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

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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.

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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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World Cup Pussy Riot protest – ‘the heavenly policeman’

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A few hours ago, four members of Pussy Riot ran onto the soccer field during the World Cup final match, to protest against the Putin regime. They have been arrested.

They are very brave and their demands, as expressed on facebook after the protest, deserve support.

Youtube has apparently taken down a video of the protest, put up by Pussy Riot, due to copyright complaints by FIFA. But here is other footage:

 

My only gripe with the Pussy Riot demands is that there is no mention of Russia’s military aggression in Syria, no demand for an end to Russian military adventures.

Still, the other demands deserve the support of every leftist worthy of the label.

Here’s what they put on their facebook page:

Today is 11 years since the death of the great Russian poet, Dmitriy Prigov. Prigov created an image of a policeman, a carrier of the heavenly nationhood, in the russian culture.

The heavenly policeman, according to Prigov, talks on the two-way with the God Himself. The earthly policeman gets ready to disperse rallies. The heavenly policeman gently touches a flower in a field and enjoys Russian football team victories, while the earthly policeman feels indifferent to Oleg Sentsov’s hunger strike. The heavenly policeman rises as an example of the nationhood, the earthly policeman hurts everyone.

The heavenly policeman protects baby’s sleep, the earthly policeman persecutes political prisoners, imprisons people for “reposts” and “likes”.

The heavenly policeman is the organizer of this World Cup’s beautiful carnival, the earthy policeman is afraid of the celebration. The heavenly policeman carefully watches for obeying the game rules, the earthly policeman enters the game not caring about the rules.

The FIFA World Cup has reminded us of the possibilities of the heavenly policeman in the Great Russia of the future, but the earthly policeman, entering the ruleless game breaks our world apart.

When the earthly policeman enters the game, we demand to:

1. Let all political prisoners free.
2. Not imprison for “likes”.
3. Stop Illegal arrests on rallies.
4. Allow political competition in the country.
5. Not fabricate criminal accusations and not keep people in jails for no reason.
6. Turn the earthly policeman into the heavenly policeman.

 

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Guy Fawkes – Reactionary who tried to return England to the tyranny of the Pope

The Gun Powder Plot was not, in any reasonable sense of the word, revolutionary. It was counter revolutionary in the strictest interpretation. The English Reformation was a social revolution that freed Britain from Papal tyranny. Under Queen Elizabeth I, the old Norman aristocracy lost their influence in favor of the new merchant class.
I’m re-running this one for Guy Fawkes’ Day. (Sorry – a day late).

 

I was planning to write a piece about Guy Fawkes for 5th November but in googling some sources came across this excellent piece by Bill Dunlap that says it all from my point of view. Bill ran the piece on his blog, Grumblings from a grumpy old man, in 2008 and has kindly given me permission to republish it. Like Bill, “I cannot for the life of me figure out how Guy Fawkes became a symbol of revolution”.

guy fawkes

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I cannot for the life of me figure out how Guy Fawkes became a symbol of revolution. I see all these anarchist types wandering around with their V masks, and I wonder if they even know who Guy Fawkes really is? It baffles me why a reactionary like Fawkes has been so heartily adopted by the American left. Why did the main character of V for Vendetta wear a V mask rather than a Che mask, or a Lenin mask, or even an Abbie Hoffman mask? Why Guy Fawkes, for the love of heaven?

The Gun Powder Plot was not, in any reasonable sense of the word, revolutionary. It was counter revolutionary in the strictest interpretation. The English Reformation was a social revolution that freed Britain from Papal tyranny. Under Queen Elizabeth I, the old Norman aristocracy lost their influence in favor of the new merchant class. Guy Fawkes himself was the son of an upwardly mobile middle class Protestant family. His father was a minor official in the Church of England, and his mother was the daughter of a dry goods merchant. Fawkes’s conversion to Catholicism may have stemmed from teen rebellion.

Guy Fawkes and his fellow Gunpowder Plotters wanted to destroy the new Church of England and return England to Papal control. How can this possibly be seen as revolutionary? Despite popular belief, Guy Fawkes was not the ringleader. That dubious honor went to a hereditary Catholic by the name of Robert Catesby. The Gunpowder Plot could have been thought up by Sir Edmund Blackadder. The conspirators rented a house next to the Winchester Complex, planning to mine beneath the House of Lords, pack it with gunpowder and blow it up during Parliament’s opening session. That way they could get King James, most of his court and family, and all the influential Protestant nobles. The opening of Parliament was delayed three times on account of the Black Plague, yet the tunnel was still not completed. So they rented the cellar beneath the House of Lords and stocked that with gunpowder instead.

If Robert Catesby was Blackadder, then Guy Fawkes was Baldric. Even though Fawkes knew that the plot had been revealed by a Catholic nobleman who was appalled at the plot, he tried to go through with it anyway. The guards were looking for him. They caught him in the cellar with 32 kegs of gunpowder and with fuses and matches in his pocket. He still tried to lie his way out of it. He was taken to the Tower of London and tortured while his buddies epically failed at getting away.

That was the historic Guy Fawkes. He was not the great defender of freedom as portrayed in V for Vendetta. He was an expendable flunky in a hare-brained plot to stop the wheels of progress and to return England to the “good old days” of Papal domination. The only advantage to that would have been to the Catholic nobles such as Robert Catesby, who wanted their old power and influence back. Fawkes himself became a figure of ridicule amongst the British, as shown by this rhyme.

Remember, remember the fifth of November
It’s Gunpowder Plot, we never forgot
Put your hand in your pocket and pull out your purse
A ha’penny or a penny will do you no harm
Who’s that knocking at the window?
Who’s that knocking at the door?
It’s little Mary Ann with a candle in her hand
And she’s going down the cellar for some coal

Guy Fawkes became identified with the Anarchist movement in the early 20th Century. British Anarchists put up posters with the modern stylized sketch of Fawkes, declaring that Guy Fawkes was the only man to enter Parliament with honest intent. This was, of course, using Guy Fawkes as a figure of ridicule. It was meant as a sort of black joke. Somebody lacking a sense of humor started taking the joke seriously, and the next thing we knew, we had V for Vendetta, and kids wearing Guy Fawkes masks in honor of a man who was trying to put Britain back under Papal control.

The irony is that these kids in their Guy Fawkes masks are pretty well accomplishing what Fawkes set out to do. They want to destroy government control without replacing the structures that have been destroyed. In this they actually share the same goals as their neocon opponents. The result is that money rushes in to fill the vacuum left by the lost structures. The more government is torn down, the more control falls into the hands of those who have the most money. This has been going on for twenty eight years and nobody has yet figured out that our loss of civil liberties is equal to the amount of government regulations that have been eliminated. The American left has not figured out that tearing down the government is a bad idea which will accomplish the opposite of what we want. The bad guy in V for Vendetta said at the people need to realize that the people need the government. This is very true. A dear friend of mine, who is a big V for Vendetta fan, adds that the government needs the people’s consent in order to govern. This is equally true. Government and the people exist in a symbiotic relationship. When that symbiosis fall out of balance, disasters like the present economic melt down occurs.

This leads us to the present cult of the Constitution. America has become as conservative as the conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot. The American left has not yet realized that by trying to return us to the original Constitution, they want to return us to the times when only property owners were citizens and could vote. Women were chattel, and African Americans were bought and sold like cattle. America has grown beyond those times, and trying to return us to them is only going to place Wall St. in charge of our lives. Looking backwards, even to the days of the American Revolution, is as reactionary as the Gunpowder Plot. There is also the truth that it is easier to destroy what we have in a vain attempt to make the clock move backwards, than it is to build. The more we destroy the government, the more of our civil liberties fall into the hands of Wall St. The only logical step is to rebuild the Government into what we want it to be.

This is perfectly Constitutional. The Constitution was never meant to be Holy writ, nor is it a mortal sin to change and revise it. The writers of the Constitution knew fully well that the world changes. They wrote the Constitution in order to deal with the changing conditions of their own time. They knew the world would continue to change, and built structures of change right into the Constitution. Hence the constitution was changed to allow all economic classes to vote. In 1971, Richard M. Nixon signed an amendment that changed the voting age from 21 to 18. Women won the vote in the early 20th Century. African Americans were freed by a Constitutional amendment. We have all the tools we need to change the government back into what we want it to be. All we need now is a plan.

Planning is the difference between revolutionaries like Jefferson and Burr and morons like Catesby and Fawkes. Rather than have some vague idea about returning the country to what Tom Jefferson wanted, we need a clear idea of what we want and need as a nation. There were many movements which had clear and precise goals as to what they wanted the government to be. The Labor movement, the Suffragist movement, and the Civil Rights movement are three clear examples of revolutionary movements that have changed the nation. Despite the best efforts of the neocons and their religious lapdogs, we still enjoy many of the benefits we gained from those movements.

Remember that the Constitution was written to be an instrument of the will of the people and not chains to bind us to a past age. Trying to return the Constitution to the days of the founders is like Guy Fawkes trying to return England to the tyranny of the Pope. It simply cannot be done. Maybe Guy Fawkes is really the appropriate symbol for the 21st Century American left, as they lead us to the future with their asses firmly in front of them.

A penny loaf to feed the Pope
Hip hip hoorah hoorah!
A farthing o’ cheese to choke him.
Hip hip hoorah!
Then we’ll say ol’ Pope is dead.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A fagot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.

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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).

OCCUPY SYRIA NOW!

by Arthur Dent

The missile strike against an Assad regime air base was a “limited” and “proportional” response to chemical weapons. That is the opposite of what U.S. allies should be saying. One might as well stress that it was militarily pointless since the warnings given enabled those planes not grounded for repairs to escape.

The real point was explained by the International Red Cross – there is now an “international armed conflict” between the United States and the Syrian regime. Pretending that will not end in invasion and occupation does not prevent the far right and the pseudo-left jointly mobilizing against it, helped by “opinion leaders”. Pretence only delays understanding why we must fight.

For domestic reasons the U.S. government needs to maintain ambiguity. It was elected on an isolationist “America First” platform in a country where most “opinion leaders” are actively hostile to getting involved in another war and where much of the “mainstream” mass media has recently been devoted to deranged conspiracy theories appealing to the intelligence agencies to do their patriotic duty by undermining the elected government who are supposed to be in collusion with the Kremlin. But U.S. allies should help by clarifying that we are ready to fight.

Typically Australia just echoes whatever the latest U.S. pronouncement happens to be, obediently switching positions whenever the U.S. does. Usually such switches are executed more smoothly than the latest one, in which U.S. policies were reversed over a few hours and Australian policies followed immediately but pathetically maintaining the same ambiguity when the opposite is needed.

The U.S. policies for Syria followed for the last few years have been completely absurd. Inaction has resulted in half the population displaced, nearly half a million killed, millions of refugees throughout the region and a serious threat to European unity. Even distant Australia has been affected by the increased terrorist threat resulting from the callous Western indifference to the slaughter. Cowards have attacked muslims here instead of actually fighting our common enemy.

Things can only get worse the longer intervention is postponed. Safe Zones to protect the displaced civilian population were required long ago and must be implemented soon.

The Srebrenica massacre in the Bosnian war occurred in a “safe area” protected by U.N. armed forces under Security Council resolution 819. About 100,000 were killed in the Bosnian war until a NATO occupation force of 80,000 ended it. Two decades later there are still some troops supporting an international “High Representative” supervising the two competing governments.

The Syrian war has been left to fester for so long that it is much more savage and will require a much larger occupation force for much longer. There is no question of “peace enforcing”. There is no peace to enforce. Making peace requires international forces able to kill people and blow things up until other armed forces surrender and are interned.

Only the U.S. has the logistics capacity to maintain such a force. Other countries will be expected to pay for it as well as contribute to it.

The longer it is delayed the more it will cost, to the world as well as it already has to the Syrian people. Australia should help speed things up, not add to the confusion.

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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.