A Different View: New IMF Rules To Isolate China and Russia?

[The IMF has, says Congress and the NYTimes, become more inclusive of China and Russia (see previous Frontlines post, https://revolutionaryfrontlines.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/ny-times-on-the-liberalizing-of-the-international-monetary-fund/).  But others, looking deeply, see the new IMF rules as counter-attacks on Chinese and Russian other-imperialist initiatives.  See this lengthy article for more details. — Frontlines ed.]

The IMF Changes its Rules to Isolate China and Russia

by Michael Hudson, CounterPunch, December 15, 2015

The nightmare scenario of U.S. geopolitical strategists seems to be coming true: foreign economic independence from U.S. control. Instead of privatizing and neoliberalizing the world under U.S.-centered financial planning and ownership, the Russian and Chinese governments are investing in neighboring economies on terms that cement Eurasian economic integration on the basis of Russian oil and tax exports and Chinese financing. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) threatens to replace the IMF and World Bank programs that favor U.S. suppliers, banks and bondholders (with the United States holding unique veto power).

Russia’s 2013 loan to Ukraine, made at the request of Ukraine’s elected pro-Russian government, demonstrated the benefits of mutual trade and investment relations between the two countries. As Russian finance minister Anton Siluanov points out, Ukraine’s “international reserves were barely enough to cover three months’ imports, and no other creditor was prepared to lend on terms acceptable to Kiev. Yet Russia provided $3 billion of much-needed funding at a 5 per cent interest rate, when Ukraine’s bonds were yielding nearly 12 per cent.”[1] Continue reading

The Devastating Refugee Crisis On Greek Islands

by , The Huffington Post, 07/17/2015

Every night, some 1,000 refugees arrive at the Greek island of Lesbos, many cramped on rubber dingys carrying 35 to 45 people each. More than half of them fled Syria, others left violence-torn Afghanistan and Iraq.

After making it safely onto Lesbos’ shores, for many refugees, a harsh reality check awaits. The number of migrants arriving on the Greek island in hopes of finding safety and a better life in the European Union has risen dramatically in the past year, but the island lacks the resources to accommodate them properly.

A migrant family rests in the Kara Tepe transit camp in Lesbos, Greece.

New migrants usually arrive on the island’s northern shore and need to make their way 40 miles south to the transit camps, where they stay up to ten days before moving to a detention center to be registered. Some of the transit camps, however, lack adequate water or sanitation facilities as well as organized garbage collection, Kirk Day of the International Rescue Committee told The Huffington Post in an email. He added that the sites’ residents are exposed to communicable diseases and injury infections. Some migrants arrive with diarrhea, deep cuts or open wounds that are left untreated in the camps. Those in need of medicines for heart problems and diabetes often have to wait for supplies.

Faced with a crippling economic crisis, Greece’s government in Athens has been unable to provide the migrants on the island with the necessary assistance and the United Nations has urged other countries of the European Union to step in. In the meantime, it is often left to local residents, activists and aid organizations to fill the gap.

Western Moves to Isolate Russia Spurs China-Russia Energy Deal

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, right, and President Xi Jinping of China on Wednesday in Shanghai, where they signed a deal to send gas through a pipeline from Siberia to China. Credit Pool photo by Mark Ralston

BEIJING — China and Russia agreed to a major 30-year natural gas deal on Wednesday that would send gas from Siberia by pipeline to China, according to the China National Petroleum Corporation.

The announcement caps a decade-long negotiation and helps bring Russia and China closer than they have been in many years. The contract was driven to a conclusion by the presence of President Xi Jinping of China and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Shanghai for the last two days. Continue reading

Should anti-Imperialists oppose only US imperialism?

[The world imperialist system today has entered a period of crisis, internal instability and disarray, growing internal conflict and inter-imperialist contention, conflict, and the beginnings of opposing bloc formations. It is a far-from-healthy and broadly discredited system, forcing the costs of its desperate wars and troubled (and false) bourgeois “recoveries” on the masses of people worldwide. Wave upon wave of resistance and rebellion has begun, sometimes toppling old imperialist puppets, though finding the path to create liberated societies very difficult. Fantasies that the US had, since WW2, successfully formed a system of efficient and unchallengable control of world imperialist domination, have fallen on hard times. Imperialist Russia and imperialist China have grown from the defeat of socialism and the seizure of power by capitalists, and have set upon an assertion of power and authority in regional, economic, political, military, monetary and financial affairs (though each is struggling to contain growing internal discontent). Anti-imperialists and revolutionaries who only think in the framework of decades-long opposition to US hegemony in the world system will look in vain, and to their own discredit, for friends or allies among the contending imperialists. The only path forward is to build revolutionary proletarian class-conscious parties and mass-based political forces with eyes wide open, independent of ties and influence by any and all imperialists.
Revolutionary Frontlines has recently received a new study from redpath.net, which examines the shape of the imperialist system today, with special emphasis on the still-debated role of China and Chinese imperialism. The introduction to this path-breaking study and analysis is posted here below. The entire document can be viewed at the website of http://www.red-path.net, where the document (produced by an independent research and writing group) was first posted. It can also be viewed and downloaded at http://www.mlmrsg.com/79-statements/82-is-china-an-imperialist-country-considerations-and-evidence. — Revolutionary Frontlines]


It has long been known and understood that the entire world has been under the control of capitalist-imperialism. For a time, a section of this world broke from it, beginning with the victory of socialism in Russia and continuing through the Chinese Revolution, constituting a socialist world. Yet, in time, the socialist countries, through internal class struggles in politics and economics, were seized by capitalist conciliators and advocates, and then by capitalists themselves, who were largely within the ruling communist parties themselves. First in Russia, and later in China, when these counter-revolutions and coups took place, there ensued a period of entry and integration into the world imperialist system. The Soviet Union, at first under the existing signboard of socialism, continued much of its established national and economic power relations into a new social-imperialist bloc (socialist in name, imperialist in reality). The Russian capitalist-imperialist attempt to maintain this bloc, or important sections of what had been part of this bloc, and its historic allies, has continued in the years since the “socialist” signboard was discarded. In China, the defeat of the proletariat and the capitalist capture of state power, after the death of the great revolutionary Mao Zedong, have also led to a period of integration into the world imperialist system. China still operates under a “socialist” signboard, but has conducted itself unambiguously as a capitalist power.
Before the last decade, especially since the demise of the “socialist bloc,” the US was commonly seen as the sole Superpower, to which all other powers had to defer. The system which the US had designed, at the end of WW2, was global in scope, and to some more “democratic” in appearance than the old colonial empires. But it was built around the elitist privilege of power and authority, meaning the US as Superpower was at the centerpiece of the controls.
But in the last decade the imperialist world system is not what it used to be. Throughout the world, corrupt and comprador regimes have faced significant and often unprecedented mass popular opposition movements which have revealed the deep instability of the old neo-colonial arrangements. Continue reading

Down with imperialist aggression against Syria! USA, hands off Syria!

[The following is a recent statement from revolutionary Maoists in Brazil, detailing their analysis of the ever-growing civil war in Syria as a proxy war by contending imperialist powers for control of the Middle East.  It is an important contribution to the international debate among revolutionaries, over the shifting relations and aggressions, direct and indirect, by leading powers in the world imperialist system. — Frontlines ed.]

Proletarians and oppressed people of the world, unite!

Declaration of the Revolutionary Front for the Defence of the People’s Rights – Brazil

About the recent situation in Syria

In the last months, the imperialist Yankee has intensified its manipulations and provocations to justify its military invasion in Syria. The US propaganda machine is once again creating smokescreens to justify to the world public yet another predatory war. “To defend democracy,” “human rights”, stop use of chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction;” these are the new smokescreens of the Yankee imperialism in its counter-revolutionary offensive, reviving the “War on Terror”. These were also the same pretexts used to justify the aggression towards Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Libya, and many other countries. by the very forces  who are the most responsible for countless massacres and use of weapons of mass destruction in human history; imperialism, mainly Yankee.

Since 2011, the people in Syria are subjected to imperialist predatory war that currently is conducted in the form of a civil war. The armed forces of Assad’s regime (sustained politically, economically, and militarily by Russian imperialism) and the self-proclaimed ‘Free Syrian Army’ (mercenary forces directly controlled by the USA through their intelligence services and regional allies) are the contenders of this inter-imperialist dispute on the Syrian territory. In this war all kinds of horrors against the masses have been practised, without this having motivated attention or outcry from the well know”international institutions”. Continue reading

Thousands of anti-Putin protesters march in Moscow

Russian opposition protesters some holding portraits of political prisoners shout anti-Putin slogans as they march through a street next to the Kremlin in Moscow on Wednesday, June 12, 2013.Thousands of Russian opposition activists are marching through Moscow decrying President Vladimir Putin's authoritarian rule and calling for the release of people they consider political prisoners. Wednesday's march is in support of 27 people who face charges related to a protest that turned violent on the eve of Putin's inauguration more than a year ago. The banner reads liberty to the captives on May 6! for our and your freedom! ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO — AP Photo

Russian opposition protesters some holding portraits of political prisoners shout anti-Putin slogans as they march through a street next to the Kremlin in Moscow on Wednesday, June 12, 2013.Thousands of Russian opposition activists are marching through Moscow decrying President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian rule and calling for the release of people they consider political prisoners. Wednesday’s march is in support of 27 people who face charges related to a protest that turned violent on the eve of Putin’s inauguration more than a year ago. The banner reads liberty to the captives on May 6! for our and your freedom!

Published: June 12, 2013

— Thousands of Russian opposition activists marched through Moscow on Wednesday, decrying President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian rule and calling for the release of people they consider political prisoners.

The march on Russia Day, a national holiday, was to show support for 27 people arrested after a protest turned violent on the eve of Putin’s inauguration more than a year ago. Sixteen of the defendants have remained in jail pending trial on charges that could send them to prison for up to 10 years.

The arrests, especially those of ordinary Russians who had joined the anti-Putin rallies for the first time and who in some cases seemed to have been grabbed at random, appeared to have been part of Kremlin efforts to deter people from joining any future protests. Continue reading

Power Politics 101: Promoters of butcher Assad, Beware — Russia follows capitalist realpolitik

[Seeing the writing on the wall–that the days of their “ally” Assad of Syria are numbered–capitalist-imperialist power Russia (a growing imperialist contender to US’ imperial hegemon) seeks to ensure and preserve a piece of post-Assad Syria for its own regional interests.  Those who have made spurious claims that the Russian/Assad-ist Syrian alliance is somehow an anti-imperialist front, will have to adjust their framework, substantially…..Meanwhile, talks between US imperialists and the “official” Syrian opposition have, simultaneously, been held.  The fragmentary and formative revolutionary people’s forces have, to all indications, played no role in either set of talks with imperialists, as they have been either decimated or, driven underground or into exile, are making difficult preparations for the future. — Frontlines ed.]


Russia in ground-breaking talks with Syrian opposition

03 Feb 2013 – MUNICH, Germany (AFP)

[Photo:  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov]
Ground-breaking talks between the Russian foreign minister and the Syrian opposition leader have bolstered a global push to narrow sharp differences over how to end the conflict in Syria.

Moscow said Saturday it wanted to keep in regular contact with the Syrian opposition, after its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz al-Khatib met for the first time.

“I reminded Khatib that after the creation of the coalition and the appointment of their leader, we immediately demonstrated our interest in maintaining regular contact,” Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying after the meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

“We will make that happen,” he added.

[Photo: A rebel fighter poses in front of a Soviet-made T55 tank abandoned by pro-Syrian regime forces in al-Yaqubia in northern Syrian, on February 2, 2013. Ground-breaking talks between the Russian foreign minister and the Syrian opposition leader have bolstered a global push to narrow sharp differences over how to end the conflict in Syria.]

Lavrov had earlier Saturday held talks with US Vice President Joe Biden and UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi amid strong disagreement between Moscow and Washington about ways to end the 22-month Syria conflict, which according to the United Nations has claimed upwards of 60,000 lives.

Khatib, who became the head of the coalition late last year, reiterated on the opening day of the Munich talks Friday an earlier surprise announcement that his group is ready for dialogue with the Damascus regime — subject to conditions including the release of 160,000 detainees.

Lavrov said Moscow welcomed the initiative, adding: “If we take into account the fact that the coalition was founded on a refusal to engage in a dialogue with the regime, it’s a very important step.” Continue reading

Syria: A darkening horizon

29 May 2012. A World to Win News Service. The photos of dozens of dead little children – their bodies lying side by side in a row, each upturned face tearing at the heart of anyone who has ever loved a child and bringing to mind other children all over the world – convey only a part of the horrifying situation that the Syrian people face.

It may be that the Bashar al-Assad regime and/or its allies carried out the massacre in Houla, not as an act of madness or simple revenge but a calculated attempt to divert the anti-regime revolt into an inter-religious civil war. At the same time, the UN Security Council resolution condemning this crime is an obscene act of hypocrisy and worse. The US and Russia are trying to use this tragedy as an occasion to step up their contention and negotiations over who will dominate Syria. The interests of the Syrian people and the just demands of the movement against the regime, and the lives of the people, including children, count as nothing in this reactionary manoeuvring.


The Security Council resolution reflected not a concern with human life but the contest between the US and its allies on one hand and Russia on the other as to how foreign domination of Syria is to be divided up in the near future. Bizarrely, the resolution mentions Syrian government tank and artillery fire, and not the apparent close-quarter executions of many of the victims. This has allowed the Syrian government room to claim that the killings were carried out by “terrorists”, presumably meaning Islamic fundamentalists, an explanation for which no evidence has been presented. Western diplomats assert that the resolution’s wording was designed to gain Russian acceptance for what turned out to be a unanimous Security Council vote. But this unanimity had criminal purposes on both sides.


The UN pretends to be working for a peaceful solution to the crisis through a ceasefire, a kind of freeze-in-place. This is the least likely alternative, one that none of the imperialist powers involved really believe possible, and one that the US and its allies are working to make impossible. The US is determined that Syria, often described as a Russian “client regime”, will become an American client regime at any cost.

The US and Russia seem to be in agreement in seeking to preserve the essential structure of the Assad regime, especially the military and security forces, without Assad. How this could happen is currently being negotiated between the US and Russia. The US has a powerful argument: either Russia can accept some continuing influence in an American-dominated Syria, or it risks having no influence at all.

This situation was laid bare in an article in The New York Times (26 May 2012) that was in its own way as shocking and cynical as the Houla massacre, in terms of the future of the Syrian people. At the recent G-8 summit in Camp David, Maryland, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev told US President Barack Obama that Russia was not willing to see the UN Security Council authorize a regime change in Syria on the Libya model, where an American-led military intervention under the guise of protecting civilians allowed the US to topple a regime it deemed problematic. Russia apparently has come to consider Assad a “liability”, meaning that it no longer believes he can remain in power, but Moscow is not willing to be entirely forced out of a country where its interests predominate militarily (Russia has a small naval station, its only outpost in the Mediterranean), economically (Russia has extensive investments in Syrian gas and oil, and Syria is a leading buyer of Russian arms) and politically, although the US has also had relations and influence. Continue reading

Russian police and troops clash with protesters in Moscow

[Russian protests have grown quickly to an unprecedented and massive scale.  The Russian people, having experienced socialism first-hand, and a subsequent counter-revolution which brought back capitalism and imperialism, are now faced with a daunting future and mixed experience to draw from–and the confusing domination by pseudo-democratic capitalist parties and imperialist agents.  Revolutionaries in Russia are challenged to develop revolutionary forces, including a revolutionary communist party, to chart the new path forward–which, given the changes they have faced over the last century, will undoubtedly have new characteristics, based on the current conditions.  Charting such paths in formerly socialist countries, facing anew the crises of the world imperialist system, will require fresh investigations, analyses, forces, and analyses on the part of this and future generations of the international communist movement, wielding and developing the basic tools of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. — Frontlines ed.]

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov reportedly among those arrested on second day of protests against rule of Vladimir Putin

in Moscow,guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 6 December 2011

Police and interior ministry troops have clashed with protesters in Moscow during a second day of protests against the rule of Vladimir Putin.

Around 600 protesters were reported to have gathered near Triumphal Square in central Moscow, but they included many pro-Kremlin youths in blue anoraks who had also turned up, chanting: “Russia, Putin!” while the opposition protesters shouted: “Freedom!” and “Russia without Putin!”

The crowd was held back by dozens of riot police and it appeared that opposition supporters were struggling to make it past police to the rally. Moscow police spokesman Maxim Kolosvetov said about 250 people had been detained as scuffles broke out.

An Associated Press reporter saw at least two flare-type fireworks thrown into a crowd of pro-Kremlin demonstrators gathered outside the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall. It was not immediately clear who had thrown the devices or if they caused any injuries.

Earlier, thousands of police and troops flooded the streets of Moscow before the planned protest. According to the Associated Press, hundreds of police blocked off Triumphal Square, then began chasing demonstrators, seizing some and throwing them violently into police vehicles.

The Interfax news agency reported that among the detained was Boris Nemtsov, a leader of the liberal opposition and fierce critic of Putin. Continue reading

World Imperialist Crisis drives new alignments: BRIC invites South Africa as African gateway

BRICS countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa

[A former Indian diplomat discusses the new international alignments and their political meaning. While his analysis needs to be assessed critically, the information he includes in this article is of value to all concerned with the political impacts of the world imperialist crisis.–Frontlines ed.]

China BRICS up Africa
By M K Bhadrakumar, Jan 4, 2011

There can be no two opinions that Beijing made a smart move. Its
decision to anoint South Africa as a new member of BRIC (Brazil, Russia,
India and China) will be projected as based on economic grounds, but
there are any number of other dimensions.

The decision was hugely significant politically, and its announcement
showed delightful timing – Christmas Eve. It also has vast geopolitical
potential and it is undoubtedly based on strategic considerations. The
choice of South Africa can even be spotted as a gutsy move to disprove a
prediction from Jim O’Neill, chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management
and guru of the BRIC concept, that Nigeria was better placed to make the
grade. Continue reading

Chinese and Russian imperialists strengthen economic ties, while US and Russian tactical nukes face off in Europe

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin clap it up

[The second article in this post is “Russian Missiles Fuel US Worries” from the Wall Street Journal, a leading US ruling class mouthpiece.–Frontlines ed]

China Daily, November 24, 2010

China, Russia Quit Dollar

St. Petersburg, Russia – China and Russia have decided to renounce the US dollar and resort to using their own currencies for bilateral trade, Premier Wen Jiabao and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin announced late on Tuesday.

Chinese experts said the move reflected closer relations between Beijing and Moscow and is not aimed at challenging the dollar, but to protect their domestic economies.  “About trade settlement, we have decided to use our own currencies,” Putin said at a joint news conference with Wen in St. Petersburg.

The two countries were accustomed to using other currencies, especially the dollar, for bilateral trade. Since the financial crisis, however, high-ranking officials on both sides began to explore other possibilities. The yuan has now started trading against the Russian rouble in the Chinese interbank market, while the renminbi will soon be allowed to trade against the rouble in Russia, Putin said.  “That has forged an important step in bilateral trade and it is a result of the consolidated financial systems of world countries,” he said.

Putin made his remarks after a meeting with Wen. They also officiated at a signing ceremony for 12 documents, including energy cooperation. The documents covered cooperation on aviation, railroad construction, customs, protecting intellectual property, culture and a joint communiqu. Details of the documents have yet to be released. Putin said one of the pacts between the two countries is about the purchase of two nuclear reactors from Russia by China’s Tianwan nuclear power plant, the most advanced nuclear power complex in China. Continue reading

Amidst global crisis, the NATO summit in Lisbon: EU and US make a deal for missile shield aimed at Iran

Frontlines Editorial

Recent imperialist meetings have seen many new developments.  The G20 meetings in Seoul, Korea brought limited success to the US’ plans for the world economy. Public disagreements broke out among the imperialist countries over issues of trade, monetary policy and government deficit spending.

The recently concluded NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal  took place in the shadow of the deepening imperialist economic crisis in the US and the European Union. The same week as the summit, the EU and International Monetary Fund had to give Ireland hundreds of billions of dollars to save its failing banks, and Portugal may be next.  Even while the economic ties among the US and EU imperialists are growing increasingly strained, the US and its European allies in NATO were able to agree on a common political and military strategy for defending and expanding their imperialist interests in the Middle  East and Central Asia.

The articles from The Guardian and Al-Jazeera that are posted below only describe what was decided at the NATO summit. Here is Frontlines’ analysis of the summit’s most important decisions. Our comments are more extensive than usual due to the importance of this subject.

Missile Shield

The NATO leaders announced a missile shield that will be deployed in stages beginning in 2011. This is the result of an intense US campaign to focus imperialist military coordination on isolating the Islamic Republic of Iran and forcing it to give up its nuclear program.. Throughout the upcoming decade of construction of a complex multi-billion dollar system against a handful of Iranian missiles, there  will be an ever-present  and hysterical media campaign claiming that the Islamic Republic is run by “unstable fanatics” who are a military threat to Europe and to Israel.  Building the shield against the alleged “threat” from Iran aims to justify tighter US/EU sanctions, and  to prepare political support for military action against Iran.


The summit also agreed on a timetable for “withdrawal” of NATO forces from Afghanistan in 2014. This is aimed at defusing growing opposition to the war (eg. the growing number of body bags of US and NATO troops). The 2014 withdrawal date is an attempt to buy time to prevent a total Taliban victory.  The war plans of the US and NATO commanders– launching bigger offensives to clear Taliban forces out of southwest Afghanistan, and  making new attempts  to split the Taliban—are not new and have not prevented the Taliban from growing and spreading throughout the country.  Still, the US and NATO countries have no choice but to continue the war.  All of them see the victory of an anti-Western fundamentalist force like the Taliban as a threat to their imperialist interests in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Russia joins the summit

The most significant development of the summit was the agreement of Russia’s President Medvedev to cooperate with the US and NATO in several areas. Medvedev offered to provide increased military assistance to the Karzai government. The Russian government also wants to see the Taliban defeated in order to cut off a source of support for separatist Islamist forces in Chechnya and the former Soviet Central Asian republics.  Most importantly, Medvedev agreed to work with the US and NATO on the missile shield.  In the months before the summit, President Obama withdrew Bush’s plan to base missile interceptors in Poland, which were aimed at Russia.  Based on the US’ assurance that the new missile system would be directed solely at Iran, the Russian imperialists decided that it was in their interests to cooperate in the development of the shield.  Russia also agreed to support tighter sanctions against Iran, and withdrew from several of its previous agreements with Iran. Continue reading

US military enlists NATO in forging proxy armies in Eastern Europe

Before the NATO Summit in Lisbon on November 19-20, 2010

Pentagon Forges NATO Proxy Armies In Eastern Europe

by Rick Rozoff

On November 19 and 20 the leaders of 28 North American and European nations, all the major Western military powers and their vassals, will gather in the capital of Portugal for this year’s summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Until recently held every other year, NATO summits are now annual events, with the last held in France and Germany in 2009 and the preceding one in Romania in 2008.

Prior to last year’s summit in Strasbourg and Kehl, the first held in two nations, four in a row had occurred in Eastern Europe: The Czech Republic in 2002, Turkey in 2004, Latvia in 2006 and Romania in 2008. None of those host countries, of course, are anywhere near the North Atlantic Ocean. Neither are any of the 12 nations incorporated into the Western military bloc in the past 11 years.

This year’s summit will endorse the Alliance’s first Strategic Concept for the 21st century, a draft of which was crafted by a so-called group of experts led by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and presented in a report entitled NATO 2020: Assured Security; Dynamic Engagement.

Despite NATO referring to itself as a “military alliance of democratic states in Europe and North America” and claiming that all its members’ opinions carry equal weight – as though Luxembourg and Iceland could block or override the U.S., the world’s sole military superpower as its current head of state proudly christened it last December – next month’s summit will be a rubber stamp affair.

Everything the Pentagon and White House demand will be granted, most notably:

Standard Missile-3 planned for Baltic and Black Sea deployments

The subordination of NATO’s theater interceptor missile initiative, the Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence Programme launched in 2005, and the U.S.-German-Italian Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) to a U.S. missile shield structure throughout all of Europe and into the Middle East.

The retention of at least 200 U.S. nuclear bombs on air bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.

A complementary cyber warfare “dome” over the European continent directed by the new U.S. Cyber Command. [1]

The qualitatively accelerated military integration of NATO and the European Union in the aftermath of the Lisbon Treaty entering into force last December 1. A Portuguese adviser to President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso recently affirmed “that the best solution for the enhancement of EU-U.S. relations would be that the European Union (EU) joins NATO.” [2] Continue reading

Socialist Methods and the Stalin-Era Purges

From http://kasamaproject.org


We have been discussing the importance of summing up the history of socialist revolution in the twentieth century — and the problem of silence on such events as the “Great Purges” in the 1930s Soviet Union. In that thread, a commentator“Reading You” wrote a defense of the mass executions of those times. Here is a reply.

By Mike Ely

On one level, there is a mind-numbing contradiction at play. The communist movement (justifiably!) denounces the beating of Rodney King, the killing of Oscar Grant, the shooting of Amadou Diallo, the assassination of Malcolm or King, the jailing of Peltier and Mumia, the holding of so-called “enemy combatants” without evidence or trial… These are outrages — and often the innocence of the victim is a part of that outrage.

So what does it mean, if someone like “Reading You” can (with a wave of their hand) minimize the state execution of hundreds of thousands of people (without trial and often, it must be said, without evidence)? Is it that different because those were nominally socialistcops who pulled the triggers?

There were in the 1930s quotas for arrests (just like there were quotas for other forms of production) — i.e. the cops in a particular locality were required to produce so many spies and reactionaries. Imagine what that produced? There was permission to torture signed at the highest level. Imagine what that meant for the emergence of “confessions” and new denunciations of new suspects for the machinery. Continue reading

East Germany: Socialist or State Capitalist?

my_computerclass_1987_in East_GermanyEast German family life around a new computer 1987 — Honecker’s so-called “consumer socialism” was not that much different from West European society and life.

From http://kasamaproject.org

In our discussion of Heresy: On New Demarcations & Coherent Theory, a commentator (T1) argued strongly saying that East Germany (the GDR) should be considered socialist. Selucha respondedthat despite “socialist elements,” East Germany could not be considered a revolutionary society.

* * * * * * *

I would say that the three claims of socialism in East Germany were not that remarkable for capitalist countries:

  • welfare state features,
  • state ownership of industry,
  • government party self-labeling itself “socialist”

And that we can’t consider a society “socialist” based on just the presence of those “features” — i.e. socialism is not defined by either forms or official rhetoric.  And this becomes clear when you start to compare societies.

Certainly Scandinavian countries have (in many case) put themselves forward as their own form of “socialism.  And, when I was in West Germany during this period (i.e. the 1960s), the ruling party there was the SPD (known as “die Roten”, “the Reds”) and headed by Willy Brandt (who like Honecker had a resume with the anti-Nazi resistance, and was described as a “socialist.”) And so on…

Were those “socialist elements” in West Germany as well? There is in such designations a tendency to see modern capitalist welfare states as somehow “socialist.” And in particular to see public social services as those “socialist elements.”

The DDR did have some social benefits. The whole place felt like a big intramural sports league — with group fitness and team-building being a particular fascination. In the DDR (German Democratic Republic, in the east) there was a system of day care centers, for example. Is that what we are talking about?

But was it really different in that regard to its neighbors just to the West? (I.e. Denmark, West Germany, Sweden, etc.) Was that a “socialist” thing, or a development of all (capitalist!) countries in that region of north central Europe? Were these welfare systems a way highly socialized modern European capitalism defended itself (in a social-democratic counterinsurgency way) from the advance of radical proletarian revolution — or were they signs of the socialist revolution itself?

czech_students_surround_soviet_tanks_1968During the Soviet/Warsaw Pact invasion (1969), Czech students surround the tanks and urge the invading soldiers to join them

Similarly the eastern countries had a relatively high degree of state ownership compared, say, to the U.S. or Sweden. (Sweden has a famous welfare state system, but a very low degree of state nationalization of industry.) But industry and agriculture were not particularlynationalized in Eastern Europe compared tosome western countries. I have seen for example comparisons between “socialist” Poland and capitalist Peru in the 1970s. Poland did not have a higher degree of state ownership of industry than Peru (i.e. basic industry were state owned in both). Peru had a network of state owned farms in the 1970s — while Poland’s agriculture remained largely uncollectivized and almost completely small capitalist family farms.

In fact, it is true of MANY “developing” countries in the Third World that their basic industries were nationalized in the 1960s (before the later “neo-liberal” changes) and that foreign capitalist investment then came through international loans to the state and its state sector. And in fact that feature of capitalist third world industrialization is tied to Mao’s conceptualization of “bureaucratic capitalism” as a major (oppressive) feature of semi-feudal, semi-colonial countries.

Such state ownership of basic industry was at that time a common (even typical) feature of developing capitalist economies in much of the world. India’s state steel sector, for example, received investment loans from the Soviet Union in a rather typically imperialist and exploitative way.

Erich Honecker's public image: officious, tidy, exuding very German efficiencyErich Honecker’s official image: a conservative promise of efficiency and technical competence

And yes, East Germany had an oppressive apparatus of organized informants and state surveillance — but it was not that much different from the operations of many governments in the west in its intrusiveness and semipermanent threat. In other words, the anti-communist Cold Warriors were wrong in their bogus distinction between “authoritarian” good guys versus the “totalitarian” bad guys.

Experiences in the Soviet Bloc

I spent a month traveling in the East Bloc country of Czechoslovakia (officially CSSR — CzechoSlovak Socialist Republic). And I was constantly struck by the way everyone spoke their mind. It was after the Prague Spring, and right after the 1969’s Warsaw Pact invasion (that included Soviet, but also East German and Mongolian troops) — and there, right in the middle of this occupation, people held rallies and debates wherever I was. They seemed to argue quite openly about the future and their political desires. The political level of these discussions was very low (comparable to the U.S.) — largely because people had obviously been quite excluded from politics in the preceding decades. I suspect part of the political freedom they felt came from the fact that no one was supporting (or reporting back to) the hated new Husak government the Soviet invaders had just imposed.

But still, even under occupation, the Czechoslovakia I traveled through did not feel like a “sordid police state.” But everyone I met (including Germans, Poles, Hungarians, Yugoslavs) said the same thing: “We couldn’t talk like this across the border back in the DDR or in the USSR.”

breznev_honecker_kissingErich Honecker’s famous mouth-to-mouth kiss with Brezhnev — an unmistakable promise of geopolitical intimacy, fidelity and conjoined fates.

In other words: Sure East Germany had a social welfare system, but not one much more elaborate to its Swedish neighbor. And sure Poland had a state sector, but not much more developed than countries like Peru etc. Yes East Germany had low (or hidden) unemployment — but not lower than West Germany (which then had a semi-permanent labor shortage).

And yes, the Eastern European governments used “socialist”  rhetoric to legitimize themselves — but was that so different from the Mexican governments’ rhetoric about “revolution” or anti-imperialism? Or the Manley government in Jamaica? Or the “socialism” of Burma/Myanmar’s ugly military rulers? Or the dogmatic paper “communism” of the CPI(Marxist) that has run semifeudal West Bengal for decades? Or the popular front government in 1930s France?

Is it so hard to see that capitalist (and imperialist) societies can have nominally “communist” governments — and yet not be socialist?

Particular Social Formations and Their Political Coloration

Out of the 1945 collapse of the Nazi expansion, and out of the fighting entry of the Soviet Army into that space, emerged a set of postwar social formations that had not had any real or deep radical transformations. They had the superficial trappings (the forms) of state ownership and “communist” political labeling (which were naturally demanded by the Soviet leadership). But they were, imho, as capitalist (in essence) as the countries to their west — and in many ways their governments were even less popular and legitimized because they had been so obviously imposed externally. (We posted writings by the German communist Bertold Brecht on some of these developments — particularly the east Berlin workers uprising of 1953.)

The exceptions in the East were (of course) Albania and Yugoslavia, where the new postwar governments arose from indigenous resistance movements (though with a lot more Soviet external help than they generally acknowledged). And those governments too had socialist and communist rhetoric. And, while I don’t know much about the internal history and development of Albania (does anyone?) — there is a lot of evidence that Yugoslavia was the very first example of this new kind of social formation — a capitalist society with a government calling itself “communist.”

In other words, this was not (as T1 asked) simply some mechanical matter of “it’s externally imposed, so it can’t be socialist.”

Even in Yugoslavia, which had an indigenous anti-Nazi resistance movement creating a new multinational federation out of Nazi occupation, the resulting formation was capitalist. In fact Tito pioneered this new phenomenon in history: State capitalism with a phony communist veneer.

I wrote an analysis of this Yugoslav history in the 1990s when Yugoslavia shattered into vicious local wars, and the Clinton government then attacked Serbia. Some left forces argue at the time that Clinton’s war on Serbia was an attack on the sole remaining “socialist’ state. Check out How Capitalism Caused the Balkan Wars.

And in answer to the question asked earlier: this article is an example of how “state capitalism” is a category within materialist analysis, not not simply an “epithet.”

Socialist Elements? What about Obama Then?

So are there “socialist elements”? Well it depends on your definitions.

Certainly the rightwing in the U.S. is on a rampage around this: They accuse Obama of being a socialist for wanting tiny state involvement in health care reform. They equate nationalized (west European style) health care with communism and Marxism. And some of them also consider income taxes, public schools, paper money, government firehouses, etc. to be “socialist elements.”

Should we agree that “Obama has socialist elements in his program?” Should we (like some on the left) support him on that basis?

I think we should disagree with the rightwing — and say “Obama is no socialist — and we should know.”

And overall, I also don’t think we should treat “social welfare programs + government lipservice to communism” as semi-socialist. (I also don’t think we should view neo-liberal privatization, say of the PRI-created structures in Mexico, as the dismantling of “socialist elements” in those societies.)

If we that, we would be conceding quite a bit in what we imagine (and expect) aboutgenuine socialism.

Here is one way of looking at it: A society is either socialist or capitalist. Ultimately a society is either defined by capitalism (i.e. governed by the law of value), or its direction is defined by something else (the road of ongoing and deepening socialist transformation, where the people’s interests are through various political mediations in command of the direction of society).

In my view, welfare benefits, state ownership of some industry, etc. are really common features of some modern capitalism – reflecting its growing socialization, and the wealth of some imperialist countries (including both Germanies!). And these things also reflect, in some ways, features that show modern capitalism on the doorstep of new leaps in socialization. (And in that narrow sense alone they are, perhaps, “socialist elements.”)

I don’t think we should lower our sights and goals in that way — or cheapen the word “socialism” by reducing it to “day care centers plus state ownership plus informants.”