Monday, May 29

Trotskyist Delusions. Split into Rival Tendencies

Obsessed with Stalin, the disciples of Leon Bronstein see betrayed revolutions everywhere

I first encountered Trotskyists in Minnesota half a century ago  during the movement against the Vietnam War.  I appreciated their skill  in organizing anti-war demonstrations and their courage in daring to  call themselves “communists” in the United States of America – a  profession of faith that did not groom them for the successful careers  enjoyed by their intellectual counterparts in France.  So I started my  political activism with sympathy toward the movement.  In those days it  was in clear opposition to U.S. imperialism, but that has changed.

The first thing one learns about Trotskyism is that it is split into rival tendencies. Some remain consistent critics of imperialist war, notably those who write for the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS).

Others, however, have translated the Trotskyist slogan of “permanent  revolution” into the hope that every minority uprising in the world must  be a sign of the long awaited world revolution – especially those that  catch the approving eye of mainstream media.  More often than deploring  U.S. intervention, they join in reproaching Washington for not  intervening sooner on behalf of the alleged revolution.

A recent article in the International Socialist Review (issue #108,  March 1, 2018) entitled “Revolution and counterrevolution in  Syria”indicates so thoroughly how Trotskyism goes wrong that it is  worthy of a critique. Since the author, Tony McKenna, writes well and with evident conviction, this is a strong not a weak example of the Trotskyist mindset.

McKenna starts out with a passionate denunciation of the regime of Bashar al Assad,  which, he says, responded to a group of children who simply wrote some  graffiti on a wall by “beating them, burning them, pulling their  fingernails out”.  The source of this grisly information is not given.   There could be no eye witnesses to such sadism, and the very extremism  sounds very much like war propaganda – Germans carving up Belgian  babies.

But this raises the issue of sources.  It is certain  that there are many sources of accusations against the Assad regime, on  which McKenna liberally draws, indicating that he is writing not from  personal observation, any more than I am.  Clearly, he is strongly  disposed to believe the worst, and even to embroider it somewhat. He  accepts and develops without the shadow of a doubt the theory that Assad  himself is responsible for spoiling the good revolution by releasing  Islamic prisoners who went on to poison it with their extremism.  The  notion that Assad himself infected the rebellion with Islamic fanaticism  is at best a hypothesis concerning not facts but intentions, which are invisible.  But it is presented as unchallengeable evidence of Assad’s perverse wickedness.

This interpretation of events happens to dovetail neatly with the  current Western doctrine on Syria, so that it is impossible to tell them  apart.  In both versions, the West is no more than a passive onlooker,  whereas Assad enjoys the backing of Iran and Russia.

“Much has been made of Western imperial support for the  rebels in the early years of the revolution. This has, in fact, been an  ideological lynchpin of first the Iranian and then the Russian military  interventions as they took the side of the Assad government. Such  interventions were framed in the spirit of anticolonial rhetoric in  which Iran and Russia purported to come to the aid of a beleaguered  state very much at the mercy of a rapacious Western imperialism that was  seeking to carve the country up according to the appetites of the US  government and the International Monetary Fund”, according to McKenna.

Whose “ideological lynchpin”?  Not that of Russia, certainly, whose  line in the early stages of its interventionwas not to denounce Western  imperialism but to appeal to the West and especially to the United  States to join in the fight against Islamic extremism.

Neither Russia nor Iran “framed their interventions in the spirit of  anticolonial rhetoric” but in terms of the fight against Islamic  extremism with Wahhabi roots.

In reality, a much more pertinent “framing” of Western intervention,  taboo in the mainstream and even in Moscow, is that Western support for  armed rebels in Syria was being carried out to help Israel destroy its  regional enemies.  The Middle East nations attacked by the West – Iraq,  Libya and Syria – all just happen to be, or to have been, the last  strongholds of secular Arab nationalism and support for Palestinian  rights. There are a few alternative hypotheses as to Western motives –  oil pipelines, imperialist atavism, desire to arouse Islamic extremism  in order to weaken Russia (the Brzezinski gambit) – but none are as  coherent as the organic alliance between Israel and the United States,  and its NATO sidekicks.

It is remarkable that McKenna’s long article (some 12 thousand words)  about the war in Syria mentions Israel only once (aside from a footnote  citing Israeli national news as a source).  And this mention actually  equates Israelis and Palestinians as co-victims of Assad propaganda:   the Syrian government “used the mass media to slander the protestors, to  present the revolution as the chaos orchestrated by subversive  international interests (the Israelis and the Palestinians were both  implicated in the role of foreign infiltrators).”

No other mention of Israel, which occupies Syrian territory (the Golan Heights) and bombs Syria whenever it wants to.

Only one, innocuous mention of Israel!  But this article by a Trotskyist mentions Stalin, Stalinists, Stalinism no less than twenty-two times!

And what about Saudi Arabia, Israel’s de facto ally in the effort to  destroy Syria in order to weaken Iran?  Two mentions, both implicitly  denying that notorious fact. The only negative mention is blaming the  Saudi family enterprise for investing billions in the Syrian economy in  its neoliberal phase.  But far from blaming Saudi Arabia for supporting  Islamic groups, McKenna portrays the House of Saud as a victim of ISIS  hostility.

Clearly, the Trotskyist delusion is to see the Russian Revolution  everywhere, forever being repressed by a new Stalin.  Assad is likened  to Stalin several times.

This article is more about the Trotskyist case against Stalin than it is about Syria.

This repetitive obsession does not lead to a clear grasp of events which are not the Russian revolution. And even on this pet subject, something is wrong.

The Trotskyists keep yearning for a new revolution, just like the  Bolshevik revolution.  Yes, but the Bolshevik revolution ended in  Stalinism. Doesn’t that tell them something? Isn’t it quite possible  that their much-desired “revolution” might turn out just as badly in  Syria, if not much worse?

Throughout history,revolts, uprisings, rebellions happen all the  time, and usually end in repression.  Revolution is very rare.  It is  more a myth than a reality, especially as Trotskyists tend to imagine  it: the people all rising up in one great general strike, chasing their  oppressors from power and instituting people’s democracy.  Has this ever happened?

For the Trotskyists, this seem to be the natural way things should  happen and is stopped only by bad guys who spoil it out of meanness.

In our era, the most successful revolutions have been in Third World  countries, where national liberation from Western powers was a powerful  emotional engine.  Successful revolutions have a program that unifies  people and leaders who personify the aspirations of broad sectors of the  population.  Socialism or communism was above all a rallying cry  meaning independence and “modernization” – which is indeed what the  Bolshevik revolution turned out to be. If the Bolshevik revolution  turned Stalinist, maybe it was in part because a strong repressive  leader was the only way to save “the revolution” from its internal and  external enemies.  There is no evidence that, had he defeated Stalin,  Trotsky would have been more tender-hearted.

Countries that are deeply divided ideologically and ethnically, such  as Syria, are not likely to be “modernized” without a strong rule.

McKenna acknowledges that the beginning of the Assad regime somewhat  redeemed its repressive nature by modernization and social reforms. This  modernization benefited from Russian aid and trade, which was lost when  the Soviet Union collapsed.  Yes, there was a Soviet bloc which despite  its failure to carry out world revolution as Trotsky advocated, did  support the progressive development of newly independent countries.

If Bashar’s father Hafez al Assad had some revolutionary legitimacy in McKenna’s eyes, there is no excuse for Bashar.

“In the context of a global neoliberalism, where  governments across the board were enacting the most pronounced forms of  deregulation and overseeing the carving up of state industries by  private capital, the Assad government responded to the heightening  contradictions in the Syrian economy by following suit—by showing the  ability to march to the tempo of foreign investment while evincing a  willingness to cut subsidies for workers and farmers.”

The neoliberal turn impoverished people in the countryside, therefore creating a situation that justified “revolution”.

This is rather amazing, if one thinks about it.  Without the  alternative Soviet bloc, virtually the whole world has been obliged to  conform to anti-social neoliberal policies.  Syria included.  Does this  make Bashar al Assad so much more a villain than every other leader  conforming to U.S.-led globalization?

McKenna concludes by quoting Louis Proyect:

“If we line up on the wrong side of the barricades in a  struggle between the rural poor and oligarchs in Syria, how can we  possibly begin to provide a class-struggle leadership in the USA,  Britain, or any other advanced capitalist country?”

One could turn that around.  Shouldn’t such a Marxist revolutionary be saying:

“if we can’t defeat the oligarchs in the West, who are  responsible for the neoliberal policies imposed on the rest of the  world, how can we possibly begin to provide class-struggle leadership in  Syria?”

The trouble with “Trotskyists” is that they are always “supporting”  other people’s more or less imaginary revolutions.  They are always  telling others what to do. They know it all. The practical result of  this verbal agitation is simply to align this brand of Trotskyism with U.S imperialism.  The obsession with permanent revolution ends up providing an ideological alibi for permanent war.

For the sake of world peace and progress, both the United States and  its inadvertent Trotskyist apologists should go home and mind their own  business.

The original source of this article is Global Research Copyright © Diana Johnstone, Global Research, 2018

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *