what's left

If this is Stalinism, count me in

with 8 comments

Richard Seymour, the left author and force behind the well-known blog Lenin’s Tomb, has dismissed my critique of his support for Syrian rebels as a pitiable Stalinist diatribe.

Have I any reply? a what’s left reader asked.

My surmise is that Seymour called my critique “Stalinist” because, in his view, his sympathy for Trotskyist politics could only be significant to a Stalinist, and also because it’s Trotskyist second-nature to denounce critiques from the left as “Stalinist’. (Yes, it’s true, too, the same can be said for many self-identified Stalinists, who are just as quick to denounce critiques from the left of their own positions as “Trotskyist.” )

My drawing attention to Seymour’s identification with Trotsky was superfluous (the argument stood on its own.) But it gave Seymour an easy out in name calling and therefore was ill-advised. Still, I’m sure he would have found another label for me— “authoritarian,” or “bankrupt” or “mechanically” anti-imperialist. These are the insults du jour.

So why did I drop the T bomb? Because I think it’s fair to say that Seymour’s analysis owes much to Trotskyist thinking—as it could be said just as fairly that my own owes much to thinking that would not have been out of place in Soviet politics. If that, then, is what “Stalinism” is, then I am guilty as charged and Seymour’s description of my argument as Stalinist is fair and accurate.

As for replying to the points Seymour raises in his new article I can only say this: He appears to have set for himself a test of his forensic skills. Can he persuade others to accept an absurdly indefensible—almost fantastical—position? Judging by what his readers have written on his blog, his forensic skills have proven to be not quite up to the task of lugging the dead weight of an indefensible position up the hill of reason and good sense.

As some of his own readers have pointed out, a revolution must be judged, not by its imperfectly understood origins or aims, but by its destination and outcomes. It is clear to anyone whose mind is not addled by disdain for revolutionary governments that fail to live up to the Trotskyist ideal, or hope that the latest uprising is a signal for the outbreak of socialist revolution on a world scale, that the overthrow of the Asad government, should it come, will not usher in a popular, democratic regime, pregnant with the possibilities of socialist revolution, but a subaltern US client state and the elimination of what elements of socialism remain in the Syrian economy.

The predictable apology of a Ba’thist? Hardly. I am not a Ba’thist, and nor would I belong to the Ba’th party were I Syrian. My politics incline more to the left than the Ba’th could comfortably accommodate. But I am sympathetic to the aims of the Syrian state, and have found much in its record to be admired, namely, its non-sectarian aspirations, anti-Zionism, support for Palestinian liberation, anti-imperialism and amelioration of the material circumstances of a once oppressed agrarian population. On balance, the Syrian state has been far more progressive than regressive, and has done far more that is worthy of praise than condemnation.

The same, however, cannot be said for the significant part of the forces that oppose Damascus and seek to bring the Asad government down. There is no question that the rebels (or “terrorists” as they would be called were Asad on Washington’s side) will, if they prevail, clear the way for the Syrian National Council to supply the key personnel to a successor government. And nor is there any question that the successor government, should it be formed, will immediately sever connections with Iran and Hezbollah—disrupting the so-called “axis of resistance”—and steer the ship of state on a course set in Washington. There is no ambiguity about this, because the SNC has already said that this is what it will do. [1]

It shouldn’t take a mind of especial perspicacity, then, to see that rebels and terrorists who are backed politically, diplomatically, materially and militarily by the United States, its western allies, and its subalterns in the Gulf, will not usher in a genuine popular, democratic government in Syria anymore than Solidarity ushered socialism into Poland, the latter being a misplaced hope of politically naive leftists of an earlier decade. The destination and outcome of that uprising was accurately foreseen by people with a firmer grasp on reality—the ones denounced at the time as pitiable Stalinists.

1. Jay Solomon and Nour Malas, “Syria would cut Iran military tie, opposition head says”, The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2011

Written by what's left

August 17, 2012 at 10:57 pm

8 Responses

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  1. Galloway in his Syria podcast last week: “Unless you think America, Israel, Britain and France have all got it wrong. That by some weird, perverse coincidence they have happened upon a course of action which is against their own interests. They have not. They know their own interests very well, even if you do not.”

    yoyo

    August 18, 2012 at 6:09 am

  2. trotskyists do my head in,they pay scant regard to the differing levels of social ,political and economic development in various areas of the globe,they attack any attempt of any single country to develop independent/socialist policies they despise independence movements and call them social democratic and anti socialist without any thought about the stages of development and of struggles,in this way they aid imperialism. i find them anti communist,actually i have found every person who has heaped shit on Stalin to be anti communist.from Hitler to gorbachov,trotsky and yeltsin, to the police informer george orwell i am yet to meet anyone who attacks JV Stalin to be of any use to the workers of any country let alone the world.I once asked a trot that i work with what he would say to the workers of Australia if they were in a position to win political power,He said it is impossible to build socialism in one country and he would discourage them from doing so as it would be doomed to failure!he suggested that in such a situation the workers should write letters to their american counter parts urging them to revolution!After falling off my chair backwards i asked him if there had been any trotskyist party that had ever been sucssesful in obtaining political power.he told me no as,again, socialism cant be built in one country.What is the point of struggle if this is the case?dont worry about trying to improve your lot cause it wont work,wait for a revolutionary movement to win in the US before anything can be built in your own country is the advice.They are disruptive idiots that sap the strength of young workers entering into revolutionary politics,they have poor understanding of dialectical and historical materialism and they split everything they cannot control,i have never met such a worse bunch of control freaks in my life!If this makes me a ”Stalinist”then i wear that badge with pride!

    mark h

    August 18, 2012 at 5:42 pm

  3. Wow. Keep up the good work!

    The Red Star Delight

    August 19, 2012 at 5:38 am

  4. It doesn´t take much of a political genius to see that this is hardly the way to workers power with the ”opposition” being led by fundamentalist terrorists directed by the West and the saudis. This won´t usher in workers democracy any more than the defeat of the USSR-allied govt in Afghanistan at the hands of CIA-funded extremists did more than 20 years ago. The fact that the syrian ”opposition” hasn´t managed to overthrow Assad in one year and a half despite direction and heavy support from abroad is a statement of its lack of popular support. It hardly took the Bolsheviks and their allies that long time to seize power in 1917. The position of Seymour and his ilk remind me of the words of Bronstein himself: ”Go to where you belong – the dustheap of history!”

    Carl C

    August 19, 2012 at 10:08 am

  5. Count me in, too. More importantly, thanks for the well placed slap at those who hail every media hyped “revolution” and fail to see the not-so-hidden hand of imperialism.

    zoltan zigedy

    August 20, 2012 at 12:58 am

  6. The Trots are simultanously both ultra-leftist and right-opportunist, and therefore set the threshold for what they perceive as deserving of their support as simultaneously both too high and too low.

    They are ultra-leftist in that they invarably attack any attempt at anti-imperialist struggle as “not genuinely socialist”; hence they rejoiced at the collapse of the USSR and the fall of Gaddafi, and are forever berating the likes of Cuba, Belarus, Iran, and North Korea for their “human rights abuses”.

    They are also right-opportunist, though, in that they invariably welcome any “uprising” against an anti-imperialist power as a “genuine” revolutionary movement that promises to usher in “real socialism”; hence they supported the likes of Solidarity in Poland (ignoring the fact that its principal backers were the Thatcher and Reagan administrations and the Vatican), as well as the Libyan and now the Syrian “rebels” (ignoring the fact that the principal backers of both sets of “rebels” were and are Western intelligence agencies and special forces and their likely proxies al-Qaeda, and the Western puppet oil monarchies of the Arabian penninsula).

    The one common denominator that historically determines Trotskyist support, though, is the backing of liberals and social democrats in the imperialist countries. Hence once the BBC, the Guardian, Amnesty International, and the Labour Party supported the collapse of the Soviet Union, or the overthrow of Gaddafi, or the anti-Assad “uprising”, so it could be guaranteed that British Trotskyism would also lend its support.

    The key point to understand about Trotskyism is that it is largely an objective rather than a subjective phenomenon. Most of its proponents are not subjectively counter-revolutionaries who love imperialism and want to see anti-imperialist movements crushed; rather, they are mostly simply well-meaning people who are sensitive to injustice but who have not yet reached a mature enough level of political development to fully appreciate the pernicious nature of the imperialist propaganda machine and how it routinely exploits feelings of sympathy for individual suffering (both real and fabricated) in order to counter anti-imperialist struggle. In this way, Trotskyists end up being – objectively – the facilitators of imperialism.

    micktravis1968

    August 22, 2012 at 12:47 pm

  7. The reason why these Western “leftists” especially support these Western wars of aggression is because, at base, they identify with their own imperialist nations–first and foremost, the American Empire.

    This so-called left is merely the left wing of the imperialist West.

    Most twisted of all, Americans of all political stripes suffer from a delusional belief in the moral and political superiority of US liberal democracy (sic) that is akin to a fundamentalist national religion.

    As the self-appointed judge and jury of “democracy” worldwide, America and its crime partners believe they have a divine right to sanction, bomb, invade, regime change, colonize, or genocide whatever country they please.

    American “freedom and democracy” are thus world historic deceptions that the United States hides behind to justify its subjugation of countries around the planet.

    So whenever Americans run their mouth about supporting liberty, human rights, or democracy–understand that blood of millions is dripping down their sanctimonious lips.

    AR

    August 25, 2012 at 6:24 am

  8. Uhn little late to the party, but Seymour is a Brit. and brings with his approach a typically British strain of academic left vanguardism. It seems that American Trotskyites are mostly crypto-zionist sectarian fucknuts that destroy everything they touch. Not a nuanced analysis I grant you , but the best I can muster at the this time. He and his sycophants are impenetrably rigid and dogmatic. They apply a convoluted logic to their examination of events and use dialectical blather to fit a square peg into a round hole. Louis Proyect is even more obnoxious and dishonest if that were possible.

    demize!

    September 7, 2012 at 6:10 am


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