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Is China the new US?

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For many China is the new USA. They think that it will be the next economic powerhouse, if it is not already, replacing the US as the leader in the world economy. Others doubt this, but there is no denying that today China is rapidly growing – but what sort of society is it? There are still those who think that China is a socialist country or some transitional type of ‘market socialism’ somewhere between socialism and capitalism. Then there are the classic liberals who think that in China the Manchu dynasty and the Chinese Communist regime are different versions of ‘oriental despotism’ all engaged in human rights abuses. Rather than attempt to navigate between these contending viewpoints on the surface of events, we prefer to approach China by looking for the underlying revolutionary changes in its modern history which allows us to understand its development and its current role in the global economy today. Using Trotsky’s concept of the law of uneven and combined development, and Marx’s concept of permanent revolution which was later taken up by Lenin and Trotsky we can uncover and reveal this historic dynamic.

China’s pre-capitalist history

China before the entry of the European powers had been a highly developed pre-capitalist society for centuries. Marx famous and controversial concept of an Asiatic Mode of Production was an attempt to describe the typical hierarchical society typical of Asia of which European feudalism was a local variant. Despite being criticized as a Eurocentric version of ‘oriental despotism’ Marx seems to have identified the key elements of this mode in the communal modes at its base and centralized state at its center.

Eric Wolf defines this mode in Europe and the People Without History as a tributary mode of production which incorporated and dominated kinship modes of production Peasant families organized as kinship modes of production had their tribute or rent expropriated by a class of landlord families which in turn paid the standing army and bureaucracy to administer society. Yet for all its advanced technology and trade relations the tributary mode of production tends towards stagnation and could not embark on the capitalist road. The ruling class was able to extract sufficient rents to maintain society and did not need to allow the formation of a middle class of merchants to bring wealth from unequal exchange overseas back to China. Rather, those traders who sought to expand their wealth through trade and become merchant capitalists had to exile themselves and look for opportunities in other parts of the world in particular South East Asia. This merchant diaspora is the basis of overseas Chinese capitalism today.

China was highly successful in producing and exporting tea, running a trade surplus until the British ‘opium wars’ in the mid 19th century forced it to import opium in exchange for its exports. The tributary mode was thus subordinated to British imperialism which exploited China’s raw materials and surplus labor force as migrant workers in its other colonies. So long as China remained a form of British colony and had its resources and wealth expropriated it would not be able to create its own internal market and develop the capitalist mode of production. It would remain a tributary mode mined and plundered by imperialism. Karl Marx, however, anticipated that the sleeping giant would awaken as an independent capitalist nation. Marx wrote of the impact of the capitalist mode of production in dissolving the Asiatic mode, though he noted that this was very slow. Nevertheless in a famous newspaper article he wrote in 1850 Marx was not joking when he said: “When our European reactionaries in their immediately coming flight across Asia finally come up against the Great Wall of China, who knows whether they will not find on the gates which lead to the home of ancient reaction and ancient conservatism the inscription, ‘Chinese Republic – liberty, equality, fraternity’.”

The Bourgeois revolution

Here Marx is anticipating the uneven and combined development that would see capitalism progressively free China from the Asiatic Mode so that it would replace Europe as the dominant force in the world economy. For this to happen, however, a national bourgeoisie would have to rise up to overthrow the tributary ruling class which was subservient to imperialist powers. This national democratic revolution began in 1911 when the weak bourgeoisie struggled to force the old landlord ruling class to break from its subservience on British imperialism and free up the opportunities or the emergence of a national bourgeoisie. However, the Chinese would-be bourgeoisie proved to be too weak to united the country and win complete independence from the imperialist powers. Power shifted from the imperial center to a host of tributary warlords. As an expression of the tragicomic adventures of the would-be bourgeoisie, the united Chambers of Commerce declared their own national government in 1923, supported by Mao Zedong who said “The merchants of Shanghai…have adopted revolutionary methods; they have overwhelming courage to take charge of national affairs’. (Cambridge History of China, p 782). To unite China and win independence the national bourgeoisie would have to harness the class power of the peasantry and the workers and complete the bourgeois revolution. But it ran the risk of the peasants led by the workers taking over the national revolution and going straight to socialism.

The Kuomingtang (KMT), the party of the bourgeoisie the under Sun Yat-sen sought to complete the national revolution against Japan and Britain and liberate the nation from semi-colonial oppression. To achieve this, the KMT formed a patriotic alliance between a bloc of workers, peasants and middle class under its leadership. This bloc was unstable because it contained a contradiction between the producing classes and exploiting classes. In order to ensure that the bourgeoisie would retain its class rule, the KMT could not allow the workers and poor peasants to lead the revolution for fear that they would not stop at throwing out the Japanese, but would throw out the KMT as well.

Russia’s permanent revolution

This class contradiction was recognized by the Bolsheviks because it had occurred in Russia as well. In Russia the weak bourgeoisie preferred to stay in power with the backing of the imperialists rather than cede power to the worker and poor peasant majority. Why? Because the imperialists would allow them a share of the super-profits expropriated from workers and peasants, while a workers revolution would eliminate the bourgeoisie as a class. Because of this treacherous role of the bourgeoisie only the workers leading the poor peasants could complete the national revolution against imperialism. The Bolsheviks rapidly dropped their alliance with the bourgeoisie and led a revolution in which the worker and poor peasant majority took power. The Bolsheviks had an ‘uninterrupted’ revolution (or ‘permanent’ revolution in Trotsky’s terms) in which the national revolution was completed by a socialist revolution.

Facing a similar situation in China in 1924, the Comintern (the 3rd International) that arose out of the Russian Revolution, was divided over how the national revolution should be completed. The majority around Stalin abandoned the lessons of October and reverted to the Menshevik idea that the bourgeoisie would lead a ‘united front’ [the ‘bloc of 4 classes’] to complete the national revolution and so prepare the conditions for the socialist revolution. The minority around Trotsky, (the Left Opposition) applied the lessons of the Russian revolution to China. Only the working class leading the poor peasants could complete the national revolution as a socialist revolution – the permanent revolution! The bourgeois KMT could not be trusted to lead a national revolution because it would side with the imperialists as a comprador bourgeoisie rather than allow the workers and peasants to take power. This division in the Comintern was reproduced in the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CCP).

The second revolution betrayed

Trotsky’s warnings that the workers and poor peasants must not subordinate themselves to Chiang Kai-shek’s military leadership were ignored. KMT were made honorary section of Comintern. The Comintern overruled the CCP leadership and suppressed the Left Opposition (LO). The KMT led the bloc of 4 classes to fight the imperialists but fearing the power of the exploited classes then turned on the CCP leadership and destroyed it. Stalin blamed the CPP leadership. Some of the CPP leadership opposed this and were expelled. Others were won to LO in China and four LO currents were formed which later formed a United Opposition.

Meanwhile in the face of this betrayal the Maoist leadership of the CCP continued the failed Stalinist popular front tactic of the bloc of 4 classes and began to suppress the LO. The KMT regime under Chiang was a form of Bonapartist bourgeois regime balanced between the Chinese peasants and workers on the one side and the imperialists on the other. Because of the weakness of the national bourgeoisie the KMT regime encouraged the formation of a state bourgeoisie. The national war of liberation became a peasant ar and it took many years to drive out the Japanese the KMT and its backer, the US. Mao finally took power in 1949 still committed to a bourgeois China and attempted to hand power over to the bourgeoisie. Again the popular front theory was proven wrong but only because by this time the peasants and workers were mobilized to take power, and not to hand it back to the bourgeoisie. The leading sectors of the Chinese bourgeoisie abandoned the revolution since it would not allow them to profit from a comprador relationship with imperialism. Some other sectors made an alliance with the CCP. Mao was then forced to expropriate bourgeois property but at the same time refuse to allow the workers and peasant base to administer the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The third revolution

Thus despite the Stalinist Maoists the revolution succeeded in removing the imperialists and the national bourgeoisie, but failed to create the conditions for the transition to socialism. The nationalization of bourgeois property created workers property and a bureaucratic plan, but the working class and poor peasantry were never able to democratically control the state. This transitional form of society contained a contradiction between workers property and the parasitic Bonapartist bureaucracy. In that sense it was structurally a workers’ state degenerate at birth, the same as the states formed in Eastern Europe that were occupied by the Red Army, or like Yugoslavia, balanced between the Soviet Union (SU) and imperialism.

We characterize this transitional form of state in China as a Degenerate Workers State (DWS) at birth following Trotsky’s method in explaining the role of the Red Army in occupying the Ukraine, Poland and Finland in 1939. Against those who took the position that the Red Army could not substitute for the working class to create workers states in these countries, Trotsky said that the state forms that resulted were an extension of the DWS in the SU. Despite everything the bureaucracy did, including suppressing national workers and poor peasants’ movements, the expropriation of the bourgeoisie created post-capitalist property.

But does the analysis of the DWS occupied by the Red Army as an extension of the Soviet Union also apply to those countries that were not occupied by the Red Army – Yugoslavia, China, Vietnam, Cuba? In each of these countries, the nationalist forces that led the revolution were not under the direct control of the SU. But the same phenomenon that Trotsky observed in Poland happened. The support of the SU encouraged the workers and peasants to join in not only the expulsion of the imperialists, but in forcing the bureaucratic or petty bourgeois leaderships to go further than forming a government with the national capitalists, and rather to expropriate them.

In China the expropriation of big bourgeois property was possible only with support from the Soviet Union –a fact that the bureaucracy was forced to use to legitimate its rule. This is why when the CCP nationalized property it took the form of workers property, even under a bureaucratic dictatorship. The bourgeoisie as a class are removed, and all that remains for workers to claim their property is the removal of the bureaucracy. That is why, against those who thought that the Stalinists could create healthy workers’ states, substituting for the historic revolutionary role of the working class, Trotsky said that the only sure defence of workers property was the overthrow of the bureaucracy in a political revolution as part of an international socialist revolution.

Thus in China in 1949, as in Poland as Trotsky had argued in 1939, it was not the Chinese Red Army in itself that was progressive but the fact that the SU backed it against Japan and the US, expelling the comprador bourgeoisie, and forcing the Bonapartist CCP leadership to expropriate capitalist property.

Forward to socialism, or back to capitalism

China, as a new DWS could go in two directions. Forward to socialism by political revolution that removes the bureaucracy, or back to capitalism by a counter-revolution where the bureaucracy privatized workers property and turned itself into a new national bourgeoisie. The contradiction between workers property moving forwards to socialism and the bureaucratic caste moving backward to capitalism was expressed in the class contradiction which the Bonapartist regime attempted to reconcile. It was also represented in two factions in the CCP leadership. The Maoists fought to keep workers property and the planned economy as the basis of their bureaucratic privilege, while the ‘capitalist roaders’ fought to privatise collective property, restore capitalism and convert themselves into a new bourgeoisie. These big internal fights then represented both sides of the class contradiction striving for victory over the other.

The capitalist roaders won and began by replacing the rural collectives with the TVE (Town Village Enterprises) cooperatives in the 1980s, and then began transforming the SOEs (State Owned Enterprises) into privatized corporations in the 1990s. The shift to TVE cooperatives was decisive as it allowed a shift to personal shareholding. These became the basis of the conversion of the TVEs into privatized industries in the 1980s. This created a huge movement of displaced workers into the cities as a rural reserve army of formal wage labour who would then become a free wage labor force.

By the early 1990s the Chinese economy had been gradually opened to the influence of the Law of Value (LOV). State owned land was increasingly commodified with the development of a rental market, the SOEs were freed of any responsibility to meet the health, education and welfare needs of wage workers, and the state surplus increasingly became accumulated as private capital in pockets of TVE shareholders, SOE managers as well as private bosses. Thus at this point workers property relations were being replaced by capitalist property relations. The bureaucracy had converted the TVEs and SOEs into capitalist corporations in which a new bourgeoisie become the private owners.

Capitalist Restoration completed

The question of when workers property is replaced by capitalist property determines the change in the class character of the state. Here again, we apply Trotsky’s analysis of the counter-revolution in the SU. Up to the time of his death in 1940 Trotsky argued that the SU remained a DWS, and as we have argued the just as the occupied countries were DWs by extension of the SU. The counter-revolution in all of the DWS that emerged after WW2 would follow the same pattern as the SU. In the SU, the economy was characterized as workers property, or nationalized property, that was nevertheless coexisting with some elements of the market to allow demand to guide prices. But as long as the market was subordinated to the plan, no matter how bureaucratic, the allocation of resources would follow the plan rather than the law of value. That is why the SU was plagued by waste and shortages of basic necessities. Capitalism is restored when the LOV takes over from the plan in determining prices in allocating resources. Today when workers have little money the shortages of necessities result from lack of effective demand not lack of commodities.

In the EE states, attempts to remove the Red Army included elements that were for the defence of state property and those that wanted to restore capitalism. The bureaucratic suppression of both had the effect of subordinating the independence struggle to the restorationists. Thus by the 1980s the struggle for political revolution was weakened and the forces for counter-revolution strengthened. In the SU and EE this counter-revolution was completed between 1989 and 1992. At this point it was clear that the bureaucracy, despite competing factions, was committed to destroying the plan and re-imposing the LOV as the basis of production. Thus the SU and its buffer states ceased to be DWSs and became capitalist states. The first phase of the operation of the LOV was to destroy the existing industry and allow asset stripping by a new capitalist class to set its value on the world market. Trotsky anticipated this transition back to capitalism as a state capitalist phase.

Applying the same method to China it is clear that the turning point was around 1992 when the CCP abandoned and defence of the plan and passed laws to privatize the SEOs as the property of their managers. The CCP did this more deliberately than the CPSU and this phase of state capitalism was dressed up as market socialism. Massive devaluation and asset stripping was spread over decades instead of a few years. As opposed to those who point to the concessions to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in China as a major force for restoration, we point to the fact that FDI is still relatively small, and that the major moves towards privatization originated in the state sector where the bureaucracy made a smooth transition to capitalism and to their re-invention as a national bourgeoisie.

Is China imperialist?

Today by the measure of the LOV China is capitalist. In that sense a rapidly growing powerful capitalist China could be considered imperialist. But what do we mean by imperialist? According to Lenin and imperialist country has a surplus of finance capital which must be exported to counter falling profits at home. That is, the possibilities of growth at home can only be sustained by the export of capital to earn super-profits in other countries, and be imported to the home country to maintain the rate of profit. Less important was the need to find new markets in which to sell the commodities produced in the home market. Historically, the powers that clearly meet this definition are the USA, Japan and the main European powers like Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. Others are not imperialist, or may be former imperialist, and are more like semi-colonies, such as Portugal, Greece, Poland, etc. Others may be small imperialist powers such as Sweden, Austria etc.

Does China today meet these criteria? As yet it doesn’t appear so. China has a big trading surplus from its commodity exports but this is mainly invested in US bonds. It is a peculiar sort of finance capital that must accept US petrodollars to fund the massive US external deficit. Most of China’s growth is driven by its internal market which is huge and expanding rapidly. In that sense China’s internal market is sufficient to maintain its profitability, while its exports are more re-exports of foreign mainly overseas Chinese companies (mainly Hong Kong and Taiwan) that have invested in China. So far from being evidence of the export of China’s surplus finance capital, China is the source of imperialist (Japanese, overseas Chinese, EU, US etc) FDI which reaps massive super-profits from China’s cheap resources and labor power.

While the organic composition of capital in China is growing it doesn’t seem yet to have reached the point of an overproduction of capital necessitating an export of productive capital. China today, then, is still developing its internal market, making huge infrastructural investment and is only beginning to establish DFI overseas in Africa, Latin America, and the rest of Asia to create its own so-called ‘empire’. Nevertheless, China is being driven by the rapid growth in demand for cheap raw materials and markets to become a major competitor to the existing imperialist powers, a fact that is clearly behind the growing alarm with which the EU and US views its aggressive role in Africa.

For some China’s capitalist growth has many of the features of industrialization in Europe in the 19th century. However, the form of combined and uneven development that Trotsky and Lenin spoke of in the case of the Soviet Union, and which Marx foreshadowed in China, is today manifest in a pace and scale that would have been beyond even their imaginations. Not only has China become the key driver of the world economy at a time of US dominance and relative decline, it is now at the center of the world historic contradiction between labor and capital. Emerging out of a bourgeois national revolution and the aborted socialist revolution China has within the space of two decades created a powerful capitalist economy. Whether it is contained as a semi-colony exploited by the other capitalists, or succeeds in re-dividing the world economy at the expense of the other capitalist powers, remains to be seen. China may be on the road to displacing the US but will it be as an imperialist China or a socialist China?

Written by raved

July 27, 2008 at 10:53 am

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Nepal under the Maoists

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The election victory of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has created an acid test for socialists who claim to represent the interests of workers and the oppressed. There are many who welcome the victory as a progressive step forward to socialism. Some support the CPN (M) position that a period of capitalist development is necessary before a socialist revolution is possible in Nepal. Revolutionaries around the world have rejected this policy as the revival of the classic Stalinist theory of stages. They say that history proves that unless the workers and peasants reject a bloc with the national bourgeoisie and socialize the economy under a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government, then the national democratic revolution will be driven back by counter-revolution. This is the situation that faces us in Nepal today.

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Written by raved

July 22, 2008 at 10:03 am

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Stalinism and Bolshevism

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I’m reprinting here a classic article by Trotsky from August 1937 that defends Bolshevism from those accusing it of preparing the way for Stalinism. For those of us who see Trotskyism as the continuation of Bolshevism, but in need of refounding on the basis of the 1938 program, this article is as important today as it was in 1937.

. . .

Reactionary epochs like ours not only disintegrate and weaken the working class and isolate its vanguard but also lower the general ideological level of the movement and throw political thinking back to stages long since passed through. In these conditions the task of the vanguard is, above all, not to let itself be carried along by the backward flow: it must swim against the current. If an unfavourable relation of forces prevents it from holding political positions it has won, it must at least retain its ideological positions, because in them is expressed the dearly paid experience of the past. Fools will consider this policy “sectarian”. Actually it is the only means of preparing for a new tremendous surge forward with the coming historical tide.

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Written by raved

July 16, 2008 at 10:03 am

Bolivia and the Transition to Socialism

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[stoppress Morales Army kills miners at Ururo August 5]

While most of the global socialist left looks to the Morales led regime in Bolivia as a popular, indigenous government in transition to socialism, others see only a repeat of the fatal return to a popular ‘patriotic’ front that traps and immobilizes the mass of workers and peasants and prepares the way for imperialist reaction. How is it that socialists can be so ignorant of recent history that they look to popular front regimes as instrumental in the transition to socialism?

I think the answer to this question is that the exchange theory of capitalism promoted by the petty bourgeoisie reinforces the illusion among the masses that progressive populist regimes can negotiate class compromise deals with imperialism.

As I have argued elsewhere, exchange theory views capitalism as a system in which one class exploits another (leaving aside for the moment questions of intermediary classes, the multitude etc) by underpaying the full value of the commodity it sells as wage labor or as direct producers. This is the classic under-development theory today promoted by James Petras to name one prominent contemporary exponent. It is also the ideology that underpins the populist regimes in Latin America which propose that a petty bourgeois state bureaucracy can come to power and implement a national economic development strategy. Cuba is seen to be a partial model of this strategy as it opens up its state socialism to market socialism, while Venezuela is a success story in transition from a neo-liberal market towards market socialism.

This convergence on ‘market socialism’ places the state at centre stage. According to exchange whichever
class controls the state controls the economy. That is, the state is the instrument of the ruling class by definition. The only question is which class rules? Exchange theorists advocate a transition from a capitalist state to a socialist state. But what does this mean exactly? Exchange theory proposes that a national state voted into power by a majority of all patriotic classes, is necessary if not sufficient, to take control of the state as the primary instrument of popular national development. In other words the patriotic front of all classes managed by a state bureaucracy is the instrument of the socialist transition.

Bolivia as a test case

Bolivia is a good test case. Like Venezuela it has a populist regime voted into power by a majority of the electorate of different classes on a program of equalising exchange and national development. However, unlike Venezuela it has not yet won control over its gas and mineral wealth sufficient to convince its supporters that it can deliver the fruits of equal exchange. This is because the major contradiction faced by semi-colonial states-between the needs of the people and the power of international capital-is dramatically expressed as the geographic division between the Media Luna and Altiplano. More than 80% of the mineral wealth of Bolivia is located in the Media Luna and the move to secede from the rest of Bolivia would starve the populist regime of the resources it needs to fulfill its program for the masses.

Yet while Bolivia faces the stark contradiction between imperialism that demands resources on terms which
return high profits, and the desperate poverty of the majority of its citizens, the Morales government is committed to a policy of compromise, attempting to negotiate terms of exchange between the two sectors. A lot is a stake here. The populist regime claims to represent the indigenous peasantry and the depleted and displaced mine workers, who have historically paid the price of having their wage labor and direct production expropriated by the Eastern ruling class that still monopolizes the land and mine ownership. It is not an exaggeration to say that Bolivia today is the test case of the capacity of exchange theory/program to break the nation from his history of underdevelopment, while directly confronting an intensified and irreconcilable contradiction between the impoverished masses and rich minority.

Enter Garcia Linera

Alvaro Garcia Linera, Morales vice president, is a powerful figure in the regime. He was a former guerrilla fighter in the indigenous Tupac Katari. He was jailed for a period when he studied sociology and Marxism and emerged as a leading intellectual advocate of development theory in Bolivia. In that sense, Linera’s theory of ‘Andean Capitalism’ is the key to understanding the framework which guides the MAS politics and the new Constitution. Linera shares with other dependency theorists the view that Bolivia has been under-developed as a backward capitalist neo-colony. He sees the solution as the building of a national state that can control the national resources and develop the forces of production within the framework of ‘Andean’ capitalism (i.e. Bolivia along with the bordering original Andean states, Peru, Equador etc.) This process was begun with the national revolution in 1952 but was setback and then defeated by the emergence of the neo-liberal state in 1986. Today, the popular MAS regime and constitution represents a new situation in which the weakened neo-liberal state and emerging national state are at a point of ‘catastrophic equilibrium’, or ‘tipping point’ between the neo-liberal state and the national state.

Despite the Gramscian language he uses, Linera’s theory is a variation on underdevelopment theory
which simply reverses the terms of development theory. Development theory holds poor nations responsible for their backwardness due to political and cultural defects that prevent the emergence of market culture and behavior allowing market exchange to develop. Under-development theory rejected this racist imperialist cover up for colonial exploitation outright. Colonization established exchange, but on hugely unequal terms, where the poor masses has their labor and mineral wealth virtually stolen. The precondition for the reversal of this unequal exchange is therefore the national revolution and control of the national state. While the period of national revolutions, especially that of Bolivar, in the early 1800s went some way, they failed to free Latin America from a parasitic mestizo ruling class of land owners and mine-owners who ruled as ‘compradors’ for the ‘western’ imperialist powers.

Completing the national revolution

Despite the fact that the 1952 revolution in Bolivia, and a number of other revolutions where also driven
back and failed, under-development theorists hold up the current populist regimes as marking the possibility of escaping under-development and completing the national revolution. Yet exchange theorists are adopting the same failed political strategy of popular front politics based on cross class alliances including workers, poor peasants, rich peasants, and patriotic national capitalists. It is precisely the failure of such popular front governments to maintain a hold on power and to nationalize economic resources to meet the needs of the masses that has failed again and again. From the Trotskyist left this is because only the workers and poor peasants have a class interest in breaking with imperialism, and with the national bourgeoisie that serve it. A ‘patriotic’ popular front which includes petty bourgeois and bourgeois forces, no matter how small, will inevitably side with imperialism and betray the national revolution.

The model of a popular front regime can redistribute power inside the existing state and displace the old ruling class without overthrowing the social relations of production has been proven as wrong over and over again. Yet it is still being recycled today as the basis of Garcia Linera’s ‘Andean capitalism’. However, if it was only a question of bourgeois intellectuals around the MAS, which has its support among the richer peasants, the masses of workers and poor peasants would not retain their loyalty towards a regime that represents a disastrous failed model of the national revolution, but has already through its actions, continued to demonstrate its inability to deliver the answer to the basic needs of the masses.

In Bolivia (and elsewhere) a number of left currents in the labor movement also serve to defend the popular front and the exchange theory/program on which it is based. These include Stalinists, Maoists, Castroists, Guevaraists and fake Trotskyists. Again the reactionary role of these left currents in the ‘shadow’ of the popular front is well established historically. The more the revolution threatens to overthrow capitalist social relations, the more the extreme left is needed to contain the insurrection within the popular front. In Bolivia this is very clear. In 1952 the Trotskyist POR-Lora supported the MNR regime which it called a ‘petty bourgeois’ regime,[1] trying to gain influence for the workers by nominating trade union ministers in the government. The result was that the petty bourgeois MNR became a rallying point for the weak national bourgeoisie to drive back the revolution over the next two decades. Garcia Linera does not acknowledge the real cause of the defeat of the 1952 national revolution as the cross class MNR regime itself. Thus he wants to replay this first tragedy as another an even more terrible tragedy.

Morales regime as a popular front

As Linera himself recognizes, the current Gramscian ‘catastrophic equilibrium’ can also be conceived as a Leninist ‘revolutionary situation’. However Linera misinterprets Lenin here. For Lenin a revolutionary situation opens up the possibility of a socialist revolution. For Linera the critical situation is poised between two forms of bourgeois regime, either the consolidation of a national popular regime or a reactionary slide back to a neo-liberal regime. Without exception the reformist left follows Linera and the MAS in arguing for a negotiated solution within the framework of the new Constitution. The so-called ‘Marxist’ left of all shades makes a similar analysis. This became clear before the events leading up to the election of the MAS majority government in 2005.

There is an interesting exchange between socialists on the possibility that the organized workers and poor peasants were capable of taking power in October 2005. Following the mass mobilizations of 2003 which forced President Sanchez Lozada (Goni) to flee the country, his deputy Carlos Mesa came to power. Mesa failed to deliver on his promises and in October 2005 another wave of mass demonstrations took place. These included blockades of La Paz, occupations of gas fields, and the emergence in El Alto of a popular ‘originary’ congress with a program for radical 100% nationalization of gas. Such was the pressure on Mesa he resigned, and the congress shifted to Sucre where it was surrounded by a peasant mobilisation. Those who argue that this was a situation of dual power, also point to the fact that the army had split in 2003, so that the ruling class could not rely on the army to defend the power of the land and mine owning Rosca.

Over this pre-revolutionary period the MAS had continued to work alongside Mesa and attempted to increase the tax of gas from 30% to 50%. The popular slogan “not 30%, 50% but 100%” clearly rejected this position. The popular demand was not for renegotiating the price of gas, but for complete nationalization of gas. During October Morales was out of the country for 6 weeks. When the masses surrounded the congress in Sucre, Morales intervened proposing that the chief justice take over as interim president and that new elections be held as soon as possible. The danger that dual power might provoke a further revolutionary surge and seizure of power saw the rallying of the reformist left around the MAS proposal for a national patriotic popular front.

The Castroists role in the popular front

Because of the centrality of the Cuban Revolution in Latin America, old fashioned Soviet style Stalinism
is no longer significant. After the end of Sendero Luminoso and the weakening of the FARC the Maoists are also isolated and weak. In their place we find Castroism and its twin, Guevarism. Castroism is the ideology of the Cuban bureaucracy – it is privileged caste, statist and defending ‘socialism in one country’. That is it subordinates the revolutions in Latin America to the popular front with ‘progressive’ national bourgeoisie and imperialism that ‘defends’ Cuba and the role of the parasitic bureaucracy open to recycling as a national bourgeoisie. Guevarism is the radical twin of Castroism since it nominally rejects the state bureaucracy and seeks to build guerrilla movements in the peasantry against imperialism and the compradors in the manner of the Vietnamese revolution. The petty bourgeois peasantry is its class base rather than the bureaucratic caste in the working class. Celia Hart’s revival of Guevarism as an unconscious Latin American Trotskyism subordinates the leading role of the proletariat to the peasantry in the national revolution.

These currents have in common a tradition that goes back to Menshevism and Stalinism both of which
were dedicated followers of exchange theory. These traditions are now widely discredited because of the so-called ‘failure of 20th century socialism’. But is their recycling under the new label of ‘21st century
socialism’ any different? Despite their credentials as ‘left’ in Latin America they are associated with numerous betrayals and defeats. We need only mention Castro’s visit to Chile in 1972 when he lectured the top military officers, including Pinochet, that “socialism was not the enemy of the army”.[2]

Castroism does not represent bright unspoiled flags to head the revolution. Castro always backed national revolutions with its armed forces e.g. Congo, but only on the invitation of nationalist regimes. It refused to arm the masses in Nicaragua, Salvador and Chile against the populist regimes. In other words Castro lent his armies to boost the popular front regimes. Guevara did not wait for the invitation. He set about trying to mobilize the Bolivian peasantry to rescue the national regime from its right-wing degeneration under Barrientos.

Today in Bolivia, the Castroists in the unions and as advisors and agents of the MAS and play a critical role in boosting the popular front. In 2005 they backed Morales’ rescue of the Rosca regime from the organized anger of the people. With the election of MAS they help subordinate the unions to the popular front. The do
this by presenting Morales regime and the ‘popular army’ in Bolivia as on the side of the masses.[3] In the recent autonomy referenda, the Castroists kept the union actions disorganized and impotent. They followed
Morales orders and prevented a united march on Cochabamba to protest the recent autonomy referendum. But in this task the Castroites have exposed their complicity with the popular front policy of appeasing the oligarchy, so they need the left cover of the Guevarists and the fake Trotskyists of the POR-Lora and COR.

Guevara as an unconscious Trotskyist

In 1967 Guevara died in Bolivia trying to create a peasant revolution. He failed to understand the history of the national revolution of 1952 led by the miners’ vanguard. When he arrived in Bolivia the peasants were in a bloc with the military to suppress that revolution and Guevara stumbled into the wrong trench.

“We consider that the Cuban Revolution made three fundamental contributions to the laws of the revolutionary movement in the current situation in America. First, people’s forces can win a war against the army. Second, one need not always wait for all conditions favorable to revolution to be present; the insurrection itself can create them. Third, in the underdeveloped parts of America, the battleground for armed struggle should in the main be the countryside.” Che Guevara, Guerrilla Warfare (1961)

Guevara’s self-imposed isolation in the countryside, did not stop the miners whose tradition was based on the Trotskyist Theses of Pulacayo from striking in solidarity with Guevara months before his capture leading to the massacre of miners by the military on San Juan’s day, 24th June, 1967.

Despite his mistakes due to his Stalinist and Maoist influences, Guevara’s conception of “100 Vietnams” and “either socialist revolution, or the caricature of revolution” are portrayed today by Celia Hart Santamaria,
a Cuban writer, as evidence that Guevara subscribed to the concept of ‘permanent revolution’ and was an unconscious Trotskyist. But since Hart is a full-blown Castroite and has never challenged Castro over his betrayal of Latin American revolutions, we can only assume that the “Trotsky” that Hart has in mind is not the original but rather the fake Trotsky represented by the POR and COR of Bolivia who trample on the Trotskyist flag when they operate in the shadow of the popular front to cover it up and deceive the workers and poor peasants.

In reality, Guevara’s concept of the ‘socialist revolution’ does not break from the popular front bloc of four classes that are central to Stalinism and Castroism. In that sense, Guevara’s approach was also part of the theory/program of market socialism. It can be understood as developing a peasants’ leadership in a bloc
with the Castroists who dominate the workers union bureaucracy to pressure the progressive bourgeoisie to the left and to create a socialist regime. In this he is indistinguishable from the fake Trotskyist POR and COR.

Fake Trotskyists left wing of the popular front

The history of fake Trotskyism in Bolivia starts with the POR Lora. In the most important event in modern history, the April 1952 revolution, the POR led the COB (Bolivian Workers Central) which dominated the MNR (National Revolutionary Movement) government in the first months of the revolution. But it did not adopt a
Leninist/Trotskyist position in this revolution.[4] Instead of using the power it had already taken and forming a workers and peasants state, the POR Menshevik strategy was to pressure the bourgeois government to the left! The POR was so disoriented that it thought the failure of the MNR to complete the revolution was an oversight![5] This was an historic betrayal of the only revolution in Latin America led by a Trotskyist organization! Other Trotskyists, in this case Moreno, claimed to have taken the position of ‘All power to the COB” to break with the MNR government. Villa points out that this was just another variant of the popular front.[6] The POR never owned up to this betrayal in front of the workers and still plays the same role today on the left of the popular front.[7]

As in 1952 and 1971, the Bolivian proletariat rose up in a huge revolution from 2003-5 that did not succeed. Again the POR played the same role, this time by preventing any move by workers’ organizations to form armed workers and poor peasant councils. Once the popular front was in power, the POR covered for the liquidation of the independent workers and peasants organizations by the bureaucracy of the COB led by the Castroite Solares, refusing to fight for the centralizing of the rank and file vanguard to defeat the class collaborationist leadership.

When the fascist reaction raised its head in the Media Luna, the POR adopted a Stalinist 3rd period posture, opposing the MAS and the Media Luna fascists as equally reactionary. This did not challenge the Castroite COB bureaucracy reliance on Morales’ ‘red troops’ or raise the need for the renewal of the worker poor peasant alliance that could have mobilized the rural poor independently of the MAS government to form armed militias to smash the fascist organizations and also break from the popular front.[8]

We saw also the LOR-CI group (a satellite of the Argentinean PTS) spent the entire revolutionary period
opposing the formation of centralized bodies of dual power and instead raising its slogan for a “Constituent Assembly”. When Morales Constituent Assembly came to power to strangle the revolution, allowing the Rosca ruling class to regain its tenuous hold on power, this tendency lectured workers on how to overcome their backward ‘consciousness’.

But the LOR-CI fails to draw the lesson that the backwardness of its own program to sow illusions at the feet of the popular front was responsible for the failure to realize the revolution, not the backwardness of the revolutionary vanguard of El Alto. The LOR-CI does not take any responsibility for this defeat and for putting the workers and poor peasants at the mercy of fascism. So while Morales popular front isolates and
traps the workers and poor peasants, the POR points to heaven while the COR points to the horizon.

For a revolutionary party

The fundamental conclusion to be drawn by the proletarian vanguard and the youth is that without a
revolutionary internationalist leadership, struggling to create Soviets, there can be no defeat the reformist leaders or break with the popular front which strangles the revolution. Therefore, with the lessons of 1952, 1971 and now the lessons revolutionary from 2003-2005 and all the other revolutions prove that without an organized revolutionary leadership they will end in defeat. These lessons of history prove that for the proletariat to win they must break from their treacherous leaders. What is urgently needed is a revolutionary party in Bolivia that is part of a united revolutionary party of the whole of Latin America.

The immediate task of the workers and youth vanguard in Bolivia today is to build a Trotskyist party capable of leading the next Bolivian revolution as part of a Latin American and global revolution. The Bolivian Trotskyists who are part of the Leninist Trotskyist Fraction are fighting for an international conference of principled Trotskyists and workers revolutionary groups to regroup revolutionary internationalists as a new world party of socialist revolution.

During June2008 the ORI founded the International Trotskyist League (ITL) in Bolivia to fight to recover the healthy tradition of Trotskyism in Bolivia alongside the workers of Huanuni, the people of El Alto and the students of Cochabamba.


[1] Lora wanted to uphold this reformist position by characterising the regime as petty bourgeois. The petty bourgeoisie is
incapable of installing its own mode of production and regime. Small property engenders large property. A society of small owners is impossible and cannot avoid competition so forcing some to enrich themselves to accumulate while others become poor and are turned into proletarians. When the petty bourgeoisie is not allied to the proletariat it is marching behind the bourgeoisie aiming to reform its state. A government that is not subordinate to the Soviets and workers militias is one that is against the proletariat. A petty bourgeois government which oscillates between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie cannot exist. By upholding such a possibility, Lora put forward the view that these `petty bourgeois’ governments, should have pressure put on them to try to fill them with extra labour ministers, with the aim of gradually achieving a workers and peasants government. This is a gradualist and reformist conception that led the POR to prop up the military socialist dictatorship, and it would later lead them to ask for ministers in the cabinet of General Torres. Whenever you try to put `red’ ministers in the populist governments of the bourgeoisie and sow further illusions, the more the ruling class is helped make use of these demagogues so as to confuse and disorientate the masses and to prepare a reactionary coup. Neither the MNR government nor the party were petty bourgeois. The MNR, like every party with popular support, reflects the composition of the society in which it operates. A populist party, even though it has a majority of members from the most oppressed strata, just as elsewhere within capitalism, is run from the top down. Almost all the top leadership of the MNR were people who came from the oligarchic families, who had collaborated with German imperialism, propped up the bloody nationalist dictatorship of Villarroel and who were socially, ideologically and organically, an expression of a sector of the national bourgeoisie. The MNR, like Bolivian society, might have a majority of members and voters in the petty bourgeoisie, but it was led by politicians of and for the bourgeoisie.

[2]
“Many Army chiefs in the different regions and their general staffs wanted to converse with me wherever I was and showed considerable interest in issues related to our war of liberation and the experience of the Missile Crisis in 1962. The meetings, which lasted hours, would be held in the early morning, which was the only time I had available. I would agree to these to help Allende, to familiarize them with the idea that socialism was not an enemy of armed institutions. Pinochet, as a military leader, was not an exception. Allende considered those meetings useful.” Fidel Castro. Salvador Allende: His example lives on. http://www.lankamission.org/content/view/459/44/

[4] “…there was a huge difference between the POR and Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks demanded of the Soviets that they should give no class support to the bourgeois-democratic, reformist coalition government and that instead they should break with the bourgeoisie and take all power in their own hands. The POR, in contrast, gave `critical support’ to the bourgeois government and asked to be given ministerial posts. While the Bolsheviks attacked the Mensheviks and the SRs without pity, seeking to remove them from leadership positions, the POR identified itself with the labour bureaucracy (for whom they drafted speeches and ministerial plans) and sought to transform the bourgeois party and its government. The Bolshevik strategy was to make a new revolution while that of the POR was to reform the MNR and its government. In short, while Bolshevism was Leninist, the POR was Lechínist.” Introduction toThe 1952 Revolution: How the 4th International and the POR betrayed the revolution which
could have carried Trotskyism to Power
.”

[5] In June, Lucha Obrera maintained that the MNR should thank the POR for helping it achieve power and for its support. Its task would now be to put pressure on the MNR to carry out reforms which would benefit the working and middle classes.”If the MNR has to give thanks to anyone, and greatly for our help, it is without doubt, to the POR (…) The POR will continue in carrying out its task of guiding the proletariat and of ensuring that the actions which deposed one government and raised up another, which enjoys the support of all the people, are carried out in a way beneficial to the proletariat and the oppressed sectors of the middle class”. (LO, 12.6.52, p.3). “Never before had a party like the MNR, that can count on uniform backing from an armed people and proletariat, achieved power; and never, therefore, did anyone have the opportunity of adopting measures with a real revolutionary content. The government has closed its eyes, or has not wanted to see the magnificent opportunity, and has preferred to deceive the proletariat which supported it unconditionally”. (LO, 29.6.52, p.4) Never before had the party had such an opportunity to make a social revolution, but the MNR hesitated. The POR opposed the view that the deficiency was because of the bourgeois class character of the MNR, but said it was due to its lack of tactical ability. The task was to open its eyes and make it see the magnificent opportunity. The whole policy of the POR was completely Menshevik. Instead of calling on the workers to reject the MNR and to struggle to put the COB into power, the POR boasted of having served the MNR and of wanting it to mull over things and see reality – an orientation that was simply limited to seeking to serve as an adviser to the MNR in order to reform it.

[6] Nahuel Moreno always claimed that he called for `All Power to the COB’, as opposed to the POR policy of adaptation to the MNR
left-wing. But Moreno’s slogan was only a variant of the popular-frontist resolutions of the 3rd congress of the 4th International and the `government of the MNR left-wing’ position. In May, his paper put forward the “Demand that the worker ministers elected and controlled by the Miners Federation and the new Workers Centre are taken into the Paz Estenssoro government”. (Frente Proletario, 29.5.52. Quoted in Prensa Obrera 131, 3.5.86 – presumably `PO’ Argentine – eds). Moreno’s position was akin to Lora’s. In reality, co-government was a cabinet of all the wings of the MNR. The worker ministers constantly reported back in detail to the COB, but that, instead of modifying the government and changing it into a proletarian one (an impossibility) simply confused the class. Moreno’s paper said that “the two wings which now exist within the MNR express the interests of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie”. (ibid.). Presumably Lechín represented the proletariat. But a sector that stays within a bourgeois party cannot represent the interests of the proletariat. By 1953 Moreno was proposing the “development, support and strengthening of a left wing inside the MNR”. (Estrategia, April 1966, quoted in ibid.). One proposed a government of Lechín’s faction of the MNR, while the other preferred a
government of Lechín’s bureaucracy of the COB – the same jam but in different jars. Anyway the slogan `All Power to the COB is invalid once a dual power situation no longer exists (that is since 1952.) It only generates illusions in its bureaucracy.

[7] POR and LOR: The Role of the fake Trotskyists at Huanuni http://redrave.blogspot.com/2006/10/bolivia-leninist-trotskyist-statement.html

Written by raved

July 7, 2008 at 10:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Acid Test of Palestine

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Palestine is one of the critical acid tests for revolutionary Marxists.
I recently came across some material from the International Socialist League in Israel, and in particular the writing of Yossi Schwartz on Marxmail.
The first was a post from Yossi taking a position on the current situation in Lebanon.
Here he stated his military support for Hezbollah against imperialism, Israel and the Siniora national bourgeoisie. But at the same time he carefully spelled out his political oppostion to Hezbollah as a bourgeois party that could not defeat imperialism nor bring about a socialist revolution.
He was then attacked by a number of Marxmail regulars who see any criticism of ‘progressive’ anti-imperialist forces as sectarian. Not only that, as an Israeli revolutionary, he should be ashamed at having the gall to criticise a political party that was fighting Zionism.
It doesnt matter that Yossi explained his position on the defeat of the Zionist state and his support for one Palestine socilialist workers republic. His critics told him it was easy for an Israeli to make such ‘ultra-left’ pronouncements. Yossi then explained that it was not easy.

Yossi then posted a statement in the name of the ISL on the recent actions of the Palestinian bulldozer driver who smashed into cars and overturned buses in Jeruselem before being shot dead by an off duty Israel cop.

This aroused my curiosity in the ISL. I discovered that it was a split from the Grant/Wood tendency in mid 2007 resulting from an apparent disagreement on tactics towards Hamas. There is an account of it here.
The article written by Yehuda Stern, “The Victory of Hamas in Gaza and the questions facing Israeli and Palestinian workers” is still posted on the In Defence of Marxism website here.

The subject of the article was the victory of Hamas in an internal struggle with Fatah for control of Gaza. Stern argued that Hamas rode to victory on a wave of popularity as the Palestinian masses expressed their rejection of the open collaboration of Fatah with Israel and Imperialism. The Grant/Woods tendency however argued that the dispute between Hamas and Fatah was a fight between two equally reactionary forces incapable of advancing the Palestinian struggle.

As Stern says in the article:
“It is amazing to see how the imperialists have understood far better than most people on the left what lies at the heart of the present conflict – not a mere power struggle between two equally reactionary forces but a decisive battle between imperialism and the Palestinian people. The bourgeoisie in Israel is now hysterical, and for a good reason: although the victory of Hamas in Gaza does not solve any of the fundamental problems of the Palestinian masses, this was clearly a severe blow against imperialism. It is clear then that the question at hand is not the leadership of either side but the class forces supporting them.”

Indeed the ISL has no illusions in Hamas:
“Hamas is a populist, reactionary movement, whose leadership not long ago had announced its willingness to negotiate with the USA and Britain. They justified this with the argument that these two imperialist powers were different from Israel, as they are not “occupying states”. They said this long after the wars
in Afghanistan and Iraq where the USA and Britain are the main occupying forces and also ignoring the fact that behind Israeli imperialism stands US imperialism with all its might.”

Stern then goes on to explain how Hamas rose to power from the time of the formation of the Islamic Brotherhood in Gaza in 1948. Hamas opposed the Oslo agreement of 1993 and the sellout of the Palestinian Authority which created terrible conditions for Palestinians.

“That is why we cannot join the hue and cry of the sectarian and petit bourgeois left. They limit themselves to shouting that Hamas is a reactionary movement, that it is as pro-imperialist as Fatah, that it is a terrorist organization, and so on. These cries reflect bourgeois public opinion, and not by chance. We defend the right of the Palestinian people to determine their own destiny and to choose their own government without any outside interference. They clearly voted massively for Hamas giving this organisation a landslide victory in the last elections. It is an unfortunate fact that an Islamic fundamentalist force has come to lead the Palestinian masses, but rather than weep about all this what we should be doing is looking at the responsibility of the “left” in allowing such a situation to emerge.”

But while Hamas won popular support rejecting the treachery of Fatah, rose to power on the wave of anti-imperialist sentiment of the Palestinian masses, Hamas cannot bring about their liberation.

“The main problem facing the Palestinian masses now is that the de facto break up of the PA into two farcical states will not change the fundamental nightmare situation they are living in. Hamas does not have any real alternative to offer to capitalist exploitation, hardly compensated by Hamas’ Islamic charity institutions upon which a growing layer of the population of Gaza depends in order to survive. Even the temporary relief granted by the effect of the victory of Hamas upon the powerful rival clans and organisations cannot last for very long.”

Stern goes on to explain why revolutionaries can block with Hamas against imperialism but at the same time fight against their reactionary class politics:

“For these reasons we do not give the fundamentalists any political support. Hamas is a populist movement. It built its support on the one hand on the betrayal of the nationalists and on the other on the betrayal of the left and its sell-out to the PLO and Fatah. And we should always keep firmly in mind that Hamas does
not want to overthrow capitalism. They merely wish for banks and monopolies with Islamic names. If they follow the same path of making deals with the imperialist powers, which at a certain stage will be inevitable, its leadership will be exposed as just another group of bourgeois politicians, no better than Fatah, especially should they attempt to set up a regime in their image to assert their domination. This, in the long run, is the only possibility in Palestine, where the ruling class is extremely weak and lacks any popular base.”

The article goes on to explain how the Stalinists capitulate to the popular front of progressive national bourgeoisies like Hamas or Hezbollah.

More interesting however, is their critique of the ‘philosophical roots of sectarian political degeneration’.
Here we have the main difference between the ISL and the Grant/Woods tendency exposed.

“Their argument, as we have already said, is that since both Fatah and Hamas are reactionary bourgeois movements, there is no reason to differentiate between them. We have already demonstrated why the refusal to differentiate between the downtrodden masses that support and fight under the leadership of Hamas and the rotten Fatah leadership is nonsensical and irresponsible from a class perspective. Now we shall elaborate on the philosophical postulates underlying it.”

…”Thus, the sectarian usually substitutes Marxist philosophy with either vulgar materialism or with idealism. One of the main characteristics of idealist philosophy is that it analyses objects, movements, states and so forth through their form instead of their material basis (Trotsky explains this quite well in his 1938 essay, Their Morals and Ours). This is the reason for their inability to understand phenomena such as Proletarian Bonapartism, the Bolivarian Revolution, or the political situation in the Middle East and in Israel-Palestine in particular, alongside countless other questions. For the idealist, all that matters is that
Hamas is “Islamic” and Fatah is “nationalist”. The fact that at this moment in time one side is supported by the Palestinian masses, while the other is supported by imperialism, is at best secondary to these so-called
“Marxists” (here again we see how the sectarian considers “the incidental thing serious and the serious thing incidental.”)”

Stern then elaborates on how sectarians impose their petty bourgeois program on workers ignoring the actual struggles in which workers class consciousness develops. He could have mentioned that this is the point made by Trotsky that sectarians are frightened opportunists -afraid that they will capitulate to opportunism which in this case would be Islamic fundamentalism.

To avoid both sterile sectarianism and crass opportunism, it is important to understand why the mass support of Palestinians for Hamas is an important starting point in developing a class consciousness that can break with the reactionary politics of Hamas.

“Those who stand together with the masses in the struggle and support them have the credibility needed to present their criticism of the leadership. Those who stand aside and refuse to support the masses will never be taken seriously. Nor should they be. This, as we have already mentioned, is merely the ultimate fate
of sectarianism.”

…”Meanwhile, in Palestine, the inability of Hamas to advance the liberation struggle will become more and more evident. Just as we saw in Lebanon after last year’s war, the masses in Gaza after the defeat of Fatah – seen as agents of imperialism -will demand jobs, bread and higher wages. In Gaza the unemployment rate is just over 60%. The reactionary Hamas will not be able to give the masses anything. After any military setback of Israeli we would see the national liberation struggle grow, but this would expose Hamas and reveal all its limitations, and would serve as a lesson for the Palestinian workers. They will eventually come
to realise that the only way to liberate the Palestinian masses from imperialism is through the class struggle. The present state of affairs in Israel exposes more and more the fact that Israeli and Palestinian workers have a clear common goal – the social revolution.”

On the acid test of Palestine, I think the Israeli International Socialist League has passed with red flag flying.

Written by raved

July 5, 2008 at 4:04 am

Petras Wrong on the Resurgent Right in Latin America

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James Petras has come out condemning the resurgence of the radical right in Latin America. He blames the centre-left for failing to make inroads into ruling class power and instead acting like they were neo-liberals, balancing budgets and protecting the interests of international capital. Well, this is exactly what the history of Latin America is all about, the middle class co-opting the unruly masses into popular fronts until the right has had time to reorganise its strength and re-asserted its political rule.

The title of Petras article is the ‘Paradoxes of Latin American Development’. But there is nothing paradoxical about the phenomenon he observes. It is very clear. Center-left governments are bourgeois governments and will not seriously challenge private property. They are actually popular fronts designed to coopt the ‘left’ -workers and poor peasants -into the center, and stop it from taking power. But in order to convince workers that popular fronts can solve their problems, left wing parties must actually claim that the center-left is ‘socialist’. The more revolutionary the workers and poor peasants are, the more apparently ‘revolutionary’ must the left wing of the popular front be to succeed in deceiving the workers.

Petras should know his history. In the very country where the popular front has been most successful, Bolivia, all of its features are well known. The most revolutionary vanguard in Latin America’s history, the miners who adopted the Trotskyist Theses of Pulacayo and led the 1952 national revolution, could only be diverted from revolution by a so-called Trotskyist party – the POR Lora.

Instead of calling for a workers’ government in which the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie would have no place, the POR Lora labeled the MNR bourgeois government ‘petty bourgeois’ and said that it could be controlled by the miners by appointing more miners as ministers in the to government. The result was that the bourgeoisie were able to recover their power and drive back and defeat the revolution over the next decades.

In Bolivia today, a new popular front, that of Morales and Linera is backed and kept in power by the same POR Lora and other fake Trotskyists, as well as by Castroite union leaders. Meanwhile, the workers and poor peasants who are willing and ready to fight are kept isolated and diverted from mobilising while the center-left organizes yet another referendum and the right is freely attacking workers and organising to secede with 80% of the nation’s resources.

The problem is that Petras doesnt want to know this history because he advocated a vote for Morales in 2005 deceiving the workers and poor peasants who had forced Mesa to resign and the government to flee from La Paz to Sucre, and trapping them in the Morales/Linera centre-left popular front that he now condemns. This is because Petras does not acknowledge centre-left governments as popular fronts. He sees them as governments that can be pressured to the left by social movements and the unions who join such governments demanding ministers and policies that require strong measures to limit the power and wealth of the ruling class.

So instead of owning up to his own popular front politics for helping to bring about the reactionary situation in Bolivia today, Petras must always ultimately blame the masses for failing to put enough pressure on the popular front to force it to attack the right instead of doing deals with it. Petras feels particularly aggrieved at the moment, because having worked so hard to get all these center-left regimes in power, they are all betraying him. He has, rightly, condemned Chavez for calling for the disarmament of the FARC. It is time that Petras recognised that his politics are bankrupt because they rely on popular fronts and an exchange theory of capitalism.

Written by raved

July 2, 2008 at 5:57 am