JMP on Trotskyism

Sorry for cutting these up, they’re both fantastic articles that should be read in full

Earlier, in the context of another post, I briefly indicated that Trotskyism was flawed by an essentialist understanding of class; because of this the prototypical Trotskyist understanding of class consciousness, class position, and class struggle annihilates the possibility of concretely understanding race/racism, gender/sexism, and other sites of oppression as part of social class.  Trotskyism’s crude class reductionism, which at the end of the day obliterates a proper understanding of class as a social category, also connects to its general eurocentric understanding of world history.  There is a reason that Maoism is simply another species of “Stalinism”––this is because no one from places like China, according to the most rabid Trotskyite cult recruiter, are capable of theoretical thought.  The same goes for any revolutionary African historical materialism: I have heard numerous Trotskyists, for example, write-off Frantz Fanon because he was not a proper “revolutionary theorist”––apparently writing theory in the midst of an anticolonial revolution does not qualify as properly revolutionary.  No, to be a proper revolutionary one must cling to theory that emerged from the “civilized” centres of world capitalism where workers struggles, we are told, are far more advanced than the “primitive” and “degenerated” struggles in the peripheries.

Trotskyist theory of world revolution, then, generally tends to be a eurocentric game.  The entire theory of Permanent Revolution, which relies on the erroneous analysis of world capitalism being “combined and uneven development” (one mode of production cast upon the entire globe), ultimately produces an understanding of revolution that is both chauvinist and paralyzing: the task of underdeveloped nations (and there is no clear understanding of the global capitalist relationship that develops underdevelopment), was for the germ of the working classes there to pursue the bourgeois democratic revolution in their own country and keep alive a revolutionary spirit (i.e. holding the revolution in permanence), while keeping alive a revolutionary spirit, thus creating a larger and more advanced working class––ultimately all of the nations that did this would have to hold the revolution in permanence for a long time until everyone in the world was in a similar place, like the “advanced” working class in the already capitalist developed nations, so as to have a socialist revolution altogether.  Maoist theories, along with theories emerging from revolutionary African movements (i.e. Fanon, Cabral, etc.), rejected this position as a half-truth; this is why the theories of New Democratic Revolution and Cultural Revolution, for example, emerged in China.



My point here, however, is only to point out that it is entirely significant that academic marxism now accepts a specific discourse about Stalin and so-called “Stalinism” and that this, more than anything else, is the influence of trotskyism.  I treat this as significant because trotskyism’s core dogma is not about the so-called “permanent revolution” but primarily about anti-stalinism.  Indeed, it fundamentally defines itself as anti-stalinism more than anything else: orthodox trotskyists attack every communism they despise as “stalinist” and they focus obsessively on a “socialism in one country” that they see as the hallmark of “stalinism”.  Moreover, trotskyism is the tradition that is most responsible for inversely theorizing “stalinism” because so-called “stalinists” always claimed they were only “Marxist-Leninist” and that Stalin was just a Leninist revolutionary.  Thus, everyone who is a non-trotskyist marxist-leninist, according to trotskyists, is a “stalinist”––especially if they believe that a socialist revolution can be accomplished in a single country without waiting for the workers of the advanced centres to lead the revolution.  This obsessive anti-stalinism, then, might be the only dogma of trotskyism.  Thus, if it was unsuccessful in making its other theories hegemonic in academia, trotskyism has been successful in this one area: an uncritical anti-Stalin-Trotsky-was-the-victim stance is at the root of the majority of academic marxism.

This discourse about Stalin and “stalinism” is so hegemonic in academia that to even suggest, in proper academic marxist circles, that maybe Trotsky was more responsible for wrecking the international communist movement than Stalin is generally unwise (and the fact that I am writing this here, where it will probably be read by my academic fears, is something that might possibly affect my already non-existent career prospects).  Indeed, to suggest that the discourse of stalinism runs parallel to a cold war discourse about Stalin-as-mass-murderer and that we should be suspicious about these kinds of things is bad for one’s academic health––or at least enough to get yelled at by people who don’t want to believe that their understanding of Stalin era Soviet Union and its supposed crimes is not “progressive” as they somehow and bizarrely want to believe but actually a banal and common belief amongst reactionary historians.  Nor does the fact that the vast majority of the world’s communists (meaning those who don’t live at the privileged centres of capitalism) tell themselves a different and more critically nuanced story of the Soviet Union under Stalin.  Hell, even leftists living in the former Eastern Bloc who remember that era do not, for some reason, believe what we are supposed to believe here about that period: the Russians who can remember the Stalin era proudly bear his picture on victory day marches, the Eastern Orthodox Church has received an overwhelming requests to make Stalin a saint, and even in places like the Ukraine where we are told that Stalin personally and intentionally exacted the worst totalitarian policies (a claim initially made by the cold warrior historian Robert Service who has now, in fact, distanced himself from that theory), there is a communist party that tells a more critical story about the famine.



How Afghanistan’s Radicals Became Moderates

I deleted my tumblr a couple days ago, I’ve been dealing with some offline stuff so I’m taking some time to do some self-care. I’m still following a handful of people’s tumblrs on rss, thanks for everyone’s kind and funny words.

With over a decade being spent in Afghanistan, the Obama administration’s policy has been to reach out to so-called moderates within the Taliban. However, who is a moderate and who is a radical is decided by their level of opposition to US occupation rather than their views on women, religion, and law. Often, it is the most socially reactionary leaders who are willing to compromise on foreign occupation in order to achieve their social goals.

What is the “Taliban”?

In the US media, anyone who fights back against the NATO occupation is a member of the Taliban. This has the effect of making the entire anti-occupation effort in Afghanistan seem less organic and disguises the true nature of the anti-imperialist resistance. Most of the resistance isn’t being coordinated by the Taliban organization, it is locally-organized militias which oppose foreign occupation. These anti-occupation fighters are the radicals to the Obama administration, they’re not taking orders from the Taliban leadership but are instead dedicated to opposing the Karzai puppet government and neocolonialism. James Petras, in a fantastic article, said:

On the military front, the Pentagon launches one “offensive” after another, announcing one success after another, followed by a retreat and return of the Resistance fighters. The US campaigns disrupt trade, agricultural harvests and markets, while the air assaults targeting “Taliban” and militants, more frequently than not end up killing more civilians celebrating weddings, religious holidays and shoppers at markets than combatants. The reason for the high percentage of civilian killings is clear to everyone except the US Generals: there are no distinctions between “militants” and millions of Afghan civilians since the former are an integral part of their communities.

The key and ultimately decisive problem facing the US occupation is that it is a colonial enclave in the midst of a colonized people. The US, its local puppets and its NATO allies are a foreign colonial army and its Afghan military and police recruits are seen as mere instruments perpetuating illegitimate rule. Every action, whether violent or benign, is perceived and interpreted as transgressing the norms and historical legacies of a proud and independent people. In everyday life, every move by the occupation is disruptive; nothing moves except by command of the foreign directed military and police. Under threat of force, people fake co-operation and then provide assistance to their fathers, brothers and sons in the Resistance. The recruits take the money and turn their arms over to the Resistance. The paid village informants are double agents or identified by their neighbors and targeted by insurgents.

The outcome of making a power-sharing deal with the most socially reactionary has very clear effects, it shifts the war from being between occupiers and nationalists to being against women.

Most hot wars of recent memory, little and big, have been resolved or nudged into remission through what is called a power-sharing agreement. The big men from most or all of the warring parties—and war is basically a guy thing, in case you hadn’t noticed—shoulder in to the negotiating table and carve up a country’s or region’s military, political, and financial pie. Then they proclaim the resulting deal “peace.”

But as I learned firsthand as an aid worker in one so-called post-conflict country after another, when the men in power stop shooting at each other, they often escalate the war against civilians—especially women and girls. It seems to be hard for men to switch off violence, once they’ve gotten the hang of it. From Liberia to Myanmar, rape, torture, mutilation and murder continue unabated or even increase in frequency. In other words, from the standpoint of civilians, war is often not over when it’s “over,” and the “peace” is no real peace at all. Think of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the notorious “rape capital of the world,” where thousands upon thousands of women are gang-raped again and again, although the country has officially been at “peace” since 2003.


And what has President Karzai done for the rest of the women of Afghanistan? Not a thing.

That’s the conclusion of a recent report issued by the Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium (HRRAC), an association of prominent aid and independent research groups in Afghanistan, including such highly respected non-governmental organizations as Oxfam, CARE and Save the Children. The Afghan researchers who did the study conducted extensive interviews with prominent male religious scholars, male political leaders, and female leaders locally, provincially, and nationally.

The report notes that President Karzai has supported increasingly repressive laws against women, most notoriously the “Taliban-style” Shia Personal Status Law, enacted in 2009, which not only legitimizes marital rape but “prevents women from stepping out of their homes” without their husband’s consent, in effect depriving them of the right to make any decisions about their own lives. The report points out that this law denies women even the basic freedoms guaranteed to all citizens in the Afghan Constitution, which was passed in 2004 as part of a flurry of democratic reforms marking the start of Karzai’s first term as elected president. The democratizing spasm passed and President Karzai, sworn to defend that constitution, failed to do the job.

In fact, Karzai’s record on human rights, as the HRRAC report documents, is chiefly remarkable for what he has not done. He holds extraordinary power to make political appointments—another indicator of the peculiar nature of this Afghan “democracy” our troops are fighting for—and he has now had almost ten years in office, ample time to lead even the most reluctant traditional society toward more equitable social arrangements. Yet today, but one cabinet ministry is held by a woman, the Ministry for Women’s Affairs, which incidentally is the sole government ministry that possesses only advisory powers. Karzai has appointed just one female provincial governor, and thirty-three men. (Is it by chance that Bamyan—the province run by that woman—is generally viewed as the most peaceful in the country?) To head city governments nationwide, he has named only one female mayor. And to the Supreme Court High Council he has appointed no woman at all.Karzai’s claim that he can’t find qualified women is a flimsy—and traditional—excuse. Many of his highest-ranking appointees to government offices are notorious war criminals, men considered by the great majority of Afghan citizens to have disqualified themselves from public office. The failure of many of his male appointees to govern honestly and justly, or even to show up for work at all, is a rising complaint of NATO commanders who find upon delivery of “government in a box” that the box is pretty much empty.

The current plan from the Obama administration is to start substantially reducing the number of foreign occupation soldiers in 2014, and with the Afghan National Army and police in total shambles, bigger and bigger concessions to the most socially reactionary segments of Afghanistan will be given. Imperialism is inherently antithetical to women’s rights and dignity, its goal is subjugation, not empowerment. The economic and political subjugation of imperialism meshes perfectly with the desires to subjugate women.