Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 7, 2010

British broadcaster rakes Israeli mouthpiece over the coals

Filed under: middle east — louisproyect @ 12:35 am

June 6, 2010

New Yorkers protest Zionist brutality

Filed under: middle east — louisproyect @ 9:00 pm

On Friday and Saturday I emerged from my bedroom bunker, leaving behind my computer, television set, books and magazines, to join with fellow New Yorkers in protesting Zionist crimes. It was an opportunity to continue with my video/youtube projects as well as to get a handle on the strengths and weaknesses of the local movement.

Friday’s protest was called by Al-awda (sorry for the misspelling in the Youtube title), a Palestinian group that has worked with the International Action Center (IAC) over the years.  The IAC is a more or less of a coalition that is tightly controlled by the Workers World Party. ANSWER serves the same purpose for the Party of Socialism and Liberation, a split from the WWP. The two groups present nearly the same analysis in their newspapers but can’t co-exist in the same organization. This is bad enough, but it is made worse by their failure to explain why they split. This kind of fracturing of the left is symptomatic of the age we are living in unfortunately.

Fortunately, the organizers were able to reach their base sufficiently to turn out several hundred people, including about 20 Turks from what I could gather from overheard conversations. There was a rousing rally in Times Square and concluded with a noisy march through midtown Manhattan that terminated at the Turkish Mission to the UN. The marchers got thumbs up from many cab drivers and truckers.

(Apologies for this video clip having been private. I just fixed it to public. The stupid IMovie software uses private as a default when uploading to Youtube. Who in the world would bother making a Youtube video visible only to friends?)

A day later I went out with a smaller group called Adalah (the word for justice in Arabic) that targeted three New York businesses intimately connected with Israel. We started at Union Square and marched from business to business. My impression is that the ISO is working with this group since I saw them out in force, more or less.

I got a big kick out of this action because it targeted the kind of yuppie enterprises that rub me the wrong way, especially when they have a connection to Israel. If you listen closely to one of the songs that are sung in front of one of the stores, it might ring a bell especially if you are a Yid like me. The words are “Don’t buy Israeli” to the tune of Hava Nagila, a Hebrew folk song heard frequently at weddings, etc.

The first target was Ricky’s, a store that is on 3rd avenue about 3 blocks south of my building. I could never figure out the purpose of this store, besides selling very cheap looking novelties, sunglasses, cosmetics, etc. It turns out that Ricky’s is a prime outlet for Ahava beauty products. Adalahny.org reports:

According to whoprofits.org, “Ahava manufactures cosmetics products using minerals from the Dead Sea. The company has a factory and a visitors’ center in the Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the occupied West Bank. 34% of the company shares are held by the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem… 6% by Kibbutz Kaliya (settlement).” All Israeli settlements violate international law.

From there we went to Max Brenner’s, an Israeli chocolatier with two stores and a corporate office in Manhattan. Max Brenner is 100% owned by the Israeli company the Strauss Group . The Strauss Group is the second largest Israeli food and beverage company and is widely touted as one of the great successes of Israeli industry.

On its website in the section on “Corporate Responsibility,” the Strauss Group emphasizes its support for the Israeli army, noting in a section entitled “In the Field with Soldiers”, “Our connection with soldiers goes as far back as the country, and even further. We see a mission and need to continue to provide our soldiers with support, to enhance their quality of life and service conditions, and sweeten their special moments. We have adopted the Golani reconnaissance platoon for over 30 years and provide them with an ongoing variety of food products for their training or missions, and provide personal care packages for each soldier that completes the path. We have also adopted the Southern Shualei Shimshon troops from the Givati platoon with the goal of improving their service conditions and being there at the front to spoil them with our best products.”


Finally, we went to Aroma, a Starbucks type coffee shop on trendy Houston Street that is a branch of an Israeli chain that has plans to open another shop on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It also has at least one cafe located in an illegal Israeli settlement, Maaleh Adumim. (All Israeli settlements violate international law.)

While I was happy to take part in these protests and was glad that the movement is beginning to react to Israeli brutality, I couldn’t help thinking of the bigger opportunities that a divided movement cannot take advantage of.

Al-adwa and the NY chapter of Adalah appear to represent different constituencies that would be better served by a more massive and visible demonstration. My impression from the mass media is that there is unprecedented anger against Israel, even in NY, a city with a massive Zionist movement.

Notwithstanding the hard work and dedication of the groups that organized these protests, a vacuum exists that must be filled in order for a more powerful response to Zionism to be mounted. This would involve reaching out to people who might only be committed to ending the blockade but not as far to the left as the people who took part in the protests.

During the 1970s, the anti-apartheid movement had an established leadership made up of people like Randall Robinson of the Trans-Africa foundation. Something like this is sorely needed that all groups and individuals on the left can get behind, as well as the Arab community in the U.S. that can be a powerful force for social change.

How Germany became divided after WWII: Stalin didn’t do it

Filed under: Cold War,Germany,Stalinism — louisproyect @ 1:29 am

(A discussion about the Berlin Wall broke out in the comments section of my blog posting on John Weeks. That inspired me to post an excellent review of Carolyn Eisenberg’s “Drawing the Line” from the Nation Magazine in 1996, when it was still readable. Nothing can substitute for reading Eisenberg’s book, but Kai Bird’s review comes close.)

Nation Magazine
December 16, 1996

Stalin Didn’t Do It

The American Decision to Divide Germany, 1944-1949.
By Carolyn Eisenberg
Cambridge. 522 pp. $59.95.

Nothing is inevitable in the course of human events. Yet every historian finds it difficult to persuade readers that what happened all those many years ago was not preordained, that indeed, choices were made which at the time were not necessarily obvious or at all inevitable. This challenge becomes particularly formidable when the historian’s topic is invested with powerful myths cultivated by the state.

Carolyn Eisenberg shatters the central myth at the heart of the origins of the cold war: that the postwar division of Germany was Stalin’s fault. She demonstrates unequivocally that the partition of Germany was “fundamentally an American decision,” strongly opposed by the Soviets. The implications are enormous. Germany’s division led to the rapid division of Europe, condemning not only East Germans but millions throughout Eastern Europe to a forty-year siege. If the responsibility for this cruel separation of a continent into two armed military camps lies with Washington and not Moscow, then the entire canon of the orthodox history of the cold war is called into question.

Eisenberg, a professor of history at Hofstra, took more than a dozen years to produce this exhaustively researched text. Drawing the Line opens with a moving description of the idealistic hopes evoked by the meeting of U.S. and Soviet troops at the Elbe River on April 25, 1945. In the face of a common peril, a Grand Alliance had triumphed over German fascism.

A half-century later, we forget that many Americans had been confident that U.S.-Soviet cooperation could continue in the postwar period despite ideological differences. Even an establishment figure like Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy noted in his diary on April 30, 1945, “It is little wonder that as [the US. and the U.S.S.R.] emerge in their own and in the eyes of everyone else as the two greatest powers that they should walk stiff-legged around the ring a bit.” But McCloy and Secretary of War Henry Stimson believed that with time and hard work a “practical relationship” was possible and desirable. As for Germany, the New Dealers who then prevailed in foreign policy deliberations-Henry Morgenthau Jr., Harry Hopkins, Harry Dexter White, Henry Wallace, Harold Ickes-fully intended to cooperate with the Soviets in administering a “hard peace” in a unified German state. Roosevelt had agreed to a firm program of denazification, deindustrialization and demilitarization. The Soviets would share in the supervision of a jointly occupied German state and be assured a share of reparations.

Then came Harry Truman, who was pretty much an empty vessel when it came to foreign policy. His instincts were erratic, McCloy wrote in his diary after observing him at Potsdam, “He always gives me the impression of too quick judgment.” Roosevelt’s Soviet policies were soon shoved aside. In the judgment of Truman’s influential advisers-Dean Acheson, Averell Harriman, John Foster Dulles, George Marshall and James Forrestal- partition was preferable to the uncertainties of cooperating with a difficult wartime ally in a joint occupation of the defeated enemy.

Acheson and his colleagues did not fear the Soviets-they understood that the Soviet system was economically and militarily weak. And that was precisely why Washington could act unilaterally with little risk of provoking a war. “This judgment,” says Eisenberg, “allowed them to make careless calculations, to disregard the Soviet interests with a sense of impunity, and to sacrifice potentially favorable bargains with the expectation of a complete collapse down the road.” And act they did. In violation of Potsdam and Yalta, the Truman Administration fused the British and U.S. occupation zones economically in December 1946, incorporated western Germany into the Marshall Plan in July 1947, implemented a currency reform in June 1948 and convened a parliamentary body in September 1948 for the purpose of creating a formal West German state. Washington also abruptly ended denazification (leaving approximately 640,000 “highly incriminated persons” un- prosecuted), halted deindustrialization and canceled steps already taken to break up the German economic cartels.

Truman’s men feared not an invasion from the east but that the Soviets in their weakened position would offer a deal that could not be easily rejected in a public forum. As Ambassador Walter Bedell Smith wrote in December 1947 to his old friend Dwight Eisenhower, “The difficulty under which we labor is that in spite of our announced position, we really do not want nor intend to accept German unification in any terms that the Russians might agree to; even though they seemed to meet most of our requirements.”

Soviet demands were remarkably consistent. They wanted what they understood the Allies to have promised at Potsdam and Yalta: the $10 billion in reparations; four-power control of the Ruhr Valley; vigorous denazification and permanent demilitarization. In return they’d permit a freely elected German government, modeled along Weimar constitutional lines-a program, Eisenberg observes, that “did not differ appreciably from that previously advanced by liberals in the Roosevelt administration.”

The Soviets began to clamp down on Eastern Europe only in response to the U.S. decision to partition Germany. When they did so, Truman’s men were not at all surprised. When, for instance, Stalin imposed a ground blockade around Berlin after a unilateral American announcement of currency reform in western Germany, veteran diplomat Robert Murphy cabled Washington, “The Berlin blockade, with all its consequences, has had widespread repercussions, most of them favorable.”

Not everyone agreed. The military governor of occupied Germany, Gen. Lucius Clay, opposed partition. So did the author of the containment theory, George Kennan. In 1948-49, Kennan vigorously contested both the division and militarization of Europe. In an attempt to preserve access to Eastern Europe he crafted what became known inside the bureaucracy as “Plan A” or “A Program for Germany” to create a unified German state. Both U.S. and Soviet troops would have been required to withdraw to the borders of Germany. U.N.-supervised elections would have created a new all-German government. This reunified Germany would still have participated in the Marshall Plan, which implied, of course, that the German economy would be revived. Plan A was extraordinarily one-sided. The only thing the Soviets would get would be guaranteed access to German exports-and the right to continued participation in the supervision of the German state through a diminished Allied Control Commission. Presumably, Germany would remain demilitarized.

Kennan very much doubted the Soviets would accept a plan requiring them virtually to surrender exclusive powers in eastern Germany for a limited role in supervising a unified German state. But he thought it imperative that the proposal be put on the table; if the Soviets accepted, the impending division of Europe could be avoided.

Astonishingly, the Soviets were not even given a chance to reject Plan A. Instead, the Truman Administration went ahead with unilateral partition. An appalled Kennan wrote Secretary of State Acheson, condemning the “steady and progressive discarding of all possibilities which might really have led to something like the unification of Germany under allied blessing.” He warned that “some day we may pay bitterly for our present unconcern with the possibility of getting the Russians out of the Eastern zone.”

Thus began the cold war, a forty-year conflict for which we all paid, but none more so than the millions in Eastern Europe who were forced to live in police states.

Drawing the Line was largely researched prior to the opening of some relevant archives in Moscow and Berlin. But none of the documents released in the East to date contradict Eisenberg’s view that the Americans unilaterally opted for partition. Nor is she alone in her assessment of the origins and nature of the cold war. Significantly, her thesis has been endorsed by Melvyn Leffler, whose A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War (1992) established him as the preeminent chronicler of the period. Leffler flatly states that Eisenberg has “proven her case,” that her findings “will compel a rethinking of basic assumptions about the origins of the Cold War”—this from a historian who has written with great caution about politically charged questions of assigning responsibility.

Even more startling, however, is an essay Leffler wrote in this past summer’s Foreign Affairs, the house organ of the foreign policy establishment, titled “Inside Enemy Archives: The Cold War Reopened.” Leffler’s survey of the “enemy archives” depicts a paranoid adversary always on the defensive. The Soviets, says Leffler, “did not have pre-conceived plans to make Eastern Europe communist, to support the Chinese communists, or to wage war in Korea.” Stalin had no ‘‘master plan” for Germany, and wished to avoid military conflict with the United States. Indeed, he hoped a policy of Realpolitik would somehow lead to a grudging cooperation between the former wartime allies. Leffler quotes David Holloway-a Stanford professor and author of Stalin and the Bomb (1994)–who studied records of Stalin’s military thinking in the postwar period and concluded, “There is’ no evidence to show that Stalin intended to invade Western Europe, except in the event of a major war.” Certainly, Stalin ran a cruel police state, but Leffler argues that “U.S.words and deeds greatly heightened ambient anxieties and subsequently contributed to the arms race and the expansion of the Cold War into the Third World.” The new archival findings suggest that U.S. policy prolonged the cold war, making it “difficult for potential reformers inside the Kremlin to gain the high ground.” To compound matters, Leffler suggests there were many missed opportunities in the fifties, sixties and seventies when Stalin’s successors might have curtailed the conflict-but the “perceived threat emanating from the United States held them back.” Not surprisingly, Leffler’s article has disconcerted such conservative historians as Richard Pipes and John Lewis Gaddis.

Eisenberg’s book ends in 1949, when the cold war is about to open in earnest. But Leffler’s essay underscores the tragic costs of a conflict that began with the U.S. decision to divide Germany. The most painful consequences, as Eisenberg points out, were “mainly borne by others.” And yet, the tally sheet indirectly includes all those Americans who died in Korea and Vietnam. “In the wreckage of the Cold War,” she concludes, “America has yet to acknowledge responsibility for the structures it has built.”

Kai Bird, a Nation contributing editor, is the author of The Chairman: John J. McCloy-The Making of the American Establishment (Simon & Schuster) and co-editor, with Lawrence Lifschulk, of Hiroshima’s Shadow: Writings on the Denial of History & the Smithsonian Controversy, forthcoming from Pamphleteer’s Press.

June 5, 2010

Letter to John Weeks

Filed under: nicaragua — louisproyect @ 2:18 pm

John Weeks

Hello, John

I don’t know if you remember me but I chaired the debate between you and  Paul Berman just after the Sandinistas were voted out of office.  Originally Michael Moore had agreed to debate Berman but I was persuaded  that you would be a better choice because you were an “expert”. Worst  decision of my life, I am afraid.

I just took a look at your website (http://jweeks.org) that was  announced on Jerry Levy’s mailing list, a gathering place for Marxist  economists. Out of curiosity, I went there and found a paper that you  and your wife wrote in 1992 making the discovery that the FSLN was not  really “revolutionary socialist”, like you–a professor emeritus–I  suppose. It was the same argument I heard from James Petras around that  time. One imagines that if you or him had been president of Nicaragua,  then the country would have been saved.

But leaving aside your politics, which someone described to me as Maoist  (unfortunately after the event), the real question I have always had is  why you were so unprepared. You winged it for 20 minutes or so, while  the filthy Paul Berman had a well-prepared presentation. I remember it  like yesterday, you informing an audience of solidarity activists that  the FSLN was just like the PRI in Mexico–something in clear distinction  to the cozy relationship the USA enjoyed with Mexico.

Anyhow, I hope you are enjoying your professor emeritus status. My  advice is to take up gardening or basket-weaving and turn down any  invitations to speak at such debates in the future for the sake of the  radicals who might mistakenly invite you.

Yours truly,

Louis Proyect

June 4, 2010

Powerful debunking of Israeli talking points

Filed under: middle east — louisproyect @ 10:56 pm

I am not in the habit of aggregating links, but this should not be missed:


Finkelstein debates Zionist leader

Filed under: middle east — louisproyect @ 2:55 pm

Righteous Jews

Filed under: middle east — louisproyect @ 12:50 am

June 3, 2010

Jeremy Scahill debates Ed Koch

Filed under: middle east — louisproyect @ 6:24 pm

Helen Thomas nails Obama press secretary

Filed under: middle east,Obama — louisproyect @ 12:33 am

June 2, 2010

Not his mother’s son…his stepfather’s?

Filed under: Obama — louisproyect @ 11:48 pm

Lolo Soetoro and Ann Dunham pose with daughter Maya Soetoro and son Barack Obama in an undated photo. (Family photo via Bloomberg News)

From chapter two of Barack Obama’s “Dreams from My Father”:

Looking back, I’m not sure that Lolo [Barack Obama’s Indonesian stepfather] ever fully understood what my mother was going through during these years, why the things he was working so hard to provide for her seemed only to increase the dis­tance between them. He was not a man to ask himself such questions. Instead, he maintained his concentration, and over the period that we lived in Indonesia, he proceeded to climb. With the help of his brother-in-law, he landed a new job in the government relations office of an American oil company. We moved to a house in a better neighborhood; a car replaced the motorcycle; a television and hi-fi replaced the crocodiles and Tata, the ape; Lolo could sign for our dinners at a company club. Sometimes I would overhear him and my mother arguing in their bedroom, usually about her refusal to attend his com­pany dinner parties, where American businessmen from Texas and Louisiana would slap Lolo’s back and boast about the palms they had greased to obtain the new offshore drilling rights, while their wives complained to my mother about the quality of Indonesian help. He would ask her how it would look for him to go alone, and remind her that these were her own people, and my mother’s voice would rise to almost a shout.

They are not my people.

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