Does VJ Prashad know the Meaning of "Class War"?


December 12, 2022

Prashad spoke at the so-called "The Real Path to Peace in Ukraine" forum on Nov. 19 that was held at the Peoples Forum in New York.  He started and ended with the slogan "No War But Class War."  In his 30 minutes he must have said it 10 times.  It sounds very militant.  It seems to ground anti-war activity in something tougher and more realistic than pacifism.


Yet the slogan Prashad admires doesn't come from Marx or Engels. As far as I can tell the slogan only goes back 50 years or so, a short way of describing the feelings of a deserter in a British TV series "Days of Hope" created by filmmaker Ken Loach.  The World War I character says he's no pacifist.  He'll fight in a war "that counts", a class war.


So what is this “class war” for Prashad.  Well, he fills a large chunk of his remarks with dreams for a so-called  anti-colonial war.  He talks a lot about the movie “Wakanda Forever” and is disappointed that the new Black Panther film does not promote an anti-colonial world war of his dreams.


Most of the talk, though, was an endless stream of “WhatAboutIsms”?  What about Cuba?  What about Venezuela? Iraq. Vietnam, etc. He barely talks about Ukraine at all.  


After around 18 minutes he finally gets to the question, “Why is this Ukraine War happening?”  The words “Russia” or “Putin” are nowhere included as part of the war’s cause.  Instead, Prashad repeats “NATO”, “NATO”, “NATO” which for him is the way U.S. imperialism refuses to recognize what is inevitable.  So, what is inevitable?  Is it Marx’s prediction that capitalism produces the working class that could one day transform and abolish capitalism?   No, Prashad doesn’t mention the word “worker”.   For Prashad what is “inevitable” is a process of historical integration.  Here’s the quote about what he says is coming: “a process of historical integration for the first time since the ancient world and that's the integration of Europe and Asia”.  That’s the unstoppable “process of history” that’s going to unite “Eurasia”.


Marx didn’t preach this rot.  He didn’t even use the phrase “class war”.  Instead, he saw “class struggle” all through the veins of history.  He supported actual wars that he thought would advance the cause of working people, the class that would bring on a universal system of democracy and equality.   Read his articles about the U.S. Civil War.  Marx fully supported the North.  In fact “The Stars and Stripes held the place of honor at the 1865 festivities of the International Workingmen’s Association, Karl Marx’s London-based organization.” 


For an article about Ukraine on an anarchist site that talks about class and workers and uses plentiful examples from the 1990’s warfare in former Yugoslavia read this piece.  It doesn’t come up with some grand geopolitical theory.  Instead, the anonymous author  asks some very good questions: “What is the Ukraine working class doing and why? Does it still fight for its own interests in any sense? Are the present circumstances more advantageous for working class actions in Ukraine than if Russia takes control?”


These were questions the article raised in July. Five months later the answers seem obvious.  #SolidarityWithUkraine

Are "Negotiations" the Answer?


Oct. 14, 2022.  After their excellent show on 10/6 featuring an Indian Leftist Kavita Krishnan talking about Ukraine, Democracy Now went back on 10/12 to guests blaming U.S. and Ukrainian leaders for the continued warfare.


The main person interviewed was Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK.  She and Nicolas Davies have just had published a book “War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict”.  First off let me say I haven’t read the book, but the title is grossly  insulting.   The war there is not one between two greedy kings or dictators.  The Ukrainian fight, their warfare, is no more senseless than Vietnams 30-year fight against colonization, or the warfare of Jewish partisans against the Nazis or the warfare of the Blacks of Haiti against Napoleon.  Ukrainians aren’t fighting over something silly or symbolic.  They’re trying to maintain their independence and their livelihoods and their identity as Ukrainians.


The segment was entitled “Negotiations are the only way forward.” Benjamin maintains that the U.S. is keeping the war from ending by pressing Ukrainian leaders to refuse to talk with Putin.


There’s no evidence at all for that unless you believe that Biden’s statement that he won’t go behind Ukraine’s back and make a deal with Putin somehow means he’s pressing Ukraine not to bargain with Putin.


Benjamin says, “And we have seen the U.S. actually torpedo negotiations, starting from the proposals that the Russians put forward right before the invasion, which was summarily dismissed by the U.S.”  I don’t know what she’s talking about.  As far as I can tell the facts are quite the reverse.  Reuters in September published what they said was an “exclusive”.  It starts “Vladimir Putin's chief envoy on Ukraine told the Russian leader as the war began that he had struck a provisional deal with Kyiv that would satisfy Russia's demand that Ukraine stay out of NATO, but Putin rejected it and pressed ahead with his military campaign, according to three people close to the Russian leadership.”  It should also be remembered that when on February 24 Russian troops crossed the border the response from “the West” was not to demand Ukraine fight to the last man, but to offer Zelensky safe passage on leaving his country.


Now we do know that the sides were talking in March and that on March 29 Ukraine presented a 10 point plan that included a proposal  not to raise the issue of Russian control over Crimea for 15 years, for Ukraine to agree to be a neutral country, foreign military bases would be forbidden and certain sections of the Donbas would not be covered by security provisions of the treaty.  Russia’s response was to say it would shell less heavily.  On April 7 Putin said peace talks had hit a “dead end”.


Medea Benjamin would have us believe that the failure of the talks was due to Boris Johnson arriving in Kyiv.  She says, “We saw Boris Johnson coming to meet with Zelensky and saying that the, quote, 'collective West' was not about to make an agreement with the Russians and was there to support Ukraine in this fight."  The UK government website page that talks about that visit only says Johnson pledged “unwavering support”.  A site “The Hungarian Conservative” wrote a piece in August quoting a Ukrainian news site article from May saying that Johnson was giving a message from a collective west that Putin was a war criminal and not a person to negotiate with.  Let’s say Johnson did say that.  What the Hungarian Conservative and Medea Benjamin are leaving out is that that same article also mentioned that the March-April talks failed because “The first thing was the revelation of the atrocities, rapes, murders, massacres, looting, indiscriminate bombings and hundreds and thousands of other war crimes committed by Russian troops in the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories…”  Ukrainian forces had driven the Russians out of northern Ukraine and away from the outskirts of Kyiv and had discovered the rumored horrors to be absolutely true.  Ukrainians were rightly furious.


Did Ukraine harden its position? Yes, and it had every right to do so.  It had been invaded, with thousands of its citizens killed, hundreds of billions in property damage suffered.  If it was enraged at seeing the horrors and if it was encouraged that the U.K. and the U.S. were going to support it and if that meant it was withdrawing proposals that were made when it looked like Putin would overrun the whole country, it had every right to do so.


Obviously talks are made to establish terms at the end of wars, but that doesn’t mean that all wars can simply be ended by talking. So, what terms, what “compromise” might settle the conflict? On Democracy Now Benjamin and Davies ask nothing from Russia, certainly not reparations. What concessions then do Benjamin and Davies propose from Ukraine?  They want Ukraine to accept permanent neutrality and that it accept the terms arrived at by the 2015 Minsk agreements on Donbas, agreements that were good enough for a ceasefire, but too vague to include the steps by which peace could actually be implemented.  Do they also think Ukraine has to accept some of Putin's annexations?


Finally, Benjamin notes that none of the Democrats are opposing military aid to Ukraine.  She says that the aid is only being opposed by the “extreme right”.  She says, “It’s being questioned also by Donald Trump, who said that if he had been president, this war wouldn’t happen. He would have probably talked to Putin, which is right. So, we’ve got to build an opposition movement from the left to say that we want the Democrats in Congress to join with any Republicans that will join in this to put pressure on Biden.”   She wants to the Democrats to join with the Trump extreme right on foreign policy. 

Good God! 


P.S.  Another point of view on the program from Clay Claiborne