Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 31, 2011

A nightmare on the brains of the living

Filed under: Libya — louisproyect @ 7:09 pm

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.

–Karl Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire”

By now it has become clear that there are four different perspectives on the left about Libya:

1. Qaddafi as heroic anti-imperialist: Found at Counterpunch, MRZine, and Global Research, this perspective relies heavily on falsification such as the claim that NATO invaded because Qaddafi opposed AFRICOM. My emphasis has been to debunk these claims even though this led to me being accused of supporting NATO. One supposes the only way to avoid such false accusations is to follow the bullshit party line of the brain-dead “anti-imperialist” left. No thanks.

2. The rebels were good guys until NATO got involved: This is the analysis put forward by the ISO in the USA and the SWP in Britain. I was sympathetic to this analysis but came to reject it during the Berber offensive in Western Libya. As someone who despises the oppression of national minorities, I began to realize that there was more to the revolt than puppets whose strings were being pulled by NATO.

3. My own analysis: this should be obvious from the comment above.

4. Gilbert Achcar: Achcar defended NATO’s no-fly zone. As a long-time opponent of imperialist interventions, I could not abide by this although I found much of Achcar’s analysis on the money. Despite his being vilified by members of the Counterpunch tendency, I don’t regard him in the same light as the Paul Bermans and Kenan Makiyas of the world. I would tend to regard his position as falling into the category of a legitimate mistake made by revolutionary in much the same way I regarded some comrades’ support for the KLA.

UPDATE: I just got email from Achcar complaining that I misrepresented him. Instead of trying to characterize his views, I will simply quote his March 25 Znet article and let my readers draw their own conclusions:

Can anyone claiming to belong to the left just ignore a popular movement’s plea for protection, even by means of imperialist bandit-cops, when the type of protection requested is not one through which control over their country could be exerted? Certainly not, by my understanding of the left. No real progressive could just ignore the uprising’s request for protection — unless, as is too frequent among the Western left, they just ignore the circumstances and the imminent threat of mass slaughter, paying attention to the whole situation only once their own government got involved, thus setting off their (normally healthy, I should add) reflex of opposing the involvement. In every situation when anti-imperialists opposed Western-led military interventions using massacre prevention as their rationale, they pointed to alternatives showing that the Western governments’ choice of resorting to force only stemmed from imperialist designs.

In the absence of any other plausible solution, it was just morally and politically wrong for anyone on the left to oppose the no-fly zone; or in other words, to oppose the uprising’s request for a no-fly zone. And it remains morally and politically wrong to demand the lifting of the no-fly zone — unless Gaddafi is no longer able to use his air force. Short of that, lifting the no-fly zone would mean a victory for Gaddafi, who would then resume using his planes and crush the uprising even more ferociously than what he was prepared to do beforehand. On the other hand, we should definitely demand that bombings stop after Gaddafi’s air means have been neutralized. We should demand clarity on what air potential is left with Gaddafi, and, if any is still at his disposal, what it takes to neutralize it. And we should oppose NATO turning into a full participant of the ground war beyond the initial blows to Gaddafi’s armor needed to halt his troops’ offensive against rebel cities in the Western province — even were the insurgents to invite NATO’s participation or welcome it.

The question of rebel racism tends to reveal how the different perspectives line up against each other. For Counterpunch’s sorry gaggle of Qaddafi apologists, racism only became a problem in February 2011. When Qaddafi’s troops lost control in Benghazi, there was an outbreak of racist pogroms—an unheard of phenomenon in enlightened Libya. For them, it was like Union troops being withdrawn from Dixie at the end of Reconstruction.

The British SWP’s Richard Seymour wrote a piece for the Guardian’s “Comments are Free” calling attention to the rebel attacks on African workers that acknowledged the racism that existed in Libya historically:

How did it come to this? A spectacular revolution, speaking the language of democracy and showing tremendous courage in the face of brutal repression, has been disgraced. Racism did not begin with the rebellion – Gaddafi’s regime exploited 2 million migrant workers while discriminating against them – but it has suffused the rebels’ hatred of the violently authoritarian regime they have just replaced.

This is certainly a step upward from Counterpunch’s coverage of Libya, but then again nearly anything would be.

Despite his impressive Marxist credentials, Richard betrays a certain sense of fatalism in describing all the bad things going on Libya, from racist attacks on Africans to joining hands with NATO:

An explanation for this can be found in the weaknesses of the revolt itself. The upsurge beginning on 17 February hinged on an alliance between middle class human rights activists and the working classes in eastern cities such as Benghazi. Rather than wilting under repression, the rebellion spread to new towns and cities. Elements of the regime, seeing the writing on the wall, began to defect. Military leaders, politicians and sections of business and academia sided with the rebels.

But the trouble was that the movement was almost emerging from nowhere. Unlike in Egypt, where a decade of activism and labour insurgency had cultivated networks of activists and trade unionists capable of outfoxing the dictatorship, Libya was not permitted a minimal space for civil society opposition. As a result, there was no institutional structure able to express this movement, no independent trade union movement, and certainly little in the way of an organised left. Into this space stepped those who had the greatest resources – the former regime notables, businessmen and professionals, as well as exiles. It was they who formed the National Transitional Council (NTC).

When I read this, I can’t help but think of the Faust legend. In exchange for immortality, Faust sells his soul to the devil. At the end of Goethe’s play, the devil comes to collect on his debt and leads Faust down to the fiery pits of hell. For the rebels, another such punishment awaits them but it is not Hades—it is ending up like Iraq and Afghanistan. If they don’t like it, too bad. That’s what happens when you make a pact with the devil.

Some people have trouble with this deterministic scenario. When the ISO published an article following Richard’s analysis (either intentionally or unintentionally), an Arab leftist wrote in:

But that the rebellion benefited from NATO support in its insurgency still doesn’t mean that the rebellion has lost its way or is a stooge of imperialism. The overwhelming thrust of the rebellion has been paid for by a determined struggle of the Libyan people, who sacrificed perhaps as much as tens of thousands of lives for their freedom. The thought that they would allow the fruits of their rebellion to be so easily snapped up by an ex-regime, pro-West alliance, is unlikely, premature and excessively cynical.

Here lies the main fault of the article: The Arab Spring is about human agency and popular will, which cannot so easily be put back in the bottle–and certainly not by an opportunistic section of the opposition in cahoots with the Western governments and Big Oil.

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -

THOSE WHO will determine the fate of Libya are the people themselves, and particularly the fighting forces on the ground, most of whom have correctly focused on fighting the regime, rather than flirting with Western diplomats. The balance of power between these different elements of the opposition remains to be disclosed, though it is premature to select the winner now.

While this should not be seen as an excuse for rebel racism, there really has to be much more attention paid to the background of such ugliness. To start with, the presence of sub-Saharan workers in Libya has to be understood in the same light as the bracero program in the USA that brought Mexicans in to pick fruits during WWII because of a labor shortage. Qaddafi did exactly the same thing. In 2000, well over 20 percent of the workforce consisted of immigrant labor—mostly from sub-Saharan Africa.

After judging that the supply now exceeded the demand, the Libyan authorities began to crack down on “illegals” just as has been occurring in the USA. They also collaborated closely with Berlusconi who complained of the same problem. From 2003 to 2005 Libya threw 145,000 undocumented workers out of the country, an accomplishment that President Obama would probably envy.

All throughout this period, the Libyan cops were following extrajudicial procedures just like those in Arizona. When human rights groups complained, the Libyan government defended itself by saying that immigrants enjoyed the same rights as its citizens. Wow, that must have come as some relief.

It should be mentioned that Qaddafi launched his bracero program using pan-African rhetoric.

Cheap labor was being imported because he believed in African unity. Anti-foreigner sentiment grew in Libya despite Qaddafi’s lip-service to fraternalism. It should be noted that all of Qaddafi’s fans who point to his racially enlightened views have probably not spent much time looking at his Green Book, the fount of all his wisdom. On page 30 you can read this:

Black people are now in a very backward social situation, but such backwardness works to bring about their numerical superiority because their low standard of living has shielded them from methods of birth control and family planning. Also, their old social traditions place no limit on marriages, leading to their accelerated growth. The population of other races has decreased because of birth control, restrictions on marriage, and constant occupation in work, unlike the Blacks, who tend to be less obsessive about work in a climate which is continuously hot.

Didn’t Jimmy the Greek get fired for saying things like this?

Given the precarious state of immigrant labor in Libya, it should be no surprise that pogroms were unleashed starting in 2000. That year, on September 17, the BBC reported:

The Libyan General People’s Congress has instituted new security measures across the country.

Correspondents say they are believed to be in response to clashes reported to have taken place between Libyans and African expatriates in the town of Zawiya, west of Tripoli.

The Sudanese independent daily newspaper Akhbar al-Yom reported 50 people were killed in clashes between Libyans and nationals of Sudan and Chad.

In a statement the Congress said it had ordered the authorities to stem the hiring of foreigners by the private sector.

Immigrants from neighbouring Arab and African countries have been lured to oil and gas-rich Libya in search of work.

Earlier Sudan asked Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to intervene to try to contain the situation.

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail had made telephone calls to a number of Libyan officials.

Considering the social milieu that the rebels came out of, it is no surprise that they did not arise above it. In a parallel universe other Libyans might have eschewed armed resistance and spent months and months building civil society but one cannot be guaranteed that Qaddafi would have not crushed the movement. Unlike Egypt or Syria, the totalitarian grip of the great leader was far more like what was seen in Eastern Europe. He brooked no opposition in the country and efforts to discuss the country’s real problems—including racism—were nipped in the bud.

Given the brutality of the rebels, it is understandable why some would want to wash their hands of them. I can’t blame Richard Seymour for expressing his disgust. Of course, on the other hand, the Counterpunch apologists for Qaddafi deserve a spot in hell alongside Faust’s for their brazen lies about “enlightened” racial policies in the good old days.

I cannot help but think of the Soviet Red Army that saved humanity by pushing Hitler’s army back into Europe and breaking the Nazi war machine once and for all. In his article Trotskyists and the Resistance in World War Two, Ernest Mandel wrote:

…there was a just war of national defence of the Soviet Union, a workers state, against an imperialist power. The fact that the Soviet leadership allied itself not only in a military way – which was absolutely justified – but also politically with the Western imperialists in no way changed the just nature of that war. The war of the Soviet workers and peasants, of the Soviet peoples and the Soviet state, to defend the Soviet Union against German imperialism was a just war from any Marxist-Leninist point of view. In that war we were 100 per cent for the victory of one camp, without any reservations or question marks. We were for absolute victory of the Soviet people against the murderous robbers of German imperialism.

No matter how just that war was, how could any leftist support the troops who were capable of carrying out atrocities that dwarf any occurring in Libya today? In a May 1, 2002 article titled ‘They raped every German female from eight to 80′, Antony Beevor wrote:

“Red Army soldiers don’t believe in ‘individual liaisons’ with German women,” wrote the playwright Zakhar Agranenko in his diary when serving as an officer of marine infantry in East Prussia. “Nine, ten, twelve men at a time – they rape them on a collective basis.”

The Soviet armies advancing into East Prussia in January 1945, in huge, long columns, were an extraordinary mixture of modern and medieval: tank troops in padded black helmets, Cossack cavalrymen on shaggy mounts with loot strapped to the saddle, lend-lease Studebakers and Dodges towing light field guns, and then a second echelon in horse-drawn carts. The variety of character among the soldiers was almost as great as that of their military equipment. There were freebooters who drank and raped quite shamelessly, and there were idealistic, austere communists and members of the intelligentsia appalled by such behaviour.

Beria and Stalin, back in Moscow, knew perfectly well what was going on from a number of detailed reports. One stated that “many Germans declare that all German women in East Prussia who stayed behind were raped by Red Army soldiers”. Numerous examples of gang rape were given – “girls under 18 and old women included”.

Marshal Rokossovsky issued order No 006 in an attempt to direct “the feelings of hatred at fighting the enemy on the battlefield.” It appears to have had little effect. There were also a few arbitrary attempts to exert authority. The commander of one rifle division is said to have “personally shot a lieutenant who was lining up a group of his men before a German woman spreadeagled on the ground”. But either officers were involved themselves, or the lack of discipline made it too dangerous to restore order over drunken soldiers armed with submachine guns.

Calls to avenge the Motherland, violated by the Wehrmacht’s invasion, had given the idea that almost any cruelty would be allowed. Even many young women soldiers and medical staff in the Red Army did not appear to disapprove. “Our soldiers’ behaviour towards Germans, particularly German women, is absolutely correct!” said a 21-year-old from Agranenko’s reconnaissance detachment. A number seemed to find it amusing. Several German women recorded how Soviet servicewomen watched and laughed when they were raped. But some women were deeply shaken by what they witnessed in Germany. Natalya Gesse, a close friend of the scientist Andrei Sakharov, had observed the Red Army in action in 1945 as a Soviet war correspondent. “The Russian soldiers were raping every German female from eight to eighty,” she recounted later. “It was an army of rapists.”

Now of course everybody (except die-hard Stalinists) understand that the Kremlin was socialist in name only at this point and that such cruelty was perhaps to be expected. But does this negate the progressive character of the war against Hitler?

If we measure the rebel conduct in Libya or the Red Army’s in 1945 against those that were found in the Red Army in 1919 or in the Oriente Province in 1959, there is little doubt that they will fall short. But on the other hand, a good case can be made that they were all part of the upward march of humanity against oppression. Sometimes history will throw you a curve ball. It is best to keep your eye on the ball and figure out a way to move from our unhappy status today and toward a better future. In my view, the left in the West has to figure out a way to relate to the rebels in Libya who decided to risk their lives fighting against a torture state that was armed to the teeth by the very imperialists who now decided to change horses in midstream. This is especially true since there are ominous signs that the imperialists have about as much interest in armed militias challenging the prerogatives of the TNC as they would toward any such formation in the Middle East. The agenda of the West is to rapidly disarm the rebels and figure out a way to impose Qaddafi-ism without Qaddafi. This is something that the citizen-soldiers of Libya would resist to the death and we have to figure out a way to offer solidarity, even if we can’t abide by their racist treatment of African workers. This may not seem easy, but we have no other choice.

37 Comments »

  1. Louis,

    I have read pretty much all your stuff on Libya, but I still believe that this article and anything further you might pen would benefit enormously from a one-paragraph statement of your views. A negative of two position that you disagree with is not quite enough. I am not nitpicking here, I am one of those who has had continuous trouble figuring this out. I think currently I stand closest to Achcar because of his beginning with the Arab Spring (Arab Revolution) as the fundamental guiding fact on the ground.

    Parenthetically, on the issue of the NATO bombing, people cannot have it both ways. If bombing is totally ineffective and is only an imperialist tactic to attempt to demoralize the population and drive the insurgents into passivity, then the insurgents get 100% of the credit for driving Gaddhafi from power. On the other hand, I find myself siding with Achcar when he points out that the bombing put a halt to the impending Gaddhafi bloodbath planned for Bengazi.

    On the third hand, of course the insurgents will have to figure out what real price they have to pay for the help from the imperialists. Achcar correctly points out that the Egyptian masses will have to pay some price for their belief in the Army in the post-the-army-and-the-people-are-one world. In my view, these are best seen as democratic revolutions and have all the complications that ensue from the participation of members of the ruling or at least monied classes in the struggle. Anyway, thanks again for all the brain power you have expended on this issue.

    David

    Comment by David McDonald — August 31, 2011 @ 7:45 pm

  2. I think you have misstated position 2: “2. The rebels were good guys until NATO got involved.”

    This view invents a monolithic thing “the rebels” — and then implies that their nature changed (because of an external event). That structure makes it look a bit ridiculous.

    I would propose a different way of viewing it:

    The upsurge against Gaddafi was justified, if politically undefined. Gaddafi has been an oppressor and his rule is exhausted (by corruption and the obvious madness of his reign).

    Such an upsurge is complex — drawing on many class forces, tribal groups and grievances.

    The organized forces who emerged (at a certain point) combined both previous figures of the old regime and various activated educated strata in the first liberated cities (lawyer-activists etc.)

    Once NATO intervened, a whole number of things happened. “The rebels” went through a selection (and deselection) process — as CIA handlers, “evaluaters,” and military trainers started exerting their influence at every key spot in the “rebel” machinery.

    It is not that “the rebels” changed — but that a spontaneous upsurge (“it is right to rebel”) was rapidly transformed (under NATO tutelage and military dependency) into a specific political structure (a proto-state and oppositional military acceptable to the oil companies and imperialists.)

    Comment by Mike E — August 31, 2011 @ 7:53 pm

  3. The Soviet Union was not socialist at any time. Never was socialist. It was a workers state with bureaucratic deformations at first, and later a bureaucratically-degenerated workers state. Trotsky proposed a political revolution to restore the USSR to what he thought would have been a revolutionary-led society. That didn’t happen for reasons too long to discuss here.

    But the USSR was not a socialist society, just as Cuba today is not a socialist society, but one with a mixture of features of both capitalism and socialism. Cuba is a workers state with many problems being led by a leadership team which includes the leaders who organized and led the revolution there in the first place.

    Whatever atrocities the Red Army committed after World War II, they’re not attributable to “socialism”, even if they were committed in its name. They are primarily attributable to the peculiar combination of nationalism, bureaucratism and Stalinism which could hardly be expected to overcome centuries of tsarism with decades of capitalism grafted on top.

    Your desire to relate to the Libyan rebels is commendable, but they will have to go through their own experiences as they face the plans of NATO to housebreak them for their own imperialist purposes, as you do understand.

    Some people will see the fall of Quaddafi as something positive. I recall hearing that argument in relation to Iraq not so long ago. Example:

    THE MILITANT
    Vol. 69/No. 10 March 14, 2005

    Using political space opening in Mideast
    (editorial)

    While the war and aggressive course of world imperialism has resulted in immediate gains for Washington, its actions have also opened space in Iraq and throughout the region for the working class and peasants to organize and fight to advance their interests. And where this political space is opening working people are stepping in and beginning to look for ways to use it.

    FULL:

    http://www.themilitant.com/2005/6910/691020.html

    LOUIS WRITES:
    “The agenda of the West is to rapidly disarm the rebels and figure out a way to impose Qaddafi-ism without Qaddafi.”

    WALTER DISAGREES:
    The West simply wants to loot as much of Libya’s oil and water resources as it can, and much more than Quaddafi was willing to sell to them.

    MORNING STAR
    Oil giants move in as fighting rages
    Monday 29 August 2011
    by Our Foreign Desk

    Italian oil giant Eni SpA signed a memorandum with Libya’s Nato-backed rebels today to restart a key pipeline that carries natural gas from the African state to Italy.

    Eni said that both it and the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council (NTC) are pushing ahead to create “conditions for a rapid and complete recovery of Eni’s activities in Libya” and to restarting the Greenstream pipeline.

    FULL:

    Comment by Walter Lippmann — August 31, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

  4. The Soviet Union was not socialist at any time. Never was socialist. It was a workers state with bureaucratic deformations at first, and later a bureaucratically-degenerated workers state.

    Walter, in the 10 years or so that you were posting to Marxmail before your removal, I never saw a single reference to a book that you had been reading. This does not surprise me that much since I have heard that something like 90 percent of all college graduates never read a book after graduating. If you ever somehow amass the intellectual energy to read something other than various online Cuban government publications, Political Affairs, or the bourgeois press trawling for items on Cuba, I’d strongly recommend Harrison Salisbury’s “The 900 Days”. You will learn that socialism as a belief system was still very strong whatever Stalin thought or did. I referred to it in my review of the movie “The Battle for Stalingrad”: “In Salisbury’s book, a testimony to the ability of a people to survive the German assault, residual socialist beliefs weigh heavily. Despite all of Stalin’s abuses, the ordinary citizens of Leningrad believed that their system was worth fighting and dying for.”

    http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/fascism_and_war/Stalingrad.htm

    More from that review:

    Notwithstanding the ineptitude of a depleted Red Army, Hitler failed to understand the powerful social roots of the army which would sustain it in a total war. In one of the few places where Beevor shows some insight into the class nature of the Soviet resistance, he–as one might expect–uses the term “Stalinism” and “Socialism” interchangeably. Substitute the latter term for the former and Beevor’s comments seem utterly appropriate:

    “Whatever one may think about Stalinism, there can be little doubt that its ideological preparation, through deliberately manipulated alternatives, provided ruthlessly effective arguments for total warfare. All right-thinking people had to accept that Fascism was bad and must be destroyed by any means. Fascism was totally devoted to the destruction of the Communist Party, therefore it should lead the struggle. This form of logic is captured in Vasily Grossman’s novel, ‘Life and Fate.’ ‘The hatred Fascism bears us’, declares Mostovskoy, an old Bolshevik who had fallen foul of Stalinism, ‘is yet another proof — a far-reaching proof — of the justice of Lenin’s cause.”

    When Vilsmaier’s soldiers finally arrive at the outskirts of Stalingrad in the summer of 1942, the sight that awaits them is enough to make them get back on the train and head back for Germany. In all directions, sprawled on the ground, are the bandaged and bloody casualties of the preceding months’ fighting, who moan and weep inconsolably. If the Russians are “untermenschen,” these soldiers are certainly not “obermenschen.”

    Stalin had decided to hold the line at the city named after him, no matter the expense. This meant enacting one of the most shocking measures known in modern warfare: all Russian soldiers running away from the fighting would be shot by specially assigned NKVD operatives. If a Russian had a choice between dying from a German bullet and one made in his own country, he would likely opt for the former. While the workers state promised the chance of a better future, merciless discipline was required to hold the line in the here and now so as to make that future possible.

    A combination of class consciousness, patriotism and ultra-Spartan discipline helped to forge the Red detachments in Stalingrad into a Nazi-killing machine. Furthermore, the Soviet Union had something that Germany sorely lacked: sheer numbers. Vast numbers of inexperienced youth were drafted into action, with very little training. This led to enormous casualties in face of the better trained and equipped Wehrmacht. Even schoolchildren were mustered into action. In chapter seven, “Not One Step Backwards,” Beevor writes:

    “Younger schoolchildren, meanwhile, were put to work building earth walls round the petroleum-storage tanks on the banks of the Volga. Supervised by teachers, they carried the earth on wooden stretchers. A German aircraft suddenly appeared. The girls did not know where to hide, and the explosion from a bomb buried two fourteen-year-old girls. When their classmates dug them out, they found that one of them, Nina Grebennikova, was paralysed with a broken back. Her shocked and weeping friends cleaned off the wooden stretcher, and carried her on it to a Stalingrad hospital, next to where the Tsaritsa gorge opens on to the Volga.”

    In early autumn the fighting had concentrated in the rubble strewn streets of downtown Stalingrad. Hitler had vowed not to allow another “Verdun” to take place, referring to the most famous and costly trench warfare episode in WWI, but this is exactly what the Battle of Stalingrad turned into. Instead of trenches, Soviet soldiers and their Nazi counterparts fought from behind shattered buildings, often no more than fifty feet apart.

    In a long scene in the middle of Vilsmaier’s film, such action is dramatized in a vivid fashion. The Germans are huddled in one bombed out factory building and the Soviets face them in another. Between them is a courtyard strewn with the bodies of the already dead and dying. As the German officers order their troops to attack the Soviet stronghold, each successive wave of attackers is mowed down by Soviet fire. What the film does not portray is the heroism of the Soviet defenders who were vastly outnumbered. This flowed logically from an esthetic/political decision to show the horror of the war only from the German point of view.

    For the Soviet perspective, we have to turn to Beevor:

    “While the bitter struggle for the Mamaev Kurgan [a park] continued, an equally ferocious battle developed for the huge concrete grain silo down by the river. The rapid advance of Hoth’s XLVIII Panzer Corps had virtually cut off this natural fortress. The defenders from the 35th Guards Division cheered and joked when reinforcements from a marine infantry platoon commanded by Lieutenant Andrey Khozyanov reached them during the night of 17 September. They had two old Maxim machine-guns and two of the long Russian anti-tank rifles, which they used to fire at a German tank when an officer and an interpreter appeared under a flag of truce to ask them to surrender. German artillery then ranged on to the vast structure preparing the ground for the Saxon 94th Infantry Division, whose insignia were the crossed swords of Meissen porcelain.

    “The fifty-odd defenders fought off ten assaults on 18 September. Knowing that they could not expect resupply, they conserved their ammunition, rations and water carefully. The conditions in which they continued to fight over the next two days were terrible. They were choked with dust and smoke, even the grain in the elevator had caught fire, and they soon had almost nothing left to drink. They were also short of water to fill the barrel jackets of the Maxim machine-guns. (Presumably the marines resorted to their own urine for the purpose, as was so often the practice in the First World War, but Soviet accounts avoid such details.)

    “All their grenades and anti-tank projectiles had been expended by the time more German tanks arrived to finish them off on 20 September. Both Maxims were put out of action. The defenders, unable to see inside the elevator for smoke and dust, communicated by shouting to each other through parched throats. When the Germans broke in, they fired at sounds, not at objects. That night, with only a handful of ammunition left, the survivors broke out. The wounded had to be left behind. Although a fierce fight, it was hardly an impressive victory for the Germans, yet Paulus chose the huge grain silo as the symbol of Stalingrad in the arm badge he was having designed at army headquarters to commemorate the victory.”

    While this urban trench warfare proceeded through the end of 1942, the Soviet Union was operating munitions factories twenty-four hours a day in the Eastern part of the country not yet under Nazi control, as it drafted a huge new army to dislodge the invaders. The stubborn fighting in Stalingrad prevented the Nazis from moving eastward. After the new Soviet forces were assembled, a top-secret decision was made to surround Paulus’s Sixth Army from the north and the south. This counter-attack coincided with the full brunt of the Russian winter that the German army was ill-prepared for. Not only were the Nazis short of food, ammunition and water, they lacked winter combat gear. Since Hitler had gambled that the fighting would be long over prior to the onset of winter, his ill-equipped soldiers began to suffer frostbite and worse. To survive, many removed the underclothing of dead Soviet soldiers or wrapped rags around their shoes.

    In the final section of the film, Vilsmaier depicts his soldiers, now whittled down to a haggard and ailing group of ten or so, trudging through the deep snow trying to escape both the fighting and the inclement weather. Although it is impossible to feel any kind of sympathy for these killers, we do understand his main point, namely that WWII was a catastrophe for the German people both physically and spiritually. In the context of various reactionary ideological trends in recent years, which range from German historiography minimizing the horrors of the Nazi regime to Reagan’s placing a wreath at Bitberg, Vilsmaier deserves applause.

    However, the film did not receive a positive response, especially from critics in Great Britain and the United States who objected to any attempt to humanize German foot soldiers. They took exception particularly to several incidents that showed them taking mercy on Russian soldiers or civilians. Obviously they still adhere to the Manichean worldview of WWII in which “our” side never raped, plundered or murdered innocent civilians. Another possible factor was worry over the uncompromisingly antiwar vision of the movie. If the new Germany was to take its place in helping to once again “civilize” the East, it would be necessary to instill a fighting mood among its youth. Alluding to the possibly subversive effect of the film, Peter Millar wrote in the January 31, 1993 London Times:

    “If Vilsmaier’s end was to produce a pacifist catharsis in his audience, he succeeds. On a wet Friday night, an audience of noisy, mostly young, Berliners who had rolled in from the Kurfurstendamm, beers and popcorn in hand, filed out after the credits in stunned silence. If, despite the international pressure to ”play a grown-up part” in UN peacekeeping efforts, no German government can raise a majority for sending troops to Bosnia, Stalingrad will have played its part. Stalingrad is expected to open in London in late spring.”

    Turning now to the importance of Stalingrad for the Soviet people, it would be useful first of all to consider the role of composer Dmitri Shostakovich, whose music not only symbolizes the powerful will of the Soviet people to resist fascism, but the difficulties they faced in trying to build socialism under the rule of a capricious dictator.

    The Second World War haunts Shostakovitch’s music, from the Seventh Symphony subtitled “Leningrad” to the Thirteenth, the “Babi Yar” symphony. In 1941, when the Nazis were at the gates of Leningrad, Shostakovich was serving as a volunteer firefighter. Although he was the Soviet Union’s most respected composer, he occasionally found himself on Stalin’s wrong side. Leningrad, considered an Old Bolshevik stronghold, had suffered from the 1937 purges more than any other city. Shostakovich, who had enjoyed the patronage of Marshal Tukhachevsky, had every reason to live in fear after his compatriot was executed.

    While the Seventh Symphony was characterized by the sort of upbeat and optimistic mood found in most of Shostakovich’s large-scale works, the 1943 Eighth Symphony was decidedly subdued, introspective and mournful–as befits a musical work composed in what appeared to be the final days of the socialist republic.

    The work was condemned as “formalist” after WWII and never received the kind of popular and critical acclaim of his other work. However, it certainly is true to the spirit of 1943 as well as being one of the great masterpieces of the 20th century. It is something that never fails to confound bourgeois musicology, how one of the great composers of the modern epoch could have attained such sublime levels while being forced to follow the rules of artistic commissars. Shostakovich’s sphinx-like visage, always seen behind thick eyeglasses, was the perfect counterpart to his artistic psyche, one that resists superficial interpretations.

    This, however, does not prevent them from being put forward. Turning to Elizabeth Wilson’s 1994 “Shostakovich: A Life Remembered,” we are startled to learn that the composer’s main concern in 1943 was whether a possible Stalin victory would lead to “a return to the pre-war policies of lawlessness and terror.” Proof positive of this claim is a December 31, 1943 letter to Glikman, whose words Wilson describes as containing “unmistakable irony”:

    “1944 is around the corner. A year of happiness, joy, and victory. This year will bring us much joy. The freedom-loving Peoples will at long last throw off the yoke of Hitlerism, and peace will reign throughout the world under the sunny rays of Stalin’s Constitution. I am convinced of this, and therefore experience the greatest joy. Now we are apart; how I miss you; would that together we could rejoice at the victories of the Red Army led by its Great Commander, comrade Stalin.”

    Comment by louisproyect — August 31, 2011 @ 8:24 pm

  5. I admit that I don’t know much about the indigenous structures of Libyan society. Seymour says that Gaddafi destroyed the potential for any independent collective organizations, such as labor unions, to emerge in Libya as happened in Egypt under Mubarak. Maybe, that’s true, I don’t know enough to say. But it is, I think, a significant error to consider Libya reduced to such a atomized state that there is no potential for any collective resistance to the designs of the US and NATO, or, alternatively, to characterize the rebels as nothing more than clients of the US and NATO. One of the oddities of the “Gaddafi as heroic anti-imperialist” approach is that it relies upon a description of the people of Libya as something akin to a, for lack of a better term, lumpen mass, with no distinguishing characteristics and potential for independent historical action, with the exception of the emphasis upon Islamic fundamentalists. There is something Eurocentric embedded within the response of some on the left in support of both Gaddafi and Ahmadinejad, an implicit assumption that there is no way that the people of Iran and Libya could resist their leaders and seek a more progressive vision for their society. In this, they share an odd affinity with their imperialist adversaries.

    Comment by Richard Estes — August 31, 2011 @ 8:46 pm

  6. David McDonald said:

    “I still believe that this article and anything further you might pen would benefit enormously from a one-paragraph statement of your views.”

    What would be the purpose of this paragraph?

    If a writer wants to say that he believes in X, Y, and Z, that’s fine, but so what? It’d be handy for those who want to put the writer into this or that particular category (it might even win the writer friends and influence), but what would be the point beyond that?

    Comment by Todd — August 31, 2011 @ 8:58 pm

  7. IMHO you have something backwards – hopefully
    this will suggest how basic it is.

    Mandel: The fact that the [Qaddafi] Soviet leadership allied itself not
    only in a military way – which was absolutely justified – but also
    politically with [dictatorship] the Western imperialists in no way
    changed the just nature of that war.

    Comment by Doug O. — August 31, 2011 @ 10:10 pm

  8. Ohmans, there are no byte limits to comments. I urge you to spell out your ideas, such as they are. Are you one of those people who believe that Qaddafi was a revolutionary nationalist who was attacked because of his pro-people policies? Or do you just automatically take his side because he was attacked by NATO? Would you have backed the rebels if NATO had not stepped in? Go ahead. Take all the time and space you need.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 31, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

  9. It is difficult to understand the discussion about the VWII and the rape issue in the context of today’s Libya remembering that the neo=liberal right is advancing their own neoliberal agenda by making a new definition of sovereignty and the international law, See Atlantic for reference. Moreover, the examples of the Iranian revolution -counter revolution in revolution= and other near examples are much more appropriate.

    How do we respond the arguments of the neo=liberals and put the line between us and them? This is not an easy task as it seems that the right is borrowing concepts from our own arsenal and assimilating them into their own agenda. My concern is that if we define our arguments with pragmatical concerns we are to find ourselves on a slippery ground. For instance, Counterpunch and Co may hide their pragmatism by declaring Gaddafi as anti imperialist, but, solely focusing on the overthrown of a dictator is also a pragmatic position. Marx’s unwillingness to support Risorgimiento may be put forward as an example to support the pragmatism of both positions. However, Marx and Engels’s support for Irish and Polish nationalism or any other national struggle had not been unconditional by any means. They advanced not only political and pragmatic arguments but ethical ones as well.

    Comment by erol = lahy — August 31, 2011 @ 11:00 pm

  10. It’s indeed humorous and a bit ironic to see Louis Proyect, who is a leading fighter against Iran and Hezbollah now aligned with Iran and Hezbollah in favor of the Libyan rebels. Oh, and the Palestinian Authority also supports the TNC.

    My position, in case it isn’t obvious, is against NATO intervention and for the immediate withdrawal of NATO from Libya.

    Comment by Walter Lippmann — August 31, 2011 @ 11:02 pm

  11. Blimey…I only draw paralells between Stalinism and the US in order to throw peoples triumphalism of the US into perspective …but each to their own.

    Comment by Ed — August 31, 2011 @ 11:31 pm

  12. OK, that’s more like it! I’m somewhere between 2 & 3. Some rebel groups good, others probably not so good: TNC tops, dogmatic Islamists (with Gulf connections?). This *may* be encouraging “Libya’s interim leaders reject UN military personnel” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14726292 but that may mean TNC is favoring NATO over this other arm of imperialism. And yes, Seymour’s perspective is too fatalistic and deterministic for a situation still containing the potential for a variety of outcomes.

    This is a bourgeois democratic revolution, and of course they have the right to call on whomever for assistance in dire circumstances. It is precisely all the more for that reason, though, that we as anti-imperialists in the (imperialist) countries being called upon, have to play the (difficult) role of accurately measuring and warning of the dangers involved. That has been my primary concern here.

    Socialist revolution is a different matter: only in the (limited) case where it was judged there were no strings attached, obviously, or in the case where more could be gained by promoting inter-imperialist conflict. Otherwise likely a betrayal; this right is not unconditional in this case.

    That was the case of the USSR in WW2 (with the analogical limitation of the counter-revolutionary character of the Soviet leadership at that time), on both scores.

    Comment by Matt — September 1, 2011 @ 12:43 am

  13. Imperialism seems to be having a hard time imposing its will these days. Back in 2003 I suppose the “correct Marxist position” would have been for the Iraq Communist Party, Sadrists, SCIRI, et al to take up arms in defense of Saddam Hussein against US imperialism. They did no such thing, instead standing back and letting the imperialists finish off Hussein. But surprise! The result was not a compliant US client regime with Ahmed Chalabi or Iyad Allawi at the helm. Instead Sadr & Ayatollah Sistani mobilized the masses to thwart America’s designs. Whatever its faults, I don’t think anyone could plausibly call the current Iraqi regime a “puppet government.” I wouldn’t have believed it myself once upon a time. So I would suggest comrades who pessimistically see imperialism triumphant in Libya today wait and see what develops. They might be surprised.

    Comment by David Altman — September 1, 2011 @ 1:39 am

  14. The dripping irony of Proyect’s brilliant historic reminder of the brutal humanity of the Battle of Stalingrad in the context of Libya today is the fact that it’s penned by somebody who proclaims “he’s no longer a Trotskyist!”

    One thing’s absolutely certain, for good or ill, without the demise of the Soviet Union, NATO’s bombing of Libya would be unthinkable, nevermind the occupation of Iraq & Afghanistan.

    Lest one thinks that’s a good thing, that is, the demise of the USSR, then just know this, that Cuba as we know it wouldn’t exist today without that same existence of the USSR, nor would that hair-raising image of red flagged NVA tanks smashing through US embassy gates in Saigon have been possible without the existence of the USSR, nevermind Soviet choppers protecting Sandanista airspace against Reagan’s Contra mercenaries.

    To argue the contrary would be like saying the State of Israel would exist without Uncle Sam, that is, such a notion is unthinkable.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — September 1, 2011 @ 2:11 am

  15. Richard Seymour, Mike Ely, and the ISO keep pointing to the fact that the rebels wouldn’t have been able to topple Qaddafi without NATO’s military actions. I keep pointing to the fact that NATO’s bombing could not and did not dislodge the dictator from his palace in Tripoli. It was the combined action of Western rebels (not controlled by the TNC, for those who make a fetish of hating the TNC) and residents of Tripoli organized in underground neighborhood cells (see: http://tehrantimes.com/index.php/middle-east/2004-a-double-agent-in-gaddafi-camp- which was originally reported by the Wall Street Journal) that was decisive. The rebellion from below and the attack from afar were inseparable; neither on their own independently of one another would have been able to triumph, given the balance of forces as of August.

    The rebels’ military dependence on NATO’s air power is not decisive politically in this case. The Vietnamese got billions in Russian and Chinese military and economic aid (probably dwarfing N. Viet Nam’s GDP at the time); most of those AK-47s and other munitions were definitely not made in Viet Nam. If that aid was cut off, they wouldn’t have been able to continue the war in the south. April 1975 wouldn’t have happened without the assistance they got from the Russians and Chinese, especially since roughly 80% of the National Liberation Front’s cadre were wiped out in and after the Tet Offensive in 1968 and the war could only be continued with the use of North Viet Nam’s ground forces.

    Some point to the TNC’s decision to honor the oil contracts as proof of their status as imperialism’s puppets. I guess these people would’ve preferred the TNC void all the contracts, thereby adding Western imperialists to its list of enemies, as if toppling Qaddafi weren’t difficult enough on its own? Some people have also been pointing to the fact that the West has a lot of Libyan assets frozen abroad to show that they have the upper hand against the TNC. In fact, the TNC has the upper hand because NATO’s main leverage over the revolt was the fact that Qaddafi remained in power. Now that he’s gone, they don’t need NATO at all, and the Western powers and their corporations need and want access to Libya’s oil. If they don’t get it, the Russians and Chinese stand ready to take their place.

    The fact that the bulk of the Western left has disowned the Libyan revolution because its leaders decided that survival (a precondition for victory) was more important than anti-imperialist phrase-mongering shows how divorced most of the left is from reality. Real movements often face difficult choices. What we ought to be doing is trying to figure out what we can learn from them. They mobilized massive numbers of people and toppled a dictator of 42 years standing, and it started with protests over shitty housing. They didn’t use newspapers, they used cell phones, coded signals, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and other means that I personally don’t know anything about to get around the government’s attempt to kill internet access. They exploited the attack of imperialist powers on the enemy they had in common to push their own agenda.

    This was a clear win for the Libyan people, a big step forward. However, there are many steps to go. Racism, economic inequality, and which classes get what spoils are already dividing yesterday’s victors. This is the way democratic revolutions work. What Marx and Engels said about the revolutions of 1848 has never been more relevant.

    Comment by Binh — September 1, 2011 @ 3:50 am

  16. BINH says:
    “This was a clear win for the Libyan people, a big step forward.”
    ===============================================

    WALTER says:
    The only lesson which the Libyan people could learn from this was that they were NOT able to overthrow the government of Libya on their own. To dislodge Kadafi from Tripoli they had to enlist the support of NATO’s soldiers on the ground and thousands of sorties of NATO aircraft whose purpose was to terrorize the targetted populations.

    There’s an old saying, “Marry in haste, repent at leisure”. The Libyan rebels will now have a long time to ponder the wisdom of the choices they made. Yes, Kadafi was driven from Tripoli, but what will it now take to dislodge the NATO soldiers, not to speak of ending the airborne terrorist attacks on the country by NATO?

    US, NATO plan Libyan “stabilization” as fighting continues

    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2011/aug2011/liby-a25.shtml

    Comment by Walter Lippmann — September 1, 2011 @ 4:49 am

  17. Louis refers to socialism as a “belief system”. Just because people believe something, that doesn’t make it true. Many people still believe that the United States is a democracy, in large part because that’s what they were told in school and that’s what the media repeats incessantly. But that doesn’t make it true. Actually, socialism is a projected level of social development, the one which Marx and Marxists projected would supercede the stage called capitalism.

    My ideas on the Soviet Union were formed back in the 1960s reading a book called THE REVOLUTION BETRAYED by Leon Trotsky. It remains the most precient overall analysis of the rise and decline of the USSR that I’ve read. There are other books which have attempted to analyze and explain the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, but this one, which I re-read from time to time, remains the one which provides the most cogent explanations, at least to me.

    As a matter of fact, I read books constantly. I read biographies, history, fiction, short stories and so on. Lately I’ve been reading lots of books by Simon Winchester, the British journalist and historian. Oh, a biography of Babe Didrikson Zaharias. And Nobody Called Me Charlie. Among others.

    Comment by Walter Lippmann — September 1, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

  18. “Many people still believe that the United States is a democracy, in large part because that’s what they were told in school and that’s what the media repeats incessantly. But that doesn’t make it true.”

    No. What makes it true is that it is.

    “As a matter of fact, I read books constantly.”

    Then you obviously don’t read the right ones.

    Might I suggest you read Marx, to understand this funny concept called democracy and how it’s different depending on time and place.

    Comment by Todd — September 1, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

  19. Walter: Louis refers to socialism as a “belief system”.

    I was not writing about “socialism”. I was writing about the Red Army driving the Nazis out of the USSR and back into Germany. Ernest Mandel regarded this as one of WWII’s progressive wars within a war. I am sorry that you don’t understand the point I was making, namely that atrocities can be committed by troops carrying out a historically progressive task, but you should not waste our time with your confused nonsense.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 1, 2011 @ 2:04 pm

  20. Todd’s still all bunched up over Ward Churchill calling the dead technocrats in the twin towers “little Eichman’s” since he obviously has no clue what Malcolm X meant by “chickens coming home to roost”.

    Churchill gets him as mad as the memories of protestors spitting on returning Vietnam vets.

    Like a true reactionary his reading of Churchill imagines “leftist fist pumpers” akin to the mythology of spat upon vets.

    If there were only a hundred people left on Earth and 100 dollars to split between them all, Todd would consider it a true Democracy that wound up with 4 people holding 80 dollars while the other 96 people fought over 20 dollars so long as everybody got to enter a private booth and pull a lever every few years. That’d be a system he’d be proud to send his kids off to war to defend, in fact, he might call that society the pinnacle achievement of human civilization.

    Whether or not Todd read Marx before or after he joined the campus chapter of Platypus he never understood that Marx held the view that political democracy was a hollow facade without economic democracy which only begins with the expropriation of the expropriators.

    One thing’s for certain, Uncle Sam’s entry into the Iraq, Afghanistan & Libyan wars were a result of the democratic process about as much as the Vietnam war was a result of the democratic process. If the people cannot decide the waging of wars then they sure as hell don’t live in a political democracy, nevermind the economic democracy of expropriating the expropriators and Marx’s credo “from each according to their ability and to each according to their needs”.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — September 1, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

  21. I get the impression that the people of Tripoli did not want the rebels.

    On armies and rape, isn’t this what every powerful army has done throughout history, including your boys in the US. In Iraq wasn’t it every girl between 4 and 80?.

    Comment by Steve — September 1, 2011 @ 6:44 pm

  22. Libyans have a hard following after the enhanced interrogation and sadist party that was Abu Ghraib.

    I recently learned a strange twist in history. Peter Arnett is the father-in-law of John Yoo.

    Comment by Aaron — September 1, 2011 @ 7:53 pm

  23. Charlie Friedrich wrote:

    “Marx held the view that political democracy was a hollow facade without economic democracy”

    Very _good_, Charlie! I’m so pleased with you!

    Unfortunately, you forgot to read the part about different _kinds_ of democracy (but that’s OK: you’re just a little slow; you keep right on trying).

    “Todd’s still all bunched up over Ward Churchill calling the dead technocrats in the twin towers ‘little Eichman’s'”

    My, my. Were they _all_ little fascists, Charlie, with a fascist hatred for any kind of democracy and a fascist love for killing? Tsk, tsk! What have I taught you about brainlessly repeating the words of ultra-lefties? (And I’ll have to deduct some points for your poor grammar, I’m afraid: you should know the difference between the plural and the possessive. Next thing I’ll hear is that you’ve been wetting yourself again. Now that’s no good for a big boy.)

    “Todd would consider it a true Democracy . . .” blah-blah-blah-belch.

    Funny. Your mouth moves but nothing but phrases comes out . . . .

    For tomorrow’s lesson, Charlie: how to spell “cat” without the “k”.

    Comment by Todd — September 1, 2011 @ 7:54 pm

  24. How independent the Iraqi government really is of the west might also relate to oil policies, just a thought. As to the complexities of whats going on in Libya here’s some rebel news from that radical sheet the Daily Telegraph, my own judgement would be is that no matter how I might be to see the back of the old regime the rebels are already in a big hole.
    “An oil firm whose chief executive has bankrolled the Conservatives won exclusive rights to trade with Libyan rebels during the conflict, following secret talks involving the British Government.
    The deal with Vitol was said to have been masterminded by Alan Duncan, the former oil trader turned junior minister, who has close business links to the oil firm and was previously a director of one of its subsidiaries.
    Mr Duncan’s private office received funding from the head of Vitol before the general election. Ian Taylor, the company’s chief executive and a friend of Mr Duncan, has given more than £200,000 to the Conservatives.
    Vitol is thought to be the only oil firm to have traded with the rebels during the Libyan conflict. Oil industry sources said that other firms including BP, Shell and Glencore had not been approached over the deal. One well-placed source said this was “very surprising” because other companies would have been keen to be involved.
    Last night the Coalition was under pressure to disclose details of Mr Duncan’s role in securing the deal, worth about $1billion (£618million). The firm is thought to have supplied fuel and associated products to the rebels and traded oil on their behalf.
    The controversial firm has previously been fined for breaching sanctions and paid money to Arkan, the Serbian warlord, allegedly for oil contracts.
    Sources at other oil firms described the situation as “highly unusual”. Companies are rushing to secure deals with the rebels in Libya, which has some of the largest oil reserves in the world. An Italian oil firm sent a tanker to Benghazi during the conflict but was forced to turn away from the port.
    Mr Duncan, a minister in the Department for International Development, is reported to have arranged the setting up of a special “Libyan oil cell” which brought together officials from the Cabinet Office and Foreign Office to stop the Gaddafi regime benefiting from its control of oil reserves. The oil cell is said to have been key in paving the way for deals between Vitol and the rebels.
    The Government’s exact role was shrouded in secrecy. The rebels did not have access to significant sources of finance, meaning that Vitol agreed to deals without upfront payments and is understood to only now be receiving funds. The Gaddafi regime had assets frozen in London and elsewhere and Vitol may have wanted assurances that this money would be released to the rebels in the future, as is now happening.
    Sources close to the deal also said that the Government helped secure insurance for the Vitol shipments. It is thought that details of the Libyan oil cell emerged following briefings from those close to Mr Duncan. The minister is said to have described the cell as “the Duncan plan” to friends.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8736496/Libya-the-minister-the-Tory-donor-and-a-contract-to-supply-oil.html

    Comment by Harry Monro — September 1, 2011 @ 11:02 pm

  25. #23 – Albeit off the Libyan topic, the Toad Stool has yet another intellectually pathetic & historic comeback that addresses none of the original critique of his naive poverty of philosophy, so typical of a centrist liberal democrat assistant professor of English at a Northeastern American college campus whose only reason for daring to post here was that his dim curiosity was piqued in either a so-called Marxist discussion group hosted by the local campus chapter of Platypus — or perhaps by some idiot conservative talk radio hack who labelled Obama an incorrigible Marxist — completely ignorant of the fact that Obama has carried out 98% of what would have been Bush’s 3rd term agenda if only Cheney and his perfidiously opaque legal team would have figured a way to replicate FDR’s 3 term Presidency.

    The fact that Bush/Cheney couldn’t pull off a 3rd term through executive decree via another false flag saboteur operation (they didn’t perpetrate 911 but they almost certainly knew it was coming and purposely didn’t thwart it for their fascistic ends) is proof to Patriots like Todd that the USA, the greatest country in human history, survives not because of the men who rule it but because of the primacy of its system of laws — nevermind scrutiny of the class these men come from and the class bias of their laws — nevermind the fact that every single American President was a millionaire before taking office — with the possible exception of Truman, who turns out to have been, according to his aides’ memoirs so insane that he practically needed to be put into a straight jacket before being talked out of pushing the buttons for nuclear war against China during the Korean War when Mao called MacArthur’s bluff on the 38th parallel.

    Speaking of the 38th parallel it’s interesting to note that American Democracy was so racist, so bloodthirsty, ruthless & predatory that when Mao called General MacArthur’s bluff (that is, Mao warned Truman that if US forces crossed Korea’s 38th parallel they’d be at war with Red China and so then the smug & pompous ass MacArthur, allegedly contrary to Truman’s orders, went ahead and defied Mao’s ultimatum by sending troops across that line. So Mao, who couldn’t afford to make idle threats, went ahead and sent a human wave of almost a million troops, mostly battalions of poorly trained and ill-equipped conscripts who were formerly the sons & daughters of landlords recently expropriated by the revolution (that is, the natural allies of Uncle Sam) to meet MacArthur’s invasion (who then, even though intelligence confirmed they were bitter conscripts who would otherwise be allied with the US against Mao) because they were just brown people, you know, subhuman gooks, proceeded to unleash the US Air Force’s 1st ever use of napalm on human targets with unimaginable effectiveness.

    That’s right, because the Pentagon’s weapons industry was so desperate to test new lucrative weapons systems they eagerly incinerated perhaps hundreds of thousands of China’s petite-bourgeois offspring, their natural allies, but that’s not really not surprising considering the sadistic weapons testing at Hiroshima, the Panama Invasion, and the 1st Gulf War, which not accidentally were mentioned by Osama Bin Laden in his recorded diatribes aired on every network on 9/11/01 but curiously cannot be found in any transcript today.

    Because real estate speculators & the billionaire banksters that used them have made it virtually impossible to live within walking distance of any University these days the motivation for Toad’s inquiry into this seemingly mysterious Marxist mumbo jumbo was spawned from his addiction as a drive-time suburban commuter to right wing talk radio, with all their vile blowhards that rail endlessly against “PC” on college campuses, which seemed to explain to the frustrated & confused why, as as a superficially educated white male, he seemed to be a victim of “reverse discrimination”, aka “reverse racism”, for what else could possibly account for why a relatively smart & ambitious fellow like he, who played by all the stupid medieval mentor/ apprentice academic rules, wound up after all that work stuck as a grossly underpaid assistant professor of English with zero hope of ever getting a tenure track position — whilst all kind of crude & bizarrely dressed & less articulate brown & other odd people, especially women & queers, seemed to flourish in the other humanities departments with all kinds of ridiculous curriculums & courses that seemed hostile to American Exceptionalism.

    He never imagined that over the last 40 years the American University system (which is really an enormous “for profit” business that exerts more Eminent Domain rights through the acquisition of land than the Federal Interstate Highway System) really only has two main functions, that is, primarily as a bourgeois culture factory churning out “little Eichmanns”with their disgusting Patriotism — and secondarily as grease for the Pentagon’s wheels insofar as those department’s that don’t contribute to the war machine are starved and the only Humanities departments that thrive are the ones where progressives have fought hard to carve out a niche for themselves, a tiny & ever diminishing minority that drives rabid conservatives crazy and fuels the reactionary fulminations about affirmative action, identity politics & political correctness, as if that’s the real problem with the world, rather than unbridled militarism & corporate kleptocracy that’s uses the planet & it’s inhabitants as a money grubbing toilet.

    He claims that Marx wrote about “different kinds of democracy” as if that’s of any significance to the topic at hand. Sure there was the 1st forms of democracy in ancient Greece, but as Marx pointed out it was a hollow facade insofar as it was the democracy of a slave owner’s society, just like the origins of American democracy, where there wasn’t even true universal suffrage until 1965, that is, almost 200 years where Blacks & Women couldn’t vote.

    This kind classic American academic rube that’s typical in the university milieu, the type of professor that Lenin would gladly trade 50 of for just one Jack Reed, the type of ignorant schmuck with an undeserved chip on his shoulder who has the audacity to give lifelong proletarian fighters & agitators civics lessons on a Marxist forum, never considered for a moment the advantages bequeathed to the country at the top of the dung heap which got the head start of free land stolen from 80 million dead Indians over 300 years, many of whom were consciously murdered through Trojan Horse gifts like infected Small Pox blankets distributed by the US Calvary, a deadly European disease for which they had no defences, nevermind that it’s no big challenge to build a great country’s infrastructure with 300 hundred years of free slave labor at an estimated cost of 100 million African lives. Who knows how many Chinese immigrants were sacrificed building Uncle Sam’s great railroad system which since Reagan has been utterly neglected in order to thwart not only a powerful railroad workers’ union but also to promote over the road trucking which uses inefficiently lots more filthy petroleum products that enrich Big Oil, the historic base of the Republican Party. No wonder the Gipper’s party got the Teamster’s to endorse them.

    Before dead end English professors go knocking a W. Churchill for being some “fist pumping leftist” over 911 or ignorantly belittling a W. Lippman for not grasping Marx’s concept of democracy they ought not be chucking stones from their glass house lest you get shit and a shove into it.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — September 2, 2011 @ 3:23 am

  26. Better late than never….

    Somebody we have all read on Imperialism:
    The principal feature of the latest stage of capitalism is the domination of monopolist associations of big employers. These monopolies are most firmly established when all the sources of raw materials are captured by one group, and we have seen with what zeal the international capitalist associations exert every effort to deprive their rivals of all opportunity of competing, to buy up, for example, ironfields, oilfields, etc. Colonial possession alone gives the monopolies complete guarantee against all contingencies in the struggle against competitors, including the case of the adversary wanting to be protected by a law establishing a state monopoly. The more capitalism is developed, the more strongly the shortage of raw materials is felt, the more intense the competition and the hunt for sources of raw materials throughout the whole world, the more desperate the struggle for the acquisition of colonies.

    Comment by Pablo — September 2, 2011 @ 3:28 pm

  27. Louis argues, “atrocities can be committed by troops carrying out a historically progressive task”. Some Yankee radicals are thrilled at the so-called revolutionary victory in overthrowing the government of Libya.

    Today Washington, Paris, London and their admirers exult in what they hope will be their big victory over the government of Libya. What we might well soon be calling “liberation lynch mobs” are already roving the streets of that country going after black workers who came from other African countries seeking jobs and a hoped-for possible better future. These black migrants are now learning what is in store for them in Libya today: Driving while black. LIVING while black. Sounds familiar?

    Black migrants now live in fear in Libya

    Rebels suspect the young men of being mercenaries for Kadafi.
    But the terrified sub-Saharans say they were merely laborers.

    By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times

    September 2, 2011

    Reporting from Janzour, Libya

    They huddle beneath dry-docked boats at the edge of the Mediterranean, petrified
    that the rebel gunmen who now own the streets will confuse them with mercenaries
    for the despot.

    “We are workers, we are not soldiers,” said Godfrey Ogbor, 29, voicing a plea
    shared by hundreds of men from sub-Saharan Africa trapped at this makeshift
    coastal camp 15 miles west of Tripoli. “We don’t know politics. We have no
    guns.”

    But the new masters of Tripoli suspect that many are something else: shock
    troops for a reviled regime, collaborators who deserve no pity.

    Photos: The Libyan conflict

    For decades, impoverished young sub-Saharan Africans came to Libya to work in
    construction, hotel, car-repair and other blue-collar and service jobs. But
    Moammar Kadafi also avidly recruited poor black men, both Libyans and
    sub-Saharans, for his security forces. Government rallies inevitably featured
    contingents of seemingly delirious gun-toting young blacks waving the leader’s
    signature green flag. Rebels have not forgotten.

    With Kadafi on the run, the hunt for loyalists has made all young black men
    suspect, vulnerable to arrest or worse on edgy streets where snap decisions
    substitute for measured justice.

    These days, the world waits to see what kind of government emerges under new
    leaders: one based on tolerance and justice or on vengeance. The concern is
    particularly acute in Europe, where many fear that violence against blacks and
    others perceived as Kadafi loyalists could lead to a desperate new boat exodus
    across the Mediterranean.

    FULL:

    latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-libya-migrants-20110902,0,3249340.story

    Comment by Walter Lippmann — September 2, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

  28. Some Yankee radicals are thrilled at the so-called revolutionary victory in overthrowing the government of Libya.

    Walter, is there something wrong with you? I made the point already that I would have been thrilled by the Red Army driving the Wehrmacht into the dust even as it was raping every German woman between the age of 18 and 80 at the time. If you are going to participate in the discussion here, you have to at least make the effort to engage with what I am saying. I understand that this is difficult for you since your arguments are such bullshit, but please make the effort.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 2, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

  29. Admittedly it’s easier to talk about things which happened before most of us were born, but I would appreciate some elaboration of this:

    LOUIS writes:
    “I would have been thrilled by the Red Army driving the Wehrmacht into the dust even as it was raping every German woman between the age of 18 and 80 at the time.”

    Are the NATO-backed rebels really in some way equal to the Red Army? That’s quite a conceptual leap. Today everyone admits that driving Kadafi out of Tripoli COULD NOT have happened without the armed might and thousands of bombing sorties carried out by NATO. Even more ironic: Iran, Hezbollah, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority are backing this NATO-backed operation as well.

    So this is sort of like Sherman’s March through the South? Which capitals will be next?

    Comment by Walter Lippmann — September 2, 2011 @ 5:26 pm

  30. Walter: I would appreciate some elaboration of this.

    Are you fucking out of your mind? Debating with you is like debating Sam Webb or Richard Becker. You are a hardened Stalinist. I waste enough time as it is responding to you.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 2, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

  31. “He claims that Marx wrote about ‘different kinds of democracy’ as if that’s of any significance to the topic at hand.”

    Sonny, you (and others of your infantile ilk) rant on and on about there being no such thing as democracy, with the result that you look like fools in front of average people as well as those lefties who know what they’re talking about.

    (Not that I think that worries you: you seem to be more interested in feeling good about yourself than anything more substantial.)

    “Sure there was the 1st forms of democracy in ancient Greece, but as Marx pointed out it was a hollow facade insofar as it was the democracy of a slave owner’s society,”

    Very _good_, my little poppet! Now: was _that_ historical form of democracy better than no democracy whatsoever? And, to continue on this thread, was the bourgeois democracy of the 18th century more advanced than Athenian democracy? And is modern bourgeois democracy more advanced than its 18th century form?

    If you’d actually bothered to read your primer, at no point does Marx fall into the kind of essentialist tripe you try to pass off as thought.

    “Before dead end English professors go . . . ignorantly belittling a W. Lippman for not grasping Marx’s concept of democracy”

    OK. That might explain a few things.

    Comment by Todd — September 2, 2011 @ 8:48 pm

  32. Toad: Any student of this thread can see you don’t know a democrat from a hypocrite nor a union from an onion as when it comes to a meaningful intellectual argument about who gets what you couldn’t fight your way out of a box of Kleenex.

    Don’t quit that day job teaching English because although there’s no tenure tract position forthcoming there’s also zero future for you as a historian or philosopher, let alone an interpreter of Karl Marx.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — September 3, 2011 @ 3:22 am

  33. El Temor y la Impaciencia: ensayo sobre la transicion democratica en America Latina
    Fear and Impatience: an essay on the democratic transition in Latin America [the middle east]
    by Julio M. Sanguinetti, president of Uruguay 1985-89
    translated by D. Ohmans, (c) copyright 2011
    http://www.spantrans.info

    Comment by Doug O. — September 3, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

  34. >chuckle!<

    You just keep patting yourself on the back, Charlie.

    (Nobody else'll touch you, even with a 10-foot couch.)

    Comment by Todd — September 3, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

  35. Please consider also my writings on Libya, pen from a Marxist perspective, and starting with my first blog on the Libyan uprising was 1/18/11.
    My most recent
    Racism in Libya Was directed at the Libyan freedom fighters themselves, and is being very well received by them.

    Here are the others:
    Abdul Rahman Gave his Eyes to See the End of Qaddafi
    BREAKING: Secret files reveal Dennis Kucinich talks with Qaddafi Regime
    BREAKING: Libyan TNC won’t extradite Lockerbie bomber
    Who really beat Qaddafi?
    #Feb17: @NATO Please help MEDEVAC wounded from #Libya
    What should those that opposed NATO’s intervention in Libya demand now?
    BREAKING: Qaddafi’s Tripoli Compound Falls!
    Does PDA Support Qaddafi?
    BREAKING: Operation Mermaid Dawn, the Battle to Liberate Tripoli is Joined
    Helter Skelter: Qaddafi’s African Adventure
    Qaddafi’s Long Arm
    SCOOP: My Lai or Qaddafi Lie? More on the 85 Civilians presumed killed by NATO
    Did NATO kill 85 Libyan Villagers As Qaddafi Regime Contends?
    CCDS Statement on Libya – a Critique
    The Assassination of General Abdul Fattah Younis
    NATO over Tripoli – Air Strikes in the Age of Twitter
    How Many Libyans has NATO Killed?
    Qaddafi Terror Files Start to Trickle Out!
    Have Libyan Rebels Committed Human Rights Abuses?
    Tripoli Green Square Reality Check
    Behind the Green Curtain: Libya Today
    Gilbert Achcar on the Libyan situation and the Left
    NATO slammed for Libya civilian deaths NOT!
    2011-07-01 Qaddafi’s Million Man March
    NATO’s Game Plan in Libya
    February 21st – Tripoli’s Long Night
    Did Qaddafi Bomb Peaceful Protesters?
    Tripoli Burn Notice
    Libyans, Palestinians & Israelis
    ‘Brother’ Qaddafi Indicted plus Libya & Syria: Dueling Rally Photofinishs
    An Open Letter to ANSWER
    ANSWER answers me
    2011-06-22 No Libyans allowed at ANSWER Libya Forum
    Are they throwing babies out of incubators yet?
    Continuing Discussion with a Gaddafi Supporter
    Boston Globe oped supports Gaddafi with fraudulent journalism
    2011-04-13 Doha summit supports Libyan rebels
    Current Events in Libya
    Amonpour Plays Softball with Gaddafi
    Arming Gaddfi
    North African Revolution Continues
    Is Libya Next? Anonymous Debates New Operation

    Comment by Clay Claiborne — September 13, 2011 @ 10:23 pm

  36. I strongly concur with Clay. His stuff is terrific.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 13, 2011 @ 10:48 pm

  37. Louis, you write:

    we have to figure out a way to offer solidarity, even if we can’t abide by their racist treatment of African workers. This may not seem easy, but we have no other choice.

    As a black Marxist-Leninist I certainly can’t abide by their racist treatment of African workers, and I think my practice shows another way.
    As I said above I wrote Racism in Libya both as a critique of, and a guide to the revolution. I have creditability with the Thuwwar because of my steadfast support for their struggle and I have been amazed at how well it has been received and propagated by them in the first 24 hours after it was published.

    See Twitter comments below:

    Mesh3adi مش عادي
    @ceoDanya @IbnOmar2005 @clayclai all the sudden on the world’s map
    2 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

    SumayyahG TheSumayyahG
    Thank You @clayclai you never disappoint | Racism in #Libya goo.gl/BmeE8 #Feb17
    3 hours ago Favorite Undo Retweet Reply

    THerwees Tasbeeh شرقاوية
    ‘Racism in #Libya, Contextualized by the ever-so-insightful @clayclai: dailykos.com/story/2011/09/…
    3 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

    ceoDanya Danya B Mohammed
    RT @IbnOmar2005: YES! A MUST READ (like rest of his great work) RT @clayclai Some c in Libyan racism a chance to … tmi.me/fTRo5
    3 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

    yasmarah ياسمين
    Brilliant as usual! Daily Kos: Racism in Libya dailykos.com/story/2011/09/… via @clayclai
    3 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

    IbnOmar2005 Ibn Omar
    I honestly think @ClayClai wrote the best articles this revolution, better even than my fellow #Libyans. #Libya #Feb17
    3 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

    IbnOmar2005 Ibn Omar
    @clayclai’s articles show give an in depth analysis of the situation in #Libya, connecting readers with the country’s deep history
    3 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

    sharon_lynch sharon lynch
    RT @IbnOmar2005: I honestly think @ClayClai wrote the best articles this revolution, better even than my fellow #Libyans. #Libya #Feb17
    3 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

    septimius_sever septimius severus
    A MUST READ RT “@clayclai: Racism in #Libya shar.es/HTInf #feb17″
    8 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

    Comment by Clay Claiborne — September 13, 2011 @ 10:51 pm


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