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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How FAIR is this support for Russian aggression?

Today the world is a buzz with news of the first Russian air strikes in Syria. I reported it in this blog this morning: Russian warplanes attack Free Syrian Army & kills civilians

This is how FAIR is covering the story:


Without even reading it you can see that they are saying that at a minimum, ISIS was where the Russians bombed and doing terrible things there. With that story they do two things at once. They appear to justify the Russian bombing, even if it turns out to be a mistake, and they put the spotlight back on ISIS and its terrible crimes, and the picture they provide is the proof.

The only problem is that a Google search of this image quickly reveals that the consensus of opinion is that it presents ISIS crimes in Palmaya, not Homs as the FAIR caption incorrectly states. That caption is not the one used by the Daily Mail, that caption was created by FAIR, although, to be fair, the Daily Mail article does say the images were "thought to be in Homs, Syria."
While Palmyra is in Homs province, it is far from the area stuck by Russia, as the map below shows. This is the BBC map of the area hit by the Russian air strike, I superimposed a map of Syria on to this to locate Palmyra on the BBC map except it wasn't even on the map! As you can see, I had to extend the canvas far to the right to show Palmyra. It is so deep into the blue IS area of the BBC map that they don't show it. The FAIR article also implies the picture was taken last week when it is more than 2 months old.


I find this piece of fraudulent journalism one of the worst I have ever seen for two reasons: 1) It's coming from a group that use to be a watch dog for precisely this sort of thing, a group named Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 2) It is being done to apologize and excuse a new case of imperialist aggression in what is already the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II and is becoming the Paris Commune of the 21st century. What scum some of these "anti-imperialists" have become.

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Russian warplanes attack Free Syrian Army & kills civilians

Amy Goodman failed to even mention Russian airstrikes on Syria in Democracy Now's "The War and Peace Report" today, so I am trying to pull together what I have found this morning before I have to report in to work. This is a dramatic new development in the Syrian conflict that is likely to lead to even greater lost of Syrian lives and more people being forced to flee their country just to save themselves.

The Independent is reporting:
Russia launches first air strikes in Syria, US says as non-Isis rebels claim they are being targeted
The Federation Council approved military intervention on Wednesday morning


Lizzie Dearden
30 September 2015
The US believes Russia has launched its first airstrikes in Syria just hours after the country’s Parliament approved Vladimir Putin’s request for military intervention.

No further information was given but activists in Homs and Hama provinces have posted images and video online claiming to show Russian planes bombing groups of non-Isis rebels who are fighting Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

The death toll could not be verified but dozens of fatalities were reported, including civilians, and footage showed injured children being treated in Talbiseh, a Free Syrian Army (FSA) stronghold.
...
Other footage appearing to show claiming to show the aftermath of airstrikes by Russian planes was posted online by the Homs Media Centre and the Hama branch of rebel alliance the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council.

The group conducted an interview with an FSA commander who claimed that Russian jets bombed his fighters in Hama using Su-24s.

The Syrian government had asked Russia for support in the country’s civil war before the Federation Council approved intervention on Wednesday.

A post on President Assad’s official Twitter account said he had invited Russian forces to fight “terrorism”, although the word is used by the regime to describe anyone opposing it, including non-Islamist rebels.

Meanwhile, the US and coalition aircraft were conducting air strikes in Syria and Iraq on Wednesday, although a spokesperson did not specify where.

Russia has already been providing weapons and training for Syrian regime forces, and navy transport vessels have been shuttling troops, weapons and supplies to an air base near the coastal city of Latakia for several week.

Satellite images released last week showed 28 jets, including Su-30 multirole fighters, Su-25 ground attack jets, Su-24 bombers and possibly Ka-52 helicopter gunships at the base.

Sergei Ivanov, chief of Putin's administration, said that the Federation Council voted unanimously in favour of military intervention but insisted Moscow is not sending ground troops to Syria.

He said it will only use its air force “in order to support the Syrian government forces in their fight against the Islamic State” group.

But areas reportedly hit by Russian planes today included Ltamenah and Tal Wasit, both in Hama governate, and Zaafrana, Homs.

All are held by the Free Syrian Army, secular rebels, or non-Isis Islamists including Jaysh al-Fath (the Army of Conquest).

In the Syrian civil war’s ever-changing web of alliances, the coalition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham, sometimes co-operates with Free Syrian Army in its battles against Isis and government forces. More...
Russian warplanes targeted neighborhoods in Talbiseh with HE bombs | 30 Sept 2015


The BBC News has this report:
Syria crisis: Russian air strikes against Assad enemies

Russia has begun carrying out air strikes in Syria against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad
The strikes reportedly hit rebel-controlled areas of Homs and Hama provinces, causing casualties.

The US says it was informed an hour before they took place.

Russian defence officials say aircraft targeted the Islamic State group, but an unnamed US official told Reuters that so far they did not appear to be targeting IS-held territory. More...
Talbiseh people recovered the dead and the wounded from the rubble | 30 Sept 2015





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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Por qué sigo siendo marxista

Traducido por Ralph Apel, Lunes, 28 de septiembre de 2015
Escribí este texto el 25 de mayo de 2014 en respuesta a ciertos comentarios sobre el marxismo por parte de un revolucionario árabe, al que le tengo gran respeto. Se trataba, en ese momento, de una carta privada, pero creo que merece una divulgación más amplia. Todas las referencias a su destinatario original han sido removidas.

 Desafortunadamente parece que se impone la regla de que la práctica rara vez se ajusta al ideal, y no solo en política o en filosofía. Dicho esto, sigo creyendo que Marx y Engels se cuentan entre los grandes científicos que cambiaron el mundo, oroginados en los países capitalistas avanzados del siglo XIX. También creo que las intuiciones fundamentales del marxismo siguen siendo verdaderas al día de hoy, tal como lo fueron cuando ellos escribían el  Manifiesto Comunista [1848] o El origen de la familia, la propiedad privada y el Estado. [1884]

Entre estas tesis fundamentales, como yo las entiendo, se cuentan las siguientes, que expongo de manera simple:

El desarrollo tecnológico habilitó al desarrollo económico, el que a su vez ha impulsado el desarrollo social y político. La forma en que esto ha funcionado a lo largo del gran aro de la historia humana es, más o menos, la forma en que tenía que operar. Básicamente tuvimos que pasar por muchas cosas malas, para poder estar en condiciones de arribar a algo mejor, y no hemos llegado aún. A saber:

Después de millones de años de evolución, la especie del hombre moderno surgió de los primates y después de varios cientos de miles de años empezamos a explorar las costas más allá de África, hasta que, después de épicas migraciones, habíamos establecido comunidades humanas en casi todos los rincones de la tierra, a los que se pudiera acceder a pie o con botes sencillos.

Estas sociedades humanas tempranas practicaron una suerte de comunismo primitivo. Todavía no se habían dividido en clases y no tenían un estado como lo conocemos hoy, es decir, un cuerpo que ejerciera el monopolio de la violencia. Vivían tal como los indígenas americanos vivían en este país antes de la llegada del hombre blanco. La tierra no se consideraba propiedad privada y la mayoría de las cosas se compartían de manera comunitaria. Las decisiones importantes se adoptaban por la comunidad en su conjunto o bien por los ancianos de la tribu, que no tenían poder o autoridad que no les hubieran sido otorgados libremente por vía del respeto de la comunidad. Así fue el inicio de todas las naciones, aunque algunas, como las que poblaban los valles de los ríos Tigris y Eufrates, ya habían superado esa fase hace unos 8000 años, mientras los pueblos originarios de América aún se hallaban inmersos en ella cuando los imperialistas europeos aparecieron con sus caballos hace unos 500 años y algunos pocos aborígenes siguen estándolo hasta el día de hoy.

Mientras que algunos, en las culturas más avanzadas, han tratado de utilizar estas diferencias en la velocidad de desarrollo como prueba de algún tipo de supremacía racial, yo creo que se deben en su casi totalidad a la geografía. Vistas en el contexto de la historia humana en su conjunto, estas diferencias son como las que existen entre dos niños que puedan aprender a caminar o a hablar con una diferencia de edad de unas pocas semanas.

El problema del comunismo primitivo nunca fue lo del comunismo, sino lo de primitivo. Poco alimento, medicinas de eficacia limitada, pobres viviendas, sufriendo siempre del frío o del calor, muriendo a edad temprana y, por cierto, sin internet. Así que el afán de la humanidad por las mejoras llevó al desarrollo tecnológico. Desarrollamos la agricultura y la cría de animales; esto nos permitió crear comunidades estables que pudieron abandonar la vida nómade y establecerse en un lugar fijo. La domesticación de los animales también creó la primera forma importante de propiedad privada y de riqueza transportable. Así comenzó la era de los poseedores y los desposeídos, así se echaron las bases de las primeras sociedades de clases, las sociedades esclavistas que dominaron entre las civilizaciones antiguas en todas partes.

Antes de estos avances tecnológicos, la esclavitud había sido imposible. La esclavitud como sistema requiere que el esclavo sea al menos lo suficientemente productivo como para mantenerse a si mismo y además producir algún excedente del que pueda apropiarse su amo. Después de que los animales domesticados se establecieron como propiedad privada, quedaba abierto el camino a considerar a otros seres humanos como propiedad privada y esta conclusión la sufrieron primero las mujeres. Antes, las mujeres se quedaban en casa y atendían los cultivos, mientars que los hombres salían al negocio dudoso de la caza. Como consecuencia de esto, entre otras razones, en la mayoría de las sociedades primitivas existía el matriarcado, pero la domesticación de los animales quedó en el ámbito de los cazadores. La propiedad de los animales pasó a ser la propiedad de los hombres y con este cambio en las relaciones de propiedad se estableció el patriarcado que impera hasta el día de hoy.

La propiedad en animales era una riqueza que podía incrementarse de manera natural y se esta manera la diferencia entre los poseedores y los desposeídos aumentaba con cada nueva camada, creando así las bases materiales de la sociedad esclavista. Antes, no había habido mucho que hacer con esclavos. En las guerras anteriores, a los derrotados o bien se los mataba, o se los integraba a la sociedad. En cambio ahora habían rebaños que atender y la riqueza de algún individuo solo estaba limitada por la cantidad de animales que pudiera controlar. Así, ahora había una cantidad prácticamente ilimitada de trabajo que hacer para los esclavos. Ahora, las guerras adquirían un significado económico, porque los rebaños enemigos podían saquearse y los propios enemigos transformarse en esclavos.

 Las sociedades esclavistas de Babilonia, Mesopotamia, el antiguo Egipto, Grecia y Roma fueron ejemplos de las primeras sociedades de clases, las primeras formas de sociedad basadas en la opresión del hombre por el hombre, las primeras sociedades en las que una minoría gobernaba sobre la mayoría y las primeras sociedades dirigidas por un estado en si, pero todo esto fue un primer paso necesario   para salir de la oscuridad. Estas sociedades también fueron las que crearon la primera ciencia y literatura. Impulsaron enormes saltos adelante en el desarrollo tecnológico y social, que permitieron el surgimiento de la propiedad privada de la tierra, lo que junto al desarrollo de la agricultura llevó a revoluciones en todas partes, que reemplazaron el esclavismo, un sistema basado en la propiedad de los trabajadores, por el feudalismo, un sistema basado en la propiedad de la tierra, en el que el propio trabajador como tal ya no era propiedad, sino que venía con la tierra.

Esta fue una próxima etapa absolutamente necesaria para el desarrollo económico y político de la humanidad. Esos sistemas esclavistas debían sucumbir y ser reemplazados por un nuevo sistema en ascenso, y si el lector coincide en que resultaba preferible ser siervo y no esclavo, estará también de acuerdo en que la suerte de las masas trabajadoras mejoraba. De la Edad Media se dice que duró setecientos años, de modo que posiblemente fue demasiado. En base a la experiencia de Libia en estos días podemos ver que los cambios revolucionarios no siempre se da sin problems. Esto fue necesario porque, si bien la esclavitud pudo volver a hacerse productiva y arrojar ganancias bajo las condiciones de la producción capitalista a gran escala para el mercado mundial, siendo explotada así en el “Nuevo Mundo”, los requerimientos de relativa autosuficiencia y de agricultura a pequeña escala que existía en los tiempos feudales requerían una clase trabajadora motivada más bien por la necesidad de comer y de pagar la renta en especies que por el látigo. Los sistemas feudales, sistemas basados en la propiedad de la tierra, llegaron a dominar en todas partes.

El desarrollo tecnológico fue impulsado aún más bajo el feudalismo y, lento pero seguro, en los talleres y los burgos de la Edad Media, se desarrollaba una nueva forma de producción, la manufactura, que siguió desarrollándose hasta el punto de no poder seguir soportando las amarras de las restricciones feudales. Se dieron una serie de revoluciones burguesas, en el curso de las cuales se derrocó el feudalismo y se estableció el capitalismo. Bajo el capitalismo, la propiedad de los medios de producción, de las herramientas y después de las fábricas, y finalmente el capital financiero “puro” se transformaron en las formas más importantes de la riqueza. La propiedad de la tierra había tenido sus límites, pero la producción fabril podía siempre incrementarse. El cambio del feudalismo al capitalismo también exigió cambios en la fuerza de trabajo. Los labriegos fueron expulsados de la tierra y se les obligó a venderles sus servicios a los dueños del capital a cambio de un salario.

En su período inicial de ascenso, el capitalismo creó muchas maravillas. Creó la ciencia y la medicina modernas. Exploró y unificó al mundo, aunque a veces de manera algo brutal. Creó las comunicaciones modernas y el transporte moderno. De hecho, creó todo lo que necesitamos para vivir bien y en armonía con el planeta, aunque hoy se transforme en una amenaza para esa posibilidad. Multiplicó la productividad del trabajador por un factor de mil y ha creado una abundancia increíble. Por primera vez en la historia humana, el problema no era la escasez, sino la distribución. Esto nos pone más o menos donde estamos ahora, con el capitalismo en un estado aún mayor de descomposición, amenazando con frenar el progreso humano de un modo que podría ser fatal para toda la especie.

Yo solía pensar que la frase del "capitalismo decadente" era un exceso de retórica comunista hasta que llegué a comprender el capitalismo como sistema. Lo que ocurre con todos estos sistemas, el esclavismo, el feudalismo, el capitalismo, incluso el socialismo, es que por mucho que cada uno de ellos pueda reclamar ser el principio y el fin en su mejor momento, cada uno es solamente un constructo social más o menos apropiado para un cierta etapa del desarrollo humano y, al igual que los seres humanos a los que sirven, cada uno de ellos tiene una vida útil determinada. Todos tienen un nacimiento, una infancia, adolescencia y en el mejor de los casos una larga y productiva edad adulta, antes de que las mismas fuerzas que lo crearon y lo amamantaron en su seno necesiten romper sus límites. Esto puede dar lugar a un período angustioso para las personas que vivan en un sistema enfrentado a tan larga agonía, pero es donde estamos ahora, por lo que "el capitalismo decadente" resulta una descripción muy precisa e inclusiva de precisamente lo que está en la raíz de casi todos nuestros problemas de hoy.


El equipo formado por Marx y Engels fue el creador del materialismo histórico moderno y el primero en dibujar el mapa de este arco del desarrollo de la humanidad. Ellos sintetizaron los avances del siglo XIX en materia económica, histórica, antropológica, evolutiva, científica y filosófica, creando una concepción nueva y revolucionaria de este desarrollo histórico. Fueron los primeros en someter al capitalismo a un análisis científico y los primeros en comprender en qué dirección se dirige este arco del desarrollo de la humanidad. Se dirige de vuelta al comunismo, pero esta vez a un comunismo de alta tecnología. Una sociedad sin clases, en la que la explotación sistemática del hombre por el hombre es cosa del pasado, una sociedad sumamente compleja que, sin embargo, funciona sin un estado como hoy lo conocemos, un estado situado por sobre la sociedad, con cuerpos especiales de hombres armados. Es allí a donde vamos, hacia una nueva forma de comunismo de alcance mundial con cosas como la internet y los sistemas modernos de transporte de alta velocidad para mantenerlo unido y abundantes bienes materiales para todos los habitantes del planeta, para vivir bien y largo mientras se “trabaja” muy poco. Los detalles están por verse.

Marx y Engels también entendieron que no podíamos llegar allí directamente de donde estamos. El camino del capitalismo al comunismo debe pasar necesariamente por un largo período histórico de transformaciones revolucionarias denominado socialismo. Bajo el capitalismo, la contradicción entre la producción socializada y la apropiación privada no puede sino crecer. El socialismo reemplaza la apropiación privada de la producción ya socializada [gracias al capitalismo] por una apropiación y un control socializados, más acordes con las necesidades actuales de la humanidad. Todos los cambios revolucionarios han requerido una intensa lucha de clases entre la clase dominante del sistema en descomposición y los representantes de las nuevas clases en ascenso. Es aquí donde el foco cae en el estado y sus poderes, pero la frase de la "dictadura del proletariado" generalmente se malentiende. Marx y Engels veían al estado, ante todo, como un instrumento de la clase dominante para dictarle sus condiciones a las otras clases. Ellos, yo creo que correctamente, consideraban a cada estado como la dictadura de los esclavistas, los terratenientes o de los dueños del capital, por medio de gobiernos que han adoptado formas más o menos apropiadas para el respectivo sistema. Dijeron que la clase obrera era la nueva clase ascendente bajo el capitalismo y los representantes del nuevo sistema, del socialismo, que reemplazaría al capitalismo. También sostuvieron que el derrocamiento del capitalismo por la clase obrera o el proletariado no sería el fin de la revolución, porque los capitalistas intentarían restablecer su poder de miles de maneras, teniendo aún muchas ventajas a su favor, de modo que los trabajadores aún iban a tener que ejercer una dictadura sobre sus antiguos patrones. Pero, lo más importante, Marx y Engels dijeron que desde el mismo comienzo de esta "dictadura del proletariado" se trataría de un estado de nuevo tipo, porque por primera vez en la historia se trataría de un estado en el que la mayoría ejerciese una dictadura sobre la minoría y que por eso, incluso en un principio, dejaría de ser un estado en el sentido usual de la palabra, comenzando a desvanecerse.

Como sabemos, los primeros intentos de implementar la visión de Marx no han sido demasiado bonitos. ¿Qué vamos a hacer con eso? Yo diría primero que hasta ahora se lo ha intentado solo en países menos preparados desde el punto de vista de realmente haber desarrollado en plenitud los "precursores" de una industria avanzada y de una clase trabajadora educada y culta. Las razones del porqué esos países hayan estado tan presionados por el capitalismo en descomposición como para intentar un salto hacia el socialismo está "más allá del alcance" de este texto, como también lo están las razones por las que los obreros de aquellos países con la mejor base material como para haber implementado un salto revolucionario parecen estar bastante conformes con el capitalismo. Simplemente adjudiquémoslo a la ley del desarrollo desigual.

Pero apuntar a estos fracasos como razón suficiente para abandonar del todo el proyecto socialista es como tomar todos los intentos tempranos, previos a los hermanos Wright, de materializar el vuelo a motor o incluso el carácr poco espectacular de su primer vuelo como escusa para abandonar todo intento de construir aeroplanos. No podemos hablar de socialismo sin hablar de toda una era histórica que recién se está iniciando. Podría tratarse de cientos o incluso de miles de años. No existe nada que haya sucedido desde la Revolución Rusa que me dé razón alguna para poner en duda la corrección del análisis de Marx ni todas las cosas terribles que se han hecho en su nombre.

Sigo siendo marxista.

Llámenlo como quieran, una ciencia, una filosofía o un movimiento político, dado que no solo predijo sino que activamente propugnó el fin del sistema actual, del capitalismo, así como el derrocamiento de los ricos por los pobres, el marxismo no podía sino verse expuesto a un ataque intenso y omnilateral por parte del capitalismo. Entre los ataques más insidiosos se cuentan las fuerzas burguesas que se han desarrollado en el seno mismo del movimiento, haciendo uso del lenguaje marxista para vender una versión corrupta de  "marxismo" que de hecho es contrarrevolucionaria. Esto le ocurrió a la Revolución Rusa, donde una nueva clase dirigente burguesa fue capaz de establecerse al interior del partido "comunista". Desde entonces han usado su dinero y su influencia para corromper casi completamente a la izquierda en occidente. Es contra este fenómeno en la izquierda que hemos estado luchando en relación a Siria. Su traición es tan eficaz justamente porque alejan a la gente de la izquierda, con lo que esta gente ya no tiene a dónde mirar.

De modo que comprendo y comparto las frustraciones que para ustedes significa la  "izquierda" como la vemos hoy y francamente pienso que la mayor parte de esa gente no tiene salvación, porque lo primero que se necesita para ser revolucionario es una intensa preocupación por la humanidad y en su mayor parte esta gente de "izquierda" ha demostrado que prefieren ignorar el sufrimiento del pueblo sirio antes de perder la cara y repensar algunos de sus antiguos prejuicios.

Me he tomado el tiempo de escribir esto porque quiero que comprendan de dónde vengo cuando digo que soy comunista, porqué pienso que la "izquierda" ha actuado mal en relación a Siria, pero también porqué pienso que ustedes deberían tener cuidado de no tirar al bebé con el agua del baño. Podría decir mucho más, pero ya me he extendido demasiado, así que me voy ahora a gozar de la playa.


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Monday, September 28, 2015

Why I remain a Marxist

I wrote this 25 May 2014 in response to some comments about Marxist from an Arab revolutionary I have great respect for. It was a private letter at the time but I think it worthy of wider distribution. All references to the individual it was originally sent to have been removed. [Now also available in Spanish]

Unfortunately, it seems to be the rule that practice rarely lives up to the ideal, and not just in politics or philosophy. That being said, I still think that Marx and Engels rank among the great world changing scientists produced in the advance capitalist countries in the 19th century. I also believe that fundamental insights of Marxism remain as true today as when they wrote the Communist Manifesto [1848] and Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State. [1884]


Among these fundamental thesis as I understand them are these, and I am expressing this simply:

Technological development has enabled economic development which in turn has powered social and political development. The way this has worked out in the broad sweeping arch of human history is pretty much the way it had to work out. Basically, we had to do through a lot of bad stuff to be able to get to a better place and we aren't there yet. To wit:

After millions of years of evolution, the modern human species evolved from the primates, and after several hundred thousand years we began exploring shores beyond Africa until after several epic migrations, we had established human communities in just about every corner of the Earth that could be gotten to on foot or in simple boats.

These early human societies practiced a kind of primitive communism. They had yet to divide into classes and they had no state as we know it now, i.e. a body exercising a monopoly of violence. They lived like indigenous Americans lived in this country before the white man came to it. The land was not considered private property and most things were shared communally. Important decisions were made by the community as a whole or by tribal elders who held no power or authority not freely granted to them by the respect of the community. This is how all nations began, although some, like those in the Tigris and Euphrates river valley had already moved beyond that stage some 8,000 years ago while the native Americans were still stumbling through it when the European imperialists showed up with horses about 500 years ago, and a few aboriginal people are still at that stage even today.

While some in the more advanced cultures have tried to use these different rates of development as proof of some sort or racial supremacy, I believe they are due almost entirely to geography. When viewed in the context of the entire scope of human history, these difference are as between two children that may learn to walk or talk at ages a few weeks difference.

The problem with primitive communism was never the communism part. It was the primitive part. Little food, poor medicines, poor housing, being cold or hot all the time, dying very young, and of course, no Internet. So humanity's quest to better itself led to technological development. We developed agricultural and animal husbandry; those allowed us to built stable communities that could stop wandering and get established in one place. The domestication of animals also created the first important form of private property and portable wealth. This began the age of the haves and have nots, this laid the basis for the first class societies, the slave societies that dominated ancient civilizations everywhere.

Prior to these technological developments, slavery was impossible. Slavery as a system requires that the slave be at least productive enough to sustain herself and still produce some excess that can be appropriated by her master. The use of the feminine pronoun is most appropriate here. After domesticated animals got established as private property, the path was open to view other human beings a private property and this conclusion fell first on women. Prior to this women stayed home and tended the crops while the men went off to the iffy business of hunting. Most primitive societies were matriarchal as a result of this among other reasons, but the domestication of animals fell in the realm of the hunter. The property in animals became the property of men and with this change in property relations came patriarchy which dominates still.

Property in animals was also wealth that could increase naturally and so the difference between the haves and have nots increased with each new litter and this created the material basis for the development of slave societies. Prior to this, there simply wasn't a lot for slaves to do. In wars prior to this, a conquered people were either slaughtered or integrated into society. Now there were herds to be tended and an individual's wealth was limited only by the number of animals he could control. Now there was virtually unlimited work for slaves. Now wars gained an economic footing because the enemies flocks could be raided and the enemies themselves turned into slaves.

The slave societies of Babylon, Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome were examples of the first class societies, the first societies based on the oppression of man by man and the first societies in which a minority ruled over the majority and the first societies to be ruled by a state per se, but this was a necessary first step out of the darkness. These societies also created the first science and literature. They propelled enormous leaps in technological and social development that allowed for private property in land and together with the developments in agriculture, allowed for revolutions everywhere that replaced slavery, a system based on ownership of the worker, with feudalism, a system based on the ownership of land in which the worker was no longer owned outright but came with the land.

This was an absolutely necessary next stage in human economic and political development. These slave systems had to go down and be replaced by a new system then on the ascendancy, and if you'd rather be a serf than a slave you will agree that the lot of the laboring masses was improved. The Dark Ages is said to have lasted for seven hundred years so perhaps things could have been handled better. We can see from the current Libyan experience that revolutionary change doesn't always go smoothly. This was necessary because while slavery could again be made productive and profitable under conditions of large scale capitalist production for world markets and was well exploit in the "New World" by it, the requirements of relative self-sufficiency and small scale agricultural that existed in feudal times required a laboring class that was motivated more by the need to eat and pay rent in kind than by the lash. Feudal systems, systems based on land ownership came to dominate everywhere.

Technological development was propelled even further under feudalism and slowly but surely, in the workshops and burgers of the middle ages, a new form of production, manufacturing, was developing and it continued to develop until it could no longer be bound by the constraints of feudalism. There was a series of bourgeois revolutions in which feudalism was overthrown and capitalism was established. Under capitalism, ownership of the means of production, the tools and then the factories, and eventually "pure" finance capital became the most important forms of wealth. Land ownership had its limits but factory output could always be increased. The change from feudalism to capitalism also required changes in the workforce. The laborer was forced off the land and made to sell his services to the owners of capital for wages.

In its early period of ascendancy capitalism created many wonders. It created modern science and medicine. It explored and united the world although sometimes ruthlessly. It created modern communications and transport. In fact it created all that we need to live well and in harmony with this planet even as it stands more and more against the possibility. It multiplied the productivity of the laborer a thousand fold and created hitherto unbelievable abundance. For first time in human history the main problem was not scarcity, it was distribution. This puts us more or less were we are now with capitalism in an even greater state of decay and now threatening to hold back human progress in a way that could prove fatal to the entire species.

I use to think that the phrase "decadent capitalism" was just so much communist rhetoric until I understood capitalism as a system. The thing about all these systems, slavery, feudalism, capitalism, even socialism, is that as much as they each in turn may claim to be the be all and end all in its prime, each is just a social construct more or less appropriate to a certain stage of human development and as with the humans they serve, each has a useful life span. Each has a birth, a childhood, adolescence, and hopefully a long and productive adulthood before the very forces it has created and nursed to its bosom need to break out of its limits. This may lead to an agonizing period for the people who live in a system undergoing such extended death throngs but that is where we are now, making "decadent capitalism" an extremely accurate and inclusive description of precisely what is at the root of almost all our problems today.

The team of Marx and Engels were the creators of modern historical materialism and the first to map this arch of human development. They synthesized the 19th century developments in economics, history, anthropology, evolution, science and philosophy into a new and revolutionary understanding of this historical development. They were the first to subject capitalism to a scientific analysis and the first to understand where this arch of human development was going. It was going back to communism, but this time a communism with high technology. A classless society in which the systematic exploitation of man by man is a thing of history, a very complex society that functions nevertheless without a state as we know it today, a state over and above society with special bodies of armed men. This is were we are headed, to a new form of communism that is worldwide in scope with things like the Internet and modern high speed transport to bind it together and plenty of material goods for everybody on the planet to live well while "working" very little and living long.  Details TBD.

Marx and Engels also understood that we couldn't just go there from here. The road from capitalism to communism must, of necessity, pass through a long historical period of revolutionary transformation called socialism. Under capitalism the contradiction between socialized production and private appropriation cannot help but grow. Socialism replaces the private appropriation of the already socialized production [thanks to capitalism] with socialized appropriation and control more in line with the current requirements of humanity. All revolutionary changes have required an intense class struggle between the ruling class of the decaying system and the representatives of the new class or classes in ascendancy. This is where the focus on the state and state power comes in, but the phrase "dictatorship of the proletariat" is generally misunderstood. Marx and Engels saw the state, first and foremost, as an instrument for the ruling class to dictate to the other classes. They, correctly I think, saw every state as dictatorships of the slave owners, land owners, or owners of capital, in governments that adopted forms more or less appropriate to the system they were ruling. They said that the working class was the new rising class under capitalism and the representatives of the new system, socialism, that would replace capitalism. They also said that the working class or proletariat overthrowing the capitalist wouldn't be the end of the revolution because the capitalist would try to re-establish their power by a million and one ways and would still have many advantages on their side so the workers would still have to exercise a dictatorship over their former bosses. But most importantly, Marx and Engels said that from the very beginning this "dictatorship of the proletariat" would be a state of a new kind because for the first time in history it would be a state in which the majority exercised a dictatorship over the minority and because of this it would even in the beginning cease to be a state in the usual sense and begin to whither away.

As we both know, the first attempts at implementing Marx's vision of socialism haven't been too pretty. What are we to make of that? I would first note that it has been so far tried only in countries least ready for it from the POV of really having thoroughly developed the "precursors" of advanced industry and a well educated working class. The reasons why those countries have been so stress by the decaying capitalist system as to attempt the leap to socialism early is "beyond the scope," as are the reasons why the workers in those countries with the best material basis for implementing a revolutionary leap seem most content to stay with capitalism. Let's just chalk it up to the law of uneven development.

But to point to these failures as reason enough to abandon the socialist project altogether is like pointing of all the early, pre-Wright Brothers attempts at powered flight or even their sorry first flight as excuse to abandon all attempts to build airplanes. We cannot speak of socialism without speaking of an entire historic era that is only now thinking about beginning. It could be hundreds, even thousands of years long. Nothing that has happen since the Russian revolution has given me reason to doubt the correctness of Marx's analysis, nor all the terrible things that have been done in his name.

I still remain a Marxist.

Call it what you will, a science, a philosophy, or a political movement, given that it not only predicted but also actively promoted an end to the current system, capitalism, and the overthrow of the rich by the poor, Marxism could not help but be attacked from all sides and intensely by capitalism. Among the most insidious attacks are those bourgeois force which have developed inside the movement itself, using the language of Marxist to sell a corrupt version of "Marxism" that is actually counter-revolutionary. This happened to the Russian revolution where a new bourgeois ruling class was able to establish itself within the "communist" party. Since then they have used their $$$ and influence to almost completely corrupt the Left in the western world. This is what we are up against with the Left in Syria. Their treachery is so effective precisely because they turn people away from the Left and that truly gives them nowhere to go.

So, I understand and share your frustrations with  the "Left" as we know it today, and frankly I think most of these people are beyond saving because the first thing you are going to need if your really want to make it as a revolutionary is an intense concern for humanity, and most of these people on the "Left" have shown they would sooner ignore the suffering of the Syrian people than lose face and re-think long held prejudices.

I have taken the time to write this because I want you to understand where I am coming from when I say I'm a communist, why I think the "Left" has been so bad on Syria, but also why I think you should be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water. I could say a lot more but I've gone on too long already so I'm going to go enjoy the beach now.


Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Sunday, September 27, 2015

How Democracy Now helped to create the Syrian refugee crisis

The current Syrian refugee crisis did not just suddenly descend upon Europe without notice. It took years of neglect while the Syrian government carried out a policy of war on civilians, even employing a strategy that involved specifically targeting children. It took years of silence while millions fled the violence to Jordan, and one in every fourth person in Lebanon became a Syrian refugee. It took years of hypocrisy in complaining about Turkey's failure to control it border while not mentioning the 2 million Syrians that have been forced across that border by violence.

Its easy to understand why the capitalist media has maintained this silence. It doesn't favor publicizing either a people's struggle against an oppressive government or the brutal methods used to suppress it. Generally it will only publicize the brutality of a government against its own people when it has an ulterior motive, like building support for military action against a country targeted for regime change. In fact, in spite of "anti-imperialist" claims to the contrary, one of the best proofs that the western imperialists are not interested in building popular support for US military intervention in Syria is the way they have failed to report on the Syrian government's campaign of mass murder and the very real humanitarian crisis that has been created in Syria and the bordering countries.

There are a great many things the bourgeois media would prefer not to talk about, not just Bashar al-Assad's four year old daily slaughter of Syrians. Often, they are forced to carry a story only after the alternative Left media has given the issue enough coverage that they are forced to cover it also or face exposure. Then the story has the opportunity to develop legs of its own that takes it far beyond what the capitalist media would have wished.

Generally speaking, this hasn't happened for the Syrian people and the daily slaughter of hundreds of Syrians routinely goes unreported. There have been a few times when the absolute scale of a particular massacre reached the level that media silence wasn't an option, but daily news reports of the daily slaughter normally don't even make it to the back pages. The Houla massacre of 25 May, 2012 in which 108 people were murdered by Shabiha was one such incident, the 21 August 2013 sarin slaughter of over 1400 in a Damascus suburb was another, and the murder of over 100 people by air strikes over Douma recently was a third.

With a few exceptions like those, the mainstream media has been able to maintain it wall of silence on Syria. It has been able to do this so effectively because it has done so with the connivance of the "Left" media. At this late stage, this crisis has broken out on the world stage in an undeniable manner only because the misery so long ignored by the bourgeois and "Left" media has overflowed Syria and its neighbors and has become a European refugee crisis.

Amy Goodman's Democracy Now is almost certainly the most important and the most widely heard "Left" media voice. In Los Angeles, the hour long show can be heard on the radio twice a day and seen on TV thrice a day. It has similar coverage in other major markets and some coverage in virtually every market. If Democracy Now had elected to cover the carnage in Syria with just a small portion of its 60 minute "War and Peace Report" almost everyday over the past four years, its hard to imagine that ABC, CBS, NBC & CNN could have maintained their silence as well as they have. If Democracy Now had shown the Syrian people as much love as it has shown those in Gaza, Bahrain, or Yemen, its easy to imagine that the world would be in a better place today with regards to its handling of the Baathist regime's response to the people's demand for democracy. I have critiqued various aspects of Democracy Now's Syria coverage in blog posts before, most notably:

The "Left's" Crime Against Humanity, 27 April 2015
Crisis in Yarmouk: How Amy backs Assad's play, 10 April 2015
On Democracy Now today: Amy sends another Valentine to Bashar, 6 February 2015
Syria: for #Mar15, @AmyGoodman has Assad 'regime apologist' on Democracy Now, 16 March 2013
What Amy didn't say on International Women's Day, 9 March 2013

In this post we will examine Democracy Now's coverage of Syria in 2013, which was a pivotal year for the conflict. January and February passed with no Syria story. More than 10,000 Syrians had already been killed in 2013 by the time Democracy now did its first story of the year on Syria, on the 15 March anniversary of the start of the 2011 Revolution: On Uprising's Anniversary, a Syrian Opposition Voice Says Country is Victim of a Global Proxy War, 15 March 2013. I exposed her guest as an Assad regime insider here the next day. All totaled, she did only 6 stories on Syria before the 21 August sarin attack, or less than one a month while 29,114 Syrians were killed. None of those reports were about the slaughter and suffering of Syrian civilians. They were about things like:

As U.S. Moves to Arm Syrian Rebels, Questions Raised About Reports of Chemical Weapons Attack, 2 May 2013
Robert Fisk on Syria's Civil War, Chemical Weapons "Theater" & Obama's Backing of Israeli Strikes, 7 May 2013
As U.S. Deploys Patriot Missiles and F-16s to Jordan, Could Syrian Conflict Engulf the Middle East?, 5 June 2013
Patrick Cockburn on U.S. Plans to Arm Syrian Rebels: Where is the Skepticism About Chemical Weapons?, 14 June 2013

It took the chemical murder of almost 1400 Syrians to get Democracy Now to run an story in which the headline was the suffering of the Syrian people. Two days after the suburban Damascus sarin attack, she ran this: Syrian Activist on Ghouta Attack: "I Haven't Seen Such Death in My Whole Life"
23 August 2013. But that was followed a crowd of 19 more shows before the end of the year about Syria and all of them were designed to call into question the regime's responsibility for the attack or to ward off any military response. Only a couple of these addressed the suffering of the Syrian people. On 4 September, Democracy Now ran With Focus on U.S.-Led Strikes, Global Failure to Meet Syria's Humanitarian Crisis Goes Unnoticed? and then promptly forgot about it until 2013 was almost over. Then it ran  Geneva Talks "Already Dead" as Syria Faces Unprecedented Humanitarian Crisis, Imploding Opposition, December 18, 2013. Predictions of opposition implosion proved to be premature.
  • Democracy Now hasn't run a story that was critical of Assad since July 2012.
  • Recently Democracy Now has begun reporting on the deaths of Syrians, although they do have to die outside of Syria to have their deaths reported.
Democracy Now could have made sure that a lot of people knew how many had been killed in Syria the day before. It could have done regular reports on the attempts to organized civilian life in the liberated areas or conditions in the refugee camps. It could have reported on Assad's unrelenting massacre of civilians. Instead it chose to speak out only when doing so would help Assad, and it used its "whistle-blower" reputation to help sell the media silence. That's how Democracy Now helped to create the Syrian refugee crisis.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Friday, September 25, 2015

Obama's Two-Step U-Turn down the Memory Hole of Syria

Many of us have been saying that US President Barack Obama was two-faced from the earliest days of the Arab Spring. As the revolution in Syria developed, we said Obama's claim of support for it was a lie. When he echoed the call of the Syrian masses for "regime change," we pointed to the military-to-military relations that Obama's Pentagon had re-established with Syria and the use of Assad's torture facilities in the CIA's "War on Terror." In September 2012, I published "Barack Obama's Courtship with Bashar al-Assad," which made public 21 new WikiLeaks sourced documents and laid out in excruciating detail [17k words] Obama's support for the Assad regime. I warned the thuwar that Obama was just playing "Good Cop" to Putin's "Bad Cop", that the promised military support would never arrive and that in the end game all would see that Obama, Putin and Assad were on the same side.

For Four years, Barack Obama said "Assad should step down!"  He sent shipments of Meals Ready To Eat and radios to the rebels, but the promised weapons turned out to be a ration of 16 bullets per soldier for some units while most got no support at all. He sent the CIA into Turkey and Libya to make sure the people Assad was bombing couldn't get their hands on portable anti-aircraft weapons, and the rising death toll from Assad's unopposed air assaults have been the result. He led the Free Syrian Army on for years with promises of a $500 million training and supply program that has resulted in 4 or 5 Syrian fighters in the field. To fight ISIS only, not Assad!

Every Grifter needs a Shill to sell his con from another angle. For Obama's "Good Cop" con to work he had to make a very tough sale. He had to convince the whole world, but especially the Syrians, that the commander-in-chief of the most powerful military the world has ever known really wanted Assad out, while doing almost nothing to take him out. Folks might recall how the Afghan Mujaheddin dealt with Russian helicopters and remember what it means when the US is serious about regime change. And he had to sell this as he was regularly murdering other people he truly found offensive with drone strikes. That's a tough sell!

"Anti-imperialists" to the rescue. What better way to make the story stick than to have a loud mouthed opposition accusing you of doing exactly what you want everyone to think you are doing? Obama couldn't possibly play his role as leader of the world opposition to the carnage without claiming to want Assad out. But when Obama says "I want Assad out," people may say "But where's the beef?" The thuwar will say "Put your money were your mouth is!" Then along comes the "anti-war" movement and the "Left" accusing Obama of being for "regime change." Protesting it even! Spreading all sorts of wild stories about his level of support for the opposition. How its 10,000 US trained fighter and billions of dollars. How they had to hold him back from striking Assad after all those sarin murders just like he had to hold back the French,  An American group named Veterans for Peace passes a resolution opposing "the U.S. Administration's declared policy of regime change in Syria." That's worth gold, if that's what he really wants people to believe. And Medea still hasn't figured out why they keep letting her sneak in.
This is Homs without a no no-fly zone

What the "anti-imperialists" campaigned most against was another Libya styled intervention with a no-fly zone and the use of force. They have largely gotten what they wanted from Obama. They have become active on Syria only when the nearly complete success of their non-interventionist policy appeared to be in danger of cracking, as was the case when Obama was called upon to honor his "red-line" promise. He reneged, as they demanded. They celebrated and so did ISIS because they gained so many new recruits as a result of the western betrayal.

Whenever Assad's atrocities spilled onto the front page, they came forward with rags to try and wipe the blood off his face. Other than these isolated outbursts, these "anti-war" activists paid little attention to this war of massacres that was creating millions of refugees. As much as it was kept out of view by the mainstream media, the "Left" War & Peace Report supported the blackout. The state of Syria today, with a loss of life already eleven times what the Libyans paid, is an "anti-imperialist" success story. They demanded "Hands off Syria" and 330,000 dead and 9 million homeless are the result. Their only way out of that particular conundrum is to claim that but for secret western intervention, the civil war never would've developed in the first place, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

All this was fine with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad needed the conspiracy of a powerful foreign actor working with terrorists to justify his war against his own people, and since he was already working with them, what better opposition than the CIA? Both Assad and Putin needed a "Good Cop" to lead the international community's "opposition" to the carnage they were creating. Without that, the danger that the people of the world might somehow find a way to unite enough to put a stop to the slaughter was greatly increased. With Assad's planes and Putin's bombs focusing the slaughter on civilians and Obama leading the humanitarian opposition, the first holocaust of the 21st century is already well into killing its fourth hundred thousand with no end in sight.

There always comes a point in The Game when the "Good Cop" reveals himself, and that point is quickly approaching for Obama on Syria. When this game is played by the police in its classic form, the naive convict is left sitting in his jail cell wondering just when his "Good Cop" turned bad. This is happening now to our "anti-imperialists." They have spent four years accusing the leader of NATO of trying to overthrow an Arab dictator, and being unable to do so. Now that the rush of events make it clearer everyday that Obama wants the Assad regime to stay, they have some explaining to do.

Since admitting that they were wrong is not an option, they have to claim that Obama really was for "regime change" before he was against it. They are like that hapless convict, still convinced that "his cop" was good, really meant what he was saying and really had his best interest at heart and then "turned." They explain the contradiction between Obama's past declarations on Syria and his present actions as a change in Obama's direction but that isn't what is happening. Obama's Syria policy has been like the car that goes down the road for miles with its "Left turn" signal just blinking away, but never making a left turn. Then he turns it off. No change in direction is involved.

So instead of this "Left" leadership doing some serious rethinking of their theory and practice around Syria in the light of today's real world developments, they are subjecting us to new rehashes of their same old tired line backed by the same old, long ago discredited "proofs" that Obama really was working feverishly for regime change before he became opposed to it. So far, the most popular phrase for this is "Obama's U-Turn" although, to be FAIR, Adam Johnson blamed a "Memory Hole," now Ajamu Baraka, writing for Counterpunch has come up with yet another way of phrasing the same tired line in The Obama Two-Step on Syria, 23 September 2015. First he begins by making it clear why they see no need to learn about the Syrian revolution. Its the same old devil they know:
similar to the debacle that Iraq and Afghanistan became for George Bush, Syria is Obama’s foreign policy disaster.
And he sees no need to find new evidence to support his conclusions:
For many of us, the historical record is clear – this war was/is Mr. Obama’s. And what we are witnessing in Syria today is the human and political consequences of his administration’s decision to embrace a policy of regime change in Syria.
If you don't believe in Santa Claus you'll never be able to prove he exists, so its a good thing the historical record is clear to many of them because they are six cans short of a six-pack when it comes to proof for such outrageous claims. But then our "anti-imperialists" have interesting standards of proof. A man comes out of Syria, gives his full name and a verifiable work history, and has 55,000 photographs he has taken of 11,000 Syrians tortured to death in Assad's prisons and they call that a lie. The Washington Post reports that an anonymous "intelligence official" says the CIA has sent 10,000 trained fighters into Syria without offering even a shred of evidence and it is instantly believed.

If I thought Obama was two-faced towards the Arab Spring, this Counterpunch writer thinks the Syrian Arab Spring was phony and calls upon Wesley Clark's revelations as proof:
From the very beginning of the phony Arab spring actions in Syria, it was not even necessary for former general Wesley Clark to reveal that Syria was on a hit-list of governments slated for subversion to see the reactionary presence of U.S. intelligence agencies in the “rebellion” in Syria.
These people are so enamored with the power of "their own imperialists" that they assume "presence" means control.
Millions were spent to support dissident groups and for disinformation campaigns targeting the corporate media in the U.S. and Western Europe.
Baraka says they spent $12 million in 5 year or an average of $2.4 million/year worldwide. I don't think that's enough to start a revolution. Maybe keep a foot in the door is all. Then its on to the next revelation, which is like an article of faith to these "anti-imperialists":
Seymour Hersh the Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter revealed that President Obama and the Turkish PM, Erdogan concluded a secret deal in the beginning of 2012 in which the CIA and the British M16 would move heavy weapons out of Libya to supply the Free Syrian Army.
Apparently there is no need to explain why so few of the thousands of Libyan SA-7 portable anti-aircraft missiles, number #1 on the FSA shopping list, ever made it to Syria. The very small number of Syrian war planes brought down by MANPADS makes that fact tragic and well as indisputable. Of course, that doesn't stop Baraka from bringing up the same old discredited New York Times "C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition" story for the thousandth time. Please! These guys need some new material. Instead, that is followed by a repetition of a three year old "proof":
that clearly documented that “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [Al- Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” being supported by “the West, Gulf countries and Turkey.”
Kerry & Assad, a quiet meal together, 2009
And while there may be no proof, there can be no doubt:
The geo-strategic objective for the Obama Administration was regime change...talk of a people’s revolution was only a ploy
And when they saw that wasn't working out, they changed tactics, according to Baraka:
And by early 2013 when it became clear that the al-Assad government would not surrender, the destruction and dismemberment of the Syria State became the goal of U.S. policy.
Which they accomplished by tricking Assad into carrying out sectarian massacres and bombing his own cities into rubble? Come on guys!

Then finally he gets to the foundation on which to base their absolution after four years and demanding "Hands Off Syria":
without the subversion by the U.S./EU/NATO axis of domination and its allies, it is highly unlikely that any social upheaval that might have developed in the country as part of a pro-democracy movement would have reached the scale of suffering experience by the people of Syria today.
Outrageous! He is making the chauvinist claim that imperialist subversion was behind the pro-democracy movement all along so that he can also claim that if the "anti-imperialist" policy of "Hands Off Syria" had been followed religiously none of this would have happened. The millions that took to the streets to demand and end to the regime were the simple dupes of western imperialism

That is their only path to absolution after four years of the "Hands Off Syria" crowd getting pretty much what they have been demanding and when everyday it is becoming increasingly clear that forceful international intervention should have taken place long ago. I expect we'll see a lot more of this sort of doubling down from the "anti-imperialists" before their hour on the stage has passed.


Gabriel Ash
on Bashar al-Assad:
The immediate problem is indeed Assad. But that is the tip of the iceberg. Assad has been a stellar prince. He has fully grasped the potential of the current historical moment, the fortuna that opens possibilities for virtù, and acted on that understanding singlemindedly. Bombing one's own country to the stone age and expelling the majority of the people is a very high risk strategy, and few tyrants have survived it. But Assad has grasped where the world is today. He has correctly understood that defeating the threat of expanding democracy, everywhere, but especially in the Middle East, is not only the point of unity of all the world's powers, but even the dominant intellectual and cultural mood, and if he positions himself at that very point, he will be untouchable. He understood that none of his adversaries, not Turkey, nor the US, nor Israel, would risk his downfall if it meant an opening for popular empowerment. And the more he murders, the more he destroys, the more impossible it is it remove him without conceding the revolt. Syria is the 21st century Paris Commune. It is a flash of lightning that illuminates a furious global counter-revolution. Even hundreds of thousands of refugees are unlikely to change that. the EU would much rather build new concentration camps for them than risk inadvertently helping a popular victory against tyranny. About the left, the less one says the better.
Gabriel Ash

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Russian soldiers who mutinied against Syria deployment face 20 years

Le Figaro just broke this important story in French. What I have published below is the Google Translates version, so please alert me to translation correction and improvements in the comment section but I find it readable enough, and so important, that I am putting this out in the raw form first.

This story will only increase the stress on the "anti-imperialist," especially my friends at Veterans for Peace. They just passed a resolution, Stop All Foreign Intervention In Syria, at their recent national convention that was very supportive of Assad and didn't mention Russia. Will they support the action of these Russian soldiers or will they support the ones who obey and fight for Assad?

Russian soldiers mutinied against their deployment in Syria

These soldiers, who learned their destination the day before their departure, according to their lawyer may up to 20 years in prison for not following the orders of their superiors.

By Roland Gauron
Published on 09/24/2015 14:32

They learned at the last minute the object of their mission. These Russian soldiers refused to be deployed on the Syrian front, reports the website Gazeta.ru. They were part of a detachment of twenty men, all considered promising by their superiors. In late August, they are sent to Novorossiisk on the edge of the Black Sea. They thought to fight in eastern Ukraine, where other Russian military operate with hiding. Only last Wednesday, a senior teaches them the final destination: the Syrian port of Latakia. Boarding is scheduled for tomorrow. The duration of the mission, it is not specified. The majority of Detachment objects. Four soldiers even tried to assert their rights before a military prosecutor. In vain.

"We do not want to go to Syria, we do not want to die there, reflects one of the concerned Aleksei N., told the Russian news site. Since the beginning of the mission, there was a lot of quirks and innuendo. "Indeed, when it usually takes several weeks to obtain weapons, the soldiers would have received upon arrival their equipment, explain the military. During their training, their superiors have warned them: they will face an unfamiliar environment and to high temperatures. They will not have the right to put one foot outside their base. They also learn what to do and give answers to if captured by the enemy.

Today, these refractories are under pressure. According to their lawyer Ivan Pavlov, quoted by Radio Free Europe, they face up to twenty years in prison for treason. "They are required to follow orders, of course, but they must be clear and legal so they can ensure that this fight is theirs, says the lawyer. If men are sent somewhere without knowing their final destination and, at the last moment they learn that they are sent out of Russia, it is undoubtedly a violation of their contract and the law. "In Without written mission statement says Ivan Pavlov, if a member were to be killed, his relatives would receive no compensation. Before the outcry over this testimony, the army would seek to return the soldiers involved in their units.

According to the Kremlin spokesman, no complaints from military feared being sent to Syria has been received by the Council for Human Rights of the Kremlin, which had also been seized by the military and their families. And, because Moscow does not recognize the presence of Russian soldiers from troops of Bashar Assad. But in a context of growing tension with the West, many Russian citizens were charged with high treason, espionage or divulging state secrets in recent months. Another customer Ivan Pavlov, a former engineer of Russian military intelligence , was sentenced to 14 years in jail for high treason. To believe the FSB, he had disclosed "information about Russian intelligence activities in space" in an application letter sent in 2010 to a branch of the Swedish Ministry of Defence.
The Daily Beast has an excellent article on this:
Russian Soldiers: Don’t Send Me to Syria

23 Sept. 2015
By Anna Namrsova
Putin’s next undeclared war in the Middle East has already pushed Russian civil society to defend contract soldiers who don’t even know where they were headed to fight.

A group of Russian contract soldiers have refused to go on “an assignment,” as their army command referred to it in the papers they received about their secret deployment. The document did not have any return date. To their astonishment, the soldiers learned, nearly at the last minute, the country for their final destination was Syria. The scandalous case is now being investigated. The soldiers were threatened with severe punishment for their disobedience—a charge of state treason, their lawyer Ivan Pavlov told The Daily Beast, punishable by up to 20 years in prison in Russia.

“All the soldiers are asking for was a clear official order, so their widows would be paid compensations if they get killed abroad. Soldiers have a right to demand proper paperwork, they should always do that before they depart, otherwise their families would not receive a ruble,” Valentina Melnikova, head of the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, a Russian organization representing the troops’ families, told The Daily Beast.
More...
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

An Open Letter to the Authors of the UNAC Statement, "We are NOT Charlie Hebdo!"

This strong critic of the UNAC position on Syria is entirely consistent with the message I took to Veterans for Peace at its August national convention. VFP is a member of UNAC. This is being republished, with permission, from The RAWR Report:

ASSAD IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN SYRIA!

Brothers and Sisters of the United National Antiwar Coalition:

The humanitarian crisis in Syria can no longer be ignored. As the recognized leadership of antiwar opposition in the United States, and as a leadership that builds the opposition to war by directly challenging US imperialism, it is to be expected that UNAC issue a statement on the world's single greatest humanitarian crisis.

A statement on this crisis is required if we are to develop the spirit of international solidarity that must necessarily be the backbone of a successful effort to oppose imperialist wars. A well written statement that builds international solidarity with the Syrian masses will be a powerful instrument for educating activists and building an international opposition to US imperialism. Every antiwar activist will welcome UNAC's leadership in this matter.

Alas, UNAC has already taken a stance on the humanitarian crisis in Syria, and unfortunately this stance greatly compromises UNAC's moral authority. In the January 16, 2015 statement, "We are NOT Charlie Hebdo!", you state:
"The United States, with French support, has brought about the death and immiseration of hundreds of thousands of Syrians through its backing, covert and otherwise, of "moderate' and fundamentalist combatants, the latter mustered with the aid of the allied Gulf States. The current U.S. bombing of Syrian sites continues the slaughter of civilians." ("We are NOT Charlie Hebdo!", United National Antiwar Coalition)
Incredible! An entire paragraph dedicated to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, and the only time to date in which UNAC has referred to the crisis, and Assad is not mentioned once!

Why stop our condemnation with the US and France? Russia supplies Assad’s air force, which he uses to bomb civilians. As the Druze, and increasingly many Alawites, refuse to fight in Assad’s army, the bloody dictator has turned to Hezbollah and fighters from Iran. If concern for Syrians motivates our statements, why exclude the vast majority of Syrians, those who suffer the brutality of the Assad regime, buoyed by foreign powers?

Instead of a serious appraisal of the root causes of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, we find what looks very much like an apology for Assad, thinly veiled behind anti-imperialist rhetoric. Did the writers of this paragraph intend for the reader to come away with the impression that the Assad regime has had no part to play whatsoever in the crisis? As written, the paragraph suggests that the entire civil war in Syria is a concoction by the U.S. and its regional allies in the Gulf States.

Do the authors of this statement seriously expect us to believe that the mass mobilizations across Syria in the spring of 2011 were not protests for democracy against the brutal Assad regime? Does the leadership of UNAC think that Assad's decision to use his military forces to repress these protests played no part in precipitating the civil war? As written, the paragraph suggests these events never took place, or that they are entirely irrelevant to the current crisis!!

Building human solidarity is the ultimate task of an antiwar opposition, but we cannot succeed at this task by ignoring the terrible reality the Syrian masses know all too well--Assad is destroying Syria. Yes, US imperialism has shown absolutely no interest in saving Syria. Yes, the United States, like Russia, like Iran, cynically intervenes in Syria to improve its relative geopolitical position. We can rest assured Syrians are painfully aware Mr. Obama is not on their side, but the question is also posed for us, as an antiwar movement, whose side are we on? Do we stand with the Syrians suffering daily from Assad's air strikes and use of chemical weapons, do we stand with the millions of Syrian refugees fleeing barrel bombs and cluster munitions, or do we stand with Assad? In moral choices of this nature, there is no middle ground. Our sense of international solidarity and our duty to truth demand that we recognize what the world already knows; Assad is responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Syria. The courageous efforts of a network of grassroots activists in Syria, the Local Coordination Committees in Syria, and the work of citizen journalists, have forced international fact finding missions to conclude that Assad is responsible for massive war crimes, but UNAC does not even mention his name!

By way of contrast to UNAC's standing position on the crisis in Syria, let us consider Amnesty International's statement, keeping in mind that the latter does not pretend to build a mass movement against war and imperialism. Although the tragic statistics of the crisis have already far surpassed those cited by Amnesty International, and even though the organization studiously avoids taking sides in the conflict, its statement is an unequivocal condemnation of the Assad regime:
"Three years after pro-democracy protests arose in spring 2011, Syria remains in a state of human rights and humanitarian crisis. The United Nations lists more than 9 million Syrians as refugees and internally displaced peoples, making it the largest current refugee crisis in the world. Tens of thousands of civilians across Syria, including children, have been forced to endure a life of hardship under siege. Most of the sieges are imposed and maintained by forces loyal to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Others have been mounted by opposition and other non-state armed groups.

Civilians continue to be at the receiving end of frequent indiscriminate attacks by Syrian government forces. Government forces also continue to commit other grave violations, including war crimes such as arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearance and extrajudicial execution. Amnesty's documentation provides fresh evidence that such crimes are widespread as well as systematic, and are being perpetrated on an ever-increasing scale and as part of state policy. We also have evidence of the government targeting special groups such as medical workers and journalists. Many Syrians are victims of enforced disappearances.

Amnesty International also has documented abuses by armed opposition groups, including the assault by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) on minority groups. In the areas they control, ISIS forces have committed numerous serious rights abuses, including some that amount to war crimes: They include abductions, arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment and unlawful killings."
Amnesty International’s tip of the hat to “objectivity” forces them to incorrectly include Islamic State in the armed opposition to Assad. In lumping Islamic State into the opposition, Amnesty International ignores the well-documented reality that it is the opposition that has borne the brunt of the fighting against IS.

We must apologize for this extensive quote, but Amnesty International's flawed attempt at a balanced appraisal of events in Syria stands head and shoulders above UNAC's cowardly refusal to even mention Assad.

The question must be put to the authors of UNAC's document, why do you refuse to identify the single greatest war criminal in Syria?

Isn't building human solidarity ultimately the task of our antiwar opposition? How else can we oppose the dehumanizing propaganda imperialism uses to justify wars if we cannot find the courage to stand in solidarity with millions of suffering human beings? How can we build international solidarity if we ignore the reality the Syrian masses know all too well?

The statement "We are NOT Charlie Hebdo!" is in other ways a very powerful rejection of imperialist cynicism and grandstanding, its rejection of Islamophobia is above all praiseworthy, but the paragraph on the crisis in Syria is a poison pill! Now that the humanitarian crisis can no longer be ignored, the venom will take effect. Can UNAC overcome its reluctance to recognize that Assad is responsible for the crisis? Children’s bodies are washing up on the beaches, hundreds of thousands of refugees pour across Europe's borders, but the bitter venom of a statement that fails even to touch Assad with rose petals compromises UNAC's moral authority to express solidarity with so many suffering millions.

To the extent that the destruction of Syria has taken place with the acquiescence of the Obama administration, the United States government is responsible for the unfolding tragedy.

But the UNAC statement does not denounce Obama’s inaction in the face of massive war crimes by the Assad regime. Instead, the UNAC statement ludicrously suggests that the humanitarian crisis is primarily the result of the U.S. airstrikes. Of course, the US government's phony "War on Terror" against the Islamic State has only contributed to the misery of the Syrian people, but here it must be added that the Syrian opposition groups have called for the U.S. to end its airstrikes, even as Assad shares airspace with the US jets!

The UNAC statement also attributes the crisis to the arms supplied by the Gulf monarchies, but are the Syrian masses to be condemned for defending themselves? If we are in the business of condemning violence, we must begin with the Assad regime’s violent oppression of the massive and peaceful demonstrations for democracy.

UNAC cannot cover up its failure to condemn Assad by harshly condemning other actors. The numbers speak for themselves; the body count shows that the direct agent of the "immiseration of hundreds of thousands of Syrians" is, first and foremost, and without serious objection, the terrorist Assad regime. Even the Islamic State appears amateurish beside Assad.

Assad is responsible for the crisis, with the acquiescence of the Obama administration. In other words, US imperialism could put a stop to the slaughter, if it so desired.

UNAC's direction for the antiwar movement, however, leads us away from condemnation of the inaction of the Obama administration in the face of a terrible humanitarian crisis. Rather than denounce Obama for allowing the crisis to unfold, UNAC proposes that we march to defend the Assad regime’s sovereignty!

It is clear that UNAC's antiwar strategy is based on the well-worn American tradition of isolationism. UNAC has revamped this tradition with critical language about imperialism, but its reluctance to build international solidarity, or even to condemn the war crimes of a dictator, reveal the isolationist content of UNAC's antiwar strategy.

Would condemning Assad serve as a justification for US imperialist policy in the Middle East? Imperialism will create whatever justifications it needs for its wars. Its sycophants and propaganda machines work constantly to lie and deceive. To confront these lies, we need only speak clearly and honestly. Our case against imperialist war will be built on truth, or it will not stand. When our antiwar opposition shouted "Not in Our Name" to Bush's plans to cynically use the tragedy of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, we did not attempt to mobilize against imperialist war by denying the barbarity of the attack on New York. We did not apologize for Bin Laden or try to ignore the tragedy. We steadfastly denied imperialism the moral authority to wage war in our name.

Sadly, however, now the moral authority of our own movement is in question. Can we seriously propose to build an anti-imperialist antiwar movement by ignoring the reality that for four years now the Arab masses have been waging a life and death struggle for democracy? Yes, of course imperialism seeks to manipulate this struggle, to twist and distort its course and outcome, this is only to be expected, but the mass movements of the Arab spring were not the work of imperialist stooges. Is it beyond our vision and courage to build solidarity with these movements even as we oppose imperialist war? Who is our real ally in the struggle against imperialism, a bloody dictator or the people who rose up against him demanding democracy? Can the authors of the UNAC statement not see that only the Arab masses themselves, hopefully with the solidarity of our antiwar movement, will be able to overcome the damage wrought by Sykes and Picot? The struggle for democracy is the struggle for self-determination; it is objectively an anti-imperialist struggle. Building solidarity with the struggle for self-determination is not an option for our movement; it must be our priority!

Does Jabhat al Nusra’s role in the armed opposition to Assad mean we must forsake and give up for lost the democratic struggle? First and foremost, while we are in the business of condemning imperialist policies, we should recognize that Nusra gained strength only after the Obama administration very consciously turned its back on the democratic opposition, paying lip service to human rights and democracy, but in the end, clearly doing nothing more than hand wringing. Shall our antiwar opposition follow Mr. Obama's shameful example? Time and again we come back to the basic moral imperatives that must drive our efforts to build a movement against war: Nusra's politics and role in the armed opposition to Assad is irrelevant in so far as our moral obligations to come to the defense of the civilians being tortured, starved to death, and bombed by Assad. If there is any hope for a democratic alternative to Assad and sectarian jihadism it will only be found in the Syrian masses, and it is absurd for us to demand of them that they present themselves, in their terribly desperate state, to our liking before we honor our moral duty to denounce the war crimes of a dictator.

Islam is a fundamental part of Syria’s cultural heritage. It is inevitable that Muslims, and that Syria’s oppressed Sunni Muslim majority, play a leading role in the struggle against Assad. To expect otherwise is simply absurd. To abandon our moral obligation to stand up for human rights and democracy because the people who need our solidarity openly declare their faith in Islam expresses an attitude that stinks very much of chauvinism and Islamophobia.

Our antiwar opposition has set two good examples to follow. We have unconditionally condemned Israel's recent war on Gaza. Our condemnation was not deterred by the constant references in the US media to Hamas and its largely ineffective rocket attacks. This was a courageous and principled stand in defense of the Palestinian right to self-determination and the human rights of the Palestinians. Similarly, UNAC has issued a clear statement in defense of the democratic rights of the members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, who are the targets of a U.S. and Saudi sponsored coup. We should apply the same reasoning to guide our position with respect to the struggle for self-determination by the Syrian masses.

Moreover, if we are to oppose the phony War on Terror, we must propose an alternative. Can we seriously propose to the Syrian people that Assad is an alternative to Islamic State? If Syrians believed Assad was the alternative to IS, they would be joining Assad's army to fight the latter, but even Assad has admitted that he must rely on foreign fighters to support his regime. The alternative to sectarian jihadism is also the alternative to dictatorships; the only alternative is the struggle for democracy.

How should we oppose the phony War on Terror? We should build solidarity with the struggle for democracy; we should demand respect for human rights, for an end to torture, for an end to the bombing of civilian populations.

We must turn to the Syrian people and hear what they have to say. Repeatedly, in various statements, UNAC honors the Syrians’ right to self-determination, but though the words are repeated over and over, they are always issued as a basis for rejecting any criticism whatsoever of the Assad regime: UNAC’s position is to defend the sovereignty of the Assad regime, and UNAC’s defense of the latter objectively places it in opposition to the Syrian struggle for self-determination.

The plea from Syrians is simple: Stop the bombing! The demand for a "No Fly Zone", for a humanitarian intervention comes against the opposition of the Obama administration and is raised by the Syrians themselves.

The stark reality of the crisis in Syria objectively creates the pressure for a humanitarian intervention in Syria. Countless toothless resolutions by the United Nations have not made the crisis go away, and now the crisis threatens Europe's stability. UNAC's statement "We are NOT Charlie Hebdo!", however, studiously avoids the discussion. Instead of courageously grappling with the Syrian masses' plea for human solidarity, and wrestling with the challenge this represents for our efforts to build an antiwar opposition, The UNAC statement carefully juxtapose what amounts to a cowardly apology for Assad with a condemnation of the US intervention in Libya (based on a balance that much like the discussion of Syria fails to say anything about the democratic struggle against Khadafi). As if the matter could be settled quite so simply! The authors of the UNAC statement may wish to ignore the Syrians' demand, much like world leaders tried to ignore the humanitarian crisis, but the crisis will not go away; encouraged by our silence, Assad continues his reign of terror from the skies.

How shall we respond to the cry from our Syrian brothers and sisters to put an end to the bombing? We must have this discussion! This is a serious challenge to the current course of our antiwar opposition. This coming October, UNAC has called for a month of mobilizations against all US wars, including, and quite specifically, "humanitarian interventions". This mobilization places us at odds with the Syrian masses!! We must reconsider this course of action!

US imperialism may soon be compelled to intervene in Syria simply because the tide of refugees threatens to destabilize Europe. “Mission creep” from the initial stated goals of such a “humanitarian intervention” is to be expected. Yes, US imperialist policy will continue to be imperialist policy. How then do we respond to the humanitarian crisis and prevent imperialism form manipulating the crisis to its own end? The Syrians, in their struggle for self-determination, to which UNAC repeatedly pays lip service, are calling for a No Fly Zone, as such, this demand is quite specific. Can we respond to the Syrian’s call for solidarity and apply the same courageous rejection of imperialist policy that we raised following the attacks on the World Trade Center? Can we respond to the crisis in Syria and frame the discussion in such a way that we limit imperialism’s machinations? We must try to do so, because we cannot simply ignore the humanitarian crisis or treat it as if it were an unavoidable, natural disaster, doing so would only cost our movement its moral authority, leaving us unable to mobilize and build the international solidarity that will be required to bring to an end imperialist adventurism.

The discussion before us is difficult, but it will not go away. The Syrian masses have demonstrated that they will be heard, be it in Syria where they struggle to survive the despotism of Assad, or in fleeing the latter's reign of terror, they are forcing the issue. The call for a humanitarian intervention is on the table. If we are to move forward as an antiwar alternative we must seriously consider their call for solidarity.

If we do not respond to the humanitarian crisis, we will be unable to offer a moral alternative when US imperialism, forced into action by the destabilization of Europe, cynically manipulates the crisis to its own end, but we cannot seriously respond to the crisis without recognizing the hard truth that Assad is first and foremost responsible for the destruction of Syria.

Brothers and sisters of UNAC, isolationism has never been an effective basis for opposition to imperialist war. The only real basis for a mass-based opposition to war must be a spirit of international--human--solidarity. UNAC can and should play a leading role in building this spirit of solidarity, but its ability to do so is being compromised by a refusal to stand in solidarity with the Syrian masses, who are opposed to Assad.

We call on UNAC to take a stand in solidarity with Syria's people. Building real international solidarity will not compromise our ability to challenge US imperialist policy in the Middle East, on the contrary, imperialism can only be effectively challenged through building international solidarity.

By Antiwar Committee in Solidarity with the Struggle for Self-determination

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realantiwargroup@gmail.com



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