Left anti-communism: The Unkindest Cut by Michael Parenti -
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This essay is from the book 'Blackshirts and Reds' and has been republished due to the on-going propaganda war against the People's Republic of China. You can find the full PDF here if you're tired of the imperial let anti-communist and racist propaganda. https://eastsidemarxism.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/michael-parenti-blackshirts-and-reds-rational-fascism-and-the-overthrow-of-communism.pdf In the United States, for over a

Thanks for sharing this article. It’s more nuanced and interesting than i expected, although i have disagreements with some parts of course. Overall, it raises the question of Do we want to accept authoritarian rule and some forms of injustice, in the name of material development for the masses?

Personally, i’m strongly in the “no” camp (“freedom or death”). But this article is a somewhat fair argument for “yes”.

Listen to Noam Chomsky holding forth about “left intellectuals” who try to “rise to power on the backs of mass popular movements” and “then beat the people into submission. . . . You start off as basically a Leninist who is going to be part of the Red bureaucracy. You see later that power doesn’t lie that way, and you very quickly become an ideologist of the right. . . . We’re seeing it right now in the [former] Soviet Union. The same guys who were communist thugs two years back, are now running banks and [are] enthusiastic free marketeers and praising Americans”

What’s wrong with this quote? Is it not true that in much of the ex-USSR the “communist” elites have organized the privatization of resources/industry? Is that not how Putin for example came to power and helped establish the new oligarchy?

Is that not the case all the way back to Lenin, who promised communism but massacre everyone who actually practiced it (Ukraine Commune, Cronstadt…) ?

these Reds side with the poor and powerless often at great risk and sacrifice to themselves

I guess it depends on local context, but i would say it’s true for some persons/networks, but definitely not true when it comes to Communist Parties. Or it may be true depending on the perceived advantages of doing so… for example the PCF in France defending independent Algeria on paper then voting for the war against independence, or denouncing State racism then mounting local militias to attack immigrant housing.

Orwell announced that a “willingness to criticize Russia and Stalin is the test of intellectual honesty

Again, what’s wrong with this quote? We could say the same about the US empire, btw… I’d say someone who is not willing to criticize both is a puppet of imperial interests. In practice, Orwell witnessed this first hand when he was in a trotskyist militia during the spanish revolution: he saw the communist party seize power and massacre all opposition (anarchist/trotskyist), so i can understand where that sentiment comes from. I truly recommend reading his autobiographic Homage to Catalonia for historical context.

And the Soviet Union, along with Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic, and Cuba provided vital assistance to national liberation movements in countries around the world, including Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress in South Africa.

That’s true, but misleading. Some people’s republics have done huge service to foreign populations (eg. Cuban medical support), but when it comes from the USSR it was never (that i know of) for free. Material support was in exchange of suppressing the local leftists (like Lenin/Trotsky did in USSR) in order to build a vassal state. That’s for example what the USSR did during the spanish revolution, which arguably killed the revolution and led to the victory of fraquist fascism.

Instead, we maintained that, aside from the well-publicized deficiencies and injustices, there were positive features about existing communist systems that were worth preserving, that improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people in meaningful and humanizing ways.

Well that’s the first fair and balanced sentence in the whole article. The author went to great lengths to say that the USSR and other people’s republic were unjustly attacked, before finally recognizing that there are “injustices” to address… which was the whole point of criticizing the USSR (from a leftist perspective) the entire time.

“Western and also Third World intellectuals were attracted to the Bolshevik counterrevolution [sic] because Leninism is, after all, a doctrine that says that the radical intelligentsia have a right to take state power and to run their countries by force, and that is an idea which is rather appealing to intellectuals.”

Well that’s true. Enlightened intellectuals tend to consider the people too stupid to self-organize or have an informed opinion on things. The author would do himself a great service by analyzing what he finds wrong in this quote, instead of just asserting it’s plain wrong without explanations.

(Lenin) Yet he himself is repeatedly identified as an ultra-left putschist by mainstream journalists and some on the Left.

Yet again, what’s wrong with this? Lenin literally came back to Russia in the middle of a revolution, organized a military putsch, and jailed/killed all opposition. Not only did he do it but he advocated for this as “vanguard” and “dictatorship of the proletariat”.

Left anticommunists find any association with communist organizations to be morally unacceptable because of the “crimes of communism.” Yet many of them are themselves associated with the Democratic Party

Wow we are definitely not talking about the same “leftists”. Remember the author was citing Chomsky as an example of left anti-communism. How is Chomsky any close to the Democratic Party?

the perks enjoyed by party and government elites were modest by corporate CEO standards in the West (…) Soviet leaders like Yuri Andropov and Leonid Brezhnev lived (…) in a housing project near the Kremlin set aside for government leaders. They had limousines at their disposal (like most other heads of state) and access to large dachas where they entertained visiting dignitaries.

Right on point. But how does that make such injustice acceptable? Noone is arguing that western neoliberalism is “better” than USSR State capitalism. At least noone on the left.

But a real socialism, it is argued, would be controlled by the workers themselves through direct participation instead of being run by Leninists, Stalinists, Castroites, or other ill-willed, power-hungry, bureaucratic, cabals of evil men who betray revolutions. Unfortunately, this “pure socialism” view is ahistorical and nonfalsifiable; it cannot be tested against the actualities of history.

It’s a historical view. There are countless examples of such movements throughout history, except in marxist-leninist “history” because they have been entirely erased.

The armed workers would take control of production without benefit of managers, state planners, bureaucrats, or a formal military. While undeniably appealing, this worker syndicalism denies the necessities of state power. Under such an arrangement, the Nicaraguan revolution would not have lasted two months against the U.S.-sponsored counterrevolution that savaged the country

This is a fallacy! That military activities requires central planning goes mostly without doubt (though some could argue otherwise). But that does not mean that central military power should hold political power over the local population. Two historical examples:

  • the Makhnovtchina held zero political power over the communes of Ukraine
  • the EZLN holds to this day zero political power over the zapatistas caracoles

On the contrary, it is arguable that personal/communal autonomy is a fuel that drives people to defend the revolution with all their heart, whereas conscription or being ordered to execute your neighbors or union comrades is not exactly a good motivation…

All this is not to say that everything Stalin did was of historical necessity. The exigencies of revolutionary survival did not “make inevitable” the heartless execution of hundreds of Old Bolshevik leaders, the personality cult of a supreme leader who claimed every revolutionary gain as his own achievement, the suppression of party political life through terror, the eventual silencing of debate regarding the pace of industrialization and collectivization, the ideological regulation of all intellectual and cultural life, and the mass deportations of “suspect” nationalities.

Correct. But i find it weird not to apply the same kind of historical criticism to Lenin/Trotsky.

In fact, the capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe seriously weakened the numerous Third World liberation struggles that had received aid from the Soviet Union and brought a whole new crop of right-wing governments into existence, ones that now worked hand-in-glove with U.S. global counterrevolutionaries around the globe.

Correct.

No longer needing to convince workers that they live better than their counterparts in Russia, no longer restrained by a competing system, the corporate class is rolling back the many gains that working people have won over the years.

Correct.

Having never understood the role that existing communist powers played in tempering the worst impulses of Western capitalism, and having perceived communism as nothing but an unmitigated evil, the left anticommunists did not anticipate the losses that were to come. Some of them still don’t get it.

I somewhat agree with this interpretation. But i could also take it from another angle: Having never understood the role that perspectives of actual freedom & equality for all played in tempering the worst impulses of tyranny, and having perceived anarchism as nothing but chaos, the marxist-leninists did not anticipate the losses that were to come. Some of them still don’t get it.

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Personally, i’m strongly in the “no” camp (“freedom or death”). But this article is a somewhat fair argument for “yes”.

I would argue that’s putting the cart before the horse. Focusing on maximizing individual freedoms before basic needs are met is not a workable solution. I look at this from the perspective of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Everyone should have their material needs met before the focus is turned to higher needs.

Is that not the case all the way back to Lenin, who promised communism but massacre everyone who actually practiced it (Ukraine Commune, Cronstadt…) ?

I think this shows that people will generally act in their own interest based on the systemic pressures they’re exposed to. Under communism, people didn’t have ways to accumulate wealth, exploit others for their benefit, and so on. So, people would channel their energies in generally positive ways. However, once the systemic pressures changed, these same people quickly adapted to new opportunities open to them and exploitation of the weak by the strong became the norm.

for example the PCF in France defending independent Algeria on paper then voting for the war against independence, or denouncing State racism then mounting local militias to attack immigrant housing

Opportunism is always a problem, and just because a party calls itself communist does not mean that it upholds the ideals in practice. This is a problem within any ideology. Somebody could call themselves an anarchist and only pay lip service to those ideas as well.

That’s true, but misleading. Some people’s republics have done huge service to foreign populations (eg. Cuban medical support), but when it comes from the USSR it was never (that i know of) for free. Material support was in exchange of suppressing the local leftists (like Lenin/Trotsky did in USSR) in order to build a vassal state.

That’s misleading as well, USSR existed in a state of war with the capitalist world since its formation. It wasn’t a free society because it was at war, not because it was communist. The collective west invaded USSR right after the revolution, then USSR was plunged into WW2 a couple of decades later leading to huge devastation. Meanwhile, US sat on the sidelines and developed a huge military industrial complex, then profiteered from reconstruction in Europe, and ultimately turned western Europe into a vassal state. Then US used this power to start a Cold War against USSR.

That’s for example what the USSR did during the spanish revolution, which arguably killed the revolution and led to the victory of fraquist fascism.

Last I checked, it was the anarchists who turned on the communists which led to fascists ultimately taking power, much like social democrats sided with the nazis in Germany against the communists.

Yet again, what’s wrong with this? Lenin literally came back to Russia in the middle of a revolution, organized a military putsch, and jailed/killed all opposition. Not only did he do it but he advocated for this as “vanguard” and “dictatorship of the proletariat”.

Dictatorship of the proletariat is the one approach that has been shown to successfully work in practice. Every society today is a class society, and it exists under the rule of the class that holds power. It’s clearly better from the perspective of the majority for the working class to be in charge.

Wow we are definitely not talking about the same “leftists”. Remember the author was citing Chomsky as an example of left anti-communism. How is Chomsky any close to the Democratic Party?

Chomsky consistently advocates for working within the system and voting for democrats as a solution. Chomsky has never advocated for tearing down US system, and in fact often defends it as the best available. Some examples here.

Right on point. But how does that make such injustice acceptable? Noone is arguing that western neoliberalism is “better” than USSR State capitalism. At least noone on the left.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen many people who consider themselves being on the left in the west say that current western system is preferable to USSR. Generally the argument is rooted in having more personal freedoms.

On the contrary, it is arguable that personal/communal autonomy is a fuel that drives people to defend the revolution with all their heart, whereas conscription or being ordered to execute your neighbors or union comrades is not exactly a good motivation…

I agree that personal/communal autonomy works best in time of peace. However, as long as capitalism is the dominant system in the world any socialist experiment will necessarily exist under duress. Capitalism must be overthrown globally in order for truly egalitarian systems to become viable.

I somewhat agree with this interpretation. But i could also take it from another angle: Having never understood the role that perspectives of actual freedom & equality for all played in tempering the worst impulses of tyranny, and having perceived anarchism as nothing but chaos, the marxist-leninists did not anticipate the losses that were to come. Some of them still don’t get it.

I think that people focus entirely too much on the past without contextualizing it. The type of system you get is rooted in the material conditions, culture, history and so on. If a socialist revolution ever happens in the west then it will necessarily be rooted in western values. Things like personal freedoms are a core value of the western society today, and I think it’s silly to imagine that we’d see the type of society that USSR had as an outcome. It will necessarily be socialism with western characteristics.

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