Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 7, 2015

Richard Seymour on John Wight

Filed under: mechanical anti-imperialism,Stalinism,Syria — louisproyect @ 4:21 pm

(From Facebook)

John Wight

Christopher Hitchens

An unabashed mobilisation of ancient colonial binaries, with Russian imperialism cast as the guardian of secular, modern, liberal civilization against a barbarian ISIS. Its author has stated the upshot of this perspective quite explicitly: “kill them all”. Or, to put it another way, exterminate the brutes.

One is reminded of peak Hitchens, and of the traditions of imperialist apologia that he more or less deliberately evoked. And one is impressed by how deep this goes in parts of the left. Of course, Russian imperialism is not defending secular liberalism; that’s not how imperialism works. And its targets are demonstrably much broader than ISIS. Of course, the Assad dictatorship is much more steeped in blood than ISIS at this point.

The colonial unconscious, even if it has no history, should be placed in historical context. In the aftermath of the Great Indian Rebellion in 1857, in which the British press reported (usually invented and embellished) atrocities on the part of the rebels, the response of British moralists was to blame “native fanatics”. Charles Dickens wrote that he would like to address the rebels with this threat: “it is my intention, with all possible avoidance of unnecessary cruelty and with all merciful swiftness of execution, to exterminate the Race from the face of the earth, which disfigured the earth with abominable atrocities’.”

When the British bombed Egypt in 1882, in response to anti-British riots, Gladstone argued that they at least ensured that “the fanaticism of the East” would not be able to kill Europeans “with impunity”. The same trope of native “fanaticism” was used to justify the war against the Mahdist insurgents in Sudan. And again in Iraq during the British Mandate, when Churchill called for the gassing of “uncivilized tribes”.

One could go on, and on. Of course, ISIS does not stand in some sort of relationship of succession to anticolonial movements. The so-called ‘Islamic State’ is, among other things, a pathology of the imperialist system, its symptom. However, it is simply not as accomplished at killing as the Assad dictatorship, and its imperialist backer. The logic of such displacements, in which ISIS embodies all of the intolerable excesses, the violence, irrationality and dysfunctionality of the Assad regime and the imperialist system into which it is integrated, is not difficult to discern. This simple gesture of moral-splitting and projection, is a constant feature of imperialist ideology. It allows one to side with the most relentless torturers, bombers and military despots. It allows one to call for more murder, and soon, sooner, soonest. It allows one to externalise evil, to say “kill them all”, with full confidence that the other side has a monopoly on barbarism.

Above all, by refusing to acknowledge a genuine Syrian opposition, by denying agency to anyone but ‘head-chopping fanatics’ and the dictatorship and its backers, it denies that there could be any rational, socially grounded reasons to wage a military struggle against the regime. The unconscious fantasy at stake here is that the regime has a matchless, unchallengeable right to rule; and the right to any means in its suppression of opposition.

37 Comments »

  1. Excellent summary.

    Comment by DK Fennell — October 7, 2015 @ 4:30 pm

  2. Wash, rinse, repeat…

    Comment by Bill Jackson Jr — October 8, 2015 @ 4:00 am

  3. Something else needs to be said in reference to the barbarism of the Assad Baathist regime. Complete vicious brutality is sometimes justifiable. If I had the power to do it I would not hesitate to slowly butcher 300 million Americans if that is what it took to prevent an American attack on Iran. Americans and perhaps even many people in the world, including some in Iran would surely point to me as the anti christ and closely document all of impalings and roastings and electric shocks that I not only ordered but personally supervised. I would not give a fuck what these lame brain idiots said. Some of these dumb shits might even say that I was defending the Iranian Mullahs.
    I usually follow utilitarian considerations when deciding what policies one should follow. Usually is not the same as always. The United States has already attacked Iran and its people on several occasions. I am not a Christian but any Christian should be able to understand that to support an American attack on Iran would be the same as denying Christ for the third time. Christians can say, I accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior as many times as they please. But, if through their actions they continue to deny Jesus Christ their words are meaningless. Of course since I am not a Christian I am not allowed to lecture them. Maybe it was not worth while to mention that as an unrepentant American Christian would never be caught dead reading an Unrepentant Marxist blog.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — October 8, 2015 @ 12:31 pm

  4. Bill Jackson Jr., you really have to learn to read more critically. You asked readers of this blog to trust an article that cites the World Tribune, a rather innocuously named newspaper. But if you were more sensitive to the conspiratorial and quite insane Global Research’s ideological agenda, it might occur to you that the World Tribute is an overflowing toilet:

    Aficionados of the Drudge Report may have noticed several striking headlines recently linking to stories from the World Tribune, an enterprise with a title as grand and ambitious as it is unfamiliar. One such story last week began, “U.S. intelligence suspects Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction have finally been located.” The apparent scoop—of stop-the-presses significance—was unsigned, and billed as a “special to World Tribune.com.” The Times, the Journal, and the Washington Post, meanwhile, not only got beat but failed even to acknowledge the news in the days that followed. What gives?

    Not everyone ignored it: Rush Limbaugh, for instance. “There’s a piece in the World Tribune today—one of the papers in the United Kingdom—exactly as theorized on this program early on,” he said on his radio show. “It’s unconfirmed, but it’s a story that many of the weapons of mass destruction are at present buried in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon.” Fox News, catering to a similar demographic, enlisted a military analyst that evening to discuss potential ramifications—military intervention in Lebanon?—on “The O’Reilly Factor.” According to the story, the weapons were probably delivered to the Bekaa Valley, a Hezbollah stronghold, in a caravan of tractor-trailers that was spotted leaving Iraq in January, two months before the war began, as part of a multimillion- dollar storage deal between Saddam Hussein and the Syrian government.

    In fact, the World Tribune is not published in the United Kingdom, nor is it, to be precise, a newspaper. It is a Web site produced, more or less as a hobby, in Falls Church, Virginia, and is dedicated to the notion, as its mission statement explains, that “there is a market for news of the world and not just news of the weird.” (Nonetheless, the site includes a prominent feature, Cosmic Tribune, with an extraterrestrial focus, and it links to a Mafia journal called Gang Land News.) Its editor and publisher, Robert Morton, is an assistant managing editor at the Washington Times and a former “corporate editor” for News World Communications, the Times’ owner and the publishing arm of the Unification Church, led by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. (Morton and his wife, Choon Boon, are themselves followers of the Reverend Moon.) Among the World Tribune’s other recent half-ignored scoops are that Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for last month’s blackout and that a North Korean defector stressed, during a meeting in July with White House officials, the need for a preëmptive military strike against Kim Jong Il.

    Morton said last week via e-mail that he founded the site as an experiment, back in 1998, while serving as a media fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank. “I didn’t expect World Tribune.com to last for more than a few months,” Morton wrote, but now, despite having no dedicated staff (“Everyone involved with World Tribune.com has a day job”), the site receives more than a million page views per month. And, unlike the Washington Times, which has lost at least a billion dollars in its twenty-one-year existence, World Tribune.com, in concert with the subscription-driven weekly intelligence briefing Geostrategy-Direct.com (a partner site), has paid for itself.

    full: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2003/09/08/fit-to-print-2

    Now do me a favor and don’t pollute my blog again with diarrhea from Global Research.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 8, 2015 @ 12:49 pm

  5. Louis, you have me confused with Richard Seymour and yourself when it comes to comparisons with Hitchens. I’m the guy who’s against regime change. I was against it in Iraq, I was against it in Libya, and I am against it in Syria.

    You and Seymour were for it in Libya (how’s that going btw?) and are for it in Syria? Hitchens is your homie not mine.

    Oh, and on last thing, sorry to be the bearer of bad news but the Syrian Arab Army has just launched a major ground offensive.

    Comment by John Wight — October 8, 2015 @ 1:39 pm

  6. To start with, there was never any intention by Barack Obama to launch a “humanitarian intervention” in Syria whatever people like Nicholas Kristof or Samantha Power sought. On October 22nd, 2013, the NY Times reported that “from the beginning, Mr. Obama made it clear to his aides that he did not envision an American military intervention, even as public calls mounted that year for a no-fly zone to protect Syrian civilians from bombings.” The article stressed the role of White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough, who had frequently clashed with the hawkish Samantha Power. In contrast to Power and others with a more overtly “humanitarian intervention” perspective, McDonough “who had perhaps the closest ties to Mr. Obama, remained skeptical.” The Times added, “He questioned how much it was in America’s interest to tamp down the violence in Syria.”

    Also, what’s wrong with “regime change” if it is fought for by the poor against the rich exploiters? You are in the remarkable position of writing propaganda for a filthy plutocracy whose reigning monarchs were profiled in Vogue Magazine. I know that you could be less interested in Syrian society but if you ever stepped outside of your Stalinist ideological bubble, you might want to read this:

    By the late 1990s, the business community that the Asads had created in their own image had transformed Syria from a semi-socialist state into a crony capitalist state par excellence. The economic liberalization that started in 1991 had redounded heavily to the benefit of tycoons who had ties to the state or those who partnered with state officials. The private sector outgrew the public sector, but the most affluent members of the private sector were state officials, politicians and their relatives. The economic growth registered in the mid-1990s was mostly a short-lived bump in consumption, as evidenced by the slump at the end of the century. Growth rates that had been 5-7 percent fell to 1-2 percent from 1997 to 2000 and beyond.

    After Bashar al-Asad succeeded his father in 2000, the architects of Syria’s economic policy sought to reverse the downturn by liberalizing the economy further, for instance by reducing state subsidies. Private banks were permitted for the first time in nearly 40 years and a stock market was on the drawing board. After 2005, the state-business bonds were strengthened by the announcement of the Social Market Economy, a mixture of state and market approaches that ultimately privileged the market, but a market without robust institutions or accountability. Again, the regime had consolidated its alliance with big business at the expense of smaller businesses as well as the Syrian majority who depended on the state for services, subsidies and welfare. It had perpetuated cronyism, but dressed it in new garb. Families associated with the regime in one way or another came to dominate the private sector, in addition to exercising considerable control over public economic assets. These clans include the Asads and Makhloufs, but also the Shalish, al-Hassan, Najib, Hamsho, Hambouba, Shawkat and al-As‘ad families, to name a few. The reconstituted business community, which now included regime officials, close supporters and a thick sliver of the traditional bourgeoisie, effected a deeper (and, for the regime, more dangerous) polarization of Syrian society along lines of income and region.

    Successive years of scant rainfall and drought after 2003 produced massive rural in-migration to the cities — more than 1 million people had moved by 2009 — widening the social and regional gaps still further. Major cities, such as Damascus and Aleppo, absorbed that migration more easily than smaller ones, which were increasingly starved of infrastructural investment. Provincial cities like Dir‘a, Idlib, Homs and Hama, along with their hinterlands, are now the main battlegrounds of the rebellion. Those living in rural areas have seen their livelihoods gutted by reduction of subsidies, disinvestment and the effects of urbanization, as well as decades of corrupt authoritarian rule. The Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings motivated them to express their discontent openly and together.

    full: http://www.merip.org/mer/mer262/syrian-regimes-business-backbone

    Comment by louisproyect — October 8, 2015 @ 7:29 pm

  7. It’s not surprising in the least that you would spend the bulk of your response to attacking a single source from an essay referencing 53 sources as varied as Democracy Now, Moon of Alabama, and the AP all while studiously avoiding the central theme of the article entirely. What you cannot avoid no matter how skillfully deployed your smoke screen is that regime change cheerleaders of the Cruise Missile Left such as yourself have the legacy of Libya on your ledger. Remind me again of how Libyans, formally in possession of perhaps the most committed welfare state in Africa, have fared since NATO shattered their nation following the UNSC 1973 bait & switch. Without a shame, without irony, without self awareness you dust off the pom-poms for Libya redux in Syria. Amazing and yet, predictable. Your favorite head choppers are on the run Louis, and just about out of time.

    Comment by Bill Jackson Jr — October 9, 2015 @ 12:11 am

  8. Why bother? It is crap from top to bottom. I have been flushing this kind of excrement down the toilet for the past 4 years. But there is something really degraded about a tenured professor quoting from the fucking World Tribune. If you lie down with dogs, you get fleas. No disrespect to dogs who are much higher on the ethnical scale than the offal you inflicted on this blog.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 9, 2015 @ 12:55 am

  9. John Wight says: “I’m the guy who’s against regime change.”

    So, in Syria you must be for the forces of reaction, led by Assad.

    The regime of Bashar al-Assad did actually change: it changed from being simply a dictatorship of a tiny minority to a genocidal regime of a tiny minority propped up by the most reactionary Iranian theocracy and the reactionary Putin.

    So, I thank you for clarifying that you stand with the forces of reaction against the forces of people’s sovereignty, even if the reactionary asshole you support has wiped out half of ‘his own’ country. Further, you must be congratulated for clarifying that no matter what, you consider Syria as Assad’s personal property (just like he does), with which he can do whatever he likes.

    Syrian people are not people in your book, but simply objects to be manipulated; they are a bunch of morons (the whole lot of them), who for no reason whatsoever rose up in MILLIONS to get rid of the parasite that was sucking them dry.

    Huraaaaaaaaaaay and cheers to Forces of Reaction!

    As an Iranian socialist I am ashamed and horrified by our governments barbaric propping up of a brutal butcher. If it hadn’t been for the support from the most reactionary corners of the neighborhood, Assad would have most likely been gone by now, and the Syrian people would be farther along the path of sorting themselves out socially, something that every society needs to do in order to achieve some semblance of democracy and people’s sovereignty. Even the French Revolution did not fulfill its own slogans for a good seventy to eighty years (more maybe?) after the initial popular uprising that overthrew monarchy.

    I am beyond horrified by the mostly white, mostly mono-lingual (meaning, you can’t even read primary sources to get an accurate understanding) mostly male “leftists” in the west who support Assad and consider Putin as some kind of “anti-imperialist”, when in clear daylight he is acting as an imperialist; you guys represent Orientalist thinking to a T, and regardless of how little you know about our region and our histories and cultures, you still dare to opine about our political situation as if you know everything. You guys are just something beyond reason.

    One last point on this bogeyman, “regime change”. You guys are so ignorant that even when MILLIONS of peaceful demonstrators take to the streets, like Iranian people did in 2009, you detect a sinister plot by the CIA!!! You dismiss the immense social misery perpetuated by a theocracy, and condemn the Iranian people for even demanding to have human rights!!

    You and your ilk are a bunch of worse than useless idiots. You are the proof that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing indeed.

    Comment by reza — October 9, 2015 @ 1:05 am

  10. @ Reza

    Regale us with the democratic bonafides of the jihadist head chopper’s primary sponsors, Saudi Arabia and their fellow Gulf tyrannies since you’ve built up such a head of steam. How credulous do you have to be to believe that the Saudis, currently committing war crimes in neighboring Yemen, are funding mercenaries in the interests of Syrian human rights? Furthermore, regime change is no “bogeyman” given that it’s the acknowledged policy of the United States. How do you interpret Obama’s repeated demand that “Assad must go” followed by acts of war against this sovereign state?

    Comment by Bill Jackson Jr — October 9, 2015 @ 3:33 am

  11. Bill,

    I don’t have to ‘regale’ you with any such thing since I don’t support jihadists. YOU, however do support jihadists. You do so by dismissing the intervention of the Iranian vicious theocracy on behalf of a murderous butcher.

    I support any revolutionary move to remove a tyrant from power, including the daring move by millions of Syrians to get rid of their tyrant. Not all those millions are ‘jihadists’; only an ignorant racist would assume so. There are myriad social sub-classes and sections that have participated, and continue to do so, in this revolutionary move.

    We in Iran also had a lot of such ‘jihadists’ in the ranks of the forces attempting to overthrow the Shah. We didn’t say, “Oh, wait! Let’s not do anything since there are some jihadists in the opposition camp trying to overthrow the Shah! And they’re actually supported by imperialists!” That is not how revolutions unfold.

    We made our push, fought the best we could, and for a whole host of reasons we got our ass beat by the jihadists. But, life continues, and so does the fight since tyranny still exists. And for all the pain we have suffered since the overthrow of the Shah, I would not deny the legitimacy of that revolutionary move in the slightest.

    Again, the fight continues because overthrowing a tyranny that has hundreds-year roots is not the work of a single generation. That’s politics. You do your best. You either win or you lose. But, the historical effort of getting rid of tyranny in our country has not stopped; nor will it stop in Syria.

    As I alluded to before, no revolution is pure and no revolution achieves its aims immediately. No revolution in human history has ever happened like that, and the Syrian revolution is no exception. Revolutions are messy and don’t follow any one actor’s will.

    In the final analysis, you are either with the revolution or with the counter-revolution. You and that John Wight and a whole class of western ‘leftists’ have clearly sided with the counter-revolution.

    Comment by reza — October 9, 2015 @ 5:27 am

  12. Louis, re the corruption of the Assad regime, you don’t have to convince me. In fact I’ve just written a book on these events in which I chart the trajectory of the Assad legacy in the country, starting from when Hafez al-Assad unleashed his Corrective Movement to take power in 1970, during Black September, and all the way up to liberalisation of the Syrian economy which placed the bulk of the nation’s wealth into the hands of the clique around the Assad family and inner circle.

    Your error is in making corruption justificiation for joining the camp of reaction – the West, the Saudis, Qatar, Turkey, et al., not to mention the bearded head choppers of ISIS and al-Qaeda – in toppling it. There is no regime, not one, that has clean hands in the region when it comes to human rights, democracy, or political repression. However if you believe that this justifies lining up with the aformentioned gang of imperialist and reactionary scumbags, hoping that a regime change which cannot possibly take place without their resources, support, and money will somehow miraculously morph into a socialist revolution, your political compass has gone even more awry than I thought.

    Comment by John Wight — October 9, 2015 @ 8:38 am

  13. “your political compass has gone even more awry than I thought.”

    Exactly. Were it to do any good I might have reminded Obama’s low rent Hitchens/Streicher that propagandizing in support of war crimes and, in his case, wars of aggression is itself a prosecutable war crime.

    On a personal level, what we observe in Proyect is an acute case of narcissistic personality disorder – a condition that no doubt makes the sufferer immune to any such warning.

    On a political level, the utter impunity with which the criminals of the US ruling class unleash violence and mayhem in pursuit of their policy of creating failed states around the globe today is a consequence of the non-existent state of US working class politics and the absence of any countervailing and civilizing force in the form of an organised left. Ditto for such third rate propagandists for US barbarism as Proyect, who naturally employ all of their meagre talents to maintain this sorry state of affairs.

    Comment by Noram — October 9, 2015 @ 9:45 am

  14. Seymour never gets anything right.
    He flirts with ideas but has no real methodology, no political compass and consequently, no organisation.
    Only months before Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership election, he was telling his readers that there was no Labour left!

    In this piece, he performs a sleight of hand worthy of Dynamo Magician Impossible.
    There is no comparison whatsoever between Putin and British Imperialism in the 19th century.

    Strange that this should be appearing on a blog called “Unrepentant Marxist”, as only someone with no understanding of Marxism whatsoever could write rubbish like this.
    The purpose of his flawed analogy is to absolve Western governments and their allies from any responsibility for the events in Syria.
    Clearly, for Seymour, the main enemy is NOT at Home!

    For the Western Powers, as the NATO summit has just shown, the main enemy is Russia.
    The campaign against ISIS was always a sideshow, to be kept on the backburner, while they made shifting alliances with the various groups in Syria and Iraq.
    The switch between bombing ISIS in Kobane and allowing Turkey to bomb the PKK was almost seamless.

    The Western press is now reviving the idea that the Free Syrian Army still exists and that the al Qaeda affiliated groups, the al-Nusra front and Ahrar ash-Sham are its representatives.
    The Qatari owned “Al Jazeera” has instructed its staff not to refer to al Nusrah as ‘al Qaeda affiliated’.
    Former CIA director David Petraus Former has called for the US to ally with al Nusrah in Newsweek.

    Saudi Arabia, which flogs and executes its dissidents is providing arms.
    Turkey which is killing Kurds every day in its south East is sabre rattling over violations of its air space, having called for a no-fly zone over Syria for the past year.

    You won’t hear about that here.
    Just stories about the “genuine” Syrian opposition, written by academics at universities in Britain, Switzerland and Australia.

    Comment by prianikoff — October 9, 2015 @ 11:31 am

  15. “For the Western Powers, as the NATO summit has just shown, the main enemy is Russia.”

    Whatever members of the US ruling class like Brzezinski may write or say, the unrepentant narcissist and apologist assures us that NATO war against Russia is ruled out as the Russian oligarchy supplies resources to the NATO member states, and individual Russian oligarchs own property in New York and London.

    Never mind that Hitler’s war against Stalin’s regime was only made possible by resources provided to the Nazi state under 1940 German-Soviet Commercial Agreement:

    Also known as Economic Agreement of February 11, 1940, Between the German Reich and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) was an economic arrangement between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed on February 11, 1940 by which the Soviet Union agreed in period from February 11, 1940 to February 11, 1941, in addition to the deliveries under German–Soviet Commercial Agreement, signed on August 19, 1939 deliver the commodities (oil, raw materials and grain) to the value of 420 to 430 million Reichsmarks. In the period February 11, 1941, to August 11, 1941, there shall be delivered to Germany, likewise in addition to the deliveries provided for in the Credit Agreement of August 19, 1939, commodities to the value of 220 to 230 million Reichsmarks. In payment for the Soviet deliveries, Germany shall supply an own products (war materiel; machinery and technologies; raw materials).

    Without Soviet deliveries of these four major items, Germany could barely have attacked the Soviet Union, let alone come close to victory, even with more intense rationing.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German%E2%80%93Soviet_Commercial_Agreement_%281940%29

    Comment by Noram — October 9, 2015 @ 11:59 am

  16. “There is no comparison whatsoever between Putin and British Imperialism in the 19th century.”

    The comparison being made is not about economics but about the racism of people like Charles Dickens and John Wight who both speak from the point of view of the liberal left. Despite its name, Socialist Unity is a Labourist website embodying a curious mixture of traditional Fabianism and Stalinism, in its way evoking the Webbs and GB Shaw’s love of Stalin. Keep in mind that the founder of Socialist Unity, a diehard Labourite named Andy Newman, had a fit when after he posted a loving tribute to Winston Churchill I reminded him about the Bengal Famine during WWII.

    These are extremely retrograde people despite their fondness for leftist rhetoric.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 9, 2015 @ 12:14 pm

  17. So John Wight is writing a book on Syria. That should be something special, really special. I hope he has an ample supply of crayons.

    Over a year ago he wrote that the FSA had ceased to exist while everybody else in possession of their senses understands that they are now one of the prime targets of the Russian blitzkrieg. Maybe they are zombie fighters like out of the movie “Dead Snow”.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/30/putin-orders-u-s-jets-out-of-syria.html

    The Russian strikes were centered about the city of Homs, according to initial accounts in the local press and in social media. That’s significant, because Homs is not known to be an ISIS stronghold.

    “The northern countryside of Hama has no presence of ISIS at all and is under the control of the Free Syrian Army,” Major Jamil al-Saleh of the Free Syrian Army told Reuters. U.S. officials corroborated this account to The Daily Beast.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 9, 2015 @ 12:52 pm

  18. ‘the racism of people like Charles Dickens and John Wight’

    Louis, I’m seriously concerned about you. Is everything okay at home?

    Oh, and I don’t know if you caught this first time round, but the Syrian Arab Army just launched a major ground offensive.

    Comment by John Wight — October 9, 2015 @ 12:57 pm

  19. I don’t know, John. If you are okay writing for a blog whose founder and chief contributor eulogizes Winston Churchill, the man who used poison gas in Iraq in the 1920s, then it is probably a good idea to drop the pretensions that you speak in the name of proletarian internationalism.

    Andy “Colonel Blimp” Newman:

    Nevertheless, Churchill played a perhaps indispensible [sic] role in the defeat of Hitler; and his coalition government oversaw a deep radicalisation of British society, that Churchill did nothing to arrest. As he himself explained his principle was that he would support any measure that was bone fide necessary to win the war: this included an unprecedented degree of government planning and regulation of the economy. The Tory Lord Woolton explained: “We arrived at a position in which, in time of war, the practices that would be normal under a socialist state seemed to be the only practical safeguards for the country”

    Comment by louisproyect — October 9, 2015 @ 1:01 pm

  20. ‘I don’t know, John. If you are okay writing for a blog whose founder and chief contributor eulogizes Winston Churchill, the man who used poison gas in Iraq in the 1920s, then it is probably a good idea to drop the pretensions that you speak in the name of proletarian internationalism.’

    Well this is the problem when you can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. Just as you and Seymour equate ISIS with Assad, you also see no difference between Britain and Nazi Germany during WWII.

    This means that whether Nazi Germany or the Allies proved victorious in that war was of no importance, as they;re all just the same. The ten million who perished in the Holocaust and 99.9 percent of socialists, communists, and working class involved also disagree. Andy Newman and I are with them not a rump of embittered Trotsyists who’ve been wrong about everything for the past 40 years.

    I can laud Churchill’s role in asserting dominance within a British ruling class that evinced dangerous leanings towards accommodation with fascism during the 1930s, without burnishing his record as a swivel eyed imperialist.

    It’s called contradiction.

    The Second World War was unique in that the interests of the bourgeoisis and working class coincided. As for the Indian nationalists who supported Hitler in the war, given they were living under the yoke of the British Empire, they had the perfect right to do so. Again, contradiction.

    The key point is that history never ends, it flows inexorably, and as you state in your last paragaph Chruchill’s roles was ended by a British working class that had been radicalised by the war and opted for the most radical Labour government in the nation’s history.

    Attlee, however, was the leader responsible for Britain developing its atom bomb, but is also credited with staying the hand of Truman when the possibiiity of the US using nukes in Korea was on the table.

    Contradictions all round.

    Comment by John Wight — October 9, 2015 @ 1:20 pm

  21. The Second World War was unique in that the interests of the bourgeoisis and working class coincided.

    Egads! A class collaborationist ideology expressed as a tweet.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 9, 2015 @ 1:25 pm

  22. You call it class collaborationaist, I call absolute necessity. Applying a First World War pardigm to the Second World War is as much of a grievious mistake as sticking rigidly to an analysis that was relevant when it came to Egypt in 2011 when it comes to Syria in 2015,

    There are decades in which nothing happens and weeks in which decades happen. We have been living through such weeks and your problem is that events have overtaken you and others who think as you.

    You are wrong on Syria, Louis, that is all there is to it. And you were wrong on Libya. I hope in time you come round to acknowledging it.

    Comment by John Wight — October 9, 2015 @ 1:30 pm

  23. Andy Newman and I are with them not a rump of embittered Trotsyists who’ve been wrong about everything for the past 40 years.

    You and Newman are a couple of liberals. Your take on the election of Obama in 2008 was the same as Carl Davidson’s. In fact, your blog has the same kind of analysis you find in the CPUSA.

    Andy Newman: “For left wing and progressive voters, the best option is an Obama presidency with the largest possible vote for more progressive candidates, McKinney or Nader.”

    John Wight: “Obama’s Victory Should Be Welcomed by the Left”.

    At least Newman can be excused for writing his crap in 2008. But you wrote your junk in 2012. My god. What a joke.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 9, 2015 @ 1:56 pm

  24. “Obama’s Victory Should Be Welcomed by the Left”.

    Raul Castro and the Cuban government would agree with me rather than you over Obama, I feel sure. There is no socialist revolution on the horizon Louis and idealism and materialism are not the same thing; in fact one is the antithesis of the other.

    “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” Engels.

    The world is a complicated place, and its complexities need to be navigated rather than ignored or glossed over in deference to ideologial purity.

    Comment by John Wight — October 9, 2015 @ 3:01 pm

  25. Raul Castro and the Cuban government would agree with me rather than you over Obama, I feel sure.

    I am not impressed. I make my judgements based on Marxist principles even if you feel constrained by them. In fact, there are people whose views on electoral politics I find more useful than Raul Castro’s.

    “Even where there is no prospect of achieving their election the workers must put up their own candidates to preserve their independence, to gauge their own strength and to bring their revolutionary position and party standpoint to public attention. They must not be led astray by the empty phrases of the democrats, who will maintain that the workers’ candidates will split the democratic party and offer the forces of reaction the chance of victory. All such talk means, in the final analysis, that the proletariat is to be swindled. The progress which the proletarian party will make by operating independently in this way is infinitely more important than the disadvantages resulting from the presence of a few reactionaries in the representative body. if the forces of democracy take decisive, terroristic action against the reaction from the very beginning, the reactionary influence in the election will already have been destroyed.”

    Karl Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League London, March 1850

    full: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/communist-league/1850-ad1.htm

    Comment by louisproyect — October 9, 2015 @ 3:15 pm

  26. ‘Politics begin where the masses are, not where there are thousands, but where there are millions, that is where serious politics begin.’

    Vladimir Lenin

    It’s a grievous mistake for Marxists to confuse political candidates with the people that vote for them. Marxism can either be a guide to action or justification for inaction.

    Without Obama there would have been no space for Bernie Sanders. At the last election there were two choices for President. Mass consciousness is the starting point not the point of departure for Marxists.

    Comment by John Wight — October 9, 2015 @ 3:31 pm

  27. We obviously have a different opinion on bourgeois parties. Lenin opposed the Cadets in hundreds of articles rather than backing them as a lesser evil. Your position is identical to that of the Mensheviks who tail-ended the Cadets. If you want to advise people to vote for Democrats, including Bernie Sanders, that is your privilege. Just don’t do it in the name of Marxism. Up until the time of the Popular Front, socialists opposed capitalist parties. Clearly, you and Andy Newman belong to a different socialist tradition, one that made up in part by Labour reformism and in part by the Stalinist movement. As I said, the two strands came together under Fabianism. It is obviously something you are comfortable with. Don’t ask me why. I would rather eat a dead dog’s penis than write valentines to the likes of Winston Churchill.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 9, 2015 @ 3:43 pm

  28. Another thing that you back handed supporters of the Saudi Mafia are glossing over is what the effects will be on the Palestinians if the Baathiist Government loses power? The Iranians have a proven track record of supporting the Palestinians. What is the Saudi track record for supporting Palestinians? If there are actually any socialist fighters in the FSA, who are actually fighting in Syria and not now fighting the Baathist regime from Germany, what support would they give to Iranian efforts to support the Palestinians? Does the Palestinina struggle no longer count because it is no longer led by the marxist PFLP?
    The main enemy of justice loving Americans and Europeans are those delusional and Americans and Europeans who support the American MIC and NATO. An attack by one member of NATO on another country is an attack by all members of NATO on that country. Therefore OUR efforts really should be to sabotage the efforts of our insane fellow citizens to maintain their criminal empire. Support for the FSA at this time in history is really no different that supporting the Finns in their war against the Stalin and the USSR during the time that the 2nd World War was being fought.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — October 9, 2015 @ 5:21 pm

  29. How do you envision the slow destruction of Syria by well-funded jihadists turning into some sort of ‘victory’ for the average Syrian? I don’t understand what you imagine happening when the Syrian government collapses under assault by religious fanatics?

    I never understood Seymour’s Libya position either – how were US special-forces leading jihadist & tribal militias supposed to be the good guys? Again I’m not sure what he thought a post-Gaddafi Libya would look like when it was the West and the jihadists who were tearing it apart? It did turn out like everyone who opposed that ‘intervention’ said it would….

    I have been in enough activist campaigns to know it takes all types – I like a broad tent – but if my allies where fundamentalist fanatics supported by NATO F-16’s and their goal was the destruction of the multicultural society I was living in, I’d know I was now on the wrong side. I probably accept more violence than the average person if it meant the end of the North American oligarchy – but there are some lines I would not cross.

    Comment by Luther Bliss — October 9, 2015 @ 6:42 pm

  30. It is too late to ask what will happen if Assad is overthrown, which he surely will be. He did everything in his power to turn his country into a sectarian battleground so the responsibility for what occurs is his, not the Saudis. In the early days of the revolution, there was not a single expression of political Islam. It was all about achieving democratic rights, and an end to corruption and torture. To keep his mafia state afloat, Assad created Alawite gangs and released jihadists from prison. He achieved his goals but at what a cost.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 9, 2015 @ 7:21 pm

  31. I agree with your comment about the early days of the revolution. Much of the left aledges that these demonstartions were a CIA project. The thing is if there was not a lot of resentment against Assad the CIA would not have been able to manipulate the masses if they had tried. Yet the fact that Assad, and Quaddafi as well, managed to not be quickly taken down by this opposition seems to me to indicate that they both still had a lot of support. If Assad or Quadaffi had very little support their governments would have fallen as fast as the Junta in Portugal in 1974, or the Sha in 1979, or the Tunisian Dictator in 2011.
    That of course does not mean that they had the support of a majority. But I myself do not really give a shit about what percent of people do or do not support something. Democracy is a sacred cow that should be slaughtered. The idea that something is legitmate because it is supported by a majority of people in some place and time is a really really insane piece of thinking. The idea that untrained masses of people can decided what the right course of action for a nation should be is complete insanity. A democracy only has a chance to function effectively if the those who vote are well educated, honest, and are not delusional. In the world that I see there is not any place that the people of a country can meet those criteria. The economic, military and politcal elites of the world have proven by their performance that they can not be trusted either because they are motivated by bad intentions towards their fellow citizens. Democracy is not a cure for this sad situation.
    The slogan of a revolution should be power F O R the people, not power to the people.
    Giving power to the people is as irresponsible as giving a loaded gun to a child.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — October 9, 2015 @ 8:38 pm

  32. “These are extremely retrograde people despite their fondness for leftist rhetoric.”

    Hypocrite. First take out the beam out of your own eye.

    Comment by Noram — October 10, 2015 @ 8:06 am

  33. #16

    “The comparison being made is not about economics but about the racism of people like Charles Dickens and John Wight who both speak from the point of view of the liberal left. ”

    I’m not sure that “Chinny” Wight’s literary talents bear comparison with those of Charles Dickens.
    But his coverage of boxing is certainly far superior (if you like that kind of thing)
    What’s more, unlike Dickens, he would never justify the bloody repression of a slave revolt, as Dickens did over the Morant Bay rebellion in Jamaica.

    Putin is not comparable to a 19th C British Imperial racist.
    We are in a very different historical period.
    Russia is not the dominant world power carving up the world.
    Post-Soviet Russian nationalism has many reactionary features, but its strategy depends on an alliance with China and Iran. In the 19th Century Britain would just have invaded them!

    This, along with the authentic traditions of marxism in Russia constrain the reactionary mystics inspired by Russian Orthodoxy.
    Of course the marxist left in Russia has to combat these charlatans.
    But they can’t do this if they merge into the Western-inspired pro-capitalist opposition.

    “Despite its name, Socialist Unity is a Labourist website embodying a curious mixture of traditional Fabianism and Stalinism, in its way evoking the Webbs and GB Shaw’s love of Stalin. Keep in mind that the founder of Socialist Unity, a diehard Labourite named Andy Newman, had a fit when after he posted a loving tribute to Winston Churchill I reminded him about the Bengal Famine during WWII.”

    Socialist Unity is fairly irrelevant these days, but the common element in it was not Labourism, but the former Socialist Alliance, which ran electoral campaigns from the late 1990’s, but later dissolved.
    The “Socialist Unity Network” emerged from the SA and registered as a party, which stood in some local elections.
    The blog emerged out of a website which “challenged common myths on the left”.
    This is how Newman began to shed his SWP past.

    Other former members of the Socialist Alliance joined “Respect”, led by George Galloway, who was elected as a “Respect” MP after he was expelled from Labour.
    People from these backgrounds were the main writers and commentators on the SU blog in its early years.

    The SWP(UK) was involved in the formation of “Respect”, but later had a vitriolic bust-up with Galloway. Newman, turned against his former organisation and gravitated towards the Labour left.
    This isn’t very surprising as he’s a local officer in an affiliated unon.
    So he would automatically be involved in discussing Labour Party issues with his membership.

    Newman’s public campaign against the SWP was, shall we say, not a hindrance, to his selection as a Parliamentary candidate in the last election. (not that hard in a safe-Tory seat)
    He lost heavily, but during this period the number of articles and comments on SU declined considerably.
    SU was largely irrelevant to the Corbyn campaign.
    Newman tended to push softer-left alliances via the allied “Left Futures” web-site.
    Their work in the LP was so unthought out that at one point Newman’s ally Phil B.C. was actually working for Tristram Hunt, a discredited Blairite!

    I see SU’s Churchillian Pop-Front type politics as a deviation they share with Galloway.
    At one point Galloway was hailing Erdogan’s AKP as a good example of Islamic modernity.
    Recently Newman launched a bizarre campaign claiming that Steve Kaczynski, a former commenter on SU who was arrested in Turkey on charges of “supporting terrorism”, is some kind of imperialist agent!

    Comment by prianikoff — October 10, 2015 @ 10:12 am

  34. Prianikoff: “Russia is not the dominant world power carving up the world.”

    I guess that this gives them the right to do to Grozny and gives Assad the right to do to Aleppo, Homs et al what Franco did to Guernica or what Hitler did to Stalingrad or what the USA did to Hanoi. And logically this would give Wight the right to excuse it all as part of the war on terror.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 10, 2015 @ 12:38 pm

  35. The 2011 authentic uprising was lost when sections in retaliation to the authoritarian crack down on the protests began to militarise the resistance which served as an opening for outside foreign powers to intervene and for parts of Assad’s regime to intensify their repression. The 2011 Arab Spring revolution failed. What we have now is to paraphrase GB Shaw, a civil war which will be resolved with the moral equivalency of two dogs fighting over a bone.

    In 2011 George Galloway commented:
    “To describe the mass uprising in Syria, day after day for months and undaunted by the steadily rising price in blood being paid by the protestors, as the actions of “terrorists” and “gunmen” is a gross distortion. In fact the regime itself looks more and more like the terrorist, certainly the gunmen, in this picture. This is a genuine popular uprising taking place in Syria even if it is heavily infiltrated by all of Syria’s enemies – the enemies of all the Arabs in my view.
    The biggest problem is that the longer fighting on this scale continues on the greater the scope for these enemies to engineer an outcome favourable to them. An outcome which takes Syria out of the traditional national camp and into the camp of collapse, surrender, sectarianism and indignity…Unless the Syrian regime can conclude an urgent agreement to proceed to elections, a free media, legal political opposition and an end to what has now become a massacre, the state is going to be invaded or is going to collapse under the weight of the bloodshed. And amidst the ruins of that, the rats of reaction, sectarian hatred and treason will certainly run free.”
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/george-galloway-mp/a-statement-on-the-situation-in-syria-by-george-galloway/195231300540947

    I think his prognosis has proved accurate. Our job is to ensure we are not drawn deeper into the quagmire where we are obliged to take sides…A plague on both houses…”Neither Washington nor Moscow” which Seymour once held as a principle…

    Comment by alanjjohnstone — October 11, 2015 @ 1:24 pm

  36. Too bad that Galloway eventually turned into a shameless pimp for the Baathist state.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 11, 2015 @ 1:42 pm

  37. Proyect and Wight are nearly as bad as each other (Proyect is worse). One is an apologist for Assad, the other is an apologist for imperialism.

    Let us get one thing straight about Syria, right from the beginning the revolt against Assad was an Islamist revolt, inspired by an Islamist uprising across the region. An uprising springing from the chaos created decades of imperialist reactionary policy, by the Iraq and Afghan wars and by neoliberal economics. There is nothing more reactionary that imperialist policy in the Middle East.

    Incidentally the response of the ‘progressive liberals’ in the region to this Islamist uprising has been brutal suppression and mass murder. Which is exactly what Proyect wants in Syria.

    There is nothing more scary to the great and good than bottom up revolutions.

    Support the rebels!

    Down with imperialism and down with Assad!

    Comment by Simon Provertier — October 11, 2015 @ 3:37 pm


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