to time I tune into John Batchelor’s show late at night on WABC am, a rightwing talk radio station. Despite being the author of “Aren’t you glad you are a Republican”, Batchelor is a very intelligent fellow who reads a lot more than most people, including me. In any given week, he will interview 3 to 4 authors on their new books and it is obvious that he has read them. Unlike the typical rightwinger, he invites authors with leftwing views, including the Indian author of a book exposing Britain’s responsibility for the Bengal famine of 1943.

One of his most frequent guests is Stephen F. Cohen, who has been making RT.com points since the Euromaidan protests began. To give you an idea of where he fits in, he was sandwiched last night between six Zionists, including Aaron Klein, a WABC host and author of “The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists”. Batchelor was broadcasting from Jerusalem, where he has been pumping out anti-Hamas propaganda.

I only listened to Cohen, or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I monitored him. You can listen to what he had to say here, mostly about the downing of the Malaysian airliner MH-17: http://johnbatchelorshow.com/podcasts/2014/07/22/second-hour

If you don’t have the time (or the motivation) to listen to the podcast, let me summarize Cohen’s “high” points.

  1. “Some people” say that the men seen firing the missile were in Ukrainian uniforms. I wonder if these Ukrainian men were the same ones that Parry reported as being surrounded by empty beer bottles. Of course, the use of unnamed sources allows Cohen to play the same game as Robert Parry and Seymour Hersh—to raise suspicions without the need for evidence.
  2. He reminds listeners that in 2001 Ukraine accidentally shot down a Russian jet filled with Jews headed for Israel. So clearly the country has a record of incompetence when it comes to deadly firepower.
  3. He advises that when such incidents occur, the first thing to ask is cui bono; he uses the words “who had a motive?” but he means the same thing. If you Google “MH-17” and “cui bono”, you will get 59,500 results—the top of which is Michel Chossudovsky’s website. Now there’s a big surprise. Just as was the case with the sarin gas attack in Syria, the Putinite left takes the position that a “false flag” operation was required to deepen the war on Russia.
  4. The US has been in a new Cold War with Russia since the proxy war in Georgia of 2008, which the conflict in Ukraine continues.

You get the picture, right?

The 2001 shoot-down was news to me. This morning I did a little bit of checking. It turns out that it took weeks for Ukraine to fess up that it was at fault, even though it was obviously just an accident as is obviously the case with MH-17.

In 2001 the president of Ukraine was one Leonid Kuchma. Remember him? He was widely regarded for improving Russian-Ukrainian ties in the aftermath of Ukrainian independence. He won office in 1994, mostly on the basis of strong support from the Russian-speaking East of the country. His prime minister was Viktor Yanukovych. Like Yanukovych, Kuchma favored co-integration with the EU and the Russian trading bloc.

Kuchma, like Putin, was not the sort of ruler to put up with critical reporters, including Georgiy Gongadze who was kidnapped and then beheaded in 2000. Four cops were eventually arrested and found guilty.

It was this abuse of power and rampant corruption that led to the Orange Revolution of 2004. For Cohen the Orange Revolution had lots in common with Euromaidan, a movement that resulted in a “coup” that overturned the democratically elected Yanukovych government. In 2005 he referred to “very large and well-organized pro-Yushchenko crowds in the streets” who “intimidated the Supreme Court into ruling in his favor and the Parliament into changing the electoral laws while the electoral process was still under way.” I guess the CIA must have manipulated them into taking to the streets after an investigative reporter was kidnapped and beheaded, the filthy imperialist tools. Didn’t they understand that Kuchma was defending the nation against imperialist predators?

On October 13, 2001 the NY Times reported on how Kuchma had finally come around to admitting his military’s responsibility.

In strained language that acknowledged only a ”tragic coincidence,” Ukraine’s president, Leonid Kuchma, stated today that he accepted investigators’ preliminary finding that his military accidentally destroyed a Russian airliner over the Black Sea last week with an errant missile.

Kuchma’s written statement, released tonight, did not explicitly state that the military was at fault. ”Obviously, final results of the commission’s inquiry will be known after experts complete their in-depth investigation and make appropriate assessments public,” he said. ”But even today it can be said that a big tragedy took place.”

But of paramount interest is this:

Both Ukrainian and Russian officials insisted for days after the crash that a Ukrainian missile could not possibly have been involved. Ukrainian military experts said a re-examination of data from the launchings for that day showed that all missiles had been accounted for and that none had flown more than 25 miles off the Crimean coast before plummeting into the sea.

Kuchma called an accidental aircraft strike impossible. Mr. Tkachyov said all Ukrainian data showed that a missile could not have struck the plane. Relying on these assurances, Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, dismissed speculation about a missile strike as a ”so-called” theory.

Cohen was right to bring up the 2001 incident but obviously not in the way he intended. I think the facts will bear out that not much has changed when it comes to the Kremlin and its stooge’s tendency to dig in their heels when involved with such gross displays of incompetence.

It was the same sort of negligence that led to Chernobyl, after all. I don’t think that the downing of MH-17 was intentional. Who in their right mind would? But the bullshit that has come from the Kremlin’s paid and unpaid apologists is truly shocking, from Robert Parry and his beer bottle reportage to Stephen F. Cohen mischievously referring to the 2001 shoot-down as evidence of Kyiv’s duplicity.

People like Cohen, Parry and Hersh were once paragons of journalistic and scholarly integrity but when you decide to become a propagandist all bets are off.

 

 

July 22, 2014

A nice hack

Filed under: Palestine — louisproyect @ 7:59 pm

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July 21, 2014

Ukraine conflict: ‘White power’ warrior from Sweden

Filed under: Fascism,Ukraine — louisproyect @ 9:07 pm

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28329329

Ukraine conflict: ‘White power’ warrior from Sweden

Mikael Skillt in Ukraine
Mikael Skillt in Ukraine
The appearance of far-right activists, both foreign and home-grown, among the Ukrainian volunteers fighting in east Ukraine is causing unease.

Mikael Skillt is a Swedish sniper, with seven years’ experience in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. He is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer armed group in eastern Ukraine. He is known to be dangerous to the rebels: reportedly there is a bounty of nearly $7,000 (£4,090; 5,150 euros) on his head.

In a telephone conversation from an undisclosed location, Mr Skillt told me more about his duties: “I have at least three purposes in the Azov Battalion: I am a commander of a small reconnaissance unit, I am also a sniper, and sometimes I work as a special coordinator for clearing houses and going into civilian areas.”

As to his political views, Mr Skillt prefers to call himself a nationalist, but in fact his views are typical of a neo-Nazi.

“It’s all about how you see it,” he says. “I would be an idiot if I said I did not want to see survival of white people. After World War Two, the victors wrote their history. They decided that it’s always a bad thing to say I am white and I am proud.”

‘One stray liberal’

Mr Skillt believes races should not mix. He says the Jews are not white and should not mix with white people. His next project is to go fight for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because he believes Mr Assad is standing up to “international Zionism”.

Mikael Skillt in UkraineMikael Skillt in Ukraine

Not all of Mr Skillt’s views are widely shared in the Azov Battalion, which is about 300-strong in total.

He says his comrades do not discuss politics much, though some of them may be “national socialists” and may wear swastikas. On the other hand, “there is even one liberal, though I don’t know how he got there”, he adds, with a smile in his voice.

Mr Skillt says there is only a handful of foreign fighters in the Azov Battalion and they do not get paid. “They see it as a good thing, to come and fight,” he explains. However, Mr Skillt is expecting more foreigners to join soon: he says there is now a recruiter who is looking for “serious fighters” from outside Ukraine.

The key figures in the Azov Battalion are its commander, Andriy Biletsky, and his deputy, Ihor Mosiychuk.

Andriy Biletsky is also the leader of a Ukrainian organisation called the Social National Assembly. Its aims are stated in one of their online publications:

  • “to prepare Ukraine for further expansion and to struggle for the liberation of the entire White Race from the domination of the internationalist speculative capital”
  • “to punish severely sexual perversions and any interracial contacts that lead to the extinction of the white man”

This, according to experts, is a typical neo-Nazi narrative.

‘Foreign journalists’

The Azov Battalion was formed and armed by Ukraine’s interior ministry. A ministerial adviser, Anton Gerashchenko, got angry when I asked him if the battalion had any neo-Nazi links through the Social National Assembly.

Azov Battalion fighters parading with flags in Kiev, 3 JuneAzov Battalion fighters parading with the Wolfsangel banner favoured by neo-Nazis

Young women say goodbye to Azov Battalion fighters in Kiev, 23 JuneYoung women saying goodbye to Azov Battalion fighters in Kiev last month

Azov fighters guarding suspected rebels in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, 13 June Azov fighters guarding suspected rebels in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, last month

“The Social National Assembly is not a neo-Nazi organisation,” he said.

“It is a party of Ukrainian patriots who are giving their lives while the rich Europeans are only talking about supporting Ukraine. When, may I ask, will English people come here and help us fight terrorists sent by Russia’s President [Vladimir] Putin, instead of lecturing us on our moral values or people’s political affiliations?”

Mr Gerashchenko was adamant, however, that there were no foreign citizens fighting in the Azov Battalion.

“There are foreign journalists, from Sweden, Spain and Italy, who have come to report on the heroic achievements of the fighters in their struggle against terrorism,” he said.

He insisted he had never heard of Mikael Skillt, the Swedish sniper.

Ukraine is a democratic state, which held a democratic election in May, where the far right and nationalist parties got hardly any votes. These views are not popular with the electorate.

But Anton Shekhovtsov, a prominent expert on far-right and neo-Nazi movements in Europe, believes the Ukrainian government should be clear about whom it is arming to fight for Ukraine’s democratic cause.

“It is a pressing concern, especially with regards to the anti-terrorist operation,” he said. “In my view, the war against pro-Russia separatists is the war for democratic values. Neo-Nazis are as dangerous as pro-Russia extremists in eastern Ukraine.”

July 20, 2014

Robert Parry’s folly

Filed under: journalism,Russia,Syria,Ukraine — louisproyect @ 5:31 pm

Robert Parry

Robert Parry is part of a cadre of investigative journalists who have put themselves at the disposal of the Kremlin on the matters of Syria and/or Ukraine. Like Walter Duranty who justified Stalin’s policies to NY Times readers in the 1930s, we see Parry, Seymour Hersh and Robert Fisk using journalistic tricks of the trade to make Putin seem like an innocent victim of a worldwide conspiracy involving the CIA, NATO, George Soros-type NGO’s, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, NY Times op-ed writers, and other miscreants bent on… Bent on what exactly? In the 1930s Stalin was defending state-owned property for the same reason that Jimmy Hoffa fought against Bobby Kennedy’s investigation of racketeering in the Teamster’s Union. The union was Hoffa’s source of wealth and power. As such it was in his in own class interests to keep the union strong.

But what exactly does that have to do with Putin? Russia is the third largest recipient of Foreign Direct Investment in the world after the USA and China so such an alleged conspiracy would in effect be breaking down an open door. Just three days ago RT.com reported: “Current Rosneft and Exxon projects unaffected by sanctions – Rosneft CEO”. The article points out:

Rosneft has strong links with both the US and UK oil industry.

Rosneft has even made moves into the Western hemisphere, and owns about 30 percent of an ExxonMobil oil field in the Canadian province of Alberta.

Rosneft accounts for 40 percent of Russian oil output, and also has strong partnerships with Norway’s Statoil and Italy’s Eni.

Rosneft is an oil company. Gazprom, a gas exporter as its name would imply, has the same kind of mutually beneficial relationships with their Western counterparts as the Christian Science Monitor reported on May 2nd:

Although the European Union has imposed its own tough sanctions on 48 Russian individuals, Gazprom is arguably where daylight exists between the Obama administration and the EU on the issue of penalizing Moscow for its actions in Ukraine.

The numbers make it clear why. Russia is the EU’s third-biggest trading partner, after the U.S. and China; in 2012, bilateral EU-Russian trade amounted to almost $370 billion. The same year, U.S. trade with Russia amounted to just $26 billion.

For all of the rhetoric about the inevitable clash between Russia and the West, there is no evidence that it has anything to do with economics. I defy anybody to find an article prior to the crisis in the Ukraine that refers to Russia as inimical to capitalist interests. All you need to do is look at one of those advertising supplements in the NY Times that appears every year or so to confirm this. You know the kind I am talking about, the one that has articles to the effect of Russia being an open door for investors.

It is only when some unfortunate group of peoples finds itself on the wrong side of Russian foreign policy that the rhetoric about a new Cold War bubbles up once again. For Parry and company, there are never any legitimate grievances in a place like Syria or Ukraine. What you get is an “outside agitator” theory in which the natives become restless after a phone call from a Virginia Nuland or a Saudi prince. Russia is entitled to support any military action to put down these fifth columns until law and order is restored. In many ways, the excuses made for the iron fist are the same as Israel’s in Gaza. It is no surprise that both Bashar al-Assad and more recently Abdel Fattah el-Sisi align themselves with Russia over Islamic “extremism” and vice versa.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has made a startling intervention in Egypt’s political turmoil by backing its defence minister for the presidency, before an election has even been declared.

Whether the minister, the newly promoted Field Marshal Abdulfattah el-Sisi, will stand for president in elections scheduled for later this year is the biggest talking point in Egyptian politics, with elements of a personality cult already forming around him.

His aides have consistently denied reports that he has already made a decision, but Mr Putin chose to ignore that while welcoming him on a visit to Moscow.

“I know that you have made a decision to run for president,” Mr Putin said. “That’s a very responsible decision: to undertake such a mission for the fate of the Egyptian people. On my own part, and on behalf of the Russian people, I wish you success.”

Turning now to Parry’s article, “Airline Horror Spurs New Rush to Judgment”, you are struck by his use of the trump card—the unnamed Spooks who really know what is going on. In other words, we are up against the same tried and true method of Seymour Hersh.

Regarding the shoot-down of the Malaysian jetliner on Thursday, I’m told that some CIA analysts cite U.S. satellite reconnaissance photos suggesting that the anti-aircraft missile that brought down Flight 17 was fired by Ukrainian troops from a government battery, not by ethnic Russian rebels who have been resisting the regime in Kiev since elected President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown on Feb. 22.

Oh really? Well, I am told that some CIA analysts view Vladimir Putin as the recipient of Joseph Stalin’s brain in experimental surgery conducted by a Martian who landed on earth in 1990 determined to save the universe from George Soros and Samantha Power. Who told me that? Sorry, I must keep my sources confidential. Okay, just this one time I will divulge my source. It is Herman Goldstein, my neighbor who read it in an investor’s newsletter out of Corpus Christi, Texas. Mums the word.

Parry continues:

According to a source briefed on the tentative findings, the soldiers manning the battery appeared to be wearing Ukrainian uniforms and may have been drinking, since what looked like beer bottles were scattered around the site. But the source added that the information was still incomplete and the analysts did not rule out the possibility of rebel responsibility.

No, this is Parry and not Onion.com. I love the bit about beer bottles scattered around the site. You’d think that he would have mentioned vodka in order to make it sound more plausible. The last time I read anything this ridiculous was when Mint Press reported on rebels playing around with sarin gas containers causing an accident that cost the lives of hundreds in East Ghouta. Those Ukrainian troops and Syrian rebels, just like Bluto and Otter getting into trouble in “Animal House”.

Much of Parry’s finely honed investigative reporting talents, burnished at Newsweek no less, are turned to casting doubt on the possibility that the separatists had a ground to air missile capable of reaching 33,000 feet.

I wonder if Parry needs some brushing up on Google since a brief search would reveal that such missiles not only exist but have been used previously. Last Monday a missile brought down a Ukrainian military transport, the AN-26, from a height of 21,000 feet—far beyond the reach of a MANPAD. Well, who knows? I suppose if Parry had learned of this, he would have blamed drunken Ukrainians as well.

To drive his point home, Parry refers to the sarin gas incident that supposedly was a false flag operation intended to justify an American “regime change” invasion of Syria that would have put the FSA in power. Yes, I know. It sounds ridiculous at this point with so many articles referring to the White House’s preference for Bashar al-Assad over any and every rebel but let’s follow Parry’s tortured logic since it is clear that so many of our “anti-imperialists” will take him at his word.

Despite the war hysteria then gripping Official Washington, President Obama rejected war at the last moment and – with the help of Russian President Putin – was able to negotiate a resolution of the crisis in which Assad surrendered Syria’s chemical weapons while still denying a hand in the sarin gas attack.

Actually, there was no “war hysteria” in Washington, or more specifically in the White House. An astute analysis of Obama’s designs appeared in the NY Times on October 22nd 2013, written when the alarums over a looming war with Syria were at their loudest. It stated “from the beginning, Mr. Obama made it clear to his aides that he did not envision an American military intervention, even as public calls mounted that year for a no-fly zone to protect Syrian civilians from bombings.” The article stressed the role of White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough, who had frequently clashed with the hawkish Samantha Power. In contrast to Power and others with a more overtly “humanitarian intervention” perspective, McDonough “who had perhaps the closest ties to Mr. Obama, remained skeptical. He questioned how much it was in America’s interest to tamp down the violence in Syria.”

Well, no matter. The NY Times is the boss’s newspaper and we should never believe whatever it prints. We are far better off with someone like Robert Parry who spent a decade writing for Newsweek. Wheeling out his heavy artillery, he refers his readers to an unimpeachable source:

In watching Obama’s address, I was struck by how casually he lied. He knew better than almost anyone that some of his senior intelligence analysts were among those doubting the Syrian government’s guilt. Yet, he suggested that anyone who wasn’t onboard the propaganda train was crazy.

Since then, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed other evidence indicating that the sarin attack may indeed have been a rebel provocation meant to push Obama over the “red line” that he had drawn about not tolerating chemical weapons use.

Well, Seymour Hersh revealed no “evidence” at all. Evidence would be like something presented to a jury in a murder trial, like a bloody knife or tampered brakes on a car. All Hersh did was assure his readers that Bashar al-Assad was pure as the driven snow because someone who worked for the CIA told him so.

For those who want to read genuine investigative reporting instead of this “unnamed sources” crapola from Parry or Hersh, I refer you to Elliot Higgins, aka Brown Moses, who as far as I know, never worked for Newsweek.

Sy Hersh’s Chemical Misfire

Two munitions were linked to the Aug. 21 sarin attack: a Soviet M14 140 mm artillery rocket with a sarin warhead and a previously unknown munition that appeared at multiple locations. Since the sarin attack, eight separate examples of the previously unknown type of munition have been filmed and photographed in the Jobar, Zamalka, and Ein Tarma suburbs of Damascus, an example of which is shown below.

    • The munitions are used by Syrian government forces and are known as “Volcanoes.”
    • The term “Volcano” is also used for a smaller improvised rocket used by pro-government forces.
    • The type of Volcano used in the Aug. 21 attack comes in three known types: A chemical and explosive type are both launched from a two-barrel launcher, while a large explosive type is launched from a single-barrel launcher.
    • The explosive type has been used since November 2012, while the first known instance of the chemical type being used was June 2013.

I suspect it is exactly this kind of analysis—based on evidence—rather than the specious use of unnamed sources that will ultimately reveal who is responsible for the downing of the Malaysian jet.

July 18, 2014

Introducing the American Socialist

Filed under: Cochranites — louisproyect @ 5:11 pm

Premier issue of the American Socialist, January 1954

 

Yesterday I got some great news from David Walters of the Marxism Internet Archives:

Louis,

as promised, the entire run of The American Socialist has finally be digitized into high quality PDFs. I integrated the HTML you had done previously into the table of contents. Let everyone who needs to know, know. I’ll announce on Facebook and the MIA’s What’s New page tonight or tomorrow.

http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/amersocialist/american_socialist.htm

Comradely,

David

Some background is in order.

A year or two after Marxmail was launched back in 1998, I noticed that someone named Sol Dollinger had subscribed. That name rang a bell. I wrote Sol asking if he was related to Genora Dollinger, who as Genora Johnson led the Woman’s Auxiliary of the Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1936-1937. She was indeed, he replied. He was married to her until her death at the age of 82, just 3 years before Sol subbed to Marxmail.

I knew of the Dollingers through my education in the SWP, the group they split from in November 1953 as part of the “Cochranites”. Bert Cochran and Harry Braverman had become convinced that another kind of left was needed, one that dispensed with the “Leninism” that made broad unity on the American left impossible. Upon leaving (or being expelled—take your pick), they launched a group called the Socialist Union and a magazine called the American Socialist that lasted until 1959 when it became obvious that conditions were not favorable for starting a new group.

The SWP leaders characterized the Cochranites, most of whom were autoworkers like Sol Dollinger, as a relatively privileged layer that had succumbed to the pressures of the Cold War.

In the 1971 convention of the SWP, the majority faced a challenge by the For a Proletarian Orientation tendency that proposed sending comrades into industry. Ironically, their proposal was far less extreme than the one eventually adopted by the majority when it launched its “turn to industry” 7 years later.

The Boston branch of the SWP was a stronghold of FAPO, in large part a function of Larry Trainor’s influence over many younger members recruited there. Larry, a hard-core “Cannonite”, was not comfortable with “petty bourgeois” youth and longed for a return to the party’s trade union orientation.

I had come up to Boston to work with Peter Camejo against the FAPO tendency. He asked me to prepare some remarks on the Cochranites to use against FAPO. We wanted to show that being in industry was no guarantee that you wouldn’t become corrupted by petty bourgeois influences—just look at what happened to the privileged auto workers around Bert Cochran.

Not too long ago, I learned from David Walters that the documents from the 1971 convention had become available, including my remarks on the Cochranites that I hadn’t seen in over 40 years. I got a particular chuckle out of this paragraph (Bartell was Mike Bartell, whose real name was Milt Zaslow and who would be a stalwart of the Los Angeles left until his death in 2008):

Bartell and Cochran had one thing in common. They were opposed to continuing as a Trotskyist party. They were liquidationists and no longer believed the revolution needed a party. Both wings of the Cochranites were hostile to doing political party building work such as holding forums, running election campaigns, selling the Militant. The basic question of the 1953 split with Cochran was over whether we need or do not need a Leninist party.

A decade after I wrote this, Peter Camejo had informed me that we had to “drop the Leninism stuff”. But as opposed to my polemics about the Cochranites no longer believing in a revolutionary party, Peter had come to the conclusion that self-declared vanguards were an obstacle to the creation of a genuine revolutionary party.

I am not even sure whether Peter ever saw himself as a disciple of the Cochranites. In his memoir, he recounts going to a Socialist Union meeting in New York when he was 13 years old or so and newly converted to the socialist cause. I had the impression that he regarded them as a quaint formation and nothing much else.

It is true that Bert and Harry were definitely not interested in selling the Militant. But they were not retreating from politics and into a private life—the SWP version of things. They did yeoman work in creating a pole of attraction for socialists in the 1950s looking for a way to challenge the Cold War political climate and lay the groundwork for new advances. In many ways, they were on the same wavelength as people in Britain who became key figures in the creation of a New Left.

In an article titled “New Horizons for European Socialism”, Bert Cochran referred to developments in Britain:

WHAT has come out of the year’s churning? In terms of organization and social influence, very little. In terms of intellectual quickening, something of importance. As explained by our British correspondent in the October American Socialist, an immediate outgrowth of the mass exodus out of the Communist Party was the so-called forum movement, and the periodical, the New Reasoner, an offspring of the Reasoner, which was the opposition journal inside the CP.

The socialist forums held a two-day conference in April of this year at Sheffield attended largely by recent CP members to try to figure out what had brought on the catastrophe and how to go about reconstructing a philosophy for the movement. As was only natural after a sudden release from an intellectual prison-house, the gathering brought forth a remarkable babel of music in which every possible instrument of the orchestra was represented. Some thought Marxism remained unimpaired. Others believed Marxism had proved ‘a defective tool.’ One delegate wondered whether there weren’t after all absolute humanitarian values. Another held out for proletarian values. Some wanted to go ahead and build a new Marxist party. Others thought the forums should not try to become a new center of political power but stimulate a new climate of socialist opinion.

Wikipedia has this to say about the New Reasoner:

The New Reasoner was preceded by a journal entitled The Reasoner, first published in July 1956 by John Saville and E.P. Thompson. The editors proposed the use of the journal as a forum for the discussion of “questions of fundamental principle, aim, and strategy,” critiquing Stalinism as well as the dogmatic politics of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB).

In 1957, following their resignation from the CPGB over its support of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary, Thompson and Saville began the publication of a new journal, named the New Reasoner, with the purpose of contributing to “the re-discovery of our traditions, the affirmation of socialist values, and the undogmatic perception of social reality.” The opening editorial was a reaffirmation of their commitment to the British Marxist and Communist tradition, despite their departure from the Party. They allied themselves with European workers who were fighting for “de-stalinisation” and called for the rebirth of principles within the movement.

In 1960 the New Reasoner merged with the Universities and Left Review journal to become New Left Review.

Among the authors who contributed to American Socialist you will find Isaac Deutscher, WEB DuBois, Paul Sweezy, William Appleman Williams, Paul Mattick, and Leo Huberman. The magazine was not only a resource for activists trying to build a new socialist left in the USA; it was also an invaluable reservoir of analysis of major trends in American society in the 1950s from automation to the Civil Rights movement. For college students looking for a valuable source of primary information on the period, there’s no better place to go than the American Socialist.

In terms of its disappearance after 7 years, I have heard some “Leninists” refer to the entire project as vindicating the James P. Cannon approach to politics, or what I have referred to as Zinovievism on many occasions. I don’t regard the dissolution of the magazine and the group around Bert Cochran and Harry Braverman as anything more than a sensible reaction to objective conditions.

But over the past 10 years or so, the conditions for a relaunch of the American Socialist have ripened. The SWP is smoldering wreckage now and groups following the “Leninist” model are crisis-ridden. When I speak of a relaunch, I do not mean trying what was done with a new SDS a few years ago. Instead, I speak of new efforts across the board to transcend the dogmatism and the sectarianism that have hobbled the Marxist left for so many decades. Bert Cochran and Harry Braverman did believe in a Leninist party but one that would come into existence in the same way as the original, through the consolidation of an organization that arises through the mass movement. This is how Bert put it in 1954. It rings as true today as it did back then:

Our purpose is to bring our ideas into the mass movement, and to gradually raise the consciousness of the ranks to the historic tasks. But the last thing in the world we should attempt is to inculcate the ranks with the necessity of adopting our specific tradition, and impressing upon them the truth of all the evaluations and proposals broached by Trotsky from 1923 on. The thought that in the coming period of our activity we have to go out of our way to mention the name and work of Leon Trotsky, and the name and the existence of the Fourth International, shows how far all of us have become infused with narrow group thinking, and organizational fetishism, how far we have traveled from the outlook of Frederick Engels, who warned the Socialists in America not to publish the Communist Manifesto, as it was based on old-world experiences, and that the American labor movement, developing under different conditions, would not understand it, and would not know what Marx and Engels were talking about. Why isn’t it possible for us to take this simple thought of Engels and apply it to ourselves and our work? If Engels didn’t think this was putting a question mark over his revolutionary integrity, why should we?

We said before that only by integrating ourselves within the existing movements could our cadres survive and fulfill their mission. We will now add to that proposition this corollary: Only by dropping all sectarian notions of imposing our specific tradition upon the mass movements which developed in different circumstances and under different influences, can our approach register successes and guarantee the future of our precious cadres. What is involved, it is dear, is not any modification of programmatic essence, but a sharp reversal of organizational concepts and perspectives on the nature of the development of the mass revolutionary parties of tomorrow.

We approach all these strata, however, in the spirit of Marx’s Communist Manifesto which proclaimed that the revolutionists had no interests separate and apart from the working class, that we are not a special sect, cult, or church, which seeks to draw people out of the broad currents into its backwater, but rather as American Marxists, we seek to join with others in advancing the existing struggles to a higher stage and on a broader front. We are convinced that out of these struggles and experiences, even before big mass forces take to the field, Left currents will arise with which we shall be able to cooperate and fuse; that the American Marxist tendency, as a stronger formation than at present, will thus be able to discharge its role as a left wing in the big movement—as part and parcel of the struggle to create the mass revolutionary party in the United States. That is our perspective.

Apocalypto

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film,indigenous — louisproyect @ 11:51 am

Conquistadors as Liberators?

The Mad, Mad Mayan World of Mel Gibson

by LOUIS PROYECT

Since I doubt that any CounterPuncher would be inclined to watch Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto” except on a dare, I almost decided not to include a spoiler alert. Gibson’s reputation precedes him, so much so that I avoided watching the film for the longest time. On a particularly arid cable TV and Netflix evening a month or so ago, I decided to give it a shot partly out of boredom and partly out of morbid curiosity.

I will give the devil his due. Gibson threw caution to the wind and made a movie that defied conventional Hollywood studio expectations. This is a tale set some time in the distant past in the Mayan empire of Central America that pits a classless hunting and gathering society against Mayan class society, with Gibson standing up for the primitive communists—as Frederick Engels dubbed such peoples.

Ironically, the film echoes “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” with the hunting and gatherers living in a state of peace and harmony soon to be threatened by a technologically more advanced society but one with more retrograde values. Also, like the original “Planet of the Apes” that starred Charlton Heston, “Apocalypto” relies on a deus ex machinasurprise ending that is intended as a commentary on civilization and progress.

The plot of “Apocalypto” is quite simple. Within fifteen minutes after the beginning of the film, a Mayan raiding party attacks a small village living in Yanomami-like simplicity deep within the rain forest, killing women and children wantonly. The men are then put in chains and led off to a Mayan city, where they are doomed to be sacrificed to the gods in the grizzliest fashion. A high priest cuts open the captives’ chests one by one and plucks out the still-beating heart to the adulation of the Mayan masses.

Gibson makes sure to make the Mayans look as scary as possible, with tattoos and piercings in such abundance that you might think you are in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

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