When the impossible becomes the inevitable: my memory of the struggle against apartheid

I retired from work, at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, Canberra, Australia, last week. The following is my final blog post as an on-going Public Service employee.

Feel free to add a comment at the museum’s blog site.

imagesmandela

On reflecting on the campaign of solidarity in Australia with the South African oppressed people, it reinforced my view that identifying with, and supporting, the oppressed and those struggling for freedom, is a core left-wing value. It was not just on the issue of South African apartheid that we did this, but on Vietnam too. The left supported the Vietnamese people against US imperialism, just as we supported the South African people against the apartheid regime. Other examples are our solidarity with the Czech and Polish rebels.

It is incomprehensible to me that people and groups that do not support the Syrian people in their struggle against the Assad regime can be in any sense left-wing, no matter how they self-identify and no matter what ‘left’ sounding slogans they shout.

Anyway, here is my final blog post at work.

* * * *

The museum’s Memories of the Struggle exhibition highlights the part played by Australians in solidarity with South Africans against the apartheid regime. It resonates with scores of thousands of us who actively took part in the struggle as grass-roots activists.

From the late 1960s and for most of the 1970s, I was one such activist in Melbourne. I lived and breathed the kind of left-wing politics that opposed apartheid and supported regime change and democratic aspiration there. If I wasn’t printing out and handing out leaflets about it, and sometimes writing them, I was attending working-bees where people designed and made placards and banners for street protests. And, there was hardly a demonstration on the issue in Melbourne that I didn’t attend. To me, it was part of a global revolutionary struggle. (The same applies to the Vietnam War, which loomed larger because of the policy of conscription for the war, and the greater violence against the Vietnamese).

Of course, not all of the Australian opponents of apartheid identified with the left and only a small minority were communists like me. It’s worth noting that while nearly everyone opposed the apartheid system in principle back then, there was strong opposition to Nelson Mandela, who was seen as a communist and a terrorist. He was certainly close to the South African Communist Party and his Spear Movement struck terror into the hearts of the fascists running the regime. To be opposed to apartheid in principle was fine, but to want to do something about it in practical solidarity was ‘going too far’.


Fast forward several decades and in 1994 Mandela is the elected and acclaimed President of a new era in South Africa, one free of apartheid and one in which all people have equal voice in elections. Despite serving 27 years in prison, he properly urges reconciliation rather than revenge. What a man! Governments whose leaders were not forthcoming with solidarity when it was needed now applaud him. The Australian governments of Whitlam, Fraser and Hawke are among the proud exceptions. Celebrities like Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor pose for photos with him. How things change.

That’s what happens when you have History on your side. When the reactionaries, who can seem so powerful, are revealed as the paper tigers that they essentially are. If proof is needed of the maxims that ‘the people make history’, and that ‘wherever there is repression there is resistance’, then South Africa under apartheid provides it. At times, it seemed a hopeless uphill battle. But don’t they all? Until they are won. And then what once seemed impossible suddenly seems inevitable.

When Mandela was released from prison in February 1990, I was so thrilled and overwhelmed that, after my regular fitness run up Mount Ainslie, which rises 800 metres above Canberra, I wanted to repeat the run immediately. I was on such a ‘high’ and carried along by the adrenalin of Mandela’s release and the excitement of South Africa’s prospects as a democracy. Thereafter, running up and down Mount Ainslie twice without stopping became my ‘Mandela Run’.

Their victory was our victory – and my victory too.


Fast forward again, and around 2010 I find myself pondering Mandela’s future. He is now in his early 90s and I feel an urge to write to him, to let him hear from an Australian activist, rather than a leader or celebrity.

I want to share some anecdotes with him – things I experienced directly – and I want to ask him for an autographed photo as a memento.

Sorry, but I can’t find a copy of my letter to him. But from memory, it told him of the following.

At my university in the early 1970s, we had a Chancellor who was on the board of Imperial Chemical Industries which, among other things, manufactured explosives and munitions in South Africa. A mass meeting of a thousand students demanded his resignation. Eventually we won and the Chancellor resigned before his term expired. But what a struggle. We occupied the Administration Building, blockaded the Council members, held mass meetings at least twice a week. And the authorities cracked down severely on us for our lawlessness. Or was it for our effectiveness? John Gorton as Prime Minister had declared that “We shall tolerate dissent so long as it is ineffective”. The student ring-leaders were identified, arrested, fined, suspended from university, lost our Education Department studentships and three of us – yours truly included – gaoled at Pentridge, without sentence or rights of appeal – for contempt of court. (It’s not easy being red).

I wanted Nelson Mandela to know that, in the west, our movement was not just about ‘sex and drugs and rock music’, as it has been condescendingly displayed in popular culture, but about real struggle, repression and resistance. Just as we brought the Vietnam War home in our protests, so too we related the oppression of the apartheid system to our own local targets whenever possible.

I wanted Mandela to know of the police violence deployed by State governments against anti-apartheid protestors. The petite university student, a young girl with whom I was friendly, being thrown face first into a pole by a burly policeman three times her size. The blood pouring from her smashed nose. The State Secretary of the Labor Party in Victoria having a baton thrust into his eye and nearly losing the eye. We knew we were in for a hiding whenever the police started removing their identification badges from their uniforms. Some of the worst police violence I have witnessed took place on protests against apartheid. They were clearly on orders to intimidate us, and batons and boots were their main weapon. But it didn’t work. We knew that the repression we experienced was minor compared to that of our brothers and sisters in South Africa.

I was arrested on one of the demonstrations and convicted of assaulting police. My only regret is that I am unable to explain on official forms that ask whether one has any criminal convictions that my crime was to try to stop a policeman pulling down an anti-apartheid banner held by the front line of a street march. I pushed him with force from behind. Technically: guilty. C’est la vie: c’est la lutte.

I wanted Mandela to know of the funny things too. Like the way in which one of my mates in Brunswick, who worked with my dad in a factory, would come to my place before a demo and we’d listen to Eric Burdon’s album, ‘Every one of us’. It featured an interview with an African-American ex-serviceman talking about racism. It inspired us in our passion, reinforced the sense that we were part of an international movement, and lifted our morale as ‘soldiers’ in a struggle.

And there was the time we tried to stop the Springbok rugby team – when Bob Hawke to his great credit as President of the ACTU intervened against the team’s visit. The police were brutal that day in 1971 but the thousands of assembled protestors at Olympic Park were determined to run onto the field and stop the game. The police cordon around the oval was holding out until it was broken when a group of police moved together to arrest people. I was standing with a comrade who saw the opportunity and said to me, “Quick, Barry! We can jump the fence onto the oval!” We ran forward, together, but at the last moment I lost my nerve. My poor comrade leapt onto the oval only to be grabbed by police. That comrade, incidentally, was Ian MacDonald, later to become a Minister in the State Government of New South Wales.


So I told all this, and more, to Nelson Mandela – ‘Comrade Mandela’ – in my letter.

After a month or so, I received a reply. It was from his secretary, who said that Mandela was now too frail to keep up with such correspondence and no longer sent out autographed photos.

However, the letter had been read to him in full.

And he had liked it.

To me, that was all that mattered.

Draining the Swamps: Correspondence with Chomsky (lead up to, and during, the Iraq War).

I have long believed in the importance of engagement with ideas and the exchange of ideas and analyses through debate. Our political culture has changed greatly since my early experiences with this process in the late 1960s. Today, it seems to me that too many people shun debate and are happy to be reinforced by group-think and their own sense of righteousness rather than be open to challenge. It really boils down to individuals stopping thinking and finding comfort in a kind of religious satisfaction.

It is telling, I think, as to who seeks debate, who is willing to be open to challenge and follow it through, and who is not. In the following email correspondence between Arthur Dent (formerly Albert Langer) and Noam Chomsky in 2002 and 2003, it is very clear as to who fits which category.

– C21styork

* * * *

In September 2002, Noam Chomsky wrote an article entitled ‘Drain The Swamps And There Will Be No More Mosquitoes’. Subsequently the article ‘Mayday – It’s the Festival of the Distressed’ was published, which argued that the US is indeed following a policy of draining the swamps. This view was presented to Chomsky who refused to give it any serious consideration.

This document contains:

1. First message to Noam Chomsky
2. Noam Chomsky’s reply .
3. Long explanation of why he thinks that Bush has adopted a policy very close to the one Chomsky proposed in  his article  Drain The Swamps  And There Will Be No More Mosquitoes (September 2002)
4. Noam Chomsky’s very short response.
5. Full text of Chomsky’s  article.
6. Full text of article May Day – it’s the festival of the distressed

**********************************************

First message to Chomsky:

Hi,

Some comments comparing your article on “Draining the Swamps” with  the
position George W Bush switched to more recently, are in an article I
published in “The Australian” (national serious mainstream broadsheet) today
(2003-05-01):

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/printpage/0,5942,6362012,00.html

(NB the above url no longer works. The article is included below (scroll down).  Alternatively you could open it in a separate window by right clicking here)

Apart from the courtesy notification, I was hoping you might be interested
in further discussion/debate.

Although you have clearly identified with the peace movement and, in my
view, adopted a very different position from your earlier article, it seems
to me that there is still a subtle difference between your analysis on Iraq
and many other articles I have seen on Znet.

Perhaps a debate could clarify the nature of those differences?

Finally, if you happen to know of any other “pro-war left” (as opposed to
pro-war liberal) web sites I would be grateful for any links.

Seeya


2. CHOMSKY’S RESPONSE

—–Original Message—–
From: Noam Chomsky [mailto:chomsky@MIT.EDU]
Sent: Sunday, May 04, 2003 12:12 AM
Subject: Re: Draining the swamp reply
Thanks for sending your article.  I’ve received 100s of letters in response to the article to which you refer, some of which misunderstood it, but nothing remotely like this.  I can only assume that you have not actually seen the article.  I’ll quote the relevant parts.

The quote from Harkabi is as follows:

Twenty years ago, the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Yehoshaphat Harkabi, also a leading Arabist, made a point that still holds true. “To offer an honourable solution to the Palestinians respecting their right to self-determination: that is the solution of the problem of terrorism,” he said. “When the swamp disappears, there will be no more mosquitoes.”

The reference to the campaign of hatred is as follows:

“The president is not the first to ask: “Why do they hate us?” In a staff discussion 44 years ago, President Eisenhower described “the campaign of hatred against us [in the Arab world], not by the governments but by the people”. His National Security Council outlined the basic reasons: the US supports corrupt and oppressive governments and is “opposing political or economic progress” because of its interest in controlling the oil resources of the region.  Post-September 11 surveys in the Arab world reveal that the same reasons hold today, compounded with resentment over specific policies. Strikingly, that is even true of privileged, western-oriented sectors in the region.”

The words you quote state — clearly and unambiguously — that the way to reduce the threat of terror is to change the policies that Eisenhower and his staff identified, and the subsequent policies that are identified.  That is, the US should stop supporting corrupt and oppressive government and blocking political and economic progress because of its interest in controlling Near East oil, and should stop its support for Israeli terror and integration of the occupied territories, and its murderous sanctions that are devastating the people of Iraq while strengthening Saddam Hussein.

I am sure you agree that the only relation between this and Bush’s policies is the relation of flat-out contradiction.

Once you look at the actual article to which you refer, I trust you will agree that a published retraction is in order.

I’m afraid I can’t answer your last question because of its assumptions, which are based on total misunderstanding.

Noam Chomsky


3. REPLY TO CHOMSKY:

Thanks for your prompt email response (May 4).
I had read your original article (“Drain the Swamps..”) before I wrote mine. My understanding when I read it agrees with the summary in your email quoted below. I agree that your article did “clearly and unambiguously” advocate that:
“…the way to reduce the threat of terror is to change the policies that Eisenhower and his staff identified, and the subsequent policies that are identified.  That is, the US should stop supporting corrupt and oppressive government and blocking political and economic progress because of its interest in controlling Near East oil, and should stop its support for Israeli terror and integration of the occupied territories, and its murderous sanctions that are devastating the people of Iraq while strengthening Saddam Hussein.”

If you believe readers of my article might gain some other impression of your views, you are welcome to include this email with the above acknowledgement in any request you make to ‘The Australian’ for a correction or clarification.
For my part I do not agree that a published retraction is in order as I do not believe my article would give any other impression. Further discussion/debate/clarification certainly is in order.
In my view the real disagreement between us is expressed by your statement:

“I am sure you agree that the only relation between this and Bush’s policies is the relation of flat-out contradiction.”
In fact I do not agree.
You must get a lot of email, and have reasonable defences against getting dragged into pointless disputes with random nutters. Before assuming I am one, I hope you will carefully consider the points below:

My position is that Bush has now switched to a policy very similar to the one you advocated both in your orginal article and as summarized by you above.  I  stated  this “clearly and unambiguously” in my article as follows:
“Stripped of the ‘God bless America’ stuff, the US President’s case now goes like this:
‘If we devote our resources to draining the swamps, addressing the roots of the “campaigns of hatred”, we can not only reduce the threats we face, but also live up to ideals that we profess and that are not beyond reach if we choose to take them seriously.’
Actually, those words are from Noam Chomsky two days before Bush’s UN speech on September 10, 2002.”

I made it clear that I was asserting that it was not a case of you endorsing Bush’s policy, but of Bush switching to a policy similar to yours, as follows:
“But if Bush had adopted Chomsky’s position so early, that would have prevented congressional authorisation. Such a position threatens to destabilise despotic, reactionary regimes everywhere. But those in the US foreign policy establishment have devoted their entire careers to supporting the most corrupt tyrannies in the Middle East, in the name of ‘stability’.”

The above also explicitly highlights that I am saying that traditional US policy has been to support the corrupt tyrannies and that Bush’s policy reverses direction. Clearly you are entitled to disagree as to whether Bush has changed direction.

But only Bush could claim to be misrepresented and ask for a retraction. You cannot ask for a retraction while reaffirming that you do in fact, as is well known, advocate a policy opposed to the traditional US foreign policy line of supporting corrupt tyrannies, as I implied above.
Again, I made it clear that despite what I believe should follow logically from your analysis, you in fact opposed the war:
For Chomsky, ‘draining the swamps’ apparently didn’t include killing people and blowing things up. Fortunately, Bush is made of sterner stuff.”
“Both Bush and Chomsky know the US cannot be secure from medievalist terrorist mosquitoes while the Middle East remains a swamp. But Bush also knows that modernity grows out of the barrel of a gun.”


I emphasized the depth of the switch I claimed had occurred in Bush’s policy as follows:

“That is a genuinely Left case for a revolutionary war of liberation, such as has occurred in Iraq. The pseudo-Left replies: ‘That’s illegal.'”
“Well, of course revolutionary war is illegal. Legal systems are created by revolutions, not revolutions by legal systems.”


Finally I highlighted my view that Bush’s new policy includes acceptance that the US “should stop its support for Israeli terror and integration of the occupied territories” as follows:
“The next logical step for the new policy is to establish a viable Palestinian state. Bush has put himself in a position where he can and must take that step. Naturally, he will not admit to the enormous strategic and policy retreat that such a step implies, so he has preceded it with enough triumphalist rhetoric to make even the Fox News team look queasy.”


Thus my position is that Bush’s actual policy now is the same as the policy you advocated in September last year – and which you summarized for me in your email. Namely Bush agrees that:
“the US should stop supporting corrupt and oppressive government and blocking political and economic progress because of its interest in controlling Near East oil, and should stop its support for Israeli terror and integration of the occupied territories, and its murderous sanctions that are devastating the people of Iraq while strengthening Saddam Hussein.”

Perhaps you find that view of Bush’s actual policy so bizarre that you cannot imagine I would be saying it?

Nevertheless, I am.

Of course I am not claiming that Bush admits that US policy was aimed at blocking political and economic progress because of US interest in controlling Near East oil, nor that he would endorse such terms as “Israeli terror” or “murderous sanctions”.
I am simply saying that Bush has changed policy, and done so for essentially the reasons you advocate. There should be nothing inconceivable about that. After all at one time US policy was to escalate the war in Vietnam until a US victory. Nixon changed that policy to withdrawing all troops and accepting defeat, but describing defeat as “peace with honour”. He did that by redefining the goal of the war as “return of all American Prisoners of War” and then rallying the American right to achieve that goal (which was won very simply by signing the peace agreement and withdrawing the troops).
I suggest something similar is going on now. Bush has redefined America’s goals in the middle east as being to promote democracy and has rallied the right by linking that to defeating terrorism. He doesn’t need to worry about the left because we’ve always been in favor of promoting democracy just as we were in favor of Vietnam defeating the US aggression.

He doesn’t need to worry about the pseudo-Left because they are just bizarre (the anti-war movement may have appeared to be a roaring flash flood that rose much faster and extended much wider than the Vietnam war movement but it was in fact also much more shallow and immediately turned into a puddle).

Even before September 11, Israeli goals were being redefined as an “end to Palestinian terrorism” rather than “Greater Israel”, as preparation for accepting defeat of the occupation and creation of a Palestinian state. That has now become mainstream. A victory against Palestinian terrorism can of course be achieved just as easily as the return of American POWs was achieved in Vietnam – by simply withdrawing from the occupied territories etc.
Instead of simply dismissing my view as inconceivable, you do need to consider and reply to it.

First, I’m not the only person on the left drawing similar conclusions about changes in US policy. It is also, less explicitly, part of the background to the collapse of the mass anti-war movement and the somewhat bizarre debates about whether it would be “irresponsible” to call for an immediate end to the occupation.

While you might be able to get away with simply brushing me off, the view of Bush’s policy that you seem to have just dismissed as inconceivable is going to keep coming up and will need to be debated eventually.

For example KADEK/PKK (the Kurdish Workers Party) has several thousand troops in Kurdistan, has been actively involved in armed struggle with the Turkish government and was originally opposed to the US attack on Iraq. Its May Day statement(same date as my article) included the following:

Middle East countries have been suffering from severe national and social problems but are now involved in a new process which started with the war on Iraq. Those severe problems are forcing the regimes to improve freedom and human rights. The prerequisites required for a solution are available now. The main characteristics of the new process are that the democratic unity issue involves both war and peaceful efforts. Although concrete results have not been achieved yet, as the Iraq case proves, if diplomatic and political methods, peaceful efforts, do not resolve the problem then the only option is war.”


Talking about peace, without offering a solution does not make any sense to people of the Middle East, who are suffering from severe problems. The collapse of the Iraqi regime will serve the interests of the society, and lead to social improvement.”


“The sovereign regimes in all Middle East countries have lost their capacities of solving the problems. In spite of colossally rich natural resources, making available opportunities to develop, those regimes could not solve the problems, but on the contrary have exacerbated them. This is the main reason for lack of developments in democracy, freedom, and human rights. The existing regimes reply to peoples’ demands for democracy, freedoms, and human rights by increasing pressures. Local people cannot benefit from their countries’ rich resources, but suffer from poverty, hunger and poor socio-economic living conditions. In spite of all this, the regimes refuse to change, do not reply the democratic change and transformation efforts and this will require their removal.”

[…]

“Whether the intervention in Iraq will succeed or not depends on the development of democracy, freedom, and human rights. The more improvements are achieved in these human values the more the US intervention in Iraq will succeed. Setting up the kind of regimes in continuity with the past will lead to chaos.”


“Therefore, the only option for the US should be to support democratic regimes. The wider dimension of the problem is the necessity of democratic change and transformation imposed upon the regimes within the region, which is the only option in order prevent war and conflict. Radical democratic reforms will prevent war.” […]



Note that KADEK/PKK is saying “The more improvements are achieved in these human values the more the US intervention in Iraq will succeed” – directly opposite to the line you have been taking. Of course they can be completely wrong, just as I can. But so can you be wrong and you certainly aren’t going to prove you are right just by saying “I am sure you agree”!
Next, note that your summary of your position is “clearly and unambiguously” advocated by former CIA Director James Woolsey, one of the leading proponents of the war in Iraq:
From his Washington Post article “Objective: Democracy“, Tuesday, November 27, 2001; Page A13:

[…] “This ought to be enough to make us call into question some of the European-generated ‘truths’ about another region, the Mideast, that have generally guided our conduct there for the past 80 years: that Arabs and Muslims have no aptitude for democracy, that we are well-advised to stay in bed with corrupt rulers — occasionally changing them if they seem to threaten, especially, our access to oil — and that the general rule should be: better the devil we know than the devil we don’t.”
“We have, on the whole, followed this European conceptual lead, and it has brought us Sept. 11, disdain and hatred. Only in Afghanistan, and in Iran, where we are perceived to be at odds with the repressive regime, do the demonstrating crowds chant ‘U-S-A.'”
“One of these days we’re going to get the picture. It has been the received wisdom at various times in the 20th century that Germans, Japanese, Koreans, Russians and Chinese would never be able to manage democracy. Yet from Berlin to Taipei, people seem to have figured out how to make it work. And no democracy threatens us, for the very good reason that, unlike dictators, democracies turn to war last, not first. And no democracy consciously harbors terrorists or encourages them to attack us.”
“The Mideast does present a special problem. Outside Israel and secular Turkey, the governments of the region comprise no democracies but rather vulnerable autocracies and pathological predators. Some of the autocracies have launched reforms and may evolve toward constitutional monarchies with parliaments and the rule of law — Jordan and Bahrain, for example — if a predator doesn’t get them first. Other autocracies, such as Saudi Arabia, seem mired in self-destructive behavior: spending vast sums to promote a whole set of domestic and foreign institutions, such as Saudi and Pakistani schools, that build hatred against both us and the modern world and that will, in time, undermine their own rule.”
“Many in the West see hatred and conclude that the people of the Muslim and Arab worlds are our enemies. They could not be more wrong. If we continue to follow the European paradigm — as, tragically, the first Bush administration did in the spring of 1991, when it failed to back the Iraqi resistance’s rebellion against Saddam — we will continue to be hated both by predator governments and by a vocal minority in the streets of the autocracies. Our only sound strategy is to take the side of the people against the predators and, albeit less urgently, the autocrats as well.”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A19477-2001Nov26?language=printer

Woolsey describes existing US policy as “staying in bed” with, or “tolerating” corrupt tyrannies rather than actively “supporting” them.

Also he bizarrely describes this policy, as “European” instead of using your presumably tongue in cheek phrase “live up to ideals that we profess”.

The policy recommendation as to how to reduce the threat of terrorist attacks from the Middle East is however, utterly clear and entirely the same as yours – “take the side of the people against (their oppressors, whether anti-US or pro-US regimes)”.

The only difference is that “take the side of the people” is rather stronger than “stop supporting” the oppressors”, and leads directly to support for a revolutionary war.
Incidentally, as well as describing US policy in terms of access to oil, Woolsey also describes the Baath regime as “fascist” in the same way that I do:
From JINSA Online, June 04, 2002.
The following interview with James Woolsey appeared on Insight Magaizine’s website on May 13, 2002.

Mr. Woolsey is a member of JINSA’s Board of Advisors and was Director of Central Intelligence from 1993 until 1995.

[…]

Insight: If the United States topples Saddam, what kind of regime will replace him?”

JW: That’s the right question for those folks in the U.S. government who might sponsor coups! But for those of us who want democracy to flourish in Iraq, there’s only one answer: whomever the Iraqi people choose. Mideast scholar Bernard Lewis is absolutely right – Iraq is one of the Arab states most suited to democracy. It has a well-educated populace and is far less tribally diverse or divisive than a number of other nations. Iraq also possesses great oil wealth. But, first, we need to de-Ba’ath the country as the U.S. and her allies de-Nazified Germany. Our role as Americans should be to assist the Iraqi nation in establishing new democratic institutions. Then, as good partners, we should stand back and let the Iraqi people decide who will rule their nation.

Insight: What is the Ba’ath Party?”

JW: It is a despotic organization modeled after the fascist regimes of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. Essentially, Ba’athists are modern-day fascists. Indeed, among some circles in the Mideast, there is much admiration for German fascism of the 1930s.
Insight: How do you bring about regime change in the Mideast, yet avoid catastrophic upheaval?
JW: For the last 40 or 50 years we have tolerated Mideast tyrants because of the U.S. thirst for oil. Of the 22 Arab states in the region, not one is a democracy. The U.S. must rid the Mideast of its tyrants, beginning with the most horrible of predators, Saddam. As we stay the course in Afghanistan, eradicating the Taliban and al-Qaeda infrastructures, other autocrats in the region will realize the U.S. means business. In time, the region will progress toward democracy.

Insight: How do you dispel the notion that the West must coddle these regimes?”

JW: In 1945, a lot of people in the nation’s capital said Germany and Japan never would progress toward democracy. They also said nations like South Korea and even Russia would never become democracies. Yet these nations proved to be able to govern themselves. Spain, Portugal and Chile also were ruled by dictators. Today they are democracies. In 1914, there were not more than 10 democracies in the world; today there are more than 120.
The Mideast, however, remains a part of the world untouched by democracy, except for Israel and Turkey. The region systematically produces terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, autocrats and dictators.
Dictators start wars. They seek out external enemies. More often than not, they escalate conflict beyond their own borders to distract internal suspicions of the illegitimacy of their regimes. In the case of Iraq, Saddam invaded Iran in 1980, just one year after coming formally to power.
Democracies, on the other hand, use force as a last resort because they are responsive to the wishes of their citizens. If we make it clear that we are determined to bring democracy to this part of the world, it will encourage hundreds of millions of decent people in the Mideast. For us to win this war the entire face of the Mideast must change. But, first, all this hinges on our success in bringing down Saddam.
http://www.jinsa.org/articles/print.html/documentid/1494

Again, while it would be easy to wax sarcastic about the last paragraphs, and the role of the USA in escalating conflict beyond its borders, the fact remains that Woolsey has recognized the same policy imperatives that you pointed out and is simply presenting them in language that can appeal to fellow senior officials of US imperialism.
Would you agree that Woolsey is indeed seriously advocating a policy that “the US should stop supporting corrupt and oppressive government and blocking political and economic progress because of its interest in controlling Near East oil“?
If so, an assertion that Bush has also accepted this policy, and that it is actual rather than merely declaratory, should be considered seriously rather than merely dismissed as inconceivable.
The point is of course that nobody familiar with the Middle East could possibly reach any other conclusions, when studying the question of how to respond to September 11, even though they might have an interest in presenting those conclusions in a more apologetic way than you do.

It is difficult to imagine how any US imperialist policy making group reviewing US policy in the light of September 11 could possibly avoid advising that supporting Islamist terrorism hadn’t been such a good idea, supporting Baath fascism hadn’t been such a good idea, supporting the House of Saud isn’t a good idea, supporting “Greater Israel” isn’t a good idea and it’s way past time to drain the swamps.
As you noted in “Wars of Terror” on 30 April:

In serious scholarship, at least, it is recognized that “Unless the social, political, and economic conditions that spawned Al Qaeda and other associated groups are addressed, the United States and its allies in Western Europe and elsewhere will continue to be targeted by Islamist terrorists.” 13″

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=11&ItemID=3543
Given that, why on earth should we assume the real, as opposed to the declared conclusions of US policy makers differ from those reached by serious scholarship?
(Incidentally, the copy at the above URL appears to be broken as it ends in mid-sentence. Please let me know when it is fixed. I noticed that almost every paragraph from “Draining the Swamps” is expanded in “Wars of Terror” and am curious to see what happened to the concluding paragraph I quoted in my article, in the light of recent shifts in US rhetoric.)
Finally, although Bush stuck rigidly to the “Saddam must disarm” line right up until the last minute, this has now taken a back seat to more or less open explanations of the new policy.

As mentioned in my article, Bush presents the new line with lots of “God bless America” rhetoric as a triumphant reaffirmation of American values rather than an admission of defeat and retreat. He is able to get away with that precisely because of the stand taken by the anti-war movement.

Instead of taking credit for having opposed the criminal and disasterous policy that brought “Sept. 11, disdain and hatred” long before Woolsey, you allow Bush to present the adoption of your views as a triumph for US imperialism!
Unlike Woolsey, Bush needs to present his declaratory policy less clearly and unambiguously than either Woolsey or your summary of it in your email to me.
Nevertheless, here’s an example (from February 26, 2003), to show that Bush is indeed saying things that sound very similar to the words I quoted from your article:
[…] A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions. America’s interests in security, and America’s belief in liberty, both lead in the same direction: to a free and peaceful Iraq. (Applause.)
[…]

There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were wrong. Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken. (Applause.) The nation of Iraq — with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people — is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom.
(Applause.)

The world has a clear interest in the spread of democratic values, because stable and free nations do not breed the ideologies of murder. They encourage the peaceful pursuit of a better life. And there are hopeful signs of a desire for freedom in the Middle East. Arab intellectuals have called on Arab governments to address the “freedom gap” so their peoples can fully share in the progress of our times. Leaders in the region speak of a new Arab charter that champions internal reform, greater politics participation, economic openness, and free trade. And from Morocco to Bahrain and beyond, nations are taking genuine steps toward politics reform. A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region. (Applause.)
It is presumptuous and insulting to suggest that a whole region of the world — or the one-fifth of humanity that is Muslim — is somehow untouched by the most basic aspirations of life. Human cultures can be vastly different. Yet the human heart desires the same good things, everywhere on Earth. In our desire to be safe from brutal and bullying oppression, human beings are the same. In our desire to care for our children and give them a better life, we are the same. For these fundamental reasons, freedom and democracy will always and everywhere have greater appeal than the slogans of hatred and the tactics of terror. (Applause.)
[…]
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/02/iraq/20030226-11.html
Clearly Bush is deliberately linking the question of US security from terrorist attack (mosquitoes) to the question of liberating people from corrupt tyrannies (draining the swamps).

That is exactly the theme of the paragraph I quoted from your article. The context is support for a war that you oppose. But what is there in the words that Bush uses to make the case for linking US security from terrorist attack with freedom and democracy in the Middle East, that you would disagree with?
Of course the fact that Bush is making a (declaratory) “case” that includes quotes like the one above does not establish what his actual policy is.

Nevertheless, given such quotes it is necessary to seriously consider the question and argue the issue rather than simply dismiss it. Certainly raising expectations in this way is not going to be helpful to any US project for imposing a puppet dictatorship in Iraq.
In the summary of your views that I quoted above from your last email, you mentioned 3 policies that would have to be changed “in order to reduce the threat of terror”. These were the policies of:

1.    ”supporting corrupt and oppressive government and blocking political and economic progress because of the US interest in controlling Near East oil.”
2.    “supporting Israeli terror and integration of the occupied territories.”
3.    “maintaining murderous sanctions that are devastating the people of Iraq while strengthening Saddam Hussein.”

I will look at each of these separately:

1. ”supporting corrupt and oppressive government and blocking political and economic progress because of the US interest in controlling Near East oil.”

That has certainly been actual US policy in the past (though of course never “declaratory policy”). If there has been a change, the onus is clearly on those saying so to demonstrate it. I have attempted to demonstrate above the plausability of such a shift and the adoption of a declaratory policy that would correspond to it.
It’s too early to conclusively demonstrate to what extent actual policy has changed. However nothing that has happened so far either in Iraq itself or in its neighbours Saudi Arabia and Turkey has conformed to the expectations of people in the anti-war movement claiming there would be no shift towards democracy.

Already political parties such as the Iraqi Communist Party are free to setup offices and publish newspapers in Baghdad when they cannot do that elsewhere and pictures of (anti-US) demonstrations are being beamed into other capitals where the people know they do not have the same freedom to protest.
The governments of neighbouring regimes are clearly petrified. Bush and Blair have done nothing to reassure them by talking about Saddam wasting oil revenues on “palaces” and by allowing the Shia to very openly celebrate. Likewise democratic forces have been heartened.

Even people opposed to the war (as is still almost obligatory throughout the region) are able to point to the impotence of the current regimes in the face of US intervention as grounds for modernizing and democratizing.

2. “supporting Israeli terror and integration of the occupied territories.”

Again, that has clearly been US policy in the past and the onus is on me to demonstrate that actual US policy has changed, which I will attempt below.
Moreover Bush has gone out of his way to express unconditional declaratory support for Sharon’s stepped up Israeli terror against the Palestinians and has been very ostentatious about doing nothing to declare policies that hinder integration of the occupied territories. Declaratory policy in this case has been fairly close to actual policy (with the usual euphemisms instead of “Israeli terror”, and very minimal purely cosmetic reservations concerning the details of integration of the occupied territories).
First however, would you agree that your quote from Yehoshaphat Harkabi demonstrates that a former head of Israeli military intelligence advocates stopping “Israeli terror and integration of the occupied territories”?
If so, an assertion that Bush has also accepted this policy, and that it is actual rather than merely declaratory, should again be considered seriously rather than merely dismissed as inconceivable.
According to your article:

“One way for the US to lessen Israeli-Palestinian tensions would be to stop refusing to join the long-standing international consensus that calls for recognition of the right of all states in the region to live in peace and security, including a Palestinian state in the currently occupied territories (perhaps with minor and mutual border adjustments).”

Well, now the road map has been oficially released:

A settlement, negotiated between the parties, will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors. The settlement will resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and end the occupation that began in 1967, based on the foundations of the Madrid Conference, the principle of land for peace, UNSCRs 242, 338 and 1397, agreements previously reached by the parties, and the initiative of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah — endorsed by the Beirut Arab League Summit — calling for acceptance of Israel as a neighbor living in peace and security, in the context of a comprehensive settlement.”
http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/nea/summit/text2003/0430roadmap.htm

As well as the Palestine National Authority, this “road map” for ending the occupation of the territories that were occupied in 1967 has been endorsed by the Arab League, the UN, the EU and Russia. If that is not joining “the long-standing international consensus” what would be? Only Israel is complaining.

If Bush intends to persist with the previous policy, his recent moves to commit himself personally to major efforts for the achievement of a viable Palestinian state within a set time frame will be extremely damaging for him.
If on the other hand he intends to adopt your proposal, his reputation as a hard-line supporter of Israeli state terrorism against the Palestinians will make it much easier for him to do so. (“Only Nixon could go to Peking“).
Anyone attempting to defeat the Zionist lobby in the USA needs a plan and Bush’s plan for outflanking them seems like a good one.

Solidarity with the Palestinians is not expressed by endorsing defeatist propaganda that the Israeli position has been strengthened by the US occupation of Iraq. On the contrary we should be emphasizing that the Palestinian right of return is critical to the achievement of US goals in the Middle East as without it, even the establishment of a Palestinian state will not avoid an ongoing festering sense of grievance like that in Northern Ireland, which will continue to be exploited by terrorists.

3.“maintaining murderous sanctions that are devastating the people of Iraq while strengthening Saddam Hussein.”

Once again, sanctions have clearly been US policy in the past and the effect of those sanctions has clearly been murderous and devastating for the people of Iraq while strengthening Saddam.
It seems obvious that US policy is now opposed to continued sanctions, so I will not discuss this third element further.
However it is worth commenting on some aspects of how the US carried out and presented that change in policy, for the light it sheds on how I suggest the US has carried out and presented the changes I claim have been made policy on the other two elements.
It seems unlikely that the intended effect of the US sanctions policy was to strengthen Saddam. The US has sincerely and genuinely wanted to get rid of Saddam, at least since shortly after the immediate aftermath of the Kuwait war, even though they did not wish to get rid of the Baath regime (presided over by some other, more manageable dictator) until much later. The intended effect of the sanctions was to weaken Saddam, not to strengthen him.
Given that a policy had an actual effect opposite to the intention, the question must have arisen as to how to change that policy without damaging other US imperialist interests.
It seems reasonable to suppose that a serious problem for US policy makers must have been that simply dropping the sanctions would have been widely perceived as a defeat for US imperialism.
More specifically it would have been presented by both Saddam and Osama bin Laden as a victory for them. Any US policy maker would have had to propose some measure to counteract the impact of that.
By carrying out the dropping of sanctions as a simple consequence of the occupation of Iraq and destruction of Saddam’s regime, the US has certainly avoided any perception that abandoning sanctions was a victory for either Saddam Hussain or Osama bin Laden or indeed that it involved any defeat for US imperialism whatever.
Nevertheless, the long term impact of that on the roots of the ‘campaigns of hatred’ is the same. The US is no longer perceived as continuing murderous sanctions that are devastating the people of Iraq. Therefore the cumulative effect of campaigns about that (for example from supporters of Osama bin Laden), will cease growing, even though there will be short term damage to US interests from hostility to the deaths and devastation caused by the war.

Likewise the US has now announced that it will meet two other demands exploited by Osama bin Laden – withdrawal from Saudi Arabia and reducing the oppression of Palestinians – without any risk of Islamist victory celebrations.
My position is that in a similar way as with the other 2 policies, US policy makers have been looking for, and have adopted, a method of carrying out and presenting a reversal of previous policy that is intended to avoid any perception of a defeat for US imperialism (and that both the war in Iraq and the position adopted by the anti-war movement has been central to enabling them to get away with that).
In your Guardian interview of February 4, 2003 you were asked:
Matthew Tempest: Will the propaganda rebound if democracy is not established in Iraq after ‘liberation’?”

You replied:

NC: You’re right to call it propaganda. If this is a war aim, why don’t they say so? Why are they lying to the rest of the world? What is the point of having the UN inspectors? According to this propaganda, everything we are saying in public is pure farce – we don’t care about the weapons of mass destruction, we don’t care about disarmament, we have another goal in mind, which we’re not telling you, and that is, all of a sudden, we’re going to bring democracy by war. Well, if that’s the goal, let’s stop lying about it and put an end to the whole farce of inspections and everything else and just say now we’re on a crusade to bring democracies to countries that are suffering under miserable leadership. Actually that is a traditional crusade, that’s what lies behind the horrors of colonial wars and their modern equivalents, and we have a very long rich record to show just how that worked out. It’s not something new in history.”
http://www.zmag.org/content/Activism/chomsky_antiwar.cfm

Well, Bush pretty much took you up on that proposal too!

My suggestion is that in February you treated your question “why don’t they say so?” as rhetorical with an assumed answer that they would say they were on a crusade for democracy instead of maintaining the inspections farce if that was actually the case. Now that they have abandoned the farce and are speaking openly of the crusade, one must conclude that your assumed answer to the rhetorical question was wrong.

You should have treated it as a non-rhetorical question and thought about what the reason for them not saying so at the time might actually have been. In fact there were good reasons why it was not in their interests to say so then, just as you have mentioned that the US has a policy of sometimes attempting to appear less rational and more vindictive than it is.
Instead of developing the idea about “colonial wars”, which would at least be consistent with continued reactionary opposition, you advanced several demonstrably wrong reasons why the US could not promote democracy in Iraq:
“The chances that they will allow anything approximating real democracy are pretty slight. There’s major problems in the way of that – problems that motivated Bush No 1 to oppose the rebellions in 1991 that could have overthrown Saddam Hussein. After all, he could have been overthrown then if the US had not authorised Saddam to crush the rebellions.”

“One major problem is that roughly 60% of the population is Shi’ite. If there’s any form of democratic government, they’re going to have a say, in fact a majority say, in what the government is. Well they are not pro-Iranian but the chances are that a Shi’ite majority would join the rest of the region in trying to improve relations with Iran and reduce the levels of tension generally in the region by re-integrating Iran within it. There have been moves in that direction among the Arab states and Shi’ite majority in Iraq is likely to do that. That’s the last thing the US wants. Iran is its next target.”
“It doesn’t want improved relations. Furthermore if the Shi’ite majority gets for the first time a real voice in the government, the Kurdish minority will want something similar. And they will want a realisation of their quite just demands for a degree of autonomy in the northern regions. Well Turkey is not going to tolerate that. Turkey already has thousands of troops in Northern Iraq basically to prevent any such development. If there’ s a  move towards Kirkuk, which they regard as their capital city, Turkey will move to block it, the US will surely back them, just as the United States has strongly supported Turkey in its massive atrocities against the Kurds in the 1990s in the south-eastern regions. What you’re going to be left with is either a military dictatorship with some kind of democratic façade, like maybe a parliament that votes while the military runs it behind the scenes – it’s not unfamiliar – or else putting power back into the hands of something like the Sunni minority which has been running it in the past.
“Nobody can predict any of this. What happens when you start a war is unknown. The CIA can’t predict it, Rumsfeld can’t predict it, nobody can. It could be anywhere over this range. That’s why sane people refrain from the use of violence unless there are overwhelming reasons to undertake it – the dangers are simply far too great. However it’s striking that neither Bush nor Blair present anything like this as their war aim. Have they gone to the security council and said let’s have a resolution for the use of force to bring democracy to Iraq? Of course not. Because they know they’d be laughed at.
Essentially you were insisting that the policies of the Bush Senior administration would prevail, despite the change in US perceptions since September 11, 2001. Not much of the above has stood the test of time – except for your tacit admission that you cannot predict what is happening.

So far Rumsfeld’s predictions have held up quite well. But after only 3 months your own speculations have proved completely irrelevant. I suggest that your acknowledged inability to make accurate predictions and your demonstrated inability to even make relevant speculations is not because there is nothing predictable about current events but because we are in a new situation and your assumptions based on an analysis of the previous situation no longer reflect reality.

Once it becomes clear to you that the US actually is introducing (bourgeois) democracy in Iraq, you can of course simply abandon your arguments about why that would be inconceivable and just shift to opposing the “imposition” of democracy as being a colonialist “crusade”.
But you have demonstrated an ability to analyse new situations in the past and should not be afraid to do so now.
Regards,
PS Your concluding paragraph was:

“I’m afraid I can’t answer your last question because of its assumptions, which are based on total misunderstanding.”
I am not sure what this was referring to.
My last paragraph was an implicit question as follows:

“Finally, if you happen to know of any other ‘pro-war left’ (as opposed to pro-war liberal) web sites I would be grateful for any links.”
Your concluding paragraph does not seem to be responsive unless perhaps you thought I was under the bizarre impression that Znet is a “pro-war left” web site.
I was of course referring to the web site URL given in my article, and mentioned in my final PPS, following the article text, as being “pro-war left” – http://www.lastsuperpower.net.
If you don’t know of any others. Please say so.
Alternatively, perhaps more likely, you were referring to the assumptions in an earlier paragraph that was followed by a question as to whether debate might clarify the nature of “a subtle difference” I had perceived to exist between your analysis and other Znet articles.
At any rate I accept that your response rejects my suggestion that there might be some difference between your previous and current positions or between your current position and that of other Znet contributors. Note that I did not make that suggestion in my published article but only directly to you.


4. CHOMSKY’S RESPONSE:

Original Message—–
From: Noam Chomsky [mailto:chomsky@MIT.EDU]
Sent: Friday, May 09, 2003 11:54 PM
Subject: RE: Draining the swamp reply

I’m rather surprised that you see no need for public retraction of the extreme falsification in your article, particularly where it is so transparent.  But to be frank, that’s no concern of mine.

I won’t discuss the fallacies in your message.  I’m sure we both have better things to do than to enter into discussion where we do not even share the most elementary assumptions about fact and logic.

Noam Chomsky


5. CHOMSKY’S ARTICLE:

Drain The Swamp And There Will Be No More Mosquitoes

by Noam Chomsky; September 10, 2002

September 11 shocked many Americans into an awareness that they had better pay much closer attention to what the US government does in the world and how it is perceived. Many issues have been opened for discussion that were not on the agenda before. That’s all to the good.
It is also the merest sanity, if we hope to reduce the likelihood of future atrocities. It may be comforting to pretend that our enemies “hate our freedoms,” as President Bush stated, but it is hardly wise to ignore the real world, which conveys different lessons.
The president is not the first to ask: “Why do they hate us?” In a staff discussion 44 years ago, President Eisenhower described “the campaign of hatred against us [in the Arab world], not by the governments but by the people”. His National Security Council outlined the basic reasons: the US supports corrupt and oppressive governments and is “opposing political or economic progress” because of its interest in controlling the oil resources of the region.
Post-September 11 surveys in the Arab world reveal that the same reasons hold today, compounded with resentment over specific policies. Strikingly, that is even true of privileged, western-oriented sectors in the region.
To cite just one recent example: in the August 1 issue of Far Eastern Economic Review, the internationally recognised regional specialist Ahmed Rashid writes that in Pakistan “there is growing anger that US support is allowing [Musharraf’s] military regime to delay the promise of democracy”.
Today we do ourselves few favours by choosing to believe that “they hate us” and “hate our freedoms”. On the contrary, these are attitudes of people who like Americans and admire much about the US, including its freedoms. What they hate is official policies that deny them the freedoms to which they too aspire.
For such reasons, the post-September 11 rantings of Osama bin Laden – for example, about US support for corrupt and brutal regimes, or about the US “invasion” of Saudi Arabia – have a certain resonance, even among those who despise and fear him. From resentment, anger and frustration, terrorist bands hope to draw support and recruits.
We should also be aware that much of the world regards Washington as a terrorist regime. In recent years, the US has taken or backed actions in Colombia, Nicaragua, Panama, Sudan and Turkey, to name a few, that meet official US definitions of “terrorism” – that is, when Americans apply the term to enemies.
In the most sober establishment journal, Foreign Affairs, Samuel Huntington wrote in 1999: “While the US regularly denounces various countries as ‘rogue states,’ in the eyes of many countries it is becoming the rogue superpower … the single greatest external threat to their societies.”
Such perceptions are not changed by the fact that, on September 11, for the first time, a western country was subjected on home soil to a horrendous terrorist attack of a kind all too familiar to victims of western power. The attack goes far beyond what’s sometimes called the “retail terror” of the IRA, FLN or Red Brigades.
The September 11 terrorism elicited harsh condemnation throughout the world and an outpouring of sympathy for the innocent victims. But with qualifications.
An international Gallup poll in late September found little support for “a military attack” by the US in Afghanistan. In Latin America, the region with the most experience of US intervention, support ranged from 2% in Mexico to 16% in Panama.
The current “campaign of hatred” in the Arab world is, of course, also fuelled by US policies toward Israel-Palestine and Iraq. The US has provided the crucial support for Israel’s harsh military occupation, now in its 35th year.
One way for the US to lessen Israeli-Palestinian tensions would be to stop refusing to join the long-standing international consensus that calls for recognition of the right of all states in the region to live in peace and security, including a Palestinian state in the currently occupied territories (perhaps with minor and mutual border adjustments).
In Iraq, a decade of harsh sanctions under US pressure has strengthened Saddam Hussein while leading to the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis – perhaps more people “than have been slain by all so-called weapons of mass destruction throughout history”, military analysts John and Karl Mueller wrote in Foreign Affairs in 1999.
Washington’s present justifications to attack Iraq have far less credibility than when President Bush Sr was welcoming Saddam as an ally and a trading partner after he had committed his worst brutalities – as in Halabja, where Iraq attacked Kurds with poison gas in 1988. At the time, the murderer Saddam was more dangerous than he is today.
As for a US attack against Iraq, no one, including Donald Rumsfeld, can realistically guess the possible costs and consequences. Radical Islamist extremists surely hope that an attack on Iraq will kill many people and destroy much of the country, providing recruits for terrorist actions.
They presumably also welcome the “Bush doctrine” that proclaims the right of attack against potential threats, which are virtually limitless. The president has announced: “There’s no telling how many wars it will take to secure freedom in the homeland.” That’s true.
Threats are everywhere, even at home. The prescription for endless war poses a far greater danger to Americans than perceived enemies do, for reasons the terrorist organisations understand very well.
Twenty years ago, the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Yehoshaphat Harkabi, also a leading Arabist, made a point that still holds true. “To offer an honourable solution to the Palestinians respecting their right to self-determination: that is the solution of the problem of terrorism,” he said. “When the swamp disappears, there will be no more mosquitoes.”
At the time, Israel enjoyed the virtual immunity from retaliation within the occupied territories that lasted until very recently. But Harkabi’s warning was apt, and the lesson applies more generally.
Well before September 11 it was understood that with modern technology, the rich and powerful will lose their near monopoly of the means of violence and can expect to suffer atrocities on home soil.
If we insist on creating more swamps, there will be more mosquitoes, with awesome capacity for destruction.
If we devote our resources to draining the swamps, addressing the roots of the “campaigns of hatred”, we can not only reduce the threats we face but also live up to ideals that we profess and that are not beyond reach if we choose to take them seriously.


6. May Day article

May Day – it’s the festival of the distressed

THE Left tide that rose worldwide in the 1960s subsided in the ’70s, just as
the previous tides from the ’30s and ’40s subsided in the ’50s.

There was no significant Left upsurge in the ’80s or ’90s, partly because
reactionary forces were already on the retreat, with the liberation of
southern Africa, East Timor and Eastern Europe, the creation of the
Palestinian Authority and the shift from military to parliamentary rule
throughout Latin America, the Philippines and Indonesia.

When the left tide is rising, May Day provides an opportunity to sum up past
victories and preview the revolutionary “festival of the oppressed” to come.
When the tide is low or dropping, as now, Mayday is just the international
distress call – a cry for help.

For more than two decades, the genuine Left has been swamped by a
pseudo-Left whose hostility to capitalism is reactionary rather than
progressive. The pseudo-Left opposes modernity, development, globalisation,
technology and progress.

It embraces obscurantism, relativism, romanticism and even nature worship.
At May Day rallies, the pseudo-Left whines about how things aren’t what they
used to be.

The real Left has been marginalised, debating neither the neo-cons nor the
pseudo-Left, simply because there has been no audience for that debate.
Incoherent nonsense from complete imbeciles is published as “Left” comment
in newspapers just so right-wing commentators can pretend they have
something intelligent to say. In fact “Left” is used as a euphemism for
“pessimistic”, “unimaginative” and just plain “dull”.

But now there is an audience. The war in Iraq has woken people everywhere –
and the pseudo-Left has really blown its chance.

Millions who marched in mid February stopped marching two months later, as
soon as the argument shifted towards democratising and liberating the Iraqi
people. Those millions still agree that George W. Bush is an arrogant bully,
but they no longer believe the peacemongers have got it right. People want
to figure out what is going on and are joining the debate at websites such
as http://www.lastsuperpower.net.

For months, the argument was about weapons of mass destruction and the role
of the UN. If the demands of the US, and the UN, had been fully met, Saddam
Hussein could have lived happily, and the Iraqi people miserably, for ever
after.

But look at what happened next! Suddenly we were hearing a different song.
Bush has been making the argument not for disarming Iraq but for liberating
Iraq.

Stripped of the “God bless America” stuff, the US President’s case now goes
like this:

“If we devote our resources to draining the swamps, addressing the roots of
the ‘campaigns of hatred’, we can not only reduce the threats we face, but
also live up to ideals that we profess and that are not beyond reach if we
choose to take them seriously.”

Actually, those words are from Noam Chomsky two days before Bush’s UN speech
on September 10, 2002.

But if Bush had adopted Chomsky’s position so early, that would have pre
vented congressional authorisation. Such a position threatens to destabilise
despotic, reactionary regimes everywhere. But those in the US foreign policy
establishment have devoted their entire careers to supporting the most
corrupt tyrannies in the Middle East, in the name of “stability”.

For Chomsky, “draining the swamps” apparently didn’t include killing people
and blowing things up. Fortunately, Bush is made of sterner stuff.

Both Bush and Chomsky know the US cannot be secure from medievalist
terrorist mosquitoes while the Middle East remains a swamp. But Bush also
knows that modernity grows out of the barrel of a gun.

That is a genuinely Left case for a revolutionary war of liberation, such as
has occurred in Iraq. The pseudo-Left replies: “That’s illegal.”

Well, of course revolutionary war is illegal. Legal systems are created by
revolutions, not revolutions by legal systems.

The next logical step for the new policy is to establish a viable
Palestinian state. Bush has put himself in a position where he can and must
take that step. Naturally, he will not admit to the enormous strategic and
policy retreat that such a step implies, so he has preceded it with enough
triumphalist rhetoric to make even the Fox News team look queasy.

The revival of the Left in the ’60s only began once it was widely noticed
that the remnants of the previous movement were reactionaries obstructing
progress. After it tried so hard to preserve fascism in Iraq, even after
Bush Jr had wisely given up on Bush Sr’s policy of keeping the Iraqi
dictator in power, can anyone deny the pseudo-Left is reactionary?

End —

Are you progressive except for Syria? (republished with active links)

I recently republished this with permission of the author but without the active links. The links reveal the depth and breadth of research by the author and include valuable sources of information worth pursuing. So, here is the article with the links active.

* * * *

WRITTEN BY Mary Rizzo.
We have all already heard of the phenomenon of PEP (Progressive Except on Palestine), in which those who consider themselves progressives (liberals in the USA) or leftists are pretty liberal on every single issue except the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But, their syndrome has been pointed out and diagnosed fully. A lot of them justify this position by saying that supporting the government of Israel is a liberal position. Their problems are not our problem… they need help that we surely can’t provide.

However, there is another phenomenon far more worrisome because it involves those who are Progressive ALSO for Palestine, and that is the case of PES (Progressive Except on Syria). Those who are afflicted by this malady feel safety in numbers, because they are in fact the majority of non-Palestinian supporters of Palestine. They will actually USE the argument of Palestine as justification of their support of Assad, even though his regime has a terrible record regarding Palestinians, (as did that of his father).  They will argue that support of Assad is a progressive (liberal) leftist value. Whether it’s called “selective humanitarianism” “double standards” or “hypocrisy”, it is a dangerous and insidious disease and should be cured. Here is a little test to discover if perhaps YOU are afflicted with this mental illness.
Do you perhaps suffer from PES without being aware of it? Fear no more! We’re happy to provide you a self-diagnosis test with simple YES / NO replies so that you can discover your own hypocritical stance, and hopefully, be on the path to the cure.

  1. Did you protest or complain about the unfairness of the USAelections for any reason but believe that Assad won a landslide victory in free and fair elections?
  2. Do you think that Assad is fighting terrorism?
  3. Do you think that the Palestinian cause is being defended by Assad?
  4. Do you believe that the war in Syria is all about foreign aggressiondue to their national and pan-Arab stances” and is not a people’s uprising? In fact, you think the whole Arab Spring has got to be “exposed” as an imperialist, western plot.
  5. Do you think that the Intifada in Palestine is legitimate and that the uprising in Syria is manufactured (while of course saying so having been paid guest to Assad’s presidential palace)?
  6. Do you think that the Palestinian cause is being defended by Hezbollah even when they target and kill Palestinian refugees and ignore the growing tensions between Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Hezbollah?
  7. Do you condemn religiously-inspired militias such as ISIS and Al Nusra when they commit murder and use violence against civilians but have not condemned Hezbollah when it commits murder and uses violence against civilians?
  8. Do you think that it was a good idea for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) to shoot on the Palestinians who mourned those killed on Naksa Day 2011?
  9. Have you called Gaza “the world’s largest open-air prison” but don’t agree with the UNHCR claim that Syria’s war “is more brutal and destructive than the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has turned into the worst humanitarian disaster since the end of the cold war.”?
  10. Have you endorsed or thought a No Fly Zone was a good idea for Gaza but reject it as Imperialist meddling or abid to save Al Qaeda if it’s done in Syria?
  11. Do you condemn the Palestinians tortured to death in Israeli prisons (since 1967, a total of 72 Palestinianshave been tortured to death) but have not condemned the 200 Palestinians tortured to death in Syrian prisons since 2011? You naturally probably don’t know about the at least 11.000 Syrians who were tortured to deathinside these prisons.
  12. Do the at least 10,000 bodies of prisoners in Syrian regime prisons that were ordered to be catalogued by the regime mean nothing to you since you don’t have details on what the reasons for their deaths could be?
  13. Do you call for release of political prisoners from Israeli jails but do not call for the release of the tens of thousands of political prisoners in Syrian jails?
  14. Have you actually asked for money to bring Gazan children to make a protest for the NFZ but think that asking for a NFZ in Syria is a bid to help Al Qaeda?
  15. Do you think Al Qaeda and ISIS are Mossad / CIA inventions?
  16. Do you protest against the death penalty in the USA: Executions in 2014, 35, but don’t do the same for Iran: executions in 2014, Between 721 and 801 at least.
  17. Do you think it is wrong for the US to provide Israel with armaments because it engages in war crimes but at the same time, think it is justified for Russia to provide the Syrian regime with armaments and military expertsbecause “it’s war against NATO”?
  18. Do you condemn Israel’s “extra judicial killing” but claim that Assad must do everything he needs to maintain power because blocking his actions in any way, even by condemning them “… could end up ousting Assad. It would mean replacing him with pro-Western stooge governance. It would eliminate another Israeli rival. It would isolate Iran. It would be disastrous for ordinary Syrians.”
  19. Have you ever praised Assad’s government because it is secular, or “fighting the enemy of the West”: because after all, you only see the alternatives being Assad or the “Islamic Fundamentalists”?
  20. Did you support Haniyeh and Meshaal until they started waving the Syrian revolution flag?
  21. Do you erroneously refer to the Syrian revolution flag as the “French Mandate Flag” ignoring that even the Assad regime celebrated it as the Independence flag each “Evacuation (Independence) Day on 17 April to celebrate the resistance against the French colonialists?
  22. Do you know the names of at least one Palestinian dissident/political writer but don’t know any Syrian ones?
  23. Do you call the opposition to Assad “Western-backed rebels” either from a Pro-Israel or Pro-Iran standpoint?
  24. Did you protest for Palestinian detainees and even know their names but not do the same for Palestinian detainees in Syrian’s prisons?
  25. Do you know the name of at least one minor arrested or killed by Israel but don’t know the name of at least one minor arrested or killed by the Assad regime?
  26. You have protested against the racist and discriminatory Apartheid Wall and checkpoints in Israel/Palestine but you have nothing much to say about Syrian military checkpoints and sniper-lined checkpoints?
  27. Did you get angry when a US newspaper used a photo of Iraqi deaths, claiming they were Syrian, but when Palestinian supporters use Syrian ones, it’s “illustrating the suffering in Gaza”?
  28. You have protested against Israeli use of phosphorus bombs but you have nothing much to say about the unconventional weapons use by Assad against both opposition fighters and civilians such as barrel bombs andchemical weapons?
  29. Are you critical of the US for intervening in affairs of other countries but think it’s normal for Iran and Russia to be sending troops into Syria to help the regime?
  30. You would never consider Palestine compromising with Israel but you believe that the opposition must compromise with the regime in Syria.
  31. Do you condemn the Saudi monarchy and refer to them as Wahhabis, Salafis, etc., but refuse to recognise that Iran is a theocracy?
  32. Do you think that Assad is simply doing everything he can to protect the minorities in his country?
  33. Do you call the Israeli occupation of Palestine ethnic cleansing but do not speak out against the regime-driven massacres in Syria that are ethnically based?
  34. Do you refer to the Assad regime, Hezbollah and Iran as the “Axis of Resistance” even when they don’t react to Israeli attacks on them?
  35. Do you think the following two statements are both true?
    a. Dissent in the United States is patriotic.
    b. Protesting in Syria is an assault on the State and needs to be quelled.
  36. Do you think the following two statements are true?
    a. Pepper spraying protesters in the USA is a violation of human rights.
    b. The Syrian regime has to use whatever force it deems necessary against protesters, because they protesters have violent intentions.
  37. Do you think that Israel must be brought to the ICC for crimes against humanity but think that the Syrian regime should not?
  38. Do you condemn the USA vetoes on the UN Security Council in favour of Israel but praise the Russian and Chinese ones in favour of Assad both to stop sanctions and to prohibit ICC investigation including three Chinese vetoes on Syria alone out of eight total vetoes in their history?
  39. Do you think the following statements are both true?
    a.Calling a U.S. citizen anti-American or un-American for being critical of the US government is ridiculous, knee-jerk, unintelligent and actually incorrect.
    b.People who are critical of Assad are closet or overt imperialists and want US control over the region.
  40. You do not believe that Russia is an imperialist state while you are certain that Syria is an anti-imperialist state defending itself against imperialist onslaught.
  41. Do you think that Erdogan is seeking to dominate politics in the region in an attempt to restore what was once the Ottoman Empire or even think the US is trying to establish an Islamic State but support Iranian domination and the Shi’a Crescent?
  42. Have you signed petitions against companies such as Soda Stream and Coca-cola but not against weapons provider, the Russian monopoly Rosoboronexport or even the western companies providing the Syrian and Iranian regimes with surveillance equipment that they use against dissidents and opposition?
  43. Do you call innocent victims killed by American drones or victims of war crimes but consider the Syrians and Palestinians killed by Syrian bombs and chemical weapons collateral damage?
  44. Do you reject the USA/UK “War on Terror” but believe that Assad has a right to use whatever means possible tokill whoever he considers as a terrorist in Syria and that Syria is a sovereign nation fighting Al Qaeda?
  45. Have you mentioned the Blockade on Gaza in conversations and know it is illegal and a crime against humanity but don’t feel the same about the Blockade on Yarmouk?
  46. Do you respond to criticism of Assad by pointing out USA human rights violations?
  47. You know the name of USA civilians killed by cops or vigilantes, but you don’t know the name of a single Syrian victim of torture in the Assad prisons.
  48. You have protested for the closure of Gitmo, but you don’t raise your voice or even one eyebrow over theSyrian Torture Archipelago in which “The systematic patterns of ill-treatment and torture [in the 27 detention facilities run by Syrian Intelligence] that Human Rights Watch documented clearly point to a state policy of torture and ill-treatment and therefore constitute a crime against humanity.” Moreover, you don’t want to notice that Syria’s government has been cooperating with the CIA extensively in renditions and the torture programme.
  49. You think that Israel should not have nuclear capacity but that Iran should have nuclear capacity. Extra pointsif you support Non-Proliferation. Super extra points if you participated in any No Nukes events in the West or signed any such petitions, super extra and mega extra points if you are against nuclear power.
  50. You believe that the Palestinian struggle is about human rights but the Syrian protests were sectarian and religious-oriented, driven by people who wanted to overthrow and overtake power illegitimately if not in factmanufactured by the West?
  51. Do you believe it’s normal for the Syrian constitution to be amended every time that it serves the Assad familybut the US Constitution is sacred and especially no amendments should be made to limit gun possessionwhether you detest the US government or think it should basically call all the shots around the world?
  52. Do you think that Jews protesting the Israel government are noble people who are fighting for human rights and justice while any Syrian protesting the Assad regime are in cahoots with the Israeli government.
  53. Do you believe that, “We must not in any way call for the removal of President Assad unless he commits acts of terror against us. Assad’s government has committed no such act, thus rendering it criminal for foreign governments to undermine the Syrian regime. You either stand for national sovereignty, or against it. The choice is yours.” While at the same time have supported efforts from the liberals or conservatives to have Obama impeached?
  54. Do you believe that foreign countries helping the Palestinians militarily to win against Israel is legitimate but helping Syrians win against Assad is meddling and think that “any further intervention in Syria would be for U.S. interests, like weakening an ally of Iran, and would encourage Assad’s allies to step up their armament shipments. The carnage would continue, and perhaps increase.”?
  55. Do you reject claims that the involvement of Iran and Russia in favour of Assad is meddling?
  56. Do you think that the entire Syrian war is for the purpose of the US weakening Syria so that it can pursue its own interests in the region but ignore the fact that Russia has enormous interests in Syria that are far more evident?
  57. Have you ever found yourself denying Assad had chemical weapons but also applauding the Syrian regime’s decision to hand them over to Russia as a strong gesture towards peace?

How many questions did you answer YES to?

Between 1 and 5? You are headed towards selective humanitarianism, or even are afflicted with Western Privilege Syndrome!

Between 6 and 10? You are dangerously using double standards and believe that human rights aren’t something universal, but allow your ideological or dogmatic prejudices to influence your ethical judgement!

Over 10? You are a dyed in the wool Hypocrite! Maybe you should avoid “current events” altogether, you have no understanding of what human rights and justice mean, you should wash your mouth out before you ever speak about human rights for Palestinians or anyone.

The Anti-War Left 100 Years Ago vs the Anti-War Left Today

Thanks to Ben Norton for permission to reprint his article. It’s spirit is spot on.

He concludes with the question: ” “Dialectics”? What’s that?”

One might also ask of today’s pseudo-left: “Internationalist solidarity”? What’s that?

* * * *

When confronted with the obscene violence of World War I 100 years ago, the strategy of the leaders of the internationalist Left was to oppose both bourgeois sides of the inter-imperialist conflict and instead advance the cause of proletarian internationalism.

Today, the strategy of much of the “internationalist” “Left” is to simply support the side that’s not the West in a kneejerk reaction and dub it “anti-imperialism.”

World War I caused a major split in the global Left. Many of the leading revolutionaries—those of whom are now some of the most celebrated figures in the history of socialism—opposed the war outright. Yet more than a few parties supported the war. This disagreement led to the dissolution of the Second International, and later to the failure of the German Revolution.

Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, and Clara Zetkin formed Die Internationale—which later became the Spartacus League (not to be confused with the absurd Sparticist League of today), which in turn later became the Communist Party of Germany (KPD)—explicitly in order to oppose the pro-war Left, particularly the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which supported the war. Luxemburg and Liebknecht were imprisoned for their opposition to the war.

Lenin referred to the war as “the imperialist war” and condemned socialists who chose a side as “social-chauvinists.” US leftists steadfastly opposed the war, and Woodrow Wilson was even re-elected in 1916 with the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War”—although he reneged on his promises and plunged into the inter-imperialist violence.

If today’s “leftists” were alive then and endorsed the same logic they do now, they would have likely written off these leading leftist figures as “utopians” and “‘useful idiots’ of Western imperialism” and instead supported the Central Powers. After all, the Central Powers consisted of relatively eastern nations—the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria, Austria-Hungary, Germany, and the Emirate of Jabal Shammar (in much of modern-day Saudi Arabia)—which were fighting the imperialist West—including the UK, France, the US, and more of the states in modern-day NATO.

Our day’s supposed anti-imperialists insist that we must defend the bourgeois, quasi-fascist regimes of Syria, Russia, and more against supposed “Western encroachment” (mimicking the “lesser evil” argument liberals love to wield to continuously re-elect neoliberal Democrats who were bought and sold on Wall Street on day one). Assad’s counterrevolutionary war of terrorism against his own population must be defended, they insist; Putin’s war in Ukraine must be supported, even though he himself is supported by and supports Europe’s neo-Nazi and other fascist groups.

This strange illogic leads to authoritarian “leftists” fighting in Ukraine literally side-by-side with Nazis, in defense of Russia. In 2015, a group of Spanish “communists” who returned from fighting on behalf of Russia in the war in Ukraine—which has left many thousands dead—were arrested. They had joined the pro-Russian so-called Donbass International Brigades (so named in a slanderous and ludicrous attempt to associate itself with the International Brigades from the Spanish Civil War). They received neither travel expenses nor a salary for their fighting. They proudly boasted that they fought aside both Nazis and “communists.”

“Half of them are communists and the other half are Nazis,” they explained. “We fought together, communists and Nazis alike … We all want the same: social justice and the liberation of Russia from the Ukrainian invasion.”

If today’s “leftists” are incapable of actually distinguishing leftists from fascists, one can only imagine their response to World War II. After all, the far-right, capitalist, racist tyranny of National “Socialism” presented itself as a “worker’s party.” Hitler exploited the popularity of socialism among the working class, in order to advance one of the most horrific campaigns of terror in human history. One can almost hear the same “leftists” today who claim “Actually, it was the rebels who gassed themselves, not Assad” saying, in the 1940s, “Actually, I think it was Jews who used the gas chambers against the Nazis.” “The allegations against the ‘legitimate government’ are just Western propaganda,” they would claim, in both cases.

Today’s “leftists” would have doubtless sided with the Ottoman Empire too in its crushing of the 1916-1918 Arab Revolt, disparaging it as a “Western-backed plot,” in the same manner in which they slander the Syrian Revolution now.

Just as many “leftists” today insist that Russia, Iran, and China are not actually imperialist powers because—although they are bourgeois capitalist nations engaging in imperial domination—their imperialism is not equivalent in magnitude to that of the world’s hegemon, the US, they would likely have supported the “lesser evil” of the Central Powers in WWI. (“Here’s a map of the world’s ubiquitous US military bases and here’s a map of Iran’s (lack of) military bases—see, proof Iran is not imperialist!” constitutes a common “anti-imperialist” argument today.)

Sure, the Central Powers may have been brutally oppressive bourgeois regimes—like those today of Assad, Putin, Ayatollah Khamenei, and more—but they were not the world’s leading imperialist powers, so they should have been defended. Muh “anti-imperialism”!

Today’s Left has absorbed the manichean, black-or-white Stalinist logic of the Cold War into their very beings.

“Dialectics”? What’s that?

Fascism and the Left (from Red Eureka Movement, November 1980)

… scratch a “Communist” and one quite often finds a fascist underneath.

(Note: I was personally on the other side, the wrong side, during the conflict described in this article. I opposed the Red Eureka Movement. I now regret not being open-minded and rebellious and instead clinging to the safety of dogma, a close social circle and the Party Line. We all have our dark years, I suppose. The thing is to face them and keep learning…).

* * * *

A major theme in left wing propaganda is opposition to fascism. Quite often relatively moderate opponents of the left are described as “fascists”.

Yet scratch a “Communist” and one quite often finds a fascist underneath.

The regime that began with the October Revolution is now a fascist dictatorship. In China too, since the defeat of the Cultural Revolution many revolutionaries have been executed and the right to speak out freely, hold great debates, put up big character posters and so on has been officially and formally repudiated.

The degeneration of Communist Parties in power is a separate problem calling for a separate analysis. But what about the degeneration of parties holding no power?

THE CPA (ML)

Our experiences with the “Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist)” were sufficiently frightening to require some deep analysis. Almost any split is accompanied by outraged cries of “unfair” or “undemocratic” from the losing side, so it seemed undesirable to distract attention from the fundamental issues at stake by going into details of who done what to who. But another reason why we never got around to it was probably embarrassment at ever having been involved with such a sick group.

The bankruptcy of Australian nationalism as an ideology for communists is now pretty apparent, while the question of whether China has gone revisionist has been settled by open proclamations from the Chinese leadership themselves. Although Vanguard keeps coming out each week, the people behind it seem pretty discredited and there is little need to discredit them further.

In Adelaide the “Worker Student Alliance for Australian Independence” has disintegrated, along with its newspaper People’s Voice. In Melbourne the entire editorial collective of Independence Voice quit some time ago, there was no “Independence platform” at Mayday, the “Australian Independence Movement” is virtually defunct and supporters of this line have been completely routed in “Community Radio” 3CR. The Australia China Society is unable to defend the new regime in China and little has been heard from the CPA(ML) in the trade union movement either.

As a complete expression of E.F.Hill’s bankruptcy we have the suggestion in “Australian Communist”, that they want unity with us (previously described as “Soviet agents”). Hill has even signed an article proposing reunification with the CPA in “one Communist Party” (presumably because the Chinese revisionists, having recently re-united with their Italian and Yugoslav colleagues, also wish to re-establish relations with the CPA, leaving Hill out in the cold).

The thuggish behaviour of the CPA(ML) supporters in attempting to intimidate their opponents is well known. Both intellectual and physical thuggery, in 3CR and elsewhere, has become so notorious that the only “broad united front” they have been able to create has been that directed against themselves. They have also become notorious for openly preferring to ally themselves with various Nazis and other fascists against the Soviet Union rather than trying to unite the people, and especially the left, against Soviet imperialism on the basis of progressive principles. Their main political theme these days is the united front they claim to have with Malcolm Fraser,who nevertheless remains quite unaware of their existence. As for China, they openly say they would rather not talk about it, even though China was, and is, central to their whole political outlook.

These facts are mentioned, not to kick a dead horse, but to emphasise that the horse really is dead and to confirm that the additional facts about it cited below are genuine observations and not just part of some ongoing sectarian faction fight.

OTHERS TOO

The more or less open fascism of the CPA (ML) has resulted in that group being simply dismissed as “crazies”. But in fact they are only a more extreme expression of problems that exist, less overtly, throughout the left. Indeed it has been noticeable in 3CR for example, that the excuse of “keeping out the crazies”, has been used to justify appallingly manipulative and undemocratic behaviour (e.g. elected listener sponsor representatives voting against explicit directives from a large general meeting of listener sponsors). People who would be shocked and indignant about that in other contexts have made excuses for it when their own friends are doing it. Really how far is it from making excuses to acting in the same way?  And how far from there to ending up just like the “crazies” themselves?

Also the fact that China and the Chinese parrots are anti-Soviet (and Reagan, Thatcher, Fraser etc) has become an excuse to actually apologise for Soviet actions that would be called “fascist” if American was doing it.  Indeed many quite non-crazy “left liberals” have been prepared to go through the most amazing mental contortions to justify the Vietnamese occupation of Kampuchea or to minimise the significance of Soviet aggression elsewhere.  Rather than agree with “right-wingers” (like Churchill), they prefer to apologise for fascists (like Hitler).

Where was the left wing outrage (as distinct from concern) when Polish workers were being denied the elementary right to form free trade unions?  Why do “militants” in “left-wing” unions take delight in the same bureaucratic manoeuvres their opponents use to stay in power?  Why are splits in left wing groups so common and so nasty?

In Australia many other groups supposedly on the left have exhibited a personal intolerance comparable to the Chinese parrots, and also a comparable willingness to apologise for reactionary regimes in other countries, provided those regimes pay lip service to “anti-imperialist” principles. (Vietnam, Cuba, Iran, Libya… name a country that is suppressing some other country or trying to impose some medieval religion on its people and you will find a “left” group wildly enthusiastic about it.)  Scanning overseas “left” newspapers one gets the impression that narrow minded religious bigotry is pretty common, and even where it is not taken to extremes, it is still present.  No wonder so many on the “left” thought a fellow zealot like Khomeiny would be progressive for Iran.

The undemocratic tendencies of “Leninists” is a common theme in anti-Communist propaganda – from open representatives of the bourgeoisie, from Social Democrats, from Anarchists, from “Left” or “Council” Communists and what have you.  Nevertheless, attacks from our opponents should be taken seriously, and indeed have been taken seriously by the classic exponents of Marxism.

CHINESE FASCISM

This question was especially taken seriously in China and some of the material from the Chinese Cultural Revolution is very valuable for understanding the emergence of fascist tendencies among alleged “Communists”.

For example Mao Tsetung’s unpublished works, and the material criticizing Lin Piao (the “successor” who turned out to be a fascist). The Cultural Revolution was after all a direct struggle between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries who both purported to be part of the “left”. The concept of fighting bourgeois ideas disguised as “left” ideas was crucial to unleashing the 1960s upsurge and will be crucial again. It was necessary to challenge the “peace” ideas that were dominant in the left in the 1960s and it will be necessary to challenge the views that are dominant now – many of which are again crystallised in the eclectic mishmash of the “CPA”.

In the “gang of four’s” Peking University Journal of September 1, 1976 there is an important article on “The Bureaucrat Class and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat”:

…We must further recognise the high concentration of political and economic powers under the dictatorship of the proletariat. If the bureaucrat class succeeded in usurping power and in its restorationist conspiracies throughout the country, then it would continue to flaunt the banner of socialism, take advantage of this high concentration of political and economic powers and turn the democratic centralism of the proletariat into the fascist centralism of the bureaucrat class.

In controlling and manipulating the means of production and the product of Labor, these bureaucrats will be far more powerful than any previous exploiting classes and their political representatives, than the slave owners and feudal rulers who claimed that “all land under the sun is my territory and all people on earth are my subjects”, and than the bureaucrats and financiers in capitalist countries…In a similar vein, the present day new tsars behave much worse than the old tsars…

(Translation from Selections from People’s Republic of China Magazines No 895, American Consulate General, Hong Kong. Reprinted in Study Notes No 6, Red Eureka Movement, August 1978)

This article also goes into the question of the transformation of authority into capital and capital into authority, which is relevant to an understanding of imperialism in the West as well as in the Soviet Union and China.

Western bourgeois democratic society is heading towards an acute crisis and upheaval as another Great Depression and a Third World War develop. The outcome can be Communist Revolution or some form of fascism or social-fascism. We could face a new ruling class more powerful than the present one. It largely depends on how clear the left is on what we are fighting for and what we are fighting against and how sharply we can draw the line against perpetuating the old system of exploitation in our own practice. If the left continues to whinge about capitalism, and even oppose it from a reactionary perspective then it cannot hope to inspire people to fight for something fundamentally different.

Indeed, just as one would have to defend the national independence that Western and Third World countries have already achieved, from Soviet “socialist” imperialism, one would also have to defend the achievements already won by the bourgeois democratic revolution from attack by alleged “socialists” who want to go backwards to a more oppressive society.

DEMOCRATIC CENTRALISM

If the democratic centralism of the proletarian dictatorship can be easily transformed into the fascist centralism of the bureaucrat class in a developing socialist country, then what about democratic centralism in Leninist parties out of power? Is this an argument against democratic centralism and proletarian dictatorship, as anarchists and others insist?

The answer to this argument is that there never can be a guarantee against proletarian dictatorship turning into its opposite, and Communists in power must always be prepared for transition to underground life as Communists in opposition to capitalist roaders in power. Likewise in Communist Parties generally – one must be prepared to rebel and to be expelled for rebelling.

But if there was no democratic centralism and proletarian dictatorship then it would be quite impossible for the revolutionary ideas held only by a minority in capitalist and socialist society to be centralised and dominant and in that case the bourgeoisie holds power anyway. So weakening democratic centralism is not the answer. On the contrary, it needs to be strengthened to keep fascists out, on the same argument that the left cannot afford to be pacifist and must learn the use of arms if it doesn’t want warmongers to hold power.

Proletarian dictatorship means just that. It does not mean dictatorship over the proletariat by some bureaucrats. It means a political system in which the working class can really wield political power – something that can be achieved by workers councils led by a revolutionary party and cannot be achieved by parliamentary institutions or by milling around in confusion.

Democratic centralism also means just that. It does not mean the leadership imposing decisions on a reluctant membership. It means that the abstract “parliamentary” right which almost all organisations give their members to ultimately take decisions, is made real by conscious leadership of the decision making process to make it “from the masses, to the masses” and so make it actually work without manipulation or obstruction.

This article is not a plea for everybody to be more tolerant of everybody else. It is a call for sharper defence of our basic principles and less tolerance of attempts to undermine them. One cannot be a Communist if one is not first a democrat. The democratic revolutionaries of England, France and so on in earlier centuries had no hesitation about chopping off the heads of their aristocratic opponents and neither should we.

Fear of strengthening democratic centralism is really fear of struggle. Such fear is fully understandable in the present situation, and a lot better than blinkered complacency. But it must be overcome.

The quote from Orwell’s “Road to Wigan Pier” in “the Personal is Political” (Discussion Bulletin No 9) rang a few bells and is worth repeating:

…..”Socialism” is pictured as a state of affairs in which our more vocal Socialists would feel thoroughly at home. This does great harm to the cause. The ordinary man may not flinch from a dictatorship of the proletariat, if you offer it tactfully; offer him a dictatorship of the prigs,and he gets ready to fight.

We should be ready to fight against the dictatorship of the prigs and to do this it is necessary to understand the transformation of Communists into prigs.

ARE WE DIFFERENT?

If we take Lin Piao for example, there is no doubt that he did make contributions to the Chinese revolution before emerging as an outright fascist. The superstitious Mao cult he built up in opposition to Mao had definite roots in China’s feudal past, but also struck a chord among Western “Maoists”.

Ted Hill now appears to be nothing more than a follower of Liu Shao-chi, then Lin Piao (as a major cult advocate) then Liu Shao-chi again, or whoever may hold power in China at any given moment. But some of his analyses of revisionism,parliamentarism and trade union politics in publications like “Looking Backward; Looking Forward” are still valuable and he once made a point of opposing sacred cows and stereotypes and supporting rebellion.

Things were drastically wrong with the CPA(ML) long before we parted company and people are entitled to ask how we got mixed up with them and why we should be regarded as any different. If we are to be any different then we must analyse the thin dividing line that appears to exist between being a Marxist-Leninist or “Maoist” on the one hand, and being a lunatic or a fascist on the other.

There is little need to “expose” the CPA(ML) leadership now in view of its obvious degeneration. But the roots of current fascist attitudes do need study, so the following facts are placed on the record for our own benefit rather than for the benefit of anyone still taken in by Hill.

SOME FACTS

  1. There never was anything remotely resembling democracy within the CPA(ML). This became obvious when concrete disagreements made it necessary to have a proper discussion and take a decision. But it should have been obvious even when people thought they were in agreement.
  2. As soon as a disagreement in principle was announced “through the proper channels” etcetera, the immediate response was to launch vituperative attacks on individuals – at first surreptitiously behind their backs and then openly in Vanguard.
  3. The very idea of discussing the differences was repudiated and “security” was abused to tell people that there had been a full democratic discussion, which they just didn’t happen to be part of.
  4. As a matter of fact it turned out that no Central Committee actually existed. One member of the Red Eureka Movement discovered that he was supposed to be a CC member after wanting to express his views to the CC. This must be some sort of record in the international communist movement!
  5. Other members of the Red Eureka Movement who were both on the Central Committee and knew it , were able to expose the lie that there had been some kind of Central Committee discussion about China and that documents expressing opposition had been circulated to the Central Committee etc.
  6. Individual party members had to go outside the “channels” to get any kind of discussion and then discovered that the “channels” didn’t really exist. Now others who accepted this are finding the same situation.

7.It was not a case of discussion being suppressed arbitrarily and decisions usurped, but of there being no provision whatever for seriously discussing and reversing a policy disagreed with.

  1. This situation which existed long before it came to a head was put up with by people who would rebel strongly against similar fascist practices in any other social institution.
  2. Many people on becoming aware of it, and seeing people branded as Soviet agents etcetera, took a cynical attitude that this was wrong but not a major question of principle requiring them to take a stand.
  3. Our initial reaction to all this shit was not to launch a public struggle as in the Cultural Revolution or in accord with our own experiences in the 1960s. Instead we had great hangups about “the party” and organised semi-conspiratorially.
  4. Despite being a very small group, since breaking with the CPA(ML) leadership we have not been able to resolve internal disagreements in a civilised, let alone comradely manner, but have had two further splits. While nowhere near as bad as Hill’s, these have also involved strange behaviour that would not be tolerated in most community organisations and should not be tolerated on the left. Moreover they have occurred in a situation where we are not leading any great revolutionary struggle and no pressing life or death decision was at stake.

LIFE WASN’T MEANT TO BE EASY!

We did not fully realise it at the time, but there was little alternative to the apparent extremism of Hill’s stand because there really wasn’t any possibility of a discussion. If he had agreed to a discussion, what could he possibly have said? And if the CPA(ML) did not follow China religiously, what else could it do? We cannot blame Hill for our own naivety.

We only realised how difficult most people find it to rebel and think for themselves once we had broken with Hill and company. “Stalinists without a country” was the contemptuous Trotskyist label, and there is something in it. It really is enormously easier to at least think you know what you’re doing when there is some “socialist motherland”backing you up. (Or a “Fourth International”, a “great leader” or some other crutch).

For non-revolutionaries its fairly easy to maintain a political position sustained by one or other of the reformist currents in mainstream bourgeois society. But in a non-revolutionary society and with no back up from a revolutionary society, it requires real effort to develop a revolutionary program. How much easer it would have been if we could have forgotten that we didn’t have such a program by simply pretending to ourselves that China, or Albania or somewhere was revolutionary and that supporting them would somehow produce a revolution here. Or by pretending that if we were all more dedicated, we would figure out where we were going while getting there.

Its interesting to note how even people with no attachment to Russia, China or Albania have managed to persuade themselves that Vietnam is still worth supporting and feel a deep and personal threat to their whole ideology when this is questioned. Or how people leaving REM because it hasn’t been getting anywhere who know perfectly well what’s wrong with the political line of the Revolutionary Communist Party (USA), are nevertheless attracted by the reassuring certainty of that group’s proclamations.

“Idealism and metaphysics are the easiest things in the world, because people can talk as much nonsense as they like without basing it on objective reality or having it tested against reality. Materialism and dialectics, on the other hand, need effort. They must be based on and tested by objective reality. Unless one makes the effort, one is liable to slip into idealism and metaphysics.”(Mao Tsetung)

PRIESTS AND HORSES

Judging from overseas literature, the temptation of closed minded religious fanaticism is very strong in this situation. It provides a certainty that would otherwise be lacking and puts an end to all confusion,doubt,cynicism, liberalism and so on.

But this way out is the way out of the movement.It means joining the innumerable sects that are much better organised and disciplined than we are, and are able to get more done precisely because they do not have the “burden” of really having to think out a revolutionary line.

We did not hesitate to reject the “security” of blindly following China, Albania or anybody else so we should not regret the consequences.

One consequence is that we are in some respects more vulnerable to confusion, doubt, liberalism, cynicism and so on than other left groups that feel more confident about their (manifestly wrong!) lines. The reason horses are given blinkers is that it keeps them working away steadily without getting distracted by things they might see.Groups that have attached themselves to a foreign state, or that merely reflect a reformist current  in mainstream bourgeois ideology, have a secure basis for their activity and can work away at it for years after it has ceased to have any social relevance or has become purely reactionary.

The same can easily be true of “revolutionary” groups that feel secure, or pretend to feel secure in their “correct line”. They can whip up a great frenzy of activity, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing. Take a look at the Communist Workers Party or the Revolutionary Communist Party (USA). On many points we would be in full agreement. They have a similar analysis of China and Albania to ours and they certainly do make a clear distinction between communist revolution and the bourgeois reformism advocated by most “revolutionaries”.

On international questions of very great significance they appear to have a fundamentally wrong analysis, But even more important, their whole approach to “correct line” politics seems alien. They are certainly not paralysed by liberalism like we are – but so what?

While confusion, doubt, liberalism, cynicism and so on persist we will remain unable to accomplish very much, including theoretical work:

“We must have faith in the masses and we must have faith in the Party. These are two cardinal principles. If we doubt these principles, we shall accomplish nothing.”(Mao Tsetung)

But the only basis for faith in the Party is confidence in the soundness of its analysis and line. Once we have grounds for such faith we will be able to accomplish something, but not before. (And of course once we do, we will again have the problem of blind faith and the potential for people to continue following a leadership that has proved itself worthy of confidence, long after it has ceased to play a progressive or revolutionary role. But then it would be at a higher stage of the spiral).

Demands that people pull themselves together, combat liberalism or what have you, will not solve the problem of lack of faith. This is an atheistic age and real communists are atheistic people. Our only God is the masses and the only basis for our faith is scientific analysis of reality.

The situation we are in calls urgently for working out where we are and where we are going. Without that , calls to press on more resolutely and with greater vigour will only result in people getting more lost.

CHIN UP, BACK STRAIGHT, EYES SHUT!

It is conservative, not revolutionary to promote “leadership”, “organisation”, “doing things”, “collective life” and so on without a clear perspective for liberating people from oppression. Defenders of the status quo habitually make such appeals and every organisation, revolutionary or not, naturally wants to be as effectively organised as possible (and most sewing circles and amateur theatrical societies are probably a lot better organised than REM). But it is quite wrong to see the organisational reflection of our confusion as the central problem instead of dealing with the confusion itself. (As for any who are not confused, they would have an even greater problem. Take off the blinkers!)

Communism is not the only ideology opposed to liberalism. Fascism opposes liberalism too. It is one thing to want to widen and deepen and ultimately transcend democracy by going beyond such mere forms as majority voting. It is quite another thing to declare that ones policies have proved their own correctness and deliberately exclude others from even a vote, let alone a real say, on the matter. Yet we have repeatedly experienced this kind of behaviour not just from enemies, but from comrades who probably really do want to be revolutionaries.

The fact that people like Lin Piao or Ted Hill could turn out to be fascists and that we could go along with a load of shit for a long time should alert us to the dangers. When people on the left start acting like people on the extreme right they must be pulled up sharply and told “You’re Ill” before the disease becomes incurable and before it spreads.

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Some left-wing poetry (and a little self-indulgence)

Poetry can be a powerful weapon against reactionaries. A while back I tried to recite some good left-wing poetry by Nazim Hikmet and put it on youtube:

Recital with images of Nazim Hikmet’s poem “Regarding Art”. Images include photos taken by Barry York in New York in May 2008. Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963) was a poet, writer and communist who spent much of his adult life in prison or in exile. Music composed and performed (with apologies to any real musicians out there) by Barry York.

Excerpt from poem “On Living” by Nazim Hikmet (1948) recited by Barry York.

I also attempted some of my own – please excuse my self-indulgence!

This poem, inspired by Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’, is an attack on the reactionary and conservative nature of pseudo-leftism. Footage used was filmed in New York by the writer – from a hotel room window on W42nd Street and elsewhere in May 2008.

The Future is Bright but the Road is Hard is a poem by Barry York. It reflects an optimistic view of the future, based on the writer’s appreciation of history and the revolutions that pushed it forward.

Alarmism is the problem, not science

Alarmism: the excessive or exaggerated alarm about a real or imagined threat.

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Australia’s Chief Scientist says we’ve got five years to save the world from disastrous global warming. Who can argue with a Chief Scientist? Well, given that the Chief Scientist made that claim nearly five years ago, and there has not been disastrous warming but on the contrary no significant temperature increase for around 16 years, I’d say the answer is anyone who can read and think!

The then Chief Scientist, Prof Penny Sackett, made the remark in December 2009.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fifth assessment report says that the mean temperature of the planet has increased by 0.8 of a degree since the late nineteenth century. Therefore, the climate is warming. Moderately.

What then is with the continuation of exaggerated and alarmist claims and predictions? Why does the mainstream media generally give them so much publicity? (Rhetorical question, I know: the sensational headline sells papers and attracts viewers).

The IPCC’s most recent report accepts that there has been a pause or hiatus but does not see this as indicative of a reversal of the warming trend long-term.

The way to explain the pause is to allow scientific debate and argument, free of vilification. It may be that the increase of CO2 emissions to record levels and the lack of significant increase in warming do indeed point to a flaw in the original hypothesis that sees greenhouse gases caused by human industrial activity as the main driver of the warming since the 1880s. Or maybe not.

Perhaps there is something to be said for the new hypothesis that the heat is being absorbed by the oceans. This is plausible and testable; though according to a recent NASA study based on satellite observation and direct temperature measurement of the upper ocean (the deep ocean is difficult to measure, say the scientist authors): “The combination of satellite and direct temperature data gives us a glimpse of how much sea level rise is due to deep warming. The answer is – not much”.

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Al Gore’s sci-fi ‘documentary’ ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ was screened in just about every primary school, high school and town hall in Australia – and in many other countries too. Counterpoints were rarely, if ever, offered. But his iconic portrayal of huge tidal waves swamping Manhattan was utterly unscientific, mere alarmism. They find no basis in the IPCC assessments, which put sea level rises at 0.26-0.55 meters (10-22 inches) by 2100 under a low emissions scenario and 0.52-0.98 meters (20-39 inches) under a high emissions scenario. Is this really headline grabbing and catastrophic? Why can’t policies of adaptation be effective and the most practicable response?

The former Chief Scientist should feel embarrassed at what she said nearly five years ago.

Having said that, fossil fuels really are so C19th and C20th. But that still makes them more up-to-date than medieval windmills.

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The left looks to the future. That’s what attracted me to it more than 40 years ago. You know, stuff like flying cars and holidays on the moon. Karl Marx meets the Jetsons. No, I mean it!

The problem is that pure research hardly happens any more because the needs of capital come first. There’s no profit in mucking around with ideas and experiments with no short- or medium-term marketable objective.

Change this system to one in which social need, fun and fantasy are the raison d’etre and who knows what humans will come up with?

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