Fighting the Tsar of All the Russias

  1. I concluded the previous article by saying:

Sending NATO troops to Ukraine would not be particularly helpful. Russia has complete local dominance in its region (land, sea and air) and would defeat NATO in such battles. But if the West wanted to do more than just send arms and other supplies to the Ukrainian resistance it could certainly cause serious military problems for Putin instead of just making speeches. For example Turkey could and should close the Bosphorous to bottle up the Russian fleet (as could and should have been done over Syria). NATO naval forces would be completely dominant everywhere else and could cut off most of Russia’s revenue from trade. It would be up to Russia whether it wished to escalate from a losing position or would prefer to withdraw quickly. A lot of lives could be saved if the West was not so completely gutless…

https://c21stleft.com/2022/02/26/putins-war-on-the-peoples-of-russia-belarus-and-ukraine/

If NATO was as gutless as feared, Turkey would not have done it despite the fact that it really is not optional.

But Turkey HAS done it!!! That makes a BIG difference. It suggests that NATO will fight as well as make speeches.

In time of war, Article 19 of the Montreaux convention clearly prohibits warships of belligerent powers from passing through the straits in Turkish territory except to return to their bases (unless permitted by Turkey on the basis that they are assisting a victim of aggression or fulfilling international obligations). This isn’t optional. Russia is a belligerent. Russia’s Black Sea fleet can only return to Sevastapol (eg from Syria if they were based in Sevastapol rather than Vladivostok or Syria).

Russia’s war on the Syrian people did not make it technically a “belligerent” under that treaty since it was not at war with Syria but allied with the Syrian government iagainst the people, just as the US and Australia were not “belligerents” when the US occupied southern Vietnam and attacked the north in alliance with a puppet “Republic of South Vietnam”.

Turkey could, and should, have exercised its options under Articles 20 and 21 to “consider herself to be threatened with imminent danger of war” and prohibit passages of Russian warships supporting the Syrian regime despite Russia not technically being a “belligerent”.

But there in nothing optional about the prohibition under Article 19. Turkey would be actively complicit with Russia if it pretended Russia was not a belligerent in its current war. Turkey is far from being actively complicit this time, and so is NATO. The Syrian people were betrayed. The Ukrainians may not be.

http://publikationen.ub.uni-frankfurt.de/opus4/frontdoor/deliver/index/docId/50470/file/Dissertation_Yuecel_Kurtulus.pdf

Interestingly Russia’s entire Mediteranean naval presence of 16 ships are currently in Syrian waters headed directly for the Russian base at Tartarus:

Preventing Russia’s Black Sea fleet from leaving and permitting NATO naval forces to enter is unlikely to directly affect the war on Ukraine since NATO is unlikely to actually fight Russian naval forces on their home ground.

But if the West is serious about cutting off Russian trade, it has overwhelming naval superiority everywhere else in the world. A naval blockade would be an act of war but it would be up to Russia whether it wished to escalate from a losing position or accept having its ships searched for prohibited contraband by countries supporting the Ukrainian resistance by sanctions. Without the Black Sea fleet Russia really has no option but to submit to Russian ships being prevented from carrying Russian trade. China might well carry Russian trade by land and sea. But could not get Russian goods through customs in most of the developed world.

Some quick notes follow on other measures recently requested by Ukraine.

2. Requests for munitions are being met. The critical thing will be keeping supplies flowing under Russian occupation.

Ukrainia’s borders with the EU and NATO are nearly 1400km.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_Border_of_Ukraine

An occupation force of 140,000 can be thought of as 1 every 10m (if they did not have anything else to do).

3. A no fly zone has been requested but not yet offered. Over important parts of the border this could be critical for maintaining the flow of supplies as well as for protecting Ukrainian cities etc. It would take some time to establish since the NATO force posture is not prepared for it. A No Fly Zone does actually mean acts of war to shoot down Russian aircraft and missiles. The Stinger missiles already being supplied for use against assault helicopters etc would be operated by Ukrainian defence forces and would not be an act of war by the suppliers. But more effective air defence operated by NATO from NATO territory would be legitimate targets for Russian counter attack and would need to be heavily defended.

I don’t know how long it would take but it should start right now. NATO does at least have a force posture for rapid deployment to the Lithuania-Poland border area known as the Suwalki gap (named after the nearby town of Suwałki), because it represents a tough-to-defend flat narrow piece of land, a gap, that is between Belarus and Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave and that connects the NATO-member Baltic States to Poland and the rest of NATO.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithuania%E2%80%93Poland_border

A no fly zone there would also put pressure on Kaliningrad and Belorussia. It should be extended as rapidly as possible southward to fully cover the border regions close to Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Rumania, then North to Latvia (putting further pressure on Belarus). Later consideration could be given to putting pressure directly on Russia by extending to Estonia and offering to Moldova.

As soon as the air defence deployments can be adequately protected from Russian counter attack they should start shooting down Russian aircraft and missiles. That may not be very soon so lots of munitions should be got across the border as fast as possible to be hidden away for long term use.

4. Removal of Russian veto. That has also been requested despite there being no obvious way it could be done since Russia would veto it.

But it can be done by UN General Assembly deciding to form a replacement United Nations that existing members not currently engaged in wars of aggression prohibited by the UN Charter are invited to join. Why not? The UN needs replacement anyway. Would require agreement on other changes to the Security Council of the replacement organization. That is long overdue and may take more time but the process could be started now and would immediately intensify the isolation of Russia long before it was completed. Even if China refused to join it would be sufficient if India joined together with most countries. The old UN would simply wither away along with the Tsarist regime in Russia.

4. The battle for is for democracy, not just in Ukraine. Victory requires democracy in Belorussia and Russia too:

Ukraine’s guerilla war could topple the Tsar of All the Russias.

Ukrainians will fight

And they have interesting competent leadership from a comedian who could also lead elsewhere

Putin’s War on the peoples of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine

Putin’s declaration of war does not mention Belarus. But it does mention Belgrade, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Putin laments the existential threat to the Russian regime from the West, suggesting that Russia must invade Ukraine to avoid sharing the misfortunes of the fascist regimes in Belgrade, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Putin pretends Russia faces a military threat from NATO, and does not mention the EU. But the real threat from “the West” to Russia’s backward Tsarist autocracy is very clear. The threat is that the slavs would prefer to flourish in the EU rather than the life of slaves to Tsarist autocrats.

It is too late to to drag the Ukrainians back to slavery. But it is not yet to too late to delay Belarus going the same way. A joint operation with Belarus to occupy parts of Ukraine could help postpone the next regime collapse in Russia. Maintaining endless conflict and disruption in Ukraine makes Ukraine’s path away from rule by corrupt oligarchs more difficult and slower. It also provides a basis for much harsher repression to keep the people down in both Russia and Belarus. Putin’s war can make Ukraine a less successful and attractive contrast to Russia’s stagnation and the “Western” enemy can be blamed for that stagnation continuing to get worse.

My guess is that’s what the war is about. If so, I would assume Putin would want to occupy areas with as few Ukrainians engaged in guerilla resistance as possible, while posing a constant threat to the rest. Occupying a narrow coastal strip from the Donbas to Transnistra would block Ukrainian access to the sea. That strip includes Odessa, Ukraine’s third largest city. But that is a less difficult proposition than long term occupation of the whole country. It is also easier to exit from if things go badly.

That’s just a guess. It is consistent with a blitzkrieg aimed at surrounding and then seizing Kiev, perhaps with special forces pretending to represent an internal coup from the Ukrainian army to decapitate the current government. But it does not require a capability to maintain a long term occupation with a puppet regime in Kiev. It could succeed if the West actively blocked Ukraine from getting adequate supplies of weapons and other support. But I don’t think the Western acquiescence over Ukraine is anywhere near the level of the current Western betrayal of Syria or the 1930s Western betrayal of Spain. Ukraine won’t run out of ammunition to keep fighting.

The omission of Belarus from Putin’s speech is curious. With only one ally directly participating, surely it would be worth mentioning?

“In the near future we will do what we and Russia need,” Sputnik Belarus quoted Lukashenko as saying.
He also stressed that, if necessary, Belarusian troops would be involved in Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.
“We will not make excuses about whether we participate or not participate in this conflict. Our troops are not there. But if it is necessary, if it is necessary for Belarus and Russia, they will,” the President of Belarus said.

https://tj.sputniknews.ru/20220224/lukashenko-belarus-operation-1046212644.html (Google translation)

https://tass.com/politics/1410061

The troops directly threatening Kiev crossed the northern border of Ukraine from Belarus at its weakest spot, the radioactive and therefore undefended Chernobyl exclusion zone. But most of them remain positioned in Belarus.

Lukashenko’s boasting that he persuaded Putin to keep Russian troops in Belarus for protection against the West has nothing to do with fears of NATO invasion from Poland, Lithuania or Latvia. It reminds the people already rising up against the local fascists that removing them would require more than breaking the local armed forces.

That reminder is realistic. When it falls the Belarus regime will fall more heavily as despised collaborators. But it will take longer to overthrow them than if they were not backed by a Tsarist garrison.

Putin’s speech is also a direct threat to the Russian people. Claims that they face genocide and nuclear attack from Ukrainian Nazis are not intended to convince anybody. Western media keeps repeating how ludicrous such claims are. But there seems to be some assumption that they would look less ludicrous to Russians. I haven’t seen any discussion of the implications of them looking ludicrous to Russians too.

To me these claims are similar to the sort of claims made by the Assad regime when it unleashed its thugs to suppress the Syrian people with nerve gas, Russian support and Western acquiescence. The point is that if you resist you will be crushed, not argued with. There is some support for invading Ukraine among the more stupid and reactionary sections of the Russian people. But not much, even among Putin’s fellow oligarchs. Putin has not even attempted to mobilize popular support and does not have reserves available to mobilize for a long occupation. If the present level of repression was maintained in Russia an anti-war movement would quickly gain majority support and become a serious threat to the regime. The message is that opposition will be far more ruthlessly crushed than previously. The regime knows it will continue to become less and less popular and is declaring that it will continue to rule by naked fascist force, as in China.

I haven’t studied what’s actually happening in Ukraine (or its neighbours) and am relying on quick impressions gained from reading the Australian (ie US) mass media plus the “other side” as linked above. A more nuanced version of the other side is provided from a Russian foreign policy think tank in an interview:

“How are Putin’s actions going down in Russia itself? What do Russians think about this?

It’s not a full-scale invasion as yet. This is something like the Syrian campaign. And till now we see only air strikes, targeted air strikes – something like surgical strikes in the Indian sense. Till now, Putin does not need the people’s support.

In the result of these strikes, there is no news about Ukrainian and Russian casualties. The limits of this operation will be known only by and by, and the level of the resistance from the Ukrainian forces. When you carry out air strikes, you don’t need any great public support – the US didn’t need public support in their campaign against Iraq, for example. Modi did not need public support, did not take Parliament’s support for surgical strikes. So until the [time the] scale is limited, the problem of public support is not an issue, not a question for Putin.

Where do you see it all heading? Will it stop at these strikes, do you see this escalating?

Because of the US and European sanctions against Russia since last year, they were very soft. The Russian economy did not face any problems because of these actions. If it is full-scale sanctions, problems with Swift, problems over our banks, it will be one thing. If these are softer sanctions, meant to find a resolution to the problem, it’s absolutely different. Now, the Russian economy is quite strong, we have very low national debt, we have our own system, we don’t have any great loans from the western market. What will happen further, I can’t say now.

But I don’t think he wants to incorporate Ukraine in Russia because for us, in fact, it needs a political solution. The Ukrainian issue has to be decided by compromise, not by incorporation.”

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ukraine-russia-crisis-russian-interview-7789421/

My impression is that interview is worth studying carefully as an indication of how the Russian foreign policy establishment views the war. I don’t think it’s just covering up an intention to maintain a long term occupation of Ukraine. Rather it reflects a realistic assessment that there is no support for a long term occupation and wishful thinking that the West will somehow actively rescue Putin by arranging a “compromise”.

My take above is that it is a war on the slav peoples rather than just a war on Ukraine.

I haven’t seen that suggested elsewhere so I am throwing it out there.

I may be quite wrong but it makes more sense to me than the ludicrous fantasies about it being some sort of contest between the West led by the USA (with Joe Biden as “leader of the free world”!) and Russia.

Even Greg Sheriden can see the obvious:

“So far, in response to his aggression against Ukraine, the West has hit Vladimir Putin with a swarm of denunciations and a sanctions response that resembles being beaten with a wet lettuce. This bodes very ill for Ukraine.”

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/commentary/weak-response-to-putin-means-ukraine-has-to-fight/news-story/74bee3be70349ea5aa4487d56f1ca0f2

The West has made it utterly clear that it won’t fight for Ukraine and won’t do much to help Ukraine fight. So Putin’s fight isn’t with the West. Certainly his fight is with the Ukraine, but I am saying it is also, and even more importantly a declaration of war by the Tsar of all the Russias against the peoples of all the Russias.

On February 18 Sheridan noticed that:

“… the number of Russian soldiers on Ukraine’s borders continues to increase and is now somewhere between 130,000 and 150,000.That is enough to invade Ukraine, given the superiority of Russian equipment, aircraft and firepower. It’s probably not enough to occupy a nation of 44 million people indefinitely.”

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/inquirer/putins-ukraine-gamble-raises-the-danger-for-taiwan/news-story/9478ba0342a80630ffc102d5172518eb

But despite that rare flash of insight, Sheridan by 23 February is totally pessimistic and defeatist:

“Here we come upon another intensely strange and paradoxical moral dilemma. The future of Europe may turn on how hard the Ukrainians are willing to fight for their freedom and independence. Yet if Moscow goes for a full-scale invasion, the superiority in quality and quantity of Russian arms must mean eventual defeat for the Ukrainians.

So should they fight or should they just surrender, because the result will be the same in the end anyway?”

Evidently Sheridan has not learned much from having been on the losing side in Vietnam.

Given the superiority of American equipment, aircraft and firepower it wasn’t enough to occupy the small nation of Vietnam indefinitely. That “superiority” just meant the American aggressors did more damage than the French before them. Of course the Vietnamese did not fight when and where the Americans wanted them to. They retreated and hid and fought when it suited them. The American “superiority” did not mean “eventual defeat” for the Vietnamese. Help from the rest of the world was important, especially from the American people and especially from anti-war US soldiers who killed their officers and broke the US army. The key point was that an expeditionary army of half a million was not enough to occupy another nation “indefinitely”.

Sending NATO troops to Ukraine would not be particularly helpful. Russia has complete local dominance in its region (land, sea and air) and would defeat NATO in such battles. But if the West wanted to do more than just send arms and other supplies to the Ukrainian resistance it could certainly cause serious military problems for Putin instead of just making speeches. For example Turkey could and should close the Bosphorous to bottle up the Russian fleet (as could and should have been done over Syria). NATO naval forces would be completely dominant everywhere else and could cut off most of Russia’s revenue from trade. It would be up to Russia whether it wished to escalate from a losing position or would prefer to withdraw quickly. A lot of lives could be saved if the West was not so completely gutless. But the peoples of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine will still win in the end. The long term result will be regime change in Russia again.

Celebrating Darce Cassidy

Notes for my contribution to memorial meeting on May 14, following Darce’s death on 2019-04-29

I’m not a historian and cannot do justice to the story of Darce Cassidy.

But I do know that he played a critically important part as a leader of the sixties rebellion in Australia and it would be well worthwhile for some historian to write up that story.

Most people who knew either Darce Cassidy or Jon Cassidy would know him as a progressive and radical who worked in the mainstream as an ABC journalist, staff organizer and manager and who was able to get on with all kinds of people helping others to organize themselves in a progressive direction that caused problems for the powers that be. He would be known by many for his contributions to Community and Multicultural radio and opposition to internet censorship and surveillance as director of the Electronic Frontiers Foundation. He did all of that and more, and it was central to his life.

But I knew him as a revolutionary as well as a friend, and specifically as a revolutionary communist leader, and I know that was also central to his life and should not be forgotten so I will focus on that. That description may come as a surprise to many who got to know him after the sixties wave had subsided when there was no radical left to help organize and lead. He was able to adapt because he always followed the “mass line” of taking progressive political ideas from the masses, concentrating and developing them and taking them back to the masses.

In the late 1960s Darce played a significant leadership role in the largest and best known radical student and youth organizations in Australia – the Maoist led Monash University Labour Club and Worker Student Alliance. Like other open supporters of the Vietnamese armed struggle against US occupation and advocates of militant protest tactics in Australia he was regularly slandered. Bob Santamaria’s far right wing Newsweekly had a major campaign to oust him from his “subversive” influence at the ABC, claiming that he was a terrorist. More common were the slanders from the “Communist” CPA, the “Labor” ALP “left” and some Trotskyists who portrayed revolutionary rebels like Darce as sectarians.

In response to Santamaria’s campaign, the ABC duly obtained a report on comrade Cassidy from ASIO. This confirmed that actually he was a revolutionary, not a terrorist, and that his employment in charge of book reviews for the ABC was not a matter of immediate concern to ASIO in the current situation and while he was not in charge of news or current affairs. But Darce was no sectarian either and helped ABC news and current affairs staff to rebel in ways that right-wingers are still upset about.

For anyone interested in sources to find out more about Darce’s revolutionary activities, in preparing notes I was helped by two references easily found online by a google search for “Monash Labor Club”. They are listed at the end.

ASIO’s records have been released and would provide a lot more detail.

Darce was not a theoretician, nor a public spokesperson for revolutionary politics. But he was a leader, with a major role in strategy, tactics and organization. His revolutionary work as a journalist and organiser was central to the radicalization of the youth and student movement in the sixties because he taught others how to do radical journalism, how to get organised and how to maneuver against our enemies without getting isolated. He was particularly good at teaching people how to think before writing, so as to produce short punchy items with real impact, through careful attention to catchy headlines and humorous slogans that adapted tactics to strategy.

Darce arrived in Melbourne and enrolled at Monash University shortly before things got moving in 1967. He immediately helped launch our regular news sheet called “Print”. Unlike most of the sixties activists in Australia he had several years experience of radical politics at Sydney University before the movement took off and had edited a weekly newsheet there called “Wednesday Commentary”. He advocated a neutral name to focus attention on the content not proclamation. But he originally proposed the name “Gladys” as he thought “Gladys says” would catch on. Fortunately we were able to persuade him that “I saw it in Print” would also work.

The sixties Vietnam movement in the US grew more directly out of the civil rights movement than in Australia (especially with black conscripts as the most important force). But a lot of the sixties Australian indigenous rights movement was also inspired by the US example. An obvious direct import was the rural NSW Freedom Ride that Darce helped organize in March 1965 following on from solidarity protests in support of the fights against racism in the U.S. and South Africa. The Vietnam movement also had a natural continuity from solidarity with US as well as South African struggles. (My own earliest political activity was as secretary of “Youth Against Apartheid” around the same time.)

It is ironic that we were presented as “anti-American”. As with the Freedom ride, even more so for Vietnam, a lot of the inspiration for the sixties movement came from following the examples set by radical Americans.

We did not have the internet back in the sixties. But we did have typewriters, wax stencils and duplicating machines called “Gestetners”. One of Darce’s slogans was “All power grows out of the barrel of a Gestetner”. Darce was more than anyone responsible for launching an irreverant and uncensorable underground journalism tradition of “the sixties” that Australian university and later high school authorities could not cope with.

Another of Darce’s slogans was “If there is to be a revolution there must be a revolutionary party – Friday night at Jasmine Street”.

Jasmine street was the home of several Monash Labor Club activists including Darce from the summer break1966-7.

The revolutionary parties at Jasmine Street every Friday were pretty wild, some would say they were drunken orgies. But the revolutionary music organized by Darce was not just background noise. Radical songs are always a necessary part of any radical culture and tradition. Jasmine Street was also the off campus HQ where people developed their ideas on HOW to rebel in continuous political discussion. Later a similar role was played by “Shirley Grove” and then “The Bakery” which became the headquarters of a non-student organization, the “Revolutionary Socialists”. Darce was central to organizing all three HQs, fostering an atmosphere in which ideas could develop. Later he proposed disbanding the Rev Socs to form a more explicitly Maoist led youth organization, WSA, the “Worker Student Alliance”, in January 1970.

These irreverant takeoffs from Mao’s slogans “All power grows out of the barrel of a gun” and “If there is to be a revolution, there must be a revolutionary party” were typical of the thoroughly irrevererant and politically incorrect sixties rebellion that Darce helped organize.

As Darce confirmed in an interview half a century later:

“By late 1966 early 1967 I grew to see ALP politics as futile and the Maoist stance offered a clear anti-Parliamentary line. Other than this fact it was the sheer rebelliousness of the Maoist ideas like ‘It is right to rebel’ that became attractive
to a lot us around that time.” (2005-09-03)

Soon after Darce’s arrival we had a major breakthrough in 1967. After some initial toughening up in response to attempts to censor “Print” from the University administration we were able to withstand a real “baptism by fire”. This came when we organized collections of aid for solidarity with the “National Liberation Front” who were fighting and defeating U.S. and Australian invaders in south Vietnam. The concentrated attacks from press, TV, government and University authorities as well as the peace movement “establishment” were a major turning point, not just for the student movement but for the wider anti-war movement. As intended the whole climate shifted left. The “moderates” were now able to distance themselves from us while also moving towards a position that the war could only be ended by defeat of the U.S. rather than by respectably influencing its government to be less aggressive. The left became a major force in the organized anti-war movement with Darce often representing us at private meetings where he helped out maneuver the old guard “peace movement” without them ever quite understanding how they got done over.

Darce’s detailed organizational proposal for moving from a weekly “Print” to a daily were written under the name Len Esdaile in the third issue of the internal bulletin of the Young Communist League, Sunday February 15 1969. Eventually the Monash radical student movement had many weeklies, including those from groups in most Faculties such as “Spanner and Sickle” in Engineering, as well as the daily “Print”. Many high schools also had their own regular newsheets based on the same rebellious and offensive “underground” style. These had to be distributed anonymously as the editors would be expelled from school. Being cheeky, rebellious and highly offensive to all right thinking people was easy. Learning to do it skillfully required lessons from a professional revolutionary journalist – Darce Cassidy, also known as “Tony Brooks”.

Darce’s commitment, like that of other sixties radicals, was not virtue signalling and hence was of interest to ASIO without them pretending that he was a eiither a terrorist or about to launch an armed struggle. Like the rest of us he was totally in favour of offending people to make them think (while rejecting the “being offended” that helps people avoid thinking). He was of course hostile to the censorious “political correctness” that now dominates the pseudo-left that imploded into the vacuum left by the subsiding radical wave half a century ago. It was the radical left, not the right that invented that term “politically incorrect”, and its Australian equivalent “ideologically unsound” to mock the pretensions of the pseudoleft.

Darce was a thorougly mainstream and thoroughly political incorrect revolutionary. That style of politics was fun. Darce will be remembered for it.

REFERENCES

1. Robins, Daniel (2005) Melbourne’s Maoists : the rise of the Monash University Labor Club, 1965-1967. Honours thesis, Victoria University.

http://vuir.vu.edu.au/30211/

2. From http://www.reasoninrevolt.net.au/biogs/E000612b.htm links from page on “Monash Labor Club”

The Prague Spring 1968 – it is right to rebel!

Czech 1968

“Discarding all its fig-leaves, its so-called ‘Marxism-Leninism’, ‘internationalism’, etc., the Soviet revisionist leading clique has brazenly resorted to direct armed aggression and intervention and is trying to create puppets with the help of guns. It is exactly what Hitler did in the past in his aggression against Czechoslovakia and the U.S. imperialism of today is doing in its aggression against Vietnam. The Soviet revisionist clique of renegades has long since degenerated into a gang of social-imperialists and social-fascists”.                                            – Premier Zhou En Lai, August 1968

* * * *

Fifty years ago this month a dramatic people’s uprising in Czechoslovakia took place., in support of democratic reforms. It was made all the more dramatic because of the attempt by the Soviet Union’s ‘Red Army’ to suppress the pro-democracy movement.

Estimates vary but up to 500,000 Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia to thwart the efforts by the Czech Communist Party government, led by Alexander Dubcek, to introduce reforms such as abolition of censorship and multi-party competitive elections.

The uprising by the Czech people was part of the great global disruption that happened in the landmark year, 1968.

Those of us on the left in Australia, who were building a movement in solidarity with the Vietnamese against US and allied aggression, supported the Czech rebellion. In the Czech workers and students, we saw the struggles of peoples everywhere fighting for freedom from imperialist aggression – and we saw ourselves, our own struggle for greater freedom.

Of all the governments around the world, none was as vehement as the Chinese Communist Party in its condemnation of the invasion. The Chinese government was highly critical of Dubcek’s revisionism too, in part because it did not go far enough in urging and organizing people’s struggle against the invaders.

* * * *

At the time, as a 17 year old, I found the invasion confusing, initially. There was appeal in the conspiratorial line spread by pro-Soviet revisionists that it was all a CIA plot to destabilize socialism. Conspiracy theories are alluring in that way: if something happens that you cannot make sense of, the conspiracy theory is always there to make sense of it for you. The problem is that it is usually wrong as it is plucked out of thin air.

Eventually, when I went to university, I met an impressive Marxist-Leninist named Dave Muller who I looked up to enormously. He patiently explained to me how the Soviet Union had abandoned socialism long ago and was now basically state capitalist and social-imperialist. I looked further into this – did some reading and arguing – and was even able to persuade my father that the Soviet Union had ‘gone bad’.

The bottom line for me at that time, as someone not well versed in theory, was that people were rising up – as we were, as the Vietnamese were, as the South Africans were, as the black Americans were – against unjust regimes and seeking something better. Czechoslovakia pushed a few of us already on the left in the Maoist direction. Including me.

Expressing the Chinese party line, Premier Zhou En Lai’s speech, made in August 1968, is worth reading in full. It is worth noting too how today’s pseudo-left takes the opposite view to the one we took back then on the elementary question of international solidarity and support for people’s struggle against unjust and oppressive regimes. The Arab Spring was seen by the pseudo-left as a CIA plot, as the Czech uprising was.

The speech in full:

“A few days ago, the Soviet revisionist leading clique and its followers brazenly dispatched massive armed forces to launch a surprise attack on Czechoslvakia and swiftly occupied it, with the Czechoslovak revisionist leading clique openly calling on the people not to resist, thus perpetrating towering crimes against the Czechoslovak people.

“This is the most barefaced and most typical specimen of fascist power politics played by the Soviet revisionist clique of renegades and scabs against its so-called allies. It marks the total bankruptcy of Soviet modern revisionism.

“The Chinese Government and people strongly condemn the Soviet revisionist leading clique and its followers for their crime of aggression- the armed occupation of Czechoslovakia- and firmly support the Czechoslovak people in their heroic struggle of resistance to Soviet military occupation.

“Over a period of time, modern revisionism with the Soviet revisionist leading clique as its center has been beset with internal contradictions and riddled with crises. The aim of the Soviet revisionist leading clique in brazenly invading and occupying Czechoslovakia is to prevent the Czechoslovak revisionist leading clique from directly hiring itself out to the Western countries headed by U.S. imperialism and to prevent this state of affairs from giving rise to uncontrollable chain reactions. This is an inevitable result of the great-power chauvinism and national egoism practised by the Soviet revisionist clique, and of the Khrushchev revisionism the Soviet revisionist clique of renegades has practised over the years.

“Discarding all its fig-leaves, its so-called ‘Marxism-Leninism’, ‘internationalism’, etc., the Soviet revisionist leading clique has brazenly resorted to direct armed aggression and intervention and is trying to create puppets with the help of guns. It is exactly what Hitler did in the past in his aggression against Czechoslovakia and the U.S. imperialism of today is doing in its aggression against Vietnam. The Soviet revisionist clique of renegades has long since degenerated into a gang of social-imperialists and social-fascists.

“The Soviet revisionist leading clique has all along pursued the counter revolutionary policy of U.S.-Soviet collaboration for world domination. Since the Glassboro talks, not to mention anything earlier, U.S. imperialism and Soviet revisionism have struck a series of dirty deals on such important questions as Vietnam, the Middle East and the prevention of nuclear proliferation. The present Czechoslovak incident is no exception. It is a result of the sharpening contradictions in the scramble for and division of spheres of influence by U.S. imperialism and Soviet revisionism in Eastern Europe; it is, moreover, a result of the U.S.-Soviet collusion in vain attempt to redivide the world. The aggression by Soviet revisionism was carried out with the tacit understanding of U.S. imperialism. Since U.S. imperialism has acquiesced in the invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet revisionism, how is it possible for Soviet revisionism to oppose the forcible occupation of south Vietnam by U.S. imperialism? In fact, Soviet revisionism has long become the No. 1 accomplice of U.S. imperilaim in its aggression against Vietnam and the rest of the world. That a big nation should have so wilfully trampled a small nation underfoot serves as a most profound lesson for those harbouring illusions about U.S. imperialism and Soviet revisionism.

“The armed aggression by Soviet revisionism has brought calamity to the Czechoslovak people, but it has also educated them, enabling them to realize gradually that revisionism is the root cause of this calamity. This is likewise a very good lesson for the people of the Soviet Union, the other East European countries and the rest of the world.”

 

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“Factfulness”

Just finished this book and VERY strongly recommend it.

First do this quiz is at the main site for the book (with lots of other very useful material):
http://forms.gapminder.org/s3/test-2018

Do above first for quick preview without spoilers. Numerous surveys done with this quiz. Consistently show that most people including most “experts” do worse on choosing between 3 plausible answers to basic factual questions about the world than random one out of three guesses of “Chimpanzees”.

Continue reading

Hand on Heart Halloween Citizenship Birtherism

The current absurdities seem to primarily result from the following:

1. The absolute contempt with which Parliament and the people regard each other. It is generally accepted that almost any amendment to the Constitution proposed by Parliament will be rejected by the people. This is described as Australia having a very rigid Constitution, the language of which must therefore be interpreted creatively by the High Court to keep it up to date. In fact we have a Constitution that is very easy to amend. It just requires a simple majority at a referendum, not two-thirds or three-quarters or any other such difficulty. It also requires a simple majority in each of a simple majority of States, which could result in a proposal unpopular in smaller States being defeated despite a popular majority. This is intentional but unimportant as Australia is exceptionally homogenous. If it ever became a real problem it could be overcome by a “creation of peers” as with the British House of Lords, i.e the bigger States could temporarily divide themselves into multiple small States each with a larger population than Tasmania and then carry a change to that entrenched provision. But it has not been a problem. The frozen Constitution results from Parliament not proposing necessary changes, not from any rigidity.

2. Despite having such an easily amended Constitution, the Parliament has never put to the people anything the people would accept concerning Australia’s Constitutional relations with Britain. Instead various Parliaments (national, State and British) carried various “Australia Acts” none of which could amend the Constitution without consent of the people. The High Court has pretended that at some unknown date Britain, New Zealand and other dominions mentioned in the Constitution became “foreign”. The alternative would have established an absurdly anachronistic distinction between Australians of “British” origin and those “wogs” of other origins such as Greek, Italian etc.

3. But the distinctions they made are as nonsensical as those they avoided. Dual and multiple citizenships are a natural development of immigration, multiculturalism and globalism. Any provisions at all concerned with “dual allegiance” are completely anachronistic. But instead of Parliament routinely fixing anachronistic provisions through simple referenda as was done regarding Aboriginals, the High Court has taken it upon itself to usurp the functions of the legislature established by the Constitution for amending it – the referendum of the people. Given a complete absence of interest in politics among the people, the Parliament and Courts can get away with this, treating apathy as acquiescence. As soon as people actually care, such usurpation of popular sovereignty would be unsustainable.

4. Much of the commentary demonstrates even greater ignorance of the law, the High Court decisions, and the history of the democratic revolution in English speaking countries than that of the learned judges themselves, so I may just be adding to that confusion, but I am struck by a couple of points. I have at least read the latest judgments which is unusual.

5. As far as I can make out the Court of Disputed Returns is invalidly constituted. It is a Parliamentary tribunal performing Parliamentary functions until the Parliament otherwise provides. This should be just as much separated from justices of the High Court exercising the judicial power as any executive administrative tribunal, according to very clear precedents. Getting bogged down in this stuff helps illustrate why that separation of the judiciary from executive or legislative administration is important. So it is about time somebody with an interest at stake put them out of their misery by giving the High Court an opportunity to declare itself free from having to deal with this stuff. If anybody actually cared they would sue disqualified members under the Common Informers Act and there would be multiple layers to go through before anything arrived at the High Court.

6. As far as I can make out, the High Court has decided that Britain is a “foreign power” and decided many years ago that its subjects are “aliens” unless Australian citizens. Whether or not that makes any sense at all, it does not settle the issue of whether Australian citizens who are not aliens are or are not “entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power”. On the face of it that question is firmly settled by the 1948 Nationality Acts in both Britain and Australia as agreed on by an imperial conference. These clearly and unambiguously provide that Australian citizens are “British subjects”. If so, then proof of Australian citizenship, is in itself, in the absence of some renunciation of being a British subject, proof of disqualification. As far as I can make out this point has never been considered, let alone settled. It is hard to predict under what obfuscation legislation declaring Australian citizens to be British subjects could be interpreted as enabling them to renounce that status while remaining Australian citizens, let alone somehow ensuring that they have implicitly done so unless they happen to have British parents or whatever.

7. There was no Australian citizenship until 26 January 1949. A large majority of Australians of my generation and older were and are British subjects – subjects of a foreign power. Not just those with parents who were born in Britain but also anyone who is an Australian citizen including those born in Australia as Australians going back to the first fleet (perhaps excluding Aborigines if desperately TRYING to be obstreperous). This is well known. Unless the foreign power, Britain, has deprived these Australians of their British status by some subsequent legislation then they and their descendants have the same entitlement to the rights of a subject of a (British) foreign power as those recently disqualified. This has nothing to do with where their parents were born. If their parents were “British to their bootheels” like Menzies, then they are in the same position as other descendants of such “foreigners”. 

8. So all perhaps except unnaturalized immigrant wogs need to get legal advice about the effect of British legislation on whether they are “foreign”. The history of British nationality law is extremely complex. For example under the Sophia Naturalization Act of 1705 certain people born outside Britain before it was repealed by the 1948 Act are British by birth. These protestant descendants of Princess Sophia, Electress of Hanover are of course disqualified by s.44 of the Australian Constitution (and also in line to become King of Queen of Australia). Prince Frederick of Prussia and Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia are examples. Prince Ernst Augustus of Hanover was found to be a British subject in 1957. His British by birth immediate descendants would be less than 60 years old today. Who knows what descendants of such people might be lurking in the Australian Houses of Parliament? Yet the proposed declarations by Australian politicians concerning their potential disqualifications do not ask for any belief they might have either as to whether they are protestant or whether they could be descended from Princess Sophia. The potential for dual allegiance in this situation is appalling!

7. Since the High Court has gone rogue and has also blocked the appeals to the Privy Council provided by the Constitution, it may be impossible to avoid the absurdity of most Australians being British “foreigners” without action by Her Majesty’s British Ministers and the imperial Privy Council or imperial legislation to resolve the matter. 

8. Of course the history of the democratic revolution in English speaking countries requires that any such change to the Australian Constitution be approved by the consent of the Australian people at a referendum. However that history does NOT require that the referendum by initiated by either colonial parliaments (now States) nor the Federal Parliament (possibly invalidly constituted) and certainly not by High Court judges nominated by persons purporting to be Ministers of the Crown who were not in fact Ministers. It would be entirely consistent with our constitutional history for such a referendum to be initiated by the Crown on the advice of its responsible Ministers. 

9. These responsible Ministers could turn out to be Her Majesty’s British Ministers (especially if none of the people purporting to be her Australian Ministers were qualified as members of Parliament within 3 months of their appointment as required by the Constitution). Illusions about the reserve powers of the Crown are just that, illusions, as the House of Lords discovered when it had to capitulate to the Commons or be flooded with a “creation of peers” by the Crown on the advice of its Ministers. The basic principles were established when Charles Stuart had his head removed from his royal shoulders without his royal assent and have not been challenged since they were re-established by a Dutch protestant army in 1688.

8. No Court will inquire into whether the descendants of Queen Victoria are or are not descendants of Princess Sophia so we are constitutionally safe. No doubt a solution will be found and no doubt it will continue to be easy to mock.

9. So will all the “un-Australian” fussing about nationality and allegiance remain easy to mock. It is clearly as much an American import as Halloween, along with a Prime Minister putting his hand on his heart for a “national anthem” celebrating that “our land is girt by sea”. 

10. It is particularly fascinating that nobody seems to have noticed the DIRECT parallel with the “birther” campaign mounted by first the Clinton camaign and then Trump against Obama demanding proof that he was born in Hawaii rather than Kenya. (As a “Goldwater girl” Hilary will remember the Democrat precedent based on 1964 GOP candidate Barry Goldwater having been born in the Arizona Territory before it became a State of the United States and therefore not being a natural born Citizen).

Kirkuk, Catalonia, Brexit, Scotland and Syria

I haven’t been following international affairs in any depth, but will risk some bloviation.

The title combines numerous disparate issues. I don’t know enough about any of them to shed much light.

But others who know as little or less tend to view them from a nationalist perspective pretending to be the perspective of national liberation struggles in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution.

I view them from an opposite perspective. The reason why communists supported and always will support revolutionary democrats fighting against national oppression was and is that it is the only road towards the union and assimilation of peoples in which the international “shall be the human race”.

The basic principles expressed by Stalin in Marxism and the National Question are now widely accepted by most bourgeois democrats, let alone revolutionary democrats. Even Trotsky paid them the backhanded compliment of pretending that Stalin could not possibly have been the author.

There is still reactionary opposition, but neither oppressor nations nor minority nationalities are as likely to go to war over competing national identities.  “Identity politics” in the developed world is only stirred up by the pseudoleft and far right.

I suspect this is well illustrated by all the recent “national” issues listed in the title.

In Kirkuk, the Kurdish peshmerga has in fact accepted Iraqi government authority over the city as it was obliged to do following the collapse of Daesh in Mosul.

Hot headed denunciations from Barazani’s faction at Rudaw do not reflect reality. The two Kurdish tribal federations that speak different dialectics and administer different territories have not yet formed a basis for a nation state. The referendum was a factional move, not a national one. The Kurdish autonomous region will not be invaded and its authority will not extend to Kirkuk without a full settlement. The minor skirmishing and small scale loss of life that has just taken place reflects both the absurdity of the posturing and the actual restraint of all sides.

For Kurdish nationalism far more important things are happening in Syria with implications for Turkey and Iran as well as Iraq. It is natural that as the end of the regime gets closer (and its victory and permanence are duly announced by “analysts”) that the various opponents are less united and more inclined to fight each other for territory. But in the long run the national and nationality issues throughout the whole region will have to be settled democratically, as outlined by Stalin and as they largely have been in Europe.  The fate of Kurds requires solidarity, not enmity with both Iraqi and Syrian Arabs, as does the fate of democracy throughout the region.

In Catalonia the “nationalist” skirmishing has been even less dramatic with even less loss of life. If both sides had the same grasp of democratic principles as the English and Scots there would be even less drama. But certainly there is no more appetite for war between Catalans and other Spaniards than there is between say Flemings and Walloons in Belgium.

The various European states may separate as Norway did from Sweden or unite as Scotland did with England, or thrash around pathetically as with “Brexit”, but they are already part of a European economic territory and already part of a “Western” culture (with English as a common second language) that makes it largely irrelevant whether they do or don’t. There will be no more national wars in Europe.

What remains criminal is the lack of solidarity from the advanced West to the rest of the world and especially Syria. War was and is required to end war wherever those democratic principles do not prevail.

If the Dutch had taken the same attitude to the English revolution it would have taken a lot longer and been a lot bloodier than the 48 years from 1640 to 1688.

Yassin al-Haj Saleh on Syria and the Global Crisis of Liberal Democracy – via ‘Mufta’

Some good points in this article, from Mufta, as shown in the excerpt below.

Comments please.

 

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“Revolutionary change is an uncertain process with no guarantees. The history of the United States, France, and other democracies speaks to this fact. The desire to control or thwart change often occurs from fear of the unknown, and desire for stability. As banal an explanation as this may be, conservative, anti-revolutionary forces do harbor an obvious fear of change, as it is a risk to “safety.”

“The Syrian revolution has been a unique victim of this fear. The dominant political forces of the world, which are themselves rigidly resistant to social and political progress (often due to the incorrect assumption that they are themselves “perfect”), have attempted to control the revolutionary process in Syria and oppose new avenues for positive change, by engineering a war to maintain the status quo.

“Positive, democratic change in Syria was never guaranteed, but, at the beginning of the uprising (and for at least the first two years of the armed struggle), it had a fighting chance. When the revolution became fragmented and dominated by forces seeking to suppress the very possibility of change, however, any alternative to the status quo (namely, of Bashar Al-Assad’s criminal regime) was virtually abolished. Indeed, the war being waged in Syria is an affirmation of the regressive, “anti-change” zeitgeist of the day…

“For this reason, we must begin to conceive of the demand for change in Syria (and elsewhere) as intricately linked to a global desire to unify the world in a struggle for true democracy. Indeed, this underlying impulse toward democracy is precisely why Syrians were motivated to rise up for social and political change in their country, and it is also why, after the collapse of the peaceful uprising, many sought asylum in other democratic countries (especially in Europe).

“Although the rise of the far-right has been a decisive challenge to democracy, the world is increasingly connected by the need for true internationalism”.

(Interview with the author in The Boston Review).

Syrian Coalition welcomes Trump’s action against Assad regime’s “airbase of death” – as do all democrats and genuine leftists.

The Syrian Coalition calls upon our people and their active forces to close ranks and unite into one political, military, and popular front to confront the new challenges, combat terrorism in all its forms, and make every effort to topple the criminal regime of tyranny and sectarianism and work on the establishment of a democratic, pluralistic state.

syrian revolution

Press Release
Political Committee
Syrian Coalition
April 7, 2017

The Syrian Coalition welcomes the strikes the United States launched on Shaerat airbase from which airplanes took off to carry out the horrific war crime of gassing our people, including women and children, in the town of Khan Sheikoun. The Coalition sees in these strikes the beginning of change where the words of US messages, for the first time, were translated into action to punishment perpetrator of the crime. It also sees in them a turning point in the American position on Syria as the Trump administration, unlike its predecessor, did not allow the murderous regime to continue its crimes of using internationally banned weapons.

The US strikes have sent strong messages to backers of the Assad regime, especially Iran and Russia, to stop playing tricks with the fate and blood of the Syrian people and attempting to gain the upper hand in Syria. They have sent messages that the United States will not allow any more breaches of international law and the disregard for international resolutions as well as the most heinous, terrorist acts against civilians and children.

The Syrian Coalition expresses its support for the action taken by President Trump and his intention to answer the cries of the Syrian people and children. The Coalition also supports President Trump’s calls for the formation of an international coalition of the civilized world to confront and work on deposing this deadly backward regime; contribute to the efforts to reach a just political solution; and continue the fight against forces of terrorism in all its forms, including the Assad regime and its allied sectarian militias.

The Syrian Coalition stresses that the Assad regime bears full responsibility for exposing our country to various types of domination, occupation, mandate, and destruction. The Coalition expresses hope for the continuation of the new US position to lead to the imposition of a no-fly zone; the neutralization of the military bases the Assad regime uses to target civilians; putting an end to the crimes being committed by the Assad regime and its allies; achieving a just political solution that puts an end to the Syrian tragedy and in which the head of the regime and his clique do not have any position or role to play; and help bringing them before the International Criminal Court.

The Syrian Coalition today calls upon our people and their active forces to close ranks and unite into one political, military, and popular front to confront the new challenges, combat terrorism in all its forms, and make every effort to topple the criminal regime of tyranny and sectarianism and work on the establishment of a democratic, pluralistic state.