[Marxism] Submission re: Syria

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Fri Nov 13 00:22:14 MST 2015

There's a story I really like about a rabbi (it was told by Alan
Dershowitz, but that is besides the point):

A rabbi and his student are sitting studying Torah one day and a husband
and wife come to them with a domestic complaint.

The man says 'Rebbe, my wife has not given me sons, she does not clean, her
cooking is awful, and she is very bitter, I feel I have the right to be
angry'. The rabbi says 'you are right, my son.'

Wife says 'Rebbe, he never loved me, he only married me for the dowry, he
drinks, he cheats on me, and I feel I have the right to be angry'. Rabbi
replies 'you are right, my daughter'.

The student says 'Rabbi, they can't both be right'. Rabbi smiles. 'You are
right, my student!'

I originally wrote this as a media analysis piece talking about RT (English
language, that is) and other Western left outlets, I think there is a touch
of Eurocentrism at play that is steering the way this is being debated. You
are much wiser than I on these matters and also are correct on your points.

My own view is that, in the epoch of neoliberalism, why in the name of all
that is holy are we referring back to texts written in the time of the gold
standard when there has been a huge social revolution in South America
following the rise of Chavez that has a little more relevance? As I said in
the piece, as well as in an earlier one about Slavoj Zizek, the Soviet
Union was corrupted by things having far more to do with the Leninist
vanguard notion than with a post-WWI invasion of Russia and the Civil War.
The anarchists and left-leaning Marxist socialists knew well before the
Revolution that the Bolshevik vanguard theory was a debacle, that is why
Rosa Luxemburg was critical of it. My own view is that the Marx-Bakunin
split was half based around genuine philosophical issues and half based
around idiotic ego posturing. In many ways, the American Left today is
moving ever so slowly towards the synthesis of the two.

On Fri, Nov 13, 2015 at 1:57 AM, Joseph Green <jgreen at communistvoice.org>

> Andrew Stewart wrote:
>  > I greatly appreciate the kind words and insightful comments. However,
> just
> >to push back respectfully and stimulate discussion, two points:
> >
> I appreciate your response, Andrew, and I agree its useful to look further
> into these theoretical matters.
> > A) The Stalin national question is laid out first in the 1914 book OF
> >MARXISM AND THE NATIONAL QUESTION, which Lenin wholeheartedly embraced,
> and
> >it was in that book that the two stage theory is outlined.
> The distinction between different types of revolution was being made by
> Marxists long before Stalin was born, to say nothing of his book of 1914.
> The
> distinction between bourgeois-democratic and socialist revolutions is a
> basic
> point of Marxism. The Trotskyist version of "permanent revolution" holds
> that
> Marxism is outdated on this point.
> In an "An Outline of Leninist anti-imperialism" I discuss Lenin's
> presentation of what the Trotskyists call "two-stage revolution." It's also
> In "Leninism and the Arab Spring" (www.communistvoice.org/46cLeninism.html
> ),
> I discuss the continuing relevance of this distinction to the analysis of
> the
> Arab Spring.
> The world isn't simply either/or: Stalinism or Trotskyism. There is life
> outside the spheres of Trotskyism and Stalinism.  But to see an alternative
> analysis, one needs to take the time to examine it.
> >Trots of the more grouchy variation, in my experience, are prone to
> >emphasize that they think Stalin plagiarized the work from others and that
> >Lenin impacted how it was written in a major way.
> So it seems that they are obsessed with spin control rather than serious
> analysis. We need to look into more important issues. We need to examine
> the
> Marxist theory of the different types of revolution, the Marxist version of
> "two-stage revolution" and of the tactics of the working class in such
> revolutions; we need to evaluate whether it holds today, and whether both
> Stalinist and Trotskyist theory departs from it.
> >
>  > 2) The emir was used as an example but not a solitary one, he was
> invoked
> > to justify Soviet backing of Chiang Kai Shek in China and other bourgeois
> > anti-imperial national liberation fighters.
> There are many examples, and each of them involves specific issues of the
> local economic and political situation. Each requires its own particular
> analysis.
>  But sometimes it is useful to go deeper in a couple of examples in depth.
> Clarity doesn't necessarily come from a large number of examples, if each
> one
> is covered superficially.
> So let's stay on Afghanistan and Ethiopia for awhile. For example, how
> would
> the theory of "permanent  revolution" apply to the issues of the Emir of
> Afghanistan in 1920s  and Haile Selassie in the 1930s? There was no
> possibility at all of a socialist revolution or the establishment of a
> workers' regime in Afghanistan or Ethiopia at that time: for one thing,
> neither country had many workers. In this situation, would the Trotskyists
> agree with Stalin's analysis of the Emir of Afghanistan, giving him similar
> revolutionary features to those Trotsky dreamed that Selassie might have?
> Or
> would they disagree? And if so, on what basis?
> It might seem at first that Trotskyism couldn't say anything about
> Afghanistan or Ethiopia in those years.  But Trotsky saw the necessity of
> saying something about Ethiopia, so he appealed to a mechanical rule which
> ignored the internal situation in Ethiopia. According to this mechanical
> rule, similar to that put forward by Stalin about Afghanistan, all that
> mattered was that Italy was imperialist and attacking a weaker country.
> With
> regard to the situation in the mid-1930s, this rule correctly called for
> resistance to the Italian colonial war on Ethiopia, but was impotent in
> dealing with the internal situation in Ethiopia. That means, it was
> impotent
> in giving advice about how to actually fight imperialism. And applied to
> Afghanistan, this rule would back Stalin's stand in the "Foundations of
> Leninism".
> Today we see that the "non-class anti-imperialists" who denigrate the
> struggle against Assad also apply a mechanical rule. They could appeal to
> either Stalin or Trotsky for support for this monstrous stand. And this
> time
> the mechanical rule is even more wrong than in the past, since it justifies
> support for the Assad dictatorship.
> Some "non-class anti-imperialists" have applied this mechanical rule to the
> Taliban. After all, there is still no immediate possibility of socialist
> revolution in Afghanistan. So the mechanical rule would make the Taliban
> into
> an alleged anti-imperialist force. This monstrous conclusion  was debated
> with a certain openness in the British left, which was the occasion for my
> article "The socialist debate on the Taliban".
>  We need to establish a different framework for judging events than that
> put
> forward by either Stalinism or Trotskyism if we are to be able to judge
> events in Syria and elsewhere in the world from a serious class
> standpoint..
> For example, with respect to the Arab Spring, the advocates of "permanent
> revolution" could support the popular movement only if they imagined that
> it
> might lead to workers' revolution. This led to euphoria when the movement
> was
> making progress, and denunciation of the movement when it suffered setback.
> It made it impossible for  them to see why a democratic movement could be
> valuable. Support for such a movement would be seen by them as Stalinist
> "stageism".
> -- Joseph Green

Best regards,

Andrew Stewart

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