Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Paul Robeson Sings of Stalin -- In Honor of the 60th Anniversary of the Great Anti-Fascist Leader's Passing

Paul Robeson

[While on a fact-finding trip to Prednistrovia (Transnistria) in the Summer of 2007, I visited the little museum in the capital, Tiraspol, dedicated to the 1990-92 war of independence against Moldova.  In a square Plexiglas display case I saw a signed copy of Paul Robeson's book “Here I Stand.”  I thought of his singing Old Man River about the Neister instead of the Mississippi.  That and how his face, to me, was the face of US Communism—Robeson, Josephine Baker, WEB Dubois, the Scottsboro Boys, the Tuskegee airmen (cause they flew on the Eastern Front in WWII).  Nothing very serious, just musing.

Then in December of 2007, I visited Moscow to observe the Duma elections of that year and got a real course in contemporary mass democracy: Maximize the Suffrage.  My daughter Yana had given me Barack Obama's “Dreams From My Father” for Father's Day that year, and I was reading it in my room at Moscow’s eastside Holiday Inn when a story came on CNN about Paul Robeson.  Connections were snapping off like JiffyPop in a microwave.

But in late summer 2008, I was driving along the Rhine, heading from Frankfurt to Altzheim to lead a CM/P seminar in Movies and the UnMaking of History for a bunch of German Free Thinkers (they wouldn't be offended if I specified they were all Communists, really).  It was a beautiful scene, with this great river snaking along beside my young comrade's VW, when he stuck a cassette into dash and Robeson's Slavic folksongs started accompanying our voyage down river.

I'd expressed some of my associations to my German friends, mainly the connections I had imagined between Black Americans, like Paul Robeson and Barack Obama, and anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism and anti-Fascism (or, what I like to call just Communism).  My friends warned me that the Free Thinkers I was about talk movies with were not too keen on the would-be first African American President, and that I probably should just shut up about my support for Obama over McCain.  

The Germans preferred the admitted war criminal, thinking the mad bomber of Hanoi and miner of Haiphong Harbor would 'heighten the contradictions' in US foreign and military policies more effectively than the putatively anti-war Democrat and, thereby, bring about a speedier end to US imperialism and its global conflagration.

But I couldn't help being led out into confessing my Rorschachian analysis of politics in the country I had abandoned 15 years earlier: African Americans were the slaves; Communism freed the workers of the world from chattel and wage slavery; Robeson was a great Communist; Obama reminded me of Robeson in many ways . . . well, you get it.  But the Germans didn't.

Yet the piece that follows was sent to me by a dear German comrade, Irene Eckart.  And though she as Aryan as the High Lama (played by Sam Jaffe in Capra's 1937 Lost Horizon), I think she is sympathetic with, at least, the tone of some of my free associations.

So here's to Uncle Joe, who left us 60 years ago next month.  And to the great American Communist, Paul Robeson. May their spirits, which are still alive in today's Russia, guide more world leaders toward the Reason and Decency our global society so badly needs. –mc]

Paul Robeson on Stalin's death March 5th 1953

Paul Robeson was an interationally renowned musical theatre artist, a stage and film actor and an outstanding  athlete.  He studied at Columbia Law School. He was the first black actor to perform Shakespeare's Othello.
Below is the full text of a tribute by Paul Robeson to Joseph Stalin upon Stalin's death on March 5, 1953. It was published in New World Review, April, 1953, and reprinted in Paul Robeson Speaks, edited by Philip Foner, pp. 347-349. We are exhibiting it in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Paul Robeson's birth on April 9, 1898.


by Paul Robeson

There is no richer store of human experience than the folk tales, folk poems and songs of a people. In many, the heroes are always fully recognizable humans - only larger and more embracing in dimension. So it is with the Russian, Chinese. and the African folk-lore.

In 1937, a highly expectant audience of Moscow citizens - workers, artists, youth, farmers from surrounding towns - crowded the Bolshoy Theater. They awaited a performance by the Uzbek National Theater, headed by the highly gifted Tamara Khanum. The orchestra was a large one with instruments ancient and modern. How exciting would be the blending of the music of the rich culture of Moussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Khrennikov, Gliere - with that of the beautiful music of the Uzbeks, stemming from an old and proud civilization.
Suddenly everyone stood - began to applaud - to cheer - and to smile. The children waved.

In a box to the right - smiling and applauding the audience - as well as the artists on the stage - stood the great Stalin.

I remember the tears began to quietly flow. and I too smiled and waved Here was clearly a man who seemed to embrace all. So kindly - I can never forget that warm feeling of kindliness and also a feeling of sureness. Here was one who was wise and good - the world and especially the socialist world was fortunate indeed to have his daily guidance. I lifted high my son Pauli to wave to this world leader, and his leader. For Paul, Jr. had entered school in Moscow, in the land of the Soviets.

The wonderful performance began, unfolding new delights at every turn - ensemble and individual, vocal and orchestral, classic and folk-dancing of amazing originality. Could it be possible that a few years before in 1900 - in 1915 - these people had been semi-serfs - their cultural expression forbidden, their rich heritage almost lost under tsarist oppression's heel?

So here one witnessed in the field of the arts - a culture national in form, socialist in content. Here was a people quite comparable to some of the tribal folk of Asia - quite comparable to the proud Yoruba or Basuto of West and East Africa, but now their lives flowering anew within the socialist way of life twenty years matured under the guidance of Lenin and Stalin. And in this whole area of development of national minorities - of their relation to the Great Russians - Stalin had played and was playing a most decisive role.

I was later to travel - to see with my own eyes what could happen to so-called backward peoples. In the West (in England, in Belgium, France, Portugal, Holland) - the Africans, the Indians (East and West), many of the Asian peoples were considered so backward that centuries, perhaps, would have to pass before these so-called "colonials" could become a part of modern society.

But in the Soviet Union, Yakuts, Nenetses, Kirgiz, Tadzhiks - had respect and were helped to advance with unbelievable rapidity in this socialist land. No empty promises, such as colored folk continuously hear in the United States, but deeds. For example, the transforming of the desert in Uzbekistan into blooming acres of cotton. And an old friend of mine, Mr. Golden, trained under Carver at Tuskegee, played a prominent role in cotton production. In 1949, I saw his daughter, now grown and in the university - a proud Soviet citizen.

Today in Korea - in Southeast Asia - in Latin America and the West Indies, in the Middle East - in Africa, one sees tens of millions of long oppressed colonial peoples surging toward freedom. What courage - what sacrifice - what determination never to rest until victory!

And arrayed against them, the combined powers of the so-called Free West, headed by the greedy, profit-hungry, war-minded industrialists and financial barons of our America. The illusion of an "American Century" blinds them for the immediate present to the clear fact that civilization has passed them by - that we now live in a people's century - that the star shines brightly in the East of Europe and of the world. Colonial peoples today look to the Soviet Socialist Republics. They see how under the great Stalin millions like themselves have found a new life. They see that aided and guided by the example of the Soviet Union, led by their Mao Tse-tung, a new China adds its mighty power to the true and expanding socialist way of life. They see formerly semi-colonial Eastern European nations building new People's Democracies, based upon the people's power with the people shaping their own destinies. So much of this progress stems from the magnificent leadership, theoretical and practical, given by their friend Joseph Stalin.

They have sung - sing now and will sing his praise - in song and story. Slava - slava - slava - Stalin, Glory to Stalin. Forever will his name be honored and beloved in all lands.

In all spheres of modern life the influence of Stalin reaches wide and deep. From his last simply written but vastly discerning and comprehensive document, back through the years, his contributions to the science of our world society remain invaluable. One reverently speaks of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin - the shapers of humanity's richest present and future.

Yes, through his deep humanity, by his wise understanding, he leaves us a rich and monumental heritage. Most importantly - he has charted the direction of our present and future struggles. He has pointed the way to peace - to friendly co-existence - to the exchange of mutual scientific and cultural contributions - to the end of war and destruction. How consistently, how patiently, he labored for peace and ever increasing abundance, with what deep kindliness and wisdom. He leaves tens of millions all over the earth bowed in heart-aching grief.

But, as he well knew, the struggle continues. So, inspired by his noble example, let us lift our heads slowly but proudly high and march forward in the fight for peace - for a rich and rewarding life for all.

In the inspired words of Lewis Allan, our progressive lyricist -

To you Beloved Comrade, we make this solemn vow
The fight will go on - the fight will still go on.
Sleep well, Beloved Comrade, our work will just begin.
The fight will go on - till we win - until we win.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Revolutionary Violence by Duci Simonovic {on the 70th Anniversary of the Great People's Victory over Fascism at Stalingrad}

Stalingrad Memorial

[To commemorate this 70th anniversary of the great Anti-Fascist victory by the Soviet people at Stalingrad, we are posting another essay by my dear friend and strong comrade Duci Simonovic—aptly enough, on Revolutionary violence.

Violence and needless destruction have always been the daily bread and mother's milk of Fascism, the ideological rationale for a feudal-nostalgic Waste Capitalism.  Unlike the great cataclysms of the last century, today's imperialist wars are not waged to gain territory or to seize and dominate the wealth of nations, but merely to continue the artificial life-support of a long-moribund political-economic system, no longer capable of sustaining itself by meeting human need through a vigorous, free exchange of value circulating throughout the society, and now relegated to pointless and hopeless destruction of all the riches of our planet as well as the inevitable annihilation of the whole of Humanity.

Seventy years ago today, 2 February 1943, the good guys won a great battle and saved Human History from its negation.  Yet, sad to say, though Evil may not be invincible—and though the Human Spirit's longing for Liberty, Justice and Peace is undiminished, as can be seen in the democratic revival of the 2012 US elections—Fascism is a hope-to-die, double-mag-my-AR, tape-the-C4-to-my-nut-sack, point-me-toward-the-nearest-kindergarten, and I'll-see-all-y'all-at-Chili's-for-Happy-Hour—kind a dope-fiend-terrorist. 

The Nazis had the sexy, Hugo Boss technology,  the Stuka and the Panzar, but the Soviets had the dour Power of the People.  Used to be the Power of the People would always trump the Man's technology.  But that was then; now the Man's hustle has gotten a lot tighter.  Even though there can be no ultimate winners in the Super Bowl of Life, the divine tout still can't help himself and just has to rig the match—so’s, at least, he won’t get played.

Wetfe.  I'll take the 9ers and give the 4 1/2.—mc]

Comrades Max & Duci (Belgrad 2009)

Ljubodrag Simonovic

                                                    REVOLUTIONARY VIOLENCE

                 The notion of violence has a historical nature. In modern times, it is determined according to the basic human and civil rights, proclaimed in the French Revolution, which form the basis of modern humanism.  Concretely, the nature of the ruling order conditions the nature of the prevailing  violence. In liberal capitalism, the prevailing violence was based on the principle bellum omnium contra omnes. In monopolistic capitalism, the prevailing violence is based on the principle “Destroy the competition!”. It is not characterized by a struggle between citizens, who are reduced to atomized private subjects, but by a struggle between gigantic corporations. The prevailing contemporary violence results from capitalism as a totalitarian destructive order. 
                        From the historical point of view, violence has an emancipatory dimension.  Departing from the American and French Revolutions, Marx came to the conclusion that “violence is the midwife of history”. From the onset of capitalism, bourgeois theorists insisted on the right to combat the prevailing violence, including the armed struggle. Locke and Kant share the view that free citizens not only have the right to oppose the violence threatening their freedoms, but that the opposition to violence is their most important civic duty. For Njegos, “to place a foot upon tyranny's neck, this is the most sacred of man's duties”. Following in the footsteps of this emancipatory legacy, Lenin put forward a theory of ”unjust” (conquering) and “just” (liberating) wars. According to Marx, violence in a proletarian revolution is not the aim, but the means for doing away with capitalist tyranny. With the development of political institutions, revolutionary violence has become one of the available means for abolishing capitalism. Engels' insistence on a ”dictatorship of the proletariat” is meaningless, because, after a (true) socialist revolution, classes will no longer exist, and there will only be free people whose livelihoods will derive from their own work.

                 In the contemporary world, the violence directed towards the capitalist order and contemporary imperialism is referred to as “terrorism”. Following the class and the colonial principles, the ideologues of capitalism do not make a distinction between the struggle for freedom and terrorism; more precisely, they equate the workers' struggle against capitalism and the struggle of oppressed peoples against imperialism with “terrorism”. In conquered countries, colonial masters refer to those who fight against the colonial yoke as “bandits”, “murderers”, “thugs”… The notion of “terrorism” comprises all traditional qualities of fighters against the class order and colonialism.  At the same time, it also involves the spontaneous opposition of enraged young people to the capitalist order, which has deprived them of their future.
                It is not “terrorism” when capitalists, guided by greed, cause accidents in nuclear power plants, with lethal consequences to the living world; when they start thousands of fires in the Brazilian jungles every single day; when they contaminate the soil and water with poisonous heavy metals dropped from aircraft; when they empty thousands of nuclear waste containers into the oceans every single day and contaminate the seas and the coastlands with oil, killing millions of animals; when they burn entire towns with phosphorus bombs and contaminate rivers and the earth with projectiles tipped with depleted uranium; when, thanks to economic fascism, they force people to produce and consume contaminated food and genetically modified crops; when they fire millions of people from work and force women to undergo sterilization in order to get a job; when the most developed capitalist countries, through economic measures and political and military pressures, destroy the economies of less developed countries, causing suffering and death to tens of millions of children; when people are pushed into debt-slavery and deprived of their basic human and civil rights; when American capitalists provoke wars and create a war hysteria in order to ensure the survival of the American military industry; when the CIA forms terrorist groups to incite civil wars and destroy existing states ... However, it is “terrorism” when a group of dissatisfied young people from the Parisian suburbs, who live on the margins of society, smash the windows of limousines or of the shops in posh areas, or throw stones at armored police vehicles and heavily armed police forces, who protect the ruling order, which creates social poverty and destroys life on Earth.
                 Capitalism is opposed to the emancipatory legacy of bourgeois society and produces forms of political struggle with a destructive character. Contemporary “terrorism” is a capitalistically degenerated struggle against capitalism, namely, a destructive violence that uses the capitalist means and methods and thus further intensifies the process of destruction. It is a manifestation of the ruling spirit of  destructive capitalist irrationalism. It does not seek to create a new world, but to destroy the existing one. That is the basic difference between a revolutionary struggle and terrorist acts. Terrorism is not marked by a visionary consciousness, but by fanaticism, as a result of the increasingly ruthless destruction of entire nations by the most powerful capitalist corporations.
                 The ever-deeper existential crisis in the world creates conditions for the development of religious fanaticism, with a fatalistic and destructive character. For fanatics, who glorify an illusory world “in the heavens”, this world is but a springboard for their departure into “eternity”. By killing the “infidels”, they acquire their tickets for “The Pearly Gates”. Terrorism, under the veil of religious fanaticism, is based on anti-existential nihilism. However, only a naive person can believe that the eradication of religion would bring the eradication of violence. Over 99% of young “terrorists” have not read a single religious book, a fact Michel Onfray, in his “Atheist Manifesto”, claims is the source of their violent behavior.  At the same time, the main “spiritual sustenance” for almost all “terrorists” in the West is the products of the capitalist entertainment industry:  Hollywood films, “video games” and sports, where violence acquires a spectacular dimension. Onfray “overlooks” the most important point: young people's violence results from their positions in society and the nature of the ruling order. It is the consequence of reducing young people, particularly those living in ghettos, to “hooliganism”. Onfray's intention is clear: by shifting the responsibility to religion, he relieves the ruling capitalist order of any responsibility for the increasing violence in society.  At the same time, he does not see the difference between the violent character and the violent consciousness. He also does not make any distinction between the violence of the young, who just mimic the model behavior, and the violence used to express dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. The destructive behavior of the young is a capitalistically degenerated expression of their justified dissatisfaction with their life and the world in which they live. Just as do existing religions, Onfray conceals the true nature of monopolistic capitalism and resorts to an “anthropological argument”, which holds man at the social-Darwinist level that characterizes liberal capitalism. Onfray: “The primitive still exists in the post-modern, the animal still endures in man, the beast still lives in homo sapiens ...” (30)
                It does not occur to Onfray to show that rather than opposing the violence, the state and the legal system, as well as other institutions of capitalist society, are regulatory mechanisms of capitalism as a violent (destructive) order. A typical example is the rules of fair play in sport. The “violence in sport” involves behavior that crosses the established limits of a “sporting fight”.  It is not considered violence if a boxer, “in a proper manner”, kills his “opponent” by hitting him in the head, but it is considered violence if he kicks his bottom. In the first case, he will be declared “champion”; in the second case, he will be disqualified. Violence is not the behavior that threatens man's freedom and life, but it does threaten the ruling order. Sport is the best promoter of destructive violence and, as such, is a call to violence. “Top sportsmen”, who use the worst forms of destructive violence, have become the “idols” of the young.  Sport destroys interpersonal relations based on solidarity, as well as visionary consciousness, drawing the young into the world of capitalist values.  It is no accident that sport is the dearest child of capitalism.
                 The “war on terrorism” is just an ideological mask used by American imperialism and resembles the Nazi “struggle against Judeo-bolshevism”, which was used as a cover for annihilating the Jews and the Slavs and conquering a “living space” (Lebensraum) for German capital. It is an excuse for establishing a “new world order” based on American imperialism. Those who terrorize the world, under the pretext of a “war on terrorism”, seek to do away with anyone who can stop their endeavors to turn the world into a concentration camp. The “fight against terrorism” is, actually, the fight by the West to acquire a monopoly on violence, which means that terror would become the exclusive means by which the West will rule the world. The “protection against terrorism” that they offer is a sort of mafia racket: those who do not accept the steel embrace of the “world police” shall be subjected to horrendous terror. “Global terrorism” is becoming the “main threat to humankind” – this slogan is repeated over and over again by the proponents of American policies all over the world, who try to ingratiate themselves to their masters. The relation towards terrorism reveals the true ambitions and reach of American politics: the “fight against terrorism” does not have anything to do with forming a new block or with any ideology, it has a global and anti-existential character.  At the same time, capitalists in the most developed Western countries use controlled media to spread existential panic so that citizens will unquestioningly accept their “protection against the terrorist threat”, which means being deprived of their basic civil and human rights. This is a totalitarian “integration of society” dominated by the most reactionary political forces. Tens of millions of cameras, wiretaps, micro-chips implanted in citizens, similarly to dog chipping and cattle branding, unwarranted intrusions, kidnapping, torture, “silent” liquidations, total control over the media, deployment of special military units in cities, erection of concentration camps.... The “fight against terrorism” is, actually, the form in which capitalists carry out an open dictatorship.
                Ecocide is the most detrimental form of capitalist terror. This type of  violence has an annihilating character. “Consumer society” is the highest stage in the development of capitalism as an ecocidal order. In the “consumer” stage of development, destructive potential of capitalism has reached the metastasis and capitalism has turned into a totalitarian destructive order. Each segment of social life and each segment of nature are subjected to the destructive process of capitalist reproduction. Actually, life itself, conditioned by capitalism, has become terror over people. When life itself became a terror, then any attempt to define terror at the normative level and to regulate it legally becomes meaningless.
                  The view of  Oskar Negt that “time for going to the barricades has passed” only contributes to the depoliticization of the oppressed working people at a time when capitalism has entered the last stage of its combat with life on the planet, and when, consequently, the fight against capitalism has become an existential imperative. In Negt, instead of a critique of capitalism and the forms of political struggle against capitalism being conditioned by the trends in its development, capitalism is conditioned by an “enlightening” (pacifistic) political option. In that context, the discussion ignores all questions about the true (destructive) nature of capitalism, addressing only those questions that do not devalue the given political option. Concretely, workers and their children should be “taught democracy”. Ultimately, the primary concern of Negt's concept is not to question the economic and political stability of Germany, which means that workers should not start an open class struggle.  In practicality, his option serves to preserve the capitalist order with its “bearable” exploitation of workers and the “welfare state” that enables the unemployed to keep from starving and maintains “social peace”.  Workers' political struggle has been abolished, while their “class struggle” is reduced to the struggle of trade unions, whose aim is to sell their labor at the highest price.  It is a typical social-democratic option, which at the time of the Weimar Republic enabled Hitler to come to power, whereas today it enables capitalists to destroy nature and threatens the biological survival of European nations and the emancipatory potential of civil society.
                  Capitalism as a destructive totalitarian order and, consequently, as destructive of the emancipatory legacy of bourgeois society and man as a humane and biological being, must be the starting point in a critique of capitalism and the political struggle against capitalism. Criticism of capitalism cannot start from a political analysis of possible social developments.  Such an approach is unacceptable not only for reasons of truth, but, above all, for existential reasons. Notwithstanding a possible action at a particular political moment, a critique of capitalism must start from the nature of capitalism.  The “storming of the barricades” is not a product of the “voluntarism of a radical political consciousness” (Negt); it is rather the result of the increasingly dramatic capitalist destruction of life, and is a legitimate form of political struggle against capitalism. Without the willingness of the working class to stand at the barricades, all other political options are nothing but a political clamor, which cannot produce any essential changes. The militarization of the working class and the young that results from the struggle for survival and is based on the humanist visionary consciousness is of utmost existential significance. Instead of a pacifistic upbringing, the young people should develop the will to fight against capitalism and to create a humane world.  Considering the fact that the economic crisis of capitalism is affecting an increasing number of people, leading to the biological demise of peoples living in the most advanced capitalist states, the “postponement” of a radical political option can result in a “political climate” that can give rise to a new fascism.  At the same time, without political organization and the political engagement of workers on a daily basis, storming the barricades cannot have a true revolutionary, which means a visionary character, but just a rebellious and destructive one.  A revolutionary fight is not only a fight against the ruling order, but also a fight for a humane world.
                The notion of revolutionary violence should be determined by the principle that concrete humanity can be reached relative to concrete inhumanity. In other words, the nature of capitalism as a totalitarian destructive order conditions the nature of the struggle against capitalism. If we ignore that, advocating “humanism” becomes an empty “humanistic” rhetoric. In the contemporary world, the concept of violence exceeds the framework of morality and politics and appears in the existential sphere. The humanistic ideals of modern society, which were affirmed in the French Revolution, can no longer be the starting point in the fight against capitalism. Also, a contemporary criticism of capitalist violence cannot be limited to class and human relations, but must consider the survival of humankind.  Capitalist inhumanity has an anti-existential character. Hence, contemporary humanism cannot only have a libertarian, but, above all, must have an existential nature. As a destructive totalitarian order, capitalism has given a new quality to the development of society: the possibility of man's concrete freedom no longer appears in relation to slavery, but in relation to the ever more realistic possibility of global annihilation. The fight for man's freedom has become the fight for the survival of humankind.      
                Capitalism brought humankind to the edge of the abyss and thus abolished the space for political games intended to buy time for capitalism. The increasingly ruthless destruction of life compels man to make his best efforts to prevent global destruction. That man is the victim of capitalism can also be seen from the fact that capitalism forces him to use, in his struggle for survival, the means which are alien to his humanity, as well as to the vision of a humane society.  The increasingly dramatic destruction of the world means that revolutionary violence is becoming less and less an ethical issue and more and more an existential issue of primary importance.                   
                 On the last historical battlefield there remain only two mortal combatants: capitalism and humankind. Capitalism has long been waging an all-out war of annihilation against humanity. It is about time to start a total war against capitalism, which involves the use of all forms of struggle that can contribute to its final destruction.
Translated from Serbian by Vesna Todorović
English translation supervisor, Mick Collins

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