Friday, August 04, 2017

(Assisted Living) THUNDERDOME!

Over on Michael Roberts' blog, Mr. Roberts, no relation as far as I know to the Lt. (JG) Douglas A. 'Doug' Roberts of the movie Mister Roberts, posted an article on the "tragedy" of Venezuela which article was mildly, modestly, moderately critical of the Maduro government.

Despite the mild nature of the criticism, the fact that it was criticism at all and not blind cheer leading provoked the Trotskyist answer to Rex Reed, Louis Proyect to opine that Mr. Roberts had allied himself "with the anti-Maduro left."

Then tearing himself away from the latest screening of whatever movie comps him, Proyect decided to appear, live (as far as I can tell) and in person (virtually, which is what "in person" means these days) to take up the defense of Maduro.

Said Louie:
Michael, I value your analysis of the capitalist economy very highly but I think that your analysis of the problems of building socialism needs some work especially after I clicked the link in the article above to your one on China. Marx, Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky et al believed that socialism was a world system just as capitalism before it. The notion of building socialism in a single country was an “innovation” of Joseph Stalin that in the long term proved unworkable. The USSR had immense natural resources, a powerful military and buffer states against the West. If Hugo Chavez or Maduro for that matter had taken the sort of steps that Fidel Castro took in 1960, the country would have suffered the same fate as Nicaragua in 1990. The USA tolerated Venezuela to some extent because it understood that “21st Century Socialism” was basically an attempt to create something not that different from Costa Rica in the 40s to the 70s until neoliberalism sank in. Although this article was answering another critic of Chavismo, some of what I wrote applies here...

Always in the Hollywood state of mind, Louie included a link to his vitally important article in the vitally important Counterpunch, defending the bona fides of the vitally important Chavismo, Bolivarianismo, whatever-is-currentismo, (and always in the anti-Hollywood state of mind, I won't include that link).

To which comment, I replied:
So says the unapologetic endorser and fan-boy of Syriza. The shorter version of Mr. Proyect’s homily for Chavez-ism is derived, not from Marx, but from Thatcher: “There is no alternative.”
And then he said:

When Marx was writing his great works capitalism was not a world system of any kind, not even close.

“Will it be possible for this revolution to take place in one country alone?”
Engels answered:
No. By creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the peoples of the Earth, and especially the civilized peoples, into such close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens to the others. 
Further, it has co-ordinated the social development of the civilized countries to such an extent that, in all of them, bourgeoisie and proletariat have become the decisive classes, and the struggle between them the great struggle of the day. It follows that the communist revolution will not merely be a national phenomenon but must take place simultaneously in all civilized countries – that is to say, at least in England, America, France, and Germany.
Never missing a trick, Louie included a link to an article in his own blog about the difficulties of advancing a revolution in Greece ( always willing, eager to block that trick, I have eliminated that link).

Then I said:
Well, yeah, it was a “world-system’ by the time Capital, The Civil War in France were written. The Civil War in the US, the reaction against Reconstruction proved that. The impact of the Suez Canal, the Meiji period, the cultivation of cotton in India, and Egypt; the “concessions” “won” from the Ottoman Empire, pretty much make it painfully clear to the most casual observer how “worldly” capital already was– a “worldliness” that increase during the long deflation 1873-1895– which saw the movement of US capital into Mexico (railroads, hemp plantations); a period of tremendous displacement and migration of rural populations throughout the world do to rising agricultural productivity in the US, Argentina, Australia, etc. 
Of course a revolutionary wave does not take place in one country alone, but it gets manifested in individual countries with individual particularities. In any case, the revolution very well can begin in one country, but cannot be sustained, without expansion into other countries. Kind of the most obvious meaning of the Russian Revolution, no? 
But to use that as an excuse for arguing “there can’t be a revolution” or “that this is all we can expect” for supporting an Allende, a Lula, or Correa, or Tsipras (all that “how will Greece survive without the Euro?” blubbering) or Maduro– for endorsing programs and policies that lead to….exactly what they have led to over the last 40 years has to be the nastiest trick of the pseudo-Marxists.
And then Proyect wrote:
(t)he impossibility of ‘socialism in one country’ as an explanation of failure is a metaphysical abdication of genuine historical analysis, a phrase that explains away every socialist historical movement by explaining nothing, and allows its propagator to bathe in the righteous glow of a superior self-satisfied ‘I told you so!’

Oh, sure. Building socialism in Greece, Venezuela, Vietnam and Nicaragua was eezy-peezy. But instead of applying a correct revolutionary program based on the proletariat, all these pseudo-leftist leaders decided that they preferred capitalism when push came to shove. Instead of such sell-outs, we need courageous, determined, principled revolutionaries of the sort that post comments on blogs such as this. 
The joke is that there is a direct proportional relationship between Internet windbags and their actual record of activism. It is a Walter Mitty complex that reveals a sputtering, phrase-mongering crowd that operates on a strictly idealist basis. The problem with a Daniel Ortega or a Hugo Chavez is that they lacked a correct “program”, not that the relationship of class forces constrained the possibilities of what could be done. 
What was the last “successful” proletarian revolution? Cuba, obviously. What was the relationship of class forces? There was a Soviet Union that was willing to arm Cuba, defend it even if poorly, and that was willing to buy sugar at above world market prices. And what was the program of the July 26th Movement? It was more Marti than Marx, after all.
And then I wrote:

(LP) “Oh, sure. Building socialism in Greece, Venezuela, Vietnam and Nicaragua was eezy-peezy. ”
(SA)Nobody said that. Period. What was, and is, being said was that cheerleading support for Tsipras, Ortega, Chavez was counter to “building socialism;” and would lead to the collapse of the SOCIAL MOVEMENT that could form the basis for a revolutionary transformation of Greece, Nicaragua, Venezuela… as support for the KMT, the Popular Front, the Unidad Popular led to the crushing of the possibility for social revolution in China, Spain, Chile… ad nauseum.
(LP) "But instead of applying a correct revolutionary program based on the proletariat, all these pseudo-leftist leaders decided that they preferred capitalism when push came to shove. Instead of such sell-outs, we need courageous, determined, principled revolutionaries of the sort that post comments on blogs such as this.”
(SA) Nobody said that here. YOU, othoh, did say something very close to that on other platforms, like your marxmail list and/or your blog– when you argued that the role of Marxists vis a vis Syriza was to “keep them honest” and if Syriza did not keep its “promises,” ally with the left wing of Syriza to replace the unprincipled capitulators with the authentic revolutionaries in Syriza’s left wing. 
(LP)“The joke is that there is a direct proportional relationship between Internet windbags and their actual record of activism. ”
(SA) Says the ultimate internet windbag.
(LP) "The problem with a Daniel Ortega or a Hugo Chavez is that they lacked a correct “program”, not that the relationship of class forces constrained the possibilities of what could be done.”
(SA)Again, nobody said that. Except you. Others, not quite so prone to windbaggery and misdirection, began the criticism of Ortega or Chavez with the recognition that the relation of class forces constrained the possibilities of what THEY– Chavez, Ortega, the “Bolivarians” the FMLN– COULD DO, and that the Bolivarian movement and/or the FMLN was and would remain fundamentally incapable of changing that relationship of class forces, BECAUSE of their collaboration, accommodation, of sections of the bourgeoisie, and to the bourgeois relations of production.
Interesting to see that our internet windbag no longer considers the defeat of the US in Vietnam to be a successful proletarian revolution..
And then he said:
...Here’s the point, Sartesian. You are a 70+ year old man who has spent the past 15 years at least spouting revolutionary rhetoric but have not done a single thing that qualifies as activism. You are basically an Internet troll. 
You are fond of denouncing me as a pseudo-leftist traitor. Okay, I am a pseudo-leftist traitor but at least I have acted on my beliefs. What actions have you taken? What risks? You are an armchair revolutionary just like every other Internet troll. Talk is cheap, as they say.
And then I said:
I’m not going to waste everybody’s time with responding on this platform to Louis’ evasion of content, and his attempt to turn this into a pissing match.
Anyone who wants the details can contact me privately at my email address, or via The Wolf Report, and I’ll be happy to provide them.
Proyect and I have a deep, noble, and entertaining, so I’ve been told, history of mutual dislike, and that’s putting it mildly.
Well, having promised, or at least hinted at,  something I like to deliver, so here's the response I spared those reading Mr. Roberts' blog.

First of all, Proyect is projecting, or proyecting.  I'm not yet 70, much less 70+.  He is.  I look forward to becoming 70+, as I look forward to becoming 80+, 90+, 100+, and 100 ++.   But not yet and not that it matters, other than the matter of simple accuracy.

As for "activisim;" I don't know that anybody's really interested in Louie's record of activism that begins I think with his hiring on as a "peace pig" for the SWP-YSA.  In that capacity, Louie risked life and limb (a regular starker our alte kaker once was),  bravely defending the right of US senators and other government officials,  to speak at anti-Vietnam war rallies on the platforms provided by the SWP's front alliances (various "Mobilization"s ).

Louie manned up against the more rude, more militant,(and more astute), anti-war participants and activists who objected and wanted to put an end to the strategic hypocrisy of allowing representatives of the institutions responsible for the war protect, and reinforce those institutions of war by announcing their individual "opposition" to policy, as if the issue were one of policy and not of institutions, of class, of modes of production.

And I don't know that anyone is interested in Louie's charitable missions to Nicaragua with the Technica project, determined to deliver modern information technology to the Sandinistas, so Ortega could put it to good use... doing what?

Proyect's getting in touch with his inner Bernstein here-- you know where "movement," or activism is everything; where everything is a "quantity"-- without quality; with zero content; or rather with the content of securing the continued dominance of the institutions that continue to dominate-- exactly as he did in peace pig days. You know, "capitalism with a human face," because that's all that is possible.

The careful reader will note that nowhere does Louie engage with any of the substantive issues raised, nor with the accuracy of the criticism lodged against activist Louie.

Did he support Syriza? He sure did.  Did he say that if Syriza didn't deliver, it would be necessary to appeal to the "left wing" of Syriza to break with the government, and replace Tsipras?  He sure did-----UNTIL of course Syriza didn't deliver.  Then he didn't call for a break, period.  He defended the Tsipras government with the nonsense about how hard it would be to exit the Euro, how difficult it would be to cancel the debt, how tough it is ACTIVELY anti-capitalist.  Then it was "Give me the armchair.  And the internet.  And the Syriza government."

Proyect takes risks?  Along with his inner Bernstein, Louie is getting in touch with his inner bond trader.  Right, he takes risks.  Sure thing.  And just like the bond trader, he takes those risks with other people's money, or other people's struggles against capitalism.    The problem not for Proyect, but that Proyect inflicts on others, with his "activism"  has been, is now, and will probably always be activisim in defense of capitalism, all be it, capitalism with human face. Like Dorian Gray's human face.

Since we're concerned about records, let's set the record straight.  I have never denounced Proyect as a "pseudo leftist traitor." He should use his mighty internet powers and resources and let me know if he can find any reference I have ever made to him as a "pseudo leftist traitor."

Nope, on the contrary.  I think Proyect is  authentic, REAL.  I think Proyect is a REAL LEFTIST. I think Proyect is a REAL LEFTIST....  LOYALIST;  loyal to Chavez, Maduro, Correa, Syriza, Podemos, Allende, popular fronts of all types, and loyal to the ideology that says There Is No Alternative, repeating that mantra as a justification for repeating the defense of movements designed to preempt, obstruct, prevent social revolution.

S. Artesian
August 4, 2017


  1. I once made the mistake of signing up for Marxmail. I noticed after about a week that it could only irritate and not inform. I understand your reaching a certain limit, and allowing yourself to engage with The Louis, but maybe you could add some comments to Michael Roberts piece, as unlike The Louis, I have found Mr Roberts astute and informative.

  2. In general, I find Roberts' blog very informative. As for Venezuela, I had written about its history on this site some years ago. As for Chavez, you have to keep in mind, his "program" was not qualitatively different from the one pursued by so many of that country's leaders before him-- "sowing the petroleum"-- using revenues from oil in attempt to "seed" the "economy"-- Chavez proposed a bit more social seeding, but fundamentally, his approach was within the Venezuelan capitalist tradition. Doesn't mean the bourgeoisie weren't mad as hell about the redistribution of wealth, etc. Does mean Chavez's program had about as much chance of being "successful"-- of building a real social movement, as the programs of those before him were likely to actually alter the economy.