Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Founding Of The PSUV Youth - A Crucial Battle In The Bolivarian Revolution

By Patrick Larsen in Venezuela
Monday, 25 August 2008

The Venezuelan revolution today finds itself at its most critical stage ever. After a narrow but alarming defeat in the December 2007 referendum, the revolutionary movement faces a new, important test in the November elections for mayors and governors. Preparations are in full swing, and the counter-revolution is trying to mobilize maximum forces to win as many positions as possible, in order to use them in their continued campaign to undermine support for Chávez and the revolution.

As part of this campaign, the sabotage of the capitalists continues, with scarcity of many basic food products. Speculation is an additional factor that has boosted inflation to extreme levels, making it very difficult for hundreds of thousands of working class and urban poor families to make ends meet at the end of each month. Crime rate has also increased - something the opposition conveniently uses to discredit the government.

If the revolution is to sweep away the counter-revolution, it must resolve these problems. We must remember that in December 2007, the referendum was not lost because of a big increase in votes for the opposition. It was lost because approximately 3 million people who had previously voted for Chávez abstained. The reformists attempt to explain this abstention as stemming from the allegedly "low" level of consciousness of the masses. They promote the idea that this was a proof that the Venezuelan people are "not ready" for socialism.

However, for the Marxists, the explanation is very different. From our point of view, the analysis of the December defeat is still the key to understanding the present situation and the tasks that lie ahead. In our opinion, the abstention of three million chavistas was not at all due to the "low" level of the masses. In fact, what is astonishing is the degree of loyalty displayed by the Venezuelan working class and peasants to Chávez and the revolution. Time and again they have moved to defend the revolution against its enemies - not only in electoral battles - but on the streets, in the factories and the military barracks.

The reason the December referendum was lost was is because after 10 years of almost uninterrupted mobilizations, the masses see that their main problems remain unsolved. The power of the oligarchy is still in place, and even though the government has tried to put a check to this with partial measures and nationalizations such as SIDOR, Los Andes, the cement industry and recently Banco de Venezuela, this is not enough to stop the sabotage of the capitalists and begin a serious plan of production that can solve the pressing problems of the masses. To do this would require the complete expropriation of the bourgeoisie and a Socialist plan of production, distribution and exchange, democratically worked out by the workers and peasants.

The PSUV Youth

The PSUV, which had its founding congress in February-March, enjoys widespread support. In June, some 2.5 million party members participated in the internal elections to determine the party's candidates for mayors and governors. Another two million are closely following the development of the party from the sidelines.

The most recent development is the call on behalf of the national party leadership to set up the PSUV Youth organization. This is of the highest importance. As we shall see, the youth have played a very important role throughout the Venezuelan revolution. The formation of the PSUV Youth is something that the Marxists of the CMR (Corriente Marxista Revolucionaria) have been advocating for the last year. It was the central slogan of the two Marxist youth encounters held in Caracas in July 2007 and in Ciudad Bolívar in November 2007, which brought together many young people from all over Venezuela.

The founding congress of the PSUV Youth is set to take place on September 13-15th in Rio Chíco, in the state of Miranda. At present the process of electing voceros (spokesmen) per each 10 youth is taking place in the Socialist battalions (branches of the PSUV). The idea is that these spokespersons will then join with a further 9 spokespersons from other PSUV battalions, and from among them, elect a delegate to the founding congress. In that way, the plan is that the founding congress will represent as many as 140,000 young PSUV members.

The Youth in the Bolivarian Revolution

In the bourgeois media on a world scale, the Venezuelan youth (especially the students) are often portrayed as ardent supporters of the opposition. This is a blatant lie which is intended as a means of shoring up public opinion against the Chávez government. The reality is somewhat different.

The beginning of the Bolivarian revolution was an invaluable source of inspiration to tens of thousands of Venezuelan youth. In the poor urban neighborhoods, many young people began to form Bolivarian circles, groups and societies. Even in the old universities, which have traditionally been dominated overwhelmingly by the children of the bourgeoisie and petit-bourgeoisie, the revolution found a resounding echo.

At every decisive juncture, young people have energetically defended the revolution. For example, this was the case a year ago, when small gangs of fascist youth, supporters of the opposition, tried to set up burning barricades and blockade the streets of Caracas, in response to the non-renewal of RCTV's license. At that time - and again during the December referendum - the balance of forces was clearly very favourable to the revolution. While the opposition students could only mobilize a couple of thousand, the Bolivarian youth organizations mobilized more than one hundred thousand.

In the heat of the revolution, different youth organizations were born, most notably the Frente Francisco Miranda (FFM), which was started in 2003. Chávez gave it important support, both morally and financially. The FFM was launched with revolutionary slogans and called for young people in the poor neighbourhoods to get organized and solve local problems at the community level. It also began to organize brigades of Venezuelan youth to go to Cuba, where they received political and ideological courses, etc. As a result, the organization grew rapidly. In the space of less than one year, it had grown to more than 40,000 members, and had hundreds of organizers in communities throughout Venezuela.

But there was another side to this as well. The organization was born with a highly bureaucratic, top-down structure, and the leadership did not allow criticism within the ranks. Ideologically, the FFM leadership tended towards a Stalinist position, only advocating Socialism after Chávez had embraced it, and focusing on the idealist conception of creating "a new Socialist human being", instead of pointing out the main political tasks that the Bolivarian revolution faces. As a result, this led slowly but surely to the widespread demoralisation of the membership, with thousands abandoning the FFM. From more than 40,000 it dropped to around 8,000 at the present moment.

This experience provides a clear warning. A genuine revolutionary youth organisation must have a fully democratic structure or it will become stale and the youth will abandon it. Also, if the PSUV Youth do not adopt the ideas of Marxism, it will inevitably fall under the influence of other ideas (reformism and/or Stalinism). As happened to the FFM, this would ruin the organization and all the revolutionary potential of the youth will vanish.

A Crucial Battle

There are historical experience as well, that allow us to fully appreciate the significance of the PSUV Youth. In the 1930s, Trotsky carefully analyzed the situation in the workers' movement. At that time there was a ferment in the working class that began to express itself in the Socialist Youth in various countries. In France, where there was an important pre-revolutionary movement of the working class, Trotsky advocated his supporters to enter the Socialist Youth and win over its left wing to Marxism. This tactic was unfortunately only carried out too late and in a half-way manner.

In Spain, where a revolution had begun in 1931 with the proclamation of the Second Republic, the Socialist Youth become extremely radicalized between 1933 and 1935. The possibilities for a revolutionary Marxist tendency within the Spanish Socialist Youth were huge. Trotsky understood this and advocated the entry of his followers. He even predicted, in the summer of 1934, that if the Trotskyists did not win over the bulk of the Socialist Youth in France (and Spain), they would be won by the Stalinists.

This was exactly what happened in Spain, where the Trotskyists under the leadership of Andreu Nin rejected the call by the Socialist Youth leadership to join their ranks in order to "Bolshevise" the Socialist movement. The Stalinists were more clever and understood that the mass base of the Socialist Youth would be decisive for the outcome of the Spanish Revolution. In 1935 they fused their Youth Organisation with the Socialist Youth, and in the coming years, used this mass base to effectively impose their moderate slogans on the movement ("First win the war against Franco, and only afterwards win the Revolution"). As we know, the result was a crushing defeat of the Spanish working class that led to 40 years of Franco dictatorship.

This lesson should be fully absorbed by the Marxists today. The CMR will be actively participating in the building of the Youth. We will fight shoulder to shoulder with the left wing delegates and put forward a Marxist position in the discussions that will take place in the congress (so far, we know that the food scarcity question and the question of military defence against imperialism are on the agenda).

Throughout the country, there are young people in dozens of local collectives as well as unorganized activists who will see the PSUV Youth as a possible revolutionary tool that can throw out the bureaucracy and finish the power of the oligarchy. These layers have seen first hand that reformism does not work, and they are searching for other ideas. This is the reason why the recent speaking tour of the British Marxist theoretician Alan Woods - organized by the CMR - was such an unprecedented success, precisely because he explained revolutionary ideas that connected with the aspirations of the rank and file of the movement.

It is the duty of any genuine revolutionary to work with these wide layers of Bolivarian youth and win them over to the programme and methods of revolutionary Marxism.

Ciudad Guayana
August 18, 2008


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Defend Free Speech: Solidarity With Harry's Place

I have off and on, for a few years visited a blog called Harry's Place. It is one of the most popular political blogs from the UK. Its politics can be termed B-52 left. They argue that the US/UK military interventions are progressive, and should be supported by the left. I have been involved in good debates there. They are under serious attack, and now is the time to put aside differences "por ahora."

This is one of the temporary homes of Harry's Place.

Why is this happening?

Harry's Place may be removed (or rather have it's DNS disabled) after a 'complaint' to the company that our domain name is registered with. We assume after threats were made on the weekend that this 'complaint' originates from Jenna Delich or her supporters. Though we have not yet seen the complaint submitted, we assume it runs along the lines that pointing out that Ms Delich linked to the website of a known neo-Nazi figure and former Ku Klux Klan leader is defamatory. This is extraordinary since Ms Delich has not denied that she circulated links to David Dukes website. There would be no point since the evidence is in the public domain. Nevertheless, a malicious complaint has been made to the company hosting our DNS.

1) First a supposed anti-fascist links to the world's biggest name in the "white power" movement.
2) Reports to the server company, a link to a racist site.

More info here and here.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Movie Roundup

Some of the films mentioned haven't opened yet. I often see movies at screenings, before they open in theaters. I'm using a five star rating system.

The Dark Knight


This movie is beyond what can be expected from a superhero movie. It's timely, complex and dark. This film will go down in history, longer than its genre.

The real star of the movie is Heath Ledger. His Joker makes Jack Nicholson's seem as child's play. It is a dark, brilliant and nihilistic portrayal. Ledger is guaranteed an Oscar, and it deserved. When Joker explains while in custody about planned violence against unplanned, and what it means to a society, it's chilling.

Christian Bale as Batman, is a tormented soul. He is sworn to fight evil. This Batman is unsure if it is worth it, if the fight can end. In order to fight evil, do you have to indulge in it?

Mamma Mia


This musical from the stage play with the same name works. It is one of the most simply fun films you'll see. Abba's music works great with the story and pacing.

Meryl Streep stole the show. She shines in musicals, as she does in every role. It's Meryl Streep, in a way you can't imagine. Pierce Brosnan can't carry a tune. The movie is so much fun that who cares.

This is the story: Donna's daughter Sophie is getting married. To the buff-looking Sky. Only – where's her dad? She's never met him. A sneak-peek at Mom's diary shows Mom had three lovers before Sophie was born and Sophie secretly invites all of them. This is a film of threesomes. Three past lovers (Sam, Bill and Harry). Three close friends (Donna and two best pals). And, not to be outdone, Sophie meets up with two other young girls at the start of the film.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona


Two girlfriends on vacation in Barcelona, get involved with a Spanish painter, unaware his volatile ex-wife is about to appear.

One gf is conservative and pragmatic (Rebecca Hall), and the other is Bohemian and care free (Scarlett Johansson). They become involved with artist Javier Bardem. Lingering is Penelope Cruz, the crazy ex-wife.

This film uses a narrator to move the story.

I enjoyed this film. In the back of my mind Woody was living vicariously through Bardem.

Ghost Town


This film reminds me as a cross between "Topper" and "The Sixth Sense."

A dentist who is lacking in empathy towards everyone dies for a few minutes and is revived. He now has the ability to see annoying dead people, who still have souls on Earth, because issues in their lives are not resolved. To get to the other life, they need to resolve these issues. The dentist can help them, because he's able to see them. One ghost played by Greg Kinnear is particularly aggressive. Agreeing to help Kinnear, he gets involved in a love triangle. With Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear and Tea Leoni. A fun time.

This film opens in September.

Death Race


One of the producers is Roger Corman.

Jason Statham plays a former auto racer, who was framed for his wife's murder. This takes place in the future, and all prisons are under private enterprise. The warden is the producer of a pay per view show, featuring prisoners in auto races to the death. This is a revenge picture. Great for what it's.



From IMDB. Driven by Isabel Coixets visually assured and deeply observant direction, Elegy charts the passionate relationship between a celebrated college professor and a young woman whose beauty both ravishes and destabilizes him. As their intimate connection transforms themmore than either could imaginea charged sexual contest evolves into an indelible love story. With humanistic warmth, wry wit and erotic intensity, Elegy explores the power of beauty to blind, to reveal and to transform.

Starring Academy Award®-winner Ben Kingsley and Oscar®-nominee Penelope Cruz, with extraordinary supporting performances from Dennis Hopper, Patricia Clarkson and Peter Sarsgaard, Elegy is based on Pulitzer Prize-winner Philip Roths short novel The Dying Animal.
I copied that to do this film justice. I expect Ben Kingsley to be nominated best actor, and Penelope Cruz to get some nomination as well.

Did I mention Penelope Cruz is topless?


Friday, August 15, 2008

War in South Ossetia – a Socialist Federation of the Caucasus is the Only Way Out

This is the 300th post on this blog (hurrah)!

By Tom Rollings and Francesco Merli
Friday, 15 August 2008

After months and years of sniper shooting and military build-up on both sides, war broke out in South Ossetia on the night of Thursday, August 8 when Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili ordered an invasion of the autonomous republic and the criminal shelling of its capital Tskhinvali. According to official Russian sources, up to 1,600 civilians and several Russian soldiers deployed for peace-keeping tasks were killed in the fighting before Russian forces retook the autonomous Republic. Thousands of refugees abandoned everything they had and flooded into North Ossetia in Russia calling for Russia to come to their rescue.

This was the justification that the Kremlin was seeking in order to settle down accounts in the region and reaffirm its role as a regional power. The moment couldn't be a more favourable one, with US imperialism entangled in Irak and Afghanistan and without means available to open a new front in the Caucasus.

Given the speed with which the Russian army responded (within a few hours after the Georgian attack) it is clear that the Russian strategists were expecting the attack and the armed forces deployed at the borders with South Ossetia were already in on a war footing, ready to strike back.

Despite the heavy fighting the Georgian forces proved to be unable to take control of the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali and were taken aback. The Russian counter-offensive crushed the Georgian army and retook control of South Ossetia in less than 48 hours. On Monday, Russian tanks and troops entered Georgian territory towards the city of Gori (dangerously close to the capital, Tbilisi), to show that they could easily take over the strategic centres of the country, while bombing key military infrastructures and cutting off Georgian access to Abkhazia, a second autonomous republic that Georgia claims, and the ports in the Black Sea.

The counter-offensive involved high altitude bombing that destroyed the centre of Gori, killing dozens of civilians and a Dutch cameraman. Similar scenes to those witnessed in South Ossetia, with thousands of Georgian civilians fleeing their homes in terror from the Russian counter-attack have been reported by the media internationally.

Imperialist Meddling Caused the War

Despite what the Russian and Georgian government are claiming, the war had nothing progressive on both sides. The present nightmare of war and nationalism in the Caucasus is the result of imperialist meddling. But it is also the result of the national chauvinism of the former Soviet bureaucracy, which was rotten with Great Russian chauvinism, and which sparked off the rise of regional and national chauvinism against Moscow. These centrifugal tendencies were a factor in the break-up of the USSR, and, as was the case in the former Yugoslavia, led to bloody civil wars in many of the former Republics. These conflicts to this day remain a series of festering wounds, which have not been resolved and can explode into violence at any time.

Criminally, American and Russian imperialism have interwoven these conflicts in their own struggle for spheres of influence and strategic interests, with American imperialism building up Georgia as a bulwark against Russia in the south Caucasus. Russia in its turn is using South Ossetia and Abkhazia as pawns in its battle to redraw the spheres of influence, which are connected to the strategic importance of Georgia as a pipeline route for Caspian oil to the west, and possibly gas as well in the future.

Alan Woods explained this process clearly in the article Georgia's "peaceful revolution" heralds new conflicts, published on In Defence of Marxism back in November 2003, at the time of the rise to power of Saakashvili:

"With Georgian President Shevardnadze's resignation, a radical, pro-U.S. opposition has come to power in Tbilisi. This is part of a general thrust to increase Washington's influence in the Caucasus, but it will have set alarm bells ringing in the Kremlin. The Russians will not remain with arms folded while a key country on her southern border passes directly into the camp of US imperialism.

"These events will undoubtedly pave the way for greater conflict and disintegration in Georgia. The Russians will tighten the screws on Georgia. So-called independent regions and pro-Moscow political leaders are only too willing to pick a fight with the new leadership in the capital. Since neither side enjoys majority support, chaos and violence will likely prevail, causing further upheavals, wars, bloodshed and misery throughout this beautiful but unhappy region and sabotaging U.S. plans to pump Caspian oil westward.

"Nino Burdzhanadze was giving her first televised national address following the resignation of Eduard Shevardnadze: ‘We have managed to overcome the gravest crisis in Georgia's recent history without shedding a single drop of blood,' Ms Burdzhanadze said. But she spoke too soon. The intrigues of the imperialists will cause a lot of blood to flow before the crisis is settled one way or another. The new leaders are already casting a nervous look over their shoulders at Russia. Declaring the disobedience campaign over, she said the country must work to strengthen its ties with its neighbours and "the great state of Russia". But fine words will not impress the Kremlin. Russia will be looking very closely at the policies and conduct of the new government in Tblisi, and preparing to tighten the screws. The result will be new wars, chaos and horrors without end."

And added further on:

"Washington and Moscow treat the small, weak, divided Caucasian states as mere pawns in a game in which the whole region acts as a gigantic chessboard. America makes a move, Russia responds, and the result is a war, an assassination, an explosion, a military coup or a ‘bloodless revolution'. We are now awaiting the next move in the game. We do not know when or where Moscow will respond, but one thing we do know: the losers will be the ordinary people, the poor, the defenceless."

In the epoch of imperialism, small nations such as Georgia or Ossetia are too small to play an independent role. National independence under capitalism for such nations does not mean freedom but more militarism and oppression in the interests of one power against another.

Why Did Georgia Attack?

On the part of the Georgian ruling elite, the attack on South Ossetia was a calculated bet that backfired them. Saakashvili barely survived last December to a massive movement of protest against corruption. He got out of it denouncing the movement as a Russian conspiracy and proclaiming a State of Emergency while at the same time calling for a snapshot presidential election in January, which he won. In April, Russian President Putin made a deal providing Abkhazia and South Ossetia with special relations with the Russian Federation. This move forced Saakashvili's hand. The Georgian President could not stand by and do nothing as Russian interference in the Caucasus grew unhindered under his very nose.

What Saakashvili was betting upon was the idea that Georgia could force the position in South Ossetia, although without occupying it permanently which would be impossible, in the attempt to rally the Georgian population around his nationalist agenda. They expected that despite all protests, the Russians would take the humiliation, like they did in relation to Kosovo, or the expansion of NATO to the Baltic states, but they would not dare to engage in a direct military intervention against a close ally of US imperialism like Georgia. After all, they might have thought, that's what Russia had been doing over the last years every time its interests collided with those of the United States!

But there is something more than that. It is very difficult to imagine that Saakashvili launched the attack against US wishes. The Georgian government is dependent on US aid and support, and US strategists must have endorsed Saakashvili's bet: a serious mistake on their part. But they did so for their own imperialist purposes: to test once again the reaction of Russia. Now that they have disastrously lost their bet, they have two options, either to admit the mistake of not having considered that relations of forces between USA and Russia in the region have changed, or to pretend that the Georgian government fooled them, hiding its intentions. But even if we believed that the Georgians acted on their initiative, how could Saakashvili hide the military preparations for the attack? Should we believe that the Russian security services were better informed than the hundreds of US advisors and diplomats that crowded Tbilisi? In both cases US imperialism comes out of this conflict with its credibility compromised.

Russian Imperialism Strengthened

On the other side, Russia is not the same country it was 10 years ago. It has recovered from its previous weakness both from an economic and military point of view and in recent years had been looking for a way to break up the encirclement strategy orchestrated by US imperialism since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Over the last 15 years US imperialism managed to take advantage of the crisis of Russia to establish strong ties and alliances with former USSR allies or breakaway republics from the Soviet Union of Central Asia, the Caucasus, Eastern Europe and the Baltic. NATO's expansion to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in 1998 and again in 2004, with the second expansion that absorbed the rest of the former satellites of the USSR in Central Europe and the three Baltic states, were rightly considered as strategic threats from the Russian military elite and convinced the Kremlin that they had to seize every opportunity to reverse this position.

The changed attitude and growing bargaining economic power of the Russian government was highlighted in the last years by the unilateral decisions to cut gas supply to Ukraine and the Czech republic, but Russia never resorted to the use of military power before August 8. What happened? A Geopolitical Intelligence Report by Stratfor commented:

"The Russians had changed dramatically, along with the balance of power in the region. They welcomed the opportunity to drive home the new reality, which was that they could invade Georgia and the United States and Europe could not respond. As for risk, they did not view the invasion as risky. Militarily, there was no counter. Economically, Russia is an energy exporter doing quite well - indeed, the Europeans need Russian energy even more than the Russians need to sell it to them. Politically, as we shall see, the Americans needed the Russians more than the Russians needed the Americans. Moscow's calculus was that this was the moment to strike. The Russians had been building up to it for months...and they struck."

Georgia happened to be the weak link in the chain of US imperialism network of alliances in the region and the best way for Russia to show the world (and above all, to the neighbouring countries) that US imperialism was not able to deliver anymore what promised, that is to protect the weak former Soviet satellites from their powerful neighbour. As Stratfor director George Friedman again puts it:

"The Russians knew the United States would denounce their attack. This actually plays into Russian hands. The more vocal senior leaders are, the greater the contrast with their inaction, and the Russians wanted to drive home the idea that American guarantees are empty talk."

Bitter Surprise for US Imperialism

The war in Georgia has forced the sudden recognition of a reality: Russia has emerged as a regional imperialist power strong enough to claim back the former Russian sphere of influence from the United States. The arrogant comment "They're not a major power, they're Saudi Arabia with trees," more significant because it comes from a long-term serving US diplomat (the Ex-US ambassador to the UN) interviewed on the BBC on August 13 reveals to what extent US imperialists have been taken by surprise by this development.

US president George Bush is not the cleverest man in the world, but in relation to Georgia was forced by more intelligent advisors to adopt a careful line. Although using a belligerent rhetoric to insinuate that Russia would be expelled from the 21st century modern world of the advanced countries if they did not change their attitude, he could not announce any action or concrete measure, apart from promising humanitarian aid delivered by the US military to Georgia.

On Tuesday, August 12, French President Sarkozy, current head of the EU, visited Moscow and then Tbilisi to broker a deal. But what we already said for the United States is even truer for the EU: there is not much the European Union can do with Russia in control on the ground. A deal might be reached only on the grounds that Russia has achieved her targets in the war.

Chauvinist Poison

In Russia, the ruling elite has enrolled the mass media in fuelling a wave of war hysteria. The suffering of the South Ossetian population was used to manipulate the understandable outburst of popular indignation and justify the counter-attack, but the war propaganda connected with a deep rooted resentment against US imperialism amongst the Russian working class. The trade union and Communist Party leaders have capitulated to the Kremlin on the war, just as they do not seriously challenge its line in peace. Instead of carrying the line of the working class into mainstream politics, they carry bourgeois ideology into the labour and communist movement. This is particularly clear on the question of war. Because of the lack of alternative, this will temporarily increase the support for Putin.

But militarism is a curse for the Russian people. The counter-attack on Georgia is a sign that the imperialist ambitions of the Kremlin and the greed of the oligarchs can lead to new adventures. Large Russian populations live in the Crimea, the Baltic states and Kazakhstan. Where will the defence of Russian citizens outside of Russia's borders end? The economic outlook for Russia is uncertain. The government as well as the capitalists are preparing another wave of cuts on living standards and attacks on rights, particularly workers and trade unionists' rights. The chauvinist poison is the weapon that the Russian ruling class always uses to make Russian workers and ordinary people accept that the military comes first while people themselves are treated as second-rate citizens.

In Georgia, where there are already thousands of refugees from the first war in South Ossetia from 1992-4, there is bitter anger at the defeat in South Ossetia. On Tuesday a crowd of 150,000 gathered in Tblisi to express their support for Saakashvili in a mood of national solidarity boosted by a hatred of Russian aggression. Yet the future of Saakashvili, regardless of high support for him at the moment, is uncertain. His policies of depending on the West to beat back Russia have ended in failure. Many demonstrators showed their rage cursing US imperialism for not coming to their rescue.

The Propaganda War - the Precedent of Kosovo and the Question of NATO

The Russian government claimed that its military operations in South Ossetia were motivated by humanitarian considerations. In this the Kremlin used the logic that NATO used in justifying its attack on the former Yugoslavia. But, NATO strategists reply, Russia opposed the NATO war on the Balkans - if NATO arguments were wrong in relation to Kosovo, why are Russian arguments any better in relation to South Ossetia? Here the Russian reply is much stronger than the lies that NATO churned out back in 1999. Over 90% of South Ossetia's population are Russian citizens, and Russia's own peace-keeping force was being directly attacked. None of these points applied to NATO. The Russian government therefore concludes that it acted perfectly legitimately in defending South Ossetia from Georgian aggression.

Two conclusions follow from this. Firstly, the defeat of Georgia is a setback for NATO and US imperialism, which weakens NATO in the Caucasus. Secondly, the workers and people of Georgia, including internal refugees who fled South Ossetia and Abkhazia in previous fighting, cannot rely on imperialism in their struggle for their rights. They have all been used as small change in the power politics of contending imperialist powers. The only alternative is the class struggle, beginning with the class struggle against the Russian and Georgian oligarchs.

On the Defence of South Ossetia

The killing of ordinary civilians in South Ossetia is criminal and completely reactionary. But it does not justify the further killing of ordinary civilians in Georgia. On the contrary this will serve to provoke further ethnic tit-for-tat killings in the future.

The systematic preparation for the war on both Georgian and Russian sides demonstrates that both sides are following their own, reactionary interests. On July 17th over 8,000 Russian troops and 700 units of heavy armour took part in a training exercise called "Kavkaz 2008." The exercises involved rehearsing fighting terrorists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and included preparations for evacuating refugees. The day before 600 Georgian troops conducted a joint military training exercise with 1,000 US troops in an operation called "Rapid reaction 2008."

The truth is that for the Kremlin the question of South Ossetia and the rights of the Ossetians is only of secondary importance.

The fact that the theatre of war extended far beyond South Ossetia and Abkhazia also underlines that the aim of the Russian rulers was not the defence of Ossetian people as they claimed, but they wanted to inflict a blow to Georgia and undermine its stability as an independent entity, in order to enforce a regime change in Tbilisi. The maps below show the areas of fighting and Russian bombardments.

The question of peaceful relations in the Caucasus will not be resolved by the presence of any number of armies in the region. Putin declared that South Ossetia will not be reintegrated into Georgia. It is also clear that South Ossetia is too small to function as a viable separate state, and that any declaration of national independence would likely be a step towards its integration into the Russian Federation.

Imperialism and capitalism are part of the problem, not the solution. The national question simply cannot be solved within capitalism. This is true not for ideological reasons, but for very material ones. Lenin described the national question as a matter of bread. The only way to solve it is through the development of the productive forces. This can be achieved only liberating oppressed nationalities from imperialist interference and can be fully developed only by means of the expropriation of the property of imperialist companies and of the local oligarchs and harmonic planning of the productive forces under the democratic control and management of the workers.

How can the question of return for all refugees be solved on a capitalist basis? If we consider it in the frame of capitalism it would only mean increased competition to access fewer resources, jobs, houses, medical assistance, education, and other services. It would provoke even sharper tensions on national or religious lines. Independence for South Ossetia or its integration in the Russian federation would end up inevitably in the ethnic cleansing of the Georgian minority of the South Ossetian population, which in turn will strengthen the resentment of the Georgian population and prepare new instability and wars.

The Complexity of the National Question in the Caucasus

The Caucasus has been for thousands of years a crossroad of different peoples, languages and religions. The perspective of a physical separation of the different peoples as a "solution" to the national question is reactionary madness.

Let's for example see the case of North Ossetia today, as well as other national Republics in the Caucasus. With the collapse of the USSR North Ossetians, who were Russian citizens, fought against their Ingush neighbours, who were also Russian citizens. This war was the tragic result of Stalin's catastrophic policies on the national question. Hundreds of thousands of Ingush (as well as Chechen) people were exiled on his orders in the 1940s (see Stalin Liquidates Two Republics by Ted Grant).

Much of the land of the Ingush people has not been returned to them. Thousands of Ingush still live in primitive conditions in what are basically refugee camps. The potential for violence at any moment explains why terrorists chose Beslan, a town in North Ossetia, for a horrific terrorist attack on a school on September 1st, 2004. They wanted Ossetians to assume the terrorists were Ingush, and to provoke a new civil war, which could have happened in 2004 and could still happen in the future. Yet the Ossetians who moved onto their land and worked on it for two or three generations, and who also have nowhere else to go, also have rights that need to be considered. This is a complicated and sensitive question.

Back to Lenin!

In his book, Russia - From Revolution to Counterrevolution, written in 1996, Ted Grant summed up the approach of Lenin and the Bolsheviks to the national question, which is worth quoting at length:

"Tsarist Russia was a prison house of nationalities. One of the key reasons for the success of the Bolshevik Revolution was its approach to the national question. Lenin realised that the only way a new socialist federation could be built was on the basis of complete equality of the national minorities that made up Russia. There could be no compulsion of one nation by another. A socialist republic could only be established on a voluntary basis, as a voluntary union of nationalities. As a consequence, the right of nations to self determination was enshrined on the banner of the party and the young Soviet republic, up to and including secession.

"Lenin stood for the unity of the peoples of the former Tsarist empire, but it had to be a voluntary unity. That is why he insisted from the very beginning on the right to self-determination. This idea which is frequently misinterpreted to mean a demand for separation is entirely incorrect. The Bolsheviks did not advocate separation, but defended the broadest possible extension of national self-determination, up to and including separation. No one has the right to oblige a people to live within the confines of a state when the majority do not wish to do so. But the right to self-determination no more implies the demand to separate than the right to divorce means the demand that all couples must separate, or that the right to abortion means that all pregnancies must be terminated."

But is also important to point out that:

"The right of self-determination was an important part of Lenin's programme, insofar as it demonstrated clearly to the oppressed workers and peasants (especially the latter) of Poland, Georgia, Latvia and the Ukraine that the Russian workers had no interest in oppressing them and would firmly defend their right to determine their own destiny. But this was only half of Lenin's programme on the national question. The other half was equally as important - the need to uphold the union of the proletariat above all national, linguistic or religious differences. As far as the Bolshevik Party was concerned, Lenin always opposed any tendency to divide the party (and the workers' movement in general) along national lines."

Lenin was opposed to any manifestation of Great Russian chauvinism. "I declare war to the death of Great Russian chauvinism", he wrote to Kamenev, and regarded this question as so important to determine his irrevocable break with Stalin when he was already terminally ill on the question of the shameful behaviour of Stalin and Dzerzhinsky against the opposition of the Georgian Communists' to their plans for the Federation. As Ted Grant explained:

"After the Revolution, Lenin hoped that there could be a voluntary and fraternal union of the peoples of the former Tsarist empire in the form of a Soviet Federation. To this end, he demanded that the nationalities be treated with extreme sensitivity. Every manifestation of Great Russian chauvinism was to be rooted out. As a matter of fact, for some time after October, the word ‘Russia' disappeared altogether from official documents. The official name of the homeland of October was simply ‘the Workers' State'."

Lenin's approach is the key to look for a way out from this nightmare. In the Caucasus and in the rest of the former Soviet Union.

For a New October

The class struggle in all these countries, beginning with Russia, is now poisoned by the national question. Russian workers will not gain anything from the war in Georgia except an emboldened Putin and the mushrooming of neo-Nazi organisations, which will engage in violence against workers and youth from the Caucasus, and against Russian workers and their organisations in the future. Only the Marxists can provide a programme and a perspective for resolving the scars of the national question, which is dependent on the struggle of the working class and the establishment of a socialist federation of states in the former Soviet Union and internationally.

The socialist alternative may seem far-off and difficult. But the foundations for it were already laid in the past in practice by the October Revolution. This is an inspiration for the struggle against capitalism, imperialism and nationalism today. Otherwise, the capitalist present is horror without end.

Today the enemy of the Russian working class are their new capitalist masters. This is already visible in the powerful class hatred against the capitalists. The mood amongst workers is not different in other former Soviet republics, including Georgia, where there is a sharp class polarisation in society and oligarchs of the likes of Kakha Benkuidze, who made billions in the metal industry in the Urals during the privatisations and subsequently became a minister in Saakashvili's government, and famously promised "to privatise everything except his conscience."

Yet in Georgia there has recently been a reaction against Georgian oligarchs, with mass protests in Tblisi towards the end of last year, which were violently crushed by the Georgian state. At the moment in Georgia there will be confusion and shock at the war, and bitterness against Russia. But the class struggle will break through the hysteria. The nationalist demagogy of Saakashvili is a sign of his weakness. Without it he does not have a stable base of support. All bourgeois politicians and policies in Georgia are empty. The workers have no option but to fight back.

In fact, the rash of wars that scar the planet are not only a sign of reaction. These wars are also a sign of the crisis of the system on a global scale. Globalisation means not only imperialism as an economic and military fact, but also the globalised crisis of capitalism and the potential for the workers to fight back against the ills of capitalism in every country. If Lenin was speaking to workers today, he would begin by hammering home the world crisis of capitalism, and making concrete the perspective of the world revolution, which has already begun in Latin America, and is finding an echo in North America, Europe and the Middle East.

But just as Lenin would underline that there are two Americas, the America of the capitalist and the America of the worker, he also explained at every opportunity that there are two Russias. Inequality has never reached such burning depths as at the present time. The Rublyovka district near Moscow has most billionaires per square kilometre in the world, just as the Russian Duma has more billionaires than any other parliament in the world. These fabulously rich live in effect in another country, with special police protection, like a court procession, when they travel on the roads, stopping the traffic. They have no contact with ordinary Russians, whose incomes are being eroded by inflation, or are being cut outright by the greed of the bosses. This was the case with the miners of Severouralsk.

After two decades of attacks the Russian workers are beginning to fight back. This may be temporarily cut across by the frenzy of Russia's military success. But the Kremlin's foreign policy holds nothing progressive for Russian workers, who have no choice but to fight against their capitalist masters both at home and abroad.

There is no way out for Russian and Georgian workers than to join forces together against imperialist meddling and their own exploiters. The only tradition that can unite all workers regardless for their nationality, language, colour and religion is that of Bolshevism and the tradition of October.

Long live proletarian solidarity!

For a new October!

For a socialist federation of the Caucasus and internationally!


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

From Ho Chi Minh City

I have asked my friends Aaron and Nadia, who recently moved to Vietnam to teach English, to send this blog regular reports.

Occasionally, in Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon, behind the smiles and food, I get this feeling of some sort of cultural train wreck. It is like everything we know we hate in America, the things we are trying to change, are formulating in Saigon and in a more glamorized form.

I think I first realized it while riding up an escalator in a western-style but Vietnamese catered MegaPlex of Gucci, Bebe, Ralph Loren, and “elite” and very expensive fast food restaurants with imported French fries, homemade food, real cutlery, and waitresses opening the doors and bussing the tables. In every aisle and on every floor, there were LCD TVs playing music videos from the 80’s and 90’s, and on the loud speaker the Happy Birthday song played repeatedly, sometimes even instrumentally and multi-lingually, urging shoppers that “this day is your day, it’s your birthday.” I didn’t know what the hell was going on.

Outside the MegaPlex, beyond a row of thatch shacks, and on the other side of a group of land mine and Polio and Agent-Orange afflicted beggars, they sell some French baguettes—apparently the French left colonial houses and baguettes, the Americans left phantom limbs, unexploded ordinances, and birth defects. They also sell, believe it or not, some American flag do-rags and “United We Stand” T-shirts. Though there is a teenage MTV-inspired western craze—and 60% of the population is under 25—I don’t think that the Vietnamese market demand is just yearning for a “United We Stand” shirt. The shirts are cheap and surplus, factory leftovers. So that poor teen with dirt smudges on his face doesn’t really love America, he just bought a cheap shirt.

Though, a sort of western craze, or rather a craving for “development,” is apparent and perhaps bubbles over. Walking the streets in the quiet, wealthier, Catholic area where I live, I feel like a Celebrity. Being one of the few westerners, everyone stares, little kids and some adults alike yell “hello,” after which I reply with another “hello” which they follow again with “hello,” and it continues for some time. The elderly, understandably, aren’t as excited to see me. I can completely understand why.

Ho Chi Minh City, I'm told, is by no means Vietnam. It’s closer to a Vietnamese Los Angeles. After a month, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that I needed someplace different. Someplace more, well, Vietnamese. I have been shocked at the safety. I’ve felt safer living in this city of 8 million than I have living in Fargo, close to the campus Frat Houses (though I had some reason for alarm). The people are more than friendly, and the one-party Communist government surprisingly puts forth more diverse candidates than two parties in a certain republic. I am curious to travel north.

--aaron a

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Food & Blogging: Presenting Foxessa's Country Girl - Winter City - Baked Vegetables

There is no interest in my sardine tacos, or my use of coffee as a spice. I asked several bloggers, to send me recipes; preferably easy to prepare, common ingredients, ethnic etc. In addition if I print the recipe, I'll plug your blog. Send recipes to me at the email address at my profile. I was going to print them all in one post, but I acquired too many. Political agreement doesn't matter. Atleast every month I'll continue this series. Leave comments about food, the blog, restaraunts etc. Everyone who sent recipes, will eventually have them published. I'm going in random order.

Today's recipe comes from Foxessa, who publishes the Fox Home blog. She is originally a country person from East Dakota, who moved to New York City. Her blog combines political analysis, with a big nod towards cultural history. Readers of her blog, know of her more than passing interest in a certain performer and music historian she calls Vaquero, who also wrote an incredible book about New Orleans.

Now the Main Event

Country Girl - Winter City - Baked Vegetables

This is a side dish that evolved in my kitchen, provoked by years of eating
Mediterranean meals. The base then, is olive oil (and wine, if you choose /

Turn on your oven to high heat, at least 375 degrees.

Prepare the most shallow baking dish or pan you have with whatever left-over
chicken stock you've got in the refrigerator to cover at least a quarter of
an inch of the bottom of the dish. If there's no leftover stock use some
white wine -- not too dry, but not sweet wine either -- and mix with
non-sodium bouillon. Flavor with anything else, like dried chives, lemon
grass, tarragon -- and even lemon juice, if you like (presumably your
leftover stock includes lots of onion and garlic flavors and whatever
already). Add as much / as little olive oil as suits YOU.

Take as many carrots as will fit comfortably on the bottom of the shallow
baking dish and leave room between the 'sticks'. These carrots should be
the enormous ones that look like a version of a billy club -- long and
thick, especially at the head -- not those wimpy things that come in plastic
bags, and especially not the machine-grated down nubbin things that are
passed off as 'baby carrots.' No flavor or texture in those. Peel the
carrots and slice lengthwise, to make sticks.

Peel an eggplant and slice it too lengthwise, from one end to another -- a
layered slicing if you will, not TOO thin, but not thick either. Put these
thinnish slices between / around the carrot sticks.

Peel a chayote squash -- o.k., that's not a Mediterranean, but Mexican
vegetable. So what. This squash is an inexpensive staple by now in my
kitchen. Often you can find 2 and even 3 of these yellow or green
pear-shaped vegetables for a $1.00, or below 80 cents @ lb. They hold their
shape and texture no matter whether you bake, roast, or boil them or for how
long you cook them. The single seed is edible. They can be eaten raw in
the summer with dips; sliced very thin, or shredded, they can be used in
wok cooking and in salads. They are great in any kind of soup that uses
vegetables. They have a lot of fiber and vitamins. The longer you bake
them, the sweeter and more tender they become -- probably anywhere from 45
minutes to an hour in your hot oven to be sure these tougher carrots become
tender and the carrots' flavor comes out. However, the chayote's weetness
is different from the sweetness that comes out of the carrots. So cut up the
chayote, chunk it, slice it, dice it -- doesn't matter. The chayote parts
can sit on top of the carrots and the eggplant.

It's essential the eggplant sit on / in the stock and olive oil on the
bottom of the dish -- the eggplant needs to absorb those flavors. The
eggplant pulls together the flavors of the stock, the carrots and the
squash. It's the mediator, so to speak, among the other parts, taking on
flavors of stock, carrots and chayote, while remaining eggplant. Some of
the eggplant will become delightfully soft and melt in your mouth, and some
pieces will retain more structural integrity.

Cover dish tightly, put in oven. You can be roasting chicken or something
else at the same time. This dish really takes very little time to prepare.
Once it's in the oven it needs nothing else from you, except to pay
attention that you don't leave it in too long, meaning burning it on the
bottom as the olive oil (which also helps guard against that) and liquid are
absorbed or evaporated.

These are fresh vegetables that are available in winter in most
supermarkets, vegetables that contain flavor, are filling and provide
texture for the mouth and tongue, and aren't expensive, at least if you buy
the long eggplants common in Chinatown, not the big egg shaped ones or the
boutique baby ones. They are particularly inexpensive relative to lettuces
and so on -- and forget about tomatoes. Anyway, tomatoes should only be
eaten in season, if flavor matters to you. Currently in the only supermarket
that serves our neighborhood, cardboard tomatoes are going for $3.99 @
lb. -- nope it doesn't make any difference that they come from Israel and
supposedly are vine ripened. They still don't have flavor. If you need
tomatoes to cook with, get Parmalat -- an Italian company -- chopped
tomatoes packaged in a cardboard box, without sodium. As well, carrots and
the chayote can be kept on hand -- the eggplant for less time, of course,
before going bad . Storage is also calculated into cost -- fresh vegetables
are a luxury item for so many of us in this country, winter OR summer now.
This last August tomatoes grown a few miles from the city were sold in the
supermarkets for over $2.00 @lb. I grew up with a root cellar in our
farmhouse's basement, where we stored potatoes, turnips, carrots, onions,
etc. during the winter. I've made an imitation of one in our apartment where
I store dried herbs and spices, peppers, chilis, yams, potatoes etc. in the
coolest place in our apartment. This was handy for making dinner last night
while the weather outside was frightful. You can take the farm girl out of
the country but you can't take the habits of frugality and storing food of
the farm girl raised on butchering, gardening, canning and freezing.

Take the dish out of the oven when the carrots are tender. Add pepper and
salt, if you like. This vegetable dish goes well with baked potatoes or with
boniatas and other yams -- even manioc / cassava dishes, as well as, say, a
cauldron of black beans or one of chowderi, and any meat, if you eat meat.
They make a good side to pasta --almost like a hot, winter antipasti. Your
kids might even like these vegetables -- it's a colorful dish, due to the
carrots -- the baking brings out the natural sugars in the carrots and
chayote, so it's fairly sweet. The olive oil provides that sense of content
and completion a person's inner self needs from eating.

As I said, this takes little time to prepare, certainly less than it took to
read about it.

Fox Home


Monday, August 04, 2008

Hamas And Fatah Are A Bigger Threat To The Palestinians Than Israel

(Taken from The Daily Star

It is a damning indication of just how bad things have become in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip when Fatah militants there must look to Israel for protection from their Palestinian rivals. The Jewish state announced on Monday that it would help a group of 150 Fatah fighters who had fled weekend clashes in Gaza relocate to the West Bank, after determining that they would face "imminent danger" if they were to return home. The scenes of Israel coming to the rescue of Palestinians after a bout of Arab fratricide were reminiscent of the events of Black September, during which scores of Palestinians sought asylum in Israel to escape King Hussein's crackdown on the Palestine Liberation Organization. The only difference this time around is that instead of seeking refuge from a heavy-handed Arab crackdown, Palestinians are fleeing from the murderous hands of their own Palestinian brothers.

Achievement of the Palestinian cause requires that all factions maintain a semblance of orderliness and keep their eyes on the price of independent statehood. In this both Fatah and Hamas have been miserable failures. Both have put partisan interests ahead of national ones and therefore have failed to maintain anything like a united Palestinian front. Even the mediation attempts of Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia have not been enough to curb the political infighting and internecine bloodshed that have served to further threaten the Palestinians' very right to existence.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza has been deteriorating since the international community callously decided to punish an entire people for having exercised their democratic rights in the legislative elections of January 2006. But the Hamas movement is now exacerbating the situation by undermining the rule of law in the territory. After accusing its Fatah rivals of carrying out a deadly bombing late last week that killed five Hamas leaders and a little girl, the Islamist party launched what can be only be described as a witch-hunt, rounding up some 200 Fatah activists. Fatah provided an equally bad example of governance in the West Bank when it retaliated against the move by rounding up scores of people it branded "Hamas activists," including many judges, students and activists who have no known affiliation with the Islamist party. On both sides of divided Palestine, civilians must now add Fatah and Hamas to the long list of threats to their security and wellbeing.

The events of the last week are just the most recent example of how the situation in the Occupied Territories has gone from bad to worse under the watchful eyes of elected Palestinian "representatives." Hundreds of people were killed last year when the two groups allowed their rivalry to degenerate into street violence. Hundreds more were prevented from going about their normal activities such as attending school, going to work or expressing political views.

Over the past few days the two Palestinian factions seem to be close to repeated the same disastrous mistakes. We have seen Palestinians denigrating the legitimacy of other Palestinians, Palestinians making war on other Palestinians, and Palestinians arresting other Palestinians, while the Jewish state has come to the rescue of those Palestinians who fear for their lives. Israel has never looked so good.

The Daily Star

Marxist From Lebanon

Saturday, August 02, 2008

So Love Me, Love Me, Love Me, I'm a Liberal

Phil Ochs (1940-1976) was an important voice in the antiwar movement against the war in Vietnam. His songs had a sharp edge, often combined with real humor. I saw him perform at the University of Minnesota, in front of thousands, after Nixon invaded Cambodia, and the school was virtually shut down. He had serious personal issues as alcoholism, manic depression. He wasn't associated with a group, but he was a Gene McCarthy supporter in 1968. He performed at Grant Park, during the 68' Democratic Party convention. This Youtube video is not Phil.

I'm A Liberal

I cried when they shot Medgar Evers
Tears ran down my spine
I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy
As though I'd lost a father of mine
But Malcolm X got what was coming
He got what he asked for this time
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I go to civil rights rallies
And I put down the old D.A.R.
I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy
I hope every colored boy becomes a star
But don't talk about revolution
That's going a little bit too far
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I cheered when Humphrey was chosen
My faith in the system restored
I'm glad the commies were thrown out
of the A.F.L. C.I.O. board
I love Puerto Ricans and Negros
as long as they don't move next door
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

The people of old Mississippi
Should all hang their heads in shame
I can't understand how their minds work
What's the matter don't they watch Les Crain?
But if you ask me to bus my children
I hope the cops take down your name
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I read New republic and Nation
I've learned to take every view
You know, I've memorized Lerner and Golden
I feel like I'm almost a Jew
But when it comes to times like Korea
There's no one more red, white and blue
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I vote for the democratic party
They want the U.N. to be strong
I go to all the Pete Seeger concerts
He sure gets me singing those songs
I'll send all the money you ask for
But don't ask me to come on along
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Once I was young and impulsive
I wore every conceivable pin
Even went to the socialist meetings
Learned all the old union hymns
But I've grown older and wiser
And that's why I'm turning you in
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal