Saturday, June 30, 2007

White House Erases "Mission Accomplished" Banner from Web Site Video

Video from a vigilant citizen:

Go directly to White House video:

Friday, June 29, 2007


MAO: A LIFE by Philip Short, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 2000. 782pp. [Part 7]
Reviewed by Thomas Riggins

This is an important work and the editor's blog is a good place to discuss it as a preliminary to a review article for PA. Over the next few weeks I will be making entries one chapter at a time (there are sixteen). Comments are invited, especially from anyone who has read the book and wants to critique my take on a chapter, but anyone is welcome to comment.

Chapter 8 "Futian: Loss of Innocence"

In this chapter Short begins by trying to explain the brutality of the CPC at this time (late 1920, early 30s). One can understand, if not condone, the behavior involved. Short says the "model of intra-party strife" was based on the struggle in the Soviet party between Stalin and Trotsky, and later between Stalin and Bukharin. [But this actually preceded such violence in the USSR].

Also, the outrageous violence that the GMD unleashed against the communists and radical peasants influenced the CPC. The communists faced, "White terror in the cities (where, from mid- 1927 on, communists were mercilessly hunted down and killed); White terror in the countryside (where warlord soldiers and landlord militias routinely torched villages suspected of harbouring communist sympathisers); and the constant threat, in the Red areas, of nationalist encirclement and destruction."

The White Terror spawned the Red Terror. The nicey-nicey rules of engagement originally drawn up by Mao were being more and more ignored. Worse still, revolutionary violence (another term for the Red Terror) began to be directed inwards as well.

In his 1926 Hunan report, according to Short, Mao had said, terror "was indispensable to the communist cause, and Red execution squads must be formed 'to massacre the landlords and the despotic gentry as well as their running dogs without the slightest compunction.' But the use of terror should be directed exclusively against class enemies." Our existential conditions in 21st Century industrialized countries makes it almost impossible to comprehend the situation in China at this time which led to these kind of tactics. Are there places in the world today, however, where they would still apply?

In 1930, according to Short, the "flash point" came whereby these tactics, applied externally against the "White Terror" were to be used within the CPC against "anti-party elements." Mao gave a speech in which he said local branches of the party in the rural areas had been infiltrated with landlords and rich peasants, some of whom were in leadership positions.

The real problem, according to Short, was that many local communists did not like outside communists arriving in their areas and telling them what to do. Also they did not like harsh tactics because, due to the large extended families of those times, they had relatives on both sides.

Mao called them "mountaintop-ists"-- i.e., people who put local interests above the national interests of the party, and "they had to be brought into line." So at a meeting of the Jiangxi Front Committee, the local south-west Jiangxi party was put under new leadership. A young man from Hunan was put in charge, Liu Shiqi.

Now a terrible step was taken. Party leaders out of favor were demoted or expelled, but there was an "unwritten rule against killing Party comrades." But by a "secret directive" Mao ordered the execution of the top four local party leaders he had deposed ("as an example to others.") This should never have happened, I think, because secret activities not approved by the Front Committee violates inter party democracy. [Also killing people, for political reasons, is not a good way to build a new world of justice and equality.]

Why did Mao do it? Because he thought "that communists who obstructed the policies that the Party laid down, whatever their reason for doing so, had become part of 'the enemy' ['objectively counter-revolutionary' whatever their subjective intentions] and should be treated as such."

To students of Kant [ the only thing that counts is the good will ], among others, to kill people this way is monstrous. But Mao wasn't a Kantian. Short points out that the courts and trials are beside the point. "Since their guilt was political, the judicial process was irrelevant except as theatre, to educate the masses."

As Mao put it, "they should be openly tried and sentenced to death by execution." This is what is meant by a "show trial." This is one of the worse developments of classical 20th Century underdeveloped world communism and should never be practiced again. China was, however, lacking in any strong tradition of judicial independence. Modern China is still struggling with this problem but at least the leadership is aware of it.

Liu Shiqi went about carrying out purges of the local party's other leaders and many members. Also in 1930 the mysterious AB-tuan shows up. This was a "right-wing clique within the Guomindang." AB-tuaner began "showing up" everywhere. By October 1930, 1000 members of the 30,000 members in the south-west Jiangxi local had been executed for being part of the AB-tuan. While the scale is not Pol Potish, it certainly looks like fear and paranoia were gripping the Party leadership. Li Lisan was the party leader at this time and, ironically, the greatest purges will be against his followers when he falls from Grace. Outside of the executions of the original "Four Great [local] Party Officials", Short says Mao's role in this Pol Potish extension of inter-party violence "is uncertain." While he was actually present in the area with the Red Army few people were killed as AB-tuan. Other leaders seem to have been the primary agents of the "blood-purge"-- (mid-summer 1930).

But by October Mao had joined the purge whole heartedly. Liu Shiqi had been replaced by Li Wenlin and the new leadership in Jiangxi, according to Short, "ordered 'the most merciless torture' to ferret out AB-tuan members, warning that even 'those people who seem very positive and loyal, very left-wing and straightforward in what they say' must be doubted and questioned."

Since people will say anything under torture, it is no surprise to find out that the number of people being killed as "enemy agents" began to climb. It was a miniature Pol Pot witch hunt. Mao bought into it and said it was necessary to "intensify the purge still further."

All this was going on at the same time the GMD armies were trying to wipe out the Red Army (as described in the last chapter). Mao's plan, you may remember, was to "lure the enemy in deep." Naturally, all of the villages and peasants in the way objected to this plan as the GMD would wipe them out. These were the people who became "objective counter-revolutionaries" for contesting Mao's plan. Thousands were killed, including 2000 officers and men in the army itself-- many for questioning the need to to kill so many people. Those chosen by history are first made mad!

"The purge grew into a bloodbath," Short writes, "in which [Mao's] opponents perished. The stage was set for 'the Futian events." What were these events? Short tells the following story.

In early December 1930 the small village of Futian was being used as the HQ of the Jiangxi Provincial Action Committee. On December 7th Li Shaojiu (a "murderous thug"), "a member of Mao's political staff" arrived in town with a band of troops and names of three members of the provincial committee said to be members of the AB-tuan.

All the names were gotten under extreme forms of torture. All three members (plus five additional members found with them) were tortured and made to confess that they were AB-tuan members. They were not immediately put to death but kept alive on the basis of an order approved by Mao which read, "Do not kill the important leaders too quickly, but squeeze out of them [the maximum] information ... [Then], from the clues they give, you can go on to unearth other leaders." Sounds like a memo from Donald Rumsfeld!

I will note here the CPC did some self correcting as it stated a year later, after an internal investigation, that, "All the AB-tuan cases were uncovered on the basis of confessions. Little patience was shown in ascertaining facts and verifying charges... Torture was the only method of dealing with suspects who resisted. Torture ceased only after confession." And the CPC investigators knew how to get the job done. The report states that, "The worst method was to nail a person's palms to a table and then to insert bamboo splints under the fingernails." I imagine a lot of people confessed to being AB-tuan.

However, what the soldiers did to the wives of some of the suspects was just as bad: "they cut open their breasts and burnt their genitals." The Red Army had come a long way from the "humanistic" rules I mentioned,in an earlier entry, that Mao promulgated at its founding.

After Li Shaojiu moved on to hunt for victims at a new location, friends and soldiers of the imprisoned Front Committee members attacked their guards and freed them. They sent an appeal to the Party leadership to get rid of Mao and clear their names. The Party stood by Mao.

Meanwhile, Mao defeated Chiang Kai-shek's first encirclement attack. Mao's stock went up. The "suspects" held out until March 1931, then turned themselves in, "having been assured, or so they believed, that they would be treated with clemency."

Many were then killed. (one of them, a young man in his early 20s was beheaded). Short suggests they were innocent, their real crime being they were associated politically with the Li Lisan line (Li had been removed by this time) and that a bloody factional purge was carried out under the guise of fighting the class enemy (i.e., GMD agents). The revolution eats its own.

Short says the Returned Students leadership in Shanghai lumped "together all forms of opposition under a generic AB-tuan label." It seems there was no loyal opposition, just traitors. As a result, Short writes, "the purge resumed more ferociously than ever." This was, however, a "China thing," not a "CPC thing" since the GMD and the warlords carried on their own purges and blood baths. This was a reflection of the existential conditions in China and the level of social development of the combatants.

At this time, according to a later CPC investigation, the Jiangxi Political Security department acted on the premise "that it was better to kill a hundred innocent people than to leave a truly guilty one at large." Hardly a policy to win friends and influence people.

In the third encirclement campaign the remnants of the troops that had rescued the "suspects" (it was the 20th Army) was called to come back and help fight off Chiang's attack. They did so, but Mao had most of the officers executed and dispersed the regular soldiers into other units. There was no more 20th Army.

By the end of the year, after the death of tens of thousands of people, the purge, and Mao's part in it, slackened off. It didn't end, however. From 1932 through 1934, 80 to 100 people a month were being shot for being AB- tuan, Social Democrats, or "reformists." This was a new moderate policy! The Party was against "unorganized" killing. Executions now had to be approved by higher Party bodies, they could not just take place on the spot.

I read Short's book on Pol Pot and this "Futian" purge sounds just like the kinds of thing the Khmer Rouge did. Here is a quote from the head of East Futian security on how to deal with a suspect: "You force him to confess, then he confesses, you believe him and you kill him: or, he does not confess and you kill him." These alternatives don't look very good. If this is going on in the "liberated zones", which the peasants are flocking to, what could Chiang have been doing? We shall soon see.

The reasons for the purges were, Short says, always the same. "They were always about power-- the power of individual leaders to enforce their will, and to ensure that followers followed."

This horrible chapter is drawing to an end. Short ends it by trying to explain what was the cause of this inhuman barbaric slaughter of men, women and some children as well. "Inhuman" seems not to be the right word as we humans have been acting this way since the git-go.

Short says, "The way in which the [CPC] leadership was transformed from an idealistic, ineffectual coterie of well meaning intellectuals" who "in exceptional times" carried out "an exceptional slaughter of men and women [tens of thousands!] who later proved to be perfectly loyal" was largely due to "the situation within China itself."

Short says that the main reason was the civil war between the CPC and GMD in which "no rules were honored." In 1931 the head of the PB Security Service defected to the GMD and turned over lists of names resulting in the capture and killing of thousands of communists, including Xiang Zhongfa [1880-1931] the head of the Party since 1928.

Zhou Enlai ordered the turncoat's entire family exterminated. Only a small boy was saved because the man assigned to do the killing couldn't bring himself to kill a small child. In order to enforce discipline Zhou also ordered the killing of dozens of CPC members whom he thought lacked discipline.

O tempora, O mores, we are not hearten to read that, "The Guomindang was just as barbarous." The GMD went to areas where the CPC was located and killed all the able bodied men in a program known as "draining the pond to catch the fish."

While the CPC was killing its own, the GMD was just killing anyone who later might be a potential recruit to the CPC-- i.e., poor peasants in the country side. They killed 100,000 villagers in Hubei and 80,000 in Henan. On the Hunan-Hubei border, the GMD killed so many villagers that only 10,000 remained from a population of one million. "Twenty years later, ruined villages and human bones were still scattered through the mountains."

This was the environment the CPC lived in, and the young idealists of a few years before, including Mao, either adapted or perished. It was, in fact, typical of Chinese history. "The vortex of blood and fear," Short writes, "in which the communist struggle was played out was the fruit of this legacy."

Mao was conflicted. He still held to the ideals, discussed in a previous chapter, about how the Red Army should act, yet realized "iron discipline" was needed. He saw communism as a "moral force" not just a way to attain power. There was a contradiction between torture and murder of innocent people, including some children, to make others obey and the concept that your philosophy is a "moral force for China's renewal."

Mao turned to dialectics, especially "the unity of opposites" to try and understand [justify?] the Party's actions. What could you do against an enemy such as the GMD? He concluded the purges were necessary, but regrettable, due to the circumstances, and, Short says, "in future better avoided." Amen to that!

Movie Review: Sicko, directed by Michael Moore

Delivering his characteristic dark humor and insightful analysis, Michael Moore's latest documentary film Sicko is a searing indictment of the for-profit, insurance-driven health care system.

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U.S. Capitalists don't Llike New Chinese Labor Law

The American people are told over and over again that "free markets" and capitalism equal democracy and that "planned economy" and Communist governments equal dictatorship, "totalitarianism," and other bad things.

China is perceived as a "good country" because it has allowed extensive foreign investment beginning at the end of the 1970s and has permitted the development of an internal class of capitalists. It is perceived as a "bad country" because the Communist party remains in power, there is no "multi-party system," and to get down to the nitty gritty the old dream of the "China market" has become the reality of Chinese firms selling goods abroad and the Chinese state investing in U.S. bonds.

The capitalists in the U.S. obviously want more freedom to exploit Chinese labor and resources (for them you can never have enough) and they continue to equate "freedom" and "democracy" with their power, which,
Karl Marx noted on many occasions, is what ruling classes always do, that is, defining their class interests and ideology as universal.

Today, someone got more freedom in China, but it wasn't the capitalists, both internally and internationally, but Chinese workers. A new labor law, enacted over major foreign investor opposition, calls upon employers to give workers written contracts, restricts the rights of employers to dismiss workers without cause, and eliminates tricks that employers use to create a revolving door of "temporary workers" to keep wages down.

It also gives substantially enhanced power to the official national union, which has long been reviled as a "stooge" of the Communist Party of China and the national government, to engage in collective bargaining and in other ways provide protection for workers.

None of this can be considered revolutionary socialism. In fact, it might be considered an advance in workers rights of the kind that since the late nineteenth century has been equated in advanced capitalist countries with "bourgeois" or capitalist "democracy." So the capitalists should be happy about it, right?

Wrong! "It will be more difficult to run a company here," an attorney representing U.S. firms, which had lobbied against the law and, if the press reports are accurate, succeeded in watering down its provisions to pretext workers against unemployment, noted. In the New York Times article on this development, which is filled with what appear to be semiconscious put downs of the Peoples Republic, the first sentence notes that the Chinese legislature had rejected "pleas from foreign investors who argued that the measure would reduce China's appeal as a low wage, business friendly-industrial base."

Of course the workers of the world in no place in the world want to be part of a "low wage, business friendly-industrial base." But capitalists do and this is their definition of democracy, or rather what they fight for as "democracy'--a legal "superstructure," as the Marxists of the world might inform the reporters of the New York Times, which extends and strengthens rather than reduces and limits the exploitation of the workers at its material base, whether that base is agricultural commercial, or mass production industrial.

Many U.S. unions, who often join in the anti-China chorus here, attacking Chinese lack of labor protections along with Chinese exports, should at least put in a good word for this step forward by the Peoples Republic.

They might also have a little more empathy and sympathy for what the Chinese people endured at the hands of European, U.S., and particularly Japanese imperialism since the mid nineteenth century; the Opium Wars of
th mid 19th century where "free markets" meant fighting for the right to sell narcotics; the seizure of territories, "unequal treaties" of the late 19th century which took away Chinese sovereignty over parts of their own cities, the carving up of China into "spheres of influence"; the support for warlords in the post Manchu dynasty early decades of the 20th century who robbed and raped the people because they served the interests of the foreign powers; the annexations and war launched against China by Japanese imperialism in the 1930s and 1940s, which made China second albeit a distant second to the Soviet Union in the loss of life during W.W.II; and finally the intervention by the Truman administration in the Chinese Civil War in 1950, the use of the U.S. Navy to sustain the Chiang K'ai-shek dictatorship which had been swept from power on the Chinese mainland, on the island of Taiwan, and the policy of blackballing the Peoples Republic of China from the United Nations until the early 1970s aiding and abetting Chiang's Taiwan regime in provocations against it. This is the history that so many ignore essentially as a way of supporting the new conventional wisdom to both
ignore and demonize what China is today just as so many in the past supported the old conventional wisdom by ignoring and demonizing the "Red China" of Mao and Chou.

Although, as the English used to say, "the devil is in the details" and one will have to see how this new law is enforced and whether or not it leads to a further expansion of workers rights, it should be welcomed by the broad left and all progressives in the U.S., who along with the labor movement itself should resist "tailing" the conventional wisdom of the right in the U.S. by China-baiting.

With all of its contradictions and, from a socialist perspective, the negative developments that China has experienced in recent years in regard to the growing influence of domestic and foreign capitalists, it is important to recognize the huge and continuing gains that the Chinese people made under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party through the Chinese revolution--that is the end of the misery of landlord-peasant-warlord-comprador China befure the revolution, recovering from the monstrous war crimes
committed against the Chinese people by Japanese imperialism during W.W.II, and resisting the economic, military, and political cold war fought by U.S. imperialism and its allies to isolate the Peoples Republic after W.W.II. Without the CPC, China would be a colonial playground with its people mired in poverty, crime, and drug addiction, on the outside looking in on their own country--China as a world slum, which is what the imperialist powers were creating before the revolution.

More people have been lifted out of poverty in China over the last fifty-eight years since the Peoples Republic was proclaimed than any society in history (and that is not just as expression of Chinese huge population.

That a Communist party which led a great peoples revolution continues to direct the destiny of China in the 21st century remains a source of fear and hostility to the capitalists of the world, whatever relationship the Chinese state and party have developed with foreign and domestic capitalists. It should be a source of hope for those who are partisans of socialism and Chinese policies that advance workers rights should be praised and encouraged here by all U.S. partisans of labor and socialism

--Norman Markowitz

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Surpreme Court's Rightwing Majority Strikes at School Integration

Fifty-three years after the Brown Decision declared segregation in schools unconstitutional and twenty-nine years after a more conservative court limited in the Bakke decision the scope of affirmative action policies in education to questions of diversity, the Supreme Court today gave the supporters of de facto segregation and institutional racism a major victory.

What they have done, and everyone should be clear about this, is to remove largely the diversity category which, with its limitations, has been the basis of institutional affirmative action policies in education since the Bakke decision. They have also made that point very clear with a rebuke to those who have used that category over the last three decades.

Once more the "gang of four ultrarightists" led now by Chief Justice Roberts were joined by regular conservative Republican Anthony Kennedy in rendering this judgment, which should be seen for what it is, a
right-wing political order by a court overturning local school district integration plans carried forward by school boards and administrators

That Kennedy separated himself somewhat from the gang of four will probably be emphasized by maintream media and various legal pundits, but it really doesn't deserve to be. He voted with them (as he has begun to do consistently) in a decision which in effect will tell school officials through the country that they have much more to worry about by developing policies to foster integration then they do by providing de facto support to de facto segregation and discrimination.

John Paul Stevens, a Republican appointed by Gerald Ford in 1975 and today both the longest serving member of the court and arguably its most progressive member, made the point that no one on the Court that he joined in 1975 would have supported this decision. Since that Court included the Nixon appointees who moved it to the right, it serves as an eloquent commentary on what Ronald Reagan and the two Bush presidents, particularly GW, have done to the Supreme Court and the Federal Judiciary.

Just as Abolitionists rejected the Dred Scott decision and progressives, socialists and communists rejected reactionary Supreme Court decisions ranging from Hammer v. Dagenhart (1918) declaring legislation outlawing child labor unconstitutional to the Dennis Case (1951) upholding Smith Act legislation used to imprison the national leadership of the CPUSA for forming a political party to teach and/or advocate the violent overthrow of the government (itself not only a very crude assault on the Bill of Rights but a huge distortion of what the CPUSA really stood for and actually did) supporters of civil rights and an integrated society must condemn this decision and in effect call upon Congress now and the next national administration to enact comprehensive new Civil Rights legislation

We should remember that no major Civil Rights laws have been passed in this country since 1968 and that new legislation is needed that will put affirmative action directly into the law, not into presidential directives and judicial decision, as it was in the 1960s and 1970s, and stop this right-wing dominated Court.

Today the Roberts Court sought to use an interpretation of the Brown decision that threatens to bring the nation into a political twilight zone where de facto and de jure segregation will be become indistinguishable and institutional racism will be massively expanded. This was the logic of Roberts majority opinion ,which outraged John Paul Stevens and would make Earl Warren, Hugo Black, William O. Douglas, and their colleagues on the Court in 1954 turn over in their graves, not to mention Thurgood Marshall, who served as chief counsel for the NAACP in arguing the Brown Case and whom Lyndon Johnson, who signed the original executive orders establishing affirmative action policies, later appointed to the Supreme Court.

Norman Markowitz

Gaza and After

After the tragic events in the Gaza Strip, and the complete takeover of Gaza by Hamas in a military coup, we think that it is important to stress on the following points.

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Hawaiian Activists Fight US Military Bases

Two Hawaiian land rights activists visited Sydney in June and spoke to The Guardian about their struggles against US militarization of Hawaii and their support for protests against the Talisman Sabre war games in Shoalwater Bay, Queensland.

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Is the Price Too High for Beneficial Public Broadcasting in Venezuela?

In the U.S. we are often faced with a dynamic and constantly changing media environment. Whether it is the FCC fining a television station for airing nudity as recently happened with the national WB station or the cancellation of a long-running radio program like the Don Imus show, we tend to view these developments as normal.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Bush Man Goes to Jail

On an evening when George Bush's America awaits Paris Hilton's Interview on the Larry King show (the protests of the "other America" led NBC to withdraw their million dollar offer to Paris to give them her first post jail interview) a former Bush official has been sentenced to ten months in jail.

Unlike Paris, Steve Griles, number two man in the Department of the Interior from 2001 to 2005, isn't going to the slammer for drunk driving, parole violation, and a let them eat cake attitude toward drivers, pedestrians, and the non idle rich and speciously famous.

He merely used his position in the Interior Department to aid Jack Abramoff's corrupt deals involving Native American people and gambling casinos and then sought to obstruct investigations by the Indian Affairs Committee into Abramoff's criminal activities (Abramoff is now serving a six year prison sentence).

In the 1870s, the Interior Department and Bureau of Indian Affairs were the centers of corruption scandals in the Grant administration which have been considered, along with the corruption scandals of the Harding administration, the greatest in U.S. history.

But in this administration, Karl Marx old concept of quantitative change producing qualitative change may be a work were corruption is concerned.

When a company formerly headed by the Vice President aka Halliburton "overcharges" the government by hundreds of millions for Iraq contracts (and that is just for starters) and completely gets away with it; Enron extorts billions in electricity payments from California by literally threatening the population with a loss of power before its monumental stock fraud and pension swindle against its own employees bring it down; and nearly five hundred billion in annual military spending, perhaps as much as half the official state military spending of the world, fails to outfit the U.S. army with adequate body armor and other necessary protective gear, we may be entering a new stage where corruption itself is inadequate to explain the looting that we see around us.

This is "corruption" on such a monumental scale that it becomes difficult to even fathom. It makes William M "Boss" Tweed" the Tammany leader of the 1870s who spent an estimated twenty-five million dollars (mostly graft) to build a New York City courthouse (still a great landmark) look quaint. Tweed eventually was sent to prison, after being extradited from Spain, where he had fled. Bush's foreign policy has alienated so many nations. including allies, that it is difficult to think of a nation where his subordinates might flee to escape extradition, with the exception of course of Albania.

Apparently the Judge, Ellen Segal Huville, had some difficulty fathoming both the Justice Department's request for punishment and Griles lack of contrition in this specific case because she gave him a much stiffer prison sentence than they asked for and he expected. According to Reuters, from which I have gotten the story (the general U.S. media doesn't appear to be too interested) Giles had hoped to be able to serve his sentence at home,employed by a Charity sponsored by Walt Disney Company and other corporations as a sort of community service. Griles defense, according to his attorney, was that he did nothing wrong intentionally and has merely suffered by association with Abramoff "whose name has become synonymous with corruption."

What is the Republic coming to when Republicans are the "victims" of "guilt by association" as much of the left was in the various Red Scares of U.S. history? What can be said about a court which has no faith in the redemptive power of a charity funded by Walt Disney to rehabilitate a fallen high government official?

Before this story appears on Law and Order and GW Bush's America gets on with its serious business, watching Paris Hilton tonight on Larry King, a few points should be made about the corruption of this administration and corruption generally in contemporary U.S. capitalism.

Locking up some perpetrators is no more a long-range solution than fines for industrial polluters. Confiscating the assets of companies like Halliburton and Enron before they squander those assets is part of a serious solution. Placing heavy fines and surcharges on the corporations that do business with and profit from their corruption but keep their own hands relatively clean is another part.On the swindles that Abramoff and others have engaged in concerning the lands and rights of native peoples, whose suffering at the hands of the U.S. government through most of U.S. history is one of the great stains on that history, a national policy of affirmative action and social protection for native Americans, along with the policies of nurturing native American culture which John Collier began in the Interior Department during the New Deal government and
which were largely buried after WWII,offer the best solution to corruption. Corruption, and we should remember that this is true everywhere, always feeds on the consequences of poverty, segregation, and discrimination.

Socialist solutions, that is, nationalizing and placing into an administered and regulated public sector industries which provide for basic human needs, energy, transportation, health care, and education, would not only lower prices and provide for much more equal access to these necessities but also largely eliminate the swindles, both legal and illegal, that oil companies, pharmaceutical firms, banks and insurance companies perpetrate (when dealing with big time corruption, which should always remember that police rule of thumb: for every crime detected and criminal caught, there are at least a few that are never caught and some that are never even reported or detected).

These are the sorts of solutions that those who follow Bush and are left with the wreckage that his administration will leave them should be contemplating today, if they are to protect the people from the Cheneys, Bushs, Abrahamoffs, and Rumsfelds of the future,who one can expect to be around if the larger system of state protected and subsidized monopoly capitalism is still around.

Norman Markowitz

US Conference of Mayors' Resolution on the Iraq War

WHEREAS, the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces continue to serve in Iraq with bravery and distinction; and

WHEREAS, the current sectarian violence in Iraq continues to claim the lives of U.S. Military Personnel and Iraqi Civilians; and

WHEREAS, peace and stability can only be achieved in Iraq through the resolution of political differences within that country; and

WHEREAS, the restoration of domestic peace and order requires the active intervention and leadership of the Iraqi Government, respecting the rights of all Iraqis; and

WHEREAS, continued U.S. Military presence in Iraq is resulting in the tragic loss of American lives and wounding of American soldiers; and

WHEREAS, the continued U.S. Military presence in Iraq is reducing Federal Funds available for needed domestic investments in education, healthcare, public safety, homeland security, and more; and

WHEREAS, The United States Conference of Mayors completely and 110 percent supports those men and women that are defending, have defended and will defend our country,

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that The U.S. Conference of Mayors calls for the Administration to begin planning immediately for the swift and prudent redeployment of the US Armed Forces; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that The U.S. Conference of Mayors calls for the accelerated training of Iraq's Armed Forces to be able to maintain stability and civil order; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that The U.S. Conference of Mayors calls for future U.S. Military Aid; reconstruction funding, and other support to be tied to the achievement of verifiable goals by the Iraqi government, including ridding Iraqi security forces of militia or sectarian influence; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that The U.S. Conference of Mayors calls for the Administration, as part of a comprehensive plan for stability in the region, to convene an international conference to identify strategies and methods for reducing regional interference in Iraq and increasing regional support of achieving peace and stability in Iraq; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that The U.S Conference of Mayors calls for full funding of services to the brave men and women returning after service in the United States Armed Forces, including medical, psychological, housing and other support services, and support to local governments funding such services.

End of the Road for the Employee Free Choice Act, Or Just the Opening Salvo

On Tuesday the Senate voted 51-48 to end a Republican filibuster of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would strengthen workers' right to choose a union.

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Sen. Saxby Chambliss' Struggle with Dishonesty

Yesterday (6-26), while a bipartisan majority of Senators expressed support for the Employee Free Choice Act, most Republican Senators voted to filibuster the bill, preventing the end of debate and bringing the vote to the floor for an "up or down" vote. A large bipartisan majority in the House passed the bill in March.

Many Republican Senators have been caught lying about why they oppose the bill. Some like Sens. Orrin Hatch (UT), Lamar Alexander (TN), Norman Coleman (MN), Saxby Chambliss (GA) blatantly misstated what the bill would do. The bill would give workers the choice on how to select a union in their workplace: either through a secret ballot or a majority sign-up known as "card check." If a majority of workers vote for a union, then the employer must recognize it and begin negotiating with workers on pay, benefits, and work conditions.

But these four Senators lied and said they oppose the bill because it does away with "secret ballots." But it doesn't. So either they haven't actually read a bill they have pronounced an opinion on and voted on, or they are being dishonest. Which is it?

Chambliss went further. He added that he opposes the bill because it is supported by the Communist Party USA. But let's assume for a moment, God forbid, that the Communist Party USA never existed. Would Chambliss have supported the bill? Nope. Again Chambliss is simply being dishonest.

The Communist Party opposes racism. So does this mean Chambliss is coming out as a staunch advocate of white supremacy. Well, maybe not staunch. The Communist Party supports voting rights; so does Chambliss believe that only propertied white men should be able to vote?

Chambliss should stop using the views of other groups as an excuse to avoid doing his job right: that is, reading a bill before he gives an opinion on it and relaying this information accurately to the voters of his state. He should stop blaming others for his own views.

Why doesn't Chambliss have the backbone to tell Georgia voters that his campaigns are financed by big business lobbyists with the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce, and that is why he opposes laws that would help working families in Georgia improve their standard of living? Georgia voters have to ask why Chambliss took more than $190,000 from lobbyists between 2001 and 2006. And of the $12 million he has taken from organizations, PACs, lobbyists, and individuals over this time period, about 90% has come from big business. What did that money buy them?

But should Chambliss' dishonesty really surprise Georgia voters? This is the guy who, after avoiding service in Vietnam, ran against disabled Vietnam war veteran Sen. Max Cleland in 2002 and accused him being a traitor.

Can Georgia working families afford to have such a dishonest person, who has been bought and sold many times over to the highest bidder, representing them in the Senate?

--Joel Wendland

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Is the US Government Targeting 9/11 Workers

According to an AP article:

Three Ground Zero workers who accompanied filmmaker Michael Moore on a trip to Cuba for medical treatment featured in his new movie Sicko charged Friday they were targeted by the U.S. government because of their participation.

''It's ridiculous after what we did for the city and the country on that day, that they won't allow us to go 90 miles offshore to get treated,'' said Reggie Cervantes, a 46-year-old EMT who worked with only a thin dust mask after the World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.

The three workers expect to receive a letter from OFAC at the Treasury Department, which spends more resources tracking Cuba travel violators than Al Qaeda terrorists, similar to the one Michael Moore received after taking them and several other emergency workers to Cuba to seek medical aid at the US prison camps Guantanamo Bay.

Moore went to Guantanamo with the emergency workers after they were denied compensation for medical treatment they undertook for injuries incurred while working during the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

To counter evidence that the Bush administration ordered the mistreatment and abuse of detainees at the prison camps at Guantanamo, Bush claimed that detainees there got the best treatment including complete and free medical care.

As part of his forthcoming documentary "Sicko," Moore sought to bring the emergency workers to Guantanamo to receive the same free care that people whom the administration is claiming are our worst enemies are supposedly getting.

Moore and the emergency workers than visited Cuba itself to witness Cuba's advanced and universal health care system in operation.

The Treasury Department ignored Moore's request for permission to travel to Cuba as a journalist. Now the Bush administration has launched an investigation of Moore's trip.

--Joel Wendland

Another argument for the Manifesto

Why did I once claim, in one of my reflections, that Bush had authorized or ordered my death?

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Monday, June 25, 2007


This is Bill O'Reilly talking to John McCain on the O'Reilly Factor 5/30/07:

"But do you understand what the New York Times wants, and the far-left? They want to breakdown the white, Christian, male power structure, which you're a part, and so am I, and they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have. In that regard, Pat Buchanan is right."
from the FAIR newsletter Extra!Update 2 June 2007

Apology and Brief Iran Update

I apologize to readers for the form of my last blog post. Something
happend and it initially wouldn't go through. By fiddling around, a
got it to go, and then discovered that it went in one long paragraph,
and the spell check didn't work.

My Iran update is a point that I remembered after I wrote my last blog
post about Iran The present government has made the fact that the
previous president, a cleric regarded as a "liberal"(an advocate of
loosening clerical restrictions on the populations and improving
international relations, although liberals here make the good point
that he received no positive encouragement from the Bush
administation) "shook hands" with a woman abroad a major example of
"Un-islamic activities." This reminds me as an historian of an
incident in the 1920s, when British agents acted to discredit the King
of Afghanistan, who also was regarded as a liberal and an opponent of
British imperial interests in his country, by showing a photograph of
him dancing with a women abroad. I doubt the the clerical regime was
aware of this, but who knows.
At least they have yet to accuse him of holding a banner proclaiming
"Bong Hits 4 Jesus" but in the world of propaganda anything is always
Norman Markowitz

The Supreme Court's Funny Ideas about "Freedom"

The Supreme Court, or rather the "gang of four" ultrarightists (Chief Justice Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas) along with, William Kennedy, who has apparently joined the gang since their numbers expanded under GW Bush from three to four and Sandra Day O'Connor is no longer around as a restraining influence, voted today to gut the McCain-Feingold "Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act" of 2002, the act had previously been upheld in 2003, by a five to four vote.

Let me say that "McCain-Feingold" is nothing to cheer about and in no way makes the U.S. seriously in line with many other developed capitalist countries. These countries have strict restrictions on the amount of time political campaigning can be carried on, the monies and the monies used by parties in such campaigns, often providing free but very limited access to television advertising to prevent those with great wealth from dominating the media But it was a response, however limited, to growing public awareness of the use of huge amounts of money to purchase nominations and elections in the United States.

The present ruling will no doubt lead to a significant increase in the use of money in the 2008 elections, which will not only aid the Republican Right but compel various non-right candidates to "moderate" their positions in order to raise more funds from corporations and the wealthy. The case itself involves campaign "ads" by a Wisconsin Right to Life Group, which were clearly in violation of McCain-Feingold provisions, which bar aids from third party groups (defined as "corporations and unions" in the act) within sixty days of a primary or election. The ad called upon viewers to contact Senator Feingold (cosponsor of the legislation that the Court is gutting, and a supporter of reproductive rights which the group opposes) and directed viewers to an anti-Feingold website attacking his re-election campaign. (I forgot to mention that he was running for re-election and the ad was within the sixty day time frame but the court didn't consider that important.)

The majority ruling, drafted by Chief Justice Roberts, contended that since the "ads may be reasonably interpreted as something other than an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate" they do not fall under the law. Reasonably interpreted by whom? Ads aimed at a reproductive rights advocate by opponents of his position, instructing viewers to visit a website opposing his re-election? The law, the ruling contended, should be "objective, focusing on the communications substance rather than amorphous considerations of intent and effect." Wow.

It is subjective to view ads of this kind as part of the campaign to defeat Senator Feingold's re-election? The substance of this ad concerns a reasoned discussion on the question of reproductive rights? In the dissent, written by Judge David Souter (a conservative Republican from New Hampshire when GW's dad appointed him, but someone who has infuriated the right nationally by voting pretty consistently against them on the court) the point was made that "after today the ban on contributions by corporations and unions and the limitations on their corrosive spending when the enter the political arena are open to easy circumvention, and the possibility of regulating corporate and union campaign money are unclear."

Let me say, since even the liberal media won't, that there is no equal sign between corporations and trade unions in U.S. politics. Trade unions do most in providing volunteer labor to pro labor candidates. Their financial contributions, while significant, are not in any way comparable to the contributions of corporations and the wealthy. If they were the huge money gap in favor of Republicans and the right in major elections where it is believed that both candidates have a chance to win (sometimes as great as four to one in presidential elections) would not exist.

Let me also say that the figures that conservative and establishment political scientists often use to deny this are based on the fact that the great majority of congressional elections are non competitive and corporate money often flows to the winning candidate, even if that candidate is a progressive Democrat, in order to influence the candidate on various issues.

Many Americans know that even with the McCain-Feingold law there is no real check on the use of money in U.S. elections. Now that the law itself has been gutted by the Supreme Court, hopefully a progressive Congress will enact serious legislation to establish free and fair elections in the United States and a progressive administration will appoint judges who will sustain such legislation.

As a Monty Python postscript to this new anti-democratic ruling, the Court also voted five to four against an Alaska high school student who was punished by his high school for holding a banner with the words "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" by the school as the 2002 Winter Olympics torch parade went by. Bong Hits 4 Jesus was interpreted by the school as a direct assault on the school's anti-drug use message. Apparently the court didn't see it as "amorphous" in its intent and effect, or any violation of free speech.

The Alaska high school was represented by Kenneth Starr, that stirling representative of freedom who took the gossip provided him by Linda Tripp to intimidate with a threat of a long prison sentence Monica Lewinsky into testifying before a Congressional Committee in great detail about her sexual relationship with Bill Clinton which then served as the basis for the attempt to impeach Clinton for activities that had nothing to do with his role as president or even the question that Starr was initially assigned to investigate, that is, the Clinton's involvement many years earlier in the Whitewater Savings and Loan Bank affair.

Starr of course is very much in sync with this court and where its 5-4 majority appears to be going. The Court has told us that we should "err" on the side of free speech when it comes to an expensive television ad aimed at mobilizing anti-abortion voters to reject a Wisconsin Senator, since their motives are really unclear, but a teen-ager raising a banner, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" outside a school aimed at a passing parade has no first amendment speech or assembly rights because that banner is interpreted as an attack on the school's drug policy I don't know how many people watching the Olympic torch understood the meaning of Bong Hits 4 Jesus as pro Drug. I certainly don't. I might even think that the percentage was much smaller than the percentage of Wisconsin TV viewers who understood that Wisconisn Right to Life's ad was a campaign ad against Senator Feingold. But these are not questions that concern this court.

Leadbelly used to sing a song that went "bourgouis democracy democracy for the bourgeoisie, it ain't democracy for you and me." Even though the Supreme Court might support his arrest for singing that in front of an Alaska high school if he were a student there, they went a long way to proving his point today by defining "free speech" speech as speech which is considered "free" both because of its content and also the ability of those who present it to pay for it in mass media.

--Norman Markowitz

India: Defend Left Front Government Of West Bengal

June 21, 2007 marks a historic anniversary. This date marks the completion of thirty years in office of the Left Front government of West Bengal.

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Darfur: The Crisis and the Tragedy, Part 1

Throughout its history, the region of Darfur has been characterized by waves of migration due to the movement of Arab and African tribes. These waves of migration have significantly influenced Darfur ’s history as well as its social norms, traditions and customs.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Iran's Clerical State Escalates its War Against it Own People

The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has launched a new "crackdown" on its own citizens in the name of "national security" and religious moral purity. The crackdown continues and extends the arrests of trade unionists, student activists, and women's rights activists that the regime, which uses its own version of a religious "culture war" to cover up its failures to deliver on any of its promises to the rural and urban poor, has been carrying forward for months.

Since I have written about this regime in PA online before, particularly its reactionary adventurer president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his high profile association with European neo-Nazis as a sponsor of "Holocaust denial" anti-Jewish racist propaganda , let me say that Ahmadinejad is really not the point here.

He, as U.S. media, and I confess myself in my own PA writings, have either ignored or not made clear, is not the central figure in the regime. He is more of a prime minister for the religious "supreme leader," Ayatollah Khamenei, successor in that post to the founder of the clerical state, Ayatollah Khomeini, out of the 1978 revolution. It is Khamenei who holds both the juridical and through his leadership in the clerical power structure, real power.

It is important that the left generally and the Communist movement particularly condemn both these actions and the regime in a principled way, without fear that this will help the Bush administration and its allies, who are using this heightened repression against Iranian people to increase their war preparations against Iran, just as Khamenei and the clerical regime is using those preparations to arrest tens of thousands of people and engage in grotesque public humiliations of people caught in public violating their religious code of personal conduct in the name of "national unity" and "national security."

This is not about "West and "East," about different "cultures." Civil liberties, as defined in principle under the United Nations Charter of Human Rights after the Second World War (which the U.S government resisted because of its fear that this would interfere with segregation) here are universal standards which, while they have to be adopted to specific circumstances to be effective, must be defended by the left and especially by the Communist movement.

First, we should make it clear that the "Islamic Republic" has continued many of the brutal repressive policies and institutions that it inherited from the Shah's U.S. supported twenty-five year dictatorship. Just as the weapons it received were U.S., even its "National Security Council" takes its name from its former U.S. master.

Its propaganda of national security and national unity, even of conservative culural religious "purity", mimics in important ways both European fascist movements and regimes and for that matter the U.S. "McCarthyism" whose Internal Security Act, political and cultural blacklists, and very small by the Islamic Republic of Iran's standards, were used to suppress the leading forces of the left and advance the cold war.

Some on the left are confused by Ahmadinejad. particularly, who meets with Hugo Chavez and other anti-imperialist world leaders whom the Bush administration targets one week, and then aids and abets Hitler fascists and other enemies of humanity the next.

We should really see this for what it is, the political maneuvering of a brutal reactionary regime which, in its largely defensive conflict against a globally brutal U.S. imperialism, undertakes such action in its own interests. In essence, the regime is far closer in its relationship to its own people and what it represents globally to Ahmadenijad's European fascist friends than it is in any way to Hugo a socialist oriented anti-imperialist, like Hugo Chavez, except of course having at this moment a common enemy.

Just as no one on left supported or remained silent about the domestic and global crimes Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger in the 1970s because they ended U.S. opposition to seating the People's Republic of China, signing a Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with the Soviet Union, and advancing a concept of détente, all of which were positive steps and all of which they undertook to advance both U.S. imperialism and their own power in the U.S. as they saw it, no one on the left should remain silent about the intensified repression in Iran today.

The ruling classes of the capitalist world have no interest in either the rights or the social welfare of the Iranian people. How could they, given their role in overthrowing the last secular parliamentary regime that Iran had because its elected leaders nationalized Iranian oil and largely creating, supporting, and profiting from the Shah's brutal twenty-five year dictatorship.

Even the press accounts concerning these events highlight the three American citizens who have been arrested and are being held in preventive detention, not the tens of thousands of Iranians whom the regime is boasting that it has "detained" in its mass arrests.

The broad left's support for the democratic, secular, and working class forces in and outside of Iran should be unequivocal. Communists and all friends and allies of Communists particularly should focus their support of and solidarity with the Tudeh Party of Iran, remembering that the Tudeh Party since its inception has been the most advanced for in Iran fighting for a secular democratic and socialist state and society and still is.

We should also make the point that the Shah's regime, the present clerical regime, and the CIA from Truman to Bush have all sought to destroy the Tudeh Party inside and outside Iran, with the CIA playing an open role in that regard under the Shah's regime, and, according to analysts of the early history of the clerical regime, supplying the clerical regime with lists of names of Tudeh Party members and supporters to aid in their repression.

We should also trust in our ability to explain such matters to working people and in the ability of working people to act in their own interest to extend the fight for peace and democracy, which capitalists and their media twist into a policy that justifies war to control the world's natural resources and labor.

Norman Markowitz


MAO: A LIFE by Philip Short, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 2000. 782pp. [Part 6]
Reviewed by Thomas Riggins

This is an important work and the editor's blog is a good place to discuss it as a preliminary to a review article for PA. Over the next few weeks I will be making entries one chapter at a time (there are sixteen). Comments are invited, especially from anyone who has read the book and wants to critique my take on a chapter, but anyone is welcome to comment.

Chapter Seven "Out of the Barrel of a Gun"

This chapter begins with the July 15, 1927 rupture between the CPC and the GMD. The new party leaders are tasked to construct a peasant army by orders that have come from Moscow. A new Comintern agent was on the scene to advise the Chinese comrades [Besso Lominadze].

The party began to build its own military force and to plan for a big insurrection of the peasants in Hunan for the Autumn of 1927. There was a new de facto party leader, Qu Qiubai (1899-1935), Chen Duxiu was definitely out as leader, having been accused of "Menshevism" [ a term used, as Short notes, 'to denote any form of right-wing opposition or advocacy of class reconciliation." It is now arguably an outmoded term, as are "Trotskyism" and "Stalinism". All three terms now function as substitutes for having to think about complex political problems].

A major problem for the party was what the relationship should be between the newly established military force and the mass movement of workers and peasants. In August Mao put forth the following thesis. He noted that Sun Yat-sen relied on the military for his rise to power, while the CPC relied only on the mass movement of the people. Chiang Kai-shek "rose by grasping the gun." The CPC still had no real understanding of the importance of a military force although it was beginning to dawn on the leadership. Mao concluded, "From now on we should pay the greatest attention to military affairs. We must know that political power is obtained out of the barrel of a gun."

The Politburo [as the Central Bureau now called itself] thought that "gun-barrelism" "did not quite accord" with its views. "The masses," Short writes,"were the core of the revolution; the armed forces, at most, auxiliary." This doesn't really conflict with Mao's views. Without mass popular support guns are ultimately useless, as the US found out in Vietnam and is learning all over again in Iraq.

Over the next few months the CPC planned an uprising of the peasants in south China. Mao was supposed to draw up plans for taking over Hunan and helping the revolt spread to other provinces. A rag tag army was put together around a nucleus of seasoned GMD troops who defected to the communists. Mao realized, however, that the forces were insufficient for such a large undertaking. He went against party discipline and focused on just taking Changsha, the capital of Hunan.

To make a long story short, all the attempts at insurrection, not only in Hunan under Mao, but in all the other south China locations, ended in fiascos. Mao led his forces further south to find a safe refuge. Other leaders in the field hightailed it to other locations (Zhou Enlai ended up in Hong Kong).

The Politburo met in Shanghai in November and purged itself. Mao was left on the CC but kicked out of the Politburo. Meanwhile the right GMD forces and hostile warlords (not all were hostile) killed thousands of party members. Short says so many were being killed that to "save bullets, groups of them were roped together, taken out to sea on barges and thrown overboard."

Nevertheless, the CPC became more and more sure that its theories regarding mass uprising were correct. Why did they become more radical and not more defeatist? Short says, "the underlying reason was frustration with the failed alliance with the Guomindang, which caught up the Party's leaders and rank and file alike in a furious spiral of ever-increasing radicalization."

The party that in May 1927 boasted 57,000 members now ended the year with about 10,000 left. It was a bad year for the communists. Four different power centers were now developing, each with its own concerns and agenda, yet all working for the same objectives. Short calls it "a quadrilateral struggle" between the Comintern and Stalin, the provincial party leaders, the Shanghai Politburo, and the communist military leaders out in the country side. They conflicted "over two key issues: the relationship between rural and urban revolution; and between insurrection and armed struggle."

On September 25, 1927 Mao's ragtag army was attacked, the divisional commander was killed, and Mao found himself actually in charge. After the attack, what remained of the "army" met up at Sanwan, a village near the Jinggangshan mountains.

From what had been a division, Mao was able to salvage a single active regiment. Mao laid down two basic rules for his army which made it unique in the China of his day. First, it was to be a volunteer army solely (no impressment) and second, all civilians were to be treated with respect and humanity. The soldiers, Short writes, were ordered to "speak politely; pay a fair price for what they bought; and never take so much as 'a solitary sweet potato' belonging to the masses." No looting, raping, marauding, burning, killing, etc. This is how Mao thought an army should behave. Short remarks that, "this was a genuinely revolutionary concept." Who can doubt that Mao expressed real humanistic values (in so far as one can talk about such values respecting any military) at this time.

By early 1928 Mao had made contact with other bands of fighting men, mostly peasant militias, and increased his army to two regiments, and won a significant victory over a GMD battalion sent to take over Xincheng a town about eight miles north of Mao's base, at this time Maoping, in Jiangxi Province. After the battle Mao astonished the GMD prisoners by giving them a choice: money to go home on or joining his army. Many, Short says, stayed. Once news of the battle, and the aftermath, got out the GMD decided Mao definitely had to go. Greater forces began to be collected to get rid of him.

Meanwhile, back in Shanghai, the party leader Qu Qiubai was supportive of Mao's activities, but Zhou Enlai, in charge of military affairs, was not. He thought Mao too independent and that he relied on military actions more than mass mobilization. Zhou Lu, from the Hunan provincial leadership, was sent to tell Mao he was being removed as the leader in his area. Short points out, by the way, that the repression of the CPC was so intense, and so many senior experienced cadres had been wiped out, that leaders in the field, like Mao, often found themselves officially subordinate to inexperienced younger men who had no idea what was going on.

Zhou Lu arrived at Mao's base in March of 1928 and told him he had been removed from the Politburo, the Hunan Provincial Committee, and expelled from the party [this last was not true]. Mao remained as divisional commander of his forces but Lu now represented the party. To say that Mao was upset is to put it mildly.

While this was going on at Mao's base, another armed force, under the command of Zhu De [1886-1976], had relocated to SE Hunan. Zhu was attacked by GMD forces and Mao's troops came to the rescue. Zhou Lu was captured and executed by the enemy. The albatross around Mao's neck was gone.

By April Zhu and Mao were working together at their base area in Jinggangshan. By summer they controlled an area with a population of a half million people. The Zhu-Mao army was now 8000 strong. Zhu was commander of the army, Mao was the party rep. It began to be referred to as the "Red Army."

Mao had always advocated moderate military policies. The Shanghai leadership had removed him and sent out the ill fated Zhou Lu because they thought, following the views of Zhou Enlai, that Mao was not fighting enough. They thought "his work was 'too right-wing', he had been told. He was 'not killing and burning enough, [and] not carrying out the policy of '"

Mao didn't agree at all with these kinds of policies. At a local congress which was called for the area where the Zhu-Mao army was in charge, he gave a speech in which he said: "in order to kill people and burn houses there must be a mass basis ... [not just] burning and killing by the army on its own." This seems like such common sense one wonders how Mao could ever have been condemned for such views. Unbeknownst to Mao, back in Shanghai, the Politburo had changed its mind and was now having similar thoughts. By June 1928 the party had accepted Mao's theories.

The Sixth Party Congress was held in Russia. The Congress decided that China was not experiencing a "revolutionary high tide." A war of attrition was what was needed, and in this period, it was the peasantry, not the workers, which was leading the revolution. Mao, who remained in his base area, thought this was the "correct theoretical basis" upon which to build the Red Army.

In October there was a local Congress in the base area. One of its statements was, "In the past the Party organs were all individual dictatorships, autocracies of the Party secretary; there was no collective leadership or democratic spirit whatsoever." I must say, this was not a problem confined to to the CPC, nor has it been completely overcome in some parties even today. The Congress said that Mao was "among the main offenders." Nevertheless he kept his position as chief political officer to the Red Army.

The military situation perked up towards the end of 1928 and the army was on the move. "A new kind of warfare began," Short says, "no longer the defense of fixed positions, but flexible guerrilla war."

For the first three months of 1929 Zhu and Mao were without any contacts with the rest of the party. Short says this allowed them to devise their own plans. Back in Shanghai after the Sixth Congress, the new General Secretary was a non entity Xiang Zhongfa. The real de facto power lay with Zhou Enlai and Li Lisan.

The Shanghai leadership received negative reports about the conditions facing the Red Army and sent out orders that it should disperse into small units and hide out in villages in the countryside until better times. Mao and Zhu were told to come to Shanghai. But, by the time the orders arrived there had been a reversal of fortune and after some victories the Red Army was riding high. Mao and Zhu remained in the field. The sub text was more about the CC's desire to concentrate on the urban proletariat.

Things had looked bad for the Red Army ever since it had to leave its base in Jinggangshan and adopt guerilla techniques, but by mid 1929 things were looking up. Mao thought the GMD was about to be on the ropes in his area [Jiangxi and parts of Fujian and Zhejiang]. At this time Mao told the CC "the revolution in semi-colonial China will fail only if the peasant struggle is deprived of the leadership of the workers; it will never suffer just because the peasant struggle develops in such a way as to become more powerful than the workers."

The worse the better? I ask this because of Short''s following sentence. "Mao's personal belief in dialectics as the motive force of history, in which the blackest part of the night always comes just before dawn, had been strengthened in the traumatic months following the abandonment of Jinggangshan, when the Red Army has appeared on the verge of collapse, only to pull itself together and emerge from the ordeal stronger, and in a more favorable position, than before."

This will be a theme in Mao's life and in the struggle with comrades who will differ with his views in the future. It can, I think, be understood as the difference between a dialectical view of struggle, where reverses are natural, and a pragmatic outlook that aims towards incremental advancement of the struggle and fears set backs (a mechanical outlook).

Now the Red Army was split into two groups. Mao thought it time to set up another base, Zhu wanted to continue guerilla tactics. A vote was taken and Mao won. However, more of his comrades began to think of him as an "autocrat" "Now", Short says, " as on Jinggangshan the previous autumn, complaints were heard about his 'patriarchal style of rule', "the dictatorship of the Secretary' and 'excessive centralization of power'."

In June of 1929 the Red Army had a Congress to try and work out the differences between Mao's way and Zhu's way. Most of delegates were upset with both of them and Chen Yi [1901-1972] was elected to chair. The result was that the Front Committee (the body responsible for the running of the Red Army and areas it controlled) was reorganized. Zhu stayed as commander of the army, Mao as Party Representative, but Chen Yi became the Secretary. Mao was again, as Short puts it in "eclipse."

Mao basically retired to the sidelines after this, but by November, after much back and forth between the Politburo [hereafter PB, but Short causes confusion by still using the old term "Central Bureau" and PB interchangeably], the Front Committee, and a military fiasco that cost the Red Army a third of its forces, the Party decided they needed Mao back. Mao played hard to get because this time around he wanted his political authority to be more firmly based. Finally, after several entreaties, he returned as Front Committee Secretary.

Mao now proceeded to make the Front Committee over in his own image. A Conference took place on 29 December 1929. It began the first of what would later be called "rectification campaigns." The purpose was "to dig out the roots of different mistaken ideas, discuss the harm they had caused and decide how to correct them." Mao, Short writes, "had the main role in deciding which ideas were 'mistaken', and which 'correct'.

The main theme was directed against Zhu and his supporters. It was an important moment. What was at issue was the relation between the military power and the political power of the party. Mao thought the military had to be subordinate to the political leadership. Short quotes a slogan Mao came up with in 1938 but which aptly describes what this Conference was all about: "the Party commands the gun: the gun shall never be allowed to command the Party."

At this time, it seems to me, Mao was completely in the right. Zhu's army was positively feudal in some respects. Here is how Short describes Mao's complaints. There was "rampant" corporal punishment and brutality, men were beaten to death, three soldiers killed themselves due to the horrible conditions, prisoners were abused, deserters shot, and the Red Army abandoned its sick and wounded soldiers to die. All of this was totally against Part policy as Mao had outlined it when the army was first being set up. It is pretty obvious that Mao had every right to try and rectify this situation, one that Zhu De (a former warlord himself) had let get out of hand.

On the political front, Mao thought that the signs of revolution were everywhere in the air. The view was not shared (yet) by the PB back in Shanghai. Mao disagreed with them. He thought that the "contradictions in Chinese society in general, and between the warlords in particular, were growing so acute that 'a single spark can start a prairie fire' -- and this would happen 'very soon.'"

This was something the leadership didn't see. It would be like saying a Third Party under Bloomberg would win the '08 election and change forever the two party control of US politics, or that Dennis Kucinich would be the next president because the American people are so alienated from the mainstream Republicans and Democrats over the war and domestic policies of the status quo. Still, as Short says, the PB was about to change its mind.

At about this time, the Russians had declared they thought there was "a rising red tide" in China. This allowed Li Lisan [1899-1967], who at this time agreed with Mao's ideas, to get the PB to reverse itself and call for the kind of revolutionary actions sought for by Mao. Mao was very pleased when he got the news early in 1930.

There was a big problem, however, about all this. Li interpreted the "rising red tide" to mean revolution by the proletariat in the cities and Mao by the peasants in the countryside. The PB kept urging Mao and Zhu to draw up plans to attack and hold big cities. Mao and Zhu ignored the orders and continued to slowly build up their base area on the Jiangxi-Guangdong border.

Zhou Enlai went of to Moscow for several months leaving Li in charge in Shanghai. Here the "Li Lisan line" developed. Li proclaimed that, Short is quoting Li, the flexible tactics of guerilla war were "no longer suited to modern requirements ... now that we need to take key cities... [Zhu and Mao] must change their ways... using the countryside to encircle the city... [was] highly erroneous [and the idea that] rural work comes first, and urban work second" was wrong.

In sum, Li thought in terms of a national uprising to take over the whole country, Mao thought in terms of starting out with a few provinces and building from there. Li must have been smoking something for he sent off a CC missive stating that China "is the place where the volcano of the world revolution is most likely to erupt [and maybe] set off the world revolution and the final decisive class war worldwide....".

Li then ordered Zhu and Mao to take the capital of Jiangxi province [Nanchang] and march on to take Wuhan [ the capital of Hubei ]. They had to obey and march north. They knew this was a fool's errand. Short quotes a poem Mao wrote at the time:

A million workers and peasants rise eagerly together,
Rolling up Jiangxi like a mat, striking straight at Hunan and Hubei,
Yet the "Internationale" sounds a melancholy note,
A raging tempest falls upon us from the heavens.

They dilly dallied in the field and made symbolic gestures against Nanchang, knowing full well the GMD was still to strong to take on frontally.

Meanwhile Stalin had flipped out when he got wind of Li's plans and the Comintern sent Li a letter stating that "no nationwide revolutionary high tide had yet appeared [the CPC is not able] to overthrow the rule of the GMD and the imperialists... [But while] it cannot dominate China, it can take control of a number of major provinces." Mao 1, Li 0.

In late summer and early autumn the Zhu-Mao forces were joined by other units of the Red Army and had some major battles and successes in the field. They even managed to hold on to a mid sized city for six weeks. They were becoming a bigger and better force.

Zhou Enlai and Qu Qiubai were back in Shanghai and Li was in deep trouble. Stalin found out in October that Li had thought about starting an insurrection in Manchuria to provoke a war between Russia and Japan, to hasten the world revolution no doubt. This was the last straw.

The Comintern said the Li Lisan line was "anti-Marxist, anti-Comintern, un-Bolshevik, [and] un-Leninist..." Time for Li to get a new job. He went to Moscow, repented his sins, and disappeared from the scene until 1945.

Now Chiang Kai-shek decided to wipe out the Red Army bases in Jiangxi by encircling them with the largest force of GMD troops ever used, up to that time, against the Red Army, 100,000.

On October 30, 1930 Mao explained his response to Chiang's threat at a Front Committee meeting. He "outlined for the first time the principle of 'luring the enemy in deep.'" This was protracted war. Mao said, "Lure the enemy deep into the Red Area, wait until they are exhausted and annihilate them."

By late December the Red Army had retreated deep into Jiangxi pursued by Chiang's forces. Chiang was in the capital Nanchang when suddenly the Red Army attacked and annihilated his 18th Division under Zhang Huizan, capturing Zhang in the process. Chiang's 50th Division saw what happened and tried to flee but was caught and trounced as well (January 3, 1931). As a present to Chiang, Zhang's head was floated on a board down the Gan River to Nanchang [I'm not too sure this was kosher.]

Mao was riding high, but Short says, "It was too good to last." The PB sent Xiang Ying out to Mao's base to take charge. The CC wanted to be in control. The Front Committee was abolished and Xiang took over all Mao's posts. But Mao had the army behind him, so he retained most of his de facto power while Xiang "assumed the appearance of power." [Hmmm, what happened to the party will control the Army not the other way around? What did Zhu think?]

Meanwhile back in Shanghai Pavel Mif (Stalin's "China specialist") had arrived to "to expose and denounce the disgraced Li Lisan." [Being a party General Secretary has its risks.]. By the time Mif was through the Party leadership was reorganized. Short tells us the Gen Sec, Xiang Zhongfa, stayed put, as did Zhou Enlai ("not for the last time, by deftly switching sides-"- actually Zhou rides the tiger to the end. Qu Qiubai was out and Xiang Ying stayed in the PB but lost his big post on the Standing Committee which he had when he went out to Mao's base.

But "the key appointment" was a new actor on the stage-- 26 year old Wang Ming [1906-74] "who was catapulted to full Politburo membership without having previously been even a member of the Central Committee." He was the leader of a band of returned Chinese graduates from Sun Yat-sen University in Moscow. Mif had been the Rector. Other of these students were put in charge of various CC departments. They were known as "the '28 Bolsheviks', 'Stalin's China Section'., or simply the 'Returned Students'," they would be running the show for the next four years.

The news of all this reached Mao's base area in March of 1931. Mao was put back in control as Secretary of the new General Front Committee and as Chairman of the Revolutionary Committee. Zhu was still commander in chief. Short says all this happened not for love of Mao but for distrust of Xiang Ying because of his association with Li Lisan.

And now, Chiang Kai-shek was back. This time he had 200,000 troops and was still intent on encircling the Reds and wiping them out. But Mao and Zhu were on a roll. By the end of May 1931 Chiang's forces were in full retreat with 30,000 of his troops "put out of action." From now on the party gave Mao and Zhu "a free hand" with respect to military tactics.

Chiang was like Freddy Krueger-- he keeps coming back. By the end of June he was ready again, this time with 300,000 troops! Chiang was personally in command this time and, Short says: "In the next two months, the Red Army came close to total destruction."

One must note that Chiang had 300,000 troops against a Red Army numbering around 20,000. By a daring escape from encirclement the Red Army avoided destruction. Chiang was prevented from going after them again because rivals in the GMD had made an alliance with northern warlords and set up a government in Canton to rival his own in Nanjing.
He had to pull his troops back and go after them, thus the Red Army would live to fight another day.

Japan then invaded Manchuria on September 18, 1931 further diverting Chiang's attention. "But," Short writes, "he had unfinished business in Jiangxi . He and the communists both knew that in due course he would return." Mao was now 38 years old.

China or Corporations: Who's the Real Culprit?

In recent weeks, China has come under fire for exporting various products such as children's toys to the US that do not pass safety standards. Many people have blamed China for this problem and are even promoting anti-China hysteria, letting the real culprits off the hook.

In one recent highly publicized instance, wooden Thomas the Tank Engine trains were painted with lead paint.

RC2, the company that makes that particular Thomas the Tank Engine model, is based in Oak Brook, Illinois, however. It receives a license from HIT entertainment, which owns the Thomas the Tank Engine rights.

When RC2 decided to outsource production to China, surely its executives and mangers did not fail to oversee the operations there, as they are now claiming.

Since 1977 when lead-based paint was outlawed, 68 children's toy products have been recalled because of the use of lead paint. According to the Chicago Tribune, 99% of those products were manufactured in Mexico, India, Taiwan, and China. Other companies who have been forced to recall products manufactured in other countries include Hasbro and Mattel.

But this issue isn't about those countries or the workers in those countries. It is about private multinational corporations cutting corners and hiding from US federal safety regulations in other countries to ensure high profits. These private multinational companies purposely broke US law and endangered our children to maximize profits – the driving force of capitalism.

Globalization policies such as weakened public oversight of the market and "free trade" agreements (like NAFTA) promote the dismantling of safety and health regulations. Ultra-right anti-regulation orthodoxy (or free market fundamentalism) advanced by Bush and the Republicans further aids the threat posed by private corporations that produce dangerous toys by creating an environment in which private corporations have a free hand.

The US should work with the Chinese government in a cooperative manner to boost health and safety regulations and enforcement in all countries to identify and punish the scofflaws who endanger consumers for profit.

--Joel Wendland

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Thomas Riggins

There is an interesting article by Susan J. Douglas in the July 2007 issue of In These Times, "The Enduring Lies of Ronald Reagan." I want to give a few highlights for the benefit of those who haven't seen it. It is important to have facts at hand in case you are unfortunate enough to run into someone who thinks Reagan was one our "great" presidents. If such a horrible fate should befall you, you can repel the evil influence by pointing out:

1. He was, according to polls at the time, one of the most unpopular modern presidents ever-- his ratings overall were lower than Kennedy's, Eisenhower's and Johnson's.

2. He was a big dunce-- trees cause more pollution than automobiles, the apartheid government in South Africa had eliminated "segregation" (also don't forget "ketchup is a vegetable" for the purpose of providing healthy food for poor children-- a hamburger with ketchup = meat, carbohydrate (bun), plus vegetable-- a perfectly healthy meal).

3. "Reaganomics" was a disaster-- one of the highest unemployment rates
since WW 2 (10.1% in 1981, 11.9 million out of work, 1982), 500,000 people (the majority children) fell into poverty due to welfare cuts while those making $80,000 plus got $15,000 more or less back from tax cuts, poverty rate went up to 15% the highest in 20 years.

4. His knowledge of foreign affairs was nil-- honoring Nazi war dead (Bitburg), Iran-Contra (who me?), [ and don't forget the Contras were the "moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers"], stupid actions in Lebanon and Beirut. [He gets credit for being in office and breathing when the USSR came apart].

5. Eight of his senior appointments were indicted, so he had one of the most corrupt administrations in living memory.

Just a few things to remember when St. Ronnie is conjured up from the vastly deep. Feel free to add more in the comments section.

"Huck Bush: The Barefoot Boy from Midland"

At the GOP convention in 2000, a propaganda film portraying George Bush's "roots" was shown. Bush, the film contended, grow up with Mexican American and Black friends who had found memories of him in a sort of integrated version of Mayberry, RFD, in the old Andy Griffith television program of the 1960s.

Nobody I knew believed this film, which provided a context for Bush's "compassionate conservatism" campaign "message. (I do know a few Republicans and they didn't believe it either).African Americans and Latinos I knew at the time were particularly outraged at it, which encouraged them to take seriously the idea that the grandson of a wealthy and ruling class connected U.S. Senator from Connecticut and the son of a wealthy and ruling class connected oil man from Texas would live in this kind of society.

If this were true, Texas in the 1950s and 1960s had become a classless Communist society where all social distinctions were without meaning and one could be an oil executive in the morning and a farmer in the afternoon.

I thought of that Republican propaganda film which many of us laughed at in 2000 when I read a New York Times major article today connecting Bush's fight for his immigration legislation to his carefree youth in Midland, Texas. Except this is an article not a film and this is the New York Times, not the Republican National Committee (or even the Wall Street Journal) and many still think there is or at least should be a difference.

The article begins with an anecdote. A Mexican American women who owns a small restaurant in Midland closed her restaurant to go to a demonstration against penalties for illegal immigrants and faced a boycott by the locals. Bush ate regularly in the restaurant, readers are informed, and his three closet friends, including a former Commerce Secretary, stood by her (as I assume would Aunt Bea, Floyd the Barber, and Gomer Pyle of Mayberry, none of whom ever held cabinet positions).

But that is just the beginning of the "story." Bush "grew up" in Midland, albeit going to boarding school and college "in the more genteel settings of Andover and Yale" (how many of his barefoot boy Mexican American buddies made their way to any college, much less a ruling class one like Yale, isn't a question the reporter asks).

As a "young hard drinking oil man" (Rutenberg's words not mine, although I would mention that GW was both very unsuccessful and made it into the oil business only because of his family's wealth and power), young Bush "had a particular empathy" for the Mexican immigrants who worked hard and succeeded without his social privileges.

This was aided and abetted when Bush's parents "hired a live-in Mexican maid in Texas who became part of the family" (now the story or sitcom changes a little and becomes akin to Beulah, the African American maid
who became part of the family in a famous 1950s sitcom by the same name which opponents of racism in media saw as a continuation of the Mammy stereotype)

The rest of the story tells how Bush I came to Midland in 1948 (no mention about the money and connection to the local oil elite his father provided for him) later started an oil company named Zapata Petroleum (named after the popular film, Viva Zapata, although the real Zapata would turn over in his grave) and subsequently had as his partner in the firm a Mexican citizen who was " a contender for the Mexican Presidency before being imprisoned for fraud" (which may be the most significant fact in the article to understanding this administration's policies).

Young George saw the Mexican laborers (whose labor was cheap which was why he saw so many of them) working in the oil fields and in the local businesses. There is even a picture of young George in the oil fields that his father's company owned.

But the oil industry boomed and according to the article, young George and later "adult George" came to respect more and more the Horatio Alger Chicanos who made it on their own, opened up a chain of selling burritos, etc.

The article ends with a section portraying Bush as "El Defender," and highlighting his and his rich local Republican friends conflicts with the local Republican party, which regards any legislation to give undocumented workers anything save deportation as un-American.

Actually, I have spent so much time dealing with this human interest article pretending to be news and analysis because it really is pretty disgraceful. Just as television news uses the tabloid techniques of action-adventure TV series, this article seems to come straight from Comedy Central, albeit with less analysis.

First, its tone is condescending to Mexican Americans and Latinos generally. Instead of dealing positively with the contributions that Mexican Americans and other Latino people have made to U.S. society and culture, it has Bush in coming to accept them because they worked hard, made money, and became businessmen (employers of labor).

Portraying the leader of a political party which has sought to reverse anti-discrimination and affirmative action legislation and policies for four decades on the grounds that such policies are "reverse discrimination" and undermine individual initiative in such a way shouldn't be taken seriously, unless one believes that soap opera and sitcom formulas can be used to "humanize" GW Bush at this late date and make anyone take "compassionate conservatism" seriously

Even the maid whom the article quotes Bush as saying that she was a "second mother" was hardly an equal but rather a servant and servants by law and custom are not and cannot be close relatives.

Let's get to the real issues, though, about which the article is clueless.

The large increase in undocumented workers in the U.S. is the consequence of the export of capital to Mexico and Central America to create "enterprise zones" to produce goods for the U.S. market, the devastating effects of "free trade" on rural and handicraft based economies, and the "willingness" of capitalists here like good old Zapata Petroleum in the past, although in much greater numbers, to employ very cheap service labor at the bottom of the service economy and subordinate capitalists in Mexico and other Latin American countries to "dump" their surplus population as they continue to reap profits from their role as middle men for U.S. based companies, however their actions may weaken the national capitalist classes of their own countries.

Real cultural pluralism has nothing to do with what Bush and any group in his party represent, because the development of a democratic multi-cultural society in the United States has nothing to do with "accepting" immigrants who become "American" when they become petty capitalists, because, however ruling-class media and the right generally seek to convince people of it, America is not and cannot be a country of three hundred million capitalists and would-be capitalists.Real cultural pluralism and multi-culturalism, which are very worthwhile ideals, has nothing to do with defining a nation and a civilization with both the struggle to become a petty capitalist and at the same time the denial that there are differences between a capitalist who owns a small restaurant or even a chain selling Burritos in Midland Texas and a capitalist who owns the Zapata Petroleum Company.

Real cultural pluralism and a multi-cultural United States can be achieved in the long run by raising the living standards of Mexico and Central America and providing super-exploited undocumented workers here with trade union protection and rights, so that they in their desperation do not flee here and hold U.S. wage rates down because the countries from which they come develop their own economies with mass purchasing power and viable internal markets.

That has nothing to do with either the aims of the Bush immigration legislation or the sentiments of most of its opponents, which merely applies to human labor as a commodity the old debate among capitalists between the advocates of free trade in commodities and the advocates of national protectionist policies in commodities.

And I doubt that GW Bush was ever a Huck Finn or a "compassionate conservative from Midland, no matter how many beers he drank with Mexican Americans and how many basketball games he played at the Y. He always had choices that would lead him into a world a great material privilege and those lower middle class people from Midland whose fond memories Rutenberg uses in his article never had.

Norman Markowitz

Thursday, June 21, 2007


NYT 6-21-07
"Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical," Bush said. The US is "a nation founded on the principle that all human life is sacred," he added.

Then why is he for capital punishment and what the @#$% is he doing in Iraq?

$456 Billion for Iraq War, more on the way

The National Priorities Project breaks down how the billions for an illegal war in Iraq could have made the US a better place to live:

  • 5.7 million people could have received health care coverage each year since the war began; and
  • 1 million affordable housing units could have been built; and
  • 430,000 school teachers could have been hired since the war began; and
  • 4.7 million students could have received tuition and fees for four years at a state university.

Readers can also go to the NPP website and get a break down on spending for each state and locality.