Thursday, September 29, 2022

Revisiting the events of Jan 6

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...if the fear of falling into error is the source of a mistrust in Science, which in the absence of any such misgivings gets on with the work itself and actually does know, it is difficult to see why, conversely, a mistrust should not be placed in this mistrust, and why we should not be concerned that this fear of erring is itself the very error.  (Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, Introduction)

by Alex Steiner 

A little over a year ago we reprinted an article by Bryan Palmer on the events of Jan 6.  The article was titled, The Insurrection that Wasn't.  One cannot help but be struck by the irony of that title given all we have learned over the past year about the depth of Trump’s aborted coup attempt as a result of the investigative work of the House Jan 6 Committee as well as other ongoing investigations.  Clearly, we have to admit that the emphasis of the article, captured in that title, was off base.  After all the information that has come out since, it can hardly be denied that Trump and his accomplices did indeed conspire to stage a Presidential coup in order to nullify the results of the 2020 Presidential election and maintain power through a Bonapartist dictatorship built around the cult of Trump.  This was and remains a watershed moment in the history of the American republic. There has been nothing like it since the Civil War and it is not by accident that much of the symbolism of the failed insurrection of Jan 6th borrowed from the heraldry of the Confederacy.

The attempted coup was made possible by the rapid transformation of the Republican Party from what was traditionally a Center Right party into a neo-fascist authoritarian party.  This is still a work in progress but it is very far along and clearly there is no going back to the Republican Party that our parents and grandparents knew.  The historian of Italian fascism, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, speaking of the recent election victory of the Italian neo-fascist Giorgia Meloni, made the following point about the trajectory of the Republican Party,

…the GOP, I’ve been saying for a long time, has to be seen as a far-right authoritarian party in the model of European parties. And what’s going on right now, we’re having — history is being made before our eyes. The party is remaking itself to support whatever form of illiberal rule it wants to have in the United States. And, of course, we’re seeing this at the state level, in Texas and especially in Florida.

And so, when a party is remaking itself, it pushes some people out, and these are, let’s say, moderates, like Cheney, Kinzinger, all these — all the people who were anti-Trump. And who is being invited in? Lawless people, violent people. That’s why, if you want to get ahead in the GOP, your campaign ad has to have you and an assault rifle. People who participated in January 6th — criminals — are being invited to run for office, and actual extremists, like Mark Finchem in Arizona. He is an Oath Keeper. He is very proud. He’s very public about being an Oath Keeper, a member of the violent extremist group. And so, he is now the Arizona candidate for secretary of state. So, getting ahead in today’s GOP, being an extremist is a help to that, because they are remaking themselves as a far-right party. So there are going to be, I predict, a lot of interchange between Meloni’s neofascists and the GOP. [1]



It should also be emphasized that a major contributor to the Jan 6 coup attempt was the subservience of the Democratic Party to the corporate elite and their abandonment of the social contract with the working class that was central to the coalition built by the Democratic Party since Roosevelt’s New Deal.  This created a political vacuum where millions of working-class victims of neo-liberalism felt betrayed by their putative defenders and abandoned the Democratic Party in droves.  Many of those disinherited working-class voters gave one last chance to Barack Obama. When Obama’s “Hope and Change” turned out to be nothing but desolation and more pain embodied in the opioid crisis that devastated so many working class communities, the feeling of abandonment by the Democratic Party and the liberal elite turned into rage.  This was a perfect storm for a demagogue like Trump who manipulated the enraged middle class and working-class masses into the social basis for the MAGA movement.  The psychology behind convincing tens of millions that the billionaire and corrupt businessman Trump was a genuine anti-establishment spokesman and represented the interests of the working class was already anticipated years earlier in Thomas Frank’s book, What’s the Matter with Kansas?

The evisceration of the norms of bourgeois democratic forms of rule and the plunge into authoritarianism and a revival of fascism is not limited to the United States of course but is part of a well-documented international phenomenon.  It is the political expression of the global crisis of capitalism which has evolved into a crisis of legitimacy. It is the final chapter of a decades long process that has seen the atomization of the working class, the practical disappearance of class solidarity and the near complete isolation of the left from the working class. Given these conditions, it was almost inevitable that right wing faux populism would step in to fill the vacuum.

Seen in this context the events of Jan 6, as well as the continuing efforts by Trump and the Republican Party to overthrow the 2020 election should not be a complete surprise.  In fact, since Jan 6 the authoritarian turn of the Republican Party has hardened.  Whereas the Republican Party has been a minority party for decades, winning office only as a result of gerrymandering and relying on the anti-democratic institutions enshrined in the Constitution to stay in power, a document drawn up by 18th century landowners and slaveholders, they had in previous years tried to hide this inconvenient truth from the public.  No more! Today they proudly broadcast their desire to overturn elections, to deprive millions of the right to vote and to impose draconian legislation through an unelected Supreme Court that takes away rights that had been previously won in long struggles. With its overturning of the Roe v Wade decision the Supreme Court has stepped back into the role it has harbored for the great majority of its 200 plus years existence, a bastion of reaction and protector of privilege, a role only briefly interrupted by the short interregnum of the liberal Earl Warren Supreme Court of 1950s and 1960s. This was nicely summarized by the historian Alan Singer,

Politically conservative decisions by the Supreme Court have been the norm, with possibly the only exception being the Warren Court of the 1950s and 1960s. From 1840 until the Civil War the Supreme Court was a pro-slavery Court dominated by Southerners Roger Taney (Maryland), James Wayne (Georgia), John Catron (Tennessee), John McKinley (Alabama), Peter Daniel (Virginia), and John Campbell (Alabama). After the Civil War the Court dismantled civil rights protections for formally enslaved Africans and free Blacks with a series of decisions culminating in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Eric Foner argues in The Second Founding,” the post-Civil War 13, 14, and 15th Amendments “were nullified in the generation after Reconstruction, that, little by little, the rights - the right to equal protection of the law, the right to vote, things like that - were just taken away in the South with the acquiescence of the Supreme Court of the United States.” Post-Civil War Supreme Courts through the 1930s were also notoriously pro-capital and anti-labor, even declaring unconstitutional early New Deal legislation aimed at addressing conditions during the Great Depression. [2]

The Dobb’s decision overturning Roe was therefore no anomaly but a return by the Supreme Court to its proper home. Although the Court has been moving in a reactionary direction for many years there is no longer even the fig leaf of pretense that the Court represents some version of impartial justice.  It has more than anything else in recent memory punctured the liberal myth that the “moral arc of the universe is long but that it bends towards justice”.  These words, originally penned by the radical abolitionist Rev. Theodore Parker, have been repeated by Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and Barack Obama. While those words are inspiring, they can also become a rational for complacency and duplicity as they did when Obama uttered them.  The negation of those illusions may be the single most positive effect of the Supreme Court decision.

Returning to our consideration of the Palmer essay, one problem was its concentration on the amateurish and sometimes comical as well a tragic antics of the Jan 6 mob that stormed the Capitol.  To be fair, given the lack of information available at the time, Palmer could hardly be blamed for concentrating on this aspect of the Jan 6 events.  It was also to Palmer’s credit that he exposed the indignation of the Democrats in relation to Jan 6 for what it was, an opportunity to demonstrate their fealty to the bourgeois state and its repressive institutions. They never missed a chance to wail against the violation of the sanctity of the “People’s House”. This hypocrisy on the part of the Democrats is a continuing saga.  The FBI raid on Trump’s residence in Mar-a-Lago has been used by the Democrats as an opportunity to pay homage to that most reactionary institution of the American police state.  This is the same FBI that has been responsible for the murder and false imprisonment of tens of thousands of political dissidents over the decades.  And their colors have not changed as witnessed by their recent raid on the offices of the African People’s Socialist Party.  We have yet to hear any prominent Democratic politician say anything negative about this latest atrocity of the FBI.

But for all that we now know that the mob that attacked the Capitol was only one element of a complicated scheme to overturn the election and far from the most important element. The real nature of the conspiracy could only be discerned in hindsight from testimony of those who were privy to the behind the scenes plotting.  It is now clear that Palmer, and us, attributed far too much import to Trump’s penchant for acting out in a kind of primal rage without any strategy.  It is true enough that Trump’s sociopathy manifests itself in bouts of rage and even violence, but what was not known at the time were the plans directed by his close lieutenants to use the chaotic attack on the Capitol as a pretext for declaring a State of Emergency.

There was in fact a months-long plan hatched long before the election by Trump and his inner circle to overturn the election.  The first chapter was the legal phase where the counting of ballots in many constituencies was challenged in court.  When Trump lost all those court cases the next phase kicked in, the attempt to convince state legislatures controlled by Republicans to invalidate votes and to name hand-picked Electors who would vote for Trump regardless of the outcome of the popular vote.  When that looked like it would fail, the next plan was to pressure the Vice President, Mike Pence, to refuse to certify the election and send the outcome of the election to Congress or the courts where the Republicans would prevail.  When Pence refused to go along the mob was released to spread mayhem.  And while there was certainly amateurish posturing by the mob, there were also within its ranks highly trained fascists armed to the teeth and looking to assassinate members of Congress. As it turned out those who thought that the coup consisted of this mob were not looking in the right place.  The mob as dangerous as it was, was never a serious candidate for overthrowing the United State government and taking power even given the crippling of the Capitol police and the refusal by Trump’s man in the Pentagon to intervene with National Guard troops.  Trump and his inner circle were well aware that the mob could not by itself effectuate a regime change.  But what they were hoping for was to use the mob as an excuse to declare a national emergency and martial law, giving Trump the pretext he needed to overturn the election.  

In addition to revising our estimate of the level of coordination between the legal and extra-legal, i.e., insurrectionary actions of Trump’s phalanx of rioters on Jan 6, it is also worth revisiting some of the prognostications in Palmer’s essay, prognostications that were written in the heat of events as they were unfolding.  For instance, take this one.

Impeachment has proceeded, but its finale in a Senate trial has been deliberately delayed by Republicans, who are happy enough, under the circumstances, to have the Democrats carry the impeachment can. Biden is anything but enthralled with the prospect of an impeachment trial and would much prefer that Trump simply fade away into the Mar-a-Logo night. If enough GOP Senators get on board with the ultimate Congressional sanction of convicting Trump in the forthcoming impeachment trial, it will be because there are those among the Republican elected elite who want to cut the Party loose from Trump. This will unleash an unseemly raft of repugnant pretenders to the throne and allow vindictive venalities like Mitch McConnell a chance to settle a score with an ex-President who did them dirt. If, however, impeachment fails to get the two-thirds Senate majority vote required to convict – which appears likely – it will allow Trump to yet again claim, however tortuously, victory.  [3]


Palmer wrote this essay after Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives but before the delayed impeachment trial in the Senate.  There is nothing he needs to apologize for here given what was known at the time.  But given the greater understanding we now have we can revisit this period with better clarity. It seemed to many for a moment that there was a possibility of Republicans breaking with Trump.  Clearly the Democrats hoped for this outcome.  In so doing they were relying on the tried-and-true formula that has guided American politics since the post-war era, that when the dangers of extremism are exposed, the political compass will move toward the center.  On this was based the hope that some kind of post-Trump Republican party would be able to collaborate with Democrats on behalf of the “greater good”, i.e., the defense of capitalism and U.S. hegemony internationally.   But what was not noticed was that the movement to the center was no longer the guiding light of American politics. The rules had changed and sometime in the past few years a nodal point was reached.  Movement to the center turned into its opposite.  The more Trump acted against the rules, the more outrageous his actions became, the more support he garnered.  The hope for “responsible Republicans” replacing the Trumpists in the Republican Party was seen to be an illusion. The purge of dissident Republicans like Liz Cheney from the ranks of the Republican Party is now almost complete. The Democrats held onto these illusions long after their due date because to acknowledge the reality of a neo-fascist Republican Party implied a political battle they are unable and unwilling to confront. The logical conclusion to draw from this is that the fight against Trumpist reaction must be undertaken independent of and opposed to the Democratic Party.  Only an extreme Left - “extreme” in the sense that it brooks no illusions in capitalism and openly calls for a new socialist society - can pose a viable alternative to the extreme Right.   

While the attempted coup orchestrated by Trump and his allies failed due to the refusal of the national security state and the military to go along with Trump, there is no assurance that another attempt, this time better prepared, could not succeed in the future.  That being said, talk of a “fascist coup” as some left groups have done, is a formula for spreading confusion rather than clarity.  If what Trump and the MAGA movement represent is fascism, it is definitely a different variety of fascism than the classical fascism of the 1930’s.  What Trump and the Republicans are trying to achieve in the U.S. has more in common with the “illiberal democracy” of Orbán‘s Hungary than the fascism of Mussolini’s Italy.  As the historian Andrew Gawthorpe has observed,

In some ways Orbán resembles Trump, but in the eyes of many conservatives he’s better understood as the man they wished Trump would be. Where Trump was a thrice-married playboy who boasted of sleeping with porn stars and managed to lose the 2020 election, Orbán seems both genuinely committed to upholding conservative cultural values and has grimly consolidated control over his country, excluding the left from power indefinitely.

Among the terrifying implications of the American right’s embrace of Orbán is that it shows that the right would be willing to dismantle American democracy in exchange for cultural and racial hegemony. [4]

But while the methods of achieving power and the social basis for the neo-fascism of the 21st century is very different than its predecessors in the first half of the 20th century – a topic that would require a separate article - there is also an ideological kinship between these two phenomenon that should not be ignored; extreme nationalism, xenophobia, racism, anti-semitism, anti-intellectualism, misogyny, the systematic employment of violence against political opponents and the destruction of class solidarity and all independent institutions of the working class. Furthermore, today’s neo-fascists have worked for decades to rewrite the history of fascism and normalize the fascist butchers of the 1930’s while demonizing their left-wing opponents. This is the common heritage that unites Giorgia Meloni with Steve Bannon and Victor Orbán.

We should learn from this that sometimes one has to revisit immediate reactions to events.  It is no crime to admit your estimation of a particular event was one-sided and revise it as new facts emerge.  That in fact is the very model of the scientific method.  


Marxism does not consist in a set of formulas whereby one can predict the future.  While it is necessary to anticipate tendencies at work in the current situation on a national and international scale, it is not possible to work out in advance which of the possibilities inherent in a fluid dynamic will prevail.  These must be tested through practice and observation.  Those who claim that their perspectives are “always confirmed”, who never acknowledge a misstep or a reversal, are a sad caricature of Marxism. 

We anticipated in general the direction of the Trump presidency shortly after the 2016 election.  We wrote,

The crisis of liberalism is also the crisis of liberal democracy. The incoming Trump administration will be fundamentally different from its predecessors: it will be an authoritarian government, rule by a strong man… The cancer of social inequality has eaten up liberal democracy. This doesn't mean that Trump is omnipotent, quite the contrary. It's easy to foresee many and varied crises that will afflict the new administration and possibly even lead to Trump's impeachment. But whatever happens personally to Trump, there will be no going back to “the days of decency”. Either the system will continue its descent into authoritarianism and worse, or a new, social, democracy will emerge from the ruins of its liberal predecessor.[5]

But we had no way of knowing exactly how this turn to authoritarianism would play out.  Immediate reactions to events, while valuable and necessary, have to be revisited in light of new information.  Failure to do so is a sign of formulaic thinking, the very opposite of a dialectical approach.  A perfect example of formulaic thinking can be found in the following assessment from the International Editorial Board of the World Socialist Web Site, published three days before Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. They belittled the possibility of an invasion, writing,

In its report on the planned summit, the Washington Post wrote, “Although senior U.S. officials say they believe that Putin has made a decision to invade, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that U.S. officials ‘are committed to pursuing diplomacy until the moment an invasion begins.’ She confirmed that Biden accepted the invitation again, if an invasion hasn’t happened.’”

This statement is absurd. If Putin had already decided to invade, as Biden claimed at his press conference on Friday, Putin would not be inviting Biden to a summit. Can one seriously believe that having given the final go-ahead to a vast military operation, Putin can simply shut it down with a wave of his hand? [6]

As it turned out the WSWS International Editorial Board was dead wrong, while the public pronouncements from U.S. intelligence were correct, a Russian invasion of the Ukraine was imminent.  That in itself should not be a reason to berate the WSWS Editorial Board.  Lots of pundits, many of whom were serious students of Ukraine and Russia, were caught flat-footed when Putin launched the invasion on February 24.  And while it is true that when the CIA makes public their assessment of an impending military crisis they often lie or distort, in this case they achieved their goal, spreading anti-Russian sentiment, by simply reporting the truth, that Putin had indeed mobilized the Russian military for an imminent invasion. 

The real problem comes when one refuses to own up to a mistaken assessment or even acknowledge that it ever happened.  Unlike some of the pundits who were caught off guard, and who did some serious re-examination of their assumptions, the World Socialist Web Site continued as if nothing had happened.   This mode of operation is par for the course for this sectarian outfit.  You can search the archives of the WSWS as much as you like, and you will never find an admission that they were wrong about anything.   

One hopes that our reassessment of the events of Jan. 6 provides some insight into the genuine science of Marxism as opposed to its dogmatic caricature.


Alex Steiner


[1] Interview by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, Sept 26, 2022.


[2] The Dobbs Decision Punctures the Supreme Court's Sacred Mythology, Alan J. Singer,


[3] 01/06/21: The Insurrection that Wasn't, Bryan Palmer,


[4] Conservatives want to make the US more like Hungary. A terrifying thought. Andrew Gawthorpe,


[5] Trump and the crisis of liberalism, Frank Brenner,



Mark said...

I'm so glad you're giving Jan 6th its proper due, maybe next you can match the WSWS in its COVID hysteria. We have "fascism" in the US and Italy, but barely a word about actual Nazis in Ukraine and their hold on the goverment there.

It may seem insulting to suggest retirement for a Marxist, but it seems like someone should intervene. We are not at our fullest capabilities for our entire lives. Plekanov was a brilliant Marxist, but failed to appreciate the changing situation in Russia.

I'll still appreciate the insights offered by your critique of the WSWS. Unfortunately the latest installments of this website are only diminishing the peaks of your intellectual achievement. I would suggest a different path, unless you want to change the name of this site from "Permanent Revolution" to "Liberal Democracy."

Alex Steiner said...

This comment by Mark, a former supporter of this website, is essentially an unhinged series of personal insults and ageist remarks without any content. Basically Mark is saying that he is angry with me for articularing certain positions or not commenting on certain events, and implicitly claims to find some kinship between me and those I have criticized in the past. While I would not ordinarily publish such personal invectives I think there may be an educable moment here about the evolution of a certain layer of radicals who have become disoriented by the cataclysmic events of the 21st century. But to treat that topic seriously will require more than a comment so I will reserve my remarks for an upcoming essay.

Mark said...

Would you actually like a critique of this article? Maybe I can do that. Would you publish it is another question.

I think I made the point convincingly in regard to your Ukraine coverage that you were just repeating Western propaganda. Bizarrely you were making a call to arms for the Ukraine resistance. I think it is clear to everyone on the left at this point that the Ukrainian people are just being used as cannon fodder for a US-NATO proxy war against Russia and that Russia had some legitimate security concerns that might have justified the invasion. The key point however was that this was not clear to you or cothinker Frank months ago.

Unfortunately many of these issues are a kind of bellwether of where you stand politically. The Ukraine war, Jan 6th, COVID. While I'm not angry with you, I am disappointed that you are adopting the positions of liberalism. Could age be a factor? Should Marxists retire at some point? In the past I don't think this was an issue since people that have more relevance take the place of those with diminishing relevance. Then you have people like the WSWS who are just a cancer on any kind of leftwing movement and should definitely get out of the way at this point.

The Ukraine subject would have been an excellent opportunity to talk about the right of national self determination. And this of course would apply to the people of the Donbas, who were banned from speaking their language and were being shelled by their own government. Instead you used it to argue for a Ukrainian resistance against Putin, can we imagine Lenin making the same argument? Either you don't understand the Marxist concept of national self-determination or you have forgotten it.

Unknown said...

While the WSWS apparently misfired in its Putin invasion prediction, everything it published on the topic of the Trump coup turned out to be correct. They even warned the working class in advance about what was going to happen on election night and what would follow, almost all of which would be confirmed by events. Their integrity on this issues is unimpeachable.


Adam Cortright

Alex Steiner said...

Reply to Mark, Part I:

Mark, your problem is that you never took seriously dialectics and are therefore caught flat-footed in trying to understand a complex and contradictory phenomenon - namely the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine. As Trotsky expressed so clearly in his essay, The ABC of Materialist Dialectics that in trying to understand and develop a policy in relation to war it is first necessary to clarify the nature of the belligerent powers involved. He wrote,

"The fundamental flaw of vulgar thought lies in the fact that it wishes to content itself with motionless imprints of a reality which consists of eternal motion. Dialectical thinking gives to concepts, by means of closer approximations, corrections, concretisation, a richness of content and flexibility; I would even say “a succulence” which to a certain extent brings them closer to living phenomena. Not capitalism in general, but a given capitalism at a given stage of development. Not a workers’ state in general, but a given workers’ state in a backward country in an imperialist encirclement, etc."

We have developed an understanding of the nature of Russia as an imperialist power, though one much weaker than the United States. We wrote back in 2015,

"There is little doubt that Russia today plays a role similar to the Russia of the Czarist Empire as a regional power that dominates its neighbors. In addition few would argue that it maintains a full- fledged colonial occupation in Chechnya. It is also true that Russia is playing a largely defensive role vis a vis the aggressive moves of U.S. and European imperialism in the Ukraine, the Baltics and its Western borders in general. But that fact does not make Russia a “semi-colonial” country as some have claimed."

Russia as an imperialist power

You do not challenge any of this analysis, in fact you completely ignore it. Compared to Russia the Ukraine can be considered a semi-colonial country dominated by the U.S. and the European powers that are part of NATO. The conflict over Ukraine must therefore be seen first of all as an inter-imperialist conflict. As Marxist internationalists we do not take sides in an inter-imperialist conflict. We are or should be the anti-war party. Given the increasingly belligerent tone of both The US/NATO and Russia and the threats to use nuclear weapons, it becomes urgent for those of us in the NATO-aligned countries to call for an end to the U.S. and NATO's fnancing and escalation of the war in the Ukraine, indeed we should demand the dissolution of NATO.

At the same time internationalists in Russia have a responsibility to call for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine and a negotiated end to the war.

We do not take the position that one imperialist power is better than another. Those kind of considerations are the hallmark of the bourgeois pseudo-science of global strategy and have nothing to do with Marxism. They are also very common among strands of the radical left who see Russian imperialism as more "progressive" than U.S. imperialism, indeed a bulwark against U.S. hegemony.

Alex Steiner said...

Reply to Mark Part II

It is also true that the U.S. and NATO have been using the Ukraine as a proxy in a campaign to expand NATO and encircle Russia.  Does that mean that Ukraine loses all agency? The fact that the Ukrainian government has come into conflict with NATO on several occasions, demanding more arms and even a nuclear capacity, seems to disprove the contention that Ukraine is nothing but a vassal state of NATO. While there is truth in the statement that the Ukraine is being used as a proxy by NATO to weaken Russia,  that statement is a partial truth and does not by any means exhaust the nature of the Ukraine. It denies the contradictory nature of the relationship between the Ukraine and NATO. Also saying that Ukraine is "nothing but a proxy of NATO" is a way to completley ignore the fate of the Ukrainian working class. As internationalists we fight for the unity of the Ukrainian and Russian working class against their own capitalist masters. How is that possible if you are basically telling the Ukrainian working class that you are all fascists and go f*** yourself?  Would you say that to the Italian working class who are now saddled with a neo-fascist government? Remember that even in the darkest days of Nazism Trotsky always insisted that internationalists must try to reach out to the German working class. Indeed the Fourth International had a number of martyrs who circulated revolutionary propaganda among the German military and civilians and gave their life for this cause. None of this means that we look the other way at the oversized influence of fascists and out and out Nazis in the Ukrainian government and military.

You say that discussing the Ukraine war should have been an opportunity to discuss the right of nations to self-determination. I guess you missed the fact that we long ago published Trotsky's essay on this topic from 1939 in which he called for the right of Ukraine to secede from the Soviet Union.

We commented at the time when we published this piece in 2014

"it is not possible to oppose the right wing regime in Kiev and their fascist allies by conceding the Ukrainian national question to the right, unless that is, one is convinced that the consciousness of the Ukrainian masses does not matter and that the only thing that can be done is to support Putin's Russia as if it were a bulwark against Western imperialism and fascism. But it is this very position, which recapitulates the Stalinist policy of a "Popular Front" against fascism, that is precisely the position that many of our modern day sectarian muddleheads have stumbled upon, by giving short shrift to the national question, as they follow in the footsteps of the sectarians Trotsky was writing against in the 1930's."

Independence of the Ukraine and Sectarian Muddleheads

Although many things have changed of course since 1939 the right of Ukraine to self-determination remains a principle internationalists should support. But the issue of self-determination for the Ukraine is embedded within the broader context of the inter-imperialist war in which we must call for an end to NATO's support of the war.

As for the issue of self-determination for the people of Donbas and Luhansk, that is another question that needs to be addressed but it does not make the question of the Ukraine's right to self-determination go away. These are complex issues and cannot be resolved on the basis of your simplistic either-or logic. It really is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Alex Steiner said...

Reply to Mark Part III:

Finally I want to comment on a series of misrepresentations of our positions and outright slanders against us.

You accuse us of "adopting the positions of liberalism" and that we are just "repeating Western propaganda." Our position on liberalism has been articuated very clearly many times and we have repeatedly castigated those on the left who capitulated to "lesser evil" politics. For instance in this article,

Behind the politics of lesser-evilism"

You don't cite anything to justify your claim that we are supporters of liberalism other than your horror at our ackowleding that Ukraine has a right to self-determination. I have already dealt with that topic.

As for your claim that we are just "repeating Western propaganda" the only piece of evidence you cite for that as far as I can tell is the fact that we cited some articles in the New York Times, Amnesty International and other sources to make the case that Russia has been guilty of committing war crimes in the Ukraine. Of course we are well-aware that the New York Times is one of the leading forums for propagating the foreign policy of the Biden Administration and NATO. Their bias is very clear when they fail to ever mention the connection between the Azov battalion in the Ukraine and their neo-Nazi politics. And their unmitigated propaganda and demonization of Russia and the Russian people is despicable. But it does not follow that therefore everthing written in the New York Times is automatically false and a tool of Western propaganda. Again, I think it is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time. The world is not as simple as you seem to think. Nor is the western press.

The accounts of Russian war crimes in the Times is credible and have been verified by other sources. I think in fact it is somewhat bizzare to deny that Russia has committed war crimes in the Ukraine. It was an indication to me of the lengths to which some left groups that have given support to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine would go to literally deny reality. That does not mean that Ukraine has not committed its own share of war crimes. But to most objective observers it is obvious that war crimes have been committed by Russia. And why should that I be surprising? This is the same country that savagely repressed the Chechens in the Second Chechnya War presided over by Putin. Does acknowledging Russian war crimes mean that we support NATO in any way?

Your simplistic take on the Western press is symptomatic of a kind of radicalism that is fundamentally alien to Marxism. It is based on automatically opposing whatever you think smacks of the liberalism in which you were inculcated in your formative years. Let's call it an inverted form of liberalism. It does not actually overcome liberalism, but merely puts a minus sign where you once had a plus sign. It's a philosophy of someone who feels betrayed by liberalism but has not understood that this "betrayal" is nothing more than the working out of its own internal contradictions.

It is of a piece with the anti-vaxx movement that you have embraced in which "Big Pharma" is seen as all powerful and pure evil.

There is a legitimate Marxist critique of the pharmaceutical industry and their penchant for putting profits above human lives, but it does not follow that every product produced by "Big Pharma" is dangerous and part of a plot to control the world. Clearly conspiracy theories lurk in the background in your thinking as you have on more than one occasion expressed your sympathy for the 9/11 "Truthers". You have also embraced the libertarian rubbish that rejects public health measures like wearing masks because it is an infringement on your "freedom".

I don't think it is necessary to comment further about how far you have travelled away from Marxism and socialism.

Mark said...

Response to Alex (Part 1):

On the topic Ukraine's national self determination, this what you wrote a few months back just as a reminder:

"In the context of today's invasion of the Ukraine by an imperialist Russia, it is incumbent on the revolutionary left to be the most consistent supporters of Ukraine's right to self-determination and resist Putin's invasion."

In fact liberal war hawks like AOC are using the exact same language to support Ukraine's "right to self-determination" as they funnel billions of dollars in weapons and aid to one of the most corrupt nations in Europe.

You talk about Ukrainian self-determination as if it were something you could decide for Ukraine and as if the only possible path for Ukraine is to "resist Putin's invasion." What about Ukrainians that want peace? Don't they get to have a say here? Also how do Ukrainians determine their own fate when the Ukrainian government has banned all opposition parties and consolidated all media so that only state propaganda is allowed on the Ukrainian air waves?

Let's be reminded that all Putin was asking for was respect for the Minsk agreements. Some moronic liberal commentators have tried to equate Putin's invasion with the Iraq War, a bloody imperialist adventure waged halfway across the world hatched in the minds of neocon think tanks. While I didn't support Putin's invasion, I think there is some essential context that is missing from your piece. Credit to Frank, at least he includes some context about the Minsk agreements and security concerns of Russia.

In regard to possible Russian war crimes you say the reports are "credible and have been verified by other sources", just because you say so? Do you realize that most accounts of Russian war crimes come directly from the Ukrainian government? There is little if any independent verification and virtually no independent media operating in Ukraine. Still there have been disputes about so-called Russian war crimes, if you had taken time to investigate you might have come across articles from the Grayzone ([1], [2]) that contradict Western reports.

War in any case is barbaric, it wouldn't surprise me to the least if atrocities had been committed on both sides, but as Marxists we should be the least bit aware of how such reports function within Western media. The obvious point apparently has to be made, the purpose of these reports is to portray Russia as a barbaric nation and Putin as a madman, it is also to generate sympathy for Ukraine as we dole out billions in arms and aid for another "forever war." In your article you barely acknowledge such a function, such reports merely serve as ammunition in your conflict with what you call "Putin apologists."


Mark said...

Response to Alex (Part 2):

I'd be happy to talk COVID and why you're wrong about vaccine mandates, because it shows yet again your concession to liberalism. What you're calling an "anti-vaxx movement" is a workers movement, workers don't want to be the guinea pigs for an experimental unproven vaccine in order to keep their jobs. Richard Wolff is an exception to the rule in taking the side of workers among so-called "Marxists", but even in this case I sense he is careful in his language in order not to upset his liberal supporters and followers.

It was known since the creation of the COVID vaccines that they don't prevent transmission of the virus. COVID vaccination, if it does have any benefit, and this entirely questionable at this point, is only done for an individuals benefit, in other words COVID vaccination should be a voluntary choice.

At least from what I've observed the last few years, the liberals are among the most ignorant in regards to the science of COVID, they can't be educated on the matter and won't bother to educate themselves. As far as this "legitimate Marxist critique of the pharmaceutical industry", where is it? It's coming up on three since the first COVID outbreaks and you or your associate have made no public statements on COVID or "Big Pharma". The only comprehensive study on COVID and the corruption of the governments and "Big Pharma" was done by Robert F Kenedy in "The Real Anthony Fauci", not a Marxist from my understanding, but a skilled researcher and competent lawyer.

Alex Steiner said...

Reply to Mark Part I

Nice that you fail to quote the remainder of that paragraph after the part about defending Ukraine's right to self-determination,

"..This is crucial in the battle to win the hearts and minds of the Ukrainian masses who are currently largely under the sway of right wing and fascist forces. At the same time the revolutionary left must warn the Ukrainian masses about the alternative trap of aligning themselves with U.S. imperialism and NATO. The slogan of the day must be ‘neither Moscow nor Washington but an independent socialist Ukraine as a step toward the United Socialist States of Europe.’ That Is the only way to concretize the struggle for internationalism and overcome the destructive force of nationalism."

We have made it clear from the beginning that the right of Ukraine to self-determination is subordinate to the larger inter-imperialist conflict between the US/NATO and Russia.

We wrote in Part II of our analysis of the Ukraikne-Russian War,
"The larger context in addressing the national question – an inter-imperialist conflict
Finally what we consider the legitimacy of Ukraine’s right to self-determination must not be taken in isolation from the larger context of the inter-imperialist conflict between Russian and NATO/U.S. We cannot lose sight of the basic truth that Ukraine’s right to self-determination is intertwined with NATO’s hostile actions against Russia. We do not take either side in this conflict and stress that those who live in countries allied with NATO have a particular responsibility to oppose NATO and specifically to oppose NATO’s intervention in the war.
Opposition to sanctions and the anti-Russian witch-hunt
Finally we must oppose all sanctions against Russia and the anti-Russian witch hunt currently being pushed by the EU and the Biden Administration. Sanctions are a form of economic warfare and therefore just another means of carrying on and extending the war. Support for sanctions by NATO countries is in fact support for the war drive by NATO. While we understand why many of those who wish to show their solidarity with the Ukrainian resistance support sanctions, it is the duty of international socialists to oppose them."

Aside from your dishonest selective quotations aimed at distorting our position you have exactly zero, nothing, to say about the theoretical basis for our position - our analysis of the nature of the conflict as an inter-imperialist conflict based on our analysi of the nature and therefore the trajectory of Russia as well as NATO and US imperialism. This was the method empplyed by Lenin and Trotsky when they had to develop a policy around war. It's certainly possible we are mistaken somewhere in our analysis, but you counter not with an alternative analysis but with stupid innuendoes and name calling.

As for the Grey Zone, I used to appreciate some of their journalism but they were never anything more than inverted liberals and now we see where inverted liberalism takes you - into a "united front" with neo-fascists like Tucker Carlson.

Alex Steiner said...

I will not waste time debating with people who believe that MRNA vaccines are killing more people than Covid. Just as I will not engage in "debates" with Creationists and flat-earthers. I learned long ago, when the 9/11 "Truthers" first came on the scene, that you cannot have a meaningful exchange with people who live in a self-contained bubble that is impervious to logic or the rules of evidence. The fact that a significant section of conspiracy theorists, including those in the anti-vaxx movement, have made common cause with right wing neo-fascists like Alex Jones and Tucker Carlson, says a great deal about the political implications of a turn from a distrust of authority into a rebellion against science and rational thought. A certain amount of scepticism about authority can be a healthy impulse but when this distrust of authority becomes an Absolute it throws out the baby with the bathwater.

But I will answer one question you asked - can I cite any literature from a Marxist perspective that provides a critique of Big Pharma. As a matter of fact there have been tons of literature on Big Pharma from a Marxist perspective. I will just cite one of the better one that I found online,

COVID-19 vaccines: Big Pharma profits trump human lives

Mark said...

Response to Alex (Part 1):

Part of the problem is that you don't have a worked out or consistent position on Ukraine, you want to have it both ways. You want to cheerlead the so called Ukrainian "resistance" to Putin just like liberals at same time you want maintain some kind of commitment to Marxism and 'national self-determination'. That's where things get muddy. The Marxist concept of national self-determination, at least as I understand it, was developed from the perspective of oppresed minorities within a nation-state, exactly what we are seeing within the Donbas since the Maidan coup in 2014. The liberal from of 'self-determination' as it applies to Ukraine seems to give the right of a nation to trample on oppresed minorities, to form military and economic aliances with imperialists without any consequences.

Is Russia imperlialist, yes, I don't think anyone needs necessarily an in depth exploration of the subject to know that. China is also imperialist, but seems to exercise a soft form of imperialism with its "belt and road initiative". At the same time, I don't think the aim of Russia was to conquer Ukraine, it seems that they were working toward a peace with Ukraine just prior to the invasion before the US and the UK sabotaged talks, then the shelling increased in the Donbas, clearly the US and NATO were provoking Russia via Ukraine. I don't know all the calculations that went into the Russian response, but it seems like the US had at least predicted such a response, which is why I would say this is as much Biden's war as it is Putin's war. From that point on, the US has been supplying arms, equipment, intelligence to the Ukrainian forces. Any Marxist claiming to support the "resistance" to Putin clearly doesn't understand what is happening on the ground.

Is there a Marxist alternative? Didn't Lenin once advocate a policy of revolutionary defeativism? Shouldn't this apply to Ukraine, why should anyone defend a totalitarian government dominated by neo-Nazis?

As for the reference to Tucker Calson that seems like a red herring. I haven't noticed any alliance between Tucker Carlson and the Grayzone. Even so, not sure the neo-fascist descriptor is accurate in reference to Tucker, maybe you would care to explain that. To Tucker's credit he provides a platform for some left wing commentators (like the Max Blumenthal, Jimmy Dore), he has opposed the Ukraine proxy war, exposed details of the Nord-stream sabotage. He is objectively to the left of any cable news commentator at least from my limited knowledge of this space.

Mark said...

Response to Alex (Part 2):

The issue is why do you support COVID vaccine mandates when there is no scientific support for their efficacy in terms of the non-transmission of the virus. As for the claim that "MRNA vaccines are killing more people than Covid", I don't know, but that is a completely separate issue from whether COVID vaccines should be mandated or not, which is what the anti-mandate movement is all about.

As for Alex Jones and Tucker Carlson, I don't know their positions on COVID vaccine mandates and I suspect you don't either.

Mark said...

Just to follow up on the COVID discussion, I did review the article that you praised. Unfortunately, that is more of an endorsement of Big Pharma than it is a critique. This article was written in December 2020, before the mass COVID vaccine rollout. Most of the article is devoted to "vaccine hesitancy", among socialists apparently! Of the few scientific claims made in the article is the one that "70 percent immunity [is] necessary to end the pandemic", and it is implied that this can be achieved through mass COVID vaccination. In practice we know that didn't work. As RFK Jr. points out in his book that several countries experienced an increase in COVID infections even in some cases with vaccination rates well above the magic 70 percent threshold. Specifically he mentions Gibraltar, Malta, Iceland, Belgium, Singapore, Britain, and Israel, all countries that had a rapid roll out of the COVID vaccines.

One potential explanation here is that the COVID vaccines did not provide the robust immunity that they were thought to have prior to the mass rollout. Now we know that in the testing of the vaccines, in the trials overseen by both governments and Big Pharma never tested for the efficacy in terms of contraction and non-transmission of the virus. In other words the 'vaccines' were never tested as such as an actual innoculation against this particular disease. We also know from several studies that infection from SARS-Cov-2 provides a more robust immunity than that of mRNA vaccination which causes to the body to produce only a fragment of the virus, the so-called "spike protein", which also happens to be the most dangerous part causing blood clots among other issues.

Moreover, this singular focus on "vaccination" promoted by Big Pharma, Bill Gates and the WHO, and governments around the world came at the expense at other approaches such as the "focused protection" advocated by the Great Barrington Declaration, and early treatment which could have been effective tools in reducing the spread of the virus. Instead of treating COVID, in wealthy countries we implemented draconian lockdowns that kept healthy people at home, implemented infective mask mandates, we sent sick people to work because they were considered "essential workers'', and did nothing to address the crisis in the health care system. Anyone not convinced that these policies have been a disaster should read RFK Jr.'s book.

Mark said...

Is an additional comment warranted? It's not quite clear, it's interesting that you accused me of not taking dialectics seriously, but who else is giving you a critique here which is one of the most basic forms of dialectics? Of course Hegel and Marx gave dialectics an ontological meaning, dialectics applied not merely to arguments but to concepts and societal institutions. If I did not take dialectics seriously, I probably would not have learned that.

You assert that I've "travelled [far] away from Marxism and socialism". I don't think I have to remind you of the debates within the Second International. I've had to reread these debates on the subjects of 'self-determination' in formulating my response. I tend to side with Lenin and that means the right of oppressed peoples to secede and that this was important for Marxism. In your reference to 'self-determination' there doesn't appear to be any reference to the seminal Marxist definition of the concept.

Of all the Marxists post Marx, I think Lenin was the most unimpeachable, does that mean he was perfect? Absolutely not, but if Lenin was right in some of these instances it also means Trotsky and Luxembourg who took opposing positions were wrong, that's why these debates are important even if we share a common goal or a common ideology. The state of Marxism is in poor shape today, because we forgot about the common goal, we want to "socially distance" ourselves, to borrow a term from Fauci, from those we deem different from ourselves as unworthy of pursuing the cause of socialism, and end up with tiny sects of those that don't deserve to be mentioned.

I still think the Jan 6th critique would be interesting, but I'm not sure it's worth the investment given your lax attitude towards debate. Posting here it's unclear whether or not something will be published no matter how substantive the comment is.

Alex Steiner said...


You have nothing to say that responds to my note from Nov. 9.You provided a false account of our position on the Ukraine-Russian war. Your attempt to justify yourself by citing some writings of Lenin and other Marxists (without I might add actually providing any references) does not absolve you of your dishonest behavior. It is clear that it is a waste of time having any further debates with you. You are welcome to embrace the Grey Zone and Tucker Carlson and join the reactionary anti-vaxxers but you will not find a forum for that point of view here.