How did we get here? The threat of fascism in the US

History will not forget the US President striding out of the White House – waving a bible – after ordering the beating and gassing of peaceful protesters to clear his path. If the horror of watching George Floyd die was not enough, now we have seen the iron fist of the US ruling-class shoot, gas and brutalise tens of thousands of protesters across the entire country. The question we must answer is how did the US get here? How did we end up with a fascist in the White House overseeing the declaration of virtual martial law? The answer does not lie in the personality of Donald Trump, but in the crisis of capitalism.

The rotten door of US democracy

 In November 2016, US bourgeois-democracy was already a “rotten door” waiting to be kicked in. The rot was evident with the stolen election of 2000. Then came the 911 events; a US equivalent of the Reichstag fire. It justified the ‘War on Terror’ with the US Patriot Act, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the rendition and torture at Guantanamo, the war against whistleblowers like Julian Assange, NSA surveillance and Barack Obama’s “Terror Tuesdays” which decided who the US government should extra-judicially murder, including US citizens.  Meanwhile, in the name of stopping terrorism and protecting human rights abroad, the US escalated its interventionist rampage in the Middle East, Africa and Central and South America. Invasions, coups and sanctions overturned and subverted governments at the cost of millions of lives. These attacks on democratic norms were carried out with the support of both capitalist parties, Democrat and Republican.

President Obama watches a live stream of the execution of Osama bin Laden in 2011

That the gutting of the US constitution and the drive to authoritarianism in the US has been a bipartisan project points to the essential class forces at work. As US imperialism faces challenges to its global hegemony with its economy weakening, it is driven ever closer to policies of total war and dictatorship. As the Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky, warned in 1928, “In the period of crisis the hegemony of the United States will operate more completely, more openly, and more ruthlessly than in the period of boom.

However, the same class processes are driving the working class ever closer towards launching a struggle for revolutionary socialism. The ever-increasing gap between rich and poor, the daily struggle of the majority to survive, the growing threats from climate chaos and ecocide, increasing state/police violence, and the opposition to the growing threat of world war, all push the working class into struggle. The ruling class understands this objective process and is adopting ever more dictatorial forms of rule at home. Therefore, for both domestic and international reasons, the US ruling class is moving to throw off the shackles of democratic forms of rule. 

Fascism – an international project for US imperialism

In 2014, the Obama government supported a right wing coup in Ukraine that installed a government which included neo-Nazis. This demonstrates how US imperialism is not just moving to the far right at home. It is consciously seeking to foster fascism and the far right abroad to advance its global aims.  Far right governments have been fostered notably in Brazil, Poland, Hungary and India. Manoeuvers to shift the Australian ruling class to the far right are evident in the parliamentary coup against Malcolm Turnbull in 2018. The Trump Administration’s support for Brexit can also be seen in this context. 

Trump and Modi at a “Howdy Modi” Rally, Texas 2019

Fostering a network of far right and fascist allies is part of US imperialism’s rearranging of the global cards – to ensure that when it does decide to move militarily against another ‘Great Power’ ie Russia or China, it will have the full support of allied powers ready to suppress their own working classes’ opposition to war. Though the Democrats have supported this process – with advisers like fascist geostrategist Steve Bannon, Trump has far more explicitly aimed to create an international “movement” of the far right in preparation for World War 3.

Fascism comes home to the US

By the time of the 2016 US election, a section of the US ruling class decided it wasn’t enough to foster a network of allied fascist powers – these tactics needed to be ‘brought home’. Billionaires such as Robert Mercer worked with forces like Bannon at Breitbart News to whip up fascist politics online in a movement known as the “alt-right”. Murdoch had Fox News spewing out his filth daily. The Koch brothers had their networks and money flowing into the project of shifting the Republicans ever farther to the right. Sheldon Adelson was looking for candidates to further his far-right, Zionist agenda. Intelligence connected forces like Betsy Devos’s brother, Erik Prince, were actively working in the background.

During the 2016 primaries, Trump blustered onto the scene guided by Nixon-era dirty trickster, Roger Stone. The proto-fascist MAGA movement quickly became their chosen instrument. It should be remembered that Mercer originally backed Ted Cruz in 2016, but switched to Trump. They had found their man.

On election night, November 2016, the rotten door of bourgeois rule hung by a thread as a fascist was installed as President. To those who question this notion, I ask which part of fascist ideology and perspective does Trump not fit? He is rabidly anti-socialist, openly supports fascist violence and paramilitaries, expresses the desire to rule for life, has contempt for the rule of law domestically and internationally, defines dissent as treason, has massively expanded the concentration camp system for immigrants (of course with the support of the Democrats), and uses Islamophobia and anti-semitism to animate his base and divide the working class. He has put fascists in key positions in the White House, such as Steve Miller and Steve Bannon.

However, having a fascist president does not transform the US into a fascist state instantly. The US wasn’t then, and isn’t now, under a fascist form of government. Trotsky wrote extensively on the threat of fascism in the 1930’s, and remains essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the threat of fascism. Fascism is more than just dictatorship, or even police terror. It is an authoritarian political system with a clear class aim.  Under fascism, not just the revolutionary left but all civil society and independent organizations, and all forms of working class organizations such as unions and social democratic parties are crushed. The working class must be forcefully atomised to head off the threat of socialist revolution. 

Trotsky wrote that a defining element of fascism is the development of a mass based movement based on “all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy.” In Italy, Mussolini used his Black Shirts, then in Germany Hitler used his Brown Shirts as a battering ram against the working class on the road to power. Once in power, Mussolini incorporated his Black Shirts into the Italian Army. Once in power, Hitler murdered the leaders of the plebeian Brown Shirts in the “Night of the Long Knives” in 1934. These forces were not needed once they had full control of the state apparatus of violence. 

Hitler greeting Brownshirts in Bavaria 1932

Trump has been attempting to follow the old fascist playbook, but rather than repeating itself, history rhymes. Trump has had an advantage over Mussolini and Hitler. He gained control of the executive at the very start of his political career. He has, therefore, been implementing a dual strategy of building a fascist base, both within and outside the executive office — before, during, and after the election itself.

Trump has worked to do this outside the executive through ongoing MAGA rallies, open support for Nazi and fascist militias, and by cultivating support among reactionary evangelicals ie. his recent ‘bible’ walk at the ‘President’s’ Church. The network of fascist far-right media outlets continues to build its ‘Fuhrer cult’. Whilst it is clear that these forces are very much in the minority in the US, they still number in the tens of millions. 

Trump at MAGA rally in 2016

Within the executive Trump openly appeals to fascist sentiments within ICE, the military, police and other armed bodies of men within the state. The police rampage across the US in response to the Black Lives Matter protests demonstrates the success that Trump has made in animating reactionary layers in the security forces. 

Sixteen year old Brad Levia Ayala shot in Austin by police while standing still on a hill

Fascism by a thousand cuts….

Even Germany did not become fascist overnight. The Weimar Republic eroded for years, as the economic crisis in Germany, and internationally developed. Just as the Democrats in the US have facilitated this process, the SPD (Social Democratic Party) in Germany played a thoroughly rotten role. The Enabling Act of 1933 was simply the death blow of Weimar.

Even after being handed the Chancellorship by President Hindenburg in 1933, Hitler had to move incrementally to institute a full fascist dictatorship. Likewise, Trump is not kicking in the “rotten door” in one go. He has continually tested the water to undermine constitutional rule by degrees. He overturned Congress’s ability to control funds with his national security decrees to fund the border wall which the World Socialist Web Site has described as a “Rubicon” moment. The 1st Amendment was shredded with the arrest of Assange on Espionage charges. He has sought to throw off all oversight of the Executive by the Legislature, claiming “executive privilege” to stop his administration giving evidence to both Congressional committees, as well as to the Impeachment process. His lawyers have  argued in court  that whatever actions the President takes are legal by definition. He has tried to assert full Presidential control over immigration by attempting an explicit ban on immigration from Muslim majority countries.

Truump at El Paso rally Feb 2019

However, Trump has now come up against the limits of expanding his current power constitutionally. Trotsky wrote that the bourgeoisie (the ruling class) as a whole has an ambivalent attitude to fascism: “The big bourgeoisie likes fascism as little as a man with aching molars likes to have his teeth pulled” eg an unpleasant but necessary process. Whilst the logic of the class crisis drives the bourgeoisie ever closer to needing the services of fascism, it holds out as long as possible before staking it’s last card on it. And it will not do so until social democracy and bourgeois-democratic forms of liberal rule have completely exhausted their capacity to sow illusions in the working class. Entrusting the “committee of management” of the capitalist state to the hands of an erratic, vulgarian, gangster fascist like Trump is risky. Recall that within a decade of the German ruling class handing power to Hitler, conservative generals were trying to blow him up!

Armed fascists on the steps of the Michigan State House

However, we see an emerging dynamic as Trump moves to deploy his incipient extra-Parliamentary movement, as well as his personal control of the Executive, as he comes up against constitutional limits. During April, Trump asserted an unconstitutional right to override state-based shutdowns to manage the COVID19 pandemic, but he received pushback from Democratic governors in places such as Michigan. Trump, on behalf of Wall Street’s homocidal “back to work” drive, and with the support of the capitalist press, was able to mobilize his lumpen, enraged petit-bourgeois base to bludgeon the Governors into line.

We have seen Trump come up against resistance to his unconstitutional assertion that he can override state governors and put the US military directly on the streets. This came in the form of push back from former Defense Secretary, “Mad Dog” Mattis, and a retired generals revolt. They were clearly articulating that a section of the ruling class do not think the time is right to “drown the working class in blood” and assert full fascist rule. Trump has been able to mobilise his fascist base in the police and other security forces to shoot protestors, but he has come up against definite limits. We shall see if, moving forward, Trump relies further on right wing terrorist violence from extra-parliamentary forces to overcome this resistance in the coming period in the run up to the November election.

Would a Democrat victory in 2016 made things different?

At this point, it’s worth entertaining a counterfactual exercise. Looking at the class forces that Trump and Clinton rest upon, how might Trump and Clinton have behaved if the election result in 2016 had been reversed? 

Then-Sec of State Hillary Clinton, and the -New York City Police Commissioner at New York Stock Exchange Sept 9, 2011, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Clinton was clearly the preferred candidate of a section of Wall St and the intelligence agencies. She would have continued their agenda of increasing social inequality at home and imperialist war abroad. She represented a faction which wanted to move aggressively against Russia before turning to China. Her government, in order to do this, would have had to continue the twenty year degradation of US liberal democracy in the form of militarizing police, surveillance and censorship. However, Clinton as a Democrat, doesn’t just rest upon Wall St and the intelligence agencies. The Democrats also rest upon a layer of the upper middle class, obsessed with their own privilege and identity politics. In addition the Democrats rely on trapping the working class within the parliamentary framework by pushing the ever more threadbare illusion that they are the “party of reform”. Whilst the Democrats are not, and have never been, a true social democratic party, they have functioned for a long time in the US as the “graveyard of social movements,” promoting illusions that they can be a vehicle for progressive change. The pathetic demise of the “Sanders revolution” is but the latest example. They also have the support of key unions, but not all, as some support Trump. Although union membership in the US is relatively low, their support for the Democrats can still be crucial, as seen for example in their effective reigning in of the teacher rebellions of recent years. So, would the drive to authoritarian rule and war have continued under Hillary?  Absolutely. But the Democrats’ working class social base prevents it from morphing into a full fascist movement.

What might Trump have done? It is important to note that Trump never expected to win in 2016. First hand accounts on election night have confirmed his shock at defeating Hillary. Trump’s game plan had been to use the MAGA movement to build a fascist base to continue his drive to power and to further the fascist agenda in the US. We can’t say with any certainty what would have happened, but it was obvious that Trump was not going away. Perhaps he would have had to follow a more traditional fascist path to power by building his extra-parliamentary forces until he was able to take power. A Clinton presidency’s reactionary policies and hostility to the working class would have served to feed the narrative that Trump was the man to “drain the swamp”, oppose regime change wars, restore jobs, and Make America Great Again.

But history is what it is— Trump won.

Chloroforming the working class?

It is vital that the working class be alerted to the existential threat of fascism, not just in the US but internationally, if Trump is able to consolidate his rule as dictator. We face the prospect of a fascist having full control over the largest military the world has ever seen, with bases in 180 countries and enough nuclear weapons to eliminate life on earth.  The US executive has surveillance and repressive capacities in the form of drones, the NSA and CIA at its disposal that the German Fuhrer could only dream of.

Marxists are rightfully keen to apply the fascist label only when it is scientifically sound. As I have stated, the US is not yet in the grip of fascism. But it is a deadly mistake to deny that Trump, the President of the United States, is a full blown fascist.

The World Socialist Web Site, a widely read Marxist publication, for example, has described Trump’s recent attempts to put troops on the ground in the US, as an attempted “coup d’etat”. They have stated that Trump is trying to set himself up as a “criminal”, “Gangster”, “personalist” dictator resting simply on the military and police.  Clearly, there are elements of truth in this, but it risks downplaying the real threat of fascism in the US. Seeing Trump as merely a dictatorial authoritarian overlooks both his fascist politics, and the volatile mix of class forces upon which he rests for his support.

Marxists must avoid the mistakes of the Stalinist Communist Party (KPD) in Germany in the 1930s. Trotsky addressed the problem with equating all reactionary capitalist parties with fascism in his 1931 pamphlet “For a United Front against Fascism” (Note: Bruning was the German Chancellor from 1930-32).:

There are seven keys in the musical scale. The question as to which of these keys is “better” – do, re, or sol – is a nonsensical question. But the musician must know when to strike and what keys to strike. The abstract question of who is the lesser evil – Brüning or Hitler – is just as nonsensical. It is necessary to know which of these keys to strike. Is that clear? For the feeble-minded let us cite another example. When one of my enemies sets before me small daily portions of poison and the second, on the other hand, is about to shoot straight at me, then I will first knock the revolver out of the hand of my second enemy, for this gives me an opportunity to get rid of my first enemy. But that does not at all mean that the poison is a “lesser evil” in comparison with the revolver.

Russian revolutionaries Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870 – 1924), and Leon Trotsky (1879 – 1940), , during the Bolshevik Revolution. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)


Revolution as the order of the day!

There are of course differences between the situation in Germany that Trotsky was writing about and the US today. In particular there are no longer massed based parties of the Left of either a socialist or social democratic character. The internet exists! Whilst the far right is using this tool to great effect, ultimately the internet is a weapon in the hands of the working class of truly historical proportions. I do not think it is an exaggeration to compare the internet to the printing press. The printing press was a key material development that undermined feudal forms of rule leading to their replacement with capitalism. I believe the internet may be playing the same role in the destruction of capitalism. The working class can now communicate, mobilise in real time on a global level. The recent uprising over the George Floyd murder is illustrative. A black man was horrifically murdered and his murder was uploaded to the internet where it was ‘witnessed’ by hundreds of millions. Social media has then been used to organise and amplify the ongoing rebellion which has been supported and even joined internationally as a whole generation of youth take a stand against the poison of racism and police brutality.

Justice for George Floyd and Michael Ramos protest, Austin, Texas, June 7th 2020 (Credit: League of the Fifth International)

However the internet does not resolve the crisis of leadership which is just as stark today as it was in 1938. Trotsky wrote in 1930 in ‘The Turn in the Communist International and the Situation in Germany’: 

the course of events in the very near future may resurrect in Germany, on a new historical plane, the old tragic contradiction between the maturity of a revolutionary situation on the one hand and the weakness and strategical impotence of the revolutionary party on the other. This must be said clearly, openly, and above all, in time.

We must keep arguing and discussing the nature of the fascist threat in the US and internationally and we must continue to find ways to think about what a “United Front” strategy for the working class might look like in today’s context. There is still a window of opportunity to stop fascism – class forces are still in flux and socialist revolution remains the order of the day!

GLOSSARY

The above article assume knowledge of a few key Marxist terms. If these terms are unfamiliar, I have provided a short glossary:

Working Class
In Marxist terms, the working class is everyone who has to survive by earning a wage eg by selling their labor. This is the vast majority of humanity who all share the same social interests of wanting access to good working conditions, healthcare, education and a clean environment. Marxists also call the working class the proletariat.  

The working class is not just “blue collar” or industrial workers but teachers, nurses, retail workers, people in the service industry etc but everyone who survives by earning a wage.

The working class however  is not uniform in terms of its wealth. What is commonly called the “middle class” is really just a layer of the working class that is more comfortable financially.

The unemployed, who are not currently earning a wage share the same interests as the working class

Ruling Class
The ruling class, or capitalist class, is the small percentage of society that makes their money not through earning a wage but from the profits from what they own eg their investments.. They own the “means of production” eg all the factories, banks, companies etc by which things are produced. Each country has its own ruling class which compete with each other. In Marxist theory the ruling class is also called the Bourgeoisie.

Petty bourgeois:
Small business owners are categorised as “petty bourgeois” as they are not waged workers, but neither are they part of the ruling class as they are not economically powerful and only own a small amount of capital.

The upper middle class is also classified by Marxists as petty-bourgeois. Although they earn a wage or salary, they are so privileged that as whole they see their interests as more aligned with the ruling class than the mass of the working class. This would include managers, union bureaucrats, well paid professionals etc

What is capitalism?
Capitalism is the current global economic system that dominates the globe. It is a system where the “means of production” is owned privately by individuals, the ruling or capitalist class. The aim of the production is to maximize profit or capital for the ruling class. Under capitalism, the world is divided up into competing nation states, each with its own ruling class.

What is socialism?
Socialism is a system where the “means of production” are owned and run for the benefit of all. All of the wealth and the productive capacities of humanity are organised for the common good not private profit. True socialism must be implemented internationally, not just in one country. You cannot have isolated socialist countries existing inside a global capitalist system. Although the task of overthrowing capitalism falls to the working class, the aim of socialism is not to replace domination of one class with another to work towards a society where class is abolished. Just as capitalism did not establish itself over night, nor will socialism. It will be the work of an historic period. However, it is becoming clearly by the day that humanity and the planet cannot survive unless we put an end to the profit system.




Waste, war and capitalism

by guest contributor Pietro Mascetti, 6 October, 2019

Waste, while it has been a product going back to the earliest form of human civilisation, both the quantity and quality of waste today is directly the product of capitalist production and consequently, subject to the demands for profit by capitalist industries. Waste is defined as any substance that is a by-product of the production process that is not desired. Waste can be classified as solid, liquid or gas and although their physical properties might be different, they each leave a stain on our natural and human resources that need management.

The World Bank published a report on waste in 2018. It estimated that approximately 2 billion metric tonnes of solid waste are produced annually. This figure is expected to grow to 3.5 billion tonnes by 2050. Only 13.5% of solid waste is recycled and about 5% composted.

Solid wastes include a wide variety of materials but, as you
might imagine, one of the largest components is plastic. Plastic is a
by-product of the oil industry and is a major problem, given that it is
photodegradable and a very hardy material. Photodegradable means that it breaks
up into tiny pieces when exposed to sunlight but does not decompose in the
short term. A plastic bag may break up into thousands of tiny fragments without
decomposing.

Gaseous wastes include the gases from industrial production
and vehicle emissions.  The main waste
product from gaseous emissions is carbon dioxide. It makes up about 5% of total
global waste product but it has a significant impact on our weather and climate
patterns. Increased carbon emissions into our atmosphere are a significant
contributor to global warming and climate change.

Liquid waste is mainly in the form of sewerage or effluent
from urban and farming environments. Agriculture uses chemicals to increase the
productivity of farm output and when those chemicals become soluble and
contaminate ground and surface water, they can flow through channels and river
systems, compromising the quality of land and aquatic environments.

If we take the fossil fuel industry as a key polluting and
waste sector, we can start to examine the relationship between waste and
profits which will provide us with an understanding of how to go about
addressing the problem. Remember that the fossil fuel industry creates the
by-product of plastic that is so harmful to the environment. Fossil fuels
include oil, gas and coal. In 2014, fossil fuel companies operating in the
United States and Canada, generated $257 billion in profit.  Yes, in just one year, 2014, to just one
section of the global economy, profits accumulated through the extraction,
transportation, refining and distributing of oil, gas and coal provided great
amounts of profit for shareholders. That $257 billion in profit would place
that industry among the top 40 of economies in the world, equivalent in size to
the Chilean economy.

Shell oil refinery in Singapore

To understand why plastics are so widespread, you have to
understand the relationship between fossil fuel companies and political power.
Take oil companies for example. There is a very strong relationship between big
oil and the American Congress and White House. Much of American imperialism’s
foreign policy is aimed at dominating oil energy regions of the world. The
invasion of Iraq, attempted coup in Venezuela, military contracts with Saudi Arabia
are aimed at securing American oil companies’ domination of energy reserves
around the globe. As such, oil companies are central to waste contamination
through firstly the act of war and destruction, rendering entire cities and
countries to waste, and secondly through the proliferation of plastic in so
many products, that finally end up in our oceans.

Marines ride down main street in Falluja in Iraq on November 14 2004 , after a week of
a wholesale destruction of the city by U.S. troops.
Photo: Patrick Baz/Agence France-Presse

Once the profits are made, there is very little
consideration for the waste or where it ends up. It is more profitable to
create waste through extraction, production etc. than through its clean up or
responsible management. That is why only about 13% of global waste is recycled
and much of it ends up in landfill or even worse, in the Pacific Ocean.

Carbon dioxide is produced when fossil fuels are burned. Those
gaseous waste products are directly linked to global warming and climate
change. And so we arrive at a nexus, a connection involving many different
aspects. The fossil fuel industry, waste products, imperialist war and climate
change, all revolving around the pursuit of profit. You could draw a mind or
concept map to illustrate the links and connections.

Can you see the solution here? Is it possible to clean the
world up, arrest climate change, stop imperialist war in a world in which the
pursuit of profits by large corporations is firmly in the seat of competing
capitalist powers? Moreover, is there any incentive to clean up the massive
plastic mess in the Pacific Ocean when American imperialism is dedicating so
much more to war and destruction than healthy environmental programs?

There are so many issues that the management of waste brings up but consider also, the condition of the workers and communities who live and work in waste industries. A recent story in Australia identified the very poor working conditions of Tamil refugees in the waste management sector of Victoria. Companies demanding profits have resorted to hiring among the most oppressed sections of workers who have described working 60 hour weeks for minimal pay in dangerous working conditions. There have also been several polluting fires at recycling plants in Victoria in working class suburbs that have exposed thousands of residents and emergency service workers to toxic pollution.

Consider also the many millions of people around the world who literally live in waste dump piles, trying to extract what little can be obtained to earn a living or find something which can sustain life. Often, these environments are contaminated with diseases that afflict the young and contribute to low life expediencies.

Squattors living at a rubbish tip in Port Moresby, PNG Credit -Codrington, Stephen. Planet Geography 3rd Edition (2005) 

There is so much that can be written and much more that needs to be done for which capitalism is unable to. Planning, removal of the profit motive for economic activity, engaging the collective minds of all humanity, overthrow of private property and nation states will create a foundation for resolving the waste management and allied issues facing the world.

Pietro Mascetti is a Sydney based Marxist and supporter of the Free Assange campaign. He has contributed the above article as a guest contributor to classconscious.org




China: Capitalist, Socialist, or “Weird Beast”?

by Robert Montgomery, 7th September 2019.

While there is growing interest in socialism today, there’s much confusion about its meaning. Among theoretically informed socialists there’s also confusion.  The word tends to be used impressionistically, a yardstick for classifying states where capitalism has been overturned.  Such states are said to be either socialist or capitalist, either x or not-x, either the one, or the other.  Cuba is either socialist or capitalist; China is either socialist or capitalist (or state capitalist.)  

In The Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky
listed criteria for evaluating post-revolutionary states.  The USSR was, “a contradictory society halfway
between capitalism and socialism”, plagued by material scarcity, and with a
level of productivity far too low to give state property a socialist character.
It was a country where socialist norms of production coexisted with bourgeois
norms of distribution; where conscious economic planning contested with the
market.  Based on a foundation of
socialized property relations expressed in nationalized means of production,
and centralized economic planning, the USSR was history’s first workers state.  An isolated island in a capitalist sea,
enmired in generalized want and scarcity, economic growth facilitated the
conversion of the state bureaucracy into a privileged bureaucratic caste. This
social caste parasitized on the body
of the healthy workers state to gain material privileges for itself. As this
stratum crystallized into a permanent social caste, the workers state degenerated. However, Trotsky insisted
that the revolution survived in the socialized property relations, nationalized
industry and central planning. Trotsky wrote, “It is the duty of revolutionists
to defend tooth and nail every position gained by the working class, whether it
involves democratic rights, wages scales, or so colossal a conquest of mankind
as the nationalization of the means of production and planned economy.” Like
Marx and Lenin, Trotsky argued that socialism could only exist internationally:
“The socialist revolution begins on the national level, unfolds on the
international, and is completed on the world scale.”

The Deformed Workers
States

 Preobrazhensky was the economic theorist of
the Left Opposition in the USSR. Since publication of his New Economics (1921), Trotskyists have viewed economically backward
countries like the USSR as transitional states between capitalism and socialism.
They are marked by a conflict between two different economic imperatives: one
determined by the law of value; the other by the social relations of a planned
economy. The law of value distributes resources in accordance with the laws of commodity
production. Planning distributes economic resources independently of the market
in accordance with socially necessary priorities.

A series of overturns of
capitalism followed the Second World War. In Yugoslavia, Eastern Europe and China
capitalism was ousted but without organs of working class struggle like the Russian
Soviets of 1917, or a party of the Bolshevik type.  After years of debate, the 4th International decided
that the establishment of nationalized property relations and economic planning
had resulted in new workers states. Since these states did not degenerate from proletarian
revolutions, they were deemed workers states, bureaucratically deformed from birth by Stalinism. In these states political power was monopolized by a
bureaucratic caste along the same lines as in the USSR. Deformed workers states
followed the “socialism in one country” dogma of the nationalist Stalinist
bureaucracy.

Mao and Stalin in Moscow, 1949

 The same criteria Trotsky used to characterize
the USSR revealed that these new states possessed the same contradictory and transitory
features. To understand the class character of China today this history must be
kept in mind.

The China Question

Aside from scattered sects and
the “Spartacist family” there are no Trotskyist tendencies that characterize
China as a deformed workers state today. Two examples suffice to represent the
consensus view among Trotskyists: Socialist Action, of the
Pabloite Unified Secretariat, and the orthodox Trotskyist, Socialist Equality
Party of the ICFI.

    1) Socialist Action ( S.A). — “China, built on a foundation of monopoly capitalism, is a major capital exporter that exploits workers at home and across the world. Its economy exhibits highly uneven development, with advanced and highly productive regions alongside impoverished and underdeveloped ones. Its military is increasingly advanced and is deployed to support the interests of Chinese capitalism worldwide. China is a major player in most theaters across the world today and is continually seeking to expand its already significant influence”. (China: A New Imperialist Power”, Dec 2018, convention resolution).

    2) Socialist Equality Party (SEP)- “Moreover, the social catastrophe which has engulfed China is the direct product of bureaucracy’s restorationist policies. Having repudiated central planning, the Chinese economy is at the mercy of the anarchic forces of the world capitalist market. The creation of innumerable private links between provincial enterprises and foreign capitalists has undermined what was considered the greatest single achievement of the 1949 revolution—the unification of China.” – World Socialist Website – Victory to the Political Revolution in China.

 Most accounts of capitalist restoration in
China like those above are based on a purported dominance of market relations
permeating the economy.  The question
then arises, if socialized property relations have been replaced by bourgeois
property, wouldn’t it have taken a counter-revolutionary struggle to restore
capitalism?  If we hold that capitalism
can be restored through the quantitative extension of market relations alone,
aren’t we repeating Bernstein’s claim that capitalism can become socialism through
the gradual expansion of the state into banking and industry?  By Trotsky’s criteria, such ‘market creep’
accounts of capitalist restoration lack explanatory power, and seem superficial
and unpersuasive.

There are plausible reasons for
holding that capitalism has been restored in China: the state owned enterprises
(SOEs) were reduced in size and pressured to become profitable; privatization
of industry has made major inroads; working class exploitation in factory
sweatshops is legend; social inequality now exceeds US levels and has produced
a billionaire stratum; and the workers in the state enterprises who should be
the bedrock of socialist consciousness have been forced on the defensive. Closer
examination of these ugly features of China’s economic reforms suggests that
the Chinese state has not undergone a qualitative transformation.

Market ‘Reforms’ & CCP Control

When the CCP began market
“reforms” in 1978 it had no intention of incubating a capitalist class or
undermining the SOEs. It hoped that market competition would make state firms
more efficient, boost exports, modernize production and transform China into an
economic “Super Power”.

But market logic didn’t meld easily with the Maoist system characterized by state ownership and central planning. As the Left Opposition argued, if the law of value is not suppressed when it conflicts with consciously determined priorities, the planning mechanism will be over-ridden and scarce investment resources will be directed by norms of profit maximization rather than by social and economic need. The laws of the market discipline workers and managers through the “law of value,” not by bureaucratic fiat. When labor power becomes too expensive, it is shed.  When firms cannot compete, they go bankrupt. The “efficiencies” of the capitalist market derive from the commodification of both labor power and the means of production.

Chinese market reforms brought significant
economic growth between 1978 and 1989. Yet growth was accompanied by large-scale
appropriations of state property, an enormous rise in social inequality, and severe
regional unevenness that threatened the unification of the country.  In 1989 the Tiananmen massacre brought this
contradiction to a head.  When Beijing’s
workers entered the mobilizations, the Deng leadership called on PLA divisions from
the provinces to drown the uprising in blood.  By 1992 the market-oriented faction in the CCP
was hegemonic. Hothouse marketization resulted in large-scale appropriations of
state property. This produced phenomena we generally associate with a social
counter-revolution: endemic corruption, environmental despoliation, mass
layoffs, increasing inter-regional unevenness, and the fracturing the social
safety net of the “iron rice bowl”.  While
indicative of the direction in which China was (and remains) headed, these
developments do not in themselves signify that capitalism has been restored.  While China’s capitalists limit themselves to
talk of “reforming,” rather than overthrowing the CCP, both the imperialists
and the indigenous capitalists anticipate the establishment of a bourgeois
multi-party democracy.

The banner in front of the Gate of Heavenly Peace, or Tiananmen, says “Beijing Workers’ Autonomous Federation,” the main group of worker protesters. CreditDavid Che

Privatization: How
Great?

How extensive is privatization?
Agriculture remains immensely significant as half the population (750 million
people) still works the land. Many leftists view Deng’s de-collectivization of
agriculture as de facto privatization. 
However, land remains state property, which has insulated poor peasant
families from the full impact of market shock. Legal prohibitions on farm
households using their land for non-agricultural purposes have limited
speculation and capitalist appropriation of land. Restrictions on land use have
proved to be a lifeline for the millions of migrant laborers now returning to
their home villages in the interior after being laid off by the export
industries of China’s east coast (China Leadership Monitor, Winter 2008)

China’s entry into the World
Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001 threatened peasants unable to compete against
the large-scale, mechanized production of imperialist agribusiness. While meeting
certain WTO obligations like lower tariffs, to avoid bankrupting millions of
poor peasant households, Beijing shielded small agricultural producers.  The CCP’s “new socialist countryside” program
eliminated tuition fees for primary and secondary schools, reduced agricultural
taxes, expanded infrastructure investments and increased funding for social
services, easing pressure on rural families.

 At the height of the pro-market reforms in the
late 1990s, the state owned enterprises (SOEs) in the industrial sector saw drastic
changes. 30 million workers were laid off, and tens of thousands of small and
medium-sized enterprises were privatized through issuing shares and entering
into joint ventures. These measures were pushed through as a form of “shock
therapy” in preparation for China’s WTO entry. The intention was to force the
largest SOEs to become internationally competitive while retaining state
ownership.  Due to state control of the
banking system, the large industrial SOEs survived regardless of their
profitability.

CC, part owned by the Beijing Municipal People’s Government

By 2003, SOEs accounted for some
70% of total fixed assets and 30% of non-agricultural production. The state
sector remained dominant in strategic industries, including heavy machinery,
steel, petroleum, non-ferrous metals, electricity, telecommunications and
transportation. Since the early 2000s privatization of larger SOEs has
virtually ceased. Subsidized by the state banking system just 10% of insolvent
SOEs filed for bankruptcy in 2007/2008. 
The insolvent SOEs were kept afloat by the state banks and local
officials concerned about losing access to government resources (Economist,
13 December 2008). But the weight of the private sector grew until very
recently.

The sheer dimensions and relative
weight of the state sector suggest that despite the inroads of private
property, the Chinese economy is still predominantly collectivized. The
increasing weight of capitalist enterprises strengthens the forces of
counterrevolution but does not resolve the fundamental issue of class rule. The
task of counterrevolution is the political conquest of state power by the
capitalist class. The continuing resistance of workers and peasants across
China to capitalist encroachment, while so far politically inchoate, is
evidence that the ultimate fate of the Chinese Revolution has yet to be
decided.

Nationalization as
Criteria

Deformed workers states cannot be
defined solely by the extent of state ownership. Many capitalist states have
resorted to extensive nationalizations to prop up enterprises in strategic
sectors unable to compete on the world market. Semi-colonial states have
nationalized oil and other natural resources for purposes of national capitalist
accumulation. None of these are anti-capitalist measures, but rather attempts
to strengthen the position of the national bourgeoisie as a whole. Many who see
China as capitalist see the nationalized property as functioning to accumulate
capital in order to strengthen the emerging bourgeoisie. They view the ruling
bureaucracy as simply an agent of foreign and domestic capitalism.

Challenging the Left
Consensus

For the viewpoint of Marxist economists it is worth examining Michael Roberts’ contributions on China.  A professional economist, Roberts writes a daily blog, has authored four books on Marxist economics and the causes of the current long depression. While he has some roots in the Trotskyist tradition, Roberts eschews the workers state terminology. A great merit of Roberts’ blog is his referenced documentation, and use of graphics to illustrate his analysis. In what follows I’ll try to summarize his view of China as expressed mainly in:
China workshop: challenging the misconceptions
Trading economics the Chinese way
China: a weird beast

 Like economists in general, Robert tends to
ignore politics, especially the role of class struggle in shaping economics and
confounding predictions. This is a shortcoming of his work, which he accepts as
a necessary evil of economic analysis.

Roberts refers to China as a
“weird beast.”  It is a non-capitalist
state with interactions between competing factions of the state bureaucracy,
with increasing conflict between the private and statist sectors, between the
now dominant working class and both the CCP bureaucracy and the domestic and
transnational capitalists.  He stresses
that it is capitalism’s drive for higher productivity, conflicting with the requirement
for increasing profitability that is the main force driving the falling rate of
profit of the global capitalist economy today. This contradiction is at the
root of the Long Depression, which has plagued the capitalist world since the
GFM of 2008. Growth rates in the advanced capitalist countries have yet to
return to pre-2008 levels.

Conch Cement, is the largest  cement  manufacturer in mainland China, majority owned by   Anhui Provincial People’s Government 

Explaining Chinese
Growth

While Chinese growth has also
fallen from previous highs, which doubled real living standards every 13 years,
economic growth has stayed high compared to the slumping capitalist countries. China’s
poverty rate fell from 88% in 1981 to 0.7% in 2015, as measured by the
percentage of people living on the equivalent of US $1.90 or less per day.
While the world capitalist economies remain mired in a deep slump since the 2008
GFM, the Chinese economy has continued robust growth reaching national output
second only to the US.

Source: Michael Roberts Blog

Roberts asks how to explain
China’s success in raising 850m people out of poverty, and reaching such
phenomenal growth on a capitalist basis?  According to World Bank figures, a
disproportionate share of this change has occurred over the last fifteen years.
 How can a purportedly ‘capitalist’ economy
have bucked the trend, when the record of all other capitalist economies can
show no such result?  How is this
exception possible if China is just another capitalist economy entangled in the
same web of global market relations as the dominant capitalist powers?  He answers that the accumulation of capital by
the state sector has been the major engine of growth:

–102 big conglomerates contributed 60% of China’s outbound investments by
the end of 2016.

–State-owned enterprises including China General Nuclear Power, and China National Nuclear have assimilated Western technologies and are now engaged in projects in Argentina, Kenya, Pakistan and the UK. 

Echoing Chinese economist Dic Lo,
Roberts asks, “How can it be possible, in our times, for a late-developing
nation to move up the world political-economic hierarchy to become imperialist?
Can anyone on the left answer this question?”  The majority view of leftist economists,
pioneered by Martin Hart-Landsberg, David Harvey and Minqi Li, as well as
nearly all Marxist political tendencies, is that China is a “neoliberal
capitalist” state, employing the so-called “Foxconn Model” of low-wage,
coercive, and brutal labor exploitation.  Most Marxist and mainstream
economists consider that China is capitalist, even imperialist. It is
commonplace for Marxists to assert that Chinese export of capital to invest in
projects abroad is driven by the need to absorb ‘surplus capital’, similar
to the export of capital by the capitalist economies before 1914 that Lenin
presented as a key feature of imperialism.  Does China invest abroad
through its state companies to export ‘excess capital’ or because the rate of
profit in state and capitalist enterprises has been falling?

But isn’t the drive to expand
global influence and to “extract the natural and technological resources” of
other countries a hallmark of imperialism?  Roberts responds that this would be the case
if its purpose were to export surplus capital in order to realize higher rates
of profit than are available in the home market. He contends that massive Chinese
overseas investments in infrastructural development projects are undertaken to
expand political influence and obtain resources needed to fuel domestic
investment by the state-owned sector. Consider the case of the “one belt, one
road,’ New Silk Road project for Central Asia for example. This major
undertaking to construct the infrastructure to link China with Russia and the
West is emblematic of Chinese transnational development projects: state
sponsored, high cost/low yield investment outlays to build forward linkages
which will drive future domestic accumulation of social capital.

Hambantota Port is a Sri Lankan Port part of the Belt and Road Project

This has nothing in common with imperialism, at least in the sense that
Lenin described.

  Certainly,
Roberts’ argument is open to question. But it does fit logically with his data
on the hybrid nature of the Chinese economy.  If his Preobrazhenskyist analysis of the
Chinese economy is correct, then China isn’t capitalist; and therefore, not
imperialist. It is a transitional state whose economy is driven by the
contradictory forces of the law of value and central planning.

The Gathering Storm:
Conflict with the U.S.

For Roberts the issue ahead is
the battle for global trade and investment between China and the US. The
US is out to curb and control China’s expansion as an economic power, and is
taking aggressive measures to isolate China, block its economic progress and
surround it militarily. But this policy of economic war is failing. What
really worries U.S imperialism is China’s progress in technology and its aim to
become the manufacturing center of the global economy within a generation.

Following Marx, Roberts starts
from two premises: a socialist society of freely collaborating individuals
where scarcity, toil, exploitation and class struggle have been eliminated is possible
with the technology of AI, robots, the modern logistics industry and the
internet; socialism cannot occur until the capitalism is no longer globally
dominant, and democratically planned economies under workers control integrate production
internationally. Like any other nationally based country, China cannot move
(even gradually) to socialism unless the power of imperialism in the world
market is ended. And though China may be the second-largest economy in the
world in dollar terms, its labor productivity is less than one-third that of
the US.

Limits to Chinese
Growth

China has been transformed since
the revolution of 1949 by overturning capitalist property relations and
replacing the profit system with state control of the commanding heights of
industry and agriculture. It is now applying the newest technology as a modern,
urbanized society.  As in the former USSR, the law of value asserts its
destructive force through foreign trade and capital inflows, as well as through
domestic markets for goods, services and funds. That’s not really
surprising since socialism cannot be built ‘ in one country’. There is no doubt
that the law of value under globalized production feeds through to the Chinese
economy.  But the impact is ‘distorted’, ‘curbed’, ‘blunted’ and blocked
by bureaucratic interference by the state and the party structure to the point
that it cannot yet dominate and direct the trajectory of the Chinese economy.

In fact, the capitalist sector in
the economy is growing. There are many more Chinese billionaires (285), and
inequality of income and wealth has risen as Chinese workers struggle against
exploitation in the workplace. When, on the advice of neoliberal elements in
the monetary institutions, China relaxed its capital controls the economy
suffered serious capital flight. But 80% of all banks are state-owned, with the
government directing their lending and deposit policies. There is no free flow
of foreign capital into and out of China. Capital controls are imposed and
enforced and the currency’s value is manipulated to set economic targets much
to the annoyance of US finance capital.

There is an ongoing struggle
within the Chinese political elite over which way to go – towards the Western
capitalist model, or to continue with “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”. 
After the GFM of’08 and the ensuing Long Depression in the West, the pro-capitalist
factions have been partially discredited.  Xi now promotes ‘Marxism’ and
says state control under CCP guidance is here to stay.  But the only way
to guarantee China’s progress, to reduce the growing inequalities, and to avoid
the risk of a future swing to capitalism is to establish working class control
over Chinese political and economic life, and adopt an international socialist policy. 
That is something that Xi and the current political elite will not do.

Stock Markets and Billionaires?

If production of commodities for
profit based on market relations is the motor force of capitalism, then China
is non-capitalist. Under capitalism the rate of profit on private capital
determines investment cycles and generates periodic economic crises.  This
does not apply in China.  Public ownership of the means of production and centralized
state planning remain dominant, with the CCP’s power firmly rooted in state
ownership.

But yet again, “socialism with
Chinese characteristics” is a weird beast. It is not socialism by any
Marxist definition of democratic workers control and socialist democracy. 
And there has been a significant expansion of privately owned companies, both
foreign and domestic over the last 30 years, with the establishment of a stock
market and other financial institutions.  But the vast majority of
employment and investment is undertaken by SOEs, or by institutions under the
direction and control of the CCP.  The
lion’s share of China’s industry is not foreign-owned multinationals, but
Chinese SOEs.  As for the stock market, which enterprises may be listed,
is strictly controlled by the state.  Since
the vast majority are SOEs, share markets don’t operate like the stock markets
of finance capitalism. Chinese enterprises raise their capital mostly through
the nationalized banking system, not by floating new stock through investment
banks. Less than 8% of the population operates in the stock market as “retail
investors” as opposed to institutional investors. Trading shares on the Chinese
casino stock markets is basically like betting on a horse; or better, it’s like
putting money on one’s favorite SOE. 

Brokers watching the stock price display on the Shenzhen Exchange

A report by the US-China Economic and Security Review found that “The state-owned and controlled portion of the Chinese economy is large. The SOEs and entities directly controlled by SOEs-accounted for more than 40% of China’s non-agricultural GDP. 

Chinese Industry and
the CCP

 The party/state machine infiltrates all levels of industry in China. There are party organizations within every corporation employing more than three party members. Each party fraction elects a secretary, and the party secretary is the lynchpin of the management system of each enterprise. This extends party control beyond the SOEs, partly privatized corporations and village or local government-owned enterprises and into the private sector.
(Capitalizing China, NBER Working Paper No. 17687)

The reality is that almost all
Chinese companies employing more than 100 people have an internal party
cell-based control system. The CCP is currently writing itself into the articles
of association of the country’s biggest companies, both public and private.
There are 102 key state enterprises with assets of 50 trillion Yuan that
include state oil companies, telecom operators, power generators and weapons
manufacturers.  Xiao Yaqing, director of the State-owned Assets
Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC), writing
in the Central Party School’s, Study Times, noted that when a state-owned
enterprise has a board of directors, its party boss tends to be the board
chairman. Communist Party members at state enterprises form the “the most solid
and reliable class foundation” for the Communist Party to rule.

Will
there be a Chinese Perestroika?

What guarantee is there that this
army of party functionaries won’t play the role that the enterprise managers
played in the restoration of capitalism in the USSR under perestroika?  Perestroika reforms in the USSR freed the
managerial strata to circumvent planning and assume greater personal control
over the means of production. Their appetite for ownership was whetted both by
perestroika as policy, and their own position as a privileged stratum managing
the productive forces directly. In China, by contrast, party cadres don’t
directly manage production but function as political functionaries under the
direct control of the Stalinist party.

Social Inequality
greater than in the U.S.

It’s true that inequality of wealth and income under China’s ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ is very high.  There are growing numbers of billionaires, many of whom are related to CCP leaders. China’s Gini coefficient, an index of income inequality, has risen from 0.30 in 1978 to a peak of 0.49 in 2003 (the U.S Gini index is .41).  Though wages in the factory sweatshops are leaving peasant incomes behind, when workers assembling Apple Ipads earn under $2 an hour, urban wages are brutally low. As urbanization has decelerated since the global recession and the growth rate has slowed, the inequality index has fallen back a little (Gini =.46). But it is also the result of the elite at the levers of power getting fat, while allowing some Chinese billionaires to flourish.

While the Chinese economy is
partially protected from the law of value and the world capitalist economy, the
threat of capitalist restoration remains high.  IMF data show that, while
public sector assets in China are still nearly twice the size of capitalist
sector assets, the gap is closing. The issue for China is whether the
capitalist sector of the economy will eventually override the planned public
sector, so that profitability will dominate over productivity and crises will
appear, leading to economic stagnation. For Roberts, that point has not yet
been reached in China.  The state sector and public investment through
one-party dictatorship still control investment, employment and production
decisions while the growing capitalist sector is still subject to that
control. Under Xi, the majority of the party elite will continue with an
economic model dominated by SOEs directed at all levels by CCP cadres. 
The currently hegemonic faction of the CCP elite understands that if the “capitalist
road” is taken and the law of value becomes dominant, it will expose China to chronic
economic instability, insecurity of employment and income, and greater
inequalities that can only lead to the threat of more social turbulence.

Ma Huateng is Chinese riches man worth $US 38 billion

On the other hand, Xi and the
party elite are united in opposing socialist democracy.  They wish to
preserve their autocratic rule and the privileges that flow from it.  The
working masses have yet to enter the stage and play a role.  They have
fought local battles over the environment in 2015, their villages, and their
jobs and wages.  But they have not fought for more democracy or economic
power since 1989. While opinion polls like that of the Pew Research Center show
passive support for the regime, worries about corruption and inequality abound.

What’s In a Name?

Is this debate over China just a sterile
hairsplitting exercise of little actual consequence? What real world difference
does it make if Marxists view China as capitalist, socialist, state capitalist,
some form of Bonapartism, or a deformed workers state?  As a matter of principle won’t Marxists defend
China against imperialism no matter what they call the state? Aside from the
most principled Trotskyists like the SEP, this is unlikely. How can we expect
that those who deem China a predatory imperialist power will defend it in a
conflict with the U.S.? And how can a movement against war be organized when both
sides are imperialist gangsters?  We are
more likely to see support for “pro-democracy” forces inside China as in the
waning days of the Soviet bloc, and as we see today with the knee jerk
cheerleading extended to the resurrected “Umbrella Revolution” in Hong Kong.
This time around, “Neither Beijing nor Washington!” will substitute for the 3rd
Camp slogan, “Neither Moscow nor Washington!”

Despite broad antiwar sentiment in the working class, soft support to
imperialism predominates on the “left.”  If
left to these forces, the material gains made by China’s workers and poor
peasants since the revolution will be left to the wolves of imperialism. We can
expect to see the pseudo-left swamp abandon the Chinese workers with the same
fecklessness with which it has betrayed Julian Assange. The broad antiwar
sentiment in the world’s working class will remain inchoate if the forces of
revolutionary Marxism aren’t capable of “calling things by their right name.”

With the US/China conflict
reaching white heat it makes a big difference if China is just the newest, big
kid on the capitalist block.  Threats may
fly over technology, intellectual property, trade imbalances, tariffs,
regulation of foreign corporations, and plans to make China the world’s leading
economic power within five years. These conflicts can’t be downplayed. Capitalist
powers fought two world wars in the 20th century to re-divide the world market.
 But when capitalist powers jostle over
relative global economic power, these conflicts may be negotiated short of
military conflict. (May, being the operative term).

U.S Pacific Fleet during “Valiant Shield” Operation 2018

On the other hand, if a
non-capitalist China tightens control over market access, and increases production
of media and other high value-added industries like semiconductor design and
production, cell phones, high-end machine tools, medical devices, and optics,
China will enter into direct competition with major US-based companies.  Should China be seen as choking off unfettered
penetration by foreign capital, the conflict will differ qualitatively from an inter-imperialist
struggle, dangerous as that may be. In the context of the long-term decline of
American capitalism, continuing long depression, the failure of the rate of
profit to recover after the GFM of 2008, and the looming prospect of a new
recession and financial collapse, China faces a definite prospect of war with
the US. If anything were to survive a nuclear exchange, or the Stalinists
capitulate short of war, imperialist capital will move to:


  • wrest control of the accumulated and natural resources of the world’s 2nd largest economy
  • open the 1.4 billion person market to its capital exports
  • seize the mineral and material wealth under its soil
  • and most importantly, exploit its massive working class for the surplus value so desperately needed to overcome its secular profitability crisis.


The stakes are high in either
case. But if China remains a post-capitalist, non-capitalist, deformed workers
state— call it what you will— a war fought with nuclear weapons will be more
than a horrible possibility.  It will be
a virtual certainty.

The venal Stalinist bureaucracy can’t be relied upon to defend the social gains made since 1949. Only the power of the massive Chinese working class can oust the Stalinist clique and defend the gains of the Chinese revolution. By uniting with their class brothers and sisters throughout the world, China’s workers can play a leading role in the fight against war, poverty, all forms of oppression, and for the socialist liberation of humanity. It will take the formation of a conscious revolutionary vanguard party of the Bolshevik type to give political form and leadership to such a movement.

Robert Montgomery is from Boston, he has been active in antiwar and labor struggles as for almost fifty years. He has functioned as an independent Trotskyist since leaving the SWP (US) in the 1970s. A historian he has published numerous articles on US labor history. A union activist he has served on numerous action committees and was local president of two different municipal library unions. He is a retired medical radiographer and P.A. (Physician Assistant).  He has contributed this article to classconscious.org as a guest contributor




Julian’s voice MUST be heard: letters from Belmarsh

by Davey Heller, 27th August 2019

The US ruling class and their imperialist allies are trying to extinguish the voice of Julian Assange as punishment for his exposure of their crimes and deter anyone else considering to follow his example.

Since being dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy, Julian has become a virtual modern-day “Man in the Iron Mask”. He is imprisoned in isolation at the Belmarsh “Supermax” in the UK and suffers fading physical and mental health. Julian, however, refuses to be silenced and his voice has been heard faintly, yet powerfully, through the uncoordinated publication on social media of a handful of letters he has sent to individual supporters. No equivalent messages have been released through the ‘official’ elements of Assange’s campaign, support network, PR or legal team. This stands in stark contrast to other comparable political prisoners, including Chelsea Manning, who regularly have their statements from prison communicated directly to the public. Julian’s letters in this context are currently his only voice and the only direct way he has to share his political perspective and personal plight to supporters and the broader public. These important letters should therefore be amplified and shared as widely as possible.

Julian has never kept his political perspective to himself. Demonstrably, through his work with Wikileaks, countless interviews and by maintaining a lively social-media presence on Twitter, Julian communicated directly with tens-of-millions of people around the world. All of this changed in June 2018, when Ecuador, acting on behalf of the US, cut off his internet, phone and most visitors. The UK has now worsened Assange’s isolation in Belmarsh. 

Despite this, Julian continues to grasp whatever slivers of opportunity present themselves to speak directly to his supporters. On April 11th, he exploited the few precious seconds available as he was being bundled into a police van to yell out: “You can resist, you must resist!” and “The UK must resist this attempt by the Trump administration”. A few weeks later, during the first stage of the US extradition hearings, Assange stated to the court: “I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many awards and protected many people”.

The only other way that Julian has found to break out of the gag placed upon him is via handwritten replies he has mailed to supporters who have written to him in Belmarsh. The first letter to emerge was shared publicly by independent online UK journalist Gordon Dimmack on May 24th. In that letter Julian spoke of his terrible prison conditions and made the poignant plea “I am unbroken, albeit literally surrounded by murderers, but the days when I could read and speak and organize to defend myself, my ideals, and my people are over until I am free! Everyone else must take my place.” Assange finished with the powerful words “Truth, ultimately, is all we have.

Gordan Dimmack reading out his letter from Julian Assange

News soon emerged that Julian’s health was failing and he had to be moved to the hospital wing of Belmarsh prison. No new letters emerged for almost three months until Aryiana Love, an Assange campaigner based in Finland, put her letter out on Twitter on August 15th. Julian thanked Aryiana and stated defiantly: “It is people like you, great and small, fighting to save my life that keeps me going. We can win this!”

Almost immediately, another letter was published on Twitter by Isabelle Viktor which had been passed on to her by another supporter called Linda. Dated May 21st, in the letter that is transcribed below, Julian gives very specific advice on the choice of locations and targets for protest to his supporters, ending with the words: “I am very isolated and not sure of the state of play, but you get the idea, push on that which will move, not simply that which opposes. Said another way, find the weak links in the chain that bind me”. 

Transcript of May 21st letter from Julian giving protest advice to his supporter.

On August 16th, a letter to a supporter in Switzerland emerged stating “Knowing you are out there fighting for me keeps me alive in this profound isolation”.

Another reply from Assange was published on Twitter on August 22nd stating: “Thank you! The suffering here is profound, but we can win this! Knowing you have my back is what gets me through! – JPA”. The reply was written on the inside of the return envelope. To think that one of the greatest political voices in the world has been reduced to scrawled messages from maximum security on the inside of an envelope is extraordinarily disturbing.

Others have shared short letters from Julian which simply say “Thanks!”. 

What can be surmised from these few letters that have been shared publicly from Julian? They reveal that Julian is feeling extremely isolated and is suffering greatly. They reveal that he is very grateful for the ongoing public support he is receiving and that he understands that it is this social force that ultimately has the power to save him. It also reveals that he not only wants to communicate these facts to his supporters directly – but in addition – wishes to still give very specific advice to his supporters on how to best protest on his behalf. 

Given these conclusions, how can the lack of conveyed direct messages from Julian, from his visitors, lawyers or even Wikileaks itself be explained? I do not offer or have any proven theories to explain the contradiction between the clear desire of Julian to use whatever means available to him to share his political perspective and plight – with the complete lack of direct statements from him emanating from the ‘official’ channels of the campaign. 

One of Chelsea Manning messages to supporters via Twitter

This stands in stark contrast to Chelsea Manning who has been jailed since March for refusing to cooperate in the legal witch hunt of Assange in the form of testifying before a Grand Jury. Via her Twitter account, Chelsea is able to communicate a combination of personal and political messages. Presumably, these are relayed to her support team to be tweeted out. She has even been able to release a statement that was read out by supporters at Pride Marches to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Her lawyers have also used the court proceedings to allow Chelsea to make an in-depth political case as to why she believes the entire process she is being subjected to is illegitimate, when they submitted and released her explanation for why she will never agree to testify to a grand jury.  

*Ola Bini, the Swedish programmer that the Moreno Government is attempting to frame up as a “Wikileaks hacker” also had letters published by his solidarity campaign whilst he was in detention.

*Barrett Brown whilst in prison in 2016 on charges related to his work on the Stratfor emails leaks which were published by Wikileaks was even able to succesfully continue his journalism from jail, winning a National Magazine Award for a series of columns entitled “The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and jail.

*Anarchist prisoner Jeremey Hammon imprisoned in the US for hacking the Stratfor emails releases statements via his supporters from jail, one as recently as June.

*Even the fascist Tommy Robinson who is also imprisoned in Belmarsh recently managed to get a long letter out to his brown-shirt supporters.  

Magnifying the voice of a political prisoner wherever possible has always been a central focus in solidarity campaigns. One only has to think of the long-term political prisoners Mumia Abdul Jammal or Leonard Peltier in the US who have released numerous statements and writings over decades of imprisonment in the US. 

August 16th letter from Julian to supporter in Switzerland

Which brings us back to the strange case of Julian Assange, who as noted has been reduced to writing messages on the back of envelopes in the hope that they may make it to his supporters more generally. 

The only statement that I am aware of, facilitated by his legal team and made by Julian since his arrest was the futile, humiliating and politically questionable ‘apology’ he submitted to the court when he was given fifty weeks in jail for breach of bail on May 1st. 

It must also be conceded that this lack of direct ‘official’ statements from Julian seems to have been an issue ever since his internet was cut off in the Ecudorean Embassy in March 2018.

As stated, I have no idea why Julian’s clear desire to communicate with his supporters is not being facilitated more through ‘official’ elements of his campaign, support network, PR and legal team. The high-profile supporters, friends and family who have visited Julian in jail under traumatic circumstances clearly only have Julian’s best interest at heart. Likewise his legal team are fighting a David vs Goliath multi-pronged defence of Assange and Wikileaks across three jurisdictions (UK, Sweden and the US) involving both civil and criminal matters. Wikileaks itself, must be one of the most targeted and harassed organisations in political and publishing history. 

However, it is not necessary to make accusations of maliciousness against any of these parties, nor should it be taken as such when drawing attention to the political problems that are blocking Assange from getting his voice out in an organised way from Belmarsh.

It is also no secret that Wikileaks and Julian Assange have also commissioned professional PR teams to help win over public opinion. I can only say that whatever PR strategy this team may be pursuing, it is the wrong one if it does not feature Julian’s own voice as the major component of its campaign. 

If the central political aim of the persecution of Assange is to silence his voice, then surely a central political aim of his defence should be to amplify his voice whenever and wherever possible. Not only will this help fight the obvious psychological toll that this repression is taking on Julian but the powerful words of Julian (defiantly defending his journalism and condemning his treatment) communicated directly to the global youth and working class would help rouse the only social force that can ultimately free him. 

In the meantime, it is clear that Julian deeply appreciates and needs as many letters as possible whilst he is in Belmarsh. Please read the following link or other similar sites to find out how to write to Julian. If you are outside the UK, be aware that only commemorative stamps can be bought online and sent overseas. Please attach sufficient stamps to a blank envelope and include some lined blank paper so Julian can write back to you if he wishes. If he does send a message that would be appropriate to share with his supporters publicly, please do so. We must do everything in our power to let the voice of Julian Assange ring out from behind the vicious prison walls that currently imprison him. And as Julian wrote to Gordo Dimmack, “Truth is ultimately all we have.”

Note: Please also consider writing to Chelsea Manning who also needs ongoing messages from supporters. Details on how to do so can be found here

LINKS TO LETTERS FROM JULIAN ASSANGE

Note: This list includes letters released after the publication of the above article
Letter to Gordon Dimmack (Released May 24th)
Letter to Aryiana Love (Released August 15th)
Letter to Linda with specific protest advice from Julian (Released August 15th)
Letter to supporter in Switzerland (Released August 16th)
Thankyou letter (Released August 18th)
We can win this” letter to supporter (Released August 22nd)
Thankyou letter to Catherine of Melbourne4Wikileaks (released August 29th)
Letter sent to supporter in Moscow proposing creation of Moscow “free Assange” organising committee (Released Sept 17th)
SOS message sent to supporter in France (Released Sept 17th)
I am in the whale but you are on the surface and have grasped the line” – (Released Oct 7th)

Important update about how to write a letter to Julian Assange

You must include his prison number A9379AY when addressing letter, not just D.O.B. (3/7/1971). Confirmed Ruptly interview by Julian’s dad John Shipton 2/10 -Belmarsh “throwing letter in rubbish” without prison number 

Belmarsh Prison rules clearly state: use prison number when sending letters. D.O.B. is only if you don’t have prison number. We have Julian Assange’s number. – A9379AY. To maximise chance of letter getting to Julian use number & don’t give them excuse to block his mail which is his lifeline!
See Belmarsh website for prison rules on letter writing.

How to Address Mail : HMP Belmarsh, Western Way, London SE28 OEB, UK, Mr Julian Assange, A9379AY,

For other details on how to write to Julian visit this website

Share Julian’s words from his letters from Belmarsh on social media!




Response to James Cogan’s defence of #Unity4J on Facebook

By Davey Heller , 26 February 2019

On September 22nd 2018, James Cogan, Secretary of the Socialist Equality Party of Australia,  responded in a Facebook post to my article published on classconsious.org: “The I.C.F.I must expose the petit-bourgeois and far-right forces who have co-opted the campaign for Julian Assange: An appeal to ICFI members and supporters”. James’ response has been widely distributed on Twitter and has been cited by both supporters of the #Unity4J and the SEP as the ‘final word’ on the debate over the ‘no politics’ perspective and inclusion of the far-right on the #Unity4J vigils. In light of the persistent references to this post, I feel it is necessary to formally respond and take the opportunity to give James a further opportunity to clarify the SEP’s position on a number of important political questions which he has so far failed to address.

I feel that this response ignores or omits answers to some important political questions raised in the articles I have published on this matter on classconsious.org

i) What does the SEP think of the ‘no politics’ perspective of #Unity4J as expressed on their about page that states “we must bring together ALL public figures who support Julian and WikiLeaks, regardless of their political views or party affiliation.”?

ii)  How does the SEP reconcile its uncritical support, appearance on and endorsement of #Unity4j in light of the critique made by Mike Head of the perspective of #Unity4J at the ‘Politics in the Pub’ event in Sydney on August 2018?

iii) Why will the SEP not address by name the far -right journalists who have repeatedly appeared on #Unity4J online vigils? This includes:

Lee Stranahan, the ex- senior investigative reporter for Breitbart. This individual is closely connected to Stephen Bannon and is therefore at the heart of the rise of the fascist threat in the U.S. He is a conscious fascist.

Cassandra Fairbanks has appeared repeatedly on #Unity4J and is similarly well connected to the alt-right movement in the U.S. and therefore the Trump White House.

Ross Cameron (before his recent public disgrace) from the far-right Murdoch stable also made several appearances on #Unity4J.

iv) Does the SEP agree or disagree with my statement?:

It is extremely disorientating that figures such as Lee Stranahan are platformed and given equal respect as the likes of Chris Hedges and Daniel Ellsberg within #Unity4J. The working-class cannot effectively fight fascists if these wolves are allowed to dress up in the sheep’s clothing of defending Assange and ‘fighting the establishment’ – hiding amongst real progressive voices.”

Surely, it is disingenuous to suggest that if a figure like Lee Stranahan does not use his allotted time on #Unity4J to explicitly state their “support for the Trump administration” – than his appearance becomes unproblematic in light of the fact their entire political and media career is dedicated to advancing the fascist agenda of Trump’s Republicans?

Surely, James, you are uncomfortable on some level as a representative of the ICFI being given equal treatment and respect to the likes of political trash like Breitbart, The Gateway Pundit and Sky News journalists?

v) Why have the wsws.org and yourself have still given no explanation for the ongoing censoring of the comments sections from the 12th July 2018 wsws.org article on #Unity4J where we first raised our concerns about the ICFI’s uncritical attitude to #Unity4J

Would you not agree that debate is the key way the Marxist movement clarifies important political questions and in contrast – censoring of such debate echoes the unhealthiest bureaucratic tendencies in a Marxist party?

vi) Why does your reply ignore classconscious.org’s repeated, non-sectarian attempts to mobilise the international working class in defence of Julian Assange?

Your reply made no reference in your dismissal of classconscious.org and myself as “demoralised middle class” elements, to the fact – that at the time of your statement we had already helped organise two global international days of actions for Assange and put out a standing call for Emergency Action outside U.S. Embassies worldwide. This oversight is hard to understand given that these protests were extensively promoted and linked to on the wsws.org itself.

You are also well aware that these call outs were made explicitly as part of a call to mobilise the international youth and working class in defence of Assange. I completely refute your characterisation of myself as demoralised. I am sustained by my revolutionary confidence that the international working class is the only social force that can and must intervene to not only defend Julian Assange but be organised with a socialist perspective to fight against capitalism and fascism.

I also totally refute that in the current climate where the threat of the far-right to the working class is as acute on an international scale or greater than it was during the 1930’s – that to express concerns on such matters denotes “demoralisation”. As a Marxist, it is obviously a balancing act to correctly assess the threat of fascism correctly without overstating it but conversely not understating its threat and consequently chloroforming the working class to an existential threat.

To conclude, classconscious.org has never demanded or condemned the ICFI for covering or even participating in #Unity4J. Obviously, as Marxists it is neither advisable or possible to avoid working with non-Marxist forces to defend the rights of the working class and to defend Julian Assange. However we do condemn the uncritical endorsement of a politically, heterogeneous platform like #Unity4J, organised on a ‘no politics’, ‘Unite with the Right’ perspective, with no attempt to define the class forces involved for the working class.

Even the participation of far-right forces does not mean that it is impermissible for Marxists to participate in #Unity4J but these forces must be clearly identified and their true agendas exposed. In contrast, however, the ICFI has refused to name let alone criticise these forces or the petty bourgeois elements such as Kim Dotcom’s New Zealand Internet Party and a number of individuals that the SEP has previously labelled pseudo-left (or worse) such as George Galloway and Slavok Zizek. As you said James, it is inevitable such forces are attracted to a broad movement – but as Marxists we must never cease to work to expose or at least label them where necessary. In an age of ‘non-political’ political movements such as the Yellow Vests, this will be an increasingly important task of Marxists – to not allow the far-right, in particular, to pollute such movements and instead orientate these movements with a clear Marxist orientation.

Lenin wrote in ”Left Wing’ Communism : An Infantile Disorder:

that there is an:
absolute necessity, for the Communist Party, the vanguard of the proletariat, its class-conscious section, to resort to changes of tack, to conciliation and compromises with the various groups of proletarians, with the various parties of the workers and small masters. It is entirely a matter of knowing how to apply these tactics in order to raise—not lower—the general level of proletarian class-consciousness, revolutionary spirit, and ability to fight and win.”

It brings me no joy to say – that I sincerely believe the ICFI will one day deeply regret its public and uncritical embrace of #Unity4J and the manner in which this has served to lower – not raise – the general level of proletarian class-consciousness.

 

Related classconscious.org articles

The ‘no politics’ trap – leaving the gate open for the far-right in #Unity4J.

“Call things by their right names”: The “hired, fascist demagogues” who have no place in a campaign to defend Julian Assange.

The I.C.F.I must expose the petit-bourgeois and far-right forces who have co-opted the campaign for Julian Assange: An appeal to ICFI members and supporters

Why was the comment section on the WSWS #Unity4J article removed?

Mike Head of the ICFI critiques the ‘No Politics’ of #Unity4J

The Dead End Of ‘Uniting’ With Fascists To Defend Julian Assange.




The ‘no politics’ trap – leaving the gate open for the far-right in #Unity4J.

by Davey Heller
19th February 2019

The last decade has seen the paradox of large-scale political movements marching under the banner of ‘no politics’. Millions of people have mobilised so that the ‘people’ can take power back from the ‘elites’. This has been driven by the increasing crisis of capitalism and the consequent rise in social inequality.

Major parties all over the world of both the traditional right and the social democratic ‘left’ are seen with justified disgust. This has fuelled movements such as the Occupy Movement, the Free-Trade agreements protests and the Yellow Vests.

Without a clear left-wing, class-based socialist perspective however, these campaigns are vulnerable to being exhausted or manipulated into supporting one or another faction of the ruling class and being coralled behind the dead-end of nationalism.

In recent years, this has increasingly been exploited by the far-right as they pose as defenders of the ‘people’ and ‘democratic rights’, all the while building the base for fascism around the world. This is the trap that has been laid for the Free Assange movement via #Unity4J.

#Unity4J – A Unite with the Right Platform

Lee Stranahan who has appeared on numerous #Unity4J vigils

The Julian Assange campaign since June 2018 has been dominated by the perspective of ‘no politics’ through the #Unity4J online vigils which are now occurring weekly. Featuring prominent supporters of Julian Assange, including many progressive and principled speakers, the forum has also included prominent members of the far-right such as former longtime Breitbart journalist Lee Stranahan and alt-right, social-media darling and Gateway Pundit journalist Cassandra Fairbanks, amongst others as detailed in my previous article “Calling things by their right names”.

The #Unity4J website explicitly states:

In a world of divide and conquer, uniting people is the ultimate act of resistance. Therefore, we must bring together ALL public figures who support Julian and WikiLeaks, regardless of their political views or party affiliation. Putting aside our personal politics in order to create a diverse line-up of advocates who support our message will give us the ability to reach the largest audience possible.”

It is not surprising that the #Unity4J has adopted the ‘no politics’ perspective given one of the founders, Suzie Dawson has repeatedly stated that #Unity4j is modelled on the global Occupy movement of 2011, of which she was a part in New Zealand. Occupy was a ‘no politics’ campaign.

The debate flares.

Debate around this perspective  was ignited again with the publication on February 6th of “Being Honest: Considerations of a Julian Assange Supporter”, by independent journalist – Jimmysllama. Llama’s article raised legitimate questions about the integrity of figures within #Unity4J such as Suzie Dawson and Kim Dotcom. It also referenced classconscious.org articles to back her concerns over the far-right being platformed within #Unity4J. classconscious.org also shared her article on social media and therefore we became a target of criticism along with Llama after its publication.

This criticism has continued with a reply from Suzie Dawson to Llama’s article which in turn has fuelled new debate and contention around #Unity4J and the wider Defend Assange campaign.

Llama has now published a new article – “Llama: My Honest Response to Dishonest Accusations” that completely demolishs Suzie Dawson’s evidence-free “debunking” of Llama’s expose of #Unity4J’s grifting, falsehoods and collaboration with and platforming of alt-right fascists.

Llama has linked to and prefaced this very classconscious.org article in her latest piece as a response to Suzie Dawson’s denial that: “Unity4J is a haven for pro-Trump/alt-right/far-right figures”

Jimmysllama’s latest article has been published in full → HERE

Dawsons defence: What’s a few fash in the mix?

Dawson glibly dismissed concerns over high-profile, far-right figures in #Unity4J – essentially declaring “What’s a few fash in the mix”. She stated “The idea that the 4 or 5 names targeted in the recent smear are somehow so nefarious as to subvert the entire movement (clue: they aren’t) is laughably ridiculous.”.

Notably, Dawson did not name any of the individuals – class conscious has raised concerns about (ie. Fairbanks, Stranahan, Prosobiec, Cameron and Goodman). Nor did she deny the far -right politics or connections of any of these individuals. However, she did give them another sly endorsement with her denial of their “nefarious” influence. This is typical of the kind of evasion and game-playing that occurs when the specific politics, associations and statements of the far-right are brought up with #Unity4J.

The World Socialist Website gives left-wing cover to #Unity4J.

It was also extremely significant that Dawson, once again, used the statements of the Socialist Equality Party (which publishes the World Socialist Website) as the main ‘left wing cover’ to justify their ‘unite with the right’ strategy.

She stated: “Claims that Unity4J has been taken over by the alt-right have been resoundingly debunked by the National Secretary of the Socialist Equality Party of Australia, James Cogan.”

She linked to a Facebook post of James Cogans that blatantly and falsely denied the involvement of far-right figures in #Unity4J. She quoted in full the following tweet from the Socialist Equality Party Australia.

In the days after the publication of Llama’s article, my social media feeds were full of this tweet. It has been an ideological sledgehammer in the hands of the apologists for ‘uniting with the right’ who are using it to make the point that “the real socialists” don’t mind standing alongside Breitbart journalists!

In recent days, the Socialist Equality Party (SEP) has gone from providing defensive left-cover to the perspective of #Unity4J – to full throated endorsement in the form of James Cogan appearing on the vigil itself on February 15th. The attitude of the SEP appears to be an opportunistic one in muting any criticisms of hostile class forces within #Unity4J, including far-right and petty-bourgeois forces, in return for access to being promoted by the platform, including plugging their upcoming rallies in defence of Assange in March. This is despite classconscious.org making an appeal to the ICFI to expose these class forces. The tragedy of this – is that the ICFI does not even need these forces to take the leadership of this movement but could use its website and status of an international party to mobilise the working class.

Prominent left-wing journalists such as John Pilger and Chris Hedges have indeed appeared on #Unity4J, alongside many independent journalists and brave Whistleblowers ranging from Daniel Ellsberg, John Kirakou and Cian Westmoreland. However, as I argued in my previous article:  

It is extremely disorientating that figures such as Lee Stranahan are platformed and given equal respect as the likes of Chris Hedges and Daniel Ellsberg within #Unity4J. The working-class cannot effectively fight fascists if these wolves are allowed to dress up in the sheep’s clothing of defending Assange and ‘fighting the establishment’ – hiding amongst real progressive voices.

Now the authority of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) who publishes the World Socialist Website and speaks in the name of Trotsky has added its imprimatur to this disorientating process.

Ironically enough, James Cogan during his appearance on the vigil highlighted how important the struggle with hostile class forces within #Unity4J is – when he stated:

The way forward is through the independent mobilisation of the working class. I actually believe that the movement that is developed, has developed, and it has been done through #Unity4J, through many other mechanisms, but the movement developing around Julian Assange is an important contribution to a broader political radicalisation within the working class. The massive political change begins among a politically conscious, politically directed minority and that’s what I believe we are seeking to forge.

Surely, given the prominence and importance James places on #Unity4J, the SEP should have something to say on the perspective it is based upon!

The Socialist Equality Party – hiding from its own positions.

The ICFI/Socialist Equality Party obviously do not feel on strong ground defending their position. Firstly, they have engaged in active censorship on the World Socialist Website of this discussion in the form of removing the comment section from their article on the July 2018 #Unity4J vigil.

They also refuse to acknowledge this debate on their website with Cogan claiming on Facebook that “It is not necessary or appropriate to bring the authority of the WSWS to bear against the confused positions of one individual.” The disingenuous nature of this statement is revealed by the act of censorship referred to above which indicates the real agenda is to hide this debate from the broader readership of the wsws.org.

Perhaps, if such a debate was to occur openly on the pages of the wsws.org the previously-held positions of the ICFI could inconveniently reappear. In previous years, the ICFI has taken an unrelenting position on movements that adopt a ‘no politics’ perspective including #Unity4J.

Mike Head speaking in Sydney August 9th

For example, Mike Head, a senior writer of the SEP, during a debate with Suzie Dawson over the perspective of #Unity4J at a Politics in the Pub event in Sydney on August 9th 2018, stated:

“These are political questions, you can’t avoid them. You can have all the ‘unity’ you claim to have, and at the end, you’re cosying up to extreme, right-wing forces who are pro-capitalist forces, like Kim Dotcom by the way, you know, multi-millionaires. They have no common interests with the working-class. I’m sorry, these are very basic questions.”

Going a little further back, the World Socialist Website, thoroughly critiqued the ‘no politics’ perspective of the Occupy Movement. In a 2011 article they stated:

The fact must be faced by Occupy protestors that defenders of these reactionary organisations have rushed to try and take control of the movement in order to block such a discussion. They are easily identified. They are those who are most vocally insisting that “no politics” should be permitted within the protests. The administrator of the “Occupy Sydney” Facebook page in Australia is one example. He or she declared this week: “[A]ny political party or group who wishes to try and hijack this into a political agenda, we will throw them out.”

Such positions are profoundly anti-democratic and hostile to the aspirations behind the Occupy movement. They amount to nothing more than a ban on any critique of the parties and unions whose pro-capitalist political agenda is responsible for the conditions facing the working class. It is an attempt to censor socialist politics and prevent the development of a genuine political alternative.

At every level, “no politics” is an absurdity. It is obvious to any serious person that a struggle against the capitalist “one percent” poses critical political issues. Every social movement in history has been compelled to adopt a standpoint on the basic question of politics—which class should rule.

In 2011, the purpose of this perspective was largely to provide cover for the Trade Unions and Social Democratic Parties such as Obama’s Democrats in their ongoing repression of the working class. The perspective in 2019 – however – within the Free Assange campaign is to provide cover for a different faction of the ruling class, as represented by the fascist Trump, MAGA and the Republicans.

In 2011, in the U.S. there were two distinct ‘anti-establishment’ movements. One was the billionaire Koch funded “Tea Party Movement” and the other was the progressive “Occupy Movement”. Particularly since the 2016 election and the revelations of corruption within the Democratic Party by Wikileaks, there has been a merging of these two ‘anti-establishment’ strains into a heterogenous movement of ‘the people’ versus ‘the elites’. A shared and justified hatred of the corruption of the Democrat Party and the Clintons serves as the ideological glue for much of this new ‘movement’. Most disturbingly, some of this energy was co-opted very successfully by the Trump campaign, allowing a fascist real-estate billionaire, to posture as an ‘outsider’ coming to Washington to “drain the swamp” and take on the “deep state”.

A Marxist critique of  false unity – Trotsky’s criticisms of the “People’s Revolution”.

As a Marxist, I believe the struggle for Julian Assange’s freedom cannot be separated from the struggle against capitalism. That is because the fundamental cause of Julian’s persecution is that he exposed the crimes of the U.S. capitalist ruling class and what the ruling class of the U.S. and elsewhere fear most is a politically educated working class.

When people within this campaign therefore argue that “everyone” needs to get together to free Julian and want us to “put politics” aside they ignore the fact that this campaign is not separate from politics.

Leon Trotsky, the Russian Revolutionary wrote extensively on how to fight fascism in Germany in the early 1930’s. In the following passage he was criticising the use of the phrase the “people’s revolution” by the Stalinist German Communist Party as opposed to the slogan of “proletarian (working class) revolution”

“The fascist says 95 percent of the people are interested in the revolution, consequently it is not a class revolution but a people’s revolution. In reality, the worker-Communist should say to the fascist worker: of course, 95 percent of the population, if not 98 percent, is exploited by finance capital. But this exploitation is organized hierarchically: there are exploiters, there are subexploiters, sub-subexploiters, etc…

Trotsky warns that this hierarchy needs to be exposed and taken apart but it cannot be if the proletariat/working class “dissolves itself into the “people,” and into the “nation.

He stated:

The slogan of a “people’s revolution” wipes away the ideological demarcation between Marxism and fascism and reconciles part of the workers and the petty bourgeoisie (middle classes) to the ideology of fascism, allowing them to think that they are not compelled to make a choice, because in both camps it is all a matter of a people’s revolution.”

In other words, we are not all on the ‘same side’. Ultimately, we all need to make a choice which side we are on. People like Stranahan and Fairbanks are paid to promote and defend the most vicious anti-working class forces in the world, in the personification of Trump. Trump’s regime as part of prosecuting this agenda is trying to nail Julian Assange to the wall. Of course Obama did the same as he represents the capitalist ruling class as well. I would not support including paid, high profile Democrat supporters in the campaign either! (of which there are none that I am aware).

This is a false ‘unity’ to which I will not agree and I will not be silent on.

Know your class enemy.

It is worth recalling that the Nazis cast themselves as ‘anti-establishment’ figures. In 1925, Joseph Goebbels, who later became the Nazi Propaganda Minister, appealed for a ‘United’ struggle against capitalism:

Capitalism is the immoral distribution of capital… Germany will become free at that moment when the thirty millions on the left and the thirty millions on the right make common cause. Only one movement is capable of doing this: National Socialism, embodied in one Führer – Adolf Hitler.”

A fascist like Goebbels can only place Hitler at the head of a “united peoples” movement if people do not understand who their enemy is clearly – the capitalist ruling class (bourgeoisie). The Bourgeoisie must be overthrown as a part of the international revolution to replace capitalist property relations and the profit system with a new socialist society. Nation states must be abolished and the productive forces of humanity must be harnessed and run for the benefit of the vast mass of the population (the working class).

The enemy must be clearly defined, if not – the far-right can project whatever image it wants on to the blank canvas of the tyrannical ‘elite’ to divide and disorientate the working class. Terms such as ‘transnational elite’ and ‘globalists’ in the hands of the far-right are thinly veiled anti-semitic tropes. This is backed up with an unhealthy focus on high-profile Jewish capitalists such as George Soros and the Rothschilds. Jewish capitalists and immigrants are blamed for falling social conditions – not the capitalist class who benefits from dividing the international working class.

Conversely, if not clearly defined – the Social Democratic liberals can blame an external bogeyman such as “the Russians” or perhaps even worse, blame the working class itself for its own oppression.

The crisis of Leadership in the working class.

In 1938, Trotsky wrote: “The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat (working class).” It is the job of Marxists to address this crisis of leadership by persistently and patiently pointing out the class dynamics involved in progressive movements such as the Julian Assange Campaign. This means being uncompromising in identifying and labelling far-right forces who attempt to posture as defenders of democratic rights just as much as it means labelling pseudo-left Democrat Party boosters who attempt to subordinate the campaign to that party.

It means, patiently explaining that the fight for Julian Assange, like all struggles against war, fascism, censorship, social inequality, to defend democratic rights and to protect the environment are inseparable from the struggle against capitalism itself.

Staking the “last card on fascism”.

The stakes could not be higher. Trotsky again wrote in 1938, “The bourgeoisie itself sees no way out. In countries where it has already been forced to stake its last upon the card of fascism, it now toboggans with closed eyes toward an economic and military catastrophe.” These words apply again eighty years later as once again the bourgeoisie, in fear of socialist revolution, is moving towards staking its last card on fascism. In the United States, Trump, who is clearly a fascist even if he is not able to openly rule as one yet, is consolidating his Executive Powers through declaring a National Emergency over the phoney border “crisis”, Republican control of half the Legislature and he has the Supreme Court sewn up. Trump also continues to build up an extra-parliamentary fascist MAGA movement within and without the state apparatus.

In Europe, country after country is falling donimo-style under the control or influence of the far-right including: Austria, Italy, Poland, France, Hungary, Ukraine and even Germany itself. The “Pink Tide” in Central and South America is being rolled back and replaced by fascists such as Bolsanaro in Brazil. In country after country, the cowardly Social Democrat parties play their role as the midwives of fascism, firstly betraying and disorientating the working class before offering no real resistance to the implementation of fascism. They fear the working class more than they fear fascism, even under the threat of their own liquidation at fascist hands.

Leon Trotsky, leading Russian revolutionary and Marxist thinker. Founder of the Fourth International in 1938
Leon Trotsky, leading Russian revolutionary and Marxist thinker. Founder of the Fourth International in 1938

As Trotsky warned the German working class “Worker-Communists, you are hundreds of thousands, millions; you cannot leave for anyplace; there are not enough passports for you. Should fascism come to power, it will ride over your skulls and spines like a terrific tank. Your salvation lies in merciless struggle.

Class politics but not sectarianism.

The class lines must be drawn clearly. This does not mean that that Marxists cannot work with non-Marxists or adopt a sectarian policy of abstentionism in regards to the vital campaign to defend Julian Assange and Wikileaks. However, the class lines cannot be blurred or obliterated by Marxists endorsing, appearing on and sharing platforms with the far-right, such as #Unity4J. We must work with non-Marxists but never for the trade-off of short-term opportunism in return for muting or remaining silent in the face of the class enemy or a ‘Unite with the right’ strategy that can only disorientate the working class.

Solidarity not allegiance – the place for principled disagreements with Julian Assange.

It must be acknowledged as classconscious.org have pointed out, that Julian Assange has repeatedly met with Cassandra Fairbanks. This is not a defence of Fairbanks or indeed a condemnation of Julian Assange. I believe defending Assange’s rights is critical to defending the democratic rights of the entire, international working class. I stand unequivocally in his defence. However such a defence does not involve endorsing every decision he has ever made uncritically. Standing with Julian Assange because of the brilliant work he has done with Wikileaks and standing against his persecution by U.S. Imperialism does not involve endorsing his every political decision or affiliation. Solidarity is not the same as allegiance.
The World Socialist Website summed this position up well in 2013, with this passage from their article, “Why the SEP does not endorse the WikiLeaks Party”.

Julian Assange has played an important role as a journalist and whistle blower. His political conceptions and activities are another matter. Assange’s politics are an eclectic combination of libertarianism and reformism. However sincere his intentions, Assange’s political associations have been all over the map and reveal a man whose decisions are influenced by impressionism, naiveté and short-sighted opportunism.

Acknowledging a political difference with Assange is not the same as contributing to or agreeing with the almost never-ending smears of Assange from the likes of the Guardian. These ‘liberal’ forces will dredge up anything they can find to undermine public support for Assange for his heroic exposure of U.S. Imperialism. However, the fact these smears exist cannot be used to justify remaining silent on the serious political issues that inevitably arise within this campaign as they must amongst any campaign.

Why these issues matter beyond the Free Assange campaign.

This article was an attempt to not only reply to the criticisms of myself, classconscious.org and those Llama received but an attempt to clarify the important issues raised by the debate over #Unity4J for the benefit of the working class as a whole. Millions of workers and youth around the world, under conditions of capitalist crisis, are already moving into struggle. This includes not only movements such as the Yellow Vests but powerful, emerging industrial-workers movements breaking free from the bureaucratic control of the nationalistic trade unions such as Matamoros in Mexico or the striking teachers in North America. If these movements are to advance the interests of the working class they must be armed with the correct class perspective. Clarifying these issues within this campaign, given the centrality of the fight for Julian Assange’s rights to the broader fight against censorship and war, is an unavoidable if difficult political task.

The importance of this task is made even more critical by the anti-war positioning of the same #Unity4J pseudo-left and fascist forces who have co-opted the Defend Assange campaign. These anti-war poseurs include Suzie Dawson, Cassandra Fairbanks, Lee Stranahan and others connected with #Unity4J.

No doubt as WW3 threatens to erupt, the #Unity4J ‘no politics’ crowd will be eagerly offering their services to the global anti-war movement as they continue to provide cover for and boost President Trump, who not only wants Julian Assange dead but threatens whole countries with nuclear annihiliation!

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Britain, May 19, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Classconscious.org has worked with a range of people previously to organise several rounds of global protest in defence of Julian Assange. We have called for Emergency Actions outside U.S. Embassies and Consulates in the event Julian Assange is evicted. We continue to be willing to work with others to build a movement of the youth and international working class to free Julian Assange as part of the broader struggle against capitalism and of course, fascism – which is the most lethal form of bourgeois rule.




“Call things by their right names”: The “hired, fascist demagogues” who have no place in a campaign to defend Julian Assange.

The rise of fascism on a global scale, poses a mortal threat to the international working-class. The fight against this menace is inseparable from the broader campaign against the drive to world war and internet censorship. The crucible of this campaign is the defence of Julian Assange.

This is why classconscious.org has taken a stand – that far-right, fascistic, media personalities should not be platformed alongside progressive speakers on the #Unity4J monthly online vigils to defend Julian Assange.

We reject the perspective that “unity is the ultimate act of resistance” when it means standing with those helping to cultivate a deadly, fascist base within the U.S. and globally. The individuals we have criticised are Cassandra Fairbanks, Lee Stranahan, Ross Cameron, H.A. Goodman and Jack Posobiec.

Leon Trotsky, a leader of the Russian Revolution and the pre-eminent opponent of Stalinism, emphasised the political necessity to call things by their right names”.  These people are not “independent journalists” defending democratic rights but “hired, fascist demagogues” who are working for a section of the ruling-class to build a mass, fascist movement.

WHAT IS FASCISM?

Fascism arises during periods of capitalist crisis. The economic chaos following World War 1 that led to the Great Depression, birthed European fascism. It took power first in Italy before spreading to other countries – including most disastrously for the world, Germany.

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Far-right protesters in Chemnitz, 2018.

Now, after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008 and the worsening capitalist crisis of this century, fascism is again rearing its ugly head. Fascistic parties are in power in Ukraine, the Philippines, Hungary, Poland, Austria and Italy. They are on the rise in France, Brazil, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, the Baltic nations, Croatia, Slovakia, Czech Republic and last-but-not-least, the United States, led by the fascist Donald Trump.

Under conditions of ever-increasing inequality, and the threat of world war, the ‘normal’ mechanisms can no longer be relied upon to keep the working-class from entering revolutionary struggle.

Once again, the ruling-class (in crisis) needs a movement to prevent socialist revolution. Fascism is an ideology with the specific class purpose of developing a mass movement that can install a dictatorial government to smash the working-class and pave the way for total war.

This movement does not arise spontaneously. It must be cultivated through spreading the filth of racism, extreme nationalism, xenophobia and militarism to the petty bourgeois (middle-classes) and elements of the disoriented working-class. Trotsky states: “In this way, big capital ruins the middle-classes and then, with the help of hired fascist demagogues, incites the despairing petty bourgeoisie against the worker.”

Fascism can only find an audience due to the crisis of leadership on the Left.  The working-class has been betrayed by the Social Democratic parties around the world such as the Democrats in the U.S. along with their partners in the Trade Unions since the 1970’s. There is a paucity of revolutionary left-wing leadership around the world. This is why the fascist demagogues are finding such a receptive audience. 

FASCISM 2.0 – HOW MAGA (MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN) IS SPREADING FASCISM VIA THE WEB

Whilst the “hired, fascist demagogues” of Trotsky’s time used the tools of radio, cinema and print, the far-right of today is making full use of online media sources including social media.

These include far-right online “news outlets” that are funded by the ultra-wealthy and also the use of social media like Facebook and Twitter. These online media platforms have been used to successfully ‘mainstream’ far-right ideas and help elect Donald Trump.

The ‘journalists’ we have named: Stranahan, Fairbanks, Cameron, Goodman and Posobiec, are in fact, all high-profile individuals immersed in this far-right online ecosystem of websites and social media platforms.

Just listing the social media followings of these individuals alone, puts their influence in some context.

Lee Stranahan – Twitter 83.3K followers

Cassandra Fairbanks – Twitter 154K followers

Jack Pobeseic – Twitter 378K followers

H.A. Goodman – Twitter 28.6K Youtube 117,988 subscribers  

Ross Cameron – Twitter 16.4K followers

Classconscious’ labelling of these journalists as alt-right fascists has been vociferously rejected by the leadership of #Unity4J. An examination of each of their backgrounds however, fully backs our assertions.

                                        Lee Stranahan

Lee Stranahan, who has appeared on every #Unity4J vigil since June, is described on the #Unity4J website as “Journalist, Broadcaster, Faultlines”. #Unity4J, refers only to his most recent gig at Sputnik News Agency. However, Stranahan, up to March 2017, was the investigative lead reporter at the far-right website, Breitbart News. Stranahan worked for Breitbart News on-and-off again from 2010 to 2017.

The influence of Breitbart News in mainstreaming the alt-right agenda is hard to overestimate. Co-founded by Andrew Breitbart and Steve Bannon in 2007, Breitbart News became even more influential when Bannon took over as Editor in 2012 (upon Andrew Breitbart’s death).  Bannon proudly declared in 2016 that, “We’re the platform for the alt-right”. By January 2016, Breitbart.com was receiving 17 millions monthly visits and was the most popular far-right website on the net.

The World Socialist Website summed up Breitbart News and Bannon’s politics as follows:

Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart News emitted a steady stream of anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and right-wing conspiratorial filth. Trump’s decision to bring Bannon into the White House was celebrated by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. “We appear to have taken over,” Duke told an interviewer.

Although Stranahan might downplay his Breitbart News connections whilst appearing on #Unity4J online vigils, he is far from ashamed of his association. As recently as October 6th, in order to solicit donations from his far-right supporters, Stranahan tweeted that Andrew Breitbart had said working with him was the “best professional experience of his life”. As for his other employer at Breitbart News, Stranahan declared, “I love Bannon”.

Steve Bannon and Andrew Breitbart epitomise the unholy trinity of the alt-right, corporate America and the current Trump White House and how they are working together to build a fascist base.

Steven Bannon himself, is an ex-military, ex-Goldman Sachs investment banker. Bannon was the CEO of Trump’s election campaign and served as the White House Chief Strategist until August 2017.

               Trump and Steve Bannon.

Bannon was instrumental in getting billionaire hedge-fund manager, Robert Mercer to bankroll Breitbart News to the tune of 10 million dollars. Robert Mercer’s daughter Rebekah Mercer, still plays an active role in Breitbart News. The Mercers donated tens’ of millions of dollars to the Republican campaign in 2016 and backed Donald Trump. Rebekah Mercer’s reward was a role in the selection process of Trump’s reactionary cabinet.

The Mercers, alongside other billionaire backers of Trump – support his agenda of destroying social services, slashing corporate taxes and imperial war. They understand the kind of political movement needed to implement such an inherently unpopular and anti-working class agenda.

These are the forces who directed and bankrolled Breitbart News and paid Stranahan’s wages for seven years.

A tweet by Gateway Pundit founder Jim Hoft in the Whitehouse Press Room with Lucian Wintrich.

Cassandra Fairbanks is simply described as a “journalist” on the #Unity4J website. Fairbanks’ wages are paid by Jim Hoft, the founder of The Gateway Pundit, another high-profile, far-right ‘news website’ helping to build a fascist base in the U.S. and that also supported Trump in 2016. Fairbanks also previously worked for Big League Politics, a far-right news website founded by ex-Breitbart employees. 

    Cassandra Fairbanks and Mike Cernovich.

Fairbanks has featured prominently on the #Unity4J vigils, most recently on October 6th. Fairbanks achieved social media fame as a supposedly left-wing activist, supporting Black Lives Matters and Bernie Sanders, before switching during the 2016 election into an enthusiastic supporter of Trump and MAGA.  

Fairbanks has been politically and personally linked to high-profile, white supremacist/alt-right figures. She unsuccessfully tried using the courts to suppress a photo of herself giving a white nationalist symbol in the White House Press Room alongside notorious alt-right figure, Mike Cernovich. Fairbanks has also endorsed the German fascist party the ‘Alternative für Deutschland’.

Cameron on Sky News endorsing Trump.

Ross Cameron has appeared on multiple #Unity4J vigils including the most recent on October 6th. He is described by #Unity4J as “TV host, Sky News Australia”.

This description obscures the fact that Cameron is an ex-Liberal party politician and renowned Islamophobic, homophobic, climate-skeptic reactionary working for Rupert Murdoch’s Australian version of Fox News. 

Cameron is essentially an Australian appendage of MAGA. He had Donald Trump on his show and on election night 2016 he helped host a ‘Trump’s Aussie Mates’ celebration. Ross Cameron also appeared alongside ex-Breitbart News, alt-right figure Milo Yiannopoulos on his tour of Australia.

Rupert Murdoch and Trump.

That such a figure is given a high-profile, media position by Rupert Murdoch is unsurprising. As the World Socialist Website states:

 Murdoch’s media empire, featuring outlets such as Fox News, prominently backs President Donald Trump’s “America First” drive to restore the post-World War II hegemony of US capitalism and to cultivate an extreme right-wing movement to divert the mounting discontent of the working class in nationalist and xenophobic directions.

Jack Posobiec and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes.

Jack Posobiec, who appeared on the first #Unity4J vigil in June is described on the #Unity4J website as a “journalist, conservative activist”. In reality, Posobiec is an ex-naval intelligence officer who now works for the pro-Trump, far-right, cable TV, media outlet – One American News Network (OAN) owned by millionaire businessman, Jack Herring. Posobiec promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory that posited high-profile Democrats were running a child sex-ring out of a D.C. pizza restaurant.

The use of this online ecosystem to move U.S. politics even further to the right has been a very conscious one. It is no accident that Steve Bannon helped found Cambridge Analytica, which was found to be harvesting Facebook data to assist Trump’s election.  Cambridge Analytica is also part-owned by the aforementioned Bannon pal, billionaire Robert Mercer.

The far-right are making a scientific study of how to spread their ideas and influence whilst getting around the traditional gatekeepers of the mainstream press and bourgeois parties. This echoes the German Nazi party’s pioneering exploitation of demographic data to target propaganda in the early 1930’s. Trump’s continued use of Twitter is another manifestation of this strategy. The #Unity4J journalists we have named are part of this far-right project.

VIOLENCE ON THE STREETS – MAGA ‘BROWNSHIRTS’

Militia at Unite the Right, 2017.

Another characteristic of fascism is the building up of paramilitary forces which can be used to inflict violence and terror against their working-class opponents. Like the Italian Blackshirts and German Brownshirts before them, such forces are developing as part the threat of fascism in the U.S. This phenomenon exploded into the public consciousness with the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017. Heavily armed militia were allowed by the police to take over the streets as the alt-right joined with neo-nazi’s to lead a fascist riot that culminated in the murder of anti-racist protester, Heather Heyer.

Far more people are murdered by white supremacist groups in the U.S. than any other group including the officially, promoted bogeyman of ‘Islamic extremists’.

The merger of these violent forces with the MAGA movement could be seen at the “Unite the Right 2” in Washington where a small group of fascists, many wearing their “Make America Great Again” caps, protested with the full protection of the ‘Homeland’ state security apparatus.

Image result for proud boys
Gavin McInnes and his Proud Boys.

The Proud Boys, led by co-founder of Vice Media – Gavin McInnes, are another MAGA/Pro-Trump fascist gang. This video montage shows McInnes inciting violence.  He has incited his followers to choke, bash, shoot and kill leftists, transexuals and any other opponents. McInnes stated “I want violence, I want punching in the face. I’m disappointed in Trump supporters for not punching enough.”

Cassandra Fairbanks defends McInnes as a “good dude” in Oct 22nd Tweet.

The Proud Boys are now building links with the Republican Party directly. On Oct 12th Gavin McInnes gave a speech at the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan. In full view of police outside the event – he waved a katana sword at ANTIFA protestors and inside the venue re-enacted the stabbing assassination of a Japanese Socialist politician that occurred live on television in 1960.  Proud Boys were filmed after the event assaulting anti-fascist protesters.

Some of the far-right speakers on #Unity4J directly associate with these violent thugs. For example in January 2018, Mike Cernovich held a “A Night for Freedom” in Manhattan where Jack Posobiec spoke alongside Gavin McInnes. Cassandra Fairbanks was also in attendance and is an ardent supporter of Gavin McInnes (see image right).

WHY WALL ST NEEDS A GLOBAL FASCIST MOVEMENT

The cultivation of fascism serves the interest of U.S. finance capital under conditions of capitalist crisis domestically and globally. Domestically, the only way profits can be maintained is through implementing policies of extreme austerity, this necessitates a government of total dictatorship. Internationally however, U.S. finance capital must also dominate and subjugate its capitalist competitors, this necessitates a government that can implement policies of total war. A dictatorship at home is then also required to suppress the inevitable movement of the working class against war. 

Trotsky summed up the need for fascism to project itself globally:

The productive forces are in irreconcilable contradiction not only with private property but also with national state boundaries. Imperialism is the very expression of this contradiction. Imperialist capitalism seeks to solve this contradiction through an extension of boundaries, seizure of new territories, and so on. The totalitarian state, subjecting all aspects of economic, political, and cultural life to finance capital, is the instrument for creating a supernationalist state, an imperialist empire, the rule over continents, the rule over the whole world.

The same class-forces who are attempting to build a mass base for fascism in the U.S. are also cultivating fascism around the world to advance the interests of the imperialist U.S. Empire. The plan is to install far-right governments around the world to suppress their own working-classes and to align with the geopolitical aims of the U.S. Indeed some of the #Unity4J “independent journalists” are linked to this global project.

Steve Bannon, Stranahan’s old Breitbart boss, has started an organisation called ‘The Movement’ to help far-right parties internationally. He has met with Marine Le Pen in France, Victor Orban in Hungary and the AfD in Germany. He is now advising Brazilian fascist, Jair Bolsonaro. Bannon’s data company, Cambridge Analytica, also assisted far-rightist Nigel Farrage and the Brexit campaign.

(l-r) Cassandra Fairbanks, Petr Bystron (AfD) , Steve King (Republican) and Jim Hoft at Gateway Eagle Council.

Cassandra Fairbank’s employer has also been busy promoting fascism internationally. In September, The Gateway Pundit co-hosted The Gateway Pundit’s Gateway Eagle Council XLVII with the arch-conservative lobby group the Eagle Forum. Aptly described by the Nation Magazine as “Davos for Fascists”, the forum brought together far-right media, military, religious and political figures from the US. Cassandra Fairbanks herself, appeared on behalf of The Gateway Pundit on a panel called “Women Warriors”. 

Significantly, the forum included representatives of European fascism. These included Petr Bystron, who is an Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) Parliamentarian. The AfD is the fascist party that is now the official opposition in Germany. Petr Bystron has stated that Islam has no place in Germany and defended the use of deadly force on Germany’s border against immigrants. The AfD has helped create the atmosphere that recently saw thousands of neo-Nazi’s marching in Chemnitz giving the Nazi salute, chasing migrants and attacking a Jewish restaurant. The leader of the AfD, Alexander Gauland recently wrote an article riffing on a 1933 Adolf Hitler speech in a major German daily newspaper.

Also present was Dominik Tarczynsk, currently a deputy of the ruling Law and Justice political party in Poland. This party is virulently anti-immigrant, nationalist, Islamophobic, socially-reactionary and authoritarian.

Dominik Tarczyński (Law & Justice party) with Cassandra Fairbanks.

Anti-Islam banner at far-right march in Poland in 2017.

Under its rule, the largest gathering of the far-right in Europe since the Nazi’s, was held in Warsaw when 60,000 marched in November 2017 carrying banners which read “Pure Poland, White Poland!”, “Pray for Islamic Holocaust” and “Refugees, Get Out!”. The march was praised by sections of the Polish

Government. The Polish government is also building a network of paramilitary forces which incorporates far-right militias and ideology.

Trump spoke in Poland in 2017, appealing openly to anti-immigrant, far-right sentiments. This is part of the U.S. government plans to use the resurgence of Polish nationalism to build the Three Seas Alliance of far-right Eastern European countries as a bulwark against both Germany and Russia.

This is one example of how building fascism benefits the U.S. ruling-class domestically and  abroad as it prepares for a World War. Previously, under Obama, the U.S. ruling-class built up fascist, neo-Nazi forces in Ukraine to attack Russian interests.

THE WOLVES IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING – HOW THE FAR-RIGHT SUBVERTS A PROGRESSIVE CAMPAIGN

The far-right figures participating in the #Unity4J vigils have cynically tailored their message to include progressive-sounding positions.  

Firstly, they have avoided spouting the kind of overt, fascist rhetoric that they use when speaking to the MAGA crowd directly through their other media platforms.

Secondly, they have played to the cross-over that exists between rabid Trump supporters and many liberals in the form of virulent anti-Democrat and anti-Clinton sentiment. The Democrats -should of course – be slammed for their persecution of Assange, their bloody warmongering and their corruption.

The far-right however only makes such criticisms in order to take focus away from the current crimes being committed by Trump which includes the persecution of Assange. An almost exclusive focus on the crimes of the Democrats establishes a pro-Trump agenda through the act of omission.

Thirdly, far-right figures utilise the narrative of ‘the people vs the deep state’. The intelligence services of the U.S. and other imperialist powers deserve every word of condemnation for their murder, surveillance, lies, oppression and war mongering.

In the hands of the far-right though, this narrative is cynically used to cast Trump as a ‘victim’ of  the same people persecuting Assange. Trump is transformed from the oppressor of Assange to a fellow victim!

Lastly, the far-right points to the lies perpetrated by the mainstream press about Assange. The mainstream press has deservedly lost credibility with swathes of the working-class for its slavish regurgitation of ruling-class lies. However, such condemnation from the far-right is only used to bolster Trump’s narrative that the press is really the “enemy of the people”. Ultimately, such far-right criticisms of the press will be used to justify the repression of the entire working-classes’ freedom of speech and expression.

The far-right within the #Unity4J vigils has infiltrated the campaign to defend Julian Assange through cynically manipulating legitimate anger at the mainstream press, intelligence services and the Democrats. They are attempting to subvert this anger and direct it behind the equally reactionary Trump-faction of the ruling class. They are also working to redirect this legitimate anger away from its true source, the capitalist ruling-class.

It is extremely disorientating that figures such as Lee Stranahan are platformed and given equal respect as the likes of Chris Hedges and Daniel Ellsberg within #Unity4J. The working-class cannot effectively fight fascists if these wolves are allowed to dress up in the sheep’s clothing of defending Assange and ‘fighting the establishment’ – hiding amongst real progressive voices.

THE BIG LIE THAT THE FAR-RIGHT ARE ‘ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT’

Joseph Goebbels (Nazi Propaganda Minister)

It is worth recalling that the Nazis cast themselves as ‘anti-establishment’ figures, fighting on behalf of the ordinary German – not just against the threat of Bolshevik revolution but also against the threat of the cosmopolitan or globalist elites in the form of the Jews. To this end they postured as ‘anti-capitalist’.  In 1925, Joseph Goebbels who later became the Nazi Propaganda Minister, appealed for a ‘United’ struggle against capitalism:

Capitalism is the immoral distribution of capital… Germany will become free at that moment when the thirty millions on the left and the thirty millions on the right make common cause. Only one movement is capable of doing this: National Socialism, embodied in one Führer – Adolf Hitler.

Fascism thrives off the ‘outsider’ trope. Donald Trump is a politically-connected, property billionaire but his campaign was characterised as an ‘outsider’ coming to “drain the swamp” of Washington and stop the supposed exploitation of the U.S. by other countries. Trump himself has railed against the “globalists who conspire against the U.S. 

#Unity4J fascist, Cassandra Fairbanks told Cosmopolitan Magazine in 2017

Supporting Trump is pretty rebellious. You’re getting hate from the right and the left,” she says. “His whole presidency is kind of like a rebellion against the establishment, or the neo-cons, and just D.C. in general, the way things were going. It’s pretty punk rock.

The “rebellion” against “D.C. in general” is shown to be a sham when Fairbanks tweets of the alt-right’s influence and connections in D.C. when justifying her and other MAGA figures’ role in #Unity4J (see image right).

Stranahan, Fairbanks, Posobiec, Goodman and Cameron are similarly seeking to exploit the Defend Assange campaign to bolster their phoney ‘anti-establishment’ credentials. On a deeper level they seek to bask in the reflected glory of Julian Assange himself, a true anti-establishment figure who has risked all in a real struggle against imperialist power.

These figures and the MAGA movement they support are in no way anti-establishment. They are backed by powerful sections of the ruling-class, including the corporate billionaires and millionaires who have funded the careers of Stranahan, Fairbanks, Posobiec and Cameron. Far-right figures currently dominate the White House through the Trump Presidency – including the fascist, senior policy advisor Stephen Miller and a coterie of fascistic-minded generals and billionaires in Trump’s Cabinet.

Whilst a faction of the ‘Deep State’ clearly opposes Trump, other sections of the CIA, FBI and NSA recognise a friend who throws money at them and installs a torturer like Gina Haspel as CIA chief. To see that the State is actively facilitating the far-right in the U.S., one only has to look at the red carpet treatment given to the fascists who demonstrated recently in Washington D.C.

Internationally, the ‘Deep States’ are also helping to spread the tentacles of fascism. There is known collusion between the security services in Germany and the fascistic AdF. Stephen Bannon, like other far-right figures, has ties to the military/ intelligence complex in the form of his past service. It is hard to believe that Bannon’s current work with the far-right in countries such as Brazil is being done without the knowledge and collaboration of sections of the U.S. intelligence services.

These fascist, ‘anti-establishment’ phonies in #Unity4J are in fact tied to the ruling-class by a thousand threads.

THE DEAD END OF UNITING WITH FASCISTS TO STOP WORLD WORD THREE

There is no doubt that the world teeters on the edge of another World War, which would bring a nuclear holocaust. The U.S. is determined to offset its declining economic power through the projection of naked, military might. The countries that must be subjugated first are the nuclear-armed states of China and Russia.

U.S. Pacific Fleet – Valiant Shield exercise near Guam, Sept 2018.

China is being militarily encircled and hit with trade war measures by the US, NATO forces are amassing on Russia’s borders, and U.S. and Russian forces face off in the powder keg of Syria. The U.S. has ripped up the INF Nuclear Treaty. Both the Democrat and Republican factions of the U.S. ruling-class are equally committed to this homicidal imperial policy – although they disagree on exact strategy.

This is no hyperbole! The U.S. Empire has military and bases in the majority of countries in the world, is the only nation-state to use nuclear weapons aggressively and has killed millions of people in military and political interventions since World War 2.

The youth and working-class will inevitably respond to any global conflagration with a powerful international anti-war movement. Within the seeds of #Unity4J however lies the potential for a         deadly trap for the working-class.

The fascists in the #Unity4J vigil held on October 6th, clearly signalled that they are planning such a trap. Lee Stranahan and Cassandra Fairbanks made several points arguing that #Unity4J is laying the foundation of a future anti-war movement subordinated to the noxious politics of the far-right and the class-forces it represents.

It should go without saying that anyone who supports the Trump regime of vicious war hawks, which currently wages war, threatens to annihilate entire countries and has vastly expanded the budget of the Pentagon – is not truly anti-war!

This development only increases the urgency of exposing these forces within the Defend Assange Campaign. The international working-class and revolutionary socialists must take every opportunity to expose and defeat fascists before they can pollute the anti-war movement.

THE INTERNATIONAL WORKING-CLASS – THE ONLY SOCIAL FORCE THAT CAN FREE ASSANGE

Fascism is not yet a mass movement in the U.S or Europe. Nor is it the dominant force within the Julian Assange campaign. However, this is no cause for complacency. The class-pressures being generated by the crisis of capitalism means the balance of forces can change very quickly.

Fascism as an anti-working class movement will never win majority support. However, it only needs to be large and well-armed enough – that working  in conjunction with the ruling-class, it can seize power. This is why fascism must be fought and defeated before it can fully seize power.  

Only an international movement of the youth and working-class, that fights independently and in opposition to all factions of the ruling-class, can generate the political force necessary to free Julian Assange. This is also the only social force that can defend democratic principles and fight censorship and war.

Such a movement will not be built on the rump of disorientated, petty bourgeois, Trump voters but by appealing to the most progressive elements of the international youth and working-class. The prominent inclusion of far-right figures in the #Unity4J vigils retards this process.

Classconscious is reaching out to these progressive layers through our website, campaign Facebook groups and by helping to coordinate global protests to defend Julian Assange. We helped organise coordinated global protests in June, August and are planning more on November 4th. We are coordinating global protests if Julian is evicted from the London Ecuadorian Embassy.

It is our sincere belief that publishing articles that demarcate the class-forces involved in the campaign and organising global protests are both essential elements of our efforts to free Julian Assange.

A CRUCIAL MOMENT IN HISTORY

In 1931, Trotsky issued an urgent call for a united front of German workers against the threat of fascism.

Worker-Communists, you are hundreds of thousands, millions; you cannot leave for anyplace; there are not enough passports for you. Should fascism come to power, it will ride over your skulls and spines like a terrific tank. Your salvation lies in merciless struggle. And only a fighting unity with the Social Democratic workers can bring victory. Make haste, worker-Communists, you have very little time left!

Trotsky’s words came tragically true as the Nazi’s helped turn Europe into a charnel house. The fascist movement of today is equally dangerous, in fact, armed with nuclear weapons, mass surveillance and other modern technologies, the horrors of the 20th century could be vastly exceeded. Even before Fascism is consolidated, we are seeing the re-emergence of concentration camps for immigrants, Nuremberg-type laws against Muslims, fascist gangs organising violently on the streets and the build-up of police states by capitalist governments around the world.

250,000 people march against the far right in Berlin, Oct 2018.

We do not say this out of a sense of defeatism or demoralisation but as a call-to-arms to the working-class and youth – to heed the lessons of history and use all its power to stop fascism from consolidating its power further.

The international working-class now numbers in the billions and is linked by modern communication technology, most notably the internet. The working-class and youth is the only social class that has the power to defeat fascism, stop world war and avoid the ruling-class plunging the world into a barbarous nightmare.

If Julian Assange has shown us anything –  it is that armed with the truth we have power!  

It is an important truth to expose the fascists who are trying to subvert the campaign to defend Assange through their participation in #Unity4J. We need to call them by their real names and then move on together to build the movement of the youth and international working-class needed to free Julian Assange and protect all of our freedoms!

“I’m gonna tell you fascists
You may be surprised
The people in this world
Are getting organised
You’re bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose”

  Woodie Guthrie

 

 

 

 

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The I.C.F.I must expose the petit-bourgeois and far-right forces who have co-opted the campaign for Julian Assange: An appeal to ICFI members and supporters

“Assange and WikiLeaks are a sharp example of the broader campaign to censor and silence oppositional voicesThe fight to defend him is inseparable from the struggle to alert and mobilise the international working-class against the ongoing attacks on fundamental democratic rights and against the danger of dictatorship and war.” – James Cogan 5 July 2018

The Trotskyist I.C.F.I (International Committee of the Fourth International) has continually emphasised the importance of the campaign to defend Julian Assange, published extensively on the topic on their website the World Socialist Website, several of their Socialist Equality Party sections have organised  demonstrations including a major rally in Sydney, and it has strongly and publicly endorsed the call-outs for international protests made by this website (classconscious.org) on June 19th and in the event of Assange’s eviction from the Ecuadorean Embassy.

It is in this context, that we appeal to the I.C.F.I and it’s members/supporters to rectify the party’s silence on the co-option of the Julian Assange campaign by petit-bourgeois tendencies, opportunists and the pro-Trump far-right. It is an urgent political task to demarcate the class forces involved in this campaign so it can be re-orientated back to the international working class.

The vehicle of this take-over of the campaign is the #Unity4J ‘Movement’.

#Unity4J is the creation of both Suzie Dawson – the current President of the New Zealand Internet Party and the Internet Party’s multi-millionaire founder, Kim Dotcom.

Launched in response to the cutting off of Assange’s internet on March 28th by the Moreno Government, #Unity4J consists of a series of monthly, online vigils featuring prominent supporters of Julian Assange.

Although the campaign to defend Assange has been ongoing since 2010, the vigil’s online prominence enabled Dawson, Dotcom and their associates to claim that they are now leading and in control of the campaign to defend Julian Assange.

The name of #Unity4J encapsulates the bankrupt perspective “that Assange must be defended under a ‘Unite with the Right’ banner”.

The About section of the #Unity4J website states : “In a world of divide and conquer, uniting people is the ultimate act of resistance. Therefore, we must bring together ALL public figures who support Julian and WikiLeaks, regardless of their political views or party affiliation. Putting aside our personal politics in order to create a diverse line-up of advocates who support our message will give us the ability to reach the largest audience possible.

This is not mere rhetoric. Whilst many of the participants in the vigils have been principled, progressive opponents of the attacks on Julian Assange’s democratic rights – numerous, high profile, far-right, fascistic figures have also appeared – including, but not limited to:

Lee Stranahan: Former Breitbart News contributor and now pro-Trump reporter for Sputnik News.

Cassandra Fairbanks: Pro-Trump Youtuber and writer for far-right website, The Gateway Pundit.

H.A. Goodman: Who uses his Twitter profile to attack leftists and campaigns vociferously for Trump.

Jack Posibiec: An alt-right troll who works for the pro-Trump channel: One America News Network.

Ross Cameron: Far-right, ex-Australian Government politician and now Islamophobic, pro-Trump Murdoch journalist.

The inclusion of these forces has been justified by the self-proclaimed leader of #Unity4J, Suzie Dawson, who has repeatedly stated that the group’s ‘no politics’ line is explicitly being modelled on the global Occupy movement of 2011, of which she was a part in New Zealand.

As the ICFI has explained many times, this perspective is advanced by petit-bourgeois, upper middle-class layers in a conscious effort to prevent Marxist and independent, working-class, orientated movements from developing.

Nor is it a surprise that a ‘movement’ funded and launched by Kim Dotcom is hostile to working-class politics.

A 2014 article by Tom Peters on the WSWS stated:

The WSWS denounced the illegal campaign against Dotcom and the GCSB’s operations as deeply anti-democratic. But that does not in any way signify support for Dotcom’s politics, which are oriented toward the same big business and political establishment that is responsible for mass spying and many other abuses of democratic rights.

Dotcom has previously donated money to the far-right ACT Party, which is part of the governing coalition and supports lower taxes for the wealthy and sweeping measures to dismantle welfare. He recently sought political advice from Don Brash, a former leader of both National and ACT. Dotcom has criticised the GCSB and New Zealand’s alliance with the US, but not the National-ACT policies of austerity, privatisation and attacks on wages and working conditions.

Dotcom’s Internet Party also went into an electoral alliance in 2014 in New Zealand with the chauvinist, Maori, anti-Chinese Mana Party and its pseudo-left allies who threw their lot in with Mana at the time. This development has also been extensively covered by the ICFI.

The ICFI has so far omitted any discussion of the origin and nature of the class forces involved in the current Julian Assange campaign. We believe this omission can best be highlighted by examining two relevant documents of the ICFI.

The first, is the recent resolution of the SEP (U.S.) at their Fifth National Conference that stated:

“The persecution of Assange and Internet censorship has been directly facilitated by the self-styled ‘liberal’ parties and media, the trade unions and the pseudo-left organisations around the world. The representatives of the privileged, upper middle-class, these tendencies have aligned with the ruling-class and the descent toward dictatorship and war. In the process, they have repudiated any defence of fundamental democratic rights. They have either joined the vilification of Assange or maintain a complicit silence”. (emphasis added)

Whilst, it is true that the representatives of the privileged, upper middle-classes have almost entirely betrayed Julian Assange, it must be said – that by stating that ALL their representatives have abandoned the campaign, the ICFI is unable to describe or even label the upper middle-class interests which remain in the campaign. These are, as we have argued – the leadership of the #Unity4J campaign.

In the Occupy movement in 2011, the ‘no politics’ line was used by pseudo-left forces to channel energy behind the Democratic Party. However, this is not possible under current political circumstances due to the open hostility of the CIA Democrats towards Assange.

Instead, the ‘no politics/Unity’ line is being exploited to channel the energy of the campaign behind a different faction of the bourgeois in the form of fascistic, U.S. President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. This follows from allowing far-right Trump supporters to fraudulently masquerade as defenders of democratic principles whilst simultaneously suppressing any criticism of Trump and promoting criticism of the Democrats within the campaign.

It shouldn’t be necessary to explain to ICFI members how dangerous giving political cover to fascistic forces is in the current global climate. The dynamic within #Unity4J reflects the international trend of pseudo-left forces aligning with the far-right as in Britain during Brexit, Syriza in Greece and the Maidan protests in Ukraine.

Classconscious.org highlighted this dynamic in our article; The Dead End of ‘Uniting’ with Fascists to Defend Julian Assange, an article that was publicly condemned by Suzie Dawson and the leaders of #Unity4J.

Classconscious.org, however, are not alone in raising concerns. The tensions over the involvement of the far-right in solidarity work for Julian has been ongoing at the highest levels of this campaign. Classconscious.org has subsequently received both public and private support for our stand against the inclusion of the far-right.

On August 13th, the Director of the Courage Foundation, Naomi Colvin, resigned her position over a directive from the Courage Foundation Board to remove whistleblower and journalist, Barrett Brown, as a beneficiary from the Foundation due to his criticism of Wikileaks and Julian Assange.

In her resignation letter Naomi expressed her concerns over the involvement of the far-right in the campaign and linked to the classconscious.org article The Dead End of ‘Uniting’ with Fascists to Defend Julian Assange.

She stated, “I remain absolutely, unambiguously opposed to the withdrawal of Julian Assange’s asylum and the prospect of his extradition to the United States. I do, however, have acute concerns about the way advocacy on this issue is developing. This is reflected, obviously, in the circumstances that have led to me resigning from Courage, but also in recent comments made by Jesselyn Radack, Bailey Lamon and Davey Heller (I agree with them).”

The second document we would cite of the ICFI’s, that highlights their failure to discuss the origin and nature of the class forces involved in this campaign is the 12th July WSWS article by Oscar Grenfell entitled: Prominent whistleblowers and journalists defend Julian Assange at online vigil. 

This article covered the second #Unity4J online vigil that occurred on July 7th-8th and is the sole article published by the ICFI on the organisation – #Unity4J. The article adopts an entirely uncritical attitude to #Unity4J, neglecting to mention it’s ‘no politics’ perspective.

The WSWS article highlights the statements of Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Hedges, Cian Westmoreland, Ray McGovern and William Binney who are correctly described as “individuals who have been persecuted by governments for taking a courageous stand against war and authoritarianism”.

Other #Unity4J vigil participants, who previously have been excoriated by the ICFI in WSWS articles as pseudo-left or even “openly right-wing” are benignly described as follows: “Other prominent speakers included philosopher and author Slavoj Zizek and British politician George Galloway, who was expelled from the Labour Party for his opposition to the invasion of Iraq.” (Hyperlinks to relevant WSWS articles added above).

Most strikingly though, all other vigil speakers are simply covered by the vague statement “A range of other independent journalists and commentators also spoke.”

This catch-all statement papers over the involvement of the far-right speakers including: Lee Stranahan, Ross Cameron, H.A. Goodman and Cassandra Fairbanks. Fairbanks not only spoke but actually conducted interviews with other panelists. 

The statement also papers over the involvement of speakers who whilst not being explicitly far-right, possess extremely questionable politics including Kim Dotcom and Vivian Kubrick, daughter of Stanley Kubrick, who expresses sympathy for Trump and has appeared on Alex Jones’s show ‘Infowars‘.

The silence of the ICFI on these forces’ involvement in #Unity4J, within it’s own published documents, is made even more inexplicable in the light of Mike Head’s (senior member of the Australian SEP and senior writer for the WSWS) very public intervention and criticisms on this exact matter.

On August 9th, during a live-streamed ‘Politics in the Pub event in Sydney, entitled “The Gagging of Julian Assange”, a highly significant exchange occurred between Mike Head, and Suzie Dawson.

Mike Head (seated right) speaking in Sydney August 9th at Sydney event.

During the exchange, Mike Head delivers a devastating critique of the ‘no politics’ line of #Unity4J and how it represents a dead end for the Julian Assange campaign and more broadly the working-class itself. Classconscious.org fully endorses Mike Head’s perspective and believes it should be shared as widely as possible. That is why we have published in full here – with a complete video and transcript of both Mike Head’s comments and Suzie Dawson’s response. 

One short section is reproduced below, where Mike Head responds to Suzie Dawson’s explanation that the ‘no politics’ line of #Unity4J is based on the claimed “success” of the Occupy Movement.

Mike Head: Yeah, but look, seven years on from Occupy, Wall Street is in control far more than ever before, inequality is just staggering…you know Occupy completely failed. In fact, it derailed the whole movement behind Obama and the only reason Trump and the alt-right can get a voice, is because of the betrayals of Obama, Clinton and the Democrats and Bernie Sanders too, who delivered… who tried to get people to vote for Hillary Clinton. These are political questions, you can’t avoid them. You can have all the unity you claim to have, and at the end you’re cosying up to extreme right-wing forces who are pro-capitalist forces, like Kim Dotcom by the way, you know, multi-millionaires. They have no common interests with the working-class. I’m sorry, these are very basic questions.

We believe that the ICFI should have shared this video widely and followed it up with an in print, political intervention. We communicated with the ICFI via email and social media to encourage this path but no such action was taken. 

We did receive one related reply from the ICFI on Twitter.

The SEP Australia Twitter account has been consistently incorporating the #Unity4J hashtag into it’s tweets. When we asked whether this denoted agreement with the principles of “achieving unity by papering over of political differences”  (#Unity4J perspective), the SEP Australia account replied:

“It is a hashtag that is commonly used among supporters of Assange and WikiLeaks. I’m sure you know that the use of a particular hashtag does not imply agreement with it, or with everyone who uses it.”

Given the close correlation of the #Unity4J hashtag with the politics and identity of the #Unity4J movement we found this to be a politically, questionable position.

Further questions were raised for us in regards to the ICFI’s position on #Unity4J, when the comment section on the aforementioned Prominent whistleblowers and journalists defend Julian Assange at online vigil article was disabled on the WSWS site.

The comment section was active when the article was printed and became a forum for discussing the ICFI’s position on #Unity4J. It included exchanges whereby assorted WSWS readers questioned the seeming endorsement of #Unity4J speaker, Slavoj Zizek within the article – given his previous exposure as “openly right-wing” by the ICFI.

The comment section also included an debate between myself and commenter, Oliver C, after I expressed that it was politically remiss of the article to omit any reference to the ‘no politics’ perspective of #Unity4J.

At some point after this exchange was published, the comment section was removed from the article. However it was still accessible via the disqus platform which hosts the comment section of the wsws.org. We have reproduced the comment section in full in the following article through compiling a number of screenshots.

A possible pattern is emerging of suppressing discussion of this campaign via the comment section of the wsws.org. The WSWS article Australian vigils held in defence of Julian Assange which covered the vigils and protests coordinated by the classconscious.org website on June 19th appeared with no comment section attached.

It is our observation that it is highly unusual for any article on wsws.org to be published without a comment section.

We are not making any accusations regarding the motivations of the ICFI – in relation to either their omissions on discussing the upper middle-class interests and their far-right allies within the Julian Assange campaign or in relation to the removal of the comment section of the wsws article on #Unity4J.

However, we do believe that they raise serious political questions for the ICFI. We are writing this appeal to urge the members and supporters of the ICFI to ask these questions within and without the party and to debate these issues.

These questions must be resolved. The dynamics that have allowed the co-option of the campaign to defend Julian Assange by the far-right will reoccur, and pose a danger to the building of an international movement of the youth and working-class against war and to defend democratic rights more broadly.

Contributors to classconscious.org are not members of the ICFI so we cannot raise these issues directly within the party ourselves. We have attempted to communicate with the ICFI via email and social media but have been met largely with a wall of silence.

We are also Australian based, so much of our communication has been with the Australian SEP. We now reach out to  members and supporters around the world in the spirit of internationalism and as comrades.

The contributors to classconscious.org share the revolutionary, socialist perspective of the ICFI and believe that the ICFI has a historic mission in mobilising the international working-class. 

It is only because we recognise the vital role of the ICFI in leading the struggles of the working-class, that we are concerned that they have a clear and consistent pubic position on the issues raised in this article.

This article is not an attack on the ICFI but a plea for discussion and debate from an ally in the class struggle.The tradition of the Marxist movement, is one where public debate has allowed for the clarification of positions on important political questions.

At this time of increasing class conflict and pressures, such debates are not only necessary but healthy. It is in this spirit of solidarity that we make our heartfelt appeal to ICFI members and supporters.

Davey Heller – classconscious.org

Note: If anyone would like to contact us directly to discuss the issues raised in this article or ask for clarification on our perspective more generally we welcome discussion. Email classconsciouswebsite@gmail.com

RELATED ARTICLES FROM CLASSCONSIOUS.ORG

Why was the comment section on the WSWS #Unity4J article removed?

Mike Head of the ICFI critiques the ‘No Politics’ of #Unity4J

Call things by their right names: “the hired fascist demagogues” who have no place in the campaign to defend Assange

The dead end of Unity with fascists to defend Assange




Why was the comment section on the WSWS #Unity4J article removed?

On the 12th July, the World Socialist Website published an article by Oscar Grenfell, entitled Prominent whistleblowers and journalists defend Julian Assange at online vigil. The article covered the second #Unity4J vigil that occurred on July 7th-8th and is the sole article published by the ICFI on the organisation – #Unity4J.

The article adopts an entirely uncritical attitude towards #Unity4J without mentioning its ‘no politics’ perspective. The ICFI article highlights the statements of Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Hedges, Cian Westmoreland, Ray McGovern and William Binney who are correctly described as “individuals who have been persecuted by governments for taking a courageous stand against war and authoritarianism”.

Several speakers who previously have been excoriated by the ICFI as pseudo-lefts or even “openly right-wing” are benignly described as follows: “Other prominent speakers included philosopher and author Slavoj Zizek and British politician George Galloway, who was expelled from the Labour Party for his opposition to the invasion of Iraq.”

Most strikingly though, all other speakers are simply covered by the vague statement “a range of other independent journalists and commentators also spoke.”

This catch-all statement papers over the involvement of the far-right speakers including:

Lee Stranahan: Former Breitbart News contributor and now pro-Trump reporter for Sputnik News.

Cassandra Fairbanks: Pro-Trump Youtuber and writer for far-right website, The Gateway Pundit.

H.A. Goodman: Who uses his Twitter profile to attack immigrants, leftists and campaign for Trump.

Ross Cameron: Far-right, ex-Australian Government politician and now Islamophobic, pro-Trump Murdoch journalist.

Fairbanks not only spoke but actually conducted interviews with other panelists. It also papers over the involvement of speakers who whilst not being explicitly far-right – possess questionable politics – including Kim Dotcom and Vivian Kubrick, daughter of Stanley Kubrick, who expresses sympathy for Trump and endorses and has appeared on the fascistic Alex Jones show, Infowars.

The comment section under this particular WSWS article was active when the article was printed and became a forum for discussing the ICFI’s position on #Unity4J.  It included exchanges whereby assorted WSWS readers questioned the seeming endorsement of Slavoj Zizek within the article – given his previous exposure as openly right-wing by the ICFI.

The comment section also included an exchange between myself and “Oliver C.”after I expressed that it was politically remiss of the article to omit any reference to the ‘no politics’ perspective of #Unity4J.

At some point after this exchange was published, the comment section was removed from the article. However, it was still accessible via the disqus platform which hosts the comment section of the wsws.org. We have reproduced the comment section in full below this article – through compiling a number of screenshots.

We are not making any accusations against the ICFI in regards to the motivation of the removal of the comment section of the article on #Unity4J. However, we do believe this raises serious political questions for the ICFI.

We did contact the ICFI directly via a number of avenues to ask why the comment section was taken down but have as yet received no reply. 

Again we ask, why has the comment section disappeared from beneath the aforementioned article?

And how did this occur?

We respectfully ask the ICFI and the WSWS to investigate this issue and reinstate the comment section so that others may benefit from reading the insightful comments and discussion therein and/or contribute to the important discussion themselves.

We have referenced the disappearance of this comment section and linked it to a broader appeal to ICFI Members and Supporters entitled: The ICFI must expose the petit-bourgeois and far-right forces who have co-opted the solidarity campaign for Julian Assange: An appeal to ICFI members and supporters

We have also observed that the removal of this comment section is part of a possible pattern  of suppressing discussion of this campaign via the comment section of the wsws.org.

The WSWS article Australian vigils held in defence of Julian Assange which covered the vigils and protests coordinated by the classconscious.org website on June 19th appeared with no comment section attached. It is our observation that it is highly unusual for any article on wsws.org to be published without a comment section.

Below are screenshots of missing comment section from Oscar Grenfell’s 12th July WSWS article: Prominent whistleblowers and journalists defend Julian Assange at online vigil.




Mike Head of the ICFI critiques the ‘No Politics’ of #Unity4J

On August 9th, during a live-streamed ‘Politics in the Pub‘ event in Sydney, entitled “The Gagging of Julian Assange”, a highly significant exchange occurred between Mike Head – a senior writer for the World Socialist Website (and senior member of the Socialist Equality Party Australia) and Suzie Dawson – journalist and leading spokesperson for #Unity4J and Leader of the Internet Party of New Zealand.

The essence of the exchange was a debate over the ‘no politics’ perspective of #Unity4J. The exchange is so significant because it illuminates the central, political issues raised by this ‘no politics’ perspective, including its consequence of sanctioning the involvement of far-right figures in the Free Julian Assange campaign.

Since Julian Assange was placed in virtual and physical isolation within the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, by having his visitors and internet cut off on March 28th – a leading role within the campaign to Free Julian Assange has been played by #Unity4J. #Unity4J was founded by Suzie Dawson with the backing of multi-millionaire Kim Dotcom

#Unity4J has organised highly successful, monthly online vigils of high-profile, supporters of Julian Assange.

The About section of the #Unity4J website states In a world of divide and conquer, uniting people is the ultimate act of resistance. Therefore, we must bring together ALL public figures who support Julian and WikiLeaks, regardless of their political views or party affiliation.” It has been emphasised repeatedly by figures central to #Unity4J that everyone involved must “leave their politics at the door”.

What this means in practice, is that several high-profile, pro-Trump, alt-right and far-right media and political figures have been included in the line up for the #Unity4J online vigils. These include but are not limited too Lee Stranahan, Cassandra Fairbank H.A. Goodman, Jack Posibiec and Ross Cameron.

Division over this policy has emerged, with both the publishing of an article on this  website – classconscious.org – entitled The Dead End of ‘Uniting’ with Fascists to Defend Julian Assange and with the resignation of Naomi Colvin as director of the Courage Foundation after she refused to comply with a directive of the Courage Foundation Board to remove whistleblower and journalist, Barrett Brown as a beneficiary of Courage due to his criticism of Wikileaks and Julian Assange.

In her resignation statement Naomi cited her concerns over the direction of the advocacy campaign for Julian and the involvement of the far-right. She also links to the aforementioned classconsious.org article, The Dead End of ‘Uniting’ with Fascists to Defend Julian Assange and states her agreement with it.

It is within this context, that the illuminating exchange between Mike Head and Suzie Dawson occurred. We believe at classconscious.org that Mike Head in his responses to Suzie Dawson – articulated clearly how the mantra of ‘no politics’, which as Suzie explained, was inspired by the global Occupy Movement of 2011, is a dead-end for both this campaign and the international working-class as a whole.

The central question of whether the campaign for Julian Assange should include far-right figures who support xenophobia and racism is one that must be resolved – not just for this campaign – but in order for the building of an international movement of the youth and working-class to be built against war and to defend democratic rights more broadly.

We believe the perspective outlined by Mike Head at ‘Politics in the Pub’ should be shared and read widely. The following short video contains Mike Head’s key critique of the #Unity4J ‘no politics’ perspective and a transcript can be found below.

Mike Head: “Yeah, but look, seven years on from Occupy, Wall Street is in control far more than ever before, inequality is just staggering, you know Occupy completely failed. In fact, it derailed the whole movement behind Obama and the only reason Trump and the alt-right can get a voice is because of the betrayals of Obama, Clinton and the Democrats and Bernie Sanders too, who delivered… who tried to get people to vote for Hillary Clinton. These are political questions,  you can’t avoid them. You can have all the ‘unity’ you claim to have, and at the end, you’re cosying up to extreme, right-wing forces who are pro-capitalist forces, like Kim Dotcom by the way, you know, multi-millionaires. They have no common interests with the working-class. I’m sorry, these are very basic questions.”

Suzie Dawson also believed this exchange with Mike Head was illuminating – however, from her perspective it completely vindicated her position. This is her tweet in response to the classconscious.org article that criticised #Unity4J’s inclusion of the far-right:

It should be noted at this stage the WSWS has yet to comment on their website on either the intervention of Mike Head at ‘Politics in the Pub’ or the perspective advanced by #Unity4J in particular, despite publishing an article on a #Unity4J online vigil.

Classconscious.org has made an appeal to ICFI members and supporters to raise and discuss these issues within the different sections of the party internationally in the following article – entitledThe ICFI must expose the petit-bourgeois and far-right forces who have co-opted the solidarity campaign for Julian Assange: An appeal to ICFI members and supporters’.

FULL VIDEO OF EXCHANGE BETWEEN SUZIE DAWSON AND MIKE HEAD (TRANSCRIPT BELOW)

 

TRANSCRIPT OF DEBATE BETWEEN MIKE HEAD AND SUZIE DAWSON OVER ‘NO POLITICS’ PERSPECTIVE OF #UNITY4J

Mike Head:Well, I guess my question is, you say “no politics”, but this is a political struggle surely? And I don’t think it’s cultural arrogance by the way, its imperialist power, U.S. hegemony being defended. We had two world wars to establish that and now we are back on the same warpath again. I mean Assange’s plight cannot be understood outside this whole political context. In my opinion we are fighting against the capitalist state. Huge profits and plans to maintain American global domination. How can we free him without taking up that fight?

Suzie Dawson: Well I completely agree with you that it is imperialism and you can see this tracked back through history, time and time again. Julian is not the first person to be in this situation but he is the first person within this current generation and within this current paradigm to be in this situation.

Now, why we need to divorce it from politics, is because the second I say to people, if you believe you want Julian free you can be a part of my movement, I have a mass movement. But the second I say to people, if you believe that Julian Assange should be freed and you believe this and you believe that and you believe the other thing and you believe the other thing, well I don’t have a mass movement anymore, now I have me and my mates. So we have to decide, do we want to have a mass movement or do we want to be ideological puritans quite frankly and say no you can’t be with me unless you believe everything I believe. I think they can be with us if they say they believe in this one achievable goal because it is overdue, its past time for the people to have a win like this. It is way past time for us to tackle Empire directly and to be victorious and we have a much better chance of that with the 99% than we do with the 25%. So that’s my answer there. I have my own personal politics and my own things I believe and I set them aside in terms of just this movement. I might not set them aside in terms of my other activities, the rest of my activism and journalism, but in terms of this movement our best chance of victory is to get as many people on board as possible which means we need to have as few ideological borders as possible. It needs to be as open and approachable as possible and I think we have seen that with the numbers achieved in such a short time even without any mainstream audience hearing about it to bolster those numbers so I feel the proof is in the pudding and here  is the pudding.

(Audience clapping)

Mike Head: How can you free Julian Assange unless you clarify why he is being persecuted and who is persecuting him?

Suzie Dawson : 
I think everyone inherently understands why he is being persecuted. He tells the truth to the people and the people are thirsty for that truth which is why I discussed with Chris Hedges last month.. we were talking about all these algorithms which have been imposed on social media and what-not, to try and silence alternate voices and yet if you go to the CNN channel you see maybe 20,000 views on a video, if you go to the comedian Jimmy Dore’s channel you see 250,000 or 300,000 views on a video, so even these methods of censorship which have been applied aren’t working and the reason they aren’t working is because the people are so thirsty for the truth that they will go to the source, they will go to Jimmy’s channel looking for Jimmy’s show because they know Jimmy tells the truth and so we still have an open window of time at the moment. I don’t think people need to be told why Julian is being persecuted. I think it is abundantly obvious and and clear to them why he is. What I think people need to be told is how to free him. That yes we can do it. Yes we can build a united force and yes we can storm that digital barricade and we can force these governments to adhere to the will of the people and to international law but it require numbers and it will require persistence.

(Audience claps)

Professor Stuart Rees (Australian academic, human rights activist and author): For what it is worth Suzie, you could be a life member of Politics in the Pub because you have given us a sense of campaign coherence through unity. I do understand what you mean by leaving politics at the door even though paradoxically it is a political campaign. Once you include all sorts of ism’s, in a way that has been the Achilles heel of the campaign to free asylum seekers. So many ism’s so that the campaign, that the coherence of the campaign is lost but you have given us an inspiring address and a sense of coherence about this campaign.

Cathy Vogan (MC and Sydney Artist): I think we can all come together on this because it’s all about human rights and the rule of law and that applies to everybody – it doesn’t matter what your politics are,  you all have your basic human rights.

Suzie Dawson: I think tribalism serves imperialism and that is something we might not realise. I mean we know they run a divide-and-conquer but to what degree do we feed into that by participating in it. So, I am not at all meaning to demean anyone’s beliefs because I believe everyone has the right to their own beliefs. In my role as, I started as a journalist in the Occupy Auckland media team in New Zealand and we would support, we made a blanket rule that we would support and amplify every activism effort no matter which sphere it was coming from. So we would go and cover the labour union marches that were heavily backed by the Labor Party. We would go and cover the GreenPeace events. We would cover any event at all from whatever party –  we wouldn’t discriminate because at the end of the day, all of them were fighting the state, all of them are fighting power. When we look at what we have seen occur in the U.S. in the last two years, we don’t see protests versus police anymore like we did in 2011 and 2012, 2013. There was a protest group, a frontline. On the other side of that frontline were armed police-officers, riot police. It was very clear we were confronting the mechanisms of state power and it was very clear who the enemy was. In the last two years what we have seen as a result of political factionalism, tribalism and divide-and-conquer tactics which are driven on both the left and right by the intelligence agencies – make no qualms about it, they love this left-versus-right, divide-and-conquer. What we see now is a group of protestors against another group of protestors and the agents of the state are standing on the sideline and eating popcorn – they think it’s hilarious, it’s classic. They don’t even need to fight or worry anymore, they just sit there and watch the show of citizen-versus-citizen, protester-versus-protester and that is why we have got to knock that on the head. It should never be the citizenry versus the citizenry, it has got to be the citizenry against the state and the mechanisms of power. So we need to remember and we go back to 2011 to the Occupy movement – nobody said when you went to an Occupy, ‘Did you vote for Democrat or did you vote for Republican?’. Nobody cared because we knew the whole democratic system was a farce, a puppet show, a joke – so we didn’t care who you voted for. We had conservatives at Occupy, we had libertarians at Occupy, we had socialists at Occupy, environmentalists at Occupy, we had anarchists at Occupy, we had classic liberals at Occupy. All of them had equal social standing, all of them had equal rights to participation and all of them were on that protest line against the police, against the state and against the power and that’s what in a way we are trying to return to here, to bring back that memory that we are the 99%, all of us and that all of us are required in this fight against the powers that are persecuting Julian Assange.

Mike Head: Yeah, but look, seven years on from Occupy, Wall Street is in control far more than ever before, inequality is just staggering, you know Occupy completely failed. In fact, it derailed the whole movement behind Obama and the only reason Trump and the alt-right can get a voice is because of the betrayals of Obama, Clinton and the Democrats and Bernie Sanders too, who delivered..who tried to get people to vote for Hillary Clinton. These are political questions, you can’t avoid them. You can have all the ‘unity’ you claim to have, and at the end, you’re cosying up to extreme, right-wing forces who are pro-capitalist forces, like Kim Dotcom by the way, you know, multi-millionaires. They have no common interests with the working-class, I’m sorry. These are very basic questions.

Kathy Vogan: I am sorry, you are the guest speaker and we need to move on to the Q and A because these good people..

Suzie Dawson:  I would like to answer, Kathy if I could, I dont want to destroy your schedule but I would love to answer those two points if I could briefly.

So one is, I think you are getting confused, we are not trying to take the Free Julian Assange movement and make it a political paradigm that everyone has to live under. We are trying to take the Free Julian Assange movement to Free Julian Assange. So you can still have all your political spaces, all your political conversations, your political groups independently outside this one issue of freeing Julian Assange. This is where we are looking for that unity, this is where we are looking for a single achievable goal.

Now in regards to Kim Dotcom, I think you know if you took yourselves back thirty years, certainly I know it’s true, if I go back twenty or thirty years because I am not as much as a spring chicken as I might actually appear, that I was a very different person with a different belief system and a different situation and this is the same thing with Kim. Ok, so the Kim we saw in 2014 meeting with Maori up and down New Zealand, with indigenous leaders, listening to the issues, seeing what the situation is like on the ground, backing social initiatives. He has done a whole lot of things, that if you go back fifteen years that Kim Dotcom would never even have conceived of spending his time doing. And Kim is the first person to tell you that when he was targeted by the FBI, when he lost every cent that he had and almost every friend that he had and all the capitalist power he had obtained was down the toilet overnight –  that it was a wakeup moment for him and that he has not been able to view the world the same way since then as he did before then and his actions are pretty obvious you know since then that he did have that paradigm shift… that’s why he spent the money that he did setting up the Internet Party, that’s why he still backs the Internet Party now even though it can not serve him in anyway or in any manner. It is not a political force significant enough to change any political election and yet Kim still supports it.

Now Kim is one of three people who are being prosecuted in the Eastern District Court of Virginia. 1. Kim Dotcom 2. Julian Assange and 3. Edward Snowden. They are being prosecuted by the same prosecutor in the same court.  The same tactics of oppression and the same risk to life and same threat to life and it applies to all three of them. All of them live everyday not knowing what will happen to them in five years, ten years, twenty years time, whether they will be in a supermax, whether they will be assassinated. So do not assume that just because Kim came from a capitalist background and was a multi-millionaire that the Kim, that’s the same Kim who lost everything and has been engaged with quite frankly, very leftist.., despite that he does have some conservative rhetoric, at the end of the day you go to internet.org.nz, you look at our policies – our policies are social housing, our policies are free education, our policies are strong leftist, I am a child of the left, they are strong leftist policies and that’s the party that is backed by Kim. So that’s all I want to say on that front is that people evolve and Kim is one of them and I’m  another one of them.

Full video of the entire two hour broadcast of Politics in the Pub from August 9th including the presentations of Mike Head and Christine Assange can be found here.