No 1456 1st November 2014
It is not Russell Brand’s silly mystical anarchism which rankles with petty bourgeois liberals and “lefts” but his insistence on CORRECTLY putting revolution top of the agenda. Equally correct contempt for the fraud of “democracy” also exposes the ranks of Trotskyists and Revisionists alike who continue to foster illusions in winning socialism by supporting “better representatives” and establishing “real democracy” or supporting “leftward progress”. But there is no “democracy” or steady advance this side of the revolutionary taking of power by the working class. Brand’s biggest weakness is turning to the fake-“left” for guidance instead of 150 years of Marxist-Leninist science. But they will be shown up by the unfolding events of the greatest economic and political collapse in history, inexorably developing, and the great debate that must open up- above all on the huge achievements of Soviet communism and the Stalinist philosophical failures which pointlessly liquidated it. Build Leninism
The astonishing vituperation poured onto the head of celebrity comedian Russell Brand over his new Revolution book by assorted “intellectuals”, middle-class “left” commentators and much of the Trotskyist and revisionist “left” further confirms their cravenness, cowardice and capitulation to imperialist pressure.
Through their derision, (or patronising superiority from those cunning enough to recognise his popularity), the entire swamp of petty bourgeois alleged “revolutionaries”, posturers and self-declared “Marxists” prove that they are no such thing.
Brand’s book may be a confused enough mish-mash of mysticism, half-digested socialism, self-help nostrums and single-issues diversions like feminism, environmentalism and gay rights, and that needs saying loud and clear, and challenging by rational Marxism.
But that is not what has drawn the put-downs or outright sneering.
What has provoked knee-jerk hostility, dripping with smug “superiority”, arrogant “knowing” dismissals of his intellectual capabilities, and high-handed airy brush-offs is not the weaknesses and philosophical shortcomings in the book and in his public statements (which are many – as he cheerfully admits himself with due humility), but the strengths.
Central among those is that above all Brand talks about revolution, loud and clear.
That certainly is never heard from the official TUC trade unionist leaders, Labourite “comrades”, or assorted middle-class “left” intellectuals.
It is increasingly obvious that it is the urgent requirement for the world as the capitalist order slides ever deeper into catastrophic failure.
But it has never been at the forefront of any working class “leadership” offered, even by the “left” pseudo-revolutionary groups, in over six decades of post-war “party building”, trade union interventions, conference motions, picketing “advice”, local council control, Labour entryism, election campaigning and the organisation of endless marches, demonstrations, sit-ins, and occupations.
Just the opposite – they have endlessly deferred (i.e. avoided) raising such understanding in front of the working class, declaring it to be “premature” or “likely to put people off”.
These petty bourgeois opportunists, of both Trotskyist and revisionist flavours, are bowled over by the deluge of anti-communism poured out non-stop in all directions by capitalist “culture” and education, and reluctant to take on and challenge the petty bourgeois prejudices imprinted onto ordinary minds, including much of the working class in imperialist countries.
Instead, under the guise of “step-by-step preparation”, they have constantly tried, and continue to try, to drag the working class back behind the illusions of electoralism with a supposed fight for “genuine socialist representation this time” guaranteed by “left pressure” supposedly to ensure it will be “for real socialism”.
“I’m a revolutionary of course” say the likes of Lindsey German from Counterfire, and numerous other Trots and revisionists, if they are challenged openly (though they never volunteer the information in their speeches, march banners or contributions at “solidarity” meetings etc).
“But there is no possibility of revolution yet” they then misinform the working class, to excuse themselves, even as the capitalist system hits a brick wall of economic collapse, and democratic illusions plummet to new depths of rejection and contempt among the masses (who are correctly breaking with its lying corruption), and as the world disintegrates into deliberately provoked murderous imperialist warmongering chaos throughout the Balkans, Middle East, and Eastern Europe, Pakistan and Africa, Latin America and eastern Asia,and demonising provocations and reactionary “democracy” stunts mount everywhere, from Egypt, to Hong Kong to Venezuela.
“We will be there when the time comes” has been another refrain, with a sneery “comrade” tacked on the end.
But the time has come with a stream of world currency and credit collapses culminating in the 2008 global bank failures and with far worse pending (when QE money printing no longer works).
But still they say nothing, nor will they ever.
Revolution is a prospect that terrifies them deep down, for all their posturing and staccato speechifying.
They have never wanted to raise the question and nor did they ever do anything to prepare the ground for it, warning of the inevitable Crash, educating the working class in the realities of oncoming imperialist economic and political collapse and constantly developing revolutionary understanding with open polemical struggle to establish the objective scientific truth about the world and the necessities and disciplines it imposes.
The entire swamp is one of pure opportunism, and a monstrous misleading of the working class, disarming them with social pacifism and ineffectual “protest”, leaving them ruled by what in reality is dictatorship by capital and its ruling class owners.
Even now as the crisis teeters once more on the precipice of ever deeper bank and currency failure and the understanding that capitalism is the problem starts to become widespread and commonplace, “overthrow of the ruling class” remains a side-issue or afterthought for the “left” groups, perhaps mentioned but only tacked on at the end of their tedious and repetitive listings of “bad things” imperialism does, which supposedly will be enough to change things (along with a bit of “regulation” perhaps– as if).
For all their pretences and pretensions, the historic failure and collapse of the entire world capitalism order, now dragging the world into World War Three, is barely mentioned in their papers and leaflets, except in turgid academic debates, and trivial squabbling.
If they are forced occasionally to recognise economic failure it always couched in the same terms used by capitalism, of “another recession can’t be avoided” or “the recovery is threatened/is stalling etc”, i.e. more problems for capitalism but not part of the complete catastrophic failure of 800 years of capitalist rule, enmeshed in intractable historic contradiction.
And such a perspective is certainly never put at the core of all analysis, as part of the necessary explanation and leadership of the need to turn over the capitalist order and build working class rule.
Most of them denounce such a view as “old fashioned” or “cranky Marxism” and “catastrophism”.
Brand’s second key strength is in denouncing “democracy” as a total corrupt fraud, putting these comments right at the top of what he says, and again showing up the fake-”left”, still talking about “pure democracy” or “better” representatives, “extended democracy” or “real democracy”.
Again this has drawn the put-downs, like the sly aside in the revisionist CPGB’s seemingly friendly commentary, declaring:
when he tells people not to vote, they decry his insensitivity to the importance of democracy.
But it is only the petty bourgeois opportunists like the WW who do any such “decrying”, the mass of the working class having long abandoned any faith or enthusiasm in “parliamentary democracy” and more and more either not voting at all or doing so only out of hostility and rejection.
Brand’s declaration is the whole point!
There is no such thing as abstract “democracy”, only class rule, by the capitalists, or by the working class taking over and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat, the rule imposed through revolution by the great majority which continuously educates and draws in more and more of the ordinary masses (which can be called “democracy”) without relinquishing power until the entire society is communist and all need for compulsion (i.e. dictatorship) disappears.
The tricky CPGB then goes on to suggest that the bourgeois press stunt story that he wants to ”run for the mayor of London” should be taken up!
This deliberately hyped-up rumour was a classic establishment plant, with the background implication that if he “keeps his nose clean” he is being given the chance for “advancement within the system”, being bought off in other words as endless Labourites and other reformist “firebrands” have been bought off in the past.
Thereby he would be discredited as “just another self-seeking careerist”.
And who else declared he could take this path? None other than arch reactionary Tory Boris Johnson, the very personification of bourgeois populist opportunism, oozing with false bonhomie as he knowingly holds out the tempting fruit.
There is an argument in fact that Brand should run for mayor - but not, as the tricky CPGBers suggest, because it would give him the chance to “implement left policies” using the allegedly untrammelled power of the mayorship.
This is totally bogus, since it is the capitalists who run London and everything else.
And it anyway ignores the tsunami force of the oncoming crisis which will overwhelm any tinkering reforms anyway.
This “advice” simply drags the working class back behind the idea that “voting can change things”.
To use the mayoral election would require the Marxist grasp spelt out in Lenin’s book Left-wing communism - an infantile disorder, of using the bourgeois electoral platform precisely (and only) to denounce and expose the lies and fraud of “democracy” and to make the revolutionary arguments for communism and proletarian workers state control.
Such dialectical tactics, built on understanding that the bourgeois pretence of democracy (which has to have some semblance of credibility) can be used as a weapon against it, are part of the long scientific Marxist understanding of the world, developed over the last 150 years.
Brand’s rejection of the mayoral “offer” is principled enough but also underlines the point made in the last EPSR that the discoveries and developments of Marxism already achieved, need to be studied and taken up, rather than painfully gone through all over again.
That means of course also taking up the fight to understand and expose the fake-“left” confusions.
But his instincts so far are good on many questions and particularly the capitalist collapse.
For example Brand talks about revolution in a way that none of the “lefts” ever grasp; as the destructive breakdown of an old and rotten society.
He welcomes the chaos.
It is, he says rightly, a collapse and failure of the old and defunct, clearing the ground for a new society and only to be accepted, however painful.
It cannot be “condemned” without betraying the working class and world’s exploited masses, as the “lefts” all “condemn” terrorism and world “jihadist” upheaval, because it is an unstoppable historic expression of the collapse os a class domination that has reached the end of its existence.
Revolution is not a process of “more effective and bigger reforms” he seems to grasp – like a larger version of the Attlee Labourite “post war settlement” so beloved of the “left” reformists.
It is a historic disintegration, brought to a head by the ripening internal contradictions of capitalist production for private profit, and involves the weakening, defeat and breaking up the old order, opening the possibility for the complete revolutionary rebuilding of society.
Defeat and breakdown of the old order opens the space to develop conscious revolutionary understanding to lead the fight for proletarian takeover, ending forever the old private ownership class domination and exploitation.
Brand even comes close to grasping that the upheavals and turmoil of the Middle East are not the product of some new “evil devils” or “reactionary terrorist jihadism” (universally denounced by all the fake-“left” swamp) but an expression of the breakdown of the capitalist order and part of the revolt spreading everywhere against the brutal imperialist domination which has exploited the great majority of the world for 200 years.
What his anarchistic views do not (at least yet) see or explain however is the opposite side of the coin; the need for the working class to build the firmest of struggle around a disciplined philosophical grasp of the objective world, revolutionary Leninism, which understands that the dictatorship of the working class is the only possible way forwards to build socialism.
His statements are also weak in their tangled confusion of semi-religious mysticism, self-help individualism, single issue nonsenses around feminism, environmentalism, and “gay-right” and garbled and confused conspiracy theories – notably swallowing such convoluted and self-contradictory nonsenses as the “CIA did the 9/11 attack”.
But for that blame the fake-”left” itself.
PC single-issue diversions have been the speciality of the fake-“left”, elevating the antagonisms and differences constantly generated by capitalism to “super” reformist principles which at best take the attention away from the fight for revolution and more often are hostile to it, taken up and used by capitalism as part of its divide and rule agenda: feminism, gay rights, black civil rights have all been adopted by even the “topdog” US ruling class and the Tories (and opportunist Labourites), because they do not threaten capitalist rule and increasingly get used for a reactionary role (feeding backward chauvinism around anti-Russian war hatred for example, as at Sochi).
Meanwhile, if there are conspiracies to look out for, then it is the endless promulgation of such idiot theories about the “CIA running everything” and “deliberately organising” a total world upheaval against itself which should be looked at first.
Who pumps out this mind-numbing drivel?
Such defeatist confusion about the rising world rebellion dismisses ever spreading revolt (labelled “terrorism” and “jihadism”) as simply caused by, and carefully controlled by, some all-seeing Machiavellian chessboard manoeuvring of an essentially omniscient capitalism.
It is a contemptuous, racist misreading of the world and the capabilities and drive of the great masses, now exploding in Burkina Faso too – a spontaneous revolt like Egypt’s February 2011 upheaval before, along with a dozen revolts from Mali to Boko Haram in Nigeria, all of which have nothing to do with “CIA manipulation” (though the subsequent Egyptian counter-revolt against Morse clearly was a Western manipulation supported and exaggerated by the capitalist media and sinister figures like Tony Blair).
Non-stop convoluted conspiracy theories, are an ideological weapon in themselves, helping muddy the waters and preventing a development of a sound understanding of the rapidly rising struggle in the world which, whatever the weirdness and sometimes random or self-defeating nature of its actions, sometimes tragically destructive of others on the ground, expresses the growing frustration and anger of the world’s masses against the endless violent oppression and exploitation which has been their lot for the last few hundred years under capitalist imperialist rule.
They partly emerge from and reflect the cravenness or cowardice of the “left” itself, and its retreat from any attempt to find an objective scientific grasp of the world class struggle and perspective of revolution, finding “plausible” excuses to avoid a straightforward assessment of what is happening (a huge rising rebellion) and especially to avoid being painted with the same brush as the “terrorism”, making sure to effectively line up with imperialism (as many of the “lefts” are openly doing in Syria by declaring the ISIS revolt to be the work of “demons” and supporting the imperialist blitzing).
But so many crazy and ill-thought out, self-contradictory theories now swirl around that the suspicion must be that they are sustained and fed by quite sinister deliberate exaggerations of such nonsense by imperialism’s own intelligence agencies.
Confusion and an inability to get a clear perspective of the world’s class war developments on the broadest and longest historical scale, is the greatest weakness of the working class as Lenin famously grasped when he said that “without revolutionary theory there can be no revolution.”
Cutting through the fog is the reason and purpose of building a revolutionary party and leadership, to hammer out an agreed objective scientific understanding that can make conscious the necessities that the developing crisis is imposing on everyone, and sort the wheat from the chaff of confused “explanations”.
Its business is to challenge and confront the weaknesses in understanding of the working class, through patient explanation as much as possible, but never avoiding the crucial arguments.
Only in unity with working class interests but conflict with the false consciousness instilled by bourgeois ideology, can the understanding be won.
If these developments around such figures as Brand herald a new movement that might coalesce into a fully centrist party which, without being Leninist, nevertheless declares itself for revolution, then it might be a movement that Leninism would support in order to agitate for a fully conscious scientific understanding.
A huge debate is needed to battle out the understanding of what is really true about the world and most of all about what the working class has already achieved in the giant steps made by the twentieth century revolutions and the workers states that they built, starting with the enormous and magnificent triumph of the USSR and continued with many more, including still existing and heroic workers states in Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea and China, and many many anti-imperialist struggles post-WW2.
It also needs to sort out the mistakes and errors of its leadership which eventually led to the unnecessary and pointless liquidation of the Soviet Union under Gorbachev, the culmination of decades of accumulating revisionist mistakes and retreats from Stalin onwards.
A movement around Brand or similar voices may well be a forum in which the Leninist view can be argued without the sectarian suppression, blockages and censorship that have been a characteristic of the entire fake-“left” swamp, its endless “alliance” attempts like the latest PC censorship dominated Left Unity (shutting down all argument with feminist and other PC restrictions), and which finally put the lid on the earlier emergence of a potentially anti-capitalist party around Arthur Scargill and his break from Labour.
Tested to the limit by a struggle for Leninism, which helped build this Socialist Labour Party precisely because it was a declared anti-capitalist party and, initially, an open forum for the debate, Scargillism eventually reverted to the bureaucratic methods of the long TUC petty bourgeois class collaborating tradition, suppressing the EPSR’s Leninist influence when it started to make significant headway.
Election of the then Review editor Roy Bull as vice-president in 1998 was the break point when old fashioned procedural manipulations and kangaroo court methods were used shamelessly to expel him (or force the closure of the EPSR), at the instigation of the anti-communist Heron-Sikorski Trotskyists, saturated with hostility to serious communist theory and the polemic which had exposed their defeatism on questions like Ireland, and hatred of the Soviet Union.
The philistine refusal to polemicise and debate, and fear of debate, has multiple roots, not least in Britain in a long tradition of hostility to theory (noted by Engels and Lenin) and “let’s get on with it” practical trade unionism, and a sometimes understandable mistrust of “clever dicks” running tricky circles around workers’ instincts, (which effectively is the history of “left” groups).
But it is mostly the philosophical equivalent of sticking the fingers in the ears and shouting “lalala can’t hear you”, and particularly by the “left” sectarian groups, who do not want to be shaken out of their middle class complacency or exposed as the “left” frauds they are.
It is these swamp “lefts” of all kinds (including the revisionist Lalkar which colluded in this devious underhand suppression), who now contemptuously dismiss or try to head-off Brand.
But without placing any great faith in how far Brand’s own understanding will go, or that of the motley collections of semi-anarchists, former “Occupy” campers and assorted piecemeal struggles against NHS disbandment, homelessness, cuts etc (all pulling workers into struggles like the women squatter movement in East London which he has been visiting), it does seem at present to be reflecting a general search many layers of the working class are making for understanding.
The crisis and the now sickening imposition of near-Victorian Poor Law callousness (cases of suicide despair, desperate, heavily penalised food theft – hung for a sheep – and people starving to death after dole “sanctions” are now emerging daily in “rich” Britain) are forcing a breakaway from the apparent certainties of the past in “steady improvements” and reforms achieved by doing things the “proper democratic legal way”.
Possibly for the first time since the Second World War and the long artificially credit-boosted “boom” created for the rich nations in the West, workers are seriously exploring what has been on offer as “Marxism” or “communism”.
Brand has turned to what he believes are “those who know” to help his political education, which for the moment are the reformist and highly anti-communist “intellectual” offerings of those like Naomi Klein and the fake-“left” posturing of Trotskyism and revisionism, in other words non-stop philosophical wriggling and squirming which has spent its entire existence avoiding having to take a stand against imperialism when it matters, and against its hurricane of demented scapegoating propaganda and demonisations, against the workers states first of all and the firm actions they took at various crucial moments to defend themselves, and now in the “war on terror”.
Least of all do they want to deal with the necessities of the oncoming struggles that the real world which is imposing on the working class, which are that they organise consciously and clearly for the greatest struggle in history, to end and overthrow the imperialist tyranny imposed abroad and increasingly at home.
They do not want to hear about revolution in fact.
That is reflected in every hostile comment made to any fight for Marxist understanding along the lines that “you are just imposing your views on us”.
What they are really objecting to is any idea of class solidarity and discipline and above all the dictatorship of the proletariat, the only possible counter in reality to the class dictatorship of capitalism and the only means by which socialism can come about against the non-stop police state surveillance, censorship, violent state oppression and outright fascism and brutality which is the reality of capitalist rule and which it will impose always to whatever extent it believes necessary to maintain its rule, right up to the death squad massacres, torture and all-out war imposed in country after country, including the most “civilised” such as Germany and France in the 1930s (and considered for Britain).
Its opposite face is deluded notions in the “democratic path” and the constant notions of “regenerating” or “cleaning up” or “establishing genuine” democracy, or the fraudulent notion of “extreme democracy” from the CPGB Weekly Worker etc etc still being pumped into the working class by most of the “left” groups.
It is at best porridge brained idiocy arising from the disastrous misanalysis of the world balance of class forces by Stalin in his 1952 “Economic Problems” book, which posited that capitalism was permanently hamstrung by the Second World War and that as long as its “aggressive tendencies” were countered (by pacifist “peace struggle”), it could be overcome by the growth of the socialist economies and force of example effectively.
At worst it is rampant hostility to the workers states which, post-Sovietism, finds expression in the shallow philistine backwardness that all “dictatorship is bad” without the remotest understanding of class forces involved.
It buys every stunted-up provocation the CIA has got going, as long as there are a few calls for “freedom” and “democracy” on the banners, from the counter-revolutionary movements of the 1980s against the Soviet Union, particularly around the Vatican and CIA $1bn funded Solidarnosc bogus trade union movement (which capitalist restoration is since one of the nastiest fascist governments in Europe) to the shallow bogus pro-imperialist movements set going against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and the Assad government in Syria, either eagerly supported by much of the fake-“left” or gone along with.
Even as the working class rejects the democracy fraud in the Western countries, and a stream of obvious capitalist coups exposes even more the hoodwinking nature of the whole racket, from Thailand to the cold-blooded massacres of the Egyptian coup, to the fascists installed in Ukraine, it is still being used for subversion and counter-revolutionary provocations.
The latest Hong Kong “democracy sit down” stunts by the privileged middle class youth from the rich districts of the “mid-levels”, which have been trying to provoke the Chinese workers state authorities into a firm response which can be painted as ”state violence”, have predictably been swallowed hook line and sinker by the Western Trots.
Their hatred of China stems from petty bourgeois class instinct which know that it remains a workers state, (albeit with an uninspiring revisionist leadership a million miles from Leninism) even while they defeatistly tell the world it “has returned to capitalism.”
Lurid nonsense about “another Tiananmen” has poured out, which is doubly wrong since the pathetic pantomime by these pampered teenagers has nowhere near the momentum that the 1989 Western provoked stunt had, coming at the time of the Gorbachevite liquidation of the Soviet Union and Western triumphalism; and because the so-called Tiananmen “massacre” is a complete Western fabrication anyway, as quickly emerged in the days and weeks afterwards, in assorted Western press accounts and in the total lack of any evidence of a massacre at all (see ILWP Books (EPSR) Volume 16 for a detailed account of this Western fraud).
The pro-US Statue of Liberty demonstrators in Beijing were anti-communist reactionaries or dupes, and so are the latest ones.
But their carefully choreographed sit-ins and shallow slogans are going nowhere, with the majority of the Hong Kong population hostile to their disruption and the demonstrators’ latest stunt falling flat:
The leaders of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests cancelled a vote on what the next step should be in their month-long street occupation, saying they had not consulted the demonstrators properly before calling the referendum.
The two-day vote, which had been due to take place on Sunday and Monday, was supposed to have gauged the protesters’ support for counterproposals to offers made by Hong Kong’s government after talks last week between student protest leaders and the authorities.
The government offered to submit a report to Beijing noting the protesters’ unhappiness with a decision to have an appointed committee screen candidates for the semi-autonomous city’s leader, known as the chief executive.
Protesters are demanding open nominations for chief executive in the inaugural direct election, promised for 2017.
“We admit that we did not have enough discussion with the people before deciding to go ahead with the vote and we apologise to the people,” the protest leaders said in a statement. They also cited “differing opinions regarding the format, motions and effectiveness” of the referendum.
Two student groups – the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism – and the activist group Occupy Central With Peace and Love had called for the referendum on Friday.
The vote would have asked the protesters whether they supported having the government’s report ask Beijing to consider open nominations for 2017 election candidates. The government had also made a vague offer of dialogue with the protesters, and the vote would have gauged support for ensuring it covered reforming Hong Kong’s legislature.
The groups behind the referendum had called for voting to be held only at the main protest site, upsetting demonstrators at two other occupation sites located elsewhere in Hong Kong.
The protesters are facing growing pressure, with the demonstrations, which began on 28 September, stretching into their second month and no sign of concessions from the government.
Although thousands of people remain camped out at the main protest site, demonstrators said last week that they did not see any resolution in sight.
“I think we should think about our plan and think about whether to retreat,” protester Jo Tai said on Sunday.
Notice the supportive Western press tone over this specious “referendum” compared to the bucketsful of sanctimonious condemnation poured on the Ukrainian rebels when they organised their own votes in the summer against the illegal Nazi coup “government” in Kiev.
But even more pay attention to how this Hong Kong stunt and the entire “spontaneous” disruption has been carefully planned for nearly two years with massive Western aid and advice, as revealed in this late night item on the BBC’s Newsnight:
Where might you find a North Korean defector, a self-confessed Serbian troublemaker, a Tiananmen Square protester and members of punk group Pussy Riot in the same room?
While Hong Kong’s students continue their protests and stumbling negotiations with the territory’s authorities, democracy activists from around the world, who have helped organise their struggle, gather together.
The Oslo Freedom Forum is one of the biggest meetings of human rights activists in the world, and this year its rather surreal proceedings have a different tension, as activists trying to take on Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong seek to hold their ground.
Activists are furious at what they see as Beijing’s proposals to fix the election of Hong Kong’s next chief executive.
However, far from being impromptu demonstrations, it is an open secret at this meeting in Norway that plans were hatched for the demonstrations nearly two years ago.
The ideas was to use non-violent action as a “weapon of mass destruction” to challenge the Chinese government.
Organisers prepared a plan to persuade 10,000 people on to the streets, to occupy roads in central Hong Kong, back in January 2013.
They believed that China’s moves to control the Hong Kong election would provide a flashpoint where civil disobedience could be effective, and planned accordingly.
Their strategies were not just to plan the timing and nature of the demonstrations, but also how they would be run.
Protesters in Hong Kong Veterans of previous protests in China have praised the organisation of activists in Hong Kong
BBC Newsnight has been told many of those involved in the demonstrations, perhaps more than 1,000 of them, have been given specific training to help make the campaign as effective as possible.
Jianili Yang, a Chinese academic, was part of the protests in Tiananmen Square 25 years ago.
He has been talking to the Hong Kong students on a daily basis.
He says that the students are better organised than the Tiananmen protesters ever were, with clearer, more effective structures for their action and clearer goals about what they are trying to achieve.
But he adds that responsibility for what happens next is not just down to the protesters themselves, not just down to other democracy activists like those gathered here in Oslo, but to the rest of the world.
Jamila Raqib, the executive director of the Albert Einstein Institution based near Boston, which analyses and distributes studies on non-violent struggle, says: “Protesters were taught how to behave during a protest.
“How to keep ranks, how to speak to police, how to manage their own movement, how to use marshals in their movement, people who are specially trained.
“It was also how to behave when arrested - practical things like the need for food and water, movement can last longer when people are taken care of, and also how to manage a water cannon being used against you, and other types of police violence.”
Srdja Popovic one of the student leaders involved in overthrowing Slobodan Milosevic, says you have to understand the “rules of the non-military battlefield”
He has since trained activists in 40 countries, but he says the techniques of non-violent action that he advocates have led to successful and lasting change in only six or seven countries.
He argues that there is more need than ever for the methods of organisation and leadership to be shared.
He says that after the 20th Century military race, “what we are seeing now is a new world race - now it is ‘can the good guys learn as well as the bad guys?’.”
Mr Popovic says whether in Georgia, Ukraine, Egypt or Hong Kong “you can look at these movements - and see the set of rules”.
“You have to understand the rules of the non-military battlefield.”
His work in Oslo, along with the writings of the American human rights activist, Gene Sharp, is in high demand.
There is something incongruous about the Oslo meeting - seeing Chinese dissidents, American computer hackers, activists from Africa, the Middle East and Russia trade information over champagne and canapés.
Like any conference, a good deal of the work is done after hours, even if it is schmoozing for democracy.
Two members of Russian opposition female punk group Pussy Riot, members of which were put in jail by President Putin, are here too.
They say they want to “make personal contacts” and meet others doing similar human rights work.
What this event shows is that struggles for democracy or human rights in the 21st Century rarely happen in isolation.
Activists, whether those on the streets of Hong Kong right now, or from other parts of the world, are sharing information and insights faster than ever before.
It you want to find the real imperialist conspiracies then this “schmoozing over champagne and canapés” at some mysteriously funded organisation for “democracy”, with full time trainers for the demonstrators, teaching the most subtle techniques to feed the anti-communist Western media machine with just the right images of “state repression”, is right on the nail.
It fits in with the great network of western funded “human rights” and “democracy” NGOs (ie CIA and other intelligence) which has emerged throughout the former workers states (though notably absent in the West’s own stooge countries from Thailand to Pakistan, Nigeria to Kenya).
Its attendees and past speakers read like a roll-call of every counter-revolutionary stunt of the last four decades, including the fascist leader of Poland’s counter-revolution Lech Walesa, pro-Western stooge Czech president Vaclav Havel, the “Ladies in White” (anti-Cuban dissidents), Ai Weiwei (anti-China dissident), and Yang Jianli “a Chinese activist...selected by Berkeley graduate students to travel to Beijing to support the Chinese students in Tiananmen Square” says the Oslo Freedom Forum (!!!!) website, which repeats the West’s lies about a “massacre of hundreds of civilians at the hands of the Chinese army.”
It also lists Aung San Suu Kyi, British-trained middle class “dissident” provocateur against the Myanmar government (who has said nothing about the brutal ethnic cleansing activities of the reactionary Buddhist monks there), anti-Cuban Latin American author Vargas Llosa: Ghazi Gheblawi “a Libyan author, and physician, pushing for democracy, human rights, and freedom of the press in Libya. In 2004, he co-founded the Libya Alyoum (Libya Today) online newspaper and served as cultural editor until 2009.” In other words a counter-revolutionary sleeper who helped organise the brutal monarchist and Western funded and backed, bogus rebellion against anti-imperialist leader Gaddafi a racist and reactionary “uprising” which led to the foul NATO-Nazi blitzkrieg and which has left a once civilised and prosperous country in festering destruction and warlord gangsterism.
Then there is Peter Godwin “a Zimbabwean author and former human rights lawyer who has authored five non-fiction books, including “The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe.” Once again part of the imperialist onslaught on any leaders who dare take a stand against it, such as Mugabe.
Elie Wiesel, leading US Zionist and supporter of the monstrous fascist Jewish occupation of Palestine, is there; Emil Constantinescu “president of Romania from 1996 to 2000, arch anti-communist” and Belisario Betancur former president of Colombia and a part of the reactionary regime that ran one of the most brutal anti-communist wars against the FARC movement using fascist right-wing death squads.
Russian oligarchs and anti-communists have been speakers too, like Mikhail Khodorkovsky “a Russian entrepreneur” (!!)
This list of fascists, poisonous hate spreaders and “dissident darlings” of the Western media and reactionary politicians goes on and on, covering “protest” and sabotage subversion against virtually every demonised “rogue state” or communist regime on the planet.
But perhaps the most telling for exposing the ranks of the opportunist fakery of the “left” groups of all shades must be a parade of reactionary Venezuelans, all part of the wealthy ruling class in the country which has already attempted one coup (against the perfectly legally elected president Hugo Chávez, now dead) and the non-stop violent destabilisation “demonstrations” going on against his successor Nicolás Maduro, also legally and popularly elected for what it is worth.
It includes Leopoldo López “a Venezuelan opposition leader and democracy activist”; “student leader” Diego Scharifker, and Marcel Granier “media entrepreneur, president and CEO of Empresas 1BC who was general director of Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV),” This is a right wing propaganda outlet that constantly campaigned against Chávez and Maduro with a stream of the foulest lies and reactionary slanders that would have put Fox News to shame.
How do the “lefts” square their support for this carefully promoted “democracy” nonsense with the reality of endless deliberate destabilisation and whipping up of a hate atmosphere designed to foment chaos and potentially a coup.
Virtually the entire ranks of the fake-“left” poseurs have postured mightily around Maduro as in this recent letter:
We express our condolences and solidarity to Venezuela following the murder of Robert Serra (27), the national assembly’s youngest parliamentarian, who was found dead in his home on October 1 (theguardian.com, 8 October).
Government officials have stated it was tied to a terrorist plot from extreme elements of the rightwing opposition, with the secretary general of the Union of South American Nations, former Colombian president Ernesto Samper, saying: “The assassination of the young legislator Robert Serra in Venezuela is a worrying sign of the infiltration of Colombian paramilitarism.”
Worryingly, Serra’s murder joins the list of other assassinations of government figures and the situation resembles the prelude to the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile, when sections of the Chilean opposition did not distance themselves from violent actions, including the assassination of a general.
We condemn this murder and other examples of extreme, anti-democratic violence aimed at destabilising Venezuela’s elected government.
Ken Livingstone President, Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, Colin Burgon Labour Friends of Venezuela, Tariq Ali, Diane Abbott MP, Baroness Janet Royall Leader of the opposition in the House of Lords, Tony Burke Assistant general secretary, Unite the Union, Mike Wood MP, Elaine Smith MSP, Lord Nic Rea, George Galloway MP, Neil Findlay MSP, Katy Clark MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Mike Hedges, Welsh AM, Jenny Rathbone Welsh AM, John McDonnell MP, Michael Connarty MP, Kate Hudson General Secretary, CND, Lindsey German Convenor, Stop the War Coalition, Salma Yaqoob, Andy De La Tour, Victoria Brittain, Billy Hayes, General secretary, CWU, Mick Whelan General secretary, Aslef, Doug Nicholls General secretary, General Federation of Trade Unions, Ronnie Draper General Secretary, BFAWU, Roger McKenzie Assistant general secretary, Unison, Professor Peter Hallward Kingston University, Dr Francisco Dominguez, Head, Centre for Latin American Studies, Middlesex University
If it so clear to this clutch of “left” establishment worthies that the subversion underway in Venezuela is so “like Chile” and the brutal 1973 coup organised there by General Augustus Pinochet in cahoots with the CIA, then why is not the critical lesson for the working class being spelt out? – that capitalism will never accept “democratically elected socialism” or any elected government that comes close to supporting the working class.
To promote such “democracy” lies is to lead the working class up the garden path and straight onto the guns, just as Allende did with his revisionist inspired misleadership of the working class and refusal to spell out the critical need for the working class to take and hold power.
Only totally overturning the ruling class, dispossessing it and firmly holding down its inevitable counter-revolution by proletarian dictatorship can take the working class forwards.
This mealy mouthed protest by these opportunist is exactly the same kind of treachery to the working class in Venezuela, as Allende’s (not least in its lack of criticism of him) in Chile where staggeringly, Pinochet’s grandson has just launched a new reactionary party, and throughout the world with the entire “left” refusing to spell out the crucial lessons.
Ten thousand were killed in Chile and hundreds of thousands in the subsequent US inspired repression throughout Latin America. Millions have been killed worldwide by imperialist repression and tens of millions are facing devastation as the capitalist crisis hovers on the edge of even greater implosions than in the global collapse six years ago, still unravelling.
It is not just the signatories on this letter who bamboozle and mislead the working class with their “democracy” nonsense.
So does everyone of the fake “left” including all those who posture mightily about their supposed Stalinist credentials, which far from giving them a “hard line”, is at the root of the opportunism and retreat from revolutionary understanding needed everywhere.
They all gushed forth long eulogies and plaudits for Chávez when he died last year, without a word of warning that the “democratic path” in Venezuela was nothing but reformism and as vulnerable to overturn as Allende’s proved to be.
By all means Chávez and Maduro’s move to help the working class, and anti-Yankee defiance, can be welcomed but their philistine refusal to develop Leninism in the end will leave them as culpable as Allende for the slaughter which imperialism is preparing as soon as it can manage it.
Developing the grasp of the crucial need for the dictatorship of the working class, by building a revolutionary party, and educating the working class in Marxist-Leninist understanding is urgent; the “left” hostility to even raising the issue, with the Venezuelans or in Britain, criminal opportunism.
Tragically the Moscow revisionist brain numbing that has saturated the world since Stalin, has its effect in Havana too, which while heroically maintaining the staunchest of workers state authority against capitalist subversion and its endless stunts, still says nothing to the Venezuelans (or anyone else theoretically about this), instead lauding the eclectic confusions of Chávez (who even flirted with Trotskyism at one point) and now Maduro as “great leadership”, both saturated in illusions about the “democratic path”.
But the one correct point in the letter above is that Western imperialism is constantly plotting and organising for counter-revolution.
Only all-out Leninist revolutionary understanding is the counter against it.
Venezuela has benefitted from the overwhelming crisis engulfing capitalism and the enormous rising rebellion throughout the Third World, which has seen its “shock and awe” plans (to intimidate the entire world into continuing to accept its exploitation despite total bankruptcy) stuck down in ever deeper quagmires of financial black holes and body bag demoralisation.
Its Middle East blitzing was eventually forced to withdraw from Iraq and now Afghanistan too, where the British pulled out last week, having achieved precisely nothing, in either stopping “world terrorism”, or in building a “restructured nation of peaceful democratic prosperity etc etc” – Afghanistan has one of the most corrupt regimes in the world, the economy only moves because of hundreds of millions of dollars poured in to “aid agencies” and the military, and the Taliban is already re-occupying the districts vacated by the Western troops.
Worldwide the insurgency grows ever more attractive to the dispossessed and oppressed of the world, and recruits thousands more daily (as all rational commentators predicted from the very beginning of the insane “war on terror”.)
And in Eastern Europe, the working class is expressing its wish to return to the time of the workers states, among many being oppressed and slaughtered by the Western backed fascists in Kiev, in the remnants of Yugoslavia and in Hungary and Romania too.
The crisis meanwhile is forcing the issues out, not least in the streams of revelations about past imperialist atrocities, torture, police infiltrations, non-stop surveillance, incompetence, corruption, degeneracy and sleaze.
But the conscious understanding that can lead the vital struggle to overturn capitalism for good must be rebuilt.
Brand’s outspokenness is at least a sign the discussion is well underway.
Build the struggle for Leninism.
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