3/14/18 1:45 PM, Mike Faulkner wrote:I have followed much of this discussion with considerable interest but have refrained from commenting so far because I have not felt sure that anything I might have to say would be of any great value as a contribution to it. I am still not sure about it but I’ve decided to say something anyway. I have no intention of entering into polemics with anyone individually. I will simply set out my views on some of the issues, that in my view are relevant to these exchanges, that seem to me to be important. Some of what I have to say may not be related directly to what others have said. Although it may seem only tenuously relevant to the discussion, I’ll open with the text of a letter I sent to The Guardian at the end of January, prompted by reviews and letters eulogizing Churchill, the movie Darkest Hour and the myths around Britain’s ‘heroic’ part in defeating Germany in the second world war. I include it because it refers to some of my earliest memories and experiences that led me to the political convictions I have held since I was in my teens.
“I was born in London in June 1937. My earliest memories of life are of autumn 1940 and winter 1941squatting in an Anderson shelter with my parents, my grandparents and baby sister listening to the sound of bombs falling around us.
In 1955, at the height of the Cold War, aged 18 but without the right to vote in elections, I was conscripted against my will into the armed forces. During basic training as part of bayonet practice, which involved emitting blood-curdling shrieks as we charged with fixed bayonets at hanging sacks filled with straw, our drill instructor told us to imaging we were stabbing ‘a fat Russian.’ Telling him that I had no enthusiasm for that as the Russians had been our allies during the war, I said I preferred to imagine the sack as a ‘fat Nazi.’ Obviously annoyed, he expostulated that the Germans ‘were our new NATO allies.’ Times had certainly changed.
I have great respect for Churchill’s inspiring leadership during those dark months of 1940 and 1941 when Britain really did stand alone. But that ended in July 1941 when, following the Nazi invasion of Russia, the Anglo-Soviet alliance was formed. Between than and 1944 the Soviet Union withstood the full fury of the Nazi invasion. Eventually, in Churchill’s words ‘It was the Red Army that tore the guts out of the Nazi war machine.’
The Anglo-American “Second Front” opened on my seventh birthday – D. Day, 6th of June 1944 – a day I remember well. By the end of the war the USA had lost a total of 419,000 dead and Britain had lost 451,000.
Our Soviet allies had lost 25 million dead in their titanic struggle to rid the world of the genocidal Nazi regime. That unparalleled sacrifice is seldom mentioned amidst the apparently endless stream of nostalgic mythologizing about Britain’s standing alone and winning the war against Germany.It should never be forgotten.”
The Guardian did not publish my letter.
In his contribution to this discussion, Patrice has, quite properly in my view, stressed the importance of Marxist theory, mentioning in particular the application of materialist dialectics to interpreting the world in order to change it; that is, historical materialism. I have tried, since I was in my late teens to absorb and understand Marxism which, in my opinion provides the only social-scientific guide to how humanity may put an end to capitalism and save the planet from destruction. That cannot be done solely by steeping oneself in the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and the numerous others up to the present day who have added to the corpus of Marxist writings. Without active engagement in the struggle to change the world such scholasticism is worse than sterile.
I joined the Young Communist League in London when I was nineteen. It was in October 1956. For two years I had hesitated to take the step. Two weeks after I joined, the Hungarian uprising occurred and Soviet tanks entered Budapest. 7,000 members left the British Communist Party. I smothered whatever doubts I had and stayed where I was. I now recognize that it was to a large extent and act of faith on my part. But I don’t regret it. During the next few years I read as much as i could absorb. My introduction to dialectical materialism came through a chapter in Stalin’s “History of the CPSU(B)”; I read Marx’s “Poverty of Philosophy”, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”, “The Civil war in France” as well as Engels’ “Dialectics of Nature” and “Origin of the Family”. Then followed Lenin’s “The State and Revolution”, “Imperialism”, “The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky” ,”Left-Wing Communism – An Infantile Disorder”, Plekhanov’s “The Development of the Monist View of History”, and much else. I steeped myself in the writings of later twentieth century Marxists like Christopher Cauldwell and George Lukacs and the crop of English Marxist historians associated with the Communist Party’s History group. Later, my reading extended to some of the works of Mao, of Rosa Luxemburg, Antonio Gramsci and yes – also of Trotsky. I mention all this NOT to pretend some prodigious familiarity at an early age with Marxist theory, but to stress two things: (i) an understanding of Marxism cannot be achieved unless one has some serious familiarity with Marxist writings, and (ii) unless this is combined with active participation in the struggle to put an end to capitalism and bring about socialism, it remains sterile scholasticism.
For me that realization came when I spent some months in Cuba in the summer of 1960 during the second year of the revolution. Until then I had no real idea of what imperialism was. Being at the heart of a socialist revolution in its euphoric infancy was a life-changing experience. I learned more in those few months, living and working in the Sierra Maestra, than I had from anything I had read. I was with comrades from Cuba and many other countries, all totally dedicated to the struggle in which the Cuban people were engaged. But, without my grounding in Marxist theory, rudimentary though it was, I know I would not have grasped the full significance of what the Cuban revolution meant in the struggle against U.S. imperialism. The threat from the “giant to the north” was palpable. And I learned something else; among communists there were differences; differences of opinion about the international situation including the disagreements that were beginning to emerge between Soviet and Chinese communists. There were still sharp differences between some of the East European delegates and the delegates from Yugoslavia. I remember heated discussions between them. But, in Cuba they could be openly discussed and the differences aired.
A few years later the so-called “great debate” between the leaders of the CPSU and the Communist Party of China became an open split. I was part of a minority in the YCL and the CPGB that believed that the Chinese communists had right on their side. We were particularly impressed with what we regarded as the Chinese communists’ principled stand against U.S. imperialism. We openly defied the CP and we were expelled for “Maoist deviation” from the party line, which was loyally pro-Soviet. We dismissed them as “revisionists” and they condemned us as “ultra-left sectarians”. I still think that some of our criticism of the pro-Soviet line was right, particularly the view put by the Chinese that the Soviet communists’ policy of “peaceful co-existence” with the US amounted to open collaboration with and capitulation to US imperialism. The Chinese leaders, including Mao, accused the Soviets of being prepared to sell out the Vietnamese struggle at any price to achieve “peace in Vietnam”. But also, the pro-Soviet communists were not entirely wrong when they accused some of us of being ultra-leftists. This ultra left tendency became most pronounced during the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” that was launched in China under Mao’s leadership in 1966. We, who belonged to various groups in the pro-Mao Marxist-Leninist movement had been not only strong supporters of Mao but also of Liu Shaoqi, who was the President of China and whose famous book “How to be a Good Communist” was almost required reading along with works by Mao. In the first edition of Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, (The Little Red Book)in 1966, Mao quoted Liu very favorably. In the second edition in 1967, this quotation had been removed, shortening the book by one page. Liu had been arrested and condemned as a “person in authority taking the capitalist road”, and “a big poisonous weed”. It was later claimed that he had been a traitor since the beginning of his long political career as a communist and had in fact been a secret agent of the Kuomintang. Lin Biao, who had compiled the Red Book of Mao’s quotations, was personally designated as Mao’s chosen successor and the constitution of the People’s Republic was changed to this effect. But then Lin was exposed as an agent of the Soviets and died in a plane crash while trying to escape to Moscow. The affair is still surrounded in mystery.
I found much of this very disturbing. What was particularly disturbing was the way in which most of those who regarded themselves as Marxist-Leninists made no attempt to apply Marxism in any meaningful way to what was happening. They seemed happy to accept whatever issued from Beijing as the truth. In fact, a prominent member of the editorial board of a publication with which I was connected told me that he thought it was our job to be clear about what the Chinese were saying and to repeat it in language more suited to an English readership. They often acted more like followers of a religious faith, accepting edicts from an infallible priesthood. This became impossible to accept when the Chinese leadership, on the basis of what was claimed to be the application of Mao’s theory of contradiction, came to the conclusion that the principal contradiction in the world was no longer the contradiction between the peoples of the world and imperialism, led by U.S. imperialism, but rather that between the peoples of the world and what they had now come to call “Soviet-Social Imperialism”. I was told personally by a representative of the New China News Agency in London that every aspect of Soviet foreign policy should be opposed as the Soviet Union was now a capitalist-imperialist power and a greater enemy than U.S imperialism. Thus, the news agency even quoted approvingly anti-Soviet articles in Franco-fascist Spanish newspapers (this was before Franco’s death). This was something I just could not accept. I, and those of my comrades who felt as I did, severed our links with the so-called M-L organizations. In the later 1970s Cuban military support for the MPLA fighting against the US backed UNITA counter-revolutionaries of Jonas Savimbi in Angola, were condemned by the Chinese leaders as “mercenaries” in the pay of the ‘Soviet Social-Imperialism’. China backed the UNITA counter-revolutionaries funded by the U.S. This implacably anti-Soviet phase of Chinese policy had already come to a head with the rapprochement between China and the U.S. which resulted in first Kissinger’s visit to Mao (which was secret) and then to Nixon’s. All this was while the Vietnam war was still raging. Later, in the 1980s China also backed the Mujahideen in Afghanistan who were armed and funded by the U.S. through Pakistan, in their protracted war against the Soviet-backed leftist government. The final outcome of that US-backed enterprise resulted in the destruction of the leftist regime and eventually in the rise of the Taliban, a Frankenstein’s monster indirectly brought into being by U.S. imperialism.
We who had supported the courageous Vietnamese people since the early 1960s in their prolonged, heroic struggle against the murderous onslaught by U.S imperialism and its puppets, were overjoyed at the final Vietnamese victory in 1975. Most of us were also delighted when in December 1978 the Vietnamese, having suffered countless border attacks by the forces of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in neighboring Cambodia, finally moved in January 1979 against the Khmer Rouge and liberated Cambodia from the stranglehold of Pol Pot. But Pol Pot was backed by the United States – and also, astonishingly to us, by China, now led by Deng Xiaoping. When 200,000 Chinese troops invaded Vietnam in February 1979 we were dismayed. Needless to say this attack on Vietnam by its erstwhile ally, was backed by the U.S., gleeful at the “punishment” of the small country whose people had fought them to a standstill and driven them out. But such was the Vietnamese resistance that the PLA was forced to withdraw. Up to 50,000 were killed. Border clashes between Vietnam and China continued until 1990. At the United Nations, the U.S. and its allies, supported by China, continued to recognize the Khmer Rouge, in exile in Thailand, as the legitimate government of Cambodia.
My reason for revisiting these turbulent historical events is to see whether anything worthwhile may be learned from them. No simplistic comparisons should be made between Sino-Soviet relations in the 1960s-1980s and the global roles Russia and China play today. Both countries, have undergone tremendous changes since then. However one defines socialism (and there is plenty of room for discussion about that), it is widely and reasonably held that both countries were socialist until the end of the 1980s. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Russia is very obviously not a socialist country in any sense, but a capitalist country “red in tooth and claw”, ruled by a kleptocratic oligarchy. In my view, on the basis of the Marxist studies I have read, China’s extraordinary economic progress over the past three decades has resulted in a form of state capitalism. I am not convinced by claims that this is part of a long transition to socialism – albeit with Chinese characteristics. However, this is in no way to deny that the transformation of China has been breathtaking.
The Sino-Soviet dispute of the 1960s was initially conducted within an ostensibly Marxist-Leninist framework. On both sides this often took the form of quotation-mongering. At its best it raised and dealt with profound questions pertinent to the nature of class and state power, and to the nature of imperialism and the role of nuclear weapons and diplomacy. The issues of anti-imperialist struggle and the meaning of “peaceful co-existence” were dealt with seriously. But, at its worst, the dispute degenerated into an increasingly bitter slanging-match. The Cuban communists tried hard to avoid taking sides in this but their attempt to avoid taking sides were criticized by both sides. Finally, the Chinese characterization of the Soviet Union as a “social-imperialist power” more dangerous than U.S imperialism, went beyond anything that could reasonably be contained by the parameters of serious Marxist dialogue. The onset of the Cultural Revolution, however genuinely Mao’s intention to “bombard the Bourgeois headquarters” of what was considered to be a bureaucratic elite that had taken the road to capitalism, the outcome was a descent into a multi-faceted chaos, characterized by plotting, intrigue and internecine violence. The outcome of all this was disastrous. The divisions and the split were exploited by the U.S. imperialists to their own advantage by co-opting China in pursuit of their global aims, the full scope of which aimed at the complete destruction of the communist states. In the first instance, this meant the Soviet Union.
It is clear that U.S. imperialism, still the world’s hegemonic military power and determined to hold and extend its global reach, remains deeply alarmed at the growing strength of both China and Russia. The determination of both these countries to withstand and repel this menacing pressure is completely justified and, in my view should be supported by all progressives. As I have argued in articles published on TGP, NATO is an expansionist, aggressive military alliance which threatens Russia. The U.S. bears the main responsibility for the crippling of Russia after the collapse of the USSR. The theft of state property on a scale unknown to history proceeded under the darling of the West, Boris Yeltsin, with the full approval of the U.S. government and the Friedmanite economists who descended on the country like vultures. James Baker’s promise to Gorbachev that NATO would “not expand one inch eastwards” was never intended to be kept. Putin, whatever one thinks of him and the domestic regime he presides over, is in my view completely justified in resisting this. He is a Russian nationalist and, as was Soviet policy before him, his defense of Russia’s borders is completely justified.
In conclusion, two observations:
(1) Trump. Some on the left have seemed very reluctant to criticize Donald Trump. I find this puzzling. Maybe it is because they regard him as some kind of anti-elitist populist who will steer U.S. foreign policy into more peaceful channels. Perhaps some have become so used to the reins of U.S. foreign policy, with all its aggressiveness, resting in the hands of liberal-imperialists masquerading as doves, that they think anything – however far right – is preferable to that. I regard all this as completely deluded. In my view the Trump administration, despite all its chaotic lurches hither and thither, as the unmediated rule of multi-billionaire corporate power. The White House is in the hands of the most rabidly and openly racist section of the U.S. ruling class. Trump as their representative has cast aside all pretense that the administration represents a diverse nation. The mask is off; this is the face of unadorned finance-monopoly capitalism. It is a form of neo-fascism. The only advantage that i can see here is that it should be easier for those who are seriously dedicated to changing the system and ultimately putting an end to capitalism, to make the case that this is the face of the ruling class enemy.
From: Mike Faulkner
Sent: 15 March 2018 16:40
Subject: Assassinations ordered by foreign states. Letter for publication.
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Parting shot—a word from the editors
The Best Definition of Donald Trump We Have Found
In his zeal to prove to his antagonists in the War Party that he is as bloodthirsty as their champion, Hillary Clinton, and more manly than Barack Obama, Trump seems to have gone “play-crazy” — acting like an unpredictable maniac in order to terrorize the Russians into forcing some kind of dramatic concessions from their Syrian allies, or risk Armageddon.However, the “play-crazy” gambit can only work when the leader is, in real life, a disciplined and intelligent actor, who knows precisely what actual boundaries must not be crossed. That ain’t Donald Trump — a pitifully shallow and ill-disciplined man, emotionally handicapped by obscene privilege and cognitively crippled by white American chauvinism. By pushing Trump into a corner and demanding that he display his most bellicose self, or be ceaselessly mocked as a “puppet” and minion of Russia, a lesser power, the War Party and its media and clandestine services have created a perfect storm of mayhem that may consume us all.— Glen Ford, Editor in Chief, Black Agenda Report