This book documents how and why fraudulent stories about the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s made the presses worldwide and have become accepted as fact by almost everyone, despite the fact that they are provably false. The stories of millions of deaths caused by famine in Ukraine in 1933 and 1934, supposedly caused by the effects of the Soviet system, were fabricated by Nazi propagandists in their propaganda campaigns against Bolshevism. The spread of these stories to America took route through the presses of William Randolph Hearst, who has also since been proven, as I have documented on this website, to have been working in collaboration with the Nazis and publishing Nazi propaganda in mainstream American publications throughout the later half of the 1930s and into the 1940s.
These fabrications, which are well documented in this book, have become almost completely accepted as facts by Americans, and these fabrications have been repeatedly used, and are still used, by politicians despite the fact that they are provably false and were provably produced by a Nazi conspirator. The fact that William Randolph Hearst was conspiring with the Nazis during the 1930s is proven outside of this book, and is a part of official American government record, yet his fabricated publications about the Ukrainian famine are still referenced as fact today.
This book does not claim that no famine took place in Ukraine, or that there were not hardships related to the collectivization programs of the Soviets. The book is an examination of the stories published about the famine that did take place, and how those stories became politicized.
In any case, the strategic lesson to be learned from the transfer of ‘political’ issues to the ‘economy’ is not that class struggles ought to be primarily concentrated in the economic sphere or ‘at the point of production’. Nor does the division of ‘political’ functions between class and state mean that power in capitalism is so diffused throughout civil society that the state ceases to have any specific and privileged role as a locus of power and a target of political action, nor, alternatively, that everything is the ‘state’. Indeed, the opposite is true. The division of labour between class and state means not so much that power is diffuse, but, on the contrary, that the state, which represents the coercive ‘moment’ of capitalist class domination, embodied in the most highly specialized, exclusive, and centralized monopoly of social force, is ultimately the decisive point of concentration for all power in society.
Struggles at the point of production, then, even in their economic aspects as struggles over the terms of sale of labour power or over the conditions of work, remain incomplete as long as they do not extend to the locus of power on which capitalist property, with its control of production and appropriation, ultimately rests. At the same time, purely ‘political’ battles, over the power to govern and rule, remain unfinished until they implicate not only the institutions of the state but the political powers that have been privatized and transferred to the economic sphere. In this sense, the very differentiation of the economic and the political in capitalism – the symbiotic division of labour between class and state – is precisely what makes the unity of economic and political struggles essential
Ellen Wood – Democracy against Capitalism Renewing Historical Materialism
This essay sums up some of the arguments presented in Syzmanski’s book, Is the Red Flag Flying? and addresses several key issues on the Soviet Union including military intervention, socialist planning, so-called Soviet imperialism, trade relations, and class structure. Here’s an excerpt
It’s not sufficient to show that Soviet foreign aid requires partial payment. We have to make sure in order to claim that it’s imperialism that there is exploitation, there is Systematic exploitation. We can’t use circular arguments — I think much of the RCP position is circular. The claim that Cuba is not socialist because it’s allied with the Soviet Union, which is imperialist, and the Soviet Union is imperialist because it trades or aids Cuba, which is not socialist. I mean, we get that kind of circular argument too much. We have to have independent criteria of what imperialism is and what socialism is, and we can’t argue in that kind of circular way.
And it’s not sufficient to show that the Soviet Union intervenes in a country. Intervention has never been a criterion of imperialism — the export of capital in order to economically exploit a country, that’s the criterion of imperialism, not intervention. In no place in Marx or Lenin was the claim ever made that Marxists don’t support intervention. Marx supported the Civi l War in the United States, that is, the North’s intervention in the South. Lenin intervened ac-tively in Poland in 1920, and in Armenia and Georgia, and in the suppression of the counterrevolution in Central Asia in the early 1920s. The Bolsheviks intervened many times. Stalin intervened in 1940 in sending the Red Army into Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Lithuania. You have to judge interventions in terms of the line, in terms of their policy, not in terms of some abstract criterion that interventions are bad or good. In other issues the RCP is very good in talking about line decides, but when it comes to interventions the claim is often made that interventions are evidence of imperialism. That’s very un-Marxist.
And, again, remember, if you have the Maoist position it means the Soviet Union was internationalist, was proletarian internationalist, before the mid-50s, so you have to present evidence that it changed. And believe me, virtually all the evidence is very strong that it went the other way, especially in its relationships with Eastern Europe. Before 1953, it bought Polish coal at 10 percent of the world price. In 1953, it went to paying the world price, and in 1956 it compensated Poland for all the cheap coal it had bought before. There maybe were 1,000 or so joint enterprises that the Soviet Union took over that had been the Nazi businesses in Eastern Europe, and they ran them 50-50 supposedly, but a lot of value was transferred to the Soviet Union before ’56. And between ’53 and ’56 they turned over all those enterprises but one in Bulgaria to Eastern Europe without compensation. So Soviet relations with Eastern Europe qualitatively changed alright, they qualitatively changed in favor of Eastern Europe and away from subsidizing the Soviet Union. I don’t argue that the Soviet Union was imperialist before ’56 by any means, but the economic change was definitely not in the di rection of any kind of social-imperialism after that period.
- It has to grow (or else it is in crisis) and its very logic and motivating force impels growth.
- It has no other driving force than the accumulation of ever greater amounts of capital.
- Through the creation of so-called “externalities” (or side effects) it wreaks damage on humans as well as the ecosystem and the life support systems needed by humanity and other species. In Paul Sweezy’s words: “As far as the natural environment is concerned, capitalism perceives it not as something to be cherished and enjoyed but as a means to the paramount ends of profit-making and still more capital accumulation.”1
- It promotes the use of nonrenewable resources without regard to the needs of future generations, as if there was no end to them, and abuses even renewable resources such as ocean fisheries and forests.
- It creates vast inequality in income, wealth, and power both within and between countries. Not only class, but race, gender, and other inequalities are built into its laws of motion.
- It requires and produces a reserve army of labor—people precariously connected to the economy, most kept in poverty or near poverty—so that labor is available during economic upswings and workers can easily be fired when not needed by businesses.
- It promotes national economic and political competition and imperialism, leading to wars for domination and access to resources.
- It fosters and rewards those particular human traits that are useful for thriving or even just existing in such a possessive-individualist society—selfishness, individualism, competition, greed, exploitation of others, consumerism—while not allowing the full expression of those human characteristics needed for a harmonious society (cooperation, sharing, empathy, and altruism).
- It leads to the breakdown of human health since people operate in a hierarchical society, with many working under dangerous and physically debilitating conditions or in jobs that are repetitive and boring—while subject to job loss or fear of losing their job. (There are many adverse long-term health effects following the loss of one’s job.)2
- It leads to the breakdown of healthy communities as people become more solitary in outlook and behavior and indigenous culture is replaced by the dominant national or international capitalist culture and outlook. People become dedicated to obtaining more for themselves and their families and depending less on reciprocal relationships with others.
With election drawing near, theres quite a few self-described socialists trying to get the vote out for Obama. It’s very common for them to point to the differences in campaign rhetoric especially with a Republican party that’s virulently hostile to the interests of pretty much everyone. However, their support for Obama shows a lack of historical understanding of American politics as well as a complete lack of class analysis in favor of a liberal pluralistic analysis of society.
Pluralism says that policy is formulated by a bunch of different groups in society (corporations, unions, women’s advocacy groups, universities, civil rights organizations etc) competing and eventually compromising based on their power and influence within political institutions. The view of pluralists is that the political system can be fixed by increasing the power of the pro-women/anti-racist/pro-worker/etc institutions relative to the business-controlled institutions. They see one of the primary problems with the American political system as that the corporate institutions have more money to spend on influencing lawmakers and buying their elections, and propose that a way of fixing this would be public campaign financing and spending limits on campaigns. The problem is that pluralism is a load of shit.
The pluralist analysis only looks at the overt methods of capitalist domination of society, while a class analysis understands that even with affordable elections and public financing, it doesn’t affect capitalist hegemony. In fact, it adds a legitimizing factor to capitalist domination of society, like in Western Europe. A class analysis recognizes that capitalist control of society is direct and indirect. The main direct methods of capitalist control are the selection of officials and lobbying. The indirect methods of control are far more powerful, because socialists and communists elected to office are still controlled by them. The four main methods of indirect capitalist control are explained in Al Szymanski’s The Capitalist State and the Politics of Class :
1. Capitalist values permeate the society and are propagated through the schools, military, media, and churches. Officials typically accept capitalist ideology as their own and authentically act as if capitalist rationality were the only rationality. Attempts by state officials to enact measures that would violate capitalist ideology would generate considerable opposition, even from the oppressed, as long as they accept capitalist ideas.
2. If the state attempts to follow policies that business doesn’t like, businesses can move to other countries or they may curtail production, lay off workers, or follow other restrictive policies, thereby promoting an economic crisis for which the state would be blamed. Businesses can refuse to invest unless the state follows probusiness policies. Banks have the special advantage of refusing to make loans to the state unless the state follows policies directed by them. Such actions by business might not be malicious, but might be merely economically rational and dictated by the necessity of maximizing profits.
3. States that attempt anticapitalist policies are subjected to the threat of military intervention, either by foreign states that want to prevent the abolition of capitalism, or by their own military, which may well be closely tied to the capitalist class.
4. Officials who follow anticapitalist policies may be cut off from campaign financing, slandered in the capitalist-class-controlled media, and forced to face well-financed and promoted opponents in their campaigns for reelection as well as being confronted with embarrassing demonstrations, disruptions, and possible social and political crises.
By looking at policy merely as a result of different groups compromising, it gives a distorted view of the role of the state. It sees the state as a place to mediate the interests of different interest groups in society, and doesn’t have the depth, richness, and explanatory power that a class analysis has. Again, from The Capitalist State and the Politics of Class :
The capitalist state has five basic functions for capitalism: 1) the state operates to preserve the existing class relations in society through guaranteeing private property and law and order; 2) the state makes continual capital accumulation and profitability possible through regulating the labor force, ensuring sufficient buying power in the economy, regulating the economy, and otherwise helping business; 3) the state secures the legitimacy of capitalist society through its control over the schools, its management of the cult of patriotism, and the ideological function of voting to persuade people that the state is being run by and for them, when the reality is quite different; 4) the state operates to “aggregate” the diverse interests and wills of the different segments of the capitalist class – that is, form the capitalist class will – so that the state can implement unified compromise policies tempered by the demands of other classes (this is the function of the Congress and the various regulatory and administrative agencies); 5) the state raises money to fund the bureaucracy and otherwise acts to maintain the apparatus to perform the first four functions.
There can be bourgeois candidates that are progressive because of the different interests and stratification within the bourgeoisie of a country, such as the different interests of the national bourgeoisie and the international bourgeoisie in many peripheral Third World countries. However, that is not the case today in the US, Obama and Romney represent almost the exact same interests. The differences in campaign rhetoric and policy between the Republicans and the Democrats are determined by the need to legitimize the political system while acting in the interests of the ruling class. Obama’s health care plan, for example, was very similar to the one the Republicans proposed in the early 90s.
Campaign rhetoric is useless at predicting presidential and legislative policy. Two examples for this are commonly cited, JFK ran on a center-left economic program but presided over one of the most right-wing economic policies in decades while Nixon ran on a center-right economic program but was the last president to have a center-left economic program while in office. The implementation of policy isn’t determined by personal beliefs or rhetoric, but is determined by class power and structure.
With a class analysis, we recognize that a vote for Obama or Romney adds to the legitimation requirements of the capitalist state. The job of candidates today is to deliver voters to their true constituents, the ruling class. Socialists need to attack the legitimacy of the electoral system this election by voting for third party candidates or not voting at all.
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.
Human rights discourse is the tip of the spear for neoliberalism. It’s hard to break down an independent nationalist country with a clarion call for smashing labor unions, selling off the country to the highest bidder, and making the political system more responsive to international financiers than the citizens of a country. Instead, they do it with human rights discourse, portraying the cause of restrictions on political advocacy rights to be a result of innately bad and power-hungry leaders.
However, Marxists know better.
A Materialist Understanding of Human Rights
Human rights discourse today is largely grounded in value judgments, and this has the effect of disguising the class interests behind human rights. Rather than human rights being progressively developed and expanded as a result of enlightenment, discussion, and liberal thought, the idea and implementation of human rights has been embedded in the class relations of the societies. Class, rather than constitutions, are the driving force behind the expansion and retraction of political advocacy rights.
The level of domestic and international threats to the ruling class of a country and other factors determine the level of political advocacy rights allowed. Throughout history, the class factors are the only consistent measure of political advocacy rights. For reasons of space, I’m just going to link an old post that lists these factors:
The Outcomes of Neoliberalism
Neoliberalism always results in an increase of homophobia, racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry. The Lancet found that neoliberal reforms caused the deaths of 1 million working age men, a 12.8% increase in deaths, and a 56% increase in unemployment in Russia and Eastern Europe. The so-called freedoms that neoliberal movements bring (press, assembly, and speech) aren’t real freedoms at all, as the society becomes controlled by international financiers, media moguls, and foreign business magnates. The press becomes a mouthpiece for the wealthy, rights to assemble are respected only as long as they don’t present a threat to the neoliberal order, and speech gets ignored if it doesn’t support the new ruling class of foreign capitalists and their intermediaries.
This is why Marxists have to focus on real freedoms, not formal freedoms.
The Opposition in Belarus
Understanding the opposition in Belarus is critical to understanding whether it should be supported or opposed. If it is a movement to implement neoliberalism, then we understand that its calls for political advocacy rights are simply a mask to implement neoliberalism.
First, let’s look at which countries are funding the opposition:
The U.S. said it would boost funding for Belarus civic groups by 30% to about $15 million this year. Poland said it would roughly double assistance to more than $14.8 million, while the EU said its aid would quadruple to $21 million.
Now, let’s look at which neoliberal “philanthropists” funded the opposition:
In Central Europe alone, he spent more than $123 million between 1989 and 1994 trying to help democracy take root — roughly five times the sum spent by the United States Government’s chief democracy-promoting foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy.
Unlike United States Government development aid, about 80 percent of which is given to American contractors and consultants, most money Mr. Soros distributes is given quickly and with few strings to local groups and individuals, says Thomas Carothers, a former State Department lawyer at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, because local activists are less expensive and more efficient at spreading the democratic, free-market mantra.
Now, it could be possible that the EU, neoliberal billionaires, and the US are all being manipulated, so let’s look at what the opposition is calling for:
Belarus is in urgent need of modernization. In the economic freedom ratings by Freedom House, Belarus is on the 42nd place. Reform deadlock, high prices, no perspectives for the young, a very weak flow of investments. The state capitalism leads to corruption, people’s purses are getting thinner. This controlled, “tamed” economy will sooner or later lead to a grave crisis. Market economy, in its turn, helps establish a free state.
Anyone who is critical of capitalism should have alarm bells going off in their head. They’re calling for the same untamed, unrestrained capitalism that resulted in the deaths of 1 million working-age men in the ex-USSR countries, cloaking it in the language of democracy and freedom.
My view is that most of the footsoldiers of the opposition don’t want neoliberalism. Just like how 2/3 of Poland’s Solidarity movement wanted democratic socialism, they’re being used as pawns to implement neoliberalism. When we analyze these kinds of movements, we can’t just look at what the people in the movement want, we have to analyze larger class forces and see which groups will be able to profit off of instability.
A victory for the opposition will undoubtedly be a victory for neoliberalism. History shows that a victory for neoliberalism in peripheral European countries doesn’t result in greater rights for ordinary people, but greater rights for foreign capitalists. The ability for women to get jobs will depend on their bust size. The ability for the elderly to pay their heating bill will depend on how much money they get from their children and grandchildren.
Neoliberalism means the annihilation of living with dignity. It means the annihilation of living securely. It means the annihilation of Belarus’s assistance to other independent nationalist countries like Venezuela.
History of Belarus
Due to length, I will only be linking articles on the history of Belarus. These articles give an in-depth examination of the class forces in Belarus, and why there is a coalition of neoliberal forces across the globe targeting Belarus.
Belarus is targeted because it went against the World Bank, the IMF, and the EU and charted an independent course for itself. It shunned privatization and serves as a reminder that Europe has more options for development than foreign neoliberal domination.
Surrounded by the devastation of neoliberal policies in Eastern Europe, Belarus is a strong symbol that fighting neoliberalism works.
Marxists should support bourgeois nationalism against imperialist subjugation
Understanding the primary and secondary contradictions is incredibly important. There’s an incredibly thorough and excellent essay written about this, and I encourage everyone to read it. Here’s some excerpts:
I posit these theses:
Because of their relation to imperialism after the fall of the socialist bloc, the objective historical position of nationalist states in the Third World is progressive.
Marxist-Leninists must uphold the right of nations to self-determination, which in the present is principally characterized by freedom from imperialist subjugation.
Where it arises, Marxist-Leninists must support genuine revolutionary proletarian struggles for socialism against bourgeois nationalist governments.
It’s paramount that Marxist-Leninists, in light of Iraq, Libya, and increasing aggression towards Syria, comfortably identify anti-imperialism as the primary contradiction facing the international proletarian revolution today.
Proletarian internationalism is superior in every way to bourgeois nationalism, but so long as neo-colonialism and imperialism exist, communists must unite all who can be united in the anti-imperialist struggle. Simultaneously, though, communists must remember the other side of the dialectic: When bourgeois nationalists become complicit partners in Western imperialism and alienate themselves from the masses, communists must never hesitate to overthrow that state with extreme prejudice and on its ruins erect revolutionary socialism.
When a nation achieves self-determination, the secondary contradiction between the proletariat and the national bourgeoisie will ascend to the forefront as the new primary contradiction. Before that time, however, the primary contradiction facing the masses in oppressed nations is between imperialism and national liberation. In bourgeois nationalist states, this contradiction can and must draw in all who can be united to strike a blow against imperialism.
Under imperialist subjugation, the only human rights enacted are those that support the continued domination by metropolitan countries. The fight for self-determination, the fight for freedom from imperialist control, is the principal contradiction today.