Helga Zepp-LaRouche, Natalya Vitrenko and Lyndon LaRouche at a conference held by the Germany-based Schiller Institute
In Defense of Marxism is the website dedicated to the ideology of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), a group aspiring to breathe life into the moribund Fourth International project. Its top leader is Alan Woods, a 70-year-old Brit who broke with 72-year-old fellow Brit Peter Taaffe in 1992 over the question of whether their sect should remain in the Labour Party (Taaffe favored an exit). Woods is best known for his undying loyalty to the Chavista project in Venezuela while Taaffe is distinguished for having spawned Socialist Alternative, the American group that is in the spotlight now for its member Kshama Sawant having been elected to Seattle’s City Council.
Up until recently, I have had no major problems with Woods’s sect and probably forwarded more of his articles to Marxmail than any other group except for the ISO. I thought the reporting on Venezuela was valuable even if it failed to understand how its Leninist formulas were inappropriate for moving the struggle forward. There were also many interesting items on art and science that reflected a serious engagement with developments ignored by other such groups. For example, an article on Leonardo Da Vinci is very much worth reading as is one on quantum physics and Marxist dialectics.
Like a number of other groups on the left, the IMT has attached itself to the cause of the Donbass separatists. Along with John Rees’s Counterfire and others similarly inclined, Woods has taken the position that Euromaidan is a fascist plot against workers power. The two groups spearheaded a conference in London held on June 2nd in the name of the “Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine”.
To some extent, although this is impossible to prove, it might be related to IMT’s close identification with Venezuelan state policies that tend to follow RT.com and PressTV’s talking points. However, despite Venezuela’s support for Bashar al-Assad, the IMT viewed the revolt as legitimate. It may be the case that the IMT’s hostility to Euromaidan might have more to do with a long-standing inability to grasp the national question.
For example, when Argentina went to war with Britain over the Malvinas, the IMT took a “third camp” position, even continuing to refer to the Falklands. In an article by Ted Grant, the leader of the IMT until his death in 2006, we see that the rights of the British citizen take precedence over that of the Argentine nation.
Although there are only 1,800 Falkland Islanders, Marxists nevertheless have to take into consideration their rights and interests. The Junta’s claim to the Falklands is purely an imperialist claim for loot in the shape of resources which can be developed, although even this is secondary to their aim of heading off revolution by diverting workers along nationalist lines.
Despite the fact Argentina was ruled by a military dictatorship, the Argentine left supported the reintegration of the island, including Carlo Petroni, the leader of the IMT’s section who formed a Class Struggle Faction over this very issue. Commenting on an IMT article claiming that Britain “obtained” the Falklands in 1830, Petroni wrote:
The article completely ignores how Britain obtained them. Britain invaded the Malvinas and massacred its Argentinean population. Some local guerrilla fighters, led by Gaucho Rivero, waged a war against the British invaders for years. Upon his capture, Rivero was sent to die in a British prison.
For generations Argentineans have been brought up to struggle to recover the Islands. This is what explains both the courage of the Argentinean conscripts in the face of the cowardly actions of their officers during the war and the mass support among young people for the struggle against British and American imperialism. The war over the Malvinas Islands only coalesced this historical hatred for British imperialism, and completely unmasked the role of American imperialism.
It is not hard to figure out the parallels with the Ukraine. For the IMT, the Euromaidan was equated with NATO, Western banks, the IMF, fascist gangs and just about any other dirt it could dig up. The grass roots movement against Yanukovych was about as important to Alan Woods as the aspirations of the Argentine left. So aggravated was Petroni that he eventually split with the mother ship. Of course, such splits are endemic to the Trotskyist movement and I would not want to make too much of it but on the issues Petroni was obviously right.
Turning to the IMT’s coverage of Ukraine, you are really struck by the reckless disregard for objectivity. In some ways, the articles are beneath propaganda and almost appear written to make the group indistinguishable from the Communist Party in Ukraine, a mainstay of Kremlin ambitions.
The first inkling I got of something off at the IMT website was a March 26 interview with a Ukrainian named Dmitry Kolesnik that should have not passed the smell test. Kolesnik warns about an ominous development that coincides with and is related to Euromaidan: “We can even talk of the establishment of a ‘Brown International’. So, Ukrainian far-rights in power and on the streets is a part of a common European trend and, therefore, should be dealt also on an international basis.”
There is a big problem with this, however. The European far right is pretty much in agreement with the IMT that Euromaidan was a EU/NATO plot and now hails Putin as the last best hope for defending Ukraine against “imperialism”. Golden Dawn, Jobbik, the National Front in France, and the BNP in England are all on the side of the Kremlin against the Jewish/imperialist cabal of bankers and politicians. This is from the BNP website:
While the rest of the world sinks in to an economic crisis of its own making, Russia lives within its means and cuts its suit according to its cloth. Its people are not in perpetual debt, and while their lifestyle might not be as luxurious as the wealthy in the US or Europe, they live happy lives with the prospect of retiring at 55.
And here is the BNP on Ukraine:
In case you don’t know, the National Endowment for Democracy was behind the Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution. Known as an asset of the America Intelligence Community, the NED has been behind a plethora of other ‘’people’s revolutions’’ that have overthrown sovereign nations in order to bring them into a planned One World Government.
The NED were also behind the Rose Revolution in 2003 that lead to an armed conflict with Russia in 2008; and – more to the point – they were a major part of the Solidarnost protest movement that sought to overthrow Vladimir Putin after the Duma Elections of 2011.
That could have been lifted from Counterfire or the IMT website. Indeed, Boris Kagarlitsky, who was one of the keynote speakers at the June 2nd conference on the Ukraine referred to above, spoke at another conference about the menace of colored revolutions in 2010 that was organized by the FPO in Austria—that’s the party formerly led by Jörg Haider, who once referred to Auschwitz as a “punishment camp”.
By early May, Alan Woods had become a shameless defender of the separatist movement in Donbass, referring to it as a “popular revolution”. One month later, the IMT was publishing articles even more extreme.
On June 7th an antiwar conference was held in Minsk that was endorsed by Alan Woods’s supporters in Russia. To give you an idea of the conference’s orientation, the call stated: “the military conflict that followed the victory of the neo-liberals and nationalists in the ‘Euromaidan’ actions in Kiev has claimed hundreds of lives and contributed to an unprecedented growth of chauvinism and xenophobia in Ukrainian and Russian society.”
IMT member Artem Kirpichenok gave a speech at the Minsk conference that demonized the Euromaidan movement:
Armed gangs of far-right thugs, football fans and generally fascist elements from within the public have been regularly attacking communist and trade union activists since the very beginning of the so-called Euromaidan.
Borotba, a group that shares the IMT’s politics and participated in the conference, endorsed the positions adopted there but with reservations—finding it “too moderate”. Borotba explained its objection to a statement that found the Kremlin guilty of intervention:
Here, Kagarlitskiy, is probably closer to the truth, when he said that if Russia was truly a democratic regime, the Russian tanks would already be near Kiev. The Russian regime should be criticized not for intervention but for non-interference, bordering on the actual betrayal, which is accompanied by deafening patriotic and anti-fascist propaganda.
I imagine that Kagarlitsky was trying to say that Putin was ignoring the wishes of the majority but what a commentary on his understanding of democracy! For a number of years now Putin has been cracking down on the opposition, jailing journalists and closing down media outlets that defy the Kremlin’s policy goals. When you have total control over the press, what meaning does the word democratic have? In the 1950s, Communists were fired from their jobs at universities in the USA and in the media while both parties in Washington ratcheted up the Cold War. Don’t you think that when someone like me developed anti-Communist attitudes, it had something to do with my access to information?
That being said, Borotba’s idea that Russia was guilty of “non-interference” can only be understood as the outcome of living in an ideological bubble. People living outside the bubble understand how ludicrous such a claim is but not the poor unfortunates living within it. One Igor Girkin (aka Strelkov) heads up the Donbass People’s Militia. In an interview with Pravda, Girkin revealed that his troops had experience fighting for the Russian armed forces in Chechnya, Central Asia, Yugoslavia, Iraq and even Syria. That’s some non-interference.
Searchlight, a British organization launched in 1964 to oppose fascism, published an article on the June 2nd conference titled “Warning to anti-fascists invited to meeting at SOAS”. It departed from the bubble consensus.
It pointed out that Borotba has been working with the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, whose leader Natalya Vitrenko is a long-time associate of Lyndon LaRouche, the rightwing cult leader who has been a solid supporter of the Kremlin and the Donbass separatist movement. Here’s Vitrenko hailing LaRouche on his 90th birthday:
Lyn, you have also rendered unquestionable service through your tremendous political activity as a candidate for the U.S. Presidency and builder of the Schiller Institute, which brought together scientists from all continents and became a platform for an alternative to the reforms of the IMF, the World Trade Organization, and the World Bank. On that platform, under your leadership, representatives of 39 countries in December 1995 adopted the Memorandum to Mankind, the importance of which increases with each passing year. I am proud to have had a direct role in drafting it.
On March 3rd, a statement signed by Ukrainian left organizations and individuals denounced Borotba for its collaboration with Vitrenko’s group:
”Borotba” has proved itself an organization with a non-transparent funding mechanism and unscrupulous principles of cooperation. It uses hired workers, who are not even the members of the organization. The local cells of “Borotba” took part in the protest actions together with PSPU (Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine), which is an anti-Semitic, racist, and clerical party, and has no relation to the world socialist movement) and with Kharkiv pro-government, anti-Semitic and homophobic group “Oplot”; and are known for their linkage with an infamous journalist O. Chalenko, who openly stands for Russian chauvinism.
Back in the 1970s, Lyndon LaRouche’s goons were breaking up left meetings armed with clubs and other weapons. Who would ever have dreamed that forty years later it would still be exercising a baleful influence but on a much more difficult to prevent basis. After all, it is much more difficult to ward off ideas offered in the name of Lenin that run counter to everything he stood for than it is to block a blow from a club or a fist. Difficult but necessary.