Saturday, November 30, 2019

Chris Hedges’ Counter-Revolutionary Advice For Revolution

The quality of Chris Hedges’ strategic advice about how to defeat capitalism reflects the quality of his commentary about communism. This is because communism is the primary force behind history’s anti-capitalist movements, and therefore how well one assesses it equates to how well they grasp the tools for defeating the bourgeoisie. Naturally, the following parts from Hedges’ writings about communism provide good insights into how he views our present task of revolution:

The cult of the gun was disastrous. It distorted reality…[there has been] incalculable damage caused by this cult, including the doomed attempt in 1967 by Che Guevara to form a foco in Bolivia, an effort that would cost him his life. The cult of the gun saw most third-world liberation movements, such as the National Liberation Front (FLN) in Algeria, devolve into squalid military dictatorships when they took power.-from “The Cult of Violence Always Kills the Left

Lenin in power, like Leon Trotsky, was an opportunist who made promises, such as “all power to the soviets,” that he had no intention of keeping. He employed political terror, widespread arrests and executions to crush the autonomous, self-governing soviets and workers committees. He led a centralized, autocratic ruling elite...Stalinism was not an aberration. It was the natural heir of Leninism.-from “The Dilemma of Vladimir Lenin

Armando Iannucci’s movie “The Death of Stalin,” a brilliant black comedy, captures what happens when self-interested narcissists, buffoons and gangsters make the laws and rule a state. Once power is based solely on blind personal loyalty and whim, anything, including wholesale murder, becomes possible. Rights are transformed into privileges that can be instantly revoked. Lies replace truth. Opinions replace facts. History is erased and rewritten. The cult of leadership replaces politics.-from “Creeping Toward Tyranny

Of course these statements contain a lot of false and misleading details. Hedges’ attempt to claim that Che Guevera’s Bolivian revolutionary project was an objectively foolish act, and to then claim that Che’s death was a symptom of a nebulous “cult of the gun” that’s also somehow singularity created a widespread dynamic of Third World despotism, is very bizarre. During his efforts to keep the revolutionary government strong and unified, Lenin didn’t restrict the workers from having a say-he restricted the former bourgeoisie and religious institutions. Hedges’ referencing the film The Death of Stalin is a remarkably weak rhetorical move on his part; The Death of Stalin is filled with historical errors, and it uses these distortions of the truth to reinforce its highly biased retelling of the exaggerated flaws in the era’s Soviet leadership.

But these dishonest claims are no doubt all seen as truthful by Hedges, because they serve to legitimize a line of thinking that Hedges sees as undeniably truthful. Like the creative liberties that were taken to create the propagandistic Death of Stalin, these and Hedges’ other attacks on communist movements and leaders are ways of subtly nudging people towards accepting a larger worldview. In the case of The Death of Stalin, this worldview is one of basic Russophobia. In the case of Hedges’ lectures and writings, it’s one of blanket hostility towards the efforts from history’s communists to put power into the hands of the proletariat.

Hedges of course isn’t pushing a worldview that encourages hostility towards the idea of proletarian liberation in itself. The vast majority of Hedges’ work is some form of condemnation of capitalism and its consequential evils, and he frequently urges people to revolt against the system. Yet despite having stated in one essay that he believes Karl Marx was right about the nature of capitalism, he portrays all of Marxism’s biggest champions as villains and fools. Che Guevara is characterized by Hedges as an incompetent leader who was driven by irrational bloodlust; Lenin and Stalin are characterized as evil dictators; in the fashion of classic anti-communist historical revisionism, Mao is characterized as a perpetrator of “campaigns of genocide and mass extermination” who advanced “totalitarian systems” that were comparable to Nazism.

It’s unsurprising that Hedges has taken up this line of anti-communism. In a telling paragraph from his 2009 essay Liberals Are Useless, Hedges admitted that he’s a liberal, writing: “I save my anger for our bankrupt liberal intelligentsia of which, sadly, I guess I am a member.” There are countless other figures of his breed, ones who peddle reactionary myths about communism from a left-leaning perspective. However, what makes Hedges’ anti-communist screeds especially worth repudiating is the fact that Hedges doesn’t posture himself as a centrist or a reformist; his articles and talks are filled with calls for revolution and affirmations that capitalism doesn’t work.

Because he embraces a role as an agitprop leader in the class struggle, Hedges is finding a way to inject his anti-communist liberal ideas into the liberation efforts of America’s poor and marginalized people. He denounces the supposed villains of communism just as passionately as he denounces the capitalist oligarchs, and his prose flows well either way. So the activists who view him as a reliable authority will inevitably absorb his counter-revolutionary messages about communist leaders being tyrants, Leninism being as bad as fascism, etc.

Why do I call these messages counter-revolutionary? How can I say his views about various historical figures from decades ago mean that he’s having a negative impact on the social movements of today? I call his messages about communism counter-revolutionary because they ultimately guide him and his followers towards opposing the current efforts to establish socialism.

Again, Hedges doesn’t say he opposes the general idea of class struggle. His desired vision of future America is one where economic, racial, and environmental justice have been achieved through all the necessary socialist reforms. Yet this is as detailed as he gets in his descriptions of what he thinks a socialist society should be like. He’s stated that “I'm not a Marxist, nor am I a serious scholar of Marx in any way.” As a result of Hedges’ wariness of Marxism and outright hostility towards Leninism, his advice for getting to a socialist society lacks the strategic clarity which Marxism-Leninism provides.

Perhaps the closest Hedges has gotten to detailing a practical plan for making America socialist is contained in his article Extinction Rebellion, where he calls for people to use civil disobedience to “empower an independent citizens committee to oversee the termination of our 150-year binge on fossil fuels.” This action plan of his, which presumably also consists of the citizens committee enacting the reforms that would make America socialist, will face many obstacles even if the civil disobedience efforts are well organized.

After the bourgeoisie momentarily has their power over the state compromised, they’re no doubt going to greatly step up their resistance efforts to stop themselves from losing their power. In such a scenario of crisis, the capitalists are going to employ paramilitary violence, arrest as many of their opponents as possible, and (as we saw in Bolivia this month) attempt to carry out coups against any socialists who gain positions of power.

Hedges is well aware of these methods that the capitalists have for countering opposition. Yet instead of calling for the only strategy that will drive out the capitalists, which is the overthrow of the state and the creation of a proletarian-led military and law enforcement apparatus, Hedges only speculates that we’ll need a “citizens commission” without acknowledging the great instruments of force that such a commission would require in order to be effective. In this paragraph from his book America: The Farewell Tour, Hedges seems to imply that he believes this commission will succeed in spite of the bourgeoisie still being in power:

Fear is the only language the power elite understands. This is a dark fact of human nature. It’s why Richard Nixon was our last liberal president. Nixon was not a liberal personally. He was devoid of empathy and lacked a conscience. But he was frightened of movements. You do not make your enemy afraid by selling out. You make your enemy afraid by refusing to submit, by fighting for your vision. It is not our job to take power. It is our job to build movements to keep power in check.

At this point you can probably see just how messy and incoherent Hedges’ advice for revolution is. Does he actually want the proletariat to take power, or does he simply hope the proletariat will try to scare bourgeois politicians into making America socialist? Despite his rightful repudiations of social democratic reformists like Bernie Sanders, does Hedges think that socialism can be achieved by reforming our current government? Given his vilifications of communist governments, does he even want to remove pro-capitalist leaders from power over the state, or does he not prefer such an outright overthrow effort because it might result in a repeat of the “autocratic” Leninism?

This contradiction between Hedges’ desire for defeating capitalism and his hostility towards the proven methods for defeating it comes from his wariness towards taking the drastic steps that a real revolution would require. Liberalism comes from the belief that advancing liberty and upholding moral virtues are sufficient for improving society-and that anyone who challenges any types of liberties, or violates morality as defined by the liberal bourgeoisie, is a bad actor. 

A major revolutionary practice that liberals oppose for this reason is political violence. Hedges is a liberal who’s attacked not just communists like Guevara for engaging in violence, but has directed a special amount of ire towards physically confrontational American anti-fascist groups like Antifa and Black Bloc. In addition to Hedges’ offensively inaccurate claim that Antifa “mirrors” the violent neo-Nazi groups, Hedges’ attempts to vilify these types of leftists have often involved absurd and even dangerous contortions of reality. As Occupy Wall Street organizer David Graeber wrote in response to Hedges’ attacks against the militant factions of Occupy:

I feel compelled to respond to your statement “The Cancer in Occupy.” This statement is not only factually inaccurate, it is quite literally dangerous. This is the sort of misinformation that really can get people killed….The reason I say this is because, whatever your intentions, it is very hard to read your statement as anything but an appeal to violence….if a group is made up exclusively of violent fanatics who cannot be reasoned with [as Hedges claims], what else can we really do? This is the language of violence in its purest form. Far more than “fuck the police.” To see this kind of language employed by someone who claims to be speaking in the name of non-violence is genuinely extraordinary.

By applying his familiar dishonest framing tactics to demonize militant anti-capitalist strains in modern America, Hedges is trying to undermine the strains of our society that seek to carry out practical steps towards revolution. The overthrow of the bourgeoisie, especially in the highly militarized United States, will require some amount of violent struggle. As Lenin concluded while he was participating in an actual anti-capitalist revolution, “The replacement of the bourgeois by the proletarian state is impossible without a violent revolution.” But Hedges attacks both those who acknowledge the necessity of violence, and those who seek to apply Lenin’s other lessons for building proletarian power.

Hedges is useful for America’s proletarian liberation movement only in that he provides good indictments of capitalism. His disturbing vendetta against militant revolutionaries and his opposition to all of the coherent strains of anti-capitalism (even including Trotskyists and anarchists, who oppose Marxist-Leninists) makes him a reactive figure who tears down those who offer detailed solutions. He doesn’t want to pick a definitive side in the struggle, he only wants to decry the evils of our current system while harping on the real or perceived flaws of the anti-capitalist movements. The one specific political faction that he has recently endorsed is Extinction Rebellion, which isn’t anti-capitalist by any stretch.

The anti-capitalist movement needs to rid itself of the liberal attitudes that have driven Hedges to take up this harmful approach. We need to focus on learning more about revolutionary theory, equipping ourselves for militancy, and building the communist institutions that can see us through towards defeating the bourgeois state. And as Che Guevara believed, the works of demonized revolutionaries like Stalin are what can guide us towards victory. Guevara wrote:

In the so called mistakes of Stalin lies the difference between a revolutionary attitude and a revisionist attitude. You have to look at Stalin in the historical context in which he moves, you don’t have to look at him as some kind of brute, but in that particular historical context. I have come to communism because of daddy Stalin and nobody must come and tell me that I mustn’t read Stalin.
If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here:

Monday, November 25, 2019

Decolonization Will Be Crucial For A Socialist Revolution In The United States

Any honest moral reading of the situation in the United States leads one to conclude that decolonization will be essential for creating a just society in the region. And American socialists in particular should recognize this fact as they work towards bringing about a revolution in their country.

They should recognize it because in all of the colonized places where socialist revolutions have happened, decolonization has been part of the revolutionary process. Korea didn’t have a socialist revolution until it was liberated from Japanese occupation. China had to go through the same anti-colonial liberation struggle before it could become socialist. 
Zimbabwe, which was called Rhodesia before its transition towards a communist African-led government, needed to become decolonized before it could become independent and socialist. The indigenous struggle has also naturally defined the socialist revolutions of Venezuela and Bolivia (and is now shaping the efforts from Bolivia’s proletariat to restore the socialist government that a U.S. coup effort recently stole from them).

As America’s process of class struggle continues and popular interest in socialism grows, we must make decolonization part of the goal that this burgeoning anti-capitalist movement desires. To act like the U.S. doesn’t need decolonization, to plan to create a “socialism with American characteristics” where socialism is built within a colonial structure, would be to erase the indigenous experience in the same way the capitalists have. If a region has been colonized, things will only be set right when it’s decolonized.

And the crucial part of supporting decolonization is to understand just what it would entail. Decolonization doesn’t merely mean changing symbols, or adopting a different mindset, or improving policies. It’s a transfer of sovereign authority over territory from a colonizing
power to the indigenous people of that territory. In the territory that’s currently called the United States, there are 562 Native tribes, and all of them must have their sovereignty returned to them.

Ideally this American decolonization process would result in these indigenous nations being as governmentally separate from each other as they were before they were invaded. And when Marxism’s goal for a “withering away of the state” is reached within the region, this will be able to happen. But in a world where these tribes will need to collectively fight off the capitalist colonialists, they’ll need to unite under a kind of indigenous confederacy-similar to the one that the Native resistor Tecumseh attempted to create in the middle of the continent after the U.S. was formed.

To finish and expand upon Tecumseh’s project for giving the indigenous people their autonomy, we’ll need to wage a militancy even greater than the one he led. This is why any nationwide decolonization project in America will need to interrelate with a proletarian revolution.

Under capitalism, the state functions as an instrument for enforcing both the hegemony of the bourgeoisie and the continuation of colonialism. In his work The State: an Instrument for the Exploitation of the Oppressed Class, Lenin observed that “In a democratic republic, Engels continues, ‘wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely’, first, by means of the ‘direct corruption of officials’ (America); secondly, by means of an ‘alliance of the government and the Stock Exchange’ (France and America). At present, imperialism and the domination of the banks have ‘developed’ into an exceptional art both these methods of upholding and giving effect to the omnipotence of wealth in democratic republics of all description.”

The American capitalists, after building their power structure on colonialism, have stayed in power for so long because bourgeois democracy is a very stable model for capitalism to function in. “Another reason why the omnipotence of ‘wealth’ is more certain in a democratic republic is that it does not depend on defects in the political machinery or on the faulty political shell of capitalism,” Lenin continued. “A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell (through the Palchinskys, Chernovs, Tseretelis and Co.), it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it.”

This means we will never achieve decolonization, much less socialism, if we try to do it through electoral politics. The U.S. government, like all capitalist governments, will exist as a tool of the bourgeoisie until it’s overthrown and replaced with a socialist workers’ state. This has become extremely obvious as the U.S. has descended into fascism; this February, America’s Nazi-sympathizing, authoritarian president Donald Trump declared that “America will never be a socialist country.” The month after, he suggested that he’s going to mobilize his armed supporters if he ever finds it necessary to do so. These kinds of remarks reveal the end goal of the police militarization and crackdowns on liberties that America has long been undergoing. 

“To help keep you safe, I've made $600 million-worth of surplus military equipment available to local law enforcement,” Trump said last month to an audience of police chiefs. “If you remember, the previous administration didn't want to do that... They didn't want to make you look so tough. They didn't want to make you look like you're a threat.” Trump, who’s referred to American cities as war zones in his appeals for tighter policing, called his recent police crackdown “the surge,” echoing George W. Bush’s language about the Iraq War.

This situation where the U.S. empire’s wars are turning inward, which has been provoked by climate change, economic decline, a rapid collapse of American global power, and extreme inequality, exemplifies capitalism in its decay. As global capitalism becomes unstable, the country is descending down a cycle of escalating crises and reactions. As a result, the state is becoming ever more militaristic and intolerant of dissent. But this decay of capitalism also means that the colonial beast is weakening.

To strike the beast down, we must equip ourselves to overcome the state’s instruments of repression. By building the institutions for revolt, shifting the national narrative in favor of socialism, and making the proletariat armed and trained, we’ll create a movement that could overpower the government. It’s all about putting in the work and committing oneself to Marxism-Leninin’s goal of destroying and replacing the capitalist state.

If the people of China, Korea, and Zimbabwe were able to decolonize their lands and establish socialism, and if their ideological allies in history’s other socialist revolutions have been able to upturn additional nations, America’s socialists can do the same under the guidance of our region’s indigenous people. And after this mission for proletarian and indigenous justice has been carried out in the U.S., it will become much easier for the same to happen throughout the rest of Pan-America.

If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here:

Thursday, November 21, 2019

To The Benefactors Of Capitalist Exploitation, Communism Will Always Be Evil

The capitalist class doesn’t hate communism out of concern for mass murder. The accounts of the mass deaths that communism has supposedly caused are exaggerated or fabricated, and capitalist governments have caused hundreds of times more deaths than can be attributed to communist ones. Anti-communism isn’t about human rights, at least not human rights as a socialist would define them. Capitalists and imperialists vilify countries like China because they don’t like that these countries have challenged the “rights” to exploit and oppress.

This is the essence of the concerns of the rightists who’ve worked to undermine the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong. Their theatrics about the need to protect “human rights” are motivated by the desire to solidify Western imperialist control over the city, which China threatens. China isn’t the one responsible for the decline of Hong Kong’s living standards, the Western-aligned Hong Kong capitalist class is. And China’s policy control over the city is so limited that it’s hard to honestly argue China is oppressing Hong Kongers. The Western imperialists have manufactured violent protests in Hong Kong because this helps their geopolitical and corporate interests.

“The ‘human rights’ advertised by the imperialists are privileges of the rich, privileges to do anything on the strength of money,” Kim Jong Il wrote in Socialism is a Science. “The imperialists do not recognize the right of unemployed people to work, or the right of orphans or people without support to eat and survive, for instance, as human rights. As they do not grant working people elementary rights to existence and as they pursue anti-popular policies and policies of racial and national discrimination and colonialism, the imperialists have no right to speak about human rights. The imperialists are the most heinous enemy of human rights. They violate the people's right to independence and interfere in the internal affairs of other countries on the pretext of ‘defending human rights.’”

Just as the reactionary capitalists who advance these narratives often view it as a violation of their rights for them to have any of their tax money redistributed to the poor, they view it as an atrocity when a socialist government makes an effort towards taking the capitalist class out of power. This is why when we hear demonizations of the Soviet Union, what often comes up is Stalin’s supposed atrocities against the petty bourgeois class of landowners called the kulaks. Yet Stalin’s approach for collectivizing the property of the kulaks was done with restraint, and the ensuing class warfare between the landowners and the peasants was essentially out of Stalin’s hands. As the historian Bruce Franklin has written:

It was the hour of Russia's peasant masses, who had been degraded and brutalized for centuries and who had countless blood debts to settle with their oppressors. Stalin may have unleashed their fury, but he was not the one who had caused it to build up for centuries.

The staggering selfishness that these petty tyrants showed when Stalin tried to make their resources available to a desperate populace-with many of the kulaks having burned their supplies rather than share it-is also ignored by bourgeois commentators who see the kulaks as victims. From a capitalist perspective, taking away someone’s means for exploiting the proletariat is a heinous crime, and the kulaks were only defending themselves.

Such is the nature of how bourgeois society views the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. We’re constantly invited to sympathize with the landlords and capitalists who came under attack throughout the campaign to get them out of power, yet bourgeois portrayals of these events always omit their context and what resulted from them. Most of the landlord killings were spontaneous actions from the peasants, who were given the opportunity to gain personal justice after centuries of oppression against their people. Like is the case with the struggle between the kulaks and the Russian peasants, a historical context makes it easy to sympathize with the side of the peasants; China’s peasants hated their landlords because they had had the power to rob, rape, and kill peasants with impunity, had taxed peasants into starvation, and had even taken the wives and daughters of peasant families if the families didn’t have enough food to give up.

During the Cultural Revolution, when Mao used a paramilitary force to take rightists out of prominent positions, the actions of the communists also couldn’t honestly be viewed to be wholly wrong or to have mainly negative consequences. Ann Tompkins, one of the few Americans who’s lived through and participated in the Cultural Revolution, wrote in a Reddit post three years ago that “I do not feel remorse for participating in a revolution in which some blood was shed and some suffering occurred. I am still in doubt of the ‘official’ numbers of the atrocities from either China or other sources.” 

Tompkins’ differing perspective about the Cultural Revolution exists because in addition to the misleading ways in which the Revolution’s death count has been typically presented, the Revolution resulted in indisputable gains for Chinese society. When Mao’s campaign removed many reactionaries from power and made it so that all members of the social strata were directly participating in the running of society, healthcare and education were expanded while students were made able to openly criticize their schools. Despite the continual bourgeois efforts to paint the Cultural Revolution as a humanitarian disaster wherein some vaguely defined Maoist “dictatorship” was solidified, China would now have lower living standards and be less democratic had the Revolution not happened.

But these are all mere details for those who have a vested interest in demonizing class liberation efforts. The same narrative-the one of tyrannical communists victimizing innocent businesspeople and rightist political leaders-is also the default for how we’re told to view the events of Cuba’s revolution. Che Guevara is presented as a heartless murderer for having fought in battles against the torturers, executioners, and other war criminals who served the regime of capitalist dictator Batista. And as the anti-imperialist Peter Bolton assessed in an article this year, the bourgeois narrative about the supposed injustices of Castro’s land reforms also come from the position that capitalists have a right to do what they wish with people and land:

According to this belief system, the tyrannical Fidel Castro seized for himself everything from everyone so that all but he might be equal. The reality is far more nuanced than this picture suggests. For one thing, the Cuban exiles who left in the early days of the revolution abandoned their properties as they fled for Yankee shores. (And many of them did so long before the country officially embraced communism in late 1965 – almost six years after Castro seized power from Batista.) So they could not have reasonably expected to have them returned to them no matter what political and economic system Cuba eventually adopted. Furthermore, Fidel Castro made clear that expropriation would apply to everyone, including him and his cadre of revolutionaries themselves. Indeed, one of the very first things that his government nationalized after the revolution was his own family farm in the island’s Oriente province.

In their response to these actions from communist governments, the capitalist class and its supporters have revealed the real reason why they demonize these governments: because they’ve challenged bourgeois rule. For people who believe that it’s a right to accumulate as much money as possible while depriving others of a comfortable life, the actions of leaders who believe in equality and egalitarianism will always look like atrocities. This is simply how the capitalist philosophy leads one to view socialism. And as long as we allow people with the capitalist philosophy to hold power, their warped definition of “rights” will continue to be the rule in our society.
If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here:

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Meets With Bolivian Coup Organizers

On November 16th, a figure named Ana Carola Traverso tweeted a photograph of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez standing next to her and several other people while holding the Bolivian flag, with the photo’s description going as follows: “We met @AOC to discuss Bolivia and expressed concerns over her earlier tweet. Also chatted about current violence & democracy. She strongly supports our democratic grassroots movement and urges the interim president to stick to their mandate and call for new elections!”

Traverso is an obscure, semi-public figure who’s been described as a “sociologist.” Little can be found online about her other political activities, other than that she opened the 2016 Southeast Alaska Catholic Conference and was recognized by one newspaper for having done “work to improve the quality of the environment in her community” in 2017. However, the content of her recent tweet reveals much about what her agenda is. And it shows what kind of agenda Ocasio-Cortez just endorsed.

The “earlier tweet” that Traverso referred to is no doubt one that Ocasio-Cortez made on November 11th, which said: “What’s happening right now in Bolivia isn’t democracy, it’s a coup. The people of Bolivia deserve free, fair, and peaceful elections - not violent seizures of power.” None of what Ocasio-Cortez said in this tweet was untrue. Morales’ right-wing opponents had just falsely claimed electoral fraud so that they could justify a campaign of violent political terrorism against the family and supporters of Morales, and so that they could threaten Bolivia’s democratically elected president into resigning. This coup, which was carried out with U.S. support by fascist Christian paramilitary leader Luis Fernando Camacho, has resulted in the installment of an unelected regime that’s headed by the far-right Catholic politician Jeanine Áñez Chávez.

Traverso‘s group is called Standing Rivers, which doesn’t seem to be directly affiliated with Camacho. And since Ocasio-Cortez herself hasn’t publicly mentioned her meeting with the group, it’s hard to tell exactly which motivations went into her deciding to meet with them. But since they got Ocasio-Cortez to go back on her factual observation about Bolivia and embrace the U.S. empire’s false narrative about Morales having been a “dictator,” they evidently play a part in Bolivia’s reactionary movement to suppress indigenous people and install a capitalist government.

Ocasio-Cortez was likely persuaded to meet with this group because they presented themselves as a moderate organization, one that has “progressive” credentials because of its affiliation with a sociologist who’s helped the environment. (Traverso’s Facebook posts that attack Morales from an environmental angle give this theory more credence.) But its affiliation with the racist and imperialist strains of the Bolivian opposition are undeniable, and Traverso’s past promotions of Catholicism are notable in a context where Bolivia is being taken over by a fascist Catholic government. Traverso may like that her religious agenda is now receiving favor over the indigenous culture that Chávez’ regime has been violently desecrating.

Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t so far used her platform to promote Bolivia’s fascist movement, but her somewhat secretive meeting with this group of Bolivian fascism associates served a purpose that greatly benefits Chávez’ regime: it establishes ties between the Bolivian capitalist class and the leadership of the “progressive” movement within the United States. It assures the coup perpetrators that no significant part of the American political class seriously opposes them, despite the objections to the coup that some “progressive” U.S. politicians initially voiced.

It’s not like this should come as any surprise. The statements against the coup that were put out on Twitter by Illan Omar, Bernie Sanders, and Ocasio-Cortez all included a notable caveat: the suggestion that Bolivians are in need of fair elections. For Ocasio-Cortez it was “The people of Bolivia deserve free, fair, and peaceful elections,” for Omar it was “Bolivians deserve free and fair elections,” and for Sanders it was “The U.S. must call for an end to violence and support Bolivia’s democratic institutions.”

Since these analyses don’t specify who is responsible for having recently made Bolivia’s democratic institutions unreliable, they give credence to the standard narrative that Morales rigged the election. This rhetorical concession to the regime change engineers shows that America’s major “progressive” politicians aren’t truly willing to oppose the U.S. empire, that they’ll treat a U.S. regime change project as legitimate if it’s politically convenient for them to do so. Sanders has demonstrated this by repeatedly pushing the line that Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro is a “tyrant” who needs to be removed some way or another.

This endorsement of regime change narratives under the guise of “nuance” has become the standard way that American liberals have portrayed the Bolivia coup. And it’s likely how Ocasio-Cortez has been able to rationalize meeting with Bolivian coup supporters; supposedly these people offer a “nuanced” perspective that deserves to be listened to.

For the poor and indigenous people who’ve been rounded up into pogroms by the Bolivian pro-coup forces, and for the lower class Bolivians whose livelihoods are being threatened by the coming of a far-right neoliberal government, Traverso and others like her are unambiguously the enemy. Anyone who’s helping the coup is a threat to poor and indigenous people everywhere. And Ocasio-Cortez, who’s said that her Hispanic family has experienced “cultural imperialism” by the neoliberal economic forces that impacted her upbringing, ought to recognize that.

But we can’t expect her or other social democrat politicians to commit to this principled opposition to imperialism, because the aim of their ideology is not to fight imperialism. It’s to perpetuate it. Social democracy, which seeks to preserve capitalism by enacting reforms that improve First World living standards, has always functioned as the moderate wing of fascism. And with actions like the one we saw this week, Ocasio-Cortez is once again displaying how social democracy works.

If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here:

Friday, November 15, 2019

How Fascists Took Power In Bolivia-And How They Can Be Defeated

The impulse of many First World leftists in the wake of this last week’s coup in Bolivia has been to criticize Evo Morales and his movement. They’ve claimed that Morales was ousted because he was “revisionist” or otherwise a failure of a leader. These pronouncements are often made from a pro-Marxist-Leninist standpoint, yet they don’t acknowledge Marxism-Leninism’s goal of objectively assessing how the material conditions of a given situation impact the ways socialist movements develop. When you look at Morales’ actions from this place of analysis instead of a place of judgement, you find that he-as well as so many other Latin American socialist leaders-have worked within bourgeois democracy instead of overthrowing governments because they haven’t had another choice.

For non-communists who may not initially recognize why those in the socialist movement see electoral politics as a less-than-ideal path to gaining power, the issue with this approach is that it always puts socialist politicians at a disadvantage. Socialists are naturally in conflict with pro-capitalist forces, and since pro-capitalist forces always control the state in a capitalist country, socialists who attempt to gain power through the electoral process will face many institutional obstacles. Unlike in socialist states like Cuba and China, which were formed after communists overthrew the old governments of these countries, socialists in countries like Bolivia have used elections to gain power.

This has given key opportunities for those who’ve sought to overthrow Morales. The U.S. imperialists, aided by a strong anti-Morales political and business class within Bolivia, have managed to carry out enough political terrorism and win over enough of Bolivia’s police and military to force Morales to resign. Last month’s election, wherein the opposition falsely claimed fraud and stirred up riots, was the perfect opening for this power grab to happen.

Can Morales be blamed for this? Only if you want to claim he’s responsible for the very existence of the Bolivian bourgeoisie. Consider that in Venezuela, where the Chavista movement has also pursued electoral politics as a way to gain power, the imperialists still haven’t overthrown the government. This is partly because Venezuela’s bourgeoisie isn’t as strong as it is in Bolivia’s, and because Morales was unable to make deals with Western transnational corporations. Whether an anti-socialist coup attempt is successful depends upon how strong the capitalist class is in a given country, and the Bolivian capitalist class was given political leverage by this lack of government leverage over the Western bourgeoisie.

Under these circumstances, it’s no wonder why Morales, despite having outright described himself as a “Marxist-Leninist” in 2009, has taken the path of electoral politics. Material conditions have made electoral politics the best path for him to take, and the recent show of strength by the Bolivian bourgeoisie has made this very apparent.

This reality-that Morales did a phenomenal job at building a socialist movement amid his circumstances-also shows why the Bolivian bourgeoisie is now encountering unexpected vulnerabilities to the socialists. The resistance to the coup from Bolivia’s indigenous worker-peasant population has been carried out swiftly, skillfully, and in great numbers. People have been not just holding protests, but forming militias and engaging in shutdowns of urban areas. With the backing of an exiled Evo Morales who the coup leaders failed to assassinate, Bolivia’s indigenous people-who make up 60% of the country’s population-could still very well force through the reinstatement of their rightful president.

The obstacles weren’t this severe for the U.S. regime change engineers when they carried out a coup in Honduras in 2009 or installed a fascist leader in Ukraine in 2014. This is likely because unlike the deposed leaders of those countries, Morales is a communist who built a vast base of organized support during his fourteen years in office.

If this movement throws down the widely hated and fascistic capitalist regime that’s been installed in Bolivia, what may result is a fulfillment of the Marxist-Leninist ideal of a communist-controlled state. The Bolivian proletariat, prompted by their circumstances to try to overthrow their government, are moving towards bringing a socialist government to power by first smashing the capitalist state. If Morales is reinstated, and if he manages to form a military that will reliably support him while sufficiently suppressing the capitalist class, he’ll also fulfill Marxism-Leninism’s goal of a communist-dominated state.

But this is for now all speculation. Global socialists need to focus on helping the Bolivian proletariat in overthrowing the new regime. Apart from traveling to Bolivia to join an anti-government militia yourself, you can aid the resistors by working to shift the narrative in their favor. The U.S. empire has been hastily working to legitimize the coup in the public eye, with Western media headlines deliberately refusing to use the word “coup” and Twitter bots being deployed to repeat the narrative that it was “not a coup.” Should Morales be reinstated, this will serve to reinforce the claim that he’s a “dictator” who regained power through violent thuggery. (Or “savagery,” as Bolivia’s racist new president might call it.)

To combat these narratives, we must recognize Morales as a hero rather than tarnish his image with slanted critiques. A global war is going on between the forces of socialism and the forces of imperialism, and socialists must make it clear who they side with.

To delegitimize Morales, to claim that he’s in some way a betrayer of socialism, is to repeat the misleading rhetoric that anti-communists like George Orwell have used to paint history’s socialist leaders as villains. In his book Examining Orwell, Alan Brown writes the following about how Western society has falsely come to see Orwell’s Red-bashing as the “sensible” lens through which to view communism:

It is left to the figure of ‘Orwell’, finally, to resolve the great debates between left and right, to assert a middle way between ideologies and conflicting forces. . . Having dissolved the contradictions between ‘communism’ and ‘fascism’ in either a historical or theoretical form, the way is open for a socialism itself devoid of content. Orwell’s socialism can be reduced to a Victorian value of ‘concern’ and charity towards others, to a moral subjectivism which calls for no more than a sentimental response. . . Socialism as moral piety is perfectly acceptable. . . but any attempt to conceive of society and subjectivity as susceptible to organised change must be perceived solely as ‘threat’.

This very privileged and self-righteous view of class struggle is the logical conclusion of the negative comments that Western leftists have made about Morales. And it reinforces the even worse rhetoric about “both sides” in Bolivia’s conflict being bad actors, as well as the attempts to deny or minimize the coup. All of these narratives should be replaced with a commitment to helping Bolivia’s people win their country back from the fascists.
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