Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 17, 2014

Nazi Germany and the Swedes

Filed under: Fascism,Film,Sweden — louisproyect @ 2:53 pm
Neutral on a Moving Train

Nazi Germany and the Swedes

by LOUIS PROYECT

In the course of researching my CounterPunch article on TV adaptations of Swedish Marxist detective novels, I became familiar with the looming presence of Nazi sympathizers in Sweden like the monstrous Vangers in Stieg Larssen’s Dragon Tattoo novels.

Just this week I viewed press screenings for two new films that focus in on another aspect of Swedish political history, the country’s longstanding neutrality that goes back to the early 19th century and that became widely known and respected during the Vietnam antiwar movement, when Prime Minister Olof Palme marched alongside the North Vietnamese Ambassador to the Soviet Union Nguyen Tho Chan.

“Diplomacy”, that opened on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at the Film Forum in New York, is set during the final days of WWII when Swedish Consul General Raoul Nordling tries to persuade Nazi General Dietrich von Choltitz not to blow up Parisian landmark edifices. “The Last Sentence”, available as a DVD or On Demand from Music Box Films, is a biopic set during the later years of Torgny Segerstedt, a newspaper editor who was famous for excoriating Adolph Hitler until the Swedish prime minister, deciding that the country’s neutrality was being undermined, clamped down on Segerstedt, confirming the precept once again that truth is the first casualty of war.

read full article

trailers for films under review:

September 19, 2014

How Stieg Larsson Exposed the Swedish Far Right

Filed under: Fascism,journalism,literature,popular culture,Sweden — louisproyect @ 1:04 pm
Kicking the Hornets’ Nest

How Stieg Larsson Exposed the Swedish Far Right

by LOUIS PROYECT

For the average person the early death of Stieg Larsson must have come as a disappointment since that meant that the fourth Dragon Tattoo novel would remain uncompleted, the last in a series that were perfect reading on the bus or subway going to work. I understood how they might feel since I once missed my stop while reading the account of the petite but potent Lisbeth Salander beating up a 300-pound biker and stealing his Harley-Davidson.

But after reading Jan-Erik Pettersson’s “Stieg Larsson: the real story of the man who played with fire”, I felt a keener loss, that of a man who I never met but now miss as a comrade in the fight against a decaying capitalist system. I was always aware that Karl Stig-Erland “Stieg” Larsson, who died at the age of 50 from a heart attack on November 9, 2005, was a member of the Trotskyist movement–as was I–but never knew much about what he did in between the time he left the movement and began writing the novels that made him famous. I was under the impression that he made his living as a journalist but that would be like saying that John Reed did so as well. Like so many journalists with integrity over the last 100 years, Stieg Larsson aimed his words like a Molotov cocktail at the forces of capitalist reaction. If anything, the exploits of Mikael Blomkvist, the journalist hero of his novels, pale in comparison to the life that the author led.

I picked up Pettersson’s book (used copies sell for a penny on Amazon.com!) primarily to get a handle on how Sweden moved away from the welfare state in the 80s and 90s and on how those changes impacted the Marxist detective novel writers I wrote about inCounterPunch recently. While the book provided valuable information that allowed me to put someone like Henning Mankell, the creator of the Wallender novels, into context, the story of Stieg Larsson began to captivate me, so much so that I decided to write this article as a way of paying homage to this extraordinary human being. The facts about Larsson’s life that follow come from Pettersson’s book; the analysis you can blame on me as always.

read full article

September 8, 2014

How Stieg Larsson exposed Swedish Nazis

Filed under: Fascism,Sweden — louisproyect @ 11:32 pm

From “Stieg Larsson: the Real Story of the Man Who Played With Fire” by Jan-Erik Petterson. Petterson devotes most of the book to showing how Larsson took considerable risks to uncover such developments as these:

One feature of the extreme Right in Sweden is that, despite the weakness of its popular support, it is remarkably well represented among the elite and ruling classes: among scientists, academics and high-ranking military officers. It was not just theorists like Kjellen and Molin who were in the vanguard in formulating ideas which then became prevalent in the Third Reich. Herman Lundborg, the world’s first professor of eugenics, was part of the trend as early as 1910, and founded the Swedish Society for Racial Hygiene. A decade later he managed to get more or less the entire Establishment behind him when he set up a Swedish racial research institute.

The National Eugenics Institute opened in 1921, with Lundborg at its head, and became well known for its large-scale field-research projects on the Swedish people. He and his colleagues travelled all over the country, photographing, measuring and making notes. The subjects of this research, seeing no harm in it, were allocated to racial groups on the basis of their physical constitution, skin colour, hair colour, shape of cranium, cranial circumference and so on. And there were few who doubted its scientific validity. On the strength of his findings, Lundborg pursued a vigorous campaign for an active population policy, including compulsory sterilization of undesirables, such as Lapps, Gypsies and vagrants. If this were not implemented, the fusion of the races would escalate and culture would fall into decline: `Sexual urges would intensify, immorality, hedonism, vice and crime break out and leave their mark on society. Sooner or later it would lead to discord, dissent, riot and revolution’ (according to an article in Svensk Tidskrift in 1921).

One reason for the rapid and widespread support for Lundborg’s theories was that there had been a deep-seated belief since the mid-nineteenth century that the Germanic peoples of northern Europe were related and that Sweden was their original home. So when the Nazis stepped forward and began talking of restoring the honour of the German nation and defending the Nordic race, many Swedes were willing to listen. And these were not so much Swedish Nazi party members as influential individuals in politics, the civil service, the business world, the military, the police, even the royal family. Some of the greatest admirers of Germany before and during the Second World War were to be found in the Swedish military. When Hitler celebrated his fiftieth birthday in the spring of 1939, he was congratulated by a Swedish delegation of high-ranking officers led by the future supreme commander Olof Thornell. They were accompanied by the openly Nazi Carl Ernfrid Carlberg and Henri de Champs as representatives of the Manhem Society (a patriotic Scandinavian association named after Olaus Rudbeck’s seventeenth-century book of Gothicist speculations) and the Swedish-German Association, who also presented Hitler with a gift, a statuette of Charles XII, which he is said to have much appreciated.

In the initial phase of the war the Swedish coalition government adopted a far-reaching policy of acceding to German demands, with increased exports of iron ore, the transit of troops by rail and sea, and censorship of any Swedish newspapers which criticized Germany.

Things did not go so well, however, for the official Nazi parties. Generals and colonels would never dream of subordinating themselves to Warrant Officer Lindholm, not even under a German occupation. And the nation it was the intention to unite was not very interested in the constant bickering among the Nazi parties themselves. But there was a common pool of historical ideas and attitudes from which groups and individuals drew their inspiration and which made some hold fast to their fundamental credo — aggressive nationalism, racism, the belief that elites should rule — while other friends of Germany took down their portraits of Hitler and enrolled for correspondence courses in English.

August 18, 2014

French anti-Semitism: important resources from Lenin’s Tomb

Filed under: anti-Semitism,Fascism,France,zionism — louisproyect @ 6:15 pm

Screen shot 2014-08-18 at 2.09.23 PM

On July 25th I wrote an article titled “The anti-Semitism Canard” that took aim at the smears directed against the pro-Palestinian protests in Europe. The gist of my analysis was that an amalgam of long standing between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism formed the foundation of the pro-Zionist attacks.

But one comment on my article caught my eye:

here too it’s worth considering this investigative report. According to Edwy Plenel’s online paper Mediapart, hooligans and skinheads partial to the call of Dieudonné are systematically infiltrating the Gaza protests in France. the reemergence of european antisemitism is not a canard, rather a self-fulfilling prophecy brought about by zionist intransigence and the genocidal acts perpetrated by the idf.

http://www.mediapart.fr/journal/france/290714/comment-la-galaxie-dieudonne-squatte-les-manifs-propalestinienne

I was frustrated in my attempt to read the article, not just because it was written in French but also because it was behind a paywall. Fortunately, there have been some very important articles investigating the Dieudonné connection that have appeared on Lenin’s Tomb that are essential for understanding the challenges facing the Palestinian solidarity movement in France and anywhere else where anti-Semitism is interjected. I don’t think that anti-Semitism poses any serious threat to Jews anywhere in Europe on the scale of the 1930s but the ability of backward elements either consciously or unconsciously serving the propaganda aims of the Zionists must be thwarted since the ultimate victims will be Palestinians rather than Jews. Every article smearing the mass movement on the basis of slogans shouted on demonstrations such as “kill the Jews” will help allow the next attack on Gaza or the West Bank to proceed with greater impunity.

I don’t find anything funny about the “comedian” Dieudonné. In January I responded to Diana Johnstone who had made the case for him as a satirist on France’s well-documented support for Israel’s crimes on the basis of its “victimization” by the Third Reich. I use scare quotes around victimization not to question whether six million Jews were murdered but to call attention to Israel’s exploitation of the holocaust to justify its own Third Reich type behavior. That being said, no quarter should be given to Dieudonné whose amalgamation of Judaism and Zionism is virtually identical to Abe Foxman and Alan Dershowitz’s. I wrote:

I really wonder what went through Dieudonné’s mind when he decided that Jean-Marie Le Pen was just the right person to be his kid’s godfather. After the French banlieue riots, he had this to say: “Many live by dealing in drugs, or stealing. They have created their own ghettos. We have places where there are no schools, because they have set them afire and the police and firemen are attacked when they go there. Civilization is slowly evaporating from this country.”

I could be wrong but Dieudonné strikes me as the French version of Clarence Thomas or Roy Innis, the former civil rights leader who found it to his advantage to hook up with the Republican Party right. It is a bit harder to place Dieudonné politically on the French spectrum since he tends to be coy about what he stands for, but if you think that he is on the left, then you really have no idea what the left is about.

There are three articles on Lenin’s Tomb that are crucial for understanding the ultraright penetration of the pro-Palestinian movement. The first is “How Dieudonné’s Followers Hijack the Gaza Protests” that appeared in the MediaPart website I mentioned above. The article highlights the role of some other unsavory characters on the right, including Alain Soral who I also looked at in my rebuttal to Diana Johnstone.

Fortunately we have an English language version of the article retrieved from behind the paywall. The article calls attention to a group known as “Gaza Firm” that takes its cues from Dieudonné and company:

Although these infiltrators from the extreme right are very much in the minority at pro-Palestinian events, the protest on Saturday, July 26, organized in solidarity with the people of Gaza, was fraught with strong internal tensions. Part of the procession seemed to have been overrun with radical elements. Some of these protesters from the extreme right have united in a small cell known as “Gaza Firm.” They are unrelated to traditional pro-Palestinian groups and come to protests primarily to fight in the streets with the Jewish Defense League. But who pulls the strings of this operation?

Perhaps the article is not clear enough when it refers to “radical elements”—it is referring to ultrarightists with connections to soccer clubs, etc.

Essentially, they are extreme fans (ultras) of the Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) soccer club, former members of the “K-soce team” associated with the Auteuil and Karsud factions of fans, with ties to the radical fringe associated with the Boulogne bleachers. Besides, according to an expert in this milieu, the reference to the culture of soccer fans is transparent, “since the word ‘firm’ in this context is a codeword among extreme soccer hooligans which brings to mind the Inter City Firm,” the first group of English soccer hooligans.

So you get the idea. This outfit sends 30 or 40 of its members to a mass protest against Israeli brutality in order to fight with the Jewish Defense League, just as if it were a rival soccer fan club. The resulting publicity is exactly what the Zionists seek, namely to smear the protests as anti-Semitic especially when the Gaza Firm people yell things like “kill the Jews” when they are brawling in the streets.

Whenever I run into actions such as this that function to undermine the mass movement, I conclude that it makes little difference whether they are the result of agent provocateurs or the stupidity of those carrying them out. There is no question in my mind that the cops and the Zionists need the Gaza Firm to help tarnish the real opposition. If some Arab joins their ranks because he is a Dieudonné fan who is genuinely enraged by the attack on Gaza, it makes little difference. His actions only serves to legitimate further attacks by turning the victim into a criminal.

With all proportions guarded, Gaza Firm operates after the fashion of the Black Bloc that puts its own testosterone-laden imperatives over those of the majority. Mass demonstrations, especially those organized around issues not yet embraced by the overwhelming majority such as the case of Palestine, have to present a serious and disciplined image to the rest of society. Anything that cuts against that goal is counter-revolutionary. Period.

Richard also made available two articles that appeared originally on Le Monde Diplomatique. The first is titled “France, Racism is Indivisible” and is written by Dominque Vidal. I found it very useful since it helped me understand that anti-Semitism is on the rise in France even if a Kristallnacht is not in the offing. Violent attacks are on the upswing as the article documents but unfortunately appear to be inspired by young and disaffected Muslim identification with the Palestinians:

Who attacked Jewish schools and synagogues, as well as individual Jews? The CNCDH report quotes the police intelligence service view that the second intifada and consequent repression have “led many young people to identify openly with the Palestinian fighters, who are seen as symbolising the same exclusion which they consider themselves to suffer in France”.

So France is facing neither Alain Finkielkraut’s threatened Kristallnacht nor the “new Judaeophobia” denounced by Pierre-André Taguieff (21), but is confronted with the rising tide of social violence diagnosed by Théo Klein. Its breeding grounds are the miserable ghettoes of the unemployed, where entire sections of French youth, especially those of immigrant origin, vegetate without hope for the future. Racism and anti-semitism, especially its violent expression, must be fought there as in the rest of French society. But the problem must also be tackled at its roots, which is why it is important to have an alliance between traditional democratic forces, alternative-world activists and the autonomous movements of the young in disadvantaged suburbs.

The other article that is a must-read is titled “The online politics of Alain Soral”, written by Evelyne Pieiller. Soral is described in the subhead as ‘Leftwing on labour but rightwing values’. It starts off:

Visitors to Alain Soral’s Egalité et Réconciliation (Equality and Reconciliation, E & R) website see pictures of Hugo Chávez, Che Guevara, Muammar Gaddafi, Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Fidel Castro and Vladimir Putin on the left of the masthead. Joan of Arc and Soral are on the right. The site, with its motto “leftwing on labour, but rightwing values”, is France’s 269th most popular, a few places behind the TV magazine Télérama.

The juxtaposition of Guevara and Putin, of Chávez and rightwing values is a sign of the confused political times. The big questions are, who stands for what and what does it mean to be on the right or left?

Screen shot 2014-08-18 at 3.06.17 PMAlain Soral website

That, of course, is consistent with the developing trend in Europe that unites Putin with Le Pen’s party in France, Jobbik in Hungary, and the Golden Dawn in Greece. All these groups are united in the belief that the EU is designed to ruin the working and middle classes, as well as a call for “traditional values” on homosexuality and the precious bodily fluids of the Nation, as General Jack D. Ripper put it in “Doctor Strangelove”.

What Soral amounts to is the French equivalent of the “right-left” alliance that people like John V. Walsh have been calling for in the USA. Pieiller writes:

His talks appeal to key emotions and ideas: a feeling of powerlessness about globalisation and France’s loss of autonomy under EU law; worries about economic and social decline; the malaise caused by modernity; the difficulty of conceiving a different future. He highlights the need to fight globalism, as “an ideological project that aims to create a global government and dissolve nation states on the pretext of universal peace; this will be achieved through the complete commodification of humanity” (3). To Soral globalism means “oligarchic domination”, which disregards popular sovereignty and underpins the myth of market omnipotence, “as though that were not a political phenomenon, created by power and class relations”. The granting of specific rights to “oppressed minorities” replaces collective social advances and leads to the fragmentation of society, which risks civil war. He believes the evidence for this is the racialist interpretation of social relations: “indigenous French” against “Arabs”, at the lowest echelon of society, rather than labour against capital. One result of this is that Muslims are scapegoated.

That young Arabs and Muslims can find themselves being led around by the nose by human garbage like Alain Soral and Dieudonné should be a clarion call for a return to class politics.

Over the past decade or so there has been a gathering of forces internationally that speaks in the name of the left as “anti-imperialists” that is marching more or less under the same banner as the ultraright. With a fixation on “national sovereignty” as the last bastion against “globalism”, you will sooner or later end up in bed with Rand Paul, Pat Buchanan and the like.

Just compare what Diana Johnstone said about Marine Le Pen, and what John V. Walsh said about Ron Paul to get an idea of the dry rot that is sinking in:

Johnstone :

Among the leading candidates, the only clear anti-war policy is that of Marine Le Pen, who favors immediate withdrawal from both Afghanistan and the NATO command, describes the current French government policy of supporting the Syrian opposition as “totally irresponsible”, calls for recognition of a Palestinian State and opposes threats to bomb Iranian nuclear sites, which have not been proven to be military. And she adds: “As far as I know, no nation which has atomic weapons has ever asked for permission from anyone, neither the United States, nor France, nor Israel, nor Pakistan… Must we then plunge the world into a war whose extent we will not control because certain foreign counties ask us to?”

Walsh:

The Left has complained for decades that it is unable to reach much of the American public with a message of peace. In large part that is due to a cultural gap – the “progressive” Left does not speak in the same language as much of the country. Nor does the Left share the same worldview as many Americans. Ron Paul does, and he can reach, in fact, has reached these people with a solid anti-intervention message. Paul does not ask that his base change its worldview but simply to understand that anti-interventionism is a consistent part of that view. Paul speaks in straightforward terms. Let us stop poking our nose into other nations’ business and stop wasting our money doing so. He reaches people never before touched by an anti-war message. How can the Left pass up the chance to help such a candidate?

At the risk of sounding platudinous, isn’t it about time that the left returned to class? After all, that is what Karl Marx was all about. This is especially important in a time of rising class tensions when some demagogues will try to exploit ethnic or religious differences in order to weaken us and strengthen the ruling class. We went through this in the 1920s and 30s and there’s no need to go through this again, especially with more than 15,000 nuclear weapons scattered around the globe.

August 11, 2014

Fascist art

Filed under: art,Fascism,zionism — louisproyect @ 7:41 pm

When Frank Rosengarten went over to Italy in 1956 to work on his dissertation, he planned on researching Vasco Pratolini, a novelist best known for “Il quartiere”, a work known as “The Naked Streets” in English. He had been told that Pratolini was a Communist, an affiliation that made sense given the strong identification he had with his working-class protagonists. He seemed at first blush to have all the right connections, developing a friendship with Roberto Rossellini during WWII, fighting with the partisans against Il Duce and the Nazis, and developing a whole body of work that was similar to that of Ignacio Silone if not as well known.

Eventually Frank discovered to his complete surprise that Pratolini was a card-carrying member of the Fascist party until the late 1930s:

The fact is – and it is a difficult fact to grasp – young Pratolini looked on Fascism as marking a revolutionary turn in Italian history, a new order that would redeem the working class and establish a society of equals, based on labor, with the state assuming the role of disciplinarian, making sure that private interest groups would never threaten the lives of the Italian masses. He even believed that Fascism had a universal and liberating role to play in the world. His disillusionment therefore was doubly painful. The empty space in his ideological universe was filled by the only political force that, in his view, in the Italy of 1943 to 1945, could bring about the revolution that Fascism had left unrealized, namely the renascent Italian Communist Party led by Palmiro Togliatti. And behind Togliatti there was the great Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci, whose writings Pratolini began to read, in fragmentary and clandestine publications, in 1944 or 1945.

I doubt that Frank, who died a couple of weeks ago after a year long battle with prostate cancer, was well enough to have attended the show on Italian Futurism at the Guggenheim but I am sure he would have been reminded of Pratolini.

I attended the show yesterday with long-time friend and Marxmail co-moderator Les Schaffer and was amazed to discover how a generation of Italy’s most talented artists could have lent themselves to the fascist cause. As we walked down the ramp, the paintings and other art works had the same kind of bold spirit and experimental drive as Russian art of the early 1920s.

One artist covered the same bases as Pratolini but in reverse order. Born in 1881, Carlo Carrà became famous for his 1911 painting “The Funeral of the Anarchist Galli” that commemorated the death of Italian anarchist Angelo Galli, shot by police during a general strike in 1904.

The Funeral of the Anarchist Galli

Wikipedia on Carrà:

Carrà was indeed an anarchist as a young man but, along with many other Futurists, later held more reactionary political views, becoming ultra-nationalist and irredentist before and during the war, as well as by Fascism after 1918 (in the 1930s, Carrà signed a manifesto in which called for support of the state ideology through art). The Strapaese group he joined, founded by Giorgio Morandi, was strongly influenced by fascism and responded to the neo-classical guidelines which had been set by the regime after 1937 (but was opposed to the ideological drive towards strong centralism).

For the movement, modern transportation had the same kind of charisma that Christian symbols had for artists of the renaissance. Their works were filled with homages to airplanes and railroad trains. Within Futurism, it was a subgenre called arte meccanica. This 1922 work by Ivo Pannaggi titled “Speeding Train” is emblematic:

Speeding Train

In the same year that he painted “Speeding Train”, Pannaggi co-wrote the “Manifesto dell’Arte Meccanica Futurista” (Manifesto of Futurist Mechanical Art) with fellow Futurist Vinicio Paladini. The Manifesto was couched in Marxist language and saw machinery as a “key to bridging the gap between the proletariat and bourgeoise” as Wikipedia puts it. It would seem that “bridging the gap” between proletariat and bourgeoisie was a theme that allowed some of these artists and novelists to become seduced by fascism, especially when there were such benefits to be gained. After Pratolini became a fascist spokesman, he landed a cushy job with the Ministry of Education.

Even though Pannaggi’s Marxism was questionable at best, it was too much for Futurism’s czar Filippo Marinetti to put up with. Again from Wikipedia:

Marinetti is known best as the author of the Futurist Manifesto, which he wrote in 1909. It was published in French on the front page of the most prestigious French daily newspaper, Le Figaro, on 20 February 1909. In The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism, Marinetti declared that “Art, in fact, can be nothing but violence, cruelty, and injustice.” George Sorel, who influenced the entire political spectrum from anarchism to Fascism, also argued for the importance of violence. Futurism had both anarchist and Fascist elements; Marinetti later became an active supporter of Benito Mussolini.

The Sorel connection is interesting. In the early 20th century he had many supporters on both the right and the left, as I discovered doing some research on José Carlos Mariátegui. Mariátegui, the father of Peruvian communism and a major influence on my own pro-indigenist Marxism, extolled Sorel in his writings. This is no surprise considering Mariátegui’s exposure to the Italian left during his stay in Italy from 1920 to 1923. Sorel was a favorite of the Italian anarchist movement and clearly had an impact on those who had a “voluntarist” streak.

Over and over the exhibition makes reference to the rise of nationalist fervor that led to Mussolini’s rise to power. As many of you probably know, Il Duce started off as a socialist. I would strongly recommend that you watch Marco Bellochio’s “Vincere”, a 2010 biopic about Mussolini that can be seen on a Netflix DVD. Starting out as a socialist, he capitulates to war fever at the outset of WWI and makes fiery speeches about the nation having to redeem itself in battle before advancing toward socialism.

Unlike Hitler, Mussolini was less prone to impose esthetic strictures on Italian society. While by no means a Futurist ideologically, he was happy to accept their toadying salutes. It was only around 1937 that pressures from Hitler forced him to adopt a more “traditionalist” outlook in sync with the campaign against degenerate art taking shape in Germany.

A show on “Degenerate Art” is on display at the Neue Galerie on 86th Street, just 3 blocks south of the Guggenheim where the Futurism show is running. Both exhibitions close on September 1 and I urge fellow New Yorkers to grab both.

Les and I stopped by the Neue Galerie before heading over to the Guggenheim. Both of us were intrigued by the inclusion of Emil Nolde in the “degenerate art” exhibition mounted by the Nazis in 1937. Nolde was not a Communist like George Grosz. In fact he was a card-carrying Nazi until his modernist inclinations put him outside the Hitler cult. This 1912 woodcut titled “The Prophet” was included in the degenerate art exhibition, just one of more than a thousand works by Nolde that were seized by the Nazis. Nolde was a German Dane, who considered Expressionism to be an echt-Aryan style, a view shared by Joseph Goebbels.

The Prophet

After 1941 Nolde was prevented from making any new paintings, so total was Hitler’s opposition to anything that smacked of modernism. Intent on continuing his work, Nolde took up watercolors since they—unlike oils—did not produce a strong odor, something that would allow the Gestapo to catch Nolde in the act of creating art.

The Neue Galerie was funded by Ronald Lauder, the Republican billionaire heir to the Estee Lauder cosmetics empire, former Ambassador to Austria, and President of the American Jewish Congress. Using his enormous wealth, Lauder interjects himself both in American and Israeli politics. A 2002 profile on Lauder by Michael Massing in the American Prospect gave the lowdown on a Jewish counterpart to the Koch brothers:

Politically, however, he seemed out of step with most American Jews; in 1989, while seeking the Republican nomination for mayor of New York, he ran to the right of Rudolph Giuliani. And, on Israeli issues, he was a vocal Likudnik, with long-standing ties to Netanyahu. While Lauder was seeking the conference chair, the Jewish press carried reports that he had helped bankroll Netanyahu’s campaign for prime minister. Such foreign contributions are illegal under Israeli law; Lauder denied the reports, but that did little to mollify his opponents.

If you go to the American Jewish Congress website, you’ll find a “talking points” page that repeats all the usual hasbara bullshit. Lauder showed up in Israel in July on behalf of the AJC, where he turned the victim into the criminal and the criminal into the victim, as Malcolm X once put it. The Jerusalem Post reported:

According to Lauder, a former US ambassador to Austria and deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO affairs, the international media have not adequately portrayed the “hundreds of rockets” that have been fired into Israel by Hamas as intercepted projectiles make for boring stories.

“They can’t show rockets being blown up in the air by one side. That’s not a story. And the result is that there is this fanning of anti-Semitism.

“There are no pictures to be seen, so they have reporters reporting on what’s happening in Gaza and they hear stories about children being killed and things like that and the result is that the Arab communities all over hear that the Israelis are going after them,” he explained.

As a long-time observer of political/cultural trends, it strikes me as a crowing irony that someone like Lauder can fund a museum that decries Nazi suppression of great art while at the same time cheering on an assault on a defenseless people that is widely regarded as taken from the Nazi playbook, to the point where rightwing Israelis carry signs saying “One People, One State, One Leader”—a Nazi slogan.

It is also deeply ironic that the modernism of the 1920s and 30s became an instrument of corporate power during the Cold War and is now brandished by someone like Ronald Lauder who would most certainly be the target of George Grosz, the Communist artist whose animosity for such bourgeois pigs was so prominent in most of his work. The Nazis knew who their enemy was when they included Grosz’s work in the Degenerate Art show. One would only hope that a new generation of artists would begin to develop the backbone to picture Lauder in the same way Grosz depicted the Lauders of his day in the 1926 “Pillars of Society”:

Pillars of Society

August 10, 2014

“Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer”

Filed under: Fascism,zionism — louisproyect @ 12:25 pm

“1 people, 1 state, 1 leader”: Counter-protestors at Tel Aviv anti-war rally last night waved signs with Nazi slogans

BuqRIjiCQAE_kLx

August 9, 2014

When Columbia University was on the Mussolini bandwagon

Filed under: Academia,Columbia University,Fascism,Italy — louisproyect @ 6:31 pm

Casa Italiana at Columbia University: a stronghold of Mussolini support in the 1930s

Frank Rosengarten, “Through Partisan Eyes”, pp 3-4:

I should say, regarding my unfamiliarity with the material I was discovering at the Biblioteca Nazionale, that I did have a slight acquaintance with the history of Italian Fascism. It was not, to be sure, anything that helped me very much to understand the vicissitudes of Pratolini’s life and work; it was a small piece of historical evidence that had made me aware of the worldwide influence, the rayonnement, of the Italian Fascist regime. I’m referring to the extremely close, mutually supportive association that existed for close to twenty years between Mussolini’s government and Columbia’s Casa Italiana, several of whose professors were enthusiastic advocates in their youth of the Fascist regime. Two of the professors with whom I had done my course work, Peter Riccio and Howard Marraro, had strong Fascist sympathies in the 1930s, when they were themselves young candidates for Ph.D. degrees. In their early years both had written books that proposed a socially progressive, politically dynamic interpretation of what Mussolini and his cohorts were trying to accomplish. I recall reading these autobiographical writings with considerable dismay and keen interest. My personal contact with Professors Riccio and Marraro were pleasant enough. They were both friendly, approachable men, with none of the authoritarian traits that I probably expected to see in them, given their early attraction to Fascist ideology.

Nicholas Murray Butler was president of Columbia University at the height of Mussolini’s popularity in the United States. A friend of Theodore Roosevelt, an accomplished diplomat and philosopher, and a widely traveled man, like many Americans in the 1930s he was impressed by Mussolini’s grandiose plans for Italian development, which he apparently viewed as, if nothing else, good for the Italian people. But it seems that there was another more immediate and practical reason why he expressed positive views of the new Italian order. In the 1930s Columbia’s office of development was trying to cultivate relationships in the Italian-American community for the purpose of expanding the Italian program at Columbia. They succeeded in this effort: The building of the Casa Italiana was paid for in part by contributions from well-heeled Italian-American businessmen, several of whom were sympathetic to Fascism.

Stephen H. Norwood, “The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower”, pp. 89-93:

During Butler’s presidency, Columbia’s Casa Italiana, which opened in 1927 as a center for the study of Italian culture and which also housed the Italian Department, was controlled by supporters of Premier Benito Mussolini, who used it to propagandize for Fascism. The Casa Italiana also sponsored student exchanges between Columbia and universities in Fascist Italy and arranged many receptions for Mussolini’s emissaries, during which his regime was enthusiastically praised. The Mussolini government supplied most of the furniture for the Casa, with President Butler’s consent. Mussolini himself in September 1933 wrote to Professor Giuseppe Prezzolini, director of the Casa from 1930 to 1940: “I am following with interest the work done by the Casa Italiana of Columbia University and I am very pleased with what is being accomplished.” Prezzolini translated Mussolini’s letter and proudly forwarded it to President Butler. Butler responded by thanking Prezzolini for the “charming message from Mussolini” and noted, “It is pleasant, indeed, to know that he is following our work and appreciates it.”42 Nicholas Murray Butler was a longtime admirer of Premier Mussolini and enjoyed a warm personal relationship with him for many years. In 1931 President Butler startled many when, in his welcoming address to the incoming freshman class, he declared that “the assumption of power by a virtual dictator whose authority rests upon a powerful and well-organized body of opinion” produced leaders “of far greater intelligence, far stronger character and far more courage than does the system of election.” Informed listeners understood at the time that it was Mussolini with whom Columbia’s president was “conspicuously impressed.”43 The next year Butler maintained that Mussolini’s leadership of the Fascist movement had “brought new life and vigor and power and ambition” to Italy.44 Butler met with the Italian dictator in Rome several times during the late 1920s and 1930s for cordial conversations about international politics. Escorted by Mussolini’s federal secretary, Butler was received by the Florence Fascisti at their clubhouse, and he donated books to its library. As late as January 1938, Butler was pleased to inform a leading Italian-American donor that Premier Mussolini had recently asked him about the Casa and “was much gratified when I told him the work that was being carried forward.”45

Butler cultivated Mussolini’s friendship despite his suppression of opposition parties and newspapers (completed by 1927) and elimination of academic freedom in Italian universities. In 193 I Mussolini enacted a law requiring all professors in Italian universities to join the Fascist party and take the Fascist oath. Public schools indoctrinated students to promote “national aggrandizement [and] power . . . the spiritual essence of fascism.” The Fascist government made the teaching of Catholic doctrine the “foundation” of public education, and compulsory in the schools. It introduced standard textbooks for the elementary grades that included passages very hostile to Judaism. As early as 1923, opponents of Mussolini voiced fear that the Fascist educational reforms would drive Jews from the schools, both teachers — because they could not “impart Catholic doctrine” — and students.46

Giuseppe Prezzolini, director of the Casa Italiana from 1930 to 1940, and Dino Bigongiari, head of the Columbia Italian Department during the 1930s, were members of the Italian Fascist party (Prezzolini formally joined in 1934). Bigongiari was also a founder in 1923 of the Fascist League of North America and translated the works of leading Italian Fascist theoreticians like Giovanni Gentile and Alfredo Rocco. Prezzolini proudly declared to President Butler in 1935, “I have been for thirty years a friend and admirer of Mussolini.”47

The other leading members of the Italian Department, Howard Marraro and Peter M. Riccio (whose appointment was at Barnard), were also ardent Fascists. In 1927, Marraro published a book entitled Nationalism in Italian Education that proclaimed, “Fascism is the exaltation and ennoblement of all the elements concurring to form and assure the greatness of Italy,” and he praised the Fascist program of education instituted by Mussolini’s minister of public instruction, Giovanni Gentile. President Butler contributed the book’s foreword, which “cordially commended” the work. Upon his return from a 1934 trip to Italy, Marraro declared, “The labor situation in Italy should be a model for the world.” He claimed he had not seen in Italy the “distress and suffering” that then prevailed in the United States.48 Professor Peter M. Riccio’s Columbia dissertation, “On the Threshold of Fascism,” sought to establish Prezzolini as a leading intellectual progenitor of Italian Fascism. Italian anti-fascists charged that Riccio’s work was “one of the worst and most disgraceful dissertations ever written,” a crude Fascist polemic that did not meet even “elementary standards of scholarship.”49

In the fall of 1934, Professor Riccio had a leading role in bringing a delegation of 350 Italian Fascist university students to the United States for a tour of Eastern and Midwestern campuses, and he served as secretary of the committee in charge of the visit.50 President Butler made Columbia University one of the thirty American colleges and universities sponsoring the tour. The Italian students considered themselves “official ambassadors from Mussolini.” The Nation, a prominent national liberal weekly magazine, charged that the Italian student tour was “a propaganda move designed to win the friendliness of American university students to the fascist cause.” 5I

Docking in New York in September 1934 singing the Fascist anthem “Giovinezza,” the Italian student delegation made Columbia its first American university stop. Columbia College dean Herbert E. Hawkes officially greeted the Fascist students on President Butler’s behalf at the university’s McMillin Theatre. Dean Hawkes declared that Americans had “much to learn” from the Italian delegation.52 When the Italian students encountered pickets from anti-fascist Columbia student groups, they raised their hands in the Fascist salute and sang the “Giovinezza.” 53

About a month later, the Italian consul-general in New York, at a Casa Italiana ceremony, bestowed on Professor Riccio a medal for his devotion to Italian “culture and ideals.” As she introduced the honoree, Dean Virginia C. Gildersleeve of Barnard dismissed the concerns of pickets outside the Casa protesting Riccio’s statements in the press that Fascism was the best system of government for Italy. She declared emphatically to the audience, “I don’t care what Professor Riccio is.”54

In November 1934, The Nation charged in a series of articles that Columbia’s Casa Italiana was “one of the most important sources of fascist propaganda” in the United States. It claimed that the Casa, dominated by Fascist professors, worked closely with Italian government officials to present a favorable image of Mussolini’s regime in America. The Nation accused the Casa of regularly sponsoring lectures by Fascists, while denying opponents of Mussolini the opportunity to speak, and even forbidding “student gatherings for discussing aspects of fascist rule.” It claimed that Professor Arthur Livingston, the only member of the Italian Department opposed to Mussolini, had been transferred to the French Department. According to the Columbia Spectator, the reassignment had occurred at the insistence of a Fascist donor.55

President Butler angrily denied The Nation’s charges, labeling them a “hodge-podge of falsehood, misrepresentation, and half-truth,” and assured Casa director Prezzolini that he considered them “nonsensical and untrue.” He insisted that the Casa was “without political purpose or significance.” Butler praised the Italian Department faculty as “distinguished scholars, so recognized on either side of the Atlantic.”56

Butler had presided over, and participated in, many events at the Casa Italiana and elsewhere featuring Italian Fascist speakers. He gave the welcoming address for Mussolini’s official biographer, Margherita Sarfatti, at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, in which he hailed her as a “second Columbus.”57 Butler officially received at the Casa such emissaries of Mussolini as Foreign Minister Dino Grandi (who also spoke at Columbia’s Institute of Arts and Sciences); Ambassador Augusto Rosso, who visited Columbia several times between 1933 and 1936; the director of Italians in foreign countries, Signor Parini; and the Italian consuls-general, along with Fascist scholars like Sarfatti and Marchese Piero Misciattelli.58

In an effort to discredit The Nation’s charges, officers of Columbia’s Graduate Club of Italian Studies announced that the club was inviting Gaetano Salvemini, a distinguished historian exiled by Mussolini who was teaching at Harvard at the time, to speak at the Casa Italiana. Salvemini replied to the Graduate Club that, considering The Nation’s charges, he would accept the offer only if Professor Prezzolini, as the Casa’s director, personally agreed to invite him. He also asked that the Graduate Club inform President Butler of his request, so that he could not dodge responsibility. But Prezzolini refused to invite Salvemini. He explained to the Graduate Club that Professor Salvemini was a “political trouble-maker” whose only purpose in lecturing at Columbia was “to stir up some trouble.”59 As a result, Salvemini, the leading Italian spokesperson for anti-fascism in the United States during the 1930s, never spoke at the Casa Italiana.

Butler shared Prezzolini’s desire “to maintain good and friendly rela-tions” with the Mussolini government, which had the support of wealthy Italian-American businessmen whose financial donations to the Casa both men valued highly, and he made no effort on Salvemini’s behalf. Prezzolini stated to Butler that had he permitted “anti-Fascist political agitators of the type of Mr. Salvemini” to speak at the Casa, he would not have been able to host Fascists like Margherita Sarfatti and Piero Misciattelli, whom he had invited, he noted, at Butler’s own request.60

The Columbia Spectator, stating that Columbia stood “gravely indicted” by The Nation’s charges, demanded that the administration launch an investigation into Fascist control of the Casa Italiana and accused President Butler of evading the key issues. Protesting Butler’s refusal to discuss the matter with campus delegations that asked to meet with him, students began picketing his mansion and Low Library, where his offices were located.61

In the midst of the controversy, the Casa Italiana sparked more furor when it held a lavish reception to honor Dr. George Ryan, president of the New York City Board of Education, who had just returned from Rome, which he had visited as guest of the Mussolini government. Dr. Ryan arrived in New York “full of enthusiasm” for Fascist Italy’s educational system. The event seemed singularly ill-timed, and The Nation suggested that Prezzolini had set it up “under direct orders from Rome.” At the Casa, Ryan’s Board of Education colleague William Carlin praised Fascist Italy as “the true successor to the glory of Rome,” whose “present educational system has the admiration of the world.”61

 

August 4, 2014

Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt et al warn about the rise of fascism in Israel

Filed under: Fascism,zionism — louisproyect @ 1:13 pm

Letters to the Editor
New York Times
December 4, 1948

TO THE EDITORS OF THE NEW YORK TIMES:

Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.

The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughoutthe world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents.

Before irreparable damage is done by way of financial contributions, public manifestations in Begin’s behalf, and the creation in Palestine of the impression that a large segment of America supports Fascist elements in Israel, the American public must be informed as to the record and objectives of Mr. Begin and his movement. The public avowals of Begin’s party are no guide whatever to its actual character. Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.

Attack on Arab Village

A shocking example was their behavior in the Arab village of Deir Yassin. This village, off the main roads and surrounded by Jewish lands, had taken no part in the war, and had even fought off Arab bands who wanted to use the village as their base. On April 9 (THE NEW YORK TIMES), terrorist bands attacked this peaceful village, which was not a military objective in the fighting, killed most of its inhabitants ? 240men, women, and children – and kept a few of them alive to parade as captives through the streets of Jerusalem. Most of the Jewish community was horrified at the deed, and the Jewish Agency sent a telegram of apology to King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan. But the terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicized it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents present in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havoc at Deir Yassin. The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the character and actions of the Freedom Party.

Within the Jewish community they have preached an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority. Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions. In their stead they have proposed corporate unions on the Italian Fascist model. During the last years of sporadic anti-British violence, the IZL and Stern groups inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community. Teachers were beaten up for speaking against them, adults were shot for not letting their children join them. By gangster methods, beatings, window-smashing, and wide-spread robberies, the terrorists intimidated the population and exacted a heavy tribute.

The people of the Freedom Party have had no part in the constructive achievements in Palestine. They have reclaimed no land, built no settlements, and only detracted from the Jewish defense activity. Their much-publicized immigration endeavors were minute, and devoted mainly to bringing in Fascist compatriots.

Discrepancies Seen

The discrepancies between the bold claims now being made by Begin and his party, and their record of past performance in Palestine bear the imprint of no ordinary political party. This is the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a “Leader State” is the goal.

In the light of the foregoing considerations, it is imperative that the truth about Mr. Begin and his movement be made known in this country. It is all the more tragic that the top leadership of American Zionism has refused to campaign against Begin’s efforts, or even to expose to its own constituents the dangers to Israel from support to Begin.

The undersigned therefore take this means of publicly presenting a few salient facts concerning Begin and his party; and of urging all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism.

ISIDORE ABRAMOWITZ

HANNAH ARENDT

ABRAHAM BRICK

RABBI JESSURUN CARDOZO

ALBERT EINSTEIN

HERMAN EISEN, M.D.

HAYIM FINEMAN

M. GALLEN, M.D.

H.H. HARRIS

ZELIG S. HARRIS

SIDNEY HOOK

FRED KARUSH

BRURIA KAUFMAN

IRMA L. LINDHEIM

NACHMAN MAISEL

SEYMOUR MELMAN

MYER D. MENDELSON

M.D., HARRY M. OSLINSKY

SAMUEL PITLICK

FRITZ ROHRLICH

LOUIS P. ROCKER

RUTH SAGIS

ITZHAK SANKOWSKY

I.J. SHOENBERG

SAMUEL SHUMAN

M. SINGER

IRMA WOLFE

STEFAN WOLF.

New York, Dec. 2, 1948

July 21, 2014

Ukraine conflict: ‘White power’ warrior from Sweden

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

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

Ukraine conflict: ‘White power’ warrior from Sweden

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

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

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

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

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

‘One stray liberal’

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

Mikael Skillt in UkraineMikael Skillt in Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Foreign journalists’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 23, 2014

Indefensible Marxism

Filed under: Fascism,Russia,Ukraine — louisproyect @ 6:48 pm

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.

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