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Debunking Myths of ‘Red-Brown’ Alliances

Max Parry

Recently, a certain political concept has been resurrected that warrants interrogation. The notion of a ‘red-brown’ alliance has been thrown around so ubiquitously as a form of political slander that any substantive meaning to the term has been evacuated. Rather than accurately designating any associations that may exist between the left and far right, the idea of a ‘red-brown’ coalition, or ‘querfront’ (cross-front in German), is a generic abstraction cited to mischaracterize a perceived convergence of political opposites. In many respects, it is a stand-in for a similar hypothesis used by liberals — that of ‘horseshoe theory’, or the impression that the far left and far right intersect at both ends of the ideological spectrum — so as to be permitted diction for self-identified leftists. The application of the ‘red-brown’ smear produces the same result in that it situates politics from a centrist vantage point and likens the actual left to fascism. It disappears the anti-fascism of the left and anti-communism of the right while leaving the moderate center at a comfortable distance from the right-wing of which it is the more frequent collaborator.

The ‘red-brown’ character assassinations make analogies about the present day based on a counterfeit history of World War II. No analysis of the mythos would be complete without the inclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, one of the most misunderstood and historically falsified events of the war. During the 1930s, the USSR tried to maintain its autonomy during a period of rapid industrialization that accomplished in a decade what the British needed a century to achieve. In self defense, Moscow was forced to exploit the contradictions between the ‘democratic’ imperial nations and the authoritarian Axis powers when it came under dual threat.

If war could not be avoided, the USSR certainly did not wish to take on the Wehrmacht alone. Stalin made diplomatic attempts in the lead up to the war at aligning with Britain and France, who were as keen on the idea of putting an end to the Soviet Union as Germany, which were rebuffed. In reply, the British and the French did everything within their power to try to push the Hitlerites into a war with the Soviets by signing the Munich Agreement with Germany and Italy in 1938.

More than an appeasement, the Munich Betrayal essentially handed over Czechoslovakia to Hitler as a deposit to try to persuade Germany to begin his ‘Master Plan for the East’ where the West would be in a position to play peacemaker. Meanwhile, Poland, Turkey and the Baltic states all signed treaties with Hitler as well, but for obvious reasons history only chooses to remember the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression agreement which followed a year later. Stalin knew Germany would eventually ‘drive to the East’ but needed time if the USSR was to withstand a Wehrmacht invasion and the agreement thwarted the West’s plans of using Hitler to weaken Moscow. After the treaty was signed in 1939, The New York Times declared that “Hitler is brown communism, Stalinism is red fascism” and to this day the cult followers of Trotsky are repeating this lie.

If it isn’t the distortion of the Hitler-Stalin pact, the infamous 1934 Night of the Long Knives in Germany is adduced to illustrate the historical instance of a supposed red-brown coalescence and its inevitable results, when the so-called ‘left wing’ of the Nazi Party led by Gregor Strasser and his supporters were murdered in Hitler’s Röhm purge. While the Strasserites may have self-identified as ‘socialists’, they were just as steeped in anti-Semitism and were anything but left — much less ‘red.’ Strasser made his brand of pseudo-socialism discernibly anti-Marxist when he distinguished it as free of a “soulless Jewish-materialist outlook” while addressing the Reichstag in 1925.

Once Hitler was finished using the Strasserites in his cynical and cunning scheme, they were liquidated in order to appease his real backers in big business and the German ruling class. Hitler did the bidding of monopoly capital while directing the machinery of government to repress any of his supporters who had been credulous enough to anticipate anti-capitalist policies from the Third Reich. No, the Nazis were not socialist despite their unabbreviated name, nor does chocolate milk come from brown cows.

History has been tampered with to blame the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) for the rise of the Nazis and those weaponizing the red-brown mythology are perpetuating this falsehood. Germany’s economic depression destabilized the country while various political tendencies vied for power against the Weimar government and while the Nazis ultimately emerged on top, there was no ‘collaboration’ between what were mortal enemies. Furthermore, it is assumed that if not for the KPD’s policy towards the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) as ‘social fascists’, things would have turned out different. To the contrary, in 1932 it was the Social Democrats who rebuffed Ernst Thälmann and the KPD’s repeated pleas to form a coalition once the German Reich’s other conservative parties joined forces with Hitler and his seizure of power appeared imminent. To be sure, the Nazis benefited from the left’s infighting due to this repudiation.

After the SPD refused to form a popular front or organize a general strike, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Chancellor of Germany and the rest was history. It was the rejections of the appeals for a united front by the anti-revolutionary Social Democrats, not the KPD, which ensured the power grab. There is a reason it was the communists who became the most heavily persecuted political group following the consolidation of power after the Nazi-engineered Reichstag fire ‘false flag’ operation was blamed on them.

The Third Reich was a reaction of the ruling class to the rising militancy of German workers and their increasing revolutionary readiness amidst the Weimar Republic’s collapse, not any strategic failure on the part of the heroes who were murdered by the Hitlerite regime. To propagate this fable is to spit on the graves of those who perished. Nazi authoritarianism became the weapon of choice once the duplicitous arm of Social Democracy became ineffective in deflecting workers away from revolution, as it had done following the end of WWI to put down the Spartacist uprising.

The KPD had no choice but to regard the Social Democrats as ‘fascism’s twin brother’ considering the SPD leadership had sided with Kaiser Wilhelm, who killed as many Namibians as Hitler killed Jews in the Herero genocide, against the revolutionaries. Ten years later during the 1929 May Day demonstrations, Social Democratic Interior Minister Carl Severing oversaw the Blutmai massacre where many workers and communists were gunned down by Berlin police. Nothing had changed between the failed 1919 German Revolution put down by the Freikorps which took the life of Rosa Luxemburg and the Bloody May Day in 1929.

Underlying the ‘red-brown’ concept is essentially a false equivalency between the Soviet Union and fascism. One of the other primary sources of this big lie pertains to the doctored history of the Spanish Civil War, a conflict that ended exactly 80 years ago last month. Like Hitler in Germany, General Francisco Franco became the Caudillo of Spain while there was a schism on its political left and since history is written by the winners, decades of anti-Soviet propaganda have placed the blame on those who tried to save the Spanish Republic in 1939 for his rise to power. In reality, the loyalists were defeated not just because of extrinsic reinforcement by Germany and Italy but the debilitation of the Republican forces by the Trotskyite POUM who have since been championed as heroes by those suffering from ultra-left misapprehensions.

During the 1930s while fascism was ascendant, Spain was in a deep political crisis with a monarchist right-wing government. In reaction, the Spanish left mobilized and formed a Popular Front coalition of communists, anarchists and socialists in 1936 to win the Spanish elections. When Franco and his alliance began their insurrection and military coup, the Republican government was refused assistance by the Western imperial nations and the Soviet Union stepped in to provide the anti-fascist resistance political and military aid. They also received reinforcements from Mexico as well as militias from the International Brigades which included the Abraham Lincoln Battalion consisting of American volunteers, the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. Meanwhile, Franco became the recipient of external support from the strongest military power in the world at the time in Nazi Germany.

The Luftwaffe began its intervention with the aerial bombardment of the Republican-held Basque town of Guernica, inspiring one of Pablo Picasso’s most famous paintings. Seeing as this was no time for games with the very real danger of ultra-nationalism taking power, the Spanish communists mustered together a resistance army that was repeatedly sabotaged by the POUM’s lack of discipline and intrigue. As a result, their unworldly tactics and opposition to any practical alliance with a broader left ultimately led to their expulsion from the Republican government and the Popular Front.

Following their banishment, the POUM quislings continued their factionalist disruption and along with the CNT anarchists attempted to overthrow the Republican government, on the basis that a ‘Stalinist regime’ was as undesirable an outcome as fascism. Although the putsch failed, ultimately Franco benefited from this strife which weakened the Comintern-backed forces and the military strongman would advance to become dictator of Spain for the next four decades following the Republican defeat.

Much of the disinformation pulled from this period stems from George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, which is unfortunately the sole account most people will ever read of the Spanish Civil War. It’s reliability is even doubted by Western historians in its demonization of the loyalist cause and Orwell himself admitted its many inaccuracies while regretting the passages that appeared to actually welcome a Franco victory over the Republicans. The avowed “democratic socialist” based the work on his own experiences as a volunteer for the Republican cause fighting alongside the POUM before fleeing the country in 1937. Like his other writings, Homage to Catalonia became weaponized during the Cold War by the political establishment in order to push the anti-communist Western left toward liberal democracy and away from Soviet sympathies.

The great Michael Parenti wrote of Orwell and his descendants in Blackshirts and Reds:

A prototypic Red-basher who pretended to be on the Left was George Orwell. In the middle of World War II, as the Soviet Union was fighting for its life against the Nazi invaders at Stalingrad, Orwell announced that a “willingness to criticize Russia and Stalin is the test of intellectual honesty. It is the only thing that from a literary intellectual’s point of view is really dangerous.” Safely ensconced within a virulently anticommunist society, Orwell (with Orwellian doublethink) characterized the condemnation of communism as a lonely courageous act of defiance. Today, his ideological progeny are still at it, offering themselves as intrepid left critics of the Left, waging a valiant struggle against imaginary Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist hordes.

Parenti isn’t exaggerating in his representation. Although little known by his casual admirers, one year before his death in 1950 at the dawn of the Cold War, Orwell secretly provided the British Foreign Office’s anti-Soviet propaganda branch known as the Information Research Department a list of people he believed to be “crypto-communists, fellow-travellers or inclined that way and should not be trusted as propagandists” for MI6’s information warfare.

Orwell’s role as an informant for the British secret services and the existence of the list, which included everyone from Charlie Chaplin to foreign correspondents for major newspapers, was not revealed until 1996 and only became public in 2002. He based the list on a longer, unofficial version contained in a personal notebook which even slandered legendary black actor, singer and activist Paul Robeson as a “very anti-white Henry Wallace supporter.”

Unlike Hollywood filmmaker Elia Kazan’s shameful testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in 1952, Orwell’s blacklist was provided voluntarily to the assistant of anti-Soviet historian Robert Conquest, then working for the UK Foreign Office, after she asked him to lend a hand picking out communist sympathizers.

Orwell BBC

Orwell’s disillusion with the Spanish communists backed by the Comintern and allegiance to the POUM and CNT anarchists was solidified during the 1937 Barcelona May Days where the opposing factions clashed and the Republican government ultimately regained control. In Homage to Catalonia, Orwell heavily criticized a journalist working under the pen name Frank Pitcairn of The Daily Worker, official newspaper of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and now known as The Morning Star, and challenged his coverage of the events. It turns out that ‘Frank Pitcairn’ was the pseudonym of none other than Claud Cockburn, father of legendary journalist Alexander Cockburn who co-founded Counterpunch newsletter in the mid-90s.

The younger Cockburn ruthlessly denounced Orwell when “St. George’s List” became public knowledge, no doubt feeling vindication for the defamation of his father’s work by the English essayist.

For many years, the formerly prestigious Counterpunch edited by Alexander Cockburn until his death in 2012 was a sanctuary of high quality left-wing journalism and commentary. Under his successors, however, the website has gradually declined in its calibre, especially after it became mired in controversy following the 2016 U.S. presidential election when it was included in an investigation in The Washington Post for having publishing articles of a pseudonymous writer working under the false name ‘Alice Donovan’ supposedly on behalf of the Russian government that was tracked by the FBI. The website was then listed among a host of other anti-war pages as promoting a ‘pro-Russian and anti-Clinton’ agenda to influence the outcome of the election on the neo-McCarthyist PropOrNot blacklist. Evidently, Cockburn’s substitutes were too embarrassed to speculate as to whether or not Donovan’s stories could have been submitted by the FBI itself as a pretext for the subsequent widespread censorship of alternative media by big tech giants under the phony banner of stopping the spread of “fake news.” It was only after an in-house investigation by the editors themselves that Donovan was also discovered to be a serial plagiarist, a significant detail that went unnoticed in The Washington Post story. What if the mystery literary thief was a g-man?

Rather than digging in their heels and standing by what they published, Counterpunch has since embarked on an embarrassing quest for bourgeois respectability with the purging of popular contributors while smearing them as part of an imaginary “Sputnik left.” Shortly after the Alice Donovan affair, several of the remaining core authors for Counterpunch published hit pieces condemning progressive journalist Caitlin Johnstone for advocating a ‘cross ideological collaboration’ in the name of an essential policy based anti-war movement transcending the left-right paradigm. 

While Johnstone’s suggestion gave an admittedly poor and naive example in far right social media personality Mike Cernovich for cooperation — hardly the type of conservative to be taken seriously compared to committed anti-militarist libertarians — her recommendation was well-intentioned and harmless. Nevertheless, they seized the opportunity and pounced on her, but not for the stated reason of stopping an attempt to forge a ‘red-brown fascist alliance.’ Johnstone’s real crime was possessing the rare ability to disseminate subversive ideas to a wide range of people, a serious threat to the livelihood of the professional gatekeepers at Counterpunch.

Yet Johnstone’s opinions were hardly inconsistent with the newsletter’s own history as a longtime host of far-reaching anti-establishment views, nor with Alexander Cockburn himself. In a 2000 article entitled “25 Years After Vietnam: Beyond Left and Right“, Cockburn wrote of exactly such a scenario after receiving criticism for speaking at an anti-war conference that included conservatives Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan:

“I got an invitation to speak a couple of months ago from an outfit called antiwar.com, which is run by a young fellow called Justin Raimundo. “Antiwar.com is having its second annual national conference March 24 & 25, and we’d like you to be the luncheon speaker,” Raimundo wrote. “The conference will be held at the Villa Hotel, in San Mateo (near the airport). The theme of the conference is ‘Beyond Left & Right: The New Face of the Antiwar Movement.’ We have invited a number of speakers spanning the political spectrum. Confirmed so far: Patrick J. Buchanan, Tom Fleming (of Chronicles magazine), Justin Raimondo (Antiwar.com), Kathy Kelly (Iraq Aid), Alan Bock (Orange County Register), Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), representatives of the Serbian Unity Congress, and a host of others.”

Raimundo seasoned his invite with a burnt offering, in the form of flattery, always pleasing to the nostrils: “All of us here at Antiwar.com are big fans of your writing: we met, once, at a meeting during the Kosovo war where you bravely took up the fight for the united front left-right alliance against imperialist war. We can promise you a small honorarium, a lunch, free admission to all conference events — and a good time.” As a seasoned analyst of such communications, my eye of course fell sadly upon the words “small honorarium” ? a phrase that in my case usually means somewhere between $l50 and $350. I’d already noted that even though our task was to transcend the tired categories of left and right, I was the only leftist mentioned, with the possible exception of Kathy Kelly, from that splendid organization, Voices in the Wilderness, which campaigns to lift the UN sanctions on Iraq.

Being a libertarian Justin had boldly added the prospect of a “good time”. Leftist invitations rarely admit this possibility in formal political communications, even in the distant days when the left supposedly had a lock on drugs and sex. I said I’d be happy to join in such an enterprise, and in due course got some angry e-mails from lefties who seem to feel that any contiguity with Buchanan is a crime, even if the subject was gardening and Dutch tulipomania in the seventeenth century.”

Cockburn received similar flack in the mid-90s for commending a right-wing Patriot rally opposing gun control in Michigan in a column for The Nation similarly titled “Who’s Left? Who’s Right?” So it’s one thing for the inner circle at Couterpunch to attack others with the red-brown libel, but entirely another to rewrite history and speak on behalf of the deceased Cockburn to claim their sectarian attacks on leftist colleagues are in spirit with his vision. Worst of all, the Counterpunch contingent has maligned the recently kidnapped Wikileaks founder Julian Assange as a ‘crypto-fascist’ while continuing to use his endorsement of the magazine in advertising to raise money for its annual fund drive as he languishes in prison.

Most of those targeted like Johnstone are anti-war leftists willing to defend Russia and Syria beyond merely protesting U.S. military aggression but challenging the propaganda narratives villainizing such countries used to justify it. The war in Syria has even been compared to the Spanish Civil War where the chasm between those defending the Syrian government against Western-backed jihadists is seen as a repeat of the discord in the 1930s, with presumably the ‘libertarian socialist’ Kurds playing the role of the POUM. It is actually not such a bad analogy, considering the YPG are as objectively a U.S. proxy army as the POUM were Franco’s fifth columnists.

Russophobes on the left use a different line of reasoning to push the same agenda as the Washington war duopoly while Moscow is in the gun-sights of U.S. imperialism. The ‘brown’ component is said to be the reactionary philosopher Alexander Dugin whose alleged Svengali-like influence on the Kremlin is inflated, as is the prevalent misconception that he is the founder of Putin’s ‘Eurasianism.’ As a matter of fact, the initial author of a Eurasian union was the anti-Soviet liberal human rights dissident Andrei Sakharov back in the 1980s during perestroika who was beloved in the Western sphere.

Meanwhile, the actual threat of right-wing extremism in Russia emanating from the U.S.-backed opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who seeks the secession of the Caucasus while comparing its Muslim inhabitants to cockroaches and insects, is of little concern to those making Putin out to be the enemy. In fact, it is the instigator against Moscow in NATO that has for decades incubated fascism, from Operation Gladio’s stay-behind networks of right-wing paramilitaries carrying out ‘false flag’ operations in NATO member states to Ukraine’s 2014 Banderite junta. Furthermore, the anti-Russia hysteria is a successful diversion from the actual source of foreign influence nurturing the current tide of nationalism that is traceable to Jerusalem, not the Kremlin.

The red-brown aspersion isn’t relegated to the periphery of leftist newsletters or historical debates about WWII but has even manifested in more mainstream discourse, from the smear campaign against journalist Angela Nagle for her brilliant “The Left Case Against Open Borders” article exploring the complexities of the immigration issue to Bernie Sanders’ willingness to do a town hall hosted by Fox News.

Journalists such as Glenn Greenwald, Max Blumenthal, Michael Tracey, and Nagle herself have all been denigrated as ‘red-brown collaborators’ for their willingness to make appearances on Tucker Carlson’s weeknight talk show. There is even an incomprehensible multi-axis political compass making the rounds on social media said to visually represent the red-brown or neo-“Strasserite” phenomena.

Venn diagram politics

Carlson, like Ann Coulter, is a right-wing media figure who made his name as a neo-con during the Bush years that has successfully rebranded himself in the Trump era as an ‘anti-establishment’ conservative, even espousing anti-interventionism on occasion. Of course, the entire point of engaging the millions of viewers who watch such a cartoon propaganda outlet is missed by those who insist that to do so is to legitimate the channel or Carlson’s views. Would not solely attending the likes of so-called ‘respectable’ media like CNN or MSNBC, which sell U.S. wars every bit as much as Rupert Murdoch’s network, be an endorsement of their self-proclamations to be arbiters of truth?

Last month, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) in the U.S. voted to dissolve itself after a period of a factionalism and infighting. The ISO was the American branch of the UK-based Socialist Workers Party (SWP) founded by Tony Cliff, which once included Orwell admirer and Trot-turned-neocon author Christopher Hitchens in its ranks during his youth. This was welcome news to anyone rightly disgusted by such an objectively pro-interventionist group that was one of the biggest mudslingers against those who have defended Russia and Syria from imperialism as ‘red-brown fascists’ during the past decade.

Unsurprisingly, it was revealed that the ISO received a significant amount of its subsidies from the Soros-funded Tides Foundation and other Democratic Party-affiliated philanthropies.

Hopefully its dissolution is a sign that the tide is turning against such groups that smuggle pro-imperial positions to be planted into a left that should unconditionally oppose them.

Independent journalist and geopolitical analyst. My work has appeared in CounterPunch, Greanville Post, OffGuardian, Global Research, Dissident Voice, and more. Max may be reached at [email protected]

Filed under: 20th Century, fascism, historical perspectives, latest

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Independent journalist and geopolitical analyst. My work has appeared in CounterPunch, Greanville Post, OffGuardian, Global Research, Dissident Voice, and more. Max may be reached at [email protected]

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Jack Bonam
Jack Bonam

An unhappy amalgam of falsehoods, distortions and omissions; in large part an apologia for the crimes and betrayals of Stalin and Stalinists.
Amongst the falsehoods, Orwell and the POUM are described as Trotskyists, a description with which neither would have agreed, and with which Trotsky would have emphatically disagreed. The case of the ISO was different: they have misdescribed themselves as Trotskyist; Trotsky would not have agreed. The ISO was an accomplice of imperialism.
Unlike the ISO and other groups (e.g. the British SWP) Trotsky to the end defended the Soviet Union, but remained implacably opposed to the Stalinist bureaucracy. Like Lenin, Trotsky believed that the Soviet Union could only be defended as part of an international socialist revolution. Stalin, basing himself on a privileged bureaucratic stratum, fostered the reactionary ‘theory’ of socialism in one country, and sought to defend the Soviet Union through various alliances with imperialist nations. This was the equivalent of a parasite defending its host while destroying it.
To achieve his dominance he was driven to murder most of the leaders of Lenin’s party in the Moscow Trials, and then to extend his purge to foreign communists and the Comintern, which he finally dissolved as a placatory gesture to the USA and Britain in 1943. These vast purges ‘discovered’ that most of Lenin’s comrades in arms, including Trotsky, were agents of fascism!.Amongst the victims was a large part of those foreign communists who took refuge in the Soviet Union after the victory of fascism in Germany, Austria and elsewhere. The purge also extended to Spain where revolutionary socialists, including the POUM, were murdered by the GPU. They were slandered as fascists by the Stalinists and the article despicably refers to them as ‘quislings’. Orwell left Spain in 1937 because the GPU were hunting down the militants of the POUM, whose leader Nin was tortured to death. Their real crime in Stalin’s eyes was to fight for a socialist programme, rather than a bourgeois republic.
In Weimar Germany from 1929, the disastrous Comintern policy of ‘social fascism’ identified social democracy as the main enemy. Following Stalin’s prescribed fantasy of imminent revolution, their belief was ‘After Hitler, Our Turn’. A sharp illustration of this was the red/brown front of 1931, when the German Communist Party voted with the Nazis in an attempt to bring down the social democratic government of Prussia. Trotsky warned of the coming catastrophe and urged a united front with the social democrats, in order to meet the immediate needs of the workers for defence against the Nazis, and to expose their treacherous leaders in practice. When the crunch came in 1933 the German Communist Party was isolated from the social democratic workers and paralysed by inertia. The social democratic leaders were left to complete their betrayal.
Those looking for political answers today would do well to look to the policies of the first four congresses of the communist international and the writings of Trotsky rather than to the degenerate policies of Stalin, erected over the bodies of genuine communists.

Stephen Morrell
Stephen Morrell

While it’s laudable to debunk the liberal ‘horseshoe’ theory of politics, this article’s whitewashing of Stalinism’s counterrevolutionary role needs addressing and is well exemplified in the author’s version of events in Germany.

This begins with, ‘History has been tampered with to blame the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) for the rise of the Nazis…’. Firstly, it’s important to distinguish the ‘rise’ of the Nazis from the events leading to their immediate accession to power.

As part of their rise, the Nazis got their first major fillip when the Social Democratic Party (SPD) government unleashed the nuclei of the Nazi movement (the Freikorps) on the Spartacist uprising of 1918-19, which culminated in the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. SPD leader Noske, the ‘bloodhound of the revolution’, revelled in it. The second major fillip came in 1923 with the French occupation of the Ruhr, the already ongoing hyperinflation and above all the failure of the (‘Stillborn’) revolution in October 1923. This failure was due overwhelmingly to the opportunistic policies of the KPD, and a revolutionary situation went begging with hardly a shot fired. The KPD were by no means hostile to the SPD then, and Trotsky was soft on the issue of collaboration with the SPD in government, manifested in his support for the KPD joining the SPD in a coalition government in the Saxon Lantag, as a ‘communist drill ground’ for the KPD.

When revolutionary situations like 1923 pass without a struggle, the price is high, as the masses quickly become demoralised and look elsewhere for solutions. As a consequence, this key turning point marked a declining trajectory for the fortunes of the KPD (which need not have been inevitable), a rising one for the Nazis, and it somewhat restored the fortunes of the SPD. Crucially, the 1923 failure also helped consolidate Stalin’s grip on power in the Soviet government and in the Communist International (Comintern).

And it’s the role of the Comintern that the author completely erases in his distorted portrayal of the KPD in Hitler’s accession to power, and which is the root of this particular example of whitewashing.

Stalin’s zig-zagging domestic policies in the USSR from the early-to-mid 1920s, under the rubric of his ludicrous anti-Marxist ‘theory’ of building ‘Socialism in One Country’, were reflected directly in the Comintern. Relevant to Germany was the brutal, forced collectivisation of the Russian peasantry beginning in 1927, and internationally the Comintern’s disastrous opportunism leading to the China debacle of the same year. This culminated in the so-called ‘Third Period’ ultra-left phase espoused by Stalin and adopted at the Sixth Comintern Congress of 1928. All social democratic parties were now to be regarded as ‘social fascists’, and ‘red’ trade unions organised separately to displace the existing trade unions.

As a consequence of this disastrous policy, the KPD lost much of its support base from inside the trade unions, and after the crash of 1929-30 was becoming more the party of the unemployed. The KPD’s hostility to the ‘social fascist’ SPD precluded the absolutely necessary united front to prevent the Nazis taking power. For example, following the May Day 1929 killings of 25 assembled workers under the SPD ‘police president of Berlin’ (Zorgiebel), the KPD went so far as to produce propaganda denouncing rank-and-file SPD supporters as ‘the little Zorgiebels’. And their propaganda consistently denounced the SPD’s ‘social fascism’ as more dangerous than actual fascism. After four years of this ‘third period’ sectarianism, is it any wonder that Thalmann was rebuffed by the SPD in 1932? It didn’t come out of the blue, and by then was too little, too late. The KPD saw the looming crisis which became evident to everyone by September 1930 elections (the third great fillip to Hitler’s rise), yet it took the KPD 2-3 years to reach out to the ‘social fascist’ SPD. In short, the KPD behaved as a stupid, boneheaded Stalin cult, and the author’s claim that ‘The KPD had no choice but to regard the Social Democrats as ‘fascism’s twin brother’’ simply alibies and whitewashes this contradictory political behaviour, which is rather better understood as ‘man-of-steel’ cultism. The KPD had no program to offer to the workers (the SPD are ‘social fascists’) and none to address the bankrupted and desperate petty bourgeoisie (you’re being proletarianised and its inevitable) who subsequently flocked to Hitler.

The ultimate roots of the Stalinist degeneration of the Soviet workers state was material backwardness and the failure of the revolution to spread to more advanced countries, especially Germany (particularly in 1923). It’s not simply that Stalin and Stalinism was repressive and totalitarian, as horrible as this was. Stalinism wrecked the communist movement as an instrument for revolution, dragged the name of communism through the mud in all capitalist countries (and in the USSR), and helped delay humanity’s transition to a socialist future for nearly a century, perhaps indefinitely.

The victory of Hitler, encapsulated in Stalin’s fatuous pronouncement of ‘first Hitler, then us’, and the ensuing silence within the communist movement, spelt the end of the Comintern Stalin eventually dissolved it to appease the imperialists in WWII. Hitler’s victory also spelt the end of any notions of reforming the soviet government and signalled the need for a political (not social) revolution in the USSR to restore soviet democracy. It’s not for nothing that Trotsky pronounced Stalin as the ‘gravedigger of the revolution’, and it’s not for nothing that Stalin finally succeeded in murdering him, after several attempts.

‘Socialists should rejoice’ (as do communists) the passing of the ISO, inveterate State Department social democrats who liked to call themselves ‘Trotskyist’ when not sucking up to the Democrats or other liberals. These swine, who ‘rejoiced’ in the counterrevolution in the USSR and cheered on Yeltsin’s barricades as he cannonaded the Russian parliament, were never ‘Trotskyist’. They were the end product of Tony Cliff who renounced military defense of the workers states during the Korean war, and for many of them their natural resting place is inside the DSA, the end product of Max Shachtman who also renounced defending the USSR, following the Hitler-Stalin pact. For other ISO cold war remnants, the DSA will be a stopover before they finally embrace reaction — like Hitchens.

Space precludes the myriad other false notions and distortions propounded in this piece (the POUM as a ‘fifth column’ and ‘quisling’, popular frontism, the broader role of social democracy in defending and administering the capitalist state, etc), but it does capture an evident strain of thinking prevalent especially among today’s crop of ‘millennial journalists’, best characterised as crypto-Stalinism with a ‘third period’, ‘left’ face: a nostalgia for what was lost from the restoration of capitalism in the USSR and Eastern Europe, accompanied by a whitewashing of the counterrevolutionary role that Stalinism has played historically. This phenomenon partly reflects the regression of political consciousness in the left that accompanied the demise of the USSR, a profound historic defeat for the working class internationally.

The Russian disaster needs to be understood not simply as the result of the overwhelming force of imperialism, but also as the product of the catastrophic erosion of socialist consciousness inside the USSR wrought by almost seven decades of Stalinism. Like the anti-communists and Stalinists who in unison characterised the USSR as ‘communist’, the ‘millennial left’ journalists today characterise the politics of third-campist outfits like the ISO as ‘Trotskyist’, in unison with the latter. However, they might actually profit from reading some Trotsky, and this author and other interested readers would benefit from reading the following on Germany: Werner Angress “Stillborn Revolution”; Leon Trotsky “The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany”; Evelyn Anderson “Hammer or Anvil” (among innumerable others of course). And on Russia and Stalinism, read Trotsky’s “Lessons of October, “The Revolution Betrayed” and “In Defense of Marxism”, the latter being Trotsky’s struggle against Shachtman.

Ramon Mercader
Ramon Mercader

Way to whitewash and take the side of the SPD against the KPD like a typical Trot turncoat, poor Rosa is turning in her grave.

Peter M
Peter M

Stalinism wrecked the communist movement as an instrument for revolution, dragged the name of communism through the mud in all capitalist countries (and in the USSR), and helped delay humanity’s transition to a socialist future for nearly a century, perhaps indefinitely.

I have no idea how that whitewashes the SPD betrayal.
However, this is spot on:

Stalinism wrecked the communist movement as an instrument for revolution, dragged the name of communism through the mud in all capitalist countries (and in the USSR), and helped delay humanity’s transition to a socialist future for nearly a century, perhaps indefinitely.

Peter M
Peter M

No corrections possible? The first quote should have been:

Ten years later during the 1929 May Day demonstrations, Social Democratic Interior Minister Carl Severing oversaw the Blutmai massacre where many workers and communists were gunned down by Berlin police. Nothing had changed between the failed 1919 German Revolution put down by the Freikorps which took the life of Rosa Luxemburg and the Bloody May Day in 1929.

Paul
Paul

But Stalin ensured Britain and France would have to fight Germany in WW2 because of the Non Agression Pact and then went on to beat the Nazi war machine – no mean feat! Without him we may have faced a Fascist victory. He forced through industrialisation at an unprecedented pace without which Germany would have won. Britain would have followed France in collaborating and handing over Jews for extermination. Stalin knever disguised the fact he was fundamentally a Russian Nationalist preparing for the Fascist invasion. He was rightly hero worshipped across the World, much as Putin is today. My old Mum was always a fan of Uncle Joe as were many Brits. Only later were we told we’d got it wrong and the US was the real victor and in true 1984 style we learnt Stalin was really our enemy all along!

Stephen Morrell
Stephen Morrell

Ye gods, this Stalin worship is quite amazing. Oddly, it’s the obverse to the Putin demonisation by Russophobic liberals: that there’s this omniscient inscrutable Russian ‘leader’ who’s playing eight-dimensional chess to fool everyone.

Understanding the following is important. A part of Stalin’s ‘Great Purge’ of 1936-39 (which targetted all the old Bolsheviks along with anyone even potentially critical of the Stalin regime), was his purge of the cream of the Red Army high command during 1937-38, which included three out of five marshalls, 13 out of 15 army commanders, 7 out of 9 admirals, 57 out of 85 corps commanders and 110 out of 195 division commanders, along with around 30-35,000 officers in the military. Soviet operational capacity was crippled because Stalin purged its creators and implementers. Fortunately, many of those purged were reinstated after Operation Barbarossa.

The brilliant Marshall Tukhachevsky and seven of the high command of the Red Army, were executed as part of Stalin’s paranoia-driven purges. They were accused (of course without any evidence) of conspiring with the Nazis to overthrow the Soviet government, and were shot in June 1937. ‘Tukha’ came to the fore in the Russian civil war (whose talent Trotsky, as creator of the Red Army, early recognised). He led the suppression of the Kronstadt uprising, and was responsible not only for the mechanisation of the Red Army but devised the first military manoeuvres involving aircraft. The most that the Red Army high command might perhaps be accused of was conspiring to get rid of the scatter-brained Voroshilov, the Peoples Commissar of Defense and longtime Stalin crony and henchman.

Stalin had been angling for a rapprochement with Hitler, and the military purge was his down payment to Hitler for what became the Stalin-Von Ribbentrop pact of August 1939. Consequently, Hitler was assured by Stalin that there would be no second front to contend with when waging his war in Europe and beyond.

Of course the stupid Stalin took Hitler at his word, literally. He received plenty of intelligence from his spy networks from Europe (Leopold Trepper and the ‘Red Orchestra’) to Japan (Richard Sorge), from Maisky, Golikov (head of the GRU), Dekanozov (the Soviet ambassador in Berlin) and even Beria, that Hitler was amassing his forces to invade the USSR. Stalin never believed any of it, let alone act on it. Moreover, published Russian sources of letters from Hitler to Stalin show Hitler assuring him that the build up of German forces in Eastern Europe was merely to keep them out of reach of the British. In short, Stalin chose to believe Hitler over his own intelligence officers and diplomats.

It’s thus no surprise that when operation Barbarossa was finally launched (in June 1941), Stalin was completely taken by surprise. The soviet airforce was pulverised in days without getting off the ground, and Stalin reportedly was in such shock that he refused for days to leave his dacha and take command.

Thus while the purging of the Soviet military made Hitler’s job easier, it was also Stalin’s gullible, if furtive, fawning over a fellow tyrant (much like Trump’s open fawning over Putin) that made it even easier.

So, actual events show the exact opposite of this claim that ‘Stalin ensured Britain and France would have to fight Germany in WW2 because of the Non Agression Pact and then went on to beat the Nazi war machine’. In fact, as shown here, Stalin provided assurance to Hitler that he could wage war against Britain and France without hindrance from the USSR, and Stalin believed Hitler’s lying assurance that Germany wouldn’t attack the USSR (even though Hitler always publicly stated that it was his mission to do so!). The USSR certainly ‘went on to beat the Nazi war machine’, only at great cost (ie, ~30,000,000 lives) and herculean efforts largely because of Stalin’s paranoia, gullibility and stupidity. And certainly it was the USSR that defeated Hitler, despite deluded US claims to the contrary. And it need not have been so costly to the USSR.

Paul
Paul

Come now, Stalin never believed Hitler wouldn’t invade – he’d promised to do that since the early 1920’s. But he knew he’d be up against it if Britain and France sat it out on the side lines waiting for Germany to destroy communism. By ‘inviting’ Hitler to take the war to the West he assured those laggards were forced to fight. France surrendered as soon as it could and its new facist government handed over French Jews for extermination. Britain was luckier because Churchill cleared out the government of Nazi sympathisers and allied himself with Stalin, something the Chamberlain cabinet refused to do on successive occasions. They hoped it would be like Spain where they could just watch. The anti Stalin hysteria stems from Cold War propaganda. And Er, a lot of that was what is called ‘untrue’ as even you might concede?

Paul
Paul

Many of the Red Army Generals purged (which usually meant sacked by the way!) were old Tsarist officers who were indeed plotting with various Western and Nazi agents against Lefties of all sorts. The Red Army needed young communist leaders many of whom became World famous for defeating fascism so comprehensibly.

Paul
Paul

Why do you say Stalin was ‘hankering after an agreement with Hitler’ but don’t discuss why! You think he was fed up with communism and fancied becoming a Nazi? Or was it a manoeuvre that dragged the French and British into a war they’d taken nearly 10 years to avoid at all costs. It resulted in the defeat of fascism – but maybe that’s the real complaint about him, he won!!

Stephen Morrell
Stephen Morrell

Of course many soviet officers were ex-Tsarist officers. So what? They proved their loyalty to the Soviet government during the civil war. No credible evidence was ever presented during the show trials or anywhere else for them conspiring against the USSR with the Nazis or other capitalist powers.

As a consequence of ‘socialism in one country’, Stalin’s whole outlook was to appease imperialism, not oppose it, let alone overthrow it. The greater the threat, the more he grovelled. That’s why he desperately wanted to appease Hitler — Germany was the greatest threat to the USSR.

The USSR had to be defended against any military threat from imperialism, and the defeat of Hitler was achieved in spite of Stalin not because of him. Stalin was no fascist. But like the bureaucracy he commanded, he sat above society and was caught in a contradiction between defending socialised property forms and defending the privileges of the parasitic bureaucracy, which abused, threatened and undermined those property forms.

Repeating the tired amalgam of fables of ‘the great leader’ being so cunning in his diplomatic manoeuvring and struggling valiantly against ‘conspirators’ plotting against him with no evidence is worthy only of Vyshinsky (or Rachel Maddow). Fortunately facts and history have stubbornly proven otherwise. Stalin was the essence of bureaucracy, a grey mediocrity. He was also a paranoid psychopath.

Gezzah Potts
Gezzah Potts

Thanks Max for this thought provoking, Interesting article. For years, I have felt a deep suspicion and anger of groups like the International Socialist Organisation, and others, including here in Australia that printed the most outrageous crap about the ‘revolution’ in Syria, while fully ignoring all the evidence as too what was really going on there. Well, now we know. Your last paragraph was most enlightening, especially the link to the WSWS article that exposed who was helping fund the ISO and Haymarket Books. Gatekeepers everywhere, aye. The ruling elites will do anything to maintain their position at the top of the pyramid.

Greg Schofield Perth Australia
Greg Schofield Perth Australia

‘People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the publick, or in some contrivance to raise prices’ Adam Smith The Wealth of Nations

The thing that never happens has been around for some time. Conspiracy is the norm in the corporate world, what then might be expected of the corporate state? How are people moved like cattle without the design of such contrivances? The essence of thing gains expression in the particular forms it develops, false flags, death squads, mercenary forces, spy games, agent provocateurs, apparently that is all illusion along with bribes and blackmail, the odd marketplace bombing, the kidnap of journalists, the conspiracy of judges.

Where does the Louis line fall in the real world. The simple exercise is to know the limits of current knowledge, motive can be seen in the effect, opportunity in the execution of the act, means can be taken for granted, altogether it is a case warrants investigation not a case proved for that awaits history.

The Spanish did not sink the Maine, the French state supplied and directed the Black-hand as an excuse to start the war before Germany overreached its military might, The Nazi’s did burn down the Reichstag, Churchill well he did a lot of bad things, the atomic bomb was dropped not to end the war but to frighten USSR, the Bay of Tonkin incident did not happen, and on the list goes what was once dismissed as conspiracy theory turned out sometimes to be conspiracy, that lunatic conspiracies never do.

All you need to be able to do is tell the difference between a reasonable case and unreasonable one with reservation that the most convincing may be wrong and the least convincing may be right. The one thing for certain is that conspiracies are the norm, which are real and which are fantasy is a different question which should not be mixed-up.

Hugh O’Neill
Hugh O’Neill

Greg. Superb precision of language and logic shows deep wisdom. What else have you written? I like your style, and indeed your stylus – a pun influenced by others in this forum…

Makropulos
Makropulos

Gore Vidal on the conspiracy phobia con:

“Like the TV networks, once our government has a hit it will be repeated over and over again. Oswald? Conspiracy? Studio laughter.

TV-watchers have no doubt noted so often that they are no longer aware of how often the interchangeable TV hosts handle anyone who tries to explain why something happened. “Are you suggesting that there was a conspiracy?” A twinkle starts in a pair of bright contact lenses. No matter what the answer, there is a wriggling of the body, followed by a tiny snort and a significant glance into the camera to show that the guest has just been delivered to the studio by flying saucer. This is one way for the public never to understand what actual conspirators – whether in the F.B.I. or on the Supreme Court or toiling for Big Tobacco – are up to. It is also a sure way of keeping information from the public. The function, alas, of Corporate Media.”

labrebisgalloise

You’ve said some very important things here, Max, thank you. Historical revisionism is on the rise; indeed, there seems to be a department in the BBC that specialises in it and is certainly not short of resources (the fact that not just BBC TV news but even classical music channel Radio 3 are replete with revisionist thought/hatred of communism/Stalin is proof enough). The Guardian is the house rag of the revisionists, complete with the promotion of Ukrainian neo-nazi feminists. The core of the campaign against Corbyn’s adviser Seumas Milne is that he WILL insist that the USSR won the war against fascism – how boring, everybody knows we’ve moved on since cavemen and VE day. Knock conspiracy theories all you like, and I often do, but as Max hints, these revisionist ideas originate in Jerusalem, Langley and Vauxhall Cross. The sad thing is that in the UK there are no end of useful idiots and ex-Trots like Paul Mason, Owen Jones and their ilk willing to amplify them.

0use4msm
0use4msm

Wittgenstein said (something along the lines) that all philosophy stems from the confusion of language. The fog of our current culture war is ten times worse, and then some. People get too caught up with artificial rhetorical constructs such as symbolism and obsolete 19th century labels, losing sight of the concrete concerns that actually matter.

Despite shifting axes, I refuse to budge from my anti-war and anti-imperialist ideals, regardless of whether that increasingly gets me lumped in with libertarians and paleo-conservatives. Political tribalism is for idiots, because it gets us nowhere.

louisproyect

Interesting. Then, perhaps, Mr Proyect, you might explain why, on occasion, CP continues to publish Patrick Cockburn? Simply out of deference to Patrick’s familial relationship to Alexander? Yet he, Patrick Cockburn, has a slot on the UNZ Review.

Sure, I can explain why. Ron Unz refuses to stop publishing Patrick Cockburn even after the Independent insisted that he do so. The same thing with Juan Cole. He is carefully cultivating this red-brown crap even if some of the reds (or pinks) are dragged into it unwillingly.

Ramon Mercader
Ramon Mercader

Louis, sounds like you have a ‘conspiracy theory.’

Makropulos
Makropulos

Well of course Louis has a conspiracy theory. But, you see, not all conspiracies are conspiracies. The conspiracies that are not conspiracies are genuine non-conspiracy conspiracies which are therefore “OK” and therefore can be accepted by all right thinking logical and mature people whereas the conspiracies that ARE conspiracies are “conspiracist” conspiracies and are therefore “not at all OK” and must be rejected as the products of infantile diseased morons.

John
John

You’re a fraud Louis another’s fake of the left and more than likely an intelligence asset

Francis Lee
Francis Lee

”Orwell secretly provided the British Foreign Office’s anti-Soviet propaganda branch known as the Information Research Department a list of people he believed to be “crypto-communists, fellow-travellers or inclined that way and should not be trusted as propagandists” for MI6’s information warfare.”

True enough. But was this the same Orwell who fought bravely with the POUM militia against Franco in Spain and who wrote ‘Homage to Catalonia’ as a result. He wasn’t the only leftist intellectual who go swept up in the immediate post-war hysteria. Bertrand Russell, the world renowned philosopher and pacifist actually advocated dropping atomic bombs on Russian cities in the late forties. This is not to say that the drift of Orwells politics was to the far right of the cold war ideologue. Although he claimed that he wrote that ”Every line of serious work I have written, since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.” ”Why I write.” Which seems reasonable until you realise that it was written in 1947 with the Cold War well underway. Given the fact that both Animal Farm and 1984 were obviously directed not at totalitarianism in general, but Stalinist totalitarianism in particular.

His biographer Rob Colls does not quite say that Orwell was becoming increasingly a militiant cold war as such, but the inference to be drawn is that, in the end, the fundamental opposition in Orwell’s political imagination was England versus Communism. Speculating on the futures that the novelist of Nineteen Eighty-Four did not live to define for himself, he writes: ‘the signs are he would have been a Cold Warrior’. By 1949, the signs were he already was.

John
John

Utter nonsense Orwell was sent as a spy from the beginning and spent most of his time doing poems and shite like that. He was a grass and ratted on his fellow comrades and is yet another Trotskyist shill. What kind of do calendar revolutionary rats inn his own side?!

John
John

Bertrand was a another intelligence asset

Ramon Mercader
Ramon Mercader

Russell I assume?

comite espartaco

This article is full of the typical leftist misconceptions about Communism and Fascism and, so, unable to understand the true historical situation. Communism HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH LEFTISM… NOTHING. In fact, Communism is the bitterest enemy of the Left, as has been amply demonstrated throughout history. The Left is a bourgeois attempt at controlling the Working Class Socialist Movement, an infiltration and mellowing of the worst kind that, eventually, has brought the ruin of that Movement. It is true that the Comintern and the USSR tried, mistakenly, to stoke and harness the Left and its acolytes (peace, antinuclear, ecology movements…), for its own aims and for the defence of the USSR, but that dismal strategy has brought the end to Working Class politics, as the exploiters could use it in turn as a Trojan Horse to undermine the Communist Movement and substitute it for their own putrid and dividing ideology (pacifism, feminism, climatechangism, immigrationism, etc…).
The defeat of the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War (as well as the harsh Communist defeats in the Chinese Civil War during the 20’s and 30’s, etc…), was a DIRECT consequence of that mistaken strategy of alliance with the Left, adopted by the Comintern. The Spanish Republic was defeated, in spite of the Communist efforts, because of the stab in the back of the Leftist forces. Basque and Catalan Nationalists (the same that are being revived today for the same reasons, that is to divide the Working Class), Anarchists and other Leftists (POUM, PSOE, etc…), sowed the sort of confusion, disorganisation and division, that could not be remedied by a relatively small Communist Party, that was unable or unwilling to use the ruthless methods of the rebellious military. At the end, the Basque Nationalists (almost from the start) surrendered the industrial areas to the Fascists and the treacherous Anarchists joined a military coup to battle the Communist in Madrid and SURRENDER to Franco.
Although the Fascist Movement started a true SOCIALIST movement in Sicily, it was later, once again using tactics reminiscent of he Left, highjacked by the exploiters and converted into a reactionary ‘Mussolinist’ Fascism. In Germany, the Nazi Party was a similar conspiracy, created by the military caste that, in its efforts to mobilise the ‘whole’ nation for its war aims and prevent revolution, had to use a socialist cover (false flag). However, in that sense it was highly vulnerable to Communist influence and infiltration and, in fact, that is what happened. At the beginning, the Communist Party gave the order to fraternise with the Nazis in demonstrations and meetings and it was so successful that the German Military that created the Nazi had to give counter-orders NOT to fraternise with the Communists at any cost. Street terrorism and exacerbated antisemitism were tactics to avoid convergence with the Communists as, it was, more than obvious, that the Communist would have won the battle for the Working Class.

John
John

Communism is a left wing ideology but many of the so called leftists who claim to be communists or Marxists etc are extremely poor at being either of those things and the western left can’t be trusted one iota

MultiBear
MultiBear

Neh. Communists = “Those who wish to control others”.
Any other claim is a lie. Any attempt to defend communism is nothing more than blather designed to convince fools and a denial of history.
The truth is simply a group of intellectually challenged fools seeking to gain power over others using a particularly stupid brand of snake oil to do so.

DjungleDjinn
DjungleDjinn

They also hide under your bed.

BigB
BigB

Fascinating article. Thanks for this. I’ve been interested in this phenomena for a while, but hadn’t picked up on the red/brown jargon. Or the historical precedent. This is the tactic that libertarian fascists and right wing ideologues have been using to defend free speech. By limiting the only admissible topic of discussion to be the objectively, empirically, extremist centre. Any deviation from the on trend topic is a classic slippery slope (fallacy) – descending into totalitarianism, the New Gulag, or the gas chamber.

The argument was framed by Stephen Hicks in his anti-PoMo polemic – “Explaining PoMo” – which neither explains, categorises it, or critiques PoMo. In fact, when I got to the kernel of his argument (which was painful even in such a relatively short book) – it was pretty clear that he has hardly ever read any PoMo – or any other philosophy. Which is quite an achievement for a professor of philosophy. Essentially, every philosopher before and after the Enlightenment was a collectivist thinker. If it ain’t based on instrumental reason, Cartesian objectivity, private property rights, rational allegiance to hierarchy, self-interested self-maximisation, and scientific competence regimes – it don’t count. Time and philosophy stopped with illiberal democracy and the Enlightenment anti-humanism. The end of history is nigh.

Everything else – away from the libertarian fascist extreme centre – is an anti-realism regress to either the left collectivisation of thought – the ‘red’ failure of Marxism-Communism …or the right collectivisation of thought – the ‘brown’ failure of Fascism-Nazism. What you are left with is the scientific individuation of a libertarian-Enlightenment hybrid. Characterised by the secular theology of capitalist Americanism – the white ethnocentric extremist and exceptionalist greatest purveyor of genocide machine humanity has know. Not that Hicks, Peterson, Scruton, Pinker et al would acknowledge that.

So free speech is maintained, and is alive and well …so long as it is in praise of capitalism and self-interested scientific individualism. That’s me fucked then.

Loverat
Loverat

It would be interesting to understand how Counterpunch defines a conspiracy theory.

I don’t think I have read articles here which I would regard as wild conspiracies although in the comments you occasionally see some of the specific theories on 9/11 develop into something quite unlikely. And I have seen the occasional ‘Admin’ comment used scolding some readers/commenters who provide no evidence for their claims. And most articles, evidence is provided or numerous sources to back up opinions.

I also don’t see much evidence of ‘a line’ based on an ideological positiion. But if the truth fits in with Assad not being an evil person, then is it wrong or ‘a line’ to say this? I wonder if Counterpunch using the terms conspiracy theories and focusing on ‘lines’ or ‘positions’ is not doing the same thing as mainstream media do to smear others.

I think there is no doubt that the real truth of events is very different from the mainstream narrative. Are these conspiracy theories because they conflict with the official narrative or is there something more distinct which separates truth from non-truth in Counterpunches eyes? For example, is the belief that the Syrian War is a proxy war – or the White Helmets terrorists a conspiracy? (both facts abundantly evidenced by journalists and academics but a lie according to MSM)

I would just like to get an understanding of CounterPunches position to see if it really is progressive (and rightly concerned that the wild theories are blurring the true picture) or is in the process of becoming just another mainstream outlet with no robust analysis or debate. Where is the line where something becomes conspiracy?

dhfabian

This piece is off on a number of points, but I’ll stock with only a few. Many today strongly oppose those advocating a “left/right alliance,” not only because it defies logic, but because we saw how successfully it was used in the late 1970s and the 1980s to marginalize and smother/censor out the left. Criticism of Caitlin Johnstone has concerned her support for such an “alliance,” as well as her anti-Israel/anti-Jewish ideology, something that is currently quite fashionable in spite of its distinct ring of fascism. And finally, I couldn’t recall any items in the pro-Julian Assange Counterpunch that came close to resembling the description here, nor did I see any upon doing a quick Googling.

Rhisiart Gwilym
Rhisiart Gwilym

Show us an example of Caitlin’s anti-jewish writing, dh; just one. Someone wake me if that ever happens – credibly. Lots of us (including plenty of jews) loath and detest zionism, and loath anti-semitism and all forms of racism just as much. It’s an entirely principled position. Zionism is an evil as bad as SAfrican apartheid, or Third Reich nazism. Judaism, otoh, is a perfectly legitimate religion; and ethnic jewishness is – well, just another ethnic strand in the human family, neither special nor deplorable; perfectly fine, in fact.

Zionism, though, needs to join apartheid and nazism in history’s toxic rubbish bin, as does the illicit, racist, allegedly-democratic zionistan-entity currently usurping power in Palestine, the pretend-legitimate ‘state’ that zionism purports to justify.

Gezzah Potts
Gezzah Potts

Rhisiart Gwilym. Completely correct regards Caitlin’s writing, and also spot on regards the supremacist thuggery of Zionism. You only need to look at sites like Mondoweiss, Electronic Intifada, B’Tselem, and nearly all independent news sites to see the sheer brutality inflicted on the Palestinians. How many children will die this month? How many families will be evicted from their homes? How many paramedics will be shot?

Carnyx
Carnyx

The violent oppression and dispossession of Palestinians by Israel is utterly indefensible. I made my mind up back in the 90’s when I watched BBC News footage of Israeli soldiers systematically breaking the limbs of captured tied up Palestinian teenagers by smashing rocks on them. I later learned that this was not conducted by some “bad apples” carried away with the heat of the moment, the IDF was in fact acting on the direct orders by PM Yitzak Rabin to “break the bones” of demonstrators as punishment. Rabin, the great peace maker, a man assassinated by other Israelis for being soft on Palestinians!

You can see some of the clips I’m talking about here,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OotggPhbNH0

If you say it’s “fascist” or “antisemitic” to be appalled by the abuse of Palestinians, to be concerned for the well being of other human beings, and that we shouldn’t be, just because of the ethnicity of those conducting this abuse, then clearly you imply antisemitism to be a moral imperative derived from ethical concern and that opposing fascism requires we award ethnic entitlements. I do not regard antisemitism as motivated by moral imperatives, but then it’s you who is awarding entitlements to abuse on the basis of ethnicity, it’s okay for Israelis to indulge in sadistic and cruel oppression and slow ethnic cleansing because they are Jewish, and to me that sounds a lot closer to fascism.

You are profoundly confused.

SharonM
SharonM

Caitlin Johnstone is a great writer and important voice, but I don’t think unity with right wingers makes sense in stopping wars. Right wingers are the ones who create empires in the first place, and you’re just not going to stop wars by uniting with them. Even the libertarians are unreliable, since they don’t put the moral reason to stop wars first and foremost. Instead they claim the “cost” is too high for wars. Give them a cheap war and they’ll approve of it. Whatever ones personal beliefs are, we live in a godless world where morals cannot be informed by religions, but by community. If you were dropped off alone on Mars you wouldn’t have to think about morality since it wouldn’t exist there. Morals exist because we have to live in a community with one another, and breaking into people’s houses/nations and murdering them goes against that fact. We don’t have to like all people and we definitely don’t have to love all people, but we have to try to get along with people in a way that doesn’t cause destruction, suffering, and fear, as best as we can. The right wingers are against this, because they’re only interested in what’s theirs. Empathy doesn’t lead to sympathy or compassion for right wingers. Empathy for them leads to game theory.

Greg Schofield Perth Australia
Greg Schofield Perth Australia

Communists do not make any alliances with political factions they may have to work with. They are allied to the working class as it is found and not as some might have it. In response to the times many working class people find the right more reflective of their immediate concerns and the left prevaricates on ideological issues. I am no part of that left, in fact the whole left-right division is ideological to the core — so bugger that for a joke!

SharonM I disagree with what you are lumping into the right and then dismissing, but I admire the general tenor, and the morality aspect is critical. No political movement has a future without being above everything else a moral force with society. Morality means being decisive of risk of doing what is right at the historical moment, not what sounds right but means no moral action. In so far as people are anti-corporate, desire peace and wish for social benefit for ordinary people, they are moral with us despite any and all other views they might have.

It use to be called the popular front, it was the one political invention of the 20th century that worked then and would work now. It has a simple logic, the fundamental problems of the time are distilled into the general program and anyone who agrees with it, and does not fracture that unity is welcome. You can be a racist for instance, but you cannot practice racism and remain as part the movement for that fractures it; there is no need to be ideological about it, hopefully the individual changes their mind, they need not change their opinions, but if they express them then they should expect as a matter of course to be argued against and if they are express them obnoxiously then they should be confronted, and if they persist in that expelled — simple non-ideological tolerance (of those that we do not like), is not unlimited, but should be expected until it proves counter to the unity of the class and its allies.

Then an odd thing happens, the worst offenders are not usually those we would have the most ideological problem with, it tends to be the more divisive elements of those that we would be ideologically more comfortable with. These are the social fascists, red on the outside and brown (shirt) on the inside, they are not right wing, they say and believe things that are progressive, but what they do is break things up — political alliances never work.

Max’s article is good because all these present problems are in it.

SharonM
SharonM

Very interesting comment, Greg. Thank you:)

olavleivar
olavleivar

Its some time ago since I have read such utter RUBBISH as above Article … who first sets up a delusional Hypothesis .. subsecuently debunks it …keine Hexerei .. THE ARTICLE IS PURE IDIOCY and NOT FLATTERING for off Cuardian to publish..

Atalanta69
Atalanta69

Agreed. I used to teach my students about argumentative fallacies, and analysing this article would have kept us busy for an entire term.
Rather than dismissing Orwell, the writer would do well to read his classic essay ‘Politics and the English Language’.

Expat Swede
Expat Swede

Orwell was a fine essayist and a mediocre novelist. The criticism of him expressed in this article is entirely fair.

Francis Lee
Francis Lee

Errm, How many of GO’s novels have you actually read and why to you think they are mediocre? I thought ‘Burmese Days’ was one of the best, but my particular favourite was ‘Coming Up For Air.’

Expat Swede
Expat Swede

I have only read Animal Farm and 1984, both of which are fairly dreadful in my opinion. They are both little more than dreary anti-communist pamphlets.

Mikalina
Mikalina

Oh, praise God, someone is alive, sentient and vocal.

Fair dinkum
Fair dinkum

Caitlin Johnston, like John Pilger, had the good fortune of being born an Australian.
This gives her (and John) a more expansive world view, unhindered and untainted by a Eurocentric or UScentric upbringing.
Caitlin, like John, speaks from the heart.
I only wish her site was easier to participate in/on.

p0000t

Max Parry is a Trotsky basher, and seems to think Lenin and Stalin were ‘communists’ and should be admired for the fall into totalitarianism. It was in the 1920s that the possibility of an enlightened socialist world was ended, marked by Lenin’s banning of revolutionary art, and allowed only social realism. Socialism conflated with dictatorship by capitalists will continued to be used against Putin and Russia, and socialist and communist ideas while the left keeps looking backwards and fails to redefine socialism: an international movement to replace capitalism for the good of society and the planet.

dhfabian

Separating Lenin or Stalin from communism would require an intellectual contortionist. Comparing communism and socialism is like comparing apples and coconuts. They are two distinctly different things that can be implemented together, or separately (i.e., democratic socialism). It’s crucial to acknowledge the corrupting of Soviet communism into (dictatorial) Stalinism during that era. Putin, of course, is neither communist nor socialist, and we can’t dismiss how commonly Americans think Russia is still the Soviet Union, and Putin is a communist dictator. And finally,the only thing resembling socialism that we see in the media of liberals today, is an occasional salute to (a very narrowly defined) “workers socialism,” which translates into capitalist class elitism. A socialist movement would be rooted in opposition to the consequences of US capitalism — our poverty crisis, an issue ignored by US liberals for decades.

Mikalina
Mikalina

“Communism is socialism in a hurry.” Now, who said that? Oh, yes, Lenin.

Expat Swede
Expat Swede

I don’t think he did, no.

GregSchofield Perth Australia
GregSchofield Perth Australia

It’s crucial to acknowledge the corrupting of Soviet communism into (dictatorial) Stalinism during that era.

I agree but totalitarism as it emerged does not get us very far, Stalin implemented Trotsky’s left opposition program, after getting rid of Trotsky; what is the common element? The ditching of NEP which I would argue was always Lenin’s program since the April Thesis.

This is not a political line argument, but a shift in class forces from worker’s interests to their interest dominated by an emergent technocratic/managerial ‘professional’ class. This class dominates the 20th Century, forming different alliances, the present corporate state is a historical alliance as well, and has the same distorting tendency without the benefits of welfare and other beneficial features actually delivered in the USSR, but destroyed in the ‘west’.

This is where analysis should begin, evidence of class self-development. The same class emerged at the end of the Spanish Civil war, and after the death of Aris in the Greek Civil War, where disciplined armies were served up for defeat by the same managerial ambition. One could argue that this was Stalin’s advisors at work, and they were an element, but the fertile ground was already present.

What happened then is relevant now, but I think we get stuck in the arguments of the past rather than arguing about the past in order to sort ought the future. The Torts are not doing the working class any favours, but many Trots are very good. Trotsky as Orwell teied to show in 1984, was the other side of Stalin hence the unedyifying debates of the period and right to the present.

John
John

Democratic socialism still needs imperialism to survive you ziorat. It’s liberalism with free stuff, literally every anti socialist stereotypical argument made by Americans and other relatives idiots

bevin
bevin

The charges, made by the NATO-Left, that anti-imperialists are forming alliances with fascists is a classic example of projection.
In fact the alliances between those posing as Marxists and imperialist aggressors in Libya, Iran, Syria etc ad nauseam, are precisely equivalent to the “Red” of New Labour and the Brown of US fascism.
Unfortunately such surrendering to power, presented as tactical cunning, is a recurrent feature of the more opportunistic tendencies within the Trotskyist tradition-where principles are reserved for matters of etiquette in sexual relationships, linguistic habits, the cataloguing of individual ancestryand other symptoms of collective narcissism.

John
John

Bevin you’ve hit the nail on the head mate. I know of a few so called Marxists and actual Marxists. The so called Marxists hang around with unite against fascism (a Labour Party tool) or hope not hate (ditto)and don’t do fuck all but stand behind police lines chanting nazi scum off our streets in those god awful rich kids accents and are such massive revolutionary’s that’s why they ask you to vote labour every time and they are all middle class who hate jokes, while the actual Marxists still have jokes to tell (Even the dreaded stereotypical jokes that get so many Fanny’s up in arms) are working class and genuinely anti imperialist and didn’t support NATO or jihadists! Trotskyists got it wrong on Ireland, Iraq (twice), Nicaragua, Panama, Granada, Syria and Libya and will get it wrong on north Korea, Iran but weirdly not Venezuela but that’s probably because Chavez once said nice things about Trotsky once. I despise these twats

Paul
Paul

The Non Agression Pact was a diplomatic stunner and is still enveloped with layers of mist because the West – Britain and France – had been unable to recognise that the only way of constraining Hitler was to combine with Russia but they couldn’t bring themselves to do it because they were fundamentally anti communist and rather preferred Nazism. When they finally agreed to “talks” in Moscow the delegation of unknown military gents set off by slow boat. It spoke volumes about their real beliefs and Stalin realised that after 5 years of ‘talk’ his best alternative was to force Britain and France into a war they didn’t want. Chamberlain promptly granted that wish when he declared war on Germany following the failure to withdraw from Poland. Only Putin’s move to help Syria in September 2015 comes close to such a bloodless victory. Instead of watching the Germans demolish the Soviet state the British and French found themselves on the wrong end of the war. It was the kind of dithering incompetence we have recently become used to. As Stalin commented, if the West really thought Russia was going to pick the hot chestnuts out of the fire for them, they were in for a surprise.

mark
mark

Stalin was ready to go to war over Czechoslovakia in 1938. When Britain and France did a deal with Hitler at Munich, Stalin wasn’t even informed about it. He realised he was being jerked around and gave up on Britain and France. The deal with Hitler was to buy time. You can argue about its wisdom, but it was understandable given the circumstances.

John
John

The New York Times declared that “Hitler is brown communism, Stalinism is red fascism” and to this day the cult followers of Trotsky are repeating this lie.

See you can’t trust the middle class Trotskyists they support every “intervention” then whine about their fuck ups later and blame it on all others bar themselves