Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fauxialism watch

1. Caudillismo
Here's one Labour Party MP who has been taken in by Hugo Chavez's fauxialism: Colin Burgon. This stood out:
From the Spanish Civil War, to the coup in Chile and the apartheid struggle in South Africa, and now the solidarity campaigns around Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela and Honduras, the British left has stood up for democracy and justice.
Hmm. So the Stalinists in Spain who murdered Andreu Nin and Castro's dictatorship which imprisoned Pablo Pacheco Avila are on the side of democracy and justice? So, no, Colin, actually Denis is more or less right about Chavez. Colin Burgon is akin to the likes of Stafford Cripps in the 1930s, refusing to condemn the Moscow trials because the Communist Party were supposedly on the right side in Spain.

Hugo Chavez also appears on Neil Clark's list of "lefties who didn't sell out", along with some other scumbags. Read Comrade Coates for the antidote.

This is not to say, by the way, that Chavez is an evil demon, just that he is no hero. Here's a more balanced view: David S with more on the Chavez movement and the Jews.

2. Fauxialism with Chinese characteristics.
Other fauxialists line up with Han Chinese chauvinism, such as some of the commenters on Andy Newman's post here. Contrast Andy's version to Blood & Treasure's.

3. Stalinophilia?
Here's Louis P on the Stalin nostalgia of Socialist Unity and Noah and Calvin Tucker:

I first got the sense that something was amiss back in October 2008 when an excerpt from Georgi Dimitrov’s speech to the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International, 1935 appeared without comments on the Socialist Unity blog. Dimitrov is best known as the architect of the Popular Front strategy that led to a disaster in Spain, when the coalition between bourgeois parties and the CP took a hard line against the kind of radical measures that could have rallied the people against Franco.

In the comments section, Newman chided a Trotskyist for bringing up Spain since “the USSR was the biggest provider of arms to the Spanish republic by a country mile.” As somebody who spent a number of years in the British SWP, Newman obviously knew that this was not under dispute.

One of his tag-team partners Noah Tucker joined in with a burst of rhetoric that I have not seen since the 1960s:

Andy has already pointed out that the USSR armed (not disarmed) the Spanish Republican forces. Perhaps I should also remind you that it was the Soviet Union- and also China, the GDR, Czechoslovakia etc, and after 1960 Cuba, who provided the revolutionaries in the Third World with the munitions with which to fight imperialism.

Where do you think that the Koreans and the Vietnamese got their MiGs from? Who provided the ANC, and Zapu and Zanu with AK47s?

So there you have it. Revolutionary politics boils down to armaments. Who needs strategy and tactics when the Manual of Arms will suffice?[...]

So the question remains, what would attract radicals in 2009 to the Soviet leader who arguably was responsible for the counter-revolution of the 1990s? [...] The answer is to be found in the impotence of the left. Frustrated by the failure of the antiwar movement to have achieved success in Iraq or Afghanistan and by a never-ending diet of neoliberal economics, there is yearning for a muscular left that could have stood up to the capitalists. Despite his history of placating the imperialists, Stalin enjoys a reputation of implacability that owes more to Cold War stereotypes than reality. It is this mythology that has mesmerized Newman and the Tucker brothers and nothing else.

Here's Andy's response.

Incidentally, this is a follow up to Proyect's post on Winston Churchill nostalgia. There, Louis attacked two posts by Andy Newman (Popular Front Against Fascism, advertising some Philosophy Football products, and Churchill and the anti-fascist war), and an article by Christopher Hitchens. These are issues too complex to deal with today, but I think Andy is at least half right, and Hitchens almost completely right. Here's Andy's response. Andy is certainly right about Nicholson Baker, whose Human Smoke he describes as "widely ridiculed pseudo-history". For more on Baker, read Max Dunbar.

Note: the word "fauxialism" stolen from Michael Weiss. Except I just noticed he spells it faux-cialism. Which do you prefer?


ModernityBlog said...

The ghost of Reg Birch stalks SU blog!

The Contentious Centrist said...

I like "fauxialism", because it sort of homophonizes with "foxialism" which gives it a nice subliminal touch considering the foxiness of the character discussed.

socialrepublican said...

On Baker

A few months ago I got an offer from some Psychology PhD in New Jersey to review his book for Amazon. My super had sent my dis over to him and I thought he was some kind of expert on historical interpretations of violence. Turns out the bloke is untenured and doesn't work in any institution apart from his own self created 'centre'. He runs a mail list and invites various experts around his 'specialism' to 'symposiums' or his front room. All of his stuff is published on his own vanity publisher. Generally about a MA thesis in length, these paradigm defining 'jewels' retail at $40 a pop.

We had an agreement, I write a short review for Amazon and then a long 2000-3000 review over at the Republic and then on his own site. I receive the book. Oh. Dear.

The central thesis is this. Hitler believed that war was a necessary ritual of sacrifice, consuming the best of a nation. Thus why shouldn’t Jews, who he conceived to be the worst, be destroyed as well? Now there is some worth in this conclusion, Hitler did have a intensely ritualised understanding of war, as a crucible of self abrogation, as a form of rebirth, as a antechamber to a new world and a new man. Yet this fellow leaves out the other part of the equation; the killing on top of the dying. There are two German terms I’ve mentioned before and in my essays; fremdopfer and selbstopfer. The latter is self sacrifice; the first is the sacrifice of others. Within fremdopfer is the implicit need to kill, to become a willing ex-moral agent. Codreanu clearly stated that as murderers in the cause would be condemned by God, the nation must give them everlasting life. By the act of killing, the fallible human material proves itself ready to transcend the norms of a rotten dying world and become a true weltanschauungkrieger. Such a depiction of war demands that its soldiers be both perpetrators and victims, regardless of their own morality.

All in all though, a mild disagreement. Basis for a lively review. But because he is so one eyed and has no feel for context, he begins to make comparisons. Such as that of the journey of German soldiers going to the Eastern front and Jews going to the Gas chambers. Much of the book hangs from the premise that as hundreds of thousands of British, French and German troops were killed on the western front following outmoded tactics, they were killed as surely by their own governments as the enemies bullets thus constituting an earlier holocaust.

socialrepublican said...

As foolish, arrogant and cruel as the General staffs of the First World War were, they were implicitly following rational military logic. Their plans, again and again, actively sought to find a solution to the euphemistic ‘Trench problem’. Their primary aims was not to kill their own soldiers (disgustingly, they did see an ‘acceptably’ high level of dead as a hallmark of a sufficiently rigorous attack), but to kill the enemy and take terrain. If auto-genocide via proxy was really the aim, why the endless tinkering with formation, changes to equipment and tactics, the uses of artillery, secret weapons such as gas, heavy calibre guns, tanks etc. Vast investments in materials and labour went into these efforts. Yet this fellow wants us to believe that this was contrary window dressing for Aztecan mass slaughter.

Like Baker it seems, he uses quotes with complete disregard for their context. When he tries to illustrate his contentions, he uses impressionistic laments of historians, plucked from their conclusions rather than their analysis. To demonstrate that the General staffs were engaged purely in a mass ritual of mutually assisted suicide, he quotes Padraig Pearse (not privy to a great deal of War Office policy) and Maurice Barres (whose organic nationalism was so extreme he became a pariah of much of the French right). One cannot honestly detect the policy of Orlando’s War government from the ramblings of Giovanni Papini. That is not to say that the intellectual history of those who saw in the war of 1914-18 as a new and glorious moment in human history is not important. R.N. Stromberg’s ‘Redemption by War: The Intellectuals and 1914’ is a brilliant work looking at such a mindset. These impulses and intellectual currents were central to Fascism and National Socialism. Yet, to imply that model onto the Grey Dictatorship or the Tsarist regime, the Fourth Republic or the government of Herbert Asquith require more space and much more evidence that 35 thousand words allows. It is hot air writing, disrespectful of both the historiography and the readers.

Bearing in mind the price, technically those 35 thousand or so could without loss of any clarity be condensed into 10 thousand. Pretty much every quote is stripped line by line in the following paragraph and its ‘meaning’ painfully made trite, then that quote with the exact same companion paragraph is repeated three of four times in different chapters. It is like reading eroberosian bad history, like Groundhog Day with a sub-sub Simon Schama.

I had to reply ‘you really won’t want a review from me’. He asked why so I soft soaped it and said ‘it was a faulty argument constructed like a shower of shit’. He said ‘Oh’. Thus why no names in this and why it’s here. He meant to be a lovely bloke and all, but my gods, awful work

Andrew Coates said...

R.N. Stromberg’s ‘Redemption by War: The Intellectuals and 1914’ .

It is indeed brilliant and influenced me - no doubt one of many - greatly.

Unlike this chap who (after your summary) seems destined for the nearest wast-paper basket in cyber-space.