Posts Tagged ‘communism’

Impressions of China

Here’s a reproduction of the article I wrote on my trip to China for the Arthur newspaper.

I recently spent six weeks in China as part of a trip focused in part upon gaining an understanding of the current state of communist China. Since returning, various people have asked me for my impressions of China, and so I have undertaken here to sketch some of what I learned about the country, based upon my own study and observations and upon conversations with various people, ranging from party officials to academics to working people.

One thing that I’ve learned about China is that any discussion of its politics, society and economy quickly elicits controversy and strong opinions. In sketching my impressions here, though my remarks will undoubtedly fall on one or the other side of various heated debates. I aim simply to present China as I experienced it, and to attempt to encourage understanding of a fascinating country which is rapidly resuming its historic position as the world’s leading society. (more…)

Another communist interpretation of Roosevelt’s New Deal…

From The Worker August 1933. The blue eagle represents Roosevelt’s National Recovery Act, I assume the gear is the “wheels of industry” or something like that. The communists in the 1930s were very aware of the potential for a declaration of war by capitalist countries against the Soviet Union, as a way for the capitalist countries to deal with their economic depression and the “red menace.” (On a side note, the USSR aparently did very well during the 30s, experiencing massive growth and near zero unemployment.) Thus, the increased military spending that apparently was part of the new deal plan was seen by the communists as part of the general pro-military, pro-fascist, i.e. anti-communist, trend at the time, hence this cartoon showing the blue eagle turning into a swastika….


On the New Deal, a 1930s communist perspective. Rings surprisingly true

An article from The Worker, the paper of the Communist Party of Canada (CPC), from July 1933. There is a lot of talk these days about the New Deal, and Obama’s stimulus pacakge, and Harper’s as well. The media seems to me to represent the New Deal as a very progressive or even socialist moment in American history, when massive social programs and spending were brought in to relieve unemployment and class divisions. This may be true, I don’t really know. But, this article, by American communist leader Earl Browder, at least offers a different perspective on the New Deal, albeit from 1933 shortly after it was brought in. Perhaps I will find more articles from later dates to see how it was perceived by the CPC later on.

Browder argues, among other things, that the New Deal is essentially a plan to give (or continue) tax breaks and public money (in the form of loans) to the leaders of finance and owners of capital, and shift the burdenof the depression to the middle and lower classes. Sound familiar?? Corporate bailout anyone??

Hilarious excerpt from The Worker, June 1934


The above text describes part of women in an incident at a mine near Stellarton, Nova Scotia. A group of miners was trying to break away from their old union (the United Mine Workers of America) and reaffiliate with the Amalgamated Mine Workers of Nova Scotia (AMW), a more millitant union associated with the Workers Unity League, a centre of communist labour unions in Canada. Both the UMWA and the AMW had been striking to protest a pay cut proposed (or forced) by the coal mine owners. The UMWA accepted the pay cut fairly easily, while the AMW continued to strike to fight it. As a result, the UMWA allied with the owners to attempt to break the AMW and force its members to join the UMWA, which (falsely) claimed to represent the majority of the workers. So, the owners bar the AMW men from working, and as a result the AMW men picket the mine, to stop what UMWA men as are willing from going down the mine. Of course, the RCMP show up to escort the scabbers down the mine (only 12 were willing to scab). Anyhow, the above snipit picks up what happened when the scabbers came up from the mine. Esentially the wives of the AMW men jump them and beat them up, etc. Murdock Wilson, refered to in the clip, is actually one of the AMW leaders, meaning the women were so angry that even the leader of the union they were supporting couldn’t reign in their fury….

Goražde by Joe Sacco


Recently finished Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-95, by Joe Sacco. This is a graphic novel that came out in 2000 detailing the experiences of the author in Gorazde, a predominantly Muslim area in eastern Bosnia that was entirely surrounded by the Serbian army during the war.

Joe Sacco visited Gorazde near the end of the war and listens to the stories of the local people who have lived through the trials of war. He writes their history, somewhat confusedly, as though he were there as well, which he wasn’t (he came at the end) and this is slightly confusing…However, Sacco tells of the peaceful times in Yugoslavia under Tito (a communist) who united the country’s three different cultural-linguistic groups, the Serbs (christian orthodox), the Muslims, and the Croats (roman catholic). After Tito’s death, the peace began to fall apart as pro-nationalist agitators on all sides fomented separatism along racial/religious lines. Anyhow, when Serbia invaded Bosnia there were several muslim pockets left in the east, the largest of which was Gorazde. Various attrocities took place in the town as Serbian militias attacked the town, including schools, hospitals, etc. The format of graphic novel is excellent for (literally) illustrating the devastation of places and people. The story, as toldand drawn by Sacco, is a truly mesmerizing and devastating example of the hardship and evilness of war as lived by the average citizen. Now, some criticism.

Before reading this book, I knew very little about the war in Yugoslavia, indeed I would still claim to know very little. However, as I was reading the book I was struck by the very positive light which was shone upon the NATO airstrikes. They were, to the people of Gorazde, a saviour from above, driving away the serbian militias which were penning the survivors into an increasingly small area. But, as far as I knew or remembered, there was great controversy around the NATO airstrikes, and as far as I know, the left was critical of them. So I asked GPS about it.

Though the war took place after the fall of the USSR, it can still be seen in the light of the cold war. Aparently, the Serbian leaders (including Milosovic?), had an anti-western pro-socialist stance whereas the Croats had a pro-western stance (and backing). As well, attrocities were committed on both sides. So it seems that neither side was objectively “right” and thus the decision by NATO to back the pro-western Croats can be seen as an anti-communist move, and as fitting into their general domino theory of international aggression.

That being said, Sacco’s story has a decidedly anti-serbian stance and it may well be justified since wikipedia tells me that in the war 83% of the civilian casualties were Bosniks (muslims). But still, little mention is given to the politics of the Bosnik leaders, nor to the evil acts comitted by the Croats against Serbs. Who knows. Read it.

On Homage to Catalonia by Orwell

From December 17, 2008:

“Just finished reading Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. Though repetitive, confusing, and rambling in style, it is still a very interesting book about fighting for one’s ideals and the realities of war. It is also a window into a time when other political systems were available options in the West, i.e. communism, anarchism, and fascism, which is interesting to me because communism and anarchism now are dismissed as impossible or dead, though I suppose “socialism” is alive and well. [interestingly, in some left-history and writing on that time period, i.e. early to mid 20th century, socialism or social democrats are disparaged as sellouts or collaborator, mostly because they are anti-revolutionary, unlike the anarchists and communists. In this light, it is disappointing that social democracy seems to have emerged from the left as the victor, disappointing in so far as it is the most accepting of capitalism, the least threatening towards it….] The book is also interesting to me because it talks about Spain and Spaniards and makes me think of recent experiences in Tegucigalpa with Spaniards. Orwell’s portrait of them resonates with me: paradoxical, romantic, passionate, giving and friendly, in an unassuming way, almost blind or ignorant in that exuberance, full of a joie de vivre. I feel that I expected to have more thoughts related to the book, and even while reading it I didn’t. It just sits there. It is what it is, an account of a young man going to fight. But the Spanish war experience was different. The war comes across as necessary but disappointing due to the infighting between anarchists and communists, and the general (and later aggressive) anti-revolutionary policy adopted (by the communists) as time went on. Though, Orwell says that the big hope was to stop fascism in Spain, as an example to the rest of the world, and by setting this example perhaps stop the looming WWII.

It is strange to me to read of intra left wing fighting, the 3rd International, the anarchists, the Trotskyists, etc.  It seems so petty and distracting to me having grown ip in a time when destructive capitalism has prevailed, and the right is so powerful. The luxury of having debates and rivalries within the left!”

That being said, I recently read something by Naomi Klein arguing that it is important to have debate within the left, or rather that it is important to voice opinions that are farther to the left in order to try to shift the centre leftwards, rather than to subdue one’s political views with the hope of attracting a wider audience of people closer to the centre….