In response to "Drugs a Barrier to Organizing in Many Prisons," first, it's not many prisons, it's all! When drugs are present, unity is not. Drugs break the whole down into a degenerate form of individualism. Under the captivity of drugs and/or alcohol, these people are no different than the imperialist sheep that keep us oppressed.
It branches out to affect families of these people. Prison is definitely an overwhelmingly negative environment, but should be a place for personal reflection and growth. I take every opportunity to absorb knowledge, bring those who are in my company up with me. It makes absolutely no sense to become and remain stagnant in here. It pretty much guarantees failure once they return to freedom.
Drugs in prison leads to other criminal acts, such as extortion, violence, etc. It goes nowhere! Lenin vowed that a socialist state would never produce or sell alcohol. Basically prohibition. Alcohol nor drugs were tolerated. Lenin knew the drastic effects they had on people, and the inevitable damage it causes to the unity of the people. Until people realize the extreme hindrance drugs are, unity will be out of reach. All myself and other comrades can do is do our best to educate others, to shed light on truths.
In all situations, we should remember Lenin's warnings:
"Illusions and self-deceptions are terrible, the fear of truth is pernicious. The party and the people need the whole truth, in
big things and small. Only the truth instills in people an acute sense of civic duty. Lies and half-truths produce a warped mentality, deform the personality, and prevent one from making realistic conclusions and evaluations, without which an active party policy is inconceivable."
People constantly fall prey to ideological lies. They lack a sense of discipline and self-awareness. This exists not only in prisons, but in society. Society is overwhelmingly a slave-morality, following the
masses — doing what they believe will satisfy norms, set forth by imperialists. Comrades probably feel like the "minority," but must always keep in mind that this "minority" is strong, rooted in truth and unity.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Lenin did oppose alcohol in the Soviet Union, both as a question of capitalist enterprise that was bad for the peasants and also as a health issue. On the question of monopolies he wrote:
"This is quite apart from the enormous amount of money the peasant communes have lost as a result of the liquor monopoly. Hitherto they obtained a revenue from liquor shops. The Treasury has deprived them of this source of revenue without a kopek compensation!"(1)
In studying the history of alcohol in the Soviet Union, we came across some writings by Anna Louise Strong from 1925. As she explained:
"The war with drink, like everything else in Russia at present, is not a thing by itself, but is
tied up with the ideas of the Revolution. The bootlegger is denounced, not merely as a lawbreaker, but as a man who profits in the misery of others. The advocates of strong drink, when they venture to express themselves, are hotly denounced, not merely as mistaken, but as 'counter-revolutionists, poisoners of Russia!'"(2)
In 1925 the Soviet Union finally had a good harvest of grain after years of war and famine. This presented an opportunity for serious alcohol production. And one official argued that the government should encourage it and make money off the taxes. Pravda, the official newspaper of the Communist Part of the Soviet Union, denounced this position:
"Now after our long strain of war and famine, when national health is at a low ebb, legalised alcohol would be infinitely more dangerous than it was before," ... "He proposes to get rid of the bankruptcy in our budget. But he would drive that bankruptcy into the bodies and minds and souls of our people. The party cannot overlook such suggestions even in the conversational stage. We understand what you have in view. We have made many concessions because of our poverty, but such a concession as the surrender of our national soberness you will not get. This shall not pass."(2)
As Strong concludes about the Soviet Union in 1925:
"Drink is attacked as a problem of public health and national morale, rather than a question of individual morals. Repressive measures are occasionally quite severe and public demand is growing to make them even more stringent. But there is also universal agreement, in every article one reads and every official one talks to, that the final solution can come only by substituting an interesting cultural life for the lower pleasures of drink.
"As for state manufacture of vodka, about which rumours from time to time arise, the words of Lenin himself laid down the government's attitude. When the new economic policy was under discussion and the question was raised in the conference of the Communist party how far they were prepared to go in making concessions to the peasants, Lenin outlined the policy as follows:
'Whatever the peasant wants in the way of material things we will give him, as long as they do not imperil the health or morals of the nation. If he asks for paint and powder and patent leather shoes, our state industries will labour to produce these things to satisfy his demand, because this is an advance in his standard of living and 'civilisation,' though falsely conceived by him.
'But if he asks for ikons or booze—these things we will not make for him. For that is definitely retreat; that is definitely degeneration that leads him backward. Concessions of this sort we will not make; we shall rather sacrifice any temporary advantage that might be gained from such concessions.'"
So, first lemme say that there were a few typos in my response that made some significant differences. Mainly I wanna be clear that it said I don’t care about your "lies." The correct word was "line."
Also, I have no fuckin clue what "Post-Fordism" could possibly mean. What the fuck is "Fordism"? I said "Post-Marxist". We live in a "Post-Marxist" era.
As for my acceptance of status quo definitions of "slavery", I don’t accept it simply because it's what is commonly presented to us, but because I more or less agree with it.
I do fully agree with your analysis concerning the exploited global proletariat as being the theoretical primary contradiction. Capitalist imperialism depends solely on expropriation of land and resources. In order to sustain capitalist rule this can only come as a result of perpetual expansion into foreign lands, etc., and not to mention wholesale slaughter of oppressed peoples across the globe. Imperialism being inherently nationalistic this means "global" class systems emerge and so there you see our analysis is virtually identical.
Now if you can explain to me how we can apply this dialectically correct analysis into revolutionary practice — aside from pencil-pushing while capitalism further secures itself by snowballing into a fascist state — sign me up. But in my studies of all revolutionary lines, I’ve yet to find a red theory that institutes practice in our current material time and place.
I’m a nihilist. I accept no theory/analysis simply because it’s common to any rev camp, but only if it jives with absolute objective and dialectically correct theo-analysis. I find red analysis to be exceptionally on point. But I find major flaws in dictatorships of any stripe based in historical evidence. Authority always shows to turn into tyranny. Communists are just as guilty of mass-murder and oppression as any fascist state and I find the differentiation between "nationalistic" socialism and so-called "international" socialism to be mostly a matter of semantics. Don’t get me started on Bolshevism being the theoretical root of fascism, evidenced by Hitler’s distribution of Leninist literature. So I’ll close this by saying red analysis is sound. But fundamentally anarchist methodology and principles are the only realistic road to a true egalitarian society. I don’t swallow this because of identity politics — be it the black flag or the red — but because it's true. And so I apply red analysis to anarchist principles.
Next, obviously I do recognize the importance of line as my writing clearly demonstrates. You make exactly the point of why it's important in your paragraph number five and others. When I say I don’t care about line, what I mean is that I don’t conform to any line simply because it’s a generally accepted body of politics. Though I will and do align myself with any line if it jives with my correct social analysis, theory, or mode of practice. In my case, red analysis, black theory (black meaning anarchist).
Obviously I’m also a big fan of theory. Marxist dialectics being the pinnacle of revolutionary science, this is my area of professionalism in fact. So, when I told you "your theory is based in theory", you omitted the first part of my statement which was that black theory is based in practice. So "anarchist theory is based in practice, red theory is based in theory." That was my statement, which demonstrates my ascription to theoretical science. I simply see no potential for practical application of red theory, and I’ve seen nothing from red camps that show otherwise.
Further, I say I don’t care about line, as in when I’m participating in any revolutionary campaign — not political agenda, but revolutionary campaign, which is different — I could really give a shit if you're a militant red or a backwoods biker for Christ. If you're with the business we’re crackin' off then I’ll ride in the same car with you. Do I dig your political line? That’s irrelevant during campaigns as long as our interests intersect on the immediate issues. This is also what Bakunin meant and myself when I quote him when he said in a letter to his sister "sometimes you have to throw theory into the fire for it only spoils life" — spoils, not "stalls" (another typo). We’re saying theory that cannot be applied, no matter how sound, is worthless. At that time he was still practicing Hegelian dialectics which is nihilistic in nature. And then he went and got himself a political agenda and became just as boring as Marx.
As I state in my original critique, your original article has a clear contradiction in your dudes' own analysis. The paragraph #5 and paragraph #10 directly contradict each other. But whatever. As I said, it was kinda half-assed and it's a mostly irrelevant point within all our other conversation on this shit. Ultimately I maintain my original statement on this which you neglected only to reiterate the same point which is that in refusing to participate in these pigs' exploitative practices, clearly I said "the P.I.C. will have to adjust to accommodate us." That does not even suggest a declaration that it will "close all prisons." For the record, I quoted a comrade from the Free Virginia Movement when I said that.
Lastly in my own personal defense of nihilism, I find red political agenda idealistic and historically and theoretically frightening and horrific. Be that as it may, I actually find anarchist ideas about some revolutionary end result of global economic syndications just as whimsical, and frankly unfavorable as any other systemic socio-economic structure. It's basically just another formula based around labor and industry and distribution of wealth and so on. It fails to bring into question the value and dependence of labor and production in itself. So ultimately it may be egalitarian in theory, which I align with in regard to revolutionary practice in our current socio-economic landscape, as we work from a decentralized organizational praxis. At the end of the day, the idea is to still be subject to industry, and so becomes somewhat mechanical and antithetical to the liberated spirit of the inherent animal nature of humanity. Further, any system, be it hierarchical like communism, or horizontal like anarchism, if it's a system designed to control the means of production, it is susceptible to corruption and a gradual development toward the control of humans by the worst part of other humans. In this case, the nihilist, rejecting all idealistic political theory, will be just as likely to attack and destroy anarchist syndicalism as she would any other system. That is, if it begins to be corrupted — which it would.
And so what this means for the nihilist is that we look forward to nothing but our cigarettes, our bitter coffee, and destruction.
I suppose I could go on and nit pick some more shit, but there's no point. I think we understand each other, and so I shall withdraw back into the black coils of my madness. Feel free to reawaken me for purposes of business or pleasure.
In the end, I hope I speak for everyone who gives a shit when I say I look forward to solidifying an alliance with you — as I’ve done before — for the coming tidal wave against the agony of oppression.
Face first in the fight for peace.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We appreciate Zero's willingness to continue the dialogue over our theoretical disagreements, and to build our practical unity in the struggle against oppression in which we do have much agreement. We want to reiterate that at this stage in the struggle, we have more unity with Zero and other anarchists than we have differences. We are all fighting to overthrow imperialism, and to take on that enemy we need a united front of all the enemies of the imperialist state. As Zero stresses that means uniting around the battles of the day, despite ideological differences.
There's no need to reiterate our responses to most of Zero's points, instead we want to take this opportunity to again comment on the theoretical debate over anarchism vs. communism and what's the best way to achieve liberation for the world's oppressed. As we've said before, anarchists and communists are fighting for the same end goal: a world where no group of people has power over any other group of people. Contrary to how Zero phrases it above, saying communism is hierarchical while anarchism is horizontal, anarchism is the communist's ultimate goal, we just disagree on how to get there. It is the getting-there process where communists believe in the use of force and repression of the oppressors.
This may seem like a theoretical and esoteric discussion that doesn't have much relevance to our day-to-day organizing. After all, we all know that right now the imperialists hold the power, and in the context of the prison struggle the criminal injustice system is a daunting and powerful enemy that we are all struggling against in many arenas. We aren't close to a revolutionary situation in the United $tates today, and so neither the communists nor the anarchists are in a position to seize power tomorrow. But this theory informs our practice in the struggle. Zero understands this and so stands firm in eir political positions, weaving them into eir discussion of the September 9th protests. In this we completely agree with Zero. In the long run this theory will determine whether or not (and how quickly) we are successful in overthrowing imperialism, which for many in the world is a life and death battle.
As scientists, we look to history to inform us about the most effective theory and strategy. Zero takes this same approach but draws different conclusions from eir study of history. We disagree with Zero's analysis that there isn't a significant distinction between communism and fascism (ey wrote: "the differentiation between 'nationalistic' socialism and so-called 'international' socialism to be mostly a matter of semantics.") Obviously Zero knows that fascism is an ideology that promotes the oppression of certain groups of people to the benefit of others, while communism promotes the end of oppression of groups of people. But studying the historical practice of communist revolutions we come to different conclusions from Zero. While capitalist propaganda tries to convince us that communists are brutal and murderous dictators, a careful study of Russian and Chinese history, from history books not written by capitalist apologists, demonstrates otherwise.
First we will state the obvious: neither the Russian nor the Chinese revolutions succeeded in implementing communism. Both reached a socialist state and then were overthrown by state capitalists from within. But during the years when they were implementing socialism and building towards communism, both countries made tremendous contributions to humynity. There are several important metrics we could look at here. To name just a few important ones: (1) Lives saved from feudalism/capitalism, i.e. people no longer starving to death, receiving health care, etc. (2) Lives saved from fascist and imperialist aggression, i.e. the Russian pivotal and central role in the defeat of Hitler and the fascists in World War II, the Chinese support for revolutionary movements around the world. (3) Advances made towards communism, i.e. the Chinese Cultural Revolution as a historical advance over the Russian implementation of socialism in terms of addressing the issues of corruption in socialist state structures through mass participation.
"The central problem with the critics of Stalin is that they do not understand the historical time period he lived in and the real-world choices that actually existed. Yes, he killed many people, too many even according to himself. However, all his repression combined was small compared with the lives he saved through the rapid and revolutionary transformation of society that he carried out. The choice the USSR had was not between liberal humyn-rights utopia on the one hand and tzarist era backwardness on the other. As if to drill this point into thick skulls, history has shown what happens after decades of criticism of Stalin: regression so that millions today are dying for lack of conditions that used to exist under Stalin almost 50 years ago! People supporting 'humyn-rights' and attacking Stalin are responsible for far more deaths than Stalin. That is evidence of the real world choices being faced — not between utopia and Stalin but between the pro-Western phony communists like Khruschev and Brezhnev and bourgeois politicians like Yeltsin on the one hand and Stalin on the road of Marxism-Leninism on the other hand. Stalin should be compared with other political leaders and then his merits will stand clear.
“Middle-class people from the West focus much too much on dissidents and not enough on causes of death such as food, clothing and basic medical care being lacking. Even including the repression he carried out, Stalin still doubled the life expectancy of his people. For this reason, polls of Russians on their favorite past leaders continue to show Stalin as the second most preferred leader of the past century, after Lenin. Although Amerikkkans love Lincoln more than Russians love Stalin, Stalin has a higher public acclaim than most U.S. presidents have amongst Amerikkkans, according to the survey by the Public Opinion fund cited in Pravda.” (From MIM Theory 6: The Stalin Issue)
Zero believes that humyn nature will inevitably lead to people seizing power for persynal gain if a state remains. In some ways Zero is correct. Zero's conclusion is similar to what Maoists say about the dangers of a new bourgeoisie arising within the party because of the strong history and remnants of capitalist culture. People don't just magically change overnight, and some will try to take advantage of opportunities to seize power and wealth even after a revolution. This is why the Chinese communists initiated the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution: to encourage and foster the criticism of leadership by the people so that leaders who become corrupt will be exposed and removed.
Communists believe that people are conditioned by their environment. We have loads of historical evidence to support this. And so, like the anarchists, we believe that if we can build a society where all people are equal and all people's needs are met, and where the culture doesn't encourage violence and power grabbing, but rather fosters cooperation and kindness, people will learn and adapt into this more peaceful existence. But unlike the anarchists, we don't think this can be implemented overnight. We will need a period where we have a state to force the former-oppressor classes out of power and keep them from taking that power back. We call this state the dictatorship of the proletariat, because it is using the power of the state in the interests of the oppressed. And during this time we will also be fighting against new people trying to take and abuse power. During this period of cultural revolution we will be remaking the culture while we are transforming ourselves to think and work collaboratively, for the good of all of humynity. People won't just start doing this on a mass scale spontaneously; it will take a long period of struggle against the capitalist patriarchal culture. The Chinese communists made significant strides, but we must continue to do more and better.
For people interested in going deeper into these questions we recommend a few readings:
There is an entire theory journal written by MIM in 1994 about Stalin, along with other relevant articles and reviews. Get MIM Theory 6.
For a deeper look at the successes and failures of communism we recommend MIM Theory 4, a theory journal by MIM, but also we distribute many books by both communists and non-communists detailing their experiences and observations in revolutionary China which provide objective (non-bourgeois-propaganda) facts about the real successes and struggles in that country under Mao.
We distribute several books and essays on the restoration of capitalism in the USSR and China for a more in-depth study of that history.
The Essential Stalin: Major Theoretical Writings, 1905-52 Edited with an introduction by Bruce Franklin Anchorbooks 1972 511 pages
I finally got to read this priceless gem and it lived up to all my expectations. One of the theoretical weapons in a revolutionary's arsenal should always be this book. Many of us have heard the slanderous claims from many in the "Amerikan left" that attempt to smut up comrade Stalin's legacy, and it's easy to sit back and find fault in someone and snatch rumors out of thin air while confusing many who don't know any better or do not take the time to investigate for oneself what Stalin brought to the international communist movement. This book that displays Stalin's theoretical contributions, from which many new generations of revolutionaries out in society as well as within prisons can continue to glean its political nutrients and replenish the movement today and tomorrow. It is these precious documents which we read from Stalin's own hand and in this way we learn where Stalin stood on the major issues.
In his piece "Marxism and the National Question" we learn of some of the challenges in Stalin's day with nationalism. At the same time he makes clear that Marxists of all stripes must support the self-determination of nations and this includes the right to secede. It is in this piece where Stalin defines what a nation is. Here in United $tates borders we have not only the dominant nation of Amerikkka, but also Aztlán, New Afrika, Boriqua, and several First Nations. Amerikkka, the oppressor nation, does not recognize the above stated oppressed nations on these shores and even deals with those of us who raise the banner of our respective nations by imprisoning us, murdering us and even resorting to torture in prisons to repress our growing resistance. As Stalin points out in his piece "Marxism and the National Question", repressing one's language is a form of national oppression and even after we are imprisoned in Amerika — which in itself is national oppression in today's capitalist society — our languages are repressed, many Spanish words, Mexican indigenous languages like Nahuatl, African Swahilli and other native languages are considered "gang activity" if spoken in many Amerikkkan prisons. Thus our national oppression in Amerika follows us to our grave as even in the most repressive dungeons or torture facilities our national oppression continues!
Stalin's piece "The Foundations of Leninism" defines Leninism but also exposes Trotskyism's shortcomings. As Stalin states in this piece Leninism is the "tactics and strategies of the proletarian revolution" and "the tactics and strategies of the dictatorship of the proletariat" and this is so because Lenin took Marxism and applied Marxist theory to the material world. Marx was unable to see his theories come to fruition so Lenin applied Marxism to Russia and developed more tactics that remain weapons in the arsenal of the people today. Stalin's piece highlights Lenin's contributions to the international communist movement (ICM).
The dictatorship of the proletariat is explained as the bourgeoisie being on the receiving end of suppression while the formerly exploited are now doing the suppression. The Soviets (councils) are explained as well where, like United Struggle from Within (USW), these mass organizations worked to unite different peoples in a forward motion to the path of revolution. "The Foundations of Leninism" has a great depth to it that includes many principles of Leninism among which was Lenin's stance on the national question, particularly Lenin's position on self-determination of the oppressed nations. Stalin gets to the heart of this point when he states:
"Formerly, the principle of self-determination of nations was usually misinterpreted, and not infrequently it was narrowed down to the idea of the right of nations to autonomy. Certain leaders of the second international even went so far as to turn the right to self-determination into the right to cultural autonomy, i.e., the right of oppressed nations to have their own cultural institutions, leaving all political power in the hands of the ruling nation. As a consequence, the idea of self-determination stood in danger of being transformed from an instrument for combating annexations into an instrument for justifying them."(p. 146)
This is powerful and validates what many comrades here have discovered about many "parties" in Amerikkka, who use the idea of self-determination as an instrument for promoting oppression. Groups like the crypto-Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP=U$A) have in fact used self-determination in this exact way. Indeed, if you look at RCP=U$A line, they disagree with the [email protected] nation having a right to self-determination and instead they line up with the Second International and promote the idea of Aztlán being reduced to an "autonomous" region within North America. This, as Stalin reveals, is only a slimy way of RCP-U$A attempting to use the idea of self-determination as an instrument for justifying annexation and oppression.(1)
In "Dialectical and Historical Materialism" comrade Stalin introduces us to Marx and Engels's thought on dialectics and how historical materialism is the application of dialectical materialism in order to study and thus transform society. Dialectical materialism is the process of identifying and then using contradictions to transform our concrete conditions, for example the United $tates government has us locked in these dungeons, in solitary confinement, in slave conditions in order to stifle our advancement mentally, to smother our resistance. When we are locked in these chambers it is to neutralize our ability to rebel, to think, and learn from others while teaching, and to feel the sacred bond of unity! When we turn these torture chambers into revolutionary institutes, where we study the science of revolution, and use prisons as re-education camps, where we learn real history and begin to understand our oppression, this is dialectical materialism in practice! It is using the state's tools of oppression instead to liberate our minds! This is as Stalin describes going from quantitative change into qualitative change or as Engels put it "quantity is transformed into quality."
Contradictions exist in all matter and phenomena, in the United $tates, in the world, in Amerikkka's prisons, in lumpen organizations, in people's ideology and behavior, etc., and in order to advance any matter or phenomenon one first needs to identify the contradictions. "Dialectical and Historical Materialism" teaches us this process and thus helps us advance our struggles. Lenin said dialectics is the "struggle of opposites", and this struggle must occur in order for development to take place. Mao understood this "struggle of opposites" and he said: "We are confronted by two types of social contradictions — those between ourselves and the enemy and those among the people themselves. The two are totally different in their nature."(2) This struggle of opposites must take place if the people are to develop. But grasping dialectical and historical materialism is useless if at some point we don't put this understanding to practice!
There are much more documents and lessons to be learned within "The Essential Stalin", so much to be grasped and applied to today's contradictions wherever we may be.
Book Review: Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism Gilbert Achcar Haymarket Books 2013
In part one of this review i addressed the author's apparent disdain for the anti-imperialist Islamic movement. In this concluding article i will expose the author's First World chauvinism as being at the root of his reactionary perspective by explaining how he uses the Christian liberation vs. Islamic fundamentalist concept in religion and politics today from a Marxian perspective, so as to better prepare the reader for his ideas on "internationalism" and "ultra-nationalism" by which he really means revolutionary nationalism. As such, it would seem that the entire premise of this book was not intended as a supplemental analysis of anti-imperialist politics in the Middle East today, but so that the author can push his crypto-Trotskyist agenda. Crypto-Trotskyism is a term used to refer to organizations that exhibit Trotskyist tendencies, but which don’t admit to being Trotskyist. Most significantly they suffer from the same great nation chauvinism as the other Trots: over-emphasizing the role of the oppressor nation working classes, and under-emphasizing the role of liberation struggles of the oppressed nations.(1)
The author begins the final essay of this book titled "Marxism and Cosmopolitanism" by tracing the very hystory of the word cosmopolitanism. He discusses how it went thru many twists and turns, from its beginning in ancient Greek civilization thru the Middle Ages and up until today; at one point progressive, while regressive at another. Hence, we learn that the terms cosmopolitan and globalization are connected in this regard. We also learn that Marx and Engels shared Achcar's disdain at one point or another for any and all national movements, in particular for those centered in the capitalist periphery, preferring, instead to champion the cause of the global proletariat, which in their lifetimes meant focusing on European workers. As a result, Marx and Engels contributed to popularizing the concept of cosmopolitanism as interchangeable with international proletariat, which to many communists of the time was preferable to mentioning by name the plight of English or German workers because of the obvious connotations to nationalism. Such connotations were seen by most as giving legitimacy to nationalist struggles, which at the time were driven by the national bourgeoisie.
Within this context nationalism was viewed as backward and reactionary for the proletariat, as the national bourgeoisie was using this concept to their advantage by inciting the proletariat to kill and be killed by workers of other countries, for the bourgeoisie’s goal of world domination. The communists on the other hand rejected nationalism, considering themselves staunch internationalists; champions of the world proletariat, whose hystoric mission it was to usher in the socialist stage of communist development. This being the accepted theory of the time, well before Mao posited that in the age of imperialism, nationalism of the oppressed nations is internationalism.
All this is important to remember when assessing the text as it pertains to the whole reason why Achcar even wrote this book. More so, it is important to remember because in the following pages the author uses much of this information to attack the practice and political line of Joseph Stalin. And while it is undeniable that Marx and Engels at one point agreed with many of the ideas that Achcar propagates, it is also undeniable that as reality progressed, so did Marx and Engels' thinking, which is more than we can say for Mr. Achcar. So if we want to learn the genuine Marxist stance on nations and nationalism then we should not limit ourselves to what the founders of scientific socialism had to say on these topics early on in their revolutionary careers. Rather, we should study and learn what they advocated and stood for later in their lives once they became full-fledged Marxists. As such, the line that Achcar is pushing is a disingenuous one in which he proclaims that all nationalism, just like all variants of revolutionary Islam, are inherently bad, when in reality it is the nationalism of the oppressor nations and the Western privilege that comes with it that he upholds. As such, Gilbert Achcar should just come out and say what he really thinks; which is that the nationalism of the oppressed is what he believes to be backward and reactionary, while oppressor nation nationalism is inherently progressive due to its linkage to Europeans, their culture and tradition. Thus, just as the author correctly pointed out in "Religion and Politics today from a Marxian Perspective," that Islamic fundamentalism is a concept that can be divided into one that is collaborationist with Western interests and one that is hostile to Western interests, so is nationalism a concept that can be divided into one that is bourgeois and reactionary, and one that is revolutionary and forward looking.
"Cosmopolitanism" as Anathema: the Stalinist Perversion
Trotskyists of various stripes have always hated on Stalin for a multiplicity of reasons, primarily however for his theory of socialist development. As Stalin's line on socialist development progressed it eventually came to stand for the national liberation struggles of the oppressed nations, not only within Europe but outside the continent as well. He correctly saw the revolutionary character of the anti-imperialist movement in the colonies as both hostile to Western interests and potentially pro-Soviet. Trotsky on the other hand had nothing but contempt for Asians, Africans and [email protected] Americans, believing them too backward and weak to ever launch successful liberation struggles and/or engage in socialist construction absent the immediate help of the European working classes, a theory that was proven incorrect when an onslaught of colonial countries broke free of the imperialist framework following the end of World War II. And so it is within the context of "globalization" and anti-imperialist struggles in the 21st century that Gilbert Achcar now attempts to rehabilitate Trotsky's theory of the world revolution led by the so-called proletariat of the advanced capitalist countries vis-a-vis the rehabilitation of cosmopolitanism; vis-a-vis his criticisms of Joseph Stalin. To accomplish this however, Achcar must go in depth into the hystory of the Soviet Union, in particular into the propaganda campaigns against cosmopolitanism which Stalin had initiated at the end of World War II, as well as to the campaigns in favor of Soviet patriotism which Stalin also had initiated to prepare the Soviet masses for the Nazi invasion.
According to Mr. Achcar these campaigns were nothing more than a cover for Stalin's anti-Semitism. Yet interestingly enough, in making these accusations the author inadvertently puts forth a plausible explanation for the oppression of notable Jews during this period in the Soviet Union; thereby paving the way for a materialist explanation of these actions and the clearing of Stalin's name as far as anti-Semitism goes.
Achcar like so many anti-communists before him cannot contain his contempt for the progress made under Stalin and so he jumps on the bourgeois bandwagon of blaming Stalin for the so-called Jewish pogroms that were said to have taken place beginning in 1949 alongside the further elaboration and popularization of Soviet patriotism as a concept over that of cosmopolitanism. In addition, the author also contends that these campaigns were one and the same as the so-called anti-Marxist movement which supposedly took place during this period. What these campaigns actually represented however were struggles in the realm of ideas between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries battling for the "hearts and minds" of the Soviet masses, and indeed the future of the revolution.
According to Achcar, the cosmopolitans appear to have been something like a Trotskyist sect operating inside the USSR, who were agitating around the need for openness with the West and glorifying the West. Now remember, this is 1949 and the Cold War is cracking, all of the Soviet Union's wartime imperialist allies have retrained their guns on the communists. And although the author certainly doesn't say it, the Communist Party under Stalin certainly believed that these "cosmopolitans" were in the service of Amerikan imperialism carrying out intelligence gathering activities and engaging in building public opinion for counter-revolution and coup d'etat, just like the types of activities that CIA sponsored groups carry out in Third World countries with anti-western governments. It would seem then these cosmopolitans and other so-called "Marxists" were actually involved in sabotaging socialism from within with actions which thoroughly alarmed the Soviet government. But according to Achcar these were the real "Marxists," the real "internationalists" because they followed the teachings of the young Marx; but when did Marx ever speak of colluding against a socialist state?
Furthermore, the author states that in analyzing Stalin's anti-Semitism we cannot afford to begin in the post-war period, but must start with the publication of Marxism and the National Question, which Achcar describes as "a superficial and dogmatic essay on this most complex of questions."(2) Stalin denies the existence of a Jewish nation within Europe's borders, based on the Jewish people's lack of a common territory. Apparently Gilbert Achcar disagrees with the Marxist definition of nations preferring instead Otto Bauer's The Question of Nationalities and Social Democracy, which clearly defines Jews as a nation based solely on their "common cultures" by which they should really just say religion. The author further claims that it is in this hystorical period that Stalin began his first anti-Marxist campaigns in which he sought to squelch all opposition and secure his position of power. Achcar goes on to argue that Stalin's ideas on internationalism reflected only a narrow and selfish outlook which took into account only the internationalism of the "pan-Tsarist" Russia organization of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party when, in Marxism and the National Question, he mentioned the principle that the party strove to "unite locally the workers of all nationalities of Russia into single, integral collective bodies, to unite their collective bodies into a single party."(3) In defending this principle Achcar states, "Stalin launched a fierce attack on nationalism, putting Great Russian chauvinism on equal footing with the nationalism that was expanding among oppressed nationalities in the USSR - in a definitely non-Leninist fashion."(2) However, this is an extreme misrepresentation of Stalin's line on Achcar's part. Stalin criticized the national chauvinism that was beginning to develop among some of the more reactionary sectors of the oppressed nations in the Tsarist empire and certainly not the nationalism of the oppressed themselves. Apparently, the author believes that national chauvinism should only be criticized when it originates with the oppressors and by people of the offending nation themselves and not by anyone else. In other words, only Russians can criticize Great Russian chauvinism and only the oppressed nations can criticize any chauvinism that originates within their own nations. This is certainly an ironic point that those who have actually read Marxism and the National Question will note. But Stalin was right to criticize the chauvinism of the oppressed nations in the old Russian empire, especially when that chauvinism has the potential to foment violence amongst the oppressed. Chauvinism is chauvinism no matter who propagates it.
Later on Mr. Achcar comes out with an ass-backwards refutation of Stalin's theory of socialism in one country first, attempting to tie it back to Stalin's "anti-Semitism" (Achcar's term for his denial of a Jewish nation) and Soviet patriotism. The line goes as follows: "Socialism in one country: this theoretical innovation central to Stalinism actually laid the groundwork for a Soviet patriotism, coupled with a sui generis internationalism that amounted in fact to the internationalism of Soviet patriotism. Communist members of 'bourgeois nations' had a duty to identify with the thriving 'fatherland of socialism.' Indeed, their Soviet patriotic duty could very well have taken as its motto 'our country, right or wrong!'"(4)
The following paragraphs is where accusations of Jewish repression and anti-Marxism by Stalin really gets interesting.
To give some real context to these accusations, which Achcar himself provides, I will say that prior to the beginning of the Second World War an expansive campaign was begun in the Soviet Union to create and solidify a hegemonic Soviet patriotism for the explicit purpose of strengthening the bonds and common interests of the Soviet Republics against the impending threat of fascism. Stalin was well aware that not only the German fascists, but the soon to be imperialist allies were all working hard to divide the Soviet people from within on the basis of old national grievances which were common under the Tsar. And, as stated earlier, there were counter-revolutionaries inside the USSR consciously working against the Soviet masses. These were the cosmopolitans who by and large were composed of "real Marxists." The struggle between the two opposing forces is recounted and explained by Achcar:
"The patriotic mutation was brought to completion after the Soviet Union entered the Second World War, engaging in what the Stalinist regime called the 'Great Patriotic War.' This went along with the rehabilitation of the Greek Orthodox Church and the resurrection of Slavophilism. "Soviet Patriotism" became a highly praised virtue in the Soviet Union and in the world communist movement while Stalin's brand of 'internationalism' reached its logical conclusion in the 1943 dissolution of the Comintern.
“Soviet patriotism mutated into full-fledged chauvinism after Moscow emerged victorious from the war, especially when the Soviet Union faced renewed ostracism with the start of the Cold War. It is against this historical background that the campaign against 'cosmopolitanism' unfolded."(5)
We agree with the decision to disband the Comintern, which was done because
"it became increasingly clear that, to the extent that the internal as well as the international situation of individual countries became more complicated, the solution of the problems of the labor movement of each individual country through the medium of some international centre would meet with insuperable obstacles."(6)
Leszek Kolakowski is then cited favorably by Achcar as giving the Trotskyist perspective of these events:
"In 1949 the Soviet press launched a campaign against 'cosmopolitanism', a vice that was not defined but evidently entailed being anti-patriotic and glorifying the West. As the campaign developed, it was intimated more and more clearly that a cosmopolitan was much the same thing as a Jew. When individuals were pilloried and had previously borne Jewish sounding names, these were generally mentioned. 'Soviet patriotism' was indistinguishable from Russian chauvinism and became an official mania. Propaganda declared incessantly that all important technical inventions and discoveries had been made by Russians, and to mention foreigners in this context was to be guilty of cosmopolitanism and kowtowing to the West."(5)
Achcar then describes how, according to Isaac Deutscher, Stalin ordered a crackdown on Jews in the Soviet Union following "massive demonstrations of sympathy by Russian Jews who in 1948-49 greeted Golda Meir the first ambassador to Moscow of the newborn state of Israel..."(7)
According to Deutscher the crackdown was in response not only to this unauthorized public display of support by Soviet citizens, but because Israel "stunned" Stalin by siding with the West in the cold war. Yet the author would have us believe that "unauthorized public displays of support" for a foreign head of state invited to Russia by Stalin would take precedence in this "crackdown" over that of the machinations of cosmopolitans and their collusion with a tool of Western imperialism, as is the sub-text that lies hidden beneath these events. Indeed, just a paragraph down from this Achcar says that Soviet authorities began to close down Jewish theaters, periodicals and publishing houses while purging personnel and arresting various Rabbis and other Jewish public figures soon thereafter. But aren't these institutions that which have been traditionally used by the imperialists to agitate for counter-revolution in anti-imperialist nations? If Jewish pogroms really took place, then why is it that only certain people and institutions were being repressed and not Jewish people as a whole? Clearly these were political moves with a basis in national security that were happening and not oppression based on nationality (or religious beliefs) as Achcar would have us believe. As a matter of fact, when we turn the page of this book we find a much more coherent and realistic assessment of these campaigns as detailed by F. Chernov in his article: "Bourgeois Cosmopolitanism and it's reactionary role" as published and featured in Bolshevik, the theoretical and political magazine of the central committee of the All Union Communist Party (Bolshevik). It begins by reporting that Soviet newspapers
"unmasked an unpatriotic group of theatre critics of rootless cosmopolitans, who came out against Soviet patriotism, against the great cultural achievements of the Russian people and other people in our country."
Chernov's article then states:
"Cosmopolitanism is the negation of patriotism, its opposite. It advocates absolute apathy towards the fate of the Motherland. Cosmopolitanism denies the existence of any moral or civil obligations of people to their nation and Motherland..."
"Present day bourgeois cosmopolitanism with its call for the repudiation of national sovereignty, with its notions of 'one-world government,' the creation of the 'United States of Europe,' etc. is an ideological 'basis' and 'consecration' of the assembling under the aegis of American imperialism of the union of imperialists in the name of the struggle against the toiling masses, against the Soviet Union and peoples democracies, against the irresistible growth over the entire world of the forces of socialism and democracy.
"The party unmasked the anti-patriotic, bourgeois-cosmopolitan essence of servility before the capitalist West. It revealed that this cringing before foreign countries inevitably leads to national treason and betrayal of the interests of the Soviet people and the socialist fatherland. The unmasking of unpatriotic groups of bourgeois cosmopolitans, the struggle against the ideology of bourgeois cosmopolitanism, is a striking expression of the concern of the Bolshevik Party about the education of the toiling masses of our country in the spirit of life-giving, Soviet patriotism."(8)
This portion of the essay and the book then end with the statements that: "With the start of 'de-Stalinization' in Kruschev's Soviet Union, the eyes of many communists were opened; more accurately, their mouths were opened, as it is difficult to believe that they had not been aware of the realities they denounced when the green light finally came from Moscow..."(9)
"With the end of the Stalinist campaign, 'cosmopolitanism' faded away as a major issue in communist circles, as well as in the public debate in general..."(10)
Of course it did, but only because the cosmopolitans and other revisionists were now in power and the Soviet Union was starting on the capitalist road. The final pages of this book then shift back to Trotskyist political line as Gilbert Achcar outlines how Marx, Engels and Lenin thought cosmopolitanism, i.e. proletarian internationalism charts the course towards communism, i.e. "socialist globalization" and how national liberation struggles in the Third World "can fit perfectly in the cosmopolitan struggle for global transformation as necessary moments of this struggle, as components of the global struggle..."(11)
But when the oppressed nations finally rise up in revolt against imperialism these national liberation struggles won't just be "necessary moments" or "mere components" of the global struggle: but instead will mark the beginning of a long stage of socialist transition and development in which the people of Africa, Asia and [email protected] America will band together in a Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Oppressed Nations against the former oppressing and exploiting nations.
In summation, the author opens this book with the chauvinist First World belief that Western domination of the world brought progress to the hordes of uncivilized savages and barbarians thru the spread of Christianity. Apparently, revolution, progress and development are phenomena inherent only to white people and deliverable in the future only thru a multi-nation working class approach, led of course by the workers of the core capitalist countries.
This is why he views with such disgust the success that revolutionary Islam is having in repelling Western forces, because in those movements he sees the reactionary and backward Islamic fundamentalists doing what he says they cannot; engage and win against the imperialists. Likewise, this is why he cannot stand Stalin and must tear him down, because in his practice and political line he sees the backward national liberation and self-determination movements of the oppressed nations as they came to fruition all throughout the 20th century by using revolutionary nationalism to establish socialism in their countries and then vigorously defending it. While the only thing that Trotskyists could do was complain and criticize that the Soviet Union was moving contrary to what the young Marx and Engels had envisioned in their early years. Such is the hallmark of Trotskyism which holds that socialism is impossible in countries of the Third World before the imperialist countries have had revolutions. Such is the hallmark of Trotskyism which needs but to depart from the reality of material conditions and enter the jungle of idealism to carry out the lofty goals of the white worker elite.
The United States and Cuba recently agreed to restore diplomatic ties after a half-century of hostility, taking steps toward ending one of the world's last Cold War standoffs. President Obama's announcement, made in coordination with President Raúl Castro, stated that these long-estranged countries would restart cooperation on a range of travel and economic issues and reestablish the American embassy in Havana that closed in 1961 after the Cuban Revolution.
While the Cuban Revolution was a blow against U.$. imperialism, which had a choke-hold on the Cuban economy, after the 1959 revolution Cuba became dependent on the state capitalist Soviet Union. By 1959 a new bourgeoisie had arisen in the Soviet Union and it had turned away from its socialist orientation toward state capitalism. Instead of building socialism in Cuba, Castro and his government ended up building a satellite colony of the USSR.(1) Amerikan refusal to associate with Cuba was a reaction to the Cuban people successfully shutting down Amerikan dominance and a concession to the many wealthy Cuban immigrants who fled to the United $tates after the revolution, rather than a serious political stance. The Amerikan imperialists have not hesitated to associate with governments and countries that are strongly anti-Amerikan when the economic benefits of the relationship are compelling.
The recent policy changes forge significant economic ties between the two countries by allowing U.$. financial institutions to open accounts with Cuban counterparts, easing restrictions on the export of U.$. agricultural and telecommunication gear to Cuba, and permitting U.$. citizens to use credit and debit cards there. The biggest boost in the short-term from the changes will come from remittances, which will now allow relatives of Cubans to send back $2,000 a month to their homeland, up from $500 at the moment. Remittances are the island's leading source of income. In cash and in kind (appliances and clothes), they account for $5.1 billion a year in income, nearly double tourism at $2.6 billion.(2)
The immediate benefits for the country are obvious. The Cuban government reported that economic growth for 2014 was around 1.4%, and an estimated 40,000-50,000 Cubans emigrated in the past year. For economic reasons, Cuba is starved for cash, and its biggest trading partner, Venezuela, is facing an economic crisis due to the recent plunge in oil prices. Analysts say the possibility of losing Venezuelan aid likely played a role in reaching an agreement with the United $tates.
Business Opportunities Abound
Restoring trade ties will benefit the U.$. economy, allowing companies to join other countries which have operated for decades in Cuba and made their own capitalist inroads, such as Canada and European Union member-states. U.$. farmers, already helped by a partial lifting of the embargo for agricultural goods, will have new export opportunities. Despite heavy regulation and strict limitations, U.$. exports of agricultural goods to Cuba grew to $547 million in 2010 from $4 million in 2001.
Groups ranging from the American Farm Bureau Federation to the U.$. Chamber of Commerce strongly support a lifting of the embargo because they see Cuba as a significant export market. Opportunities abound elsewhere, such as in telecommunication, retail, tourism, and natural resources. "Cuba needs everything we make in the United States," said the global government affairs director for Caterpillar, Inc. The company hopes to soon install a dealership in Cuba. "We've been calling for a new policy toward Cuba for 15 years." U.$. hospitality companies also are eager to do business in Cuba when they can. "The minute it's available, we'll be down there," the CEO of Choice Hotels International, Inc. was reported as saying.(3)
All this is evidence of the capitalist system in Cuba. U.$. companies want access to this market that corporations based in other capitalist countries have been enjoying for years.
From Yanqui to Soviet Social-Imperialism: Neglect of Socialist Alternatives
With the 1959 revolution, Cuba sought to dismantle the economic hegemony the United $tates had over the country. Partial nationalization of certain sectors of the economy, followed by a complete confiscation of foreign-owned property, were met with stiff U.$. opposition, as many Amerikan citizens held large investments there. On 3 January 1961, U.$. President Dwight D. Eisenhower broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba after Castro charged that the U.$. embassy in Havana was the center of counter-revolutionary activities in the country. In February 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed an embargo on most U.$. trade with Cuba. The Cuban economy at the time was in serious danger. Industrial plants, confiscated after the revolution and now in disrepair, lacked the raw materials to keep operating. Spare parts for factory equipment and motor vehicles made in the United $tates were no longer available. Crop yields were poor, and food rationing began in March 1962. Against this backdrop, Cuba signed a $700 million trade agreement with the Soviet Union, following up on a $100 million credit and agreement to deliver a large procurement of sugar two years earlier. By mid-July of that year, thousands of Soviet military and economic advisors were making their way to the island.
While an improvement over the neo-colonial status it held under the United $tates, the new alliance Cuba had forged with the Soviet Union was hardly symbiotic in nature. This strings-attached relationship also affected Castro's drive to diversify Cuba's economy through industrialization, which ultimately proved unsuccessful. Historically, Cuba's most valuable crop has been sugarcane. Under U.$. tutelage, more than half of the cultivated land was devoted to this crop for export to U.$. markets. Little changed after the revolution, and sugar accounted for almost two-thirds of all export revenues. This heavy dependence on a single crop continued to hinder Cuba's economy. Cuba needed sugar to carry out its trade agreements with the Soviet Union and its allies, and as a result, agricultural diversification and the ability to feed its own people suffered. Cuba's economy remained stagnant, and became heavily dependent on Soviet aid. With the eventual collapse of the Soviet bloc, Cuba was severely wounded economically.
Furthermore, the material aid given to Cuba was inferior in quality, and was not geared towards the needs and climatic conditions of the Caribbean country. Castro's early advocacy of violent revolution throughout Latin America put it at odds with and weakened Cuba's relations with the Soviet Union. The Soviets in turn would curtail economic aid whenever the Cuban government stepped too far out of line, as was the case when Cuba opposed its and the Soviet bloc countries' invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. After a round of economic arm-twisting, Castro took a more neutral stance.
Unlike the socialist veneer of Soviet-revisionist economic cooperation, communist China's line at the time in regard to socialist financial and material aid had its basis in mutual cooperation and advised that it should be tailored to the needs of both countries with an aim towards economic self-sufficiency. In no way should it be conditional and carry high interest, which perpetuates the cycle of indebtedness in the recipient country. Material aid should be of first-rate quality and not technologically outdated. It should also suit their material conditions. Soviet agricultural implements exported to Cuba, for instance, did much damage to sugarcane fields.
In his latest speech on the subject of normalization of relations, President Raúl Castro stated that Cuba "will not give up its socialist principles." Despite his assertion, we contend that he and Fidel had already done so by 1961. They embraced the fallacy that you cannot get production without incentive, instituting many Soviet-styled agrarian and industrial measures such as the implementation of work incentives and wage differentials to better boost production quotas. Looking to Mao Zedong's implementation of moral incentives to reward the workforce in China for overachievements in production could have been a viable alternative to this. The class struggle was also sidelined with their focus on economic output as a gauge of their country's success in building socialism, which constitutes a failure to do away with the theory of productive forces — a policy which has led many a socialist revolution to its revisionist perdition.
This is a critical reason why the Cultural Revolution in China represents the furthest advance towards communism in history: capitalist theories and practices will not just disappear under socialism and must be actively combatted. Otherwise a new bourgeoisie will arise from within former proletarian forces and attempt to take power against the interests of the masses. This happened in the Soviet Union, and their treatment of Cuba demonstrates clearly the state capitalists ignoring the needs of the Cuban people.
Since Raúl Castro took over from his brother Fidel in 2008, the Cuban government has undertaken a series of tentative economic reforms to move the country away from the state capitalist framework to a full-fledged capitalist system.
Keeping Solidarity with Cuba in Perspective
Having endured centuries of repeated imperialist encroachment, Cuba has managed to attain a degree of independence and sovereignty over its affairs. We support Cuba's right to self-determination, and applaud the Cuban government's notable success in providing educational and medical services to all segments of Cuban society. Cuba's anti-imperialist stance on a range of issues remains strong, and in a confrontation with imperialism, Cuba deserves our backing. Yet Cuba is not socialist, and the Cuban people know that their government at this point in its history is not a revolutionary government, but a pragmatic one. It is our hope that the people of Cuba will experience a blossoming of revolutionary consciousness and organize for their rights in the coming years as capitalist encroachment places their country in the cross-hairs of further economic exploitation.
Stand Up, Struggle Forward: New Afrikan Revolutionary Writings On Nation, Class and Patriarchy by Sanyika Shakur Kersplebedeb, 2013
Available for $13.95 + shipping/handling from: kersplebedeb CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne Montreal, Quebec Canada H3W 3H8
While we recommended his fictional T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E., and his autobiographical Monster is a good read on the reality of life in a Los Angeles lumpen organization, Shakur's third book is most interesting to us as it provides an outline of his political line as a New Afrikan communist.(1) Stand Up, Struggle Forward! is a collection of his recent essays on class, nation and gender. As such, this book gives us good insight into where MIM(Prisons) agrees and disagrees with those affiliated with the politics Shakur represents here.
At first glance we have strong unity with this camp of the New Afrikan Independence Movement (NAIM). Our views on nation within the United $tates seem almost identical. One point Shakur focuses on is the importance of the term New Afrikan instead of Black today, a position we recently put a paper out on as well.(2) Agreeing on nation tends to lead to agreeing on class in this country. We both favorably promote the history of Amerika laid out by J. Sakai in his classic book Settlers: the Mythology of a White Proletariat. However, in the details we see some differences around class. We've already noted that we do not agree with Shakur's line that New Afrikans are a "permanent proletariat"(p.65), an odd term for any dialectician to use. But even within the New Afrikan nation, it seems our class analyses agree more than they disagree, which should translate to general agreement on practice.
Writings that were new to us in this book dealt with gender and patriarchy in a generally progressive and insightful way. Gender is one realm where the conservativeness of the lumpen really shows through, and as Shakur points out, the oppressors are often able to outdo the oppressed in combating homophobia, and to a lesser extent transphobia, these days. A sad state of affairs that must be addressed to improve our effectiveness.
Attacking Stalin and Mao has long been an important task for the intelligentsia of the West, and the United $tates in particular. This has filtered down through to the left wing of white nationalism in the various anarchist and Trotskyist sects in this country, who are some of the most virulent anti-Stalin and anti-Mao activists. It is a roadblock we don't face among the oppressed nations and the less institutionally educated in general. From the sparse clues provided in this text we can speculate that this line is coming from an anarchist tendency, a tendency that can be seen in the New Afrikan revolutionary nationalist formations that survived and arose from the demise of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Yet, Shakur takes up the Trotskyist line that the USSR was socialist up until Lenin's death, while accepting the Maoist position that China was socialist up until 1976.(p.162) He says all this while implying that Cuba might still be socialist today. A unique combination of assessments that we would be curious to know more about.
There is a difference between saying Mao had some good ideas and saying that socialist China was the furthest advancement of socialism in humyn history, as we do. Narrow nationalism uses identity politics to decide who is most correct rather than science. While we have no problem with Shakur quoting extensively from New Afrikan ideological leaders, a failure to study and learn from what the Chinese did is failing to incorporate all of the knowledge of humyn history, and 99% of our knowledge is based in history not our own experiences. The Chinese had the opportunity, due to their conditions, to do things that have never been seen in North America. Ignoring the lessons from that experience means we are more likely to repeat their mistakes (or make worse ones). This is where (narrow) nationalism can shoot you in the foot. Maoism promoted self-reliance and both ideological and operational independence for oppressed nations. To think that accepting Maoism means accepting that your conditions are the same as the Chinese in the 1950s is a dogmatic misunderstanding of what Maoism is all about.
For those who are influenced by Mao, rather than adherents of Maoism, Stalin often serves as a clearer figure to demarcate our differences. This proves true with Shakur who does not criticize Mao, but criticizes other New Afrikans for quoting him. For Stalin there is less ambiguity. To let Shakur speak for himself, he addresses both in this brief passage:
"While We do in fact revere Chairman Mao and have always studied the works of the Chinese Communist Party and the People's Revolution, We feel it best to use our own ideologues to make our own points. And We most certainly will not be using anything from old imperialist Stalin. He may be looked upon as a 'comrade' by the NABPP, but not by us."(p.54)
For MIM(Prisons), imperialist is probably the worst epithet we could use for someone. But this isn't about name-calling or individuals, this is about finding and upholding the ideas that are going to get us free the fastest. In response to a question about how to bring lumpen organizations in prison and the street together, Shakur states, "The most fundamental things are ideology, theory and philosophy. These are weaknesses that allowed for our enemies to get in on us last time."(p.17) So what are Shakur's ideological differences with Stalin?
Shakur's definition of nation differs little from Stalin's, though it does omit a reference to a common economy: "A nation is a cultural/custom/linguistic social development that is consolidated and evolves on a particular land mass and shares a definite collective awareness of itself."(p.21) In his response to Rashid, Shakur attempts to strip Stalin of any credit for supporting the Black Belt Thesis, while sharing Stalin's line on the importance of the national territory for New Afrika. Shakur opens his piece against Rashid, Get Up for the Down Stroke, with a quote from Atiba Shanna that concludes "the phrase 'national question' was coined by people trying to determine what position they would take regarding the struggle of colonized peoples — there was never a 'national question' for the colonized themselves." While this assessment may be accurate for contemporary organizations in imperialist countries, these organizations did not coin the term. This assessment is ahistorical in that the "national question" was posed by Lenin and Stalin in much different conditions than we are in today or when Shanna wrote this. In fact, reading the collection of Stalin's writings, Marxism and the National-Colonial Question, will give you an outline of how those conditions changed in just a couple decades in the early 1900s. It might be inferred from the context that Shakur would use the quote from Shanna to condemn "imperialist Stalin" for being so insensitive to the oppressed to use a term such as "the national question." Yet, if we read Stalin himself, before 1925 he had explicitly agreed with Shanna's point about the relevance of nationalism in the colonies:
"It would be ridiculous not to see that since then the international situation has radically changed, that the war, on the one hand, and the October Revolution in Russia, on the other, transformed the national question from a part of the bourgeois-democratic revolution into a part of the proletarian-socialist revolution."(4)
This point is also central to his essay, The Foundations of Leninism, where he stated, "The national question is part of the general question of the proletarian revolution, a part of the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat."(5) So Shakur should not be offended by the word "question," which Stalin also used in reference to proletarian revolution and dictatorship of the proletariat. Clearly, "question" here should not be interpreted as questioning whether it exists, but rather how to handle it. So, in relation to Stalin at least, this whole point is a straw person argument.
On page 86, also in the response to Rashid, Shakur poses another straw person attack on Stalin in criticizing Rashid's promotion of "a multi-ethnic multi-racial socialist amerika." Shakur counter-poses that the internal semi-colonies struggle to free their land and break up the U.$. empire, and implies that Stalin would oppose such a strategy. Now this point is a little more involved, but again exposes Shakur's shallow reading of Stalin and the history of the Soviet Union. Promoting unity at the highest level possible is a principle that all communists should uphold, and this was a challenge that Stalin put much energy and attention into in the Soviet Union. He was dealing with a situation where great Russian chauvinism was a barrier to the union of the many nationalities, and that chauvinism was founded in the (weak) imperialist position of Russia before the revolution. Russia was still a predominantly peasant country in a time when people had much less material wealth and comforts. While one could argue in hindsight that it would have been better for the Russian-speaking territories to organize socialism separately from the rest of the USSR, all nationalities involved were mostly peasant, and secondarily proletarian in their class status.(6) The path that Lenin and Stalin took was reasonable, and possibly preferable in terms of promoting class unity. Thanks to the Soviet experiment we can look at that approach and see the advantages and disadvantages of it. We can also see that the national contradiction has sharply increased since the October Revolution, as Stalin himself stressed repeatedly. And finally, to compare a settler state like the United $tates that committed genocide, land grab, and slavery to the predominately peasant nation of Russia in 1917... well, perhaps Shakur should remember his own advice that we must not impose interpretations from our own conditions onto the conditions of others. Similarly, just because Stalin clearly called for a multinational party in 1917, does not mean we should do so in the United $tates in 2014.(7)
While Stalin generally promoted class unity over national independence, he measured the national question on what it's impact would be on imperialism.
"...side by side with the tendency towards union, there arose a tendency to destroy the forcible forms of such union, a struggle for the liberation of the oppressed colonies and dependent nationalities from the imperialist yoke. Since the latter tendency signified a revolt of the oppressed masses against imperialist forms of union, since it demanded the union of nations on the basis of co-operation and voluntary union, it was and is a progressive tendency, for it is creating the spiritual prerequisites for the future world socialist economy."(8)
In conclusion, it is hard to see where Shakur and Stalin disagree on the national question. While upholding very similar lines, Shakur denies that New Afrika's ideology has been influenced by Stalin. While we agree that New Afrika does not need a Georgian from the 1920s to tell them that they are an oppressed nation, Stalin played an important role in history because of the struggles of the Soviet people. He got to see and understand things in his conditions, and he was a leader in the early development of a scientific analysis of nation in the era of imperialism. His role allowed him to have great influence on the settler Communist Party - USA when he backed Harry Haywood's Blackbelt Thesis. And while we won't attempt to lay out the history of the land question in New Afrikan thought, certainly that thesis had an influence. We suspect that Shakur's reading of Stalin is strongly influenced by the lines of the NABB-PC and Communist Party - USA that he critiques. But to throw out the baby with the bath water is an idealist approach. The Soviet Union and China both made unprecedented improvements in the conditions of vast populations of formerly oppressed and exploited peoples, without imposing the burden to do so on other peoples as the imperialist nations have. This is a model that we uphold, and hope to emulate and build upon in the future.
Having spent the majority of his adult life in a Security Housing Unit, much of this book discusses the prison movement and the recent struggle for humyn rights in California prisons. His discussion of the lumpen class in the United $tates parallels ours, though he explicitly states they are "a non-revolutionary class."(p.139) His belief in a revolutionary class within New Afrika presumably is based in his assessment of a large New Afrikan proletariat, a point where he seems to agree with the NABPP-PC. In contrast, we see New Afrika dominated by a privileged labor aristocracy whose economic interests ally more with imperialism than against it. For us, to declare the First World lumpen a non-revolutionary class is to declare the New Afrikan revolution impotent. Ironically, Shakur himself embodies the transformation of lumpen criminal into revolutionary communist. While he is certainly the exception to the rule at this time, his biography serves as a powerful tool to reach those we think can be reached, both on a subjective level and due to the objective insights he has to offer.
One of the points Shakur tries to hit home with this book is that the oppressors have more faith in the oppressed nations ability to pose a threat to imperialism than the oppressed have in themselves. And we agree. We see it everyday, the very conscious political repression that is enacted on those in the U.$. koncentration kamps for fear that they might start to think they deserve basic humyn rights, dignity, or even worse, liberation. We think this book can be a useful educational tool, thereby building the confidence in the oppressed to be self-reliant, keeping in mind the critiques we pose above.
Images of a statue of communist leader V.I. Lenin being torn down in Kiev have been celebrated in the Western press, as hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets to protest the current regime headed by president Viktor Yanukovych.
Much of the coverage of the recent protests in Ukraine condemn government corruption as the common complaint of the protestors, linking it to Ukraine's Soviet past. The association is that this is the legacy of communist rule. In contrast, we would argue that this corruption was the result of economic Liberalism taking hold in the former Soviet Union where bourgeois democracy was lacking. Today's protests are largely inspired by a desire for bourgeois democracy, and the perceived economic benefits it would provide over the current rule by a parasitic bourgeoisie with little interest in the national economy.
The rise of Kruschev to lead the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) after Stalin's death marked the victory of the capitalist roaders within the Communist Party, and the beginning of the era of social-imperialism for the Soviet Union. This lasted from 1956 until the dissolution of the Union in 1991, when Ukraine became an independent republic. The period was marked by moving away from a socialist economy structured around humyn need and towards a market economy guided by profit. This transformation was reflected in the ideology of the people who more and more looked towards the imperialist countries and their crass consumerism as something to aspire to. It also led those in power to have more interest in their local regions than in the prosperity of the Union as a whole.
Even under capitalism, the Soviet Union was more prosperous and more stable than after its dissolution. In 1991, an estimated three quarters of the Soviet people supported maintaining the Union, but the leadership had no motivation to do so.(1) A move towards strengthening the Union would awaken the proletarian interests, which were opposed to the interests of the leadership that was now a new bourgeoisie. Ukraine played a key role in initiating the dissolution of the USSR. And it was no coincidence that in Ukraine, in particular, the dissolution was an economic disaster as the former Soviet nations were tossed to the wolves of economic Liberalism. A small emerging capitalist class took advantage of fixed prices that were a legacy of the Soviet economy and sold cheaply obtained raw materials at market rates to other countries. They turned around and invested that capital outside in international markets while tightening monopolies on trade at home. This was one of the most drastic transfers of wealth from the hands of the producers to the hands of capitalists in recent decades.(2)
Ten years after the October Revolution of 1917, Stalin wrote, "the resultant dropping out of a vast country from the world system of capitalism could not but accelerate [the process of the decay and the dying of capitalism]".(3) The inverse of this is also true, to a degree: the reentry of many countries into the world system breathed life back into it. While this brought great change at the hands of the newly empowered national bourgeoisie in those countries, it did not change the fact that imperialism had already made capitalism an economically regressive system. Hence they did not develop the wealth of their nations as the rising bourgeoisie of centuries past had done by improving production and developing trade. Today's rising bourgeoisie restricts markets via monopolies, and heads straight for high-margin business like drugs, weapons and financial markets. What happened in the ex-Soviet countries is a good demonstration of why Libertarian ideals are not relevant in today's economy.
The underground economy had been growing for decades before 1991, and this new freedom to compete was a boon to the criminal organizations that existed. These mafias were on the ground with direct access to the resources of the people before the imperialists had time to fight over these newly opened economies. With rising nationalism in the republics, Russian imperialism had to keep its distance, while other imperialist countries had no base in the region to get established. The inter-imperialist rivalry over the region is playing out today.
In the early years of independence, the Ukrainian state merged with that criminal class that was taking advantage of the political and economic turmoil in the country.(4) As a result the GDP dropped to a mere third of what it was just before the Union dissolved.(5) This came after decades of declining economic growth after the initial shift away from socialist economics. The mafias in the former Soviet countries saw an opportunity to seize local power and wealth in their respective republics as the super power crumbled. Some were further enticed by Amerikan bribes, such as Russian President Boris Yeltsin's family who received billions of dollars.(6) For a time there was hope that these changes would improve economic conditions as the bourgeois Liberal mythology led the former Soviet peoples to believe that they could follow the advice (and political donations) of the United $tates.
This mess, which the region is still struggling with, was the ultimate result of what Mao Zedong said about the rise of a new bourgeoisie within the communist party after the seizure of state power due to their inherent privilege as directors of the state. A successful socialist project must combat these bourgeois tendencies at every turn in order to prevent the proletariat from suffering at the hands of a new bourgeois exploiting class. At the core of the Cultural Revolution was combating the theory of productive forces, which Mao had previously criticized the Soviet Union for implementing. The turn to the western imperialist countries as economic models was the logical conclusion of the theory of productive forces in the Soviet Union.
One of the messages underpinning today's protests in Ukraine is the desire to move closer to the European Union (EU), as opposed to the Russian sphere of influence. It seems that looking to the west for hope has only increased in Ukraine over the last couple decades. But there is no obvious advantage to becoming a client of imperialist Western Europe over imperialist Russia except for the higher concentration of super-profits in the EU. And as other newcomers to the EU can attest, the imperialist nations in Europe will oppose any perceived distribution of their super-profits to the east. Similar nationalism is fueling the Ukrainian protestors who oppose the perceived transfer of wealth from their country to Russia. In general, increased trade will help a country economically. But in this battle Russia and the EU are fighting to cut each other off from trading with Ukraine. As always, capitalism tends towards monopolies and imperialism depends on monopsonies.
It is little wonder that the masses would be unsatisfied living under the rule of corrupt autocrats. Yet, it was just 2004 when the U.$.-funded so-called "Orange Revolution" threw out a previous mafia boss named Leonid Kuchma.(7) This regime change gained support from those making similar demands to today's protestors, but it did not change the nature of the system as these protests demonstrate. And that orchestrated movement was no revolution. It was a mass protest, followed by a coup d'etat; something that the imperialists have been funding quite regularly in central Eurasia these days. A revolution involves the overthrow of a system and transformation to a new system, specifically a change in the economic system or what Marxists call the mode of production. We don't see any movement in this direction in Ukraine from where we are, as nationalism is being used as a carrier for bourgeois ideologies among the exploited people of Ukraine, just as Stalin warned against.
Rather than a revolutionary anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist movement, the criminal corruption in Ukraine has led to right-wing populism in recent years. This was marked by the surge of the Svoboda party into the parliament. The men who toppled the statue of Lenin and smashed it with sledge hammers waved Svodoba flags as they did so, indicating that they represented not just a vague anti-Russia sentiment, but a clear anti-socialist one.
Svodoba's populism challenges the current ruling bourgeois mafia, while their nationalism serves to divide the proletariat by inflaming various grudges in the region. This is in strong contrast to the revolutionary nationalism supported by Lenin and Stalin and by Maoists today. In a criticism of the provisional government prior to the October Revolution in 1917, Lenin wrote on Ukraine:
"We do not favour the existence of small states. We stand for the closest union of the workers of the world against 'their own' capitalists and those of all other countries. But for this union to be voluntary, the Russian worker, who does not for a moment trust the Russian or the Ukrainian bourgeoisie in anything, now stands for the right of the Ukrainians to secede, without imposing his friendship upon them, but striving to win their friendship by treating them as an equal, as an ally and brother in the struggle for socialism."(8)
This is a concise summary of the Bolshevik line on nationalism.
A Note on Class and Criminality
Without doing an in-depth class analysis of Ukraine, we can still generalize that it is a proletarian nation. Only 5.1% of households had incomes of more than US$15,000 in the year 2011.(9) That mark is close to the dividing line we'd use for exploiters vs. exploited internationally. Therefore we'd say that 95% of people in Ukraine have objective interests in ending imperialism. This serves as a reminder to our readers that we say the white nation in North Amerika is an oppressor nation, not the white race, which does not exist.
While official unemployment rates in Ukraine have been a modest 7 to 8% in recent years, the CIA Factbook reports that there are a large number of unregistered and underemployed workers not included in that calculation. That unquantified group is likely some combination of underground economy workers and lumpen proletariat. In 2011, the Ukrainian Prime Minister said that 40% of the domestic market was illegal,(10) that's about double the rate for the world overall.(11) On top of that, another 31% of the Ukrainian market was operating under limited taxes and regulations implemented in March 2005, which were put in place to reduce the massive black market. In other words, the underground economy was probably much bigger than 40% before these tax exemptions were put in place.
One way we have distinguished the lumpen is as a class that would benefit, whether they think so or not, from regular employment. This is true both for the lumpen-proletariat typical of today's Third World mega-slums, and the First World lumpen, even though "regular employment" means very different things in different countries. While there is a portion of the lumpen that could accurately be called the "criminal" lumpen because they make their living taking from others, we do not define the lumpen as those who engage in crime. Of course not, as the biggest criminals in the world are the imperialists, robbing and murdering millions globally.
For the lumpen, the path of crime is only one option; for the imperialists it defines their relationship to the rest of humynity. Crime happens to be the option most promoted for the lumpen by the corporate culture in the United $tates through music and television. And in chaotic situations like the former Soviet republics faced it may be the most immediately appealing option for many. But it is not the option that solves the problems faced by the lumpen as a class. Ukraine is a stark example of where that model might take us. As the lumpen proletariat grows in the Third World, and the First World lumpen threatens to follow suit in conditions of imperialist crisis, we push to unite the interests of those classes with the national liberation struggles of the oppressed nations that they come from. Only by liberating themselves from imperialism can those nations build economies that do not exclude people.
Among the bourgeoisie, there are few who are innocent of breaking the laws of their own class. But there are those who operate legitimate businesses and there are those who operate in the underground market. This legality has little bearing on their class interests. All national bourgeoisies support the capitalist system that they benefit from, though they will fight against the imperialist if their interests collide.
So there is no such thing as "the criminal class" because we define class by the group's relationship to production and distribution, and not to the legality of their livelihoods. And we should combat the influence of the bourgeois criminals on the lumpen who, on the whole, would be better served by an end to imperialism than by trying to follow in their footsteps.
While the Ukrainian people push for something more stable and beneficial to them, the Russian imperialists face off with the EU. The EU is backed by the United $tates who has publicly discussed sanctions against Ukraine justified by hypocritical condemnation of the Ukrainian government using police to attack peaceful protests. Hey John Kerry, the world still remembers the images of police brutality on Occupy Wall Street encampments.
The real story here may be in the inter-imperialist rivalry being fought out in the Ukrainian streets and parliament. While the Ukraine nation has an interest in ending imperialism, the dominant politics in that country do not reflect that interest. And one reason for that is the lasting effects of mistakes from the past, which still lead to subjective rejection of communism for many Ukrainians in the 21st century. This only further reiterates the importance of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the need to always put politics in command in building a socialist economy to prevent the future exploitation and suffering of the peoples of the world. This is likely a precursor to much more violent conflict over the rights to markets in the former Soviet republics. Violence can be prevented in the future by keeping the exploited masses organized on the road to socialism.
I'm writing in response to the article "Gulf Oil Spill: It's Capitalism, Stupid!", and wanted to address one issue within the article. In this prisoner's article, he states that "this type of disaster would have had a very small to nil chance of happening in the former Soviet Union (1917-1953) [The Lenin and Stalin era] or the socialist People's Republic of China (1949-1976), because those communist countries wouldn't have had to do the extensive drilling that the First World seems so caught up with. Why? It is exactly because the communist countries implement something called 'planned economics,' to meet human needs."
We must be careful what we teach in regard to a better government when using the Stalinist era. This individual's comment regarding "planned economics" is wrong, it was not implemented peacefully but through violence. He should read about Stalin's seven year plan and the collectivization of property and farms. History reflects that Stalin killed over 20 million of his own country men, so using him or that era as an example is misguided. Stalin was a tyrant, a pathological killer. I would not name his era as one of humanity's finer points, nor look up to his "planned economics" which cost so many of his countrymen's lives.
Additionally, the Soviet Union's record regarding ecological and environmental disasters is one of complete failure and surpasses the United States record on a grand scale, both under the Stalinist era and even today.
It is ok to believe in one form of government or a goal of government, but let's not distort the past to build a better future as this is nothing more than an illusion in which we all already live under in America.
MIM(Prisons) responds: The original author was correct to uphold the Soviet Union and China as examples of environmentalism. In 1942, under Stalin's leadership, the city of Moscow composted all of the waste of its 4,000,000 inhabitants. The biothermal process heated large "greenhouse farms" in the city, while the resulting compost was used as fertilizer.(1) With all the talk of "green cities" in the United $tates, there are no projects that rival what the Soviets were doing 70 years ago. Similarly, China and the Soviet Union had massive recycling programs for metal decades before such things became fashionable in the imperialist countries. Also note, that if one were to do a quantitative comparison of socialist vs. capitalist environmentalism, one must compare countries of the same time period, reflecting similar ecological knowledge.
This letter gives us a chance to debunk some myths about the Stalin era in the Soviet Union in general. First, we want to be clear that state capitalism, which was put into place in the Soviet Union after Stalin's death, does not reflect Stalinism or any form of socialism. Therefore this author is just confusing the issue by complaining about environmental disasters there today. Second, we must point out that the article in question never claims that planned economics was an entirely peaceful process. However, we must be very clear that it was Stalin's policies and practices that enabled the Soviet Union to industrialize the Soviet Union, defeat Hitler and put an end to fascism, in spite of the purposeful non-interference policy of countries like the U.$. who hoped to stand aside and let fascism wipe out communism.
This letter reflects the typical anti-Stalinist propaganda of the imperialist countries who like to claim that Stalin himself killed over 20 million people, as if one man could possibly be so powerful. The reality is that many people died during the fight against fascism, and in fact Stalin himself did order or oversee many deaths of spies and those suspected of being infiltrators for the fascists. In this way Stalin ensured that the Soviet Union was the only country free of a Fifth Column of fascist spies and infiltrators. This made it possible for him to do what no other country could even come close to accomplishing, in spite of the lack of development and widespread poverty in the Soviet Union, and defeat Hitler. The aggressive industrialization and collectivization reflected the needs of the Soviet Union at the time those policies were implemented.
This letter includes the usual imperialist propaganda of labeling Stalin a pathological tyrant rather than looking at his actions and evaluating them scientifically. It's easy to sling around names masquerading as political criticisms. But when we look closely at Stalin's record and his policies we can see a history of carefully evaluating the difficult conditions of the time and making decisions about what to do based on the reality of those conditions. When you have the fascists amassing on your borders, planning invade and massacre your population to put in place a system of tyranny and oppression, sometimes the best options to fight those fascists don't involve picking flowers and singing happy songs. Without industrialization the Soviet Union could not have defeated Hitler (even Hitler saw this) and with an active Fifth Column of spies the fascists would have had the inside track on Soviet activities. In wartime difficult decisions must be made, and the world is lucky that Stalin was a man able to make these decisions scientifically, without sentiment, or we could be living under global fascist rule today. As it was the Soviet Union lost more than 20 million people to the war against the fascists. The number of lives saved by his victory in the war is never something he gets credit for, but even deaths from starvation due to the conditions of war are something his critics like to count as if Stalin had personally executed every single person who died during his leadership.
For more on Stalin we recommend MIM Theory 6, The Stalin Issue.