politics of World War II
In Episode 76 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses and critiques The Duty to Stand Aside: Nineteen Eighty-Four and the Wartime Quarrel of George Orwell and Alex Comfort by Eric Laursen. Orwell and Comfort were divided on the question of Allied bombardment of Germany in World War II—although they both united to support the free-speech rights of anarchist anti-war dissidents. With fascism and genocide again emerging on the world stage, their quarrell sheds light on the contemporary wars in Syria, Libya and elsewhere—and how progressives and especially anarchists in the West should respond. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Let's start by stating the obvious. Under long-ruling dictator Alexander Lukashenko, a fascistic order has long obtained in Belarus—and it may now be going over the edge into outright fascism. Since 1994, Lukashenko has maintained power through the usual admixture of electoral fraud, party patronage and state terror. When the fraud became a bit too blatant in last August's presidential race, the country exploded into protest. Lukashenko unleashed riot squads and army troops on the protesters, but the movement stayed strong—for months holding weekly demonstrations demanding the fall of the regime. This movement was finally beaten back in a wave of harsh repression earlier this year; tens of thousands have been detained, and hundreds have been subject to torture. Anti-fascists and anarchists have been particularly singled out for persecution under Lukashenko, and the current wave of terror has been no exception. Regime propaganda has been periodically punctuated by paranoid anti-Semitism. And this machinery of repression has, of course, been amply lubricated by foreign capital, which has invested heavily in the regime.
In Episode 62 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg grimly notes that, even with 400,000 Americans dead to COVID-19, the worst potentialities of the Trump presidency were not realized. Trump never (quite) established a dictatorship, and we didn't (quite) go over the edge into civil war. The critical task now for the country's progressive forces is to push for a maximal and thoroughgoing detrumpification—akin to the denazification of Germany after World War II. We may truly hope that the Capitol insurrection will prove to have been the last gasp of Trumpism. However, it may have been his Beerhall Putsch—and, as last time, there could be a second act. The more thoroughly Trumpism is reversed, the more likely it will be defeated and broken politically—especially given its glorification of "winning" and denigration of "weakness." The risk of sparking a backlash is not to be dismissed, but the greater risk is that of appeasement. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In Episode 61 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg warns that following Trump's instrumented right-wing insurrection at the Capitol building, violence in the final lead-up to Inauguration Day could provide the expedient for execution of his long-planned coup d'etat—precisely as had been foreseen in the novel It Can't Happen Here. Despite fascist-abetting denialism from elements of the "left," even members of Congress are now asserting that the ransacking of the Capitol was carried out with complicity of elements of the security forces. Republicans meanwhile engage in despicable propaganda that equates the insufficient Democratic support for the Black Lives Matter uprising or protests against ICE putting kids in cages with Republican support for an attempted right-wing putsch. The statement by the Joint Chiefs of Staff holds out hope that leaders in the Pentagon may refuse Trump's orders. But a popular outcry to #StopTheCoup could be critical in giving them the courage to do so.
In Episode 59 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of Trump's evident preparation for a coup d'etat and what could be a culminating moment for the current crisis of American democracy. In the context of this dilemma, he discusses two very timely new books with similar titles that both examine the mechanics by which dictators seize and maintain power: Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy by Kenneth C. Davis and Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present by Ruth Ben-Ghiat.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is urging Chinese authorities to immediately release journalist Zhang Zhan, drop any charges against her, and ensure that the media can cover the coronavirus pandemic without fear of arrest. Zhang, an independent video journalist who had been posting reports from Wuhan on Twitter and YouTube since early February, went missing in the city on May 14, one day after she published a video critical of the government's countermeasures to contain the virus, according to news reports. On May 15, the Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau issued a notice stating that Zhang had been arrested and detained for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble," and was being held at the Pudong Xinqu Detention Center. If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison, according to the Chinese criminal code.
The only Crimean Tatar TV channel is facing a new threat to its existence—this time not from the Russian occupiers of Crimea, but the Ukrainian authorities. A dramatic cut in state funding for ATR TV has coincided with Kiev's decision to drop Tatar-language services on the state network UATV in favor of a new Russian-language channel to be broadcast into rebel-held territory in Ukraine's heavily Russophone east. ATR deputy director Ayder Muzhdabaev reported Jan. 17 that the station has reduced production of its own programming by 90% due to underfunding. He said that of the 35 million hryvnia allocated to the station in Ukraine's 2019 budget, only 15 million had actually been received.
Donald Trump and the man he executed in a targeted assassination on Jan. 3, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, mirror each other as war criminals who treat the people of Iraq and the greater region as pawns in their power game. And, in fact, they were long de facto allies—Soleimani had been overseeing a "dirty war" in Iraq against Sunni militants and suspected ISIS sympathizers. His allied paramilitary forces have serially massacred anti-government protesters in Baghdad over the past months. In less explicit alignment with Washington, Soleimani also provided similar services on a far greater scale to the Bashar Assad dictatorship in Syria. As overall commander of Iranian forces in Syria backing up Assad's genocidal counter-insurgency campaign (and by no means just against ISIS and jihadists, but the secular opposition as well) Soleimani is probably responsible for the loss of hundreds of thousands of Syrian lives.