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Thursday, December 21, 2023

Socialism, Democracy, and the Division of Labor

Professor Richard Wolff is a prominent, influential intellectual, with a big following on the left. He is an erudite, clear, and passionate speaker and writer. He is well-regarded for his exposition of Marx’s ideas-- a “go to” when the media tolerates a conversation critical of capitalism, one even advocating “socialism.”

For all of that, he does not represent Marx’s thought well, nor does he offer a viable, serious alternative to capitalism.

It is not a question of Wolff’s scholarship or his commitment to justice. It is, instead, a deep-seated, unwavering hostility to the real existing socialism of the twentieth century and the century’s leading Marxist exponents, the Communists. Of course, Wolff is not alone in this prejudice-- and it is a prejudice and not a reasoned conclusion. Since the intense US Red Scare of the 1950s, since the demonization of everything even vaguely linked to Soviet power or Communist and Workers’ Parties, this prejudice has contaminated social, cultural, and political life in this country. Every radical upsurge was forced to or willingly submitted to ABC: Anything But Communism. 

In its place, US leftists embraced a kind of radical democracy: the view that bringing the furniture of formal democracy-- “one person, one vote, full participation, and majority rule,” quoting Wolff-- into every institution, every practice, every activity-- would in due time sweep away the exploitation, the inequalities, the indignities of capitalism. Radical, comprehensive democratic practices would be necessary and substantially sufficient to trigger the march to socialism.

There is evidence that Marx and Engels once also believed that universal suffrage alone (as advocated by the Chartist movement in England) would be an adequate measure on the road to overcoming capitalism. Their practical experience in the 1848 revolutions and the lessons of the Paris Commune dispelled that illusion. They concluded that a revolutionary defeat of the existing order and the replacement of that order with a democracy in the service of the working class would be necessary for moving beyond capitalism. The furniture of formal democracy was sometimes useful, but often unreliable elements in that endeavor. Marx and Engels did not presume that bourgeois democracy would advance those interests or protect them.

But with anti-Communism established as the national religion of the US, generations of US leftists, from the sixties’ SDS to Occupy and DSA, were hostile to Soviet socialism and repelled by Communist ideology. As a result, a “rethought” Marxism became the nourishment for young activists and the sustenance of veteran Cold War radicals. The expansion of certain democratic practices served and serves as the lodestar of these movements.

Professor Wolff rose to prominence in this milieu and it is reflected in his thought. 

A recent brief and commendably clear statement of Wolff’s views on the presumed shortcomings of real, existing twentieth-century socialism appears in the article, Socialism’s Self Criticism and Real Democracy. Originally appearing in City Watch, the piece has achieved wide currency: Economy for All, CounterPunch, LA Progressive, NewsClick, Countercurrents, Eurasia Review, and many others.

Because he takes it as a settled truth that the socialist countries lacked “real democracy,” Wolff poses the following challenge:

A certain irony of history made the absence of real democracy in socialist countries an ongoing target of many socialists in those countries…

Because this time it is many socialists who make the encounter, they ask why modern socialism, a social movement critical of capitalism’s lack of real democracy, would itself merit a parallel criticism. Why have socialist experiments to date produced a self-criticism focused on their inability to create and maintain authentic democratic systems??

Wolff searches for an explanation for this presumed lack of democracy in “socialist experiments.” The search takes him to a common feature of capitalism and socialism (and he sometimes seems to suggest in previous social formations): “The answer lies in the employer-employee relationship.”

The employer-employee relation is indeed often a feature of capitalist and socialist enterprises. Soviet enterprises had managers who presumably hired individuals at state-owned enterprises. No doubt, it could have reflected a hierarchical relationship; it could have reflected a relation of dominance; and, further, it could have reflected the exploitation relationship. But it need not do so simply because of the existence of an employer/employee relationship. That can easily be shown with a simple, mundane hypothetical example:

Faced with a plumbing catastrophe, Jones engages the Smith Plumbing Company. Jones hires Smith’s firm to fix the kitchen sink. Jones employs Smith and company; Smith sends a worker, an employee (but not an employee of Jones), to make the repair. Jones is the employer and Smith’s company is his/her employee. Yet there is no hierarchy, no dominance, nor any exploitation by Jones.

Further, Smith has five employees, who Smith lords over, dominates, and exploits. Here, the employer-employee relationship generates entirely different, negative socially-significant outcomes. 

We have one innocuous, one exploitative employer/employee relationship. 

Why does the employer/employee distinction fail to reveal anything relevant regarding real democracy or the struggle for socialism?

The character of employment, the nominal expression for the employer/employee relationship, is historically determined by the division of labor. Under capitalism, its character is tied to the exploitation relationship. That is, given that ownership of enterprises resides with private individuals or groups, owners establish employer/employee relations as hierarchical, dominating, and exploitative to secure surplus value. Capitalists engage this particular division of labor to secure their ends.

But, presumably, under socialism, with social ownership of enterprises, a non-antagonistic, non-exploitative employer/employee relationship could be established strictly based on the division of labor. The “employer”/manager could be determined by credentials, test-results, past experience, past performance, seniority, or a host of other relevant, merit-based terms. 

Formal democratic procedure is, thus, no unique, magic elixir. In these circumstances, Wolff’s democratic procedure-- election of “employer” -- might well clash with merit and/or efficiency.

That is surely why Marx and Engels placed exploitation and the relations between capitalists (owners of enterprises) and the proletariat (the workers) at the center of their analysis. They attend little specifically to the employer/employee relationship, except when it is shorthand for this exploitation nexus. 

Moreover, Marx and Engels (and many of their successors) believed that a revolution was the most democratic expression of the popular will-- what Wolff might want to call “real democracy.” While they would undoubtedly find setbacks to democracy in the historical trajectory of twentieth-century socialism, they would also have seen the removal of the power of the capitalist class and the end of labor exploitation as marking the most broadly democratic advance since the French revolution. 

Where Wolff sees a surfeit of democracy (“socialism’s self-criticism”), others see a harbinger of a far more democratic future. Wolff says correctly: “Democracy is incompatible with class-divided economic systems.” I would add that democracy is only possible with the elimination of class-divided economic systems. 

Fixated on democratic form, Professor Wolff is led away from the democratic content of Marxist socialism and its realization in real, existing socialism. Further, he fixates on a particular democratic form associated with the capitalist republic that may or may not be the best mechanism for exercising the will or interests of the working class. Every revolutionary generation is faced with a different set of challenges. Nation-states typically suffer or gain from uneven development, as Lenin always stressed. The advance of industrialization, the degree of poverty, the levels of education, external and internal opposition, complex social strata, national conflict, and a host of other factors make the choice of democratic form a test for the first and later generations of revolutionaries.

Western Marxists, often quick to measure all by the democratic forms established by the bourgeois revolutions of past centuries, just as often fail to grasp these complexities. They are willing to forgo pressing the socialist project for the “purity” of so-called “real democracy.”

In Wolff’s case, he chooses to secure this purity by basing his anti-capitalism around the idea of worker-owned cooperatives. To be sure, they could meet the cherished standards of “one person, one vote, full participation, and majority rule” in ways that the ultimate class conflict-- the overthrow of capitalism-- might not. It is possible that cooperatives can and do establish and survive on the margins of the capitalist system, but only a dreamer believes that these worker utopias will ever seriously challenge the behemoth of monopoly capitalism. 

Wolff is not alone in retailing a polite version of Marxism rather than the radical ideas that the working class so desperately needs.

Greg Godels

Friday, December 8, 2023

The Age of Hypocrisy: Liberalism and Its Discontents

These are difficult, perilous, and frustrating times. Many cherished beliefs are coming unraveled. Many once-shared values are no longer shared. And distrust of unshakeable institutions is widespread. 

Yet it was only a little more than three decades ago that North America and European intellectuals joined in acknowledging the triumph of the Western world’s “gift” to all: political and economic liberalism. For nearly half a century, Western liberalism had waged a “cold” war against the most serious challenge to its dominance. Apart from the fascist counter-revolution of the 1930s against political liberalism, no movement shook the Western liberal establishment and its self-confidence as did revolutionary socialism. Seemingly, that threat ended in 1991.

In that crowning moment, many saw the values of the European enlightenment as proven to be universal and timeless. It was Francis Fukuyama who boldly stated the unstated in 1992: history had found its dialectical resolution with the victory of capitalism and its political institutions. 

If it was a victory in the minds of many, it was a victory in two respects: it proved that there were states-- nested in two continents, Europe and North America-- that won because they adhered to and promoted the victorious values and also that those values were, in fact, the most advanced, most righteous values of all time.

Europe’s sordid twentieth-century history of imperialism, war, and inhumanity make for a poor example of sustaining enlightenment thought, of meeting standards of equality, democracy, and social justice.

The US, on the other hand, embracing its isolation from European misanthropy, celebrating its youth, vigor, and revolutionary tradition, and whitewashing its own destruction of indigenous peoples, posed as the paragon of political and economic liberalism. Fixated on continental expansion (displacing native peoples), the US came late to the global imperialist scramble, relying more on economic coercion than military might in international affairs. 

With some merit, the US points to its progress: its endurance through a great civil war to cast off the bonds of chattel slavery, its past openness to immigration, its uninterrupted history of electoral practice and enduring social and political stability. Of course, on closer inspection, none of these glories bear the weight that they carry within the national mythology. 

Nonetheless, for better or worse, they have stood as the best example of the West living up to standards set by the revolutionary transition from feudal despotism, from economic backwardness, and from religious oppression. The US Declaration of Independence remains one of the most advanced ideological reflections of those moments.

Ironically, soon after the dissolution of the USSR-- the ending of a great struggle for the allegiance of billions of people-- that US liberal image was quickly and greatly tarnished beyond repair. With the need to show an enlightened face to the world apparently gone, the mask came off, revealing a country ruled by an intolerant, privileged, and rapacious ruling class with little regard for the long-professed values of classical liberalism. 

A refreshed militarism constructed around a ludicrous war on “terrorism” shaped a destructive, bullying foreign policy. The blowback jihadist attack upon US civilians in 2001 served as the excuse for a government war on citizens’ privacy and civil liberties that was unprecedented in its sweep and its technological sophistication. Little attempt, beyond a feeble, transparent weapons-of-mass-destruction lie, was made to clothe the unprovoked 2003 invasion of Iraq. After only a few years of the twenty-first century, an Orwellian curtain had dropped on US public and private life. The myth that the US was never an aggressor was in tatters.

Both Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib destroyed another myth, the deception that the liberal icon would never torture its prisoners. Philosophical musings about the efficacy of torture were no longer hypothetical. 

US pundits freely embraced imperialism, speaking openly of the Old World and ancient empires as precedents for US intervention globally and for the US role as global arbiter and enforcer. The US refused to accept international courts’ findings or democratically determined United Nations resolutions as binding. The negative findings of human rights organizations-- willing, useful tools in the Cold War-- were shrugged off when they were even modestly critical of US practices.

Liberalism’s promise of universality and equality before the law was shattered by an explosion of racially skewed, draconian incarcerations in the 1990s, filling the US prison system beyond capacity and making a mockery of judicial process and fairness. 

The vast inequalities of wealth and income in the US-- rising geometrically over the last fifty years-- are like sand in the gears of the heralded liberal political mechanism: frequent, informed, and trusted elections. As more than half of the jaded citizens do not bother to register or vote, as election to most significant offices requires a campaign investment well beyond the means of most citizens, as most candidates have sold their souls to wealthy funders, as the media sensationalizes and trivializes issues, the value of “democratic” procedures diminishes sharply. 

The sharpest edge of these economic inequalities strikes those minority populations historically denied full participation in civic life-- the center-piece of liberalism. Racism, anti-immigrant nationalism, and intolerance rage through the former liberal bastions of Europe and North America.

The failings of economic liberalism have only added to the stresses on political liberalism. Global capitalism has endured several severe shocks since the dawn of the twenty-first century: financial crises, debt crises, and now inflation. 

Contrary to Francis Fukuyama and other smug celebrants of Communism’s “demise,” the wheels began to rapidly fall off of the liberal train. By 2023, confidence in the destiny of liberalism had collapsed. 

Voters have little recourse but to stay the course or to turn to a new populism with one foot in the past (“Make America Great Again!”) and one foot in the promise of a vague, shapeless future without the corruption and hypocrisy of the mainstream parties.

To be sure, hip, youth-driven new movements arose to meet the collapse of mainstream consensus, promising new, fresh wine in shiny new bottles. Movements like OCCUPY and formations like SYRIZA, PODEMOS, and FIVE STAR dazzled many with their ultra-liberal, ultra-tolerant agenda, aimed at an educated middle and upper-middle strata economically relatively secure, but pushing past older lifestyle and cultural frontiers. When these movements matured, often into politically influential parties confronting the old guard, they proved to be the same old wine, leaving their supporters with an ugly taste.

Today’s politics are at a miserable impasse, with much noise and fractiousness, but, nonetheless, still contained in the narrow vessel of classical liberalism in one flavor or another. Remarkably, the unease among the intellectual strata and the anger of the citizenry has stoked a kind of tribalism. Academics and pundits write and speak of saving “our democracy” as though anyone believes that we can have democracy when candidates, votes, and the news are bought and sold. Their right-wing-oriented counterparts celebrate the sanctity and virtues of the US Constitution, as though it were from God rather than enlightenment reason.

But left and right, in the confines of mainstream politics, are now ready to cast away the tolerance and civility of liberalism to thwart-- even proscribe-- their political opponents. Freedom of expression, of speech, of association, of advocacy carry little value in today’s sordid world with liberalism’s most self-righteous advocates violating liberalism’s most sacred values and supporting censorship and cancellation. 

The once hallowed doctrine of rights has been stretched so far beyond human rights as to be trivial and meaningless, by including corporations, all organic creatures, and even inanimate objects. All now widely accepted to be rights-bearers.

Liberty-- the cornerstone of liberal constitutions-- is today divorced from its roots in liberation and reduced to personalized and individualized self-indulgence, the decadent product of corporate consumerism.

The few remaining true-believing liberals-- people like Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi-- are roasted by all sides for their defense of free speech for everyone and “neutral” journalism. In an age of gross hypocrisy, they are true naïfs.

If Karl Marx were alive, he would not be surprised by this turn. He associated classical liberalism’s emergence with the origin and maturation of capitalism. The rise of the bourgeoisie as a class spawned its own ideology, an ideology that broke the chains of hereditary noble privilege and religious obscurantism, and spread hope for the masses consigned to an unchanging future of peasant labor and grinding poverty. That hope for working people-- based on the potential of natural, universal human rights, fraternity, and universal suffrage-- served to cement the alliance of the bourgeoisie with working people against the nobility and its supporters. 

Bourgeois ideology, classical liberalism, challenged the foundations of Medieval privilege based on Divine Right and on fixed stations in life. In place of the old thinking, enlightenment thinkers proposed natural rights-- the social counterparts to the natural laws of the emerging sciences. Like the laws of nature, social laws were to be grounded in reason and not God or birthright.

For Western societies, the new ideology was a welcome gift, broadening political participation, enhancing social mobility, freeing economic and scientific development, and creating more democratic political institutions. Accompanying these advances came a conceit that the ascendant classes had revealed universal truths, that the new economic, social, and political orders were the best that could be devised.

Bourgeois academics have been obsessed with providing a rational foundation for this conceit for centuries, but without success.

The young Karl Marx would have none of it; writing dismissively of the bourgeois fetish for natural rights in Bruno Bauer, Die Judenfrage, he said: “None of the supposed rights of man, therefore, go beyond the egoistic man… that is, an individual separated from the community, withdrawn into himself, wholly preoccupied with his private interest and acting in accord with his private caprice…” 

He recognized that the bourgeois social apparatus-- classical liberalism-- “fit” and served, in its time, the emancipation, the liberation of the bourgeois class and to a limited degree the working class. But he also recognized that it was limited by its class perspective. With property and the sanctity of private ownership at the center of classical liberalism, the emancipation of humanity could not be completed. 

In the revolutions of 1848 that rocked Europe, all three classes-- the nobility, the bourgeoisie, and the proletariat-- participated and forged temporary, unstable alliances to secure their diverse goals, a time beautifully captured by Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire. But the differences between the ascending bourgeois order and a future proletarian order were tersely conveyed by the popular slogan: “Not freedom to read, but freedom to feed!” 

Today, capitalism is moribund. Its decline was in plain sight in the last decades of the twentieth century, only to be lifted by its expansion in People’s China and the counter-revolution in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, capitalism’s ability to deliver an adequate standard of living, safety, and security grows weaker with every economic crisis and war. It should come as no surprise that its political and social superstructure, inclusive of the ideologies of economic and political liberalism, would also be in crisis, showing similar signs of decline and dysfunction.

Just as political liberalism rose with the ascent of capitalism, it is falling with capitalism’s decline. The cancer of corruption and greed, the rot of political practice, and the decadence of culture and social media ensure the further demise of the institutions of classical liberalism. 

What will replace them?

It is a good time to recall and consider Rosa Luxemburg’s words: “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.” 

Greg Godels

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

The Ugly Face of Anti-Communism

Since the Russian revolution, the founding of the Communist International, and the organization of a revolutionary party “of a new type” in nearly every country, Communist and Workers Parties have been in the sights of every country’s bourgeoisie. In nearly all countries, the bourgeoisie, its political parties, its media, and its other henchmen have sought to thwart, even destroy the revolutionary vanguard of the workers. Thus, the existence of maneuvers or actions to suppress or repress Communist Parties comes as no surprise.

Throughout the last one hundred six years, a Communist Party’s size or influence has been reflected in the force or violence to which they are met. That, too, comes as no surprise.

Of course Communists resist the repression that inevitably ensues from capitalism’s defenders. In some cases and on some rare occasions, a deeply embedded sense of fair play or principled belief in liberal values among the masses ensures that Communists enjoy a modicum of permitted activity in spite of the ruling bourgeoisie’s wishes.

So it should come as no surprise that the bourgeoisie in Venezuela would like to bury the Communist Party, consigning it to the political margins or worse. Over the course of the Venezuelan Communist Party’s long and determined history of the defense of Venezuela’s workers, it has been attacked, repressed, and banned by bourgeois politicians or the military. In fact, since its birth in 1931 until 1969, the Party has known little more than five years of legality. 

It should come as no surprise, either, when a popular movement wins electoral victories against the established bourgeois parties, promising to defend Venezuela’s independence and to implement a people’s program, that Venezuela’s Communist Party would enthusiastically offer conditional support. With its own program based on revolutionary Marxism-Leninism, the vigorous support the Communists offered to the government of Hugo Chavez was necessarily conditional, though supportive.

The Chavez program was vaguely socialist-- drawing on Christian ethics, utopian socialism, and a motley assembly of enthusiastic volunteer academic advisors from around the world. Nonetheless, it drew the enmity of US imperialism and its allies for its foreign policy and resource independence. While it defied the influence of the domestic bourgeoisie, the Chavez government did not establish workers’ power or eliminate the bourgeoisie’s economic base.

Despite these weaknesses, the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) continued to defend the government and support it against US intervention and counter-revolutionary intrigue. The PCV continued its conditional support in the post-Chavez era-- with Maduro’s election-- but with emerging differences over domestic policy, especially with regards to the working class and corruption.

Over the last decade, the differences grew sharper. In the eyes of the PCV and in its own words: “It is on the reality of total rupture with the Unitary Framework Agreement [an agreement proposed before the 2018 election] and with the programmatic bases of the Bolivarian process initiated by Hugo Chavez that the PCV distanced itself from the Maduro government.”

Of course the distancing does not mean abandoning joint patriotic resistance to US and other foreign intervention.

In the wake of these political differences-- a common enough feature of center-left and left electoral formations-- the Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice imposed a new leadership on the PCV on August 11, a wildly arbitrary and unjust move with no possible motivation other than to weaken and disable the PCV. Venezuela’s highest court summarily ruled that a new leadership-- composed of renegades, dissidents, and non-members-- should constitute a new leading body, negating the democratically elected leadership of the PCV from its last Congress in November of last year.

Venezuelan Communists were denied serious participation, due process, and the right to appeal this attempt to disable a historical instrument of the Venezuelan working class.

Some might dismiss this as a rogue court attacking the PCV, but the fact that the Venezuelan government had sought to deny electoral participation by the PCV earlier and that a prominent leader of the leading political party had mounted a campaign against the PCV, demonstrate that Maduro’s party was complicit in the court’s maneuvers. 

Certainly the government, Maduro, and Maduro’s party have had every opportunity to denounce or resist the blatant attempt to disarm the working class’s most dedicated advocates, the Venezuelan Communists. They have not.

Clearly, this is an instance of raw anti-Communism, updated to the twenty-first century. Others can probe the reasons that Maduro and his party have succumbed to anti-Communism, but succumb they have. If they believe that creating a bogus Communist Party will deflect criticism or improve their electoral opportunities, it will not be the first time that fear of Communism leads to the suppression of political choices and dishonors the perpetrators.

But the PCV will endure. Its cadre will find their way through this thicket of distraction and continue to fight for working people.

Many Communist and Workers’ Parties have rallied-- along with many other honest people-- in defense of the PCV and the cause of Venezuelan workers. They understand the cost of anti-Communism on the fate of working people.

But many on the left have failed this moment. Their reasons constitute a basket of opportunism. They stare at their shoe tops, equivocate, plead ignorance, or soil the banner of solidarity. History will judge.

Greg Godels


Wednesday, November 8, 2023

“....exceeding 10 kilograms of explosives per individual”

The November 2, 2023 edition of The Wall Street Journal acknowledges that “the three-week-long air campaign by Israel… is the most intense in its history and rivals any aerial bombardment this century,” according to “military analysts”. The Israelis have “hit more than 11,000 targets, with missiles, bombs, and artillery, in Gaza, an area that is half the size of New York City that is home to about two million people.”

Reporting only one week after the war began, the Turkish state-run news agency takes note of the following comparisons: 

The Washington Post, citing Marc Garlasco, a military adviser at the Dutch organization PAX for Peace, reported that Israel is “dropping in less than a week what the US was dropping in Afghanistan in a year, in a much smaller, much more densely populated area, where mistakes are going to be magnified.”

Garlasco, who is also a former UN war crimes investigator in Libya, told the daily, citing records from the US Air Force Central Command, that the highest number of bombs dropped in a year for the war in Afghanistan was just over 7,423. According to the UN, during the entire war in Libya, NATO reported dropping more than 7,600 bombs and missiles from aircraft, the daily reported…

Charles Lister, a senior fellow and director of the Extremism and Counterterrorism Program at the Middle East Institute, was also surprised by the figure.

WOW -- 6,000 bombs in 6 days, in 365 km2 #Gaza,” Lister said on X.

“For comparison, the international anti-#ISIS coalition dropped an average of ~2,500 bombs **per month, across 46,000 km2 in #Syria & #Iraq.**”

In a release on November 2, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor reports:

Geneva - Israel has dropped more than 25,000 tons of explosives on the Gaza Strip since the start of its large-scale war on 7 October, equivalent to two nuclear bombs, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said in a press release issued today.

According to the Geneva-based human rights organisation, the Israeli army has admitted to bombing over 12,000 targets in the Gaza Strip, with a record tally of bombs exceeding 10 kilograms of explosives per individual. Euro-Med Monitor highlighted that the weight of the nuclear bombs dropped by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan at the end of World War II in August 1945 was estimated at about 15,000 tons of explosives.

Due to technological developments affecting the potency of bombs, the explosives dropped on Gaza may be twice as powerful as a nuclear bomb. This means that the destructive power of the explosives dropped on Gaza exceeds that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Euro-Med Monitor said, noting that the area of the Japanese city is 900 square kilometres, while the area of Gaza does not exceed 360 square kilometres.

The rights group’s statement underlined that Israel uses bombs with huge destructive power, some of which range from 150 to 1,000 kilograms, and cited a recent statement by Israeli War Minister Yoav Gallant that declared that more than 10,000 bombs have been dropped on Gaza City alone.

Israel’s use of internationally banned weapons in its attacks on the Gaza Strip has been documented, said Euro-Med Monitor, especially the use of cluster and phosphorus bombs, which are waxy toxic substances that react quickly to oxygen and cause severe second- and third-degree burns.

While comparisons are rough, they give some sense of the scale of the Israeli assault on Gaza which is lost in much of the media coverage. The assault on the civilian population of Gaza is savage. The immediacy of this catastrophe on the civilian population of Gaza vastly overshadows the questions that occupy the media, the punditry, and the politicians. They, and others, who fail to recognize this human disaster and fail to call for its ending will be judged harshly by history.

The world-wide outrage voiced by the people is in sharp contrast to the complacency of the elites. Despite the best efforts of elites to minimize and distort the facts and to threaten and ostracize resistance, millions have emphatically called for a ceasefire. The shameful attempt to stifle this resistance should not be forgotten when future political options are weighed.

The effectiveness of global resistance has forced the US State Department warmongers-- the slavish apologists for Israeli policies-- to call for a “humanitarian pause,” a tepid, cowardly attempt to save face in the wake of mass slaughter. Predictably, the extremist Israeli government has turned down this feeble request.

As civilian deaths in Gaza climb obscenely, there is only one honest demand: Cease fire! End the war now!


Like the war in Ukraine, the conflict in Gaza-- in the entire Middle East, for that matter-- can neither be understood nor judged without delving into its history. Simplistic accounts that place ethnicity, religion, or ideology ahead of the machinations of imperialism miss the point. Since the politics of oil has dominated great power interests in the Middle East, the traditional relations of the various peoples and their fate have been largely determined by those powers. Beginning with the Balfour Declaration and the Sykes-Picot agreement, the people of the region have been largely side-line observers of British and French imperial designs.

Matters changed after World War II with the upsurge in nationalism, both narrow nationalism and progressive national liberation. The Zionist “victory” over British rule in Palestine and the subsequent purging of Palestinian villages and residents led to a narrow nationalist, theocratic regime in Israel that quickly became a watchdog for US and NATO imperialism, joining in the suppression and manipulation of popular risings in the Middle East.

At the same time, popular, secular, Arab nationalist, independent, proto-socialist movements arose, alongside existing worker and Communist parties, targeting both backward, feudal, and fundamentalist regimes installed or sustained throughout the Middle East by the West, as well as their Western puppeteers.

Arab nationalism and the inspiration of socialism-- encouraged by the 1952 revolution in Egypt-- grew into a powerful movement that, despite relentless efforts to undermine them, lingers to this day. The Ba’ath Party, Yasser Arafat’s PLO, and Quaddafi’s Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya were modern-day remnants of the 1952 revolution’s legacy.

Wherever these secular movements rose in stature, the Western powers and Israel sponsored anti-Communist, religious fundamentalists as a bulwark against secularism, progressive nationalism, and tolerance.

Famously, this sponsorship has often backfired on the sponsor-- what Chalmers Johnson cleverly dubbed “blowback” -- as it did when the US courted the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Opportunistically using Islamic fundamentalism to combat Afghani revolutionaries and Soviet assistance, the US enabled a powerful new reactionary force in the Middle East that led directly to the infamous jihadist attack on September 11, 2001.

Hamas is a similar creature. Nourished and encouraged by Israel as an alternative to the secular PLO, it turned on its masters. As Avner Cohen, a former Israeli intelligence officer affirmed recently in The Wall Street Journal:

Instead of trying to curb Gaza's Islamists from the outset, says Mr. Cohen, Israel for years tolerated and, in some cases, encouraged them as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its dominant faction, Yasser Arafat's Fatah.

Since October 7, the regarded Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, has posted a series of articles chronicling the Israeli government’s efforts to strengthen Hamas in order to ensure that Palestinian governance would be divided between the West Bank and Gaza: divide and conquer.

The great tragedy of the Palestinian people is brought forth by today's massacre at the hands of Zionist zealots: the death of thousands of civilians and the injury of many more. But its roots lie in the machinations of Western imperialism, the indifference, even hostility, of many Arab states, and the failings of the left.

Kemal Okuyan, General Secretary of the Turkish Communist Party addresses the failing in a recent speech:

Because today, political Islam has turned into an effective tool in the hands of the ruling classes not only to attack, divide or control the workers but also to gain advantage in the competition within the imperialist system. When its class-based characteristics is missed, in Europe and North America, political Islam is either viewed with an orientalist approach as "an anti-imperialist, even revolutionary revolt of the backward world," or, as in the case of ISIS, as a medieval barbarism. I regret to say that both approaches lead us to mistakes. It must be recognized that political Islam is an important reality of the modern world, it is fundamentally a class phenomenon and a problem that cannot be overcome by romanticism or feelings of terror. We will not allow the Palestinian resistance to be reduced to Hamas. But we need to answer the question why religion has become decisive in social dynamics of the Islamic world.


Comrades, the regression in the Middle East is ultimately due to the same reason as the decline of the working-class movement in the rest of the world today. This reason can be summarized as the abandonment of the class positions and the perspective of revolution. One of the most important, if not the only, reasons for the rise of right-wing populism or the far right in Europe today is the gaps left by the left. Capitalism constantly generates problems that require radical responses. The same mechanism is also at work in the Middle East, which has a very different historical, cultural and political background. Politics does not tolerate any gaps. The truth is that they are stealing the anger of the poor and they are stealing it from us. We cannot accept this. The moment we put aside the actuality of the revolution; we commit mistakes. Anti-US positions without the goal of socialism leads us to consider political Islam or the so-called national bourgeoisies as allies; putting democracy before socialism often leads us to co-operate with the US or the EU or other bourgeois forces. This is a vicious circle. This vicious circle traps us in Europe, Latin America or North America as much as it does in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt or Palestine. 

The power of Okuyan’s analysis lies in underscoring the legitimacy of the Palestinian resistance while insisting that Palestinian liberation requires different options, revolutionary options that will better serve the interests of the Palestinian masses. 

Whatever else the Hamas attack has done, Israeli reaction has exposed the brutality of the Israeli regime to millions of people who were unaware or in denial of the oppression, abuse, and destruction of the Palestinian people in their historic homeland and in Gaza. Even the Western media has, to some extent, been forced to acknowledge the horrors of life in Gaza under Israeli attack, leaving their political patrons exposed for their sheer indifference and their lack of moral principle. Leaders of Arab countries are forced to face their unprincipled relations with Israel or face their outraged populations.

Yet the political strata continue to escalate both their support for Israel and their suppression of domestic resistance. They will pay dearly for this, as the Israeli government further shows its brutal face to the world.

The people of the world must demand the end of the Israeli attack on Gaza. That victory might begin the march to restoring dignity to the long-suffering Palestinian people.

Greg Godels