“We’ll see what happens”: U$-DPRK detente in crisis

Colin Crooks, the British Ambassador to North Korea since December 2018 posted the above image on Twitter on July 21st, captioning it and four other images with: “City and District elections day in #NorthKorea. One candidate for each seat and one name on each ballot paper. At the #Pyongyang March 26 Electric Cable Factory polling station, voters seek their name on the register #DPRK #britishembassy.” The fact that even his tweets can be used to debunk anti-DPRK propaganda is rich to say the least.

While this was scheduled to be published on anti-imperialism.org, that never happened, so I am publishing it here. I thank the comments by Juchechat and Ben King (@Gimmeandreason), along with some others, who commented on my draft (and here) of this article on Twitter. I have incorporated their viewpoints into this article as to clarify my own views and to be accurate about the DPRK at the present.

Warmongers cackle as the delicate detente between the U$, the murderous empire, and the DPRK, a progressive state, seems to be falling apart. This past February, the summit in Hanoi, which was to be between the orange menace and Kim, fell apart when the U$ hardened its position. Pushed by the likes of Pompeo and Bolton, the U$ demanded complete and utter disarmament of the DPRK, which they knew would never be fulfilled, while the DPRK only wanted limited sanctions relief, something the murderous empire refused to grant. Since then, relations between the DPRK and the U$ continue to be rocky, especially since murderous sanctions remain in place and the posture of U$ imperialists continues to be hostile, as would be expected. While the orange menace has touted “minor successes in the detente with the DPRK” in the past and there is still the possibility of progress not only between leaders of a divided Korea, but those of the U$ and DPRK, especially after the impromptu meeting in Panmunjom, within the Demilitarized Zone, on June 30th, with the orange menace the first President who ever stepped onto DPRK soil.

Bourgeois media have been chattering about “saber rattling” by the DPRK after they tested a new set of short-range ballistic missiles, which traveled hundreds of miles over the ocean. These missile launches, at two occasions in the past week, were not only a warning to warmongers in the ROK, but a message to the orange menace and U$ imperialists. [1] They are making an obvious statement: that the DPRK will not be pushed around and told what to do by the murderous empire, that it will defend itself if attacked, and that the joint military exercises (called Dong Maeng 19-2), which are aimed at decapitation of the DPRK leadership, must end. They were also, more directly, snubbing Bolton, a warmonger who was visiting ROK at the same time. At the same time, the Chinese social imperialists called for both the DPRK and U$ to “resume consultations as soon as possible to promote new progress for a political settlement of the peninsula issue.” We should also not forget the role of the Russians in negotiations, especially after the Putin-Kim summit this past April in Vladivostok, Russia, with Putin calling for legally-binding “international guarantees” to be provided to the DPRK, a clear nod to the U$ imperialists that they need to change their behavior in regards to the Korean nation. This role of the Russian social-imperialists is welcomed by the Chinese, while the Koreans see their role as “constructive.”

This all connects to what was said at the recent Latin American Plenary of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations, ICMLPO, which seems to lean toward Hoxhaist beliefs. They noted that in countries which were seen as progressive, alternative, or socialist (seemingly referring to Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, and others), “bourgeois factions and the developmentalist positions that sponsored them have lost positions, taking over traditional sectors of the bourgeoisie,” adding that this has opened the door for U$ imperialism to “recover spaces disputed by China, particularly in those places where the so-called progressive governments are established.” This would also include Mexico, whose president (AMLO) Amber B. recently criticized as a bourgeois “populist” fraud who stands with the existing Mexican bourgeoisie. This has led Latin America to become “the scene of inter-imperialist disputes over market control,” with disputes not only between the U$ and China, but between Canada, imperialist countries of Europe, and Russia. You may ask how this relates to the DPRK. That is answered by Alfonso Casal of the American Party of Labor, also leaning toward Hoxhaism. He stated at a recent conference in Ecuador, that the current U$ government represents “the interests of the most reactionary wing of the monopoly bourgeoisie, relying on the support of the petty-bourgeoisie and small producers” and it is also obviously “neo-fascist in character, adapted to the conditions of American monopoly capitalism.” Casal went onto claim that the current era is one of declining U$ imperialism, in ferocious competition with imperialists from the EU, Russia, and China, trying to “maintain its position as the world’s foremost imperialist power.” While I’m not sure I agree with Casal when it comes to declining U$ power, his characterization of the current U$ administration and its competition with other imperialists is accurate. You could say that negotiations with the DPRK are part of some sort of “grand strategy” to weaken Russia and China, opening up a new “untapped” market for U$ capitalists. But, it’s also about vanity more than anything else, so the orange menace can make his fascist “mark” on history as being the “first” to do something that no President has done in the past.

Pompeo can grumble that “everybody” is getting ready for negotiations and imply that the Koreans are creating “risk for the other side,” but it is the U$, which is creating the risk! Even if the DPRK has expanded its nuclear arsenal to 12 bombs as Western intelligence analysts claim, it is the U$ that is engaged in provocations while the DPRK is the one that is acting defensively. If Pompeo was serious about wanting “diplomacy to work,” and that the DPRK should denuclearize, then the U$ should reduce tensions by removing the murderous sanctions. However, Pompeo is clearly not serious about this. Actions of the U$ have shown that they want to crush the DPRK rather than pursue diplomatic means, just like they with Iran. The Iranians understandably don’t want to negotiate with such warmongers whom abandoned the nuclear deal which was embraced by Iranian reformists while the socially conservative Principalists have felt vindicated by their skepticism of the U$. At the same time, the DPRK, an strong ally of the Iranians for many years, and vice versa, is right to resume nuclear and long-range missile tests if the U$ is unagreeable and refuses to remove murderous sanctions which are strangling the county’s economy. If working-level discussions do happen between the U$ and DPRK as Pompeo, who has been condemned by the Koreans for his dangerous remarks and told to leave the negotiating team, claims he hopes for, the U$ imperialists will need to make more concessions, something which should be pushed by progressive and revolutionary forces. [2] Genuine peace on the Korean peninsula means reduction of tension which has been caused by U$ imperialist action, and occasional ROK cooperation, coupled with subsequent actions by sub-imperialist powers in other parts of the imperial core. The same is the case for the subservient country of Japan, which is being allowed to become a military power again by Western imperialists. The DPRK sees this, not wrongly, as part of an ambition to re-invade Korea. None of us should forget the past evils committed by the Japanese imperialists when they ruled over the Korean Peninsula with an iron fist, to “mentally exterminate the Korean nation” in the words of KCNA, and how the U$, once the ROK was created, used Japanese systems and administrators to continue to run the southern part of Korea, seeing them as “useful” allies rather than enemies. The Koreans are willing to denuclearize, but on their terms, not those dictated to them by a bunch of bloodthirsty imperialists, coming from their respective countries in the imperial core, as they remember the various U$ crimes against them during the Korean War and since then.

Those in the West can grumble about how the DPRK is a “dictatorship,” cheering when a single DPRK soldier apparently defects to the South by floating down a river, and it is so “undemocratic” but…do they realize the pressure the country is under? It is no surprise that only a small portion of the county has access to the internet, with the country having an intranet called Kwangmyong, a specific OS called “Red Star” and social media outlet where you can post birthday messages. Any imports of technology are severely restricted in the country, far beyond the stricture Cuba suffers under as part of the U$ embargo, even though there are possible signs the country is trying to develop artificial intelligence at the College of Information Studies at Kim Il Sung University, one of the country’s premier schools. [3] The Bank of Korea, the xxx, claims that the country’s economy contracted last year, with a fall in gross domestic product, output in the manufacturing and mining sectors, and external trade, declined. Others claim that the government is “struggling with a lack of money,” that crops are expected to dry up early, patty production fell, and there have been shortages of necessary agricultural items. Many of these claims, especially when it comes to a “lack of money” and an economic contraction are pure speculation as Juchechat pointed out, although noting this data has a very limited value as part of a discussion of the DPRK. As for the claims that crops could dry up early, a fall in patty production, and shortage in agricultural items, these seem more credible. The reason for that is due to the fact that sanctions have combined with horrid weather conditions, like a heat wave and prolonged drought. Without a doubt, this would have devastated the country’s agricultural sector, but is not collapsing and is rather using new “scientific and IT” methods. As Ben King correctly pointed out, data from the DPRK is tough and added that “one can’t trust western sources on this, but it’s hard to trust Korean source[s] too.

There is no doubt that these sanctions are literally killing people, something which Pompeo, the orange menace, and Bolton could care less about, with imperialists whether “moderate” or “reactionary” feeling the same. It is part of their perverted method to “pressure” the country, which numbers only about 25 million people (with a claimed annual income of about $1,300 as declared by skewed economic data from the West), to cave into U$ imperialist demands. This is more of the reality than the bloodsoaked liberals who complain that orange menace is spouting “strange rhetoric” and think U$ measures are a “clumsy attempt at diplomacy” rather than recognizing the imperial strategy.As Jenny Lei Ravelo noted on July 31st, “the difficult operating environment and sanctions in place mean that very few organizations are able and willing to operate in the country.”

Presently, the county faces possible rising rates of malnutrition and disease, as a result of U$ imperial action, causing rumbles in the economy, hinted at in Rodong Sinmun with a mention of a need to increase “production capacity,” implying that it is lacking at the present time. [4] An official of the U.N. World Food Programme, James Belgrave, who had visited the country this past April, sounded an alarm at the dire situation, with a drop of 20% in the country’s wheat and barley production: “the wheat and barley crops did look very dry and were visibly affected – patchy development, shorter than they should have been, and agricultural officers in the counties were worried.” In another way, the actions of the U$ and the West contributed to this destruction: much of the world’s pollution comes from the West capitalist combines, much more than any that is generated by the DPRK itself, and the dry spell is an obvious result of a changing climate worsened by the capitalist economy, with capitalists cackling as the world burns.

As some media outlets pointed out, scaled back drills of the ROK and U$ would help the DPRK economically because it would not need to deploy a large number of soldiers to the border during the exercises to protect its sovereignty from a possible attack, allowing money to be diverted to helping the populace, including constructing tourist attractions and necessary social institutions. This is important to note because the country has seen an increase in Chinese tourism relatively recently. Of course, bourgeois media push recent accomplishments of the DPRK to the back. [5] For instance, the country is now deemed compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code, thanks to help from Chinese individuals, and  the country’s national airline, Air Koryo, will resume direct flights from Macau, one of the richest parts of China and a supposed “gambling enclave,” to Pyongyang itself. So much for the claims that the country is “isolated” which are bandied around in the bourgeois media time and time again! This is especially proven false when reading how Kim received congratulations on the anniversary of his election as chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK in 2016 from political parties and organizations in Syria, Palestine, Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Egypt, Spain, Serbia, Croatia, Nepal, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Italy, Austria, and Brazil, as reported in Rodong Sinmun.

Let us not forget that the country had a construction boom in 2017 and a changing banking sector since then. There are some that say the country experimented with market measures in 2002-2003, and 2010 which spurred it forward, although such claims are as questionable as what analysts say about the country from a Western perspective is extremely suspect. Still, some analysts admit that “under Kim Jong Un, the economy has grown and North Korea’s quality of life has improved” while grumbling that “economic experimentation,” including giving SOEs more autonomy and holding trainings for women in business, along with other market measures, isn’t happening “fast” enough for them. While the country is still within the midst of the five-year plan announced in 2016, which ends in 2020, the country has abandoned its focus on military expenses to turn around and focus just on the economy, ensuring the government is helping the populace. This includes road building, tree planting, operating rest homes as part of “state social insurance,” constructing a phosphate fertilizer factory, and producing heat insulating materials, to name a few aspects noted recently in the DPRK’s media. [6]

The orange menace can say he is getting “along very well” with Kim, and boast about his administration’s accomplishments, declaring correctly that “they haven’t done nuclear testing,” adding that the DPRK hasn’t tested “missiles other than…smaller ones, which is something that lots test.” What is worrisome is not his claim that U$ imperialists have been “doing very well” in regards to the DPRK, which is true in the sense that the country is being strangled to death by sanctions pushed by the murderous empire and supported by the Chinese social-imperialists, showing their complicity in the strangling of the DPRK, since the current sanctions regime began in 2006. Rather it is his declaration that the current approach may not continue and that “we’ll see what happens.” This could be a nod to possible harmful actions by the U$ in the months to come, or perhaps another threat to the Koreans themselves to not “mess up.” In reality it is the U$ that has caused the damage and is not serious about diplomacy in the slightest as any observer can see. Even the Chinese social-imperialists realize this, as their foreign ministry called for the U$ to “further reduce [its] nuclear weapons and create conditions for other countries to participate in nuclear disarmament negotiations.” This position by the Chinese is self-serving to an extent because the Chinese are angry that the U$ is using extraterritorial jurisdiction, clearly in an illegal manner, to punish their companies for “violating” murderous sanctions on the DPRK itself. This self-serving nature is obvious, especially since a new port between the two countries opened in April, portending more trade, and subsequently capital, traveling between China and the DPRK, with both countries wanting to strengthen the relationship with each other.

Even so, we should not fall into the revisionist trap posed by those like Danny Haiphong of Black Agenda Report, who declares that China has a “development plan that threatens to undo U.S. hegemony for good,” called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), claiming it “spells doom for U.S. imperial hegemony” and that China’s economy is “market-oriented” socialism, something which does not exist. He also repeats the tired old story about China accounting for “the entire reduction in poverty in the world” which seems like an imperialist (or social-imperialist) lie/distortion, and is even more bonkers when he declares that China has “preserve[d] its socialist revolution,” has engaged in an “economic miracle,” going onto say that the country has a “socialist command economy” and that the “One Belt One Road Initiative represents the biggest threat to U.S. imperial hegemony in this epoch.” While he makes a good point about China challenging U$ imperialism, while admitting “contradictions” in China’s market measures, including the widening of “inequality between the rich and the poor,” he gets all twisted up in himself in thinking that China has a “planned economy,” while sneering that those who point out China is imperialistic, thinking that this is a repetition of “corporate media and State Department talking points,” painting them as obvious dupes. He then cites another fellow revisionist, Andre Vltchek, who says that the BRI is the “exact contrast to the Western colonialism and imperialism.” While I agree with him that not engaging with the BRI and “condemning China without investigation reinforces Western imperialism,” I’m not sure that the “the most significant global struggle of the 21st century…[is] between the U.S. and China.” I would say China should be condemned for its actions, while recognizing what it really stands for. To their credit, the Hoxhaists of ICMLPO, for all their problems, are closer to the reality than Haiphong! They state, in a statement at the beginning of this month, about how the Middle East is the scene of “sharp confrontations” between several imperialist powers, like the U.S., Russia, China, European countries, and their “reactionary regional allied forces are played out,” while pointing out the rashness of U$ imperialists, with the danger of war coming from “the interimperialist contention.” They point out that U$ imperialism has a clear warmongering policy, trying to cordon off Iran, engaging in provocative acts in the Persian Gulf, many originating from military bases in the region, with victims of such conflict being workers and the people while “imperialist powers and bourgeois factions [see] it…[as] an opportunity to expand and consolidate their power and increase their millions in profits” without a doubt. The problem with Haiphong’s position, held by other useless fools, is that it results in implied support for governments like boastful President Emerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe who allies himself with Chinese capital, a place that apparently has rampant police brutality (said to be worse than that under Mugabe). The current ZANU-PF government has been implementing the IMF-proscribed program, causing the masses to suffer in what the bourgeois media calls the “worst cash crunch in a decade” (to quote a recent NPR article). Additionally, the country’s centrist opposition (like the MDC) waivers, even the strange Zimbabwean Communist Party is critical of the current situation in the country, while trade unions and other groups are trying to form a more united left opposition not tied to the market. At the same time, as a recent BBC article noted, the Southern African Development Community (Sadc)’s chairman, President John Magufuli of Tanazania calls for removing sanctions on the country, saying that their removal “attract Western investors to Zimbabwe after close to two decades of economic isolation,” causing an influx of Western capital.

In the meantime, in the DPRK itself, not only was there a recent exhibition of over 42,000 “diversified consumer goods” of hundreds of different kinds, at the Yokjon Department Store in Pyongyang, from July 23 to 26, and an election was recently concluded. [7] According to DPRK media, almost all of the population participated in the election of deputies to the people’s assemblies on the municipal, city, and county levels, apart from those “on foreign tour or working in oceans,” with the use of “mobile ballot boxes” for those who were ill or elderly. In the process, apart from editorials calling for the populace to participate in consolidating the “state and social system” of the country, and continuing the march for self-reliance, there was a unique political development. It is the new constitution of the DPRK which formally named Kim as the head of state, possibly as a move to establish Kim’s status should a peace treaty signing with the U$ come to fruition. As the DPRK’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated on August 6th, “we remain unchanged in our stand to resolve the issues through dialogue. But the dynamics of dialogue will be more invisible as long as the hostile military moves continue.” This should be something that all with sense should support!

Whether you see the DPRK as revisionist or not, as some strongly believe, the fact is that the country is progressive and is under attack from U$ imperialists. As Gregory Elich wrote on July 12th, not only did the U$ offer the “Libya Model of denuclearization, in which obligations are loaded solely on its negotiating partner” at Hanoi, but the sanctions aimed at the DPRK are “designed to strangle its economy” with the Koreans seeing “sanctions relief as an essential element in the trade-off for denuclearization.” There are questions about how “flexible” the current U$ approach is, with some likely wanting to sabotage negotiations, with no U$ officials ever mentioning what kind of “security guarantee” they would even offer to the DPRK, with questions of whether this guarantee could even be trusted. As such, the DPRK obviously needs “a reliable means of assuring its security if it is going to denuclearize.” This is complicated by the fact that there is a widespread belief among U$ imperialists that every action by the DPRK toward denuclearization should be “rewarded” with crippling sanctions, meaning that “imperialism and arrogance go hand-in-hand.” Clearly these imperialists cannot grasp that it will be impossible to “bully the DPRK into unilateral disarmament” anytime in the future, whether through sanctions or other destabilizing measures, whether overt or covert. What happens next is uncertain, but revolutionaries and progressives should stand beside the DPRK against Western imperial aggression, pushing for more tentacles of the U$ imperialist monster to be withdrawn from the world as a whole, no matter what it takes.


Notes

[1] Elizabeth Shim, “Report: Belarus firm involved in North Korea ICBM mobile launcher,” UPI, July 29, 2019; Joyce Lee and Josh Smith, “North Korea’s Kim says missile test a warning to South Korean ‘warmongers’,” Reuters, July 25, 2019; Lucas Mikelionis, “North Korea says new missile test was ‘solemn warning’ to South Korean ‘warmongers’,” Fox News, July 26, 2019; Hyonhee Shin and David Brunnstrom, “North Korea tests ballistic missiles, U.S. still hopeful for talks,” Reuters, July 24, 2019; Lesley Wroughton, “U.S.’ Pompeo hopes for North Korea talks soon, no leaders’ summit planned,” Reuters, July 29, 2019; Alex Lockie, “Trump’s response to North Korea’s latest missile test suggests ‘fire and fury’ may still be coming,” Business Insider, July 26, 2019; Adam Forrest, “North Korea: Kim Jong-un inspects massive new submarine ‘designed to deliver nuclear weapons’,” The Independent, July 23, 2019; Yosuke Onchi, “North Korea takes bullish turn with latest missile test,” Nikkei Asian Review, July 26, 2019; Alex Ward, “North Korea just fired 2 “projectiles” — curiously timed to Bolton’s trip to South Korea,” Vox, July 24, 2019; Joseph Zeballos-Roig, “North Korea may have built 12 nuclear bombs since the first Trump-Kim summit last year, according to recent reports from intelligence analysts,” Business Insider, July 26, 2019; “North Korea warns US over planned war games,” Al Jazeera, July 17, 2019; Park Chan-kyong, “Russia’s Vladimir Putin calls for ‘international guarantees’ in first summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un,” South China Morning Post, April 25, 2019; Josh Lederman and Hans Nichols, “Trump meets Kim Jong Un, becomes first sitting U.S. president to step into North Korea,” NBC News, June 30, 2019; “North Korea claims it tested crucial new rocket launch system,” CBS/AP, August 1, 2019; Conor Finnegan, “Mike Pompeo arrives in Asia amid North Korea missile tests, denuclearization doubts,” ABC News, July 31, 2019; “US officials play down North Korea missile tests, hold out for new talks,” Reuters, July 31, 2019; Josh Smith, “U.S. still hopes for talks after latest North Korean missile tests,” Reuters, July 31, 2019; “North Korea puts ‘guided rocket launcher’ on show,” AFP, July 31, 2019.

[2] “Japan’s Ambition to Reinvade Korea Will Only Ruin Its Future: KCNA Commentary,” KCNA, July 29, 2019; “Past Crimes Done by Japanese Imperialists to Obliterate Korean Nation,” KCNA, July 29, 2019; Dagyum Ji and Oliver Hotham, “North Korean first vice foreign minister condemns Pompeo for “dangerous” remarks,” NK News, April 30, 2019; “North Korea Urges Trump to Drop Pompeo From Talks; U.S. Plays Down Weapons Test,” U.S. News & World Report, April 17, 2019; James Griffiths, “North Korea: If US wants to talk, put someone ‘more mature’ than Pompeo in charge,” CNN, April 18, 2019.

[3]  Matthew Hussey, “There are just 7,000 Web users in North Korea,” The Next Web, Jan 28, 2016; Kwanwoo Jun, “North Korea’s economy shrank sharply in 2018,” MarketWatch, July 25, 2019; Sam Kim, “North Korea’s Economy Shrinks by Most Since 1990s Famine,” Bloomberg, July 25, 2019; “North Korea releases detained Russian fishing boat,” Al Jazeera, July 28, 2019; “North Korea suffered worst contraction in two decades, South Korea says,” AP, July 26, 2019; Steve Benen, “North Korea manages to make Trump’s failures even more obvious,” MSNBC, July 25, 2019; Elizabeth Shim, “North Korea detains Russian boat, including two South Koreans,” UPI, July 24, 2019; Choonsik Woo, “North Korea’s economy tanks as sanctions, drought bite: South Korea,” Reuters, July 25, 2019; Andrei Lankov, “Average North Koreans will be hit hardest by sanctions,” Al Jazeera, April 16, 2016; Paul Tjia, “North Korea: An Up-and-Coming IT-Outsourcing Destination,” 38 North, Oct 26, 2011; Elizabeth Shim, “North Korea soldier floated down river to defect to South, Seoul says,” UPI, August 1, 2019; Elizabeth Shim, “North Korea pursuing domestic development of AI, state media says,” UPI, July 31, 2019, an article citing “South Korean service NK Economy” which read an article in Kumsukangsan, a DPRK publication about this topic. Through some further sleuthing, I found the original article, titled “in artificial intelligence development,” on pages 29-31, of the most recent edition of the publication which I feel should be reprinted in full here, translated (it is a bit rough) and all:

Choi said, “Artificial intelligence uses functions such as memory, judgment, and computation that are written in a computer so that the computer performs actions similar to human intellectual activities Today, many countries have a deep interest in artificial intelligence and are putting their efforts into development. As such, artificial intelligence technologies such as speech recognition, image recognition, and machine translation have almost reached the level of human intelligence.” He then said that these technologies, as well as the talents and research conditions necessary for their development, But we are spurring on research projects to raise artificial intelligence technology to world-class one day on the basis of its own talent. Based on an analysis of the achievements and experiences of other countries in the field of artificial intelligence in the last decade, they are making efforts to develop a high level of technology that meets the reality of the country. We have developed Korean language speech recognition program and Korean character recognition program that can be written in time. The research group, which already occupies a hegemonic position in this field in Korea, is constantly updating its programs to meet the needs of the developing age. “In other countries, speech recognition programs and text recognition programs have been developed, It is a technology corresponding to a foreign language including. We have developed a speech recognition program and a character recognition program for Korean. It is” he said. The achievements are also being made in research projects to broaden machine translation and improve its quality. The researchers have developed an app that can translate materials from about 30 natural and social science departments, including mathematics, physics, chemistry, economics, and history, into English, Chinese, and German. The system, which was introduced to the Science and Technology Hall and the People ‘s Study Group, provides high speed and accuracy in researching and analyzing literature in other countries, which is greatly contributing to the scientific research projects of scientists and engineers. In addition, the institute made significant contributions to the project to realize the informationization, scientificization and modernization of the relevant units by bringing out the valuable scientific and technological achievements including the integrated production and management information management system and the science and technology dissemination system that are needed in many sectors of the people’s economy . Establishment of integrated production system of Pyongyang trolley factory and Pyongyang cosmetics factory, development of integrated search system, production of skin analyzer … Especially the integrated product of Korean language speech recognition program “Dragon Namsan” and Pyongyang tuna factory. The Institute of Science and Technology, “Rongma,” has been ranked No. 1 in the National Informatization and Performance Exhibition -2018. As a result of not much achievements in the development of artificial intelligence technology, In the year of Juche 107 (2018), it was named as one of the top 10 information technology companies in the country. Now, they are not satisfied with the achievements, but they have set a higher goal to break through the artificial intelligence technology, And more. Kim Kwang-hyuk said, “The ultimate goal of global artificial intelligence development is to reach the level of human intelligence. In order to realize that, we will constantly challenge and make every effort.” To compete with the world for artificial intelligence technology and challenge the world, this is their research attitude. Their high creative vision and knowledge, The intense will to raise it up, and the ambitious gut must surely achieve their goal.

Jong-Hyeon Song, Head of Press

Pictures accompanying this article, say: “We are committed to developing multilingual neural machine translation system,” “Researchers discussing intelligent high-tech production,” and “Give each other views about artificial neural networks.”

[4] Another Rodong Sinmun article hinted at this too, with Kim Jae Ryong, member of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK and premier of the Cabinet, who “inspected several units of the national economy” saying that the Sunchon Phosphate Fertilizer Factory, Unsan Prospecting Machine Factory, and the Sunchon Heat Insulating Materials Factory, all under construction, should not only meticulously carry out “production and management and putting the work for cost reduction on a scientific basis, but their “economic executives” should solve “problems arising in production and construction in time.” He also said that the updated Pyongyang Pharmaceutical Factory and the Pyongyang Dental Hygiene Products Factory should put in place “measures for giving precedence to designing and settling problems probably arising in construction and management in a far-sighted way.”

[5] “WADA adds North Korea to doping compliant nations’ list,” AFP, July 26, 2019; “North Korea’s Air Koryo to begin direct flights to Macau,” AFP, July 25, 2019; Andrei Lankov, “It’s not all doom and gloom in Pyongyang,” Asia Times, Sept 23, 2011; Henri Feron, “Pyongyang’s Construction Boom: Is North Korea Beating Sanctions?,” 38 North, July 18, 2017; Andray Abrahamian, “Banking on North Korea’s Banks?,” 38 North, Feb 3, 2017; Hazel Smith, “North Korea: Market Opportunity, Poverty and the Provinces” [Abstract and first page], New Political Economy, 2009; Peter Ward, “Market Reforms with North Korean Characteristics: Loosening the Grip on State-Owned Enterprises,” 38 North, Dec 21, 2017; Andray Abrahamian, “A Eulogy to Women in Business Training,” 38 North, Mar 29, 2017; Anna Fifield, “North Korea announces five-year economic plan, its first since the 1980s,” Washington Post, May 8, 2016. Back in 2011, some analysts claimed that the county was positioning itself as a place to outsource IT projects.

[6] “Road Extension Project Completed in Yangdok County Hot Spring Resort,” DPRK Today, July 26, 2019; “Working Citizens of DPRK Enjoy Summer Vacation,” DPRK Today, July 30, 2019; “Pak Pong Ju Inspects Units in Sunchon City,” Rodong Sinmun, July 30, 2019

[7] “Exhibition of Goods for Daily Use Held,” Naenera [News], July 27, 2019; “Election Finishes in DPRK,” KCNA, July 21, 2019; “Consolidation of Revolutionary Power through Elections Called for,” KCNA, July 21, 2019; “Election of Deputies Begins in DPRK,” KCNA, July 21, 2019; “Candidates for Deputies to Local People’s Assemblies Nominated in DPRK,” Rodong Sinmun, July 20, 2019; “Senior Party and Government Officials Go to Polls,” KCNA, July 21, 2019. You could say this hints at the existence of possible consumer culture in the country itself, but as Juchechat helpfully pointed out, it has been an economic strategy of the DPRK during the last decade to develop its light industry as an effort “to curb the dependence on imports from China” and consumer goods are “heavily subsidised.” They also noted that China benefits “from the sanctions regime” because “all DPRK exports are forced to go through China via middlemen” and adding that “as Cao de Benos recently stated in an interview, it’s primarily ethnic Koreans in China who play a major role in trade.” That’s a valid point! I will definitely write about this more in a future article, assessing whether my feeling that there are “consumer elements” in the country’s economy is accurate or not.

Time for Global Communists to Unite Against Chinese Revisionism

Courtesy of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which posted this on their Twitter account on Apr 22, linking to a statement by the CPP on April 17th which said, in part, that  “The country is now practically a playground for big power bullies to trample upon and assert their military and economic might. The struggle to uphold Philippine national sovereignty is now most urgent…On the one hand, China has emplaced hundreds of sea vessels, mostly fishing boats but suspected to be carrying armed troops, around the Spratly Islands…On the other hand, in a more direct and arrogant display of military superiority, 3,500 American troops swaggered into the country…Relative to the US imperialists, which have long plundered and devastated the Philippines, China is a late-comer, scraping the bottom of the country’s wealth.”

On March 25th, a self-defined “research scholar,” Saikat Bhattacharya, at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India, declared that it was “Time for Global Communists to Unite under Xi and the Communist Party of China” in his unsourced piece of revisionist drivel, promoted by revisionists on places such as rhizzome (by a user named “JohnBeige“) and reddit (the latter on /r/communism). [1] This piece, using analysis of his site on SimilarWeb, gets over 40% of its traffic from social media, which break down to over 91% from Facebook and smaller amounts from Reddit (about 7%) and Twitter (about 1.5%). Compare this to statistics regarding this WordPress site: almost half of the traffic comes from web searches, and about 20% coming from social media traffic, with over 80% from Facebook and over 19% from Reddit. The thesis advanced by Bhattacharya, either called by his name or “this revisionist” in this blogpost, is one I fundamentally reject, as I will explain in the post that follows that aims to counter all of his points. Some revisionists may say (as some told me on a recent spat on Twitter) that I have “no place” to speak on this and am “talking over” Chinese people that think their state embodies “socialism.” In fact, I am merely trying to determine the nature of the situation in China in order to understand it more, to help out fellow comrades, not to make “decisions” for the Chinese people. Some may also bring up the point, as RAIM argued, in the past, that “China is a power capable of dislodging amerikan imperialist hegemony from strategic markets, a reality that has stoked a similar policy in Asia,” even as they note that there is a “chaotic unpredictability in amerikan imperialism in its orientation to both Russian imperialism and Chinese social-imperialism.” While I agree that U$ imperialism (and associated sub-imperialisms in Western Europe and Canada) is still the primary enemy, there should still be rejection of revisionist ideas, as not doing so dooms any fight against U$ imperialism as it depends on China (or Russia) as the “savior” of the global proletariat, a belief which intertwines dedicated comrades into distorted beliefs.

He begins the article by talking about a speech by Xi Jinping, the President of China, to the Chinese Army (officially and incorrectly called the “People’s Liberation Army”), apparently declaring that China should “go to Marxist roots.” He goes onto say that “many foreigners used to think that Mao’s China was Marxist and since Deng Xiaoping China is capitalist,” but claims this “not how the Communist Party of China think” because, for them, “Mao and Deng both enriched Chinese Socialism in different objective conditions.” While he makes a valid point about Mao’s role with Chinese socialism, Deng is no socialist. We should remember that the Deng and his fellow compatriots in the CPC rejected the Cultural Revolution (officially called the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution or GPCR) wholesale. [2] In CPC’s “Resolution on certain questions in the history of our party since the founding of the People’s Republic of China” in June 1981, they declared that the Cultural Revolution (May 1966-October 1976 as they define it), was a “comprehensive, long-drawn-out and grave blunder,” an error, and responsible for the “most severe setback and the heaviest losses suffered by the Party, the state and the people since the founding of the People’s Republic,” saying that some people committed “counter-revolutionary crimes.” They further declared that Mao’s argument for the cultural revolution (with a similar one in the DPRK as well), “conformed neither to Marxism, Leninism nor to Chinese reality” and represented  “an entirely erroneous appraisal of the prevailing class relations and political situation in the Party and state,” while also claiming it caused “political and ideological confusion.” In the document, while they used the language of socialism and Marxism, they called for “economic construction” which includes “expansion of economic and technological exchanges with foreign countries” in the so-called “favorable conditions” and breaking up the economic arrangement. On the latter, they called for “working people’s individual economy,” a supposed mix  of a “planned economy” and the “supplementary, regulatory role of the market on the basis of public ownership” which includes promotion of “commodity production and exchange.” Even worse, they declared that “class struggle no longer constitutes the principal contradiction after the exploiters have been eliminated as classes,” which seems ridiculous, and claimed that the system up to that point was not democratic enough, coupled with consolidating the government and improving the Chinese “Constitution and laws and ensure their strict observance and inviolability.” What does this include? “Order in production, work and other activities, punishing criminals and cracking down on the disruptive activities of class enemies,” and fostering nationalism, to name some of the important aspects. I find it obligatory to bring in what fellow comrades from India wrote about the Cultural Revolution in 2006:

…Mao evolved methods to deeply engrain the communist spirit of selflessness, simplicity, modesty and a concern for others. This can be seen in all his writings from the very beginning and was particularly emphasised after the seizure of power and during the GPCR…most importantly, he discovered the form for continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat, in the historic Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR). Mao, right at the beginning pointed out that the principal contradiction during the period of socialist construction is that between the working-class and the bourgeoisie. And at a time when Khrushchev was talking of the dying out of class struggle and Liu Shao-chi was putting forward the theory of productive forces, Mao said that “class struggle is the key link and everything else hinges on it.” Besides, until the GPCR, it was always considered that the bourgeoisie engendered continuously by petti-production, lay outside the party…during the Cultural Revolution not only were capitalist roaders in positions of authority vehemently attacked, enormous transformations were attempted in the production relations: in factories, managers and technocrats were replaced by factory committees, and bonuses, prizes and other material incentives scrapped; in the rural areas, the free market was discouraged, garden private plots were gradually brought into the commune, side-business was discouraged, and the policy of ‘work points in command’ was fought against; in education, preference was given to working class students, privileges to children of party bosses discouraged, the authority of the ‘professor-despots’ smashed, and manual labour and practical experience was emphasised; in health, its elitist bias was removed and the ‘barefoot doctor’ scheme was developed; in commune life socialisation was encouraged, thereby freeing women from household chores, community care for the aged and children developed, and disease reduced through public hygiene programmes and better nutrition. These new socialist relations were opposed tooth-and-nail by the capitalist roaders, who sought to sabotage the process by tempting a section of the people with material incentives and by private gains through the market.

Bhattacharya’s first point after the introduction is that “Deng never negated Marxism,” that the CPC’s vision changed, but that “Xi Jinping facing new objective conditions distinct from Deng is taking a distinct path.” He also argues that “Mao, Deng and Xi actually represent the response of Chinese leadership to different material conditions” and declares wildly that “communists around the globe must accept this success of the Chinese Communist Party and must unite to become a formidable force in global politics,” two elements which have no connection with each others.

While there is no doubt that Xi and Deng are taking different paths than Mao, it is incorrect to say that Deng “never negated Marxism” and that there is a continuity of Chinese leadership from Mao through to Xi at the present, as this denies that there was clearly a change in 1976. Hu Yaobang even admitted in July 1981 that there is not a continuity from Mao. This is indicated in the fact he portrayed himself and his revisionist compatriots, like  Deng, as the saviors of China, bringing “order out of chaos, carrying on our cause and forging ahead,” working to “undo all the negative consequences of the “cultural revolution”” at the same time he claimed to advance the “great cause” pioneered by the CPC under Mao’s leadership and “facilitate the Chinese people’s way to socialism and communism.” Hu added that “history will prove that it too was a meeting of paramount importance for our Party—a new milestone for our Party and state in the course of bringing order out of chaos, carrying on our cause and forging ahead” while admitting, in a sense that Mao’s China, as to call it, was the “most radical social change in Chinese history.” But he also said, with his clear ideological retelling of Chinese history meant to rope in those whom had been loyal to the Chinese government before 1976,

However, Comrade Mao Zedong had his shortcomings and mistakes just like many other outstanding figures in the forefront of the march of history…Thus, he inevitably made mistakes, including the comprehensive, long drawn-out and gross blunder of initiating the “cultural revolution“; this was a tremendous misfortune for the Party and the people….before the “cultural revolution“ and at the time of its inception, the Party failed to prevent Comrade Mao Zedong’s erroneous tendency from growing more serious but, instead, accepted and approved of some of his wrong theses…Although Comrade Mao Zedong made grave mistakes in his later years, it is clear that if we consider his life work as a whole, his contributions to the Chinese revolution far outweigh his errors….Even in the last few years of his life, when his errors had become very serious, Comrade Mao Zedong still remained alert to the nation’s independence and security and had a correct grasp of the new developments in the world situation…The important thing is to be good at learning through practice once a mistake has been made, to wake up in good time and endeavour to correct it, to strive to avoid a blunder [like the Cultural  Revolution] which is long-drawn-out and comprehensive in character, and to avoid repetition of the same grievous blunder…our Party must pay attention to remoulding itself…With widespread popular support, our Party smashed at one stroke the Jiang Qing counter-revolutionary clique in October 1976…The Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee held in December 1978 marked a decisive turning point in the post-1949 history of our Party…our Party has been working hard with concentrated energy and attention and under difficult and complex conditions, and has adopted and implemented step by step a series of major policy decisions in ideological, political and organizational matters and all aspects of socialist construction, thus correcting the erroneous “Left“ orientation… With the implementation of the Party’s policies, the introduction of the system of production responsibilities and the development of a diversified economy…This gives a powerful impetus to the consolidation and development of a political situation of stability, unity and liveliness…The Party’s prestige, grievously damaged during the “cultural revolution“, is gradually being restored…We have yet to finish the process of correction, and in various fields many problems remain to be solved…The road before us is still long and tortuous…Although our Party’s fine style of work was corroded by the counter-revolutionary cliques of Lin Biao and Jiang Qing…We lay stress on self-reliance and strive to solve our problems by our own efforts and treasure our own experience. But we must never be conceited and underrate the experience of others. We should through analysis absorb whatever is useful in others’ experience and lessons…Our Party’s fighting strength lies in its vitality and strict discipline. Now that we are committed to the socialist modernization of the country and our task is most challenging and difficult, we have still greater need to promote this fine Party tradition…It is now a pressing strategic task facing the whole Party to build up a large contingent of revolutionary, well-educated, professionally competent and younger cadres.

We then get to Bhattacharya’s second set of points. He prefaces this by talking about what he describes as the first decade of “colonial industrial capitalism” in the 20th century, led to”deep crisis” with automation and centralization of production with the rise of “newer industrialized countries were rising and challenging older industrialized countries.” He follows this by talking about the creation of the Soviet Union and its “planned resource allocation under state ownership” which helped the country “succeed in heavy industries and creating an independent weapon producing industries.” Following this were communist revolutions in East Europe and China, with the CPC, under Mao’s leadership,  going for “the abolition of feudalism and planned economy.” But Mao also saw that “ensuring state ownership, planned allocation of resources and right to employment was not enough to move towards communism” and he then claims that “Mao criticized Stalin’s view that socialism is a distinct system from capitalism with its own social values and economic laws.” He further declared that “Mao defined socialism as a stage between capitalism and communism with both characteristics of capitalism and communism” and that “only after many cultural revolutions, new communist social values and economic laws can emerge and more that many centuries of struggles are needed.”

This revisionist makes some strong points about Mao and China’s founding. Looking at the proclamation which created the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, it explains the revolution’s victory, and adds that “currently, a basic victory has been won in the people’s liberation war, and the majority of the people in the nation have gained liberation.” It goes onto note that Mao is the chairman of the new government, the vice-chairmen, and committee members, along with other government members. It goes onto say that the new revolutionary government is “willing to establish diplomatic relations with all foreign governments which are willing to follow the principles of equality, reciprocity, and mutual respect of territorial sovereignty.” Even Howard Zinn, a left-leaning historian whom is clearly sympathetic to Trotskyist viewpoints, admits in Chapter 16 of his People’s History of the United States that “in January 1949, Chinese Communist forces moved into Peking, the civil war was over, and China was in the hands of a revolutionary movement, the closest thing, in the long history of that ancient country, to a people’s government, independent of outside control.” That is not the case now, with government involvement in Chinese markets, which props up their form of capitalism.

While one could say that this assessment of Mao’s belief in cultural revolutions was correct, what about the implications that there was a split between Mao and Stalin? This seems questionable. After all, Mao was a person who described Stalin, in December 1939, as “a dear friend” and a person who has “real sympathy with us and regard us as brothers” (he said the same about the Soviet people), adding that:

Only the land of socialism, its leaders and people, and socialist thinkers, statesmen and workers can give real help to the cause of liberation of the Chinese nation and the Chinese people, and without their help our cause cannot win final victory. Stalin is the true friend of the cause of liberation of the Chinese people. No attempt to sow dissension, no lies and calumnies, can affect the Chinese people’s whole-hearted love and respect for Stalin and our genuine friendship for the Soviet Union.

Later in December 1949, Mao extended to Stalin his best wishes for “daily strengthening of the fortress for world peace and democracy under Your Excellency’s leadership.”Around the same time, at a  birthday  celebration held for Stalin, Mao added that “Comrade Stalin is a teacher and friend of the people of the world as well as a teacher and friend of the Chinese people. He has further developed the revolutionary theory of Marxism-Leninism and has made extremely outstanding and extensive contributions to the cause of world Communist movement” and went onto say that “we hail the great unprecedented solidarity of the working class in the world under the leadership of Comrade Stalin.” Years later, in March 1953, Mao expressed his deepest concern on the severe illness that Stalin contracted  and sent a telegram to the Soviets after Stalin’s death, adding that:

It was with boundless grief that the Chinese people, the Chinese government, and I myself learned the news of the passing away of the Chinese people’s closest friend and great teacher, Comrade Stalin. This is an inestimable loss, not only for the people of the Soviet Union, but for the Chinese people, for the entire camp of peace and democracy, and for peace-loving people throughout the world. On behalf of the Chinese people, the Chinese government, and on my own behalf, I extend to you and to the people and government of the Soviet Union our deepest condolences. The victory of the Chinese people’s revolution is absolutely in separable from Comrade Stalin’s unceasing care, leadership, and support of over thirty years. Since the victory of the Chinese people’s revolution, Comrade Stalin and the people and government of the Soviet Union, under his leadership have rendered generous and selfless assistance to the Chinese people’s cause of construction…Comrade Chairman, the glorious party of Lenin and Stalin and the great people and government of the Soviet Union will certainly have the brotherly confidence and support of the Communist Party of China, the Chinese people, and the Chinese government…I believe that the laboring people and all progressive peace-loving people of the world will take the same path as we do, following the direction pointed out by Comrade Stalin, and take up the sacred cause of protecting world peace.

In April 1956, Mao wrote that “Stalin expressed the will and wishes of the people and proved himself to be an outstanding Marxist-Leninist fighter,” but also publicly aired some criticisms of Stalin. He argued, whether he was fully in the right or not, that:

Stalin erroneously exaggerated his own role and counterposed his individual authority to the collective leadership, and as a result certain of his actions were opposed to certain fundamental Marxist-Leninist concepts he himself had propagated…even so outstanding a personality as Stalin could not avoid making unrealistic and erroneous decisions on certain important matters…During the later part of his life, Stalin took more and more pleasure in this cult of the individual and violated the Party’s system of democratic centralism and the principle of combining collective leadership with individual responsibility. As a result, he made some serious mistakes: for example, he broadened the scope of the suppression of counter- revolution; he lacked the necessary vigilance on the eve of the anti- fascist war; he failed to pay proper attention to the further development of agriculture and the material welfare of peasantry; he gave certain wrong advice on the international communist movement, and, in particular, made a wrong decision on the question of Yugoslavia. On these issues, Stalin full victim to subjectivism and one-sidedness and divorced himself from objective reality and from the masses.

Even so, he added that “Stalin’s works should, as before, still be seriously studied and that we should accept all that is of value in them,” adding that Stalin’s works should be studied in a Marxist manner rather than a doctrinaire way. He also pointed out that:

Some people consider that Stalin was wrong in everything. This is a grave misconception. Stalin was a great Marxist-Leninist, yet at the same time a Marxist-Leninist who committed several gross errors without realizing that they were errors. We should view Stalin from a historical standpoint, make a proper and all round analysis to see where he was right and where he was wrong and draw useful lessons therefrom. Both the things he did right and the things he did wrong were phenomena of the international communist movement and bore the imprint of the times.

We then get to Mao’s “Critique of Stalin’s Economic Problems Of Socialism In The USSR” which this revisionist is likely referring to in his unsourced analysis, which was first published in 1967 then enlarged in 1969. In this critique, Mao  said that

…The laws of the revolution, which used to be doubted by some, have now been proved correct because the enemy has been overthrown. Can socialist construction work? People still have doubts. Does our Chinese practice conform to the economic laws of China? This has to be studied. My view is that if the practice conforms generally, things will be all right…With respect to the creating of socialist economic forms we have the precedent of the Soviet Union and for this reason should do a bit better than they. If we ruin things it will show that Chinese Marxism does not work. As to the difficulty and complexity of the tasks, things are no different from what the Soviet Union faced…The existence of two kinds of ownership is the main premise for commodity production. But ultimately commodity production is also related to the productive forces. For this reason, even under completely socialized public ownership, commodity exchange will still have to be operative in some areas…Commodity production is not an isolated thing. Look at the context: capitalism or socialism. In a capitalist context it is capitalist commodity production. In a socialist context it is socialist commodity production. Commodity production has existed since ancient times…In capitalist society there are no socialist institutions considered as social institutions, but the working class and socialist ideology do exist in capitalist society. The thing that determines commodity production is the surrounding economic conditions. The question is, can commodity production be regarded as a useful instrument for furthering socialist production? I think commodity production will serve socialism quite tamely. This can be discussed among the cadres…Let us not confuse the problem of the dividing line between socialism and communism with the problem of the dividing line between collective and public ownership. The collective ownership system leaves us with the problem of commodity production, the goal of which is consolidating the worker-peasant alliance and developing production. Today there are those who say that the communism of the peasants is glorious. After one trip to the rural areas they think the peasantry is simply wonderful, that they are about to enter paradise, that they are better than the workers. This is the surface phenomenon. We shall have to see if the peasants really have a communist spirit, and more than that, we shall have to examine the commune ownership system, including the extent to which the means of production and subsistence belong to communal collective ownership. As the county party committee secretary of Hsiuwu, Honan, said, we still have to develop commodity production, and not charge blindly ahead.

Even this does not prove that Mao was criticizing the claimed view of Stalin that  “socialism is a distinct system from capitalism with its own social values and economic laws,” an assertion which again is unsourced and such has no standing value. Additionally, the 1969 piece, as above quoted, never says, not even one time that socialism was a “stage between capitalism and communism with both characteristics of capitalism and communism.” We know that in the early  1960s, in his “Reading Notes On The Soviet Text Political Economy” Mao asked about the “the transition from capitalism to socialism…[and] the transition from socialism to communism,” he also added  that

Socialism must make the transition to communism. At that time there will be things of the socialist stage that will have to die out. And, too, in the period of communism there will still be uninterrupted development. It is quite possible that communism will have to pass through a number of different stages. How can we say that once communism has been reached nothing will change, that everything will continue “fully consolidated,” that there will be quantitative change only, and no partial qualitative change going on all the time. The way things develop, one stage leads on to another, advancing without interruption. But each and every stage has a “boundary.”…on the ideological front, when we will have come through uninterrupted quantitative changes and partial qualitative changes, the day will arrive when we will be completely free of the influence of capitalist ideology. At that time the qualitative changes of ideological remoulding will have ended, but only to be followed by the quantitative changes of a new quality…But to say that socialist construction has a boundary hardly means that we do not want to take the next step, to make the transition to communism. It is possible to divide the transition from capitalism to communism into two stages: one from capitalism to socialism, which could be called underdeveloped socialism; and one from socialism to communism, that is, from comparatively underdeveloped socialism to comparatively developed socialism, namely, communism. This latter stage may take even longer than the first. But once it has been passed through, material production and spiritual prosperity will be most ample. People’s communist consciousness will be greatly raised, and they will be ready to enter the highest stage of communism…The transition from one stage of communism to another is also. Then there is technological revolution and cultural revolution. Communism will surely have to pass through many stages and many revolutions…For now we are speaking of communist society as divided into two stages, a lower and a higher. This is what Marx and his circle foresaw based on conditions of social development at that time. After entering the higher stage communist society will develop into a new stage, and new goals and tasks will assuredly present themselves

Again, like the other pieces by Mao, it is absurd to say that he believes that socialism was a “stage between capitalism and communism with both characteristics of capitalism and communism.” As such, usage of Mao’s words by revisionists to justify capitalist order disguised by a superficial and rhetorical support of Marxism is not only disgusting but it is dishonoring Mao himself. Perhaps revisionists should remember what Mao said about distinguishing capitalist and socialist enterprises in light of SOEs (state-owned enterprises) in China which operate on a profit model:

All enterprises in capitalist countries put this principle into effect. There should be a basic distinction between the principles governing management of socialist and capitalist enterprises. We in China have been able to distinguish our methods strictly from capitalist management by putting into effect factory leader responsibility under the guidance of the party.

We then get to Bhattacharya’s third set of points in a section of his article  titled”Deng Era.” He begins this section by arguing that in the 1970s the West was undergoing  “tremendous change,” using debt to create demand, with state  involvement said to be “inefficient,” while Western countries started “exporting its manufacturing base to Third World countries for making more profit by using the latter’s cheap labour while them-selves started to make a profit by asset trading.” Then, he claims that Deng was a genius (basically) who “understood the opportunity of getting Western technology, capital and market to industrialize China quickly” and that he “took the opportunity.” This revisionist then sneers with his self-righteous sword that “many people across the globe thought that Deng was moving towards capitalism” but that Deng  was  actually “reacting to the changed material condition.” After this, he claimed that at that time “consumers became more important than labourers” which sounds like something which would come out of the mouth of a capitalist who wants to sell new cheap products, with planned obsolescence, which are utter crap, to the masses. This revisionist must forget what the Editorial Departments of Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) and Hongqui (Red Flag), China argued in July 1964, not surprising for an individual like himself:

Marxism-Leninism and the practice of the Soviet Union, China and other socialist countries all teach us that socialist society covers a very, very long historical stage. Throughout this stage, the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat goes on and the question of “who will win” between the roads of capitalism and socialism remains, as does the danger of restoration of capitalism…Throughout the stage of socialism the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the political, economic, ideological and cultural and educational fields cannot be stopped. It is a protracted, repeated, tortuous and complex struggle. Like the waves of the sea it sometimes rises high and sometimes subsides, is now fairly calm and now very turbulent. It is a struggle that decides the fate of a socialist society. Whether a socialist society will advance to communism or revert to capitalism depends upon the outcome of this protracted struggle. The class struggle in socialist society is inevitably reflected in the Communist Party. The bourgeoisie and international imperialism both understand that in order to make a socialist country degenerate into a capitalist country, it is first necessary to make the Communist Party degenerate into a revisionist party. The old and new bourgeois elements, the old and new rich peasants ad the degenerate elements of all sorts constitute the social basis of revisionism, and they use every possible means to find agents within the Communist Party. The existence of bourgeois influence is the internal source of revisionism and surrender to imperialist pressure the external source…The characteristic of this revisionism is that, denying the existence of classes and class struggle, it sides with the bourgeoisie in attacking the proletariat and turns the dictatorship of the proletariat into the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie…the founders of Marxism pointed out that the transition from capitalism, from class to classless society, must depend on the dictatorship of the proletariat and that there is no other road…In socialist society, class contradictions still remain and class struggle does not die out after the socialist transformation of the ownership of the means of production. The struggle between the two roads of socialism and capitalism runs through the entire stage of socialism. To ensure the success of socialist construction and to prevent the restoration of capitalism, it is necessary to carry the socialist revolution through to the end on the political, economic, ideological and cultural fronts. The complete victory of socialism cannot be brought about in one or two generations; to resolve this question thoroughly requires five to ten generations or even longer…It is perfectly clear that according to Marx and Lenin, the historical period throughout which the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat exists, is not merely the period of transition to the first stage of communism, as alleged by the revisionist Khrushchov clique, but the entire period of transition from capitalism to “complete communism”, to the time when all class differences will have been eliminated and “classless society” realized, that is to say, to the higher stage of communism…The dictatorship of the proletariat is the form of the state in the entire period of transition from capitalism to the higher stage of communism, and also the last form of the state in human history. The withering away of the dictatorship of the proletariat will mean the withering away of the state…That is to stay, in the higher stage of communism proletarian democracy will wither away along with the elimination of classes and the withering away of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

This sort of theory, for this confused and disoriented revisionist, goes in one ear and goes out the other, just as you would expect!

Th argument of this revisionist goes on to claim that capitalism is transforming itself as a result of a crisis of overproduction, which “presented China a historical opportunity clearly noted by Deng in his thesis.” He claims this means that China would keep its “communist leadership” and state enterprises in a leading role, and would “be able to invest more in infrastructures and move to higher value chain than liberal democracies which are dominated by the private sector.” But, state ownership does not equal socialism. Many capitalist countries have state ownership. For instance, the BBC is owned by the capitalist British state just as the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), Federal Prison Industries, and the United States Postal Service (USPS) owned by the capitalist U$ state. So this revisionist is speaking like a true capitalist, from the distorted Chinese perspective, of course. This revisionist goes onto declare that “deng also clearly understood that in the global supply chain, capital can move from a country of a higher wage to the country of lower wage and thus reducing working class bargaining power across the globe significantly.” They further add that “once China will raise its per capita income to the levels of imperialist countries of the West, other Third World countries will start following China.”

This is a laughable argument to say the least, as it assumes that China has a pull on a part of the world and can command a change in the capitalist system. This revisionist must forget what Mao said in January 1940, firstly that the Chinese revolution must go through democratic revolution first then the socialist revolution, and secondly that communism must NOT be folded up as it would mean that China will be doomed, its current situation:

The introduction of scientific communism into China has opened new vistas for people and has changed the face of the Chinese revolution. Without communism to guide it, China’s democratic revolution cannot possibly succeed, let alone move on to the next stage. This is the reason why the bourgeois die-hards are so loudly demanding that communism be “folded up”. But it must not be “folded up”, for once communism is “folded up”, China will be doomed. The whole world today depends on communism for its salvation, and China is no exception.

But this revisionist will not stop with their capitalist-like thinking, declaring that “as wage rate difference will reduce between Third World and imperialist West, the bargaining power of the working class will rise again.” They follow this by saying that supposedly this would mean that “then the working class will become stronger than ever across the globe” and claim that “Deng predicted China will narrow the gap with imperialist countries in terms of per capita income and wage rate by 2049,” adding that supposedly, “after 2049, most countries will start following the socialist mode of China and global working class will be stronger than ever before.”

Let’s say this argument had merit. It would mean that there would have been 71 years of suffering of the Chinese proletariat (1978-2049) in the time it takes for the “bargaining power” of the proletariat to “rise again.” Is that worth it? I would say not. Additionally, such prediction of the future is clearly un-Marxist as it assumes that this development is inevitable, which leads into an area of absurdity and arguments which are like a house of cards which can be blown away with one deep breath of force. Even the late Samir Amin, a famed Marxist theorist, who claimed it was wrong to claim China was “socialist” or “communist” because it has its own pathway, admitted that Deng made a “decision to dissolve the Communes, refuting the narrative by some, including, I believe, the Chinese state, that it came from “below.” Even as he clearly sympathized with China, he admitted that there is capitalist brutality in China, even though he said that “state capitalism” is an unavoidable establishment:

It is indeed capitalism in the sense that the relation to which the workers are subjected by the authorities who organize production is similar to the one that characterizes capitalism: submissive and alienated labor, extraction of surplus labor. Brutal forms of extreme exploitation of workers exist in China, e.g., in the coal mines or in the furious pace of the workshops that employ women. This is scandalous for a country that claims to want to move forward on the road to socialism.

While he then claimed that there has been “state capitalism” in China since the beginning (1950), which I’m not sure I agree with, he did admit that there has yet been “the reorganization of labor from the perspective of socialization of economic management.” I will bring in Amin’s other arguments in response to this confused revisionist later on in this post as I do not wish to repeat my points.

This revisionist ends this section by saying that, “China began to industrialize itself using capital and technology from the USA, Europe and Japan while the USA continues to take debt from China and other countries and generate demand for Chinese made products.” He follows this by adding that “The process started in the 1980s but after the 2007-08 global financial crisis, this process came under severe doubts,” and saying that “China’s economy has grown to more than the USA’s in purchasing power parity. China’s economy becoming too big to rely on debt created demand of the US economy.” He ends by saying that “the USA also found itself indebted to a lot of countries and as its asset trading business in crisis, people started to question the deindustrialization process that went side by side with the growth of asset trading in the USA,” declaring this means that “the crisis is back in Western capitalism,” rather than global capitalism as a whole!

This is where Amin’s arguments come back in. He argued that China entered capitalist globalization starting in the 1990s through “the path of the accelerated development of manufactured exports possible for its productive system, giving first priority to exports whose rates of growth then surpassed those of the growth in GDP” with a subsequent triumph of “neoliberalism,” as he calls it, from 1990 to 2005. He adds that this led to negative ” political and social effects” making this choice questionable. This puts into question the argument by this revisionist that China is now on top by, in Amin’s words, efforts by the Chinese themselves and “the opening to foreign capital.” This revisionist is further justifying “China’s integration into globalization” even if you argue it is only “partial” as Amin claimed. He also adds that China is an “emerging power,” claiming it has not pursued the “capitalist path of development pure and simple” and that “this project remains sovereign insofar as China remains outside of contemporary financial globalization.” Even with these arguments which would sit well with revisionists, he has to admit that there is inequality in China, although he downplays this, going onto say that capitalists are growing in their strength:

Subsequently, beginning in 1990 with the opening to private initiative, a new, more powerful, right made its appearance. It should not be reduced simply to “businessmen” who have succeeded and made (sometimes colossal) fortunes, strengthened by their clientele—including state and party officials, who mix control with collusion, and even corruption. This success, as always, encourages support for rightist ideas in the expanding educated middle classes. It is in this sense that the growing inequality…is a major political danger, the vehicle for the spread of rightist ideas, depoliticization, and naive illusions.

He goes onto argue that the “Chinese peasantry of petty producers,” but not small property owners, has leftist ideas, saying that “the left has its organic intellectuals and it exercises some influence on the state and party apparatuses”  but goes onto say that “assessing the progress of rightist ideas within the party and its leadership…Mao unleashed the Cultural Revolution to fight it.” Of course, just like the CPC, he declares that the Cultural Revolution “subsequently deviated into anarchy, linked to the loss of control by Mao and the left in the party over the sequence of events.” He later adds that Chinese authorities use language on “international questions” which is, at times, “restrained in the extreme” leads to problems, while also admitting that rightist ideas hold sway in the existing Chinese leadership:

Yet today, how should China begin to reconstruct the equivalent of a new mass line in new social conditions? It will not be easy because the power of the leadership, which has moved mostly to the right in the Communist Party, bases the stability of its management on depoliticization and the naive illusions that go along with that. The very success of the development policies strengthens the spontaneous tendency to move in this direction. It is widely believed in China, in the middle classes, that the royal road to catching up with the way of life in the opulent countries is now open, free of obstacles; it is believed that the states of the triad (United States, Europe, Japan) do not oppose that; U.S. methods are even uncritically admired; etc. This is particularly true for the urban middle classes, which are rapidly expanding and whose conditions of life are incredibly improved. The brainwashing to which Chinese students are subject in the United States, particularly in the social sciences, combined with a rejection of the official unimaginative and tedious teaching of Marxism, have contributed to narrowing the spaces for radical critical debates.

He ends by talking about social programs in China and remains relatively optimistic. With this, we get to Bhattacharya’s next set of points, within a section on “the Xi era,” which could be said to either begin in December 2012 when he was chosen as General Secretary of the CPC or March 2013 when he assumed the Presidency of China itself. He begins by saying that “Xi Jinping came to lead China in this critical situation,” declaring that “he and his comrades understood that the old system of globalization cannot go on” because they supposedly released that “Since the USA will no longer be able to generate enough demand for Chinese products and so the curse of overproduction is on the Chinese economy now.” Now, before moving onto his other points later in this section, I think it is worth bringing in what Fred Engst told Onurcan Ülker: that the only reason that China was able to rise after 1976 in the era of imperialism was that “it maintained its sovereignty” with the economic base which was “built in Mao’s era” laying the foundation “for a sovereign capitalist development.” This means, as Engst points out, “to develop on a capitalist basis, a Third World country needs socialism first”! He further adds that “China’s relative economic success after Reform, compared to other Third World countries, is because it has sovereignty,” going onto say that “a coherent, indigenous, all-around economic base is the key for China to re-emerge in the capitalist world and become a rising industrial power.” He also adds that land reform in the Maoist era which “gave each Chinese peasant a piece of land” is fundamentally the “key to cheap labor in China,” further noting that:

What China actually does is steal technology. China taxes significant advantage of its ability to pirating technologies. The reason China has been developing much faster than other Third World countries is because it uses the strength of its sovereign base—in economics, politics, and the military—to narrow the technology gap and innovate rapidly…Today, the reason why labor costs are rising in China is precisely because urbanization. Local governments and real estate speculators have been forcing farmers off of the land, so they can build industrial areas. And once you force the farmers off of the land to the urban settings, their wage has to be higher than before to make it possible for them to survive. So the urbanization drive by the government is increasing the cost of labor in China today.

This means that today, as Engst puts it, China, is, today, “an industrialized capitalist country where the capitalist class is in power.” Again, when Bhattacharya says that Xi led China at a”critical situation” and that he, and his compatriots, realized that the “old system of globalization cannot go on” because the U$ was supposedly “no longer be able to generate enough demand for Chinese products” leading to a curse of overproduction for the Chinese economy, one cannot even factually address this point as the whole post itself is, once again, unsourced. Where is such an analysis coming from? This revisionist never says, leading to their ultimate folly. After all, as fayafi said on rhizzome, China is “instrumental to the evils of international capital.” [3]

Even so, he claims that this economic dilemma existed, saying that China had a choice of how to “react.” He said that one way was to follow the path of the West (and U$) by doling out debt in order to “inflate asset prices and profit from asset trading and export its manufacturing base to some other less developed Third World countries.” With this, he declared that China “does not have any petrodollar type credit channels and its impossible for China to make one” and went onto declare that “China has neither a history of global domination nor it is interested in.” He then added that as such, “China can never have an unlimited inflow of real external debt, unlike the USA” and claimed that “another shortcoming of this step is that China will then face similar problems of deindustrialization USA is facing today.” All this requires a proper response, of course, which is noted in the paragraphs that follow.

His sentiment is the same as those who declare that China is “building 2st century socialism” or that there is no “political element to Chinese investment overseas besides getting more money to own the yankees” to quote from two users on rhizzome. To quote from another user on the same site, who was partially sympathetic to China, he admitted the following: “there’s no chauvinist idealism in holding china to the principles of a revolutionary tradition that is itself derived from the chinese political experience” and that one can find “undistorted facts…from bourgeois account.” [4] But, this user seems to not have a good grasp of world history. Does he forget that Chinese people suffered under the “same evils” as the Russian people, with Lenin describing it in December 1900:

they suffer from an Asiatic government that squeezes taxes from the starving peasantry and that suppresses every aspiration towards liberty by military force; they suffer from the oppression of capital, which has penetrated into the Middle Kingdom.

How is this not a form of domination? To say that China never had “a history of global domination” is erroneous. Sure, it was not dedicated to such domination during the Maoist period (1949-1976) but that does not mean that forms of domination do not litter other parts of China’s past. This revisionist must also forget how Marx described China in June 1853 in one of his articles for the New York Daily Tribune, specifically saying that the European imperialists had caused the Chinese people to suffer not only through capitalist oppression but the country’s clear loss of sovereignty:

Up to 1830, the balance of trade being continually in favour of the Chinese, there existed an uninterrupted importation of silver from India, Britain and the United States into China. Since 1833, and especially since 1840, the export of silver from China to India has become almost exhausting for the Celestial Empire. Hence the strong decrees of the Emperor against the opium trade, responded to by still stronger resistance to his measures. Besides this immediate economical consequence, the bribery connected with opium smuggling has entirely demoralized the Chinese State officers in the Southern provinces. Just as the Emperor was wont to be considered the father of all China, so his officers were looked upon as sustaining the paternal relation to their respective districts. But this patriarchal authority, the only moral link embracing the vast machinery of the State, has gradually been corroded by the corruption of those officers, who have made great gains by conniving at opium smuggling…opium has obtained the sovereignty over the Chinese, the Emperor and his staff of pedantic mandarins have become dispossessed of their own sovereignty. It would seem as though history had first to make this whole people drunk before it could rouse them out of their hereditary stupidity…all these dissolving agencies acting together on the finances, the morals, the industry, and political structure of China, received their full development under the English cannon in 1840, which broke down the authority of the Emperor, and forced the Celestial Empire into contact with the terrestrial world. Complete isolation was the prime condition of the preservation of Old China. That isolation having come to a violent end by the medium of England, dissolution must follow as surely as that of any mummy carefully preserved in a hermetically sealed coffin, whenever it is brought into contact with the open air…The Chinese, it is true, are no more likely to renounce the use of opium than are the Germans to forswear tobacco. But as the new Emperor is understood to be favourable to the culture of the poppy and the preparation of opium in China itself, it is evident that a death-blow is very likely to be struck at once at the business of opium-raising in India, the Indian revenue, and the commercial resources of Hindostan.

Of course, this revisionist cannot stop in their supposed “analysis” of China. The term “neoliberalism” itself (like other terms) [5] which he is implying, is faulty, invoking “a yearning for a gentler, kinder capitalism of an age now lost.” As such, it is better to call it “International Institutional Monopoly Capitalism” (IIMC). Vu Manh Cuong defined this term simply, writing in Monthly Review Online that:

Since the late 1970s, especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union, this system has reached a new level in its development, forging imperial centralism or “International Institutional Monopoly Capitalism” (IIMC), whereby a handful of powerful nation-states explicitly use international organizations to impose their interests and further expand accumulation…IIMC [is]…the newest term in the evolution of monopoly capitalism…IIMC represents the highest form of the imperialism stage of capitalism, given the increasingly coordination between the monopoly capital and the state within core nations. As a state-formed monopoly capitalism, IIMC has been forcing most economies to participate in its system, regardless of whether those economies are capitalist or socialist (except North Korea)…Under IIMC, advanced capitalist states are even stronger, as far as their economic-political reach, and are able to control international institutions and organizations. Within these core nations, the state uses its strength to support the formation of “super-companies” (the multinational corporations that monopolize one or a number of products/services worldwide), serving the interests of the richest class, while bringing some additional benefits to its broader population. These countries are monopoly nations. Through international institutional settings (e.g., World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization), monopoly capital and monopoly nations extend their influence and power into every corner of the world, even the few remaining socialist strongholds, causing complex conflicts within globalization and regionalization processes…Capital accumulation and the centralization and concentration of capital led to the formation of monopolies (cartels, syndicates, trusts, consortiums, and conglomerates). This fundamental law of capitalism continues to take effect in the IIMC period, albeit at a very high level…The combining of super-companies and states that Lenin analyzed nearly 100 years ago, in which capitalists pivot around political agencies and monopolies, led to the integration of monopoly nations and international institutions/organizations. Thus, under the conditions of IIMC, this integration has crucially influenced the globalization process of the world economy, specifically for the peripheral countries. Although these monopoly nations dominate at different levels and their income is not equivalent, they do not conquer other nations; nonetheless, they help transfer a vast surplus of value from peripheral countries into the core countries…The IIMC built a complex called the “IMNs-United Nation: Specialized Agencies, International Institutions/Organizations, and Region Organizations” (IMNs-InIs). This organization is beyond the scope of previous international institutions. In other words, the IIMC is a combination of the power of super-companies, monopoly nations, and the juridical capacity of the international institutions. Under IIMC, capital globalization has not only strengthened the power of monopoly nations but has simultaneously created the dependence of other states/nations on the world market and finance system, which are dominated by monopoly nations…The IIMC is the final stage of “state-formed monopoly capitalism,” the new form of capitalist production that maintains the existence of capitalism and adapts it to new historical conditions…However, in IIMC, its essential features are poverty and income inequality exports…IIMC has been creating favorable conditions for exporting poverty and income inequality worldwide. Every government of a monopoly nation must practice protectionism because it wants to maintain social-political stability and must therefore satisfy its people economically and successfully obtain support at all domestic levels for decisions related to national defense and security…At the global level, the nature of the relationships among nations in the IIMC is a very complicated “competition and ally matrix,” but they are always under the law of “big fish eat small fish,” in which rivalry prevails among the strongest monopoly nations. The United States has consistently been at the top of the “pyramidal structure.” Stated differently, the state-formed monopoly capital system associated with the IIMC is a three-tier system: (1) the upper monopoly nations dominate the lower monopoly nations in the core and most other nations in the world; (2) the lower monopoly nations also dominate peripheral nations; and (3) the industrialized nations within the periphery dominate the weakest nations…The matrix of the three-tier system was formed world-wide in the 1980s and 1990s after the collapse of Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, the capitalization of the economies in China and Viet Nam, and the outsourcing of production to India, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and other newly industrializing countries. In these countries and the other poorest countries, the local capitalized richest class has been emerging due to several main causes such as popularized corruption among politicians and bureaucrats, the process of public asset and common privatization, illegal business by private individuals, and the financial mafia…The result is that under IIMC, there is a gap between the capitalized richest class and the weakest populations of the weakest countries and the divide between countries is rapidly widening.

Taking this into account, China made a choice, a choice to move away from its socialist roots with the ending of the peasant-worker alliance and commualization of agriculture in China, which specifically took place in the country. In this way, they are engaged in their own brand of bourgeois politics. We know that Venezuela has a form of a petrodollar as Aijaz Ahmad wrote about in the past. But there is more than this to take into account. As Leo Zelig noted, so-called “developing” countries (those in the semi-periphery) first took out loans starting in the early 1970s, often given by “the banks that oil exporters had invested in” but by the later 1970s, commodity prices plummeted, “wiping out the major sources of foreign earnings for many governments of the global South.” This led many African economies to rely on export of one or two “primary products,” with those regions which were “already marginal to international capitalism were further marginalized” and as such “massive areas of the world were thrown into bankruptcy.” With economies in the global South in crisis, international institutions which constituted the structure of the global capitalist system, like the World Bank and IMF, formed after World War II, worked to “control and regulate the economies of the South.” The World Bank specifically started issuing loans to such governments starting in the early 1980s but with strict conditions which ultimately developed into “structural adjustment programs,” also called SAPs. These programs required greater inclusion of “national economies into the global market, tariffs protecting local industries where removed, labour protection scrapped and agricultural subsidies removed” and this was all done “in the name of the free market.” So, he’s not wrong that the West was doling out debt, but whose to say the Chinese were not, bit by bit, accumulating their own debt? If you use the data from the IMF, it shows a dramatic rise in government debt from around 20% to over 45% from 1996 to 2017. I use the IMF data because it has been used by revisionists like Stephen Gowans and others, so it does not seem wrong to do so. Some can counter, like babyhueynewton on rhizzome, could say that “leftists twist bourgeois sources to their own purposes” but what is the problem with this fundamentally? Does not everyone of every ideology use sources for their own purposes? How is any different for a radical to so?

We do know that China does not have a channel like a petrodollar, but they could be willing to trade oil for their national currency, yuan, in the case of Saudi Arabia if bourgeois economists have any accuracy in that prediction. This comes at a time that sites have declared that China will “kill” the petrodollar in the past: “Is China Days Away From Killing The Petrodollar?” (Zero Hedge, Mar 21, 2018), “China about to throw down the gauntlet to the petrodollar” (RT, Feb 13, 2018), “Russia & China Declare All Out War on US Petrodollar — Prepare for Exclusive Trade in Gold” (Free Thought Project, July 16, 2017), and “The End Of The Petrodollar? China Unveils Oil-Futures Launch Date” (Zero Hedge, Feb 15, 2018) to give a few examples, which is clear hyperbole to say the least. Additionally, whose to say that China will not have issues with deindustrialization in the future as well?

But, of course, this revisionist would not stop! He went onto say that China, under the leadership of Xi, “came up with a different idea to counter the overproduction crisis,” specifically posing the Belt Road initiative which he declared is “about investing in infrastructure like ports, railways, roads across the globe and help different poor regions to develop and share the prosperity of China.” He further claimed that China has a huge trade surplus, with it still “funding infrastructure worldwide” and that a “long gestation period i.e. non-profitability for a long period of time is often considered to be a great problem for Belt Road Initiative.” They even floated that this “may lead to the indebtedness of many countries to China” but then asked if this would be “a real problem” for China, which seems to be defining the contours of his established “truth.”

Let us not forget, as tears, a user on rhizzome, argued, summarizing the arguments of Marxist-Leninist students in China, they could “simultaneously criticise the CPC and oppose imperialism.” What is the problem with that? Are we to forget about how three CPC declared that the Cultural Revolution was a mistake in June 1981, covered with Marxist-like language? This revisionist may forget that. Take into account what established journalist Sharmine Narwani told Patrick Lawrence in Salon earlier this year, that there may be a “reshuffle in the balance of power in recent years, with Russia, China, Iran in ascendance and Europe and North America in decline,” adding that “the world’s networks are shifting hands, too,” arguing that events in Syria “triggered the great-power battle that unleashed the potential of this new order much more quickly and efficiently.” While I am not as optimistic as Narwani, if we take her logic and say that China is a “great power” then it would put in question, to some extent, if the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was truly helping countries in need but was exploitative. It would rather be exploitative in a different way than agreements pushed on by Western capitalists on the semi-periphery countries, even as it would a net negative. As the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement (RAIM) argued back in March 2018, “imperialism is a zero-sum game, if a market is dominated by one sphere, it’s lost to another,” adding that “all the countries europe has driven away and scorned and punished, like Hungary and Greece, countries with diametrically opposite regimes…are finding an all-weather friend in China, who doesn’t care about internal politics, doesn’t care so much about the viability of lines of credit, they care about stability for investment.” Even so, does such investment by China necessarily benefit the proletariat of those countries? That is, in some respects, clearly in question. It can be said, with validity, that this initiative is a way, as Aspen Miller put it in July 2014, for “a new capitalist powerhouse” like China to “establish itself as an imperialist power.” While Miller does not mention BRI, they do talk about technocratic concentration in the CPC after Mao with intellectuals going from 8% of party membership in 1979 to 50% of party membership in 1985! It was further argued that not only did Deng era reforms destroy “the astounding progress that had been made in that direction during the first 30 years of the PRC” with private businesses given “significantly more freedom, the communes were dismantled and peasants were encouraged to instead work as family units” but the CPC was “unable to correctly conceptualize class struggle under the dictatorship of the proletariat.” They ended with perhaps one of the most powerful points of the article as a whole:

While revisionists may pay lip service to this phenomenon, they deny it in practice. They refuse to see that it is not a series of benchmarks which define socialism, but the direction in which a society is ultimately headed. Is it moving towards communism, or is it moving towards capitalism? Which class controls society? Are proletarian politics in command?

But what about his comments about BRI, that it is about investing in infrastructure, helping the world, and it tied to a huge trade surplus of China, even as he admits that there is a long period of “non-profitability” for those countries involved and ideas that this “may lead to the indebtedness of many countries to China,” which be implies is not “a real problem” for China? First I turn to an article by Erebus Wong, Lau Kin Chi, Sit Tsui and Wen Tiejun in Monthly Review back in January 2017, analyzing the initiative which also goes by the name of One Belt, One Road or OBOR. While they are clearly sympathetic to the initiative, calling it a “distinctly Chinese project” about “land power” they admit that presently the “Chinese financial bureaucracy accedes to the unwavering primacy of the United States as the world’s central bank, making it unlikely to question, much less undermine, U.S. leadership in the global order.” So what does this initiative really do, then, if its not challenging U$ imperialism? Even if we accept the claim in this article that the institutions pushed by China like the New Development Bank, BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement, the AIIB, the Silk Road Fund, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization are a “regional counterweight” to the IMF, World Bank, and European Central Bank, allowing China to be “the third country in history” after the UK and U$ with “the capacity to shape and lead a global system of finance and trade” there would still be some caveats. For one, as these people admit, “in the foreseeable future, China will not replace the U.S. dollar system” and that China has “consistently promoted the AIIB and other organizations as complements, not competitors, of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB)”! This does not bode well for those who claim that China is some magical crusader striking down the West with a “mighty blow.” Furthermore, there are other issues involved with China, even as these authors admit that China is exporting capital across the world:

In China today, a spirit of utopian capitalism is rampant at all levels of the economy, driven by the belief that as long as state-owned enterprises continually withdraw or dissolve, to be replaced by private firms, then China will be blessed by some miraculous market power with an innovative capacity for high value-added. But without an enormous investment in systematic research and development, it is unclear how scattered concentrations of private capital in China could make such advances in the near future. Consequently, China’s currency is unlikely to challenge the U.S. dollar, or even the Euro. Ironically, the single force that seems most likely to bring down the U.S. dollar is the increasingly virtualized U.S. financial system itself. In exporting capital over the past decade, China lacked any overall planning for foreign investment and development, sometimes entangling it in geopolitical crises, as in Libya or Sudan, other times in bureaucratic morasses, as in its role in the Mexican high-speed rail and Sri Lanka harbor projects. This misdirection resulted from the lack of any strong support and coordination from financial organizations like the AIIB. While China has become an important capital-exporting country, it has largely avoided entering into explicit political or financial alliances that might protect its large-scale foreign investments. With the establishment of the New Development Bank and the AIIB, however, China’s financial ties to neighboring nations have become more formal and far-reaching. From this perspective, they represent the kind of transnational institutional construction needed to give greater focus and strategic leverage to China’s capital exports.

They further noted that European allies of the U$ are not “jumping ship from the U.S. dollar-dominated system just yet, but only hedging their bets,” and wonder if China, which they define as “large industrial country just entering the phase of financial capitalism, increasingly roiled by domestic disturbances” is up to the task of overseeing the “development of a new global financial alliance” to prevent another financial crisis. They add that there will need to be “careful planning and keen strategy for China to find its best position in this changing global order,” adding that from the 1980s to 2000s, with “rapid growth” which undoubtedly benefited a growing bourgeoisie, China kept “a low diplomatic profile relative to its size and strength” which would need to change.

All of this connects back to BRI. How? Well, the official ideology behind it, in their summation is peaceful development, or more specifically the sponsoring of “infrastructure investments and facilitate economic development, promoting cooperation and minimizing conflict” which they argue is more sustainable and sensible than “American-style militarized “security.”” However, they note that this “peaceful development” discourse has problems, because it raises the question of whether AIIB can not only avoid damage that the World Bank and other instruments of international capital have done to indigenous peoples and the environment as a whole, whether China can promote “infrastructure investments that drive local development through diversity and sustainability” rather than simply serving China’s “need for export outlets.” This is, as they put it, a challenge to ensure that the Silk Road Fund and AIIB, which seem to enforce BRI, do not simply become “East Asian counterparts of the IMF and World Bank” but rather China itself must “promote a message of social justice and equitable development to counter the soft power of institutional transition that the United States has pushed since the 1980s.” Is that possible? Its hard to say, as they note that China continues to “absorb excess capacity through rapid urbanization without regard for rural culture or ecological sustainability” and question that if China’s government “fails to address the severe social contradictions” within their society, then their slogans of developmental policy based on infrastructure will “have little persuasive power overseas.” These authors are optimistic, saying that in the last few decades of industrialization, the Chinese countryside became a “labor reserve” source, with the state relying on the “peasants, villages, and agriculture,” the so-called “three rurals” or sannong, as a foundation of the country’s “turbulent but continuous modernization.” They end by saying that China should look inward to the focus on collective needs within Chinese rural/agricultural society as a “guide to the future.” But this optimism is clearly misplaced.

This revisionist will not stop with his faulty arguments. He argues that China can endure a long period of profit losses and that surplus value appropriation in the county is like the West in that it is “essentially capitalist,” a value which is created from wage labor through the “ownership of machines and other means of production.” He further argues that while in the West the usage of this surplus value is decided by the capitalist class, in China it is decided by the communist party leadership.

To counter these points, as they apply to China, let’s first go with the latest number of members said to be, on paper, in the CPC: 88.7 million. Those whom are members have to be at least 18 years of age, must send in an application letter, then attend “party courses…take and pass written tests,” then submit more materials to their specific party branch, which includes personally-identifiable information including the political affiliations of parents and employment, with probationary membership lasting one year, and then having to “take an oath in front of the party flag before officially joining the party.” This process has led people like Deng to even conceal if certain individuals were party members, like Rong Yiren, a person who stayed in China after the revolution and was called the “Rockefeller of the Middle Kingdom” by The Independent with his family becoming one of the main beneficiaries of Deng’s capitalist reforms. [6] Yiren, who became a party member in July 1985 (revealed only after his death in October 2005), also founded the China International Trust Investment Company (CITIC), even called a “model capitalist” in China Daily, after serving as a so-called “patriotic capitalist” from 1949 to 1956, but then handing over his enterprises to Chinese government country in 1956, but was rightly targeted during the Cultural Revolution due to his “bourgeois background” even though he had previously been Shanghai’s deputy mayor (1957-1959) and the Vice Minister overseeing the textile industry (1959-1966). He was even later appointed, in March 1993, the Vice President of China, which served as until March 1998. The New York Times, who noted that he was a close advisor and friend to Deng, called him “perhaps modern China’s first billionaire” who liked to call “himself an entrepreneur rather than a capitalist” which is never a good sign. He was said to be a person who “played a very clever and very Chinese game.” Just take how the Chinese government describes him (through Xinhua), as a literal and disgusting capitalist (which they see as a positive), although the claim he was a fighter for communism is completely absurd:

Rong was vice president of the People’s Republic of China from 1993 to 1998. He was also vice chairman of the 5th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China’s top advisory body, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the 6th and 7th National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature, and vice chairman of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce. Rong, a promising national capitalist in the 1940s, gained the reputation as a “red capitalist” shortly after New China was founded in 1949. He was chosen as one of the 50 most charismatic business personalities in the world by the American fortnightly magazine Fortune in 1986. Rong was born to a prestigious family in the country’s industrial and commercial circle…the Rongs had become a leading family of national capitalism by the 1940s, owning dozens of textile, machinery, printing and dyeing works and flour mills across the country. They were thus referred to as “cotton yarn tycoon” and “flour king” in and out of China. In 1979, shortly after China launched its reform and opening updrive, then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping personally put Rong in charge of establishing corporations which can serve as “a window” for the country’s opening up to the outside world. Thus, there emerged the China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC), a large transnational corporation with its assets totaling over 51 billion yuan (6.3 billion US dollars) and affiliated enterprises exceeding 200. Rong was chairman of the board of CITIC. Rong was officially praised as an “outstanding representative of the national industrial and commercial circle in modern China,”a “superb state leader,” and a “great fighter for patriotism and communism.”

Now, back to the CPC. In 2013, Xinhua reported that 44% of the “new members” were reportedly “frontline workers, such as industrial employees, farmers, herders and migrant staff.” Some may cheer, but consider that even though 30% of the party (25.35 million) was said to comprise of “farmers, herders and fishers,” 8.5% (7.25 million) were “industrial workers,” 8.4% (7.16 million) work in “Party and state agencies,” almost 24% (20.20 million) were “managerial staff and professional technicians working in enterprises and nonprofit organizations” and about 3.4%  (2.91 million) are students. The only problem is the percentages listed above only add up to 74.3%. The only other percentages listed in the article are for women (24%, numbering over 20 million) and those from “ethnic minority groups” (about 7%, numbering about 6 million). This would bring the percentages to 105.3%, meaning that these calculations are slightly off.

Still, plugging this into ChartGo, with the chart shown above, indicates that a large chunk of those whom are members are in the petty bourgeoisie, 32.4% if you county those who work in state and CPC agencies or are professional technicians and managerial staff. This number itself is likely a low-ball estimate as over 40% (34.09 million) were said to have obtained “degrees in higher education institutions.”This does not bode well  for his argument that surplus value is decided by the communist party leadership. How can the CPC even serve the proletariat effectively if have a ingrained “overtime working culture” especially in the IT industry, where capitalists are respected as voices that can sway the Chinese economy? Global Times recently admitted this on April 14th even as they took a weakish position against overtime for workers :

With internet magnates including Alibaba founder Jack Ma and CEO of JD.com Richard Liu weighing in, discussions on the 996 work schedule, where the workday begins at 9 am and finishes at 9 pm, six days a week, have gotten even more heated, attracting a slew of celebrities to join in the discussion. The debate has led to attention on two values: One is the spirit of working hard to succeed; the other is respect for workers’ rights to rest and leisure time…Objectively speaking, for Chinese society to move forward, it needs the spirit of struggle embodied in those entrepreneurs as well as workers who dedicate themselves to their job and never get tired of long working hours. Without them, the Chinese economy is very likely to lose vitality and impetus. However, we firmly believe that a 996 schedule should not be universally encouraged in the workplace...Of course, it is inevitable that some key members will have to work overtime during special periods or for special tasks. As competition gets fiercer, it is necessary that employees are able to bear challenging tasks. But overtime should not be made mandatory as the basis for the company’s competitiveness…The rights of companies’ leaders and senior executives are different from those of ordinary employees, and so are their obligations…The criticism about the 996 schedule has positive significance…China is in a period of historical transition toward a rich and strong society. The whole country, including some of our outstanding conglomerates, is facing daunting challenges. We believe the Labour Law and market adjustments will play a role in helping us overcome the transition period and bring changes. We call on Chinese companies to attach importance to the irreversible changes that are taking place in social production, actively respond to them and make adjustments accordingly.

The same can be said when capitalists like Jack Ma are literal members of the CPC, with Global Times defending this by first pointing out that the same day the CPC published a list of 100 people who made “outstanding contributions to China’s reform and opening-up,” whom are likely to be mostly capitalists, then wondering why “private entrepreneurs [cannot] be Communist Party members.” Not only did they say that that capitalists were allowed into the CPC and that their party activities do not conflict with their profit-making but defined these capitalists as the “advanced productive forces” [7]:

There was a time in China when private entrepreneurs were considered the exploiting class. They became a new social stratum after reform and opening-up. Before the 16th National Congress of the CPC in 2002, they could not join the Party. With their increasing contribution to China’s economic development, the Party adjusted the definition of the group. In an amendment to the Party Constitution made during the 16th National Congress, they were defined as an advanced element of other social strata. Whether to become a Party member is a free choice for private entrepreneurs. Nowadays successful private entrepreneurs are superstars of Chinese society. There is no conflict at all between being a Party member and doing business. Ma thanked the reform and opening-up policy for providing a great opportunity for private companies to thrive. Members of the CPC like Ma have helped promote the development of private Chinese enterprises and even the entire nation…More examples can be tossed out, like Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei and Lenovo’s founder Liu Chuanzhi, who are also Party members. The operation of their companies is no different from Western corporations and this has already been proved by their development on the global arena. Meanwhile, these individuals represent China’s advanced productive forces. Thanks to them, China’s reform and opening-up could be efficiently carried out, major high-tech programs could be implemented, the competitiveness of Chinese enterprises could be boosted and people’s living standards could be raised.

Apart from apparent sentiment among the Chinese people which is not against a 12-hour-a-day workday or Chinese capitalists seeing BRI as “hugely important or fundamental to their business strategy,” let us consider the size of the CPC itself. First we must take into account the data of the United Nations Population Division, in their “World Population Prospects 2017” for the “China” category, noting that the population is over 1.4 billion. This rises slightly when including the special administrative regions (SAR) of Hong Kong and Macao. If we just use the population of China without the SARs, and take into account the last reported size of the CPC (88.7 million people), as I noted earlier, then the CPC comprises only about 6.24% of the total population. If we use the population of China including the SARs, then the CPC would still comprise only about 6.24% of the population. This, of course, raises the question for how democratic such a party would be, if we accept that it is actually the one that is deciding the usage of the surplus value. The thesis by this revisionist basically is saying that the CPC has more power than the Chinese bourgeoisie, which is absurd to say the least, considering the internal problems within China itself, including a clear accumulation of wealth from 1978 onward.

Of course, this revisionist does not stop there. He declares that the CPC “may enforce” investment which has a “long gestation period,” something that is “highly avoided” by the Western capitalist class, adding that the “Western system is more prone to go for short term profit making but unproductive asset trading” but that China can “go for productive but non-profitable investment with long gestation period.” In his mind this means that China can keep “resource allocation power more hands of State than in hands of private capitalists.” He further claims that the “recent crackdown on top executives of Aubang, Wanda, etc. clearly shows this” and then claims that “most of Belt Road project to be developed by state-owned banks and infrastructural corporations.” On the point of the crackdown on top executives, I could find nothing in Chinese media, only in bourgeois media which relies on “people with knowledge of the action,” which is a weak and pathetic source which has no validity, along with emails “seen” by a newspaper. [8] There was a plunge in the shares of Dalia Wanda Group Co., headed by Chinese capitalist Wang Jianlin, but there is only speculation for why that is the case, not because of a “crackdown.” There have been some measures against such companies, but that does not mean it makes the Chinese socialist, just that they want to control their form of capitalism, with indications as far back in 2017 that China would allow “foreign firms greater access to the market” in the financial services sector. At the same time, we know that Wanda Group recently invested the equivalent of 6.7 billion U$ dollars in the Gansu Province of northwest China for the next three years as a “cultural tourism project” which is part of the BRI!

But what about his claims about investment in China? We know, as an independent magazine in China, Caijing, noted, the market for land is rebounding (original Chinese language article), to give one example. [9] At a time that Chinese firms want to invest within the EU, as a new market, the Italians are rolling out a “welcome mat” for Huawei, a Chinese company, the Peruvians looking forward to an “upgrade” in their so-called “free trade” agreement with China, and some Afghani capitalists are keen on dumping their capital within parts of China, there are questions as to whether his claims about China and its investment are completely valid. What can be said about his claim that China holds more of its resources in the hands of the state than in the West? We know that some of China’s biggest state-owned banks improved their assets in the “first quarter of this year.” In contrast to defenders of China, like colddays on rhizzome, it is better to take the point of Fayafi on the same site as more valid: that it seems questionable that “CPC member and multi-billionaire real estate developer Wang Jialin [is] bequething 500 million RMB to his son to start a private equity firm while people toil, labor and die making gadgets for the global market for pennies an hour” and we are still supposed to say that the Chinese state “is representative of the working class.” Furthermore, to take into account what another user, calling themselves Parenti, argued, the “creation and integration of a bourgeoisie within the party could lead that segment to overthrow the party leadership from the inside.” But back to the issue at hand. I think pescalune, on the same site, makes a convincing argument here, in that he argues that:

What is the benefit for human development, strengthening international capital and China’s strategic interests? What valuable “theory” or “practice” can we trust “China” to develop, and what possible reason is there to believe that China will correct any mistakes they may have? Why must we assume that “China” exists as a single entity with a united class interest when the bourgeoisie there hold significant influence? Do you sincerely believe that the CCP has a real interest in developing socialism of any sort?Poverty relief efforts, environmental regulation overhauls…what does it matter in the longterm as long as it’s strengthening the capitalist class in China, strengthening international capitalism? Is this not the basis of social fascism, mild reform to placate the masses and strengthen the bourgeoisie? I would assume as a communist you would agree that defense of capitalism spells doom for humanity no matter how many regulations are put in place. If harm reduction is all that is desirable (and I assume so, given the reference to China’s “progressive” path) rather than actively seeking to dismantle capitalist relations and promulgate international communism, then may as well be a Democrat or join an NGOOf course we should not oppose the lifting of millions from poverty. But a certain skepticism is warranted about the motivation for doing so, and the enormous inequality that was fostered in China as a result, not just between the Chinese bourgeoisie and proletariat/peasants, but between rural and urban areas….China under Mao, especially during the GPCR, was more than merely a mild improvement or “progressive” alternative to bloodthirsty Empire, but a serious attempt to dismantle capitalist relations and move beyond the limits of the Leninist party. And this was being sought while also improving the lives of the average Chinese person.

At the same time, once again, his claim that China has more “resource allocation power more hands of State than in hands of private capitalists” is not sourced and neither is the claim that “most of Belt Road project to be developed by state-owned banks and infrastructural corporations” so it is hard to sake such strong and unsourced claims seriously. How can they be taken on face value? The fact that revisionists have not picked away at this point shows the relative weakness of this argument.

This revisionist does not stop here, but declares that Western media have it all wrong about BRI, indebting countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka, saying that they were “indebted mostly to Western financial institutions, not China.” He further adds that China has given debt waivers to “Gambia, Zimbabwe and Venezuela” while also they changed, if I am interpreting this right, the “decision of investment in Kenya and Malaysia” according to government request. This if followed by the declaration that many “Third World countries still failed to annihilate feudalism and so their productive potential for industrial development cannot be released yet.” To this, he admits that BRI may  “not be enough for developing these countries but definitely, it can act as a stimulant.” It is here that we can bring in Martin Hart-Landsberg’s so-called “critical look” at BRI which was reprinted on Monthly Review Online. He begins by noting that the Great Recession and subsequent decline in world trade was a “major challenge to the county’s export-oriented growth strategy” and that despite the efforts of the Chinese government, economic growth continued to decline, while there was a promotion of “massive state-supported construction boom tied to a policy of expanded urbanization” which has led to excess infrastructures and facilities. This further building boom was “financed by a rapid increase in debt, creating repayment concerns” with a particular soaring in corporate debt, at a record high, along with a rise in household and government debt as well. As such, with problems recognized, the CPC leadership wanted to maintain existing growth by expanding it outside China’s borders with BRI. After Xi’s election as president, in 2013, as Hart-Landsberg notes, he endorsed BRI but an action plan was not published until 2015. The initial aim of this initiative was to “link China with 70 other countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania” with the recreation of the “old Silk Road land trade route” as the “Belt” and a series of interconnected ports which creayes a “sea-based trade route” or the “Road,” which came into its form with “separate but linked investments in large-scale gas and oil pipelines, roads, railroads, and ports” to say the least. No official BRI has been published because the initiative has continued to change, with Venezuela joining the initiative in 2018 following Uruguay. However, there is a fundamental problem with BRI, as he argues, it is an effort to solve China’s internal problems with “global outreach”, with promotion of Chinese enterprises and Chinese capital:

In brief, the BRI appears to represent nothing less than an attempt to solve China’s problems of overcapacity and surplus capital, declining trade opportunities, growing debt, and falling rates of profit through a geographic expansion of China’s economic activity and processes. Sadly this effort to sustain the basic core of the existing Chinese growth model is far from worker friendly…To achieve its aims, the BRI has largely involved the promotion of projects that mandate the use of Chinese enterprises and workers, are financed by loans that host countries must repay, and either by necessity or design lead to direct Chinese ownership of strategic infrastructure…While BRI investments might temporarily help sustain key Chinese industries suffering from overcapacity, absorb surplus capital, and boost enterprise profit margins, they are unlikely to serve as a permanent fix for China’s growing economic challenges; they will only push off the day of reckoning…Another reason to doubt the viability of the BRI is that a growing number of countries are becoming reluctant to participate because it means that they will have to borrow funds for projects that may or may not benefit the country and/or generate the foreign exchange necessary to repay the loans…Because of these investment requirements, many countries are either canceling or scaling back their BRI projects…A third reason for doubting the viability of the BRI to solve Chinese economic problems is the building political blowback from China’s growing ownership position of key infrastructure that is either the result of, or built into, the terms of its BRI investment activity…The reasons highlighted above make it highly unlikely that the BRI will significantly improve Chinese long-term economic prospects. Thus, it seems likely that Chinese growth will continue to decline, leading to new internal tensions as the government’s response to the BRI’s limitations will likely include new efforts to constrain labor activism and repress wages. Hopefully, the strength of Chinese resistance to this repression will create the space for meaningful public discussion of new options that truly are responsive to majority needs.

But there is a major problem with his analysis: that is broadly rests on the basis of bourgeois media sources like the New York Times (2 times), Financial Times (1 times), Reuters (2 times), along with the South China Morning Post (2 times), Asia Times, The Nation, Foreign Policy, scattered bourgeois academics, and bourgeois think-tanks (CSIS and Mercator Institute for China Studies). But, there is a grain of truth in it, when it comes to solving China’s internal problems, which should undoubtedly be considered. It would have been stronger for Hart-Landsberg to use Chinese sources on BRI, which undoubtedly exist, but unfortunately he did not do so.

The revisionist does not stop there. He states that the U$ asked China repeatedly, during the recent trade war to “reduce the role of state-owned enterprises and give more level playing field to private sector citing the fact that the private sector is more profitable” to which China argued that it has the right to “follow its own path of development.” He also claimed they clarified that “state-owned enterprises are less profit making because they are often given duty to generate demand by investing which helps the private sector to remain profitable.” To this, he further adds that “as Chinese reliance on export demand will fall, Chinese reliance of state enterprises to generate demand will rise.” This revisionist clearly is not even giving one cent of consideration to valid arguments like the one of neckwattle on rhizzome: “that the chinese state is more or less led by the bourgeoisie.” But there is more to say. For one, even a bourgeois media article clearly endorsed by revisionists (as it was posted on a revisionist subreddit, swcc) in The Australian, quotes from Xi’s speech in December 2018 where he declared that “China would continue with its strong Communist Party control of its society as it sought to further open up its economy,” with emphasis on Marxist-like language obviously for an ideological purpose to keep the masses thinking that the CPC is on their side, when it clearly isn’t. [10] Now, if we are to accept this as valid, it would mean that the CPC is literally hand-in-glove with Chinese capitalists, taking a clear nationalist position that “no one is in a position to dictate to the Chinese people what should or should not be done” which is a sentiment which has preserved China and its capitalist development since the 1980s.

How these revisionists not concerned about talk over measures to open China’s “door wider to the world” which include topics such as “pensions, healthcare, education, the Belt and Road Initiative, intellectual property rights, free trade zones, finance, state-owned enterprises, institutional reform and innovation” coupled with support of a free trade zone in Shanghai? Are they also not concerned about Xi’s embrace of “expanding market access to foreign capital, increasing imports, lowering tariffs, and strengthening protection of intellectual property rights” in April 2018? Perhaps these revisionists also forgot how China is vowing to strengthen its protection of capitalist property rights (“intellectual property”) and a series of planned reforms and more opening up with expanded market access for foreign investment. Do these revisionists also forget how the New Zealanders, Hungarians, Dutch, and Pakistanis, especially the capitalists among them, are smiling with glee as ties with China are strengthened? How is there not concern that China is integrating itself further, with such connections, with the global capitalist system? Perhaps revisionists have forgotten that the whole capitalist economy is interconnected, tied together like a human knot.

He concluded with his declaration that “China never actually moved away from Marxist approach but changed course as time and material conditions changed” which is absurd and incorrect, as anyone with sense would recognize. He added that “under Xi, state companies will do more infrastructural investments often incurring losses” which is a literally incomprehensible sentence which begs the question: if they are incurring losses, then how is that a positive thing? He then declares, à la the CPC, that only 16 years in the future China would “outcompete the USA not only in production but also in finance and military,” saying that this would “prove” that socialism is “popular across the globe again.” So the world would get socialism by following the defensive efforts of China to defend its markets (coded as “overseas interests”) or cooperation with the capitalist world, like Japan, ROK, Russia, and Australia? That makes no sense at all. How about Mike Whitney,who is sympathetic to China and Russia’s challenges to the U$, who recently declared that not only is “the Belt and Road Initiative is China’s blueprint for a New World Order” but it is “the face of 21st century capitalism“? How can a county engage in such blatant capitalism, yet still be seen as socialist? It baffles even simple logic. If liberals and progressives whom have no basis in Marxism can see China as a non-socialist state, why can’t revisionists also see it? Perhaps because revisionism itself is a distraction to the global proletariat. By following China, there will be no narrowing of the “per capita income gap and wage rate gap with imperialist countries” as he claims, or  “working class revolutions …across the globe again.” Instead there will be competition between capitalists, like Chinese car companies and blossoming of tourism, an enterprise which is so capitalist that it is often Orientalist, especially when conducted by those from the West.

Some may still scoff and say they are not convinced. They may say the same as this dedicated revisionist, declaring, like him, that not only is the “Belt Road Initiative is one way to develop the Third World quickly.” Perhaps they should keep in mind that even this revisionist admits that the “Belt Road Investment is not enough.” They would not like to hear that there is literally “no firm evidence to date of how successful these [Belt and Road] projects have been in fulfilling the expectations of participating belt and road countries, but there are concerns that some projects lack regulation and coordination with existing markets”! Yikes. So, how can this be the “ideal time” for communists across the world to “unite under the leadership of Xi and Communist Party of China,” raising major issues that will help BRI become “a major success in developing Third World.” This revisionist wants you to forget that China is a “worldwide contributor in terms of e-payment infrastructure, solutions and experience,” with roughly “500 million online payment users in China,” with WeChat Pay, founded by Alipay (owned by Tencent and Alibaba Group), processing “about $3 trillion in transactions” in 2016! How is that not capitalist? Supporting revisionist China will NEVER increase the “power of the working class throughout the globe” but will actually weaken it and doom all revolutionary movements for years to come. He can say all he wants that “neoliberal globalization is already dying out” but China is letting it stay around, with toleration of companies like Google as part of their “internet market.” If there is “no strong political ideology strong enough to take the opportunity” and replace such capitalist globalization then how in the world does China follow this path? Again, such a viewpoint by the revisionist is illogical.

In, in the comments below, one seemingly Maoist commenter said “we do not agree with Xi and Deng Xiao Ping his revisionist ideology this stands against everything Chairman Mao stood for” to which he replied by declaring that Deng said that “as long as there is per capita income difference between third world and first world, wage rate for same job will be significantly lower in third world,” further meaning that “thus capital will bargain heavily by moving from country with higher wage and working rights to country of lower wage and working rights.” I did find some information worth noting here. In the first one, in a 1986 interview with Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes, he welcomes Gorbachev’s efforts to undermine the Soviet Union and slyly supports Khmer Rouge by grumbling about Vietnam’s “aggression in Kampuchea,” even wishing Reagan  “good wishes”! Additionally, he claims the only obstacle in U$-China relationship is Taiwan and efforts to “re-unify” it with the mainland, in which case “Taiwan will retain the capitalist system” as he admits! If that’s not enough, he says he understands the “complaints of foreign investors” and working to make the county more business-friendly,while also condemning the cultural revolution (coupled with a bunch of junk about Marxism which is literally meaningless) and falsely claims that “our policy will not lead to polarization, to a situation where the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. To be frank, we shall not permit the emergence of a new bourgeoisie,” even though the opposite happened. As the interview goes on, he condemns the Great Leap Forward, claims he is a Marxist (an utter lie), and admits there are differences between Maoist China and China under his rule, saying that what they are “doing now is in essence a revolution” or in another sense is “an experiment…something new.” The type of “revolution” they were engaged in was a counter-revolution!

Following this is what Deng declared in early 1992 in his talks in Wuchang, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shanghai, praising his “rural reform,” “urban reform,” and establishment of special economic zones (SEZ), even has he still claimed it was “socialist,” even while pushing aside understandable annoyance at concentration of wealth (“many people felt uncomfortable with this man who had made a profit of 1 million yuan. They called for action to be taken against him. I said that no action should be taken”). He called for more “opening to the outside,” experimentation, and reform, with “creativity,” claiming that SEZs are “socialist, not capitalist” because of state investment, falsely making the leap that state ownership automatically means socialism. At the same time, he declared that there should be more kinds of “foreign-invested ventures” and that “there is no reason to be afraid of them” because there are “large and medium-sized state-owned enterprises and the rural enterprises,” yikes! He even scorns those who criticize “more foreign investment flows in and the more [foreign] ventures” in China, saying that capitalism will not spread in China because they are “constrained,” claiming that a gap between the rich and poor will not develop, even though it did. He does admit that his rural reform “introduced the household contract responsibility system with remuneration linked to output and abolished the system of people’s communes”! He seems to also call for expanded consumerism, condemns the Great Leap Forward, calls for rapid development which is inspired by “Japan, South Korea and parts of Southeast Asia,” claims that “intellectuals are part of the working class” even though they are clearly, and generally, the petty bourgeoisie. He ends by calling for “good public order” like Singapore and political stability, claims that China will “never seek hegemony…[and] is a steadfast force for safeguarding world peace” which is wrong.

But this revisionist will not stop. He claims that China is quickly developing and will narrow the per capita income gap, declaring that “China’s rise also helped many raw material selling third world country to have higher raw material prices since China has broken down the monopsony (monopoly as buyer) power of West.” Does this revisionist forget that the Chinese government has literally been calling for the release of a capitalist, Meng, from Canada, and that Xi has emphasized the “soft power” of China over the world?

There actually are some places where Deng does seem to talk about per capita income differentials. In December 1979, when talking with the Japanese Prime Minister, Masayoshi Ohira, he declared that China would not be “backward” and called for higher per capita income in the county, saying that if the country modernizes “China’s domestic markets will be larger and, accordingly, its trade and other economic exchanges with other countries will expand,” adding that even though “some people are worried that if China becomes richer, it will be too competitive in world markets,” be declares this will not happen. Again, he is lying between his teeth with this idea that the “modernization” will rise all boats, and his claim that China will be “too competitive in world markets” has been realized, even though he said it wouldn’t happen. While he barely mentioned the words “per capita,” a few years later in 1982, in 1987 he declared that the revisionists were triumphant after 1978, saying that “this is only a beginning” of such a counter-revolution, although like all who engage in a counter-revolution, he did not call it that.

For this revisionist to say we should “imagine if entire third world develops like China” and claims that “wage rate gap will be lowered and capital will loss bargaining power by moving from higher wage and working rights countries to where there is lower” is absurd and laughable. It is, clearly playing the capitalist’s game. To bring Black feminist and socialist Audre Lorde, the “master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” since they “may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change,” adding that “this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.” A similar way, saying that capital will move to countries with lower wages and workers rights, losing “bargaining power” basically eschews any notion of revolution or of overturning the capitalist system, something that all revolutionaries should reject. As such, this revisionist is completely incorrect to say that as a result the “global working class will regain bargaining power.” In the end,while this revisionist says that “global communists must grasp the opportunity,” it makes more sense for such communists to reject such a false idea, rather grasping the opportunity to stand up against revisionist China while rejecting bourgeois conceptions, standing with the Chinese proletariat, something that revisionists can never be trusted to do, in any way, shape, or form.


Notes

[1] On that thread (which got 40 upvotes), originally posted by u/Gotack2187 a month ago, some are completely in support (like thugloofio, HappyHandel, toiletpapershortage1, gokengt) while others are only sympathetic and have respective criticisms (like THE-SILVER-SERPENT, communistboi420, Shipless_Captain, KanyeFellOffAfterWTT, DoctorWasdarb, krumpkin), with two users seeming to buck this general trend (sovietbismark and RedactedCommie). Also searching on Reddit you find that it was posted on /r/swcc by zombiesingularity one month ago, which got 13 upvotes and /r/socialism with the title “Interesting blog post concerning China in the modern day and the gradual shift of economic power” which got only 4 upvotes. A further internet search finds that this blog was promoted on trendolizer.com, anderspink.com, diasp.eu, joindiaspora.com, framasphere.org, social.gibberfish.org, and naturalnews.com. I guess I have reached some sort of readership myself when my posts have been promoted on chapotraphouse, lol, although most of the times my blog comes up on Reddit it is times I HAVE posted it on those forums.

[2] The Marxists Internet Archive, in their distorted description of the Cultural Revolution, admits that Deng and his compatriots rejected it: “so discredited were the slogans of the ‘cultural revolution’ that in a short time the ‘capitalist roaders’, most notably Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping, rapidly consolidated their power. Deng Xiaoping was eventually to succeed in…the policy of the restoration of capitalism under the political control of the Communist Party.”

[3] This, and other quotes from Rhizzome come from a thread on rhizzone titled “Y’know, I’m starting to think that the People’s Republic of China isn’t all that communist after all” with the last post on March 24th.

[4] This same user said that “highlighting the PRCs commitment to principles of self-determination in the context of repressive policies against a national minority is making my head spin” which is a valid point!

[5] Admittedly I have used without as much thought as I should have given it, writing about the “neoliberal phase of modern capitalism which is fundamentally racist“, that the “mismanagement of the economy by the bourgeoisie of Zimbabwe combined with the overwhelming effect of Western sanctions, with the U$ sanctions still remaining in place currently, will lead to political change that benefits Western capitalists, with undoubted neoliberal destruction…it is clear that the neoliberalism that the current Zimbabwe government embodies is not unique to itself”; that “everyone seems to acknowledge the [Syrian] government has a strong hand in the economy which some call “state-capitalist” and others call “socialist,” possibly in their intentions, with some saying that the government engaged in neoliberal reforms in the 1990s“; that, summarizing the argument of an individual on Global Research, “he concludes by saying that unless such neoliberal policies are reversed then Iran’s markets will be “flooded with foreign products””; that in my imagined scenario about Cuba I said that “whatever happens, it is abundantly clear that neoliberalism in Cuba in the year 2018 will reign down destruction and lead to benefits for an Amerikan capitalist class, along with other Western investors, but not benefit the Cuban populace” among other mentions in the article itself, mentions in my imagined speech for Bernie, where he said “…I have supported neoliberal policies more than my loyal supporters would admit…I also voted not that long ago for an extension of the harsh neoliberal African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)…The media vetted me so horribly that they missed my support for neoliberal education reform, or neoliberal capture to be more accurate…I’ve supported the neoliberal No Child Left Behind initiative…Oh that’s been a big topic since those black women interrupted me in Seattle all those months ago…But hey I remedied it by meeting with that neoliberal activist, your friend, Deray…If he [Gaddafi] had just been neoliberal then I would have been fine with him. But, no, he had to be a socialist. How despicable,” and writing about “Obama’s neoliberalism…his imperialistic and neoliberal policy” and “a neoliberal egoist named Deray.” I also used it in quotes (as it was not my words) in my “Systemic Dolackian Disorder: U$ imperialism and the Kurdish dilemma” and ““Kill your idols”: Chelsea Manning and the reactionary “left”” posts.

[6] David McNeill “Rong Yiren: China’s billionaire ‘red capitalist’,” The Independent, Oct 29, 2005; Athar Hussain, “Rong Yiren: Chinese capitalist who thrived in the communist state,” The Guardian, Nov 17, 2005; David Barboza, “Rong Yiren, a Chinese Billionaire, Dies at 89,” New York Times, Oct 28, 2005; “Rong Yiren: Rong Yiren, a Chinese billionaire, died on October 26th, aged 89,” The Economist, Nov 3, 2005; “Rong Yiren,” The Telegraph, Oct 28 2005; Steven Tian, “Communist Billionaire Rong Yiren,” ChinaScope, Dec 31, 2007.

[7] This should be remembered when resident revisionist Roland Boer talks about “productive forces” in his defense of Chinese revisionism, to give one example.

[8] Lingling Wei and Chao Deng, “Xi’s Sign-Off Deals Blow to China Inc.’s Global Spending Spree,” Wall Street Journal, Jul 23, 2017; Wanda Swears Off Overseas Deals After Cross-Border Xi Change,” Mingtiandi, Jul 25, 2017; Xie Yu, “China’s banking regulator orders loan checks on Wanda, Fosun, HNA, others,” South China Morning Post, Jun 22, 2017. None of the emails are linked to in the article, just summarized; Michael Cole, “Wanda, HNA and Fosun Targetted in Mainland Finance Crackdown,” Mingtiandi, Jun 22, 2017; “Investors Flee From Billionaire Wang’s Wanda Shares, Bonds,” Bloomberg, Jun 21, 2017; Michael Cole, “Anbang Insurance Chief Wu Xiaohui Said Detained Since Friday,” Mingtiandi, Jun 13, 2017; Michael Forsythe and Jonathan Ansfield, “A Chinese Mystery: Who Owns a Firm on a Global Shopping Spree?,” New York Times, Sept 1, 2016; “China’s insurance regulator bans Anbang Life for three months,” Reuters, May 5, 2017; “Zhou’s Jibe at ‘Lazy’ Banks Signals China More Open for Business,” Bloomberg, Jun 19, 2017; Lingling Wei, Wayne Ma, and James T. Areddy, “Beijing Investigates Loans to China’s Top Overseas Deal Makers,” Wall Street Journal, Jun 22, 2017; “Wanda Is Said to Face Crackdown, Checking Hollywood Ambitions,” Bloomberg, Jul 17, 2017; Keith Bradsher and Sui-Lee Wee, “In China, Herd of ‘Gray Rhinos’ Threatens Economy,” New York Times, Jul 23, 2017; Lingling Wei and Wayne Ma, “China Blocks Big Banks From Lending to Dalian Wanda,” Wall Street Journal, Jul 17, 2017.

[9] This article was stuck in Google Translate then re-uploaded here. The English-language site is unusable.

[9] Glenda Korporaal, “China’s economy open ‘but party will remain in control’,” The Australian, Dec 19, 2018.

“Confused and capricious”: U$ imperialists re-calibrate destabilization of Syria?

As I said on Twitter, this map shows the Syrian government (“Assad regime”) holding “onto much of Syria except for the Kurds in the east, Syrian rebels (“opposition”) in the North along with “Turkish and revel [sic] forces” (referring to the “Free” Syrian Army) and scattered Daesh (“Islamic State”) remnants.” There are other maps, I’ve seen, like one shown by BBC News, but they show the same thing. This map probably simplifies events in Syria a bit too much, tying into existing imperial propaganda it does give one a general idea of what is happening.
This article was reprinted from anti-imperialism.org. Some changes have been made, but they are only in light of recent events. In light of some comments on Twitter, some (like @commieposting) have criticized how I describe the Kurds in this post, saying I should name the specific Kurdish groups which the U$ backed, previously. That is a valid point, and as such, I have updated the post to specifically name those groups.

For days now, the bourgeois media has been buzzing about possible withdrawal of all U$ troops from Syria, which are said to number 2,000 people, due to the official dictate from the orange menace on December 19th, as noted by Amber B. on this very blog in a recent post. The orange menace’s dictate came in his free-wielding Twitter declarations that Daesh was “defeated” in Syria (with the U$ “victorious”), that he made a concession to stay in Syria while claiming that the U$ is doing the work of Russia, Iran, Syria & others” who are the “local enemy” of Daesh (who are “not happy about the U.S. leaving”), while stating the U$ should not be the “the Policeman of the Middle East,” all of which appeals to his dedicated base of rabid nationalists even if much of this is filled with lies by omission and mis-truths. This was clear from White nationalist Stephen Miller (one of the advisors to the orange menace), declaring to CNN hosts, “are we supposed to stay in Syria for generation after generation, spilling American blood to fight the enemies of all those countries? ISIS has been defeated…if ISIS wants to retrench and regrow and reorganize, it’s going to be up to those countries to defeat their enemy” while others said U$ national interest is served by redeployment of troops from Syria elsewhere. [1] More worrisome were the tweets from the Chief Spokesperson of the Pentagon, Dana W. White, who declared that the U$ military campaign, officially said to be against Daesh but really meant to destabilize Syria, “is not over” and that “we have started the process of returning U.S. troops home from #Syria as we transition to the next phase of the campaign…We will continue working with our partners and allies to defeat ISIS wherever it operates,” leaving the door open to further imperialist meddling. With this, the question remains: are U$ imperialists re-calibrating their methods for destabilizing Syria? Regardless of the answer to that question, what do these new developments mean for the world at-large, especially the people of Syria, Iraq, Iran, and the panoply of other Middle Eastern countries, many of which have a U$ presence?

As Amber B. put it in the aforementioned post, the dictate by the orange menace “caused an uproar among legislators and the brass,” who were apparently caught off-guard by this announcement. Not only were neo-cons in Washington, like Eli Lake, Lindsay Graham (who wants to somehow change the mind of the orange menace), Max Boot, and Marco Rubio, pushing for further U$ involvement, but so were so-called “experts,” ravenous liberals like Killary, Medhi Hasan, Victoria Nuland (of Ukraine overthrow fame), Chris Coons, and Bob Menendez, libertarians like “ironic” Justin Raimondo or Maj. Danny Sjursen, who declared that “Assad is undoubtedly a monster,” and varied other politicians, all of whom are utter imperialists. Apart from the editors of the National Review declaring that U$ intervention in Syria should continue because the U$ has gained “valuable territorial leverage” and there is “work left to be done” in order to continue destabilization of Syria, even as they admit that Russia’s intervention in Syria has “been an unmitigated success,” Brian Kilmeade of Fox News angrily attacked the action by the orange menace. [2] At the same time, warmongers like Carl Bildt complained about their voices being overruled/ignored, Ian Bremmer cried like a wolf struck with an arrow, howling in pain, saying that “Assad has won…Obama’s gone, Assad is still there. It is embarrassing to admit that Assad has won,” then continuing with his typical imperialist rhetoric. Even NGOs like Refugees International and Mercy Corps seemed to support continued U$ imperial presence in Syria.

Not surprisingly, there has been a number of ill-informed takes by “good, decent liberals“: that the withdrawal is a “corrupt Russian plot” (despite the fact that another meeting between the orange menace and Putin likely will not happen), that “mass murderers” are emboldened, that the withdrawal is a “give-away to Russia in Syria” or part of an “alliance with Putin,” somehow shows that Trump is a “puppet” of Russia, that there is no clear plan or that the orange menace cares about his supposed investments in Russia and Turkey. While the last one could have some credence, the orange menace is not only out for himself, but represents the face of U$ imperialism, so, these reasons are reductive and are Russophobic approaches to what is happening in the world, tying into media narratives that promote this perspective. [3] You will never see liberals making the valid point Marx made to the International Workingman’s Association in London, that “…no new colonies, no emigration, no opening of markets, no free trade,” or any “improvement of machinery…appliance of science to production…[or] contrivances of communication,” will do away with the miseries of the working class (which he called the “industrious masses”). The point about imperialism, which is implied in this statement is what I refer to here, is that it will not do away with the working class’s troubles. The reason liberals or progressives will not make this point is that they float underdeveloped theories like “intersectionality” which does not pose class as a central component of oppression, leading to a distorted view of the world. In the process of criticizing such theories, one can avoid the petty-bourgeois sloppiness Lenin criticized in 1918, when criticizing left-communists, adding that is important for Marxists to “give a coherent and complete exposition of the principles underlying one’s views and tactics,” a process which is championed and done on a regular basis on sites such as this one.

This undoubtedly raises the question of whether this dictate “will survive the row it has unleashed.” The question of whether this dictate will survive is also questioned by the fact that varied administration officials have declared in the past year that U$ troops will remain in Syria (specifically to counter Iran), even as Rand Paul and Mike Lee support the decision by the orange menace, as does Ron Paul, who praised the decision, telling the orange menace not to “buckle” under pressure. [4] As Amber B. put it, this decision serves “as further evidence for a profoundly confused and capricious imperialist mandate.” But that does not mean we should buy into the idea that the U$ imperialists are bumbling fools like Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes, as left-journalist of Pierre Omidyar’s plaything (The Intercept) Jeremy Scahill declared at one time. It is worth noting that even oft-writing revisionist Stephen Gowans, the person who thinks that Syria is a “non-Marxist” socialist state, declared that the “announced withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the drawdown of US occupation forces in Afghanistan…more likely reflect the adoption of new means of achieving longstanding US foreign policy goals” with a policy “based on shifting the burden of maintaining the US empire increasingly to allies and private soldiers bankrolled by oil monarchies,” a clearly valid point.

As such, to recall what Amber B. said, we should remember Lenin, recognizing that “in the absence of an anti-war movement, we must build the conditions for turning imperialist war into revolutionary civil war.” This refers directly, to what Lenin wrote in 1915: that a “revolutionary struggle against the war” is empty and meaningless unless it means “revolutionary action against one’s own government even in wartime.” What does this mean? Lenin explains this means not only desiring the defeat of one’s government, but “facilitating such a defeat,” with the conversion of an imperialist war into a civil war developing out of “a number of diverse phenomena, aspects, features, characteristics and consequences of the imperialist war.” Ultimately that would allow the “proletariat to take advantage of the difficulties experienced by its government and its bourgeoisie in order to overthrow them,” but that cannot happen “without desiring the defeat of one’s own government and without contributing to that defeat.” Currently, it would be absurd to say the U$ or any Western country is on the verge of revolution, as many seem to be caught in the thick imperialist and capitalist fog of deception.

Having said all of this, it is worth noting some positive developments: that the major U$ operation in Syria (officially against Daesh) planned before the announced withdrawal will be canceled, that the U$ is planning to close the “Al-Tanf base near the Syrian border with Jordan,” and that John Bolton’s decision to expand the U$ goals in Syria to force Iranian forces to “eventually withdraw” was a failure, another defeat for the hardened imperialist. [5] Even so, the Pentagon is reportedly negotiating to “keep U.S. air power in the fight over Syria.” This means, as should be evident, imperialism, like capitalism, is very adaptable, with increasing “coordination between the monopoly capital and the state within core nations,” with monopoly capitalism involving exporting capital in order to “seek additional surplus value,” and the key feature of such imperialism involving “exporting class struggle and civil war to the peripheral regions.” The latter is the case not only in Syria, but manifests itself in the ongoing deadly armed conflicts in Mexico (drug war since 2006), Iraq (since at least 2003), Afghanistan (since 1978), and Yemen (since 2011). It also includes the smaller ongoing armed conflicts across much of eastern, central, and northern Africa, the Mideast, central Asia, East Asia, along with others scattered in parts of Europe and Latin America.

More possible than not, this call for a withdrawal is part of a re-orientation of U$ policy with Turkey tasked with balkanization of Syria, even as the Chinese revisionists don’t see this as a big deal. This handing of the baton to Turkey is evidenced by the fact that on Tuesday, the U$ State Department approved a sale of a $3.5 billion Patriot missile system, including 140 missiles and related equipment, to Turkey which recently decided not to pursue buying S-400 missiles  from Russia. [6] Additionally, on December 4th, two top State Department officials met with the Turks, where they discussed “promotion of stability and security in Syria.” Some, like cordeliers on Twitter, have further argued that that this withdrawal will “provide useful cover for a NATO proxy war managed by Turkey,” while headchoppers of Daesh are rolled into “rebel” militias, and a transition to a new phase of U$ proxy wars in the Mideast. It is even possible that the Zionists will have a role in this new strategy as Netanyahu pledged, in response to the decision of the orange menace, that “we will safeguard the security of Israel and protect ourselves from this arena” and that AIPAC declared that Iran and Hezbollah be “prevented from exploiting this development to further destabilize the region and threaten our allies,” with steps by the U$ to “counter the mounting aggression of Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah.”

There is also an open question of whether Russia will be part of the partition of Syria considering they are one of the three “self-appointed guarantors of the Syrian peace process,” apart from Turkey and Iran, with Russia recently further downscaling its military presence by cutting military flights within Syria from more than hundred per day to fewer than four every week! [7] All three are part of a committee “due to write a new constitution for the country,” which could pave the “pave the way for UN-supervised elections and a possible peace process that would encourage millions of refugees to return to their homeland.” While this could have some positive results, it doesn’t seem right for these countries to re-write a constitution which should be solely written and drafted by the Syrian people! Even so, the Syrian government seems willing to accept the process, which agreed with the Syrian opposition on members which represent “civil society.” Considering the principle established by Marx that “existence and thereby the collisions…between these classes are in turn conditioned by the degree of development of their economic position, by the mode of their production and of their exchange determined by it,” it raises the question: who will these civil society members represent?

There was also a theory posed by a recent AP article: that the orange menace decided to withdrawal from Syria based on a telephone call with Erdogan on December 14th. [8] This supposes that everyone of the orange menace’s advisers agreed with Erdogan’s assessment of Daesh, then the orange menace magically agreed to pull out troops. Taking this at face value, Moon of Alabama says that the orange menace did not not “capitulate” to Erdogan but “was finally given a chance” to withdrawal and “grabbed the opportunity”which Erdogan was not ready for, with other articles acting like the orange menace achieved his objective of withdrawal he has wanted since he was inaugurated. [9] They say that Erdogan was caught off guard because while Turkey has planned to “occupy a 10 mile deep strip along the Syrian-Turkish border,” 50,000 to 100,000 troops would be needed to occupy “all of east Syria northward of the Euphrates” which would be opposed by armed Kurds (those within “Rojava”) and a hostile Arab population. While this is convincing, considering Turkey recently said they would delay their military offensive into Syria’s territory, I have a sense something more is going on. This is because it is clear now that the proposed U$ withdrawal from Syria is a cover for further Turkish involvement in Syria, with the Turks now becoming the mercenaries of empire, which some are annoyed with. On November 22, Middle East Monitor reported that the Emirati and Saudi military forces arrived in Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria (“Rojava”), were stationed with U$ forces, supporting their “tasks with huge military enforcements as well as heavy and light weapons,”while also meeting with Kurdish officials. This brings us, logically, to the Kurdish question in Syria.

We know that generally, these Kurds (part of “Rojava”) thought that the U$ would champion their cause, failing to understand that the U$ establishment acts “purely in its own interests.” Amber B., in the aforementioned article linked at the beginning of this piece put it well: that while there is some truth in the fact that U$ withdrawal is “an effective abandonment of the progressive Kurdish forces,” the Kurdish people can only resolve their problems on their own, and as such,  we should condemn those, like Debbie Bookchin (daughter of noted anarchist Murray Bookchin), a branch of the Democratic “Socialists”of America (actually social democrats), self-declared anarchist Noam Chomsky who advocates for U$ presence to “deter an attack on the Kurdish areas,” and the NYC Socialist Rifle Association, to name a few, who have “substituted genuine internationalism for mindless propaganda work for competing imperialist powers.” As such, those who criticize these Kurds in “Rojava,” like the YPG,  SDF, and PYD, for their alliance with U$ imperialists are not stooges of Erdogan as some have dumbly claimed. This is due to the fact there are questions about how “revolutionary” or “progressive” these vaulted Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) are since the SDF said they wanted “to be part of America,” possibly clearing the way for Turkey’s occupation. The Emergency Committee for “Rojava” goes even further in their pro-imperialist orientation, calling the withdrawal of U$ troops a  “betrayal” and calling for military, economic, and political assistance, thinking that the U$ imperialists are somehow humanitarian saviors! Of course, those in “Rojava” are no Marxists, as they do not hold, as Eleanor Marx (Karl and Jenny Marx’s daughter) and Edward Aveling that the world is restless and that the “death of the capitalistic method of production” means, simply, “resolution of society into simpler forms…a new and better order of things,” since the current society is “morally bankrupt.”

Maybe they even hold the latter about society, with social contract seeming democratic with federalist system including legislative, executive, and judicial branches, professed equality in “persons and communities,” a right to live in a healthy environment and express certain rights (“ethnic, cultural, linguistic and gender”), freedom of speech except that which can be restricted, with a policy of interference and admitting their integral nature to Syria, which met some  “fundamental requirements of Western international backers opposing the Syrian regime,” as Chatham House declared in 2016. While there are some other rights given, like equality in gender, worship, assembly,  political participation, seek political asylum, it also endorses private property: “everyone has the right to the use and enjoyment of his private property” because there is “no one shall be deprived of his property except upon payment of just compensation, for reasons of public utility or social interest, and in the cases and according to the forms established by law.” While the economy of “Rojava” seems social democratic in “directed at providing general welfare and in particular granting funding to science and technology,” aimed at “guaranteeing the daily needs of people and to ensure a dignified life,” with monopoly prohibited, along with “labor rights and sustainable development…guaranteed,” but does not including a proposal for a planned economy. This is coupled with no prohibition of “extractive processes, management, licensing and other contractual agreements related to such [natural] resources” by corporate entities. As such, it raises the question how progressive “Rojava” (composed of three regions: Jazira, Euphrates, and Afrin) is, after all, since the levers of power seems to be in control by the PYD (also noted by a Reuters article in 2017 which noted that there was no voting in Arab-majority areas in the region) even though the New York Times declared, in 2015, there was apparently no hierarchy.

Articles in bourgeois media have added that France, Germany, and the UK still are openly siding with these Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD), recently engaged in bloody (and horrible) battles, who control “roughly one quarter of Syria,” an area which is “rich in farmland, oil and water” (which BBC News admitted allowed the U$ to “indirectly” control “half of Syria’s strategic resources – including many oil fields and dams, and much of its most fertile agricultural land”), a possibly strong “bargaining chip” in negotiations with  the Syrian government. [10] They also note that some Kurdish leaders are admitting that “relying on the Americans is always a failed experience, at the very least for Kurds,” and others saying, without recognizing the fact the West has allowed “Rojava” (which has only existed since January 2014) to exist, “the whole world is taking the view that the Kurdish cause can be bought and sold.” This all feeds into sob stories, like those fed to people like Richard Engels of NBC News, that U$ troops in Syria (officially special forces) are “distraught, upset, morally disturbed by having to tell their kurdish allies in Syria that…their promises of defense won’t be kept,” acting like we should feel sorry for imperialists.

When it comes to the Kurds, especially YPG/SDF/PYD, it is worthwhile to recall a number of posts I made on the subject. Most of the posts I have written on the Kurds in the past year have focused on the Kurds in Northern Iraq and the defeat of their ill-thought referendum, while also highlighting how the creation of an ethno-state called “Kurdistan,” spanning northern Iraq and eastern Syria, along with parts of Turkey and Iran, would “assist Zionist expansionism, Saudi expansionism, and Western imperialism in dividing up the region,” while also not beneficial for anyone in the Mideast. In the last article linked when I said that the Kurds were an ethnicity, not a nation, I was countering the notions that such an ethno-state was workable, even as I am not sure I agree with my conclusions at the time that Kurds should just work within existing political systems in Syria and Iraq. So, in some ways, my views are changing, but I still remain a critic of the current trend toward Kurdish nationalism, while recognizing what others say about self-determination. At the present, the question of creating a state named “Kurdistan” is mute as the Kurds are effectively divided into two parts: those in “Rojava” (eastern Syria) like YPG/SDF/PYD, and those in Northern Iraq under the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) which exists as a semi-autonomous area within Iraq. It also worth noting that the Syrian Communist Party recently denounced the “occupation of the US and Turkey,” along with an “emphasis on solidarity with the resistance of Afrin to the Turkish occupation. They also, last month, at a meeting of communist and workers parties in Greece, that

…fundamental contradictions of global imperialism, identified by Leninism, increasingly rage [including]…contradiction between work and capital, whose catastrophic effects are evident not only in the capitalist states of the parties…The situation of a large number of hard-working people in capitalist centers and in many ways falls short of what they had been in the first half of the twentieth century…The contradiction between imperialist capitalist centers and capitalist states [is clear]…The most blatant examples of such a policy of…imperialist aggression are found in the case of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria, all of which have been subjected to direct military or imperialist aggression or through the agents of imperialism with the open support of the imperialist countries…The contradiction between the imperialist centers, that is, the contradiction between the financial monopolies and the governments they represent in order to distribute the riches of the total imperialist plunder of the world…All the progressives in the world are aware of the disastrous consequences of a comprehensive and destructive war as they work against the threat of multiple forms of war…To remove the danger of war, imperialism must be dropped…The changes in the international arena also indicate an increase in the role of national liberation movements as a component of the global revolutionary process. National resistances, which are objectively part of the national liberation movements, regardless of the ideology prevailing in this or that faction, have dealt a serious blow to the expansionist tendency of imperialism and its agents…This is what Syria is doing in its courageous response to the ferocious attack by the Atlantic imperialism and its agents and the continuing aggression of Zionist Israel…Syrian communists engaged in the major battle to defend their homeland, along with other national forces…At present, our party believes that the most important goal facing our people is to liberate its territory under the yoke of imperialist occupation, as well as to strenuously oppose the projects that are embroiled in imperialist circles and aimed at dividing Syria…The Syrian Communist Party is characterized by linking the economic and social struggle with the general political struggle. Our Syrian Communist Party is fighting for a complete break with liberal economic trends in defense of national production and the interests of the struggling masses…The circumstances of the imperialist onslaught and the intensification of the contradictions of imperialism require the intensification of the global communist and labor movement and the strengthening of coordination between their factions in order to effectively confront imperialism and then overthrow it. These circumstances also indicate the need to form a united global front between the revolutionary labor movement and national liberation movements.

There is also a revisionist counterpart as well, but recent statements of it are hard to find.

For the purposes of this post, I refer back to the articles I wrote last year on the topic, apart from one where I countered deluded reddit critics or other scattered mentions in varied other articles I wrote in 2016 and 2017. While opposing Turkish invasion of Syria, I argued that Turks and certain Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) are assisting U$ imperialist objectives, adding that “Rojava” itself is an illegal entity, questioned when self-determination can be used (an argument I am not sure I completely agree with now), and that there are by Western standards, two types of Kurds: the “good” ones that ally with the West (YPG/SDF/PYD) and the “bad” ones that ally with the Syrian government. I also added that “the Syrian government (and people) will continue to be in a precarious situation until the end of the conflict and withdrawal of Western imperialism from the region. The best we can do is pledge solidarity with those fighting the mercenaries of imperial conquest, not only Daesh but the “rebel” forces and “good” Kurds [YPG/SDF/PYD], and all of those standing against global capitalism, even with our respective critiques,” which is still a valid position. Once again, while dated, I would say my two-part series on “Rojava” for Dissident Voice, while without its problems, still is relatively sound in pointing out that such a nation is an illegal entity and how Western imperialism has made its existence possible, making both articles still relevant.

There is no doubt that the Turkish government is strongly anti-Kurd to the point of being genocidal, despite the fact that those who run “Rojava” declared that “we have always wanted to develop a relationship of friendship and neighborliness with Turkey,” but that does not mean U$ presence will save them. Besides, the Syrian government still welcomes the Kurds despite their (specifically the YPG/SDF/PYD) past alliance with the U$ and other Western countries, so I could easily envision a Syrian-Kurdish alliance against the encroaching Turks. One recent article poignantly added that “up to now the Kurds had been prepared to rely on any foreign country, including Israel, to provide them with independence, rather than remaining loyal to Syria,” but saying at at the same time that “the Syrian Army will definitely collaborate with the Kurds to quash ISIS…between two fires on each side of the Euphrates,” adding that “the Kurds are weaker than ever and may well have lost the privileged position they had under US protection,”confirming that when faced with U$ interests, “all partnerships and alliances are dispensable.” Some imperialists, and deluded leftists, will easily, as the Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) are killed by Turkish bombs (which are supplied by the U$), declare “remember the Kurds!” just like imperialists cried about “remember the Maine!” after the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine before the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Texans after the surrender of the Alamo (“remember the Alamo!”) or U$ soldiers, recalling how British cavalry at the 1778 battle in Camden had attacked surrendering U$ soldiers during the Revolutionary War, cried  “remember Buford!” as they shot down surrendering Redcoats in later battles.

To take from the same Moon of Alabama article I mentioned earlier, while the Turkish army could engage in a large occupation of northeast Syria, it would “cost a lot of casualties and financial resources,” with those writers arguing they would only invade if Russia and Syria “fail to get the Kurds under control.” The same article, which makes the mistake of calling the Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) “anarcho-Marxist,” does note that Kurdish leaders of “Rojava” are currently making the same demands Damascus previously rejected before Turkey destroyed Afrin, while also saying that the paltry sum of British and French forces numbering in the thousands, along with those contributed by other members of the coalition of African, European, Middle Eastern, and American countries reportedly “fighting Daesh,” will likely not stay in Syria without U$ support. However, other articles posited that “a continued presence of allied troops working with local Syrians might compel the U.S. to contribute air” which is a distinct possibility. [11]

On a related note, there has been another development: the departure of Jim Mattis (effective February 28, January 1, 2019), the head of the Pentagon, who advocated for a more “muscular U.S. role in the Mideast,” who wanted continued U$ presence in Syria and Afghanistan, to be replaced by Patrick Shaheen, who favored the space force proposed by the orange menace and has ties to the arms trade between Turkey and the U$, rather than other candidates for the job. [12] For similar reasons, Brett McGerk, the special presidential envoy on the anti-Daesh coalition, recently quit (resignation effective at the end of the year), reportedly writing in an email to his staff that the orange menace’s decision was a “shock” which left “our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered…I ultimately concluded that I could not carry out these new instructions and maintain my integrity.” One imperial correspondent, Jonathan Marcus of BBC News, who called Mattis “much respected,” feared an “unplanned” withdrawal from Syria, and talked about a changing world with rising China (fitting with the new “Africa strategy” unveiled by John Bolton) and “resurgent” Russia, growled that “President Trump seems to be charting his own erratic course through an ocean of reefs, rocks and monsters without any strategic map to guide him.” Interestingly, the same article had a map that showed strong Syrian government control up to the Euphrates, coupled with strong Kurdish control (YPG/SDF/PYD) in eastern part (east of the Euphrates), Syrian rebels and “Jihadist forces” near border with Turkey, as is Turkish military and Turkish-backed rebels, Syrian rebels in the South, and some scattered Daesh pockets, which made his argument a joke. It also should be no surprise that liberal imperialists literally defended Mattis, an “ingrained imperialist” who changed the Pentagon’s mission, was fired by Obama for being too hawkish toward Iran, and opposes the withdrawal of half of the U$ troop presence from Afghanistan (a moderate measure), just as they held worthless rallies to “defend” Robert Mueller earlier this year.

Of course, liberals were baffled by Mattis’s resignation, calling him either a coward, feeling sad about a “loss” of imperial prestige, or pathetically claiming that Putin “applauded” when U$ said they were leaving Syria (despite the fact that he cast doubt on the planned withdrawal). If what is said by the bourgeois media is true, it almost seems that Mattis, a high-ranking officer, used his resignation (which he wrote in September, as the story goes) almost as a form of blackmail to prevent the orange menace from calling for a withdrawal from Syria. If so, that is a frightening use of military power over civilian power, which should be undoubtedly criticized.

Even saying all this, it will be a quandary that Mattis is the one whom will approve the plan for the withdrawal of U$ troops, and once that happens “U.S. troops will begin leaving Syria with the expectation that they will all be out 30 days later.” [13] As such, the U$ troops would be no longer assisting a “Kurdish-led force that now numbers more than 50,000 and is about 40 percent Arab,” with reportedly only 20% through the U$-led “training process.” The Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD), in this case, are those directly at the front-lines as only four U$ soldiers have been killed, by official counts, since the beginning of the U$ deployment in Syria itself!

This connects to the fear, held by the varied sectors of the bourgeoisie, represented in varied pundits, politicians, and analysts, at minimum, that “Syrian territory occupied by US forces will be returned to the control of Syrian government forces,” even though they claim that areas occupied by the U$ will fall into the hands of terrorists. The withdrawal, the same article posited, saying it will take place in 60-100 days, would more than anything “benefit Syria and Syrians most of all,” allowing Iran to get a benefit, and Russia since it reduces the possibility of conflict with the U$. Iraq will benefit from not having “to commit so many forces to watching the US,” and the “likelihood of an extended Turkish occupation of Afrin and Idlib” may be reduced too, while the Zionists will lose out (after protests over worsening conditions in the proper part of the Zionist state), regretting “loss of access to US airports to use over Syrian occupied territory.” However, the Russian government is skeptical of U$ withdrawal from Syria, which is justified considering that the U$ will “conduct air strikes” in Syria “until the full pullout of troops from its territory,” since the U$ will “conduct air and artillery strikes” in support of their forces! This is a justified skepticism because the U$ could easily get pulled right back into Syria itself, meaning that all options are open. After all, there was talk early this year about Daesh thriving in U$-occupied areas of Syria and the Pentagon planting high numbers of supposed fighters of Daesh.

This brings us to U$ presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Amber B. noted in the aforementioned article at the beginning of this post, nothing is being “done about the u.$. occupation of Iraq,” meaning that this withdrawal could “become just a redeployment, whether by special forces or mercenaries,” even as a “withdrawal from Syrian territory would represent a contraction of the amerikan frontlines, and most definitely serve to weaken their interests overall, but we should not mistake it for “peace” in any sense.” It was further noted that peace “is only something that can truly be won through the elimination of imperialism overall.” What is said is an accurate determination. This is because earlier this month Pompeo spoke with Adil Abd al-Madhi, Iraq’s Prime Minister, about “recent territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria,” claimed that the U$ will respect Iraq’s sovereignty, that that “the Coalition will continue to work closely with Iraqi Security Forces to defeat ISIS remnants.” As for Afghanistan, as mentioned earlier in this article, there is talk of a withdrawal of half of the U$ troops from that country. While this is a positive development, the U$ imperialists want to “conclude the war in Afghanistan on terms favorable to Afghanistan and the United States,” meaning their respective bourgeoisie, specifically the U$ bourgeoisie. It is a laughable argument to say that the moderate withdrawal is somehow connected to Putin, as those like Rachel Maddow, a prominent liberal imperialist, have posited, as the U$ imperialists are extremely hostile to the Russians currently, as evidenced by continued sanctions and sending of arms to Ukraine, and there is no way that Putin or any other high-ranking Russian official would have any ounce of influence over the murderous U$ empire. But, there is another element. While it would be a great victory, you could say, if all the U$ troops are withdrawn, over 49,000 wicked mercenaries remain in U$ “areas of responsibility” within the Mideast, more than half of which are currently in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

With that there are some concluding thoughts. To again mention Amber B.’s post, it was argued that the withdrawal from Syria “represents another great slippage in imperialist footing, and we should exploit this to the best of our ability,” adding that “withdrawal from Syria should become a domino effect in our propaganda, and we should demand the further withdrawal of amerikan forces from surrounding countries, and ultimately every outpost of u.$. imperialism.” It was further noted that a struggle lies ahead within the U$ imperialist state, “as its decrepit factions squabble with one another, and we should use this moment of confusion to our advantage,” adding that “our propaganda should not endorse any imperialist faction over another, but underscore the necessity in struggling against them all.” As such, the article concludes, “we should not resign ourselves only to calls for peace, but augment them with the call to fight imperialism.” This is a justified approach, as siding with one imperialist faction would lead to ruin. With that, a piece of Lenin, in 1902, is relevant at this point, saying that liberalism must be analyzed with the “class point of view,” with interests of the autocracy only coinciding with some of the bourgeoisie, leading to some liberal opposition to autocracy, which protects the bourgeoisie from socialism, adding that while “Communists support every revolutionary movement against the existing system,” this does not “imply support for the liberal opposition.” He further added that it was the duty of revolutionaries to “explain to the proletariat every liberal and democratic protest, to widen and support it, with the active participation of the workers,” not acquiescing leadership of such social improvement efforts to liberals. This can be applied to different efforts by the masses to fight imperialism in all its manifestations, regardless of social movements.

In the process of fighting the imperialist beast, one must recall what Engels and Marx rejected in 1879: “people who openly claim that the workers are too ignorant to emancipate themselves but must first be emancipated from the top down, by the philanthropic big and petty bourgeois.” What this means, in practice, is that the working class in the U$, let’s say, is not ignorant and needs our enlightened assistance like we are coming from the upper spirals of an ivory tower. Rather, to recall from that same article, “educated elements” from the bourgeoisie can join the proletariat, but in doing so, they cannot push out or dominate the proletariat in the process of working with them, rather having to “assimilate [to] the proletariat viewpoint,” which is worth remembering. While obviously it is incorrect to say that the working class will not understand political struggle, we can recall, easily, what Lenin wrote in 1899: that certain workers are “backward” in their thinking, even as they will still understand the struggle, and that it is important to recognize the educated or “developed” workers in the class struggle as a whole. In the case of fighting imperialism, this means countering those among the proletariat who hold viewpoints that are pro-imperialist, bringing them into position standing against the U$ war machine in all its imperial manifestations.

The path forward to fight imperialism is up to the masses, supported by those which work  to increase their consciousness, bringing them to a revolutionary posture. Smash the capitalist system! A socialist world is possible! Down with the bourgeoisie!

Notes

[1] Caroline Kelly, “Stephen Miller defends Trump’s Syria withdrawal: ‘Are we supposed to stay in Syria for generation after generation spilling American blood?’,” CNN, Dec 21, 2018

[2] National Review Editors, “Stay in Syria,” Dec. 19, 2018; “‘Fox & Friends’ co-host calls out Trump on Syria: ‘Nobody thinks ISIS is defeated’,” The Hill, Dec. 20, 2018; Deirdre Shesgreen, “Trump’s troop withdrawal caps failed US policy in Syria, experts say,” USA Today, Dec. 20, 2018; “Coons: U.S. should not abandon Kurds, leave Syria,” Dover Post, Dec 20, 2018; Eli Lake, “Trump Courts Catastrophe in Syria,” Bloomberg, Dec. 19, 2018; “”Assad has won,” Ian Bremmer says, as Trump recalls troops from Syria,” CBS News, Dec 20, 2018; Gregory Hellman and Connor O’Brien,  “Pulling out of Syria: A primer,” Politico, Dec 20, 2018; Victoria Nuland, “Syria will come back to haunt us,” Washington Post, Dec 20, 2018; David Brown, Gregory Hellman, and Burgess Everett, “Republicans rip Trump’s surprise Syria withdrawal in meeting with Pence,” Politico, Dec. 19, 2018; “Graham plans resolution urging Trump to change mind on Syria,” The Hill, Dec 20, 2018.

[3] Joel Gehrke, “Russia blesses US troop withdrawal from Syria,” Washington Examiner, Dec. 19, 2018; “Trump Defends Syria Troop Pullout,” Newsmax, Dec. 20, 2018; John Hudson, Paul Sonme, and Anton Troianovski, “Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria marks a win for Putin,” Washington Post,  Dec 20, 2018.

[4] “Shocking Syria withdrawal plan is pure Trump,” CNN Wire, Dec 19, 2018; Matthew Lee and Robert Burns, “US to withdraw all American troops in Syria, official says,” AP,  Dec 19, 2018; Democrat-Gazette staff, “U.S. to withdraw troops from Syria, Trump announces,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Dec. 20, 2018.

[5] Andrew Desiderio, “Trump’s Abrupt Syria Withdrawal Thwarted ‘Major’ Operation Targeting ISIS, Sen. Bob Corker Says,” The Daily Beast, Dec. 21, 2018; Spencer Ackerman and Kimberly Dozier, “Bolton’s Hawkish Syria Plan Backfired, Pushing Trump to Get Out,” The Daily Beast, Dec. 21, 2018; “US will close base in Syria that Russia complained about,” The Hill, Dec 20, 2018. While there is no organized anti-war movement in the U$, there are peace organizations growing in strength. One of those in the Black Alliance for Peace which takes a strong anti-imperialist position, mentioning genocide of indigenous people, “brutal super-exploitation of enslaved African labor” which was used “to amass imperialist wealth,” allowing the U$ to elevate itself “to a world power after the second imperialist war in 1945,” adding that with the recent moves by the orange menace “the ruling-class propagandists” at the major media outlets “have sounded the alarm of pending doom for the empire,” saying that their group doesn’t “praise a U.S. president for ending the illegal subversion, invasion and occupation of a sovereign state that should have never been allowed in the first place by the theoretical representatives of the people who now sit in the U.S. Congress,” leaving the question open if full and rapid withdrawal of U$  forces from Syria will happen. Rather, they demand “demand a full withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Syria, including the mercenary components referred to as “contractors,” want an end to the “war in Afghanistan with a complete and total withdrawal of U.S. forces,” denounce those who think that “permanent war is both rational and inevitable,” while concluding that “the final resolution of the U.S.-led war in Syria must be determined by Syrians themselves. All foreign forces must recognize and respect the sovereignty of the Syrian people and their legal representatives,” calling for “U.S. out of Syria! U.S. out of Africa! Shut down AFRICOM and all NATO bases! Reallocate the people’s resources from funding war to realizing the human rights of all people, not just the 1 percent!” Veterans for Peace, an older peace organization, takes a straight anti-interventionist position, saying they are pleased by the announcement of withdrawal from Syria, adding that the U$ “armed and trained Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda aligned forces, who are seeking to destroy the secular, multi-religious Syrian state and establish a harsh fundamentalist order of their own,” bombed the “city of Raqqa, Syria, similar to its bombardment of Mosul, Iraq,” adding that a “continued U.S. presence in Syria would only prolong a policy that has been disastrous for all the peoples of the region.” They also hoped for a total withdrawal of U$ troops from Syria, a withdrawal from Afghanistan, and said that “it is time to turn a page in history and to build a new world based on human rights, equality and mutual respect for all. We must build momentum toward real and lasting peace. Nothing less than the survival of human civilization is at stake.” Similarly is the position by the World Peace Council.

[6] Nick Wadhams, Tony Capaccio and Margaret Talev, “Trump’s Syria Pullout Fuels Confusion With Kurds Left in Lurch,” Bloomberg, Dec 19, 2018; Matthew Lee and Robert Burns, “US to withdraw all American troops in Syria, official says,” AP, Dec 19, 2018.

[7] Patrick Wintour, “Russia, Turkey and Iran reach agreement on Syria committee,” The Guardian, Dec 18, 2018; “Russia slashes Syria military flights,” AFP, Dec 11, 2018; Edith M.  Lederer, “UN envoy: More work needed on Syria constitutional committee,” AP, Dec. 20, 2018. This connects to article I read boldly declaring that the proposed U$ withdrawal is occurring because “the Syrian Arab Army, which now has Russian anti-aircraft equipment, the best in the world,” meaning “they have no choice but to leave before humiliation.” However, I think this could be too simplistic as it casts the Russians as the saviors.

[8] Matthew Lee and Susannah George, “Trump call with Turkish leader led to US pullout from Syria,” AP, Dec. 21, 2018.

[9] Steve Holland and Jonathan Landay, “In Syria retreat, Trump rebuffs top advisers and blindsides U.S. commanders,” Reuters, Dec. 19, 2018.

[10] Guney Yildiz,”US withdrawal from Syria leaves Kurds backed into a corner,” BBC News, Dec 20, 2018; Gregory Hellman and Connor O’Brien, “Pulling out of Syria: A primer,” Politico, Dec 20, 2018; Layal Abou Rahal, “US pullout leaves Syria Kurds exposed,” AFP, Dec. 20, 2018; Tom Perry and Ellen Francis, “Syria’s Kurds reel from U.S. move, Assad seen planning next step,”Reuters, Dec. 20, 2018; “Syria: World reacts to Trump’s decision to pull US troops out,” Al Jazeera, Dec 20, 2018; Sune Engel Rasmussen and David Gauthier-Villars, “Key U.S. Partner in Syria Thrown Into Disarray,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 20, 2018; “Syria Kurds say to keep up anti-IS fight unless Turkey attacks,” AFP, Dec. 20, 2018; “Key U.S. ally in Syria rejects Trump claim that ISIS has been defeated,” AP, Dec 20, 2018; Ali Younes, Trevor Aaronson, and Murtaza Hussein, “Syria battle against ISIL far from over, despite US pull-out plan,”Al Jazeera, Dec 20, 2018; Hollie. McKay, “Syrian Kurds allied with US shocked, scared by news of troop withdrawal,” Fox News, Dec 20, 2018.

[11] Robert Burns and Loita Baldor, “Pentagon scrambles on Syria exit amid withdrawal outrage,” AP, Dec 20, 2018.

[12] Paul D. Shinkman, “The Mattis-Trump Partnership Collapses Under Its Own Weight,” U.S. News & World Report, Dec 20, 2018; Shaun Tandon and Thomas Watkins, “US defense chief quits as Trump pulls from Syria, Afghanistan,” AFP, Dec 21, 2018; Nick Wadhams, Tony Capaccio and Margaret Talev, “Trump’s Syria Pullout Fuels Confusion With Kurds Left in Lurch,” Bloomberg, Dec 19, 2018; Victoria Bekiempis, “Brett McGurk, the Man Who Built Coalition to Fight ISIS, Quits Over Presidents ISIS Strategy,” The Daily Beast, Dec. 22, 2018; Jonathan Marcus, “After Mattis, Trump’s foreign policy worries allies,” BBC News, Dec. 21, 2018. On a related note, one Twitter user, @RedKahina, reminded users of how Matt Blumenthal, Ben Norton, and Rania Khalek once propaganda for a partition of Syria by Turkey, a NATO ally.

[13] Luis Martinez and Elizabeth McLaughlin, “What you need to know about US military involvement in Syria as Trump orders withdrawal,” ABC News, Dec 20, 2018.

The Significance of Julia Salazar running as a “Socialist” Democrat

The following was reprinted from Dissident Voice. It is the first of the two-part article on the so-called “socialist” Julia Carmel Salazar. A version of this article before its editing by Dissident Voice has been published on the Internet Archive.

On September 13, Julia Carmel Salazar won the Democratic primary against Martin Dilan, becoming the State Senate candidate for North Brooklyn’s District 18 (shaped like a praying mantis). Apart from the many dark times in her life, especially her right-wing period between 2008 and 2014, covered in Part 2 of this article, there are many other factors revolving around her role as a “socialist” of the NYC-DSA running in a Democratic primary. This article aims to talk about those factors and the significance of her candidacy, with her almost-assured victory in November, beyond Ben Beckett’s hot takes in Jacobin that her victory on September 13 “felt good” and that she was “attacked” in her supposed effort to build a “policy base that a new voter self-identity can be anchored in.”

With some media outlets calling her a “Latina democratic socialist” (Gothamist), “young and Latina, poised and progressive, and a democratic socialist” (New York Times), or a “Jewish Latina democratic socialist candidate” heading a “burgeoning progressive Jewish revolution” (Jewish Telegraph Agency) who sits among the “young progressive women” Michelle Goldberg recently wrote about in the New York Times, there are undoubtedly many articles about her positions. These media outlets see her as more than a “jumped-up nobody running for a state senate seat in Brooklyn,” allowing her campaign to become a runaway national story. She is described as a “socialist” (or as some call it “suddenly socialist”) and a DSA member, calling herself “an advocate, a tenant, a feminist, a democratic socialist, a union member.” [1]

She stands for universal rent control, tech-utopism, ending vacancy decontrol, abolishing ICE, single-payer healthcare usually described as Medicare For All, ending cash bail, fixing the subway system (and mass transit), ending “policies aimed at eliminating mass incarceration,” money for affordable housing, free tuition at CUNY and SUNY schools, and immigrant rights, while favoring reproductive rights and unions. These are socially democratic positions which aren’t necessarily “socialist.” She also endorsed the call for BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions), which held by NYC-DSA, while criticizing the two-state solution. [2]

This position on Palestine is part of the reason for the negative articles in the Daily Mail, Forward, and the Tablet, most prominently, and was likely pushed by Zionist agents and perhaps the real estate industry, connected with her gender, as I have pointed on Twitter as a person who is critical of Salazar. Some, like Ryan Grim of the Intercept, Pierre Omidyar’s plaything, have said that after Salazar’s victory, “Big winners tonight appear to be: Tablet, Page Six and the Daily Mail, who get to keep writing about @SalazarSenate18 for the foreseeable future.” That has validity except it misses the significance of her candidacy.

As Salazar said at one point:

My vision is for a more caring society in which nobody is denied what they need to thrive based on income, on property, on capital. This is not what is going to happen the day I’m elected to the state Senate — that would be cool though. I’m realistic, but without that vision, this is pretty much a futile exercise.

This “cool” factor, where she says she would be “fine” if her victory led to “the end of capitalism” (which it obviously won’t), plays into the fact that her campaign headquarters in Bushwick sits near a “hipster” shop, with scores of volunteers (many of whom are DSA members) canvassing in “friendly political territory,” and receiving a huge amount of campaign donations after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, another “socialist” running in the Democratic Party, endorsed her, while Radix Media printed her posters. As The Intercept even admitted: “Salazar’s road to Albany might be made easier by the same counterintuitive factor that helped propel Ocasio-Cortez to victory: gentrification,” with this being the case because “white transplants…tend to support Bernie Sanders-type universal programs.”

This reality was evident from The New Yorker’s photos of a victory party for Salazar on September 13 in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which included a smattering of people of color, but more white men and women than anything else. The New Yorker addressed this directly in their article, writing that “the crowd [there] whose arrival often heralds gentrification—the young bearded types at the party—had worked on the campaign…The hipsters who come to the neighborhood for the “right reasons,” as [Tasha] Van Auken [Salazar’s campaign manager] put it, are actually working to keep older residents safely in their homes.” At the same time a BuzzFeed article noted that the supporters of Salazar, “certainly the young, mostly white, recent college graduates who flooded her victory party…didn’t recognize, at least subconsciously, that this kind of thing is just way more common than we’d like to admit,” meaning they were more like Salazar than they would admit off the bat.

This connects to what her former opponent, Dilan, called her: a gentrifier who recently moved into the area even though she opposes gentrification and she has lived in the same apartment in Bushwick for years. As one strident critic of Salazar put it recently, the campaign’s winning strategy was to target a gentrifying district, then use the “DSA as footsoldiers to turn out the white voters.” This effort, which reportedly included knocking on 100,000 doors, was a success in getting her elected, allowing her to integrate even more people into the faltering Democratic Party, which would make the head of the party smile even as they grumble about her viewpoints.

It is evident that Salazar is trying to portray herself as “hip,” with some saying that she “transformed, seemingly overnight, from an extreme right-wing Republican Right-To-Life Zionist zealot to a trendy BernieCrat. She needs to offer a plausible account of how this happened.” This is evident from the fact that she may be vegan (or perhaps vegetarian), tweeted a quote from Howard Zinn, is blocked on Twitter by Rosanne Barr, she has been called a “tattoo-wearing socialist” for her tattoo of a “large black and white rose” near her left shoulder and another of plane on her right arm which The Nation calls “a memento of her father, whose death when she was 18 “shaped [her] life,”” the look of her campaign headquarters, being interviewed by those of Chapo Trap House (a “leftist” podcast which almost verges on being anti-communist), and her long hair. It is also expressed through her “hot takes” on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, legalizing marijuana, misogyny, libertarians, Tucker Carlson of Fox News, and protest chants. With this, it is no surprise that the UAW has called her a “UAW sibling.” Also her reported “faith in humanity based on…the observation and the belief that as humans we don’t just operate selfishly, you know, that we can actually be in solidarity with one another, and not just with our people,” as she noted in a DSA podcast, it is part of this portrayal as well.

She also has garnered an unusual constituency for a politician which is “emerging as a force in electoral politics…because of the growing political threat against their industry”: prostitutes, whom many outlets like to call “sex workers” claiming that they are just like other workers, by supporting the decriminalization of prostitution and attending “sex worker advocacy meetings.” The Intercept even did a whole article on the subject, declaring that she is “shaping her policy by consulting the sex work community, is one of the first candidates to definitively support those workers, including by proposing concrete steps toward decriminalization. In that article, she told the reporter that “sex workers are workers and they deserve to be treated with dignity, including protections and decent working conditions, rather than the abuse and criminalization that they currently face. I’m dedicated to defending workers’ rights, reforming our criminal justice system and ending exploitation, and we know that criminalization puts everyone in sex work at risk rather than protecting them.” As a result, she stands against those feminists who are rightly critical of prostitution and rather with the so-called “sex worker lobby” which is probably the lobby for the sex industry.

This would be the case because those glad with Salazar’s position include Melissa Gira Grant (who doesn’t “acknowledge the issue of masculine social dominance” on her book on “sex work”) and the Red Umbrella Project (part of a group that is a front for pimps). Grant was so glad with Salazar’s position that she wrote an article in The Appeal, a project of Tides Advocacy (formerly the Advocacy Fund), which is an affiliate of the Tides Foundation, a major funder of bourgeois environmental groups, like 350.org, with Warren Buffet’s NoVo Foundation as one of the biggest funders of Tides. In her article, Grant declared, not surprisingly, that Salazar’s campaign has “provided a platform for sex workers to do some of that educational work [on prostitution], while offering a template for how the decriminalization fight could play out in other cities and states,” adding, in a joyful manner, that “her support for sex workers’ rights is unusual for a person running for office.”

As Matthew Maavak has written, “a civilization where women and children are sexually commoditized is one in terminal decline,” a thought which is connected to what Tanner Stenning has written: “if we’re to proceed in defending sex workers, let’s start by acknowledging at least this much: likeliest the vast majority would not choose sex work were the circumstances different.” This is further informed by what has been written in Feminist Current: that “prostitution endlessly erects the very patriarchal divisions between women that it allegedly destroys…As long as prostitution exists women and men will never be free from patriarchy,” that “under the narrative of “sex work” there can be no vulnerable person,” and that “pro-sex trade voices are…ubiquitous” to such an extent that the New York Times has done articles on the subject. The same publication also talked about the gentrification of prostitution, murders of prostitutes in New Zealand where prostitution has been decriminalized, certain people discounting rape of prostitutes, and trying to de-platform Chris Hedges for taking a strong anti-prostitution stand in his Truthdig columns.

While prostitutes have flocked to Salazar’s campaign, Trotskyists have endorsed her, with Socialist Alternative declaring that her campaign’s door knocking “is seen by many workers and youth as an important vehicle to fight back,” but adding that “many DSA members want to build mass movements outside the electoral arena…a broader struggle to transform the party,” while adding that “it’s essentially impossible to rip the Democratic Party as a whole from its corporate leadership. To win far-reaching change a new mass workers party will be needed.” Still, they support Salazar, saying her efforts are positive and are “generating support for many important issues that won’t be won without struggle…A Salazar victory will be a…clear indication of the growing momentum for socialist ideas.” Not so sure about that.

Additionally, the Brooklyn branch of the ISO (International Socialist Organization), a Trotskyist organization, also issued their support for Salazar, declaring their full support of her from “a nightmarish series of attacks…[a] steady and vicious smear campaign drummed up by both liberal and right-wing media outlets” and urging those “progressive allies who continue to dissect Salazar’s background…to [not] equivocate, but to stand firmly on the side of solidarity, so that one of our own does not pay such a high price for standing up for all of us.” Apparently standing on the side of solidarity means to mimic her followers by not questioning her. Even Niles Niemuth of the Trotskyist Socialist Equality Party, a candidate in Michigan, was quoted in the party’s website, the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) as saying that:

The DSA, which is a faction of the Democratic Party, not an independent party, promotes the fiction that the interests of workers can be secured without a frontal attack on the domination and wealth of the corporate and financial elite. It advances the lie that workers can win their rights through the instrument of the Democratic Party—a right wing, pro-capitalist party.

On that point he may be right although Trotskyists have a distorted worldview which benefits the global bourgeoisie. Salazar may  use words like capitalism and capital, while calling herself a socialist and declaring that her campaign was something “revolutionary,” but she also has a progressive feel, with her website saying: “Julia is the leader we need to make New York City a safer, more just, more welcoming place for everyone” and saying that the “abolition of private property” is not “realistic.” While she seemed to differentiate “democratic socialism” and “progressivism,” in an interview for Jacobin, saying the former means “to have a vision of a world where everyone is taken care of….a society in which people are valued over profit, in which everyone has access to the things they need not just for basic survival but to thrive” and that the latter might “advocate for forcing landlords to do necessary repairs on buildings,” her talk on the campaign trail, saying she speaks for the Latinx community, drawing strength from “the long history of Jewish social justice and Latinx social justice organizing” wants to make New York a “progressive beacon” or that she wants a “true blue New York,” that she is part of a “movement” winning over the “machine,” tells a different story.

It is doubtful that her ideas will “bring us closer to a truly socialist economic system,” as she claimed her campaign was part of, since, as In These Times writes, “democratic socialism itself has always been a heterodox term, encompassing everyone from ideological Trotskyists to New Deal Democrats.” They also note that “DSA isn’t keen to enforce a strict definition of “democratic socialism,”” possibly meaning everything from “taking public goods like healthcare off the private market…to worker-ownership of the means of production.” The DSA, with a chapter in NYC, also doesn’t want to play as a “spoiler in general elections” but would rather endorse “the most progressive candidates from other parties in primaries, while also running their own, further-to-the-left candidates in local Democratic races that are safely progressive.” Salazar can warn of ideas “becoming diluted when they leave the Left and enter the mainstream, province of politicians and political expediency,”  and even admit that “the two-party system de facto disenfranchises people, and I can’t see the Democratic Party ultimately being a vessel for the democratic socialist revolution, so it would be silly and shortsighted for democratic socialists to put a lot of effort and resources into that project.”

Still, she says that “it would be great if we could all avoid the Democratic Party line…but if I were to try to do that in this district, I highly doubt people would notice much less vote for a third-party candidate in the general election.” Yet wanting to be part of a “progressive wave,” being a person supposedly with “class politics and a materialist analysis,” will not get her the “socialist movement” that she claims she is part of. This is because she cannot be for a Bernie-style “political revolution” while being a “fiery progressive” who is still socialist and is building a “movement.” Talking in Bernie-like language will just end up with her followers, after her victory, being swallowed into the Democratic Party. This is evident by the fact that there is a fundraiser for her on Act Blue, which calls Salazar “a dedicated community leader running in the Democratic primary for New York State Senate…committed to running a campaign by and for the people, sustained by grassroots donations from supporters like you,” a Democratic PAC which is independent of the Democratic Party and is part of “blue” Democratic brand. This is even the case if the words were written by her campaign, as they also publicized their efforts as “all grassroots.” It is also doubtful that while her victory will make her supporters gleeful, it will not be a “victory for workers” as she declared in her victory speech on the night of September 13.

The numerous individuals and groups who have endorsed her seem to question how grassroots her campaign was, especially considering the number of out-of-state donors (35% of her donor base). Her website lists Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Councilman Jumaane Williams, Councilman Antonio Reynoso, Working Families, New York Communities for Change, DSA, CWA, CODEPINK, Make the Road Action, Citizen Acton of New York, New York State Immigrant Action Fund, Carlina Rivera campaign, OUR Revolution, NYC DSA, NYC Kids PAC, New King Democrats, Brooklyn Progressive Action Network, New York Progressive Action Network, New York Professional Nurses Union, The Jewish Vote, Amplify Her, Streets PAC, Grassroots Action New York, Women of Color for Progress, UAW, and The People for Bernie as endorsing her campaign. Even, the Zionist Tablet has written that “Salazar’s election [victory] would be a breakthrough for the city’s Jewish left: proof that their institutions can become a pathway to formal political power, that anti-Zionist Jews can win high-profile elections, and that big things are possible when communities grow ravenous for some kind of change.”

She has also been supported by those from the ACLU, progressive “socialist” Lee J. Carter, Insurrection magazine (which she once published for in an article about virtual reality), NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bhaskar Sunkara, the editor of socially-democratic Jacobin, progressive” Democrats like Cynthia Nixon and Zephyr Teachout, along with the typical support from Berniecrats and DSA people, Democratic honchos, uptight White liberals in suits and “socialists” like Benjamin Norton. Most worrisome is that Linda Sarsour is an active supporter of her (and Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign as well) campaign. Sarsour is a Berniecrat once recognized as a “champion of change” by Obama’s admin, along with also smearing Syria’s government, calling for that government’s overthrow and saying it is oppressing Syrians. Sarsour also defended head-chopping Saudis (even if she doesn’t “support” them), acts like she critical of the Zionist state but made sure there were no BDS or anti-Zionist signs at the Women’s March in DC, and supports the Zionist state’s existence, making it clear she is not really what she claims to be. [3]

With all the distortions of Salazar’s personal message caused by her inconsistency, some progressives who would be prone to support her ideas have decided to not do so, like Dave Weigel. The Salazar campaign’s “voter protection teams” won’t protect them from this form of defection, with the same applying to their get-out-the-vote efforts, with the former organized perhaps because of expected voter suppression in the district which happened on September 13.

Before her victory, one article in Vox stated that “if she wins, it’ll be more evidence that socialists in general and the DSA in particular are forces to be reckoned within the Democratic Party. If she loses — well, then the DSA will be the socialists who couldn’t even win an election in Bushwick.” Her campaign positions were clear in a smoothly-made campaign ad (the production and creation which may have violated FEC regulations) by Means Production, an entertainment company, which is less than three minutes long. It includes a Reaganesque refrain that it is “morning again in Brooklyn” (repeated three times in the video) while the video itself, worryingly, declares her campaign will deliver “moral clarity” (or “common sense” as it is put elsewhere) but not “radical ideas.” Salazar herself also only gives unnamed “corporations” & the “real estate body” as the problem without even uttering the word capitalism in the video itself!

Wanting a “more caring society” does not make you socialist either, not because of some non-existent “purity test” but rather that any progressive could say the same exact thing. As one person in Left Voice asked:

Why couldn’t someone like Julia Salazar run as a socialist, putting the hundreds of DSA members who are canvassing into dialogue with those who are disillusioned with the two-party system? Why can’t the anti-establishment feeling be put in the service of joining a movement against the parties that have sold out the working class and oppressed them again and again? She may not win the election, but the DSA will have spread socialist ideas and about working class independence from capitalists. And besides, it’s not unheard of for an independent socialist to win an election.

Not sure why she didn’t go that route. Doesn’t seem right, as it would be better to build structures independent of the Democratic Party instead. Some may have a point that the DSA is currently being opportunist by allowing her in their ranks or claiming she is spouting a form of Zionism like Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, but there is more happening than that.

On a connected note, it is worth discussing the NYC-DSA. It is a chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a group declaring on its homepage that “working people should run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few” but then just fights for “reforms that empower working people,” including decreasing the “influence of money in politics…empower[ing] ordinary people in workplaces and the economy [and] restructur[ing]…gender and cultural relationships to be more equitable,” followed by a broad “commitment to democracy.”  This may sound nice, but their “free, democratic and humane society” includes a humane international social order based both on democratic planning and market mechanisms” which sounds horrifying because the latter element means such a society would have capitalist elements!

On another page they declare that “the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few which changes in government and economic structures,” adding that they do not want “all-powerful government bureaucracy” and claiming that “worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives” would allow social ownership, while also favoring “as much decentralization as possible.” So, they aren’t bringing on the Soviet Union, even though they favor central-planning, which they also just call “democratic planning” which would include, you guessed it, “market mechanisms are needed to determine the demand for many consumer goods.”

The group then goes into the land of anti-communism, declaring that “socialists have been among the harshest critics of authoritarian Communist states,” even saying that they “applaud the democratic revolutions that have transformed the former Communist bloc,” despite the fact the countries are now worse off, and claiming they are also against “ethnic rivalries and/or new forms of authoritarianism.” Even worse, they favor government regulation, tax incentives, and unions to “control” corporations, while favoring a “combination of social, economic, and moral incentives will motivate people to work,” and using social democratic efforts in Sweden, Canada, France, the U$,and Nicaragua, as “examples” going forward! After they say that the DSA “must work towards reforms that can withstand the power of multinationals and global banks, and we must fight for a world order that is not controlled by bankers and bosses,” they support fighting within the Democratic Party, writing: “…many of us have been active in the Democratic Party. We work with those movements to strengthen the party’s left wing…The process and structure of American elections seriously hurts third party efforts…We hope that at some point in the future, in coalition with our allies, an alternative national party will be viable. For now, we will continue to support progressives who have a real chance at winning elections, which usually means left-wing Democrats.” What a disgusting set of words!

Finally, there is the page about their history, written by Joseph M. Schwartz (active in the DSA since the beginning), proclaiming that they “made an ethical contribution to the broader American Left by being one of the few radical organizations born out of a merger rather than a split.” It also says that they “helped popularize the vision of an ecumenical, multi-tendency socialist organization, an ethos that enabled it to recently incorporate many thousands of new members, mostly out of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign,” even welcoming those who “believe in the possibility of independent electoral work inside or outside the Democratic Party ballot line.” This history shows that in 1972 their predecessor, with Michael Harrington (who believed that the Left could take over the Democratic Party) as a major figure, supported those in the ““new politics” left-liberals in the McGovern wing of the Democrats,” while in the later 1970s they supported a progressive “Democratic Agenda,” building progressive Democratic coalitions in the 1980s, founding the DSA in 1982.

The history then complained that “the collapse of communism in 1989 proved less of an immediate boon to democratic socialists than many of us had hoped. Those who had suffered in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union did not embrace socialism with a human face, but rushed headlong into the embrace of a mythic, free market capitalism.” They thought they would benefit from that? Jeez, they do not understand capitalism or the problem with the Soviet Union’s dissolution, which can be grasped even by those critical of the country, especially after 1956 when it entered its revisionist period.

The history continues on, saying that the group then called for a single-payer healthcare system in the early 1990s to counter the Clinton health plan, opposed Clinton’s welfare reform, opposed the Iraq and Afghanistan wars early on, called for a “truly progressive tax system” in the early 2000s, joining the Occupy movement from day one, supporting Black Lives Matter, “and fighting against mass incarceration and for equitable urban public education” in more recent years. As an obvious tie into the Democratic Party, the history recalled “DSA’s decision in late 2014 to make its number one priority the movement to support Bernie Sanders running for president. DSA took the position that for maximum exposure and effectiveness, Sanders should not only run, but should run in the Democratic primaries,” even as they admitted that “Bernie’s New Deal or social democratic program did not fulfill the socialist aim of establishing worker and social ownership of the economy” but it apparently seemed “sufficiently radical and inspiring.”

And now they boast that they are “the largest socialist organization in the United States since the Communist Party before its implosion in 1956 after the [false and traitorous] Khrushchev revelations about Stalin” and then declare that “we also are committed to working in coalition with forces that oppose both right-wing rule and the dominant national corporate wing of the Democrats. We want to continue Sanders’ “political revolution” by broadening out that political trend to include a stronger base within the labor movement and, most importantly, among progressive organizations rooted in communities of color. If we take up those challenges, DSA may be able to sustain the most important socialist presence in U.S. politics since the Debsian Socialist era of 1900 to 1920.”

Once again, this positioning makes them the perfect sheepdogs for the Democratic Party, clearly as social democrats not as socialists which they call themselves, while they could very easily be using that same energy on building independent structures! Then, again, this is unlikely to happen as no Marxist theory is even mentioned on any of these pages at all, showing superficiality of their ideas. [4]

With this, we get back to NYC-DSA. It is currently an entirely member funded group that is run by more than 3,500 members, saying on its homepage that they are “socialists because we share a vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality, and non-oppressive relationships,” adding that they want to “work together to develop a concrete strategy for achieving that vision, for achieving a transition to democratic socialism in America,” calling for people to help them build a better world. Another page on their website declares their further aims:

a society free of all oppression with a democratically-run, ecologically-sustainable economy…Our goal is a socialist world….A transformation on this scale will require socialist parties and powerful social movements. The goal of NYC-DSA is to move us closer to achieving this transformation…Campaigns for reforms that would improve working-class and oppressed people’s lives are key to our ability to organize this base…ultimately it will take a political revolution and massive social transformations to make the lasting changes we are fighting for…Socialists have learned through decades of fighting for reforms that the capitalist system serves the interests of the ruling class. It is designed to meet their needs and insulate their power from threats from below. Our strategy therefore is different from the liberal one. We work to organize millions of people into democratically-led movements that take militant action against bosses and politicians…We believe that the fundamental transformations we are seeking are in the broad interests of all working-class and oppressed people, and our work is focused on organizing among this base…We must pressure Democrats to obstruct Trump’s agenda. Mass demonstrations against Trump’s actions will also be a regular feature of the next few years…The prospects for winning reforms in the interest of working-class and oppressed people at the city-level would seem to be more promising…the city Democratic Party is divided into three factions, undermining its ability to pass progressive reforms…Because the mayoral and other citywide elections this year appear to be uncompetitive and none of the candidates present a strong progressive vision for the city, we should not take a position on these races. This frees us up to focus our electoral work on a few key City Council races. In general, after full discussion, we will support the most viable progressive candidate who will use their office as a ‘bully pulpit’ to help build social movements in NYC. We will especially look to find candidates willing to run as democratic socialists…It is critical that all of this work is done with an eye towards building an electoral apparatus — which includes fundraising, canvassing, research, and volunteers — independent of the Democratic Party and corporate money….As NYC-DSA we also call on the National Convention of DSA to vote to disaffiliate from the Socialist International (SI). The SI is not helping to build an international socialist movement — its member parties work around the world to roll back welfare states and impose austerity.

While this is a bit better than the DSA, it still falls into using the “Democratic Party line,” as Salazar called it. To recall what Salazar herself said, quoted earlier in this article: “the two-party system de facto disenfranchises people, and I can’t see the Democratic Party ultimately being a vessel for the democratic socialist revolution, so it would be silly and shortsighted for democratic socialists to put a lot of effort and resources into that project.” We then can recall what Jimmy Dore, a progressive comedian who recently declared that “if they play the national anthem at work & make you stand and salute, that’s not patriotism, that’s fascism. That’s what they do in North Korea” (which you could call liberal fascism) and who doesn’t like corporatists but voted for Obama twice (which is a conundrum), said about the Democrats (as he does often). He argued that they caused the repeal of Glass-Steagall, crash of the economy, banks to get bigger, cops to crack heads at Occupy protests, not stop unions from being taken away from teachers in Wisconsin, joined with the current U$ president and McConnell to fast-track lifetime appointments of judges, worked with GOP to deregulate Wall Street again and have the biggest Pentagon budget in U$ history (717 billion dollars), take fossil fuel money, and have a new DNC rule that to run as a candidate in the Democratic Party, head of DNC gets to decide whether the candidate is sufficiently loyal to the party.

He also said that Democrats have been in decline for decades, that superdelegates are still there but just don’t vote for the President in the first-round, that many people associate with Democrats because they are an “inferior good” and that there is “no way they will allow progressives to take over the party.” But ultimately Jimmy Dore and his guests stuck with the Democrats, while one admitted that progressive victories could be sapping energy that could be used to create a new political party, but another said” right now that is not an option,” echoing what Salazar said. It is this defeatist attitude which is part of the problem.

Ultimately there is one major problem with Salazar’s candidacy, as is the case with Ocasio-Cortez.  It sucks grassroots energy into electoral politics like a vacuum cleaner bringing in loads of dust. [5] The same could even be said of Kshama Sawant in Seattle, running as part of the Trotskyist Socialist Alternative grouping.

Specifically in the case of Salazar, Ocasio-Cortez, and many others, their energy would be sucked into the Democratic Party. Even Socialist Alternative, which endorsed Salazar, admitted this, declaring that “it’s essentially impossible to rip the Democratic Party as a whole from its corporate leadership. To win far-reaching change a new mass workers party will be needed.” This seems to be embodied within the Party of Communists – USA (PCUSA), which declares that “the Republican and Democratic Parties represent and work for the basic interests of capital, the large stock-holders of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler…The PCUSA proposes a realistic policy that is neither sectarian nor set in stone nor just latches on to the Democratic Machine.”

As such, it is clear that DSA does not fulfill this goal. Rather, they are sending more people to their spiritual deaths, not through spending “more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift” as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it in 1967, as they will be swallowed into the Democratic machine just like that Futurama episode where a beast takes in people’s life essence, expanding its ego to absurdist proportions. Some can try to be “super” progressive within the Democratic Party, but eventually those people will crack sooner or later like Ocasio-Cortez did when she could not explain what the “occupation of Palestine” meant, later declaring that “I believe absolutely in Israel’s right to exist. I’m a proponent of the two state solution. For me, this is not a referendum on the state of Israel.”

No matter what happens to Salazar ultimately, whether she wins in November or not, her candidacy serves an ultimate purpose to the corporatist leadership of the Democratic Party: it keeps the party alive and breathing, allowing it to support rampant imperialism, the actions of the current U$ administration, and continue to shaft the proletariat, among reinforcing efforts to enact their capitalist ideology. As such, while one could, without much thought, praise Salazar for her reformist ideas, there should be a more determined effort to create structures and institutions which exist outside the two-party system, allowing for a focus on more productive endeavors than just participating in elections.


Notes

[1] Salazar defines socialism as about “fighting to build a society in which everybody can live in dignity and have the resources to live as equitably as possible [and to have] the resources that we need not only to survive but to thrive in our society. It’s about empowering workers as far as my own theory of change…empowering the most marginalized and vulnerable members of our society.” She then told Teen Vogue that “being a democratic socialist means fighting to build a society in which everyone is cared for and has the resources that we need to not only to survive but to thrive in our society. It means that everybody will truly have autonomy and control over their own destinies. I think that part of the vision of fighting for a society in which everyone is able to thrive and has control of their own destiny means acknowledging gender inequality and patriarchy in our society. It requires working to dismantle patriarchy and to counteract gender inequality and fight for a society in which women and gender nonconforming people are no longer oppressed systemically.”

While that is nice, it doesn’t really sound “socialist” to me. The fourth edition of Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it on page 1360 as “any of the various theories or systems of ownership and operation of the means of production by society or the community sharing the work and products” and as “the stage in society, in Marxist doctrine, coming between the capitalist stage and the communist age, in which private ownership of the means of production and distribution have been eliminated.” The first definition is the one I’d like to focus on, rather than the second one as the U$ is still strongly in a capitalist society despite the goofs that say it is “post-capitalist.” Nothing about building a fairer society, which Salazar says she is for, is about moving toward society or the community owning the means of production. Cuba and the DPRK, arguably, rather than the revisionist triad (Laos, Vietnam, and China), fall within the second stage, but how much they do this is obviously up for debate.

[2] When interviewed on a DSA podcast, Salazar seemed to differentiate the societies of the U$ and the Zionist state, saying that “I think that both American and Israeli society are in crisis as a result of hyper-militarization of our societies, and our law enforcement, our government institutions that are ostensibly supposed to protect us. The effects are obviously felt vastly disproportionately by one part of population. And obviously in the US, it’s disproportionately affecting Black Americans and people of color, but most obviously Black Americans, and we know it’s rooted in a hideous legacy of slavery. Whereas in Israel and Palestine, it’s rooted in a history of inequality that’s been there since the establishment of the state. I see it as a product of having a hyper-militarized police force in a society that has been and often still is taught a pretty racist narrative.” While that has validity, the history of inequality has been there since the founding of the U$. This is a statement which is ignorant without question, not realizing the parallels between the two countries and the racist, sexist, and classist [I probably shouldn’t have used that word] history of the U$ since its founding, as a state, in 1783 and as an independent entity in 1776.

[3] See more of Sarsour’s tweets on “Syria,” “Israel,” “Zionist,” “Palestine,” “apartheid,” “Saudi Arabia,” with tweets on the Saudis acting like she is critical when she has defended them in the past.

[4] Some have argued that the DSA wants socialism but that “trying to transform the imperialist core through electoral means reflects a lack of theoretical understanding of what building socialism necessarily entails,” adding that the “lack of emphasis on decolonizing (which necessitates the complete destruction of the settler colonial state) shows little practical understanding of what socialism would look like once that building process kicks off.” That opinion has validity, although it still doesn’t seem that they want socialism, but rather want a form of social democracy instead!

[5] One Princeton historian, Matt Karp, who is friends with Salazar, wrote that “if there was anything individually notable about Julia’s run for office, it was the idea that an ordinary person could pick up the mantle to run for state senate, not based on a claim of spectacular virtue, but a commitment to represent the needs and values of the people in her district. Now we see what happens when an ordinary person — bound to the ordinary extraordinary complexities of a life lived outside the confines of a resume — challenges the power of a political elite.” While that has its validity, it also poses her as some progressive shining star on a hill, something she is definitely not, and ignores the real problem with her candidacy is not her personal story or her ideas, but what it means for the political landscape and the faltering Democratic Party, with the same applying to other progressives who run on the Democratic Party line to try and push the party “to the Left,” a task which is an utter waste of time.

The Kim-Moon summit in Pyongyang: was there “modest progress” or “great strides”?

Reprinted from anti-imperialism.org, with changes of some links to this blog and text itself for reasons of smoothness. This article was revised, with an eye to self-criticism on August 22, 2019.

Bourgeois media have been full of venom about the recent meeting between the leaders of both Koreas, Kim Jong-Un and Moon Jae-In, in Pyongyang. [1] At the same time, the orange menace declared on his free-wheeling twitter that the results of the meeting, which include Kim agreeing to allow nuclear inspections, permanently dismantle a test site and launch pad “in the presence of international experts” coupled with no new “Rocket or Nuclear testing,” remains of U$ imperialist foot soldiers returning back to the U$, and both Koreas filing “a joint bid to host the 2032 Olympics,” he found “very exciting.” In contrast, neocon Lindsey Graham declared that while the DPRK has “stopped testing missiles and nuclear devices, they have NOT moved toward denuclearisation” and Marco Rubio, a pawn of reactionary Cuban expats, claimed that Kim is working on a “propaganda coup” while criticizing inter-Korean cooperation showed their imperialist tendencies. Rubio, Graham, and many others (who lead the capitalist “two-party” beast) don’t even want  a possibility of detente between the U$ and the DPRK, which the orange menace still seems to believe is possible, calling Kim “calm,” leaving open the possibility of another meeting with Kim. This brings us to the real question at hand: what did the agreement between Kim and Moon say and what does it mean for peace on the Korean Peninsula?

In order to promote further understanding and knowledge of inter-Korean negotiations, I have uploaded an unofficial translation of their agreement, by Korea Times, to my personal WordPress. [2] With that, I reprint the agreement in its entirety within this article, analyzing specific sections with informed analysis. The first two paragraphs introduce the document, talks about what has been accomplished since the Panmunjeom Declaration in April 27th of this year:

Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea and Kim Jong-un, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea held the Inter-Korean Summit Meeting in Pyongyang on September 18-20, 2018.

The two leaders assessed the excellent progress made since the adoption of the historic Panmunjeom Declaration, such as the close dialogue and communication between the authorities of the two sides, civilian exchanges and cooperation in many areas, and epochal measures to defuse military tension.

Such a statement is undoubtedly positive, as it shows that Moon and Kim are on the same page, working to unite the Korean nation together. It connects to the fact that both Moon and Kim spoke before 150,000 Koreans at the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, at a ceremony celebrating the 70th anniversary of the DPRK’s founding, saying their meetings will usher in a new era of peace. If what BBC says it to believed, the DPRK even revised the event to accommodate their visitors from the ROK (Republic of Korea). Moon’s speech before the crowd is a big deal because he is the first ROK leader to speak before an audience in the North. In his speech, “interrupted by thundering applause” as the New York Times described it, he praised the Korean people’s courage for overcoming the famine in the 1990s, Kim’s effort to rebuild the economy, and told the crowd that “we Koreans are exceptional, we are tenacious, we are peace-loving, And we must live together.”

The two leaders reaffirmed the principle of independence and self-determination of the Korean nation, and agreed to consistently and continuously develop inter-Korean relations for national reconciliation and cooperation, and firm peace and co-prosperity, and to make efforts to realize through policy measures the aspiration and hope of all Koreans that the current developments in inter-Korean relations will lead to reunification.

The two leaders held frank and in-depth discussions on various issues and practical steps to advance inter-Korean relations to a new and higher dimension by thoroughly implementing the Panmunjeom Declaration, shared the view that the Pyongyang Summit will be an important historic milestone, and declared as follows.

These words show that both leaders agree with the need to unify the Korean nation and increase relations between north and south. Perhaps not only can that the Panmunjeom Declaration be historic, but this statement can be a historic milestone too! Perhaps one could say it is a “landmark” in inter-Korean ties.

1. The two sides agreed to expand the cessation of military hostility in regions of confrontation such as the DMZ into the substantial removal of the danger of war across the entire Korean Peninsula and a fundamental resolution of the hostile relations.

This is also a major step toward peace on the Korean Peninsula, refuting the objectives of U$ imperialists to continue to treat the DMZ as a war zone and engender tension across the peninsula itself. Following this are two objectives for how to accomplish this goal:

① The two sides agreed to adopt the “Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjeom Declaration in the Military Domain” as an annex to the Pyongyang Declaration, and to thoroughly abide by and faithfully implement it, and to actively take practical measures to transform the Korean Peninsula into a land of permanent peace.

② The two sides agreed to engage in constant communication and close consultations to review the implementation of the Agreement and prevent accidental military clashes by promptly activating the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee.

The text of the “Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjeom Declaration in the Military Domain” has not been broadly released, with media reports calling it a 55-page military agreement aiming to ease border tensions. As the LA Times described it, the agreement would create “a border buffer zone,” remove “landmines from the demilitarized zone,” create a “no-fly zone along the DMZ” and shut down the “11 guard posts” along the DMZ itself. The actual agreement, as posted by the soft anti-DPRK organization, which calls itself humanitarian, the “National Committee on North Korea” (NCNK) shows the agreement as only 17 pages long, but still important nonetheless.

2. The two sides agreed to pursue substantial measures to further advance exchanges and cooperation based on the spirit of mutual benefit and shared prosperity, and to develop the nation’s economy in a balanced manner.

① The two sides agreed to hold a ground-breaking ceremony within this year for the east-coast and west-coast rail and road connections.

② The two sides agreed, as conditions ripe, to first normalize the Gaeseong industrial complex and the Mt. Geumgang Tourism Project, and to discuss the issue of forming a west coast joint special economic zone and an east coast joint special tourism zone.

③ The two sides agreed to actively promote south-north environment cooperation so as to protect and restore the natural ecology, and as a first step to endeavor to achieve substantial results in the currently on-going forestry cooperation.

④ The two sides agreed to strengthen cooperation in the areas of prevention of epidemics, public health and medical care, including emergency measures to prevent the entry and spread of contagious diseases.

For the DPRK, especially, this is important, as these principles, if implemented, could tie the Korean people even closer together and tie the the North and South together not only economically but medically and environmentally on a mutual basis. The only problem that could develop is the entrance of ROK capitalists into the North, leading to further exploitation of the proletariat. As the Associated Press put it in their article, Moon brought some of “South Korea’s most powerful business tycoons to Pyongyang” which some observers claimed was boosting Kim as he works to show “his citizens that he’s pivoting to economic improvement and… raising his impoverished nation up to South Korea’s level.” An article in Korea Herald specifically says who these capitalists are: “the chiefs of the country’s three-biggest family-run conglomerates — Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo and 14 others.” The same article says that the prospects of “possible projects in the North appear to have grown slightly more positive in the [ROK] business community.” While a special economic zone or tourist project would theoretically limit these capitalists, their power and influence would not only affect the country as a whole, but they would likely not just be restricted to those specific areas. At the same time, other capitalists are cautious, as the Global Times, a Chinese tabloid aligning with the revisionist CPC, blared, quoting Kim Dong-man of the ROK-based Bogo International as saying “North Korea expects economic support from South Korea and the US in return for its denuclearization activities. However, we need to see more action, not promises or goodwill, to spend our money on a land that still faces international sanctions” and a real estate agent in Dandong (a city which borders the DPRK) named Zhang Xu who claims to speak for the “people” there: “people in Dandong have heard too much ‘good news’ and ‘good signals’ too many times, but business with North Korea remains stalled as the international sanctions are still in place. Though the declaration is a good signal, it is still far from real action, and the investment and trade environment in North Korea will not change until the US lifts its sanctions.” Finally, they quote a customs official in Hunchun: “what we care about most is when will the sanctions be removed, especially those relevant to aquatic products and restricting labor from North Korea” and Li Shenglin, head of the Linfeng Trade Company, based in Dandong, as saying “US President Donald Trump needs peace on the Korean Peninsula as a political asset for his mid-term election and he needs support from Kim,” adding that China needs the DPRK to have a more “favorable environment” for “investors,” another name for capitalists. Despite the article saying that “ordinary” people or residents will be quoted, they are only mentioned briefly, only quoting capitalists instead!

3. The two sides agreed to strengthen humanitarian cooperation to fundamentally resolve the issue of separated families.

① The two sides agreed to open a permanent facility for family reunion meetings in the Mt. Geumgang area at an early date, and to promptly restore the facility toward this end.

② The two sides agreed to resolve the issue of video meetings and exchange of video messages among the separated families as a matter of priority through the inter-Korean Red Cross talks.

This is another positive step, making it clear that the union of the two Koreas is even more permanent than it is currently. Some media were allowed in the DPRK apparently on restricted terms, like the the team from National Pentagon Radio (NPR), including Mary Louise Kelly, the college-educated host of All Things Considered who has been in the bourgeois media since the 1990s, and Becky Sullivan, the producer of the same show. Kelly, who wrote the NPR article, complains about renting an armband to show herself as a foreign journalist and seems to be unaware of her Orientalist views. [3] Even Michael Palin, formerly of the UK- based Monty Python comedy group, went to the DPRK, and The Guardian lamented that he only saw the country as “strange” but not “sinister,”  as they treat it as some repressive, horrible place. They note that while Palin grumbled about “the lack of internet [and] absence of phone signal,” the obvious results of UN (and U$) sanctions,  he “marvelled at the extravagant underground train stations and the extraordinarily robotic, choreographed movements of the traffic police…got a head massage at a state-run health complex…and was shown the centre where table tennis players practise.” In the meantime, the DOJ in the U$ has accused someone supposedly from the DPRK, named “Park Jin-hyok,” of hacking Sony Pictures in 2014, with BBC only supporting his existence because the FBI said so, which is a low source of “evidence,” making it a joke. [4] As William Blum said in his recent anti-empire report, “a statement from the FBI that Russia interfered in the election does not count as evidence. It’s merely a statement.” The same applies to this supposed person.

4. The two sides agreed to actively promote exchanges and cooperation in various fields so as to enhance the atmosphere of reconciliation and unity and to demonstrate the spirit of the Korean nation both internally and externally.

① The two sides agreed to further promote cultural and artistic exchanges, and to first conduct a performance of the Pyongyang Art Troupe in Seoul in October this year.

② The two sides agreed to actively participate together in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games and other international games, and to cooperate in bidding for the joint hosting of the 2032 Summer Olympic Games.

③ The two sides agreed to hold meaningful events to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the October 4 Declaration, to jointly commemorate the 100th anniversary of the March First Independence Movement Day, and to hold working-level consultations toward this end.

Such cultural and artistic exchanges are another attempt to tie the two Koreas together. This is manifested perhaps even by Kim himself trying to do the “baby hearts” gesture which is popular on Instagram with those in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. [5] The DPRK is not isolated, as we should remember. Recent KCNA articles noted that Kim, received supportive letters from the leaders of Cuba, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, on the country’s 70th anniversary, to give a few examples.

5. The two sides shared the view that the Korean Peninsula must be turned into a land of peace free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threats, and that substantial progress toward this end must be made in a prompt manner.

① First, the North will permanently dismantle the Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch platform under the observation of experts from relevant countries.

② The North expressed its willingness to continue to take additional measures, such as the permanent dismantlement of the nuclear facilities in Yeongbyeon, as the United States takes corresponding measures in accordance with the spirit of the June 12 US-DPRK Joint Statement.

③ The two sides agreed to cooperate closely in the process of pursuing complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Turning the Korean Peninsula into an “island of peace” which is free from nuclear weapons is a laudable goal. The dismantling of a missile site is one thing, but the fact that thee DPRK is willing to permanently destroy its nuclear facilities in Yeongbyeon is a powerful concession. It is in the court of the U$ to see if they will take “corresponding measures” or maintain their current adamant position of imperialist arrogance. With the U$ (from the mouth of Pompeo) saying that it wants to complete denuclearization by January 2021, this leaves open the possibility of detente at a time, possibly with a second meeting with the orange menace. However, this is complicated by the fact that the orange menace may tell the UN Security Council next week that countries should crackdown on Iran (where there are ruminations of new negotiated nuclear and missile treaty, even in The Daily Beast), among other countries which reportedly violate UN “decrees against nuclear proliferation” as USA Today recently stated. And no, Pompeo, the U$ is not “most generous nation in the world” as you so recently declared, but is rather a bringer of global death, destruction, and unmitigated chaos as bloody imperialists!

This also connects to another article in the Global Times, focusing on Pyongyang specifically, noting that the DPRK “draws Chinese people’s curiosity by reminding them of the old days” but that is apparently changing, as part of an eight-day trip there. Specifically, they describe a Ragwon Department Store selling Panasonic 60-inch LCD TVs and “Merries baby diapers,” which they say was not crowded, adding that the country’s  exchange rate is not the same for those living in the DPRK and foreigners. They also say that “food consumption prices in Pyongyang are almost the same as that in Beijing, even a little higher,” noting that electric appliances have similar price, and that since 2004 it has been decreed that “foreign cash” cannot be circulated in the DPRK but must be exchanged for won “at appointed locations.” The article goes onto say that “on the streets of Pyongyang, you can see 1960s trucks along with the latest Land Rover. Citizens talk on mobile phones under the slogans and posters…even though the country might be known for conservative people, poverty and low levels of education, there are expensive restaurants and the city is extremely clean.” Clearly, they have some perceptions of the country before even going in. After a 54-year-old worker at the Kim Jong-suk Silk Mill told Global Times that those in the DPRK “are not like those capitalist countries, in which people cannot live without money,” the article goes onto describe a “vegetable farm in the Sadong district of Pyongyang…feeding the capital city with vegetables,” with 70% of their production purchased by the government and 30% distributed to farmers. The head of the farm was quoted as saying that “in 2017 the average income was 800,000 to 900,000 won. We don’t have many places to spend money, because the medical care is free, school is free and even the housing is free. So we only use the money to buy some necessities.” The article goes onto talk about the “country’s strong urge to modernize” and notes that DPRK officials never mention “reform and opening-up,” but says that “North Korea has become more relaxed and friendly than before…Anti-US books and posters are disappearing,” and  that “a wealth imbalance still exists in the country.” Whether the latter is true or not, it is clear that the DPRK is likely to move in the direction of China with its “opening up” but it is doing it slowly at its own pace.

6. Chairman Kim Jong-un agreed to visit Seoul at an early date at the invitation of President Moon Jae-in.

Like other parts of the agreement, this promise to visit Seoul shortly, which no leader of the DPRK has ever engaged in, is something Fred Kaplan of Slate called “not unlike Nixon’s sit-down with Mao.” With this, it is no surprise that Kim is becoming more and more popular in the South as a result of rapprochement, showing that Koreans are more ready for peace than ever before. Additionally, it is not a stretch of the imagination that Kim would say that “it’s not too much to say that it’s Moon’s efforts that arranged a historic North Korea-U.S. summit. Because of that, the regional political situation has been stabilized and more progress on North Korea-U.S. ties is expected.” While detente between the U$ and DPRK would be the start of ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula, loosening the claws of U$ imperialism around the DPRK, it brings with it dangers.

Recently, Pompeo, in an interview with Laura Ingraham, said that he was “we’re making the progress that we need” on the DPRK nuclear negotiations but also said something far more revealing: he said that Russia has been “aggressive” toward the U$ and that it needs to be pushed back and restrained, but in the long term: “if you’re looking at the things that threaten American livelihoods, that put America truly at risk of its continued economic growth, China…presents the far greater threat to the United States.” This is the grand strategy of the current U$ imperial administration, which some have talked about before in alternative media: focus efforts against China, perhaps trying to pull China and Russia apart, turning them against each other. So far, this has not been successful, but since Russia is not some valiant anti-imperialist state, but rather a nationalist one with a capitalist economy and a vibrant bourgeoisie (which some call “oligarchs” without applying the same label to the U$), it is possible to see it pulling back from commitments in Syria, and possibly other states as well as evident from its weak response to the recent Zionist aggression in Syria. Let us not forget that China and Russia have voted for 20 U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions focused on the DPRK since they began in July 2006. They have made no effort to even vote against these measures, despite the fact they have permanent veto powers. This shows that neither the Chinese or Russian states are friends of the Korean people since the UN sanctions (coupled with the unilateral ones of the U$) have caused untold hardship for the people of the DPRK and held back the country’s development, which could have allowed it to have more expanded cell phone and internet service by this point. The same is the case with Cuba, where the financial blockade as imports of technology are restricted, also stunting its development.

In the end, while we should remain critical, especially of the prominent entrance of capitalists from the ROK, and possibly those from other elements of the imperial core, along with increased numbers from China, this is a process which is up to Koreans themselves, who have a right to determine their own destiny.


Notes

[1] Take long-time Slate columnist Fred Kaplan who grumbled that there weren’t enough concessions from Kim, with the declaration between Kim and Moon demands “a certain amount of denuclearization on the part of the United States.” After asking a former Bush National Security Adviser for his thoughts, he paints the orange menace as dumb and uninformed, declaring that the declaration between the Moon and Kim sets the terms for the “surrender” of the U$, showing his imperialist mindset. Alex Ward of Vox, a liberal cesspool, declare that the agreement was “extremely vague,” will be “bad” for the U$, call Kim a “dictator” (normal-speak in such media), review the agreement made between Moon and Kim, and declaring that the summit could “potentially weaken US-South Korea ties in the future,” acting like this somehow bad even though it isn’t. The same is the case in a video by The Guardian, which prominently features right-wing, anti-DPRK forces in the Republic of Korea, calls Kim a “dictator,” while declaring that the country is poverty-striken and people “repressed.” The Associated Press fell in line, claiming that the Kim-Moon “joint statement appeared to fall short of the major steps many in Washington have been looking for,” and a “propaganda set piece” in a second story which quotes many anti-DPRK experts, verging on calling the DPRK racist! At the same time, the LA Times, said in what an uninformed reader would think is “fact”: that the DPRK “has been brought to the negotiating table by crippling U.N. sanctions” which clearly denies that these sanctions are murderous against the Korean people and the New York Times seemed concerned that Kim’s “commitments fell far short of what American officials have demanded,” seeming concerned it “unclear what else he [Kim] may demand” of the U$, seeming to miss that the imperialists are demanding the surrender of the DPRK to the U$ imperialists without offering much in return. However, Kevin Drum of Mother Jones even said that “modest progress” was made, while CBC said that the meeting between Kim and Moon has “accompanied by real progress at the negotiating table” and Qatar-based Al Jazeera, which often blasts terroristic messages to the world, was also optimistic. It is funny that the New York Times would say this because Fred Kaplan of Slate seemed to have a clear idea of Kim’s goals: “a relaxation of tensions, investment in his impoverished country (including the suspension of sanctions), a withdrawal of U.S. military forces from the peninsula (which is what he ultimately means by an end to America’s “hostile policy”), and the splintering of the U.S.-South Korean alliance—all, preferably, at no cost to his regime.” While this is phrased in a way that is Orientalist and imperialist, this is a better recognition of the goals of Kim than the New York Times! This paragraph derives from the following sources: Fred Kaplan, “Close, but No Denuclearization,” Slate, Sept 19, 2018; Alex Ward, “North and South Korea just signed a major agreement. It may be bad news for Trump,” Vox, Sept 19, 2018; GuardianNews, “Why are Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in’s hugs controversial?,” YouTube, Sept 19, 2018; Associated Press, “Kim agrees to dismantle main nuke site if U.S. takes steps too,” Politico, Sept 19, 2018; Jonathan Gatehouse, “Progress at Korea peace talks overshadowed by gloom facing both leaders back home,”CBC, Sept 19, 2018; Robyn Dixon, “U.S. praises North Korea’s offer to shutter missile site and extends invitation for more high-level diplomatic talks,” LA Times, Sept 19, 2018; Foster Klug, “Summit may be the grand theater Kim needs to show his people,” Associated Press, Sept 19, 2018; Kevin Drum, “North and South Korea Make Modest Progress in Latest Talks,” Mother Jones, Sept 19, 2018; Chae Sang-Hun and David E. Sanger, “North Korea’s New Nuclear Promises Fall Short of U.S. Demands,” New York Times, Sept 19, 2018; “North Korea’s Kim agrees to ‘dismantle’ key missile test sites,” Al Jazeera, Sept 19, 2018.

[2] There is even a website for the summit hosted by the ROK, schedule of Moon‘s day 1 and day 2 in Pyongyang, motorcade through Pyongyang, Moon departing for Pyongyang, results of inter-Korean talks, instructions for envoys going to Pyongyang, and other briefings, along with other information, here, here, and here. The agreement does not seem to be posted on any English sites of official DPRK media, like KCNA or Rodong Sinmun. Perhaps it is posted in Korean.

[3] Mary Louise Kelly,  “What It Looks Like Inside A Classroom In North Korea,” NPR, Sept 20, 2018; Mary Louise Kelly, “101 Ways To Thwart A Reporter In Pyongyang,” NPR, Sept 21, 2018; Lucy Managan, “Michael Palin in North Korea review – a soothing look at a despotic regime,” The Guardian, Sept 21, 2018. Links for the NPR articles are retained here only because it is an example of their orientalist mindsets, and because the second NPR article has photographs.

[4] Alistair Coleman, “North Korea claims NHS and Sony hack suspect ‘doesn’t exist’,” BBC News, Sept. 14, 2018.

[5] Elle Hunt, “Kim Jong-un all fingers and thumbs in bid for Instagram diplomacy,” The Guardian, Sept 21, 2018.

Mnangagwa’s “victory” benefits Zimbabwe bourgeoisie, spells doom for proletariat

Reprinted from anti-imperialism.org. Some things have changed since this was published and I am currently keeping a close eye on developments in Zimbabwe. This article was revised, with an eye to self-criticism, on August 22, 2019.

Recently, the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe deemed Emmerson Mnangagwa of the Zanu-PF the official winner of the county’s July 30th elections, by a small margin, garnering 50.8% to 44.3% gained by Nelson Chamisa of the MDC, a party long backed by Western capitalists since its formation in 1999. As one would expect, Chamisa declared that the election itself was illegitimate. Chamisa, after this decision was made, was told to accept defeat. Some, like Jonathan Moyo, who could be said to be a stalwart Robert Mugabe supporter, have followed suit, declaring on his freewheeling Twitter account the election to be stolen, and supporting the position of Chamisa, going so far as to say that there is an “imperial executive presidency” in place. Apart from Moyo’s antics, this “victory” for Mnangagwa is not good for the Zimbabwean proletariat. As I noted in my last article on the subject [also reposted on this blog], the Zanu-PF and MDC had political platforms that were relatively similar, with the victory of either party benefiting “the hungry Western bourgeoisie while hurting the Zimbabwean proletariat,” adding that not only did Chamisa prematurely declare victory but the Zimbabwean police engaged in an effort of control against MDC protesters. Furthermore, the mismanagement of the economy by the bourgeoisie of Zimbabwe combined with the overwhelming effect of Western sanctions, with the U$ sanctions still remaining in place currently, will lead to political change that benefits Western capitalists, with undoubted neoliberal destruction. The county is caught in the “conflict between Chinese and U$ capitalists” as I wrote before, arguing that Mnangagwa “would try to balance the capitalists from each country” with the Chinese wanting “more integration of the global capitalist system.”

A few days ago, Gregory Elich, an anti-imperialist writer, wrote an article titled “Zimbabwe on the Path to Neoliberal Ruin” which talks about the recent developments in Zimbabwe. In the article he noted that with the defeat of the MDC’s court challenge, the results of last years coup have been cemented, noting that apart from the question of electoral fraud, “the very basis for the election was illegitimate, as Mnangagwa would never have been a candidate in the first place had it not been for the military coup.” Even one director of HRW in Southern Africa, Dewa Mavhinga, admitted that the chief justice of Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court, Luke Malaba, “ruled that Robert Mugabe voluntarily resigned & @edmnangagwa lawfully took over. He did not seek primary evidence to ask Mugabe to say whether he voluntarily step down or was forced out.” As such, Mugabe, who recently congratulated Mnangagwa but declared he would not support him in the election rather throwing his support to the MDC, recognized this when he called it an unquestioned coup. As for Elich, he also noted that after the outbreak of violence aimed at the MDC, the U$ State Department basically called “upon the MDC to accept defeat with graciousness” which they never would have done if Mugabe was President, adding the similarity between the party platforms of the MDC and Zanu-PF, further saying that “there were certain advantages to be gained from a victory by the ruling ZANU-PF” since Mnangagwa is “better situated to garner sufficient legislative backing to enact neoliberal measures, whereas ZANU-PF parliamentarians might prove more resistant to Chamisa’s efforts to pass the same type of proposals.” He concluded by talking about U$ and European worries about there not being “peaceful stability” in the county before investing, but that “if tensions settle, the future looks bright for Western corporations wishing to invest in Zimbabwe…Mnangagwa sees the way out as surrendering much of his nation’s sovereignty and redirecting the economy to serve the interests of Western capital.” The latter would happen, he writes, by engaging in privatization, opening the economy more to the West which began with limiting the Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act. This law is an “official affirmative action programme,” begun in 2008, that is conducted by the Zimbabwean government “in order to right historical inequalities between the races in Zimbabwe,” and it stipulates “that foreign investors could own no more than 49 percent of businesses in various sectors.” The current Zimbabwean government limited it to only diamond and platinum mining! They also have restructured the economy with the help of Western capitalists, perhaps chipping away at the vaunted land reform program as well. Elrich ends by noting that the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) is worried by recent developments, the current junta ruling the country will “resort to violence to ensure that they continue to rule” and that there is currently “no significant political force on the scene that is philosophically inclined to steer the nation away from the shoals of neoliberal demolition.” This seems evident despite claims of legitimate resistance. It is worth noting that the ZCTU seems to have allied itself with the opposition, with the late Morgan Tsvangirai a former secretary and the fact that they were a major force against the ESAP (Economic Structural Adjustment Programme) adopted by the Zanu-PF government and implemented from 1991 to 1995, leading to the formation of the MDC in 1999. Their moderate efforts are only aimed at certain individuals in the government, which is coupled with social-democratic, if you can call it that, objectives of a “powerful, effective, democratic independent and united trade union movement in Zimbabwe,” gaining “trade union rights and privileges,” protecting and defending workers, advancing “educational, political and economic knowledge,” opposing “splinter trade unions,” act as a channel of communication for laborers, cooperating “wherever possible with Government, cooperatives, progressive organizations and any employers’ organization” and claiming they represent the Zimbabwean proletariat. Is it any surprise then that the U$ government, under the auspices of NED’s “Solidarity Center,” pumped over $2 million into the Zimbabwean labor movement from 2014 to 2017, more than half of which went to support the ZCTU?

Elich is on the right track but does not fully get the picture. There have been efforts seemingly to break up state companies, court White farmers who were evicted and replaced with Black farmers as part of the land redistribution program begun in the 1990s, going after Mugabe’s properties, and threats by the Zanu-PF to raise presidential term limits to reduce any future Nelson Chamisas. [1] Western capitalists are glad to see this new opportunity. Already, before the election, Mnangagwa met with the U$ ambassador and later with a top German economic adviser after the election. Apart from calls to remove bond notes to “kickstart” the economy, Zimbabwe may begin to resemble Kenya, where the President there, Uhuru Kenyatta, “called for the establishment of a new framework of cooperation with Britain as it exits from the European Union early next year,” saying that Kenya and UK imperialists need an even stronger relationship! With this incoming neocolonialism, which some strangely qualify as “commercial colonialism,” the British are right out in front. Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the UK, recently hailed Mnangagwa and his “commission of inquiry into the violence that rocked Harare on August 1,” declaring that what is happening now is “an opportunity for Zimbabwe…I look forward to Zimbabwe being able to grasp this opportunity for the future,” adding that the commission “is a very important signal from him about the Zimbabwe he wants to see for the future, and the Zimbabwe that is taking opportunities for the future of its people.” This is a major indicator that the British capitalists are ready to expand their roots into Zimbabwe once more. Around the same time, the Germans pledged to “open lines of credit for Zimbabwe and deepen bilateral relations,” discussing issues of farmers compensation with them as well. With these German and UK capitalists salivating and wanting to return to the “untapped” market of Zimbabwe, let us not forget about the land program that is being chipped away more and more. The bigoted tabloid, The Daily Mail, of all places, admitted back in 2011 that prior to the introduction of the Zimbabwean policy where white-owned farms were seized and handed over to black workers, “whites controlled about 70 per cent of Zimbabwe’s arable land despite making up less than 1 per cent of the country’s population.” That is a situation these capitalists want to return to, to dominate the political scene once again.

With the governments of Rwanda, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, and DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) all praising Mnangagwa, a number of whom were outspoken against Mugabe, it is clear that the neoliberalism that the current Zimbabwe government embodies is not unique to itself. Lest we forget that Mnangagwa is a person who “humbly request[s]” bankers to help make the country’s economy grow,  is about as weak as it can get. Even with this pandering to the West, there may still be some Western hostility, possibly embodied by the U$ since it has not made such offers to Zimbabwe that mirror those of the UK and Germany, yet. One Reuters article acknowledged this, noting remarks by Mnangagwa spokesperson George Charamba, and adding that “as Zimbabwe became increasing isolated under Mugabe, it turned to China to help prop up its economy,” and noting that “Zimbabwe had good relations with southern African governments and the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) states.” [2] Additionally, the Washington Post editorial board blared on August 31, in a hideous rant titled “How Zimbabwe missed its chance for change” that: “Mr. Mnangagwa has lost an important opportunity to pull Zimbabwe back from economic and political destitution, where it was left at the conclusion of Robert Mugabe’s long misrule. The country deserves better, much better. Mr. Mnangagwa raised hopes when he took power last November after Mr. Mugabe…was removed from power…The election to succeed Mr. Mugabe was also different…These are the real stakes: whether Zimbabwe can cast off the burdensome legacy of Mr. Mugabe’s 37 years at the helm. Systemic change is extremely difficult. But without it, the country will remain mired in economic and political misery.” This is utter absurdity, showing not only the utter racism of the Washington Post but their imperialist outlook which paints Mnangagwa, despite his dedication to neoliberalism, as “not good enough”! All of this is connected to a recent story about reported deployment of a “new generation of surface-to-air missiles (SAM)” by the Chinese in the country. Whether true or not, the fact is that the Chinese are fully willing to have economic relations with Zimbabwe despite the fact that the country is ruled by a government led by those installed in a military coup, reinforced by the recent election, whether it was legal or not.

With this, I am reminded of a recent article by Amber B. about rising imperialists and the ongoing power of U$ imperialism. She wrote that there is “a high-tide of inter-imperialist tension and rivalry over control in strategic political and economic areas throughout the Third World,” and noted, specifically about China, that like Russia to which the U$ sees as a “threat to its survival,” it is a “power capable of dislodging amerikan imperialist hegemony from strategic markets.” In the case of Zimbabwe this may be the case, with China, which promotes Western companies building products in their country, Africans working for Chinese companies, new Chinese-built projects in Africa, and strengthened ties with varied African leaders, to give a few recent examples. There is also the annual (and upcoming) Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit which will be held in Beijing from September 3 to 4. There is a direct connection to this gathering, in the case of Zimbabwe. Around the same time, the Zimbabwean party paper, The Herald, quoted Mnangagwa as declaring that “policies in the past were constraining economic development” and that there need to be efforts to “improve the environment in the economic sphere” including limiting the indigenisation law, which he grumbled was “constraining the flow of capital in the economy,” adding that “we have done a lot in removing the archaic legislation that was constraining economic growth in our country…everyday we are improving our competitiveness in the region and internationally in terms of attracting investment into the country.” The same article noted that he was expected to hold bilateral discussions with President Xi Jinping, and said that China has committed itself “to ushering in a new blueprint to explore opportunities for future mutual development, and to contribute to promoting world peace, stability and the development of Africa and China” as they described it, of course. This was echoed in the South China Morning Post which added that, at this summit, “China has doubled its financial aid and investment pledges to Africa…Xi said the financing would be in the form of government help as well as investment and funding by institutions and companies…Xi also announced that China would waive the debt of the poorest African countries that have diplomatic ties with Beijing.” The article also noted that while many have been concerned that China’s growing presence in Africa may lead countries to “struggle to repay the Chinese debt used to build expensive infrastructure projects,” Xi defended the belt and road plan, declaring that “China was not pursuing “political self-interest” in its investments in Africa.” It was also noted that “Chinese companies were also encouraged to make at least US$10 billion in investment in Africa in the next three years, Xi said…Africa is growing in strategic importance for China, with the People’s Liberation Army opening its first overseas naval base in Djibouti last year. Xi said China would set up a China-Africa peace and security fund and continue providing free military aid to the African Union…Cheng Cheng, a researcher at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University, said Africa’s growing population and expanding middle class made it a huge market for Chinese exports.” Basically, this means that China is aiming for a market across the continent for its products and more places that Chinese capitalists can “safely” put their capital, just one feature of them as a social-imperialist power. At the same time, the Chinese are strongly opposing trade protectionism and “anti-globalization” so you will not see them waving the red flag, standing in solidarity with the global proletariat. Rather, you will see profit-driven SOEs (State-Owned Enterprises) expanding abroad, giving more of a foothold to China’s version of capitalism than previously.

China’s form of social-imperialism, involving good relations with Japanese capitalists, as Amber B. describes it in her article, needs further study. It involves countering Chinese media narratives that “debunk” Western media narratives while posing China as knights in shining armor with a peace offering. I wrote about revisionist China in a two-part series for my subreddit, rwcc (Revisionism with Chinese Characteristics), trying to counter revisionist narratives and show the reality of the country. While saying this, I agree with Amber B. that we must take provocations between China, Russia, and the U$ seriously, as this is “the reality of inter-imperialist conflict in the era of moribund capitalism-imperialism,” with our tasks to oppose escalation, “carry out Lenin’s program of revolutionary defeatism” and to count on comrades across the world, as U$ imperialism fades, to “thwart the rise of their “own” expansionist and imperialist states” whether they are Russia, China, or another emerging power, with the main responsibility to “turn struggle inward, and to confront the threat of imperialist world war with revolutionary war.” As I said in my previous article, it is clear that not only are hard times ahead for the Zimbabwean proletariat. The turning point for Zimbabwe is over and it has not turned out well for the Zimbabwean proletariat. As Ahmed Sékou Touré, the long-time president of Guinea who seemed to soften up on the West starting in the 1970s, said in 1962, “the relation between the degree of destitution of peoples of Africa and the length and nature of the exploitation they had to endure is evident. Africa remains marked by the crimes of the slave-traders: up to now, her potentialities are restricted by under-population.” [3] The latter is the case for Zimbabwe. As such, it, along with a correct analysis of the current geopolitical atmosphere rooted in revolutionary theory should be the basis of our understanding of the world, allowing us to stand with the proletariat oppressed across the world and against the concentrations of imperialist power.


Notes

[1]  Siobhan Heanue, “New Zimbabwe Government courts white farmers ejected by Mugabe,” ABC (AU), Aug 30, 2018.

[2] Joe Brock, “Zimbabwe says ‘hostility of the West’ putting off renewed investment,” Reuters, Aug 21, 2018.

[3] Quoted by Walter Rodney on page 95 of his book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, which derives from a 1958 book of his speeches published by S.O.P. Press and his Toure’s 1963 book, The Doctrine and Methods of the Democratic Party of Guinea.

The bourgeois conception of “free speech” in the U$

Note: The following article is reprinted from Dissident Voice. This is part 2 of an article series on there called “a “sudden bout of atypical decency”?” I have engaged in some editing of my own here in this version. I made one change, apart from slimming down footnote 2, which I feel ashamed to admit and sick to my stomach: I accepted a form of censorship just so Part 2 could be published. It is in paragraph 9. I removed a whole section because they have a different conception of speech. The exchange I had is noted below this article.* I have added in another two lines in this version of the article about speech as well, which is similar to those I proposed as a compromise with their view, but this was rejected, since I apparently wrongly perceived  their position, leading to more email negotiating as you could call it. After I made this change, the editor told me: “Thank you, LC.  DV has published your submission…It would be a good idea for you to go over it and make sure I didn’t miss anything and that everything is in its proper place. The title of Part 1 had to be cut because of its length (if you were wondering) and I’d suggest it looks better with the subtitle. For Part 2 the title you submitted was used but the subtitle is the main title in Part 1. DV does that so that there is no confusion if Parts 1 and 2 show up in a search with the same title. (Just explaining in case you were curious about the titles.) All the best and here’s hoping DV will hear from you again sooner rather than later. In the meantime have a great school year.” Yes, I am going to school again, that is true. But, apart from that, I will submit to Dissident Voice again, but won’t let myself get in a situation like this again, knowing Dissident Voice’s bounds. As always, I look forward to your comments on this article, as I may be faulty in my views when it comes to these matters.

In part 1, I talked about the power of social media giants and claims of “free speech” on their platforms. Again, I am referring just to the U$, as I am most familiar with the debate on “free speech” there. In the future I may expand this analysis to other capitalist countries.

The bourgeois conception of “free speech” is so ingrained that Nadine Strossen, a former president of the ACLU, can spout on The Real News about a “we the people” government in the U$, while declaring that government regulation through net neutrality and antitrust laws, along with consumer pressure, and “free speech” (or counter speech) can stop the bigots in their tracks. This is a laughable notion from a person who says porn should be tolerated (not restricted or banned), is currently a contributor for the Federalist Society, criticized campus speech restrictions, and was a friend and fan of Antonin Scalia! She also, infamously, defended the actions of former ACLU president Anthony Romero, who had agreed to “screen the organization’s employees against terrorist “watch lists”…in order to qualify as an officially approved charity for federal employees,” advising the “Ford Foundation to “parrot” the Patriot Act in formulating controversial new restrictions on the speech of its grantees,” and trying to impose “very broad confidentiality agreement and technology rules on ACLU employees,” as argued by former ACLU board member Wendy Kaminer, who also harshly criticized the organization for its policies on civil liberty. As The Onion joked in one article, when Strossen was president, the ACLU declared that it would “”vigorously and passionately defend” the Georgia chapter of the American Nazi Party’s First Amendment right to freely express its hatred of the ACLU by setting its New York office ablaze on Nov. 25.” That’s how ridiculous the ACLU is, without a doubt.

Last year, the Supreme Court held, in Packingham v. North Carolina, that a North Carolinian law that restricted access of sex offenders to social media violated the First Amendment. More than that, this case, which was the first major case on the topic since the Reno v. ACLU case in 1997, opens the floodgates for “free speech” to apply to the internet as the latter is considered analogous to a public forum, perhaps leading to further jurisprudence.  But more than being a supposed victory for “free expression,” which was likely cheered on by the ACLU, Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion raises the question of what parts of the internet would fall under First Amendment protection.  In this opinion, followed by a blistering dissent from Samuel Alito, Kennedy, clearly a tech optimist, wrote that the First Amendment is a “fundamental principle” meaning that “all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen, and then, after reflection, speak and listen once more,” adding that this now applies to cyberspace, including social media, with users engaging in a “wide array” of “First Amendment activity” that is “legitimate” and “protected.”

He added that the digital age has a “vast potential to alter how we think, express ourselves, and define who we want to be” which can quickly change, while implying that the First Amendment may offer some protection for access to social media and the internet. As for social media, he argued that it not only allows “users to gain access to information and communicate with one another about it on any subject that might come to mind” but that it is the “modern public square” that, in his view, allows for people to explore “the vast realms of human thought and knowledge…mak[ing] his or her voice heard.” This is clearly an optimistic view of social media which often is filled with utter and mundane garbage. I think social media includes many more pictures of people showing off their dogs, newborn babies, and silly cat videos, than those who engage in discussion that opens “human thought and knowledge.” What is Kennedy smoking here?

With this decision, the arguments of those like the ACLU that want “an uncensored Internet, a vast free-speech zone,” the EFF that wants “sufficient legal protections for users and innovators,” and Strossen, are clearly boosted. Still, this does not mean there will be “free speech” on the internet anytime soon. While the general conception is that “anyone can say anything online,” this is not only changing but it is inaccurate because intimidation is not protected speech on the internet, along with inciting violence, making threats of violence, privacy invasion, defamation, copyright infringement, inciting a riot or inducing lawbreaking, “fighting words,” false advertising, and disrupting school activities, to name a few. While some say that the First Amendment asserts that that one can express themselves “without interference or constraint by the government,” the fact is that a government can “place reasonable restrictions on free speech, such as those that restrict the time, place, and manner of the speech.”

Some have tried to use the Packingham decision to declare that there should be “free speech” on the internet. Others, like White nationalists and Neo-Nazis, have gone even further to draw a parallel between private shopping centers and social media platforms! If this connection was to be made, which is a remote and absurd possibility, those on social media would not be able to “unreasonably intrude” on the private property rights of these platforms, having to “reasonably exercise” their rights while their ideas would not be allowed to have “free rein.” Additionally, their words and actions would have to be deemed peaceful, orderly, and not disturbing the functioning of these platforms, with the latter allowed to restrain the “time, place, and manner” of user’s speech. They could be prohibited from imposing “blanket and total prohibition on the exercise of First Amendment activities” of users but they would also be allowed to restrict those engaging such speech so they did not obstruct or unduly interfere with “normal business operations” or does not impede, distract, or interfere with the business itself.

Furthermore, anyone who engaged in substantial damage or physical obstruction of social media could be restricted or banned, along with being prohibited from annoying and harassing individuals. At the same time, while users could have the right to “freedoms of speech and religion” they could also be restricted if there was a public space where they could use their rights apart from social media, and by the fact that the U$ Constitution provides no protection or redress from a private person or corporation, with the 1st and 14th Amendment not applying to action “by the owner of private property used only for private purposes.” This is not what the bigots would want! Even with these interpretations, Twitter could still say it is a private sector company, which requires users to abide by their rules. Additionally, it is worth noting that these social media platforms are not public since the “supposed public square is actually a small group of digital platforms owned by an even smaller group of giant transnational corporations,” a fact that should be obvious. [1] Even Mozilla, which says that “the principle of free speech is a foundation of Western democracy” admits that “free speech gets more complicated in private spaces – that is, spaces not owned by the government…private businesses have every right, legally, to refuse service to individuals who don’t adhere to their stated policies.”

Jimmy Dore and others have said the First Amendment should be applied to Facebook (and other social media) because they see it as a public space and have also said that such outlets should be public utilities. Now, in order to be a public utility, these social media companies would have to be classified the same as other companies providing “a service to the public such as transport, energy, telecommunications, waste disposal, or water and any other public goods and services.”  The question arises: are companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to give a few examples, public service corporations that engage in operations that “serve the needs of the general public or conduce to the comfort and convenience of an entire community,” which currently includes “railroads, gas, water, and electric light companies”? Well, we know they are clearly private companies with operations which are “executed by private individuals,” comprising some of those in the corporate (or private) sector which is “responsible for the allocation of the majority of resources” within a capitalist economy.

Now, to be a public service company, they would have to “provide a service to the public” which includes “transport, communications and the like.” These social media platforms likely would fall into the category of public service company rather than a public service corporation because they do not necessarily serve the needs of the general public or conduce convenience or comfort of an entire community. Instead they gather private information and make it public, selling it for profit, having great power over people’s lives. Likely such efforts to make social media a public utility will fall flat because the U$ government is legally obligated to “preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation” even with other provisions on civil liability.

The bourgeois conception of “free speech” is taken by some to an extreme, like Noam Chomsky, who defends the speech of holocaust deniers for “civil libertarian” reasons, opposing existing (and justified) laws that criminalize Holocaust denial across Europe, including Germany, saying that it is a violation of their inherent “liberties” even though it actually an effort to prevent those from spreading lies about the Holocaust, a terrible period in Germany’s past. The Holocaust during World War II was not unique to human history: the unconscionable atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, genocide of indigenous peoples of the Americas, the ongoing genocide of Palestinians, and the genocide in Rwanda, count among the worst horrors of humanity. As it is not illegal to discuss the deaths of these horrors, apart from Rwanda, it is also not illegal to discuss the deaths during the Holocaust, which number in the tens of millions, as high as 17 million if all victims of persecution are counted as argued by Donald Niewyk, including Jewish, Soviet POWs, Polish, Romani, disabled, Jehovah’s witnesses, and gay peoples, to just name a few of those deemed undesirable by the Nazis. Perhaps denial or support of these horrors of human history, apart from the Holocaust, should be criminalized, but this likely will not occur because a good number of individuals still support the aforementioned horrors, sometimes gleefully. As a result, such denial of horrors is a way to support existing capitalist narratives. The situation will only be changed if there is a new, alternative narrative, perhaps only possible under a new system. Even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that recognizes the “right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” (Article 18) and “right to freedom of opinion and expression” (Article 19) is limited by the fact that everyone can be subject to legal limitations to secure respect and recognition for freedom and rights of others, along with meeting “the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society” (Article 29). [2]

There are many laws across the world when it comes to speech, with some countries trying to experiment different levels of censorship online, irking those who defend the bourgeois conception of “freedom of speech,” with some even bringing in anti-communist rhetoric to complain about “the lack of transparency found in Soviet-style governance structures” disappearing in Eastern Europe. Some, like the horrid organization, FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) have declared that “the best antidote to tyranny is free and spirited debate, not suppression of speech,” which Jimmy Dore basically expressed on his show, while others like HRW or The Guardian complain about the “Great Chinese Firewall” and challenges “journalists, bloggers and dissidents” have to undertake. This has led to a list of “enemies” of the internet and efforts to break through claimed “closed societies” (one organization gives the examples of Iran and China), believing that making these societies “open” will bring goodness to the world. This id despite the fact that the internet has “been a revolution for censorship as much as for free speech” as The Guardian admitted back in 2008, which anyone with sense would recognize.

The majority of those in the Western Left are indoctrinated to think they are free, leading them attack other leftists across the world who holding power as noted by Andre Vltchek. However, his analysis is faulty since he incorrectly describes China, part of the revisionist triad (the other two countries in this triad are Laos and Vietnam), as communist when it has actually been on the capitalist road since 1976, with a form of state-supported form of capitalism which is different from that of the West, and saying that Russia’s policy is “clearly anti-imperialist” when it is actually just nationalistic.

Clearly, some individuals have more of an ability for speech than others. As the subreddit of /r/communism puts it rightly, which I still agree with even though I was ousted as a mod after I began criticizing China as capitalist rather than saying it is socialist (consensus of the subreddit’s mods), “speech, like everything else, has a class character, and that some speech can be oppressive.” This is something those who believe in the bourgeois conception of “free speech” cannot and will not acknowledge. In the capitalist society of the U$ this manifests itself by capitalists like Robert Mercer, the Koch Brothers, George Soros, Pierre Omidyar, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and many others, having the ability to publish and project their speech more than those on meager budgets. Basically, this means that ordinary people, the proletariat, have no influence (or power in) on the decision-making and politics of the U$ despite all rhetoric claiming they have such influence. How this manifests itself in the world of “free speech” is it means that those capitalists who are hatemongers can spread their horrid message far and wide while those who try to counter them get less exposure. [2]

We do not have to give such speech “respect” as some have declared we should, since there is the idea of the heckler’s veto, where a public event is canceled or suppressed due to “interruptions, protests, or violence” or the threat of such actions, one of the many tools, apart from de-platforming (not by social media outlets, but literally in person or by organizing against them online) which can be used to fight against bigoted or otherwise detestable individuals. In the end, there should be criticism (and efforts to counter) corporate control over information but this does not mean we have to defend hateful speech. Instead, those who speak truth to power, especially on the political Left, should be vigorously defended. As Michael Parenti once put it, “democratic victories, however small and partial they be, must be embraced…We need to strive in every way possible for the revolutionary unraveling, a revolution of organized consciousness striking at the empire’s heart with the full force of democracy, the kind of irresistible upsurge that seems to come from nowhere while carrying everything before it.” Victory to the proletariat! A socialist world is possible!


Notes

*First message from DV editor at 3:23 AM on Sept 1  which confused me:

Hi, LC,

I’ve gone over Part 2 and it’s ready for publication apart from this sentence:

The bourgeois conception of “free speech” is taken by some to an extreme, like Noam Chomsky, who defends the speech of holocaust deniers for “civil libertarian” reasons, opposing existing (and justified) laws that criminalize Holocaust denial across Europe, including Germany, saying that it is a violation of their inherent “liberties” even though it is actually an effort to prevent those from spreading lies about the Holocaust, a terrible period in Germany’s past.

Holocaust is defined as the destruction or slaughter on a mass scale (especially by fire or nuclear war) which means what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki were holocausts; they, too, were targeted deliberately for annihilation.  Synonyms include ethnic cleansing (which the Palestinian people are well familiar with) and, of course, there’s genocide, etc.

We can start with the Original Peoples of North America and move on to the present day.  If these horrors are all out there for discussion, then so too should the events that occurred during WW 2 in Germany and Poland.  We don’t hear of people being charged because they denied the Roma holocaust, do we?  According to Romani scholar, Ian Hancock, over 1.5 million Roma were killed in Germany and Poland during this time; unfortunately, the total will never be known because (a) most were illiterate and signed their names with an “x” and (b) countless were shot on sight in Europe without ever reaching Germany.  Is it illegal to discuss their deaths?  And what about Rwanda?  I could go on.

When I hear from you with respect to this sentence, I will publish it.

My reply at 9:35 AM on Sept 1:

I agree with you that the Holocaust is only one of many horrible crimes in human history, one of the many genocides. I would like the sentence to stay if possible. I don’t know what you are asking me here. Is it that you think I should clarify this sentence, remove it, or what exactly? If it is something to add, I would be willing to say in a new sentence after this one:

“The Holocaust during World War II was not unique to human history: the unconcisble atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, genocide of indigenous peoples of the Americas, the ongoing genocide of Palestinians, and the genocide in Rwanda, count among the worst horrors of humanity. As it is not illegal to discuss the deaths of these horrors, it is also not illegal to discuss the deaths during the Holocaust, which number in the tens of millions, as high as 17 million if all victims of persecution are counted as argued by Donald Niewyk, of Jewish, Soviet POWs, Polish, Romani, disabled, Jehovah’s witnesses, and gay people, to just name a few of those deemed undesirable by the Nazis. Perhaps denial or support of these horrors of human history, apart from the Holocaust, should be criminalized, but it not usually the case, with a good number of individuals still support the aforementioned horrors, sometimes gleefully. This is often to support existing capitalist narratives and the situation will only be changed if there is a new, alternative narrative, perhaps only possible under a new system.”

A message from DV’s editor on Sept 2nd at 6:33 PM, implying that all events (including the Holocaust) should be “open to debate” and that laws prohibiting Holocaust denial are apparently bad, while also bringing up the fake idea of the fire in the theater excuse about free speech, an analogy which is TOTALLY false, as I remember reading in A People’s History of the Supreme Court:

I am not asking you to do anything.  I’m saying that DV prefers not to publish it.  And the sentence that you propose doesn’t speak to DV’s concerns.  What happened in Germany and Poland is the only event in history that cannot be discussed without fear of legal repercussions.  How and why did this happen?  Yet the deaths of the Roma, which occurred at the same time frame, are out there for discussion and anything else. You don’t see a problem with this?  You go on to list several other events that could be criminalized.  This is very problematic.  Free speech is not meant to be a slippery slope.  Once some speech is criminalized, where does that criminalization end?  DV supports free speech within bounds of common sense, not by disingenuously starting a dangerous riot by screaming “bomb” in a packed theater, for instance. Historical events should be open for discussion, debate, all of them. If they are not, why not? I would suggest you take a look at that initial sentence again.  DV will not be publishing it nor the addition as they are now. Other than that, it is ready to go.

The editor sent another at 6:34 PM about the “topic of that sentence,” which I will not quote entirely as it gives out personal information. I will quote the parts that do not involve such information where the editor said “I think you’ll find that it would be ready for publication once the topic of that sentence had been dealt with.  I have just sent you an email re same.” I replied to this saying at 10:06 PM that same day “Yes, I saw that email and am responding to it shortly.”

My final message at 11:04 PM, after composing the email and trying to watch Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita, in which I accept getting rid of the “offending” line, begrudingly. Note that I am NOT disagreeing with my previous position here, just agreeing with her general point even though I still hold fast by my original views:

I agree with you that historical events should be open for discussion and debate. I also understand DV’s position on speech and as such, I am willing to strike the initial sentence (and the one I proposed) from the article so that it can be published since the rest of the article is acceptable. I would rather replace it with the following: “The bourgeois conception of “free speech” is broadly held across the Western World.” Then the rest of the paragraph follows that.

– LC

[1] Paul Blumenthal, “The Problem Isn’t Alex Jones’ Free Speech, It’s Digital Platform Monopolies,” HuffPost, Aug 11, 2018

[2] I would say that the U$ is standing against the principle outlined in the UN’s Millennium Declaration that “men and women have the right to live their lives and raise their children in dignity, free from hunger and from the fear of violence, oppression or injustice. Democratic and participatory governance based on the will of the people best assures these rights,” the Vienna Declaration saying hat “the speedy and comprehensive elimination of all forms of racism and racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance is a priority task for the international community” and violating the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) which says that states “condemn racial discrimination and undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms and promoting understanding among all races…condemn all propaganda and all organizations which are based on ideas or theories of superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or ethnic origin, or which attempt to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form, and undertake to adopt immediate and positive measures designed to eradicate all incitement to, or acts of, such discrimination…[and] shall declare illegal and prohibit organizations, and also organized and all other propaganda activities, which promote and incite racial discrimination, and shall recognize participation in such organizations or activities as an offence punishable by law.” The U$ is also clearly violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) which says that “freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others” and especially the provisions that prohibit “any propaganda for war” or any “advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”

“Human rights” and the narrative of imperialism

With the orange menace saying he wants to make “America great  again” (as opposed to Andrew Cuomo of New York accurately saying that “we’re not going to make America great again, America was never great”) while acknowledging that the U$ is not “making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” due to the trade war with China, and the Zionists hail the U$ for ending funding of the UN Human Rights Council, it is worth looking at how the U$ measures up compared to a number of countries, revisionist or not, some of which are in the crosshairs of U$ imperialism.

The UN’s Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has a page showing compliance of countries with their treaties.It includes a number of UN organs underneath it like the Human Rights Council (HRC), Universal Periodic Review (undertaken by the HRC, which has its own special procedures), human rights treaty bodies, and other organs. The HRC is the same council that the Bush Administration quit in June 2008, while the Obama Administration reversed this, but then the current imperial administration reinstated the Bush era policy because of the criticism of Zionists.

Going back to the OHCHR’s page, I went through the 18 treaties listed on the page and put them into a spreadsheet in order to compare these countries. Not surprisingly, this shows that the U$ is lacking. Of the 18 treaties, the U$ has only ratified or acceded to five! [1] Even if you count the treaties that the U$ has only signed but not acceded to or ratified, that would only bring the total to nine. By this measure, that the U$ has only agreed to 50% of the treaties. This drops to about 30% when it is lowered to the more accurate number of five, covering only treaties ratified or acceded to. What about other countries? The DPRK is not much better when it comes to approval of human rights treaties, unfortunately. They have only ratified or acceded to six treaties:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Of these treaties, the U$ has still not ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (only signed it), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (only signed it), Convention on the Rights of the Child (only signed it), or the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (only signed it). So, in this way, you could say that the DPRK has an upper hand when it comes to human rights. However, other countries do even better than the U$ by far. This is partially due to the fact that while the DPRK can be said to be anti-imperialist, the concept of Juche, as it is implemented currently, is clearly revisionist. This leads to clear distortions. Still, the fact that even the apartheid Zionist state has ratified more human rights treaties than the U$ (nine compared to to the U$’s five), is actually pretty pathetic.

Cuba is one of those countries. It has ratified or acceded to eight human rights treaties and signed three of them. [2] While it also revisionist to an extent like the DPRK, it has retained more socialist elements than the DPRK one could say, with a society which is even more open and participatory. That means that Cuba has agreed, whether by ratifying (or acceding) or signing, to about 60% of the human rights treaties (specifically 11) noted by the OHCHR. That is relatively impressive.

Some may ask about the revisionist triad, consisting of China, Vietnam, and Laos, which largely operate on a similar model with a market economy, state ownership, and are clearly on the capitalist road. They are not engaging in any sort of New Economic Policy reminiscent of the Soviets as they do not see their path as a “strategic retreat” as Lenin clearly saw it [3], rather claiming it will bring them toward socialism, even though they are actually very much on the capitalist road, not getting off it anytime soon! As I noted on Reddit, NEP clearly had its downsides, admitted by bourgeois analysts, leading to its end in 1928 due to Josef Stalin’s action to stop it. As such, it seems strange to act like China since 1978 has engaged in its own form of NEP, an idea advocated by Deng, because the conditions were different, as China by 1978 was in a much better position than Soviet Russia in 1921. The same applies to Laos after the New Economic Mechanism began in 1986,or Vietnam after Đổi Mới (Renovation) began the same year. [4] For China, the main player in this revisionist triad, it has ratified or acceded to seven treaties, and signed two treaties, overlapping a bit with Cuba in these realms. However, China never ratified or acceded to the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance or Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the first of which Cuba had signed and ratified, and the second of which Cuba has only currently signed. This means that Cuba has a better record than China in this realm, with China only ratifying or signing half of  the human rights treaties noted by the OHCHR. Most  worrisome is the fact that China has not ratified or acceded  to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families considering that that “almost 269 million internal migrant workers are moving from rural areas to the country’s growing cities”! This is a convention that states that

…States Parties undertake, in accordance with the international instruments concerning human rights, to respect and to ensure to all migrant workers and members of their families within their territory or subject to their jurisdiction the rights provided for in the present Convention without distinction of any kind such as to sex, race, colour, language, religion or conviction, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, nationality, age, economic position, property, marital status, birth or other statusMigrant workers and members of their families shall be free to leave any State, including their State of origin. This right shall not be subject to any restrictions…No migrant worker or member of his or her family shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…Migrant workers and members of their families shall have the right to hold opinions without interference...No migrant worker or member of his or her family shall be arbitrarily deprived of property, whether owned individually or in association with others… Migrant workers shall enjoy treatment not less favourable than that which applies to nationals of the State of employment in respect of remuneration.

Such migrants are needed to keep the state-sponsored capitalist mode of production in China humming along as Minqi Li recently told The Real News,  so that is likely why this convention was not even signed by China. Clearly, there is class conflict in China. This was recently noted by RedSpark which wrote about how a solidarity group in Shenzhen was attacked by Chinese police, a group standing in solidarity with a “worker’s struggle in Shenzhen demanding real representation and right to organize,” rallying “under the banner of Marx, Lenin, and Chairman Mao.”

What about Vietnam and Laos? Well, Laos ratified or acceded to eight treaties, and signed two treaties. That would actually give it an even better track record than China, but not as good as Cuba. As for Vietnam, it ratified or acceded to nine treaties, giving it the same track record as China.

Then there are three countries which really stand out in this realm: Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, all of which are social democracies, like Syria. Venezuela has ratified or acceded to 14 treaties and signed three. Of these, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; and Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, were ratified or acceded to during the time Hugo Chavez served as the president of Venezuela (from 1999 to 2013). Additionally, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was signed in 2013, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was signed in 2011, the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was signed in 2011, and the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance was signed in 2008.

Bolivia, signed just as many treaties! In fact, Bolivia ratified or acceded to all 18 treaties. Of these treaties, six of which of them have been ratified since 2006 when Evo Morales became President and his Movement of Socialism came into power, still holding majorities in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Those six treaties are:

  1. Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2006
  2. International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2008
  3. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009
  4. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009
  5. Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2012
  6. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure in 2013
  7. Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty in 2013

Even The Guardian, which grumbled about the Supreme Tribunal of Justice of Bolivia ruling (in December 2017) that all public offices, including the presidency have no term limits, meaning that Morales can run for a fourth term in 2019 and all the actions thereafter, noted the accomplishments of Bolivia (and then proceeded to trash the country in typical imperialist fashion) [5]:

Morales, 58 – an Aymara former coca grower – was elected in 2006. The country’s first indigenous president, his 2009 constitution refounded Bolivia as a “plurinational state”. A partial nationalisation of Bolivia’s oil and gas helped create a middle class from scratch. Bolivia is Latin America’s fastest-growing economy; 53% of its legislators are women and a fifth are under 30. “From being a republic of classes, castes, skin colours, Bolivia today has become a country that by law has to be inclusive,” said Valeria Silva Guzmán, 27, a Mas congresswoman. Through slashing school truancy, infant and maternal mortality, and old-age poverty, she argued, Morales has “definitively changed the everyday reality of Bolivians”.

Of course, there is more to discuss about Bolivia, but this is a good start.

Finally, there is Nicaragua. It has ratified or acceded to 14 treaties, eight (more than half) of which were signed while the Sandinistas were in power from 1979 to 1990 and again from 2006 to the present. These include:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1980
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1980
  • Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1980
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1981
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007
  • Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty in 2009
  • Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2009
  • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010

And that concludes this post, which provides a starting point for writing about all of these countries in the future.

Notes

[1] Specifically the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. As for those that were only signed, this applies to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

[2] Specifically it has ratified or acceded to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Convention on the Rights of the Child; International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance; Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. It has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

[3] In October 1921, Lenin told the Second All-Russia Congress Of Political Education Departments that “our New Economic Policy signifies that, having sustained severe defeat on this point, we have started a strategical retreat…in attempting to go over straight to communism we, in the spring of 1921, sustained a more serious defeat on the economic front than any defeat inflicted upon us by Kolchak, Denikin or Pilsudski. This defeat was much more serious, significant and dangerous…Concessions to foreign capitalists…and leasing enterprises to private capitalists definitely mean restoring capitalism, and this is part and parcel of the New Economic Policy…We must not count on going straight to communism. We must build on the basis of peasants’ personal incentive…we must undergo this training, this severe, stern and sometimes even cruel training, because we have no other way out.” Later on, in February 1922 he noted that “we are still alone and in a backward country, a country that was ruined more than others, but we have accomplished a great deal,” adding the next month the Soviets are, too, “acting as merchants” and later that “economically and politically NEP makes it fully possible for us to lay the foundations of socialist economy.” Apart from this, he easily explained it through 1921 and 1922  as a clear transitionary period, but a strategic retreat,even admitting in November 1921 that “we have retreated to state capitalism, but we did not retreat too far” and at other times it led to capitalist relations. This is NOTHING like what happened in China after 1978 or even Laos and Vietnam, as the conditions could not totally account for such action, especially since the Laotian civil war had ended in 1975, with the same being the case for Vietnam, meaning they had 13 years to develop an economic plan.

[4] As the UN Described it, in a positive tone, “in 1986, the Fourth Party Congress launched the New Economic Mechanism (NEM) to boost all economic sectors through indicative planning and economic liberalization, including a shift toward market determination of prices and resource allocations, decentralization of control over industries, progressive privatization and deregulation to promote trade and investment. Following the adoption of the New Economic Mechanism, the macro-economic situation in the country improved considerably. The macro-economic policy changes have had a strong impact on the development of the urban areas.” The same positive tone was expressed by AESAN. As Social  Watch noted, “in December 1986, the [Vietnamese] government mandated the Doi Moi (open door) policy, shifting from a centrally planned economy to a market oriented one. The current trend shows growing inequality between the rural and urban population, and between the rich and the poor. Privatisation and liberalisation increased the social gap in the access to basic social services in general and to education and health in particular, and increased the vulnerability of the rural poor. In December 1986, the government mandated the DoiMoi (open door) policy, shifting from a centrally planned economy to a market oriented one, inside the framework of state regulations. The main thrust of the Doi Moi is to promote a multi-sector economic system, emphasising the state sector while encouraging the private sector. To achieve economic integration, the open door would be implemented gradually in order to stabilise the political and social situation…Poverty is still mainly a rural problem in a country where some 80% of the population live in rural areas, and two-thirds of them remain largely dependent on agriculture for a living.”

[5] Lawrence Blair, “Evo for ever? Bolivia scraps term limits as critics blast ‘coup’ to keep Morales in power,” The Guardian, Dec 3, 2017.

The non-isolation of the DPRK

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in February 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made.

In the bourgeois media, sources are abound that the DPRK is “isolated” from the rest of the world and is a “hermit kingdom.” International Business Times asks that “Why Is North Korea So Isolated?,” The Diplomat declares that the country has “growing isolation” and has “Self-Imposed Isolation” while HuffPost claims that sanctions are “isolating the isolated,” BBC claims to have an “exclusive” on the country’s “cultural isolation,” and  Forbes declares the country has an “isolated regime.” This claim, trumpeted across the media in many more outlets than those just listed, is an utter lie just like the propaganda spread by Time magazine about the “origin” of the nuclear program of the DPRK in the ashes of the Soviet Union. A report released last year by bourgeois “watchers” noted that even as the country’s “ideology of Juche has emphasized independence in foreign affairs,” this, in reality, hasn’t meant “diplomatic or economic isolation.” [1] In fact, 163 “countries have established formal diplomatic relations with North Korea” even though many of these countries do not “have an ambassador accredited to the DPRK or a diplomatic mission in Pyongyang,” possibly because of the pressure of imperialists through sanctions or some other reason related to those specific countries. However, the DPRK has “embassies in 47 countries, with several of its ambassadors also accredited to neighboring countries” and has also established “a handful of trade missions or representative offices in countries where it lacks an embassy, as well as diplomatic missions to UN offices in New York, Geneva, and Paris.” That doesn’t sound like an isolated country at all! The 47 countries hosting embassies of the DPRK are shown in the map below, coming from the report:

On January 9th of this year [2018], the WPK’s Central Committee “sent a congratulatory message to the Central Directive Council of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle to mark its 45th founding anniversary. The message referred to notable achievements and progress the Indonesian party has made over the past 45 years since its foundation for the country’s independent development and prosperity and the promotion of the Indonesian people’s well-being under the ideal of Pancasila.”
Then there are 24 countries which have embassies in Pyongyang are varied, and even include some of the countries in Western Europe, again showing this idea of “isolation” which is spread across the bourgeois media is silly:

 

Currently relations between the DPRK and Jordan have been diplomatically severed by the latter party. I was relying on a 2016 study of diplomatic relations to put this map together, so some countries may be changed.

That comes to a total of about 4.3 billion souls (at least) represented by the embassies (and their ambassadors) of the 24 countries, shown on the above map, within the DPRK!

If we take the bourgeois media at its word (which CommieDad says rightly we should never do), it would seem that more than $100 million of goods was traded with the DPRK by African countries on an annual basis, along with military training in central Africa, shipping of arms, and pervasive ties to Africa. [2] However, many of the countries quoted by the grey propaganda VOA outlet say that they have no trade or lessened relationships with the DPRK, underling the whole article! Apparently these accusations were taken seriously enough to warrant investigations by the United Nations, showing it to be, in this case, a tool of the imperialists to disrupt any claimed ties between the DPRK and the African continent which it forged “since most nations’ struggle for independence in the 1960s.”  The same can be said about the list of 49 countries which purportedly violated sanctions of the UN Security Council, again working as a tool of the imperialists, claimed by a bourgeois think tank (the Institute for Science and International Security), with “violations” ranging from “banned financial transactions and other business activities,” importing “goods and minerals,” helping the DPRK ship “materials in and out of its country illicitly” and, finally, “arms trading or military training,” the latter which are mostly in Africa. [3] It is hard to know how much of this is even true, but it shows that imperialists are trying to criminalize the business of trade for the DPRK in order to “isolate” it. But, if even some of these “violations” are true, which is possible since the DPRK has sent arms to Pakistan, Myanmar, and the UAE in the past, it shows that part of the world is not going along with this, which is an act of resistance in and of itself.

Perhaps some of the countries share the view of President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea who congratulated “Kim Jong-un for his election victory at the recent Workers Party Congress, and pledged increased support for North Korea’s attempts to build a thriving socialist nation.” [4] For the latter country, ties with the DPRK go back to the 1970s when a former president, Francisco Nguema, welcomed military advisers of the DPRK, and changed the “the name of his ruling party to the United National Workers Party in 1971” (Juche 60) reportedly to mirror the ruling party of the DPRK, the WPK (Workers’ Party of Korea). It is known, beyond this, that Cambodia has a “curious friendship” with the DPRK as the latter has “few economic interests in Cambodia” but there is still seemingly a persistent “residual affinity”  and growing relationship. [5] This the case while some goofballs think that jailing Khmer Rouge leaders sends a message to the DPRK  even though the latter is not connected to the Khmer Rouge at all. At the present, Juche Korea also has friendly relations with Bulgaria, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan, Thailand (dating back to the backing of a communist “insurgency” there during the Cold War), Mongolia (also see here), Myanmar (which resumed diplomatic ties in 2007 after canceling them in 1983 (Juche  72) after imperialists claimed the DPRK was tied to terrorism), The Gambia, and Hungary, to name a few. Any foreign policy errors they may have made undoubtedly has roots in their revisionist approach, as the DPRK is a progressive state rather than a socialist one.

Diplomatic relations by the DPRK with other nations, 1948-1961. Later Serbia resumed the diplomatic relations of Yugoslavia. Relations with Democratic Republic of Vietnam began in 1950. In later years, in 1982, the president of Guinea named an institute inaugurated in the country the “Kim Il Sung Agricultural Science Institute” showing the power of their support for African liberation.

Such internationalism is nothing new for the DPRK and is rooted in its early years when it received aid and support from socialist nations. For example, medical staff from the Hungarian People’s Republic, part of the Warsaw Pact, in 1952 (Juche 41) during the Great Fatherland Liberation War, workers helping reconstruct the country after the destruction of the war, and construction of a surgical hospital in 1955 (Juche 44). The same was the case with aid from the German Democratic Republic (GDR), called “East Germany” in the West, which exported “machines, pharmaceuticals, medical instruments and other medical equipment” in 1952, and created a group of 600 workers, a “Bau-Union,” for “the purpose of construction and repair of roads and bridges in North Korea” in 1955. Additionally, Czechoslovakian and Soviet troops were reportedly stationed in the DPRK in 1951 (Juche 38), Polish motor vehicles from the Zeran plant in Poland were delivered to the country in 1954 (Juche 43), and Polish engineers went to the DPRK in 1955, agreeing to “serve as building instructors” for a period of three years. Then there is aid from the Soviet Union which supplied “machine guns, rifles, mortars, other small arms…obsolete artillery…trucks…[and] Soviet tanks” in 1954, a military pact with the DPRK in 1950, Soviet college professors sent to the country in 1950 (Juche 39), and military cooperation in later years, even in the later 1980s, different from the Russia of today.The efforts against the U$ imperialists under the  UN flag during the Great Fatherland Liberation War were bolstered by thousands of pairs of tennis shoes from Communist China, hundreds of thousands of blankets from Hungary, 300,000 sheets from Czechoslovakia, two medical aircraft from Poland, two boxcars of medicine from GDR, and 10,000 horses from Mongolia just in 1951! By 1958 (Juche 47), even General Nathan F. Twining, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, part of the U$ military establishment, had to admit that “the Communist position in North Korea is stronger than ever because they have a better base from whence to operate.”

Diplomatic relations established by Juche Korea, 1963-1967. In 1966 relations with the state of Palestine began, while Mauritania suspended relations from 1977-1980.

By 1966 (Juche 55), the DPRK was trading $445 million in traded goods, raising from previous years (it was only $124 million in 1949) with more exports than imports, and most of the trade with “communist” nations. This was thanks to their independent policy, establishing relations with all sorts of countries across the world. For instance in 1964, the government criticized the actions by imperialists in Vietnam, expressed the hope of “traditional solidarity” with the Soviets, established diplomatic relations with Mauritania, indirectly said the country should not “conform to Chinese dogma” and established diplomatic relations with Congo! In the 1950s, as the Soviets made moves against trusteeship on the Korean Peninsula, supported by imperialists, the DPRK proposed  holding “elections in all Korea” while the puppet ROK state wanted elections in each artificial division of the Korean Peninsula, an imperialist-backed viewpoint, as they wanted a “non–Communist, independent and representative government” in Korea. However, by 1972 (Juche 61), the Chinese were openly supporting peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula, with the cause for reunification again pushed by the DPRK the same year. Since then the Chinese have changed their position to supporting reunification but only because it will benefit their capitalist class.

Diplomatic relations established by the DPRK, 1968-1972. Relations with Iraq broken off in Oct 1980. Relations with South Yemen in 1968. Relations with Sri Lanka suspended 1971-1975, later a ship with “more than 100 tractors, pumps, plows, vinyl pipes of more than 50 thousand meters and other agricultural implements” were sent to the country, as noted by a Spanish-speaking comrade named Fekerfanta, aid which was requested by Si Lanka. Relations with Chile broken in Sept 1973, later resumed in 1990 after Pinochet.

By the 1970s, there was concern among imperialists and the puppet Koreans in the south that the DPRK may get an upper hand. One diplomatic cable in 1974 remarked that “there are several states in Asia and perhaps half a dozen in Western Europe that would be stimulated to establish diplomatic relations with North Korea.” The same year, Park, the puppet president of ROK, declared that “the North Koreans are the most militant, radical Communists of all Communist Party nations in the world” and was concerned that “the general trend in Japan is towards the left. The left-wing press and political circles are pressuring the Japanese Government, and the Japanese Government is making hasty approaches to North Korea. I hope the U.S. will use its influence to discourage these approaches.” Basically, the ROK and imperialists were worried because they felt that this would weaken efforts to “contain” the DPRK! As a cable in 1975 (Juche 64) remarked, “what happens in Korea affects the balance of power elsewhere and vice versa. Europe is affected by the expansion of Soviet power in Korea.”

Diplomatic relations established by the DPRK, 1973-1977. Relations with Argentina broken in 1977. Relations with Australia suspended 1975-2000.  Relations with Fiji suspended from 1987-2002. Costa Rica relations broken off at year not known. Myanmar relations suspended 1983-2007. On Feb 2 of this year, Jordan terminated its diplomatic relations with the DPRK, which it claimed it was doing “in line with the policies of Jordan’s allies” with its major ally being the murderous empire!

Fast forward to June 1985 (Juche 74). A Special National Intelligence Assessment was issued saying that the DPRK had an “activist foreign policy” aiming to unify Korean peninsula, deny recognition to ROK, gain continuing support of revisionist USSR and revisionist China, and engage in overtures to Seoul and West in hopes of improving the image of the DPRK, solicit “new trade and aid,” even investment. The report estimated that there were 700 military personnel on the African continent, along with military assistance and other aid. Advisers from Juche Korea were in countries were Soviets were supposedly present, and their policy sprung from what had been done in the late 1960s and early 1970s,when liberation fighters, which they called “terrorist groups and extremists” were supported “in Africa, Middle East, and Africa.” The following year, another report was issued by the intelligence community of the murderous empire. It argued that the DPRK continued to push for reunification, looking to the periphery, which they called the “Third World,” for support, opposed the legitimacy of ROK, and turned toward Moscow, benefiting from Soviet aid. It also added that while the Soviets disliked the government (showing it was not a Soviet colony), the DPRK disliked the “regime in Afghanistan,” was said to have supported “Prince Sihanouk’s anti-Vietnamese struggle in Cambodia” while the government distanced itself “from Moscow elsewhere in the Third World” in order to be and stay non-aligned in the world. Some of these stances were emblematic of their revisionist approach at the time.

Diplomatic relations established by Juche Korea 1979-1992. Grenada relations broken Jan 1985, later resumed. Lesotho relations broken Aug 1986, later resumed.

In the later years of the Cold War, the Soviets recognized the ROK, and the Chinese did in 1992 (Juche 81), which was a “major diplomatic blow to North Korea.” After the Cold War ended, international politics shifted, leading “Pyongyang to drop its longstanding opposition to joining the UN jointly with Seoul, with both north and south Korea joining the global body in 1991” along with the “collapse of the Soviet bloc” resulting in cuts in aid to the DPRK, leading to economic problems in the mid-1990s  and closing “many of its embassies between 1993 and 2001” since the budget was restricted. [6] As a result the DPRK, in the early 2000s, established diplomatic relations with many European countries, even  with with the European Union in 2001 (Juche 90), the culmination of their revisionist foreign policy but also due to the end of the Soviet Union. As the World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 2017, of U$ State Department showed, arms exports of DPRK were minimal from 2005-2015, but even  they reportedly compromised much of the exports in 2005 and 2010 especially, there has been a decline in arms exports from 2005-2015 while abuses of human life continued within the murderous empire.

Diplomatic relations established by the DPRK, 1993-2011. Relations with Botswana broken in Feb 2014 [7]. 2001 relations with the EU began. In October of 2017, the UAE downgraded relations with Juche Korea (and stopped issuing visas to nationals from the DPRK), with “similar moves by Qatar and Kuwait” showing these Gulf autocracies really serve the murderous empire.
In the end, this article proves without a doubt that the DPRK is not isolated in its approach to the world, even though it has adopted revisionist approaches and there is the continuing trend of creeping capitalism in the country itself.


Notes

[1] Daniel Wertz, JJ Oh, and Kim Insung, “DPRK Diplomatic Relations,” issue brief, National Committee on North Korea (NCNK), August 2016. A version of this is also on a webpage currently  on their website, but also archived here. NCNK is a NGO, which is part of Mercy Corps (a 501 (c) charity) of those with “significant expertise in and diverse perspectives on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” which aims at “fostering mutual understanding and trust between the governments and peoples of the U.S. and DPRK, facilitating engagement and cooperation, reducing tension, and promoting peace on the Korean Peninsula through education, information-sharing, and relationship-building.” While it is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Ploughshares Fund, Henry Luce Foundation, and Pacific Century Institute, Inc, it claims that “donations from individuals are also an integral part of NCNK’s financial base.”As such, it is a bourgeois group (this is evident from looking at its members) but something can be taken from it of course. Its a bit like 38 North. For the horrid Time magazine article, see “How North Korea Built a Nuclear Arsenal on the Ashes of the Soviet Union” in February of this year, which even admits at one point that “whether any of Ukraine’s impoverished scientists have gone to work in North Korea is difficult to prove.” So what was the whole article about then? It was just a work of unmitigated propaganda.

[2] Salem Solomon, “Africa’s Ties to North Korea Extend Beyond Isolated Military Deals,” VOA, Sept 17, 2017; Kevin J. Kelley, “Uganda: UN Probes Tanzania and Uganda Deals With North Korea,” TheEastAfrican, Sept 13, 2017.

[3] Here’s why North Korea’s economy is able to survive sanction after sanction,” Vox, Dec 7, 2017.

[4] Samuel Ramani, “North Korea’s African Allies,” The Diplomat, Jun 4, 2016. Take for example Bolivia, officially called the Plurinational State of Bolivia and headed by Evo Morales, which has harshly criticized the murderous apartheid and Zionist state. While some sources seem to indicate there is an accredited DPRK embassy in Caracas, nothing can be found about the relations between Bolivia and Juche Korea, just information on the former’s elections (see here, here, and here), the Communist Party of Bolivia, the Constitution of Bolivia, Morales’s criticism of the orange menace, a page on the website of the U$ State Department, and a page on labor stats by the ILO.

[5] Sebastian Strangio, “North Korea’s New Friend?,” The Diplomat, Aug 14, 2011; Go Cambodia, “North Korea seeks Cambodia’s help,” 2017; Jack Board,  “The curious case of North Korea in Cambodia,” Channel NewsAsia, Apr 23, 2017; Luke Hunt, “North Korea-Cambodia Relations: The Sound of Silence,” The Diplomat, Mar 2017; Prak Thun Thul, “Jailing of Khmer Rouge leaders ‘sends message to North Korea’: U.N. envoy,” Reuters, Nov 23, 2016; Elizabeth Shim, “North Korea intervenes in Cambodia, U.N. human rights dispute,” UPI, Nov 10, 2016.

[6] Daniel Wertz, JJ Oh, and Kim Insung, “DPRK Diplomatic Relations,” issue brief, National Committee on North Korea (NCNK), August 2016. A version of this is also on a webpage currently  on their website, but also archived here. NCNK is a NGO, which is part of Mercy Corps (a 501 (c) charity) of those with “significant expertise in and diverse perspectives on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” which aims at “fostering mutual understanding and trust between the governments and peoples of the U.S. and DPRK, facilitating engagement and cooperation, reducing tension, and promoting peace on the Korean Peninsula through education, information-sharing, and relationship-building.” While it is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Ploughshares Fund, Henry Luce Foundation, and Pacific Century Institute, Inc, it claims that “donations from individuals are also an integral part of NCNK’s financial base.”As such, it is a bourgeois group (this is evident from looking at its members) but something can be taken from it of course. Its a bit like 38 North.

[7] At the present, controversy led Botswana to move from an ally of Juche Korea to cut ties with it completely!

“Take your Thorazine”: Determining the political nature of Syria

This text comes from Venessa Beeley’s website “The Wall Will Fall.” The image comes from Diana Dayoub’s Instagram page, seemingly a photograph of Syria. I say seemingly because on Instagram it does not say where the photo was taken.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made since I wrote this when I was much more influenced by revisionism than I am now.

In response to my recent post about the Democratic Party within the murderous empire, the so-called Marxist, Louis Proyect, declared in a comment: “Syria as a social democracy? You need to take your Thorazine.” Basically he was acting like I am out of my mind, in that he is implying I have schizophrenia or some other psychotic disorder which is an discriminatory and ableist (and is also untrue) sentiment. This is not surprising because he has a deep-seated hatred for the duly-elected Syrian government, liking the “left” opposition to it, engaging in Orientalist propaganda. I included part of his comment in the title of this article to further poke at this fake Marxist who stands against everything that Marxism stands for. He’s basically a butt-hurt progressive who hates anti-imperialist governments, although he acts like he is radical (which is a lie). Anyway, Proyect was responding to my above linked post which I wrote that while Gowans thinks that Syria is socialist, but I think that, Syria is not that at all. In August of last year I expanded on this topic, citing Gowans as a starting point for analysis:

…As noted earlier, the U$ wants to overthrow Syria’s duly-elected government…While you could argue, like Gowans that this is correct, more realistically, the state is socially democratic and secular. Hence, they have a national bourgeoisie…the Syrian leadership courts the Russian capitalists…If we can take that to heart, standing in international solidarity with Iran, Syria, and Russia, even though each of these countries has a national bourgeoisie, against the murderous empire, that is a step in the right direction.

I further added to this in other posts last year, writing that Bashar Al-Assad, and previous leaders since Syrian independence, were duly elected “by the people of Syria” with the empire scowling “at Syria since the 1960s. Furthermore, I added, in another post, that over 17.1 million are “living in the Syrian Arab Republic” with the government led by the “duly elected National Progressive Front (NPF) with its majority in the Syrian’s People’s Council” reaffirmed in elections in April 2016. This post aims to answer a simple question: Is Syria socialist, socially democratic, or just progressive?

Table of contents for this article

  1. Defining terms
  2. Gowans argues that Syria is socialist: Is he right?
  3. Further analysis: examining Syria’s economy and its supposed “socialist” nature
  4. Syria, the “good” Kurds, Syrian Communists, and elections
  5. Resistance to imperialism and concluding words
  6. Notes

 

Defining terms

Mao Zedong studying the writings of comrade Josef Stalin in the Yenan base area during the Chinese Revolution as noted on a webpage titled “Marxism-Leninism Study Guide

In order to answer the question of whether Syria is socially democratic or progressive,. I first turned to the Marxists Internet Archive (MIA). The term “social-democracy” was originally used as an “extension of political democracy to the economic level, the elimination of capitalism and the institution of a broad based workers democracy.” However, with the failure of the  Second International “to rally the international working class” against World War I, “social-democracy split,” and by 1919 most supporters of the Communist International “called themselves “Communists”” with social-democracy becoming “largely synonymous with the pale reformism of these now established socialist parties, such as the German Social-Democrats and the British Labour Party.” As for the term democratic, MIA defines this as “a political system of rule by the majority” but adding that communism works to move beyond the “limited democracy found under capitalism” and the “repressive nature of bourgeois democracy” itself. As such, the idea of “proletarian democracy” was not only representative, but participatory by avoiding the form of democracy where “one class of people decide what should be done, while another class of people do it” with the working class deciding “amongst themselves, by consensus what and how it should be done” with all positions “of authority in Socialist society must be elected solely by workers and subject to recall at any time.” Ultimately this would be the realization of a “proletarian democracy,” a significant step toward the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship which would “yield to the majority of the working people” and be a stead defense against world capitalism. As Lenin described it, in 1919, a

Proletarian dictatorship [or dictatorship of the proletariat] is similar to dictatorship of other classes in that it arises out of the need, as every other dictatorship does, to forcibly suppresses the resistance of the class that is losing its political sway. The fundamental distinction between the dictatorship of the proletariat and a dictatorship of the other classes…consists in the fact that the dictatorship of landowners and bourgeoisie was a forcible suppression of the resistance offered by the vast majority of the population, namely, the working people. In contrast, proletarian dictatorship is a forcible suppression of the resistance of the exploiters, i.e., of an insignificant minority the population, the landlords and capitalists. It follows that proletarian dictatorship must inevitably entail not only a change in the democratic forms and institutions, generally speaking, but precisely such change as provides an unparalleled extension of the actual enjoyment of democracy by those oppressed by capitalism—the toiling classes…[giving] the vast majority of the population, greater practical opportunities for enjoying democratic rights and liberties than ever existed before, even approximately, in the best and the most democratic bourgeois republics…it is the people [who]…are now drawn into constant and unfailing, moreover, decisive, participation in the democratic administration of the state…[with] a government of the workers [who are disinterested]…in the means of production being privately owned…the dictatorship of the proletariat [like the Soviet system]…is so organized as to bring the working people close to the machinery of government…[with the] combining the legislative and executive authority under the Soviet organization of the state and…replacing territorial constituencies by production units—the factory…only the proletariat is in a position to unite and lead the scattered and backward sections of the working and exploited population…only the Soviet government of the state can really affect the immediate breakup and total destruction of the old, i.e., bourgeois, bureaucratic and judicial machinery, which has been…retained under capitalism even in the most democratic republics…proletarian, democracy [enlists]…the mass organizations of the working people in constant and unfailing participation in the administration of the state, it immediately begins to prepare the complete withering away of any state…[we need to]…extend the organization of Soviets among the workers in all branches of industry, among the soldiers in the Army and the sailors in the Navy and also among farm laborers and poor peasants

Such a dictatorship of the proletariat, or what you could call proletarian democracy, would be part of an overall socialist system. Of course for the term “socialism” itself MIA has varying definitions, reflecting the debate on this term. There are words of August Bebel quoted in MIA’s definition, but it is better to use to definitions of Lenin and Marx & Engels as they are the principal Marxist theorists. Marx and Engels did not specifically define socialism in the Communist Manifesto but they talk about the “expanding union of the workers” with the need to “centralise the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes” while he also wrote, powerfully, that “what the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.” They called for the abolition “of this state of things is called by the bourgeois, abolition of individuality and freedom” with the end of “bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom,” further noting that such freedom is “free trade, free selling and buying.” Furthermore, it was argued that private property for one-tenth of the population would be abolished, while allowing any person to “appropriate the products of society” but not having the power to “subjugate the labour of others.” This would further mean, they write, that the bourgeois family, where wives are “mere instrument[s] of production,” should be abolished (along with public and private prostitution), and rescue education “from the influence of the ruling class” while abolishing “countries and nationality” and saying that the “first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy” with the proletariat using its “political supremacy to wrest…all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State,” increasing total production as soon as possible. From there, while saying that measures will “be different in different countries,” Marx and Engels proposed “generally applicable” proposals:

  1. abolition of all land rents
  2. abolition of land as property
  3. a “heavy progressive or graduated income tax,”
  4. ending all “rights of inheritance”
  5. confiscating the property of “all emigrants and rebels”
  6. centralizing credit in the “hands of the state” with the creation of a national bank
  7. centralizing communication and transport in the state’s hands
  8. having “instruments of production” and factories owned by the state
  9. while cultivating wastelands and improving the soil
  10. having “equal liability of all to work”
  11. establishment of “industrial armies, especially for agriculture”
  12. combining “agriculture with manufacturing industries”
  13. gradually abolishing the “distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace”
  14. free education of all in public schools
  15. abolishing “children’s factory labour in its present form”
  16. Combining “education with industrial production”

After that, Marx and Engels note that once “class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation” then public power will lose its political character, and that if the proletariat is compelled to make “itself the ruling class” it would sweep away “the old conditions of production…[and] the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally,” abolishing its supremacy as a class. This means, in their words, that in the place of “old bourgeois society” there would be “an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

Beyond this, in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, in 1875, Marx wrote that “between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other” meaning that there is a “political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat” with which he talked about. Lenin was a bit more specific. He wrote in 1917, in chapter 2 of The State and Revolution, that during the period where a society is moving from capitalism to communism, there is unprecedentedly “violent class struggle” with which the state must “democratic in a new way” for those who are propertyless and the proletarian but “dictatorial in a new way” aimed against the bourgeoisie. He further added that such a “dictatorship of a single class is necessary…for the entire historical period which separates capitalism from…communism” and while this transition is bound to lead to “tremendous abundance and variety of political forms” the essence will be the dictatorship of the proletariat. In chapter 5, of the same book, he wrote more about this, saying that

The first phase of communism…cannot yet provide justice and equality [with] differences, and unjust differences…still persist[ing], but the exploitation of man by man will have become impossible because it will be impossible to seize the means of production…and make them private property….the scientific distinction between socialism and communism is clear. What is usually called socialism was termed by Marx the “first”, or lower, phase of communist society. Insofar as the means of production becomes common property, the word “communism” is also applicable here, providing we do not forget that this is not complete communism…[Marx] regards communism as something which develops out of capitalism…In its first phase, or first stage, communism cannot as yet be fully mature economically and entirely free from traditions or vestiges of capitalism…It follows that under communism there remains for a time not only bourgeois law, but even the bourgeois state, without the bourgeoisie!…as soon as equality is achieved for all members of society in relation to ownership of the means of production, that is, equality of labor and wages, humanity will inevitably be confronted with the question of advancing further from formal equality to actual equality…By what stages, by means of what practical measures humanity will proceed to this supreme aim we do not and cannot know…only socialism will be the beginning of a rapid, genuine, truly mass forward movement, embracing first the majority and then the whole of the population, in all spheres of public and private life….Democracy…signifies the formal recognition of equality of citizens, the equal right of all to determine the structure of, and to administer, the state…a degree of democracy implies overstepping the boundaries of bourgeois society and beginning its socialist reorganization. If really all take part in the administration of the state, capitalism cannot retain its hold….it is quite possible, after the overthrow of the capitalists and the bureaucrats, to proceed immediately, overnight, to replace them in the control over production and distribution, in the work of keeping account of labor and products, by the armed workers, by the whole of the armed population…Accounting and control…is needed for the “smooth working”, for the proper functioning, of the first phase of communist society. All citizens are transformed into hired employees of the state, which consists of the armed workers. All citizens becomes employees and workers of a single countrywide state “syndicate”…When the majority of the people begin independently and everywhere to keep such accounts and exercise such control over the capitalists…this control will really become universal, general, and popular…The whole of society will have become a single office and a single factory, with equality of labor and pay…this “factory” discipline…will extend to the whole of society…[a] necessary step for thoroughly cleansing society of all the infamies and abominations of capitalist exploitation…the more complete the democracy, the nearer the moment when it becomes unnecessary…[finally] the door will be thrown wide open for the transition from the first phase of communist society to its higher phase, and with it to the complete withering away of the state.

One could say that some countries in the world (like Cuba and the DPRK), are in the first stage of communism, working to move forward to improve their existing socialism, limited through the continuance of international capitalism, meaning that they cannot be “mature economically and entirely free from traditions or vestiges of capitalism.” However, this would be an utterly revisionist position meaning it is better to call those countries, like others as plain progressive. This generates the question: what should a socialist state be like within today’s world of global capitalism? Taking what Lenin said, above, to heart, he is arguing that a state would have some “unjust differences” but exploitation of one person by the other would be impossible with the means of production becoming “common property” while equality of “labor and wages” had be striven for, along with the “socialist reorganization” with workers controlling “production and distribution.” Additionally all citizens would become “hired employees of the state” with their control over society being “universal, general, and popular” with society itself becoming a “single office and a single factory” wherein all the “infamies and abominations of capitalist exploitation” will be cleansed away. This is manifested in a dictatorship of the proletariat, as Lenin described it, or proletarian democracy as it is also called, would be suppress “the resistance of the exploiters” with such a state changing democratic institutions and forms but also extending “actual enjoyment of democracy by those oppressed by capitalism” to new heights, giving them new “democratic rights and liberties” and decisive participation in the state’s administration itself while the old machinery of bourgeois, bureaucratic, and judicial character will be broken to pieces. Marx and Engels were arguing something similar, but partially different. He said that communism’s end goal is the abolition of bourgeois independence, bourgeois individuality, bourgeois freedom (free trade, free buying and selling), private property for the one-tenth of the population, the bourgeois family, countries, and nationalities. Such socialist states, as you could call them, were envisioned by Marx and Engels, would abolish land as property, all land rents, the “distinction between town and country” over time, child factory labor, and all inheritance rights. More positively, such a state would have a heavy progressive income tax, confiscate property of rebels and emigrants, have free education for all children in public schools, centralize credit in the state with a national bank, centralize communication, transport, factories, and other “instruments of production” while establishing “industrial armies” especially in agriculture, combine manufacturing and agriculture along with industrial production and education. They also called for “equal liability of all to work,” improving the soil, and cultivating wastelands.

What about the word progressive? The Fourth Edition of the Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it as “moving forward or upward…favoring, working for, or characterized by progressive or improvement, as through political or social reform…of or having to do with a person, movement, etc. thought of being modern or advanced, in ideas, methods, etc,” or in a bourgeois sense as used by liberals and “progressives” in the U$ which cluster around the Democratic Party, “of an educational system stressing individuality, self-expression, etc” or a person who favors “progress or reform.”

This is a lot to take in, but is worth discussing if this applies to Syria (and ultimately other countries) or not.

Gowan argues that Syria is socialist: Is he right?

This map comes from page 148 of a Library of Congress report on Syria which is discussed later in this article.

Time and time again, revisionist Stephen Gowans has said that the Syrian Arab Republic is socialist. In April of last year he wrote that the country had followed, since the 1960s, “an Arab socialist development path which is at odds with the global free enterprise project advanced by Washington on behalf of its Wall Street patron,” saying that the latter wants to “sweep away the Arab socialist impediments to the free enterprise, free trade, and free market capitalist nirvana.” Elsewhere he called Syria “pro-independence, secular, non-sectarian, [and] socialist-oriented,” citing a study by the Library of Congress along with statements by the Wall Street Journal and Heritage Foundation to support his intention that the country is socialist, in a long line of other countries. In other articles, Gowans writes that Syria has “a parliament” and is “anti-colonial and anti-imperialist” with parts of the state “remain committed to socialist goals.” Other than this, he argues that since Syria is governed by those who call themselves socialist, saying that the Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party advocates for socialism, presiding over “the drafting of Syria’s constitutions, which mandate government ownership of the commanding heights of the economy and a significant role for government in the guidance of the economy” which he says is “socialism.” He adds that those in the West have “long complained about Damascus’s refusal to fully integrate into a US-led global neo-liberal economic order.” In an older post he admits, however that Afiz Assad, when he came to power in 1970, “tried to overcome the Sunni opposition by encouraging private enterprise and weakening the party’s commitment to socialism, and by opening space for Islam.” In the same post he writes that “Syria remains too much like the socialist state the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party founders envisaged for it, and too little like a platform for increasing the profits of overseas banks, investors and corporations” even as he says that “Ba’athists continue to obstinately hold on to elements of the party’s socialist program.” He also says that the Arab nationalists, “in power since 1963” represent “socialism, Arab nationalism, anti-imperialism, and anti-Zionism.” Back in 2014, Gowans wrote that Syria is a state founded “on anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, Arab nationalism, and non-Marxist socialism” the latter being worrisome to say the least. However, in 2012, he wrote that Hafez Assad “minimized class warfare in favor of broadening his government’s base, trying to win over merchants, artisans, business people, and other opponents of the regime’s nationalizations and socialist measures,” calling the government a “secular Arab nationalist regime” instead of a socialist one. Gowans said that his personal “politics incline more to the left than the Ba’th could comfortably accommodate,” adding that the “Syrian state has been far more progressive than regressive.” As such, it seems that he only began to call Syria “socialist” in more recent years.  In October 2016 he made his most cogent argument that Syria was a “socialist” state, specifically an “Arab socialist” state, a definition which problematically divorces socialism and Marxism!:

Socialism can be defined in many ways, but if it is defined as public-ownership of the commanding heights of the economy accompanied by economic planning, then Syria under its 1973 and 2012 constitutions clearly meets the definition of socialism. However, the Syrian Arab Republic had never been a working-class socialist state, of the category Marxists would recognize. It was, instead, an Arab socialist state inspired by the goal of achieving Arab political independence and overcoming the legacy of the Arab nation’s underdevelopment…Marxist socialism concerned itself with the struggle between an exploiting owning class and exploited working class, while Arab socialism addressed the struggle between exploiting and exploited nations….Socialism was against the profit-making interests of US industrial and financial capital…The Ba’athist state had exercised considerable influence over the Syrian economy…The Ba’athists regarded these measures as necessary economic tools of a post-colonial state trying to wrest its economic life from the grips of former colonial powers…Washington…[wanted Syria to] serve the interests of the bankers and major investors who truly mattered in the United States, by opening Syrian labor to exploitation and Syria’s land and natural resources to foreign ownership…the Syrian government would not make Syrians work for the interests of Western banks, corporations, and investors…Assad underscored his allegiance to socialist values…[while] the constitution committed the state to progressive taxation…If Assad was a neo-liberal, he certainly was one of the world’s oddest devotees of the ideology.

His idea of “Arab Socialism” differs, in his mind, from what he has previously described as “social democracy.” He says that while “social democratic parties may self-consciously aim to represent the bottom 99 percent of society, they serve…the top one percent” and adds that the “party’s candidates and elected officials…are often willing to sacrifice principle for immediate electoral gain,” adding that “social democratic parties are dominated by a stratum whose direct personal interests are defined by the electoral successes of the party.” He further writes that “social democrats believe that it is possible to reform society in egalitarian directions within the context of capitalism…[and] working within the political institutions of capitalist society.” He ended by saying that while “social democratic parties espoused socialism as an objective, even if a very distant one, the socialism they espoused was to be achieved with the permission of capital on capital’s terms,” different from what he described as “socialism” in the Soviet Union, Cuba, the DPRK, East Germany, or the ideas espoused by figures like Kim Il Sung, Mao Zedong, Josef Stalin, and Vladimir Lenin, which he has written about in the past.

To take his own words, he admits that Syria has never “been a working-class socialist state” but says it embodies “Arab socialism.” The question remains from this: is “Arab socialism” really a socialist program, if we define socialism as Marx & Engels and Lenin viewed it, as noted earlier in this article? Those on /r/communism, for example, argue that Arab socialism is inherently a bourgeois ideology, more of social democracy than real socialism, even as they played a somewhat progressive role in the Arab World. More specifically, “Arab socialism” is about nationalization (as Nasser did), and engaging in “state-sponsored economic development” which occurred in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria, with a consensus, as noted by Oxford Reference, that the “most urgent national needs were independence and economic development,” adding that there were “land reforms” while the “banking, insurance, foreign trade, large industries, and large private and foreign-owned companies were all nationalized.” Additionally, such economic programs was “accompanied by expansion in social, welfare, health, and educational services.”

From this, we come back to social democracy once again. If we accept, as I believe we should and will argue further in the next section, that Syria is not a socialist state on Marxist terms, it is worth returning to what social democracy is after all. One writer, Bela Kun wrote in 1932 that social democracy says that “peaceful reformist work…would assure evolution into socialism” with the latter becoming “the cause of one class, of the working class” but collaboration of many classes, with Marxism serving as a source for slogans but no longer guide the ruling party’s policy. This writer further adds that there is a “defence of capitalist rationalisation” and the opposite of  “Marxian trade-union theory and practice” for example, supporting a “bourgeois dictatorship.” This is not the same as “revolutionary Social Democracy” embodied by the Bolsheviks which includes reforms, but also the policy of parties who work to engage in revolution to bring about proletarian democracy. Rather social democrats are “conductors of bourgeois influence” as Lenin described it, allying with bourgeois forces, focusing on nationalization, definitely not advocating for the “confiscation of all landed estates” which Lenin wrote about in 1911. These social democrats stand for democracy in the “name of capitalism,” the opposite of what the Bolsheviks did. Stalin further added that social democracy is characterized by “reformism and [an] anti-revolutionary character” with those of that ideology arguing that “the proletariat had to strive for was a peaceful path of transition from capitalism to socialism” with the time between capitalism and socialism when “capitalism will flourish and the proletariat languish in misery.”

Still, this does not fully define social democracy as a concept. Of course there are cookie-cutter definitions, as you could call them, from bourgeois dictionaries like Merriam-Webster calling it a movement which advocates for a gradual and peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism by democratic means” or a democratic “welfare state that incorporates both capitalist and socialist practices,” and Encyclopaedia Britannica declaring that it is a “political ideology that originally advocated a peaceful evolutionary transition of society from capitalism to socialism using established political processes” becoming more moderate throughout the 20th century. The same can be said of dictionary.com which declared that social democracy is a “political ideology advocating a gradual transition to socialism or a modified form of socialism by and under democratic political processes” and Wikiquote saying it is a “political ideology that supports economic and social interventions to promote socialism within a democratic framework and a policy regime involving welfare state provisions,” among much more. The London-based social democrat publisher, Social Europe, attempted to define it as well, writing that “social-democracy is well known as a pragmatic political tendency…[with a] reputation…as a force for progressive change” even as they note that many social democrats talk about good capitalism and accept capitalist dogma. They add poignantly that “social-democrats have always been reformists. Social-democracy is not about overthrowing existing structures in some kind of violent act of revolution,” further saying that “markets…need to be kept in their place,” meaning that capitalism should be regulated, and not removed.

From this, and what has been said previously, one can surmise that social democracy aims to reform society within capitalism with “peaceful reformist work,” is a bourgeois ideology connected to nationalization and social welfare programs, opposes Marxian theory at its core, stands for democracy in the “name of capitalism,” and is anti-revolutionary, advocating for a peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism, with markets still firmly in place. However, there is more to it than this. Any reforms based on social democracy itself is “bound to fail” since it does not address “capital and its accumulation to the few at the expense of the many.” Additionally, as Minqi Li writes in the Monthly Review, “social democratic capitalism” from the 1950s to 1973 “helped to alleviate the class conflicts and maintain a relatively high level of aggregate demand” bu that “inherent contradictions of capitalism” continued to develop, as institutions within such capitalism created new “conditions that increasingly undermined worldwide accumulation” while the balance of power “between capital and labor, and between the core and the periphery” led to a “worldwide decline of profitability.” Li adds that establishment of  “social democratic capitalism could not take place without at least a partial political victory of the working classes” while noting that “in a capitalist world economy with nation states, the competition between different capitalist states will prevent them from taking full account of environmental costs” meaning that social democratic capitalism will become “an “alternative” way towards global ecological catastrophe.” That isn’t good for anyone! Add to this that the so-called “Nordic system” which is lauded by supporters for “free and effective healthcare, education, transportation, and cleanliness” they are actually “rife with problems, and do not feature an ideal socio-economic system.” They additionally cannot “completely rid itself of socially conservative beliefs” until there is a ” full socio-economic transformation that involves the abolition of private ownership of the means of production, the central characteristic of capitalism.” That has not happened in Scandinavia and likely will not in the years to go. Even a Stalin-hating individual said that social democracy has “no ability to move in any direction” and wrote that “so-called state capitalism, all terminological quibbles aside, presented mankind with a glimpse of its potential, but could not escape the logic inherent in the accumulation of value.” Beyond this, super-profits taken from “the export of capital” allows for a “greater measure of social democracy at the centres of global capitalism”while capitalists “do not care as a class for social democratic reforms because these reforms get in the way of profit” with such reforms existing “because of working-class struggle and not because capitalists wanted to play nice.” Furthermore, social democracy is permitted because it was “forced into existence by concrete struggle and thus needed to be recognized” and the loss of “surplus [which] could be circumvented through the export of capital and super-exploitation elsewhere.

While the summation of social democracy and other aspects help define it in rough terms, what Stalin wrote in 1926 is helpful in defining it more fully. He wrote that (bolding is my emphasis), talking about ideological principles within the communist party and social-democratic parties:

Some might think that the Russians are excessively pugnacious, that they love debating and multiply differences, and that it is because of this that the development of their Party proceeds through the overcoming of inner Party contradictions. That is not true, comrades. It is not a matter of pugnacity, but of the existence of disagreements based on principle, which arise in the course of the Party’s development, in the course of the class struggle of the proletariat. The fact of the matter is that contradictions can be overcome only by means of a struggle for definite principles, for definite aims of the struggle, for definite methods of waging the struggle leading to the desired aim. One can, and should, agree to any compromise with dissenters in the Party on questions of current policy, on questions of a purely practical nature. But if these questions are connected with disagreements based on principle, no compromise, no “middle” line can save the situation. There can be no “middle” line in questions of principle. Either one set of principles or another must be made the basis of the Party’s work. A “middle” line in matters of principle is the “line” of stuffing people’s heads with rubbish, of glossing over disagreements, a “line” leading to the ideological degeneration of the Party, to the ideological death of the Party. How do the Social-Democratic parties of the West exist and develop nowadays? Have they inner-party contradictions, disagreements based on principle? Of course, they have. Do they disclose these contradictions and try to over come them honestly and openly in sight of the mass of the party membership? No, of course not. It is the practice of the Social-Democrats to cover up and conceal these contradictions and disagreements. It is the practice of the Social-Democrats to turn their conferences and congresses into an empty parade of ostensible well-being, assiduously covering up and slurring over internal disagreements. But nothing can come of this except stuffing people’s heads with rubbish and the ideological impoverishment of the party. This is one of the reasons for the decline of West-European Social-Democracy, which was once revolutionary, and is now reformist. We, however, cannot live and develop in that way, comrades. The policy of a “middle” line in matters of principle is not our policy. The policy of a “middle” line in matters of principle is the policy of decaying and degenerating parties. Such a policy cannot but lead to the conversion of the party into an empty bureaucratic apparatus, running idle and divorced from the masses of the workers. That path is not our path.

With all of this, one can define social democracy as a phenomenon primarily concentrated in the West which aims to reform capitalist society peacefully, using nationalization and social welfare programs as part of a peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism with markets firmly in place, and being thoroughly anti-revolutionary by not engaging in a  necessary socio-economic transformation in society, with any reforms at all only possible through struggles of the proletariat. Furthermore, using the words of Stalin quoted above, one could add that social democracy does not have unification on matters of principle which leads to party to become an “empty bureaucratic apparatus” which is “divorced from the masses of workers.” Additionally, you could add, social democracy isn’t one bit about class struggle against the bourgeoisie!

With this, we can proceed to the next section of this article.

Further analysis: examining Syria’s economy and its supposed “socialist” nature

A map on page 134 of a Library of Congress report on Syria, discussed later in this section, showing that much of the country is arid.

Before moving onto the two sources which underpinned Gowans analysis that Syria is “socialist,” I looked at some other sources. Everyone seems to acknowledge the government has a strong hand in the economy which some call “state-capitalist” and others call “socialist,” possibly in their intentions, with some saying that the government engaged in neoliberal reforms in the 1990s and suppressed ” independent working-class organisation” while those more supportive say that the government of Syria is actively anti-imperialist, pro-Palestinian, and should not be demonized. [1] Other sources seem to also agree that the state has a strong role in the economy. Some said that “Syria’s economy is essentially state-run, although it has remained partly private, as for example the retail trade businesses” with certain privatizations starting in 2000,private banking legalized in 2001, and “centralised and restrictive government control” leading to low “productivity” in the minds of capitalists, with others saying that the economy was diverse before the imperialist assault on Syria began, with the country, in 2013, “home to 11 private banks, three Islamic banks, and seven foreign banks.” [2] With such an assault, the country has become “lower middle income” and devastated by the state of war as forces tried to tear the country apart, as millions are displaced. A war economy was put in place after 2012, using the “hard currency reserves” of the Central Bank of Syria and allowing traders to run their own affairs and protect their own facilities, along with other arrangements, the government revived “state supermarkets” (started in the 1960s) and rolled back the “modest economic liberalization [which] began in 2005,” in attempt to “ease economic hardship for the poor and contain social unrest” along with not removing government petroleum and electricity subsidies, which Reuters called “socialist economic policies.” Such moves by the government echoed the  “nationalization measures of the 1960s” [3] under the Amin al-Hafiz (Syria’s first Ba’ath Party ruler) in Syria, which were followed by “a major industrial development program stressing heavy industry” in the 1970s. There is no doubt that before the assault, starting in 2011, “Syria’s economy was based on oil production, agriculture, industry and tourism,” where “many industries” were subsidized (even as of 2006), the former which was seemingly strengthened as the government attempts to restore order in the country. As Al Bawaba remarked in 2000, the Syrian “government still keeps intact many policies that protect home-grown industries at the expense of attracting foreign investment” such as “high tariffs and numerous import restrictions and limited access to capital for those in the private sector.”

The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), part of the UN, wrote, within a 2003 publication titled “Syrian agriculture at the crossroads,” that the Syrian government in the 1970s re-defined “socialism” to mean increased industrial employment, role of the public sector, and “activation of the private sector, ” which was changed by the 1980s and 1990s to “state-led export promotion,” even putting forward some “structural adjustment” attempts at the time, aligning with those who said that the economy is “predominantly state-controlled” at the present. They added that

The economy of the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) is currently under transition from one that has been largely centrally planned to one that is more liberal. The general objectives of policy have been and will remain the achievement of a sustainable level of economic abundance, social welfare, and equity…The economy is still characterized by a large but stagnant public sector, and a resilient but constrained private sector, a cumbersome regulatory regime, continuation of many state controls, and a complicated trade and exchange rate system…The financial system is dominated by public enterprises and serves primarily the public sector. Hence, one of the key requirements for private sector growth, namely the existence of financial services for the private sector, is largely missing in Syria. The current government strategy is favourable to the private sector, and to export promotion, but with the continued presence of a strong public sector.

Beyond this, the Heritage Foundation said in their page on Syria that “civil war has left Syria’s economy in ruins” with economic policy used to maintain the capacity of the Syrian military, adding with anger that Bashar Al-Assad “failed to deliver on promises to open the socialist economy,” that “functioning labor markets are…subject to heavy state interference and control” and that “despite the war, a number of foreign banks are in operation” with the Islamic banking group called Al Baraka becoming “the largest privately owned bank in the country” in 2016. [4] Similar comments to FAO’s assessment were made on the current page for Syria on the CIA World Factbook, declaring that before the current conflict, “Damascus had begun liberalizing economic policies” but that “the economy remains highly regulated” with “foreign trade barriers” for example. Anger at sch regulation has manifested in Syria being “on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism since the list’s inception in 1979” while the murderous empire has called for the removal of Assad despite the fact that Syria is a member of the IMF and World Bank along with being an observer to the World Trade Organization (WTO)!

Unlike Zimbabwe (which the IMF is giddy over as the counter-revolution continues), the last IMF “Article IV Executive Board Consultation” for Syria was back in January 2009, but it is worth excerpting from their reports in previous years:

“The Syrian authorities have been implementing gradual, but wide-ranging reforms. These reforms are motivated by the challenges posed by the decline in oil production and the strategy initiated in the early 2000s to transition toward a social market economy. The exchange rate has been effectively unified and restrictions on access to foreign exchange for current transactions appear to have been mostly eliminated. Private banks are now leading financial sector growth, and the Damascus stock exchange recently re-opened after being closed for 40 years…Some progress has been made in advancing structural reforms, including simplifying investment procedures, modernizing accounting standards, and streamlining the tax system…the authorities fully liberalized bank lending rates and rates on foreign currency deposits and loans. The share of private banks has grown considerably since they were first established in 2004…Directors recommended that the authorities reverse the recent introduction of customs duties that vary by country of origin, and address suspected unfair trade practices by other measures such as enhancing customs’ capacity to examine invoices through computerization and cross border cooperation.”- March 2010

“Relations with the EU have improved recently following the establishment of diplomatic relations with Lebanon. Subsequently, France, which currently chairs the EU, issued positive signals regarding the ratification of the association agreement with Syria…Private banks are well capitalized…The financial system is still dominated by state banks, which hold 80 percent of bank assets…advances have been made in trade liberalization by substantially reducing the tariff schedule. The export of strategic agricultural products, however, remains subject to government approval…The Syrian economy has enjoyed buoyant growth since it embarked on a liberalization program aimed at unleashing the economy’s growth potential and integrating into the world economy.”- February 2009

“Private investment has strengthened, reflecting an improved business climate, and exports have made strong gains, particularly in some Arab markets, reflecting higher demand and improved access under the Great[er] Arab Free Trade Area…Following the opening of the first three private banks in 2004, four more banks entered the market in the last two years, and several more banks are expected to start operations in 2007, including some Islamic financial institutions…Progress toward exchange rate unification and current account convertibility, investment facilitation under a more liberal investment regime, tax reform, trade and financial liberalization, and the on-going development of appropriate regulatory frameworks in key sectors have all contributed to improving the investment climate…The authorities did not exclude the possibility of raising civil servants wages, particularly in light of the start of the PPS reform…The development of a competitive banking sector is constrained by the slow progress in state banks’ restructuring…Further efforts on trade liberalization and improving the business climate are key elements of the authorities’ reform agenda…further financial liberalization are necessary to close the reform-gap with other countries in the region and position Syria to take advantage of regional and global integration…Directors commended the authorities for the sustained, timely and significant fiscal adjustment and welcomed the lowering of corporate income taxes.”- August 2007

“The authorities were encouraged to see that the implementation of their broad-based reforms elicited a positive supply response. In their view, Syrian and other Arab investors felt that a point of no return in reform has been reached. Furthermore, they welcomed strong interest from domestic and foreign investors toward the newly opened banking and insurance sectors…The authorities’ strategy to develop the financial sector by opening it to private initiative was successful in attracting and expanding private banking activities…Trade liberalization, market deregulation, and improving the business climate are key elements of the authorities’ reform agenda…The exchange system in Syria is characterized by multiple exchange rates and a foreign exchange market segmented into public and private sector pools. The private sector has almost no access to the official pool…[the directors say that] A bulge in labor market entrants will strain an already precarious unemployment situation and increase pressure to protect redundant labor in an overstaffed public sector…More broadly, Directors encouraged the authorities to press ahead with reforms aimed at scaling down the state’s involvement in the economy, improving governance, and fostering private-sector growth.”- August 2006

“The growth acceleration in the early 1990s had reflected rising oil production and an upsurge in private sector investment prompted by fiscal incentives and reforms to start the transition to a market economy…Fund policy recommendations were supportive of the authorities’ reform agenda aimed at furthering the transition to a market economy…prices have been largely liberalized, the trade and foreign exchange regimes have been simplified and liberalized, the tax system has been streamlined, and the private sector’s field of activity has been broadened…In particular, opening the insurance sector for private initiative is an important sign of the
commitment of the authorities to promoting the role of the private sector in the economy…Directors encouraged the authorities to envisage the privatization of selected enterprises.”- October 2005

This seems to say, obviously, that Syria has engaged in socially democratic measures as it earnestly went forward with “liberalization” of their economy while government control and nationalist measures were maintained to the annoyance of the IMF. The Syrian  government was moving toward a “market economy” until the direct imperial assault began in 2011, the so-called “civil war,” with some government control returning. Still, some measures of “liberalization” remained such as private banks some of which are concentrated on the Damascus Securities Exchange (DSE) along with other capitalist ventures. The companies on this exchange include:

There are many others whose sites were only in Arabic, and not English. Basically, these companies on the stock exchange are capitalists, and hence part of what you could call, accurately, an Arab bourgeoisie, some consisting bourgeoisie specific to the Arab Republic of Syria itself. If “nothing symbolizes capitalism like the New York Stock Exchange,” as one Forbes writer noted, then why can’t the same be said about the Damascus Securities Exchange? As Frederich Engels wrote in 1895, reviewing Marx’s work in Capital, “the position of the stock exchange in capitalist production” since the stock exchange “as it develops, tends to concentrate all production, industrial as well as agricultural, and all commerce…so that the stock exchange becomes the most prominent representative of capitalist production itself.” Of course, the DSE can’t completely represent this as it was launched in 2009, nine years ago, and only 23 companies are currently on the exchange which is minuscule compared to “more than 12,000 traded products” of the Intercontinental Exchange, commonly called the New York Stock Exchange, or the 1,124 companies listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Then there’s the Library of Congress country study which Gowans uses to say that Syria is socialist which was published in 1988. This goes beyond the claim that the economy of Syria is socialist, but it is worth summarizing within this section of the article. The study explains the history of Syria from its earliest days to 1987, when most of the research was done. In September 1961, there was a coup where Syria seceded from the United Arab Republic (UAR) which was meant to unite Egypt (then under Nasser) and Syria, with nationalization which had been implemented under the previous government removed, with another military coup by September of 1962, and by September 1963, Amid al Hafiz, a Ba’athist, became the leader, with power contested between the “centrist and leftist” elements within the Ba’athist Party, as factionalism continued. Under Hafiz, there was a move to restore nationalization and land reform measures removed after the September 1961 coup, radicalization of rhetoric along with support for Palestinian liberation, and continuing power struggles until 1970, as Hafiz Al-Assad became a more important figure. Then in November 1970, the latter Assad came to power in a coup which has often been called the “corrective movement,” while he was elected for a seven-year term in March 1971 by the populace. In the presidency of Hafiz, relations with the Soviet improved, a Progressive National Front was formed, and the government held off those who wanted to make Islam the state religion. An independent foreign policy course was plotted, there was a controversial Syrian intervention in Lebanon, the Ba’ath Party seemed to partially mass-based, and the “merits of socialism” were explored for Syria’s economy. With public unhappiness with the government at the time, an anti-corruption campaign was begun, and in February 1978, Hafiz was re-elected, facing opposition from Muslim groups (like the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic Liberation Party), specifically those who detested the secular and nationalist nature of the state itself. The latter groups demanded bourgeois “freedoms” while engaging in violent, terrorist attacks against the government, with the government, by the early 1980s, basically declaring war on the Muslim Brotherhood, looking to uproot it from the country all together. As time went on, the Syrians relied heavily on the Soviets for re-supply of weapons, based in 1980 treaty, even as the latter refused to support the rightful Syrian effort to regain the Golan Heights from Zionists, and aligned itself with Iran as the Iran-Iraq War raged through the 1980s. By the later 1980s, there was “uncertainty” about the future of Syria.

It seems a bit problematic that Gowans cites this source to buttress his claim that Syria is socialist because this study was written in 1987! There is no doubt that Syria’s study is still diverse, as it was in 1987, but the so-called “Baathist policies of secularism and socialism” are not evident. Sure, the country is secular, but the policies were never really socialist despite what the study claims, even through it was anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist. There is also certainly still a youthful population. After all, as the study itself points out, in 1970, Hafiz “reversed or relaxed the more strident socialist economic measures” which had been instituted in 1963, leading to a new class of “entrepreneurs and businessmen who made their fortunes in real estate, importing, and construction” (a bourgeoisie). That doesn’t sound very socialist, but rather constitutes the re-creation/reinforcement of the Syrian bourgeoisie, since the country, by the time the study was written, lacked a “true proletariat of wage-earning workers”! Still, education was, by the later 1980s, under close government supervision, starting from 1967 onward and free medical care even as private hospitals outnumbered state-run hospitals in the country.

We then get to the economy. In the mid-1960s, the “new socialist direction,” as the report called it, of the economic policy of Syria was clear considering nationalization of major industries and government-led land reform (land expropriated from large landowners) along with state-led large-scale projects. However, by the 1970s, the economy became more dependent on foreign aid from Arab countries and military aid from the Soviet social-imperialists, with the climate switching from “prosperity to austerity” in the 1980s, with slashing of public investments. This seems to question if the economy was even socialist at all as the study claims there was “socialist transformation” of the economy in the 1960s, with more state commitment to the economy in the 1970s and 1980s, before austerity kicked in. However, this isn’t the whole reality. Not even half of the workforce was employed by the state by 1983, with all college graduates not guaranteed a job, with many taking second jobs in the “private sector” and possible high unemployment as the 1980s went on. Even with a so-called “socialist economy” erected in the 1960s, this was liberalized by Hafiz in 1986, with the state moving away from the agricultural, retail trade, and light industry, leading to be controlled by capitalists, with income gaps beginning to widen. In order to defend the country, huge sums were spent on the military, with administration as a the second biggest area of government expenditures, with the rest relating to the economy (with varying “five-year-plans” over the years), with a very small amount for “social welfare” and “education and culture.” Add to this that by 1984, private farmers cultivated 74% of the country’s lands, and state farms, essentially, only cultivated 1%, again asking extensive the state’s involvement was in the economy, with farmer cooperatives existing, but not broadly successful with a faltering agricultural policy, while the West cried about “inefficiency” of public enterprises and there was effectively a central bank in Syria. Additionally, liberalization of the economy started in 1970 and again in 1986. At the same time, the Soviet social-imperialist and Romanians were active in developing the infrastructure of Syria in the 1970s and 1980s. There are other aspects noted in the study, of course, but there are not worth discussing here.

The study seems to imply that Syria is not only not “socialist” but has a working bourgeoisie, although they don’t call it this since the study is one assembled by bourgeois analysts, as one would expect. From this, it is worth turning to two documents: the 1973 constitution of Syria (with concessions made to placate the Islamic oppositional forces at the time), and the 2012 revision in order to placate the Syrian opposition. The first constitution, in 1973, declared that

The comprehensive Arab revolution is an existing and continuing necessity to achieve the Arab nation’s aspirations for unity, freedom, and socialism.  The revolution in the Syrian Arab region is part of the comprehensive Arab revolution…any danger to which any Arab country may be exposed on the part of imperialism and Zionism is at the same time a danger threatening the whole Arab nation…The Syrian Arab Republic is a democratic, popular, socialist, and sovereign state.  No part of its territory can be ceded.  Syria is a member of the Union of the Arab Republics…Sovereignty is vested in the people, who exercise it in accordance with this Constitution…The religion of the President of the Republic has to be Islam…The leading party in the society and the state is the Socialist Arab Baath Party…People’s councils are establishments elected in a democratic way at which the citizens exercise their rights in administering the state and leading the society…The state is at the people’s service…The state economy is a planned socialist economy which seeks to end all forms of exploitation…Public ownership includes natural resources, public utilities, and nationalized installations and establishments, as well as installations and establishments set up by the state… Collective ownership includes the property belonging to popular and professional organizations and to production units, cooperatives, and other social establishments…individual ownership includes property belonging to individuals…The right of inheritance is guaranteed in accordance with the law…The educational and cultural system aims at creating a socialist nationalist Arab generation which is scientifically minded and attached to its history…Work is a right and duty of every citizen.  The state undertakes to provide work for all citizens…All citizens have the sacred duty to defend the homeland’s security, to respect its Constitution and socialist unionist system.

While some may be cheering, this does not put workers at the central mission of the state like Cuba. A translation from a Cuban government webpage (also here) gives a better translation than other versions. In the first article it calls Cuba is a “socialist State of workers, independent and sovereign, organized with all and for the good of all, as a unitary and democratic republic” even though I would more accurately call it a progressive state due to revisionism and capitalist concessions. This is exactly the same as a translation made by the United Nations or summary of gender rights in Cuba by UN Women. In case the UN translation is moved to another link, the UN translation has been uploaded to this blog in order to promote more learning about Cuba. As one can clearly see, Syria was not, even in 1973, a truly and accurately socialist state. Rather it was a nationalist and socially democratic one (or you could say a progressive one) which had a developed bourgeoisie which guarantees a right to inheritance, something which Marx and Engels were strongly opposed to, with Marx saying, in August 1869, that “the laws of inheritance are not the cause, but the effect, the juridical consequence of the existing economical organization of society, based upon private property in the means of production.”

We then get to the 2012 revision. All mentions of socialism have been completely omitted, as the state instead is portraying itself as progressive and secular (although the word secular is never mentioned in the whole constitution):

The Syrian Arab Republic is a democratic state with full sovereignty, indivisible, and may not waive any part of its territory, and is part of the Arab homeland…The religion of the President of the Republic is Islam; Islamic jurisprudence shall be a major source of legislation…The political system of the state shall be based on the principle of political pluralism, and exercising power democratically through the ballot box…Democratically elected councils at the national or local level shall be institutions through which citizens exercise their role in sovereignty, state-building and leading society…The national economy shall be based on the principle of developing public and private economic activity through economic and social plans aiming at increasing the national income, developing production, raising the individual’s living standards and creating jobs… Natural resources, facilities, institutions and public utilities shall be publicly owned, and the state shall invest and oversee their management for the benefit of all people…The law shall determine the maximum level of agricultural ownership and agricultural investment to ensure the protection of the farmer and the agricultural laborer from exploitation and to ensure increased production…Society in the Syrian Arab Republic shall be based on the basis of solidarity, symbiosis and respect for the principles of social justice, freedom, equality and maintenance of human dignity of every individual…The state shall guarantee every citizen and his family in cases of emergency, sickness, disability, orphan-hood and old age… The rule of law shall be the basis of governance in the state.

Perhaps some of the text from the 1973 version was kept, but only some aspects of nationalization  were kept in place as the state having a broad role in society, but not necessarily to benefit the proletariat but rather every class in society, which goes against established Marxist ideals. Instead, this constitution easily allows for capitalism to creep more into Syria through its tentacles of destruction and deception, showing it is perhaps socially democratic or as you could put it, progressive. [5]

The final indication is using reports in state media outlet, Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) itself. Just like using the Zimbabwean party newspaper, The Herald, to recognize the counter-revolution going on there, one can use SANA in the same way to determine how “socialist” Syria is, if at all. One recent article talks about how the government will continue “providing the basic needs for citizens and improving their living conditions according to the available resources” with pushes by certain MPs to deal with “the issue of high prices,” reduce rationing of electricity, and reform the tax system, along with controlling expenditures of the government, along with other aspects like rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country. With some of the latter measures clearly benefiting the bourgeoisie, the same can be said in a push to support “small, medium, and micro enterprises” which describe, without doubt, institutions of the bourgeoisie, specifically the petty bourgeoisie. In another recent article, it was noted that a social welfare center was opened in the countryside but it ended up being something done with the cooperation of the Greek Orthodox Church there, and mainly aimed at serving “displaced people and families affected by the crisis” of war in the country.

There were other indications of the true nature of the economy. In the realm of tourism, the Higher Council for Tourism said that it would provide “special advantages and incentives to the investors willing to set up tourist projects,” with the Prime Minister of the country adding that investors should “establish tourist projects for low-income people to boost popular tourism and give an image to the world about stability returned to the Syrian provinces due to the victories achieved by the Syrian Arab army.” The tone was expressed when the government participated in the 38th FITUR International Tourism Fair 2018 in Madrid, Spain, calling for “Spanish tourism companies to visit Syria, take a closer look at the situation in it,” worked to build a railway that would serve “passengers and businessmen” and looking to make the country attractive by encouraging “Arab and foreign businessmen to make more investments in Syria to contribute to the reconstruction stage.” You could say this is justified, considering that the government brought in “45 local, Arab and foreign companies” to talk about energy, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning of the  reconstruction of Syria. After all, the country wants to rebuild after years of war with an economy which is reportedly in good condition, and has put forward a “national development program” for Syria, during the reconstruction period, which builds institutions, fights against corruption, modernizes infrastructure, engages n “sustainable growth and development, social, educational and cultural development and the national dialogue.” Basically, the Syrian government is trying to draw in international capital to lead to its reconstruction. [6] However, this process shows that it is not “socialist” as Gowans claims. Rather it is socially democratic (or progressive), as previously explained, secular, and it is nationalist. Even though the government seems to loosely base itself on Islam and the constitution doesn’t mention the word “secular,” it is worth calling Syria secular because for one, the country has no state religion. With secularism limited as Marx noted in “On the Jewish Question,” seeming to mean “non-religious,” the fourth edition of the Webster’s New World College Dictionary (a bourgeois dictionary) concurs with this, defining the word “secular” as “not sacred or religious,” temporal or worldly, distinguished from “church and religion.”

With all this, we can say with certainty that Syria has a developed bourgeoisie. That doesn’t mean that the state cannot do good for the people of Syria, or even the proletariat, but rather that it is not socialist or on the road to socialism in any way, shape or form. With this, we can still defend the country from imperial lies and slander from the bourgeois media and comprador progressive media, like Omidyar’s plaything, The Intercept. The official publication of the Cuban Communist Party, Granma, said the same in an article, reprinted from the official Cuban outlet, Prensa Latina, in March of last year:

…Just six years after the beginning of a war that was imposed from abroad, and which has exacerbated the differences between those espousing diverse religious beliefs to an inhumane level, this nation presents a scene of enormous destruction amidst the quest to survive…Never before in the Arab and Muslim world had the destruction of a country been promoted in such a combined way, organized from the centers of the former colonial powers and the United States…The reality is neither civil war nor faith-based conflict, because the “card” at play in Syria is actually a dirty game which originated from a basic element: in 2009 when the government of Bashar al Assad vetoed a vast project promoted by Qatar…From that moment on, and planned in advance, petrodollars from the capitals of the Gulf monarchies, Turkey and Israel, played their part…Syria questioned the economic motives of Western powers, which was enough to serve as one of the objective bases for launching the overwhelming media attacks and war against this nation…In an explosion of generalized war, thousands of terrorists arrived in Syria, who, allied with national extremists, established points of attack that in the first years covered more than a dozen combat fronts throughout the Syrian territory…More than half a million dead and maimed, economic losses of $200 billion dollars and the obvious destruction of Syria’s entire infrastructure, make up a bleak but not insurmountable panorama. The media siege on this nation, a fierce commercial blockade and widespread terror over six years of an overwhelming imposed war, have not yet been able to annihilate the Syrian people.

There are further aspects. For one, the Syrian bourgeoisie, represented by the state, are willing to engage in ICT cooperation with Russian bourgeoisie, and have other agreements with the Russians (as noted here and here). One such agreement is about “cooperation in domain of public constructions and the implementation of housing projects.” I mention this because, as I’ve written on this blog before, you can say that Russia’s foreign policy is, to an extent, progressive and anti-imperialist, but Russia is without a doubt a capitalist state, with a bourgeoisie which has festered since 1991, at least, if not earlier when it developed more and more through the revisionist years of the Soviet Union (1954-1991), when it was a social-imperialist state. Syria’s government is smart enough to have strong relations with Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq, even working on creating an electricity network which connects Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Undoubtedly this will lead to further regional unity, which is good in an effort to resist imperialism. However, it also strengthens the bourgeoisie in Iran (which I recently wrote about) and Iraq. The same can be said about bringing in investors from Brazil, having economic cooperation with South Africa and revisionist China, oil production by Oman (noted here, here, and here), cooperation with Cuba, Belarus, India (see here and here), Sudan, People’s Korea, along with cooperation with other “friendly countries.” This goes back to my earlier point, that Syria is trying to bring in international capital as it looks to rebuild its country from the scourge of war which has ravaged the country since 2011. This is a noble goal, but some of those countries, like India (led by a fascist) and South Africa, at least, have established bourgeoisie, meaning that no holds are barred in dealing with other countries. This is further the case considering Syria’s dealings with Armenian businesspeople as noted in varying articles. Finally, there is the epitome of nationalism, which Frantz Fanon wrote about in The Wretched of the Earth: domestic production pushed by the bourgeoisie. In the case of Syria, this takes the form of “made in Syria” fairs/exhibitions, noted again, again, again, and again in SANA. It reminds me of the whole push for “made in the USA” products while corporations were actually moving their factories to places with cheap labor, although this is a bit different.

Syria, the “good” Kurds, Syrian Communists, and elections

Originally posted on https://anti-imperialism.org/. This calls out the hypocrisy of the murderous empire calling for “human rights” in Syria.

Syria’s location and its ties with Iran, and other countries which could be said to be part of an anti-imperialist front, are well-established. Of course, some on the Left have considered Assad, along with Gaddafi, horrid “dictators” with endorsements of the bourgeois Arab “revolution,” and saying that there is a “dictatorship” in Syria. If this wasn’t enough in that it easily meshes with propaganda emanating from the center of world imperialism, consider the PLP (Progressive Labor Party), the same organization calling the DPRK a “fascist”/”puppet” monarchy of China which “easily meshes its Orientalist propaganda of the bourgeois media.” For Syria, they describe it as a “Russian-backed government” with benefits to Russian bosses who want to divide up Syria, accepting that Assad used chemical weapons (he didn’t), and elsewhere calling the government an “Iran-backed regime.” Apart from not being able to decide if the government is “backed” by Iran or Russia (which they think is “imperialist“), they claim that the Syrian Communist Party (SCP) (they do not specify what sect of the party) are “phony communists” and that the state doesn’t really care about the working class. They can’t seem to comprehend a Syria which is socially democratic (or progressive) while it has a developed bourgeoisie. There have been elections in Syria, which all show the National Progressive Front (NPF) winning by a huge margin:

In 2016, the “National Unity alliance, supporting President al-Assad and his Baath Party, won 200 seats in the 250-member People’s Assembly. Many candidates reportedly focused on security issues. On 2 May, the President issued a decree naming winners of parliamentary elections. Elections did not take place in Raqa and Idlib provinces, which are controlled by the so-called Islamic State and the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front. Amid the violence, fewer Syrians registered to vote in 2016…[but] according to the Higher Judicial Committee for Elections, turnout in 2016 was 57.56%, up from 51.26 % in 2012.”-  INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

In 2012, “parliamentary elections took place in the context of open rebellion against President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. Major opposition parties boycotted the elections. The National Unity alliance, supporting the President and his Baath Party, took 183 of the 250 seats at stake. Most of the remaining seats went to independent pro-government candidates. The May 2012 elections followed a revision to the Constitution, adopted by referendum in February…Only 5.2 million of the 10.1 million eligible citizens registered to vote. 51.26 per cent of the registered voters actually took part, meaning that in total around a quarter of eligible citizens voted in the elections…Official results gave a large majority to the National Unity alliance.”-  INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“The 22 April 2007 elections were the second to be held since President Bashar Assad assumed power in July 2000 following his father’s death a month earlier. President Assad pledged to modernize the country’s economy. ..Of the 250 seats just over two-thirds (170 seats) are reserved for the ruling National Progressive Front (NPF) coalition. Voters select one list from among a series of lists of parliamentary candidates. Two-thirds of the candidates on each list are from the NPF. The coalition comprising ten political parties was led by the Baath Party which itself is guaranteed 131 seats. The other 80 seats are allocated to independent candidates…Many candidates pledged to provide economic prosperity…Several anti-fraud measures were implemented for the first time. They included transparent ballot boxes and indelible ink to prevent multiple voting…approximately 56 per cent of the 7.8 million registered voters turned out at the polls. A total of 11 967 611 citizens were eligible to vote…The final results gave Syria’s ruling NPF 172 seats. The remainder went to independent candidates…On 11 May the People’s Assembly unanimously nominated Mr. Bashar Assad as the president of the country for a new seven-year term starting on 17 July 2007. The public referendum of 27 May approved this nomination by over 97 per cent of the votes.”-  INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“On 2 and 3 March 2003 Syrians voted to elect the first People’s Assembly since President Bashar al-Assad succeeded his late father President Hafez al-Assad in 2000. According to official records, some 5,000 candidates competed for the 250 seats in Parliament…Announcing the results, Interior Minister Ali Hamoud declared that candidates of the National Progressive Front had won 167 seats (the Front consists of the ruling Baath party and six smaller allies). The remaining 83 seats went to independents. Out of the 250 members, 178 were newcomers and 30 women.”-  INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“In the 1998 elections, 7364 candidates initially contested the 250 parliamentary seats. A total of 167 of these belonged to the National Progressive Front (NPF) – the seven-party governing coalition led by the Baath Party of President of the Republic Hafez al-Assad, which itself nominated 135 candidates; the NPF has been in power since being formed in 1972…On polling day, the electorate overwhelmingly backed the NPF candidates with over 66% of the popular vote, the remaining 83 seats (one-third of the overall membership) being won by independents, as before.”-  INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“The election date was set by presidential decree on 24 July 1994, with candidatures to be submitted until 2 August. A total of 7,818 candidates contested the 250 People’s Council seats. A maximum of one-third of the Council seats were set aside for independent candidates as distinct from those of the ruling National Progressive Front (NFP). The NFP, headed by President of the Republic Hafiz Al-Assad, was formed in 1972…On polling day, the ruling Baath…once again emerged as the largest single party, with 135 seats, while independents captured 83. Of the total Council membership, 93 were incumbent Deputies. On 10 September 1994, President Al-Assad opened the newly elected Parliament’s first session. Mr. Abdel Qader Qaddoura was then re-elected as Council President.”- INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“In the 1990 general elections, a record 2,657 candidates (including 116 women) vied for the 250 seats of the enlarged People’s Council. A maximum of one-third of the Council seats were set aside for independent candidates as distinct from those of the National Progressive Front (NPF)…On polling day, the ruling Baath…once again emerged as the largest single party, with 134 seats, while the independents’ total rose from 35 to 84. Of the total Council membership, 77 were incumbent Deputies. On 11 June, President Al-Assad opened the newly elected Parliament’s first session. Mr. Abdel Qader Qaddoura was then re-elected as Council President.”- INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“The Syrian Communist Party made a comeback and women more than doubled their number of seats as a result of the 1986 elections to the People’s Council. The ruling Baath party was the biggest winner, with a total of 129 seats in the 195-member Parliament. The Communists, who had no members in the previous legislature, won nine seats. There were a total of 88 newcomers to the Council.”- INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

In 1981, “the elections resulted in a victory for the National Progressive Front, which captured all 195 People’s Council seats. The Baath Arab Socialist Party of President of the Republic Hafez al-Assad won 60% of all seats. As opposed to the previous legislature, no independent candidates were successful”- INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

In 1977, “party lists were presented by ruling Arab Socialist Renaissance (Booth) Party and those of four other leftist groups that together formed the National Progressive Front governing coalition of President Hafez al-Assad, in power since 1971…The voting results, as announced, showed that the Baath— which supports militant Arab unity — once again emerged as the single largest party and that the Front altogether won all but 36 seats, these being captured by Independents. The new Parliament held its first session on August 18.”- INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

In 1973, “the elections, in which 1656 candidates — 659 representing workers and farmers and 997 other social groups — contested the seats of the People’s Council, were the first since the Baath Party seized power in 1963…The Baath Party, which fielded roughly half of the candidates, and its allies — the Communist Party, the pro-Cairo Arab Socialist Union (ASU), the Arab Socialists and the Socialist Unionists — who ran on a unified ” national progressive ” ticket, succeeded in winning 10 of the country’s 15 governorates and about two-thirds of the parliamentary seats.”-INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

The SCP seems to recognize what the PLP cannot. The Syrian Communist Party (Unified), is one of the two communist parties in the country, and is also a member of the NPF, a coalition of “political parties in Syria that support the [so-called] socialist and Arab nationalist orientation of the current government and accept the leading role of the Arab Socialist Baath Party.” These 11 parties (Wikipedia claims there are 10 but is actually 11) are as follows: the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party, Arab Socialist Union Party, Communist Party of Syria (Bakdash), National Vow Movement/National Covenant Party, Communist Party (Unified), Arab Democratic Union Party, Unionist Social Democratic Party, Socialist Unionist Party,Syrian National Social Party – Center, General Union of Trade Unions, and General Union of Peasants. As such, the Syrian Communist Party (Unified), which favored the perestroika in the Soviet Union, a horrid act by the revisionist Soviet leadership, sees itself as part of a progressive front.

In 1986, when the Syrian Communist Party split, there was another faction: Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash) which opposed perestroika, different from other supposed communist groupings, like the National Committee for the Unity of Syrian Communists (NCUSC) which is also known as the Party of the Popular Will, and the Communist Labor Party. To give some background, some members of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath party met with members of the original Syrian Communist Party, founded in 1924, from 1966 to 1970, wanting to form a “vanguard party” with some taken in with “socialist ideas” they wanted to emulate Soviet and Chinese “policies in agriculture and defense.” However, also during this period, there was a “revisionist current within the Syrian Communist Party led by Riad al-Turk” which called for the “end to Soviet influence on party policy and a shift towards objectives and programmes better suited to the Syrian and Arab context,” and with this group holding a huge sway, Secretary-General of the party, Khalid Bakdash, became a “minority in the leadership ranks.” Bakdash had shown his dedication to fighting French imperialism with unity of the masses, telling the Comintern in 1935 that

the situation in Syria imposes heavy tasks and a great responsibility on our party. Syria, because of its location between Europe and Asia and on the Mediterranean, is a strategic center of fundamental importance for the entire system of French imperialism…French imperialism, understanding the importance of Syria, has unleashed a savage terror to destroy the revolutionary movement in the country and has directed its most cruel blows against the working class and its vanguard, the Communist Party, which was reduced to a deep state of illegality. After the armed insurrection of 1925 to 1927 in which for two years the Arab peasants, workers, and labourers showed how they are capable of fighting French imperialism…we are ready to unite our efforts with all those who want a free and independent Syria.

This leads to 1986, when over perestroika, these two trends in the Communist Party broke apart, forming Syrian Communist Party (Unified) and Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash), the latter opposing perestroika, if Wikipedia has merit and the former approving of it.

On the website of the International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties there are forty statements of this Communist Party, from November of last year to November 2008, only some of which were translated into English. The most recent of those is from July of last year at the meeting of the central committee of the party in Damascus, saying that the situation internationally is becoming more dangerous with “contradictions between imperialist powers,” adding that as U$ imperialism is “considered the most aggressive power” with dangerous escalation toward the DPRK, and strong “Zionist influence” within the current U$ administration, that Russia is being targeted by Western imperialism, rejecting Turkish aggression towards Syria, with “international colonialist and Zionist powers…conspiring to divide Syria.” They closed by saying that the situation in the country requires “a radical transformation in the socio-economic policy that strengthens the country’s immunity and meets the basic interests of the Syrian people,” saying this requires “a complete break with socio-economic trends of a liberal nature” such as laws undermining “public sector status…encouraging foreign investment in all areas” which will “weaken the working class,” and by, ultimately, “encouraging production and creating important resources in the hands of the state” along with a “favorable pricing policy in the purchase of crops should be adopted” as part of a “policy of state capitalism of a social nature.” This would mean, in their view, “support for industrial and crafts production,” supporting agricultural production, increasing the role of the state in ” internal trade,” reviving state establishments in “the field of foreign trade,” raising “salaries and wages to be compatible with rising prices,” and expanding “social support for the population systematically.” Beyond this, take an interview with Adel Omar, of the party’s foreign bureau. He told Socialist Unity that the party believes that

…the course of events in Syria is neither a revolution nor a civil war. It is very clear that what has been taking place in Syria has been in accordance with the imperialist plans…our people are resisting the imperialist forces together. It is true that the people of Syria have demands and needs that need to be met, but the way to achieve this is not through destroying everything that belongs to the state of Syria. At the moment, our country is under attack, and achieving unity among the people to defend our homeland is what needs to be done first. At this point, we think it is especially crucial for the government to respond to the demands and the needs of the people…When we evaluate the 10-year period before the aggression toward Syria, we see that the Syrian government made grave mistakes in the economic area. By choosing neoliberal economic policies, it opened the Syrian market to foreign imports, especially Turkish and Qatari products. As a result, hundreds of factories and workshops shut down and millions of workers lost their jobs. In fact, there was not a substantial change in these neoliberal policies when the imperialist intervention started. As the Syrian CP, we think that the adoption of these neoliberal economic policies was a fatal mistake. We believe that the solution needs to start by putting an end to these policies…It is important to realize that it is not only the Syrian army that is resisting against the imperialist-backed foreign forces. Ordinary Syrians are also fighting…it is critical that the government support the people through economic policies in order for the popular resistance to be able to survive. But, unfortunately, it is difficult to say that the government realizes this fact even now. They more or less continue with the neoliberal policies. As the Syrian CP, we believe the biggest risk factor for the Syrian resistance is the economy…We are going through a war that though difficult and serious at times cannot be taken lightly. But we are determined to continue with our struggle…As Syrian communists, the duty to struggle for our homeland lies first and foremost on our shoulders…When our situation in Syria is taken into account, I can say that we need an attitude of solidarity that is more than a “message of goodwill” by this or that party…in the struggle we are waging in Syria, we have been left alone. There are 22 Arab countries, and no events in solidarity with the Syrian people have been organized in the capitals of these countries…History shows us that struggles against imperialism and fascism increase the value and respectability of the communist parties in the eyes of the people. This was the case for the Soviets in their defense of the motherland, and the same in Greece or France. Communists were at the forefront, organizing the resistance of the people for the defense of their motherland. This is the case for us as well…the Syrian Communist Party is a strong organization with more than a quarter of a million members.

This shows that this party, which defines itself as the “conscious organized vanguard of the working class in Syria,” adopting the “teachings of Marxism-Leninism,” looking to unite and mobilize “all progressive forces for the final salvation of poverty and retardation and exploitation” is much more radical than Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash). Consistently this party has stood “with the Syrian people…against the Imperialist and Zionist plans and conspiracies that the Arabic reactionary regimes and imperialist allied countries in our region is participating in,” stood in solidarity with the South African Communist Party (SACP), and had a well-thought-out statement in 2011 on “unrest in some cities in Syria,” saying that there were reactionary forces at work but understanding the tensions. They added that the party’s central committee said that the “the trend toward economic liberalization, which has negatively impacted national production and the state of the toiling masses” should be reversed, restoring and strengthening “our food security, and industry under all forms of national ownership, with emphasis on maintaining and developing the public sector.” By 2014, the party called “on all patriots in Syria to defend the homeland, to protect national sovereignty, and to be on their guard against imperialist conspiracies and tricks” and closing by saying that “our defence of our homeland is first and above any consideration.”

Some, like Caleb T. Maupin in Mint Press News, argued that it is a positive that “Syria openly tolerates the existence of two strong Marxist-Leninist parties,” saying that  Syrian Communist Party (Unified) and the Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash) openly “operate as part of the anti-imperialist coalition supporting the Baath Arab Socialist Party.” while communists “lead trade unions and community organizations in Damascus and other parts of the country.” That is a positive for sure, but it doesn’t make Syria socialist and it doesn’t invalidate the existence of a bourgeoisie as Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash) clearly acknowledges. If there was a communist party in Syria comrades should ally with, I’d say Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash) has a much more coherent analysis without a doubt and should be supported with solidarity, as should the Syrian proletariat.  Furthermore, I agree with Joma Sison of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines that in the context of fighting against the murderous empire and Zionism, “the Assad government and the Syrian Arab Army have a sovereign, progressive and revolutionary cause against the US as No. 1 imperialist aggressor and its criminal accomplice Zionist Israel.” I also agree with his statement that whatever “is the social character of Russia now (even if monopoly capitalist), it is good strategy and tactics for Syria to use its alliance with Russia to counter and defeat the more aggressive imperialist power, US imperialism and its terrible sidekick Israel.” [7]

Resistance to imperialism and concluding words

Resistance to imperialism by Syria has roots in its history. By 1516, Syrian had been taken over by the Turks with a feudal system kept in place, and claims to region by England and France in 18th century, while the Turks fought off Mamuluks in 1770s to preserve their colony. Before the Turks, Syria was considered part of the Persian empire! In the 1790s, Syria was one of the countries drawn into European conflicts with French bourgeoisie wanting control, leading to anger from the populace, constant Wahhabi raids in first decade of 19th century which ceased in 1811, anger at reforms by Turks in 1820s, and major disturbances until 1831, when Egyptian troops invaded. The following year the invading Egyptians took control, and even defeated the Turkish army at Tartus in 1833. By the 1870s, with Syria as a deeply important province of Ottoman Empire (root of the justified anger toward Erdogan), Arab nationalism began to develop there and in Lebanon. By World War I, Syria was taken over again, this time by the French, who used imperialism to push the Turks out of country. In the 1920s there was a war for liberation against French imperialism, which based “all its calculations on the suppression of proletarian revolutionary struggle in France and Europe by using its colonial workers as a reserve army of counter-revolution,” as the Fourth Congress of the Communist International said in 1922 and the Communists had a role in such liberation. In December 1925, when addressing the Fourteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U. (B), comrade Josef Stalin remarked that there was a “growth of the national-revolutionary movement in the colonies and the crisis in the world domination of imperialism in general” specifically mentioning the “war for liberation waged by Syria and Morocco against French imperialism” along with the “struggle for liberation waged by India and Egypt against British imperialism” and China’s “struggle for liberation against Anglo-Japanese-American imperialism,” along with the “growth of the working-class movement in India and China.” He concluded that this means that “the Great Powers are faced with the danger of losing their…colonies” with capitalism destabilized, with a “form of open war against imperialism” in places like “Morocco, Syria, [and] China.” This was further proven by a revolt in Syria, in 1926, some saying that “the revolt in Syria has reached alarming proportions” while the Comintern that year considered the revolt as one of the “series of revolutions and revolutionary actions on the Continent of Europe as well as in the colonial and semi-colonial countries.” The following year, comrade Stalin told the Fourteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U.(B) that the intention of the British bourgeoisie, represented by Neville Chamberlain, was to “oust the French bourgeoisie from Syria” because from Syria it is “possible to do harm to Britain both in the area of the Suez Canal and in the area of Mesopotamia.”

Fast forward to World War II. In 1942, Churchill wrote to Stalin, saying he hoped to “assemble a considerable army in Syria drawn from our Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Armies, so as to go to help Turkey if either she were threatened or were willing to join us.” With the country controlled by nationalist but easily pliant governments of the Western bourgeoisie, for most of the time from 1945 to 1958, it is no surprise that the country signed The General Agreement On Tariffs And Trade or GATT in 1948, becoming a foundation of the postwar world capitalism. However, the country became more independent during its years as the Syrian Republic, with the U$ engaging in provocations in Syria in 1957 and Mao Zedong saying the same year that there should be solidarity with Syrian nation. In 1960, 8o Communist and Workers Parties made a statement in Moscow praising the “resolute stand of the Soviet Union, of the other socialist states and of all the peaceful forces put an end to the Anglo -Franco-Israeli intervention in Egypt, and averted a military invasion of Syria, Iraq and some other countries by the imperialists.” Six years later, there was a military coup in Syria, as previously mentioned in this article, which hurt Ba’ath Party in Iraq but conditions changed in 1968 with another military coup, which was not U$ backed like the one in 1963. By the 1970s, a full tank brigade from Cuba stood “guard between 1973 and 1975 alongside the Golan Heights, when this territory was unjustly seized from that country.” Cuba has, in the past two years, stood by Syria, shipping vaccines, is willing to have “bilateral relations based on mutual respect, non-interference in the internal affairs of states, economic exchange and the defense of the sovereign principles of each nation,” said at the UN that “peace in Syria can only be achieved if the people’s right to self-determination is respected” while Fidel himself “strategically directed hundreds of thousands of Cuban combatants on international missions” in countries such as Syria, (also in Algeria, Angola, and Ethiopia to name a few). Additionally, Syria has stood with Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela in June of 2016 expressing “their support for the independence and sovereignty of Puerto Rico,” undoubtedly angering the murderous empire while Syrian students have said that they respect the Cuban revolution, while it has pushed for the end of the blockade against Cuba, while medical students from Syria have come to Cuba. Additionally, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said that Venezuela stood in solidarity with “the Syrian people in the struggle against terrorism and against the most vile and cruel forms of warfare are admirable before the eyes of the world,” and solidarity again after a deadly strike by the murderous empire. Maduro himself warned against intervention by the murderous empire in Syria in 2013, with the government supplying Syria with oil in 2012, calls for the end to a “media war”on Syria in 2011, strengthening of agreements with Syrian businesses in 2010, and Hugo Chavez making a speech in 2009 in the Syrian province of Swaida, calling the Syrian people “architects of resistance” to imperialism, and saying that “we should fight to create consciousness that is free from imperialist doctrine…fight to defeat backwardness, poverty, misery…to convert our countries into true powers through the consciousness of the people.” Other than this, Assad and Chavez “created a $100 million bilateral development fund and discussed how to build more unity between Arab and Latin American peoples” in 2010, humanitarian aid sent to Syrian refugees in 2013, Venezuela taking in 20,000 Syrian refugees in 2015, Chavez laughing at the idea that Venezuelan  aircraft are shipping missile parts to Syria in 2008,and Assad and Chavez criticizing U$ involvement in the Middle East in 2006, to name a few instances.

Such solidarity of Venezuela with Libya, Iran, and Syria had Trotskyist Lance Selfa grumbling about Chavez supporting “dictators” or “despots,” and claiming there were “Arab revolutionaries.” Like always, the Trotskyists failed in their analysis. As Stalin noted in December 1927 when he called out the “Trotskyist opposition,” showing how they favored the bourgeoisie:

…I think the opposition does me honour by venting all its hatred against Stalin. That is as it should be. I think it would be strange and offensive if the opposition, which is trying to wreck the Party, were to praise Stalin, who is defending the fundamentals of the Leninist Party principle…The communist workers gave our oppositionists a good drubbing, such a drubbing indeed that the leaders of the opposition were compelled to flee from the battlefield…the opposition, in pursuing a splitting policy, organised an anti-Party, illegal printing press…the opposition, for the purpose of organising this printing press, entered into a bloc with bourgeois intellectuals, part of whom turned out to be in direct contact with counter-revolutionary conspirators…The opposition’s splitting activities lead it to linking up with bourgeois intellectuals, and the link with bourgeois intellectuals makes it easy for all sorts of counter-revolutionary elements to envelop it—that is the bitter truth…Its main sin is that it tried, is trying, and will go on trying to embellish Leninism with Trotskyism and to replace Leninism by Trotskyism…What is the chief aim of the present united bloc headed by Trotsky? It is little by little to switch the Party from the Leninist course to that of Trotskyism. That is the opposition’s main sin. But the Party wants to remain a Leninist party.

Add to this what the French Communist Party said in 1932, that workers are fooled by the Trotskyists who want to splinter the Communist movement, with even Josip Tito of Yugoslavia seeing Trotskyists as those clearing “the road for the fascist-imperialist bandits”! That shows this sentiment against Trotskyists was widespread. Others have said that the Trotskyists served Franco, which the Marxist Internet Archive (MIA) claimed was disproved by its author George Soria but actually is talking about “the story surrounding the disappearance of Andrés Nin, the founder of the P.O.U.M., where he was freed from prison by fascist agents” with his words cited by MIA after Soria “became sympathetic to the Eurocommunism of the PCF.” Furthermore, as Harriet Parsons wrote in the Worker’s Herald in September 1980, “Trotskyists and Trotskyist organizations have a special place in the government’s arsenal for their role in stirring up counter-revolution and their activities as police agents.” As Moissaye J. Olgin wrote in 1935, basing his analysis on what Stalin had written about Trotskyism and in solidarity with the Soviet Union, “Trotskyism no more confines itself to “informing” the bourgeoisie” but has become “center and the rallying point for the enemies of the Soviet Union, of the proletarian revolution in capitalist countries, of the Communist International.”

Hostility by the murderous empire, which has “left a balance sheet of hundreds of thousands of deaths and enormous destruction” in Syria was expressed was as strong in 2003 as it was in 2014 and last year with the cruise missile attack by the orange menace. As Mexican-Argentine philosopher Enrique Dussel (who is not a Marxist but has put forward a philosophy of liberation along with other individuals) put it in October 2016 at the Eco-socialist School of Critical Decolonial Thought of Our America, “they [the murderous empire] go to Syria and they destroy it without even knowing where Syria is. They destroyed Aleppo without knowing anything about that place.”

Taking this all into account, one can, and should agree with Ramzi (Khaled Bakdash), who argued that “we must use the Leninist-Stalinist tactic of mobilising all possible forces…and using all our allies, however temporary and uncertain they may be,” arguing at the time against French imperialism and Zionist oppression but also saying that there will be “accommodation of the national reformist bourgeoisie with imperialism” and calling for Arabic unity with an “anti-imperialist popular front on the pan-Arab scale.”This is especially important considering the economic sanctions foisted on Syria with those fighting “against the Syrian government and army are a mixture of Syrian and foreign mercenaries from dozens of countries” with supplies, training, and weapons from “Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies, Israel, Turkey, NATO, and of course the United States,” with the latter winding down it seems, as Syria tries to rebuild from the destruction.

With Turkish aggression against Syria, bombing the YPG and the so-called “revolutionary” Kurds, whom are collaborating with U$ imperialists for what some naively call “liberation,” the country is under assault with destruction of houses and historic sites. Some have said that Russia, Syria, and Turkey are all on the same page, with the Turks trying to change the empire’s “end game” in Syria. Perhaps the Turks and Russians are on the same page, but there is no doubt that the Syrians are furious with the violation of their sovereignty while these certaom Kurds are angry their imperial patrons aren’t protecting them (perhaps because the empire sees more value in an alliance with Turkey?). They detest these certain Kurds becoming a base for the murderous empire within their country. However, they do not want military invasion or covert action brought into their country by outside powers, especially by the Turks, which are strongly against the current Syrian government. Some, like celebrity left David Graeber, are ringing their hands about Turkey’s attack, calling it “pure imperialism” and claiming that the Kurds are still “revolutionary,” a laughable concept. Graeber may have a point about Turkey’s attack, as Erdogan is no friend to the proletariat of Turkey or of the world as a whole, but is a monster without question. Sure, he has ties to Russia, but this is because Turkish and Russian interests are interconnected, as the Turkish bourgeoisie and Russian bourgeoisie don’t mind being friends. Graeber’s hand-wringing is as bad as Marcel Cartier, writing in evidently anti-anti-imperialist site, The Region, reprinted in the so-called progressive “ZNet,” declaring that Rojava is a “beacon of stability in Syria” and is supposedly “progressive.” He goes further to claim laughably that the Kurds are not puppets but are engaged in a “real revolutionary process” and that the Syrians had “exhibited a considerable degree of colonialism as far as the Kurds are concerned”! Not only does he clearly understand what colonialism is, but his answer as a whole is absurd and laughable as these Kurds are helping the imperialists divide up Syria. Without a doubt, Cartier, like Graeber believes the lies that these Kurds are revolutionary, which anyone with sense has recognized by now. Even one subreddit I follow, leftvexillology, has a tag of “Fuck YPG!” due to such propaganda in absurd, laughable writings. Of course, there are some corners of the Left that still think this, like the goofs at Links International Journal of Socialism, Trotskyists, and deluded socialists in the Middle East. However, as I recently pointed out on Reddit,

….the Rojava/YPG/Kurdish Workers Party are pawns of U$ imperialists [as they see it], as evidenced more and more under Trump than ever before, who has given all sorts of aid to them….we know the U$ imperialists want a “safe district” in the region as a base for their imperialism, so they can easily attack Syria (and by that thinking, undermine Iran). Not only does such a state clearly violate the sovereignty of Syria with their so-called “decentralized” government, creating an entity which will lead to regional chaos…The narrative spread by those who advocate for Rojava is utterly false, without question. Not only is the propaganda outlets of the murderous empire willing to listen and talk to them, but it easily fits with “Orientalist bourgeois propaganda” against Syria…Beyond this, is the reality that while “Western and even international “left”…declare that the Rojava Kurds are “revolutionary” or somehow “liberated” such perspectives are “an unfounded and dangerous form of international solidarity”…Rojava is an illegal entity without question…Hence we should pay less attention to Rojava except to counter imperial lies and fight the blood-sucking imperialists who want to divide and conquer Syria without a doubt.

As the murderous empire seems has “drawn Turkey deeper into the Syrian conflict by announcing a policy that threatens Turkey’s national security” by announcing the creation of “a 30,000-man Border Security Force (BSF) to occupy East Syria” on January 18 and  the start of so-called “Operation Olive Branch” two days later. In the article, Mike Whitney calls this a “gaffe” and a “provocation” which was uttered by oil man Tillerson who was “blinded by hubris.” He also said that time will tell if “Washington is following Erdogan’s orders or not” and claimed that “Putin gave Erdogan the green light to conduct “Operation Olive Branch” in order to pave the way for an eventual Syrian takeover of the Northwestern portion of the country up to the Turkish border” even though he admits that Erdogan has neo-Ottoman ambitions. Whitney closes by saying that the policy will remain the same as “Washington will persist in its effort to divide the country and remove Assad until an opposing force prevents it from doing so.” This seems to be faulty reasoning as the Turks do not seem to favor the current Syrian government so they wouldn’t just give the land over to the Syrians. Instead, it seems that Putin is serving nationalist interests of the Russian bourgeoisie rather than helping protect Syrian sovereignty which Turkey is clearly violating. Some may say that Syria is acquiescing to this by not “fighting back” against Turkey but it is likely that the current government does not want to be at war with Turkey or devote resources to defending such an area, looking to liberate other parts of the country from terrorist control instead, which is a wise use of resources.

In closing, there is no doubt that Syria is a nationalist, secular and socially democratic (or progressive) state. But, it is not socialist, as Gowans, most prominently of all, has argued. As I’ve noted in this article, Syria clearly has a bourgeoisie. This is the case in Iran and Zimbabwe as well, along with likely the case in Belarus and some other progressive countries, along with perhaps Cuba and the DPRK. Knowing the real nature of these countries by using Marxist analysis is important in order for the populace to have an accurate analysis of the world at the present. As always, I look forward to your comments and further discussion on this subject.


Notes

[1] Ashley Smith, “Explaining the Syrian civil war,” International Socialist Review; Chris Lee, “Is Syria socialist?,” Green Left Weekly, Oct 22, 2003; Serge Jordan, “Syria: Is an end to the war in sight?,” Socialist World (Trotskyist), Feb 3, 2017; Freedom Road Socialist Organization, “The ISO and the war on Syria: Silly and shameful,” FightBack! News, Sept 11, 2013; Budour Hassan, “Telling the stories of Syria’s masses,” Socialist Worker, Oct 3, 2013; Joseph Green, “Solidarity with the Syrian uprising and the Arab Spring!,” Communist Voice, Sept 2012; Alasdair Drysdale, “The Asad Regime and Its Troubles,” Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP), November/December 1982.

[2] Suleiman Al-Khalidi, “Syria reverts to socialist economic policies to ease tension,” Reuters, Jul 4, 2012; Jamal Mahamid, “Syria’s frail economy, before and after the revolution,” Al Arabiya, Apr 1, 2013; Aron Lund, “The State of the Syrian Economy: An Expert Survey,” Carnegie Middle East Center, Dec 23, 2013; Hamoud Al-Mahmoud, “The War Economy in the Syrian Conflict: The Government’s Hands-Off Tactics,” Carnegie Middle East Center, Dec 15, 2015; Caroline Alexander and Donna Abu-Nasr, “How War Has Destroyed Syria’s Economy in Four Charts,” Bloomberg News, Jul 29, 2015; Elias al-Araj, “How the war on Syria left its mark on Lebanon’s economy,” Al Monitor, May 13, 2016;  Jihad Yazigi, “Syria’s war economy,” European Council on Foreign Relations, Apr 7, 2014;  Rim Turkmani, Ali A. K. Ali, Mary Kaldor, and Vesna Bojicic-Dzelilovic, “Countering the logic of the war economy in Syria,” OpenDemocracy, Nov 19, 2015; Suleiman Al-Khalidi, “Syria’s economy heads into ruin: U.N. sponsored report,” Reuters, May 18, 2014; AFP, “Economic effect of Syrian war at $35bn: World Bank,” Middle East Eye, Feb 5, 2016; David Butler, “Syria’s Economy: Picking up the Pieces,” Chatham House, June 23, 2015.

[3] On April 18, 1964, the New York Times, in an article titled “Socialist Goals Pressed by Syria,” declared that “the Syrian Government na­tionalized three textile factories in the northern industrial town of Aleppo today and ordered worker management of all na­tionalized and state‐run eco­nomic establishments” with the latter “viewed as heralds of a Social­ist era in Syria under the Baath Socialist party” and seeking to “apply a brand of Socialism different from that of President Gamal Abdel Nasser of the United Arab Republic.” It also noted that “President Nasser’s So­cialism” was denounced by the Baath Socialist party, wanting to have “self­-management” by workers, expanding on nationalization of “all local and foreign banks.” Later on, there was a book by Ayman Al-Yassini titled “The socialist transformation of an underdeveloped country: Syria under the Arab Baath Socialist Party, 1963-1970,” Time magazine calling Syria “socialist” in 1967, as did Edward F. Sheehan in a January 1975 New York Times article titled “He Fears Russians More Than Israelis, Works With Kissinger.”

[4] “Syria,” 2017 Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation, accessed January 21, 2018; “Syria” (economy section), CIA’s The World Factbook, accessed January 21, 2018. There have been those like Martin Peretz of The New Republic declaring that “very few people…think of Russia and China as progressive countries,” that many “still think of Cuba as a progressive country,” with Venezuela, “Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua…express[ing] their solidarity for socialist Syria” which he considered a joke. People like this should be ridiculed and laughed at.

[5] One Trotskyist suggested that since “nationalisations received the overwhelming support of the working class in Syria” it is such nationalization and “division of the land,” which gained the government “support of the workers and peasants,” that the Ba’ath-led government was able to “maintain itself.” This argument may have some merit to it, although Trotskyists are often wrongheaded in their analysis without question.

[6] This is indicated further by other articles talking about industrial facilities, tire manufacturing, decreasing prices, a gas project, the industrial sector, importing of buses,
MPs and general budget (here and here), a fertilizer plant, monetary policy (here and here), exports (here, here, here, and here), an offshore limited liability corporation (LLC), a supposedly cooperative housing sector, agricultural production and investment, rural women’s products, investment in higher education, a shopping festival, reviving old markets, social affairs, economic diplomacy, investment budgets, budgets, nursery plantstons of wheat, a trade fair, raw materials, new gas wells, a state budget billpharmaceuticals, a goods exhibit, labor syndicates, a truck assembly plant, ports being re-opened, new projects, upgrade services, and cabinet work for 2018.

[7] Mike Whitney wrote in January 2016 that “Putin has no intention of getting “bogged down” in Syria for a decade or two. What he plans to do is to defeat the enemy and move on,” adding that “Russia plans to use its Kurdish allies in the YPG to seize a stretch of land along the Syrian side of the Turkish border to reestablish Syria’s territorial sovereignty” while noting that “Turkish President Erdogan has promised that if the YPG pursues that course, Turkey will invade, in which case, Putin will come to the defense of the Kurds.” The latter seems to have come true in the case of Operation Olive Branch as the Turks call it, despite its destruction. The former has also become true as the Russians are pulling back their involvement. Still there is, as another writer also noted in CounterPunch, an “ongoing campaign of demonization against the Russian leader” or Putin, with Avaaz portraying the Syrian government efforts to fight terrorists as “nothing but a joint Russian-Syrian effort to murder civilians, especially children” even though this is an utter lie since, as Whitney noted, in another article, “Russian air-strikes are going to be accompanied by a formidable mop-up operation that will overpower the jihadi groups on the ground” which isn’t recognized by the antiwar movement.