Ukraine 2014: Frontline of the people’s struggle

(By J. Arnoldski, Toilers’ Struggle) 

Even such a titanic and tireless revolutionary as Lenin admitted amidst the ongoing Revolution of 1905 that “In a revolutionary period it is very difficult to keep abreast of events, which provide an astonishing amount of new material for an evaluation.”1 Needless to say, in such times as now when information and news circulate at seemingly the speed of light, it remains a demanding task for communists to carry out their duty of digesting, analyzing, and acting upon the astonishing amount of evernew material for evaluation provided by turbulent, revolutionary conflagrations.

The foremost commotion which has captivated and confounded communists the world over in recent months has been the “crisis,” as it has been so mildly called, which has gripped Ukraine since November, 2013. The original Maidan protests of November, the ensuing coup in February, and the resultant, ongoing civil war and disintegration of the country have kept observers on the edges of their seats in anxious anticipation as to each new development in what has been one of the most significant and defining struggles of the early 21st century.

In the heat of organizing protests against Western aggression in Ukraine and holding educationals on the nature of the new Ukrainian government and its relationship to Western imperialism, a distinct absence of genuine analytical summation has plagued communists’ work. While communists have worked out amongst themselves the basic slogans and theses rendered necessary by each new development, as far as is known to the present author, there is yet no work in circulation which has endeavored to provide a working, yet comprehensive – to the limited extent such is possible as events progress – dialectical and historical-materialist analysis of the profound changes in Ukraine, which Marx provided so paradigmatically and crucially for the events in France in 1851 in his The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

The following is presented as a sort of Eighteenth Brumaire for Ukraine, a history and analysis, for communists to use to inform their theory and practice. As the Ukrainian Civil War continues and the world imperialist powers escalate their aggression against Russia, and as new, more profound and world-significant questions of Marxist analysis are brought before communists by implication of the events in Ukraine, such an established chronicle and analysis will only become more relevant, necessary, and crucial.

Background to (counter) revolution

The counter-revolution which gripped Ukraine in early 2014 did not fall from nowhere out of the sky. Rather, it was the result of the arrangement and trajectory of class forces within the given material conditions of contemporary Ukraine. Reviewing and highlighting such conditions is indispensable to providing a coherent understanding and analysis of the events which, in a streak of rapid procession and ferocious tempestuousness characteristic of revolutionary times, shook the whole of Ukraine and brought the country to its present state of civil war. Continue reading

Beer Hall Putsch “Leftism”: Ukraine & the ISO

(By Vince Sherman, Return to the Source)

First, an admission: After three years of writing Return to the Source sporadically, I’m getting tired of roasting the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and tearing apart their positions. The criticisms of their social chauvinist lines on Libya, Syria, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other countries targeted by imperialism seem to be popular with readers, evidenced by the hundreds of hits this blog still gets despite a long period of inactivity.

At the same time, all signs point towards the ISO discrediting itself and losing ground with leftists around the country. For instance, it’s hard for me to believe that anyone, except the most die-hard cruise missile ISO member, reads Gilbert Achcar’s recent article, What remains of the Arab Spring? and thinks anything besides, “This is a sad, irrelevant man who can’t recognize reality.” The ISO’s bizarre brand of social imperialism is still dangerous, but it’s discredited itself, most notably with regards to Syria.

I preface with that admission before rounding up all of the evidence necessary to totally dismantle the ISO’s closet support for fascism in Ukraine because I don’t want readers to think I’ll be doing this a lot more. At times, though, the US Trotskyites take a position so egregious that it begs for engagement, if for no other reason than to provide a resource to those actual Marxists around the world committed to battling social imperialists in the people’s movement.

Intervening versus Leadership: ISO support for the fascist opposition in Ukraine

An inflammatory title, but no more inflammatory than an article that appeared in the ISO’s rag, Socialist Worker, on February 5 entitled, What’s at stake in Ukraine? In it, ISO member Sean Larson calls for the Ukrainian left to begin “erecting a left pole within the movement.”

The movement Larson refers to, the ‘Euromaiden’, is an assembly of far-right and neo-fascist opposition groups that have taken to violent street confrontations against the current Ukrainian government, headed by Viktor Yanukovich. The opposition groups have coalesced around the demand for Ukraine to break with the Russian Federation and become closer to Western Europe, with many of the strongest voices calling for Ukraine to join the European Union and become partners in Germany’s imperial project.

There is no question that the Euromaiden protests in Ukraine, which have attracted the vocal support of Republican Senator John McCain, are led and dominated by the far-right, running the gamut from standard anti-Soviet oligarchs to full-on neo-Nazis. Even Larson doesn’t dispute this fact. He just doesn’t think it’s important. Continue reading

Cuban Socialism Surpasses Capitalist Countries by Health Indices

Originally published as “Cuban life indicators continue to rise: Another vindication of a society that puts people first”

(By Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist))

In December, at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, Cuban President Raul Castro and US leader Barack Obama shared a handshake – the first between their nations’ leaders in well over a decade. It may very well have been impromptu, but it nevertheless prompted a flurry of speculation across international media. The handshake, it was suggested, is symbolic of thawing Cuban-American relations.

The following month, the BBC quoted Edward Alex Lee, deputy assistant secretary of the US State Department, as saying the United States is “very open” to building new relations with Cuba. In fact, he said, both countries had shared “very productive” talks and made “substantial progress” on bilateral issues such as migration, aviation safety, counter-narcotics operations, and resuming postal services. The United States is keen to continue these “rare negotiations”, the article stated. . (‘ Cuba – US very open to new relationship’, BBC News Online, 11 January 2014)

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican congresswoman in Florida and virulent anti-communist, condemned the exchange and the perceived easing of tensions, labelling Cuba as “cruel, ruthless and [tyrannical]”. Mr Lee was then quick to reaffirm the United States’ concerns over its neighbour’s ‘human-rights record’ and stated that any improved relations must be accompanied by a “fundamental change” in the attitude of the Cuban government towards its own people. (‘White House says Obama-Castro handshake not planned ’, BBC News Online, 10 December 2013)

Infant mortality falling

So what exactly is the Cuban government’s attitude towards its people? In fact, there was a clear demonstration of this in December as the public health ministry released data showing that the infant mortality rate in Cuba continues to decline, and is now just 4.2 deaths per 1,000 births – the lowest in the island’s history.

Infant mortality is a key indicator to “measure the health and well-being of a nation, because factors affecting the health of entire populations can also impact the mortality rate of infants”. (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012)

It is often difficult to compare statistics between socialist and leading capitalist countries, because the latter have enjoyed centuries of economic development; development that has rested upon the exploitation of their workers and the plunder of vast colonies abroad. Socialist countries, by contrast, are relatively young, and are subject to intense economic restrictions imposed by stronger capitalist states that want to see them fail.

Cuba is a perfect example of this: the tiny island has faced a brutal economic blockade enforced by the mighty US for more than five decades. In practice, this deprives the Cuban economy of billions of dollars each year, as well as holding back its technological development.

Yet, despite this handicap, and comparing 2013 statistics from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Cuba’s infant mortality rate compares favourably to the European Union average (4.43 per thousand), the United Kingdom (4.5 per thousand), and the United States (5.9 per thousand).  Continue reading

Major Split in African National Congress: South African Unions Announce New Struggle for Socialism

(By Liberation News)

Since 1994, South Africa has been governed by the African National Congress, which has maintained its “Tripartite Alliance” with the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

At the end of December 2013, shortly after Nelson Mandela’s passing, this alliance experienced its most significant split in 20 years. The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa unanimously passed in a Special Congress a resolution to stop supporting the ruling African National Congress in the 2014 elections. Instead, the union would explore the creation of a mass revolutionary socialist workers party, and has called for the large and powerful national labor federation, COSATU, to follow suit and assert its independence from the ruling ANC.

The metalworkers’ union — which goes by the acronym NUMSA — is not the first group to break its alliance with the ANC in the name of advancing working-class interests. The social movement-oriented Democratic Left Front was formed in 2011. The Workers and Socialist Party, which grew in the wake of the police massacre of striking miners at Marikana, was formed in 2012. The populist Economic Freedom Fighters, led by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, was formed in 2013. Other breakaway unions and social movement organizations have split from the ANC-led Alliance in recent years.

What makes the NUMSA split so significant is that the union is the largest in the country — representing 338,000 workers — with a long and militant history. It has long been led by avowed communists. Continue reading

Continuing the Revolution is Not a Dinner Party: Looking Back at Tiananmen Square

(By Mick Kelly, Freedom Road Socialist Organization)

PDF copy available here

We are publishing the paper, Continuing the Revolution is Not a Dinner Party written 20 years ago during the 1989 turmoil in China. Authored by Mick Kelly, a leading member of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, this paper was produced in the context of a major two-line debate in our organization on socialism and China.

We are publishing it now, because with the 20th anniversary of the events at Tiananmen Square upon us, there are already attempts underway to attack socialism, the Chinese revolution, and those that defend it. We do not see this paper as a definitive statement of our organization on the many political movements and great debates that occurred in China since 1949. Rather we think the paper stands as a rigorous effort to use Marxism to understand the near defeat of the Chinese revolution that took place some 20 years ago.

In Continuing the Revolution is Not a Dinner Party, Mick Kelly does a good job of explaining the origins, development, and reactionary reality of the Chinese student movement, as well as its relationship to Chinese society and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the 1980s. The paper supports Marxism-Leninism and the Chinese revolution while investigating and evaluating the problems faced and errors made by the CCP. The paper is provocative reading for Marxists because it challenges both social-democratic and ultra-left views regarding socialism and continuing the class struggle within socialist countries.

The author defends the leading party’s attempts to develop a modern socialist society, the need to combat revisionism within the party and society, and to beat back counter-revolution and the restoration of capitalism. On the down side the paper was overly hopeful about the outcome of the struggle against revisionism and capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe, and underestimated the growth of the capitalist sector of the Chinese economy in the years to come.

Many issues raised in Continuing the Revolution Is Not A Dinner Party were settled in the early 1990s. For example, some western leftists back then held that the overthrow of existing socialism would lead to a new improved socialism. Those who held this view were soon proved wrong by the counter-revolutions in Eastern Europe and the USSR, where restored capitalism led to mass unemployment, societal decay and wars that continue to this day. As the U.S. ruling class celebrated this, many of the counter-revolutionary Chinese students, hyped as heroes by U.S. corporate media, were able to escape justice, reappearing to make their fortunes in the west. These pro-imperialist reactionaries praised the armed attacks on the People’s Liberation Army and openly expressed their dreams of bringing capitalism to China.

We hope that those interested in revolutionary change today can learn something from this paper. We are now in a situation where Marxism-Leninism is gaining strength and popularity around the world and the socialist countries are modernizing. Proletarian revolutionaries in many countries can make advances while the U.S. economic crisis deepens. Our hope is this paper will help to further the understanding of why supporting socialism and China is important to everyone who is fighting imperialism and to everyone who wants a better way of life.

– Freedom Road Socialist Organization, 2009

Continuing the Revolution is Not a Dinner Party

The recent events in China – the fighting in Beijing, the emergence of a mass “pro-democracy” movement and the decision by the leadership of the Communist Party of China to come down hard on counter-revolution – have caused more than a little debate and dismay among revolutionaries in this country. Many U.S. activists saw the Chinese student movement as a force fighting for the empowerment of the people and a renewal of socialism. Others have come to the conclusion that only “social fascists” would have made use of military force to suppress it.

This paper puts forward a number of views that are controversial. It argues that while the Chinese Party has made its share of mistakes, it nevertheless deserves the support of progressive and revolutionary-minded people. It also attempts to dispel some of the myths which have been propagated by the western media. Continue reading

Cooperatives: A Cure for Capitalism?

(By Zolten Zigedy)

Co-ops — cooperative economic enterprises — have been embraced by significant groups of people at different times and places. Their attraction precedes the heyday of industrial capitalism by offering a means to consolidate small producers and take advantage of economies of scale, shared risk, and common gain.

At the advent of the industrial era, cooperatives were one of many competing solutions offered to ameliorate the plight of the emerging proletariat. Social engineers like Robert Owen experimented with cooperative enterprises and communities.

In the era of mass socialist parties and socialist construction, cooperatives were considered as intermediate steps to make the transition from feudal agrarian production towards socialist relations of production.

Under the capitalist mode of production, co-ops have filled both employment and consumption niches deferred by large scale capitalist production. Economic activities offering insufficient profitability or growth have become targets for cooperative enterprise.

In theory, cooperatives may offer advantages to both workers and consumers. Workers are thought to benefit because the profits that are expropriated by non-workers in the capitalist mode of production are shared by the workforce in a cooperative enterprise (less the present and anticipated operating expenses and investments, of course).

Many argue as well that the working conditions are necessarily improved since workplace decisions are arrived at democratically absent the lash associated with the profit-mania of alienated ownership (though little attention is paid to the consequences for productivity and competitiveness against capitalist enterprises).

Consumers are said to benefit when they collectively appropriate the retail functions normally assumed by privately owned, profit-driven outlets. Benefit comes, on this view, by purchasing from wholesale suppliers, collectively meeting the labor requirements of distribution, and enjoying the cost-savings from avoiding a product markup (little attention is paid to limitations on participation dictated by class, race, or gender; the wholesale quantity discounts enjoyed by capitalist chains are also conveniently overlooked).

A case can also be made for the cooperator’s dedication to quality, safety, and health- promotion. Continue reading

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised…Nor Will It Be Brought To You By Russell Brand, Oliver Stone Or Noam Chomsky

(By Stephen Gowans)

Not too many years ago, when protesters were running riot through the streets, disrupting meetings of the WTO, G7, and other international organizations, the Canadian newspaper The National Post served up a flattering and generous portrait of young people who had eschewed the streets as a terrain for political struggle and turned instead to what the newspaper considered the responsible and laudatory path of seeking nomination to run as candidates for the mildly social democratic (but in the newspaper’s view, rabidly leftwing) New Democratic Party. This was a curious turn of events, for the National Post, a newspaper founded by the notoriously rightwing, white-collar criminal, Lord Conrad Black, was as likely in normal times to heap praise on anyone associated with the NDP as George Bush was to sing the praises of Kim Il Sung. But these were not normal times. In retrospect it’s easy to see that the protests, demonstrations, and strikes of the time, would fizzle and die, as the Occupy movement would also fizzle and die years later. Lacking a central organizing idea and concrete vision of where they wanted to go, they were too hobbled by anarchist nonsense to achieve much more than to sell a few more copies of Z Magazine and to create a decent phrase about the 1% making off with all the wealth at the expense of the 99%. But it was clear that the editors of the National Post were worried enough to recommend a path other than the streets to those who burned with the desire for political change. That they should recommend electoral politics was predictable. Young people who plowed their energies into the NDP would soon get bogged down in the harmless, ineffectual, routines of political campaigns, and be kept safely off the streets.

The wealthy are keen on electoral politics—when they go their way, as they often do. Elections in capitalist society can be dominated by money, as can the larger political process. Banks, corporations and major investors lobby politicians, fund political campaigns, bribe legislators with the promise of lucrative post-political jobs, place their representatives in key positions in the state, and shape the ideological environment through their control of the media, creation of think-tanks, hiring of PR firms, and funding of university chairs. Those without wealth can hardly compete, except, in principle, by pooling their resources and hoping to tilt the balance the other way against a formidable foe that controls infinitely more resources. The absence of organization and class consciousness, however, routinely assures this doesn’t happen. Moreover, the electoral arena channels dissent into predictable, controllable paths, keeping it off the streets, where it might become unpredictable and therefore dangerous. Additionally, the sway that corporate, banking and investor groups exercise behind the scenes is masked by the egalitarian spectacle of elections. One person, one vote. What could be more equal?

I was reminded of this after reading the Russell Brand-edited issue of The New Statesman [1], not because it was in any particular way an endorsement of capitalist democracy, but because, like the National Post, it defined legitimate political change within parameters favorable to the established order. Of course, Brand wasn’t advocating electoral politics as the National Post was. On the contrary, he spoke out against voting in an interview with the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman, and called for a revolution. But Brand’s New Statesman went further than the National Post. Where the National Post said that those who fight for political change within the established system are admirable, while those who step outside it are not, Brand, as editor, tackled the larger idea of revolution (the only way, he said, he could get interested in politics. ) Mind you, a mass circulation magazine was not about to become a platform to rally the masses to armed insurrection to overthrow the established order. “The revolution,” observed Gil Scott-Heron, “will not be televised.” Nor will it be found in the pages of the New Statesman. Predictably, the outcome of Brand’s editing exercise was the redefining of the entire idea of revolution, or, I should say, the destroying of it altogether, turning it into something vague and difficult to put your finger on, except to say it was good, and true, and safe to bring home to mother. But not at all like what Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Kim Il sung were implicated in. According to the luminaries Brand assembled to hold forth on what revolution means, revolution isn’t the transfer of productive property from one group to another –from, say, private owners to workers, or colonial settlers to those they dispossessed, or even owners who reside outside a country to the people within. Instead, it means many things, but not what you thought it did. [2] Continue reading