Pham Binh: ‘Eclectics or Dialectics? Unpacking PSL’s Defense of Racist, Collaborationist Tyrannies’

The Party for Socialism is one of the largest socialist political parties in the U.S. Their presidential ticket received over 9,300 votes in the 2012 presidential election -KL. 

Pham Binh at the North Star:

Socialists and War: Two Opposing Trends published by Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) is as thin politically as it page-wise. Clocking in at 46 pages, most of the book consists of freely available published material: a reprint from PSL’s newspaper, a Dissident Voice interview with Brian Becker who is the national director of PSL’s front group ANSWER Coalition, and a historical document, the Basel Manifesto. The only original work is Becker’s essay, “Socialists and War: Two Opposing Trends,” which claims that socialist debates over imperialist intervention into the Arab Spring are the modern analog to the split within the socialist movement over World War One with myself as Plekhanov and PSL as – who else? – the Bolsheviks. (Whether Becker gets to play Lenin and Mazda Majidi Trotsky or vice versa in their 1914-1917 reenactment is unclear.)

The book is a reminder that seven dollars doesn’t buy much of anything these days.

Majidi’s article, “When Justifying Imperialist Intervention ‘Goes Wrong’” is a Revleft-style response to my essay, “Libya and Syria: When Anti-Imperialism Goes Wrong.” Majidi’s strawmen speak for themselves and need not be enumerated here. However, his underlying method is of interest. He begins by asserting that, “All demonstrations and opposition movements [are] not progressive.” Undoubtedly this is true, and Majidi cites the Nazis and the Tea Party as examples. So far, so good. He then adds what he calls “color revolutions” to this list:

“Most color revolutions occurred in the former Soviet Republics, such as Georgia’s Rose Revolution, Ukraine’s Orange Revolution and Kyrgyzstan’s Tulip Revolution. But there have also been (successful or attempted) color revolutions in other countries, such as Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution in 2005 and Iran’s Green Revolution in 2009.”

What is a “color revolution” according to Majidi?

“Color revolutions usually include the formation of coherent and unified pro-imperialist political forces, which draw upon public discontent with economic distress, corruption and political coercion. They involve several operations, including the creation of division and disunity in the military and an intense propaganda campaign. … Elements who participate in such street protests are often a small part of the population and do not represent the sentiments of the majority of the people, much less the interests of the working class. In fact, many participants in the protests may not support the agenda of the right-wing leadership and its imperialist sponsors. Still, the imperialist propaganda campaign utilizes the protests, however large or small, to promote regime change and the ascension of a client state. The imperialists are not fools to do so; this is precisely what such ‘democratic’ movements produce absent an alternative working-class and anti-imperialist opposition.”

This is a description of associated features, not a rigorous definition.

Many of these features were present in the Egyptian revolution. The “coherent and unified pro-imperialist political force” known as the Muslim Brotherhood rode to power drawing “upon public discontent with economic distress, corruption and political coercion.” Their regime enjoys a much larger and firmer popular base than Mubarak’s decrepit dictatorship and in that narrow sense U.S. imperialism was strengthened rather than weakened by the January 25, 2011 revolution.

Does PSL consider the Egyptian case to be a “color revolution”? Of course not. Thus, the only consistency to PSL’s method is its inconsistency. Eclecticism is inevitable because PSL continually substitutes description for definition.

The next step in Majidi’s counter-argument is to ask, “What is the political character of the Syrian and Libyan rebels?” Earlier in the article, he poses questions of fundamental importance for approaching this issue:

“In his entire article, Binh conveniently assumes the very thing that needs to be proven—that the Libyan rebels and the Syrian opposition are revolutionary. This false premise, once accepted, leads to all sorts of false conclusions. What is the political character of the NTC-led rebels in Libya? What qualified them as revolutionaries? How does Binh determine that the Syrian opposition is revolutionary and the government counter-revolutionary? When analyzing an opposition movement anywhere in the world, this is the first question that needs to be asked.”

Wrong.

The first question that needs to be asked in assessing an opposition movement is: what is it a movement in opposition to? What is the class character of the regime it is coming into conflict with and why? Imagine trying to analyze the political character Occupy Wall Street without knowing the first thing about Wall Street! Majidi makes this exact mistake by assessing the Libyan edition of the Arab Spring without first examining the Ghadafi regime in any detail. Doing this would make defending the regime from the protest movement as PSL does impossible because the regime was guilty of the very things Majidi claims define the rebellion as reactionary and right-wing: racism, collaboration with imperialism, and pro-neoliberalism.

hanging4.7. 77

April 4, 1977, Bengazi. PSL’s “progressive” regime lynched students (without trial) every year on April 4 to “commemorate” the anniversary of a 1976 student uprising.

Racism: Much like the Polish, Ukranian, and other national minorities of Tsarist Russia, Libya’s Amazigh were forbidden from learning, speaking, or celebrating their language and culture by Ghadafi’s regime. Those that dared risked arrest and persecution.

Becker claims “Gaddafi had a lot of support from black Libyans who considered [his] Africa-centric foreign policy to be positive” (33). Does Becker believe Black Libyans supported Ghadafi when he made a racist deal with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to keep Italy free of Black immigrants, saying, “We should stop this illegal immigration. If we don’t, Europe will become Black, it will be overcome by people with different religions”?

Collaboration with Imperialism: Socialists and War: Two Opposing Trends says not a word about how Ghadafi’s regime tortured people on behalf of the CIA and its British counterpart,MI6. Nor does it mention Ghadafi’s mass expulsion of thousands of Palestinian refugees in 1995 and his call on other Arab states to follow suit.

Neoliberalism: Majidi never discusses the Ghadafi regime’s embrace of neoliberalism, so comrade Becker’s words on page 27 may come as a shock:

“Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Gaddafi’s government saw the handwriting on the wall and sought its own accommodation with the West. It adopted a set of neoliberal policies and invited major western oil companies to do business again, once sanctions had been lifted by Britain and the United States.”

To read the rest of the article, go to the following link:

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=8293 

2 thoughts on “Pham Binh: ‘Eclectics or Dialectics? Unpacking PSL’s Defense of Racist, Collaborationist Tyrannies’

  1. Deran

    In my opinion, the only thing interesting about the Party for Socialism and Liberation is that they are a split from the Worker’s World Party, which was a split from the Socialist Workers Party, and now the PS&L has come around and holds the same sort of foreign policy positions that the SWP does – any one the US does not like is a friend of ours and is to be defended, no matter what sort of murderous tyrants they are. Pathetic Stalinists.

  2. Tony Abdo

    Pham Binh at the North Star blog, PLUS his cohort Louis Proyect over on ‘marxism list’, simply are not able to defend their support for Pentagon directed attacks on Libya, Syria, and eventually Iran, too. That is why it can easily be seen, by simply going to visit these two sites mentioned, and seeing how all comments contrary to the owners are simply eliminated altogether, by calling opponents to their position ‘trolls’ and removing their comments offline completely. This is what I call ex SWP style, Deram, and not anything the PSL now does. And BTW, Pham Binh’s backer Louis Proyect is an ex SWPer who stuck around in htat group way past when Workers World Party was once expelled.

Leave a Reply