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Monday, October 16, 2017

Georgi Dimitrov: An Antidote to False Prophets and Naysayers



Marxists have been prolific correspondents, engaging others in polemics and collective ideas. The Marx and Engels correspondences, for example, number 1,386 letters! Marxism is, or should be, a collaborative effort.
Thus, I read the recent Sam Webb/Max Elbaum correspondence with some interest. Webb was the National Chairperson of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) for fourteen years until 2014. Elbaum was a sympathetic chronicler and active leader of the so-called “New Communist Movement” (NCM) in the 1970s. It is important to note that the CPUSA and the NCM were bitter rivals at that time.
So, it is strange that they exchange warm emails today, sharing the pleasantries of senior life--swimming, camping, time with grandkids, and marathon running-- while adding their voices to the chorus calling for an all-out effort on behalf of the Democratic Party in the 2018 elections.
Or is it strange?
Webb holds the dubious distinction of leading the CPUSA down the rabbit hole of irrelevance. After the death of long-time CPUSA leader, Gus Hall, Webb and his cohorts transformed the CPUSA into a social democratic organization, eschewing both the legacy of the Communist Party and much of its organizational structure. Webb further entrenched the “lesser-of-two-evil” electoral strategy that began with the panic over the Reagan victory in 1980. The final years of Hall’s chairmanship and the Webb era snuffed out the last measures of the CPUSA’s political independence, turning it into a servile handmaiden to the Democratic Party.
Webb resigned from the eviscerated CPUSA the year after he gave up the national chair.
Elbaum’s career emerged very differently, but landed in nearly the same place as Webb’s. Elbaum, like many other veterans from the 1960s student movement, moved away from the radical democratic reformism of that era in the direction of a more anti-capitalist ideology, Marxism-Leninism. Unable to overcome their infection with the anti-Communist virus of the Cold War, many were drawn to the militant rhetoric of the Communist Party of China (CPC) that was simultaneously befriending Nixon’s administration and roundly condemning the Soviet Communists and most of the World Communist Movement. With amazing chutzpah, Elbaum and the New Communist Movement found no contradiction in the two positions. But by the end of the 1970s, the opportunism of the CPC was more than even the most faithful could hold their noses and swallow. China’s Communists had sided with the US against every legitimate liberation movement in Africa, including the ANC. The Red Guard anarchy and the Gang of Four excesses tested the conviction of the devoted, leading to defection for all but the most cultish.
Elbaum’s political journey continued, but swung sharply away from Leninism. The hyper-sectarian model embraced by NCM generated a sharp reaction, an extreme swing away from the classic Leninist notion of a vanguard party with a centralized, but democratic structure. Having little or no experience with Leninism apart from the brief heyday of the NCM, Elbaum began a steady retreat towards social democracy, a trend expressed in the US by investing in the perceived positive, progressive potential of the Democratic Party. Where Webb argues for unquestioned conformity to the Democratic Party leadership, Elbaum opts for a more critical attitude with the hope of steering the Democrats leftward.
Judging by the odyssey of Sam Webb and Max Elbaum, many roads lead disillusioned radicals, Marxist short-timers, and weak-kneed Communists back to the Democratic Party. Of course, many of the privileged (and violence-prone), elite-school New Lefties have been welcomed back to the Democratic Party as well.
In retrospect, two notions have provided excuses for disillusioned Marxists to retreat to the social democratic camp: first, the perceived threat of fascism as present or around the corner and, secondly, the firmly held conviction that resistance to fascism necessitates some kind of broad, anti-fascist front. Both notions, though widely cited, belong to the theoretical legacy of the Marxist-Leninist left. And both were elaborated most clearly and authoritatively by the Communist theoretician of fascism, Georgi Dimitrov.
Dimitrov on Fascism and Anti-fascism
Hardly a day goes by without someone on the left raising the shrill alarm of fascism. As Diana Johnstone reminds us in her brilliant essay on Antifa, “...historical fascism no longer exists.” What does exist, however are movements, formations, and personalities that bear various common features with historical fascism. Of course, we should not diminish the active role of these movements, formations, and personalities in their vicious attacks on the democratic and economic gains won by working people.
But these elements have always been a part of the political landscape of the US, both before, during and after the era of historical fascism-- the Know Nothing Party, the Ku Klux Klan, the Liberty League, Father Coughlin, Joseph McCarthy, Barry Goldwater, the John Birch Society, George Wallace, the Tea Party, Trumpets and Trumpettes, etc. It is far harder to identify a time in US history when the fascist-like elements did not exist as a significant force. For that reason, vigilance and militant resistance is always important. But that is a far cry from urging that something identical with historical fascism is now imminent. If the wolf is always lurking in the shadows, is it helpful to cry “wolf”?
This should in no way be construed as a dismissal or underestimation of many of the forces arrayed around and unleashed by President Trump. They, like their predecessors, are present as a reserve army for the ruling class should political matters get out of hand. They should be met with the same resolute resistance as the left has mounted in the past against rabid hate-mongers and right-wing terrorists.
Historical fascism arose as a response to the success of revolutionary socialism, in Dimitrov’s words: “Fascism comes to power as a party of attack on the revolutionary movement of the proletariat, on the mass of the people who are in a state of unrest…” Clearly, there are, with perhaps a few exceptions, no serious threats to capitalist rule today, certainly not in the United States; there are few revolutionary movements contesting state power. There can be no counter-revolutionary “open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital” when there is no revolution to counter.
While Dimitrov warns of the dangers of fascistic tendencies and urges their resistance, he reminds us that: “The accession to power of fascism is not an ordinary succession of one bourgeois government by another, but a substitution of one state form of class domination of the bourgeoisie -- bourgeois democracy -- by another form -- open terrorist dictatorship.” Few of the harbingers of fascism today acknowledge this point. Since the right in the US manages its agenda well within the confines of a corporate dominated two-party system, why would it need to move to an open terrorist dictatorship?
In a real sense, the premature cry of “fascism!” disarms the revolutionary left, the advocates of socialism. Instead of building an alternative to the failed two-party system, a system that demonstrates a constant rightward shift, Webb, Elbaum, and far too many on the left argue for compromise with those who have been fully compliant with this rightward drift. They misunderstand or distort much of what we have learned about historical fascism.
Contrary to the vulgar distortion of Dimitrov's views, fascism did not come to power in Germany because sectarian Communists refused to work with Social Democrats. Dimitrov is clear on this: “Fascism was able to come to power primarily because the working class, owing to the policy of class collaboration with the bourgeoisie pursued by Social Democratic leaders, proved to be split, politically and organizationally disarmed, in face of the onslaught of the bourgeoisie...” and owing to “...their campaign against the Communists and [failure] to accept the repeated proposals of the Communist Party for united action against fascism.”
Webb and Elbaum neither understand the historical basis of fascism nor grasp the Marxist theory of united front designed to meet the fascist danger when it arises. Rather than viewing the united front as a specific historical response to a specific historical development, they generalize the united front tactic to a universal response to the ascendency of the right.
If fascism is on the horizon, they argue, then we need to adopt a united front policy that brings together any and all forces willing to stand in its way. But that is not the lesson that Georgi Dimitrov-- the Communist who stood against and defied the Nazi judiciary when charged with the Reichstag fire-- drew from the experience of historical fascism:
Whether the victory of fascism can be prevented depends first and foremost on the militant activity of the working class itself, on whether its forces are welded into a single militant army combating the offensive of capitalism and fascism. By establishing its fighting unity, the proletariat would paralyze the influence of fascism over the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie, the youth and the intelligentsia, and would be able to neutralize one section of them and win over the other section.
Second, it depends on the existence of a strong revolutionary party, correctly leading the struggle of the working people against fascism. A party which systematically calls on the workers to retreat in the face of fascism and permits the fascist bourgeoisie to strengthen its positions is doomed to lead the workers to defeat… [my italics]
Both Webb and Elbaum have long given up on building “a strong revolutionary party,” either for its own sake or for a battle against fascism. Instead, they take their lead from the Democratic Party, a pathetic answer to the rightward shift of the last four decades.
They fail to grasp the application of the united front strategy to US conditions. Rather than tail the Democrats, Dimitrov, writing specifically in 1935 about the US, called for the creation of a third party and for a decisive break with the bourgeois parties (the Democrats and the Republicans):
It is perfectly obvious that the interests of the American proletariat demand that all its forces dissociate themselves from the capitalist parties without delay. It must find in good time ways and suitable forms to prevent fascism from winning over the wide mass of discontented working people. And here it must be said that under American conditions the creation of a mass party of the working people, a Workers' and Farmers' Party, might serve as such a suitable form. Such a party would be a specific form of the mass People's Front in America and should be put in opposition to the parties of the trusts and the banks, and likewise to growing fascism. Such a party, of course, will be neither Socialist nor Communist. But it must be an anti-fascist party and must not be an anti-Communist party.
Of course, this was written at a moment when historical fascism was at its zenith internationally. Today, without the imminent threat of fascism, the prescription for a break with the Democrats is even more urgent.
It is not simply a question of stopping fascism, but a question of winning people away from it with a peoples' program.
Those who confuse the anti-fascist united front with capitulation to the leadership of liberals or social democrats often see the problem of united action as left-sectarianism. Certainly, sectarianism, characterized by Dimitrov as finding “...expression particularly in overestimating the revolutionization of the masses, in overestimating the speed at which they are abandoning the positions of reformism, and in attempting to leap over difficult stages and the complicated tasks of the movement...” was then and remains a significant obstacle to building a Communist Party or a third party. But Dimitrov gave equal attention to the dangers of right opportunism:
...we must increase in every way our vigilance toward Right opportunism and the struggle against it and against every one of its concrete manifestations, bearing in mind that the danger of Right opportunism will increase in proportion as the broad united front develops. Already there are tendencies to reduce the role of the Communist Party in the ranks of the united front and to effect a reconciliation with Social-Democratic ideology. Nor must we lose sight of the fact that the tactics of the united front are a method of clearly convincing the Social-Democratic workers of the correctness of the Communist policy and the incorrectness of the reformist policy, and that they are not a reconciliation with Social-Democratic ideology and practice. A successful struggle to establish the united front imperatively demands constant struggle in our ranks against tendencies to depreciate the role of the Party, against legalist illusions, against reliance on spontaneity and automatism, both in liquidating fascism and in implementing the united front against the slightest vacillation at the moment of decisive action.
Thus, it is a mistake to surrender the revolutionary program to appease tactical alliances or coalitions. Joint action is possible, maybe essential at times, but without sacrificing the integrity and revolutionary ideology to tactical partners. This is a nuance lost on those rushing to uncritically embrace the electoral slates of the Democratic Party and to hide the goal of socialism under a basket.
Those abandoning the struggle against capitalism, for socialism, should be honest about their change of heart. They should not hide behind an inflated threat or a misrepresented tactic.
Historical fascism was a mortal, worldwide threat in the 1930s and 1940s. Communists devised special tactics to broaden and deepen the fight against it. They did so without illusions about the commitment of other forces or without corrupting or compromising their principles. They led and won that fight, except, unfortunately, in Spain.
A similar threat may arise again when revolutionary forces present an existential challenge to the conventional rule of the capitalist class.
Or it may not. That will depend, as Dimitrov points out, on the balance of forces between revolutionaries and their adversaries.
But those who imagine a world without capitalism should not be misled by false prophets who pretend to find a road to socialism through the Democratic Party. Those who aspire to socialism should not be seduced by naysayers who insist that the struggle for socialism should be postponed until all of the specters and ghouls of the right are exorcised.

Greg Godels (Zoltan Zigedy)

Friday, October 6, 2017

A Chapter in a Declining Empire



Everyone not yet anesthetized by the anti-Russia hysteria, should read Robert Parry’s The Rise of the New McCarthyism. The estimable Parry argues for similarities between today’s overheated political antics and those of an earlier time. He likens the relentless Russia-baiting of 2017 with the red-baiting of the post-war period often identified with Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy.
But that is not quite right. Labelling the post-war delirium, characterizing the anti-Communist frenzy of the period as “McCarthyism” places far too much weight on that sole figure. True, Joe McCarthy exploited the climate, pushing the absurdity of the times to even more absurd levels. Yet we overlook the causes of the poisoned atmosphere just as surely as we would if we labelled this moment we live in as “Maddowism,” after the woman committed to exploiting the mania for ratings, after Rachel Maddow’s prodding anti-Russian sentiment to ever greater heights.
Political fever, like that of 1919 in the US, 1920-22 in Italy, the 1930s throughout Europe, 1946 and 2003 in the US, and again today in the US, is usually driven by crises-- threats or perceived threats to the system. It reflects weaknesses or vulnerabilities resulting from economic distress or international conflict. Whether the threat is real or perceived, identifiable or mythical, ruling classes use a crescendo of fear and alarm to foster an atmosphere of conformity and compliance.
During and after World War I, the Bolshevik revolution frightened the US ruling class into its first “Red scare,” an orgy of war-induced patriotism and media-crazed fear of mythical Red barbarity, an orgy resulting in mass arrests and deportations.
Similarly, the victory of the Soviet Union, the expansion of socialism, the intensifying struggles for national liberation, and a domestic left third-party challenge to two-party hegemony spurred the ruling class to spark a second Red scare. A critical mass of consensus was quickly achieved, persisting throughout the Cold War. Thus, it is misleading to say, as Parry does, that “...the 1950s version was driven by Republicans and the Right with much of the Left on the receiving end, maligned by the likes of Sen. Joe McCarthy as ‘un-American’ and as Communism’s ‘fellow travelers.’”
In fact, except for the “fellow travelers,” most of the non-Communist left and most liberals gleefully joined the red-baiting hunting party for “subversives.” Those who didn’t enthusiastically join the mob did little or nothing to diminish the campaign. Certainly, when the purges began to target the moderate anti-Communists, liberal voices did pathetically stir.
Consequently, those familiar with the history of Cold War US repression are not surprised by liberal complicity in the anti-Russia madness today. It should be no surprise that the liberals and the petty-bourgeois left betray the truth, make common cause with the forces of hate, distrust, and prejudice. In times of crisis, that’s what they too often do.
Outside of a few notable voices, liberal/left intellectuals are buying the anti-Russia frenzy. Despite the fact that US security services have an unbroken record of lies and manipulations, they are today manufactured to be the saviors of US “democracy.” The entertainment industry has cast “deep throat” Mark Felt-- a crazed, disgruntled FBI official, bitter because he didn’t inherit the directorship from J. Edgar Hoover-- as the hero of the Watergate debacle. Industry moguls stretch credulity to portray him as the courageous forerunner of the sleazy James Comey.
How quickly the liberals have forgotten the shame of 2003, when a ruling class-induced frenzy of lies and distortions prompted an unprovoked US invasion of a sovereign country. Have the scoundrels fabricating “evidence” against Iraq left or have they been removed from the State Department, the CIA, the FBI, etc.? Or are they still there, now busy spinning lies against Russia?
Liberals and the weasel-left should heed Parry’s warning: “Arguably, if fascism or totalitarianism comes to the United States, it is more likely to arrive in the guise of “protecting democracy” from Russia or another foreign adversary than from a reality-TV clown like Donald Trump.” Apart from flirting with war, the new consensus against Putin and Russia further erodes the remaining vestiges of democratic life in the US. Fear has brought us an Orwellian destruction of privacy and freedom, along with a murderous foreign policy and, now, a shamefully uncritical conformity.
War by Other Means
If “The New McCarthyism” is an inaccurate description of our times, what would be more suitable? Perhaps “The New Cold War” would be more appropriate since US aggression is both global and endless. The US is conducting war or war-like actions in Africa, the Middle East, South America, the Caribbean, and in Asia. Any and every country that fails to accept US global leadership becomes a target for US aggression.
This constitutes a desperate attempt on the part of US elites to maintain their place at the top of the hierarchy of imperialism, their ultimate mastery over all global affairs.
After the arrogant declaration of victory in the Cold War and the presumption of global governance, matters begin to fall apart for the champions of US global dominance. Former clients like Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Saddam Hussein began to defy US hegemony. States like Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador choose paths independent of the US template for the global economy. Other states like Yugoslavia, Cuba, and DPRKorea refused to acknowledge that socialist economic relations were outlawed in the post-Soviet era. Still other states like Iran, post-Yeltsin Russia, Libya, and Syria reject US interference in their and their neighbors’ affairs. And, of course, the world’s largest economy (PPP)-- PRChina-- does not accept a subordinate role in global affairs.
In short, the US role as self-appointed world policeman has been answered with far-from-servile acceptance by the world’s people.
The US response to resistance has been violence. Uncountable deaths and injuries from invasion, occupation, and remotely-mounted attacks have been visited upon combatants and civilians alike. The stability of numerous countries has been disrupted, usually under the cynical banner of human rights. Over the last two decades or so, US imperialism has restructured its aggression, relying more and more on surrogates, drones, and economic aggression, but with the same deadly results.
Obama’s cabal of liberal interventionists has refined and expanded the tactic of imposing international sanctions, a particularly brutal, but seemingly high-minded form of aggression.
We should not deceive ourselves. International sanctions may masquerade as a mechanism of civil enforcement, but they are, in fact, acts of war-- war by other means. The current world balance of forces allows the US to cajole, intimidate or manipulate UN member states to endorse strangling the economies of US adversaries under the guise of UN sanctions. The UN virtually rubber stamps the US initiatives to cut the lifelines of countries, organizations, even corporations that dare to ignore US dictates Similarly, the EU and NATO act as sanction lapdogs.. The consequences of sanctions can be just as destructive, as death-dealing, as overt military aggression. Shamefully, even Russia and PRC-- the victims of sanctions-- have collaborated on these sanctions in recent years, an opportunistic approach meant to ingratiate themselves with US leaders.
At the same time, no UN economic sanctions have been imposed upon the serial human rights violator, the apartheid state of Israel-- merely calls, resolutions, and condemnations.
In a toxic atmosphere of incredulous “sonic” attacks charged to Cuban authorities, provocative claims of Russian government meddling in everything from the electric grid to Facebook, allegations of Venezuelan drug trafficking, suspicions of Chinese espionage, and the many other marks of induced paranoia, the fight for truth is the only escape, the only response to the ugly throes of a diseased, embattled empire. Most assuredly, the empire is in decline, though most of its citizens are unaware, sheltered by a thick curtain of deceit.

Greg Godels (Zoltan Zigedy)
zzsblogml@gmail.com 

Monday, August 21, 2017

The NFL and Heroes

   The cheapest currency in the US is the award of ‘hero’. At a time noted for its pervasive corruption, moral slack, and self-regard, the shapers of opinion search far and wide for acts of atypical goodness that can be heralded as heroic, acts that might paint an inspired picture in these sordid times.
   The bar for doing-good has been set so low that simply doing what you do or are supposed to do earns hero status: a fireman rescues a dog and becomes a media hero; a dog rescues a fireman and also becomes a hero.
   Really?
   In more heroic times, the standard set for hero status was much higher.
   A hero should be someone who stands up for those whose voices are not heard; a hero ought to be a person casting personal interest aside to confront a bully.
   I thought about this question when I saw a picture of a young African American couple mourning the loss of Heather Heyer, the victim of a brutal attack in Charlottesville, Virginia. Because she was standing against the forces of injustice when her life was taken, isn’t she a hero by any standard?
   I was reminded of another young woman, Rachel Corrie, who was killed in Israel while standing for justice for Palestinians. Isn’t she a hero? Should we not hold her memory close and tell others of her heroism?
   Perhaps measured by different standards, I would count Colin Kaepernick worthy of hero stature as well. While he has not given his life for the cause of racial justice, he risked his career in professional football to make a statement against institutional racism-- especially persistent police violence against Black people-- before millions of people. As part of the National Football League elite, Kaepernick stepped far over the close line of propriety set by the Neanderthals who own and administer the sport that captures the worst elements of public life in the US. If brutal, bloody public entertainments in arenas became a symbol of decadent Rome, then surely the Sunday celebrations of violence and their accompanying mass hysteria in stadia serve to celebrate the decay of public life in our own US empire.
   Because Kaepernick decided to forego the vulgar pre-game ritual of mindless patriotism and slavish conformity of fall Sundays, he has brought down the ire of the man-child “sportsmen” who own the NFL and its teams. This group of privileged white businessmen enjoy the financial benefits of a sport constructed from base sentiments of aggression and dominance. The sport’s creative directors have understood the value of connecting untempered violence with an equally base and artificial loyalty to a wholly constructed collective-- a “team” -- assembled from entirely disparate parts. Unmistakably, they have successfully replicated the centuries-old attachment of martial sacrifice and ignorant allegiance to an ensemble of vapid symbols. By scorning the NFL’s ritual and, in the minds of many, the symbolic pledge of unexamined loyalty to the national warmongers, Kaepernick and a handful of other African American players have loosened the emotional glue that holds the entire sordid artifice together.
   To Kaepernick’s credit, his anti-racist gesture attacked the most vulnerable link in the chain holding the NFL together, the explicit worship of blind, unfounded loyalty to team and country: the national anthem. Kaepernick chose to protest police violence against Black people by refusing the long-established custom of standing while the national anthem is played.
   That the owners understood this relationship between cheap patriotism and team devotion was demonstrated by the tawdry exploitation of the death in combat of Pat Tillman. Anyone engaged in the NFL industry would likely notice that for all the flag waving, war glorification, and exalted patriotism exhibited at football games, there was a scarcity of volunteers emerging from NFL ranks for the past two decades’ many wars. Owners, administrators, sportswriters, players, and hangers-on were seldom inspired to enlist or offer up their own sons or daughters. So, when Pat Tillman turned his back on his lucrative player contract and joined the Army, NFL royalty jumped at the opportunity to associate NFL warrior-talk with the actual sacrifice of a member of their tough-guy community. Tillman was celebrated far and wide, stadium to stadium, as the NFL role model. And when he was killed in Afghanistan, the tributes and honors grew even more. The entire NFL basked in the sun reflected by Tillman’s heroism. But when Tillman’s death was exposed as a result of friendly fire, when his mother revealed that Tillman had grown vocally critical of the war, the NFL decided that Tillman was not the kind of hero that benefited the interests of the NFL. Consequently, the NFL is left with no “heroes” from the US’s unending wars. Tillman became our hero and not theirs.
   Not only are the NFL owners embarrassing chicken hawks, but they are rapacious, predatory capitalists as well. They have parlayed extraordinary popularity into an economic entity that guarantees increasing profit and asset value, but with absolutely no risk, a secure status even better than that enjoyed by the megabanks. Since teams are merely franchises granted by NFL nobility, much of the real asset value resides in the infrastructure, the stadia, which is largely paid for out of public funds-- not from the pockets of ticket holders or fans, but from the general public. Up until 2015, the NFL was an unincorporated, nonprofit association paying no taxes, though the teams pay taxes on their profits.
   And just in case fans would note that they are paying for the stadia and recognize that owners add nothing and are of no genuine use, Congress has ordained that public ownership will never be an option.
   Incredibly, an industry with 70% Black players refuses employment to a proven, competent African American player because he uses a pre-game gesture to draw attention to injustices against Blacks. Of course, that shameful response should come with little surprise since the arrogant white owners have a long history of racial insensitivities, if not bald-faced racism. Long after most ugly stereotypes were banished from acceptance, owners thought that Black quarterbacks were insufficiently intelligent to lead a professional team. African American head coaches and management was nearly non-existent until the League was shamed into adopting the “Rooney rule,” which obligated teams to interview Black applicants for open coaching positions, a pathetic public relations-induced gesture.
   Of course, the owners see the players as little more than high-priced chattel. As knowledge of the severe, debilitating, often mortal effects of football violence became widespread, the owners did everything to suppress the facts.
   While Colin Kaepernick is blacklisted from playing in the NFL, others have taken up his cause and the cause of justice for African Americans. Richard Sherman has been outspoken and his teammate Michael Bennett has followed Kaepernick’s example by remaining seated during the playing of the national anthem. Bennett has vocally called out white players to join the protest. Several white teammates have shown support for his action, though none have remained seated. Hopefully, some will show some courage and join the protest, especially some of the hyper-salaried, elite white quarterbacks who usually identify closely with the owners. That will make a difference.
    I urge all to sign the online petition/pledge circulated by MoveOn.org calling for a boycott of the NFL in support of Colin Kaepernick. With fan interest waning last year, the NFL is sensitive to a decline in its fan support.

Greg Godels (Zoltan Zigedy)
zzsblogml@gmail.com

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Ruminations on the JFK Assassination


I found four good reasons to revisit the John F. Kennedy assassination.

First, I have finished reading the 2017 Antonio Veciana memoir, Trained to Kill. Gaeton Fonzi, one of the most thorough and honest assassination investigators always maintained that Veciana, a Cuban anti-Fidel CIA asset, and Sylvia Odio, another member of an anti-Communist organization, were the keys to unlocking the CIA, Oswald, assassination nexus.

Second, there are strong parallels between the engagement of security forces in “correcting” US foreign policy in 1963 and a similar direct activism of security forces in reshaping US foreign policy in 2017.

Third, the National Archives has released the first tranche of the remaining unreleased government JFK assassination files held in the archives. It is mandated to release the rest by October 26.

And finally, a reader of this blog claimed that most Marxists have failed to challenge the Warren Commission orthodoxy and have shown little sympathy toward alternative accounts. Perhaps he is right about most “Marxists”, but my reply: “I don't believe you can endorse that apologia [the Warren Commission] for a political coup and be a Marxist.”

Veciana and the Security Apparatus
For years, Gaeton Fonzi, formerly an investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, sought to get Antonio Veciana to confirm that his CIA contact known by the nom de guerre “Maurice Bishop” was, in fact, CIA handler David Attlee Phillips. In recent years, Veciana has affirmed that connection, though long after Phillips’s death. Had Veciana done so at the time of the investigation, interrogators would have had a useful lever to pry open the tightly shuttered windows to CIA connections with Lee Harvey Oswald.

Self-described as a terrorist (Veciana claims personal engagement with numerous bombings, fires, and assassination attempts before he exited Cuba), Veciana tells of a 1963 meeting in Dallas with Phillips that was also attended by Oswald. A neutral, uninvolved witness claims that the date was September 7. Veciana’s status as a friend of the CIA and a prominent leader of a community bitterly disappointed with Kennedy leaves little room for a motive to lie about the Oswald meeting. To the contrary, Veciana had every reason to connect Oswald to the hated Fidelistas and not his CIA enablers. Similarly, Sylvia Odio’s allegation that Oswald visited her with two anti-Communist militants can only cast a shadow over her political cohorts in that anti-Fidel movement, a movement that would benefit only from the image of Oswald as a leftist. Nonetheless, she has stuck to her story of meeting Oswald.

In his book, Veciana makes some interesting, currently relevant observations about the nature of rule in the US or other imperialist countries (“empires”):
 
I came to think that there is a parallel power at work in empires, that sets its own rules, for its own ends… But Bishop [Phillips] made me see that outside this traditional, visible authority there is an invisible power acting in the shadows, directing events. However, the true power lies in the hands of a hidden consortium that acts as an unseen overlord, watching over and deciding civilization’s destiny. This “invisible directorate,” this “shadow government,” is politically, economically, and militarily powerful… It passes from generation to generation, forever hidden, yet forever in control.

This is a truly remarkable commentary, coming from a man whose politics were mostly defined by his visceral hatred of Fidel Castro. Assuredly, his words echo the fashionable notion of the “deep state” so frequently cited today.

But a more apt characterization of the forces acting below the surface, in the shadows, is the classic Marxist concept of a “ruling class.” For Marxists, every society since antiquity has been based upon social classes, with one class dominating the others. Until classes are eliminated, this will be so. So, in Marxist theory, behind every form of rule, there exists a ruling class, either out in the open or in the shadows. In modern capitalism, that ruling class governs behind a curtain of bourgeois democracy; it presents a facade of popular rule while ensuring that the outcomes cohere with the interests of that ruling class.

While the term “deep state” conveys the idea of stealth governance, it fails to unambiguously affirm that covert rule is the norm of capitalism; it may suggest that Veciana’s “hidden consortium” is an aberration, a deviation from the normal course of capitalist governance, a “conspiracy” and not a structural feature of capitalist society.

For the liberal who believes that capitalism is reformable, the concept of the “deep state” is welcome because it imagines a world in which the “conspiratorial” apparatus-- the CIA and the other security agencies-- can be reined in or contained by the “democratic” superstructure of modern-day capitalism. But the truth is that the security services, though often operating clandestinely, are reliable tools of the US ruling class. From the Marxist perspective, the security services acted against Kennedy precisely because the ruling class was determined to change the course of Presidential governance or, at the very least, an important sector of the ruling class decided to alter that course. The agents of change were not, in any significant sense, rogues.

Similarly, the current deluge of anti-Russia leaks attributed to anonymous sources in the security apparatus, are directed at pressing the Trump administration toward a ruling-class consensus on foreign policy. Because no solid evidence is supplied, the insinuating, guilt-by-association claims are grounded on public confidence in the snoops and assassins. The security services are successfully molding the Trump foreign policy agenda without resorting to the violent solution chosen by their predecessors.

The National Archives
It is naive to believe that the National Archives will release a blockbuster document in the next three months. That does not mean, of course, that careful, diligent investigators won’t unearth interesting leads that cast doubt on the official narrative. But be assured that the CIA, the FBI, and other government agencies have suppressed or destroyed any documents that might link them with Oswald, the assassination, or any other element of the Dallas events.

Nonetheless, assassination investigators have done a remarkable job of using the selective documentary evidence to find weaknesses, even contradictions in the dominant narrative. This is truly remarkable because the investigators, excepting those with the Church Committee, the Garrison investigation, and the HSCA, have few resources, limited expertise, and scant support. Certainly, the government did nothing to help and everything to hinder any effort to dig deeper.

It is interesting to see the timing, the content, and the media reaction to the release of the first tranche of documents. The National Archive release featured the Yuri Nosenko files, a quaint sideshow to the assassination and the obsession of the Strangelovian CIA mole-hunter, James Jesus Angleton. Angleton was fixed on laying the blame for the assassination at the Soviet door step. And today’s media is taking the National Archive bait, adding the Nosenko affair to its year-long mud-slinging at Russia based on gossip and innuendo. Typical of the media were the following headlines:
Newly released top secret documents may show that Russia was behind the assassination of JFK (aol.com)
DID RUSSIA KILL A U.S. PRESIDENT? NEW CIA DOCUMENTS REVEAL SPY’S THEORY ABOUT JFK'S DEATH (Newsweek)

Another transparent effort to divert attention from CIA complicity based on the recently released documents can be found here.

No one should think that it is a coincidence that these long dismissed charges are surfacing again precisely in the midst of an all-out media campaign to demonize Russia and fuel a new Cold War. The calculated release does a disservice to the truth of the JFK assassination and further demonstrates government complicity in the demonization of Russia.

Marxists and the Kennedy Assassination
There are “Marxists” and there are Marxists. Michael Parenti is one authentic Marxist who has consistently argued that Kennedy was assassinated by the security arm of the ruling class. In his words:
 
The state is the instrument used in all these societies by the wealthy few to impoverish and maintain control over the many. Aside from performing collective functions necessary for all societies, the state has the particular task of protecting the process of accumulating wealth for the few… Occasionally an incident occurs that reveals in an unusually vivid manner the gangster nature of the state. The assassination of President John Kennedy in November 1963 is such an occasion… To know the truth about the assassination of John Kennedy is to call into question the state security system and the entire politico-economic order it protects. This is why for over thirty years the corporate-owned press and numerous political leaders have suppressed or attacked the many revelations about the murder unearthed by independent investigators…
While Parenti favors the colorful words “gangster state,” it is clear that he identifies the agents responsible for Kennedy’s assassination as “instruments” of the “wealthy few” (the ruling class). “Gangster” serves Parenti well because, looking in the rear-view mirror after the assassination, he understands the all-too-common thuggery, deceit, manipulation, and violence used against the leadership of sovereign countries in the early years of the CIA: Iran (Mossadegh), Guatemala (Arbenz), and, of course, Cuba (Fidel). Certainly, with such a history of gangsterism in attempting to depose leaders, the CIA should be the first, and not the last, rock to overturn while looking for those responsible for Kennedy’s murder.
 
The current adulation by the media and elected officials of the FBI and CIA over their claims of Russian interference in the US election is made even more absurd by an even casual knowledge of this history. Why does the hard-charging media refuse to look in the rear-view mirror to see CIA/FBI lies and deceit?

It is wise to heed Parenti’s methodological recommendation:
 
Unlike fictional mysteries, in real life there usually is no smoking gun. Historians work by a process of accretion, putting piece by piece together until a picture emerges. In the Kennedy murder the pieces make an imposing picture indeed, leaving one with the feeling that while there may not be a smoking gun there is a whole fusillade of impossibilities regarding the flight of bullets, the nature of the wounds, the ignored testimony of eye witnesses, the sudden and mysterious deaths of witnesses, the disappearance and deliberate destruction of evidence, and the repeated acts of official coverup that continue to this day regarding the release of documents.
For anyone identifying with or familiar with US Communism and its history, the official account, from the Warren Commission to Gerald Posner, defies credibility. At the time when Lee Harvey Oswald was building a reputation as a Marxist (in the Marine Corps!), defected to the Soviet Union, returned, and re-established himself as a “friend” of Cuba, Communists were still undergoing McCarthyite repression. In 1958, Junius Scales was convicted as a Communist under the Smith Act. He was released from jail in late 1962.  We are asked to believe that open Marxist “Oswaldkovitch” was functioning in the Marine Corps at this time, holding a security clearance, and was assigned to the secret U2 base in Atsugi, Japan. This was a time when two top leaders of the Communist Party were finishing their sentences for being Communists! No Communist or Marine would find this account to be even remotely possible.

According to the accepted timeline, Oswald was professing Marxism at a time when anti-Marxism had reached hysterical levels in the United States and the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover had collected a Communist Index with over 200,000 names. Unlike the tens of thousands of family, friends and associates of Communists who received visits by the FBI in this period, there appears to be few records of visits in Oswald’s circles. The FBI seems to have shown little interest in him.

Similarly, his return as a defector seemed to draw scant attention from the security services who were reading every letter from the Soviet Union to the US. Apparently, letters posed more interest from the CIA than returning defectors (or, at least, this one!). Since the FBI was suspiciously inquisitive about even mere visitors to the Soviet Union in this era, anyone touched by the rabid anti-Communism of the time would find this lack of interest stunning, indeed!

And the ready acceptance of a defector from the Soviet Union in right-wing circles in the heartland of reaction defies belief.

And how did Oswald’s incarnation as a lone soldier of the pro-Cuba left in New Orleans bring so little action from security services, little harassment, and little violence from the enemies of the left, even with a contrived incident? Have Warren Commission apologists forgotten the murderous violence against dissent, nonconformity and civil rights activism (often equated with “Communism”)? Does “Communist” Lee Harvey Oswald’s unhindered, bold forays through the racist, anti-Communist South make any sense in this context when leftists of any persuasion at that time, or in the following decade, were risking their lives?

Probably nothing ridiculed the plausibility of Oswald, the Marxist revolutionary, as the backyard photo of Oswald holding both the Trotskyist Militant and the Communist Worker in one hand and a rifle in the other. Veterans of the left were astonished that anyone with even a vague relationship to leftist politics would put the three objects in the same room, not to speak of in the hands of one person. The only purpose would be to tarnish the left.

Marxists offer no special technical knowledge or expertise on trajectories, wound analysis, or marksmanship, though acknowledging that assassin investigators have cast more than a little doubt on factual details of the official narrative. However, even the greenest, most inexperienced leftist of the time would have picked Oswald out as a provocateur. For that reason, Oswald’s handlers never placed him in the actual presence of anyone even remotely identified with the US Marxist movement. Oswald never visited headquarters, offices, meetings, etc, but only dealt with the left remotely. Where he approached foreign Marxists (Soviets, Cubans), they were cautious and hesitant with him.

Oswald was a leftist poseur serving a different master. 

For More
For a credible, plausible counter-narrative to the Warren Commission, I recommend JFK: The Cuba Files by Fabian Escalante. Escalante is the retired head of Cuban Intelligence, the mastermind behind countering decades of CIA attempts on Fidel Castro. He may well be the world’s leading expert on CIA intrigue, and brings Cuban intelligence resources to the question.

The Last Investigation by former HSCA investigator, the late Gaeton Fonzi, is indispensable for chronicling his tenacious pursuit of the truth in the face of government intransigence, deception, and complicity.

Vincent Salandria was one of the earliest and most challenging critics of the Warren Commission. His False Mystery shows his detailed dissection of the Report and how he located anomalies that occupied the next generation of investigators.

Two more recent investigators, David Talbot and Jefferson Morley, approach the assassination from very different perspectives, but draw fresh, useful conclusions that help flesh out the assassination picture.

E. Martin Schotz’s History Will Not Absolve Me is a useful anthology that brings forward a number of associated issues, especially concerning various responses to both the assassination and the Warren Commission Report.

For a fascinating allegory of the assassination, one should read Michael Parenti’s The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome.

There are, of course, uncountable commentaries on the JFK assassination. Most are well-intentioned and contain some useful facts or interpretations. It should be understood that the vast majority of these commentators, though honest, are amateur sleuths. Consequently, there are mistakes, false interpretations, and dead ends in many studies. Nonetheless, much useful work has been done.

Among the commentators, there are charlatans, shills, and spooks, some purposefully casting a cloud over assassination studies. The perpetrators, their friends, and allies have great resources, and they use them to great effect.

But there was a coup. We will live with the fears, the uncertainties, and the unchecked elite rule until we expose it. It continues to shape the world we live in.

Zoltan Zigedy