Archive for the ‘Russia and Russian politics’ Category

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…)

by Susil Gupta

This article is reprinted from Tony Norfield’s excellent blog  economics of imperialism

I did not think that Trump could win the US election because an electoral base made up of the ‘disgruntled and angry white working classes’ is too narrow. But it is now obvious that Trump has wider popular support. Clinton did gain more of the popular votes by a slim margin, but there is no hiding the significance of Trump’s victory.GOP 2016 Debate

So, some thoughts.

A Trump presidency will not mean immediate significant changes on the world stage. The imperialist governance of the world is grounded on the Atlantic agreement, the order based on the US-UK-EU. But these are hard times. An unresolvable crisis, which makes each component of this triptych look more narrowly to its own domestic interests, and more watchful of the clamour of its own populations – particularly since none of the three is capable of providing a solution, or even the illusion of one. The British Brexit, and now the American ‘Brexit’ which Trump represents, will however provoke a slow disintegration of the dominant Anglosphere. (more…)

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The article below was a presentation by the author to an internal national gathering of the Communist Party of Great Britain on October 16.  It appeared in the October 20 issue of their paper, the Weekly Worker.  We’re running it as part of a series of articles on Syria.  

Redline is an independent Marxist blog – we’re not a party or the embryo of a party or anything similar, and thus we have no collective view on Syria but are keen to promote discussion.  

Since we exist, however, in the imperialist world, our two key obligations are the exposure of imperialist machinations and solidarity with oppressed peoples, especially in their struggles to liberate themselves from dictatorships and imperialism.  

These two tasks don’t always make for an easy fit.

by Yassamine Mather

There are a number of reasons why we have to discuss Syria, not least because arguments for a no-fly zone are being debated, and because sections of the left are actually collecting signatures for what is essentially a plea to Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to support ‘air drops’ for the ‘moderate’, non-jihadist opposition. The list of signatories is quite long: it includes the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and some members of Socialist Resistance, plus others who are weak politically.

Syria is also one of the issues on which Corbyn is clearly going to come under attack. I personally have never been a fan of Corbyn’s foreign policy when it comes to the Middle East – any more than I am of the Stop the War Coalition, which on Iran failed to address the repression of workers and the left and turned a blind eye to the regional ambitions of the Islamic Republic. However, what we are facing now is a completely different issue: a barrage of propaganda about a fictitious ‘moderate Islamic opposition’ inside Syria.

In fact, contrary to what The Daily Telegraph is telling us, the problem with Stop the War is not that it is pro-Russian or pro-Syrian regime. The problem is that, generally speaking, it is quite a conservative group. The whole concept that it is part of a pro-Russian conspiracy, as declared by Boris Johnson, is nonsense. In recent weeks Donald Trump has shown himself to be far more pro-Russian than the STWC.

I will now set out a number of facts and then summarise why we should oppose motions in support of imperialist intervention. Above all else we should explain the situation in Syria – which is complicated, but not so complicated as some are making out.

I think you have to see the situation in Syria in conjunction with what is happening in (more…)