What We Can Learn From Hal Draper

Many Marxists have been great theorists. Equally many, perhaps more, have been great practical men and women: great organizers, trade unionists, and practical politicians. Unfortunately, what has been most rare are the people whose genius resides in their grasp of the intermediate field, the field of understanding the implications of general theory for a particular case. This field, what one might call applied theory or political interpretation of theory, is perhaps the most difficult of all. For that reason, insofar as it has been done at all it seems to have been the domain of leaders of petty sects and mini-parties. Their obvious lack of success has led many to think that there is nothing to it: either that one cannot make general rules about the application of Marxist theory in a specific case, or that it is a matter of the individual genius of particular politicians, e.g. Lenin. The latter seems hard to reconcile with the principles of historical materialism and tends to lead to cults of authority, something Marx and Engels always despised and which tends to impede the communist movement. The former is more defensible, but while flexible seems to dangerously underutilize the long experience of Marxism as a tradition and movement. After all, ‘best practice’ is important in any learning, and internationalism demands that we look to experiences of other countries in other times to see how we can improve on ourselves. It is also useful if there is a coherence to our approach, not in the last place with the aim of showing how Marxism can actually help a workers’ movement. Moreover, Marx and Engels themselves were highly active in the political organisational matters of their time, and so were many of the great theorists after them, whether Rosa Luxemburg or Lenin or even Huey Newton. For these reasons, it is interesting to study better the materials that exist on the interpretation of Marxism, in particular the ‘Marxism’ of Marx and Engels themselves, to the level of practical politics, the kind that is reported upon in the newspapers and debated in the parliaments. Continue reading “What We Can Learn From Hal Draper”

Rebellion mounts against ‘democratic’ India

Despite all the violent efforts of the Indian armies and the government death squads known as the ‘Salwa Judum’, the Naxalite rebellion in India is far from suppressed. The Indian government recently claimed victory in forcing the Naxalites out of the poor state Andhra Pradesh, but current reports on the ground contradict the idea that the Naxal militias have actually been driven off. What’s more, the Indian state has hardly gained the propaganda war in the state either: a recent poll in the ‘Naxal-affected areas’ of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra indicated that among the group aged 25-50 (basically the young and middle aged workers, the basic constituent group for either side in terms of support) in the lower income categories B and C on the socio-economic scale indicated that 58% felt the Maoist movement had actually done the area good. Another one-third said the movement had the right intentions but used the wrong means to go about it, with just 15% being willing to describe them as bandits (‘goondas’).(1) For a movement repeatedly described by government and major media in India alike as “India’s biggest security threat”, this is a revealing figure. Continue reading “Rebellion mounts against ‘democratic’ India”

More on the Fake Left: The Chimaera of “Dissent” Magazine

In the last article on the fake left, one of the greatest menaces to socialist politics in the West today, I criticized the hypocrisy of the Euston Manifesto clique. Now it is time to turn towards their American equivalent, the so-called Cold War liberals and the supposed ‘radical democrats’ who represent the left foot of imperialism. For several decades they have found their home at Dissent magazine and its sister paper Democratiya, which recently has merged into the former. It is worth taking a brief look at the content and outlook of these bulwarks of false leftism in America, since they are all too common among the intelligentsia in the wake of the massive expansion of militarism in the West since the days of Eisenhower-Kennedy. Moreover, it is precisely the claims to left-wing, even socialist, legitimacy that makes these tendencies of thought so dangerous; it hopelessly muddles the boundaries between genuine socialism of whatever stripe and a liberalism that is dressed up in the language of the social-democracy of old but has more in common with Noske than with Marx. It is not because of sectarianism that we must insist on the importance of differentiating an essentially liberal attitude to politics – even a ‘left liberal’ one – and socialism, but it is because sometimes a similarity of language can mask highly significant differences in the goals either group genuinely seeks and the interests they represent in practice. Continue reading “More on the Fake Left: The Chimaera of “Dissent” Magazine”

The Useless Manifesto: The Folly of the Fake Left

“Beware of conservatives bearing gifts.” This should be the lesson that every leftist and progressive of whatever stripe had learned over the many decades and even centuries of political struggle. When the right attempts to oppose the policies of the left, this is what one would expect, and obstructionist and backward as it may be at times, it at least expresses real interests in a straightforward manner. When on the other hand they start pretending to help the left, whether under the guise of ‘shared values’ or by attempting to draw them into a politics of liberal talking and reactionary doing, things get seriously dangerous. However, most of the 19th as well as the 20th century has had a left wing strong enough to constantly be on the offensive against such attempts, to learn to identify them and to combat them effectively by showing time and again how the liberalism of the right doesn’t really mean what it pretends to mean. Unfortunately, these days the serious left has been diminished so much that they are weak and easily caught unawares, and many of the supporters of the new generation are not rooted enough in history to recognize them. This gives ample opportunity for the worst kind of false flag operations undertaken under the banner of the ‘modern left’ and similar phrases.

No, this is not some conspiratorial rant. Continue reading “The Useless Manifesto: The Folly of the Fake Left”

Arundhati Roy on the Naxalites

The Indian magazine Outlook India has published a long article by Arundhati Roy, a famous writer and activist, on the Naxalite Maoist movement of the poor in certain parts of India. The Naxalites are often portrayed as mere fanatics, throwbacks to earlier historical periods, or ‘security threats’. Of course, one does not expect capitalist governments to see insurrections of the poor and exploited against their rule in any other terms, but what is more galling is the simple lack of attention for and understanding of the real causes of this movement’s existence and successes. All the more important the fact that Roy was willing to break this silence. This despite the fact that she herself had a negative idea of them, based on the general propaganda against Maoism as a purely barbaric form of cultural and social violence – similar to how the Chinese nationalist-religious revolts of Taiping and the Boxers were portrayed in the West in their day, and how they are often still understood. It is for this reason worth giving this article the widest possible readership, and therefore I reproduce it here, despite its considerable length. For more on the Naxalites and their relations to other groups, see http://mccaine.org/2009/06/24/communists-fight-in-india/ . Continue reading “Arundhati Roy on the Naxalites”