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Comrade Ho Chi Minh"Uncle Ho," birth name Nguyen Sinh Cung. Ho Chi Minh translates to "He Who Enlightens." Remember the Vietnamese workers who liberated Vietnam from French colonial rule and defeated the U.S. imperialists genocide in Vietnam!
- The dirty dozen: Israel’s racist ringleaders
- British have invaded nine out of ten countries – so look out Luxembourg
- ‘New race for colonies begins in Africa’
- Book Review: Bruce Cumings’ North Korea: Another Country
- Going commando: IDF ‘hitman/assassin’ posts disturbing pictures on FB, Instagram
- 40% of Americans Now Make Less Than 1968 Minimum Wage
- The Minimum Wage Would Be $21.72 an Hour if it Rose with Productivity Since 1968
- Photoshopping away police torture in Greece
- JFK secretly freed rapists, drug dealers and Mafia hitmen to kill Castro and curb threat of Communism, claims explosive new book
- Stalin: Story of a Great Servant of Mankind who Belongs to the Ages
- Video: Star Trek DS9 – Workers of the World, Unite!
- Leave it to the Market?
- China overtakes US as world’s largest trading country
- Native American Shuts Down Anti-Illegal Immigrant Protest: ‘Y’all Are All Illegal!’
- PFLP condemns Zionist attack on Syria
- KCNA on the Korean War
- Teargas as thousands protest top opposition leader assassination in Tunisia (PHOTOS)
- Syria’s Rebels Hype Their Child Soldier Training
- UN report exposes torture of Afghan detainees
- Former Drone Operator turned Whistleblower: “I saw men, women and children die”
- France in Mali: The longue durée of imperial blowback
- Pope Francis and General Videla
- Criticism of Maoist Rebel News: “Faggot” isn’t Okay
- Dirty Wars: Pope Francis’ Ties to Argentina’s Right-wing Junta
- Excommunicated Westboro Baptist Church member suggests Fred Phelps might be gay
- April 2013 (12)
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“Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.”
-- V.I. Lenin
"No force, no torture, no intrigue can eradicate Marxism-Leninism from the minds and hearts of men."
-- Enver Hoxha
"If you do not condemn colonialism, if you do not side with the colonial people, what kind of revolution are you waging?"
-- Ho Chi Minh
“Every departure from class struggle has fatal results for the destiny of socialism.”
-- Enver Hoxha
"A nation which enslaves another forges its own chains."
-- Karl Marx
"Private property must, therefore, be abolished and in its place must come the common utilization of all instruments of production and the distribution of all products according to common agreement - in a word, what is called the communal ownership of goods."
-- Friedrich Engels
"The entire party and country should hurl into the fire and break the neck of anyone who dared trample underfoot the sacred edict of the party on the defense of women's rights."
-- Enver Hoxha, 1967
"Today, in fact, ‘Stalinism’ has become a meaningless term of abuse employed to denote political views with which one disagrees."
-- Bill Bland
"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."
-- Desmond Tutu
“The class struggle does not disappear under the dictatorship of the proletariat; it merely assumes different forms... The class of exploiters, the landowners and capitalists, has not disappeared and cannot disappear all at once under the dictatorship of the proletariat. The exploiters have been smashed, but not destroyed. They still have an international base in the form of international capital, of which they are a branch. They still retain certain means of production in part, they still have money, they still have vast social connections."
-- V.I. Lenin, 1919
"We are marching in a compact group along a precipitous and difficult path, firmly holding each other by the hand. We are surrounded on all sides by enemies, and we have to advance almost constantly under their fire. We have combined, by a freely adopted decision, for the purpose of fighting the enemy, and not of retreating into the neighbouring marsh, the inhabitants of which, from the very outset, have reproached us with having separated ourselves into an exclusive group and with having chosen the path of struggle instead of the path of conciliation. And now some among us begin to cry out: Let us go into the marsh! And when we begin to shame them, they retort: What backward people you are! Are you not ashamed to deny us the liberty to invite you to take a better road! Oh, yes, gentlemen! You are free not only to invite us, but to go yourselves wherever you will, even into the marsh. In fact, we think that the marsh is your proper place, and we are prepared to render you every assistance to get there. Only let go of our hands, don’t clutch at us and don’t besmirch the grand word freedom, for we too are ‘free’ to go where we please, free to fight not only against the marsh, but also against those who are turning towards the marsh!"
-- Lenin, “What is to be Done?”
"I have not brought you liberty, I found it here, among you."
-- George Kastrioti "Skanderbeg"
"[The children's] life will be better than ours; much of what was our life, they will not experience. Their lives will be less cruel. [...] Our generation has succeeded in doing a job of astounding historical importance. The cruelty of our life, forced upon us by conditions, will be understood and justified. It will all be understood, all of it!"
-- V.I. Lenin
"There is one, and only one, kind of real internationalism, and that is—working whole-heartedly for the development of the revolutionary movement and the revolutionary struggle in one’s own country, and supporting (by propaganda, sympathy, and material aid) this struggle, this, and only this, line, in every country without exception."
-- V.I. Lenin, 1917
"When the enemy attacks you, it means you are on the right road."
-- Enver Hoxha
"You'll hang me now, but I am not alone. There are two hundred million of us. You can't hang us all."
-- Zoya Anatolyevna Kosmodemyanskaya
"The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was neither a revolution, nor great, nor cultural, and, in particular, not in the least proletarian."
-- Enver Hoxha
"Marxism is not only the theory of socialism, it is an integral world outlook, a philosophical system, from which Marx’s proletarian socialism logically follows. This philosophical system is called dialectical materialism.”
-- J. V. Stalin, “Anarchism or Socialism?”
“Nixon is to go to Peking! We are not in agreement. Therefore I think we should write to the Chinese a letter saying that we are opposed to this decision. Nixon is an aggressor, a murderer of peoples, an enemy of socialism — especially of Albania, which the USA has never recognised as a people’s democratic state and against which it has hatched a thousand plots. The invitation to Nixon will benefit imperialism and world reaction, and will gravely harm the new Marxist-Leninist Parties which have looked upon China and Mao Tse-tung as the pillar of the revolution and as defenders of Marxism-Leninism."
-- Enver Hoxha
"It is only the working class at the head of the masses, it is only the working class headed by its real Marxist-Leninist party, it is only the working class through armed revolution, through violence, that can and must bury the traitorous revisionists."
-- Enver Hoxha
“There were two ‘Reigns of Terror,’ if we would but remember and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the “horrors” of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the guillotine, compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heart-break? What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror—that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.”
— Mark Twain, "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court"
Category Archives: Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola
As always, a re-posting of articles does not necessarily imply an absolute endorsement of the entirety of its content. However, this well-written article does make a good point about the duality of the bourgeois class, particularly in the Third World and oppressed countries.
– Espresso Stalinist.
Tripoli is burning. Thousands of black Libyans and African immigrants are rounded up by the NATO-backed rebels and thrown into prisons. Supporters of the ousted nationalist government wait with baited breath for the inevitable and bloody purge by the new rebel government. Libyan oil gushes out of Benghazi into the pipelines of Western energy companies. And militia groups, deputized by Interpol and the now-victorious National Transitional Council (NTC) government, hunt for Colonel Muammar Qaddafi and his family across the Libyan desert.
Now that NATO has won this asymmetrical imperialist war, at least in the short term, no one can reasonably say that the Libyan people are better off with the rebel government in power. For all of the flaws of Qaddafi’s government – and other nationalist governments like his – the Libyan people enjoyed the highest standard of living on the African continent, rising from the lowest standard of living in the world as of 1951. (1) The national and tribal governments had an amicable working relationship that allowed for decentralized planning and local decision-making. Moreover, Libya’s natural resources were controlled by a national government at-odds with Western energy corporations, and the wealth they generated was publicly owned and shared. (1) In other words, the Libyan nation exercised its inherent right to self-determination.
Qaddafi’s government wasn’t socialist; it was nationalist. The relations of production in Libya were capitalist in nature, but to deny that Qaddafi’s government was more progressive and objectively anti-imperialist ignores the brutal material reality that millions of Libyans are facing because of the NTC government.
As the West begins to re-calibrate its war machine and set its crosshairs on President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria, Marxist-Leninists need to understand their relationship with nationalist bourgeois states, like Qaddafi’s Libya. History has objectively proven those “leftists” who were cheerleaders for the fall of Qaddafi’s government in Libya or Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq wrong.
At the same time, every bourgeois state operates fundamentally in the interest of some sector of the capitalist ruling class, whether national or international, and in time the proletariat will replace that old machinery with socialism through revolution.
I posit these theses:
Because of their relation to imperialism after the fall of the socialist bloc, the objective historical position of nationalist states in the Third World is progressive.
Marxist-Leninists must uphold the right of nations to self-determination, which in the present is principally characterized by freedom from imperialist subjugation.
Where it arises, Marxist-Leninists must support genuine revolutionary proletarian struggles for socialism against bourgeois nationalist governments.
What is nationalism?
To understand when and why Marxist-Leninists should support nationalism, it’s important to examine the material conditions from which nationalism arises.
As a starting point, it’s important to distinguish a nation from other units of social or geographical organization, like a tribe or country. Historically speaking, national identity is a relatively recent development in class society. In his seminal 1913 work, Marxism and the National Question, Josef Stalin outlines the characteristics of a nation as “a historically evolved, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” (2)
Two important characteristics to note about Stalin’s definition. First, while territory and geography is a defining feature of a nation, it is not its sole determining characteristic, meaning that within the existential boundaries of a country–itself a recent social development–many nations may exist. Second, while a common economic life is also a defining characteristic, nations are not formed on the basis of class unity. In other words, there is no proletarian nation or bourgeois nation, but rather these two classes are both part and parcel of their respective nations.
In its inception, nationalism arises as an ideology of the bourgeoisie. From Marxism and the National Question:
The chief problem for the young bourgeoisie is the problem of the market. Its aim is to sell its goods and to emerge victorious from competition with the bourgeoisie of another nationality. Hence its desire to secure its “own,” its “home” market. The market is the first school in which the bourgeoisie learns its nationalism. (2)
Though all classes in a given nation are capable of embracing nationalism, Stalin argues that its historical basis lies in the bourgeoisie and its need for capital accumulation as a class. While other classes can appropriate and have transformed this concept, the demand for national self-determination begins as a bourgeois demand for exclusive access and control of its own national markets and resources.
European and American nationalism, for instance, arose from the break-up of feudal empires and the fledgling bourgeoisie’s struggle to establish itself as a class via primitive accumulation. American merchants, traders, shopkeepers, and speculators, denied full access to the readily available land and resources in North America by British mercantilism, led revolution of 1776 on the basis of American national unity. Though the American revolution of 1776 was waged in the interests of the fledgling bourgeoisie, the working masses rallied to the banner of American nationalism and led a successful struggle against British colonialism. Stalin notes that the “strength of the national movement is determined by the degree to which the wide strata of the nation, the proletariat and peasantry, participate in it.” (2)
Though the role of American nationalism in 1776 was historically progressive, the triumph of the American national movement was fueled by and resulted in the further subjugation of the African masses kidnapped and violently lashed into slave labor, along with the indigenous tribes ruthlessly slaughtered in the expansion of the American empire. Dialectically, American nationalism’s progressive features became the basis for the rise of the most oppressive imperialist power in the history of the world.
Without the subjugation of the African masses as a slave labor force, the Western bourgeoisie could never have established itself as an independent ruling class. Indeed, the same American nationalism that united the colonists against British mercantilism would unite the country in waging genocidal wars for land against indigenous people and Mexicans. After the series of successful European bourgeois revolutions, all ideologically fueled through nationalism, colonialism in Africa, Asia, South America, and the Pacific Islands became central to acquiring the cheap labor and resources necessary to generating extreme national wealth.
Because of the cheap labor and resources acquired through ruthless expansion, American capitalism transformed into imperialism, in which developed countries use force and comparative advantages in trade to violently extract resources and exploit the labor force of other colonies. Central to maintaining the colonial apparatus was the denial of equal rights and the cultivation of racist myths about colonized people, which materially manifested itself in slave labor, apartheid, and denial of access to the liberal democratic institutions established by the colonial bourgeoisie in imperialist countries.
Inevitably, the placement of capital in colonial countries allowed some small fraction of the colonized population to gain access to limited amounts of their own capital, albeit usually dependent on the colonial power. In other words, this small class of propertied yet colonized people constituted a bourgeoisie. Of this bourgeoisie, Stalin writes:
The bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation, repressed on every hand, is naturally stirred into movement. It appeals to its “native folk” and begins to shout about the “fatherland,” claiming that its own cause is the cause of the nation as a whole. It recruits itself an army from among its “countrymen” in the interests of… the “fatherland.” Nor do the “folk” always remain unresponsive to its appeals, they rally around its banner: the repression from above affects them too and provokes their discontent. (2)
The bourgeoisie of oppressed nations has the same basic features as the American and European bourgeoisie, in that both classes sought greater access to their own markets, resources, and labor. However, the conditions around the oppressed national bourgeoisie are qualitatively different than those around the Western bourgeoisie; they cannot seize control of their own national resources because of the fetters of colonialism.
Unquestionably the type of colonial oppression faced by the oppressed national bourgeoisie was different than that felt by the colonized proletariat and peasantry, who faced more brutal repression from the state and worse terms of labor. However, these colonized classes all had something to gain by overthrowing colonial and imperialist rule and achieving self-determination for their nation.
Nationalism becomes vital to the colonized bourgeoisie because it unites themselves and the colonized laboring masses in the struggle for national liberation. At the point where the laboring masses embrace nationalism, “the national movement begins.” (2)
National liberation struggles are not exclusively led by the nationalist bourgeoisie, and historically the bourgeoisie in colonial or semi-colonial nations is often too weak or too connected to the colonizing nation to exert itself independently as a class. Numerous examples of successful revolutionary proletarian national liberation movements exist, including the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). These successful communist movements, like the MPLA, also made use of nationalism to unite the country around the central task of expelling the colonizers. In essence, although nationalism is originally a bourgeois ideology, other revolutionary classes can appropriate it during the national liberation struggle phase.
Bourgeois nationalist states in the Third World
Because the nationalist bourgeoisie finds itself opposed to imperialism in the Third World, they can function as a tactical ally for the proletariat and peasantry in these same oppressed nations. Marxist-Leninists should never accept this alliance as permanent, however, and must carefully evaluate the place of the national bourgeoisie in relation to imperialism and the vast laboring masses.
Iraq provides one of the most potent examples of the fickle and unreliable nature of the nationalist bourgeoisie. The Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, for instance, was primarily bourgeois in its orientation and leadership, but it also attracted a mass following in the wake of the Iraq’s independence from British colonialism in 1958. (3)
Ba’ath was not committed to socialist revolution in Iraq, but they did preside over an aggressive nationalization program in 1972, which seized oil refineries from British and American companies and allowed them to diversify Iraq’s economy. Though these nationalizations were motivated by the access considerations of the national bourgeoisie, they also allowed the Ba’ath state to redirect revenues into public works projects that lifted nearly half the country out of poverty. In a 2006 profile piece on Saddam, PBS News writes of Ba’ath’s accomplishments:
As vice chairman, he oversaw the nationalization of the oil industry and advocated a national infrastructure campaign that built roads, schools and hospitals. The once illiterate Saddam, ordered a mandatory literacy program. Those who did not participate risked three years in jail, but hundreds of thousands learned to read. Iraq, at this time, created one of the best public-health systems in the Middle East — a feat that earned Saddam an award from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (4)
True to form, Saddam and Ba’ath rose to power in direct response to British colonialism. Acting in the interests of the Iraqi national bourgeoisie, they ‘took back’ the resources monopolized by the West’s colonial subjugation and used the revenues to rapidly construct a modern Iraq, which required an educated populace, secular government, a functional road system, and social infrastructure like hospitals. One can question the sincerity of Ba’ath’s actions towards the masses, but one cannot dispute the profoundly positive effect these nationalist policies had on the lives of ordinary Iraqis.
However, the social accomplishments of bourgeois nationalist regimes should never obscure their reactionary character. With both Ba’ath and the Communist Party of Iraq (ICP) vying for supremacy after the 1958 revolution, hostile confrontations between the parties continued until 1963, when Ba’ath launched a coup d’etat against Prime Minister Abdul Karim Qasim. (5) During the coup, communists organized massive militant resistance to Ba’ath, and over the course of the three days in Baghdad, “5,000 Iraqi citizens were apparently killed, including 80 Ba’th Party activists and 340 Iraqi communist activists.” (6)
Following the consolidation of Ba’ath rule in Iraq, the ICP experienced two separate waves of repression: one in 1963 following the coup and the subsequent unrest, and the other in 1977, led by Saddam. (5) Historian Bob Feldman writes in a February 2006 piece on Iraq that “By March 1963, an estimated 10,000 Communist Party of Iraq members had been arrested by the Ba’th regime and many imprisoned Iraqi leftist activists were not treated gently.” (6) Quoting Said Aburish’s book, “A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite”, Feldman continues:
The number of people eliminated remains confused and estimates range from 700 to 30,000. Putting various statements by Iraqi exiles together, in all likelihood the figure was nearer five thousand . There were many ordinary people who were eliminated because they continued to resist after the coup became an accomplished fact, but there were also senior army officers, lawyers, professors, teachers, doctors and others. (6)
The CPI was correct to resist the 1963 Ba’ath coup and oppose the consolidation of a bourgeois nationalist regime. Iraq’s independence in 1958 had shifted their primary adversary from British colonialism to the Iraqi bourgeoisie, seeing as no colonial entity to struggle against still existed. Saddam’s case reminds Marxist-Leninists that it’s strategic to enter into a popular front with bourgeois nationalists against imperialism, but after the national liberation struggle is complete, they constitute a vicious and dangerous foe.
Nationalist governments support revolutionary people’s struggles in the Third World.
Failure to conform to imperialist foreign policy is the most common wedge issue between bourgeois nationalists and the West. Often driven by pan-national ideological unity, bourgeois nationalist countries objectively support revolutionary people’s struggles and national liberation movements abroad, placing them at odds with imperialism.
Finding common ground with the Shi’a-led Iraqi resistance to US occupation, Iran has provided weapons to Iraqi insurgents, as well as training for assembling their own weapons. (7) While many allegations about Iranian aid to the Iraqi resistance are exaggerated by Western capitalist media to ratchet up tensions, journalist Michael Perry describes Iran’s rationale in a February 2007 article:
But let’s go even further and say, for the sake of argument, that the Iraqi insurgents are receiving officially authorized aid from the Iranian state. It is true that having a neighboring nation in chaos does not generally benefit any country, but the Iranians have been under the gun from the U.S. for a very long time –decades in fact. The recent threats and provocations from the Bush administration make it clear that Iran is an imminent target. I’m quite sure the Iranians realize that the quagmire in Iraq is the primary impediment to an American invasion of Iran. Troubles for U.S. forces in Iraq may buy the Iranians more time. Could the Iranians be so blind to their own self-interests? (8)
At odds with Saddam’s secular Sunni government for decades, the Iranian bourgeoisie would relish the opportunity to have an oil-rich Shi’a-dominated Iraq to its west. More pressing, however, is the collective national fear of having another US-client state in the region. There’s a reason that Tehran, and not Qatar, the UAE, or Saudi Arabia, is actively subverting US occupation by materially supporting the Iraqi resistance. That reason, of course, is because the Iran’s ruling nationalist bourgeoisie has a material class interest in anti-imperialism.
The best evidence for the progressive quality of the Iranian nationalist bourgeoisie, embodied in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is the attempted color revolution in 2009 by the US-backed Mir-Hossein Mousavi. This so-called ‘Green revolution’ was financially supported by both the West and the wealthy neo-liberal bourgeoisie, represented by multi-millionaire former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. (9) In the 2005 Presidential elections, Ahmadinejad defeated Rafsanjani largely on the basis of the latter’s gaudy neo-liberal orientation. A 2005 article in GreenLeft by Doug Lorimer highlights the divergent class interests represented by Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani. While both accept the fundamental tenents of the Iranian capitalist state:
In the same TV interview [Ahmadinejad] claimed the country’s vast oil wealth was controlled by one powerful family — a reference to Rafsanjani, who is alleged to have enriched himself through his son’s management of the country’s nationalised oil industry. The Rafsanjanis also have investments worth US1 billion in pistachio farming, real estate, automobile manufacture and a private airline.
“The whole Iranian economy is set up to benefit the privileged few”, Ray Takeyh, a professor and director of studies at the US National Defense University’s Near East and South Asia Center in Washington, told the Bloomberg news agency last December. “Rafsanjani is the most adept, the most notorious and the most privileged.” (10)
Rafsanjani, and his running dog Mousavi, hoped to rise to power via a US-supported color revolution and open Iran to Western markets; in other words, they represent the comprador Iranian bourgeoisie. Despite the best efforts of the imperialist powers to oust Ahmadinejad–who by every objective measure legitimately won the 2009 election–the Iranian people resisted these attacks on their national sovereignty. (11) Even as he nears the end of his two terms as President, Ahmadinejad remains popular with the Iranian masses because of his consistent anti-imperialism on the world stage, along with the social programs he has championed at home despite Western sanctions.
Pivoting to another nationalist state, Syria has consistently functioned as the most progressive of the multitude of Middle Eastern countries by substantially supporting the major national liberation movements in the region. Trinity University professor of history David Lesch writes in his fantastic book, The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria that:
Syria does not deny claims of support for Hizbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, viewing that such operations constitute legitimate resistance and not terrorism; indeed, Damascus often views Israeli activities vis-a-vis the Palestinians and its actions in Lebanon as terrorism. (12)
Since the Syrian Ba’ath party took power in 1963, the state has always supported the Palestinian and Lebanese liberation struggles and sought to keep Israeli imperialism in-check. (13) Sharing the common trait of secularism, Syria allows the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the largest Marxist-Leninist revolutionary movement in Palestine, to operate comfortably out of Damascus and materially supports their struggle with supplies and resources. (14) Because of the Syrian bourgeoisie’s desire for regional secular pan-Arab unity–rooted in the Alawi faith of President Bashar al-Assad and others–and the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights, Assad’s government is objectively anti-imperialist.
Similarly, Saddam’s Ba’ath state in Iraq financially supported and championed the cause of Palestinian national liberation, which was played up by the West in the months leading up to the 2003 invasion. On March 13, 2003–just six days before the invasion–the BBC reported, “Saddam Hussein has paid out thousands of dollars to families of Palestinians killed in fighting with Israel. Relatives of at least one suicide attacker as well as other militants and civilians gathered in a hall in Gaza City to receive cheques.” (15) Later, the same article estimates that the Iraqi government had paid out nearly $35 million to Palestinian families since 2000.
In hindsight, the timing and purpose of this BBC article is obvious, but that Saddam’s support for ‘terrorist groups’ was one of the reasons for the 2003 invasion demonstrates the extreme degree to which his support for the Palestinians offended and scared the West. Startlingly few people remember that Israel invaded Syrian airspace and bombed a peaceful nuclear power plant in September 2007 for many of the same reasons. When a bourgeois state in the Third World becomes nationalist in its orientation, as opposed to comprador bourgeois states, it demands a response from the West.
Never confuse your primary and secondary contradictions!
Although a multitude of contradictions exist in class societies, at any given time, one of these contradictions is principal in comparison to the others. If a person goes for a walk, decides s/he wants a cigarette, and then gets bitten by a rattlesnake, the order of the day is to call a doctor and receive medical attention immediately for the venom. As much as that person might have wanted–or even needed–a cigarette, only a great fool would tell this person that s/he should prioritize smoking over seeking medical attention.
Primary and secondary contradictions seem like common sense, but a multitude of so-called ‘leftists’ and revolutionaries confuse them when analyzing imperialism. Ultimately, the approach that Marxist-Leninists ought to take to bourgeois nationalist governments is tied up in correctly identifying and acting on primary and secondary contradictions.
Though largely ignored in Marxist-Leninist writings, the experience of the Ethiopian revolution offers valuable insight as to how communists ought to struggle against bourgeois nationalist governments. Having played an instrumental role in repelling the Italian fascist occupation of Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Selassie I began as an archetype bourgeois nationalist. He encouraged pan-African unity, promoted decolonization, and began an aggressive process of modernizing Ethiopia.
That said, Selassie’s government became firmly aligned with the West after World War II and opened the country up to an influx of foreign capital. Presiding over and encouraging severely unequal land distribution, Selassie’s government was also responsible for a series of famines and foot shortages, the worst of which claimed an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 victims. (16) Ahmed Khan of the Communist Workers and Peasants Party in Pakistan writes this of Selassie’s government:
During the monarchical period, life expectancy was a mere 38 years and 90% of the people were illiterate. Only a tiny handful of feudal landowners and royal sycophants controlled the entire wealth of the country.
Severe drought and famine engulfed Ethiopia which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of peasants, and led to widespread hunger and food crises in the urban areas. (16)
Even bourgeois sources regard these famines as the product of Selassie’s destructive policies. A 1997 report by Human Rights Watch called “Rebellion and Famine in the North under Haile Selassie” indicted the nationalist government for its culpability in this famine, saying:
The Wollo famine was popularly blamed on drought, a backward and impoverishedsocial system, and the cover-up attempted by the imperial government. These factors were all-important — though it must be remembered that specific actions by the government, especiallyafter the Ras Gugsa and Weyane revolts, were instrumental in creating the absence of development. (17)
By 1974, Selassie’s bourgeois government lost all legitimacy in the eyes of the masses. Because of the widespread crises brought on by Selassie’s selective industrial development and close trade relations with the West, Ethiopian workers and peasants began to mobilize against the government. Khan writes, “The inability of the monarchy to deal with the crisis and the propensity of the feudalists to bleed the peasantry dry led to increasing hatred for the monarchy on part of the oppressed peasants, workers and a section of the emergent urban middle class.” (16)
Although no Marxist-Leninist vanguard party existed in Ethiopia at this time, a communist council of military officers known as the Derg organized alongside labor leaders in the urban centers and peasant communities in the countryside to produce the Ethiopian revolution of 1974. (18)
The revolutionary experience of the Ethiopian people in overthrowing Selassie’s government and establishing the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia–firmly committed to socialist construction–has tremendous lessons for Marxist-Leninists about their relation to bourgeois nationalists. Objectively, Selassie’s government was essential to the anti-imperialist and anti-fascist struggle waged against fascist Italy in 1935. The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) went so far as to launch a “Hands off Ethiopia” campaign in the same year, which included substantial demonstrations supporting Ethiopia’s right to self-determination (19).
However, classes do not exist in a vacuum. While one class may play a historically progressive role at one time, a change in the material conditions–like increased trade relations with the West following World War II–may render that same class reactionary. For as important as nationalism was to Ethiopia repelling fascist Italy in 1941, the same nationalist government’s reactionary policies reached a boiling point in 1974, resulting in a popular socialist revolution.
The lesson from Ethiopia is clear: Marxist-Leninists in nationalist states must organize with a keen awareness of primary and secondary contradictions. For a moment, let’s assume that an organization like the Derg existed in Ethiopia circa-1935. Said organization would commit a grave error in throwing in with the fascists in hopes of toppling an admittedly reactionary monarchy. First, the organization would undeniably alienate the Ethiopian masses, who despite their poverty and poor military training, flocked to defend their homeland, the only African state never colonized by the West, from fascist occupation. (20) Second, although Selassie’s bourgeois government was at-odds with the interests of Ethiopian workers and peasants, that contradiction receded into the background the moment that fascist Italy began poison gassing entire villages of Ethiopians.
When Mussolini’s forces invaded Ethiopia in 1935, there was only one organized military force capable of mounting a resistance: Selassie’s nationalist government. Unsuccessful at first, Ethiopian patriots of all classes, albeit predominantly workers and peasants, struggled onward to victory and liberation in 1941. That this liberation struggle took place across class lines on a nationalist basis is no small detail. It’s paramount that Marxist-Leninists, in light of Iraq, Libya, and increasing aggression towards Syria, comfortably identify anti-imperialism as the primary contradiction facing the international proletarian revolution today.
Proletarian internationalism is superior in every way to bourgeois nationalism, but so long as neo-colonialism and imperialism exist, communists must unite all who can be united in the anti-imperialist struggle. Simultaneously, though, communists must remember the other side of the dialectic: When bourgeois nationalists become complicit partners in Western imperialism and alienate themselves from the masses, communists must never hesitate to overthrow that state with extreme prejudice and on its ruins erect revolutionary socialism.
The irrelevance and obscurity of the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) following the toppling of Saddam’s Ba’ath regime demonstrates the devastating effects of incorrectly identifying primary and secondary contradictions.
Saddam was by no means a consistent anti-imperialist throughout his reign. Though Ba’athist Iraq established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and China, it still retained casual relations with the West; relations that were strengthened following Saddam’s condemnation of Soviet intervention in the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, as well as the Iranian Revolution in 1979. (21) Between the overthrow of the US-backed Shah, the establishment of a militant Islamic republic, and the Iranian hostage crisis, Iraq began to work closely with the West to curb Tehran’s influence in the Middle East. Though the Reagan Administration would notoriously fund the Iranians also, the US comfortably placed their initial bets behind Saddam in the devastating Iran-Iraq war of 1983-1988.
Even though the imperialists used Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war to sow chaos in the Middle East, the Ba’ath state remained largely at odds with Western interests because of its nationalist orientation. Refusing to privatize its oil industry and allow Western capital to fully penetrate its national markets, the West increasingly saw Saddam as a danger to imperialist interests in the Middle East. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait over territorial disputes, the subsequent Gulf War, and Saddam’s unabashed support for the Palestinian liberation struggle cemented Iraq’s status as a pariah state in the eyes of the West by the early 1990s.
In an effort to eliminate an unfriendly pro-Palestinian government perched atop massive oil reserves, the US and UK fabricated the now-infamous falsehood that Saddam’s government had weapons of mass destruction. While communists around the world uniformly condemned the imperialist invasion of Iraq, “the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) welcomed Saddam Hussein’s removal and is happy that the ousted president is to be put on trial.” (22) Exhausted and furious from decades of repression by Ba’ath, the ICP’s position is understandable on a purely visceral and emotional level. However, Marxist-Leninists must remain level-headed during periods of crisis and correctly identify primary and secondary contradictions; a task at which the ICP uniformally failed.
In the coming years, the ICP would come to participate in the puppet state erected by the West–most recently in the liberalizing ‘Political Reconciliation’ movement–and integrate themselves into this comprador government imposed from without. (23) Despite comprising the strongest opposition to the Ba’ath government during the 1960s, the ICP has descended into relative obscurity, having lost any credibility with the masses for their blunder. Instead, Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and other religious sects comprised the mass base of resistance after Saddam was captured, though their bourgeois and petty-bourgeois class character has led them to also participate in Maliki’s bogus government.
One would think that the international ‘left’ would have learned about correctly handling primary and secondary contradictions after witnessing the failure of the ICP to lead a mass revolutionary resistance to imperialist occupation. Instead, the same ‘leftists’ who witnessed the invasion of Iraq cheerled a racist, imperialist-backed ‘rebel movement’ in Libya, and many made the full leap into supporting NATO’s invasion to oust Qaddafi.
When a nation achieves self-determination, the secondary contradiction between the proletariat and the national bourgeoisie will ascend to the forefront as the new primary contradiction. Before that time, however, the primary contradiction facing the masses in oppressed nations is between imperialism and national liberation. In bourgeois nationalist states, this contradiction can and must draw in all who can be united to strike a blow against imperialism.
Countries want independence.
Nations want liberation.
People want revolution.
(1) Gerald A. Perreira, “Libya Getting it Right: A Revolutionary Pan-African Perspective,” March 4, 2011, Dissent Voice, http://bit.ly/mQT4iz
(2) Josef Stalin, Marxism & the National Question, March-May 1913, http://bit.ly/cwOCSQ
(3) Said K. Aburish, “How Saddam Hussein Came to Power,” 2002, From Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge, Published in The Saddam Hussein Reader, pg. 41-42
(4) Jessica Moore, “Saddam Hussein’s Rise to Power,” 2003, PBS News, http://to.pbs.org/65tro
(5) Turi Munthe (Editor), The Saddam Hussein Reader, 2002, pg. xv-xviii
(6) Bob Feldman, “A People’s History of Iraq: 1950 to November 1963,” February 2, 2006, Toward Freedom, http://bit.ly/qwCar2
(7) CNN, “Iraqi insurgents being trained in Iran, US says,” April 11, 2007, http://bit.ly/nHra0S
(8) Michael Perry, “So what if Iran is Interfering in Iraq?,” February 21, 2007, AntiWar.com, http://bit.ly/ogwqxd
(9) Paul Craig Roberts, “Are the Iranian Protests Another US Orchestrated ‘Color Revolution’?,” June 20-21, 2009, CounterPunch, http://bit.ly/pmXj7w
(10) Doug Lorimer, “IRAN: A vote against neoliberalism,” July 6, 2005, Green Left, http://bit.ly/nYcOll
(11) Terror Free America, New America Foundation, “Ahmadinejad Front Runner in Upcoming Elections,” June 12, 2009, http://bit.ly/k8x0w
(12) David W. Lesch, The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria, 2005, pg. 102
(13) Reuters, “Syrian President Vows to Keep Supporting Hezbollah, Hamas,” August 2, 2007, http://bit.ly/qex219
(14) Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, “PFLP condemns attack on Syria,” November 3, 2008, Fight Back! News, http://bit.ly/qWDlmo
(15) BBC News, “Palestinians get Saddam funds,” March 13, 2008, http://bbc.in/9BWsXr
(16) Ahmed Khan, “Defend Comrade Mengistu! On the struggle of our Ethiopian brothers,” November 19, 2008, Red Diary, http://bit.ly/jbYhks
(17) Human Rights Watch, “3. Rebellion and Famine in the North Under Haile Selassie,” 1997, http://bit.ly/pzy53w
(18) Christopher Clapham, Transformation and Continuity in Revolutionary Ethiopia, 1988, Cambridge University Press.
(19) Robin D.G. Kelley, Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression, 1990, pg. 123.
(20) A.J. Barker, The Rape of Ethiopia, 1936, 1971.
(21) Said K. Aburish, “How Saddam Hussein Came to Power,” 2002, From Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge, Published in The Saddam Hussein Reader, pg. 44
(22) Shaheen Chughtai, “Iraqi communists celebrate change,” June 1, 2004, http://aje.me/qp5rVW
(23) Talal Alrubaie, “The Iraqi Communist Party and Hegel’s Owl of Minerva,” February 2, 2010, http://bit.ly/rqF6fr
Angola’s MPLA lead with nearly half of votes counted
LUANDA (AFP) – - Angola’s ruling leftwing MPLA party held a big lead with 81.65 percent of votes Sunday after almost half of the ballot papers had been counted in the country’s chaotic landmark vote, the electoral commission announced.
With 49.78 percent of the votes processed, the main opposition party UNITA (Union for the Total Independence of Angola) trailed with 10.59 percent of the votes, Adao de Almeida, a spokesman for Angola’s CNE electoral commission told AFP at 10 am local time (0900 GMT).
The MPLA (Popular Movement of the Liberation of Angola) of President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos , which has been in power for more than 30 years, predicted a sweeping victory after polls closed late Saturday, despite opposition attempts to have the result cancelled.
“We are going to win big time,” MPLA spokesman Rui Falcao said. “The victory is not in question, only whether we get the numbers required.”
Jonas Malheiro Savimbi, a despoiler of Angola, died on February 22nd, aged 67
HIS death had been reported at least 15 times before. So when the news broke that Jonas Savimbi had been shot dead by government troops, Angolans bottled up their glee until they could be sure. Then they saw television pictures of his corpse, laid out on a table, perforated with bullet holes, and they celebrated in the streets. With the country’s most brilliant, energetic and ruthless rebel leader dead, Angolans dared to hope that their wretched land might find peace at last.
Mr Savimbi was not the sole cause of Angola’s civil war, but he was probably the most important reason why it has lasted so long. When one casus belli disappeared, he always found another. The war started as a struggle to liberate Angola from Portuguese rule. But when the Portuguese left in a hurry in 1975, pausing only to block the drains with cement, the fighting continued. Mr Savimbi fought to oust the new ruling party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), largely because he was not in charge of it. His soldiers followed him, largely out of tribal loyalty. The United States and the apartheid regime in South Africa supplied him with cash, missiles and reinforcements, largely because the MPLA was Marxist, and received help from the Soviet Union and Cuba.
Charming and multilingual, Mr Savimbi told potential supporters whatever they wanted to hear. When seeking military aid from China, he claimed to want to build a Maoist state that would somehow accommodate the local culture. To his South African allies, he billed himself as a bulwark against communist imperialism. When wooing Ronald Reagan, he pretended to be a democrat and an avid fan of the free market. To fellow members of the Ovimbundu tribe, Angola’s largest, he presented himself as a king, who would restore their ancient glory and drive the mestiços who ruled Angola into the sea.
His only sincere belief, however, was that he ought to be president of Angola. When the cold war ended, the superpowers stopped squabbling over the country and pushed both sides to stop shooting. An election was held in 1992. Mr Savimbi was sure he would win, but he lost. Furious, he cried foul and went back to war.
Evil in a red beret
Jonas Malheiro Savimbi was born in 1934, into a proud family. His grandfather was an Ovimbundu chief who led a revolt against the Portuguese in 1902. Defeated, he was deprived of his chieftainship. Savimbi is said to have grown up resenting the humiliation. He went to Portugal in 1959 to study medicine, but soon ditched his studies to become a revolutionary. He started modestly, with 11 men, some knives and a pistol. His band of guerrillas grew, and was named the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) in 1966.
For most of the rest of his life, Mr Savimbi lived in the bush with his guerrillas. In the early years, he was popular. He cut a dashing figure in his fatigues and red beret, and peasants at all-night rallies found his oratory entrancing. His sheer energy kept UNITA going: he walked thousands of miles between remote villages, preaching war and organising his followers into revolutionary cells. Legends circulated of his stamina, his incredible sexual appetite, and his seeming invulnerability. He was said never to sleep two nights running in the same bed—inconvenient, no doubt, for his family, which reportedly included several wives and dozens of children.
Mr Savimbi’s popularity waned, however, as his tactics grew more vicious. He ordered his men to plant millions of mines in Angola’s fertile soil, to raze villages and to drive hordes of refugees into the cities, where he hoped they would become a burden on the government. Fearing that some of his officers might want to supplant him, he had them killed, along with their families. Other suspected waverers were accused of witchcraft and burned alive, or cast into UNITA’s “prisons”: deep pits, sealed with logs and earth, pitch black and inescapable.
In his last decade, Mr Savimbi had no outside support, so he kept his army supplied with bombs and bullets by selling diamonds mined in areas he controlled. A global embargo on “conflict diamonds” reduced his takings, but only somewhat. Diamonds are small, precious, and easy to smuggle. To secure adequate food for his men, he encouraged them simply to seize it at gunpoint from the peasants among whom they lived. His brutality ended up strengthening the government he was trying to overthrow. The war gave the MPLA an excuse to jail and harass its civilian opponents. When anyone wanted to know what had happened to Angola’s oil revenues, ministers cited national security and kept mum.
A biographer, Fred Bridgland, tells a story which may be apocryphal but sounds true. When Jonas Savimbi was a boy, he owned a football. The missionaries at his school arranged a match between their students and some white boys from a neighbouring town. Jonas provided the ball, and the white boys brought a Portuguese referee. The white team surged ahead. Jonas accused the referee of bias, picked up the ball and walked off, spoiling the match. Mr Savimbi died as he lived, a despoiler with a gun in his hands.
By Chris Simpson
Former BBC correspondent in Angola
Jonas Savimbi founded his Unita movement in March 1966 in Muangai, in Angola’s eastern province, Moxico.
According to Unita’s own official history, 200 delegates, including dozens of local chiefs, attended.
Muangai supposedly marked the beginning of Savimbi’s career as a guerrilla leader.
Thirty-six years later his corpse was put on display at Lucusse, just 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Muangai.
Savimbi has died a pariah.
Over the past decade his Unita movement has become increasingly isolated, accused of perpetuating a bloody civil war for its own interests and exposed to international sanctions as a consequence.
Unita’s deteriorating image owed much to Savimbi’s autocratic and quixotic style of leadership.
White House visit
But in his heyday, Savimbi had a formidable selection of allies and acolytes.
Fighting against an Angolan Government which deployed thousands of Cuban troops and enjoyed strong support from the former Soviet Union, Unita’s cause was taken up by apartheid South Africa and by the United States under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior.
In 1986 Mr Reagan welcomed Savimbi to the White House and talked of Unita winning “a victory that electrifies the world and brings great sympathy and assistance from other nations to those struggling for freedom”.
African leaders, like Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Ivory Coast and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire were open supporters, other presidents cultivated strong diplomatic and commercial ties right until the end.
Savimbi assiduously courted western journalists as well as politicians, presenting his bush headquarters in Jamba in the far south-eastern corner of Angola as the centre of a huge struggle against communism.
Some visitors returned deeply impressed by Savimbi’s leadership qualities and the dedication of his cadres, others hinted at a much darker regime, dismissing Savimbi as a power-hungry propagandist.
Jonas Savimbi was born and raised in the province of Bie, a lush, green region of rolling hills and small rivers, now once again devastated by war.
Savimbi made much of his roots in Angola’s Central Highlands. The station-master’s son – whose childhood home can still be found near the town of Andulo – always presented himself as a local boy made good, and later as the region’s representative, champion and leader.
Savimbi’s life breaks into several chapters, with much of the detail still in dispute and many questions unanswered. It was always wise to address him as “Doctor”.
But the PhD in question, supposedly from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, was probably never awarded. Unita’s own official biography of Savimbi claims he spent two years as a medical student in Portugal, but abandoned his studies to engage in the anti-colonial struggle.
Savimbi formed Unita after failing to find common ground with other nationalist movements, notably the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).
Savimbi’s critics say Unita’s military campaigns against the Portuguese regime were fictitious and later published documents linking Savimbi to Portuguese intelligence, suggesting he was a paid informer.
Savimbi’s first chance of power came with the end of Portuguese colonialism. But though promised a share in a transitional government Unita lost out as full-blown civil war broke out.
Despite the backing of South Africa and the United States, Unita was unable to compete with the Cuban troops and Soviet firepower put at the disposal of the MPLA.
A new government was proclaimed in Luanda, while Unita retreated deep into the interior.
Savimbi, once a self-proclaimed Maoist, described Unita as having embarked on its own “long march” at this point, recovering slowly from defeat and betrayal to rediscover itself as a movement, drawing on the courage of a few dozen survivors.
But Unita’s survival owed much to its alliance with South Africa, which remained at war with Angola for much of the next 15 years, and to the US.
With the ending of the Cold War and the steady erosion of apartheid, southern Africa became less of a battle-ground and there was an opportunity for peace.
Savimbi and Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos signed a peace agreement in Bicesse in Portugal in May 1991, paving the way for elections 16 months later.
Savimbi returned to the capital, Luanda, for the first time in 15 years and began campaigning for the presidency.
As the news broke of his own and Unita’s election defeat, Savimbi refused to accept the results and flew to Huambo, Angola’s second city.
The UN, backed by Russia, Portugal and the United States, tried to keep the peace, but in vain.
The conflict which followed was infinitely worse than anything which had gone before, with thousands of civilians perishing.
Savimbi was widely blamed for the catastrophe, particularly after he scuppered a six-week round of peace talks in Ivory Coast in 1993.
But while the UN imposed oil and arms embargoes on Unita and President Bill Clinton formally recognised the government in Luanda, Savimbi laughed off international condemnation, establishing his capital in Huambo.
Unita’s military fortunes dipped as the government reorganised, clawing back territory.
Facing military humiliation, Unita signed a UN-brokered peace deal in Lusaka in November 1994. Savimbi was not there in person, his absence showing a distaste for compromise.
Once again, the UN was mandated to keep the peace, this time with 7,000 troops. Unita agreed to demobilise its forces. National reconciliation became the key objective.
The peace process limped on for close to four years, marked by endless delays and recriminations.
But despite the offer of the vice-presidency, along with a new house in Luanda, Savimbi remained in the Central Highlands and Angola drifted back to war.
By the end, Savimbi had lost much of his lustre.
Most of the obituaries have been predictably damning. Some of the harshest criticism has come from those who once knew and admired Savimbi, but have since admitted they were duped by his charisma into overlooking serious character flaws.
A former backer in Washington once conceded ruefully: “Savimbi is probably the most brilliant man I’ve ever met, but he’s also dangerous, even psychotic”.