Is the Problem We Don’t Know Who Our True Friends Are?





Mr. Markowitz is an associate professor of history at the New Brunswick Campus of Rutgers University and a writer for the History News Service.

In the present very real crisis,"International Terrorism" is being used as"international Communism" was for so long in what was largely a manufactured crisis -- the Cold War -- as a disembodied force represented by evil individuals (Stalin, Mao, Fidel, Ho) rather than a wing of the world socialist movement, which, with the Russian revolution and the victory over Fascism in World War II, became a leading force throughout the world. After World War II, the concept of"totalitarianism" was rapidly transferred to the Soviets and the Communist movement from the Nazis and fascism generally, as a way to fight the Cold War with an inverted version of WWII ideology.

But this is not just a game of semantics, because, if the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan were still in power, if the Soviet Union still existed, if peaceful coexistence had become a reality, what has happened could not have happened. Reducing politics to"good" moderates and"evil" radicals ignores the real relationships and bonds between liberals and radicals (including Communists and socialists) on the one hand, and conservatives and reactionaries (including secular and clerical fascists) on the other.

It is in places where the revolutionary left is weak or divided, where the choice is between Field Marshall von Hindenberg and Adolf Hitler, Admiral Horthy of Hungary or the Nazi imitating Arrow Cross party in the 1930s and 1940s, or segregationists like Governor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina or the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s, that the conditions for a fascist political climate, which can easily lead to fascist dictatorship, exists."Fascist" as I use it here is broadly defined, meaning those who use and largely glorify violence to establish some reactionary utopia, based on a"pure race," or"religion," a recreation of"thousand year Reich," a"new Roman Empire," a Pan-Islamic state, a"Christian nation," or whatever serves as an ideological cover for their economic and psychological interests, their greed and aggression. Ultimately, these forces, whether they call themselves"national socialist" or proclaim Holy Wars in the name of some religious principle, serve finance capital, as either its direct stooges ("moderates" like the Saudi regime) or frauds like the entrepreneur of mass murder, Osama bin Laden, who proclaims a war of destruction against the American people,"Zionist Jews," and"Christian Crusaders" with the same rationality that Hitler once used in calling for a war against"International Bankers and Plutocrats,""World Bolshevism,"and"International Jewry."

Communists, socialists, and liberals are both internationalist and oriented toward the future, toward progress through economic development, mass education, and the establishment of rights for the majority (although tyranny can and has, one should admit, masqueraded under the banners of Communism, Socialism, and Liberalism). For progressives of all backgrounds, terrorism is both wrong and counterproductive, acts of desperation against symbols of authority that can only alienate masses of people, who prefer and are drawn closer to the devil they know than to bomb throwers and assassins. Terrorists, as Lenin noted, when they masquerade as revolutionaries, have no belief in the masses of people, in any kind of change,"have never believed that it is possible, to find some outlet for their revolutionary indignation and revolutionary energy other than terror."

To the ultra right, which is from where these atrocities have come, politics is ultimately about intimidation, getting even,"settling accounts" as the Nazis were fond of saying with the enemies of their Germany. Storm Troopers attacked Social Democratic and Communist workers, Jewish shops, hurled stink bombs at the showing of the pacifist film,"All Quiet on the Western Front" in Weimar Germany to provoke violence and counter-violence, to create the us against them mentality.

Here, however irrational it may seem, I believe that those who perpetrated the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon want massive retaliation against the poor people of Kabul, whom the Taliban's police routinely oppress, maim and kill, to make them heroes and martyrs among the rural poor of the Islamic world, just as Italian fascists and German Nazis specialized in street brawls against Communists and socialists to"wake up" and mobilize their lower middle class and reactionary mass supporters. Bombing Afghanistan, particularly Kabul, the only place you can really bomb and the traditional center of opposition to the religious right, plays into their hands.

Joining with Afghans, secular forces in the region, India, Russia, the former Soviet Republics under attack today, including Afghan Communists, is the way to win a war against the religious ultra-right. Using"bomber diplomacy" against"International terrorism" neither confronts nor changes the conditions that produce groups like the Taliban, bin Laden, and like-minded forces. It only assures that there will be more of them, more bomber diplomacy, and more destruction.


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Hans P. Vought - 9/30/2001

Prof. Markowitz has written a very disingenuous piece which distorts the history of the twentieth century in an attempt to suggest a course to follow in the current crisis. First of all, Stalin's Soviet Union was, in fact, a totalitarian regime - it was not simply mislabeled as one after World War II ended. Secondly, tyranny did not "sometimes masquerade" under the banner of Communism, it consistently so masqueraded in every Communist state established in the twentieth century, and continues to do so in the few that survive. While Communist aid was invaluable in defeating the Axis powers, most eastern Europeans who lived through those years will testify that the "cure" (i.e., "liberation" by the Soviets) was as bad as the "illness."

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