JR'S Free Thought Pages
Thoughts on the 1917 Russian Revolution and the Neoliberal World Order
By Johnny Reb, October, 2017
I belong to the generation tied by an almost unbreakable umbilical cord to the hope of the world revolution, and of its original home, the October Revolution [of 1917] – Eric Hobsbawm, “Interesting Times: A Twentieth Century Life” (2003)
The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy – Alex Carey [“Taking the Risk out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty” (1995)]
A century ago socialism appeared to be the groundswell of the future. There were numerous variants of socialism at the time but the uniting principle was Marx’s idea of “the commons”, a shared philosophy in the solidarity of humanity that would guarantee support for basic rights and needs of all peoples of the world. This included public ownership and worker control of industry and finance to liberate society from all forms of hierarchy, power and exploitation: landlords, churches, corporations, paternalism, predatory capitalists, parasitic banks and big business monopolies. In the West these uplifting visions of egalitarianism and universal justice seem as far away as they were during the deepest abysses of pre-Enlightenment feudalism and the late 19th century robber baron era or Gilded Age, as described by Mark Twain. In the last three or four decades, land and natural resources, state run utilities and infrastructure, health care, social services and pensions have been increasingly plundered and privatized according to the magical dictates of “The Market”.
Instead of Germany and other advanced industrial nations of the West leading the way as Lenin expected, Russia’s October 1917 Revolution, despite its isolation and the numerous obstacles placed in its way by the capitalist West, made some of the most progressive social improvement for the masses. But the descent into Stalinist totalitarianism became the standard capitalist argument against Marxism, guilt-by-association with the Soviet police state and its notorious Orwellian bureaucracy. Sadly, this calamity and the Soviet Union’s ignominious demise by1991 have allowed the erasure of many of the revolution’s positive transformative effects. European and Canadian parties today that refer to themselves as social democrat or democratic socialist have, particularly since the 1980s, supported neoliberal deregulatory corporatist policies, including imperialism and a permanent war economy, that are the polar opposite of social democracy. Few socialist parties or theorists have dealt with the rise of the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector that now accounts for most increase in wealth which is increasingly being funnelled primarily to the top one-tenth of one percent. Instead of evolving into a genuine free enterprise attenuated by democratic socialism, Western capitalism is being overcome by proto-fascist neo-feudal predatory finance and rent extraction imposing debt deflation, credit addiction, wage slavery and austerity on governments and private citizens in tandem with growing levels of economic inequality, effectively demolishing what was called the “middle class” in the post World War II era.
Failure of Western economies to recover from the 2008 global financial crisis, the subsequent multi-trillion dollar public bailouts and flow of endless fictional currency into the equally counterfeit financial system is leading to an upsurge of widespread global angst, antagonism, resentment and civil disobedience. Despite the lofty heights of the stock markets, capitalism is mired in a deep crisis of systemic corruption of its elites and failure, not only for the world’s destitute populations and refugees fleeing multiple war zones and environmental devastation, but for the very survival of the earth’s ecosystems which are in a death spiral on all fronts. The existence of cataclysmic conditions for another massive financial collapse and a grass roots revolution against global capitalism are growing by the day. But remember, following the financial catastrophe of 2008, capitalism, if it had obeyed its own rules would have imploded as most of the world’s major banks and financial institutions, without the public bailouts, would be bankrupt and no longer exist. It was a revolutionary opportunity; but instead the voracious capitalist beast, like Frankenstein’s monster, was resuscitated by an endless supply of public money and is more powerful, corrupt and voracious than ever. The political left must re-invent itself and be ready for the next inevitable financial disaster, especially the social democratic parties such as the NDP in Canada which has abandoned its radical roots. There is still a need to understand why previous revolutions were unsuccessful and an even more urgent need to go far beyond the fragmentary identity politics of the left during the past several decades. As with all emergent revolutions, there may be light at the end of the tunnel, but that light may be the light of a runaway train called fascism. As history has shown, prediction is difficult; so expect the unexpected. We at least know what must be destroyed; but capitalism is not the only game in town, so surely we don’t have to live as we do? The real work will begin after the parasitic ogre of chaotic corporate capitalism is abolished for good, the only limitation on what will replace it being the scope of our intellect and imagination. 
October 2017 is the centenary of the Russian Revolution, a key historical event that stunned the capitalist world.  What impact has it had and what is its legacy, if any? I hope to address the variety of crises of power and tyranny that have led to revolutions and why those such as the Russian version, despite its hopeful promises for emancipation, ended in betrayal and breakdown. Despite its failures, I will attempt to show that the Russian Revolution’s influence was felt far beyond the socialist and social democratic countries that helped form the United Nations and define universal human freedoms by advocating recognition of worldwide rights such as shelter, food and health care, despite stern opposition from the capitalist West. For example, the government sponsored national health care services both in Canada and Britain offered universal healthcare to all its citizens at the point of need. The implementations owe a debt of gratitude to the social democratic CCF/NDP and Labour parties in these two countries respectively. The inspiration was in large part ignited by the system of free healthcare to all in the Soviet Union, as did the civil rights, gay rights, anti-colonial and women’s liberation movements, education reforms and many welfare safety nets put in place in the West during the post World War II era. Many Western European countries extended these rights to education from the public systems all through University for any student academically qualified and sufficiently motivated. Unfortunately in recent decades we have witnessed a ruthless drive to submit every public service to privatization and exploit every natural, human and social resource beyond remotely sustainable levels to the vagaries of an unaccountable metaphysical construct called the “market”. Exploitation of people and the environment and knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing are the hallmarks of capitalism, a system that Karl Marx has described as “weeping from every pore with blood and dirt”. If we are saddened and outraged by grotesque economic disparities, grinding poverty and wage slavery for millions and imperialistic wars that are synonymous with capitalism, we might think again whether or not the conservative and liberal naysayers who claim the Russian Revolution was a failure are right.
V. I. Lenin
But does the Bolshevik Revolution really have any relevance to confronting the prevailing neo-liberal dictatorship of corporatism and globalized finance capital, what I would describe as Free Market Fascism Revisited or, perhaps more appropriately, Dante’s Inferno orchestrated by Hannibal Lector? The enlightened attempt by social democrats to put a reformist angelic mask on the ugly face of capitalism has indeed failed, lasting for only a brief period following the Great Depression and the Second World War.  It would seem that the Bolshevik (Communist) revolutionaries such as V. I. Lenin and, particularly the prognostications of Leon Trotsky  who formed the intellectual vanguard behind the Russian Revolution, have been proven right; that is, any accommodation or compromise with members of the capitalist class is both self-defeating and futile. In many of their books, lectures, interviews and postings online, this is the also the view of influential critics of capitalism such as Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky and Paul Street. But even behind the reformist humanitarian mask there still lurked the hydra-headed monster called capitalism and in the past three or four decades, most of the moderate ameliorations that were grudgingly conceded have been rescinded by the forces of neo-fascist political movements we now call neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism. These counter-revolutionary assaults have thereby created an inverted state run welfare system for entrenched wealth and the multinational corporations that operate above the rule of law that the rest of us must continue to obey.
In a key historical moment at which Leon Trotsky delivered a speech to the founding of the Fourth International, he referred to the influential radical mass organizations of the day. These included the West’s leftist political parties and trade unions, the latter which were primarily controlled by the feuding Stalinists and the social democrats, a feud that the social democrats had ultimately won by the 1960s. He accurately predicted that these people’s organizations would be splintered and crushed by historical events that “will not leave of these outlived organizations one stone upon another.” One after another, associations that seemed so powerful such a short time ago have been demolished. The Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union had betrayed both the principles of socialism and the Revolution of 1917, ultimately transforming the USSR into a totalitarian bureaucratic dystopia, a mere shadow of its intended revolutionary ideal. The entire Soviet Union itself eventually collapsed in 1989. The Maoist regime in China presided over a system of brutal economic exploitation that has paradoxically now become one of the key players of globalized capitalist exploitation and production. Fidel Castro, deprived of Soviet subsidies after 1989, staked the fortunes of the Cuban economy on the promotion of a tourist trade that is already recreating in modern form the squalor and corruption of the Batista era when Cuba was a looted colony of the USA for 60 years before the Cuban Revolution in 1959. But the list is very long and the stories equally dismal.
Perhaps the most distressing of all of Trotsky’s predictions has been the disgraceful sell-out of the social democratic parties throughout the Western world.  The two most disturbing historical transformations have been the NDP in Canada and the Labour Party in Britain that now resemble calcified conservative parties or right wing liberal parties so typical of the latter half of the 20th century. As a consequence of these outcomes, we are now informed by our neo-liberal corporate masters that we’ve reached “the end of history”, that socialism is dead and the only alternative is the status quo of neo-liberal and neo-conservative ideology. But what we’re not told about the socialism is dead claim is that it’s based on the cynical and false conflation of socialism with the Stalinist regime in the USSR. These duplicitous assumptions are purportedly provided legitimacy by the catechism of Margaret Thatcher in her infamous TINA principle: there is no such thing as society, only autonomous self-serving individuals. But more important is Thatcher’s corollary that “there is no alternative” (TINA) to the current corporate oligarchy in which all things in the universe, including all life on our pale blue dot, are mere commodities. This theology is underwritten and legitimized by the “Market God”, that is accountable to no one, a metaphysical construct that works in mysterious ways and which has become the decisive arbitrator in all of life’s activities. We can now apparently believe in the “just world hypothesis” overseen by the invisible omnipresent omnipotent omniscient market in the sky. The most disturbing contradiction and paradox of the cruel capitalist deity during the past 40 years has been the extraordinary out of control polarization of a tiny fabulously wealthy global elite and the broad mass of humanity who live in varying degrees of uncertainty, impoverishment and distress. The technological advances have been astounding in the realm of science in which everything seems possible except justice, morality and the precarious state of the planets ecosystems.
Conservative interests are, and always have been, backed by full force of the state that will invoke its monopoly on violence if deemed necessary, as the history of the labour and civil rights movements have clearly shown. The nation state in our so-called Western democracies has always sided with forces of big business, wealth and power. Any attempt to seriously challenge or circumvent their right to exploit both people and the planet’s resources will result in actions by the police, hired thugs and goon squads and, if necessary, the military that traditionally “serve and protect” their interests and traditional entitlements. Yes, that’s right people; the capitalist game is rigged. The proverbial rip off and big con by Adam Smith’s “masters of mankind” has been operative for a very long time. The ongoing capitalist swindle can be traced back to the 15th century Vatican proclamation called the Doctrine of Discovery and Terra Nullius, a sneaky ruse by the Catholic Church (one of the earliest and currently most wealthy of capitalist outfits)to justify the theft of Indigenous Peoples lands and their subsequent extermination throughout the Americas and elsewhere. So why are the proles not in the streets raising hell, shouting Vive la Révolution and “off with their heads”? It’s primarily because the manufacture of consent, incessant indoctrination and propaganda are effective. But throughout human history, wherever there is a person or organization that exercises authority, there is another who will challenge that authority. Disobedience, for anyone who has earnestly read history and philosophy, is our original intellectual and moral obligation as thinking human beings. So why do so few rebel? After all, it has been through questioning the status quo (which is invariably hierarchical and oppressive), dissent, disobedience and rebellion that there has been any progression toward truth and justice.
The great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche considered the state to be one of history’s preeminent manifestations of nihilistic will to power, nothing more than a vehicle for mass coercion and raw power that denigrates the arts, individuality and intellectual originality. In his most obnoxious moods Nietzsche viewed the state “a cold monster”. He especially loathed the spectacle of the easily led masses acceptance of nationalism and patriotism in promoting the will of the political elite which he held in utmost contempt. He considered such puerile emotional sentiments as the decomposition and antithesis of truth, justice and morality. “’I, the state, am the people!’ That is a lie!” he wrote in Thus Spake Zarathustra. By a “people” he meant autonomous individuals within an organic network of individuals who constitute a community by virtue of a shared culture, history, and humanity, while the “state” is merely an artificial construct designed to represent and preserve the interests of entrenched power and privilege. Everything about the modern state has been manipulative and corrupt, including education, as those who control the state, namely big business, generational wealth and conservative elites, “steal the works of the inventors and the treasures of the sages for themselves”, the media (“they vomit their gall and call it a newspaper”) and most of all, politics. Nietzsche described politics as a mad rush for power, which squandered the talents of great principled intelligent men, who were forced to pander to the most degraded and dishonourable of human traits. The state, he argued, is an impediment to individuality, freedom, creativity and critical thought. 
Contra Adam Smith, man’s natural tendency is not to “truck, barter and exchange one thing for another” in the name of personal gain, but rather to create, invent and facilitate meaningful work (both manual and mental) over which he has control and free from the arbitrary power of coercive institutions such as state capitalism and the concomitant hegemony of corporations over every aspect of our lives. Our human genetic differences are in many ways superficial; after all a one month old child from Tibet raised in New York by a liberal Christian capitalist family - or alternatively a humanist libertarian socialist one - will become a much different person than he would if raised in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. Humans are very much malleable species generally influenced dramatically and radically by inculcated values and cultural norms.
Consider some of the unsuccessful strategies in tackling the dictatorship of capital, focusing primarily on the post World War II era. Reformism, as noted, was primarily confined to those three decades following the Second World War and most of those gains that were hard won, especially those by labour, have been ruthlessly crushed by reactionary political forces financed by corporations and other authoritarian conservative social movements such as neo-conservative and neo-liberal “think tanks”, the corporate controlled media and evangelical Christianity. Even the welfare states, such as FDR’s reformist New Deal, were created out of necessity, of rescuing capitalism from its own excesses, motivated by the fear that bottom up anger and dissent would potentially foment a Bolshevik style revolution. But all institutions, including the state itself, are consistent, repetitive patterns of inculcated mass behaviour, most of which have been the propagandized values of the ruling elites, inculcated by the schools, mass media and obsequious Christian churches that have always been complicit with state power, regardless of political orientation. As it was for the monarchies, theocracies and other tyrannies of the past, rebellion seems the only strategy for replacing the dictatorship of capital, namely the revolutions proposed by anarchists and radical socialists. You cannot put a human mask on a capitalist hydra-headed Godzilla and expect any sort of meaningful change. Power and privilege never relinquish anything without a challenge and anyone who thinks that the freedoms and concessions we do have were willingly conceded by conservative power elites is either ignorant of history or delusional. All the miniscule slices of the capitalist pie conceded to the masses have been the outcome of decades of dissent and challenge to the status quo and all have been drenched in blood.
The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away...
By replacing the word “Lord” with “The State” in Job 1:2 above, one can jump start a dialogue of what transpired from the brief Post World War II era of prosperity, negotiated forms of democracy and unprecedented economic growth to the dystopian neo-liberal corporatist tyranny and obscene forms of economic inequality that we endure today, not only in the West, but throughout the world. Reformist strategies have not worked and, based on events and evidence of the past thirty years of globalized neo-liberal oligarchy, will not work in the future. For anyone paying attention, the corporate controlled state with all its insidious pretences to democracy has been exposed for what it is - a fraud. Neo-liberalism is not really a political ideology at all, but rather an anti-democratic state sanctioned monotheist religion (their deity being “The Market” and it’s (not-so-invisible) “Invisible Hand”) run by a priesthood of financial thieves involved in endless scams and speculation schemes such as hedge funds that would be outlawed in any decent society with a pretence to democracy and minimalist moral standards such as the golden rule.  In fact within 17th century Britain, speculation and usury were deemed crimes as speculators and loan sharks were pilloried or even hanged. Today these bean counting sociopaths “work” at dens of iniquity such as Goldman Sachs, HSBC and the Royal Bank of Canada and are invited by politicians (the so-called “people’s representatives”) to manage the country and its pyramid scheme casino economies. Direct democracy, a distinctly anarchist idea, has always been the aspired to egalitarian ideal that has never been achieved throughout history. Rather, our representative forms of what we call “democracy” have been nothing more than farcical, as those in congress and parliament have been like everything else within the capitalist system, a commodity for sale to the highest bidder.
The capitalist induced crises we currently face threaten the survival of all species, including ourselves. Even today many anarchists and anarchist-minded people (many of us are anarchists without knowing it since the concept of anarchism is a generally misunderstood, misconstrued and much- maligned idea by our conservative and liberal elites) reject the rich heritage of revolutionary anarchism, as expressed by such icons as Mikhail Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin and Emma Goldman, in favour of some version of lame reformism. Anarchism, quite simply put, entails questioning the legitimacy of all power and in the vast majority of cases that power is not justified. It would seem that argument and belief in the inevitability of hierarchy and authoritarian structures of power are indeed the generally accepted norm for everyone but anarchists. Anarchists have been judged by capitalists and communists alike as dangerous threats, even terrorists or crazed utopians. Anarchists consider Lord Acton’s famous aphorism regarding power as axiomatic:
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you super add the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”
Anarchists have an uncomplicated solution to the continued nagging problem of separation of church and state: Abolish them both. Regarding God and other forms of authoritarianism, Mikhail Bakunin once said that if god, for example, actually did exist, it would be “necessary to abolish him.”
The source of Lord Acton’s classic quote began in 1887 with a series of letters he sent to Bishop Creighton regarding the moral issues of writing a history of the Inquisition. Acton rightly believed that the same moral standards ought to be applied to all men, political and religious leaders included. Anarchists such as Mikhail Bakunin have clearly understood the tragic flaw of the state in the sense that if the dictatorship of the proletariat (Marxism) were to replace the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (Capitalism) it would result in the mere transfer of power from one form of class oligarchy to another. The ideological content of either communism or capitalism is rendered irrelevant if oligarchy and arbitrary power are the inevitable outcomes. Surely the differences between the coercive state of Stalin or Hitler mean very little from the perspective of their victims. However, there is nothing subtle or understated about the entire range of attempts to reduce the whole range of Marxist positions to the worst features of Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism or their multiple offshoots. As a libertarian socialist, the great mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) initially expressed optimism that the Bolshevik revolution would live up to its potential for a genuine participatory peoples democracy. In 1920 he decided to visit the Soviet Union and see for himself. After a meeting with Lenin, he became disappointed, not only with the despotic bureaucratic system in place, but with the authoritarian persona of Lenin himself. Although when he met the Russian writer and dissident Maxim Gorky he commented that if he were Russian, he’d support the Bolsheviks because the alternatives were much worse. On his return he wrote two critical papers, The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism and Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism, the latter being a short and informative guide to the theories of anarchism, Marxist socialism, syndicalism and his personal preferred theory, libertarian socialism which reflected his sympathy with the pure anarchism of philosophers such as Bakunin and Kropotkin. Always distrustful of the state, Russell was "infinitely unhappy” in this top down bureaucratic environment, stifled by its utilitarianism and “indifference to love and beauty and the life of impulse." Although highly critical of what was being implemented in Soviet Russia, he still believed "that communism is necessary to the world." Lenin he felt differed little from a religious zealot – arrogant, austere, aloof and demonstrating "no love of liberty.” In both organized religion and the state, power is what both nourishes and sustains them. As Russell once said, “Vanity, like power is insatiable and nothing short of omnipotence could satisfy it completely.” His hope for a radical transformation of advanced industrial societies in the West to some variant of libertarian socialism are as remote as they were during World War I when he wrote about these concerns and his hostility to the insanity and horrific slaughter of the War. For these views and others he was tried for sedition and spent six months in a British prison. In the United States of America, the leader of the Socialist Party of America and presidential candidate Eugene Debs was sentenced to ten years for stating similar iconoclastic sentiments. During the last years of his long life Bertrand Russell spent much of his time in Anti-Vietnam War activities and demonstrations against potential global annihilation by the proliferation of nuclear weapons, primarily by the United States, the greatest threat to world peace then and now. For those efforts, he spent more time in jail. 
Power, it would seem, is akin to a narcotic that feeds on itself, demanding more and more power as it attracts psychopathic personalities to its sources. It matters little whether you are referring to a politician, an entertainment mogul, a corporate CEO, cop or the deity of the global market, if you concede to any one person, state agency or ideology too much power and allow him, her or it to legality, invincibility and unaccountability, then that power will eventually be abused. People who aspire to genuine freedom and participatory democracy, like Socrates, must question everything, including the viability and moral legitimacy of the archaic state itself. It is these sceptical Socratic qualities of critical thought that exceptional anti-authoritarian men of rare intelligence and conscience such as Noam Chomsky and his mentor Bertrand Russell possessed and it is why they are reviled and denigrated today as in the past by those in positions of power.
The liberal and conservative elites in both big business and government have lost all credibility as most people you speak with these days have nothing but contempt and revulsion for their wanton careerism, lust for power and insatiable greed. Can anyone deny these feelings after the disgraceful criminality leading to and following the 2008 global financial collapse and even more disgraceful multi-trillion dollar rescue packages by the corporatist nanny state? These sentiments are the obvious seeds for a groundswell of revolt by the vast majority of people who are coerced, controlled, cajoled and exploited by the parasites of finance and their lackeys in government. Why do the masses not rise up? Obsequiously asking a capitalist cockroach or any of their lap poodle representatives of state capitalism to please stop exploiting people and the planet will not work. It’s like asking politely or pleading to someone in any social or political environment to relinquish his power and privilege. Did it work in pre-revolutionary France or Russia? Reason, conciliation and reformism have been tried on countless occasions but the insatiable masters of mankind understand only one thing other than their own unwarranted power: fear of the masses and their potential for revolt and violence. Marie Antoinette superciliously told the unruly sans culottes during the French Revolution, “let them eat cake” and assumed they would genuflect and then roll over to assume their habitual semi-comatose state of docility. In the neo-liberal corporatist theocracy of today, the masters of finance would inform the impoverished wage slave and debt prisoner millennial with “let them eat credit”. Some of you perhaps may have wondered why the France of today does not tolerate a dissolute parasitic monarchy as does Britain and several other Western European countries. I suggest reading a good bottom-up history of the French Revolution.
But we are in a much more crisis-ridden situation than in the all-too-rare and brief democracy eruption during the three decades of unprecedented egalitarian prosperity following World War II. Consider the catastrophic phenomenon of climate change and other ecological calamities, the systemic economic stagnation of unprecedented economic inequality which may lead us to a new Great Depression following another implosion of the financial house of cards once again being created since 2008. Consider the spread of perpetual imperialistic wars incited primarily by the US Empire throughout the globe and the concomitant threat of nuclear war, systemic economic inertia for all but a tiny financial elite, unemployment, poverty, depletion of clean water, the death spiral of our oceans, species loss and countless other impending disasters are accelerating even as far right wing neo-fascist governments throughout the world fiddle while Rome burns.
The Authoritarian Model as the Historical Norm & the Anarchist Antidote
All centralized bureaucratic political organizations such as the state, regardless of ideology, are vulnerable to the iron law of oligarchy regardless of the possible democratic intentions of the participants. All authoritarian pyramidal institutions such as the church, the police, military, corporations and most importantly the state, are distinctly undemocratic. As anarchist philosophers such as Bakunin, Kropotkin and others (including past and present libertarian socialists such as Bertrand Russell and Noam Chomsky) have argued, the paradigm we desire for direct democracy is not a pyramid, but rather an organic network in which those who do the work manage their own workplace. The pyramidal paradigm is the dominant feature of current neo-liberal capitalist democracies as much as it was for the Lenin led Bolsheviks who filled the power vacuum during the primarily bloodless October Revolution of 1917. Unfortunately violent revolutions especially tend to produce organizations from within for which opposition is discouraged or declared illegal. As in the Red Scares of the two post World War eras in the United States and especially during the post Russian Revolution, witch hunts, persecutions, pogroms and purges followed. Surveillance and secret police have been distinctive features of the state, regardless of political persuasion. This bureaucratized state of affairs is as intrusive and grotesque today as any seen throughout history with the crushing of dissent and police violence throughout the corporatist oligarchic states of the new world order. An obvious question for people to ask is this: When the state controls the laws, police, prisons, military, means of production and distribution (in this case through its corporate proxies and financial enablers) one ought to ask, who controls the state? Clearly, the answer is not “the people” as would be the case in a genuine democracy. A grass roots revolution is needed more than ever - but the question that needs to be posed is what happens when the revolution for genuine participatory democracy and worker control over their destinies is successful? For example, how are we to control psychopathic demagogic authoritarian individuals from dominating? How do we inhibit the ability of the political from overwhelming the social dimension which is where real democracy takes place? Can we find a way out of these dilemmas and paradoxes? That’s when the real intellectual toil and hard work begins.
But what are the possibilities for revolution in such a complacent world in which the real political left has all but disappeared or descended into the game of identity politics? Perhaps when enough people have been thrown off the bus by our corporatist political lap poodles, repeatedly slammed against the wall sufficiently and remove their distracted brains and eyes from their cell phones and gossip ridden social media long enough, they will wake up. As I mentioned a few paragraphs back, the serious left wing in the United States, Canada and elsewhere has been decimated. Some of it was self-inflicted as democratic socialist parties were too conciliatory with the prevailing capitalist system and squandered their opportunities and energy fighting with the revolutionary socialists, anarchists and other factions of the left rather than focusing on the common enemy of the capitalist system. It began in earnest with the suppression of radical movements under US President Woodrow Wilson leading up to and following the Russian Revolution, one of the first of which was the great orator, labour leader and Socialist Party Presidential candidate Eugene Debs who was given a ten year prison sentence for speaking out against the American entry into World War I (so much for free speech in America). Following the war there were the iniquitous “Red Scares” throughout the 1920s when conservative elites, big business tycoons, their police and hired goons virtually destroyed the thriving labour movement and the radical presses.
During the post World War Two era there were the Gestapo- like Joe McCarthy purges that continued well into the 1950s. For good measure, they also purged the liberal class, genuine classic left leaning liberals that have now virtually disappeared so that that Cold War “liberals” came to equate capitalism with democracy and imperialism with freedom and liberty. Canada had its own version of McCarthy communist witch hunts, destroying the lives and careers of thousands of fine innocent Canadians. Anyone on the left was a potential target for the RCMP commie hit list, including the great Tommy Douglas who warranted an 1100 page dossier. There are still residues of a militant left in Europe, which gives Europeans something to build upon but in North America we will very likely have to begin from the ground up. Even the once proud democratic socialist NDP in Canada has morphed into a party that differs little from the federal Liberal Party that has also lost its way and differs only qualitatively from the calcified Conservative Party of Canada that is becoming more and more like the Christian fascist Republican Party in the US.
We need to throw out every one of these corporate parliamentary sock puppets and give up not only on capitalist dominated party politics and fake elections that are nothing but auctions to the highest corporate bidder as politicians, like all else, have merely become items up for sale. More importantly, we need to jettison the state with its bankers, businessmen, lawyers, real estate tycoons, accountants and other vulture capitalists who invariably dominate our debauched political apparatus. These so-called representatives do not reflect the interests of ordinary people and given its authoritarianism and monopoly on violence and terrorism throughout its sordid history, the state and it minions have been the instruments of oppression at home and imperialist war abroad. Whenever you hear a politician claim that a policy or piece of legislation such as a proposed pipeline, public-private partnership scam or one of the fake international free trade agreements are in the “national interest, be very sceptical.
As Jean Jacques Rousseau proclaimed in the 18th century, man is assumed free, “but is everywhere in chains”. Why, he asks do they serve their oppressors so willingly? But power and privilege operate with cunning, obfuscation and deceit - and whether it is organized religion or the state, they have never been known to freely relinquish their power and control in the stratified theocracies, modern bureaucratic capitalist states or any other system of tyranny throughout history. Every state has been an oligarchy and our “freedoms” have always been confined within narrow parameters such as the consumerist choices of which shampoo or soft drink to buy. That is why anarchism calls for revolution and abolition of state, church, corporations and all other mechanisms of hierarchy, coercion and authoritarian rule as they call for global revolution. Dissent has become the norm throughout the world so perhaps revolutionaries such as Leon Trotsky have been right in promoting the idea of “permanent revolution”. People are disenchanted and disgusted by a chaotic corrupt world order of systemic malevolence that cannot be fixed, only taken down. Many are not even aware of why their lives are so empty and destitute, believing everything and anything those in power tell them, from the corporate controlled mass media, the churches and schools to the smarmy purchased politicians. And those few who do understand, often fail to act as long as their consumer driven lives are tolerable and they can buy the latest endlessly marketed and overpriced i-phone. A current manifestation of state repression is occurring in Spain as we witness the brutal deployment of militaristic state police thugs who are beating Catalonian citizens into submission as they attempt to sabotage an independence referendum of people who merely want their liberation from an authoritarian oppressive malfunctioning state. However, militarized “serve and protect” cops are not the worst forms of capitalist exploitation and brutality. The most subtle insidious forms of oppressive subterfuge are what transnational behemoths like Amazon, Microsoft and Apple are doing when they hold cities and even countries hostage by bribing politicians with the promises of no taxes for them and minimum wage jobs, synonymous with 21st century slavery. As I write, Amazon is soliciting the lowest bid from North American cities to set up their latest sweat shop; and as is all-too-typical, not a single brain dead politician or anyone in our lap poodle corporate media even questions this revolting race to the bottom process.
Hierarchic domination has been the norm throughout history and I hesitate to say that perhaps most people really don’t desire freedom. If that’s the case, then perhaps the old adage plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose is a truism. This was one of the underlying messages in the novel and 1963 movie of the same name called The Leopard. The setting was 1860s Sicily during an era of Garibaldi’s revolutionary redshirt movement as the aristocratic land baron played by Burt Lancaster explained to his idealistic radical nephew that he can have his little revolution but conditions will soon return to the conservative normalcy of power, privilege, plutocracy and oppression over the masses. But isn’t capitalism, like the aristocracies and monarchies of mid 19th century Italy, merely a facsimile but with different ruling oligarchs, the “masters of mankind” as Adam Smith called them?
Looking at the evolution of what has become a cancerous tumour, the exploitive capitalist system that the Bolsheviks of the Russian Revolution intended to replace, would the world have been any different had it not happened? Of course it would, but any positive impact it has had on liberating the exploited working classes throughout the world has been shattered by a deeply reactionary counter-ideology that cannot be compared to anything that preceded it. I contend that the reactive process began soon after the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, in opposition to the radical program that offered a viable functioning alternative to the capitalist system of the West. The response from the West was immediate, violent and had enduring consequences for the rest of the world. It united every existing power base of capitalism to which the Nazi and Fascist varieties would soon become world changing as the horrors of World War Two graphically displayed. Many people know little of the facts of the Russian Civil War (1918-21) that was incited primarily by thirteen Western nations and Japan that sent an invasion force totalling 100,000 into every entry point of the new Soviet Union, fomenting the civil war  with the objective of destroying the Bolshevik regime and re-instating the brutal Tsarist monarchy or some other totalitarian regime acceptable to capitalism. Even Canada contributed 4000 troops to Vladivostok. That the Russian Red Army, led by a non-military Marxist intellectual Leon Trotsky, was able to prevail is nothing short of miraculous. But this experience, which I would argue was the real genesis of the Cold War, set the tone and agenda for Soviet political and economic policy for the next six decades. It also dictated rabid Manichean US foreign policy and its hysterical anti-communism, resulting in the slaughters in Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Latin America, the Middle East and elsewhere. The US Empire emerged in the post World War II era and its hegemony and military cruelty continue today - but with newly concocted enemies. One is reminded of the Mai Lai massacre during the Vietnam War (not an aberration, but a daily episode in that barbaric war of “kill everything that moves”) and Lieutenant Calley’s macabre remark in his trial defence: “Nobody ever told us they were human”.
The Western invasions, the civil war and other subsequent hateful strategies of the West sabotaged any possibility of a genuine bottom-up people’s democracy in Russia and some argue set the stage for the Stalinist dictatorship that remained until 1953. The tortured tenuous relationship between the West and her Soviet ally during the Second World War was quickly severed after the war, despite the unacceptable reality that it was the Russians who really won it following the reversal at Stalingrad. The Soviets also suffered approximately 30 million casualties and much of the country was turned into a trash heap. Had it not been for the Nazi invasions into Western Europe, many corporate and political conservatives such as Winston Churchill would have been quite happy to see the Nazis demolish the Red State since as far as capitalists were concerned, fascism was far more preferable to communism. In fact capitalism flourished in both Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.
The full impact of this reaction emerged with the neo-conservative counter revolution on the heels of the freedom, civil rights and democracy movements of the 1960s and early 1970s. It accelerated with the Reagan- Thatcher attacks on labour and attempted reversal of all the social and political legislation promoting the common good that began after World War II. Assuming our young people wake up soon enough to understand what is happening to them, there will likely be a fight to the death to overthrow this global corporate dictatorship of finance capital that behaves like a gigantic insatiable money seeking leech, sucking the life out of the planet, its people, biodiversity and the fragile ecosystems that sustain all life. The reader might consider conducting an ad-hoc survey at their next social encounter by asking anyone you meet: "How's neo-liberal corporate capitalism working for you these days?"
Let me begin by considering a recent capitalist horror story, simply one of incalculable others, many untold, throughout its horrific history that began with centuries of slavery. Slave labour has surely been the most valuable commodity capitalism has ever contrived and produced, and slavery under a different name exists today in its various deceptions and mutations. It was not what Adam Smith, had in mind as he warned his readers of the “masters of mankind” in his two major works The Wealth of Nations and Theory of Moral Sentiments. What exists today for a whole generation of people with fewer meaningful jobs, no affordable access to affordable higher education and continual erosion of social services is never ending debt slavery synonymous with feudalism. Like the zombie addiction to smart phones, social media and face book, these are all means of corporate surveillance and state control, domination and self-inflicted distraction by their powerful media propaganda machines. Freedom is equated with whatever the mindless consumer commodity choices that are offered by the market gods of the theology of neo-liberalism which is a form of precarious Orwellian anti-freedom in which one must either be a smarmy entrepreneur, a corporate wage slave (called an “associate” at sweatshops such as Walmart) or live on the streets.
Since the debacle of 2008, another financial meltdown is long overdue; it is after all, the nature of the capitalist Godzilla, an integral component of its genetic code one might say. What we are experiencing today on a global scale is not free markets or “free enterprise” (which quite clearly is neither “free” nor “enterprising”), but rather its antithesis, a complete conceptual distortion and epistemic mangling of the ideas Adam Smith expressed in the 18th century. Many may recall when the 2008 calamity broke out, ignited by real estate scams such as sub-prime mortgages, derivatives and other financial swindles, no one in the mainstream financial and corporate community or its compliant media predicted it. Anyone who did speak about impending calamity, such as Noriel Roubini, Steve Keen and Mike Whitney were described as lunatics and endlessly demonized by the sycophantic financial networks such as BNN and Bloomberg.
The real irony of the subsequent taxpayer/victims of the multi-trillion dollar bailouts of the self-described free market geniuses (read financial parasites) is the fact that the lazy unproductive working class hoi polloi are the ones providing corporate welfare (even beyond the normal daily variety) for the creative financial Wall Street wizards. One is reminded of the Bertolt Brecht’s classic one-liner: “What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?” In other words, what is the robbing of a grocery store to feed a starving family compared to the global multi-billion dollar financial house of cards swindle that crashed the real estate market and destroyed the lives of millions worldwide? Who is now paying for this parasitism? No one was even prosecuted for this massive heist. The credulous masses were told that these mafia corporations were too big to fail and their management crooks too big to indict. Huge banks, brokerage houses, insurance companies, auto conglomerates and other corporations that, according to their own capitalist rules ought to be bankrupt, were provided with a golden parachutes and “get out of jail free” passes. And the austerity and larceny continue - business as usual - but with even more latitude to exploit and plunder. For almost a decade now central banks word wide have perpetrated another massive global swindle called QE (Quantitative Easing) which translated means flooding the banks and other financial criminals with trillions of dollars of free cyber cash (money out of nothing), thus creating another financial zeppelin ready to blow up in our collective faces. Yeah, “you call is important to us and have a nice day sucker.” Crime does pay, particularly for certain entitled financial and wealthy bloodsuckers whose larcenous crimes and legalized pillage are underwritten and backed by the full power of the corporatist nanny state.
No one has a crystal ball of course and today predictions are even more tenuous because of ongoing interventions and manipulation of markets by central banks, the massively leveraged private banks that create money out of a vacuum with their usurious loans and the other government nanny state institutions that underwrite the financial con artists of the casino capitalist neo-liberal world order. In addition, the traditional systemic corruption and other shenanigans that have always taken place in the so-called “free market” have gone viral, resembling organized crime mafia. Logic and the traditional strategies for “investing” in markets, both fundamental and technical, have been reduced to an exercise in futility. Other than the multi-trillion dollar state bailouts and continued plunder of the public domain and the Third World, nothing has changed since 2008. In fact the loot and pollute bank money printing system has become worse. The stock markets merely reflect the stolen wealth and obscene profits of banks and other corporations and bear no relevance to the economy as a whole, which for the 99% is a one way ticket to an economic bottomless pit. Near zero interest rates (even less than zero in some jurisdictions in Europe), privatizations, rampant pillage of public assets, dismantling of social programs, unliveable slave wages and any semblance of democracy that previously existed and larcenous scams such as QE continue unabated. When does the revolution begin comrades?
And now Donald Trump, the carrot topped cretin Caligula wants to rescind the few lame regulatory mechanisms that still remain and further reduce taxes on corporations, banks and the wealthy. That’s assuming that the rich and corporations pay any taxes at all - since most hide their money and profits in immoral offshore tax havens. But why not, after all he’s the prototypical pampered silver spooned asshole conservative whose sense of entitlement knows no limits. How anyone who voted for this self-absorbed psychopath never figured that out boggles the mind. Did any of these people examine his private life of narcissistic self-promotion, hucksterism and con artistry?
Yes folks, the same financial vultures are back in business and now have total control over our proverbial sock puppet politicians, the brainwashing media and the entire political and economic apparatus. The global economy has been reduced to the crimes of psychopathic hedge fund operators and Machiavellian monsters on multiple computer terminals using derivatives and shuffling money around the globe to wherever a quick profit can be made with no accountability. Has there ever been a point in history when the cess pool of corruption, rot and stench has been so deep? Nothing much of substance is produced in the West anymore; middle class jobs and even professional careers have disappeared and despite Trump’s lame election promises, they will never return. As the late George Carlin rightly informed us “They (the corporate oligarchs and their lap poodle politicians in this case) own you”. The emergence of the narcissist racist crypto-fascist Trump is truly symbolic of the magnitude of the depravity, perhaps the beginning of the end not only of the global financial house of cards, but for life on the planet. The Anthropocene is bringing on the sixth extinction and no one seems to care, least of all our corporate leaders who only concern themselves with endless money iterations, profit and greasing the palms of our “bought and paid for” spineless courtesan politicians.
But capitalism has never been about “free enterprise” and “completion”, but rather monopoly. How else do you explain the fact that Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and two other sociopathic assholes now own more wealth than half the world’s population? This is according to OXFAMs latest report. How can this be? Democracy, as it always has been, is a cruel joke. Yeah I know; these multi-billionaires who own half the planet are self-made men; after all, this is what we’re told by corporate media and their nauseating business channels, trotting out the same boring bullshit day after day. What little democracy and economic opportunities for the working classes that emerged during the three decade post WW II era has disappeared, likely forever since we likely only have a couple of decades to save the planet from ecocide; some scientists say it’s already too late. Perhaps Trump or some other know-nothing political lunatic will make good on his threats and start a nuclear World War III. Certainly we are facing the most ominous state of affairs I’ve observed in my entire lifetime. Throughout history we’ve allowed ourselves to be manipulated, indoctrinated and exploited by a tiny oligarchy, never even coming close to any semblance of democracy. And now everything is up for sale. Water has been a saleable commodity for decades now (with bottled water one of the greatest scams and environmental desecrations of the past generation) as our topsoil, forests, oceans and other water sources are dying. It may not be long before you’ll need to purchase a breath of clean air since it is becoming so toxic these days as many people in heavily populated countries need a face mask as they exit their homes. In most Asian countries, masks are required to save your respiratory system. But nothing will be done about pollution and climate change because corporate profits will be potentially diminished as profit and the market god are now the determining arbiters of all life forces. Abdication of life sustainability is written into the cannibalistic capitalist genetic code in which the market determines all things, even human relationships of friendship and love, but is accountable to no one. Yeah, sell yourself and your gonads to an online dating service and find a one night stand love life as the market decides all, including romance. Does anyone communicate face to face any longer?
Today, rather than monarchs, feudal land barons and theocrats, we have been subjected to a sleazy reincarnation of the Robber Baron era of Mark Twain’s Gilded Age that was rarely questioned by anyone in or out of the system. Mark Twain was one of an extremely rare breed of sceptics during his era. But are there any genuine intellectuals, save outsiders such as Noam Chomsky, Michael Parenti, Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges and a few other dissenters - especially members of the business class elite and the masses who are exploited by it - who ever seriously question the prevailing socio-economic global corporate tyranny, what Canadian political philosopher John McMurtry calls the Cancer State of Capitalism? For a belief-system to qualify as an outcome of free thought and rationality rather than mere dogma, it must be open to question, exposed to sceptical criticism and analysis of its basic assumptions, arguments and purposes and especially the consequences which follow from believing in them. But as history has graphically shown, criticizing the political and socio-economic order and its massive propaganda apparatus can be a very dangerous business. We call historical eras such as this “Dark Ages” for good reason; and dark ages can happen again and in fact some claimed we’ve arrived as neo-liberal corporate capitalism has become a rigid all-encompassing oppressive ideology complete with market theologians for which “there is no alternative” (TINA), the phrase invoked by Margaret Thatcher as though an undeniable law of physics. Do today’s corporate controlled media ever question the corporate capitalist relations of the global market that resembles a casino? Do they describe anything of significance in life that occurs as not exclusively accountable to the market, which is itself not accountable to anything? Are we not confronted with a new absolutist catechism complete with mathematical axioms and theorems representing the “laws” of economics and commerce as the deified “invisible hand”?
In this sense we differ little from the Dark Ages when religion ruled. We are facing a global culture of imposed silence that tolerates no criticism of the prevailing ruling order as a kind of collective delirium in which the mind is submerged as in a dream. In short, it’s the quintessence of dogmatism and authoritarianism. We may see it around us again today – after the fall of a world empire and subsequent unravelling of civility by Wall Street barbarians overrunning all resistance and looting whatever is at hand, all supported by the rule of law, a police state and, if necessary, its military apparatus. The hegemony of the medieval church and burning of heretics has merely been replaced by multinational corporations, compliant politicians and an indoctrination surveillance state complete with heavily armed police who behave like Hitler’s Gestapo complete with automatic weapons, armoured vehicles and privatized mercenary armies that can, if necessary, be deployed on its own citizens.
Jean Jacques Rousseau was perhaps the first major modern philosopher to criticize the social and political order within which he lived; and he does so with respect to its most primary forms: exclusionary property, the “chains of the law” and upbringing of the young. Compare his trenchant position on privatized property to the comparatively mild contrarian assertions of men such as David Hume and John Stuart Mill:
The first man, who after enclosing a piece of ground, took it into his head to say, this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. How many crimes, how many wars, how many murders, how many misfortunes and horrors would that man have saved the human species, who pulling up the stakes or filling up the ditches should have cried to his fellows: Beware of listening to this imposter: you are lost, if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody. (Jean Jacques Rousseau, Discourse of the Origin and the Foundation of Inequality among Mankind, Part 2, par 1)
Needless to say, Rousseau paid a huge price for his philosophical heresy and courage. He was afflicted with financial concerns, church and state persecution, notoriety, loss of personal friendships and ill-health. But after Rousseau, philosophy has never been the same as he set the stage for Karl Marx and his cohort Friedrich Engels who provided the most accurate and comprehensive critique of capitalism that remains as relevant today as it was in the mid 19th century. He was also influential in motivating men such as John Dewey and his progressive ideas about education. Rousseau roused many sceptical inquiring intellectuals who followed to challenge the political and social problems that underpinned the generally accepted structures, principles and values of which it is has traditionally been philosophy’s vocation to disclose, analyze, critique and ultimately to reform or deconstruct. The revolutionary ideas of freedom based on bottom up laws (not the ones written by predatory bankers and corporate lawyers), direct democracy and reduction of material inequality, non-authoritarian education and social sovereignty of the common interest are philosophical advancements of the first rank - explanatory and evaluative principles by which human forms of social life are better understood and surpassed by a more comprehensive manner of thought. Not only do these ideas set the stage for the later political and moral theories of those who followed, but the radicalized political thought of anarchists such as Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin but they establish a core of critical positions for social philosophy that to an important extent provide the modern foundations of the subject. Rousseau’s ideas and theories were instrumental in releasing philosophy from its long-standing alignment with the political and social status quo. Surely any society that claims to be free and values intellectual progress cannot deny a free pass to critical scepticism and questioning of any belief.
October 1917 and its Consequences in the West
Let’s now turn once again to the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the October 1917 Russian Revolution that contrary to Marx’s pre-conditions, took place in a vast economically backward feudalistic monarchy that had been devastated by three years of ongoing defeats on the Eastern Front of the Great War. Russia had has suffered greatly under centuries of oppression and tyranny despite repeated attempts to overthrow the Tsarist regimes; it was long overdue for a major rebellion and massive political and social transformation. One quite significant revolt occurred in 1905 but that project, like all the others, failed. V. I. Lenin predicted that the 1917 revolution in Russia would inspire communist uprisings in Germany and elsewhere which would spread from there throughout the Western industrialized capitalist world. Before and during the Civil War, the Bolsheviks saw many signs of an impending worldwide revolution. Indeed, leaders of the capitalist countries saw the same signs and were deeply troubled. In 1919 Lloyd George wrote:
“The whole of Europe is filled with the spirit of revolution. There is a deep sense not only of discontent, but of anger and revolt amongst the workmen against pre-war conditions. The whole existing order, in its political, social and economic aspects is questioned by the masses of the population, from one end of Europe to the other. In some countries, like Germany and Russia, the unrest takes the form of open rebellion, in others, like France, Great Britain and Italy, it takes the shape of strikes and of general disinclination to settle down to work, symptoms which are just as much concerned with the desire for political and social change as with wage demands.”
In 1919, revolution was in the air, and not merely restricted to Europe. China’s cities were shaken by violent demonstrations against imperialism as in India, a campaign of mass civil disobedience led by Mohandas Gandhi, brought the country to the very brink of revolution. Even in the United States – which had the most conservative labour movement of any industrialized country and a working class bitterly divided by racial and ethnic hatreds – thousands of steelworkers fought heated battles with police and national guard troops. In 1919 the entire city of Seattle was paralyzed by a general strike and in Winnipeg, Canada experienced the biggest and most violent general strike in its history. Also by 1919, conditions in Germany and the former Austro-Hungarian Empire had become especially unstable and chaotic, so it was there, in Central Europe, that the Bolsheviks believed the workers would follow their lead and seize power. Afterward, revolution could be expected to spread to France, Italy, Britain and perhaps eventually to the United States.
In November 1918, the German monarchy had been overthrown and power was in the hands of worker, sailor and soldier’s councils. But the counterrevolutionary leadership of the reformist German Social Democratic Party (SPD), having understood what happened in Russia the year before, were determined to prevent the November Revolution from becoming radicalized and follow the Russian precedent. They did this by aligning themselves with discredited conservative elements within Germany, including the military, aristocracy and industrial oligarchs that had led the country to the catastrophe of the First World War, thus provoking a premature insurrection in January 1919 – the so-called Spartacus Uprising – which enabled them to disable and ultimately decapitate the fledgling German Communist Party as its leaders Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were brutally murdered.
This defeat was a serious setback for the Bolsheviks, but only a temporary one, they hoped. They were reasonably convinced that Central Europe was on the cusp of a revolutionary opportunity. The old ruling caste, the capitalists, land barons, aristocrats and military hierarchy were weak and highly unpopular, having led the country to the slaughter of World War and its devastating aftermath. The masses were in a combative retributive state of mind. The only factor lacking was a trained revolutionary party capable of leading the workers to mass rebellion and overthrow of the aristocratic order. But how were revolutionary parties to be created without the years of organization, dissent and revolt that the Russians had experienced? Although fragmented for many years, by 1917 the Bolsheviks had the benefit of decades of experience as an independent revolutionary organization. Elsewhere in Europe, by contrast, some revolutionary socialists had only just formed Communist parties, which were generally few and inexperienced, while others were still members of the established gradualist socialist parties and had no independent organization. The need for effective Communist parties was urgent. If they didn’t soon emerge, the workers would lose hope, the revolutionary moment would pass, and the old sclerotic order of the feudalistic class and other conservative forces such as the church, with, ironically, the help of the right leaning leadership of the reformist social democrats, would regain their self-confidence and recapture power, as had already begun to take place in Germany. This would result in Soviet Russia becoming truly isolated, thrown back on its own resources – and who could predict for how long?
The betrayal by ruling social democrats and subsequent failure of the German Spartacist revolution that began in 1919 ought to be more well-known, but very likely is not. In Northern Italy there were massive general strikes during 1920 in the industrial cities such as Turin supported by trade unions, worker syndicates and Antonio Gramsci and the team at his newspaper L’Ordine Nuovo - despite some internal conflicts and disunity - appeared indeed to constitute the prelude to a proletarian revolution in action. The factory occupations represented the “last revolutionary upswing” before fascism assumed power. With more than 180 factories in Turin occupied, and thousands of workers radicalized by a class war ever more tangible, revolution seemed at hand. Gramsci, however knew the obstacles he was facing and what was at stake:
“The class war in Italy is currently in a phase that can lead, either to the conquest of political power by the revolutionary proletariat and the movement to new modes of production and distribution that can revive productivity, or to the terrible reaction from the owning and governing classes. No violence designed to reduce the industrial and agricultural proletariat to a state of servile labour will make us retreat.” (L’Ordine Nuovo, May 8, 1920)
The Second Congress of the Fascist Movement was held in May as Benito Mussolini began then preparing his “preventive counter-revolution” that would usher him into power two years later and crush, snuff out and trample over the remnants of the Italian workers’ movement and any other socialist or leftist attempt to even raise a voice in opposition.
So the assumption that revolution would spread throughout the West was Lenin’s first major doctrinal blunder. He did not take into account the reality, magnitude and power of the “terrible reaction from the owning and governing classes”. As history has graphically shown, the Bolshevik Revolution marked the start of a century of a conservative and capitalist counterrevolutionary onslaught in the West. In Russia it began with the three year civil war (1918-21), incited by conservative interests in the country intent on bringing back the Tsarist monarchy and European capitalist countries and the United States (including Canada), all of which sent troops to Russia with the objective of destroying the peoples revolution and the Leon Trotsky led Red Army. In light of the grim aftermath of World War I and the economic devastation (including famine) of the civil war, it was remarkable that the Red Army prevailed against the embargoes, blockades and massive reactionary military assault by the capitalist West on a vulnerable country. The Christian churches also played a key role in the conservative counterrevolution against the Russian Revolution’s “godless communists” and was the leading ideological force in both Spain and Portugal behind the fascist rise to power of Francisco Franco and António de Oliveira Salazar, respectively. The Spanish Civil War (1936-39) was the only occasion in which the Soviet Union actively intervened against the counterrevolution in the West. It is significant in Spain that this intervention took place in defence of an existing republican government that was not only fighting Franco and his fanatical Catholic monarchists, but the rising military might of Hitler and Mussolini that came to his aid. The Western World, both Europe and the US did nothing to support the Spanish Republic; nor did they do anything to stop the sale of petroleum and arms to Franco by its shameless corporations.
In the United States, reaction against the Bolshevik Revolution represented a continuation of violent repression of worker struggles in the late 19th century, which had taken on a nationalist and patriotic hue with the persecution of socialists, anarchists and anyone on the left during the First World War, many of them of Russian and German origin, with Germans stigmatized as “agents of the Kaiser.” In his war message, President Woodrow Wilson specifically cast suspicion on the loyalty of the millions of men and women of German lineage living in the United States. Socialist leader Eugene Debs, though not German, was sentenced to ten years in prison for delivering a speech June 16, 1918 in Canton Ohio, opposing American participation in the war.
The unravelling of the original aims of the Russian Revolution did not only arise from hostile external forces, but also from within the revolution itself. As the post-1917 disintegration showed, the loss of working-class power (expressed in the slogan “all power to the soviets”) was not an event that happened overnight but was rather the result of a process of abandonment and betrayal from the leaders who in some situations such as the vicious civil war, were forced to take desperate measures. The subsequent collapse of democracy led to the emergence and consolidation of a bureaucratic class within the Communist Party that confined itself to its own programs and agendas. After the revolutionary overthrow of the old monarchical order, the absence of working-class democracy merely solidified the hierarchical quality of the division of labour which became the officious Trojan horse within the revolutionary ranks.
When an elite class takes power, one of its components becomes the agent of that power, as if following the iron law of oligarchy. In a socialist state, when capitalist exploitation and accumulation is forbidden by members of the directing party, this differentiation begins as functionally political but eventually becomes a social issue. Consider, for example, the social strata of a communist official who has at his disposal a car, chauffeur, a comfortable home, frequent holidays and a lucrative salary authorized by the party hierarchy. This is a status that radically differs from the conditions of the communist patriot working in the coal mines or factories and receiving a mere subsistence salary. It differs little from the highly paid managerial staff as opposed to the slaves on the factory floor of a modern capitalist corporation or the rank and file of trade union members as opposed to the union bosses. For anarchists and libertarian socialists today, a re-examination of the failed experiment of the Russian Revolution ought to be part of an effort to begin the construction of a theory of politics for a post-revolutionary transition to a just egalitarian society in the light of that experience.
As I have been intimating throughout this essay, once the corporate capitalist system is overthrown, abolishing the state would be a good place start. 
In the wacky world of Donald Trump, we’ve been hearing about “fake news”. The idea of fake news is not a new phenomenon, distorted and misconstrued as it is these days by Trump and other members of the established corporate oligarchy. The primary source for the dissemination of fake news is, and always has been, the corporate main stream. Consider just one well-known popular source, the New York Times. Fake news on Russia, for example, is a long-standing Times tradition that can be traced back at least as far as the 1917 Russian Revolution. In a classic study of the newspaper’s coverage of Russia from February 1917 to March 1920, Walter Lippmann and Charles Merz discovered that “From the point of view of professional journalism the reporting of the Russian Revolution is nothing short of a disaster. On the essential questions the net effect was almost always misleading, and misleading news is worse than none at all…. They can fairly be charged with boundless credulity, and an untiring readiness to be gulled, and on many occasions with a downright lack of common sense.” Lippmann and Merz found that strong editorial bias clearly fed into news reporting. The editors’ zealous opposition to the communists led the paper to report atrocities that never happened, and to predict the imminent collapse of the Bolshevik regime no fewer than ninety-one times in three years. Journalists uncritically accepted official statements and relied on reports from unidentified “high authority.” This was standard NY Times practice and it continues unabated today.
This fake news performance of 1917–20 was repeated often in the years that followed. The Soviet Union was an enemy target up to the Second World War, and through it all, Times coverage was consistently hostile. With the end of the war and the emergence of the Soviet Union as a military rival, and soon a competing nuclear power, the Cold War was on. In the United States, anti-communism became a national religion, and the Soviet Union was portrayed in official discourse and the news media as a global menace in urgent need of containment. With this ideology in place and with U.S. plans for its own global expansion of power established, the Communist threat would help sustain the steady growth of the military-industrial complex and repeated interventions to counter purported Soviet aggressions.
Following the onset of the Russian Revolution, the subsequent Red Scares, the Palmer raids targeted Russian and other “suspicious” recent immigrants. The second anniversary of the revolution on November 7, 1919, was the occasion for violent raids against the Union of Russian Workers. In a nation with such a large proportion of immigrant labour, the reaction readily identified communists as “agents of a foreign power.” Social radicalism or any form of dissent could now be denounced as anti-capitalist and a threat to a vague “Americanism,” a silly nationalist notion that the repression helped to incite. The fact that Bolsheviks actually took state power in such a large nation and thereupon founded the Third International and pledged to carry out revolution everywhere, inevitably led hostile governments to condemn communism as a form of “treason” on behalf of a foreign power. Anti-communism has been an American obsession ever since as the same puerile hysteria broke out in the post World War II era of the Cold War. Ironically, as Noam Chomsky has so brilliantly pointed out, the elites of both the USA and USSR used “socialism” as a clever propaganda ploy in a fantastical and contradictory manner. In the USA it was invoked in order to demonize socialism by pointing to the Stalinist dictatorship whereas in the USSR it was similarly invoked to deflect criticism from a regime that was anything but socialism. As Chomsky remarked:
“As for the world’s second major propaganda system, association of socialism with the Soviet Union and its clients serves as a powerful ideological weapon to enforce conformity and obedience to the State capitalist institutions, to ensure that the necessity to rent oneself to the owners and managers of these institutions will be regarded as virtually a natural law, the only alternative to the ‘socialist’ dungeon. The Soviet leadership thus portrays itself as socialist to protect its right to wield the club, and Western ideologists adopt the same in order to forestall the threat of a more free and just society. This joint attack on socialism has been highly effective in undermining it in the modern period.”
Chomsky explains the conceptual perversions of the State priesthoods of the two major propaganda systems during the Cold War:
“The terminology of political and social discourse is vague and imprecise, and constantly debased by the contributions of ideologists of one or another stripe. Still, these terms have at least some residue of meaning. Since its origins, socialism has meant the liberation of working people from exploitation. As the Marxist theoretician Anton Pannekoek observed, “this goal is not reached and cannot be reached by a new directing and governing class substituting itself for the bourgeoisie,” but can only be “realized by the workers themselves being master over production.” Mastery over production by the producers is the essence of socialism, and means to achieve this end have regularly been devised in periods of revolutionary struggle, against the bitter opposition of the traditional ruling classes and the ‘revolutionary intellectuals’ guided by the common principles of Leninism and Western managerialism, as adapted to changing circumstances. But the essential element of the socialist ideal remains: to convert the means of production into the property of freely associated producers and thus the social property of people who have liberated themselves from exploitation by their master, as a fundamental step towards a broader realm of human freedom. Libertarian socialism, furthermore, does not limit its aims to democratic control by producers over production, but seeks to abolish all forms of domination and hierarchy in every aspect of social and personal life, an unending struggle, since progress in achieving a more just society will lead to new insight and understanding of forms of oppression that may be concealed in traditional practice and consciousness. “
“’The very idea of socialism is embodied in the concept of workers’ control,’ one Menshevik trade unionist lamented; the Bolshevik leadership expressed the same lament in action, by demolishing the very idea of socialism. Failure to understand the intense hostility to socialism on the part of the Leninist intelligentsia (with roots in Marx, no doubt), and corresponding misunderstanding of the Leninist model, has had a devastating impact on the struggle for a more decent society and a liveable world in the West, and not only there. It is necessary to find a way to save the socialist ideal from its enemies in both of the world’s major centres of power, from those who will always seek to be the State priests and social managers, destroying freedom in the name of liberation.” (From Noam Chomsky, “The Soviet Union Versus Socialism”, Our Generation, Spring/Summer, 1986)
The spectre of Communism allowed American financial capitalism to feed indefinitely off the government-insured profits of a gluttonous arms industry. Fifty-six years ago US President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered a farewell address in which he warned about the threat to democracy posed by the growing convergence between military and corporate power.
The outgoing president cautioned against the expanding and “total influence - economic, political, even spiritual - in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government” of the “military-industrial complex” (MIC). Eisenhower had been a five-star general as commander of allied expeditionary forces in the Second World War who had firsthand knowledge of the operations of the military. But even at the height of the Cold War, the influence of the military over political life paled in comparison to what is the case today. With each passing month, the militarized Gestapo-like police, surveillance systems and military increase and consolidate more power over civilian authority. Democratic forms of governance that still remain are increasingly hollowed out and rendered irrelevant as conditions of a permanent neo-fascist war economy persist.
In the post World War II era the capitalist counterrevolution grew into such a self-determining gorgon, of which the MIC in the United States forms a huge part, that it no longer needed its original enemy but some designated boogeyman, real or imagined. For example, it can be employed to redesign Latin America, Yugoslavia, the Ukraine or the Middle East on the grounds of fighting terrorism, or to destroy whole countries on the pretext of the “responsibility to protect.” Identifying “violations of human rights” as the enemy is a more versatile ploy than anticommunism, applicable almost anywhere, with the help of complacent mass media ready to arouse public indignation over the latest timely outrage. The cause of human rights has been central in morally disarming the left and turning its attention from the struggle for economic equality and justice to individual freedoms, what we now call “identity politics”. It goes without saying that any social revolution will violate the established “rights” of the dominant classes, and thus human rights have become a permanent counter-revolutionary doctrine.
The U.S. political establishment was both surprised and delighted by the 1989–91 collapse of the Soviet Union, and its members were similarly pleased with the policies of President Boris Yeltsin, a virtual U.S. client, under whose rule ordinary Russians suffered a cataclysmic erosion of living standards, while a small group of oligarchs were able to loot the assets and resources of the collapsed Soviet state. Yeltsin’s election victory in 1996, greatly assisted by U.S. consultants, advice, and money, was, for the editors of the NY Times, “A Victory for Russian Democracy.” They were not troubled by either the electoral corruption, the creation of a grand-larceny-based economic oligarchy, or, shortly thereafter, the new rules centralizing power in the office of president. Yeltsin’s successor, Vladimir Putin, gradually abandoned the former’s subservience to Western interests, and was thereby depicted as a thuggish menace. Putin was re-elected in 2012 and, although far less corrupt than Yeltsin in 1996, was relentlessly demonized in the U.S. media.
But as in 1954 with Reds ruling Guatemala, the Soviets outpacing and outgunning U.S. missile capabilities throughout the Cold War or the KGB plotting to assassinate the pope in 1981, the Times has taken the recent Russian hacking of the US election fable as established fact, despite the absence of legitimate evidence. At present we are in a phase whereby the counterrevolution is heavily armed against a revolution both at home and abroad that can scarcely be said to exist. The irony of the human rights doctrine is particularly evident in the anti-Russian propaganda of recent years. The collapse of the Soviet Union has led to a revival of traditional conservatism and even homophobic evangelical Christianity in Russia, including the usual bullshit mantras of respect for faith and “family values.” The United States counterrevolution has thus gone full circle. The “enemy” today is what “anti-communism” claimed to defend yesterday.
Today one can say that the revolution has been defeated, but the counterrevolution has gone insane. It is reduced to a will to destroy any possible eventual adversary, inventing bogus moral pretexts as it goes along. It has become institutionalized paranoia, a mortal danger to human civilization and survival.
Since the moment the Bolsheviks took power in 1917, the revolution’s true significance and legacy have been misunderstood on all sides. Theoretically, at least in Marxist terms, the proletariat, motivated by its objective material interests, would create a fundamental social reorganization, leading to a classless socialist society. The classic model was the bourgeois French revolution in 1789 that overthrew the nobility, monarchy and feudal system. This comparison was wishful thinking, if only because the so-called business classes throughout “civilized” history have always been complicit and formed a convenient partnership with the ruling class, whatever its depraved political ideology. In fact, in addition to slavery, tyrannies have been capitalisms most profitable partner. Consider the case of the Third World and many former colonies created out of the West’s 500 years of barbarism in which anytime democracy emerged out of the mire, as it did in Iran in 1953, the Congo in 1961, Chile in 1973 and dozens of other parts of the world, it was overthrown by the capitalist West and replaced by a dictatorship. It continues today, with the United States taking over from Great Britain, as the imperialist evil empire and self-appointed bully.
It would take pages to explain this phenomenon but we see the end game of this century long catapult to the political right (even among social democrats in Europe, the NDP in Canada and the Labour Party in the UK that has been morphed into another calcified conservative party) with what today can only be described as capitalist neo-fascism. Capitalism as many readers are likely aware, flourished under Hitler and Mussolini (Mussolini in fact called fascism “corporatism”). Capitalism, after all, is not a political ideology but rather a “system of exploitation”, a deus ex machina grinding out profit on the backs of workers and the world’s fragile ecosystems.
Capitalists will align themselves with any political order that permits them to profit and exploit with impunity - which is the case today. For example, consider China, still regarded as Communist state, yet one the most rabid and ruthless capitalist countries on the planet.
NAFTA and the other phoney free trade agreements, lacking in any real democratic oversight, are not about free trade at all, but rather blank cheques written by corporate lawyers and financial criminals in their lavish penthouse suites for the sole benefit of “investor rights”, fraudulent intellectual property laws and wanton exploitation of labour and the ecosystems of the dying planet.
The real legacy of the Russian Revolution is perhaps yet to be written. A century on, the world is cautiously emerging from a deep and protracted crisis of capitalism, with another 2008 style calamity destined to be on the horizon. The instability, deep inequities and injustices of capitalism are beyond repair as the traditional social democratic parties are in a state of terminal retreat and complacency across North America and Europe, and a rising global neo-fascist political movement is lurking, threatening to challenge them and traditional liberalism for power and influence. Perhaps we need the revolutionary impetus and ideas of the Russian Revolution today more than ever. It is vital that we learn from it, understand its virtues, and more importantly the basis behind its failures and not to rewrite its history or consign it to irrelevancy. We need to apply those lessons in our own struggle to change the world and create real democracy from the grass roots, not the top-down fraudulent version that has plagued us for so long. The centenary of October 1917 represents an opportunity to make a humble but important contribution towards that. Either one thinks and acts independently of the authoritarian state in perpetual critical scepticism and distrust of all hierarchical structures or, by not thinking or doing nothing, contributes to those patterns of authoritarianism. Neutrality is not a viable option, but rather acceptance of the status quo.
In the United States, considered the most wealthy country in the world, one-tenth of one percent of the richest individuals have more wealth than the bottom 90%. These shocking statistics are perhaps not quite as bleak elsewhere, other than perhaps the UK, but they are worsening by the day. Everything that is more or less civilized and just in the capitalist developed countries - social security, universal health care, public education, liveable wages, protection of workers and so many other services promoting the common good - was created in an essentially socialist spirit.  In economic terms, a good part of life’s perilous path - childhood, youth, education, college, our working years, retirement, old age, illness and infirmity - is already socialized. Sadly, the onslaught of the neoliberal counter-revolution is determined to dismantle those lofty achievements.
Donald Trump’s rationale for his much touted tax cut for the rich, for which he claims the government’s multi-billion-dollar corporate welfare will mysteriously “trickle down” (been there, done that) to the general economy in the form of new jobs, economic growth, and budget deficit reductions, is not believed by anyone in the working class; nor is it believed by any serious economist. Trump, true to moronic form, bragged about the miracles of his tax proposal, which he delivered to Congress in the form of a three-page memo and several incoherent tweets. The details, as always, will be worked out as the real representatives of the ruling class peruse the thousands of pages of tax-code gifts to the already obscenely rich, to insert a few lines here and there in order to add a few more billions to their bloated bank balances and balance sheets. The rich are surely in need of additional such largesse these days as just five multi-billionaires, according to Credit Suisse’s 2016 Global Wealth Report, own almost half the wealth of the entire world. But there’s more; Trump will guarantee them another well-deserved perk if his proposal to eliminate the estate tax is approved. But President Obama’s gifts to the superrich put Trump to shame; his 2008-2016 bailouts saved the capitalist elite some $32 trillion!
Our only hope of reversing this conservative return to economic feudalism and neo-fascist corporatist oligarchy is that there are signs of growing dissent and civil disobedience as the financial pyramid scheme and global scam is unsustainable and running out of steam. In the end there is the law of entropy; nothing lasts forever and as John Maynard Keynes once responded to an inquirer about a prediction of the economy in the long run, he proclaimed “In the long run, we are all dead.” The challenges to this toxic immoral system are from fragmented, disparate and angry obstinate groups throughout the world and all that is needed is global solidarity and a unified grass roots strategy to overthrow the system and restore our dignity because it’s quite clearly unredeemable. The Russian Revolution of October 1917 inspired and shaped the entire political history of the world for the past 100 years and represented a colossal effort to establish a new socialist world. Millions internationally were inspired to fight not just for a more humane social democratic version of capitalism but for a new world based on solidarity, worker control of the means of production, dignity and prosperity for all, protection for the worst off and a world without war, exploitation and a police state and prison system that resembles the Stalinist gulags.  Many of the gains and reforms working people won across the globe including the 8-hour day, unemployment insurance, voting rights for women, free education, civil rights, elimination of racism, universal healthcare, and a broad social safety net, came in the aftermath of the revolutionary wave unleashed by the Russian Revolution.
Through no fault of their own, the youth have been disconnected not only from the revolutionary spirit that bloomed throughout the first three-quarters of this century, but perhaps more importantly, from the radical intellectual traditions that inspired earlier generations of young people to become involved in self-sacrificing socio-political causes. Young people of today are, indeed, the targets and victims of a ferocious assault on the very process of scepticism and critical thought as they are inundated by endless marketing of self-lobotomizing technological gadgets and a myriad of other consumer trappings. In countless ways and in innumerable variations, the architects of official public opinion by the corporate controlled media, their sock puppet politicians and especially the ever growing anti-intellectualism from the universities, preach the same dreary message of conformity and complacency. Money, it is proclaimed by our pampered elites and masters of finance, is the measure of all things and the real religion of the West. The purpose of life is simply to live as long as it takes to accumulate as much wealth as possible, measured strictly in term of mammon. Education is no longer enlightenment but rather a training process whereby one can learn to sell himself to the corporate world by earning a degree in banalities such as “marketing” (while becoming a debt slave) with the dream of becoming the next Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. The most important objective for a youngster is not the life of the intellect, pursuit of wisdom and a just cause worth fighting for, but rather has become a utilitarian Machiavellian plan for manipulating the system and other people in the pursuit of a lucrative investment portfolio. History has shown that the dominance of such vacuous, amoral and egotistical conceptions is characteristic of a society that is in a death spiral of decay and dissolution. Our youth must free themselves, intellectually and practically, from this toxic environment and world view. They must think of the future and assume responsibility for it. They must ask themselves why and for what purpose are they alive. Many young radicals throughout history, a history of which many are unaware, have asked themselves these questions, and acted seriously and passionately upon the answers others who fought similar battles over injustice have discovered.
In the prevailing climate of cynicism, there are no doubt people who believe that to die at so young an age is merely a personal calamity and that no cause could possibly be worth such a sacrifice. The same people give little thought to the fact that their own precious comfort, which they value above all else, rests upon an economic order that condemns countless millions to privation and early death. But a life must be measured not by its longevity or other superficial and conventional indices of personal success, but by what it contributed to the improvement of the human condition. It has been said that youth is the finest period of a person’s life, the time when ideals count for more than anything else. If a person is not influenced by ideals when he is young, then he most likely never will be, as a life of uncaring complacency seems to be a life squandered. Such people are only to be pitied, for they have condemned themselves, whether they know it or not, to a narrow uncurious existence, a life without any intellectual passion or moral compass. But there is another element of this insight into the significance of youth, and that is the relation of one’s youth to the rest of one’s life. The ethical dimension of an individual’s life is best measured by determining the degree to which he has remained loyal to the ideals of his inquisitive youth. That is a very difficult test, not only for individuals but also for political movements that will fight to end exploitation, greed and injustice in all its forms.
Our world, in any event, will be unliveable in many parts of the world over the next several decades. The planet is uninhabitable for many already. But the evil empire and war machine of the United States continues to threaten and bomb nation states such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya into the Stone Age, murdering and pillaging at will in the name of untrammelled power, greed and profit. Add this wanton imperialistic destruction to the death spiral of our delicate ecosystems, biodiversity depletion and our polluted oceans and one might be correct to predict that our days on this overpopulated planet are numbered. It’s never too late to change.
 The United States, in particular, has an extremely violent labour and civil rights history, two of the most horrific of which were the Haymarket Affair of 1886 and the Homestead Strike of 1892. The former resulted in the countries first of three major “Red Scares” in which several libertarian socialists belonging to an anarchist organization were executed in a frenzied environment of retribution and trumped up charges. Friedrich Engels had predicted in1886 that a vibrant workers movement would soon shake society to its very foundations. But this incident and the decisive working-class defeat of the Homestead Strike six years later were significant factors in driving labour’s impressive uprisings in the late 1880 and 1890s to retreat and consolidation into a far more tepid and blinkered trade unionism. Revolutionary socialism’s cynicism deepened with the fragmentation of socialist revolutionary fervour on the outbreak of World War I as many succumbed to the hysteria of propaganda, patriotism and mindless war mongering.
 Of course there had been many revolutions before, but this one was the first by the working classes that held out the promise of ending exploitation, oppression, war, imperialism and the nation state. There had been slave revolts in the Ancient World but the most well-known in the two centuries before 1917 were the French and American Revolutions which were initiated by capitalists who wanted to end monarchy, feudalism or foreign control. For the mass majority of workers and others in lower classes, the French and American revolutions were more or less a rearrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic by replacing one set of rulers with another. Aristocratic monarchs and land barons were merely replaced by bosses from big business and their bought and paid for lackeys in the state governments. Marxists and anarchists alike consider the state as a hierarchical bureaucratic-military-socially-alienated machine, with legions of specialized armed people (police and military) who serve and protect the interests of wealth and power, their professional politicians and bureaucrats, all of whom stand above the rest of society and dominate the rest who must obey the rule of law written by wealthy elites and fight in their wars of profit.
By “working class revolution” as opposed to “capitalist revolution”, I mean mass rebellions in which the workers play a major role in solidarity with other oppressed layers of society to replace the authoritarianism and labour exploitation of capitalism with some sort of worker controlled cooperative non-profit social arrangement. A detailed analysis of how and why the Russian Revolution descended into state oppression, the Stalinist pogroms and mass murder - and finally collapse into its own version of state capitalism - is far beyond the scope of this paper. But the research on this issue is massive for anyone sufficiently interested.
It’s important to point out that abolishing the state does not necessarily result in the absence of order, planning, social coordination or self-defence. The people could organize themselves through federations of workplace councils, neighbourhood assemblies, local police and militia units chosen by the people which could be deployed when necessary. When everyone, or at least all the formerly exploited, govern in a network system of participatory democracy, then there is no need for government.
 According to polls, most people in the United States would be satisfied if left leaning liberals and social democrats were successful in reforming the system by, for example, providing single payer government run universal healthcare, redistributing wealth by taxing large profitable corporations and the super wealthy as was done in the two decades following WW II in which highest marginal tax rates on income were over 90%, IRS revisions including closing the endless tax loopholes, prosecuting those using offshore tax havens, heavily taxing capital gains, ending election fraud and financing by corporations, bringing back anti-trust laws and so on. There’s a seemingly endless list and these reforms are clearly delusional, given current conditions. The problem is the capitalist system itself, based on the worst of human attributes, namely, power, self-interest, endless money iterations that impose no limits, greed and exploitation. How any society that aspires to civility, morality and democracy can expect anything good to arise out of such a rabid social apparatus is mind boggling. And since the sham of elections feature candidates, like all else within capitalism, that are mere commodities, bought and paid for to the highest bidder, reforming such a vile corrupt system will be next to impossible.
 The Russian Revolution was, as Leon Trotsky argued, for better or worse, truly the beginning of a new age. It presented a new model of liberation for the exploited and wretched of the earth throughout the world as the Bolsheviks did much to shape the 20th century in their image. A brutal feudalistic monarchy that enslaved Russians for centuries was overthrown and, as Marx had envisioned, socialism seemed possible. Trotsky and Lenin were the most important and influential leaders of the Russian Revolution and as Trotsky, later wrote, a “river of blood” separated the Bolsheviks from Stalinism. The Bolshevik party was, and recent scholarship would confirm this, the most democratic party of working people so far in history, and at the same time the most successful in leading the working class to liberation from exploitive power. Lenin and Trotsky considered the revolution in Russia as a prologue to the European revolution and beyond, and understood that socialism could only be based on an international and voluntary federation of socialist countries which included the most economically developed societies. They knew that Western global capitalism would fight back against a new workers’ state, and that one socialist country - and particularly one as economically backward as Russia - could not survive on its own.
But due to disastrous circumstance that involved a three year civil war incited by the Western capitalist countries (the reaction that both Lenin and Trotsky expected), there arose a necessity of brutal policies that were implemented to contend with harsh realities that included their subsequent isolation from the West. The end result was an unintended totalitarian distortion of socialism that, following the death of Lenin, was sustained by Joseph Stalin only through force, terror, purges and the gulags. The prevailing conservative and liberal capitalist narrative would have it that October 1917 was a calamity for the Russian people, setting them on a path of mass murder and tyranny. Undoubtedly these shadows loom large in the history of Russia but the notion that what transpired under Stalin and beyond was an inevitable consequence of the October Revolution and socialism is false.
As mentioned, Bolshevik Russia was devastated by civil war incited by those who desired a return of the Tsarist monarchy after having endured the horror and devastation of the First World War. The revolutionary government promptly honoured its promise for “Peace, Land and Bread”, and withdrew Russia from the mass slaughter of the First World War. However, they could only do so at a huge cost. The conditions imposed on Russia by Germany for their exit from the war were punitive and severed access to much of their base of material resources. The working class itself, the lifeblood of the revolution, was decimated in both the First World War and the Civil War. Following the long illness and ultimate death of Lenin in January of 1924, the result was an increasing transfer of power to an elite bureaucracy and a reliance on the old Tsarist officers and officials. Despite Lenin’s warnings to Trotsky and others, the figure in the Bolshevik party who exploited and took advantage of this crisis to maximize his own power was Joseph Stalin.
None of this however would have come as any surprise to Lenin, the philosophical and political leader of the Bolshevik party. In characteristically prophetic fashion, he warned that if the revolution remained isolated, and was not merely the opening salvo in an international uprising against capitalism, then it would be doomed. The failure of the revolution in Germany, Europe’s greatest industrial power, in 1919, can be seen as the moment this warning became a reality.
 Leon Trotsky was a gifted prolific writer and one of the key components of his theorizing was the Marxist notion of “permanent revolution”, realizing that oppression and injustice will be omnipresent and/or emergent and must be confronted. That revolutionary moment surely exists today within the tyranny of globalized corporate capitalism. In the last year of his exile in 1940, just before his assassination in Mexico by a Stalinist agent, he insisted that the revolution had not come to an end. His deportation and exile by Stalin from the Soviet Union notwithstanding, he concluded, “The great divide of 1917 still looms as large as ever in the consciousness of mankind.”
The answer to Trotsky’s call to permanent revolution is anything but comforting for the Left, especially in light of the out of control rogue American Empire now led by a narcissistic idiot and his cabal of militarists and Christian fundamentalists, an unstable divided European Union, Greece’s subordination at the hands of an oligarchic troika of capitalist power brokers in the EU headed by Germany and the independence movements in Catalonian Spain. Even at the point of resistance, the vague politics of anarchist inspired anti-globalization struggles that erupted in the eventful years reaching back to the Battle of Seattle in 1998 to the Occupy Wall Street mobilizations of 2011, fit uneasily with the legacies of 1917 in both theory and practice. This, however, is far from the sum total of what needs to be addressed, analyzed, and acted upon. For all the downside of this sober account, there is a multiplicity of other global problems created by what I call kamikaze capitalism, an ideology that resembles a death cult. Even as events suggest a depressing reality, there are indications of opportunities through which the politics of revolution can find new and invigorated impetus, for capitalism will, by it unjust undemocratic nature, inevitably drive people toward resistance. Crisis after crisis appear to be accelerating the time frame. We must maintain that commitment to the revolutionary alternative in all of its manifestations. Revolution’s present urgency, like its past, is necessarily subject to the same expansive understandings that have always animated the concrete struggles of those who, like William Morris in the late 19th century to others who followed such as Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and Trotsky – to imagine their function as revolutionaries to agitate and motivate the masses and not to be content with “trickle down” crumbs from the current elite of corporatist plutocrats. Amidst the determined structure of limitation of our current unfixable situation we need a new spectre of agency and exigency, one that will shake up the world amidst the ravages of a decayed and corrupt capitalism and turn the tides of change in an entirely new left libertarian direction that entails eventually abolishing the state.
 The relationship of anarchism with Friedrich Nietzsche has been plagued by confusion and ambiguity. Even though Nietzsche criticized anarchism, his thought became influential for many anarchist thinkers such as Emma Goldman within what can be characterized as the anarchist movement, a movement with many variations and nuances. There were many factors that drew anarchists to Nietzsche such as his contempt for the authoritarian nature of both state and church. There was his disgust for the mindless social behaviour of the docile unthinking uncritical herd, his anti-Christianity and hatred for religions in general, his scepticism and distrust of both the bourgeois market and the nation state for their deleterious effects on culture and his desire for an Übermensch - that is, an ideal superior man of the future who could rise above conventional Christian slave morality, create and impose his own values and become a new human being who was neither master nor slave.
 I’m reminded of Diogenes the Cynic who, upon witnessed a thief being chased from the temple by priests. He inquired, “Why are the big thieves chasing the little thief?” The answer is that the received conservative values of an authoritarian ideology persuade us to maintain an Orwellian double standard (Doublethink) which legitimizes the status quo of wealth and power.
 Russell foresaw what would be the source of one of the major tragedies of the twentieth century: the use, first by European powers and then by the United States, of systematic subversion, direct or indirect assassination or coups d’état to “kill the hope” aroused by reformist movements and leaders in the third world: notably Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran, Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, Patrice Lumumba in Congo, João Goulart in Brazil, Sukarno in Indonesia and Salvador Allende in Chile. Moreover, inasmuch as dictatorships are usually harder to overthrow or subvert than democracies, the former are favoured by a sort of unnatural selection. Cuba for example has managed more successfully to survive U.S. assaults than more democratic reformers such as Arbenz, Goulart or Allende. Iran today, however, is much harder to subvert than it was in Mossadegh’s day.
In addition to that unnatural selection, there is a “barricade effect” which was produced by the disgraceful foreign intervention by the West in the Russian Civil War. When countries are faced with aggression, their tendency is to close in on themselves in a self-protective huddle. As an example, it is enough to look at the drastic security measures taken by the U.S. government after September 11, 2001, not to mention its subsequent invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. Why wouldn’t much more sustained assaults provoke similar reactions in other countries? It is impossible to understand the policy of the USSR throughout its history, of China after 1949 or of Iran today, without taking that effect into account. By the same token, it was having witnessed firsthand the overthrow of Arbenz that radicalized Che Guevara. In 1919, a young Vietnamese came to the Versailles Conference with a proposal to achieve the self-determination of his people who at the time were brutalized by French colonialism. Unceremoniously shown the door, he went to Moscow to complete his political education and went on to make history under the name of Ho Chi Minh. He tried again in the 1950s by appealing to US President Dwight D Eisenhower, pleading for assistance to draft an American style constitution for his country that had been for centuries invaded and controlled by outside forces. He was ignored. Surely, we all know the rest of the Vietnamese horror story.
 One cannot overestimate the outright brutality and totalitarian potential of the audacious White counter-revolutionary forces during the Russian Civil War. If the Whites had won as Trotsky and others have claimed, the now commonly invoked word “fascism” would have perhaps been a Russian and not a German or Italian one. Many are not aware that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was introduced to the Western countries by the wealthy and aristocratic monarchists who were representative of White emigrants from the Russian Revolution.
The United States funnelled millions of dollars to Cossack warlords and then to the White generals in the belief that Russia would only return to the Eastern Front under a military dictatorship; there was no pretence to supporting any semblance of “democracy”, especially the communist variety. Without the support of the United States and other imperialists, the Whites would likely have collapsed in less than a year, thus precluding the necessity for the harsh, repressive policies of War Communism and perhaps short-circuiting the authoritarian degeneration of the Bolshevik regime, at least for a time – time that might have a made a critical difference in the prospects for the spread of international revolution.
It was Major General William Graves who was commander of the American Expeditionary Force during the 1918 invasion of Siberia, a disgraceful event whitewashed from all US history books. Graves wrote in his memoirs about the pervasive, lethal anti-Semitism that dominated the right wing in Russia and added, “I doubt if history will show any country in the world during the last fifty years where murder could be committed so safely and with less danger of punishment than in Siberia during the reign of Alexander Kolchak”
Leon Trotsky during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1921)
Leon Trotsky (1879 - 1940) was a brilliant Russian Marxist revolutionary, intellectual, author, historian and political theorist, Soviet politician, commissar of war during the civil war and the founder and first leader of the Red Army. In response to failed assassination of Lenin on 30 August 1918, and the successful assassination of the Petrograd Cheka chief Moisei Uritsky, the Bolsheviks instructed Felix Dzerzhinsky to commence a “Red Terror”. In September 1918, the government, facing continuous military difficulties, declared what amounted to martial law and reorganized the Red Army. The “White Terror” was more undisciplined and disorganized than the Red Terror, but it was far more brutal and cost many more lives. The Cheka (the secret police and precursor to the KGB) was instructed to not use torture on prisoners and Red Army soldiers who were caught looting or raping women were summarily executed. Such atrocious practises however were typical of the White armies
There were a few thousand Red Guards, but these were primarily factory workers with only the most elementary military training. At first Trotsky appealed to the Soviets and the Bolshevik Party for volunteers; thousands answered his call, and they became the dedicated core of the Red Army. Then peasants were drafted; they were much less reliable and committed than working-class soldiers, and desertions were a constant problem. Since military expertise was desperately needed, and there was no time to create a big enough corps of trained Bolshevik officers, Trotsky used large numbers of officers from the Tsarist army; eventually 30,000 of them served in the Red Army. There were surprisingly few cases of treason, largely because every commanding officer was assigned a Bolshevik commissar, who kept him under surveillance and had to approve his every order. In addition to the commissars, all Party members were expected to educate and inspire their fellow soldiers – to explain the aims of the war and set an example of courage under fire.
The Supreme Military Council was abolished and the position of commander-in-chief was restored, filled by the commander of the Latvian Riflemen, Ioakim Vatsetis, who had formerly led the Eastern Front against the Czechoslovak Legions. Vatsetis was put in charge of day-to-day operations of the army while Trotsky became chairman of the newly formed Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic and retained overall control of the military. In mid-1919, the Red Army grew from 800,000 to 3,000,000, and fought simultaneously on sixteen fronts against the reactionary White insurgency. By October 1919, the government was in the worst crisis of the Civil War: Denikin's troops approached Tula and Moscow from the south, and General Nikolay Yudenich's troops approached Petrograd from the west.
In Siberia, Kolchak’s White troops hanged men and women from miles of telegraph poles and machine-gunned them by the hundreds in boxcars and open fields. Denikin’s White army had occupied Ukraine when German troops were withdrawn after the armistice and launched a cruel pogrom against the Jewish population that far exceeded those of Tsarist times. Vowing death to “Jew-Communists,” the Whites massacred 150,000 Jews as communities of Jewish survivors of the White terror fled to the Red Army for protection. As fervent Russian nationalists, the White generals also dealt harshly with the other non-Russian nationalities that inhabited the territories they occupied, including Ukrainians, Estonians, Latvians and others. Had the Whites won the Civil War, it is reasonable to say that Russia would have experienced something very much like fascism.
The civil war was miraculously won but Trotsky was eventually banished from the USSR by Stalin during the mid 1920s. After being hounded for years by Stalin’s secret police and henchmen as he bounced from country to country, On 20 August 1940, on Stalin's orders, Trotsky, while living in exile in Mexico, was assassinated with an ice pick in the back of his head by undercover NKVD agent Ramon Mercader.
As Russia historian Orlando Figes relates, backed by the British, the French and the Americans, Kolchak's White army, 100,000 men, had advanced to within a few days' march of the Volga where the Bolsheviks were struggling to cope with a large peasant uprising behind their lines, during April 1919. Mobilizing thousands of party members for the Eastern Front, the Reds launched a desperate counter-offensive, pushing Kolchak's forces back to Ufa by mid-June, after which the cities of the Urals fell to the Reds like dominoes as the Whites fell apart and retreated through Siberia. Finally captured in Irkutsk, Kolchak was executed by the Bolsheviks in February 1920.
At the height of the Kolchak offensive Denikin's forces in Rostov were in a good position to strike towards Tsaritsyn and link up with Kolchak on the Volga. The Reds might have been defeated if the two White armies had combined. Instead
Denikin led his men in the opposite direction to occupy the Donbas coal region and south-east Ukraine, where the Cossacks had taken up their arms against the Bolsheviks following a Red campaign of mass terror to clear them off the land ('decossackization'). With military support from the British and the French, Denikin's forces advanced easily into Ukraine. The Reds were suffering from a crisis of supplies and lost more than one million deserters on the Southern Front between March and October. In the south-east corner of Ukraine the Reds were heavily reliant on Nestor Makhno's peasant partisans, who fought under the black flag of the Anarchists but were no match for the better-supplied and disciplined White troops.
The Western imperialist/capitalist powers, as mentioned, provided crucial assistance to the Whites, but it was primarily in the form of money and munitions, not massive numbers of troops. This was largely because of a great upsurge of sympathy and support for the Revolution among Western workers. In France, Britain, the United States, Canada and elsewhere, dockworkers refused to load ships with weapons and supplies destined for the Whites. Conservative Western politicians and statesmen quickly realized that a large-scale intervention was too fraught with possible insurrections at home. Moreover, troops were often unreliable and susceptible to mutiny. When Winston Churchill demanded that more British forces be sent to Russia, Prime Minister David Lloyd George replied, “If Great Britain undertakes military action against the Bolsheviks, Great Britain itself will become Bolshevik and we will have soviets in London.” In retrospect this fear seems hysterical and paranoid, but it reflects the panic and trepidation of European elites at the time and provided the fodder for the West’s Red Scares and anti-communist frenzy of witch hunts during the post World War I era. The British Labour Party finally succeeded in ending their country’s intervention, and in January1920 the naval blockade was lifted.
 In putative free democratic societies, wrote George Orwell, “unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept in the dark, without any need for any official ban”. One of the least discussed, some would say most suppressed issues of the contemporary world, is the integral role played by the business controlled mass media in promoting the ideology and propaganda of Western capitalism and power. But the primary source of our dilemma of autocratic rule, as opposed to real democracy is not the nature of the political elite ruling class and their chosen ideology, but rather the state itself which is, and always has been, intrinsically authoritarian and oppressive. As Paul Street, in a recent posting on Counterpunch, has written:
“The underlying system of class rule, all the way down to its core labour processes, rests on the systematic dehumanization of the majority populace. It reflects the denial of full human rights, opportunities, and rewards, and the destruction of human capacities. Capital relegates most humans to subordinate status and less-than-fully human experience within and beyond authoritarian workplaces where masses are commanded to create and preserve ever more absurd levels of wealth and hence power for a small, privileged, parasitic, and ever more dynastically entrenched ownership and investor class. The manipulation of the many by the few is pervasive across all the nation’s leading institutions. What’s true on and in the nation’s shop-floors, offices, mines, call-centers, sweatshops, warehouses, distribution centers, fields, and mills is true all the way up the nation’s authoritarian political culture. America’s “corporate-managed democracy” functions largely as a “marionette theatre” (Mike Lofgren) to divert, deter, and deflect the “bewildered herd” (top U.S. corporate-elitist propagandist Walter Lippman’s revealing description of citizen majority in 1922) or the “proles” (the perpetually destitute working-class majority in Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984) from focusing on the nation’s real power centers and acting collectively against the real “deep state” powers that rule beneath and beyond the “visible state’s” (Lofgren) electoral, parliamentary, and media spectacles. A key goal is to keep the bull/populace – “the rabble,” the commoners – focused on the cape and the clown, not the mass-murderous master-class matadors and riders.
Someday, though, the ruling class will meet the fate of Ivan Fandino, a famous Spanish bullfighter gored to death after he tripped on his own cape last June. Matador deaths are exceedingly uncommon. The bulls almost never prevail over their sadistic human tormentors. But they do win out on extraordinary rare occasions and the long overdue global socialist people’s revolution only needs to happen once. It doesn’t matter what the people’s overall win-loss record is. The revolutionary cadre fighting with and for the workers and citizens of the world can go zero for one hundred but finally prevail just once and we can move beyond the savage, less-than-fully-human pre-history of class rule. We can bat .010 and still win the World Series.”
In Canada and the United States in the 1930s, revolution was in the air as working men and women joined in solidarity and arrived at the inevitable conclusion about their lives that conflicted with that which had brought about the calamitous Great Depression. “Politics is the shadow cast on society by big business,” said the great American educator and philosopher John Dewey. Millions of people came to the realization that it was capitalism that was the culprit and foundational stone of their hardship, misery, exploitation and impoverishment. The response of the elites and big business establishment was a propaganda crusade of extraordinary magnitude and depth. A series of “Americanization” programs were initiated that depicting strikes and demonstrations as unpatriotic, trade unions as the enemy of workers and social democracy “infected” by communism. This reached maximal hysteria in the 1950s with the inquisition known as McCarthyism, which singled out as traitors and heretics those who questioned free enterprise and the American way of life which were mantra invented by public relations agencies and given intellectual legitimacy by hired social scientists. By 1955, business-sponsored propaganda consumed half the resources devoted to school textbooks. Alex Carey, the social scientist who pioneered the study of corporate propaganda and “Americanization”, described in his book “Taking the Risk Out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty”, the three most significant political developments of the 20th century as the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.
Today, most of humanity is subjected, in one form or another, to overwhelming volumes of both government and corporate propaganda (since the government and corporate world have married and morphed into the 21st century version of George Orwell’s Big Brother as depicted in his famous dystopian novel1984 which is back on the best seller list following the election of Donald Trump). While the clichés have changed – “the American way of life” has become globalization”, a new world Gilded Age’ – the essential aim is the same: to expand the power of capital, mostly Western European and American capital, into almost every aspect of our lives, reducing everything including ourselves to a commodity as all things in life are now determined by a medieval religious cult called “the market” and its “invisible hand”. Unlike the 1930s, the modern capitalist death cult has been institutionalized in unelected tyrannical entities with prodigious power: the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, whose egregious manipulative loans, bail-outs and free trade scams ensure private (often foreign) ownership of everything from natural resources, education, health care, prisons, diminishing clean water supplies to all living organisms. Environmentalist Vandana Shiva has described this as a form of brainwashing, what he called the “monoculture of the mind”.
The corporate media and its capitalist sock puppet governments are the main purveyors of the crusade’s propaganda. For example, media language has systematically appropriated positive concepts, emptying them of their traditional dictionary conceptions and rebranding them. “Reform” now means regression, even destruction, and those who promote “laissez-faire” deregulated zombie capitalism are “progressives”, “populists” or “reformers”. Selling off public enterprises (such as Britain’s integrated railways by Margaret Thatcher) is “breaking up monopolies”. “Restructuring” is the transfer of income from production to speculation and “labour flexibility” is slave labour. “Deregulation” is the shift of power from the national welfare to blank checks to international banks, financial mafia and local corporate elites. And “market economics” means competition and capitalism for the workers and socialism for the rich and powerful: an ingenious system under which the poor are persecuted and the rich given billions in public subsidies, such as massive bailouts as in 2008 and minimal corporate tax and a range of opportunities to avoid tax through offshore tax havens.
 I submit that one of the reasons people express loyalty to the state, in the same manner they defer to the authority of religion, is the desire to offload the burden of moral and intellectual responsibility, thus abdicating their own agency and reducing a potentially autonomous free thinking adult to the moral status of a dependent child. At any rate, anyone who holds that legitimate state power can only rest on the direct consent of the governed is essentially an anarchist. But when has there ever been a legitimate state in the sense of any commonly held conception of democracy as the “the will of the people”, a vague expression at best? Even if your views of human nature are cynical, believing for example that all people are greedy and vicious regardless of one’s childhood influences and upbringing, then surely the only rational conclusion is that all sources and concentrations of power are threatening and perilous. Further, the only possibility for long-term survival and freedom from coercion would be collapsing the state and decentralization to the level of autonomous small groups of communities in which participatory democracy is at least possible.
Any serious examination of history can only lead one to the conclusion that capitalist “democracy” has always been an authoritarian, nationalistic and militaristic form of government; in fact, modern bourgeois democracy and the nation-state share the same historical roots. If authoritarian political power must be legitimated by “the people”, wealthy business elites will make sure - and for the most part get “the people” to do their fighting for them, and not only in their imperialist wars – it is they who really constitute “the people”, who has voting rights in their farcical elections and who is an outsider.
Anarchists challenge all sources of authority and, among several other things, do not believe that people should be locked in a cage; allow cops and prison guards to humiliate, torture and beat prisoners or that elite bodies should define what constitutes “crime” and “justice” and write the laws in accordance with their business and property interests. Anarchists also reject the categories of “guilt” and “innocence” used by the government to justify incarceration, torture and punishment, when they are the perfectly legal crimes of the government itself that cause the most harm, including terrorism and war on a massive scale. It’s laughable when our faux democratic governments invoke “state of exception” to justify oppression, torture, imperialist war and mass murder. The ludicrous case of American “exceptionalism” is a case in point. It’s nothing more than a mystical blank cheque for assuming the role of an omnipotent deity who declares “anything goes”. The anti-Islamic hysteria and the invocation of “radical Muslim” for example are both ironic and laughable. But the continual vomit from the echo chamber corporate media, government lackeys and the military has certainly been sufficient to keep most people from even posing the question as to whether in today’s world Muslims might not have a right to get a little angry, even militant, with the Christian Western world bombing Muslim countries into rubble on a daily basis for well over a decade now. In any case, the polarization simultaneously benefits both the neo-fascist far right in the West and the Muslim zealots in the Middle East. In the meantime, the tsunami of antiterrorism, a bogus cure for the very brutal imperialist wars and barbarisms it has unleashed leave precious little room for ever addressing the underlying prejudices and injustices in a humane manner.
It’s shocking to witness the appalling reactionary response of the Spanish government’ to the independence movement in Catalonia, the supporters of whom are depicted as “terrorists”. But Spanish antiterrorism predates the infamous American 9-11 paradigm shift by several decades. Perhaps the first two countries to develop a comprehensive politics of anti-terrorism were Germany and Spain, both in the turbulent activist years of the European 1970s. These two countries served, at least in part, as models for the antiterrorism politics that the US government in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11th, 2001. Although in the case of 9-11 and the antiterrorism reaction, steps had already been taken years earlier under the Clinton administration. Up until that point, antiterrorism was largely the domain of Germany and Spain. And what do Germany and Spain have in common? It’s not only fascism, but a blatantly unapologetic fascism. While the fanatical charismatic Nazis were sent to the gallows following the post war judgements at Nuremburg, the technocratic Nazis were recruited by the United States for its space program and former Gestapo members for its cold war espionage, Nazi judges and lawyers largely kept their posts. In fact, the German judiciary that developed a politics of antiterrorism to combat an increasingly popular and radical anti-capitalist movement in the 1970s was in many respects a Nazi judiciary. In Spain the transition was even more seamless. The former Franco fascists were simply recycled to constitute the conservative Popular Party that held onto power, rotating in and out with regularity in what has been until now a stable bipartisan system. Moreover, the Audiencia Nacional is the high court in Spain that simply replaced the fascist tribunals used to prosecute political crimes of the republicans in the Spanish Civil War and its tyrannical aftermath. It still functions in much the same way today. The fascist heritage of antiterrorism is not an anomaly or mere coincidence. Central to the very idea of antiterrorism is the “state of exception,” a danger so threatening that standard democratic protections do not apply. In fact, the “state of exception” was the fundamental principle of fascist jurisprudence. Its most famous advocate was Carl Schmitt, the leading Nazi juror who the US government ushered away from the gallows so he could teach at the University of Chicago, where he coincided with other neo-conservative and later neo-liberal luminaries that left their bloody stains on the world. Many anarchists would argue that the notorious American dogma of exceptionalism is in fact a systematic constituent of every capitalist “democracy”; that in order to offer those grandiose freedoms so frequently cited by elites, democracies must also invent evil demons so they can effortlessly remove those tenuous freedoms as conditions require, a sort of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in which Mr. Hyde is the monster lurking behind the Dr. Jekyll facade of democracy itself. As many leftist activists these days, including anti-war peaceniks and those trying to save our dying ecosystems, criticizing Dr. Hyde democracy can be a dangerous undertaking.
One of anarchism’s most important criticisms of capitalist democracy is that freedom of expression is hollow without freedom of action. If society is already organized in an oppressive manner in which those with wealth and power control what opinions are reproduced and inculcated on a gargantuan scale, words and protest alone will never be enough to change it. And if those with the most wealth and power can control what questions are debated, how they are framed and what opinions are widely disseminated, who can be candidates for election or appointed to government posts, what laws can be passed, define who is a terrorist and in the rare cases of a powerful government such as the US or the EU, what country receives foreign investment and what country is driven into debt slavery or bankruptcy, effective means of resistance will be criminalized. Legality, like the fraud of intellectual property, is in most cases an arbitrary meaningless category, reflecting only what the power elites deem profitable and permissible. How can one justify the injection of trillions of dollars worldwide to rescue reckless larcenous banks and financial institutions while most people do not have work or a liveable wage and homeowners dealing with foreclosures have become victims of those same bloodsucking criminal banks? When politicians talk about justifying some action based on the “common interest”, it s is invariably based on the interests and property rights of those who finance their elections. In short, capitalist “democracy” is anything but a democracy, but rather a farce.
 Although these social benefits, the key one for many people being health care for all citizens, are vitally important to human flourishing. But it’s not just about health care. As Paul Street, in another recent article reminds us:
“There’s an intimate relationship between the strength of a nation’s social welfare state and working people’s capacity and readiness to fight for their own interests and the common good on and off the job. It’s not for nothing that you can’t receive food stamps while engaged in a labour strike in the United States. The American business class used its influence to prohibit state food assistance to striking workers long ago. Capitalists know that working people’s marketplace and workplace bargaining power are enhanced by the existence of a strong government safety net, which reduces the hazard workers face when they challenge boss-class authority. Big business has pushed through the dismantlement and de-legitimization of social welfare programs for decades, in no small part because capitalists-as-employers want, in political science professor Frances Fox Piven’s words, ‘to make long hours of low-wage work the only available option for many.’
Rolling back and pre-empting the social safety net carries a triple boon for the U.S. capitalist class. The first dividend-boosting attraction is that slashing social expenditures and programs save the rich tax payments to support the common good. The second lure is that reducing social spending reduces inflationary pressures, which helps protect the real value of interest payments from debtors (most of us) to wealthy creditors. The third draw is that we-the-working-class majority have less power to resist and challenge their profit-seeking authority within and beyond the workplace when there’s no strong welfare state backing us up. Along with the related collapse of unions and collective bargaining, the comparative weakness of the U.S. welfare state is a key factor behind the long stagnation of wages and the nation’s extreme economic inequality.”
Street cites the bloated over-extended military (800 military bases spread across 80 countries0, the Pentagon System and the permanent war economy as huge obstacles to delivering social justice to most Americans: Bernie “F-35” Sanders (the epically wasteful F-35 was a “job creator” in his home state) remains dysfunctionally wedded to the U.S. Empire, which accounts for more than 40 percent of homo sapiens’ blood-drenched military budget. The Empire attachment is a huge mistake, both morally and practically. As the leading and unabashedly radical writer, speaker and activist Glen Ford noted on Black Agenda Report last June:
‘The United States does not have a national health care system worthy of the name, because it is in the war business, not the health business or the social equality business. … In the U.S., progress is defined by global dominance of the U.S. State—chiefly in military terms—rather than domestic social development. … War is not a side issue in the United States; it is the central political issue, on which all the others turn. War mania is the enemy of all social progress—especially so, when it unites disparate social forces, in opposition to their own interests, in the service of an imperialist state that is the tool of a rapacious white capitalist elite.’
U.S. war spending steals vast resources that are required to build a real and lasting social-democratic safety net and a people’s economy. We can’t have imperial guns and social-democratic (much less democratic-socialist) butter at the same time. We must choose between them. As Martin Luther King Jr. explained in his famous Riverside Church speech on April 4, 1967, America will “never invest the necessary funds or energies” to end poverty and domestic economic insecurity so long as its military machine “continue[s] to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.” Like the mid-1960s “democratic socialists” Michael Harrington, Max Shachtman, and Bayard Rustin (see this excellent study), “Bernie the Bomber” Sanders (as Burlington, Vt., peace activists dubbed him when he lined up forcefully behind Bill Clinton’s criminal air war on Serbia) is still stuck trying to straddle the fence between opposition to poverty and support for the American war machine. He is far from alone in being plagued by this dilemma. It is a common affliction among “progressive Democrats,” the left-most major party force in a militantly imperial nation where honest discussion of what its giant and destructive military system really does at home and abroad is taboo. (The Not-So-Radical Socialist from Vermont, Oct 20, 2017)
 The United States, a country with 5% of the global population, defines itself as the paragon of freedom and democracy. Yet its brutal prison system houses 25% of all people incarcerated throughout the world, by far the highest incarceration per capita in the world, including China and Russia. This statistic alone speaks volumes as to the proto-fascist police state that it has become.
Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary
Victor Serge, Life and Death of Leon Trotsky
Victor Serge, Year One of the Russian Revolution
Victor Serge, From Lenin to Stalin (or any and all books by Serge, an anarchist who writes from personal experience and with remarkable clarity and style)
Sheila Fitzpatrick, Russian Revolution
Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution
E. H. Carr, Bolshevik Revolution 1917-23 (Three Volumes)
Harrison Salisbury, Black Night, White Snow
W. Bruce Lincoln, Passage through Armageddon: the Russians in War and Revolution 1914-1918
W. Bruce Lincoln, Red Victory: A History of the Russian Civil War: 1918-21
Orlando Figes, A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924
John Reed, Ten Days that Shook the World
Neil Faulkner, A People's History of the Russian Revolution