Afghanistan’s Socialist Years: The Promising Future Killed Off by U.S. Imperialism. By: Marilyn BechtelRead Now
Women attend a rally in Kabul in the late 1970s. | Imgur via Pinterest
In the mid-1970s and early ’80s, People’s World correspondent Marilyn Bechtel was editor of the bimonthly magazine, New World Review. She visited Afghanistan twice, in 1980 and 1981. The article below first appeared in our pages on Oct. 6, 2001—the day before the U.S. launched its war in Afghanistan—under the headline, “Afghanistan: Some overlooked history.” With the Biden administration now withdrawing all troops from the country, we present this article as a reminder that the U.S.’ longest war had roots that went beyond the terrorist attacks of 9/11, stretching back to Cold War anti-communism.
Since the horrific events of Sept. 11, much has been said about the desperate situation of the Afghani people now crushed under the heel of the theocratic, dictatorial Taliban, and about the role of the Northern Alliance and other Taliban opponents who now figure in Washington’s plans for the region.
Kabul street scene, 1979. | TASS
There has been talk, most of it distorted, about the role of the Soviet Union in the years from 1978 to 1989. There has been talk, most of it understated, about the role of the U.S. in building up the Mujahideen forces, including the Taliban.
But almost no one talks about the effort the Afghan people made in the late 1970s and ’80s to pull free of the legacy of incessantly warring tribes and feudal fiefdoms and start to build a modern democratic state. Or about the Soviet Union’s role long before 1978.
Some background helps shed light on the current crisis. Afghanistan was a geopolitical prize for 19th-century empire builders, contested by both czarist Russia and the British Empire. It was finally forced by the British into semi-dependency.
When he came to power in 1921, Amanullah Khan—sometimes referred to as Afghanistan’s Kemal Ataturk—sought to reassert his country’s sovereignty and move it toward the modern world. As part of this effort, he approached the new revolutionary government in Moscow, which responded by recognizing Afghanistan’s independence and concluding the first Afghan-Soviet friendship treaty.
From 1921 until 1929—when reactionary elements, aided by the British, forced Amanullah to abdicate—the Soviets helped launch the beginnings of economic infrastructure projects, such as power plants, water resources, transport, and communications. Thousands of Afghani students attended Soviet technical schools and universities.
After Amanullah’s forced departure, the projects languished, but the relationship between the Soviets and the Afghans would later re-emerge.
The Center for Science and Culture was built in Kabul as a gift from the people of the Soviet Union. Once U.S.-backed Mujahideen forces took power, the facility was destroyed. | TASS
In the 1960s, a resurgence of joint Afghan-Soviet projects included the Kabul Polytechnic Institute—the country’s prime educational resource for engineers, geologists, and other specialists.
Nor was Afghanistan immune from the political and social ferment that characterized the developing world in the last century. From the 1920s on, many progressive currents of struggle took note of the experiences of the USSR, where a new, more equitable society was emerging on the lands of the former Russian empire. Afghanistan was no exception. By the mid-’60s, national democratic revolutionary currents had coalesced to form the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Modern apartment buildings constructed in Kabul in the 1980s with Soviet assistance. | TASS
In 1973, local bourgeois forces, aided by some PDP elements, overthrew the 40-year reign of Mohammad Zahir Shah—the man who now, at age 86, is being promoted by U.S. right-wing Republicans as the personage around which Afghanis can unite.
When the PDP assumed power in 1978, they started to work for a more equitable distribution of economic and social resources. Among their goals were the continuing emancipation of women and girls from the age-old tribal bondage (a process begun under Zahir Shah), equal rights for minority nationalities, including the country’s most oppressed group, the Hazara, and increasing access for ordinary people to education, medical care, decent housing, and sanitation.
A Mujahideen Islamist fighter aims a U.S.-made Stinger missile supplied by the CIA near Gardez, Afghanistan, December 1991. | Mir Wais / AP
During two visits in 1980-81, I saw the beginnings of progress: women working together in handicraft co-ops, where for the first time they could be paid decently for their work and control the money they earned. Adults, both women and men, learning to read. Women working as professionals and holding leading government positions, including Minister of Education. Poor working families able to afford a doctor, and to send their children—girls and boys—to school. The cancellation of peasant debt and the start of land reform. Fledgling peasant cooperatives. Price controls and price reductions on some key foods. Aid to nomads interested in a settled life.
I also saw the bitter results of Mujahideen attacks by the same groups that now make up the Northern Alliance—in those years aimed especially at schools and teachers in rural areas.
The post-1978 developments also included Soviet aid to economic and social projects on a much larger scale, with a new Afghan-Soviet Friendship Treaty and a variety of new projects, including infrastructure, resource prospecting, and mining, health services, education, and agricultural demonstration projects. After December 1978 that role also came to include the introduction of Soviet troops, at the request of a PDP government increasingly beset by the displaced feudal and tribal warlords who were aided and organized by the U.S. and Pakistan.
The rest, as they say, is history. But it is significant that after Soviet troops were withdrawn in 1989, the PDP government continued to function, though increasingly beleaguered, for nearly three more years.
Somewhere, beneath the ruins of today’s torn and bloodied Afghanistan, are the seeds that remain even in the direst times within the hearts of people who know there is a better future for humanity. In a world struggling for economic and social justice—not revenge—those seeds will sprout again.
Marilyn Bechtel writes for People’s World from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986, and currently participates as a volunteer.
This article was first published by People's World.
Ecuador's leftist candidate Andrés Arauz has won the first round of the country's presidential elections held on 7 February, 2021, garnering 31.5% of the vote. An economist and former minister in socialist president Rafael Correa’s government, he has led the ticket for the Union for Hope coalition - what was Alianza País headed by Correa before the party split in 2017.
However, it appears that Arauz did not win by enough of a margin to avoid a second runoff, provisionally scheduled for April 11, 2021. The election has been marred by allegations of voter suppression, as Ecuadorians were forced to wait for hours in uncharacteristically long polling lines, especially in areas known to support Arauz.
Arauz faced two politicians - Guillermo Lasso and Yaku Pérez Guartambel. According to a quick count by the National Electoral Council (CNE), Pérez and Lasso took 20.04% and 19.97% of the votes, respectively.
Lasso is the candidate for the conservative alliance “Creating Opportunities” (CREO). He is also a member of Opus Dei, banker and businessman. A true representative of the Ecuadorian oligarchy, he served as a minister of economy in the Jamil Mahuad government in 1999, which fell in the winter of 2000 at the hands of 2 million peasants and poor workers who took over the streets in protest against dollarization.
Pérez is the candidate of the indigenous Pachakutik Party. While he portrays himself as an “eco-socialist”, many from the Correa camp have questioned his commitment to defend indigenous communities and remember that some factions of the Pachakutik Party have, in the past, opportunistically aligned with the right against Correa’s government. Moreover, he is also known for supporting US-backed right-wing coups in Latin America and wholeheartedly backing imperialism.
Arauz’s electoral hegemony is explained by the strength of Correismo - the ideology based on the policies of Correa’s government. Between 2007 and 2017, Correa undertook a series of post-neoliberal counter-reforms, strengthening the state, increasing its regulatory and economic planning power, and broadening its social influence.
Correa re-constructed Ecuador by way of a Constituent Assembly convened in 2007. In his inauguration speech on January 15 of the same year, he stated: “This historic moment for the country and the entire continent demands a new Constitution for the 21st century, to overcome neoliberal dogma and the plasticine democracies that subject people, lives, and societies to the exigencies of the market. The fundamental instrument for such change is the National Constituent Assembly”.
The Constitution set out a social agenda whose essential axes are: (1) social protection aimed at reducing economic, social and territorial inequalities, with special attention to more vulnerable populations (children, youth, elderly); (2) the economic and social inclusion of groups at risk of poverty; (3) access to production assets; (4) universalization of education and health. To this end, inter-sectoral cooperation was initiated among the Ministries of Education, Economic and Social Inclusion (MIES), Agriculture, Health and Migration.
The 2008 Constitution established the need to build a health system oriented toward comprehensive health care for the population, called the “Sectoral Health Transformation of Ecuador”, and created the “Model of Comprehensive Health Care”, which provided communal underpinnings to the approach toward healthcare. It is characterized by free health services for users, the deployment of sanitary infrastructure (hospitals and primary care centers) and training for health personnel.
The construction of the Ecuadorian State was based on “good living” (El Buen Vivir) - a conception which places life at the center of all social practices and includes the strengthening of the welfare state in order to guarantee it. Correa acolyte René Ramírez argues that buen vivir means: “free time for contemplation and emancipation, and the broadening or flourishing of real liberties, opportunities, capacities, and potentialities of individuals/collectives to bring that which society, territories, diverse collective identities, and everyone - as a human being or collective, universal or individual - values as key to a desirable life.”
An essential part of buen vivir is communal action. While there were many gaps in the achievement of this aim, the Corriesta administration did try to start the “citizenization of political control” - the election of institutional and control authorities not by the legislature, but by an ad hoc organizational structure called the “Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control”. These measures were intended to establish a framework for participatory governance.
Lenin Moreno assumed presidency in 2017, riding on the back of Correa’s support. Having served as vice president (2007-13) in Correa’s government, he was expected to continue the progressive agenda of a strong welfare state. Instead, Moreno chose to comprehensively break away from the previous paradigm of anti-neoliberalism, persecuting Correa and his supporters.
Moreno used a February 2018 referendum to destroy the CNE, the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Judiciary Council, the attorney general, the comptroller general, and others. With the assistance of the CNE, Moreno divided and took control of Correa’s party. When the Correistas tried to re-organize themselves in a new party, the state blocked them. They said that the proposed names were misleading or that the signatures collected were invalid. By 2019, the Correistas used the “Social Commitment Strength” platform to run for local elections in 2019. This platform was then banned in 2020.
The suppression of Correistas has occurred against a backdrop of a neoliberal onslaught. Moreno has followed laissez-faire economic policies, privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade and state reduction promoted by the Washington Consensus. His initial actions aimed to incentivize private economic activity, including the elimination of advances on income taxes for firms and a move toward labor market flexibility. Further, Moreno introduced tax exonerations for firms that repatriated funds within the next twelve months.
In August of 2018, the National Assembly approved the “Organic Law for Productive Development, Attraction of Investment, Employment Generation, and Fiscal Stability and Equilibrium”. This law included amnesty for any outstanding interest, fines, or surcharges owed to a number of government agencies.
A 10-year income tax exemption was introduced for new investments in the industrial sector. Along the same lines, a 15-year exemption for investment in basic industries, and a 20-year exemption for investments located near the country’s border, were also specified in the bill. Exemptions were introduced to the tax on capital outflows for productive investments. These measures reduced the high-tax burden that private companies earlier faced.
Moreno has announced many austerity adjustments: reduction in the salaries of many government functionaries, elimination of bonus payments for state employees, overall reduction in the number of public sector workers, and the sale of state-owned companies. All this resulted in the “October 2019 uprising”.
Hope for Socialism
It is likely that Arauz’s socialist leanings will help him succeed in re-gaining presidential power. He is committed to rolling back Moreno’s neoliberal measures, standing firm against the ruthless demands of international capital, increasing public spending on education and healthcare, and imposing restrictions on capital flight. Arauz has conceived of a state model oriented towards selective economic interventionism for the benefit of the poor.
This model argues that the people-centric acceleration of economies is not a spontaneous phenomenon that results exclusively from market forces, but is the result of vigorous state involvement in strategic sectors through planning and structural reforms in the context of a mixed economic system. Considering the fact that absolute poverty has tripled during Moreno’s 4-year presidency, Ecuadorians will elect a leader who promises to provide them with dignified lives.
About the Author:
Yanis Iqbal is an independent researcher and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India and can be contacted at email@example.com. His articles have been published in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and several countries of Latin America.
Photo source: Andres Arauz' Instagram - @ecuarauz
This is the season to remind all our Christian friends of the relationship between Christianity and Marxism-Leninism and the working class movement. Engels (“On the History of Early Christianity”) tells us that there are “notable points of resemblance” between the early working class movement and Christianity.
First, both movements were made up of oppressed poor people from the lower ranks of society. Christianity was a religion of slaves and people without rights subjugated by the state and very similar to the types of poor oppressed working people that founded the earliest socialist and worker’s organizations in modern times.
Second, both movements held out the hope of salvation and liberation from tyranny and oppression: one in the world to come, the other in this world.
Third, both movements were (and in some places still are) attacked by the powers that be and were discriminated against, their members killed or imprisoned, despised, and treated as enemies of the status quo.
Fourth, despite fierce persecution both movements grew and became more powerful. After three hundred years of struggle Christians took control of the Roman Empire and became a world religion. The worker’s movement is still struggling. After its first modern revolutionary appearance as a fully self conscious movement (1848) it achieved a major impetus in the later part of the nineteenth century with the growth of the First and Second Internationals, and the German Social Democratic movement. It too is now a world wide movement with Socialist, Social Democratic and Communist parties spread around the world. [The rise and fall of the USSR was a bump in the road the consequences of which have yet to be determined.]
The Book of Acts reveals that the early Christians were primitive communists sharing their goods in common and leading a collective life style. This original form of Christianity was wiped out when the Roman Empire under Constantine imposed Christianity as the official religion of the state and set up the Catholic Church in order to make sure that the religious teachings of Jesus and the early followers of his movement would be perverted to protect the interests of the wealthy and the power of the state.
With few exceptions, all forms of modern day Christianity are descended from this faux version, based on a mixture of Jewish religious elements and the practices of Greco-Roman paganism, and only the modern working class and progressive movements (basically secular) carry on in the spirit of egalitarianism and socialism of the founder of Christianity.
Engels points out that there were many attempts in history (especially from the Middle Ages up to modern times) to reestablish the original communistic Christianity of Jesus and his early followers.
These attempts manifested themselves as peasant uprisings through the middle ages which tried to overthrow feudal oppression and create a world based on the teaching of Jesus and his Apostles.
These movements failed giving rise to the state sanctioned Christianity of modern times. Engels mentions some of these movements– i.e., the Bohemian Taborites led by Jan Zizka (“of glorious memory”) and the German Peasant War. These movements are now represented, Engels points out, by the working men communists since the 1830s.
Engels reveals that misleadership is also a problem in these early movements (and still today I would add) due to the low levels of education found amongst the poor and oppressed. He quotes a contemporary witness, Lucian of Samosata (“the Voltaire of classic antiquity”). The Christians “despise all material goods without distinction and own them in common– doctrines which they have accepted in good faith, without demonstration or proof. And when a skillful impostor who knows how to make clever use of circumstances comes to them he can manage to get rich in a short time and laugh up his sleeve over these simpletons.” The Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwell types have been around for a long time. I am sure readers can add a long list of names.
Engels views on early Christianity were formed from his reading of what he considered “the only scientific basis” for such study, namely the new critical works by German scholars of religion.
First were the works of the Tubingen School, including David Strauss (The Life of Jesus). This school has shown that 1) the Gospels are late writings based on now lost original sources from the time of Jesus and his followers; 2) only four of Paul’s letters are by him; 3) all miracles must be left out of account if you want a scientific view; 4) all contradictory presentations of the same events must also be rejected. This school then wants to preserve what it can of the history of early Christianity. By the way, this is essentially what Thomas Jefferson tried to do when he made his own version of the New Testament.
A second school was based on the writings of Bruno Bauer. What Bauer did was to show that Christianity would have remained a Jewish sect if it had not, in the years after the death of its founder, mutated by contact with Greco-Roman paganism, into a new religion capable of becoming a world wide force. Bauer showed that Christianity, as we know it, did not come into the Roman world from the outside (“from Judea”) but that it was “that world’s own product.” Christianity owes as much to Zeus as to Yahweh.
Engels maintains that The Book of Revelations is the only book in the New Testament that can be properly dated by means of its internal evidence. It can be dated to around 67-68 AD since the famous number 666, as the mark of the beast or the Antichrist, represents the name of the Emperor Nero according to the rules of numerology. Nero was overthrown in 68. This book, Engels says, is the best source of the views of the early Christians since it is much earlier than any of the Gospels, and may actually have been the work the apostle John (which the Gospel and letters bearing his name were not).
In this book we will not find any of the views that characterize official Christianity as we have it from the time of the Emperor Constantine to the present day. It is purely a Jewish phenomenon in Revelations. There is no trinity as God has seven spirits (so the Holy Ghost is impossible Engels remarks). Jesus Christ is not God but his son, he is not even equal in status to his father. Nevertheless he has pretty high status, his followers are called his “slaves” by John. Jesus is “an emanation of God, existing from all eternity but subordinate to God” just as the seven spirits are. Moses is more or less “on an equal footing” with Jesus in the eyes of God. There is no mention of the later belief in original sin. John still thought of himself as a Jew, there is no idea at this time of “Christianity” as a new religion.
In this period there were many end of times revelations in circulation both in the Semitic and in the Greco-Roman world. They all proclaimed that God was (or the Gods were) pissed off at humanity and had to be appeased by sacrifices. John’s revelation was unique because it proclaimed “by one great voluntary sacrifice of a mediator the sins of all times and all men were atoned for once and for all– in respect of the faithful.”
Since all peoples and races could be saved this is what, according to Engels, “enabled Christianity to develop into a universal religion.” [Just as the concept of the workers of the world uniting to break their chains and build a world wide communist future makes Marxism-Leninism a universal philosophy.]
In Heaven before the throne of God are 144,000 Jews (12,000 from each tribe). In the second rank of the saved are the non Jewish converts to John’s sect. Engels points out that neither the “dogma nor the morals” of later Christianity are to be found in this earliest of Christian expressions.
Some Muslims would presumably not like this Heaven, not only are there no (female) virgins in it, there are no women whatsoever. In fact, the 144,000 Jews have never been “defiled” by contact with women! This is a men’s only club.
Engels says that the book shows a spirit of “struggle”, of having to fight against the entire world and a willingness to do so. He says the Christians of today lack that spirit but that it survives in the working class movement. We must remember he was writing this in 1894.
There were other sects of Christianity springing up at this time too. John’s sect eventually died out and the Christianity that won out was an amalgam of different groups who finally came together around the Council of Nicaea (325 AD). Those who did not sign on were themselves persecuted out of existence by the new Christian state.
We can see the analogy to the early sects of socialists and communists, says Engels. We can also see what happened after the Russian Revolution (Leninists, Stalinists, Trotskyists, Bukharinites, Maoists, etc., etc.). Here in the US today we have the CPUSA, the SWP, Worker’s World, Revolutionary CP, Socialist Party, Sparticists, and etc., etc.).
Engels thought that sectarianism was a thing of the past in the Socialist movement because the movement had matured and outgrown it. This, we now know, was a temporary state of affairs at the end of the 19th Century with the consolidation of the German SPD. The wide spread sectarianism of today suggests the worker’s movement is still in its infancy.
Engels says this sectarianism is due to the confusion and backwardness of the thinking of the masses and the preponderate role that leaders play due to this backwardness. The Russian masses of 1917 and the Chinese of 1949 were a far different base than the German working class of the 1890s.
“This confusion,” Engels writes,”is to be seen in the formation of numerous sects which fight against each other with at least the same zeal as against the common external enemy [China vs USSR, Stalin and Trotsky, Stalin and Tito, Vietnam vs China border war, Albania vs China and USSR. ad nauseam]. So it was with early Christianity, so it was in the beginning of the socialist movement [and still is, peace Engels!], no matter how much that worried the well-meaning worthies who preached unity where no unity was possible.”
Finally, for those fans of the 60s sexual revolution, Engels says that many of the sects of early Christianity took the opposite view of John and actually promoted sexual freedom and free love as part of the new dispensation. They lost out. Engels says this sexual liberation was also found in the early socialist movement. He would not, I think, have approved of the excessive prudery of the Soviets.
“Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number IS Six hundred threescore AND six.”– Revelation 13:18
In the last part of his essay Engels explains that the purpose of the Book of Revelations (by John of Patmos) was to communicate its religious vision to the seven churches of Asia Minor and to the larger sect of Jewish Christians that they represented.
At this time, circa 69 AD, the entire Mediterranean world much of the of Near East and Western Europe were under the control of the Roman Empire. This was a multicultural empire made of hundreds of tribes, groups, cities and peoples. Within the empire was a vast underclass of workers, freedmen, slaves and peasants whose exploited labor was lived off of by a ruling class of landed aristocrats and merchants. In 69 AD the empire was in essence a military dictatorship controlled by the army and led by the Emperor (from the Latin word for “general”– imperator).
At this time there were peoples but no nations in our sense of the word. “Nations became possible,” Engels says, “only through the downfall of Roman world domination.” The effects of which are still being felt in the Middle East and parts of Europe, especially eastern Europe.
For the exploited masses of the Empire it was basically impossible to resist the military power of Rome. There were uprisings and slave revolts but they were always put down by the legions. This was the background for what became a great revolutionary movement of the poor and the exploited, a movement that became Christianity. The purpose of the movement was to escape from persecution, enslavement and exploitation.
A solution was offered. “But” Engels remarks, “not in this world.”
Another feature of the work is that it is a symbolical representation of contemporary first century politics and John thinks that Jesus’s second coming is near at hand. Jesus tells John, “Behold, I come quickly” three times (22:7, 22:12, 22:20). His failure to show up by now doesn’t seem to pose a problem for Christians.
As far as the later Christian religion of love is concerned, Engels reports that you won’t find it in Revelation, at least as it regards the enemies of the Christians. There is no cheek turning going on here: it’s all fire and brimstone for the foes of Jesus. Engels says “undiluted revenge is preached.” God is even going to completely blot out Rome from the face of the earth. He changed his mind evidently as it is still a popular tourist destination and the pope has even set up shop there.
As was pointed out earlier the God of John is Yahweh, there is no Trinity, it is He, not Christ, who will judge mankind and they will judged according to their works (no justification by faith here, sorry Luther), no doctrine of original sin, no baptism, and no Eucharist or Mass. Almost everyone of these later developments came from Roman and Greek, as well as Egyptian mystery religions. Zoroastrian elements from the Zend – Avesta are also present. These are the idea of Satan and the Devil as an evil force opposed to Yahweh, a great battle at the end of time between good and evil, [the final conflict] and the idea of a second coming. All these ideas were picked up by the Jews during their contact with the Persians before their return after the Babylonian captivity and transmitted to the early Christians.
Once we realize all this we can also see why Islam was able to rise to the status of a world religion as well. Those areas of the world that were not the home land of Greco-Roman paganism were open to Islam which spread in areas of Semitic settlement and where Christianity had been imposed by force, so could Islam be.
We will give Engels the last word, the Book of Revelation “shows without any dilution what Judaism, strongly influenced by Alexandria, contributed to Christianity. All that comes later is Western , Greco-Roman addition.”
About the Author:
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association.
Venezuela’s Anti-Blockade Law - A Critique of Maduro and the Lies of Western Media: By. Edward Liger SmithRead Now
Nicolas Maduro and the Venezuelan Constituent Assembly have passed an anti-blockade law in an effort to circumvent crippling sanctions from the United States, and jump start the Venezuelan economy. The law will look to increase foreign trade in Venezuela, which many Venezuelan Socialists now fear will lead to an increase in privatizations, particularly in the oil industry, as well as an increase of foreign capital moving into Venezuela. Voices from the revolutionary left in Venezuela have also expressed concern that the law will lead to less government transparency in business dealings. Hashtag #NoApruebo (I don’t approve) was seen trending on Twitter in Venezuela at one point, as Venezuelans voiced their concerns that the law is a betrayal of Bolivarian Socialist values. President Maduro has argued that the law is necessary in the face of the US economic blockade.
The past four years have seen the Trump Administration ramp up sanctions, which began in the 2000s with George Bush, and were escalated further under Obama. The Anti-Blockade law shows how many struggles in Venezuela stem from US sanctions. While the US media portrays Maduro as an evil dictator, destroying his own countries’ economy, and oppressing his own people. In reality, the primary critique of Maduro from the working masses of Venezuela themselves, is his inability to combat US sanctions with the same success as his predecessor Hugo Chavez. The anti-blockade law, and subsequent public response, can reveal much about the current situation in Venezuela. A situation which Western corporate media has consistently lied about, in an effort to manufacture public support for regime change in Venezuela.
The public outcry against the anti-blockade law on Venezuelan Twitter reveals that many of the Western media narratives about Venezuela are inaccurate. The nonprofit outlet Human Rights Watch (HWR) claims Venezuela “imposes prison sentences of up to 20 years on those who publish messages of intolerance and hatred in media or social media.” HRW says that the Government aggressively targets those who speak negatively about them. The public outcry against the Anti-Blockade law provides an example of how censorship in Venezuela is largely overblown by Western Media. Valid accusations of police brutality, and Government violence in Venezuela, are always met with loud public outcry from the masses in opposition. There are of course valid critiques of Maduro and the Venezuelan Government, however the reality in Venezuela is far from the totalitarian dictatorship it’s made out to be by outlets like HRW.
Many Western Media outlets cite HRW as a source when discussing Venezuela, despite the fact that HRW has faced criticism for having former CIA members, and multinational business executives on their board of directors. Rather than sending journalists to investigate Venezuela, HRW publishes reports from members of the US backed Venezuelan Opposition, who are the minority party in terms of public support. This gives us a glimpse into how lies can be perpetrated on a mass scale in order to sway public opinion in favor of regime change. Even the name Human Rights Watch, gives readers the impression of a non-biased organization reporting on human rights abuses out of concern, when in reality the organization is controlled by corporate executives, and former CIA officials. And most of the so called reporting, is from far right members of the US backed Venezuelan opposition. HRW is just one of many NGOs who feign concern for human rights, while spreading lies, or exaggerations to manufacture support for regime change.
The work of HRW is frequently cited by Western media outlets when discussing Venezuela. A survey conducted by Fair.org found that “Zero Percent of Elite Commentators Oppose Regime Change in Venezuela.”  This is in the US, who claim the Venezuelan media is one sided and controlled by the Government. It is hard not to see the irony of a country whose media offers no scrutiny to the idea of overthrowing another countries’ leader in favor of a far right alternative, accusing another country of having a corrupt media apparatus. In reality Venezuela has a mixture of state and opposition media, with the privately owned Venivision dominating the Venezuelan TV and News Market. A far cry from the hegemonic US media, who loudly beat the war drums for the US Empire at every turn.
While the anti-blockade law provides an opportunity for us to critique Maduro and the PSUV Government, the critique stems from the President’s inability to combat US Imperialism. The people of Venezuela are not calling for their President to be ousted, but rather they are demanding he remain faithful to the ideals of the Bolivarian Revolution. A 2017 poll found that 75% of Venezuelan’s still support Socialism. While Venezuelans have their critiques of Maduro, they ultimately recognize that their economic hardships are mostly being caused by the United States, and the economic blockade.
The ultimate irony of the US Venezuela situation is the fact that Venezuela is used in the US as a talking point to argue that “socialism fails every time it’s tried.” Meanwhile, within Venezuela, the masses are critiquing Maduro for not being socialist enough. Arguing Maduro should nationalize more industry, and allow for less privatization of the economy. The economy needs to be diversified, and sectors outside of the oil industry need to be strengthened. Outside of those in the Venezuelan Opposition Party, the people of Venezuela largely want more Socialism, not less. In a recent interview concerning the anti-blockade law Venezuelan Chavista leader Telémaco Figueroa said “Socialism will not happen if we join hands with the bourgeoisie. It is we, the working people, who are called upon to carry out the task of saving humanity” It is clear the working masses of Venezuela remain committed to building socialism, and recognize the enemy in their fight is the imperialist US blockade, and the bourgeois opportunists within their own country.
It is vitally important for US leftists to understand the situation in Venezuela. Many who speak out against the blockade within the US are labeled as “dictator defenders,” even by those who see themselves as leftists. However, it is not Nicolas Maduro who those like me are defending. It is folks like Telémaco Figueroa, and the working masses of Venezuela who I choose to defend. Working masses who will loudly critique Maduro when necessary, but who also realize that their struggles originate from the US economic blockade, which is itself a product of capitalism and neoliberalism. I choose to stand with the working masses of Venezuela, and against the criminal economic blockade being imposed by my own country. Those Western leftists calling for regime change should reflect on what it truly means to be anti-imperialist. It is not Maduro who we must stand behind, but rather the working masses of Venezuela. A revolutionary people who remain committed to building socialism while facing pure economic warfare from the US. I stand with the people of Venezuela, and the Bolivarian Revolution as a whole.
VIVA LA REVOLUCION!!!
 “World Report 2019: Rights Trends in Venezuela.” Human Rights Watch, January 17, 2019. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/venezuela.
 Bhatt, Keane. “The Hypocrisy of Human Rights Watch.” NACLA, 2013. https://nacla.org/article/hypocrisy-human-rights-watch.
 Teddy Ostrow, Helga I. Fellay, Ian, Gpcus, Doug Tarnopol, John Wheat Gibson, Wondering Woman, et al. “Zero Percent of Elite Commentators Oppose Regime Change in Venezuela.” FAIR, April 30, 2019. https://fair.org/home/zero-percent-of-elite-commentators-oppose-regime-change-in-venezuela/.
 Lucas Koerner., Ricardo Vaz Ricardo Vaz is a political analyst and editor at Venezuelanalysis., Doug Latimer, Janice Olson, EL Comandante, Kc, Wondering Woman, , Arkan, and Michel St-Laurent. “There's Far More Diversity in Venezuela's 'Muzzled' Media Than in US Corporate Press.” FAIR, May 20, 2019. https://fair.org/home/theres-far-more-diversity-in-venezuelas-muzzled-media-than-in-us-corporate-press/.
 Mallett-Outtrim, Ryan. “75% Of Venezuelans Support Socialism: Poll.” Venezuelanalysis.com, August 2, 2019. https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/13251.
 Venezuelanalysis.com, Cira Pascual Marquina –. “The Controversial Anti-Blockade Law: A Conversation with Telémaco Figueroa.” Venezuelanalysis.com, October 27, 2020. https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/15029.
About the Author:
My name is Edward and I am from Sauk City, Wisconsin. I received my B.A. in Political Science from Loras College, where I was a former NCAA wrestling All-American, and active wrestling coach. My main interest are in Geopolitics and the role of American imperialism with relation to socialist states, specifically China and Venezuela. I also worked for Bernie Sanders' campaign in 2020.
After a year or so since the CIA backed coup that ousted Morales, today we rejoice with the news that Movimiento al Socialismo is back in power in Bolivia. This event represents the first appearance of hope in a year plagued by a deadly virus and an even deadlier dealing of the virus by capitalist countries like the US, where more than 200,000 people have died. Some in the American left have used this victory in Bolivia as an inspiration towards organizing against Trump, stating that like Bolivia, we can vote fascism out of power. Communist Party USA (CPUSA) is pushing a campaign called Vote Against Fascism, which tries to inspire its members to vote for the lesser of two evils. With the victory of Arce, the message has been “Bolivia did it so can we”. In this way, they partially equate a vote for Biden in the US with a vote for Arce in Bolivia. In both cases we have the removal of a proto fascist government; this can be stated as “in both cases we have the electoral negation of fascism.” Although the American left agrees that in the affirmative end, Biden and Arce are nothing alike, their similitude comes from their position as a negation to fascism.
The thing about negation, is that it is always the mere initial face of affirmation. A similitude in negation, cannot itself meaningfully exist without a similitude in the affirmation upon which the negation opens the door for. Similarity in the space of removing fascism can only really stand as similarity if in the affirmative afterward of the fascist negation it stands as a similitude as well. If two rock climbers are slipping into an abyss and one jumps and catches on to a sturdy rock, while the other jumps and catches on to a fragile stick, both equally jump, yet we must be delusional to talk about such a minute similarity when the results in each case are so gradually different. The jumping in this case is the negation of the fall, and the grabbing is the affirmation of a possible climb. As in the electoral struggle against fascism, in the rock example, we have a life or death situation. In both cases jumping is the only thing that will bring the possibility of life.
Bolivia is the jumper that landed on the rock. It is, at least for now, safe to keep climbing. The US is the climber that is about to jump to the stick. Since it has not jumped yet, I wish to present a couple points about possibly jumping for the farther rock, given that if we miss the far rock or grab on to the close fragile stick, in both cases we will still fall. The stick, as in the case of Biden, is the most reachable out of the alternatives. The problem is that, as in the case of a vote for Biden, the stick is not going to prevent the eventual fall. This is clear, especially as one sees that the reason the rock climber is falling in the first place is because of his continual attempt to merely climb through sticks. Thus, the similitude a Biden win would have with the win in Bolivia is as minute as the example of the rock climbers. Arce and MAS combine their negation of fascism with a socialist affirmation. They negate fascism with the hope of the continual progress socialism has brought in Bolivia. Along with this, in the last year the major unionized industries in Bolivia have been tremendously active in fighting against the fascist coup; uniting worker and indigenous groups in striking and calling for the resignation of Áñez. With Biden this is not the case. A Biden negation has no truly hopeful affirmation behind it.
It is obvious to anyone who is halfway conscious about the class struggle in the US, that Trump is not some anomaly. The rise of fascism did not appear from a supernatural void that opened in 2016. This rise has its roots in the natural decay of a capitalism where a socialist revolutionary movement is absent. When socialist do not work on the subjective conditions of the working class when their objective conditions are revolutionary, it is bound that they will fall into reactionary circles. Concretely, Trump is a result of 8 years of an Obama administration that accelerated a neoliberal agenda even quicker than Bush had before him. On this, most communist agree, Trump is not an anomaly, but a symptom of the system and the last 4 decades of neoliberal governments.
From this perspective, we can see that a Biden administration is a return to the conditions that gave us Trump in the first place. I do not think there is much disagreement here. CPUSA and the American left do not conceive of Biden as potentially any better than Obama. The question they are asking is the following. “We accept Biden is not a panacea of the ills of our society. We accept that Biden is a return to the condition which gave us Trump in the first place. But is government that can potentially lead to fascism again better than a fascist government?” Their answer is a big YES. The American communist who disagrees with CPUSA’s informal agitation for Biden gets told that “a candidate who maintains the capitalist status quo and imperialism is better than a candidate who maintains the status quo and imperialism but who also agitates his militarized white nationalist base to kill communist and people of color”. When posed like this, it is quite obvious that the answer is correct. Anyone would prefer this lesser of two evils approach, given that the lesser is obvious in this case.
What we have here in their reasonings is a central assumption which I hope to pick out, in order to then more objectively analyze the scenario. The central assumption can be presented in both its philosophical and material formulations. Philosophically it is a question of potentiality and actuality. Do you want potential fascism or actual fascism? When proposed like this, potential fascism is the better route, given that it buys us time to potentially depotentialize that potential. The assumption here is that one can revert to repotentializing something which is already actual. The assumption is that a Biden win does not just negate a Trump presidency but negates the historical effects of that Trump presidency. The problem is that, once the oak tree is there, there is no reverting it to an acorn. All one can do, besides radically tearing the tree apart, is replant the new acorn the oak tree gives. That oak tree itself will never be an acorn, it will only give you new acorns, but even then a replanting of a new acorn does not remove the existence of the oak tree, but expands the possibility of that oak tree making a new oak tree friend. Their assumption is that this potential negates the actual. Where in reality, this potential will do no more than re-establish itself as the bearer of the potential to duplicate the actuality.
In its material formulation, their assumption centers around the conception that with Trump out of office, and with Biden in, the fascist militancy of the Trump fanatics somehow disappears, or at least begins to dissipate. But how much more guarantee do we have that Trump’s militant base will be less potent with a Biden presidency? Is the man who says that police should shoot black folks in the leg instead of killing them really going to take the steps necessary to face the militancy of white nationalism? Especially considering his involvement in the crime bill, his continual denial to decriminalize marijuana, and his old segregationist stances, all which are lethal for black communities. This is the guy you think will help lower the threat of the militant white supremacists Trump empowered? They might respond that since Biden does not provide the legitimation for these groups that Trump does, that this will be the source of the disempowerment of those groups Trump gave a voice to. But this assumes to easily that those shouting the loudest will be quite just because they were removed of their official microphone. Not only does it assume this, but it ignores the plethora of Trump supporters claiming outright civil war if Trump loses. In any case, I do not think that communist or people of color are much safer from the militancy of white supremacy just because Trump is out of office. On the contrary, if the current status of things tells us anything is that replanting that acorn will quickly result in a new oak tree. By this I mean a Biden win, from what we can infer, can only but exacerbate the militancy of white supremist.
So, what then? Do we not vote? Do we just allow Trump to win because we are scared of the civil war threats from his militant white supremacist circles? No, this is of course not the correct answer. We must vote. But as all communist should be aware, voting is perhaps the smallest and last part of a revolutionary struggle. Before any true victory can come from the electoral arena, we must have already had a strong level of economic organization. As Haywood states in Industrial Socialism “Our fight is, first of all a shop fight. It takes place at the point of production where the workers are at present enslaved. Until this is understood there can be no real understanding of Socialism.” The American left focuses the majority of its efforts in pursuit of electoral victories without the prior existence of organization among class lines. Until the irrational divisions of socialist parties and organizations in the US unite and focus their energies on workplace organization as the necessary predecessor to the electoral struggle, we will continue to face futility in the political sphere.
Although I have argued here that Biden is not the knight that will smash the rise of fascism Trump allowed, that does not mean in other social and welfare positions a Biden presidency will seem to make it easier for us to organize our revolutionary struggle. Regardless of how we decide to vote this election, the result will likely be very similar; American will continue to face the brutalities of a capitalism in decay. A day like today 94 years ago the most popular American socialist of the 20th century, Eugene V. Debs, died. Whether we step into the ballot box with his famous dictum “I rather vote for something I want and not get it, then vote for something I don’t want and get it” in mind and vote for a La Riva or Hawkins ticket, or whether we take the more pragmatic approach of voting for Biden; the reality of the revolutionary futility of this election is present. The only way to eliminate this endless condition of revolutionary futility the American socialists have had for a century is to dedicate the next four years to combining all of our forces together and begin, under one umbrella, a process of economic organizing. Only if we are able to do this will a serious revolutionary party impact in the political sphere be possible. The inspiration of the victory of socialism in Bolivia should not be spent on motivation for a futile election, but on organization to make the presently impossible possible. We are facing a capitalism challenged by its natural cycles of crisis and by the surplus crisis brought about by a pandemic. As millions of American lose their jobs and their employer-tied healthcare plans in the middle of a pandemic, the wealth of the 643 billionaires in the US grew by $845 billion. The time is now for communist and socialist to take advantage of these objectively revolutionary conditions and add the subjective element necessary to blow this whole thing open.
“[We] may be dreamers, but dreamers are necessary to make facts!”
 Peoples Dispatch, “National Strike Continues Across Bolivia, Demands Grow For Áñez To Step Down,” last modified August 7, 2020, https://peoplesdispatch.org/2020/08/07/national-strike-continues-across-bolivia-demands-grow-for-anez-to-step-down/.
 Haywood, William, and Frank Bohn. Industrial Socialism (Charles H. Kerr & Company Cooperative, 1911), p. 45.
 Saloni Sardana, “US Billionaires’ Wealth Grew By $845 Billion During the First Six Months of the Pandemic,” Markets Insider, last modified September 17, 2020, https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/us-billionaires-wealth-net-worth-pandemic-covid-billion-2020-9-1029599756
 Hellen Keller, “Why I Became an IWW,” New York Tribune, January 1916. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/keller-helen/works/1910s/16_01_16.htm
About the Author:
My name is Carlos and I am a Cuban-American Marxist. I graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Loras College and am currently a graduate student and Teachers Assistant in Philosophy at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. My area of specialization is Marxist Philosophy. My current research interest is in the history of American radical thought, and examining how philosophy can play a revolutionary role . I also run the philosophy YouTube channel Tu Esquina Filosofica and organized for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020.