Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 26, 2016

Syria: Can Any Capitalist Force Provide a Solution?

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 4:13 pm

Can any capitalist regime help the masses of Syrian people? That is the question of the hour. Some, incredibly including some socialists, believe so. They base this belief on the view that the one …

Source: Syria: Can Any Capitalist Force Provide a Solution?

Separated at birth

Filed under: separated at birth? — louisproyect @ 2:00 am

screen-shot-2016-12-25-at-8-59-09-pm

December 23, 2016

FDR and the Little Steel strike

Filed under: Counterpunch,New Deal,trade unions,two-party system — louisproyect @ 4:57 pm

FDR and the Little Steel Strike

Frank in particular has built a virtual career out of making such points. In April 2016, he gave an interview to In These Times, a citadel of such hopes, titled Thomas Frank on How Democrats Went From Being The ‘Party Of The People’ to the Party Of Rich Elites  that was based on his new book Listen, Liberal, which argues that the Democrats have gone from the party of the New Deal to a party that defends mass inequality. In the interview Frank chastises Obama for not carrying out a new New Deal despite having control of Congress. “He could have done anything he wanted with them, in the way that Franklin Roosevelt did in the ’30s. But he chose not to.”

For many on the left, particularly the DSA and its journalistic sounding boards such as Jacobin, In These Times and Dissent, FDR is an icon who embodies their hopes for what they call socialism, a Scandinavian style welfare state that ostensibly put the needs of the workers over the capitalist class. While likely admitting that this is not the socialism that Marx advocated, they certainly are right that a reincarnated New Deal would be better than Donald Trump or the corporatist presidency of Barack Obama. Whether that would be feasible under a capitalism that has been leaking jobs to automation and runaway shops for the past 40 years is debatable. Many on the left have argued that it was WWII that lifted the USA out of the Great Depression rather than any New Deal program.

But the gauzy, halcyon portrait of the New Deal does not stand up to the reality of the Little Steel Strike of 1937 that is the subject of Ahmed White’s magisterial The Last Great Strike: Little Steel, the CIO, and the Struggle for Labor Rights in New Deal America that I discussed in a previous CounterPunch article focused on identity politics and the racism endured by Black steelworkers. For those new to the topic, “little” refers to the group of companies that blocked the CIO from organizing its workers, as opposed to US Steel, the “big” company that had they had come to terms with in March 1937. Little Steel consisted of Republic Steel Corporation, Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company and Inland Steel Company. Despite being called “little” in comparison to US Steel, each ranked among the hundred largest firms in America.

Read full article

December 22, 2016

Arash Azizi: After Trotskyism, what? Some personal thoughts

Filed under: sectarianism,Trotskyism — louisproyect @ 12:12 am

(Posted on Facebook originally)

ARASH AZIZI·WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2016

“The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.” — Karl Marx

A few months ago, I left the International Marxist Tendency, an organization of which I had been a member for more than seven years. Many friends and comrades wrote to ask me to outline the reasons for this decision. I write these lines primarily for them. As someone who had recruited many to the ranks of the IMT, I felt responsible to explain why I had left it and what path do I see ahead in the fight for socialism. I don’t claim to have found a magical formula or the answer to all my questions but hope that these humble lines will be of interest to some.

I should start by saying that the sad ultra-left turn that IMT has taken in the last few years surely did accelerate my decision. Abandoning of the fundamental orientation to the Labour Party in Britain (signaled by the change in the paper’s masthead) which happened to come only months before the historic election of Jeremy Corbyn; similar distancing from the traditional organizations of the working class in other countries; advocating abstention in the Brexit referendum; and the refusal to endorse Bernie Sanders’s campaign are just some examples. But it would be dishonest if I pretended that this turn was my ultimate reason and that all I long for is a pre-turn IMT or a similar Trotskyist organization. It is true that by reflection on my years of political activity, and by taking into account the developments of the last few years, I have come to the conclusion that orthodox “Trotskyism”, as we know it, is no longer the path forward for the working class and for the cause of a better world. We need new political strategies for the epoch we are in.

My Trotskyist Experience

When I joined the IMT in late 2008, few months after I had left my native Iran for Canada, this wasn’t out of a whim. For about five years I had been a member of WPI, an Iranian organization that could be described as belonging to the Left Communist and Council Communist tradition. I had joined it at the age of 15 for the simple reason that it was the only Marxist organization I knew that dared to organize under the authoritarian Islamist regime that reigns in Iran. As I had started a process of questioning the WPI, and as I needed a political home in Canada, I embarked on a study of international left from the times of Marx and Engels down to the currently existing international organizations and their branches in Canada. I chose IMT because it stood on unapologetic socialist politics (of much importance to me, it didn’t follow much of the international left by supporting the Tehran regime), because the Trotskyist Anti-Stalinism appealed to me, because its political strategy of working inside the NDP to win a majority for Marxist ideas in the country’s main working-class party seemed plausible and because it boasted many hard-working people who took their politics seriously.

I haven’t changed my mind on any of those reasons but it is only after a sustained period that you start finding holes and problems; you can try to fix some of those problems and tolerate others (since I never believed that membership in an organization should be tantamount to agreeing with every single thing about it) but you then recognize that some of the problems are in the DNA of the group. It has inherited them from a political tradition and, unless there is a commitment on part of a significant number of its leaders, they are not going to change.

What are these problems, where do they come from and how can we overcome them?

Basis of unity — the problem of sectarianism

Any political group has a criteria for its membership, a basis of unity that brings people together as they strive for a goal. Getting such a basis right is a difficult task and easier said than done, especially for a Marxist organization. How do you gather around the largest possible number of people possible while making sure that your group is not diluted in the goals it pursues? How can you ensure the maximum amount of discipline and seriousness in work while also letting people who can’t commit as much time or resources participate?

I have always believed that this basis of unity needs to be political and around the goals that we all strive for. If people share the fundamental socialist goal (a world free of classes where production is organized on the basis of need not profit) and basic strategies and stances of a political group in any given period, they should be encouraged to join.

As members of IMT would concede this isn’t the real basis of unity for this organization. To be a member of the IMT, you’d need to share in an article of faith that I’ll try to honestly summarize as such: “IMT [with a membership that is today probably around 2000 worldwide, at most] is the only genuine Marxist organization on the planet. It alone has the “correct ideas” [an astonishing term that even the Catholic Church doesn’t use with such certitude], which are encapsulated in the ideas of Marx, Lenin, Engels and Trotsky [maybe, a book or two by Rosa Luxembourg] and those continued by Ted Grant and the IMT. It alone can offer the workers the revolutionary leadership that is needed to win power and build socialism.”

If you believe in this Article One, it would follow that since the only organization that is capable of leading the workers to power is yours, and since it is currently minuscule, your strategy is simple: Build your own organization, around that very narrow basis of unity, even if it means recruiting only a handful of people every month. You are building a “cadre organization” which means you’ll only wants as members those who are ready to commit themselves to the article of faith in its entirety.

From such self-applause, bizarre conclusion will follow: In IMT, you’d often hear that if a revolutionary movement happens while IMT is still a small organization this is a bad thing since “we need time to prepare”. It also follows that work of no Marxist writer or theoretician after Trotsky’s death in 1940 is worth considering, except for the few fellows that have had the honor of working with the IMT. I remember asking a leading member of the Italian section if he could he recommend any good Italian Marxist writers? Surely, with such a strong communist party with millions of members and the allegiance of the majority of the country’s intelligentsia, there should be some bright names. The response was shocking: None. No one. He jokingly said: Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky!

This is Sectarianism 101. Instead of defining your political identity and basis of unity around goals and ideals in which others can share, you define it in a way that is akin to a narrow religious organization. Every organization will have some traditions and some historical identity of which it is proud. Every organization should believe in its own unique ability to do grand tasks and great things (otherwise, why bother?) But it is all a matter of degree. Are you flexible enough to concede that not all the truth might rest with you? Will you keep yourself current by taking in the developments in the world around you? Are you ready to grow and change, while keeping true to your basic goals, by embracing the new membership that each generation brings? Are you able to keep yourself intact after you reach a certain number?

2) A history of failure

This last question is one that few Trotskyist groups have ever been forced to ask. Being scattered into small groups of usually no more than a few dozen individuals is the curse that has followed Trotskyism since the founding of the Fourth International in 1938. At its foundation, the FI didn’t have many more members than IMT does today and same is basically true for all of a dozen or so international Trotskyist organizations during their entire history, with minor exceptions.

Now, for much of this period, this smallness was due to a brutal policy of oppression. Trotsky and his followers were some of the most persecuted people on the planet in the post-war period. Imagine being active in a situation in which, in addition to the usual animosity of the state and the capital, you’d have to battle large socialist states and massive communist parties around the world who, at times, would even go to the length of physically exterminating you. This wasn’t only political competition!

But it is perhaps precisely because of this that Trotskyism ended up developing a strange martyrdom complex where you take solace in being ‘correct’ (as your founder was, after all, one of the most brilliant Marxists and revolutionaries to have ever lived) and don’t mind your small size much.

It is unlikely that Trotsky himself, who only saw two years of FI’s activity before being brutally murdered on the orders of Stalin, would have ever agreed that, in the long-term, such a perspective (of maintaining small organizations at any rate) makes sense.

When FI was founded in 1938, Trotsky believed that within a decade, it would come to encompass millions of workers and surpass both the second and third internationals. It was perhaps obvious falsification of such a perspective by history that confused the founding leaders of the FI and led into split after split in the organization, leaving it with the often-comical legacy of many grand sounding names and a few members.

Should FI have ever been founded as a separate organization or should Trotsky’s supporters have organized differently? What would have been the correct strategy in the post-war period? These are questions of history and I don’t intend to pursue them here. I also don’t want to pretend there are any easy answers. But the question we must ask ourselves is not for 1945 but for 2016.

If the policy of building a small cadre “Bolshevik” organization from three members up has consistently failed, why continue it? Why spend all your energy on maintaining for your group a political identity that has never been successful and that belonged to a specific period? Why maintaining a Bolshevik reenactment group instead of an organization that seeks to unite the highest number of people in fight for a socialist world?

3) McDonald Internationalism

A corollary of the belief that only your organization has the “correct ideas” is the belief that if you are not present in a country, the correct way to advance there is to build a new group. Instead of taking into account the traditions of leftist organizing in other countries and attempting to learn from it, you’ll operate around what I’ve termed the McDonald Internationalism. This isn’t a perspective of internationalist proletarian solidarity but a mentality of a franchise restaurant, like the McDs, which is trying to raid other markets and open up shop in new places.

In the case of Iran, I have seen the tragic results of such ‘internationalism’. Along with a couple of other Iranian comrades, I was tasked with building an Iranian group for the IMT. One of these comrades was a full-time worker for the IMT with no political past in Iran since he had lived abroad almost his entire life. Any attempt to build a group that was independent, able to stand on its own feet, develop its own thought and strategies and be steeped in the political traditions of the Iranian left was stymied. “There are no Marxists in Iran other than us,” he’d often say. The Iranian communist movement goes back to 1920 and it has had all sorts of experiences, including that of state power in short periods. According to the IMT, this rich tradition offered nothing and all we had to do was translating the articles of the international to Persian.

This sort of McDonald internationalism, when coupled with the IMT’s sectarianism, makes a mockery out of the real process of international relations between socialist organizations in different countries.

4) Basic questions of strategy

But what of the central question of the strategy? What is the basic IMT strategy and what do I see wrong with it?

The founding document of the Trotskyist movement, the Transitional Program (1938), is known for a bold claim: “The historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership.”

As it happens, I still agree with this basic sentence. As much as Anarchists or other lovers of “from below” processes might not want to believe, the role of political leadership (which I see as a political party or, to use Marta Harneceker’s term, a political instrument) is indispensable to historical change. In Trotsky’s lasting image, the political party is like a piston box that guides the steam-like energy of the masses.

But if we are to go beyond this level of abstraction and this ‘basic truth’, what are the specific strategies that are needed today in fighting for improvement in the lives of the working people and for the ultimate overthrowing of capitalism and building of socialism? Linked with this question is our conception of socialism. How is it going to look like? And how do we move from A (today’s world) to B (the post-capitalist, socialist world)?

Since a healthy democratic socialist society that could last more than a short period has never been built in human history, much of this remains ground for fresh thinking and contribution. IMT’s answers, however, are rather simple. The model of successful organization and strategy is that of the Russian Bolshevik Party and conception of socialism that of the early Soviet regime.

Before even attempting to criticize such notions, I’d ask you to think of this: Isn’t it shocking that in 2016, our conception of a political instrument should be based on a political party that had to operate in a vastly different environment? And based on a regime that, ultimately, led to the nightmare of Stalinism? (To say that the Bolshevik regime ‘led’ to the Stalinist nightmare is not to repeat the bourgeois assertion that Leninism would have inevitably led to Stalinism. But it is to acknowledge that there were probably some flaws in the system that made the victory of Stalinism possible and for the ‘river of blood’ to flow and separate the early genuine revolutionary state from Stalinism).

But such questions are not even asked in most Trotskyist organizations. Elections are dismissed as ‘bourgeois democracy’ and civil and political rights decried as ‘bourgeois formality’. All experiences of 20th century socialism, from China and Tanzania to Italy and Japan, are decried as “Stalinism”. And there is a pretense that there are easy answers to questions of building a successful socialist economy, polity and judicial system. If only the men with “correct ideas” were at the helm!

The last thing the revolutionary left of the 21st century needs is such stymied thinking that bases itself only on the writing of a few men. We need to instead face reality and offer strategies, different ones in different countries, that are meant for 2016 not nostalgias of the past. This would also be in true spirit of the great giants of the past like Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, not upholding of everything they’ve ever said as unchangeable dogma.

What is to be done?

The above doesn’t amount to anything like a coherent criticism of the IMT and its Trotskyist model and it didn’t intend to. As I said at the outset, these are merely some humble personal thoughts.

And what of the way forward?

Without pretending to have easy, thorough answers, these are, again, some personal thoughts:

Marxists and those (like myself) who have an affinity for the 1917 tradition need to unite with others around the political and practical double goals of A, improving the lives of the working people and the oppressed here and now, B, striving at a radical transformation of society and building of a socialist alternative to capitalism.

The strategies toward these goals will differ in different countries, based on their political conditions, the balance of classes and the existing organizations and traditions. In general, however, there is a basic fact that the revolutionary left needs to come to peace with: It needs to win power by convincing a majority of a population to support its vision. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean basically turning into an electoral machine. To slightly paraphrase Eugene Debs, elections are to socialism what menu is to a meal. It is a fact, however, that the liberal democratic order, a system in which the government of the day is elected on the basis of universal suffrage, is now dominant across much of the globe (it is worth remembering that in Lenin’s time, it was almost entirely non-existent, hence a long Marxist struggle for universal suffrage) and wherever it isn’t, it is probably an imperative for us to unite with liberals for democratic goals. Democratic conditions can actually offer an excellent opportunity for socialists: Build support for our vision; convince a majority that we can offer a workable, real socialist alternative; and come to power and start implementing it! Of course, there would be resistant from the capitalist class and, of course, our strategy needs to take that into account too. But to move against a democratically elected government is not an easy task, especially if it is based on an active support of millions of workers.

This might seem very mundane at the first glance but, ask yourself, how many socialists and revolutionaries are asking themselves: How can we build an organization that is ready to win support of the majority and form a government? How many are telling themselves: “The test of socialist politics is how I can win over large numbers of people, which is possible by meeting them where they are at, not by trying to be the most left-wing guy in the room”?

In asking such questions, we’d need to be forward-looking and accept that not all differences need to be solved for leftist to unite in an organization. It is silly for socialists not to be organizationally united in pursuit of goals today because they disagree over the class nature of the Soviet Union or because they have a slightly different take on the Palestinian struggle.

Building of leftist institutions that are something beyond their name, real organizations that can represent a significant portion of a country’s politics, is a very difficult task but it is rewarding at the end. It will influence the lives of the working people here and now, it will consolidate our power and it will offer a clear route to power. It will also create a space that could help blossom the kind of thinking that is needed to address the massive questions that we will face if we are to actually conduct the mammoth task of transition to socialism.

Needless to say, in building such vehicles we should never abandon the organizations that the working class has already built which, almost all over the world, means the parties that historically belong to the second or third internationals. One of the mistakes of the left has been prematurely abandoning these organizations whereas the recent victory of Corbyn in the UK shows that even if your organization is led by the likes of Tony Blair, there is a chance that the left could come to power in them and start their transformation.

What we need more than ever is an end to the mentality of small circles and an audacity to prepare for real socialist change in our own lifetimes. It is time to offer the working people, our people, the political instrument that it deserves.

November 8, 2016

December 20, 2016

The amulet on David Icke’s sweater

Filed under: Fascism,immigration,Syria — louisproyect @ 6:39 pm

Fascism has opened up the depths of society for politics. Today, not only in peasant homes but also in city skyscrapers, there lives alongside of the twentieth century the tenth or the thirteenth. A hundred million people use electricity and still believe in the magic power of signs and exorcisms. The Pope of Rome broadcasts over the radio about the miraculous transformation of water into wine. Movie stars go to mediums. Aviators who pilot miraculous mechanisms created by man’s genius wear amulets on their sweaters. What inexhaustible reserves they possess of darkness, ignorance, and savagery! Despair has raised them to their feet fascism has given them a banner. Everything that should have been eliminated from the national organism in the form of cultural excrement in the course of the normal development of society has now come gushing out from the throat; capitalist society is puking up the undigested barbarism. Such is the physiology of National Socialism.

Leon Trotsky, “What is National Socialism”, (June, 1933)

This month there were meetings in San Francisco and Oakland featuring “journalist” Eva Bartlett and Veterans for Peace leader Gerry Condon about their trip to government-controlled parts of Aleppo with a “brief intro” by Jeff Mackler of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC). UNAC had joined ANSWER and the International Action Center (IAC) in co-sponsoring this Baathist love-fest.

Mackler is also the leader of Socialist Action, a tiny Trotskyist sect that aspires to reconstruct James P. Cannon’s Socialist Workers Party. He is also one of the people who convinced me to join the SWP’s youth group in 1967. Like Workers World Party (WWP) that runs the IAC and the Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSL) that runs ANSWER, Mackler’s group operates on a Manichean understanding of world politics. Divided between the “evil” West and the “good” anti-imperialist realm, there is little room for contradiction. In 1938 Leon Trotsky wrote an article “Learn to Think” that addressed the Jeff Macklers of his day. This sums it up:

In ninety cases out of a hundred the workers actually place a minus sign where the bourgeoisie places a plus sign. In ten cases however they are forced to fix the same sign as the bourgeoisie but with their own seal, in which is expressed their mistrust of the bourgeoisie. The policy of the proletariat is not at all automatically derived from the policy of the bourgeoisie, bearing only the opposite sign – this would make every sectarian a master strategist; no, the revolutionary party must each time orient itself independently in the internal as well as the external situation, arriving at those decisions which correspond best to the interests of the proletariat. This rule applies just as much to the war period as to the period of peace.

I wonder what Mackler would have said in his introductory remarks about Eva Bartlett, who along with Vanessa Beeley and Rick Sterling serve on the steering committee of the misnamed Syria Solidarity Movement and constitute the openly Assadist wing of the left. While most on the left view Assad as a lesser evil to the “jihadists”, Bartlett and her cohorts are a virtual fan club.

As should be obvious at this point in history, people like Bartlett—nominally on the left—share their pro-Assad agenda with open supporters of fascism such as David Duke and Aleksander Dugin, the Russian ideologue who has close ties to the Kremlin.

I have been aware of Bartlett’s rancid propagandizing for some time now but was curious to follow up on a lead that showed up on my FB timeline about Bartlett having the gall to make appearances on the David Icke show. Who and what was David Icke?

I suppose that he might be described as Britain’s Alex Jones but that would only be scratching the surface. He has a website titled “David Icke: exposing the Dreamworld” that would naturally pose the question about what exactly the “dreamworld” is. In 2010 Icke wrote a book titled “Human Race Get Off Your Knees: The Lion Sleeps No More” that according to Wikipedia advances the proposition that “the Earth and collective human mind are manipulated from the Moon, a spacecraft and inter-dimensional portal controlled by the reptilians.”

reptilians

These reptilians spawned something called the Babylonian Brotherhood, practically interchangeable with the Illuminati, that were a mixture of ET’s and humans, sort of like the creatures who used to bedevil Mulder and Scully on the X-Files except that Icke believed that they were real. In an interview with The Scotsman in January 30, 2006 titled “The Royal Family are bloodsucking alien lizards”, he made it clear that he wasn’t referring to Queen Elizabeth and company in metaphorical terms:

Mr Icke, 53, claims the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are shape-shifters who drink human blood to look like us.

And the father-of-three says a race of half-human, half-alien creatures has infiltrated all the world’s key power positions.

He claims the US president, George W Bush, and his father, the former president, George Bush, are both giant lizards who change into humans.

Mr Icke, a professional speaker who has published 16 books, believes that the alien hybrids were behind the “murders” of Princess Diana and John F Kennedy, as well as the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

He claims the only reason that the public cannot see this is because we are obsessed by popular culture, such as EastEnders and Coronation Street, and Page Three girls.

On his website, Icke has an interview with one William Mills Tompkins who is described as “one of the most important witnesses to come forward revealing details about the Secret Space Program and human interactions with ETs. He details the German alliances with Reptilians and Dracos, the infiltration of NASA by these beings as well as the positive contribution by the Nordics to our secret space program over decades since at least the 1920s and perhaps earlier.”

Around a decade ago I was contacted by someone from either RT.com or Iran’s Press TV (can’t remember which) about making an appearance. I said no thanks and left it at that. As shitty as my reputation was on the left, I still held myself above Russian and Iranian propaganda outlets. I can sort of understand why Bartlett would be making frequent appearances there but why David Icke?

If Icke was just some wacko writing books that sounded like the plot of a science fiction novel written under the combined influence of LSD and rheumatic fever, you might think that the connection with Bartlett did not have that much political significance. But as it turns out, Icke is as tuned in to the Baathist fascist death cult as he is in to Reptilians from outer space. His website is studded with crossposted articles from Assad’s propaganda machine, including the usual “false flag” material that pervades this netherworld like shit stains in the crotch of one’s underwear.

Bartlett’s appearances on Icke’s website originate on something called “The Richie Allen Show”, an Infowars-like radio streaming show that has featured David Duke in a debate with the host about racial identity. I am not sure how much of a debate that could have been given the nativist cesspool Icke has constructed.

In 1994, Icke came out with a book titled “The Robots’ Rebellion” that endorsed the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, an anti-Semitic book that inspired pogroms in Czarist Russia. More recently, he has joined with the European nativist movements such as UKIP and France’s National Front in viewing immigration as a threat to white European identity. He appeared on Infowars in 2014 to share his hostility toward refugees from war and poverty with Jones, who has provided a platform for Donald Trump on occasion.

In 1991, Icke was in the habit of wearing turquois clothing because it was the color of “purity”. At the time he saw himself as a latter-day Jesus Christ and was fond of making predictions about the end of the world that failed to materialize.

This interview shattered his reputation at the time, such as it was, and he retreated into private life. After some years, he resurfaced as the typical European fascist ideologue who is as bent on scapegoating immigrants as Hitler was of the Jews.

Some of you might know of Bill Weinberg who was the host of an interesting show on WBAI called Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade for 20 years. In 2011, he resigned from WBAI because he thought it was adapting to rightwing, conspiracist shows especially around 9/11 theories. Called on the carpet from station management for criticizing such shows on his own program, Weinberg promised to refrain. But he could not keep silent when the station began airing comments by Icke. The NY Times reported on Weinberg’s departure:

“The output of the lugubrious mini-industry which has sprung up around 9/11 conspiranoia has become increasingly toxic over the passing years,” Mr. Weinberg said on the air. “The most innocent of the DVDs and books are just poorly researched, merely exchanging the rigid dogma of the ‘official story’ for another rigid dogma, no more founded in empiricism or objectivity. But, not surprisingly, lots of creepy right-wing types have got on board, using 9/11 as the proverbial thin end of a wedge.”

This sort of toxic sludge can be found in a number of Assadist websites that combine 9/11 theories with unending and often ludicrous attempts to smear Syrian rebels as perpetrators of “false flag” incidents, including VoltaireNet, Off-Guardian and Global Research. That they overlap with outright fascist platforms such as Infowars and David Icke’s website should have provoked some soul-searching long ago. Unfortunately, these people sold their soul to the devil long ago and will likely continue to cheer on mass murder and ethnic cleansing for the foreseeable future.

Maybe there’s hope that at least one pro-Assad activist has their number. Sukant Chandan has been a forceful opponent of the Brexit-inspired nativism that has led to attacks on immigrants, singling out Dugin, Alex Jones, David Icke and “The Syrian Girl” by name:

Will be interesting to note how many people are following Dugin or taking his money in my networks. Please do indicate if this is the case. If you don’t appreciate what Dugin and his ideology is, then you are in danger for falling for this far right colonial shit as something ‘radical’.

This problem of far right ideologies parading as ‘radical’ is present all around us, it manifests in David Icke, Alex Jones, Mimi Laham [the Syrian Girl who has argued that Syrians are Aryan not Arab], and others: they all sound slightly different to each other but its the same framework of adopting and internalising European fascist thought.

Dugin is a far right Russian leader, he adopts the European imperialist fascist/far right ideology and transplants it onto Asia, especially Eurasia and postures this as some kind of defence and ‘radicalism’. I believe in a Eurasian anti-imperialist strategy, but not this, and I am wholly in counter opposition to this. His ideological approach is to argue that basically this ‘Eurasianists’ can ally with the people of the Middle East against basically the USA, and seeks to and does ally with the far right across europe.

This Dugin shit basically intends to force Eurasian peoples into a European white supremacist framework, and this is also an anti-African and anti-Asian ideology, as it just leaves out African and Asian people for the most, my hunch is cos it hates them unless they adopt this European far right framework of self identifying themselves politically and culturally.

I doubt that we are on the eve of anything like the fascist totalitarianism that descended upon Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal in the 1920s and 30s but there is little doubt that fascist ideology is spreading across the entire world. As Trotsky pointed out in his 1933 article, we are dealing with people who have inexhaustible reserves “of darkness, ignorance, and savagery”.

Today’s NY Times reported that the fascist Freedom Party in Austria that was founded in the 1950s by ex-Nazis and narrowly lost the recent election to a Green Party candidate has worked out a cooperation agreement with Putin and also met with Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s designated national security adviser.

Putin assigned Sergei Zheleznyak, a deputy to his party’s general secretary, to hammer out an agreement with the Austrian fascists who he welcomed at United Russia’s party headquarters. The NY Times stated that Mr. Zheleznyak specifically mentioned Europe’s “migration crisis” as a field for cooperation.

Keep your powder dry, comrades. We are in for a stormy ride.

December 19, 2016

Trump, Assad and the US Left

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 9:40 pm

Much of the left in the US is basically taking the same position that Donald Trump is taking regarding Syria. As the New York Times reports: Trump’s position is “that the United States …

Source: Trump, Assad and the US Left

Help fund my biography

Filed under: autobiographical — louisproyect @ 8:11 pm

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-3-06-33-pm

I have agreed to work with Jon Hochschartner on a biography that I believe will be of interest to those who follow this blog. Jon has initiated a crowd funding page that will help him make this project possible since it will be a full-time job once it gets off the ground. I think that Jon is eminently qualified to take on such a project since he has written a number of articles for both mainstream and alternative publications that demonstrate a command of professional quality prose as well as having gone through a political journey comparable to my own.

You might be aware that I worked on a comic book memoir with Harvey Pekar that was slated for publication by Random House in 2010. After he died, Random House decided not to publish it and Harvey Pekar’s widow Joyce Brabner ordered me not to serialize it on my blog. Although I am proud of the work that I did with Harvey and the great art work done by Summer McClinton, such a format would necessarily be incapable of going into the depth that a more conventional approach could facilitate.

In the last couple of years, I have kicked around the idea of writing a memoir but abandoned it largely because it would take up too much of my time and prevent me from covering film, politics and other topics that this blog takes up on a consistent basis. But by teaming up with Jon, it will allow me to go into the kind of depth that a lifetime on the left requires.

Since this blog and my CounterPunch articles include a lot of autobiographical detail, you probably have a good idea of what distinguishes me—for better or for worse—from people in my generation who have written about the sixties radicalization. I came into it not as a red diaper baby or someone consumed by world politics from a young age. Like many who came of age in the twilight of the beat generation, my early interests were in Eastern religion, jazz, poetry, and existentialist philosophy. I would have continued in that vein if the war in Vietnam had not turned my world upside down. As attributed (inaccurately) to Leon Trotsky, “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”

Although I gave myself completely to Marxist politics, and still do to this day, my earlier “outsider” sensibility remained with me throughout the 11 years I was in the Socialist Workers Party. This gave me an ability to think critically about the problems of building a revolutionary party in the USA but not with the clarity achieved through collaboration with Peter Camejo in the early 1980s.

My identity is Marxist but also Jewish in the sense of what Isaac Deutscher called “the non-Jewish Jew”. Growing up in what amounted to a shtetl in the Borscht Belt in the 1950s provided me with a comic sensibility absorbed from the comedians who used to perform in local hotels, from Rodney Dangerfield to Woody Allen. Although the book I did with Pekar was very much an attempt to do a kind of standup-comedy memoir, I feel confident that Jon Hochschartner will be able to capture my off-kilter take on politics and life in general,

I am looking forward to using Jon as my muse and strongly encourage you to visit his crowd funding site and contributing generously.

 

December 16, 2016

All That Hollywood Jazz

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film,music — louisproyect @ 3:59 pm

All That Hollywood Jazz

Let me start with my own connections to jazz that run as deep as those to Marxism and film, the other two passions in a long and largely quixotic lifetime. In the summer of 1961, just before I headed off to Bard College for my freshman year, I sat at a table in a pizza parlor in the Catskills enjoying a pie with my buddies when someone put a dime in the juke box to play a tune that left me thunderstruck: Miles Davis playing “Summertime”. That it was on a juke box in 1961 should tell you something about the difference between now and then.

After finding out more about Miles Davis, I began taking jazz records out of the well-stocked Bard music library and became conversant in the music of the day, which was arguably jazz in its classic period with hard bop and the West Coast style prevailing but with the avant-garde making its first appearances. In my freshman year, I heard the Paul Bley quartet in concert featuring saxophone player Pharaoh Sanders whose “sheets of sound” paved the way for the New Thing a few years later. As New Thing icon Albert Ayler put it, “Trane was the Father, Pharaoh was the Son, I am the Holy Ghost”.

Read full article

December 14, 2016

The economic roots of the Syrian revolution

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 10:56 pm

With the major media and the leftwing of the Internet flooded with articles interpreting the fall of East Aleppo as a decisive Baathist victory and likely the end of the Syrian revolution, an article on the roots of the revolution might seem behind the curve. However, the contradictions of the Syrian economy that led to a revolt in 2011 have only deepened over the past five years and will likely keep the country locked in violent conflict until they are resolved. Despite the vain hopes of the pro-Assad left that the country can return to a development model advanced in the name of socialism, the outlook for Syria is extremely bleak as long as the country is locked into global capitalist property relations. For that matter, all our futures are bleak on that score, even in the most prosperous imperialist nations. Waking up to that reality is admittedly very difficult for a left that is lagging behind world historical developments that make socialism—real socialism—more necessary than ever.

The material for this article will be drawn from sources that have only become available recently:

  1. A chapter in volume one of the newly published Syria: from Reform to Revolt, edited by Raymond Hinnebusch and Tina Zintl, titled “The End of the World: Drought and Agrarian Transformation in Northeast Syria (2007-2010)” by Myrian Ababsa, who is a research fellow in social geography at the French Institute for the Near East in Amman.
  2. Dara Conduit’s article The Patterns of Syrian Uprising: Comparing Hama in 1980–1982 and Homs in 2011 that appears in the latest issue of the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 44:1. Conduit is a PhD candidate at Monash University working on the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.
  3. Shamel Azmeh’s article Syria’s Passage to Conflict: The End of the “Developmental Rentier Fix” and the Consolidation of New Elite Rule that appears in the latest issue of Politics & Society, Vol. 44(4). He is a lecturer in International Development at the University of Bath where his research focuses on the interaction between international trade agreements and flows of products, capital, and workers through global production networks/value chains.

As might be expected, Conduit and Azmeh’s articles are behind a paywall. If you would like to read them or Ababsa’s chapter, contact me at lnp3@panix.com

Does it seem a bit odd that such articles have only begun to appear five years into a war that has polarized world politics, including that on the left? Azmeh puts it this way:

Syria’s descent into conflict is receiving growing scholarly attention. On their own, the sectarian and geopolitical interpretations of the Syrian conflict provide us with little understanding of the roots of the conflict. Recent studies have started to unpack the political economic and socioeconomics aspects of the conflict, highlighting issues such as the economic reforms in the 2000s, rising inequality, and climate change. This article aims to contribute to this growing literature by placing these issues in a broader analysis of Syria’s political and economic institutions.

I concur with this completely. Although my knowledge of the Middle East does not begin to approach that of the authors listed above, from the very start I sought out “a broader analysis of Syria’s political and economic institutions” finding Bassam Haddad and Gilbert Achcar essential. Unfortunately for most of the left, anything beyond “sectarian and geopolitical interpretations” was to be gingerly avoided. No matter how hard I tried to convince old friends and comrades to read what the Syrian left had to say, it was to no avail. Why try to understand class relations in Syria when John McCain or Samantha Power were on record as being for Assad’s removal?

There has been nothing (unfortunately) like a solidarity movement for the Syrian revolution as there was for revolutionary movements in Central America in the 1980s. Back then, I tried to get up to speed as rapidly as possible after joining the Committee in Solidarity with El Salvador and later when serving on the board of Tecnica. I read Robert Armstrong, George Black and found Robert G. Williams particularly useful. Williams made the case that an expanding fast food market created a demand for beef that Somoza and his cattle ranching henchmen met by throwing peasants off their land. While I have always understood that it was mainly the rural poor who rebelled against Assad, it was only after reading the three articles above that it became crystal-clear that the power and endurance of the struggle against the Baathists has much more in common with the Central American struggles against latifundias in the 1980s. That so much of the left is unable to understand this indicates a decline in Marxist thinking that could be very well related to the weakness of the left in general. If we line up on the wrong side of the barricades in a struggle between the rural poor and oligarchs in Syria, how can we possibly begin to provide a class struggle leadership in the USA, Britain or any other advanced capitalist country?

Understanding Syria economically means first of all understanding the importance of agriculture. While there is a tendency to see all countries in the Middle East as arid, Syria has depended for many years on agricultural exports. Under Ottoman rule, Sunni sheikhs owned vast land holdings and enjoyed a feudal-like grip on the peasants.

To start with, the state ruled by Hafez al-Assad was committed to raising the standard of living in the countryside as a way of providing a social base for a dictatorship. While not disposed (obviously) to break with capitalist property relations, he adopted measures that had a surface resemblance to traditional Soviet type states from radical land reform that encroached upon the traditional elites to promoting heavy state ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, especially oil as Azmeh states:

Nonetheless, to maintain the stability of the new regime, Assad had to deliver on the socioeconomic front, especially in rural areas that were the main constituency of the Ba’ath party. During the 1970s in particular, Assad expanded the state-led developmental model in Syria. This included large investment in state-owned enterprises; large public infrastructure projects such as dams, roads, and energy projects; investments in agriculture; a large expansion in spending on health and education; and a large electrification program in rural areas. It also included the gradual expansion of a large subsidies system that covered basic food products, energy, agricultural inputs, fertilizers, and machinery. These changes ushered in a rapid expansion in agricultural production.

Funding for development came from a variety of sources, including oil. Starting in 1968, Syria became an oil exporter utilizing a recently completed pipeline connecting the relatively oil-rich northeast fields to the Mediterranean port of Tartous. Another source was aid from wealthy states in the region and the Soviet Union. Billions of dollars helped to create jobs in the public sector, provide health services, guarantee free education, and ensure that working people had access to cheap energy and food. With respect to food, state support for farmers made sure that “strategic” crops like cotton were available for export and that food for the dinner table could be depended on.

With such emoluments in place, they could guarantee social peace especially when the secret police could be relied upon to pick up malcontents and heave them into a jail cell where they would be tortured for months and even years. In addition, nominally independent institutions like political parties, trade unions, student associations and women’s groups were depoliticized by attaching them to the Baathist machine and depoliticizing them. Clearly, Assad the elder had studied the USSR in the same way that fellow Baathist Saddam Hussein kept the collected works of Stalin on his bookshelf.

Unfortunately, this state of affairs was not sustainable over the long haul. While the “peak oil” hypothesis is debatable, there is no debating the fact that there was a limited supply of oil in Syria while the population continued to grow. Between 1970 and 2011, it expanded from 6.1 million to 22 million. The end of the Cold War also punished Syria by cutting off a source of external funding and a market for its exports, particularly agricultural.

Hafez Al-Assad was convinced that neoliberal reforms were needed but bureaucratic inertia and private sector suspicion of the “socialist” government’s intent kept them limited in scale. When his son took over in 2000, the Baathist elites were ready to dump “socialism”, such as it was, and join the rest of the capitalist world in letting free markets reign (as long as it was understood that those with connections to the inner sanctum were given the inside track.)

Bashar al-Assad was confronted by harsh realities. By the end of the decade, Syria was destined to become an oil importer. In 2004, Nibras Al-Fadel, an economic adviser to Assad, told the newspaper Al-Hayat:

The factors that make economic reforms in Syria inevitable are mainly internal. . . . the first issue is the pressure on the labour market which is not going to subside for the next ten years at least. Absorbing this pressure will require a growth rate of 6 percent at least which is double the current rate. At the same time, the exhaustion of oil reserves and Syria becoming a net oil importer will mean, with other factors remaining equal, a drop in GDP, living standards, and in the revenues of the state. Thus, the current economic trends are going in a direction that is opposite to what is needed and this is a time-bomb in the heart of the Syrian economy and society. We only have few years to dismantle this bomb.

Using the kind of double-talk associated with Middle East strongmen, Assad announced the introduction of a “social market economy” in 2005 that drew from the neoliberal bag of tricks including the promotion of foreign investment, liberalizing trade and ending subsidies for workers and for farmers. Medical care was now fee-based and a ceiling put on public employment. Despite Assad’s reputation on the left as an enemy of “globalization, the EU is Syria’s largest trading partner with €3.6 billion worth of EU goods exports to Syria and €3.5 billion of Syrian exports to the EU.

In the early part of Assad’s reign as family dynast, conditions favored his reforms. Oil prices, at an all-time high, meant that countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia were eager to pour billions into the tourist trade, real estate, leisure activities, communications, and financial services—exactly the kind of enterprises that made Baathist insiders like Assad’s cousin Rami Makhlouf fabulously wealthy.

It was the growth of quite impressive “improvements” to Damascus that must have wowed Baathist tools such as Charles Glass and Robert Fisk. Shamel Azmeh writes:

Government spending on infrastructure reflected the bias toward the areas where such projects will be located. In Damascus, investments increased in the rich areas of the city such as Mazzeh, Dummar, Kafar Souseh, Malki, and Yafour, including traffic tunnels, improvements to roads and pavements, “beautification” projects including tree-lined streets, green lawns (highly unsuitable to hot summers in the semiarid climate of Damascus), new multicolor night lighting systems, among other accessories. In the absence of investments in public transportation, such spending favored car owners. Whereas cars were a state-controlled “luxury” good in earlier periods, the liberalization of imports led, between 2003 and 2007, to a 122 percent increase in the number of private cars in Syria—although from a low base—almost half in the city of Damascus. At the same time, the number of public transport buses did not increase. Controlling the exclusive dealership rights for key car companies became an important area of competition for the new economic elite.

Such changes impressed the media in Syria that became the dictator’s handmaidens. Journalist Ibrahim H’Medi wrote in 2006: “Syria no longer looks like Cuba or North Korea”. Not surprisingly, it was such changes that endeared the Assads to Vogue Magazine that was all set to publish an article titled “A Rose in the Desert” that begins:

Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic–the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement. Paris Match calls her “the element of light in a country full of shadow zones.” She is the first lady of Syria.

Syria is known as the safest country in the Middle East, possibly because, as the State Department’s Web site says, “the Syrian government conducts intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Syrian citizens and foreign visitors.” It’s a secular country where women earn as much as men and the Muslim veil is forbidden in universities, a place without bombings, unrest, or kidnappings, but its shadow zones are deep and dark.

One supposes that Monthly Review’s Yoshie Furuhashi was swept off her feet by the couple’s animal magnetism since she wrote not long after the Arab Spring began in Syria: “the president of Syria has a weapon in the obligatory media war accompanying any protest in a geopolitical hotspot these days, which neither any other Arab regime nor the Islamic Republic of Iran can claim: his undeniably charming wife Asma. Perhaps not altogether inconsequential in the age of celebrities.”

Things might have been going great in Damascus but in the hinterlands, not so well.

Myrian Ababsa’s chapter in Syria: from Reform to Revolt is focused on the northeastern provinces of Raqqa, Hassaka and Deir ez-Zor (collectively known as the Jezira), the poorest regions of Syria where most of the country’s farmers were impacted by a severe drought and government assaults on the social gains implemented in the early 70s.

Constituting 40 percent of Syrian territory, the Jezira produced 70 percent of the wheat. In the 1950s, it enjoyed something of a boom as Aleppo merchants invested in the cotton industry. Just as is the case with cotton farming everywhere, irrigation without draining the land and monoculture led to the impoverishment of the soil.

The drought that began in 2007 only increased the already existing misery. Up to 75 percent of the farmers in the Jezira suffered total crop failure of the sort that John Steinbeck depicted in “Grapes of Wrath”. Since wheat production relied on underground wells, a shortage of rain led to an increase in the price of a well. In Raqqa, the cost of a new well in 2001 was 16,000 euros—well beyond the capability of a small farmer to afford.

Herdsmen were also impacted. With insufficient water for cattle and goats, livestock had to be sold at 60 percent below cost. As fodder prices rose by 75 percent in January 2008, the flocks were decimated by half.

Not only were agricultural supports removed by the dictatorship; fuel was no longer subsidized. The price for a gallon of gasoline rose by 350 percent. This meant that motor pumps, so essential to drawing water from underground wells, became difficult to afford. All in all, the economic institutions that had been created by Hafez Al-Assad and abolished by his son came together in a perfect storm with the advent of a crippling drought.

The conditions of life in the Jezira could not be more distinct from the paradise enjoyed by the Damascus yuppies—both Alawite and Sunni—that were benefiting from a neoliberal boom. Ababsa writes:

The drought put an end to decades of development in the fields of health and education in the Jezira, and the sanitary situation became dramatic. In 2009, 42 percent of Raqqa governorate suffered from anemia owing to a shortage of dairy products, vegetables, and fruit. Malnutrition among pregnant women and children under five doubled between 2007 and 2009. To complicate matters, vegetable and fruit growers in dry northern Syria used polluted river water to irrigate their crops, causing out breaks of food poisoning among consumers, according to environmental and medical experts. Experts pointed out that the problem stemmed from sewage and chemicals allowed to reach rivers in rural areas near Aleppo, Lattakia, and Raqqa.

As they were suffering from malnutrition and lack of income, small. scale farmers and herders and landless peasants stopped sending their children to school. According to a UN needs assessment, enrollment in some schools in eastern Syria decreased by 70 percent after April 2008. This decrease reversed decades of literacy efforts and school creation in the Jezira, where the illiteracy rates were the highest in the country: 38.3 percent in Raqqa governorate, 35.1 percent in Hassaka governorate, and 34.8 percent in Deir ez-Zor governorate. More than a third of the active population was illiterate, including more than half of the female active population. Between 160 and 220 villages were abandoned in Hassaka governorate. The wells dried up and the population could not afford to bring water from private tankers at a cost of 2,000 SYP per month (about 30 euros).

When the latter-day versions of the Joad family left their farms and migrated to the cities, they tended to end up in the suburbs of Aleppo or Damascus where they struggled to find employment or entered the informal economy—in other words peddling fruit on the street. Or perhaps they would seek refuge in a city like Homs that was in the agricultural heartland and hardly a city to be profiled in Vogue magazine. Dara Conduit takes a close look at what happened in Homs after the influx of new residents with barely a pot to piss in.

Homs is Syria’s third largest city, midway between Damascus and Aleppo. It is the capital of the Homs Governorate, which has played a major role in agriculture. It contributed 79 percent of almond production and 23 percent of poultry. The Homs Chamber of Commerce proudly referred to itself as the breadbasket of Syria.

It was in Homs that Assad’s economic restructuring had its greatest and most damaging impact. As the largest capital of a drought-affected province, it became a major destination from both the west and from the Jezira to the east. Conduit reports that Homs was the third poorest province in the country and the capital city strained under the pressures of a massive influx of the desperate and the practically homeless. Between 2008 and July 2009, the government provided food assistance to 3037 affected households. Researchers discovered that six percent more residents of Homs were unable to cover basic food expenses than the average Syrian rate.

So naturally, Homs would be on the leading edge of the revolution as Conduit writes:

As a result, the unrest in Homs began in suburbs that had absorbed new rural migrants displaced from the country’s north-east or the wider province. These were urban areas once part of agricultural land and now surrounding the historic city. The clear demarcation of suburbs in Homs by socioeconomic and religious grouping made the city’s dynamics easily observable. Data on the frequency of protests between 28 September and 28 October 2011 showed that the suburbs on the city’s fringe experienced ‘near daily’ protests, including Al-Waer, Bab al-Amr, Inshaat, Ghouta, Deir Ba’albeh, Bayadeh and Khaldiyeh. Bab al-Amr was once an agricultural area on the outskirts of the city that grew most of the city’s fruit trees. By 2011, it was a ‘slum’ on the urban fringe that became ‘synonymous with the revolution’. Azzawi observed of Bab al-Amr: ‘the people there are very poor and very vulnerable, they feel that this regime put them so badly below the edge of poverty. So they are the real powers that are moving the acts of uprising in Homs’. The only exception to this pattern was Bab Houd, within the walls of Homs’ old city, which also experienced protest. The evidence therefore implies that those involved in the initial protests in Homs at the start of the 2011 uprising were citizens largely excluded from the Syrian social contract.

It is exactly people such as this, the poor and displaced rural folk who streamed into the suburbs of Damascus, Aleppo and Homs in the hope of finding a roof over their heads and food on their table who became the social base of the Syrian revolution.

God help us when so much of the left is clapping like trained seals when Russian bombers destroy their hospitals and force them to run through gauntlets of Hizbollah and Iranian militias that stand over them like the Wehrmacht soldiers stood over the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto. Comrades, we are in deep trouble when the left lacks the ability to discriminate between right and wrong and between the oppressor and the oppressed. It is time to build a new left that has once and for all learned to put the Stalinist legacy into the ashbin of history where it belongs.

December 13, 2016

Save Aleppo! Oh, hang on, Aleppo is not Kobani …

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 1:07 pm

Please help the people of Aleppo, just like we helped the people of Kobani. Oh, hang on, Aleppo? Kobani? Oh, that’s right. In Kobani they were Kurds. Civilised, secular, “progressive”, feminists, even green warriors apparently. They were like “us.” “We” (western imperialists and western … “anti-imperialists”) understand them. Therefore, they deserved to be saved from ISIS beasts, said the imperialist leaders, and their “anti-imperialist” echo in unison. Aleppo? Facing a fascistic enemy that has massacred twenty times as many people as ISIS fascists could ever manage, is not full of Good Kurds. It is full of Arabs. And we all know what western imperialist leaders, the far-right, neo-Nazis, Trumpists, racists, and “left-wing anti-imperialists” think of Arabs, especially when they live in Syria. They are all backward, blood-thirsty, barbaric, “jihadis” and “head-choppers,” *all* of the above categories tell us, yes, the left-fascists just as emphatically as any of the others. So those men, women and children, schools hospitals, markets, every sign of life, are not deserving like Good Kurds are. Indeed, the left-fascists are now all over social media, in unison with their far-right co-thinkers, expressing their great joy with the victory of the most violent, most mass-murderous counterrevolutionary massacre of our era, expressing how happy they are that a fascist regime with an airforce, backed by an imperialist state invading with its airforce, have together bombed a whole country to pieces for 5 years, but moreover have bombed 300,000 people cramped into east Aleppo for months with every conceivable weapon of mass destruction except nuclear, ripping children to pieces on a daily basis, destroying hospital after hospital till none left.

Source: Save Aleppo! Oh, hang on, Aleppo is not Kobani …

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