“Reason” cherry-picks statistics to attack USSR

The libertarian magazine “Reason” tends to be very selective about information when reporting on communism and past socialist states due to the magazine’s right-wing bias. Here’s an example. A particularly rabid anti-communist writer named Marian Tupy published an article attacking the Soviet Union titled, “100 Years After the Russian Revolution, Russians Are Still Paying“. What should be an extensive analysis is only four paragraphs long and is followed by several charts comparing the Soviet Union to Portugal in the 20th century, with the readers expected to draw their own conclusions.

The article begins by recalling Lenin’s return to Russia in April 1917 with a sum of German money, and mentions that the German government willingly provided Lenin the money and the means to return to Russia to overthrow the Tsarist government. This certainly did happen, therefore this paragraph is the only one out of four in the article which is fully factual and not propaganda. It goes downhill quickly.

The second paragraph summarizes how the civil war began in Russia in 1917 and then notes the establishment of the party-state and the Gulag system. We are almost halfway through this very short article and we have seen only a summary of the beginning of the revolution and of the Soviet state, with no argument as to how Russians are “paying” for the revolution or how they “suffered” from communism. The loaded question in the article’s subtitle also assumes that Russia would be in a better, more developed position today without the USSR, but there is no argument yet for this either. The second paragraph ends with “horrors” of the Soviet Union, which are not mentioned. Does the author refer to free healthcare as horrendous? Or full employment and housing? Or is it expected that the party-state and the Gulag network be considered horrors on their own? The opposition parties like the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, the Cadets and the Mensheviks were reactionary groupings which supported the imperialist intervention into Russia in 1918 by over a dozen countries, which is not mentioned by the article. Because the opposition parties were reactionary and trying to destroy the revolution, they were banned and the Communist Party became the sole state party. The Gulag system was an institution of labor reform in order to rehabilitate prisoners through public works programs, and the maximum sentence was 10 years. Statistics show that, each year that it existed, tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands were released and the incarceration rate at its highest point was lower than the present incarceration rate of the United States. When provided the context, these cannot be considered “horrors”, though perhaps they were for the imperialist countries and the wreckers at their service.

The third paragraph in essence simply states that there was violence under the leadership of Lenin and Stalin. This was certainly the case. Violence was indeed inherent. But was it not inherent in the Tsarist semi-feudal regime that they overthrew? How many millions died in the Russian Empire, not including the World War I deaths? How many millions did the White Army and the invading imperialist armies kill? Bolshevik violence was in response to violence from these forces. Executions, camps and hostage-taking were all utilized by those fighting the Bolsheviks, therefore it is ignorant and one-sided to blame the Bolsheviks for violence.

In the last paragraph, the author considers the Soviet period to be “depressing”, simply because the Soviets had means to defend their government from internal and external enemies. The author completely ignores the fact that this country massively increased its life expectancy to the point of catching up to that of the U.S., achieved universal literacy, communalized housing for millions, became an industrial superpower, defeated the Nazis, and led the Space Race against the U.S. by launching the first satellite (Sputnik I in 1957), the first man into space (Yuri Gagarin), the first woman into space (Valentina Tereshkova), the first dog into orbit (Laika in 1957), the first dogs in space to return safely (Belka and Strelka in 1960) and other such achievements. For the author, none of these achievements matter because they are not convenient.

Finally, the author shows several graphs comparing the Soviet Union to Portugal, the latter being a country deemed by the author to be comparable due to having a similar per capita income to that of Russia in 1917, even though Portugal had a global empire that it brutally exploited until the 1970s while the Soviet Union held no colonies and colonial populations. The author makes no attempt to compare to any other countries, especially any in the colonial world, or account for imperialist intervention against the USSR economically, politically and militarily. This is a very grotesque form of cherry-picking. The author’s other articles show similar examples of selective use of information such as in the article comparing Cuba to Chile, not accounting for the vicious sanctions of the U.S. on Cuba which exist to this day, seemingly praising the regime of Augusto Pinochet (which committed mass torture, detainment and rape while being backed by the U.S. after overthrowing Salvador Allende’s government by coup), and arguing that Cuba’s infant mortality reduction was “underwhelming” even though the graph shows infant mortality in Cuba dropping to nearly zero by 2015 and cannot decrease any further since negative infant mortality would be impossible. Chile is a cherry-picked example because it is one that suits the author’s point and there are no comparisons to any capitalist governments in Africa or Asia. The rest of Latin America is shown together in the graphs, performing below Cuba in life expectancy and infant mortality, which goes against the author’s point. The author probably finds it inconvenient to mention Cuba’s achievements in drastically reducing HIV transmissions, providing healthcare and education to many countries in the Global South and the fact that Cuba has slightly higher life expectancy than the United States.

Arguments entail large amounts of cherry-picking and this is true especially for politics. Nothing should be taken at face value and everything should be researched and verified individually by readers, with the fullest context and information possible. That also goes for this post and the “Reason” article which this post responds to. Prepackaged arguments regarding human nature and social relations should not be accepted on their own. The imperialist world – Europe, North America, Oceania – has interest in promoting these arguments. They fall apart upon careful examination.

What “Marxist-Leninists” fail to understand: the pitfall of ‘AES’ politics

Among the various types of reaction and revisionism that exist in the First World today are the “Marxist-Leninists”, also informally called “tankies” by other revisionist elements. While anarchists, trotskyists, “Maoists”, “democratic socialists” and others support U.S. intervention in the Third World, either directly or indirectly, the “Marxist-Leninists” are most often uncritically flag-waving and labeling “socialist” any movement that calls itself as such. The latter group is preferable to the former in that it recognizes imperialism as the primary contradiction and seeks to oppose it, but being better than imperialism is not good enough. Class struggle does not end with anti-imperialism.

Most “Marxist-Leninists” today argue that Cuba and the DPRK are socialist countries. Some go further and argue that China, Vietnam, Laos, and other governments which are ruled by parties calling themselves “Marxist-Leninist” are also socialist states. Some will argue that these are “socialism-oriented market economies”. The arguments are most often based on AES – “actually-existing socialism”. This is a set of arguments from the Warsaw Pact countries in the 1960s as justifications for their state-capitalist policies, that the policies were only what the countries in question could actually do given their level of development. This argument would be taken up by the Asian communist/natlib movements one by one as their justification for capitulation to capital. China today has slogans such as “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”, “the Chinese Dream”, “the Two Hundreds”. The common theme among all of these is that China will achieve communism by developing its way to become a First World country. Through the most vicious capital accumulation practices, China will reach communism. Does this not sound problematic? Who is benefiting from economic development in China? Are the millions of sweatshop laborers, migrant workers and peasants the winners here? With the growing economy there is also growing inequality, which is so severe that it has become a trope among neo-liberal economists. This is similarly the case in Vietnam and in Laos, China’s neighbors to the south who also claim to be “socialist” but are in fact capitalist economies. To claim that these countries are “socialist” today is to ignore their policies based in class struggle and independent development back in their revolutionary periods in the 20th century, and how these countries have regressed since then. If the “Marxist-Leninists” who uphold the Chinese government of today as “socialist” don’t believe that the “American Dream” is genuine for Americans, why would it be that the “Chinese Dream” is genuine for the Chinese people? There isn’t much of a dream in 12+ hour workdays, pay cuts, corrupt unions, racism, unaffordable healthcare and education, commercialization and capital investments in Africa and Latin America. There are similar stories for Vietnam and Laos, two countries that Obama visited happily in the last year of his presidency.

With the corruption and inequality in China, Vietnam and Laos apparent, many “Marxist-Leninists” desperately cling to Cuba and the DPRK as the last strongholds of socialism. A personality cult around Fidel Castro is propped up, and Juche is considered a “revolutionary” and “Marxist” ideology, even though it is more so based in reactionary nationalism. What is the “socialism” of these countries? The “Marxist-Leninists” list various social-democratic reforms such as free healthcare, free education, etc. and the numerous accomplishments of Cuba in becoming a “doctor state”. No one denies that Cuba has made tremendous progress in its masses’ health through these accomplishments, but this is not socialism on its own. There can be no actual argument made for Cuban socialism, especially in light of the growing private sector and capital investments by imperialist countries. In fact, Cuba never was socialist. While Fidel Castro was a charming figurehead with anti-colonial fame from Cuba’s involvement in African and Latin American natlib struggles, he was not a communist. In fact, he explicitly said he was not a communist until Cuba started receiving Soviet aid. Only then did he opportunistically begin calling himself a “Marxist-Leninist”. So is Kim Jong-un a communist? No. None of the figureheads from the Kim family until now were or are communists. The Juche ideology is nationalist. The policies of Pyongyang are rooted solely in national defense and not proletarian internationalism. It’s a state-capitalist country moving ever closer towards a market system.

There are no socialist states today. There have not been any since the 1970s. What remains of the 20th century communist movements today is being wiped out completely. Yes, this is in part due to wrecking and outside intervention, but also due to obsolete theory. Marxism-Leninism and Maoism both ultimately failed in the 20th century, due primarily to the structural problems and errors that they failed to address, and to attempt to apply the exact same failed theories to the completely different material conditions today is unscientific and simply religious. The failures should be acknowledged and sought to be addressed, they should not be repeated. “Marxist-Leninists” like to quote Michael Parenti and William Blum when pressed on the defeat of socialism in the Soviet Union, who overemphasize the wreckerism and the foreign intervention efforts that socialist countries faced, but while these threats existed they were only one part of the story. The internal contradictions with regards to agriculture, industry, class struggle, collective leadership, etc. are hardly mentioned. The Soviets were simply perfect or near-perfect on all of these. Then why did their country move to social-imperialism and then disintegrate? Because wreckers and spies. This is great-man nonsense.

“Marxist-Leninists” believe they are “scientific” in comparison to anarchists and trotskyists, yet they are just as shortsighted in their understanding of class struggle. This problem could be rectified, if they made efforts to move beyond the dogmatism. Their occasional lip service to “understanding the errors and avoiding them” is meaningless in the face of their usual activity. Those who cannot move beyond the slogans and flag-waving cannot be considered scientists.

Remembering V. I. Lenin, a great revolutionary

“…to tell the workers in the handful of rich countries where life is easier, thanks to imperialist pillage, that they must be afraid of “too great” impoverishment, is counter-revolutionary. It is the reverse that they should be told. The labour aristocracy that is afraid of sacrifices, afraid of “too great” impoverishment during the revolutionary struggle, cannot belong to the Party. Otherwise the dictatorship is impossible, especially in the Western European countries.”

-The Second Congress of the Communist International, Verbatum Report

Today is the 147th birthday of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the outstanding visionary who led Russia’s October Revolution in 1917, waging a great battle against imperialists, fascists, feudalists, social-democrats and other reactionaries in forming the world’s very first socialist state, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Lenin came from the well-off Ulyanov family in Simbirsk, on the Volga River. He became involved in Marxist theory and activism from his years at Kazan University in the 1880s. He agitated against the reformist liberal tendencies in Russia at the time and promoted the necessity of revolution. He distributed literature and agitated, and was arrested by the police state of the Russian Empire on numerous occasions. The crackdown by Russian police forced Lenin to leave the country, and he stayed in Finland, Switzerland, France, the United Kingdom and Germany. During World War I, the German government enabled Lenin and his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, to travel to Russia by train, hoping that Lenin’s agitation in Russia would be a distraction to the Russian government as it fought Germany. The Tsarist government was toppled in February 1917 by a moderate political revolution which saw Alexander Kerensky become the leader of the new Russian state. Kerensky’s failure to bring Russia out of the war led to Lenin writing the April Theses which condemned the Kerensky regime and agitate towards the soviet councils established by the Bolsheviks taking state power. This happened ultimately on November 7th of that year (October 25th on the Old Style calendar, hence why it’s the October – and not November – Revolution), when the antagonisms boiled over and the Bolsheviks attacked the Provisional Government.

The sudden capture of state power was followed by the Tsarist reactionaries and the anti-communists organizing into the White Army, an armed coalition supported by the Allied powers. The U.S. and other Allied countries invaded Russia in support of the White Army, and the Central Powers also took advantage of the chaotic situation and began advancing into the country. From 1917 to 1923, the Bolsheviks under Lenin’s leadership made peace with the Central Powers, forced the Allied powers to withdraw, defeated the Whites and gave independence to numerous states like Finland, Estonia, Latvia and others and managed to establish a new federation of Soviet republics which was the first sustained proletarian dictatorship in the world. Lenin died in 1924, soon after the end of the civil war, due to a number of health problems. Joseph Stalin succeeded him soon after as the leader of the nascent Soviet state.

As a theorist, Lenin found answers to many of the questions relating to the formation of a proletarian dictatorship. In What Is To Be Done?, Lenin outlined the necessity of a vanguard organization, led by the most class-conscious and advanced sections of the working class, to agitate and guide the workers. In The State and Revolution, Lenin argued that an organized class dictatorship of the proletariat was necessary in defeating capitalism, and how this dictatorship would “wither” over time as society transitioned towards collective leadership and the contradictions which gave rise to state apparatuses were reconciled. Lenin also argued the necessity of strategic work like engaging in bourgeois-parliamentary elections and working with reactionary trade unions in “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder, as well as explaining the national question in The Right of Nations to Self-Determination. By far one of his most important works, especially in relations to the problems today, is Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, where he explained how imperialist powers like Britain and Germany drained the Global South for immense profits and how the workers in the imperialist countries benefited directly from the exploitation of the colonies. Lenin considered this to be parasitism and quoted Engels who referred to the reactionary and parasitic workers in the imperialist countries as a “bourgeois proletariat”. Lenin saw how the native workers of the imperialist countries were being provided high-paying administrative jobs while immigrants to those countries had to work the low-paying and more dangerous jobs.

Lenin’s policies in the civil war from 1917 to 1923 demonstrated Lenin’s strategic insight, such as the War Communism policy during the war, which instituted strict state ownership and control of agricultural produce, industry, production and trade, turning the country into a massive military camp determined to defeat the Whites and their imperialist allies. As the War Communism period exhausted much of the population, however, the policy was ended near the end of the war in 1921 and replaced with the New Economic Policy, which enabled some degree of private ownership under strict regulation and implemented the “tax in kind” for the peasants, which meant that they would pay a small part of their produce as tax but keep large portions of their produce, contrary to the War Communism period when agricultural produce was subject to large-scale confiscation under a fixed price. The NEP, which Lenin considered an “antechamber” or a gateway to socialism, gave breathing space to workers and peasants and enabled reconstruction of the country after the war, and was part of a more gradual process of social transformation.

Lenin’s contributions to Marxist theory led to the Marxist-Leninist wave of revolutions in Europe from the 1920s to the 1950s and his insights on imperialism also paved the way to the revolutions in Asia and Africa during the Cold War. As a theorist, as a revolutionary, and as a leader, Lenin was a giant and his creative and visionary approach should be embodied by all progressive forces in the world today.

The Black Book of Imperialism – Millions in Somalia threatened by famine

More than 14 million people in East Africa, six million of whom are in Somalia, are in need of emergency assistance as the region they’re in faces a severe famine due to the death of most of the livestock amid an ongoing drought. Because of the drought, the water supplies are also very low, and millions of people are suffering from both hunger and thirst.

This situation is superficially the result of the climate patterns, which are becoming more and more aggravated due to climate change, causing very heavy damage in vulnerable parts of the Global South. The most recent La Niña season, which ended around two months ago and lasted over the winter of 2016-17, saw a lack of much needed rain in East Africa, resulting in countless animals dropping dead from thirst and their owners having to move to shelters and camps. It was during the La Niña season in 2011 that a quarter million Somali, Kenyan and Ethiopian people died in a terrible famine, an event that was also attributable to the lies of “humanitarian” organizations like Oxfam and the efforts of the U.S. government to block the entrance of food aid into the region in an effort to starve out al-Shabaab.  The switch from La Niña to El Niño has not improved the situation yet, as the number of malnourished children is rising.

While climate patterns are the direct cause of the current disaster, Somalia being in its present position, one of extreme vulnerability to such famines, is the result of maldevelopment of the country through exploitation by Soviet social-imperialism and U.S. imperialism. The country has been thrown into numerous civil wars and is currently divided among various forces. The U.S. has conducted many drone strikes and bombings, and forces from the USAFRICOM as well as the U.S.-trained AMISOM missions have presence in the country. This has resulted in Somalia being widely considered a “failed state” and one of the poorest countries in the world. In circumstances such as these, any ecological or weather-related problems, even moderate ones, are bound to seriously affect the local population, such as the Bhola cyclone which killed hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh in 1970, or Hurricane Katrina which drowned much of New Orleans in 2005 and killed thousands.

It is possible that the current situation will evolve into a disaster of that scale. The United States enforcing sanctions against the country and planning to cut economic aid by one-third are also important to consider. Embargoes imposed by the United States against countries of the Global South are a deadly weapon that brings as much harm as bombardments, since they hinder trade and prevent these countries from being able to obtain the food and supplies they need. Sanctions on the DPRK and Cuba in particular have caused much suffering in those countries.

The death of one police officer in France should not distract anyone from the precarious situation in Somalia. Famines caused by imperialist superexploitation should always be remembered when judging imperialism as well as the much-decried famines in socialist countries. If the Black Book of Imperialism were a book, it would have many thousands of pages with new pages being added every day.

Political economy of the Khmer Rouge: Khieu Samphan’s doctoral thesis

Dr. Khieu Samphan is one of the most well-known leaders of the former Communist Party of Kampuchea, known informally as the Khmer Rouge. After the Communist Party took state power in Cambodia in 1975 in the victorious conclusion of the Vietnam War for the national liberation forces, Samphan became the President of Democratic Kampuchea while Pol Pot was the Party Secretary and Prime Minister. In 2014, Samphan was sentenced to life in prison by the comprador Cambodian state.

In 1959, Samphan received his doctoral degree in France with a dissertation analyzing the unequal economic relationship between his home country and imperial powers like France. Samphan argued that the economy and productive capabilities of Cambodia had been maldeveloped by imperialism and how the country would need to develop independently before entering the global economy in its own right. The original dissertation was divided into two parts, with the second part being more moderate in calling for reforms within the existing government to benefit poor Cambodians more. As the plight of the masses worsened over time however, Samphan decided that mere reforms and moderate changes were simply not feasible and that a complete social transformation was necessary. When the Khmer Rouge took state power in 1975, Samphan’s thesis became a sort of roadmap for the new government as it sought the complete independence of the Khmer people.

In his thesis, Samphan begins by laying out the situation of the country in the 1950s, a small nation with the vast majority of the working population involved in agriculture using wooden tools and vulnerable to preventable diseases and the elements. Most families worked on their own lands, whether growing rice or garden farming in the Mekong river valley, although the families growing rice were largely indebted subsistence farmers which put them in a more backward position than the garden farmers along the river who could sell their produce in markets. Samphan considers the farmers along the river to have been more advanced as a form of “rural bourgeoisie” which is closer to capitalism than semi-feudalism. This bourgeoisie, based in the vicinity of the river, represented only about a quarter of the Cambodian farmlands while the other three-quarters were semi-feudal, which meant that the country was mostly semi-feudal. Furthermore, there was a lack of an industrial national bourgeoisie in the largely agricultural and export-based economy. The agriculture of the country as well as what industry that existed was subservient to demands from the rich countries, which determined the type and the amount of crops that would be produced. Industry was oriented towards facilitating the production of agricultural exports. The only agriculture that employed the labor of others was the set of rubber plantations owned by foreign capitalists.

Samphan demonstrates how weak industrial production was in Cambodia by going over the statistics where industry generated only as much value as small craftsmen, who worked on their own as families and did not employ others. These craftsmen comprised around eight percent of the national economy, similar to the industries, which were largely light industries and not very capital-intensive. The steam-run power plants of Cambodia were highly inefficient and produced very little in comparison to the amount of energy they required to operate. So little electricity was being produced that the foreign-owned industries bought and operated their own generators. Most of the electricity produced was for the “public services and a thin layer of the population”, which shows the tiny amount of electrification in the country. Any development and industrialization carried out in the country was by and for the foreign capitalists, who rendered the industries dependent on unprocessed and semi-processed material from other countries. Much of the national services and industries were controlled by the colonial Bank of Indochina, although some were nationalized during that period.

All of this made Cambodia one of the poorest and most backward economies in Asia and in the world. Samphan points out that less than one-tenth of the Khmer people could consume fruit, fish, chocolates, cigars, alcohol, etc. but that these items were nearly half of the country’s imports as they were to the benefit of “”Europeans,” landlords, compradores, high civil servants”, showing the way in which the local allies of imperialism benefited greatly from the maldevelopment of the country. Consumer goods that most of the population could access however, such as candles, incense, condiments and gasoline, were only four percent of the goods imported into Cambodia. Samphan calculates that nearly half of the national product was the “value” of the armed forces and the government.

With all of this, the idea propagated by reactionaries that the Khmer Rouge “dragged” the country into feudalism is shown to be completely baseless, since the country was already in a semi-feudal position before 1975. After Samphan wrote his thesis in 1959, his country was thrown into chaos by the Vietnam War, which saw a U.S./South Vietnamese invasion and carpet bombings by U.S. planes. The bombardment would kill hundreds of thousands of people and devastate the already poor and ruinous countryside, forcing those who survived to flee into the cities. It is not possible to begin criticizing the policies of the Khmer Rouge without taking into account this situation.

In describing the historical background by which Indochina came to its impoverished and semi-feudal position, Samphan explains how French colonial authorities in the 1890s established a free trade policy with the Indochinese colony but required other imperialist countries to pay duties in trading, which gave France a major advantage and restricted other countries. Samphan writes, “The present economic structure of Cambodia issues from this free and unfettered contact between a basically precapitalist Khmer economy and a more advanced, French capitalist economy.” Samphan implicitly promulgates productive forces theory by framing the differences between France and the territories it colonized as a matter of advancement over time, even though the French Empire had existed before the 1890s and had built up its wealth and its relations of production from imperial ventures and exploitation by that point. But at the same time, Samphan underlines that unequal exchange between France and Indochina resulted in the Cambodian economy being underdeveloped. U.S. efforts to establish free trade policies with Cambodia after the country’s nominal independence are also mentioned. Samphan then upholds productive forces theory once again by comparing Cambodia’s feudal economy in the 19th century to the French economy of the Middle Ages, which implies that Cambodia would have needed development over several centuries in order to attain a position similar to which France had in the 19th and 20th centuries. Though the main point remains, “Contact with France did not accelerate the expansion of this national capitalism. Rather. the integration of the transitional economy into an international market dominated by the most advanced countries sidetracked development onto its contemporary semi-colonial and semi-feudal path.” A clear affirmation that Cambodia’s position in the 20th-century as a semi-feudal country was the result of imperialism.

In the following section, Samphan describes how small production in Cambodia was effectively destroyed by the introduction of cheap manufactured goods by the French who were in search of new markets. Samphan connects the collapse of Cambodian production in losing the competition with French goods to the way that French producers were outcompeted by other French producers as France moved towards capitalism. Crafts production nevertheless existed to some degree in the 1950s, as poor Cambodians could buy from local craftsmen instead of foreign goods which were too expensive for them, and other craftsmen moved towards making a living on repairing foreign goods. The rapid growth of population in the Cambodian countryside between 1900 and 1950, compared to the much slower growth/decrease in the imperialist countries in the same time frame, is also discussed to further demonstrate the underdevelopment of Cambodia.

Landlords and wealthy farmers with large plots of land in the colonial period benefited from most of the country being divided into millions of tiny plots while the larger plots were fewer by comparison, which put the owners of the larger plots in a much better position. The minority of farmers with lands larger than five hectares often had the means to employ others’ labor and/or rent their land to others. Those who would rent land or work for others were mostly families with very small amounts of land which did not allow them to live off of their own land. Peasants under the semi-feudal system for a while paid their rent in kind, which became the personal subsistence of the landlords. As imperialism took over Cambodian agriculture, the payments in kind became money payments which were paid through selling produce on the market, which signifies the commercialization of agriculture. The maintenance of soil through modern irrigation and fertilizing was unprofitable for the landlords, which is why soil in most farmlands remained at a low quality. These extreme inequalities and problems in agriculture, which kept the Cambodian economy maldeveloped, would begin to be addressed by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s through collectivization and communalization. Currency and commercial services were abolished almost overnight as the Democratic Kampuchea government sought to move towards farming on a more equitable basis.

Samphan references the work of his colleague Samir Amin who wrote on the concept of unequal exchange between imperialist countries and exploited countries, with the imperialist countries importing unprocessed material from the exploited countries in order to benefit from the cheaper production. This had the effect of maldeveloping the local economy, and the growth of local comprador forces. Poor farmers were forced to become proletarian as they had to work on others’ lands for a wage. Amin’s work concludes that independent self-reliant development was necessary for post-colonial countries like Cambodia, where development would have to be a new unique path based on the local economy instead of the industrialization process which happened in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, etc., forgoing the capitalist model.

This approach is reflected in the programs of past socialist countries, like the Soviet Union in the 1930s as it industrialized and collectivized its agriculture, or China under the New Democracy period in the 1950s when Chinese peasants began to pool their lands as well as in the Great Leap Forward period, which saw more radical attempts at transformation of agriculture through less capital-intensive and decentralized industry in the countryside which the peasants would be able to use to facilitate agricultural production. When the Khmer Rouge seized state power in 1975, they began with an emergency situation where millions had abandoned the countryside and fled into the cities in the wake of the American bombing campaign and to escape persecution by the forces of the Khmer Republic, the military dictatorship which the KR toppled. In order to restart agricultural production, to ensure the feeding of the population and to begin their social transformation program, the Khmer Rouge would quickly clear out Phnom Penh and other cities and move the people to the countryside. In pursuing a program of self-reliance, they used mechanical parts, scraps, enemy vehicles and planes to build many pots, plates, equipment, weapons and other items while trying to minimize foreign aid in order to prevent foreign dependence (although the Khmer Rouge ultimately invited Chinese assistance and trade as efforts at complete autarky proved impossible in their given situation).

Samphan notes how capital investment from imperialist countries did little to develop the country due to the subsequent extraction of profits and increase in capital intensity to make way for more consumer goods. Profits resulting from increased capital intensity were also extracted. The foreign capitalists played down the value of extracted profits and inflated the value of their imports into Cambodia in bank records. Samphan shows how these records are distortions by estimating the total value transfer and demonstrates how the extraction of massive profits hindered the development of the country. The national economy was stunted to the point that there was negligible growth without foreign investments.

In the period of the Second World War, most French public investment in Indochina went towards railways, military posts for the French colonial army, and other infrastructure. While new railways and roads were built in Cambodia, there were not any seaports on the 300 miles of Cambodian coastline but only a port along the Mekong near Phnom Penh. There were also no significant irrigation projects. Much of the public infrastructure was built by forced labor, which meant that the investments paid mostly the comprador forces and the colonial authorities but not the workers. Machinery required for production came from mainland France. Samphan attributes the lack of development of the Cambodian economy to “the fact that these investments were made under terms imposed by economic integration into world trade”, or the use of the infrastructure towards furthering colonial exploitation of the country and not internal development and local commerce. The latter would have meant the development of Cambodia into a capitalist economy of its own but the free trade policies imposed by imperialism resulted in the French economy growing at the expense of Cambodia and the rest of Indochina.

After Cambodia gained official independence from France in 1953, it was receiving aid from the United States, nearly two-thirds of which went to the Cambodian military and the remainder was given as “economic aid”. The military portion had the purpose of backing the comprador government and the army, along with other comprador governments nearby such as Thailand and South Vietnam, as a bulwark against China and North Vietnam. The military aid enabled officers and soldiers of the military to have lavish living standards compared to the rest of the population, which was acknowledged even by Norodom Sihanouk, who was the King of Cambodia until 1955. The economic aid was largely towards maintenance of infrastructure in the country, which was for the purpose of maintaining the exploitation of the country through unequal exchange. By the late 1950s, Cambodian imports of U.S. goods – imported from the U.S. as well as nearby Asian countries with U.S. goods – accounted for nearly half of all imports while close to one-fifth of Cambodia’s exports went to the U.S. Samphan concludes that this is when Cambodia effectively fell under U.S. imperialism, as the Cambodian economy moved towards benefiting U.S. interests in the form of markets and production for the U.S. The U.S. went about the subjugation of Cambodia for its own interests with claims of helping the development of Cambodia’s economy, which is similar to how the U.S. and the rest of the First World today claim to be helping the economies of the Global South to benefit the local populations, as supposed acts of altruism. Just as this pretext was used against the mostly semi-feudal economies of Asia and Africa during the Cold War, this pretext is used today to an even larger extent. Samphan concludes the first part of his thesis by emphasizing the need for a self-reliant and independent economy in order to enable the development of Cambodia and its national bourgeoisie and craftsmen, which would allow the country to progress and no longer be semi-feudal, while to remain as part of the global imperialist economy would have meant that the country would remain in a miserable position and increase social antagonisms, as unequal exchange and the exploitation of the country would continue.

The doctoral dissertation of Samphan, which earned him a doctorate in Europe, outlined in detail the challenges that Cambodia faced as a victim of imperialism and highlighted the importance of independent development in order to end the chronic exploitation which ruined the nation’s economy and to improve the welfare of the masses, but also as part of the transition to communism. This dissertation motivated much of Khmer Rouge’s program in Democratic Kampuchea in the years that it held state power as a country free from the U.S. as well as Soviet social-imperialism. The problems and contradictions discussed in the dissertation exist in similar forms throughout the world to this day, and the masses in Asia, Africa and Latin America will need to take up radical programs based on independent development and withholding capital from the imperialists in order to free themselves from the current order.

A fabricated history: “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism”

“Marxism-Leninism-Maoism” is a trend that is becoming more popular among leftist circles in the First World but dwindling among guerrilla forces in the Third World. Forces upholding the ideology have sharply decreased in size over time in the Philippines, in India (1, 2) and in Peru, where the Shining Path was effectively eradicated and its leader, Abimael Guzman (Chairman Gonzalo), is in a Peruvian prison under life sentence. In Nepal, the Maoists were interned in UN camps by the approval of their own leadership, who sought political office under the present system. Those who uphold the ideology in the First World claim that they are practicing scientific socialism with real-life application. In actuality, they are practicing a religion with blatant use of historical revisionism.

Advocates of the ideology uphold numerous falsehoods depending on what suits their interests, claiming that the Maoist movements in the countries listed above are ever-growing and rapidly expanding, that they are on the verge of capturing state power, that they are the greatest threats to the United States today, and more. Their claims are facetious, contradicting each other at times, and most often blatantly false and completely detached from reality. One of the more significant of the falsehoods is that the Communist Party of Peru was the first group to conceive Maoism as a new and qualitatively higher stage of Marxism. This claim is rooted not in reality but in political expediency. It deliberately ignores historical events and is very easy to debunk. It was the Chinese Communists themselves who upheld what was then considered “Mao Zedong Thought” as a new and higher stage. This was part of Marshal Lin Biao’s groundbreaking political report in the Ninth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in April 1969,

“For half a century now, in leading the great struggle of the people of all the nationalities of China for accomplishing the new-democratic revolution, in leading China’s great struggle for socialist revolution and socialist construction and in the great struggle of the contemporary international communist movement against imperialism, modern revisionism and the reactionaries of various countries, Chairman Mao has integrated the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of revolution, has inherited, defended and developed Marxism-Leninism in the political, military, economic, cultural, philosophical and other spheres, and has brought Marxism-Leninism to a higher and completely new stage.”

This political report was adopted unanimously in the Congress, including the vote of Mao Zedong. The Ninth Congress upheld the theory of continuous revolution under proletarian dictatorship and the idea of the new stage, the stage of the collapse of imperialism, which was added to the Constitution of the Communist Party. This congress, which saw many Red Guard and People’s Army participants, and is considered the peak of the Cultural Revolution, lasted for nearly a month.

The Tenth Congress, which was held in 1973, lasted for only four days in late August by contrast. This congress was held after the winding down of the Cultural Revolution and the death of Lin Biao in a plane crash in 1971. In four days, various changes to party policy were rushed through, notably the deletion of the 1969 amendment to the constitution declaring Mao Zedong Thought as a new stage. This was an attack on the Cultural Revolution and on Lin Biao, who was being denounced as a reactionary and a wrecker after being accused of attempting a coup, which is most likely a fabrication in an effort to smear the late leader.

Even the term “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism” did not originate with the Shining Path or the contemporary “Maoists”. The term was in use with American academics in the 1960s who describe the ideology as such (1, 2), though some, like Arthur A. Cohen, had pointed out at that time that the Chinese were averse to “Mao-ism” on cultural grounds, which is why they instead called it “Mao Zedong’s Thought”. This is ignored in contemporary “Maoist” analysis which argues that the ideology was labeled as a “thought” instead of “-ism” because of the lack of conception of the theory as a stage.

The deletion of the stage idea from the party constitution in 1973 has since enabled “Marxist-Leninist-Maoists” to revise history and to claim that it was the Shining Path, not the Chinese Communists, who first conceived “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism” as a new stage. Like the right-wing of the Chinese Communist Party at the time, this historical revisionism is an effort to attack Lin Biao and his theory but also to promote the current-day “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism” over which the remnants and successors of the defunct Revolutionary Internationalist Movement would be the sole authority.

Such authority has resulted in the theories and statements of these remnants to be considered “Maoism”, the one legitimate “Maoism”. This is effectively a religion with a Church of Maoism in control, issuing decrees which are the laws and restrictions of the religion. The CPI-Maoist and the CPP-NPA are the unofficial leadership of the Church. There is hardly room for debate and discussion and to attempt to understand society scientifically.

History should be acknowledged and understood through research and careful analysis. The revision of history should not be taken at face value. Most importantly, historical theory should not be placed above the current material conditions for the sake of nostalgia or continuity. Just as old theory was not sufficient for the Chinese in the 1960s, old theory is not sufficient for the problems today.

Korean defenses threaten U.S. interests, threats are made against D.P.R.K.

On Friday, the Korean People’s Army of the D.P.R.K. issued a statement through a spokesperson in response to the U.S. attacks on Syria and Afghanistan as well as the war games and military presence of U.S. forces on and near the Korean peninsula. The statement warned that the country would disrupt U.S. policies in Korea “through the toughest counteraction of the army and people of the DPRK”. The statement warned that this would be “merciless” and deadly against the U.S. and its allies as a response to the “encroach[ment] upon the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK”. (KCNA) Today, the United States responded through Vice President Mike Pence with vague threats, talking about the “strength” and “resolve” of the U.S., stating “all options are on the table” and implying through the mention of the attacks on Syria and Afghanistan that the U.S. would engage in conventional weapon attacks on the D.P.R.K. if the Korean nuclear program continued. Pence also announced that the THAAD anti-missile system would remain in operation in southern Korea as a “defensive measure”. The U.S. State Department stated that the U.S. government would continue its efforts to isolate the D.P.R.K. in order to pressure the country into relinquishing its missile defenses.

Chinese efforts to maintain status quo peace in Korea, signified by the Trump-Xi meeting in Florida and other recent discussions with the United States, and the explicit statement from Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a meeting with the French that a war would be “nothing but multiple loss” and “we call upon all the parties, no matter verbally or in action, to stop provoking and threatening each other and not to allow the situation to become irretrievable and out of control”, and the Chinese trade embargo on both governments of Korea, seem to be failing as both the D.P.R.K. and the U.S. are taking firm stands to ensure that the other is defeated or at least humiliated and is forced to relent.

In the event of a war this year, it seems that China would most likely remain out of the conflict in its efforts to maintain relations with both sides and thus maintain a stable economy. This runs contrary to the expectations of many liberals as well as leftists who imagine a firm and unbreakable alliance between China and the D.P.R.K. against the United States, an imagination that is merely a flashback to the Korean War in 1950. This imagination would have been problematic even in 1950, when it is known that the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army and the Korean People’s Army quarreled often over various issues, sometimes to the point of raising guns on each other. In 2017, there is no place for such an imagination in a reality where China has robust diplomatic and economic relations with the United States and its allies and is willing to impose an embargo on the D.P.R.K. to appease them.

This has further strengthened the United States’ position in Korea, and the U.S. government is emboldened to dictate to Pyongyang that it cannot have a nuclear defense system, even though the United States has one of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals and has been the only country to use them on civilian targets. The D.P.R.K., being an independent country and motivated to pursue its national interests, has shown that it will not seek to appease the U.S. in the way that China has, even though it is a much smaller country than China. In doing so, it is practically alone. Its Chinese “ally” is not determined to help in a defensive war. It is for this reason that the D.P.R.K. is rapidly expanding its defense system by building and testing more missiles and nuclear weapons. It is ultimately impossible for an agrarian Third World country of 25 million to match the might of the world’s sole superpower and its allies, but it could develop its defenses to a point that a war would have unbearable costs for the United States even if it wins in the end. This is the present policy of the D.P.R.K. and it has been resolute in pursuing it until now. It is this policy that will ensure over time that the D.P.R.K. does not have a future similar to Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan.

Opportunist “socialist” wants to become France’s next president

The next French presidential election is set to take place next Sunday, with several major candidates who have very different characters from one another aiming to win. Because the leading candidates have similar amounts of support, a runoff election will most likely be required, which will take place on May 7. These big candidates are neo-fascist Marine Le Pen, “moderates” François Fillon, Emmanuel Macron and Benoît Hamon, and “socialist” Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Mélenchon represents the “Unsubmissive France” (La France insoumise) party, a “socialist” grouping with social democratic promises based around the interests of the First World workers, such as 32-hour workweeks, higher wages, green energy, and the repeal of the 2016 El Khomri law which had revoked certain workplace protections. Mélenchon has also called for withdrawal from NATO and reforming the European Union. The social democratic policies proposed will supposedly come from the millionaires and billionaires of France through imposing a 100-percent income tax on them. Considering that the capitalist system remains in place, however, even if these policies were enacted, the capitalists would have the means to circumvent them through capital flight, tax havens, or transferring their losses to Third World workers in the form of longer hours, pay cuts, layoffs or a combination of those. This is why social democracy is the weapon of the exploiters, it enables First World workers to gain through compromises with capital at the expense of the Third World masses. French workers, being in the First World, would have plenty to gain and nothing to lose under social democracy, while revolution would mean risking possessions, living standards and lives for little to no material gain for France, which is simply undesirable. It is easy to see why they cheer for Mélenchon, who currently has around 15 percent support and could come in second or third place in the elections but is very unlikely to be elected.

Although his campaign will most likely lose and offers nothing radically different from any of the other candidates, Mélenchon and his “Unsubmissive France” party have worked very hard to build up a revolutionary leftist image. The name of the party itself, “Unsubmissive France” is meant to invoke an image of oppressed French masses revolting against the capitalists and seizing state power. The party originated February last year and quickly swelled in membership to the point of holding a major rally a few months later in the Battle of Stalingrad Square (Place de la Bataille-de-Stalingrad) in Paris in thousands. Much of this following came from other social democratic groups like the French “Communist” Party (PCF) which has now endorsed Mélenchon’s campaign. In his speeches, Mélenchon often attacks other politicians as “servants of the money-king” or similar phrases. He has often made references to the revolutionary history of France, such as the Paris Commune and the French Revolution. He has claimed to support the current Chinese government, calling out Dalai Lama as a reactionary agent, as well as the revolutionary period of China under Mao. His pro-China statements have bought him recognition as a “Maoist” candidate by the paranoid sensationalist media and by leftists, who have made posters of Mélenchon next to the five heads – Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao. He has also made gestures feigning support for Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. This week, in light of his campaign’s public support increasing, he stated, “They announce that my winning the election would bring nuclear winter, a plague of frogs, Red Army tanks and the landing of the Venezuelans. They are taking you for imbeciles.”

The revolutionary anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist image that Mélenchon has built for himself, coupled with his willingness to engage diplomatically with the BRICS powers and calls for withdrawal from NATO, seem to have excited many into believing that Mélenchon is in fact a progressive and a revolutionary who will destroy the system from within. In doing so, they are in fact being taken for imbeciles, by Mélenchon. A social democrat who seeks to gain reputation by adopting a communist revolutionary image is not a communist, but an opportunist. If Mélenchon had revolutionary aims, he would not be running an electoral campaign and he would certainly not be doing so well as he is now. He may look like a revolutionary, but his plans in essence are in agreement with the present order, perhaps with some superficial reforms that will benefit French workers more. If he were hypothetically elected, considering the fact that he would preside over the existing French state without any changes to the current social relations, his presidency would look mostly like that of Hollande, who also claims to be a “socialist”. We have seen this game with SYRIZA in Greece, with Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and with Bernie Sanders in the United States. The fact that Mélenchon has explicitly stated that he was “inspired” by Bernie Sanders, a social democrat opportunist who campaigned for a welfare state similar to the Scandinavian countries before endorsing Hillary Clinton, should wipe away any false illusions. There is nothing to expect from First World politicians. Only the global masses themselves can bring about radical change.

U.S. becomes more aggressive facing resilient Korea

Yesterday, the residential Ryomyong Street in Pyongyang, D.P.R. Korea was opened with a massive ceremony which was attended by thousands of people – students, residents, soldiers, politicians and others. Kim Jong-un arrived to cut the ribbon which officially opened the street to the public. The street includes many new high-rises and apartment buildings which had been under construction until now, which will not only house thousands of Koreans but stand as a symbol of a modern and formidable city.

The opening was made to coincide with the week of the Day of the Sun, the birthday of Kim Il-sung. It also comes at a time that U.S. intelligence believes the country may soon hold new nuclear tests, the U.S. military carries out exercises in Japan, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping have held discussions regarding Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stated that the D.P.R.K. could use missiles with nerve agents, and the missile capabilities of the D.P.R.K. continue to expand. While the D.P.R.K. currently has the means to strike U.S. forces in South Korea and in Japan with its nuclear arsenal, its missile capabilities, in terms of uranium enrichment, yield and range, are expanding so rapidly that it is expected for Korean missiles to soon be able to reach U.S. territory in Guam, Hawaii, Alaska, U.S. forces in the Philippines and eventually the west coast of the continental U.S. in the next few years. The prospect of the D.P.R.K. gaining the means to strike not only U.S. military presence in other countries but the U.S. itself is now a specter haunting the American people and government alike. This, combined with the fact that the D.P.R.K. is able to continue to develop as a country despite the most strangling sanctions against it by much of the world, as demonstrated by the unveiling of the new residential center in Pyongyang, shows that the U.S. will need to take more aggressive military and political actions against the country of 25 million in order to defeat and subjugate it.

This is in fact what the U.S. has now set out to do. Besides the $54 billion military spending increase proposed by Trump, the U.S. has attacked the Syrian government directly for the first time, killed thousands of civilians in Iraq and Syria with intense airstrikes, more than quadrupled the number of drone attacks in Yemen, and has just today dropped the 10-ton MOAB on Afghanistan. With this devastating rampage in the Middle East, one can anticipate that the Trump administration will also target the D.P.R.K. for such vicious attacks.

Although the Pyongyang government is doing everything within its means to discourage the United States from attacking it, by making a war incredibly costly and Pyrrhic for the U.S. and its allies, it is still possible for a war to break out despite this. If this does happen, progressive forces within the U.S. as with other countries would be obligated to side with the D.P.R.K. in its defensive war and debilitate the imperialist invasion.

Selective outrage: United Airlines and United States

Americans are outraged over the United Airlines mistreatment of David Anh Duy Dao, a Louisville, Kentucky doctor originally from Vietnam. Last Sunday, Dao was violently removed from United Airlines flight 3411 going from Chicago to Louisville by aviation police after he refused to get off the plane which was overbooked. The police pulled him over nearby seats during which his face was smashed into an armrest and then he was dragged out of the plane bleeding. He later ran back into the plane and begged to be allowed to fly to his home in Louisville.

The actions of the United Airlines and the Chicago Aviation Police were quickly condemned by many. Passengers on the plane were horrified and so were millions who saw the footage of the event. As the incident became publicized, people in the U.S., China, Vietnam and other countries reacted strongly and demanded that the airlines and the authorities rectify the mistreatment of Dao. The CEO of United Airlines responded with a very insufficient statement in an effort to appease the public and to recover from the financial hit resulting from the incident, while White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said that it was “troubling” but that the federal government would not be involved in an investigation.

The bloody removal of David Dao from the plane was certainly an atrocious event that deserves condemnation and requires rectification. Nevertheless, this demonstrates a level of selective outrage among the American public.

Dao, as a doctor who lived in the U.S. (albeit having been accused of exploiting his patients and prescribing medication illegally in the past), as a reactionary expatriate who fled Vietnam in 1974 as it was being liberated by the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong, and as a wealthy individual who earned significant sums of money from poker tournaments in the past, is a person who Americans can easily sympathize with. He is, in essence, an American. The sight of a 69-year-old man being violently pulled out of an airplane seat and bloodied in the process upset many Americans as it upset millions throughout the world.

When violence was being waged on a much greater scale in the 1970s against the country that Dao fled from by the United States military, one has to ask where such outrage was. Why were Americans not horrified at the images of the war they saw on their television screens? Why was there a so-called ‘silent majority‘ that backed the United States government as millions of people in Indochina were killed or forced out of their homes because of intense bombardment of their cities and farmlands by the U.S.? We can ask the same question for the more recent wars, such as the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, or the very recent U.S. airstrikes in Syria, which killed dozens of civilians and Syrian soldiers. Why is it that the American public is horrified (rightly so) by the injuring of an old man by the police but not so much by the systematic destruction of countries by the military?

Even after being outraged by this incident, Americans will more than likely continue to support the much larger violence being carried out by the U.S. and its allies in other countries. This is selective outrage resulting from sympathy for those that Americans see as ‘model citizens’ and a lack of such sympathy for those who are deemed ‘backwards’ or ‘undemocratic’.