Roots of the crisis over Kashmir: Colonial rule, class and national oppression

First published June 20, 2002.

By Fred Goldstein.

U.S. and British imperialism are working overtime to utilize the present crisis between India and Pakistan to their own advantage. Meanwhile, the reactionary regimes in Islamabad andNew Delhi are vying with one another to gain the favor of the Bush administration in their struggle against one another in general and in the struggle over Kashmir in particular.

It is possible to engage in extended analysis and speculation about the immediate cause of the crisis. There is of course a decade of reactionary, anti-Muslim, Hindu revivalism led by India’s ruling Bahratiya Janata Party since 1990 — including the destruction of the Babri Masjid Mosque in1992.

There is also the ascendancy of reactionary Islamic fundamentalist forces that had been nurtured and supported by the CIA and Saudi Arabia. Pakistan was the staging ground for an $8-billion counter-revolutionary war against the progressive socialist Afghan government and the Soviet Union. These forces, many now opponents of the U.S., have inserted themselves into the struggle against the repressive Indian regime in Kashmir.

Some try to explain the present struggle over Kashmir by starting with 1947, when India was partitioned, Pakistan was created, and Kashmir became a disputed territory occupied by both countries.

However, one can’t understand the 1947 partition and the horrendous religious conflict that followed — which dealt a great blow to the world forces of national liberation — without taking into account the 250 years of machinations by British colonialism that preceded.

British East India Company

It is useful to start the analysis in the middle of the 18th century with the predatory campaign of the British East India Company (EIC) to conquer and plunder India. The EIC, which dated back to the days of Queen Elizabeth, was given a monopoly to conduct business in India by the British Parliament, acting on behalf of the financial and commercial interests of London. It was backed by the Royal Navy. It was given the right to raise troops and to undermine the Indian economy, to interfere in social and political relations and do anything necessary to bring a handsome profit back to its investors in London.

But military force alone was insufficient for a small island in the North Atlantic to dominate such a vast land mass as India. Fortunately for the British ruling class, the EIC found a society that was fragmented into hundreds of states ruled over by a variety of petty rulers, held together only nominally by the declining Mogul empire.

The British conquered Bengal in 1757 and embarked on a century of creating “subordinate alliances.” The EIC would bestow local sovereignty on a ruler, make him subordinate to the company and to the British government, allow him some autonomy and guarantee protection against his enemies.

Whenever possible, the company would try to place a Muslim ruler over a majority Hindu population or a Hindu ruler over a majority Muslim population. They carried on this policy for over 100 years as they consolidated their conquest over the country. These subordinate alliances came to be known as”princely states.”

When India was partitioned in 1947, 550 such “princely states” were divided between India and Pakistan. This was the product of centuries in which the British colonialists brought the art of “divide and rule” to perfection.

British sold Kashmir in 1846

Kashmir is a vivid, concrete example of such subordinate alliances. With the infamous Treaty of Amritsar of 1846, the British created the present-day state of Kashmir, both geographically and socially, by selling part of the state of Lahore, which they had conquered, to a Hindu maharajah. This was in a territory that had been ruled historically by a Muslim empire and was predominantly Muslim in population.

The Treaty of Amritsar of 1846 declared that “The British government transfers and makes over, forever, independent possession [of the territory between the Indus River which constitutes Kashmir] to Maharajah Gulab Singh, and the male heirs of his body.” The surveying of the land was done by the British and the Gulab Singh was obliged to recognize the British-defined borders. Gulab Singh paid the Britishgovernment 7.5 million rupees and agreed there would be no changes without the consent of the British.

The British had the right to settle any disputes with neighboring states. The maharajah was required to send his military to serve the British military in case of any conflict. The maharajah could not hire any European or American without British permission. And in exchange “the British government will give its aid to Maharajah Gulab Singh in protecting his territories from external enemies.”

It was not long after the creation of Kashmir that the greatest uprising in Indian history took place, the Great Rebellion of native-born soldiers in the 150,000-man British colonial army. It is derogatorily called the “Sepoy Mutiny” by the colonialists. But it was a rebellion against the brutality and racist insensitivity of the British rulers, and it lasted from 1857 to 1859. In this rebellion Indian troops took over New Delhi and other cities and were only defeated after a furious struggle.

The rebellion was the first major manifestation of broad anti-British resistance, spontaneous and not politically organized. Soon a nationalist movement was born. It was moderate at first, seeking incremental change by which Indians could gain representation in the governing of India. By 1885 the first meeting of the Indian National Congress took place.

Formation of Congress Party

The Congress was composed of a majority of upper-caste Hindus. While there were Muslims in the Congress, other elements within the Muslim upper classes formed the Muslim League in 1906, with the encouragement of the British. For the following decades the fate of the anti-colonial movement in India hung on the relationship between the League and the Congress. Progressive forces in both organizations strove for unity. There were many progressive-minded Muslims with the Congress Party on the basis of secular national unity.

Once they felt the rumblings of even the moderate bourgeois nationalist, reformist movement, the British imperialists went to work trying to divide it. On the one hand they showed their utter intransigence. Lord Hamilton, then secretary of state, sent a message to the viceroy in India on April 14, 1899, saying: “We cannot give the Natives what they want: representative institutions or the diminution of the existing establishment of Europeans is impossible.”

On the other hand, they created separate election rolls in 1909 where those few who could vote — 1 percent — had to vote for candidates by religion. Under the guise of insuring the rights of minorities, the British channeled politics into the confines of religious rivalry rather than genuine representation. This process was deepened in 1919 when the colonial authorities were compelled to make reforms under the impact of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.

The forced participation of Indian troops on the side of their British oppressors in World War I, the support of theRussian Revolution for oppressed peoples of the world struggling to overthrow colonialism, and the 1919 anti-imperialist upsurge in China reverberated in India. The first trade unions were formed and mass resistance to British rule flowered. But Indian communists were unable to take root in a political environment dominated by the entrenched bourgeois nationalist movement led by the Congress.

Mahatma Gandhi put himself at the head of the mass movement. He brought pacifist tactics and moderate religious ideology to the struggle. His economic goals were reactionary: going back to a village economy.

Communist Party — gains and setbacks

In the late 1920s the Communist Party of India (CPI) made progress in the trade union movement and the organization of the workers. In the 1930s it made a leap forward as a mass party in the struggle for class unity and national independence. But it suffered a huge, historic setback during World War II.

The war was a time of tempestuous mass struggle. Despite its moderate inclinations, the Congress was compelled to militantly oppose the British war effort. It had agreed to support the British if London would promise India independence. Whitehall stonewalled the movement and the Congress withdrew from all government posts. It began the “quit India” movement to force the British to withdraw.

By 1942 the British imperialists were in the worst crisis of rebellion since 1857. They had jailed over 60,000 people, including the entire Congress leadership. The Muslim League supported the British war effort and did not participate. The Soviet leadership pressed the CPI to support the war effort and suspend its struggle for independence until the war was over. The rationale was that since British imperialists were fighting the Nazis and the German imperialists were invading the Soviet Union, suspending the national struggle would be in defense of socialism.

This policy had similar tragic implications for the struggle of communists elsewhere in the British Empire, and in the French colonies and Latin America as well.

What Moscow did not take into account was that a revolutionary India could have been the greatest asset to the world revolution since 1917. In any case, the CPI lost an opportunity for revolutionary leadership at a moment of mass struggle.

The Congress, in spite of its militancy, was preparing for a negotiated withdrawal of the British and a managed transfer of power, rather than a revolutionary victory in the spirit of a genuine national liberation struggle. Bourgeois forces, dedicated to the preservation of capitalism, were fully in command and, as subsequent events proved, even the most progressive of them, represented by Jawaharlal Nehru, were incapable of overcoming the communal divisions sown by British colonialism.

In 1940, at the Lahore conference, the die was cast when the Muslim League and its leader, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, abandoned once and for all its ambivalence about staying within a united India and declared for a separate Muslim state. Although this split was managed behind the scenes with the connivance of British imperialism, the groundwork was laid by the Hindu bourgeoisie, particularly the right-wing nationalists, who promoted religious chauvinism and persecuted the Muslim majority.

The last act of the British imperialists in India was to dictate the terms of the division between India and Pakistan. Lord Mountbatten, the last British viceroy, laid down the rules and they were accepted by the League and the Congress. All majority Muslim provinces under the British crown would go toPakistan. All majority Hindu provinces would go to India. And the 550 “princely states” would choose, the decision being made by the ruler of each state.

Kashmir, strategically situated between India and Pakistan, was one of the largest “princely states.” It was over 70 percent Muslim and ruled by a Hindu feudal landlord, Maharajah Hari Singh, a descendent of the original ruler who had bought Kashmir from the British in 1846. Singh was trying to preserve maximum power and was toying with remaining independent.

The most popular leader in Kashmir, Sheik Abdullah, was a secular Muslim, the head of the All Kashmir Conference, which had had previous alliances with Nehru. Abdullah was dedicated to land reform and even raised the slogan of “Land to the tiller.” He was leaning towards independence because he was opposed to being put under the landlord regime of the MuslimLeague in Pakistan but was also opposed to being ruled by a landed aristocracy represented by the maharajah. He was thrown in jail.

The Pakistanis, using British military vehicles, sent military forces into Kashmir. Nehru consulted with Mountbatten and airlifted thousands of troops. Hari Singh, afraid for his throne, acceded to India. Sheik Abdullah was let out of jail and sent to New Delhi, where he agreed to accede to India on the basis of autonomy for Kashmir and the promise of a plebiscite to determine the final status. He became prime minister.

The war ended in 1948. The Indian forces gained the lion’s share of the territory. The issue was referred to the UN, dominated by U.S. and British imperialism. There never was a plebiscite. The autonomous provisions agreed to by the Congress were gradually violated and the Indian bourgeoisie consolidated its control over Kashmir. A Hindu ruling group controlled a majority of Muslims. Sheik Abdullah was jailed off and on throughout the years by Nehru.

The issue of Kashmir stands unresolved today.

Nehru, the most progressive of the bourgeois leaders of the Congress, justified the takeover of Kashmir on his historic position that India should be united and that it was possible to build a democratic, secular society of national unity in which Muslims would be equal with the Hindu majority. However, the deadlock gave rise to a national struggle and to repression by the Indian government.

A tide of reaction has now swept over the region; fundamentalist forces from Pakistan and Afghanistan are waging a struggle that amounts to an annexationist war, just as the Indian bourgeoisie de facto annexed its portion of occupied Kashmir in 1947. The genuine struggle for self-determination o fthe Kashmiris has become more and more difficult.

But the fundamental reason why the Congress in its most progressive phase could not win the hearts and minds of the oppressed people of Kashmir is the same reason that it could not win the struggle for a unified India against the machinations of British imperialism: it represented the exploiting bourgeoisie.

India under Nehru

The Indian state was founded in a global environment of socialist revolution and national liberation. The Soviet Union had defeated the Nazis and was once again championing the anti-colonial struggle. The Chinese Revolution had driven out the landlords and, like the USSR, was embarking upon constructing a planned economy with cooperatives and collectives in the countryside and five-year plans in industry.

Under Nehru’s guidance India was declared to be “socialist oriented.” But this was just a cover for the Indian bourgeoisie and landlords to use state capitalist methods to overcome the deficit in industry and infrastructure inherited from British rule. Private Indian industrialists drew up three five-year plans for national development based on retaining capitalist exploitation. Known as the “Bombay Plan,” the first was drawn up in 1944. It was modified after the new state was established.

The most urgent question in India for the masses was the land. Some landowners lost their most outrageous privileges. The government bought out many of the richest feudal landlords. But when the issue of limiting the amount of land that one person could have came up, the landlords in the Congress vetoed it.

The only way to overcome the 200 years of division sown on the Indian subcontinent by the British was to appeal directly to the class needs of the Indian workers and peasants of all religions, languages and nationalities. This was impossible for the exploiting classes of India, in spite of their socialist rhetoric and their diplomatic friendship with the USSR and with China in the early years. They had made a political transformation, not a social revolution.

Bourgeois experts will cite the complexities of Indian society and politics as the fundamental reason for the failure to unite. To be sure, India is an extremely complex social formation. It has 17 major languages and 35 others spoken by more than a million people. It has most of the major religions on the planet — Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Jainism, Christianity, Judaism and more. It has numerous national and linguistic groups. Furthermore, it is torn by the caste system, with thousands of sub-castes.

But for all its complexity, the problem in India reduces itself to the problem of class exploitation and private property. All propertied classes, no matter how oppressed and abused they may have been by imperialism, require the obfuscation of class relationships of exploitation. They require the fog of religion, or ideological backwardness and confusion, to mask the fact that the substructure of society is built on accumulating the labor of the workers and the peasants in one form or another — on appropriating to the ruling class the social surplus.

Why Bolsheviks could, but India couldn’t

The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 was confronted with enormous national, linguistic and religious complexity that had been compressed into the tsarist empire, the “prison house of nations.” The revolution unearthed over 200 distinct language groups in its early days.

The Bolshevik government under Lenin declared to all the oppressed peoples of the empire that the Russian proletarian revolution would honor their right to self-determination. They had the right to decide whether to leave or join the SovietUnion — even though this ran the risk of having the oppressed nations abandon the revolution and leave the USSR truncated.

In fact, many of the national groups were Muslims who had been oppressed by the tsar and persecuted by the Russian military. They also had to fear the Russian Orthodox Church. The Bolsheviks called a conference of Muslim communists in 1918 in order to show solidarity and make them feel comfortable within the framework of the new proletarian revolution, which was thoroughly internationalist.

Why could the Bolsheviks solve the national question, bringing all the oppressed peoples into a secular Soviet state with a Great Russian majority, while the Indian bourgeoisie could not? Because they not only offered to do away with tsarist oppressors, they also eliminated the exploiting capitalists and landlords. They could offer to honor all the national, linguistic, ethnic, and cultural characteristics without qualification. In other words, the Bolsheviks could overcome all divisions and antagonisms by meeting the concrete national demands of the oppressed. The proletariat, as a revolutionary class whose mission was to destroy class exploitation, had no interest in dividing the oppressed and the exploited.

National antagonisms only reemerged in the Soviet Union when capitalist elements took hold of the apparatus, beginning the degeneration that ultimately led to its collapse.

This historical experience is priceless, not only for oppressed countries like India and Pakistan, but for the United States, which has truly become the oppressor of all nations both at home and abroad. A class understanding of the national question shows that the struggle against national oppression is the indispensable first step on the road to uniting the workers and oppressed. But it cannot be fully consummated unless it is indissolubly linked to the struggle to end class exploitation.

 

 

 

 

Trump, Racism and Capitalism

Posted to lowwagecapitalism.com on August 11, 2019.

By Fred Goldstein

Aug. 10 — Let there be no mistake about it. Donald Trump has the blood of all those killed and wounded in the mass shootings of the past week on his hands, from Gilroy, Calif., to El Paso, Texas, to Dayton, Ohio.

And let there be no mistake about it. Trump speaks the mind of the ruling class. Just days after the racist mass shootings, millionaires and billionaires travelled to the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island to give him $12 million in one night at a gala celebration.

His racism, his misogyny, his bigotry, openly spouted from his guttermouth, are part of a deliberate strategy to mobilize the like-minded racists, bigots and male chauvinists to come out and vote for him in 2020.

There is mounting mass anger and outrage at the killings, which followed his attacks on Congressman Elijah Cummings and the city of Baltimore, as well as his racist rants against four congresswomen of color, and his relentless references to a so-called “invasion” of immigrants seeking asylum from Washington’s right-wing regimes in Central America.

Trump’s racist language was clearly mimicked in the language of the El Paso killer, who issued a document declaring that “this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Research shows that the Trump campaign issued over 2,200 Facebook ads with the same formulation:  “invasion of immigrants.”

Trump was forced to go to the teleprompter and issue a wooden, hypocritically brief statement criticizing white supremacy and hatred. This is like a mobster crying “stop thief.” But Trump is still a white supremacist to his core. No anti-racist teleprompter declarations will change him one iota from the hardened racist he is.

Not just Trump

Racism has a long and bloody history in the U.S. Some say that U.S. fascism flies on the wings of racism. Sincethe first Spanish settlers arrived in the southeast in the 16th century, and then the English and Dutch came to New England at the beginning of the 17th century, racism directed against the Indigenous population has been used to justify the seizure of millions of acres of land and the murder and removal of millions of Native peoples.

At the same time, millions of people were kidnapped from Africa and imported to be enslaved on the plantation lands of the U.S., as well as in the Caribbean Islands and Central and South America. Anti-Black racism was the justification. Then one-half of Mexico was seized and colonized in the southwest.Anti-Latinx racism was added to the racist galaxy of the corporate masters. Tens of thousands of Chinese were brought to the West Coast to build the railroads. Anti-Asian violence became commonplace.

European immigration expands ranks of working class

Meanwhile, the corporations brought tens of millions of European immigrants to the U.S. to farm the land seized and to do the mining, lay the railroad tracks, work in the factories and expand the farm population and the working class.

The first European settlers established colonies on Native lands on the eastern seaboard in the 17th century. With the expansion of the commercial and industrial revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, the bosses and landlords brought in more and more Europeans from Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the bosses brought in millions from southern and eastern Europe, including many Jews fleeing persecution. By the beginning of the 20th century, millions of Italians, Poles, Hungarians and Czechs were also incorporated into the working class.

Before long the U.S. was populated with millions of oppressed Africans, Native people, Latinx and Asians, alongside millions of poor workers and farmers from Europe. All were toiling on the lands, in the mines and in the factories of the U.S. millionaire ruling class.

In a society based on the exploitation of labor of the vast majority by a tiny minority, every capitalist — large or small, corporate or political — constantly feels the need to divide and rule. It comes with the territory. The pressure to weaken the subject population through divisions is always present.

Trump speaks out loud the mind of the capitalists

A long-suppressed tape recording of a phone conversation between then President Richard Nixon and future President Ronald Reagan was recently released by the National Archives. The conversation took place in August 1971, when Reagan was governor of California. They spoke on the occasion of the admission of the People’s Republic of China to the U.N., after being kept out by Washington ever since the victorious Chinese Revolution of 1949.

Reagan, referring to African members of the Security Council, said to Nixon, “Did you see those monkxxs? They’re not even comfortable wearing shoes.” Nixon gave a big laugh. Reagan knew enough not to say that in public. But today, Trump says it out loud, referring to African nations as “s—hole countries,” or saying, “Go back where you came from” to four congresswomen of color.

In general, few prominent members of the capitalist establishment, big bankers or corporate leaders have condemned Trump’s racist or misogynistic rants. They probably think and say similar things in private conversations.

Chapters from the history of capitalist, racist politics

It is not only Nixon, Reagan and Trump, who have been racist. They are following in the footsteps of generations of ruling class political “heroes.”

Of course there is George Washington, the first U.S. president, who was the second biggest owner of enslaved people in the 13 colonies at that time.

Trump is often seen on TV in front of a painting of Andrew Jackson. Using the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Jackson had the Cherokee tribe removed by force from east of the Mississippi River and driven as far as Oklahoma in the “trail of tears.”

Abraham Lincoln, the most progressive president of the 19th century, ordered an attack on the Indigenous Dakota people in Minnesota in1862 and oversaw the Dakota Removal Act, even while pursuing the Civil War against the slavocracy.

Theodore Roosevelt was an arch-colonialist who oversaw the conquest of Cuba and Puerto Rico and the massacres during the seizure and annexation of the Philippines.  Theodor Roosevelt considered people of color inferior.

Woodrow Wilson, another lionized hero of liberalism,showed the racist, pro-South, pro-Klan, pro-slavery movie “Birth of a Nation” in the White House in 1915. Some say it fostered the rise of the Klan that followed.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the most liberal president of the 20th century, ordered the Ponce Massacre of Puerto Rican nationalists in 1937. In pursuit of imperialist war with Japan, FDR had over 120,000 Japanese people in the U.S. rounded up and sent to concentration camps and had their property seized.

In this list, we must not forget Bill Clinton, who destroyed welfare, promoted legislation leading to mass incarceration and declared that the “era of big government” is over.

Aspects of the subjugation of oppressed people in the U.S.

Capitalists and slave masters alike have used racism since the beginning of the country. The settlers who colonized the U.S., the Pilgrims and the 20,000 Puritans who piled into New England, all carried out unspeakable atrocities to subdue the Native people, while slandering them as “savages” and subhuman.

This was to justify the slaughter of New England tribes — the Wampanoag, Narragansett and Algonquin, among others. Thousands of Native people were killed in Massachusetts alone.

The New England massacres were the beginning of a continent-wide offensive which spread from western Florida to the Midwest to Arizona to California and lasted until the 1890s. Millions of Native people were either killed or removed to reservations.

The number of African people enslaved in the U.S. grew from the 388,000 who survived the Middle Passage and were originally brought to the U.S. in chains, to 4.4 million at the outset of the Civil War. There are now over 44 million African Americans in the U.S.

The northern half of Mexico was annexed by Washington in 1848 by conquest. The southwest Latinx people became a subject population.

Asians were brought to Hawaii and the West Coast as laborers during the mid-to-late 19th century. After the great Depression of 1873, the racist Chinese Exclusion Act of 1892 promoted anti-Chinese riots and lynchings on the West Coast.

Anti-working-class strategy and tactic of capitalists

Students of working-class history are familiar with the divide-and-conquer methods of the bosses. From the early 19th century, the law declared any gathering of three or more workers to be an illegal conspiracy.

When the workers defied this restriction and went on to organize, the bosses expanded their tactics. They hired Pinkerton thugs and other labor spies to frame up workers and break unions. They tried to turn the unorganized against the organized. They pitted the higher paid against the lower paid. They set the skilled against the unskilled.

They tried to turn white against Black; white against Brown; Brown against Black; white, Black and Brown against Asian; etc. They hired gun thugs to fight organizing drives or organized unions. In the modern era, they rely on the FBI and private labor spies to do their dirty work.

The racism of Trump and the ruling class must be put in the anti-working- class setting in which it has always existed. It is the answer of the tiny minority of the rich, exploiting class to their fear of rebellion by the vast majority of the masses of people.

Only class solidarity and international solidarity can overcome this poisonous racist division.

 

 

 

 

An exchange of views on: ‘Is Trumpism a temporary phenomenon?’

Part 1:

By Fred Goldstein posted on December 4, 2018.

The following is the first part of an exchange between Fred Goldstein and Manuel Raposo, a left-wing Portuguese communist and editor of the web magazine Mudar de Vida (jornalmudardevida.net).

Fred Goldstein: Your question goes to the heart of a very important issue. Is the Donald Trump presidency a temporary phenomenon, or is his regime a symptom of a deeper malady in the organism of imperialism? Will things go back to “normal” once he is gone?

I have been thinking about this very question a lot. I have also been trying to arrive at a method by which to answer it.

First, I put the Trump victory in the context of the rise of political reaction in Europe and its decidedly anti-immigrant, racist emphasis, similar to Trump’s.

It cannot just be coincidental that the AfD in Germany, the Freedom Party in Austria, the Viktor Orbán regime in Hungary, the right-wing government in Poland, the Brexit forces in Britain, the new right-wing coalition in Italy, the National Rally (formerly National Front) in France are all on the rise at the same time. We also see the recent gains by the anti-immigrant Sweden Democratic Party, the rise of Golden Dawn in Greece (an advanced version of Hitler-like forces) and other right-wing political manifestations in Europe.

Second, I think that the general crisis of protracted capitalist stagnation has caused sections of the ruling class on both sides of the Atlantic to move toward adopting a strongly reactionary option: They will use “divide and conquer” because they see no way out of their own crisis — that is, they do not see any significant renewed growth or revived capitalist prosperity in the future. They are all struggling to just stay afloat.

This is true for sections of the U.S. ruling class which have relied on tax cuts, deregulation of environmental protections and stock market speculation to bolster their profits. This class is acting like its situation is precarious and its members anticipate an economic collapse.

Third, the working classes in all the European countries, like the workers and the oppressed in the U.S., have all been subjected to the trauma of austerity early on, BEFORE the immigrant crisis struck Europe in full force.

In the U.S. there is no large influx of immigrants. In fact, there is a net outflow of migrants on the militarized southern border now. I think that the demoralized, alienated sections of the petty bourgeoisie and working class were predisposed to shift to the right after the failure of the Democratic Party and of European social democracy to come to their aid during the economic crisis of 2008, BEFORE the immigrant crisis.

The failure of social democracy and the historical communist parties to take an aggressive, class-conscious, class-struggle approach to fighting austerity left the masses open to a right-wing, anti-immigrant appeal.

Fourth, the right wing of the ruling classes — which are growing stronger and richer — are tempted to stoke the flames of anti-immigrant racism or are growing more comfortable with it. They mildly protest the more extreme anti-immigrant measures, but in the end the bosses are only truly concerned with the availability of a labor force and the impact of immigration policy on their international relations.

Finally, capitalism at a dead end forecloses the possibility of reviving capitalist prosperity. And capitalist democracy depends upon imperialist prosperity.

The bosses in the wealthy imperialist countries were able to afford a more developed form of capitalist democracy in the post-World War II period — that is, to buy off the discontented workers with crumbs.

The British imperialists were able to have their “democracy” when they had a world empire. Once the empire was lost, the British working class was subjected to Thatcherite austerity and now they have the Brexit forces in charge.

The French imperialists had their republics based upon having a lesser empire in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Now they have the growing right-wing orientation of President Emmanuel Macron, with the National Rally party breathing down the necks of the so-called “moderate” bourgeoisie.

And U.S. imperialism constructed a bourgeois democracy on the basis of having established itself as a world power during and after World War I and having taken over large parts of the British and the French empires out of the ashes of WWII. The bosses attained world imperialist supremacy. On that basis they were able to make concessions.

Cannot revive imperialist prosperity

While Wall Street and the Pentagon are still the dominant imperialist power, they cannot revive imperialist prosperity, which is the economic foundation of capitalist democracy. This is the fundamental point about the future after Trump. Capitalist democracy requires imperialist prosperity to finance it. Capitalist democracy in its more vigorous sense must be funded by concessions. This is true not only in the oppressed countries, but also in the big capitalist countries.

The Trump regime may be a distorted form of capitalist reaction, peculiarly shaped by Trump’s style and personality. But whatever the peculiarities of the Trump regime — and there are many — the underlying reaction that he has stoked and consolidated is not going away anytime soon.

The reaction may be slowed down somewhat if the ruling class removes him. There may be a temporary respite if he is driven out or defeated at the polls. But in the long run, capitalism is in a stage of decline, stagnation and austerity.

The only thing that can push back the reaction in the U.S. is the awakening of the proletariat and the oppressed. No one knows when this will happen or how it will develop. But then no one knew that the tremendous teachers’ strikes were coming. These strikes spread like a wildfire from West Virginia to Kentucky, to Oklahoma, to Arizona, to Colorado, to North Carolina.

These strikes took everyone by surprise — the ruling class, the labor bureaucracy, the educational establishment — and the educational workers, who were organized despite the resistance of the government and the union leadership. All the strikes were technically illegal, but the ruling class wisely decided not to enforce the law. This showed in a microcosm what the working class is capable of when pushed to the wall.

The teachers’ struggle has died down for now. But the resentment, the poverty and privation that drove it to burst the bounds of bourgeois legality and conventional subservience to the higher-ups is spreading below.

Marxism has nothing in common with economic determinism. It recognizes that many factors affect political outcomes. Leaders, parties, financial institutions, historical and cultural traditions, natural disasters, etc., all must be taken into consideration.

In the long run, however, Marxism regards the economic factor as the dominant factor. The crisis of capitalist austerity is determining the growth of political reaction, and this reaction must be fought tooth and nail by the workers and the oppressed. History is made by the inevitable awakening of the masses.

This is the hope to turn things around.

Trump, Charlottesville, Chemnitz and the struggle

Anti-fascists confront racist march in Chemnitz, Germany, Sept. 1.

Sept. 1 — To many progressives among the population, Donald Trump appears to be on the ropes. They are waiting for the establishment to take him down. There is great anticipation that the Democratic Party will make electoral gains and get the chance to further discredit him.

There is the mounting public evidence of Trump’s  corruption. Many in his inner circle have pleaded guilty or been convicted of lying, money laundering, tax and/or bank fraud. There is his growing anxious rage expressed in his tweets against the Mueller investigation. There is also his isolation from ruling-class society as illustrated by his exclusion from the week-long and highly publicized, super-patriotic, militaristic funeral ceremonies for John McCain.

But the fascist march in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017 and the recent fascist anti-im/migrant riot in Chemnitz, Germany, show how illusory this view is that the defeat of Trump will solve the problem of racist reaction.

No one knows at this point how the struggle between Trump and his allies, on the one hand, and the anti-Trump forces in the ruling class on the other, will turn out. But it would be fatal for progressives and revolutionaries to rely on the reactionary ruling class to defeat Trump.

Moreover, while the political defeat of Trump is important, it will not be fundamental because it will not deal with the racist, misogynist, xenophobic, national chauvinist forces that Trump has conjured up and consolidated into a reactionary base. This base is not going to go away, whatever happens to Trump. The workers and the oppressed will still have to deal with this reactionary mass.  What will be needed in the future is to defeat Trumpism, not just at the polls but on the ground.

Charlottesville — fascism shows its face

The world got a glimpse of the forces emerging around Trump at Charlottesville last year when the Klan and the Nazis united with other fascist forces in the “Unite the Right” armed torchlight parade through the University of Virginia campus in defense of a statue of Robert E. Lee, commanding general of the slavocracy during the Civil War.

One anti-fascist demonstrator was killed, a Black man was brutally beaten and many were injured as the police watched passively. Trump refused to denounce the fascists and finally said that there were good people “on both sides.”

Fortunately, the movement recovered from this assault and forced the removal of Confederate statues in many cities, from Louisiana to Texas. The Unite the Right forces received an important blow when the movement toppled a Confederate statue in Durham, N.C.

Because of the militant resistance, the “Unite the Right 2” rally in Washington, D.C.  on the one-year anniversary of Charlottesville this Aug. 10 fell flat.

Pro-Confederate forces in high places

However, the degree to which the racist, pro-Confederate forces in the ruling class are dug in was shown by the reaction of the University of North Carolina administration to the recent pulling down of a Confederate statue in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The statue of a Confederate soldier was pulled down by students after their campaign to have the authorities remove it went nowhere. After it was pulled down, the university and the board of governors decided it should be relocated on campus. Meanwhile, arrest warrants were issued for student demonstrators.

This incident illustrates how deeply embedded pro-Confederate sympathy is in the ruling class 150 years after the Civil War. Chapel Hill is supposed to be a liberal institution. States all over the South and elsewhere have passed laws forbidding the removal of a statue without the express consent of the state historical society, regardless of the sentiment of African Americans or progressive anti-racist sectors of the population. Liberal Ivy League colleges and universities in the North have refused to budge on this matter as well.

Racism and the face of fascism in the U.S.

The origin of this underlying racism which penetrates U.S. capitalist society goes back to the betrayal of the enslaved people after the Civil War by the victorious capitalist class of the North.

The Northern armies occupied the Southern slave states. There was a period of Reconstruction from 1865 to 1877. Voting rights were granted for formerly enslaved peoples. Many African Americans were elected to various state and local offices. During the brief period of Reconstruction, a Freedmen’s Bureau was created and land ownership rights and other rights for African Americans, such as the right to sue, to serve on a jury, etc., were enforced by the U.S. military occupation forces.

This period of Reconstruction was ended abruptly in 1877 with the withdrawal of U.S. forces after the Hayes-Tilden Compromise, in which Rutherford B. Hayes was given the presidency in return for troop withdrawal from the South.

The political dominance of the South by the former slavocracy was restored. The formerly enslaved were resubjugated and pressed into a form of feudalism or land slavery called sharecropping. Lynching ran riot. Rigid racist segregation was enforced. The landowners once again ran the South and did so for 100 years.

There was no attempt by the Northern capitalist class to purge the South of racism and racist officials. There was no reeducation campaign among the white population. No resources were devoted to the anti-racist transformation of the South. The capitalists of the North were quite content to build railroads and shipping lines and to create banks to profit from the land slavery of African Americans. Racism was not only enforced in the South with Ku Klux Klan violence and lynchings, Black Codes, Jim Crow segregation, poll taxes, etc., but it also prevailed in the North.

Chemnitz, fall of Berlin Wall, and end of denazification

Fascists, right wingers, and anti-immigrant racists of all sorts have been mobilized in this country by Donald Trump. He has fomented his anti-immigrant racism on a world stage. This anti-immigrant, right-wing trend has been reflected in Europe among fascist and pro-fascist forces as well. Indeed, Trump sounds much like the European right.

On Aug. 28, the world was treated to the ugly spectacle of a mob of thousands of Nazis and anti-immigrant sympathizers arriving from all over Germany and taking over the streets of the German city of Chemnitz and hunting down immigrants “like wolves,” as the New York Times put it on Aug. 31.

The mob formed after the capitalist press triggered the event with the headline “35-Year-Old Dies after Stabbing in the City.” The rumors were that the man who was stabbed was protecting a woman from sexual assault by immigrants. Even the police had to eventually declare that rumor false.

The following evening a reported 8,000 racists occupied the center of the city and hunted down anyone they suspected of being an immigrant. There were Nazi salutes with “Sieg Heils,” which are outlawed in Germany, and chants of “We’ll get you all.”

The German bourgeois publication Der Spiegel reported that “The police in Saxony likewise hit the headlines with predictable regularity when they, for example, prevent journalists from doing their jobs or fail to mobilize enough officers, thus forcing them to stand by passively as right-wing extremists rampage through the streets.” (Der Spiegel, Aug. 31)

Chemnitz was formerly called Karl-Marx-Stadt during the period of the German Democratic Republic, before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and capitalism was restored as West Germany annexed the East in 1990. It is the third-largest city in the southeastern state of Saxony with a population of 250,000.

Denazification in socialist East Germany

After the Red Army occupied eastern Germany in 1945, the Communist Party was merged with the Social Democratic Party to become the Socialist Unity Party. In 1949 the GDR was established following the establishment of West Germany. The new government undertook a vigorous program of denazification, unlike what occurred in capitalist West Germany, or the Federal Republic.

In the capitalist West, high Nazi officials retained their pensions and got official jobs. “A total of 25 cabinet ministers, one president and one chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany — as postwar Germany is officially known — had been members of Nazi organizations.” (Der Spiegel, March 6, 2012) This list was finally forced into the public by the Left Party.

The GDR, under socialist leadership, took an entirely opposite approach. It was undoubtedly very difficult to construct a state and a society with a population that had lived under Hitler for 12 years. Nevertheless, the attempt was made.

For example, Bruno Bruni de la Motte, no socialist himself, wrote in the London Guardian on March 8, 2007: “I was born and grew up in the German Democratic Republic. Our school books dealt extensively with the Nazi period and what it did to the German nation and most of Europe.

“During the course of their schooling, all pupils were taken at least once to a concentration camp, where a former inmate would explain in graphic detail what took place. All concentration camps in the former GDR were maintained as commemorative places, ‘so that no one should forget.’ The government itself included a good proportion of those, including Jews, who had been forced to flee Hitler fascism or who had been interned.

“In the East, thousands of new teachers had to be found overnight, as those tainted by the Nazi ideology were not suitable to teach a new postwar generation, and this resulted in schools having under-trained and inadequate teaching staff for some years; all lawyers were replaced, too….”

Nazism revived by capitalist Germany

De la Motte continued, “In [capitalist] West Germany thousands of leading Nazi army officers, judges who had sent Jews and leftists to their deaths, doctors who’d experimented on concentration camp victims, politicians and others, were left unscathed and continued in their professions.”

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the return to capitalism brought a quick shift. From the very outset there were demonstrations against immigrants. Naziism and right-wing politics resurfaced in the form of anti-immigrant racism and xenophobia.

It is no surprise that 29 years after the restoration of capitalist exploitation and with the creeping world economic crisis hitting Germany, including the youth and the petty bourgeoisie, the neo-fascist movement should take on the tone of a racist, anti-immigrant crusade.

In the U.S, even more than in Europe, racism in one form or another has always been the cutting edge of fascism and the face of political reaction.

Capitalist class never tried to root out racism

It is no accident that the KKK and Nazis rallied around Barry Goldwater in his run for president in 1964. It is no accident that Richard Nixon started his presidential campaign in 1972 with a racist “Southern strategy” to bring Southern Democrats into the Republican Party in the wake of the Civil Rights movement.

It should also be noted that in 1982 Ronald Reagan began his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., with Confederate flags flying — in a city where three civil rights workers had been murdered in 1964 by the Klan during the voting rights campaign in the South. And Bill Clinton, besides passing racist legislation on mass incarceration, the death penalty and “terrorism,” during his election campaign showed his racism by going back to his state of Arkansas to witness the execution of a mentally disabled Black man.

Fascism at the border

Right now ICE and the Border Patrol are carrying out fascist measures against immigrants by deliberately separating families, as well as rounding up workers everywhere.

So the capitalist class has now had 150 years to root out racism and has not made any serious effort to do so. The capitalists have shown that they feel it is in their class interests to perpetuate racism.

They never instituted a thoroughgoing anti-racist educational campaign of making every student in school go to photo exhibits of lynchings to be narrated by families or neighbors of victims. Slave quarters were not preserved as exhibits for mandatory visits so no one would ever forget. And importantly, compensation was not paid to the victims of slavery nor were they given the lands of the plantation owners for whom they labored.

In short the capitalist ruling class has always preserved racism rather than destroy it, just as the German ruling class has never made a determined effort to root out Nazism.

The revolutionary forces in the U.S. must organize for struggle against the revived, concentrated racist base that has been fostered by Trump. The progressives, revolutionaries and advanced workers must also be prepared for struggle after Trump, because anti-immigrant and anti-Black racism is a lethal weapon the bosses keep in reserve for times of crisis.

The lessons of Chicago, 1968

By Fred Goldstein posted on September 1, 2018.

This is the 50th anniversary of the massive street struggles in 1968 during the Democratic National Convention. We reprint here an article by Fred Goldstein from the Workers World of Sept. 13, 1968.

The violence openly inflicted on liberals and radicals alike at the Chicago Democratic Convention confirms that the U.S. ruling class is entering a new phase in which their reliance upon deception is to be increasingly abandoned in favor of the use of force. The use of violence against the white population (after centuries against the Black) is part of the preparations for stepped-up attacks on the oppressed people around the globe.

All attempts to place the responsibility on the insignificant hired thug of the bosses, [Chicago] Mayor Richard Daley, are calculated to mask this fundamental shift.

Thousands of U.S. troops, tanks, jeeps, and all the other necessities of combat cannot be shifted around the country at the cost of creating great political unrest (to say nothing of the expense) on the say-so of such a relatively low-ranking political stooge as Daley. Nor can National Guard troops be called upon by a mayor.

For that matter, the Chicago Police Department would never dare to “mar the image” of the entire Democratic Party unless it had received explicit orders from the party hierarchy to crack heads. The White House, the Pentagon, the Democratic National Committee and the entire capitalist establishment were all involved in the Chicago operation.

In short, Mayor Daley was working for the ruling class and not they for him, as the bourgeois news media imply when they either condemn or condone “Daley’s handling” of the fascist attack on anti-war protesters in Chicago.

(The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Sept. 3 that it had just allocated $3.9 million to the cities for so-called “riot-control.”)

Of course, the billionaires did not shift from fraud to force arbitrarily. It’s just that their bag of tricks is just about empty and their two war candidates are about equally discredited.

It is no coincidence that they started clubbing, gassing and breaking heads just at the moment when the “peace” campaign of Eugene McCarthy was about to come to an ignominious end. (The police attack on McCarthy headquarters was the final humiliation dealt the liberals and served to illustrate the fascist mood of the ruling class.)

The rulers who rigged the convention long in advance knew that McCarthy was to be discarded in Chicago. And they also knew that thousands of youth whom the McCarthy campaign had kept off the streets would be back on the streets, together with thousands of radical youth who had never fallen for the imperialist-liberal McCarthy in the first place.

So the bosses prepared well ahead of time to deal with the anger and indignation which was as inevitable as the Humphrey-Nixon race. They decided to give the white youth a taste of the treatment hitherto reserved for the Black liberation struggle.

But an important by-product of Chicago is the wave of revulsion of new layers of youth for a parliamentary system which has to defend its candidates from the hatred of the population with bayonets and clubs.

Parliamentary illusions went up with the clouds of tear gas as the war party at the amphitheater steam-rolled over popular anti-war sentiment. The flow of blood from the heads of unarmed demonstrators in front of the Conrad Hilton made many a convert to the revolutionary struggle.

The bourgeoisie used strong-arm methods to brush the liberals aside and thus demonstrated the fraudulence and the futility of imperialist democracy.

If the liberal politicians folded up at the first show of force by the ruling class, the militant youth did not.

While McCarthy crept off to the sidelines and McGovern stepped into Humphrey’s fold, the fighting young people who really want and need to end imperialist wars were spontaneously fighting back against the cops. New and militant tactics were being developed simultaneously with the beginnings of change in their ideology.

Several hundred police, who tried to attack a Grant Park rally after someone lowered the U.S. flag, were literally driven away by the youth in the crowd. The cops were hit with everything that could be thrown and then surrounded by barricades of benches and immobilized before they withdrew in defeat.

Mobile street demonstrations were carried out, during which obstacles were strewn about to slow down police cars. Youth at Lincoln Park built such sturdy barricades to keep from being driven from the park that police had to saturate the area with tear gas many times in order to drive them out.

Occasional aggressive forays were made by small bands of youth in search of isolated police on foot or in patrol cars. In general, however, the brutality of the police produced spontaneous retaliation wherever possible.

Many so-called leftists frown upon these new tactics as “adventuristic” and inadequate to defeat such a heavily armed force as the police. But those who are serious about leading a revolutionary struggle against imperialism must take a carefully constructive attitude towards the initial bursts of revolutionary energy shown by the young people in Chicago.

Opponents of imperialism will try to assist the militants to improve their tactics, not throw cold water on them.

In general, the Chicago events have shown that the capitalists will always resort to force if popular will stands in the way of their imperialist objectives.

These events have confirmed the Marxist analysis of the state. This resort to violence on the eve of new imperialist crises has pointed out to thousands of young people that revolutionary resistance to boss rule is the only way to stop wars of aggression.

These are the lessons of Chicago.