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.”

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A Turning Point for Zimbabwe

This article was published on anti-imperialism.org today and has been reprinted here. There have been some recent stories worth noting: Chinese observers have endorsed the country’s elections while condemning the MDC, showing that the revisionists are still supportive of the existing government in Zimbabwe and ZEC’s website was hacked earlier today. Additionally, Mnangagwa has called for “calm” in Harare as Reuters (“Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa calls for calm amid Harare clashes”) reports, the AP has been actively following this story, and the MDC has condemned the Zimbabwean Army’s response to clashes in Harare (“Zimbabwe opposition leader spokesman says army action unjustified”). Other stories talked about election results so far, and the U$ Embassy in Zimbabwe declaring that “We urge leaders of all parties to call for calm…We further urge the Defense Forces of Zimbabwe to use restraint in dispersing protesters,” and saying they were “deeply concerned” by what has happened in Harare. This story will continue to develop as results for the presidential elections will be released tomorrow.

On July 30, the Republic of Zimbabwe held its presidential elections. The turnout of the Zimbabwean population was, as a Zanu-PF party outlet, The Herald, reported, summarizing the announcement of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), an average of 75%. Clearly, Zimbabweans wanted to express their voice, even as officially, at least, a small percentage were “turned away for reasons such as not having valid identity cards, defaced identity cards and not appearing on the voters’ roll.” The Zimbabwean bourgeoisie lauded the elections, with the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) saying they were happy with how the elections were conducted and wanted them credible so “the re-engagement that we have with the rest of the world continues” as the CZI president, Sifelani Jabangwe declared. Additionally, the CEO Africa round table also praised the elections, saying they significantly boost confidence. [1] In some ways, much has changed since I last wrote about Zimbabwe.

In this election there are two contending parties: the Zanu-PF, a party which has led the country since Zimbabwe’s independence from British rule in 1980 and the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change), long the favorite of Western imperialists, with the biggest faction in this recently formed alliance (formed last year) being the MDC-T or Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai. The bourgeois media in the imperial core uniformly side with the MDC’s concerns about an “unfair” election, which has been watched by all sorts of election observers from the imperial core, especially their claims of Zanu-PF “rigging” or that the MDC magically won the presidential election, while not siding with the Zanu-PF’s claim that the MDC is inciting violence. [2] Additionally, there have been ruminations that “the military would have a strong influence over the way people voted” in the country, as declared by one think tank. Regardless, Zimbabweans  voted in over 10,000 polling stations for 210 parliament members and over 9,000 councilors, with over 20 presidential candidates, with results from these votes announced on August 2. The results were originally to be released on August 4 but complaints by the MDC pushed it to August 2. The bourgeois media also claim that the vote may be close between the top two presidential contenders, since a candidate needs more than 50% of the vote to win outright, leading to the possibility of a run-off election on September 8.

Those two contenders are Emmerson Mnangagwa of the Zanu-PF, installed on November 24 of last year after the military coup in Zimbabwe, which ousted the “father” of Zimbabwe (Robert Mugabe), from November 14 to 21. Mnangagwa is described by British imperialist BBC as promising “to deliver jobs and is seen as open to economic reforms.” His opponent is Nelson Chamisa of the MDC-T, a lawyer and pastor, who would be the youngest president in Zimbabwe’s history. He is described by BBC as promising to “rebuild the country’s devastated economy” while also promising to introduce “a high-speed bullet train” and bring the Olympics to the country. The presidential manifestos of both, displayed by the Zanu-PF party paper, The Herald, show clear similarities without question, which is concerning. The Zanu-PF’s manifesto calls for transforming the country into a “middle-income economy” by 2030 with aggressive focus on opening up “the country for business” to the world, while gaining further foreign direct investment (FDI) (i.e. foreign capital) and domestic capital. This would be coupled with claims of improved health service in the country. Similarly, the MDC-T’s manifesto calls for enabling “economic growth and job creation” with a “pro-job economic recovery” which includes “large scale investment in domestic manufacturing and agriculture.” This would also include a “fully functionary basic health delivery system,” among other aspects. On a related note, the MDC Alliance’s manifesto calls for the “construction of a nominal 100 billion dollar economy” over a period of five years and a new health insurance plan. Finally, the manifesto of another opposition party, the CODE (Coalition for Democrats) calls for “double-digit economic growth,” making Zimbabwe a low-cost efficient producer, “reforming” the sector of state enterprises, while working for debt forgiveness, and having a different health system. Bloomberg, in their summary in late July, said that Mnangagwa is trying to show his “commitment to rebuilding the battered economy, attracting foreign investment and tackling corruption.” They added that in the case of Chamisa, he has been able “to make inroads into parts of rural Zimbabwe that were previously no-go areas for the opposition” since Mugabe’s ouster, with the former pledging to “build new roads, rail links and other infrastructure, improve the education and health-care systems and revive the economy if elected.”

Since the coup in November 2017, it is clear that either Zanu-PF or MDC victory will benefit the hungry Western bourgeoisie while hurting the Zimbabwean proletariat. The MDC-T is a predecessor of the original MDC formed by the late Morgan Tsvangirai in September 1999 and has been backed by Western money ever since, only winning decisively in elections in 2008, leading to a short-lived shared government between the MDC and Zanu-PF until 2009. As for the Zanu-PF, its imperialist faction is currently in power, with those who were a group of dedicated Zimbabwean nationalists who positioned themselves as anti-imperialist purged out of the party or abandoning the party all together, with huge walkouts from Mnangagwa’s rallies and the National Patriotic Front (NPF) going on stage with Chamisa. [3] At the same time, Mugabe, in a surprise press conference on July 29, said he would not support the Zanu-PF, the ones whom he described as tormenting him, feeling that Chamisa of the MDC-T was the only choice to remove what he described as a military government, bringing the country “back to constitutionality,” an assessment which could influence Zimbabweans in their election. This was not a direct endorsement but rather Mugabe felt that Mnangagwa could only be defeated by Chamisa, who he likely voted for and having a “realistic chance of winning,” to use a quote from Bloomberg, while embracing the existing process, not making some secret deal as Mnangagwa declared with venom on his lips for Mugabe and all he stood for. Having a party stalwart like Mugabe abandon the Zanu-PF, angering The Herald (which spread lies about Mugabe supporter Jonathan Moyo by saying he had “dumped” Mugabe) of course, is a big deal which could change the results of the election. Mugabe also talked about varied other topics, like the fact that he was deposed in a military coup, that his wife Grace should be left alone by the media, and telling the history of the Blue House in Harare where he is living, noting it was built by Yugoslavians, originally supposed to be in the Chinese style to honor the Chinese support in the liberation struggle but this did not happen, leading to a weak form of construction.

As it currently stands, Mnangagwa is hopeful of victory and Chamisa has prematurely declared victory even before the results have been announced! [4] On July 31, results of elections were published in The Herald, deriving from information released by the ZEC, noting that the 102 “duly elected members of the National Assembly,” 73 were from the Zanu-PF (about 72%), 28 were the MDC (less than 28%), and 1 was of the NPF (less than 1%). This is extracted from the results, released so far, which have been posted by the ZEC’s website. If the results reported by The Herald reflect the reality on a nationwide scale, Mnangagwa would win in a landslide, with no runoff election in September. On August 1st, as summarized by AP, the ZEC announced that for the 210-seat Zimbabwean parliament, the Zanu-PF won 109 seats, the MDC gained 41 seats, and 2 seats were won by smaller parties, with “58 seats…yet to be declared.” As Reuters described it, the Zanu-PF “swept most rural constituencies by large margins” while the MDC “won in urban centers.” This goes against the pre-election assessment by pro-imperialist outlet, Quartz, which summarized a poll of AfroBarometer (funded by Western imperialists like NED, the U$ State Department, the Swedish government and varied capitalist-run foundations), saying that undecided voters numbered up to 20% and hoping the British (former colonialists) will come to the “rescue.”

Not long after this announcement by the ZEC, gunfire filled streets of Harare with soldiers coming in to disperse those “who had clashed with police” after those individuals burned “cars and threw rocks.” This followed Chamisa accusing “the ZANU-PF of trying to rig the results.” The streets were cleared by police, including some in riot gear, assisted by helicopters and armored personnel carriers, with police reportedly firing on crowds “with guns, water cannons and tear gas.” Of course, Mnangagwa accused Chamisa and the MDC of inciting violence by “already declaring he had won the election.” Be that as it may, the efforts by Zimbabwean police is clearly an attempt to maintain control, possibly to maintain military rule since the country’s army was deployed on the streets of Harare, with at least three civilians killed in the clashes. At the same time, it is highly likely the MDC stoked the protests in order to ensure that the election is not seen as “free and fair” by the West. [5] The latter manifested itself most recently in a EU observer mission grumbling about the “delay in announcing the results of the presidential race” and saying that “a truly level playing field was not achieved” with the election, declaring there was “misuse of state resources, instances of coercion and intimidation, partisan behavior by traditional leaders and overt bias in state media,” while they admitted that “the election campaign and voting were largely peaceful.” Such assessments are important as it could determine if Western sanctions, which began in the late 1990s, remain imposed on Zimbabwe. While this is happening, civil society groups, traditionally backed by Western imperialists, are “working on a court application to force the electoral commission to get all polling stations to publish results,” basing this off the position of the MDC. [6]

Regardless of who wins, it is clear that the economy is in turmoil in part from mismanagement by the Zimbabwean national bourgeoisie, but mainly from Western sanctions targeting the country’s economy after an effort to redistribute the country’s White-owned farms to the Black masses, angering Western capitalists without end! Clearly, the West will allow political change if it benefits Western capitalists, with the Zanu-PF and MDC having pro-imperialist positions meaning that these capitalists win no matter what. While Robert Mugabe and his supporters in the Zanu-PF had their problems, they were a clear firewall against Western imperialism in Zimbabwe, which was even noted by a hostile South African broadcaster, SABC, back in the day. Now, that firewall is gone and the country is open to imperialist viruses. As such, no matter who wins, the Zimbabwean proletariat are losers and while new economic structures, not by the unfortunately useless Zimbabwean Communist Party should be created they should built on the Zanu-PF’s work so far while directly challenging and obliterating the nationalist Zimbabwean bourgeoisie.

Looking forward, while looking back at the past, it is much more productive to be critical without accepting the imperialist narrative of Zimbabwe wholesale as some on the Left have done to the peril of global proletariat. [7] As such, it is important to point out that the murderous empire wants capitalism without question. This was expressed by Mike Pompeo on July 30 of this year, declaring in a speech about new imperial policy in the Indo-Pacific to the U$ Chamber of Commerce’s Indo-Pacific Business Forum: “the U.S. Government doesn’t tell American companies what to do. But we help build environments that foster good, productive capitalism. We help American firms succeed so that local communities can flourish, and bilateral partnerships can grow.” Additionally, one should consider what Michael Parenti wrote back in 2014, that not only do we not “really know how very rich the very rich really are” but we also “don’t really know how poor the very poor really are” with the poorest 50 percent having vastly more than the “accumulated wealth as the world’s poorest 50 percent” with many of those having “next to nothing.” As Danny Haiphong, favorably to Chinese revisionism, even recently wrote, “the US ruling class privately owns the most ruthless form of imperialism to date. For the last forty years, the concentration of wealth and profit in the hands of ever fewer numbers of capitalists has been achieved through an all-out assault on the concessions won by workers and oppressed people over the last century.” This is bound to be expanded to the Zimbabwean proletariat without question with expanded neoliberal destruction.

There is another aspect worth noting: conflict between Chinese and U$ capitalists. Zimbabwe has taken a “look east” policy, meaning they have favored China over the U$, especially since the 1990s, with good relations with China since 1980. This was due to the fact that during the liberation struggle against the British colonialists and their White settler descendants. If either* Mnangagwa or Chamisa wins, the country could easily shift toward the orbit of U$ capitalists, but likely more in the case of Chamisa than Mnangagwa, who would try to balance the capitalists from each country. This is important because Xi Jinping of China recently went on a tour of Africa, pledging to defend the “multilateral free trading system,” cemented in the IMF, World Bank, and WTO, while also trying to expand Chinese investments and “infrastructure loans.” After all, they were fine with the horrid TPP (and its successor, the CPTPP), wanting more integration of the global capitalist system!

While this story is a developing one, with the reality clear on August 2 and the days afterward, it is clear that not only are hard times ahead for the Zimbabwean proletariat but this election can said to be a turning point for Zimbabwe as a whole, without question.


Notes

[1] In the same article, The Herald boasted of the policies which have benefited the Zimbabwean bourgeoisie since November 2017 and in recent days, weakening the gains made under Mugabe: “Due to the encouraging performance of companies since January, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has been overwhelmed by applications for foreign payments as firms seek to retool and boost their operations. Government has also announced a raft of policy changes such as the amendment of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act to attract foreign investment and has since scrapped the prior need for foreign-owned investors to hold 49 percent in business ventures they initiate while locals got 51 percent save for the diamond and the platinum sectors. The Diamond Policy, which will spell out a number of issues regarding the sector is under consideration. Immediately after that, a Platinum Policy, with similar aspirations, would also be created. Statistics show investment approvals between January and June 30 this year, are over $16 billion. The indications are investment inquiries through the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) are likely to increase tremendously after this week’s harmonised elections.”

[2] Christopher Torchia and Farai Mutsaka, “Zimbabwe says election is clean; opposition is skeptical,” AP, Jul 31, 2018; “Zimbabwe’s MDC Alliance says Chamisa beat Mnangagwa,” BBC News, Jul 31, 2018; Mel Frykberg, “Military may have made impact on Zimbabwe elections – legal think-tank,” African News Agency, Jul 31, 2018; Tom Embury-Dennis and Harry Cockburn, “Zimbabwe election LIVE: Two main parties claim lead amid accusations of ‘deliberate delays’ in first vote since ousting of Robert Mugabe,” The Independent, Jul 31, 2018; MacDonald Dzirutwe and Joe Brock, “Zimbabwe opposition accuses commission of delaying poll results,” Reuters, Jul 31, 2018; Susan Njanji and Fanuel Jongwe, “Tension mounts as Zimbabwe opposition claims election victory,” AFP, Jul 31, 2018; Christopher Torchia and Farai Mutsaka, “Zimbabwe polls close, counting begins in pivotal election,” AP, Jul 30, 2018; “Zimbabwe Election in Some Cases ‘Totally Disorganized’: EU,” Reuters, Jul 30, 2018; Hamza Mohamed, “Zimbabwe elections: Voters cast ballots in landmark polls,” Al Jazeera, Jul 30, 2018; Jason Burke, “Zimbabwe opposition leader: ‘We will have a new president … it will be me’,” The Guardian, Jul 27, 2018; “Zimbabwe opposition accuses commission of delaying poll results,” Reuters, July 31, 2018; “Factbox: Zimbabwe’s voting system,” Reuters, Jul 31, 2018; “Zimbabwe presidential election results expected from Thursday: electoral commission,” Reuters, Aug 1, 2018.

[3] “Zimbabwe: Scores Abandon ED Rally,” The Standard, July 29, 2018; “UPDATE 3-Zimbabwe’s Mugabe backs opposition on eve of election,” Reuters, July 29, 2018; Kim Sengupta, “Zimbabwe election campaign takes dramatic turn as Mugabe turns against his own party,” Yahoo! News, July 29, 2018; Farai Mutsaka, “Zimbabwe’s Mugabe emerges, rejects ruling party in election,” AP, July 29, 2018; Brian Latham, “Here Are the Leading Candidates in Zimbabwe’s Historic Presidential Race,” Bloomberg, July 24, 2018.

[4] Everson Mushava, “Chamisa, ED in final showdown,” NewsDay, Aug 2018; Sisipho Skweyiya, “Zimbabwe’s jobless generation hopes election will mark a change,” July 2018; Fanuel Jongwe, “Tension mounts as Zimbabwe opposition claims election victory,” AFP, Jul 31, 2018; Jason Burke, “Zimbabwe opposition leader: ‘We will have a new president … it will be me’,” The Guardian, Jul 27, 2018; “Violence in Zimbabwe after ruling ZANU-PF announced as winner of election,” AP, Aug 1, 2018; “Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa says Harare violence meant to disrupt election,” Reuters, Aug 1, 2018; Christopher Torchia and Farai Mutsaka, “Riots shake Zimbabwean capital as election results delayed,” AP, Aug 1, 2018; “Zimbabwe police requested army help to quell post-election protests: spokeswoman,” Reuters, Aug 1, 2018; MacDonald Dzirutwe and Joe Brock, “Three killed as Zimbabwe troops, protesters clash after vote,” Reuters, Aug 1, 2018; “Zimbabwe ruling party has two-thirds majority in parliament: official results,” Reuters, Aug 1, 2018; “Zimbabwe’s ruling party wins most seats in parliament. But was election fair?,” AFP, Aug 1, 2018; David B. Moore, “Zimbabwe is getting ready for a very close election and a test of its democratic future,” Quartz, July 24, 2018.

[5] MDC involvement was acknowledged in the August 1 story in Reuters (“Three killed as Zimbabwe troops, protesters clash after vote”), saying that “the unrest started soon after Nelson Chamisa, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), declared that he had won the popular vote…“I was making a peaceful protest. I was beaten by soldiers,” said Norest Kemvo, who had gashes to his face and right hand. “This is our government. This is exactly why we wanted change. They are stealing our election” [a common claim of the MDC]…Chamisa’s spokesman, Nkululeko Sibanda, told reporters the army’s reaction was unjustified. “Today we saw the deployment of military tanks and firing of live ammunition on civilians for no apparent reason” [it wasn’t for “no reason”]…“We are tired of them stealing our votes. This time we will not allow it, we will fight,” said a protester who wore a red MDC beret in central Harare…“The strategy is meant to prepare Zimbabwe mentally to accept fake presidential results. We’ve more votes than ED. We won the popular vote (and) will defend it,” Chamisa said on Twitter.”

[6] “CORRECTED-Zimbabwe group preparing election court action, opposition says,” Reuters, July 31, 2018.

[7] One example is Horace Campbell, recently interviewed by the progressive alternative news outlet, The Real News. He is a person who, as I noted in a YouTube comment, “favors the Western-backed MDC and doesn’t like Mugabe,” accepting “imperialist narrative in this case,” while I added that “if sanctions are lifted and the country opens for business (to the Western bourgeoisie) the latter especially would hurt the Zimbabwean proletariat. Still, Campbell is right that neither party wants to economically empower the people and that the economic programs of both parties are similar! He also makes good points about organizing new structures and other voting across the African continent. I don’t think that Mugabe “liquidated” the working class but rather sided with the peasants.” The last sentence is not included the anti-imperialism.org, probably not included by accident.

*says “whther” in the anti-imperialism.org rather than the words “if either”

The specter of DPRK-U$ detente and what it means for the world

Kim and the orange menace shake hands at the June 12th Singapore summit.

Reprinted from anti-imperialism.org, with changes of some links to this blog and text itself for reasons of smoothness.

Last month, I wrote a criticism, on this very website [anti-imperialism.org], of the orange menace’s letter which canceled one-on-one talks with Kim Jong Un, the DPRK’s elected leader, whom has held the ceremonial title of “supreme leader,” and commander of the Korean People’s Army, since December 2011. [1] Since then, the letter has become old hat, with the one-on-one talks on June 12 at a hotel located on Singapore’s Sentosa Island. Perhaps, the letter from the orange menace was a warning shot across the bow, supposed to say who was in “control.” With the summit, Pence, Bolton, and others within the U$ government which didn’t want the summit, were marginalized. The giddy liberals, like Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson or former CIA director John Brennan were likely annoyed, as were those on news stations like MSNBC, unable to contain their hatred for the people of the DPRK, especially for Kim himself, calling him a “murderous dictator” who had “gulags” time and time again. As I wrote last month, “Kim and the DPRK have the upper hand here, not the imperialists, showing the DPRK are in a strong position, at an advantage.” As Amber B. recently wrote [on anti-imperialism.org], criticizing the left-opposition of the orange menace by groups such as the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) and Refuse Fascism, instead of focusing on the orange menace, only a figurehead of the moment, as the primary enemy, it is better to “highlight the innumerable ways his administration works in perfect continuity with amerikan imperialism in general,” while understanding his peculiarities, but not giving them primary importance. With this, the following article aims to highlight the anger from sectors of the bourgeoisie on the summit, the results of the summit itself, how it fits into the broader framework of U$ imperialism, and what it means for the world as a whole.

In order to highlight the reactions and results of the summit, it is best to reprint the joint statement by Kim and the orange menace which was posted on the websites of Explore DPRK and Rodong Sinmun. The statement which was released on June 12 is as follows:

Kim Jong Un, chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Donald J. Trump, president of the United States of America, held the first historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

Chairman Kim Jong Un and President Trump conducted a comprehensive, in-depth and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of new DPRK-U.S. relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Convinced that the establishment of new DPRK-U.S. relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Chairman Kim Jong Un and President Trump state the following:

1. The DPRK and the United States commit to establish new DPRK-U.S. relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.

2. The DPRK and the United States will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

4. The DPRK and the United States commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Having acknowledged that the DPRK-U.S. summit, the first in history, was an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for opening of a new future, Chairman Kim Jong Un and President Trump commit to implement the stipulations in this joint statement fully and expeditiously.

The DPRK and the United States commit to hold follow-on negotiations led by the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the DPRK-U.S. summit.

Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America have committed to cooperate for the development of new DPRK- U.S. relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.

One can say it is positive that both sides agree on establishing new relations which will contribute to “peace and prosperity,” build a “lasting and robust peace regime” on the Korean Peninsula, and will work together to recover POW/MIA remains. The same can be said for implementing the summit’s outcomes, and planned cooperation tied with “the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.” The DPRK itself is compelled by the agreement to work for “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and reaffirm the ROK-DPRK Panmunjom Declaration, while the U$ is committed “to provide security guarantees to the DPRK.” Still, it is going too far to say that this is a “pretty comprehensive document” as the orange menace declared recently. Rather, it is much more moderate, even if we take Kim’s words that the past will be left behind and that the “world will see a major change.” It is also an agreement which is  supported by 51% of those in the U$, a strong showing of the populace for peace.

Recent developments have raised questions about the specter of detente, with papers like the New York Times declaring that the DPRK “ruined” negotiations and The Atlantic declaring that the road for denuclearization will not be an easy one. [2] Basically, the DPRK is asking for concessions from U$ imperialists in exchange for denuclearization, criticizing unilateral and irreversible denuclearization pushed by Pompeo (and neo-cons) most recently in his meeting with high-level DPRK officials, such as key Workers’ Party of Korea official Kim Yong Chol, whom have called for a phased approach toward a nuclear-free Korean peninsula rather than “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation” (CVID) demanded quickly by the U$. As such, the DPRK said the talks with Pompeo, whom declared that both sides had made progress on “almost all of the central issues,” were regrettable, while Chol said that “the more you [Pompeo] come, more trust we can build between one another.” This could indicate differences within the DPRK’s leadership on how the U$ should be approached.

The full statement from the DPRK’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 7 showed the rightful criticism of the U$. It says that while they expected “that the U.S. side would bring itself with a constructive proposal which would help build up trust true to the spirit of the DPRK-U.S. summit meeting and talks,” with the DPRK putting forward “constructive proposals to seek a balanced implementation of all the provisions of the Joint Statement,” including putting in place “multilateral exchanges for improved relations between the DPRK and the U.S., making public a declaration on the end of war first on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement to build a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, dismantling the test ground of high thrust engine to make a physical verification of the suspension of ICBM production as part of denuclearization steps and making an earliest start of the working-level talks for recovering POW/MIA remains.” Kim even wrote the orange menace a personal letter out of respect. However, the U$ imperialists demanded that the DPRK comply with the demand for unilateral denuclearization which “run[s] counter to the spirit of the Singapore summit meeting and talks,” never mentioning the issue of “establishing a peace regime on the Korean peninsula which is essential for defusing tension and preventing a war,” instead saying they would backtrack on ending “the status of war under certain conditions and excuses”! This seems to follow efforts of previous administrations, with the suspension of the war games something that could be reversed. The foreign ministry adds that the DPRK was naive to think that the U$ would “come with a constructive proposal which accords with the spirit of the DPRK-U.S. summit meeting and talks,” and notes that while the DPRK in the last few months “displayed maximum patience,” watching the U$ and initiating many “good-will steps,” this was misunderstood by the U$. They further commented that such imperialists are “fatally mistaken” if they think that “the DPRK would be compelled to accept, out of its patience” the imperialists’ demands. The statement closes by saying that “the U.S. should make a serious consideration of whether the toleration of the headwind against the wills of the two top leaders would meet the aspirations and expectations of the world people as well as the interests of its country.” So, the negotiations and burgeoning detente will continue, but tensions are rising to the surface, even if the orange menace really does give Kim a CD with Elton John’s “Rocket Man” as some bourgeois media are alleging.

Since the summit: the U$ and DPRK’s response

What has happened since the summit is important to recall. Positively, the U$ ended military drills, also called “war games,” with the ROK, with the orange menace rightly calling them “inappropriate” and “provocative” while even floating the withdrawal of U$ troops from the ROK. However, this could be part of his strategy to make a mark globally, or to force concessions out of Japan and ROK through his measures. [3] At the same time, military drills could even be “used again to threaten Pyongyang once it doesn’t proceed with the denuclearization as Washington wants” as the Global Times posited. This is no surprise however, because there is a clear trend of imperial arrogance under the current administration, exemplified most poignantly by Nikki Haley in response to social democratic imperialist Bernie Sanders, telling him that “it is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America. The Special Rapporteur wasted the UN’s time and resources, deflecting attention from the world’s worst human rights abusers and focusing instead on the wealthiest and freest country in the world.”

The U$ imperialists have been holding a tenacious line. Hawkish John Bolton declared that discussions between the DPRK and U$ (including Mike Pompeo) would continue, putting the onus on the DPRK, saying that denuclearization can happen within a year (or even 2 ½ years), with an undefined program with “asks” mentioned by Bolton and unnamed U$ officials, perhaps numbering as many as 47 as TASS reported recently. [4] The orange menace claimed this would include consultations with the ROK, Japan, and China. At the same time, there are some talk of a second summit between Kim and the orange menace, possibly at the UN General Assembly’s annual session beginning in September, even though there are efforts to put stumbling blocks in place. Of course, people like Pence claim that the “success of this summit and the progress that we’ve made is a direct result of President Trump’s steadfast leadership, and the courage of one American family” referring to Otto Warmbier’s family. The orange menace unconsciously, since he is a political amateur, as the Koreans said at the past, has disrupted, in another attempt to put his “mark” on history, the imperial Orientalist narrative on the DPRK by saying that people in the country “love” Kim with a “fervor,” and that the people in the country are hard-working and industrious. He also said that “I believe it’s a rough situation over there [in the DPRK]. It’s rough in a lot of places, by the way, not just there.” [5] Even with this, the imperial hostility toward the DPRK continues.

It is good to see the orange menace admitting that calling Kim “rocket man” was foolish. However, disgustingly he claimed it was part of his strategy to “earn” Kim’s “respect”! This seems like a horrible strategy which was not worth the cost! Detente could have been started much earlier. The current imperial strategy however is a bit confused as the orange menace extended the “national emergency” for the DPRK for another year, saying it constitutes an “extraordinary threat” to the U$, allowing economic sanctions to remain in place! Further disjunction is evidenced by the orange menace’s claims that he had “good chemistry” with Kim, who he called a “very smart guy,” “tough guy,” “great negotiator,” and “very talented” as one of very few to run a “tough country,” but nodded to the Orientalists by saying that Kim has engaged in “very bad things” even as he said that “so have a lot of other people that have done some really bad things.” This is another crack in the imperialist narrative. Let us be clear that Kim outmaneuvered the orange menace, who depends on advisers like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, while Kim serves as the guiding force of the DPRK, far from what those in the West call a “dictator” with venom on their lips. The orange menace is falling on his own sword by playing up the summit’s results. Of course, no one would even dream of considering denuclearization of the U$!

Since the summit, Kim and the DPRK leadership has taken a strong stand. If Bolton is to be believed, Kim told the orange menace on June 12 that he was different than Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung. [6] While some say that the exact details of what the orange menace and Kim talked about is not known, Rodong Sinmun described the meeting as an “epoch-making meeting…[with] a candid exchange of views on the practical issues of weighty significance in putting an end to the decades-long hostile relations between the DPRK and the U.S.” It also says there was “a comprehensive and in-depth discussion over the issues of establishing new DPRK-U.S. relations and building a permanent and durable peace mechanism on the Korean Peninsula at the talks” with Kim praising “the president’s will and enthusiasm to resolve matters in a realistic way through dialogue and negotiations, away from the hostility-woven past…[and that] the two countries should commit themselves to refraining from antagonizing each other out of mutual understanding, and take legal and institutional steps to guarantee it.” Additionally, “Kim Jong Un invited Trump to visit Pyongyang at a convenient time and Trump invited Kim…to visit the U.S.” This having been the case, people have sent Kim congratulatory letters, while he has met with Xi Jinping, who represents the Chinese revisionists, and with Moon Jae-in, negotiating to have continued reunions of families separated by the Korean War, leading even a common revisionist, Roland Boer, to float the idea of Nobel Prize for Kim and Moon. There have also been meetings between high-ranking DPRK and ROK generals. Most importantly for the Korean people is Kim’s public appearance at a Sinuiju province cosmetics factory in which he said “it is important to completely eliminate manual labor and modernize production processes,” by bringing in automation. [7] He also said he “always hoped for a visit to the cosmetic factory in Sinuiju…They are famous for producing cosmetics with a spring scent,” and was also “proud of the factory’s production levels, but encouraged workers to continue excelling” as one article noted. We can debate automation of the workforce, but Kim clearly cares about his people while the orange menace does not care one bit, a fact the DPRK is undoubtedly aware of.

Then we get to claims of increased nuclear production in the DPRK’s facility in Yongbyon from 5-6 unnamed “U.S. officials,” a supposed report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and most “strongly” from commercial satellite imagery, displayed by anti-DPRK “watcher” website, 38 North, a project of the Henry L. Stimson Center, whose “partners” include many foundations and imperial groups. The center is also, as it should be noted, funded by the capitalist governments of Australia, Canada, Finland, Japan, Netherlands, UK, and U$, along with various private individuals, corporations, and foundations. [8] The imagery used by 38 North comes from a Pleiades satellite run by the French subsidiary of Airbus Defense and Space, called Airbus DS Geo SA, a global business which bills itself as an “international pioneer in Earth observation services.” As it turns out, Airbus Defense and Space is a subsidiary of the aerospace company, Airbus, over a quarter of which is owned by the capitalist French, Spanish, and German governments, according to page 108 of the organization’s most recent annual report. That doesn’t sound like an unbiased source at all! I am reminded of a recent article by Melinda Laituri in The Conversation, where she writes that

Satellite images…are captured through remote sensing technologies…without physical contact or firsthand experience. Algorithms refine these data to describe places and phenomena on the Earth’s surface and in the atmosphere…I think it’s important for people to understand the limitations of this technology, lest they misunderstand what they see…But there are some caveats that anyone working with satellite images – or viewing them – should consider. Satellite images are only as good as their resolution. The smaller the pixel size, the sharper the image. But even high-resolution images need to be validated on the ground to ensure the trustworthiness of the interpretation. Should we question the images we see? Whose view of the world are we seeing? One example of the misuse of remotely sensed data was in 2003, when satellite images were[falsely] used as evidence of sites of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq…processing satellite images is computationally intensive. At best, satellite images are interpretations of conditions on Earth – a “snapshot” derived from algorithms that calculate how the raw data are defined and visualized. This has created a “black box,” making it difficult to know when or why the algorithm gets it wrong…Through platforms like Google Earth and Earth Explorer, satellite images are increasingly available to not only researchers and scientists, but to people around the world…maps derived from satellite images are constructed by those who may not be very familiar with the site. Mappers have an important responsibility when representing other people’s places. Maps derived from satellite images without local context – like street names or information about vegetation types – tell incomplete stories. Building footprints can be digitized, but only locals can identify the purpose of that building. Imaginary lines, like country boundaries, don’t show up on remotely sensed images. As satellite images become more ubiquitous, we should reflect on where they come from, how they are created, and the purpose for their use.

Keeping that at mind, we should not, for one second, accept the claims made by the DNI, unnamed U$ officials, and even the interpretation of satellite imagery at face value. As Stephen Lendman, who I’ve cited before, writes, even 38 North can’t confirm if the work it says occurred, “continued after the June 12 Kim/Trump summit” after the summit or not! So, this makes their article totally worthless, a piece of junk which should be incinerated in the closest furnace, without polluting the air of course.

Capitalism coming to the DPRK?

There are signs of possible shifts. Kim met with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on June 11, saying he would “learn a lot from the good knowledge and experience of Singapore in various fields in the future,” adding that issues of bilateral relations and increased “wide-ranging exchange and cooperation” was encouraged, while Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Singaporean Minister of Education Ong Ye Kung went to the DPRK. This raises the question: is capitalism coming to the DPRK as part of the detente with U$ imperialists?

We know that a four-minute short, created by the National Security Council, was shown to Kim, along with the capitalist media later on, with a voice over thundering that “Destiny Pictures presents a story of opportunity. A new story. A new beginning. Out of peace. Two men, two leaders, one destiny.” [9] This video “shows scenes of high-tech societies and everyday America, contrasted with images of traditional and contemporary Korean life, spliced with shots of rockets and North Korean militarism” as one bourgeois news outlet puts it. As the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which is not anti-imperialist in the slightest, describes it, the video serves “as a kind of hyper-capitalist real estate pitch, complete with beachfront property and speedboats and babies.” There’s also the fact that the orange menace, who says the video was shown in English and Korean, claims it was “loved” by Kim and eight Korean representatives. If he and other top DPRK officials liked the video, which we can’t be completely sure about unless we take the word of the orange menace at face value, it is somewhat worrisome considering the capitalist nature. Even so, it wouldn’t mean that the country is moving in a capitalist direction. In fact, it could mean they see it more broadly without abandoning the country’s social model.

At the same time, it is significant that the foreign affairs minister of Singapore, Vivian Balakrishnan, was impressed with what he saw in the DPRK on his visit. As he recounted:

…I come back very impressed…my views have also altered based on what I saw, heard, and (after I had) spoken to people. Clearly, the government has been hard at work all these decades to upgrade their infrastructure. I also got to experience the rugged, disciplined, determined, self-reliant society. They know they have had enormous challenges for well-nigh a century in North Korea. But they are proud of themselves and of their identity, and I can see there is that determination to move on, get ahead and to progress. So the society itself is a very impressive society and a city in its own right. Despite these maximal sanctions, what you have is a society that has continued to invest itself and continuously trying to upgrade people and their skills and the services they provide to their citizens. Now, can you imagine if peace finally comes, and North Korea is allowed to open up to the world and gain access to technology, capability, skills and markets. I think the sky is the limit for their people. If a breakthrough is achieved during the summit in Singapore, if peace comes, there will be a bountiful harvest. Primarily of course, with the Korean peninsula but also the rest of us, including Singapore as well. [10]

The question remains: who will collect this “bountiful harvest”? Will it be the Korean people or capitalists, Chinese, ROK, Japanese, Singaporean, and U$, spreading their wings and planting themselves in the North? If the latter is the case, then it will be a sad day for the forces fighting global imperialism. If the former occurs, which is something all those who care about justice should push for, then this would be a great relief for Korean people. We already know that 80% of ROK trading companies want to take part in development projects in the DPRK after international sanctions are lifted and are asking for better cross-border exchange. [11] Additionally, the national assembly of the ROK has seen an “increase in the number of bill proposals by legislators pushing to bolster economic exchanges with North Korea,” with many focused on inter-Korean railways and other economic exchanges. We also know that the U$ may be interested in negotiations with the DPRK because of large “deposits of rare earth elements (REEs)…potentially worth billions of US dollars” at a time that the DPRK “may be on the cusp of being integrated into a vast supply chain via an Iron Silk Road, with the Russia-China strategic partnership simultaneously investing in railways, pipelines and ports in parallel to North-South Korean special economic zones (SEZs), Chinese-style” as Pepe Escobar, favorable to Chinese revisionism, wrote recently. Furthermore, the orange menace and certain U$ imperialists want the summit in order to further “U.S. capitalist interests in Asia.”

It also seems that the DPRK is preparing itself even more for the world spotlight. One traveler from New Zealand, calling himself Indigo Traveller Nick, described Pyongyang as “impeccably clean,” thanks to efforts by locals, with grand metro stops, a fascinating but brutal war museum about the Korean war, feeling invisible as a foreigner, and having relative freedom for footage except for taking images of statues of current or former leaders. [12] He also claimed that those in rural regions of the country “looked like they walked straight out from a 1940s film,” reminiscent of the Soviet Union. He ended by calling it the “most unique and fascinating country” he had ever visited. On a related noted, the country is also connected culturally and linguistically to the south, with both countries sharing the same unofficial national anthem, “Our Wish is Reunification.” At the same time, a 42-minute video of the summit and visit of Kim and other top DPRK officials to Singapore was proudly broadcast on Korean Central Television (KCTV), including a “glittering Singapore skyline,” with Kim approving of Singapore as “clean and beautiful.” This would seem at least somewhat worrisome since Singapore is, as the bourgeois media has argued, a “prosperous capitalist nation,” only being “prosperous” for the capitalists.

The Russians are key in future developments in the DPRK, since they play a part in the search for a solution to the woes of the Korean Peninsula. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov is noted as saying in mid-June that they “seek economic cooperation with South Korea, which is our second largest trading partner in Asia after China,” while there would be high-level talks later in the month, focusing on “further development of Russia-South Korea relations in political, trade and economic, and humanitarian spheres.” [13] This is connected with the idea, posed by ROK president Moon Jae-in, that there be a Trans Korean Maine Line which can be connected to the Trans-Siberian Railway, which can benefit both Koreas and Russia, connected with having a gas pipeline from Russia connecting the two Koreas, along with electric lines as well, possibly even connecting with Japan. Moon also said, elsewhere that the DPRK can be part of negotiations with Russia “after permanent peace is established in the region.” An outlet of the Vietnamese revisionists, VN Express, reported on the topic as well, noting that between the ROK and Russia, there was hope “that reduced tensions with Pyongyang will open up opportunities for economic and infrastructure projects that would directly link South Korea with Russia through North Korea” with an area of common interest being “railway projects,” with current development “of a railway link between the Russian eastern border town of Khasan and the North Korean port of Rajin.” The DPRK clearly realizes the value of Russia as well, with Kim touring a military site in a Russian-made Lada Priora, a car produced by a large automaker in Russia, AvtoVAZ, which is majority-owned by the French car company, Renault.

China, which is revisionist and connected to global capitalism, has a similarly strong role in the events in the country itself. There are indications that any transformation in the DPRK will be based on what has happened in China since 1978, not on what has happened in the U$, engaging in economic reconstruction with any capitalistic opening limited to SEZs. [14] The Chinese state media claims that the DPRK’s cosmetic industry will gain from capitalistic Chinese investment, building upon existing connections to Chinese cyberspace. With all of this, the DPRK’s leadership increased the country’s ties with China, with the Chinese hosting a banquet for Kim on June 19, with talks in the following days, returning after the talks, on June 21. Interestingly, he visited, with his wife Ri Sol Ju, “the Beijing Municipal Track Traffic Control Centre,” learning the details and asking pointed questions, adding that “he admires at the high-level automation and good combined control system of the centre, he hoped that the centre would further develop into a world-level traffic control centre and make greater progress.”

There have also been rumblings about the “erasing” of anti-imperialist propaganda in the DPRK, which claims it was “replaced” by other propaganda celebrating Korean unification and not as critical of the U$. [15] A tour manager of Young Pioneer Tours named Rowan Beard, Peter Ward of NKNews, and a researcher at the ROK’s Korea Institute for National Unification named Hong Min, along with some other so-called “experts” said this was the case. Additionally, AP reported that the annual anti-imperialist rally to mark the start of the Korean War, or the Great Fatherland Liberation War, is not occurring this year. Of course, this is reporting on the outside, looking in, so what they are saying is likely distorted. It is clear that Rodong Sinmun is still celebrating the “socialist public health system in the DPRK,” writing on June 25th that this system is “symbolic of the advantages of Korean-style socialism centered on the popular masses, where the working masses are masters of everything and everything in society serves them.”

Clearly, the stage is set for some sort of capitalist opening in the DPRK. There are already some SEZs and other market mechanisms, as allowed by the country’s constitution, but these seem to be limited within the country itself. It is not known how much the country will “open” up, but if it is as much as China, this could be deleterious to the Korean people in the North by hurting any efforts for socialist construction in the country. Whatever is in store in the months and years to come, Russia, China, and the ROK will be key players, as will the DPRK. Perhaps Japan will be part of the equation, as will the U$, but the result of the detente will determine what the role of U$ imperialists will be going forward. The DPRK could also follow the model of Vietnam, which those like Pompeo hope for, as he recently said in Hanoi that “I say all of that because it’s important, but I hope that the United States, that one day we can share the same relationship with North Korea [that we have with Vietnam].” He added at a press conference in Japan that “in light of the once-unimaginable prosperity and partnership we have with Vietnam today, I have a message for Chairman Kim Jong Un. President Trump believes your country can replicate this path. It’s yours if you’ll seize the moment. The miracle could be yours. The choice now lies with North Korea and its people.” Whether that comes to pass, the fact is that the DPRK will adapt to the new surroundings, as has done since September 9, 1948, when the country was founded, with its efforts to play the Soviets and the Chinese off each other, especially after the 1960s, until the end of the Cold War in 1991, leading to some criticism from certain parts of the world.

The warmongers continue their assault: liberals and corporate media

While the orange menace rattles on about “fake news” from NBC and CNN, saying that there should be “negotiating in good faith” by both sides, with war and “potential nuclear catastrophe” involving the DPRK averted, he poses himself as a “courageous” individual for making “peace.” At the same time, Bruce Cumings, a liberal bourgeois historian, has said that this summit “frees Trump from Washington establishment thinking, and create[s] a real possibility of peace in Korea.” Not everyone sees it that way: liberals and much of the corporate media is opposed to detente between the DPRK and the U$ since they want the detente to fail.

This attitude is evident without question. On June 12, Ankit Panda of The Daily Beast declared that during the meeting Kim “got the better end of the bargain” and that the DPRK gained an “important propaganda coup.” [16] The same day, The Guardian blared that Kim “won” the summit, gaining “bolstered status and diplomatic leverage,” even saying that the war games were positive! Others, like William Rivers Pitt of Truthout, went into the bizarre, calling Kim a “dangerous menace” who was a “fascist” like the orange menace! This wasn’t much of a surprise considering that others like Tony Schwartz (former ghostwriter for the orange menace) and Rebecca Gordon of TomDispatch fell in line, saying that the orange menace was moving closer to “enemies” of the empire. They “proved” this by citing the orange menace’s comments that Kim is a “tough guy” who is “smart” and a “great negotiator,” while saying, some time ago, in response to typical bourgeois criticism of Putin, “what do you think, our country’s so innocent?” The latter statement alludes to imperial violence since 1776 while such violence continues unimpeded! By contrast, progressive “luminary” Amy Goodman was more positive on the summit, saying that there should be unification behind “peace movements that are driving this diplomatic opening.” The same was the case for Tom Shorrock, who called Kim a “dictator,” who was also positive, especially criticizing corporate pundits.

A number of radical and alternative commentators exposed the true nature of the warmongers. Some wrote that the summit was “filled with the sorts of reality-television antics we’ve come to expect from the U.S. leader,” but also said that those Democrats who were Clintonites or Obamaesque, “struggled hard to express principled disagreements with the White House over a rapprochement with Pyongyang,” using a “laundry-list cliché of complaints,” with the orange menace “incapable of doing any good unless he’s applying a language of pressure, sanctions and veiled threats using acceptable language.” Even the Greanville Post, an alternative media outlet which is favorable to revisionism, pointed out that Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, the U$ House Minority Leader, did not like the moderate concessions by the orange menace to Kim, wanting more brinkmanship, not wanting a “genuine and durable peace” on the Korean Peninsula. The union-funded publication, In These Times, said something similar, noting that Koreans were optimistic about the summit, while those like Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, liberal cesspool Vox, Hallie Jackson of MSNBC, and King Russophobe Adam Schiff, among other establishment liberals, as some call them, were up in arms, with even social democratic imperialist Bernie Sanders praising the summit! This was not unusual. The bourgeois media made the faulty assumption for weeks leading up to the summit (and since) that “North Korea cannot live without nuclear weapons” and do not take one second to “understand North Korea’s strategy in regard to nuclear weapons,” not recognizing that the DPRK was ready and willing to negotiate openly with the U$ back in 2013, but the U$ refused to negotiate. This same media seemed to be more concerned about Kim than the orange menace, which has thousands more weapons possibly at his (and his government’s) disposal, 1,650 strategic nuclear warheads on ICBMs and 180 tactical nuclear weapons at bomber bases in Europe, a much greater threat to the world as a whole. After all, while the orange menace is the person followed by the “football”, the imperialists have granted themselves all “rights” to use nuclear weapons as they see fit. Such warmongers easily align with the military contractors whose stocks took a dive as Kim and the orange menace signed an agreement on June 12, as their dreams of “yet another catastrophic U.S.-led military conflict” seem to have faded away.

Black Agenda Report was spot on in their criticism of such warmongers. Margaret Kimberley said that the Democrats “are left with nothing except attacking Trump from the right” because they fundamentally “like war, interventions and United States hegemony” as “true believers in imperialism.” They are not at all, as she notes, progressive, instead supporting “America’s professed right to invade and intervene in the affairs of countries all over the world,” upholding the U$ as the global police force, not supporting any “sovereignty and equality among nations.” Ajamu Baraka similarly wrote about how any move “toward normalizing relations between the United States and North Korea” was derided by Democrats, along with others from NPR, MSNBC, and CNN, who do not realize that this process, is, for the Korean people, about de-colonization. He also said that ultimately the orange menace will fall in line and misread the Koreans since “peace, de-colonization and national reconciliation for Korea are counter to U.S. interests,” meaning that there must be a demand upon the empire to get out of Korea, supporting a process to make that occur. Of course, the Democrats who stake out “a position to the right of John Bolton on the summit” cannot be trusted to make this happen, with even the Poor People’s Campaign, launched in May 2018, having little to say on the topic. In contrast, the newfangled Black Alliance for Peace has adopted the strong position of: “not one drop of blood from the working class and poor to defend the interests of the capitalist oligarchy.”

This leads to a further conclusion: that the “Democratic Party establishment and its media surrogates,” which some claim are MSNBC and CNN, are not part of the “Left” anymore. After all, these forces have called for increased pressure on Russia and the DPRK while they support a full-fledged proxy conflict in Syria and the murderous Zionist apartheid state, making common cause with neo-cons, the military establishment and multinational capitalist combines. This is part of what Amber B. described on this website [anti-imperialism.org] back in June: that Democrats are intensifying their rightward shift “in the midst of a new looming crisis in imperialism, critiquing Trump for overseeing a declining u.$. empire, de-escalation with N. Korea, an Assad victory in Syria, and defeat on virtually every front of soft power available to the u.$.” This is connected to a new predicament and threat of inter-imperialist war, necessitating greater unity among revolutionary forces in order to defeat “the u.$. in all conflicts and colonial holdings, in and outside north amerika, and ultimately of taking power.” Such unity requires, as Amber B. noted correctly, that the direction of U$ imperialism belongs to a greater authority: “the whole constellation of relations of moribund imperialism, settler and neo-colonialism, and inter-imperialist rivalry.” This means that “unless and until the u.$. state is overthrown, its ruling classes suppressed, its sovereignty over captive nations ended, then amerikan imperialism will continue, till total victory or total ruin, no matter who is in power.” Looking at the changes of power since 2000, from Clinton to Bush II in 2000, from Bush II to Obama in 2008, from Obama to the orange menace in 2016, as a small example, there has been imperial continuity manifested in the Afghanistan war, extraordinary rendition of any suspected “wrongdoer,” the developed mass surveillance system, the dungeons of mass incarceration, maintaining the Guantanamo Naval Base, and the overall warfare readiness of the empire, with interspersed wars, terroristic drone strikes, expanding bases, and covert (and overt) activity.

What does the summit mean for the world?

On June 12, in the flurry of news on the topic, the New York Times took a typical Orientalist perspective but still admitted that “for the first time since 1953, the door has been opened to peace on the Korean Peninsula.” But there is more than just a door that has been opened. A whole new opportunity and paradigm is possible, with those such as Kim, very-popular ROK president Moon Jae-In, and Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, key players in such negotiations, which can be said to be part of “serious peace talks,” with ending the state of war giving the Korean people “space they need to deal with their own division,” leading to future democratic change. Even the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union praised the summit, saying it signals “a new era in which peace on the Korean Peninsula is possible” while they worried that the agreement was not concrete enough, saying that the conclusion “peace treaty by all relevant sides and a non-aggression pact between the U.S. and North Korea are needed as steps towards creating a Korean peace regime.” This union was also concerned that the comments by the orange menace about “prosperity” in the DPRK is “predicated on private investment and the capitalist opening” of that country’s economy, a process that “does not involve workers’ participation, [and] has the potential to lead to the expansion of labour rights violations and increase in economic and other forms of inequality.” In the meantime, the murderous empire has no intention to operate “within the rule-based international order designed to govern relations between states and between people and governments” evidenced by the withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council because it criticized Zionist oppression. Bolivian President Evo Morales rightly described that this event was the most recent evidence that the U$ is “an interventionist, coup-mongering state, and a violator of the people’s right to life, especially of the poorest…[and] an accomplice of Israel, that massacres civilians, and [the U$] today incarcerates innocent children that cross its border.” The empire is, as he noted, with all its unilateral actions since 2017, “the worst threat for world peace, human rights, and Mother Earth.”

As the Chinese revisionist leadership and DPRK leadership increase their ties, there is talk of a railway going from China into the DPRK, with the revisionists not letting up on supporting murderous sanctions on the Korean people. [17] This could complicate matters for the orange menace as it increases the leverage of Xi Jinping in the trade war between the U$ and China, with the Chinese restraining their criticism of the orange menace. This trade war, whether it leads to a shooting war or not, allows Xi (and the Chinese revisionists) to disrupt possible negotiations between the DPRK and U$. As Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, “what matters is how China and the US cooperate. Let competition drive cooperation,” showing they operate within the capitalist model. Let us not forget that Kim arrived on an Air China jet in Singapore, undoubtedly a symbolic move without question, showing that China “brought him there and back.”

Still, the DPRK is not a Chinese colony. Rather, the DPRK decides its own policy, with Kim outmaneuvering the imperialists, with the U$ adopting the freeze-for-freeze policy, in the simple agreement on June 12 which did not have “any decisive or concrete details,” proposed by the Russians and Chinese, and more recently endorsed by the DPRK itself. Such independent policy has led the ROK has made some concessions even though their military remains wary. In a recent KCNA article describing the summit, it was clear that the Koreans were pursuing their own path, treating the U$ respectfully, while still holding a strong line. This independent policy was recently showcased in the president of the Presidium, the leading body of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), Kim Yong Nam, congratulating Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador upon his election as president of Mexico (by a landslide), saying that it is “an expression of the Mexican people’s trust and expectation,” while adding that he wished Obrador “good health and great success in his responsible work, expressing belief that the friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries would develop onto a new higher stage in line with the aspiration and desire of the two peoples.” Whether Obrador can challenge existing capitalist orthodoxy is an open question, but the Mexican people got a long-needed change and social movements in the country can push Obrador to move the country in a progressive, even radical, direction. On the topic of the DPRK’s independent policy, one should also point out the favorable relations they hold with socially democratic Nicaragua, the secular socially democratic state of Syria, socially democratic Venezuela, Islamic nationalist Iran, socialist Cuba, and support for Palestinian liberation without question.

The former colonial master of Japan has been broadly left out of discussions, becoming a bystander, even though it will eventually have to conform. [18] The DPRK has said already that Japan will be ignored as long as it continues efforts to boost its military readiness and large-scale military drills, that the anti-DPRK policy of the government must be scrapped, and replaced with “sincerity toward Peace.” Other countries have been more positive. The Iranians, with Mohammad Bagher Nobakht of the Iranian government saying that “we are facing a man who revokes his signature while abroad,” who warned Kim of the U$ duplicity, were positive about the summit, with Iranian Ambassador to London, Hamid Baeidinejad saying that “one positive aspect of the agreement between the US and North Korea is that the possibility of war and military conflict between the two sides, escalated by Trump’s bellicose remarks, which could have affected South Korea, Japan and China, and had caused great concern, has now been reduced.” More specifically, the Japanese, ROK, and Chinese were pleased. But neo-cons like Marco Rubio, David Purdue, Brett Klinger (former CIA, Heritage Foundation), and conservative analyst Brit Hume were fuming while Lindsey Graham and Cory Gardner were more optimistic. Even the chairman of the House Armed Service Committee, Mac Thornberry, supports ending the war games, while he still supports a strong imperial presence in the ROK. The Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schumer, Brian Schatz, Chris Murphy, and Steve Cohen, sided with the neo-cons, as one would expect.

It remains to be seen if future negotiations will focus on “eliminating Washington’s regional nuclear umbrella…[or] pulling US troops out of South Korea.” Even if this is the “beginning of a different sort of diplomatic process” as some say, even some bourgeois analysts grumble that “North Korea is not going to jump into our alliance network anytime soon, but the Singapore summit may give it the opportunity to move out of China’s orbit,” seeing a possible future ally of the empire, not realizing the interconnections of the DPRK and China or their shared history. [19] Then there’s the question of possible sanction relief, which the U$ seems to be holding out as a possibility but only once the DPRK unilaterally and completely disarm its nukes, which they aren’t prepared to do without major concessions by the imperialists first, a justified response. The DPRK wants to protect and expand the standard of living of the people within the country, but will not dismantle its nuclear industry since “nuclear technology can be used to generate electricity and is a prestige item for the North generally.” While it is hard for some to see “coherence in Trump’s bellicose policies towards Iran and North Korea,” the fact, as one analyst noted, is that “any increased popularity Trump would gain from a war now would invariably diminish by the time he’s up for reelection. Thus, for Trump, commencing war two years later, just before the presidential election, would make far more sense. Republicans, independents and even some Democrats would rally to the flag and be more likely to vote him back into office.” Furthermore, as Glen Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda Report, noted, the orange menace is not “causing chaos in the imperial Big House because he wants to hasten the demise of U.S. imperialism” but rather he is trying to “stamp his orange imprint on history,” not knowing what he does, while he aligns closely with the Zionists and Gulf autocrats.

I tend to disagree with Ford’s comment that the orange menace doesn’t know what he is doing. There seems to be precise calculations for what he is doing. Sure, he is trying to imprint on history, but his snap analysis, manifested by his comment in Canada that “they say you know you’re going to like somebody in the first five seconds – you ever hear of that one? Well, I think I’ll know very quickly whether or not something good is going to happen. I also think I’ll know whether it will happen fast” about Kim, adding that “I’ll be on a mission of peace. In my heart, we will be carrying the hearts of millions of people, people from all over the world. We have to get denuclearization, we have to get something going.”” While this is utter hogwash, there is rationality to his method. At times, the administration is just trying to push the envelope, while other times his statements serve as a distraction from pressing matters. It all fits within the framework of U$ imperialism which broadly continues on the path set by Bush II and Obama, with even further venom spewed toward Venezuela, Cuba (to a lesser extent), Russia, and China. And no, the summit between Kim and the orange menace, even with its antics of those like reactionary Dennis Rodman, was not a distraction from the meeting of some elites, like Henry Kissinger and 130 others, at Bilderberg. Rather, the bourgeois media would just not cover the Bilderberg meeting, regardless of whether the Kim-orange menace summit occurred. This isn’t because of some magic conspiracy, but rather because the summit was more jazzy, fitting with the bourgeois media model than a “boring” and secretive Bilderberg summit, as they would likely describe it.

What is in the cards in the coming days is a summit between Vladimir Putin and the orange menace on July 16 in Helsinki, which is already being panned by bourgeois media and their Russophobic allies here, there, and everywhere!. [20] This summit would undoubtedly be modeled the same way as the summit between Kim and the orange menace. In the process, anti-imperialists must push the U$ for concessions on reducing military pressure, while having no illusions about the Russians, who are nationalistic and wedded to capitalism, with their own bourgeoisie which is willing to work with the U$ as needed.

The specter of detente between the DPRK and U$ scares the liberal and neoconservative imperialists who would like a state of war on the Korean Peninsula, posing the DPRK as a “threat” to global humanity even though the murderous empire is the real threat. This is evident in the fact that this empire has over 266 times more nuclear weapons than the DPRK! [21] At the same time, those imperialists in the corner of the orange menace see this as an opportunity to “flip” the DPRK into the U$ imperial umbrella. What comes next is in part up to the DPRK and U$ negotiators, but can also be influenced by the proletariat in the DPRK, ROK, China, and Russia, along with long-standing movements such as the peace movement. In the end, we should remain critical while rejecting Orientalist propaganda aimed at the Koreans and not being dismissive of the detente, realizing the potential of a peaceful Korean Peninsula for those occupying it, those in the countries surrounding it, and the world at-large.


Notes

[1] In 2012, he also became the Chairman (called “First Secretary” from 2012 to 2016) of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission (called the National Defence Commission from 2012 to 2016), Chair of the Central Military Commission, and a member of the Politiburo’s presidium which is led by Kim Yong Chol.

[2] Uri Freedman, “America’s Moment of Truth With North Korea Is Coming,” The Atlantic, July 10, 2018; Reuters Staff, “North Korea says resolve for denuclearisation may falter after talks with U.S.: KCNA,” Reuters, July 7, 2018; Matthew Lee and Andrew Harnick, “North Korea Says Talks With Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Were ‘Regrettable’,” AP (reprinted by Time), July 7, 2018; Rozina Sabur, “Mike Pompeo arrives in Pyongyang to press for commitment to denuclearisation,” The Telegraph, July 6, 2018; Hyonshee Shin and David Brunnstrom, “North Korea slams ‘gangster-like’ U.S. demands after satisfied Pompeo leaves,” Reuters, July 6, 2018.

[3] Wang Peng, “US move to suspend military drills with South Korea a calculated move,” Global Times, June 19, 2018; “President Trump Says North Korea Has Returned the Remains of 200 U.S. Soldiers,” Time, June 21, 2018.

[4] Stefan Becket, “Bolton says U.S. could dismantle North Korean arsenal “within a year”,” CBS News, July 1, 2018; Elise Labott, “US and North Korean officials met Sunday to discuss implementing agreement between countries,” CNN, July 1, 2018; Mike Allen, “Scoop: Trump may hold Round 2 with Kim Jong-un in NYC,” Axios, July 2, 2018; Ian Kullgren, “Bolton downplays North Korea weapons report,” Politico, July 2, 2018; Julia ManChester, “Pence on Trump-Kim summit: ‘It takes courage to make peace’,” The Hill, June 13, 2018; Phil Stewart, “U.S. to give North Korea post-summit timeline with ‘asks’ soon: official,” Reuters, June 24, 2018; “Trump: North Korea ‘total denuclearization’ started; officials see no new moves,” Reuters, Jun 22, 2018. In his interview with ABC News, as noted in the June 12 article titled “President Trump sits down with George Stephanopoulos: TRANSCRIPT,” he said that “we have the framework of getting ready to denuclearize North Korea…We’re going to work with South Korea. We’re going to work with Japan. We’re going to work with China…They’re [Korean] gonna start immediately. They really already started. They blew up a site, which was the real deal site that was their big site, they’ve blown it up…We stopped playing those war games that cost us a fortune…they’re very expensive…His [Kim’s] country does love him. His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor. They’re gonna put it together, and I think they’re going to end up with a very strong country, and a country which has people — that they’re so hard working, so industrious…We’re starting from scratch. We’re starting right now, and we have to get rid of those nuclear weapons…there are reasons he [Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il] didn’t because he was let down by the United States, but that’s irrelevant…In the past we’ve tried, but it never worked out and it never did work out. And it was embarrassing actually to the United states and to our leadership…He trusts me, I believe, I really do. I mean, he said openly, and he said it to a couple of reporters that were with him that he knows that no other president ever could have done this.”

[5] Morgan Gsalder, “Trump: North Koreans love Kim,” The Hill, June 12, 2018; Collum Borchers, “Trump’s refreshing admission that he felt ‘foolish’ when taunting Kim Jong Un,” Washington Post, June 13, 2018; AP, “Trump flips on North Korea, declaring country still an ‘extraordinary threat’,” The Guardian, June 23, 2018; “Trump touts ‘great chemistry’ with Kim Jong Un,” AOL News, June 24, 2018; Lisa de Moraes, “Donald Trump Defends “Great Negotiator” Kim Jong Un Who Bret Baier Calls “Killer”,” Deadline, June 13, 2018; Steve Holland, “Trump defends policies on border, North Korea in visit to Las Vegas,” Reuters, June 23, 2018. Even the orange menace has doubted, there will problems of this strategy, saying “I think he’s going to do these things. I may be wrong. I mean, I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong.’ I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse” as noted in Dylan Stableford’s June 13th article in Yahoo! News titled “’Sleep well tonight!’: Trump promptly declares North Korea no longer a nuclear threat.”

[6] Stefan Becket, “Bolton says U.S. could dismantle North Korean arsenal “within a year”,” CBS News, July 1, 2018; Ian Kullgren, “Bolton downplays North Korea weapons report,” Politico, July 2, 2018; Krishnadev Calamur, “No One Knows What Kim Jong Un Promised Trump,” The Atlantic, Jul 2, 2018; “Date set for reunions of war-separated Korean families,” DW, June 22, 2018.

[7] Tom O’Connor, “North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Wants to ‘Completely Eliminate Manual Labor’,” Newsweek, July 2, 2018; Kim Myong-song, “Kim Jong-un Visits Chinese Border Region,” Chosun, July 2, 2018; “Kim Jong Un visits cosmetics factory in special economic zone near border with China,” Straits Times, July 1, 2018.

[8] Kanga Kong, “North Korea Ramps Up Nuclear Effort Weeks After Trump Summit,” Bloomberg, July 2, 2018; Courtney Kube, Ken Dilanian and Carol E. Lee, “North Korea has increased nuclear production at secret sites, say U.S. officials,” NBC News, June 29, 2018; Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick, “North Korea working to conceal key aspects of its nuclear program, U.S. officials say,” Washington Post, June 30, 2018; Jonathan Cheng, “North Korea Expands Key Missile-Manufacturing Plant,” Wall Street Journal, Jul 1, 2018; Frank V. Pabian, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. and Jack Liu, “Infrastructure Improvements at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Research Facility,” 38 North, June 26, 2018.

[9] Kate Simmons, “Creator of the Trump-Kim ‘Movie Trailer’ Steps Forward,” Newser, June 13, 2018; Alana Abramson, “National Security Council Says It Created That Video President Trump Showed Kim Jong Un Before the North Korean Summit,” Time, June 13, 2018; Euan McKirdy, “Destiny Pictures founder claims mistaken identity, distances himself from Trump video,” CNN, June 14, 2018; Julian Borger, “’Harebrained’: National Security Council owns up to widely derided Trump video,” The Guardian, June 13, 2018; Tim Hains, “Scott Adams: Trump Video Message To Kim “Might Be The Best Thing Anybody Ever Did In A Negotiation, Period”,” RealClearPolitics, June 12, 2018; John Hindertaker, “The Kim Destiny Pictures Video: Brilliant or Stupid? [Updated],” PowerLine, June 13, 2018.

[10] Leong Wai Kit, “’I come back very impressed’: Vivian Balakrishnan on trip to North Korea,” Channel News Asia, June 9, 2018.

[11] “Bulk of S. Korean trading firms want to take part in N. Korea projects: poll,” Yonhap News, June 17, 2018; “Parliament sees more bill proposals for inter-Korean economic exchanges amid warming ties,” Yonhap News, June 10, 2018.

[12] “Inside North Korea: Kiwi’s ‘surreal’ trip to the secretive nation,” New Zealand Herald, June 25, 2018; Ben Westcott and Stella Ko, “North Korea state media airs unseen video from Trump-Kim summit,” CNN, June 14, 2018.

[13] “Russia, South Korea to discuss economic cooperation, Korean Peninsula issue,” Xinhua, June 20, 2018; “Putin tells Moon: We’ll keep working for Korean peninsula peace,” Reuters, June 22, 2018.

[14] Cynthia Kim and Christian Shepard, “North Korea seen looking to China, not U.S., for help in any economic transformation,” Reuters, Jun 10, 2018; Cao Siqi, “North Korean cosmetics firm gains attention from Kim’s factory visit,” Global Times, Jul 3, 2018.

[15] Andreas Illmer, “North Korean propaganda changes its tune,” BBC News, June 23, 2018; Eileen AJ Connolly, “North Korea erasing most anti-US propaganda,” New York Post, Jun 23, 2018; “North Korea to erase anti-U.S. propaganda,” BlackListed News, June 24, 2018; “North Korea media tone down anti-US rhetoric,” Financial Times, accessed June 25, 2018; Cha Song Ho and Eric Talmadge, “In sign of detente, North Korea skips annual anti-US rally,” Washington Post (reprinted from AP), June 25, 2018.

[16] Ankit Panda, “Trump’s Singapore Summit Was a Bust—for the U.S.,” The Daily Beast, June 12, 2018; “The Guardian view on Trump in Singapore: a huge win – for North Korea,” The Guardian, June 12, 2018; William Rivers Pitt, “Winning the News Cycle: Trump’s Made-for-TV Singapore Summit,” Truthout, reprinted in Information Clearing House, June 13, 2018; “Trump Dismisses Kim Jong Un’s Atrocities: ‘He’s a Tough Guy’,” The Daily Beast, June 14, 2018.

[17] Liu Caiyu, “North Korea deserves trust as Kim shows resolution on China trip: analysts,” Global Times, June 21, 2018; “As Kim Visits China, Xi Flaunts Bargaining Chip in Trade Dispute,” Bloomberg News, June 19, 2018; Deng Xiaoci, “FM urges US to cooperate on trade, N.Korea as Pompeo visits China,” Global Times, June 14, 2018; Moon of Alabama, “The Real Results Of The Trump-Kim Summit – Freeze For Freeze (And Some Amusement),” Information Clearing House, June 14, 2018.

[18] Akira Kimura, “Trump-Kim summit leaves Japan struggling with outdated strategy,” Global Times, Jun 14, 2018; “North Korea says to ignore Japan until it scraps military drills, other measures,” Reuters, June 25, 2018; “Iran spokesman warns Kim about nuclear agreement with Trump,” AP, June 12, 2018; Julia Manchester, “Dems rip Trump concessions, ’embarrassing’ rhetoric with Kim,” The Hill, June 12, 2018; Brian Murphy and Shibani Mahtani, “With some reservations, East Asian countries welcome the Trump-Kim summit,” Washington Post, June 12, 2018; Ellen Mitchell, “GOP senator ‘troubled’ by Trump announcement to halt US-South Korean military drills,” The Hill, June 12, 2018; Paul LeBlanc, “Fox News Analyst Calls Trump Handshake With ‘Thug’ Kim Jong Un ‘Disconcerting’,” Newsweek, June 12, 2018; Eli Stokols, “Republicans remain skeptical despite Trump’s boasts of breakthrough with North Korea’s Kim,” LA Times, June 12, 2018; Ellen Mitchell, “House GOP chairman backs Trump’s move to halt military exercises with South Korea,” The Hill, June 13, 2018.

[19] Christopher Steintz, “The Trump-Kim summit advances a unique rapprochement,” The Hill, June 13, 2018; “Pompeo: No Sanctions Relief for Pyongyang Until After Denuclearization,” The Daily Beast, June 13, 2018; Sharon Marris, “Confusion As North Korea Says US Will Lift Sanctions,” Information Clearing House (reprinted from Sky), June 13, 2018; Jeffrey Sommers and Peter Paik, “A Blow to Interventionists, as US and North Korea Move Toward Peace,” CounterPunch, June 13, 2018; Alana Abramson, “President Trump Says It’ll Take Him 1 Minute to Figure Out If Kim Jong Un Is Serious About Peace,” Time, June 9, 2018; Matt Agorist, “As Media Hypes Trump-Kim Summit, The Real Rulers of the World are Secretly Meeting at Bilderberg,” Activist Post, June 7, 2018; Steve Geimann, “Dennis Rodman to Cheer ‘My Friends’ Trump and Kim in Singapore,” Bloomberg News, June 9, 2018; Jennifer Epstein, Toluse Olorunnipa, and Jennifer Jacobs, “Trump, Kim Planning One-on-One Talk at Start of Summit,” Bloomberg News, June 9, 2018.

[20]John Wagner, Anton Troianovski and Philip Rucker, “Trump and Putin will meet July 16 in Helsinki, Washington and Moscow announce,” Washington Post, June 28, 2018; Philip Giraldi, “Will the Real Donald Trump Please Stand Up?,” Unz Review (reprinted in Information Clearing House), Jun 21, 2018.

[21] This comes from information compiled by the Arms Control Association in June 2018, and the Ploughshares Fund in July 2018. If we include all nuclear weapons of the U$, including the 2,500 said to be “retired” but are still intact, then the U$ has over 436 times as many nuclear weapons, having 6,500 while the DPRK, according to a January 2018 article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “have produced sufficient fissile material to build 30 to 60 nuclear weapons, and that it might possibly have assembled 10 to 20 warheads,” adding at the end of the article that “as far as we can assess…North Korea might have produced sufficient fissile material to hypothetically build 30 to 60 nuclear weapons (if it used all the material), but only assembled perhaps 10 to 20 warheads, if even that many.” This is where the number of 15 comes from the Arms Control Association and Ploughshares Fund, which seem to have averaged the numbers 10 and 20 together. As such, the nuclear superiority of the murderous empire might be even more! Both of these organizations are undoubtedly bourgeois without question, but even using their numbers it shows nuclear superiority of the murderous empire. The amount of nukes held by the DPRK is small, as Russia and the U$ hold 92% of the world’s nukes! So the complaints of the imperialists, and even revisionists like those in Laos, China, and Vietnam on this topic is laughable, as they do not recognize this glaring disparity!

Comrades-in-arms: The DRPK and Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution

Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK, meets with President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela in Sept 2016

In 1974, Venezuela and Juche Korea established diplomatic relations, with the latter establishing a diplomatic mission in Caracas. [1] At that time, the country was considered by the Peking Review as consolidating its national independence but still has a developed bourgeoisie. In 1991, Juche Korea started maintaining a trade office in Caracas, “closed for a year in 1999” but later re-opened. For all those Spanish language comrades reading this section, I welcome you and look forward to your comments on this section of the article and any other one.

In the 1980s, a man named Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias (or Hugo Chavez for short), a career military officer who was born to a “working-class family in Sabaneta” would found the “Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement -200 (MBR-200)” to overthrow the current government. He would fail in a coup against the existing Venezuelan government on February 4, 1992, when he was imprisoned. On February 4, 2013, Executive Vice President Nicolás Maduro Moros (called Nicolas Maduro for short) would read a letter by Hugo Chavez on the 21st anniversary of this momentous event:

In commemorating the XXI anniversary of the civic-military rebellion of February 4, 1992, I want to direct this fervently Bolivarian and revolutionary message to the people and the Armed Forces as an indivisible whole. How much I regret being physically absent from the homeland for the first time in this luminous birth date, but this is what this battle that I am giving for full recovery, here in revolutionary Cuba and sister, demands. However, my spirit and my heart are among you in this day of national dignity. There are dates in which the entire flow of history is revealed and marks the course of the new peoples. There are dates that sign and clear, that become a commitment and pointing to a destiny, that has to happen to calibrate the past and see more clearly the libertarian horizon, that was the glorious February 4, 1992. In that memorable day all the struggles of our people were vindicated. On that memorable day our liberators and our liberators returned by all roads; In that memorable day, Bolivar became a reason to be and entered into battle for now and forever…I want to exalt today the role of the Venezuelan woman on February 4th. A Columba Rivas, a Marisol Terán express the large group of women who accompanied the rebellion. They were in the hour of detachment and heroism, with all their fervor homeland, with all their self-denial…From the depths of the hearts of the people, I say with Aquiles Nazoa, that thanks to February 4, each compatriot can, with full certainty, “one day look at the landscape and say this is my city, this is my homeland” Sisters and brothers, today, after 21 years of that civic-military rebellion, of that decision taken with the greatest love for Venezuela, thought of and rethought as the only possible way to have a homeland, we live in a real and truly free country. On February 4 our people saw the dawn of their hope, thanks to the soldier people, they felt again accompanied by patriotic soldiers…I remember that great memorable reflection of that great revolutionary thinker named Walter Benjamin: “The past carries with it a temporal index through which it is remitted to redemption, there is a secret appointment between the generations that were and ours.” We can say that this secret meeting took place on February 4, 1992, and the past and present and the future were remitted to that redemption. February 4 has been fully justified by history, those of us who rebelled against the Punto Fijo agreement have been blessed by a people that today is in the vanguard of the struggle for peace and justice and is a living example for the peoples of the world…We were not wrong, that certainty that encouraged us Bolivarian soldiers is identical to the one that in this time embody millions of compatriots, and walks in every corner of the country making reality what was the feeling of that act of rebellion…February 4 was a day that generated forces that are still expanding. February 4 is not over…We still have a great homeland to liberate and, for that reason, we need to be more and more united as a people…Ever onward to victory!!! Independence and Socialist Homeland !!! We will live and we will win!!!

After two years in prison, he would be more radicalized, founding the Fifth Republic Movement in 1997, which would exist until 2007 when it was replaced by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). He would be elected in 1998 as President of Venezuela. He would be elected, in the years to come, three times to the presidency, holding the presidency until 2013. During this time, he would implement a “political ideology of Bolivarianism” or “socialism of the 21st century,” which some would call “Chavismo” which would place “emphasis on the implementation of reforms in the country” called the Bolivarian Revolution, which, during his time in office, included the “implementation of a new constitution, establish[ment of] “democratic participatory councils”… nationalization of several key industries…increase of public financing for medical services and education, and the significant reduction of poverty.” In his first term, Chavez would introduce a “new constitution that increased the rights of marginalized groups and altered the structure of the Venezuelan government,” in his second term he would introduce “a system of Bolivarian Missions, Communal Councils and cooperatives administered by the workers.” He described his policy as anti-imperialist, and would ally with the Cuban, Bolivian, Ecuadoran, and Nicaraguan governments, playing a pivotal role in the creation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), the Bank of the South, and TeleSur. This would profoundly change the relations between Juche Korea and Venezuela. A good primer on the early days of the Bolivarian Revolution is an interview with Miguel Rodriquez Torres, who was a “close confidant of Hugo Chavez.” The rallying cry, you could say, became ¡La República Popular Democrática de Corea y Venezuela están en solidaridad contra el imperialismo americano! (The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Venezuela are in solidarity against American imperialism!) [2]

Hugo Chavez holds up a miniature copy of Venezuela’s constitution during a press conference in Caracas, Venezuela, Oct. 9, 2012. AP Photo.

The 1999 Constitution of Venezuela replacing the old constitution which in Chavez’s words, represented the “interests of the oligarchic sector,” renamed the country the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the Constitution from the Republic of Venezuela. It is a document showing the democratic nature of the state itself. The following excerpts show this to be the case:

Article 1: The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is irrevocably free and independent, basing its moral property and values of freedom, equality, justice and international peace on the doctrine of Simón Bolívar, the Liberator. Independence, liberty, sovereignty, immunity, territorial integrity and national self-determination are unrenounceable rights of the Nation.

Article 2: Venezuela constitutes itself as a Democratic and Social State of Law and Justice, which holds as superior values of its legal order and actions those of life, liberty, justice, equality, solidarity, democracy, social responsibility and, in general, the preeminence of human rights, ethics and political pluralism.

Article 5: Sovereignty resides untransferable in the people, who exercise it directly in the manner provided for in this Constitution and in the law, and indirectly, by suffrage, through the organs exercising Public Power. The organs of the State emanate from and are subject to the sovereignty of the people.

Article 12: Mineral and hydrocarbon deposits of any nature that exist within the territory of the nation, beneath the territorial sea bed, within the exclusive economic zone and on the continental sheaf, are the property of the Republic, are of public domain, and therefore inalienable and not transferable. The seacoasts are public domain property.

Article 19: The State shall guarantee to every individual, in accordance with the progressive principle and without discrimination of any kind, not renounceable, indivisible and interdependent enjoyment and exercise of human rights. Respect for and the guaranteeing of these rights is obligatory for the organs of Public Power, in accordance with the Constitution, the human rights treaties signed and ratified by the Republic and any laws developing the same.

Article 21: Al[l] persons are equal before the law, and, consequently…No discrimination based on race, sex, creed or social standing shall be permitted, nor, in general, any discrimination with the intent or effect of nullifying or encroaching upon the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on equal terms, of the rights and liberties of every individual…No titles of nobility or hereditary distinctions shall be recognized.

Article 43: The right to life is inviolable. No law shall provide for the death penalty and no authority shall apply the same. The State shall protect the life of persons who are deprived of liberty, serving in the armed forces or civilian services, or otherwise subject to its authority.

Article 53: Everyone has the right to meet publicly or privately, without obtaining permission in advance, for lawful purposes and without weapons. Meetings in public places may be regulated by law.

Article 57: Everyone has the right to express freely his or her thoughts, ideas or opinions orally, in writing or by any other form of expression, and to use for such purpose any means of communication and diffusion, and no censorship shall be established. Anyone making use of this right assumes full responsibility for everything expressed. Anonymity, war propaganda, discriminatory messages or those promoting religious intolerance are not permitted. Censorship restricting the ability of public officials to report on matters for which they are responsible is prohibited.

Article 59: The State guarantees the freedom of cult and religion. All persons have the right to profess their religious faith and cults, and express their beliefs in private or in public, by teaching and other practices, provided such beliefs are not contrary to moral, good customs and public order. The autonomy and independence of religious confessions and churches is likewise guaranteed, subject only to such limitations as may derive from this Constitution and the law. Father and Mother are entitled to have their sons and daughters receive religious education in accordance with their convictions. No one shall invoke religious beliefs or discipline as a means of evading compliance with law or preventing another person from exercising his or her rights.

Article 64: All Venezuelans* who have reached the age of 18 and are not subject to political disablement or civil interdiction are qualified to vote. In state, municipal and parish elections, the right to vote shall be extended to foreign nationals who have reached the age of 18 and have resided in Venezuela for more than ten years, subject to the limitations established in this Constitution and by law, and provided they are not subject to political disablement or civil interdiction.

Article 68: Citizens have the right to demonstrate, peacefully and without weapons, subject only to such requirements as may be established by law. The use of firearms and toxic substances to control peaceful demonstrations is prohibited. The activity of police and security corps in maintaining public order shall be regulated by law.

Article 81: Any person with disability or special needs has the right to the full and autonomous exercise of his or her abilities and to its integration into the family and community. The State, with the solidary participation of families and society, guarantees them respect for their human dignity, equality of opportunity and satisfactory working conditions, and shall promote their training, education and access to employment appropriate to their condition, in accordance with law. It is recognized that deaf persons have the right to express themselves and communicate through the Venezuelan sign language.

Article 82: Every person has the right to adequate, safe and comfortable, hygienic housing, with appropriate essential basic services, including a habitat such as to humanize family, neighborhood and community relations. The progressive meeting of this requirement is the shared responsibility of citizens and the State in all areas. The State shall give priority to families, and shall guarantee them, especially those with meager resources, the possibility of access to social policies and credit for the construction, purchase or enlargement of dwellings.

Article 88: The State guarantees the equality and equitable treatment of men and women in the exercise of the right to work. The state recognizes work at home as an economic activity that creates added value and produces social welfare and wealth. Housewives are entitled to Social Security in accordance with law.

Article 92: All workers have the right to benefits to compensate them for length of service and protect them in the event of dismissal. Salary and benefits are labor obligations due and payable immediately upon accrual. Any delay in payment of the same shall bear interest, which constitutes a debt certain and shall enjoy the same privileges and guarantees as the principal debt.

Article 98: Cultural creation is free. This freedom includes the right to invest in, produce and disseminate the creative, scientific, technical and humanistic work, as well as legal protection of the author’s rights in his works. The State recognizes and protects intellectual property rights in scientific, literary and artistic works, inventions, innovations, trade names, patents, trademarks and slogans, in accordance with the conditions and exceptions established by law and the international treaties executed and ratified by the Republic in this field.

Article 101: The State guarantees the issuance, receiving and circulation of cultural information. The communications media have the duty of assisting in the dissemination of the values of folk traditions and the work of artists, writers, composers, motion-picture directors, scientists and other creators of culture of the country. The television media shall include subtitles and translation into Venezuelan sign language for persons with hearing problems. The terms and modalities of these obligations, shall be established by law.

Article 113: Monopolies shall not be permitted. Any act, activity, conduct or agreement of private individuals which is intended to establish a monopoly or which leads by reason of its actual effects to the existence of a monopoly, regardless of the intentions of the persons involved, and whatever the form it actually takes, is hereby declared contrary to the fundamental principles of this Constitution. Also contrary to such principles is abuse of a position of dominance which a private individual, a group of individuals or a business enterprise or group of enterprises acquires or has acquired in a given market of goods or services, regardless of what factors caused such position of dominance, as well as in the event of a concentration of demand. In all of the cases indicated, the State shall be required to adopt such measures as may be necessary to prevent the harmful and restrictive effects of monopoly, abuse of a position of dominance and a concentration of demand, with the purpose of protecting consumers and producers* and ensuring the existence of genuine competitive conditions in the economy. In the case of the exploitation of natural resources which are the property of the Nation or the providing of services of a public nature, on an exclusive basis or otherwise, the State shall grant concessions for a certain period, in all cases ensuring the existence of adequate consideration or compensation to serve the public interest.

Article 118: The right of workers and the community to develop associations of social and participative nature such as cooperatives, savings funds, mutual funds and other forms of association is recognized. These associations may develop any kind of economic activities in accordance with the law. The law shall recognize the specificity of these organizations, especially those relating the cooperative, the associated work and the generation of collective benefits. The state shall promote and protect these associations destined to improve the popular economic alternative.

Article 120: Exploitation by the State of the natural resources in native habitats shall be carried out without harming the cultural, social and economic integrity of such habitats, and likewise subject to prior information and consultation with the native communities concerned. Profits from such exploitation by the native peoples are subject to the Constitution and the law.

Article 125: Native peoples have the right to participate in politics. The State shall guarantee native representation in the National Assembly and the deliberating organs of federal and local entities with a native population, in accordance with law.

Article 130: Venezuelans have the duty to honor and defend their native land symbols and cultural values and to guard and protect the sovereignty, nationhood, territorial integrity, self-determination and interests of the nation.

Article 186: The National Assembly shall consist of Deputies elected in each of the federal entities by universal, direct, personalized and secret ballot with proportional representation, using a constituency base of 1.1% of the total population of the country. Each federal organ shall also elect three additional deputies. The native peoples of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela shall elect three deputies in accordance with the provisions established under election law, respecting the traditions and customs thereof. Each deputy shall have an alternate elected by the same process.

Article 274: The organs exercising Citizen Power are charged, in accordance with this Constitution and with the law, with preventing, investigating and punishing actions that undermine public ethics and administrative morals; to see to sound management and legality in the use of public property, and fulfillment and application of the principle of legality in all of the State’s administrative activities, as well as to promote education as a process that helps create citizenship, together with solidarity, freedom, democracy, social responsibility and work.

Article 299: The economic regime of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is based on the principles of social justice, democratization, efficiency, free competition, protection of the environment, productivity and solidarity, with a view to ensuring overall human development and a dignified and useful existence for the community. The State, jointly with private initiative, shall promote the harmonious development of the national economy, to the end of generating sources of employment, a high rate of domestic added value, raising the standard of living of the population and strengthen the economical sovereignty of the country, guaranteeing the reliability of the law; the solid, dynamic, sustainable, continuing and equitable growth of the economy to ensure a just distribution of wealth through participatory democratic strategic planning with open consultation.

Article 304: All waters are property in the Nation’s public domain, essential to life and development. The necessary provisions shall be established by law to guarantee the protection, utilization, and recuperation thereof, respecting the phases of the hydrological cycle and zoning criteria.

Article 316: The taxation system shall seek a fair distribution of public burdens in accordance with the taxpayer’s ability to pay, taking into account the principle of progressive taxation, as well as protection of the national economy and raising the standard of living of the population, the foundation therefore being an efficient system for the collection of taxes.

The constitution is overall socially democratic, but it has many positive elements, some of which are highlighted above.

Fast forward to 2005. Venezuela was lumped in with the other countries as an “enemy.” There was a mission mangers for Iran, Juche Korea, and Cuba-Venezuela to solve “intelligence challenges” of the murderous empire, with Venezuela as an intelligence priority meaning that “massive resources would be spent on espionage, surveillance and special operations both inside and outside Venezuelan territory”! Obviously this was an utter violation of sovereignty, but the empire didn’t care about that, as they flaunt laws all the time without caring if it is legal or not. In September of the same year, Chavez, in an interview, described how much had been spent by the empire on the Iraq War, saying that they appeared to “be preparing for wars against Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela,” quoted as saying “they are preparing to dominate the world,” which was undoubtedly true. The same month, he spoke before the UN General Assembly. He demanded reform of the UN itself, such as expanding the non-permanent and permanent categories of the Security Council, giving access to new countries, increase inclusion in the UN, ending the permanent veto power (which he called an “elite vestige”), strengthening the role of the Secretary General, calling for a “re-foundation” of the UN which should be in a newly created international city in the Global South. He also said that that “neoliberal globalization” and the fact that the world is so interconnected means that there cannot be a “national solution” to many problems, adding that it is “practically and ethically inadmissible to sacrifice the human species by insanely invoking the validity of a socioeconomic model with a galloping destructive capacity” and saying that more than ever a “new international order” (first proposed in December 1974) should be revived. He also spoke against the ideas of “preventive war” and “responsibility to protect,” calling them “very dangerous concepts that delineate imperialism,” and noted that over the past seven years, “the Venezuelan people can exhibit important social and economic achievements,” specifically noting that “nearly 70% of the population…receive…free medical assistance” as on example. He ended by saying that the Venezuelans will fight for “Latin American integration and for the world,” and powerfully declared that “let us not rest our arms, nor rest our souls to save humanity.”

This is from Hugo Chavez’s speech to the UN General Assembly in September 2006.

The following year, 2006, imperialists declared that Venezuela was getting close to Juche Korea. Rumsfeld of the military establishment himself compared “Chavez to Adolf Hitler” while Negroponte accused Venezuela of “being the most serious threat to U.S. interests in Latin America and of seeking closer ties with North Korea and Iran.” Many of these statements were so absurd, its best to laugh out loud at these goofballs. In July, Chavez seemed to hint at some close ties with the Koreans, quoted as saying that “the most virulent, loud, and high-handed critics of North Korea are the same ones that, in view of Israeli aggression against innocent men, women and children, say nothing.” However, Venezuela had its reservations. That year, they condemned the nuclear weapons tests by Juche Korea, with Maduro, then foreign minister, saying that “We condemn all nuclear tests, because of the immense damage to the planet, to life on the planet.” [3] Maduro’s full statement is worth quoting:

“As a matter of principle, Venezuela is against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and condemns these kinds of tests due to the immense damage they cause to the planet. We are against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and we are doing a great effort in all international scenarios so that countries that have nuclear weapons start eliminating them progressively, so that we can move towards a world without nuclear weapons. We have enough destructive elements threatening life on this planet, and we do not need the advancement of these policies of nuclear tests no matter who does them. America, the whole continent, should be declared a nuclear weapons free zone. In that sense we condemn all nuclear weapons tests due to the immense damage they cause to life on this planet which is already deteriorated as a result of a developing model based on consumerism, which has led to global warming and to the destruction of life….[Venezuela opposes the nuclear tests] due to principles and due to our humanist policies…[Nuclear tests should be used for] providing electricity to important regions of the global south that do not enjoy this public service, to treat cancer, and for other aspects related to human life, never for the destruction of human kind.”

While this is a broad and noble statement against nuclear destruction, it is unfortunate as it easily meshes with what the imperialists want, which is why the denunciation of the weapons tests was applauded by the U$, not surprisingly. However, later that year, in September, in a speech in which he recommended a book by reactionary leftist Noam Chomsky [4], he took a strong stand against climate catastrophe. He told the UN General Assembly that “…the hegemonic pretension of North American Imperialism puts at risk the very survival of the human species” and proceeded to call Bush II the “devil.” He went onto criticize Bush II’s remarks, noting that the empire works to “try to maintain the current scheme of domination, exploitation and plundering the peoples of the world…impose the democratic model as they conceive it, the false democracy of the elites” and declared that “Mr. Imperialist dictator, that you are going to live the rest of your days with a nightmare,” also criticizing the Zionist oppression of Palestinians. He went onto say that “the peoples of the South, the hit people would say: Yankee Empire go home!” said that the “United Nations System…collapsed, collapsed, does not work” with the General Assembly turned into “a purely deliberative, purely deliberative body without any power to impact the least way the terrible reality that the world lives” and proposed against four ideas to strengthen the UN by giving “giving access to new developed countries and underdeveloped countries, the Third World, as new permanent members….[apply]effective methods of attention and resolution of global conflicts…[end] immediate[ly]…that anti-democratic mechanism of the veto…of the Security Council…[and] strengthen…the powers of the Secretary General of the United Nations.” From here, he went onto say that Venezuela is an “independent voice” which denounces “the persecution and aggressions of hegemonism against the peoples of the Planet,” adding accurately that the “government of the United States has initiated an open aggression” against Venezuela, forcefully making it known that “the Empire is afraid of the truth, of independent voices, accusing us of being extremists. They are the extremists.” Also in his speech, he said that with Venezuela on the Security Council this would bring “the voice not only of Venezuela, [but] the voice of the Third World, the voice of the peoples of the Planet, [and] there we will be defending dignity and truth.” Additionally he said that the “the neoliberal capitalist model that generates misery and poverty,” noted that the empire has “already planned, financed and promoted a coup in Venezuela” (in 2002), saying that the empire “continues to support coup movements in Venezuela and against Venezuela, continues to support terrorism” while noting that the CIA are utter terrorists. He ended by saying that “we are men and women of the South, we are carriers, with these documents, with these ideas, with these criticisms, with these reflections that I close my folder and the book I take it, do not forget that I recommend them a lot, with much humility,” ending on a powerful note.

In 2007, again bourgeois analysts said that Venezuela was allying itself with Juche Korea, along with revisionist China, Cuba, and Iran. Sadly, this year was one of a setback for the Bolivarian Revolution. A constitutional referendum was proposed that have been a “massive overhaul of this country’s constitution,” including ending “central bank autonomy…suspension of due process during a state of emergency, lowering the age to vote to 16 years…empowering new forms of local direct democracy, establishing new forms of property, consolidating rights of sexual minorities, [and] extending social welfare to self employed workers,” reducing the working week to 36 hours from 44 hours, all part of an effort to implement the “aggressive Bolivarian Socialist agenda” or the “start of a new era towards socialism,” and increased presidential powers like indefinite re-election of the president. However, it lost in December of that year by a very slim margin of a “little more than 100,000 votes” or a “tiny majority, of around 1.4%…said no,” possibly because of certain elements of the proposal like increased presidential powers, even among his supporters. [5] Chavez, in a press conference afterwords, said that “this was a photo finish…To those who voted against my proposal, I thank them and congratulate them…I ask all of you to go home, know how to handle your victory…For now, we couldn’t.” Some in the bourgeois media said that “many political observers point to the thousands of university students, who…clogged the streets to protest the reform in the weeks leading up to the vote…Chavez’s traditional support base didn’t show up to vote…[and] poor voters unhappy with the proposed constitutional overhaul said they were more troubled about measures to abolish presidential term limits and facilitate state expropriation of private property than they were enthused by articles that could benefit the poor” but admitted that “Chavez still has many of the poor on his side” and that “the electoral defeat may indeed slow the President down” but it will not stop the momentum moving forward. Still, as one would expect, the White House applauded this move, declaring that “it looks like the people spoke their minds…and I think that bodes well for the country’s future and freedom and liberty,” by U$-backed opposition mayor Leopoldo Lopez, saying that “I am sure that this victory for the Venezuelan people will have a very important impact in the rest of Latin America,” and The Economist which declared that Chavez’s “plan to install what he calls “21st century socialism”…has been badly punctured,” saying that this “setback may also take much of the momentum out of his industrious efforts to form a regional block of allies and client states,” except neither turned out to be the case in the years to come.

Hugo Chavez speaks in solidarity with Evo Morales of Bolivia. Quotes are from a BBC article on Sept 12, 2008 titled “Chavez acts over US-Bolivia row.”

The following year, 2008, was a bit more positive. As the intelligence establishment of the U$ continued to target Venezuela, Chavez removed his “combative vice-president, Jorge Rodriguez” who had been blamed for “the referendum defeat” the previous December,” and changed his tune by promising to “tackle issues like crime and garbage collection that more directly affect his grass roots supporters,” adding that “we are not extremists and we cannot be. We have to look for alliances with the middle classes,” saying that there were no plans to “eliminate private property.” [6] He even, in an act of grace, “declared a pardon that is expected to free from jail hundreds of people who took part in a coup that briefly ousted him from power in 2002”! Still, his strong words and thoughts did not subside. He called on his opponents to read about his political mentors, saying that “to those who consider themselves holier than the Pope, let them read Lenin. They should meet Fidel Castro some day.” In January of the same year, after the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) was less than a year old (it has been founded on March 24, 2007) outlined its “Draft Program and Principles,” and would later have ranks in the millions of members. Within this, the party said that it will have a unique form of socialism in Venezuela unlike anything else, not even like Juche Korea and others:

The Party will go to great efforts to educate itself and others in human experiences that have distant antecedents, such as American Indian cosmovision and primitive Christianity and more recent experiences like those that from the 20th century that gave rise to the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba. But the socialism of the 21st century will be the consequence of a creative praxis, the free exercise of the will and desires of the Venezuelan people. It will be “neither imitation nor copy”, to borrow the expression of José Carlos Mariátegui, but rather a “heroic creation”.

Still, this leaves the door open to learning from the Soviet, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Cuban experiences to say the least. In a different way this was reflected by the Wall Street Journal which declared that Chavez is “an ally of the Iranian mullahs, a supporter of North Korea, a close friend of Fidel Castro and a good customer for Vladimir Putin’s weapon factories,” to make him sound like a monster, just as they do with any disliked leader who is in the periphery.

In September of that year, left-leaning commentator, Michael Albert, asked Julio Chavez, Mayor of Carora, that slogans like “Chavez is the people,” “With Chavez anything without Chavez nothing,” “Who is against Chavez is against the people”…sounds a little like North Korea” acting like that is bad and engaging in anti-communist dribble. What Julio Chavez said here is worth quoting:

For us President Chavez has broken many paradigms, has broken with many historical trends…at this point in time Chavez is absolutely necessary, cannot be done without, for our revolutionary process….Chavez was a product of various rebellions. He didn’t come from nowhere. He is not a Messiah….he resembles the people to such an extent, thinks and acts like the people, and says exactly what he thinks – he is what is needed at this moment. So right now, I think that Chavez is absolutely indispensable. I am one of those who is fighting against the current that argues for Chavismo without Chavez. To the extent that Fidel Castro sees that his time has come to an end, it is now Hugo Chavez’s time…Chavez really does embody the personal anguish, the old lack of hope, the new rising hope, and the desires of the people. And that is why we say with him, everything, without him, nothing. At this moment Chavez is the man. He is at the heart of the process unfolding here in Latin America.

In 2009 there was a victory for the Bolivarian Revolution. It could be said to among the “mass socialist revolutions in China, Indo-China,” and Juche Korea which “ousted colonial powers and defeated their collaborators in a period of hyper-inflation and mass unemployment,” as one commentator put it. This victory was a referendum in February, which ended term limits for the President and all elected officials, was considered “free and fair” by election observers from many countries and a showcase of the clear “popular democracy” in Venezuela. [7] As such, the country’s constitution was changed. It was followed by mass celebrations in Caracas and Spanish election observer, favored by the opposition, calling Chavez a “dictator” and was kicked out of the country, just like “Jose Miguel Vivanco, Human Rights Watch executive director for the Americas” in September of the previous year, rightly so! Chavez said that Obama wanted him removed from power: “He’s said I’m an obstacle for progress in Latin America. Therefore it must be removed, this obstacle, right?” While AP was befuddled to what he was referring to, he was clearly referencing an interview Obama did with Univision before his inauguration in January, saying that Chavez “impeded progress in the region…[and] exporting terrorist activities.” Later on that year, Chavez would give Obama a book by the late Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano titled Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent (Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina), which he admitted is “still alive and kicking” but said that his “old writing style seems rather stodgy.” Years later, in September 2012, Chavez would sort of “endorse” Obama (which didn’t make Obama a socialist no matter what those conservative goofballs would say) saying that “I hope this doesn’t harm Obama, but if I was from the United States, I’d vote for Obama…Obama is a good guy…I think that if Obama was from Barlovento or some Caracas neighborhood, he’d vote for Chavez…After our triumph and the supposed, probable triumph of President Obama, with the extreme right defeated here and there, I hope we could start a new period of normal relations with the United States,” echoing what he said about him before the 2008 election: that Obama was “an intelligent man.” Still, this doesn’t take away from being anti-imperialist, but shows that he was clearly interesting in normalizing relations, and attempting to build off Obama not calling Venezuela a security threat, just like Cuba did years later. After all, in December 2011, he called Obama an “embarrassment” and clown” who should “focus on governing your country, which you’ve turned into a disaster,” which is an understandable statement after Obama’s aggressive remarks.

Hugo Chavez talks to jerk interviewer on BBC’s HardTalk. Quote comes from a BBC article titled “President Chavez’s socialist world vision.” This photo comes from one part of this interview on YouTube.

In December 2009, Chavez spoke to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, where he again criticized capitalism and imperialism, while also praising Karl Marx:

…What we live on this planet is an imperial dictatorship, and from here we continue to denounce it. Down with the imperial dictatorship! And may the peoples live and democracy and equality on this planet!…There is a group of countries that believe themselves superior to us from the south…a ghost runs through Copenhagen, paraphrasing Karl Marx, the great Karl Marx, a ghost walks through the streets of Copenhagen, and I think that ghost walks in silence in this room, there goes, among us, gets through the corridors, it goes out below, up, that ghost is a frightening ghost almost nobody wants to name it: capitalism is the ghost, almost nobody wants to name it…Let’s not change the climate. Let’s change the system! And consequently we will begin to save the planet. Capitalism, the model of destructive development, is destroying life, threatening to definitively end the human species…The rich are destroying the planet. Could it be that they plan to leave for another when they destroy this one?…The current human activity exceeds the threshold of sustainability, endangering life on the planet, but also in it we are profoundly unequal…the 500 million richest people….seven percent of the world’s population…is responsible…are responsible for fifty percent of the polluting emissions, while the poorest 50 percent are responsible for only seven percent of the polluting emissions…60 percent of the planet’s ecosystems are damaged, 20 percent of the earth’s crust is degraded; we have been impassive witnesses of deforestation, land conversion, desertification, alteration of freshwater systems, overexploitation of marine resources, pollution and loss of biological diversity..Developed countries should establish binding, clear and concrete commitments in the substantial reduction of their emissions and assume obligations of financial and technological assistance to poor countries to face the destructive dangers of climate change…There are some countries that are playing here that there is no document, because they do not want a law, they do not want a rule, because the non-existence of that norm allows them to play their exploitative freedom, their overwhelming freedom…Can a finite earth support an infinite project? The thesis of capitalism, infinite developmentalism is a destructive model, let’s accept it…Stop the aggressions and the wars we ask the peoples of the world to the empires, to those who seek to continue dominating the world and exploiting us. No more imperial military bases, no coups d’etat, let’s build a fairer and more equitable economic and social order, eradicate poverty, stop immediately the high emission levels, stop environmental deterioration and avoid the great catastrophe of climate change, let’s integrate ourselves in the noble objective of being all freer and more supportive…Only possible on the path of socialism, socialism, the other ghost that Karl Marx talked about,…is the course for the salvation of the planet, [and] I do not have the slightest doubt, and capitalism is the path of hell, to the destruction of the world…History calls us to union and struggle. If capitalism resists, we are obliged to fight against capitalism and open the paths of the salvation of the human species..Let’s hear Rosa Luxemburg when she said: Socialism or barbarism

These words should not surprise anyone at all. I say this because Chavez said the following year, 2010, before the National Assembly that he was a revolutionary and is a “Marxist to the same degree as the followers of the ideas of Jesus Christ and the liberator of America, Simon Bolivar…Who can imagine Christ as a capitalist? Christ was more radical than any of us,’” and said that he had begun studying Marx’s Das Kapital (Capital in English) then saying he hadn’t read it completely yet, giving him “the answers to many questions” He also said that “for the love of God, let’s halt this [commercialization of Christmas], let’s put the brakes on this consumerist, capitalist insanity, that leads us to lose our spiritual values.” He also said, in January 2010 that, and I quote, “Marxism is undoubtedly the most advanced theory in the interpretation…[of] the concrete reality of the people,” called Christ a “Marxist,” and said that it is “necessary to take the oxygen from him the bourgeois state,” statements criticized by the bourgeoisie but praised by fellow PSUV members. [8]

With this, we get to 2010. In July, one Venezuelan official said that “an invasion of Venezuela would be almost “simultaneous with an attack on North Korea or Iran” and that Venezuelans need to start organising and mobilising to defend “the sovereignty of our homeland.”” which is not off base at all. Many months later, in November, the Venezuelan government said rightly that the U$ was the aggressor on the Korean Peninsula, which was read aloud by Chavez during a televised meeting of regional vice presidents of the PSUV:

The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has for some time been warning of a political plan that consists of provoking incidents in the zone around the Korean peninsula…as a strategy for the perpetuation of imperialist military hegemony in the region. For peace-loving countries, it is essential to denounce the pre-meditated action of ultra-right sectors of the United States, which through certain institutions of the country such as the Pentagon, the State Department, and the CIA pursue the objective of creating diverse points of instability on the planet, as part of the necessity of maintaining the functioning of a well-oiled military industrial complex…[we urge] the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, and the countries in the area to strengthen their capacity to understand each other, with the aim of preserving peace in the region.

This was a more positive statement toward Juche Korea than previously, which can be said to be progress without question.

2011 and 2012 were not much different. On June 30 of 2011, Chavez said he was “recovering from an operation to remove an abscess tumor with cancer cells.” In September of the same year, Juche Korea joined many other countries, including Venezuela, which refused (translated) to recognize the provisional government in Libya, after the imperialist assault, as reported in the publication (Spanish language) of the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV). [9] In December 2012, Chavez requested a second medical operation, which he received in Cuba after he had traveled there. This is a show of comradely solidarity that he was treated in a Cuban hospital.

Juche Korea Ambassador Jon Yong Jin with Yul Jabour, president of committee of Foreign Policy and deputy of PCV (Venezuelan Communist Party), and Julio Chávez, president of committee of People’s Power and the Media and deputy of PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), Oct 4, 2013.

Then we get to 2013, a watershed year for relations between Juche Korea and Venezuela. Due to Chavez’s sickness, his inauguration was delayed but he did return “on February 18, 2013…and was admitted directly to the military hospital in Caracas.” Not long after that he sent a letter to the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of South America and Africa (ASA) in Equatorial Guinea, which was read by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Elías Jaua. He described the transatlantic slave trade as the “kidnapping and murder of millions of daughters and sons of mother Africa, in order to feed a system of slave exploitation in their colonies, sowed in Our America warrior and combative African blood, which burned by the fire that produces the desire for freedom.” However, he said that the sowing of feelings of resistance grew, leading to the “beginning of an independence, unionist, anti-imperialist process and restorer in Latin and Caribbean America” and connected this to “the twentieth century, and the libertarian struggles of Africa,” naming Patrice Lumumba and Amilcar Cabral as two liberation leaders in Africa. He went on to say that since “Latin America and the Caribbean, together with Africa share a past of oppression and slavery…we are also united by a present of unrenounceable struggle for the freedom and definitive independence of our nations…we are the same people” and called for ending “neoliberal capitalism of the twentieth century.” Adding to this, he further called for “South – South cooperation” with “strategies and plans of sustainable development towards the south towards our peoples,” noting that some Western powers “project a neocolonial policy that threatens the stability that we have begun to strengthen in our continents,” adding that “the neocolonial strategy has been…to divide the most vulnerable nations of the world, in order to subject them to a slavish relationship of dependency.” With that he strongly opposed the “foreign military intervention in Libya…[and] absolute rejection of all NATO interventionist activity,” ending by saying “Let us march towards our union and definitive independence…Long live the South American and African Union! Long live the ASA! Ever onward to victory! We will live and we will win!” Sadly, at 4:25 PM on March 5, at the age of 58, Chavez, who said he would dedicate his whole life to revolution, died in Caracas. The Bolivarian Revolution was to go on without him, facing trials and tribulations in the days ahead.

In March of the same year, Alejandro Cao de Benós, ambassador of Juche Korea in Chile was interviewed by the Chilean Communist Party (Proletarian Action) PC (AP) which was transcribed by the Popular Tribune, a publication of the PCV, adding important insights on Juche Korea itself. Cao de Benós, of Spanish descent, said that [10]:

I have never been able to tolerate that 80% of humanity lives in absolute poverty while a few enslave the rest, accumulate millions and speculate with the price of wheat or rice…I dedicate[d] myself to fight for socialism when I realize that volunteering or charity is not going to save the people…It is complicated to summarize it in a few words, but it [Juche Korea] is a socialist system where all the means of production and property belong to the people. There are no private companies or speculation. The Government provides completely free housing for each citizen, as well as education and health at no cost…There is a public distribution system that guarantees food and basic resources to all citizens equally and without exception. The union of the people, army and party is complete, there are no factionalisms or place for selfishness, popular conscience and the strong union around our leaders make the DPR of Korea an impregnable fortress…Despite the global crisis, as the DPRK maintains an independent and self-sustaining system, the economy improves at a rate of 10% per year. 100,000 new fully modern homes are being completed and will be delivered this April…The main key [to solve varied social problems] lies in the nationalization, but this can not be carried out if there is no charismatic leader with massive popular support and a military force. By nationalizing the companies the people take control of the resources, in this way the money that was previously taken by the foreign entrepreneurs or holdings is then within the country. Logically this process can not be carried out without a great popular support that must have a visible and unifying head…Our position is always dialogue and mutual respect, but as we always say: The DPR of Korea wants peace, but will not kneel for it. Meaning that the nation is ready for both dialogue and war…I spend a lot of time traveling and every time I come back from Korea I see that the international situation is going to get worse, especially capitalism, moved by the insatiable desire of the big corporations, it collapses..I have seen a great change from the 90s to the current ones. At that time communism was demonized and the weak changed sides quickly…There is a certain ‘taboo’ in communist organizations to have a leader, that translates into an internal weakness that disperses the forces and favors the enemy…The Juche Idea expresses that man is master of his destiny and can use the means at his disposal to modify it. It’s basically Korean-style socialism. Although in its origins it owes Marxism-Leninism, it is an original idea created by the Great Leader Kim Il Sung and that incorporates traditional elements of Korean culture and philosophy…The giant portraits of Marx and Lenin remain in the main square, each day facing the portrait of our President Kim Il Sung. And Iosif Stalin was a good comrade of the Great Leader, to whom he gave an armored car and train…[Juche Korea’s short term goals are to] improve the economy, specifically developing light industry. Once Korea is strong politically and militarily resources are being used to improve the life of the people and modernize the industry.

The same month, Nicolas Maduro, now heading the country after Chavez’s death, said that Venezuela is committed to all efforts to achieve a peaceful solution in the Korean Peninsula, saying that they hope “for peace on the Korean peninsula and…[calling] to diminish the statements and militaristic actions, which could lead to both Nations to a new conflict. In addition, the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela expresses its deep concern for the continuous realization of exercises and military tests, which only contribute to the increase of tensions. The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela reiterates the bonds of friendship with both Nations, and reaffirms its commitment to all efforts that allow to achieve a peaceful solution to the conflict.” [11] Even with this, the next month, after Maduro won elections in April 2013, Kim Yong-nam, chairperson of the SPA Presidium said that the victory in Venezuela of Maduro was “an expression of the deep trust and expectations on his shoulders,” and congratulated the Venezuelan people for a “firm will to maintain the road towards socialism.” Later on that year, at the 18th World Festival of Youth and Students (FMJE), in which there was “discussion around the unity of action of the progressive youth and student movement, in support of the struggles of the peoples in the face of imperialist aggressions” there were delegations from “Zimbabwe…Angola…Vietnam, Nepal and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” to name a few. Also in 2013, the ambassador of Juche Korea to Cuba, Jon Yong Jin, visited Venezuela, meeting with two parliamentarians, one from the PCV, another from the PSUV. At the meeting, Jin said that Juche Korea offered “unrestricted support and solidarity” to Venezuela, saying that their government would not “hesitate to join the struggle against the empire to defend sovereignty and the Bolivarian Revolution.” On an even more powerful note, Jin supported the decision by Maduro to “expel from Venezuelan territory the three diplomatic officials who conspired against the nation,” saying that this was “a measure of an independent country and we support it,” adding that giving priority to military affairs is important, saying that the “driving force” of Juche Korea “is in the popular masses,” noting that the nuclear weapons are for self-defense only and to stop imperial aggression: “the Supreme Commander of the People’s Army, Kim Jong-un, has affirmed that if a single American bullet falls on our territory, we will launch a missile towards the island of Guam and another directed at the White House.” Beyond this, he also said that “unity of the revolutionary force is important in that fight against imperialism.” the PCV deputy thanked Jin for “the support and solidarity offered by the head of the mission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” and added that the “National Assembly has been developing the legal context to deepen relations between the two countries” while the PSUV deputy said that “a friendship group with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is [being] formed” in the National Assembly!

Nicolas Maduro talks to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in March 2014, as quoted above. Conservative sites claimed she was “paid” by Maduro because of supposed “bills” under her chair, but this is so silly, as Venezuela has its own media and would have no need to pay Amanpour, a person who has a clearly bourgeois mindset.

2014, like 2013, was another year of strengthened relations between the two countries. With the “Western” left, as you could call them, saying that “Venezuela would be like…North Korea,” in a negative way, they fail to recognize the connection between the two countries. In June of that year, it was clear that Juche Korea was ready to open an embassy in Venezuela after the Venezuelan government gave its stamp of approval, ending the ambassador to Cuba representing “North Korean interests in Venezuela.” [12] One bourgeois analyst noted rightly that “North Korean presence in the region has gone under the radar up until now” with their admiration for “Hugo Chávez’s 21st Century Socialism,” adding that Jin, at the meeting previously mentioned “took the opportunity to express his support for President Nicolás Maduro,” and noting by January 2014, “Yul Jabour and…Julio Chávez, emphasized the need for study of the Juche doctrine and its application in Venezuela’s territory.” This same analyst noted that while “there are 24 countries in the Americas and the Caribbean that maintain relations with North Korea…only four of them have Embassies” with Venezuela being the fifth country to join this list, as they also worried that “Chavismo could adopt North Korea’s ideological and political features,” although this has not happened, showing how absurd their fears are.

Venezuela’s connection with Juche Korea is understandable. As one analysis in August of 2014 noted correctly, “the attempts of Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Grenada, Nicaragua, Libya and other countries to forge an independent path have been answered with all-out imperialist war” meaning that survive “in such a hostile world, there are only two real choices: capitulate, or unite and fight,” which Chavez choosing, “informed by his rich knowledge of world history, his identification of US-led imperialism as the major obstacle to peace and development, and his own experiences of trying to exercise sovereignty,” to unite and fight, building “Venezuelan socialism in the face of destabilisation and CIA-backed coup attempts.” The Venezuelan communists started that process however, with the founding of a communist youth organization in 1944 in the country. [13] Also in 2014, in August, Juche Korea, along with Venezuela and many others said no to the commercial blockade on Venezuela imposed by the U$ imperialists.

In 2015, the embassy of Juche Korea opened in Venezuela. Sadly, I cannot, currently find any photographs of it, but it undoubtedly there. In February of that year, the Popular Tribune, a publication of the PCV, published an article noting that “only the Democratic Republic of Korea uses atomic deterrence as a factor that has prevented imperialism from taking control of the strategic peninsula of south-west Asia,” saying this in a supportive manner. [14] The following month, in the same publication, it was noted that the executive decision to make Venezuela an “an extraordinary and unusual threat for national security and the foreign policy of the United States” and declare a “state of emergency” was “applied for the first time against Korea,” then followed by by “Yugoslavia…Cuba, Nicaragua, Iran, Iraq or the tiny island of Granada,” and now was being applied to Venezuela! The same month, there were two more articles noting Juche Korea. The first was from the Bolivarian Front of Scientific Researchers, Innovators and Workers (FREBIN). In their statement to those in the U$, they noted that “Venezuela appears next to China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Russia… Please, give me a break!” and that in “one of the strategic missions, the NSA proposes “providing warning of impending state instability” in countries such as North Korea, Cuba, Nigeria, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Bolivia, Sudan, Kosovo, Venezuela, the “Palestinian Authority “and -attention!- something they call “Latin American Bolivarian developments”.” They added that this means that “Venezuela appears as an unusual and extraordinary threat because it presents an ideology -the Boliviarian one- which rivals and contrasts with the totalitarian influence exerted by the US status quo over the Latin American region in the recent decades.” This is part of the reason the Koreans support the Venezuelans. As one critical article said at the time, “to say “Venezuela” in the same breath as “North Korea” is entirely acceptable to most people, including much of the left,” referring to the fact that many of those on the Left see this as negative rather than seeing the two countries as comrades-in-arms.

In October, the Popular Tribune publication of the PCV published something which was from the embassy of Juche Korea in Venezuela, focusing on the Workers’ Party of Korea, which they called the “Korean Labor Party” (same thing). [15] They defined the Juche idea as meaning that “the masses of the revolution and their construction are the masses of the people and the force that drives them also” and Songun as meaning “prioritizing military affairs and taking the armed forces by force to promote the revolution and its construction,” noting they came about first in June 1930 from Kim Il Sung himself. They added that as the years went on, the WPK became

more powerful as an ideologically pure organization, fully impregnated only by the Juche idea and the Songun, and that even in the face of the vicissitudes of all sorts of history invariably maintains its principle…The first aspect worth mentioning of the Korean Labor Party is iron unity and internal cohesion…Kim Jong Il…made each one of the lines and policies outlined to reflect the aspiration and the demand of the masses to the maximum, and launched slogans such as “All the Party, to get along with the masses!” And “Serve the people!” that all the party cadres will always empathize with the masses and serve them faithfully…Kim Jong Un…who carries out without any deviation the ideology and the cause of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, launched as the slogan of the Party “Everything for the people, all leaning in the popular masses! “, and fully practice the policy of love and appreciation to the people…A party like the [WPK]…is always invincible; This is the truth proven by history. That’s why the [WPK]…will be eternally triumphant.

In 2016, connections between Juche Korea and Venezuela were still strong. That year, according to some sources, exports to Venezuela were “$7.6 million, while Venezuela’s exports to North Korea were minimal,” showing that Koreans were helping Venezuelans build their Bolivarian Revolution. In February of that year, Han Song Guk, Adviser Consul of embassy of Juche Korea commemorated the life of Kim Jong Il, calling him an “unforgettable leader who devoted his whole life to the enrichment and prosperity of the country” who led the country through “terrible difficulties due to the concentrated offensive of imperialism and its allies against socialist Korea…and unprecedented natural calamities” and destined “the valuable fund of the state that was almost total of the country’s wealth…for the introduction of the computerized numerical control technology in the machinery industry.” [16] Guk also said that “his best option to prepare the people for the eternal comfort and self-sufficiency of everything necessary instead of buying in international markets” while socialist Korea moved forward, “overcoming the unprecedented adversities that caused the whole world concerns about its destiny” and Kim Jong Il had a goal to “sacrifice himself for the enrichment and prosperity of the country and the happiness of the people.” This is why, Guk concludes, he will “live eternally in the hearts of Koreans and progressive peoples of the world.” The following month, the PCV’s Political Bureau “expressed its solidarity with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the face of the aggression that is home to US imperialism, South Korea and Japan,” which is what all progressive peoples should do without question. [17]

In May and June 2016, the anger by bourgeois analysts toward Venezuela increased. Miami Herald’s Tim Padgett declared on May 26 that “…history will remember Maduro…for transforming the Western Hemisphere’s most oil-rich nation into the Caribbean Korea.” The following month, a piece in the always critical and wonderful Venezuela Analysis wrote, referring to this piece that “Miami Herald opinion pages host the notion that Venezuela is now “the North Korea of the Caribbean”, a place where “news reports … read like apocalyptic Cormac McCarthy novels”.” The following month, the PCV extended their “condolences to the Chávez Frías family and to the PSUV leadership for the notable death of the Mayor of the Municipality Alberto Arvelo Torrealba,” while Aníbal Chávez also, at the time, “expressed his solidarity with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the face of permanent aggression by of US imperialism and its allies on the Korean peninsula.” [18] This comradely solidarity remained strong with reason. Also that month, the PCV delivered a message of solidarity to the government of Juche Korea, reaffirming the “rights of the people to defend themselves against this aggression” and adding that “the DPRK since its independence has been suffering the aggression of the imperialist power.” This is undeniably true if you know the history of Juche Korea.

In the later months of 2016, the connection of the two countries was evident in the distorted eyes of bourgeois analysts who snarled. As one analysis put it, “Venezuela has become one of those countries…that western audiences have an insatiable interest in, but where credible information can be hard to come across,” which is the same for Juche Korea, which Max Fisher of the Washington Post paraphrased a fellow reporter Isaac Stone Fish as once joking, “as an American journalist you can write almost anything you want about North Korea and people will just accept it. Call it the Stone Fish Theory of North Korea coverage.” This isn’t really a joke, but a reality as anything they want is said about Juche Korea and its kind of disgusting to say the least. In October, Venezuela joined a host of other nations, such as Vietnam, Laos, Angola, Bolivia, and Juche Korea, to name a few, who called for the “end of the Washington sanctions against Cuba.” [19] The following month, one of the biggest newspapers in Venezuela (Ultimas Noticas), undoubtedly favoring the opposition, ran an op-ed by Gloria Cuenca asking “is this government trying to imitate North Korea?,” again trying to stir the pot of deceit. The same month, after Fidel Castro’s death, Nicholas Maduro joined other world leaders in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution, underscoring the importance of Cuba to the Bolivarian Revolution: “without the support of the Cuban Revolution and its example of struggle and immense capacity for solidarity, our path would have been much harder, our young revolution advancing much slower.” Maduro was joined by delegations from many countries paying tribute to Fidel, from “Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Greece, Russia, China, Vietnam, South Africa, Namibia, Algeria, [and] Iran,” and in some sense by those who declared “official state commemorations of Castro’s legacy, including Nicaragua, Bolivia, Algeria, Vietnam, North Korea, [and] Namibia.” Again, Venezuela and Juche Korea were part of the same anti-imperialist front.

Ri Sung Gi, DPRK ambassador, and CBV (Central Bank of Venezuela) officials on Nov 29, 2017, after a discussion by the Movement of Workers and Revolutionary Workers of the Central Bank of Venezuela (Mttrbcv), entitled “The Blockade of the United States of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

In 2017, Juche Korean and Venezuela were still interconnected by their relations. In January, Cho Chol Hui, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs for Juche Korea made a visit to the Venezuelan embassy in revisionist China so he could present “the balance of the newly completed year 2016 and 2017 prospects, offered by the President, Kim Jong Un.” [20] At this meeting, which was held with the Venezuelan ambassador there, Iván Zerpa Guerrero, both of these individuals “ratified the bonds of solidarity and friendship that unite the two Nations,” with Choe saying that their government and the Korean people will support Venezuela with common positions between the two in international forums. Choe also noted his “country’s achievements in economic matters, establishing numerous industrial developments, and cooperative farms, which have generated a bumper increase in the levels of production,” adding that “his country’s Government will propose is to accelerate the victorious advance of socialism” with measures to “promote the industry of construction, light industry, agriculture and fishing.” In terms of foreign policy, the country would “promote peace in the Korea Peninsula, in search of the reunification of that nation” and would continue to denonce political and military pressures “to achieve sanctions against [them, which had] have reached extreme levels, but have failed in order to break the conviction of its people and its leader…and could not prevent the advance of socialist Kore.” He finally added that their government and WPK were committed to a “foreign policy of independence, peace and friendship, expanding and developing the relations of good-neighbourliness, friendship and cooperation…making joint efforts with them to ensure genuine international justice.” In response, Ambassador Iván Zerpa greeted Juche Korea, ratifying “the deepest feelings of friendship and cooperation between the two countries, in the framework [of the] Bolivarian diplomacy of peace, in defense of the sovereignty and independence of countries.”

After January, the two countries continued to build their ties. In February, the government of Juche Korea worked to evaluate a “number of agro-industrial projects to develop the potentials of the State Yaracuy,” with Ri Sung Gil, Ambassador of the former country in Venezuela, meeting with the Legislative Council to explore “investment opportunities and promote sustainable projects in the agricultural area.” [21] Specifically, he was quoted as saying that “we are reviewing agreements in all areas to strengthen the bonds of cooperation and friendship that keep our countries and here in Yaracuy, we see significant potential that we want to develop agribusiness, to boost…corn [fields]…[which is] of great interest for our nation and that unites us in the production area.” After saying that the Koreans supported “the policies pushed by President Nicolas Maduro,” he said that his government supported a dialogue between the government and opposition leaders to “achieve peace and stability political and economic in Venezuela.” He was quoted as saying “the dialogue is correct to stabilize the political situation…North Korea has always maintained the rejection against external interference in the internal affairs of this Latin American country.” In response, one of the members of the Legislative Council, Chairman Henrys Lord Mogollon added that cooperation would expand in the future: “We have planned other meetings, more technical, in that North Korea will assess with greater depth in what areas can get involved to promote viable projects that contribute to the mutual support that we promote both countries…everything [is] geared to agribusiness with products such as corn, sugar cane[,] and orange[s], [all of]…which Yaracuy has great potential.”

In later months, the connection between the two countries was even clearer. After all, both countries have been painted in a bleak manner by the bourgeois media, which engages in “starvation propaganda” which is like “war propaganda” since it is meant “to paint a false but compelling picture to influence the gullible and justify military aggression disguised as humanitarian rescue.” In June, Kim Yong Nam, President of the SPA Presidium, sent a letter to Maduro, the secretary-general (or what some call “President”) of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which has 120 member countries, focusing on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, adding that climate change is a global issue and an urgent task, saying that “U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement…is an extreme expression of egoism and moral inferiority seeking after its own well-being only at the cost of the global interests,” further noting that as “the world[‘s] second largest greenhouse gas emitting state, the United States is more responsible than any other countries for the prevention of the global warming.” Nam added that not only is this a “self-righteous and selfish action” but that the NAM should “duly take concerted measures to resolutely condemn and reject the arrogant and shameless action of the United States which pursues its own interests at the expense of developing countries.” At the end of this message, Nam said that he reaffirms “the stand of the DPRK to strengthen close cooperation with Venezuela and other member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement in upholding the purposes and principles of NAM and enhancing its role.” From June of that year, until 2019, when the next summit of the NAM will be held in Azerbaijan, the member countries of NAM entrusted “Venezuela with the leadership of the body…in order to encourage actions necessary for reinforcing the founding principles of the bloc” with Maduro as the President of this supranational organization.

The same month, Ri Yong Ho, the foreign minister of Juche Korea, sent a “congratulatory message to Samuel Moncada upon his appointment as foreign minister of People’s Power of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.” He extended full “support and solidarity to the righteous struggle of the Venezuelan government and people to defend the Bolivarian revolution and accomplish the cause of ex-President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias, vehemently denouncing the U.S. and its vassal forces’ evermore undisguised moves to interfere in the internal affairs of the country,” and wished Moncada “successes in his new job, expressing belief that the two countries will continue to strengthen support and cooperation with each other in the international arena” with stronger relations “in the common struggle for socialism against imperialism.” Also that month, Ri Sung Gil, Ambassador of Juche Korea in Venezuela, highlighted “the heroic history of struggle and combativity of the North Korean people against imperialism” and referred to “the tension that remains in the Korean peninsula in the face of the military provocations of the United States and South Korea,” adding that “the North Korean people are prepared to wage an offensive against the imperialist aggressors.” [22] This contrasted with what Jorge ‘Tuto’ Quiroga, a reactionary President of Bolivia from 2001 to 2002 who is a capitalist propagandist and former consultant of the IMF and World Bank, who declared in the Huffington Post that “Venezuela is at the crossroads: the beginning of the end of this narco-dictatorship or the beginning of a North Korea in the Caribbean.” Elsewhere he declared that the election of Maduro “will install a Soviet state in Venezuela, liquidate democracy, end the Congress, cancel elections and turn Venezuela into a sort of Caribbean ‘North Korea.’” These were and are absurd notions without question and it shows how these bourgeois analysts, like always, don’t really understand what is going on in Venezuela. But what’s new about that? That has been the main perception for years with “enemy” countries.

In the next month, July, again, people were comparing Venezuela to Juche Korea. Quiroga was saying that Venezuela under Maduro was “the next North Korea,” while Jazz Shaw of Hot Air thundered, after citing, other than the one link to another article he wrote, exclusively bourgeois media (NBC, CNN, and Reuters (two times)) that “…Venezuela will likely become a hermit kingdom, much in the style of either Fidel Castro’s Cuba during the early years or North Korea’s present regime.” Again, these bourgeois individuals fear something which hasn’t even happened, showing they are so deluded, its almost a little funny. The month afterwords, August, some admitted that even “the most ardent Maduro supporter is unlikely to use Kim Jong-un as a model.” [23] The same month, Pedro Eusse, representing the PCV’s Political Bureau, said that the party condemns “the aggressive [and] militaristic…action of the right to self-determination of the peoples manifested by the United States, by US and European imperialism, who hold a global monopoly over nuclear weapons,” adding that the “threat to humanity is not Korea, it is not China, it is not even Russia, it is the imperialist world system, while that exists, we are threatened all of us.” As the foreign ministry of Juche Korea added, in a similar manner, “China and Venezuela are…showing strong reaction to the escalating threats of sanctions by the U.S.” Also that month, Ri Yong Ho sent a “congratulatory message to Jorge Alberto Arreaza Montserrat on his appointment as foreign minister of the People’s Power of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,’ extending “full support and solidarity to the just struggle of the government and people of Venezuela to reject the U.S. and its vassal forces’ interference, achieve the country’s peace and political stability and realize the cause of Hugo Chavez Frias. Like Ho had expressed the previous month, he again expressed “the belief that the relations of friendship and cooperation between the governments and peoples of the two countries would grow stronger in the common struggle for independence and socialism against imperialism.”

In the later months of 2017, September, October, November, and December, relations were clearly still strong. The embassy of Juche Korea in Venezuela, on the 69th Anniversary of the founding of Juche Korea, laid a “wreath before the Mausoleum of the Liberator, Simón Bolívar,” with the delegation of the embassy headed by Ri Sung Gil and by Gloria Román Romero, “General Director of the Office of the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs for Asia, the Middle East and Oceania,” of the Venezuelan government. During their joint activity together, the “notes of the national anthems of both countries were performed by the Marcial Band of the Military Academy of the Bolivarian National Guard” while residents and friends of the Korean population attended the event.” [24] Such solidarity contrasted the actions of U$ imperialism, in October, against Venezuela barring “banks from buying Venezuelan state bonds,” which had, as Maduro put it, “exacerbated the crisis.” The next month, November, Venezuela raised its voice at the 36th meeting of members to the Organization of the UN in Geneva, for their “right to sovereignty, respect for their right to self-determination and peace against the war media coming from abroad, and the economic blockade by Governments such as the U.S. attempts,” with delegations from 25 other countries which also met there including “Sudan, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Laos, among others,” with revisionist China, Nicaragua, and Cuba all supporting Venezuela. Near the end of November there was a momentous meeting between representations of the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) and Juche Korea to exchange “ideas in the defense and construction of socialism”! For one, José Salamat Khan Fernández of the BCV said that “we must learn from the socio-productive experience of North Korea. We as a people can begin a process of training to reindustrialize the country’s economy and depend less and less on other hegemonic countries. We have the human resource, the land and the capital,” at a meeting organized by the Movement of Workers and Revolutionary Workers of the BCV (Mttrbcv) which held a discussion titled “The US Blockade of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” In response, Ri Sung Hil said that “expansionist interests [aim] to appropriate the wealth of strategic countries such as Venezuela and North Korea, which chose socialism as an economic and social model. Imperialism wants to keep at bay the economic and military growth of the progressive countries. Venezuela has its geopolitical importance, raw materials, many natural resources, oil and water; The US is not going to leave Venezuela in peace until it seizes the country’s resources.” A press release released by the BCV gave further context to this meeting:

The Movement of Workers and Revolutionary Workers of the Central Bank of Venezuela (Mttrbcv), organized this Wednesday, November 29, the conversation entitled The Blockade of the United States to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in the Auction Room of the Financial Tower of the Institute. The activity, led by the ambassador of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ri Sung Gil, was headed by the director and second vice president of the BCV, José Salamat Khan Fernández; the adviser, Simón Escalona and the vice minister of Industrial Management of the Ministry of Popular Power for Basic, Strategic and Socialist Industries, Orlando Ortegano. After the conversation, Ambassador Ri Sung Gil met with the president of the BCV, Ramón Lobo, with whom he talked about the importance of both nations exchanging their experiences in defense of the construction of socialism. This initiative was carried out in order to highlight the North Korean experience in its process of self-determination and political, economic and social sovereignty, in the face of the military and interventionist threat of hegemonic countries such as the United States…For his part, the North Korean ambassador, Ri Sung Gil, explained that the US government has expansionist interests to appropriate the wealth of strategic countries such as Venezuela and North Korea, which chose socialism as an economic and social model. “Socialism always has its enemies, because it does not defend the interests of the rich and the influential, who are the minority in the world. Imperialism wants to keep at bay the economic and military growth of the progressive countries….Sung Gil recalled that, like Venezuela, his country has been subject to sanctions and economic blocking measures. Nevertheless, despite the strategy to isolate them, they set out to industrialize the nation and in fourteen years they were able to achieve it…The discussion was carried out as an initiative of Mttrbcv to learn more about the North Korean experience. It also aims to unify efforts between Venezuela and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in the search for strategic alliances that promote the Venezuelan economy, as well as the construction of a socio-productive model based on sovereignty, self-determination, solidarity and cooperation between the villages. Finally, the high representative of the North Korean Government undertook to organize an exhibition with images and videos for the workers of the BCV and in this way to present essential and characteristic aspects of the culture, art and daily life of a society that has been so demonized by the Western media.

This shows that the two countries are coming closer together while the Juche Koreans use statements at the NAM summit in September 2016, in Venezuela, to note that “the heads of states and governments reaffirmed their commitment to defend the interests of developing countries in the issues directly related to world peace and security such as the situation in the Middle East including the question of Palestine by promoting multilateralism especially by strengthening key role of the United Nations.”

Courtesy of this website, the above photo shows Ri Sung Gil (2nd from the left) and three other Venezuelans at a panel discussion in January 2018 in Barquisimeto, Venezuela.

The two countries are seen as peas in a pod together, more “rogue states” by U$ imperialism. This was evident by the fact that the Heritage Foundation, in their “Index of Economic Freedom” for 2017, released in early this year, 2018, those in the lowest ranks were “Eritrea, the Republic of Congo, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea,” showing the disdain of the bourgeoisie for these countries. [25] This connects to the fact that U$ imperial policy toward Venezuela is premised on varied misconceptions, one of which is that “Venezuela is a totalitarian dictatorship.” One bourgeois analyst, who hated Maduro, snarled that “while Maduro has certainly done many things to undermine democracy, Venezuela is no North Korea,” which is undeniably accurate. In January, Ri Sung Gil visited the Barquisimeto, the capital of music in Venezuela, a city which is 357 kilometers (about 222 miles) from Caracas, and showed his “extensive knowledge of our culture, especially in the Spanish language.” On this goodwill visit (Spanish language), hosted in a “downtown hotel facing the permanent book fair,” he aimed to embrace “popular movements in the region…pay tribute to the leader, Kim Jong-il” and spoke (translation) to the participants there, adding the following:

…invasions and criminal shelling of [U$] imperialism…are intended to continue…We are prepared to defend until the last inhabitant of the country. We are a sovereign country of East Asia, whose portion of land bounded on the North by China and Russia, to the West with the sea of the Japan, or Yellow Sea, to the East by the Gulf of Korea and on the South by South Korea. [Juche] Korea…[with its] capital, Pyongyang, [a] promising city, where the developments cover the entire nation…has currently advance[d]…based on the architectural contents of the creators of the new nation…our country has important achievements of high levels in: education, primary, secondary, University, technology tip, safety, health, management of waters in all respects accurate to our needs, employment suitable to their fellow citizens, stimuli in the fields of mass screening, especially for nuclear power, where [we are working on]…vital fronts for the collective…[helping] workers and young people…Workers, artisans, farmers, artists, children, women are of special primary interest…we enter into the 21st century with the conviction to uphold the nation, respecting all people who do the same exercise. We now belong to the Atomic club, we can talk about you to you, with its due respect. We are in favour of peace in its maximum expression. Solidarity with peoples in development, we have policies to our principles and purposes, such as the Juche idea, the Juche idea, it is not Marxism-Leninism adapted to Korean reality, but a new ideology, higher to Marxism itself. It is the scientific socialism raised to the exponent.

At the end of his remarks, he gave a “revolutionary and solidarity greeting…to Venezuela” and “Latin American singer-songwriter, Toño Rivero” played a sound which had premiered in the 1980s in Pyongyang. Again, the connection between the two countries was strong without question. This also shows that Juche is descended from Marxism-Leninism and is its own ideology.

In February, some noted that in his State of the Union address, the orange menace had “reinvented its own axis of evil, as a drag brought on by the worst Bushian policy,” putting “Russia, China, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Venezuela and Cuba” as part of this “evil” club. This showed, as one remarked, that “there is only one point in the empire that we can endanger: “its values”, with the powerful weapon of our own, a crucible of all the values of humanism, hope and example spread throughout a continent and beyond, and a purpose of justice and justice. freedom for all.” [26] The same month, Diosdado Cabello, first Vice President of PSUV showed that he met with Ri Sung Gil of Juche Korea, saying on twitter that “today together with his Excellency Ambassador of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ri Sung Gil, deepening relations of friendship,” he wrote in his Twitter account.” This was corroborated by the foreign ministry of Juche Korea, which said that Kim Jong Il was “awarded a diploma” by the PSUV, which “was conveyed on Feb. 14 to the DPRK ambassador to Venezuela by Felix Jesus Velasquez Castillo, general coordinator of the Federal Political Secretariat of the Party.” The following month, the WPK’s central committee sent a “congratulatory message” to the PSIV’s national leadership “upon the 10th anniversary of its foundation,” saying that they “extended warm congratulations and greetings to the Venezuelan Party leadership and all its members and voiced full support and solidarity to the Party in its effort to defend the country’s sovereignty and socio-political stability under the banner of the Bolivarian Revolution.” They added, in their message that “the ties between the two parties would be strengthened further in the joint struggle for independence, anti-imperialism, and socialism, it wished the Venezuelan Party greater success in its activities.”

In the years to come the Bolivarian Revolution has faced many challenges. There has been increased criticism of TeleSUR English, an offshoot of the 24 hour news channel, TeleSUR, established on June 24, 2005, the 222nd birthday of Simon Bolivar, by Hugo Chavez in service of the “Bolivarian project” which was a collaborative effort of varied governments (Cuba, Argentina, Venezuela, and Uruguay, with Bolivia and Ecuador joining later, and Argentina leaving in 2016). The anti-revolutionary trash heap called Jacobin, which claims to be socialist but is actually a bunch of bourgeois posers who kiss up to horrid social democratic imperialists like Bernie Sanders, started this in May 2017, declaring that that TeleSur was right to point out that “large television and media conglomerates [in the region] nearly all had ties to the Right,” but grumbled that socialism was not being “well served” by the channel. [27] To bolster their argument, the writer, Patrick Iber, cited a number of anti-Venezuela bourgeois scholars: Robert Samet (a person who has focused on the U$-backed opposition and grumbles about “restricted” press freedom in Venezuela), Hugo Pérez Hernáiz (who grumbled about “conspiracy theories” of those support the Bolivarian Revolution), and Alejandro Velasco (an annoying progressive who dislikes the country). With this, its no surprise he claims that the channel doesn’t have “editorial independence from the state.” His scholarship is questionable. Even with this, he is cited supportively by Jon Jeter in Mint Press News who tells about the story of “Rita Anaya…a 25-year-old graduate student living in southern California,” his story, the experience of a “young black woman who once worked as an editor at teleSUR…young woman who worked as the social media editor…young man of Mexican ancestry…[and] black woman from Washington, D.C., who had worked for teleSUR.” This adds up to only six people, from an organization which has a staff of up to 200 employees. In this same article, Jeter declares that “TeleSUR English is located in Quito’s toniest neighborhood and resembles an insurance office. [and that] its reporters seldom venture outside, conduct phone interviews, or even discuss news stories at length…They are, for the most part, not reporters at all, but aggregators, rewriting news stories published elsewhere.” He then calls it an “abysmal failure, and represents nothing less than a betrayal of the Bolivarian revolution” and says, almost hilariously, at the end that, “fearing that I would do time in an Ecuadorian jail if I saw Cyril or Pablo, I quit an hour later, and walked off the job.” To support his claims that the news channel is, as he puts it, “by any critical measure — the size of its audience, the impact of its journalism, or its strengthening of democracy — an abysmal failure, and represents nothing less than a betrayal of the Bolivarian revolution” he cites the horrid Jacobin article I noted earlier, a Reuters article in January of this year declaring that “mobs gathered outside some Caracas supermarkets on Saturday after the government ordered shops to slash prices, creating chaos as desperate Venezuelans leapt at the chance to buy cheaper food as the country’s worsening economy causes severe shortages,” which is questionable if it is true at all, and an article by a man named Ariel Sheen. Again, this is basically an attack piece with little basis. Sure, some comments on Glassdoor about the organization are negative with some saying that “HR is rude and unhelpful…[has a] Hard Left Ideology which makes very difficult to make real news…Upper management very controlling…Leftist slant on everything skews the truth sometimes…There is little room for growth, unless you start from the bottom…Poor quality control in all areas…Organisation doesn’t have good long-term vision,” there are also positives as stated on there:

Good Salary and benefits…Important message, great experience, fun team, based in Quito, great pay…Salary goes very far in Ecuador…Meet people from all over the West…Great stepping stone…Opportunity to write numerous kinds of news articles such as briefs, opinion and analysis pieces. I have also interviewed a number of people…The salaries offered by teleSUR English are usually sufficient to live a very good life. Colleagues are from around the world and very talented. Great place to learn, get experience…Good wages in a cheap country…Maybe your best opportunity to break into journalism…Management is pleasant and helpful…Colleagues are diverse, young and interesting

Ariel Sheen, in his article on TeleSur English (began in 2014), starts out by saying that they are “unique in today’s media environment…TeleSur English is avowedly socialist in its political orientation…the non-current event content shared on their social media pages includes quotes and photos from socialists…and a variety of other socialist related content.” [28] Sheen, unlike the other two claims he favors them and is just trying to air “helpful” criticism. He claimed that looking at their digital performance “something more nefarious emerged” and is surprised that when he sent his negative findings there he didn’t hear from them again, not realizing that they may have rejected what he said because it seemed he was attacking the organization from the outside. He then declares that what he “uncovered at TeleSur English what looks to be corruption and gross incompetence, if not sabotage,” saiding that the “bad stats were intentionally produced as the person directing operations was either incompetent or is trying to purposely sabotage TeleSUR English’s operations,” adding that the social media footprint of TeleSur English has “the shape of such mismanagement.” To support these high and minty claims, he claimed that “many of the people which are “Following” these accounts” on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are not real, but admitted he was only estimating how many were “fake,” with Twitter Audit saying the 80% of the followers on twitter were real. This is where his analysis gets a bit shaky, as he seems to not recognize some people may interact with this social media more than others, and declares that the channel is “paying for fake followers” which is an assertion he cannot support, and complains that they didn’t tell him that “the unpublishing of the TeleSUR English Facebook page was an accident on their part,”only hearing of it from internal sources, like his opinion matters more than others!

Clearly, Mr. Sheen is an egotist without question. While he makes good suggestions on interacting with readers and perhaps may have some points about bad social engagement by TeleSUR English, or even that there should be writers’ guidelines, perhaps he should work with them to help them solve these problems rather than grumbling about it! If they need this help, they provide it them rather than complaining it isn’t being done! Worst of all, he cites anti-socialist Frederich Hayek to “take down” the channel, claiming that TeleSUR English (and TeleSUR) is that “the tendency for innovation to be lost in production,” going on to engage in “total conjecture” (in his own words) and received information from an unnamed source on the “insulting, overbearing demeanor” of the head of the organization. He then declares that the organization “replicates an elitest strand of authoritarian socialism” and says that “TeleSur English’s loss of integrity reflects badly on all socialists, thus it needs to be critiqued so that it can be corrected,” ending by saying that “here are a number of immediate steps that TeleSUR could take to ameliorate their misdirection and work towards creating a genuine voice for the construction of a new communications order focused on social, political and economic justice.” This is so laughable because the news channel is still around, churning out new articles every day, so clearly he doesn’t follow or read the publication as I do on a daily basis, and realize the role it plays in serving as an effective counter to horrid bourgeois media. Such pieces do not help move the Bolivarian Revolution forward but actually provide ammunition to capitalist propagandists. Still, TeleSur English deserves to be criticized as it is a bastion for Chinese revisionism in Latin America and is generally not critical of left-leaning governments in Latin America!

Above, activist and Central University of Venezuela Criminology Professor Andres Antillano speaks to Venezuela Analysis and is critical of the security policies of the Venezuelan state and police actions, which he calls “repression,” but still has some positive remarks about the Bolivarian Revolution as a whole.

Relatively recently, the U$ imposed sanctions on the “fledgling Petro” of Venezuela, a so-called cyrptocurrency which is more of a commodity than anything else, which may not help move the country forward, instead helping certain bourgeoisie allied with the government. Still, there is no doubt that the murderous empire continues to wage economic war on the Venezuelan people, which Amnesty International basically ignored by saying they have “no position,” while the country serves a major role in the Caribbean region, with continuing propaganda about migration from Venezuela, including from Gallup itself, which declared that “…,ore than four in 10 residents (41%) in 2017 said they would like to move to another country permanently if they could…a small majority of Venezuelans say they would like to remain in their country.” Upcoming in May will be the country-wide elections, for which digital cards can be used which is problematic, while the country struggles with remnants of its colonial past, like bullfighting, to give an example. There was, relatively recently, a meeting of “more than 800 social leaders, journalists, politicians and activists participating from 95 countries,” in “international solidarity…in Caracas,” including people such as Bolivan President Evo Morales,” and releasing the following declaration:

We, citizens from distinct countries, social movements and organisations, political parties, women, youths, workers, creators and intellectuals, peasants, and religious leaders, gathered here in Caracas on the 5, 6 and 7th March 2018, reaffirm our solidarity and militant support of the Venezuelan people, the Bolivarian Revolution and its popular government, which is headed by Nicolas Maduro Moros. We energetically reject the grave escalation of aggressions against Venezuela’s democracy and sovereignty by the war-like government of Donald Trump, global corporate powers, and the American imperialist military-industrial apparatus, which looks to overthrow the legitimate government of Venezuela, destroy the project of Bolivarian democracy and expropriate the natural resources of the Venezuelan nation. We denounce that this operation against Venezuela forms part of a global strategy of neo-colonialization in Latin America and the Caribbean which seeks to impose a new era of servitude and looting through the resurrection of the shameful Monroe Doctrine, a plan which has already begun in numerous countries across the continent. We reject the threat of Donald Trump of a potential military intervention in Venezuela and we alert that such declarations by him are not mere charlatanism. The military option against the Bolivarian Revolution forms part of the strategic and geopolitical doctrine of the US for the 21st Century. The world must know that a military aggression against Venezuela would provoke a crisis in the region of historic dimensions and uncountable and unpredictable human, economic, and ecological impact. We warn imperialism and their elites lackeys that play this game: the peoples of Latin America, the Caribbean and the world will never allow that Venezuela be touched by the ambitions of the American military boot! If, in their crazy obsession, the hawks of Washington dare attack Venezuela, the homeland of Simon Bolívar, as it was more than 200 years ago, will again be the tomb of an empire. We denounce the blatant pressure of US imperialism on the region’s governments to involve them in political, diplomatic, and even military operations against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. With these actions, they seek to destroy regional integration and bring about the de-facto abolition of the principle of the founding charter of the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States which declares the region as a zone of peace. We reject the shameful and historical opposed attitude of governments in the region that have caved in to Washington’s politics through the creation of illegal and spurious organisms such as the so-called Group of Lima. The shameful regional elites who today lead the plundering of their peoples, hand over their sovereignty to the transnational corporations, and increase poverty, inequality and violate human rights, lack any moral and political authority to question Venezuelan democracy. We reject the unilateral and illegal sanctions of the US Government and the European Union against the Venezuelan people, which seek to destroy its economy and break their democratic will. Blockades and sanctions are crimes against humanity carried out by the international capitalist system, and are severely hurting the Venezuelan people by sabotaging their productive, commercial and financial processes, preventing access to food, medicines and essential goods. We reject the perverse U.S. sabotage of the process of dialogue developed in the Dominican Republic and reiterate that only the absolute respect for the sovereignty of Venezuela, non-interference in their internal affairs, sincere dialogue and electoral processes based on Venezuelan legislation can define the path to recover the political coexistence between Venezuelans. In this regards, we welcome the call for presidential, regional legislators and councilorelections for May 20, a result of a political agreement with a sector of the Venezuelan opposition. In these absolutely constitutional and legitimate elections, the Venezuelan people in a transparent and sovereign way will decide the course of their homeland.We alert the peoples of the world to the counterproductive intentions of international governments and organizations that are directly involved in the war against Venezuela to not recognize the results of the elections on May 20, and accelerate attacks after what – no doubt – will be a real democratic expression of the Venezuelan people. We welcome and support the declaration of the presidential summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America ALBA-TCP that categorically rejects the exclusion of Venezuela from the next Summit of the Americas, to be held in the city of Lima, Peru. Similarly, we support all diplomatic and political actions that governments, countries and peoples take to defend plurality and political diversity in the continent and to safeguard the sovereignty and self-determination of peoples. We recognize the heroic resistance of the people of Venezuela when confronted by the ravages of economic aggression, the financial blockade and all the forms of sabotage that Venezuela is suffering from, and support the economic, financial, political and diplomatic strategy that the Bolivarian Government and President Nicolas Maduro are carrying out to overcome the problems and construct the humanist model of Bolivarian socialism. We are committed to continue the battle for the truth, peace and the sovereignty of Venezuela, to expand the ties of friendship, solidarity and revolutionary commitment to the Venezuelan people. The peoples of the world, the consciousness of all those who struggle for the just cause of mankind, accompanies at this time and always the Bolivarian revolution, its leadership and its people. We are convinced that Venezuela will be able to – through dialogue, respect for the Constitution, and the indefatigable democratic will of his people – overcome the problems that besets it, and that the Bolivarian revolution will remain a beacon of hope for the peoples of the world who search for a worthy and just destination for humanity. In commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the physical passing of Commander Hugo Chávez, historical leader of the Venezuelan people, from Caracas we say to the world: Venezuela is not alone, we are all with her!

At the same time, leftist organizations in Venezuela have sided with Nicolas Maduro, saying they will support him in the upcoming elections (which the U$ wants to sabotage), including the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ), “a radical grassroots current within the PSUV,” the PCV, which reached a “groundbreaking accord” with the PSUV, to confront the crisis of Venezuelan capitalism in the days ahead, and the Leftist Homeland for All party (PPT) doing the same, with other elements in Venezuela taking steps forward to socialism.

While this is happening, Maduro has called for UN election observers, with Venezuela denouncing opposition plans for violence after the elections, which has five candidates running currently, with the main opposition group kicking out Henri Falcon after he decided to run in the elections they are boycotting. Additionally, Raul Castro of Cuba has said that a defense of Venezuela should be a major goal for ALBA in the days ahead. With human rights imperialists supporting economic aggression, pushed by the imperialists for their own aims, there is also, as Venezuela Analysis put it, a continued backing “of millions of grassroots Chavistas like Javier,” but has also clear that “important swathes of Venezuela’s popular classes have lost faith in the president and his party since mobilizing en masse to reelect Chávez with over eight million votes in 2012” with fallout of reformist policies “measured at the ballot box” and there is an “absence of any autonomous, mass-based political force to the left of the PSUV that could conceivably channel the deep discontent in a revolutionary direction, or which minimally has the power to hold the government to account.” Still, as noted in the same article, “there is little doubt that Maduro will handily win his reelection gambit” as the “opposition remains deeply divided following its devastating back-to-back defeats in regional and local elections” with the “consensus of the Bolivarian left” being that “the primary contradiction is with Western imperialism and the right-wing opposition, which must be opposed at all costs” meaning that those in the “international left have a duty to stand in unconditional solidarity with the Bolivarian government and its people against imperialism” but should also “offer our thoughtful critiques aimed at backing grassroots struggles to rejuvenate and radicalize the revolution.” This is important especially since the U$ State Department bellows that “deepening the rupture of Venezuela’s constitutional and democratic order will not solve the nation’s crises…A free and fair election should include the full participation of all political parties and political leaders,” even as they respect the opposition leaving the election, showing that this again is absurd and empty rhetoric, in keeping with accepted propaganda.

The country, as it stands now, is beset by an opposition boycott, ban from the Summit of the Americas, threats of a military coup by U$ imperialists, and the OAS interfering as they favor U$ imperialism. The Cubans are strongly and undeniably in solidarity, as is Bolivian President Evo Morales, the Communist Party of Chile, with continuing border disputes with Colombia, as Venezuela defends itself and its sovereignty from obvious subversion from the capitalist poles of power in the world. Maduro is the candidate for the PSUV and there has been a proposed peace deal between the opposition and government, which has partially faltered. Maduro was right to send a message of unity and peace to Venezuelans, as he did in February, and the 15th ALBA-TCP (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Trade Treaty of the Peoples) summit, started by Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, this month, was right to call for the

strict observance of the Objectives and Principles of the UN Charter and International Law…reiterate the decision to continue constructing a new just and inclusive, multi-centric and plural-polar international order…denounce attempts to revive the Monroe Doctrine…highlight the lack of moral authority of [United]…States to offer lessons regarding democracy and human rights to the regional countries…reiterate our commitment with Latin American and Caribbean unity in the search for its own destiny, independence and sovereignty, without interference that affect our peoples and development…express our disagreement with the announcement of a group of countries in the continent…constituting an interference in the internal affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela…demand respect to the legality to the organization of the Summit of the Americas…demand the right for Venezuela’s participation in the event and we propose to exercise diplomatic and political measures to guarantee our goal…urge the international community to abstain in any type of coercive exercises against the political independence and territorial integrity of Venezuela…reject unilateral coercive measures and sanctions imposed against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela that affects the life and development of the noble people of Venezuela and the enjoyment of their rights…reaffirm our firm support to the Constitutional President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro Moros and his Government and democratic process that he leads…recognize the inalienable rights of the Venezuelan people to hold and participate in Presidential and Legislative elections on the national, state and municipal levels in compliance with their norms and internal procedures…support the efforts of the Venezuelan authorities and people to find their own answers to their political and economic challenges…denounce the advances of the political and economic corruption in the region expressed by the growing inequality in the distribution of its resources, social exclusion of the most humble sectors, and the financial influence of a large capital in political campaigns…reaffirm the political commitment in the fight against corruption and compliance to the international commitment in the field…reiterate the international community’s demand for the unconditional lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba, whose extraterritoriality affects all States…highlight the commitment of the Bolivian Government and people in peacefully searching for solutions through International Law…reiterate our support to our brothers in the Caribbean, victims of natural disasters and climate change and we will contribute in an active manner to overcome the damages provoked by recent hurricanes….call on all social and political organizations in the continent to participate in forums and activities of social movements and progressive forces that will be held in 2018…[and] defend the unity of the diversity in Our America.

This leads to my final comments. The U$ State Department, in their Investment Climate report for Venezuela, shows that Nicaragua and Cuba are top investment partners but also that the country is a social democracy, not a socialist state. Describing how the country is a “difficult climate for foreign investors” they note that the “petroleum industry provides roughly 94 percent of export earnings, 40 percent of government revenues, and 11 percent of GDP,” saying that Maduro aimed to increase “state control over the economy” in response to the economic crisis. They add that with this, the Venezuelan government “retains state control of the hydrocarbons sector” but adding that even with “Venezuela’s expropriations in the petroleum sector…since 2009, several international companies have agreed to create joint venture companies with PDVSA to extract crude oil.” They further complain that “Venezuela has a history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors” but talk with glee about the “three existing free trade zones” in the country, while noting that “Venezuela’s financial services sector…[and] Venezuelan credit markets are heavily regulated,” with “strict currency controls” since 2003. With that, they add that “State Owned Enterprises…are dominant in diverse sectors of the Venezuelan economy, including agribusiness, food, hydrocarbons, media, mining, telecommunications, and tourism,” with private firms at a “disadvantage.”

On a related topic, there has been critical assessment of ideas like Latin American dependency theory, and other comments. This brings me to a set of comments on Reddit’s forum, /r/communism. In the first, by yours truly, it is noted that the Venezuelan communists have “concurred with supporting Maduro as part of a unity effort even as they retain their criticisms…which is valid without question.” I also wrote at the time their criticism that “the crisis of the exhausted capitalist dependent and rentier accumulation model of Venezuela” has become worse, leading to a “growing impoverishment in the living and working conditions of the popular and working masses of the city and the countryside,” noting that “progressive-reformist projects that have taken place in Venezuela and other Latin American countries since the beginning of this century” are not directed by “genuinely revolutionary organizations, [meaning that they] lack the necessary class content to go beyond social assistance measures.” It was also noted that they criticized the Petro’s development in Venezuela. In the second, I reprinted a statement from the PCV noting that they support Maduro but with reservations and criticisms, as it justified.

On this note, I conclude this section and believe that in the days and years to come, the relationship between Juche Korea and Venezuela will remain strong, creating an inter-dependent relationship opposing imperialist aggression and pushing for socialist ideals.


Notes

[1] María Gabriela Díaz, “North Korean Embassy in Venezuela Signals Two Peas in a Pod,” PanAM Post, Jun 26, 2014; East-West Center and the National Committee on North Korea (NCNK), “North Korea in the World: North Korea’s External Relations,” accessed Mar 18, 2018.

[2] República Popular Democrática de Corea is “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” in Spanish, and “Corea Del Norte” is “North Korea” in Spanish.

[3] María Gabriela Díaz, “North Korean Embassy in Venezuela Signals Two Peas in a Pod,” PanAM Post, Jun 26, 2014.

[4] One article in BBC on Sept 25, 2006 titled “Chavez boosts Chomsky book sales” noted that “a speech by Mr Chavez cited Chomsky’s 2003 critique of US policy…Chomsky’s book spent the weekend at the top of Amazon.com’s bestseller list. The 77-year-old linguistics professor told the New York Times newspaper last week that he would be “happy to meet” Mr Chavez. He said he is “quite interested” in Mr Chavez’s policies and regards many of his views as “quite constructive”.” Chavez eventually met Chomsky in August 2009, with Chavez saying that “Hegemony or survival; we opt for survival” and calling Chomsky “one of the greatest defenders of peace, one of the greatest pioneers of a better world” with Chomsky responding that “I write about peace and criticize the barriers to peace; that’s easy. What’s harder is to create a better world…and what’s so exciting about at last visiting Venezuela is that I can see how a better world is being created…In the United States the socio-economic system is designed so that the control over the media is in the hands of a minority who own large corporations… and the result is that the financial interests of those groups are always behind the so-called freedom of expression,” and saying in a later interview that “the transformations that Venezuela is making toward the creation of another socio-economic model could have a global impact if these projects are successfully carried out.” The book is titled Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. However, in the Spanish version of Chavez’s speech the title of the book read as Hegemonía o Supervivencia. La estrategia imperialista de Estados Unidos in Spanish, or Hegemony or Survival: The Imperialist Strategy of the United States in English. This means that the title in Spanish may have been slightly different, as the translation of the English title into Spanish gives you the words “Hegemonía o supervivencia: la búsqueda de América para la dominación global.” Still, the content is the same. Chomsky’s book was reviewed by the PSL in 2006, but disliked by certain liberals like Nick Cohen in The Guardian who declared that “Noam Chomsky is the master of looking-glass politics. His writing exemplifies the ability of the Western Left to criticise everything from the West – except itself….his audience is primarily a comfortable Western audience…Chomsky’s account of the brainwashing of the dumb masses provides an excuse for failure,” Samantha Power in the New York Times grumbling that “Noam Chomsky is a global phenomenon…the appetite for Chomsky’s polemics is only increasing…”Hegemony or Survival” is a raging and often meandering assault on United States foreign policy and the elites who shape it…”Survival or Hegemony” is not easy to read. Chomsky’s glib and caustic tone is distracting….This is a thinker far too accustomed to preaching to an uncritical choir…reading Chomsky today is sobering and instructive for two reasons…Chomsky also denounces the dependence of foreign policy elites on special interests…Chomsky is wrong to think that individuals within the American government are not thinking seriously about the costs of alliances with repressive regimes.” It was also followed up by an interview on the topic in Democracy Now back in 2003. It is also on the Internet Archive currently.

[5] Jeffrey Kofman, “Tension, Then Surprise, Chavez Loses Reform Vote,” ABC News, Dec 3, 2007; Jens Erik Gould, “Why Venezuelans Turned on Chavez,” Time, Dec. 3, 2007; “Understanding constitutional reform in Venezuela (a background),” Sandhaanu.com, Nov 13, 2007; “Q&A: Venezuela’s referendum,” BBC News, Nov 30, 2007; “Venezuela lawmakers back reforms,” BBC News, Aug 22, 2007; “Venezuela assembly passes reforms,” BBC News, Nov 2, 2007; “US hails Chavez referendum defeat,” BBC News, Dec 3, 2007; “The wind goes out of the revolution,” The Economist, Dec 6, 2007; Antonio Fabrizio, “Gay rights were part of rejected Venezuelan referendum,” PinkNews, Dec 4, 2007; “Chavez urges reform for Venezuela,” BBC News, Dec 1, 2007.

[6] Frank Jack Daniel, “Venezuela’s Chavez reshuffles cabinet after defeat,” Reuters, Jan 3, 2008.

[7] “Chavez wins chance of fresh term,” BBC News, Feb 16, 2009; Mark Weisbrot, “Venezuela, an imaginary threat,” The Guardian, Feb 18, 2009 (quotes from Univision interview); Reuters Staff, “Chavez to Obama: I’d vote for you, and you for me,” Reuters, Sept 30, 2012; Howard LaFranchi, “Is Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez sincere in endorsing Obama?,” Christian Science Monitor, Oct 2, 2012; “Chavez: Obama meddles in Venezuela term-limit vote,” Sioux City Journal (reprinted from AP), Jan 18, 2009; Tom Phillips, “Hugo Chávez says Obama is ‘a clown and an embarrassment’,” The Guardian, Dec 20, 2011; “Veneconomy: Venezuela Chavez’ Doubly Illegal and Unconstitutional Amendment,” Latin American Herald Tribune, 2009; “U.S. Embassy Head Denies Plotting With Opposition in Venezuela,” Latin American Herald Tribune, 2009; “US welcomes Venezuela’s term vote,” BBC News, Feb 17, 2009; “Venezuela ousts EU politician for insulting Chavez,” CNN, Feb 14, 2009.

[8] Yolanda Valery, “El marxismo según Chávez,” BBC Mundo, 23 enero 2010 (translated into English paragraph by paragraph by Google Translate); “Chávez afirma que es “marxista” pero reconoce que todavía no ha leído “El Capital”,” Noticias 24, 15 enero 2010 (translated into English by http://www.online-translator.com/), “Chavez se declara marxista,” ABC, May 5, 2010 (translated into English by http://www.online-translator.com/), “Chávez se declara marxista en un mensaje ante el Congreso,” Clarin Noticas, Jan 16, 2010 (translated into English by http://www.online-translator.com/).

[9] The translated text is here, and the original Spanish language is here.

[10] The Spanish language transcription in the Popular Tribune is here, and the translated version of the text is here.

[11] The translated text is here and the Spanish language original is here. For the next sentence see: María Gabriela Díaz, “North Korean Embassy in Venezuela Signals Two Peas in a Pod,” PanAM Post, Jun 26, 2014. For the next sentence, after that, the translated text is here and the Spanish language original is here.

[12] JC Finley, “North Korea to open embassy in Venezuela,” UPI, Jun 25, 2014; María Gabriela Díaz, “North Korean Embassy in Venezuela Signals Two Peas in a Pod,” PanAM Post, Jun 26, 2014.

[13] The Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[14] For the sentence the footnote is on, the Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here. For the next sentence, the translated version is here, and the Spanish language version is here.

[15] The Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[16] The Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[17] The Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[18] The Spanish language versions of these articles are here and here, and the translated versions are here and here.

[19] The Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[20] The Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[21] The Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[22] The Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[23] Oliver Stuekel, “Why Venezuela will not look like Cuba (or North Korea),” Post-Western World, Aug 11, 2017. In the next sentence, the Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[24] Donna Borak, “Tax reform, North Korea top U.S. agenda at IMF/World Bank meetings,” CNN, Oct 12, 2017; Sabrina Martin, “Venezuela Looks to Save Its Economy By Mimicking Communist Ally North Korea,” PanAm Post, Nov 30, 2017. This paragraph also uses articles from Spanish language sources (here, here, here, and here) which have been translated (here, here, here, and here).

[25] Michael W. Chapman, “Ranked Worst for Economic Freedom: North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Congo, Eritrea, Zimbabwe,” CNSNews.com, Jan 12, 2018. In this paragraph, articles from a Spanish language source, which has been translated, is used.

[26] “Diosdado Cabello met with Ambassador of Korea of the North in Caracas,” El Nacional (translated), Feb 1, 2018; KCNA, “Blessings sent to Venezuelan Party,” Pyongyang Times, Mar 10, 2018; “North Korea supports Venezuela in its anti-imperialist struggle,” khabarkhat News Aggregator Agency, Mar 11 2018. In this paragraph, articles from a Spanish language source, which has been translated, is used.

[27] Patrick Iber, “The South Is Our North,” Jacobin, May 2017.

[28] Ariel Sheen, “TeleSUR English: Surface Level Website Analysis,” Feb 13, 2018.

“Take your Thorazine”: The social democratic 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.

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, “from my research on the subject, that Syria is socially democratic…and with a vibrant democracy.” In August of last year I expanded on this topic, citing Gowans as a starting point for analysis:

…the US wants to overthrow Syria’s duly-elected government, the government a secular, socially democratic state…Bashar Al-Assad hasn’t integrated the Syrian economy into the “US-superintended economy,” while possessing principles of “Arab socialism,” anti-imperialism, and anti-Zionism…[with] Syria’s support of the Palestinian liberation movement and Hezbollah…since the 1960s the US had tried to undermine Syria…Like Iran, Syria has a national bourgeoisie. Stephen Gowans can say that Syria is a socialist state, saying that they follow the confines of “Arab socialism.” While you could argue, like Gowans that that this is correct, more realistically, the state is socially democratic and secular. Hence, they have a national bourgeoisie. But, they are dedicated to progressive principles (anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist for example) and independence from Western influence. As a result, the Syrian leadership courts the Russian capitalists, along with those of other friendly countries like socialist Cuba, so that they can build their economy…In the case of Syria, unlike Iran, they do not desire normalization with the West at this time but rather seek to build alliances…still, they are affected by competition among capitalists…Iran, Syria, and Russia…each…has a national bourgeoisie.

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 socially democratic and secular 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 socially democratic and secular or it is socialist?

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 secular, 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.

From this, you could say that Cuba and People’s Korea are in the first stage of communism, working to move forward to improve their existing socialism as they are limited through the continuance of international capitalism, meaning that they cannot be “mature economically and entirely free from traditions or vestiges of capitalism.” 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. 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, Stephen Gowans, a leftist writer I profoundly respect (unlike that horrid individual, Louis Proyect), 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 Soviet socialism, Cuban socialism, Korean socialism, East German socialism, or the ideas espoused by socialist figures like comrades 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 neoliberal 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. As a recent article in Worker’s World, on the events in Tunisia, pointed out, the IMF “only gives loans with draconian conditions. The most common are cutbacks of social programs and raising taxes to cut budget deficits — in other words, harsh austerity.” It seems that the latter did not happen in Syria, but the 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.” 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 Soviets, 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 Soviets 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.” 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 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 democratic 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. [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, 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). 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 People’s Korea 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 and independent from Western influence even as 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 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, sees itself as part of a progressive front. In December 2016 they argued that

…Syria had to request help from the Russian Federation. Moscow provided Syria with the support it needed to resist this barbarous aggression. The Russian help confused the western government and the regional reactionary regimes of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia…Syria will continue her struggle in defense of the Syrian people and to free the whole Syrian soil from aggressors…International law does not allow any county to interfere in the internal affairs of any other country, which is what the terrorists and their supporters do in Syria. Demanding President Assad step down is an affair to be decided only by the Syrian people…it is the duty of all progressive forces of the world to supported the brave resistance of the Iraqi and Syrian peoples against the international terrorist aggressors…Syrians have proven, throughout years of imperialist aggression, their patriotism and determination to hold on to democratic, progressive and independent life. At the same time the Syrian people support the political solution of the crisis.

This statement was addressed to the International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties that year, to which the party has somewhat attended in the past. A few years back, in 2011, the same party criticized the consequences of “Syria’s turn toward a free market economy” and put forward, in working “with other Syrian parties, the Syrian national opposition forces, and various currents of civil society” a proposal for  “a conference for national dialogue.” This same party, or maybe the other one, demonstrated against deployment of 150 US troops in Syria over 2 years ago. We still know for sure that the Syrian Communist Party (Unified) met in the Damascus General Sports Federation building in 20102, discussing political, economic and social factors facing Syria, with the party Secretary-General, Hannin Nimr, asserting that “the Syrian people, who strive for a political solution, will continue using all means to fight terrorism and restore security to all Syrian areas” and saying that the main task at the present is “to defend the homeland and continue eliminating terrorism.”

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. Seemingly, Moscow supported the Bakdash faction at least for a time.

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 People’s Korea, 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 mean the country doesn’t have 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

The Revolutionary youth branch of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) created the above graphic in August 2013, an expression of genuine solidarity leading some to dub those with such a position “Assadists” which shows how little they understand about resistance to imperialism. Proyect is one of these people, disgustingly smearing the late dedicated journalist Robert Perry of Consortium News, for being an “Assadist propagandist” and only liking Perry before 2011, when he started challenging the narrative that Assad was a dictator, which makes Proyect swell up with anger, the same person who hates People’s Korea, and has intellectual foundation in Trotskyism (although he is not a Trotskyist now), showing that the origin of his deluded “leftist” commentary is in  anti-revolutionary thinking.

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 U$ imperial pawns, the YPG and the so-called “revolutionary” Kurds, 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 the Kurds are angry their imperial patrons aren’t protecting them (perhaps because the empire sees more value in an alliance with Turkey?). They detest the 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 the 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. Perhaps the PSL’s Liberation News has a point in saying that “the U.S. government has absolutely no concern for the well being of the Kurdish people” and that “betrayal of its Kurdish allies by U.S. imperialism is certainly no small possibility. However, as I recently pointed out on Reddit,

….the Rojava/YPG/Kurdish Workers Party are pawns of U$ imperialists, 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 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 evidently also the case in Iran and Zimbabwe as well, along with being likely the case in Belarus and some other progressive countries (not in Cuba and People’s Korea of course), which will be investigated at a later date. 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.

Criticizing Ta Nehisi Coates

coates quote

Of our day, Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the most pre-eminent intellectuals, writing for the often horrid Atlantic magazine owned by Atlantic Media’s Howard Kurtz, a neocon guy who was “dead certain about the rightness” of the 2003 Iraq invasion. I’ve been in classes where professors have praised him as the best thing since sliced bread. Admittedly, I even skipped a class session because I didn’t want to read Coates’s Case for Reparations again without critically analyzing it. As Mariame Kaba, who uses the handle @prisonculture, declared on twitter recently about an article Coates wrote about Sanders “…When people bother to offer principled critique, it means there’s something they think is worth engaging. So smart supporters would take that seriously & interrogate the claims being made without becoming defensive.” This article does not criticize Kaba with her own words, which is for another day, but fulfills my promise and aims to start the criticism of Coates, which is currently lacking in public discourse .

Beginning the conversation

It is good to begin with a revealing short piece by Coates in the style magazine New York. The piece starts with a praise of the Washington City Paper for its reporting, saying it “was very confrontational and aggressive, and there’d be this mix of history and cultural criticism and first person and journalism.” He then goes on to claim he was mature, cared about his writing and his awareness of race, but also his professionalism:

“…I went in, and I tried to dress as best as I could. And that was not very dressy, but it was okay. I think I had a pair of nice pants, and I remember I had a leather jacket on — I didn’t have like a normal blazer, so I had a leather jacket on — and my little tie. There were no black people in the office. Like none. This is immediately the whitest place I had ever been in my life. Right away. So I get in and culturally, you know, it’s like a different world. I’m looking at these folks, and they’re not even professional, or corporate, like what you see in the movies or on TV. You know, these are like alternative white people, and I had no exposure to alternative white people, like none”

While this seems to show his class blindness, but shows “racial awareness,” the next part is even clearer. He writes that he didn’t think he could write a story about a part of Washington D.C., Ward 8, which he claimed had “a reputation as a really poor area of the city, but nestled within there was this neighborhood of Hillcrest that was very middle class, very working class, very nice” which couldn’t “get services.” What was his reason? “I didn’t think I was that type of person.” Yikes! This leads to a bunch of questions: What type of person was he then? A “bougie” person? Is he the same now but with a different mask on? He then goes on to imply that he is the person who “asks questions”:

“Someone else might be more curious than you, but the functionality of them being more curious than you is that they just asked more questions. That was a deep sort of lesson — that the winner is the person who keeps asking questions. That’s the winner.”

This attitude is not surprising for someone who was likely praised in a one page splash (which you can’t read from the picture) in the Japanese-owned British business publication, the Financial Times. This connects to a recent article about Coates in CounterPunch by Paul Street which a biting and appropriate criticism. The piece argues first and foremost that Coates focuses on race but ignores class. A number of selected quotes are important to mention here:

“I take Coates at his word when he claims not to crave elite class identity and to be more concerned with things, not status. At the same time, I think there’s something else worse to be than “bougie”: bourgeois. And what makes one bourgeois is one’s material and social class position and one’s mental and ideological framework, things that go beyond one’s fondness (or lack thereof) for fine goods and service and one’s quest (or lack thereof) for station. Among other things, a bourgeois world view denies the central importance of class oppression and the need for working class unity and struggle across racial and other lines. Seen this way, I sense that the word bourgeois applies fairly well to Ta-Nehisi Coates. The economic aspect is obvious. He’s moved his family to Paris, with help from a recent $625,000 no-strings-attached “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation. His book royalties are no doubt impressive. No, he’s not remotely as rich as world’s 80 wealthiest people…Still, the man is well off…More importantly and far more significantly for the purposes of this essay, why does Coates devalue the “the question [of] whether Lincoln truly meant government of the people?”…The problem here is Coates’ remarkably class-blind, overly identity-politicized bourgeois thinking and his related ignorance of the history of class relations and their centrality to the crucial problem that quite understandably concerns him: racial oppression…What’s all this “class stuff” got to do with the vital topic on which the award-winning writings of Ta-Nehisi Coates focus – racial oppression and racist violence in America? Quite a bit, to say the least…All through American history, moreover…the nation’s capitalist elites have played the Machiavellian game of racial divide and rule to keep the nation’s working class majority down…Coates demonstrates no concern for an essential point: the white working class majority has paid a terrible price for American racism. The wages of whiteness have been very low indeed. And that makes his reflections on contemporary U.S. racial oppression racism and what might be done about it miserably partial and inadequate. He does not see or, perhaps, care that reparations of a kind are due to most of the populace and will have to be pursed through democratic-socialist transformation…I am not sure how well Coates understands contemporary racism even on his own cynical and/or impoverished class-blind terms. Coates’ emphasis on the racial positive…of the disastrous…neoliberal Obama experience at the end of the day is related to his bourgeois position and bubble…not to mention the corporate media, including a regular literary pulpit at the conservative and neoliberal Atlantic. His bourgeois experience and mindset can’t help but bias him towards a positive judgement on the racial meaning of the Obama years.”

Not only does Street’s analysis spot-on but it is telling about Coates. It seems from his description that Coates is a privileged, “bougie” individual who ultimately has a bourgeois position in seclusion in France and defends the Obama administration but is not a petite bourgeoisie individual, unless his writing counts as “labor power,” and is not part of the bourgeoisie proper. Yet, but not analyzing class he is perpetrating bourgeois nationalism.

Coates misses the boat on Sanders

Coates recently wrote an article which supposedly criticizes moderate imperialist Bernie Sanders for rejecting reparations but actually accepts the idea Sanders is radical, which makes no sense to any sensible observer. He declares that Sanders, who calls for investment in rebuilding cities and making colleges and universities have free tuition, among other ideas, is ridiculous, saying this spectacle, as he calls it, “is only rivaled by the implausibility of Sanders posing as a pragmatist.” He then dismisses Sanders’s ideas as ridiculous ones that would never pass Congress, falling into the idea that there can ONLY be the “politics of the possible.” From here, Coates then says Sanders is “the candidate of partisanship and radicalism” not the “candidate of moderation and unification.” Additionally, he claims that “radicals expand the political imagination and, hopefully, prevent incrementalism from becoming a virtue” despite the fact that neither Sanders nor himself is NOT radical in the slightest. He goes on to claim that “Sanders’s radicalism has failed in the ancient fight against white supremacy” and almost if not, implies that Hillary Clinton has better approach, which is ridiculous. Coates then declares that what he calls the “class first” approach is wrong, “originating in the myth that racism and socialism are necessarily incompatible” and implying that raising the minimum wage and making college free are “socialist” proposals when they are NOT at all. In fact, even Obama at one point sorta proposed making community college free. Such ideas are NOT radical but are actually mainstream. Coates is basically saying that socialists don’t understand race which is just ridiculous and unfounded. Coates then goes on to complain that housing discrimination and affirmative action are not addressed in the ““racial justice” section of Sanders platform.” I’m not sure what Coates expects of a moderate imperialist who comes from one of the whitest states in America, which could be an example of what some have called a whitopia. So, no wonder he is horrible when it comes to policies supposedly for improving the state of the black community.

Coates then claims that Sanders is a “candidate who is not merely against reparations, but one who doesn’t actually understand the argument.” Oh and Hillary Clinton does? Come on. He goes on to say that “from 1619 until at least the late 1960s, American institutions, businesses, associations, and government…repeatedly plundered black communities,” which is accurate. However, class is STILL not mentioned. If this isn’t enough, Coates says that “Sanders should be directly confronted and asked why his political imagination is so active against plutocracy, but so limited against white supremacy” despite the fact they he was already confronted with by two black female protesters months ago who interrupted a rally in Seattle. Coates then goes on to claim that if “if not even an avowed socialist can be bothered to grapple with reparations…if this is the candidate of the radical left—then expect white supremacy in America to endure well beyond our lifetimes and lifetimes of our children.” He is not only wrong that Sanders is part of the radical left but he is not recognizing that underground/”hidden” racism exists in Western societies, like the United States, and that as long as there are active white supremacists, like the militia members in Oregon, then such white supremacy will continue as a part of society. He then claims that reparations is the only way to fight white supremacy:

“It is the indispensable tool against white supremacy. One cannot propose to plunder a people, incur a moral and monetary debt, propose to never pay it back, and then claim to be seriously engaging in the fight against white supremacy.”

While one could say that is rational, in the last lines of this article he inflates his ego to ridiculous proportions as any sensible person would realize:

“My hope was to talk to Sanders directly, before writing this article. I reached out repeatedly to his campaign over the past three days. The Sanders campaign did not respond.”

Not only is Coates acting like the Sanders campaign doesn’t care and is callous but he is showcasing his supposed self-importance, which doesn’t actually exist.

Then there was an article in the right-leaning The Week promoted by Rania Khalek as a “corrective” to Coates by Ryan Cooper, a correspondent who falsely claimed that Sanders was “pretty far to Clinton’s left,” promotes The Intercept (also see here), and was, and I quote, “a die-hard Obama partisan for a solid year [after the 2008 election]…[I] would have done whatever he asked[.]” That comment by Cooper doesn’t sound very democratic, it sounds pretty authoritarian. But that’s me.

Anyway, its important to talk about Cooper’s article. He writes that Coates, who he claimed is “perhaps the most famous and respected black writer in America” took Sanders to task for “failing to support reparations for slavery” but also claimed that it was a chance for Sanders to “clarify the deep reach of his brand of redistributive policy” and a chance “for Coates to reconsider his rather hasty dismissal of socialism itself.” These ideas presume once again that Sanders is radical when he is not and that Coates is receptive to socialism when he is clearly NOT. Cooper pointed out, as those such as Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report have noted, that Coates doesn’t actually define “what reparations would look like” and in his “case for reparations” article two years ago he “barely even gestured at how an actual reparations policy would be constructed,” with no clarifications since. Cooper then goes into different figures for reparations and claims that slavery is “a crime so vast that it would be impossible to provide restitution of similar magnitude without dismantling the entire country,” implying it is impossible and that others who were oppressed would get reparations. This seems a bit far-fetched considering that Japanese-Americans already received reparations for the racist crime of internment during World War II. Beyond this, Cooper says that it is a problem for Coates to use “Sanders as a stand-in for the radical left” since Sanders’s “favored policies are right in line with the Democratic Party’s progressive wing.” He also says that a “true program of democratic socialism…could unquestionably serve as a part of an ongoing positive force against racism” and would “ensure that black Americans are getting an equal cut of its current fruits,” which sounds like something that Sanders would say on the campaign trail. Cooper ends his article by saying that Sanders shouldn’t have “lightly brushed off reparations as a topic” but that his proposal was “far better than Coates gives it credit for” and that “race-neutral redistribution and welfare are by necessity anti-racist. Full democratic socialism would be even more promising.” While this sounds great, the fact is that Cooper doesn’t seem like much of a radical himself even if he self-identifies as such, like Sanders himself.

A much better article criticizing Coates is by Bruce Dixon in Black Agenda Report. He not only sarcastically says that Coates “lives in France, and earns his keep dispensing timely wisdom upon us all from across the water” but says that since his 2014 piece, “Coates is presumably qualified to speak on the subject.” But that’s not all. Dixon criticizes Coates for not mentioning Clinton’s anti-reparations views, “that the Green Party’s presidential candidate Jill Stein does endorse reparations,” and says Coates’s piece is hallow. He goes on to say that by Coates repeating “nonsense claims that that socialists can’t see white supremacy” will discourage blacks from interest in socialism. Dixon then helpfully says that Coates’s “weekly dose of disinformation” comes in three parts: “[1.] stay away from Bernie cause he ain’t for reparations…[2.] look out for those socialists too, cause they make a point of ignoring and denying the role of white supremacy…[3.] Bernie Sanders didn’t return my call to explain himself” which he says is “pretty lazy stuff” even for “conventional neoliberal wisdom.” Then Dixon has perhaps the best words of his piece, saying that not only is Sanders not a socialist but that Coates is totally wrong:

“In the real world, not the fantasies of Mr. Coates, Bernie Sanders is no kind of socialist. Socialists stand for the working class, the poor, the common man and woman regardless of nation and color. Bernie’s socialism stops at the water’s edge, as he endorses apartheid in Israel, the Pentagon budget and the global empire of hundreds US bases and vast military industries that eat half the nation’s wealth annually. This makes Bernie no friend of the poor anyplace outside the US and not so much the friend of the poor inside it either, really no kind of socialist at all. Bernie know this, and has rarely if ever called himself one in recent years. But he allows, even encourages us to call him that this year because socialism is popular, even though Ta Nehesi Coates thinks it should not be. As long as they keep paying Mr. Coates, we’ll be treated to more of his very conventional wisdom. Get read for it.”

Coates’s sad defense of himself and racial castes

In a recent article, Coates basically attacked those who criticized him on his article about reparations, but didn’t mention Black Agenda Report of course. He claims that he “did offer some details on the proposals which have been put forth by scholars over the years” and supported “John Conyers’s H.R. 40 bill, which proposed to study slavery and its legacy, and to determine whether reparations were feasible.” From here, Coates claimed that “this did not stop people from demanding specifics,” especially from those who don’t believe in it, that his case for reparations was centered on “actual living African Americans who’d been wronged, well within living memory,” and that a vast majority of white America “opposed reparations in all forms” in a 2014 poll. Coates then flouts his self-importance again, saying his article, “The Case For Reparations” meant to “counter” such ideas and that “curious” readers are willing to agree with him, apparently.

This isn’t all Coates writes. He criticizes Kevin Drum, a writer for Mother Jones, and declares that unlike Drum, who says that “problem with the bringing pirates to justice is the distribution system,” he believes that “the problem is piracy itself, and grand piracy always extends beyond the act of theft. It requires the construction of an elaborate architecture to either justify the theft, or to justify non-compensation for the theft.” Before going on, this indicates that Coates cares about the effects of racism, but not institutionalized racism which is a vital part of the American and global capitalist system. Coates then says that considering reparations has a “potential to expand the American political imagination” and claims that he wants people to imagine more, implying that socialism is just a wacko conception concocted by crazies:

“And in this sense the conversation ends right where it began: Liberals and radicals see no problem imagining a socialist presidency. They do not demand specific details of how single-payer health care, free public-college tuition, and the break-up of big banks would make it through a Republican Congress. They are not wrong. God bless them and their radical imagination. I mean it. I just want them to imagine more.”

Let me add here that I will not take a position for or against reparations. I need more information before deciding either way. However, it is important to point out Coates’s arguments in order to engender futrher discussion.

At this point, it is key to introduce a term proposed by social historian Peter Levy in his wonderful book about civil rights activities in Cambridge, Maryland during the 1960s and beyond, called Civil War on Race Street. This term is racial caste. Levy writes on page 11, in the first chapter, the following:

“[During the pre-Civil War period,] Cambridge developed into a racially caste-based society, with whites acquiring a sense of caste superiority over both enslaved and free blacks. I use the term caste rather than simply race because caste better captures the way in which individuals are born with a specific status in society, a status they inherit and cannot alter no matter their individual merits…[in the post-Civil War period]…caste did not disappear…[but] class distinctions became just as important in the life of the community. The term class is best understood as depicting socioeconomic relationships between distinct groups of people. Theoretically, one’s class, unlike one’s caste, can change, and the line between working class and middle class remained family permeable…[in the post-WWII period]…an assortment of forces…destabilized the community and paved a way for a challenging of traditional caste and class relations”

I mention this because the term racial caste can be used in the modern American context and can serve as a corrective to Coates’s purportedly “racially aware” but class-blind analysis of current racial relations. It is also important to challenge Coates’s idea and that perpetrated by too many: the black-white paradigm which presupposes that blacks and whites are the ONLY major races in America. In fact, the US Census declares that there are at least five races: (1) White; (2) Black; (3) American Indian and Alaska Native (overarching category); (4) Asian (overarching category); (5) Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (overarching category). Then there’s Hispanic and Latino, ethnic group labels produced to benefit certain constituencies but hurt radical efforts of unification during the 1960s and 1970s, with millions under that category. At minimum, this could be expanded to include three other groups which are arguably races: Mexican (also called Chicano, bronze race, or Mexican-Americam), Puerto Rican, and Cuban.

Coates praises Obama as a wonderous icon

There are a number of pieces in which Coates praised Obama, despite what some crusty defender, a supposed radical, claimed. I noted these in a number of tweets where I screencaped pieces of this nature (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). These pieces are not surprising when you consider that Coates is high level enough to be read by Obama, who seems to recognize his importance to the bourgeoisie.

The first article worth mentioning is a 2007 piece titled “Is Obama Black Enough?” In the piece, Coates almost seemed disappointed that Obama would not call for reparations but he also declared that “Obama is biracial, and has a direct connection with Africa. He is articulate, young and handsome,” implying his support. Beyond this, Coates said that Obama’s biracialness “opened a gap for others to question his authenticity as a black man” but that his “foreign ancestry could not prevent his wallet from morphing into a gun in the eyes of the police.” Coates then declared that “African-Americans meet other intelligent, articulate African-Americans all the time” who run for elections, and then declared strangely that “Obamania is rooted in the belief that 50 Cent, not Barack Obama, represents the real black America.” This also denies that the black community has a rich history and implies it is dominated by commercialism and/or is hallow. If that wasn’t enough, Coates implicitly defended Obama’s work as a “community organizer” in Chicago and that claimed that Obama was not only given”the escape valve of biraciality” but unnerves “many small-minded racists,” who he claims can be white or black. Before going further, this means he is saying, whether he wants to, that “reverse racism” is real and that racism isn’t a system of oppression. Anyway, the last line of the article is most telling: “Barack Obama’s real problem isn’t that he’s too white — it’s that he’s too black.” This observation is a bit odd but also goes along with the rest of the article by whitewashing Obama’s neoliberalism and/or the PR aspect of the Obama campaign itself.

Then, there’s a 2014 article titled “The Champion Barack Obama.” The article praises Obama as one of the best icons based off a profile in The New Yorker by David Remnick. What he wrote is revealing:

“I have tried to get my head around what he represents. Two years ago, I would have said that whatever America’s roots in white supremacy, the election of a black president is a real thing, worthy of celebration, a sign of actual progress. I would have pointed out that you should not expect a black head of state in any other Western country any time soon, and that this stands as singular accolade in the long American democratic tradition. Today, I’m less certain about national accolades. I’m not really sure that a writer—whose whole task is the attempt to see clearly—can afford such attachments.”

The fact that Coates is admitting he would have been more of an Obamabot only two years before, in 2012, is disturbing. Even considering my own experience, I was critical of Obama in a number of ways by then. I think it is important to make an admission here. I canvassed for Obama in Philadelphia with my liberal/progressive parents during the 2008 election and was optimistic about him despite my support of John Edwards about the “two Americas” (poor and rich). Let me say before someone jumps on me that, I was highly naive (and politically ignorant) about the particularities of politics and the capitalist system. Not anymore! As the years went by, my support of Obama slipped away as I became disillusioned. My criticism started early on, with critical articles even in 2010, it increased in 2011 with my anger at him for supporting an imperialist war in Libya after which I dedicated myself to opposing an future imperial interventions, and in 2012 the criticism hardened, even voting for a socialist for president that year. Then, while I’ve been in college, from 2012 to the present my radicalism and anger at Obama has increased to the point that I detest him. I refuse to be pulled into such a deception like the 2008 Obama campaign and want to serve as a person who counters anyone who tries to peddle such bullshit again. While I transformed from a naive liberal to a critical progressive and then an independent radical, Coates DID NOT do this.

Anyway, back to Coates’s piece. He claims that if you say that blacks are American then “America is, itself, a black country in a way that the other European countries are not,” however, this is a strange idea because America has NEVER been a black country but has actually been a multiracial one, a white-dominated one since its inception. Coates goes on to tell about some history here and there which he clearly cherypicked for his own purposes. If this isn’t enough, Coates claims that Obama and his family are an icon of goodness with his presidency was possible because of “the tradition of black politics”:

“In a literal sense, Barack Obama’s presidency was made possible by the tradition of black politics—he could not have won in 2008 without the proportional allocation that came out of Jesse Jackson’s campaign 20 years before…Barack Obama was not prophecy. Whatever had been laid before him, it takes gifted hands to operate, repeatedly, on a country scarred by white supremacy. The significance of the moment comes across, not simply in policy, by in the power of symbolism. I don’t expect, in my lifetime, to again see a black family with the sheer beauty of Obama’s on such a prominent stage….I don’t expect to see a black woman [Michelle Obama] exuding the kind of humanity you see here on such a prominent stage ever again….I don’t ever expect to see a black man of such agile intelligence as the current president put before the American public ever again.”

 

 

While many radical critics and sensible people were aware of Obama’s deceptions at this time, or even his imperialistic and neoliberal policy, Coates still claims that this symbolism is important, not understanding how it can be destructive. Coates then claims that Obama as a result of such symbolism “becomes a champion of black imagination, of black dreams and black possibilities” which is deeply scary if you believe. I even think that Cornel West would concur with my assessment of Coates. Coates then asks a number of goofy questions, one of which is “how does a black writer approach The Man when The Man is not just us, but the Champion of our ambitions?” and NEVER asserts that the color of someone’s skin, and perception of them due to their skin color, shouldn’t determine how much one criticizes them.

Coates continues on by acting like he is criticizing Obama for “addressing “personal responsibility” and then gives three examples to “prove” that W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and Malcolm X are “wrong.” For Malcolm X, he claims “he knew the game was rigged. He did not know how much.” This is just absurd and ridiculous. While one could criticize Malcolm X for his masculinism as scholars like Steve Estes have done, Coates doesn’t even attempt any real criticism other than a snide remark. Then, Coates claims that that “no black people boo when the president talks about personal responsibility. On the contrary, it’s often the highlight of his speeches on race” which IGNORES the criticisms on Black Agenda Report on this very issue! From here, Coates gives a personal story and defends Obama talking about personal responsibility:

“When Barack Obama steps into a room and attacks people for presumably using poverty or bigotry as an excuse to not parent, he is channeling a feeling deep in the heart of all black people, a frustration, a rage at ourselves for letting this happen, for allowing our community to descend into the basement of America, and dwell there seemingly forever.”

 

This contrasts starkly with what Glen Ford pointed out in a 2013 article on Black Agenda Report in words that still ring true today:

“To put it bluntly, the First Black President gave a very good standup impression of a racist white man…According to Obama, Black folks lost their way when “legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior.”…But, like any cheapwhite politician, Obama spews a mouthful of bile and then moves on to the next rant. Obama bemoans that, at some unspecified point in the Black struggle the “transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination.”…he must have been talking about Black militants of some sort. But he won’t say, preferring to leave his meaning to the audience’s imagination. Then Obama moved in for the big slap-down: “What had once been a call for equality of opportunity,” said Obama, “the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead, was too often framed as a mere desire for government support, as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself.” In that one, long sentence, Obama resurrects Ronald Reagan’s phantom armies of “Welfare Queens”; he appears to be taking a cheap swipe at calls for Black reparations…Obama puts the onus squarely on Blacks for destroying the promise of racial harmony…: “All of that history is how progress stalled. That’s how hope was diverted. It’s how our country remained divided.” That’s right: Obama blames Black people for messing up his America”

Coates goes back to praising Obama by saying that “there are many kinds of personal responsibility,” claiming that Obama should be responsible for giving Medcaid expansions to certain states under Obamacare (which was basically removed by the Supreme Court), “for the end of this era of mass incarceration” and destroying white supremacy despite the fact that the last two have NOT  happened. Coates then declares that Obama, the person who declared that American can kill and bomb who it wants in the world from time to time, is someone to be revered and is “rational”:

“And I struggle to get my head around all of this. There are moments when I hear the president speak and I am awed. No other resident of the White House, could have better explained to America what the George Zimmerman verdict meant. And I think history will remember that, and remember him for it. But I think history will also remember his unquestioning embrace of “twice as good” in a country that has always given black people, even under his watch, half as much.”

If any of his article is disgusting it would be this part. It just makes my stomach churn.

Ending on a good note

I could focus on two other articles by Coates, one on Bernie Sanders and another on Hillary Clinton. However I think I’ve written enough here worthy of analysis. I will say that some told me on the twitterverse that Obama reading Coates isn’t a surprise, that he has “echoed some awful anticom [anti-communist] agriprop,” and glad that someone was criticizing Coates. There are a number of points still worth noting. One of these is Coates’s relation with Daniel P. Moynihan. In a tweet from last fall referring to this articlehe declared that “Moynihan needs no rehab from me. Moynihan’s view won. It was Clinton’s view. it’s Obama’s view.” This relates with what RedKahina argued around the same time: “Coates is perfectly Zizekian, indeed a rearticulation of Moynihan, with “Obviously I’m not racist, but…” appended.”

In order to show how problematic this is, it is important to explain a little about Moynihan, then Assistant Secretary of Labor for Policy Planning and Research, and his 1965 report as noted in Estes’s book, I Am a Man!. In the book, Estes writes that President LBJ first included Moynihan’s arguments in a speech which was praised by civil rights leaders but later led to media controversy (pp. 107). In the report, Moynihan said the government had “a responsibility to provide equal result in jobs, housing, and education” which sounds good except that he emphasized a “crumbling” black family structure among the poor, focused on “systematic weakening of the position of the Negro male” in US society, and believed that black family breakdown was “the principal cause” of delinquency and urban violence in poor black communities, often called ghettoes (pp. 107-8). Additionally, the report had recommendations such as a welfare allowance for families with both parents present, full employment for black men if even some females have to be displaced, more opportunities for black males to serve in the armed forces, and “wider public dissemination of birth control materials” (pp. 108). While some of these proposals may seem attractive to readers, it is important to recognize that the report was a way to counter “obstacles to black manhood” in America, counter supposed “welfare dependency,” and accepted black male patriarchal domination of the family (pp. 108). Estes’s later comments make Moynihan’s report seem even worse. He points out that the report claimed that black men suffered more from racism “than black women,” and that strains on black families created “a tangle of pathology” with examples such as a matriarchal family structure (i.e. black women controlling the household) which he claimed was “so out of line with the rest of American society [that it] seriously retards the progress of the group as a whole” and imposes “crushing” burdens on black men and women (pp. 111-2). Moynihan also argued that a solution to black unemployment was more military recruitment, basically meaning he wanted more blacks, and other minorities, to die in service of the imperialist war machine (pp. 113, 124). As anyone of sense knows, the military should not be a job service for the poor and unfortunate. Still, even some, like Martin Luther King, Jr., endorsed the report, at least initially, saying almost laughably that black males existed in a patriarchal society but were “subordinate in a matriarchy” (pp. 119). I could go on and mention how people interpreted the report as a response to the Watts uprising when it wasn’t really intended that way and debates over other solutions to the condition of the black community. However, it is important to note that Moynihan believed that the answer to improving such a condition lay in “providing black men the economic foundation to exercise patriarchal power in their families and political power in society,” an argument which was seem as an effective “antipoverty policy” by the Johnson administration at the time (pp. 125, 128). All of these ideas matter because “Moynihan’s thesis about the importance of the family” gained a new life in “conservative circles” and was pushed by Republican leaders such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, allowing them to attack and stereotype black people (pp. 129).

While Moynihan is not necessarily responsible for this shift, the report itself is important to mention considering Coates’s interest in him. This “interest” includes some mild criticism, claiming that Moynihan wasn’t blaming black people, and mocking conservatives who like him. In none of his tweets, which are noted here, does Coates challenge the patriarchal assumptions of Moynihan’s report. This was even the case in a September 2015 article on this topic in which he declared that Moynihan was subjected to “unfair” criticism but admitted that “Moynihan’s central idea—that the problems of families are key to ending the problems of poverty—dominates the national discourse today.” In addition, Coates claims that “mass incarceration is built on a long history of viewing black people as unequal in general, and criminal in the specific,” which is true but IGNORES its connection to capitalism or as a form of social control. To his credit, Coates does criticize Moynihan for going along with Nixon’s racist assumptions about blacks and criminality but then he claims that “I almost had the sense that Moynihan was trying to trick Nixon into embracing liberal policy…Moynihan used the rhetoric of black criminalization, even in arguing for government aid.” Coates then jumps over the quote, as mentioned earlier, about displacing “some females” and offers no analysis despite the fact that this shows an ingrained patriarchal mindset. In the last paragraph of his piece Coates has a weird aura of respect for Moynihan which is deeply disturbing and words about mass incarceration which are weird to say the least:

“…[After researching for the past year] I came away with tremendous respect for his intelligence, his foresight and his broad, ranging curiosity…The story of mass incarceration, of American racism, is not simply a story of evil racists. It is also the story of people trying to help. And it is also the story of these same people not fully understanding the ugly traditions alive in their own country. Black criminalization is such a tradition and when Moynihan employed it he was playing with fire. Others got burned.”

I personally don’t know how people who helped put in place mass incarceration, whether they realized it or not, can be considered “people trying to help” the black community. That doesn’t even make sense.

Then, there is a 2010 article which disgraced celebrity left personality Shaun King, even criticized by another personality, a neoliberal egoist named Deray, referenced in deleted tweet, which I responded to at the time:

shaunkingdeletedtweet

In this article, Coates argued against reparations but also went even further. What he said has some implications of denying transatlantic slavery’s connections to capitalism, noted in books like Eric Williams’s famed book, Capitalism and Slavery, and violating the Africa continent (which some have called “raping”) as a whole:

“…The most notable aspect of Gates original PBS piece…is a kind of crude black nationalism in reverse. The crude nationalist asserts that slavery was a white racist plot…Gates implicitly asserts that in trading slaves, Africans somehow violated a common, fraternal “African” spirit…The crude nationalist and Gates come out blaming different people, but both commit the fallacy of judging the sins of the past via the racial tribalism of today…The vocabulary of blame is key–instead of speciously blaming  white Americans for the crimes of their presumed ancestors, Gates speciously blames Africans…Presumably blame is key for Gates because he wants to discuss reparations. Why reparations is relevant right now, and why Obama should involve himself in a discussion on the subject, is never actually explained…To put it differently, I am not concerned about gender equality because I think I’m to blame thousands of years of sexism, I’m concerned about  gender equality because it matches my moral center. Blame is irrelevant…I don’t support reparations, I support all people grappling with all aspects of American history…One of the few things I know is this–Blame is useless to me. Blame is for the dead.”

Yikes! This is utterly vile by not only perpetrating stereotypes about Africa (“racial tribalism” for example) but also acting like one can only deal with issues in the present but NOT have a historical basis or blame people for them happening. It is horrible. There really isn’t much else I can say.

To close out, I’d like to say that Club de Cordeliers has a number of resources, which he shared with me (and are noted in this search), in which he criticizes Coates. There isn’t a whole lot there, but what is there is sizable and of importance. I can assure readers I will look at these articles that Cordeliers highlighted in a future piece. For now, I can say is that this article is beginning a needed critique of an intellectual who gets too much slack from people who should know better.