The Great October Socialist Revolution and early history of the Soviet Union

"Woman-worker, the cooperative frees you from the reign of the kitchen and the cooking pot." 1923, as noted by Soviet Visuals.
“Woman-worker, the cooperative frees you from the reign of the kitchen and the cooking pot.” A 1923 poster in the Soviet Union as noted in a post by Soviet Visuals.

The absurd, unsubstantiated conspiracy that Russia (or more specifically Vladimir Putin) rigged the U.S. election so Donald Trump could win is currently dominating the bourgeois media. Recently, Western-friendly reformer Mikhail Gorbachev, who presided over the end of the Soviet Union and past Estonian president Toomas Hendrick Ilves declared that a new Russian nationalist union could be formed within the borders of the former Soviet Union. [1]

Regardless of whether such a union is a possibility, with the strong degree of nationalism and justified anger at the United States within the Russian Federation, the history of the Soviet Union is more important than ever. Due to the bourgeois and Trotskyist distortions of Soviet history and the nature of the socialist state, writing such a history is a challenge but is possible in a way that depicts the nation accurately, rather than within malice. This article is the beginning of a series on Soviet history, this article covering the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917, the early years of the revolutionary Bolshevik government which fought against imperialist invaders (1917-1922), and the first decade of Soviet existence (1923-1933).

The Czarist monarchy and the lead up to the Great October Socialist Revolution

The peasants and the population as a whole suffered under the iron fist of the Tsar/Czar. Meanwhile, the Russian middle class, which can be viewed as synonymous with the bourgeoisie, enjoyed leisure tine, the “western import” of national theater, in which actors were commodities, and were supported by heavy state subsidies in certain industries, a feature of Russian capitalism.” [2] These privileged Russians included Sergey Produkin-Garsky who traveled around the empire with funding from Tsar Nicholas II to take “more than 10,000 full cover photographs” which captured “the diverse people who…made up the Russian Empire, before the revolution.”

In 1905, the equation changed. Only two years earlier the Bolshevik sect was formed, with the overarching party, the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDRP), agreeing on the need for a coming revolution with the ultimate end of establishing socialism. In this party there were also the Mensheviks who believed in the broad base of membership but the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, believed that there should be only militant revolutionaries in the party. Both of ideas were formed as the proletariat rose up. This was described by Lenin, in late January 1905: “…the proletariat has risen against Tsarism…the general strike in Petersburg is spreading…The revolution is spreading to waiver.” [3]

Lenin further called for the “arming of the people,” saying that “only an armed people can be a real stronghold on national freedom,” and that all revolutionaries must unite for the immediate overthrow of the bourgeois Tsarist government. [4] Years later he was much more critical. While he talked about the massacre of workers (“Bloody Sunday”) who petitioned the Tsar on January 22, 1905, the mutinies in the army, and the proletariat were at the head of the revolution and struggle forming Soviets (worker’s councils) but that its social content was “bourgeois-democratic.” [5] Still, the revolution had a broad significance. Even as bourgeois scholars like Max Weber downplayed it, the revolution was “the prologue of the coming…proletarian socialist revolution” which occurred twelve years later. [6] This was even confirmed by communistphobic scholars like Louise McReynolds. She wrote that the revolution in 1905 not only led to fears about the “violent potential of the lower classes” but it led to easing of restrictions on political expression, which, when combined with an expanding economy, led to growing commercial leisure for the bourgeoisie. [7]

After the revolution, elements of the RSDRP went head-to-head once again. The Mensheviks were dedicated to the idea of the proletariat being a revolutionary force on their own while the Bolsheviks argued that the proletariat, along with the peasants, would lead the revolution. Furthermore, the Bolsheviks said that the 1905 revolution was bourgeois, showing that there was a strong capitalist Russia, while the Mensheviks believed that an autocracy still existed meaning the that Tsar should be overthrown and replaced with a bourgeois government! Ultimately, as the 1910s passed, the Bolsheviks would take a hard line against the First Wold War, calling it, rightly, an imperialist war which would slaughter and divide the working classes of Europe, leading to vicious police persecution of the party itself.

At the same time, the laborers in North and Central Russia were suffering. A British correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, Morgan Phillips Price wrote that the peasants, skilled artisans, and others all suffered “in different ways under the same yoke of Tsarism” while the Russian capitalist class shared spoiled with French, Belgian, German, and British capitalists, who owned much of the economy. [8] This was all part of, as Price put it, the “maintenance of Tsarism and the system of exploitation of the Russian workers and peasants.”

1917 was an eventful year for the Russian people. In the first two months of the year, thousands of soldiers deserted, the Bolsheviks organized demonstrations to commemorate Bloody Sunday (mentioned two paragraphs earlier), crowds of women in Petrograd (later called Leningrad and currently Saint Petersburg) sporadically broke into stores, and thousands upon thousands of workers from 58 workers went on strike. On February 23, the “February Revolution” began.

The Tsarist government was in total turmoil. While the non-cohesive Russian army was breaking down, so was the economy, coupled with industrial mobilization during wartime which hurt the proletariat and led to violent demonstrations in Petrograd in late February. [9] As the established Duma, dominated by bourgeois members, discussed its mandate, the worker’s councils (Soviets), that represented the common people, wanted to replace and supplant Tsarist authority. [10] On March 2, the Tsar abdicated (some question the legality of this action), leading to the creation of a provisional government the next day which was supported by the Ispolkom/Petrograd Soviet, not yet with Bolsheviks in the majority. [11] Of course, the Bolsheviks wanted immediate peace and to end the imperialist war in Europe even when the majority of the members in the Soviets, like the one in Petrograd, did not necessarily agree with them.

In March 1917, Lenin wrote about the situation in Russia, just like he had written about the revolution in 1905:

“The first revolution engendered by the imperialist world war has broken out…the first stage of our revolution will certainly not be the last…the February-March revolution of 1917…has been marked…by a joint blow at Tsarism…the workers of the whole of Russia…fought for freedom, land for the peasants, and for peace, against the imperialist slaughter…[but] this new government…[is made up of a] class…of capitalist landlords and bourgeoisie which has long been ruling our country economically…the Tsarist monarchy has been smashed, but not fully destroyed.”

The provisional government was by no means a revolutionary one. Years later, the Great Soviet Encyclopedia described as a “bourgeois-democratic revolution” which made US elites uneasy so they recognized the provisional government with millions of dollars. [11*] This provisional government, soon led by Alexander Kerensky, was timid. While the peasants, urban workers, and other members of the proletariat wanted peace to prevent a “terrible catastrophe” in Russia caused by German invasion, but the Kerensky government did not try and control the war profiteers or industrial syndicates created by the Tsar. [12] Of course, the Mensheviks supported this governments, with hopes of influencing it, which led to “industrial anarchy” as pro-landlord policies came down the pipe, with, as Price puts it, “complete anarchy…reigning in the central provinces of Russia on the eve of the Bolshevik revolution” as the outlook of the masses seemed hopeless. [13]

Lenin acknowledged these issues in his articles through March. He wrote that the proletariat cannot support a “war government” and that a workers militia should be formed, along with mass organization of all able-bodied people of “both sexes.” Later in the month, he added that the new government could only be overthrown if bourgeois intelligentsia and the Russian bourgeoisie’s organization is countered, with the need of revolutionary government which is not bourgeois. The same month, Lenin wrote about the imperialist nature of World War I, saying that there can only be peace when power is in the “hands of the workers and poorest peasants” rather than the Russian bourgeoisie, and that victory is possible even as the “transition to socialism” cannot be established in one stroke.

As the months neared toward the socialist revolution, the Bolsheviks were under attack. While socialist intellectuals and populists had excluded the Bolsheviks from power in Kerensky’s provisional government, Lenin was rallying the Bolsheviks, telling them that property, land, and banks needed to be nationalized, a people’s militia created, end to the imperialist war, and all power given to the Soviets. [14] As the months passed, the “masses of people” opposed the Kerensky government, supported by the Menskeviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, with some Soviets remaining conservative, meaning that, as socialist writer John Reed put it, Russia before the “November insurrection seems…almost incredibly conservative.” More specifically, during this time period, Prvada, the Bolshevik publication begun publishing again, Poland’s independence was refused by the provisional government, there were massive May Day celebrations, the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets met, and the Mensheviks not surprisingly became very anti-Bolshevik. Beyond this, the Russian font against the Germans began folding away as soldiers deserted and millions went on strike in early July. As time went on, it was on the side of the Bolsheviks, who, after a failed attempt to seize power in Petrograd in July, were itching for a “second revolution,” this one of socialist and proletarian character and content. [15]

As revolution came to its final conclusion, the Bolsheviks were gaining ground. In September, General Lavr Kornilov tried to make himself a “military dictator” in Russia, with the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks not helping protect the city of Petrograd from imminent attack. [16] Ultimately, the government could do nothing to maintain order, but the Petrograd garrison, mainly composed of the pro-Bolshevik and working class elements, defended the city and its inhabitants. Even as the Petrograd soviet voted to not strike and voted against the death penalty, the Bolsheviks held off Kornilov’s invading forces and resolved to create a socialist (and Soviet) government. In September, the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs) tried to reassert their influence in the Petrograd Soviet, but failed, and in October, there was mass mutiny in the front lines. The Bolsheviks took an understandable hard line, saying that they would not participate in the conferences put on the Kerensky government, and instead were fully dedicated to overthrowing it instead.

Recounting the Great October Socialist Revolution

In Late October, the revolution sprung to life. On October 24 and 25th, the Red Guards, under the command of Lenin, seized important institutions in Petrograd, allowing the Bolsheviks to be in control. [17] The following day, October 26, Lenin announced the formation of a new government. By November 5, the Mensheviks and SRs had walked out of the Second All-Russian Congress of the Soviets, Kerensky fled and started a counter-revolutionary rebellion, and the Bolshevik government [18] said it will censor hostile bourgeois newspapers, a declaration of rights for the Soviet people was announced and Moscow was secured by the Bolsheviks. [19]

John Reed meticulously accounts the days of the Great October Socialist Revolution (October Revolution for short). On November 4, he writes that immense meetings were planned across Petrograd as the provisional government seemed hopeless. Three days later, on November 7, the Bolsheviks declared they had overthrown the provisional government as Red Guards fought “Junkers,” former imperial Russian officers, and there was an “atmosphere of recklessness,” with all “great Russia to win–and then the world,” begging the question if others would follow. [20] The following days led to more excitement. On November 8, the whole nation was up in “long hissing swells of storm” with rumors of Kerensky spreading throughout Petrograd, with vitriol from anti-Bolshevik newspapers, some of which was consolidated into the Committee for Salvation in the planned offensive against the Bolsheviks. [21] Still, they held on, as did the left SRs (right SRs were anti-Bolshevik), with Lenin and Leon Trotsky/Trotzky leaving themselves dedicated to the new Bolshevik government while others, like followers of anarchist Peter Kropotkin, refused to support this new government because the revolution had “failed” to arouse the “patriotism of the masses” in their view. [22]

The following days only increased the pressure on the young Bolshevik government. On November 9, the Soviets in Petrograd defended the city, with the Red Guard and sailors fighting to defend the revolution, a government of “united democracy” which did not ally with the bourgeoisie, with the Bolsheviks thinking that the fate of the revolution rested on their shoulders. [23] The following day, the Committee of Salvation, right SRs, and Mensheviks all worked against the Bolsheviks, with the arsenal in Petrograd remaining in the hands of counter revolutionaries, and, as the invasion of Petrograd seemed imminent, the “revolutionary proletariat [was] defending…the capital of the workers’ and peasants’ republic!” [24] The following day, Kerensky entered the city of Tsarskoye Selo, trying to command soldiers to disarm, but they refused to do so and were subsequently killed. [25] Also on that day, the city of Petrograd was clearly under Bolshevik military control with desperate fighting by the Junkers/Yunkers, and the Bolsheviks seized the switchboard room in the city. As John Reed tells it, when the hardened fighters entered the room, “many pretty girls” who had been switchboard operators left and hurled insulted at them even though these fighters did not insult anyone, with the result of their departure meaning that there few volunteers to operate the telephone line switchboard. [26] Still, with the force and dedication to revolution, enough people were found to make sure the telephone lines were operational. Later in the day, the Committee of Salvation was outlawed, and the “telephone girls” who had insulted the Bolsheviks told the committee that they “suffered” at the hands of the proletariat, as they kissed up to established power structures.

Two days later, the revolution was advancing with speed. Petrograd was clearly under Bolshevik control but there was the “question of finances” since banks didn’t want to cooperate with the new Bolshevik government. [27] In the days that followed, it was clear that the Bolsheviks, on whom the landless peasants, “undemoralised soldiers,” sailors, and rank-and-file workers supported, were up against investors, landowners, army officers, students, shopkeepers, and many more, were a powerful force. [28] In Moscow, on November 16, Bolsheviks hung banners declaring the beginning of the revolution, with poor and toiling marching across Red Square. [29] Additionally, the Bolshevik government published a declaration of rights (mentioned earlier), which said that all peoples shall have sovereignty, equality, ability to develop minority and ethnic groups freely, right to self-determination, and abolition of privileges and disabilities for nationalities and religious persuasions. [30] The provisional government was gone but the Bolsheviks were in for a big fight, with restrictions on newspapers that were anti-Bolshevik, fighting to “erect the framework of the new” and against those who tried to win in the coming civil war. [31]

Imperialists try to destabilize a new nation: 1917-1922

The Bolshevik government had acted quickly. Not long after its creation, the Second Congress of Soviets had declared that land would be given back to the peasantry and peace formed on all fronts. Some, such as feminist and political scientist Valerie Bryson, have declared that feminist concerns of Russian women were pushed aside by the revolution (and Bolshevik government), seen as not a “political priority” by Lenin, and praised Trotsky for a “progressive” view on the subject. Beyond this, Bryson also cites Left Oppositionist Alexandra Kollantai’s “failed efforts” and “sexual morality” of communism preventing needed changes in society, including in child rearing, before Kollantai apparently lose “real influence” in Soviet society in 1923, painting Stalin as “bad.” [32] Apart from the obvious bourgeois analysis here, Bryson is clearly wrong on the implication that the October Socialist Revolution was not “feminist.” Sir Arthur Newholme and John Adams Kinsbury wrote in the early 1930s the following about women in Soviet Russia:

“Sex differences were swept away by an early act of the Soviet government; and equality was carried into the marriage relation. Either partner is free to dissolve it [marriage] at his or her own free will or caprice.”

Another place to look for evidence of Bolshevik accomplishment is the constitution of 1918, of the RSFSR, a precursor to the USSR in 1922. This constitution declared that:

  1. “all private property in land is abolished, and the entire land is declared to be national property and is to be apportioned among agriculturists without compensation of the former owners, to the measure of each one’s ability to till it” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  2. “All forests, treasures of the earth, and waters of general public utility, all equipment whether animate or inanimate, model farms and agricultural enterprises, are declared to be national property” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  3. “complete transfer of ownership to the Soviet Republic of all factories, mills, mines, railways, and other means of production and transportation” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  4. “annulment of loans made by the Government of the Czar, by landowners and the bourgeoisie” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  5. “…transfer of all banks to the ownership of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  6. “Universal obligation to work” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  7. “decreed that all workers be armed, and that s Socialist Red Army be organized and the propertied class disarmed” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  8. “abrogating secret treaties, of organizing on a wide scale the fraternization of the workers and peasants of the belligerent armies, and of making all efforts to conclude a general democratic peace” in the first imperialist war (WWI) (Article One, Chapter 3)
  9. Insistence on ending “the barbarous policy of the bourgeois civilization which enables the exploiters of a few chosen nations to enslave hundreds of millions of the working population of Asia, of the colonies, and of small countries generally” (Article One, Chapter 3)
  10. Supports “the full independence of Finland, in withdrawing troops from Persia, and in proclaiming the right of Armenia to self-determination” (Article One, Chapter 3)
  11. “the exploiters should not hold a position in any branch of the Soviet Government” (Article One, Chapter 4)
  12. “…leaving to the workers and peasants of every people to decide the following question at their plenary sessions of their soviets, namely, whether or not they desire to participate, and on what basis, in the Federal government and other Federal soviet institutions” (Article One, Chapter 4)

Article 2 continued in the same vein. This article declared that working people and peasants shall have the power in the country, especially in their Soviets, along with the declarations that:

  1. “For the purpose of securing to the workers real freedom of conscience, the church is to be separated from the state and the school from the church, and the right of religious and anti-religous propaganda is accorded to every citizen.”
  2. “…abolishes all dependence of the Press upon capital, and turns over to the working people and the poorest peasantry all technical and material means for the publication of newspapers, pamphlets, books, etc., and guarantees their free circulation throughout the country.”
  3. “offers to the working class and to the poorest peasantry furnished halls, and [the government] takes care of their heating and lighting appliances.”
  4. “the task of furnishing full and general free education to the workers and the poorest peasantry” is offered by the government
  5. The government “considers work the duty of every citizen of the Republic, and proclaims as its motto: ‘He shall not eat who does not work.'”
  6. The government “recognizes the duty of all citizens of the Republic to come to the defense of their socialist fatherland, and it therefore introduces universal military training. The honor of defending the revolution with arms is accorded only to the workers”
  7. Granting “all political rights of Russian citizens to foreigners who live in the territory of the Russian Republic and are engaged in work and who belong to the working class.”
  8. Offering “shelter to all foreigners who seek refuge from political or religious persecution.”
  9. Recognizing “equal rights of all citizens, irrespective of their racial or national connections, proclaims all privileges on this ground, as well as oppression of national minorities, to be contrary to the fundamental laws of the Republic.”
  10. The government “deprives all individuals and groups of rights which could be utilized by them to the detriment of the socialist revolution.”

I could go on, as the Constitution has Articles 3, 4, 5, and 6, but I think you get the point.

As the revolution’s conclusion was evident, the bourgeois press in England and France bellowed about “cruelties” of the Bolsheviks. [33] So, the propaganda spewed against revolutionary governments of Iran, Syria, and Cuba (to give a few examples) in the present-day, is nothing new. What the propagandists in 1917 and 1918 didn’t realize was that, as deaf-blind socialist and writer Helen Keller wrote

“…the Russian revolution did not originate with Lenin…I see the furrow Lenin left sown with the unshatterable seed of new life for mankind, and cast deep below the rolling tides of storm and lightning, mighty crops for the ages to reap.”

The seizure of power by the proletariat, which had been carefully thought out and planned, was what, Anne Louise Strong, a long supporter of communist movements in Russia and China, called this “common consciousness in action.” Mao Zedong, who later was one of the leaders of China’s communist revolution, recognized the same in 1927, when he wrote that “the October Socialist Revolution ushered in a new epoch in world history…it exerted influence in the other countries of the world.” The Great Soviet Encyclopedia also echoed this, writing that the impact of the “Great October Socialist Revolution,” as they called it, had profound significance, especially by “strengthening the revolutionary movement in the USA.” [34]

While there were many forces aligned against the Bolshevik government, the Russians still defended the social revolution, fighting for the working class, with Russians seeing the revolution as meaning “peace, land to the peasants, and workers’ control of industry.” The Bolshevik government was trying to keep in place its proletarian state as the capitalist apparatus of power instilled by the provisional government, was swept away, following the ideas of Lenin. [35] By this time, the revolution had matured, clearly, from its earlier days. [36] But it was not wholly secure. For one, the socialist revolution in October had pushed to lead the country out of “imperialist war and economic ruin” as Josef Stalin put it. [37] While the path to socialism was cleared for the “middle non-proletarian peasant strata of all nationalities and tribes,” getting Russia out of the imperialist war was harder. [38]

The necessity of ending Russia’s participation in the imperialist war was evident, as it was necessary to preserve “the social revolution in Russia.” [39] The Bolshevik government tried to push for peace. However, after the Germans lost patience with the new government, they advanced at an alarming pace into the country in “Operation Thunderbolt” as they called it. [40] With the signing of the Treaty of Breast-Livotsk, on terms that, arguably, benefited Germany and their empire but removed Russia from the war. Lenin’s words about soldiers deserting from the front, as “voting with their feet” with peace could also be applied to the signing of this treaty. After this peace was evident, the Bolshevik government did not have many traditionally disciplined soldiers, leading to the creation of a Red Army, and recognizing Finland’s independence. [41] What followed was civil war.

The Bolsheviks were under attack from all sides. While they were under siege, they tried to take control of strategic natural resources in central Asia but were originally unsuccessful. [42] Famed British military (and bourgeois) historian, John Keegan, who supported wars in Vietnam, Kosovo (1998), and Iraq (2003), had an interesting and bizarre perspective on the Western intervention in Russia. He first claimed that Trotsky invited British marines to help the Red Army gain armaments and fight anti-Bolshevik forces, that the Bolsheviks held a “common interest” with the Western allies until at least April 1918, that the allied intervention was apparently not originally anti-Bolshevik but became so with Western allies supporting the White Russians, Czech forces, and other anti-Bolsheviks, while the Germans were “neutral” in the civil war. [43]

Like with all propaganda, there is a kernel of truth. In 1918, after the end of the imperialist world war, the British, French, Japanese, and US intervened in Russia. However, to act like they are “innocent” in this intervention is silly. The US State Department admitted this much, saying that “all these operations were to offset effects of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia,” showing that the idea the Allies entered to stop Germany from seizing Russian supplies and assisting Czech troops, who had been part of the Austro-Hungarian empire’s forces, was a convenient excuse to deny imperialist aims. [44] As Stalin put it in a speech commemorating the 24th celebration of the Great October Socialist Revolution, which was on the eve of the Great Patriotic War, often called World War II in the West:

“Recall the year 1918, when we celebrated the first anniversary of the October Revolution. At that time three-quarters of our country was in the hands of foreign interventionists. We had temporarily lost the Ukraine, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Urals, Siberia and the Far East. We had no allies, we had no Red Army–we had only just begun to create it–and we experienced a shortage of bread, a shortage of arms, a shortage of equipment. At that time 14 states [Czechoslovakia, the UK, Canada, Australia, India, Japan, Greece, Poland, the United States, France, Romania, Serbia, Italy, and China] were arrayed against our country but we did not become despondent or downhearted. In the midst of the conflagration of war we organized the Red Army and converted our country into a military camp. The spirit of Lenin inspired us at that time for war against the interventionists, regained all our lost territories and achieved victory.”

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia added to this. They noted that the US and other countries tried to engage in broader intervention and a blockade of Russia even as the Soviets proposed normalization of relations with the US as an option, but this was rejected. [45] While the imperialists may have schemed to use the Kellogg-Briand Pact to isolate the Soviet Union in later years (originally they excluded them but included them after international pressure) and the Paris Peace Conference of 1919-1920 in the same way, the masses of the world didn’t necessarily agree. [46] There was a campaign against US intervention in Russia from those such as John Reed (quoted extensively earlier in this article), socialist leader Eugene Debs, and ordinary folks in Seattle and San Francisco. [47] Ultimately, the Great October Socialist Revolution not only led to the formation of a pro-Bolshevik Communist Party, in the US, in 1919, but it resulted in the end of US involvement in Russia in 1920 due to popular pressure, deportation of radicals to Russia, and the partially failed Palmer raids in 1920. [48] Sadly, in Germany, in 1919, a communist revolution, led by Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebkrecht, among others, was brutally crushed, with both of them killed by state police. [49]

The situation back in Russia is worth noting. During the five year brutal civil war, mainly fought from November 1917 to October 1922, with some resistance hanging on until June 1923, the government adopted an economic program of “War Communism” as it was later called, in order to survive, which was later replaced during the rebuilding period with the New Economic Policy and other policies. At the same time, the officers of the Red Army were in hundreds of schools, with the most important part a political-cultural department which tried to spread communist propaganda among the ranks of the army, which was made up of “ignorant peasants” as John Reed described it. There were also “labor armies” which were helping repair destroyed bridges, once the war was over, with a more established Bolshevik (and later Soviet) order than ever. Such labor armies harkened back to the idea of “industrial armies” in agriculture proposed by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the Communist Manifesto. [50] As for the education in the Red Army, an organization that was like the “special corps” of armed workers envisioned by Marx in his 1850 address to the Communist League, it was similar to the ideas of political education proposed by Lenin on multiple occasions. [51]

Of course, bourgeois scholars like Louise McReynolds have declared that the Bolsheviks saw themselves as intelligentsia (wrong), created a new Soviet culture that nationalized the commercial market (likely true), and co-opted leisure which had been for the bourgeoisie to promote socialist ideals (also likely true). [52] By 1921, the 21 people who were on the Bolshevik’s Central Committee in 1917 has partially gone their separate ways, with some going into the Political Bureau, and others (Lenin, Trotsky (until later), and Stalin) were in a more of a leading role, and some joining the anti-Bolshevik forces. Still, as Helen Keller argued, the Russians were a people who “were trying to work out their form of government.” She also said, in words that some favorable to the Russian government could repeat today, that she loved “Russia and all who stand loyally by her in her mighty wrestlings with…imperialist greed,” while condemning workers in the US for not standing with the new country, and saying that famine in Russia was a result of war and imperialist blockade.

The first Soviet decade: 1923-1933

On December 29, 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was formed. The measures of War Communism were abandoned in place of the New Economic Policy (NEP) which introduced market measures in order to, in theory, rebuild the country from war, an ideas which was proposed (and advocated by) Lenin. This led to a struggle within the Russian Communist Party, which had evolved from the RSDRP’s Bolshevik section established in 1912, or Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) formed in 1918. Ultimately, in order to preserve the USSR as a socialist state, the “Left Opposition” was purged in 1927, as was Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin. While some may say this is anti-democratic, they must consider that Stalin was following, for one, what he said years earlier: that the Communist Party needs to have “iron discipline,” unity of will, and purge “opportunist elements” so it can effectively serve the proletariat. [53] Other than this, Stalin was also preserving the party as an “organized detachment” of the proletariat, a vanguard of the working class, allowing the party to reorganize along “new, revolutionary lines.” [54] Additionally, there needed to be unity in order to counter the “need of a constantly expanding market” for the bourgeoisie and to make sure the Soviets are the “grave-diggers” of capitalism in Russia and elsewhere, not supporting it with certain measures, like NEP, even if it was partially good. [55] Ultimately, there cannot be a “revolution in permanence,” a precursor to Trotsky’s idea of “permanent revolution” which is discussed later, without a unified party. [56]

Before getting to the other aspects of the first years of the USSR, it is best to acknowledge a number of aspects, including of the NEP period (discussed more in detail later). Anna Louise Strong said that in 1925, at least, every factory, mine, and economic entity was hungry for credit, and industries were supposed to be “self-supporting” after the beginning of NEP. While some may cringe at this, justifiably, there were a number of good strides, even in hard times. For one, there were strong restrictions on alcohol in society, a war against bootleggers, with the focus on drinking not as an individual problem but as a “social injury.” At the same time, there was a major focus on teaching in Russia, just like the political education of Red Army members mentioned in the previous section of this article. As Strong noted, from April to August 1923, the Moscow Government Publishing House printed 160 million copies of textbooks for the new system of education modeled on the “Dewey ideas of education.” This form of education was advanced and a “gorgeous plan,” with education projects assisted by the government even as some teachers were antagonistic to the changes in education due to their ignorance.

While this was going on, there was political strife, which was referenced earlier. Strong, in 1925, in an opinion that seemed to lean toward Trotsky, after Lenin’s death, claimed that Lenin was the “father of the revolution,” Trotsky as “popular” leader, and Stalin as a tactful politician. She continued by claiming that the old Bolsheviks were behind Stalin, who didn’t know many Western languages as Trotskyists, and differ on the debate over socialism in Russia, with Trotsky “broken” by Stalin. She even claimed that “no one would die for Stalin” which is totally absurd. Putting aside the pro-Trotsky viewpoint of Strong, it is important to talk about the debate between Trotsky and Stalin over socialism in Russia. In the Foundations of Leninism, a quote of which is reproduced here, Stalin wrote that socialist revolution which is successful in one country must not be self-sufficient but should aid the the “victory of the proletariat in other countries” so that the victory of socialism is clear. The main debate is this, as highlighted by one WordPress blogger: the idea of “permanent revolution” posed by Trotsky expands on the idea that revolution can occur in a “backward” country rather than an “advanced country” and that revolution cannot succeed if cannot be successful in the rest of the world. As for Stalin’s idea of “socialism in one country,” this recognizes the successful socialist revolution in Russia, but says that socialist construction under NEP, for example, can happen in one country, with socialism ultimately successful worldwide. [57]

Stalin himself, explained what “socialism in one country” meant in December 1925:

“… the possibility of the victory of Socialism in one country…mean[s] the possibility of solving the contradictions between the proletariat and the peasantry with the aid of the internal forces of our country, the possibility of the proletariat assuming power and using that power to build a complete Socialist society in, our country, with the sympathy and the support of the proletarians of other countries, but without the preliminary victory of the proletarian revolution in other countries. Without such a possibility, the building of Socialism is building without prospects, building without being sure that Socialism will be built. It is no use building Socialism without being sure that we can build it, without being sure that the technical backwardness of our country is not an insuperable obstacle to the building of complete Socialist society. To deny such possibility is to display lack of faith in the cause of building Socialism, to abandon Leninism…the impossibility of the complete, final victory of Socialism in one country without the victory of the revolution in other countries…mean[s] the impossibility of having full guarantees against intervention and consequently against the restoration of the bourgeois order, without the victory of the [proletarian] revolution in at least a number of countries. To deny this indisputable thesis is to abandon internationalism, to abandon Leninism…And if our country is discredited the world revolutionary movement will be weakened.”

Christina Kaier, a professor at Northwestern University who specializes in “Russian and Soviet Art,” among other aspects gives the next part of the story. She describes the NEP, a period she says lasted from 1921 to circa 1928, was a “relatively peaceful and semicapitalist period in Soviet history,” which retreated from the War Communism during the Russian Civil War, with “free exchange” legalized and pushed by Lenin, which was seen as the next step to a socialist future, with Soviet state-owned enterprises competing in the NEP market. [58] A major downside of NEP was the creation of the “Nepmen” or NEP bourgeoisie which supported avant-garde artists but also were very greedy, with a noticeable disparity between workers and management, class distinctions reappearing in society, and firms dominated by the profit motive. [59] Despite all these downsides, in a country with a mainly agricultural economy at the time, there were positive elements. The creation of a “communist culture” in the new nation was realized by making constructivist art a political project of the state to counter bourgeois art with useful, utilitarian objects for the “new socialist collective” but also the ideas of an “object as comrade” or “socialist object” to replace commodity pleasures. [60] To promote such utilitarian objects, and tap into “commodity aesthetics and consumer desires” during the NEP, with advertising to promote products, which were seen as “transitional objects” as well, they were displayed at an avant-garde exhibition in Paris in 1924, at a time that Soviet industry was still recovering from wartime. [61] The philosophy of those creating the objects was put forward by Aleksander M. Rodchenko in the spring of 1925:

“The light from the East [the Soviet Union] is not only the liberation of workers, the light from the East is in the new relation to the person, to women, to things, our things in our hands must be equals.”

Examples of this are abound, some of whom were in the October Group of Soviet constructivist artists. Vladimir Tatlin, who shifted to creating utilitarian objects, creating a stove, pot, and other items to help in the home. [62] As for Lubov Popova and Varvara Stepanova (married to Rodchenko), they proposed designs for “everyday, utilitarian things,” specifically a simple “flapper dress” which was “mass-produced and distributed in Soviet economy.” [63] These dresses were austere but unisex and androgynous. [64]

By 1926, the gradual dismantling of NEP was beginning, scrapped by the 1928/1929, when Stalin was in a more powerful position than before. [65] Kaier, apart from her bizarre Freudian claims about Soviet objects, seemed to be writing a fair history (not communist or radical however) except when it came to what happened next and aspects of the Soviet government. In an almost negative tone, she mentioned the “mechanisms of party control over people’s lives,” the “Stalinist socialist realism in the 1930s,” and seemed to be snarky about the hardline approach by the Soviets toward prostitution and “nonparty women.” [66] Hence, while Kaier makes valuable contributions to history of the USSR, she falters by acting like Stalin is “bad” as he came to the scene. Trotskyist Chris Harman, in a similar vein, claims that Stalin gained “real” power in 1923-1924 and “absolute” power in 1928-1929. Without citing the specific page in his book, A People’s History of the World, praised by “popular historian” Howard Zinn, Harman is deluded. Even a quick glance at Stalin’s wikipedia page shows that he was the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU from April 3, 1922 to October 18, 1952, over thirty years, but Harman may be referring to his “consolidation” of power in 1928-1929 possibly, who knows.

Kaier and Harman are not the only ones that sneer at Stalin. Louise McReynolds, who was criticized earlier in this article, follows suit, treating the trumpeting of socialist values in mass culture of the USSR by the CPSU as “bad.” [67] These claims are further preposterous when one considers that Stalin pushed for rapid industrialization and and end to the NEP, coupled with collectivization of agriculture when there was a shortfall in grain stores. Of course, a few, such as Nikolai Bukharin and Alexey Rytov opposed these policies but the Politburo rightly sided with Stalin, meaning that Rytov and Bukharin were pushed out for good reason. Lest us forget that under Stalin’s direction (and not only him), the first five-year plan was proposed in the USSR as a centrally-planned economy began to be constructed. Stephen Gowans noted, in his article about publicly-owned and planned economies, that they work despite the bourgeois propaganda that asserts otherwise.

“The Soviet Union was a concrete example of what a publicly owned, planned economy could produce: full employment, guaranteed pensions, paid maternity leave, limits on working hours, free healthcare and education (including higher education), subsidized vacations, inexpensive housing, low-cost childcare, subsidized public transportation, and rough income equality. Most of us want these benefits…when the Soviet economy was publicly owned and planned, from 1928 to 1989, it reliably expanded from year to year, except during the war years. To be clear, while capitalist economies plunged into a major depression and reliably lapsed into recessions every few years, the Soviet economy just as unfailingly did not, expanding unremittingly and always providing jobs for all. Far from being unworkable, the Soviet Union’s publicly owned and planned economy succeeded remarkably well. What was unworkable was capitalism, with its occasional depressions, regular recessions, mass unemployment, and extremes of wealth and poverty…What eventually led to the Soviet Union’s demise was the accumulated toll on the Soviet economy of the West’s efforts to bring it down, the Reagan administration’s intensification of the Cold War, and the Soviet leadership’s inability to find a way out of the predicament these developments occasioned…the Soviet economic system had…worked better than capitalism…Encouraged to believe that the Soviet economic system had failed, many people, including both communist supporters and detractors of the Soviet Union, concluded that a system of public ownership and planning is inherently flawed…the Soviet model of public ownership and planning…never once, except during the extraordinary years of World War II, stumbled into recession, nor failed to provide full employment…The benefits of the Soviet economic system were found in the elimination of the ills of capitalism…Among the most important accomplishments of the Soviet economy was the abolition of unemployment…From the moment in 1928 that the Soviet economy became publicly owned and planned, to the point in 1989 that the economy was pushed in a free market direction, Soviet GDP per capita growth exceeded that of all other countries but Japan, South Korea and Taiwan…the Soviet economy grew rapidly from 1928 to 1989 [but] it never surpassed the economies of North America, Western Europe and Japan…Soviet leaders recognized that a planned, publicly owned economy was an anathema to the captains of industry and titans of finance who use their wealth and connections to dominate policy in capitalist countries…Every year, from 1928 to 1989, except during the war years, the Soviet economy reliably expanded, providing jobs, shelter, and a wide array of low- and no-cost public services to all, while capitalist economies regularly sank into recession and had to continually struggle out of them on the wreckage of human lives.”

Stalin did make mistakes including thinking that the KMT, led by Chiang Kai-Shek was an effective force to defeat the imperialists, an idea discarded after the Shanghai Massacre in 1927 when the KMT murdered 300-400 Chinese Communists. At the same time, Trotsky turning into a virulent critic and Lenin saying Stalin should go hurt the unity of the CPSU, which made Stalin’s job in a governing position of the USSR even harder. Still, the continuation of the anti-religious campaign, which began in 1921, was wholly justified in an attempt to counter the nasty aspects of religious distortions in society which would ruin the attainment of human betterment.

The Soviet Union was at a good place, especially after Stalin took power. By 1932 and 1933, the medical field in the country was well organized and well established. Doctors were state officials who worked 6-6 1/2 hours every day and there were a total of 76,000 physicians, an increase of 50,000 since the Great October Socialist Revolution. There was also free social and medical help, open attendance at child birth regardless of class, free dental work, public medical centers for workers, the idea of unified medical work in the factory and hospital, and vacations ranging from 12 days to one month depending on the age and type of work. Doctors were also in touch with other elements of the medical practice, there was a specific focus on venereal disease, along with integration of medicine within and outside institutions, coupled with more hospital beds and progress in medical provisions. Other than this, the USSR made progress in fighting tuberculosis, venereal disease, especially syphilis, doctors outside the “field of monetary compensation” and near fulfillment of a “good medical service” with improvements needed to make it better since no medical service is perfect. The 1930s report on Soviet medicine concluded by saying that the Soviet government was “the most gigantic experiment in the deliberate public organization of social and political life in the world” with abolition of the “motive of private profit,” and engaged in “socialization of medicine” which in some respects goes beyond Western countries, presenting a challenge to other countries. [68] In times that we despair about the horrid condition of abortion rights in America, we should remember that abortion in the USSR was legally allowed under a number of parameters, which are reprinted below, showing that there were feminist policies in place:

“In most countries the purposeful production of abortion except for medical reasons is regarded as murder. The Soviet Government in 1920 repealed the existing laws against abortion and legalized it under certain specific conditions. This law contained the provisions summarized below, which are more fully stated in Mrs. Field’s Protection of Women and Children in Soviet Russia.

1. Abortion must be undertaken only by a licensed surgeon. Midwives are prohibited from performing abortions.

2. It must, as a rule, be the result of a surgical operation, and not of drugs.

3. The patient must afterwards remain in bed in the hospital or place of operation for three full days.

4. She must not be allowed to go to work for two weeks after the operation.

5. For a first pregnancy an abortion must not be performed unless childbirth would seriously endanger the mother’s life.’

6. Abortion is forbidden if the pregnancy has lasted for more than two and a half months.

7. A doctor cannot refuse an application for abortion, except as stated under 5 and 6. He may, however, discourage it in any way he thinks fit.

8. It is recommended that all abortions be performed in those State hospitals which have a division for this purpose. An insured woman or the wife of an insured man can claim abortion free of charge in a State hospital. For others a small charge may be made.

9. A private doctor or anyone else producing an abortion which results in death can be tried for manslaughter. Women cannot be punished for performing on themselves.

10. The doctor is recommended to discourage a woman from abortion if there are no social, economic, or medical reasons for it, and particularly if she has fewer than three children, or has adequate means for supporting another child.

It is stated that few abortions are asked for by women desiring to conceal illicit relations…No difficulty has arisen because of the unwillingness of women to come to hospitals for this purpose. No distinction is drawn between married and unmarried women.”

With the available resources, there isn’t much else I can say about this time period. I can say that on November 16, 1933, the US finally established diplomatic relations with the USSR as noted in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia. [69]

Conclusion

Looking through the sources I gathered for this article, I realize now that I missed a number of aspects: I could have looked more at Stalin’s writings, spanning 1901-1952, a book about the early times of a Bolshevik (1894-1914), and histories of of the USSR, among many other aspects. [70] There are a number of bourgeois and academic sources I found, but alas, I did not go through those either. [71] This article could undoubtedly be better, but I am only a learner on this subject. I found some sources on r/communism in some quick searching today, but I likely missed something. So, comrades who are reading this, if you can help by providing any sources about Soviet history from 1933 onward, that would be great since there will be future articles in this series.

Notes

[1] Adam Taylor, “Soviet leader, Gorbachev says a new union could rise again,” Washington Post, December 13, 2016; Damien Sharkov, “Mikhail Gorbachev on the Soviet Union collapse, Democracy in Russia and Putin’s popularity,” Newsweek, December 13, 2016; Paul Goble, “If the Russians Come Back Again, They Won’t Be Constrained By Communism,” Estonian World Review, December 14, 2016.

[2] Louise McReynolds, Russia at Play: Leisure Activities at the End of the Tsarist Era (London: Cornell University Press, 2003), 4-6, 14, 29, 54.

[3] V.I. Lenin, “The revolution in 1905: The beginning of the revolution in 1905” (January 25, 1905), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 500-507,

[4] Ibid, 508-509; V.I. Lenin, “The State and Revolution” (1918), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 588-591.

[5] V.I. Lenin, “Lecture on the 1905 revolution” (1917),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 510-513, 518-519, 524.

[6] Ibid, 529.

[7] McReynolds, 9, 136.

[8] See Morgan Phillip Price’s four penny pamphlet titled “Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia,” published in 1918.

[9] John Keegan, An Illustrated History of the First World War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), 300-301.

[10] Ibid, 301, 306.

[11] Ibid, 306-308.

[11*] “A Soviet View of the American Past: An Annotated Translation of The Section on American History in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” The Wisconsin Magazine of History, Vol. 43, No. 1, Autumn 1959, p. 33

[12] See Morgan Phillip Price’s four penny pamphlet titled “Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia,” published in 1918.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Keegan, 308.

[15] Ibid, 309, 311, 316.

[16] See Chapter 2  (“The Coming Storm“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook the World.

[17] Keegan, 316.

[18] The term “Bolshevik government” is used here to refer to the rule from 1917-1922. The government that was created after 1922, is called the “Soviet government.” Some say that the “Soviet government” began in 1917, but to say this is confusing since the Soviet Union was not officially created until 1922.

[19] By the end of the year, the Bolshevik government said that citizens could recall politicians from office, salaries of high-paid officials were limited, peace talks with the Axis powers began, leaders of the Cadet Party (anti-Bolshevik) are ordered arrested, an eight-hour day is introduced for railway workers, and public education is no longer monopolized by the Russian Orthodox Church. Beyond this, the Council of People’s Commissars says that Ukraine has a right to succeed, the nationalization of banks is announced, and the independence of Finland is accepted.

[20] See chapter IV (“The Fall of the Provisional Government“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[21] See Chapter V (“Plunging Ahead“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[22] See Chapter VI (“The Committee of Salvation“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[23] See Chapter VII (“The Revolutionary Front“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[24] Ibid.

[25] See Chapter VIII (“Counter-Revolution“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[26] Ibid.

[27] See Chapter IX (“Victory“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[28] See Chapter X (“Moscow“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[29] Ibid.

[30] See Chapter XI (“The Conquest of Power“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[31] Ibid; see Chapter XII (“The Peasants’ Congress“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[32] Valerie Bryson, Feminist Political Theory: An Introduction (New York: Palgrave MacMillian, 2003, Second Edition), 114-125.

[33] See Morgan Phillip Price’s four penny pamphlet titled “Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia,” published in 1918.

[34] “A Soviet View of the American Past,” p. 34

[35] V.I. Lenin, “The State and Revolution” (1918), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 569-570, 572, 582-583.

[36] V.I. Lenin, “Marxism and Uprising” (Sept. 1917), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 606-607; V.I. Lenin, “The crisis has matured” (October 12, 1917), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), p. 612-613.

[37] Josef Stalin, “The October Revolution and the National Question” (1918),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 620-621.

[38] Josef Stalin, “The October Revolution and the Question of the Middle Strata,” The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 632.

[39] See Morgan Phillip Price’s four penny pamphlet titled “Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia,” published in 1918.

[40] Keegan, 317, 354, 356, 359.

[41] Ibid, 318, 355.

[42] Ibid, 356, 359-360

[43] Ibid, 360-361, 363-364.

[44] Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (New York: HarperPerennial, Fifth Edition, 2003), 409; Chronicle of America, “U.S. severs ties with Bolsheviks” (Mount Kisco, NY: Chronicle Publications, 1988), 605.

[45] “A Soviet View of the American Past,” 34, 36

[46] “A Soviet View of the American Past,” 34, 37

[47] Zinn, 373, 380, 400, 409; Chronicle of America, “Pacifist Debs gets 10 years in prison,” p. 606.

[48] Chronicle of America, “Left-wing socialists establish own party,” p. 611; Chronicle of America, “US withdraws troops from Soviet Russia,” p. 610; Chronicle of America, US in crusading mood, deports 249 radicals to Soviet Russia,” p. 611; Chronicle of America, “Palmer raids net thousands of leftists,” p. 612; “A Soviet View of the American Past,” p. 35

[49] Keegan, 392, 403.

[50] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “The Communist Manifesto,” The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 46

[51] Marx and Engels, 67; V.I. Lenin, “What Is to Be Done?,”  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 483; V.I. Lenin, “Lecture on the 1905 Revolution” (1917),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 516.

[52] McReynolds, 12-13, 33, 292.

[53] Josef Stalin, “Foundations of Leninism” (1924),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 647-651.

[54] Ibid, 637-638, 640-641.

[55] Marx and Engels, 26, 36

[56] Marx, “Address to the Communist League” (1850),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 71

[57] This blogger claims that speeding up “socialist construction” in the USSR ultimately led to the USSR’s demise, which is silly since the USSR was in existence from 1922 until 1911, so this person doesn’t know what they are talking about. At the same time, they claim that “the possibility of eventual failure of socialism was built into Stalin’s theory” which just isn’t true. Still, they make a possibly valid point that Stalin’s theory’s includes ideas from Trotsky.

[58] Christina Kaier, Imagine No Possessions: The Socialist Objects of Russian Constructivism (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005), 2, 18-19, 38, 165.

[59] Ibid, 19-20, 23, 25, 29, 81, 173, 264-265.

[60] Ibid, 1, 4-5, 8, 10, 27, 140.

[61] Ibid, 17, 47, 49, 183, 200-201, 206, 212.

[62] Ibid, 43, 52, 71-73, 82-83.

[63] Ibid, 89, 92, 100-101.

[64] Ibid, 113-114, 117, 124.

[65] Ibid, 244.

[66] Ibid, 27, 58-59, 61, 259.

[67] McReynolds, 293.

[68] It turns out that these authors are at least partially Trotskyists. Still, they offer good analysis when it comes to medicine. Other chapters I didn’t include talk about the USSR’s government, industrial and agricultural conditions, religious and civil liberty, women in Soviet Russia (cited earlier in this article), care of children, maternity,

[69] “A Soviet View of the American Past,” p. 46

[70] Other aspects worth mentioning are Alexandra Kollontai talking about the years of revolution, a first-hand account of the October Socialist Revolution by Louise Bryant, a book with biographies of certain personalities in the revolution, Anne Louise Strong’s book about John Reed’s colony on the Volga, a page about party Congresses, a page about Soviet foreign policy, a page about Kronstadt, a page chronicling Lenin’s writings, a page chronicling Luxembourg’s writings, a page about the Soviet government, a page chronicling John Reed’s writings, and a page chronicling Soviet history.

[71] See “The History of Both the February and October Russian Revolutions” on About.com, “War and Revolution in Russia 1914-1921” by Dr. Jonathan Snee on BBCNews, “Causes of the Russian Revolution” on About.com, “Russian Revolution, October, 1917” on Spartacus International, Owen Hatherley, “The constructivists and the Russian revolution in art and architecture” on The Guardian, and Leon Aron, “Even Vladimir Putin Cannot Kill the Russian Revolution” in Foreign Policy. Academic sources include “The Deepening of the Russian Revolution: 1917” on a MIT website, the Internet Sourcebook documents on the Russian Revolution, and a book about the Russian revolution hosted in part by the Library of Congress.

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Acceptance of Trump and imperial white propaganda

beckermann
Not only are Democratic leaders falling in line with Trump but so are tech leaders.

Recently, Congress passed a military spending bill of over $618 billion dollars, with wide margins (92-7 in the Senate and 375-34 in the House) in both houses. [1] Like with Trump’s diplomatic maneuvers, there is a level of fake outrage at play once again. Some articles have decried that the spending bill gives Trump power over a US propaganda arm named “Voice of America” (VOA). [2] While this is correct, there is more to the story than this simplistic analysis pushed around by the bourgeois media.

In order to determine what this media is talking about, one has to look at the actual law itself. The one section they are referring to is section 1288 of the law (titled “Modification of United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994′). This section declares that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) will continue to exist but will led by a Chief Executive Officer appointed by the President and approved by the Senate, with a term of three years. This section also abolishes the “Director of the International Broadcasting Bureau” position, with the CEO as the head of the BBG which oversees “RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Asia, or the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.” Additionally, this section also removes the International Broadcasting Bureau, replacing it with an International Broadcasting Advisory Board, with members appointed by the President, and consisting of five members including the Secretary of State, with their terms lasting three years, advising the CEO of the BBG. [3] Of the four other members other than the Secretary of State, they would be appointed from lists drawn up by the Chair and a ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the same in the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations. Finally, this section says that the CEO of the BBG may “condition annual grants to RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks on the consolidation of such grantees into a single, consolidated private, non-profit corporation,” with the mission of the BBG to

“counter state-sponsored propaganda which undermines the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States and its allies…provide uncensored local and regional news and analysis to people in societies where a robust, indigenous, independent, and free media does not exist…help countries improve their indigenous capacity to enhance media professionalism and independence…promote unrestricted access to uncensored sources of information, especially via the internet, and use all effective and efficient mediums of communication to reach target audiences.”

Beyond this, not only will the “officers and directors of RFE/RL Inc., Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks” may be named by the CEO of the BBG but “additional [propaganda] brands may be created as necessary.” [4]

Basically, the concern, among some in the bourgeois media, is that Trump would appoint the CEO of Breitbart to head this information agency, becoming propaganda that would benefit him. However, most of the articles only focus on VOA, and NOT other forms of (arguably) white propaganda outlets, under the BBG’s umbrella, such as RFE (Radio Free Europe)/RL (Radio Liberty) which is thoroughly anti-Russian, Radio Free Asia (RFA) which promotes imperial policy in East Asia, Radio y Televisión Martí which is anti-Cuban, Alhurra which was imagined as a counterweight to Al Jazeera, and Radio Sawa which has failed in its mission. Three of these outlets (VOA, RFE/RL, Radio y Televisión Martí, and RFA) have their roots in anti-communist propaganda against the Soviet Union (and Communist China until they became “friendly” with the US), and other socialist states, but the white propaganda aim of these outlets is evident. For instance, VOA can publish an article saying that “the gradual collapse of the Soviet Union…had wide-ranging effects across Africa [affecting deeply] Marxist-inspired governments and movements,” with a ripple effect in Angola, Ethiopia, Benin, while “U.S. and European backed anti-communist authoritarian governments also slowly turned to multi-party elections” while also saying that “in Africa…the late Fidel Castro was both loved and despised…Castro is not remembered fondly in Somalia today…Castro’s influence in Africa greatly declined,” which while acting like they are “progressive” is messaging that reinforces US imperial power with false “objectivity.”

The other dimension to this is that the Obama administration is giving Trump and his cronies more power! So, basically, there is not really an opposition party (who some would say are the Democrats) to his policies. This is buttressed by the fact that outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid declared that Trump is “not as bad as I thought he would be” citing Trump saying he isn’t going to repeal Obama’s executive order on dreamers, and “not going to prosecute Hillary Clinton criminally,” while also saying  that he does not “have hate in my soul for Donald Trump” but hopes that Trump “does well….hopeful that he will lessen his rhetoric and work toward a safer, more productive America.”

The outrage over Trump gaining this power over propaganda networks is understandable, but why isn’t the outrage directed at Obama for passing this power to Trump? Also, the outrage is misguided because the spending bill has many other horrid elements. Apart from the other aspects of the bill [5], which I will not go into detail here, these elements are worrying enough. The expansion of imperial might by building a new aircraft carrier by 2022 (sec. 127), limits on money to destroy cluster bombs (sec. 143), along with the expansion of expansion of “electromagnetic spectrum warfare” and “electronic warfare” (sections 234, 240) is problematic enough. Additionally, the strengthening of the military’s position into cyberwarfare, possibly with “cyber professionals,” with a “unified combatant command for cyber operations forces” and into space with a the newly created “Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center” which is supposed to “create unity of effort and facilitate information sharing across the national security space enterprise” is also not good (sections 509, 923, 1615).

These efforts are only scratching the surface of this bill which increases and reinforces the duties of empire. The bill also declares that the military will continue to assist in “counterdrug activities or activities to counter transnational organized crime” of other Federal organizations, foreign law enforcement, or other government bodies, along with extending the “unified counterdrug and counterterrorism campaign” of the military to Colombia (sections 1011 and 1013). There is also the declaration that no military spending can be used to “transfer, release, or assist in the transfer or release to or within the United States, its territories, or possessions” any detainee, at Guantanamo prison at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba naval base, to facilities in the United States (sections 1032, 1033). Interestingly, not only are detainees from Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen are specifically also prohibited from being released from the prison, but no military spending can be used to close to abandon the naval base at Guantanamo Bay (sections 1034 and 1035). If that isn’t enough, the military is apparently interested in “directed energy weapons” and systems, with a senior military official having principal responsibility for them, the Air Force now “piloting” drones instead of the CIA, and the military told to “better align its posture and capabilities to meet the growing array of challenges” in the Arctic, “a region of growing strategic importance to the national security interest of the United States” (sections 219, 1052, and 1095). There are also, in keeping with the anti-Russian declarations across the media, prohibitions on

  1. “bilateral military-to-military cooperation between the Governments of the United States and the Russian Federation” until Russia ends their supposed “occupation of Ukrainian territory and its aggressive activities” and abide by “the Minsk Protocols regarding a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine”
  2. money to “implement any activity that recognizes the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea”
  3. spending to “invite, assist, or otherwise assure the participation of the Government of Cuba in any joint or multilateral exercise or related security conference between the Governments of the United States and Cuba” until Cuba stops its supposed “human rights abuses against civil rights activists and other citizens of Cuba,” ceases assistance to “the military and security forces of Venezuela,” ceases supposed “persecution, intimidation, arrest, imprisonment, and assassination of dissidents and members of faith-based organizations,” drops its demand that “the United States relinquish control of Guantanamo Bay,” and other measures (sections 1232, 1234, 1286).

The latter section would mean that Cuba would have to be run by a government that is not anti-imperialist and is pro-US which is doubtful despite “Cuban moderates” like Raul Castro, who seem to be willing to be friendly with the US to an extent, in power at the present. There is no doubt that all of these measures will strengthen the empire and assist Trump in his diplomatic maneuvers except for his possible “good relations” with Russia in the future.

The military spending bill also reinforces other elements of existing US policy. For one, there is the development and production of the “Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system and Israeli cooperative missile defense program” in cooperation with Israel, taking actions “as may be necessary to…recognize India’s status as a major defense partner of the United States,” helping sub-Saharan African countries develop free trade agreements, with help of USAID and other monies, and preventing the “use of rocket engines from the Russian Federation for the evolved expendable launch vehicle program” (sections 1292, 1293, 1601, 1602, 1690). The US relationship with the murderous Zionist state of Israel, which will likely remain unchanged under Trump, is also supported by one section which says that the Secretary of Defense shall submit a report on “the potential for cooperative development by the United States and Israel of a directed energy capability to defeat ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, mortars, and improvised explosive devices that threaten the United States, deployed forces of the United States, or Israel” (section 1274). Apart from the outlining of a “strategy for United States defense interests in Africa” by the Secretaries of State and Defense in the next year, the bill establishes a Global Engagement Center, by the Secretaries of State and Defense, along with other federal organizations, which will “lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests” (section 1273 and 1287).

Very few articles have mentioned the Global Engagement Center apart from the horrid Human Rights First organization, the Center for Research on Globalization, and a few other places. The Washington Post defended this, with Craig Timberg, the same one who wrote the article promoting Prop Or Not (with its list of “Russian propaganda” news organizations which almost seems like a Cold War relic) and spreading Russophobic propaganda, by declaring that the bill “calls on the State Department to lead government-wide efforts to identify propaganda and counter its effects…[and] would be the most significant initiative against foreign governments’ disinformation campaigns since the 1990s,” a sentiment shared by Senators Rob Portman, Ron Wyden, Chris Murphy, and others to fight a supposed “heavy tide of Russian propaganda” and other “propaganda campaigns by…other foreign powers, including China.” [6]

There are only a number of other aspects of this bill worth mentioning. For one, the bill gives Trump tools to increase his hostility toward China. While one section says that the Secretary of Defense shall “carry out a program of exchanges of senior military officers and senior officials between the United States and Taiwan designed to improve military to military relations between the United States and Taiwan,” another says that the military will revise its assessment of China to include a “summary of the order of battle of the People’s Liberation Army, including anti-ship ballistic missiles, theater ballistic missiles, and land attack cruise missile inventory…A description of the People’s Republic of China’s military and nonmilitary activities in the South China Sea” (sections 1271 and 1284). So, Trump could use, this, in conjunction with the measure in the law allowing the President to impose sanctions on

“any foreign person…[who] is responsible for….gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals in any foreign country who seek…to expose illegal activity carried out by government officials; or to obtain, exercise, defend, or promote internationally recognized human rights and freedoms” (sec. 1263)

Of course, such humanitarian imperialism was likely meant for someone like President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, or Kim Jong Un of the DPRK, Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea. However, it could easily be used against Xi Jinping, President and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, along with other top Chinese government officials for “human rights violations” and would be cheered on by the CIA (which calls China a “communist state”), Human Rights Watch (which calls China “a one-party authoritarian state”), and Amnesty International (which describes China in a similar light). There is only one good part of the law I can see: that the military and other departments will “post on the public Internet website of the Department of Defense the costs to each United States taxpayer of each of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria” (section 1090). This transparency obviously will not stop wars, but can be used as propaganda against the national military establishment itself, as much as the counters on the National Priorities Project of military costs can be used in the same way.

I was going to originally end this post with an analysis of Trump’s cabinet picks, but that will be for another day. For now, I think it is important to oppose the horridness of Trump while rejecting the liberal fake outrage about him, which seems to be centering around “his ties” to Russia now or the Podesta emails, and standing against US imperial propaganda by recognizing the anti-imperialist front of those countries opposed to the United States from time to time.

Notes

[1] Patricia Zengerle, “U.S. Congress passes $618.7 billion annual defense bill,” Reuters, December 9.

[2] David Folkenflik, “An Obama-Backed Change At Voice Of America Has Trump Critics Worried,” NPR, December 14, 2016; Lauren Fox, “Report: Big Changes To Voice Of America Could Make It Trump’s Mouthpiece,” Talking Points Memo, December 12, 2016; “VOA promises editorial ‘firewall’,” BBC News, December 13, 2016; Taylor Link, “Will Donald Trump have complete control of America’s propaganda arm?,” Salon, December 12, 2016; Tara Palmeri, “Trump to inherit state-run TV network with expanded reach,” Politico, December 12, 2016; Howard Kurtz, “Double Standard? Media warn Trump could exploit US ‘propaganda’ arm – under bipartisan law,” Fox News, December 13, 2016.

[3] Those who are currently on the BBG board will be the first members of this board until vacancies are filled.

[4] Finally, this section also says that if RFE/RL is not carrying out its functions in an economical and effective manner, another entity may be granted its duties. The section also talks about the duties of the Inspector General in “checking” the BBG, the foreign policy guidance of the Secretary of State.

[5] Other provisions include: (1) says the Secretary of the Army can purchase AH–64E Apache helicopters (sec. 111 and 112); (2) says secretary of army can order training of certain military units (sec. 113); (3) determination of delivery of navy vehicles (sec. 121); (4) construction and design of “the LHA Replacement ship designated LHA 8” (sec. 122); (5) report on Littoral Combat Ship (sec. 123); (6) limits on some naval shipbuilding (sec. 124); (7) limit on funds for advanced arresting gear on numerous vessels such as the U.S.S. Enterprise and U.S.S. John F. Kennedy (sec. 125); (8) limit on funds for procurement for the U.S.S. Enterprise (sec. 126); (9) report on P-8 Poseidon Aircraft (sec. 128); (10) design of a landing ship (sec. 129); (11) Compass Call aircraft (sec. 131); (12) repeal of requirement (secs. 132, 133); (13) A-10 aircraft cannot retire (secs. 134, 135); (14) Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft cannot retire (sec. 136); (15) elimination of annual report on aircraft inventory (sec. 137); (16) standardization of certain rifle ammunition (sec. 138); (17) fire suppressment and other standards for vehicles (sec. 142); (18) report on military use of munitions for combat situations (sec. 144); (19) reporting on combat ammunitions is annual instead of quarterly (sec. 145); (20) review of F-35 Lightning II (secs. 146, 147); (21) briefing on ground utility vehicle (sec. 148); (22) capabilities of aircraft (sec. 149); (23) technology reinvention labs created and still funded (secs. 211-213, 217); (24) research and development at National Defense University (sec. 214); (25) manufacturing engineering education program established (sec. 215); (26) certain activities (sec. 216); (27) Distributed common ground system (sec. 220); (28) Limiting funds for “countering weapons of mass destruction situational awareness information system commonly known as “Constellation”” (sec. 221); (29) Limiting funds for experimental military unit (sec. 222); (30) limitation of funds for JSTARS program (sec. 223); (31) annual reports on f-35 strike fighter modernization (sec. 224); (32) access to trusted microelectronics (sec. 231); (33) evaluating commercial information technology (sc. 232); (34) more technology testing (sec. 233); (35) pilot program on disclosure of certain information to federal research and development centers (sec. 235); (36) advanced interaction between DARPA and service academies (sec. 236); (37) review of certain procedures (sec. 237); (38) b-21 bomber development program (sec. 238); (39) study on helicopter crash prevention (sec. 239); (40) fielding of certain systems (sec. 241); (41) energy installations (sec. 311); (42) alternative fuel requirement (sec. 312); (43) data management for facilities (sec. 313); (44) alternative technologies for munitions disposal (sec. 314); (45) report on how to reduce military costs of installations (sec. 315); (46) sense of congress related to climate change (sec. 316); (47) rating system (sec. 321); (48) guidance related to corrosion control (sec. 322); (49) manufacturing and retooling initiative (sec. 323); (50) repair, and other duties at drydocks (sec. 324); (51) private sector port loading (sec. 325); (52) revitalizing organic “industrial base” of the army (sec. 326); (53) modifications to quarterly readiness report to congress (sec. 331); (54) report on travel costs (sec. 332); (54) report on certain helicopter rescue program (sec. 333); (55) air navigation (sec. 341); (56) contract working dogs (sec. 342); (57) review related to explosive ordinance disposal (sec. 343); (58) process of communicating for surplus ammunition (sec. 344); (59) cords in military units (sec. 345); (60) access to military installations (sec. 346); (61) secretary of army should assess capacity of Apache helicopters to attack, “chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear capabilities and modernization needs” and capability of field artillery (sec. 114); (62) outlining specifics of claims of retaliation with report of sexual assault in the military (sec. 543); (63) creation of anti-hazing database (sec. 549), (64) Defense Sec. will “ensure the effective organization and management of the electromagnetic spectrum used by the Department of Defense” (sec. 1065), (65) “not later than the last day of the first fiscal year quarter beginning after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 90 days thereafter, the Director of National Intelligence shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report describing any confirmed ballistic missile launch by Iran during the previous calendar quarter” (sec. 1226); (66) “not later than the last day of the first fiscal year quarter beginning after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 90 days thereafter, the Director of National Intelligence shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report describing any confirmed ballistic missile launch by Iran during the previous calendar quarter” (sec. 1226), (67) military has a “biological select agent and toxin biosafety program” which is supposedly safer now (sec. 218) and many more.

[6] Craig Timberg, “Effort to combat foreign propaganda advances in Congress,” Washington Post, November 30, 2016; Craig Timberg, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” Washington Post, November 24, 2016. Other articles show where Timberg stands and how he spreads propaganda, with examples including “Why Facebook and Google are struggling to purge fake news” (November 15, 2016), “Could better Internet security have prevented Trump’s shocking win?” (November 10, 2016), “Tech investments show an Iran eager to end isolation” (April 6, 2015); “Sony Pictures hack appears to be linked to North Korea, investigators say” (December 3, 2014), “Iraq tries to censor social media to disrupt ISIS communication, but its success is limited” (July 13, 2014), “Vast majority of global cyber-espionage emanates from China, report finds” (April 22, 2013); “Chinese cyberspies have hacked most Washington institutions, experts say” (February 20, 2013).

Is Star Wars really anti-fascist?

han-solo-quote

Recently, a group of neo-Nazis has declared that the upcoming Star Wars movie, Rogue One, is “anti-white,” “SJW propaganda,” and “another Jew masturbation fantasy of anti-white hatred,” saying that the film should be boycotted, with advocates incensed after screenwriter Chris Weitz said “please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization,” and Write Gary Whitta retweeted this, adding that it was “opposed by a multi-cultural group led by brave women.” Of course, the reactionary forces will make wild proclamations but I thought it was best to come back to the topic of Star Wars and politics once again after my last post months ago, in which I wrote that “I still have some hope in the Star Wars series…this hope could obviously be shattered into many pieces,” which is what I aim to take aim at once again.

In order to go forward a summary what I pointed out in my last post on the subject is not necessary. [1] There is no reason to make the same points again. I have tended, in the past year, to drift away from Star Wars to Futurama, because of the incessant mention of war, and said that I wouldn’t watch the new movie. But, now with this controversy, which is probably, like with liberal anger at Trump’s diplomacy, fake outrage, I am intrigued. I wholehartedly recognize that the series is white-dominated by nature, easily quotable by imperialist politicians, seems to be nostalgic, can be used to ward off apologists for anti-Syrian terrorists, and has a growing number of female fans in a fan-base that is still male-dominated. On top of that, some may have made reference to Star Wars when talking about supposed anti-Trump resistance, along with the claims that politics is “like Star Wars.”

There have been a plethora of thinkpieces on the subject of Star Wars and politics as of late. Since I think the pieces are crap, I think it is worth just listing the titles and publications, just for laughs and giggles:

  • “Star Wars isn’t political, says Disney chief responding to boycott by Trump supporters. He’s wrong.” (Washington Post) (says that films don’t exist in a political void, Vietnam references in the early Star Wars movies, echoes of Vietnam in Rogue One, soldiers of empire are called stormtroopers and modeled a bit after Nazis, and ends with no strong conclusion)
  • “Star Wars Is Not Anti-Trump, But It Is Anti-Fascism,” Esquire magazine
  • “Star Wars Is and Always Has Been Political,” Gizmodo
  • “Outrage Warriors Are Only Ruining Their Own Fun by Trying to #DumpStarWars,” Forbes
  • “Disney’s CEO is wrong about Star Wars and politics, but right about the Rogue one boycott,” The Verge
  •  “Disney’s Star Wars screenwriters need to shut up about politics,” Red Alert Politics
  • “Why Star Wars Needs To Be Political,” The Young Folks
  •  “#DumpStarWars Is The First Shot In A New (Pop) Culture War,” Forbes

I could go on, but I think you get the point. There is undoubtedly public enthusiasm about Star Wars, but the connection to politics is nothing new, with horrid neoliberal comedian (who isn’t all that funny) declared that Star Wars Episode II (2002) could be analogous to Bush’s government, and some liberal critics casting Bush as Darth Vader and Cheney as Chancellor Palpatine. [2] But there are fundamental truths about the series, which will undoubtedly carry into the newest movie. For one, apart from weak character development in some movies, there is the creation of an “ideologically conservative future…[a] modern quest narrative” with Princess Leia in Episode 4 as a “damsel in distress” and the movies serving as a harbinger of “renowed American conservatism of the Reagan presidency” with the rebellion lead by “clean cut, well-spoken white youths.” [3] To add onto this, the Rebel Alliance, while it is fighting against an “evil empire,” is hierarchical (possibly authoritarian), celebrating its victory (at the end of episode 4) in a scene that seems to echo famed Nazi propagandist Leni Reifenstahl, with the white males “naturally” in positions of authority, with alien races downgraded while gender, class, and race relations are not challenged. [4] This return to “traditional morality” is not an “adventurous quest-narrative” that was part of Hollywood’s “revitalization” but it is a blockbuster which promotes nostalgia for the 1950s. [5] If this isn’t enough, the series, which has interwoven itself into familial relationships, and originally meant for children, moving family films back to the center of the global entertainment industry, while closing the “window for creative experimentation” in filmmaking that had supposedly begun in 1970. [6]

There is much more to be said about Star Wars. Apart from the obvious nostalgia for the past, and in this case for past films of the Star Wars franchise, dominates the spectator with crowd-pleasing entertainment, with a sword-wielding “elite warrior cadre,” the Jedi, honored in film after film of the series. [7] With the films being almost like a “myth of a fairytale,” a cultural dream, which have situations like athletic contests where various characters engage in a story set in a mythological time, with a story of broad proportions, supports the idea of male dominance. [8] There is no doubt symbolism in the movies with Chewbacca embodying a “wild man stereotype” some say, Christian imagery, a simplistic good vs. evil conflict, and some dreamlike locations like Dagobah in Episode 5. [9]

But there is more than this. It seems that progressives and bourgeois liberals saying the movie could be anti-fascist, and by extension the whole series is anti-fascist. In theory this would be a feat for such a successful franchise, even mocked hilariously in Mel Brooks’s Spaceballs, to be against fascism. However, that is too easy of a connection to make. There is no doubt that the Empire and First Order (the latter in ‘The Force Awakens’) are fascist and imperialist. The allusions are obvious. But what about the resistance? Well, in episodes 4, 5, 6, and 7, the Rebel Alliance, New Republic, and Resistance are undoubtedly anti-imperial forces. However, they are not like the soldiers of Cuba who fought in Angola against the murderous US imperialists and South African racists, the Soviets who fought off the Nazi fascists, the Koreans who fought off the US imperialists, or the varying anti-colonial efforts against faltering European empires. These forces, and no doubt those in the new movie, might be anti-fascist, you could say, but they are not by extension anti-capitalist. This means that the Rebel Alliance, New Republic, and Resistance, along with rebels in animated series, are bourgeois liberal forces. So, nothing to cheer for, really.

To expand on this topic, the Rebel Alliance in episodes 4-6 has monarchist elements (Princess Leia), underworld elements (Han Solo and Chewbacca). This puts doubt on whether this organization is really anti-fascist. Any radical with any sense would decry monarchical rule as anti-democratic and call for something more representative, so to sympathize with the rebels is to support monarchy, glimmers of fascism in an organization basically run by young white men, and underworld elements. In episodes 4-6 there is a subplot of Han Solo and Chewbacca, who represent the lumpenproletariat, are painted as outcasts, rebels-for-hire who are on the run from the wealthy Jabba the Hut (a crime lord that is like a Mafia figure) who demands payment, works with the empire, and has hired goons (bounty hunters who track down Han Solo in episode 5). In the animated series, these horrid figures return, and also have state sponsors, this time the Confederacy of Independent Systems (CIS) which is a bit like the early United States (1776-1787) which had a similar form of government.

One may ask about the first three movies (1, 2, and 3). In the first movie, a beleaguered galactic republic, a bit like the United States’s federal-style of government, is plagued by an invasion in a capitalist haven of Naboo by the mercantile alliance called the Trade Federation, with their own private army of robots that serve to enforce their interests. Ultimately, the Sith Lord, a person who led an order of ancient religious warriors, Palpatine/Darth Sidious takes power in the republic in order to carry out his ultimate plan to massacre the widely regarded elite religious warriors called the Jedi. In episodes 2 and 3, Palpatine engineers a brutal war between the republic and the CIS which had a legislative body, the Separatist Senate, a bit like the British House of Commons, more than the House of Lords, with both sides having profiteers gaining fat sums from the war. With the end of the war in episode 3, an empire is established in place of the galactic republic, and the Jedi are almost all killed in a pogrom (order 66), with the clones becoming the stormtroopers who enforce the dictates of the new empire. So, these movies don’t necessarily take an anti-fascist take. You could say they are critical of authoritarian government, but the forces on both sides, the Republic and the CIS are not forces to cheer for, although the audience is supposed to sympathize with the Jedi and the Republic, as was made clear in the animated series.

There’s not much left to say here. I’d say that the politics in Futurama, the Simpsons, and Star Trek, among other science fiction, are much better and leave much less to be desired than Star Wars. I haven’t decided if to watch Rogue One when it comes out later this week, but regardless of this we should stay critical of the Star Wars franchise while looking at imagined Communist life in space, existing relationships between socialism and science fiction, manifested in authors like H.G. Wells. By the same token, depending on films in the Star Wars series to be anti-fascist (if it even is), without looking to actual examples of anti-fascism such as the Soviets fighting the Nazis (mentioned earlier), the Black Panthers standing against the capitalist system with their form of black liberation, and new efforts to defend one’s self using armed self-defense against bigots and fascists from Robert F. Williams in the 1950s to the unfortunately dogmatic Red Guards in Austin, Texas and people pushing to arm themselves since the advent of Donald Trump as President. As always comments are welcome.

Notes

[1] I argued, replying to another commentary on the subject, that: (1) Jar Jar Banks is a racial stereotype, a “modern version of Stepin Fetchit; (2) greedy Neimodians of the Trade Federation who could represent an Asian stereotype; (3) the major “six Star Wars movies are white and male-dominated with female characters mostly pushed to secondary roles [for the most are]…and male characters are put in the primary role. Literally there are only two black characters I can think of”; (4) Rebels (in episodes 4-6 and in the animated series) are not leftists, only a rebellious force and arguably right-wing, with monarchist elements, and almost a guerrilla movement, but could still be considered a state to an extent; rebellion is made up of middle-class folks; (5) Leia is part of rebellion, not leading it; (6) Galactic Republic is not elitist but like the “American federal system”; (7) Galactic Empire is evil, and not democratic, authority goes to the Emperor; an authoritarian government, a worthless legislative body, the Imperial Senate, abolished in Episode 4; (8) First Order in ‘The Force Awakens’ is also not democratic, and is a fascist military junta; (9) Luke is part of the petty bourgeoisie?; (10) Rebellion includes, arguably “lumpenproletariat people like gangster Han Solo and his companion Chewbacca”; (11) Naboo had an elected monarchy and was not a democracy; (12) Jedi almost act a bit like slavemasters of the clones; they are elite warriors but also arguably religious leaders (the Force is a religion); (13) Jedi want a coup in the Galactic Republic which would have made them “theocrats and actually kinda philosopher kings too in a sense”; (14) Jedi didn’t start the war, it was started by Dark Sidious; (15) Audience is cheering for “right-wingers/rightests [sic]”; (16) Not accurate to say that the Gungans in episode 1 are “slaughtered by Aztecs as that almost implies that the movie condemns imperialism which it obviously does not”; (17) Jedi are not racial supremacists, but might believe in genetic supremacy, which is akin to the Nazis; this doesn’t arguably constitute eugenics; the Jedi could be arguably theocrats but are not fascists; (18) Jedi and Smith are conflicting religious warriors who are rogue; (19) Blowing up of the Death Star (and the space station in ‘The Force Awakens’) is not “ludicrous” because the Empire was “over-confident”; (20) Luke and Leia were never in charge of the rebellion; (21) Han later becomes “a loyal footsoldier of the Rebellion”; (22) Yoda never headed an “official state religion,” and never was more than a religious force or feeling of any government of force; (23) Luke was not a leader, only a valued footsoldier of the rebellion; (24) “Palpatine was more like a religious leader who masqueraded as a political leader than the latter. He is almost more a theocrat than the Jedi since he holds a leading position in government”; (25) Anakin is “a religious warrior who will serve an authoritarian Empire and/or the Emperor” and is not won over by democratic values; (26) “Jedi were like high-level thinkers or philosopher kings to some extent, except that they didn’t really have political power but had political prestige”; (27) “if the Empire is secular, it is a murderous secular state”; (28) Empire that blew up Alderaan, not the force; (29) Star Wars is not a “state propaganda film”; (30) There is no “Skywalker regime” but only “two rightist forces fighting each other”; (31) Lucas was “broadly a conservative and wanted to reinforce “traditional” values coming from the 1950s”; (32) “…the six major movies have a conservative element and reinforces traditionalism along with arguably patriarchalism”; (33) one historical analogy in Star Wars is Vietnam in Episode 4 with the killing of Skywalkers family (a My Lai), help from the natives and “Third World mystics” in the “anti-imperial adventure” some argue; (34) others argue that the film is not critical of the United States, saying Episode IV with the West and the Empire with the Soviet Union, painting the West in a positive light, allusions to Vietnam and the US in Episodes 4, 5, and 6, and say Luke is an “optimistic Reaganite,” (35) another author says that the episodes 4-6 constitute a “post-Vietnam critique of military superiority” with the films offering a dual reading of US military might, with the rebels and empire as one and the same side; (36) yet other writers says that episodes 4-6 portray the Vietnam War positively, and feeds into feelings of frustration in the audience while endorsing “traditional structures of racism, sexism and social hierarchy that have helped to create and maintain those frustrations”; (37) in a book about the making of Star Wars, Lucas originally said he wanted to make “Apocalypse Now…a very antiwar and anti-Vietnam War film” and Lucas, since he was apparently in debt and poor, turned to Star Wars, implying that “Star Wars was about the Vietnam War with political ideas he was going to put in that movie going into Star Wars” including the idea, as Lucas puts it of “a large technological empire going after a small group of freedom fighters or human beings”; (38) numerous books say Star Wars is “a reflection on the Vietnam War”; (39) “argument that the Rebels and the Empire are just two sides of the same coin, representing different elements of the United States, is relatively convincing”; (40) both forces, “good” and “evil,” are arguably right-wing”; (41) “I guess I still have some hope in the Star Wars series and think that it has at least some value due to its deeply problematic aspects. But, this hope could obviously be shattered into many pieces”; (42) we need to stay critical of Star Wars.

[2] Marc Diapolo, War, Politics, and Superheroes: Ethics and Propaganda in Comics and Film (London: McFarland & Company, 2011), 32, 169, 180.

[3] Peter Lev, American Films of the 70s: Conflicting Visions (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), 166-168, 170. Lev also says that “some phrases borrowed from the film became key ideological points during the Reagan years.”

[4] Lev, 171, 174, 175.

[5] Lev, 179; “Introduction,” Action and Adventure Cinema (ed. Yvonne Tasker, New York: Routledge, 2004), 2, 7; Martin Flangan, “‘Get Ready for Rush Hour’: The Chronotype in action,”  Action and Adventure Cinema (ed. Yyonne Tasker, New York: Routledge, 2004), 103, 108; Yvonne Tasker, “The family in action,” Action and Adventure Cinema (ed. Yyonne Tasker, New York: Routledge, 2004), 254; Peter Kramer, “‘It’s aimed at Kids–The Kid in Everybody’: George Lucas, Star Wars, and Children’s Entertainment,” Action and Adventure Cinema (ed. Yyonne Tasker, New York: Routledge, 2004), 358.

[6] Kramer, 361, 363-366; Barry Langford, Post-Classical Hollywood: Film Industry, Style and Ideology Since 1945 (Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), 128.

[7] Langford, 207, 221, 230, 250, 278.

[8] Steven A. Galipeau, The Journey of Luke Skywalker: An Analysis of Modern Myth and Symbol (Chicago: Open Court, 2001), 1-2, 4, 5, 11, 14, 16.

[9] Galipeau, 38, 60, 66, 116.

“If he can put a few dents…I’ll fucking take it”: Trump and imperial diplomacy

Trump attacks a union leader, foreshadowing his anti-union moves in the future
Trump attacks a union leader, who called out Trump on his lies about the Carrier deal, foreshadowing his anti-union moves in the future

Recently I read a post by Sassy Sourstein (@rancidsassy) about Trump’s diplomatic maneuvers as you could call them. To his credit, he writes that “I’m not ready to stop gloating about the loss of Hillary Clinton yet. When Trump is inaugurated I’ll turn the knives on his administration — for now, it’s still the Obama-Clinton administration and I’m still focusing on these cretins.” This article will go through his post and address it, arguing that it is best to not be as optimistic about “changes” under Trump but to rather recognize the general continuance and continue fighting.

Trump, Taiwan and China

There isn’t a lie but it is the broader implications that matter.

Liberals don’t even know there’s a forest, forget seeing it for the trees. This week in Facebook includes people horrified that Trump would even acknowledge the government of Taiwan, let alone congratulate its new president! This will enrage China, our largest trading partner! They even brought out the specter of WWIII, which they laughed at when it was said it would be Clinton who would start it. Thing is Clinton was going to start it by following through on a promise to bomb Russian troops in Syria.

There is no doubt that liberals have engaged in what can be accurately called fake outrage, which is when someone is “outraged” at something but doesn’t see the whole picture simply put. Sassy has a point that Clinton would likely have started WWIII with bombing Russian troops in Syria and that liberals exhibited this fake outrage on this issue.

However, Trump’s position is not something out of the blue. Apart from whether his criticism of China is correct, which it seems to is clearly not, he is tapping into the sentiment of angry American multinationals who don’t like “new rules,” “rattled” as state-owned enterprises take more of a role in the economy, and are reportedly leaving China for Mexico, as the country loses its “allure” supposedly. Even Ho-Fung Hung, Johns Hopkins University Sociology professor who seems to be in the liberal camp of critics of China’s government by supporting the Western-backed “democracy” movement in Hong Kong, described Trump’s call with Taiwan’s new President, Tsai Ing-wen, who is part of a Taiwanese nationalist bourgeois liberal party, as “signaling a deeper shift in Washington’s Asia policy rather than just an impulsive act.”

As it turns out, that sentiment is well-placed. The call was reportedly “an intentionally provocative move that establishes the incoming president as a break with the past” which was the product of preparations stretching before he even “became the Republican presidential nominee.” [1] Talking with Tsai Ing-wen reflects, according to the article, views of Trumps’ advisers “to take a tough opening line with China,” even as it is publicly portrayed as just a “routine congratulatory call” (and non-political) which removes the fact that “it appeared calculated to signal a new, robust approach to relations with China,” to make Taiwan a “more strategic ally in East Asia.”

All Trump did was talk to the leader of a country that the United States arms and is sworn to protect — from China. And hey, China knows this. If these morons think China is just concerned with being “dishonored” *gong sound, deep bow* they’re not just racist, they’re also so stupid as to be dangerous. Give felons back their vote and disenfranchise these criminals of common sense.

Once again, Sassy makes a good point that Trump did talk to the president of Taiwan, a country whom the US has generously armed over the years with thousands upon thousands of weapons, including almost $2 billion in armaments sold to them almost a year ago in December 2015, trying to prevent them from “burning.” [2] There is no doubt that China is not just concerned with being “dishonored” with the call, but that they recognize US relations with Taiwan, and that liberals should be mocked for their response. However, as always, there is something deeper here.

Apart from what was said before, Bob Dole was behind the scenes in setting up the call with Tsai Ing-wen. Dole works currently as “a foreign agent for the government of Taiwan,” working for six months secretly (praised $140,000) to establish “high-level contact between Taiwanese officials and President-elect Donald J. Trump’s staff,” is a lobbyist for the multi-million dollar law firm Alston & Bird, and was part of a “well-orchestrated plan by Taiwan to use the election of a new president to deepen its relationship with the United States” which was assisted by Dole. [3] It might be worth remembering that Dole voted against even moderate social safety net proposals that were part of the revolution-calming “Great Society” while in the US Senate, was much in favor of the Vietnam War, and became a spokesperson for many corporate interests after his political career ended with Bill Clinton’s victory in 1996.

Apart from the misplaced optimism of the Chinese government about Trump (like many governments across the world), liberals and the corporate media have, as Sassy was criticizing, went all up and arms about this phone call:

Some actually praised the action by Trump, a view promoted by William Arkin who helped found a branch of Human Rights Watch in the 1990s! In related news, the Taiwanese alleged that the Chinese circled the island a week before Trump’s call, but this is likely a lie. What isn’t a lie, however, is a statement by former Trump adviser, Stephen Moore, likely in line with the position of Trump and his advisers: “Taiwan is our ally. That is a country that we have backed because they believe in freedom. We oughta back our ally, and if China doesn’t like it, screw ’em.” [4]

Beyond this is the actual response of the Chinese government. There is no doubt that he call made the Chinese angry, but officials blamed Taiwan for setting it up rather than Trump and hardly criticized the call. [5] The Chinese know that the Taiwan Relations Act not only “ended US recognition of Taiwan but also made the US responsible for military intervention in the case of an attack or invasion from China.” However, the anger goes deeper than that and goes beyond asking the US to bar Taiwan’s president from traveling through the US.

The People’s Daily Overseas Edition, a paper of the Chinese Communist Party, took an interesting tone. [6] This article by a researcher from the China Institute of International Studies, Wang Hai Lou, notes that Trump has consistently criticized China and could become “the weathervane for US future policy toward China” especially based on the fact he is “surrounded by a group of neo-conservative thinking” which is not good. Hai Lou goes on to say that Trump has a “lack of diplomatic experience” and is “ignorant of China-US relations” especially when it comes to “the exchange rate, trade and the South China Sea,” that provoking “friction between China and the United States…will only be counterproductive.” He ended by saying that

“China is well aware of the dual nature of US policy toward China…China’s foreign policy in line with international trends, the United States no matter…the…foreign strategy, it is difficult to exclude cooperation with China…China should develop itself according to established goals, build up a circle of friends, build a favorable international environment by cooperation and win-win, and limit US hostile choice and willful choice…the transition of Sino-US relations requires a long-term and long-term strategic plan.”

Very strategic thinking, no doubt. More directly, the Chinese government lodged “solemn representations with the relevant party on the US side both in Beijing and Washington” and got its “message across to the world as a whole with regard to Taiwan-related issues,” with the Foreign Minstry’s spokesperson, Lu Kang, saying, not surprisingly, “we will not speculate on what motivates President-elect Trump and his team into taking certain moves. But we will surly make ourselves clear if what they say concerns China.” The comment of the other foreign ministry spokesperson on the issue was not much different. Differently, some of the readers on People’s Daily criticized Trump for his anti-China rhetoric. The strongest opinion was an op-ed by Curtis Stone in the same publication, with him arguing the following:

“The U.S. cannot (and should not) try to dictate the policy of another sovereign state. Sovereignty means that China…is not always going to do what the U.S. wants. Furthermore, China will never bow to U.S. pressure…China is an independent, sovereign state with its own national interests. As a sovereign state, China sets its own policy and can retaliate if necessary. Trump does not seem to understand what China is doing with its currency, because he has repeatedly accused China of devaluing its currency. Many U.S. economists and currency experts agree that China is not a currency manipulator, and Chinese leaders have long insisted that market forces determine the price of the yuan…China wants peace and stability in the South China Sea, not tension and conflict. No doubt, China is determined and willing to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, but the claim that China is militarizing the South China Sea is completely false…An irrational and hasty “get tough with China” policy would be detrimental to U.S. long-term interests…world peace and prosperity depend on the healthy develop of China-U.S. relations. Trump needs to get the China-U.S. relationship right.”

Other writers took a similar stand. In the Chinese state media publication, Global Times, editorials said that:

  • peace through strength will be an important diplomatic principle of Trump” with a likely increase in East Asia of the military presence
  • Trump “has zero diplomatic experience and is unaware of the repercussions of shaking up Sino-US relations…China should understand Trump has two faces…we need to be clear-minded”
  • the One-China policy is a widely acknowledged principle in international relations..there is no motive in the US or the world that can break the principle…If Trump wants to overstep the One-China principle, he will destroy Sino-US ties…The Chinese mainland is capable of punishing Tsai’s administration for any moves that crosses the red line…It is hoped that Trump will gradually understand the reality and shape his China policy based on it”
  • “…he stirred up troubles against China before he is sworn in, which contradicts his isolationism…it remains uncertain if someone egged him on to challenge China…Sino-US ties will witness more troubles in his early time in the White House than any other predecessor…We should stand firm and remain composed…Trump’s reckless remarks against a major power show his lack of experience in diplomacy…Trump’s China-bashing tweet is just a cover for his real intent, which is to treat China as a fat lamb and cut a piece of meat off it…We must confront Trump’s provocations head-on, and make sure he won’t take advantage of China at the beginning of his tenure.”
  • But does China need to make deals with Trump that only benefit the US for making peace with him? Apparently not. The negotiations between China and the US must be carried out on an equal footing with mutual benefits, and won’t come to any agreement under Trump’s coercion. What if someone tries to leverage China in negotiations in an unacceptable way and tries to create an arrogant atmosphere?
    In this case, the best China can do is to return an eye for an eye. China won’t pay into Trump’s protection racket. It should use the money to build more strategic nuclear arms and accelerate the deployment of the DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile…We need to get better prepared militarily regarding the Taiwan question to ensure that those who advocate Taiwan’s independence will be punished, and take precautions in case of US provocations in the South China Sea.”

On a related note, in the English-language China Daily, they wrote that the leader of Taiwan “is desperate for support from the United States in her cross-Straits standoff with the Chinese mainland” and that Trump “values the island as a business partner,” and that the response from Beijing “indicates a strong desire for healthy China-US relations in the coming Trump era.” Just like other writers have noted, “Trump broke a decades-old bilateral diplomatic consensus and touched an ultra-sensitive diplomatic nerve” and that he should “stop acting like the diplomatic rookie he is…otherwise, he will make costly troubles for his country, and find himself trying to bluster his way through constant diplomatic conflagrations.” That actually is a good point that even Sassy didn’t bring up.

In comparison, other publications were more strident. In the Russian publication, pravada.ru, Lyuba Lulko (Stepushova) argued that “China resorted to tough rhetoric,” noting that the US welcomed Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui in 1995 which made Beijing mad, while noting that Trump’s position “could provoke not only a military, but also an economic confrontation with China that will not be easy to win” with China vetoing “other US initiatives in the UN Security Council, for example, a resolution against the proliferation of North Korea’s nuclear weapons or the sanctions policy against Iran” which could lead to a better position for Russia. In CounterPunch, writers noted that “today, more than 400 American military bases encircle China with missiles, bombers, warships and, above all, nuclear weapons” with a coming war with China a possibility, with targeting of China’s core interests, and that there could be a war over Taiwan, with increased tensions as a likely possibility. This aligns with a recent poll where more Chinese than before are wary of the United States, which is nothing new.

Liberals and Fidel Castro

These same “pragmatic” types will nonetheless spend their time shitting on the legacy of Fidel Castro who despite lifting millions out of extreme poverty, did terrible things to innocent people that objectively pale in comparison to anything the US has done to its own minorities, but forget that. It’s about the morality — but just in that case.

Terrible things to innocent people? Who? Which innocent people? I do think Sassy makes a good point about liberal analysis of Fidel here. All I have to say is that Fidel was a great revolutionary (Evo Morales of Bolivia agrees not surprisingly) and those in Cuba have memorialized him rightly so:

Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Theresa May

That’s not all Trump “fucked up” on the foreign policy front. In less than a week he praised the “dictator” of Kazakhstan, said he’d — horrors!! — like to visit Pakistan, “a terrific country,” and treated the British Prime Minister as if she were the leader of any other of the world’s countries. That last “disaster” involved him calling Theresa May only after calling NINE probably non-white leaders.

At this point Sassy bunched together a number of different issues: meeting the leader of Kazakhstan, visiting Pakistan, and talking to Prime Minister Theresa May. Once again, the anger over this translates to fake outrage. However, it is still worth addressing each topic on its own merit.

Trump praised that Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s leader, and said that the country,  since its independence “achieved fantastic success that can be called a ‘miracle.’” [7] Now, that’s much more than just an ordinary phone call. It was enough for the Washington Post to write a thinkpiece about it and some scholars to say that Kazakhstan will fair well under Trump, possibly finding the supposed “key” to fighting the Islamic State. We must recognize that Kazakhstan is a country that is utterly open for business and relations with many countries, such as Russia, China (also see here), Qatar, other Gulf states, and South Korea, along with the United States of course. [8] This state, apart from being part of OPEC, is its strategic importance to the US, likely in part because of its “wonderful” economic transformation. [9]

Sassy put “dictator” in quotations like it was something not true, something trotted out by the Western media. I think there should be no doubt that the leader of the country is a bit self-absorbed to say the least. Apart from the arrests of Islamic State-supported citizens (which isn’t necessarily bad), the country had jailed activists for dissenting (also see here) and might have a “great firewall” like China. Considering that that could be twisted into propaganda, it is best to consult other articles. These articles show that the government seems repressive, supports an higher education system pushed by the World Bank (part 1, part 2, part 3), was praised by the Bushes as freedom-loving, is part of “Eurasian integration,” poured money into a Clinton Initiative project (also see here), and provides the US with logistical support in the Afghanistan imperial war. If that’s not enough, consider that apart from Kazakhstan as part of China’s New Silk Road (also see here) partially driven by oil resources in the country and part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (it also works with Russia), benefits Western oil companies, along with other companies, and such. Now, you can say that the Western media isn’t portraying the country fairly, with some thinking of Borat as the image of the country, but even the right-wing Heritage Foundation, which is disappointed with the country’s “progress,” says that there have been “large-scale privatizations” and that the economy is not in a great state. So, its not a country anyone should consider part of an anti-imperialist front, even as it has good relations with China and Russia, with thirteen US soldiers in the country according to the most recent data.

Now we get to Pakistan. Some media say that Trump called Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, a “terrific guy,” others noted that Trump’s advisers claim he will will “solve” the problems in the Kashmir region, while others said that Pakistan was trying to “woo” Donald Trump. [10] There is no doubt that Pakistan is key to “fighting terrorism” in the region with their strong-armed approach, however, it is worth remembering that Pakistan helped in the past in funding the anti-Soviet Islamic reactionaries from 1979 to 1989 at least, but also has been angered by recent US efforts. The drone bombing, which is basically Obama’s project (Bush started it, but he didn’t engage in as many bombings), is part of war which spans seven countries: Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, along with the interventions in multiple African countries. So, Pakistan’s government, on the face, not very happy with US bombing, including outing at least three CIA station chiefs. In fact, the citizens of Pakistan have said they do not approve of the US’s mass surveillance, and a wide swath of the population since 2002 (ranging from 73-90% over the years) they declared that they have an unfavorable view of the United States and the US President (since 2005) while they have a much more positive view of China, reaching into the supermajority. In fact, the government is playing a double game. The Pakistanis have long ties to the imperial client state, Saudi Arabia, which is in an imperial interrelationship with the United States, and have a powerful military which, of course, served US interests for the most part and dominates the country’s politics.

Prime Minister Sharif, who Trump talked to, is not only one Pakistan’s most wealthy people, but he is very conservative, supported the 1991 invasion of Iraq, and pushed a direct privatization program, in his first term (1990-1993). In his second term of office (1997-1999), he expanded Pakistan’s nuclear program, had better relations with the Muslim world, and had good relations with the Pakistani military. In his third, and more recent term of office, he took a centrist stand on social policy, worked with the IMF to restructure Pakistan’s economy, engaged in privatization, strengthened Pakistan’s security establishment, seemed to have better relations with China than before along with good relations with Afghanistan and Russia, and the US claimed it was assisting Pakistan in fighting terrorism…by bombing the country! Not surprisingly, there was criticism of Sharif from the left and right, definitely more principled on the left of course.

Now we get to Theresa May, the UK’s new Prime Minister, and Trump. The media says that Trump told May that he values the “special relationship” (while recognizing NATO’s importance) while May said that talking to Trump was “easy.” [11] Other media said that Trump also said that Nigel Farage should serve as the UK’s Ambassador to the US, who has been a long-time friend of Trump (and tied to the GOP) for some time now. [12] May is the second female Prime Minister of the UK, after arch-conservative (and war criminal) Margaret Thatcher, supported mass surveillance in the UK, gave police more powers to crack down on the citizenry, and said that immigration to the island should be reduced as Home Secretary. In her recent days as prime minister she has supported the horrendous Saudi bombing in Yemen backed by the US and seems favorable to Brexit. As for Farage, who is part of a basically fascist UK Independence Party (UKIP), he has spread Islamophobic opinions on Muslim immigrants, hates wind power and takes a conservative opinion on the economy even if he has “good” positions on the EU, funding “rebels” in Syria, Putin’s role in Europe, UK-Saudi relations, and so on.

Trump putting in a “few dents” in the imperial diplomatic system?

Anything that makes US diplomats “aghast” is fabulous by me. These slimebags deserve much worse for what they’ve done to the world’s people. They’re the ones who keep every country softened up for the plunder and just in case any objections arise, war…I’m not interested in whether or not Trump knows that what he’s doing is destructive to the diplomatic system. It’s irrelevant. I know that the outcome must be good if these enemies of all good people are upset by it. That tells me all I need to know. Diplomacy as a tool of empire predates the birth of Donald Trump and unfortunately will outlive him. If he can put a few dents, intentionally or not, in these fuckers’ Mercedes well I’ll fucking take it.

Now, we get to one of the “kickers” of Sassy’s piece: the argument that Trump shocking US diplomats is good, since diplomacy is “a tool of empire” and that “if he can put a few dents…in these fuckers’ Mercedes well I’ll fucking take it.” This viewpoint is the fundamental belief in his post and what is mentioned in the title of this post. That viewpoint makes sense in that Sassy is clearly optimistic. However, as I’ve laid out in this article, Trump’s diplomatic maneuvers are not this simple. Already, Trump will align with those who feel “anti-terror policies” are not adequate enough, stay the course with US participation in NATO (despite his comments during the election), say that “the large number of refugees leaving Iraq and Syria is especially worrisome,” and deal with domestic problems before addressing international issues as a poll in May of this year noted. There’s not really anything else I can say here other than that diplomats, like liberals are engaging in “fake outrage” of course but that Trump’s maneuvers are still important.

Trump, Boeing, and Air Force One

Trump tweeted that the new Air Force One planes being built by Boeing were too expensive and should be canceled. When the markets opened this morning the Boeing stock took a dive! Can you think of a more deserving corporation to take such a hit?

I completely understand Sassy’s optimism here. I also think that Boeing is a horrible company since they are a huge military contractor, making bombers, fighters, satellites, and numerous other military equipment. Sassy is not alone in this commentary, with some describing it as a “brilliant move.”

As always, there is a deeper explanation needed. One article in the Chicago Tribune said that Boeing likely cringes every time Trump “riffs on foreign policy, especially when it comes to dealing with China” with the possibility that Trump’s administration will “test the Boeing CEO’s statesmanship, especially when it comes to dealing with China.” It also says that since it seems “Trump is eager for a China confrontation,” this goes against the interest of Boeing, which doesn’t want “an international trade war that could raise tariffs or greatly disrupt long-standing, albeit imperfect, global agreements.” The article goes on to quote Boeing’s CEO who said that “one of the overarching themes [of the recent election] was apprehension about free and fair trade,” says that an influx of jet orders from China “means more work for Boeing’s thousands of U.S. workers” and that Trump should heed his (Boeing CEO’s) advice (which is very economically nationalist ironically enough: “If we do not lead when it comes to writing these rules, our competitors will write them for us.” The article then asks how nationalist trump’s will be, with a “lot of unanswered questions and concerns.”

Of course the Chicago Tribune piece is pro-business and takes the side of Boeing, there is still important insights there on the further implications of Trump’s remarks, which are worth recognizing, which Sassy doesn’t even address.

Concluding words

In the last sentence of Sassy’s piece, he declares facetiously “I’m loving the Trump presidency and it hasn’t even started.” I’m not sure that such optimism is warranted, even if a majority of Americans say Trump can keep his businesses, which isn’t arguably an “empire.” Already, Trump is trying to court the capitalist class, many of whom supported Killary for her more overtly pro-corporate policies, including those in the technology sector mainly based around Silicon/Sexist/Surveillance Valley. [14] At the same time, he may moderate his opinions on issues like the Affordable Care Corporatist Act (“Obamacare”) if he follows the lead of Republican leaders in the houses of Congress, follows a similar “political blueprint” to Obama,” and his expected energy policy which includes: (1) more oil & gas drilling, (2) approval of LNG terminals quicker, (3) reducing energy subsidies, and other destructive policies to the environment, going even farther than Obama’s destructive (and deceptive) nature on the environment. [15] Beyond this, with the “new” rules of the “Trump game,” the militarization of space will be quickly expedited, brinkmanship will be even more prominent with with Michael T. Flynn as National Security Adviser, the continuing privatization of public education, and billionaires will benefit, with a cabinet that reeks of cronyism, and lies about “great deals” for new jobs (see here, here, here, and here for example).

It is best to move beyond the “tweet shaming” that people claim Trump has done, the fake outrage (also see here), fake news, or that one guy who is a faithless elector. The same goes for Al Gore meeting with Trump, Obama handing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) off to Trump, and numerous other issues. [16] Not only has Trump said he will approve the pipeline, but his advisers have declared that “We should take tribal land away from public treatment [privatize it]…As long as we can do it without unintended consequences, I think we will have broad support around Indian country,” a move which is broadly opposed by indigenous peoples, represented by groups such as the Indigenous Environmental Network and Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota, among others. [17] I think is valid to say that Trump will unleash neofascism (assisted by Obama continuing his harsh immigration measures), and that Trump is a showman, with governing style that makes Corporate America nervous. [18]

The most uneasy of all about Trump are the Iranians. The Western-backed moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently said, in a speech at Tehran University, after expressing anger that the U.S. would tear up the nuclear agreement (with cheers of “Death to America), “America cannot influence our determination, this nation’s resistance and its struggle. America is our enemy; we have no doubt about this. The Americans want to put as much pressure on us as they can.” [19] Beyond this, with this tone because of more pressure from “hard-liners,” some analysts in Iran said that Rouhani has proved that “trusting America is useless and a waste of time, energy and money” and should not be re-elected, but there is continued dedication to the nuclear agreement as some Iranian lawmakers “have proposed a boycott of American products…[and 88 others] have even suggested restarting nuclear activities and the enrichment of uranium.” The renewal of US sanctions on Iran for the next ten years has vindicated the “hardliners,” as some still try to bring in foreign companies to invest as the country’s leaders want the sanctions to expire. As I noted on this blog before, Iran is currently beset by the forces of Western imperialism, but this might be an opening to prevent more damage.

There really isn’t any more to say here, even about the optimistic comments of Putin about Trump (which despite his previous comments should be more wary), the Pentagon burying evidence of $125 billion in waste, the “Chinese dream,” and the widening income gap between the wealthy and the mass of the population. [21] Perhaps we should, other than recognizing the successes of socialism in the USSR, go farther than Sassy, who said, as I noted in the beginning of this post, “when Trump is inaugurated I’ll turn the knives on his administration,” and turn the knives on Trump NOW, instead of buying into delusions of optimism when it comes to Trump, his cabinet, and his policies which will most definitely benefit the bourgeoisie, even more than Obama, who the capitalist class liked very much.

Notes

[1] Anne Gearan, Philip Rucker, and Simon Denyer, “Trump’s Taiwan phone call was long planned, say people who were involved,” Washington Post, December 4, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016. Reportedly this was only one of many calls with foreign leaders that were planned after Trump’s election on November 8th. There was also a “tougher language about China” in the GOP platform this year than before, and a number of pieces in Foreign Policy (Trump transition advisers) and the Council of National Interest (Trump transition adviser) may give clues to his future moves forward.

[2] Obama administration authorizes $1.83 billion arms sale to Taiwan,” Reuters, December 16, 2015. Accessed December 7, 2016. This article says that “the Obama administration formally notified Congress on Wednesday of a $1.83 billion arms sale package for Taiwan, including two frigates, anti-tank missiles, amphibious assault vehicles and other equipment, drawing an angry response from China…Although Washington does not recognize Taiwan as a separate state from China, it is committed under the Taiwan Relations Act to ensuring Taipei can maintain a credible defense…”Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory. China strongly opposes the U.S. arms sale to Taiwan,” Xinhua quoted Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang, who summoned Lee, as saying. Zheng said the sales went against international law and basic norms of international relations and “severely” harmed China’s sovereignty and security…the arms package included two Perry-class guided-missile frigates; $57 million of Javelin anti-tank missiles made by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin; $268 million of TOW 2B anti-tank missiles and $217 million of Stinger surface-to-air missiles made by Raytheon, and $375 million of AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicles.”

[3] Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Eric Lipton, “Bob Dole Worked Behind the Scenes on Trump-Taiwan Call,” New York Times, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016. Dole also pushed for the plank in the GOP Party Platform which took a harder line on China than previously.

[4] Other articles I don’t feel like relating here are: (1) an apparent US-China-Japan space race, with Japan wanting to send explorers to Mercury and Venus instead of Mars like the US and China, connected with growth of the “space industry,” along with related tweets and (2) rejection of a China-linked semiconductor, displaying the fanatical economic nationalism at play.

[5] Associated Press, “Trump speaks directly with Taiwan’s leader, irking China,” Mercury News, December 3, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016; Damian Paletta, Carol E. Lee and Jeremy Page, “Donald Trump’s Message Sparks Anger in China,” Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016.

[6] Ting Shi and Taylor Hall, “China Seeks ‘Strategic Composure’ in Trump Era of Diplomacy,” Bloomberg News, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016.

[7] Louis Nelson, “Trump praises Kazakhstan ‘miracle’ in call with president,” Politico, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016; Reena Flores, “Kazakhstan: Trump praised “miracle” achieved under our president,” CBS News, December 2, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016.

[8] Theodore Karasik, “Kazakhstan: At the Crossroads of Security,” U.S. News and World Report, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016.

[9] “Kazakhstan to join talks with OPEC, undecided on output cut,” Reuters, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016.

[10] Seema Guha, “Donald Trump may play hardball on Kashmir, but India is no pushover,” First Post, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Rama Lakshmi, “Trump can resolve Kashmir impasse with ‘dealmaking skills,’ his running mate claims. It won’t be easy,” Washington Post, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Carlos Munoz, “Pakistani aide sees opening for better ties with Trump administration,” Washington Times, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Denis Slatery and Cameron Joseph, “Donald Trump speaks to Taiwan, Philippines and Pakistan leaders over the phone — signaling a major U.S. foreign policy shift,” New York Daily News, December 3, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Joshua Berlinger and Sophia Saifi, “Donald Trump reportedly praises Pakistan’s ‘terrific’ PM,” CNN, December 2, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Damien Paletta and Saeed Shah, “Pakistan Says Donald Trump Called Its Leader ‘Terrific Guy’,” Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Shashank Bengali and Aoun Sahi, “In phone call with leader, Trump lavishes praise on Pakistan, ‘fantastic place of fantastic people,”” Los Angeles Times, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Jackie Northam, “Trump Gushes About Pakistan In Call With Its Prime Minister,” NPR, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Jeff Nesbit, “Donald Trump’s Call With Pakistan Was a Hypocritical Mess,” Time, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Matt Bearak, “Pakistan’s surprisingly candid readout of Trump’s phone call with prime minister,” Washington Post, November 30, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Steve Benen, “Trump has ‘bizarre’ conversation with Pakistani leader,” MSNBC, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Charles Tiefer, “Trump’s Ignorant Call To Pakistan’s Sharif May Send India An Unwelcome Message,” Forbes, November 30, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[11] Joe Watts, “Theresa May praises ‘easy to talk to’ Donald Trump despite previous criticism,” The Independent, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; “Donald Trump values special relationship with UK and is ‘easy to talk to’, says Theresa May,” The Telegraph, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Robert Nisbet, “Theresa May: Talking to Donald Trump is ‘very easy’,” Sky News, December 7, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; “Theresa May calls Donald Trump to discuss ties, transition and NATO,” Sky News, November 29, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Ian Silvera,”Donald Trump and Theresa May agree on Nato importance in second phone call,” International Business Times, November 29, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Peter Walker, “Concerns over ‘special relationship’ allayed as Trump calls May,” The Guardian, November 10, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[12] Martin Pengelly, “Nigel Farage is willing to serve Donald Trump ‘formally or informally’,” The Guardian, December 3, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; “Nigel Farage meets with top Republicans raising fresh questions for Theresa May,” The Telegraph, December 3, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Feliz Solomon, “Donald Trump Says ‘Many People’ Want Nigel Farage to Become Britain’s Ambassador to the U.S.,” Time, November 21, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Rowena Mason, “Nigel Farage: I share concerns with Donald Trump,” The Guardian, July 15, 2015. Accessed December 8, 2016; Karla Adam, “Nigel Farage: Trump is ‘a very loyal man’,” Washington Post, November 22, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[13] Robert Reed, “Boeing CEO waits for Trump’s trade play,” Chicago Tribune, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[14] David Streitfield, “Donald Trump Summons Tech Leaders to a Round-Table Meeting,” New York Times, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[15] Burgess Everett and Jennifer Haberkorn, “GOP still splintered over Obamacare after Pence meeting,” Politco, December 7, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Rachel Bade and Burgess Everett, “GOP may delay Obamacare replacement for years,” Politico, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Rich Lowry, Trump Follows Obama’s Blueprint, Politico, December 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[16] See Michael Rosenburg’s article in the New York Times titled “Trump Adviser Has Pushed Clinton Conspiracy Theories,” December 5, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016. Other articles of note from Russia Today (about US role in the arms trade), Mint Press News (US tolerance of war crimes), Military Times (returning Okinawa to Japan), New York Times (“House G.O.P. Signals Break With Trump Over Tariff Threat,” by Jennifer Steinhauer), Slate (Trump congratulated Duerte on his anti-drug crackdown), Raw Story (KKK membership increasing after Trump’s election), PressTV (huge military budget passed by the US house), LeftVoice (inadequate criticism of Sanders’s opinion on the Carrier deal), Reuters (Dustin Voltz, “FBI to gain expanded hacking powers as Senate effort to block fails,” December 1, 2015, accessed December 8, 2016), Twitter (Cordelier’s thread), Guardian (what Trump means for Africa), CNN (Trump’s conflicts of interest), Forbes (Trump may not propose a budget in 2017), The Hill (Union leader at Carrier plant mad at Trump, saying he lied), and Pakistan Observer (Trump claiming he will mediate the conflict in Kashmir).

[17] , “Trump advisors aim to privatize oil-rich Indian reservations,” Reuters, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[18] Drew Harwell and Rosalind D. Harman, “Trump’s unpredictable style unnerves corporate America,” Washington Post, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[19] Thomas Erdbrink, “Iran’s President Says Donald Trump Can’t Tear Up Nuclear Pact,” December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[20] Craig Whitlock and Bob Woodward, “Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste,” Washington Post, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[21] Patricia Cohen, “A Bigger Economic Pie, but a Smaller Slice for Half of the U.S.,” New York Times, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

Where does Cuba stand now?

A quote from Fidel at the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party in April 2016.
A quote from Fidel’s speech at the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party in April 2016.

This post is more in-depth analysis about Cuba’s predicament than my previous post which focused on Fidel’s recent death. I could note the health programs in Cuba, the visit of the Vietnamese president to Cuba even as that country has thoroughly surrendered itself to “the market,” education programs on the island, or other aspects. But, I’d like to instead focus on the recent “normalization” in Cuba since 2014.

Recent articles have noted the possible (and likely) change of tone when it comes to Cuba. Bloomberg declared that Trump will need to “balance his pro-growth economic plans and allegiance to business with the hard-line campaign pledges” which connect with his promise to “reverse the improved U.S. relations with Cuba forged by President Barack Obama,” unless the nation accepts bourgeois freedoms, the former which is at odds with those corporations who are “hoping for a foothold there” such as those in the “wheat, corn…soymeal…raw sugar and energy product” industries, assumedly. [1] Some say that by taking a hardline position he will be at odds with the “U.S. business community” (and Jeff Flake), such as the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, but supported by Republicans Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Other articles note that if Trump reverses the “normalization” it will hurt companies like Best Buy, WalMart, JetBlue, Starwood, Carnival, American Airlines, and Airbnb, who want to expand their markets in Cuba, costing them, apparently, “hundreds of millions of dollars” as possible tourism (mainly from the US) would dissipate. [2] Some writers even thought that Trump would embolden the “hardliners” in Cuba (presumably more critical of involvement with the US), according to supposed “Cuba experts,” apart from Raul Castro who has instituted some market-related measures on the island.

In order to go forward, it is important to consider three viewpoints on the situation. One of these is by RancidSassy (also called “ that, while ignoring criticisms of the Cuban revolution (since they are an anarchist), Obama’s “mild normalization of relations with the Cuban state” is not that existing. They worry about the “vicious plan to complete the domination of Cuba, probably ending in its total recolonization by financial capital” which was “more like a declaration of war,” writing that this “imperial scheming” (or diplomacy as it is often called) needs to be interrupted like Chelsea Manning did. Sassy goes further to talk about the failed assassination plots, the USAID program (and fake Twitter), and that US embassies are “basically just CIA offices.” He worried about Raul Castro praise Obama and the Pope, noting how “liberals dressed as radicals,” like CodePink’s Medea Benjamin, Mother Jones’s David Corn, self-indulgent journalist Jeremy Scahill, writer Max Blumenthal, and advocate Yosef Munayyer, praised this rhetoric. He went on to talk about Cuban exiles in Miami, propaganda aimed at Cuba coupled with the blockade which was “loose” enough to allow US agribusiness to trade stable foods to the Cuban government, how Israel is “useful to the empire as a giant spaceship of white capitalism in a typically resistant Middle East,” and said liberals (and others on the left) aren’t worrying about “an empire that has spent the last century or more systematically binding the peoples of the world to its political and financial will.”

Before moving onto the next piece, I think Sassy has a good point. Already the naval base in Guantanamo, the US embassy in Havana, and US overt (ex: USAID) and covert (ex: CIA) are projecting imperialism onto Cuba. If this one agrees with this argument, then well-meaning radicals should resist the “normalization” of relations, since a “fair” compromise with the empire is likely impossible. If there are “hardliners” in Cuba, like in Iran, as one could call them, then these forces should be encouraged under an approach to a Trump presidency. This presidency, managing the murderous empire, which seems poised to reverse the “vicious plan to complete the domination of Cuba” as Sassy put it, and would allow for these “hardliners” to have more room to breathe and grow, leading a possibly stronger counter against US imperialism. This could be especially the case after 2018 when Raul Castro will step down as President.

remedy the embarrassing situation that their country had wound up isolating itself during its attempts to isolate Cuba,” noting that groups like the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) popped up, that were opposed to the US, and that the Cubans for many years did not “undo their own revolution and surrender to the US under the worst possible terms, as was expected,” leading the country to become “a major powerhouse in healthcare and biotechnology” and building of the country’s “middle class.” The article goes on to say that the decision to reestablish relations with the island dates back to 2007 when a major law firm, Alston & Bird, which represents “financial service, healthcare, energy, and telecommunication companies,” had such a strong interest that they worked with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to challenge “the Florida ban on travel to Cuba,” with Obama, by engaging in the action benefiting his financial backers. Still, the article notes that reestablishing diplomatic relations was done simultaneously with the release of the Cuban Five, and later with removal of Cuba from “the list of countries that sponsor terrorism,” with the Cuban government having a “tough negotiating stance with US business.” Like Saddy, this writer notes that “the rollback of the US sanctions has been quite limited in terms of the restrictions on trade and investment” and that Cuba “remains dissatisfied and wary of the US,” with a continued push to close the illegal base at Guantanamo Bay, as negotiations continue, and that in exchange for opening its market to the US, “Cuba wants equal access to the US market,” selling those in the US biotech and computer software products, while expanding their tourism industry. The writer concludes that

“Cuba has had enough experience with the Monroe Doctrine to know that the US goal will always be to turn it into a colony…the new wave of colonists…think that their work to undermine the Cuban Revolution will become easier after Cuba’s great hero Fidel Castro dies. This is partly the result of a US belief in its own propaganda…the US intention is clearly a Bay of Pigs invasion with a smile. The Cuban Revolution has enormous symbolic importance for people throughout the world who are fighting US domination, and the undoing of this revolution would be major psychological blow. The US is already hinting that it wants popular elections that it can manipulate…As ever, the Cuban revolution thrives while under attack; one can only hope that it will never imagine it is not.”

Chery, like Sassy, makes good points. I personally think that “popular elections” are what corrupted leftist parties in Angola and Mozambique, in part, to adopt more market-based approaches and slowly accept the capitalist model. One-party elections are vital if the Cuban Revolution is to be preserved. I will say that I do not think the normalization is “a Bay of Pigs invasion with a smile” as that would mean that it is covert and secret, along with including Cuban exiles. That isn’t true in this case, as the initiative is being led by the hunger of US business to obtain new markets and push down “unfair” barriers, along with being assisted by Obama.

The last viewpoint examined here is that of James Early, who sits on the board of The Real News, an independent news organization which is better than Democracy Now! by far but is still within the “progressive” camp broadly. Early notes the history of Cuba, specifically describing it as having, before 1959, an economy owned 75% by the US, a “narco state…with Meyer Lansky and the US mafia dominating that as a playground with rampant prostitution, deep racism, and exploitation” and saying that while they “did repress” it was to uphold “certain virtues and to repress those things that go against the common good” and that we should recognize the “sometimes egregious failures” of the Cuban Revolution, none of which he names. He goes on to say that many left “because they feared communism…[or] wanted to take an opportunity to get out of the country and to increase their economic circumstances,” with many of these people as “Euro Cubans. Not people of color Cubans.” Early then talked about Cuban exiles, the “propaganda machine of the United States” distorting the reality in Cuba, the US State Department’s imperial role, and the horrible “wet foot, dry foot policy” which gives preferential treatment to Cuban exiles coming to the US. He adds that by criticizing those who have “dogmatic ideological perspectives [which] are ultra leftist” which reject any criticism (which he never expands on) of the Cuban Revolution, noting that “Cuba has made its own self critiques” while acknowledging the accomplishments, with great debate going on within the Communist Party, including “debating freedom of press and within Granma, the official news organ” and allowing criticism of the Communist Party in Cuba, with owning “up to errors” and that a personality like Fidel will not emerge in the future but that “we will see the same kind of humanistic policies…sharp debate on how to calibrate that…[and] draw[ing] a very hard straight line against monopoly, against excessive wealth…[and] maintain[ing] a socialist orientation.” He closes with words that are worth keeping in mind:

“…big capital in the United States…already made its peace with the failed policy overthrow the Cuban socialist revolution in a way that it has gone on for the last half century. They now feel that the flooding of the country with money and goods and consumer attitudes, they will be able to undermine and overturn that revolution. But in the process they want to make money. The Cubans have always preferred to fight and this new context within the protocols of nations, not having the United States outside as a rogue nation…I think we’ll see a mediation of that. I can envision that that US capital will be pressing the Donald Trump regime to not overturn the fundamental issues that Barack Obama stepped forward…it’s going to be tough…I think we see the change in policies brought forth under the administration of Raul Castro.”

Early, like Sassy and Chery, makes a valid point. However, I think he is hard on solidarity efforts with Cuba and a bit too optimistic in many respects. But, perhaps that is not wrong to be optimistic about a socialist Cuba, but at minimum he is almost downplaying the threat going forward.

My final thoughts

A poster designed by Mahmud Dawirji for the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF) in circa 1980.
A poster designed by Mahmud Dawirji for the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF) in circa 1980.

I think Cuba, like Iran, is at a crossroads. If Trump reverses the “normalization” the Obama administration has put in place in regards to Iran and Cuba, there will be undoubtedly new political developments, with the reported “hardliners” or more accurately those more wary and critical of imperial influence economically and otherwise, not in favor of such “normalization,” gaining more power. This could be good as it would be a needed setback from the Western-backed moderate reformists in Iran who are basically just footsoldiers for the murderous empire.

As for Cuba, there is a real danger that it would be pulled into the neocolonial ring. Under no circumstances can those on the left, who are anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist, accept (or allow to best circumstances possible), a Cuba which is wholly occupied by a foreign power, embodied by the deceitful Teller Amendment, Platt Amendment, and deceptive “support” of the cause of “Cuba Libre” pushed by the anti-Spanish and anti-imperialist rebels. [3] Cuba has had a hold on the American imagination for many years, with brutal slaveowner Thomas Jefferson even declaring that Cuba should be part of the United States in 1809! Like in the past, there are some policymakers who believe that we have to stop “oppression at our very doors,” as President McKinley declared in justifying the Spanish-American War (and invasion of Spanish-controlled Cuba), and that we need to defend “Cuban rights” which translates to rights for multinational corporations to exploit and re-establish themselves, as Fidel put it in his speech on January 2, 1959, “masters of the country.” [4] Like in the past, the empire will not accept Cuba (and its democratic nationalism) due to its challenge to US influence including support of governments like those in Grenada. [5]

In order to recognize the challenges ahead, it is worth reflecting on the slave society in Cuba in the past. From the 1760s to the late 1830s, Cuba became a “community of large sugar and coffee plantations,” from an agrarian lifestyle with less population, and became valuable to the Spanish empire as the Cuban economy grew. [6] With new strife caused by the presence of thousands of enslaved blacks, with more than 400,000 imported into the island by one estimate, and dominance (and superiority) of the white (and somewhat restless Creole) plantation class, the US became a new market for Cuban sugar. [7] The number of enslaved blacks would increase from 38,900 in 1775 to 436,495 persons, in the “faithful colony,” a term which refers to planter dependence on Spain. [8] By the 1860s, Cuban sugar dominated the world market, with the island as the largest producer of sugar, buttressed by an illegal slave trade. [9] Slavery was abolished on the island in 1886 not because of an “internal collapse” of the system but acceleration of emancipation on the island, the Ten Year War in Cuba (1868-1878) led by small planters and insurgents who declared freedom of enslaved blacks under their control, and pressure from Cuban (and Spanish) abolitionists as plantation slavery became more “multicultural” (enslaved blacks, indentured Asians, black, white, and mixed race wage workers were part of the plantation work force). [10] Of course, the exploitation would continue under the form of wage labor and under the imperialist control of Cuba up until the Cuban Revolution’s success in gaining power in 1959.

If multinational corporations again gain a strong foothold in Cuba and exert their dominance, this would not only be part of the imperialist octopus, which would be bringing its tentacles to its “former mistress,” but it would increase the exploitation of the population. There is no doubt that the Mafia and prostitution would come in full force to the island, but there would be the full force of racism and sexism making its imprint on society, along with more full-fledged sexual violence. Having US tourists on the island would also not lead to something positive, as it would be followed by the popular culture, Hollywood, and elements of US culture.

While one should remain critical, there is one element that those who see themselves (correctly) as anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist in mind: solidarity. Building off what I said on Twitter, it is worth quoting the eighth term of admission into the Communist International in 1920:

“Parties in countries whose bourgeoisie possess colonies and oppress other nations must pursue a most well-defined and clear-cut policy in respect of colonies and oppressed nations. Any party wishing to join the Third International must ruthlessly expose the colonial machinations of the imperialists of its “own” country, must support—in deed, not merely in word—every colonial liberation movement, demand the expulsion of its compatriot imperialists from the colonies, inculcate in the hearts of the workers of its own country an attitude of true brotherhood with the working population of the colonies and the oppressed nations, and conduct systematic agitation among the armed forces against all oppression of the colonial peoples.”

While it has been 96 years since this was declared, the principles still apply. As I said on twitter, this could, most expansively be applied to Iran, Syria, DPRK, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Belarus, Philippines (maybe), Bulgaria (I suppose), and Moldova (maybe), while recognizing the roles of China and Russia. In this current time, one would have to commit themselves, if they lived in North America, to opposing US imperialism in its form of colonialism in Puerto Rico and other “territories” (U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, United States Minor Outlying Islands, and Northern Marina Islands), neocolonialism in associated states (Micronesia, Palau, and Marshall Islands), and neocolonialism manifested in the 500+ bases the US has across the world. [11] If they lived in Europe, for example, they would have to, under this logic, commit themselves to opposing imperialism of France and Britain, along with the United States, in the African continent, just to give an example. Obviously putting into action “systematic agitation among the armed forces against all oppression of the colonial peoples” and supporting colonial (and anti-imperialist) liberation movements would require organization. This means that the aims would go beyond just opposing the imperialism to actively working to stop it. But at minimum, this would comprise of solidarity with oppressed nations, which are listed above, and likely others, and opposing future US interventions, the “notion of American empire.” Other than this, the rest is up to all of you. As always, I look forward to your comments.

Notes

[1] Benjamin Bain and Christine Jenkins, “Trump Walks Business-Politics Tightrope on Cuba After Castro,” Bloomberg Politics, November 28, 2016. Accessed November 30, 2016.

[2] Damien Cave, Azam Ahmed, and Julie Hirschfield Davis, “Donald Trump’s Threat to Close Door Reopens Old Wounds in Cuba,” New York Times, November 28, 2016. Accessed November 30, 2016; “U.S. Companies Hope Trump Won’t Block Their Million-Dollar Cuba Deals,” Reuters, November 29, 2016. Republished by NBCNews. Accessed November 30, 2016; David Jackson, “Trump ponders Cabinet appointments, threatens Cuba deal,” USA Today, November 28, 2016. Accessed November 30, 2016.

[3] Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (New York: Time Books, 2006), 31-32, 37-44, 46, 48, 63.

[4] Kinzer, 83, 87-91

[5] Kinzer, 90-91, 135, 139, 154, 174, 205, 220, 226-227, 236.

[6] Franklin Knight, “The Transformation of Cuban Agriculture 1763-1838,” Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Dr. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 69, 73.

[7] Knight, 70-72, 74-77

[8] Knight, 77-78.

[9] Rebecca Scott, “Explaining Abolition: Contradiction, Adaptation and Challenge in Cuban Slave Slave Society 1860-1886,” Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Dr. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 454-455.

[10] Scott, 456-458, 460, 463. Scott says that about 114,000 enslaved blacks were emancipated from slavery from 1881-1886, a major factor in abolition.

[11] The “BASE STRUCTURE REPORT- FISCAL YEAR 2015 BASELINE” notes that the US military is “one of the Federal government’s larger holders of real estate managing a global real property portfolio that consists of nearly 562,000 facilities (buildings, structures, and linear structures), located on over 4,800 sites worldwide and covering over 24.9 million acres” (p. DOD 2). It also notes that there are 513 “active installations” of the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and WHS (Washington Headquarters Services) (p. DOD 4). However, the total number of military sites, minus the over 4,100 in the United States, numbers 701 if one considers those in “territories” (really colonies) and overseas (not in the US or its colonies) (p. DOD 6, p. DOD 18). It also worth noting that the military “uses over 178,000 structures throughout the world, valued at over $131 billion,” along with “107,000 linear structures throughout the world, valued at over $163 billion,” and managing “24.9 million acres of land worldwide,” which one could consider as aspects of the empire itself (p. DOD 10, DOD 12, DOD 14). If that isn’t enough, there are also 42 Army National Guard Sites in US colonies, which when combined with the 701 military sites noted earlier, comes up to 743 military sites (p. DOD 16).