Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 27, 2016

Guess what, neo-Nazi group attacked in Sacramento is pro-Assad and pro-Putin

Filed under: Fascism,right-left convergence,Russia,Syria — louisproyect @ 2:46 pm

It is old news by now that virtually every neo-Nazi or ultraright outfit in Europe is solidly behind Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad, from Golden Dawn to Marine Le Pen’s National Front. As you are also probably aware, the Brexit campaign was pushed heavily by Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party, a rabidly anti-immigrant group that advocates working with Bashar al-Assad.

The first sign of a similar development in the USA was obviously the Donald Trump campaign that is first cousin to the UKIP. Trump stated that the Brexit vote was a great thing and hoped that its goals could be replicated in the USA. As it happens, the neo-Nazi group that was attacked in Sacramento yesterday by anti-fascists falls squarely within the global Red-Brown alliance. You almost have to wonder whether a pro-Assad group like the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) might be tempted to come to their aid the next time the neo-Nazi group is threatened.

The neo-Nazis are constituted as the Traditional Worker Party and led by a character named Matthew Heimbach who first came to attention as the Donald Trump supporter who roughed up a Black female protester at his rally in Louisville in early March. That’s him in the red baseball cap.

Before he launched the Traditional Worker Party, Heimbach operated as the top man of the Traditionalist Youth Network. From early on, he backed Assad because he saw him as a pillar of resistance to Muslims who were falsely accused of threatening the Christians in Syria. In 2013 Heimbach organized a protest in Michigan that sounds very much like the sort of thing that would be embraced by the Baathist left as an exercise in Red-Brown politics.

CORUNNA, MI — An organization accused of having ties to the white supremacist movement is planning a protest in support of embattled Syrian leader Bashar Assad during a Sept. 11 event in Corunna.

The event, organized by the Traditionalist Youth Network, was initially billed as a “Koran BBQ,” a protest geared toward showing “Islamic immigrants and citizens alike that they are not welcome here in Michigan” that included burning copies the Quran and images of the Prophet Muhammad, but changed direction after President Barack Obama asked Congress for authorization to use military force in Syria.

Matthew Heimbach, leader of the Traditionalist Youth Network, said the event was changed to focus on Syria to protest what he claims is the Obama administration’s offer of support to al-Qaida and Islamist militants working with rebels to topple Assad’s regime.

Heimbach said the protest will be “anti-jihadist,” which he says is an appropriate message on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Protestors are expected to meet in McCurdy park around 5:30 p.m.

With respect to Putin, you can listen to Matthew Heimbach interviewing Dr Matthew ‘Raphael’ Johnson, a self-described Christian Orthodox Medievalist, on his Ayran Radio show about the huge breakthrough for neo-Nazi groups by the Kremlin’s strong leadership against the West.

Finally, some snapshots from Matthew Heimbach’s Faith-Family-Folk Twitter account (https://twitter.com/MatthewHeimbach):

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April 28, 2016

How can Trump be a fascist when he is for making deals with Russia?

Filed under: Russia — louisproyect @ 3:53 pm

Patrick L. Smith of Salon.com wrote what probably most people in the Putinite left were thinking today in an article titled “Trump opposed Iraq. Hillary voted for war: Let’s take his foreign policy vision seriously”.

After dispensing with the parts of Trump’s foreign policy speech that he had trouble with (mostly about making America “great” again), Smith got down to what he liked—the turn away from interventionism and toward accommodation with Russia:

Here he [Trump] is on Russia, an especially stark example given the prevailing state of relations. (He lumps the Russians in with the Chinese. See what I mean about blur?)

“We are not bound to be adversaries,” says Trump. “We should seek common ground based on shared interests. This horrible cycle of hostility has to end.”

Were I a younger man I would say something like, “Dude. Like totally cool.” Instead—another sentence I will take a sec to brace for—I am thoroughly in agreement with Trump on this point and think he should hit Hillary “I Urged Him to Bomb” Clinton over the head with it every chance he may get. As noted in a previous column, Trump prefers making deals to force. Implicit in the preference is a recognition of alternative perspectives and interests, which I count essential equipment in the 21st century.

The speech was delivered as part of an effort to appear “presidential” in keeping with the advice of Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign adviser.

It was sponsored by the Center for the National Interest that was founded by Richard Nixon in 1994 and whose president is Dmitri Simes, a Kremlinologist of long standing. The Center publishes National Interest, a magazine stamped with the Center’s realist foreign policy and that published Francis Fukuyama’s infamous “end of history” article. You can find such reasonable people as John Mearsheimer and Andrew Bacevich on its editorial board. Who can ask for more than that? Mearsheimer and Bacevich are widely regarded as foreign policy “doves” even though it is based much more on a realpolitik outlook than anti-imperialism. For his part Mearsheimer was a supporter of the first Gulf War while Bacevich urged a vote for Obama in 2008 as the most sensible choice for conservatives like him.

The tilt toward Trump does not come out of the blue. For example, there was an article in the May 19, 2015 Nation Magazine by James Carden complaining about “McCarthyism” in the American media designed to “ban Russia policy critics” like Stephen F. Cohen who he defended against the charge of being a “Putin apologist”. Gosh, you could have fooled me.

Carden is identified as “the executive editor for the American Committee for East-West Accord” beneath the article. The board includes both Cohen and his father-in-law William vanden Heuvel. It also includes Chuck Hagel, the Republican Senator whose views on foreign policy are frequently aired in Simes’s National Interest. Carden is also an editor at the American Conservative and a frequent contributor to the National Interest. So essentially you have a bloc of liberals and conservatives sharing a “realist” belief that the USA and Russia need to ease tensions and focus on shared goals such as blowing the jihadists to kingdom come. Since Trump is on record as not ruling out the use of nuclear weapons against ISIS, that’s quite a bridge to cross.

You can get a feel for the internecine connections between the gurus of realpolitik and Russian power by looking at Richard Burt, who reportedly helped to draft Trump’s speech. Burt has been a Washington insider for many years. He led the SALT 1 talks with Russia when he served in the Bush ’41 White House. He is on the advisory board of the National Interest and also a senior adviser to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank that includes Zbigniew K. Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger and Leon Panetta on its board of trustees.

But don’t let any of that worry you. In a recent interview Burt told the National Interest that he has gone through a conversion that put him firmly in Trump’s camp. He stated that the Republican Party has become averse to the sort of policies that Hillary Clinton espouses and is now evolving away from neoconservatism. To show you how committed he is to a realist foreign policy that won’t make a fuss over Ukraine or Syria, he has accepted a seat on Alfa Bank’s Senior Advisory Board in Moscow. That’s called doing well by doing good, I suppose.

Unlike Dmitri Simes or Stephen F. Cohen, Paul Manafort is not a high-profile commentator on world politics. A search on Nexis for “by Paul Manafort” produces zero results. He is mostly content to operate behind the scenes advising people like Trump. In the past he has also been a campaign adviser to Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush and John McCain.

He also got involved with an overseas presidential campaign, namely for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Kremlin oligarch who was overthrown by the Euromaidan movement in 2014. Now you’d think that Manafort might have gotten involved with advising Yanukovych through some connections he had with Stephen F. Cohen or some highly placed pro-Kremlin power broker. But in fact Manafort got the job through connections he had established with the scary warmonger John McCain.

You can read about it in an article titled “McCain’s Kremlin Ties”  by Mark Ames and Ari Berman that appeared in the Oct. 1, 2008 Nation Magazine, the kind of article that tends to appear with less frequency nowadays after it joined the Putinite propaganda machine.

In December 2004 Ukrainians poured into the streets of Kiev and other cities in the peaceful “Orange Revolution,” which overthrew a Putin-backed corrupt leader, Viktor Yanukovich, who had tried to steal the country’s presidential election that year (during which the pro-Western opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, was poisoned and almost died). It was a serious blow to Russia’s geopolitical standing.

Putin’s Ukrainian proxies were also in trouble. Shortly after the Orange Revolution, a murder investigation was launched against the country’s richest oligarch, Rinat [sometimes referred to as Rihat] Akhmetov, Yanukovich’s main backer. Akhmetov fled the country. In exile in Monaco, he turned to Davis’s business partner, Paul Manafort–the second name in the lobbying firm Davis Manafort. An old GOP hand, Manafort, like Davis, had played a key role in Dole’s failed 1996 presidential run and had worked for dictators like Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire. Akhmetov initially hired Manafort to improve the image of his beleaguered conglomerate, SCM, but soon Manafort’s role shifted to helping Yanukovich.

Manafort assembled a skilled team of political operatives in Ukraine and set about raising the popularity of Yanukovich’s pro-Russian Party of Regions, which Akhmetov financed. It was a very lucrative deal for Davis Manafort–and successful (according to Ukrainian investigative journalist Mustafa Nayem, Akhmetov paid Manafort upward of $3 million). Yanukovich’s disgraced party won a resounding victory in the March 2006 elections–and Akhmetov returned as the top Ukrainian oligarch. Thanks in part to the work of Davis Manafort, the Orange Revolution was essentially undone, putting Putin back in the chess match over Ukraine’s future.

It would be wrong to interpret Manafort’s efforts on behalf of Yanukovych as something in line with McCain’s foreign policy agenda. He did it mostly for the money obviously. That being said, Trump clearly does have an affinity with Putin and vice versa. They are both deeply hostile to the Arab struggle to rid the Middle East of tyrants. Trump had this to say about Obama’s role in Egypt: “He supported the ouster of a friendly regime in Egypt that had a longstanding peace treaty with Israel, and then helped bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power in its place.”

One imagines that it was sufficient to utter the words “Muslim Brotherhood” for Trump to get his point across. During a January 5, 2016 campaign rally, when Trump was castigating Obama for caving in to Iran over the nuclear treaty, someone in the audience yelled out, “He’s a Muslim” to which Trump replied “Okay, I didn’t say it.” In a 2011 Fox News (where else?) interview, Trump raised the possibility that Obama was actually a Muslim: “He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that.”

Meanwhile, Putin bombs Sunni Muslims all across Syria getting a free pass from people like Patrick Cockburn, Seymour Hersh and Patrick L. Smith because the targets are jihadists to one degree or another, even the three-year olds who might grow up to be jihadists. The latest outrage now has the Baathist amen corner claiming that the White Helmets got what they deserved because they are allied with al-Qaeda. When Syrian and Russian jets bomb volunteers as they are rescuing civilians from buildings caved in by the same bombers, you really have to wonder how some on the “left” can take the side of the bombers. This is a level of Islamophobia that would probably have mortified Christopher Hitchens.

Meanwhile, General al-Sisi, who is now regarded as even more dictatorial than Mubarak, has developed the same kind of bromance with Putin as al-Jazeera reported on August 27, 2015:

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sisi have pledged to further boost relations between the two countries at talks in Moscow.

Wednesday’s talks’ agenda included economic cooperation, conflicts and the political situation in the Middle East. It was Sisi’s third visit to Moscow.

At a joint news conference following the negotiations, Putin spoke of possible cooperation between Egypt and the Eurasian Economic Union.

“Among concrete steps to give additional stimulus to the economy is a possible creation of a free trade zone between Egypt and the Eurasian Economic Union,” he said.

And just to show that the Eurasian Economic Union is an irresistible alternative to the perfidious European Union, even Israel gets in the act:

The Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) is planning to hold talks with Israel on establishing a free trade zone. The agreement is likely to strengthen Tel Aviv’s economic ties with the union and improve Russia’s investment climate.

“There has been a decision to kick-off talks on the free trade zone with Israel,” said the director of the EEU’s Integration Development Department Victor Spassky.

When al-Sisi, Netanyahu, Donald Trump, Patrick L. Smith, Mike Whitney, Paul Banafort, Pepe Escobar, Paul Craig Roberts, Richard Burt and Stephen F. Cohen can all line up in support of Putin, you’d have to be crazy not to join the fan club.

Call me crazy.


April 17, 2016

All you need to know about the Russia Insider scandal–and more

Filed under: humor,journalism,Russia — louisproyect @ 6:18 pm

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Like the better known Worker’s Spatula, Russia In Your Face (RIYF) is a parody website. While Worker’s Spatula tends to dish out RT.com type talking points, you can tell by the other site’s name that it is just the opposite. What they have in common is that their references can be obscure, which leads to a certain in joke tendency.

In the latest RIYF parody, there is a riff on an online magazine called Russia Insider that I have only the slightest familiarity with. It is a pro-Kremlin outlet that might be likened to Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly with RIYF playing Stephen Colbert’s old show on Comedy Central off of it. Here’s a snippet from the piece:

For years, a Western-funded, Russophobic parody site has mocked Russia and our dear leader. Thankfully their tomfoolery is soon coming to an end.

Russia Insider, or more accurately Russophobia Inside Her, was a site clearly designed to embarrass pro-Russian journalism by using ridiculous hyperbole. They try to embarrass people like our fine staff by making all pro-Russia journalists seem like Putin (Glory to his name) worshipers and conspiracy theorists. Well now this site has been exposed for what we all knew it was- a CIA psyop.

This is a somewhat subtle joke. Actually, Russia Insider was not Russophobic at all. It was just like RT.com, Sputnik News, and a host of Western fellow travelers like Moon of Alabama, Information Clearing House, et al—a totally slavish conveyer of Kremlin talking points.

I could glean from RIYF that Russia Insider had become compromised but there was nothing in the parody that revealed exactly what had happened. For that I had to do a bit of research. What it says about the Putinite “left” is quite damning.

It seems that Russia Insider had pissed off Peter Lavelle, a journalist who has a long career on RT and is very committed to the Kremlin’s cause in the geopolitical chess game. “Putin and the Mythical Empire” is a fairly typical article. In a very real sense, Lavelle is one of the real leaders of the Putinite movement worldwide with a lot of credibility. Given his spotless reputation in such circles, it was a shock to discover that he had denounced Russia Insider as a scam.

The story appeared on Fort Russ, a blog with RT type politics that features a book on its home page titled “Hybrid Wars: The Indirect Adaptive Approach to Regime Change”. As you can probably surmise, it describes Euromaidan and the Syrian revolution as plots orchestrated by the CIA. So if you get on Fort Russ’s wrong side, you must have really screwed up royally.

Titled “Bausman and fraud at Russia Insider? Lavelle blows the whistle”, the article starts off with Lavelle’s FB post:

It has come to my attention that all is not well at the website -Russia Insider.” A number of key people have left with acrimony and it said there are numerous corporate governance issues contested and disputed. I too question the transparency and openness of the site’s management and the entire operation. There appears to be no accountability on how investor funds and crowd funding revenues are spent. Before you invest in any endeavor do your due diligence. Things do not always appear what they seem…

Backing up Lavelle, Fort Russ characterizes them as a rip-off:

Readers are asked to donate money for this content which is already readily available elsewhere for free, with the unremunerated costs of creating original content shifted onto other sites’ writers. It is a very interesting business model which other popular alternative journalists have regularly criticized.

It was set up as a nonprofit but none of the income went to journalists. This not only pissed off Lavelle, who was lured into the scam by founder Charles Bausman, but Robert Parry—another Putinite stooge. You can get a feel for the sordid world of Kremlin apologists who come across as hustlers out for a fast buck from another Lavelle FB post:

The smoking gun: Charles Bausman and fraud at Russia Insider

When I agreed to help Bausman start-up Russia Insider he suggested a shareholding arrangement — 75% for Bausman and 25% for me. I accepted. For that I supported the project and Bausman in every way I could when the site was launched. My FB page is evidence of this. Little did I know Bausman habitually lied about my share and involvement in Russia Insider Even up to a few weeks and days ago he claimed (behind my back and without my knowledge) I had a 5% share. In the last few hours. I learned from an ex-Russia Insider worker that Bausman later ordered a legal document claiming 100% ownership — cutting out those who may have believed they were investing in the site for an equity position. A noble cause is being destroyed because of one person’s greed and complete disregard of basic principles of honesty and transparency.

Right. Noble cause. Writing articles defending barrel bombs in Syria and throwing Pussy Riot in prison for blasphemy.

The remainder of Fort Russ’s article is a fairly tedious but necessary dismantling of a website that has been a source of talking points for many in the “anti-imperialist” left. Mike Whitney has cited it as has the feckless Roger Annis.

Bausman is a shadowy figure. Before he launched Russia Insider in 2014, he worked for AVG Capital Partners, a Russian private capital firm specializing in agribusiness. In addition to his own seed money and funds he ripped off from people like Lavelle, he relied early on from contributions from one Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian oligarch who has quite a track record. Like most Putinites, he is committed to strong family values and serves as the chairman of the Saint Basil the Great Charitable Foundation that seeks to strengthen the Russian Orthodox Church. He is also on the board of trustees of the Safe Internet League that created the original draft of Internet censorship law in Russia. And to top it all off, he hosted a secret anti-gay conference in Austria that drew upon the support of the country’s ultraright as Searchlight magazine reported.

A secret meeting discussing ways to rid Europe of the ‘satanic gay lobby’ was hosted by a Russian oligarch and attended by a host of far-right MPs and ultra-conservative Eurasian ideologists in Vienna at the weekend – just across the road from where the Life Ball was taking place the very same night.

The meeting was hosted by Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeew and his Saint Basil the Great Charitable Foundation and was attended by nationalists and Christian fundamentalists from Russia and the West. These were thought to include the chief Russian ideologist of the Eurasian movement Alexander Dugin, the nationalist painter Ilja Glasunow, and MPs from far right parties including the Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache.

Years from now historians will try—perhaps in vain—to explain what led nominally leftist people like Mike Whitney and Roger Annis to develop ideological ties with scum like Charles Bausman. Perhaps psychiatrists well-versed in Kraft-Ebbing will come to their assistance.

March 11, 2016

Surprise, surprise: German ultraright party tilts toward Kremlin

Filed under: Russia,ultraright — louisproyect @ 1:38 pm

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February 9, 2016

A return to the question of whether Russia is imperialist

Filed under: imperialism/globalization,mechanical anti-imperialism,Russia — louisproyect @ 9:54 pm

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One of the main talking points of the pro-Kremlin left is that Russia is not imperialist. This goes hand in hand with an analysis claiming that Putin’s intervention in Ukraine was purely defensive, a move against the genuine imperialists in Washington, London and elsewhere.

The last time I dealt with this question was in June 2014 when I replied to Roger Annis, a tireless defender of Kremlin foreign policy. Annis has once again made the same arguments on Links magazine in Australia in an article co-written by Renfrey Clarke who shares his orientation to Russia. Titled “Perpetrator or victim? Russia and contemporary imperialism”, it rehashes many of the same arguments that are supposedly based on Lenin’s “Imperialism, the final stage of Capitalism”.

As I indicated in a commentary on John Clegg’s article “Capitalism and Slavery”, I find social science definitions of terms like capitalism, socialism and imperialism problematic. To start with, they are describing economic systems that are global in character so when they are used to taxonomically describe a particular country, they are strained to the breaking point. When Trotsky took up the question of whether the USSR was socialist, he answered in terms that defied the formal logic of the social scientist: “To define the Soviet regime as transitional, or intermediate, means to abandon such finished social categories as capitalism (and therewith “state capitalism”) and also socialism. But besides being completely inadequate in itself, such a definition is capable of producing the mistaken idea that from the present Soviet regime only a transition to socialism is possible.”

When it comes to a term like imperialist as a category that applies to a particular country, there is little doubt that the USA, Great Britain, or Germany qualify. This is made clear in page after page of Lenin’s essay. But using the search tool available on the Marxist Internet Archives, you will find Lenin referring to “Russian imperialism” on many occasions:

Have the socialists of France and Belgium not shown the same kind of treachery? They are excellent at exposing German imperialism, but, unfortunately they are amazingly purblind with regard to British, French, and particularly the barbarous Russian imperialism. They fail to see the disgraceful fact that, for decades on end, the French bourgeoisie have been paying out thousands of millions for the hire of the Black-Hundred gangs of Russian tsarism, and that the latter has been crushing the non-Russian majority in our country, robbing Poland, oppressing the Great Russian workers and peasants, and so on.

The European War and International Socialism, 1914

The attitude of the Soviet Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic to the weak and hitherto oppressed nations is of very pradtical significance for the whole of Asia and for all the colonies of the world, for thousands and millions of people.

I earnestly urge you to devote the closest attention to this question, to exert every effort to set an effective example of comradely relations with the peoples of Turkestan, to demonstrate to them by your actions that we are sincere in our desire to wipe out all traces of Great-Russian imperialism and wage an implacable struggle against world imperialism, headed by British imperialism. You should show the greatest confidence in our Turkestan Commission and adhere strictly to its directives, which have been framed precisely in this spirit by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee.

To the Communists of Turkestan, 1919

You speak about the revolution in Russia, but, Citizens Chernov, Chkheidze, and Tsereteli [Menshevik politicians], you have all studied socialism, and you realise only too well that so jar your revolution has only put the capitalists in power. Is it not trebly insincere, when, in the name of the Russian revolution, which has given power to the Russian imperialist capitalists, you demand of us, Germans, a revolution against the German imperialist capitalists? Does It not look as if your “internationalism”, your “revolutionism” are for foreign consumption only; as if revolution against the capitalists is only for the Germans, while for the Russians (despite the seething revolution in Russia) it is agreement with the capitalists?

Chernov, Chkheidze, and Tsereteli have sunk completely to the level of defending Russian imperialism.

An Unfortunate Document, 1917

This is what crops up when you do a search on the exact term “Russian imperialism”. It is also worth examining “Imperialism, the final stage of Capitalism” to see if there are any references to Russia there. While Lenin takes care to single out British and German domination of the financial sector, even to the point of specifically pointing to Deutsche Bank’s penetration of Russian “holding companies”, he does not let Russia off the hook in chapter six titled “The Division of the world among the great powers”. In a chart titled COLONIAL POSSESSIONS OF THE GREAT POWERS, Russia is in second place behind Britain:

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He even makes comparisons between England and Russia in their pursuit of colonial exploitation:

The British capitalists are exerting every effort to develop cotton growing in their colony, Egypt (in 1904, out of 2,300,000 hectares of land under cultivation, 600,000, or more than one-fourth, were under cotton); the Russians are doing the same in their colony, Turkestan, because in this way they will be in a better position to defeat their foreign competitors, to monopolise the sources of raw materials and form a more economical and profitable textile trust in which all the processes of cotton production and manufacturing will be “combined” and concentrated in the hands of one set of owners.

It is of course of some interest that Lenin refers once again to Turkestan, one of those regions that were seized by Catherine the Great and that were victims of the Great Russian Chauvinism that Lenin fought from his sick bed until the day he died. Like Ukraine, these regions never felt like they were truly free in the USSR. It is most unfortunate that people like Annis and Clarke are essentially seeing things the same way that Stalin did in the 1920s even though they supposedly got their political training in the Trotskyist movement.

On a more fundamental level, I find the term “imperialist” as an adjective for a particular country problematic when it functions in the same way that the term mammal applies to a kind of animal or perennial to a type of flower. A bear is always going to be a mammal while a zinnia will never be a perennial. These are fixed categories. When it comes to social and economic entities, it becomes a lot more problematic. What criteria do we use? Lenin thought that the size of financial holdings was key. For Annis and Clarke, this means that Russia is not a player: “A mass of evidence shows that in terms of the financial instruments ‒ stocks, bonds, derivatives, bank deposits, money-market funds ‒in which wealth is mostly held within modern capitalism, the finance capital of present-day Russia is startlingly weak.”

Let’s look at fascist Italy for comparison’s sake. In the 1930s, the three largest banks had a capitalization of about 500 million lira each. Since one dollar was equal to 20 lira at the time, this meant that they were worth about $25 million each. On the other hand, the five largest banks in the USA were all worth over a billion dollars each in 1935 according to a January 21, 1936 NY Times article. So Italy was not even in their ballpark. Does that mean that Italy was not an imperialist nation?

In fact, it was the very weakness of Japan, Italy and Germany in 1939 that made them more aggressive. When you are top dog, you don’t go out and pick fights with those trying to overtake you as the alpha male after all. You don’t pay them any attention except when they looking to displace you. That’s when you defend your pack. That is why the “pacifist” and “democratic” nations like the USA and Britain could scold the aggressive fascists even though they were far more harmful to people living in vast empires covering the globe.

This brings us to Putin’s Russia. Perhaps finally recognizing that when the Kremlin sent its troops to Donetsk and Luhansk or its bombers to Syria might compromise them in the eyes of a few Marxist malcontents, Annis and Clarke try to excuse this bad behavior. Boys will be boys, after all.

Meanwhile, are Russian interests taken into account when the “rules of the game” of the capitalist world-system are determined? By no means. For years after the dissolving of the USSR, Russian elites held out hopes of joining NATO. Instead, NATO has been expanded to the point where Russia now faces a threatening arc of U.S.-aligned states, on or near its borders, from Turkey to Estonia. The clear goal of imperialist policy is to pressure and intimidate Russia, so as to deepen its peripheralisation and in the longer perspective, to force its break-up.

 In these circumstances, what can one say about the Western denunciations of “Russian imperialism”? Rarely have such fervent protestations been so wide of the mark, or backed by so little substance.

 Does all this matter? If a country uses its armed strength to meddle in affairs outside its borders, doesn’t that make it imperialist per se? The trouble with that line of reasoning is that it quickly leads to absurd conclusions. Countries of the periphery commit armed aggression against one another with horrible regularity. The Ogaden War of 1977-78 began when Somali forces invaded Ethiopia. Did that make Somalia an imperialist power?

This, of course, is what the article is really about, not trying to pin down the exact character of the Russian economy. It is really about what Clausewitz referred to as “warfare being a continuation of politics by other means”. Annis and Clarke essentially view Ukraine’s Euromaidan as an encroachment on legitimate Russian interests in the same way that JFK viewed Soviet missiles in Cuba. Just as was was the case with any former colonial nation seeking support from the Kremlin, Ukraine or any of the Eastern European “buffer states” naturally would have developed an orientation to any global power that could give them some leeway against the Kremlin. Those are the realities of global politics.

Finally, what I found most telling is the comparison with Somalia invading Ethiopia. I wonder if this was subconsciously an admission on the part of Annis and Clarke that they felt guilty serving as Putin’s attorneys. If you want to make comparisons, you start with the fact that Ethiopia—like Tsarist Russia in the 18th century—was a precapitalist empire. The Ethiopian emperors colonized the Oromos to the south and the Eritreans to the north. It also colonized the Ogaden region in between Ethiopia and Somalia that was home to people of Somalian ethnicity and who were practicing Muslims. In 1977, Somalia “invaded Ethiopia” only in the sense that it sought to reassert control over territory that had been seized by Menelik II in the 19th century just as he had conquered the Oromos and the Eritreans.

Very soon the conflict became enmeshed with the Cold War as the USSR gave its backing to the Ethiopian Dergue that supposedly was evolving in a “Marxist-Leninist” direction while Jimmy Carter threw his support behind the Somalians. If your tendency is to choose sides based on who the West was supporting, naturally you would back the Ethiopians even if the Dergue was rapidly transforming itself into a military dictatorship with scant regard for human rights or economic justice.

Interestingly enough, CounterPunch has been a mainstay of the rights of the Ogaden people largely through the various articles published over the years by Graham Peebles such as this:

The ONLF [Ogaden National Liberation Front] is cast as the enemy of the state, and regarded, as all dissenting troublesome groups are, as terrorists. They in fact won 60% of seats and were democratically elected to the regional parliament in the only inclusive open elections to be held, back in 1992. Civilians suspected, however vaguely of supporting the so-called ‘rebels’, are forcibly re-located from their homes. The evacuated villages and settlements, emptied at gunpoint HRW (CP) record, “become no-go areas” and in a further act of state criminality, “civilians who remain behind risk being shot on sight, tortured, or raped if spotted by soldiers”. Children, refugees report are hanged, villages and settlements razed to the ground and cattle stolen to feed soldiers: HRW record (CP), “water sources and wells have [also] been destroyed”. Systematic, strategic methods of violence and intimidation employed by the Ethiopian regime, that has, Genocide Watch (GW) state, “initiated a genocidal campaign against the Ogaden Somali population”.

It is regrettable, of course, that there are so few people writing about Ukraine for CounterPunch who have the political and moral clarity of Graham Peebles who can see through Cold War or New Cold War nostrums of the sort associated with Roger Annis. Neither the Ogaden people nor the Ukrainians are pawns in a chess game. They have a right to national independence and social justice whichever side gives them a momentary advantage in a struggle against the oppressor. If Lenin could come to Russia in a railway car provided by the Kaiser, why would we expect long-suffering colonized peoples to act any differently?

February 1, 2016

The social conservatism of the Putinite left

Filed under: conservatism,Russia — louisproyect @ 7:30 pm

A few days ago there was an article by one Kit Knightly on something called Off Guardian that defended Vladimir Putin from Owen Jones’s takedown in the Guardian. The Off Guardian website is dedicated to showing how rotten the Guardian is with a slant similar to John Wight’s piece on CounterPunch titled “The Demonization of Vladimir Putin”. The Off Guardian, CounterPunch, DissidentVoice, Salon, the Nation, Infowars, Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Moon of Alabama, Global Research, World Socialist Website, Information Clearing House, Socialist Unity, Stephen F. Cohen, Voltairenet, Robert Parry, and a host of other personalities and websites basically function as sounding boards for RT.com. Are they getting paid for their services? I would assume not since there is no question as to the ideological zeal that binds these seemingly disparate voices together. For them, Vladimir Putin is a figure to be revered for standing up for “the Russian nation” in a way that when espoused by Donald Trump in a stump speech for “America” would fill them with disgust. Stars and stripes? Feh! St. George’s Cross? Yeah!

In defending Putin, Knightly had a job roughly equivalent to O.J. Simpson’s lawyer in the famous trial that is soon to be dramatized on cable TV but he did not shy from the task. He could not let Jones off the hook for daring to begin an article calling Putin a “rightwing authoritarian leader who attacks civil liberties, stigmatises lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, indulges in chauvinistic nationalism, is in bed with rapacious oligarchs, and who is admired by the European and American hard right.”

To rebut this, Knightly explained that the controversial law banning the “promotion of non-traditional sexual practices to children” did not really target gays. You can even find a gay American attorney named Brian M. Heiss who backs him up on this. I have no idea about what makes Heiss tick but in the 129 page booklet that he wrote and that was cited by Knightly, there’s not a single word about the biggest problem in Russia—namely the entrapment of gay men by gangs of skinheads as documented in the film “Hunted in Russia”

The thing that amused me most about Off Guardian was its premise that the Guardian was a voice of the US State Department. What a strange idea in light of the outpouring of pro-Kremlin tripe that appears regularly under the byline of Seumas Milne, Jonathan Steele, and Neil Clark—not to speak of frequent appearances on “Comments are Free” from Tariq Ali, John Pilger and others of that ilk. One imagines that people like Knightly won’t be happy until the Guardian reads like RT.com.

To bait the bear, I started writing some comments under Knightly’s article that got him irritated especially my positive reference to Pussy Riot:

Yeah, all these people including Pussy Riot with their “weird” behavior, especially being disrespectful to the Russian Orthodoxy. So outside the norms of polite society.

It never fails to amaze me how you “anti-imperialists” attach yourself to Putin’s conservative mores the same way that fraternity boys in Division One Football Schools like Notre Dame kept posters of Ronald Reagan on their wall in the 1980s.

To which he replied:

I don’t think disliking the idea of nailing your testicles to the ground, or disapproving of orgy-like protests in a church make you “conservative”. And I don’t especially want to live in a world where that is the case.

All of a sudden I had an epiphany. People like Kit Knightly, John Wight and Mike Whitney are social conservatives. When Knightly defends the Russian Orthodox Church from “orgy-like protests”, I feel like I am listening to Glenn Back complaining about Lady Ga-Ga. Where do these people come from? Since the people who put out Off Guardian don’t disclose much personal information, I can only gather that Knightly is a pretty straight-laced fellow even if he adopts “transgressive” positions on Putin. But maybe they aren’t so transgressive when you consider the admiration that Donald Trump professes for Putin. Isn’t it possible that the attachment that some leftists have for Putin is a kind of displaced authoritarianism that expresses itself for a foreign leader cum father figure who embodies traditional values such as the nuclear family, religion and patriotism? Sort of a synthesis of “Father Knows Best” and William Z. Foster. So what if it is Russia that becomes your guiding star of traditional values. Perhaps there is a confusion between the two red states, Kansas and Stalin’s Russia for which Putin has beaucoup nostalgia. Just don’t get the judo master started on Lenin or else he might give you a zetz in the mouth.

The ties between Christian fundamentalists in the USA and Russia is something worth taking note of. If you think that Putin is despised in the bible belt, you haven’t been paying close attention. A rightwing fundamentalist group called the World Congress of Families has been around since 1997. It was apparently very involved with advising the Russians on their anti-LBGT laws just as it has been with similar laws in Africa. In 2014, Mother Jones reported on a conference they held in Russia. The participants should give you an idea of the elective affinities at work:


  • Jack Hanick: The former Fox News producer spoke at the third Sanctity of Motherhood conference this past November. He also spoke at a WCF regional event hosted by Malofeev’s Safe Internet League and at a traditional values roundtable hosted this past June by Malofeev’s St. Basil charity. Brian Brown and the Duma’s Elena Mizulina were also in attendance, and gay marriage was a primary discussion topic.
  • Brian Brown: The president of the National Organization for Marriage, Brown also spoke at the June roundtable hosted by Malofeev’s St. Basil charity. Earlier that day, he spoke with Elena Mizulina’s Duma committee on family policy about adoption by gay couples.
  • Larry Jacobs: As WCF managing director, Jacobs works with Allan Carlson at the Howard Center, which runs the WCF. He is also a partner at Komov’s Integrity Consulting, and spoke at annual conferences hosted by Yakunina’s Sanctity of Motherhood group in 2010 and 2013.
  • Allan Carlson: A prolific historian and family scholar, Carlson is the president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society. He helped hatch the idea for the WCF in 1995 with Professor Anatoly Antonov. He is Jacobs’ colleague.


  • Vladimir Yakunin: Married to Natalia Yakunina, he helps fund her Sanctity of Motherhood program through several of his charities, including the Center for National Glory and the Foundation of St. Andrew the First-Called.
  • Natalia Yakunina: Married to Vladimir Yakunin and heads the Sanctity of Motherhood program.
  • Konstantin Malofeev: This billionaire businessman and telecommunications mogul helps fund the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation, the largest Orthodox Charity in Russia, through Marshall Capital, the investment firm he founded. He’s also a trustee at the Safe Internet League. Through St. Basil, Malofeev also hosted a traditional values roundtable in June (attended by Jack Hanick, Brian Brown, and the Duma’s Elena Mizulina) where gay marriage was a primary discussion topic.
  • Elena Mizulina: A member of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, she also heads its committee on family policy. Mizulina sponsored both anti-gay laws—the propaganda and adoption bans—that passed in the summer of 2013. According to WCF’s Larry Jacobs, he and Mizulina have met at least three times in Russia. Two days after the propaganda law passed the Duma, Brian Brown met with Mizulina and her committee to discuss legislation about adoption by gay couples.
  • Archpriest Dmitri Smirnov: A top Orthodox official, Archpriest Dmitri was appointed to head the Patriarch’s commission on the family this past March. He describes the group as a family policy-development shop for the administration that often advises Mizulina’s Duma committee. Alexey Komov is the executive secretary of this commission.
  • Alexey Komov: The WCF’s official Russia representative, Komov heads FamilyPolicy.ru, a WCF Russian partner. He works with several other Orthodox groups, including Smirnov’s Patriarch’s commission (where he is executive secretary), Malofeev’s Safe Internet League (where he is on the board), and Malofeev’s St. Basil foundation (where he runs a charity). Komov is also the founding partner of Integrity Consulting, a management consulting firm.
  • Anatoly Antonov: A renowned demographer, Antonov is a professor in the sociology department at Moscow State University. He helped hatch the idea for the WCF in Moscow with Allan Carlson in 1995. Komov is working toward a PhD in the department, and Antonov is his dissertation adviser.

These kinds of people give me the heebie-jeebies. Maybe that’s because I was a bohemian before I became a radical. I am attracted to deviants. I was a fan of male prostitute and petty thief (and distinguished playwright) Jean Genet long before I read Karl Marx. When I read Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” in 1961, that was the kind of person I wanted to get to know—someone who was capable of writing lines like this:

who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing
obscene odes on the windows of the skull,

who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their
money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall,

who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo
with a belt of marijuana for New York,

who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise
Alley, death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night

with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and
cock and endless balls,

I first noticed this social conservatism in 2012 when Pussy Riot was arrested for performing punk rock in a Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Mike Whitney, who runs a landscaping business in Washington State (I hope he pays his Mexican workers a living wage), wrote an asinine article in CounterPunch defending their arrest since they were “useful fools” in a scheme to sling mud at Putin.

As I explained to Knightly, there was nothing “orgy-like” about the performance. Maybe he was confused about an orgy performance piece the women were involved with in a Russian museum some time earlier. My attitude on things like that is go right ahead, kids. I am absolutely for frightening the horses on any and all occasions especially in Russia and the USA.

If Kit Knightly was around in 1961 (he probably had not been born yet), he would have backed the S.F. District Attorney’s attempt to punish Lawrence Ferlinghetti for publishing Ginsberg’s classic. Well, to be fair he might have been opposed to that but certainly would give the Russian courts carte blanche to keep trouble-makers like the gonad-nailer in line.

In fact, the performance artist who offended Knightly so grievously may be committed to a mental hospital because of his public action as CBS reported:

The partner of Russian dissident best known for his politically charged performance art — including nailing his scrotum to Red Square — says he has been transferred to a psychiatric hospital.

Pyotr Pavlensky’s partner, Oksana Shalygina, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the artist was transferred the previous day from jail to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation, lasting up to 21 days.

You judge for yourself whether he is psychotic or not. Of course, since I am quoting a Guardian article, you can assume that Kit Knightly would write it off as State Department propaganda. For such people, everything is black-and-white according to an anti-imperialist theory that reduces the world to a chessboard. I’ll stick with Lenin’s citation of Mephistopheles’s words in Goethe’s Faust: “Theory, my friend, is grey, but green is the eternal tree of life.

Pavlensky says it was during the Pussy Riot trial that he first began to understand the need for a more radical approach to art. “Their trial affected me more than many things in my own life. I started looking at other people and wondering why they were not doing anything. And that is when I had the important realisation that you should not wait for things from other people. You need to do things yourself.”

The idea for his most recent performance came when he was briefly held in a cell after the Carcass stunt. A fellow prisoner regaled him with stories of the Gulag, where prisoners had sometimes nailed their scrotums to trees in an act of protest at the inhumane conditions and miserable existence. “I didn’t think much of it at first but then, when I began thinking that the whole country is becoming a prison system, that Russia is turning into a big prison and a police state, it seemed perfect.”

Some suggested that the act may not have been as gruesome as it seemed, with a piercing having been made prior to the event and the nail simply pushed through, but as we walk along the freezing platform for him to board the Moscow train, Pavlensky insists that he actually drove the nail through that afternoon. “I have the medical report to prove it,” he says. “I was careful not to rupture a vein but it was very bloody and sore. They wanted to give me antibiotics and other medications, but I refused.”

In the end, Pavlensky was not arrested at his questioning the following day in Moscow, but the charges against him still stand, and he remains under investigation. In late January, officers arrived at the cable channel TV Rain and demanded to be given a recording of an interview Pavlensky had given them, saying they needed to examine it as part of a “psychological-linguistic expert analysis” that was being carried out as part of the case against him.

Despite the real threat of a jail term, Pavlensky does not plan to stop, and says his unusually painful brand of art comes from an imperative impulse towards radicalism: “It was a very important step for me – to understand what happens when a person becomes an artist, when a person becomes stronger than their indifference and overcomes their inertia. I don’t think an artist can exist without this and just be isolated and contemplative. An artist has no right not to take a stand.”

September 16, 2015

A New Chapter in the Fascist Internationale

Filed under: Counterpunch,mechanical anti-imperialism,Russia — louisproyect @ 1:15 pm

A New Chapter in the Fascist Internationale

An Ominous Prospect

With an insignia of a shield crossed by broadswords on a granite background, the World National-Conservative Movement announced its birth with the declaration, “The time has arrived to take responsibility for our peoples and nations of the world!” The confluence of some 58 parties, organizations, and groups, the World National-Conservative Movement (WNCM) developed out of the efforts of the Russian radical-right party, Rodina.

While its public document declares that “Communism, Nazism, and Islamism” comprise a “false alternative to totalitarian ideologies,” the WNCM’s ideology reads like a run-of-the-mill document of the radical right, which remains inextricably linked to fascism. Lamenting the sexual perversity of the super-national organizations like the EU and NATO, and calling for the return to the traditional “family and healthy moral values,” the WNCM attacks “the erosion of nations, massive migration,” which it blames on “liberalism, multiculturalism, and tolerance.” Instead, WNCM advocates “healthy nationalism and religious beliefs, patriotism, respect of one’s own and foreign traditional moral and ethical values, in other words, national conservatism.” Subverting the “global cabal” (read: Jews) requires a chain of “conservative revolutions” that will restore nations to themselves; “Victory of the conservative revolution even in one country without fail will provide an example for other countries.”

With participants including Golden Dawn, Jobbik, the Finns Party, and the British National Party, the WNCM hosts some of the most powerful radical right populist names in Europe. However, the umbrella group also includes some overtly-fascist groups and groupuscles like Poland’s Falanga, Italy’s Millennium and Forza Nuova, and the US’s American Freedom Party. Visiting senior fellow at Norway’s Legatum Institute, Anton Shekhovtsov, who broke this story on Thursday, characterizes the group as “clearly on the extreme right, verging on neo-Nazism.” That is putting it lightly. In spite of its formal denial, the WNCM seems more like a continuation of a potentially-disastrous formula combining fascist vanguards and populist radical right parties that continues to build steam around the world.

The Origins of the Fascist Internationale

In broad terms, it a “Fascist Internationale” that seems to be in the offing in the World National-Conservative Movement. The notion of a “left-wing” fascism, or a fascist system that would respect the autonomy of different nations while working co-operatively, developed out of the original “National Bolshevik” group, Association for the Study of Russian Planned Economy (ARPLAN), which featured Ernst Jünger and Georgi Lukacs, among others. These thinkers ideated, against the Hitlerite faction of National Socialism, that a bond between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany could work, because, in the words of völkisch thinker Artur Dinter, Bolshevik Russia would become “a ‘Russian National Socialism.’”

While ARPLAN found significant traction in the early Nazi Party, with Gregor Strasser featuring prominently as Hitler’s number two, their hopes would be dashed in the Night of the Long Knives. Gregor was murdered, and his brother Otto fled the country. After the war, Otto Strasser rose to prominence on the neo-fascist circuit along with French intellectual, Maurice Bardèche, Italian occultist Julius Evola, US agent Francis Parker Yockey, and Belgian odd-ball Jean-François Thiriart. These thinkers helped model a European Social Movement (known today as the “second position”) that looked to a European Nation highly influenced by British fascist Oswald Mosley’s Union Movement. The European Social Movement effectively passed out of existence by 1957, due to a split over the difference between racist politics and cultural hegemony. Although the idea of a European Nation continued, a “Third Position” would develop to carry on the banner of “neither left nor right, neither communist nor capitalist.”

read full article

July 28, 2015

A Putin fan of note

Filed under: anti-Semitism,Fascism,Russia — louisproyect @ 9:52 pm

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 5.46.47 PM

An example of how a Putin fan understood the origins of WWII

WordPress has a list of all the url’s that link to my blog and I am in the habit of checking them out, including one that  that took me to a neo-Nazi website run by a piece of dirt named Mike King. In an rant against the Working Families Party, King linked to my blog: “The Working Families Party is a known Marxist entity – a detail which the writer fails to mention. (here)”

I am the aforementioned writer and the here in parentheses is a link to something I wrote that described the WFP as a wing of the Democratic Party despite their nominal independence.

Looking a bit more into King’s website, I found this on a page about the origins of WWII: “Jewish Red terrorists, their Polish government protectors, and their Globalist-Zionist masters have picked a fight with Germany!”

On his video page, he has a clip described as “ZIONIST-MARXISTS PROMOTE ANTI-WHITE VIOLENCE”.

But what really intrigued me was how this guy was a big Putin fan. On the video page, he has a clip of Putin laughing “in the Face of a Stupid Western Journalist!”

So gung-ho is he on Putin that he wrote an entire book titled “The Talented Mr. Putin: How the government media complex does not want you to know about the new Russia.” Sounds fascinating.

As it turns out Paul Craig Roberts reviewed the book:

There is an interesting book, a pamphlet (booklet) really, titled “The War Against Putin” by M.S. King available on Amazon.com. The book has 16 5-star reviews and one review accusing the book of being Kremlin propaganda.

The value of this publication is in showing how Washington operated against the Soviet Union and how Washington operates against Russia today. Readers will gain insight into the mendacity of the government in Washington and learn that the US and European media are propagandistic organizations that impose false stories on the minds of Americans and Europeans. Anyone who relies on the Western media lives inside The Matrix.


Interesting. Very interesting.

July 3, 2015

Axis of Resistance or Axis of Compliance?

Filed under: Greece,mechanical anti-imperialism,Russia — louisproyect @ 8:16 pm

“Moscow’s long-standing policy of trying to be friends with everyone.”

Back in 2011, just around the time that the Arab Spring began, a section of the left became convinced that the revolts in Libya and Syria were not genuine. Instead they were attempts by the West and its allies in the region, especially Saudi Arabia, to topple legitimate nationalist and even radical governments as part of a strategy to isolate and then destroy the Islamic Republic of Iran, which despite its flaws, was a key member of the “Axis of Resistance” (AOR). Of course, once Iran fell into the hands of the brie-eating and white wine-sipping Green Movement, that would increase the pressure on Russia that was in the final analysis the major obstacle to American imperialist designs.

Somewhere along the line reality got in the way even though the AOR left has not allowed that to get in its way. To some extent it is impossible to ignore evidence that this schema did not and could not match up to the byzantine geopolitics of the region. For example, in today’s CounterPunch, there’s an article by Jason Hirthler titled “Going Off-Script in St. Petersburg” that reprises AOR talking points such as a reference to Putin being pressured to abandon Assad to step down, something that reflects “the chief imperial aim of the West” even though there are copious reports on America demanding that the rebels they train take no action against the Baathists.

The article tries to square the circle. Even though its intention is to portray Putin as the number one enemy of imperialism, it has to acknowledge the purpose of the meeting in St. Petersburg—to bring together the American corporate elite with the Russian government officials in order to discuss business deals, even if WSWS.org warns about nuclear Armageddon in the next few months. Hirthler writes:

Filled with thousands of businessmen cutting deals with the Russian state, it provided a platform for Russia to reshape the dominant western narrative that Russia is an international pariah.

For those of us still old-fashioned enough to take Marx’s writings seriously, it is a mystery why Hirthler can’t make the connection between the interests of the bourgeoisie and the state that acts in its interests. As Marx put it in “The Communist Manifesto”: “The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” So as long as people such as this get the red carpet treatment in St. Petersburg, I doubt that there will be much need to find a nearby air raid shelter. The NY Times reported on June 19th that 12 CEOs were in St. Petersburg to discuss deals, including Jim Rogers, chairman of the Miami financial company Beeland Interests; John Wories, president of Amsted Rail; and Jacob Frenkel, chairman of J. P. Morgan Chase International.

The European corporate executives were even more anxious to do business.The heads of BP the French bank Société Générale showed up. Meanwhile, nothing would appear to stand in the way of Royal Dutch Shell Gazprom’s plans to  build a third liquefied natural gas plant on Sakhalin Island in Siberia. Someone remind me. Is this the sort of irreconcilable conflicts Lenin described in “Imperialism: the latest stage of capitalism”? I must have missed something.

Even Saudi Arabia is getting into the act as Hirthler refers to it signing a raft of agreements with Russia during the powwow. For a more detailed account of the growing affinity between the Kremlin and the Mideast’s most reactionary power, you can read Fred Weir in the latest issue of the Christian Monitor. For those of you unfamiliar with Weir, I can assure you that he is a long-time Marxist even though his first-rate journalism avoids any kind of editorializing. He writes:

Mr. Putin and Prince Salman sat down for a friendly meeting on the sidelines of a St. Peterburg economic forum last month, where they reportedly signed six deals, including a nuclear cooperation agreement that could see Russia helping to build up to 16 atomic power stations in the desert kingdom. They also are reported to have inked contracts on  space cooperation, infrastructure development, and a deal on high-end Russian weaponry.

For the Kremlin, the effort to establish good relations with a major Mideast player that has long shunned Russia comports well with what Ms. Zvyagelskaya calls “Moscow’s long-standing policy of trying to be friends with everyone.”

Does this business about trying to be friends with everyone ring a bell. It should because it is essentially another way of expressing what Kissinger said: “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.”

Meanwhile for all the talk of “sticking it to the man”, one has to wonder why Russia does not come to the aid of Greece that is locked in a battle with the European bankers, the IMF and the EU, which supposedly are part of the economic and geopolitical forces that want to turn Russia into a Yeltsinite colony. One would think that helping Greece to withstand these vultures would be in Russia’s interests.

Ertugrul Kurkcu, a parliamentary representative of the HDP, a leftist party that emerged out of the Kurdish struggle that has been called the Syriza or Podemos of Turkey, has shown the kind of solidarity that is absent from the Kremlin. The Washington Post reported on June 30:

On Tuesday, support for Greece and its leftist government led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras came from a rather unlikely place. Across the Aegean Sea in Turkey, one member of parliament urged his government to help bailout their neighbors.

“It is the biggest help that Turkey can do for its neighbor when times are tough,” said Ertugrul Kurkcu, of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party, known by its Turkish abbreviation HDP.

Kurkcu, who hails from the western Turkish port city of Izmir, urged Ankara to extend a 1.6 billion-euro “zero interest loan” to Greece to help repay its debts to international creditors, according to the Daily Sabah.

“Turkey’s humanitarian help in 2013 was $1.9 billion. Turkey’s resources are sufficient enough to make this aid to Greece,” Kurkcu said.

Russia’s GDP was equivalent to 2.097 Trillion dollars in 2013, which is about a thousand times the amount that Greece is being forced to deliver to the IMF. If Putin really was the leader of the “Axis of Resistance”, you’d think he’d pony up with the dough. What explains this reluctance? Are we dealing with the “Axis of Resistance” or maybe the “Axis of Compliance”? Maybe Putin was not cut from the same cloth as the Turkish HDP leader who understands what it means to struggle against oppression and exploitation. Maybe Putin has more in common with the businessmen he has put down the red carpet for rather than the pensioners and workers of Greece, at least that’s the conclusion one would draw from forexlive.com, a news aggregator geared to investors:

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June 15, 2015

Is it really 1914 all over again?

Filed under: cults,imperialism/globalization,oil,Russia — louisproyect @ 10:10 pm

This is the probably going to be the last reply to cult leader David North whose WSWS.org website warned readers that nuclear war was imminent because a Pentagon official named Robert Scher told Congress that the USA could “could go about and actually attack that missile where it is in Russia”, referring to any weapon that was in violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed by the USA and the USSR in 1987. For North, the crux of the matter was establishing that the word “attack” came out of Scher’s mouth when it was not audible in the Youtube clip.

I never had any big issues with that word one way or the other since my analysis that was based on the objective economic conditions differed radically from that of the Socialist Equality Party and any number of groups or websites constantly warning about WWIII. (A search of WSWS.org reveals 3,350 articles containing the phrase “nuclear war” going back to 1998 when one titled “Risking a Nuclear War” about India and Pakistan can be found.)

The Armageddon brigade includes Global Research that reposted the WSWS.org article and the libertarian Antiwar.com website of Justin Raimondo, who like many others in the Rand Paul wing of the Republican Party lines up with the ultraleft on this matter as has been the case ever since the rightwing internationally has thrown in its lot with the Kremlin. Frankly, it is very difficult to distinguish between what Golden Dawn and North’s cult have said about Ukraine.

For Raimondo, David North, and other assorted hysterics along this ultraleft-libertarian-fascist axis, the danger of nuclear war exists because Washington is out of control and ready to make reckless decisions that will result in the deployment of nuclear missiles that will effectively end life on earth. Raimondo put this this way:

Yes, that’s how crazy the warlords of Washington are: in their demented calculus, nuclear war is just another “option.”

North said about the same thing in a July 2014 article titled “Are You Ready for Nuclear War” that had all the urgency of a Pentecostal tract urging believers to prepare for Armageddon. He likened it to events that took place a century earlier:

A hundred years ago this week, World War I was launched by small cabals of ministers, monarchs, and business interests throughout Europe, whose decision to risk everything on victory in war led to deaths numbering in the tens of millions. Today, similar forces are setting into motion a drive to a conflagration that could lead to the destruction of the planet.

Of course, it is possible to stoke the fears of the naïve reader when you summon up images of a sneak attack on Russia taking place in the next month or so as if the USA might follow Japan’s example from December 7th 1941.

That being said, one might feel a bit anxious if you interpreted Scher’s comments as a departure from American policy. As I stated (and still believe), the imperialist strategy is based on Mutually Assured Destruction. All nuclear powers consider their arms to be of a defensive nature since a first use would trigger a literal Armageddon that would rob the ruling classes of their privileges and status. It would be a suicidal act only conceivable in a scenario in which the stakes were enormous, such as the Cuban missile crisis that occurred during the depths of the Cold War but as I will point out later, the same conditions do not exist today.

But, more importantly, is the threat of a first strike something new? Did Scher introduce a new and much more dangerous element in American arms policy? A cursory search of Nexis reveals that a “first strike” has been part of imperialist calculations for the longest time.

While we associate such madness with the Reagan administration, Democrats have embraced it as well. In fact it goes back to Jimmy Carter, the “wimp” who Reagan replaced. The NY Times reported on August 6, 1980:

The Carter Administration has adopted a new strategy for nuclear war that gives priority to attacking military targets in the Soviet Union rather than to destroying cities and industrial complexes, Government officials said today.

The revised policy, the officials said, requires American forces to be able to undertake precise, limited nuclear strikes against military facilities in the Soviet Union, including missile bases and troop concentrations. They said it also calls for the United States to develop the capacity to threaten Soviet political leaders in their underground shelters in time of war.

In a nutshell, all Robert Scher was doing is reaffirming nuclear war policy that has existed for the past 35 years.

It continues with Bill Clinton. On November 24, 1998 the NY Times reported:

As NATO defines the new strategy it will unveil on its 50th anniversary next year, Germany’s new Government of Social Democrats and Greens has irked the United States by tentatively suggesting that NATO should renounce the possible first use of nuclear weapons.

The United States is firmly opposed to any change in the doctrine allowing first use of nuclear weapons, arguing that it proved an effective deterrent during the cold war and remains one today against new threats like chemical weapons.

Four years later it should not come as a big surprise that George W. Bush was totally committed to a “first use” policy as the Sydney Morning Herald reported on March 12, 2002:

A secret Pentagon report which reveals plans for a “first-strike” nuclear arsenal reverses decades of American military thinking which effectively defined nuclear warheads as weapons of last resort. It also indicates just how far the Bush Administration is prepared to go to entrench America’s role as the self-appointed global policeman that its military power affords. So dangerous are nuclear weapons to the very continuance of life on Earth that their existence has long been justified because of their power to “deter”, not to defeat. The “Nuclear Posture Review”, however, details plans to integrate nuclear and conventional weapons, develop “bunker-busting” nuclear warheads, and specifically target seven nations. Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria are listed with Russia, China and North Korea as possible nuclear targets.The complex moral, political and strategic questions raised in each of these cases might not trouble the United States, but it will surely unsettle even its closest allies.

One would not expect Obama, a big fan of the Reagan presidency, to retreat from a “first use” policy. The Wall Street Journal reported on April 6, 2010:

The Obama administration will release a new national nuclear-weapons strategy Tuesday that makes only modest changes to U.S. nuclear forces, leaving intact the longstanding U.S. threat to use nuclear weapons first, even against non-nuclear nations.

But the new policy will narrow potential U.S. nuclear targets, and for the first time makes explicit the goal of making deterrence of a nuclear strike the “sole objective” of U.S. nuclear weapons, a senior Obama administration official said Monday.

So if you are going to single out Robert Scher for war mongering, you at least need to understand that he was simply telling the Congressmen what they (and our ultraleftist friends) should have already known. Based on the analysis of David North and Justin Raimondo, we have been on the eve of destruction going on for at least 35 years and counting.

Now it just might be a coincidence but the warnings about WWIII tend to crop up whenever some former colony of the USSR gets on the wrong side of the Kremlin. Back in 2008 when Georgia and Russia were at war over the future of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, you could read exactly the same sorts of articles from the Armageddon brigade. Global Research invoked 1914 just as WSWS.org did in the above-cited article:

So far, each step in the Caucasus drama has put the conflict on a yet higher plane of danger. The next step will no longer be just about the Caucasus, or even Europe. In 1914 it was the “Guns of August” that initiated the Great War. This time the Guns of August 2008 could be the detonator of World War III and a nuclear holocaust of unspeakable horror.

Nobody talks about South Ossetia or Abkhazia today because Russia was able to achieve its goals without any big obstacles put in its path by NATO. Global Research insisted that “Ossetia has been an important strategic base near the Turkish and Iranian frontiers since the days of the czars” as if the geopolitical imperatives of the late 19th century remain intact.

Of course, if you were serious about the threat of imperialist war, you might want to take the trouble to analyze the world economy as Lenin did when he wrote “Imperialism, the highest stage of Capitalism”. If you are going to invoke 1914, there is after all an expectation that you can make the case that there are irreconcilable conflicts between the West and Russia that can only be resolved by a new world war.

I would only warn you that if you are looking for such an analysis on the WSWS.org website, you will be wasting your time. The tab “World Economy” will point you to articles about “How the richest one percent controls nearly half of global wealth”, etc. but nothing remotely resembling the sort of analysis Lenin carried out. I should add that there’s nothing wrong with writing denunciations of rich people but you don’t really need WSWS.org for that. Huffington Post does as good a job, if not better.

If you are serious about the conflict between the West and Russia having assumed the dimensions of 1914 (or 1940), you are obligated to back up your analysis with data. It would have to examine FDI flows in Eastern Europe and Russia and other economic trends that would lead to the conclusion that war is inevitable. If you want to understand why Japan launched a “first strike” against the US navy in Pearl Harbor, you might want to consult chapter four of Michael Zezima’s Saving Private Power: the hidden history of ‘The Good War’, where he writes:

The build-up to Pearl Harbor began two decades prior to the attack when, in 1922, the U.S., Britain, and Japan agreed that the Japanese navy would not be allowed more than 60 percent of the capital ship tonnage of the other two powers. As resentment grew within Japan over this decidedly inequitable agreement, that same year the United States Supreme Court declared Japanese immigrants ineligible for American citizenship. This decision was followed a year later by the Supreme Court upholding a California and Washington ruling denying Japanese the right to own property. A third judicial strike was dealt in 1924 with the Exclusion Act which virtually banned all Asian immigration. Finally, in 1930, when the London Naval Treaty denied Japan naval hegemony in its own waters, the groundwork for war (and “surprise attacks”) had been laid.

Upon realizing that Japan textiles were outproducing Lancashire mills, the British Empire (including India, Australia, Burma, etc.) raised the tariff on Japanese exports by 25 percent.

Within a few years, the Dutch followed suit in Indonesia and the West Indies, with the U.S. (in Cuba and the Philippines) not far behind. This led to the Japanese (correctly) claiming encirclement by the “ABCD” (American, British, Chinese, and Dutch) powers.

Such moves, combined with Japan’s expanding colonial designs, says Kenneth C. Davis, made “a clash between Japan and the United States and the other Western nations over control of the economy and resources of the Far East and Pacific…bound to happen.”

Is anything like this taking place between the USA and Russia? If so, it would probably come as surprise to the most powerful oil executives in the world. This is from the Kremlin, straight out of the horse’s mouth so to speak:

Screen shot 2015-06-15 at 5.49.26 PM

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Shaking hands with the CEO of Exxon-Mobil

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends and colleagues,

I am very happy to welcome you to the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. Without a doubt, energy has always been one of the key strategic sectors in the world economy and very much remains so today.

The first steps in this direction are already being taken. Rosneft and ExxonMobil have created a research and development centre for Arctic technologies. I will take this opportunity to also congratulate the winners of the Global Energy Prize awarded today. This year, it was awarded to Japanese scientist Akira Yoshino and Russian researcher Vladimir Fortov. I must note that basic research in the field of energy is what lays the foundation for the future of energy security in our nation and the world overall.

Today, several new documents were signed at this forum on partnerships between Rosneft and international oil and gas companies ExxonMobil, Statoil and Eni (I am happy to see our old friends here today and to greet them), as well as an agreement on technological partnership with General Electric and agreements on the principles of supplying LNG.

This is basically a new era in cooperation the essence of which, as regards our interaction with strategic partners, is to move away from just importing raw materials to establishing full-fledged cooperation in production and technology.

This was a speech given just two years ago. It is a good place to start if you are trying to understand whether we are 5 minutes away from nuclear Armageddon. The conflict in Ukraine, just as was the case in Georgia, raises tensions and leads to saber-rattling.

If you are serious about removing the threat of nuclear war, you have to create a world in which the Russian oligarchs and their pals at Exxon-Mobil do not have the power to exploit the working class and use violence to achieve their ends. Oil companies use their influence over governments in places like Saudi Arabia and Nigeria to make war on their own people and those in bordering territories, as Yemen would indicate.

Russia is just as capable of wreaking havoc on defenseless people as its support for the genocidal policies in Chechnya and Syria would point out. In order to have a world in which social justice and peace prevail, we have to build an international movement that is based on class struggle politics but that rejects the sectarianism that hobbles progress toward that end.

While I doubt that anybody who takes these goals seriously would waste their time joining a bizarre, conspiracy-minded cult-sect like the Social Equality Party, there is a need to understand how they operate and why they ultimately lead to political and personal ruin. My suggestion to David North and company is to continue writing articles that rail against economic inequality since someone here or there might need reminding of that. But for those of us trying to build revolutionary parties based on the kind of rigorous economic analysis that distinguished Lenin or Trotsky, another path awaits us.

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