ABOUT YOU FACEBOOK PEOPLE

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ABOUT YOU FACEBOOK PEOPLE

Much as I hate FACEBOOK, I have learned much about people from it. There is a very wide variety among you, which should be obvious because there is such a wide variety of individual types within our common species: homo sapiens.

But also, I took the policy of being fairly liberal in who I accepted as “friends” (and FACEBOOK labeling has so desecrated that noble word) with the result that my FACEBOOK contacts are quite varied even though I, like everyone else, have definite preferences as to the kinds of people I want as (“to”) “friend.” So from all of you and your associated contacts who post comments, I get to see a wide swathe of human types: good, mediocre, innocuous and irrelevant.

Who is who I never say because I have a policy of not making personal characterizations, which either are or could be taken as insults. Everybody takes themselves to be the measure of “reasonableness” and their opinions, especially political opinions, to be the measure of “correctness” and “accuracy.” I am no different in that regard, though I do try to be conscious of my own “settings” to try to avoid fooling myself when evaluating new information, since it could possibly teach me something new and worthwhile.

I attribute this last cautionary attitude to both a natural inclination and to my long years of rigorous training in the sciences (the real sciences), the scientific method (European Enlightenment thinking), and many years of actual scientific investigation (and with mathematics and physics). As a result, I find most of what you’all post to vary from logical, well-documented and erudite, to pathetically self-centered and idiotic.

I remind myself that many people are afflicted, lonely, poorly educated, and have unfilled emotional and psychological needs, and their FACEBOOK posts may mask cries for help and solicitations for acceptance and compassion, and just be outbursts of sorrowful anger and frustration. I avoid poking into all postings that initially strike me as stupid and pathetic, because they may be harboring deeper layers of emotional murkiness that their breezy superficiality does not hint at.

All of this informs my policy on “unfriending.” Basically, I only do that when I have finally decided that an individual is irredeemably tiresome, or insulting, or obdurately stupid beyond what their innate intellectual capabilities should allow for. It is so much easier to just ignore such people until (and if) they become insufferable, and in that way I can avoid being unnecessarily hurtful. As to me being “friended” and/or “unfriended,” you’all can do as you like.

Long ago I learned that people believe what they want to believe because those chosen beliefs let them feel good about themselves. Belief is emotional because the chosen beliefs are taken to be ego-defining, and hence people become very defensive, even quite hostile, when you challenge their “ideas” because they take such criticisms as attacks on their egos — on their actual being. This can be avoided between interlocutors disciplined in the scientific method, because they know that their ideas are not “them,” they are separate abstract constructs. Such constructs are retained as long as they are practically and morally useful — that is, validated by objective reality — and discarded when found to be erroneous, and improved constructs can be adopted. But most dialogs on FACEBOOK are of the intellectually undisciplined emotive-reactive type. So the best responses are most often none.

The postings I find most interesting deal with societal and political issues, with art, music, literature and photography, with Nature and our grand geophysical context, and with deep insights into human psychology and the human experience. A small sprinkling of trivial amusements is also enjoyable. I don’t expect others to share my interests, but I find others more interesting if they do.

From my perspective, the most important political struggle in the world today is that between “Democracy” and “Fascism.” By “democracy” I mean secular societies of wide inclusiveness and with a high degree of personal freedom/liberty, and which are organized under government regimes that are democratic/parliamentarian, and have a significant portion of their domestic policy being that of a social-welfare state (the more the better) and with as little corruption as possible. By “fascism” I mean the exact opposite of “democracy.”

The next most important political struggle in the world today is that between “Socialism” and “Capitalism.” By “socialism” I mean that the entirety of the state apparatus and the economic paradigm of its society are organized for the benefit of ALL its people, without regard to the desires of economic special interests for preferential treatment and exclusionary protections to give them a “leg up” in their self-aggrandizing contentiousness. By “capitalism” I mean governments owned by an agglomeration of corporate and financial institutions, and managed by the collective political arms of those organized capital interests, primarily for the benefit of the self-aggrandizing activities of those capitalist institutions and the careerists manning (and ‘womanning’) them.

Most of the nation-states in the world today are capitalist (I can’t think of a purely socialist one, except perhaps Cuba), and some of the capitalist nation-states are more “democratic” and some are more “fascist.” From my perspective, and broadly speaking because all nation-states are flawed to some degree, The United States, Latin America and Western Europe are primarily democratic, while Russia under Vladimir Putin is fascist, Syria under the al-Assad family dictatorship is fascist, and China is authoritarian, which for me is equivalent to fascism. Authoritarian regimes are also common elsewhere in the world, and they always include oppressed populations, sometimes even of majority numbers, but segregated by ethnicity, or religion, or physiological attributes (a.k.a., “race”), or language, or relative and enforced poverty. The ultimate logic of fascism is genocide (“The ultimate logic of racism is genocide” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).

So, I see struggle #1 as Democracy versus Fascism, and struggle #2 as Socialism versus Capitalism.

The singular existential threat of planetary scale and of alarming immediacy that we face today is human-caused Global Warming Climate Change. I have written volumes about this since 2003, but that is no longer necessary. In the last two or three years, the last shreds of climate change ‘denialism’ have all fallen away. Everybody now accepts the fact that global warming is reality, but humanity has yet to do anything real in response to it. So both fossil fuel use and the average global temperature keep rising at accelerating rates.

The only effective response to tamp down global warming, and in the ideal to permanently stop emitting carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, would necessarily have to be a cooperative and coordinated worldwide effort. In order for such an effort to be mounted and sustained indefinitely, it would be necessary to equalize the standard of living around the world, so as to offer all people everywhere an equivalent degree of protection from economic hardship and natural disasters, and to equitably tax all people around the world for the resources needed to maintain our linked programs of environmental preservation. In essence, we need World Socialism in order to be able to effectively counteract Global Warming Climate Change (GWCC).

The immediate reaction by “the rich” on hearing this is: “you want to take wealth, luxury and comfort away from us to pay for poor people,” and the immediate reaction by those “poor people” is: “we are suffering the brunt of this deadly climate change, which you are causing, so you owe us!” But ‘we are not all in it together,’ so the rich will continue to claw fossil fuels out of the Earth and burn them up because that is the source of their physical, and thus military, and thus financial power, and therefore of their overall political power domestically and internationally; and the poor will continue to seek to acquire fossil fuels and burn them up because that is the quickest way to move themselves out of grinding poverty, brute labor, and lives of precarious survival. Because the idea of worldwide human solidarity is too challenging and too frightening for most, we are relegated to a fractious “law of the jungle” (and actually the animals of the jungles are not as unnecessarily bestial as narcissistic humans can be).

Therefore, in order to have any chance of slowing and ultimately stopping Global Warming Climate Change we first need to have World Socialism, or a high degree of it; and before we can develop that we need a predominantly democratic world, because socialism will never emerge from a world strangled by fascism’s grip.

That is why the support for the Ukrainians’s defensive war against Russian aggression driven by Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy is so important. Defense of Ukraine is of course essential to protect the lives, culture, and liberty of individual Ukrainians and of their nation-state, but it is also important in the defense of democracy generally against the attacks on it by fascism. There are many places around the globe besides Ukraine where that struggle is taking place, Palestine, Syria, Myanmar easily come to mind, but at the moment Ukraine is a particularly intense flashpoint in that struggle that has galvanized much world public attention (including mine).

My contention is that the global “we” — especially in its most privileged nation-states — should do our best to support and arm the Ukrainians, and other oppressed people facing similar existential threats from fascist aggression, to help liberate them, and then expand those initially bilateral bonds of human solidarity into a broader international bond of human solidarity that is democratic and then socialist (as I have characterized those terms). In that way we erode the extent of fascism while expanding the domain of social justice and moral humanism, and simultaneously increase the extent and effectiveness of humanity’s Global Warming Climate Change counteractions.

To say that this is idealistic and impractical in our realpolitik civilization is simply to make excuses for preferring to sink into ignominious defeatism and dishonorable opportunism. There is no shame in ultimately failing to reach our desired goal in this tiered and multi-faceted global struggle, there is only shame and dishonor in failing to give that struggle our best collective efforts and to continue them.

Novalis paraphrased Herakleitos’s observation on the karmic drift of the unexamined life, as “Character is fate,” but it is important to realize that the nature of that personal moral character can be defined by the kind of fate one seeks to aim at by intentional actions. The world that humans inhabit never passively nor spontaneously improves (or not for long at least), but the worst possibilities can be prevented, and the sporadic catastrophes can be helpfully responded to after the fact, when the global we is more integrated through bonds of human solidarity: democratic socialism.

So all that goes into my thinking as to the value of my posts, and of yours, on FACEBOOK, not that I have any illusions that any of our posts actually “change people’s minds” (you can only do that for yourself, in reaction to your experiences in life), let alone influence the potentates and “change our world.” But we can stimulate each other’s thinking by what we choose to share on “social media,” and some of that might lead us each to reexamine prior assumptions, and even possibly decide to replace some of them with new and improved idea-constructs. In that way we improve ourselves.

So that is how I go about using FACEBOOK, and why, and how I view you’all in general.

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One Life, Many Lives

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One Life, Many Lives

Democracy is how human dignity is preserved institutionally. Socialism can only be brought about by individual commitment and effort, not by top-down political mandate. Capitalism is the economic face of fascism, and the sociological face of settler-colonialism and its imposition of slavery — and of genocide.

The most important struggle in the world today is that between Democracy and Fascism. This is more important than the struggle between Socialism and Capitalism because until the world is democratic it cannot achieve socialism, and without World Socialism no effective counteraction and adaptation to Climate Change can be implemented. A human civilization that would perish by Climate Change would necessarily have to be fascist, and a human civilization that would prevail against the existential threats of Climate Change would necessarily have to be democratic and socialist.

Fascism has many varieties but all are easy to recognize: wherever human dignity and democracy are suppressed, that is where fascism rules. While it is easy to see that potentates and the wealthy are fascist because that is the ideology that sustains their privileged positions and schemes of self-aggrandizing and exploitative inequality, it can seem paradoxical that working-class people would willingly choose to act as functionaries in the enforcement and bureaucratic mechanisms of fascism’s machinery, until you realize that human weakness and lack of moral character and a lack of a sense of honor are common.

Patriotism is a hoax, the only values worth fighting and dying for are: family and honor. And World Socialism means including all peoples and their communities within your allegiances to “family” and “honor” — just as those people would, in that ideal, include your family and your right to dignified living, within their allegiances to “family” and “honor.”

We humans are only as good as our willingness to take care of each other. It is very easy to see our deficiencies in this regard, but it is better to try overcoming them. That effort will be as eternal as the continuation of our species, and the mark of its success will not be the eventual achievement of some perfected societal advancement, but that at any moment a serious effort continues in that direction.

It is not possible to achieve that success for the world if the preservation of your uninterrupted comfort is paramount. There is no blame in being annoyed if such interruptions must happen, but there is no honor, and there is great shame, in seeking to avoid such annoying inconveniences by making excuses justifying the sacrifices of the lives and liberties, cultures and independence of other peoples, just to preserve your material comforts and ego.

So: am I an idealist and a romantic?
Yes.

Have I judged people harshly based on their responses, or lack of them, to the Russian-Ukrainian War?
Yes.

Do I worry this might reduce the number of my friendships, and perhaps significantly?
No.

Most friendships are quite superficial, and I have learned not to expect too much from “friends,” because most people just want you to play a supporting role in their own dramas of receiving attention, and for that they often want you to compromise your ideas and principles so as to harmonize with theirs.

For everybody, the first step toward World Socialism is the development of a well-integrated and principled moral character. The chasm, between the sordid reality of “now” and the projected idealization of the desired “then,” is never a justification for surrendering to defeatism. We are only as good as we do.

I seek to be truthful, not popular. I aspire to be worthy, not acclaimed nor egotistical, even knowing how socially challenging and personally difficult achieving that can be. I cannot think of a better way to make an anonymous life significant, and fulfilling.

The Ukrainians are fighting for their lives, families, culture, personal honor and national independence, and we support them because their struggle is one of the sharpest points of conflict in the world today that is also for the defense of democracy, and of our own morally humane honor.

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From Spain through Orwell to Ukraine

The best analysis I have found of the Russian-Ukrainian War (RUW), and the international political environment that frames it, was written by George Orwell in 1943: Looking Back On The Spanish War. Related to that analysis are Orwell’s insights, in his 1949 essay Reflections on Gandhi, on the limits of pacifism — which is always an affectation of the bourgeois political Left — when confronted with the urgencies of a Just War. The defensive war being fought now by Ukrainians is a Just War.

In using Orwell’s essays to form an analogy between the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the Russian-Ukrainian War of today, I rhetorically equate “Ukraine” with the Spanish Republic (the “Republicans,” the “Loyalists,” the democracy, the “reds”), and I rhetorically equate “Russia” with Francoist forces (the “rebels,” the Falangists, the Fascists, the “whites”). The analogy of 2022 Ukraine to 1930s Spain is not always perfect here, so I will occasionally use the symbol * to remind you of when I especially want to draw your attention to those relationships of analogy.

But first, let me present a summary, by Daphne Lawless, of the arguments within “leftist” circles, about Ukraine’s defensive war against Russia’s continuing aggression. After that I state my position on the war, and then proceed with the exercise in historical analogies, which I proposed at the outset.

Daphne Lawless (15 April 2022):

The really amazing thing is hearing old timer anti-imperialists/peace activists and young tankies alike, making PRECISELY the same arguments for why Russia should be left alone to do its wicked business in Ukraine as their sworn enemies – Zionists – do for Israel’s wicked deeds in occupied Palestine:

“The Ukrainians/Palestinians aren’t angels – in fact, some may even be fascists”,

“Russia/Israel is just defending its borders and its right to protect itself from its aggressive neighbours, who are using Palestine/Ukraine as a cat’s paw”,

“Why don’t Ukrainians/Palestinians just surrender to the stronger army to save lives?”

It’s especially amazing since they were so morally clear about why a regime infinitely more “dodgy” than Ukraine – Saddam’s Iraq or the Taliban’s Afghanistan – would not be improved by imperialist bombs and tanks. And they were right.

But then, they did the same thing in Syria, and in Bosnia – or even in East Timor, where it was explicitly argued that the consequences of Australia/NZ intervention would be much worse than simply leaving the Indonesian army to finish the genocide.

That logic was morally bankrupt then – a parody of the noble slogan “Neither Washington nor Moscow”. The idea that actual genocide is tolerable as long as Western imperialism doesn’t get involved is leading to an explicit alliance between communists/socialists and actual fascists – just like it did in the 1930s.

I stand with the rights of ALL oppressed people to resist imperialist aggression and invasion; and for their rights to use ANY MEANS NECESSARY to defend themselves, including buying a fuckton of arms from whomever will sell to them. YES, that means, for example, I defend the Solomon Islands’ right to do a deal with PR China should they choose to do so. To argue otherwise (because it might be of benefit to the imperialism that you, personally, oppose) is to say to those people: “it is better for you to die, for your children to be enslaved/stripped of their culture, than for a certain imperialist power to get any advantage over the other one which happens to be genociding you”.

It is an abstract, inhumane politics which sees only states where there are suffering people. It is a blindspot which is just unchallenged on most of the activist Left, and it is one reason why “normies” have no interest in Left organisations.

MG,Jr. response to Daphne Lawless:

I agree that Daphne Lawless’s statement (above) is superb.

I had a very dear friend, Louis Proyect (RIP) who was the best-informed Marxist I had ever met, and I learned much from him. Besides his encyclopedic knowledge of Marxism (Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, everything) and of international affairs, his outstanding gift as a political analyst was that he never lost sight of the true goal of all such activity: to always relieve human suffering — even if sacrificing one’s ideological consistency was necessary at times. That focus on people first is what set Louis above all the legions of campists, and tankies, and bourgeois recreational Leftists I have seen across the Internet this century.

So, yes, “class analysis” is good, “dialectical materialism” is amusing (the Old Communist who took Jorge Semprún under his wing in the German WWII concentration camp explained it to Jorge: “Dialectical materialism means always landing on your feet”), but it is also materially, factually, historically true that sometimes NATO is good too. You can only see this if you can accept: people over ideology.

About campists and tankies: They obsess so much about what they are “against,” that they blind themselves to what they should be “for.” “Campism” is the modern continuation of Stalinism. “Tankism” is the ignoramus variety of campism.

I am not interested in ideology, I am interested in moral truths that help people generally. Such truths are always beyond the narrow confines of ideology — “political” or “religious” — and in fact are so simple that children and even animals can instinctively understand them. It takes intelligence, education and maturity to be able to find excuses justifying murderous immorality. And it takes intelligence, education and “maturity” to be able to encrust very limited thinking with jargon so as to project a facade of commanding erudition. It is my impression that for most people (even the “smart ones”) that their political awareness boils down to confirmation bias and witch burning.

Daphne stated the facts very clearly. If you cannot agree with them it is not because Daphne is factually in error, but because you are intent to defend an idea you personally identify with, despite it being contradicted by objective reality. This is not uncommon (unfortunately), it is called cognitive dissonance.

George Orwell on the Spanish war [and parallels to Ukraine, and elsewhere, today]:

“The essential horror of army life…is barely affected by the nature of the war you happen to be fighting in. Discipline, for instance, is ultimately the same in all armies. Orders have to be obeyed and enforced by punishment if necessary, the relationship of officer and man has to be the relationship of superior and inferior. The picture of war set forth in books like All Quiet on the Western Front is substantially true. Bullets hurt, corpses stink, men under fire are often so frightened that they wet their trousers. It is true that the social background from which a army springs will colour its training, tactics and general efficiency, and also that the consciousness of being in the right can bolster up morale, though this affects the civilian population more than the troops. (People forget that a soldier anywhere near the front line is usually too hungry, or frightened, or cold, or, above all, too tired to bother about the political origins of the war.) But the laws of nature are not suspended for a “red” army any more than for a “white” one. A louse is a louse and a bomb is a bomb, even though the cause you are fighting for happens to be just. Why is it worthwhile to point out anything so obvious? Because the bulk of the British and American intelligentsia were manifestly unaware of it then, and are now.”
Looking Back on the Spanish War (LBOTSW)

“As far as the mass of the people go, the extraordinary swings of opinion which occur nowadays, the emotions which can be turned on and off like a tap, are the result of newspaper and radio hypnosis. In the intelligentsia I should say they result rather from money and mere physical safety…We have become too civilised to grasp the obvious. For the truth is very simple. To survive you often have to fight, and to fight you have to dirty yourself. War is evil, and it is often the lesser evil. Those who take the sword perish by the sword, and those who don’t take the sword perish by smelly diseases. The fact that such a platitude is worth writing down shows what the years of rentier capitalism have done to us.”
— LBOTSW

“I have little direct evidence about the atrocities in the Spanish civil war. I know that some were committed by the Republicans, and far more (they are still continuing) by the Fascists. But what impressed me then, and has impressed me ever since, is that atrocities are believed in or disbelieved solely on the grounds of political predilection. Everybody believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without bothering to examine the evidence. Recently I drew up a table of atrocities during the period between 1918 and the present [1943]…there was hardly a single case when the Left and the Right believed in the same stories simultaneously. And stranger yet, at any moment the situation can suddenly reverse itself and yesterday’s proved-to-the-hilt atrocity story can become a ridiculous lie, merely because the political landscape has changed.”
— LBOTSW

“…the Left, the people who normally pride themselves on their incredulity…”
— LBOTSW

“The truth, it is felt, becomes untrue when your enemy utters it…But unfortunately the truth about atrocities is far worse than that they are lied about and made into propaganda. The truth is that they happen. The fact often adduced as a reason for scepticism — that the same horror stories come up in war after war — merely makes it rather more likely that those stories are true. Evidently they are widespread fantasies, and war provides an opportunity of putting them into practice. Also, although it has ceased to be fashionable to say so, there is little question that what one may roughly call the ‘whites’ [autocracies, conservatives, fascists — MG,Jr.] commit far more and worse atrocities than the ‘reds.’ [democracies, liberals, socialists — MG,Jr.]…The volume of testimony is enormous…These things really happened, and that is the thing to keep one’s eye on.”
— LBOTSW

“The broad truth about the war [1936-1939 — MG,Jr.] is simple enough. The Spanish bourgeoisie saw their chance of crushing the labour movement, and took it, aided by the Nazis and by the forces of reaction all over the world.”
— LBOTSW

The broad truth about the Russian-Ukrainian War is that the Russian autocracy of Vladimir Putin thought it saw a chance of crushing Ukrainian independence and recolonizing Ukraine, and took it, and the nature of all the other governments around the world can be gauged by their responses to Russia’s aggression, and which responses must certainly arise out of sympathy with or antipathy to Russia’s war goals, because they either mirror or conflict with the closely held political desires of those governments.

“Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. [Look up ”Frank Pitcairn” for more about this — MG,Jr.]…I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened. I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines’…But the broad picture of the war which the Spanish* government presented to the world was not untruthful. The main issues were what it said they were. But as for the Fascists* and their backers, how could they come even as near to the truth as that? How could they possibly mention their real aims? Their version of the war was pure fantasy, and in the circumstances it could not have been otherwise. The only propaganda line open to the Nazis* and Fascists* was to represent themselves as Christian patriots saving Spain* from a Russian [1930s — MG,Jr.] dictatorship. This involved pretending that life in Government Spain* was just one long massacre.”
— LBOTSW

This is exactly the template of the current Russian propaganda about their war in Ukraine. The bogeyman of a looming Russian (Stalinist) dictatorship in 1930s Spain projected by the Spanish Fascists and their backers (primarily Germany and Italy) has its parallel today in the Russian-Ukrainian War with Vladimir Putin’s propagandistic projection of the bogeyman of a looming Azov Battalion style neo-Nazi dictatorship seizing control of (in fact already controlling) the entire Ukrainian nation. It is remarkable how closely Vladimir Putin’s projection of a casus belli onto Ukraine mirrors the nature of his own regime in Russia.

“This kind of thing is frightening to me, because it often gives me the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. After all, the chances are that those lies, or at any rate similar lies, will pass into history.”
— LBOTSW

“But is it perhaps childish or morbid to terrify oneself with visions of a totalitarian future?…Against the shifting phantasmagoric world in which black may be white tomorrow and yesterday’s weather can be changed by decree, there are in reality only two safeguards. One is that however much you deny the truth, the truth goes on existing, as it were, behind your back, and you consequently can’t violate it in ways that impair military efficiency. The other is that so long as some parts of the earth remain unconquered, the liberal tradition can be kept alive. Let fascism, or possibly even a combination of several fascisms, conquer the whole world, and those two conditions no longer exist. We in England [and America — MG,Jr.] underrate the danger of this kind of thing, because our traditions and our past security have given us a sentimental belief that it all comes right in the end and the thing you most fear never really happens. Nourished for hundreds of years on a literature [movies, for Americans — MG,Jr.] in which Right invariably triumphs in the last chapter, we believe half-instinctively that evil always defeats itself in the long run. Pacifism, for instance, is founded largely on this belief. Don’t resist evil, and it will somehow destroy itself. But why should it? What evidence is there that it does? And what instance is there of a modern industrialized state collapsing unless conquered from the outside by military force?”
— LBOTSW

“In the long run — it is important to remember that it is only in the long run — the working class remains the most reliable enemy of fascism, simply because the working class stands to gain most by a decent reconstruction of society. Unlike other classes or categories, it can’t be permanently bribed. To say this is not to idealise the working class…Time after time, in country after country, the organized working class movements have been crushed by open, illegal violence, and their comrades abroad, linked to them in theoretical solidarity, have simply looked on and done nothing; and underneath this, secret cause of many betrayals, has lain the fact that between white and coloured workers there is not even lip-service to solidarity. Who can believe in the class-conscious international proletariat after the events of the past ten years? To the British working class the massacres of their comrades in Vienna, Berlin, Madrid, or wherever it might be seemed less interesting and less important than yesterday’s football match. [Americans behave identically — MG,Jr.] Yet this does not alter the fact that the working class will go on struggling against fascism after the others have caved in. One feature of the Nazi conquest of France was the astonishing defections among the intelligentsia, including some of the left-wing political intelligentsia. The intelligentsia are the people who squeal loudest against fascism, and yet a respectable proportion of them collapse into defeatism when the pinch comes. They are far-sighted enough to see the odds against them, and moreover they can be bribed — for it is evident that the Nazis think it worth while to bribe intellectuals. With the working class it is the other way about. Too ignorant to see through the trick being played on them, they easily swallow the promises of fascism, yet sooner of later they always take up the struggle again. They must do so, because in their own bodies they always discover that the promises of fascism cannot be fulfilled. To win over the working class permanently, the fascists would have to raise the general standard of living, which they are unable and probably unwilling to do…What are the workers struggling for? Simply for the decent life which they are more and more aware is now technically possible…The common people knew in their bones that the Republic* was their friend and Franco* was their enemy. They knew that they were in the right, because they were fighting for something which the world owed them and was able to give them.”
— LBOTSW

“When one thinks of the cruelty, squalor, and futility of war…there is always the temptation to say: ‘One side is as bad as the other. I am neutral.’ In practice, however, one cannot be neutral, and there is hardly such a thing as a war in which it makes no difference who wins. Nearly always one side stands more or less for progress, the other side more or less for reaction. The hatred which the Spanish Republic excited in millionaires, dukes, cardinals, play-boys, blimps [e.g., Donald Trump, Bashar al-Assad, Xi Jinping], and what-not would in itself be enough to show one how the land lay. In essence it was a class war. If it had been won [and this time I hope it will be — MG,Jr.], the cause of the common people everywhere would have been strengthened.”
— LBOTSW

“The outcome of the Spanish war was settled in London, Paris, Rome, Berlin — at any rate, not in Spain. After the summer of 1937 those with eyes in their heads realised that the Government could not win the war unless there were some profound change in the international set-up…[dare I say massive weapons transfers to Ukraine and forgiving its foreign debt, dare I say Russia blocked in the UN by its reorganization, dare I say: NATO — MG,Jr.]…The Fascists won [in 1939 — MG,Jr.] because they were the stronger; they had modern arms and the others hadn’t. No political strategy can offset that.”
— LBOTSW

“Whether it was right…to encourage the Spaniards* to go on fighting when they could not win [if unsupported and undersupplied from abroad — MG,Jr.] is a question hard to answer. I myself think it was right, because I believe that it is better even from the point of view of survival to fight and be conquered than to surrender without fighting.”
— LBOTSW

“When one thinks of all the people who support or have supported fascism, one stands amazed at their diversity…But the clue is really very simple. They are all people with something to lose, or people who long for a hierarchical society and dread the prospect of a world of free and equal human beings. Behind all the ballyhoo that is talked about…lies the simple intention of those with money or privileges to cling to them…The damned impertinence of these politicians, priests, literary men, and what-not who lecture the working-class socialist for his ‘materialism’! All that the working man demands is what these others would consider the indispensable minimum without which human life cannot be lived at all. Enough to eat, freedom from the haunting terror of unemployment, the knowledge that your child will get a fair chance, a bath once a day, clean linen reasonably often, a roof that doesn’t leak, and short enough working hours to leave you with a little energy when the day is done. Not one of those who preach against “materialism” would consider life livable without these things. And how easily that minimum could be attained if we chose to set our minds to it for only twenty years! To raise the standard of living of the whole world to that of Britain would not be a greater undertaking than the war [WWII — MG,Jr.] we have just fought. I don’t claim, and I don’t know who does, that that would solve anything in itself [politically — MG,Jr.]. It is merely that privation and brute labour have to be abolished before the real problems of humanity can be tackled. [We cannot effectively tackle Climate Change until we first ‘Make poverty history,’ as Nelson Mandela said — MG,Jr.]…

“How right the working classes are in their ‘materialism’! How right they are to realise that the belly comes before the soul, not in the scale of values but in point of time! All the considerations that are likely to make one falter — the siren voices of a Petain [or Marine Le Pen — MG,Jr.] or of a Gandhi, the inescapable fact that in order to fight one has to degrade oneself, the equivocal moral position of Britain [and the United States — MG,Jr.], with its democratic phrases and coolie empire, the sinister development of Soviet Russia [and again! — MG,Jr.] the squalid farce of left-wing politics — all this fades away and one sees only the struggle of the gradually awakening common people against the lords of property and their hired liars and bumsuckers. The question is very simple. Shall people…be allowed to live the decent, fully human life which is now technically achievable, or shan’t they? Shall the common man be pushed back into the mud, or shall he not? I myself believe, perhaps on insufficient grounds, that the common man will win his fight sooner of later, but I want it to be sooner and not later — some time within the next hundred years, say, and not some time within the next ten thousand years. That was the real issue of the Spanish war, and the last war, and perhaps of other wars yet to come.”
— LBOTSW

George Orwell on Gandhi and pacifism:

“Of late years it has been the fashion to talk about Gandhi as though he were not only sympathetic to the Western left-wing movement, but were integrally part of it. Anarchists and pacifists, in particular, have claimed him for their own, noticing only that he was opposed to centralism and State violence and ignoring the other-worldly, anti-humanist tendency of his doctrines. But one should, I think, realize that Gandhi’s teachings cannot be squared with the belief that Man is the measure of all things and that our job is to make life worth living on this earth, which is the only earth we have. They make sense only on the assumption that God exists and that the world of solid objects is an illusion to be escaped from…But it is not necessary here to argue whether the other-worldly or the humanistic ideal is ‘higher.’ The point is that they are incompatible. One must choose between God and Man, and all ‘radicals’ and ‘progressives,’ from the mildest Liberal to the most extreme Anarchist, have in effect chosen Man.”
Reflections on Gandhi [ROG]

“Even after he had completely abjured violence he was honest enough to see that in war it is usually necessary to take sides. He did not — indeed, since his whole political life centered round a struggle for national independence, he could not — take the sterile and dishonest line of pretending that in every war both sides are exactly the same and it makes no difference who wins. Nor did he, like most Western pacifists, specialize in avoiding awkward questions. In relation to the late war [WWII — MG,Jr.], one question that every pacifist had a clear obligation to answer was: ‘What about the Jews? Are you prepared to see them exterminated? If not, how do you propose to save them without resorting to war?’ [And since WWII we have been faced with the same question for many other populations: Palestinians, Mayans, Bosnians, Rwandans, East Timorese, Libyans, Syrians, Rohingya, among others, and now in light of the Bucha atrocities, Ukrainians — MG,Jr.] I must say that I have never heard, from any Western pacifist, an honest answer to this question, though I heard plenty of evasions…

“But it so happens that Gandhi was asked a somewhat similar question in 1938 and that his answer…was that the German Jews ought to commit collective suicide, which ‘would have aroused the world and the people of Germany to Hitler’s violence.’ After the war he justified himself: the Jews had been killed anyway, and might as well have died significantly…

“Gandhi was merely being honest. If you are not prepared to take life, you must often be prepared for lives to be lost in some other way. When in 1942, he urged non-violent resistance against a Japanese invasion, he was ready to admit that it might cost several million deaths…

“It is difficult to see how Gandhi’s methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the régime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard from again. Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary. Is there a Gandhi in Russia at this moment? And if there is, what is he accomplishing? The Russian masses could only practice civil disobedience if the same idea happened to occur to all of them simultaneously, and even then, to judge by the history of the Ukrainian famine, it would make no difference.”
— ROG

“But let it be granted that non-violent resistance can be effective against one’s own government, or against an occupying power [on the order of Britain and colonial India — MG,Jr.]: even so, how does one put it into practice internationally?…Applied to foreign politics, pacifism either stops being pacifist or becomes appeasement. Moreover the assumption, which served Gandhi so well in dealing with individuals, that all human beings are more or less approachable and will respond to a generous gesture, needs to be seriously questioned. It is not necessarily true, for example, when you are dealing with lunatics. Then the question becomes: Who is sane? Was Hitler sane? And is it not possible for one whole culture to be insane by the standards of another? And, so far as one can gauge the feelings of whole nations, is there any apparent connection between a generous deed and a friendly response? Is gratitude a factor in international politics?”
— ROG

The extraordinary thing about Orwell is that he so clearly states the obvious about the social conditions of the times, then and now, and which few can even bring themselves to face without excuses, fantasies and lies, if at all.

So, to conclude:

The Ukrainians are fighting a Just War of defense against ongoing Russian aggression, which includes mass atrocities committed against Ukrainian civilians.

There is no morally justifiable pacifist response to this war, nor morally justifiable position of neutrality regarding it.

All excuses advanced to justify the Russian aggression in Ukraine, by both Vladimir Putin and “anti-imperialists” opposed only to US-NATO-Western “expansionism,” are complete lies aimed at enforcing inhuman ideologies in the forms of:

Conquest and colonization — Russian imperialism:
the destruction of the Ukrainian state and culture, and the subjugation of its people, and

Ideological consistency over the relief of human suffering:
the opposition by “anti-imperialists” of assistance to Ukraine regardless of how many Ukrainians would die as a result, because those anti-imperialists do not want any weakening of Russian opposition to Washington-consensus geopolitical power, nor any expansion of that power, as a result of any assistance the United States, in particular, might render Ukraine.

Helping Ukraine win its war as quickly as possible is the right thing to do, not just for the benefit of Ukraine, but for the moral and political advancement of the whole world.

“This is the nature of war: by protecting others you save yourself.”
Seven Samurai (1954)

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Tyrants are bullies, and bullies are cowards

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Tyrants are bullies, and bullies are cowards

To tolerate a foreign tyrant is to make the calculation that his victims are expendable is an acceptable exchange for being able to continue with the present degree of peace and comfort in your national life.

Nations can VOLUNTARILY choose to stop tolerating another’s tyranny by willingly expending some of their blood and treasure to come to the aid of the defense of victim populations, and by considering such acts on their part to be investments in human solidarity that can help build up a worldwide solidarity that is then capable — eventually — of confronting, attenuating and even solving existential problems of global scope, such as: climate change, nuclear disarmament, providing healthcare and disease eradication globally, and the elimination of: poverty, famine and food insecurity, statelessness and refugee streams of displaced desperate and precarious populations.

Nations can also INVOLUNTARILY be driven to cease tolerating a tyrant when he attacks, invades, and inflicts war upon your nation, so then you reluctantly make common cause with his previously (and still) victimized populations.

Making the correct national policy choices for the long term requires that your nation have the most astute, finely balanced, both deliberative and decisive — as needed — as well as fundamentally moral national leaders: politically, militarily, economically and sociologically.

What we need is World Socialism with NATO-for-All: NATO4A.

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I’m Done with “Anti-imperialists”

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I’m Done with “Anti-imperialists”

I never thought that such a large proportion of people who call themselves “leftists,” and “socialists,” and “anti-imperialists” could be so inhumanly ideological, where their good opinions of themselves as morally superior beings could be automatically justified by the wars and mass murders inflicted on civilian populations by neo-fascist dictators and other imperialist regimes designated as opponents of “US hegemony” also “NATO expansionism,” by the ignorant magical thinking of these self-satisfied ideologues. I admit to being totally flabbergasted by this realization, made vivid in all the blathering broadcast about the war in Ukraine. What an incredibly inhuman bottom line: those civilians being oppressed, tortured, disappeared, gassed and bombarded, “deserve it,” because they stand in the way of the retention and expansion of power by those “opponents of US hegemony,” who are “defending themselves” (from US hegemony and NATO, of course) by doing all that oppressing, torturing, disappearing of “enemy” prisoners, gas bombing, artillery and aerial bombing, and military invasions of victimized civilian populations, and that “US hegemony” is THE ONLY and FUNDAMENTAL problem deserving of any opprobrium in the world. WOW!, talk about being brainwashed! Such ideologues are really “mental imperialists,” recreational leftists heartlessly consuming inconvenient foreign civilian populations so as to maintain the “exceptionalism” of their overweening self-regard: it is the self-righteousness of utter fools, and craven cowards. My pal and Vietnam War veteran, Stan, had told me: “There are some people you would want in your foxhole, and some you don’t.” If survival ever got that desperate for me, I would be sure not to have any of these ideological pseudo-“anti-imperialist” fools in my foxhole. But at least now I know much better where I stand with regard to everyone.

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Dear Russian Widows

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Dear Russian Widows

I grieve with you. And I grieve with you, Ukrainian widows and widowers and orphans and heartbroken lovers dropping your tears in the cold dusty blackened ruins of your invaded cities, towns and villages.

It is reported here, in the United States of America, that at least 7,000 to as many as 14,000 Russian soldiers have been killed during this first month (24 February – 24 March, 2022) of Russia’s — Vladimir Putin’s — invasion of Ukraine. So, sadly, there are now up to 14,000 more Russian families with new widows and newly heartbroken lovers grieving for their young men sacrificed in a war as the blood lubrication for the gears of the ponderous and plodding machinery tracking your would-be emperor’s ambitions of conquest and power into the fields and streets of Ukraine. And now all your young newly widowed Russian women, and newly bereft Russian mothers, are reliving the anguish and grief suffered by an older generation of Russian women whose young men were taken by the tragically disastrous Russian war in Afghanistan forty years ago, and many of those women may have been robbed of their chances to become happy grandmothers.

Who can doubt that on 24 February 2022, many Poles instantly thought of 1 September 1939, and 17 September 1939; and that many Danes, Norwegians, Belgians, Dutch and French instantly thought of April and May 1940; and that many Russians, along with Belarusians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, and Ukrainians instantly thought of 22 June 1941?

The trauma of a heartless dictator’s destructive invasion of your country to subjugate it as an exploitable colony and then carry out a campaign of continuous mass murder, is not soon dissipated from the historical memory of succeeding generations of those previously conquered nations, and the hollow feeling of seeing this happen again, two to three generations later during their young and modern 21st century lives, quickly steels the youth of those countries today into a resolve to fight off the invader and preserve their national independence, and national honor, and national pride. And such resolve can make them fight to the death because they feel sanctified by history and by the truest morality that every human of any age instinctively understands.

So your poor Russian soldiers are here at a great disadvantage, because as they awaken to any degree of the truth of their situation, they will know that they can not be justified and ennobled by any moral principles, they are just being used as expendable tools to perpetrate war crimes at the service of your Caesar, Putin’s imperial ambitions.

And I grieve with you because all the foreigners sympathetic to the plight of the Ukrainians, either because of resonant echoes of painful memories from their own national histories, or from simple emotional reactions against the outrageous injustices being inflicted on Ukraine, will contribute to efforts to resupply, rearm, fortify and accept refugees from Ukraine so it can continue, and hopefully win, its defensive war against the Russian military, and against Vladimir Putin’s inhuman ideology.

And I, too, am sympathetic to the Ukrainian cause. But this then means that my sympathy, along with many others whose sympathy is expressed as military assistance, will necessarily kill more Russian soldiers and create more Russian widows, and more bereft Russian mothers, fathers, and lovers. And I grieve that such increased pain to the Russian people is impossible to avoid with any effort to relieve the massive injustice and massive pain being inflicted on the Ukrainian people. I grieve that in being sympathetic to a people afflicted with a cruel and unjust invasive war, I am inextricably guilty of adding to the increasing grief of the Russian people whose young men are being consumed in that war.

During my youthful adult years, the United States was prosecuting its own massively unjust imperialistic war — against “communism” — in Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia. The Vietnamese simply wanted to unify their country, which was briefly liberated from both the French colonizers and Japanese imperialists during 1945, and continue as an independent nation free to use its natural resources and peasant agricultural economy for the well-being of its own people, and to be free to have their own Vietnamese rulers, both the honest ones and the pocket-lining corrupt ones as exist in every government, and to fashion their nation as a “communist” one, that is to say with some degree of beneficial collectivization, and some degree of insulated hierarchical power, which power and patronage pyramids are blemishes (or gaping sores) of every government everywhere, whether it calls itself “capitalist,” “democratic,” “socialist,” or “communist.”

My country, the United States, sent a Marine invasion in 1965 to prosecute a massive land war, and helicopter war, and aerial bombardment war in Vietnam till late 1972, which was continued by the Vietnamese troops of the South Vietnamese puppet government till it collapsed in April 1975. During the 13 years or so of direct U.S. military involvement in Vietnam (1962-1975, previously the U.S. had funded the French war to recolonize Vietnam, 1946-1954, after its liberation with the defeat of Japan in August 1945), the U.S. military sent in about 1 million soldiers, sailors, airmen, and women nurses, whose collective work resulted in perhaps 2.5-3 million Vietnamese killed, and perhaps up to 3.5-4 million people killed in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, as sections of the latter two nations were also heavily bombarded and chemically defoliated).

Of those approximately 1 million U.S. military personnel that passed through Southeast Asia during the American war there, just over 58,000 of them were killed, and many thousands more suffered debilitating physical and psychological wounds that lasted, and are lasting, till their deaths.

The Vietnamese Communist Party, which was conducting its war of national liberation, and defensive war against American aggression against their unified communist national aspirations, was desperate to receive whatever foreign assistance it could get in the way of arms and humanitarian supplies to combat such an awesome enemy. It was “communist” Russia and “communist” China that supplied the better arms the Communist Party of Vietnam acquired to fight the Americans. The governments of Russia and China did this in part because of “communist solidarity,” but also in large part out of “superpower” — that is to say, imperialist — rivalry with the alternative capitalist empire of the Americans and their associated Western Allies.

I say “alternative capitalist empire” because both Russia and China were also basically capitalist but in the form of state-monopolized top-down command capitalism, instead of the American form of lightly regulated largely disorganized privatized capitalism that bought self-aggrandizing government influence and insulation from public responsibility and popular democracy. America’s “colonies” are foreign zones of extractive economic exploitation. The colonies of Russia’s empire — its zones of extractive economic exploitation by Kremlin leaders — were the captive nations within the U.S.S.R. (like Ukraine) as well as the captive nations within the East Bloc, behind what Winston Churchill called the “Iron Curtain.”

The Communist Party of China (its exclusive power and patronage pyramid and nomenklatura), like Russia, envisioned itself as an insular empire with internal colonies, stretching in the west from Xinjiang (with the oppressed Uyghurs, a Turkic and Islamic people) and Tibet (annexed by China in 1951, and Tibetans are a different ethnicity than the dominant Han Chinese) in Central Asia, east to the Pacific Ocean, north from what used to be called Manchuria (north of the Korean peninsula) to south with Hainan island in the South China Sea, and out to the still independent and very western-style capitalist Chinese island nation of Taiwan.

In the extremity of their situation during their thirty years of wars of national independence (1945-1975), the Communist Party of Vietnam could not concern itself with the multipolar superpower rivalries between the Chinese (whom they traditionally hated from previous centuries of conquests and oppression), the Russians who were using them as proxies to bleed the Americans in their Russian-American “Cold War,” and their own very immediate and massively destructive American invaders trying to force them to be “capitalists.” They took what arms and supplies and money they could get from sympathetic foreigners to keep their struggle for independence alive.

And such is the situation of the Ukrainians today, as it was for the Afghans during the 1980s when the United States supplied the Afghan Mujahideen with shoulder-fired anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile weapons, as the Americans sought revenge against the Russians for the very useful help (as with anti-aircraft missile systems) the Russians had rendered the Vietnamese Communists during the 1960s and early 1970s.

That United States policy for Afghanistan was initiated as a covert action by a Polish-American government official, Zbigniew Brzezinski (1928-2017), who was born in Warsaw and left Poland in 1938 as a 10 year old boy with his family when his Polish diplomat father was posted to Montreal, Canada. Brzezinski was obviously motivated by his memory of Stalin’s ravaging of his homeland, and not just by a desire to be of foreign policy service to the 1978 American government he had become a part of.

So from Stalin’s Red Army and NKVD in Poland in 1939, to Lyndon Johnson’s and Richard Nixon’s (and Henry Kissinger’s) U.S. military in Vietnam in 1962-1975, to Leonid Brezhnev’s and the Kremlin’s Russian military in Afghanistan during its war there from 1979 to 1989 (when the Berlin Wall fell), to now with the Russian-Ukrainian War, it has been tit-for-tat bleeding of each other by rival superpowers (that is to say, nuclear armed empires) using the wars of small nations struggling desperately to gain their freedom and independence. And it is the freedom and independence of those small nations that are the only morally justifiable aspects of this chained cycle of superpower vengeance by proxy, through wars of independence so cruelly destructive of and callously inflicted on the small nations that have to wage them.

While eventually the small nations, invaded and crushed by the murderous onslaughts of the huge wars prosecuted by the major world powers during the 20th century, gained varying degrees of freedom, independence, stability and prosperity, the one universal outcome of all those wars was the creation of many millions of dead, many millions of physically and mentally traumatized, and many millions of surviving widows, orphans, widowers, and bereft lovers.

That truth has been captured in many mournful songs of lament, and one that especially affects me is “High Germany” as sung by my younger daughter. Of course, it is the personal effect of hearing her lovely voice, besides just the sentiment of that Celtic ballad, that makes for such an emotional effect on me. Over a century ago, young men from Scotland, a Celtic nation conquered and absorbed by England in 1651 (and formally incorporated into the United Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707) were drafted into the English Army to go fight Germany during World War I. Young men from other Celtic territories earlier captured by the English (Wales, Cornwall, the Northern Counties of Ireland) were also sent a-soldiering for the British Crown. And 895,000 of those, mostly young men, from the United Kingdom died in WWI. As we know, there were also many wounded and traumatized veterans, and many grieving families and lovers of those lost, in fact a “Lost Generation.” It is the lingering heartbreak of such grief by the survivors of the powerless people sent to fight those wars by their imperial masters, that is the essence of that song.

High Germany
25 February 2018
https://youtu.be/2QybAQVv6jE

And today those powerless pawns sent to bleed and die for their national Caesar’s ambition to reconstitute a rump insular neo-Stalinist empire by recapturing Ukraine (independent from 1991), are Russian soldiers, who like their American counterparts today are most likely in the military because of a paucity of decent good-paying civilian jobs.

The command structure of your Russian military is more attuned to Putin’s imperialistic ambitions, because like the American military command structure during the 1960s, they are careerists and have a triumphalist attitude gained by their facility at massively bombing unarmed and barely-armed civilian populations: Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian for the Americans, while Chechen and Syrian for the Russians.

Stopping these predatory wars by superpowers is so difficult because the perpetrating governments are largely immune from civilian humanitarian sentiments and popular democracy (naturally, they are empires), and only military mutinies and revolutionary changes of government can really stop their nation’s wars. Was this not so with the Russian Revolution in 1917?, and with the escalating military mutinies by U.S. soldiers, sailors and airmen between about 1969 through 1972? Thoughtful Americans today are proud of their war resistors and protestors of the 1960s and 1970s, just as your thoughtful Russians will be proud in years to come of your brave war resistors and protestors today. If only such civilian resistance to their nation’s wars of choice were more effective at preventing and stopping them; and if only a greater portion of the militaries of our nations would revolt against prosecuting such wars of choice, and thus render the greatest service soldiers can render their nations’s people — the actual people.

But as with you in Russia, we here in the United States also have our thoughtless and inhuman people who define their allegiances not with humanity and its sufferings anywhere, but with their own selfish careerist ambitions couched as principled concerns for supra-human and exclusionary ideological political abstractions, which they like to imagine elevate their intellectual pretensions and ennoble their moral characters.

So among your Russians you have those who follow Vladimir Putin canard of seeking to “de-nazify” Ukraine, despite “the Putin regime’s own record of collaboration with far-right extremists. Even as Russian diplomats condemned ‘fascists’ in the Baltic states and Kremlin propagandists railed against imaginary ‘Ukronazis’ in power in Kyiv, the Russian state was cultivating its own homegrown Nazis” —

Putin’s fascists: the Russian state’s long history of cultivating homegrown neo-Nazis
Robert Horvath
(Senior Lecturer, La Trobe University)
https://theconversation.com/putins-fascists-the-russian-states-long-history-of-cultivating-homegrown-neo-nazis-178535

And we here in the United States have allies of that oligarchic-authoritarian anti-feminist, homophobic, White Supremacist ideology, and who have no sincere sympathy for Ukraine under attack, such as Donald Trump — our sociopathic narcissistic previous president who lauds Vladimir Putin whom he sees as mirroring his own ambitions — and the entirety of our Republic Party (and Abraham Lincoln would weep to see what has become of the party he was the first US president of).

But we here in the United States also have “leftists”and declared “socialists” who have no sincere sympathy with the Ukrainian people, because they are wrapped up in their self-delusions of themselves as highly enlightened anti-nazis, and “anti-imperialists,” by which they mean anti-US imperialism only, and that includes in their minds their idea of “NATO expansionism.” For them any “enemy of US imperialism and NATO expansion,” however despicable and murderously dictatorial they may be to their own people, such as Muammar Gaddafi was and Bashar al-Assad is, are worthy of their consideration and defense, because for them thwarting US imperialism (both actual and imagined) is always more important than forthrightly helping to relieve actual terrorized people of their murderous oppression by their tyrannical rulers.

Such ideological and thus effectively inhuman leftists myopically, and really narcissistically, see themselves as having a “higher purpose” like the journalist “Frank Pitcairn” who was a propaganda agent for Stalin during the Spanish Civil War and wrote dispatches for the Irish press that were pure lies intended to further Stalin’s campaign to betray the Socialist Revolution in Spain during 1937 in his effort to have his Communist cadres gain complete control of the Spanish Republican government. That cynical campaign by Stalin resulted in the tortures and murders by the NKVD of socialists and anarchists in Spain not controlled by Stalin, and thus sapped the strongest moral force fighting against Francisco Franco’s fascist revolt against the democratically elected Spanish Republican government.

Franco was backed militarily by Hitler and Mussolini, and economically by Great Britain. The Spanish proletarians who manned the most effective and motivated anti-fascist forces were organized as the Socialist and Anarchist militias fighting for proletarian dignity and economic independence within a projected Socialist Spain. Once the socialist national dream for Spain was violently quashed in May 1937 by the combined forces of Stalin’s organs of repression and Spanish Communist troops directed from the Kremlin, and the military forces of the anti-Francoist Spanish bourgeoisie, the spirit animating the defense of the Spanish Republic dissipated and the war ended in a terrible defeat in 1939, followed by almost four decades of Francoist dictatorship during which more Spanish anarchists, socialists, communists and republicans were executed than had been killed during the Civil War itself.

I had a grand-uncle who was a violinist with a pre-war Spanish symphony orchestra, who was jailed for a time by Franco after 1939 for being an opponent of the regime — a classical violinist! So, I have an animus to the “Frank Pitcairn” types, the self-declared and comfortable Western leftists who defend rather than decry tyrants who oppress, torture, disappear, gas and bomb their unarmed civilian populations seeking reforms against their government’s oligarchic corruption, and for their own democratic participation in charting their nation’s course, because those Frank Pitcairn types are consumed with approval-seeking (from Stalin in the 1930s and 1940s, and from like-minded internet audiences today) and burnishing their own self-delusions of having superior worthiness as politically advanced and thus presumably morally elevated “US-only anti-imperialists.” Their lovingly satisfying gazing into their own self-referential mirrors are not to be interrupted by any concerns for the sufferings of actual people being killed by dictators and regimes nominally opposed to “US imperialism,” and so those oppressed populations, by “anti-imperialist” ideologically necessary definition, “deserve it” because they are Nazis in Ukraine, and al-Qaeda in Libya and Syria.

All the arguments by these “anti-imperialists” boil down to a defense of how they wish to think of themselves, regardless of how many foreign civilians have to be murdered (by approved of foreign “anti-imperialist” potentates) to preserve that self-image. And Vladimir Putin’s organs of disinformation and propaganda gleefully use these Western “anti-imperialist” poseurs to help perpetrate his many war crimes since 2000, when he gained power, and most recently in Syria and Ukraine.

So I now find that I am more isolated politically than I used to believe was possible, because the “leftist community” that I identified with and once imagined was at least unified by some wonderful human-centered principles of solidarity by class — the “working class,” “the proletariate,” “the voters,” “the people,” as opposed to the wealth and power classes of oligarchs and “capitalists” and corporations and “nomenklatura type” politicians — a human-centered solidarity that cut across national boundaries and ethnic differences, has been vividly exposed by the war in Ukraine to be irredeemably fractured between Frank Pitcairn type rigid ideologues of very selective anti-imperialism and of inconsistent sympathy with oppressed populations, and George Orwell type inconsistent ideologues for anti-imperialism, with consistent sympathy for oppressed populations. The essence here is whether one identifies with one or another of the power pyramids engaged in the “multipolar” (one of Putin’s favorite words in his apologetics of his imperialism) rivalry between the major power pyramids, or “superpowers,” vying for greater control of world populations and their economics, or whether one identifies indiscriminately with “the workers” and the actual “ordinary” people of the world, who universally want safe, secure, decently prosperous and not exploited lives for themselves and their families in stable democratic non-contending nation-states.

What we really need in the world today is for NATO to expand globally to encompass EVERY country on Earth: every nation pledged to come to the immediate aid and defense of any nation that happens to experience a crisis or catastrophe, be it of political origins like a military invasion or a civil war brought on my dictatorial megalomania, or a catastrophe of natural origins like a tsunami, an earthquake, floods, crop failures and famine, or Climate Change.

Global Warming Climate Change (GWCC) is a pernicious geophysical positive feedback loop of negative consequences for planetary habitability, being a human caused and accelerated effect driven by emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (primarily methane) exhausted from the burning of fossil fuels used to generate the heat-energy that powers so much of “our” capitalist and militarist and imperialist ambitions. The only way GWCC can be slowed and eventually stopped before it makes organized human life — human civilization — impossible because of the heat-induced onslaught of many irreversible and catastrophic environmental changes, is for an internationally cooperative and unified and permanently sustained maximum effort to quickly abandon the use of fossil fuels everywhere, and to power all human activities from naturally sustainable sources such as by solar, wind, hydrological and geothermal power.

Such an internationally integrated worldwide anti-GWCC effort would necessarily define a new reality of World Socialism: “all for one and one for all.” The transformation of one’s own country for a Post-Carbon World, along with its assistance offered to and cooperation given with other countries engaged in their own self-transformations to the post-carbon paradigm, would necessarily be leveling socialist economic revolutions nationally and globally. Both the “communist” labeled command-capitalist oligarchies and the “capitalist” labeled corporate “free market” oligarchies would have had to fall away in favor of a broad socialism centered on meeting the human needs of Earth’s people, for a planetary anti-GWCC effort to be able to be mounted and to succeed.

And it is because I now see the emergence of such a planetary anti-GWCC world socialism as impossible that I also grieve. That “impossibility” solely exists because of the obduracy and pettiness of a vast portion of humanity’s minds, even among minds in our communities of supposedly most politically enlightened people (according to themselves): our socialists, and safely comfortable Western recreational “leftists,” people who cannot bring themselves to support the assistance — from whatever quarter possible even NATO — to small national populations struggling desperately against murderous onslaughts from their dictatorial rulers like Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and from invasive imperialistic foreign juggernauts like Vladimir Putin in Syria and in Ukraine.

If we cannot all see the moral universality of human struggles against anti-democratic oppression and against the losing of personal freedoms, of national independence, and of life itself for so many, then we will never be able to prevent our fractious selves from destroying our planet’s habitability through our competitively myopic escalation of Anthropogenic Climate Change.

So I grieve for the human pawns being sacrificed to advance tyrannical and imperial ambitions, for the many widows, orphans, widowers and bereft lovers who survive, for a while, those human pawns sacrificed on the chess boards of ambitious narcissistic potentates, and I grieve for my lost illusions about leftist communities and socialist potentialities, and I grieve for a world I think is hopelessly beyond salvation — by choice.

Believe me, I fervently wish history would prove me wrong, and soon.

And I hope Ukraine wins its defensive war, soon.

And ideology be damned: human solidarity is everything.

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An Anti-imperialist and an Atlanticist Argue about Ukraine

TWO PEOPLE ARGUE: PRO-PUTIN vs. PRO-UKRAINE
or
CONSISTENT ANTI-IMPERIALIST vs. INCONSISTENT ATLANTICIST

After numerous previous escalating exchanges (with faint echoes of Jean-Paul Sartre versus Albert Camus), we came to this:

ADR:
What you said a while ago was that bombings/war/invasion are bad and therefore you take this as an evidence that Putin/Russia is the primary responsible for this. While you cite Chomsky as a probable author to read when it comes to politics, you carefully ignore what he said during Maidan in 2014 because you claim without any ambiguity that NATO has nothing to do with this. While bombing is bad, you seem to agree that it is legitimate to bomb Irak and Lybia. There is only one logical conclusion for this: bombing is legitimate under certain circumstances. Circumstances which you accept for Lybia, but you don’t accept for Ukraine if Zelensky/Poroschenko/Yatsenuk are viewed by Russia as their Gaddafi/Saddam. You also claim that Russia has more neo-nazis then Ukraine and said that Putin himself is a neo-nazi (+dictator+…). How does that fit with the fact that the communist party of the Russian Federation comes 2nd in parliamentary elections and that communist organisations are banned in Ukraine? That’s the inconsistence from your side!

MG,Jr.:
You are absolutely right, I am inconsistent on all the points you raised. “Inconsistent” means that I do not hew to an inflexible ideological standard — the making of equivalences between the situations you point out, and which you clearly think should be treated as equivalent (Ukraine=Libya: revolutions, interventions, bombings; Zelensky=tyrant and Nazi coddler; Russia=communist not fascist, but parliamentary).

I make judgments on the basis of what I see as “right” and “wrong” in each situation, and that means that at times I think “bombing is legitimate under certain circumstances.” I make those judgements on the basis of what I think will most help the people being brutally victimized at the moment (Libya in 2011, Syria 2011-now, Ukraine 2022). I don’t care about ideological (political) consistency, or which ideological “side” is “winning.” I care about the actual people those ideological “sides” are playing with — and oppressing, torturing, disappearing, gassing, and bombing.

In all your arguments you never reference those people nor give them a voice: what is it they want? You don’t really care, do you?, they don’t matter; what is important for you is that “your” ideological “side” not be disadvantaged as compared to the Great Satan’s (=US/NATO/EU) side: if the “US” can do it then “the other side” should be allowed to do it. Hence Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad, Putin are all “anti-imperialists” and the populations they eradicate deserve it by the principle of the consistency of equivalence between ideological justifications for the application of power.

I am definitely politically-ideologically inconsistent. I see you as continuing to argue with me because deep down you know I am right both politically and morally, and that you don’t want to face that fact because all your arguments about “consistency” are about you trying to hide that you accept being inhuman by being willing to sacrifice populations being victimized by tyrants, in order to argue “consistently” against an ideological abstraction, “anti- US/NATO/EU imperialism” that you have absorbed into your self-image, as a supremely ennobling characteristic. Your arguments boil down to a defense of how you wish to think of yourself regardless of how many foreign civilians have to be murdered (by “your side”) to preserve that self-image.

Here is a little abstraction of the argument (by Zubêr Hatia) with regard to Ukraine:

Ukrainians: Putin has amassed a huge army on our borders.
Fools: He won’t invade – he’s just securing his own country!

Ukrainians: Putin has started the invasion from the East, from the South and from the North.
Fools: Its not an invasion – more of a temporary incursion; and he’s kindly left the West of the country open to allow those who want to leave!

Ukrainians: Putin is realising heavy losses – of soldiers lives and military equipment.
Fools: Lies! A few casualties at most… and he’s posthumously awarded medals to dead peacekeepers!

Ukrainians: Putin is shelling hospitals and clinics!
Fools: No! A popular vlogger who is pregnant and is spreading lies. Anyway, it wasn’t a hospital!

Ukrainians: Putin is committing war crimes against civilians.
Fools: They’re not civilians – they are neo Nazis!

Ukrainians: Please protect our skies (NFZ).
Fools: Warmongers!!

Syrians: We told you so about Putin.
Fools: Long live anti-imperialism! Long live whataboutery!!!

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People who read any of this will take from it what they prefer to believe.

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Some Notes on Ukraine, mostly, (21Feb-16Mar’22)

Photograph by Oleksii Kyrychenko, 10 March 2022. Portrait of his 12 year old daughter in Kyiv. The beauty of childhood and the tragedy of war, and admirable resoluteness in the midst of great injustice, all in one photo.

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Some Notes on Ukraine, mostly, (21Feb-16Mar’22)

Over the last 24 days, I have had many thoughts about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, or colored by that criminal tragedy. A number of these thoughts are in response to the questions, or accusations, I have received about the opinions I have so far expressed publicly about “Ukraine.” I offer this chronological string of some of my selected “notes on Ukraine” as a snapshot of this man’s state of mind at this time, primarily to share with people like my questioners. This is not a polemic (“a verbal war”) aimed at the many who disagree with my perspectives on “Ukraine,” “leftists,” “anti-imperialism,” and all that; it is just a fragmentary personal testimony, a series of reflections during a dark time.

It is my impression that for most Americans — and perhaps for most people everywhere — that their political awareness boils down to confirmation bias and witch burning.

“The lands of today’s Ukraine were the center of both Stalinist and Nazi killing policies throughout the era of mass killings. Some 3.5 million people fell victim to Stalinist killing policies between 1933 and 1938, and then another 3.5 million to German killing policies between 1941 and 1944. Perhaps three million more inhabitants of Soviet Ukraine died in combat or as an indirect consequence of the war.” —
[Timothy Snyder, ‘Bloodlands’, p404]

The 1939 population of the Ukraine was 32,425,000. So, a loss of 10 million people between 1933 and 1944 represents 30.8% (nearly 1 in 3) of the 1939 population (used here for comparative purposes). For just the 6.5 million people lost between 1941 and 1944, because of the WWII German invasion, then 20% (1 in 5) of “1939” Ukrainians were killed. If we reference the 3.5 million Ukrainians killed between 1933 and 1938 (pre WWII), by the combination of Stalin’s enforced Terror Famine (1932-1933) and Great Purge (many gunshot executions, 1937-1938) to the 1939 population, that mortality ratio is 10.8% (about 1 in 9). Ukrainians remain very conscious of their 20th century history, especially those Ukrainian people in their 80s and 90s, who lived through that history.

There is no justification for Putin’s Russian invasion of Ukraine whatsoever. None of Putin’s accusations and characterizations of Ukraine are true. All Russian military operations in Ukraine are by definition war crimes. All apologetics of Putin’s invasion are complicity by ideological denial of truth. (See: “Vladimir Putin’s Hall of Mirrors, the Russian president sees the world through the lens of maskirovka and provokatsiia,” Timothy Snyder, 21 February 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/02/putin-ukraine-invasion-maskirovka-provokatsiia/622874/)

Why is Volodymyr Zelensky the President of Ukraine today (since 20 May 2019)? Given the history of Ukraine, and Russian actions in that country, it is not hard to imagine why an arbitrary “Russian speaker” as a presidential candidate who “looks East” (as Viktor Yanukovych did in 2004-2005) would not get elected to lead Ukraine’s government and formulate its foreign policy. Additionally, Ukrainian voters were disgusted by political corruption in the 2010s, and Zelensky was seen as a reform candidate as well as an Atlanticist — politically and economically oriented toward Europe. It is Ukrainian history, and not US lobbying, that is the driving factor in the Ukrainian public mind setting its direction “toward the Atlantic.” Putin’s invasion only reinforces this point, and also adds to the argument in favor of Ukraine becoming a part of NATO, as an elementary matter of national self-defense.

I think that the fundamental issue has always been one of trust, not economics or energy supplies, and the lesson I am sure Ukrainians have arrived at from their history (and especially today) is that they can never trust the Russians ever, and that they should always try to acquire protective alliances to shield them from Russia — when their country can act as an independent nation. Despite the imbalance of military forces today, and perhaps a temporary ‘win’ for Putin’s military this week or next, over the long term Ukraine is lost to Russia forever as a willing subject (slave) or borderland ally. Russia can act out, and invade and destroy (as in Syrian and now Ukraine), but it has lost all moral authority and welcoming agreement from others, to expand territorially, and also enlarge its influence in defining political ideas internationally.

About “Nazis in Ukraine”: There are more neo-Nazis in Russia than Ukraine, and Putin is basically one of them. The totality of neo-Nazi ultra-right parties in Ukraine only garnered 2.5% in the last parliamentary elections, and failing to break 5% gained zero seats in the parliament. The “Ukrainian neo-Nazi” trope is Russian/Putin disinformation.

“Putin absurdly claims that he must invade Ukraine to denazify it. Zelens’kyi unlike Putin is a democratically-elected president. Zelenskyi unlike Putin does not support racists and white supremacists [and homophobes — MG,Jr.] around the world. He interprets the Second World War from a Ukrainian perspective… ‘How can you call us Nazis when we gave millions of lives in the Second World War?’ It is a fair point. Ukrainian soldiers died in terrible numbers in the Red Army: more than Americans, British, and Frenchmen combined during the Second World War. He adds: ‘Tell it to my grandfather, who fought in the Soviet infantry and died as a colonel in independent Ukraine.’ President Zelensky does not mention that his grandfather’s father and much of his family were murdered in the Holocaust.” — Timothy Snyder (24 February 2022, https://snyder.substack.com/p/do-russians-want-war).

What about Climate Change? Can the nations of the world ever stop generating an endless sequence of wars — which are always wasteful fossil fuel intensive and high CO2 emission disasters — and instead unite to cooperate on an effective socio-economic response to slow the acceleration of global warming? Today, it certainly seems not.

I think Global Warming Climate Change (GWCC) will cause many societal and political problems, and that we all will never arrive at one “perfect” solution to it all, we will always have to dance with a wide variety of interrelated and conflicting situations, and much of our dances will have to be ever-changing improvisations — forever. So, it is good for us each to keep doing the good we can do, because regardless of what Nature imposes on us, the better our personal, local and global human societies are, the better equipped they will be to face those challenges from Nature. And, really, this is true even without GWCC — but GWCC does make it more pressing.

On 1 March 2022, U.S. President Joseph Biden gave the televised “State of the Union Address” to a joint session of Congress. My abstraction of the Republican Response is as follows (and was written without any need to actually listen to the televised Republican Response): ‘Look folks, if Biden gets everything he’s asked for, the billionaires and corporations we work for will make less profit that they can stash overseas, and we will have a harder time getting elected, so we can keep our high paying government jobs working for those billionaires and corporations to keep making those tax-free profits. So don’t back any of it!, and don’t vote for anyone who will! Don’t listen to Biden when he tells you that passing his bills would lower your taxes, medical costs, daycare and grocery bills, raise your wages, and make it easier for you to vote! NONE OF THAT MATTERS! We know, because WE are the ones doing what really is important!, which is preventing all of that waste!, and keeping America PURE!” Who could doubt that there are more neo-Nazis in the U.S.A. than in Ukraine?

Ukraine in 2022 is a “great revealer” of people’s political biases and orientations, in the same way that Spain was during 1936-1939. May Ukraine’s fate be much, much happier (and that happiness occur much, much sooner) than Spain’s was from 1939 to 1975-1982 (Franco’s dictatorship). The Spanish Civil War was the prelude to WWII in Europe; would that the present Russian war in Ukraine could be the final coda of that cacophony of bloody dictatorial ambition, never to be seen or heard from again anywhere in the world, because the people have united and their oppressive regimes have been burned away.

How does it feel to be propelled through the portal of eternity into the full might and fury of God exploding into you? Feierlich, misterioso, bewegt lebhaft, schnell, langsam, feierlich. I listen once again to Bruckner’s 9th Symphony, and I think of Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Warsaw, Spain, Wounded Knee, Gettysburg, Fort Pillow, Boudica, Spartacus, Melos, Troy, Cassandra, and so many more — too many more. And I am reminded not to live superficially, self-absorbed and uncaring, for that would be ingratitude for so far having been spared their fate, by the capricious currents of history. — BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9 in D minor / Haitink · Concertgebouw Orchestra (https://youtu.be/K5QZrxe54gU).

“He has gone where savage indignation can lacerate his heart no more.” — Jonathan Swift (1666-1747), his epitaph for himself.

A PRIVATE WAR (2018), a very powerful movie about MARIE COLVIN, a journalist (for The Sunday Times) who covered wars in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, among them: Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria. She focused on the real story: the effect of war on people: civilians, families, children. She was well aware of the “politics” behind the wars, which are pushed by the egos and ambitions of dictators and “empires,” and she went to record the truths about the desperate resistance to those murderous governmental ambitions, resistance by the people massively outgunned and fighting for their independence, dignity, and survival while living constantly with unimaginable fear because of the extreme likelihood that they would soon be visited by a very violent death. The segments on Libya and Syria were particularly good at showing the reality of what Gaddafi and Assad (later with massive help from Putin) had done and were doing to their own people to merit the revolts that rose up against them. I think back to LOUIS PROYECT in 2011, when our separate anti-dictator rage converged sympathetically, over Libya, and of his massive output of writings over the next ten years in support of the Libyans and then Syrians, despite the continuous flack he received from the idiotic “anti-imperialist” Tankies and Campists who could care less how many brown bodies were shredded by hot metal bits to be dumped and hurriedly buried in mass grave pits by their favored dictators. These comfortable Western “anti-imperialists” were merciless in their criticisms of the failings of the Western democracies but were ready to tolerate the worst crimes by their favored perpetrators as long as they are committed in the name of the “proper doctrines” (a.k.a. “anti-imperialism”). And now we have Ukraine. I wish, for our benefit, that Louis was still here to breath his righteous fire in defense of a just cause, as he was so good at doing; the only consolation I can think of to his departure last August is that maybe his generous soul can no longer be wounded by the aggravating pain of seeing another unnecessary and murderous societal catastrophe perpetrated by Vladimir Putin. What you would see in A PRIVATE WAR is not exactly like Ukraine in 2022 — but then again it really is — for the people. “A Private War Trailer #1 (2018)” (https://youtu.be/TTf0Lc5YAcc), and “Telling legendary journalist Marie Colvin’s story in ‘A Private War’” (https://youtu.be/vdOPRLykvFA).

I just started reading LIFE AND FATE, an 841+ page Russian-Jewish novel, and Vasily Grossman’s masterpiece, the 20th century’s ‘War and Peace.’ Grossman was a journalist who accompanied the Red Army (at the front) from Stalingrad (1942-1943) to Berlin (1945), was the very first to write a ‘discovery’ report about the Nazi death camps (Treblinka), and survived as a Soviet dissident author through Stalin’s antisemitic campaign (proto-purge, ~1943-1953) and Khrushchev’s spiking of too embarrassingly truthful Russian literature (1953-1964). After he submitted his typescript of L&F for publication in 1959, the KGB raided Grossman’s flat to confiscate all copies and even the carbon papers and typewriter ribbons used: “his book was arrested.” He had made copies stashed secretly with friends who did not know each other. It was eventually smuggled out (by dissidents including Andrei Sakharov — ‘Father of the Russian Nuclear Bomb’) and published in the West in 1980, after Grossman’s death (stomach cancer) in 1964; it was first published in Russia in 1988. Vasily Grossman was a Ukrainian whose mother was killed by the German Nazis there. ‘Life and Fate’ is an epic meditation on the origins and consequences of totalitarianism, Nazi and Soviet equally (an equation the Soviet authorities wanted suppressed), and told from a human experiences point of view (as was the reporting by Marie Colvin between 1985-2012, but she was writing newspaper war correspondent reports whereas Grossman’s L&F is a novel summing up all his war correspondent and postwar anti-Stalinist dissidence experiences). Through the many characters in this novel, Grossman is able to describe many types of hellish experiences people between Berlin and Moscow, the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, and in the Gulags, were subjected to between ~1930 to ~1945.

KANAL (1957) (https://youtu.be/e0P66M4bVkI)
A company of the Polish Home Army soldiers with civilian stragglers, in September 1944, is relentlessly being decimated by the Wehrmacht during the Warsaw Uprising on the west side of the Vistula River, while the Red Army was halted on the east side waiting for it to be all over before continuing west toward Berlin — shades of the formally defunct Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. For this “free” version of this amazing classic gem of world cinema, knowing Polish or Portuguese (subtitles) would help, but neither is really needed as the story virtually tells all of itself visually. Scenes like some in this movie are becoming (and have become) more familiar again in places like Syria and Ukraine.

THE BOMBARDMENT (‘The Shadow In My Eye,’ 2022, https://youtu.be/h4jVysnRisI)
This is a deeply felt, and I would say deeply philosophical, Danish movie about the human costs of Operation Carthage, the March 1945 Royal Air Force (RAF) mission to bomb Gestapo HQ in the center of Copenhagen. The movie is entirely accurate about how that mission turned out: Gestapo HQ was destroyed, but a Catholic girls school was mistakenly destroyed as well, with 125 fatalities. In terms of the visuals, sound and pacing, the movie is top notch; the acting is all “natural” and entirely believable; and the interwoven plots of the children and their young funny and existentially anguished teacher, Sister Teresa, are how this story infuses the viewer with a feeling of what war does to the human spirit (and to bodies, as well). That dispiriting effect of anguish and dread in the adults during warfare: Danish parents and RAF pilots, is also shown quite effectively. While there is certainly a good bit of tense action in this movie (with beautiful deadly airplanes), that action is at the service of the human/psychological story, and for that reason I see this as a “philosophical” movie. Maybe Danish film-makers are all imbued with Kierkegaard and steeped in Bergman movies, so a film like this has the clarity and deep perspective of slant angle sunlight in far northern slate-gray skies. In the chaos of war even goodness and self-sacrifice are tragic. What is most important at all times, theirs and ours, is to remember the human connection. This film shows that, masterfully.

Benjamin Ferencz (age 102) on Ukraine, 2022:
“Two of the 22 Nazis he prosecuted then, high-ranking members of the Einsatzgruppen, Nazi extermination squads responsible for the deaths of around two million, were architects of the massacre of Babyn Yar in Kyiv in September 1941. When he learnt Putin’s forces had blasted the mass grave of its 33,771 largely Jewish victims on Tuesday, he was crushed. However, hearing the International Criminal Court (ICC) announce this week it was already sending war crimes investigators into Ukraine, that it would hold Russian perpetrators at the highest level to account for any war crimes committed, has given him cause for renewed hope. His voice raised, shouting at times, he said: ‘The crimes now being committed against Ukraine by Russia are a disgrace to human society, those responsible should be held accountable for aggression, crimes against humanity and plain murder. As soon as they start dragging the criminals before a court the happier we will be.’ For Putin and his circle to be tried, proven war crimes would need to be linked directly to them. To enable their arrests, potentially a whole new government would need to be in place. Russia has previously quit the ICC. But Mr Ferencz is certain Putin can be jailed – maybe here, [UK] like Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic.” — [“Last surviving Nuremberg Trials prosecutor says Vladimir Putin should be ‘behind bars’” 4 March 2022, https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/last-surviving-nuremberg-trials-prosecutor-26389664]

“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

UK Polish Leftists on Ukraine (14 March 2022, https://manuelgarciajr.com/2022/03/14/uk-polish-leftists-on-ukraine/) note:
Q: Why did Putin attack Ukraine?
A: To finish what he started when he took Crimea, and incorporate the “fake nation” of Ukraine into Russia, duh. For centuries, Russia suppressed the Ukrainian language and culture, and it’s what they are planning now. Putin’s talk about Russians and Ukrainians being ”one nation”, or about Ukraine “not being a real country” is just preparing ground for russification of Ukraine. Do you know that Ukraine used to be called Malorossiya? (Little Russia)? During Putin’s rule, he and his supporters have long peddled the idea of “ruski mir” – “Russian world” – an ideology that says Russian civilisation extends to anywhere Russians live. Do you see where this is going? Get it now??? If not, read this article that the Russian “news” outlet RIA Novosti published by mistake, that was supposed to run AFTER Russia’s “obvious” victory over Ukraine. They promptly removed it, but not quickly enough. It had already been screencapped by multiple readers, and translated into English by a Pakistani newspaper: “The new world order,” Petr Akopov (https://thefrontierpost.com/the-new-world-order/).

I FIND IT AMAZING TO HAVE TO SAY THIS, BUT:
I don’t play the “my war criminal is better than your war criminal” game. And I don’t defend any dictator, even if his purported “principles” are right (i.e., “left”). “We” (actual people) stop “them” (regimes) if we can and as we can. The inability so far to bring 20th-21st century U.S. war criminals to justice is not an excuse to allow for Putin, Assad, Gaddafi (till 2011), et. al., to continue with their crimes, if it seems possible to stop them. Lack of universal perfect justice in the world is not an excuse to accept and approve of ideologically sympathetic injustices (by ‘your’ war criminals) to compensate for the existence of ideologically antipathetic injustices (by ‘their’ war criminals). Churchill and Roosevelt (“capitalists”, “imperialists”) had no problem accepting Stalin’s Red Army (“communists”, imperialist-within-one-soviet-‘union’) fighting the larger fraction of the WWII land war in Europe against Hitler (real Nazis). And I don’t have a problem with NATO taking down dictators (like Gaddafi, Assad, Putin) who are prosecuting murderous wars today, if it is possible to take them down. Blunt weapons are far better than no weapons in catastrophic emergencies for targeted victim populations: ideology • does • not • matter — people do! “In politics, the choice is never between good and evil, but between the preferable and the detestable.”

Let me say that one main inspiration for me to express myself on politics/international relations in the way I do was historian Tony Judt’s comment in one of his later books that it was important to bring morality into political discussions, and not just let them proceed as essentially soulless exercises in gamesmanship and “realpolitik.” And that is my point of departure. My chain of logic is: people (human solidarity) –> defines morality –> thus, bend ideology (ideally leftism/socialism, though alas so far always sectarian) to fit the human-centered morality (not “interests” centered politics) –> from there construct the “politics” (the mechanics of socio-economic relations and operations). With such a “moral” outlook, it is then easy to see through ideological obfuscation (like the “my war criminal is better than your war criminal” silliness of so much self-righteous victim-ignoring virtue-signalling in the propaganda wars over “Ukraine”), and know that dictators of any stripe are bad, unprovoked military invasions are bad, bombing civilians and civilian areas is wrong and bad, and that trying to conquer, subjugate and re-colonize, and destroy the culture of, a foreign people and nation is wrong and bad. I always reference back to “the people” who are getting hammered, and so I always think the “right politics” is whatever gives them relief from that as soon as possible, and then sets them onto a safe secure national independence of a form they select by a fair and transparent process of self-determination. For me human freedom trumps (sic) ideological purity and consistency.

Political ideology is based on abstractions about national regimes, both actual and as idealized projections, without regard to human individuality. Political morality is based entirely on the realities of relations between national populations, all seen as human individuals and not as politically abstracted masses (“regimes”), and all deserving the same degree of personal experience of political freedom and human rights as described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, published by the United Nations.

National policy guided by a consistency of political ideology will often require sacrifices of the political freedoms and human rights of individuals, domestic and foreign. National policy guided by political morality will require a continuing shifting, “dance,” and sacrifice of the preferred political ideology, in order to seek for the moral center action is to be aimed at in order to preserve a materially effective international human solidarity, in the midst of the ever changing external political conditions of human civilization.

It is more work with less profit to do what is morally right than what is politically-ideologically consistent. But unless the world’s nations can collectively learn “to do what is morally right,” we will never solve the global problems of nuclear disarmament and mounting real and permanent responses and adaptations that slow the acceleration of global warming and blunt the worst effects of climate change on biodiversity and on the habitability of Planet Earth.

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Libya, then Syria, now Ukraine

“The Arab Spring was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that spread across much of the Arab world in the early 2010s. It began in response to corruption and economic stagnation and was first started in Tunisia. From Tunisia, the protests then spread to five other countries: Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_Spring)

The First Libyan Civil War erupted on 15 February 2011 as a revolutionary insurrection against the dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi. Protests against various injustices had occurred since August 2009, but in Benghazi on 15 February the security forces fired at the unarmed crowd, and this sparked what became known as the 17 February Revolution. Over the forty-two years of Muammar Gaddafi’s murderous reign many people had built up deep resentments against him, and these deep wounds propelled the determination of the revolutionary forces until the ending of the regime with capture and killing of Gaddafi on 20 October 2011. On 19 March 2011 UN-directed NATO forces intervened militarily, at the most perilous moment of the revolt, when Gaddafi’s motorized columns and artillery were about to overwhelm the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to implement the goal he had uttered on Libyan State Television: “those who do not love me do not deserve to live.”

There were many heated arguments that year “on the left” about the Libyan Civil War, and all their shades have reappeared eleven years later, in 2022, in the many heated arguments about the Russian War in Ukraine. The concerns behind the arguments are all as they were then:

— Isolationist: we should not spill our blood and spend our treasure to intervene in a foreign war, which would explode beyond our imaginations if we entered it, and lead to a catastrophic world war,

— Anti-imperialists, type #1: Gaddafi’s regime is an important bulwark against U.S. and NATO imperialism in Africa, and the protests against the government there were undoubtedly instigated by CIA covert operations, and are being used as a pretext for a US-NATO imperialistic invasion disguised as a “humanitarian intervention,”

— R2P interventionist: Gaddafi is a proven mass murderer, and stopping him from committing a “mass atrocity crime” in Benghazi, as defined in the “responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine developed in the U.N. after the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, is fully justified, and the means for doing so exist in the form of NATO military forces,

— Anti-imperialists, type #2: People who would revolt against such a bulwark against Western (U.S.) imperialism, and who has done so much to modernize his country and elevated the status of women, and liberally fund the Pan-African movement, do not deserve any sympathy, they are terrorists, criminals, Al Qaeda and foreign militants, so however Gaddafi suppresses them to defend his regime is acceptable.

As it was with the arguments for coming or not to the aid of the Libyan Revolution, those same arguments have continued to this day about coming or not to the aid of the civil society of the crushed Syrian Revolution, a civil society being relentlessly attacked, bombarded, and gassed by the Al-Assad regime with the assistance of Iran, and since 2015 with massive air-power military assistance by the Putin regime of Russia.

And now all those same arguments are applied to the war in Ukraine:

— Isolationists: if “we” go in it will explode into World War III (with nuclear weapons for sure);

— Anti-imperialists, type #1 (“campists”): The present Ukrainian government brought the Russian invasion of February 2022 onto themselves by seeking to allow NATO to expand eastward by making Ukraine a member and thus threatening the security of the Russian state, and by having been the people who in 2014 acceded to CIA and US State Department (Victoria Nuland’s) instigation to rise up against the pro-Russian Yanukovych regime and depose it in a “coup,” so the present war in Ukraine is entirely the fault of U.S. imperialism, NATO expansionism, and Russia’s invasion is a regrettable though understandable defensive reaction against encirclement by NATO;

— R2P Interventionists: “We” have a responsibility to aid the self-defense of civilian populations invaded by murderous dictators bent on conquest, as we failed to do so many times in the past (e.g., Ethiopia 1935, Spain 1936, Czechoslovakia 1938, Poland 1939, Finland 1940, Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, and many others), and if we evade that responsibility and let Ukraine fall to Putin’s imperialism then our World Order will have collapsed to “the law of the jungle” where no lesser state can ever be assured it is safe from conquest by a stronger military power, because the concept of international mutual assistance will have been abandoned;

— Anti-imperialists, type #2 (“tankies”): Ukraine continues to harbor masses of neo-nazi militias that clashed with ethnic Russian militias in the Donbass and Crimea, and that prevent the reintegration of Ukraine into the Russian state that many ethnic Russians want and as was historically the case, Russia’s invasion is a regrettable though understandable defensive reaction against this Ukrainian nazi threat.

In 2011 I declared myself of the R2P persuasion regarding Libya, and I have remained of that persuasion since. Nothing is perfect or pure in world affairs and especially in the chaos of war, so any R2P intervention would necessarily have some faults and failures in its execution, but pursuing it intelligently would be the morally right thing to do.

In that year of 2011, Louis Proyect and I converged on this point, both being motivated by the same moral conviction. Louis then spent the last ten years of his life writing volumes in favor of the Libyan Revolution, the Syrian Revolution, the Syrian volunteer emergency workers and medics organized as the White Helmets, and against the Assad regime’s bombardments of civilian neighborhoods, hospitals, White Helmets, and journalists (e.g., Marie Colvin), and its chemical warfare against the Syrian people, which after 2014 was carried out with massive assistance by Russian air-power; and Louis wrote to expose the corruption, imperialism, homophobia and basically fascistic (or Stalinist without the socialism, if you prefer) character of the Putin oligarchy in Russia.

Louis Proyect (26 January 1945 – 25 August 2021, https://louisproyect.org) did not live long enough to see today’s war in Ukraine, but I can so easily imagine how he would be writing about it in deep detail, based on his last articles on Ukraine in 2018 (https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/06/29/ukraine-behind-the-curtain/, https://louisproyect.org/2018/06/29/two-new-books-on-ukraine/) and 2019 (https://louisproyect.org/2019/01/11/gauging-the-power-of-ukraines-neo-nazis/).

All the above prompted me to look back at my two 2011 articles on the Libyan Revolution, which were aimed at countering the comfortable Western “anti-imperialist” leftists opposed to assisting the Libyan Revolution fighting against Gaddafi: the “campists” and the “tankies.” Louis sent me a one word e-mail about my second article: “Bravo!” Given that this was from Louis, it is the greatest compliment I ever received for any of my political writings. Those two article now follow, and I leave it to you to mentally transpose them from “Libya” (2011) to “Syria” (2011-2022) to “Ukraine” (2022), to arrive at my responses to the objections by today’s isolationists, Type 1 left anti-imperialists and Type 2 left anti-imperialists to my R2P sympathies regarding Ukraine.

‘Rules Of Rebellion’ is an exercise in irony that was swallowed at face value (astonishing me), while ‘Libya 2011: The Human Right to Political Freedom’ is a direct appeal to conscience. Both articles were first drafted in February-March 2011, before 19 March (the start of the NATO intervention), and were finally published in April and May 2011 in the only “leftist” journal that would even consider them, and only after great resistance and hesitancy by that journal’s editor at the time.

Rules Of Rebellion

To the oppressed people of the world: if you want freedom, you will have to achieve it yourself. If you need help, you don’t deserve it. When you fully understand this, you will realize it is the most enlightened political principle that should govern international relations. This is humanitarian nonintervention.

If you live under a repressive government, a dictatorship, a kingship, or any form of unrepresentative and arbitrary authority, and you would like to overthrow it and punish your oppressors, and establish a government that is widely representative, that safeguards your political freedom and provides easy access to meaningful participation, then be aware that you must do this entirely on your own. There is no possibility of help from foreigners.

The reason for this is that your freedom is inconvenient to the rest of the world. The world has made its accommodations with your present regime, and any disruption of those arrangements will inconvenience the plans of your international neighbors, by disrupting their expectations. It does not matter whether your oppressive government is seen as “good” or “bad” by other states, it is simply that they are accustomed to their present protocols of interactions, and any interruption of business-as-usual costs money and time, and creates anxiety about the future.

So, if you intend to overthrow your oppressive regime you must do so quickly to minimize the period of dislocation of your foreign relations. Clearly, a quick and complete turn-over of government can only occur if your rebellion has the overwhelming support of all sectors of your society with any amount of credible power or wealth. Accumulating and consolidating overwhelming revolutionary power, stealthily, is a problem you must solve entirely on your own if you wish to successfully overthrow your tyrants, and be accepted internationally as a legitimate successor government.

Some populations believe that their oppression is so onerous that they can no longer remain passive, and so they revolt without having made the necessary preparations for a quick and decisive take-over. If they are unfortunate, their tyrants quickly isolate and eliminate them, extinguishing the revolt. If they are somewhat fortunate, they are able to carry on as guerrilla movements that shelter underground and in the hinterlands. Such guerrilla movements can be assured that the regimes they oppose will use all the powers of the state to eradicate them, and in all likelihood other nations will support their suppression as terrorist movements because their activities will inevitably cause anxiety and even collateral damage to the business-as-usual of foreign nations. The club of nations does not look favorably on unruly aspirant movements, especially if they are armed and have demonstrated violent behavior. You are not evaluated on the basis of your cause, but on the basis of your effect.

Should an unprepared population break its discipline of submission with an open revolt that draws the heavy wrath of its regime down on them, and they seek rescue by foreign intervention, then they have lost any possibility of ever being seen as having political legitimacy. They will henceforth be taken as dupes and stooges, or agents and proxies of the foreign power that aids them; and if they actually succeed at forming a successor government it would always be seen as a client state of the intervening power. The idea of a population rising up solely on the basis of its own desire for political freedom, accepting material assistance from whoever delivers it during their time of crisis, and then after a successful revolution cordially thanking and dismissing its foreign helpers, and forming a fully independent and representative national government, is taken as impossible by general agreement. Regardless of what you may think of your own particular revolution, its factual circumstances cannot be accepted as a counterargument or disproof of the impossibility of assisted untainted revolution (the AURI principle).

The AURI principle immediately identifies legitimate revolutions from attempts to disguise, as “humanitarian interventions,” imperialist plots for undermining and secretly controlling foreign states. The application is simple: if foreigners are involved, they are invaders, and the degree of their imperialist intent is easily assessed by their position in the hierarchy of world power, relative to that of the host country. So, for example, one African nation sending its troops as “peacekeepers” into another would be doing so to seek greater regional power; while the United States sending any part of its military and espionage complex into an African country under any pretext would be blatant all-out imperialism.

Any revolutions that want to retain the respect of the world will guide themselves by the AURI principle; they will overcome their regimes entirely on their own (and thus gain the right to characterize the regimes they overthrow as tyrannical, dictatorial and oppressive, for future history). Any premature revolution that includes foreign interveners is instantly unmasked by the AURI principle, and the world need not concern itself with the individuals involved in it, because they are necessarily agents of imperialism and de facto traitors. If, for whatever reason, an immature population were to have a tantrum and unwisely revolt without long and careful planning and preparation, and then find itself hard pressed by its vengeful regime, it would be well advised to quickly recognize the world view on these matters and refrain from seeking any foreign help. So long as these failed revolutionaries retain their untainted status, they can be assured that their survivors will not be disqualified from consideration as legitimate politicians in any equally untainted successor government of their country. Also, any losing revolutions that remain untainted will have performed a valuable service to humanity: they will have successfully resisted imperialism in their corner of the globe during their lifetimes.

This last point is important because the single most important political goal in the world is to prevent the capitalist imperialism spearheaded by the United States and Western Europe, enabled by the United Nations, enforced by the NATO military complex, and acceded to by the industrialized nations. Preventing the reoccurrence of “humanitarian interventions” and “color revolutions,” which undermine the national independence of target states and brings them under the shadow control of the imperial center, is too important to allow any local popular disenchantment with the nature of its government to interfere with. Thus, any population that decides, out of its own irritation, that its rulers should be deposed must realize that more important things are at stake.

First, they have to determine if their revolution would weaken a stalwart opponent of imperialism, and distract him (the usual dictator gender) from current efforts in their country and region to thwart “Washington consensus” imperialism. If their regime is a champion of anti-imperialism, then it is their humanitarian duty to set aside their selfish motives to revolt. They should be consoled for the occasional heavy-handedness with which they may be ruled, by the pride they will have of sharing solidarity with anti-imperialists worldwide. What would be the point of overthrowing an anti-imperialist leader, in the name of gaining greater political freedom, perhaps even the right to a meaningful vote, if it weakens the barrier their former leader had maintained against imperialism’s subjugating influences in their nation?

So, in order to retain their legitimacy in the eyes of the world they must not try to deny the AURI principle, and in addition, to gain the respect and comradeship of the enlightened progressive communities of the world they must also demonstrate that all their revolutionary decisions are guided by an acute awareness of the need to maximize the anti-imperialist effect of their efforts. A revolution that fails to recognize the primacy of the anti-imperialist outcome, by either undermining an authoritarian anti-imperialist stalwart or failing to replace him with an untainted government of equal or greater anti-imperialist vigor, within a matter of days, does not deserve the support and respect of the enlightened and progressive world community. Such a revolution would be a destructive self-centered tantrum that contradicts the world political prime directive.

Therefore, if you intend to have a revolution because you want relief from oppression, to gain political freedom and to introduce democracy into your country, you would be wise to learn what is required to make your freedom convenient to the world’s contented spectators.

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Originally appeared as:

Rules Of Rebellion
6 April 2011
http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/04/rules-of-rebellion/

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Libya 2011: The Human Right to Political Freedom

“You canʼt separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” — Malcolm X (1925-1965)

“Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,…” — Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

“In politics the choice is never between good and evil but between the preferable and the detestable.” — Raymond Aron (1905-1983)

Freedom from dictatorship is a human right. A global recognition of this right in modern times is Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.


Dictatorship is the captivity of a people’s political rights, and is thus an analog of slavery, which is the captivity of their personal freedom. Assisting popular rebellions against dictatorship is always a defense of human rights. Dictatorships, being inherently unjustifiable, can never claim self-defense in their efforts to cling to power; the only act they can justify is self dissolution.

Dictators hold unwilling supporters through intimidation, and willing supporters through promises of material gain and social elevation. Supporters of a dictatorship facing a popular uprising can never claim equal consideration in world opinion to the rebels opposing them, because such supporters are complicit in violating human rights by helping impose a dictatorship.

Doing what is right is not always convenient, and tolerating what is wrong is often temporally advantageous. So, despite the intrinsic illegitimacy of dictatorships, democratic nations may accept normal relations with certain of them because it is convenient politically and profitable commercially. Maintaining a foreign policy of such amoral practicality is never an honorable argument against assisting a foreign rebellion against dictatorship that has won public sympathy. Let us celebrate the few times international actions are taken because they are the humanly decent thing to do.

Later, our propagandists will easily recall the imperfections of motive and execution by our governments, and that data will then fuel the competition to define and exploit the historical record of the events. Though annoying, this is of minor importance compared to the immediate and most worthy goal: defending human lives and human rights.

The likelihood in late March of 2011 that a significant loss of life would be inflicted by Muammar Gaddafi’s jet bombers, artillery, armored troops and security forces in Benghazi was too real a prospect to ignore without then becoming complicit in the outcome, by omission. Gaddafi had vowed to “bury” the rebels, and we can be sure that after a Gaddafi victory a thorough purge of Libyan society would have occurred to ensure no embers of dissent remained to ignite another popular outburst of lèse majesté. Clearly, without outside assistance — minimally, a large infusion of heavier weapons — the lightly armed militias defending the western approaches to Benghazi would have been rolled back, and the anti-Gaddafi revolt crushed.

Opposition to intervention on behalf of the Libyan rebellion has been voiced from three perspectives:

Isolationism: it is an unnecessary national burden in possible blood and certainly treasure, with a risk of escalating into a political military quagmire;

Pan Africanism: it would undermine Pan Africanism if Muammar Gaddafi were to lose control of Libya’s wealth (which funds mercenaries from Sahelian countries, and foreign Black political groups) and political power (to compel adherence to Pan African ideals by the largely Berber and Arab native Libyan population);

Anti-imperialism: NATO action in Libya is just an excuse to mount a Washington-consensus imperialist assault on an oil-rich nation that for over forty years has opposed such imperialism.

Beyond doubt, there is some truth to each of these. Isolationism is convenient selfishness and very often wise policy. In this case it is also a vote in favor of Muammar Gaddafi. The other two objections arise from doctrinal thinking on world affairs. Despite their merits, no worthy international goals can justify the sacrifice of a nation’s freedom to a dictatorship. One has to wonder about the coldness of certain opponents of support for the Libyan revolt, who are “merciless toward the failings of the democracies but ready to tolerate the worst crimes as long as they are committed in the name of the proper doctrines,” as Raymond Aron wrote in 1955 about the French intelligentsia’s bewitchment by Stalinism.

Every individual has their particular formative experiences, which set their adult “natural reactions” to subsequent rhetorical arguments. Let me relate some of mine, to invite your imagination to “feel” my point of view.

I recall visiting my grandparents in the city of Havana during a summer vacation in 1959. The colors, warmth, sounds and odors of Cuba were all rich, pungent and sensuous. Equally impressive to a boy growing up in New York City was the flagrant poverty of many Cuban people: adults with naked rented children huddled at street intersections begging from the passing tourists.

Fulgencio Batista was Cuba’s dictator, whose regime Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. characterized this way: “The corruption of the Government, the brutality of the police, the regime’s indifference to the needs of the people for education, medical care, housing, for social justice and economic justice … is an open invitation to revolution.” Bohemia magazine — the equivalent in Cuba of Life magazine in the U.S. at that time — would print pictures of revolutionaries shot dead during gunfights with Batista’s police, lying rumpled in pools of blood on the street. I only heard the adults talk Cuban politics back in New York, when I was taken to the upper west side of Manhattan, our old barrio, for haircuts at the Cuban barbershop below the elevated train along Broadway, and in the brownstone apartments of relatives and family friends during Sunday visits. Everybody was anxious, everybody wanted a free Cuba, everybody was thinking of Fidel.

Then, on the first of January 1959, Batista fled the island and Castro’s victorious army rolled into an ecstatically jubilant Havana on the 8th. We returned again in June 1960 for a long summer vacation. Even in the Cubana de Aviación four-engine turboprop one could sense the uplift, the exhilaration of the Cuban Revolution. But the full impact hit me when I exited the airplane and walked into the lush aromatic heat of a tropical country whose people were rapt with joy. The beggar “families” were gone and barbudos — the bearded ones — were everywhere. The barbudos were revolutionaries in pristine khakis, with gunbelts holstering highly polished and uniquely detailed pistols, some silver-colored, some gold-colored, some gun-metal blue, some with very long barrels, some with artistically engraved handles. Only the beards were shaggy, all other items from boot soles to cap crests were neat, shiny and crisp. At first I was a little nervous when a barbudo would climb onto a streetcar or bus and sit near me. But I soon got used to sitting next to gold-plated long-barrel Lugers, gleaming mirror-finish silvery Colt 45s, and robust Smith & Wesson 44 caliber six-shot revolvers. Sidearms were definitely the display items of identity.

During that summer of 1960, we travelled all over the island and saw many remnants of revolutionary struggle, one being a bullet-pocked hospital in the countryside, once the scene of a battle, now happily back in service. I even met Fidel at Isla de Pinos (now Isla de la Juventud). However materially poor some Cubans could be, especially campesinos, peasants in the hinterlands, they were all just so happy: believing themselves free, life despite its burdens was now a joy. Every person, every place, every moment exuded the same sense of uplift. I was immersed in a national sense of freedom, and it soaked into my psyche and bones. This experience permanently magnetized my political compass, so that regardless of verbal arguments and logical constructs in later years, my compass always points my sympathies toward freedom for any people.

Today, I see the people of Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen as similar to the Cubans I lived among when at my grandparents’ house in Batista’s Cuba. They want freedom from their dictators, and I am incapable of being unsympathetic to their desires. Perhaps if I studied their cultures and histories, I’d find good reasons to overcome my emotional impulses in their favor. I might learn that “countries don’t have friends, they have interests.” If so, I would want to make sure that I did not compromise anything I had an interest in by thoughtless support of foreign revolts.

However, I find it impossible to conceive of the individuals I see and hear on the streets of North Africa and the Middle East as being that remote from my experience, especially the “wireless” younger generation. [1] They look like my kids. Do I really prefer to make logical arguments in favor of Muammar Gaddafi because it accords with my interest to oppose Western imperialism disguised as “humanitarian intervention”? I do not. Can I really put aside any consideration of the specificity of this particular revolution at this particular time (so inconveniently timed for us), and see a greater good in opposing any help to the anti-Gaddafi rebels because their freedom is not as important in the overall scheme of things as the effort to maintain strict nonintervention by Western powers? I cannot. I am unable to forget the people.

So let me ask you, is it possible to have a bias for freedom, an opposition to dictatorship anywhere, and also oppose the capitalist-imperialist consensus that dominates U.S. and European foreign policymaking? Is it possible to support popular revolutions against tyrants and dictators — no matter how doctrinally appealing certain of them might be for some of us — even to the point of arming popular revolts so they can credibly match the firepower of their oppressors? In short, can anti-imperialists elevate freedom to a guiding principle?

For me, solidarity with basic positive human aspirations throughout the globe supersedes strict adherence to any political doctrine.

Those who agree believe it is possible to identify situations worthy of support, where a people are visibly demonstrating their desire to throw off tyranny and govern themselves democratically, and their dictatorial regime is demonstrating its utter lack of legitimacy. In popular fiction, the character of Rick Blane, played by Humphrey Bogart in the 1942 movie Casablanca, could identify and support such revolutions. The French prefect of police in the film accuses Rick Blane of being a “sentimentalist,” because “In 1935 you ran guns to Ethiopia. In 1936, you fought in Spain on the Loyalist side.” Blane replies sardonically “And got well paid for it on both occasions.” The prefect rests his case with “The winning side would have paid you much better.” [2]

So, can we be sentimentalists? Was the French fleet at Yorktown in 1781 under the command of the Comte de Grasse entirely a matter of interests and not friends, or was there some sentimentalism involved? I leave it to you to decide if this French intervention was a good thing or a failure for history. Can the Cuban-led defeat of the South African Defense Forces at the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in 1988 during the Angolan Civil War, with the liberation of Namibia and the initiation of the subsequent fall of apartheid in South Africa, be seriously regretted? The 2289 Cubans who died during Cuba’s intervention in southwest Africa, and the 450,000 Cuban soldiers and development workers who spent time in this effort, were probably sentimentalists even if many were too young to remember Havana in 1959.

The French, British and Americans, under the guise of NATO, have chosen to intervene in Libya, initially to halt Gaddafi’s assault on Benghazi in early April. The motive for intervening was some admixture of “sentimentalism” and “humanitarian imperialism,” but the exact proportions of each is a matter of heated debate. The pace of the war against Gaddafi will be set by the level and consistency of military assistance to the anti-Gaddafi population.

If the Libyan revolt leads to a stable democratic government, then the cause of freedom will have been very well served, especially if the post-Gaddafi government is clearly independent. If the NATO nations are unable to accept the possibility of an independent post-Gaddafi Libyan government, they won’t supply the revolutionaries with sufficient arms for a quick and decisive victory. Instead, they will dribble in just enough resources to keep Gaddafi confined to his corner while they try micromanaging the gestation of the eventual post-Gaddafi government so that it emerges as a client regime. This would be like Stalin’s policy in Spain during 1936 to 1939. This attitude was captured succinctly in the film Lawrence Of Arabia, where General Allenby is asked if he intends to keep his earlier promise to T.E. Lawrence, to arm the Arab troops with artillery in addition to small arms, so their revolt against Turkish rule can advance significantly: “If you give them artillery you’ve made them independent.” But, Allenby knowing what London wants, replies: “Then I can’t give them artillery, can I?” [3]

Sentimentalists hope the Libyan revolutionaries get the “artillery” they need, and enjoy their version of 1959 Cuban euphoria, however inconvenient their freedom turns out to be, later, for the humanitarian imperialists. Sentimentalists prefer to have friends rather than just interests, and you can’t tolerate others being oppressed or enslaved if you want them as friends.

We should not let our opposition to the misdeeds, mistakes and misapplications of our governments throttle our willingness to take advantage of spontaneous events that can lead to the overthrow of tyrants, and the release of political freedom for more people.

  1. Emad Balnour (“We are clearing our country from Muammar and his gang.”), https://youtu.be/5kSs7uQ15wA, at 0:25-0:51.
  2. Casablanca 04 (“sentimentalist”), https://youtu.be/D_nzR-GPLEo, at 1:48-2:18.
  3. Lawrence of Arabia, “If you give them artillery you’ve made them independent,” https://youtu.be/sppPQogIhxs

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Originally appeared as:

Libya 2011: The Human Right To Political Freedom
3 May 2011
http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/05/libya-2011-the-human-right-to-political-freedom/

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Snyder versus the Campists

When forming one’s political orientation, a consistency of human solidarity and to fundamental morality is more important than any inflexible scheme of ideological consistency, purity and rigidity.

Albert Camus urged us (in Howard Zinn’s words):

“In such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.”

This last quote is an abstraction by Howard Zinn of Albert Camus’s following concluding statement from his 1940s article ‘Toward Dialogue: Neither Victims nor Executioners’:

“Now I can end. What I think needs to be done at the present time is simply this: in the midst of a murderous world, we must decide to reflect on murder and choose. If we can do this, then we will divide ourselves into two groups: those who, if need be, would be willing to commit murder or become accomplices to murder, and those who would refuse to do so with every fiber of their being. Since this awful division exists, we would be making some progress, at least, if we were clear about it. Across five continents, an endless struggle between violence and preaching will rage in the years to come. And it is true that the former is a thousand times more likely to succeed than the latter. But I have always believed that if people who placed their hope in the human condition were mad, those who despaired of events were cowards. Henceforth there will be only one honorable choice: to wager everything on the belief that in the end words will prove stronger than bullets.”
— [Albert Camus, an English translation, as shown at the end in https://adamgomez.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/camus-neither-victims-nor-executioners.pdf]

Writing in the postwar France of 1955, on the theme of ‘the responsibility of the intellectuals’ as regards Stalinism, Raymond Aron wrote:

“I had had occasion… to write a number of articles directed not so much against the Communists [like the French Resistance, who shed blood in WWII to liberate people from fascist tyranny, — MG,Jr.] as against the communisants, those who do not belong to the party but whose sympathies are with the Soviet world… Seeking to explain the attitude of intellectuals, merciless toward the failings of the democracies but ready to tolerate the worst crimes as long as they are committed in the name of the proper doctrines, I soon came across the sacred words, Left, Revolution, Proletariat.”
— [Raymond Aron, ’The Opium of the Intellectuals,’ 1955]

In the 1966, Noam Chomsky wrote his own famous essay ’The Responsibility of Intellectuals,’ which was about the complicity of the American intelligentsia with pro Vietnam War propaganda. Chomsky keyed his 1966 article off the late 1940s writings of Dwight Macdonald, who was “concerned with the question of war guilt”:

“He asks… to what extent were the German or Japanese people responsible for the atrocities committed by their governments? And, quite properly, he turns the question back to us: to what extent are the British and American people responsible for the vicious terror bombings of civilians, perfected as a technique of warfare by the western democracies [in the 1940s, though pioneered by the Nazis at Guernica in 1937 and Warsaw in 1939, — MG,Jr.] and reaching their culmination in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, surely among the most unspeakable crimes in history? To an undergraduate in 1945-1946 — to anyone whose political and moral consciousness had been formed by the horrors of the 1930s, by the war in Ethiopia, the Russian purge, the ‘China Incident,’ the Spanish Civil War, the Nazi atrocities, the Western reaction to these events and, in part, complicity in them — these questions had particular significance and poignancy.”
— [Noam Chomsky, ’The Responsibility of Intellectuals,’ 1966]

The forerunner to Albert Camus, Dwight Macdonald, Raymond Aron and Noam Chomsky on the subject of ‘the responsibility of intellectuals’ was Julien Benda, whose 1927 book ‘La Trahison des clercs’ (The Treason of the Intellectuals or The Betrayal by the Intellectuals) “argued that European intellectuals in the 19th and 20th centuries had often lost the ability to reason dispassionately about political and military matters, instead becoming apologists for crass nationalism, warmongering, and racism.”
— [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julien_Benda]

This brings me to current heated polemics about the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 21 February 2022 (or for that matter in 2014).

I have learned a new label, “campists,” for a peculiar subset of polemicists who insist that all the current war troubles (and accumulating war crimes) in Ukraine are entirely the fault of a relentless NATO (and thus U.S.) campaign of eastward expansion for the express purpose of forming an “encirclement” of Russia. What they refuse to accept about Ukraine in 2022 is this:

“[Timothy] Snyder says the focus on NATO ignores the agency of leaders in Ukraine and elsewhere who have the right to seek their own arrangements. ‘It’s very important to remember that the world isn’t just about Washington and Moscow. It’s also about other sovereign states and other peoples who can express their desires and have their own foreign policies,’ says Snyder.” — from:

Journalist Andrew Cockburn & Historian Timothy Snyder on Ukraine, Russia, NATO Expansion & Sanctions
1 March 2022
https://youtu.be/-Y8ny69uU3g

In this ‘Democracy Now’ video, Snyder has all the facts, states the reality about “Ukraine” and the international situation clearly, and has the real and useful (and morally correct) insights.

The reason the countries between Berlin and Moscow (Baltic States and the former East Bloc) have clambered to become members of NATO since 1989, despite a lack of enthusiasm by the original Anglo-American and Western European NATO members (the WWII democratic “Allies”) for such inclusion, is that those Eastern European states all too painfully remember the hell they went through under Nazi and USSR occupations, between 1933 and 1945, and their Iron Curtain experiences from 1946 to 1989-1991.

In the 1980s I learned about the “govnoed,” by reading Western-published books by dissident Soviet authors writing about the Nomenklatura: the USSR’s Communist Party power elite and patronage pyramid. The “govnoed” of the 20th century are now in an expanded category call “campists.”

I see the ~100 year genealogy of this hypocritical ideological tendency this way:

Stalinists
(Comintern aligned Communists >1924):

  • Stalinists labeled leftist anti-Stalinists like: Trotsky, Orwell, Louis Proyect(!), as “Trotskyists” —>

Communisants
(French “anti Atlanticists” like J.P.Sartre >1945):

  • Communisants labeled anti-Stalinists like: Camus, Koestler, Arendt, Aron as “Atlanticists” —>

Govnoed
(>1953):

  • “shit eaters,” the Soviet label for uncritically loyal Western Stalinists during the Soviet era after Stalin’s death —>

Tankies
(>1956) —>

  • Western Stalinists cheering Soviet tanks crushing popular revolutions, 1953, 1956, 1968, etc. —>

New Leftists/Maoists
(>1966):

  • Western only-anti-Western-imperialism leftists —>

Campists
(>1991)

  • “Campists” = Leftists who claim that all popular insurgencies against leaders who pretend to be “socialist” (and are faux anti-capitalist) and seem to oppose U.S. imperialism (e.g., Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, etc.), are incited, manipulated, or controlled by Washington. Basically, campists inflexibly favor the presumably socialist and anti-capitalist “Red Camp” of international politics in any contentious situation, without regard to the factual data about it.

“The Democratic Socialists of America’s International Committee has issued a statement on Ukraine that fails to adhere to basic socialist principles. [that statement is ‘DSA IC opposes US militarization and interventionism in Ukraine and Eastern Europe and calls for an end to NATO expansionism’, January 31, 2022, https://international.dsausa.org/statements/no-war-with-russia/]…

“The DSA-IC dismisses the Maidan Protest of 2014 as the ‘U.S. backed Maidan coup.’ It thus associates itself with others on the left – we call them ‘campists’ – who claim that all popular insurgencies against leaders who seem to oppose U.S. imperialism are incited, manipulated, or controlled by Washington. There is a degree of condescension and even racism in the notion that movements from below of ordinary Ukrainian, Chinese, Iranian, or Nicaraguan working people are U.S. puppets.

“These people are perfectly capable of standing up for themselves and fighting back, even if they do so against overwhelming odds. Do the U.S. State Department and the CIA and NATO attempt to influence and, when they can, direct such movements? Of course. It is clear, however, that the Orange Revolution of 2004 and the Maidan uprising were fundamentally expressions of the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people – fed up with the brutality of their government’s treatment of protesters – and their wish for self-determination, and not because they were being directed by Washington or by neo-Nazis. The Ukrainian people seek their independence, and we should stand with them against both the United States and NATO and against the immediate threat from Russia.”
— [above 3 paragraphs from]:

What the DSA International Committee’s Ukraine Statement Gets Wrong
By: Stephen R. Shalom, Dan La Botz, Thomas Harrison
February 9, 2022
https://newpol.org/what-the-dsa-international-committees-ukraine-statement-gets-wrong/

And this all brings me back to my fundamental point: form your political orientation on a basis of consistency in human solidarity and to fundamental morality, regardless of whatever ideological inconsistencies, impurities and pragmatic flexibility you must accept during the specific applications of your political attitudes, and in your actions, in the real world. The well-being of human beings anywhere is always more important than maintaining the rigidity of your abstract general ideas about society and its politics. Routinely reevaluate your political biases by applying indiscriminate compassion focused by intellectual rigor based on factual data.

I recommend you listen to all of Timothy Snyder’s comments in the ‘Democracy Now’ video cited above.

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