Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 10, 2016

Jill Stein, the South Front and the lesser evil

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 3:58 pm

For the past month or so, I have seen vitriolic attacks on Jill Stein from people I am close to on the question of Syria. I have already dealt with the question of whether Syria should be a litmus test for the Green Party but want to look at the question from a different angle now, namely how it is that she came to embrace a position that my pro-Syrian revolution friends label as “pro-fascist”. Like the friends of the Hillary Clinton campaign pouring over every Jill Stein speech looking for “anti-science” pandering, there is now a concerted effort by Syrian solidarity activists to discover evidence of this “pro-fascism” in her every utterance. The latest discoveries are that she attended an RT.com conference in Moscow in December, had dinner with Putin when she was there, and that her VP candidate has been writing some truly awful stuff about Syria.

With respect to RT.com, it has published 105 articles in praise of Jill Stein so naturally she might have accepted an invitation to their conference. Since she has given no evidence that she has a mastery of the Syrian struggle and only reflects the left consensus, it is probably unrealistic to think that she would have turned down the invitation.

As for Ajamu Baraka, my guess is that he will be speaking mostly about domestic politics rather than Syria in his various speaking engagements but that can’t be guaranteed. However, it is quite likely that if he says anything about “regime change” and the jihadist threat, he will be preaching to the choir. Is there any reason to think that there will be people in the audience who have somehow learned to think outside the box when it comes to Syria, especially when their understanding of the country is likely drawn from The Nation, ZNet, Salon, CounterPunch, Consortium News, WBAI news, and countless other zines and print publications that have been making the same points as Baraka for the past five years? It baffles me that anybody could think otherwise.

I was reminded of how left opinion is shaped when I stumbled across a website called South Front this morning when trying to find out the latest news about the battle for Aleppo.

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In a nutshell, this is just one more website that is pushing the Kremlin/Baathist agenda. The first thing I did was look up the domain. Unsurprisingly, it is registered in Russia.

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But what is somewhat surprising is how a website based in Russia can put out a product that is so professional looking and whose articles are obviously written by people whose first language is English. And if it is not the case, it written by Russians who have been trained to write exactly like they were.

For most people unfamiliar with the logistics and economics of websites, it might be easy to take South Front for granted but I can tell you that this is an expensive proposition both in financial and human resources terms. The website would likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to maintain, if not more. Meanwhile, pro-Syrian revolution websites are run on a shoestring and count on people like me to supply content. If some rich bastard in the USA had given me that kind of money back in 2011, I could have put together a website that might have not only competed with the Baathist amen corner but crushed it. But what is the likelihood that a hedge fund billionaire would have funded a website that took up the cause of scruffy, bearded, Quran-citing, poverty-stricken rural folk who fight alongside al-Qaeda militias when it suits them? This is not to speak of the American government whose main goal was to keep the rebels on a tight leash so that a neoliberal government sans Assad could be cobbled together in Syria as Michael Karadjis pointed out in an essential article in the New Arab.

I am afraid that those who are so ready to dismiss Jill Stein as “pro-fascist” have delusions that Hillary Clinton would step into the breach and come to the aid of the Syrian rebels. People somehow have forgotten that Clinton is a cynical politician who counts Henry Kissinger as a major source of wisdom on foreign policy. She does not act on principle but on the dictates of the billionaires who run the country who paid her handsomely for her tawdry speaking engagements. She will say and do things for their benefits, not for those of the Syrian people. To get an idea of how “flexible” she is, all you need to do is pay attention to what she said in a February 26, 2012 interview with CBS’s Wyatt Andrews:

WYATT ANDREWS, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the violence continuing in Syria and Assad refusing to allow medicine to reach the injured, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an interview with CBS News argues the United States is doing what it can, but within limits.

CLINTON: I am incredibly sympathetic to the calls that somebody do something, but it is also important to stop and ask what that is and who`s going to do it.

ANDREWS: What to do about Assad was supposed to be answered last Friday when a global conference called “Friends of Syria” again demanded that Assad step aside. But several Arab countries starting with the Saudis argued for action to arm the Syrian resistance. The Obama administration is resisting that.

ANDREWS: The U.S. has repeatedly said that it`s reluctant to support the direct army of the dissidents, why?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, we really don`t know who it is that would be armed.

ANDREWS: Specifically, the administration fears that arms will wind up in the hands of terrorists including al Qaeda.

CLINTON: We know al Qaeda, Zawahiri is supporting the opposition in Syria. Are we supporting al Qaeda in Syria? Hamas is now supporting the opposition, are we supporting Hamas in Syria?

So I think, Wyatt, you know despite the great pleas that we hear from those people who are being ruthlessly assaulted by Assad. If you are a military planner or if you are a secretary of state and you`re trying to figure out do you have the elements of an opposition that is actually viable, we don`t see that.

In contrast to Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein stakes out positions on the basis of principle even if unfortunately the position is based on an incomplete understanding of history and politics. If you spent five years reading Salon, Counterpunch and The Nation and had never heard of Robin Yassin-Kassab or Idrees Ahmad let alone read them, what are the chances that you would have developed an analysis that favored a rebel victory over Assad?

Back in 1965, when I first faced the draft, my thinking on the Vietnam war was foggy at best. I hated Communism, or at least what I had been told about it, but never considered the possibility that the NLF’s cause was just. It took a full year of debate and discussion with an SWP member at the New School in New York to convince me that the USA had violated the Vietnamese right to self-determination and that the NLF were patriots fighting an occupying power.

And then it took another year for him to convince me that socialism was a more rational and just system than capitalism. What if I had not run into him? There was a good chance that my ideas about Vietnam and socialism would have remained as they were, even if my mind would have never been changed on the existential question of staying out of the army. My main goal in life was to read novels, smoke marijuana and listen to jazz. Politics? No thanks.

I really wonder whether most of my pro-Syrian revolution comrades have given much thought to how their thinking evolved about Syria. It is obvious that someone like Robin Yassin-Kassab, who is Syrian, would have come to the right outlook since he knows people from his homeland who were being brutalized by the dictatorship and could read authoritative analyses in the original Arabic.

Speaking for myself, it took a while to wrap my head around this question since I had, like most CounterPunch readers, seen American intervention in the Middle East after 2011 in the same way I saw Iraq in 2003—just another case of meddling that had to be resisted. I should add that I remain anti-intervention but along a different axis, namely opposed to CIA efforts to keep MANPAD’s out of the hands of the rebels.

Accepting the self-evident bankruptcy of the Green Party’s official position on Syria raises the question of its relevancy to the ongoing struggle to create a party of the left in the USA. For some of the British comrades who are outspokenly against Jill Stein, there seems to be little interest in the key question facing the left in the USA, namely how to build a party of the left. If Syria is a litmus test, then we have to wait until the Greens adopt a new position that is unlikely to happen given the ideological balance of forces in the USA, to a large extent one that has the Kremlin’s fingers on the scale. For all of the uproar over a “new McCarthyism” about Trump and Putin, there is plenty of evidence that the Kremlin does use RT.com, South Front, and other outlets to shape American public opinion.

In the long run, the only way to combat these ideas is to build a left that is predicated on the idea of working class internationalism and solidarity with the oppressed. Unfortunately, the left has been afflicted by a tendency to consider the nation-state as an instrument of struggle rather than the working class and its allies. Someone like Jill Stein’s vision of peace and global progress is based on the idea that Russia is a lesser evil to the USA. How ironic that a politician who has so effectively rebutted the idea that we need to choose a lesser evil on election day can turn around and apply in effect the same discredited logic to vote for Vladimir Putin.

August 1, 2016

Is Jill Stein anti-science?

Filed under: Green Party — louisproyect @ 6:33 pm

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In addition to the charge that a vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Donald Trump, the “lesser evil” contingent in various liberal and left outlets maintain that she is “anti-science”.  We of course understand that if her views on mercury in vaccines were in conformity with “science”, this would matter little to the vote-for-Hillary brigades that would go digging up some other dirt on her.

A lot of the “anti-science” stuff has been posted on the Patheos website, one that describes itself as devoted to the subject of religion and that was founded in 2008 by Leo and Cathie Brunnick–two web developers in Denver, Colorado. It is not exactly clear why a website investigating spirituality and the like would become a forum for anti-GP attacks but a search on “GMO” reveals numerous articles there making the case for genetically modified crops, all by self-avowed atheists who are the same people bashing Jill Stein. One has to wonder if the real beef with Stein is less about her views on mercury but on Green Party concerns about GMO’s.

Articles about Jill Stein being “anti-science” have been written by Dan Arel, a leftist who has written for CounterPunch, Michael Stone, a self-described progressive secular humanist, Matthew Facciani, a neuroscience PhD student and activist, and Bo Gardiner, an environmental scientist. Gardiner is probably the most obvious example of the sort of understanding that these people have of science since she is gung-ho not only on GMO but nuclear power. In a July 27 article titled “Dr. Jill Stein Is Anti-Science, Bad for the Environment, and Deserves Her Anti-Vax Label”, Gardiner writes:

Perhaps the most obvious point anti-GMO activists leave out is that banning GMOs would mean the conversion of thousands more square miles of land to agriculture, creating more pesticides, more waterway-killing fertilizers, and more carbon emissions. And, of course, the story of the mass farmer suicides in India due to GMOs has been thoroughly debunked. In other words, Stein is willing to sacrifice biodiversity on the altar of bourgeois, pseudoscientific food purity.

The link for “thoroughly debunked” takes you to a website titled Neurologica: Your Daily Fix of neuroscience, skepticism and critical thinking. I wonder if there is some connection between neuroscience and this sort of “scientific” thinking that more often than not is funded by Monsanto. I do know, however, that the organized Skepticism movement is very much pro-capitalist and pro-GMO as this would indicate. You can find out more about how rancid these skeptics are in my article on Michael Shermer who is one of its leading lights. Although I haven’t done any deep investigation of the matter, my guess is that atheist and skeptic associations have overlapping memberships.

Gardiner’s position on nuclear power is clearly in the same vein:

Then there’s her party’s inflexible stand opposing nuclear power, which almost certainly will have to be part of the solution in accelerating the weaning off of fossil fuels before we do further irreparable planet-wide damage. The climate and oceans can’t afford to wait until better solutions are widely available.

I haven’t seen Gardiner cited by my FB anti-Stein friends (isn’t there a better word for such people you have never met or spoke to on the phone even, like maybe acquaintances, which is really what they are). They tend to post articles by Dan Arel, who has a bit more credibility on the left. Why you can even find an article by Arel on CounterPunch titled “The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party” so naturally one might conclude that he is no ordinary “lesser evil” talking head. He even declaims, “if Sanders stands on the podium at the Democratic National Convention and asks supporters to rally behind Secretary Clinton he will be betraying his revolution but that does not mean the revolution must come to an end.” Whoa, big fellow. Make sure when you write stuff like this you don’t get the FBI breathing down your neck.

For those leftists arguing for the “lesser evil”, Dan Arel is a rather double-edged sword. Despite his fulminations about Jill Stein’s views on mercury and GMO’s, he still supports her. If anything, he is critical of her from the left stating that the Greens have to catch up with his bold call for socialist revolution.

There was a time when such a position on GMOs was more widespread on the left when Frank Furedi’s group in England was publishing Living Marxism and had some credibility in leftist circles. If there is any barometer of leftist opinion on GMO’s, a search for articles in support of the technology on Counterpunch would be a good place to start. There are none.

Although I can’t be sure that Arel has still decided to vote for Stein, his reaction to a Washington Post interview with her suggests someone at a breaking point—sort of like Leon Trotsky trying to decide in the late 1920s whether Stalin had degenerated to the point where a new International would be necessary. The video interview only lasts 2 minutes and 38 seconds and contains these two statements:

I think there’s no question that vaccines have been absolutely critical in ridding us of the scourge of many diseases — smallpox, polio, etc. So vaccines are an invaluable medication,” Stein said. “Like any medication, they also should be — what shall we say? — approved by a regulatory board that people can trust. And I think right now, that is the problem. That people do not trust a Food and Drug Administration, or even the CDC for that matter, where corporate influence and the pharmaceutical industry has a lot of influence.

Monsanto lobbyists help run the day in those agencies and are in charge of approving what food isn’t safe. There is rampant distrust of our institutions of government right now. The trust level for the presidency is somewhere around 15 percent. The strong confidence in Congress is somewhere around 4 percent, and the same is true of our regulatory agencies.

Let’s take up the GMO question first. With all due respect to Stein, I don’t think the question is whether GMO foods are safe or not. It is more about the possibility that they will allow corporations like Monsanto to use their intellectual property rights to bring farmers under their thumb and also lead to the development of superweeds that develop a resistance to Monsanto’s glyphosate in the same way that pests developed a resistance to pesticides. When such a resistance develops, there is a tendency to increase the amount of chemicals that get poured into the air, water and soil in a vicious cycle. This is the real problem, not whether eating a GMO tomato will give you cancer. I searched in vain for any article written by Arel that mentions glyphosate. If you can find one, your researching skills are better than mine and mine are pretty good.

After reading what Stein had to say about vaccines, it would be difficult to maintain that she is an anti-vaxxer so Arel takes a somewhat different tack. He refers once again to the Washington Post interview:

As a medical doctor, there was a time where I looked very closely at those issues, and not all those issues were completely resolved. There were concerns among physicians about what the vaccination schedule meant, the toxic substances like mercury which used to be rampant in vaccines. There were real questions that needed to be addressed. I think some of them at least have been addressed. I don’t know if all of them have been addressed.

For Arel, this is pandering to those parents who believe that there is a connection between autism and the mercury that was used in vaccinations to kill bacteria and fungus. In reality those concerns came from within the establishment itself as the NY Times reported in a November 10, 2002 article titled “The Not-So-Crackpot Autism Theory” that profiled Neal Halsey, the director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins. He was also the chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on infectious diseases between 1995 and 1999 and often quoted in places like the NY Times saying things like: “Many of the allegations against vaccines are based on unproven hypotheses and causal associations with little evidence.”

Reacting to parents’ concerns about mercury, a Congressman from New Jersey directed the FDA in 1997 to take inventory on the amount of mercury (called thimerosal) that was being included in vaccinations. The NY Times reported on Halsey’s reaction to the findings:

The F.D.A. team’s conclusions were frightening. Vaccines added under Halsey’s watch had tripled the dose of mercury that infants got in their first few months of life. As many as 30 million American children may have been exposed to mercury in excess of Environmental Protection Agency guidelines — levels of mercury that, in theory, could have killed enough brain cells to scramble thinking or hex behavior.

”My first reaction was simply disbelief, which was the reaction of almost everybody involved in vaccines,” Halsey says. ”In most vaccine containers, thimerosal is listed as a mercury derivative, a hundredth of a percent. And what I believed, and what everybody else believed, was that it was truly a trace, a biologically insignificant amount. My honest belief is that if the labels had had the mercury content in micrograms, this would have been uncovered years ago. But the fact is, no one did the calculation.”

Making matters worse, the latest science on mercury damage suggested that even small amounts of organic mercury could do harm to the fetal brain. Some of the federal safety guidelines on mercury were relaxed in the 90’s, even as the amount of mercury that children received in vaccines increased. The more Halsey learned about these mercury studies, the more he worried.

”My first concern was that it would harm the credibility of the immunization program,” he says. ”But gradually it came home to me that maybe there was some real risk to the children.” Mercury was turning out to be like lead, which had been studied extensively in the homes of the Baltimore poor during Halsey’s tenure at Hopkins. ”As they got more sophisticated at testing for lead, the safe level marched down and down, and they continued to find subtle neurological impairment,” Halsey says. ”And that’s almost exactly what happened with mercury.”

The only thing I would add to this reporting is to link it to the lead poisoning that has afflicted the people of Flint, Michigan who were victims of the state’s regulatory bodies failure to do their job. Arel should really take heart at Stein’s statement that it is “really important that the American public have confidence in our regulatory boards so that all of our medical treatments and medications actually are approved by people who do not have a vested interest in their promotion.” If anything, that is a sign that she sees the real need to make sure corporations and capitalist politicians don’t put a muzzle on regulatory bodies. One would think that someone in favor of socialist revolution would understand that.

 

July 29, 2016

The demonization of Jill Stein

Filed under: Green Party,third parties,two-party system — louisproyect @ 6:09 pm

After it became clear that the Sanders Political Revolution was history, the pro-Clinton propagandists redirected their fire at Jill Stein. The contrast between Sanders and Stein could hardly be greater but that made little difference to those who not only favored the two-party system but the hegemonic role of ruling class politicians like the Bushes, the Clintons and Barack Obama within it. Even though Sanders never had any intention of making a breach with corporatist Democrats, he was considered a trouble-maker for pointing out the obvious, namely that the system was rigged in favor of Wall Street.

As a standard-bearer of the anti-Sanders propaganda offensive, it was to be expected that the Washington Post would turn its attention to Stein once the relatively toothless Senator from Vermont was out of the way. On July 26th an article titled “As Green Party’s Stein woos Sanders backers, some see unhappy flashbacks to 2000” appeared. Like the last time a relatively successful Green Party campaign for President made an impact on American society, the Democrats worry that Stein might steal votes from Clinton just like Nader supposedly stole votes from Gore:

“I’m sure she’s a great person, but I can’t see how the effort can lead to anything but helping Trump,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.), who had been one of Sanders’s most high-profile supporters but is now urging the party to unify behind Clinton. “Trump is such a clear and present danger to the republic that we’ve got to get behind the candidate who gives us the best chance of defeating Trump.”

To make sure that people got the message, an op-ed piece titled “A vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Donald Trump, and that’s the point” appeared the very next day making the same point. Tom Toles, the Post’s cartoonist, warns: “This is one where there doesn’t need to be any confusion. Voting for Jill Stein (in a competitive state) is voting for Donald Trump to be president. There isn’t any room to quarrel on this.” The repetition of basically the same article in the Post and others referenced below remind me of Adolf Hitler’s observation: “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”

The same basic article appeared on the Huffington Post: “Think Really, Really Hard Before Voting For A Third Party Candidate. Really Not content with just one such article, Huffington ran another a day later: “The Progressive Case Against The Green Party’s Jill Stein”.

At one point Salon.com was relatively fair-minded about Stein’s campaign in keeping with its liberal pretensions but since the demise of Sanders’s Political Revolution, the gloves have come off. Amanda Marcotte, a typical “progressive” hack of the sort that Salon hires, crapped on both the disaffected Sanderistas and Jill Stein in an article titled “Hanging with “The Bernouts” and Jill Stein: The Bernie-or-bust crowd is loud at the DNC — but they’re powerless”:

Like the Cleveland rally, this one was composed mostly of white men who really, really hate Hillary Clinton and aren’t afraid to make wild accusations about the first woman to be a major party nominee for president. Or to carry signs that they probably did not realize communicate subconscious phallic fears of Clinton’s ascension to power.

“White men” and “phallic fears”? Very transparent use of racial and sexual demagogy, isn’t it.  Maybe the problem is that people don’t want to vote for a candidate who represents everything the left hates.

A day later Salon reporter Sean Illing conducted a hostile interview with Stein that included questions in the “When did you stop beating your wife” vein:

In 2000, people implored Ralph Nader to run only in “safe states.” (non-swing states). He refused to do so and we know what happened. The idea was to allow progressives to vote their conscience in greater numbers and send a message to the Democratic Party without empowering the GOP. Voters know the Green Party or the Libertarian Party candidates aren’t going to win. These are protest votes, and more people would cast them if they were confident they weren’t doing Donald Trump or George W. Bush a solid. This matters a great deal to people who detest the two-party system but care deeply about core liberal principles or the balance of the Supreme Court. Why won’t you do what many now wish Nader did?

Slate Magazine, which is much more in tune with Hillary Clinton’s political agenda than Salon, chimed in with “Jill Stein’s Ideas Are Terrible. She Is Not the Savior the Left Is Looking For”. The author is Jordan Weissman who also complained about Sanders’s attack on free trade. Since he believes that “The fact is, most of the world has seen its standard of living improve quite a bit in the era of free trade,” naturally he would have no use for Jill Stein.

One of the more vitriolic attacks on Jill Stein came from a character named Dan Savage who writes for an alternative newspaper in Seattle called The Stranger and produces radio show podcasts at http://www.savagelovecast.com/. In May, after someone called in to express support for Jill Stein, Savage went postal:

Disaster will come. And the people who’ll suffer are not going to be the pasty white Green Party supporters — pasty white Jill Stein and her pasty white supporters. The people who’ll suffer are going to be people of color. People of minority faiths. Queer people. Women.

Don’t do it. Don’t throw your vote away on Jill Stein/vote for, bankshot-style, Donald Trump.

Since Savage is gay, the demagogy about “pasty white” Jill Stein and suffering gay people was to be expected. It is also worth mentioning that he was a big-time backer of George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, saying “Because we’re not just at war with al Qaeda, stupid. We’re at war with a large and growing Islamo-fascist movement that draws its troops and funds from all over the Islamic world. Islamo-fascism is a regional problem, not just an al Qaeda problem or an Afghanistan problem.” So naturally he might be motivated to support Hillary Clinton who voted for the war like him and also like him ultimately admitted that it was a “mistake” to back the war in 2002. You can bet your last dollar that if the war in Iraq had gone smoothly, neither Savage or Clinton would have decided it was a mistake.

This brings me to the matter of Jill Stein’s problematic position on Syria that shares most of the left’s tendency to see it terms of a potential repeat of 2002 as if the USA ever had any intention of “regime change”. In 2013, a year after her last campaign for president, Stein assembled a Shadow Cabinet that included David Swanson as “Secretary of Peace”. In brief, Swanson’s views on Syria are identical to those of most on the left. He has written nothing about the uprising and focuses exclusively on alleged American plans to remove Bashar al-Assad going back to 2006.

He has written: “In 2012, Russia proposed a peace-process that would have included President Bashar al-Assad stepping down, but the U.S. brushed the idea aside without any serious consideration, suffering under the delusion that Assad would be violently overthrown very soon, and preferring a violent solution as more likely to remove the Russian influence and military — and perhaps also due to the general U.S. preference for violence driven by its weapons industry corruption.” In fact no such proposal was ever made as I pointed out in a September 2015 article.

Furthermore, her statements on Syria have not been so much in the Swanson apologetics mode but more in the vein of wishful thinking:

The US and Russia should support diplomacy leading toward a peace settlement in Syria. A peace settlement should include provisions for civil society in Syria that has been working for democracy. The US and Russia should work cooperatively to help resettle refugees feeling the war and the drought.

There is about as much chance of this happening as Hillary Clinton breaking up Wall Street banks.

While I consider Syria to be a kind of litmus test for the left, I tend to apply it a little less forcibly when it comes to someone whose speeches are almost totally about Wall Street criminality, fracking, immigrant rights, single-payer health insurance, and police killings.

Unlike Swanson, I doubt that Stein has ever paid much attention to Syria, something backed up by a search of Nexis. From 01/01/2012 to 07/29/2016 there were 132 articles that turned up in a search on “Jill Stein” and “Green Party” but when you add Syria to the search, nothing comes up.

In fact, the candidacy of Jill Stein and Ralph Nader’s should be understood less as a smorgasbord  of positions than about the possibility of opening up a space on the left that can facilitate coordination and common struggle around burning questions facing American working people. When I attended a sold-out Madison Square Garden rally for Ralph Nader in 2000, I was less interested in what he had to say than I was at the sight of nearly 18,000 warm body in the seats. I said to myself that if only ten percent of these people could become serious activists in a nationally coordinated organization that could fight for clean air and water, jobs for all, civil rights, etc., Nader’s bid would be worth it even if much of what he said was beside the point. If I remember correctly, he went on for ten minutes about how bad Coca-Cola was for youngsters. While I don’t think that he was wrong to attack a drink that apocryphally has been used to clean car batteries, it might have been a better use of those ten minutes to explain why Al Gore was a fake on the question of climate change. I doubt that Nader had any ability to expound upon Marxist economics given his preference for Jeffersonian small businesses, but it would have also been great to hear something about the capitalist system’s contradictions.

After Nader was blamed for Gore losing the election, the Green Party became demonized by the same sorts of people who are demonizing Jill Stein today. In 2004 the pressure exerted by people like Eric Alterman and Todd Gitlin resulted in the nomination of David Cobb, an obscure figure who the “Demogreens” felt would pose no threat to John Kerry. It turns out it was Kerry’s terrible campaign, just like Gore’s in 2000, that led to his defeat.

Jill Stein has the courage of her convictions. In an interview with Paste Magazine, she was emphatic: “The lesser evil thing is false. It’s not going to fix this problem. We’ve been using that strategy since Bush-Nader-Gore and where has it gotten us? The politics of fear has delivered everything we were afraid of. All the reasons you were told you had to vote for the lesser evil is exactly what we’ve gotten: expanding wars, the meltdown of our climate, the prison-industrial complex, more student debt, police violence, the off-shoring of our jobs, Wall Street.”

It is her stiff-necked determination to push forward that will help to build the Green Party. There is an enormous potential for the growth of the left that hasn’t been seen since I was in my 20s. On February 5, 2016 the Washington Post reported that in a poll on socialism versus capitalism, respondents younger than 30 rated socialism more favorably than capitalism (43 percent vs. 32 percent, respectively). Now, of course, these are likely people who understand socialism in terms of Sweden rather than Cuba but if you have the ear of someone who simply has little use for capitalism, you at least are dealing with someone who can be reached politically.

Furthermore, a WSJ/NBC poll revealed that there was a big opening for Third-Party candidates due to the unpopularity of Clinton and Trump. Reporting on the poll, the Washington Post noted:

Those whose views on the race haven’t hardened seem open to choosing Mr. Johnson or Ms. Stein. These “persuadable” voters comprised nearly three in 10 of those surveyed.

Of them, 28% leaned toward Mr. Trump and 25% toward Mrs. Clinton. Some 21% favored Mr. Johnson and 12% went for Ms. Stein.

To me those are jaw-dropping figures. Imagine that, Stein’s favorability was only half that of Hillary Clinton even though the media has been hostile to the Greens as indicated at the start of this article. Actually, that’s probably one of the reasons people are leaning in her direction.

July 29, 2019

Spiked Online, Brexit, and the looming catastrophe

Filed under: Brexit,Spiked — louisproyect @ 6:27 pm

James Heartfield, the erstwhile Marxist, giving a campaign address as a candidate of the racist Brexit Party

I haven’t paid much attention to the people around Frank Furedi ever since they dropped all pretensions to Marxism with the launch of Spiked Online in 2000. When I first ran into one of their members James Heartfield on the Marxism mailing list that preceded Marxmail, I put a lot of energy into answering him on a host of issues, particularly global warming that he denied. Once the cult leader Frank Furedi disavowed Marxism in the early 2000s, others followed behind him like ducklings waddling behind their mother . Like everybody else, Heartfield fell into line on the policy questions, especially on environmentalism, but unlike most others continued to represent himself as a Marxist.

Only four years ago, I wrote a positive review of his radical history of WWII. I never dreamed that just three years later he would run as a candidate of the Brexit Party for a seat in the European parliament. This party founded by Nigel Farage is similar to Viktor Orban’s party in Hungary and the Five Star Party in Italy. Whether it can be classified as fascist might be open to question. That it is a running sewer of nativism and racism is beyond question, however. The goal of this article is to explain how someone like Heartfield could end up dripping in sewage without the slightest self-awareness. In a statement on why he was running as a Brexit Party candidate, Heartfield probably anticipated the kind of criticisms he would hear from people like me:

As an original signatory of The Full Brexit’s founding statement, I want to explain why I am standing in the European elections – and why you should vote – for the Brexit Party. I know that a lot of Full Brexit supporters may be alarmed by a Party that is led by Nigel Farage, and some on the left have said people like me are “useful idiots” for The Brexit Party.

Actually, I don’t think he is being an idiot at all. He is simply following a political logic to its full conclusion.

Except for an occasional piece on their taking money from the Koch brothers or their pro-Zionist turn, there didn’t seem to be much point in writing about them. In the same way I don’t spend much time attacking an openly Zionist or openly libertarian website, I have more important matters to attend to. Today, I will be returning to the Spiked Online beat since an article by blogger Bob from Brockley on this tilt to the far-right has raised eyebrows, including my own. I have no idea who Bob is except that he follows me on Twitter and often retweets anything I write about Syria. My impression is that he is closer to Alliance for Workers Liberty, Marko Attila Hoare and other groups and individuals more open to NATO intervention than me. When I urged a vote for Jill Stein in 2016, FB friends who shared their orientation became so upset with me for supporting what they saw as an Assadist that multiple unfriendings took place, either initiated by them or by me.

Bob from Brockley’s 4,200 word article is titled “The RCP’s long march from anti-imperialist outsiders to the doors of Downing Street” is an eye-opening account of how the people behind Spiked have built links to the British far right. He mentions a couple of key examples. Boris Johnson has appointed his former deputy mayor Munira Mirza to head up his policy unit at 10 Downing Street. Mirza, of Pakistani origins, was a long-time member of the LM/Spiked network who while sharing her boss’s Islamophobia will help him pretend to be for diversity in the same way that George W. Bush exploited the hiring of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.

Besides Mirza, there is Claire Fox, a prominent figure in the LM/Spiked network, who was elected to the European Parliament last year. Fox was director of the Institute of Ideas, a project that helped these people develop ties to powerful corporate figures, including Hill and Knowlton, the PR firm that promoted the accusation that Saddam Hussein’s military had plucked babies from their cribs in a Kuwaiti nursery and left them to die on the cold floor.

Bob from Brockley cites an article in Desmog, a website devoted to “clearing PR pollution”, that really has the goods on the corporate ties that Fox developed. I have to admit that I had not been paying attention to how deep these ties had become and am glad that others have continued to put them under a microscope. Desmog writes:

The group’s modus operandi is well-worn. They create an event, curate it and shape it around a series of edgy-sounding phrases and contemporary themes (usually about “free speech” — or the “right to be offensive”) and then pack the programme with colleagues interspersed with unsuspecting and often credible people.

The group’s long legacy of support for right and far-right causes is mirrored in their collaborations and partnerships. This years ‘Battle of Ideas’ is partnered with groups as diverse as the security company G4S, the Ayn Rand Institute and Genomics England.

The event, which James Delingpole enthusiastically called the “annual festival of free speech”, had pharmaceutical giant Bayer (now merged with Monsanto) and PR agency Pagefield as their primary “Battle Champions”.

This follows a long-running practice of collaboration with big businesses (often pharmaceutical and tech companies) and packing their highly curated events with a dazzling mix of the network’s front organisations.

Alongside Bayer (Monsanto) and Pagefield, you’ll also find the Sir William Perkins School for Girls, the NATS air traffic control body, and All In Britain, and Catholics for Choice.

To understand LM/Spiked’s evolution, it is necessary to look at the Communist Manifesto’s first chapter that is practically a paean to the bourgeoisie:

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

Some of Leon Trotsky’s writing contains the same kind of giddy tribute to technology, industrialization and all the rest, especially in a work like “If America Goes Communist”. To a large degree, Marx’s writings on India have the same sort of breathless references to how the telegraph, railways and steamships will prepare the way for socialism. For Furedi’s followers, capitalism serves as the same kind of totem especially with nuclear power and GMO. Toward the end of their flirtation with Marxism, they became fixated on the concerns that the bourgeoisie had about unsustainable development. If unregulated capitalism undermined the basis for its own profitability, then the government had to step in. For LM that was mutating into libertarianism, this represented a “failure of nerve” of the sort that Ayn Rand fictionalized in “Atlas Shrugged”. In essence, Furedi and company called for the capitalist class to become more “revolutionary”, which meant allowing it to swat away government regulations. That is why the Koch brothers recognized them as kindred spirits and deserving of the hundreds of thousands of dollars they lavished on Spiked Online projects.

While it would be an exercise in futility to resolve some of the deep contradictions in LM/Spiked’s support for Brexit, you have to chuckle at the tightrope they walk over immigrant rights. As everybody understands, Brexit is largely motivated by nativism. Since the EU granted citizens living within its ambit to move freely from country to country, nativists like Nigel Farage sought to close the borders after the fashion of Donald Trump especially the legal immigration sanctioned by the European Union.

On the other hand, the big bourgeoisie does not have the same hatred of foreigners that people like Farage, Boris Johnson and Tommy Robinson do. Speaking for this class, As The Economist pointed out in a June 24, 2016 article titled “Why Brexit is grim news for the world economy” that “Britain’s economy looms large in Europe, where it is a reliable consumer in an otherwise high-saving continent. And any disruption to European growth is particularly unwelcome now.” It was cold feet in the ruling class that probably had more to do with a failure to follow through with a Brexit under PM Theresa May than support for immigrant rights. Corbyn has been waffling on Brexit for the past three years, a function no doubt of Labour’s failure to think outside the box politically. A revolutionary movement in Europe would be trying to form a common market on a socialist basis in keeping with Lenin’s 1915 article “On the Slogan for a United States of Europe”:

A United States of Europe under capitalism is tantamount to an agreement on the partition of colonies. Under capitalism, however, no other basis and no other principle of division are possible except force. A multi-millionaire cannot share the “national income” of a capitalist country with anyone otherwise than “in proportion to the capital invested” (with a bonus thrown in, so that the biggest capital may receive more than its share). Capitalism is private ownership of the means of production, and anarchy in production. To advocate a “just” division of income on such a basis is sheer Proudhonism, stupid philistinism. No division can be effected otherwise than in “proportion to strength”, and strength changes with the course of economic development. Following 1871, the rate of Germany’s accession of strength was three or four times as rapid as that of Britain and France, and of Japan about ten times as rapid as Russia’s. There is and there can be no other way of testing the real might of a capitalist state than by war. War does not contradict the fundamentals of private property—on the contrary, it is a direct and inevitable outcome of those fundamentals. Under capitalism the smooth economic growth of individual enterprises or individual states is impossible. Under capitalism, there are no other means of restoring the periodically disturbed equilibrium than crises in industry and wars in politics.

If Lenin rejected the idea of a capitalist common market, he certainly supported the idea that if some of the more economically powerful countries had socialist revolutions, their economic partnership could become a springboard for socialist transformation globally. Such ideas were kept alive by the Trotskyist movement after WWII. In 1976, Ernest Mandel wrote an article titled “The Common Market – at a snail’s pace” that addressed problems that were never resolved in The Common Market or its offspring, the European Union:

Ever since its creation, it has been clear that the Common Market represented a transitional stage in the development of West European imperialism. Previously, three successive attempts at “European union” under the hegemony of a single imperialist power — Germany during the period 1900-1918; France on the basis of the Treaty of Versailles during the 1920s, and Germany again during the period 1938-1944 — had ended in failure. West European capital then tried to bring this union about no longer on the basis of the military-political domination of a single power, but instead through an alliance of the most important powers.

The objective necessity for this union derives from the growing internationalization of the productive forces, that is, the growing contradiction between the maintenance of the national bourgeois state on the one hand and the degree of development of the productive forces, the productive capacity of the large enterprises, the market for their production, and the objective socialization (technical interdependence) of the life of these enterprises beyond national frontiers on the other hand.

The objective difficulty in overcoming this contradiction within the framework of the capitalist mode of production during its imperialist stage lies in the fact that private property and competition do not permit the essential particular interests of certain groups of capitalists to be sacrificed to the “common interests” of the bourgeois class. As long as the means of production remain the private property of German, French, British, Italian, Belgian, or Dutch bourgeoisies, the “European bourgeoisie” and “European interests” will remain abstractions lacking the slightest real content.

Indeed, the tensions that gave birth to the Brexit Party are being replicated on a world scale today as Donald Trump resorts to the kind of protectionism that existed prior to WWII. In putting a border across the Southwest, he is preventing the free movement of labor in the same way that his tariffs are blocking the free movement of capital.

Capitalism has always been riven by a basic contradiction. It is both a system that binds the bourgeoisie and the working class in a single country under commodity production but that drives a wedge between rival bourgeoisies globally. After WWII, there was a temporary respite from trade wars and outright warfare under American hegemony but like anything else it had a shelf life under a system that is forced to operate under the tyranny of the marketplace.

In the next few years, the temperature will be rising globally because of greenhouse gases and capitalist competition between states like the USA and China. It will take considerable strength of character politically to resist the powerful forces driving us toward Armageddon. The flailing about of LM/Spiked is just one indication of how easy it is to be drawn into abyss. The urgency for a worldwide revolutionary movement is greater than it has been in my lifetime. I hope we can rise to the occasion.

June 28, 2019

Bruce Dixon ¡presente!

Filed under: obituary — louisproyect @ 7:52 pm

We lost a giant today. Bruce A. Dixon died at 2:32 pm with his family in Georgia. I miss his political clarity, his guidance, his candor, his warmth and his humor. Bruce was a legendary organizer. He was old school – organizing person-to-person and always willing to provide assistance. It’s hard to believe you are gone, Bruce. The world is a better place for you having been in it. Rest in Power.

Margaret Flowers on Facebook


From the Green Party page on Bruce

I was born to working class parents, and raised on the south side of Chicago. By 1967 I was involved in the citywide organizing effort among black high school students demanding the first black history courses and opposing the war in Vietnam. In the fall and winter of 1967 we hooked up with young Marine and Army veterans just back from the war. We took them to nine or ten black high schools on the west and south sides of Chicago where we conducted teach-ins at which they recounted stories of rapes, murders and war crimes they either took part in or witnessed but were powerless to stop. They told us we had a political and moral obligation to resist the war and the draft and not allow us to be used in the shameful way they had been used.

In January 1969 I joined the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party, in which I served as part of the education cadre, responsible for conducting the party’s political education classes. I also served as a patient advocate in the party’s free medical center. I left the BPP about August of 1970.

In 1974-75 Bobby Rush, former Illinois Black Panther Party’s Deputy Minister of Defense ran for Democratic ward committeeman in Chicago’s 2nd ward. I took part in the campaign, running 5 precincts, canvassing and training others to canvass for about 60 days prior to the election. This was my first brush with electoral work. Bobby is now of course congressman from the first congressional district of Illinois.

During the mid and late 1970s I took part in a series of ephemeral community organizing efforts in the Cabrini-Green public housing project on Chicago’s near north side around issues affecting public housing residents including public education, police practices, jobs the corrupt practices of the Chicago Housing Authority and more. In 1979-80 I was part of a group that planned and executed a series of highly visible protests over the fact that Chicago residents could not register to vote except weekday business hours downtown in non-presidential election years. I was arrested a few times, but we embarrassed the city into allowing Chicago’s first off-site voter registration drives, and signing up about 60,000 new voters in time for the 1980 Illinois gubernatorial election. From this time until the end of the century I was involved in contesting primary elections every cycle as a volunteer or consultant or staffer or precinct captain or one of the folks who trained precinct captains, always against the Daley Machine.

I was caught in a couple of plant shutdowns in 1978 and 1981, and the second time worked with other rank and file steelworkers to gain control of our union at Chicago’s old Pullman passenger rail car plant and mobilize to prevent the shutdown. We seized the local union but were betrayed by our international, and 3,000 of us were put on the street that year. All through the 1980s I worked on campaigns against the Daley Machine in Chicago, including the 1983 and 87 mayoral campaigns of Harold Washington. In 1984 I worked in the congressional campaign of Danny Davis, who now represents the 7th district of Illinois, and the Jesse Jackson presidential campaign that season, and the 1987 Chicago mayoral campaign. I ran field operations for primary election campaigns in 1988 and 1990 in which we decisively beat the Daley Machine. I also recruited and trained the first Local School Improvement Councils for five Chicago Public Schools in the Cabrini Green neighborhood in the 1988-1991 period. I gained a reputation for running successful voter registration drives and field operations against the Daley Machine.

In 1992 I was tapped to be one of three field organizers responsible for the summer and fall voter registration drive leading up to the general election that year. Our director that year whose chief responsibility was fundraising was a guy fresh out of Harvard law with no political experience, but a quick study and a great fundraiser. We took him around to the people we’d organized in our previous 15 years, our union folks, our people in public public housing, in neighborhood organizations and the like. His name was Barack Obama. We signed up 133,000 new voters in four months and chased them out to the polls. Afterward I took a job in the Elections Department of the Cook County Clerk’s office responsible for registrations and elections in the suburban half of Cook County, where my responsibilities included training deputy registrars and prospective candidates for local office, writing manuals and some other stuff.

I left Chicago at the end of 2000, and moved to Georgia. In 2002 I took a week off to work in the congressional campaign of Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and afterward published a critical assessment of the effort online. The article attracted the attention of Glen Ford and we began collaborating with Margaret Kimberley to produce an online journal called the Black Commentator, and in 2006 we founded Black Agenda Report, a weekly journal of news, commentary and analysis from the black left published each and every week.

In 2009 I joined the Georgia Green Party. To tell the truth the GA Green Party, like the national party had a lot of problems when I joined it, most of which I have learned are reflected in the experience of Greens in other states as well. Assessing, addressing and overcoming them is more than just a notion, it’s been a journey of several years here in GA, but I believe we are in sight of being able to build a party with a mass base here, capable of putting a couple hundred people in a room in Atlanta, and a hundred or more in Macon, Savannah and Augusta within a year, leasing a permanent meeting place in Atlanta and one other location, and launching a successful drive for ballot access in Georgia, with or without aid from the national party or its presidential campaign.

I was also a staff person in the 2016 campaign of Jill Stein, until I had to leave because of illness. I contributed to the ballot access and campaign plans, to Jill’s tour of NC and GA, composed a number of mailings, operated parts of the web site, and more.

At the GP’s 2016 Annual National Meeting, I worked with Howie Hawkins of the NY Green Party to prepare and present what was undoubtedly the best attended workshop of that year’s offerings, on the subject of transforming our party into a dues paying membership organization, the model followed by successful opposition parties almost everywhere in the world except the US.

November 23, 2018

On the ISO’s refusal to endorse Howie Hawkin’s campaign

Filed under: Green Party,Lenin — louisproyect @ 10:09 pm

Howie Hawkins

Recently a series of exchanges between Howie Hawkins and the ISO that were published in the Socialist Worker newspaper reflect a big problem on the left for the past 7 years, namely how to maintain unity in the face of deep divisions over the war in Syria.

The first article in this series appeared on November 17th, titled The Independent Left Must Oppose Islamophobia, delivered an ultimatum to Howie. Unless he would disavow the endorsement of comedian Jimmy Dore publicly, they would withdraw their endorsement of his campaign. They wrote:

A subsequent campaign email described Dore as “one of the most courageous and funniest political voices we have today.” In fact, he is a vocal supporter of the worst variety of Assadist and Islamophobic conspiracy theories on the Syrian conflict.

In fact, that would describe about 90 percent of the left today, including Noam Chomsky, Bhaskar Sunkara, and other well-known figures to one degree or another. Dore, who might be described as a funny version of Max Blumenthal, happens to be a trenchant critic of the Democratic Party. So are the people who write for Black Agenda Report. For that matter, probably 90 percent of the people who have written for CounterPunch since 2011 line up with Jimmy Dore. Many believe that this reflects the editorial outlook of editors Jeff St. Clair and Joshua Frank but in reality it simply indicates the dominance of pro-Assad support of those those who submit articles. What is the possibility that a united revolutionary left can be built in the years to come in a deepening capitalist crisis that is based on a litmus test of something like the Syrian revolution?

What about a litmus test on Cuba? I say this as someone who has grown very sympathetic to the ISO’s drawing a class line on the question of lesser evil politics. Although far more diplomatic than me, they have provided a running commentary on the DSA and Jacobin that has been so inspiring to me that if I were 20 years younger, I might even consider joining. Given my age and my frailty, the only thing I would consider joining today is my wife in bed to watch old episodes of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”.

Yet, even then, the reliance on Sam Farber articles about Cuba would have probably been a show stopper even if I was 20 years younger. Does the ISO believe that a party capable of leading a socialist revolution in the USA will adhere to their line on Cuba? Granted, the group is on record as stating that members can hold different views on Cuba than those of Sam Farber but what good is that if the newspaper never reflects that?

Back in 1980, when I began discussions with Peter Camejo on the kind of left we need in the USA, he emphasized putting historical and international questions on the back burner. Why split over the class nature of the USSR or which leftist faction to support in Angola? If you studied Lenin’s articles you’d understand that Russian questions were key. Can you imagine the Bolsheviks splitting over the exact year when Thermidor started in France over a hundred years earlier?

I always had this in mind when I began writing articles about the kind of non-sectarian movement we need in the USA. Despite my deep commitment to the Syrian revolution, which is now pretty much a dying ember, I never would have broken with those who understood the need to challenge capitalism in the USA, particularly the two parties that prop it up, whatever they thought of Assad. This is why I continued writing for CounterPunch. It is also why I supported Jill Stein in 2016.

On November 20th, Howie responded to the ISO in an article titled A Missed Chance to Support a Real Alternative. Most of his article is a commentary on the sorry state of the DSA and the lesser-evil left that preferred Cynthia Nixon to Howie’s anti-capitalist campaign. When DSA member Dan La Botz put forward a motion to back Howie, abstentions were considered as no votes and so he lost. Howie noted that counting abstentions in this fashion is how Jimmy Hoffa Jr. forced the latest UPS contract down the throat of his union. (Strange to see “Democratic” Socialists behaving like Jimmy Hoffa Jr., or maybe not so strange.) Just when the DSA was shafting Howie, the NYC ISO was acting on their Jimmy Dore ultimatum.

Howie’s take on all this struck me as making perfect sense:

But I had no time for picking a fight with Dore over Syria in the last weeks of the campaign. I think most New Yorkers following my campaign would have asked, “Who the hell is Jimmy Dore?” and “What does Syria have to do with the problems we face in New York?”

I know from experience on the Syria question that making a statement about the reality of the Syrian revolution brings a torrent of responses from the pro-Assad “anti-imperialists,” who will lie and put words into my mouth, such as saying I support U.S. military intervention for regime change in Syria. The responses come from around the world, from “peace” activists in the U.S. to East European acolytes of the Russian fascist Aleksandr Dugin. One has to respond to set the record straight.

Then there would be Jimmy Dore fans asking me why I was picking on him. I didn’t have time for all that. My campaign decided we would pick our own fights and focus on the pressing problems the people of New York face under Cuomo’s rule.

Three days later, Jen Roesch, the ISO organizer in NYC, defended her party’s decision. Her article referred in turn to an article by ISO leader Danny Katch that urged support for Hawkins. Such public debate about Hawkin’s campaign in Socialist Worker along with the earlier one about whether to support Ocasio-Cortez gives you hope that the ISO will continue to dump “democratic centralist” norms overboard, where they belong.

Roesch pointed to factors that might have tipped the scales in the direction of not endorsing Howie even before Dore became an issue. Apparently there were ISO members that had been influenced by pro-DP arguments made by the Eric Blanc wing of the DSA. They may be described as erudite treatises steeped in Marxist scholarship justifying a vote for Ocasio-Cortez, Julia Salazar and other DSA-backed campaigns. With the massive positive publicity for these campaigns, the explosive growth of the DSA, and the failure of the Green Party to have met the expectations placed in it when Ralph Nader got 2,882,955 votes in 2000, you can understand the misgivings Roesch described:

Those arguments included: the campaign wouldn’t build the left; campaigns that can’t actually win are nonstarters in an era of victorious left Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez; and the Green Party has a serious problem of Assadism and Islamophobia. Our rushed discussion and vote resulted in the conflation of these and other arguments, some of which I agree with and some of which I don’t.

It was apparent that many members would not have decided to endorse the campaign if they had the chance again, whether it was because of the original arguments or experiencing the campaign’s interactions with Dore. I still think there were good reasons to support the campaign despite its weaknesses, but clearly this was the full discussion we should have had initially.

Well, at least that refreshing admission was not the sort of thing we ever saw in the Militant back in my days in the SWP. I will say that.

Finally, Roesch draws closer to the concerns I articulated at the start of the article by asking how the ISO can build united fronts and electoral campaigns alongside people with whom they have major disagreements. Actually, it is a much bigger question than that. A united front can involve revolutionary and reformist parties, as Lenin made clear in the 1920s but does the ISO think that a mass revolutionary party will have a newspaper that has the slightest resemblance to Socialist Worker? Even though it is a breath of fresh air to see Danny Katch disagreeing with ISO majority positions in the paper, this is a far cry from the American Iskra that will be necessary to serve as the voice of the vanguard in years to come.

At the risk of sounding outlandish to ISO members so used to the comfort zone of ideological homogeneity, an American Iskra will probably read a lot more like CounterPunch. I should add that I only ended up writing for it in 2012 after Jeff St. Clair invited me to write an answer to CounterPunch attacks on Pussy Riot based on what I had already written on my blog. In many ways, CounterPunch is the continuation of the Guardian newsweekly that stopped publishing in 1992. After it evolved away from Maoism, it regularly opened its pages to debates on the left. Come to think of it, that is what Lenin thought that Iskra should be when he wrote “What is to be Done” between 1901 and 1902.

Lenin only saw Iskra as a pole of attraction for socialists operating in different cities across Russia who worked in isolation from each other. It was not a “line” newspaper in any sense of the word. On October 19th, during the CounterPunch fund drive, Jeff St. Clair described the role it played on the left. Substitute “party line” for “company line” and it will make even more sense:

Unlike many political sites, CounterPunch doesn’t a have company line. The online edition of CounterPunch has always been a venue where different voices, on what can loosely be described as the “left,” can freely engage in fierce debates about politics, economics, war, movies, racism, music and political movements. We’ve tried to make CounterPunch free from dogma and cant, but to keep it open for writers with fresh points of view and vivid writing styles. The experience can perplex readers who are used to grazing in the usual media feedlots of processed prose and artificially-colored opinions.

Compare this to how Lenin ended the final chapter of “What is to be Done”, titled The “Plan” For an All-Russia Political Newspaper, and you will get an idea of the kind of approach that is needed today:

Every outbreak, every demonstration, would be weighed and, discussed in its every aspect in all parts of Russia and would thus stimulate a desire to keep up with, and even surpass, the others (we socialists do not by any means flatly reject all emulation or all “competition”!) and consciously prepare that which at first, as it were, sprang up spontaneously, a desire to take advantage of the favourable conditions in a given district or at a given moment for modifying the plan of attack, etc. At the same time, this revival of local work would obviate that desperate, “convulsive” exertion of all efforts and risking of all forces which every single demonstration or the publication of every single issue of a local newspaper now frequently entails.

I have always warned about mechanically following the example of Lenin’s party but there is something about this citation that convinces me that the true spirit of Lenin’s party has yet to be understood fully to this day. As grievous as the collapse of the USSR was, it at least had the value of undermining the institutional foundations of “Leninist” parties whether Stalinist or Trotskyist. Now is the time, more than ever, to build new foundations for the monumental class battles of the future.

September 14, 2018

Indefensible: Democracy, Counterrevolution, and the Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism

Filed under: Counterpunch,mechanical anti-imperialism — louisproyect @ 3:11 pm

COUNTERPUNCH, SEPTEMBER 14, 2018

Rohini Hensman’s recently published Indefensible: Democracy, Counterrevolution, and the Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism is an important contribution to the debate that has divided the left since 2011, the year that Syria became a litmus test. For some, support for Bashar al-Assad became tantamount to backing Franco in the Spanish Civil War while others saw my perspective as lending support to the USA, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other reactionary states carrying out the same neoconservative foreign policy that turned Iraq into a failed state.

On practically all other questions, ranging from defending immigrant rights to opposing fracking, the left was fairly unified. The Green Party candidacy of Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka epitomized the contradictions roiling the left. Except for her appearance at an RT conference and his article hailing Assad’s electoral victory in 2014, there was little question that their campaign was a real alternative to both Trump and Clinton.

Continue reading

August 14, 2018

Samir Amin, dependency theory, and the multipolar world

Filed under: colonialism,imperialism/globalization,socialism — louisproyect @ 5:39 pm

As might have been expected, there has been a flurry of vitriolic attacks on Samir Amin from Facebook friends who share my views on Syria and Ukraine. Amin, who died on August 12th at the age of 86, is well-known as a dependency theorist and advocate of a multipolar world. Since I am both a dependency theorist after a fashion and a critic of multipolarity, at least as it is understood by most of the left, this forces me to come to terms with Amin’s legacy—a task I would not shirk from since tough questions such as this help me deepen my understanding of Marxism.

To start with, I have never read Samir Amin except for articles and interviews that have show up on Monthly Review over the years. That being said, I am fairly well-informed on dependency theory having read some of the classics long before I was on the net, even going back to my days in the SWP when I was always looking for solid, well-written analysis outside the sect’s orbit such as Eduardo Galeano’s “Open Veins of Latin America”, Pierre Jalee’s “The Pillage of the Third World”, and Walter Rodney’s “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”.

Probably because I was much closer to Latin America as an amateur Marxist scholar and semi-professional activist, I naturally gravitated toward Andre Gunder Frank who had the same kind of relationship to Latin America that Amin had to Africa.

Out of curiosity, I took a quick look at Amin’s “Unequal Development” and was struck by how much his 1976 book made the same points I have been making over the years, albeit crudely.

For example, he refers to petty-commodity production in North America as an intermediate stage between feudalism and capitalism, a point I made in a recent critique of Charles Post. Furthermore, his reference to the role of the New World in facilitating the transition to capitalism is one I have made repeatedly over the years. Not surprisingly, Marx himself made the same points in the chapter on the genesis of the industrial capitalist in V. 1 of Capital:

After a period of pure and simple plundering of Amerindian treasures, intensive mining enterprises were inaugurated, and had recourse to a tremendous squandering of human resources, as a condition for the profitability of their activity. At the same time a slaveowning mode of production was introduced in order to facilitate production of sugar, indigo, etc., in the Americas. The entire economy of the Americas was to revolve around these areas of development for the benefit of the center. The raising of livestock, for example, served the purpose of providing food for the mining areas and those where the slave-run plantations were located. The “triangular trade” that began with the seeking of slaves in Africa fulfilled this essential function: the accumulation  of money-capital in the ports of Europe as the result of selling products of the periphery to members of the ruling classes, who were then stimulated to transform themselves from feudalists into agrarian capitalists.

I also happened to borrow his 1989 MR book “Eurocentrism” from the Columbia Library since my interest in these questions were piqued by Jim Blaut back in 1997 or so after he showed up on the Marxism list that preceded Marxmail to announce the publication of his “Colonizer’s Model of the World”, a book that was clearly influenced by Amin. From a quick browse of “Eurocentrism”, this is a book that I will find time to read before long since it is filled with stunning observations such as this:

Marxism did indeed advance a new explanation of the genesis of capitalism, which appealed neither to race nor to Christianity but based itself on the concepts of mode of production, base and superstructure, forces of production, and relationships of production. In contrast to bourgeois eclecticism, Marxism gives a central place to the question of universal social dynamics and at the same time  proposes a total method that links the different elements of social reality (the material base and the political and ideological). However, this double property of Marxist theory, while it gives Marxism its power, also constitutes a threat to its development. With the help of natural laziness, the temptation to find definitive answers to everything in it is great. Critique and enrichment of the theory give way to dogmatics and the analysis of texts. Limited by the knowledge available at his time, Marx developed a series of propositions that could suggest either the generality or the specificity of the succession from Graeco-Roman slavery to feudalism to capitalism. What was known in the middle of the nineteenth century about non-European peoples? Not much. And for this reason, Marx was careful about making hasty generalizations. As is well known, he declares that the slavery-feudalism-capitalism succession is peculiar to Europe. And he leaves his manuscripts dealing with the “Asiatic mode of production” in an unsystematic state, showing them to be incomplete reflections. Despite these precautions, Marxism succumbed to the temptation to extrapolate from the European example in order to fashion a universal model.

Therefore, despite Marx’s precautions, Marxism yielded to the influences of the dominant culture and remained in the bosom of Eurocentrism. For a Eurocentric interpretation of Marxism, destroying its universalist scope, is not only a possibility: It exists, and is perhaps even the dominant interpretation. This Eurocentric version of Marxism is notably expressed in the famous thesis of the “Asiatic mode of production” and “the two roads”: the European road, open and leading to capitalism, and the Asian road, which is blocked. It also has a related, inverted expression. In claiming the universality of the succession primitive communism–slavery–feudalism–capitalism–socialism (Stalin’s theory of the five stages), the European model is applied to the entire planet, forcing everyone into an “iron corset,” condemned, and rightly so, by its adversaries.

This is the kind of Marxism I live by. It reflects Marx’s letters to Zasulich, even though they are not mentioned. It rejects the kind of mechanical stagism that was adopted by Plekhanov and the Mensheviks that led them to oppose the seizure of power in 1917. It obviously reflects the lingering influence of the Cuban, Chinese and Vietnamese revolutions that with all their flaws demonstrated that we were still living in the epoch of world revolution.

Within two year or so after “Eurocentrism” was published, the USSR ceased to exist. Arguably, without the USSR, Cuba, China and Vietnam would have remained neocolonies. Indeed, the collapse of the USSR was so precipitous that China and Vietnam have returned to capitalist property relations and Cuba’s future is clouded at best.

It was this reality that led Amin and others to support the idea of multipolarity even if it was improbable that Putin or Mao Zedong’s successors would ever be one-tenth as reliable as the USSR in terms of material, military and diplomatic aid.

Taking a position against NATO encroachments on post-Soviet Russia was obviously the right stand to take as was support for financial institutions outside of the IMF/World Bank system. Among the books by Samir Amin that can be read online is “Beyond US Hegemony: Assessing the Prospects for a Multipolar World” that was published in 2006. Despite kneejerk tendencies to reduce Amin to a shameless propagandist, he refers to China as follows: “The real project of the Chinese ruling class is capitalist in nature, so that ‘market socialism’ becomes a shortcut enabling it gradually to establish the fundamental structures and institutions of capitalism, by reducing as much as possible the frictions and difficulties of the transition to capitalism.” Putin’s Russia is even worse in his eyes:

‘Open’ Russia is not only an ‘exporter of raw materials’ (oil first and foremost), it is liable to become no more than that. Its industrial and agricultural production systems no longer benefit from the attention of the authorities and are of interest to neither the national private sector nor foreign capital. There has been no investment worthy of the name to make their progress possible and they only survive at the expense of the continued deterioration of their infrastructure. The capacity for technological renewal and the high-quality education that underpinned it in the Soviet system is being systematically destroyed.

Who is responsible for these massive declines? First, of course, the new ruling class, which for the most part originated from the former Soviet ruling class, made fabulously rich, no doubt, through the privatization/ pillage from which it has benefited. The concentration of this new class has, moreover, reached uncommon proportions, to the extent that the term ‘oligarchy’ suits them perfectly. The similarity with the oligarchies of Latin America is certainly striking.

Published in 2006, the book obviously had little to say about the Middle East. After 2011, Amin began speaking out on the region as was understandable. He grew up in Egypt and had written many articles and some books focusing on development issues there. Among the points he stressed was the need to develop an alternative to political Islam, especially the Muslim Brotherhood.

For those who have been involved in Syria solidarity, there is a tendency to condemn anybody who does not conform to what they see as the rules for membership. So, when I wrote about my intention to vote for Jill Stein, blogger Clay Claiborne began to lump me with white racists and Max Blumenthal.

Naturally, Samir Amin got the same treatment even though he wrote this about Bashar al-Assad:

The Syrian situation is extremely complex.  The Ba’ath regime, which enjoyed legitimacy for a long time, is no longer what it was at all: it has become more and more autocratic, increasingly a police state, and, at the same time, in substance, it has made a gigantic concession to economic liberalism.  I don’t believe that this regime can transform itself into a democratic regime.

In the same interview, he also said, “Moreover, compared with Egypt and Tunisia, the weakness in Syria is that protest movements are very much a mixed bag.  Many — though I don’t want to generalize — don’t even have any political program other than protest, making no link between the regime’s political dictatorship and its liberal economic policy choices.” Despite Amin’s failure to look more deeply into the protest movement in Syria, this is a far cry from what people like John Pilger or Seymour Hersh were writing.

And even if he began to veer more in their direction, I doubt that this justifies the kind of vilification that has been directed at him. Once some people reach their seventies and eighties, there is a tendency to rely on ideas that they have lived by for decades. This accounts for any flaws in Amin’s writings that will live on for the ages just as Marx and Engels’s writings do. In all the articles I have been reading about Amin in the past two days, this one make the case for his importance convincingly:

Perhaps Amin’s central thesis is somewhat obvious, but it’s often forgotten – that a true revolution must be based on those who are being dispossessed and impoverished. But he goes further in undermining the assumption that any thinking emerging from the South will lack enlightenment, or that a lack of enlightenment should be excused.

He believes the Enlightenment was humanity’s first step towards democracy, liberating us from the idea that God created our activity. He has caused controversy in his utter rejection of political Islam. This ideology, embedded for example in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, obscures the real nature of society, including by playing into the idea that the world consists of different cultural groups which conflict with each other, an idea which helps the centre control the peripheries.

Amin’s view is that organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood, with their cultural and economic conservatism, are actually viewed positively by the US and other imperialist governments. And he doesn’t limit his critique to Islam either, launching similar criticism on political Hinduism practiced by the BJP in India and Political Buddhism, expressed through the Dalai Lama.

Samir Amin decribes himself as a ‘creative Marxist’ – “to begin from Marx but not to end with him or with Lenin or Mao” – which incorporates all manner of critical ways of thinking even ones “which were wrongly considered to be ‘alien’ by the dogmas of the historical Marxism of the past.”

These views are surely more relevant today than when Amin started writing. A creative Marxism takes proper account of the perspective and aspirations of the truly dispossessed in the world, break out of historical dogmas and rejects attempts to stick together a broken model, but equally sees the impossibility of overthrowing this model tomorrow.

June 4, 2018

Left Forum 2018

Filed under: Left Forum — louisproyect @ 9:01 pm

Ever since 2005, I have kept a journal for the yearly Left Forum except for 2007 (can’t remember why it was skipped) and 2016 when I decided not to shell out good money for a conference that was riddled with workshops on 9/11 and why we have to support Assad. (You can read my complaints here: https://louisproyect.org/2016/05/06/left-forum-2016-the-truth-is-out-there/. As it happens, I returned to the Left Forum last year because they banned 911 workshops and because putting up with Assadist bullshit was worth it especially when there was still a lot of good stuff going on (https://louisproyect.org/2017/06/06/left-forum-2017/).

It is easy to bad-mouth the Left Forum because unless you are far less contentious than the average leftist, especially me, you will find much of it objectionable. That’s bound to happen because the Left Forum is really nothing more than a snapshot of the left, with warts and all. Maybe there will be 100 percent contentment about the program on the eve of the American revolution, notwithstanding the complaints from the Spartacist League who pass out strident calls for revolution on the doorsteps of Left Forum host John Jay College of Criminal Justice each year. Oh, did I mention that this school geared to training people to be detectives has the most radical economics department in the city, thanks to professor emeritus Michael Meeropol?

Saturday sessions:

As a rule of thumb, I try to attend workshops that promise to increase my knowledge. So that means staying away from anything titled “A Winning Strategy for the Left” or “Time to Shut Down the CIA”. With that in mind, I went to a 10am session on Saturday titled “The Far Right in Government: Hungary, Poland, and Turkey”, featuring leftist academics speaking very knowledgably about their countries. I came in midway during the Hungary talk but took in the other two in their entirety. (You can get a short version of the talk at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNVc23sj5hA) Both speakers emphasized the near-hegemonic grip that the Law and Justice Party in Poland and the Justice and Development Party in Turkey (AKP) have on society. In Poland, the ruling party emerged out of Solidarity and thus has a program much more generous to the working class than previous neoliberal regimes, even as it ratchets up the hatred and bans on immigrants. (I referred to this tendency in my review of a new film on Katyn: https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/06/01/the-secrets-of-katyn/.) In Turkey, Erdogan has basically taken advantage of the exhaustion of the Kemalist project, drawing upon support from the country’s Islamist-minded majority. By using a combination of repression and social welfare similar to that being delivered in Poland, the AKP has few obstacles in his path, especially after the bloody purge of the Gulenists. Probably the only stumbling block will be the economic crisis that is taking shape with the Turkish lira in free fall. If Rosa Luxemburg Siftung, the organizer of the event, puts a link to the video recording of the event, I’ll post a notification.

Next on the agenda was “The Fight to Stay—Eviction Defense as a Right”, a 12pm workshop that featured lawyers and activists reporting on a victory for tenants—the right to a lawyer when you are served an eviction notice. This discussion was of great interest to me since I have been blogging about the Real Estate and Housing Crisis in New York. I recommend that you check the website of the people who organized the event: http://www.righttocounselnyc.org, especially a brief video providing background on their victory. I should add that our “progressive” mayor opposed the right to a lawyer at first but succumbed to pressure once he decided to run for a second term.

After lunch with my friend Tony DiMaggio, a regular contributor to CounterPunch, I joined him at a 4pm workshop on “First As Farce Then As Tragedy: It’s Time to Fire the Apprentice”, where he would be a discussant. I couldn’t tell from the title what the hell this was about but was anxious to hear what Tony had to say.

The panel was organized by Critical Sociology, a journal that was originally called The Insurgent Sociologist when it was founded in 1969 as a voice of the New Left on campus. Like me, the three speakers were all 60s radicals, including Lauren Langman who I remember from the days when he was the moderator of the now defunct Progressive Sociologists Network mailing list.

So, the goal of the three sociology professors was to try to explain why people voted for Trump. Langman, a professor emeritus, and Pace University professor Roger Salerno placed heavy emphasis on psychoanalytic theory with copious references to Freud. Ultimately, it boils down to understanding Trump as the projection of deep pathologies in white society that remind me of what Joel Kovel wrote in “White Racism: a psychohistory”. You can get an idea of Langman’s approach in his article “Psychoanalysis and American Sociology” (http://futureswewant.net/lauren-langman-psychoanalysis/). For both Langman and Salerno, explanations based on “economic” factors are of less interest than those based on psychic maladjustments. Naturally, I found all this unconvincing even though their presentations were lively.

David Smith, a U. of Kansas professor, made a useful point. If you look at extensive polling done with Trump and Clinton voters, you’ll discover that their views on economics, health care, etc. are almost identical. But when it comes to three issues: immigrants, minorities and feminism, the Trump voters depart from the consensus. You can read Smith’s explanation of this in a Critical Sociologist article that is fortunately not behind a paywall: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0896920517740615

During the Q&A, I cracked a joke about the Trotsky t-shirt that Langman was wearing and reminded the panelists that fascism was victorious because the social democracy tried to preserve capitalist property relations when they were driving the middle-class and much of the working-class nuts. I am no psychologist but that diagnosis seems sound especially when the DSA and much of the left hopes to recreate the governments that existed in the Weimar Republic and during Leon Blum’s troubled regime. I was pleasantly surprised that Smith was pretty familiar with Trotsky’s writings on fascism that I alluded to. Who knows? Maybe he was an ex-SWPer like me. There are thousands of us, the largest group on the left in fact.

While I am far apart from Langman on how to view Trump, he did seem to grasp the nature of the period we are in through his reference to a Gramsci quote that speaks very much to Roseanne Barr, Scott Pruitt and every other horror we are living through now: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” (Prison Notebooks)

Sunday sessions:

Getting to John Jay a bit too late to make the 10am session, I started off the day at a standing room only workshop organized by Paul Street. Along with Bruce Dixon and Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report, and Chris Hedges, they all spoke on “Imagining an Authentic 21st Century U.S. Left”. While this is generally the sort of topic I tend to avoid since it might lend itself to empty rhetoric, I decided to go since I was curious to hear what some well-known leftists have to say on our “interregnum”. I understand that the talks will be online soon so I will be brief.

Paul made the case for taking a hard line against all forms of capitalist oppression, whether it is the hard cop Trump or the soft cop Pelosi dishing it out. Glen Ford spoke about the need to nationalize the banks, something he describes as feasible since everybody, including lots of rich people, hate them. Hedges called attention to Google adjusting its algorithms since it has cost traffic for leftist websites, including Truthdig, where his articles appear on a regular basis. I can understand why he (and WSWS) are upset about this but in my view, the bigger threat is outright bans of the sort that take place in Russia or Egypt. In a period of deepening radicalization, people will tell other people about Truthdig even if Google adjusts its algorithms to exclude it from search results totally. I doubt that in a prerevolutionary situation that’s the kind of website that will be attracting much attention anyhow.

This brings me to Bruce Dixon’s talk that was about as perceptive as any I have heard in years. He laid down some principles that the left should unite around that make eminent good sense to me, starting with the need for independence from the two capitalist parties. He acknowledged that the Green Party keeps screwing up but when you are trying to build something new, it is not an easy task especially when there is no blueprint. He urged the need for teaching people how to organize in the same way that the CP taught people in the 1930s. Even if William Z. Foster had some messed up ideas about strategy, he knew how to organize people as should be clear from his handbook for CIO organizers. Compare that to the Green Party that allows any 6 or so people to form a state chapter even though they may have no idea how to build the party.

But the most powerful part of his talk had to do with his observations about divisions on the left, referring to the whole ritual of unfriending people on FB when you agree with 90 percent of what they believe. Unless we learn to unite people on the basis of that 90 percent of agreement, we can not build a strong movement. That’s what I tried to explain to my pro-Syrian revolution FB friends when I stated my intentions to vote for Jill Stein—with mixed results, I have to admit.

Finally, at 4pm there was a panel discussion with veterans of the Free Jazz movement of the 60s and 70s that included people like Archie Shepp, Pharaoh Sanders and Joe McPhee, one of the panelists. There was a slide show by Basir Mchawi about the East Cultural Center in Brooklyn from that time, which combined experimental jazz with poetry readings, dances and other cultural/political gatherings relevant to the black nationalist movement of the time. For me, this was the high point of the weekend since the “new thing” jazz of the 60s and 70s was close to my heart. As I told the speakers, when entered Bard as a 16-year old in 1961, I was disaffected from the materialism and conformity of American society but could not figure out how to challenge it. In my freshman year, I heard Pharaoh Sanders in performance with other members of the Paul Bley band that blew my mind as they put it. That same semester I heard LeRoi Jones (as he was known at the time) read from his “The System of Dante’s Hell” that was an angry attack on racism of the sort I had never heard before. The combination of Sanders’s saxophone and Jones’s reading persuaded me that black nationalism was a flame that could help illuminate the path leading away from what Allen Ginsberg called Moloch.

 

March 15, 2018

The multipolar spin: how fascists operationalize left-wing resentment

Filed under: Red-Brown alliance,Syria — louisproyect @ 10:53 pm

​During his recent tour of Europe, disgraced former Trump strategist Steve Bannon declared “Italy is in the lead.”

Amid the historic resurgence of the Italian far right that returned right-wing populist Silvio Berlusconi to prominence, Bannon fantasized about “the ultimate dream” of unifying the anti-establishment Five Star Movement with the far-right League (formerly the Northern League) through a populist movement. Bannon’s international vision of nationalist populist movements is locked into the Kremlin’s geopolitical ideology of a “multipolar world.”

The League is tied through a cooperation pact to Putin’s Russia, and its deputy in charge of relations with foreign parties, Claudio D’Amico, explicitly called for a “multipolar world” in Katehon, a think tank created by fascist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin. Following the ideological line Dugin put forward in his text, Foundations of Geopolitics, Katehon calls for uniting a “Eurasian” bloc in constant struggle against “Atlanticist” countries. For Dugin, the “21st century gamble” is to create a “multipolar” confederation of “Traditionalist” regional empires united under Russian sovereignty that will overthrow the “unipolar” empire of “postmodern” democracies.

Shortly after Putin’s election in 2000, the Kremlin released a set of foreign policy guidelines calling for a “multipolar world order” against the “strengthening tendency towards the formation of a unipolar world under financial and military domination by the United States.” Escalating with the Ukrainian Orange Revolution in 2004, the Kremlin’s production of soft-power networks throughout Europe and the United States involves- think tanksloansforumspropaganda outlets and cooperation agreements with far-right parties like the Austrian Freedom Party and the League. From Russia to Iran to Western Europe and the U.S., this international movement uses conspiracy theories and “gray material” to warp the political spectrum into a populist referendum along “geopolitical” terms set by fascist engagées.

Red and brown polarities

As a recent major report on syncretic networks exposed, the modern fascist movement’s obsession with geopolitics emerged in force amid the post-Cold War antiglobalization movement. In 2002, a front group formed out of the U.S.-based Workers’ World Party known as the International Action Center joined forces with the Assisi-based “Campo Antimperialista.” As Duginists infiltrated the Campo, opening a journal called Eurasia that garnered the influential involvement of Campo participant Costanza Preve, the International Action Center continued their cooperation.

Soon, a similar Russian group called the Anti-Globalist Resistance began to repost the Campo’s dispatches. Sharing support for Milosevic with the Campo and the International Action Center, the Anti-Globalist Resistance emerged simultaneously with the same tendency to fight globalization by linking far-right to hard-left. In 2008, they brought the Campo to Moscow for the third “All-Russia Anti-Globalist Forum,” introduced by long-time U.S. fascist Lyndon LaRouche. The next year’s conference included Duginist leaders like Leonid Savin and retired General Leonid Ivashov, along with LaRouche and Holocaust denier Israel Shamir.

As their work continued, the Campo and Anti-Globalist Resistance drew more anti-globalization activists into their syncretic orbit. In 2012, a group came together at a Campo Antimperialista event in Assisi and developed what would become the Syria Solidarity Movement. The movement’s steering committee came to include top figures from groups from the U.S. hard left, including the Workers World Party, its affiliate, ANSWER and a spinoff of the latter group called the Party of Socialism and Liberation.

After changing their name to the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, the group drew people from the Syria Solidarity Movement’s network to a conference called the “Right of Peoples to Self-Determination and Building a Multipolar World” in 2014. A delegate from the International Action Center attended, along with delegates from another Workers World Party front group called United Anti-War Coalition, including an editor with the Black Agenda Reportnamed Margaret Kimberly. Among the conference’s other attendees were Michael Hill of the neo-Confederate League of the South and the Texas Nationalist Movement, as well as the far-right Republika of Srpska and National Bolshevik Italian Communitarian Party.

The following year, the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia met with a purported Cherokee Nation elder named “Mashu White Feather” and a representative of the Uhuru Movement, also connected to the Black Agenda Report. They then organized a state-funded conference that drew members of the fascist Italian group Millenium, Mutti’s associate Antonio Grego, and a leading member of the far-right Rodina party, as well as representatives of separatist groups like the Texas Nationalist Movement and the Catalan Solidarity for Independence party. The now-notorious troll factory, the Internet Research Agency, would later invite the Texas Nationalist Movement to join an armed, Islamophobic protest launched by the fake “Heart of Texas,” while also inciting counter-protestors.


This network map shows the flow of movement building from parties to front groups to participation in and creation of syncretic coalitions.

The Syria connection

The Syria Solidarity Movement lists on its steering committee a host of syncretic figures like DuginistNavid Nasr and an Australian representative of the fascist-modeled Syrian Social Nationalist Party affiliateMussalaha. Before a report revealed her associations with Global ResearchRon Paul and the right-wing British Constitution Party, conspiracy theorist Vanessa Beeley held a position on the steering committee as well.

As an editor at the alt-right-associated conspiracy theory site, 21stCenturyWire, Beeley’s repeated conspiracy articles attempting to link the White Helmets to al Qaeda and George Soros earned her a visit with Assad in Damascus and senior Russian officials in Moscow; however, they have been thoroughly debunked. A defender of right-wing Hungarian president Viktor Orban, Beeley promotesantisemites like Gilad Atzmon and Dieudonné, even speaking at a conference hosted by the latter in partnership with notorious Holocaust denier Laurent Louis. Regardless, the Syrian Solidarity Movement and the associated Hands Off Syria Coalition recommend Beeley’s work.

Along with members of the Syria Solidarity Movement, delegates who attended the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia’s “Multipolar World” conference sit on the Hands off Syria Coalition’s steering committee. Showing its commitments and affinities, in January 2016, the Hands Off Syria Coalition published a “Multipolar World Against War” statement signed by the leader of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, Alexander Ionov.

Similarly, the Hands Off Syria Coalition website publicizes self-described Marxist, Tim Anderson, who has an interesting record of attending far-right conferences. In 2015, Anderson attended the far-right Brandherd Syrien Congress, and the next year he was at Defend Our Heritage’s Leura Forum, chaired by a leader of far-right party Alternative for Germany. Following that, Anderson’s pet project, Center of Counter Hegemonic Studies, convened a conference that brought in Paul Antonopoulos, an editor for the Duginist website Fort Russ.

The Hands Off Syria Coalition advertises Anderson’s book, The Dirty War on Syria, which is published by syncretic conspiracist site Global Research. Multiple “Research Associates” of Global Research sit on the “scientific committee” of the Campo-linked Duginist journal Geopolitica, and the site lists as its “partner media group” the Voltaire Network. Publishing LaRouchite and Duginist articles, the Voltaire Network boasts the Syrian Social Nationalist Party’s Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs as its Vice President. One of the Voltaire Network’s leading contributors is Mikhail Leontyev, an associate of Dugin who has moved from prominent media personality to the role of spokesman for Russian state oil company, Rosneft. The Syria Solidarity Movement publishes Voltaire Network articles by founder Thierry Meyssan, a contributor to Campo-linked journal Eurasia who associates with Holocaust deniers and open fascists, among others.

Hands Off Syria Coalition steering committee member Issa Chaer joined Meyssan on a panel at the Second New Horizons conference in Iran in 2012. Conference speakers that year included World Workers Party member Caleb Maupin, Alt Right journalist Tim Pool, Holocaust denier Kevin Barrett, and Duginists like Voltaire Network associate Mateusz Piskorski, German editor Manuel Ochsenreiter, Leonid Savin, and Claudio Mutti the leading fascist infiltrator of the Campo Antimperialista. The banner image for last year’s New Horizon features Aleksandr Dugin.

Multipolar propaganda

According to the metrics search engine BuzzSumo, most of the leading articles with the terms “multipolar world” and “multi-polar world” in the title come from an interconnected network of sites, including Global Research, The Duran and Sign of the Times. With an estimated six million unique daily views per month, the biggest and most influential in this network is the Russian state-run media site Sputnik News.

Billing itself as pointing “the way to a multipolar world that respects every country’s national interests, culture, history and traditions,” Sputnik frequently publishes PiskorskiOchsenreiter, Mutti’s fellow Campo infiltrator Tiberio Graziani, commentator Andrew Korybkoand Fort Russ editor Joaquin Flores. Furthermore, Sputnik has joined RT in consistently using dubious sources affiliated with theSyria Solidarity Network to attack the White Helmets and throw doubt on the Assad regime’s war crimes, for instance its use of chemical weapons.

A syncretic hub on Sputnik, anti-imperialist John Wight’s podcast, “Hard Facts,” promotes the same figures associated with the pro-Assad network in the West, including Beeley, Anderson, and Nasr. Perhaps most interestingly, Wight also hosted trans-national far-right figure, Edward Lozansky during the 2016 election and again early the next year.

With more than 30 years of involvement in the U.S. and Russian far right, Lozansky is perhaps most known as the creator of the American University in Moscow. Boasting a number of Fellows involved in pro-Kremlin media outlets like The Duran, RT and Russia Insider, the American University in Moscow appears to be an ideological center in the concerted social media campaign associated with the Internet Research Agency to boost anti-Clinton, pro-Kremlin propaganda in the U.S. Lozansky also hosts conferences with known fascist ideologues and an annual “Russia Forum” featuring far-right politicians and left-wing media operators from Russia and the U.S.

During both of his pro-Putin, pro-Trump interviews with Lozansky on “Hard Facts,” Wight advocated “a multipolar alternative to the unipolar world,” insisting, “we’re talking about a struggle for a multipolar world to replace the unipolarity that has wreaked so much havoc since the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.”

The most important anti-imperialist hub on Sputnik, however, is hosted by Brian Becker, whose fellow party member and brother sits on the steering committee for the Syria Solidarity Movement. The leader of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Becker regularly hosts Fellows of the American University in Moscow on his Sputnik podcast, “Loud & Clear.”

“Loud & Clear”‘s Lozansky-affiliated guests include far-right PR man Jim Jatras, Mark Sleboda of the Dugin-founded Center for Conservative Studies, the Ron Paul Institute’s Daniel McAdams and Alexander Mercouris of the syncretic conspiracist site, The Duran. The program also provides a platform to a variety of explicitly far-right guests, including Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, antisemite Alberto Garcia Watson, alt-right figure Cassandra Fairbanks and militia movement leader Larry Pratt.

Aside from marginal guests, Loud & Clear can bring on some heavy hitters. During his two appearances on “Loud & Clear” in late 2017, bestselling author Max Blumenthal called the red-brown radio show “the finest public affairs programming” and declared, “I am increasingly turning to RT America for sanity.” No stranger to Sputnik, Blumenthal also went on “Hard Facts” that August, claiming that notorious ISIS militant Mohammed Emwazi was ushered into the Syria conflict by the CIA via a “rat line” from Saudi Arabia.


This Venn diagram suggests that certain syncretic groups exist as containers for the intersection of right and left wing groups, ideologies.

Highway to the Grayzone

Around the same time he went on “Loud & Clear,” Blumenthal appeared on Tucker Carlson‘s FOX News show to defend RT — his second time on the far-right show that year. Blumenthal’s RT appearances have been praised by white nationalists like Frazier Glenn Miller, Jr., who murdered three people outside of a Jewish Community Center in 2014, so his courting of the right on FOX drew considerable backlash.

Two months later, Blumenthal offered up a staunch defense of “Russia’s position in the world” to author Robert Wright in an interview on bloggingheads. Admitting that Putin’s Russia remains far from left-wing, Blumenthal justified support for the country’s authoritarian conservative government as “part of the multipolar world.”

“If you believe in a multipolar world,” Blumenthal told Wright, “you believe in détente, you believe in diplomacy.” He specifically mentioned Becker’s Party for Socialism and Liberation and groups like it, arguing that they “tend to get all the major issues right regardless of their ideology or agenda.”

Blumenthal was not as clear of a spokesperson for Kremlin geopolitics before he appeared at the same RT gala as disgraced former National Security advisor Michael Flynn and the Green Party’s Jill Stein in December 2015. During that occasion, he joined a panel called “Infowar: Will there be a winner” alongside Alt Right anti-Semite Charles Bausman of Russia Insider. A month later, Blumenthal’s pro-Kremlin position crystalized with the founding of the Grayzone Project.

Grayzone is a collaborative project also featuring journalist Benjamin Norton, who cosigned the Hands Off Syria Coalition’s points of unity statement along with Beeley and others. After going on “Loud & Clear” with Duginist Mark Sleboda and Infowars regularRay McGovern, Norton plugged the Party for Socialism and Liberation on a podcast episode titled “Hands off Syria.” With other Grayzone contributors, Norton has been criticized for downplaying war crimesand helping publicize false theories about rebels contaminatingDamascus’s water supply.

When reached for comment by email, Norton retorted, “I know your goal is to outlandishly smear anyone who opposes US imperialism and is to the left of the Clintons as a ‘crypto-fascist,’ while NATO supports actual fascists whom you care little about.”

Grayzone is perhaps best known for Blumenthal’s controversial two-part article attacking the White Helmets, which brought accusations of plagiarism from Beeley. Grayzone contributor Rania Khalek had, Beeley insisted, “pumped me for information on the [White Helmets] and then Max wrote the article.”

While Blumenthal may have repeated some of Beeley’s theories, Beeley cannot be seen as a credible source. Regardless, Khalek has since used a questionable interview sourced from Beeley as evidence that the White Helmets “were deeply embedded in al Qaeda.”

Grayzone recently announced their move from independent news site AlterNet to The Real News Network, a left-wing site with a penchant for 9/11 truther inquiries. Neither Blumenthal nor Khalek responded to efforts to reach them for comment.

Right uses left

Through its amplification of an interlinked, multi-centered network organized around institutions like Lozansky’s American University in Moscow and the Voltaire Network and conferences like Moscow’s “Multi-Polar World” and Tehran’s “New Horizons,” syncretic networks associated with Dugin’s Eurasianist ideology have combined distortions and ambiguities into a geopolitical narrative meant to confuse audiences and promote authoritarian populist opposition to liberalism.

The “gray measures” used to deny the Kremlin’s influence operations may seem dubious when delivered through channels like Sputnik that are, themselves, political technologies of far-right political influence. When cycled through “narrative laundering” of secondary and tertiary networks enhanced by trolls and coordinated influence operations, however, propaganda is “graywashed” of its dubious sources and presented as cutting-edge journalism.

As shown with Figure 3, think tanks like Katehon and connected Russian Institute for Strategic Studies develop strategies for media spin and online promotion through influence groups and botnets. These think tanks engage in feedback loops with Russian state media channels and linked syncretic news sites, amplified through social media with the help of botnets, and eventually reaching more legitimate sources often freed of their dubious sourcing. The results are explored by a recent study from Data and Society called Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online: “Online communities are increasingly turning to conspiracy-driven news sources, whose sensationalist claims are then covered by the mainstream media, which exposes more of the public to these ideas, and so on.”


A conceptual model made in Vensim intended to present the workings of “Graywashing.”

The problem with multipolarism, aside from assuming polarity as a useful prescription, may be that it supports not the emergence of Russia as a world power but the rise of the Kremlin’s authoritarian conservative political ideology. In this, multipolarists tend to support other authoritarian regimes and movements from Iran to Syria to Italy. Although anti-imperialists may believe that these measures land them on the right side of history, taking stock of the fascist movement suggests that the strategy of opposing a liberal order through red-brown populist collaboration makes the left a willing accomplice.

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