Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 31, 2017

This is what American fascism looks like: the Lyndon LaRouche story (part three)

Filed under: anti-Semitism,LaRouche — louisproyect @ 8:15 pm

Lyndon LaRouche’s use of anti-Semitism

(part one, part two)

Marine Le Pen: The Jews have nothing to fear from the National Front

In the Weimar Republic, anti-Semitism served the interests of big capital by singling out the Jews for scapegoating. With an enraged and economically desperate middle-class, it made sense to blame the Jews for their suffering. All this is detailed in Abram Leon’s “The Jewish Question” that can be read online.

The economic catastrophe of 1929 threw the petty-bourgeois masses into a hopeless situation. The overcrowding in small business, artisanry and the intellectual professions took on unheard of proportions. The petty bourgeois regarded his Jewish competitor with growing hostility; for the latter’s professional cleverness, the result of centuries of practice, often enabled him to survive hard times more easily. Anti-Semitism even gained the ear of wide layers of worker-artisans, who traditionally had been under petty-bourgeois influence.

What is more difficult to understand is how anti-Semitism can serve the same function in contemporary America. To start with, except for the Hasidic sects in Brooklyn, there are no identifiable Jewish neighborhoods in large cities like New York. An assimilated population, the Jews are spread throughout the city and cannot be identified by skullcaps or any other marker. Additionally, the scapegoat of choice for today’s fascists is the African-American, the Latino, the immigrant and the Muslim. Considering all this, it is somewhat of a mystery why men on the “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville were chanting “The Jews will not Replace Us!” What exactly did that mean? That a tax accountant in Park Slope whose grandfather changed his name from Bernstein to Burns was now going to take their jobs at Walmart or an auto repair shop?

In this article, I want to take a close look at the LaRouche movement’s use of anti-Semitism and more recent expressions found in places like Daily Stormer, as well as the European fascist movement that in many instances is strongly Zionist and Judeophilic. These are complex questions that I hope to answer here, especially for my own need for clarity.

As it happens, the chapter in Dennis King’s “Lyndon Larouche and the New American Fascism” on the cult’s anti-Semitism has the same title as Abram Leon’s book: the Jewish Question.

In 1975, not long after LaRouche had completed his fascist turn, he came into contact and formed a partnership with Willis Carto, who was the founder of the Liberty Lobby and the most prominent anti-Semite of the time. Carto put out a magazine called The Spotlight that had a paid circulation of almost 200,000 in 1979. LaRouche’s targets became the same as his: the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds, Henry Kissinger, and the Council on Foreign Relations. And like many ultrarightists today, starting with David Duke, Carto was staunchly anti-Zionist. This might help understand why people like David Duke are sympathetic to Bashar al-Assad today. He is a symbol of resistance to Israel. Just ask Max Blumenthal.

Not long after Carto and LaRouche bonded, The Spotlight began publishing articles by National Caucus of Labor Committee (NCLC) members writing under pen names, including his Jewish members who were plentiful. You were also able to buy LaRouche’s publications through Carto’s mail-order service.

The anti-Semitic dynamic accelerated after LaRouche traveled to Germany to straighten out some problems among his followers there. On that trip, he met Helga Zepp who he would soon marry. Zepp remains an important figure in his movement today even as she is a care-giver to the 94-year old man in his dotage. When he returned to the USA, his newspaper New Solidarity began publishing the same kind of articles as Spotlight but with more of an anti-capitalist coloring.

In 1986, ex-member Linda Ray explained why Jewish members went along with this:

Many people find it difficult to understand how Jews—such as I—could have worked for an anti-Semitic group. Perhaps the answer is that the members get so hypnotized by the simplistic “good guys and bad guys” approach to history that they do not hear what LaRouche is really saying.

For example, a 1974 edition of LaRouche’s Campaigner magazine falsely reported that Britain put Hitler in power. Britain, the story said, was the initial controller of the Nazi German war machine, before it went out of control. LaRouche kept writing on that theme for many years. By 1978, he even was writing how the British were a different, “subhuman species.”

Since the blasts were overtly directed against the British, Jewish members often did not recognize the subliminal anti-Semitism of the attacks. LaRouche, like the Ku Klux Klan, Hitler and Goebbels, was attacking the Rothschilds and other British-Jewish banking interests. In the wake of these anti-Semitic writings, many of us were confused. But we continued to defend LaRouche by lamely saying, “We’re not anti-Semitic. So many of our members are Jews. We always say in our publications that we are against the Nazis.”

Today, George Soros is added to the mix. For the alt-right, he is a like a villain plucked out of a James Bond movie who is masterminding conspiracies all around the world. Reflecting the agenda of the Breitbart right, blogger and provocateur Mike Cernovich has depicted Soros and the Rothschilds as orchestrating the purge of Steve Bannon from the White House in this cartoon:

That is Trump’s National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster on the left and David Petraeus on the right. The image suggests that the Jews are controlling everything.

While clearly the bailiwick of the far right, there are signs of the same sort of anti-Semitic tropes on nominally leftist websites. Indeed, if you looked at LaRouche’s press when he was still arguably on the left, you can see the same sort of thing.

Let’s take a look at 21st Century Wire, a website that features articles by Vanessa Beeley and that was launched by an Infowars editor. There you will find the same sort of crap. A search on Rothschild will turn up a shocking article titled “The Money Changers: Rothschild Banking Dynasty Said To Be Worth $100 Trillion” by an asshole named Dean Henderson who has also written for In These Times, for what that’s worth.

The article begins with a dead giveaway that it feeds from the same trough as Willis Carto and LaRouche’s fascist cult:

Since America’s inception…

 there has been a lingering notion that European Illuminati bankers seek to bring America to its knees and return it to the fold of the Crown of England, which centuries ago became the key political vassal for the Eight Families who own majority stock in every private central bank in the world — Rothschild, Rockefeller, Kuhn Loeb, Lehman, Goldman Sachs, Warburg, Lazard and Israel Moses Seif.

In sync with LaRouche, Henderson claims that “Zionist Bankers Created Nazism, White Supremacy & Eugenics”.

If many of the Jews like Linda Ray had no problem writing anti-Semitic articles for LaRouche’s press, you can something of the same tendency in the writings of Gilead Atzmon who wrote some really filthy stuff on DissidentVoice, a website that has become very problematic over the past decade despite its honorable origins as a voice against Bush’s “war on terrorism”. On April 13, 2013, Atzmon wrote this:

But, as ubiquitous as they are, AIPAC, CFI, ADL, Bernie Madoff, ‘liberator’ Bernard Henri Levy, war-advocate David Aaronovitch, free market prophet Milton Friedman, Steven Spielberg, Haim Saban, Lord Levy and many other Zionist enthusiasts and Hasbara advocates are not necessarily the core or the driving force behind Jewish Power, but are merely symptoms. Jewish power is actually far more sophisticated than simply a list of Jewish lobbies or individuals performing highly developed manipulative skills. Jewish power is the unique capacity to stop us from discussing or even contemplating Jewish power. It is the capacity to determine the boundaries of the political discourse and criticism in particular.

Finally, there is Information Clearing House, another website with a trajectory like DissidentVoice. They published an article by one John Kaminski claiming “Jewish Media Myths Leading Us Toward World War III”. Metapedia, an alt-right version of Wikipedia, identifies him as “best known for his works on Jewish supremacism and as a critic of Judaism.” Yeah, they got that right based on the article:

But just because I revile Hitler doesn’t mean I believe the fictions the Jewish dominated media have spun about the Holocaust. I have been driven irrevocably into the category of Holocaust denier (a 1947 AP story said 875,000 Jews were killed in Germany during WW II) simply because of the way the Jewish community has trumpeted its martyrdom for financial gain, how the Jewish community has destroyed freedom of speech in a dozen European countries by making it a crime to talk about the events that led up to World War II.

Here is some other Kaminski jewels cited on Metapedia:

The Jews are traitors to every country that they live in. Everyone in the entire world needs to wake up and realise what Jewish influence, Jewish poison medicine, Jewish fake wars and Jewish control of their money supplies have done to everyone in the entire world. It is easily the greatest crime ever committed by humans. The sad thing about Jewish philosophy is, after they wind up destroying everybody else, they won’t be able to avoid destroying themselves.

Jews promote diversity because it dilutes the ethnic fabric of nations and allows the tribe to assimilate and exploit more efficiently. They are better able to hide in a confusing racial mix, where people are less likely to notice they are ruthless Asian nomads, who destroy societies because they never really had one of their own that they didn’t steal from someone else.

I should mention that Kaminski is quite the regular at Information Clearing House, having published 8 articles over the years.

Despite all this, there really is no existential threat to Jews today for the reasons I stipulated at the beginning of this article. To be perfectly blunt about it, neither is there an existential threat to the working class from fascism at least in the USA. People like David Duke, Richard Spencer, the Daily Stormer website, et al are very marginal. The Southern Poverty Law Center would have you believe that we are living as if it were the Weimar Republic in 1928 but nothing could be further from the truth. Except for the sporadic turning over of headstones in a Jewish cemetery or a swastika drawn on a synagogue, Jews suffer nothing that begins to resemble what Black youth or Muslims have to put up with on a daily basis. Unlike the mostly assimilated Jewish population, Muslims tend to be much more like the Jews of the 1930s living in clearly delineated neighborhoods and identifiable by their appearance.

Google “woman hijab attacked” and you will get 1,370,000 results. By comparison, you will get only 6% of those results when you do a search on “Jew kippah attacked”, keeping in mind that most Jews in the USA would not be caught in a kippah, starting with me.

Finally, you might expect the American alt-right to catch up with their European brethren who have dumped anti-Semitism and moved in a philo-Semitic and Zionist direction. For example, Marine Le Pen stated in a June 2014 interview that “I do not stop repeating it to French Jews. … Not only is the National Front not your enemy, but it is without a doubt the best shield to protect you. It stands at your side for the defense of our freedoms of thought and of religion against the only real enemy, Islamist fundamentalism.” Indeed, she expelled her virulently anti-Semitic father who had founded the National Front because he was an obstacle to carrying out this turn.

Meanwhile, despite the veiled anti-Semitism of Trump administration figures and his support among the alt-right, there are indications that the government of Israel has become Trump’s best friend outside of the Christian right. In an article for Jacobin titled “Unholy Alliance“, Amir Fleischmann documents the growing connections with Richard Spencer perhaps being capable of carrying out a Marine Le Pen type turn:

Trump has vowed to be the best friend Israel has ever had and has floated the idea of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer has actually praised Zionism for helping inspire the ethno-nationalism that he has made his own.

Herein lies the key to understanding this alliance. The state of Israel was founded at the end of World War II, when the major powers sought to redraw the world map in a way so that (nearly) every minority got their own country. This way, there would be no minorities. In order for Israel to become a Jewish state, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had to be ethnically cleansed in what is now known as the Nakbe.

This ideology — that ethnicities should be separate and that minorities should be expunged — is precisely what is driving the alt-right. This allows us to understand why the alt-right can simultaneously hate Jews and love Israel. The alt-right is fine with Jews, as long as they’re over there, far away from the United States.

And because they consider Jews “more white” than Arabs, the alt-right is happy to use them, through the state of Israel, to keep those uppity Muslim states in check. This has been Israel’s historical role. It was the case in 1956, when France and Britain entreated Israel to invade Egypt in order to stop Gamel Abdel Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal.

More recently, the Mossad has also helped the United States assassinate Iranian scientists and otherwise sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. The alt-right is happy to give support to the state it sees as the West’s first line of defense against the dreaded Muslim invasion.

As shocking as it might seem to see orthodox Jews eagerly jump into bed with rabid antisemites, we should really know better than to be surprised. What the alt-right and Israeli settlers (and their supporters) have in common is a shared fervor for ethno-nationalism and a strong inclination towards Islamophobia and racism.

Israel is useful to the alt-right both as a tool for wreaking havoc in the Muslim world and as an ideological fellow traveler, willing to support their nationalist and chauvinist policies. Without acknowledging this, we cannot hope to understand either movement. The Left must be vigilant in opposing this alliance and refuse to let the alt-right’s support for Israel be a cover for their extreme antisemitism.

August 30, 2017

Peter Camejo on fascism and ultraleftism

Filed under: Fascism,ultraleftism — louisproyect @ 1:05 am

Then you started hearing them all talk about imminent fascism. The underground papers discovered that there were concentration camp sites in this country, and that some of them were being cleaned up and gotten ready. They would say to each other, “See you next year in the concentration camps.” This was a very common attitude, because they couldn’t see any force around that was protecting their civil liberties.

Then what they began to develop was the thesis that civil liberties, elections, courts, all bourgeois democratic forms, are a gigantic put-on, a fantastic manipulation. That it is all a ruling class trick. So, these people concluded that the elections and civil liberties are unreal, and the people who run the country could call them off tomorrow. Elections and civil liberties, they said, “have nothing to do with reality”.

Then came the instant fascism theory. We are about to have fascism any moment now. But this is a very confusing theory. Somehow the rallies and demonstrations continue year after year. They don’t put us in the concentration camps.

This theory is actually a mixture of deep cynicism, thinking that the ruling class is all-powerful, but it always is combined with a last hope that maybe they aren’t completely bad. Maybe there is still someone who will listen.

Sometimes a liberal becomes frustrated not getting the ear of the ruling class, and he concludes that he’ has been using the wrong tactics. So he adopts a lot of radical rhetoric. He says this ruling class is apparently so thickheaded that what we’ve got to do is really let loose a temper tantrum to get its attention. The politicians won’t listen to peaceful things, but if we go out and break windows then Kennedy will say, “Oh, I guess there is a problem in this society. I didn’t realize it when they were just demonstrating peacefully. I thought everything was OK because they were in the system, but now they’re going outside the system, they’re breaking windows, so we’ve got to hold back.”

These liberal-ultraleftists think that’s what moves the ruling class. Actually they come close to a correct theory when they say that if people start leaving the system the ruling class will respond. But they don’t believe that the masses can be won. They think it is enough for them to leave the system themselves, small groups of people carrying out direct confrontations.

For example, let me quote a thing from the New York Times that illustrates how this type of idea develops. A girl from Kent, after the killings there, was asked what she thought could be done about Cambodia and what she thought about the use of violence. This was a person who is just radicalizing, a liberal, just beginning to oppose the war.

She says, “I’m really dead set against violence. That’s also a copout. But it’s the only way to get the government’s attention. What you’re doing is drawing their attention to you, by using the same methods they use. I’m really against that. It’s horrible that the only way you can get people to listen is to have four kids killed. There was really no blow-up over Cambodia until four kids were killed. You can have all the peace marches that were peaceful and quiet, and everyone would pat you on the back and say ‘good little kids’, but nobody would do anything.”

Now, what’s in her mind? She doesn’t see any independent, mass force that’s standing in the way of the ruling class. She’s looking at the ruling class and asking, “Are we affecting them or not? Are they being responsive?” And if not, maybe the way to get them to pay attention is to go out and break some windows and use violence. It’s a very natural conclusion when you don’t understand that there’s a class struggle, a class relationship of forces.

Having given up on the masses, the ultraleft super-revolutionaries are really trying to influence the ruling class. A classical example of this unity between the liberal and the ultraleft approach was the Chicago demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic Party convention. The leaders of the demonstration came from the National Mobilization Committee. They were revolutionary. Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, Dave Dellinger and Rennie Davis were on hand, and their rhetoric was as radical as you can get.

But while the “militant” demonstrations were in process, Tom Hayden and Rennie Davis were apparently closeted with McCarthy’s supporters working out an agreement to help McCarthy.

According to an article in the Jan. 22, 1970 Washington Post, “[Sam] Brown [Vietnam Moratorium Coordinator] said [Tom] Hayden suggested … that if McCarthy appeared to have a good chance by Monday or Tuesday — and if that chance might be hampered by public activity [demonstrations] — then we could meet to decide whether to go ahead with the public activity.” Hayden has never denied this account.

Another example of this type of ultraleftism was a full-page ad which appeared in the New York Times on June 7. It was placed by the New Mobe and signed by guess who? Rennie Davis, Dave Dellinger, et al. This ad announces in big letters at the top of the page: “It’s 11:59.” 11:59 to what? It’s 11:59 to 1984. Fascism is due in one minute.

This is another thing that these ultraleft-upside-down-liberals have: the panic button. Since they don’t see any countervailing force, they think at any moment the whole country could just go BANG! At any moment the ruling class can make a move to the right, and they don’t see any way to stop it, so they throw in the towel, they just panic. The ad says: “If you’re reading this — don’t kid yourself any longer. Big Brother is making his list. And you’re on it. Can we stop 1984? It’s 11:59 p.m. now. The clock is ticking loudly. What in hell are we going to do about it?”

Well, what solution do these ultralefts have? What do they project should be done to stop imminent fascism? In this ad they have a five-point program.

full: https://www.marxists.org/archive/camejo/1970/ultraleftismormassaction.htm

August 29, 2017

Ernest Mandel: a life for the revolution

Filed under: economics,Trotskyism — louisproyect @ 10:59 pm

A boom market in antifasplaining

Filed under: anti-fascism,ultraleftism — louisproyect @ 5:26 pm

Mark Bray: a hot commodity in the antifa marketplace

Almost every month a new antifa book or feature article comes out written by some young professor. As night follows day, publishing houses love to sell books and magazines love to sell articles. Luckily for them, there seems to be no topic more marketable right now. A lot of it has to do with the Trump presidency that many pundits considered to be the second coming of Adolph Hitler or Benito Mussolini. When it turned out that Trump was thwarted repeatedly, especially over immigration and Obamacare, and that leading Republicans began to disavow him, it hardly made sense to act as if it was 1933 all over again. Although I have little in common with Stanfield Smith politically, he made essential points in a March 21, 2017 CounterPunch article titled “First Two Months in Power: Hitler vs. Trump”:

Little over two weeks in power, the Brownshirts had been handed the license to bully, beat, even kill leftists and Jews. In contrast, the two week old Trump presidency found its first anti-Muslim executive order blocked by a judge.

Three weeks in power, 50,000 Brownshirts were made part of the police. They began unauthorized arrests, broke into public building and homes and made nightly raids to seize anti-Hitler opponents. Those seized were typically put in newly set up “camps.”

This has not stopped professors from churning out books that make it sound as if we faced a similar threat. This can only be done, of course, by ignoring crucial historical differences. In the German elections of 1928, the Socialist Party received 9,152,979 votes, which at 29.8% was the highest number of any party. Meanwhile, its rivals in the Communist Party received the fourth highest vote total–3,264,793, which was 10.6%. If the two parties had been able to unite, there never would have been a Third Reich nor World War Two. For that matter, the USSR would have continued until now, with likely a more enlightened leadership. As it happened, the SP ruled Germany in about the same way that Obama ruled the USA while the CP was criminally ultraleft—supporting a Nazi referendum in 1931 to dissolve the SP-dominated parliament in Prussia. I would only say that if the American left can’t get its shit together when the big battles begin, the results will be even more catastrophic.

Are we anywhere near the DSA and Bob Avakian’s RCP—the closest thing to the insanely ultraleft German CP today—getting the vote of over 40 percent of Americans? That was the situation facing the German bourgeoisie in 1928, not the low ebb of the class struggle in the USA that despite the brief “resistance” hiccup in the immediate wake of the Trump inauguration has remained on life support.

You wouldn’t have a clue that this was the state of America today reading the febrile accounts of the junior professors who are getting even more attention than Bhaskar Sunkara.

My first encounter with these antifasplainers was on Facebook, where many of them spread their gospel. Ex-FB friend Alexander Reid Ross is a geography professor at Portland State University, a city where ultraleftism was hegemonic. I hadn’t paid much attention to his posts until after Charlottesville, when they began to strike me as pure antifa nonsense. Ross had written a book for AK Press titled “Against the Fascist Creep”, a natural outlet since AK Press is to anarchism what Haymarket, Monthly Review or Verso are to Marxism.

Ross gave an interview to It’s Going Down, the voice of the antifa movement, where he splained what “creeping fascism” meant. He stated that he decided to write the book after people on the left began to say things like “white people deserve their own place because people of color are naturally inclined towards one another.” This included “some of the left wing issue based movements where Marxists were more prevalent.” Funny, I never ran into anybody like that on Marxmail but then again maybe they are just lurking. Or maybe they don’t exist. I suppose all this is splained in Ross’s book but somehow the motivation to spend money on it is lacking.

Ross tells his interviewer that he is a fan of NYC Antifa. Do these people really exist? I have never heard a single word about them doing anything here but then again there’s not much in the way of fascism here as well. Mostly NYC is like Weimar Berlin but without the class struggle. I’d prefer some class struggle but then again I’d prefer the dictatorship of the proletariat.

He concludes by stroking the ego of the website that has interviewed him, stating that It’s Going Down “picked up a lot of slack in terms of analyzing Trump, analyzing the alt-right, and actually using intelligence to shut them down.” Intelligence? I thought it was smacking the fascists with big sticks like in a Punch and Judy show that they were pushing.

Moving right along, we next meet Max Haiven, the Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice at Lakehead University in Northwest Ontario.

Haiven has a rather startling article in today’s Truthout titled “What the Abolition of the British Slave Trade Can Teach Us About Free Speech”. Since I had done a fair amount of research on this topic when reviewing a biopic about William Wilberforce, I was curious to see what Haiven had to say.

Looking back at the debates that took place in Parliament about abolition, Haiven tells his readers that abolitionists must have been sickened by the “civil discourse of the men who had themselves murdered and raped other human beings whom they claimed to own.” Who could blame them if they decided to bar the doors and set Parliament on fire?

With this as a premise, Haiven asks why we should allow fascists and white supremacists to speak in public. People like Noam Chomsky, Robert McChesney and Chris Hedges who defend that right are likened to the parliamentarians that should have been burned alive. It is too bad that this snot-nosed bastard doesn’t have the guts to name names.

Haiven reminds us that “Enslaved Africans abolished slavery through rebellion, riots, subversion and conspiracy”. Yes, who would be opposed to that? But the notion that a self-appointed anarchist vanguard (more arrogant than any Leninist vanguard) has anything in common with Quilombo, Nat Turner or John Brown for that matter is an insult to history. That a joker like Haiven can maneuver his way to the top of left academia in Canada is just another symptom of the malaise of higher education where such people can be taken seriously.

Finally, we arrive at the apex of antifasplaining. Mark Bray, an associated visiting professor at Dartmouth (a rather tenuous position), has come out with a book titled “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook”. That book has made him the go-to guy on antifa. He has been interviewed or profiled on Meet the Press, NBC News, NPR, the Washington Post, The Guardian and The New Yorker magazine. Wow!

I thought the New Yorker magazine article was quite useful in showing how close punching Nazis and the passing laws against them are in Bray’s eyes:

The book’s later chapters, such as “Five Historical Lessons for Anti-Fascists” and “ ‘So Much for the Tolerant Left!’: ‘No Platform’ and Free Speech,” which are adapted from essays published elsewhere, are more focussed and persuasive. Here Bray explicitly deals with the philosophical and practical problems of Antifa: violence versus nonviolence; mass movements versus militancy; choosing targets and changing tactics. Bray concedes that the practice of disrupting Fascist rallies and events could be construed as a violation of the right to free speech and assembly—but he contends that such protections are meant to prevent the government from arresting citizens, not to prevent citizens from disrupting one another’s speech. Speech is already curtailed in the U.S. by laws related to “obscenity, incitement to violence, copyright infringement, press censorship during wartime,” and “restrictions for the incarcerated,” Bray points out. Why not add one more restriction—curtailing hate speech—as many European democracies do? [emphasis added]

Perhaps the visiting Dartmouth professor is not aware that in 2015, France’s highest court upheld the criminal conviction of 12 pro-Palestinian activists for breaking laws against hate speech. They had worn t-shirts with the words “Long live Palestine, boycott Israel.” The judges ruled that this would violate a law that banned “discrimination, hatred or violence toward a person or group of people on grounds of their origin, their belonging or their not belonging to an ethnic group, a nation, a race or a certain religion.” Twelve pro-Palestinian activists had to pay a collective fine of $14,500.

Despite the massive popularity of antifa right now among the more soft-headed elements of the left, there is one journal with a fairly impressive academic pedigree that has called out the bullshit of Mark Bray and company. I am referring to Current Affairs, the new magazine founded by Harvard PhD student Nathan J. Robinson.

In an August 20 article titled “Thinking Strategically About Free Speech And Violence”, Robinson calls attention to the lack of long-term strategic thinking among antifa activists who prioritize if not fetishize tactics. Robinson writes:

This lack of focus on long-term strategy and concrete consequences is dangerous. If one concludes, say, that “Nazis do not deserve rights” but has not carefully examined whether taking away Nazis’ rights will help or hurt the Nazi cause, it might turn out that the seemingly justified course of action and the “most likely to stop the Nazis” course of action do not coincide.

Turning his attention to Mark Bray, Robinson questions the remarks he made to Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press”: “Historically, we can see that Nazism and fascism was not stopped by polite dialogue and reasoned debate, it had to be stopped by force. And unfortunately, self-defense is necessitated in the context we’re seeing today.” Robinson writes that there are a number of unanswered questions posed by Bray’s analysis, such as “What do you mean by ‘self-defense’? Does that mean that if protesters are physically attacked by neo-Nazis they can fight back, or that physical attacks on neo-Nazis are themselves an act of self-defense?”

That, of course, is the most important question. Anybody who consults It’s Going Down, as I do after downing some Kaopectate, understands that there are no clear lines drawn between self-defense and offense. In the 1930s and 40s, socialists formed workers militias to defend trade union headquarters and even went so far as to build massive picket lines in front of theaters where people like Gerald L.K. Smith were going to appear. However, those actions were carried out by men who were democratically chosen by the trade union rank-and-file who were in a fight for survival. To conflate this with the adventurism of masked youth accountable to nobody except themselves is a travesty.

In an earlier article titled “How to Write About Nazis”, Amber A’Lee Frost argued along the same lines. Basically, she warns against writing articles that serve the propaganda aims of people like Richard Spencer by exaggerating their importance. She takes a Guardian reporter to task:

Don’t: take a righteous or panicked tone—this drums up sensationalism and sublimates reality to pathos. For example, after Charlottesville, a Guardian reporter wrote that it had “[become] clear that a surging far right has created the rudiments of an organised, effective street-fighting force.” This, however, is not necessarily true. The fact is, we don’t know just how organized the far right are; information like that would require the sort of serious investigative journalism that is sorely lacking at the moment. But we do know that the (inaccurate) image of roving bands of violent Nazi street gangs will haunt readers’ imaginations. One has to be very, very careful before coming to these conclusions.

This reporter became incensed and demanded a retraction from Current Affairs. Nathan J. Robinson’s reply was written yesterday and is a real jewel. Titled “Why We Don’t Like Hysterical Journalists”, it takes apart all those antifasplainers who have a vested interest in making the alt-right appear much more threatening than it really is. The entire article is a must-read as this excerpt would indicate:

Frost’s original article singled out the phrase “organized, effective street fighting force.” The reason this is a misleading phrase to use is that there is nothing resembling an organized, effective Nazi street fighting force in the contemporary United States. If you don’t believe me, go and look outside. Go and wander the streets of every city in America and look for Nazis. Unless you happen to show up at one of the rare times at which white supremacists are holding some (usually pitifully small) rally, what you will see is… nothing. Where’s the street-fighting force? The problem is that Wilson is extrapolating from what happened in Charlottesville one weekend (which required assembling far-right groups from all over the country, since their individual local numbers are so tiny) to draw sweeping conclusions about the United States a whole. He is committing a logical error, which is to take a highly unrepresentative incident as the sign of a broader trend. It’s exactly what journalists usually do, and it turns people stupid and makes them pay much more attention to lurid but uncommon harms than to ongoing and more widespread but less sensational harms.

Where’s the street-fighting force? That’s a good question. I have been in the largest city in the USA since 1991 and I have not seen a single fascist demonstration of any significance. This is a city with a massive immigrant community that has not suffered any of the violent xenophobic raids so common across Europe. In fact, the biggest threat to the immigrant community is the legally sanctioned ICE raids that these antifa numskulls have no answer for, just as they have no answer for fracking, union-busting, racial profiling, evictions or any other social ill that late capitalism is imposing on our city and our country.



August 28, 2017

The Ugly Side of Antifa

Filed under: anarchism,black bloc idiots — louisproyect @ 11:30 pm

Yesterday, at the anti-Alt-Right rally in Berkeley, I watched groups of masked Antifa members in Black Bloc formation swarm individuals who were apparently antagonizing them, and pummel them with their fists, feet, and flagpoles. When the victims tried to escape, they were run down, and in at least one case, cut off by the Antifa mob and beaten down some more. In the incidents I witnessed, about 5 or 6 Antifa members at a time participated in the attacks, while perhaps 100 others stood behind them, forming an impenetrable wall that blocked bystanders from intervening, or documenting the violence on camera. Those people would also help chase the victims when they fled.

In one case, as a crowd of non-Black Bloc protesters yelled at the assailants to let their victim go, an Antifa activist yelled, “He’s a Nazi!” over and over again, justifying the assault. Then, abruptly, maybe after realizing that the victim was not, in fact, a white nationalist, he changed his mantra. “He doesn’t have to be a Nazi!” he now shouted. The suggestion was that even if the victim wasn’t a fascist, he still deserved to be beaten. For what was unclear. Maybe because he supported Trump? Or he objected to Antifa’s tactics? Or refused to do something they ordered him to do? Who knew? The only thing those of us watching from a few yards away could tell was that a man, by himself, was on the ground, with a bloodied face, covering his head with his arms, being kicked and punched by a group of masked people, who were shielded by dozens of their comrades. My guess is that a lot of the Antifa people in the crowd who were passively assisting in the violence, including the guy yelling that he was a Nazi, didn’t know anything more than that, either.

Last week, Mark Bray, a historian of Antifa, said on Trumpcast, Slate’s podcast on all things Trump, that Antifa members are “some of the most caring and compassionate people I’ve met.” I just finished directing a short documentary about the online origins of the Alt Right, for which we interviewed several Antifa members, and I can affirm his depiction. To a person, our interviewees cared deeply about egalitarianism and anti-racism, and spent much of their day-to-day lives either working professionally or volunteering for organizations and in activist groups that fought for the social and economic rights of the disenfranchised. They gave eloquent and persuasive explanations for why fascism must be confronted head-on, with tactics up to and including violence.

But parsing out the nuances of moral justifications for violence in a quiet room somewhere is an entirely different thing than standing in a park with a mask on and a flag in your hand, with hundreds of your comrades, and making snap decisions about whose ass to beat and whose not to. Or whether to back up your comrades when they start beating someone up, when you have no idea how the altercation even began, or who the victim is. Or whether to go online afterwards and claim that everyone who got beat deserved it because they were all Nazis.

What happened in practice in Berkeley yesterday was that anybody who challenged the Black Bloc made themselves a target, whether they were a white supremacist looking to stir shit up (and there were maybe five or six of those in a crowd of thousands), or a liberal who yelled their disapproval at their tactics, or a reporter taking pictures after being commanded to stop. If you pissed someone in the Black Bloc off, and someone came after you, the rest of the bloc followed. Suddenly you were facing a hostile mob, the time for arguing your case expired, literally fearing for your life.

I was at the protest with a film crew, working on a documentary. We were in a public park. It was a big news event, where everybody knew there would be media. Activists in the Black Bloc were concealed by sunglasses and ski masks to protect their identity for exactly this reason. They carried flags and banners, to make themselves a spectacle. Yet for their personal security, many of them decided that it was their right to command photographers not to take their pictures, to physically block them from doing so, and if they persisted, to smash their equipment and assault them. That’s what apparently happened to the guy who the Antifa member kept calling a “Nazi,” until he changed his mind. One of my filmmaking partners and I got pushed around by Antifa, too. We were targets because we had cameras. The only reason we didn’t get administered a beat down is because when we were ordered (not asked) to point our cameras elsewhere, we only pushed our right to film them so far. Had we pushed it a bit farther, we probably would have ended up with some smashed equipment and black eyes.

There was a moment of triumph during the demonstration, before all the violence began, when just after facing what looked like the beginning of a confrontation with the Black Bloc, the police line that surrounded the park retreated, the checkpoints into the park, where police were searching bags for contraband, were taken down, and everybody outside of the perimeter flooded onto the field. Following upon the unambiguous victory over the Alt Right in San Francisco the prior day, it should have been the capstone of the weekend. The Alt Right had surrendered; the people had taken their public space back from both the “fascists” and the police. But it probably hadn’t been an hour before that feeling dissipated entirely. Soon, it was Antifa, instead of the police, who were occupying the park. The rest of the crowd, who many of the masked radicals probably disdained as wimpy, bourgeois liberals, shrank from the violence that had begun to overtake the scene, as well as the yelling and the physical domination and the general sense of schoolyard bullying emanating from the massive Black Bloc. At one point I turned around and all I could see was Antifa. They had spread throughout the park, and everybody else had gone home.

When you criticize Antifa members or their defenders for the tactic of mob violence, the reflexive response is usually something like, “There are literal Nazis marching in the streets, and you’re attacking us over your precious little non-violence principles?” But Antifa doesn’t have a monopoly over concern for what’s happening in this country. They’re no more woke than the squishy liberals who showed up to protest with their signs and their voices and not with their fists. The revulsion to violence on the part of most people on the left, from liberal to radical, is not born of naïveté over the scale of the right-wing threat. It’s the expression of basic moral principle, as well as a pragmatic political understanding that random mob violence by masked vigilates on the left isn’t going to defeat the Alt Right. In the Bay Area this weekend, the Alt Right was already defeated. All Antifa did was transform that message of people-powered victory into a cascade of headlines bolstering Trump’s “both sides” talking point.

The revulsion to Antifa’s violence is also an indication of the paucity of trust Antifa has established with much of the wider, non-activist world. People want the white nationalist movement smashed into dust; that’s why they’re showing up by the thousands and the tens of thousands to protests against the Alt Right. That doesn’t mean they want to hand leadership over to a subcultural vanguardist movement that barks at them from behind masks and shields and threatens to beat those who disagree with them into submission.

Most Antifa members are anarchists. It was an ironic thing to see these anti-authoritarian, anti-government activists essentially acting as a de facto state on that little quarter acre of lawn, ordering photographers around, deciding who could be in the park and who couldn’t, responding to dissent — even from liberals — with physical confrontation, and dishing out violence on whoever they decided deserved it, whether they were a “Nazi,” a non-compliant liberal protester, or a reporter with a camera. It was a bleak alternative to the far right dystopia we face under Trump. It was much more like the last days of the Occupy movement than like the first. It was dark, it was scary, and it was ugly.

(This appeared originally at http://leightonwoodhouse.com/the-ugly-side-of-antifa/)

U. of Houston professor Robert Buzzanco speaks about Hurricane Harvey

Filed under: climate,disaster — louisproyect @ 8:32 pm

August 27, 2017

No platform for fascists?

Filed under: anti-fascism — louisproyect @ 8:14 pm

Recently two important figures on the left said that they opposed the antifa tactic of using violence to silence white supremacists. In an interview given to the rightwing Washington Examiner, Noam Chomsky stated that “blocking talks” such as those given by Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos was wrong in principle and “generally self-destructive.” In some ways, this might have been expected given Chomsky’s defense of Robert Faurrison, a holocaust denier whose right to continue teaching at the University of Lyon was defended in a petition he signed. Also, during the time Chomsky was involved with protests against the war in Vietnam, he was always hostile–like Theodor Adorno–to on-campus protests that interfered with research even if it was in service of the war.

Meanwhile, Robert McChesney, a U. of Illinois professor of communications and one-time co-editor of Monthly Review, raised eyebrows when he told NPR that he sided with Richard Spencer against various Internet companies that have effectively banned neo-Nazi websites like Stormfront and Daily Stormer. McChesney’s interest in these measures has a lot to do with worries that they will also be used against the left: “What’s to stop them from turning around and saying, ‘Well, we don’t like these people who are advocating gay rights. We don’t like these people who are advocating workers’ rights’?”

There are already signs that this is exactly what is happening. Two days ago the NY Times reported:

An influential website linked to violence at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Hamburg last month has been ordered to shut down, in the first such move against left-wing extremists in the country, officials in Germany said Friday.

Thomas de Maizière, the interior minister, said that the unrest in Hamburg, during which more than 20,000 police officers were deployed and more than 400 people arrested or detained, had been stirred up on the website and showed the “serious consequences” of left-wing extremism.

“The prelude to the G-20 summit in Hamburg was not the only time that violent actions and attacks on infrastructural facilities were mobilized on linksunten.indymedia,” he said, referring to the website.

The Interior Ministry said the website was the “most influential online platform for vicious left-wing extremists in Germany,” and noted that it had been used for years to spread criminal content and to incite violence.

Ideologically, Chomsky is a far cry from Marxism. McChesney is a lot closer but his emphasis is primarily on corporate control of media. He wrote about the sea change that took place in the 1920s when radio stations were no longer publicly owned in a book titled “Rich Media, Poor Democracy”. It meant that a handful of powerful corporations could set the political agenda just as they would do later on for television. The same model exists today with the Internet, even though it is nominally public and open to all. Nobody would likely prevent the Stormfront webmaster from using email, especially if it is a fake name. But when ISP’s refuse to host his website, you are silencing him.

Obviously this is not just a question of Internet freedom or the right of a Richard Spencer to give a talk on a campus. It is much deeper than that and requires an engagement with the relationship between Marxism and “no platforming”. While the largely anarchist base of antifa has little regard for free speech niceties, there are some groups on the Marxist left that see things the same way.

The Spartacist League is probably the most prominent group on the American left that shares the antifa perspective. In 1975 it organized a protest at San Francisco State that was indistinguishable from the one that took place in Berkeley against Yiannopoulos despite their presumed ideological differences:

On March 10 some 150 people responded to a clarion call for a mass demonstration to protest the scheduled appearance of Nazi party members on the San Francisco State University campus. Students as well as workers from the area joined the militant picket line which was organized by the “Ad Hoc Committee to Stop the Fascists,” a united front initiated and energetically built by the Spartacus Youth League. The angry demonstrators not only physically confronted the Nazis, but succeeded in driving the fascist vermin off campus.

Although they are far apart in terms of their understanding of Trotsky, the SWP in Great Britain also supports “no platforming” even though there is some evidence that the International Marxist Group of the 1970s led by Tariq Ali pioneered the tactic and even coined the term in the September 18th issue of The Red Mole, the party’s newspaper. In what appears to be 64 point type, the paper exclaimed: “No Platform for Racists” (i.e., the National Front and the Monday Club) and advocated tactics identical to those on the “It’s Going Down” website.

The National Front and the Monday Club were “mortal enemies of the working class” that had to be “stopped in their tracks”. The newspaper argued that these groups needed to be confronted, were “not going to be convinced by rational argument”, and called for “a concerted counter-attack” against both groups. The only way to deal with them was to “break up their activities before they grow to a size where they can begin to smash the activities of the working class.”

While the National Front was clearly a fascist group, the Monday Club was arguably nothing more than the British equivalent of the Reagan wing of the Republican Party. Would Tariq Ali and company have tried to bust up a rally just of the Monday Club? By the same token, would the antifa activists feel justified in busting up a meeting held for Ann Coulter? As it happens, Berkeley told her that a meeting sponsored by the Young Republicans would be rescheduled for a day when there were no students on campus—something she considered a form of censorship. If she had gone ahead and spoken on the originally scheduled date, would this have prompted antifa to organize (or disorganize) the same kind of adventure that made Milo Yiannopoulos appear as a victim, so much so that he earned a spot on the Bill Maher show where his repugnant ideas reached millions?

For some leftists the “no platform” net can be spread rather wide. Over the weekend of  July 2-4, 1971, the National Peace Action Coalition held a conference to organize mass actions that year. At the Friday night rally, Senator Vance Hartke and Victor Reuther, a United Auto Worker leader, were scheduled to speak but dozens of SDS’ers aligned with the Maoist PLP faction teamed up with a smaller number of Spartacist League members to prevent the meeting from going forward. They had brought bullhorns with them and as Reuther got up to speak, they tried to drown him out with chants opposing “the sellouts”. They were escorted out by the scruff of the neck.

Even within anarchist ranks, there have been indications that offensive speakers must be silenced even when they are anarchists themselves. At a 2014 conference held at Portland State University, members of the audience tried to shout down Kristian Williams, an anarchist author who had made statements agreeing with Laura Kipnis about “sexual paranoia” coming to campus. At least they didn’t punch him in the face.

When it comes to the question of “free speech for fascists”, Marxism and the ACLU part ways. For free speech absolutists, protesting fascist events would likely be considered out of bounds but for Marxists there is an obligation to confront fascist rallies and meetings on a principled basis. For example, the students at Berkeley made the right choice to show up on the doorstep of the Student Union where Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak. If their numbers were so massive that it would have been impossible to get inside the building, that would have been just fine. Instead what happened was a small group of antifa dictated tactics that made it easy for the entire protest to be stigmatized as violating democratic rights.

Above all, tactics have to be dictated by the reality on the ground. For example, there was a massive protest against fascist leader Gerald L.K. Smith’s talk in Minneapolis on August 21, 1946. When trade unionists began marching toward the hotel where it was supposed to be held, Smith’s goons attempted to break up their line. This led to a pitched battle that moved inside the hotel with chairs flying everywhere until the fascists were routed. It is important to note that this march was organized by trade union leaders who had been democratically elected by the ranks. This was a time before the witch-hunt had taken its toll. It is the model for the kind of movement we need today, one based on accountability, transparency and democracy—something sorely missing from the antifa adventurism.

If it is important to build mass actions against fascist rallies, etc., it is just as important to oppose bans on such groups by the government. In the late 50s, George Lincoln Rockwell launched a career as the American Fuhrer that drew enormous media attention, much more so than Richard Spencer today. Like Spencer, Rockwell had very few followers and relied on TV and newspaper coverage to help him recruit the sort of sick and ignorant rabble drawn to an openly neo-Nazi cult. Like antifa, the state hoped to shut him down except with legal action rather than fists. As expected, the ACLU always took his case when he was denied a permit to speak and fought against legislation that would put his party on the government’s “subversive” list. The SWP, which had helped to organize the protest against Smith, also opposed such laws but for the same reasons as McChesney: “Such infringements of anyone’s rights, no matter who it may be, inevitably put in question everyone’s democratic rights. Didn’t America learn that to its cost in the witch-hunting days of President Truman and Senator McCarthy?”

I would caution my Marxist comrades to think deeply about these questions no matter their visceral satisfaction over seeing Richard Spencer getting punched in the face. There are clear signs that the authoritarian in control of the executive branch will be exploiting antifa adventurism to crack down on the entire left just as Berlusconi did in Italy in the 1980s. The adventurism of the autonomists, who are really the forerunners of antifa in the USA today, gave him just the excuse he needed to clamp down on democratic rights.

Like the Spartacist League and SDS/PLP, the Italian ultraleft sought to shut down events organized by those they considered “counter-revolutionary”. In 1977, there was a nation-wide student occupation protesting an education “reform” bill that prompted the Communist Party to intervene on behalf of the government.

On February 17 a two thousand strong detachment of CP trade unionists accompanied their leader Luciano Lama to the campus of the University of Rome where he intended to deliver a speech against the occupation. Not long after his talk began, ultra-leftists donned masks and led an assault on Lama and his supporters.  At least fifty people were seriously injured in the fracas. This violent attack gave the government the pretext it needed to launch an assault on the university. Two thousand cops raided the campus and used tear gas and clubbed everybody in sight.

A revolution in the USA will be a violent affair. Make no mistake about it.  But in the stages leading up to that epochal event, force has to be used intelligently and most of all on behalf of defending the existing movements. Right now with so much emphasis on shutting down the likes of Richard Spencer, whose naked fascism has very little purchase, aren’t more important struggles being neglected? In New York City, workers at Spectrum (a cable provider once known as Time-Warner) have been on strike for 5 months and are suffering. A NY Times article described how strikers have been affected:

Walter Smith, a cable technician at Spectrum for six years who lives in the Bronx, received an eviction notice in July after falling behind on his bills, he said. The father of two has not worked since early October, when he had surgery to remove a benign tumor on his head. When he was ready return to work in April, workers had just gone on strike.

“The strike has lasted longer than anybody could have imagined,” Mr. Smith, 48, said. “Emotionally, dealing with the tumor and then this financially, it has been tough. I have a strong family that keeps me grounded.”

With strikes being undermined for the past twenty years, a trade union resisting the bosses is something that the left should get behind. Maybe we should put punching fascists on the back burner for a while and spend more time punching a corporation like Time-Warner instead, the corporation that owns Spectrum Cable, the ever-so-progressive HBO, and CNN, the 24/7 enemy of Trumpism. After all it is capitalism that is the enemy, not just fascism.


August 25, 2017

White Supremacist Support for Assad in Charlottesville (and Beyond)

Filed under: Fascism,Syria — louisproyect @ 4:34 pm

It was impossible not to miss the support for Bashar al-Assad that was on display in the white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville. The press drew attention to the picture of Assad with the word “Undefeated” emblazoned beneath it on the Facebook page of James Alex Fields, the man who plowed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protestors killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. There is also the video clip  of a couple of fascists saying that “Assad did nothing wrong” and calling for “dropping barrel bombs on those motherfuckers”, a reference to the counter-protestors.

Washington Post article dated August 14 concluded that there was always an underlying affinity between the Baathists and fascism: 

The far right’s love affair with Assad might not be entirely unpredictable. His Baath Party is fiercely nationalist and ethnocentric, focused on the promotion of Arab identity. One of the few political parties permitted by his regime and one of his staunchest supporters in the war is the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, which drew the inspiration for its logo from the swastika.

In my view, this analysis—while not entirely wrong—is inadequate to explaining the underlying reasons for racist and fascist support for Assad. Nor does it come to terms with the much broader appeal that Assad has had for many on the left who regard him not as a fascist but as a fearless anti-imperialist warrior who is being attacked by American and Saudi proxies because of his resistance to IMF-imposed austerity. This analysis is encapsulated in Canadian blogger Stephen Gowans’s new book Washington’s Long War on Syria:

Juxtapose U.S. prescriptions for how the Washington-led global economy would be structured against the economic program espoused in the founding document of the Ba’ath Party: Industry “will be protected together with the national production from the competition of foreign production.” Natural “resources, and means of transportation ” “shall be directly administered by the State,” in the public interest. Workers “shall take part in managing the factories and they will be given, [on top of] their wages, a share of profits to be determined by the State.” The Interim 1990 constitution of secular Arab nationalist Iraq declared that the “State assumes the responsibility for planning, directing, and steering the national economy.” These views were inimical to the economic policies Washington promoted as the world’s self-appointed leader. They did not fit with the global economic order Washington insisted on creating.

Like a Rorschach test, the Syrian dictatorship is open to multiple interpretations. To really get to the bottom of this complex and dialectically contradictory phenomenon of Baathist rule, it is necessary to place it into the context of two historical sea changes that have marked this epoch.

Continue reading

August 24, 2017

The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis

Filed under: Argentina,Film — louisproyect @ 9:13 pm

Opening tomorrow at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago and to be followed with a DVD/VOD release this November, “The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis” is an Argentine film that might have easily been titled “Dark Night of the Soul”. Its eponymous main character is a middle-aged man living a life of quiet desperation. A glorified Bob Cratchit, he toils away as a bookkeeper in a small company whose hope for being promoted was dashed in the beginning of the film. Meeting with the boss, he learns that his payment for being a valued employee is a box of groceries, not the coveted promotion.

Just before returning home, he receives a phone call from a woman he hasn’t spoken to in decades. She wants to meet with him to get his authorization for a poem he wrote long ago when they were classmates in college. That is the pretext for the meeting they have in her car. She has learned from her husband, an air force officer working in counter-intelligence, that two people will be picked up that later that night to meet the fate that twenty thousand Argentinians have already met in 1977: Desaparecido.

She writes down the names and the address of the man and the woman on a piece of paper and instructs him to commit it to memory. After testing to see that he has done so, she crumbles the paper into a tiny wad and swallows it.

Finally grasping the gravity of the task put before him, Sanctis demurs. He cannot be of help. He honestly wonders why he would be asked to risk his life for two people he does not even know. The connections between the two, the woman who has summoned him out of the blue, and Sanctis are tenuous at best. Yes, he did write a poem glorifying the life of urban guerrillas but that was long ago when he was an impetuous youth. Now he is a settled and undistinguished middle-class man facing the usual challenges of any breadwinner. Why would he risk his life for two total strangers, when he no longer has the revolutionary beliefs of his college days—no matter how shallow?

These were the stakes doing politics in Argentina. Three years before the challenge faced by Francisco Sanctis over this long night, I was living in Houston and reporting for the SWP majority in a faction fight about guerrilla warfare in Argentina. The SWP supported a group led by Nahuel Moreno that had a similar orientation to our own, namely one of mass action based on student and working class youth. The other faction was led internationally by Ernest Mandel and supported a group in Argentina that was kidnapping bank executives and hijacking trucks.

Argentina, unlike the USA, had a radicalized working class that was a big threat to the country’s bourgeoisie and Washington. When a leader of the group we supported was on a speaking tour in the USA, he stayed at my apartment. Each night as we headed off for an event, we checked my car for bombs. This was in 1975.

A year later there was a coup in Argentina that smashed the guerrilla groups and drove the orthodox left underground. Henry Kissinger learned about General Videla’s seizure of power two months before it occurred. He gave the gorilla his advice: “The quicker you succeed the better … The human rights problem is a growing one … We want a stable situation. We won’t cause you unnecessary difficulties. If you can finish before Congress gets back, the better. Whatever freedoms you could restore would help.”

“The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis” describes the tension that existed throughout society even when those like the film’s main character were doing their best to keep a low profile. As the film proceeds, we see him wrestling with the decision about what to do against a backdrop of darkly lit streets, neon lights and barking dogs.

Humberto Constantini

The film is based on a novel of the same title by Humberto Constantini who knew this terrain quite well. Born to Italian-Jewish parents in 1924, he joined the CP in his twenties and fought against the Alianza Libertadora Nacionalista, a violent anti-Semitic fascist group. In the sixties, he became disillusioned with Stalinism and began to gravitate toward the Cuban leadership, particularly Che Guevara, a fellow Argentinian. He was active in the revolutionary movements of the 1970s and somehow managed being “disappeared” like fellow writers Harold Conti and Roberto Santoro.

After watching the film, I was motivated to take his novel out of the Columbia library. As good as the film was, nothing can compare to this unheralded revolutionary writer:

Now, as by degrees he begins connecting with reality, he has the feeling of having been thrust into a time outside time, into an interlude of daydreams and preposterousness, with addresses learned by heart, bits of paper burned to ash, vague husbands serving in Air Force Intelligence, bureaucratically planned kidnappings for three or maybe four in the morning, and mysterious informers who practice yoga and body expression. An interlude during which not he but another Francisco Sanctis, much more adrift, naive, and susceptible to bamboozling than the present Sanctis or the one who at five that afternoon received a telephone call at Luchini & Monsreal, would have committed an endless series of blunders, acting exactly the way one acts in dreams, accepting without question and as perfectly normal the most unparalleled facts and details—a toothbrush that’s also an aunt; a fish that slips off a hook, makes its way across a room, and utters threats in the voice of Father Cioppi; a four-eyed roly-poly girl who’s also an absolutely stunning dish; an optician’s receipt that must pass through ritual fire; a pair who will be brought in by a goon squad this very night. The matter deserves at least a half-dozen deep breaths and several minutes of calm meditation.

Films can do many things but they will never achieve the power of written language.


August 23, 2017

A “New Dawn” for Fascism: the Rise of the Anti-Establishment Capitalists  

Filed under: Counterpunch,fashion — louisproyect @ 2:19 pm

(I got to know Michael Barker, the author of this article, when we were both focused on exposing “humanitarian interventions” in Yugoslavia. At the time, much of what I wrote dovetailed with the sort of article found on DissidentVoice, Information Clearing House, et al.

I veered sharply from this outlook after Putin invaded Chechnya and lost track of Michael Barker, who I had a great deal of respect and even affection for at the time. After earning a PhD, he decided to turn his back on academia since he saw it as a corrupt arm of the capitalist system despite liberal pretensions.

Out of the blue, he has written an article that is both politically powerful and deeply researched. This is one of the most important articles you will read in CounterPunch in this or any other year.)

A “New Dawn” for Fascism: the Rise of the Anti-Establishment Capitalists  

Photo by Mark Dixon | CC BY 2.0

The world rests on a precipice. On the one hand is institutionalized exploitation and imperialist violence. The well-being of humanity continues to be severely hampered by the priorities of a small unstable capitalist class, who would prefer that the rest of us – those who must engage in a daily struggle to purchase the essentials for living (like food and a roof over our heads) – remain unorganized as a cohesive class. And on the other hand, there are those who believe that the fundamental class division between the rulers and the workers is both intolerable and unsustainable, and so seek to participate in and organize mass movements for social change that will bring an end to the domination of one class of people over another.

In the face of the continued resistance of ordinary people, in recent decades global elites have unfortunately forced through a number of regressive counter-reforms upon society, which have served to undermine the ability of our class to collectively fight back. These losses have as much to do with the failures of leadership shown by organizations of the working-class as they do with any concerted planning on behalf of elites. Yet in lieu of the current existence of mass democratic working-class organizations in most of the world, problematic and conspiratorial, but ostensibly anti-establishment, ideas have been able to sometimes temporarily supplant class-based analyses about how and why social change happens. This essay therefore seeks to problematize some of these wrong-minded ideas with a special reference to revolutionary uprisings in Russia and the Ukraine.

To the eternal consternation of those elites who would prefer to deny us our basic class solidarity, and critically, knowledge of our class’ victories, revolutions are a mainstay of humanity’s emancipatory history.  Indeed, popular mass-based uprisings occur all the time, and can take place where they are least expected – as demonstrated by the two successful revolutions that took place one hundred years ago in the poor and materially deprived country that was Russia. But despite the unanticipated nature of the two Russian revolutions of 1917, the democratic and socialist advances made in Russia did much to boost working-class confidence worldwide; think for example of the momentous Seattle General Strike of 1919, or moreover, how close a mass working-class movement came to subsequently organising a successful revolution in Germany.

Nevertheless making a revolution is the not the solution for all ills, as one prominent historian of the Russian revolution put it: “To overthrow the old power is one thing; to take the power in one’s own bands is another.” And ultimately for revolutions to truly serve the needs of the working-class they must succeed in wresting power from the ruling class. Hence although it is true that over the past century many revolutions have taken place, the majority of these uprisings have only succeeded in transferring power from one segment of the ruling elite to another. The ruling-class “may win the power in a revolution not because it is revolutionary,” but because it “has in its possession property, education, the press, a network of strategic positions”. By way of contrast: “Deprived in the nature of things of all social advantages,” an insurrectionary movement of the working-class “can count only on its numbers, its solidarity,” and the degree to which it is organised and ready to assume power during a revolutionary struggle.

The fact that many previous revolutions have failed to deliver democratic control of our lives – with power all too often falling back into the hands of the super-rich – does not mean that such failures were somehow pre-ordained. And it certainly does not imply political collusion between revolutionary leaders and the forces of reaction. But this does not stop the sections of the ruling class from leaping on these failures in order to suit their own nefarious ends. Indeed, now that many people are looking for alternatives to the current corrupt political establishment, a resurgent coalition of neo-fascists and other assorted critics of Western imperialism are striving to take full advantage of the ongoing global economic crisis. They do this by identifying themselves as the genuine critics of the global ruling-class and by misidentifying socialists and revolutionaries as the real enemy of the working-class. In such opportunist and reactionary narratives of social change, genuine revolutionary leaders and popular uprisings are portrayed as unwitting tools of the ruling class elites. So now, as ever, we should be conscious of what are enemies are doing in plain sight, as the stakes have never been higher.

Working-Class Power in the Russian Revolution

When democratically organized bodies of the working-class are unable to provide a fighting leadership within any given popular uprising, leadership still exists, but it falls elsewhere, that is, outside of the democratic control of ordinary workers. This is precisely what happened during the initial February revolution in Russia 1917. This initial Revolution did act to oust the despotic Tsar, but only to allow another unrepresentative and undemocratic elite to take over the reins of the country. But with the new Provisional Government that came to power being unwilling to cede power to the majority of Russians, the subsequent October Revolution succeeded where the former failed in enabling a mass movement of the working-class to assume power. Revolutionary working-class leadership was provided by the democratic forces of the Bolshevik Party, a force which in later years was tragically misled and debased by Stalin and his admirers.

The ruling-class, wherever they may lie, have never been disinterested with the outcomes of revolutionary struggles. In February 1917, elites across the world welcomed the new trusted rulers of Russia. This can be contrasted with their subsequent dismay in October, when international elites felt compelled to mobilize their armies to back the displaced Russian ruling class in their long and bloody civil war against socialism. It was this protracted crisis and the failure of similar revolutions to spread elsewhere that helped pave the way for Stalin’s eventual seizure of power. Moreover, it was Stalin’s undemocratic reign as the leader of the Communist Party that served to mislead the global forces of the working-class and ultimately undermine people’s faith in the power of socialist ideas to change society for the better. This is not to say that socialists and workers did not continue to fight for a genuine workers democracy and the removal of Stalinist toxin that dominated communist politics. Here some of the most notable individuals in organising against the Stalinist counter-revolution were those forces organized around Leon Trotsky — one of the principal leaders of the October Revolution.

Although at present no large and influential revolutionary party is based in Russia, germinal forms of such organizations do exist and their members, like other independent trade unionists, continue to suffer repression at the hands of Putin’s capitalist state. Putin’s elite, just like other ruling cliques elsewhere, like to portray those seeking revolutionary change as dangerous enemies of the people, whose democratic activities must be ruthlessly crushed. Following the template of the 1917 Revolution elites and their supporters do their best to smear socialist activists as dupes or willing agents of foreign imperial powers. This was the strategy deployed against the members of the Bolshevik Party both prior to and after the October Revolution, and fittingly enough it is the same ridiculous lie that is told about the leaders of the revolution to this day.

Wall Street’s Bolshevik Conspiracy?

Today the main proponents of the fabrication that the Bolsheviks were merely tools of Western imperialists are right-wing conspiracy theorists, many of whom like to refer to themselves as either libertarians or apolitical. One of the most famous texts expounding this timeless deceit is Anthony C. Sutton’s Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution (1974), a book whose “research” has now been given a new breath of life by Professor Richard Spence’s more sophisticated but equally conspiratorial book Wall Street and the Russian Revolution: 1905-1925 (2017). But despite being an apparent specialist in modern espionage and the occult, Spence, like many more run-of-the-mill conspiracy theorists, has an unhealthy propensity for treating declassfited files released by ill-informed intelligence agencies at face-value. Spence however is no marginal scholar as in 2010 he worked as a research fellow at the neoconservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and has been interviewed the Russian television channel NTV as a so-called specialist on “Trotsky’s American Connections” for an upcoming documentary on the Russian Revolution. In addition he remains a regular contributor to the popular pro-Putin conspiracy magazine, New Dawn.

For those who simply don’t have the time to keep up with the latest extraterrestrial elite machinations and the New World Order’s genocidal plots, you should know that New Dawn is a big-hitter in the field, with bimonthly issues over-brimming with ‘adverts’ for alternative medicine boosted by all manner of quasi-fascist nonsense.[1] The latest issue of this bloated magazine leads with the article “Putin takes on the U.S. Deep State” (July/August), with the author of this piece being former InfoWars editor, Patrick Henningsen. Most notably the only politician listed on New Dawn’s roll-call of endorsers for their verbose tosh is the neo-fascist, Alexandre Dugin, who they correctly identify as the “leader of International Eurasian Movement.” As Dugin’s endorsement explains: “New Dawn magazine is one of the best sources of realistic information on the state of things in our world as it nears its inevitable and predicted end.”

Here the connection between the delusions promoted by New Dawnand the mystifying work of people like Professor Spence is the utility of their ideas to the powerful, more specifically in helping to undermine the legitimacy of revolutionary socialism. Certainly the liberal (globalist) elites that New Dawn and their writers obsess about do engage in anti-democratic activities. But New Dawn’s paranoid ramblings about the actions of these allegedly all-powerful elites is far removed from the sober Marxist class-analysis that is necessary to understand how such elites profit from capitalism (and sometimes from fascism). But what else would you expect from a magazine that includes well-known fascists like Dr Kerry Bolton upon its roster of regular writers. Focusing on Bolton for a moment, he cites as authorities for his own pro-Putin conspiracies the work of Antony C. Sutton and Richard Spence, and asserts that Stalin was correct in his belief that both Trotsky and his followers “were agents of foreign capital and foreign powers” seeking to promote capitalism!?

Bolton points to the fact that a handful of leading Trotskyist intellectuals went on to work hand-in-hand with the CIA as further proof that Marxists were always working for Wall Street. What Bolton fails to mention is that these intellectuals all renounced their belief in Marxism in order to become well paid and respected conservatives. Moreover in the early days of their new-found careers as turncoats these former Marxists simply joined forces with the longstanding conservative leadership of the AFL-CIO, who right from the early days of the Russian Revolution had been open in their opposition to Bolshevism and to union democracy more generally. Bolton is therefore only correct when he says that neoconservative activists eventually went on to help create the US Government’s interventionist and imperialist National Endowment for Democracy (NED), but only in the early 1980s. Bringing his conspiracy up-to-date, elsewhere Bolton draws a direct connect between “international capital” and individuals like George Soros and groups like the NED, with regards their continuing role in “fomenting revolutions”. As he goes on to explain for an article published with the neo-fascist/Traditionalist publisher Counter-Currents (an outlet which  popularizes the nazi mysticism of “Hitler’s Priestess” Savitri Devi):

“The primary factor that was behind the bankers’ support for the Bolsheviks whether from London, New York, Stockholm, or Berlin, was to open up the underdeveloped resources of Russia to the world market, just as in our own day George Soros, the money speculator, funds the so-called ‘color revolutions’ to bring about ‘regime change’ that facilitates the opening up of resources to global exploitation. Hence there can no longer be any doubt that international capital a plays a major role in fomenting revolutions…”

Putin’s Ukraine

In the November 2014 issue of New Dawn the magazine featured another article authored by Bolton titled “The great conspiracy against Russia: what is really behind the campaign against Putin?” His purile rant began with considerable gusto:

“When the war-drums start beating in Washington against a state or statesman, one is entitled to wonder what transgression might have been made against the ‘New World Order’. Over the past few decades we have seen one nation after another succumb to either financial blandishments, or when those fail, long-planned, well-funded ‘spontaneous’ colour revolutions, and as a last resort bombs. The states of the ex-Soviet bloc largely succumbed to ‘colour revolutions’ orchestrated by the Soros network, aligned with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), USAID and a host of other funds and NGOs.”

Following close to Putin’s now-official propaganda line, Bolton fumes against the imperialist interventions of the NED undertaken in the Ukraine and their allegedly manufacturing of endless popular uprisings. But in reality it should be obvious that the sizable financial support provided to civil society groups by US elites does not allow them to manufacture revolutionary discontent out of thin air; it only allows them to promote their own capitalist interests in their ongoing attempts to forestall genuinely radical, dare I say, revolutionary socialist change. Yes, the US will do everything in their power to encourage new capitalist governments that are more likely to prioritize friendly relations with them, but so too would Russia.

So in the Ukraine, as elsewhere, Putin intervenes as an imperialist power-broker to promote his own countries’ capitalist foreign policy objectives, while the US does the same. Neither, however, have the best interest of the working-class at heart, and so both governments and their contributions to the “East-West tug-of-war” deserve our criticism. This is not, however, how other political commentators see matters, and perhaps in part because of the lack of an influential working class political alternative (which still needs working on), some misguided people end up following the crude logic that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Bolton breaks from such motivations only because he chooses to support Putin because it serves his own personal agenda – even though, it should be said, Putin himself is no fascist.

Regime Change Inc. and the New World Order

A further intriguing example of similar reactionary thinking vis-a-visthe dynamics of social change is provided in the work of F. William Engdahl, who in 2004 republished his 1992 book A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order with the left-wing publisher Pluto Press. Prior to Pluto’s not so inspired decision to publish this book, Engdahl had spent decades working as an editor for Lyndon LaRouche’s conspiracy network (at least until 1997), and his book merely recycled many LaRouchite narratives including that the 1960s counterculture New Age movement was a manufactured CIA-backed “project.” To be more specific, according to Engdahl the creation of the hippie movement had been overseen by the “Anglo-American liberal establishment” which was then used in conjunction with another “weapon” of the elite, the creation of a “manipulated ‘race war’”.  As part of this fictional elite-orchestrated process of social change Engdahl went on to add more details to his heady conspiracy, noting that: “The May 1968 student riots in France, were the result of the vested London and New York financial interests in the one G-10 nation which continued to defy their mandate.” In a brief comment he then explained his idiotic belief that…

“modern Anglo-American liberalism bore a curious similarity to the Leninist concept of a ‘vanguard party,’ which imposed a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ in the name of some future ideal of society. Both models were based on deception of the broader populace.”

Since publishing his first book Engdahl has continued his prolific publishing record by writing for New Age neo-fascist magazines like New Dawn. Building upon his credentials as an oil historian he now publicises his conversion to the latest right-wing conspiracy craze that asserts that oil is actually limitless and not actually a fossil fuel (in this Engdahl consciously drew upon Stalinist research carried out by Russian and Ukrainian scientists in the 1950s). Engdahl’s ability to read conspiracies into any subject are truly second to none: a couple of years ago he chose to misinterpret medical research that actually highlighted progress in the struggle to fight cancer in order to write an article asserting that scientific evidence proved that chemotherapy, not cancer, is the real killer!

Engdahl it seems is a man with a special mission, and in recent years he has served on the advisory boards of two neo-fascist journals that were published in Italy (Geopolitica which was edited by a leading member of Dugin’s International Eurasian Movement, and Eurasia, Rivista di Studi Geopolitici which was published and edited by Italian Nazi-Maoist Claudio Mutti)Engdahl is also a regular contributor (like Dr Bolton) to the articles and videos produced by the neo-fascist Russian think tank Katehon – a group funded by billionaire philanthropist Konstantin Malofeev (see later) whose work is overseen by the close Dugin-ally and homegrown Ukrainan esoteric fascist, Leonid Savin. In line with this political orientation, Engdahl additionally writes and acts as an advisor for Veterans Today, an organization that, in the name of opposing warmongering, does yeoman’s service to popularizing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.[2]

Engdahl’s railing against the globalist conspiracy was fully evident in his 2009 book Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order. Herein Engdahl focuses on the historic activities of liberal philanthropy and the NED in creating what he calls synthetic movements for ‘non-violent change.’ This book was well-received in certain Russian military circles, and was cited approvingly by fellow Katehon contributor Andrew Korybko in his 2015 book Hybrid Wars: The IndirecAdaptive Approach To Regime Changewhich Korybko was able publish while he was a member of the expert council for the Institute of Strategic Studies and Predictions at the People’s Friendship University of Russia. Korybko is also privileged enough to be able to espouse his views to a global audience through his work as a journalist for Sputnik International. However, although people like Engdahl and Korybko do great work at popularizing disempowering theories, arguably the most effective proponent of the conspiracy surrounding the activities of the NED in Eurasia was undertaken by Putin’s former chief PR strategist, Gleb Pavlovsky.

Gleb Pavlovsky’s unique role in helping develop a reactive strategy to foreign “democracy” promoters like the NED has been referred to as “Putin’s Preventive Counter-Revolution” by Robert Horvath. He argues that his strategy was born of the regimes anxiety in the wake of the 2003 ‘Rose Revolution’ in Georgia, which marked “the first of the new wave of democratic revolutions in the post-Soviet space”. Pavlovsky is subsequently credited with having been the “mastermind of the Putin regime’s response” to these NED/Soros-backed democratic interventions. Moreover, Horvath adds a personal aside to this tale, observing that because Pavlovsky had served as “an advisor to the [Viktor] Yanukovych camp in the Ukrainian presidential election [in 2004], he had experienced the ‘Orange Revolution’ as a personal defeat.” Hence Pavlovsky’s went on to play a critical role in encouraging Putin to respond with a more thoroughgoing embrace of a conspiratorial interpretation of social uprisings.

No doubt taking hope from such conspiracies, Putin, during the 2007 Russian election, delivered his “most venomous tirade against the enemy within” for “counting ‘upon the support of foreign foundations and governments and not the support of their own people’. The following week these foreign enemies were then the focus of Arkadii Mamontov’s powerful conspiracy documentary Barkhat.ru (velvet.ru), which, as Horvath explained, “vilified leading opposition activists involved in the Other Russia coalition.” In this documentary F. William Engdahl found his voice yet again as the sole foreign expert to legitimate this open display of state propaganda. Echoing the aforementioned conspiracies surrounding the foreign funding of the Bolshevik Revolution, Mamontov maligned the anti-Putin political activism undertaken by the libertarian Russian-Croatian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, explaining to his viewers that Kasparov had “returned from America, like his colleague Trotsky once did”.

Bigotry in the Service of Tsardom

Perhaps styling himself after Fox News’ own once-powerful conspirator, Bill O’Reilly, Mamontov never misses a chance to launch vicious tirades against western liberalism. Mamontov thus puts his weekly sermons on the major national TV channel, Rossiya 1, to full use in the service of Putin’s anti-liberal brand of authoritarianism. In many ways the content of these Orwellian hate shows might be seen as an attempt to emulate Stalin’s famous show trials, allowing Mamontov and his conspirators to publicly try and convict all those guilty of tainting Russian patriotism. Just as Stalin persecuted Trotsky’s supporters as fascists (the enemy within), to Mamontov all critics of Putin (whether liberal or socialist) are fascist as far as he is concerned. That said, it is the alleged perversion and decadence of the West that features as Mamontov’s number one target, with one of his most vile contributions to date being his 2015 documentary Sodom, which is nothing other than a relentless attack on homosexuality. Keen to utilize ‘independent’ western critics to attack America’s latest so-called export, Sodom features the notorious anti-gay Christian activist Scott Lively, who in addition to being the author of bile-filled book The Pink Swastika, famously advised the Ugandan government on their notorious anti-homosexual legislation. Lively later went on to closely replicate Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill by working with Brian Brown to help the Russia state draft their own hateful Anti-Gay Laws. Notably, only last year Brian Brown went on to be elected president of the World Congress on Families – an international far-right coalition which has been correctly described as “one of the major driving forces behind the U.S. Religious Right’s global export of homophobia and sexism.” Joining arms with American funders, conservative Russian elites also played a central role in founding the World Congress on Families; and one billionaire who is to the fore of currently funding the Congresses activities is the loyal Putin-supporter, Konstantin Malofeev.

Much like the amazing Octopus-like reach of the Koch Brothers in America, Malofeev, as a devout extremist philanthropist, not only acts the president of his own neo-fascist think tank, Katehon, but has also founded his own his own Russian Orthodox TV channel with none other than Dugin sitting at its editorial helm. Another of Malofofeev’s explicitly elitist pet ambitions is to ensure that a new patriotic cadre is ready to rule Russia when (as he hopes) the Eurasian movement comes to complete domination of the state apparatus. To undertake this task Malofofeev created St Basil the Great School, which as he explained “in an interview with the Guardian, is meant to function as ‘an Orthodox Eton’, which will prepare the new elite for a future Russian monarchy.”

The fond memories that Russian oligarchs maintain for the alleged glory days of the pre-1917 reign of the Tsar are reactionary in the extreme, which, when combined with the mainstream media’s demonization of revolutionary social movements, has troubling consequences for the potential future growth of working-class struggle. Indeed the level of misunderstanding of Russia’s most significant political historical event is perplexing to anyone who has studied Russian history. One such liberal Bolshevik expert is Professor Alexander Rabinowitch, who, reflecting upon his recent visits to Russia explained how he

“…was struck by the absolutely crazy questions I was being asked: Was there a February Revolution? Is it true that everything was great in Russia in February, and it was the Generals or the Masons or the intelligentsia that caused the Revolution? And this to some extent is being encouraged, the idea that the Empire – that Imperial Russia was strong and that is where Russia’s future lies – I think that is being encouraged by the [Putin] regime, which really cannot just ignore the Revolution, and so it is helping fund serious scholarly conferences [which Rabinowitch attends], but at a popular level that’s not what is happening, and crazy things are being published and crazy things are being said, and these lead to crazy questions…. I certainly get that as I read about popular thought in newspapers.”

Again one popularizer of such nonsense is F. William Engdahl who wrote in 2015 in the journal of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences that:

“Contrary to the mythology that passes for history at western universities such as Cambridge, Oxford, Princeton or Harvard, Russia in the years leading to outbreak of World War I was on the path to become a towering prosperous economic nation, something especially not welcome in London.”

This gobbledygook leads Engdahl to his latest conspiratorial revelation: “Wall Street and the City of London financed Leon Trotsky, Lenin, and the Bolshevik Revolution essentially as they did Boris Yeltsin after 1990, to open up Russia for looting and balkanization by favored western companies.”

Propagating Conspiracies and New Eurasianism

Contemplating the nature of the Russian media’s relentless misrepresentation of the colored revolutions as simply “organized and paid for by the Americans,” one mainstream commentator writing for The Atlantic earlier this year observed: “Now, we see the same kinds of theories pop up in state media portrayals of the Revolutions of 1917.” But strictly speaking this is not really a new development as evidenced by the putrid outpouring of the likes of Engdahl and Spence. But such false flag right-wing propaganda is not limited to journalists and academics, as Putin’s former key advisor, Gleb Pavlovsky, as mentioned earlier, also played a critical role in spreading such misinformation within Russian society. Pavlovsky was aided in this task through his role as the host of a news show (between 2005 and 2008) that was aired on RTV  – a Russian television channel that has been owned by natural gas giant Gazprom since 2001.

Corporate networking events like the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum also play an important role in laundering the latest conspiracy theories amongst the Russian power elite. Last year, for example, Engdahl was featured on an all-star panel sponsored by energy giant Rusal that was titled “The Russian Economic Growth Agenda.” Speaking alongside Engdahl on this prestigious line-up was one of Putin’s primary economic advisors, Sergey Glaziev, who also sits on the advisory board of the right-wing think tank, Katehon. Glaziev likewise maintains his own close connections to Engdahl’s former boss, Lyndon LaRouche, whose shadowy conspiracy network published the English translation of Glaziev’s book in 1999 as Genocide: Russia and the New World Order.

These ominous links between LaRouche’s reactionary conspiracy network and Russian elites have been well-documented elsewhere, but needless to say LaRouchites often feature as “experts” on Russian television, particularly on Russia Today. LaRouche and his co-conspirators are even counted as close allies of one of Dugin’s key ideological supporters, Natalya Vitrenko, who is the leader of the misnamed Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine. Following in Stalin’s footsteps Vitrenko, with no hint of irony, regularly refers to her democratic opponents as fascists, just as LaRouche himself does. (Note: LaRouche has good form in supporting authoritarian leaders; a good example being the ideological aid his network bestowed upon the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines during the peoples revolution of 1986.)

But while LaRouche with his endless supply of “alternative facts” has certainly provided further fuel for the explosion of conspiracy theories in Russia, the proselytizing of other homegrown intellectuals should be considered more important. This is especially the case with the reactionary neo-Eurasian ideas that have taken root within Putin’s increasingly authoritarian regime; a dark influence that reared its head during Putin’s annual address to the federal assembly in December 2012 when the president reminded his disciples of the contemporary relevance of the ideas of the late Lev Gumilyov’s (1912-1992). Gumilyov was a vehemently anti-Marxist theorist of the fledgling Eurasian movement who, amongst his other bizarre beliefs, was incensed that the Bolshevik Revolution had embodied “alien” western and Jewish values. It was Gumilyov’s intellectual legacy that has been rehashed and updated by both Dugin (who describes Gumilyov as his most important Russian mentor) and by a once-prominent professor at Moscow State University’s Faculty of Philosophy, Aleksandr Panarin (1940–2003).  Although Dugin is best-known as the intellectual guru for the Eurasian movement, Panarin’s primary contribution to this developing paradigm was to insert the esoteric and fascist ideas of the philosophical leader of the French New Right, Alain de Benoist.

Postmodern Confusion in France and Beyond

The French New Right as it turns out first began their rise to influence around the activism of Alain de Benoist in the wake of the revolutionary uprising of May 1968, with their new collective organizational form being the Research and Study Group for European Civilization (GRECE). Realizing that old-style fascism was discredited amongst the broader public, GRECE sought to promote themselves as anti-elitist but neither Left nor Right (neither socialism or capitalism), and they quickly went about popularizing their conspiratorial mishmash of fascist and occult ideas.

A useful book that provides details about the origins and influences exerted by GRECE and their global followers is Tamir Bar-On’s Where Have All The Fascists Gone? (2007), in which the author emphasizes that 1978 stood out as a “breakthrough year for GRECE in terms of receiving larger access to the mainstream public.” This was because a “number of important GRECE figures, including Alain de Benoist, began to write regular articles that year in the right-wing Le Figaro Magazine.” This however was no accidental flash-in-the-pan, as the editor of the popular Le Figaro Magazine, Louis Pauwels, had previously “written in the revolutionary right’s Cahiers universitairesin the 1960s.” Moreover, although overlooked by Bar-On, in 1960 Pauwels had coauthored the irrationalist, Romantic treatise known as Les matin des magiciens, which later made its 1964 debut in America as Morning of the Magicians. And given the long-standing cross-overbetween neo-fascist and occult/new age theories it is very pertinent that Pauwels book had been credited with “the distinction of launching a revival of interest in the occult in the 1960s and 1970s…” Clearly other objective historical conditions also played a major role in driving people away from class-based analyses of society, but the historical role played by ultra-right-wing occultists like Pauwels should not be overlooked. After all it is by examining the lives of people like Pauwels and his co-thinkers that we might begin to understand why both mystical and neo-fascist ideas have been able to make something of a resurgence among the public in recent decades.

Here the theories of the French New Right actually overlap somewhat with the debilitating postmodern ideas that were popularised by French intellectuals in the wake the 1968 revolution in France — not just their commitment to provide an alternative to Marxism. This worrying phenomenon was highlighted in the 2004 book New Culture, New Right: Anti-Liberalism in Postmodern Europe which was written by the right-wing postmodernist Michael O’Meara, an individual who presently works alongside fellow neo-fascists Kerry Bolton and Leonid Savin at the Athens-based Academy of Social and Political Research. Of relevance here, O’Meara’s personal biography sheds further light on the relationship on the intellectual upheavals in some parts of the so-called Left, as in 1999, writing under his former pen-name, Michael Torigian, O’Meara published a left-wing book titled Every Factory a Fortress: The French Labor Movement in the Age of Ford and Hitler. But then just a few months later O’Meara clarified his recent embrace of Alain de Benoist’s right-wing ideas in an article published in the controversial journal, Telos, which was titled “The philosophical foundations of the French New Right.”

Here it is important to acknowledge that the broader ideological slide from left-wing hostility to Marxism to right-wing hostility to Marxism was, in its own unique way, pioneered by Telos in the post 1968 period. Established in May 1968 by disillusioned left-wing academics, Telos set out on a search for an alternative to Marxism in order (ostensibly) to help emancipate the working-class. The new ideas Telos then unearthed arguably did a great service in enabling the development of post-Marxist ‘left-wing’ alternatives, most famously postmodernism. In the early 1990s Telos’ ever-expanding search for new theories eventually led their editors into an unfortunate embrace of the French New Right. As Boris Frankel’s observed in his prescient article “Confronting neo-liberal regimes: the post-Marxist embrace of populism and realpolitik” (New Left Review,  December 1997), it is vital that the “upsurge of right-wing populist movements in OECD countries” and “Telos’ theoretical cultivation of ‘postmodern populism’” should not be overlooked in coming to terms with history. On this I couldn’t agree more.

Final Thoughts/Hopes

The hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution is now upon us, and one of the most remarkable events in human history should provide inspiration and hope to billions of people. At present the world and its inhabitants stand at a critical juncture. Capitalism is once again demonstrating its inability to provide for the needs of the majority of people, and as every day passes, our inhumane system is driving even more people into poverty. Socialist alternatives to capitalism are not only possible but they are now supremely attainable: technological advances must be harnessed, not to oppress and surveil us, but to free us all from the daily grind of working life.

The eventual deformation of the Russian Revolution should be considered one of history’s major tragedies, and the Revolution’s gross distortion under the anti-democratic influence of Stalin and his apparatchiks must never be repeated. This is why Leon Trotsky and his supporters dedicated their lives to exposing all the dangerous betrayals of the working-class that took place under the misleadership of the Stalinist Communist Party, while also committing themselves to the ongoing struggle for a socialist future where ordinary people have full democratic control over workplaces and their lives. For undertaking such a struggle for justice, socialists and particularly Trotskyists have been relentlessly demonized by all capitalist institutions, by Stalin’s heirs, and by conspiracy theorists and their neo-fascists friends.

The Russian Revolution was a genuine democratic uprising of the working-class against their rulers which is precisely why it has always been so maligned by its ideological enemies. The Revolution was most certainly not orchestrated by Wall Street elites – in the same way that other popular revolutions that continue to shake the world are not the pet projects of Wall Street. Nevertheless it is true that when revolutions are deprived of a democratic leadership that is willing and ready to overthrow capitalism and bring about a socialist transformation of society, such revolutions will most likely only succeed in exchanging one set of undemocratic elites with another. This may give some form of respite to ordinary people, especially when they manage to replace capitalist dictatorships with capitalist democracies, but at the end of the day under the continued domination of capitalist misrule profits will always trump human need.

Of course there are many real reasons why people become disillusioned with the tiring fight for a fairer society, and it doesn’t help when the working-class are repeatedly let down or betrayed by the promises of their so-called political leaders. And all the while we should be aware that all sorts of fascists and right-wing populists are presently ready and waiting to take advantage of popular discontent if we fail to organize our class effectively on a global scale. Learning from this, socialists must therefore continue to lead by example and fight for every reform we can possibly wring from the ruling-class, while simultaneously making the case for why it will be necessary to ditch capitalism once and for all if we are to secure any lasting gains for our class. A socialist revolution is possible, as the centenary of the events in 1917 should remind us, now we just need to organize to make it happen.


[1] For details on the connections between fascists and the new age movement see, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity (2002), p.292. I have written about this in my series of articles that critically scrutinized the reactionary spiritual conspiracies woven by David Icke; see part III “Ruling-Class Aliens” (Swans Commentary, July 28, 2014) for Icke’s use of anti-Semite conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russian Revolution.

[2] To read more about how LaRouche and Engdahl’s conspiracies have been popularized on mainstream TV, see Michael Wolraich’s Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies about the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior into a Raging Homosexual (2010). In recent years Engdahl’s books have been published by the so-called “Progress Press” which excitedly republished LaRouche’s “underground classic” Dope Inc.: Britain’s Opium War against the United States. Furthermore, Engdahl’s 2009 book Gods of Money: Wall Street and the Death of the American Century directly draws up the conspiracies of Antony C. Sutton, refers to the “remarkable work of the 19th and early 20thCentury German writer, Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West” (a book popular in fascist circles), and uncritically cites the “research” of famed fascist anti-Semite Eustace Mullins. At present Engdahl is counted as a regular contributor to the online journal “New Eastern Outlook” which is published by the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Other well-known conspiracy theorists who write for this publication include Tony Cartalucci and Andre Vltchek.

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Michael Barker is the author of Under the Mask of Philanthropy (2017).

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