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THE MEANING OF MARXISM
Myths and slanders to justify the "war on terror"
Bush's lies about Lenin

September 22, 2006 | Page 8

PAUL D'AMATO tells the real story of the Russian revolutionary Lenin.

A FEW days before September 11 this year, in an address to the Military Officers Association of America, George Bush compared Osama bin Laden to Adolph Hitler and to the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin. "Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them," Bush said. "The question is: Will we listen?"

Comparing every potential target of U.S. military attack to Adolph Hitler has become the tired mantra of almost every U.S. administration since Eisenhower. These superficial and misleading historical analogies are made for obvious reasons. If every war is a crusade against "fascism"--rather than, say, a sordid conquest for control of oil--who can stand against it?

Good arguments have been made to counter these crude efforts. However, very few, if any, writers have responded to Bush's remark about Lenin.

To anyone familiar with Lenin, his life and his politics, including him on a list with Hitler (or bin Laden for that matter) is jarringly out of place.

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BEFORE THE fall of the ex-USSR, the likes of Osama bin Laden were not only praised by U.S. leaders as "freedom fighters" in the struggle against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, but supported and funded.

What else to read

To cut through the myths (east and west) about Lenin, read Tony Cliff's Lenin: Building the Party and Lenin: All Power to the Soviets. Other good books on Lenin are Leon Trotsky's Stalinism and Bolshevism and the collection of articles Russia: From Workers' State to State Capitalism. These books, along with other Marxist classics, can be found at the Marxists Internet Archive.

On the real history of the U.S. role in the Second World War, see Ashley Smith's "The Good War" in the International Socialist Review. John Buchanan's article "Bush-Nazi link confirmed" in the New Hampshire Gazette covers the Bush family's ties to the Nazis.

On U.S. support for Osama bin Laden specifically, and for its sponsorship of international terrorism in general, see Phil Gasper's "Afghanistan, the CIA, Bin Laden and the Taliban" and Katherine Dwyer's "Rogue State: A History of U.S. Terror."

 

Bin Laden, a rich businessman with ties to the Saudi royal family, worked closely with the CIA, Pakistani intelligence and Saudi officials to recruit 4,000 of the 35,000 non-Afghan Muslims who fought in Afghanistan.

"In 1988, with U.S. knowledge, bin Laden created al-Qaeda (The Base): a conglomerate of quasi-independent Islamic terrorist cells spread across at least 26 countries," writes Indian journalist Rahul Bhedi. "Washington turned a blind eye to al-Qaeda, confident that it would not directly impinge on the U.S."

Allies come and go, but the goals--U.S. domination of the Middle East region--remain the same. Thus, throughout the postwar period, the U.S. backed brutal right-wing dictators and trained and armed various terrorist organizations (not just in Afghanistan, but also in Central and South America) to promote its interests abroad. If yesterday these goals were justified in the name of fighting communism, today, they are justified--just as spuriously--in the name of fighting Islamic "terror."

Bush's anti-Nazi crusade, moreover, is not all that it is cracked up to be. The U.S. did not lift a finger to combat anti-Semitism, stop the rise of Hitler or prevent the Holocaust. Nazis scientists and SS officers were recruited to work for the United States after the war.

Members of the Bush dynasty even collaborated with the Nazis in the 1930s. Bush's paternal and maternal grandfathers, Prescott Sheldon Bush and George Herbert Walker, were bankers with the Wall Street firm Brown Brothers Harriman. According to documents uncovered at the National Archive and Library of Congress, the firm's subsidiary, the Union Banking Corp., was the main financial conduit in the U.S. to Friz Thyssen, the Nazi Party's biggest financier.

According to John Buchanan, writing in the New Hampshire Gazette, "Prescott Bush...served as a business partner of and U.S. banking operative for the financial architect of the Nazi war machine from 1926 until 1942."

Much of German big business swung behind Hitler's storm troopers by the early 1930s as a necessary means to restore German capitalism and put an end to the threat of workers' revolution. It isn't surprising, then, that many U.S. businessmen of the time were impressed by Hitler's success in fulfilling these goals--though some were alarmed by German rearmament and its potential threat to the great power interests of the United States.

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TO SUMMARIZE, Bush hasn't a moral leg to stand on when he denounces Nazism or terrorism.

Lenin, on the other hand, stood unalterably opposed to exploitation and oppression--economic, national or religious--and was committed to building a mass organization of workers capable of ending them.

True, Lenin was no pacifist--and an unwillingness to passively accept the cruelties of capitalism is invariably denounced by the system's defenders as outrageous extremism.

"Social Democracy," wrote another Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, "has nothing in common with those bought-and-paid-for moralists who, in response to any terrorist act, make solemn declarations about the 'absolute value' of human life. These are the same people who, on other occasions, in the name of other absolute values--for example, the nation's honor or the monarch's prestige--are ready to shove millions of people into the hell of war."

But neither were Lenin and the Russian Marxists proponents of individual terrorism. For them, only the mass action of millions could bring about a complete transformation of society.

In his formative political years in the 1890s, Lenin cut his teeth debating the Russian populists, who, among other things, believed that acts of terror by individuals or small groups of dedicated conspirators could stir a popular revolt (or in some cases simply substitute for a lack of one) in Russia.

The new Marxist current in Russia argued that individual terror was a dead end that made the mass of Russian people spectators rather than participants in their own liberation. "Are there not enough outrages committed in Russian life without special 'excitants' having to be invented?" Lenin wrote in 1901.

He rejected flatly the idea that a small group of terrorists could substitute themselves for the self-emancipation of the working class. "Is it not obvious," he wrote, "that those who are not, and cannot be, roused to excitement even by Russian tyranny will stand by 'twiddling their thumbs' and watch a handful of terrorists engaged in single combat with the government?"

Lenin argued that socialists needed to find ways to tap into the mass discontent, draw together the various strands of popular struggle, and combine them "into a single gigantic torrent" to bring down the system.

The continued support of some Russian radicals for terrorism, he argued, "reflects an utter failure to understand the mass movement and a lack of faith in it. Only new forms of the mass movement or the awakening of new sections of the masses to independent struggle really rouses a spirit of struggle and courage in all." Individual terrorism on the other hand, he argued, "leads to apathy and passive waiting for the next bout."

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LENIN DID not live to witness the emergence of Hitler, but the socialist movement in Russia systematically combated the Russian monarchist variant--the Black Hundred gangs that attacked workers' organizations and organized anti-Semitic pogroms in an effort to divert mass anger away from the regime.

In a 1919 radio address, Lenin said of anti-Semitism, "When the accursed Tsarist monarchy was living its last days, it tried to incite ignorant workers and peasants against the Jews." "In other countries, too," Lenin noted, "we often see the capitalists fomenting hatred against the Jews in order to blind the workers, to divert their attention from the real enemy of the working people, capital."

The rise of fascism in Italy, Germany and elsewhere sadly confirmed Lenin's observation.

In all of Lenin's writings and actions, there is not a trace of elitism, of contempt for the majority, or of the evil tyrant that so many try to attribute to him. He was concerned above all with enhancing the self-consciousness, unity and fighting spirit of the oppressed everywhere against any attempts to weaken or degrade that unity through scapegoating, national chauvinism or religious intolerance.

"The Black Hundreds' plans are designed to foment antagonism among the different nations, to poison the minds of the ignorant and downtrodden masses," he argued. "But the working class needs unity, not division. It has no more bitter enemy than the savage prejudices and superstitions which its enemies sow among the ignorant masses. That is why the working class must protest most strongly against national oppression in any shape and form."

Compare this appeal for international workers' solidarity to the U.S. political establishment's incessant rants against Muslims and Arabs--which, like anti-Semitism in Tsarist Russia, are designed to play on "prejudices and superstitions" in order to keep working-class people weak and divided.

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