Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 5, 2016

Should Syria be a litmus test for the left in the 2016 elections?

Filed under: Green Party,Syria — louisproyect @ 5:23 pm

At the risk of alienating people who I have strong affinities with, it is necessary for me to explain why I support Jill Stein even though her VP candidate Ajamu Baraka is someone I have described as a “pro-Baathist hack”. I can honestly say that if Baraka had been the presidential candidate, I probably would have endorsed another left candidate even though my support for the Greens over the long haul would have persisted. As I have made clear for the past two decades or so, there is an urgent need for the American left to form a party to the left of the Democrats. This party might not be the one that leads a socialist revolution but as Trotskyist James P. Cannon once put it, the art of politics is knowing what to do next.

In fact, if in the unlikely event that Bernie Sanders had declared that he was launching such a party, I would have switched my allegiance to it for the simple reason that quantity turns into quality as Plekhanov would have put it. With the millions of dollars and tens of thousands of passionate supporters he could count on, Sanders would have raised the ante considerably in the long and arduous fight against the two-party system.

As it happens, the same complaints about Stein were made against Sanders by my comrades in the pro-Syrian revolution camp, which is to be expected if Syria is a litmus test. I have my own litmus test obviously, which is the need to oppose the Democrats on a principled basis in the same way that the Bolsheviks opposed the Cadets, the Russian version of the Democratic Party.

For example, Jett Goldsmith, who works with Elliot Higgins’s Bellingcat project, wrote an article for the Middle East Eye about Sanders’s failings on Syria:

The Syrian regime – which Sanders opposes intervening against – is so corporatist, corrupt, and non-democratic that its basic structure shatters Sanders’ entire “getting money out of big politics and restoring democracy” platform. The Assad regime was born and bred from the special interests-laden corruption of the Baath Party in post-Mandate Syria, and functions as a government that controls society through a patronage system paid for by the Assads’ inner circle, which Hafez worked for decades to foster, while suppressing civil society and essentially all political dissent.

Jett Goldsmith is entirely correct, of course, but the creation of a left party in the USA would have had been a major step forward in confronting capitalist rule. It might not be obvious at first blush but Sanders’s accommodation to Assad and his unwillingness to run as an independent go hand in hand. That is the consensus of the American ruling class that Sanders was willing to challenge but only up to a point. Liberal opinion in elite circles is consistent with Obama’s willingness to see the Syrian revolution be drowned in blood and Sanders is definitely at one with it.

You could have seen the same hostility to Jeremy Corbyn who had the crowning bad judgement to make Seumas Milne his press secretary. Seumas, like Baraka, is a pro-Assad propagandist of the worst kind as I pointed out in a September 2015 article where I took issue with his reliance on the Judicial Watch document that “proved” the USA backed the Islamic State—this despite the fact that the document warned that such an eventuality would be a disaster. What? You were expecting Milne to write truthfully?

James Bloodworth is an outspoken British opponent of the Baathist dictatorship who blasted Corbyn in a December 2015 article titled “The bizarre world of Jeremy Corbyn and Stop the War”. As much as I sympathize with any article that details the sordid record of the STWC on Syria, I have to part ways with Bloodworth on the broader questions of capitalist politics. He has a neo-Eustonian outlook that shares Tony Blair’s opposition to Corbyn, even to the point of condemning STWC for showing solidarity with the Sunni resistance to the American occupation of Iraq in the early 2000s. Given the inconsistencies of the “anti-imperialist” left, it makes perfect sense that John Rees and company would now adopt a kind of inverse Eustonian outlook with respect to Syria since Russian imperialism is kosher in their calculations. I know, I know. It is difficult to keep track of such gyrations.

Returning to the Jill Stein campaign, there are a number of things worth pointing out.

To start with, as I have pointed out before, a search in Nexis for “Jill Stein”, “Green Party” and “Syria” returns zero articles while for “Jill Stein”, “Green Party” and “fracking” returns 18 and “Jill Stein”, “Green Party” and “global warming” returns 21. So this will give you an idea of where her priorities are.

I hate to say it but when I see my Syrian solidarity comrades looking for incriminating quotes from her on Syria, I can’t help but be reminded of the “anti-science” critiques. My general impression is that her opinions on Syria are about the same as Bernie Sanders and hardly ones that she would emphasize in her public talks.

If you go to her official website and look at her platform, there is not a single word about Syria. I should add that the website does not have anything about Ajamu Baraka, which might be a function of it not having been updated yet or—as I suspect—the secondary character of all vice presidential candidates.

Essentially the only way to understand Green Party problems with Syria (and there are some as this misinformed article would indicate) is to see it in context. The likelihood of Jill Stein or any other leading Green adopting positions on Syria that resemble my own or my comrades is almost zero. People don’t evolve political positions in a vacuum. They tend to rely on the word of the leftist universe in which they dwell. If you get your ideas from The Nation, Salon, CounterPunch, ZNet, Truthout, Consortium News, the LRB, Mondoweiss, CommonDreams, Alternet et al, you will simply find very few articles defending the Syrian rebels. You need to consult websites that are generally not on the radar screen of a Jill Stein such as Pulse Media, magazines like New Politics or books such as “Burning Country” or “Khiyana”. Studies in the sociology of knowledge would probably explain how certain ideas remain beyond the pale but I suspect that to a large extent it can be explained by Islamophobia. With literally thousands of articles describing Syrian rebels as either al-Qaeda or collaborating with its fighters, you end up going along with the crowd. It is also a major problem with some truly retrograde characters taking up the cause of the Syrian rebels, starting with Hillary Clinton who some Syrian solidarity activists regretfully urge a vote for.

There are historical precedents for the tendency of good people (the best actually given the horrors of the Baathist tyranny) to make Syria a litmus test. In 1948 Henry Wallace, a member of FDR’s cabinet, broke with the Democrats and ran as a candidate of the Progressive Party. In my view, this third party bid was the most significant of 20th century history as I tried to point out in an article on the Ralph Nader campaign in 2000.

The Wallace campaign has served as a whipping boy for dogmatic Marxist electoral theorizing, much of which I took seriously when I was in the Trotskyist movement. It was supposed to prove what a dead end middle class electoral politics was, in contrast to the insurmountable power and logic of a Labor Party. Unfortunately, the Labor Party existed only in the realm of propaganda while the Wallace campaign, with all its flaws, existed in the realm of reality.

While most people are aware of Wallace’s resistance to the Cold War and to some of the more egregious anti-union policies of the Democrats and Republicans, it is important to stress the degree to which his campaign embraced the nascent civil rights movement.

 Early in the campaign Wallace went on a tour of the south. True to his party’s principles, he announced in advance that he would neither address segregated audiences nor stay in segregated hotels. This was virtually an unprecedented measure to be taken at the time by a major politician. Wallace paid for it dearly. In a generally hostile study of Henry Wallace, the authors begrudgingly pay their respects to the courage and militancy of the candidate:

 The southern tour had begun peacefully enough in Virginia, despite the existence in that state of a law banning racially mixed public assemblies. In Norfolk, Suffolk, and Richmond, Wallace spoke to unsegregated and largely receptive audiences. But when the party went on into supposedly more liberal North Carolina, where there was no law against unsegregated meetings, the violence started. A near riot preceded his first address, and a supporter, James D. Harris of Charlotte, was stabbed twice in the arm and six times in the back. The next day there was no bloodshed, but Wallace was subjected to a barrage of eggs and fruit, and the crowd of about five hundred got so completely out of control that he had to abandon his speech. At Hickory, North Carolina, the barrage of eggs and tomatoes and the shouting were so furious that Wallace was prevented from speaking, but he tried to deliver a parting thrust over the public address system: ‘As Jesus Christ told his disciples, when you enter a town that will not hear you willingly, then shake the dust of that town from your feet and go elsewhere.’ If they closed their minds against his message, he would, like Jesus Christ, abandon them to their iniquity.  (Henry A. Wallace: His Search for a New World Order, Graham White and John Maze)

When I wrote this, I wasn’t thinking much about anti-Stalinist opposition to Henry Wallace but it was not just about rejecting the “bourgeois” character of the Progressive Party along the lines of the World Socialist Website’s vituperative attacks on the Green Party. It was more than that. You have to keep in mind that Henry Wallace’s campaign was influenced to a large extent by the CPUSA’s leading role as well as Wallace’s friendliness to the Kremlin that was a legacy of FDR’s New Deal. By 1948, many people on the left had woken up to the depravities of Stalinism even if not to the extent of the post-Khrushchev revelations. But as is the case today, the consensus was that the USSR was a “socialist country” even if it was authoritarian—in other words given the same kind of leeway as Gaddafi’s Libya or Assad’s Syria.

And Henry Wallace was exactly the kind of person who bought into these lies as indicated in a New Yorker article titled “Uncommon Man” dated October 14, 2013.

Wallace was hardly the only politician of the period to form an unduly rosy picture of Stalin’s regime, but he went further than most. In May, 1944, he embarked on a good-will mission to Soviet Asia and China, and during a tour of Siberia he fell for an elaborate Potemkin-village presentation. In his 1946 travelogue, “Soviet Asia Mission,” he wrote admiringly of Red Army choruses, needlepoint artwork, and enlightened farming methods. “The larch were just putting out their first leaves, and Nikishov gamboled about, enjoying the wonderful air immensely,” Wallace wrote. He was referring to General Ivan Nikishov, the master of the Kolyma Gulag system. In China, Wallace showed himself more alert to the shortcomings of Chiang Kai-shek. (He did not favor the Communists, though, as he was later accused of doing.) A diplomatic amateur, he was too easily impressed by whichever host responded to his interests or appreciated his gifts, which included a shipment of fifty baby chicks and a glow-in-the-dark portrait of Stalin executed in radioactive paint.

If I had been around in 1948, I would have urged the left to back Henry Wallace despite all this. Whatever flaws he exhibited on Stalin, there was an urgent need back then to create a party to the left of the Democrats that was in favor of civil rights, the CIO, and against the looming Cold War and witch-hunt. When such a party came into existence, there would be other fights necessary to make it an instrument of the rank-and-file rather than the Stalinist hacks but it had to be born first. Instead it was strangled in the cradle just as the Clintonites are trying to do to the Green Party. Make no mistake about it. The fight to defend Jill Stein as a legitimate candidate of the left is necessary, warts and all.




  1. Corbyn’s effort to retain power as head of the Labour Party is a critically important electoral contest. It is a test as to whether it is possible to mobilize large numbers of people within a liberal democracy to challenge austerity and militarism within the political system. If he fails, the door will slam shut again, leaving the street as the only place to pursue an alternative vision. Corbyn is the most serious threat to the neoliberal order since Chavez, even though he has no prospect of taking power at this time, which explains the intensity and vituperation of the effort to depose him.

    While I, not surprisingly, don’t impose a Syrian litmus test upon Stein, I’m not persuaded that she has this potential. As with Sanders, I am concerned that there is this need for social acceptance by the media and the elite, and that she, unlike Corbyn, will trim her sails if she believes that she can get it.

    Additionally, much like the Liberal Democrats in the UK in the 2000s, I perceive the Greens as having competing libertarian and leftist features. By 2010, the libertarians of the Orange Book had prevailed, paving the way for a coalition with the Tories. None of this should discourage people from supporting Stein, but it does suggest the challenge ahead even if the Greens emerge as a viable 3rd party.

    Comment by Richard Estes — August 5, 2016 @ 5:41 pm

  2. I’m confused, are you a Marxist like the header says, or part of the left?

    The left being named for those that sat on the left of the bourgeois parliament which was created from the bourgeois revolution in France. The left being a wing of the bourgeoisie that wants to put a human face on capitalism to keep the working masses from revolting, unlike the right wing of the bourgeoisie that simply smashes the workers with brute force.

    Marxists don’t want to reform capitalism. We don’t want to clean it up. We want to abolish it.

    The only line in the elections for Marxists is the class line. Stein like Trump and Clinton are bourgeois candidates from bourgeois parties running in a bourgeois election.

    We can get the bourgeois left wing’s voice from msnbc and Michael Moore’s multi million dollar movies. If you have any integrity you won’t push it on a website with a Marxist title.

    Comment by Pikeman — August 5, 2016 @ 6:08 pm

  3. Why is that every Spartacist type troll ends up using a tag like Pikeman instead of his real name? If I had a nickel for every idiot I’ve run into on the Net who utters banalities like “Marxists don’t want to reform capitalism”, I could buy a Maserati or better yet some MANPAD’s on the black market for the FSA.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 5, 2016 @ 6:12 pm

  4. I will vote for Stein–if she is on my MN ballot–but I will not campaign for a stupid person who cannot see the problem with supporting Putin and the Syrian regime; both in her own equivocal actions (e.g., her participating in a panel organized by the pro-Syrian “left”) and her choice of Baraka as VP. Dr. Stein’s best credentials are that she is a scientist and intellectual who is much more on the side of the working masses and is running an independent campaign. Yet, Louis, you are willing to excuse her treacherous positions despite her clear ability to think “on her feet” and understand much of the world’s and domestic politics. I am unconvinced that Stein will be moved to be a true internationalist in the face of the eventual turning of the tide in support of the Syrian people’s democratic revolution. That tide will turn and it will overwhelm all the traitors and nascent neo-liberals in the so-called leftist anti-interventionist camp. That tide will not be from the pretend leftists or intellectually-challenged “independents” who prefer to err on the “domestic” anti-capitalist agenda, but from the world’s working masses including immigrants, refugees, and oppressed people’s of the U.S. I believe people like Stein, and definitely Baraka (who was a demagogue in his early years never mind now), will have no answer to the righteous revolt of the true left that will eventually emerge. Such people will likely oppose such a revolutionary tide because it will be too “confusing” for their feeble political will.
    What makes Stein’s campaign important is that it is the best shot and building an independent anti-capitalist ELECTORAL alternative. Indeed, should Stein’s campaign truly determine the outcome of this bourgeois election and is successful in preventing Clinton from gaining the presidency, I would consider it a victory (as in Malcolm’s words, “praying for a wind” when the master’s house is on fire). But Stein’s campaign is ONLY an electoral alternative and the Green Party, along with Stein, have no hope of creating a true mass alternative (never mind anti-capitalist) party.
    Clay Claiborne recently asked on Marxmail about the numbers of Black people in the GP. Mark Lause replied with the observation about the uneven nature of the Greens and its primarily electoral focus (that said, the emergence of GP chapters that are primarily Black is indeed promising nevertheless).

    Louis, you spend much time trying to connect earlier 3rd party attempts, especially the Wallace campaign, that No One but the oldest of us has any real shared experience. Your argument, “‘we’ messed up earlier, so, let’s not mess up now” and “if I had been around in 1948, I would have supported Wallace” are, let’s just say, unconvincing. You have absolutely No Idea what you actually would have done “back then” given the historical circumstances though it is likely that you would have followed the party line devoid of “later experience”. I do understand your argument for supporting Stein in the elections as an important tactic, strategy, and principle, But the fact that Stein is the best current alternative–largely because it has galvanized some of the best elements of the radical left including many previous Sanders supporters–is indicative of the problem as well as the promise. The best possible political party alternatives have yet to emerge because the oppressed–i.e., Black, Brown, Asian, Native peoples and Women–have not really become engaged. The largely White “left” (but not solely) are the single group that has emerged and that indicates the strength and its weakness. Not making Syria a “litmus test” may be a viable approach for electoral action, but it MUST be for revolutionary activism.
    I do understand the need to do “first things first”. Hence, I do not spend much time “exposing” Stein, Baraka, or the Greens and, as I said, I will be voting for this campaign on the sheer strength of its larger mass appeal than any other more radical alternatives. It is important revolutionaries to go with our class when a clear independent alternative is presented. But to argue, as you seem to have here, that Syria is simply less important in this bourgeois election raising the “bogeyman” of a litmus test to scare true revolutionaries into supporting a tepid albeit independent alternative, is a weak argument. I am glad that people emerging from the Democratic Party stranglehold are seeking a way out of that political deathtrap. I am glad that revolutionaries have a viable electoral alternative that may actually register a significant effect in the bourgeois elections. But these, after all, are bourgeois elections–designed to maintain the illusions of political power through support for individuals and not the masses.

    In short, this is me “kickin’ and screamin'” on my way to voting for an ineffectual alternative in the context of the largely unimportant–from a revolutionary standpoint–bourgeois election. All for the sake of giving “us” the best chance–at the moment–to build a mass movement. I really hope I am wrong in my appraisals of Stein (I doubt I am about Baraka). But defense of the women, children, and revolutionary fighters in Syria facing genocide at the hands of a despot that Stein–and others in the pro-Baathist left–consider geo-politically less relevant is INDEED the test of tests. Like the Syrian people who will likely have to take weapons from their imperialist enemies so that they may at least survive even if those weapons are insufficient to what is needed, I will “hold my nose” and vote for an independent alternative knowing that the person I vote for does not really deserve my support as much as I need to support the trajectory of world revolution no matter how it may transpire. If that makes me an ultraleft, so be it. I don’t think so.

    Comment by mtomas3 — August 5, 2016 @ 6:35 pm

  5. “Clay Claiborne recently asked on Marxmail about the numbers of Black people in the GP. Mark Lause replied with the observation about the uneven nature of the Greens and its primarily electoral focus (that said, the emergence of GP chapters that are primarily Black is indeed promising nevertheless).”

    Don’t know about now, but black people, and POC generally, have historically been invisible in the Green Party, and I suspect that this still true. Some thought should be given as to why this has been the case.

    Comment by Richard Estes — August 5, 2016 @ 6:49 pm

  6. I’ve been reading these articles about Syria, but I’m still a bit confused. I’m not sure why Syria would be a ‘ limus test ‘ for being for Jill Stein. I’m for her, Jill, the GP, not ‘ With Her ‘ as in Hillary. I can’t vote for either Hillary or Trump. Hillary is corrupt, even through its Trump saying it. Sure he’s bad but everyone in all sides are united in pounding him so much, it seems weird. I almost feel sorry for him. If he wasn’t making so much noise, they’d nominate a regular Conservative Republican, then I would tune out a little. But I digress,…. why would Syria be a ‘ limus test ‘ for alot of people ? I’m having trouble following the whole thing. I’m hoping you can give me a ‘ Syria 101 ‘ or ‘ Syria for Dummies ‘ summary. Or a recommendation to websites and articles that would explain it. The posting on ‘ Morbid Symptoms ‘ was good, it talked about a class analysis of the conflict.
    I’d like it broken down a bit further. What’s happening to that country ? I don’t feel like there are any ‘ good guys ‘. Assad is another dictator but the rebels don’t seem too good either. I don’t root for jihadiis or fundamentalists.

    Comment by CB — August 5, 2016 @ 8:27 pm

  7. For what it is worth, I believe the GP in the District of Columbia has a significant African-American presence.

    Comment by Pete Glosser — August 5, 2016 @ 9:38 pm

  8. CB– look no further than Louis’ Syria tag from past articles, the column on the right. He doesnt write his opinions in a vacuum but shares other people’s extensive research and insights. There is no simple answer to your question, but the hard work of reading and developing the right questions to be answered,,,. Such as “Why does the US not want the rebels to defeat Assad’s airforce?”.

    Comment by seaspan — August 5, 2016 @ 10:56 pm

  9. There was an interview with Jill Stein on ScottHorton.org: http://scotthorton.org/interviews/2015/11/05/110515-jill-stein/
    Stein said that the Saudis are funding ISIS, that our allies are buying the oil from ISIS, and accuses Turkey of not enforcing the Turkey-Syria border (4:45).

    Duverger’s law states that winner-takes-all voting systems (such as the system in the U.S.) tend to favor a two-party system.

    The reason that a lot of other countries have more than two parties is because they are based on other systems like proportional representation.

    Comment by 3D Face Analysis — August 6, 2016 @ 1:14 am

  10. In 1948, the then-revolutionary Socialist Workers Party (SWP) gave no political support to Henry Wallace’s Progressive Party presidential campaign. SWP leader James P. Cannon’s report “Election Policy in 1948” (February 1948) laid out the fundamental Marxist criteria for assessing the class character of a party, criteria which revolutionaries uphold today in opposing the capitalist “third party” Greens and their left-liberal presidential candidate Jill Stein, who is hailed by reformist leftists. Here is Cannon:

    “The Wallace party must be opposed and denounced by every class criterion. In the first place it is programmatically completely bourgeois, as all the comrades have recognized. Its differences with the Republican and Democratic parties are purely tactical. There is not a trace of a principled difference anywhere. And by principled difference I mean a class difference….

    It would be very, very bad and demoralizing if we would allow for a moment the anti-war demagogy of Wallace to be taken by any member of our party as something preferable to the blatant aggressiveness of Truman and Marshall. That would be nothing less than the preparation of the minds of party members for “lesser evil” politics – based on the theory that one kind of capitalist tactics in the expansion of American imperialism is preferable to another, and that the workers should intervene to support one against the other….

    The class character of the party is determined first by its program; secondly by its actual policy in practice; and thirdly by its composition and control. The Wallace party is bourgeois on all these counts; by its program, its policy and practice, its composition and control….

    Wallace is the, as yet, unacknowledged, candidate for the role of diverting the workers’ movement for independent political action into the channel of bourgeois politics dressed up with radical demagogy which costs nothing. That is what we have to say, and that’s what we have to fight – vigorously and openly, and with no qualifications at all. We have to be 100% anti-Wallaceites. We have to stir up the workers against this imposter, and explain to them that they will never get a party of their own by accepting substitutes.”

    Louis N. Proyect tastelessly refers to Cannon and to the Bolsheviks, but tramples on the most fundamental of Marxist principles: the political independence of the proletariat. He denies the need for the working class, led by a revolutionary vanguard party, to fight for international socialist revolution.

    As for Syria, do what you announced and buy some MANPAD’s on the black market for the so called Free Syrian Army (FSA) whose key commanders were for years part of the Assad regime’s repressive machinery. Or did you mean the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)? Whatever! Both are providing the ground troops for U.S. imperialist intervention in the country. More here: http://www.spartacist.org

    Comment by Bernhard — August 6, 2016 @ 1:24 am

  11. Go ahead make my day. Make Syria a litmus test. Make Syria a Litmus test that is also connected to Haiti as a Litmus Test which is connected to Passports as a Litmus test. Of course if something is going to be a Litmus test the correct answer has to be clear. For this Litmus test the correct answer(s) is (are) clear.

    The correct answers are, anyone trying to become a member of the US government, if they want our support, and any who is already a member of the US government shall support a policy of non interference in the current Syrian Civil War. The second answer is that the priority of US foreign policy should be to to help the people of Haiti. The third answer is that every Passport that the US government issues should come with a written warning printed on the passport. The surgeon general has determnined that traveling with the passport overseas damages your health.
    Do not expect anyhelp from the US government what so ever if you should have any problems outside of the United States. Count yourself lucky that if you should loose your passport or have it stolen the US government will replace your passport at one of 30* locations, if you can get there.
    Not every country will have a US Embassy or even a consulate. You travel outside of the USA completely at your own risk.

    NGOs are free to take other positions. Take Iran or Turkey as examples. As a socialist I would be delighted to see the PKK not only win a Kurdish homeland. But, with a alliance of non Kurdish Turks take over Turkey all together. I would be delighted to see some socialist movement take down the Iranian government too. But as an American whose government has screwed up much of the planet by getting involved in conspiracies around the world to make the world safe for capital I have to recognize that this past history has made claims by Americans that we are here to liberate you as illegitimate. Finally as a Humanist I have to respect diversity. I do not have to respect diversity absolutely. But if the only diversity that I respect lies between Znet and the University of Kansas City Dept. of Economics then I am really not repecting diversity at all.

    Iran and Turkey are not Saudi Arabia or North Korea. The people of Iran and Turkey should be free from outside interference to make their own history. Although I think monothiestic religion is foolish. History shows that monothiests can sometimes overcome the obsticals placed in their path by their faulty traditions. Without revolutions but through reform life might get better in these countries (Iran and Turkey) Yes it might also get worse. Could it get as bad as Cambodia was under the Pol Pot regime? Maybe, it is when a country gets to be as Cambodia was under the Pol Pot regime that NGOs should start calling for international military intervention of some sort.

    Some might say. Hey butt pimple, Syria today under Assad, is as bad as Camodia was under Pol Pot. It is a false compairison. An accurate compairison would be between Cambodia under Pol Pot and Syria und Assad in 2010.

    The resources of the USA or even the western industrialized world are not unlimited. It is often asked, how many people have to die before we do something to put an end to the bloodshed. It is just as fair to ask how many people do not have to die before we keep out of foreign conflicts.

    AAAmen AAAmen Amen Amen.

    PS Yes there is a connection between Passports and Syria and Haiti. I know that no one figured it out so I will tell you. It is Grenada. The USA not need another Grenada.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — August 6, 2016 @ 8:55 am

  12. For me the litmus test is straightforward that as a Socialist I understand that I am opposed 100% to Assad, IS, Iranian theocracy, and Putin. I don’t support diplomacy that shakes hands and smiles like an idiot at Lavrov. I don’t have a running mate that pushes Assadist propaganda. If they do that, but they are opposed to fracking, that still is no use to me. Thats how I see it anyhow.

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — August 6, 2016 @ 12:05 pm

  13. “Louis N. Proyect tastelessly refers to Cannon and to the Bolsheviks, but tramples on the most fundamental of Marxist principles: the political independence of the proletariat.”

    As a Pabloite revisionist, I love trampling on things.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 6, 2016 @ 12:13 pm

  14. Genosse Curt,
    For me it is not so simple to say that I oppose Assad. or Khemeni, or Erdogan or Sisi. They are dictatorial. Big fricking deal so am I. How can I complain about the harsh tactics that they use to keep their population in line when I would do many of the same things if I had the chance I consider any comments that would encourage democracy in a revolutionary situation to be totally irresponsible. Rational adults do not let children play with electricty. Allowing the “people” to rule themselves is as dumb as allowing children to play with electricity. In fact democracy is no more stable than libertarianism. Start off with either one and a George Bush will come to power in 25 years or less.
    Sadly, the vast majority of revolutionary rulers become corrupted by the stupidity of masses if they were not corrupt to start with. That leaves perpetual revolution the only historical route for a country to follow until it ends up with a dictator like Castro or with an advisor to the dictator like Confucius. After decades if not centuries of guidance from a Platonic caste of leaders a country then might be ready for democracy. Khameni has his sacred vladues and I have mine, Which you can find on the website of Peterattwood,blogspot.com if you care to look.
    Yours Truely,
    Comrade Curt .

    Comment by Curt Kastens — August 6, 2016 @ 1:13 pm

  15. First off so very good news, maybe miraculous news. According to Syrian sources citizens of Aleppo broke the siege today 8/6 around 6 p.m. their time, broke through Hezbollah, Assad thugs and all the rest. Tonight in London cars caravans will be beeping and showing the Syrian flag.

    As for the Greens

    After seeing who Jill picked as her running mate I looked at the GP platform and then wrote a piece suggesting they made these additions on Syria

    1. We stand with the Arab revolutions and uprisings for democracy that started in Tunisia and Egypt
    2. Syrians have a right to reject the Assad dynasty
    3. We support the democratic forces in Syria against all reactionary killers from Assad to ISIS to al-Qaeda and others
    4. We demand that the great powers abide by the promises to airdrop food and supplies to Syrian areas under siege as of June 1, 2016 #DropFoodNotBombs
    5. We denounce any deal by the U.S. government with Russia that makes cooperation against ISIS dependent on giving Assad, Russia and Iran a free hand to crush the Syrian uprising


    I’m told there was an addition proposed this spring for the agenda that mentioned this support for the Kurds and will be voted on. It reads:

    Whereas, the Green Party of the United States needs to support groups such as the Syrian Kurdish YPG/YPJ (PeopleÕs Defense Units/WomenÕs Defense Units), whose objectives are centered on the paradigm of ecological and democratic civilization and gender freedom, and who seek to build a Democratic Syria and a Free Kurdistan (Rojava). The YPG aims to protect the political and ethical society; it takes self-regulation as its basis, without discriminating between religion, language, nationality, gender, or political parties, in harmony with democratic and national interests.

    The Green Party of Michigan proposes adding a new section to the GPUS Platform under: I DEMOCRACY, Part D FOREIGN POLICY, Section 7, subsection a

    The new section would read as follows:
    I. Democracy
    D. Foreign Policy
    7a. The Kurdish people are the largest ethnic group in the world that is without an independent state. As a result, Kurdish people have historically suffered persecution and injustice. The Kurdish people have been besieged to the point of a current humanitarian crisis in towns such as Kobani, Syria. The GPUS expresses solidarity for and affirms the right to self-determination, self-defense, communal autonomy, freedom from persecution, and release of political prisoners for the Kurdish population.

    Nothing else on Syria. According to the agenda the platform for the GP was approved this morning 8/6, but I don’t know if it’s been published anywhere.

    I don’t expect anything good.

    I was at a small rally for Aleppo in front of the U.N. yesterday (see video at TheStruggle.org). I suggest protests in front of ALL candidates’ rallies about Syria with the demand #DropFoodNotBombs

    Livestream of the Green candidates acceptance speeches today at 3:15. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XW2Fc4iFLLU

    Comment by Stanley Heller — August 6, 2016 @ 7:03 pm

  16. Your suggested additions on Syria look very good I think. So obviously nearer a decent position.

    I saw on twitter a link to a radio appearance by the running mate where, ‘Ajamu Baraka agrees that the shootdown of Malaysian 17 is a suspected false flag.’ His mind seems utterly contorted. He should be a RT journalist not anything to do with serious politics.

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — August 6, 2016 @ 9:47 pm

  17. Actually , on twitter now there is a link to a youtube video where Jill Stein goes to Moscow to honour RTs 10th anniv. and ‘gushes over Russian support for human rights.’ Perhaps they should both be RT journalists. She reminds me of the kind of person Orwell wrote about in ‘Notes on Nationalism’.

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — August 6, 2016 @ 10:26 pm

  18. Total confusion Curt. You write: “Maybe, it is when a country gets to be as Cambodia was under the Pol Pot regime that NGOs should start calling for international military intervention of some sort. Some might say. Hey butt pimple, Syria today under Assad, is as bad as Camodia was under Pol Pot. It is a false compairison. An accurate compairison would be between Cambodia under Pol Pot and Syria und Assad in 2010.” OK, so from this we can understand that you think it would have been correct to advocate international military intervention against Assad in 2010, before any uprising occurred (and therefore you supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003 presumably?); and since Assad’s rule went from straight totalitarian in 2010 to mass-murderously genocidal today, you would be much much more in favour of military intervention against Assad today than in 2010. Yet elsewhere you seem to say the opposite.

    Comment by mkaradjis — August 7, 2016 @ 4:34 am

  19. Without taking a position (one way or the other) on Stein, I’ll note one “incriminating quote” I saw recently.
    24:46 mark. http://countervortex.org/static/political-people-podcast_ep-9.mp3
    Stein: “We stopped the first Syrian war. You might recall in 2013 there was an effort to begin a bombing campaign based on what now looks like it was a false-flag chemical weapons attack in Syria.”
    Though I don’t expect a candidate to entirely take positions I agree with (i.e. it’s a question of the weight/importance of the warts relative to more positive features).

    Comment by affinis — August 7, 2016 @ 6:44 am

  20. For me the interesting argument is not the argument about the current election-but the question of how to relate to the overwhelming majority of the world’s left stuck in the common sense of a pro-Assad counter-revolutionary positions. There are a number of possible approaches. One approach is simply to suggest that Arab countries are far away and in any case what goes on in them is less important then building a domestic left. This is essentially the position of most of the rest of the left that isn’t explicitly pro-Assad. For these people actual revolution is a distraction from their desire to increase the percentage of parliamentory votes going to the left-and anti-imperialism means priotising the internal politics of imperialist countries.Involving interesting innovations in definitions of sectarianism often. Another kind of view is that which see’s the BRIC countries as an emerging alternative to a US dominated world system and therefore subordinates all political positions to critical support for the policies of BRIC countries. This has involved some quite spectacular cognitive twists from those inhabiting said countries who class their rulers as fascists-but they’re spectacular cognitive twists with a long tradition. Related responses include those who refuse to attempt to analyse anything on the basis that its too complex whilst spending the rest of their time debating arcane passages in Capital Volume III or pondering the relationship between Foucault and Marx in accounting for recent phenomenon in ‘our modernity’.

    Its mostly utterly contemptible in my view. However a different kind of debate is where these views actually originate on a more popular level-and how we tackle them and challenge them. The revival of mass radical currents unsurprisingly passes through stages and the primary reason why this rhetoric finds an audience remains unclarified for me. I think the weakness of a certain neo-Eustonite critique of the left that’s quite prevalent is that it neglects the wider roots of these politics and will therefore be ultimately ineffectual.

    On the issues raised about third partyism in this election, my view has always been that its perfectly possible for the left to build up a third party position without adopting a zero-sum position in relationship to the national election. However I remain convinced of the necessity for a third party, anti-establishment force. Hence irritation with the deeply sectarian methods of argument we’re seeing from many of its supporters on the US left which I think long term forcloses that possibility. For me the problem on sections of the US left is that they were unable to exploit the distance between expectations and result in the Obama presidency and have retreated into more old fashioned and sectarian styles of argument as a result. A big contrast here would be with BLM which grew massively not on the basis of being obsessed with which way people voted but by successfully creating a mass activist base around issues of social injustice and oppression.

    There are many objective reasons why the class struggle left have found this much trickier. But in reality the obsession with who people vote for neglects a closer examination of those objective reasons and is increasingly a substitute for thinking about how that left might have achieved something similar to what BLM did. As opposed to writing endless articles in Jacobin bemoaning identity politics for instance. I am however aware of the tragic history of foreign interventions in US domestic politics and the understandable sensitivities of the oppressed American peoples on this question so I won’t belabour the point.

    But back on topic-I think what the left has to do is support revivals of the left on a mass popular scale-the most reactionary campist positions emerge out of the weakness of the left rather then its strength-whilst constantly and ceaselessly agitating against campist politics. Not always an easy combination but its not as if its a novel situation for many of us. And of course its also important to understand that there is no reason at all why most of those committed to the Syrian revolution will be interested in these discussions. We lost them years ago. But that’s why the argument is important. Until this stuff is reversed the left will not re-emerge in many parts of the world.

    Comment by John Gamey — August 7, 2016 @ 8:11 am

  21. I have a strong urge to support Jill Stein as a genuinely radical alternative on important issues and as well as a candidate whom is for the most part, a socialist. I currently critically support the Green candidate and will argue for a corrective on the Syrian revolution; however, if the corrective is not possible and instead Mr. Baraka has his way there will be quite a severe but necessary internal struggle for a Green pro-revolution position.

    Jill Stein is not pro-fascist; she is persuaded by the typical anti-interventionism that grew out of America’s colonial wars. Nevertheless, it is our responsibility to never cede an inch on the subject of democratic revolution against the Assad regime.

    Comment by James — August 7, 2016 @ 10:10 am

  22. Dear Mkaradjis,
    I regret that what I wrote was not clear. In 2010 the Assad regime was not dropping barrell bombx on its own cities. There was repression in Syria just like there is repression in much of the world. In much of the world where there is not repression the level of deception is so thick that actual repression was not as neccesarry. What I am saying is that from what information was available to me here in Germany the level of repression in Syria did not meet my litmus test for international intervention. I did not support the “liberation” of Iraq either.

    For Everyone who is bitching about the majortiy of the left not lining up to say that they support the FSA.

    What does it mean when a non Syrian says that I am 100% opposed to Assad anyways? Words are cheap. Does that mean that you are going to go to Syria and fight against the Assad Regime until either you are dead or he is removed from power? Does it mean that you will take a vow of poverty and give every bit of money that you earn, other than that which is required to keep you and your family alive, to anti Assad rebels.
    Does it mean that you go and fight along side the Kurdish militia’s who are currently in a defacot alliance with Assad? Does it mean that you will join Doctors Without Borders and go to Syria to treat battlefield casualties. Does it mean that you will will go to meeting in the US or in Europe and try to convince other young men to fight against Assad? Does it mean that you will petition the American or German government to send young Americans or young Germans to die in order to remove Assad from power? Does it mean that you will petition the American or German Government to send the money of Germany and or the USA to Syria to be handed out by our oh so reliable military personnel to the Syrians that they think should have the money?
    What ever your choice is, if it is not to go to Syria and fight against Assad yourself how can you say that your committment is 100%? Anthing else is a comprimise. A comprimise is not a 100% committment. Making a reasonable committment that you can actually honor is much more sensible than emotional tirades. Understanding the opportunity costs of your choices is also neccessary step to becoming an effective leader.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — August 7, 2016 @ 2:38 pm

  23. That was a kind of weird answer. My comment included no “emotional tirades.” Most of your response could be applied to western leftists having a position on any issue anywhere in the world, not just on Syria. I note that in your list of possible actions, you don;t include the demand that the CIA remove itself from the region and thus stop blocking the supply of anti-aircraft weapons to the FSA. But none of that had anything to do with my question. You said that when things are as bad as in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, we should campaign for “international military intervention.” You then said the situation in Cambodia under Pol Pot was comparable to the situation in Syria *in 2010*. Thus logically one would assume you advocated military intervention against Syria in 2010 (which would have been insane). I’m glad you now clarify that you don’t mean that, but they were your words, not mine. Clearly, the situation in Syria now is every bit as terrible as in Cambodia under Pol Pot, if not worse. So presumably you will make that same string of conditionalities regarding military intervention against your own view that military intervention would have been justified against Pol Pot.

    Comment by mkaradjis — August 7, 2016 @ 3:31 pm

  24. Dear mkaradjis,
    My comment about emotional tirades was not directed at your commments that is why I tried to seperate my comments in to two parts.
    The first part for you, The second part for everyone else.
    If you re read my comments you will see that I did not say that the situation is Syria in 2010 was comparable with Cambodia under Pol Pot.
    I clearly wrote that SOME PEOPLE might say that Syria today is as bad as Camodia was under Pol Pot. I could have been more specific and say many of people making comments here are implying if not stating and trying to prove that Syria is as bad today as Cambodia was under Pol Pot.
    As for the CIA, yes I whole heartedly agree they should stop blocking the supply of anti aircraft weapons period. The CIA has no business stoping the flow of anti aircraft weapons even to IS. If they get ahold of a weapon and shoot down an American Airliner I will not shed a tear.
    I will remind every American, if they had any sense, that YOU TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF THE USA AT YOUR OWN RISK.
    Furthermore If we had not been arming Saudi Arabia it would not be easy for the IS to get a SA-7. On top of that if the USA had minded its own business then no one would have a motive to shoot down a US airliner or the first place.
    Now as to the situation in Cambodia under Pol Pot. There was no armed resistence against him. The population that was not in the Khemir Rouge was totally defenseless. In Syria (as in Libya under Khaddafy) there is a civil war going on. If a civil war is raging that means that both sides are able to defend themsleves at least for the moment.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — August 7, 2016 @ 5:09 pm

  25. Interesting to hear somebody who cites Plekhanov supporting the anti-science candidate Jill Stein (vaccines, GM, Wifi).

    Comment by Michael — August 8, 2016 @ 11:24 am

  26. #25: As someone who had read V. 3 of Capital, Plekhanov would have understood the problem with GM even if you don’t.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 8, 2016 @ 12:32 pm

  27. Whereas, the Green Party of the United States needs to support groups such as the Syrian Kurdish YPG/YPJ (People’s Defense Units/Women’s Defense Units), whose objectives are centered on the paradigm of ecological and democratic civilization and gender freedom, and who seek to build a Democratic Syria and a Free Kurdistan (Rojava). The YPG aims to protect the political and ethical society; it takes self-regulation as its basis, without discriminating between religion, language, nationality, gender, or political parties, in harmony with democratic and national interests.

    This is false. The Kurds are sectarian and will commit ethnic cleansing against Arabs. For example, the YPG has been committing ethnic cleansing against Arabs in areas that they “recaptured” from ISIS.

    But this is nothing new. The Kurds have a history of committing ethnic cleansing against Arabs and Turkmen:

    Even the Patrick Cockburn, who currently “supports” Assad as the “lesser evil”, criticized the Kurds of being sectarian before he joined the “Baathist amen corner” in support of U.S. and Russian military aid to the Kurds.

    The ethnic cleansing performed by the YPG is the same tactic Israel has used against Arabs when Israel was created. Israel has ethnically cleansed hundreds of thousands of Arabs in Palestine. See the similarity? Another similarity is that the U.S. arms and funds both Israel and Kurdistan. If things still stay the same, then Kurdistan might become a second Israel. One who opposes Zionism (Jewish nationalism) should also oppose the Kurdish version of Zionism, i.e., Kurdish nationalism.

    People falsely associate sectarianism with “Salafism” or “jihadism”, and they will also conflate “secular” with “non-sectarian” as only one thing. But this isn’t the case as we have seen from many instances where secular states could be just as sectarian (if not more) than Islamists. Just because a state is “secular” does not mean that it is tolerant of other religions. For example, the Assad regime is sectarian against Sunni Muslims, the Sisi regime is sectarian against Muslims, Israel is sectarian against Muslims, and Kurdistan is sectarian against Arabs.

    Comment by 3D Face Analysis — August 23, 2016 @ 11:48 am

  28. Reblogged this on Supposedly Safa Talks.

    Comment by supposedlysafatalks — March 18, 2017 @ 3:04 pm

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