Archive for the ‘Russia and Russian politics’ Category

Below is an article submitted to Redline by Alec Abbott written 18 April 2017

1. A quintessentially liberal cycle: from smugness to despair, from despair to hope and from hope to smugness

The initial blow

Trump’s election victory left the liberals reeling with shock and incomprehension. Detached from the poverty and discontent around them, and supremely confident in the Democratic Party’s electoral machine, they saw Hillary Clinton as unassailable. Her defeat did little to diminish their disdain for ordinary working people, or to improve their grasp of US realities.download

Rather than consider the socio-economic forces that brought Trump into office, the liberals focused almost exclusively on his personality, his egocentric greed for power, money and fame. Some went so far as to detect the sinister hand of Moscow at work. When asked how he viewed Trump’s relationship with Russia, Bernie Sanders, always hovering between radical liberalism and mild social-democracy, replied:

‘The American people are astounded that when you have an authoritarian like Putin who is moving Russia more and more towards an authoritarian society, President Trump has only positive things to say about this authoritarian figure. What hold does Russia have over the President? We know that Russian oligarchs lent Trump and his associates money. Does that have anything to do with Trump’s relationship with Russia?’ (CNN News, 30/3/2017)

From the start of the election campaign, liberals viewed Trump as an impulsive maverick, a right-wing bigot who has little regard for civilized norms of behaviour. Only by pandering to the worst prejudices of disaffected Americans, they maintained, would he succeed in capturing the presidency. The great unknown was how this relative new-comer to politics would behave once in office. Would he adapt his election pledges to political reality or would he pursue his outlandish agenda to the bitter end? That was the question on the minds of liberal commentators as Trump assumed the position of the 45th president of the US.

In no time at all the liberals gave vent to their despair. Maggie Lake, CNN commentator and political analyst, bewailed: ‘He hasn’t changed. There was the expectation that the office changes the man but we have not seen this with Donald Trump.’ (CNN News, 23/3/2017) Not long after, The Los Angeles Times, a prominent liberal organ, delivered the following lamentation:

‘Like millions of other Americans, we clung to a slim hope that the new president would turn out to be all noise and bluster, or that the people around him in the White House would act as a check on his worst instincts, or that he would be sobered and transformed by the awesome responsibilities of office. Instead … it is increasingly clear that those hopes were misplaced.’ (4/4/2017) (more…)

by Jim Creegan

It is now increasingly apparent that the abrupt reversals of the Trump White House, emerging from behind a curtain of court intrigue, signal a major political shift. The white nationalist platform upon which the parvenu real estate mogul was elected in November seems in the process of being scrapped, plank by plank, in favour of a far more conventional rightwing Republican agenda, at home and abroad.

Far too often, Marxist political writing suffers from a conceptual gap. On the one hand, the bourgeois state is said – as a general theoretical proposition – to be an instrument of capitalist class rule. On the other hand, short to medium-term political events are analysed exclusively in terms of the pronouncements and deeds of political actors, momentary combinations, electoral moods etc., without regard to the interface between politics and class. No attempt is made uncover the particular pressures and influences through which the interests of the bourgeoisie are brought to bear.

In cases where politics flow through accustomed channels, the challenge is not daunting. Political parties and institutions are headed by individuals who either come from the ruling class themselves, or who are thoroughly venal and have undergone certain vetting procedures for class loyalty. The task of explanation becomes more difficult, however, when extraordinary convulsions – coups or insurrections in authoritarian regimes, or electoral upsets in democracies – put power in the hands of individuals and groups without long-established ruling class connections, and who may be hostile in important ways to the settled aims and practices of the bourgeoisie.

Hostile takeover?

Donald Trump is a case in point. Although himself a member of the ruling class, he entered the presidential primaries as an (more…)

A meeting of the Petrograd Soviet in 1917

This year marks the 100th anniversaries of the Russian revolutions of 1917.  The piece below is taken from the April 3-17 issue of the US Marxist workers’fortnightly, The Spark.

In April 1917, a little more than a month after the victory of the revolution in Petrograd and the abdication of Nicholas II, the workers organized themselves more and more independently from the Provisional Government, and they did so certainly against its wishes. Workers elected committees on the level of the workshops, the factories, the working class neighborhoods, and the cities. These were sites of debate where everyone could express themselves and learn, but these committees also made decisions that affirmed the power and consciousness of the working class.

A worker reports how the soviet was built and gained its influence in Saratov, a city 500 miles southwest of Moscow: “It’s been five days since the soviet of workers and soldiers deputies was organized here. But it seems like several years have passed here. Everything has changed. The masses are organized with a remarkable spirit of (more…)

The following is based on a presentation at the International Communist Forum in London last month (February 2017).  ICF is organised by the British Marxist workers’ group Workers Fight, which is aligned with the French revolutionary movement Lutte Ouvriere.  This is part of our efforts to make available to readers several different viewpoints on the conflict in Syria.

Introduction

It is almost exactly 6 years since the wave of protests of the Arab Spring spread to Syria, in February 2011. Within only a few months of these protests, the confrontation between the protesters and the Syrian dictatorship turned into a bloody civil war, which remains as rife and brutal as ever today.

These six years of bloodshed have already claimed nearly half a million casualties and forced an estimated 4.5 million Syrians to seek shelter outside the country around 20% of the population. As to the state of the country, most of us have seen TV footage of Aleppo when it was recently retaken by government forces: it is a ghost town, covered in rubble. Some buildings still appear to be standing upright, but, on a closer look, most have been hollowed out by the blasts of many explosions. In fact many of Syria’s small and bigger towns have suffered the same treatment. As to the country’s infrastructure it has either been destroyed or else, it is falling apart for lack of maintenance.

In other words, the same tragedy which took place in Iraq as a result of the country’s invasion by the imperialist powers is being played out again in Syria, but this time, without (more…)

Today, March 8, is International Working Women’s Day – or what feminists have hijacked into the classless International Women’s Day.  Last month also marked the 100th anniversary of the February 1917 revolution in the Russian Empire, a revolution sparked off by working class women. 

Working class women sparked off the Russian Revolution

by Anne McShane

The centenary of International Working Women’s Day in Petrograd (St Petersburg) in February 1917 is an important moment to take a more critical approach to this history.

Most of us on the left are familiar with the events themselves. In his classic work, The Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky provides us with a dramatic and inspiring depiction of the uprising in Petrograd – he describes in detail the five glorious days of struggle. How the Petrograd working class rose up in grim determination against the tsarist state. How the strikes, which began on International Working Women’s Day, ostensibly in protest against the war, developed rapidly into a mass movement with the power to oust the imperial regime. How it advanced on the citadels of power, precipitating mutiny after mutiny among the armed forces, as soldiers and Cossacks refused to massacre the workers. In less than a week the centuries-long rule of the tsarist autocracy was routed by the Petrograd working class.

However, it must be admitted that the revolution was premature. There was no party leadership in place and the left, including the Bolsheviks, was caught unawares. The uprising was also confined almost entirely to Petrograd. It has often been described as a purely spontaneous movement – an angry working class letting off steam against the war, conscription and prohibition. But, as Trotsky makes very clear, to argue that the working class of Petrograd were just acting instinctively or in an unconscious way is absurd. Those (often in academic circles) who want to portray it as such are anxious to deny the depth of revolutionary ideas among workers, or their ability to analyse, decide and act on their own behalf. They want to separate off this movement from October and argue that the provisional government and ‘bourgeois democracy’ was the natural conclusion of February. The October revolution is presented as a putsch in contrast to the spontaneity of February. It is more concerning that some on the left also distinguish the two revolutions in the same way. As always, however, reality is a lot more (more…)

downloadby Tony Norfield

Although it is the world’s major power, the US has found it difficult to impose its will in the past decade or so. From President Bush’s ‘mission accomplished’ speech about Iraq in 2003, to the continuing disasters in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, from US policy in Ukraine also being upset by Russian intervention in Crimea, to how the Saudis and other Gulf states have destabilised the Middle East, the US has not been getting its own way and has been unable to impose settlements that would otherwise be expected of a hegemonic power. This puts the incoming US administration under The Donald in an interesting position.

Early signs suggest that POTUS-elect Trump is taking a softer line on Russia, one different from the still Cold War-inspired position of the Obama regime. Trump has stated that he expects the Europeans to pay more for their own NATO-related defence, which might make them less willing to finance an increased build-up of military operations close to Russia’s borders. Trump has also rejected Obama’s rhetoric on Putin’s supposed involvement in Russia’s alleged cyber attack on Hillary Clinton’s emails. Perhaps most striking of all, Trump plans to appoint Rex Tillerson as US Secretary of State, that is to be the main person in charge of foreign policy. Tillerson is Chief Executive Officer of ExxonMobil, and is well known to have friendly relationships with the Russian government.

ExxonMobil opposed sanctions on Russia from its own business perspective, but one would have to agree that the aggression shown to Russia by the current US administration makes little economic or political sense. Russia is far from being a threat to US interests. Instead, Russia may have (more…)

Redline has run articles with different perspectives on Syria – from those who emphasise imperialist involvement to those that emphasise the awfulness of the Assad regime and the need to solidarise with its victims and those fighting it.  Below is the third perspective, presented by one of our Iranian readers (Redline is blocked in Iran, but we have readers there as well as Iranian readers around the world).  This third perspective is that the Assads are brutal and corrupt dictators but the alternative is even worse, as happened in Iran in 1979 – and, for that matter, more recently in Libya.  This perspective also suggests that western leftists who place emphasis on getting rid of Assad, at virtually any cost, are playing with fire but that it is not them who have suffered the consequences of the replacement of Gaddafi and it won’t be them who will suffer the consequences of the replacement of Assad by Islamic fundamentalists – it will be the working class, women, and national and religious minorities; the western left will just walk away unscathed (and unreflective).

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As bad as the Assad regime is, the alternative is even worse

by Karim Pourhamzavi

The tragic and brutal chaos is getting close to completing its fifth year. Recently, the siege of Aleppo by the Syrian army and its allies, along with the Russian heavy bombardment, has attracted a large amount of media attention, particularly by the anti-Assad camp. The extensive advance of the troops loyal to the Syrian regime, at the time of writing, put an end to the controversial siege.

Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, did not witness a large-scale uprising in 2011, when the wider rebellion took place and steadily became a transnational armed struggle by the end of the same year. Various militant groups who fight in Syria, most prominent of which is the Nusra Front, the al-Qaeda branch in Syria, took over eastern Aleppo in 2012. The eastern part of the city includes approximately 300,000 residents and the western part, which has remained under the control of the Syrian regime to this day, is home for over one million residents, although you would not know this from ‘mainstream’ media coverage – you would think the whole of the city has been in ‘rebel’ hands and is being bombarded by the regime.

Propaganda

Any attempt of the Syrian regime to regain the eastern part of Aleppo was confronted by extensive propaganda in much of the western media. Not to mention the increase of multi-dimensional supports to the militants, including the Nusra Front, by the anti-Assad camp. The focus on civilian casualties whenever the Syrian army tries to regain Aleppo is, however, only one side of the story. The other side is that (more…)