“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 in 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.

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Is Dennis Rodman a comrade?: A study of “basketball diplomacy” and DPRK solidarity

From Rodman’s recent visit to the DPRK, he gave them Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal

Editor’s note: This piece was, four days after it was published here, published on anti-imperialism.org in an earlier format. I have also changed all the words of “baseball” to “basketball” as the editors there pointed out, something I wouldn’t have caught despite reading the piece over. The version below adds some content but the two versions are relatively similar and I stand by both articles. The one paragraph about anti-imperialism.org has been eliminated, as it has been published there now. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so hasty!

Every day, the people of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), derisively called “North Korea” in the West, is threatened or under attack. This was most recently on display in a hateful, bigoted, reactionary, and generally awful speech, to the UN General Assembly by Trump (called the orange menace in the rest of this article), accusing the DPRK of mass human rights violations, and threatening the world while he threatened the country and its leadership, which called “a band of criminals,” by declaring that in purported “self-defense,” the U.S. “will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea” and offensively calling Kim Jong-Un “Rocket Man,” a name due more to the orange menace’s obsessions than the Elton John song of the same name.If that isn’t enough, Muslim ban 3.0 includes the DPRK and Venezuela on the list, along with six other countries (Iran, Somalia, Chad, Libya, Syria, and Yemen), with increased restrictions on those from Venezuela and Iran specifically, which are predominantly Muslim.

The speech (similar to what Obama would have said), in which the orange menace outlined his “axis of evil” (DPRK, Iran, Syria, Cuba (implied), and Venezuela), was panned by drone-loving imperialist Dianne Feinstein, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, Col. Larry Wilkerson (in a sense), Richard Haass of the elitist Council of Foreign Relations, Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Daniel Larison in The American Conservative, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani who described the orange menace as a “rogue newcomer…to the world of politics,” Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, Rep. Ted Lieu of California, and Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, along with worries from the elected leaders of Britain and France. [1] However, it was embraced by the hard-core Zionist President of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, who declared that he had “never heard a bolder or more courageous speech” in 30 years, conservative commentator Katie Pavilich who said that “it’s a new rhetorical day at the U.N. The next step is action toward real change and results,” and CIA propagandist David Ignatius who called the speech “conventional” even as he describes the orange menace as the “Great Disrupter.” Also, Rep. Ron DeSantis of Florida, Bret Baier of “Fox News,” former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, the orange menace’s cheerleader in the UK, Nigel Farage, Ivanka Trump, and North Carolina evangelist Franklin Graham, praised the speech, a typical show of support. After all, the speech was reportedly written by an ally of white nationalism, Stephen Miller, making sense it would get “cheers from the president’s xenophobic base.” All of this makes it no surprise that the envoy to the DPRK left “the room before Trump took to the podium and made more threats against Pyongyang,” since the orange menace rejected the possibility of an “Iran-style deal” with the DPRK, even supported by one GOP representative. Lest us forget, however, that both parties in the US “support militarism” because they “support the interests of the oligarchy” which is interested in “maintaining the empire.” Kim Jong-Un responded to Trump’s diatribe in a statement that the co-editor of Dissident Voice (usually anti-imperialist and strongly alternative to the bourgeois media) Kim Peterson grumbled about as “raising” tensions. The statement, which was carried in a KCNA article on September 22nd titled “Statement of Chairman of State Affairs Commission of DPRK” and referenced in another titled “Kim Jong Un Makes Statement” is strongly anti-imperialist and shows how the DPRK is standing up to US aggression:

The speech made by the U.S. Chief Executive in his maiden appearance on the UN arena in the prevailing serious circumstances, in which the situation on the Korean peninsula has been rendered tense as never before and is inching closer to a touch-and-go state, is arousing worldwide concern.  A certain degree of my guess was that he would make stereo-typed, prepared remarks a little different from what he used to utter in his office on the spur of the moment as he had to speak on the world’s largest official diplomatic stage.  But, far from making somewhat plausible remarks that can be helpful to defusing tension, he made unprecedented rude nonsense one has never heard from any of his predecessors. A frightened dog barks louder. I would like to advise Trump to exercise prudence in selecting words and to be considerate of whom he speaks to when making a speech in front of the world.  The mentally deranged behavior of the U.S. president openly expressing on the UN arena the unethical will to “totally destroy” a sovereign state, beyond the boundary of threats of regime change or overturn of social system, makes even those with normal thinking faculty reconsider discretion and composure.  His remarks remind me of such words as “political layman” and “political heretic” which were in vogue in reference to Trump during his presidential election campaign. After taking office Trump has rendered the world restless through threats and blackmail against all countries. He is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of the military forces of a country, and he is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician.  His remarks which described the U.S. option through straightforward expression of his will have convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last. Now that Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of war in history that he would destroy the DPRK, we will consider with seriousness taking a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history. Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wants to say. As a man representing the DPRK and upon the dignity and honor of my state and people and upon all my own, I will make the man holding the prerogative of supreme command of the U.S. pay dearly for his rude nonsense calling for totally destroying the DPRK.  This is not a rhetorical expression loved by Trump. I am now thinking hard about what response he could have expected from us when he allowed such eccentric words to trip off his tongue. Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation. I will surely and definitely tame the old lunatic of America with fire.

Dennis Rodman, a Black retired NBA star and “washed-up celebrity” by bourgeois media standards is sometimes at the brunt of attacks on the DPRK. Rabid nationalists who concoct and engage in these attacks have no life other than attacking anyone who “dishonors” the murderous empire like a pack of wild, rabid dogs foaming at the mouth, waiting for “the kill.”

In order to analyze if Dennis Rodman (called Rodman in the rest of this piece) is a “comrade” and/or define his role in concern to DPRK-US relations, it is worth explaining a bit about his life, political leanings, and past statements (and trips to) on the DPRK and its socialist leadership.

Rodman’s political views, life, and “basketball diplomacy”

The picture of Rodman and Kim Jong-Un the imperial apologists often use.

At age 3, Rodman was abandoned by his father, Philander Rodman Jr., who ran off with a “military chaplain’s daughter.” Since then, Rodman’s father has become the parents of 28 siblings (from four wives) and lives in the Philippines, proud of Rodman although he has slamming his father before for personal benefit, distorting the reality. [2] Due to his father’s abandonment, he lived with a white family in Oklahoma and, more recently, called his father a “friend.” As his “status” increased due to his sports career, and even after his retirement from the NBA, the family in Oklahoma felt that they had “lost a son” as he started “drinking hard and partying.” [3] His time in the NBA began in 1986 and ended in 2000, playing on Detroit, San Antonio, and Chicago teams. While this got him the nickname, “the worm,” he was remembered more for: calling out another all-star player Larry Birth, by saying he only had a lot of publicity because of his white skin, kicking a “cameraman in the groin” in 1997, having a rocky relationship with popstar Madonna, and general moodiness. [4] Apart from the police being called to Rodman’s house for loud parties 70 times between 2000 and 2006, having a flamboyant personality, to say the least, he has a varied “rap sheet,” which is common among such superstars, to be “cool.” These included accusations of felony burglary, assault (he pleaded guilty to “spousal battery” in 2004), sexual harassment, and was a raging alcoholic. [5] For this, he was in and out of rehab for years, booted for restaurants for his drunken behavior and “wild ways.” This included drinking heavily in the mostly “dry” DPRK, and general drunk driving. In my recent article about DPRK’s healthcare system, I pointed out that almost 79% of the population abstains from drinking, with stronger alcohol consumption among males than females, among those who drink. To top it off, Rodman even released his own vodka brand, and is as much a brand as the orange menace or even Naomi Klein.

Politically, Rodman leaned, not surprisingly, to “the right.” Apart from advocating for a Black pope at the Vatican, he stripped naked for an anti-fur campaign by the PR-savvy animal welfare group, PETA, and endorsed the orange menace for President in 2015. [6] Lest us forget that the Vatican, the mainstay of the Catholic Church, has cooperated with Nazi Germany’s butchers, purged Jews from their ranks, sometimes endorsed the fake doctrine of “creationism” rather than the evolving scientific theory of evolution, bestowed sanctity on “right-wing” religionists, suppressing liberation theology in favor of terror and destruction, and opposed abortion. They have also opposed stem cell research, divorce, and gay rights, all while sex predators lurk throughout the church hierarchy from the top to the bottom. [7] As for Rodman, he called the orange menace a “great friend for years” and said that “we don’t need a politician for president, we need a businessman like Mr. Trump,” not recognizing government and capitalist combines function differently. He also defended the horrid Hulk Hogan as “not” racist despite Hogan plainly saying the n-word and being generally a horrible person, for example, saying that those suffering from Hurricane Irma (in the US) are “crybabies.”

This puts Rodman’s “basketball diplomacy,” as he calls it, into context. In 2013, when he said he would go “anywhere’ he was needed, it was reported that Kim Jong-Un, who only become First Secretary of the Workers Party of Korea, marshal, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission the previous year, had told him the DPRK “doesn’t want to go to war with America” but only wanted to “talk basketball with Obama.” [8] At the same time, he said Kim Jong-Un should do him a “solid” and release Kenneth Bae. Hence, he positioned himself almost an unofficial ambassador trying to break ice between “hostile countries.” [9] Earlier that year, his trip to the DPRK questioned how much a neutral observer he was, after all. The trip was the brain child of Shaun Smith at VICE, who saw the DPRK as a “bizarre place.” This is in-keeping with their bigoted content, blasting onto TV and websites for their millions within their white hipster/dudebro audience, which has amplified white power in part by giving white nationalists, like Christopher Cantwell and Weev, a platform, and is generally imperialist in character, even as some could say it has “good people” on its staff, whoever they are. [10] While Rodman famously (in the minds of arch-imperialists) called Kim Jong-Un his “friend for life” and said he was a “friend [of]…the DPRK people,” the fact that the trip was filmed by VICE for a capitalistic, orientalist purpose questions his intentions. This is especially the case considering that he worked for the orange menace, then heading “the Celebrity Apprentice,” afterward, who called Rodman’s trip that year “smart,” which could be seen as an endorsement although he called the country the “last place on Earth I [would] want to go to” in May 2014. [11]

Rodman’s jingoistic feelings were evident, much more than Mohammad Ali who didn’t want to criticize US imperialism or be “misquoted” in the bourgeois media in his trip to the DPRK in 1995. Rodman declared that “it’s all very anti-American. North Korean kids are fed anti-American propaganda” since their birth. [12] Such statements raise red flags about if Rodman is even a comrade at all. Someone who believes in solidarity against imperialism would never, if they were earnest in their beliefs, say something as orientalist and jingoistic as Rodman, instead asserting that politicians of all levels in the DPRK are elected by the populace. His words are racist (yes, Black people CAN say things that are racist to those races they are “above” or are perceived to be “above” of). To use the words of Satre, racism is a form of violence that is self-justifying since it is “violence presenting itself as induced violence, counter-violence and legitimate defence” and is based in making individuals (in this case Koreans living in the DPRK) “sub-human.”

Later that year, Rodman displayed his “basketball diplomacy” once again. He called Kim Jong-Un a “good guy” who wants “to change” the DPRK, with Rodman hoping he could change Obama’s mind in favor of diplomacy rather than imperial aggression. [13] Playing on the idea of nuclear families, deeply rooted in the beliefs of traditionalists of the U.S., Rodman declared that Kim Jong-Un was a “good dad and has a beautiful family” after meeting his wife Ri Sol-Ju, and their newborn Ju-ae. As he continued to push the “sports angle” in the DPRK, sometimes journalists tagged along, but not when he sung the happy birthday song to Kim Jong-Un, angering U.S. imperialists to no end. [14] The following year, 2014, the U.S. Treasury Department reportedly investigated whether Rodman’s thousands of dollars in luxury gifts to the DPRK violated murderous sanctions. At the same time, the idea of a Hollywood movie on Rodman’s “relationship” with Kim Jong-Un was floated but seemed to die a quick death. [15]

Fast forward three years. A few months ago, in June 2017, Rodman said he wanted to bring sports to the DPRK, and nothing else, with some speculating if the orange menace was somehow behind the meeting. [16] This speculation is not completely unsubstantiated because Rodman is a “mutual acquaintance” of Trump and Kim Jong-Un. More significantly was what Rodman gave to Kim Jong-Un and his family: the orange menace’s The Art of the Deal, soap, Where’s Waldo? books, and autographed jerseys. [17] While the giving of soaps and other products might be harmless, and are mostly for Ju-ae one could presume, the gifting of The Art of the Deal, ghostwritten by Tony Schwartz, could be a book that, may, inform Kim Jong Un’s strategy in dealing with threats from the murderous empire. The ideas expressed in the book are that you either dominate or submit, you create or exploit fear or you succumb to it, with every encounter seen as a content to be the winner, and the conception of “immediate self-interest.” [18] While the description of the book so far shows that it could, for Kim Jong-Un and the DPRK’s leadership, give them insights into the orange menace’s “management style” (if he has one), there are further elements which would more likely be used by the DPRK: making “deals,” some of which are “great,” and having many options available, using available “leverage.” If giving the DPRK the orange menace’s book is somehow a secret strategy to make the country more capitalistic and individualistic, which isn’t beyond belief, then it didn’t work at all.

Back to Rodman. Near the end of June, he said he was glad that the young White college student Otto Frederick Warmbier, a jingoistic disrupter, was released. On the other side of the token, he bellowed that the country is more “modernized” now, with people not seeing the “good side” of the DPRK with Kim Jong-Un as a “friendly guy.” [19] In keeping with his idea of “neutrality,” he said that Kim Jong-Un and the orange menace need an open dialogue. Just last month he expanded on these remarks. He was quoted in the New York Daily News as saying that the DPRK was becoming a “24th century country” with a “homemade feel” for everything, and how his status as a “famous athlete” meant nothing there. [20] This is by far, the most positive thing he has said about the DPRK. In the interview quoted by the New York Daily News, in the literal magazine for wealth, Du Jour, Rodman described the DPRK’s people as taking pride in “simple things” (similar to what was recently said in PressTV) and people living through Kim Jong-Un, looking up to him. [21] Again, like his other statement, this was not “noble” as most of what he said (apart from the possibly orientalist statement about people living through Kim Jong-Un) has been said and recognized, mainly by those in solidarity with the DPRK, for many years. Adding to this, his seemingly “comradely” statement was thrown into question with his “clarification” earlier this month. He told a British TV show that he hardly ever talks politics with Kim Jong-Un, calling himself an “ambassador for sports” and declaring that he doesn’t love Kim Jong-Un but wants to “straighten things out for everyone to get along together.” [22] While this seems to be positive, let us consider that he still admires the orange menace despite the fact he admits that the orange menace can be a “little bit crazy sometimes.”

Ultimately, Rodman seems more like a partisan of the orange menace than a neutral observer or unofficial ambassador. While he is written five basically auto-biographical books (three in the 1990s), he is no scholar. It is too much of a stretch for Rodman to be “Comradman” by any measure. What has been explained so far makes clear his life story, political beliefs, and views on the DPRK (mostly on Kim Jong-Un). It is a possibility, which should not be discounted, that his visits to the DPRK are supported covertly by more “moderate” elements in the US foreign policy establishment since diplomacy for the murderous empire is imperialistic in nature no matter what way you spin in. As Satya Vatti wrote, generally the US capitalist class prefers “moderate bourgeois elements” even as it, in desperation or seeing a good opportunity, relies on “far-right, fascist forces,” like in Ukraine, to accomplish their objectives. [23] Rodman is fundamentally a “moderate bourgeois element” to put it plainly. There are, additionally, a number of aspects that throw into question the thought of Rodman even being a comrade. If he was in solidarity with the socialist state, he would support the launch of two missiles “over Japan” (not really in realistic terms) as a show of force against blood-thirsty imperialists. He would also publicly oppose US efforts to strangle the country such as proposed fuel cutoffs, asset freezes, and threat of total annihilation, instead supporting more than a “dialogue” but immediate and direct talks between the US and DPRK, which the US has clearly rejected for imperialistic reasons. [24] Rodman is not the same side as Bruce W. Bennett of Rand Corp, the CIA, or Seth Rogan who wanted to hurt the DPRK with their box office bomb, “The Interview.” But, he also is not supportive of the DPRK’s nuclear tests and by extension exposing nuclear tests by the murderous empire, which are much more dangerous to the idea of a peaceful world free of exploitation. [25] Along with that, a comrade would oppose harsh sanctions on the DPRK and possibly be for a freeze-to-freeze in which the ROK (Republic of Korea or “South Korea”) and U.S. military would limit or end huge exercises in military aggression in exchange for the DPRK’s nuclear program ending. This is just a small list of what make one a comrade in solidarity with the DPRK. There is no set list but these basics follow along with established radical and communist principles. Rodman is not a hater of U.S. imperialism, like the Black Panther Party which allied themselves with the DPRK, or an “aficionado of U.S. popular culture” as Kim Jong-Un is, but he is a “washed-up celebrity” who sees himself as “neutral.” Most likely, he is being used to create a wedge in U.S. policy. Hence, his “basketball diplomacy” is not necessarily a “success” but is rather something that is easily exploited.

For the DPRK, they may not mind meeting with Rodman because they see it as a way to open up diplomatic relations with the US. While Rodman is clearly on the right-wing, he is much more level-headed than anyone currently in power, so in that sense those in the DPRK leadership don’t mind talking to him. But, if he rarely talks about politics, it could just be to show that the DPRK is welcoming to non-white and oppressed peoples. Whatever the reason, the capitalist ideals of Rodman are not brushing off on the DPRK. Not one bit. Nope.

The Russians and Chinese

President Xi Jinping of China (left) and President Vladimir Putin of Russia (right) in 2014

The Chinese and Russian governments have some positive foreign policy, when it comes to helping imperialist countries like assisting Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. But, since neither of these countries are socialist, they easily cut deals with Western capitalists to help their respective bourgeoisie. This is part of the reason why capitalist Russia and revisionist China have not stood behind the DPRK’s acts of self-defense against aggression by the murderous empire and its allies. Instead, if to “buy time” from the orange menace and/or to prevent nuclear contamination of their citizenry (in the case of China), they have held a moderating tone, supporting peaceful negotiation, condemning the DPRK’s actions, and supporting murderous sanctions, like the others on the UN Security Council. [26] Where has the solidarity gone? Perhaps it is past viewpoints of the leadership of the DPRK, if this has any validity at all, are also a sticking point for China, even though China is bound to protect the DPRK if it is attacked. With the “zigzag approach” to the DPRK by the orange menace, Russia and China would benefit the world by defending the socialist state, but they have not done so, instead proposing the idea of a “freeze for freeze” which the US has rejected, as noted earlier. [27] As Gregory Elich recently put it, “unless China and Russia can find a way to oppose U.S. designs without becoming targets themselves, the North Korean people will stand alone and bear the burden of Trump’s malice.” Recently, according to some reports, food exports from China to the DPRK surged showing that the Chinese are playing an interesting game.

Luckily, some have taken stands in favor of the DPRK that Russia and China have not. Satya Vatti, in Liberation News, pointed out that striking at the roots of white supremacy means that we need to fight U.S. imperialism, the warfare state, and for states under attack by imperialists. [28] Additionally, the Workers World Party recently congratulated Kim Jong-Un, the people of Korea, and the Workers Party of Korea or WPK for “courage and honesty in standing up to U.S. imperialism.” There were also gatherings of those opposed to such imperialism in Rochester, NY and Baltimore, MD recently. [29]

There is more to say than this short section, but this is meant as a starting point on this topic since the Russian and Chinese governments are both not socialist. The capitalist roaders, as Mao Zedong described them, have taken power and hold of the Communist Party of China, basically “bourgeoisie inside the party” as some describe it. Russia has no Communist Party leading it, but has a nationalist party. As one article put it recently, US policy toward Russia has remained unchanged because US imperial policy is “driven by Wall Street’s drive for profits, not the good or bad wishes of individual politicians.”

Once again, there is more to say on this topic as I have not fully explored my argument on this issue, but it is still in progress.

Steps forward and concluding thoughts

These photos come from a Sept. 22 article in KCNA. [30]
Rodman has the right idea that the “good side” of the DPRK is not talked about, but its more than that. There is a whole media campaign to demonize the socialist state. Even a recent issue of the “respected” partially bourgeois Smithsonian magazine has photographs from Pyongyang showing industrialization, newly-built high-rises, morning commuters on tram buses, a deep metro center, reading rooms in the People’s Study House (in the central library of Pyongyang), people watching videos at a sci-tech center, and an amusement park called the “Youth Fun Fair” to name a few. [31] While the photographer, a Brit named Tariq Zaidi, clearly has internalized Orientalist values, he still said that the county is “a scenic beautiful country….the cleanest you will ever visit with…hospitable people who will go out of their way to help you.” Stories like this pale in comparison to the “amazing infrastructure, free housing and medical care, impressive agriculture and green energy,” along with bustling cities, touted rightly by Eva Bartlett. This is the side of the DPRK which should be widely shared, not the distorted, “hellish” “stories” from the humanitarian imperialist spinsters at Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, and Amnesty International, along with varying bourgeois NGOs often called out by Wrong Kind of Green, accompanied by those within the bourgeois media (and U.S. government).

It is hard to counter every piece of imperialist propaganda about the DPRK but its possible to show what it’s really like to the best of our collective abilities. We don’t need Russian smugglers, DPRK defectors, or anyone else to “save” the country. [32] Regardless of what the smarmy “North Korea watchers” (i.e. North Korea Economy Watch and 38 North), talking heads, or any other individual with an orientalist mindset says, the leadership of the DPRK is “understandable and rational,” having nukes to only be used in self-defense if the U.S. attacks, not having a “first strike” policy like the murderous empire. Like all oppressed people, they can choose how they will struggle or do what is “best suited for their conditions.” [33]

The existence of the DPRK is a breath of fresh air. It shows that a “greater collective human spirit” and more satisfaction can come from socialism than capitalism, that they are becoming a “powerful socialist nation” which is steadfast in their “independent spirit.” [34] They do not want war. While bourgeois experts bemoan the travel ban of US citizens to the DPRK, as it will be harder to subvert socialist society there, perhaps this can be taken as an opportunity for more self-development as Trumpian racism and “economic nationalism” embodies the murderous empire. [35] Why not counter the demonization, begun with an illegal war in 1950 (and even earlier since the DPRK’s formation in 1948) which destroyed much of the country, with continued strengthening of universal and state-funded education, a strong healthcare system, and expanding alliances internationally from a few African countries to the whole continent? Those decisions are ultimately up to the people of the DPRK and their elected leadership.

I end with a quote from self-declared Black nationalist Robert F. Williams before his escape from the spotlight after returning to the U.S. in 1971, from exile. Many of the words of his 1964 speech, reprinted in his publication, The Crusader, still ring true today. The DPRK has developed, as they describe it, a hydrogen bomb which should be seen as a necessity under current conditions, celebrated as an achievement by an oppressed people, by people of color. Williams said, in part, words which are optimistic but are worth recalling:

“…We, the captive people of the free world of racist America, support the right of all oppressed people to meet violence with violence. We resolutely support the right of all people to self determination…the U.S. Government has sunken to the level of devil of the world…the anti-racist, anti-imperialist forces of the socialist camp are growing more powerful everyday…We believe in the right of armed struggle. We believe in the people’s right to defend themselves…We proudly hail the nuclear achievements of the staunch defenders of the oppressed, our Chinese brothers, in developing weapons for self-defense against nuclear intimidation by the racist USA. Our people, who have for many generations been defenseless victims of monopolized white supremacy terror, consider the Chinese bomb, a people’s bomb, a freedom bomb of the oppressed.”

Notes

[1] Robin Wright, “Donald Trump’s War Doctrine Débuts, at the U.N.,” The New Yorker, Sept. 19, 2017; Margaret Talev and Nick Wadhams, “Trump Bluntly Threatens to Wipe Out North Korea in UN Debut,” Bloomberg News, Sept. 19, 2017; David Rothkopf, “Trump’s first speech to the United Nations was a disastrous, nationalistic flop,” Washington Post, Sept. 19, 2017; Peter Baker and Somini Sengupta, “Trump Soft-Soaps the U.N. Of Course, It Was Only Day 1. . .,” New York Times, Sept. 18, 2017; David Ignatius, “The most surprising thing about Trump’s U.N. speech,” Washington Post, Sept. 19, 2017; AAP, “’Shameless and ignorant’: World stunned after Trump’s fiery speech,” SBS, Sept. 19, 2017; Jeffrey Rodack, “Conservatives Welcome Trump’s ‘Blunt’ Speech to the UN,” Newsmax, Sept. 19, 2017; Abbie Bennett, “Franklin Graham says Trump’s speech was ‘one of the best ever’ at the UN,” The News & Observer, Sept. 19, 2017; Joseph D. Lyons, “Ivanka Praises Trump’s UNGA Speech Despite Criticism From Everyone Else,” Bustle, Sept. 19, 2017. Some, like George Eaton of The New Statesman, even argued that “Trump’s words merely provide further justification for its nuclear weapons programme,” while they predictably followed the bourgeois media in condemning the country’s government, a point which has validity. Recently, a British tabloid, the Daily Mirror, quoted a reported “defector” from the DPRK, Hee Yeon Lim, to tell a wild story of executions, sex slavery, luxury, bribery, privilege, and torture, which undoubtedly a total lie, appended with the call for nuclear weapons to be brought back to south Korea!

[2] Jet Magazine, “Dennis Rodman’s dad had 27 kids and runs bar in the Philippines,” Sept. 23, 1996; Kurt Hean, “Just for the record, Rodman only has 28 siblings,” NBC Sports, Aug. 15, 2011; AP, “NBA Hall of famer Dennis Rodman finally meets his father after 42 years,” CBS News, Jul. 19, 2012.

[3] AP, “NBA Hall of famer Dennis Rodman finally meets his father after 42 years,” CBS News, Jul. 19, 2012; Bruce Newman, “Black, White—and Gray,” Sports Illustrated, May 2, 1988; Shaun Powell, “A long way from home,” Sports on Earth, Mar. 22, 2013.

[4] Bruce Newman, “Black, White—and Gray,” Sports Illustrated, May 2, 1988; NBA profile, “Dennis Rodman,” accessed Sept. 14, 2017; Mike Puma, “Rodman, King or Queen of Rebounds?,” ESPN.com, Feb. 21, 2006.

[5] Shaun Powell, “A long way from home,” Sports on Earth, Mar. 22, 2013; Dave Hannigan, “The top 10 Dennis Rodman moments,” The Times, Jan. 8, 2006; Espn.com, “Dennis Rodman, Chris Mullin into Hall,” Apr. 5, 2011; Jeanette Settembre, “Former NBA star Dennis Rodman to launch his own Bad Boy vodka brand,” New York Daily News, Jul. 12, 2013; Megan Masters and Aly Weisman, “Dennis Rodman Rebounds Back to Rehab,” E! News, May 3, 2009; Steve Forrest, “Dennis Rodman checks into alcohol rehab after N. Korea trip,” CNN, Jan. 19, 2014; Stephen Smith, “Dennis Rodman in debt, faces possible jail time,” CBS News, Mar. 28, 2012; TMZ, “Boozy Dennis Rodman Booted from Restaurant,” Jan. 10, 2010; CBS News/AP, “Rodman pleads guilty to DUI,” CBS News, Jul. 28, 2000; Reuters Staff, “Dennis Rodman arrested in L.A.,” Reuters, May 1, 2008; AP, “Police arrest Rodman after report of dispute at hotel,” May 1, 2008; People Staff, “Dennis Rodman pleads no contest in domestic assault,” People magazine, Jun 25, 2008; AP, “Dennis Rodman pleads no contest to DUI,” USA Today, Apr. 21, 2004; James Queally, “Dennis Rodman facing criminal charges in July hit-and run, prosecutors say,” LA Times, Nov. 21, 2016

[6] Shaun Powell, “A long way from home,” Sports on Earth, Mar. 22, 2013; WEMM, “Rodman to strip for PETA,” Contactmusic.com, Dec. 22, 2004; Pay Owen, “Dennis Rodman at the Vatican: ‘I want to be anywhere in the world I’m needed,’” The Guardian, Mar. 13, 2013; Sophie Tatum, “Dennis Rodman endorses Trump for President,” CNN, Jul. 24, 2015; Adam B. Lerner, “Dennis Rodman endorses Trump for President,” July 24, 2015.

[7] Michael Parenti, God and His Demons (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2010), 60-62, 77, 95, 131-132, 135, 139, 143, 147.

[8] Kranz Lidz, “Dennis Rodman,” Sports Illustrated, Jul. 8, 2013.

[9] David K. Li, “Dennis Rodman’s ranting saved me from North Korean gulag,” NY Post, May 2, 2016. Bae later claimed that Rodman’s drunken ranting had brought international attention to his plight, leading to his release back into the world of Western capitalism.

[10] Lynn Zinser, “Tensions Rising with North Korea, but Dennis Rodman is there,” NY Times, Feb. 26, 2013; Alan Dulz, “Dennis Rodman to North Korea: ‘I come in peace,’” CNN, Feb. 27, 2013; Johee Cho, “Rodman worms his way into Kim Jong Un meeting,” ABC News, Feb. 28, 2013; Justin Rocket Silverman, “Vice finale tracks Rodman’s strange days in North Korea,” New York Daily News, May 21, 2013.

[11] Politico, “Donald Trump praises ‘smart’ Dennis Rodman North Korea trip,” Mar. 4, 2013.

[12] Lynn Zinser, “Tensions Rising with North Korea, but Dennis Rodman is there,” NY Times, Feb. 26, 2013; IBT staff report, “Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-Un chat courtside at Pyongyang Basketball Game,” International Business Times, Feb. 28, 2013; ROK Drop, “Ric Flair Describes How Muhammad Ali Told Off North Korean Officials,” Jun 8, 2016; Austin Ramzy, “Muhammad Ali in Pyongyang: A Little Less Love than Rodman,” Time magazine, Mar. 3, 2013; Ronald Kirk, “Muhammad Ali At N. Korea Sports Festival — Unlike Rodman, He Spurned Regime,” Forbes, Jun 4, 2016.

[13] Josh Lewis, “North Korea: Reality vs. the world according to Dennis Rodman,” CNN, Sept. 10, 2013; James Pearson and Megha Rajagopolan, “Rodman returns to Pyongyang but says won’t bring back jailed American,” Reuters, Sept. 2, 2013; Caitlin McDewitt, “Rodman; Kim Jong Un is ‘a good dad,’” Politico, Sept. 9, 2013; Evan McMurry, “Dennis Rodman to train North Korean Olympic Basketball Team,” Medialite, Sept. 9, 2013; Christopher Black, “North Korea: The Grand Deception Revealed,” New Eastern Outlook, Mar. 13, 2017.

[14] AFP, “Rodman heading back to N Korea to Train Basketball Team,” Newsmax, Dec. 4, 2013; RTE, “Dennis Rodman Departs for North Korea for basketball exhibitions,” Jan. 6, 2014; Kurt Helin, “Dennis Rodman still planning exhibition game in North Korea with former NBA players,” NBC Sports, Nov. 22, 2013; News Desk 2, “Dennis Rodman announces basketball diplomacy for upcoming games in North Korea,” the Florida News Journal, Jan. 6, 2014; AP, “Dennis Rodman: ‘I had been been drinking,’” ESPN, Jan. 9, 2014; “Today FM’s Matt Cooper is in North Korea with Dennis Rodman,” thejournal.ie, Jan. 6, 2014.

[15] Fox News, “Feds reportedly investigating Rodman for violating sanctions against N. Korea,” Jan. 25, 2014; Hugh Armitage, “Kim Jong-Un, Dennis Rodman film planned by Ride Alans director Tim Story,” Digital Spy, Feb. 24, 2014; Tatlana Siegel, “Dennis Rodman North Korea Mission to Become Fox Movie (Exclusive),” The Hollywood Reporter, Feb. 23, 2014.

[16] Matt Rivers, Will Ripley, and Joshua Berlinger, “Dennis Rodman hopes to ‘something pretty positive’ in North Korea,” CNN, Jun. 13, 2017; Anna Fifield, “Dennis Rodman is back in North Korea. Was he sent by Trump?,” Washington Post, Jun 13, 2017.

[17] AFP and staff writers, “Dennis Rodman gives North Korean minister a copy of Donald Trump’s the Art of the Deal,” news.com.au, Jun 10, 2017.

[18] Tony Schwartz, “I wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ with Trump. His self-sabotage is rooted in his past,” Washington Post, May 16, 2017; Jeremy Greenfield, “10 Things You Learn Reading Donald Trump’s ‘The Art of the Deal,’” The Street, Sept. 16, 2015; Josh Barra, “10 things I learned about Donald Trump in ‘The Art of the Deal,’” New York Times, Sept. 22, 2015; Richard Feloni, “Donald Trump’s core business philosophy from his best-selling 1987 book ‘The Art of the Deal,’” Business Insider, Jun 6, 2015.

[19] Catherine Thorbecke, “Dennis Rodman speaks out about his visit to North Korea,” ABC News, Jun 23, 2017.

[20] New York Daily News, “Dennis Rodman praises Kim Jong Un for modernizing North Korea,” Aug. 30, 2017.

[21] DuJour magazine, “Candid moments with Dennis Rodman,” Fall 2017 edition, p. 58. He also says that citizens kind and live lives through Kim Jong-Un; Eric Wilson, “Us Weekly, for a Lot Fewer of Us,” New York Times, Aug. 8, 2012; Jane L. Levere, “Two Luxury Names Expand Collaboration,” New York Times, Aug. 11, 2014; Katja Presnal, “Lifestyle: New Luxury Lifestyle Magazine DuJour,” Skimbaco, Sept. 9, 2012; Robert Channick, “DuJour magazine on the menu for those with the most money in Chicago, U.S.,” Chicago Tribune, Oct. 10, 2012.

[22] Reuters Staff, “Dennis Rodman talks of skiing friendship with Kim Jong Un,” Reuters, Sept. 6, 2017.

[23] Satya Vatti, “U.S. government a friend to the far right around the world,” Liberation News, Aug. 29, 2017.

[24] Michael Ellemean, “North Korea’s Hwasong-12 Launch: A Disturbing Development,” 38 North, Aug. 30, 2017; “DPRK Nuclear Weapons Institute on Successful test of H-Bomb for ICBM,” Rodong Sinmun, Sept. 4, 2017; David F. Sanger and Cahoe Sang-Hun, “U.S. Urges Fuel Cutoff for North Korea, Saying It’s ‘Begging For War,’” NY Times, Sept. 4, 2017; BBC News, “North Korea crisis: US seeks Kim Jong-Un asset freeze,” Sept. 7, 2017; Al Jazeera, “US: N Korea to be ‘destroyed’ if behaviour continues,” Sept. 18, 2017; Jon Schwartz, “North Korea says it might negotiate on nuclear weapons. But the Washington Post isn’t reporting that,” The Intercept, Sept. 25, 2017; “U.S. dismisses immediate talks with N. Korea,” Yonhap News, Sept. 6, 2017; David Tweed, “Trump’s olive branch to North Korean opens slim path to talks,” Bloomberg Politics, Aug. 23, 2017.

[25] Tom Shorrock, “How Sony, Obama, Seth Rogan, and the CIA secretly planned to force regime change in North Korea,” Alternet, Sept. 5, 2017; Al Jazeera, “North Korea conducts most powerful nuclear test yet,” Sept. 3, 2017; NNSA, “B61-12 continues to meet qualification test schedule,” Aug. 2017; RT, “US holds 2nd test of B61-12 gravity nuclear bombs,” Aug. 29, 2017; Binoy Kampmark, “Unnerving the Donald: North Korea’s Sixth Nuclear Test,” Sept. 4, 2017; AP, “The latest: Haley: US to push for more North Korea sanctions,” Washington Post, Sept. 4, 2017; Moon of Alabama, “Why North Korea Needs Nukes – And How to End That,” Apr. 14, 2017; Robert Ramptor and David Brunnstram, “Trump says tougher steps needed on North Korea after new U.N. sanctions,” Reuters, Sept. 11, 2017.

[26] “China rejects possibility of military intervention in North Korea,” TASS, Sept. 4, 2017; “Russian envoy warns any slip-up on Korean peninsula may lead to military outbreak,” TASS, Sept. 4, 2017; Zachary Cohen and Richard Roth, “US passes fresh sanctions on North Korea,” CNN, Sept. 12, 2017.

[27] Anne Gearar, “Trump’s zigzagging approach to North Korea veers toward military options,” Washington Post, Sept. 6, 2017; “Sanctions Against North Korea a Dangerous Dead-End,” The Real News, Sept. 6, 2017.

[28] Satya Vatti, “U.S. government a friend to the far right around the world,” Liberation News, Aug. 29, 2017.

[29] Workers World Party, “WWP congratulates DPRK for its courage,” Workers World, Sept 12, 2017; Gene Clancy, “Rochester, N.Y., anti-war groups say no to U.S. threats and sanctions against DPRK,” Workers World, Sept. 11, 2017; David Card, “New war threats against North Korea,” Workers World, Aug. 31, 2017.

[30] The article says the following: “The Moranbong Band, the State Merited Chorus and the Wangjaesan Art Troupe Music and dance performances gave a music and dance performance in Wonsan City from September 13 to 21. The numbers of the performance included male solo and chorus “Song Dedicated to the Motherly Party”, light music “Pyongyang Is Best”, orchestra and male chorus “We’ll Travel One Road Forever”, dance “Dash toward Future” and tap dance “Young Days”. The performers sang high praises of the dynamic spirit of socialist Korea dashing ahead like the wind toward the final victory at the speed of Mallima despite all sorts of difficulties and trials of history, rallied close around respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. The artistes of the Moranbong Band in light music and serial songs “Oh Party, It’s Thanks to Your Care,” female solo “We Call You Father,” female chorus “Fatherland and I,” etc. impressively represented the profound trust and gratitude of the army and people to the Workers’ Party of Korea which made a history of great changes under the banner of independence, Songun and socialism, winning great victories. Those of the State Merited Chorus in male solo and chorus “Korea, Forward under the Line of Simultaneously Developing the Two Fronts” and male trio and chorus “Only along the Road of Socialism,” strikingly showed the rock-firm faith and will of the Korean army and people to dynamically advance along the road of simultaneous development of the two fronts under the leadership of the great Party and attain the final victory of socialism. The Wangjaesan Art Troupe presented lively dynamic dances showing the stirring reality of the DPRK where the people are working great innovations in building a socialist power while resolutely foiling the U.S. imperialists and their vassal forces’ unprecedented sanctions and pressure. The performance deeply impressed the audiences.”

[31] Lorraine Bussaneault, “The view from Pyongyang: An Exclusive Look at the World’s Most Secretive Nation,” Smithsonian magazine, Sept. 6, 2017.

[32] Pepe Escobar, “North Korea: Fire, Fury and Fear,” Global Research, Aug. 10, 2017; Tania Branigan, “Hope, Pride, Fear: How North Koreans feel about their homeland,” The Guardian, Aug. 10, 2017; The Moscow Times, “North Korea Receiving Russian Supplies Despite Sanctions—Reports,” Sept. 12, 2017.

[33] Deridre Griswold, “Why the DPRK Needs a nuclear deterrent,” Workers World, Aug. 14, 2017; Editor, “Self defense and the DPRK,” Workers World, Aug. 14, 2017; Ri Hak Nam, “DPRK is certain to win Thanks to Peerlessly Great Man,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug. 12, 2017.

[34] Kang Choi Su, “No Force on Earth Can Block Advance of DPRK,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug. 22, 2017; Jo Hak Chai, “WPK’s Line of Simultaneously Developing Two Fronts Is Eternal Banner of Peace and Prosperity,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug. 19, 2017; Deridre Griswold, “Why the DPRK Needs a nuclear deterrent,” Workers World, Aug. 14, 2017.

[35] Robert Rennebohm, “Understanding North Korea,” Global Research, Aug. 21, 2017; Christopher Black, “North Korea: The Grand Deception Revealed,” New Eastern Outlook, Mar. 13, 2017; Samuel Romani, “North Korea’s African Allies,” The Diplomat, July. 4, 2016; Prof. Michel Chossudovsky, “North Korea: Their Health System Sucks, Do They Have Schools and Hospitals…In America We’ve Got Medicare…,” Global Research, Aug. 16, 2017; Brian Wilson, “Korea and the ‘Axis of Evil,’” Global Research, Apr 27, 2002; Doug Palmer, Megan Cassella, and Andrew Restuccia, “Trump mulling withdrawal from Korea trade deal,” Politico, Sept. 2, 2017; Yonhap, “Trump says to weigh withdrawal from S. Korea trade deal,” The Korean Herald, Sept. 3, 2017; Andray Abrahamian, “Commentary: The downside of banning Americans from North Korea,” Reuters, Aug. 31, 2017; Felicity Arbuthnot, “North Korea an Aggressor? A Reality Check,” Dissident Voice, Aug. 24, 2017.

“Massive, dangerous and wasteful”: US imperialism repositions itself in Syria

Comes from the official mouth of the national military establishment.

This post was posted on anti-imperialism.org two days before but somehow I didn’t catch that until yesterday, so it was posted here.

You’ve probably heard the recent news that the Trump Administration is ending the CIA program to fund “anti-Assad” “moderate rebels,” who are actually terrorists. [1] The bourgeois media and run-of-the-mill imperialists cried bloody murder. Some say it was a “victory” for Russian president Vladimir Putin, although it was seen, even by crusty analysts, as a failed program. Removing CIA support is a victory for the Syrian people, not for the Russians or Trump and his advisers. In defending this action on Twitter, Donald Trump, in his typical bullish style, attacked the “Amazon Washington Post” and CNN, saying they are pumping out “fake news” about his policy and questioned if the Post is being used to keep “politicians from looking into Amazon’s no-tax monopoly.” He, of course, framed the program as his accomplishment, as the end of “massive, dangerous and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad,” although these “rebels” are, again, terroristic elements. Even with US imperialism ending CIA support for such elements, the murderous empire has not given up the goal of toppling the Syrian government. Rather, it has “repositioned” itself.

In the article announcing the end of the CIA program, the CIA mouthpiece, the Washington Post bellowed that there was a “potential risk” of ending the program. They claimed that ending the program would mean that the US may be unable to stop other countries from “funneling more sophisticated weapons” to “anti-Assad” terrorists. [2] This implies a “loss of control” over world events by the murderous empire, and it is part of the anxiety that comes with US imperialism loosing its footing. Still, the murderous empire is not bumbling like Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes, as “acclaimed” journalist Jeremy Scahill (a brand) noted in one tweet some time ago, but it just facing more challenges. The removal of this support, which was reportedly a foreign policy move to improve ties with Russia, ended a program which had begun in 2013 under the supposedly “smart” imperialism of the Obama presidency. [3] The program itself, in the minds of anonymous “US officials” quoted, and perhaps within upper echelons of the empire itself, “produced little success.” Reuters denoted that US support will not end. Quoting the magical (and often deceptive) anonymous “US officials,” it was noted that the US military will train, arm, and support certain Syrian terrorists with airstrikes and other actions. [4] It would not be surprising if this is the case. The Syrians recognize that the ending of the CIA program is a start to to “solving the Syrian crisis” but not a “genuine policy shift.” Rather it was an admission by the murderous empire that they have failed as Syrian government minister Ali Haidar pointed out. [5]

As it seems evident, US imperialism has “repositioned” itself in Syria by allying with the “good” Kurds, by Western standards, the ones clustered around the illegitimate regional government in northern Iraq and those related to Rojava. Stephen Gowans points out that not only is the YPG, one of the groups which is associated with Rojava, basically the PKK, but that they would control regions currently occupied by Arabs, a move supported by Israel and the US. However, Turkey does not support it as they detest the Kurds, but also the Syrian government, with their own designs for “regime change” in the country, and the current Syrian government opposes it as a clear violation of their sovereignty and independence. Such a takeover of Arab areas, which could be a prelude to ethnic cleansing, is supported by illegal no-fly-zones by the US over parts of Syria, and the partition of Syria along “ethno-sectarian lines,” favored by Washington and Tel Aviv. Some will say that the YPG, SDF, and other forces associated with Rojava, are somehow revolutionary. For one, if this was the case, why would they have allowed the US to build two military bases within “their territory” by March 2016? [6]

When Black nationalist Robert Mugabe led the liberation struggle of the then-Maoist Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe, alongside the more moderate Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu-PF, he did not go the US asking for help to fight the white colonists. When Hugo Chavez and his newfangled movement were gaining traction in Venezuela, they didn’t turn to the European imperialists. There are many other examples that could be given. Allowing an imperialist power to create bases within one’s territory means that one’s anti-imperialism is partially, if not completely, non-existent.

Around the same time that it was revealed that the US had two military bases in Syria, the special presidential envoy to the coalition against Daesh, Brett McGurk, visited Rojava, showing the US-“good” Kurd alliance was in the making. Since then, the murderous empire has increased their support for these Kurds. The same Kurds who tortured two Arab prisoners to demand they tell them

“where are the Daesh fighters,” threatening their life and limb when they didn’t answer “correctly.” Recently, the murderous empire armed these Kurds directly to mount an assault on Daesh’s de facto capital, Raqqa. More than that, over 1,000 US special forces are within Syria, with the US helping Rojava-associated forces, since 2014, take control of territory with their “overwhelming” air power. Furthermore, not only are these Kurds wedded to their alliance with the Western imperialists, who also back, with arms, those in Northern Iraq, but they are liked by Western European, Japanese, and Scandinavian governments, along with some in Central Europe and Eastern Europe as well. This is indicated by their diplomatic outposts all across Europe to spread the “reality” of their supposed “struggle,” with the impression that they are a “real” country. Even the Russian Federation seems to favor them to an extent. Such favoritism, mainly by those in the West, is related to the fact that Rojava is opposed to the Syrian government is a “resources-rich” mine for imperialism even though it is basically an illegal entity. Its existence violates the UN charter, especially article 2, and the Syrian Constitution (at least 5 articles). Some may cry that Rojava and the Kurds need “self-determination” but the entity itself violates Syrian sovereignty and such a claim to self-governance by the “good” Kurds is utterly (and completely) illegitimate.

If arming and providing direct military support to these Kurds is not enough, the US had reportedly provided advice on branding, a feature of modern capitalism in the Western world. Raymond Thomas, General and commander of US Special Operations, said at the Aspen Forum recently that the US told the YPG that they needed to re-brand because of their ties to the PKK, and called the name of SDF a “stroke of brilliance” since “democratic” was within the name. This account was also posted on SoL international, a site run by the Turkish Communist Party. In their summation, it was noted that Thomas said that the YPG and PKK have to “work on their own branding,” acting like they are separate. In response, Erdogan, a murderous leader of Turkey who represents that country’s bourgeoisie, said that “friends” should not deceive each other, implying that the US and Turkey are still “friends.” This is true to an extent, but the US and Turkey are pursuing different methods to overthrow the Syrian government. This is indicated by stories in the Turkish state media, which has an anti-Kurdish flair to it, such as one claiming that a US Army Magazine showed a PYD individual, associated with Rojava, with a patch displaying the face of the PKK’s jailed leader, Ocolan. To put it simply, relations between the murderous empire and ethno-nationalist Turkey are fraught. This is proven not only by Erdogan’s remarks noted above but declarations by the Turkish government that it will not allow a “terrorist state” of Rojava on their borders and claims that hundreds of trucks from the US are aiding the Kurds with a large amount of weapons. The latter article, which lists the exact location of 10 US outposts/bases in Rojava, was also written up by The Daily Beast. [7] This article notes that there is US presence from “one end to the other end” of Rojava, with two bases in northern Syrian and eight outposts, one of which is the communications center for the US-led coalition “fighting” Daesh.

With ten bases, effectively, in northern Syria, US imperialism has easily positioned itself to assist covertly and overtly in the overthrow of the Syrian government. Add to this the illegal US presence in Syria coupled with the bombing of Syria and Iraq which has killed a minimum of 600 people with the actual total likely topping over 7,000 civilians. Take for example a raid in Syria on July 4, by US bombers, which killed nine civilians and damaged civilian housing. Assisting the murderous empire in its “regime change” operation are the Israeli Zionists who frequently bomb inside Syria, directly helping the “anti-Assad” terrorists, accompanied by propaganda from outlets, such as National Geographic, to smear the Syrian government, as represented in their upcoming documentary which is totally fraudulent. If that isn’t enough, there have been direct provocations in Syria by the murderous empire. In June, the US shot down a Syrian Su-22 fighter jet which was carrying out attacks on Daesh, a “blatant violation of Syrian sovereignty and international law.” This was only part of such provocations stemming from the dropping of thousands upon thousands of bombs on Syria, since 2014, thousands of US troops being sent into the region, false stories of chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, and other provocations, sometimes with the help of British special forces. Additionally, the UAE, the Turks, Qatar, the Saudis, and numerous others, want a piece of the action, sending “tens of thousands of mercenary and reactionary forces to bring down the Syrian government.

While US imperialism under Trump is “re-positioning” itself by seeking new alliances and harsher policies toward alleged US enemies, the goal in Syria has not changed. As noted earlier, the US wants to overthrow Syria’s duly-elected government, the government a secular, socially democratic state. Gowans explains this simply. He notes that the murderous empire is angry that 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. Such ideas also come with Syria’s support of the Palestinian liberation movement and Hezbollah. Hence, since the 1960s the US had tried to undermine Syria, with the idea since 2003 that the US would eliminate Arab nationalists in the region by invading their countries.

Iran puts a damper on such regime change plans, as does Russia. Already Iran and Russia have developed close relations, like Syria and Russia, with the idea that Iran-Russia contact can prevent Washington’s further intervention in Syria. As Raymond Thomas, quoted earlier, admitted, since Russia has established a “more credible foothold” in Syria, it could, in his summation, use this influence to expel US forces from the country. Whether this would actually happen is not known. As the murderous empire sees it, Iran, Syrian, and Russia are part of an “evil axis” to them. That is why the CIA’s mouthpiece, the Washington Post, declared that the US is threatening Iranian naval vessels in the Persian Gulf whether a “shot across the bow” actually happened or not. [8]

The same goes for the 98-2 vote in the US Senate in favor of increased sanctions on Iran and Russia in mid-June. Only two Senators, with enough political capital, voted against it: “socially democratic” imperialist Bernie Sanders and libertarian-Republican Rand Paul. The sanctions themselves, introduced by Bob Corker, did not pass the House. The legislation not only claims that Iran threatens the US (and allies) in the Mideast, North Africa, and beyond, but it shows US apprehension about Iran’s influence.

In the past month, a new round of sanctions passed both legislative houses, incorporating some of Corker’s legislation on Russia and Iran, but also adding harsh sanctions against the DPRK. On July 25, the House passed the legislation 419-3, with only Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, and Jimmy Duncan voting no, all of whom were Republicans. The vote in the Senate two days similar was similar to the one the month before: Sanders and Paul voted against it.

Specifically, the new sanctions are slapped on Iran for its missile program and “human rights abuses” while squeezing the Russian economy and removing authority from the presidency to ease Russian sanctions. The latter is due to the unsubstantiated and feverous phobia over Russia, propagated by the US intelligence establishment, desperate Democrats and complaint Republicans, and much of the bourgeois media. The fact that Trump approves of the sanctions legislation flushes away all possibility he is “pro-Russia” in any way, shape, or form. Furthermore, the fact that Vladimir Putin and the Russian leadership declared that the US’s diplomatic mission in Russia has to “reduce its staff by 755 employees” was a justified “aggressive response” that the New York Times, in typical fashion, called something which was seemingly “ripped right from the Cold War playbook.” Russia cannot respond by military force to these sanctions, so this reduction is a way of firing back, sending a message to Washington that the sanctions are not OK. [9]

As it seems evident, the murderous empire wants to weaken Iran (and Russia to an extent) to cause the dominoes (Syrian government, Hezbollah, and Hamas) to fall so that imperial hegemony can reign across the region. [10] The Russians, Syrians, and Iranians aren’t standing for it. With Iran having “Washington’s moves under close surveillance,” they have worked to build military cooperation with Iraq, a major step forward in regional security to counter destabilization by the US and its affiliates.

Such an agreement, which disappoints the US, involves both countries working together to improve border security while providing the military forces of each country with “training, logistical…and military support.” Furthermore, the Iranian Parliament recently allocated $600 million to strengthen the country’s defensive missile program and the IRGC’s Quads force. Even with such measures, the moderate Iranian leadership is trying to create linkages with European capitalists created by the nuclear deal they negotiated with the West. The idea is that Iran should be “self-reliant and self-sufficient” since it has strong bilateral relationships with capitalist Russia, revisionist China, and a “remarkable number of European countries.” As Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, recently put it, there is an opportunity of strong relations between Iran and Europe, with creation of “indigenous technology using international advanced technology.” The Iranians also likely see such linkages as a way to partially deter some of the effects of sanctions imposed on them. Some capitalists, like the French, have jumped at the bit. Just recently, Total S.A., a French oil giant, signed a 20 year contract with Iran, with an “estimated cost of 2 billion US dollars.” This would result in 30 wells, 2 offshore platforms, and two pipelines as part of the Iranian Petroleum Contract (IPC) they signed with the Iranian government.

Even with Iran’s moves to court Western European capitalists, there are evident challenges. For one, Trump is continuing to push for “regime change” in Iran, dismantle the “Obama-era balance of power” and return to anti-Iran policies of Bush II. This isn’t much of a surprise since his foreign policy team is filled with Iran hawks, those who want to be more aggressive toward the country. Additionally, there are individuals like the chain-smoking, brutish, covert to Islam, whose name is “Mike Roger” when undercover and nicknamed “Ayatollah Mike.” [11] His full name is Michael D’Andrea. He is leading the anti-Iran campaign but previously ran the drone program, is brash, and was involved in the illegal torture program. [12] As one person quoted, in the CIA propaganda-filled New York Times, says, this is a sign of an “aggressive line toward Iran.”

For having a man who is a Muslim (converted because his wife was Muslim) leading a covert effort to undermine (and ultimately topple) a government rooted, bourgeois liberals and progressives will likely scream “intersectionality!” In reality, it is just imperialism with a nice bow on it, but the same tactics as before. Nothing has changed in that way at all.

In a recent article in the Monthly Review, Fred Magdoff noted that when corporations of “leading capitalist states have problems abroad,” they use the international structure they helped shape, also working to create “more favorable conditions at home and abroad to increase their flexibility and ability to make profits with the fewest restraints” evidenced by thirty CEOs of major US corporations visiting “Saudi Arabia with Trump.” He adds that economic elites and corporations use the power “of their home nation to secure advantages globally” with the nation state’s power of a “significant use to capital” with corporations, no matter the historical era, using “whatever leverage is at their disposal…to get their way,” to gain access to “foreign markets and investment opportunities.”

What Magdoff writes has relevance for the geopolitical position and relation of Iran, Syria, Russia, and the United States, to name a few international “actors” at the current time. Each of these countries has their respective bourgeoisie. For Iran and Syria, their national bourgeoisie is revolutionary in character. Specifically for Iran, this bourgeoisie, especially the reformist faction, is trying to entice European capitalists to invest in their country in order to become “self-sufficient” and create their own products. The principalist or “hardline” faction seems to not be fundamentally opposed to the prospect of self-development, as they support investment, but they are wary of Western influence from capitalists of Europe (mostly) since the involvement of Western international capitalist combines had a role in the overthrow of Mohammad Mossedegh in 1953 and were part of the pillaging of their country up until the victory of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The reformist faction, which was reinforced by the recent election in Iran’s populace, seems to be in a current truce with the “hardline” faction, the latter of which wants a “revolutionary economy” as Ayatollah Khomeini puts it, but does not oppose privatization, for example. The Western capitalists are salivating at the opportunity for a new market with US companies likely furious about the new sanctions since this closes markets for them, inadvertently giving the Europeans a head start in this new market, benefiting them and isolating the United States. Iran needs capital for its self-development, but accepting this capital means that Western capitalists will be able to use the “universal whore, the universal pimp of peoples,” money, as Karl Marx once described it, to try and corrupt Iranian society to make it more consumerist, accepting more and more Western values. [13] If that ultimately happens, then the Iranian Revolution will have failed and capitalism will be triumphant in Iran.

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 since they are under attack from reactionary religious terrorists backed by Gulf and Western states. As Karl Marx wrote in 1844,

“…it is precisely the ability of the capitalist to direct his capital elsewhere which either drives the worker into starvation or forces him to submit to the capitalist’s demands” [14]

In the case of Syria, unlike Iran, they do not desire normalization with the West at this time but rather seek to build alliances, to be part of what Ahmad Sa’adat, imprisoned General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), once called the “international left alliance.” Still, they are affected by competition among capitalists, as this influenced policies of those countries which are attacking them.

As for Russia, it is an interesting case. It is clearly capitalist, but it also has a progressive foreign policy. Partially this policy was forced on it by “isolation” pushed upon it by the US, but also due to its effort of building alliances with those countries under harsh attack by the murderous empire. Still, we cannot forget the Russian oligarchs, who are the Russian bourgeoisie. Even so, they are not like the US in interfering in the affairs of other countries, seeming to follow the principle that sovereignty is the “essence of the state” and that the sovereignty of the leader is based on the people since the “political state is…only a self-determination of the people.” [15] They are, as was noted by the Workers World Party at discussion at the Left Forum earlier this year, wanna be imperialists. Rome, and now the murderous empire, along with competing neo-colonial Western capitalistic states, treats “conquered countries….as private property.” [16] Russia, even if you said that it “conquered” Crimea, which it didn’t since there was a referendum where the people of the peninsula voted to be part of the Russian Federation, is not treating this area or any other area under their influence as their “private property.” Due to US restrictions and that of Russophobic European capitalist states, their markets are limited, so their imperialistic tendencies have not been developed as of yet. If these restrictions were lifted they would become a semi-imperialist state.

The murderous empire has “re-positioned” itself when it comes to Syria, and states associated with it, but as noted in this article, the goals remain the same. This was indicated in a recent speech by Vice President Mike Pence who bemoaned the “grave and growing threat posed by the missile capabilities of dangerous regimes in North Korea and Iran” and noted that Trump called on Russia to “cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and to cease its support for hostile regimes like North Korea and Iran.” If this sentiment is held by numerous other policymakers in the echelons of the intelligence and military establishments, which it likely is, it means they see Russia as the “puppetmaster,” directing other countries like Iran and Syria. This could not be farther from the truth. Both Iran and Syria have self-interested and justified reasons for their amiable relations with Russia” to counter the aggression of the murderous empire.

As those who care about the world around us, whether we are communists, socialists, or radicals of any flavor, we should recognize what Marx said in September 1843: “nothing prevents us from…taking sides in politics…we simple show the world the way it is struggling and…[push for] the reform of consciousness.” [17] If we can take that to heart, standing in international solidarity with Iran, Syria, and Russia, even though each of these countries has a national bourgeoisie, against the murderous empire, that is a step in the right direction. We should take heed from Marx when he says that revolutions are “not made by shame” and arguing that

“A Ship of Fools can perhaps be allowed to drift before the wind for a good while; but it will drift to its doom precisely because the fools refuse to believe it possible. This doom is the approaching revolution.” [18]

While Marx was talking about Germany in March 1843, this sentiment applies to the present. The capitalists and their lackeys, imperialists of any character, of the murderous empire are the “fools” and they can be usurped by a revolution. In closing, we should believe it possible to engage in such actions to undermine (and ultimately overthrow) the capitalist class wherever, whether in the core, the periphery, and semi-periphery, standing in solidarity, in whatever way we can, with those fighting against the beast of capitalism.

Notes

[1] Anti-Assad is in quotation marks because that is how they are framed, although the Syrian government is much more than just Bashar Al-Assad, who was duly re-elected, like the rest of the government last year.

[2] Greg Jaffe and Adam Entous, “Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow,” Washington Post, July 19, 2017.

[3] BBC News, “Syria war: Trump ‘ends CIA arms programme for rebels’,” July 20, 2017.

[4] John Wolcott, “Trump ends CIA arms support for anti-Assad Syria rebels – US officials,” Reuters, July 19, 2017.

[5] Dahila Nehme, “Syria says US halting aid to rebels is step toward ending war,” Reuters, July 25, 2017.

[6] Reuters, “US builds two air bases in Kurdish-controlled north Syria: Kurdish report,” Mar. 6, 2016.

[7] Roy Gutman, “Turkey Leaks Secret Locations of U.S. Troops in Syria,” The Daily Beast, July 19, 2017.

[8] Andrew deGrandpre, “An Iranian ship refused to heed the Navy’s warning. Then shots were fired,” Washington Post, July 25, 2017.

[9] Neil MacFarquhar, “Putin, Responding to Sanctions, Orders US to Cut Diplomatic Staff by 755,” New York Times, July 30, 2017.

[10] It is clearly not a big “conspiracy” as they might think it is.

[11] Greg Miller, “CIA official who directed hunt for bin Laden is being removed from post,” Washington Post, Mar. 25, 2015.

[12] Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo, “Deep Support in Washington for C.I.A.’s Drone Missions,” New York Times, Apr. 25, 2015; Matthew Rosenburg and Adam Goldman, “C.I.A. Names the ‘Dark Prince’ to Run Iran Operations, Signaling a Tougher Stance,” New York Times, June 2, 2017.

[13] Karl Marx, “Money” within 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, which is part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 377. On page 295, also within the “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts,” Marx describes capital as the power to command labor and products, and stored up labor.

[14] Karl Marx, “Wages of Labor” within 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, which is part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 283.

[15] Karl Marx, “Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State” in 1843 within Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 82, 85, 89.

[16] Ibid, 179.

[17] Marx’s letter to Ruge in September 1843 within the Franco-German Yearbooks and part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 208-209.
[18] Marx’s letter to Ruge in March 1843 within the Franco-German Yearbooks and part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 200.

A bunch of baloney: The Trump-Russia “connection”

A scene from “Two Bad Neighbors” (S7E13), a Simpsons episode where Homer fights with George H.W. Bush after Bart accidentally destroys his novel and Bush spanks him

Two nights ago, 60 Minutes came on at 7:00. They claimed they had an “exclusive” interview with James Comey, the FBI Director and long-time bureaucrat. It cast Comey as a nice, well-spoken person, not a showboater as Trump has called him. Hence, it was, like pieces they have done on Apple, drones, and many other subjects, a puff piece. Since May 9, bourgeois liberals and progressives have been waiving their hands, which has even been joined by “progressive” media like The Real News, putting out three stories trying to attest that Mr. Comey was fired because of (1) Trump’s “collusion” with Russia, (2) considering the hypothetical of such interference while claiming there is financial ties between Trump and Russia, (3) and acting the Trump-Russia connection is real. Of all the media, not Democracy Now or any of the other left-leaning media was of note, but rather Liberation News, a publication of the Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSL) had the best perspective on the topic. Brian Becker, the coordinator of ANSWER, noted how the Democratic Party and liberal organizations closed ranks in their call for a “special prosecutor to “protect our democracy” from the Russian menace” and held up Mr. Comey as “the martyred champion” just like 60 Minutes. He goes on to say, rightly, that it is ridiculous to think that Mr. Comey was “the one person who had the goods on Russia” with his firing ending the investigation, that Clinton blamed Comey and the Russians for her defeat, not the arcane Electoral College, that “the Watergate investigation was based on an actual criminal act” unlike this “connection,” and that none of the allegations have been proven. Mr. Becker interestingly noted that not only did the FBI tell the DNC that its “email servers had been compromised by “Russian hackers”” but Crowdstrike, was allowed by the FBI, even though it was “a privately owned Democratic Party-aligned cybersecurity firm,” to provide supposed evidence Russians did it, which is suspect since “CrowdStrike is owned by Dmitri Alperovitch, who is Russian and a virulent opponent of Putin.”

Previously I’ve written about the supposed “connection” between Trump and Russia. I’ve argued that the Trump Administration was making Russophobic moves, continuing the same policies of the Obama “era,” while also hoping that a pro-Russia approach by such an administration could reduce conflict, and saying that there should be solidarity with those countries under attack by US imperialism and against Trumpian fascism instead of getting “caught up in the supposed Trump-Russia “connection.”” Before that, I said that Trump was considering Russia as a partner against terrorism even as he proposed more imperialism to “solve” the problems in the world but warned that tensions with Russia will continue while pointing out Obama’s hawkishness when it came to Russia (and to the rest of the world) with Clinton undoubtedly doing the same, since she likely would have “started WWIII with bombing Russian troops in Syria.” Four months ago, I summed up the whole hullabaloo around this issue, writing (links have been removed for easier reading):

…the anti-Russian campaign [is being] pushed by the Democratic Party, certain Republicans, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, along with internal (FBI) and external (CIA) police of the empire, and “left” journalists of The Intercept like Glenn Greenwald, and other “respected”  publications like Mother Jones…a possible conflict within the administration is brewing about the threat of Russia as some want to take more of a defiant stance and others want to be more cordial…there doesn’t need to be a protest against rapprochement with Russia, but instead against a reactionary Russophobic position by Obama, Clinton, McCain, and the like…[we must] organize to stop the “orange menace” not because of his supposed “friendly” nature with Russia, but for the fascism he will bring to the homefront, imperialist destruction that will rein down on the peoples of Korea, Syria, China, and Iran, and unwavering support for the murderous Zionist state of Israel.

I still stand by this same viewpoint, but I went through a Wikipedia article titled “Russian interference in the 2016 United States election” so you don’t have to, and what I found confirmed by perceptions. As a disclaimer, this article is NOT pro-Trump in any way, shape or form, but only shows the Trump-Russia “connection” as fraudulent based on analysis of existing articles written on the subject and that such bourgeois media that wrote these articles should generally not be trusted.

Muddying through Wikipedia

There is no doubt that like Google, Wikipedia is fundamentally bourgeois, even with the “non-profit” status of the Wikimedia Foundation will controls the site. I say this even as a person who has edited numerous Wikipedia articles myself in hopes to countering bourgeois distortions. The following is a list of sources, with articles in the footnotes, that have been cited as “proof” that there is a Russia connection:

  • Unnamed “U.S. officials,” current and former, always ranging in number, sometimes “senior” and have “access to information,” sometimes in the White House. [1]
  • Unnamed “Western intelligence” officials, either in U.S. or foreign intelligence. [2]
  • Information or reports “obtained by a Western intelligence service” that only the media can see, like a secret CIA assessment. [3]
  • Obama administration officials (prior to November 8 election), including Ben Rhodes, Josh Earnest, and President Obama himself [4]
  • Christopher Steele dossier on Trump-Russia “connections,” with documents that haven’t been verified but may have been used as a “roadmap” for investigation by the FBI, who was open to paying him for the information, among other aspects [5]
  • Crowdstrike, the pro-Dem firm run by an anti-Putin individual contracted by the DNC to investigate the hack, blamed the Russians [6]
  • “Guccifer 2.0,” the Romanian hacker who claims he gave docs to Wikileaks even though this has not been confirmed, to whom Roger Stone claims he talked to and has a “backchannel” to Assange, both of which can’t be proven. [7]
  • “suspicious” supposedly “pro-Russia” actions by DCLeaks and Wikileaks or weak supposition [8]
  • DHS, DNI, and private security companies “conclusions,” with specific reference to a  14-page document by CIA, DNI, and FBI, had “high confidence” in Russian involvement, a report commissioned by Obama, even though the Intelligence Community Assessment or ICA was drafted by the CIA, FBI, and NSA, relies on “reporting” of varied sources and “multiple corroborating sources,” their “assessment” based on how they see Russian behavior, claims that Putin and Russian government had preference for Trump over Clinton, claim Moscow used disclosed documents, accessing DNC databases, because RT, other Russia state outlets, was critical of Clinton (that means they swung the election for Trump?), criticizing US shortcomings in civil liberties and democracy using an open source report published in 2012, criticizing US (means that RT is somehow pro-Trump?), RT hosts criticize fracking (so they serve Russian interests?), they even admit near the end of the report that even as RT has more YouTube views and subscribers, CNN has the most Twitter followers, Facebook likes, and Facebook likes of the bourgeois news organizations they list (Al Jazeera English, BBC News World, along with RT), admit at the end that even an assessment of “high confidence” could “be wrong” with the assessment not necessarily a “fact or certainty” [9] Later, these same agencies, CIA, FBI, and NSA stood by their previous assessment, of course.
  • Claims of Russian business ties with Newsweek even admitting that they can’t find any illegal action, and noting there are business ties across the world [10]
  • Claims Putin “praised” Trump, even though he didn’t. [11] Further articles showed that Putin just called Trump a colorful figure or flamboyant, but did NOT call him a genius or any of the other “praise” he supposedly gave.
  • Pending investigations by FBI, NSA, CIA, DOJ, FINCEN (Treasury Dept), and ODNI reps; also some individual agencies are sometimes cited. [12]
  • Max Boot, Clinton campaign, a lawsuit by Bayrock, Toronto Life magazine, news media itself (WashPO and Bloomberg), claimed “Russian trolls,” FBI insiders, and magical “experts” [13]
  • Joint ODNI-DHS statement even admitting that they are only “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails” and they only “believe” top Russian officials involved; also Clapper, the DNI, but not “17 agencies” agreeing as some claimed. [14]
  • Private security companies ThreatConnect (likely US military/intelligence contractor), Symantec which received a license from the US military in 2005, FireEye run by a former Pentagon officer, and Dell-owned Secureworks which maintains “close ties to various public and private organizations involved in information security” such as the federal government, intelligence and military sectors [15]
  • Unnamed US, European, and Arab officials [16]

Apart from these piss-poor “sources” of collusion, there are confirmed meetings between Trump Administration officials and the Russians, but every administration, even through the Cold War has met with the Russians, and as some US diplomats admitted, including Clinton ally Michael Morrell, this is not a crime as even James Clapper said at one point. [17] Then there’s Michael Flynn. There is no doubt he was paid by RT for three talks, but so has Ron Paul and other US political personalities they’ve had on their show, so how does this show that the Russians “rigged” the election? [18] The truth is it doesn’t do this at all. Perhaps its better to focus on the fact that he was a registered foreign agent for Turkey, that he was the board member of the pro-drone group (Drone Aviation Holding Corp) for which he gained $24,000, consultant for the hawkish Center for a New American Security, among much more that would make him chummy with the capitalist class. All of this has led to some thinking that the Pentagon is right but that Russian media “lies,” claims that the Russians hacked the Trump campaign too but didn’t release information (disproving the whole collusion), as the Russians note that they also spoke with Clinton advisers, and Putin said that the Democrats should get over their loss in November (they should). [19] As a result of the determination that Russia was “behind” the hacking, a number of events went into motion. The FBI spied on Carter Page for at least 90 days, and Trump conceded Russia role sort of but also didn’t, later decrying a “witch hunt” by the Democrats. [20]

Of course, the FBI and intelligence establishment, along with the lackey bourgeois media are wrong. Still, Clinton strongly believes in Russia role as do some former Intel chiefs and Evan McMillian (former CIA) but RNC doesn’t and neither does David Nunes. The media are so caught up in this, they were angry about publication of official photos, with the Russian Foreign Ministry saying that if they hadn’t published pictures from the meeting, the photos would have leaked, which is probably correct.

With such a predictable propaganda assault by the bourgeois media and Russophobes within the military and intelligence establishments, US public opinion reflects this reality. 51-56% of the public, depending on the poll, believes in such interference, with at minimum, 39% opposing this viewpoint. [21] Furthermore, over 60% of those living in the US have said that they are “concerned” about ties to Russia. Some may say these viewpoints are residual effects of the Cold War, with strongly rooted in anti-communism of that time. However, it is more likely that even with waning popularity of bourgeois media in the United States many still rely on it for news and viewpoints that are critical of US empire are marginalized. It may also have to do with uber-nationalism of Americans, many of whom may not trust Trump and see him as a shyster. The real explanation here is not known.

Trump’s tweets and other commentary

Some may say cite Trump’s tweets as “evidence” of the collusion. A search through his tweets for the word “Russia” shows that this is faulty. Looking through tweets from 2011 to 2016 shows that he is more uber-nationalist, jingoist to use the right word, than having any sort of favoritism toward Russia. [22]

The tweets this year, after his election, which are displayed in the search, are worth focusing on here. They range from Trump declaring that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi met with the Russians, basically saying that meeting with the Russians is normal, calling these Dems “hypocrites,” while again blaming Obama, even claiming he colluded with Russia (no proof of that). He goes on to say that the “so-called Russia story” is (1) “fake news,” (2) claims that there is a magical deal the Clintons made with Russia over uranium which is somehow connected to John Podesta somehow, (3) that the “Trump Russia story is a hoax,” and (4) calls the Russia-Trump connection “phony.” He then said that “things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia” with everyone eventually coming to their “senses,” that the story about Trump’s connection to Russia is an excuse used by Democrats, that Democrat “dealings with Russia” are not investigated by the media, that Clapper noted that there is no collusion between Trump and Russia, asks if Obama was too “soft” on Russia (implying he would be more hardline), and says that the Russians might be laughing at the whole story. Most strikingly is a tweet on May 8, in which he declares “the Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

Then there are two tweets the bourgeois media claims are “evidence” that Trump gave classified information to the Russians. In them, Trump says that it is “absolute right” to share facts with them which pertain to “terrorism and airline flight safety” which he says he is doing not only for “humanitarian reasons” but because he wants “Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.” I don’t see how this “proves” that classified information was shared. Just because Trump says he shared information, who is to say this is classified information? Also, who is to say that these tweets aren’t just part of Trump’s bravado and he’s making the whole thing up?

Five days before this, Trump, in an interview with NBC News, declared the following:

“This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

Predictably, PolitiFact showed its Russophobia in response. They said that the FBI and intelligence community have “credible evidence” and that Democrats weren’t behind it, cites magical “evidence” in assessments, shows even Federation of American Scientists believes in collision, and also cites Comey and Clapper. As noted earlier in this article, this is utter baloney. While I think there is validity to his statement that the “Russia thing with Trump” is made-up, it is more than just the Democrats. The military and intelligence establishments of the United States, the Democrats, numerous Republicans, other Western intelligence services, and capitalist governments across the “West” have a coordinated Russophobic propaganda offensive. This goes back to 2014 at least, when the “crisis” in Ukraine begun with a coup in the country by Nazi and reactionary forces, seemingly assisted by the CIA and US intelligence in general. In fact, such Russophobia goes back further, perhaps all the way to 1917 when the Soviet Union was founded, but it was a different strain back then, with a lapse in that strain after the demise of the USSR in 1991, and picking up again in 2000 with Vladimir Putin coming to the helm of the independent capitalist Russian state.

The staff of the PSL’s Liberation News put it best, even better than Mike Whitney, as they centered it in an anti-capitalist context.It is worth quoting what they said in part:

“Clinton’s leaked emails have never been conclusively linked to Russia, or to the Russian government. Nor was the leak that novel — the whole game of modern electoral politics is to dig up dirt which compromises one’s opponent…It is likely that Gen. Mike Flynn, then the incoming national security chief, came to some understanding in December with the Russian ambassador about the easing of sanctions. Again, the people who think that this is exceptional — as if presidential campaigns and incoming administrations do not start striking deals before they formally take over — have serious delusions about the workings of politics. What was exceptional was that Flynn lied about it to his own superiors…Most of the Trump team’s purported “collusion” with Russia amounts to rather standard contacts with a foreign government. Trump was open throughout the campaign that he wanted to reorient U.S. policy towards Russia — which would indeed have signified a seismic shift in geopolitics, and would have had dramatic ramifications on crisis flashpoints such as Syria and Ukraine. In this context is it really surprising that his subordinates and team would have developed Russian contacts and back-channels? Why is every conversation with a Russian suddenly proof of foreign control?…the Russia realignment died almost as soon as Trump came into office — CIA-CNN-DNC pressure campaign after the election made sure of that. The administration changed its tone and then doubled down on the new Cold War when it bombed Syria in March [he means April]…But as a political card, the Russia connection remains particularly convenient to the DNC and its associated liberal organizations such as MoveOn. It taps into a long-held and well-indoctrinated prejudice — fear of Russians — while directing the struggle against Trump into channels they can more easily control: investigative committees, special prosecutors, and made-for-tv intrigue…The Russia card gives the Democratic leadership a strategy to weaken or potentially bring down Trump — as their base wants — without actually meeting the demands from below to move the party in a more left-wing, progressive direction.”

A conclusion

It’s hard to know the reason for Trump’s firing of Mr. Comey on May 9, one week ago. Perhaps it was because Marylander Rod J. Rosenstein, who only became Deputy Attorney General on April 26 after near unanimous approval of the US Senate, had convinced Attorney General Jeff Sessions that through revealing the investigation of Killary before the election, he had weakened the “public confidence in the FBI.” [23] Mr. Rosenstein said such in his letter recommending the firing of Mr. Comey, writing in part:

“Over the past year, however, the FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage…I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken….The director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution…When federal agents and prosecutors quietly open a criminal investigation, we are not concealing anything; we are simply following the longstanding policy that we refrain from publicizing non-public information….former Attorneys General and Deputy Attorneys General from different eras and both political parties…concluded that the Director violated his obligation to “preserve, protect and defend” the traditions of the Department and the FBI…Although the President has the power to remove an FBI director, the decision should not be taken lightly…The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong…the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.” [24]

Taking this letter into account, one could almost say that the removal of Mr. Comey was in a sense, a PR move to improve the “reputation” of the FBI, which would appeal to the law-and-order approach of Mr. “expand the drug war” Sessions and Trump himself. This would also explain the timing of the letter. While Trump has supposedly said that the “Russia investigation” was on his mind when he fired Mr. Comey, the decision to fire was likely about improving the FBI’s “image” among the populace as a “nonpartisan” agency although it has never been non-political in any way. I could see how firing Mr. Comey damages Mr. Rosenstein’s “independence,” but I would be wary of calling him a “lackey” of Trump just yet.

With pending investigations in the House and Senate, the “Trump-Russia connection” seems destined to continue as a “legitimate” topic for the rest of this year, maybe for his whole first term. In the meantime, Trump’s EPA has greenlighted a gold mine in Alaska despite the environmental effects, the Trump State Department cited the discredited Amnesty report to smear Syrian government for its “brutality” (which has been rightly dismissed by the Syrian government), the Trump Pentagon continues to kill Syrian civilians every day, and most startlingly, and Trump’s plan to review protections on 27 national monuments could very well open up “more than 2.7 million acres of iconic US landscape” through extraction of oil, coal, and natural gas.

But, instead, say the hard-nosed bourgeois liberals and progressives, let’s all dance around with glee, allying with the US intelligence and military establishments, and impeach Trump for his “traitorous” action of talking with the Russians, who they think, based on the propaganda from the bourgeois media, rigged the election for Trump. Nothing could be more ridiculous. There is no doubt that the Electoral College is an institution which supported slavery, racism, bigotry, and exploitation, while muting popular movements. However, as it stands now, this means that by the existing laws, based in the “supreme” law of the land, the US Constitution, Trump was elected legally. This was not only because Killary didn’t care about the white section of the working class but due to her crass elitism like calling all of Trump’s supporters “the basket of deplorables…[they are] racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it,” a faux pas as bad as Mitt Romney’s remarks in which he said that 47% of the populace will vote for the populace and are entitled, people who “pay no income tax,” whom Romney doesn’t care about at all.

The talk of Trump-Russia “collusion” will go on, but as reasonable people we must be above this, rejecting such narratives and work with those affected by Trumpian fascism Lest us not be dupes of the bourgeois media as many bourgeois liberals and progressives already are, trapping many publications in self-made deception, while the capitalist class laughs in glee as they continue to destroy the work, crushing resistance wherever it can be found, and by whatever means at their disposal.

Notes

[1] Greg Miller and Adam Entous, “Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election and help Trump,” Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2017; AP, “Trump transition raised flags about Flynn Russia contacts,” May 5, 2017; Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe, “Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador,” Washington Post, May 15, 2017; William M. Arkin, Ken Dilanian, and Cynthia McFadden, “U.S. Officials: Putin Personally Involved in U.S. Election Hack,” NBC News, Dec. 15, 2016; Yara Bayoumy, “Putin turned Russia election hacks in Trump’s favor: U.S. officials,” Reuters, Dec. 16, 2016; Barbara Starr, Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, and Elise Labbott, “Intel analysis shows Putin approved election hacking,” CNN, Dec. 16, 2016; , “Putin-linked think tank drew up plan to sway 2016 US election – documents,” Reuters, Apr. 21, 2017; Jack Stubbs and Denis Pinchuk, “Russia denies Reuters report think tank drew up plan to sway U.S. election,” Reuters, Apr. 21, 2017; Ken Dilanian and William M. Arkin, “Blackwater Founder Repped Trump at Secret Meeting Overseas: Sources,” NBC News, Apr. 3, 2017; Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, Jake Tapper, and Carl Bernstein, “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him,” CNN, Jan. 12, 2017; Washington Newsroom of Reuters, “U.S. intel report identifies Russians who gave emails to WikiLeaks -officials,” Reuters, Jan. 6, 2017; Michael S. Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti, and Matt Apuzzo, “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence,” New York Times, Feb. 14, 2017; Matthew Rosenberg, Adam Goldman, and Michael S. Schmidt, “Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking,” New York Times, Mar. 1, 2017.

[2] Kurt Eichenwald, “Trump, Putin and the Hidden History of How Russia Interfered in the U.S. Presidential Election,” Newsweek, Jan. 10, 2017; CBS News, “More details on U.S. probe of Russian hacking of DNC,” YouTube, Dec. 14, 2016; Brian Ross, Rhonda Schwartz, and James Gordon Meek, “Officials: Master Spy Vladimir Putin Now Directly Linked to US Hacking,” ABC News, Dec. 15, 2016; Ali Watkins, “Intel Officials Believe Russia Spreads Fake News,” BuzzFeed, Nov. 30, 2016; Ken Dilanian, “Official: Flynn Discussed Sanctions With Russians Before Taking Office,” NBC News, Feb. 10, 2017; Spencer Ackerman, “Intelligence figures fear Trump reprisals over assessment of Russia election role,” The Guardian, Dec. 11, 2016; Shane Harris, “Donald Trump Fuels Rift With CIA Over Russian Hack,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 11, 2016; Luke Harding, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, and Nick Hopkins, “British spies were first to spot Trump team’s links with Russia,” The Guardian, Apr. 13, 2017.

[3] Kurt Eichenwald, “Trump, Putin and the Hidden History of How Russia Interfered in the U.S. Presidential Election,” Newsweek, Jan. 10, 2017; Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House,” Washington Post, Dec. 9, 2016.

[4] Euan McKirdy, “WikiLeaks’ Assange: Russia didn’t give us emails,” CNN, Jan. 4, 2017; Fox News, “Obama says US needs to respond to Russian cyberattacks — ‘and we will’,” Dec. 15, 2016; Yara Bayoumy, “Putin turned Russia election hacks in Trump’s favor: U.S. officials,” Reuters, Dec. 16, 2016.

[5] Adam Goldman, “Russian Spies Tried to Recruit Carter Page Before He Advised Trump,” New York Times, Apr. 4, 2017; Scott Shane, “What We Know and Don’t Know About the Trump-Russia Dossier,” New York Times, Jan. 11, 2017; Julie Pace, “Trump campaign adviser Carter Page met with Russian spy in 2013,” Chicago Tribune, Apr. 3, 2017; Ali Watkins, “A Former Trump Adviser Met With A Russian Spy,” BuzzFeed, Apr. 3, 2017; David Corn, “A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump,” Mother Jones, Oct. 31, 2016; Tom Hamburger and Rosalind D. Helderman, “FBI once planned to pay former British spy who authored controversial Trump dossier,” Washington Post, Feb. 28, 2017; BBC News, “Meeting the man behind the Trump memos,” Jan. 14, 2017; Rosie Gray, “‘It Is Fake News Meant to Malign Mr. Trump’,” The Atlantic, Jan. 10, 2017; Natasha Bertrand, “The FBI is reportedly using the explosive Trump-Russia dossier as a ‘roadmap’ for its investigation,” Business Insider, Mar. 30, 2017; Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz, and Manu Raju, “FBI used dossier allegations to bolster Trump-Russia investigation,” CNN, Apr. 18, 2017.

[6] Thomas Rid, “How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History,” Esquire magazine, Oct. 20, 2016; Clint Watts, “Why Russia Wants the U.S. to Believe the Election Was Hacked,” PBS NOVA Next, Oct. 26, 2016; Dmitri Alpervitch, “Bears in the Midst: Intrusion into the Democratic National Committee,” Crowdstrike, Jun. 15, 2016.

[7] Thomas Rid, “How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History,” Esquire magazine, Oct. 20, 2016; Trump adviser Roger Stone repeatedly claimed to know of forthcoming WikiLeaks dumps,” CNN, Mar. 20, 2017; Chas Danner, “Trump Adviser Roger Stone Admits Messaging With Alleged DNC Hacker,” New York magazine, Mar. 11, 2017; Martin Matishak, “Roger Stone takes center stage as Congress lines up Russia probe witnesses,” Politico, Mar. 20, 2017; Maggie Haberman, “Roger Stone, the ‘Trickster’ on Trump’s Side, Is Under F.B.I. Scrutiny,” New York Times, Mar. 21, 2017; Matthew Rosenberg and Maggie Haberman, “Trump Adviser Had Twitter Contact With Figure Tied to Russians,” New York Times, Mar. 11, 2017.

[8] Thomas Rid, “How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History,” Esquire magazine, Oct. 20, 2016.

[9] Greg Miller and Adam Entous, “Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election and help Trump,” Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2017; Clint Watts, “Why Russia Wants the U.S. to Believe the Election Was Hacked,” PBS NOVA Next, Oct. 26, 2016; Office of the Director of National Intelligence, “ODNI Statement on Declassified Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections,” IC On the Record (tumblr), Jan. 6, 2017; Bryon Tau, “Trump’s top intelligence officials accept conclusion that Russia hacked election,” Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2017; New York Times, “Intelligence Report on Russian Hacking,” Jan. 6, 2017.

[10] Kurt Eichenwald, “How the Trump Organization’s Foreign Business Ties Could Upend U.S. National Security,” Newsweek, Sept. 14, 2016; Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin,” Washington Post, Jun. 17, 2016.

[11] Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin,” Washington Post, Jun. 17, 2016; Jeremy Diamond and Greg Botelho, “Putin praises ‘bright and talented’ Trump,” CNN, Dec. 17, 2015.

[12] Ken Dilanian, Robert Windrem, William M. Arkin, and Tom Winter, “FBI Making Inquiry Into Ex-Trump Campaign Manager’s Foreign Ties,” NBC News, Nov. 1, 2016; Peter Stone and Greg Gordon, “FBI, 5 other agencies probe possible covert Kremlin aid to Trump,” McClatchy, Jan. 18, 2017; Zeeshan Aleem, “6 different agencies have come together to investigate Trump’s possible Russia ties,” Vox, Jan. 21, 2017; Stephen Collinson, “FBI: Trump campaign, Russia ties investigated, no wiretap evidence found,” CNN, Mar. 20, 2017.

[13] Jeff Nesbit, “Donald Trump’s Many, Many, Many, Many Ties to Russia,” Time, Aug. 15, 2016; Rachel Roberts, “Donald Trump fired James Comey because ‘he refused to end Russia investigation’, say multiple FBI insiders,” Independent, May 11, 2017; Leo Benedictus, “Invasion of the troll armies: from Russian Trump supporters to Turkish state stooges,” The Guardian, Nov. 6, 2016; Andrew Weisburd, Clint Watts, and JM Berger, “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy,” War on the Rocks, Nov. 6, 2016; Jill Dougherty, “The reality behind Russia’s fake news,” CNN, Dec. 2, 2016; Craig Timberg, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” Washington Post, Nov. 24, 2016 (the infamous story in which they promoted PropOrNot, which STILL hasn’t been deleted).

[14] DHS and Director of National Intelligence, “Joint DHS and ODNI Election Security Statement,” Oct. 7, 2016; Spencer Ackerman and Sam Thielman, “US officially accuses Russia of hacking DNC and interfering with election,” The Guardian, Oct. 8, 2016; Ellen Nakashima, Karoun Demirjan, and Philip Rucker, “Top U.S. intelligence official: Russia meddled in election by hacking, spreading of propaganda,” Washington Post, Jan. 5, 2017; Fred Flitz, “Was Friday’s declassified report claiming Russian hacking of the 2016 election rigged?,” Fox News opinion, Jan. 7, 2017; Tessa Stuart, “A Who’s Who of the Trump Campaign’s Russia Connections,” Rolling Stone, Mar. 2, 2017.

[15] ThreatConnect, “Does a BEAR Leak in the Woods?,” Aug. 12, 2016; Kevin Poulsen, “How the U.S. Hobbled Its Hacking Case Against Russia and Enabled Truthers,” The Daily Beast, Jan. 6, 2017; SecureWorks, “Threat Group-4127 Targets Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign,” Jun. 16, 2016.

[16] Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel,” Washington Post, Apr. 3, 2017.

[17]Michael S. Schmidt, Matthew Rosenberg, and Matt Apuzzo, “Kushner and Flynn Met With Russian Envoy in December, White House Says,” New York Times, Mar. 2, 2017; Mark Landler and Eric Lichtblau, “Jeff Sessions Recuses Himself From Russia Inquiry,” Mar. 2, 2017; Jo Becker and Matthew Rosenberg, “Kushner Omitted Meeting With Russians on Security Clearance Forms,” New York Times, Apr. 6, 2017; Jonathan Easley, “Diplomats warn of Russia hysteria,” The Hill, Mar. 11, 2017; Ken Dilanian, “Clinton Ally Says Smoke, But No Fire: No Russia-Trump Collusion,” NBC News, Mar. 16, 2017; NBC Meet the Press, “Full Clapper: ‘No Evidence’ of Collusion Between Trump and Russia,” 2016?; Todd Shepard, “James Clapper: Still no evidence of any Russian collusion with Trump campaign,” Washington Times, May 8, 2017; Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller, “Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose,” Washington Post, Mar. 1, 2017; Julie Pace, “Senate committee calls on former Trump adviser Carter Page in Russia investigation,” Associated Press, Mar. 6, 2017; Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel,” Washington Post, Apr. 3, 2017; David Ignatius, “Why did Obama dawdle on Russia’s hacking?,” Washington Post opinion, Jan. 12, 2017; Marshall Cohen and Eli Watkins, “Who is Carter Page?,” CNN, Mar. 4, 2017.

[18] Michael Isikoff, “Moscow paid $45,000 for Flynn’s 2015 talk, documents show,” Yahoo News, Mar. 16, 2017; Lachlan Markay, “Michael Flynn Failed to Disclose Payments From Russian Propaganda Network,” The Daily Beast, Apr. 1, 2017.

[19] Clint Watts and Andrew Weisburd, “How Russia Dominates Your Twitter Feed to Promote Lies (And, Trump, Too),” The Daily Beast, Aug. 6, 2016; Carl Schreck, “FBI Director: No Evidence Russia Successfully Hacked Trump Campaign,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty (US government propaganda outlet), Jan. 10, 2017; David Filipov, “Putin to Democratic Party: You lost, get over it,” Washington Post, Dec. 23, 2016; Olivia Beavers, “Kremlin spokesman: Russian ambassador met with advisers to Clinton campaign too,” The Hill, Mar. 12, 2017.

[20] Julie Hirschfield Davis and Maggie Haberman, “Donald Trump Concedes Russia’s Interference in Election,” Jan. 11, 2017; Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett, and Adam Entous, “FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page,” Washington Post, Apr. 11, 2017; Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Carrie Dann, “Trump Cries ‘Witch Hunt’ as Russia Questions Pile Up,” NBC News, Mar. 3, 2017.

[21] Gregory Holyk, “Republicans and Democrats split over Russia probes: Poll,” ABC News, Apr. 26, 2017; Steven Shepard, “Russia investigations a ‘witch hunt’? Not according to polls,” Politico, Mar. 3, 2017; Reid J. Epstein, “About Half of Americans Think Russia Interfered With Election Through Hacking, Poll Finds,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 17, 2017; Quinnipac University Poll, “American Voters Back Sanctions For Russian Hacking, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Israel, Palestinians Not Sincere About Peace, Voters Say,” Jan. 13, 2017.

[22] In 2011 and 2012, Trump was still a real estate developer and ravenous capitalist. He displayed his unbridled nationalism by declaring Obama weak for not getting the Chinese and Russians to agree on sanctions, while also saying that Obama’s plan to get Russia to “stand up” to Iran has failed, making America a “laughingstock.” He later called Obama weak (again) and showed his affinity with Mitt Romney. The following year, he took a hardline stand in support of an US nuclear deterrent (against Russia), slammed Snowden first as a “traitor” and then as a pawn of the Russians, saying that Russians are “embarrassing” the US, among much more. Trump also said that the Russians are “laughing” at the US, that Snowden is a traitor (and another time), that Russia doesn’t “respect” the US, that Putin is “laughing at Obama,” and that Snowden is a Russian agent (again here). He also claims he spoke with the LGBT community in Russia, that it doesn’t make sense to go in Syria with military force, that the Russians are “better prepared” for war than the US, and that OPEC, revisionist China, and capitalist Russia are “laughing” at the US (variant of this here). That’s not all. He also said that Obama’s Syria conflict could become a “worldwide conflict,” promoted the Miss Universe pageant in Russia (also see here), that US looks “worse” to Russia than before, that Russian and Chinese leaders are “smarter” than those in the US, that the war in Iraq is “stupid,” that Russia may have driven the US into a “deeper mess,” and that the US looks “weak.” He goes on to say later that the US must be “smart and strategic” when it comes to Russia, mocks Obamacare (also see here),  Russia beat the US in Olympics, which is another “embarrassment,” Russia laughing at the US yet again, that Putin is much more popular than Obama, that Russia should be watched, Putin and Russia have more leadership than Obama, and calls Snowden a piece of “human garbage” who should be brought back to stand trial. He later tweets about Russian moves in Ukraine, a China-Russia oil deal, the country seeming “weaker” in comparison to Russia, joking about Obama’s “trade” with Russia, China and Russia not helping fighting ISIS which angers him (also see here), and slamming Jeb Bush (also see here). Later years, in 2014 and 2015 he says that the US needs “great leadership,” that Russia isn’t a regional power, that China and Russia are “smart” unlike US leaders, Russia and the world “respecting” the US because of Trump (oh really), slamming the Iran deal as helping Russia. There are the tweets that some would say are “pro-Russia.” With his bravedo, Trump claimed, before he was elected/selected via the Electoral College in November 2016, that (1) “Putin likes me,” (2) he has “ZERO investments in Russia,” (3) says that Putin called him a genius (he didn’t), and (4) said that if any country had the deleted emails of Killary, including the Russians, they should leak them. Yet, this is countered by the fact that he criticized Russia for its occupation of Crimea (which was done by referendum, which he doesn’t believe), blaming Obama, and condemning Russia’s nuclear capabilities, to give a few examples.

[23] Charlie Savage, “Deputy Attorney General’s Memo Breaks Down Case Against Comey,” New York Times, May 9, 2017; David Leonhardt, “Rod Rosenstein Fails His Ethics Test,” New York Times, May 10, 2017; Doyle McManus, “All eyes in Washington are on Rod Rosenstein. Does he have what it takes to investigate Trump?,” LA Times, May 10, 2017; Pamela Brown and Eric Lichtblau, “Rod Rosenstein: Trump’s unlikely hatchet man,” CNN, May 10, 2017; Steve Reilly, “Rosenstein: ‘Prosecutor’s prosecutor’ at center of Comey firestorm,” USA Today, May 10, 2017; Benjamin Wittes, “Et Tu Rod? Why The Deputy Attorney General Must Resign,” LawFare, May 12, 2017; Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Sari Horwitz, and Robert Costa, “Inside Trump’s anger and impatience — and his sudden decision to fire Comey,” Washington Post, May 10, 2017 (claims to tell the “story” of the behind-the-scenes of the Comey firing).

[24] BBC News, “Rod Rosenstein’s letter recommending Comey be fired,” May 10, 2017.

Trump and the “Ruskies”

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Oriental Review and has been reprinted here for the subscribers to this blog’s email list. It also includes the original first link instead of to Vox, in the official article on Oriental Review, a link to which I did not originally intend even though I understand the reason for including it rather than a link to Wikipedia. There have been some developments (including this and this) since I wrote this yesterday but many of its conclusions still ring true.

Recent days in US politics almost seem like a plot out of a Hollywood movie, except that they are happening and have real consequences. After Gen. Mike Flynn was ousted from his post as National Security Advisor, for daring to speak to the Russians, possibly about sanctions, but also possibly not, tensions by Russophobic politicians and compliant corporate media have heightened.

The question worth answering is: how “pro-Russia” is the Trump Administration?

Throughout the recent presidential campaign in the United States, Hillary Clinton and her lackeys accused Trump of being “Putin’s puppet.” It is worth remembering that Clinton was making such accusations back in 2014, claiming that there were “phony environmental groups…funded by the Russians” that opposed fracking, a claim often made by those in the oil & gas industry. There’s no doubt that during the campaign Trump had a more moderate tone toward Russia than establishment Democrats or Republicans by far, with cries of “impeachment” in the present, as some Democrats clap at the “scandal” the Trump Administration is facing.

While Tillerson and Dunford are meeting with their Russian counterparts, relatively little has changed from the Obama Administration. For one, the Trump Administration has declared, through Nikki Haley, and Sean Spicer, that Russia has to “return” Crimea to Ukraine and reduce violence in the country for sanctions to be removed. The Russians have rightly rejected this ridiculousness. If Trump was really “pro-Russia” he would have removed the US military troops near Russia’s borders and engaged in more efforts to remove the sanctions. Clearly, the same policies of the Obama Administration on Russia are being continued under Trump’s watch.

The national security establishment, often called the “intelligence community,” has been directly supported by Russophobic Democrats who declare their allegiance, claiming what these spooks are saying is 100% true. Clearly, they don’t remember their history and are making the Trump-Russia connection the new “conspiracy theory” of liberals, almost discrediting the Democratic Party wholesale. These same people, along with Russophobic Republicans, have a bill in Congress proposing a review of possible efforts by the Trump Administration to ease sanctions on Russia, are declaring that the administration engaged in a “cover-up,” and are uniting around an investigative probe to “discover” any Russian connections in the new Administration, which might not even happen anyway.

The corporate complaint media has also played up the “Russia threat,” peddling the claims of a magical “Russian spy ship” off Connecticut, while they twiddle their thumbs about “what happened” during the phone call between General Flynn and the Russian Ambassador to the United States. Other outlets have been more perceptive. The Chicago Tribune and The Atlantic had columns saying his ouster by Trump has been a victory for the “deep state,” which is more accurately called the national security establishment. Even the arch-conservative National Review called for Flynn’s conversation, captured by the FBI and NSA, to be released in full.

Taking this all into account, with every day, there is less and less of a possibility that Trump will lessen tension with Russia. For one, the “establishment coup” to oust Flynn was pushed by same spying machine he helped create, making it valid for Trump to directly blame them for the result. Apart from the arguments that “the Left” needs meaningful critiques of Trump and that Flynn had a mind for “conspiracy thinking,” Flynn’s resignation will likely have a negative effect on the possibility of “Russian detente” by the Trump Administration.

Some may counter these determinations by noting that Trump has taken a “positive” tone toward Putin since he has been in office. They might exclaim that when, in his recent interview with Bill O’Reilly, Trump said that Putin was reasonable and “glossed” over the idea that he was a “killer” by saying that the empire has made mistakes, shows his “loyalty” to the Russians. This is completely bunk. For one, the Trump Administration is taking a strong anti-Iran and pro-Israel position, which fundamentally hurts Russian interests. This position could even result in the war with Iran, despite the fact that Flynn’s ouster is good news for Iran, since he was outspoken in condemning the “terrorist” acts of that country’s government. The real acts of terror were by tens of thousands of US bombs dropped on Libya, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan last year, along with Special Forces in areas across 70% of the world, people whom Trump has called “legendary warriors” fighting in far off places against “radical Islamists.” To Iran’s credit, it is resisting the aggressive moves of the Trump Administration, deriding them as uncalled for.

Regardless of what Flynn was fired for, whether it was lack of trust or something else, there is no doubt that the efforts of the Russophobes within the national security establishment and within the Democratic and Republican political parties will intensify their efforts in the coming days. Its almost like they think the Soviet Union has “returned” like in Simpsons Tide, a 1998 episode of The Simpsons, when the Russians had deceived the US to think that the Soviet Union had disappeared.

Perhaps more accurately, the present political conundrum, resembles the 1964 British political satire Dr. Strangelove. The Russophobes are like General Gen. “Buck” Tergidson, only differing in degree from wacked jingoist Gen. Jack D. Ripper who wants a nuclear war with Russia no matter the cost, who claims that the Communists are tricking the President, saying that they “will clobber us!” The Trump Administration is like President Merkin Muffley, who tries to take a more balanced, cool-headed approach to Russia until it is evident, that war cannot be avoided.

As we stand now, we are at the crossroads, with the future of the world in the balance. As long as the Trump Administration takes a strong stand against Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea, a multipolar world is threatened. If there is a pro-Russian direction by the Trump government, this would be positive for the world and possibly reduce conflict, even if it is hard to maintain that posture with attacks from Russophobes. What happens next is up to us, the people of the world.

 

Acceptance of Trump and imperial white propaganda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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