Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 7, 2018

The alt-right and antifa: way past their shelf-life

Filed under: anarchism,anti-fascism,Fascism — louisproyect @ 7:53 pm

Richard Spencer (l) with his lawyer and fellow fascist Kyle Bristow (r), who has retired from politics

Despite the meltdown of Newsweek, there is still some decent reporting going on. In a piece dated March 5th, Michael Edison Hayden poses the question “Is the Alt-Right Dying?” and provides ample evidence to the affirmative. Needless to say, this will have consequences for the adventurist-prone elements of the anarchist movement that takes its cue from Mark Bray’s “Anti-Fascist Handbook” rather than the Marxist classics. Among Hayden’s findings:

–Kyle Bristow, an attorney and key ally to Richard Spencer was dropping out of politics a day before he was slated to host a white nationalist conference in Detroit, Michigan.

–Richard Spencer was only able to attract an audience of 30 to 40 people at a talk he gave at Michigan State on March 5th. As expected, the antifa people came there spoiling for a fight and got one. Perhaps the arrest of 24 antifa activists, 12 on weapons felony charges that carries a five year prison term, might persuade others of a similar inclination that another approach is needed when seen in cost-benefit terms. After all, Spencer got media coverage that a talk to a tiny audience ignored by the left would have never generated.

–After Spencer aligned with the Traditionalist Workers Party led by Matthew Heimbach, the Daily Stormer began to deride the alliance since it saw Heimbach as “good-natured but socially awkward fat kid” whose “communist” rhetoric would turn people off from the fascist cause. Heimbach is consciously modeling himself on Gregor Strasser, not likely the sort of thing that will draw the average bigot into his ranks. As for Spencer, it seems that he is a huge fan of Chapo Trap House.

Remember when an appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley provoked the kind of fighting that some viewed as a precursor of a virtual civil war of the kind seen in Weimar Germany in the late 20s? His appearance on the Bill Maher show convinced some that we had to get ready for some kick-ass street-fighting (at least if you were under 25 and had an excess of testosterone.)

Now, Yiannopoulos is yesterday’s news. To a large extent, the cancellation of a big book contract by Simon and Schuster had something to do with that. Unlike Bill Maher, Yiannopoulos’s editor was not particularly taken by him as his feedback to the half-wit would indicate:

Comment [A3]: Avoid parenthetical insults—they just diminish your authority. Throughout the book you’re [sic] best points seem to be lost in a sea of self-aggrandizement and scattershot thinking.

Comment [A185]: This is definitely not the place for more of your narcissism.

Comment [A293]: …You can’t just toss out poorly thought out theories about “going back into the closet,” as you might in a college lecture.

Comment [A407]: Tiresome and off the point.

Comment [A418]: The whole chapter is a problem in tone. Your usual style NEGATES any value your information might have.

Comment [A424]: Ego and self-aggrandizement backfire in book.

(For other editorial comments, read here.)

Perhaps the biggest factor in the marginalization of both the alt-right and antifa is how clearly the focus has shifted toward the “normal” functioning of the state rather than any fascist movement that by its very definition aims at the overthrow of the state. One can understand why the Krupps would have funded Adolf Hitler in 1925 but why in the world would the Kochs fund Richard Spencer when Trump and company are doing such a great job at smashing what’s left of the welfare state? Keep in mind that Hitler was needed to destroy the Weimar Republic, which despite all its flaws was far to the left of the DSA’s most utopian dreams of socialism.

Another thing to keep in mind is that anybody with their head screwed on right recognizes that the embryo of mass resistance to Trumpism was on display in West Virginia this week when schoolteachers inspired by the legacy of militant coal miner resistance to the bosses went out on strike and won a 5 percent pay raise that is almost unheard of in today’s austere economic environment. I worked 21 years at Columbia University and never got more than a 2 percent raise.

It is funny to see how the anarchists reacted to the strike. On the It’s Going Down website, you can read an article about the strike by an IWW member who after writing several thousand words about how important it was decides to distinguish his revolutionary purity from the ordinary resistance of ordinary people:

Though, this may not be my idealized idea of struggle, I recognize that this is a working-class struggle, unique in its moment while also deeply rooted in the militant class struggle that West Virginia is famous for. I encourage us to explore the use of churches and other cultural structures that make up the fabric of sometimes rural and sometimes geographically isolated communities that many workers come from as avenues for revolutionary networking.

Maybe this person should realize that his or her “idealized idea of struggle” (idealized idea? Talk about redundancy) should be laid to rest. Struggles grow organically out of the lived experience of the people who take part in them, not by reading Bakunin.

Finally, the teachers strike might drive home the reality that armed groups like Redneck Revolt have passed their shelf life. The real struggle in West Virginia is not having shoot-outs with a practically non-existent neo-Nazi movement but trying to figure out ways to build the mass movement. That takes brains, not trigger fingers.

January 15, 2018

Donald Trump, fascism, and steel industry realities

Filed under: Fascism,Trump — louisproyect @ 5:41 pm

The old boss adopted fascist tactics in the Little Steel Strike. The new boss is from one of those “shit countries”.

Six days from now will mark the first year of Trump’s presidency. Given that we have had a year to evaluate his regime, there have been few attempts to grapple with its character. Since many Marxists have viewed Donald Trump as imposing neo-fascism on the USA, there have to be questions about how he has failed to impose any kind of serious repressive measures on the country. When I was first starting out as a radical in the 1960s, I was targeted as part of the Cointelpro program in an effort to either get me fired from my first programming job or perhaps so spooked that I would resign from the SWP. Can you imagine what would happen if the FBI pulled this kind of crap today? Of course, they don’t have time for that given the job they have investigating Trump’s Russian ties.

When I was a new member in 1968, one of the big questions I had to deal with was Nazism. Coming from a Jewish family that raised money for Israel through Hadassah, I was fairly close to the holocaust chronologically and psychologically. In my little village in upstate NY, it was not uncommon to see men and women come into my father’s fruit store with tattoos on the arm from their time in concentration camps. We used to call them the “refugees”.

Part of becoming a Marxist involved rejecting Zionism. But additionally, it involved trying to understand how and why Hitler came to power. Among the books that helped me to clarify my thinking was Daniel Guerin’s “Fascism and Big Business”, a Pathfinder book that can be read on Libcom apparently in defiance of the cult’s white-shoe attorneys. At the core of Guerin’s analysis was the argument that Nazism was backed by heavy industry against the class interests of the Fertigindustrie (finished goods industry), particularly the electrical goods and chemical industries. He writes:

After the war the antagonism was particularly violent between the two groups-Stinnes and Thyssen, magnates of heavy industry, versus Rathenau, president of the powerful AEG (the General Electric Association). The Fertigindustrie rose up against the overlordship of heavy industry, which forced it to pay cartel prices for the raw materials it needed. Rathenau publicly denounced the dictatorship of the great metal and mining industries: just as medieval nobles had scoffed at the German Emperor and divided Germany into Grand Duchies, the magnates of heavy industry were dividing Germany into economic duchies “where they think only of coal, iron, and steel, and neglect, or rather absorb, the other industries.”

During the 2016 primaries and throughout the first year of Trump’s presidency, I have read countless articles about how much of a “fascist” he is but virtually nothing along the lines of Guerin’s analysis. It would seem that ruling class opposition to Trump is mostly of an ideological character rather than anything so material as the forces at work in Weimar Germany. Has there been any serious investigation of what Silicon Valley, big pharma, the financial sector, real estate, the defense industries, et al hope to gain from Trump’s policies other than deregulation and tax cuts? The richest man in the USA owns a newspaper that has been eviscerating Trump for the past two years at least. Does Jeff Bezos have anything in common with the Thyssens?

Missing from the analysis today is the fundamental difference between the USA of 2018 and the Weimar Republic, namely the role of heavy industry. In the 20s and 30s, heavy industry was the lynchpin of capitalist economies and within this sector steel was particularly critical. Thyssen steel needed fascism to subdue the working class because the very survival of his firm was dictated by the law of value as Guerin explained:

The chiefs of steel and mining enterprises are noted for their authoritarian attitude, their “tough boss” psychology. Their will to power is explained by the vast scope of their enterprises and the dominant role they play in the economy and in the state. But the explanation must also be sought in what Marx calls “the organic composition” of the capital invested in their enterprises: the ratio of “fixed capital” (invested in plant, raw materials, etc.) to variable capital (i.e., wages)  Big business finances fascism is much higher in heavy than in light industry. The result is that the limits within which production is profitable are especially narrow in heavy industry. Whenever the steelmasters are unable to run their works at a sufficiently high percentage of capacity, the “fixed charges” (interest, depreciation) on their plants are distributed over an insufficiently large quantity of products, and profits are impaired. When a strike breaks out, the least stoppage of production means losses mounting into the millions. If the economic crisis sharpens they are unable to cut their fixed costs, and can only reduce their wage bill; brutal wage cuts are for them an imperious necessity.

In the 1930s, American steel companies were very much in the same mold as evident from their violent attacks on the attempts to organize workers during the Little Steel strike. In an article in the July 2012 edition of Labor History titled “Chicago and the Little Steel strike”, Michael Dennis described the fascist-like conditions in Weirton, Ohio—a big steel-producing city:

According to journalist Benjamin Stolberg, the steeltown of Weirton, Ohio constituted ‘a little fascist principality’ untouched by federal law, a company town ‘patrolled by notorious killers who keep the plants in a state of terror’. Eugene Grace, the president of Bethlehem Steel, was a ‘black reactionary’. He was a perfect complement to Republic Steel president Tom Girdler, since he ‘combine[d] the big industrialist and the congenital small-time vigilante’. In the isolated, predominantly immigrant, working-class communities of the steel district, Grace and his counterparts exercised nearly implacable authority. Invoking the imagery of the Spanish Civil War, Stolberg described Grace as ‘the General Franco of Little Steel, busily engaged in whipping up big industry to support a national vigilante movement’. As for Republic Steel’s notoriously anti-union Tom Girdler, he was ‘an open fascist, to whom Roosevelt, Miss Perkins, John Lewis are “Communists”’.

So what ever happened to Republic Steel? It is now owned by Grupo Simec, based in Guadalajara, Mexico. It still maintains plants in the USA but with a total work force of only 2,000 workers.

The steel industry ain’t what it used to be. China is now the top steel producer in the world, followed by Japan and India. Of the top ten steel companies in the world, only one American company–U.S. Steel–makes the grade and it comes in number 8 and employs only half the number of workers as India’s Tata Steel, ranked number 7.

Furthermore, we have been a major importer of steel and steel mill products since the 1960s according to Wikipedia. It states: “In 2014, the US exported 11 million tons of steel products, and imported 39 million tons. Net imports were 17 percent of consumption. As of 2012, the largest sources of net steel imports to the US were, in descending order, the European Union, Brazil, South Korea, Japan, and Russia.”

One of the signs that Trump would adopt a nationalistic trade policy based on protectionism was the appointment of Wilbur Ross to Secretary of Commerce. Ross would seem to be a perfect fit for Trump’s “America First” outlook since he is credited with saving thousands of jobs in the Rust Belt, particularly in steel. His approach is to buy distressed companies and make them profitable again, saving jobs in the process. Part of his strategy is to lobby for tariffs that would protect companies like LTV (Ling-Temco-Vought) that he bought at fire sale prices in 2002 and that had carried out a merger with Republic Steel in 1984.

Leo Gerard, the USW president, was pleased with the appointment: “With Wilbur it’s been almost 15 years now, and those mills are [still] running and some of them are the most productive in North America.”

Somehow it escaped Gerard’s attention that after taking over LTV, Ross fired half the workers. His “rescue” was the same kind as Trump’s of Carrier, which also sustained a heavy loss of jobs to stay in the USA. Since Ross bought LTV in bankruptcy court, he was able to shed $7.5 billion in pension funds to the government.

The story of LTV and Wilbur Ross is a microcosm of the American class struggle—or the lack thereof. You have labor bureaucrats like Leo Gerard making common cause with a scumbag like Ross in the same way that UAW president Dennis Williams has gone along with deals that led to a two-tiered pay system and reduced benefits so as to “save jobs”. If there was a labor movement instead of what we have now, both Obama and Trump would have been put on the defensive.

The problem, of course, is that the bosses can exercise leverage on the workers by threatening to pick up and move to another country. The threat of runaway shops is what helped Trump get elected even if his solution a la Ross is to make an offer that workers can’t refuse.

Global competition puts pressures on workers everywhere to accept less. This is what “globalization” has accomplished. It cheapens the price of labor and commodities simultaneously. Indian steel mills supply commodities at a price far below those of their competitors in more advanced capitalist countries. Ross cashed in on globalization in 2005 himself: He sold his steel company to an Indian company Lakshmi Mittal for $4.5 billion in 2005, making 12 ½ times on his initial investment.

What is happening now is a race to the bottom. Trump is incapable of reversing this trend since it is not susceptible to policy solutions. It is tantamount to King Canute commanding the tide to stop. We are in the throes of capitalism’s decay. I think Trotsky was misguided in the way he went about building a Fourth International but each time I return to his writings, I remained impressed by his ability to size up the political conditions of his epoch in a work like the Transitional Program.

The Thyssens and the Krupps backed Hitler because in the 1920s the steel industry was constrained by national boundaries. They competed with the USA and Great Britain, who faced the same constraints. Today’s world is much different. The danger we face is not a fascist strong state that puts both the bosses and the workers into a straight-jacket but the utter freedom of neoliberalism that allows the steel, auto, and chemical industries, et al to pick up and move overseas as well as the freedom of the Washington Post to excoriate Donald Trump for being a racist. But as long as Jeff Bezos can sell Chinese manufactured goods in the USA, why would he go so far as to rock the underlying economic boat that contains both the Koch Brothers and the liberal-leaning bourgeoisie, the modern-day equivalent of the Fertigindustrie. That is the world we are living in now and we’d better get used to it, as long as we don’t lose sight of the need to transform that world.

December 13, 2017

In the Fade

Filed under: Fascism,Film — louisproyect @ 7:44 pm

Last Sunday I took part in the yearly awards meeting of NY Film Critics Online. The winners are here. I was generally okay with the choices except for “Mudbound” and “Lady Bird” that I considered overrated. But then again, I consider capitalism overrated.

When it came time to vote for best foreign language film, I had to ask a colleague what “In the Fade” was about, the hands down winner. He told me it was about a German woman named Katja seeking justice after a bomb kills her Kurdish husband and their young son. Oh, that one. I had completely forgotten about it. That’s what happens when you get to be my age.

At first, the cops conduct an investigation assuming that the man was killed for political reasons but change gears after it becomes clear that he was no activist despite his Kurdish origins. Next they surmise that it might have been a hit carried out by the Turkish, Kurdish or Albanian mafia since he had once spent four years in prison for a drug trafficking conviction. Katja tells them that he would not jeopardize their lives by dealing drugs. She added that she suspected it was Nazis who set off the bomb on the doorstep of the street level tax processing office he worked out of in a neighborhood that was home to many immigrants.

It turns out that she was right.

I am glad that my NYFCO colleagues chose this film otherwise I probably never would have bothered to watch the DVD that I received from Magnolia, the film distribution company behind it. I have seen nearly every film made by the Turkish director Fatih Akin who grew up in Germany. Except for “The Edge of Heaven”, I had rated them all as “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes but was put off by the mediocre 55% “fresh” rating there for “In the Fade”. As a rule of thumb, I generally find any film with those kinds of numbers not worth bothering with, even if directed by someone for whom I generally have a high regard.

While I still might have picked “Happy End” and “Other Side of Hope” over it, it is top-notch Fatih Akin and it doesn’t get much better than that. Akin is a politically committed filmmaker who often gets bad reviews because he defies conventional tastes. For example, his “The Cut” also received a mediocre rating (58%) on Rotten Tomatoes but I saw it anyhow since it was about the Armenian genocide. Needless to say, when a Turkish filmmaker makes such a film, he deserves our support. Not only was it a much-needed plea for justice for the victims, it was also a well-made film as I pointed out at the time.

I will have some comments on the negative reviews of “In the Fade” made by some leftist critics after making my own case for the film that should be available as VOD before long.

Most of the film is set in a courtroom where the lawyer defending the accused neo-Nazi husband and wife team is as disgusting as them. Since there is a mountain of evidence linking them to the bombing, his defense revolves around making Katja look bad. In her testimony, she identifies the wife who left a bicycle carrying explosives in front of her husband’s office. This links her to her husband whose garage was filled with bomb-making material.

Early on, even before the bombing, we learn that Katja liked to get high. There is nothing genteel about her. Her body is covered with tattoos and she likes to dress in all-black punk rock attire. It was natural for her to hook up her Kurdish husband since he sold drugs on her college campus. Despite their rebellious appearance, both had lived staid middle-class lives for many years even if that includes recreational drugs.

The lawyer defending the neo-Nazis successfully wins an acquittal by making the case that she was too high on the day of her husband’s death to really be able to recollect the appearance of the woman who planted the bomb. Devastated by the decision, Katja then begins to explore ways that she could make them pay for their crime even though that entails becoming a killer herself.

Katja is played by Diane Kruger and would have earned my nomination for best actress of the year if I had seen the film in advance of the NYFCO meeting. Torn apart by both grief and rage, her character requires her to convey those emotions without melodrama. Kruger delivers such a performance in spades.

Fatih Akin decided to write the screenplay for “In the Fade” after seeing a similar miscarriage of justice in Germany. In 2000, die Dönermorde–the kebab murders—began taking place in immigrant neighborhoods just like the one depicted in “In the Fade”. The Guardian reported:

In the beginning, they were known as die Dönermorde – the kebab murders. The victims had little in common, apart from immigrant backgrounds and the modest businesses they ran. The first to die was Enver Şimşek, a 38-year-old Turkish-German man who ran a flower-import company in the southern German town of Nuremberg. On 9 September 2000, he was shot inside his van by two gunmen, and died in hospital two days later.

The following June, in the same city, 49-year-old Abdurrahim Özüdoğru was killed by two bullets while helping out after hours in a tailor’s shop. Two weeks later, in Hamburg, 500km north, Süleyman Taşköprü, 31, was shot three times and died in his greengrocer’s shop. Two months later, in August 2001, greengrocer Habil Kılıç, 38, was shot twice in his shop in the Munich suburbs.

The victims were Turks living in Germany just like Fatih Akin and the killers were members of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) that the cops failed to pursue. Instead, just as was the case in Akin’s film, they tried to persuade Enver Şimşek’s widow that the Turkish mafia was responsible.

The assassinations continued in seven different German cities for six years and the cops were unable (or refused to entertain the possibility) that they were connected. Like the southern cops during the days of Jim Crow (and, sadly, even now), there were well-grounded suspicions that the German cops were looking the other way when the racist attacks were taking place. A member of the German intelligence service was at the scene when one of the murders took place and others involved in the investigation were German KKK members.

In 2007, as investigators began to suspect ties between the cops and the NSU, the police department shredded files pertaining to the recruitment of fascists as snitches. Were they covering up evidence that such recruits were actually being used as death squads? After Der Spiegel learned that the officials ordering the shredding were in the BfV (the German counterpart of the FBI), it wrote:

For intelligence officials, investigations into the files have become increasingly embarrassing. The documents make clear just how chaotic the situation related to purging and exchanging files had become. This has resulted, for example, in discrepancies between the list of files that BfV officials sent to Saxony and the list of those that have now turned up there.

These new reports might very well lead the parliamentarians on the investigative committee to wonder whether additional files with possible relevance to the NSU trio have also been destroyed. One list itemizing the deleted files indicates that a comparatively large number of dossiers related to right-wing extremism were destroyed after the terror cell had resurfaced. The itemization says that there were seven cases of document destruction in November 2011, 12 for December and seven more in early 2012.

Given the rise of the neo-Nazi AfD in Germany, Akin’s film is not just ancient history. It is a warning that new threats to immigrants can be posed by shadowy ties between the state and those determined to reinstate the Third Reich.

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see how so many Rotten Tomatoes critics failed to appreciate “In the Fade” when it clearly lived up to the honor given to it by NYFCO members. I was stunned to see that two of them were leftists like me, or at least claimed to be.

Dennis Schwartz complained, “What is not mentioned is that the greater threat to the population is from Islamist extremists and not neo-Nazis.” Huh? Maybe if Schwartz were a Muslim in Germany, where AfD is on the rise, he’d have a different outlook. Out of curiosity, I checked Schwartz’s background and to my astonishment discovered this: “The critic who influenced him the most was Walter Benjamin, not a film critic but one of the truly great literary critics of the 20th century. The lesson to be learned from him and other serious critics is that all true art is subversive and unsettling.” Maybe Schwartz wasn’t aware that Benjamin killed himself rather than being returned to Nazi-controlled France in 1940? Talk about the betrayal of the semi-intellectuals.

Then we have Richard Porton who complained about Akin being “heavy-handed”. His “ultra-schematic plot foregrounds evil neo-Nazis with a yen for terrorism”. Porton a NYU film studies professor who wrote “Film and the Anarchist Imagination” for Verso and articles for leftie publications like Cineaste and In These Times. Since Porton has also written that “Battle of Algiers” is one of the 10 greatest films ever made, I wonder why he didn’t complain about it featuring evil French officers torturing Algerian captives. On second thought, who cares? The one thing that “In the Fade” cannot be accused of is heavy-handedness. Despite the temptation presented by the neo-Nazi characters and the failure of the criminal justice system in Germany, this is a film mostly about the emotional turmoil of a widow. I didn’t have to be lectured about the evils of fascism but I did get a lot out of the dramatic recreation of what one of the widows of NSU’s victims had to endure. That’s why Akin chose the words of the song “In the Fade” by Queens of the Stone Age for the title of his film rather than those of Martin Niemoller of “First they came for the Jews” fame.

Cracks in the ceiling, crooked pictures in the hall
Countin’ and breathin’, I’m leaving here tomorrow
They don’t know I never do you any good
Laughin’ is easy, I would if I could

Ain’t gonna worry
Just live till you die, want to drown
With nowhere to fall into the arms of someone
There’s nothing to save I know
You live till you die


October 27, 2017

The Political Economy of Fascism

Filed under: Counterpunch,Fascism — louisproyect @ 12:33 pm

Considered Keynesianism as a “useful introduction to fascist economics.”


For all of the millions of words written about the fascist danger posed by Donald Trump, there are very few devoted to an actual analysis of fascist economics both as ideology and state policy. Instead there is a fixation on marchers in Charlottesville chanting “blood and soil” or other Nazi era memes. Before considering whether people like Donald Trump or Steve Mnuchin seek to impose a fascist dictatorship on the USA, it might be useful to take a look at some of the demands found in the Manifesto of the Fascist party founded by Benito Mussolini in 1919 that was co-written by labor syndicalist Alceste De Ambris and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the author of the 1909 Futurist Manifesto that had a powerful impact on Russian art in the 1920s.

+ The quick enactment of a law of the state that sanctions an eight-hour workday for all workers

+ A minimum wage

+ The participation of workers’ representatives in the functions of industry commissions

+ To show the same confidence in the labor unions (that prove to be technically and morally worthy) as is given to industry executives or public servants

+ A strong progressive tax on capital (envisaging a “partial expropriation” of concentrated wealth)

+ The seizure of all the possessions of the religious congregations and the abolition of all the bishoprics, which constitute an enormous liability on the Nation and on the privileges of the poor

Unlike Donald Trump, whose populism was mostly campaign bluster and a rightwing version of the hokum Barack Obama used in 2007 to get votes, Mussolini’s dictatorship could hardly be confused with the neoliberalism that has been hegemonic since the early 1970s under Republicans and Democrats alike.

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October 25, 2017

Reactions to recent anti-fascist analysis

Filed under: Fascism — louisproyect @ 6:24 pm

An Austrian not into Austrian economics

(1) Alternet: an interview with Mark Bray:

Ilana Novick: How you would define Antifa?

Mark Bray: Antifa is, of course, short for anti-fascism. But it really is a shorthand for a specific tendency that in English is usually referred to as militant anti-fascism. Militant anti-fascism is essentially a pan-radical-left politic of direct action against the far right.

IN: Is it more of a tactic or a guiding principle, rather than a specific movement that someone can join?

MB: Think about it like socialism. Is socialism something that someone can join? No, it’s a politic. But are there socialist groups you can join? Yeah. Same with Antifa. Antifa is either an activity or a mode of politics, depending on exactly what kind of phrasing you prefer. In that sense, anyone can make their own Antifa group. There is no Antifa central command, but there are Antifa groups with membership that you could join. Or you could make your own group.

In that way, it’s no one group, but there are groups.


A highly disingenuous comparison. Antifa groups by their very nature are clandestine. They punch photographers because pictures might be used to “dox” them. They never identify themselves by name on places like It’s Going Down for the same reason. This means that you really can’t have a productive relationship with them because secrecy trumps accountability. They decide in advance within their own hermetically sealed circles what tactics they are going to carry out and then impose them on others. United fronts are impossible with them because they operate in secrecy. Within the broad left, you will never see a single antifa activist defend their positions publically in places like ZNet or CounterPunch because they have little interest in dialog. They never organize public forums where they defend their ideas at the Left Forum or elsewhere. Except for people like David Graeber and Mark Bray, there is not a single public prominent spokesperson for the antifa defending their ideas. This kind of elitist, self-anointed, combat-oriented leftism is singularly disruptive and easily exploitable by the cops. This is exactly how the Weathermen operated as soon as they adopted the position that they were out to deliver America from fascism in 1972. If the USA ever reaches the point when it is necessary to conduct an armed struggle, this sort of behavior might be acceptable but in the meantime, it is just childish acting out that undermines the kind of united mass actions grounded in democratic decision-making that is so necessary.

(2) Salvage: Charles Post, “Fascism and Anti-Fascism: reflections on recent debates on the US Left“:

In this article, Post refers to me critically:

While we must mobilize as many people as possible so that we outnumber the fascists, mass mobilizations alone will ultimately be insufficient despite the claims of some on the US left. We must prepare ourselves for the inevitable physical confrontations that have historically been crucial to defeating fascism. Our model needs to be the successful anti-fascist actions like Cable Street in London in 1936, Madison Square Garden in New York in 1938, the Mutualite arena in Paris in 1973, and Lewisham in London in 1977 — where the revolutionary left mobilized mass actions that included broader layers of people opposed to fascism, and that both outnumbered and physically dispersed the fascists.

“[D]espite the claims of some on the US left” links to a CounterPunch article I wrote on September 8th. Frankly, I have no idea what Post could have possibly been referring to. My article says zero about preparing for combat in the streets. Instead, it was a refutation of the idea that an insufficient amount of street-fighting during the Weimar Republic explains Hitler coming to power. My central point was that a combination of CP ultraleftism and SP reformism short-circuited the possibility of effective resistance. I don’t know if Salvage is understaffed or something but a sharp-eyed editor might have checked Post’s reference especially when you are dealing with a vindictive skunk like me.

Additionally, there is some confusion in Post’s article that reflects his agreement with what Salvage éminence grise Richard Seymour has written. When Post writes, “Put simply, we need to ‘no platform’ fascists”, he is simply recapitulating the long-standing orientation of the British SWP out of which Seymour emerged. This “no platforming” means something like the 1936 Cable Street in London that has an iconic value for people like Post and Seymour. This was meant to keep Oswald Moseley’s followers off the streets of Jewish neighborhoods in the East End. I recommend Janet Contursi’s “No, Antifa, This is Not the 1930s and We Don’t Need to Punch a Nazi” in the September 18th CounterPunch that takes up this action:

What the anti-fascist forces did achieve at Cable Street was a singular victory in stopping a single march. But at what price? In the aftermath of that action, membership in the BUF grew. Rather than smashing fascism, the battle turned out to be a recruitment tool for the BUF. The organization gained an additional 2,000 members immediately, and its membership continued to climb steadily. Seven months before the battle, BUF membership was around 10,000; one month after the battle, it rose to 15,500. It continued to rise until, by 1939, the BUF had about 22,500 members.

The anti-fascist actions didn’t dampen the peoples’ enthusiasm for Mosely’s message. In the weeks after the battle, pro-fascist crowds in the thousands turned out for BUF meetings, listened to Mosley’s fascist proselytizing, and marched through London without much opposition. An intelligence report on the battle noted that afterwards, “A definite pro-Fascist feeling has manifested itself. The alleged Fascist defeat is in reality a Fascist advance.”

Post also refers to another iconic action that unfortunately is misrepresented by most people adapting to the antifa nonsense, namely the SWP-led protest against a German-American Bund meeting in Madison Square Garden on February 20, 1939. This was not an instance of a successful “no platforming” action at all. Instead, it was an attempt by thousands of workers to exercise their democratic right to protest at Madison Square Garden that was blocked by the cops as the SWP newspaper made crystal clear:

Action began on 48th Street. From the corner of 8th Avenue where a solid line of mounted cops was stationed, stirrup to stirrup, they made a furious attack on the assembled demonstrators. Moving in both directions, one group of cops trampled down a throng of patriotic war veterans and cut their American flag to ribbons, while another group smashed brutally into the mass of workers.

Although the Cossacks made repeated sallies into the workers’ crowd, the mass formed and reformed, stoutly determined to hold their own until they gathered sufficient strength to exercise their right to assemble and to picket whether the cops granted it or not.

The fury of the workers increased with every minute. They kept shouting angrily at the Cossacks, and booed them for every vicious plunge into the crowd.

“Down with the Nazi terrorists!” they roared the cry of the Socialist Workers Party.

“We demand the right to picket!” they shouted. 

Surrounded by an unbreakable phalanx, one SWP speaker after another, lifted on the shoulders of huskies, made terse and militant speeches to the workers, who cheered so lustily that they could be heard, literally, for blocks away.

Max Shachtman, editor of the Socialist Appeal , was the first to speak. He pointed out that the La Guardia administration, elected to office by the vote of New York labor, was showing an amazing concern over the so-called “democratic rights” of the Nazi assassins to hold a mobilization meeting- which was an insult and a provocation to the working people of the city. The same administration, however, which gave such unprecedented police protection to the Fascist gang, was using the police to deprive the workers of their democratic rights, notably the right to assemble and to picket—rights supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution and by several decisions of the Federal and Supreme courts.

[emphasis added]

There is not a word in the article about trying to prevent the meeting from taking place. Indeed, it is the approach I have been defending ever since the antifa adventurists imposed their provocative behavior on the mass picketing of the Milo Yiannopoulos at the Berkeley student union building.

(3) Monthly Review Editor’s Note:

If you follow my blog, you might remember that I criticized John Bellamy Foster’s article “Neofascism in the White House” on May 3rd. The editor’s note repeats a number of the mistakes found in Foster’s article.

The editors write:

But with the deepening crisis of the system, marked by the Great Financial Crisis of 2007–09 and the subsequent years of stagnation, significant fractions of the capitalist class, mostly connected in the United States to the finance and energy sectors, have sought to stabilize their rule by shifting from neoliberalism to neofascism.

It is clear what neoliberalism means. We have been confronting it in one way or another ever since Allende was overthrown during the Reagan and Thatcher regimes. It is fundamentally an attack on the welfare state under the general rubric of Austrian or Chicago school economics as symbolized by Milton Friedman’s deep involvement with Pinochet’s assault on Chile’s social provisions that were a legacy from Allende and prior administrations.

Is there anything about the Trump administration that indicates a retreat from neoliberalism? Furthermore, what are the economic principles that would underpin “neofascism”? Who is its Friedrich Hayek or Milton Friedman?

There are few suggestions in the MR editor’s note about the economic policies of a neofascist regime. Originally, fascism meant corporatism. Indeed, the late Lynn Turgeon, an economics professor who was influenced by Paul Sweezey and a frequent contributor to MR, argued that FDR’s Keynesianism and Nazi economics had something in common, namely strong state intervention, especially using a military build-up to offset the Great Depression:

Some wag has defined an economist as someone who has seen something work in practice and then proceeds to make it work in theory. In some respects, this may have applied to Keynes, who was certainly aware of the tremendous economic miracle of Adolf Hitler in reducing unemployment from over 30 percent when he took office in 1933 to 1 percent by 1936, the year in which the German edition of the General Theory appeared. In his special introduction to the German edition, Keynes recognized how “thirsty” the Germans must be for his “general theory,” which would also apply to “national socialism.”

(From “Bastard Keynesianism: The Evolution of Economic Thinking and Policymaking Since WWII”)

There is more to Nazi economics than simply military Keynesianism. Despite Trump’s demagogic appeal to help out unemployed coal miners, there were signs that Hitler was ready to carry out measures that had little to do with Milton Friedman as I pointed out in an article on Daniel Goldhagen 16 years ago:

Goebbels launched a “winter aid campaign” in 1933-34 that provided charity donations in the form of goods and money to the very needy. The recipients were the old, sick and large families. The Nazi press used these campaigns to their full advantage.

Over and beyond such immediate social programs, there was the promise of a new system that would eliminate unemployment and poverty. The whole basis for social transformation was to be through a synthesis of urban and rural life, called “rurban” values by Arthur Schweitzer in his “Big Business and the Third Reich.” The Nazis promoted the view that the class-struggle in the city could be overcome by returning to the villages and developing artisan and agricultural economies based on cooperation. Ayrans needed to get back to the soil and simple life.

The ramifications of this were felt most immediately in farming where the Nazis seemed to be on a collision course with the big rural estates of the old-line bourgeoisie. The Nazis passed a law on September 13, 1933 that introduced the principle of cooperative organization into agriculture. They also created a state marketing agency that would set prices and regulate the supply and demand of produce. Finally, they stipulated that farms could no longer be sold nor foreclosed. While the Junkers were assured that the new laws would not affect them, they did feel nervous about the apparent radicalism of the new Nazi laws.

The core of Nazi rural socialism was the idea that land-use must be planned. Gottfried Feder was a leading Nazi charged with the duty of formulating such policy. He made a speech in Berlin in 1934 in which he stated that the right to build homes or factories or to use land according to the personal interests of owners was to be abolished. The government instead would dictate how land was to be used and what would be constructed on it. Feder next began to build up elaborate administrative machinery to carry out his plans.

Does anybody think that American fascism, neo or otherwise, would ever adopt such statist measures? I plan to deal with all this in an article on the political economy of fascism for this week’s CounterPunch.

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September 23, 2017

The one degree of separation between Valerie Plame and white supremacy

Filed under: anti-Semitism,Fascism — louisproyect @ 10:55 pm

Ron Unz: the white supremacist Jew who publishes Patrick Cockburn

Two days ago Valerie Plame, who was outed as a CIA agent in 2003 as retaliation for her husband Joseph Wilson’s NY Times op-ed piece denying that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons, tweeted an article by another ex-CIA agent named Philip Giraldi titled “America’s Jews Are Driving America’s Wars” that created a major shit-storm.

Looking back at the obvious Jewish background of many high-placed officials in the George W. Bush administration, Giraldi hopes to forestall a war with Iran that supposedly is being fomented by the Israel lobby. While undoubtedly people like David Frum, Max Boot, Bill Kristol and Bret Stephens would love nothing better than a war with Iran, it is hard to figure out whether their removal from public life would make much difference since Donald Trump, his ex officio adviser Steve Bannon and the various Christian military brass that stud his administration would not need any goading. Stating that it is necessary for Jews to pressure the Trump administration to make war on Iran is tantamount to breaking down an open door.

Giraldi’s was not smart enough to use the words Zionist or Israel lobby, which are acceptable to his inside-the-beltway peers. This was just a bit too David Dukish: “Jewish groups and deep pocket individual donors not only control the politicians, they own and run the media and entertainment industries, meaning that no one will hear about or from the offending party ever again.” Mind you, most people probably wouldn’t have guessed from this outburst that he was a darling of the left for many years as a co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) with Ray McGovern. Not even their special pleading for Bashar al-Assad over his sarin gas attacks would have lost him fans.

And if there is a Jewish-controlled media, it doesn’t seem to be on board with a war on Iran. Does Giraldi have the NY Times and CBS in mind? Owned by the Sulzberger and Redstone families respectively, they would be by his standards champing at the bit to invade Iran. However, unless I am missing something, they are worried that Trump will terminate the deal that Obama worked out with the Islamic Republic. In fact, the three most powerful media outlets pushing Trump’s agenda are the WSJ, the NY Post and Fox News. Guess who owns them. Here’s a clue. He is not circumcised and enjoys nothing more than a roast pork sandwich washed down with a glass of milk.

Glancing over the Giraldi article, I began wonder what the Unz Review was. Described on the home page as “An Alternative Media Selection” A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media”, I had to admit that Giraldi’s article qualified as “largely excluded” from the mainstream media—thank god for small favors.

A cursory review indicated that Unz Review is largely an aggregation of articles that are published elsewhere with an occasional exception such as Giraldi’s and others in the inner circle of editor Ron Unz. In addition to Philip Giraldi, who is his National Security Editor, there are two men described as “bloggers”: Anatoly Karlin and Steve Sailer. Karlin is a Russian who studied at U. Cal Berkeley and once wrote for “Sputnik & Pogrom”, an ultra-nationalist website that was even too much for Putin based on the evidence of it being shut down on July 6th. In 2015 the website called for “crushing Ukraine” and establishing a “Russian ethnic state.”

In addition to his contributions to Unz Review, Sailer also writes for Taki’s Magazine, a publication started by Taki Theodoracopulos who once wrote: “Modern humans evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago. Africans and non-Africans then split about 100,000 years ago. The further north they went, the harder it became to find food, raise children and find shelter. Larger brains were needed for a longer life and more family stability.”. When he isn’t busy pumping out filth for Taki, Sailer is writing stuff for VDARE, an anti-immigration outfit that can best be described as white nationalist.

Beginning to connect the dots now? Philip Giraldi: the Jews own the media. Anatoly Karlin: too nationalistic for Putin. Steve Sailer: a good old boy from Taki’s and VDARE.

So who is the mastermind behind this “alternative media” outlet? When I first saw “Unz”, I thought it might have something to do with New Zealand, not exactly an alt-right lightning rod. As it turns out, Ron Unz is a Jew himself and wealthy from banking software he wrote when he was a student at Harvard. His first foray into politics was sponsoring Proposition 227 on a California ballot in 1998, a successful attempt to get rid of bilingual education that was repealed two years ago. So you could see how he would hook up with someone writing for VDARE.

To get right to the point, Unz is an out-and-out racist. About a year ago, he wrote an article titled “American Pravda: The KKK and Mass Racial Killings” that wondered why there was so much attention paid to lynchings when Communism was responsible for the death of millions. He also took exception to a string of racist cop killings by pointing out that the victims were “bad guys”. He describes Trayvon Martin as a “violent young thug” and Michael Brown as “a gigantic, thuggish criminal”. Not even Emmett Till gets off the hook. He weighed 150 pounds, was “quite large and muscular for his age” and had a violent history. It certainly can be possible that the 14-year old weighed 150 pounds and was muscular. However, there is no evidence of a “violent history”. Could it be possible that Unz is just a lying piece of shit? You be the judge.

If this smacks of the KKK, you might be on to something. You can find another Jew (or ex-Jew since he converted to Russian Orthodoxy) writing for Unz’s magazine who is on the same wave-length. That is Israel Shamir, the notorious anti-Semite who advised Unz Review readers that “It’s Time to Re-Think David Duke” in 2005. Like the KKK that he once ran in Louisiana, Duke is supposedly getting a bad rap. Shamir’s article is mostly a transcript of a David Duke interview in 2005 when he blamed the Jews for the war in Iraq, just like Giraldi does. “The neo-cons, the people who founded this [war] were actually Trotskyite communists originally. Russia has worked to free itself from the Jewish supremacist Bolshevists.”

Oh, by the way, did I mention that Shamir has been a free-lancer for Wikileaks? One imagines that he and Assange must have gotten along famously since he has had his own soiled underwear on Twitter, just like Plame. Just over a year ago, the gray-haired cult figure Tweeted that he didn’t care much for his critics. Most of them have 3 brackets around their name (a way of indicating that you are a Jew on Twitter), are “tribalists”, and wear black-rimmed glasses.

It should be abundantly clear at this point that Unz Review is poised somewhere ideologically midway between Breitbart News and The Daily Stormer. That being said, you have to wonder why Ron Unz also aggregates the following writers: Patrick Cockburn, Tom Engelhardt, Norman Finkelstein, Michael Hudson, Peter Lee and Mike Whitney. All of them, except for Engelhardt, are well-known contributors to CounterPunch. I strongly suspect that Unz is reposting their articles without their permission even though he includes this disclaimer at the end of each one: “Republished from Counterpunch.org by permission of author or representative”. I find it hard to believe that Patrick Cockburn has ever been contacted by Unz. If he has been and still gives his approval, then someone should tug his sleeve and tell him to wake up.

I don’t think it is difficult to understand why a racist pig like Ron Unz is publishing leftists. It is part of a Red-Brown tendency that has been developing for the past 5 years. Mostly my focus has been on leftists making overtures to the right in one way or another such as Boris Kagarlitsky singing the praises of Donald Trump or Diana Johnstone defending Marine Le Pen’s “sovereignism”.

But Ron Unz is an interesting if vomit-inducing example of a white supremacist trying to reconcile his own views with people who would likely punch him in the mouth for referring to Emmett Till as he did or at least tell him he had no permission to crosspost their CounterPunch articles. So what is going on here?

The answer is that in that gray area between the Red and the Brown, you find a receding interest in class. The unit of analysis is the nation-state rather than social class. So for both a Mike Whitney and a Ron Unz there is a laundry list of bad things: NATO, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the IMF, Hillary Clinton, the Eurozone, the Council on Foreign Relations, George Soros and the CIA. On the other hand, there is the Kremlin, Iran, the Baathists, the Donetsk People’s Republic, BRICS and Brexit. If the bad things somehow disappeared overnight, the good things would win. Hoorah. Questions of class struggle, political economy and the need for socialism disappear into the background. But in that gray area, there is always the troubling “Jewish problem” with people like Unz effacing the distinction between Zionist and Jew. Of course, that is the mirror image of the Zionist state that is also intent on making them indistinguishable.

Frankly, I don’t feel threatened by Giraldi’s nonsense. As I have stated repeatedly, there is no existential threat to the Jews posed by the “unite the right” marchers chanting “The Jews will not replace us”. The real target today is Muslims and immigrants.

Given the increasing affinity for the state of Israel for the kinds of policies being put forward by the Trump administration, it may be the case that the American populist right will follow the lead of its advanced guard. Richard Spencer recently visited Israel and told an interviewer how an Israeli citizen should regard him:

… an Israeli citizen, someone who understands your identity, who has a sense of nationhood and peoplehood, and the history and experience of the Jewish people, you should respect someone like me, who has analogous feelings about whites. You could say that I am a white Zionist – in the sense that I care about my people, I want us to have a secure homeland for us and ourselves. Just like you want a secure homeland in Israel.

This wasn’t the first time Spencer warmed up to Israel. Last December, he told Haaretz that he “respects Israel” and that he would “respect” the decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

There might be a mutual admiration society in the works considering what Prime Minister Netanyahu’s son is up to on Facebook. He posted an image that could have been lifted from The Daily Stormer.

Where all this is going cannot be predicted. Although I hate to sound like a broken record, my advice is to build a world revolutionary movement committed to socialism—starting yesterday. Rosa Luxemburg said that the choice was between socialism and barbarism. Decades ago that sounded like inspiring rhetoric. Today it is much more like an RX for survival.


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August 30, 2017

Peter Camejo on fascism and ultraleftism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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August 25, 2017

White Supremacist Support for Assad in Charlottesville (and Beyond)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

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August 20, 2017

Boston and Vancouver, models for the anti-fascist struggle

Filed under: anarchism,Fascism,ultraleftism — louisproyect @ 8:03 pm

One of the difficulties I faced in writing about antifa adventurism was the lack of a positive example. Someone derided me for referring to the struggle with the KKK that I and other socialists were involved with in Houston in the early 70s. What a moldy fig I was. Didn’t I know that punching Richard Spencer in the face was the way to stop fascism?

Fortunately for me and fortunately for the need of the movement, two demonstrations epitomize exactly the approach I have been advocating. I consider them enormous successes and hope that a national movement can emerge that adopts their strategy and tactics.

Yesterday 40,000 protestors converged on Boston Commons to show their opposition to a “Free Speech” rally at the same location. As you probably know, people like Milo Yiannopoulos and his ultraright supporters have cynically been trying to get sympathy because of the bans on his appearances or attempts by small groups of antifa activists to shut them down. His freedoms are being denied, you see. Poor thing gets his chance to make his case before millions on the Bill Maher show after the antifa idiots throw a tantrum at Berkeley.

I don’t have much use for the pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League but they have a useful report about the people who organized the event that they characterize as “alt-lite”, meaning people who do not use white supremacy language but vilify feminists, immigrants and Muslims.

They like to straddle the fence. For example, there’s an outfit called The Proud Boys that is led by Gavin McInnes, which calls for “Reinstating a Spirit of Western chauvinism” but dubbed the Charlottesville event as “racist”, plus the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler is a member.

Last Monday, McInnes announced that he was dropping out of the event, as would Cassandra Fairbanks, a former reporter for Sputnik. In the aftermath of Charlottesville, some of these types were getting cold feet. Angelus Invictus, a member of the military wing of the Proud Boys, announced that he was no longer going to speak.

Another featured speaker was Based Stickman, who was charged with a felony at a protest in California carrying his eponymous weapon of choice at a fascist protest. He was to be followed by Shiva Ayyadurai, an Indian-born American scientist who claims that he invented e-mail. Just by coincidence I heard him being interviewed this morning on the radio. Mostly he was defending himself from critics who consider him a fraud rather than expressing any political views. Ayyadural is running as a Republican to unseat Elizabeth Warren, making nativism a key plank. Naturally, he has been a guest on Infowars.

Apparently, the Free Speech rally fell apart a short time after it began. Scheduled from noon to 2pm, it was all over by 12:50. Probably a combination of the toxic fumes left over from Charlottesville plus the immense build-up to the counter-protest a few days before Saturday aborted the event.

Even if there wasn’t much to protest, the appearance of 40,000 disciplined and serious protestors was a major shot in the arm to a burgeoning movement. For background on the organizers on this event, who shared a socialist rather than an anarchist background, I recommend an article on The Uptake (http://theuptake.org/2017/08/19/how-boston-counter-protesters-organized-against-free-speech-rally/). It was a coalition of ANSWER Coalition and the DSA, plus a group called The Coalition To Organize And Mobilize Boston Against Trump (COMBAT) that I know nothing about. I have no way of proving this but I suspect that the DSA’s high profile helped to turn out the numbers. Good for them.

Apparently some antifa idiots tried to stage a melee as the event was winding down but they were largely ignored, thank goodness.

The same thing happened in Vancouver. An anti-Muslim rally called at City Hall drew a couple of dozen people while 4,000 counter-protestors ringed the building. As was the case in Boston, ultraleftists were marginalized.

For a full report on the action, see http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/anti-immigration-rally-at-vancouver-city-hall. As was the case in Boston as well, the fascist rally was stillborn:

At the peak of the counter-protest at around 2 p.m., when organizers from the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam Canada and the Cultural Action Party of Canada had been expected to speak out against federal immigration policy, about 4,000 people surrounded city hall, according to a police estimate.

The anti-Islam rally organizers were nowhere to be found.

This week Noam Chomsky denounced antifa activists in an interview with the rightwing Washington Examiner, a sign once again of declining judgment. If you wanted to criticize ultraleftism, it would have been much better to do it on ZNet or any of the other publications that worship at his feet. Chomsky told them, “”As for Antifa, it’s a minuscule fringe of the Left, just as its predecessors were. It’s a major gift to the Right, including the militant Right, who are exuberant.”

Stung by Chomsky’s criticism, there was the customary anonymous answer to him on Libcom, an anarchist website that along with the It’s Going Down website constitute the “punch a Nazi in the face” faction of the left.

Titled “6 reasons why Chomsky is wrong about antifa” (http://libcom.org/blog/6-reasons-why-chomsky-wrong-about-antifa-18082017), the first reason struck my eye since it referred to antifa’s predecessors being more significant that Chomsky believed and as well a party I once belonged to, I wondered how in the world they could equate their adventurism with how Trotskyists dealt with the Silver Shirt fascist movement in Minneapolis. Libcom wrote:

In Europe, they are the Red Warriors of Paris or the Revolutionary Front in Sweden. And in North America they were the Teamsters who formed a defense guard against the Silver Shirts in the 1930s, or Anti-Racist Action who took on Klansmen and the National Socialist Movement from the 1980s until very recently.

They link to an excerpt from Farrell Dobbs’s book “Teamster Politics” that is very useful in understanding how fascism was resisted in the 1930s. As even the anarchists are forced to admit, Dobbs took Leon Trotsky’s advice and formed a defense guard. As the name implied, this was an armed detachment made up of working class veterans of WWI who were charged with defending union headquarters from attack. Dobbs is quoted:

It became known immediately that Zachary’s main theme had been to call for a vigilante attack on the headquarters of Local 544….This situation called for prompt countermeasures. So Local 544, acting with its customary decisiveness, answered the threat by organizing a union defense guard during August 1938….

In the 1930s, the CIO organized defense guards during strikes all across the USA. Mostly, they used clubs or tire irons but were not above using guns if the occasion called for it. This is a far cry from today when groups like Redneck Revolt fetishize weapons as if groups led by Richard Spencer or his co-thinkers were being backed by the big bourgeoisie as was the case in the Little Steel strike when the CEO of Bethlehem Steel et al hired and armed thugs with machine guns and hand grenades.

When the leader of the Silver Shirts was scheduled to speak in St. Paul, the Teamsters sent 300 members of the defense guard to confront him. The sight of this contingent was enough to call off the meeting. Would the Teamsters have used their weapons on the people at the meeting? Of course not. That would have allowed the cops to arrest them all and break the union.

It is important to understand the context for all this. Four years before the confrontation, there was a general strike in the Twin Cities. In an article for Jacobin, Canadian historian Bryan Palmer described the assault on working people there:

The mayor backed a vindictive police force led by a chief determined to crush the workers and willing to execute strikers and strike supporters in the street if necessary. “You have shotguns, and you know how to use them,” Police Chief Johannes instructed his officers in July 1934.

A picket captain described the police carnage in one infamous battle, memorialized as “Bloody Friday”: “They just went wild. Actually they shot at anybody that moved. … they kept on shooting until all the pickets had either hid or got shelter somewhere. Oh, they meant business.” Novelist Meredel Le Sueur’s account was more gruesomely lyrical: “[T]he cops opened fire.. . . men were lying crying in the street with blood spurting from the myriad wounds buckshots make. Turning instinctively for cover they were shot in the back.. . . Not a picket was armed with so much as a toothpick.”

Two workers died on “Bloody Friday”: Henry Ness, a striker, riddled with buckshot, succumbed to his wounds almost immediately. John Bellor, an unemployed strike supporter also critically injured in the battle died, days later. Forty thousand lined the streets and marched in Ness’s funeral procession.

Many years ago when I was in the SWP, comrades used to speak about the ultraleftists of those days. They said that if you mistake the first month of a pregnancy with the ninth, you are likely to end up with a abortion. With the raw youth of the antifa movement making the same kinds of mistakes as the Weathermen in 1971, you might even say that they are mistaking the first week of the pregnancy with the last.

There are no class battles taking place today that have the slightest resemblance to those of the 1930s. Back then, combat between the workers and the class enemy was a deadly serious business. And also back then, men assigned to work in defense guards or flying battalions in militant strikes were democratically elected by trade unions and were usually members of the Communist Party or other radical groups well known to those whose class interests they were defending.

Today, we have antifa people who are only known to each other. Nobody votes to have them turn a peaceful march into a battleground. Libcom and It’s Going Down feature articles written by people cloaked in anonymity. Many of their members show up at protests with their faces covered. This is not the kind of movement we need. I hope that some of them will learn from the success of the Boston and Vancouver protests since they foreshadow the kind of movement that we need. It is hard for people to reverse themselves politically but when you are as young as them, there is hope.

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August 18, 2017

The ex-member of LaRouche’s fascist cult who writes for Robert Parry’s Consortium News

Filed under: Fascism,LaRouche — louisproyect @ 6:29 pm

Andrew Spannaus

If there is anything that gets my dander up, it is being threatened with legal action. The last time I ran into such threats is when Joyce Brabner said she would sue me if I began serializing the memoir I did with her late husband Harvey Pekar. Since she lacks the money to hire a lawyer on contingency, I probably would have had no problems but I generally shy away from unstable and unpredictable people.

Today I was warned by Andrew Spannaus that unless I removed a post about his article on Consortium News titled “The Agony of ‘Regime Change’ Refugees”, he would have his lawyer look into suing me for libel. Since Spannaus is a former member of the LaRouche fascist cult, I decided not to look for trouble. If you’ve followed LaRouche over the years, you’ll know that he launched nuisance suits at his perceived enemies all the time, including a $60 million libel suit against NBC in 1984.

In this article I will be choosing my words very carefully. It will be based on the facts acknowledged by Spannaus himself, namely that he is a former member. I have been writing for years about what a toxic dump Consortium News is and feel an obligation to point out that Spannaus is a regular contributor to Robert Parry’s website with 13 articles to his credit.

In the remainder of this article, I will be referring to some of Spannaus’s articles on Executive Intelligence Review, the flagship journal of LaRouche’s cult, between 2000 and 2015 since they reflect an evolution that I think my readers should be aware of, namely the bid by these fascists to adopt a less insane identity. In the 1980s, they would publish stark raving mad articles about Queen Elizabeth being the head of an international drug cartel but over the past 15 years at least, they have worked hard to appear about the same as Consortium News, 21st Century Wire, Information Clearing House, DissidentVoice and other websites in the Putin/Assad/Islamic Republic orbit. I will conclude with a brief look at Spannaus and his former comrade Paul Goldstein’s professional consultancies today that are obvious bids to supply the kind of high-level advice to the bourgeoisie that LaRouche hoped to serve in EIR.

1) The earliest Spannaus article is dated June 30, 1995 and is titled “Italian party debates LaRouchean economics”. In it, Spannaus brags about how members of the Popular Party are openly supporting LaRouche’s economic policies. He advocated that Italy transform the bank of Italy into a national bank, adding that “The national bank concept, going back to the first U. S. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, is a key aspect of LaRouche’s policy for economic recovery.”

As I mentioned in my first post on LaRouche, his cult has such a thing about Alexander Hamilton that they are now passing out broadsheets in NYC called the Hamiltonian. It even makes you wonder if they financed the execrable Broadway musical. Is it just a coincidence that 22 years after writing this article, Spannaus was still tooting Hamilton’s horn in Consortium News?

Trump then went on to use the term “American System”, associated with the current of economic nationalism promoted by figures such as Alexander Hamilton, Clay and Henry Carey, champions of investment in industry and infrastructure, and protection against the free market claims of European empires, which sought to undermine American economic independence in order to defend their own pre-eminence.

Inquiring minds want to know.

2) Two years later Spannaus wrote a diatribe against Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni as a genocidal dictator “used by the British Privy Council in its raw materials grab in Central Africa.” Most of the article stayed within the boundaries of normal reporting but I was struck by how Spannaus described Frantz Fanon:

The second ideological string is the existential philosophy of Frantz Fanon, who advocated “revolutionary violence” for economic development for Africans, and claimed that such violence even has purifying power. All of the “new leaders” in Central Africa studied this murderous ideology at Dar Es Salaam University in the 1960s.

Supposedly the British exploited Fanon’s ideas in order to commit genocide on a scale not seen since the Nazis. Oh, well. I had a different take on “The Wretched of the Earth” but that’s what happens when you were educated in a Marxist cult rather than one run by a would be Hitler.

3) Fast-forwarding to 2007, Spannaus wrote about LaRouche’s speech to the Italian Senate Labor and Social Security Commission. The fascist nut was now 84 and just as capable of predicting a cataclysmic end of the world as ever. He was invited to speak about his legislative proposals that could save Italy from imminent doom. Apparently, the politicians were a bit skeptical as Spannaus reported:

As often happens in official circles, some of the politicians involved in the discussions expressed surprise at LaRouche’s forecast of the short-term death of the current system. Despite agreeing with his overall approach on rebuilding the productive economy, they claimed that his warning of a systemic crash is a “catastrophic” view that can only be seen as “pessimistic.” In response to the nervous protests of one Senator, LaRouche repeated that it would be absolutely foolish to assume that the present system will last beyond Christmas of this year, and at the same time, he explained why it is essential that such a premise be established at this time.

Did the fact that the world continued after Christmas Day, 2007 help to undermine Spannaus’s belief in the cult leader? Well, he was writing for EIR for another 8 years so I guess he was in no rush to break his ties.

4) One of the most interesting things to me is how in the past 20 years the group has sought respectability. You can search in vain for anything in EIR that will make your hair stand on end unless you are one of those people who views Vladimir Putin as an unmitigated pig.

By 2011, one of Spannaus’s articles could have easily been published in Salon or Alternet. Titled “In Italy, Reich Calls For Glass-Steagall”, it is plain vanilla Democratic Party propaganda.

The response from the audience was enthusiastic, with numerous local entrepreneurs and opinion leaders posing questions to Reich on the prospects for future industrial growth and the reform of the international financial system. On this point, this author, who moderated the event, mentioned the bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (DOhio) to restore Glass-Steagall, and also the fact that motions calling for a Glass-Steagall system in Italy and Europe have been presented in the Italian Chamber of Deputies and Senate.

So funny. In 2007, Spannaus was stenographer to the lunatic LaRouche who insisted the world would collapse by Christmas day and only four years later, we have pap that might have been written by an Alternet stringer. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, this is the way the cult ends—not with a bang but a whimper.

With the skills Spannaus learned writing for EIR, he leveraged that into a consultancy/newsletter service called Transatlantico. I honestly can’t understand how he makes any money as a consultant since there is nothing there that appears to be a bid for business, such as a list of his past clients. You can buy a subscription to his newsletter for 250 Euros per year. What some CEO expects to get out of it is anybody’s guess.

In addition to his own business, Spannaus works for Pacific Tech Bridge, which was founded and still led by Paul Goldstein, LaRouche’s former chief security aide. Has he dropped out of the fascist cult? The last article by Goldstein to appear in EIR was dated 25 years ago so that seems plausible.

Pacific Tech Bridge reads a lot like those consulting companies that offer high-level strategies to corporations, especially about risk management. Spannaus is on the advisory board along with people like Joshua Mitchell, a Georgetown University professor, and Phil Midland, the co-founder of IHS International, another strategic management type consultancy.

Looking at Goldstein’s CV on the “leadership” page, I got a chuckle out of one of his past enterprises:

Strategic Renaissance 21

Co-founder & Executive Vice President established in 2011. Chairman of SR 21 is Admiral (retired) Bob Inman, former head of the National Security Agency and Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  Mr. James Hackett, former Chief Executive Officer of Anadarko Oil Company is Vice Chairman. Phil Midland, former naval intelligence officer is President.

SR 21 is presently engaged in building a special relationship with the Communist Party of China’s elite cadre school called the Central Committee of the CPC Central Party School (CCPS). SR 21 and CCPS have had a three year memorandum of understanding (MOU) from 2012-2015 that is being renewed in July 2016.

Wow! Bobby Inman, the former head of the NSA and Deputy Director of the CIA. Hot shit! And building a special relationship with the CP’s elite cadre school in China. Hoo-boy, who wouldn’t want to hire these movers and shakers?

The contacts that Goldstein, LaRouche’s chief security aide, likely made with Inman in the early 80s must have paid off. Let’s turn to Dennis King’s “Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism” for the goods:

Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, former chief of the code-breaking National Security Agency and a consummate intelligence professional, received a steady flow of reports from the LaRouche organization while serving as CIA deputy director in 1981-83, He met personally with Lyn and Helga LaRouche in a little house on F Street in Washington to discuss West Germany’s peace movement. After leaving the CIA to head an electronics firm, he talked frequently on the phone with LaRouche security staffers, who regarded him as their “rabbi” and hoped that someday he would become CIA director. Former LaRouche security aide Charles Tate, in his testimony as a prosecution witness in Boston, described taking the incoming calls from Inman to security chief Jeff Steinberg. Tate also claims to have chatted with Inman personally. (Inman’s version is that he was merely the victim of a constant bombardment of phone calls from Steinberg, whom he did his best to evade. He believes the LaRouchians were attempting to use him to “establish their importance.”)

The big joke is that Consortium News is a platform for Ray McGovern, the Assadist ex-CIA agent. You have to wonder what he would make of his fellow contributor to Parry’s sinkhole being on the advisory board of a consultancy whose CEO crows about co-founding a company with Bobby Inman. Actually, it probably wouldn’t matter at all to Parry, McGovern or Spannaus from what I’ve seen of them.

Me, personally, I wouldn’t go near a dirt-bag like LaRouche with a ten foot pole but I have no doubt that he and Inman had a mutually beneficial relationship. As I will point out in a subsequent post, the ties between this fascist cult leader, his henchmen like Paul Goldstein, and the most powerful spook in the USA is something that is simply beyond the capability of a Richard Spencer to pull off. That is why it is important to review the evolution of LaRouchism even if by some accounts it is on its deathbed.


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