“Take your Thorazine”: Determining the political nature of Syria

This text comes from Venessa Beeley’s website “The Wall Will Fall.” The image comes from Diana Dayoub’s Instagram page, seemingly a photograph of Syria. I say seemingly because on Instagram it does not say where the photo was taken.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Jan 30, 2018.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made since I wrote this when I was much more influenced by revisionism than I am now.

In response to my recent post about the Democratic Party within the murderous empire, the so-called Marxist, Louis Proyect, declared in a comment: “Syria as a social democracy? You need to take your Thorazine.” Basically he was acting like I am out of my mind, in that he is implying I have schizophrenia or some other psychotic disorder which is an discriminatory and ableist (and is also untrue) sentiment. This is not surprising because he has a deep-seated hatred for the duly-elected Syrian government, liking the “left” opposition to it, engaging in Orientalist propaganda. I included part of his comment in the title of this article to further poke at this fake Marxist who stands against everything that Marxism stands for. He’s basically a butt-hurt progressive who hates anti-imperialist governments, although he acts like he is radical (which is a lie). Anyway, Proyect was responding to my above linked post which I wrote that while Gowans thinks that Syria is socialist, but I think that, Syria is not that at all. In August of last year I expanded on this topic, citing Gowans as a starting point for analysis:

…As noted earlier, the U$ wants to overthrow Syria’s duly-elected government…While you could argue, like Gowans that this is correct, more realistically, the state is socially democratic and secular. Hence, they have a national bourgeoisie…the Syrian leadership courts the Russian capitalists…If we can take that to heart, standing in international solidarity with Iran, Syria, and Russia, even though each of these countries has a national bourgeoisie, against the murderous empire, that is a step in the right direction.

I further added to this in other posts last year, writing that Bashar Al-Assad, and previous leaders since Syrian independence, were duly elected “by the people of Syria” with the empire scowling “at Syria since the 1960s. Furthermore, I added, in another post, that over 17.1 million are “living in the Syrian Arab Republic” with the government led by the “duly elected National Progressive Front (NPF) with its majority in the Syrian’s People’s Council” reaffirmed in elections in April 2016. This post aims to answer a simple question: Is Syria socialist, socially democratic, or just progressive?

Table of contents for this article

  1. Defining terms
  2. Gowans argues that Syria is socialist: Is he right?
  3. Further analysis: examining Syria’s economy and its supposed “socialist” nature
  4. Syria, the “good” Kurds, Syrian Communists, and elections
  5. Resistance to imperialism and concluding words
  6. Notes

 

Defining terms

Mao Zedong studying the writings of comrade Josef Stalin in the Yenan base area during the Chinese Revolution as noted on a webpage titled “Marxism-Leninism Study Guide

In order to answer the question of whether Syria is socially democratic or progressive,. I first turned to the Marxists Internet Archive (MIA). The term “social-democracy” was originally used as an “extension of political democracy to the economic level, the elimination of capitalism and the institution of a broad based workers democracy.” However, with the failure of the  Second International “to rally the international working class” against World War I, “social-democracy split,” and by 1919 most supporters of the Communist International “called themselves “Communists”” with social-democracy becoming “largely synonymous with the pale reformism of these now established socialist parties, such as the German Social-Democrats and the British Labour Party.” As for the term democratic, MIA defines this as “a political system of rule by the majority” but adding that communism works to move beyond the “limited democracy found under capitalism” and the “repressive nature of bourgeois democracy” itself. As such, the idea of “proletarian democracy” was not only representative, but participatory by avoiding the form of democracy where “one class of people decide what should be done, while another class of people do it” with the working class deciding “amongst themselves, by consensus what and how it should be done” with all positions “of authority in Socialist society must be elected solely by workers and subject to recall at any time.” Ultimately this would be the realization of a “proletarian democracy,” a significant step toward the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship which would “yield to the majority of the working people” and be a stead defense against world capitalism. As Lenin described it, in 1919, a

Proletarian dictatorship [or dictatorship of the proletariat] is similar to dictatorship of other classes in that it arises out of the need, as every other dictatorship does, to forcibly suppresses the resistance of the class that is losing its political sway. The fundamental distinction between the dictatorship of the proletariat and a dictatorship of the other classes…consists in the fact that the dictatorship of landowners and bourgeoisie was a forcible suppression of the resistance offered by the vast majority of the population, namely, the working people. In contrast, proletarian dictatorship is a forcible suppression of the resistance of the exploiters, i.e., of an insignificant minority the population, the landlords and capitalists. It follows that proletarian dictatorship must inevitably entail not only a change in the democratic forms and institutions, generally speaking, but precisely such change as provides an unparalleled extension of the actual enjoyment of democracy by those oppressed by capitalism—the toiling classes…[giving] the vast majority of the population, greater practical opportunities for enjoying democratic rights and liberties than ever existed before, even approximately, in the best and the most democratic bourgeois republics…it is the people [who]…are now drawn into constant and unfailing, moreover, decisive, participation in the democratic administration of the state…[with] a government of the workers [who are disinterested]…in the means of production being privately owned…the dictatorship of the proletariat [like the Soviet system]…is so organized as to bring the working people close to the machinery of government…[with the] combining the legislative and executive authority under the Soviet organization of the state and…replacing territorial constituencies by production units—the factory…only the proletariat is in a position to unite and lead the scattered and backward sections of the working and exploited population…only the Soviet government of the state can really affect the immediate breakup and total destruction of the old, i.e., bourgeois, bureaucratic and judicial machinery, which has been…retained under capitalism even in the most democratic republics…proletarian, democracy [enlists]…the mass organizations of the working people in constant and unfailing participation in the administration of the state, it immediately begins to prepare the complete withering away of any state…[we need to]…extend the organization of Soviets among the workers in all branches of industry, among the soldiers in the Army and the sailors in the Navy and also among farm laborers and poor peasants

Such a dictatorship of the proletariat, or what you could call proletarian democracy, would be part of an overall socialist system. Of course for the term “socialism” itself MIA has varying definitions, reflecting the debate on this term. There are words of August Bebel quoted in MIA’s definition, but it is better to use to definitions of Lenin and Marx & Engels as they are the principal Marxist theorists. Marx and Engels did not specifically define socialism in the Communist Manifesto but they talk about the “expanding union of the workers” with the need to “centralise the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes” while he also wrote, powerfully, that “what the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.” They called for the abolition “of this state of things is called by the bourgeois, abolition of individuality and freedom” with the end of “bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom,” further noting that such freedom is “free trade, free selling and buying.” Furthermore, it was argued that private property for one-tenth of the population would be abolished, while allowing any person to “appropriate the products of society” but not having the power to “subjugate the labour of others.” This would further mean, they write, that the bourgeois family, where wives are “mere instrument[s] of production,” should be abolished (along with public and private prostitution), and rescue education “from the influence of the ruling class” while abolishing “countries and nationality” and saying that the “first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy” with the proletariat using its “political supremacy to wrest…all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State,” increasing total production as soon as possible. From there, while saying that measures will “be different in different countries,” Marx and Engels proposed “generally applicable” proposals:

  1. abolition of all land rents
  2. abolition of land as property
  3. a “heavy progressive or graduated income tax,”
  4. ending all “rights of inheritance”
  5. confiscating the property of “all emigrants and rebels”
  6. centralizing credit in the “hands of the state” with the creation of a national bank
  7. centralizing communication and transport in the state’s hands
  8. having “instruments of production” and factories owned by the state
  9. while cultivating wastelands and improving the soil
  10. having “equal liability of all to work”
  11. establishment of “industrial armies, especially for agriculture”
  12. combining “agriculture with manufacturing industries”
  13. gradually abolishing the “distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace”
  14. free education of all in public schools
  15. abolishing “children’s factory labour in its present form”
  16. Combining “education with industrial production”

After that, Marx and Engels note that once “class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation” then public power will lose its political character, and that if the proletariat is compelled to make “itself the ruling class” it would sweep away “the old conditions of production…[and] the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally,” abolishing its supremacy as a class. This means, in their words, that in the place of “old bourgeois society” there would be “an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

Beyond this, in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, in 1875, Marx wrote that “between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other” meaning that there is a “political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat” with which he talked about. Lenin was a bit more specific. He wrote in 1917, in chapter 2 of The State and Revolution, that during the period where a society is moving from capitalism to communism, there is unprecedentedly “violent class struggle” with which the state must “democratic in a new way” for those who are propertyless and the proletarian but “dictatorial in a new way” aimed against the bourgeoisie. He further added that such a “dictatorship of a single class is necessary…for the entire historical period which separates capitalism from…communism” and while this transition is bound to lead to “tremendous abundance and variety of political forms” the essence will be the dictatorship of the proletariat. In chapter 5, of the same book, he wrote more about this, saying that

The first phase of communism…cannot yet provide justice and equality [with] differences, and unjust differences…still persist[ing], but the exploitation of man by man will have become impossible because it will be impossible to seize the means of production…and make them private property….the scientific distinction between socialism and communism is clear. What is usually called socialism was termed by Marx the “first”, or lower, phase of communist society. Insofar as the means of production becomes common property, the word “communism” is also applicable here, providing we do not forget that this is not complete communism…[Marx] regards communism as something which develops out of capitalism…In its first phase, or first stage, communism cannot as yet be fully mature economically and entirely free from traditions or vestiges of capitalism…It follows that under communism there remains for a time not only bourgeois law, but even the bourgeois state, without the bourgeoisie!…as soon as equality is achieved for all members of society in relation to ownership of the means of production, that is, equality of labor and wages, humanity will inevitably be confronted with the question of advancing further from formal equality to actual equality…By what stages, by means of what practical measures humanity will proceed to this supreme aim we do not and cannot know…only socialism will be the beginning of a rapid, genuine, truly mass forward movement, embracing first the majority and then the whole of the population, in all spheres of public and private life….Democracy…signifies the formal recognition of equality of citizens, the equal right of all to determine the structure of, and to administer, the state…a degree of democracy implies overstepping the boundaries of bourgeois society and beginning its socialist reorganization. If really all take part in the administration of the state, capitalism cannot retain its hold….it is quite possible, after the overthrow of the capitalists and the bureaucrats, to proceed immediately, overnight, to replace them in the control over production and distribution, in the work of keeping account of labor and products, by the armed workers, by the whole of the armed population…Accounting and control…is needed for the “smooth working”, for the proper functioning, of the first phase of communist society. All citizens are transformed into hired employees of the state, which consists of the armed workers. All citizens becomes employees and workers of a single countrywide state “syndicate”…When the majority of the people begin independently and everywhere to keep such accounts and exercise such control over the capitalists…this control will really become universal, general, and popular…The whole of society will have become a single office and a single factory, with equality of labor and pay…this “factory” discipline…will extend to the whole of society…[a] necessary step for thoroughly cleansing society of all the infamies and abominations of capitalist exploitation…the more complete the democracy, the nearer the moment when it becomes unnecessary…[finally] the door will be thrown wide open for the transition from the first phase of communist society to its higher phase, and with it to the complete withering away of the state.

One could say that some countries in the world (like Cuba and the DPRK), are in the first stage of communism, working to move forward to improve their existing socialism, limited through the continuance of international capitalism, meaning that they cannot be “mature economically and entirely free from traditions or vestiges of capitalism.” However, this would be an utterly revisionist position meaning it is better to call those countries, like others as plain progressive. This generates the question: what should a socialist state be like within today’s world of global capitalism? Taking what Lenin said, above, to heart, he is arguing that a state would have some “unjust differences” but exploitation of one person by the other would be impossible with the means of production becoming “common property” while equality of “labor and wages” had be striven for, along with the “socialist reorganization” with workers controlling “production and distribution.” Additionally all citizens would become “hired employees of the state” with their control over society being “universal, general, and popular” with society itself becoming a “single office and a single factory” wherein all the “infamies and abominations of capitalist exploitation” will be cleansed away. This is manifested in a dictatorship of the proletariat, as Lenin described it, or proletarian democracy as it is also called, would be suppress “the resistance of the exploiters” with such a state changing democratic institutions and forms but also extending “actual enjoyment of democracy by those oppressed by capitalism” to new heights, giving them new “democratic rights and liberties” and decisive participation in the state’s administration itself while the old machinery of bourgeois, bureaucratic, and judicial character will be broken to pieces. Marx and Engels were arguing something similar, but partially different. He said that communism’s end goal is the abolition of bourgeois independence, bourgeois individuality, bourgeois freedom (free trade, free buying and selling), private property for the one-tenth of the population, the bourgeois family, countries, and nationalities. Such socialist states, as you could call them, were envisioned by Marx and Engels, would abolish land as property, all land rents, the “distinction between town and country” over time, child factory labor, and all inheritance rights. More positively, such a state would have a heavy progressive income tax, confiscate property of rebels and emigrants, have free education for all children in public schools, centralize credit in the state with a national bank, centralize communication, transport, factories, and other “instruments of production” while establishing “industrial armies” especially in agriculture, combine manufacturing and agriculture along with industrial production and education. They also called for “equal liability of all to work,” improving the soil, and cultivating wastelands.

What about the word progressive? The Fourth Edition of the Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it as “moving forward or upward…favoring, working for, or characterized by progressive or improvement, as through political or social reform…of or having to do with a person, movement, etc. thought of being modern or advanced, in ideas, methods, etc,” or in a bourgeois sense as used by liberals and “progressives” in the U$ which cluster around the Democratic Party, “of an educational system stressing individuality, self-expression, etc” or a person who favors “progress or reform.”

This is a lot to take in, but is worth discussing if this applies to Syria (and ultimately other countries) or not.

Gowan argues that Syria is socialist: Is he right?

This map comes from page 148 of a Library of Congress report on Syria which is discussed later in this article.

Time and time again, revisionist Stephen Gowans has said that the Syrian Arab Republic is socialist. In April of last year he wrote that the country had followed, since the 1960s, “an Arab socialist development path which is at odds with the global free enterprise project advanced by Washington on behalf of its Wall Street patron,” saying that the latter wants to “sweep away the Arab socialist impediments to the free enterprise, free trade, and free market capitalist nirvana.” Elsewhere he called Syria “pro-independence, secular, non-sectarian, [and] socialist-oriented,” citing a study by the Library of Congress along with statements by the Wall Street Journal and Heritage Foundation to support his intention that the country is socialist, in a long line of other countries. In other articles, Gowans writes that Syria has “a parliament” and is “anti-colonial and anti-imperialist” with parts of the state “remain committed to socialist goals.” Other than this, he argues that since Syria is governed by those who call themselves socialist, saying that the Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party advocates for socialism, presiding over “the drafting of Syria’s constitutions, which mandate government ownership of the commanding heights of the economy and a significant role for government in the guidance of the economy” which he says is “socialism.” He adds that those in the West have “long complained about Damascus’s refusal to fully integrate into a US-led global neo-liberal economic order.” In an older post he admits, however that Afiz Assad, when he came to power in 1970, “tried to overcome the Sunni opposition by encouraging private enterprise and weakening the party’s commitment to socialism, and by opening space for Islam.” In the same post he writes that “Syria remains too much like the socialist state the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party founders envisaged for it, and too little like a platform for increasing the profits of overseas banks, investors and corporations” even as he says that “Ba’athists continue to obstinately hold on to elements of the party’s socialist program.” He also says that the Arab nationalists, “in power since 1963” represent “socialism, Arab nationalism, anti-imperialism, and anti-Zionism.” Back in 2014, Gowans wrote that Syria is a state founded “on anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, Arab nationalism, and non-Marxist socialism” the latter being worrisome to say the least. However, in 2012, he wrote that Hafez Assad “minimized class warfare in favor of broadening his government’s base, trying to win over merchants, artisans, business people, and other opponents of the regime’s nationalizations and socialist measures,” calling the government a “secular Arab nationalist regime” instead of a socialist one. Gowans said that his personal “politics incline more to the left than the Ba’th could comfortably accommodate,” adding that the “Syrian state has been far more progressive than regressive.” As such, it seems that he only began to call Syria “socialist” in more recent years.  In October 2016 he made his most cogent argument that Syria was a “socialist” state, specifically an “Arab socialist” state, a definition which problematically divorces socialism and Marxism!:

Socialism can be defined in many ways, but if it is defined as public-ownership of the commanding heights of the economy accompanied by economic planning, then Syria under its 1973 and 2012 constitutions clearly meets the definition of socialism. However, the Syrian Arab Republic had never been a working-class socialist state, of the category Marxists would recognize. It was, instead, an Arab socialist state inspired by the goal of achieving Arab political independence and overcoming the legacy of the Arab nation’s underdevelopment…Marxist socialism concerned itself with the struggle between an exploiting owning class and exploited working class, while Arab socialism addressed the struggle between exploiting and exploited nations….Socialism was against the profit-making interests of US industrial and financial capital…The Ba’athist state had exercised considerable influence over the Syrian economy…The Ba’athists regarded these measures as necessary economic tools of a post-colonial state trying to wrest its economic life from the grips of former colonial powers…Washington…[wanted Syria to] serve the interests of the bankers and major investors who truly mattered in the United States, by opening Syrian labor to exploitation and Syria’s land and natural resources to foreign ownership…the Syrian government would not make Syrians work for the interests of Western banks, corporations, and investors…Assad underscored his allegiance to socialist values…[while] the constitution committed the state to progressive taxation…If Assad was a neo-liberal, he certainly was one of the world’s oddest devotees of the ideology.

His idea of “Arab Socialism” differs, in his mind, from what he has previously described as “social democracy.” He says that while “social democratic parties may self-consciously aim to represent the bottom 99 percent of society, they serve…the top one percent” and adds that the “party’s candidates and elected officials…are often willing to sacrifice principle for immediate electoral gain,” adding that “social democratic parties are dominated by a stratum whose direct personal interests are defined by the electoral successes of the party.” He further writes that “social democrats believe that it is possible to reform society in egalitarian directions within the context of capitalism…[and] working within the political institutions of capitalist society.” He ended by saying that while “social democratic parties espoused socialism as an objective, even if a very distant one, the socialism they espoused was to be achieved with the permission of capital on capital’s terms,” different from what he described as “socialism” in the Soviet Union, Cuba, the DPRK, East Germany, or the ideas espoused by figures like Kim Il Sung, Mao Zedong, Josef Stalin, and Vladimir Lenin, which he has written about in the past.

To take his own words, he admits that Syria has never “been a working-class socialist state” but says it embodies “Arab socialism.” The question remains from this: is “Arab socialism” really a socialist program, if we define socialism as Marx & Engels and Lenin viewed it, as noted earlier in this article? Those on /r/communism, for example, argue that Arab socialism is inherently a bourgeois ideology, more of social democracy than real socialism, even as they played a somewhat progressive role in the Arab World. More specifically, “Arab socialism” is about nationalization (as Nasser did), and engaging in “state-sponsored economic development” which occurred in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria, with a consensus, as noted by Oxford Reference, that the “most urgent national needs were independence and economic development,” adding that there were “land reforms” while the “banking, insurance, foreign trade, large industries, and large private and foreign-owned companies were all nationalized.” Additionally, such economic programs was “accompanied by expansion in social, welfare, health, and educational services.”

From this, we come back to social democracy once again. If we accept, as I believe we should and will argue further in the next section, that Syria is not a socialist state on Marxist terms, it is worth returning to what social democracy is after all. One writer, Bela Kun wrote in 1932 that social democracy says that “peaceful reformist work…would assure evolution into socialism” with the latter becoming “the cause of one class, of the working class” but collaboration of many classes, with Marxism serving as a source for slogans but no longer guide the ruling party’s policy. This writer further adds that there is a “defence of capitalist rationalisation” and the opposite of  “Marxian trade-union theory and practice” for example, supporting a “bourgeois dictatorship.” This is not the same as “revolutionary Social Democracy” embodied by the Bolsheviks which includes reforms, but also the policy of parties who work to engage in revolution to bring about proletarian democracy. Rather social democrats are “conductors of bourgeois influence” as Lenin described it, allying with bourgeois forces, focusing on nationalization, definitely not advocating for the “confiscation of all landed estates” which Lenin wrote about in 1911. These social democrats stand for democracy in the “name of capitalism,” the opposite of what the Bolsheviks did. Stalin further added that social democracy is characterized by “reformism and [an] anti-revolutionary character” with those of that ideology arguing that “the proletariat had to strive for was a peaceful path of transition from capitalism to socialism” with the time between capitalism and socialism when “capitalism will flourish and the proletariat languish in misery.”

Still, this does not fully define social democracy as a concept. Of course there are cookie-cutter definitions, as you could call them, from bourgeois dictionaries like Merriam-Webster calling it a movement which advocates for a gradual and peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism by democratic means” or a democratic “welfare state that incorporates both capitalist and socialist practices,” and Encyclopaedia Britannica declaring that it is a “political ideology that originally advocated a peaceful evolutionary transition of society from capitalism to socialism using established political processes” becoming more moderate throughout the 20th century. The same can be said of dictionary.com which declared that social democracy is a “political ideology advocating a gradual transition to socialism or a modified form of socialism by and under democratic political processes” and Wikiquote saying it is a “political ideology that supports economic and social interventions to promote socialism within a democratic framework and a policy regime involving welfare state provisions,” among much more. The London-based social democrat publisher, Social Europe, attempted to define it as well, writing that “social-democracy is well known as a pragmatic political tendency…[with a] reputation…as a force for progressive change” even as they note that many social democrats talk about good capitalism and accept capitalist dogma. They add poignantly that “social-democrats have always been reformists. Social-democracy is not about overthrowing existing structures in some kind of violent act of revolution,” further saying that “markets…need to be kept in their place,” meaning that capitalism should be regulated, and not removed.

From this, and what has been said previously, one can surmise that social democracy aims to reform society within capitalism with “peaceful reformist work,” is a bourgeois ideology connected to nationalization and social welfare programs, opposes Marxian theory at its core, stands for democracy in the “name of capitalism,” and is anti-revolutionary, advocating for a peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism, with markets still firmly in place. However, there is more to it than this. Any reforms based on social democracy itself is “bound to fail” since it does not address “capital and its accumulation to the few at the expense of the many.” Additionally, as Minqi Li writes in the Monthly Review, “social democratic capitalism” from the 1950s to 1973 “helped to alleviate the class conflicts and maintain a relatively high level of aggregate demand” bu that “inherent contradictions of capitalism” continued to develop, as institutions within such capitalism created new “conditions that increasingly undermined worldwide accumulation” while the balance of power “between capital and labor, and between the core and the periphery” led to a “worldwide decline of profitability.” Li adds that establishment of  “social democratic capitalism could not take place without at least a partial political victory of the working classes” while noting that “in a capitalist world economy with nation states, the competition between different capitalist states will prevent them from taking full account of environmental costs” meaning that social democratic capitalism will become “an “alternative” way towards global ecological catastrophe.” That isn’t good for anyone! Add to this that the so-called “Nordic system” which is lauded by supporters for “free and effective healthcare, education, transportation, and cleanliness” they are actually “rife with problems, and do not feature an ideal socio-economic system.” They additionally cannot “completely rid itself of socially conservative beliefs” until there is a ” full socio-economic transformation that involves the abolition of private ownership of the means of production, the central characteristic of capitalism.” That has not happened in Scandinavia and likely will not in the years to go. Even a Stalin-hating individual said that social democracy has “no ability to move in any direction” and wrote that “so-called state capitalism, all terminological quibbles aside, presented mankind with a glimpse of its potential, but could not escape the logic inherent in the accumulation of value.” Beyond this, super-profits taken from “the export of capital” allows for a “greater measure of social democracy at the centres of global capitalism”while capitalists “do not care as a class for social democratic reforms because these reforms get in the way of profit” with such reforms existing “because of working-class struggle and not because capitalists wanted to play nice.” Furthermore, social democracy is permitted because it was “forced into existence by concrete struggle and thus needed to be recognized” and the loss of “surplus [which] could be circumvented through the export of capital and super-exploitation elsewhere.

While the summation of social democracy and other aspects help define it in rough terms, what Stalin wrote in 1926 is helpful in defining it more fully. He wrote that (bolding is my emphasis), talking about ideological principles within the communist party and social-democratic parties:

Some might think that the Russians are excessively pugnacious, that they love debating and multiply differences, and that it is because of this that the development of their Party proceeds through the overcoming of inner Party contradictions. That is not true, comrades. It is not a matter of pugnacity, but of the existence of disagreements based on principle, which arise in the course of the Party’s development, in the course of the class struggle of the proletariat. The fact of the matter is that contradictions can be overcome only by means of a struggle for definite principles, for definite aims of the struggle, for definite methods of waging the struggle leading to the desired aim. One can, and should, agree to any compromise with dissenters in the Party on questions of current policy, on questions of a purely practical nature. But if these questions are connected with disagreements based on principle, no compromise, no “middle” line can save the situation. There can be no “middle” line in questions of principle. Either one set of principles or another must be made the basis of the Party’s work. A “middle” line in matters of principle is the “line” of stuffing people’s heads with rubbish, of glossing over disagreements, a “line” leading to the ideological degeneration of the Party, to the ideological death of the Party. How do the Social-Democratic parties of the West exist and develop nowadays? Have they inner-party contradictions, disagreements based on principle? Of course, they have. Do they disclose these contradictions and try to over come them honestly and openly in sight of the mass of the party membership? No, of course not. It is the practice of the Social-Democrats to cover up and conceal these contradictions and disagreements. It is the practice of the Social-Democrats to turn their conferences and congresses into an empty parade of ostensible well-being, assiduously covering up and slurring over internal disagreements. But nothing can come of this except stuffing people’s heads with rubbish and the ideological impoverishment of the party. This is one of the reasons for the decline of West-European Social-Democracy, which was once revolutionary, and is now reformist. We, however, cannot live and develop in that way, comrades. The policy of a “middle” line in matters of principle is not our policy. The policy of a “middle” line in matters of principle is the policy of decaying and degenerating parties. Such a policy cannot but lead to the conversion of the party into an empty bureaucratic apparatus, running idle and divorced from the masses of the workers. That path is not our path.

With all of this, one can define social democracy as a phenomenon primarily concentrated in the West which aims to reform capitalist society peacefully, using nationalization and social welfare programs as part of a peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism with markets firmly in place, and being thoroughly anti-revolutionary by not engaging in a  necessary socio-economic transformation in society, with any reforms at all only possible through struggles of the proletariat. Furthermore, using the words of Stalin quoted above, one could add that social democracy does not have unification on matters of principle which leads to party to become an “empty bureaucratic apparatus” which is “divorced from the masses of workers.” Additionally, you could add, social democracy isn’t one bit about class struggle against the bourgeoisie!

With this, we can proceed to the next section of this article.

Further analysis: examining Syria’s economy and its supposed “socialist” nature

A map on page 134 of a Library of Congress report on Syria, discussed later in this section, showing that much of the country is arid.

Before moving onto the two sources which underpinned Gowans analysis that Syria is “socialist,” I looked at some other sources. Everyone seems to acknowledge the government has a strong hand in the economy which some call “state-capitalist” and others call “socialist,” possibly in their intentions, with some saying that the government engaged in neoliberal reforms in the 1990s and suppressed ” independent working-class organisation” while those more supportive say that the government of Syria is actively anti-imperialist, pro-Palestinian, and should not be demonized. [1] Other sources seem to also agree that the state has a strong role in the economy. Some said that “Syria’s economy is essentially state-run, although it has remained partly private, as for example the retail trade businesses” with certain privatizations starting in 2000,private banking legalized in 2001, and “centralised and restrictive government control” leading to low “productivity” in the minds of capitalists, with others saying that the economy was diverse before the imperialist assault on Syria began, with the country, in 2013, “home to 11 private banks, three Islamic banks, and seven foreign banks.” [2] With such an assault, the country has become “lower middle income” and devastated by the state of war as forces tried to tear the country apart, as millions are displaced. A war economy was put in place after 2012, using the “hard currency reserves” of the Central Bank of Syria and allowing traders to run their own affairs and protect their own facilities, along with other arrangements, the government revived “state supermarkets” (started in the 1960s) and rolled back the “modest economic liberalization [which] began in 2005,” in attempt to “ease economic hardship for the poor and contain social unrest” along with not removing government petroleum and electricity subsidies, which Reuters called “socialist economic policies.” Such moves by the government echoed the  “nationalization measures of the 1960s” [3] under the Amin al-Hafiz (Syria’s first Ba’ath Party ruler) in Syria, which were followed by “a major industrial development program stressing heavy industry” in the 1970s. There is no doubt that before the assault, starting in 2011, “Syria’s economy was based on oil production, agriculture, industry and tourism,” where “many industries” were subsidized (even as of 2006), the former which was seemingly strengthened as the government attempts to restore order in the country. As Al Bawaba remarked in 2000, the Syrian “government still keeps intact many policies that protect home-grown industries at the expense of attracting foreign investment” such as “high tariffs and numerous import restrictions and limited access to capital for those in the private sector.”

The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), part of the UN, wrote, within a 2003 publication titled “Syrian agriculture at the crossroads,” that the Syrian government in the 1970s re-defined “socialism” to mean increased industrial employment, role of the public sector, and “activation of the private sector, ” which was changed by the 1980s and 1990s to “state-led export promotion,” even putting forward some “structural adjustment” attempts at the time, aligning with those who said that the economy is “predominantly state-controlled” at the present. They added that

The economy of the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) is currently under transition from one that has been largely centrally planned to one that is more liberal. The general objectives of policy have been and will remain the achievement of a sustainable level of economic abundance, social welfare, and equity…The economy is still characterized by a large but stagnant public sector, and a resilient but constrained private sector, a cumbersome regulatory regime, continuation of many state controls, and a complicated trade and exchange rate system…The financial system is dominated by public enterprises and serves primarily the public sector. Hence, one of the key requirements for private sector growth, namely the existence of financial services for the private sector, is largely missing in Syria. The current government strategy is favourable to the private sector, and to export promotion, but with the continued presence of a strong public sector.

Beyond this, the Heritage Foundation said in their page on Syria that “civil war has left Syria’s economy in ruins” with economic policy used to maintain the capacity of the Syrian military, adding with anger that Bashar Al-Assad “failed to deliver on promises to open the socialist economy,” that “functioning labor markets are…subject to heavy state interference and control” and that “despite the war, a number of foreign banks are in operation” with the Islamic banking group called Al Baraka becoming “the largest privately owned bank in the country” in 2016. [4] Similar comments to FAO’s assessment were made on the current page for Syria on the CIA World Factbook, declaring that before the current conflict, “Damascus had begun liberalizing economic policies” but that “the economy remains highly regulated” with “foreign trade barriers” for example. Anger at sch regulation has manifested in Syria being “on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism since the list’s inception in 1979” while the murderous empire has called for the removal of Assad despite the fact that Syria is a member of the IMF and World Bank along with being an observer to the World Trade Organization (WTO)!

Unlike Zimbabwe (which the IMF is giddy over as the counter-revolution continues), the last IMF “Article IV Executive Board Consultation” for Syria was back in January 2009, but it is worth excerpting from their reports in previous years:

“The Syrian authorities have been implementing gradual, but wide-ranging reforms. These reforms are motivated by the challenges posed by the decline in oil production and the strategy initiated in the early 2000s to transition toward a social market economy. The exchange rate has been effectively unified and restrictions on access to foreign exchange for current transactions appear to have been mostly eliminated. Private banks are now leading financial sector growth, and the Damascus stock exchange recently re-opened after being closed for 40 years…Some progress has been made in advancing structural reforms, including simplifying investment procedures, modernizing accounting standards, and streamlining the tax system…the authorities fully liberalized bank lending rates and rates on foreign currency deposits and loans. The share of private banks has grown considerably since they were first established in 2004…Directors recommended that the authorities reverse the recent introduction of customs duties that vary by country of origin, and address suspected unfair trade practices by other measures such as enhancing customs’ capacity to examine invoices through computerization and cross border cooperation.”- March 2010

“Relations with the EU have improved recently following the establishment of diplomatic relations with Lebanon. Subsequently, France, which currently chairs the EU, issued positive signals regarding the ratification of the association agreement with Syria…Private banks are well capitalized…The financial system is still dominated by state banks, which hold 80 percent of bank assets…advances have been made in trade liberalization by substantially reducing the tariff schedule. The export of strategic agricultural products, however, remains subject to government approval…The Syrian economy has enjoyed buoyant growth since it embarked on a liberalization program aimed at unleashing the economy’s growth potential and integrating into the world economy.”- February 2009

“Private investment has strengthened, reflecting an improved business climate, and exports have made strong gains, particularly in some Arab markets, reflecting higher demand and improved access under the Great[er] Arab Free Trade Area…Following the opening of the first three private banks in 2004, four more banks entered the market in the last two years, and several more banks are expected to start operations in 2007, including some Islamic financial institutions…Progress toward exchange rate unification and current account convertibility, investment facilitation under a more liberal investment regime, tax reform, trade and financial liberalization, and the on-going development of appropriate regulatory frameworks in key sectors have all contributed to improving the investment climate…The authorities did not exclude the possibility of raising civil servants wages, particularly in light of the start of the PPS reform…The development of a competitive banking sector is constrained by the slow progress in state banks’ restructuring…Further efforts on trade liberalization and improving the business climate are key elements of the authorities’ reform agenda…further financial liberalization are necessary to close the reform-gap with other countries in the region and position Syria to take advantage of regional and global integration…Directors commended the authorities for the sustained, timely and significant fiscal adjustment and welcomed the lowering of corporate income taxes.”- August 2007

“The authorities were encouraged to see that the implementation of their broad-based reforms elicited a positive supply response. In their view, Syrian and other Arab investors felt that a point of no return in reform has been reached. Furthermore, they welcomed strong interest from domestic and foreign investors toward the newly opened banking and insurance sectors…The authorities’ strategy to develop the financial sector by opening it to private initiative was successful in attracting and expanding private banking activities…Trade liberalization, market deregulation, and improving the business climate are key elements of the authorities’ reform agenda…The exchange system in Syria is characterized by multiple exchange rates and a foreign exchange market segmented into public and private sector pools. The private sector has almost no access to the official pool…[the directors say that] A bulge in labor market entrants will strain an already precarious unemployment situation and increase pressure to protect redundant labor in an overstaffed public sector…More broadly, Directors encouraged the authorities to press ahead with reforms aimed at scaling down the state’s involvement in the economy, improving governance, and fostering private-sector growth.”- August 2006

“The growth acceleration in the early 1990s had reflected rising oil production and an upsurge in private sector investment prompted by fiscal incentives and reforms to start the transition to a market economy…Fund policy recommendations were supportive of the authorities’ reform agenda aimed at furthering the transition to a market economy…prices have been largely liberalized, the trade and foreign exchange regimes have been simplified and liberalized, the tax system has been streamlined, and the private sector’s field of activity has been broadened…In particular, opening the insurance sector for private initiative is an important sign of the
commitment of the authorities to promoting the role of the private sector in the economy…Directors encouraged the authorities to envisage the privatization of selected enterprises.”- October 2005

This seems to say, obviously, that Syria has engaged in socially democratic measures as it earnestly went forward with “liberalization” of their economy while government control and nationalist measures were maintained to the annoyance of the IMF. The Syrian  government was moving toward a “market economy” until the direct imperial assault began in 2011, the so-called “civil war,” with some government control returning. Still, some measures of “liberalization” remained such as private banks some of which are concentrated on the Damascus Securities Exchange (DSE) along with other capitalist ventures. The companies on this exchange include:

There are many others whose sites were only in Arabic, and not English. Basically, these companies on the stock exchange are capitalists, and hence part of what you could call, accurately, an Arab bourgeoisie, some consisting bourgeoisie specific to the Arab Republic of Syria itself. If “nothing symbolizes capitalism like the New York Stock Exchange,” as one Forbes writer noted, then why can’t the same be said about the Damascus Securities Exchange? As Frederich Engels wrote in 1895, reviewing Marx’s work in Capital, “the position of the stock exchange in capitalist production” since the stock exchange “as it develops, tends to concentrate all production, industrial as well as agricultural, and all commerce…so that the stock exchange becomes the most prominent representative of capitalist production itself.” Of course, the DSE can’t completely represent this as it was launched in 2009, nine years ago, and only 23 companies are currently on the exchange which is minuscule compared to “more than 12,000 traded products” of the Intercontinental Exchange, commonly called the New York Stock Exchange, or the 1,124 companies listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Then there’s the Library of Congress country study which Gowans uses to say that Syria is socialist which was published in 1988. This goes beyond the claim that the economy of Syria is socialist, but it is worth summarizing within this section of the article. The study explains the history of Syria from its earliest days to 1987, when most of the research was done. In September 1961, there was a coup where Syria seceded from the United Arab Republic (UAR) which was meant to unite Egypt (then under Nasser) and Syria, with nationalization which had been implemented under the previous government removed, with another military coup by September of 1962, and by September 1963, Amid al Hafiz, a Ba’athist, became the leader, with power contested between the “centrist and leftist” elements within the Ba’athist Party, as factionalism continued. Under Hafiz, there was a move to restore nationalization and land reform measures removed after the September 1961 coup, radicalization of rhetoric along with support for Palestinian liberation, and continuing power struggles until 1970, as Hafiz Al-Assad became a more important figure. Then in November 1970, the latter Assad came to power in a coup which has often been called the “corrective movement,” while he was elected for a seven-year term in March 1971 by the populace. In the presidency of Hafiz, relations with the Soviet improved, a Progressive National Front was formed, and the government held off those who wanted to make Islam the state religion. An independent foreign policy course was plotted, there was a controversial Syrian intervention in Lebanon, the Ba’ath Party seemed to partially mass-based, and the “merits of socialism” were explored for Syria’s economy. With public unhappiness with the government at the time, an anti-corruption campaign was begun, and in February 1978, Hafiz was re-elected, facing opposition from Muslim groups (like the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic Liberation Party), specifically those who detested the secular and nationalist nature of the state itself. The latter groups demanded bourgeois “freedoms” while engaging in violent, terrorist attacks against the government, with the government, by the early 1980s, basically declaring war on the Muslim Brotherhood, looking to uproot it from the country all together. As time went on, the Syrians relied heavily on the Soviets for re-supply of weapons, based in 1980 treaty, even as the latter refused to support the rightful Syrian effort to regain the Golan Heights from Zionists, and aligned itself with Iran as the Iran-Iraq War raged through the 1980s. By the later 1980s, there was “uncertainty” about the future of Syria.

It seems a bit problematic that Gowans cites this source to buttress his claim that Syria is socialist because this study was written in 1987! There is no doubt that Syria’s study is still diverse, as it was in 1987, but the so-called “Baathist policies of secularism and socialism” are not evident. Sure, the country is secular, but the policies were never really socialist despite what the study claims, even through it was anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist. There is also certainly still a youthful population. After all, as the study itself points out, in 1970, Hafiz “reversed or relaxed the more strident socialist economic measures” which had been instituted in 1963, leading to a new class of “entrepreneurs and businessmen who made their fortunes in real estate, importing, and construction” (a bourgeoisie). That doesn’t sound very socialist, but rather constitutes the re-creation/reinforcement of the Syrian bourgeoisie, since the country, by the time the study was written, lacked a “true proletariat of wage-earning workers”! Still, education was, by the later 1980s, under close government supervision, starting from 1967 onward and free medical care even as private hospitals outnumbered state-run hospitals in the country.

We then get to the economy. In the mid-1960s, the “new socialist direction,” as the report called it, of the economic policy of Syria was clear considering nationalization of major industries and government-led land reform (land expropriated from large landowners) along with state-led large-scale projects. However, by the 1970s, the economy became more dependent on foreign aid from Arab countries and military aid from the Soviet social-imperialists, with the climate switching from “prosperity to austerity” in the 1980s, with slashing of public investments. This seems to question if the economy was even socialist at all as the study claims there was “socialist transformation” of the economy in the 1960s, with more state commitment to the economy in the 1970s and 1980s, before austerity kicked in. However, this isn’t the whole reality. Not even half of the workforce was employed by the state by 1983, with all college graduates not guaranteed a job, with many taking second jobs in the “private sector” and possible high unemployment as the 1980s went on. Even with a so-called “socialist economy” erected in the 1960s, this was liberalized by Hafiz in 1986, with the state moving away from the agricultural, retail trade, and light industry, leading to be controlled by capitalists, with income gaps beginning to widen. In order to defend the country, huge sums were spent on the military, with administration as a the second biggest area of government expenditures, with the rest relating to the economy (with varying “five-year-plans” over the years), with a very small amount for “social welfare” and “education and culture.” Add to this that by 1984, private farmers cultivated 74% of the country’s lands, and state farms, essentially, only cultivated 1%, again asking extensive the state’s involvement was in the economy, with farmer cooperatives existing, but not broadly successful with a faltering agricultural policy, while the West cried about “inefficiency” of public enterprises and there was effectively a central bank in Syria. Additionally, liberalization of the economy started in 1970 and again in 1986. At the same time, the Soviet social-imperialist and Romanians were active in developing the infrastructure of Syria in the 1970s and 1980s. There are other aspects noted in the study, of course, but there are not worth discussing here.

The study seems to imply that Syria is not only not “socialist” but has a working bourgeoisie, although they don’t call it this since the study is one assembled by bourgeois analysts, as one would expect. From this, it is worth turning to two documents: the 1973 constitution of Syria (with concessions made to placate the Islamic oppositional forces at the time), and the 2012 revision in order to placate the Syrian opposition. The first constitution, in 1973, declared that

The comprehensive Arab revolution is an existing and continuing necessity to achieve the Arab nation’s aspirations for unity, freedom, and socialism.  The revolution in the Syrian Arab region is part of the comprehensive Arab revolution…any danger to which any Arab country may be exposed on the part of imperialism and Zionism is at the same time a danger threatening the whole Arab nation…The Syrian Arab Republic is a democratic, popular, socialist, and sovereign state.  No part of its territory can be ceded.  Syria is a member of the Union of the Arab Republics…Sovereignty is vested in the people, who exercise it in accordance with this Constitution…The religion of the President of the Republic has to be Islam…The leading party in the society and the state is the Socialist Arab Baath Party…People’s councils are establishments elected in a democratic way at which the citizens exercise their rights in administering the state and leading the society…The state is at the people’s service…The state economy is a planned socialist economy which seeks to end all forms of exploitation…Public ownership includes natural resources, public utilities, and nationalized installations and establishments, as well as installations and establishments set up by the state… Collective ownership includes the property belonging to popular and professional organizations and to production units, cooperatives, and other social establishments…individual ownership includes property belonging to individuals…The right of inheritance is guaranteed in accordance with the law…The educational and cultural system aims at creating a socialist nationalist Arab generation which is scientifically minded and attached to its history…Work is a right and duty of every citizen.  The state undertakes to provide work for all citizens…All citizens have the sacred duty to defend the homeland’s security, to respect its Constitution and socialist unionist system.

While some may be cheering, this does not put workers at the central mission of the state like Cuba. A translation from a Cuban government webpage (also here) gives a better translation than other versions. In the first article it calls Cuba is a “socialist State of workers, independent and sovereign, organized with all and for the good of all, as a unitary and democratic republic” even though I would more accurately call it a progressive state due to revisionism and capitalist concessions. This is exactly the same as a translation made by the United Nations or summary of gender rights in Cuba by UN Women. In case the UN translation is moved to another link, the UN translation has been uploaded to this blog in order to promote more learning about Cuba. As one can clearly see, Syria was not, even in 1973, a truly and accurately socialist state. Rather it was a nationalist and socially democratic one (or you could say a progressive one) which had a developed bourgeoisie which guarantees a right to inheritance, something which Marx and Engels were strongly opposed to, with Marx saying, in August 1869, that “the laws of inheritance are not the cause, but the effect, the juridical consequence of the existing economical organization of society, based upon private property in the means of production.”

We then get to the 2012 revision. All mentions of socialism have been completely omitted, as the state instead is portraying itself as progressive and secular (although the word secular is never mentioned in the whole constitution):

The Syrian Arab Republic is a democratic state with full sovereignty, indivisible, and may not waive any part of its territory, and is part of the Arab homeland…The religion of the President of the Republic is Islam; Islamic jurisprudence shall be a major source of legislation…The political system of the state shall be based on the principle of political pluralism, and exercising power democratically through the ballot box…Democratically elected councils at the national or local level shall be institutions through which citizens exercise their role in sovereignty, state-building and leading society…The national economy shall be based on the principle of developing public and private economic activity through economic and social plans aiming at increasing the national income, developing production, raising the individual’s living standards and creating jobs… Natural resources, facilities, institutions and public utilities shall be publicly owned, and the state shall invest and oversee their management for the benefit of all people…The law shall determine the maximum level of agricultural ownership and agricultural investment to ensure the protection of the farmer and the agricultural laborer from exploitation and to ensure increased production…Society in the Syrian Arab Republic shall be based on the basis of solidarity, symbiosis and respect for the principles of social justice, freedom, equality and maintenance of human dignity of every individual…The state shall guarantee every citizen and his family in cases of emergency, sickness, disability, orphan-hood and old age… The rule of law shall be the basis of governance in the state.

Perhaps some of the text from the 1973 version was kept, but only some aspects of nationalization  were kept in place as the state having a broad role in society, but not necessarily to benefit the proletariat but rather every class in society, which goes against established Marxist ideals. Instead, this constitution easily allows for capitalism to creep more into Syria through its tentacles of destruction and deception, showing it is perhaps socially democratic or as you could put it, progressive. [5]

The final indication is using reports in state media outlet, Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) itself. Just like using the Zimbabwean party newspaper, The Herald, to recognize the counter-revolution going on there, one can use SANA in the same way to determine how “socialist” Syria is, if at all. One recent article talks about how the government will continue “providing the basic needs for citizens and improving their living conditions according to the available resources” with pushes by certain MPs to deal with “the issue of high prices,” reduce rationing of electricity, and reform the tax system, along with controlling expenditures of the government, along with other aspects like rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country. With some of the latter measures clearly benefiting the bourgeoisie, the same can be said in a push to support “small, medium, and micro enterprises” which describe, without doubt, institutions of the bourgeoisie, specifically the petty bourgeoisie. In another recent article, it was noted that a social welfare center was opened in the countryside but it ended up being something done with the cooperation of the Greek Orthodox Church there, and mainly aimed at serving “displaced people and families affected by the crisis” of war in the country.

There were other indications of the true nature of the economy. In the realm of tourism, the Higher Council for Tourism said that it would provide “special advantages and incentives to the investors willing to set up tourist projects,” with the Prime Minister of the country adding that investors should “establish tourist projects for low-income people to boost popular tourism and give an image to the world about stability returned to the Syrian provinces due to the victories achieved by the Syrian Arab army.” The tone was expressed when the government participated in the 38th FITUR International Tourism Fair 2018 in Madrid, Spain, calling for “Spanish tourism companies to visit Syria, take a closer look at the situation in it,” worked to build a railway that would serve “passengers and businessmen” and looking to make the country attractive by encouraging “Arab and foreign businessmen to make more investments in Syria to contribute to the reconstruction stage.” You could say this is justified, considering that the government brought in “45 local, Arab and foreign companies” to talk about energy, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning of the  reconstruction of Syria. After all, the country wants to rebuild after years of war with an economy which is reportedly in good condition, and has put forward a “national development program” for Syria, during the reconstruction period, which builds institutions, fights against corruption, modernizes infrastructure, engages n “sustainable growth and development, social, educational and cultural development and the national dialogue.” Basically, the Syrian government is trying to draw in international capital to lead to its reconstruction. [6] However, this process shows that it is not “socialist” as Gowans claims. Rather it is socially democratic (or progressive), as previously explained, secular, and it is nationalist. Even though the government seems to loosely base itself on Islam and the constitution doesn’t mention the word “secular,” it is worth calling Syria secular because for one, the country has no state religion. With secularism limited as Marx noted in “On the Jewish Question,” seeming to mean “non-religious,” the fourth edition of the Webster’s New World College Dictionary (a bourgeois dictionary) concurs with this, defining the word “secular” as “not sacred or religious,” temporal or worldly, distinguished from “church and religion.”

With all this, we can say with certainty that Syria has a developed bourgeoisie. That doesn’t mean that the state cannot do good for the people of Syria, or even the proletariat, but rather that it is not socialist or on the road to socialism in any way, shape or form. With this, we can still defend the country from imperial lies and slander from the bourgeois media and comprador progressive media, like Omidyar’s plaything, The Intercept. The official publication of the Cuban Communist Party, Granma, said the same in an article, reprinted from the official Cuban outlet, Prensa Latina, in March of last year:

…Just six years after the beginning of a war that was imposed from abroad, and which has exacerbated the differences between those espousing diverse religious beliefs to an inhumane level, this nation presents a scene of enormous destruction amidst the quest to survive…Never before in the Arab and Muslim world had the destruction of a country been promoted in such a combined way, organized from the centers of the former colonial powers and the United States…The reality is neither civil war nor faith-based conflict, because the “card” at play in Syria is actually a dirty game which originated from a basic element: in 2009 when the government of Bashar al Assad vetoed a vast project promoted by Qatar…From that moment on, and planned in advance, petrodollars from the capitals of the Gulf monarchies, Turkey and Israel, played their part…Syria questioned the economic motives of Western powers, which was enough to serve as one of the objective bases for launching the overwhelming media attacks and war against this nation…In an explosion of generalized war, thousands of terrorists arrived in Syria, who, allied with national extremists, established points of attack that in the first years covered more than a dozen combat fronts throughout the Syrian territory…More than half a million dead and maimed, economic losses of $200 billion dollars and the obvious destruction of Syria’s entire infrastructure, make up a bleak but not insurmountable panorama. The media siege on this nation, a fierce commercial blockade and widespread terror over six years of an overwhelming imposed war, have not yet been able to annihilate the Syrian people.

There are further aspects. For one, the Syrian bourgeoisie, represented by the state, are willing to engage in ICT cooperation with Russian bourgeoisie, and have other agreements with the Russians (as noted here and here). One such agreement is about “cooperation in domain of public constructions and the implementation of housing projects.” I mention this because, as I’ve written on this blog before, you can say that Russia’s foreign policy is, to an extent, progressive and anti-imperialist, but Russia is without a doubt a capitalist state, with a bourgeoisie which has festered since 1991, at least, if not earlier when it developed more and more through the revisionist years of the Soviet Union (1954-1991), when it was a social-imperialist state. Syria’s government is smart enough to have strong relations with Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq, even working on creating an electricity network which connects Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Undoubtedly this will lead to further regional unity, which is good in an effort to resist imperialism. However, it also strengthens the bourgeoisie in Iran (which I recently wrote about) and Iraq. The same can be said about bringing in investors from Brazil, having economic cooperation with South Africa and revisionist China, oil production by Oman (noted here, here, and here), cooperation with Cuba, Belarus, India (see here and here), Sudan, People’s Korea, along with cooperation with other “friendly countries.” This goes back to my earlier point, that Syria is trying to bring in international capital as it looks to rebuild its country from the scourge of war which has ravaged the country since 2011. This is a noble goal, but some of those countries, like India (led by a fascist) and South Africa, at least, have established bourgeoisie, meaning that no holds are barred in dealing with other countries. This is further the case considering Syria’s dealings with Armenian businesspeople as noted in varying articles. Finally, there is the epitome of nationalism, which Frantz Fanon wrote about in The Wretched of the Earth: domestic production pushed by the bourgeoisie. In the case of Syria, this takes the form of “made in Syria” fairs/exhibitions, noted again, again, again, and again in SANA. It reminds me of the whole push for “made in the USA” products while corporations were actually moving their factories to places with cheap labor, although this is a bit different.

Syria, the “good” Kurds, Syrian Communists, and elections

Originally posted on https://anti-imperialism.org/. This calls out the hypocrisy of the murderous empire calling for “human rights” in Syria.

Syria’s location and its ties with Iran, and other countries which could be said to be part of an anti-imperialist front, are well-established. Of course, some on the Left have considered Assad, along with Gaddafi, horrid “dictators” with endorsements of the bourgeois Arab “revolution,” and saying that there is a “dictatorship” in Syria. If this wasn’t enough in that it easily meshes with propaganda emanating from the center of world imperialism, consider the PLP (Progressive Labor Party), the same organization calling the DPRK a “fascist”/”puppet” monarchy of China which “easily meshes its Orientalist propaganda of the bourgeois media.” For Syria, they describe it as a “Russian-backed government” with benefits to Russian bosses who want to divide up Syria, accepting that Assad used chemical weapons (he didn’t), and elsewhere calling the government an “Iran-backed regime.” Apart from not being able to decide if the government is “backed” by Iran or Russia (which they think is “imperialist“), they claim that the Syrian Communist Party (SCP) (they do not specify what sect of the party) are “phony communists” and that the state doesn’t really care about the working class. They can’t seem to comprehend a Syria which is socially democratic (or progressive) while it has a developed bourgeoisie. There have been elections in Syria, which all show the National Progressive Front (NPF) winning by a huge margin:

In 2016, the “National Unity alliance, supporting President al-Assad and his Baath Party, won 200 seats in the 250-member People’s Assembly. Many candidates reportedly focused on security issues. On 2 May, the President issued a decree naming winners of parliamentary elections. Elections did not take place in Raqa and Idlib provinces, which are controlled by the so-called Islamic State and the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front. Amid the violence, fewer Syrians registered to vote in 2016…[but] according to the Higher Judicial Committee for Elections, turnout in 2016 was 57.56%, up from 51.26 % in 2012.”-  INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

In 2012, “parliamentary elections took place in the context of open rebellion against President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. Major opposition parties boycotted the elections. The National Unity alliance, supporting the President and his Baath Party, took 183 of the 250 seats at stake. Most of the remaining seats went to independent pro-government candidates. The May 2012 elections followed a revision to the Constitution, adopted by referendum in February…Only 5.2 million of the 10.1 million eligible citizens registered to vote. 51.26 per cent of the registered voters actually took part, meaning that in total around a quarter of eligible citizens voted in the elections…Official results gave a large majority to the National Unity alliance.”-  INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“The 22 April 2007 elections were the second to be held since President Bashar Assad assumed power in July 2000 following his father’s death a month earlier. President Assad pledged to modernize the country’s economy. ..Of the 250 seats just over two-thirds (170 seats) are reserved for the ruling National Progressive Front (NPF) coalition. Voters select one list from among a series of lists of parliamentary candidates. Two-thirds of the candidates on each list are from the NPF. The coalition comprising ten political parties was led by the Baath Party which itself is guaranteed 131 seats. The other 80 seats are allocated to independent candidates…Many candidates pledged to provide economic prosperity…Several anti-fraud measures were implemented for the first time. They included transparent ballot boxes and indelible ink to prevent multiple voting…approximately 56 per cent of the 7.8 million registered voters turned out at the polls. A total of 11 967 611 citizens were eligible to vote…The final results gave Syria’s ruling NPF 172 seats. The remainder went to independent candidates…On 11 May the People’s Assembly unanimously nominated Mr. Bashar Assad as the president of the country for a new seven-year term starting on 17 July 2007. The public referendum of 27 May approved this nomination by over 97 per cent of the votes.”-  INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“On 2 and 3 March 2003 Syrians voted to elect the first People’s Assembly since President Bashar al-Assad succeeded his late father President Hafez al-Assad in 2000. According to official records, some 5,000 candidates competed for the 250 seats in Parliament…Announcing the results, Interior Minister Ali Hamoud declared that candidates of the National Progressive Front had won 167 seats (the Front consists of the ruling Baath party and six smaller allies). The remaining 83 seats went to independents. Out of the 250 members, 178 were newcomers and 30 women.”-  INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“In the 1998 elections, 7364 candidates initially contested the 250 parliamentary seats. A total of 167 of these belonged to the National Progressive Front (NPF) – the seven-party governing coalition led by the Baath Party of President of the Republic Hafez al-Assad, which itself nominated 135 candidates; the NPF has been in power since being formed in 1972…On polling day, the electorate overwhelmingly backed the NPF candidates with over 66% of the popular vote, the remaining 83 seats (one-third of the overall membership) being won by independents, as before.”-  INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“The election date was set by presidential decree on 24 July 1994, with candidatures to be submitted until 2 August. A total of 7,818 candidates contested the 250 People’s Council seats. A maximum of one-third of the Council seats were set aside for independent candidates as distinct from those of the ruling National Progressive Front (NFP). The NFP, headed by President of the Republic Hafiz Al-Assad, was formed in 1972…On polling day, the ruling Baath…once again emerged as the largest single party, with 135 seats, while independents captured 83. Of the total Council membership, 93 were incumbent Deputies. On 10 September 1994, President Al-Assad opened the newly elected Parliament’s first session. Mr. Abdel Qader Qaddoura was then re-elected as Council President.”- INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“In the 1990 general elections, a record 2,657 candidates (including 116 women) vied for the 250 seats of the enlarged People’s Council. A maximum of one-third of the Council seats were set aside for independent candidates as distinct from those of the National Progressive Front (NPF)…On polling day, the ruling Baath…once again emerged as the largest single party, with 134 seats, while the independents’ total rose from 35 to 84. Of the total Council membership, 77 were incumbent Deputies. On 11 June, President Al-Assad opened the newly elected Parliament’s first session. Mr. Abdel Qader Qaddoura was then re-elected as Council President.”- INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“The Syrian Communist Party made a comeback and women more than doubled their number of seats as a result of the 1986 elections to the People’s Council. The ruling Baath party was the biggest winner, with a total of 129 seats in the 195-member Parliament. The Communists, who had no members in the previous legislature, won nine seats. There were a total of 88 newcomers to the Council.”- INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

In 1981, “the elections resulted in a victory for the National Progressive Front, which captured all 195 People’s Council seats. The Baath Arab Socialist Party of President of the Republic Hafez al-Assad won 60% of all seats. As opposed to the previous legislature, no independent candidates were successful”- INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

In 1977, “party lists were presented by ruling Arab Socialist Renaissance (Booth) Party and those of four other leftist groups that together formed the National Progressive Front governing coalition of President Hafez al-Assad, in power since 1971…The voting results, as announced, showed that the Baath— which supports militant Arab unity — once again emerged as the single largest party and that the Front altogether won all but 36 seats, these being captured by Independents. The new Parliament held its first session on August 18.”- INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

In 1973, “the elections, in which 1656 candidates — 659 representing workers and farmers and 997 other social groups — contested the seats of the People’s Council, were the first since the Baath Party seized power in 1963…The Baath Party, which fielded roughly half of the candidates, and its allies — the Communist Party, the pro-Cairo Arab Socialist Union (ASU), the Arab Socialists and the Socialist Unionists — who ran on a unified ” national progressive ” ticket, succeeded in winning 10 of the country’s 15 governorates and about two-thirds of the parliamentary seats.”-INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

The SCP seems to recognize what the PLP cannot. The Syrian Communist Party (Unified), is one of the two communist parties in the country, and is also a member of the NPF, a coalition of “political parties in Syria that support the [so-called] socialist and Arab nationalist orientation of the current government and accept the leading role of the Arab Socialist Baath Party.” These 11 parties (Wikipedia claims there are 10 but is actually 11) are as follows: the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party, Arab Socialist Union Party, Communist Party of Syria (Bakdash), National Vow Movement/National Covenant Party, Communist Party (Unified), Arab Democratic Union Party, Unionist Social Democratic Party, Socialist Unionist Party,Syrian National Social Party – Center, General Union of Trade Unions, and General Union of Peasants. As such, the Syrian Communist Party (Unified), which favored the perestroika in the Soviet Union, a horrid act by the revisionist Soviet leadership, sees itself as part of a progressive front.

In 1986, when the Syrian Communist Party split, there was another faction: Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash) which opposed perestroika, different from other supposed communist groupings, like the National Committee for the Unity of Syrian Communists (NCUSC) which is also known as the Party of the Popular Will, and the Communist Labor Party. To give some background, some members of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath party met with members of the original Syrian Communist Party, founded in 1924, from 1966 to 1970, wanting to form a “vanguard party” with some taken in with “socialist ideas” they wanted to emulate Soviet and Chinese “policies in agriculture and defense.” However, also during this period, there was a “revisionist current within the Syrian Communist Party led by Riad al-Turk” which called for the “end to Soviet influence on party policy and a shift towards objectives and programmes better suited to the Syrian and Arab context,” and with this group holding a huge sway, Secretary-General of the party, Khalid Bakdash, became a “minority in the leadership ranks.” Bakdash had shown his dedication to fighting French imperialism with unity of the masses, telling the Comintern in 1935 that

the situation in Syria imposes heavy tasks and a great responsibility on our party. Syria, because of its location between Europe and Asia and on the Mediterranean, is a strategic center of fundamental importance for the entire system of French imperialism…French imperialism, understanding the importance of Syria, has unleashed a savage terror to destroy the revolutionary movement in the country and has directed its most cruel blows against the working class and its vanguard, the Communist Party, which was reduced to a deep state of illegality. After the armed insurrection of 1925 to 1927 in which for two years the Arab peasants, workers, and labourers showed how they are capable of fighting French imperialism…we are ready to unite our efforts with all those who want a free and independent Syria.

This leads to 1986, when over perestroika, these two trends in the Communist Party broke apart, forming Syrian Communist Party (Unified) and Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash), the latter opposing perestroika, if Wikipedia has merit and the former approving of it.

On the website of the International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties there are forty statements of this Communist Party, from November of last year to November 2008, only some of which were translated into English. The most recent of those is from July of last year at the meeting of the central committee of the party in Damascus, saying that the situation internationally is becoming more dangerous with “contradictions between imperialist powers,” adding that as U$ imperialism is “considered the most aggressive power” with dangerous escalation toward the DPRK, and strong “Zionist influence” within the current U$ administration, that Russia is being targeted by Western imperialism, rejecting Turkish aggression towards Syria, with “international colonialist and Zionist powers…conspiring to divide Syria.” They closed by saying that the situation in the country requires “a radical transformation in the socio-economic policy that strengthens the country’s immunity and meets the basic interests of the Syrian people,” saying this requires “a complete break with socio-economic trends of a liberal nature” such as laws undermining “public sector status…encouraging foreign investment in all areas” which will “weaken the working class,” and by, ultimately, “encouraging production and creating important resources in the hands of the state” along with a “favorable pricing policy in the purchase of crops should be adopted” as part of a “policy of state capitalism of a social nature.” This would mean, in their view, “support for industrial and crafts production,” supporting agricultural production, increasing the role of the state in ” internal trade,” reviving state establishments in “the field of foreign trade,” raising “salaries and wages to be compatible with rising prices,” and expanding “social support for the population systematically.” Beyond this, take an interview with Adel Omar, of the party’s foreign bureau. He told Socialist Unity that the party believes that

…the course of events in Syria is neither a revolution nor a civil war. It is very clear that what has been taking place in Syria has been in accordance with the imperialist plans…our people are resisting the imperialist forces together. It is true that the people of Syria have demands and needs that need to be met, but the way to achieve this is not through destroying everything that belongs to the state of Syria. At the moment, our country is under attack, and achieving unity among the people to defend our homeland is what needs to be done first. At this point, we think it is especially crucial for the government to respond to the demands and the needs of the people…When we evaluate the 10-year period before the aggression toward Syria, we see that the Syrian government made grave mistakes in the economic area. By choosing neoliberal economic policies, it opened the Syrian market to foreign imports, especially Turkish and Qatari products. As a result, hundreds of factories and workshops shut down and millions of workers lost their jobs. In fact, there was not a substantial change in these neoliberal policies when the imperialist intervention started. As the Syrian CP, we think that the adoption of these neoliberal economic policies was a fatal mistake. We believe that the solution needs to start by putting an end to these policies…It is important to realize that it is not only the Syrian army that is resisting against the imperialist-backed foreign forces. Ordinary Syrians are also fighting…it is critical that the government support the people through economic policies in order for the popular resistance to be able to survive. But, unfortunately, it is difficult to say that the government realizes this fact even now. They more or less continue with the neoliberal policies. As the Syrian CP, we believe the biggest risk factor for the Syrian resistance is the economy…We are going through a war that though difficult and serious at times cannot be taken lightly. But we are determined to continue with our struggle…As Syrian communists, the duty to struggle for our homeland lies first and foremost on our shoulders…When our situation in Syria is taken into account, I can say that we need an attitude of solidarity that is more than a “message of goodwill” by this or that party…in the struggle we are waging in Syria, we have been left alone. There are 22 Arab countries, and no events in solidarity with the Syrian people have been organized in the capitals of these countries…History shows us that struggles against imperialism and fascism increase the value and respectability of the communist parties in the eyes of the people. This was the case for the Soviets in their defense of the motherland, and the same in Greece or France. Communists were at the forefront, organizing the resistance of the people for the defense of their motherland. This is the case for us as well…the Syrian Communist Party is a strong organization with more than a quarter of a million members.

This shows that this party, which defines itself as the “conscious organized vanguard of the working class in Syria,” adopting the “teachings of Marxism-Leninism,” looking to unite and mobilize “all progressive forces for the final salvation of poverty and retardation and exploitation” is much more radical than Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash). Consistently this party has stood “with the Syrian people…against the Imperialist and Zionist plans and conspiracies that the Arabic reactionary regimes and imperialist allied countries in our region is participating in,” stood in solidarity with the South African Communist Party (SACP), and had a well-thought-out statement in 2011 on “unrest in some cities in Syria,” saying that there were reactionary forces at work but understanding the tensions. They added that the party’s central committee said that the “the trend toward economic liberalization, which has negatively impacted national production and the state of the toiling masses” should be reversed, restoring and strengthening “our food security, and industry under all forms of national ownership, with emphasis on maintaining and developing the public sector.” By 2014, the party called “on all patriots in Syria to defend the homeland, to protect national sovereignty, and to be on their guard against imperialist conspiracies and tricks” and closing by saying that “our defence of our homeland is first and above any consideration.”

Some, like Caleb T. Maupin in Mint Press News, argued that it is a positive that “Syria openly tolerates the existence of two strong Marxist-Leninist parties,” saying that  Syrian Communist Party (Unified) and the Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash) openly “operate as part of the anti-imperialist coalition supporting the Baath Arab Socialist Party.” while communists “lead trade unions and community organizations in Damascus and other parts of the country.” That is a positive for sure, but it doesn’t make Syria socialist and it doesn’t invalidate the existence of a bourgeoisie as Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash) clearly acknowledges. If there was a communist party in Syria comrades should ally with, I’d say Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash) has a much more coherent analysis without a doubt and should be supported with solidarity, as should the Syrian proletariat.  Furthermore, I agree with Joma Sison of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines that in the context of fighting against the murderous empire and Zionism, “the Assad government and the Syrian Arab Army have a sovereign, progressive and revolutionary cause against the US as No. 1 imperialist aggressor and its criminal accomplice Zionist Israel.” I also agree with his statement that whatever “is the social character of Russia now (even if monopoly capitalist), it is good strategy and tactics for Syria to use its alliance with Russia to counter and defeat the more aggressive imperialist power, US imperialism and its terrible sidekick Israel.” [7]

Resistance to imperialism and concluding words

Resistance to imperialism by Syria has roots in its history. By 1516, Syrian had been taken over by the Turks with a feudal system kept in place, and claims to region by England and France in 18th century, while the Turks fought off Mamuluks in 1770s to preserve their colony. Before the Turks, Syria was considered part of the Persian empire! In the 1790s, Syria was one of the countries drawn into European conflicts with French bourgeoisie wanting control, leading to anger from the populace, constant Wahhabi raids in first decade of 19th century which ceased in 1811, anger at reforms by Turks in 1820s, and major disturbances until 1831, when Egyptian troops invaded. The following year the invading Egyptians took control, and even defeated the Turkish army at Tartus in 1833. By the 1870s, with Syria as a deeply important province of Ottoman Empire (root of the justified anger toward Erdogan), Arab nationalism began to develop there and in Lebanon. By World War I, Syria was taken over again, this time by the French, who used imperialism to push the Turks out of country. In the 1920s there was a war for liberation against French imperialism, which based “all its calculations on the suppression of proletarian revolutionary struggle in France and Europe by using its colonial workers as a reserve army of counter-revolution,” as the Fourth Congress of the Communist International said in 1922 and the Communists had a role in such liberation. In December 1925, when addressing the Fourteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U. (B), comrade Josef Stalin remarked that there was a “growth of the national-revolutionary movement in the colonies and the crisis in the world domination of imperialism in general” specifically mentioning the “war for liberation waged by Syria and Morocco against French imperialism” along with the “struggle for liberation waged by India and Egypt against British imperialism” and China’s “struggle for liberation against Anglo-Japanese-American imperialism,” along with the “growth of the working-class movement in India and China.” He concluded that this means that “the Great Powers are faced with the danger of losing their…colonies” with capitalism destabilized, with a “form of open war against imperialism” in places like “Morocco, Syria, [and] China.” This was further proven by a revolt in Syria, in 1926, some saying that “the revolt in Syria has reached alarming proportions” while the Comintern that year considered the revolt as one of the “series of revolutions and revolutionary actions on the Continent of Europe as well as in the colonial and semi-colonial countries.” The following year, comrade Stalin told the Fourteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U.(B) that the intention of the British bourgeoisie, represented by Neville Chamberlain, was to “oust the French bourgeoisie from Syria” because from Syria it is “possible to do harm to Britain both in the area of the Suez Canal and in the area of Mesopotamia.”

Fast forward to World War II. In 1942, Churchill wrote to Stalin, saying he hoped to “assemble a considerable army in Syria drawn from our Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Armies, so as to go to help Turkey if either she were threatened or were willing to join us.” With the country controlled by nationalist but easily pliant governments of the Western bourgeoisie, for most of the time from 1945 to 1958, it is no surprise that the country signed The General Agreement On Tariffs And Trade or GATT in 1948, becoming a foundation of the postwar world capitalism. However, the country became more independent during its years as the Syrian Republic, with the U$ engaging in provocations in Syria in 1957 and Mao Zedong saying the same year that there should be solidarity with Syrian nation. In 1960, 8o Communist and Workers Parties made a statement in Moscow praising the “resolute stand of the Soviet Union, of the other socialist states and of all the peaceful forces put an end to the Anglo -Franco-Israeli intervention in Egypt, and averted a military invasion of Syria, Iraq and some other countries by the imperialists.” Six years later, there was a military coup in Syria, as previously mentioned in this article, which hurt Ba’ath Party in Iraq but conditions changed in 1968 with another military coup, which was not U$ backed like the one in 1963. By the 1970s, a full tank brigade from Cuba stood “guard between 1973 and 1975 alongside the Golan Heights, when this territory was unjustly seized from that country.” Cuba has, in the past two years, stood by Syria, shipping vaccines, is willing to have “bilateral relations based on mutual respect, non-interference in the internal affairs of states, economic exchange and the defense of the sovereign principles of each nation,” said at the UN that “peace in Syria can only be achieved if the people’s right to self-determination is respected” while Fidel himself “strategically directed hundreds of thousands of Cuban combatants on international missions” in countries such as Syria, (also in Algeria, Angola, and Ethiopia to name a few). Additionally, Syria has stood with Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela in June of 2016 expressing “their support for the independence and sovereignty of Puerto Rico,” undoubtedly angering the murderous empire while Syrian students have said that they respect the Cuban revolution, while it has pushed for the end of the blockade against Cuba, while medical students from Syria have come to Cuba. Additionally, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said that Venezuela stood in solidarity with “the Syrian people in the struggle against terrorism and against the most vile and cruel forms of warfare are admirable before the eyes of the world,” and solidarity again after a deadly strike by the murderous empire. Maduro himself warned against intervention by the murderous empire in Syria in 2013, with the government supplying Syria with oil in 2012, calls for the end to a “media war”on Syria in 2011, strengthening of agreements with Syrian businesses in 2010, and Hugo Chavez making a speech in 2009 in the Syrian province of Swaida, calling the Syrian people “architects of resistance” to imperialism, and saying that “we should fight to create consciousness that is free from imperialist doctrine…fight to defeat backwardness, poverty, misery…to convert our countries into true powers through the consciousness of the people.” Other than this, Assad and Chavez “created a $100 million bilateral development fund and discussed how to build more unity between Arab and Latin American peoples” in 2010, humanitarian aid sent to Syrian refugees in 2013, Venezuela taking in 20,000 Syrian refugees in 2015, Chavez laughing at the idea that Venezuelan  aircraft are shipping missile parts to Syria in 2008,and Assad and Chavez criticizing U$ involvement in the Middle East in 2006, to name a few instances.

Such solidarity of Venezuela with Libya, Iran, and Syria had Trotskyist Lance Selfa grumbling about Chavez supporting “dictators” or “despots,” and claiming there were “Arab revolutionaries.” Like always, the Trotskyists failed in their analysis. As Stalin noted in December 1927 when he called out the “Trotskyist opposition,” showing how they favored the bourgeoisie:

…I think the opposition does me honour by venting all its hatred against Stalin. That is as it should be. I think it would be strange and offensive if the opposition, which is trying to wreck the Party, were to praise Stalin, who is defending the fundamentals of the Leninist Party principle…The communist workers gave our oppositionists a good drubbing, such a drubbing indeed that the leaders of the opposition were compelled to flee from the battlefield…the opposition, in pursuing a splitting policy, organised an anti-Party, illegal printing press…the opposition, for the purpose of organising this printing press, entered into a bloc with bourgeois intellectuals, part of whom turned out to be in direct contact with counter-revolutionary conspirators…The opposition’s splitting activities lead it to linking up with bourgeois intellectuals, and the link with bourgeois intellectuals makes it easy for all sorts of counter-revolutionary elements to envelop it—that is the bitter truth…Its main sin is that it tried, is trying, and will go on trying to embellish Leninism with Trotskyism and to replace Leninism by Trotskyism…What is the chief aim of the present united bloc headed by Trotsky? It is little by little to switch the Party from the Leninist course to that of Trotskyism. That is the opposition’s main sin. But the Party wants to remain a Leninist party.

Add to this what the French Communist Party said in 1932, that workers are fooled by the Trotskyists who want to splinter the Communist movement, with even Josip Tito of Yugoslavia seeing Trotskyists as those clearing “the road for the fascist-imperialist bandits”! That shows this sentiment against Trotskyists was widespread. Others have said that the Trotskyists served Franco, which the Marxist Internet Archive (MIA) claimed was disproved by its author George Soria but actually is talking about “the story surrounding the disappearance of Andrés Nin, the founder of the P.O.U.M., where he was freed from prison by fascist agents” with his words cited by MIA after Soria “became sympathetic to the Eurocommunism of the PCF.” Furthermore, as Harriet Parsons wrote in the Worker’s Herald in September 1980, “Trotskyists and Trotskyist organizations have a special place in the government’s arsenal for their role in stirring up counter-revolution and their activities as police agents.” As Moissaye J. Olgin wrote in 1935, basing his analysis on what Stalin had written about Trotskyism and in solidarity with the Soviet Union, “Trotskyism no more confines itself to “informing” the bourgeoisie” but has become “center and the rallying point for the enemies of the Soviet Union, of the proletarian revolution in capitalist countries, of the Communist International.”

Hostility by the murderous empire, which has “left a balance sheet of hundreds of thousands of deaths and enormous destruction” in Syria was expressed was as strong in 2003 as it was in 2014 and last year with the cruise missile attack by the orange menace. As Mexican-Argentine philosopher Enrique Dussel (who is not a Marxist but has put forward a philosophy of liberation along with other individuals) put it in October 2016 at the Eco-socialist School of Critical Decolonial Thought of Our America, “they [the murderous empire] go to Syria and they destroy it without even knowing where Syria is. They destroyed Aleppo without knowing anything about that place.”

Taking this all into account, one can, and should agree with Ramzi (Khaled Bakdash), who argued that “we must use the Leninist-Stalinist tactic of mobilising all possible forces…and using all our allies, however temporary and uncertain they may be,” arguing at the time against French imperialism and Zionist oppression but also saying that there will be “accommodation of the national reformist bourgeoisie with imperialism” and calling for Arabic unity with an “anti-imperialist popular front on the pan-Arab scale.”This is especially important considering the economic sanctions foisted on Syria with those fighting “against the Syrian government and army are a mixture of Syrian and foreign mercenaries from dozens of countries” with supplies, training, and weapons from “Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies, Israel, Turkey, NATO, and of course the United States,” with the latter winding down it seems, as Syria tries to rebuild from the destruction.

With Turkish aggression against Syria, bombing the YPG and the so-called “revolutionary” Kurds, whom are collaborating with U$ imperialists for what some naively call “liberation,” the country is under assault with destruction of houses and historic sites. Some have said that Russia, Syria, and Turkey are all on the same page, with the Turks trying to change the empire’s “end game” in Syria. Perhaps the Turks and Russians are on the same page, but there is no doubt that the Syrians are furious with the violation of their sovereignty while these certaom Kurds are angry their imperial patrons aren’t protecting them (perhaps because the empire sees more value in an alliance with Turkey?). They detest these certain Kurds becoming a base for the murderous empire within their country. However, they do not want military invasion or covert action brought into their country by outside powers, especially by the Turks, which are strongly against the current Syrian government. Some, like celebrity left David Graeber, are ringing their hands about Turkey’s attack, calling it “pure imperialism” and claiming that the Kurds are still “revolutionary,” a laughable concept. Graeber may have a point about Turkey’s attack, as Erdogan is no friend to the proletariat of Turkey or of the world as a whole, but is a monster without question. Sure, he has ties to Russia, but this is because Turkish and Russian interests are interconnected, as the Turkish bourgeoisie and Russian bourgeoisie don’t mind being friends. Graeber’s hand-wringing is as bad as Marcel Cartier, writing in evidently anti-anti-imperialist site, The Region, reprinted in the so-called progressive “ZNet,” declaring that Rojava is a “beacon of stability in Syria” and is supposedly “progressive.” He goes further to claim laughably that the Kurds are not puppets but are engaged in a “real revolutionary process” and that the Syrians had “exhibited a considerable degree of colonialism as far as the Kurds are concerned”! Not only does he clearly understand what colonialism is, but his answer as a whole is absurd and laughable as these Kurds are helping the imperialists divide up Syria. Without a doubt, Cartier, like Graeber believes the lies that these Kurds are revolutionary, which anyone with sense has recognized by now. Even one subreddit I follow, leftvexillology, has a tag of “Fuck YPG!” due to such propaganda in absurd, laughable writings. Of course, there are some corners of the Left that still think this, like the goofs at Links International Journal of Socialism, Trotskyists, and deluded socialists in the Middle East. However, as I recently pointed out on Reddit,

….the Rojava/YPG/Kurdish Workers Party are pawns of U$ imperialists [as they see it], as evidenced more and more under Trump than ever before, who has given all sorts of aid to them….we know the U$ imperialists want a “safe district” in the region as a base for their imperialism, so they can easily attack Syria (and by that thinking, undermine Iran). Not only does such a state clearly violate the sovereignty of Syria with their so-called “decentralized” government, creating an entity which will lead to regional chaos…The narrative spread by those who advocate for Rojava is utterly false, without question. Not only is the propaganda outlets of the murderous empire willing to listen and talk to them, but it easily fits with “Orientalist bourgeois propaganda” against Syria…Beyond this, is the reality that while “Western and even international “left”…declare that the Rojava Kurds are “revolutionary” or somehow “liberated” such perspectives are “an unfounded and dangerous form of international solidarity”…Rojava is an illegal entity without question…Hence we should pay less attention to Rojava except to counter imperial lies and fight the blood-sucking imperialists who want to divide and conquer Syria without a doubt.

As the murderous empire seems has “drawn Turkey deeper into the Syrian conflict by announcing a policy that threatens Turkey’s national security” by announcing the creation of “a 30,000-man Border Security Force (BSF) to occupy East Syria” on January 18 and  the start of so-called “Operation Olive Branch” two days later. In the article, Mike Whitney calls this a “gaffe” and a “provocation” which was uttered by oil man Tillerson who was “blinded by hubris.” He also said that time will tell if “Washington is following Erdogan’s orders or not” and claimed that “Putin gave Erdogan the green light to conduct “Operation Olive Branch” in order to pave the way for an eventual Syrian takeover of the Northwestern portion of the country up to the Turkish border” even though he admits that Erdogan has neo-Ottoman ambitions. Whitney closes by saying that the policy will remain the same as “Washington will persist in its effort to divide the country and remove Assad until an opposing force prevents it from doing so.” This seems to be faulty reasoning as the Turks do not seem to favor the current Syrian government so they wouldn’t just give the land over to the Syrians. Instead, it seems that Putin is serving nationalist interests of the Russian bourgeoisie rather than helping protect Syrian sovereignty which Turkey is clearly violating. Some may say that Syria is acquiescing to this by not “fighting back” against Turkey but it is likely that the current government does not want to be at war with Turkey or devote resources to defending such an area, looking to liberate other parts of the country from terrorist control instead, which is a wise use of resources.

In closing, there is no doubt that Syria is a nationalist, secular and socially democratic (or progressive) state. But, it is not socialist, as Gowans, most prominently of all, has argued. As I’ve noted in this article, Syria clearly has a bourgeoisie. This is the case in Iran and Zimbabwe as well, along with likely the case in Belarus and some other progressive countries, along with perhaps Cuba and the DPRK. Knowing the real nature of these countries by using Marxist analysis is important in order for the populace to have an accurate analysis of the world at the present. As always, I look forward to your comments and further discussion on this subject.


Notes

[1] Ashley Smith, “Explaining the Syrian civil war,” International Socialist Review; Chris Lee, “Is Syria socialist?,” Green Left Weekly, Oct 22, 2003; Serge Jordan, “Syria: Is an end to the war in sight?,” Socialist World (Trotskyist), Feb 3, 2017; Freedom Road Socialist Organization, “The ISO and the war on Syria: Silly and shameful,” FightBack! News, Sept 11, 2013; Budour Hassan, “Telling the stories of Syria’s masses,” Socialist Worker, Oct 3, 2013; Joseph Green, “Solidarity with the Syrian uprising and the Arab Spring!,” Communist Voice, Sept 2012; Alasdair Drysdale, “The Asad Regime and Its Troubles,” Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP), November/December 1982.

[2] Suleiman Al-Khalidi, “Syria reverts to socialist economic policies to ease tension,” Reuters, Jul 4, 2012; Jamal Mahamid, “Syria’s frail economy, before and after the revolution,” Al Arabiya, Apr 1, 2013; Aron Lund, “The State of the Syrian Economy: An Expert Survey,” Carnegie Middle East Center, Dec 23, 2013; Hamoud Al-Mahmoud, “The War Economy in the Syrian Conflict: The Government’s Hands-Off Tactics,” Carnegie Middle East Center, Dec 15, 2015; Caroline Alexander and Donna Abu-Nasr, “How War Has Destroyed Syria’s Economy in Four Charts,” Bloomberg News, Jul 29, 2015; Elias al-Araj, “How the war on Syria left its mark on Lebanon’s economy,” Al Monitor, May 13, 2016;  Jihad Yazigi, “Syria’s war economy,” European Council on Foreign Relations, Apr 7, 2014;  Rim Turkmani, Ali A. K. Ali, Mary Kaldor, and Vesna Bojicic-Dzelilovic, “Countering the logic of the war economy in Syria,” OpenDemocracy, Nov 19, 2015; Suleiman Al-Khalidi, “Syria’s economy heads into ruin: U.N. sponsored report,” Reuters, May 18, 2014; AFP, “Economic effect of Syrian war at $35bn: World Bank,” Middle East Eye, Feb 5, 2016; David Butler, “Syria’s Economy: Picking up the Pieces,” Chatham House, June 23, 2015.

[3] On April 18, 1964, the New York Times, in an article titled “Socialist Goals Pressed by Syria,” declared that “the Syrian Government na­tionalized three textile factories in the northern industrial town of Aleppo today and ordered worker management of all na­tionalized and state‐run eco­nomic establishments” with the latter “viewed as heralds of a Social­ist era in Syria under the Baath Socialist party” and seeking to “apply a brand of Socialism different from that of President Gamal Abdel Nasser of the United Arab Republic.” It also noted that “President Nasser’s So­cialism” was denounced by the Baath Socialist party, wanting to have “self­-management” by workers, expanding on nationalization of “all local and foreign banks.” Later on, there was a book by Ayman Al-Yassini titled “The socialist transformation of an underdeveloped country: Syria under the Arab Baath Socialist Party, 1963-1970,” Time magazine calling Syria “socialist” in 1967, as did Edward F. Sheehan in a January 1975 New York Times article titled “He Fears Russians More Than Israelis, Works With Kissinger.”

[4] “Syria,” 2017 Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation, accessed January 21, 2018; “Syria” (economy section), CIA’s The World Factbook, accessed January 21, 2018. There have been those like Martin Peretz of The New Republic declaring that “very few people…think of Russia and China as progressive countries,” that many “still think of Cuba as a progressive country,” with Venezuela, “Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua…express[ing] their solidarity for socialist Syria” which he considered a joke. People like this should be ridiculed and laughed at.

[5] One Trotskyist suggested that since “nationalisations received the overwhelming support of the working class in Syria” it is such nationalization and “division of the land,” which gained the government “support of the workers and peasants,” that the Ba’ath-led government was able to “maintain itself.” This argument may have some merit to it, although Trotskyists are often wrongheaded in their analysis without question.

[6] This is indicated further by other articles talking about industrial facilities, tire manufacturing, decreasing prices, a gas project, the industrial sector, importing of buses,
MPs and general budget (here and here), a fertilizer plant, monetary policy (here and here), exports (here, here, here, and here), an offshore limited liability corporation (LLC), a supposedly cooperative housing sector, agricultural production and investment, rural women’s products, investment in higher education, a shopping festival, reviving old markets, social affairs, economic diplomacy, investment budgets, budgets, nursery plantstons of wheat, a trade fair, raw materials, new gas wells, a state budget billpharmaceuticals, a goods exhibit, labor syndicates, a truck assembly plant, ports being re-opened, new projects, upgrade services, and cabinet work for 2018.

[7] Mike Whitney wrote in January 2016 that “Putin has no intention of getting “bogged down” in Syria for a decade or two. What he plans to do is to defeat the enemy and move on,” adding that “Russia plans to use its Kurdish allies in the YPG to seize a stretch of land along the Syrian side of the Turkish border to reestablish Syria’s territorial sovereignty” while noting that “Turkish President Erdogan has promised that if the YPG pursues that course, Turkey will invade, in which case, Putin will come to the defense of the Kurds.” The latter seems to have come true in the case of Operation Olive Branch as the Turks call it, despite its destruction. The former has also become true as the Russians are pulling back their involvement. Still there is, as another writer also noted in CounterPunch, an “ongoing campaign of demonization against the Russian leader” or Putin, with Avaaz portraying the Syrian government efforts to fight terrorists as “nothing but a joint Russian-Syrian effort to murder civilians, especially children” even though this is an utter lie since, as Whitney noted, in another article, “Russian air-strikes are going to be accompanied by a formidable mop-up operation that will overpower the jihadi groups on the ground” which isn’t recognized by the antiwar movement.

A “corrective measure”?: Zimbabwe, Black power, and Western imperialism

From an article in The Herald titled “No Military Takeover in Zimbabwe” The article adds the following caption about this photo: “free movement of people in the Capital city as the Army calls for peace and calmness.”

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Nov 16, 2017.

Recently the bourgeois media has been up in arms over Zimbabwe. But what is it all about? What is going on? After one user asked what was going on, writing that “there is a decided lack of information, but things don’t look very good. Robert Mugabe has made significant efforts to keep Zimbabwe free of domination by Western imperialism and Western capitalism. Further information would be appreciated,” some comrades on /r/communism (obviously tarred as a “rush to defend Mugabe” by anti-communist subreddits like /r/enoughcommiespam and /r/Zimbabwe) responded by saying that “Mugabe, in this particular historical moment…should be defended it possible and the coup opposed at costs,” while others said that this is an “AFRICOM coup basically” and one said that “doesn’t matter who comes next. If he does not accept wall street to buy up the country pretty much, there will be a coup.” [1] As I publish this, I read that the Zimbabwe Communist Party welcomed the military takeover by saying that it is “the result of the chaotic state of Zimbabwe as a whole and the ruling party, Zanu (PF), in particular. The extravagant lifestyles of the ruling elite contrast sharply with the extreme poverty of the majority of the Zimbabwean people.” Without knowing the full context of these statement or anything else about the Zimbabwe Communist Party (I only just heard of it), I cannot respond to this statement with any more than what I just said.

What the bourgeois media has “reported”

Let’s first give a brief overview of what the bourgeois media is claiming is happening. Al Jazeera, a Qatari pro-terroristic outlet, declared that “there is growing uncertainty in Zimbabwe…the army says this is not a military takeover…But as yet, there is no official word from the government or the Mugabe family as to their whereabouts” with South Africa’s Jacob Zuma apparently talking to Mugabe who “told him he is safe but confined to his home” and with an “apparent bid to expand the Mugabe dynasty” as they put since “President Mugabe sacked Emmerson Mnangagwa, an ally of the army, on November 8” with his wife Grace “eyeing” the position. [2] The article goes on to say that the pro-Western #ThisFlag “called for calm and the protection of all Zimbabweans following the army’s takeover of power” while Temba Mliswa, an independent member of parliament, supported the military’s moves, the African Union (AU) chief “said the political crisis in Zimbabwe “seems like a coup”,” humanitarian imperialist Amnesty International seemed to take a non-stand but would definitely cheer when Mugabe was gone, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said it hopes the situation “will not lead to unconstitutional changes of government,” and Lovemore Chinoputsa of the MDC supported the move as did the Victor Matemadanda, the leader of war veterans (Zimbabwe’s War Veterans Association) urged that “Robert Gabriel Mugabe…be recalled from his role as the president and first secretary of ZANU-PF.” Additionally, several Zanu-PF individuals were reportedly detained , the Zimbabwe reportedly “seized state TV and blocked off access to government offices,” with war veterans claiming that “Mugabe has betrayed the revolution.” Another article they published added that “Major General SB Moyo…denied that the army was carrying out a coup…[as] tanks surrounded parliamentary and presidential buildings” while claiming that “for many the first priority was to head to the banks” and noting that “critics of Mugabe” (who are Western-backed) don’t like the military because it favors Mugabe and the Zanu-PF. [3]

Other bourgeois media have described what they say is happenning. BBC held a similar line to Al Jazeera, claiming that the army’s move may “be a bid to replace Mr Mugabe with his sacked deputy,” noting that revisionist China “says it is closely watching the situation” closely (implying possible involvement of the Chinese social-imperialists), claiming that that “this military action is the old guard reasserting its authority,” and saying that Gen Chiwenga, a friend of Emmerson Mnangagwa, was recently “sacked” by Mugabe. [4] Anti-imperialism.org partially reviews other media outlets, noting that Mugabe and his wife are apparently “secured under house arrest,” The Guardian continues to support “the coup overwhelmingly [with] hands begin[ning] to point to british/south african collusion” while the Zimbabwean bourgeoisie complained “of political uncertainty just before coup” as claimed by the Zimbabwe Independent (opposition rag), the New York Times penning an “article in explicit support of the coup leaders…while endorsing the ascension of a 75 year old man, older than the oldest amerikan president-elect.” They added that

…the politics of peripheral states are rarely their own, and the likelihood of imperial machinations at work in the current powerplay are high. The pro-monopoly capital leanings of Mnangagwa suggest he could be supported by either the u.$. or uk…As is often said in military coups, the commander in charge has expressed vague platitudes of democracy and constitutionalism as the justification for the move, stating that civil order will be restored shortly…It is unclear what role the UN and AU is to play in this transition, but given recent threats by the UN sanction-regime which has been harassing regional governments suspected of undermining the blockade imposed over the DPRK, it is clear nothing good will come of it…The confusion caused by misinformation promoted by coup leaders, along with the imperialists in their premature victory-lap, has created a difficult scenario for getting reliable information from the country.

The Washington Post held a similar line. They bellowed that Mugabe led “the country from the triumph of its independence struggle to economic collapse,” with now, the “world’s oldest head of state becam[ing] a prisoner of the military he once commanded” and basically endorsing the coup my saying the military’s move “appears to end one of Africa’s most controversial political dynasties while raising questions about what might come next.” [5] They go on to gush that “this appears to be a watershed moment for Zimbabwe and southern Africa, which have suffered from the tumult of Mugabe’s reign…the events bore all the signs of a coup…the commander of Zimbabwe’s military forces, Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, made the move as a struggle over who will succeed the country’s elderly leader came to a head. Mugabe…in recent years, as Mugabe’s presidency was marred by allegations of corruption, nepotism and repression…In recent weeks, there have been signs of an increased sensitivity to criticism of the government.” One article linked to is by the Associated Press quotes the U$ State Department as saying that the murderous empire is “concerned by recent actions undertaken by Zimbabwe’s military forces,” calling for restraint but has been in contact (is it a U$-backed coup?) with “Zimbabwe’s military [coup plotters] and foreign affairs ministry.” [6]

With Reuters saying that the military swept “into power,” CBS News declaring that “who will rule Zimbabwe should become clearer in the coming days,” and the Washington Post editorial board declaring that “his removal could “pull a once-prospering country from the ditch into which Mr. Mugabe drove it” as they endorsed the coup by saying “some reports suggest that Mr. Mnangagwa, if put in power, could reverse some of the regime’s worst mistakes…the end of Mr. Mugabe’s rule offers a fragile opportunity to rescue an African country — but only if it does not lead to the installation of another strongman.” [7] Then there’s other media, like USA Today, NPR, saying that Mugabe’s tenure recently has “been marked by human rights abuses and economic collapse” or ” international alienation and economic collapse,” others calling him a tyrant and “authoritarian.” Some in the Bloomberg News said that the coup would extend Zimbabwe’s “reign of terror” with  generals “paved the way for the dictator to be replaced by one of his henchmen” in the mind of bourgeois scholar Eli Lake, and others claiming that Mugabe transformed from “his transformation from a national liberation icon to an autocrat.” [8] Other media said that the coup would be opening a “door to freedom” and end “economic collapse.”

What does Zimbabwe’s state media say?

They quote a statement by the Zanu-PF’s Youth Executive League saying that “we will not sit idly and fold our hands whilst cheap potshots and threats are made against the legitimate and popularly elected leader…Robert Gabriel Mugabe.” They add that “we are, however, totally against the bulk of the press statement issued by General Chiwenga yesterday” and believe that this is not a view held by the whole military. They end by saying that “it is our country and future at stake and we will not let any individual military man interfere with the leader of the party and legitimately voted President of this country Cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe…We, therefore, call upon all the youth of Zimbabwe regardless of their political affiliation, race, gender or creed to stand up and be counted when the time comes.” A report seemingly indicate that there is “business as usual” in Haare, Zimbabwe’s capital. Other articles showed that the electoral act in the country will soon be amended, that some support (like the war vets) the military’s position while opposing the views of the Zanu-PF’s Youth Executive League. Then they  reprint a speech by the Zimbabwean military on national tv, the one often quoted by bourgeois media. It should be quoted in full here (bolding is my emphasis with two links added in the beginning):

Fellow Zimbabweans, following the address we made on 13 November 2017 which we believe our main broadcaster, ZBC and The Herald were directed not to publicise, the situation in our country has moved to another level. Firstly, we wish to assure the nation that His Excellency, The President, of the Republic of Zimbabwe, and Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Cde R.G. Mugabe and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed. We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice. As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy. To the civil servants, as you are aware, there is a plan by the same individuals to influence the current purging which is place in the political sphere to the civil service. We are against that act of injustice and we intend to protect every one of you against that. To the judiciary, the measures underway are intended to ensure that, as an independent arm of the State, you are able to exercise your independent authority without fear of being obstructed as has been the case with this group of individuals. To our Members of Parliament, your legislative role is of paramount importance for peace and stability in this country and it is our desire that a dispensation is created that allows you to serve your respective political constituencies according to democratic tenets. To the generality of the people of Zimbabwe, we urge you to remain calm and limit unnecessary movement. However, we encourage those who are employed and those with essential business in the city to continue their normal activities as usual. Our wish is that you enjoy your rights and freedoms and that we return our country to a dispensation that allows for investment, development and prosperity that we all fought for and for which many of our citizens paid the supreme sacrifice. To political parties, we urge you to discourage your members from engaging in violent behaviour. To the youths, we call upon you to realise that the future of this country is yours. Do not be enticed with dirty coins of silver, be disciplined and remain committed to the ethos and values of this great nation. To all Churches and religious organisations in Zimbabwe, we call upon you and your congregations to pray for our country and preach the gospel of love, peace, unity and development. To both our people and the world beyond our borders, we wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover of Government. What the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is doing is to pacify a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country which if not addressed may result in violent conflict. We call upon all the war veterans to play a positive role in ensuring peace, stability and unity in the country. To members of the Defence Forces, all leave is cancelled and you are all to return to your barracks with immediate effect. To our respected traditional leaders, you are the custodians of our culture, customs, traditions and heritage and we request you to provide leadership and direction to your communities for the sake of unity and development in our country. To the other Security Services, we urge you to cooperate for the good of our country. Let it be clear that we intend to address the human security threats in our country. Therefore any provocation will be met with an appropriate response. To the media, we urge you to report fairly and responsibly. Thank you.

So other than not calling this a military coup, they seem to be calling for allies across Zimbabwean society, including those in the defense forces, and trying to “restore order” by removing the “bad people” from the government, then threatening anyone that challenges their attempt for order. This should make anyone wary, but it seems to sound like an intra-party struggle which is why the “opposition” is not happy.

Then there’s a reprinted speech by General Chiwenga. It is as follows with bolding as needed on certain aspects:

Let us begin by quoting the Constitution of this Country particularly the preamble which speaks of “Exalting and extolling the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives during the Chimurenga/Umvukela and national liberation struggles and honouring our forebears and compatriots who toiled for the progress of our country”. It is with humility and a heavy heart that we come before you to pronounce the indisputable reality that there is instability in Zanu-PF today and as a result anxiety in the country at large. Zimbabwe’s history is hinged on the ideals of the revolution dating back to the First Chimurenga where thousands of people perished. Zanu-PF is the political Party that waged the Second Chimurenga for our independence; the struggle that caused the loss of over 50 thousand lives of our people; the struggle in which many Zimbabweans, in one way or the other, sacrificed and contributed immensely for our liberation. Many of these gallant fighters still live-on with the spirited hope of seeing a prosperous Zimbabwe but also the hope of leaving behind inheritance and legacy for posterity. It is pertinent to restate that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces remain the major stockholder in respect to the gains of the liberation struggle and when these are threatened we are obliged to take corrective measures. Clearly, Zanu-PF having mainly been the only Party that has ruled this country since Independence, it had become a household name to most Zimbabweans across political divide. Therefore, it is common cause that any instability within the Party naturally impacts on their social, political and economic lives, accordingly, there is distress, trepidation and despondence within the nation. Our peace-loving people who have stood by their Government and endured some of the most trying social and economic conditions ever experienced are extremely disturbed by what is happening within the ranks of the national revolutionary Party. What is obtaining in the revolutionary Party is a direct result of the machinations of counter revolutionaries who have infiltrated the Party and whose agenda is to destroy it from within. It is saddening to see our revolution being hijacked by agents of our erstwhile enemies who are now at the brink of returning our country to foreign domination against which so many of our people perished. The famous slogan espoused by His Excellency, The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Cde R. G. Mugabe: “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again” is being seriously challenged by counter revolutionary infiltrators who are now effectively influencing the direction of the Party. It is our strong and deeply considered position that if drastic action is not taken immediately, our beloved country Zimbabwe is definitely headed to becoming a neo-colony again. The current purging and cleansing process in Zanu-PF which so far is targeting mostly members associated with our liberation history is a serious cause for concern to us in the Defence Forces. As a result of squabbling within the ranks of Zanu-PF, there has been no meaningful development in the country for the past 5 years. The resultant economic impasse has ushered-in more challenges to the Zimbabwean populace such as cash shortages and rising commodities prices. Our revolutionary path is replete with conduct and rebellion by people who have attempted to destroy the revolution from within. The formation of FROLIZI, the attempt to remove the late Cde Chitepo from his position of Chairman at the Mumbwa bogus Congress in 1973, the Nhari-Badza rebellion, Ndabaningi Sithole rebellion soon after the death of Cde Chitepo, the Vashandi 1 and 2 as well as the rebellion that led to the death of the late ZIPRA Commander, Cde Alfred Nikita Mangena, among others are cases in point. Therefore, the current shenanigans by people who do not share the same liberation history of Zanu-PF Party are not a surprise to us. But, what is significant to us and the generality of Zimbabweans is to remember that all these rebellions were defused by the military, but at no point did the military usurp power. We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting out revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in. ZANU PF’s standing political virtues are a product of faithful adherence to the founding values, decorum, discipline and revolutionary protocol in the ruling Party. Party orders were strictly adhered to and whatever differences existed, they were resolved amicably and in the ruling Party’s closet. Unfortunately since the turn of 2015, Zanu-PF’s traditional protocol and procedures have been changed with a lot of gossiping, backbiting and public chastisement being the order of the day. Indeed the Party is undoing its legacy built over the years. While our people may be persuaded to take what is going on in Zanu-PF as internal political matters in that Party, the truth remains that Zanu-PF’s conduct and behaviour as a ruling Party has a direct impact on the lives of every citizen; hence all of us regardless of political affiliation are affected by the Party’s manner of doing business. From a security point of view we cannot ignore the experiences of countries such as Somalia, DRC, Central Africa Republic and many others in our region where minor political differences degenerated into serious conflict that had decimated the social, political and economic security of ordinary people. Section 212 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe mandates the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to protect Zimbabwe, its people, its national security and interests and its territorial integrity and to uphold this Constitution. Among other security threats that are coming out of what is obtaining in Zanu-PF are there reckless utterances by politicians denigrating the military which are causing despondency within the rank and file. Further, we not with concern the attempts by some politicians to drive a wedge between the security services for their own selfish interests. This is unacceptable. We take great exception to this behaviour. There is only one Commander-in-Chief, His Excellency The President, Head of State and Government and Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Cde R. G. Mugabe. The military in an institution whose roles cut across the wider spectrum of Government support functions in the form of Military Aid to Civil Power and Military Aid to Civil Ministries, which are roles derived from Defence Instruments. Therefore we want to state here and now that the history of our revolution cannot be rewritten by those who have not been part of it. Having said that we strongly urge the Party: To stop reckless utterances by politicians from the ruling Party denigrating the military which is causing alarm and despondency within the rank and file. The current purging of which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background must stop forthwith. The known counter revolutionary elements who have fermented the current instability in the Party must be exposed and fished out. As the Party goes for the Extra-Ordinary Congress, must go with equal opportunity to exercise their democratic rights. Comrades and friends, ladies and gentlemen, we remain committed to protecting our legacy and those bent on high-jacking the revolution will not be allowed to do so. Further, we must understand that the freedoms that we enjoy today were as a result of supreme sacrifice by some of our country men and women and this must not be taken for granted. Let us remove this air of uncertainty and allow Zimbabweans to enjoy their freedoms and rights as enshrined in the national Constitution.

Along with the attacks on Zanu-PF policies for the past few years, what he is saying again seems to indicate this is an intra-party struggle, specifically to rid “traitorous” elements from the Zanu-PF. Does that mean they oppose Mugabe sacking Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa? After all, he has, along with other political players “positioning themselves for the day Mugabe either steps down or dies,” with Mnangagwa reportedly envisioning

“cooperating with Tsvangirai to lead a transitional government for five years with the tacit backing of some of Zimbabwe’s military and Britain. This unity government would pursue a new relationship with thousands of white farmers who were chased off in violent seizures of land approved by Mugabe in the early 2000s. The farmers would be compensated and reintegrated…Tsvangirai, a 65-year-old former union leader who enjoys broad popular support, told Reuters in an interview in June he would not rule out a coalition with political opponents, such as Mnangagwa…According to the intelligence reports, Mugabe got wind of Mnangagwa’s ideas about white farmers earlier this year…The intelligence reports say that some of Mugabe’s army generals are starting to swallow their disdain for Tsvangirai, who, as a former union leader rather than liberation veteran, has never commanded the respect of the military…The tipping point came in 2000 when Mugabe approved radical land reforms that encouraged veterans from the fight for liberation to occupy some 4,000 white-owned commercial farms…The tipping point came in 2000 when Mugabe approved radical land reforms that encouraged veterans from the fight for liberation to occupy some 4,000 white-owned commercial farms…According to the intelligence files, Mnangagwa’s overtures to Tsvangirai and white farmers became apparent in early 2015 amid bitter strife within the ZANU-PF party…According to the intelligence reports, Mutsvangwa is a middleman between various parties involved in a possible coalition government…Senior figures in Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF…have acknowledged…that white farmers should be compensated for their losses two decades ago, although talks with farmers have yet to produce any major breakthrough” [9]

How all this matters to

I’ve written before on this blog about how Zimbabwe is under attack, meaning that it is a duty of comrades to engage in international solidarity with these states and any others that stand “against the existing social and political order of things.” I also wrote about how “Black nationalist Robert Mugabe led the liberation struggle of the then-Maoist Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe, alongside the more moderate Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu-PF,” and in the process he did not go to “the US asking for help to fight the white colonists.” I also noted how The Herald honored the “DPRK’s efforts at self-defense on its islands, with its power stations, and continuing to build their form of socialism based on the masses,” that Zimbabwe was one of the countries at the conference on Palestine in Tehran with Jacob Francis Mudenda, the current Speaker of Zimbabwe’s National Assembly, condemning “Zionist Israel for construction of illegal settlements, [and] praised the role of Iran in the region, and reaffirmed Zimbabwe’s support for Palestine until it turned “into a full-fledged and established country.”” With the orange menace’s administration, he acts as a “bully for Western capitalists to gain new markets,” with Zimbabwe remaining “under imperialist assault,” continuing what happened under Obama’s administration. This isn’t a surprise since “enemies” of empire with a leader who described Fidel Castro’s death as the lose of a “farewell revolutionary [saying]…We shall always remember you as our own in the same way as Cubans will do so and that is the spirit that brings me and my delegation here” and allowing Mengistu to flee into exile there. Finally, in my imagined scenario for Cuba, I noted how NED described Zimbabwe (along with Burma, DPRK, and Cuba) as a “harsh dictatorship” which is laughable.

But there is more to this story. Already we know that every day the bourgeois media in the West “concocts another story” about the “faults” of Mugabe with human rights imperialist orgs joining in, with the “revolutionary state of Zimbabwe is rocked by political turmoil because the pro-U$ opposition leads to polarization, not due to the policies of Mugabe and the ruling Zanu-PF party.” Back in February I further noted that Zimbabwe’s history dates back to years before “the first White imperialist would be out of their womb” and that various societies “constituted a developed (and advanced) Zimbabwean culture lasted a total of a thousand years” while by 1889,

the British South African Company came to Zimbabwe, later naming it “Rhodesia” after British imperialist Cecil Rhodes. Not only did this name override the indigenous name of Zimbabwe…but it showed that the age of imperialist exploitation was at hand…This exploitation went beyond the erasure of culture. In the economy of Southern Africa and Rhodesia under British colonialism, Africans were treated as cheap labor…In the years that followed, the British South African Company continued to control the British colony of Rhodesia…[by 1923] with the settlers with official power, the British monarch in the colony itself [was]…represented by the governor and there were “British errand boys” who lived as White settlers…the “rich and fertile land” was occupied by White settlers and the “sandy, semi-dry land” given to Black Africans…[by] 1957, a chapter of African National Congress (ANC) organized in the country, led by Joshua Nkomo, with the chapter joining the ANC in South Africa…In the 1960s, the anti-colonial struggle in Zimbabwe heated up…[a] conflict between Zapu and Zanu erupted. At times it became violent. While some may be included to do so, it is wrong to discount the Zanu group wholesale…Mozambique, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, and Angola, supported the guerillas with training areas and pitched camps…As a result of Chinese support, Zanu was transformed from a splinter organization into a full-fledged participant of the liberation struggle…With financial interests in White-ruled Africa, Africans continued to be oppressed by about two hundred British firms in companies led by a small “White group of capitalists””

In the next article of the series I noted how during the revolutionary struggle in Zimbabwe, “Zapu and the ANC were close to the Soviet Union, Zanu was supported by Beijing, allowing the revolutionary group to prosecute a war of liberation, with Chinese aid as a contributing factor to victory.” By 1974, Sithole was pushed out of the leadership, “with Mugabe put in his place, and fully taking control of Zanu after the death of Herbert Chitepo in 1975.” The rest is history:

…Mugabe, unlike Nkomo, was a radical nationalist and he opposed settlement with the White settler government and that he remained suspicious of numerous commanders of the armed military wing, ZANLA…In 1979, the liberation war, militarily at least, seemed to be coming to an end…Mugabe was very open to the changes to come in the future…in 1979, when military victory seemed in view, two new African leaders betrayed the Zimbabwean liberation struggle, showing their opportunism and the fact they were no friends of African liberation. Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Samora Machel of Mozambique…demanded that Mugabe’s Zanu’s guerrillas forces…could not use their countries as bases to launch attacks on the UDI government. This forced Mugabe to the negotiating table. If these liberation forces had been allowed to win militarily, there is no doubt that Zimbabwe would have been a different country…the Lancaster Agreement…signed on December 17, 1979…include[d a] phased British withdrawal, but the nation was reverted to colonial status before it was declared independent in April 1980…In April 1980, in elections allowed under the Lancaster Agreement, Mugabe became the Prime Minister of the free nation, the Republic of Zimbabwe…Surviving two assassination attempts by White Zimbabweans during the campaign, since he seemed “terrifying” due to his comments during the war and Marxist outlook, he took more a conciliatory approach once in office. This was arguably a betrayal of the liberation struggle itself…In Zimbabwe, such neocolonialism was put in place in a manner which hurt the well-being of the populace. During Mugabe’s time as prime minister of Zimbabwe, he lived in highly fortified residences, Zimbabwe received Western aid in hopes of pacifying the government, and the UK funded a land redistribution program…One can say that Mugabe and the Zanu-PF did not do this willingly…the Chinese revisionists…told Mugabe to not follow Mao’s model of Chinese socialism…This cozying up to the West, forced on them by the Lancaster Agreement and British imperial dominance, led to military material from Europeans going to the new “independent” government…by the 1990s, the situation in Zimbabwe was changing…. As a government that was short on cash, the Zanu-PF government began an IMF Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP), with similar programs pushed by the U$ across the world, leading to a program of austerity which hurt the populace for years to come, while also weakening the government…This IMF prescribed program, lasting from 1991 to 1995, resulted in scarce foreign exchange, destruction of domestic industry, many consumer goods became unobtainable, and thousands of civil servants fired, but Mugabe was arguably forced into this position, with the country opened to foreign investment.

In the next article in my series on Zimbabwe, I commented on how starting in 1966 the “neo-colonial chains, of the post-independence period, began to be broken” with the Zanu-PF government moving away from ESAP. By 1997 the

chains holding Zimbabwe to Britain were completely snapped. The government began to seize land owned by a “handful of white farmers”…After failing to undertake the IMF’s “reforms” as quickly as they wanted, the assurances the British government made in 1979…were rejected by the New Labour government controlled by Tony Blair…In 1998, Zimbabwe snubbed the Western capitalists yet again. With his land program, resistance to IMF programs by adopting Black nationalist economic measures hostile to the West, and support for the new government of Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)…one could say that Kabila’s government may have been progressive but it had a bourgeoisie…By 1999, opposition formed from angry White farmers whose land was expropriated and redistributed justly to Black families. This included the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change or MDC…The boldness of the Zimbabwean government led to anger from Western capitalist governments and the capitalist class for years to come…While Mugabe is clearly an African nationalist leading a country with a developed black bourgeoisie and the policies of Zanu-PF are progressive at best, the Western capitalists would not relent in their assault…The redistribution of White farms to the Zimbabwean populace, even as every White farmer was allowed to control individual, single farms…was begun in a way that shocked Western capitalists…The White farmers who used their money and wealth to try and stop the Zanu-PF in the ownership of natural resources by the Zimbabwean populace, and reclaiming White land for indigenous Black farmers, were not alone…[in the mid-2000s] the Zimbabwean parliament passed a law to move the fast-track land redistribution effort forward. The law, which nationalized land that had been redistributed…was a victory for Black nationalism…[in 2009 with power-sharing with the MDC,] Mugabe still refused Western demands he “step aside,” knowing that it would let neo-colonialism back into the country…six years later [in 2016], Zimbabwe got past this hurdle and the government nationalized the mines…which a Chinese company challenged, wanting to extract as much profit as possible, showing that the country is not a “colony” of China

In my final article in my series on Zimbabwe I noted how in 2013 there was an election where the “chains of neo-colonialism were broken” with Black nationalism again victorious with proposals including one that “prevented legal challenges to the land redistribution program” approved by a wide margin, along with a new Constitution for the Republic of Zimbabwe which

 It is progressive, while calling for good governance, national unity, fostering (and respecting) fundamental rights, fair and “Pan-African” foreign policy. Additionally, it calls for rapid and equitable development, empowerment, food security, “gender balance,” and fair regional representation…It declares the country will help children, youth, elderly, and people with disabilities, favoring vets of the liberation struggle, and have reasonable work and labor policies. The Constitution also says there will be promotion of free and gender equal education, provision of social welfare, legal aid, and so on. It…says that every person has a right to life, meaning that there are limits on the death penalty, and right of personal liberty. The document also outlines rights of arrested persons, the right to dignity, the right to personal security, the right to privacy, the right to freedom of association, and freedom of conscience. Additionally, it talks about the expanse of labor rights, certain property rights, environmental rights, right to pension benefits, and a right to education. Importantly, to protect it from imperialist subversion, it says that there will limits on rights, especially during a public emergency.

I also wrote about a Zanu-PF manifesto that argued in favor of “land reform programme and other empowerment policies,” along with “party promises to deepen unity, security, independence, and respect for liberation,”  saying they will not be “stopped by foreign imperialists,” that the state should be used as a “”revolutionary instrument” to reclaim land from White settlers and redistribute it to the Black populace,” and that the “Zanu-PF, representing the interests of the country’s national bourgeoisie, including Black farmers and wealthy Black investors, continued to look to China.” I added that

Mugabe said that he wanted to expand his “indigenization” policy, while social-imperialist China remained a major supporter of the country, supporting Mugabe’s “Look East” policy which “offered priority to Chinese investment and capital from other Asian states”…there was even a specific effort to warn South Africa to not emulate Zimbabwe’s form of land reform…Grace [Mugabe, Robert Mugabe’s wife] has a prominent place in the Zanu-PF, which is good to fight off such pathetic assertions by the Western media and shows that she is not sitting on the sidelines…Ewan Mawaire’s “ThisFlag” movement…is clearly Western-backed and another form of imperial destablization…the two countries [China and Zimbabwe] still have very friendly relations…2017, has already been eventful for Zimbabwe. For one, the IMF declared that more reforms were needed and Tsvangirai…claimed to look “beyond Mugabe,” whatever that means…there was a push for a more united Zanu-PF…Zanu-PF is focusing on the 2018 elections…it should concern people little if Mugabe has a person to continue strong black nationalism and anti-imperialism after he passes from this world, or not.

Now it has been nine months since I wrote that article. I won’t venture to summarize what has happened in the nine months since I wrote my last piece. However, I will say that it seems that a power struggle is going on in Zimbabwe without a doubt. It does not seem to be a coup at this time. I don’t say that because I believe in the coup plotters and I definitely do not believe the narrative pushed by the bourgeois media. I stand by what I wrote in the past on this subject and what I wrote on reddit last month, with links removed:

“I know that Zimbabwe has a black bourgeoisie and that the Zanu-PF is not a communist party. However, Mugabe (and the Zanu-PF) has served as a powerful force to resist Western imperialism, especially with his land redistribution program which assisted the black masses in Zimbabwe. Lest us not forget that the Chinese [social-imperialists] strongly support Zimbabwe due to their history of supporting the Zanu-PF (as did the Cubans) during the revolt against the British colonial oppressors, while the Zapu-PF were supported by the Soviets. By the later 1990s, the neo-colonial chains in Zimbabwe were finally broken which the government had felt forced to keep, and/or went along with, in the aftermath of independence. At this current time, I think supporting the Zanu-PF is the best course of action”

Adding to that, I do not think that the black bourgeoisie are souring on Mugabe as some seem to indicate. I think Mugabe even with his age is wise and a master politician to put it lightly. He is not a socialist or a Marxist anymore. However, without him or the Zanu-PF then Western capitalists would be smiling with glee. We can be critical of Zimbabwe but we should not abandon our solidarity with the Zimbabwean people or in this case the Zimbabwean government which is standing against Western imperialism and is duly elected by the populace. In coming days, I plan to, at some point, write an update of this article after it is clear if a coup took place or if it is an intra-party struggle within the Zanu-PF which seems more likely than not.


Notes

[1] Others wrote that “the main opposition within the country…isnt super involved in this…this seems to be more an internal power struggle within the ZANU-PF. The army has said before that they wouldn’t allow anyone who didn’t take part in the revolution war itself to lead the country next…I am more curious about if the accusations against the VP hold water…Whatever disagreements exist, its clear that the overwhelming majority of the people in Zimbabwe love their revolution.”

[2] Al Jazeera, “Zimbabwe: What’s happening?,” accessed Nov 15, 2017.

[3] Al Jazeera, “Zimbabwe army takes control but denies coup,” Nov 15, 2017.

[4] BBC News, “Zimbabwe crisis: Army takes over, says Mugabe is safe,” Nov 15, 2017.

[5] In Zimbabwe, an anxious wait to see if Mugabe will return after military takeover,” Washington Post, Nov. 15, 2017.

The Latest: Zimbabwe youth leader apologizes to army leaders,” Nov 15, 2017.

[7] Ed Cropley and Cris Chinaka, “Eyes on the ‘Crocodile’ as Zimbabwe Military Sweeps to Power,” Reuters (reprinted in US News & World Report), Nov 15, 2017; CBS News/AP, “U.S. monitoring “fluid” situation in Zimbabwe,” Nov 15, 2017; Washington Post Editorial Board, “What happens in Zimbabwe without Mugabe in power?,” Washington Post, Nov 15, 2017; Godwin Mangudya, “Zimbabwe grapples with new reality after military sidelines longtime President Robert Mugabe,” USA Today, Nov 15, 2017; Edyer Peralta,”Robert Mugabe: A Legacy Of Tyrannical Rule, Economic Ruin And International Isolation,” NPR, Nov 15, 2017; Robyn Dixon, “Zimbabwe military warns it will act against those who do not cooperate,” LA Times, Nov 15, 2017.

[8] Eli Lake, “A Half-Hearted Coup, Extending Zimbabwe’s Reign of Terror,” Bloomberg View, Nov 15, 2017; Leonid Bershidsky, “Zimbabwe’s Coup Is Nothing to Celebrate,” Bloomberg View, Nov 15, 2017; Mxolisi Ncube and Ryan Lenora Brown, “Amid apparent coup, Zimbabwe ponders a future without Mugabe,” Christian Science Monitor, Nov 15, 2017; Geoffrey York, “The Globe in Zimbabwe: End of Mugabe’s 37-year rule opens door to freedom,” The Globe and Mail, Nov 15, 2017; “Zimbabwe: Here’s what’s going on between President Robert Mugabe and the military,” ABC News, Nov 15, 2017; Todd Moss and Jeffrey Smith, “Robert Mugabe’s Inner Circle Implodes,” The Atlantic, Nov 15, 2017; Alastair Jamieson, “Zimbabwe army has Robert Mugabe in custody and seizes state TV,” NBC News, Nov 15, 2017; Jason Burke, “Zimbabwe army has Robert Mugabe in custody and seizes state TV,” The Guardian, Nov 15, 2017; Explosions, military tanks and soldiers on streets of Zimbabwe put Mugabe’s rule in doubt,” Washington Times, Nov 14, 2017; Tara John, “Rumors of a Coup Are Circling Around Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. Here’s What We Know,” Time, Nov 14, 2017. The CBS/AP report quoted the US State Department as saying that “the United States does not take sides in matters of internal Zimbabwean politics and does not condone military intervention in political processes,” which is utter BS as anyone knows.

[9] Joe Brock and Ed Cropley, “Behind the scenes, Zimbabwe politicians plot post-Mugabe reforms,” Reuters, Sept 5, 2017.

The hideous nature of Matt Taibbi: bourgeois trash of the highest order

A photograph of Matt Taibbi. And yes, he did say that as I note later in this article.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on June 11, 2017.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made.

I could have written about many topics today such as U$ special ops troops in the Philippines, the victory of social democrat Jeremy Corbyn in Britain (which some have discussed at length), or the kerfuffle between Qatar and other Gulf autocracies, among a litany of other topics. Instead, I write here today a criticism of Matthew “Matt” C. Taibbi, a bourgeois writer who claims to care about “income inequality” or the effects of capitalism, while ignoring the system itself.

Tarzie’s criticism

Tarzie has written about Taibbi before, who some call a “fake leftist.” While back in 2011 Taibbi was quoted in a supportive manner, when it came to criticizing columnist Thomas Friedman, three years later, in 2014, that had changed. He described Taibbi as a Rolling Stone reporter who was “the latest trophy taken in Pierre Omidyar’s conquest of the fashionably leftish” and admitted that Taibbi’s work on Wall Street teaches him “things I don’t already know, in a style that frequently makes me laugh out loud” while the same is not the case for Glenn Greenwald (of course). He added that Taibbi has “crossed picket lines during a Writer’s Guild strike in 2008” to appear on late night TV, thinks Roe v. Wade should be overturned, feels that there shouldn’t be a  “Federal ban on anti-LGBQT discrimination” and considers himself a libertarian. Furthermore, Tarzie quotes from Walter Glass, and notes that Taibbi glosses over the effect of the corporate sector on places like Camden, New Jersey, and says that Taibbi is a “rich dude telling tales on the worst-behaved members of his class, while pleading the case for their reformability” and is a perfect “fit for an oligarch, just as he is.” Later that year, Tarzie criticized Taibbi again, saying he would hold a “no-holds-barred discussion” for Greenwald’s book tour.

There are only two other articles, to my knowledge, in which Tarzie criticizes Taibbi. One of them says that Taibbi left First Look by writing a piece earlier that year that “looks unmistakably like a warning and a cry for help” and that “we” missed the signs of this. The final one is written the following year, in February 2015, notes how former First Look writer, Ken Silverstein complained about the latter’s handling of “Racket” which was planned to a “satirical newsmagazine” headed by Taibbi which folded shortly after he left, wasting millions of dollars, which he called “the greatest squandering of money and example of criminal ineptitude in the history of modern journalism.” He goes on to quote Silverstein as saying that Taibbi “is definitely more likable than Glenn” who he says has a troubling role in First Look.

It is there that his criticism of Taibbi ends. From this point, this article will expand and augment what Tarzie had to say with principled criticism.

Taibbi shills for empire

Three days ago, Joe Emersberger wrote an article for Telesur English slamming Taibbi for taking the side of U$ imperialists by calling duly-elected (but embattled due to internal and external pressures caused by the murderous empire) President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, a “dictator.” The article, reprinted on a pro-Chavista and respected news outlet, Venezuela Analysis. Emersberger notes how Taibbi attacked the Venezuelan government as a “dictatorship” by citing US-funded opposition figures like Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly, and Henrique Capriles, the opposition governor of the state of Miranda, who had run against Maduro in the election. Clearly, Taibbi forgets that these individuals are working for the empire, even as he alludes that Borges “has been using his position as head to the National Assembly to try to get economic sanctions implemented against Maduro’s government.” That’s not all.

Emersberger goes on to criticize Taibbi even more harshly. He notes how bourgeois media “has almost unanimously reported from the U.S.-backed opposition’s point of view” evidenced when a “prominent U.S. progressive like Taibbi chimes in from that perspective” (I think he is over-inflating Taibbi’s importance here). Then, he goes into an example about what he would think about direct Russian interference in the U$ political process. He adds that the government of Venezuela “has been very tolerant of U.S.-backed subversion” and that “protests dominated the coverage and that denunciations of the government…were given ample attention.” Hence, he notes that even Reuters admits that private broadcasters give “equal weight to opposition and government leaders and supporters in broadcasts.” He argues that this does “happen in a dictatorship” even though “serious criticisms can be made about Venezuela’s democracy” which I think it too much of a concession to bourgeois media. He ends by saying that “Taibbi should know better than to trust the establishment media within this imperial club to define who should be labelled a dictator.”

Taibbi’s article is even worse (do not read this unless you really want to) than Emersberger makes it out to be. It is titled “Two Vile Names, One Sweetheart Deal: Goldman Bails Out Maduro” with the subtitle “The Vampire Squid rescues an infamous autocrat.” For a magazine like Rolling Stone which has basically lost most if not all of its credibility from the fake rape story to other problematic stories, it is not a surprise that he wrote this op-ed. His short piece makes it seem that Goldman Sachs AND Venezuela’s government are “amoral and corrupt institutions.” This is utterly false. While he makes a valid point that Goldman Sachs is the “symbol of international predatory capitalism,” he seems to miss the point that Venezuela is bad straits because of the murderous empire. He does call Maduro an “infamous left-wing dictator” but he also calls the government of Venezuela “authoritarian,” citing sources such as the New York Times, Forbes (which Taibbi admitted years earlier was “very bank-friendly“), The Telegraph, New York Post, Miami Herald, Times of London, and so on.

That’s not all. He seems to mock the idea that Venezuela’s problems are part of an U$ “economic war” and calls the government of that country “Maduro’s regime,” even though he is only one figure in the government. He then goes on to mock Goldman Sachs as well,and almost “legitimize” the protests against Venezuela’s government by saying “more than 50 people have died in protests over the past two months, with many more injured and arrested.” He also claims that Maduro’s action represents the “ultimate in cynicism, and one likely to have dire consequences for a country already on the brink.” He then snarls at this attempt by the Venezuelan government to save itself…

It’s a good thing Karl Marx is dead, because otherwise this metaphysical mind-loop of a news story would make his head explode. Is this a corruption of capitalism, a corruption of socialism, both, or neither? Maduro himself would probably say this transaction is a perfect example of the “savage capitalism” he says he despises.

Again, this should be no surprise coming from a man such as Taibbi who cannot seem to think beyond capitalism in any way, shape, or form. Saying he is glad Marx is dead is anti-communist in the fullest extent, there is no doubt. As a result, he probably has NOT read the Communist Manifesto and hence does not know this part of the manifesto:

…the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things. In each of these moves they bring to the front, as the leading question in each case, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time…they labor everywhere for the union and agreement of democratic parties of all countries.

In my interpretation, the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela could fall into a “revolutionary movement.” Hence, it would be a duty of comrades to engage in international solidarity with this  movement and any othrs that stand “against the existing social and political order of things” which does NOT include the “good” Kurds, the ones the U$ backs in Syria.

Of course, as Marx and Engels said in the Communist Manifesto, the bourgeoisie, represented by Goldman Sachs in this case, as the need of gaining an expanding market for its products and hence must “nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.” Hence, countries like Venezuela, that resist U$ and Western imperialism, are affected by global capitalism, so they end up making agreements like this one with Goldman Sachs for their survival. While some may cringe, rightly so at such a capitalist concession, as the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures.

The Taibbi who you (should) love to hate

A skimming of his Rolling Stone contributor’s profile shows him as “pro-Democrat,” favoring the milquetoast “resistance” of the orange menace in more ways than one, especially by embracing the whole “Russiagate” cloud of nothingness which is a distraction from the other horrible events instigated by the Orange Menace. Furthermore, he seems to think Vladimir Putin is a horrible, nasty person, again, embracing the Russia hysteria, along with giving social democratic imperialist Bernie Sanders accepting him as “genuine.”

But there is more to Taibbi than that. Tarzie referenced this interview of Taibbi by the libertarian Reason back in 2007. Within this, Taibbi shows that he is a horrid libertarian and supportive of the capitalist system, along with not understanding socialism:

…I think Roe v. Wade should be overturned because I believe in the federalist model; I believe that states should be able to make their own drug laws. The more democracy you have, the more people can make decisions for their own communities, the more freedom people have…There’s more on-the-ground energy for Ron Paul than there is for the rest of the candidates combined…It’s [the war machine] not capitalism at all. It’s more like an authoritarian socialism. It’s forcibly extracting money from the customers and distributing the profits to companies that aren’t selected by market choice but government fiat. Critics call it the free market, but it’s not that at all…America is about getting the government off your back, a reprieve from having your life interfered with, and we keep forgetting that.

With this, not only he endorsing the capitalist ideology but he is also embracing the idea of Amerikan exceptionalism as some call it. Basically he is not OK with progressive efforts to stand against fast food industries or even moves that increase government control in a way to help people’s lives. Of course such governments are usually not socialist and these measures are reformist, but they are not inherently “evil” or “bad.”

There are further viewpoints of Taibbi which are repugnant. For one, he admires Andrew Breitbart to an extent, apart from accepting the story of the orange menace-Russia collusion he thinks that the Attorney General would be “better” if there is a “career investigator, career law enforcement official in that job” which denies the fact that such individuals are just part of the capitalist system, moving it forward. This so-called “award-winning journalist” buys into the Sanders deception, describing him as a politician who is “completely honest….really interested in…standing up for regular working people” even though he has not done this just like other bourgeois progressives, praising the DOJ as having “political” and “talented and aggressive lawyers”and called Molly Crabapple Klein Crapple a “great artist” even though she doxxed someone [1] for supporting Russian intervention in Syria (which was done with the approval of the Syrian government unlike US-led coalition efforts). Crapple also supported white nationalist Weev/Andrew Auernheimer as OLAASM has pointed out on varied occasions (see here and here). Hence, this endorsement by Taibbi is disgusting to say the least.

This is only scratching the surface of his beliefs. He also grumbles about the “government interfering in a market process” (why is this bad?). Even more than that, he whitewashes slavery as the driving force of U$ capitalism:

You know, America used to be—especially the American economy was built upon this brick-and-mortar industrial economy, where we had factories, we built stuff, and we sold it here in America, and we exported it all over the world. That manufacturing economy was the foundation for our wealth and power for a couple of centuries…whereas the old manufacturing economy had the sort of negative effect of spreading around to the entire population

As Edward Baptist writes in The Half Has Not Been Told (scholarship which was started by Eric Williams in his book Capitalism and Slavery), slavery was tied to every aspect of the U$ economy, with almost a million enslaved laborers moved from the “Upper South” (like Maryland) to “Deep South” (Georgia and Louisiana) in coffles. Furthermore, the industrial workers in the North were making products out of cotton, the same cotton that enslaved laborers had worked all day to pick from fields under the whip of the White slavemaster who whipped them if they disobeyed. Hence, Taibbi is acting like slavery was not part of this, or even mentioning indigenous genocide as a further foundation for settler colonialism in the U$ as the “enlightened” empire grew with its tentacles reaching across the continent.

There are other aspects of Taibbi that make one cringe. He seems to accept the “goodness” of corporations in and of themselves, endorses some austerity (“if someone has to tighten a belt or two, let’s start there”), and strangely called Mitt Romney “a revolutionary, a backward-world version of Che or Trotsky,” bemoaning the “roots of the radical economic changes” despite the fact that he is using the word radical incorrectly while portraying Romney in a weird way. He is also a person who has said that “private equity firms aren’t necessarily evil by definition” and seems to have a soft spot for “businesses that were America’s original industrial cornerstones” whatever that refers to.  Apart from endorsing the Occupy movement despite its bourgeois nature (as we all know by now), he calls the high-ranking people at Bank of Amerika “not bankers or capitalists, but a class of person that was never supposed to exist in America: royalty.” Again, his lack of class analysis and any semblance of radicalism means that he makes bizarre and worthless statements like that which are of no use to anyone. The same goes for his declaration that “we’ve just got to get the right people in the right jobs” if that will really change anything at all.

Taibbi and the past

To close out this article I’d like to look at a few articles looking at Taibbi’s past. The first is a 2010 Vanity Fair article titled “Lost Exile” focusing on the death of a Russian newspaper of the same name co-edited by Taibbi and Mark Ames (who now works for PandoDaily). The article notes that both of them would “prove the hardest-partying Moscow media celebrities of their time” and end up embodying post-Soviet Russia’s “hedonism.” It also claims that Taibbi was a “born journalist” but a person who speculated about a possible “connection” between “apartment-building bombings and Putin’s ratcheting up of the Chechen War” which is used by anti-Putin individuals to this day. The article goes onto say that Taibbi has earned a “reputation as the premier bullshit detector and absurdist on the campaign trail” among many, with some saying like Hunter Thompson he also hated politicians. Later, in response to the writer of the story asking Taibbi questions, he grew increasing agitated after they called his book crap, throwing his coffee over their face, which is actually a bit hilarious.

Farther back are a set of articles in 2005. One claims he has a “fairly sophisticated knowledge of the inner workings of Congress” while others criticize his article for the New York Press titled “The 52 Funniest Things About the Upcoming Death of the Pope” panned by organizations and politicians as “hate speech,” “ugly,” and “disgusting.” Maybe this isn’t a surprise for a person who is an “expatriate-journalist-turned-New-York-writer” who “identified with Russia and its writers Nikolai Gogol, M. Saltikov and Leo Tolstoy” growing up, while “Taibbi’s popularity” rose that year.

Taking all of this into account, Taibbi no doubt has a developed ego which supports his self-promotion on places like Democracy Now! and other places. In those secluded areas, no one dare questions him. He is part of, as some have put it, the “Celebrity Left” or the professional left, individuals who are in a sense “above” others, in terms of criticism and status. Some, like Charles Davis (“Chuckles”) only aspire to this level, while others like Ta-Nahesi Coates and Snowden are already at this level.

Concluding thoughts

There really isn’t much else I’ll say about Taibbi at this time. Some may say that an article like this is unnecessary. I disagree. I think it is important to criticize public personalities like this. Too often, these people are barely criticized and given a free pass. That is not OK under any circumstances. Everyone, including this writer should and can be criticized, but fairly and justly. Self-criticism is important for radical and revolutionary politics as the Black Panthers realized, as did Mao and students of Maoist thought. Perhaps I’ll write another criticism of Glenn Greenwald next (or even “The Intercept”), or about some international issue. But for now, I think this article will stand.


Notes

[1] The person who this seems to refer to is a woman named Taryn Fivek. Tarzie seems to have a beef with her. He first accused her of “smearing for Soros” calling her a “Twitter nuisance, shameless liar and justifiably failed citizen journo” (along with “outright troll”) and wanting to shut down debate on this topic of Soros’s influence on “the Left” in his view. He seems to have forgotten these later tweets (standing by his flawed analysis in another post), although she perhaps should be criticized for this stance:

https://twitter.com/fivek/status/798972924598198272

https://twitter.com/fivek/status/798973167716831232

https://twitter.com/fivek/status/798973604457283592

https://twitter.com/fivek/status/798976072633069568

https://twitter.com/fivek/status/798977409508900864

https://twitter.com/fivek/status/798981208357093376

Later, on Tarzie’s blog, one user describes Fivek is a “self professed red who I’ve not really known but from time to time posted at the same places…she wrote a book under a pseudonym (Emma Quangel) which was essentially a direct attack on Molly Crabapple. Crabapple responded by doxxing Fivek” and that in the fallout of this, someone said that she should “monetize it, leading to whatever this nebulous cesspits” and told Tarzie, “knock this stupid transparent bullshit off because we really don’t need this right now. You can, you know, actually work a job instead of hustling mentally ill people on the internet. And if you actually can’t see through the bullshit start reading everything here to start.” Tarzie responded by saying that “Fivek doesn’t need Hopkins because she knows better” and what she is doing looks “like a paid performance.” Hence, he is still stuck in the mud of Fivek. For a person who defended Fivek and then turns on her for saying the “wrong” things about Soros is cruel and pathetic. This is where Tarzie is wrong. He may have good analysis in other realms, but on Fivek he is completely and utterly wrong. Even so, there may be something valid about Tarzie’s criticism after all.

A bunch of baloney: The Russia “connection”

A scene from “Two Bad Neighbors” (S7E13), a Simpsons episode where Homer fights with George H.W. Bush after Bart accidentally destroys his novel and Bush spanks him

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on May 16, 2017.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made.

Two nights ago, 60 Minutes came on at 7:00. They claimed they had an “exclusive” interview with James Comey, the FBI Director and long-time bureaucrat. It cast Comey as a nice, well-spoken person, not a showboater as the orange menace has called him. Hence, it was, like pieces they have done on Apple, drones, and many other subjects, a puff piece. Since May 9, bourgeois liberals and progressives have been waiving their hands, which has even been joined by “progressive” media like The Real News, putting out three stories trying to attest that Mr. Comey was fired because of (1) the orange menace’s “collusion” with Russia, (2) considering the hypothetical of such interference while claiming there is financial ties between the orange menace and Russia, (3) and acting like the Russia connection is real.

Previously I’ve written about the supposed “connection” between the orange menace and Russia. I’ve argued that the orange menace’s administration was making Russophobic moves, continuing the same policies of the Obama “era,” while also hoping that a pro-Russia approach by such an administration could reduce conflict, and saying that there should be solidarity with those countries under attack by U$ imperialism and against fascism of the orange menace instead of getting “caught up in the supposed…Russia “connection.”” Before that, I said that the orange menace was considering Russia as a partner against terrorism even as he proposed more imperialism to “solve” the problems in the world but warned that tensions with Russia will continue while pointing out Obama’s hawkishness when it came to Russia (and to the rest of the world) with Clinton undoubtedly doing the same, since she likely would have “started WWIII with bombing Russian troops in Syria.” Four months ago, I summed up the whole hullabaloo around this issue, writing (links have been removed for easier reading):

…the anti-Russian campaign [is being] pushed by the Democratic Party, certain Republicans, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, along with internal (FBI) and external (CIA) police of the empire, and “left” journalists of The Intercept like Glenn Greenwald, and other “respected”  publications like Mother Jones…a possible conflict within the administration is brewing about the threat of Russia as some want to take more of a defiant stance and others want to be more cordial…there doesn’t need to be a protest against rapprochement with Russia, but instead against a reactionary Russophobic position by Obama, Clinton, McCain, and the like…[we must] organize to stop the “orange menace” not because of his supposed “friendly” nature with Russia, but for the fascism he will bring to the homefront, imperialist destruction that will rein down on the peoples of Korea, Syria, China, and Iran, and unwavering support for the murderous Zionist state

I still stand by this same viewpoint, but I went through a Wikipedia article titled “Russian interference in the 2016 United States election” so you don’t have to, and what I found confirmed by perceptions. As a disclaimer, this article is NOT favorable to the orange menace in any way, shape or form, but only shows the Russia “connection” as fraudulent based on analysis of existing articles written on the subject and that such bourgeois media that wrote these articles should generally not be trusted.

Muddying through Wikipedia

There is no doubt that like Google, Wikipedia is fundamentally bourgeois, even with the “non-profit” status of the Wikimedia Foundation which controls the site. I say this even as a person who has edited numerous Wikipedia articles myself in hopes to countering bourgeois distortions. The following is a list of sources, with articles in the footnotes, that have been cited as “proof” that there is a Russia connection:

  • Unnamed “U.S. officials,” current and former, always ranging in number, sometimes “senior” and have “access to information,” sometimes in the White House. [1]
  • Unnamed “Western intelligence” officials, either in U.S. or foreign intelligence. [2]
  • Information or reports “obtained by a Western intelligence service” that only the media can see, like a secret CIA assessment. [3]
  • Obama administration officials (prior to November 8 election), including Ben Rhodes, Josh Earnest, and President Obama himself [4]
  • Christopher Steele dossier on orange menace-Russia “connections,” with documents that haven’t been verified but may have been used as a “roadmap” for investigation by the FBI, who was open to paying him for the information, among other aspects [5]
  • Crowdstrike, the pro-Dem firm run by an anti-Putin individual contracted by the DNC to investigate the hack, blamed the Russians [6]
  • “Guccifer 2.0,” the Romanian hacker who claims he gave docs to Wikileaks even though this has not been confirmed, to whom Roger Stone claims he talked to and has a “backchannel” to Assange, both of which can’t be proven. [7]
  • “suspicious” supposedly “pro-Russia” actions by DCLeaks and Wikileaks or weak supposition [8]
  • DHS, DNI, and private security companies “conclusions,” with specific reference to a  14-page document by CIA, DNI, and FBI, had “high confidence” in Russian involvement, a report commissioned by Obama, even though the Intelligence Community Assessment or ICA was drafted by the CIA, FBI, and NSA, relies on “reporting” of varied sources and “multiple corroborating sources,” their “assessment” based on how they see Russian behavior, claims that Putin and Russian government had preference for the orange menace over Clinton, claim Moscow used disclosed documents, accessing DNC databases, because RT, other Russia state outlets, was critical of Clinton (that means they swung the election for the orange menace?), criticizing US shortcomings in civil liberties and democracy using an open source report published in 2012, criticizing U$ (means that RT is somehow favorable to orange menace), RT hosts criticize fracking (so they serve Russian interests?), they even admit near the end of the report that even as RT has more YouTube views and subscribers, CNN has the most Twitter followers, Facebook likes, and Facebook likes of the bourgeois news organizations they list (Al Jazeera English, BBC News World, along with RT), admit at the end that even an assessment of “high confidence” could “be wrong” with the assessment not necessarily a “fact or certainty” [9] Later, these same agencies, CIA, FBI, and NSA stood by their previous assessment, of course.
  • Claims of Russian business ties with Newsweek admitting that they can’t find any illegal action, and noting there are business ties across the world [10]
  • Claims Putin “praised” the orange menace even though he didn’t. [11] Further articles showed that Putin just called the orange menace a colorful figure or flamboyant, but did NOT call him a genius or any of the other “praise” he supposedly gave.
  • Pending investigations by FBI, NSA, CIA, DOJ, FINCEN (Treasury Dept), and ODNI reps; also some individual agencies are sometimes cited. [12]
  • Max Boot, Clinton campaign, a lawsuit by Bayrock, Toronto Life magazine, news media itself (WashPO and Bloomberg), claimed “Russian trolls,” FBI insiders, and magical “experts” [13]
  • Joint ODNI-DHS statement even admitting that they are only “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails” and they only “believe” top Russian officials involved; also Clapper, the DNI, but not “17 agencies” agreeing as some claimed. [14]
  • Private security companies ThreatConnect (likely U$ military/intelligence contractor), Symantec which received a license from the U$ military in 2005, FireEye run by a former Pentagon officer, and Dell-owned Secureworks which maintains “close ties to various public and private organizations involved in information security” such as the federal government, intelligence and military sectors [15]
  • Unnamed U$, European, and Arab officials [16]

Apart from these piss-poor “sources” of collusion, there are confirmed meetings between the orange menace’s officials and the Russians, but every administration, even through the Cold War has met with the Russians, and as some US diplomats admitted, including Clinton ally Michael Morrell, this is not a crime as even James Clapper said at one point. [17] Then there’s Michael Flynn. There is no doubt he was paid by RT for three talks, but so has Ron Paul and other U$ political personalities they’ve had on their show, so how does this show that the Russians “rigged” the election? [18] The truth is it doesn’t do this at all. Perhaps its better to focus on the fact that he was a registered foreign agent for Turkey, that he was the board member of the pro-drone group (Drone Aviation Holding Corp) for which he gained $24,000, consultant for the hawkish Center for a New American Security, among much more that would make him chummy with the capitalist class. All of this has led to some thinking that the Pentagon is right but that Russian media “lies,” claims that the Russians hacked the orange menace’s campaign too but didn’t release information (disproving the whole collusion), as the Russians note that they also spoke with Clinton advisers, and Putin said that the Democrats should get over their loss in November (they should). [19] As a result of the determination that Russia was “behind” the hacking, a number of events went into motion. The FBI spied on Carter Page for at least 90 days, and the orange menace conceded Russia’s role sort of but also didn’t, later decrying a “witch hunt” by the Democrats. [20]

Of course, the FBI and intelligence establishment, along with the lackey bourgeois media are wrong. Still, Clinton strongly believes in Russia role as do some former Intel chiefs and Evan McMillian (former CIA) but RNC doesn’t and neither does David Nunes. The media are so caught up in this, they were angry about publication of official photos, with the Russian Foreign Ministry saying that if they hadn’t published pictures from the meeting, the photos would have leaked, which is probably correct.

With such a predictable propaganda assault by the bourgeois media and Russophobes within the military and intelligence establishments, U$ public opinion reflects this reality. 51-56% of the public, depending on the poll, believes in such interference, with at minimum, 39% opposing this viewpoint. [21] Furthermore, over 60% of those living in the U$ have said that they are “concerned” about ties to Russia. Some may say these viewpoints are residual effects of the Cold War, with strongly rooted in anti-communism of that time. However, it is more likely that even with waning popularity of bourgeois media in the U$ many still rely on it while those who speak critically of U$ empire are marginalized. It may also have to do with uber-nationalism of Amerikans, many of whom may not trust the orange menace and see him as a shyster.

The orange menace’s tweets and other commentary

Some may say cite the orange menace’s tweets as “evidence” of the collusion. A search through his tweets for the word “Russia” shows that this is faulty. Looking through tweets from 2011 to 2016 shows that he is more uber-nationalist, jingoist to use the right word, than having any sort of favoritism toward Russia. [22]

The tweets this year, after his election, which are displayed in the search, are worth focusing on here. They range from the orange menace declaring that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi met with the Russians, saying that meeting with the Russians is normal, calling these Dems “hypocrites,” while blaming Obama, even claiming he colluded with Russia (no proof of that). He goes on to say that the “so-called Russia story” is (1) “fake news,” (2) claims that there is a magical deal the Clintons made with Russia over uranium which is somehow connected to John Podesta somehow, (3) that the “Trump Russia story is a hoax,” and (4) calls the Russia-orange menace connection “phony.” He then said that “things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia” with everyone eventually coming to their “senses,” that the story about the orange menace’s connection to Russia is an excuse used by Democrats, that Democrat “dealings with Russia” are not investigated by the media, that Clapper noted that there is no collusion between the orange menace and Russia, asks if Obama was too “soft” on Russia (implying he would be more hardline), and says that the Russians might be laughing at the whole story. Most strikingly is a tweet on May 8, in which he declares “the Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

Then there are two tweets the bourgeois media claims are “evidence” that the orange menace gave classified information to the Russians. In them, the orange menace says that it is “absolute right” to share facts with them which pertain to “terrorism and airline flight safety” which he says he is doing not only for “humanitarian reasons” but because he wants “Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.” I don’t see how this “proves” that classified information was shared. Just because the orange menace says he shared information, who is to say this is classified information? Also, who is to say that these tweets aren’t just part of the orange menace’s bravado and he’s making the whole thing up?

Five days before this, the orange menace, in an interview with NBC News, declared the following:

“This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

Predictably, PolitiFact showed its Russophobia in response. They said that the FBI and intelligence community have “credible evidence” and that Democrats weren’t behind it, cites magical “evidence” in assessments, shows even Federation of American Scientists believes in collision, and also cites Comey and Clapper. As noted earlier in this article, this is utter baloney. While I think there is validity to his statement that the “Russia thing with Trump” is made-up, it is more than just the Democrats. The military and intelligence establishments of the U$, the Democrats, numerous Republicans, other Western intelligence services, and capitalist governments across the “West” have a coordinated Russophobic propaganda offensive. This goes back to 2014 at least, when the “crisis” in Ukraine begun with a coup in the country by Nazi and reactionary forces, seemingly assisted by the CIA and US intelligence in general. In fact, such Russophobia goes back further, perhaps all the way to 1917 when the Soviet Union was founded, but it was a different strain back then, with a lapse in that strain after the demise of the USSR in 1991, and picking up again in 2000 with Vladimir Putin coming to the helm of the capitalist Russian state.

A conclusion

It’s hard to know the reason for the orange menace’s firing of Mr. Comey on May 9, one week ago. Perhaps it was because Marylander Rod J. Rosenstein, who only became Deputy Attorney General on April 26 after near unanimous approval of the U$ Senate, had convinced Attorney General Jeff Sessions that through revealing the investigation of Killary before the election, he had weakened the “public confidence in the FBI.” [23] Mr. Rosenstein said such in his letter recommending the firing of Mr. Comey, writing in part:

“Over the past year, however, the FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage…I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken….The director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution…When federal agents and prosecutors quietly open a criminal investigation, we are not concealing anything; we are simply following the longstanding policy that we refrain from publicizing non-public information….former Attorneys General and Deputy Attorneys General from different eras and both political parties…concluded that the Director violated his obligation to “preserve, protect and defend” the traditions of the Department and the FBI…Although the President has the power to remove an FBI director, the decision should not be taken lightly…The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong…the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.” [24]

Taking this letter into account, one could almost say that the removal of Mr. Comey was in a sense, a PR move to improve the “reputation” of the FBI, which would appeal to the law-and-order approach of Mr. “expand the drug war” Sessions and the orange menace himself. This would also explain the timing of the letter. While the orange menace has supposedly said that the “Russia investigation” was on his mind when he fired Mr. Comey, the decision to fire was likely about improving the FBI’s “image” among the populace as a “nonpartisan” agency although it has never been non-political in any way. I could see how firing Mr. Comey damages Mr. Rosenstein’s “independence,” but I would be wary of calling him a “lackey” of the orange menace just yet.

With pending investigations in the House and Senate, the “Trump-Russia connection” seems destined to continue as a “legitimate” topic for the rest of this year, maybe for his whole first term. In the meantime, the orange menace’s EPA has greenlighted a gold mine in Alaska despite the environmental effects, the orange menace’s State Department cited the discredited Amnesty report to smear Syrian government for its “brutality” (which has been rightly dismissed by the Syrian government), the orange menace’s Pentagon continues to kill Syrian civilians every day, and most startlingly, and the orange menace’s plan to review protections on 27 national monuments could very well open up “more than 2.7 million acres of iconic US landscape” through extraction of oil, coal, and natural gas.

But, instead, say the hard-nosed bourgeois liberals and progressives, let’s all dance around with glee, allying with the U$ intelligence and military establishments, and impeach the orange menace for his “traitorous” action of talking with the Russians, who they think, based on the propaganda from the bourgeois media, rigged the election for the orange menace. Nothing could be more ridiculous. There is no doubt that the Electoral College is an institution which supported slavery, racism, bigotry, and exploitation, while muting popular movements. However, as it stands now, this means that by the existing laws, based in the “supreme” law of the land, the U$ Constitution, the orange menace was elected legally. This was not only because Killary didn’t care about the white section of the working class but due to her crass elitism like calling all of the orange menace’s supporters “the basket of deplorables…[they are] racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it,” a faux pas as bad as Mitt Romney’s remarks in which he said that 47% of the populace will vote for the populace and are entitled, people who “pay no income tax,” whom Romney doesn’t care about at all.

The talk of the orange menace-Russia “collusion” will go on, but as reasonable people we must be above this, rejecting such narratives and work with those affected by the orange menace’s fascism. Lest us not be dupes of the bourgeois media as many bourgeois liberals and progressives already are, trapping many publications in self-made deception, while the capitalist class laughs in glee as they continue to destroy the work, crushing resistance wherever it can be found, and by whatever means at their disposal.


Notes

[1] Greg Miller and Adam Entous, “Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election and help Trump,” Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2017; AP, “Trump transition raised flags about Flynn Russia contacts,” May 5, 2017; Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe, “Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador,” Washington Post, May 15, 2017; William M. Arkin, Ken Dilanian, and Cynthia McFadden, “U.S. Officials: Putin Personally Involved in U.S. Election Hack,” NBC News, Dec. 15, 2016; Yara Bayoumy, “Putin turned Russia election hacks in Trump’s favor: U.S. officials,” Reuters, Dec. 16, 2016; Barbara Starr, Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, and Elise Labbott, “Intel analysis shows Putin approved election hacking,” CNN, Dec. 16, 2016; , “Putin-linked think tank drew up plan to sway 2016 US election – documents,” Reuters, Apr. 21, 2017; Jack Stubbs and Denis Pinchuk, “Russia denies Reuters report think tank drew up plan to sway U.S. election,” Reuters, Apr. 21, 2017; Ken Dilanian and William M. Arkin, “Blackwater Founder Repped Trump at Secret Meeting Overseas: Sources,” NBC News, Apr. 3, 2017; Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, Jake Tapper, and Carl Bernstein, “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him,” CNN, Jan. 12, 2017; Washington Newsroom of Reuters, “U.S. intel report identifies Russians who gave emails to WikiLeaks -officials,” Reuters, Jan. 6, 2017; Michael S. Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti, and Matt Apuzzo, “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence,” New York Times, Feb. 14, 2017; Matthew Rosenberg, Adam Goldman, and Michael S. Schmidt, “Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking,” New York Times, Mar. 1, 2017.

[2] Kurt Eichenwald, “Trump, Putin and the Hidden History of How Russia Interfered in the U.S. Presidential Election,” Newsweek, Jan. 10, 2017; CBS News, “More details on U.S. probe of Russian hacking of DNC,” YouTube, Dec. 14, 2016; Brian Ross, Rhonda Schwartz, and James Gordon Meek, “Officials: Master Spy Vladimir Putin Now Directly Linked to US Hacking,” ABC News, Dec. 15, 2016; Ali Watkins, “Intel Officials Believe Russia Spreads Fake News,” BuzzFeed, Nov. 30, 2016; Ken Dilanian, “Official: Flynn Discussed Sanctions With Russians Before Taking Office,” NBC News, Feb. 10, 2017; Spencer Ackerman, “Intelligence figures fear Trump reprisals over assessment of Russia election role,” The Guardian, Dec. 11, 2016; Shane Harris, “Donald Trump Fuels Rift With CIA Over Russian Hack,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 11, 2016; Luke Harding, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, and Nick Hopkins, “British spies were first to spot Trump team’s links with Russia,” The Guardian, Apr. 13, 2017.

[3] Kurt Eichenwald, “Trump, Putin and the Hidden History of How Russia Interfered in the U.S. Presidential Election,” Newsweek, Jan. 10, 2017; Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House,” Washington Post, Dec. 9, 2016.

[4] Euan McKirdy, “WikiLeaks’ Assange: Russia didn’t give us emails,” CNN, Jan. 4, 2017; Fox News, “Obama says US needs to respond to Russian cyberattacks — ‘and we will’,” Dec. 15, 2016; Yara Bayoumy, “Putin turned Russia election hacks in Trump’s favor: U.S. officials,” Reuters, Dec. 16, 2016.

[5] Adam Goldman, “Russian Spies Tried to Recruit Carter Page Before He Advised Trump,” New York Times, Apr. 4, 2017; Scott Shane, “What We Know and Don’t Know About the Trump-Russia Dossier,” New York Times, Jan. 11, 2017; Julie Pace, “Trump campaign adviser Carter Page met with Russian spy in 2013,” Chicago Tribune, Apr. 3, 2017; Ali Watkins, “A Former Trump Adviser Met With A Russian Spy,” BuzzFeed, Apr. 3, 2017; David Corn, “A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump,” Mother Jones, Oct. 31, 2016; Tom Hamburger and Rosalind D. Helderman, “FBI once planned to pay former British spy who authored controversial Trump dossier,” Washington Post, Feb. 28, 2017; BBC News, “Meeting the man behind the Trump memos,” Jan. 14, 2017; Rosie Gray, “‘It Is Fake News Meant to Malign Mr. Trump’,” The Atlantic, Jan. 10, 2017; Natasha Bertrand, “The FBI is reportedly using the explosive Trump-Russia dossier as a ‘roadmap’ for its investigation,” Business Insider, Mar. 30, 2017; Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz, and Manu Raju, “FBI used dossier allegations to bolster Trump-Russia investigation,” CNN, Apr. 18, 2017.

[6] Thomas Rid, “How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History,” Esquire magazine, Oct. 20, 2016; Clint Watts, “Why Russia Wants the U.S. to Believe the Election Was Hacked,” PBS NOVA Next, Oct. 26, 2016; Dmitri Alpervitch, “Bears in the Midst: Intrusion into the Democratic National Committee,” Crowdstrike, Jun. 15, 2016.

[7] Thomas Rid, “How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History,” Esquire magazine, Oct. 20, 2016; Trump adviser Roger Stone repeatedly claimed to know of forthcoming WikiLeaks dumps,” CNN, Mar. 20, 2017; Chas Danner, “Trump Adviser Roger Stone Admits Messaging With Alleged DNC Hacker,” New York magazine, Mar. 11, 2017; Martin Matishak, “Roger Stone takes center stage as Congress lines up Russia probe witnesses,” Politico, Mar. 20, 2017; Maggie Haberman, “Roger Stone, the ‘Trickster’ on Trump’s Side, Is Under F.B.I. Scrutiny,” New York Times, Mar. 21, 2017; Matthew Rosenberg and Maggie Haberman, “Trump Adviser Had Twitter Contact With Figure Tied to Russians,” New York Times, Mar. 11, 2017.

[8] Thomas Rid, “How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History,” Esquire magazine, Oct. 20, 2016.

[9] Greg Miller and Adam Entous, “Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election and help Trump,” Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2017; Clint Watts, “Why Russia Wants the U.S. to Believe the Election Was Hacked,” PBS NOVA Next, Oct. 26, 2016; Office of the Director of National Intelligence, “ODNI Statement on Declassified Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections,” IC On the Record (tumblr), Jan. 6, 2017; Bryon Tau, “Trump’s top intelligence officials accept conclusion that Russia hacked election,” Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2017; New York Times, “Intelligence Report on Russian Hacking,” Jan. 6, 2017.

[10] Kurt Eichenwald, “How the Trump Organization’s Foreign Business Ties Could Upend U.S. National Security,” Newsweek, Sept. 14, 2016; Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin,” Washington Post, Jun. 17, 2016.

[11] Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin,” Washington Post, Jun. 17, 2016; Jeremy Diamond and Greg Botelho, “Putin praises ‘bright and talented’ Trump,” CNN, Dec. 17, 2015.

[12] Ken Dilanian, Robert Windrem, William M. Arkin, and Tom Winter, “FBI Making Inquiry Into Ex-Trump Campaign Manager’s Foreign Ties,” NBC News, Nov. 1, 2016; Peter Stone and Greg Gordon, “FBI, 5 other agencies probe possible covert Kremlin aid to Trump,” McClatchy, Jan. 18, 2017; Zeeshan Aleem, “6 different agencies have come together to investigate Trump’s possible Russia ties,” Vox, Jan. 21, 2017; Stephen Collinson, “FBI: Trump campaign, Russia ties investigated, no wiretap evidence found,” CNN, Mar. 20, 2017.

[13] Jeff Nesbit, “Donald Trump’s Many, Many, Many, Many Ties to Russia,” Time, Aug. 15, 2016; Rachel Roberts, “Donald Trump fired James Comey because ‘he refused to end Russia investigation’, say multiple FBI insiders,” Independent, May 11, 2017; Leo Benedictus, “Invasion of the troll armies: from Russian Trump supporters to Turkish state stooges,” The Guardian, Nov. 6, 2016; Andrew Weisburd, Clint Watts, and JM Berger, “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy,” War on the Rocks, Nov. 6, 2016; Jill Dougherty, “The reality behind Russia’s fake news,” CNN, Dec. 2, 2016; Craig Timberg, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” Washington Post, Nov. 24, 2016 (the infamous story in which they promoted PropOrNot, which STILL hasn’t been deleted).

[14] DHS and Director of National Intelligence, “Joint DHS and ODNI Election Security Statement,” Oct. 7, 2016; Spencer Ackerman and Sam Thielman, “US officially accuses Russia of hacking DNC and interfering with election,” The Guardian, Oct. 8, 2016; Ellen Nakashima, Karoun Demirjan, and Philip Rucker, “Top U.S. intelligence official: Russia meddled in election by hacking, spreading of propaganda,” Washington Post, Jan. 5, 2017; Fred Flitz, “Was Friday’s declassified report claiming Russian hacking of the 2016 election rigged?,” Fox News opinion, Jan. 7, 2017; Tessa Stuart, “A Who’s Who of the Trump Campaign’s Russia Connections,” Rolling Stone, Mar. 2, 2017.

[15] ThreatConnect, “Does a BEAR Leak in the Woods?,” Aug. 12, 2016; Kevin Poulsen, “How the U.S. Hobbled Its Hacking Case Against Russia and Enabled Truthers,” The Daily Beast, Jan. 6, 2017; SecureWorks, “Threat Group-4127 Targets Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign,” Jun. 16, 2016.

[16] Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel,” Washington Post, Apr. 3, 2017.

[17]Michael S. Schmidt, Matthew Rosenberg, and Matt Apuzzo, “Kushner and Flynn Met With Russian Envoy in December, White House Says,” New York Times, Mar. 2, 2017; Mark Landler and Eric Lichtblau, “Jeff Sessions Recuses Himself From Russia Inquiry,” Mar. 2, 2017; Jo Becker and Matthew Rosenberg, “Kushner Omitted Meeting With Russians on Security Clearance Forms,” New York Times, Apr. 6, 2017; Jonathan Easley, “Diplomats warn of Russia hysteria,” The Hill, Mar. 11, 2017; Ken Dilanian, “Clinton Ally Says Smoke, But No Fire: No Russia-Trump Collusion,” NBC News, Mar. 16, 2017; NBC Meet the Press, “Full Clapper: ‘No Evidence’ of Collusion Between Trump and Russia,” 2016?; Todd Shepard, “James Clapper: Still no evidence of any Russian collusion with Trump campaign,” Washington Times, May 8, 2017; Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller, “Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose,” Washington Post, Mar. 1, 2017; Julie Pace, “Senate committee calls on former Trump adviser Carter Page in Russia investigation,” Associated Press, Mar. 6, 2017; Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel,” Washington Post, Apr. 3, 2017; David Ignatius, “Why did Obama dawdle on Russia’s hacking?,” Washington Post opinion, Jan. 12, 2017; Marshall Cohen and Eli Watkins, “Who is Carter Page?,” CNN, Mar. 4, 2017.

[18] Michael Isikoff, “Moscow paid $45,000 for Flynn’s 2015 talk, documents show,” Yahoo News, Mar. 16, 2017; Lachlan Markay, “Michael Flynn Failed to Disclose Payments From Russian Propaganda Network,” The Daily Beast, Apr. 1, 2017.

[19] Clint Watts and Andrew Weisburd, “How Russia Dominates Your Twitter Feed to Promote Lies (And, Trump, Too),” The Daily Beast, Aug. 6, 2016; Carl Schreck, “FBI Director: No Evidence Russia Successfully Hacked Trump Campaign,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty (US government propaganda outlet), Jan. 10, 2017; David Filipov, “Putin to Democratic Party: You lost, get over it,” Washington Post, Dec. 23, 2016; Olivia Beavers, “Kremlin spokesman: Russian ambassador met with advisers to Clinton campaign too,” The Hill, Mar. 12, 2017.

[20] Julie Hirschfield Davis and Maggie Haberman, “Donald Trump Concedes Russia’s Interference in Election,” Jan. 11, 2017; Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett, and Adam Entous, “FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page,” Washington Post, Apr. 11, 2017; Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Carrie Dann, “Trump Cries ‘Witch Hunt’ as Russia Questions Pile Up,” NBC News, Mar. 3, 2017.

[21] Gregory Holyk, “Republicans and Democrats split over Russia probes: Poll,” ABC News, Apr. 26, 2017; Steven Shepard, “Russia investigations a ‘witch hunt’? Not according to polls,” Politico, Mar. 3, 2017; Reid J. Epstein, “About Half of Americans Think Russia Interfered With Election Through Hacking, Poll Finds,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 17, 2017; Quinnipac University Poll, “American Voters Back Sanctions For Russian Hacking, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Israel, Palestinians Not Sincere About Peace, Voters Say,” Jan. 13, 2017.

[22] In 2011 and 2012, the orange menace was still a real estate developer and ravenous capitalist. He displayed his unbridled nationalism by declaring Obama weak for not getting the Chinese and Russians to agree on sanctions, while also saying that Obama’s plan to get Russia to “stand up” to Iran has failed, making America a “laughingstock.” He later called Obama weak (again) and showed his affinity with Mitt Romney. The following year, he took a hardline stand in support of an U$ nuclear deterrent (against Russia), slammed Snowden first as a “traitor” and then as a pawn of the Russians, saying that Russians are “embarrassing” the US, among much more. The orange menace also said that the Russians are “laughing” at the US, that Snowden is a traitor (and another time), that Russia doesn’t “respect” the US, that Putin is “laughing at Obama,” and that Snowden is a Russian agent (again here). He also claims he spoke with the LGBT community in Russia, that it doesn’t make sense to go in Syria with military force, that the Russians are “better prepared” for war than the U$, and that OPEC, revisionist China, and capitalist Russia are “laughing” at the U$ (variant of this here). That’s not all. He also said that Obama’s Syria conflict could become a “worldwide conflict,” promoted the Miss Universe pageant in Russia (also see here), that U$ looks “worse” to Russia than before, that Russian and Chinese leaders are “smarter” than those in the U$, that the war in Iraq is “stupid,” that Russia may have driven the U$ into a “deeper mess,” and that the US looks “weak.” He goes on to say later that the U$ must be “smart and strategic” when it comes to Russia, mocks Obamacare (also see here),  Russia beat the U$ in Olympics, which is another “embarrassment,” Russia laughing at the U$ yet again, that Putin is much more popular than Obama, that Russia should be watched, Putin and Russia have more leadership than Obama, and calls Snowden a piece of “human garbage” who should be brought back to stand trial. He later tweets about Russian moves in Ukraine, a China-Russia oil deal, the country seeming “weaker” in comparison to Russia, joking about Obama’s “trade” with Russia, China and Russia not helping fighting ISIS which angers him (also see here), and slamming Jeb Bush (also see here). Later years, in 2014 and 2015 he says that the US needs “great leadership,” that Russia isn’t a regional power, that China and Russia are “smart” unlike U$ leaders, Russia and the world “respecting” the US because of the orange menace (oh really), slamming the Iran deal as helping Russia. There are the tweets that some would say are “pro-Russia.” With his bravedo, the orange menace claimed, before he was elected/selected via the Electoral College in November 2016, that (1) “Putin likes me,” (2) he has “ZERO investments in Russia,” (3) says that Putin called him a genius (he didn’t), and (4) said that if any country had the deleted emails of Killary, including the Russians, they should leak them. Yet, this is countered by the fact that he criticized Russia for its occupation of Crimea (which was done by referendum, which he doesn’t believe), blaming Obama, and condemning Russia’s nuclear capabilities, to give a few examples.

[23] Charlie Savage, “Deputy Attorney General’s Memo Breaks Down Case Against Comey,” New York Times, May 9, 2017; David Leonhardt, “Rod Rosenstein Fails His Ethics Test,” New York Times, May 10, 2017; Doyle McManus, “All eyes in Washington are on Rod Rosenstein. Does he have what it takes to investigate Trump?,” LA Times, May 10, 2017; Pamela Brown and Eric Lichtblau, “Rod Rosenstein: Trump’s unlikely hatchet man,” CNN, May 10, 2017; Steve Reilly, “Rosenstein: ‘Prosecutor’s prosecutor’ at center of Comey firestorm,” USA Today, May 10, 2017; Benjamin Wittes, “Et Tu Rod? Why The Deputy Attorney General Must Resign,” LawFare, May 12, 2017; Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Sari Horwitz, and Robert Costa, “Inside Trump’s anger and impatience — and his sudden decision to fire Comey,” Washington Post, May 10, 2017 (claims to tell the “story” of the behind-the-scenes of the Comey firing).

[24] BBC News, “Rod Rosenstein’s letter recommending Comey be fired,” May 10, 2017.

Elections in the “Juche” state: democracy in the DPRK

“A dancing party of women’s union officials and members took place at the plaza of the Arch of Triumph on Feb. 16, the 75th birth anniversary of leader Kim Jong Il.”- Rodong Sinmun on February 20

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Mar 8, 2017.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made.

Recently, with the whole controversy over the death of Kim Jong Un’s brother and the stance of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) criticizing revisionist China whom seems to engaging in  appeasement, by banning coal imports into the country, of the imperialist desire (especially the orange menace’s arrogance) of the U$ to weaken the DPRK. [1] The DPRK is not only threatened by forces within “South Korea” (the Republic of Korea), programs like THAAD, provocations from the orange menace’s administration, leading to defense of the country with nuclear weapons (rightly so) but it has been attacked by the “human rights” organizations in the West, along with the corporate media in wild accusations. I’m specifically talking about Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The latter claims that citizens in the country “suffer violations of most aspects of their human rights”  and the former saying that under the leadership of Kim Jong-Un the country “remains among the world’s most repressive countries” with a “dynasty.” [2] This echoes the CIA World Factbook and U$ State Department which call the DPRK an “an authoritarian state” and “communist state” (saying it in a negative way), showing that “human rights” NGOs and parts of the establishment serve the same fundamental imperialist interests. [3] All of these bourgeois criticisms, like the bourgeois liberals/progressives on /r/socialism, implies that the DPRK is not democratic. A look at their elections, especially that of the SPA, shows this to be wrong.

Historical introduction

In 1945, in the aftermath of deadly World War II, the Korean Peninsula, which had been occupied by the Japanese imperialists (since 1910), was roughly divided between the Soviet occupied zone and U$ zone. In the Soviet zone in the North, different from the South where a brutal fascist puppet government was installed, socialism was advanced. As the South Korean Party for Re-Unification put it in February 1971: “after World War II, the US imperialists entered South Korea as invaders and aggressors, not liberators. This is the reason for the division of our country.” [4] In 1945, the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) was created. Kim Il Sung, later the leader of the DPRK, described this process very simply, noting that people’s committees controlled the country before the establishment of a government formally, proving it wasn’t a “dictatorship”:

The foundation of the Workers’ Party representing and defending the interests of the labouring masses of Korea through the merger of the Communist Party and the New Democratic Party is the greatest event in the political life of our people at the present time…In south Korea, however, the activities of those people who are sincerely striving for the merger of the Parties, are obstructed…the reactionary forces has come all out to frustrate the merger of the democratic political parties of the working people…unity and cohesion of the democratic forces throughout Korea is the prerequisite to the building of a new, genuinely democratic Korea…One year has already passed since Korea was liberated from the colonial rule of Japanese imperialism…In the past year we have laid a solid foundation for developing Korea along truly democratic lines and building a People’s Republic by carrying out the great democratic reforms. Our people who took power into their own hands…The composition of the people’s committee membership now active in north Korea is as follows : Workers [are] 5.7% [.] Peasants [are] 71.8%[.] Office employees [are] 15.8% [.] Handicraftsmen [are] 2.1% [.] Tradesmen [are] 4.6% [.] The people’s committees…strive to guard the interests of the people…In carrying out its policies, the people’s committee relies on the firm unity and the democratic united front of all the political parties and social organizations…Already in March this year, the agrarian reform was carried out in the rural areas of north Korea, bringing about a radical change in production relations. The agrarian reform dealt a decisive blow to the landlord class…Last August the Provisional People’s Committee of North Korea proclaimed the law on the nationalization of industrial, transport and communications facilities and banks which had been owned by the Japanese imperialists, pro-Japanese elements and traitors to the nation…In June this year, the Provisional People’s Committee of North Korea promulgated the Labour Law freeing factory and office workers from harsh, colonial-type exploitation and introducing the eight-hour working day and a social insurance system. And a law was passed to guarantee the women social rights equal to those of the men for the first time in the history of our country…Over 8,000 adult schools were opened last year to eliminate illiteracy…The people’s committees have done a great deal of work to improve the material and cultural life of the masses of the people and to ensure their political rights…The enforcement of the Law of Nationalization of Industries has wiped out the foundation of Japanese imperialist colonial rule and deprived the traitors to the nation…Meanwhile, the people’s committees protect the property of the national capitalists and encourage the business activities of individual entrepreneurs and traders…The workers have won all rights and possibilities to take part in the state political life…The establishment of the Workers’ Party through the merger of the two parties is of tremendous historical significance in expanding and strengthening the democratic forces and promoting democratic construction in our country. A party is the advanced detachment of a class defending its interests and fighting for the realization of its demands and aspirations…Our Party, however, is not the one and only Party existing in our country…Our Party gives active support to the democratic demands of the Chongu Party, and closely co-operates with it in order to advance together in step with it…our Party has waged and is waging a common struggle in unity with all the democratic political parties. We must maintain closer ties with members of the Chongu Party and the Democratic Party…We must by all means bring the lines and strategic and tactical policies of the Party home to all its membership and arm the entire Party with the scientific Marxist-Leninist theory and throughgoing revolutionary ideas…The persecution of the working class [in South Korea], in particular, has reached extremes. See the massacre in Kwangju…In this grave situation, the primary task of our nation and the entire working people is to unite and unite…We call for such unity of the toiling masses as can meet the democratic demands of the workers, peasants and working intellectuals…The independence and sovereignty of Korea on democratic lines can be achieved at an early date only if the labouring masses are united as one and all the democratic forces are knit together…Victory belongs to the Korean people who aspire to unity, national independence and democracy. Let us all march forward confidently to victory!

Two years later, on August 25, 1948, the DPRK, which had undertaken a 70-day debate nationwide on the draft constitution starting in February of the same year, elected its first deputes to the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), its unicameral legislature. [5] In that election, 572 deputies, representing “workers, peasants, deskworkers, intellectuals, businessmen, merchants and religious people,” were elected, and the First SPA met between September 2 and 10, with the constitution adopted during this time, a government formed, and the founding of the DPRK proclaimed on September 9, resulting in the Korean people celebrating it annually as “their national day.” [6] In this new legislature, the 1st SPA, Kim Il Sung was elected as the Premier and head of the DPRK. To be more specific, in 1948, Juche 37, 99.97% of Koreans in the north took part, and 77.52% of those in the south, took part in the elections. The results, as displayed in the chart below, shows that while the political parties were part of the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland electoral coalition, there was also a multiparty system which had developed within the DPRK [7]:

It was at that time that the DPRK could be considered socialist without a doubt. However, in later years the country would drift into the areas of revisionism, creating problems for the proletariat as a whole and forming a bourgeoisie of sorts, raising the question of how socialist the country was, as it seemed more progressive than socialist.

Quick overview of powers of the SPA

Before going further, it is best to describe the powers of the SPA. As was noted in a session of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 1991, this legislature is defined by the DPRK’s constitution (Articles 73-84) as the “highest organ of State power” and is a representative organ which is formed “through an election conducted of the free will of the entire Korean people” and composed of deputies who are selected by “secret ballot on the principle of universal, equal and direct suffrage,” with the same principle applied to election of deputies “to local power organs such as provincial, city and county People’s Assemblies.” [8] As for the voters, every citizen, regardless of “sex, race, occupation, duration of residence, property status, education, party affiliation, political inclination and religious belief,” can vote as long as they are over 17, with the only ones who can’t including those decided by court verdict and “insane persons,” meaning that all citizens have the right to elect deputies. With only one registration and one ballot cast per voter, in elections that are announced 60 days before for the SPA and 30 days before for the “provincial, city and county People’s Assemblies,” voters cast a ballot directly for a candidate for the deputy position, which is reflected in the totals. [9] The term of office of SPA members is five years, unless there are unavoidable circumstances leading to a prolonged term. [10]

The SPA’s most important and exclusive power is “legislative power” which includes adopting, amending, and supplementing the Constitution. Take the adoption of the first DPRK Constitution during the first legislative session, with a nationwide debate “on the draft constitution,” with a 31-person committee organized by the SPA to deliberate over the draft, as people’s opinions are taken into account. [11] Later on, the DPRK’s constitution was revised due to the changing times, with the SPA’s term of office extended, the minimum age level of voters was lowered to 17 and more deputies were allocated for the population with new electoral principles. With these changes, the SPA has adopted the Constitution’s principles by passing Socialist Labour Law, Land Law, Law on Public Health, Law on the Nursing and Upbringing of Children, Law on Environmental Protection, the Criminal Law, the Civil Law, the Family Law, laws for the “total elimination of tax in kind and taxation which is the remnant of the outdated society” with no tax system no longer in the DPRK, and a law enacting “universal free education and the 11-year compulsory education.” [12] The SPA has enacted laws putting in place “perfect and universal free medical care.” In every instance, in laws like this and every law, the SPA follows steps of “deliberation, adoption and proclamation,” with laws submitted by numerous entities (DPRK President, the Central People’s Committee (CPC), the Standing Committee of the SPA, the Administration Council, and all SPA deputies), and approved by a “show of hands,” showing the democratic nature of the state. [13]

The SPA also has the authority to form central institutions of the state, electing the President of the DPRK (the people who HRW falsely says are part of a “dynasty”), who then picks a number of other individuals. [14] Members on SPA committees and the head of the Administration Council (the Premier) are elected and accountable to the SPA. The SPA holds regular sessions to “discuss and solve problems” once or twice a year and extraordinary sessions when needed, with quorum of “more than a half the total number of deputies to meet” and laws adopted having immediate legal effect. [15] SPA Committees, whose members are elected among deputies according to the size of leadership, debate about draft laws and budget plans before deliberation by the whole body. [16] However, they cannot “initiate legislative activities nor adopt decisions of any legal validity independently.” These committees [17] include the following:

  • Credentials Committee (credentials members in the SPA)
  • the Bills Committee (“deliberates on the bills, amendments to constitution and laws submitted to the SPA and reports its results to the SPA and its Standing Committee.”)
  • the Budget Committees (“deliberates upon whether or not the settlement account and compilation of the State budget submitted for deliberation to the SPA conforms with the needs of People and reports its results to the SPA, and examines the budget balance and adopts measures for rectifying shortcomings revealed by the relevant executive bodies.”)
  • the Foreign Affairs Committee (“discusses the issues arising in foreign affairs, draws up and makes public the documents specifying the stands of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the Committee, notifies them to the Foreign Affairs Committees of parliaments of other countries, Inter-Parliamentary Groups and individual MPs concerned and exchanges delegations with various countries the
    world over.”)
  • the Reunification Policies Committee (“recommends the measures to be taken by the Supreme People’s Assembly in connection with the national reunification question to the Supreme People’s Assembly or the Standing Committee of the SPA, and considers the issues of the north-south co-operation, exchange and travel and other matters related to the country’s reunification”)
  • Standing Committee (“When the SPA is not in session, the work with the Committees of the Supreme People’s Assembly is undertaken by the Standing Committee of the SPA. The Standing Committee works as a permanent body of the SPA in our country…the Standing Committee functions as its permanent organ between sessions…[It is] composed of Chairman, Vice-Chairmen, a secretary general and 15 members including the representatives of political parties and social organizations.”)

Resuming the historical overview: going through SPA elections

Now, back to the 1948 election. One book, by Anne Louise Strong, does a good job at telling the state of the DPRK in 1949. Summarizing the history compiled by the Korean Friendship Association (KFA), the “peaceful construction” of the new socialist (at the time) nation was stopped on June 25, 1950 (Juche 49). As revisionist Vince Sherman even says, the moves of DPRK soldiers into South Korea “was actually an attempt to re-unite a nation partitioned by a foreign imperialist power,” despite what Trotskyists over at the ISO declare. While the Korean People’s Army (KPA) had formed into a regular army but the economic state of the country was fragile, but they still were victorious against “arrogant US imperialists” who claimed the US was invincible.  As bourgeois journalist David Halberstam acknowledged, not only were Southern Koreans angry about U$ presence and the U$ units were in horrid condition, but the people of the DPRK and Chinese communists knew what they were fighting for, unlike the U$ soldiers, who had no idea what they were fighting for [18]:

“They [the Chinese Communists and DPRK troops] were absolutely sure of whom they were fighting and why. They were fighting white foreigners, imperialists, and capitalists, the children of Wall Street, and of course their puppet allies in the South. The Americans were not so sure, despite periodic lectures on the evils of Communism, whom they were fighting, or for that matter why they were fighting them. They might be soldiers stationed in Japan, but they’d no expectation of going to war, especially in a place called Korea.”

Summarizing what the KFA said, on July 27, 1953 (Juche 42), the U$ imperialists knelt before the people of Korea, signing the Armistice Agreement, with arguably a victory for the Korean people, with many losses for the United States, with losses that were reportedly “2.3 fold the size of losses suffered by the US in the 4-year-long Pacific War in the period of the Second World War.” In December 1955, Kim Il Sung first publicly addressed the idea of Juche, one year before Khrushchev’s traitorous “secret speech,” which at the time was not revisionist, although it would take on such characteristics later:

…The principal shortcomings in ideological work are the failure to delve deeply into all matters and the lack of Juche. It may not be proper to say Juche is lacking, but, in fact, it has not yet been firmly established. This is a serious matter. We must thoroughly rectify this shortcoming. Unless this problem is solved, we cannot hope for good results in ideological work… This, the Korean revolution, constitutes Juche in the ideological work of our Party. Therefore, all ideological work must be subordinated to the interests of the Korean revolution…By saying that the ideological work of our Party lacks in Juche, I do not mean, of course, that we have not made the revolution or that our revolutionary work was undertaken by passers-by. Nonetheless, Juche has not been firmly established in ideological work, which leads to dogmatic and formalistic errors and does much harm to our revolutionary cause. To make revolution in Korea we must know Korean history and geography and know the customs of the Korean people. Only then is it possible to educate our people in a way that suits them and to inspire in them an ardent love for their native place and their motherland…As far back as the autumn of 1945, that is, immediately after liberation, we emphasized the need to study the history of our nation’s struggle and to inherit its fine traditions…Today, ten years after liberation, we have all the conditions for collecting materials on our literary legacy and turning it to full use. Nevertheless, the propaganda workers remain wholly indifferent to this…One day this summer when I dropped in at a local democratic publicity hall, I saw diagrams of the Soviet Union’s Five-Year Plan shown there, but not a single diagram illustrating the Three-Year Plan of our country…In compelling schoolbooks, too, materials are not taken from our literary works but from foreign ones. All this is due to the lack of Juche. The lack of Juche in propaganda work has done much harm to Party work…If we had not organized the People’s Army with old revolutionary cadres as its core, what would have been the outcome of the last war? It would have been impossible for us to defeat the enemy and win a great victory under such difficult conditions…Our 20-Point Platform is the development of the Programme of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland. As you all know, the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland existed before our country was liberated…It is utterly ridiculous to think that our people’s struggle against the U.S. imperialists conflicts with the efforts of the Soviet people to ease international conflicts with the efforts of the Soviet people to ease international tension…Hearing us say that it is necessary to establish Juche, some comrades might take it simply and form a wrong idea that we need not learn from foreign countries. That would be quite wrong. We must learn from the good experiences of socialist countries…It is important in our work to grasp revolutionary truth, Marxist-Leninist truth, and apply it correctly to the actual conditions of our country…we should not mechanically copy forms and methods of the Soviet Union, but should learn from its experience in struggle and Marxist-Leninist truth…Marxism-Leninism is not a dogma, it is a guide to action and a creative theory…In connection with the problem of establishing Juche I think it necessary to touch on internationalism and patriotism…Before liberation, the mere words that in the Soviet Union the working class held power and was building socialism made us yearn boundlessly for the Soviet Union where we had never been…In order to make our Party members indomitable fighters who are always optimistic about the future of the revolution, it is necessary to intensify their Marxist-Leninist education…In order to meet this great revolutionary event, the Party spirit of the Party members should be steeled; they should be educated to have a correct mass viewpoint and to have faith in victory and optimism regarding the future of the revolution.

Beyond this, in the post-war period, the country needed to rebuild itself from much destruction, led in the effort by President Kim Il Sung. As Socialist Voice, in an opinion critical of the DPRK, notes in Marxist-Leninism Today, the partition of the Korean Peninsula was a “product of the Cold War, which in Korea turned into a very hot war of savage proportions. Hundreds of thousands died on both sides.” This piece also notes  that the DPRK “developed and rebuilt itself after the devastation inflicted on it by the war.” With the Korean people having to “tighten their belts but they built factories, enterprises, towns and rural villages,” there was a “Three-Year Plan for the Postwar Rehabilitation and Development of the National Economy” just like in Poland, which was a success, followed by a Five-Year Plan from 1957 to 1960, with Sung saying “Let us produce more, practise economy, and overfill the Five-Year Plan ahead of schedule!” [19] One could say that the DPRK had not become revisionist at this point, although that was to come in the future, sadly for the proletariat.

All of this makes it clear why the second session of the SPA was not until 1957. The DPRK was in no shape to have an election in the middle of defending itself from imperialist attack during the Great Fatherland Liberation War. In this election, the Workers Party of Korea gained seats, while other parties lost seats, showing that it was applauded by the people. The pie chart below shows the distribution of the SPA after the election in August 1957, the 2nd SPA respectively, with only 75 of the 527 members of the first session re-elected, with only 215 members comprising the body [20]:

Courtesy of 38North, an NGO is strongly anti-DPRK. Their caption: “From left to right: WPK propaganda posters for local people’s assembly elections held on August 27, 1957 (both local and national ); November 25, 1967; July 29, 2007; July 24, 2011; and July 19, 2015.”

Fast forward five years and 2 months to the next legislative election, the 3rd SPA, respectively, in October 1962, which was eight days before the beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis! By this point, as revisionist Stephen Gowans noted, the country “grew at a faster pace than the south from the 1940’s to the mid-60s” and Che Guevara was so impressed after visiting Pyongyang in 1965 that he “declared north Korea to be a model to which Cuba should aspire.” Again, this makes clear that the DPRK was not, at the time revisionist, although it would be later on. The SPA, increased in size from 215 members to 383 members, with WPK keeping its majority, showing that it was supported by the populace more than any of the other parties by a long shot [21]:

Also during this session there were a number of developments, including the introduction of the single-ballot vote and representation changed to 1 delegate every 30,000 people rather than the previous electoral distribution. [22]

Also during this session there were a number of developments, including the introduction of the single-ballot vote and representation changed to 1 delegate every 30,000 people rather than the previous electoral distribution. [22] These were positive democratic developments which advanced the country forward.

The following year there were local elections, for provincial people’s assemblies. In these elections, like many past and since, and Kim Il Sung was re-elected as the DPRK’s president. [23] During the elections a total of 14,303 deputies for city, county, and district positions in people’s assemblies were elected, as were 70,250 in towns, neighborhoods, villages, and workers’ districts, for people’s assemblies, and 2,517 provincial people’s assembly deputies. [24]

Five years and one month after 1962 election, in September 1967, the elections for the the 4th SPA were held. Apart from the local elections held that year where over 300 women, out of the 3,305 delegates, were elected [25], the SPA, added new members, increasing from 383 members to 457. This development meant that not only were the amount of delegates keeping pace with the population, but there was full participation, with the deputies elected for a term of five years. [26] During this session, a number of changes were made, including revising the DPRK’s constitution and allowing the President of the country to be elected, another good development. [27] The distribution of the SPA was as the pie chart below displays colorfully, showing that the WPK gained even more support of the populace while the People’s Republic Party and other organizations lost their seats as people voted in WPK deputies instead:

That same year, Kim Jong Il gave a “Talk to the Officials of the Central Committee of the League of Socialist Working Youth of Korea.” Within this speech he argued that “young people [in Korea] are honourable activists in the vanguard of socialist construction”and that there is a “great programme for the building of socialist rural communities” beginning in the country, showing that he still believed in the strength of socialism. He also said that “the youth should take the lead in carrying out the rural technical revolution,” that ” appearance of our modern socialist farming villages is altering and the peasants’ standard of living” and that a “youth shock-force movement is an excellent school for revolutionizing young people, by tempering them through labour and organizational life,” echoing what Kim Il Sung said. He also gave a speech in 1969 about cinema in the DPRK and a speech the following year to scriptwriters.

Fast forward to 1971. That year, the DPRK was often featured in the publication of The Black Panther, the newspaper of the Black left-wing party based in Oakland, the Black Panther Party. One article reprinted a speech by a Korean comrade, Pak Ung Gil, arguing that the Korean people, in the DPRK especially, are fighting to expedite their “complete victory of socialism and the cause of national unification at the forefront of the anti-imperialism, anti-U.S. imperialist struggle in direct confrontation with U.S. imperialism” and that they extend “militant solidarity to the Black Panther Party and the Negroes in the United States,” with a promise of encouragement for their struggle and active support. [28] This aligns completely with Kim Il Sung, who condemned suppression of the Black Panthers, declaring years earlier that “where there is oppression, there is always resistance. It is inevitable that the oppressed peoples should fight for their emancipation.” [29]

Later that year, the DPRK was caught in an international dispute. A KPA pilot was engaging in tests with his airplane but he had to land because of problems with his fuel tank, if I remember correctly, and the U$ and “South Korea” (Republic of Korea or ROK) refused to give him up. [30] Later that year, Kim Il Sung received praise from multiple sources. For one, the South Korean Party for Re-Unification, argued in February 1971 that he had  taught them “the importance of combining violent struggles with non-violent struggle, illegal struggle with legal struggle.”  [31] The Black Panther Party’s Central Committee followed the next month by commemorating Kim Il Sung’s birthday and confirming the “militant solidarity between our Party and the struggling oppressed people of the U.S. and the heroic Korean people,” noting the “the unnatural division of a whole people that U.S. imperialists have perpetrated” in Korea, and pledging to intensify in their “own struggle, here inside the U.S., against U.S. imperialism, fascism and racism.” [32]

The same year, Kim Il Sung explained to a delegation of Iraqi journalists the most important experience of the “fighting people of Korea.” He started by saying that while Korea “was a colonial, semi-feudal society in the past” and had to fight off U$ imperialists, that they have, currently, “an advanced socialist system, under which all people work and live a happy life helping each other” with victories and achievements due to the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and the people themselves, with dedication to the idea of Juche (not then taken on revisionist characteristics) or “expressing such a creative and independent principle and position adhered to by our Party in conducting revolutionary struggle and constructive work.” He went on to say that the Party had maintained its independence, is working on “building an independent national economy,” dedication to self-defense of the country from “aggressors and enemies,” the innovation in the “Chollima movement” which embodies the mass line of socialist construction, and the task of driving the “U.S. imperialist aggressors out of south Korea, accomplish the national liberation revolution and realize the reunification of the country.” In response to a question about the successes of the Iraqi people, who had recently engaged in a coup on July 17, 1968, led by Saddam Hussein (who would not hold presidential or other power until the late 1970s) and Salah Omar al-Ali, among others of the Socialist Ba’ath Party, Sung replied by saying that the Iraqi people had attained “national independence through their protracted arduous struggle against the domination of foreign imperialism,” that “antagonism and discord between nations…are advantageous only to the imperialists and simply detrimental to the people” with a “peaceful, democratic solution of the Kurd national problem,” that the government of Iraq stands “firm in the ranks of struggle against imperialism and colonialism.” Sung was also asked about U$ imperial aggression in Southeast Asia. In response to that, he argued that “the expansion of the aggressive war by the U.S. imperialists in Indo-China places them in an ever more difficult position and hastens the defeat of the aggressors,” by arguing that people of Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia (not referring to Khmer Rouge) have united to fight “against the U.S. imperialist aggressors…[with] the whole land of Indo-China has become a graveyard for the aggressors” and that the Korean people will assist those fighting against U.S. imperialism in Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos. His last two questions were about the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party in Iraq and the Arab people. On the first question, he said that “the Korean and Iraqi peoples are close comrades-in-arms fighting against the common enemy…part of the great unity of the Asian and African peoples against imperialism and colonialism.” To the second question he declared that

“the Arab people are vigorously fighting in arms against U.S. imperialism and the Israeli aggressors…The armed struggle of the Arab people against U.S. imperialism and the Israeli aggressors is a just struggle to defend national independence and dignity, restore the occupied Arab territories and accomplish the cause of liberation of the Palestinian people…The Korean people will continue to resolutely support the valiant struggle of the Palestinian people for liberating their fatherland and the struggle of the entire Arab people against Zionism and imperialist aggression and will always remain a close comrade-in-arms of the Arab people in the struggle against the common enemy…I sincerely wish the Arab people greater successes in their just struggle against U.S. imperialism and the Israeli aggressors.”

With this struggle evident, the following year there was a bout of elections, five years and one month after the 1967 election, showing the DPRK’s democracy shine once more. This election for the 5th SPA may have showed a change. Apart from the supposed detente, and the local elections for People’s Assemblies with 3,185 provincial people’s assembly deputies, and 24,784 city, county and district people’s assembly deputies elected, the 1972 elections for the SPA showed change. [33] During the session, a proposal was crafted with eight provisions about the reunification of Korean Peninsula. [34] Despite searching across the internet, I was only able to find the breakdown of the assembly of 541 Deputies, then serving for 4 years, with citizens over the age of 17 voting, with all of these legislators proposed by the Workers’ Party of Korea, not “chosen” as some would claim. In fact, about 21% of the assembly comprised of female delegates. In December of that year, the composition of the new SPA, in terms of class, as the delegates are in every electoral contest, was broken down as follows:

As such, the proletariat still held the sway in the SPA, which was undoubtedly positive.

The same year, a new Constitution was adopted by the DPRK, describing the county as a “self-reliant socialist state…an independent socialist State…a revolutionary State” guided by the Juche idea, with authority ultimately derived from “workers, peasants, working intellectuals and all other working people” with power exercised through “the organs of State power at all levels, from the county People’s Assembly to the Supreme People’s Assembly” which are elected by the working class “on the principle of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot.” If that’s not enough, the Constitution also dedicates the state to defending and protecting “the interests of the workers, peasants, working intellectuals and all other working people,” that “independence, peace and friendship are the basic ideals of the foreign policy” of the DPRK, and that the country “relies on the socialist production relations and on the foundation of an independent national economy.” The Constitution goes on to describe other aspects of the DPRK. Means of production in the country “are owned by the State and social, cooperative organizations,” the state’s property belongs to the people, private property is defined as “property owned and consumed by individual citizen,” working days are eight hours long, the minimum working age is 16 years, state shall direct the socialist economy, there is a “people’s nationwide defence system” to defend against imperialists, equal rights for men and women, and socialist culture will flourish. One could say such acceptance of property was the beginning of the dive into revisionism, but still the overall aspects of the state which benefited the populace remained, with socialism as one could call it, still existing in the DPRK in 1972.

More was noted about this constitution in a 1992 meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. There, the DPRK’s representative noted that the new Socialist Constitution of the DPRK was adopted on December 27, 1972, in the first session of the 5th SPA, and that the country had gone beyond its “socialist transformation of economic management” and establishment of a socialist system, by 1958, with “total eradication of exploitation of man by man, the social and class relations,” with a socialist working people. [35] He went on to say that the 1972 draft of the socialist constitution was put to debate two times in plenary meetings of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party and at the Central Committee of the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, and then it was submitted to the SPA, adopted finally (and unanimously) by the deputies on December 27, 1972. [36] As a result, Korean people celebrate this day as Socialist Constitution Day every passing year.

It is also worth noting the economic activity in the DPRK in 1972 as shown as an aside to an anti-DPRK article. [37] While the article is horrible, the map is worth reposting:

Fast forward to 1975. The scant information available notes that 23,833 city, county and district people’s assembly deputies were elected in February of that year. [38] Nothing else is known. However, it is worth pointing out that Kim Jong Il advocated for continuation of “Juche art,” in May 1975. What he says is an interesting insight into efforts to create socialist culture within the borders of the DPRK, perhaps putting in question if the country was on a revisionist road, and expand their revolutionary spirit worldwide:

“Our Juche art is now winning fame throughout the world. All countries regard the visit of a Korean art troupe as good fortune…Through art diplomacy we are widely propagating the Juche idea of the great leader to the whole world and proudly gaining honour for our nation…We should produce more, excellent works of art and train larger numbers of talented artists…We should bring about a radical change in the creation of dance by creating more, diverse themes, and discovering more dance rhythms and actions…We need not only lyric songs, but also many militant songs. We are making a revolution, and we should inspire the people to the revolutionary struggle by means of songs…Socialist art is art which is national in form and socialist in content. We must embody a revolutionary and socialist content in artistic forms which are liked by Koreans and are congenial to their tastes…Creators should explore the reality in order to write works. Without exploring the pulsating reality, they cannot produce works that are suited to the feelings of the workers and farmers…Our works of art and literature should not only reflect the reality vividly in content but also be based on life and be close to life in their form…Not anyone can easily become an extraordinary artist. In order to become a remarkable singer, dancer or musician, it is necessary to possess artistic talent and to receive systematic artistic guidance…Therefore, schools in the arts sector should not neglect professional education while stressing political and ideological education. These schools are bases for training professional creators of revolutionary arts…Teachers are revolutionaries who educate the younger generation to become the precious revolutionaries of the motherland…All art troupes and officials in the field of art should bring about a fresh upsurge in the creation of art.”

Two years later there were elections across held across the DPRK once again. In the local elections, 3,244 deputies were elected in the provinces and 24,268 in the ordinary city district, urban district, and counties. [39] The national elections, in November, for the 6th SPA, was a rousing success. While the delineation of party affiliations, of the 579 deputies, cannot be found, a breakdown of the members who part of certain sects of the working class in society is worth mentioning, with the legislature also comprising of about 21% women. [40] It is tabulated in the chart below:

With the proletariat not having as much sway over the SPA, except if united with the farmers, showed a changing social structure in the DPRK and the opening of the doors to revisionism, to the chagrin of the masses.

During this SPA session, not only was a speech given to call for the strengthening of the government of the DPRK and Kim H Sung re-elected as the DPRK’s president but another seven-year economic plan, starting in 1978, was gladly adopted. [41] Also, a law was passed mandating that all land was “made property of the state and co-operatives, with no rights for sale or purchase.” This could be said to be an action of revisionism, but it could also be seen in the converse. Still, the socialism in the DPRK may have been slipping a bit in 1978. The session for the DPRK was reportedly had five sessions, each lasting about five days, if the people at Peterson Institute for International Economics can be believed at all. [42] In later years, as an article by a bourgeois scholar noted, a “Law on the Nursing and Upbringing of Children was passed, in 1976, when there were “60,000 nurseries and kindergartens” across the country. Additionally, a Socialist Labor Law, which stipulated that “women with three or more children under 13 years of age receive 8 hours’ pay for 6 hours’ work,” passing in 1978. Both measures were passed by the SPA members who had been duly elected in 1977.

Two years later, in March 1979, in an election with full participation, 24,247 deputies were elected, representing the city, urban, and county districts. [43] The same year, the autocrat in the ROK, “South” Korea, Park Chung-hee, was assassinated, resulting in a change in the DPRK’s policy. As such, the DPRK opened relations with the new leftist government in Nicaragua, and revisionist China began to try to get the DPRK to implement its economic measures which opened itself to the global capitalist system. [44] Having relations with China is no surprise, but it may have led to increased revisionism in the country, sadly.

In March 1981, there were again local elections in the DPRK. Exactly, 24,191 deputies were elected for the county, urban, and city districts, along with 3,705 in the provinces and municipalities. [45] The same year, the DPRK proposed a plan to re-unify the Korean Peninsula but the ROK rejected it outright and it acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. [46]

In February 1982, Koreans went back to the polls to vote for legislators for the 7th SPA. While party breakdown is not available, of the 617 deputies elected, for four year terms, 20% of whom were women, the working class was well-represented, with other professions lumping together those who are not considered workers or peasants, seemingly including farmers, and office employees for example. The chart below visualizes this reality:

The workers and peasants (which we can say are the same as farmers), did not have control of even half of the SPA, which is worrisome. If we knew what consisted of “other professions” then an even better assessment could have been made. Still, revisionism was clearly strengthening in the DPRK.

During the session there was a push for expedited self-reliance (Juche) and another attempt for peaceful reunification of the fatherland by securing a peace guarantee, with not much else known. [47] However, it is evident that there were fantastic celebrations with Kim Il Sung turning 70 years old, new economic policies announced, and the death of Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, that year, reportedly “opened the door to a warmer Soviet-DPRK relationship.” [48] Additionally, the DPRK extended its international solidarity to the state of Iran to fight in the war against Western-backed Republic of Iraq. [49] All of these actions showed that the DPRK was abandoning its anti-revisionist stance more and more, bringing in the Soviet social-imperialists to help them, sadly.

The following year, there were again elections, with full participation by the populace. 24,562 Koreans were elected as deputies who represented cities, urban areas, and counties. [50] Apart from the ridiculous speculation as to if the DPRK was going to “invade South Korea” that year, or accusations it engaged in terrorism in Myanmar, the second session of the 7th SPA met with Yang Hyong Sop elected as Chairman of the SPA and Rim Chun Chu as Vice-President. [51] The following year, the DPRK’s government announced a joint-venture law where there could be capital investment from foreign nations in the country,and possibly farmers to have private plots, which some bourgeois analysts saw as an “admission” that the self-reliant posture of the country was not working. [52] This law was the ultimate capitulation to revisionism and showed that the country was partially adopting the model of the Chinese revisionists which benefited a new bourgeoisie developing in the country, hurting the Korean proletariat, and benefiting the Chinese capitalists. As such, these were clearly sad developments to say the least.

The following year, 1985, there were local elections once again, with full participation of the populace. 28,793 Koreans were elected as deputies who represented provinces, urban areas, counties, and cities. [53] From that year until 1988, the DPRK pushed to have Olympic games on the Korean Peninsula, with enthusiastic backing of the Cuban government, and Soviet support later on. [54] This is definitely important, but it also means that the government and country was becoming more and more revisionist.

In November 1986, 4 years and 8 months after the previous election, ballots for the members of the 8th SPA were cast by the populace. While the sources say that the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland  won the 655 seats in the SPA, with amounts of seats changing with population growth or decrease, there were undoubtedly full participation. [55] Even with this electoral notation, there are no sources which note the breakdown of the deputies by party, but there are indications of the distribution of professions across the DPRK’s assembly. The following chart indicates this:

Once again with the peasants and proletariat not even constituting half of the SPA, one can wonder how socialist the country was at this point.

During this session, as sources note, a second seven-year plan was adopted, the first from 1978-1984, with President Kim Il-Sung pointing to the successes of the first plan and calling for “further modernization with a view to achieving a self-reliant socialist national economy.” A speech calling for “the complete victory of socialism” (despite questions about how socialist the country really was) was given to the public, likely by Kim Il Sung, and the country’s first nuclear reactor began operating that year. [56] Also, Sung gave a speech to a joint meeting of Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the Central People’s Committee of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in June 1986, saying, on the subject of the non-aligned movement, that

“…The non-aligned movement, which was inaugurated with a membership of 25 newly-independent countries 25 years ago, has now developed into a very extensive movement with more than 100 newly-emergent member nations and into an organized political force. It has a great influence on revolutionary change in the world and on international political life….The noble mission which was undertaken by the non-aligned movement at the time of its inauguration was and always has been to destroy imperialism and colonialism, end domination and subjugation in whatever form, oppose aggression and intervention, preserve peace and security, exercise national sovereignty, and achieve the freedom of social and economic development…Today the international situation is very complex and tense. The main trend of our time is as ever along the road of independence and sovereignty, peace and progress, but there is also an adverse current of domination and subjugation, war and destruction…Aggression and plunder are inherent aspects of imperialism, and imperialism thrives on them. Imperialism is the product of aggression and plunder, and it has grown fat on ceaseless aggression and plunder…As monopoly capital grows, so its tentacles of aggression and plunder are extended overseas. This is an inevitable outcome and a law of the development of capitalism. There is no limit to the wild ambition and greed of imperialism…Today the imperialists are employing mainly neocolonialism to invade, dominate and plunder other countries…The tendency of the rich countries to grow richer, and the poor countries to grow poorer, is more pronounced on a world scale…The imperialists are directing the spearhead of their aggression at the non-aligned countries and other newly-emergent nations…the imperialists frequently use as shock forces the Israeli Zionists, the South African racists and other stooges which they have trained and tamed…Imperialism is the common enemy of the peoples of the non-aligned nations and the progressive people throughout the world…The people can only oppose and defeat the allied imperialist force by a united effort…The anti-imperialist struggle must not be suspended or weakened even for a little while…The struggle for global independence is a decisive showdown between the anti-imperialist independent forces and the forces of imperialist domination…To dominate the world by force, wielding nuclear weapons, is the world strategy which the imperialists have persisted in since the Second World War. The danger from this strategy is growing as the days go by…The dark cloud of a nuclear war hangs heavily over all the continents, and it threatens the very existence of our planet…The world has the constant fear that a nuclear war can be triggered by the smallest incident…The non-aligned movement is an anti-war peace force, and the policy of non-alignment is a just, peace-loving policy….it must fight to stop the arms race and to effect the complete abolition of all armaments, and of nuclear weapons in particular…The non-aligned countries must give priority to the abolition of nuclear weapons and fight to prevent their production and stockpiling and abolish them completely once and for all…Outer space must only be used for peaceful purposes, not as a new theatre of the arms race…In order to abolish nuclear weapons and prevent a nuclear war, we must create nuclear-free, peace zones in many regions of the world and extend them all the time…we must fight against the imperialist policy of military blocs and of increasing military bases…we must develop a powerful anti-war, anti-nuclear, peace movement…The non-aligned countries must strengthen solidarity with the anti-war, anti-nuclear, peace movement…It is an important task of the struggle against imperialism and for independence that colonialism and racism be eliminated and the cause of national liberation be accomplished…the South African racists and Israeli Zionists overtly pursue the racist and expansionist policy of aggression…The South African racist regime pursues the vicious policy of apartheid, of racial discrimination, and the policy of brutal repression…In order to realize their ambition to establish a “Great Zionist Empire” in the Middle East, the Israeli Zionists have occupied Arab lands…without putting an end to the policy of apartheid in South Africa it would be impossible to accomplish the cause of national liberation…we must foil the expansionist, aggressive schemes of the Israeli Zionists. Zionism is a form of racism and colonialism…The just cause of the Palestinian and other Arab people for the restoration of land lost to them…we must strengthen solidarity with those people who are fighting for independence, sovereignty and to build a new society…South-South cooperation is a noble way for the developing countries to strengthen their economic independence and achieve complete economic freedom through close economic and technical cooperation…Today the international economic situation is changing to the disadvantage of developing countries…The running of joint venture hospitals will also be an effective means of cooperation in the sphere of public health…One of the important tasks confronting the non-aligned and developing countries today is to do away with the old international economic order and to establish a new fair one based on the principles of independence, equality and mutual benefit…To strengthen and develop the non-aligned movement steadily is an important guarantee for the accomplishment of the cause of independence in opposition to imperialism. The non-aligned movement is a powerful independent force of our times which is opposed to imperialism…The Government of the DPRK will in the future, too, remain loyal to the principles and ideal of the non-aligned movement and will make every effort to strengthen and develop this movement.”

The following year, in November 1987, there were again elections in the DPRK. That year, 26,539 people were elected as local deputies, representing numerous parts of Korean society. [57] Two years after that, the Korean people cast their ballots for local elections. As such, 29,535 Koreans were elected to local and provincial people’s assemblies. [58]

In April 1990, three years and six months after the previous election for the SPA, Koreans cast their ballots again. The electoral alliance, the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, won a sweeping victory out of the 687 total seats in the 9th SPA. [59] Over 20% of the deputies elected were women, 37% were manual workers, over 10% were farmers, and about 53% were office workers or in the military. This raises a question, yet again, about the supposed socialism of the country and indicates that revisionism was becoming even stronger than ever. The below chart shows the distribution in the national legislature of the political parties within this electoral alliance, which shows that the DPRK has a multiparty system once again:

In this ninth session, which started six months earlier than “usual,” 37% of whom were workers of factories and enterprises, 10.4% who were cooperative farmers, and the rest “shared by officials or parties,” there was revision of the DPRK’s constitution, and Kim Jong-il elected as chairman of the National Defense Commission. [60] The DPRK, which then had a population of over 21 million with a Gross National Product of $20 billion, more than half of the population working outside agriculture, and had trading partners such as social-imperialist China, social-imperialist USSR, and capitalist Japan, was going entering into a troubled period. [61] This wasn’t wholly their fault. With the full-throttled embrace of capitalism and fanatical revisionism by the Soviet social-imperialists, they ceased giving aid to the DPRK, leading to a faltering economy, like in many states across the world which benefited from Soviet aid. [62] Even so, the DPRK stuck to their beliefs. The Soviet aid going disappearing hurt the DPRK badly because they were dependent on the Soviets for “the supply of large amounts of crude petroleum and coking coal,” leading to problems in the country. The DPRK dealt with this in later years by “opening a limited area to foreign capital and securing a supply of crude petroleum and coking coal from China” and trying to build nuclear power plants. [63] More capitalist concessions like this one strengthened the bourgeoisie of sorts in the country, along with the bourgeoisie of other countries, and hurt the proletariat.

The following year, in November 1991, Koreans again had a chance to vote for those on the local level. With full participation of the populace, 26,074 people were elected to local and provincial assemblies. [64] With the DPRK’s economy lacking aid from the Soviet social-imperialists, it faltered with the final demise of the Soviet Union on December 26, even as the Chinese social-imperialists took the place of the Soviets as the country’s main trading partner. Soon, the DPRK became a member of the United Nations in September of the same year reluctantly as it argued in previous years that separate membership of the DPRK and ROK “would amount to international ratification of the 46-year partition of the Korean Peninsula.” [65] This action was the action of a desperate government, one which had accepted revisionism and sided with the Soviet social-imperialists, not one that was “isolated” from the world.

The same year, Kim Il Sung, who would die on July 8, 1994 and Kim Jong-Il taking his place after that point, addressed the opening ceremony of the 85th Inter-parliamentary Conference on April 29. He said that

“The national assembly of each country, as its highest legislative body, has a mission and responsibility to realise democratic government. Democracy must be not only the basic ideal of state administration for championing people’s right to independence, but also a common ideal of world politics for ensuring equality and cooperation among countries. the foreign policy of a state is the extension of its domestic policy. Therefore, making individual countries democratic is closely connected with the undertaking to make the international community democratic. The members of national assemblies who are working with devotion for the development of democratic government in their own countries should also contribute actively to making world politics democratic, and thus fulfill their responsibilities and role as statesmen of the present age…Today, humanity finds itself at a turning point in historical progress. The old age of domination and subjugation that lasted for thousands of years has come to an end, and a new age is being ushered in, the new age when all countries and all nations shape their destiny independently. Mankind is now faced with the common task of strengthening the historical current and building a free and peaceful new world. In order to build the new world aspired to by mankind, it is necessary to abolish the unequal old international order in all fields of politics, the economy and culture and establish an equitable new international order…No privilege and no arbitrariness should be tolerated in international relations; friendship and cooperation among countries must be fully developed on the principles of mutual respect, non-interference in the affairs of other countries, equality and mutual benefit…Disarmament and the abolition of nuclear weapons and other types of weapons of mass destruction is the most pressing task in ensuring peace…The Korean people, who are constantly under the threat of nuclear weapons, have proposed the abolition of nuclear weapons as a vital matter relating to the destiny of the nation. We strongly assert that the Korean peninsula should be made a nuclear-free, peace zone. We strongly support the peace movement of the peoples of many countries for disarmament and for the creation of nuclear-free, peace zones…The unity of the people throughout the world and cooperation among them are the guarantee for the victory of their common cause of creating a new world…The political philosophy of our state is the Juche idea which requires that all consideration should be centred on man and that everything should be made to serve him. By fighting in single-hearted unity under the banner of the Juche idea our people have been able to build, even under the most difficult conditions and circumstances, man-centred socialism in which the people are the genuine masters of the society and everything in society serves them…Reunifying Korea is the vital requirement of our nation; it is an important question in international politics. The Korean people are a homogeneous nation that has lived on the same territory generation after generation, a nation celebrated for its long history and fine cultural traditions…The desire of our nation for reunification has already become fused to surmount the barrier of division, and their belief that Korea is one has become unshakable…I hope that your stay in our country will be pleasant and useful and I wish you success in your honourable work.”

Two years later, in November, thousands of Koreans were elected to local government bodies. Specifically, 2,520 Koreans were elected to provincial and local people’s assemblies this year. [66] That year, on page 19 of an October 1997 US Census report, which was strongly anti-DPRK, the information by the DRPK Central Bureau of Statistics, was released for U$ policymakers, not the general populace of the United States of course. This census, regardless of the claims by jingoistic neoconservative economists like Nicholas Eberstadt, showed that 20.5 million people were living the DPRK, with roughly 9.6 million who were male and approximately 10.8 million who were female. Additionally, a broad majority of the population was under age 59, with about 8.4 million under the age of 59. The below map, from page 38 of the US Census report previously cited shows population densities in the DPRK in 1993, proving that the pictures of the Korean Peninsula at night which are used to say that the country is “primitive” and “uncivilized” is clearly imperialist propaganda:

In July 1998, eight years and 3 months after the 1990 election, Koreans expressed themselves at the ballot box once again. With full participation in the elections for the 10th SPA, General Secretary Kim Jong Il elected as a deputy, even as the country was not as “socialist” as it portrayed itself in signs and propaganda. [67] Koreans voted for “…officials, servicemen, workers, farmers and working intellectuals,” with there also being “mobile ballot boxes available to those electors who were not able to go to the polls due to old ages and diseases,” with celebrations of the day of voting. [68] Even the hard-nosed bourgeois scholars in the West had to admit that in this election, Koreans elected “443 new members, including 107 active duty military members.” [69] In the election, the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland had a wonderful and sweeping victory once again, showing that they have support of the masses. [70] The below chart shows how this victory played out in the distribution of the 687 deputies, 138 of whom are women, 215 who are manual workers, and 64 who were farmers, not to mention those of other professions, raising question of how representative of the populace the SPA was:

During session, Kim Jong-il was re-elected as chairman of National Defense Commission and DPRK’s constitution, which became the Kim Il-Sung Constitution, was revised. [71] The new constitution gave more authority to the National Defense Commission, abolished the post of President, and asserted a continuing strong direction of the state. After this, Kim Jong-il removed 16 of the country’s “23 main economic bureaucrats,” approved plans for “economic reforms that were finally implemented in July 2002” and the SPA passed legislation on “special economic zones, copyrights, arbitration, foreign direct investment, and foreign trade.” Still, even with such further capitalist concessions to the foreign and domestic bourgeoisie while hurting th proleetariat, Freedom House scowled about the change in the constitution, renamed the “Kim Il-sung Constitution,” declaring with anger that “private property ownership is banned.” [73]

In March of the following year, there were elections on the local government level. The result of them was that the Korean people chosen, with their ballots, 29,442 workers, farmers, intellectuals, and military staff, who became deputies of local people’s assemblies, all of whom had four year terms. [74] The same year, not only did ROK ships sink a KPA (Korean People’s Army) torpedo beat, but the DPRK declared a new demilitarized zone and thousands of workers in Seoul protested “government plans to privatize state-run power, gas, financial firms” while the DPRK seemed to “open” its economy to foreign investment, a further capitalist concession, strengthening the domestic and foreign bourgeoisie. [75] In more positive news, records showed that about 765,000 Koreans were attending kindergarten, over 1.5 million were in primary school, and over 2.1 million in secondary school, along with 37,000 kindergarten teachers, 69,000 primary school teachers, and 113,000 secondary school teachers. [76] College is also open to all, but they are still fighting for increased gender equity in their high education system, which still had too many male professors.

Also, apart from the uptick in its economy, even acknowledged by the CIA, the DPRK was accused of sending Iran missile parts that year. The actual record, charted below, shows the following arms sent by the DPRK over the years [77], showing some level of solidarity but also at times also raises questions about their foreign policy:

Countries that the DPRK has given arms over the years. Also, they have given arms to Hamas and Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in Gaza as an act of solidarity with Palestinian armed struggle.
The 4000 9M14 Malyutka anti-tank missiles given to Iran during the Iran-Iraq War are not included on the chart, as it would unbalance it and make it harder to read.

Fast forward to 2003. In the elections that year, in August, there was full participation by the Korean populace in electing the 11th SPA, with 687 deputies elected, with the government seeing this as an expression of trust and support in them (it was that exactly) and “a manifestation of our army and people’s steadfast will to consolidate the people’s power as firm as a rock and accomplish the revolutionary cause of Juche under the guidance of the Workers’ Party of Korea.” [78] During the voting, not only where mobile ballot boxes again provided for “those who were not able to go to the polls due to illness or old age” but most polling booths had posters and national flags, the former saying, for example “Let’s participate in the voting for deputies to the People’s Assembly and give our support to them!” While Westerners still said the elections weren’t fair, there is no doubt that women made up 20% of the membership of the SPA, and laws were passed to protect people with disabilities, “ensuring equal access for persons with disabilities to public services” as the U$ State Department even had to admit. Later on in the 11th SPA, Kim Jong Il was re-elected as Chairman of the DPRK’s National Defense Commission. The same year, there were local elections with 26,650 “officials, workers, peasants and intellectuals” elected to municipal, city, and county people’s assemblies. Apart from the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, nearly half of the legislature’s members were replaced! [79] The following chart shows this to be the case:

Even with this reality in the SPA, one can say with confidence that revisionism was stronger than ever in the DPRK.

Apart from a predictable Pew Poll that year which said that “more than three-in-four (77%) Americans see the current government in North Korea as a great or moderate danger to Asia,” showing that Orientalist views are strong inside the murderous empire, the DPRK made a bold move. They withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003, and later calls for denuclearization of Korean peninsula. [80] On January 10, the government of the DPRK released a statement explaining their withdrawal:

“A dangerous situation where our national sovereignty and our State’s security are being seriously violated is prevailing on the Korean peninsula due to the U.S. vicious hostile policy towards the DPRK. The United States instigated the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to adopt another resolution against the DPRK…Under its manipulation, the IAEA in those resolutions termed the DPRK ‘criminal’ and demanded it scrap what the U.S. called a ‘nuclear program’…the IAEA still remains a servant and a spokesman for the U.S. and the NPT is being used as a tool for implementing the U.S. hostile policy towards the DPRK aimed to disarm it and destroy its system by force…It is none other than the U.S. which wrecks peace and security on the Korean peninsula and drives the situation there to an extremely dangerous phase. After the appearance of the Bush administration, the United States listed the DPRK as part of an ‘axis of evil’, adopting it as a national policy to oppose its system, and singled out it as a target of pre-emptive nuclear attack, openly declaring a nuclear war…it [the US] also answered the DPRK’s sincere proposal for the conclusion of the DPRK-U.S. non-aggression treaty and its patient efforts for negotiation with such threats as ‘blockade’ and ‘military punishment…It was due to such nuclear war moves of the U.S. against the DPRK and the partiality of the IAEA that the DPRK was compelled to declare its withdrawal from the NPT in March 1993…[as of now] the DPRK government declares an automatic and immediate effectuation of its withdrawal from the NPT…it declares that the DPRK withdrawing from the NPT is totally free from the binding force of the Safeguards Accord with the IAEA….The withdrawal from the NPT is a legitimate self-defensive measure taken against the U.S. moves to stifle the DPRK…Though we pull out of the NPT, we have no intention to produce nuclear weapons and our nuclear activities at this stage will be confined only to peaceful purposes such as the production of electricity.”

Jump ahead to 2006. That year, the elite Council of Foreign Relations claimed that the DPRK’s government had begun to “introduce aspects of capitalism into the economy.” While they made this conclusion, they also admitted that these reforms were barely anything. Even so, they were another capitalist concession, which benefited the domestic bourgeoisie, the foreign bourgeoisie (mostly from China), and hurt the proletariat.

A picture of the ballot box in the DPRK in August 2007.

The following year, the Korean people again expressed their democratic desires at the ballot box. Specifically, 27,390 “officials, workers, farmers and intellectuals” were elected to provincial, city, and county people’s assemblies. [81]

Two years later, in March 2009, Koreans voted for candidates for the 12th SPA, with posters reminding the populace of the importance of voting, how it is a civic duty. While some in the bourgeois Western media, apart from mocking the election as “anti-democratic,” predicted it would be part of a “wider shake-up of the country’s leadership” and speculated why the election had been delayed from 2008 to this year, saying it could have been because of the ill-health of Kim Jong-il, few of them recognized that 324, of the 687 deputies in the legislature, were replaced. [82] In the election, which had, basically, full participation of the populace, deputies were elected for five-year terms, including Kim Jong-Il, but not his son Kim Jong-Un,  and the country rightly rejecting any push for “economic liberalisation” in the country, rolling back “moderate economic reforms instituted in 2002.” [83] This was a positive action, but the existing revisionism was still left in place, benefiting the existing bourgeoisie in the country.

Apart from this, and claims of disruptions in the elections, by anti-DPRK media, possibly indicating machinations of Western imperialists, numerous “technocrats and financial experts” were elected, 107 women were elected, Mr. Choe Thae Bok was elected as a speaker of the assembly, and Kim Jong-il as the Chairman of the National Defense Commission. [84] Again, this raised the question about socioeconomic classes within the country itself, with the possibility of a growing middle class at this point.

The distribution of the 12th SPA, of which 107 deputies were women, 116 deputies were soldiers, 75 deputies were workers, and 69 deputies were farmers, showing that the military was gaining even more strength in the country than before:

In the foregoing session of the SPA, apart from Kim Jong-Un given high state-level positions, even referred to within the country by mid-2009 as “Brilliant Comrade” reportedly, there were further revisions to the DPRK’s constitution. The word “communism” was removed from the constitution, replaced with “Songun” or “socialism,” while giving National Defense Commission (NDC) more power. [85] This was yet another capitalist concession and manifestation of revisionism itself in the DPRK! The new constitution, the Shogun Constitution, also asserts protections of human rights, says that the DPRK will wage “three revolutions — ideological, technological, and cultural — to achieve the fatherland’s reunification,” protect the “democratic national rights of Korean compatriots overseas,” enhance the “ideological consciousness and the technological and cultural standards of farmers, manage the economy “scientifically and rationally on the basis of the collective strength,” encourage “joint ventures and business collaboration between the organs, enterprises, and organizations…[and] the establishment and operation of various forms of enterprises in special economic zones,” among many other aspects. Again, such capitalist concessions are worrisome, showing the fact the country was beginning to manifest revisionism like never seen before! There was also a revision of the DPRK’s criminal law, that year, which establishes the necessary rules for maintaining the “state and the [so-called] socialist system” of the country with a stress on “social education” (Article 2), forgiving past criminal history if someone works to re-unify the Korean Peninsula (Article 4), medical help for those who commit offenses and are “mentally unbalanced” before they are charged (Article 13), offenses committed in self-defense to protect the DPRK and its “socialist” system will not be punished (Article 15), death penalty cannot be imposed on those under age 18 or on pregnant women” (Article 29), convicted criminals may have their “penalty cancelled under a special or general pardon” (Article 53), and much more.

The same year, it was evident that “export-oriented subsectors such as mining and metals” showed the greatest economic activity, as noted by a research institute which made bourgeois conclusions. There was also a meeting between DPRK and Chinese delegations later in 2009 to continue their strong bilateral relations, and more stable food prices as even bourgeois sources had to admit. The warm relations between the DPRK and Chinese social-imperialists was understandable but also led to further revisionist distortion in the country itself.

AP Photo. Original caption from an article in bourgeois media without political determinations: “Voters walk in and out at the entrance of a polling station in Pyongyang during local assembly elections in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sunday, July 24, 2011.”

Two years later, in July 2011, there were local elections with fanfare. Songs reverberated across the country and flags fluttered over polling stations which were crowded with voters. [86] Some candidates, such as an engineer named Jim Song Un, pledged to “live up to the expectations of the people who voted for me and become a true servant of the people,” and said that he would help build “an economically powerful nation.” [87] Additionally, in these elections, Kim Jong Un was elected as one of the 28,116 deputies who took their seats in local assemblies, which meet various times a year to approve budgets, endorse leaders of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and a myriad of other duties. [88] Later that year, Kim Jong-un, was formally named as the supreme commander of DPRK’s military. [89]

The same year, two analyses of the DPRK’s economics were put forward. Once was by investopedia which noted that the country’s economy was hit hard with the demise of the Soviet Union, with a fall in total production, but that thee was a recovery after 1999, continuing to 2005, a downturn in 2006, then positive growth since 2011. [90] Of course, this is by their capitalistic economics, so their measurements could be skewed. Neoconservative, and jingoist, economist Nicholas Eberstadt, of the American Enterprise Institute complained most of all. [91] While agreeing with the “severe economic shock” the country faced after the demise of the Soviet Union, he claimed widely that the country had gone into a “catastrophic decline,” had a “mass famine,” complained that the country is in “principle a planned Soviet-type economy” (although it clearly was not) about the “military burden” put on the economy, the country’s “unrelenting war against its own consumers.” If that wasn’t enough, he claimed that the economy was “dysfunctional,” said that effort of the country to “open” and “Reform” have “ultimately ended in failure” and that the economy of the country will “remain the black hole in the Northeast Asian economy.” Clearly, Eberstadt is just another tool of Western imperialism, bashing those countries who have economic systems different from the West, saying that they are just not right in his eyes. Even so, there is no doubt that that revisionist distortions continued to grow as each year passed.

In 2012, there were a number of other developments. For one, Kim Jong-Il was named as “eternal chairman” of the National Defense Commission, along with being elected as the First Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and chairman of the Central Military Commission, there were a number of “approved amendments to the country’s constitution” as Xinhua noted. When he was elected, at the fourth conference of the party in its history, as First Secretary of the WPK, fellow party members vowed to follow the ideas of Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un’s leadership to develop their country, while they demonstrated “the revolutionary will of the people to accomplish the songun (military-first) revolutionary cause under the leadership of Kim Jong Un.” Broadly, “section 2 of Chapter 6 and Articles 91, 95 and 100-105, 107, 109, 116, 147 and 156 of the Constitution in line with the institution of the new post of first chairman of the NDC” (National Defense Commission) were revised. [92] While some speculated on economic reforms, the constitution did not fulfill their wishes. [93] In the most recent iteration of the Constitution (revised again in 2013 and 2016), still called the “Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il Constitution,” it mentions that Kim Il Sung helped make the country a “nuclear state” and “unchallengable military power” in the preamble, with no other mention of it in the rest of the constitution whatsoever.

On April 12, 2012, Kim Jong Un gave a rousing speech in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square, which some thought was a call for the beginning of “China-style economic reform” in the DPRK, as part of “decisive transformation” he was calling for. [94] A rough transcription of the speech, noted that part of this was true, but there was also nationalism intertwined into his brand of Korean revisionism:

“…Today, we proceed with a grand military parade to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung…[and] let the whole world know about the splendor of the [so-called] socialist powerful state…I express my respect to the anti-Japanese revolutionary patriotic martyrs and the people’s army patriotic martyrs, who sacrificed their invaluable lives for the fatherland’s independence and the people’s liberation…I express gratitude to foreign friends, who are extending their positive support to the just cause of our people…the very appearance of our nation a century ago was a small and weak, pitiful colonial nation that had to endure flunkeyism and national ruin as its fate…Great Comrade Kim Il Sung early on elucidated the philosophical principle that the gun barrel is the life of the nation and also victory of the revolution, and founded the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army…[our country has] the status of a world-class militarily powerful state through the ever-victorious military-first politics…Military technological supremacy is not a monopoly of imperialists any more…Comrades, today we are standing at the watershed of history, when a new chuch’e century begins….At the historic fourth Party Representatives Conference and the fifth session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly that took place a few days ago, great Comrade Kim Jong Il was held in high esteem…This is an indication of the steadfast will of our party, army, and people to inherit and complete to the end the chuch’e revolutionary cause…The farsighted strategy of our revolution and ultimate victory lie here in directly proceeding along the path of independence, the path of military-first, and the path of socialism unfolded by the great Comrade Kim Il Sung and Comrade Kim Jong Il…It is our party’s resolute determination to let our people who are the best in the world — our people who have overcome all obstacles and ordeals to uphold the party faithfully — not tighten their belts again and enjoy the wealth and prosperity of [so-called] socialism as much as they like…We will have to embark on the comprehensive construction of an economically powerful state by kindling more fiercely, the flames of the industrial revolution of the new century and the flames of South Hamgyong Province…Our cause is just and the might of Korea that is united with truth is infinite…I will be a comrade-in-arms who always shares life and death and destiny with comrades on the road of the sacred military-first revolution and will fulfill my responsibility for the fatherland and revolution by upholding Comrade Kim Jong Il’s behest…Move forward toward the final victory.”

Members of the 13th SPA assembly at their first session. The YouTube description says that “Deputy Kim Yong Nam made a speech on the election of the first chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK. He courteously proposed to the SPA the proposal of the Central Committee and the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea on electing Kim Jong Un as first chairman of the NDC of the DPRK…The proposal was fully supported and approved by all deputies and participants. The session solemnly declared that Kim Jong Un was elected first chairman of the NDC of the DPRK…The session elected the president of the Presidium of the SPA of the DPRK and its vice-presidents, honorary vice-presidents, secretary general and members.” And that’s even a broad summary.

In March 2014, the Korean people went to the polls, to elect those who were serve in the 13th SPA assembly, with the next elections in 2019. While the elections were declared a  “formality” by the Western media, they again distort the reality. [95] In fact, with full participation of the populace, of the 687 deputies elected, 112 of them were women, about 55 percent of serving parliamentarians “were reportedly renewed,” the ambassador to revisionist China, Ji Jae Ryong, and Kim Jong Un joined the SPA as deputies. [96] The below chart shows the distribution of deputies in the 13th SPA:

During the 13th SPA, Mr. Choe Thoe Bak was re-elected as speaker/chairman of the assembly, Mr. Pak Pong Ju was elected as the Premier of the Cabinet and Kim Jong Un was re-confirmed as First Chairman of the National Defence Commission, along with other appointments by Kim Jong Un. [97] In later sessions, there was also, continuing implementation of compulsory education in the DPRK by improving educational conditions in the  state as part of a plan proposed by Kim Jong Un to construct a “world power of [so-called] socialist education in the 21st century,” a report on the previous years budget which pushed forward “the economic construction [of the DPRK] and the building of nuclear force,” and reinforcing the role of the Workers’ Party of Korea. [98] Apart from Kim Jong Un’s speech before the SPA, he was absent because of ill health even as he continued to push forward what he believed was “socialism” but was actually concentrated revisionism. [99]

Voters dance near the voting station in Tonghungsan district, Hamhung, South Hamgyong province, on July 19, 2015.

The following year, local elections in July, had almost full participation, as everyone over age 17 is allowed to vote, with 28,452 deputies elected. [100] Most interesting is one video interviewing two female voters and one male voter, while showing the voting in action, something that is often not seen. Hilariously that year was not the trip of a parliamentarian to Russia, but the reaction to a map by the Washington Post. The map, by the Electoral Integrity Project described the DPRK and Cuba “as having moderate quality elections,” the same category that the U$ was in! In a moment of cognitive dissidence, the Post noted in an edit at the bottom of the article this needs to be “interpreted” and that it “does not mean that these countries are electoral or liberal democracies. The indicators measure expert perceptions of the quality of an election based on multiple criteria derived from international standards.” [101]

The next year, 2016, there are a number of developments worth noting. In the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Kim Jong Un made a speech, apart from the formalities, said that the DPRK will continue down the line of “Byungjin,” the parallel  “development of nuclear weapons and national economy as long as the nuclear threat posed by imperialists continues,” and declared that the county is a nuclear weapons state, but will still “strive for world denuclearization and faithfully fulfill obligations of nuclear non-proliferation” as much as humanely possible. Later that year, apart from the appearance of Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yon Yong at a session of the 13th SPA, dressed “in a black suit, while holding up her ballot,” he gave a New Years Address. [102] The address in the nation was accompanied by a mass rally. As I noted in my post two months ago, in which I noted the orange menace’s administration’s offensive posture toward the county, I said that Kim Jong Un

“offered warm greetings to the Korean people and “progressive peoples across the world,” saying that in 2016 the DPRK consolidated its self-defense by achieving the status “of a nuclear power, a military giant, in the East which no enemy, however formidable, would dare to provoke…after reviewing the accomplishments of the previous year and challenging the country to more, [he] then said, referring to the DPRK and the Korean people, “we should turn out again in the new year’s march towards a greater victory…we should concentrate our efforts on implementing the five-year strategy for national economic development.” He later declared…that the country’s defense forces should “politically and militarily and maintain full combat readiness to firmly defend the [so-called] socialist system and the people’s lives and property” and said that the DPRK will “continue to build up our self-defence capability…and the capability for preemptive strike as long as the United States and its vassal forces [the South Koreans and Japanese] keep on nuclear threat and blackmail.” In sum, whatever the orange menace does to attack them, the DPRK will be ready in force”

And that’s where we stand now. I could go into more detail on the DPRK’s accurate depiction of racial terror in the United States, the many articles that look at the legal system of the nation, the specifics of the country’s first “five year plan” from 1957-1961, and a page on elections in the country. I could even look into if Bruce Cummings is really the “leftist” who defends the DPRK that right-wingers say he is. But, I really do think I have done enough. Some may complain that I’m using bourgeois sources or that I wasn’t “radical enough” in my analysis. That is utter hogwash and is sectarianism. I am aware that this article is thin in some areas but that is because I only beginning my understanding of the DRPK. I’m actually surprised by the amount of information out there, but someone needed to bring it all together and display it in a user-friendly manner.

I hope that I can make these types of articles on elections the beginning of a series. But considering the length and time it took me to write this article, I’m not sure if that will happen again. We’ll see. Regardless, it is my hope that everyone who read this learned something about the DPRK which counters the relentless propaganda about the country which makes it near impossible to know what is happening in the country other than what they claim is “terror” (which is often just made up) and makes turning to outlets like the Pyongyang Times, KCNA, Rodong Sinmun, and other official government sources essential to recognize the reality of a country which has accepted, I would argue, too much revisionism for my taste.


Notes

[1] Ting Shi, “China’s Spat With Kim Jong Un Shows Difficulties in Stopping Him,” Bloomberg Politics, Feb. 26, 2017; “Kim Jong Nam killing: DPRK blames S. Korea,” The Herald, Feb. 24, 2017; ‘North Korea harshly criticizes main ally China,’ PressTV, Feb. 24, 2017; Deirdre Griswold, “Behind the new lies about Korea,” Worker’s World, March 8, 2017; KCNA, “DPRK Foreign Ministry Labels Malaysian Ambassador as Persona Non Grata,” March 6, 2017. The latter article says the following: “The Foreign Ministry of the DPRK notifies that the Malaysian ambassador to the DPRK is labeled as a persona non grata under a relevant article [article 9] of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and demanded that the ambassador leave the DPRK within 48 hours from 10:00 on March 5 (Sunday), 2017.”

[2]”North Korea Overview,” page on Amnesty International site archived on Feb. 26, 2017; “North Korea,” page on Human Rights Watch site archived on Feb. 26, 2017.

[3] Report on “Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of” by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, archived on Feb. 26, 2017; Page on “Korea, North” on the CIA World Factbook, some time in 2016, has not changed from the current page.

[4] South Korean Revolutionary Party for Re-Unification, “On the Re-Unification of the Korean Fatherland,” The Black Panther, May 1, 1971, p. 14.

[5] p. 3 of “The Parliamentary System of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Extract from the Minutes of the Pyongyang session in April-May 1991, Inter-Parliamentary Union.

[6] p. 3-4 of “The Parliamentary System of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” By 1991, the DPRK’s representative said “since liberation up to now the election of deputies of the SPA has been held 9 times.” There are claims Stalin edited the first constitution of the DPRK but this cannot be independently confirmed.

[7] Elections in Asia and the Pacific: A Data Handbook: Vol. II: South East Asia, East Asia, and South Pacific, ed. Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz, and Christof Hartmann (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001, first publishing), 395-396, 398, 403, 405, 407; Remembering and Forgetting: The Legacy of War and Peace in East Asia, ed. Gerrit W. Gong (Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic & International Studies, 1996), 68, 77; Daniel Tudor, Korea: The Impossible Country Tuttle Publishing:2012), 70. Wikipedia lists the following other sources: Par Carter Malkasian (2001) The Korean War, 1950-1953 Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, p13 ISBN 1-57958-364-4; East Gate Book (2003) North Korea Handbook: Yonhap News Agency Seoul, p124 ISBN 0765610043. 1.51% of people voted against this coalition but this was not enough of a percentage to gain any seats in the SPA.

[8] Ibid. Elsewhere the document describes the SPA as “the highest national representative organ of the entire people that is composed of the representatives of workers, farmers, soldiers and intellectuals from all the political parties, social organizations and other sectors of society.”

[9] Ibid, 4-5.

[10] Ibid, 6. The DPRK representative also says that “an election of a new SPA is held by a decision of the Standing Committee of the SPA prior to expiry of the term of office of the current SPA.” While some may cry autocracy, I think what he is saying here is that the Standing Committee helps organize the next (or current) election of the SPA.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid, 8. It also says “thus in the DPRK all children of pre-school age are brought up at the expense of the State and the society and free compulsory education is in enforcement for rising generation until their working ages. University and college students receive scholarship from the State.”

[13] Ibid. It also says “a constitution should be approved by more than two thirds of all deputies, whereas other ordinances and decisions of the SPA should be approved by more than a half of all deputies present at the meeting.”

[14] Ibid, 9. These individuals are chosen on his recommendation: “Vice-Presidents and the First Vice-Chairman, the Vice-Chairmen and Members of the National Defence Commission are elected, the Secretary General and members of the Central People’s Committee, the Secretary General and members of the Standing Committee of the SPA and the President of the Central Court are elected or transferred, and the Public Prosecutor General is appointed or removed.”

[15] Ibid. They also elects its Chairman and Vice-Chairmen who preside over the sessions, and have the power to “appoint committees as its assistant bodies when it decide that they are necessary for the success of its activities.”

[16] Ibid, 9-12.

[17] Ibid, 13. This document also says that the “system of the State organs consists of power organs, administrative organs, and judiciary and procuratorial organs” which includes “central power organs such as the above-mentioned Supreme People’s Assembly, the President of the DPRK and the Central People’s Committee, and local power organs like the People’s Assemblies and People’s Committees of province, city and county. The administrative organs are composed of the Administration Council in the centre and Administration Committees or province, city and county. Judiciary and procuratorial organs are made up of the Central Court and the Central Public Prosecutors Office of the centre and the provincial courts and people’s courts, and public prosecutors offices of province, city and county…The President is the Head of State and represents the State power of the DPRK.The President is elected by and accountable for his work to the Supreme People’s Assembly…The President is accountable for his work to the SPA…The term of office of the President is four years, because he is elected in the SPA, which, in its turn, is elected anew in every four years. The President, as the head of the Central People’s Committee, which is the highest leadership organ of the State power.”

[18] David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter: America and the Korea War (New York: Hyperion, 2007) 54, 63, 67, 138, 144.

[19] North Korea Handbook, ed. Yonhap News Agency Seoul (London: M.E. Sharpe, 2003), 820, 941. The KFA site goes on to say that “the working class of Kangson and all other working people across the country responded to the leader’s call and bravely overcame trials and difficulties which stood in the way of their advance…Industrial production [by 1958] grew at the annual average rate of 36.6 per cent. All this fully showed the heroic stamina and creative talents of the Korean people galloping forward in the speed of Chollima.” I could get into more about the socialist economy of the DPRK (at the time) and how some weirdly see it as a model for democratic and participatory economic planning, but that’s for another day.

[20] North Korea Handbook, 124-126, 820, 941; (bourgeois academic) Andrei Lankov, Crisis in North Korea: The Failure of De-Stalinization, 1956 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005), 83-184, 240; Elections in Asia and the Pacific: A Data Handbook, 396, 398-399, 404. In previous elections in 1948, 1 delegate was elected per every 50,000 people, whereas in this session the Five-Year Plan was implemented.

[21] Elections in Asia and the Pacific, p. 157, 404.

[22] North Korea Handbook, p. 124; Han Young Jing, “What are Local Elections Like in North Korea?,” Daily NK (anti-DPRK publication), May 31, 2006; Andrei Lankov (hates the DPRK), “N Korea elections: An empty show?,” Al Jazeera, March 7, 2014.

[23] American University, Area handbook for Korea, Page 278; Robert A. Scalapino and Chong-Sik Lee, Communism in Korea: The movement (Ilchokak, Jan 1, 1972), 572;   North Korea Handbook, p. 126, 185, 949; Barry Gills (bourgeois academic), Korea versus Korea: A Case of Contested Legitimacy (New York: Routledge, 2005), 214; The Statesman’s Year-Book 1987-88, ed. J. Paxton, xxxviii. Very few of the local elections have good data on Wikipedia.

[24] Compare this with the 1949 elections when 689 provincial people’s assembly deputies, 5,164 city and county people’s assembly deputies elected, 13,354 deputies for township people’s assemblies were elected, and 56,112 deputies for town, neighborhood, village and workers’ district people’s assembly, were elected (North Korea Handbook, p. 126). A few years later in Nov. 1956, 54,279 deputies for town, neighborhood, villages and workers’ district people’s assemblies were elected, along with 1,009 provincial people’s assembly deputies and 9,364 city and county people’s assembly deputies also elected later in the month (North Korea Handbook, p. 126). Then three years later, in 1959, 9,759 city, county and district people’s assembly deputies and 53,882 town, neighborhood, village and workers’ district people’s assembly deputies were elected (North Korea Handbook, p. 126).

[25] Area Handbook for North Korea, 1969, p. 232; North Korea Handbook, p. 126.

[26] Robert A. Scalapino and Chong-Sik Lee (bourgeois academics), Communism in Korea: The society, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972, 726, 793-795.

[27] North Korea Handbook, p. 124.

[28] Pak Ung Gil, “We Scathingly Condemn U.S. Imperialism for Brutal Suppression of the U.S. Black Panther Party,” The Black Panther, Jan. 30, 1971, p. 13. Reprinted from The Pyongyang Times.

[29] Ibid, 12.

[30] “Declaration of the Executive Secretariat of OSPAAL (Organization of Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America) on the Occasion of the Detention of a Pilot of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by the South Korean Puppet Clique,” The Black Panther, Mar. 20, 1971, p. 14; On the same page is a Kim Il Sung poster declaring “If the U.S. imperialists provoke another aggressive war they will get nothing but corpses and death!”

[31] South Korean Revolutionary Party for Re-Unification, “On the Re-Unification of the Korean Fatherland,” The Black Panther, May 1, 1971, p. 15.

[32] Central Committee of the Black Panther Party, “April 15, Birthday Greetings to Comrade Kim Il Sung, Courageous and Beloved Leader of 40 Million Korean People,” The Black Panther, Apr. 17, 1971, p. 11.

[33] The Statesman’s Year-Book 1972-73, ed. J. Paxton, p. 1123; IBP, Inc., Korea North Country Study Guide Vol. 1, p. 47-48; “Polity IV Country Report 2010: North Korea,” Center for Systematic Peace, 2011; CountryWatch Elections: North Korea; North Korea Handbook, p. 126.

[34] North Korea Handbook, p. 124.

[35] p. 6 of “The Parliamentary System of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

[36] p. 7 of “The Parliamentary System of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

[37] Mitchell Lerner, “Making Sense of the ‘Hermit Kingdom’: North Korea in the Nuclear Age,” vol. 2, issue 3, Dec. 2008, Origins magazine, accessed Feb. 27, 2017.

[38] North Korea Handbook, p. 126; The Statesman’s Year-Book 1976-77, ed. J. Paxton, p. 1109.

[39] North Korea Handbook, p. 126.

[40] There is a delineation of parties shown on page 405 of Elections in Asia and the Pacific, but 401 deputies could not be identified by party affiliation, so it cannot be used. Still, of the data they have, it shows that the Workers’ Party of Korea with the most seats.

[41] North Korea Handbook, p. 124; Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chapter 1: “Major International Developments in 1977,” Diplomatic Bluebook, 1977.

[42] This was also apparently the year that Marxism-Leninism was replaced in the Constitution by Juche, but this cannot be independently confirmed. If that is correct, it is yet another capitalist concession to the growing bourgeoisie in the country.

[43] North Korea Handbook, p. 126.

[44] Eric Talmadge, “Senior North Korean leader to attend Nicaragua inauguration,” Associated Press, January 6, 2017; BBC News, “South Korea – Timeline,” February 3, 2017; Junheng Li, “North Korea Offers an Opportunity for China and the U.S.,” Bloomberg View, February 21, 2017.

[45] North Korea Handbook, p. 126.

[46] The Statesman’s Year-Book 1986-87, ed. J. Paxton (New York: MacMillian Ltd, 1986), p. 770-771; Yves Beigbeder, International Monitoring of Plebiscites, Referenda and National Elections: Self-determination and Transition to Democracy (London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1994), 49.

[47] North Korea Handbook, p. 124.

[48] All of these sources are bourgeois, but used anyhow. Kathryn Benken, Korea Lesson Plan “North Korea: The Dynasty of Communism,” NCTA Oxford 2009, Life Skills Centers of Hamilton County; Nicholas Eberstadt, Chapter 1: “North Korea’s Unification Policy-A Long, Failed Gamble,” The End of North Korea (American Enterprise Press, 1999), reprinted in the New York Times books section; Andrew C. Nahm, “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” The Far East and Australasia, 34th Edition (London: Europa Publications, 2002), p.654.

[49] “News Summary; MONDAY, MARCH 8, 1982,” New York Times, accessed March 2, 2017. This summary says that “Iran is receiving military equipment and arms worth millions of dollars from Israel, North Korea, Syria, Libya, the Soviet Union and Western Europe to wage war against Iraq, Western intelligence sources said…Syria accused the United States and Iraq of supplying Moslem fundamentalists with weapons with which to fight the Syrian Government. The Syrian President, Hafez al-Assad…said that Washington supported the Moslem Brotherhood organization in its ”subversive activity” in Syria.”

[50] North Korea Handbook, p. 126; Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Report Submitted to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Volume 1985 (Washington, D.C: Government Printing Office, 1986), 791, 796.

[51] The Far East and Australasia, p. 654.

[52] Ibid.

[53] North Korea Handbook, p. 126.

[54] Sergey Radchenko, “Sport and Politics on the Korean Peninsula – North Korea and the 1988 Seoul Olympics,” Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, December 12, 2011.

[55] North Korea Handbook, p. 124; Elections in Asia and the Pacific, p. 398.

[56] North Korea Handbook, p. 124; Cath Senker, North Korea and South Korea (New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2013), 44.

[57] North Korea Handbook, p. 126. The DPRK was accused yet again of terrorism, this time on a Korean Air Lines plane, which is passed around in the Western media, but this cannot, again, be independently confirmed.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Elections in Asia and the Pacific, p. 406.

[60] P. 5 of “The Parliamentary System of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea“; North Korea Handbook, p. 124; Associated Press, “N. Korea Assembly Election Set for April,” February 24, 1990.

[61] North Korea Handbook, p. 124; “Nationalism and Communism in Korea.”

[62] “Nationalism and Communism in Korea“; Victor Cha and Ji-Young Lee, “Politics of North Korea,” Oxford Biographies, August 26, 2013.

[63] “Kim Jong Il’s North Korea -An Arduous March,” Spot Survey, ed. Kazunobu Hayashi and Teruo Komaki, March 1997.

[64] North Korea Handbook, p. 126.

[65] Nick Knight and Michael Heazle, Understanding Australia’s Neighbours: An Introduction to East and Southeast Asia, Second Edition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 126; Gordon L. Rottman, Korean War Order of Battle: United States, United Nations, and Communist Group, Naval, and Air Forces, 1950-1953 (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002), 149; David E. Sanger, “North Korea Reluctantly Seeks U.N. Seat,” New York Times, May 29, 1991; BBC News, “North Korea profile – Timeline,” February 24, 2017; North Korea Handbook, p. 321; PBS, “End of a Superpower,” North Korea- Suspicious Minds, Januarry 2003; Jae-Cheon Lim, Kim Jong-il’s Leadership of North Korea (New York: Routledge, 2009), 17-18, 24, 58, 94-96, 98-99. ROK was admitted as a UN member the same year as the DPRK. Chuch’e idea mentioned in some areas.

[66] North Korea Handbook, p. 126.

[67] KCNA, “Rodong Sinmun on successful election of deputies to SPA,” July 1998; CNN, “North Korean parliament seen set to name Kim president,” August 20, 1998; Times Wire Reports, “Kim Jong Il Election Likely Steppingstone,” Los Angeles Times, July 27, 1998.

[68] KCNA, “Korean voters participate in SPA election,” July 27, 1998; KCNA, “Kim Jong Il elected to SPA,” July 27, 1998; KCNA, “100 percent vote for candidates,” July 27, 1998.

[69] Bourgeois propaganda sources: Daniel Pinkston, “North Korea’s 11th Supreme People’s Assembly Elections,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, July 1, 2003; Freedom House, “Freedom in the World Report: North Korea,” 1998.

[70] Elections in Asia and the Pacific, p. 406.

[71] North Korea Handbook, p. 124; Times Wire Reports, “Kim Jong Il Election Likely Steppingstone,” Los Angeles Times, July 27, 1998.

[72] Daniel Pinkston, “North Korea’s 11th Supreme People’s Assembly Elections,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, July 1, 2003.

[73] Bourgeois propaganda source: Freedom House, “Freedom in the World Report: North Korea,” 1998.

[74] Graham Hassall, Cheryl Saunders, Asia-Pacific Constitutional Systems (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 117; North Korea Handbook, p. 126. It was NOT the first year local elections were held in the country as deluded Western media claim, but rather that the timeline between local elections changed from every 2 years to an interval of every 4 years. Some sources noted that the SPA Presidum let citizens know about elections on January 26 and they voted by March 5-6, a pretty quick turnaround (Alexandre Mansourov, “North Korea’s July 19 Local Elections Dispel ROK Allegations of Public Unrest,” 38 North, August 6, 2015).

[75] World Atlas, “South Korea History Timeline,” 2016; accessed March 2, 2017; Sheryl Wudunn, “South Korea Sinks Vessel From North In Disputed Waters,” New York Times, June 15, 1999; Associated Press, “North Korea Opening (Gasp!) a Casino, July 31, 1999; Autoweek, “Yes, even North Korea has its own luxury car brand,” July 13, 2015; Nicholas D. Kristof, “South Korean Vessel Hits Boat From North During Standoff,” New York Times, June 10, 1999; Andrei Lankov, “N Korea: Not so ‘Stalinist’ after all,” Al Jazeera, April 2014.

[76] Daniel Schwekendiek, A Socioeconomic History of North Korea (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2011), 70-74, 81, 83. By 2002, the DPRK would start mobile phone services in the country. I think this book may be slightly anti-DPRK but not as hardline as elsewhere.

[77] Specifically, the DRPK had given the following countries arms: the Democratic Republic of Congo (3 P-4-class torpedo boats/Project 123 (1974) and 10 M-46 towed guns (1975)), Madagascar (4 MiG-17 fight aircraft (flown by DPRK pilots) (1975) and 4 Nampo landing craft (1979)), Libya (10 BM-21 “Grad” multiple rocket launchers (1980) and 5 Hwasong-6  tactical ballistic missiles (1999)), Guyana (12 D-30 howitzers (1980) and 6 Type 63 armored personnel carriers (1983), Tanzania (4 Nampo landing craft (1980)), Syria (50 BM-21 “Grad” multiple rocket launchers (1981-1984), 10 Type 63 multiple rocket launchers (1982), 12 MAZ-543 artillery trucks (1991-1993), 170 Hwasong-6 tactical ballistic missiles (1991-2000), and 100 Rodong-1 (“Scud Mod-D” as called by NATO) medium-range ballistic missiles (2000-2009), Egypt (145 BM-21 “Grad” multiple rocket launchers (1984-1987), Uganda (10 BM-21 “Grad” multiple rocket launchers (1987), 14 BTR-152 armored personnel carriers (1987), and 100 Strela-2 surface-to-air missile systems (1987)), UAE (6 MAZ-543 artillery trucks (1989) and 25 R-17 Elbrus missiles (1989), Iran (100 BM-21 “Grad” multiple rocket launchers (1982-1987), 150 T-62 medium tanks (1982-1983), 200 Type 63 multiple rocket launchers (1982-1986), 6 MiG-19 jet fighter aircraft (1983), 480 Type 59-1 field guns (1983-1988), 4000 9M14 Malyutka anti-tank missiles (1986-1989), 3 Chaho patrol craft (1987), 20 HY-2 anti-ship missiles (1987-1988), 20 M-1978 artillery pieces (1987-1988), 100 R-17 Elbrus missiles (1987-1988), 100 M-1985 multiple rocket launchers (1988-1998), 170 Hwasong-6 (called by NATO with the name “Scud”) tactical ballistic missiles  (1991-1993), 10 MAZ-543 artillery trucks (1993-1995), 15 Peykaap-Class torpedo boats (2002-2003), 3 Gahjae Class Submersible Attack Craft (2002), 3 Kajami-class Submersible Attack Craft (2002-2003), and 10 Tir-Class Patrol Craft (2002-2004)), Pakistan (2 Rodong surface-to-surface missiles (SSM) (1996-1997)), Viet Nam (100 Igla-1 Portable SAMs (1996-1997) and 25 Hwasong-6 tactical ballistic missiles (1998)), Myanmar (16 Type 59-1 field guns (1999)), Ethiopia (10 Type 63 armoured personnel carriers (2000)), Yemen (100 Hwasong-6 tactical ballistic missiles  (2001-2002)). Also, the DPRK gave Hamas 25 9M111 Fagot missiles (2014) and the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in Gaza: 25 9M111 Fagot missiles (2014).

[78] KCNA, “Kim Jong II Elected to SPA,” August 4, 2003; KCNA, “Foreigners Visit Polling Stations,” August 4, 2003; KCNA, “Results of SPA election Announced,” August 2003; Ian Jeffries, North Korea: A Guide to Economic and Political Developments, p. 392, 452; Daniel Pinkston, “North Korea’s 11th Supreme People’s Assembly Elections,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, July 1, 2003; Reuters, “North Korea Hails 100 Percent Poll Support for Leader Kim Jong Il,” July 4, 2003.

[79] KCNA, “Election Returns Announced,” August 2003; The People’s Korea, “DPRK Holds Election of Local and National Assemblies,” August 2003.

[80] Korea North Mining Laws and Regulations Handbook, Vol. 1 (USA: International Business Publications, 2011), 40; Double Trouble: Iran and North Korea as Challenges to International Security, ed. Patrick M. Cronin (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2008), p. 166.

[81] KCNA, “Results of Election of Deputies to Local Power Bodies Released,” July 2007.

[82] BBC News, “N Korea announces March election,” January 7, 2009; Kev Cho, Heejin Koo, “North Korea Holds Parliamentary Elections Amid Rising Tensions,” Bloomberg, March 7, 2009; Choe Sang-Hun, “Amid a Vote, North Korea Awaits Clues to Its Future,” New York Times, March 8, 2009; AFP, “N Korea’s Kim wins parliamentary seat: official media,” March 9, 2009.

[83] Reuters, “N.Korea vote may point to Kim successor,” March 8, 2009; Sohn Jie-Ae, “Kim secures seat after winning all the votes,” CNN, March 9, 2009; AFP, “North Korea ends registration for upcoming election,” March 5, 2009; ABC News (Australia), “Kim Jong-il’s son not among N Korea election winners,” March 10, 2009; BBC News, “N Korea announces March election,” January 7, 2009.

[84] Lee Sung Jin, “Increasing “Deaths” ahead of SPA Election,” Daily NK, March 9, 2009; Lee Sung Jin, “Defectors Detained in Chinese Prison Cast Proxy Votes,” Daily NK, March 16, 2009; Bona Kim, “Anti-election Graffiti around Pyongang Province,” Daily NK, April 14, 2009.

[85] Chosun Media, “N.Korean Parliament Boosts Kim Jong-il’s Powers,” September 25, 2009; B.R. Meyers, “The Constitution of Kim Jong Il,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2009; Na Jeong-ju, “NK Constitution States Kim Jong-il as Leader,” Korea Times, September 2009.

[86] BBC News, “North Korea elections: What is decided and how?,” July 19, 2015; AP, “North Korea begins local elections amid succession,” July 14, 2011 (early version of article on Asia Correspondent site); “DPRK unveils 2011-7-24 election posters,” North Korean Economic Watch (anti-DPRK site).

[87] Sam Kim, “North Korea holds local elections amid succession,” Associated Press, July 24, 2011.

[88] Agence France-Presse, “North Korean elections draw 99.97% turnout, says state media,” July 19, 2015. Reprinted in The Guardian.

[89] BBC News, “North Korea names Kim Jong-un army commander,” Dec. 31, 2011.

[90] Prableen Bajpai, “How the North Korea Economy Works,” Investopedia, January 30, 2015.

[91] Nicholas Eberstadt, “What is wrong with the North Korean economy,” American Enterprise Institute, July 1, 2011.

[92] Bourgeois source: Stephan Haggard, Luke Herman,  and Jaesung Ryu, “The Supreme People’s Assembly and “Cabinet Responsibility”: An Economic Reform Debate?,” Peterson Institute for International Economics, April 21, 2012; Yonhap News Agency, “(LEAD) N. Korea to convene unusual assembly session Sept. 25,” September 5, 2012.

[93] K.J. Kwon, “North Korea proclaims itself a nuclear state in new constitution,” CNN, May 31, 2012; NTI, “North Korea Updates Nuclear Status in Constitution,” May 30, 2012; Staff Reporter, “North Korea’s New Constitution Proclaims Itself a Nuclear Nation,” International Business Times, May 31, 2012; AFP, “New North Korea constitution proclaims nuclear status,” May 31, 2012.

[94] : Stephan Haggard, Luke Herman,  and Jaesung Ryu, “The Supreme People’s Assembly and “Cabinet Responsibility”: An Economic Reform Debate?,” Peterson Institute for International Economics, April 21, 2012; Bill Powell, “Is Kim Jong Un Preparing to Become North Korea’s Economic Reformer?,” Time, April 19, 2012; Yonhap News, “North Korea, Kim Jong Eun First Discourse ‘No Work’ Regulation,” April 20, 2012.

[95] Al Jazeera, “North Korea to hold parliamentary elections,” January 8, 2014; Alstair Gale, “North Korea’s Fake Election,” Wall Street Journal, Mar. 10, 2014; Rob Williams, “North Korea election: Kim Jong-un faces the vote – but of course there’s only one name on the ballot box,” The Independent, 2014; Choe, Sang-Hun, “North Korea Uses Election To Reshape Parliament,” The New York Times, March 10, 2014; BBC News, “North Korea’s Kim Jong-un in ‘unanimous poll win’,” March 10, 2014; BBC News, “North Koreans vote in rubber-stamp elections,” March 9, 2014; Harriet Alexander, “North Koreans ‘vote’ in elections – singing, dancing and reciting poetry,” The Telegraph, March 9, 2014; Peter Shadbolt, “North Korean election provides clues to reclusive Stalinist state,” CNN, March 7, 2014; Al Jazeera, “No votes cast against Kim Jong-un in poll,” March 10, 2014; Danielle Wiener-Bronner, “Yes, There Are Elections in North Korea and Here’s How They Work,” The Atlantic, March 6, 2014; Emily Rauhala, “North Korea Elections: A Sham Worth Studying,” Time, March 10, 2014; IFES election Guide: North Korea, 2014; Associated Press, “North Korea’s Kim Jong-un elected to assembly without single vote against,” The Guardian, March 10, 2014.

[96] KCNA, “Report of Credentials Committee of Deputies to 13th SPA,” April 9, 2014; Voice of Russia, “Kim Jong-un unanimously elected to North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly,” March 10, 2014.

[97] Michael Madden, “The NDC’s Fall Lineup: Results of the 13th SPA,” 38 North, October 6, 2014; Rodong Sinmun, “1st Session of 13th SPA of DPRK held,” April 10, 2014; KCNA, “Panel Committees of SPA of DPRK Elected,” April 9, 2014; KCNA, “Director of Supreme Public Prosecutors Office Appointed, President of Supreme Court Elected,” April 9, 2014; KCNA, “Members of DPRK Cabinet Appointed,” April 9, 2014; KCNA, “Presidium of Supreme People’s Assembly of DPRK Elected,” April 9, 2014; KCNA, “DPRK National Defence Commission Elected at SPA Session,” April 9, 2014; KCNA, “Kim Jong Un Elected First Chairman of NDC of DPRK,” April 9, 2014.

[98] KCNA, “Report on Implementation of State Budget for 2013 and State Budget for 2014,” April 9, 2014; KCNA, “Meeting of Political Bureau of C.C., WPK Held under Guidance of Kim Jong Un,” April 8, 2014; bourgeois sources: Institute for Far Eastern Studies, “North Korea Prioritizes Budget Support for the Modernization of Education in the Age of Knowledge-Based Economy,” September 18, 2014; KCNA, “1st Session of 13th SPA of DPRK Held,” April 9, 2014; James Pearson, “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un absent from parliament meet,” Reuters, September 25, 2014.

[99] James Pearson, “North Korean TV acknowledges leader Kim Jong Un’s health problems,” Reuters, September 26, 2014.

[100] Most of these sources are anti-DPRK, but included as they  discuss the election. Yonhap News, “North Korea Reports 99.97% Turnout In Local Elections,” July 20, 2015; Elizabeth Shim, “North Korea steps up propaganda ahead of regional elections,”UPI, July 15, 2015; Alma Milisic, “Foregone result in North Korea’s local elections,” Al Jazeera, July 19, 2015; Alexander Sehmer, “North Korean voters face little choice in local elections,” The Independent, July 2015; Alexandre Mansourov, “North Korea’s July 19 Local Elections Dispel ROK Allegations of Public Unrest,” 38 North, August 6, 2015; “Report on Results of Local Elections in DPRK Released”. Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang, in English. 21 July 2015; Tim Schwarz, “99.97% of North Koreans turn out for local elections,” CNN, July 21, 2015; The Daily Telegraph, “North Korea elections not too close to call,” July 20, 2015. There are also propaganda articles like “North Korean Elections: An Exercise in Futility” by Michelle Bovee, part of the staff of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.

[101] Pippa Norris, “The best and worst elections of 2014,” Washington Post, February 16, 2015.

[102]  Elizabeth Shim, “Kim Jong Un’s sister appears at North Korea’s assembly,” UPI, June 30, 2016.

“It is homeland or death”: Final days of Zimbabwe’s liberation war and post-independence

A photograph on page 6 of this Zanu pamphlet, accompanying a speech by Mugabe in a recent collection of his speeches I compiled.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Feb 25, 2017.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made.

While the liberation war was just beginning in the 1960s, it became more intense in the 1970s. The revolutionaries were fighting against, as Zapu, backed by the Soviet social imperialists, put it, the “brutal and neo-fascist nature of the gangster British settler minority regime,” specifically against “minority oppressive rule and terror-racism in Zimbabwe.” [1] By 1972, the British colony of Zimbabwe, lying on the great Limpopo and Zambrezi rivers, was bordered by the apartheid South African government “hostile to genuine African independence” along with the “understanding” state of Botswana, the Portuguese colony of Mozambique, and “brotherly republic” of Zambia. In the latter country, Zapu had their provisional headquarters. Within the area of Zimbabwe itself, there were 4.8 million Black Africans, 228,000 White European settlers, 7,700 Asian traders, and 11,000 people of mixed race, with the Africans divided into ethnic groups such as the Tonga, Nanzwa, Shangani, Venda, Ndebele, Shona, Suthu, and Kalanga, which the White settlers tried to divide and rule, but this backfired with intermarriages across ethnic lines, leading to “the formation of a Zimbabwe Nation.”

However, not everything was “peaceful” in Zimbabwe. As the White settler government worked hard to maintain a favorable image, cooperating with numerous Western media outlets (print and radio) to manage where they went and control the press, the British press had a “consistently hostile” image of Mugabe (as they do today), many of the columns in their papers respecting the views of White settlers rather than militants. [2] Internationally, the Sino-Soviet split continued to manifest itself. As Zapu and the ANC were close to the Soviet social-imperialists, while Zanu was rightly supported by the Chinese Maoists, allowing the revolutionary group to prosecute a war of liberation, with Chinese aid as a contributing factor to victory.  Still, the relationship between Zanu and the Chinese was sometimes fraught, at times. Even so, the involvement of  China had a positive effect on Zanu, with this involvement during the liberation struggle and after independence, used by the Chinese revisionists as another justification to be active in Zimbabwe to this day. The Chinese tactics also rubbed off on other liberation groups. FRELIMO adopted the Maoist ideas of self-criticism and guerrilla warfare used by the Chinese, allowing these revolutionaries to “pursue an effective hit-and-run campaign against the Portuguese military, well-suited to Mozambican conditions” for which Samora Michel, the leader of FRELIMO, later thanked the Chinese for. As for Zapu, which described itself inaccurately as the “authentic representative and spokesperson of the Zimbabwe people engaged in a liberation war,” since it was backed by Soviet social imperialists, they had roles in many international organizations. These organizations included the AASPO, World Council for Peace, Pan-African Youth Movement, and World Federation of Democratic Youth, along with saying they had a relationship with the OAU (Organization of African Unity, the precursor to the African Union) and attended the UN Committee of 24, also called the Special Committee on Decolonization. Zapu also claimed to have liaisons in Egypt, Tanzania, Zambia, Cuba, Europe, and North America.

As the years past, the liberation struggle advanced. Zapu, with an executive committee comprised of 14 individuals, appealed to “freedom-loving and peace-loving peoples” of the world, asking for assistance to Zapu and the Zimbabwean people, despite the fact they were still backed by the Soviet social imperialists, especially for release of prisoners and if not release, demanding that they treated according to the Geneva Conventions. [3] This statement showed their desperation and pathetic nature. As for Zanu, it dictated something more powerful: a statement on culture. It declared, in 1972, that a new culture should be formed in an independent Zimbabwe:

“..eighty years of decolonization have warped the minds of our people…our rich national heritage has been lost…in a free, independent and socialist Zimbabwe the people will be encouraged and assisted in building a new Zimbabwe culture, derived from the best in what our heritage and history has given, and developed to meet the needs of the new socialist society of the twentieth century…out culture must stem from our own creativeness and so remain African and indigenous.” [4]

Once again, the freedom fighters were up against a powerful enemy. Adding to the existing military equipment, the White settler-apartheid state received, from 1971-1979, 47 armored cars, ten armored personnel carriers, 46 light helicopters, 52 light aircraft (18 of which were illegally transferred there), 11 helicopters, and 17 trainer aircraft, mostly from South Africa and France, along with other material from Israel, West Germany, and Belgium. [5] Still, they kept fighting on.

As the 1970s trudged on, there were a number of changes, especially in Zanu. In 1974, Sithole was pushed out of the leadership, with Mugabe put in his place, and fully taking control of Zanu after the death of Herbert Chitepo in 1975. While Mozambique may have seemed as a “safe haven” for revolutionaries, Michel of Mozambique put him under house arrest for several months, and later released him, showing the weird politics of the Mozambician government, allowing him to wage a propaganda war against the regime as Josiah Tongogara, who died in 1979, to lead the forces, as Mugabe presented himself as a Marxist-Leninist. This meant that Mugabe, unlike Nkomo, was a radical nationalist and he opposed settlement with the White settler government and that he remained suspicious of numerous commanders of the armed military wing, ZANLA, having them removed from time to time. In 1975, the internationalist support of the Zimbabwean liberation movement was still clear. The White settler-apartheid government described how Zapu guerrillas had been trained in Moscow (and across the Soviet Union), Pyongyang, Peking, Nanking, and Ghana, and said that Zapu courses, sometimes also given in the DPRK, Bulgaria, and Egypt, showing the faulty policy of the two “socialist” countries first named, were focused on “para-military training, military engineering, radio…and intelligence,” while Zanu courses focuses on “influencing the minds and attitudes of the terrorists through political indoctrination and the ‘ideology’ of guerrilla warfare.” Their report went on to say that that “weapons, ammunition, explosives, uniforms, finance and food” is either given to the OAU’s Liberation Committee based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which distributes it to Zanu and Zapu, or directly to the groups themselves, sometimes through other countries such as “East Germany” (which printed a Zapu newsletter called The Zimbabwe Review), the DPRK, Bulgaria, Poland, and Hungary. It also mentioned that the Chinese had supplied radio stations in Tanzania and Zambia the ability to broadcast what the White apartheid government considered “terrorist propaganda against the White-governed countries of Southern Africa” which was actually propaganda for liberation. Still, they make a point to say that there is “no lack of evidence of communist support of Zanu and Zapu” but couch it in their colonialist, anti-communist mindset.

On September 9, 1976, the equation changed in the fight for Zimbabwean liberation. On that day, Mao Zedong died. At that point, the nationalist movement was divided, but the military and political rebirth of Zanu/ZANILA brought in more nationalist military strength to the table. Mugabe tried to approach the Soviets and their allies to ask for aid, since the aid went to a trickle after Deng Xiaoping took power in 1978,beginning the march of Chinese social imperialism, leaving the “Third World” in the dust. [7] Again and again, he was rebuffed, with “East Germany” calling them a “splinter group,” showing they did not understand the liberation movement, leading to an anti-Soviet attitude among Zanu, with open clashes with Zapu cadres, and Mugabe accusing the Soviets of giving aid as to make others their puppets. Not only was Mugabe was not wrong in this belief but the fact that the East Germans and Soviets rebuffed him showed their moral corruption. One could say that the situation in Angola was different than Zimbabwe. However, the Soviets, in their social imperialist manner, said that they would support him if he separated from China and stopped calling himself a Maoist, an absurdist claim. At the same time, the Soviet social imperialists continued to support Nkomo who was a leader that the Western business community and White Zimbabweans wanted to win the liberation struggle because he was more moderate! In 1976, the Patriotic Front formed as a political alliance of Zapu and Zanu, due to end of Chinese aid to Zanu, unfortunately. As a result, the following year they were able to form a 10-member coordinating committee agreeing on a joint program but military unity did not happen as Nkomo and Mugabe were “strange bedfellows” as Zanu and Zapu still clashed on occasion.

By the later 1970s, Zapu continued to receive Soviet support. [8] Even as the Soviet social imperialists began to “warm up” to Mugabe, who visited the Soviet Union in 1978, they remained loyal to Nkomo. They sent Zapu heavy weapons, fearing that helping Mugabe would ultimately assist “Chinese interests” (even though the Chinese had entered their revisionist stage) as they worked to undermine Western and Chinese influence in the region by supporting the bourgeois nationalist Nkomo instead of Mugabe, who was more radical. On the international stage, Zapu had more ability to spread their propaganda, thanks to the Soviet social imperialists giving them support. They had observer status as the UN as a recognized liberation movement where they lobbied UN member states to not recognize the UDI government, and also depended on the international community for successes. Zanu was more wary of such involvement. Seeing the CIA involvement in play in places like Zimbabwe and acutely aware of the decline in Chinese support, they published lectures in 1978 on political education for Zanu cadres in Zimbabwe News declaring that the capitalist state needs to be smashed and that Zanu was trying to build a “Marxist-Leninist vanguard party,” a position which Zapu did not hold. They further called for socialist revolution in Zimbabwe which rubbed off on some Zapu members, but they did not call for socialist revolution. Still, in Southern Africa, the Soviets had gained an advantage with a favorable government in Angola controlled by the MPLA, while the main Chinese involvement was in Zimbabwe had basically stopped for the time being.

In 1979, the liberation war, militarily at least, seemed to be coming to an end. Zapu, led by Nkomo, and Zanu, led by Mugabe, continued to have a tenuous alliance called the Patriotic Front but Zanu had double the amount of troops in Zimbabwe (8,000) than Zapu, by the later 1970s, meaning they were clearly placed to be the victors. [9] Josiah Tongogora, a Chinese trained guerrilla, led Zanu’s military wing, only one of the 40-50,000 able-bodied personnel, and 15,000 people with guns which were part of Zanu, a formidable force to say the least. Zanu, led by “very educated,” by Zimbabwean standards, educated by Christian missionaries, members, tried to teach villagers socialist cooperation within the agricultural settings, a justified strategy. Actions like this were why people said that the guerrillas didn’t live up to their “terroristic image” which White settlers tried to conjure by posing as guerrillas and killing people.

Mugabe was very open to the changes to come in the future. While he defiantly said he didn’t care what the Western media said about it, with his wife, Sally Heyfron (later known as “amal” or mother of the nation) who he met in Ghana in 1961, saying that those who knew Mugabe would not call him evil, he also said that he was “not a trained soldier, I’m a revolutionary nonetheless.” He also said that Black Africans who had suffered from over ninety years of colonialism (1889-1979 at minimum) should have an “honorable peace” which allows Black Africans to have sovereignty over the country. He further said that he was “prepared to be whatever the people want me to be…in a democratic system you have to accept the verdict of the people…British government is bias toward the settler regime” even as he argued that

“…we [Zimbabwean freedom fighters] are fighting a war which is a difficult one…we take care to not make people unnecessarily suffer…we are waging a struggle to overthrow the settler system…we are fighting a just war, that we overthrow the settler government which is currently oppressing out people…no one is fighting an individual war, all our fighters are fighting collectively under a command that derives its authority from the central committee of the party.”

In 1979, when military victory seemed in view, two new African leaders betrayed the Zimbabwean liberation struggle, showing their opportunism and the fact they were no friends of African liberation. Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Samora Machel of Mozambique, the latter of whom would be killed in a 1986 plane crash “accidentally,” demanded that Mugabe’s Zanu’s guerrillas forces, fighting for “one-man-one-vote and return of land confiscated by British settlers” could not use their countries as bases to launch attacks on the UDI government. [10] This forced Mugabe to the negotiating table. If these liberation forces had been allowed to win militarily, there is no doubt that Zimbabwe would have been a different country. In the negotiating process to give the country (and the black masses) independence, Mugabe took positions that made him an opponent of the White settler-apartheid government, but the British tried to accelerate the conference and rejected more nationalist demands. In April 1979, as the scorned government tried to “help” make the process “peaceful,” Ian Smith abdicated his position to a moderate Black leader named Abel Muzorewa, who offered amnesty to Zanu and Zapu forces. But, this was rejected, leading to an intensified war, with Nkomo having thousands of men armed with armored vehicles and MiG fighters in Zambia, disregarding the advice of his Soviet, Cuban, and East German advisers by continuing the war. Ultimately, he, like Mugabe, was forced to accept negotiated terms of the Lancaster Agreement.

The Lancaster House Agreement, signed on December 17, 1979, was a moderate agreement which officially ended British colonialism only in name. Not only did it include phased British withdrawal, but the nation was reverted to colonial status before it was declared independent in April 1980. There was a draft constitution, power-sharing, 20 seats in Parliament were reserved for White settlers, a ten-year moratorium was put on constitutional amendments, and the White minority retained many of its political and economic privileges. As Mugabe was rightly angry and disappointed, Ian Smith, British tycoon “Tiny” Rowland of Nigeria still preferred Nkomo over Mugabe as leader of an “independent Zimbabwe” since Mugabe was clearly more radical with his Marxist and Black nationalist pronouncements over the years. [11]

In April 1980, in elections allowed under the Lancaster Agreement, Mugabe became the Prime Minister of the free nation, the Republic of Zimbabwe, named after the ancient ruined city of Great Zimbabwe, edging out Nkomo of Zapu-PF (Zimbabwe African People’s Union – Patriotic Front). [12] With the war at an end, the refugees caused by the violence could return since there was no White settler army to attack their refugee camps, an army which engaged in “genocide and massacres” against the people of Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. Additionally, there could be no more deaths of freedom fighters who had fought for liberation, with the settler-apartheid government claiming it had killed 10,000, and education, which was limited to a small minority might have an opportunity to change. Reportedly, over 1,300 Rhodesian security forces were killed, over 7,700 Black Zimbabweans were killed, and only about 468 were killed during the liberation war. With the thirteen year war of liberation, roughly from July 1965 to December 1979 at an end, also called the Rhodesian Bush War, the influence of Portugal, South Africa, and the Zionists who supported the settler-apartheid government, could be limited, while those were on the side of the guerrillas (Angola, Zambia, Mozambique, and Tanzania), Zanu (China, Tanzania, and Libya) and Zapu (Cuba, Zambia, East Germany, and the USSR) would be praised. To those who think that this could have been all solved with nonviolent respectfulness, you are sorely wrong, as Mugabe said himself in 1979:

“No, no no…there was a whole history of having tried nonviolent methods, they had failed completely and neither the settler regime or Britain heeded our cries, they just wouldn’t move… [we realized that] armed struggle would be the right thing.” [13]

As the Zanu-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front) first competed in 1980 elections and was socialist in ideology, this would quickly change. Surviving two assassination attempts by White Zimbabweans during the campaign, since he seemed “terrifying” due to his comments during the war and Marxist outlook, he took more a conciliatory approach once in office. This was arguably a betrayal of the liberation struggle itself. In the election for the lower assembly, the House of Assembly the Zanu-PF gained 57 seats with 63% of the national vote, Zapu-PF gained 20 seats with 24.1% of the national vote, and the racist Republican Front (previously called the Rhodesian Front) party retained 20 seats, with 83% of the White vote nationwide, Mugabe attempted to calm panic and White flight. After being advised by Machel of Mozambique (the same person who pushed him to the negotiating table) to not alienate the White minority since it could lead to “White capital flight,” resulting in him avoiding revolutionary and Marxist rhetoric in the campaign, and declaring that private property (code for White property) would be respected, while the country would remain stable. This was a disgusting statement to say the least. Additionally, 20 percent of the seats, like in the House of Assembly, in the Senate, specifically eight of the 40 seats, were reserved for Whites.

Such maneuvers were the beginning of the neo-colonial era in post-independence Zimbabwe, lasting arguably from 1980 until 1996. Generally, neo-colonialism manifests itself when essentials of Western economic domination are maintained indirectly with imperialists partially satisfying the aspirations of a national liberation movement while they still protect imperialist economic interests, co-opt power of such a movement, in an attempt to move the populace away from socialism. [14] This exploitative arrangement, with political, ideological, military, and ideological elements, is reinforced by sections of the local and petty bourgeoisie, appearing in the new independent African nation, which allies with external imperialism while there are conditions of “acute competition and rivalry” among imperialist powers. Add to this that countries that agree to these conditions allow themselves to transform from formerly colonized territories into economically dependent countries where colonial marketing channels are maintained, along with other Western interests, while native African bourgeoisie just go along.

In Zimbabwe, such neocolonialism was put in place in a manner which hurt the well-being of the populace. During Mugabe’s time as prime minister of Zimbabwe, he lived in highly fortified residences, Zimbabwe received Western aid in hopes of pacifying the government, and the UK funded a land redistribution program. Even as Mugabe spoke of socialism, it was just talk: the government maintained a conservative framework, operating within a capitalist framework, and he tried to build state institutions, working to limit corruption among a new leadership elite formed, leading to resentment as many remained in poverty, even as the Zanu-PF took more control of government assets post-independence. Basically, they were becoming a new neo-colonial bourgeoisie, thanks to the West and their renunciation of radicalism! Most importantly, the land reform of willing seller, willing buyer lasted from 1980 to 1990, with the British government allowing land to be sold if it was bought and sold on a willing basis. This meant that a tiny group of White settlers still continued to own, as revisionist Stephen Gowans admits, much of the country’s mineral wealth and “productive farmland” while access to development aid and credit from international donors dependent on “economic policies that favored the economic elite of donor countries. This led to the indigenous population continuing life as landless peasants or employees of foreign companies, which was sadly, the same condition many of these people lived under, during colonial rule. Mugabe, in 2009, inadvertently described what Zimbabwe’s government did in the 1980s and 1990s:

“I think over the recent few years gone by there has been a development…determined by the economic situations of our countries and a situation that greater reliance on Western funding would assist our economies in transforming, and because of that naturally if you are a beggar, you cannot at the same time prescribe, you see, the rules of how you should be given whether it’s food or any items at all. So we were subjected to certain conditionalities as a basis on which whatever was paid, be it food, be it humanitarian aid in other directions, was sent to us…once you are inadequate in terms of funding yourselves monetarily and you have got to look outside for someone to assist you, and that someone outside naturally dictates conditions on you, and the moment that happens you have lost a bit of your own sovereign right to determine how you run your affairs. Those who give you money will naturally determine how you should run your country, and through that we tended to subject ourselves to the will of outsiders, to the will, even, of our erstwhile colonisers. It was neo-colonialism back again, what Nkrumah called neo-colonialism. There it was, it was crammed into our system, they were deciding how we should run our elections; who should be in government, who should not, regime changes, that nonsense. So our Pan-Africanism was lost because Pan-Africanism was based on the right of Africa determining its own future, the right of Africa standing on its own, and being the master of its own destiny, master of its own resources that had been lost…the Chinese fund does not come in that way. It has been targeted rightly, it’s a fund coming to Government not NGOs, to Government, an inclusive Government, towards development and will assist us in turning around the economy, and that is the kind of help we would want to get, and not the Western dictates.”

One can say that Mugabe and the Zanu-PF did not do this willingly. After all, 100,000 White settlers remained in the country, they commanded the “commerce, finance, industry, mining, and large-scale agriculture” industries, and Mugabe tried to create a socially democratic state, helping the Chinese gain markets for their companies, making the Chinese social imperialists smile with glee. [15] This policy resulted in the USSR established an embassy in Zimbabwe in 1981. Such policies to accommodate Whites were encouraged by the Chinese revisionists, who told Mugabe to not follow Mao’s model of Chinese socialism, and instead engage in more market measures again, with the Chinese becoming more and more of an economic benefactor. This did not mean that the country was a Chinese colony, but rather that it within the sphere of influence of the Chinese social imperialists. Even with these market measures by Zimbabwe, it is worth acknowledging that Zimbabwe was, at the time of independence, a “poor, underdeveloped third world country” and that there was a “real threat of a right-wing military coup by the White minority still in Zimbabwe, backed by South Africa,” even as the fight against western imperialism, and its allies, seemed to fade away.

This cozying up to the West, forced on them by the Lancaster Agreement and British imperial dominance, led to military material from Europeans going to the new “independent” government, as noted by the SIPRI trade register. From 1980 to 1987, the country received two bomber aircraft, eight trainer/combat aircraft, and nine fighter aircraft from the UK, six light helicopters and two ground surveillance radar from France, six trainer aircraft and six transport aircraft from Spain, and 12 helicopters from Italy. China continued to give the most military equipment of any country, transferring to Zimbabwe 30 armored personnel carriers, four towed guns, 22 tanks, 12 fighter aircraft, and two trainer aircraft. Also, Zimbabwe received five fighter aircraft from Kenya in 1981 and 90 armored cars from Brazil form 1984 to 1987.

As the years past, the political situation changed in Zimbabwe. In 1981, Edgar Tekere, part of Zanu-PF, was dismissed from the government in 1981, with Tekere supported by Whites in Zimbabwe and later becoming a rival to Mugabe. The same year, traditional doctors were given legal recognition by Zimbabwe, and other nationalist governments, in 1981, and throughout the 1980s. [16] In order to avoid a “repeat of Angola” in Zimbabwe, Mugabe kept a tactical alliance with Nkomo, who he allowed to stay in the government first as Minister of Home Affairs (1980-1982), and then as Vice-President for twelve years (December 1987 to July 1999), even as he viewed Nkomo as an adversary. In the years that followed, some Westerners were wary of national liberation movements such as MPLA and FRELIMO which had seized power, along with Zanu and Zapu in Zimbabwe. This partially manifested itself in the bloody Gukurahundi campaign, from 1983-1987, in which the CIA almost seemed afraid of Nkomo-friendly forces being suppressed. While the facts are mired in political accusations aimed at Mugabe and so on, Mugabe did call what happened “madness” at the 2000 funeral service for Nkomo, saying that thousands were killed, after an uprising by those favoring Nkomo, and that he was not proud of what happened.

As the years passed on, some moderate opposition grew. In 1985, in the elections for the lower assembly, the seats for the Zanu-PF grew, with a loss of seats for the Zapu and newly-christened Conservative Alliance of Zimbabwe (CAZ), a racist White party. The same year, people said that Zanu-PF was a “bogus liberation front,” thrown off the stage of African liberation in the place of Zapu-PF and the ANC, even though both organizations were backed by Soviet social imperialists, along with attacking organizations such as the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC). Keeping this in mind, it worth pointing out that while Mugabe did not nationalize White land, as he should have done, he did become the leader of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1986, a position he retained until 1989. Additionally, Black nationalists were supported rhetorically and there were strained relations between Whites and Blacks from 1980-1989 as “White flight” continued despite his pandering. Domestically, in 1987, Mugabe became president, replacing Canaan Banana, the country’s first President, under which it was a ceremonial positional, constitutional amendments were passed, a unity agreement between Zanu-PF and Zapu-PF meant that Zapu-PF was merged into the Zanu-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front). The opposition to this government manifested itself in a Zimbabwean Unity Movement (ZUM) led by Tekere, and the CAZ, which enjoyed representation on the municipal level, after 1987. The latter party, still lead by Ian Smith, chaired a meeting of opposition groups, including the Zanu–Ndonga party, UANC (United African National Council), and ZUM (Zimbabwe Unity Movement), in 1992, with these parties basically splintering and disappearing in later years. Internationally, Mugabe stood by the revisionist Chinese government during the Tiananmen Square protests, lasting from April until June 1989, and peaceful economic relations continued between the two countries. [17] Some consider these protests to be counter-revolutionary, while others claim they had “merit.” Even Margaret Thatcher told Mikhail Gorbachev, the person who was a biggest cause of the Soviet Union’s dissolution due to his policies, making the Western capitalist class smile with glee, that there needed to be a settlement in South Africa, saying that events happening there were the same as those that occurred “during the initial period of implementation of the agreement granting independence to Zimbabwe.”

By the 1990s, the situation in Zimbabwe was changing. In the first general elections under the amended constitution in 1987, which abolished the Senate, was conducted on a single roll, with no separate voting for Whites and Blacks, a step forward in the country’s post-independence period. In the elections, the Zanu-PF gained over 83% of the vote and the ZUM gained roughly 17% of the vote, which apportioned seats in the lower assembly. The dissolution of the USSR in December 1991 had a profound effect on Africa, which even the US White propaganda outlet, VOA, admits, as deeply affecting “Marxist-inspired governments and movements” such as those in Benin, Ethiopia, and Angola, while those “anti-communist authoritarian governments” backed by the U$ and Europe also “turned to multi-party elections” in due time. For Zimbabwe, mentions to Marxist-Leninism and scientific socialism were removed from the Constitution, with market measures seeming the way to go. As a government that was short on cash, the Zanu-PF government began an IMF Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP), with similar programs pushed by the U$ across the world, leading to a program of austerity which hurt the populace for years to come, while also weakening the government.

With the U$ as the sole superpower, a unitary world order began to form, with the U$ using the IMF, World Bank, and GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), along with the WTO (World Trade Organization) to impose a “global neoliberal iron heel.” In an effort to lessen their “significant international debts,” their debt service involved yielding to the “global neoliberal dictatorship” which resulted in the large state sector and local industries, which were protected, were declared as “inefficient.” [18] Furthermore, such measures were adopted by Mugabe and the Zimbabwean government enthusiastically even though the results were disastrous. This IMF prescribed program, lasting from 1991 to 1995, resulted in scarce foreign exchange, destruction of domestic industry, many consumer goods became unobtainable, and thousands of civil servants fired, but Mugabe was arguably forced into this position, with the country opened to foreign investment.

The ESAP program was clearly a form of neo-colonialism forced upon Zimbabwe. Kwame Nkumrah explained this in his book on the subject, saying that this form of domination operates in the economic, religious, political, ideological, and cultural spheres, writing that:

“…it [the former colonial power] is ‘giving’ independence to its former subjects, to be followed by ‘aid’ for their development…it devises innumerable ways to accomplish objectives formerly achieved by naked colonialism…another neo-colonialist trap on the economic front has come to be known as ‘multilateral aid’ through international organisations: the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-national Bank for Reconstruction and Development (known as the World Bank), the International Finance Corporation and the International Development Association are examples, all, significantly, having U.S. capital as their major backing…neo-colonialism is not a sign of imperialism’s strength but rather of its last hideous gasp. It testifies to its inability to rule any longer by old methods. Independence is a luxury it can no longer afford to permit its subject peoples.”

Nkumrah goes on to say that other forms of neo-colonialism are: (1) the “economic penetration” due to the fact that much of the world’s ocean shipping is “controlled by me imperialist countries,” (2) evangelism, (3) international capital’s control of the “world market, as well as of the prices of commodities bought and sold there,” and (4) the “use of high rates of interest.” He also writes that neo-colonialism, with its divide and rule tactics, can be defeated, with unity and ideological clarity, providing that neo-colonialism is simply “the symptom of imperialism’s weakness and that it is defeatable,” with the fighter for independence “invariably decides for freedom.”

In 1992, there was another sea change in Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s wife, Sally Heyfron, died of kidney illness, and before her death he reportedly saw a mistress named Grace Marufu. With Sally dead, this may have given Mugabe more of the initiative to engage in nationalist policies (though this is doubtful). [19]In 1996, he married Grace, a South African-born woman, who currently has an active role in the Zimbabwean government, which has led to Western sanctions, and anger from some because of her alleged (and overblown claims of) “extravagance.”

As the years went by, the ESAP was still implemented, making the West happy that Mugabe seemed to be “on their side.” This is reflected in the fact, for example, that in 1994, the Queen of England made Mugabe an honorary knight, making them think Mugabe had been made and that everything was going according to plan. The following year, in parliamentary elections this year, the Zanu-PF won more than 81% of the vote while the opposition Zanu-Ndonga only gained about 7% of the vote. Also the same year, Sithole, a veteran of the Zimbabwean liberation war, returned in 1995 and was elected to parliament, later becoming part of the small opposition to the government.


Notes

[1] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle (ed. Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu), Cairo: Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization, 1972, second edition), 7, 13-14.

[2] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary; Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 1965-1980 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 351; Ian Taylor, China and Africa: Engagement and Compromise (New York: Routledge, 2006), 94, 106, 114; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 57-60,  68-70. Other organizations included the International Union of Students, World Trade Union Federation (Zacu a member), All African Trade Union Federation, All Africa Women’s Conference, Women’s International Democratic Federation, Pan-African Journalist Union, and Tri-Continental Organization (implying that Cuba, Vietnam, and U.A.R. are their allies). They also said that Zapu firmly believes in “armed struggle” but for it not to be “random,” with no considerations of race, class, tribe, or other delineations within the struggle,showing that this position is  BS. The reporter in this documentary implies that stereotypes persisted because guerrilla forces don’t want interviews from reporters stereotypes persisted, but these viewpoints may have been ingrained because of a colonized mindset so such interviews could have still led to negative reporting, which the guerrillas may have realized.

[3] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 8-9, 71. Those on the Zapu executive committee are as follows: Life President Joshua Nkomo, Deputy Secretary to the President William J. Mukarati, Deputy National Secretary Edward S. Ndlovu, National Chairman Samuel Munedawafa, National Treasurer Jason Ziyapapa Moyo, Financial Secretary Rubatso George Marange, Secretary for External Affairs Joseph Musika, Secretary for Youth and Cultural Affairs Clement Muchachi, Deputy Secretary for Youth and Cultural Affairs Boniface Nhariwa Gumbo, Secretary for Information and Publicity T. George Silundika, Deputy Secretary for Information and Publicity Alois Z. Wingwiri, Secretary for Women Jane Ngwenya, Secretary for Public Relations Dzawanda Willie Musarurwa, Secretary for Organization Lazarus Nkala, and Secretary for Education Josiah Chinamano.

[4] Thomas Turino, “Race, Class, and Musical Nationalism in Zimbabwe,” Music and the Racial Imagination (ed. Ronald M. Radano and Philip V. Bohlman, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 572.

[5] This information comes from the SIPRI trade register. The government also received five Reconnaissance AVs in 1977, five APCs in 1977, and ten Portable SAMs from an “unknown country” from 1977-1978, along with reportedly 5 light transport aircraft from Mozambique, though this is mostly definitely an error since Sonora Machel of the Mozambican government would never have made such a transfer. Additionally, the government received 14 trainer aircraft from an unknown country in 1977.

[7] Ian Taylor, China and Africa, 108-109, 113; Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 1965-1980 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 255; M. Tamarkin, The Making of Zimbabwe: Decolonization in Regional and International Politics (New York: Frank Cass, 1990, 2006 reprint), 174.

[8] M. Tamarkin, The Making of Zimbabwe: Decolonization in Regional and International Politics (New York: Frank Cass, 1990, 2006 reprint), 219; Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun, 351; Ian Taylor, China and Africa, 48.

[9] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. All the information until the next footnote comes from this documentary.

[10] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. Also, Machel of Mozambique insisted that Mugabe attend the talks, saying that he would withhold support for ZANU if he did not attend.

[11] M. Tamarkin, The Making of Zimbabwe, 201.

[12] Alex Thomson, Introduction to African Politics, 2000, p. 31; “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. Also Sithole lost 1980 election to Mugabe, going to London, then Silver Spring, Maryland later in his life, which is exactly what a bourgeois nationalist like him deserved.

[13] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. Films about the Zimbabwean liberation struggle were also put out over the years, including but limited to Albino (1976 German Thriller), Game for Vultures (1979 British Thriller seeming to show Black nationalists fairly), Blind Justice (1988 British film which shows Black nationalists unfairly), Flame (1996 American film which portrays Zimbabwe as authoritarian after independence and ZANU as betraying their revolutionary ideals), Concerning Violence (documentary on protests and resistance against White rule in Zimbabwe in the 1960s and 1970s, based on a passage of Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth).

[14] Jack Woddis, Introduction to Neo-Colonialism: The New Imperialism in Asia, Africa, and Latin America (New York: International Publishers, 1969, second printing), 28, 32, 43-44, 46, 52, 56, 70, 68-69, 87; Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1963), 27-28, 55, 59-60, 101, 120, 124. Fanon cites the ruling of Monsieur M’ba in Ghana as an example of neocolonialism.

[15] Ian Taylor, China and Africa, 114-115, 117, 119-121, 123, 126; Patrick Bond and Richard Saunders, “Labor, the State, and the Struggle for a Democratic Zimbabwe,” Monthly Review, Vol. 57, issue 7, 2005; Reuters, “Soviet Union Is Establishing An Embassy in Zimbabwe,” June 3, 1981; three paragraph article reprinted in the New York Times. In this article Bond (and Richard Saunders) wrote he cites ZCTU, Anti-Privatization Forum (APF), and MDC as “resistance” and angry at anything pro-ZANU-PF. Saunders is a smiling bourgeois academic who has written a good amount on Zimbabwe clearly of a critical nature. The Trotskyists consistently hate Mugabe time and time again, making it hard to find anything on the Marxist Internet Archive on Mugabe that is more fair than Trotskyist smears.

[16] John Iliffe, The African AIDs Epidemic: A History (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2006), 93; Thomas G., “How the U.N. Aids Marxist Guerrilla Groups,” Heritage Foundation, April 8, 1992.

[17] Ian Taylor, China and Africa, 114-115, 117, 119-121, 123, 126. She also told him that in South Africa, the “situation in dangerous” and that we need to “doe everything possible in order to control the situation, not to let the settlement be destroyed,” a typical fear of a Western capitalist ruler.

[18] Patrick Bond and Richard Saunders, “Labor, the State, and the Struggle for a Democratic Zimbabwe,” Monthly Review, Vol. 57, issue 7, 2005.

[19] Ibid; Alex Thomson, An Introduction to African Politics, 2000, p. 177; Staff Reporter, “Mugabe reminisces about late wife, Sally,” NewZimbabwe.com, November 9, 2014; LA Times, “Sally Mugabe; Wife of Zimbabwe President,” January 28, 1992; Robert Verkaik, “Exclusive: The love that made Robert Mugabe a monster,” The Independent, April 6, 2008. Sally spent 10 years in exile, from 1967-1977 in London, and was a loyal comrade to Mugabe. Some say that the battle to save his wife from deportation from 1970 made Mugabe angry at the British government as he never forgot the British attempts to deport her, with both of them as comrades in love in the liberation struggle.

“It is homeland or death”: From British colonialism to the Zimbabwean liberation war

Picture of the Great Enclosure, part of the Great Zimbabwe ruins (courtesy of Wikimedia).

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Feb 23, 2017.

Every day the Western bourgeois media concocts another story about Zimbabwean President Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s faults. [1] The “human rights” organizations like Amnesty and “Human Rights” Watch join in on the charade, siding with the opposition in the country, which is predictably backed by the U$ and the West. As a result, the state of Zimbabwe is rocked by political turmoil because the opposition leads to polarization, not due to the policies of Mugabe and the ruling Zanu-PF party. The masses of Zimbabwe are “one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death” as Reason Wafawarova, an Australian political writer for the government-owned newspaper, The Herald, writes at the bottom of many of his editorials. In order to recognize this perspective, this article will examine Zimbabwe’s history from before European contact into the last days of the 1960s, with other articles focusing on other periods.

The history of Zimbabwe dates back to years before the first White imperialist would be  out of their womb. The earliest kingdom in the region may date back to 500 C.E.. with the area known as Great Zimbabwe settled in the 11th century, and more substantially by the thirteenth century, with many states around the region “built around stone forts.” [2] The term “Zimbabwe” can be used to designate, at a minimum, the Zambesi-Limpopo cultures. These cultures, with peoples who were state-builders and iron users, flourished in the region of present-day state of Zimbabwe, in the centuries before European arrival.During the pre-European period, the area was part of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, an African civilization lasting from the eleventh century (roughly 1220) to the fifteenth century (roughly 1450) which was called “Monomotapa” by the Europeans, with building of large stone palaces, which were known as “Zimbabwe.” This empire had access to mineral resources and coastal trade, mainly with traders from the Asian continent, especially China.

The famous stone ruins at Great Zimbabwe are worth describing. Near the capital of “Southern Rhodesia” in the 1960s, Salisbury (present-day Harare), there were “two outstanding buildings” which were named by Europeans the “Acropolis” and the “temple”/”elliptical building,” with the plain beneath the “Acropolis,” stands a “solid fortress, with strong battlements” which is made from local granite, constructed by Zimbabweans. The complex building is “300 feet long, 220 feet broad” with walls that “were 20 feet thick and 30 feet tall” along with stepped “recesses and covered passages, the gateways and the platforms” which were hewn out elaborately with “soapstone bird-gods” inside and outside the structure. [3] Walter Rodney added that there were “encircling brick walls” at this site, and in other parts of the African continent where Bantu-speaking people were inhabitants, which was “characteristically African” and that undoubtedly a large amount of labor was needed to construct buildings. He added that such workers likely came from particular ethnic groups with possible subjugation and subsequent social class delineations, but that there wasn’t simply “sheer manual labor” because the structures themselves had a level of advanced “skill, creativity, and artistry” which went into construction of the walls, doors, inner recesses, and decorations of the buildings. There were also great brick constructions, which dated back to the 14th century, which were commonly referred to as “temples” which served religious purposes since the religious aspect of development in that society was greatly important, just as it was across the African continent.

The various societies that constituted a developed (and advanced) Zimbabwean culture lasted a total of a thousand years. People constructed dams for irrigation, raised cattle, sowed grain, and traded across the Indian Ocean, with chiefs enjoying “fine pottery or china” while sitting at-top of warring cultures. [4] These cultures, with no system of writing, were “highly stratified,” with chiefs and priests, miners, and specialized craftsmen, the latter who created ornaments with exact skill and lightness of touch. There was also mixed farming, with cattle valued as important work animals, and major terracing and irrigation which is comparable to that of ancient Rome, or civilizations in Asia, making Zimbabweans, what we now would call “hydrologists.” In the society itself, there were several ethnic groups which mixed: Khosian type hunters or “Bushmen” who were long-time residents, and newcoming Bantu-speakers from the north, all of which had varying pottery styles and burials, with certain ethnic groups, likely, relegated to inferior status so that “labor for agriculture, building, and mining” as necessary for societal needs.

While the kingdoms long fought off “barbarian invaders,” they couldn’t stand against the Portuguese. After the collapse of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, there was the Kingdom of Mutapa, which the Portuguese confronted in the 1500s. This empire, first ruled by Mwene Mutapa, from 1415 to 1450, who appointed governors to rule over numerous localities outside the capital, spreading from Zimbabwe to Mozambique’s hinterland, with the center of the Mutapa empire at Great Zimbabwe at first, and later moving northward. [5] While those living in the region at the time were predominantly Sotho-speakers, many of those in the ruling class were pastoralists who had religious rituals with objects symbolizing cattle, possibly meaning that cattle owners were honored in society, and paid homage to their ancestors. As Immanuel Wallerstein argues, the Portuguese went on the full offensive, sacking coastal cities, reducing Indian Ocean trade, which was a “severe blow to Zimbabwe peoples” as the Portuguese (the first imperialists to visit), with firearms, went into the interior, taking sides, and undermining “the whole structure” of the kingdom. Still, they were too weak to establish a colonial administration, only having enough power to destroy and cause destruction.

This could have been helped by the fact that in Zimbabwe and Congo, social organization was low until the 15th century. This was even the case despite significant political structures in the area as tentacles of the transatlantic slave trade encroached on Africa. [6] In later years, as the Mutapa empire waned and dissipated in 1760, there was the Rozvi empire, lasting from 1684 to 1834. The lords of the both empires encouraged production for “export trade, notably in gold, ivory, and copper” with Arab merchants living in the kingdom. The Zimbabwean region, at the time, was still connected to the “network of Indian Ocean commerce.” A “single system of production and trade,” was organized by collecting tribute from other states. In later years, the Mthwakazi, a Ndebele kingdom, existed until the late 19th century, when the British colonists come into the picture. Despite the fact that indigenous kingdoms in present-day Zimbabwe ultimately faltered, there is no doubt that such development showed that there were advanced societies on the continent before the Europeans arrived. The idea that there was some “dark continent” with people running around like “savages” as European imperialists imagined in their racist, colonialist minds is utterly false.

In 1889, the British South African Company came to Zimbabwe, later naming it “Rhodesia” after British imperialist Cecil Rhodes. Not only did this name override the indigenous name of Zimbabwe, which came from the Shona language and meaning venerated or stone houses, but it showed that the age of imperialist exploitation was at hand. In 1895, African history was whitewashed when a prospector was sent by the South African company to exploit the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, making it harder to know what the gold smelters of Zimbabwe produced years earlier. [7] History was lost to greedy White settler capitalism. Luckily, while most of the “copper and gold objects were largely destroyed and melted down” by 1902, similar objects at the Mapungubwe have been found, objects which were “unravaged by Europeans with a civilizing mission.” As a result, historians can recognize the reality of African and Zimbabwean history, not the whitewashed one “handed down.” Even with this, there is no doubt that Cecil Rhodes, his imperial agents, and “settler pests,” came in to Zimbabwe to “rob and steal,” coming north from present-day Botswana to raise a flag at (Mount) Harare, later renamed Salisbury by the White settlers. While these new invaders marveled at “surviving ruins of Zimbabwe culture,” they assumed, from their Eurocentric perspective, that it had been built by White people.

This exploitation went beyond the erasure of culture. In the economy of Southern Africa and Rhodesia under British colonialism, Africans were treated as cheap labor who were prohibited from growing cash crops so their labor could be exploited by White “owners.” [8] These “owners” included those such as Standard Bank, a financial organization which was founded on loot of Rhodes and De Beers, headquartered in London, which expanded from the Cape Colony to Mozambique, Rhodesia, and Bechuanaland (present-day Botswana) in 1895. Still, this was not accepted without resistance. There were numerous bloody battles between the indigenous African population and invading settlers. During this time, when power began to be exclusively held by Whites, native Africans engaged in rebellions against White settlers, but these rebellions were crushed. This didn’t stop Robert Mugabe, once a Zimbabwean revolutionary (not anymore), who was pivotal in the anti-colonial struggle, to see those who rebelled as first African revolutionaries in Zimbabwe. He remembered how folklore about past struggle was told to them by their parents so they could explain “how White men came to the country, how he grabbed the land.”Mugabe also added that

“In a society where you have a class whose main purpose and accepted privilege is to exploit others, naturally it rebuffs. If the majority of people are being oppressed, being exploited, you can’t avoid, if you have any moral principles at all, the call to do something about it.”

In the years that followed, the British South African Company continued to control the British colony of Rhodesia. In 1923 this changed. As a result of plans made by White British colonists, settler migrants came to the colony after WWI with the London government granting the settlers a “Letters Patent Constitution” which made it a “self-governing colony.” [9] This designation meant that settlers had the right to secede or not, but the British retained “control over defence and foreign policy, certain reserve powers” which included issuing discriminatory legislation to control the African population. Hence, the British colony of Southern Rhodesia was born, the following year, comprising the area of the republic of Zimbabwe, founded in April 1980, splitting from the Northern section, called “Northern Rhodesia,” covering the area of the independent republic of Zambia, formed in October 1964. As the years went on, the oppression mounted. While the idea of “reserve powers” was supposedly to protect African interests, it became ineffective with the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 revised in 1941, and in a number of other times, a law that formed the basis of the “social and racial structure” in Rhodesia.

Even with the settlers with official power, the British monarch in the colony itself is represented by the governor and there were “British errand boys” who lived as White settlers. The greedy mentality of the colonists led to more divisions. Such colonists divided the country into two portions: the “native” area for Black Africans and Crown or European land for White settlers. [10] Predictably, the “rich and fertile land” was occupied by White settlers and the “sandy, semi-dry land” given to Black Africans, land from which they can be expelled from if minerals are found or settlers want to buy a farm in the area. Adding to this insult were laws on the books, enacted in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, which evicted Africans from “European land,” gave the government control of all the aspects of African life, and gave each family eight acres for “living in farming.” The latter measure was one of social control, in an attempt to keep Africans poor and give White settlers “cheap and exploitable labor for the mines, farms, light and heavy industries.” This is why the fight over land is so important in present-day Zimbabwe.

In the 1950s there were other sea changes in Southern Rhodesia. While the White settlers celebrated “sixty years of progress” in 1950, oppressed Africans did not see it the same way. African civilization had become the largely the domain of Christian missionaries, with different forms of education (“European,” “African,” “Asian,” and “Coloured”)  “separated budgeted for.” [11] To enforce the inequality, more was spent on European education than on African education. In 1953, officially, the structure of the colony changed, with the creation of the Central African Federation (CAF), comprising the areas of present-day Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi (Nyasaland), in an effort led by Southern Rhodesian settlers under the direction of Godfrey Huggins. To reinforce this, the British colony received, between 1950 and 1958, 10 armored cars, 22 Spitfires, 32 fighter aircraft, 16 trainer aircraft, 8 transport aircraft, 2 light transport aircraft from UK, and 18 bomber aircraft, all from London, while NATO accompanied this by providing bombers and armaments. The latter information comes from the SIPRI trade register.

Of course, this action was done without the approval of Africans. As the settler oppression became even more ruthless, “African resistance rekindled” against racist laws, enacted to maintain settler dominance, and against the idea that racial discrimination was the “order of the day” in Zimbabwe. [12] In 1957, a chapter of African National Congress (ANC) organized in the country, led by Joshua Nkomo, with the chapter joining the ANC in South Africa which had been created in 1912. The following year, as the record shows, Nkomo began his contact with the Soviets, which would prove as a major force in the liberation struggle to come despite the fact they were  revisionist and social imperialist. During this time period, the political aspirations of the Black masses seemed modest, as nationalists only wanted simple political rights which they demanded in clearly nonviolent demonstrations. This perception was also because the struggle was reformist since the major groups were not forceful or anti-capitalist. However, after demonstrations were banned by the colonialist government, there was more frustration, with moderation turning to militancy and passive resistance turning into civil disobedience. The stage was set for set for full-scale civil war.

In the 1960s, the anti-colonial struggle in Zimbabwe heated up. In December 1961, after frustrations with previous nationalist groupings such as the National Democratic Party (NDP), established in January 1960, which pushed for a constitutional conference, with party members demonstrated, rioted and committed acts of arson in hopes of changing the conditions in Zimbabwe, Nkomo formed the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union, or Zapu, just after the NDP was banned. [13] As for the actions of the NDP, as Mugabe put it many years later, some of those in the organization were some of the first to use petrol bombs in 1960 as a “means of pressure, not really to destroy life” and that there were strikes and demonstrations in 1961.

Zapu named Nkomo as President, Tichafa Samuel Parirenyatwa as vice-president, Ndabaningi Sithole as chairman, Jason Moyo as information secretary, and Mugabe as publicity secretary. The organization embarked on pushing the failed policies of the NDP, with Nkomo banned from coming into Zimbabwe under legalistic jargon from the colonialist state. [14] Furthermore, Nkomo wanted to encourage the British government to agree to nationalist demands, and the organization boycotted the settler elections in Dec. 1962, with Nkomo declaring that Zapu must “continue in any form desired by the people at a given time, and under different circumstances. But I must repeat, that we shall never, I repeat never, form any new Party.” In order to back up these claims, Zapu and related freedom fighters engaged in civil disobedience, arson, sabotage, and demonstrations against the White minority government, which they refused to talk with, rightly so. Nkomo was imprisoned and official Black opposition banned in 1962 by the white colonialist government. The Soviets played a part in this liberation struggle by giving massive support for Zapu, which made its first contact with them through the ANC in South Africa, with the Soviets continuing their opposition to the settler government in Zimbabwe at major international forums time and time again, with Nkomo and other top leaders went on troops worldwide in an effort to garner international support. Even so, thy corrupted the struggle as social imperialists, since they did not try to make sure it remained united, backing more moderate forces.

In 1963, the equation changed. The “more radical elements” of the anti-colonial Zimbabwe opposition, who were mostly in prison, broke away from Zapu to form Zanu, the Zimbabwe African National Union. [15] This new grouping, which had come about due to justifed anger against Nkomo by those who accused him of allowing the White settlers to unite and different strategy, was led by Sithole. It believed in immediate armed confrontation with the White settlers and self-reliance while Zapu wanted intervention from the international arena. Broadly speaking, Zapu was aligned with the Ndebele and Zanu was aligned with the Shona. Additionally, those in Zanu, including Mugabe of course, were progressive nationalists who wanted immediate action, while Zapu represented the more conservative nationalists, seeming to only engage in slow maneuvers. Predictably, the Zapu denounced Zanu as dividing the movement, even though the tactics of Zapu, assisted by the revisionist Soviets, led to this result! At a “people’s conference,” supposedly to solve problems within the Zimbabwe liberation movement, attendees resolved that Nkomo was the only leader of the anti-colonial liberation movement in Zimbabwe, that bans on African nationalist organizations. throughout Africa must be denounced, that “divisive tendencies” must combated, and vigilance against the settler regime continued. Additionally, the conference declared that “active resistance” against the settler regime would continue, rejected cooperation with the British, and expelled the “four conspirators” which formed Zapu (Sithole, Mugabe, Washington Malianga, and Leopard Takawira). The attendees declared that these individuals were “dividing” the Zimbabwean people through forming their own party, seeing it as an imperialist divide-and-control policy.

Due to these differences, the conflict between Zapu and Zanu erupted. At times it became violent. While some may be included to do so, it is wrong to discount the Zanu group wholesale. For one, Mugabe, a top leader in the group, spent 11 months in detention which hurt his son psychologically, who later died from malaria. [16] Years later, he summarized, in part, the beliefs of Zanu, by saying that “you cannot fight for grievances by pleading…you can only do so by getting to the root cause of the problem and that’s the problem of power.” As for Zapu, it suffered from the justified defection of members to Zanu. A number of the key figures of Zanu’s armed wing had played a role in leading Zapu’s armed wing, taking with them “operational information and many individual cadré.” This altered the “balance of power in the liberation movement,” leaving Zapu with the short end of the stick, something from which it would not recover from in the years to come, which was good for the people of Zimbabwe. While the idea of reconciliation between the two “wings” of the liberation movement was proposed, it was quickly abandoned within the country as untenable.The same year, the Central African Federation dissolved and military power was handed over to Winston Field, leading to continued oppression.

As the liberation movement in Zimbabwe split, so did the funding. Zapu representatives went to a number of so-called “socialist” countries, including the social imperialist Soviets, and based in Zambia with the military wing of ZIPRA (Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army). [17] As for Zanu and their military wing, the Zimbabwean African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), they received much of their support from Maoist China, which  benefited the Zimbabwean people. The latter socialist state promoted the idea of guerrilla warfare as a way to win the liberation war. Simply put, Zanu, later led by Mugabe, had a pro-China leaning while Zapu, led by Nkomo, had a pro-Soviet leaning, leading to distortion and division. Black leaders in nations such as Mozambique, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, and Angola, supported the guerillas with training areas and pitched camps, while the White settler government in Zimbabwe formed “a well trained, moderately equipped, and integrated armed force.” Arguably, Zapu, also supported by Cuba, the short-lived United Arab Republic (U.A.R.), and the German Democratic Republic (GDR or “East Germany”), followed Soviet-influnced teachings while Zanu, with their varying external networks, followed the teachings of Mao Zedong. This meant that Zanu worked to mobilize the rural peasantry, Zapu worked to mobilize those in urban areas.

This manifestation of the Sino-Soviet split, begun in part by Nikita Khrushchev’s traitorous “Secret Speech” denouncing the supposed “wrongs” of Joseph Stalin, meant that China determined more of the direction of the Zimbabwe liberation struggle than the Soviets. Beijing’s association with Zimbabwe goes back to the liberation struggle, a time when Zanu cadres went to China to get guerrilla training and attended classes in Ghana taught by Chinese instructors. [18] As a result of Chinese support, Zanu was transformed from a splinter organization into a full-fledged participant of the liberation struggle, and it became more bold, criticizing the alliance of the Soviet-aligned ANC and Zapu, saying this allowed racists to consolidate their forces. In later years, Zanu revamped its strategy to be more Maoist, with armed struggle based in “support of the people,” by the early 1970s, as Mugabe said years later. As a result of the guerrilla warfare tactics by Zanu and traditional military tactics by Zapu, along with Zanu freedom fighters trained by the Vietcong and Chinese in guerrilla tactics, with the fighters returning from the latter country coming back radicalized, the White settler government adjusted their system of racist terror. China, for their part, was active in aiding liberation in the country, seeing as a way to counter “Soviet hegemonism” and “Sovietism” with their support as part of their anti-superpower and anti-Soviet agenda. Such a viewpoint was undoubtedly right, as the Soviets were utter social imperialists who needed to be countered. Hilariously, this was misread by the White apartheid government as a way to get Western capitalists and China to work together and fight the Soviets, as they clearly did not understand what was happening, but the Chinese would have no part in such an “agreement.”

The Zimbabwean liberation movement was up against a formidable adversary. Between 1960 and 1963, the White settler government had received four transport aircraft, 12 fighter aircraft, and 30 armored fighting vehicles, called Ferret armoured cars, from London, along with three light helicopters from France, as noted by the SIPRI trade register. The colonial organization in 1965, in Zimbabwe, was changed. In 1964, a White minority government, called UDI (Universal Declaration of Independence), was illegally created by Ian Smith, imposing apartheid rule and invalidating the phony 1961 constitution. [19] But the British “lacked the [political] will to put down this constitutional treason,” even as they had the will to disarm those that opposed the new government, so the UN instituted sanctions and gave sympathy to the liberation movement, setting the stage for guerrilla warfare in years following. During the period, Smith’s government received 10 light aircraft and 20 towed guns from Italy, along with one transport aircraft from the United States and 12 armored cars from apartheid South Africa.

Still, the Zimbabwean revolutionaries did not give up. As resistance against the settler government continued to grow, and the Rhodesian Front whipped up White nationalist sentiment, Zimbabweans argued that “freedom can only be achieved by confrontation and determination.” [20] The Soviets, in their social imperialist stance, still backed the moderate Nkomo over Mugabe, who was more radical and Marxist, showing that Maoist China had the right approach. This was also partially due to Mugabe’s call to run his own organization while Nkomo was willing to rely on aid from the Cubans (tainted by Soviet social imperialism) and Soviets. The Soviets also felt this aid was important since they saw China’s aid in this struggle as “hostile” even if that meant supporting someone less radical. It is also worth pointing out that despite Cuba’s misguided support for Zapu broadly, they did, to their credit, help the military wing of Zanu, which also received military training in Mozambique. This shows yet again that Cuba is not some “Soviet satellite,” as ignorant bourgeois commentators will bark.

While one could argue that Zapu was more internationalist since they sought assistance from Ghana, Egypt, the Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO), GDR (“East Germany”), and Eastern European nations within the Warsaw Pact, which interestingly gave Fidel Castro more of a role as a “benefactor of third world liberation,” allowing them to be better trained and equipped than the Zanu’s military wing, Zanu connected with exiled Black nationalist Robert F. Williams. [21] They asked Williams to send copies of his publication, The Crusader, in exchange for copies of their paper, the Zimbabwe News. It is worth pointing out that despite charges that Zanu was some U$-backed organ because of their reported skepticism of “accepted” liberation organizations in Southern Africa, the publication criticized Moscow, said that the Soviets were collaborating with U$ imperialism, criticized ANC for being pacifist, took a Black Power stand, promoted those such as H. Rap Brown, and frequently cited Mao Zedong, along with pronouncements of African socialism. This position shows they were  the real revolutionaries in this  fight, not Zapu. Hence, the Zapu claim that Zanu was U$-sponsored falls flat and is almost a joke. Such a claim is also further invalidated by the fact that Zapu’s strategy to discredit Zanu leaders was “based on personal accounts and accusations” in papers such as the Daily News, which effectively served as a pro-Zapu and anti-Zanu outlet.

Despite their differences, there is no doubt that Zapu and Zanu had a tough fight. For Zanu, they engaged in armed struggle, first tested in April 1966 in Sinoia, in an engagement that proved “tactically manageable” but shook the “Rhodesian White community,” as it should! [22] Such events, followed by freedom fighters of Zanu and Zapu going off to socialist countries to train, coming back “to intensify the armed struggle,” were downplayed by the information department of the UDI, who claims that all was well in the country, with news of battles suppressed in their totality. The same was the case for those guerrillas in the Zapu-ANC alliance, which engaged in a rough, bloody battle in August 1967, which resulted in heavily censored news inside of the country. Zanu, pointed this out the same year, arguing that the illegal White government in Zimbabwe was trying to stoke ethnic discord by stressing “ancient wars among Africans” in radio and news commentaries, along with in schools, saying that the government was circulating letters that purport to be from the GDR (“East Germany”) as a way of stirring up mischief. As for the tactics used by Zapu, some argued they had no significant impact, an assessment which resulted in a new strategy formulated, with a plan to send a joint military force across the Zambezi River into northwest Zimbabwe. This was done with the realization of the nature of their enemy as “British imperialism assisted by NATO” while understanding “the savagery role of the Washington government,” vowing the fight until the end.

Internationally, Zapu and Zanu played differently. Zanu members were critical of Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture) leading SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), arguing that Carmichael was partnering with Zapu and ANC, which was only partially true since in his autobiography, he says that he supported the Pan-African Congress more than other organizations, seeing it as mature, principled, and young, a bit like SNCC. [23] Still, it worth noting that this “alliance of convenience” between the ANC and Zapu may have seemed sound by many but also could be arguably “narrow and selfish” with a wider alliance of nationalist parties in the region perhaps a better strategy. In Algiers, the location of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Eldridge of the Black Panthers met with Charles Chikarema of Zapu who introduced him to an Elaine Klein, an American woman who worked with the Ministry of Information in Algeria, who let Eldridge be officially invited to the country along with a Black Panther Party delegation, removing his dependency on Cuba as a place of exile. Due to this development, and the fact that Sithole of Zanu appeared in court, at one point, saying that he publicly wanted to disassociate himself from “any subversive activities” and from any “form of violence,” it is possible that the Black Panther coalition and support group in Zimbabwe was pro-Zapu. But it could have also been pro-Zanu because Zanu was much more Black nationalist and radical. The latter was clear when the Zimbabwe News declared that “Christianity has been used as a subtle instrument to destroy Zimbabwe culture” which some was a statement that went “too far.”

By 1969, the situation in Zimbabwe was worsening. With financial interests in White-ruled Africa, Africans continued to be oppressed by about two hundred British firms in companies led by a small “White group of capitalists,” while 86% of Zimbabweans worked (and lived) in rural areas on European farms or subsisting as cash-crop farmers. [24] Additionally, education was not free (or compulsory), Whites earned much more than Black Africans by far, and no African nationalist organization could hold weight, with the masses angry about the system of the whole, not just the UDI government. It was clear that the British government would not “stand idle while a truly people’s socialist revolution is on the verge of reality in Zimbabwe” with British intervention in the country either to save their “kin” or to put in place a “neo-colonialist puppet regime” (which ended up happening ultimately) While this did not happen by 1970, the UDI elites consolidated their control. At that time, they had a strong military force, consisting of 3,400 regular troops, 6,400 police troopers, 28,500 reserve police, two infantry battalions, 1,200 Air Force personnel, 4,000 Air Force personnel in reserve, and one field artillery piece. They also had advanced airplanes, helicopters, and other machinery, many from Western capitalist states, along with an alliance with South Africa. This included, in part, South African troops in Zimbabwe, aided by the British and U$ military, along with fascist organizations across the Western capitalist world supporting the White settler government.

There were a number of continuities throughout the 1960s in the Zimbabwean liberation struggle. For one, Zimbabwean women subverted traditional gender roles by fighting as freedom fighters, sometimes in fatigues, along with providing troops with food and clothing, and they later earned praise for their valuable “contributions to the revolution.” [25] This was likely the case in Zanu and Zapu. There is no doubt that the violence of the apartheid government in Zimbabwe led to armed resistance among the liberation movement, along with Nkomo to be imprisoned in a concentration camp, one of the ways the government tried to keep the populace under control, from 1964 to 1970, along with killing of many comrades in the process. It is worth noting that Mugabe was also imprisoned from December 1963 until November 1974, but was still part of the liberation struggle. The bloody battle for liberation in Zimbabwe, between the White settler-rulers and “black guerrilla movements” through the 1960s and until the late 1970s, as even the U$ State Department acknowledged, was part of something bigger. There were liberation groups and revolutionaries across East Africa ranging from The Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO), the Southwest African People’s Organization (SWAPO), ANC, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), Zanu, and Zapu, all of which “utilized Tanzanian training camps” so they could “prepare and plan anticolonial wars” against White settler governments in the region. Such developments interested Black nationalist Robert F. Williams greatly. As John Nkomo of the Zapu grouping, said years later, they worked closely with Nordic countries, such as Sweden, the latter which cooperated with Zanu and Zapu, allowing them to bring equipment back to Zimbabwe, with some equipment later donated to Zambia since they had “sacrificed so much.”


Notes

[1] Such stories have been published in the Zimbabwe Independent, News24, International Business Times UK, New Zimbabwe, The Zimbabwe Mail, NewsDay, ZimEye, and The Zimbabwe Daily, among many others.

[2] Immanuel Wallerstein, Africa: The Politics of Independence: An Interpretation of Modern African History (New York: Vintage Books, 1961), 22;Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1982), 65.

[3] Wallerstein, 22; Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, 64, 65.

[4] Wallerstein, 23; Rodney, 48, 66-67.

[5] Rodney, 64, 67; Wallerstein, 23.

[6] Rodney, 67-68, 134.

[7] Wallerstein, 23; Rodney, 65.

[8] Rodney, 163, 165, 233;  Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle (ed. Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu), Cairo: Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization, 1972, second edition), 14; “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. Sadly, the original name of this documentary or its British announcer, clearly a journalist at the time, is not known. On the webpage for the film, a horrid anti-Mugabe book is linked, a book by a French academic who wants to think “beyond” the Zanu-PF.

[9] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 14-15.

[10] Ibid, 15-17.

[11] Ibid, 17-21.

[12] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 19-21; Chenhamo Chimutengwende, “Zimbabwe and White-Ruled Africa,” The New Revolutionaries: A Handbook of the International Radical Left (ed. Tariq Ali, New York: William Morrow & Company, 1969), 241-242; Ian Taylor, China and Africa: Engagement and Compromise (New York: Routledge, 2006), 107-108; “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary.

[13] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 22-23; “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. Mugabe also said that his wife at the time, Sally Mugabe, participated in a women’s demonstration in 1961.

[14] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 24-29; “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary; Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 1965-1980 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 351; Alex Thomson, An Introduction to African Politics, p. 144. There is also an academic article by Dumiso Dabengwa titled “Relations between ZAPU and the USSR, 1960s–1970s: A Personal View” which may shed light on this subject.

[15] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 24-25, 31-32, 33-37; Chimutengwende, 242. Mugabe himself had declared in December 1962 that it was time to move to armed struggle. Part of this armed confrontation included the conviction that “physical attacks on Whites and their property were necessary.”

[16] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 38. After this idea of reconciliation was abandoned from within the liberation movement, it became an “external, non-Zimbabwe wish, not worth pursuing” (by those like the Soviets) as Zapu argued in this publication.

[17] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 21-22, 40; Timothy Scarnecchia, The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political Violence in Zimbabwe: Harare and Highfield, 1940-1964 (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2008), 141, 146, 161. Despite the futility of the Zanu-Zapu power struggle, reportedly the split between Zanu and Zapu was a “class divide” with Zanu supporters including college students (and peasants) and Zapu supporters being the “old guard.” Also, reportedly, Zapu was better in urban settings than Zanu. It is also worth pointing out that China funded the Pan-African Congress while the Soviets supported the African National Congress in South Africa.

[18] Taylor, China and Africa, 106-110, 113. In earlier years, the Chinese trained and sent arms to Zapu, but this changed after the Sino-Soviet split came into full force in the later 1960s. All in all, supporting Zanu rather than Zapu was the right move.

[19]  Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 47-49; “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. Also, top British colonial personnel continued talks with the regime, allowing it to stand under legal fictions, and putting in the farce of sanctions, reinforcing their “colonial responsibility” in Rhodesia.

[20] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 40-41; Timothy Scarnecchia, The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political Violence in Zimbabwe, 148. Comes from a letter in 1964 from Zimbabwean mothers.

[21] Timothy Scarnecchia, The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political Violence in Zimbabwe, 141; Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun, 247, 258; Robeson Taj Frazier, “A Revolution is Not a Dinner Party: Black Internationalism, Chinese Communism and the Post World War II Black Freedom Struggle, 1949-1976,” Spring 2009, Dissertation for University of California, Berkeley, p. 179. Zapu guerrillas also reportedly received training in Algeria, Bulgaria, North Korea, and the Congo region. Also, one Zapu guerrilla told a Zimbabwean court in 1968 that in the Soviet Union, guerrillas had classes lasting four months on a wide range of topics including “political science, aspects of intelligence work…use of codes and ciphers.” and given a rundown on work of “the CIA, MI6 and MI5, and the French and Federal German intelligence organisations” along with being taught how to use “explosives, hand-grenades, and how to use and assemble guns, rifles and pistols.” Horne, who obviously thinks more highly of Zapu than Zanu, claims that the US was more skeptical of Zapu than Zanu because Zapu was friendlier to Eastern European socialist nations, claims that Zanu boosted “marginal forces with suspicious origins” like COREMO (Mozambique Revolutionary Committee), and that Nkomo dealt with African-Amerikans more diplomatically than Zanu. These claims should be treated very skeptically

[22] Chimutengwende, 245-246; Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun, 255; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 60-65.

[23] Thomas Turino, “Race, Class, and Musical Nationalism in Zimbabwe,” Music and the Racial Imagination (ed. Ronald M. Radano, Philip V. Bohlman, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 572; Maxwell C. Standford, Jr., “We Will Return in the Whirlwind: Black Radical Organizations 1960-1975,” January 3, 2003, Union Institute and University, Cincinnati, Ohio, p. 277-278; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 39-40; Gaidi Faraj, “Unearthing the Underground: A study of radical activism in the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army,” Fall 2007, Dissertation for the University of California, Berkeley, p. 197; Robeson Taj Frazier, “A Revolution is Not a Dinner Party,” p. 153, 182; Chimutengwende, 244. It is worth noting that both the ANC and Zapu groups had a “fairly formal structure with a commander and a political commissar,” with both “dressed in semi-military uniforms” from 1966 to 1968, at least.

[24] Chimutengwende, 238-240, 248, 250; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 50-51. Examples cited include those of Sekou Toure or Albert Karume.

[25] Robeson Taj Frazier, “A Revolution is Not a Dinner Party,” p. 156; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 52-55; Linda Lumsden, “Good Mothers with Guns: Framing Black Womanhood in the Black Panther, 1968-1980,” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Vol. 86, No. 4, Winter 2009, p. 908, 919; Taylor, China and Africa, 107-108; Timothy Scarnecchia, The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political Violence in Zimbabwe, 146; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 42, 44-46, 66. In a 1976 article, The Panther extolled the “egalitarian, gun-toting example of women revolutionaries who fought alongside men” in Palestine and Zimbabwe.

Gun control and armed resistance: a critical history

Courtesy of Akinyele Omowale Umoja’s 2013 Black resistance history, We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement (p. 197)

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Jan 20, 2017.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism.

The days in the U$ may seem dark with the orange menace in power while repression increases from its murderous norm. This means that any pretense for nonviolent respectfulness as a “solution” on its own should be abandoned. Last month, I promised to write about this subject and now I am delivering on that promise, with views which are different from those I expressed in the past. [1] To be clear, I’m no “gun nut” or “gun enthusiast,” a label that liberals and progressives throw around, and do not subscribe to the views of the NRA (National Rifle Association) or any of its supporters. This article is the beginning of a two-part series, with this article recounting the history of gun control laws, which is interconnected with the story of armed self-defense and armed resistance. In order to construct this history, those of liberal, conservative, and radical viewpoints are used together.

A critical history of gun control, armed self-defense and armed resistance

For much of U$ history, gun laws have been interlinked with racism and racial politics, at minimum. The first targets of gun control measures were enslaved Blacks, with the fear of “Black rebellion and…fear of weapons in Black hands,” aiming to prevent the possession of weapons by Black people in America. [2] Specifically, the first gun control measure was in colonial Virginia in 1664, with similar measures passing in 1712 and in 1831 after Nat Turner’s rebellion. From here, it is worth jumping forward to the traditional founders, often called the “Founding Fathers” in our hero-centric culture. When the Second Amendment was proposed as part of the bourgeois freedoms (“The Bill of Rights”), demanded by weirdly named “Anti-Federalists”, later the first Republicans, which mainly included dispossessed farmers and slaveowners, it was not racially equal. Those who wrote and ratified it, had numerous laws on the books which were racially exclusive, banning enslaved Blacks (and even “free” Blacks) from having guns, in fear of revolt across the thirteen states of the new country. Some have even argued that the amendment itself was not meant to protect individual’s right to bear arms but to prevent the federal government “from usurping control of state militias and undermining their slave patrol duties” and was used by the author of the amendment, James Madison, as part of his “1789 campaign to win election to the House of Representatives” and gain support for the “Bill of Rights” on the whole.

After the new rights were put in place, there were some gun laws were so intrusive that they would be emphatically rejected by the NRA and others if laws of a similar character were proposed today. One such law, in 1792, on the federal level, mandated that “every eligible man…purchase a military-style gun and ammunition for his service in the citizen militia” with guns inspected and put on public rolls. [3] Some may take this to mean that such laws were not racist after all. However, such a law was likely to prevent rebellions by farmers and dispossessed revolutionary war veterans, like those in Western Pennsylvania, in 1786 and from 1791-1794, over economic inequality, taxes (of numerous types), foreclosure, debt enforced by the courts, and other forms of resentment.  Hence, such gun laws were a form of social control aimed at Whites. Laws that were racist continued into the 19th century, with Blacks allowed to possess arms in Virginia in the early 1800s but “had to obtain permission from local officials” which was unlikely. Another form of social control aimed at White gun owners were concealed carry laws in the 1820s where purportedly “violence-prone men” were limited in using their weapons, an example cited by gun control advocates as “the first modern gun control laws” with the aim of “reducing criminal violence among whites.” Such an explanation is historically inaccurate because the first gun laws were in the 17th century, as noted in the previous paragraph. Additionally, the first bans on concealed weapons were in the Southern states of Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, then seen as limiting a practice of criminals. By the mid-1900s, most US states had concealed carry laws rather than banning guns completely within their state borders, implying that they these laws were a form of social control.

For enslaved Blacks, guns were an important and vital tool (one of many tools) of resistance against their chains of human bondage. They were used to protect against violent White supremacists, police, and terrorist vigilantes. Without guns, they were defenseless and could not win their freedom or initiate an armed rebellion, rejected by most as a “losing strategy” since enslaved Blacks were a “minority in a predominantly white country.” [4] Still, they were at least “313 slave actions, or alleged revolts by groups of ten or more slave[s]” from 1526, 16 years after the first 50 enslaved Blacks are transported to the North America (on January 22, 1510) and start of the African slave trade in the Americas, until 1860, compared to thousands in other parts of the Americas (not within the U$). After one such rebellion, in 1831, by Nat Turner, which was Hollywoodified in Birth of a Nation, planters repressed abolitionists and actions of rebellious Blacks as guns were controlled even more tightly. Such restrictions were not a surprise. Brutal slaveowner Thomas Jefferson, one of the “Founders,” worried to John Adams, in an 1821 letter, that enslaved Blacks, once free, would have the right to bear arms and that they might “seek and gain political influence and power,” leading to possible revolt.

Some advocates of gun control have said that it is “sad” to admit that “our gun rights history…is stained with racism,” which commenced when Blacks, free and enslaved, were banned from owning firearms, with the means of enforcing this being “slave patrols” where armed White men went around to “ensure that blacks were not wandering or gathering where they were not permitted, engaging in suspicious activity or acquiring forbidden weapons” with such functions in some areas “taken over by state militias.” [5] I’m not sure why it is “sad” to admit this. It is better to recognize it as a part of U$ history which is glossed so easily that heart-throbbing gun rights advocates have taken up the cause of spreading this information instead of progressives, which is a damn shame. Anyway, Blacks being prohibited from owning guns was even ruled as legal by North Carolina and Georgia Supreme Courts in the 1840s! The Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) case, which denied Blacks, like Dred Scott, an enslaved Black man whose story is not fully known, whether enslaved or free, standing (or humanity) in court, declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, and said that enslaved Blacks in U.S. territories cannot be freed by an act of Congress. Part of the rational cited by racist and bigoted Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of the Supreme Court for this decision was the possibility of Blacks owning guns, obviously seen as a threat to White bourgeoisie, especially in the South.

Gun control was clearly aimed at Blacks (enslaved and free) and Whites (to an extent) as a form of social control before the Civil War. Some resisted this imposition, including Harriet Tubman, who was a “conductor” of the underground railroad, carrying a firearm (debate it if was a pistol or rifle) to fend off “possible attacks from slavecatchers” and rescuing more than 300 people from slavery with her gun by her side. [6] Frederick Douglass, one of the major leaders of the abolitionist movement, declared that a good revolver was critical for Blacks to stay free, specifically commenting that gaining freedom in the South would require “the ballot-box, the jury-box and the cartridge-box.” Before the Civil War, some Black female fugitive slaves fired back at slavecatchers, while others engaged in armed self-defense or armed resistance, even as Blacks in the South were not allowed to possess guns, with such guns used in these struggles taken from those in the hands of White folks. With the onset of the Civil War, Blacks gained guns, legally, for the first time, with Black soldiers as a decisive force during the war.

The victory for the Union, and ultimately for Black peoples in the American South mainly, would not last. Many southern Blacks predicted that they would need their weapons to “defend themselves against racist whites unhappy with the Confederacy’s defeat,” a prediction proven true when “recalcitrant white racists committed to the reestablishment of white supremacy determined to take those guns away from blacks” and reassert control. [7] Soon, “Black Codes” were passed to reestablish White power across the South, with measures banning Blacks from owning liquor and guns, with some laws cloaked in “neutral, non-racial terms,” which was enforced by groups of White men who “began terrorizing black communities.” These vigilante enforcers (White terrorists) took different names in every locale, but mainly came to be known by the name of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), along with many others, with intimidation campaigns which disarmed Blacks and served as gun control organs. Newly freed Blacks were not passive or fell into their “assigned” state of subservience, but actively resisted such intimidation and White terrorism, forming Union Leagues with Black militia attachments and Black rifle clubs, even as there was no attempt to disarm such White racist vigilantes, leading to some communities unable to resist racist assaults as they were left “vulnerable and disarmed.”

Such gun control efforts in the Reconstruction period have been used by guns rights supporters on the right-wing, at the present, to advance the argument that “gun control is racist.” [8] This argument seemingly assumes that gun control began during the Reconstruction period. While gun control supporters are right that this argument is faulty in that gun control began before then, some argue laughably that laws before the Civil War were “enacted to provide for the public’s safety, not to discriminate against any particular minority, and were enforced uniformly against all state residents” which whitewashes the actual history to make it sound nice, happy, and glad, denying that laws were racist and a form of social control. Such people cannot deny that there were “discriminatory gun control laws at this time—and other times—in our history that specifically targeted blacks.” It is more accurate to say, like Detroit Black man Rick Ector, that “gun control has racist roots” even if you disagree with his assertion that denying people “the opportunity to own a gun and to protect themselves…is the epitome of racism.”

In the following years of the Reconstruction, the ability of Black Amerikans to own guns was under attack. The Supreme Court eviscerated the true meaning of the 14th Amendment, in United States v. Cruikshank  and The Slaughter-House Cases, among others, which allowed segregation to be further greenlighted in the South, with groups, like the KKK, engaging in forcible disarmament of free Blacks and imposing White supremacy through “rape and murder of countless ordinary blacks” as they gained (and held) power throughout the American South. [9] This did not happen without resistance. In 1892, in pamphlet entitled “Southern Horrors,” Ida B. Wells, a Black female crusader against lynching, declared that mob violence was only ameliorated when “blacks exercised manly self-defense” because “a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home.” Specifically, the resistance to White terror after the rise of the KKK and legal violence of Southern government led to what became the modern civil rights movement starting in the early 20th century.

The NAACP and W.E.B. DuBois were at the forefront of such a movement. In 1906, after the Atlanta “race riot,” DuBois patrolled his home with a shotgun. His aggressive statements following this event and his purchase of a gun were not just a one-time event. [10] In fact, as the editor of the NAACP’s magazine, still printed today, called The Crisis, DuBois championed “armed self-defense,” casting it as a duty, a viewpoint also held by NAACP leaders Walter White and Louis Wright, among others. During the 1919 “race riot” in Chicago, DuBois urged robust self-defense through the use of “bricks and clubs and guns” even as he cautioned against “blind and lawless offense against all white folk” and in 1921 he invoked self-defense as he urged Blacks to migrate into the North. Organizationally, the NAACP cut its teeth defending those Black Amerikans who engaged in armed self-defense, with major litigation. This included defense of a Black sharecropper, named Pink Franklin, who shot the planter “who laid claim to him under a peonage contract” in 1910, and was freed by 1919. Another case was that of Ossian Sweet, a man who feared White “mobbers” and being called a coward when going into his home in 1925. So he carried “a sack full of guns and ammunition” and a mob gathered. By the end of the encounter, one white man was killed by “Negro gunfire” and the NAACP hired “Clarence Darrow to defend the Sweets” while they used the “case to fuel a fundraising juggernaut.” Some instances didn’t go as well, such as Sgt. Edgar Caldwell, a WWI veteran, who shot (and killed) a trolley driver who stomped on him “after throwing him from the whites-only section.” Caldwell only survived two years on death row “before he was executed” despite the NAACP raising money for his defense. Finally, it is worth noting that DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, and Marcus Garvey came together in thought at least, as they found “basic agreement” on the idea of armed self-defense by Black Amerikans.

Dr. Ossian Sweet & his East Side Garland home

Beyond the NAACP, Black Amerikans were fending for themselves. Up until the 1950s (and beyond), Black women defended themselves from harassment and physical assault by White men with pistols or “handy” rifles. [11] As Jim Crow and Jane Crow intensified in the wake of the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) decision which legalized “separate but equal” racial segregation in the American South, states enacted “gun registration and handgun permit laws” with such laws passed in Mississippi (1906), Georgia (1913), and North Carolina (1917), along with others following in Missouri (1919) and Arkansas (1923).

At this point, gun control laws expanded beyond social control of White folks and anti-Black racism to other marginalized social groups. Such laws included the infamous Sullivan Act, which was put in place to “keep the immigrant populations from carrying pistols” and served as what some call the “forefather of today’s modern “may issue” gun permit laws” for concealed carry. [12] Some guns rights advocates claim that California’s roots of its gun control legislation is “tied to white anxiety over Mexican-Americans and Chinese-Americans at the beginning of the 20th century.” While more research would be needed to see if this claim is accurate, there is one reality that is clear: discriminatory gun laws in the Northern United States were passed from the 1910s until the 1930s. These laws, which came about as a result of immigration of “unsavory types”, were thoroughly embedded with racism and directly promoted and crafted by the National Rifle Association (NRA). Specifically as a response to urban gun violence and crime often pegged on immigrants, especially those from Italy and Eastern Europe, the president of the NRA, Harvard-educated lawyer Karl Frederick, helped draft “model legislation to restrict concealed carry of firearms in public.” These laws, such as the Uniform Firearms Act in Pennsylvania in the 1920s, allowed police to determine who was “suitable” to carry a gun, with “racial minorities and disfavored immigrants…usually deemed unsuitable.” Later on, in 1934, when Congress was considering restrictions on “”gangster guns” like machine guns and sawed-off shotguns,” the NRA endorsed the law, the National Firearms Act, showing that it was not, then, the “aggressive lobbying arm for gun manufacturers.”

During the 1930s, some of those in the working class directly engaged in armed self-defense. The Communist Party USA (CPUSA) mobilized mass support with “the Scottsboro defense campaign, the miners’ strike of 1931, the unemployed movement, and the underground and armed self-defense organization of thousands of sharecroppers under conditions of the most vicious repression,” helping to prepare the working class for “the enormous battles of the late 1930s.” [13] Such sharecroppers came together in the Sharecropper’s Union, starting in Alabama in 1932, which expanded its membership to “about 12,000 poor farmers and farm laborers,” who were mostly Black, with some White workers, “in five Black Belt states of the Deep South.” With the CPUSA’s members among the leadership, this union organized rural poor to resist plantation owners and ally with urban working class folks. Since the conditions in the South made “elementary demands” have “revolutionary significance,” the sharecroppers organized their struggle as one with arms, engaging in “revolutionary armed self-defense” to meet what they saw, accurately, as “counterrevolutionary terror” with pitched armed battles in Tallapoosa County, Alabama (Camp Hill in 1931 and Reeltown in 1932) and Lowndes County, Alabama, in 1935.

As the years went by, armed self-defense was undoubtedly still used but no new gun control legislation was passed, with new laws not reappearing until the 1960s. One person who threatened armed self-defense was Paul L. Robeson. In 1946, he challenged the refusal by President Harry S. Truman to sponsor anti-lynching legislation by telling him that if the federal government would not protect Blacks, they would “exercise their right of armed self-defense.” This threat was not based in thin air but in the reality and likely actions of Black Americans. Robeson later attended a world peace conference in Paris in 1949, saying that Black Americans should not fight “against the Soviet Union on behalf of their own oppressors” and as a result, the bourgeois media and US government “launched an attack of unprecedented ferocity against Robeson that lasted for nine years.”

By the 1950s, the tradition of armed self-defense continued. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the up and coming leaders in the civil rights movement, took measures to protect himself, making his home an “arsenal.” [14] He applied for a concealed carry permit, under a law that the NRA had promoted thirty years earlier, in 1956, after his home was bombed, but the application was rejected. Still, his house was protected by armed guards for sometime before he fully endorsed the methods and practice of nonviolence. Even saying this, he was not the first one to continue this tradition.

In 1954, members of a NAACP chapter, mostly “upper-class Blacks,” in Monroe, North Carolina, fled due to attacks by the Klan, leaving Robert F. Williams and Dr. Albert E. Perry as the only remaining members. [15] With Williams (henceforth referred to as Robert) and Perry at the helm, the Monroe NAACP branch gained a new life and character. Soon enough the organization consisted of veterans in the leadership, housewives and “fed up” working-class people from the local area. The latter is clear from examination of the members and history of the Black Armed Guard in Monroe, North Carolina. In 1958 and 1959, Robert, a WWII veteran, led the chapter, apart from civil rights activism, to defend two “black children below the age of ten were sentenced for sexual molestation because a white girl kissed them,” in what was called the “Kissing Case.” They were pardoned due to popular pressure, resulting in the Klan engaging in vigilante action by burning crosses in front of their houses.

However, the equation changed in May 1959. A Monroe court acquitted a “white man for the attempted rape of a black woman,” leading Robert to declare on the steps of the courthouse that “this demonstration today shows that the Negro in the South cannot expect justice in the courts. He must convict his attackers on the spot. He must meet violence with violence, lynching with lynching.” [16] He later clarified his statement by saying that he was only saying that if the US Constitution could not be “enforced in this social jungle called Dixie,” then Blacks need to “defend themselves even if it is necessary to resort to violence,” explaining that

“that there is no law here, there is no need to take the white attackers to the courts because they will go free and that the federal government is not coming to the aid of people who are oppressed, and it is time for Negro men to stand up and be men and if it is necessary for us to die we must be willing to die. If it is necessary for us to kill we must be willing to kill.”

Of course, this resulted in his suspension as president of the NAACP branch, leading his wife, Mabel, to be elected president in his place. This was due to the fact that Mabel and Robert were involved in the struggle for black freedom.

Other than the civil rights activism, the NAACP chapter had another role. In 1957, Robert, along with his wife Mabel, and others in the community, organized a rifle club to defend themselves from attacks by the KKK, with the base of the club coming from the NAACP branch that Robert led. While Black men dominated the new club, some Black women were members, and the club’s actions were broadly a success. [17] The latter was clear from the fact that attacks in the region were reduced. Robert, and the actions of the club, became a “classic example” of armed self-defense and “militant community action,” meaning that he and his chapter were controversial, with disputes with Martin Luther King, Jr. himself, just like Malcolm X years later. The club, which was associated with the NRA likely because they thought those in the club were White, hilariously enough, the club used guns to defend Freedom Riders and the local community. Anger from moderate bourgeois civil rights organizations like the mainstay of the NAACP and continuing horrid conditions in the South led Robert and others to question the usefulness of nonviolence, showing that the “meaning of civil rights activism was not set in stone but constantly contested and reconstructed.” Robert later formed a unique ideology “from elements of black nationalism, Marxism, and radical republicanism.” This does raise a question of whether his viewpoints were a bit opportunist, but on the whole he was doing the right thing.

Robert and Mabel Williams with pistols, training in Cuba.

Throughout the late 1950s, armed self-defense was advocated by numerous peoples of the Black community, organized in “small and scattered groups” until the early 1960s. [18] Most of those who took up arms were Black men, who dominated the “organized and formal” armed self-defense in the South. However, some women took up arms to defend their families and later nonviolent civil rights activists. Ultimately, Blacks in the South saw their struggle as one to stay alive, and then to fight for the right to vote, among other political rights, meaning that they were not about  revenge as White slaveowners like Jefferson had guessed.

While it is valid to say that nonviolent direct action defeated racial segregation, Amerikan apartheid more accurately, in the South, it is also worth acknowledging that field organizers, nonviolent in their stance, in the Deep South, were “often protected by armed farmers and workers.” [19] It is also worth remembering that a “civil rights victory” was not inevitable, but that the role of armed Blacks helped this occur. In 1964, Robert P. ‘Bob’ Moses, director of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)’s Mississippi project, declared that “it’s not contradictory for a farmer to say he’s nonviolent and also pledge to shoot a marauder’s head off.” Like Moses, many advocates for Black civil rights and for desegregation appreciated the importance of guns in the South, especially by Black veterans and informally organized community groups. Such groups and individuals helped protect racial justice advocates, seeing the protection as a necessity, with CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), SNCC, and Martin Luther King (MLK) refusing to publicly criticize the use of armed self-defense.  This made it clear that, the saying that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” was true in the south, for the “southern freedom movement.”

The tradition of armed self-defense in the US South was connected with the civil rights movement, with many believing in nonviolent resistance, with gunfire and the threat of gunfire helping nonviolence, which some veterans of the movement describe as “aggressive confrontations,” serving as an effective tactic for change. [20] While this was the reality, and this resistance did end “mental paralysis” which made Blacks unable to break free of “white supremacy” fully, nonviolence was not a way of life for many in the southern Black community with households having guns and armed supporters protecting field organizers. Conflict between fears of bigoted (and racist) Whites and needs of Blacks to defend themselves arose again later in the 1960s, leading to more radical Black activists who believed in varying forms of Black liberation and Black nationalism, and splitting from the arguably bourgeois civil rights movement. Many Blacks, not just Black activists, apart from Malcolm X, were undertaking the slogan of armed self-defense as a way to protect themselves from violent repression of Blacks by racist Whites.

Robert, Mabel, and the other members of the Williams family suffered from his strong stance against nonviolent respectfulness and in favor of armed self-defense. In August 1961, Mabel held off police who were coming to arrest Robert for a “so-called kidnapping of a white couple,” when he was actually trying to free the white couple from an angry mob. [21] Eventually, each one of them fled to Cuba after he was pegged with “kidnapping” changes. In the process, Robert rejected the idea of Black nationalism, along with Marxism, thinking that it “putting class before race,” at least as he saw it. These beliefs, while readers may disagree with them, are not a surprise for him since the CPUSA was engaging in destalinization and embracing Khrushchev’s revisionism. As a result, Robert made a lasting friendship with the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyist group, but also produced a newspaper named The Crusader and broadcast a radio show for Southern Blacks called Radio Free Dixie. Perhaps the Trotskyists saw this as a way to have a dig against the CPUSA, while also seeing how Robert was opportunist with a rejection of Marxism and Black nationalism. While he said that the Cuban government was limiting his work, it is more likely this was the work of the CPUSA, which had, at the time, removed themselves from actively supporting the struggle of suffering Blacks. As a result, in 1965, after arguing in favor of radical internationalism, he moved to the People’s Republic of China, where he stayed in exile. He later returned to the United States in 1969, and was pardoned of his “crimes” in 1975. Still, to many, his actions (which were not his own of course) still represented “the tactical power of armed self-defense as a tool against reactionaries of all stripes” and the power of Black nationalism.

Through the 1960s, while Williams was in political exile (1961-1969), Blacks in the U$ were not giving up the use of the gun to protect themselves and/or assert their rights as human beings. In 1964, while SNCC respected the desire of the Black masses to engage in armed self-defense, James Foreman admitted that “I dare say that 85 per cent of all Negroes do not adhere to non-violence. They are allowing the non-violent movement to go ahead because it is working.” [22] The same year, the Progressive Labor Movement, a radical communist group formed two years earlier which had been expelled from the CPUSA for pro-China sentiments, declared that

Black people, if they are to be free, must develop political power outside of the present power apparatus through armed self-defense, political councils, the creation of an economic base, seizing land and factories and finally, uniting with all workers struggling for revolution.”

At the same time, a former preacher for the socially conservative, but Black nationalist, Nation of Islam (NOI), Malcolm X, who has been mentioned earlier, became even more spoken out. In 1964, Malcolm argued for Black rifle clubs, which the White commercial press were “hysterical” over, and for armed self-defense against White reactionaries, even telling Lew Rockwell, the head of the Nazis, that if MLK or anyone in his demonstration were harmed, then the Nazis would face “maximum physical retaliation.” [23] This belief was centered around the idea that nonviolence in and of itself was a lie that would hurt more Blacks, meaning that people should be armed and able to defend themselves rather than giving up their rights. Malcolm directly embodied this in an iconic image in Ebony magazine, in 1964, with unknown origins, showing him with a M-L carbine, standing at the window, watching for those who were out to kill him.

Ebony picture of Malcolm X with a gun

Sadly, Malcolm was gunned down by NOI members, on February 21, 1965, with twenty-one bullets riddling his body, likely with the help of the NYPD, CIA, and FBI, all whom had an interest in seeing him dead and “neutralized.”

Apart from Malcolm, there was one group that engaged in armed self-defense to protect civil rights activists. It was called the Deacons for Defense and Justice. This group defended civil rights workers against attacks from the KKK and other White supremacists, with a masculinist appeal and awareness of their place in history. [24] The group expanded across the Deep South, including into Louisiana’s Natchez area, with Black women not being actively involved (since they were actively excluded) but they did participate on an “individual and informal basis,” with women defending their homes “with armed force,” and others participating with men in target practice in auxiliaries called Deaconesses. Specifically, there were at least six women associated with the Deacons, showing that armed self-defense wasn’t only a male phenomena.

Some gun control advocates claim that the Deacons do not support the idea that the “armed resistance won the civil rights movement,” which no one is arguing, saying that the Deacons were a “little-known group that had no discernible impact on the national civil rights movement.” [25] The argument, which rests on the fact that the group didn’t form until the summer of 1964, ends up citing certain “respectable” historians and uses huge MLK quotes. Ultimately, the Deacons, who were roughly active from 1964 to 1968, helped the national civil rights movement by allowing it to have victories in the Deep South, showing that fighting against segregation and racial injustice was a worthy cause. While one can argue that the results of the movement did not challenge the White power struggle on a national level, laws such as the Civil Rights Act in 1965 or Voting Rights Act in 1964 would have not been possible without the work of the Deacons. Without the Deacons protecting civil rights workers, it would have been harder to push for such laws since there would have been fewer victories against Southern racial apartheid, regardless of how much they accomplished in retrospect.

By 1965, Blacks were becoming more impatient than ever at the pace of the civil rights movement, and nonviolent respectfulness, which did not fundamentally challenge the White power structure nationwide. That year, in Watts, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, these emotions came out. The Progressive Labor Party (PLP), called the Progressive Labor Movement in earlier years, declared that this action was unorganized and faced tremendous odds, but that for a brief time of two days the people “liberated their own community and kept out the police.” [26] Still, they lamented that such resistance is too weak to meet the enemy at hand, meaning that there needed to be self-defense organizations to help them organize to defend themselves, along with independent political organizations to fight for their demands and lead them forward. Not everyone held this opinion of course. MLK argued that the Watts uprising was no model to be praised, but did recognize that such “riots” were the “language of the unheard.” The same year as Watts, there was a battle waged in “Bloody Lowndes” County, Alabama, which ended in 1966 with defeat, even as the efforts of a southern grassroots Black Power movement was gaining more strength, with visions of such Black freedom not yet realized. It is worth mentioning here that there was armed self-defense in the North as well, during the 1960s and before, but this writer has not read about this in detail, meaning that such instances have not been included in this article.

In October 1966, a new group came into the political scene: the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP), formed by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. This organization began in Oakland, California around the “basic need for armed self-defense” and creating an “all-round program of self-defense” with demands for basic, human needs, a minimum program “designed to unfold into the maximum program of socialist revolution,” although its ideology was  ultimately all over the place (not in a good way). [27] The Panthers, influenced by Robert and Malcolm’s efforts, used guns as self-protection by openly carrying them in public and displaying them for everyone, especially the local police to see. The regular practice of “policing the police” in patrols happened after an incident in February 1967 when Newton, Seale, and several others, armed with guns, were stopped by police, with Newton refusing to let the police see a gun, with the police, after a huge crowd gathered, not challenging him and backing off. Newton and Seale were frustrated with civil rights movement’s failed promise, leading to more violence and oppression by the police, pushing the belief that the gun could be a way to gain liberation. As for recruits who were within the BPP, they were taught about socialism and Black nationalism, in classes organized by other Panthers, and learned how to “clean, handle, and shoot guns” in keeping with the previously mentioned belief.

Black Panthers inside of the California state house on May 2, 1967

One event of the Panthers electrified the nation and brought gun control back into the picture. In 1967, in an effort to stop the Panthers from brandishing guns in “an effort to police the police” and prevent police brutality, a measure was proposed to reduce their self-defense efforts. [28] In May of that year, a number of Panthers, with loaded weapons, went to the state legislature in Sacramento (in a “gun-in”) to oppose this form of racial repression, in an act which some say was the “birth” of the modern debate over gun rights, but this is inaccurate as such armed self-defense efforts had surfaced for years and years before. On May 2, a day when eighth grade students were gathering to lunch with California’s new governor, Ronald Reagan, thirty young Black Panthers, with the 24 men holding guns and six women only accompanying them, took to the steps of the state capitol building carrying “revolvers, shotguns, and pistols.” On those steps, Seale, reading a statement written by Newton (part of which is here), declared the following, connecting domestic and international struggles:

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense calls upon the American people in general and the Black people in particular to take careful note of the racist California Legislature, which is now considering legislation aimed at keeping the Black people disarmed and powerless at the very same time that racist police agencies throughout the country are intensifying the terror, brutality, murder and repression of Black people. At the same time that the American government is waging a racist war of genocide in Vietnam, the concentration camps in which Japanese Americans were interned during World War II are being renovated and expanded. Since America has historically reserved the most barbaric treatment for nonwhite people, we are forced to conclude that these concentration camps are being prepared for Black people, who are determined to gain their freedom by any means necessary. The enslavement of Black people from the very beginning of this country, the genocide practiced on the American Indians and the confining of the survivors to reservations, the savage lynching of thousands of Black men and women, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and now the cowardly massacre in Vietnam, all testify to the fact that towards people of color the racist power structure of America has but one policy: repression, genocide, terror and the big stick. Black people have begged, prayed, petitioned, demonstrated and everything else to get the racist power structure in America to right the wrongs which have historically been answered by more repression, deceit, and hypocrisy. As the aggression of the racist American government escalates in  Vietnam, the police agencies of America escalates the repression of Black people throughout the ghettoes of America. Vicious police dogs, cattle prods and increased patrols have become familiar sights in Black communities. City Hall turns a deaf ear to the pleas of Black people for relief from this increasing terror. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense believes that the time has come for Black people to arm themselves against this terror before it is too late. The pending Mulford Act brings the hour of doom one step nearer. A people who have suffered so much for so long at the hands of a racist society, must draw the line somewhere. We believe that the Black communities of America must rise up as one man to halt the progression of a trend that leads inevitably to their total destruction.”

While this act, and the subsequent marching inside the assembly chambers, gave the Panthers a nationwide reputation (perhaps foreshadowing efforts at branding today?), a fear of Black people with guns led to new gun restrictions. [29] Specifically in response to this incident, Republican assemblymember Don Mulford, pushed forward the Mulford Act stronger than before, pledging to make the bill tougher. Then-Governor Reagan declared that there was “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons” and said that guns were a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will,” imposing no “hardship on the honest citizen” (referring to good-natured White people) signing the bill into law only a few months later. The NRA supported this law and other gun control.

The following year, in 1968, the U$ Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Gun Control Act of 1968, with both laying the foundations for the existing carceral state. The latter law, which banned felons from buying guns, expanded gun dealer licensing, and prohibited import of cheap “poorly made guns that were frequently used for crime by urban youth,” making it clear that the law wasn’t about controlling guns but “was about controlling blacks.” [30] Yet again, the NRA supported the law, praising it in their American Rifleman publication, along with a federal report in 1968 following suit blaming urban unrest, to an extent, on “easy availability of guns,” and arguing for firearm controls. Some claim that the passing of these laws meant that “attitudes toward gun rights shifted” for a temporary time “in favor of more racially neutral gun control policies” but this denies, yet again, the idea that gun control laws are a form of social control.

In the meantime, the Black liberation movement was gaining strength. In 1968, the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) was formed, lasting until 1971, embodying the ideas of economic independence, Black empowerment, and self-determination, likely having a stronger ideological basis than the Black Panthers, by “creating a Black nation within a nation,” calling for a homeland in “the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina — subjugated land in which people of African descent were enslaved,” states that are part of what is commonly called the “Black Belt.” [31] As part of RNA practices, they had a “cadre of young black men armed with rifles,” willing to engage in armed self-defense, with armed women serving as security for the RNA’s Land Celebration Day in 1971, with a picture from that day opening this article.

A handbill for the RNA

As for the BPP, there was also a change. As the male bravado of the Panthers was tamped down, Black female writers changed the game, along with illustrations by Emory Douglas, especially, in The Black Panther newspaper, showing “poor black women resisting authority in everyday life.” [32] Such women carried guns and were framed as equals with men, not those who were subservient. In later years however, the FBI engaged in infiltration and psychological warfare against the Panthers (among many other radical left groups) as part of COINTELPRO, even as they started the free breakfast program in January 1969 and were hated by FBI head J. Edgar Hoover with a passion. Organizational disputes between SNCC, the BPP, and other organizations led to divisiveness, even as newspaper circulation of The Black Panther reached 250,000 in 1970, with Eldridge Cleaver kicked out of the party in March 1970, leading to the creation of the Black Liberation Army (BLA). After this point, the remaining parts of the party leadership were torn apart, with Cleaver, Seale, and Newton going their separate ways, with the party’s ideology being distorted even more, and the party collapsing in 1982.

Back in the late 1960s, support for gun control was across the board among the liberal bourgeoeisie. In the 1968 presidential election, Bobby Kennedy, before his assassination, supported gun control of “private citizens” but not cops of course, and George McGovern also supported gun control, which some said would be “a major step in disarming the people.” [33] The following year, the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence or National Violence Commission for short, declared in the introduction to their final report that “violence in United States has risen to alarmingly high levels…[which is] dangerous to our society…it is jeopardizing some of our most precious institutions, among them schools and universities…it is corroding the central political processes of our democratic society.” Specific measures they recommend, to bring violence “under control” and “better control,” are is creation of “central offices of criminal justice” and private citizen organizations “as counterparts” (possibly the idea of police unions) and most importantly, “the adoption of a national firearms policy that will limit the general availability of handguns.” In later pages, the commission said that there needs to be a push for “responsible participation” by young people in America “in decision-making” as a possible “substitute for the violence that born in frustration,” along with admitting that “without the deterrent capability essential for security against external attack, internal freedom and security would not be possible,” implying that a huge military with a Soviet boogeyman is needed to keep US citizens “in line.” They also argue that all Americans have to recognize “the basic causes of violence in our society and what must be done to achieve liberty and justice for all” and that strong measures must be taken to end the “rising tide of individual and group violence.”

The commission was not alone in these remarks. General Ramsey Clark, who has the imperialistic idea of “progress” across the continent, by saying it created conditions making crime “common,” declared that “revolutionary crime and illegal conduct intended to alter institutions impose rioting, mob violence, unlawful confrontation, arson and trespass on a weary society.” [34] He also said that one of the elements of a “violent environment” which “violent crime” springs from is the “prevalence of guns,” implying that he supports gun control. Others said however, in 1970, that violence was an “ambiguous term” and that “order,” like violence, is “politically defined” and argued that national commissions in 1919, 1943, and 1968 do not mention (or consider) the connection of war (in this case in Vietnam) and domestic violence, an important fact to consider.

On the far right, there was a new development. The gun control efforts in the 1960s, which aimed to disarm “urban and black radicals” led to backlash. Hardline NRA supporters took over the leadership of the NRA, changing it from fighting for sport shooting into a group engaging in “aggressive political lobbying to defeat gun control” and leading to the modern gun-rights movement today. [35] People like Maxwell Rich, of the old NRA, were pushed out-of-the-way, with a man named Harlon Carter, leading his allied rank-and-file members to engage in a coup to take over the leadership in May 1977. He and his loyal followers transformed the NRA, for the worse, into a pro-gun powerhouse and juggernaut where mistrust of law enforcement was one of the main beliefs. At the same time, as the GOP and NRA rejected gun control, Blacks, faced by increased violence in U$ cities and the crack cocaine epidemic, driven in part by the CIA’s activities, embraced it.

As for the Left, support for armed self-defense and armed resistance was continued by certain sections and groups. Some argued that the “question of armed struggle” was a matter of expediency determined by political crisis in the country, potential of support from the masses at-large, and need of the people to engage in armed self-defense. [36] A few years later in April 1972, the “Revolutionary Union” group declared that “…even in an organized mass way, armed self-defense is incapable of completing the revolutionary task, and in time will even become less useful for defense,” saying that ultimately the only “real defense” of the populace is to “destroy the enemy…[through] offensive action and an organized military force.” One such ideology that included armed self-defense were the ideas of Maoism, which also defended extra-legal tactics and preparation for military struggle, contrasting from the cautious perspectives of “Old Left”groups, the former which was somewhat embraced by the BPP.  In the Chican@ community, called the Mexican-American community today, armed resistance was used. The Chican@ nationalist organization, the Brown Berets, composed of “lumpen” and working-class elements, proposed the Chicano Moratorium (1969-1971 at least) to raise awareness about the Vietnam War as a “civil rights issue,” also advocated for armed self-defense and armed struggle, as part of their anti-capitalist viewpoint, as necessary tools for liberation.

Picture of eleven members of Brown Berets, the date of which is not known

While some argued against armed resistance, saying it was illegal and coercive, numerous groups still supported it. [37] In 1974, Ethel Shepton of the African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC), in Boston, argued against racial segregation, fighting for community control of schools in Black neighborhoods, along with armed self-defense against racist reactionaries, the right of “Black children to go to any school,” and the demand that the government “break up the fascist gangs.” As years passed, gun control was cited as part of a “fascist offensive” to win allies of the proletariat to the “side of capitalism” while Robert, in 1977, declared that Mao Zedong was a “invigorator of rebellion and revolutionary thought,” saluting the victories of China, showing his ideological flexibleness, perhaps not always for the best reasons. The same year, one group argued that they actively supported the right of White and Black working-class peoples, specifically those who were Black, to “defend themselves with arms against attack and lynching” with organization of armed self-defense in Black communities as “an important aspect of our leadership in the oppressed Nation.”

During the later 1970s, one slogan began to be used more than ever: “Death to the Klan” as the KKK expanded throughout the US in groups like the “Invisible Empire.” In 1979, the left-wing Communist Workers’ Party (CWP), an offshoot of the PLP, pushed forward “militant, anti-racist opposition to the Klan” by organizing within existing textile unions and against racism in the community as a whole, with positive results. [38] Of course, the Klan would not stand for this, doing what they could to stop the activism. As the CWP became more militant and organized a march on November 3, 1979, to counter the racist KKK, the Klan responded in force, with local Neo-Nazis, accompanied by FBI and police informants, arriving at the protest, taking “sidearms and rifles out of the trunk,” opening fire on participants, killing five in all, and likely wounding of many others, in what some called the “Greensboro Massacre.” In the aftermath of this, the community was confused but also horrified, with the police nowhere to be on the scene and the leadership of the CWP being heavily criticized by established politicians and other radicals even as the lesson from the experience led to “better methods of anti-Klan organizing.”

The CWP was not the only group organizing against the Klan. In Northern Mississippi, the United League organized the masses, engaging in armed self-defense and taking precautions against Klan threats, along with similar anti-Klan and anti-Neo Nazi protests across the country. [39] As for the CWP, the more restrictions were put on them but this didn’t stop them. In January 1980, charges against nine people who transported weapons to the funeral march for the five killed during the Greensboro Massacre was dismissed, which some called a “victory for the Communist Workers Party and the masses in the struggle for right to armed self-defense” even as all confiscated weapons were ordered destroyed. This victory allowed the CWP to continue to rally the people for nonviolent demonstrations even as they fought for the right of the masses to engage in armed self-defense, going against politicians like Ted Kennedy who supported gun control laws. In 1981, one publication noted that the Klan was dedicated to engaging in “armed suppression of the workers’ movement and all progressive political movements” meaning that such reactionary terror cannot be stopped by being unarmed, but that “common sense tells us that armed self-defense is the only protection that the masses have against the reactionaries’ terror,” which liberals reject, claiming that “the masses are not prepared to accept the necessity of armed self-defense.” In the same year, other measures were afoot. After the attempted assassination on Ronald Reagan in March, the news media pushed for gun control, as part of “”anti-crime” hysteria” which some say was a way to justify more a bigger police apparatus, and turning the U$ “into one big convict camp for forced labor, a chain gang working for the profits of the monopolies.”

Handbill for Nov. 3 march by the CWP in Greensboro, NC

Despite criticisms of groups like the CWP, the chant of “Death to the Klan” became a national rallying cry. This was especially the case when the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee (JBAKC), originally emerging out of struggle by Puerto Rican and Black prisoners in New York, published a newsletter titled called Death to the Klan. [40] The organization was deeply rooted in the Black liberation struggle and Arab liberation struggles in Asia. One lesson that was clear, it seemed, from the rhetoric of the CWP and its predecessors, along with grassroots organizing in Dallas, Texas, was a clear need for “synthesis between community defense and mass organizing” with self-defense as an imperative for people of color. By the mid-1980s, JBAKC had trouble articulating a “mass self-defense strategy” as they tried to get rid of racist graffiti, but were beat back by a racist skinhead gang in 1985 who were armed with shields and weapons. As a result, some anti-racist skinheads organized armed self-defense and openly organized against those spreading hate and violence, including creation of a self-defense strategy with confrontations with racist often ending peacefully, without bullets being fired except in a few occasions.

Undoubtedly armed self-defense continued as a practice by some individuals. One example of this was during the “Rodney King riots” in Los Angeles, in 1992, Korean shopkeepers had armed themselves, with Black “rioters” and Koreans portrayed negatively by the media, which diverted attention away from “a long tradition of racial violence,” with tensions among people of color “woven into U.S. history for the past 500 years.” [41] There is more on the history of armed self-defense, gun control, and armed resistance after 1992 but this was often a tactic by White individuals and not people of color.

Conclusion

In the original version of this article I wanted to write about the history of armed resistance and gun control as the first section, followed by my views on the subject as the second section, reinforced by what I had said above. However, with many footnotes and thousands upon thousands of words, and with such a rich history, it seemed best to split this article into a two-part series. Even so, there is no doubt that I did not cover all the history on this subject. It is worth saying that anyone, on either side of the debate over guns in U$ society should recognize the clear history in this article to inform their viewpoint so they don’t laugh off the other side as ignorant fools while ignoring the reality which is right in front of their noses.


Notes

[1] Other tweets of mine on the subject include: criticizing CodePink for implicitly rejecting armed self-defense, saying that calling for nonviolence at the upcoming women’s march doesn’t make sense, that liberals don’t care about safety of people of color because if they did they would call for armed self-defense, that armed self-defense shouldn’t be led by men, that these anti-fascists have the right idea, Korryn Gaines in Baltimore County has a right to armed self-defense, talking about armed self-defense in the Black community, challenging Hands Up United to endorse armed self-defense, asking if Muslims should arm themselves for self-defense, and so on.

[2] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140, accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015, accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011, accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013, accessed January 16, 2017.

[3] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encylcopedia,” Soviet History, Vol. 1, no. 1, p. 11, 13; Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control.

[4] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encylcopedia,” p. 17.

[5] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[6] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017, Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017; LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” p. 21.

[7] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Candice Lanier, “MLK’s Arsenal & The Racist Roots of Gun Control in the U.S.,” RedState, January 17, 2013; January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017; Stephen A. Nuňo, “Gun control is people control, with racist implications,” NBC Latino, July 24, 2012; accessed January 16, 2017; LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” p. 22-24. The rhetoric in favor of such armed self-defense was often masculinist in nature.

[8] Ehab Zahriyeh, “For some blacks, gun control raises echoes of segregated past,” Al Jazeera America, September 1, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017. Everitt heads the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV). He goes on to talk about Nat Turner’s rebellion, the Colfax Massacre, and numerous other instances to disprove the gun control is racist idea.

[9] David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017; Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[10] Nicholas Johnson, “Negroes and the Gun: The early NAACP championed armed self-defense,” Washington Post, January 30, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017. This whole paragraph comes from a summary of this source.

[11] Noted in old issues of the NAACP’s The Crisis. Also see David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017.

[12] Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Stephen A. Nuňo, “Gun control is people control, with racist implications,” NBC Latino, July 24, 2012; accessed January 16, 2017; David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Also see the Federal Firearms Act of 1938 which was also reportedly drafted by the NRA.

[13] Paul Elitzik, “The CPUSA and Black Workers in the 1950s,” Class Struggle, No. 9, Spring 1978, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; Carl Davidson, Chapter 7: Revolutionary Upsurge, part of the book, “In Defense of the Right to Self-Determination,” 1976, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017.

[14] Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017. There are a number of articles also worth reading on the subject: “Nonviolent Philosophy and Self Defense” (Library of Congress), “The Important Role of Armed Resistance in the Black Civil Rights Movement” (AlterNet), and “Gun Control and the Disarming of the Black Community,” (The Root).

[15] Carl Davidson, Chapter 10: The Civil Rights Movement, part of the book, “In Defense of the Right to Self-Determination,” 1976, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017.

[16] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016; Sylvia Shin Huey Chong, The Oriental Obscene: Violence and Racial Fantasies in the Vietnam Era (London: Duke University Press, 2012), 315; PBS, “Independent Lens: Negroes with guns: Rob Williams and Black Power,” accessed January 17, 2017.

[17] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Davarian L. Baldwin, “The Civil Rights Movement,” The New York Public Library, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[18] “On the Black Panther Party,” Speech at the Second National Conference
of the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA — Fall 1984, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017;  Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017. The conclusion that women were arming themselves is not in and of itself out of the question

[19] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.; Jim Dann and Hari Dillion, CHAPTER 3: RETREAT FROM THE BLACK LIBERATION MOVEMENT, part of “The Five Retreats: A History of the Failure of the Progressive Labor Party,” 1977, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017. Bob Moses also said that“I don’t know if anyone in Mississippi preached to local Negroes that they shouldn’t defend themselves.”

[20] Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; “Hail the Formation of the Black Revolutionary Party,” The Black Revolutionary, Vol. 1, No. 1, May 1971, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017.

[21] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Jake Rosen, “War on SNCC: Turning Point for Freedom Fighters,” Progressive Labor, Vol. III. No. 2 February 1964, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017. Also see a publication of the Freedom Archives, Robert and Mabel Williams Resource Guide which is cited in another article of this series.

[22] Progressive Labor Movement, “Statement of Principles and Strategic Concepts,” Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 2, no date [1964], Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; Pili Michael L. Humphrey, Chairman of the Afro-American Commission Central Committee of the League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L), “Commentary: Revolution and Black Liberation in the 1980’s,” Unity, Vol. 3, No. 9, April 25-May 8, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017;

[23] “Progressive Labor Editorial Comment: Malcolm X and Black Nationalism,” Progressive Labor Vol. III, No. 5, May 1964, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[24] David Love, “Is it Time for Black People to Reconsider a Black Nation Within a Nation and Armed Self-Defense?,” Atlanta Black Star, July 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017. This masculinist appeal is also noted in Umoja’s We Will Shoot Back and Estes’s I Am A Man. Noted most prominently by Lance Hill in his 2006 book about the Deacons for Defense but is also noted elsewhere.

[25] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017.

[26] “A statement from the National Committee of the Progressive Labor Party: Army Occupies Strategic Hamlet of Watts,” Challenge, Vol. II, No. 6 August 24, 1965, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017; Davarian L. Baldwin, “The Civil Rights Movement,” The New York Public Library, 2011, accessed January 16, 2017.

[27] Venceremos, “Against Revisionism: In Defense of the Black Panther Party, 1966-1970,” September 1971, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017;  Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011, accessed January 16, 2017.

[28] Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017;  Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011, accessed January 16, 2017; Revolutionary Communist League (Marxist-Leninist-Mao Tse Tung Thought), “History of the Congress of Afrikan People,” Unity and Struggle, Vol. V, No. 6, June 1976, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017; “On the Black Panther Party,” Speech at the Second National Conference
of the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA — Fall 1984, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Huey Newton, “In Defense of Self-Defense: Executive Mandate Number One,” The Black Panther, 2 June 1967.

[29] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011, accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016, accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[30] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013, accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011, accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011, accessed January 16, 2017; David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140, accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013, accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016, accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011, accessed January 16, 2017.

[31] David Love, “Is it Time for Black People to Reconsider a Black Nation Within a Nation and Armed Self-Defense?,” Atlanta Black Star, July 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[32] There have been numerous articles about Emory Douglas in publications across the web, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

[33] Cleveland Draft Resistance Union, “Johnson Quits,” 1968, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017; “National Elections and the Revolutionary Movement: George McGovern – Friend or Foe?,” Pamoja Venceremos, Volume 2, Issue 14, July 21-August 4, 1972, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017; National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, “Introduction to the Final Report of the Commission,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 2-5, 8, 11-12. Other documents submitted to the commission of note “crimes of violence” and “mass media and violence.” McGovern is also criticized for his continued support of the Zionist state and U$ imperialism

[34] Jerome H. Skolnick, “Selections from the Politics of Protest,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 47-48, 63-64; Ramsey Clark, “Selections from Crime In America,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 13-14, 18, 21; Edward C. Banfield, “How Many, and Who Should Be At Liberty?,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 31. Clark also said that “mental illness, addiction, alcoholism, widespread property crime…police brutality and criminal syndicates” are also factors. He also argued that there is “a political element in every large scale riot.”

[35] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016, accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011, accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011, accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013, accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016, accessed January 16, 2017.

[36] Carl Davidson, “Whither the Weatherman,” Guardian, December 26, 1970, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017; “The Franklin group: The Military Strategy for the United States: Protracted Urban War (A Draft),” Red Papers 4, 1972, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017; Max Elbaum, “Maoism in the United States,” Encyclopedia of the American Left, Second Edition, 1998, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017; The League of Revolutionary Struggle (Marxist-Leninist), “Chapter 3: The struggle of the Chicano people,” part of “The Struggle for Chicano Liberation,” Forward, No, 2, August 1979, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017; “Chicano Liberation and Proletarian Revolution,” Revolutionary Cause, Vol. 1, No. 2, January 1976, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017. The Brown Berets were also joined by the Black Berets.

[37] Ernest Van Den Haag, “Political Violence,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 72, 74;  “Commentary on the Greensboro shooting: The Klan: henchmen of imperialism,” Unity, Vol. 2, No. 23, November 16-29, 1979, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017; “Robert Williams Speaks in Chicago: ‘Chairman Mao Was Our Brother’ Says Black Liberation Fighter,” The Call, Vol. 6, No. 36, September 19, 1977, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017; Committee for Scientific Socialism (M-L), “Two Lines on Revolutionary Practice: Science Versus Spontaneity,” Forward! no. 1, June 1976, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 16, 2017; Marxist-Leninist Organizing Committee, “RESOLUTION ON THE BLACK NATIONAL QUESTION,” part of “Documents of the First Congress of the MLOC – Resolutions,” Class Against Class, No. 10, January 1978, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017.

[38] Alexander Reid Ross, ““Death to the Klan” and Armed Antifascist Community Defense in the US,” It’s Going Down, July 26, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[39] “500 attend busing forum in N.Y.,” The Guardian, December 25, 1974, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017; “Turn the Country Upside Down to Avenge the CWP 5!: Victory for Right to Armed Self-Defense,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 2, January 21, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017; “Chattanooga! 9 Pigs Fall to People’s Armed Defense,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 28, August 4-10, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017; Cynthia Lai, “The Role of Practice in the Marxist Theory of Knowledge,” The 80’s, Vol. II, No 1, January-February 1981, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 16, 2017; ““C”PML Works with Cops in Feb 2nd Demo: Calling for “Peaceful Transition to Socialism,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 6, February 23, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017; “Miami Conference: U.S. People Demand New Leadership For The 80’s,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 21, June 16, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017; Mark Evans, “For a Revolutionary Struggle Against Fascism,” Workers Herald, Vol. 1, No. 3, January 1981, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 17, 2017; “On the Attempted Assassination of Reagan by a Nazi: The Chickens Come Home to Roost,” The Workers’ Advocate, Vol. 11, No. 5, April 20, 1981, Marxist Internet Archive, accessed January 16, 2017.

[40] Alexander Reid Ross, ““Death to the Klan” and Armed Antifascist Community Defense in the US,” It’s Going Down, July 26, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017. Organized anti-racist gangs included the Red and Anarchist SkinHeads (RASH) and the SkinHeads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARPs), along with the non-skinhead CHD (Coalition for Human Dignity) group.

[41] Newsweek Staff, “They Armed in Self-Defense,” May 17, 1992; accessed January 16, 2017.

David Swanson, the USSR, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact

A screenshot from a 1949 animated Soviet propaganda film by Victor Gromov, titled “Mr. Wolf,” focusing on a pacifist capitalist, like Andrew Carnegie perhaps, who, fed up with the horrible nature of war, moves to an “island of peace.” But when he finds oil, he gets greedy, dropping his belief in pacifism, demands control of it, reveals his secret stash of arms, and seizes control of the oil with the help of (presumably) the US Navy. The message of greedy capitalists and duplicitous pacifists is very clear while some are flummoxed.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Jan 6, 2017.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Like the other post on Soviet history, this is a good first attempt at the subject, although it could be improved, of course.

As the orange menace promises to increase military spending, including 350 more ships for the Navy (likely costing over $126 billion dollars), strengthening the murderous U$ empire, which builds off the brashly imperialist foreign policy of the Obama administration, it is important to recall our history. This article will first outline the narrative by David Swanson, a former press secretary for bourgeois Democratic “peace” politician, Dennis Kucinich, during his presidential candidacy, and peace activist, on the history of how the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 came into fruition, summarizing his book to the best of my ability, there will be a counterpoint to his history, and finally it will end with my conclusion on where to go from here.

David Swanson’s narrative of what happened

David Swanson’s book is a good place to start. While he is not radical, and is a bourgeois pacifist, he does help tell this story. As he tells it, the peace movement in the 1920s, depending on new female voters, united around the idea of war outlawry, previously split by the League of Nations, seen as a glorious and noble cause. [1] This movement was strengthened by outrage at the horrible effects of WWI, despite the manipulation of emotions, by Woodrow Wilson’s “propaganda machinery,” in the form of the Committee of Public Information, to influence Amerikans to support war. Such manipulation was preceded by Wilson winning election in 1916, with slogans like “he kept us out of the war,” but turning around and involving the U$ in WWI in April 1917. Many in the U$, disillusioned with promises of war, distrusted European peace efforts, as the U$ membership in the League of Nations and World Court did not materialize, along with other failed negotiations in the 1920s, the peace movement grew.  Leading intellectuals, robber-barons, like Andrew Carnegie who founded the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and politicians, like Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, promoted peace. At the same time, “peace societies” were created in the U$, along with a litany of other pro-peace organizations, such as the American Friends Service Committee and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, some of which spread  “a barrage of peace propaganda.”

There are number of individuals who specifically pushed for “war outlawry” or the abolishment of war. Swanson cites 22 individuals. [2] One of these individuals was Salmon Oliver Levinson, a Yale graduate and Chicago lawyer who led the American Committee for the Outlawry of War, which tried to make war illegal and recognized as an institution. [3] Others, such as Kirby Page and temperance activist Carrie Chapman Catt, also pushed for war outlawry, allied with other forces, like the Progressive Party which represented interests of farmers, petty urban bourgeoisie, and trade unions, collapsing after the 1924 election, along with public opinion in favor of prohibiting war. Pro-peace clubs and organizations sprung up by the hundreds, with thousands of members, eliminating the divides in the past between more wealthy organizations, like the Carnegie Endowment and the American Foundation for Peace, and more radical ones pushing for disarmament and opposing militarism. The former profited from war with hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonds from the U.S. Steel Corporation. However, it is worth pointing out that Outlawrists, tapping into widespread skepticism of collective defense agreements, “favored the rule of the written word” to prevent war, creating a world court which had international jurisdiction, but were muddled when they didn’t always consider the distinction between “aggressive” and “defensive war.” Beyond this, such a push for outlawing war was an effort to change people’s conceptions of what they consider “morally acceptable,” hoping that society could be organized for peace, but not always taking into account that some engage in statements of desire about ending war and peaceful resolution rather than the reality.

From then on, there was a push for Western diplomats to negotiate what became the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Illegal diplomacy by pro-peace U$ citizens, led to debate among French, German, and British diplomats about being involved in the treaty, boosted by supportive writings in The New Republic, New York Times, and Foreign Affairs, along with sympathetic congressmembers like socially conservative William Borah and Republican Robert LaFollette, among others. [4] Aristide Briand, a long-time prime minister, advocate of “personal diplomacy,” and breaker of a railroaders strike, made the first move, with a Minnesota Republican, Secretary of State Frank Kellogg, no active advocate of peace, forced into action even as he cursed pacifists privately. Obviously in an effort to reinforce U$ imperialism, Kellogg was willing to threaten war to enforce the Monroe Doctrine in the Americas, derided by the new Soviet government, but was pushed into action by a strong peace movement, negotiating a treaty with the French secretly, making it multilateral even though Briand did not want this to happen originally. Some of the French showed their true colors, like Paul Claudel, who said that outlawing war was sentimental and would please “cranks,” Bolsheviks and socialists, proposing a joint declaration of principles but Kellogg stuck by his demand for a treaty, later coming over to public negotiations of the treaty as the U$ and British allowed their respective imperialisms to fall under the idea of “self-defense” and not be covered by the treaty. The Kellogg-Briand Pact, also called the Pact of Paris, was signed in Paris in 1928, picketed by feminists saying that an equal rights treaty should be proposed and anti-imperialists who said that U$ imperialism would continue, and survived the U$ Senate (votes in favor 85-1), despite broad questioning of its effectiveness, then entering the canons of international law in July 1929.

Swanson continues by saying that the pact’s ideas were influential. He says that it inspired the UN’s principles in 1945 and International Criminal Court, claiming the pact was the “first U.S. recognition of the Soviet Union’s existence.” [5] He also says that Henry Stimson tried to stop the USSR and nationalist China from supposedly going to the “brink of war.” He doesn’t note that this was part of a “Sino-Soviet conflict over the Manchurian railway line,” which was settled with a protocol that “affirmed the original status of the railroad as a joint enterprise” and Soviet victory. At the time, Persia (Iran) defended the USSR rhetorically when it took defensive measures against nationalist China in the 1929 spat. Swanson also points out Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, and Germany invading Poland on Sept. 1, 1939 and the Soviets on Sept. 17, 1939 as violations of the pact. Not surprisingly, Swanson does not say that this intervention was in accordance with the secret Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact since the Soviets felt that the Polish could no longer defend themselves because of the collapse of their state after a Nazi attack, and the Soviets were welcomed by the Polish people as “true liberators.” Swanson goes on to say that the treaty was not ordinary, but meant to outlaw war, with the reality that the U$ quickly violated the pact, with peace structures not stopping the coming war. Some supported Outlawry at the time (Stimson) but opposed it later, and others, such as, a Wall Street lawyer named William Chanler, a friend of Stimson, used it as a basis for criminal trials of the Germans and Japanese for war crimes at Nuremberg and the UN Charter as a whole. Eventually, Kellogg was given a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the treaty even as he didn’t stop advocating for U$ imperial aggression.

Before ending the section on Swanson’s narrative, it worth noting how taken in he is about this story. He thinks war outlawry be revived and that we should have a “Kellogg-Briand Day” on August 27 every year, celebrating a “step toward peace” but war’s abolishment or end. [6] He goes on to say that his book, dispelling the well-kept secret that war is illegal, continues the campaign for outlawry, which includes pushing countries to comply with the pact, and says that a public referendum on war is an intriguing idea. At the end of his book, he outlines numerous proposals for reducing the U$ war machine, and says that his self-published book, where he had complete editorial control, is meant to help people learn about the Kellogg-Briand Pact and study peace activism that got us to Outlawry.

What Swanson missed

Another screenshot from the Soviet animated film “Mr. Wolf.”

In his happy good lucky story of the road to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, Swanson glosses over a number of details, almost portraying the U$ imperialists as “peacemakers” in the process. As the Great Soviet Encyclopedia argued, the U$ tried to use the Paris Peace Conference, from 1919-1920, to marginalize the USSR, Harding’s administration, favoring monopolies, used the Washington Conference of 1921-1922 to force the UK to agree to equality between U$ and UK battle fleets, Coolidge’s administration was unfriendly to the USSR, and U$ warships helped bomb Nanking in 1927. [7] Additionally, Swanson’s book barely ever mentions the Soviets, usually only referring to them in passing except for one time when he notes that a delegate from the USSR,  Maxim Maimovich Litvinov, proposed to the League of Nations’s commission on disarmament in Nov. 1927 that there be the “immediate and total abolition of all armies, navies, and air forces; the sinking of all warships; the scrapping of all war material; and the demolition of all arms factories” but Western governments rejected this, and the French even voted to expand their navy. He never expands on other Soviet policies in favor of peace but has a very Western-centered approach, likely written with his audience of liberals and progressives in mind who scowl at the Soviet Union.

There is another aspect of the process that Swanson barely talks about, if he even alludes to it: the interests of Western capitalist states who engaged in the pact. Kellogg himself wanted to desperately avoid the treaty, which was, as some writers put it, “the product of Realpolitik and cynical political calculations,” with the French seeing the pact as a possibility for a “defensive alliance aimed at Germany” while in the US, many believed that “the solution to the scourge of war lay in the universal renunciation of its practice.” [8] More specifically, while Briand’s offer for negotiations on a treaty to end war “thrilled pacifist-minded Americans,” it also served “France’s strategic needs,” a way to sideline the US “should France go to war” but Kellogg understood “what Briand was trying to accomplish and wanted nothing to do with the offer” and did not like Briand’s “bid to energize U.S. peace groups and thereby box in the Coolidge administration.” Beyond this, Kellogg agreed to talk with the French, engaging in a multilateral treaty outlawing war rather than a bilateral treaty, which supposedly “rendered it largely ineffective, more a toy handcuff than an iron manacle” and Briand was hardly in a position to argue against it. Paris served as “the site for the historic meeting to renounce war” and U$ Senators had few illusions about the treaty, knowing “it was the international equivalent of an air kiss,” voting the same day “to fund the construction of fifteen new warships.”

The U$ State Department admits this much in their write-up about the pact. They argue that the pact had “little effect in stopping the rising militarism of the 1930s or preventing World War II” but also note the movement that pushed for the peace pact. France was facing, they note, “continuing insecurity from its German neighbor and sought alliances to shore up its defenses,” but the US was less eager to enter into a bilateral peace pact, worrying that it “could be interpreted as a bilateral alliance and require the United States to intervene if France was ever threatened” so they suggested that it be multilateral, which aligned with war outlawry being “immensely popular in international public opinion.” The State Department history also says that the pact’s language “established the important point that only wars of aggression – not military acts of self-defense – would be covered under the pact,” resulting in many nations signing it, and the U.S. Senate ratifying the agreement after making “reservations to note that U.S. participation did not limit its right to self-defense or require it to act against signatories breaking the agreement.” The pact was first tested, argues this history, during the Mukden Incident which led to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, but the fact of a “worldwide depression and a limited desire to go to war to preserve China” led to no action from the League of Nations or the U$. Later threats to the agreement “from fellow signatories Germany, Austria and Italy” made it clear there “was no way to enforce the pact or sanction those who broke it” with many ways around the terms, the pact not helping prevent WWII but very idealistic in the view of the State Department history.

In missing this aspect of the pact, Swanson, of course, did not mention the imperial nature of the pact itself. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia argued that the pact was originally used by the US and other imperialist powers as a “means of isolating the USSR” but that under “the pressure of public opinion they were forced to invite the USSR to subscribe to the pact.” [9] The Soviets adhered to the pact on August 29, 1928, details of which will be discussed later in this article. Such an action led to anger from Trotskyists who saw themselves as righteous in their “revolutionary” feelings, even though Leon Trotsky supported a continuation of the NEP, opposed measures to ensure the security of the Soviet state from opportunists and foreign enemies, and pushed the idea of “permanent revolution” while rejecting the more practical idea of “socialism in one country” proposed by Joseph Stalin, as noted in a previous post on this blog. The Trotskyists claimed that the signing of this pact marked a departure from a “revolutionary path,” strengthened “bourgeois illusions,” struck at Lenin’s work, and that Western powers are not interested in peace but wanted to check the “successful robber activities of the Nipponese competitor,” Japan. While most of these statements take an unrealistic counter-revolutionary viewpoint, the last statement about Western powers is one the Soviets would actually agree with.

The Soviet government had a good reason for signing the pact regardless of what the counter-revolutionary Trotskyists said. While they would have, a few years before, possibly sneered at the effort as “bourgeois sentimentalism,” the USSR wanted to join the world community even as the initial invitations for the pact excluded the Soviets, leaving them to believe there was the tacit formation of an anti-Soviet bloc, but the French invited the Soviets to be signatories and they did so, with their affirmation of the pact showing a “Soviet desire for peace.” [10] Signing the pact was also a continuation of previous Soviet policy. Beyond what Swanson briefly mentioned, in the 1927 and 1928 disarmament conferences, Litvinov offered wide-sweeping proposals for disarmament, which was popular among the public, even when the USSR adhered to the pact, one newspaper, the Inprecor, argued that Britain, France, and capitalist satellites like Poland, were continuing preparation for war on the USSR.

However, not everyone in the Soviet government wanted to ratify the pact. The People’s Commissar of the Soviet Union (1924-1930) Georgy Chicherin, opposed ratification, while Nikolai Bukharin (who supported NEP’s continuation and wanted socialism at a “snail’s pace”) and Litvinov supported it, arguing that it would allow Western powers to interfere in Soviet foreign affairs, the same reason he opposed the Soviets joining League of Nations. [11] His supporters pointed to British & French reservations about the pact, arguing that it would have no effect.

Despite this argument, the Soviets signed the pact, but mad they were not invited to signing ceremony, taking the position that “all international wars must be prohibited, in particular, wars with the aim of suppressing movements of national liberation,” along with prohibition of “intervention, blockade, military occupation of foreign territory, foreign ports” along with “severance of diplomatic relations” since this “contributes to…an atmosphere that favors the occurrence of war.” [12] The Soviet government as a whole took the position that signing the pact showed they were consistent advocates of peace, and believed that only a “universal and complete disarmament plan” could prevent armed conflicts, while admitting the pact would be a dead letter unless growth of arms was limited. Some, such as Evgeny A. Korovin, argued that the pact was a “serious blow to the system of the Anglo-French capitalist bloc” and that it weakened the League of Nations. The Soviets also declared that the pact did not go far enough renouncing war by “failing to cover all methods of aggression,” saying that the fact that the pact didn’t have provisions for disarmament showed the “insincerity of bourgeois pacifism.” Looking at articles 1 and 2 of the pact itself shows their criticism to be valid, as it is very loosely worded, only condemning recourse to war internationally and renouncing it as form of national policy:

ARTICLE I: “The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.”

ARTICLE II: “The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.”

Additionally, the pact, unlike Soviet treaties of nonaggression which renounced war “completely, totally, and without qualification,” seemed to exclude warlike action and the right of self-defense from the pact’s operation, meaning that it, arguably, watered down and truncated the “concept of nonaggression.” [13] Later on, the Soviets would argue that a declared war or any “de facto military actions initiated by any state” should be considered a breach of the pact.

More importantly, the pact inadvertently gave Soviet foreign policy a boost. As a result of the pact, the Soviets proposed their own security policy, inviting neighbors to bring the pact into force by themselves, with what was called the “Litvinov Protocol,” named after the Soviet diplomat, signed by the USSR, Poland, Latvia, and Estonia, later joined by Lithuania, Turkey, Persia, and Free City of Danzig, with Finland not as a signatory. This showed that the USSR was a champion of the principles in the pact and an “active proponent of the idea of curbing the freedom of states to indulge in waging war in order to promote their interests.” This pact, signed in February 1929, represented the “spirit of the Pact of Paris,” while it renounced the use of force and recourse to warlike measures, and while it provided little security for the neighbors of the USSR, its intention was more important than its application. Part of the text of the agreement is reprinted below:

“…[the following governments] being desirous of promoting the maintenance of peace between their respective countries and for this purpose of putting into force without delay, between the peoples of those countries, the Treaty for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, signed at Paris on August 27, 1928, have decided to achieve this purpose by means of the present Protocol…

Article I. The Treaty for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, signed at Paris on August 27, 1928…shall come into force between the Contracting Parties after the ratification of the said Treaty of Paris of 1928 by the competent legislative bodies of the respective Contracting Parties.
Article II. The entry into force in virtue of the present Protocol, of the Treaty of Paris of 1928 in reciprocal relations between the Parties to the present Protocol shall be valid independently of the entry into force of the Treaty of Paris of 1928…
Article IV. In order to give effect to Article I of the present Protocol, each of the High Contracting Parties, after ratification by its legislative bodies of the Treaty of Paris of 1928, shall immediately notify the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and all the other Parties to the present Protocol, through the diplomatic channel.”

This agreement, also called the Moscow Protocol or more formally the “Protocol for the Immediate Entry into Force of the Treaty of Paris of August 27, 1928, Regarding Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy,” was immediately effective unlike the prolonged Kellogg-Briand Pact, with the Soviet negotiated agreement entering into force many months before the latter pact, and helping to improve Soviet relations with Poland. [14] The Soviet pact also disapproved the views of Western capitalists that “Red Russia would [not] keep a pledge to disarm.”

Later on, in 1933, the USSR concluded a convention on the definition of aggression with Afghanistan, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Persia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey, and the next day a similar convention with Czechoslovakia, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. [15] This agreement defined aggression as a “declaration of war, invasion, assault, naval blockade and support of armed bands” along with outlining false excuses and justifications for such aggression by capitalist states. Over the years to come, as even noted by this anti-communist but partially fair account of Soviet foreign policy, the Soviets recognized the danger posed by the Nazis, trying to “restrain German militarism by building coalitions hostile to fascism,” adopting a policy of “cooperation with socialists and liberals against fascism, thus reversing its line of the early 1930s,” with the county joining the League of Nations in 1934, and Litvinov advocating “disarmament and collective security against fascist aggression.” Beyond this, the Soviets also, in 1935, made alliances with France and Czechoslovakia, and “from 1936 to 1939 it gave assistance to antifascists in the Spanish Civil War,” leading to Germany and Japan signing the “Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936” but the West did not want to “counter German provocative behavior,” and after France and Britain appeased “Hitler’s demands for Czechoslovak territory at Munich in 1938,” Stalin then abandoned his “efforts to forge a collective security agreement with the West” apparently.

After this, Stalin came to an “understanding with Germany,”replacing Litvinov with his confidante, Viacheslav Molotov as commissar of foreign affairs, with the Nazis and Soviets engaging in “intensive negotiations,” leading to the Nonaggression Pact of August 23, 1939, which “pledged absolute neutrality in the event one of the parties should become involved in war, while a secret protocol [that] partitioned Poland,” and soon thereafter the WWII began. Despite this, one cannot blame the Soviets for war, since felt they could not trust the Western powers to fight the Nazis by allying with them, and they did not want destruction of their country like happened during WWI. In later years, the Soviets pushed the UN for a new definition on aggression which encompassed viewpoints from across the Third World in 1953 and 1956. [16] After that point, when Khrushchev unfairly and traitorously denounced Stalin in his “secret speech” and cozied up more to the Western capitalists, revisionism took hold in the country, only to be uprooted by 1964, seemingly, when Leonid Brezhnev took power. All of these aspects will be covered in later articles about Soviet history.

The fact that Swanson did not address the Soviet perspective on the pact at all is not much of a surprise. While he is good-intentioned in writing about this subject and his book is a worthy history, he also is a bourgeois pacifist who does not talk about the role of capitalism, class relations, or imperialist struggle in bringing this agreement to fruition. I don’t wish to talk about that history in regards to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, as that would require a good amount of additional research on the subject. As a result, this article is just meant to criticize Swanson and bring a new perspective to light on this subject, leading to future discussion.

Concluding thoughts

Final screenshot from the Soviet animated film “Mr. Wolf” I’m using in this article.

Some may say that it isn’t even worth reading the works of a bourgeois pacifist like David Swanson and that I’m giving him free press. While I can see where such a viewpoint is coming from, I also think it is unfair. It is worth reading other points of view in order to improve your own. There is no doubt that Swanson spent time and resources on writing his history, but his ideological viewpoint distorted his history so he did not, as a result, recognize the full reality. What I mean by this is that he is writing from a white, privileged, and Western perspective geared toward audiences in the U$. You could even add in that his perspective does not mention perspectives by women, not even white women, since only a smattering of the war outlawrists he cites are women. Additionally, where is a mention of race in this book? Doesn’t the Kellogg-Briand Pact effect people of color across the world? Also, a more robust analysis of European imperialisms and U$ imperialism would have improved the narrative to be more critical of established power structures. This agreement led to a sort of “capitalist peace” you could say.

The current Kellogg-Briand Pact, coupled with Articles 1 and 51 of the UN Charter, is a good tool to restrain the murderous empire. However, one must be wary of the demands of bourgeois pacifism in this regard, as such pacifism does not recognize the possibility of revolutionary wars for liberation and often says that people should not have the right to armed self-defense, instead just engaging in peaceful measures. This should be rejected wholesale. If Palestinians have the right to fire back rockets in response to never-ending Zionist bombing then blacks in the U$ have the right to defend themselves with arms against bigots trying to harm them. To be realistic, there will only be peace once socialist revolutions sweep the world and remove the virus of capitalism because militarism is deeply tied to such a horrid economic system. Sure, we can support the idea of outlawing war. However, we should not think that it, even if connected with an international court and other instruments of international law, will bring justice in a way that prevents capitalist exploitation. This is especially the fact if such a push does not include a demand for strong enforcement mechanisms, something that the Kellogg-Briand Pact lacks, not even allowing for sanctions, as much as they can be destructive and an instrument of imperialist aggression, of countries that violate its provisions. [17]


Notes

[1] David Swanson, When the World Outlawed War (Charlottesville, VA, 2011), p. 6, 11-18, 19-20. Such propaganda stayed in people’s minds before Wilson saw public opinion as “something to use, rather than avoid,” Swanson argues. The organization that paid for this was one group called the National Council for Prevention of War.

[2] War Outlawrists that Swanson cites: John Dewey, Robert Farrell, Thomas Hall Shastid, Sherwood Eddy, Robert Farrell, Murray Butler, James Thomson Shotwell, Andrew Carnegie, Salmon Oliver Levinson, John Chalmers Vinson, John E. Stoner, Kirby Page, Charles Clayton Morrison, Arthur Capper of Kansas, William Borah, Warren G. Harding, John Haynes Holmes, Raymond Robins, Frances Keller, Calvin Coolidge, James Brown Scott, and Carrie Chapman Catt.

[3] Swanson, 20-28, 30-33, 34-47, 60-69, 73-74, 111-114; LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 38. The idea of such enforcement was a court of law, with enforcement of rulings relying on good faith of nations, not military action, an economic blockade or sanctions, with the court as a form of “dispute resolution.”

[4] Swanson, 5, 6, 49-59, 71-72, 75-82, 84-89, 90-99, 100-106, 107-110, 111-123, 125, 131-134, 136-142.

[5] Ibid, 6, 144-155.  Kellogg said that the pact did not mean the US recognized the USSR, but the Soviets hoped the pact would be a way to gain rapprochement (American Foreign Relations Since 1600: A Guide to the Literature, Vol. 1 (ed. Robert L. Beisner and Kurt W. Hanson, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003), 851. Also see “The Sino-Soviet Border Conflict, 1969: U.S. Reactions and Diplomatic Maneuvers” published on the National Security Archive’s website in 2001.As Chen Tiqiang argues, “Article 1 of the Anti-War Pact of Paris concluded on August 27, 1928, stipulates that the signatory countries to the pact “renounce…recourse to war as an instrument of national policy.” The Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East; pronounced on November 12, 1948, pointed out that a war in violation of the Paris pact is illegal by international law and that “those who plan and wage such a war with its inevitable and terrible consequences are committing a crime in doing so.” Thus, it is clear that wars of aggression had already been prohibited by international law before Japan launched its war of aggression. The Japanese Government, therefore, had launched its war of aggression against China wittingly and deliberately with full knowledge of its legal significance” (Chen Tiqiang, “Conclusions Confirmed by History,” Beijing Review, Aug. 30, 1982, vol. 25, no. 35, p. 27). Another writer notes that “in the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact (or Pact of Paris), the States Parties solemnly declared “that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.” The Pact did not, however, specify criminal liability either for States or for individuals in the event of a violation of the Pact; whether the norm set forth in the Pact reflected a general rule of international law or one binding solely upon those States that had ratified the Pact was uncertain. As such, after the outbreak of World War II, many believed that no “international agreement criminalising wars of aggression was in force in 1939, and therefore, on the basis of the nullum crimen sine lege principle, the Allies were not legally entitled to prosecute the top Nazi leaders for aggression” but at the San Francisco conference in April 1945 they asserted that the original intent of the Kellogg-Briand Pact requires trying Nazis and Japanese fascists as war criminals (Sean D. Murphy, “The Crime of Aggression at the ICC,” Public Law and Legal Theory Paper No. 2012-50, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-50, 2012, p. 3-4). It is worth noting that WWII commenced even with the pact in place, but that the pact influenced Japan’s pacifist constitution.

[6] Swanson, 5, 6-8, 9-10, 49, 157-162, 163-165, 170-171. Other proposals include simple disarmament, disentangling ourselves from alliances that cause us to go to war like NATO, pressure those in power, enacting numerous strategies and create a holiday for the pact on August 27, that war is good for nothing (p. 165-167, 169). His ideas, outlined in p. 166 to 167 include: (1) cutting half of a trillion dollars out of the national security budget, half into tax cuts for everyone, half into useful social spending; (2) bring the National Guard back home and de-federalize it; (3) ban redeployment of personnel suffering from PTSD; (4) ban no-bid military contracts; (5) restore constitutional war powers to Congress; (6) have a public referendum before any war; (7) close foreign bases; (8) ban weapons from space; (9) ban extralegal prisons; (10) ban “kangaroo courts” outside the US justice system; (11) restore habeas corpus; (12) ban use of mercenaries; (13) limit military spending; (14) ban secret operations, agencies, and budgets; (15) ban drone strikes; (16) forbid transfer of student info. to military recruiters without permission; (17) comply with Kellogg-Briand Pact; (18) reform or replace the UN; (19) join the ICC and make it independent of the UN; (20) disarm.

[7] LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 35, p. 37-39; Swanson, 106.

[8] James M. Lindsay, “TWE Remembers: The Kellogg-Briand Pact,” Council on Foreign Relations, August 27, 2011.

[9] LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 39; Max Shachtman, “War, Kellogg Pact and the Soviet Union,” March 1929, The Militant, Vol. II No. 5, 1 March 1929, pp. 1 & 4; Jack Weber, “March of Events,” July 13 1935, New Militant, Vol. I No. 29, 13 July 1935, p. 3; Sam Gordon, New Developments in Far East: Western Imperialists Register Protests as Japs Hold on to Booty, February 1932, The Militant, Vol. V No. 6 (Whole No. 102), 6 February 1932, p. 1.

[10] Alastair Kocho-Williams, Russia’s International Relations in the Twentieth Century (New York: Routledge, 2013), 52; Akira Iriye, The New Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations: The Globalizing of America, 1913-1945, Vol. 3 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 84-85, 106; J.L. Black, Canada in the Soviet Mirror: Ideology and Perception in Soviet Foreign Affairs, 1917-1991 (Canada: Carleton University Press, 1998), 66. The Comintern didn’t take Litvinov’s moves them seriously and got ready in case of invasion.  Some say that the USSR remained “somewhat isolated diplomatically” by the West at least, but this is only one opinion on the matter. It is also worth noting that the provisions of the Kellogg-Briand Pact also applied to Soviet relations with Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania (Jan F. Triska and Robert M. Slusser, The Theory, Law, and Policy of Soviet Treaties (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1962), 250-251).

[11] Jan F. Triska and Robert M. Slusser, The Theory, Law, and Policy of Soviet Treaties (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1962), 259.

[12] Triska and Slusser, 259, 260, 262. On August 5, 1928, Chicherin argued that “the exclusion of the Soviet government from these negotiations leads us…to the assumption that among the real objectives of the initiators of this pact there obviously was and is an endeavor to make of this pact a weapon for isolating and fighting the Soviet Union. The negotiations regarding the conclusion of the Kellogg Pact was obviously an integral part of the policy of encircling the Soviet Union, which at present occupies the central point of the international relations of the whole world” (Xenia Joukoff Eudin and Harold Henry Fisher, Soviet Russia and the West, 1920-1927: A Documentary Survey (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1957), 352).On the subject of the Litvinov Protocol also see Rudolf Bernhardt, Use of Force · War and Neutrality Peace Treaties (N-Z) (New York: North Holland Publishing Company, 1982), 36. Also see documents here on the Avalon Project’s website.

[13] Triska and Slusser, 258; International Law and International Security: Military and Political Dimensions (ed. Paul B. Stephan and Boris Mikhaĭlovich Klimenko, London: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1991), 9, 296; George Ginsburgs, Moscow’s Road to Nuremberg: The Soviet Background to the Trial (London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1996), 4; Richard C. Hall, Consumed by War: European Conflict in the 20th Century (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2010), 97; Miron Rezun, The Soviet Union and the Iran: Soviet Policy in Iran from the Beginnings of the Pahlavi Dynasty until the Soviet Invasion of 1941 (Geneva: Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales, 1981), 148, 154, 247; Marcel Mitrasca, Moldova: A Romanian Province Under Russian Rule : Diplomatic History from the archives of the Great Powers (New York: Algora Publishing, 2002), 8, 124, 330, 372, 377.

[14] KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885; David A. Kaplow, “Nuclear Kellogg-Briand Pact: Proposing a Treaty for the Renunciation of Nuclear Wars as an Instrument of National Policy,” Georgetown University Law Center, p. 139; “When the Soviet Union Entered World Politics” ebook, “Diplomatic Isolation and the Beginnings of Stalinism” chapter, UC Press; Time Magazine, “RUSSIA: Litvinov’s Protocol,”KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885.

[15] KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885; Triska and Slusser, 262-263.

[16] Triska and Slusser, 262-263.

[17] The lack of such provisions in the Kellogg-Briand Pact is not a surprise because Western capitalist states would have never stood for strong enforcement, rejecting it in an effort to defend their own empires.

Spreading the goodness of Soviet history

Students from Patrice Lumumba Friendship University pick presents for the New Year in the State Department Store (GUM), 1962 (via a recent series on Sputnik)

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Jan 3, 2017.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism.

My last post on here focused on early Soviet history, from 1917 until 1933, as I continue to do research on Soviet history.

However, this is something I want all of the readers out there to know about: a new forum about Soviet History! Its only for those on Reddit, but everyone can view and see it. I’ll openly admit that I’m the mod on the subreddit, intlnews, posting most of the links and content. Moving on from that, its worth noting that I’m still new at the moding (after being kicked out as a moderator of /r/fullstalinism [as of Aug 4, 2018, I have become a moderator again and built up the subreddit’s wiki]), but I did add a whole faq wiki for the forum to answer some easy questions. I know Reddit has its horrid side, with grotesque parts and such, but there are certain parts of Reddit where there can be good and productive discussion.

Before anyone is up and arms about the content on there, I’ll say that this is my first time as a mod of a subreddit on my own, so its still a work in progress. I was thinking of maybe creating a bot to autopost content, but I don’t know how to do that yet. Other than asking for your suggestions in spreading its content far and wide, more than beyond a few measly subreddits, I just thought I’d share this new development.

I’m aware of the revisionist measures taken after 1956 and Khrushchev’s horrid “secret speech” and the subsequent Sino-Soviet split, along with the understandable and justified anti-revisionism, with more seeing China (or Albania) as centers of socialism in the world than the USSR. So, I’m not trying to glorify that period or any other period, just trying to spread more understanding about Soviet History.

In the meantime, I’m researching a bit for my next article about the orange menace and his cabinet picks, trying to get it ready and out there before the orange menace is inaugurated.