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

Nations Want Liberation: The Black Belt Nation in the 21st Century

(By Return to the Source)

Thousands rally for Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL.

In the past year, the United States has experienced an upsurge in black political consciousness as hundreds of thousands of organizations and people poured into the streets to demand justice for Trayvon Martin, the 17 year-old African-American youth brutally murdered in Sanford, FL. Martin’s case has drawn enormous attention to the daily terrorism inflicted on African-Americans by both the US government and vigilante terrorists, like George Zimmerman, who uphold and enforce a vicious system of white supremacy.

As the movement against police brutality and racist oppression continues to grow, Marxist-Leninists must grapple with the burning question of how to build a revolutionary national liberation struggle capable of ending white supremacy and imperialism in the United States.

Seeking to capitalize on the growing struggle against racism, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) has republished a series of articles from the 1980s reflecting their understanding of “The History of Black America” in its newspaper, Socialist Worker. Complete with all of the errors endemic to their bizarre Trotskyite understanding of revolutionary history, these articles are a flaccid attempt for a mostly white organization – an organization that expelled several activists of color from its Washington DC branch in 2010, no less – to make itself relevant to the struggle of African-Americans against white supremacy.

However, one article in particular, republished on Saturday, June 16, stands above the rest in its historical revisionism, its fallacious analysis, and its generally poor syntactical construction. Lee Sustar’s piece, “Self-determination and the Black Belt” is a hit piece on the Marxist-Leninist demand for African-American self-determination, the entire concept of the Black Belt nation, and black nationalism in general.

Rife with historical errors, strawman characterizations, and misspellings, Sustar’s piece itself is barely worth a response. Never missing an opportunity to denounce and slander Josef Stalin, Sustar makes the totally absurd claim that “The Black Belt theory was part of a sharp “left” turn by the Communist International (Comintern) used by Joseph Stalin to mask his bureaucracy’s attack on the workers’ state,” arguing that somehow upholding the demand for African-American self-determination allowed Josef Stalin to better consolidate his so-called “state capitalist regime in Russia.” (1) The relationship between the struggle for black nationalism and the USSR is never explained or warranted by Sustar.

Neither is his claim that the demand for black self-determination was based “on the works of a Swedish professor who aimed to theoretically justify the political turns of the bureaucracy which was coming to control Russia.” (2) Sustar never names this Swedish professor, supposedly the progenitor of the demand for black self-determination, nor does he offer any evidence that such a professor had any impact on the development of the black national question adopted and implemented by the Communist International (Comintern). But a lack of evidence never stands in the way of the ISO’s vicious slander of Marxism-Leninism so the omission of key facts is both unsurprising and expected.

However, the continued relevance and renewed importance of the black national question in the 21st century demands serious consideration by Marxist-Leninists. It is important to respond to these unprincipled criticisms and slander of the experiences of black nationalist organizations and the CPUSA. The ISO may have published this piece nearly 30 years ago, but the same theoretical bankruptcy demonstrated in this re-published essay continues to inform their strange blend of Cliffite-Trotskyism today.

Instead, Marxist-Leninists must put forward a principled and materialist evaluation of the successes and failures of these various groups struggling for black liberation that appropriately contextualizes their specific struggles. Continue reading

Reflections on Amiri Baraka

(By David Hungerford)

Newark, NJ – He was a poet, playwright and political activist. He was my mentor and guide for almost a quarter of a century.

He was of a literary generation with James Baldwin, Maya Angelou and others who were intensely aware and confrontational of the injustices of U.S. society. Early on he was associated with the ‘beat’ writers, like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. He went in other directions but maintained a friendship with Ginsberg until the end of the latter’s life. His best known play is Dutchman. It was made into a film with Shirley Knight and Al Freeman, Jr.

When I was in college, at a social gathering that was part of an arts festival, somebody passed by in the crowd. I recognized him as LeRoi Jones, a poet whose picture I had seen in Time magazine. He was the first famous person I had ever seen up close so it stuck in my memory. But that was that.

He was born in Newark, New Jersey, where he lived all his life, as Everett Leroy Jones. He changed his name to LeRoi – “the king.” Later still he changed LeRoi to “Amiri,” which means pretty much the same thing in Swahili. Thus, Amiri Baraka – “Prince Blessedness.”

He came of age with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and early 1960s and became a crucial force in its transformation into the Black power movement of the middle and later 1960s. The same period saw the defeat of the aggressive and wrongful U.S. wars in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The world’s largest country was led by Mao Zedong with an impact that is scarcely imaginable today. Africa was a hotbed of national liberation movements, giving rise to outstanding leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Robert Sobukwe, Sekou Toure and Nelson Mandela, among many others.

The status quo of U.S. society was on the defensive as at no other point in living memory. Amiri Baraka was ideally suited to the times, gregarious, energetic, mercurial, uncompromising, insightful, in the middle of everything, fighting all the time—un poet mo’ dit, perhaps. When it came to who was hooked up to who and how and why he could practically see through walls. His activities of the time were too many to mention completely.

He was a key organizer of the 1967 Newark Black Power Conference that laid out a comprehensive political and economic agenda for the advancement of Black people. He founded the Congress of African People (CAP), a nationwide alliance of forces in the Black liberation movement. He also founded and led the associated Committed for a Unified Newark (CFUN) to define and implement a program of community-based economic development. Continue reading

Frantz Fanon and the Construction of the Colonial Subject: Defining ‘The Enemy’ in the Iraq War

(Published by Socialism and Democracy

The invasion of Iraq by the United States has been correctly seen by the left as an expression of US imperialism.1 In the period after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States was freed of the political and military constraints on its exercise of global power, such as they were, that the Soviet Union once offered.2 The United States has sought to make full use of this opportunity to demonstrate to allies, potential competitors (e.g., China), and ‘rogue states’ alike that it will not allow any state to challenge its position as the sole global superpower. In this context, the Iraq war represents an attempt to solidify the global hegemony of US-led neoliberalism. As a result, the left critique of the war, at least within the academy, has focused on the political-economic aspects of imperialism, emphasizing either the specific sectors of capital that have benefited from the war (such as oil companies and the military-industrial complex) or the significance of Middle Eastern oil for the United States and its competitors.

Unfortunately, the racialized nature of imperialism has received less attention. US policy elites have presented the Iraq war as benign: as an important step ensuring the spread of capitalist markets, democracy, human rights, and individual liberties to less fortunate regions.3 They see the US as bearing what was once called the ‘white man’s burden’ of bringing civilization to the darker corners of the world. In setting for itself this ‘civilizing’ mission, however, the US demonstrates just how ‘uncivilized’ it is. The ‘white man’s burden,’ in its 19th-century expression, involved extraordinary violence, at times reaching the level of genocide, against its supposed beneficiaries. A major component of this violence was the collection of cultural images and themes by which colonized people came to be known by the colonial power. The status of colonial subject, of being ‘known’ by the colonizer, simultaneously enforced and rationalized the colonial power’s dominance of indigenous populations, thereby giving imperialism a fundamental racial dimension.

Using the insights of Frantz Fanon, I will examine US discourse of ‘the enemy’ in its invasion and occupation of Iraq. Fanon’s theorization of global capitalism as both a racial and a class system is especially valuable for understanding the Iraq war in all its complexity. His theory’s grounding in the Algerian national liberation struggle4 gives it added relevance. Continue reading

Reflections on the Middle East: Revolution, Counter-Revolution, and Imperialism

The world’s streets were particularly crowded in 2012, as cities across the globe ranging from Cairo to New York and Athens to Damascus became the scenes and stages of the largest social and political upheavals witnessed in decades.  Libyan and Syrian rebels, Egyptian protesters, disillusioned Americans, and down and out Greeks earned 2012 its undeniable place in history, and the Middle East, perhaps above all, has occupied an especially recognized place on the canvas of recent revolutions and mass movements.

In particular, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and now Syria have been on the tongues of millions of people the world over, as reports and accounts of groundbreaking changes and transformations have captivated the world and confounded the many who claimed to understand the dynamics of politics and life in the Middle East in general, and these countries in particular.   Continue reading

The National Question in Scotland

(Contributed by the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) to Lalkar as a discussion article) 

Introduction

The continuing decline of British imperialism, combined with the continuing decline of the working-class movement, has over the past at least three decades pushed the national question in Britain to the fore.  It is not the first time in history that such a period of reaction and decline has brought in its train disillusionment and a lack of faith in the common forces of the working class.  This lack of faith in a common bright future has caused sections of the British proletariat, particularly in Scotland, to take shelter under a national tent.  Even some organisations and individuals, calling themselves ‘socialist’ or ‘communist’ have not been immune from the disease of creeping nationalism. Continue reading