Syria and Great Power Rivalry: The Failure of the „Left“ (Part 2)

 

 

The Ex-Stalinist turned social democrats: God save the United Nations

 

 

 

After summarizing our analysis of the Syrian Revolution and the acceleration of inter-imperialist rivalry, let us turn now to various left-wing forces and what they say about the recent events. We start with the ex-Stalinist parties in Europe like the French CP, the German LINKE or Greece’s SYRIZA. These former “communists” have transformed themselves into left (or not so left) social democrats and unite in the Party of the European Left (PEL).

 

As we have pointed out on several occasions these parties have nothing in common with socialism but are rather ordinary reformists which serve European imperialism. [1] To give just two examples: The French CP was part of Jospin government in 1997-2002 which participated in the imperialist wars against Serbia in 1999 and against Afghanistan in 2001. In the last years, the PCF joined the chauvinist “Union Nationale” after the attack on Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, failed to oppose France’s participation in the imperialist war in Iraq and later supported the declaration of the authoritarian state of emergency. [2] The SYRIZA government in Greece is known for implementing the drastic neoliberal reforms imposed by the European Union. [3]

 

Faced with the latest events, the PEL leadership didn’t fare any better. Its statement expresses horror about a looming military confrontation between the U.S. and Russia and spreads petty-bourgeois pacifist banalities (“Bombs do not create peace.”). [4] It fails to mention, even with a single word, that the Assad regime has waged a war of oppression against its own people since seven years resulting in the killing of, according to different estimations, between 500,000 and one million people. This is hardly surprising as leading figures of PEL, like e.g. Sarah Wagenknecht, a leader of the German LINKE, considers the Assad regime as a “lesser evil” compared to the “jihadist rebels”.

 

At the same time, the reformist PEL leadership puts all its hopes in institutions of the imperialist Great Powers. First and foremost, they appeal, in true Stalinist fashion, to the United Nations: “The United Nations has to be in the driver seat for investigating the current allegations and for finding a political solution for the ongoing and disastrous war in Syria.

 

Furthermore, the statement does not utter a single word calling for mass protests and international solidarity action against the imperialist bombing or against the mass slaughter of the Syrian people. Instead, it appeals to the governments of the imperialist EU to improve the situation: “The European Heads of State and the European Union must exert pressure on US President Trump not to endanger Syria even further and not to risk a global escalation.” This is as realistic as asking the lion to help the wounded gazelle.

 

Such appeals to the imperialist European governments are completely reactionary. As executive organs of several of the oldest and most powerful capitalist ruling classes, they can only act in the service of imperialism. This basic truth of Marxism becomes very evident if we look at the events of the last days. France’s President Emmanuel Macron is indeed working very hard to enhance Europe’s influence in global politics. In fact, he is transforming the war-mongering spirit of Trump into French language, as he stated very explicitly in his first major foreign policy speech after his inauguration: ""France is no longer in a situation, as it was in the mid-1970s, where it could say: 'I'm a medium power, protected and supported by major powers that share the same values.' France must become a great power again. That's a necessity." [5]

 

Calling on the European imperialist governments to intervene in global politics only serves to spread illusions and to raise their political credibility. Socialists in Europe must always oppose “their” imperialist governments and mobilize against their reactionary and chauvinist plans. Instead, the PEL fails to offer any fundamental opposition against their ruling class which is not surprising at all as they are part of the European governments (Greece) or aspire to become such again as soon as possible.

 

 

 

The Stalinists (and some caricatures in Trotskyist camouflage): Social-Imperialist Servants of Assad and Putin

 

 

 

The Stalinists of the old days, i.e. before the collapse of the USSR in 1989-91, used to look for collaboration with a “democratic”, “antifascist”, “patriotic” faction of the imperialist bourgeoisie against a “reactionary” faction. This was the theoretical justification for joining popular front government with imperialist parties (e.g. in France in 1936, 1945, 1981 or 1997; in Italy in 1945, 1996, 2004). [6] And it was also the theoretical justification for supporting one camp of imperialist states against the other (e.g. in WWII support for the US and UK against Germany and Italy). In the case of the Maoist and post-Maoist China this theory was even used to justify the ultra-reactionary collaboration with U.S. and European imperialism against the supposed “social-imperialist” USSR. [7] (In fact, the Stalinist states were not capitalist or even imperialist states but rather degenerated workers states in which a bureaucratic caste dictatorially ruled over the working class and peasantry on the basis of a post-capitalist planned economy. [8]) As a result, to mention a bizarre anecdote, members of Maoist groups in Western Europe were instructed in the 1970s to join the imperialist army in order to defend the “fatherland” against the “social-imperialist threat from the East”!

 

In short, the Stalinist parties justified their collaboration with one camp of the bourgeoisie against the other respectively with one camp of imperialist states against the other by arguing that this would help defending the “socialist” states (USSR, China, Eastern Europe, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, etc.). As a result, they were pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist pseudo-socialists in the service of the ruling Stalinist bureaucracy of degenerated workers states.

 

However, this is different to the present situation since today no “socialist” state, i.e. degenerated workers states, exists any more. Now, these Stalinists serve a faction of the ruling class respectively one camp of the imperialist states directly and not indirectly via the conservative bureaucracy of a degenerated workers state.

 

This becomes again evident when we look to the two international Stalinist statements about the latest events in Syria. Both statements are signed by dozens of Stalinist parties (most of them from Europe but also from other countries). One of them has been initiated by the Greek KKE [9] (it is signed by European and Russian parties only) and the other by the Portuguese PCP (it is also signed by Stalinist parties on other continents). While there are some slight differences of emphasizes, they contain basically the same political line.

 

They both limit their condemnation exclusively to the actions of U.S. imperialism:

 

The signatory Parties express their vehement condemnation of the imperialist military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic carried out by the USA, United Kingdom and France[10]

 

The communist and workers’ parties of Europe condemn the escalation of the imperialist aggressiveness and the sharpening of the situation in Syria and the broader region after the statement of D. Trump, President of the USA, on April 11th about bombarding Syria under the pretext of the use of chemical weapons, something that the USA have repeatedly done in the past.[11]

 

Likewise they express, in more or less explicit terms, their support for the Assad regime against the popular uprising:

 

The signatory Parties call for solidarity with the Syrian people who have, for seven years, been confronting the aggression by US imperialism and its allies – whether directly or by the proxy action of terrorist groups –, resisting and fighting to defend the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of their country, and their right to decide about their destiny, free from any interference.

 

The communist and workers’ parties express their internationalist solidarity to the people of Syria and the other peoples of the region, they call upon the working class, the people’s forces to reinforce the struggle against the imperialist interventions and wars, of the NATO, the USA and the EU.

 

In another, earlier, statement the Greek KKE also stated explicitly its condemnation for the Arab Revolution and the Syrian uprising in particular: “It should be noted that the KKE from the very first moment, in 2011, denounced the intervention that has very serious consequences for the people of Syria and also for the people of the wider region. When bourgeois and opportunist parties celebrated the so-called “Arab Spring”, our party exposed the organized efforts to fund and arm the so-called Syrian opposition by the imperialist powers.[12]

 

These statements are nothing but a pro-Russian social imperialist manifestation. In opposite to the RCIT’s joint statement with the Russian comrades of the MGKP, the Stalinists denounce only the US and its allies. And this despite the fact that the situation in Syria is characterized by the fact that the U.S. bombing against the Assad regime is minimal while the Russian air force bombs the Syrian people since years on a daily basis. Furthermore, in a situation when the conflict between the US and Russia is accelerating, denouncing only one camp is equal with implicitly siding with the other camp.

 

This reminds us to the Stalinist policy in 1939-41 when the “Communist” International denounced one-sidedly British and French imperialism for its colonial policy and for its aggressive foreign policy but sparred Nazi Germany. [13]

 

The pro-Russian social-imperialist position of these Stalinist statements becomes also evident if we look to the list of signatory parties. For example, both statements have been signed by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) led by Gennady Zyuganov. This party, the biggest opposition party in the country, is an undisguised Great Russian chauvinist bourgeois populist party which stands with Russian imperialism unconditionally. It has supported Putin’s war in Syria since the beginning. It sided with Putin when he started the second war against Chechnya as well as the military intervention in the Ukraine in 2014. [14] It supports the anti-migrant policy of the Putin regime, opposes “homosexual propaganda” and praises the role of the Orthodox Church. [15] It is such a chauvinist, social-imperialist party that even a number of Stalinists feel embarrassed about it.

 

The pro-Assad character of the Stalinist statements becomes also obvious by the following fact. The Stalinists publish sharp denunciations of U.S. imperialism only when Washington is threatening the Assad regime. So when the U.S. military bombs a few air ports or empty houses, the Stalinists scream alarm – despite the fact that this time they didn’t kill a single person. But when the US air force bombs Raqqa and kills thousands of Syrians (or Mosul, to name another recent example), the Stalinists utter not a single word of indignation. This demonstrates that even their opposition to US imperialism is extremely selective. They don’t mind if the biggest imperialist power in the world bombs Islamists and Syrian civilians. It is not imperialist aggression as such which they oppose. They only oppose attacks against their admired dictator in Damascus – even if it is only about the destruction of some houses and runways!

 

It is therefore only logical that the PCP-initiated statement is signed, among others, by the Syrian CP, i.e. the party which is part of the regime-controlled alliance controlling the “parliament” since decades.

 

In short, the so-called “anti-imperialism” of the Stalinists represents nothing but opposition to one imperialist camp (the Western power) and support for the rivaling camp – the Eastern imperialist powers China and Russia as well as their allied local dictatorships like Assad.

 

Finally, let us mention, in passing, that there are also some pseudo-Marxist groups who arrive to the same conclusions like the Stalinists. Examples for this are the WWP and the PSL in the U.S as well as some “Trotskyists” – let us better say caricatures of Trotskyism. Such Stalinophile sects like Jan Norden’s IG/LFI (a grouplet of the ill-named “Spartacist School”) or the British grouplet Socialist Fight have come up with statements of support for Russia and Assad against the US and against the popular uprising of the Syrian people. They both deny staunchly the imperialist character of Russia and China, in fact, the Spartacist groups all claim that China is not even capitalist but rather still a “deformed workers state”! Surely, the numerous Chinese billionaires would not stop laughing in case they would come across such proclamations! [16]

 

As a result, they call – instead of an “anti-imperialist united front” as they pretend – for a social-imperialist united front with Russia against the US:

 

We do not call for Russians out, as this would be objectively aiding the U.S./NATO imperialists and the jihadist groups they support (as well as those they oppose, i.e., the I.S.). If the U.S. and its NATO allies directly attack Russian forces in Syria, we are for defense of the those forces against imperialism.” [17]

 

And the SF titles its statement: “Defend Syria and Russia: Imperialism out of the Middle East[18]

 

Obviously, the objective reality – characterized by inter-imperialist rivalry between the Great Powers and ongoing liberation struggles of oppressed people – is a closed book for them. Lacking any theoretical compass, they are forced to stumble in the camp of Russian imperialism with a far more pathetic consistency than most Stalinists do. What an example for the Marxist truth that, as Lenin liked to say, „men must not be judged by their words, however, but by their deeds.[19] This kind of “Trotskyists” imagines that they can conceal their pro-Russian social-imperialist politics with some Trotskyist phrases. But neither will the sinner enter heaven just because he said some hurried prayers nor will the camouflaged semi-Stalinists join the camp of working class internationalism just because they recite some memorized quotes from Trotsky’s books.

 

It doesn’t need much explanation that there is a gulf of blood between these Stalinists and the revolutionary Marxists. The Stalinists and their centrist imitators subscribe to “anti-imperialism” for fools. On the surface the Marxists seem to agree with the Stalinists in opposing the U.S. missiles strikes against Syria. But the truth is that one can oppose the US foreign policy in Syria for very different reasons. One can oppose it from a revolutionary internationalist and anti-imperialist point of stance. But one can also oppose it from a petty-bourgeois pacifist, liberal-humanist, or from a pro-Russian social-imperialist, pro-Assad, or even from a fascist point of view. [20]

 

 

 



[1] See on this e.g. chapter 13 of our book The Great Robbery of the South.

[2] See e.g. Michael Pröbsting: France: “Communist” Party fails to Vote in Parliament against Imperialist War in Iraq! 15.1.2015, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/french-pcf-iraq-war/; RCIT: Increasing Instability and Militarization in the European Union. On the Tasks of Revolutionaries in the New Political Phase which has Opened in Europe after the Terrorist Attack in Paris, 08.12.2015, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/militarism-in-eu/

[3] We have elaborated our analysis of SYRIZA and its treacherous government policy in numerous articles and statements. They are collected in a special sub-section on our website: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/articles-on-greece/; in particular we refer readers to our book on Greece: Michael Pröbsting: Greece: A Modern Semi-Colony. The Contradictory Development of Greek Capitalism, Its Failed Attempts to Become a Minor Imperialist Power, and Its Present Situation as an Advanced Semi-Colonial Country with Some Specific Features, Vienna 2015, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/greece-semi-colony/)

[4] Party of the European Left: Hands off Syria! 13 April 2018, http://www.european-left.org/hands-syria

[5] Al-Jazeera: Is France reinventing itself as a kingmaker in the Middle East? President Emmanuel Macron is trying restore France's position as a 'power broker' in the Arab world, analysts say, 2018-04-17, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/04/france-reinventing-kingmaker-middle-east-180416094140646.html

[6] There exists a vast literature on the Stalinist policy of the Popular Front. See e.g. Tom Kemp: Stalinism in France, New Park Publications, London 1984; Jaques Danos, Marcel Gibelin: Die Volksfront in Frankreich. Generalstreik und Linksregierung im Juni ’36, Junius Verlag, Hamburg 1982. Leon Trotsky has extensively critiqued this Stalinist conception. See e.g. Leo Trotsky: Whither France? New Park Publications, London. The leading Stalinist theoretician stated the concept of the Popular Front I various speeches and writings after 1935. They are summarized in: Georgi Dimitroff: The United Front. The Struggle Against Fascism and War, Proletarian Publishers, San Francisco 1975

[7] See on this e.g. the chapter “The Maoist Origin of the Super-Power Theory” in our pamphlet Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and the Rise of Russia as a Great Power (see footnote above for full title and the link).

[8] A more detailed elaboration of the Trotskyist theory of the Stalinist states can be read in Leon Trotsky: The Revolution Betrayed (1936), Pathfinder Press 1972. The RCIT’s analysis is summarized in chapter II in our book Michael Pröbsting: Cuba‘s Revolution Sold Out? The Road from Revolution to the Restoration of Capitalism, Vienna 2013, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/cuba-s-revolution-sold-out/.

[9] It would go beyond the scope of this essay to deal with the theoretical development of the Greek KKE more in detail. However, we want to remark that in the past years it has become, in some aspects, a rather untypical, left-Stalinist party. As such it formally rejects the classic Stalinist distinction between the “democratic”, “antifascist”, “patriotic” and the reactionary factions of the bourgeoisie. It comes also close to reject the stageist model of the revolution and to orient, in words, towards a socialist revolution. Finally, it also comes close, in some more theoretical articles, to view China and Russia as “capitalist powers”. This interesting theoretical development is a reflection of the necessity to differentiate itself sharper from its left-reformist rivals (SYRIZA, LAE, etc.) and also because Chinese monopoly capitalists – as major owners of the port in Piraeus – directly attacks the dockers who constitute a core layer for PAME (the KKE-affiliated trade union). We have dealt with the KKE’s positions to a certain degree in our book on Greece. (Michael Pröbsting: Greece: A Modern Semi-Colony)

[10] Joint statement: Condemnation of the bombing of Syria by the USA, United Kingdom and France, 17 April 2018, http://www.solidnet.org/portugal-portuguese-communist-party/portuguese-cp-condemnation-of-the-bombing-of-syria-by-the-usa-united-kingdom-and-france-en-fr-es-pt

[11] Statement of the Communist and Workers Parties of Europe condemning the escalation of the imperialist aggressiveness in Syria, 13 April 2018, http://www.solidnet.org/greece-communist-party-of-greece/cp-of-greece-statement-of-the-communist-and-workers-parties-of-europe-condemning-the-escalation-of-the-imperialist-aggressiveness-in-syria-en-ru-es-ar-fr-sq

[12] Elisseos Vagenas: The Military-Political Equation in Syria, (Extensive excerpts from the article published in "Kommounistiki Epitheorisi", the political-theoretical journal of the CC of the KKE, issue 1 of 2016), https://inter.kke.gr/en/articles/THE-MILITARY-POLITICAL-EQUATION-IN-SYRIA/.

[13] A number of books have been published about the Stalinist policy in the period of the Hitler-Stalin Pact. A number of documents have been published in Raymond James Sontag and James Stuart Beddie (Ed.): Nazi-Soviet Relations, 1939-1941. Documents from the Archives of the German Foreign Office, Department of State, 1948. Many documents of the Stalinist parties in this period have become public only after 1989. Many of them have been collected in the German-language book: Bernhard H. Bayerlein. Der Verräter, Stalin, bist Du! Vom Ende der linken Solidarität 1939-1941. Komintern und kommunistische Parteien im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Aufbau Verlag, Berlin 2009; another documentation is: J.W.Brügel: Stalin und Hitler. Europaverlag, Wien 1973. See also: Bisovsky, Gerhard, Hans Schafranek und Robert Streibel (Ed.): Der Hitler-Stalin-Pakt, Verlag: Picus Verlag;, 1990.

[14] See on this e.g. Gennady Zyuganov: The crisis in Ukraine and its deep roots, September 2014, http://cprf.ru/2014/09/1108/

[15] For example, Zuyganov wrote in 2012: "It is a holy duty of Communists and the Orthodox Church to unite." (Mansur Mirovalev: Russia's Communist Party turns to the Orthodox Church. After decades of militant atheism, Russian Communists turn to religious establishment to gain supporters, 2016-12-12, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/12/russia-communist-party-turns-orthodox-church-161212075756966.html)

[16] We have briefly dealt with this argument in our recently published book on the World Perspectives 2018 (see p. 59, footnote 99) as well as in chapter 10 in our book The Great Robbery of the South.

[17] See IG: Drive the Imperialists Out of the Middle East! U.S./NATO: Get Your Bloody Claws Off Syria! http://www.internationalist.org/syriausnatobloodyhands1804.html

[18] See SF: Defend Syria and Russia: Imperialism out of the Middle East, 14/04/2018 https://socialistfight.com/2018/04/14/defend-syria-and-russia-imperialism-out-of-the-middle-east/

[19] V. I. Lenin: German and Non-German Chauvinism (1916); in: LCW 22, p. 183

[20] A number of articles have been published documenting the support of many fascist organizations for the Assad regime. See e.g. Alex Rowell: Small wonder: The global fascist love affair with the Assad regime, https://pulsemedia.org/2017/08/20/small-wonder-the-global-fascist-love-affair-with-the-assad-regime/; Patrick Strickland: Why do Italian fascists adore Syria's Bashar al-Assad? 14 Feb 2018, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/01/italian-fascists-adore-syria-bashar-al-assad-180125115153121.html. On the opposition to the latest U.S. strike against Syria by U.S. Nazis see e.g. the statement of Gregory Conte and Richard Spencer: Stay Out Of Syria, April 14, 2018 https://nationalpolicy.institute/2018/04/14/stay-out-of-syria/