Tendance Coatesy

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Putin as Abraham Lincoln: Counterpunch Bid to Outdo European Political Confusionionism.

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Image result for vladimir putin riding a shark

Vladimir Putin: Russia’s Abraham Lincoln says Counterpunch. 

Political confusionism is an ideological trend on the rise

As the word suggests (from the French leftists’ ‘confusionnisme‘:  see this site) is means the confused politics of merging left and right, of adding conspiracy theories to wild assertions, the anti-imperialism of fools to ‘anti-capitalism’, that goes in search of red-brown alliances, acknowledged or not.

Its starts with Israel, ‘anti-Zionism’, travels to Putin’s Russia (often), visits Syria, looks at the IMF, TTIP, Globalisation, Occupy Wall Street (what was that?), NATO (a bit boring this stuff..),  supports Lexit/Brexit, ‘sovereigntism’, and, hey presto, always gets back to Israel.

Counterpunch (a long time ago described as “left wing”) is the best known example of confusionism in the English-speaking world, though its echoes may be felt in, say the ramblings of British supporters of the idea that there’s a transnational Jewish/Zionist bourgeoisie. It is so easy to find confusionists at work on Twitter and Facebook that’s it barely worth bothering citing them,

US left-wingers (on the Marxism List and no doubt elsewhere) are up in arms about this article in this august journal of reference for international confusionism, patronised by such weighty figures as Tariq Ali and some people who should know better.

There seems to be series of debates going on in activist circles these days that are inter-connected, the continued plight of Alison Weir and her abysmal treatment by various NGOs  and the issue of who to stand in solidarity with in regards to Syria. Both are informed essentially by one foundational theoretical point, the argument over the role of the neocons in Washington and the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), with a significant group of people seeing everything going on in the region rooted in the PNAC policy suggestions that led us down the road to the war on Iraq and continued the brutalization of the Palestinians under George W. Bush.

There follows some garbled ‘history’ about the unification of Germany, the Berlin to Bagdad railway, and the “convoluted and intertwined family trees of John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and Nelson W. Aldrich.” and the interesting information that ” differences between neocons and neoliberals on domestic American social policies were quite profound (abortion, sexual orientation, Affirmative Action), their policies in international colonial policies were identical.”


Thereafter lost, we only resurface at this point,

In this sense, Wall Street does want to see the ouster of the Assad government because it would benefit their profits. It is a basic fact that Bashar al-Assad, just like Slobodan Milosevic, is not a saint.

A brave thing to say.

Plunged again into the deepest confusionism we get this,

They yearn for their idealized American democracy while refusing to acknowledge that, if black and brown voices did not matter in 1776, that means the entire edifice of electoral politics and American parliamentarism is a clever and well-funded farce, defined as an ideological state apparatus by the French philosopher and quasi-Maoist Louis Althusser. This apparatus is quite powerful and underwrote why many activists jumped on the Shachtmanite Chairman Bernie Sanders bandwagon in the last eighteen months. (1)

Althusser would not doubt endorse the view that backing for Bernie was proof of his theory of ideological state apparatuses. The Sander’s campaign showed capitalist “know-how”, the ” high priests of the ruling ideology” mould subject positions and domination for the “the reproduction of the conditions of production” within the Democratic Primaries.

Thank you for the warning about the way the Shachtmanites have colonised the political ISA (the political system, including the different parties).

We are now aware of how these misleader tout the ‘Representation’ of the Imaginary Relationship of Individuals to their Real Conditions of Existence

Finally there is this,

We should also seriously interrogate the notion of politicians and look to Marx himself for inspiration when dealing with Assad and Putin. He knew exactly what Abraham Lincoln was and was not as a white former railroad lawyer and son-in-law of a slave-owning family. Yet his journalism for Horace Greeley and letters to the president would make you think that the Great Emancipator was a premonition of Lenin. That is not because he was blind to Lincoln’s many massive flaws. Instead it was because he saw the Union Army as an engine of historical progress despite the flaws.

Does Vladimir Putin have similar flaws? Yes, many, but his challenge to NATO and the imperial project is objectively a progressive goal and effort despite the flawed engine that delivers it. For those who would rebut me with accounts of Putin’s crimes, which I do not doubt, just take a look at the depravity of Sherman’s march to the sea, a massive moving line of marauders who killed quite a few black and white men and raped quite a few black and white women. Yet Marx called their actions “matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.” This is the difference between English empirical thinking and German dialectical thinking. In the former, the morality of the individual actors is key. In the latter, the outcome of the actions in history, despite the individual actors and their flaws, is all that matters.

German dialectical thinking and, hop, we can see Putin’s challenge as a “progressive goal and challenge”.

It’s called the unity of opposites and the ‘aufheben’ of dialectical contradictions: the very rational kernel of the revolutionary programme of Counterpunch….

Inspired to back Putin and Assad, to the tune of Counterpunch new Battle Hymn of the Republic, Andrew, if I may call a fellow Andy, concludes,

The way to control American policy is through direct action politics, or, to quote Howard Zinn, “What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in- and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change.” Electoral politics is able to be used as a tool to further radicalize voters into militant activists. The delusion otherwise dismisses the fact that abolitionists ended slavery and not legislators, who were forced by abolitionists to pass laws.

Hats off Comrade Stewart.

It’s all kicking off, everywhere!


(1) We have been asked, what is Shachtmanism?

Shachtmanism is the form of Marxism associated with Max Shachtman. It has two major components: a bureaucratic collectivist analysis of the Soviet Union and a third camp approach to world politics. Shachtmanites believe that the Stalinist rulers of Communistcountries are a new ruling class distinct from the workers and reject Trotsky‘s description of Stalinist Russia as a “degenerated workers’ state“.



Written by Andrew Coates

September 12, 2016 at 4:29 pm

8 Responses

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  1. So stupid it hurts. >.<


    September 12, 2016 at 4:32 pm

  2. I am made of sterner dialectical contradictions.

    It required some brief Marxist explication and it’s ready for the Guardian comments pages.

    Andrew Coates

    September 12, 2016 at 4:44 pm

  3. Max Shachtman cut an impressive figure. Unfortunately, he thought himself into a box over the Vietnam War, the AFL-CIO’s support for the war, and his belief in the so-called Domino Theory.

    One thing he did not do, however, as Andrew Stewart mistakenly asserts in his linked CP article, encourage Irving Howe, Bayard Rustin, and Mike Harrington “to take the skeleton of the old Norman Thomas Socialist Party and create the Democratic Socialists of America, a left caucus of the Democrats that was intended to push the party of American labor to the left and a European-styled model of social democracy while promoting a Cold War liberal foreign policy that was by 1968 to the right of both Noam Chomsky and Walter Cronkite regarding Vietnam.”

    During the mid- to late-1960s, the Socialist Party was split between the so-called Realignment Caucus, of which Harrington and Shachtman indeed were leaders, and which did support working within the Democratic Party to make it a uniformly liberal (in the American sense), progressive party–realigning “out,” for example, conservative, segregationist Dixiecrats–and opponents who did not want to enter what at least one of them called the “whore house of the Democratic Party. As I recall, the strategy also involved supporting transitional programs that, it was thought, would both achieve immediate improvements in the every-day lives of American workers and minorities, while also exposing the limits of the then-dominant social-political arrangements. Central to this thinking was, for example, “A Freedom Budget for All Americans.”

    But just as the Realignment Caucus was winning the internal debate within the Socialist Party, it was fracturing over the Vietnam War and the growing divide between organized labor and the so-called New Politics movement. While differences largely were papered over at the 1968 national convention, at which the Realignment Caucus elected a majority of the SP national committee, they soon became irreconcilable. Shachtmanites–he died in November 1972– and supporters of George Meany’s AFL-CIO prevailed decisively, changing the name of the organization from the Socialist Party of America to Social Democrats, USA. Some of its leading lights indeed later became neoconservatives, for example, Josh Muravchik.

    But Mike Harrington, with the support of people like Debbie Meier, Bogdan Denith, and (yes) Irving Howe, supported, left to create the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee. DSA only came into existence a decade later, the product of a merger between DSOC and the New American Movement.


    September 12, 2016 at 6:25 pm

  4. David has his history right regarding Shachtman, DSOC and DSA.

    A genuinely good article on DSA, past and present (such things are quite rare!), is this:


    Also, while I’m sure that Sanders was aware of Shachtman during his time in the Young People’s Socialist League, I really doubt that he ever thought of himself as any kind of “Shachtmanite.”


    September 12, 2016 at 9:30 pm

  5. This is essential reading:

    “Homosexuality and Bourgeois Decadence: Reflections on the Orlando Massacre” by BY GEARÓID Ó COLMÁIN

    Confusionism? Not me mate.


    September 12, 2016 at 10:01 pm

  6. Eric Lee’s take on Shachtman and Shactmanism: http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2012/08/30/max-shachtman-and-his-legacy

    Jim Denham

    September 12, 2016 at 11:43 pm

  7. Eric used to be on DSA’s more moderate wing. Today he’d be on the very right wing of the organization.


    September 13, 2016 at 4:21 am

  8. There is also a reference to Shachtmanism in the Coen brothers’ film, Inside Llewyn Davis.

    When Llewyn rejoins merchant marine union a seafarer’s official asks if he’s a CPer.

    He says no, and the type says, “Shachtmanite, eh?”

    Obviously they must have had a presence in this section of the workers’ movement.

    Andrew Coates

    September 13, 2016 at 12:20 pm

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