Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 30, 2014

“Goodbye, Dear Mum”: Iran Executes Rayhaneh Jabbari

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 3:16 pm

Originally posted on JONATHAN TURLEY:

eg2vZynW_400x400Over international protests, Iran has reportedly executed Rayhaneh Jabbari, 26. Jabbari claimed that a former Iranian Intelligence Ministry employee tried to rape her and that she stabbed in him the shoulder to escape. Despite the fact that a drink given to her was found to contain a date rape drug, the Iranian officials still wanted her hanged and they have now carried out their intent. As she was being led away to be hanged, a guard showed mercy and gave her his phone to type a final message to her mother. Her reported message below is poignant and tragic as a final goodbye to her mother.

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September 25, 2014

Syrian rebels overwhelmingly condemn US bombing as an attack on revolution

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 2:51 pm

Originally posted on Syrian Revolution Commentary and Analysis:

By Michael Karadjis

In extraordinary developments, the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Jordan have launched a joint air war, on Syrian territory, with the full support of the Syrian tyranny of Bashar al-Assad, on the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS).

There are plenty of good reasons to oppose any US war in any circumstances; and in this case, a war that is targeting only the Sunni-sectarian ISIS, yet sparing the viciously anti-Sunni Assad regime, indeed collaborating with the regime, which is responsible for a hundred times more massacre and destruction than ISIS, with which it has long collaborated in any case, is likely to boost support for ISIS among a large section of the poverty-stricken, dispossessed Sunni majority.
However, ISIS is so reviled that it was just possible a very well-targeted war on ISIS may have won some hearts and minds. Certainly, even…

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September 6, 2014

Commenting policy on the Unrepentant Marxist

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 4:10 pm

I just created a new page Commenting Policy that states:

I offer some suggestions to people who think they have some comment to make here.

First and foremost, I am not really interested in debating, especially over “acid test” questions that preoccupy the sectarian left. In other words, if you think I am a renegade from Marxism, you are wasting your time trying to “expose” me here. I am not in the habit of commenting on blogs that I am hostile to and would expect those hostile to mine to look elsewhere to play Lenin to my Kautsky, or Trotsky to my Max Shachtman. Especially since I am not aspiring to be the leader of a socialist movement in the twilight of my life. I say what I want when I want. This blog allows me to blow off some steam and that’s about it.

The best way to look at the Unrepentant Marxist is to imagine yourself having a conversation with him in a coffee shop on campus or at a cocktail party. How long would you expect a conversation to go on if you told me that I am a tool of the CIA or a ZioNazi, etc.? I have better things to do with my life than get into a pissing contest with someone who feels that way, and hope that those inclined to pick a fight with me would find a better use of their time and energy.

On the other hand, if you have something interesting to say, I would hope that you would share it especially if you are trying to attract readers to your own blog. I launched the Unrepentant Marxist in July 2004 and have generated over 5 million views since its inception. Commenting intelligently on one of my articles will almost certainly create interest in your own blog. More to the point, you will be spared my nastiness and a hasty exit.

September 4, 2014

The Racist Professor at the University of Illinois

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 6:43 pm

louisproyect:

This racist pig was a classmate at Bard College although I never said one word to him.

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

University of Illinois emeritus professor Robert Weissberg published an essay this week with the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a right-wing think tank, in which he argues about the Salaita case: “The trustees are not guilty of violating free speech; their sin is cowardice in overseeing the faculty. They did not perform their job.” It certainly takes some hubris for an openly racist professor who was never punished by the University of Illinois to complain that the trustees have failed to punish offensive left-wing faculty.

I want to refute Weissberg’s attacks on Salaita later on in this blog, but first I should state that the Pope Center had invited me to submit an essay along with Weissberg, and I wrote one for them.

Noting that Weissberg had spoken at a conference of white supremacists, I wrote in that essay: “I think that Weissberg’s views are far more…

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August 26, 2014

The perfect embodiment of the anarchist concept of the revolutionary order?

Filed under: Russia,Ukraine,Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 5:36 pm

“By contrast, the Donetsk Republic formulates its agenda from below, literally on the run, in response to the public mood and the course of events. Strictly speaking this republic is not even a state—rather, it amounts to a coalition of diverse communities, most of them self-organised. In essence, it is the perfect embodiment of the anarchist concept of the revolutionary order.”

–Boris Kagarlitsky

 

Pro-Russia rebels paraded Ukrainian prisoners of war through the main street in central Donetsk on Sunday. Onlookers shouted insults and pelted the prisoners with beer bottles, eggs and tomatoes. Credit: Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

NY Times, August 25 2014
In Eastern Ukraine, Rebel Mockery Amid Independence Celebration
By ANDREW E. KRAMER and ANDREW HIGGINS

DONETSK, Ukraine — On a day when Ukrainians celebrated their independence from the Soviet Union with parades and speeches, pro-Russia separatists in the eastern part of the country staged a grim counter-spectacle: a parade that mocked the national army and celebrated the deaths and imprisonment of its soldiers.

Leading the procession was an attractive young blond woman carrying an assault rifle, followed by several dozen captured Ukrainian soldiers, filthy, bruised and unkempt, their heads shaved, wearing fetid camouflage uniforms and looking down at their feet.

Onlookers shouted that the men should be shot, and pelted the prisoners with empty beer bottles, eggs and tomatoes as they stumbled down Artyomovsk Street, Donetsk’s main thoroughfare. A loudspeaker played Tchaikovsky’s “Slavonic March,” a familiar Russian patriotic piece. Behind the prisoners were two tanker trucks spraying soapy water, demonstratively cleaning the pavement where the Ukrainian soldiers had passed.

People in the crowd shouted “fascists!” and “perverts!” and separatist fighters held back a man who tried to punch a prisoner.

The Geneva Conventions’ rules for treating prisoners of war prohibit parading them in public, but the treatment of the wounded, disheveled prisoners seemed to offend few of those watching, who in any case had turned out for the promise of seeing a ghoulish spectacle. “Shoot them!” one woman yelled.

(clip)

A passer-by at a checkpoint taunted a woman suspected of aiding the Ukrainian military. The prisoner had to hold a sign saying: “She kills our children.” Credit: Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

NY Times, August 26 2014
As Peace Talks Approach, Rebels Humiliate Prisoners in Ukraine
By ANDREW E. KRAMER and ANDREW ROTH

DONETSK, Ukraine — On the sidewalk of a busy street beside a checkpoint, a bearded gunman wrapped a woman in a Ukrainian flag and forced her to stand, sobbing in terror, holding a sign identifying her as a spotter for Ukrainian artillery. “She kills our children,” it read. Because the woman was a spy, said the gunman, a pro-Russian militant, everything that would happen to her would be well-deserved.

Passers-by stopped their cars to get out and spit, slap her face and throw tomatoes at her. Her knees buckled. She struggled to mumble in protest of her innocence and to shake her head in denial.

This theatrical scene of abuse unfolded a day after the rebel movement had paraded Ukrainian prisoners of war down a main thoroughfare here at bayonet point, then dramatically washed the pavement behind them.

(clip)

Outside agitators in Ferguson, Missouri

Filed under: african-american,revolutionary organizing,Trotskyism,Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 2:16 pm

A week ago the popular news and gossip website Gawker published an article titled “Who Are the ‘Revolutionary Communists’ Allegedly Agitating in Ferguson?” by Michelle Deane, the author of illuminating pieces such as “Your End-of-August Cocktail Is A Lemon Rosemary Vodka Fizz”.

Since I confess to not being a regular Gawker reader, I thought I’d take a quick look at its provenance through the generally reliable Wikipedia. A Brit named Nick Denton, whose politics are rather hard to pin down, launched it in 2003. His main ambition seems to be making money. For some odd reason, he decided to launch a website inspired by the sorry career of Tina Brown, the former editor of “Vanity Fair”, the obvious inspiration for Gawker.

I was intrigued to see that Choire Sicha spent a couple of years as editor there. Sicha launched The Awl, a website covering pretty much the same terrain as Gawker. I have it bookmarked and spend about 15 seconds there each day in a futile attempt to find something worth reading.

N+1, a Marxist literary and political print magazine I read from cover to cover, published an article on Gawker that sums it up fairly well:

Gawker had always sold itself as mean but it now became, actually, very mean. Sicha, who liked to pretend to be a news organization, had sent “correspondents” and “interns” to official media events. Coen found more of them, and she sent them not only to launches and readings but also to private parties, where they took embarrassing party photos. This was the important development: the decision to treat every subject, known or unknown, in public or private situations, with the fascinated ill will that tabloid magazines have for their subjects.

It makes some sense that if you are following in the footsteps of Tina Brown, you are likely to cross paths. Brown founded The Daily Beast in 2008 and was largely responsible for the vast financial losses that Newsweek suffered after an ill-advised merger with her dubious project. Although the Beast no longer has no connections to Brown, her spirit lingers on.

At the Daily Beast you can find the same sort of article on Ferguson that Michelle Deane wrote. Titled “The Communist Agitators Trying to Ignite Ferguson”, it is the sort of thing that was once popular in the 1950s when communism was a force to be reckoned with. The article has a glaring typo in the second paragraph, a dead giveaway as to the Beast’s editorial standards:

The Revolution Club of Chicago took to the streets Monday, busy “working with people.” After darkness fell and while the crowd of protesters grew larger and more boisterous, Carl Dix walked along West Florissant Avenue with Joey Johnson and Lou Downey, members of the Chicago club. It was clear that Nix—a leader in the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP)—was the point man in this small operation, with Johnson, Downey and several others following him as committed political disciples.

Is it Dix or is it Nix? (It is Dix.)

Gawker’s coverage at least had the merit of being written with the obligatory “sassy” style that pervades the magazine:

According to a website called the Missouri Torch, the man French is referring to is one Greg “Joey” Johnson, of Chicago. They have a variety of other images and videos of Johnson and assorted “commie” — their word — friends being shown around Ferguson. It’s pretty plain they’ve identified him correctly.

Johnson has been kicking around the paranoid end of American politics for some time. (To be utterly clear to any conservatives getting excited just reading this, that paranoid end is a 360 degree circle, really, comprising members of all stripes of political thought.) But he hasn’t been wholly ineffective, as an activist. For one example: those of you who went to law school, might recognize him as the same Gregory Johnson who was the defendant in Texas v. Johnson, the case which held that flag-burning is a protected activity under the First Amendment.

The group with which Johnson is affiliated, the Revolutionary Communist Party, is nowadays largely regarded as crank-ish even by many self-identified Communists. It is routinely referred to as a “cult of personality” for its leader Bob Avakian. Avakian, who lives in self-imposed exile… somewhere, still believes that Communist revolution is possible and writes long tracts to that end, identifying the end of racial oppression as key to the eventual overthrow of capitalism. He is also the sort of fellow who writes like this:

One important aspect of boldly spreading revolution and communism everywhere is the work of building what we have characterized as a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around the leadership, the body of work and the method and approach of Bob Avakian. Now, I recognize that some people (especially among the middle strata, frankly) may find it “immodest” (and perhaps, to some, strangely disturbing) for me to speak about this (and, for god’s sake, to refer to myself in the third person!). But, first of all and fundamentally, “modesty” (or “immodesty”) is not the essential issue, not the heart of the matter.

Unfortunately Deane relied heavily on the video coverage of Ferguson that appeared in the Missouri Torch, a far-right website that is published by the Missouri Alliance for Freedom, a group that seeks to:

  • Reduce taxes and decrease the size of government.
  • Protect parental and children’s rights while encouraging the traditional family unit.

Apparently Sarah Kenzidor, a contributor to al-Jazeera and other nominally progressive outlets, has been tapping the Missouri Torch as well to “expose” outside agitators.

Jacobin Magazine, which has been linked with N+! as the voice of the Marxist Young Turks, published an article by Richard Seymour that took issue with the “outside agitator” narrative without naming any of the culprits. In addition to Gawker and The Daily Beast, the same sort of article appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, CNN and the Wall Street Journal. Richard wrote:

The metaphor of exteriority, of being outside, has two important connotations. First, one is transgressing the spatial ordering of the state. States constitute social spaces like districts, wards, and counties — a process that is historically far from racially innocent in the US.

Second, is that one’s political being is “outside,” and thus traitorous and disloyal. It is not just that one traveled from one city to another — that’s fine, provided the political agenda one brings is benign for the system — but that one brought ideas that are not only not native to the destination, but actually foreign to the nation, the free world, civilization itself.

While I am in total agreement with Richard’s analysis, I do want to take a few moments to look at the RCP intervention that some on the left view somewhat more benignly than I do. Blogger Stanley W. Rogouski wrote in conclusion to an article on Ferguson and outside agitators:

The RCP got it right with World Can’t Wait. Radicals had to take over liberal outrage against the Republicans or watch the “Bush Regime” become the new normal. That they proposed, and with a very straight face, that the alternative to George W. Bush could be Bob Avakian was hilariously delusional. But they were onto something. Perhaps that’s why, now, they’ve become the face of the “outside agitator” in Ferguson.

Sarah Kendzior knows her competition when she sees it.

With so much attention riveted on Avakian’s group, I thought I’d go pay their website a visit. The last time I had any contact with them was back in the 1980s and early 90s when I used to visit their well-stocked bookstore in Chelsea.

The home page of Revolution, their newspaper, made clear who was their main man:

Screen shot 2014-08-26 at 9.30.24 AM

As I trawled through their coverage of Ferguson, I found plenty of militant rhetoric:

We stand with the defiant ones. We stand with the angry ones, the rebellious ones, the ones who will not take it, the ones who tell the truth—and the ones they lie about. Without defiance, without rage, without righteous rebellion, without people insisting on their rights and defending those rights in the street—very few people would even know about Michael Brown and how he was shot over and over with his hands up, murdered by pigs and then left to lie there in the streets, as if he were an animal. Very few people would have shared the grief of his parents for the terrible loss of this young man, at the very beginning of his life. Without the rebellion, this terrible state-done murder would just be another rerun of the same old all-too-familiar story, the same murderous stuff that happens to Black and Latino youth over and over again.

But because of the defiance and rebellion, the whole world knows the story. Now everybody has to deal with this. And people all over the country and all over the world support this fight. You, the defiant ones, are changing the thinking of millions and millions of people… you are calling out to everyone NOT TO TAKE IT… you are making history—in the way it badly needs to be made.

So, yes we stand with the defiant ones—and we will defend them and stand with them in deed as well as word.

But it was not exactly clear what this meant in terms of strategy and tactics. This is not surprising since the RCP is what might be called a “maximalist” organization. Their preoccupation is with REVOLUTION, not any mealy-mouthed intermediate steps that can move the struggle forward. Although I have very little use for James P. Cannon, the founder of American Trotskyism, I live by his observation that the art of politics is knowing what to do next.

In 1938 Trotsky wrote the Transitional Program in an effort to address the task of knowing what to do next. He described it as an alternative to the minimum/maximum divide that existed in the social democracy:

Classical Social Democracy, functioning in an epoch of progressive capitalism, divided its program into two parts independent of each other: the minimum program which limited itself to reforms within the framework of bourgeois society, and the maximum program which promised substitution of socialism for capitalism in the indefinite future. Between the minimum and the maximum program no bridge existed.

Although Trotsky does not delve into this, the two programs effectively became the banner of the Second International and Third Period Stalinism before the two movements began to overlap through the Popular Front period. In the late 20s and the early 30s, the CP would organize foolish adventures along “maximalist” lines that backfired against the workers movement. In Germany, they united with the Nazis to unseat a socialist party politician embodying their belief: “After Hitler, Us”.

If you want to understand the RCP politically, their primary influence was Third Period Stalinism, which in the USA was expressed through the period in which William Z. Foster led the CP.

Trotsky proposed the Transitional Program as a way of circumnavigating the treacherous waters dominated by the CP and the social democracy in the late 1930s, two massive movements that had little to fear from the Fourth International that was based on a sectarian model even if its emphasis on “transition” was perfectly lin line with Marxist theory.

When I first came across the Transitional Program in 1967, I was struck by Trotsky’s very first sentence: “The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.” That is just as true today as it was when I read it 47 years ago. Just look at the Middle East and North Africa.

It is also true of Black America that many analysts have begun to compare to oppressed people in MENA, particularly the residents of Gaza who carried signs hailing the struggle in Ferguson.

I was struck by the anger and distrust directed against the official Black leadership in Ferguson, even expressed by some Black elected officials. Back in 1967 the SWP was propagandizing for an independent Black political party, one that could begin to organize and generalize struggles such as those occurring around cop killings now. It had hopes that the Panthers could become that party but they succumbed to Maoist maximalism unfortunately.

As the Black membership of the SWP grew in the 1970s, it became capable of helping to move toward such a party. There were national conferences to launch such a party that withered on the vine, partly out of the participation of Black CP’ers who wanted to squelch any potential challenges to the Democratic Party. The same thing happened with efforts to build a Labor Party, with officials lacking the guts to organize election campaigns that would antagonize their allies in the labor movement.

In the 1970s and 80s, efforts to build such parties was undermined by both the generally more sanguine state of the economy and by the sectarian madness of the organized left, including the SWP. Now that the economy has turned to shit and the sectarians—including the SWP and the RCP—have been reduced to cults around a believe leader, the time is ripe for moving once again to build class struggle alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans in the electoral arena.

August 25, 2014

U. of Illinois: caught with its pants down

Filed under: Academia,repression,Steven Salaita,Uncategorized,zionism — louisproyect @ 12:40 pm

August 24, 2014

Antisemitism and Salaita

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 12:33 am

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

The following letter by Michael Rothberg originally appeared on his website. Rothberg is the Head of the Department of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Director of the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies. He is the author of Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation (2000) and Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization (2009), and the co-editor of The Holocaust: Theoretical Readings (2003) and Cary Nelson and the Struggle for the University: Poetry, Politics, and the Profession (2009).

August 17, 2014
Dear Chancellor Wise,

I am sorry that I cannot join my colleagues in their meeting with you on August 18. I truly appreciate your making yourself available for dialogue with faculty members concerned about the university’s handling of the Steven Salaita case. Dialogue between the administration and the faculty is precisely what has been missing thus…

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August 16, 2014

Hanna Perekhoda: Freedom and Social Identity in the Donbas

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 12:32 pm

Originally posted on The Russian Reader:

Freedom and Social Identity
Hanna Perekhoda
August 11, 2014
OpenLeft.ru

don-1Donetsk. Photo from an album of the 1970s

The past is the locomotive that pulls the future. Sometimes it is someone else’s past to boot. You go backwards and see only what has already disappeared. And to get off the train you need a ticket. You hold it in your hands. But whom are you going to show it to?
—Victor Pelevin, The Yellow Arrow

I was born in Donetsk to a family in whose home there were two diplomas on the bookshelf: a factory furnace builder’s and an artist’s. The holders of these diplomas desperately tried to build their happiness on the ruins of a communism that might have been. But what seemed like temporary measures turned into permanent professions, and now my father is a taxi driver with years of experience, and my mom has been selling flowers…

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August 14, 2014

Shameless Cooke knifes Syrian people’s resistance to Assad/ISIS fascism

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 1:13 am

Originally posted on Syrian Revolution Commentary and Analysis:

On August 10, the writer Shamus Cooke penned an article, “how ISIS finally became Obama’s enemy” (http://www.commondreams.org/views/2014/08/10/how-isis-finally-became-obamas-enemy).

Cooke writes: “Suddenly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has become a threat worthy of American missiles. For almost two years President Obama completely ignored the biggest and most brutal terror group in the Middle East, allowing it to balloon into a regional power. No matter how many heads it severed or how much territory it conquered, ISIS just couldn’t draw Obama’s attention.” Claiming that as the ISIS threat grew, “Obama ignored it, and so did the U.S. media,” concentrating instead on the Ukraine and Gaza.

At times it is difficult to work out what all this “ignoring” and “allowing” means. It could be interpreted from a number of perspectives. It could mean, perhaps, that unlike George Bush, who had the army in Iraq fighting ISIS’s predecessor, Al-Qaida in Iraq, Obama…

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