An attack on Iran will most likely lead to great carnage in the Middle East, and beyond, as supporters of Iran resort to suicide-bombings in retaliation. There might well be large scale Iranian civilian “collateral” casualties. An attack would strengthen the Iranian regime and license a smash down on its critics, including working class critics, inside Iran. It would throw Iraq back into the worst chaos.
Yet the plain fact is that nuclear bombs in the hands of a regime which openly declares its desire to destroy Israel are not something Israel will peacefully tolerate. They will act to stop it while it can still be stopped without the risk of a nuclear strike against Israel.
Unless work on an Iranian nuclear bomb has definitively ended Israel will bomb Iran, with or without the agreement of the USA and NATO.
In the last reckoning here, Israel is no state’s puppet. It has pressing concerns of it’s own, and will act on them.
In 2007, Israel attacked a nuclear weapons site in Syria. It attacked nuclear installations in Iraq in the 1980s, when the US was backing Saddam against Iran in the Iran-Iraq war, eliminating Saddam’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons.
In Israeli eyes the facts and alternatives here are stark.
Recall what the Iranian leader Ahmedinejad said in December 2006:
“Thanks to people’s wishes and God’s will, the trend for the existence of the Zionist regime is [going] downwards and this is what God has promised and what all nations want. Just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and today does not exist, so will the Zionist regime soon be wiped out”.
Israel, the Jewish state as such, is clearly what “Zionist regime” means here. In the context of Iran being close to having nuclear weapons, he is talking about the nuclear obliteration of Israel. That is how most Israelis took it.
Israel will act to stop this Muslim fundamentalist regime acquiring the possiblilty of inflicting nuclear death on the Jewish nation (and the Israeli Arab minority which would also be victims of a nuclear attack).
We as socialists want Ahmedinejad to be sent to hell not by the Israeli and American armies and airforces, but by the Iranian working class and the oppressed nations in the Iranian state. We would like to see the Israeli ruling class go on the same trip as Ahmedinejad.
We do not advocate an Israeli attack on Iran, nor will we endorse it or take political responsibility for it. But if the Israeli airforce attempts to stop Iran developing the capacity to wipe it out with a nuclear bomb, in the name of what alternative would we condemn Israel?
- The inalienable right of every state to have nuclear weapons — and here a state whose clerical fascist rulers might see a nuclear armageddon, involving a retaliatory Israeli nuclear strike against Iran in the way a God-crazed suicide bomber sees blowing himself to pieces —?
- Because Israel has nuclear weapons, and therefore the Arab and Islamic states should have them too —?
- Because we are unconditional pacifists? We think military action is never justified, and therefore Israel has no right to attack Iran, not even to stop it acquiring the nuclear means to mount the ultimate suicide bomb attack on Israel —?
- Because we would prefer to live in a world where such choices would not be posed, where relations between states and peoples are governed by reason, and strictly peaceful means —?
- Because for choice we would live in a world where the workers of Israel, Iran, Iraq were united in opposition to all their rulers, and strong enough to get rid of them and bring to the region an era of socialist and democratic peace and understanding —?
- Because Israel would in attacking Iran be only an American imperialist tool, against a mere regional power; and that cancels out the genuine self-defence element in pre-emptive Israeli military action against Iranian nuclear weapons —?
- Because Israel has no right to exist anyway, and therefore no right to defend itself —? (This will in fact be the underlying attitude of most of the kitsch left.)
- Because the Iranian government, Islamic clerical fascist though it is, is an “anti-imperialist” power and must be unconditionally supported against the US, NATO, Israel —?
- Because Israel refuses to dismantle the Jewish national state peacefully and agree to an Arab Palestinian state in which Jews would have religious but not Israeli-national rights, and therefore socialists, “anti-racists”, and anti-imperialists must be on the side of those who would conquer and destroy it, even, in this case, with nuclear weapons —?
- Because we don’t deal in vulgar practical choices but in pure historical essences such as “anti-imperialism” —?
The harsh truth is that there is good reason for Israel to make a precipitate strike at Iranian nuclear capacity.
Socialists should not want that and can not support it. Our point of view is not that of Israeli or any other nationalism. We want Israeli, Palestinian, Iranian and other workers to unite and fight for a socialist Middle East.
However, least of all should we back Ahmedinejad, or argue, implicitly or openly, that homicidal religious lunatics have a right to arm themselves with nuclear weapons — and that those they say they want to destroy should be condemned for refusing to stand idly by while they arm themselves to do the job.
The latter, expressed in duff “anti-imperialism”, pretend, one-sided, pacifism and hysterical appeals to “international law” and “the UN”, will be the response of the kitsch left to an Israeli attack. International socialists should have no truck with it.
The left needs to discuss these issues in advance, while a, comparitively, calm discussion may still be possible ...
It must be a Shachtmanite disease: turning into an Israeli-Jewish chauvinist. It happened to plenty of WP-ISL members as they degenerated into right-wing social democrats and it's happened to Sean Matgamna and his majority tendency in the AWL. First time as tragedy, second time as farce. What a disappointment.
Get out while you can, Comrade Broder!
Sean's article is clearly intended to *provoke* discussion, to help the AWL and to an extent the rest of the left clarify our position(s) before a possible Israeli attack on Iran, but in my view there are some serious problems with the way it presents things. I'll come back to these. First, however, let's dispose of hysterical responses a la Luke C. Some quotations:
"We as socialists want Ahmedinejad to be sent to hell not by the Israeli and American armies and airforces, but by the Iranian working class and the oppressed nations in the Iranian state. We would like to see the Israeli ruling class go on the same trip as Ahmedinejad."
"Socialists should not want that [an Israeli attack on Iran] and can not support it. Our point of view is not that of Israeli or any other nationalism. We want Israeli, Palestinian, Iranian and other workers to unite and fight for a socialist Middle East."
Of course you, Luke, believe that Iran should have nuclear weapons, as a "semi-colony" (or "neo-colony" or whatever the term is) "defending" itself against US imperialism. So no surprise you object to rational discussion of the problem. Socialists who oppose Iran developing nuclear weapons should voice their disagreements in a calm and rational manner (as I intend to).
For more on Workers Power's support for Iran etc developing nuclear weapons, and why we should oppose this rubbish, see
Luke, a campaign for women's and LGBT equality liberation would also be unlikely, currently, to win a mass response across the Middle East - except a negative one. Does that mean that socialists should reject it?
China in the 20s really was a semi-colony - bits of territory under foreign occupation, widespread foreign spheres of influence, important state functions controlled by foreign imperialists, ports not under its control, no central government able to operate effectively. In other words, it was not fully political independent; elements at least of its independence were purely formal. Thus Trotsky wrote of Japan seeking to transform it from a semi-colonial country into a colonial one (ie under full Japanese occupation and control).
Today - Iran? India? Semi-colonies? Of whom? This is just laughable.
In his polemics against Marxists who thought that the internationalisation of capital meant that national self-determination was obsolete (Luxemburg, Bukharin, Pyatakov), Lenin distinguished clearly between lack of political independence and economic dependence. The former can be ended by a victorious national liberation struggle; the latter can only be abolished as part of the overthrow of the world market framework through workers' revolution. Political independence is a worthwhile, though limited goal, a democratic demand; "economic independence" is a reactionary utopia. (The same argument is made in a different form in Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism.)
Luke, you use the same argument as Bukharin etc used against Lenin, only turned inside out!
In place of Lenin's rational conception, WP etc substitute the idea that any state that is subordinate within the world market is a semi-colony (of no one in particular?) So, Luke, does this only apply to 'developing world' states, or to eg Canada or Spain too? Or in the past, how about Czarist Russia, which was dominated by foreign capital, but was clearly a major imperialist power? Or Portugal, tied economically to the British empire, but with a huge empire of its own?
Clearly political independence has major economic consequences; independent bourgeois states are able to develop their economies where previously they were prevented from doing so by their imperialist oppressors. But to argue that a state is only formally independent because its economy is dominated by foreign capital is to substitute a populist conception of nations and imperialism for a Marxist one.
No, Bill, I provided plenty of evidence. I explained why 1920s China was a semi-colony. Apply these criteria to Iran. In what sense is it a semi-colony or oppressed nation? In fact it is an oppressor of nations, and an aspiring regional imperialist power! The evidence for this is enormous... However, since in your scissors-and-pritstick world there are only two categories of nations, the big powers and the semi-colonies, I can see why you think otherwise.
We support the Palestinians against the Israelis, but on the following basis:
"Insofar as the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation fights the oppressor, we are always, in every case, and more strongly than anyone else, in favour, for we are the staunchest and the most consistent enemies of oppression. But insofar as the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation stands for its own bourgeois nationalism, we stand against. We fight against the privileges and violence of the oppressor nation, and do not in any way condone strivings for privileges on the part of the oppressed nation."
- Lenin, The Right of Nations to Self-Determination
Do you not recognise that a nuclear weapons capable Iran would transform the politics of the region (for the worse)? Could you explain how it would improve the prospects for "a workers revolution"? Will you please explain why the nature of the Iranian regime has no bearing on any of your 'revolutionary' calculations?
AWL submits: '(2) Israel does have "good reason" for a strike if they think it's a matter of self-preservation. Iran has "good reason" for developing nuclear weapons for their own purposes. We do not encourage or support either of these developments.'
The quotation marks around 'good reason' wrongly imply an equivalence between Israel and Iran. Israel has good reason for a pre-emptive strike. It does not have 'good reason'. Iran has only 'good reason'.
A more accurate formulation would read,
"Israel does have good reason for a strike if they think its a matter of self-preservation. Iran's 'good reasons' for developing nuclear weapons include a murderous antisemitsm. Although Israel and Iran are not equivalents we do not support either of these developments."
"The harsh truth is that there is good reason for Israel to make a precipitate strike at Iranian nuclear capacity."
This is a statement of support only very partially negated by the follwoing statement of Matgamna's
"Socialists should not want that and can not support it."
If there's a very good reason for something and this is a harsh truth then saying I don't want it or support it is scant good to those who lives who are being curretly threatened by the real prospect of carnage from Israeli fighter planes.
Yet even though some in the AWL have siught to distance themselves they actually spend more time apologising for the comment and branding everyone who disagrees with Matgamna as liars and Sun style journalists.
Perhaps time for a serious rethink of anyone in the AWL who rightly feels a great disquiet over this issue.
If I say there's a good reason for something even though I don't support it then that is lending credibility to it. It is a aprtial negation- it's saying there's good reason for it but I don't support it. The rest of your post is some kind of strange slur based on sloppy characterisations. You can try bringing Lenin into it if you must but my point is that when Iran- that is Iranian workers and peasant farmers- are being threatened with a very real possibility of attack then to say that this is justified in any way or that it should not be opposed is wrong. Wrong because blowing up Iranian workers is wrong. Wrong because exposing people to decades if not centuries of nuclear fallout is wrong. Wrong because it would set back the cause of the Iranian workers' movement.
This too from Sean Matgamna also is only a partial condemnation- "We do not advocate an Israeli attack on Iran, nor will we endorse it or take political responsibility for it. But if the Israeli airforce attempts to stop Iran developing the capacity to wipe it out with a nuclear bomb, in the name of what alternative would we condemn Israel?"
It's saying we don't call for them to attack but if they do why would we condmn it? Actually the answe rbecause it sets back the working class self-organisation for socialism is nowhere articulated in what in effect becomes a rhetorical question as unanswered.
Matgamna's statement does support an Israeli attack
Submitted by Jason on 4 August, 2008 - 19:28.
One he wrote- "The harsh truth is that there is good reason for Israel to make a precipitate strike at Iranian nuclear capacity."
This isn't the same as advocating nuking Iran but certainly an attack by Israel should be condemed not given 'good reason'.
Then even more incredibly in this article he writes:
"From what point of view, in principle, could the “Left” condemn action by Israel to stop an Islamic fundamentalist regime, religious lunatics who deny Israel’s right to exist, acquiring the means to make a nuclear strike against it? "
This- as it is never answered in either this article or the original- is in plain English advocating an attack. Imagine this sentence in any normal context- 'From what point of view, in principle, could the “Left” condemn action by Israel to stop an Islamic fundamentalist regime, religious lunatics who deny Israel’s right to exist, acquiring the means to make a nuclear strike against it? ' it would be taken to mean- it cannot and should not be condemned.
If Matgamna had though said I mean this seriously- how can we oppose this attack - as oppose it we must and then answered himself then it may be excusable. But he doesn't.
And instead makes a joke out of wanting to nuke Iran by entitling his article 'How I came to advocate a nuclear strike on Iran'. As Israel is the only nuclear power in the Middle East and as any attack on nuclear facilities would risk nuclear fall-out and as the Israeli state has attacked Syria recently then I suggest joking about nuking Iran is no laughing matter.
Recently I sent a letter round robin asking for support for an anti-deportartion campaign for a Kurdish student from Iranian occupied Kurdistan. I am certainly going to condemn and invite others to condemn a person who calls himself a socialist, a Marxist, a supporter of liberation advocating aerial bombardments that will in all likelihood result in mass murder.
The answer by the way, to Matgamna's rhetorical question (as he thinks there is no answer- none that he can give) is that socialists and democrats should oppose aerial bombardment of the Iranian working class, bombardment that could lead tot he deaths of thousands of working class Iranians, that would certianly strengthen the position of reactionaries in Iran, hamper the working class resistance and set back socialism and democracy in the region for decades.
That a so-called socialist website should allow such garbage, advocating the murder of ordinary working class people, to be printed without challege is deeply disturning and shameful.
Matgamana should be expelled from the AWL- failing this then the whole labour movement should condenm this shameful prowar stance.
AWL members break with Matgamna- oppose the murder of Iranian workers.
Agree with Jason. The CPGB
Submitted by Dan2 on 4 August, 2008 - 19:24.
Agree with Jason. The CPGB have obviously gone too far if they're saying Sean M supports a nuclear strike on Israel. But certain AWL members on here aren't exactly above using mud slinging to distort political debate.
That aside what Sean M wrote was an absolute disgrace and if he sticks by what he has said I think the AWL should throw him out of the organisation if you want to retain any credibility. This isn't some minor point, it's basically saying that if Israel attacks Iran then how could the left condemn it. On the coat tails of the AWL majority saying, in a round about way, that they don't want troops to leave Iraq it shows, in my view, a further lurch to the right.
Morals aside what kind of political methodology supports this? As Jason said all it would do is set back pro-working class politics in the middle east. But the lack of politics is seen again in the article above.
"We criticize Israel for oppressing the Palestinians, and for not using its present position of strength to reach a settlement with those in the Arab and Islamic world with whom a settlement can be reached, in the first place, the Palestinians."
Does Sean M really think that the Israeli ruling class will suddenly realise they have some kind of moral duty to the Palestinians? This is marxism gone mad and devoid of any material basis. The very material basis of Israel was the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians of their land and the apartheid state that is today depends on the material support of the USA (especially when it comes to weaponry) and the suppression of the Palestinians. Israel cannot exist as a zionist state without denying the Palestinian right to return. It would have been like saying to the white ruling class in South Africa "we criticise you for not using your position of strength for not reaching a settlement with the black working class".....
But as Sean compares the Iranian ruling class to Al Qaeda it says it all really. Does he really believe this? The zionist ruling class in Israel has a few religious nutters in it but they still know their material interests. Whatever the blustering of Ahmedinejad does anyone really think that the Iranian ruling class would nuke Israel? Sean labels others lunatics but to be honest I think he must be a lunatic if he believes it. The Iranian ruling class know full well if they did such a thing Iran would be obliterated. I don't trust the Israeli ruling class with nuclear weapons any more than I do the Iranian ruling class.
All this over the top language in the article above is just cover for a terrible set of politics in Sean M's previous article.
Lastly I doubt anyone is interested in a tug of war between one or two members in the AWL and CPGB. Typical bubble politics of the far left.
An article on it here:
What happened to my comment here?
Submitted by Lawrence Parker on 4 August, 2008 - 19:32.
AWL webperson - I posted a comment here on Sean's latest that has disappeared (about 4.45pm-ish). It appeared on the site and other people read it (including Thora Hird and the King of Zambia).
I'm guessing cock-up not conspiracy (my comments are still on the other thread) but any idea what happened to it? Shall I repost?
PR article here Yes Lawrence
Submitted by Jason on 4 August, 2008 - 21:26.
PR article here
Yes Lawrence repost.
Iran hasn't got nuclear weapons nor is it on the verge of acquiring them. Even if it did is our role as socialist internationalists to advocate that the ruling class of another country launches military airstrikes on nuclear facilities. No. We advocate a mass working class movement to overthrow the dictatorship in Tehran as well as Tel Aviv.
Military attacks by the bourgeois or threats of them play into the hands of the rival bourgeois in ramping up nationalist fervour and way from proletarian internationalism. Quite simple really. David Broder can see it but the rest of the AWL are so far silent on this.
Despte having some good activists in some good campaigns this latest debacle really does expose the AWL politics as a t best hopelessly confused and at worst a vicious sectarian chauvinism (epitomised most clearly and honestly and appreantly proudly by Matgamna).
Iran v Israel
Submitted by David Avery truckerD on 4 August, 2008 - 23:37.
But what would the 'other' socialist say if Iran did have nuclear Weapons? Since has said it would wipe Israel out would would you expect it to do? Supposed Iran had said it would wipe out London, then then got the nuclear weapons. Would you expect the British state to sit back and wait until we were obliterated? I would not. The weapons inspector should be allowed to do there jobs freely, then Iran would be safe. It should be able to have nuclear power as the oil will not last forever.
Use of 'libel'
Submitted by Lawrence Parker on 5 August, 2008 - 09:08.
As my original comment has been disappeared (still not sure of reason) I have resurrected it here as a new comment. Apologies to those who read the earlier version.
The use of the word ‘libel’ here by Sean and other comrades is interesting. It would have perhaps been better if they stuck with the old stand-bys of ‘gossip’ and ‘slander’ (although scarcely nearer the truth of course). ‘Libel’ generally has a specific meaning i.e. that someone has been slandered and the 'law' has been broken in some way, that is bourgeois 'law', not ‘our’ law. Usually, ‘libel’ is a rich person’s plaything, it is not a ‘neutral’ item to be picked up willy-nilly by workers’ organisations, precisely because ‘libel’ is a weapon likely to be deployed against us (and prohibitively expensive).
Presumably, the comrades of the AWL have no intention of taking the WW into a bourgeois court of law, but the slippage in the language is interesting, comrades.
On the WW’s front page that had you excusing an Israeli attack, you write (amazingly). “No reasonable (or even unreasonable!) “construction” on what I wrote could licence or justify those lying words.” This from the man who wrote: “The harsh truth is that there is good reason for Israel to make a precipitate strike at Iranian nuclear capacity.” As the WW article notes you hedge this around with other material that says you don’t advocate such a solution (phew!) but you make abundantly clear that you will not protest against against such an action: “We do not advocate an Israeli attack on Iran, nor will we endorse it or take political responsibility for it. But if the Israeli air force attempts to stop Iran developing the capacity to wipe it out with a nuclear bomb, in the name of what alternative would we condemn Israel?” If this is not a process of excusing then I don’t know what is.
On the CPGB’s Stalinist past: this is a tired rerun of Sean’s hopeless polemic of last summer, based wholly on the non-Marxist method of ‘original sin’. Sean was comprehensively answered on this by Mark Fischer, myself and others. Nobody, least of all hapless Sean, replied. What is the intention here then, Sean? Fling the same old shit and see if some of it sticks this time?
I think the demand for your ‘head on a pole’ was OTT and misplaced but I am clear that your response here is just an attempt to squirm out of taking responsibility for what you argued. Why not get some backbone and say what you mean and mean what you say? Or even develop some Marxist politics worthy of the name...
Submitted by tragiclifestories on 5 August, 2008 - 12:30.
While it is true that nowhere in Sean's little article does he actually say "Go on, nuke the bastards!", and thus the WW front page and headline is - in my view - partially misleading, I am disinclined to criticise the editorial team for this, since the fundamental logic of the piece does (yes) excuse a (yes) nuclear strike on Iran.
The first thing to note is that any putative conflict with Iran targeted at underground nuclear facilities entails one of two things: A), troops marching up and knocking on the door, or B) tactical nuclear weaponry. It is well-known that Iranian bunker designs resist the most powerful conventional bunker busters; this was one of the main bits of intelligence to be directly revealed by the recent Lebanon conflict. So, if we grant to Sean his hysterical view of the Iranian regime (apparently viewing these slick, cynical operators as anything other than suicide bombers in suits is being "soft", but I digress) that it really does intend to launch a suicidal nuclear war on Israel, should the latter exercise its "right to self-defense", it will mean returning nuclear weapons to the battlefield for the first time since Hiroshima.
It's perfectly possible that Sean is simply not aware of this - so much of the rest of his article is flatly delusional, such as his view of reactionary Islamists as effectively comic book villains rather than the politicians they are, so there's no reason why he may not simply be naive on this point (although an old hand like himself really should know better by now). But then, "in the name of what alternative" would Sean draw a line at tactical nukes? A "pacifist", "utopian" opposition to all nuclear weaponry? (repeat x9...) How exactly would Sean manage to condemn a full-on, mushroom cloud extravaganza, for that matter? Israel should not be condemned for taking the "necessary steps" to defend itself - except if these "necessary steps" fall foul of Sean's "kitsch" little shibboleth about which weapons are allowed. I doubt it. To conclude - either Sean is prepared to excuse an Israeli nuclear attack, or his article is simply completely incoherent. It only actually works if Israel is given carte blanche to do anything.
Apart from that, we have the usual humpty-dumptyoid attempts to pretend that a proudly-declared "refusal to condemn", a reaffirmation of "Israel's right to defend itself" and all the rest does not amount to some kind of support - a logic quite extraodinary when we consider that even very mildly equivocal statements on Stalinist and reactionary regimes are routinely lambasted by this man as "soft", "defencist" etc. The usual routine of slanderous pish about how Stalinist we all are is beneath comment.
So, we're "libellous", then? Hardly. If you think so, sue us.
Oh dear, oh dear
Submitted by Duncan on 5 August, 2008 - 16:00.
Libel according to the Cambridge University dictionary on line is defined as "a piece of writing which contains bad and false things about a person". I think that covers the Weekly Workers' sad little piece. As well as not understanding definitions of words many of the contributors to this "debate" seem incapable of reading the entirety of an article or understanding issues are more complicated than simple choices between good and bad. If Iran has nuclear capability and has sworn to destroy the Israeli state, most rational people (I do not include CPGB, Workers Power or Permanent Revolution members in that definition) would understand that Israel would have good reason to strike at that nuclear capability. We would not condemn the Israeli state for ensuring that genocide is not carried out against its people, but because it is a bourgeois state and because of everything that entails we don't support it. Can anyone else on the left walk and chew gum?
engaging in hypothetical nonfactual statements doesn't get you
Submitted by Jason on 5 August, 2008 - 17:12.
engaging in hypothetical nonfactual statements doesn't get you off the hook.
Iran is currently being targetted by the imperialist powers and Israel. Ahmedinijad, a reactionary bourgeois ruler, is using this to shore up his power.
Socialists should be quite clear that we oppose an attack on Iran.
Matgamans though is very far from clear about opposing an attack on Iran- instead he writes about Israel's legitimate needs of self-defence, how there is very 'good reason.' etc. etc.
Instead we stand for solidarity with Iranian workers and indeed Palestinian and other Arab workers and all other workers in the Middle East against oppression, against class rule.
I haven't claimed Matgamna wants to nuke Iran, Duncan (perhaps you could show me where I have? but you can't because I haven't) but then Matgamana writing an article entitled "How I came to advocate an Israeli nuclear strike on Iran" is hardly helpful either, is it? Perhaps, more, sick, actually.
Given that there is a real threat to Iran then engaging in nonfactual hypotheticals on a so-called left socialist website is despicable.
I'll leave you to it and hope those members of the AWL who have some kind of principle do the right thing- immediately condemn the warmongering both of the bourgeois and that of their own members, try to overturn the decision of the AWL if they wish and if they can expell those who insist on advocating military attacks against Iran and if not leave the organisation. This should definitely be a split issue.
Submitted by MikeyMikey on 5 August, 2008 - 18:17.
I find it interesting that Jason is advocating a split in AWL. The left is fragmented around numerous tiny organisations and he wants to make a further split. For what purpose? What will this achieve?
Maybe Jason should come clean with his own position vis a vis Israel. Does he believe Israel has a right to exist or not? If he does not the it is obvious that he does believe that there are any circumstances that Israel can defend itself. Is this accurate?
A simple question for Jason - A yes or no answer will suffice.
Imagine a situation in a crowded shopping street in Tel Aviv. A man who is believed to be a suicide bomber and about to act is in the area. In the event the man presses the button or pulls his chord, tens of people will die. Do the Israeli army have the right to kill him instantaneously with a shot if there is no other way to apprehend him without the risk that he will detonate his bomb?
Yes or No Jason. Soldiers have to make decisions.
Learn a word a day the Duncan way...
Submitted by Lawrence Parker on 5 August, 2008 - 18:41.
Duncan: Libel according to the Cambridge University dictionary on line is defined as "a piece of writing which contains bad and false things about a person".
Congratulations for learning to use a dictionary. Of course, you can take any word and blandly define it away from any social context. But libel in our society is generally not banded around as a term between people who have had false things written or said about them (at work, say).
Left-wing organisations generally don't bandy the word 'libel' around in polemics either. No, 'libel' is generally bandied around by members of the ruling class looking to deter criticism and maintain a 'private life' while living off the back of the people.
So, 'libel' has a certain generalised taboo of 'breaking the law' and that of course is why AWL members, in desperation, opportunistically use it. It's meant to demonise, otherwise why not just use 'slander' or even 'lies'?
"If Iran has nuclear capability and has sworn to destroy the Israeli state, most rational people (I do not include CPGB, Workers Power or Permanent Revolution members in that definition) would understand that Israel would have good reason to strike at that nuclear capability. We would not condemn the Israeli state for ensuring that genocide is not carried out against its people, but because it is a bourgeois state and because of everything that entails we don't support it."
This is dire. Who are most 'rational' people? On what basis is their 'rationality' formed? Marxist rationality? I doubt if it can be called even liberal rationality in the majority of cases. There is not one inert lump of healthy, rational opinion that you can appeal to here (as against the bad 'rationality' of small revolutionary groups to your left), both sides are shot through with contradictions of good and bad ideas. The mainstream rationality that you appear to be appealing to has some horrific reactionary ideas conditioned in part by the society that people live in. And you renounce the thought of even attempting to influence those who might agree that Israel has the right to strike Iran... because you agree they have good reason!
By not condemning you are supporting - you are confering some kind of moral authority on an act by a bourgeois state. I don't think Marxists can do this. As for this 'genocide' bollocks... Personally I would love to see all the Iranian clerical leaders hanging from the nearest lamp-posts (put their by their own 'subjects' and not US/Israel)... but to say they are on the brink of 'genocide' is just another tawdry 'justification' for an Israeli assault.
I agree with Jason, AWL members should stand up and rebel against this horseshit...
I'm not in favour of splits for their own sake, obviously, but
Submitted by Jason on 5 August, 2008 - 19:08.
I'm not in favour of splits for their own sake, obviously, but where major imperialist powers are ramping up threats on Iran for a prominent member of a socialist organisation to blur the issue let alone come out with statements seemingly in favour of an attack is a pretty big deal.
And then we get MikeyMike trying to compare an Israeli soldier hypothetically shooting a terrorist about to press the switch- this again is a reactionary propaganda point implying possible justification based on hypotheticals completely unrelated to the real situation in Iran.
Does Israel have a right to exist? Yes. But should it have the right to oppress Palestinians, prevent their freedom of movement, bulldoze houses, torture and imprison a whole nation etc. etc. No. So we don't support Israel as it is now.
We should be for equal rights for Arab and Jewish workers- this means unambiguously the overthrow of the Israeli ruling class.
We should be for change from the working class organising in Iran, in Israel/Palestine, Iraq. Socialists should absolutely be against imperialist attack on Iran or a proxy or any other kind of military strike from Israel.
The position of Magamna and the AWL's silence on it suggests tacit support is a disgrace. So yes for those socialists in AWL who are principled this does pose the need for standing up and organising an opposition etc. or even leaving. The support for Israeli attacks or even equivocation on this is not just some mere detail!
Lawrence you should try dictionaries they really are useful
Submitted by Duncan on 5 August, 2008 - 20:57.
Why not use "slander" because that refers to spoken word not written word. The definition I use for libel is the first one that comes up in a widely used English language dictionary, I would suggest that that means it is widely understood in our society to mean "a piece of writing which contains bad and false things about a person". Perhaps the CPGB should publish their own dictionary that deals with their own social context. There are different kind of rationalities to be sure, but anyone that doesn't understand the right of a nation to defend itself against an aggressive neighbour that keeps issuing threats, probably fails all definitions (save the CPGB's own) of rationality. Refusing to condemn is not the same as supporting. I would not condemn the police if they intervened to stop a case of domestic violence, I don't support them because they are the police. Maybe Lawrence and Jason would condemn them or maybe they would support them?
But how useful?
Submitted by Lawrence Parker on 6 August, 2008 - 09:25.
You appear to be arguing against the social context of language as a means to understand it, and instead want to rely on fixed dictionary meanings. Thus you have no means to understand how language changes, evolves or is used. Your dictionary tells you a meaning of 'slander' but in fact it is quite common (in my journalist circle at least) to refer to a printed slander. Language is social or it's nothing.
This may seem abstruse but in fact this is what the AWL does to makes its politics 'work': fragment everything down into small chunks of text or action, stripping them out of context and history, and making them free of consequences. For example, Duncan has his all-powerful dictionary; Sean M strips Israel from its bearings in a US-led imperialist system and thinks that a standalone 'surgical' strike on Iran cannot be condemned and must be excused because there is good reason.
Duncan does this again here, in which he refuses to condemn the police for a 'good act' of stopping a case of domestic violence and he muses whether myself and Jason would condemn or support the police. Duncan has already tacitly agreed to support the police by not condemning them. But again, one can only do this by isolating the incident from the actions and history of the police more generally. By confering even tacit acceptance on the police's right to act in a 'domestic' setting, 'Marxists' provide legitimacy for tomorrow's picket-line thug. Exactly the same thing would happen if Israel bombed Iran for the supposedly 'good reason' of getting rid of any nuclear installation. Any generalised non-condemnation a la Matgamna would only fortify the Israelis for other military adventures that Sean might (or might not!) condemn.
My method in domestic violence would not be to call the police. They have no place on our streets or in our homes. It is up to our communities to organise to sort this out not the state and certainly not a lunatic organisation such as the police. That is the only means to solve this - the police are there to control not to protect us.
Actions, decisions do not take place in a vacuum. People can make mistakes in reaching them but to generalise theoretically from a pragmatic approach stripped of context and consequences is a bad, bad error.
(Much the same could be said of the 'suicide bomber' argument from Mike - another attempt to strip actions down into non-consequential fragments.)
"If Iran has nuclear
Submitted by Dan2 on 5 August, 2008 - 21:22.
"If Iran has nuclear capability and has sworn to destroy the Israeli state"
This is what I don't get. This seems like an entirely un-marxist view of what is going on with no material basis. To think that the Iranian ruling class is some kind of Al-Qaeda terrorist cell just isn't dealing with reality. Whatever the Iranian ruling class say to play to some kind of fake anti-imperialism anyone who thinks they would launch a nuclear attack on Israel is, in my view, totally deluded. Both Israel and Iran have religious fundamentalists in their ranks but ultimately they will act as a ruling class, not as religious fundamentalists and they will act on their material interests. The Iranian ruling class know full well that Iran would be obliterated off the planet if they used nuclear weapons on Israel so why would they do it? Iran obtaining nuclear weapons is no better or worse than any other national ruling class obtaining them, such as Pakistan or India. Indeed I have no more trust in the Israeli ruling class than I do the Iranian ruling class in terms of having nuclear weapons.
However Israel is making signals that it will use a nuclear attack to destroy the underground facilities in Iran and that would be devastating for the middle east on many levels.
MikeyMikey then takes things further and moves into ridiculous abstract moralism. I don't normally like saying "read this or that" but I'd say try Their Morals and Ours by Trotsky, it's very short and blows out of the water that kind of abstract debate.
Also thinking that Israel as a zionist state has no right to exist (as it entails being an apartheid state and denying the right of return) doesn't mean Jason wants to seen it blown off the face of the earth, it's not an either or decision. There is also the view of putting forward pro-working class politics for a one state solution. I imagine you wouldn't have said that South Africa in the form of an apartheid state had a "right to exist".
again total evasion and misinformation
Submitted by Jason on 5 August, 2008 - 21:36.
Would I condmen police for stopping domestic violence? No. There may even be circumstances in which I'd call them. But I wouldn't suggest more police as a solution for domestic violence.
However, this is totally dishonest. Iran is being threatened and there is a very real likelihood Israel could attack. On Duncan's analogy this is like police stopping domestic violence. Sure we'd prefer the woman to fight back or the Iranian working class but hey of it's the police or Israeli fighter planes well far be it from us...
It's complete crap. Israeli attack will pluinge the whole of the Middle East into chaos. Not only will most likely several hundred if not thousands of workers be killed- but it will massively strengthen the hands of the reactionaries in the Iranian government and reactionaries in Israel and there will be a wave of violence throughout the Middle East.
Socialists should be absolutely clear- we are absolutely and unreservedly against an attack on Iran by the imperialists or Israel. The AWL are far from clear. It's "if the Israeli airforce attempts to stop Iran developing the capacity to wipe it out with a nuclear bomb, in the name of what alternative would we condemn Israel?" It's "we would not call for or support an attack even in these circumstances, but would we continue to oppose it sharply?"
It repeats the lies of the imperialists. It helps prepare the ground for attack. It completely distracts from the necessary tasks to buld for walk-outs, strikes, demos against impeiralist attack and direct solidarity with Iranian workers and their struggles. It seeks to sow division in the working class and socialist case against an attack.
In short, it's a disgrace.
I thought it was a confession
Submitted by bill j on 5 August, 2008 - 21:34.
I thought the title of the piece was a confession.
more like sick joke
Submitted by Jason on 5 August, 2008 - 21:38.
Confession? Not far off. But in the end more like a sick joke- like he revels and is proud of his role.
"I have the honour — and that is how I regard it — of being singled out for special abuse and demonisation."
Not Answering The Question
Submitted by MikeyMikey on 6 August, 2008 - 02:00.
Given Jason did not answer the question as posed that required a simple answer, I will ask it again in the vain hope that I may get one:
A simple question for Jason - A yes or no answer will suffice.
Imagine a situation in a crowded shopping street in Tel Aviv. A man who is believed to be a suicide bomber and about to act is in the area. In the event the man presses the button or pulls his chord, tens of people will die. Do the Israeli army have the right to kill him instantaneously with a shot if there is no other way to apprehend him without the risk that he will detonate his bomb?
Yes or No Jason. Soldiers have to make decisions.
As Dan2 thinks I am into "ridiculous abstract moralism" for this question - maybe he will answer it as well.
I'm not sure there's much
Submitted by Jason on 6 August, 2008 - 09:20.
I'm not sure there's much point going round endlessly in circles on this and anyway I'm away for a week or so from later today so I will leave it here after this post.
Firstly, to MikeyMikey I did in fact answer the question before. It is very easy to make up a scenario give it a yes/no question and then imply this has s0omething to do with the current situation even though that is a sleight of hand. As I wrote before. "And then we get MikeyMike trying to compare an Israeli soldier hypothetically shooting a terrorist about to press the switch- this again is a reactionary propaganda point implying possible justification based on hypotheticals completely unrelated to the real situation in Iran. "
That means the answer is pretty obvious. But for the sake of someone who seems somewhat oblivious to the obvious- the answer to your made up hypothetical example is Yes. Does this excuse warmongering reactionary propaganda from members of a so-called socialist organisation? (The answer is No).
I'll just end with some more general points. The AWL has a pretty bad reputation on the left in general. At times as with Matgamna's piece I think this may be due to a deliberate controversialist courting of seeing how much it is possible to offend people seeing what sick image I can use etc. With others I get the feeling it is a lot less malicious. There are good socialists and activists in the AWL. At times some of their points are worth debating certainly. I'm not convinced it is worth denouncing them as imperialist, chauvinist etc. but instead patiently discussing how if for example you oppose 'troops out now' then this ends up in some way at least being a problem or how insisting on two states when one state is systematically oppressing a whole people as well as exploiting all workers (it's a capitalist state after all) is a problem. It is possible to have a fraternal debate with many comrades even when our positions differ fairly sharply or at least on subjects that arouse a great deal of emotion (because they’re about war, oppression, life and death etc.) where poor choices of words or formulations lead to unnecessary confusion.
However, excusing or even being equivocal about an attack on Iran by Israel when such an attack is if not on the cards not ruled out is a different matter. A line has been crossed here.
I'm not for driving the AWL out of the labour movement whatever that is meant to mean. We of course should still work together in antifascism in union work and in all the rest. But having such views is very compromising. It does need to be pointed out that it is quite a reactionary, chauvinist and unacceptable position. I had hoped that a section of the AWL would recoil from Matgamna's ill conceived and offensive comments. Perhaps they still will. It's up to them. I'm sure the more reasonable members can work out whether it's worth a faction fight or just to walk away.
Dictionaries and journalists
Submitted by Duncan on 6 August, 2008 - 09:32.
Given the standard of most modern journalism it would perhaps be useful for Lawrence to introduce his friends to dictionaries. Dictionaries generally reflect society's use of words, they are not static and are revised regularly, I accept they may be behind on youth-parlance etc, but the word libel is hardly that. Given I don't move in social circles with journalists (I'm pleased to say) but surely for definitions of words we should look to dictionaries rather than anecdotal evidence. Interestingly on the police and domestic violence issue, Lawrence makes good abstract propaganda but does little for those currently facing immediate threat, I would love to see him arguing this with those currently under threat. Jason seems to support the police. If I worked on the Weekly Workers my headlines would be "Lawrence of the CPGB allows domestic violence to go unchecked", "Jason of Permanent Revolution supports the police" now would that be libel or slander, Lawrence?
As you seemingly don't
Submitted by Lawrence Parker on 6 August, 2008 - 10:26.
As you seemingly don't understand the point about the usage of words I suggest we beg to differ.
I'll ignore the rather petty slurs about my profession.
Why is arguing for people to organise in their communities "good abstract propaganda" and arguing for the police to sort out domestic violence sound practical advice? Why is arguing for the working class to decide 'foreign policy' abstract and standing aside while Israeli hawks batter Iran (or vice versa, Iranian hawks attacking Israel) pragmatic advice?
I would have no issue arguing this with people under threat. It's harsh, but it's the unvarnished truth - they need to organise themselves to counter the threat. Would you advocate calling the police, Duncan?
All you have done, Duncan, is keep the debate down at the micro level, ignoring any causes, history or consequence. What are the consequences of empowering the police?
You could write whatever headline you want about me, given that it would be easy to refute such an obvious lie. Go ahead.
A better strapline would be: 'Lawrence, who isn't actually "of the CPGB" says working class women and men need to organise themselves against perpetrators of domestic violence'. Not very pithy, but there you go...
Do you get this Duncan? The 'working class', you know, that class that's meant to be liberating itself instead of relying on the state?
As I said before
Submitted by Dan2 on 6 August, 2008 - 10:59.
As I said before "mikeymikey" read Their Morals and Ours and it neatly sums up what nonsense it is you stating those kind of scenarios.
"I have the honour"
I missed that bit......some people on the left really need to get over themselves!
No I don't
Submitted by Duncan on 6 August, 2008 - 11:17.
Lawrence says"Why is arguing for people to organise in their communities "good abstract propaganda" and arguing for the police to sort out domestic violence sound practical advice? Why is arguing for the working class to decide 'foreign policy' abstract and standing aside while Israeli hawks batter Iran (or vice versa, Iranian hawks attacking Israel) pragmatic advice?" The answer is if the working class was in a situation, which we in the AWL aspire to help it achieve, of being able to deal with every little thug who wants to beat up his partner and alter the balance of politics in the middle east, then we would be having a different discussion, but we aren't. Given that situation we are not anarchists, we accept that it is better to have a state intervene than allow violence against individuals we cannot protect. We do that whilst making clear that the state is responsible for a lot of the violence in society and is set up to protect capital and the bourgeoisie. Lawrence is totally ultra-left, what would he say to a woman whose partner is beating her, wait until the working class is strong enough to intervene, whilst I make loud propaganda. Similarly with the Israeli working class, Lawrence's message to them is either you overthrow your bourgeoisie create a socialist federation of the middle east (with other working classes who also need to get with the programme) or immediately you should wait prostrate for the theocratic regime of Iran to do its worst. With socialists like this it is not surprising that much of the Israeli working class looks to hawkish politicians to protect them. I'm sorry I accused Lawrence of being a member of the CPGB, can I suggest he considers joining them.
Similarly with the Israeli
Submitted by Dan2 on 6 August, 2008 - 11:38.
"Similarly with the Israeli working class, Lawrence's message to them is either you overthrow your bourgeoisie create a socialist federation of the middle east (with other working classes who also need to get with the programme) or immediately you should wait prostrate for the theocratic regime of Iran to do its worst."
Again the logic here is totally devoid of any material basis.
1) As an aside there is no evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and as such why join in with the pro-hawks rhetoric by talking about it as if they are.
2) If Iran did develop them only someone totally removed from reality would think that Iran would launch a nuclear attack on Israel. The Iranian ruling class can't be compared to Al Qaeda (as Sean M does with his ridiculous analysis), they are like any other national bourgeoisis and if they aquired nuclear weapons it would be no different than Israel, Pakistan or India. All those regimes have religious fundamentalists but all act in the material interests of the ruling class. Iran would be no different.
3) If Israel did launch a limited nuclear strike against Iran (the "bunker busters") it would be an act which would actually set back the interests of the working classes across the middle east.
The answer certainly isn't to say to the Israeli working classes "ask your ruling class and/or the USA to carry out a limited nuclear strike against Iran".
I do not know whether Iran is developing new weapons, I would suggest that if they can they will. What is your material basis to suggest otherwise? I think it is likely that they might well use nuclear weapons against Israel, Ahmedinejad certainly sound sas though he would, why not take him at his word. The notion that the Iranian theocracy is the same as the Indian, Israeli and Pakistani regimes, is, I think, very wide of the mark. I'm not suggesting the Israeli working class asks their ruling class to carry out a limited nuclear strike against Iran. Yet again, I do not support a nuclear strike against Iran by the Israeli government. I simply will not condemn it.
"Yet again, I do not support a nuclear strike against Iran by the Israeli government. I simply will not condemn it."
A direct quote from Duncan. This is pretty low- a refusal to condemn a nuclear strike by Israel. You couldn't make it up. And indeed there's no reason to.
Quite a despicable comment really.
Obviously a typo due to haste, what I should have written is "I'm not suggesting the Israeli working class asks their ruling class to carry out a limited nuclear strike against Iran. Yet again, I do not even support a strike against Iran to take out their nuclear capabilities by the Israeli government. I simply will not condemn it."
So what have we here?
In response to a piece labelled “discussion article” in Solidarity we have no real discussion, but instead representatives of three pitiful groups attempting to: a. fish in the AWL for a member or two; b. demagogically demand our adherence to an ‘orthodoxy’ that we reject and (certainly in my case) laugh at; c. engage in a type of “debate” which drives out real debate.
So who have we had?
First group. Luke from Workers Power. Bless him. He intervened, but ran off in shame after he was rightly pulled up (by Mikey) for profound ignorance (calling the Iranians Arabs). How we laughed (in embarrassment for him). Of course Luke is the rep of a deranged group which has rallied around a guru, Richard Brenner. In an ideal world Richard would be well balanced and a foot taller.
Of course Luke expressed solidarity with our dissident, David, but left before mentioning that his group is classically left anti-semitic, favouring (unlike our dissident) the trashing of the Israeli state.
Luke, here’s a suggested reading list. Themes to include: Who the are the Iranians?; Iran - a big place to the right of Iraq; What is a rotten bloc? Jews, they’re not all bad.
So Luke, come back when you’ve read up.
Second group. The other half of Workers Power, represented by Bill J. Now, it wouldn’t surprise me to find that Bill J is in fact Bill from Manchester. A.k.a. Bill Braincell, Bill’s not normally allowed to write for his own organisation’s publications, so has to make do with our website.
If I’ve got the right bloke, he is also the person I once saw walk into a concrete bollard in Deansgate.
So how are you Bill? How’s your head?
Now Bill writes, “Matgamna … supports the oppressed nation against the oppressed. He supports US/UK in Iraq. He supports the Israelis in Palestine. He supports the Israelis in Iran [uh?]. In every conflict Matgamna is consistently on the side of the oppressors…”
This brings into question our policy about what we allow on our website. If this had been a letter to our paper, for example, it would have gone in the bin. If his remarks were a contribution in a public meeting the chair would shut him up and tell him to sit down. Bill’s remarks are unargued and evidence free, just simply asserted; these remarks are all lies. There are real and big differences between Bill’s group and the AWL, but Bill doesn’t draw these lines, instead he invents his own.
This is political pollution. This sort of shit – and it is shit – drives out real debate and discussion.
Bill’s lazy, stupid, flippant comments litter our website. Why allow our space to be messed up by him? Because we are for free debate? But this isn’t debate.
And the odd thing is that Bill ends, “I won’t tire you [by providing quotes]. Seeing as you obviously don’t care…” So why bother Bill? (and that’s rhetorical Bill, I don’t want any sort of reply from you).
And the third group, the Weekly Worker. Another cult, a rag-bag of left-overs which attempts to make a virtue out of refusing to account for its political past, and which allows well-known liars like Mark Fisher to feely circulate any old made-up nonsense he thinks might ‘cause problems’. So the lad from the WW tells us “[Sean Matgamna is] unashamedly pro-imperialist.” Ben L: you are a little demagogic twit.
You make no attempt to make sense.
Our dissident, David is instructed to stay in the AWL and fight. And then, also, to “split and take as many with you as you can”. So which one is it, Benny boy? (again rhetorical, the operational instruction to David is ‘split’).
Ben L, you write, “I agree with what Bill and Luke are saying (colony/semi-colony schemas, smashing Israel, nukes etc aside).” So, Ben L, you agree with what these people are saying - aside from their fucking politics!
Never let is be said that the WW people would let a thing like politics stop them constructing a rotten little bloc.
Someone more serious than Ben L would intervene into the discussion with a clear statement of his own politics, doing so to the best of his ability. That would include, for example, a clear, honest justification for backing Iran against Israel if it comes to war. But you don’t do that, do you. Why not? Because David doesn’t agree with you. As I say, don’t let honest politics get in your way, Benny boy.
Finally to Mikey, who has done a pretty good job seeing Luke off the premises. But he is weaker when he complains about Trotskyist policy during WW2. It is worth mentioning here because it actually throws light on the Israel-Iran discussion. Surely the point is that we couldn’t back Churchill’s war because, at the very least, we didn’t agree with his war aims. Churchill wasn’t fighting to save the Jews (that was a by product), but to save the Empire and because Britain, in the end, had no choice. Nevertheless, the Trotskyists who followed Trotsky’s lead on this clearly recognised that, while they could not support the Allies, there was a real difference between, for example, German Nazi imperialism and the imperialism of the US. A victory for the Nazis would have led to the complete extermination of the Jews and Roma and the destruction of the unions and working class political organisations; victory for the Allies led to the ending of the Holocaust and – at least in Western Europe – to the re-founding of bourgeois democracy in areas the Nazis had ruled over.
A recognition of these differences between the various imperialisms allowed the Trotskyists to tailor their programme to appeal to workers in the US and Britain. Describing reality accurately kept them sane.
Now onto Israel and Iran.
No-one in the AWL supports the Israeli bomb or an Israeli strike on Iran.
All the AWL is saying in this discussion – although the mud that is thrown at us makes it harder to see this clearly – is that there is a difference between the Iranian clerical fascist regime and its intentions (Iran’s leaders would destroy Israel if they were able), and the aims of the bourgeois democratic Israeli state (which has nuclear weapons but does not intend to use them to destroy Iran.) That’s not to endorse the actions of a bourgeois Israeli state, just to recognise reality.
What is the WWG's programme for Iranian and Israeli workers? Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the WWG support a version of the 'Two States' settlement for Israel/Palestine? Does this feature at all in your programme? I noticed in the latest edition of the 'Weekly Worker' that Mark F seemed a little confused about why Sean had asked for a debate on Israel/Palestine (in the same way that he was 'confused' about why we wanted to debate Afghanistan ... "again").
Anyhow, what's the score?
For me there are four stand-out idiocies in the “critical” responses to Sean’s original article (leaving aside David B’s response). I’m paraphrasing and summarising.
1. The argument: "Sean is not interested in a programme for the working class of the region."
In order for the workers to have a programme for the possible military conflict under discussion they must first work out what is their *basic attitudes* to the forces/regimes waging that conflict. This is a good procedure for any rational Marxist group to follow — a more precise and detailed workers’ programme should follow from such reasoning, discussion and debate.
So the purpose of Sean’s article was to focus on the several questions posed by the threat of a particular military conflict (Israel v Iran):
• the nature of Iranian regime and the actual threat posed by their potential possession of nuclear weapons;
• what an Israeli military strike against Iran represents;
• how an escalated conflict between Israel and Iran would play out in a discussion on the left. How would we express the complexity of a “Third Camp” position.
The broad lines of our policy for the workers’ movement in the event of any war on Iran are pretty clear (and available for anyone to see on this website, go to 2008 conference material) and Sean's article was about discussing our general approach as set out by that policy.
The policy says: “We oppose both military action (whether invasion or air strikes, bombing raids, etc.) and economic sanctions against Iran.” And: “Our basic slogans for now are "no to war, no to the Islamic republic, solidarity with Iranian workers". In the event of war, our line would be similar, i.e. a "Third Camp" one.
Straightforward yeah? Yes and no. Sean’s article was an attempt to think about *in detail*, about a specific hypothetical “war”, which looked less hypothetical by the time of writing. An attempt to think about how we should express our policy. What does the “Third Camp”, giving no political support to either Iran or Israel, actually mean in the context of a so-called limited strike to disarm Iranian nuclear capacity.
In the event of any military conflict, between Iran and Israel, most of the left will back Iran in a particular way and oppose Israel in a particular way. They will be “defencist” of Iran, meaning in practice they will give *political* support to a greater or lesser extent to the Iranian regime — Iran has the right to defend itself "by any means necessary" as one contributor put it; it will matter not, in practice, if that defense is prosecuted by the workers or by the Iranian regime, with by implication, a nuclear bomb in its arsenal. The left will also oppose Israel with arguments about the need to “smash Israel”, the “Zionist entity” etc. They may use the language of extreme anti-Zionism which is almost always the language of "smash Israel" to express their opposition. This much we know in advance about what the left will do, how the left will argue it, if it happens. We in the AWL should prepare ourselves for confronting those arguments as well as think about the exact politics demanded by the situation.
Not least because to us, the underlying rivalries and the political forces and motivations that are expressed in a military conflict between Iran and Israel are complex; the basic lines of our policy need to be tested. We also need to avoid and criticise the tendency of the left to read off answers from dogma, set in stone all time “analysis”, e.g. Iran = semi-colony, Israel = Zionist expansionist/artificial social formation and all the other pseudo-left variants in between.
2. The argument: "Sean doesn’t care if the Iranian workers are annihilated or there are mass casualties."
The is a particularly mendacious claim that cannot be supported by any evidence so it's not worth relating to on that level. So I'll state some other things which should be obvious.
Sean’s article was geared towards expressing the particular danger of the Iranian regime having the bomb. Not important we're told. They won't use it we are told. The Iranian ruling class doesn't want to blow itself up we are told. We are told this because the picture presented is one of poor little Iran being squashed by the west. Does the west want to beat back Iran. Yes, but it is not the whole picture. The Iranian regional power and the power of the regime has been strengthened in the last period. That is important.
So Sean was relating to our 2008 conference policy: “We oppose attempts by the Iranian government to develop nuclear weapons. We want the labour movement to fight for unilateral disarmament by all nuclear weapons states. That should not prevent us from acknowledging, however, that the prospect of the Islamic Republic developing a bomb is particularly alarming.”
To acknowledge that the “Iranian bomb” is particularly alarming has to be expressed, acknowledged, posed in our literature when and if there is an Israeli military strike on Iran to (ostensibly) end Iranian nuclear capacity. To do otherwise would be to disarm ourselves politically, to ignore or underplay the ongoing problem for the regional workers' movements posed by Iranian sub-imperialism. Sean proposes a way to give expression to this idea — we would not condemn the disarming of Iran, the idea of it; we would not condemn it if we thought it could be achieved. In the same political space in which we express that idea we ought to simultaneously say we are positively for the global workers’ movement disarming all nuclear weapons states. And no the words “not condemn” do not mean support, it means “disarming Iran’s nuclear capacity is a good idea in general".
Elsewhere in Solidarity in the current issue, elsewhere in Sean’s article, we express our extreme skepticism about the idea of “smart bombs” and limited actions. We think it inconceivable that there will be no bad consequences from even limited military action. We also say (elsewhere) we are against all nuclear bombs so, by extension, we would be against military actions that would cause nuclear explosions. But to repeat no one, not by implication, or by stealth, is advocating any “smart bombs”, or giving advice to the Israeli ruling class or supporting any kind of military strike whatsoever!
That we are a million miles from being indifferent to the fate of the Iranian workers is something we express in solidarity action as well as words. And we will not take lectures from the people on the left who make political accommodations to Islamist reaction, political forces which are responsible for all kinds of oppression and repression against the workers’ movement, in Iran and elsewhere.
3. Sean is hypocritical about nukes, he doesn’t criticise the Israeli bomb.
The Iranian bomb is particularly alarming. It just self-evidently is. Another way of trying to get your head around it, if that is really what you need to do, is to decide whether there is any difference at all between the Iranian regime and the Israeli regime. We think yes! One is clerical-fascist reaction. The other is bourgeois-democratic as well as national-chauvinist. That is a statement of fact. I could at this point make the an argument against the predictable response: Israel is just as bad as Iran because of it’s treatment of the Palestinians. I won’t but refer you again to the thousands of words we have written on Israel's brutal treatment of the Palestinians.
Only the particularly hard of thinking or someone set on reading a predetermined falsification into the words as they are printed can see our classification of the Iranian bomb as "particularly alarming" as implying we support the Israeli government/ruling class over the Iranian. Our policy is as Sean puts it to get the workers of both countries to "send both ruling classes to hell". It's not an "afterthought" in the story line of the particuarly mendacious contributions: it's basic to our socialism. We will not take lectures from people who give political credence to anti-working class forces e.g. Hamas.
4. The argument: Sean supports the Israeli government’s regional ambitions because he says (quoting out of context) there is a “good reason” for Israel to attack Iran’s potential nuclear capacity.
Well is there a good reason? In our view the good reason would be that Israeli national self-determination is threatened? Or to put it less strongly, the question of that self-determination is posed by the threat of a “bomb” in the hands of violently anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli reactionary regime.
Again this is a statement of fact about the situation. It does not mean (and this really is A, B, C for us) that we trust the Israeli ruling class to “defend” Israeli self-determination (see the thousands of words we have written on Israel-Palestine, many of which are on this site), or that justifies any further oppression of the Palestinians (see the above cited thousands of words). Or that, for the Israeli ruling class the *only* issue is one of defending the Israeli national entity and their own regional ambitions do not come into it. Yes, of course!
But recognising there is an issue of self-determination embedded in the conflict, is much, much more than the rest of the left will ever do. Their stock answer is either: Israeli self-determination is a meaningless concept because the Israeli “nation” doesn’t exist. Or who cares about Israeli self-determination anyway. Or Israel should be smashed and maybe somehow that project (which has nothing to do with any genuine socialist method of looking at the world) could be advanced by supporting Iranian defence. Or Israeli self-determination is just a synonym for Zionist expansionism etc etc.
Again I suggest people following this discussion read our material on Israel-Palestine and other related issues to understand more about what the actual differences rather than those stated by incoherent defenders of their own left orthodoxy.
What, always? In every given situation? Without reference to anything other than "material interests". What a one-sided view of the world you have.
As you know - I assume, but perhaps not - there was one particular 'ruling class' that perpetrated something called the Holocaust. What "material interests" motivated an attempt to murder every last Jew? I think more than "material interests" are at play here. So, is it possible that those self-same interests motivate the Iranian regime and can be used to explain why Ahadinejad has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel?
Chauvinism, nationalism, racism - these things are all reflected, encouraged and utilised by a ruling class. But when particular aspects of them become the core of an ideology, they can transform into the sole motivating factor. I would argue that Iranian clerical-fascism is one such example.
It is you, Dan, who's thrown out Marxism with your lazy, mechanical, one-sided interpretation of the world.
Lawrence Parker/Mark Fisher asks what I expect people reading my comments about poor old Bill J to think. Clearly I want them to think Bill is politically worthless and I want them to laugh at him. Not very complex really.
Lawrence/Mark: you complain I want debate but only manage to be rude to little Billy. The point is debate with him (and you) is pretty much impossible because you are both liars.
So I’m simply gratuitously nasty, without reason, to little Billy? Well, it depends Lawrence/Mark from where you start the film. If you start it just before I join the debate – as you do - ignoring his lying post, it might look as if my “attack” is simply unpardonable rudeness. Shocking. But if you go back and read his nutty, lying posting, which I was responding to - it puts my remarks in context. But you ignore his posting. You don’t care about that, do you? Anything goes against the AWL.
You engage in lying yourself don’t you? Habitually, Mark Fisher, you write whatever you think will help whatever shit-stirring factionalism you’re engaged in. You learnt your lying factionalism in the Stalinist movement.
We’ve focussed on the recent front page. We’ve had to. But the shocking truth is that this is your standard mode of “journalism”.
I stopped reading the WW when you wrote a whole page about me. You claimed that I ran a faction in the AWL. It was, from beginning to end, made up. You presented no evidence for the claims you made. I asked you about it. You said that you were engaged in ‘revolutionary speculation.’ In other words, as my Gran would say, “lying”.
Why did you behave like this? Because you thought you could cause a little trouble.
I’m amused Lawrence/Mark that you’ve taken up the question of libel and that Duncan has given you the run-around on the question. Good for Duncan.
I’ve got a different take on this though. I think you raised the issue about libel for another reason – that you were genuinely worried we might take you to court and were trying to find out if that was our intention. You are right to be worried. If we were to go to court you’d be taken to the cleaners.
Benny boy writes: “Your repeated accusations of Iranian defencism against the CPGB and Hopi is extremely feeble stuff - really little more than using 'scare words' to warn AWLers off.”
But the HOPI site states:
“The task of the anti war movement in Britain and HOPI is... to fight against any imperialist attack on Iran and support the Iranian peoples right to defend themselves by any means necessary.”
So, go on Benny, explain this away. Seems to me you’ve two options: you could admit you don’t know your policy; or you could admit to lying. Caught without trousers, I think.
"Even if you think other people's posts are what you say..." Yes, I insist they are what I say.
What do you think about Bill J's comments? Don't you accept the WW front page/mode of operation is a scandal?
Who is the problem here? - the people why habitually lie and so make debate impossible, or those that object and ridicule the liars? Either address these issues or be quiet.
I think Dan is a member of PR (which explains why he's so upset with your comments about Bill). PR are the recent apple in the WWG's eye (see the fawning coverage of the PR summer school in WW!) - they're probably flattered at all the recent attention (since nobody else knows they exist ... well, apart from Brenner and co. who slung them all out for being a bunch of - in RB's own words - "demoralised, white collar trade unionists").
Sooner or later, these poor stooges will be sucked into a similar dispute with the WWG. How do you think they'll do?
You condemn Mark for "name calling" but all you have to say about the WW's libelous front page is that it "could have been better put"! I think the WWG should be praying to god that Sean doesn't jack it all in and sue them for all they've got ... if he manages to nab the Sketchley empire loot-bag, he can retire to the Canary Islands (the entire AWL could retire with him)! But he won't do that, will he. For the same reason that he is opposed to an attack by Israel on Iran and for the same reason that the AWL has been in the forefront of defending both Israel's right to exist and the Iranian working class.
Dan, I don't mind blunt. Blunt is good. I do object to lying. And you're wriggling around.
So, Dan, which of Bill's statements against Sean Matgamna is true?
" ... he supports the oppressor nation against the oppressed. He supports the US/UK in Iraq. He supports the Israelis in Palestine. He supports the Israelis in Iran.
"In every conflict Matgamna is consistently on the side of the oppressors."
No evidence. Ridiculous, absurd lies. Again, which is true? Provide quotes please (and not, "the logic of SM's position is..." but real evidence that he 'consistently supports oppressors'...). I'll be pleased to answer a serious reply with quotes from our side and detail...
Dan: "[I should] admit [I] don't know the theory of revolutionary defeatism." Honestly, I've no idea what you're talking about. Little Benny says he's against defending Iran. I produce a quote in which his group's campaign states that if attacked they will be on Iran's side, and that Iran has the right to defend itself "by any means necessary." Seems unambiguously a "defence of Iran" position. Comment please.
And what about the Mullah's bomb. Remember the HOPI statement says: "“The task of the anti war movement in Britain and HOPI is... to fight against any imperialist attack on Iran and support the Iranian peoples right to defend themselves by any means necessary.” So the CPGB and Benny boy support Iran's right to develop and use a nuclear bomb in self-defence? ("any means necessary" must include the right to nuclear weapons). But Benny's against an Iranian nuclear bomb... mmm. Anyone explain?
I want to come back to a point made earlier by Mark. The WWG's front organisation, 'Hands off the people of Iran' (HOPI), has a list of demands (demands written, I assume, by Fisher, Conrad et al) that includes: "The tasks of the anti-war movement in Britain and HOPI is threefold. One to fight against any imperialist attack on Iran and support the Iranian peoples right to defend themselves by any means necessary" (my emphasis). Later, the same statement reads: "Opposition to Israeli, British and American nuclear weapons. For a Middle East free of nuclear weapons as a step towards world-wide nuclear disarmament".
Two things are going on here. (1) more than a pinch of confusion and (2) an explicit declaration of Iranian defencism. First, on the 'confusion': Is it possible to both "support the Iranian peoples right to defend themselves by any means necessary" and to be for "a Middle East free of nuclear weapons"? The ever-so-macho, determined "by any means necessary" surely involves the use of nuclear weapons? Doesn't it? If it doesn't, why use the phrase? Confusion or deliberate obfuscation? Secondly - and again on the clause "support the Iranian peoples right to defend themselves by any means necessary" - the WWG exposes itself here and with one swoop undermines all of the 'Third Camp' posing they've been doing recently. They have shown themselves to be explicit Iranian defencists. As WWG members know - I know they know because I've sat in rooms with them when this little, but significant fact was relayed to them by Iranian socialists - a classic component part of Iranian clerical-fascisms 'defence mechanism' is to brutally crush workers organisations as a priority when threatened by external power. The WWG and I know that the Iranian regime systematically wiped out such organisations on the eve of the Iran-Iraq war. Now, if the Iran has the right to defend itself "by any means", should we excuse this sort of act - after all, the regime takes this sort of action to "defend itself".
If anyone is getting confused, let me be blunt: behind all the bluster they disingenuously put around about being in solidarity with the Iranian working class, when it comes down to it they will strain every sinew to excuse and defend the actions of Iranian clerical fascism against the Iranian working class and their Middle East neighbours. Their confused statement is just an attempt to cover up the fact that they would endorse a nuclear armed Iran. The WWG are defenders of Iranian clerical fascism.
The HOPI/WWG statement is explicit: "One to fight against any imperialist attack on Iran and support the Iranian peoples right to defend themselves by any means necessary". This statement is not conditioned. Also, a bit of history is required here - I'm of the view that the WWG fell into Iraqi defencism at the time of the US led invasion. I think they'd come out in support of the Iranian clerical fascist regime (ie. dump of the Third Camp talk) if Iran was similarly attacked or invaded.
Additionally: what do you think the WWG/HOPI is on about when they both unconditionally support defence ("by any means necessary") but then go on to call for a nuclear free Middle East? Confused? Or just trying to cover themselves? From what I know of them and their 'politics', I'd say the latter. What do you think?
The idea that the WWG is capable of "strengthening the Iran clerical fascists" is laughable. No, what they actually do is hedge, distort and pollute independent working class politics by defending clerical fascism. When they say they "support" and "defend ... by any means necessary" they are pretty clear. So I'm not being "lazy", I'm trying to explain what these people actually think.
You're a member of PR, right? What's the current position of your organisation - you know, slogans etc... - on Iran? What will you say in the event of an attack on Iran? Will you, too, descend into Iranian defencism? Will your position be closer to that of WP ie. explicit chants of 'Victory to Iran'? Just thought I'd ask.
The HOPI statement says "the Iranian PEOPLE." Not "the Iranian REGIME." Real desperation here on Tom U.'s part.
The "HOPI" statement may say "the Iranian people", but the 'Iranian people' do not have power, the clerical fascist regime does. People don’t hold power, "Red" (Red!) classes do; political formations do!. Their talk of the Iranian people here is just weaseling, albeit weaseling rooted in ignorance of the Marxist ABCs. So is your defense of them. (Wouldn't it be more honest if you took to signing yourself "Pink"?)
Above Mark wrote,
****Nevertheless, the Trotskyists who followed Trotsky’s lead on this clearly recognised that, while they could not support the Allies, there was a real difference between, for example, German Nazi imperialism and the imperialism of the US. A victory for the Nazis would have led to the complete extermination of the Jews and Roma and the destruction of the unions and working class political organisations; victory for the Allies led to the ending of the Holocaust and – at least in Western Europe – to the re-founding of bourgeois democracy in areas the Nazis had ruled over.
A recognition of these differences between the various imperialisms allowed the Trotskyists to tailor their programme to appeal to workers in the US and Britain. Describing reality accurately kept them sane.****
Yet as I recall Trotsky continually argued against such a distinction. Didn't he say that bourgeois democracy and fascism were simply masks covering the same imperialist class regime, and that in the epoch of imperialism both bourgeois democracy and fascism were reactionary. As I recall he quoted Lenin to the effect that Marxists are not concerned by the governmental form but by the class nature of the regime, and that the foreign policy of class regimes is determined by their material interest.
Actually, when the Palestinian Trotskyists argued that Trotsky was WRONG in not making a distinction between Nazi imperialism and bourgeois democratic imperialism Trotsky slapped them down as can be seen by his article here Reply to the Palestinian Trotskyists
Similarly, he argued that if bourgeois democratic Britain attacked a fascist Brazil Marxists should defend Brazil. He argued that the bourgeois state, and by the way this is the same bourgeois state Mark wants workers to rely on for things ranging from domestic violence to the conduct of foreign policy, would throw off the mask of democracy in favour of the mask of fascism when it suited it so it made no sense for Marxists to determine their positions by such superficial consideration as the form of government.
I think you'll find your underlying thought, which you express as: "Trotsky continually argued... that bourgeois democracy and fascism were simply masks covering the same imperialist class regime, and that in the epoch of imperialism both bourgeois democracy and fascism were reactionary" is contested in more or less everything Trotsky wrote during the Comintern's "Third Period", most importantly in relation to pre-Hitler Germany.
He probably at some time used the image of two masks for the same class regime, but, most certainly, he did not pretend that there is nothing to distinguish between them. Read his writings on pre-Hitler Germany!
His argument against the Palestinian Trotskyists was not that there was nothing to choose between Fascism and Bourgeois-democracy but, strikingly, the opposite. He wrote:
“If there were any grounds for believing that a new victory of the familiar and slightly senile Entente (minus Italy) can work miraculous results, i.e. those counter to social-historical laws, then it is necessary not only to “desire” this victory but to do everything in our power to bring it about. Then the Anglo-Frence social patriots would be correct.”
The introduction to the Worker's Liberty Pamphlet Issue of Workers Liberty, "What Is the Third Camp?" discussed this, and republished Trotsky's response to the Palestinian Trotskyists (it is on this site).
What Trotsky and his comrades normally said to those who saw a fundamental distinction between the Fascist and bourgeois-democratic regimes was not that the distinction was of no interest to workers or to revolutionary socialists, but that bourgeois democracy would be one of the first casualties of war — therefore it was not a real factor in the situation, because it would soon cease to exist. It didn't, and it was a real factor in the events after 1939.
And the consequences of the victory of the Bourgeois Democracies over the Fascists was exactly what Trotsky told the Palestinians could not happen. Of course Trotsky and his comrades were entirely right to refuse to give political support to the bourgeois democratic regimes, and to refuse to give them any political confidence... We have nearly three quarters of a century of hindsight. We should use it!
The idea that we live in anything like the same situation and conditions as those in which Trotsky lived is, I suggest, plain nonsense. So is the idea that we can read-off formulae from what Trotsky wrote about events in his time and conditions as recipes for ours. That is the "paint-by-numbers" syndrome. Trotsky and Lenin offer us examples and models, but we have to think things through for ourselves.
I hope in your pamphlet you also included the sentence after the one you quote where Trotsky says,
***As a matter of fact they are far less correct today than they were 25 years ago, or to put it more correctly, they are playing today an infinitely more reactionary and infamous role.***
He goes on to say that a victory of the Anglo-French patriots would not mean an end to fascism, but could mean the exact opposite. But anyone who cares can simply read the link above to see that what TRotsky said is the diametrical opposite to what you want to have him say.
As far as the two masks its abundant in his writings of the last few years, and quite clear in its meaning. If I get chance I'll look out just a few references to prove it.
I agree we shouldn't simply refer to Trotsky rather than think and analyse the world we live in. The point is I was simply correcting the reference that Mark Osborn used in trying to use Trotsky precisely for that purpose!!!!
I do not/did not dispute that Trotsky said what you quote, or that that was his overall viewpoint. Yes, he said, to quote your formulation: 'that a victory of the Anglo-French patriots would not mean an end to fascism, but could mean the exact opposite'. And? And what eventually happened?
Unlike Trotsky, you and I can know the end of the story. The opposite of what Trotsky said would happen. Surely, the struggles of the French, Italian and other workers after the war helped determine that bourgeois-democracy was restored in Western Europe, but that need not concern us here.
What is striking is that Trotsky said that if we could believe that what did in fact happen could happen, then we should support the bourgeois democratic camp. That was rhetoric, and something stated in an extreme form for the sake of argument; and Trotsky and his comrades could not know the outcome. Trotsky in my view was right not to endorse the Bourgeois-democratic imperialist camp — right to advocate working class revolution in the bourgeois-democratic countries, in the course of the war or at its end.
Looking back, however, don't you find his hypothetical way of posing it interesting? And relevant — not a ready-made answer to anything in our situation, but nonetheless light-shedding?
PS You won't AWL bowdlerising texts or trying to carry a point by cheating! The people prone to that sort of sharp practice are all on your side in this argument! Have a look at the pamphlet issue of Workers Liberty which I cited.
Obviously the Iranian people, i.e. the Iranian working class and petit bourgeoisie, don't hold power in Iran. The Iranian bourgeoisie holds power. The Iranian people still have the right to defend themselves (yes) by any means necessary against an imperialist attack by Israel and/or the U.S. There's nothing particularly wrong with the HOPI statement. How anyone can read the writings of its members -- including Yassamine Mather and various CPGB comrades -- and come up with the idea that HOPI is soft on the mullahs is beyond me. They regularly get attacked by Workers Power/Spartacist type idiots for being "Third Camp." Now you attack them for not realizing that the main danger in the Middle East is the (nonexistent) "Mullahs' Bomb." No, the main danger is Israeli and U.S. imperialism, period. Iran is all bark and no bite. Get a fucking clue.
And frankly, I'm a hell of a lot redder than Sean Matgamna and his Israeli-Jewish chauvinist apologists.
I am a young AWL sympathiser. Were I a full member, it’s probably fair to say I would be in the minority with regard to the group’s position on Iraq. I read the Weekly Worker website fairly regularly and am a member of Hands off the People of Iran. Presumably I am the sort of person the CPGB might wish to recruit.
Like many others, I disagreed with parts of Comrade Matgamna’s article when I read it. I felt it overestimated the power of Ahmedinejad and his status as a leader of the Iranian ruling class, which I really don’t believe would ever launch a suicidal attack on Israel. I was also uncomfortable with the tone of the article, the coldness of some of the analysis. But I want to say more about that later.
I like to think that I am the possessor of some sort of rational mind, and as such, it seems odd that I have to make the following points, but it appears I do. At no point after reading the article did it ever occur to me that 1) the author should be expelled from the AWL, 2) that he should then be disbarred forever from holding the self-definition ‘Marxist’, 3) that if he and anyone who agreed with him were not expelled, AWL should spilt or 4) after this split Matgamna and others who agreed with him should be effectively banned from considering themselves part of the labour movement at all. No, that process of thought did not occur to me because it is literal nonsense. The AWL is an open organisation which encourages debate and discussion, exactly as a democratic socialist group should be. And yet the above is what is being called for- not just by the CPGB, but also by members of Permanent Revolution, a group I actually have some
The Weekly Worker hatchet job genuinely shocked me, as a relative
newcomer to the far left, and the tone of it sickened me in its truly
hideous tabloid delivery. The personal abuse the article contained
was rank and despicable. It’s just not the way to do politics. The
fact that non-CPGB contributors to the debate have brushed this off or
condemned it in the lightest possible terms deeply disappoints me. I
feel they basically believe that this is excusable because of the
unforgivable nature of the crime of the capitalist running-dog
Matgamna- the sin against the Holy Ghost of ‘anti-imperialism’.
As I said, I’m pretty new to the left. But I detect a double
standard, comrades. The vitriol, the vilification aimed at Matgamna
for his supposed covert support for imperialism or Israeli national
chauvinism- it is pretty strong stuff, I think comrades on all sides
will agree. It’s interesting to me to wonder if those who throw it
have dished out equivalent abuse to those who have offered succour to
clerical fascists. Workers Power support the Iraqi ‘resistance’-
clerical fascists who murder trade unionists. The SWP are happy to
jump into bed with the MAB- the Muslim Brotherhood, clerical fascists
who murder trade unionists. And yet I don’t hear the same clamour for
the leaders of these so called ‘left’ groups to be denied the right to
call themselves Marxists, or for them to be banned from the labour
It seems that for some self-defining Marxists, an alleged collapse
into First Campism is a much graver offence than very demonstrable
collapses into Second Campism. I haven’t seen Comrade Matgamna waving
any ‘we are all the IDF now’ banners, so clearly from any Third Camp
perspective he is much less guilty of betraying workers than the likes
of the SWP- even if you consider support for bourgeois democrats as
bad as support for clerical fascists, which I don’t. But the problem
is not that these oh-so-pure Marxists consider bourgeois democrats
equal to clerical fascists; they consider them worse. They deny it
with words but reinforce it with actions such as this witch hunt of
Matgamna ‘the apologist for imperialism’. The truth of the matter is
that the Third Camp is weak, and some are responding to it with
collapse into Second Campism. Step back from the Stalinism-infested
bubble of left politics and try explaining to an outsider why it makes
sense to vilify someone you consider an apologist for bourgeois
democracy more strongly than you vilify an apologist for clerical
fascism. They will laugh at you. Not because they are some deluded
little sheep who has grown up in a bourgeois world- please give the
working class at less some respect- but because it makes no sense.
But some people just don’t get it. They don’t get that Stalinism and
its culture poisoned the left infinitely more than say, the collapse
of Shachtman into pro-imperialism. They don’t understand that purging
ourselves of Stalinism is still an ongoing process and that until it
is taken seriously, the left will still be a joke, will still justify
atrocious alliances with clerical fascists and anyone else in the name
of blind, all-encompassing ‘anti-imperialism’. I genuinely just ask
these comrades to examine themselves and consider what it is that
makes them get so much more angry about Israel and the U.S. than they
do about Iran. I recommend Comrade Matgamna’s own writings on the
history of Stalinist anti-Zionism for a start.
To clarify my own position, I do not think Comrade Matgamna’s article
was in any way an apologia for imperialism. I stated earlier that I
was uncomfortable with the tone of some of it. I felt it dealt too
coldly with a hypothetical situation which, if made real, would rain
down death and devastation on Iranian workers. I accept that just
because left invective usually has a highly emotive tone, that doesn’t
mean it always has to. And being made to feel uncomfortable is fine
if an article genuinely challenges assumptions we may have absorbed
from the kitsch-left. But having said that, I’m not sure it’s a good
use of a leading comrade’s time to be writing articles floating
hypotheses about what Camp 1 and Camp 2 might or might not do to each
other. We are concerned with the third camp- where is the third camp
perspective in the article? Something a comrade said during the Iraq
debate at conference really stuck in my mind; ‘We’re not Newsnight’.
It is not our job to read highfalutin foreign policy papers from
diplomatic think tanks and then recycle their bourgeois ideas with our
Marxist analysis tacked on. While I wouldn’t exactly accuse Comrade
Matgamna of doing that, I think he’s taking steps down that road. As
Marxists living in a time of Third Camp weakness we should be as aware
of the dangers of collapsing into support for the First Camp as for
For me, our main role must be to built the Third Camp and deal with
the impact on workers of the shit that different ruling classes throw
at each other when and if it happens. However, if the main purpose of
the article was, as I suspect, to incite a reaction from the rest of
the left which exposes how organisationally vicious and intellectually
bankrupt they are, Comrade Matgamna should consider it a job well
done. Trotsky himself couldn’t persuade me to join the CPGB after this.
I don't care what Trotsky said about Brazil (writing, let's remember, in a world in which imperialism functioned very differently to the manner in which it functions today); I think the politically bankruptcy of negativist anti-imperialism is clearly demonstrated by the idea that it's "acceptable" to "form alliances" with fascists, as long as they represent a "non-imperialist" force.
Not only is it not "acceptable", it's inevitably suicidal. Fascist organisation in whatever form is a declaration of war on the labour movement. Where's your "alliance" in that, Liln?
PS - Joe, if you're reading this; I thought your comments were incredibly well-written and a model of how debate can be conducted on a calm, rational basis.
A couple of quick points, Joe.
Firstly, you say that PR are calling for Sean M to be expelled from the AWL and a host of other things: to quote-"1) the author should be expelled from the AWL, 2) that he should then be disbarred forever from holding the self-definition ‘Marxist’, 3) that if he and anyone who agreed with him were not expelled, AWL should spilt or 4) after this split Matgamna and others who agreed with him should be effectively banned from considering themselves part of the labour movement at all.... And yet the above is what is being called for- not just by the CPGB, but also by members of Permanent Revolution, a group I actually have some
Not so. Three members of PR have posted on here- may be 2 as individuals suggested that while it is right for individuals to hold diverse opinions there can come a time when a line is crossed and that therefore the AWL members disagreeing with Sean M may want to consider whether to form a minority on this and even expell SM. I probably said something like this though tbh it's a matter for the AWL. However, refusing tio condemn a military attack by Israel on iran is no light matter and should be roundly condemned. But this opionion like
I'm not quite sure what effectively banned from being a member of th elabour movement is meant to mean - certainly not a phrase I would use. Lots of people are members of the labour movement including reformists, liberals, even tories. Only fascists and probably racists and those who abuse others should be banned form labour movement meetings.
You say you clearly disagree with Sean's article - good. But you also say it isn't defending imperialism. However, refusing to condemn an attack by Israel (not an imperialist country but an attack that clearly aids imperialism's diomination of the region) is fairly shameful. Imagine someone getting up in an antiwar meeting and saying well I don't support the war but I don't condemn it either- you might wonder why they came.
And then you impkly we support clerical fascists. why? Because we support workers' resistance to the occupation? How is that supporting the Islamists? Actually if you look at say either the Iranian counter-revolution or even what the Islmaists do in Iraq today you would realisre that workers would need to defend themselves with these same guns against the Islamists. It may well be that at times the guns of workers and Isklamists may be turned in th4e same direction against the occupying troops but it is quite clear that workers need political, organisation and miluitary independence from the reactionary forces.
I had posted this earlier (but I am repeating from memory so it may be somewhat different) but it was deleted, apparently by mistake. What I said was that I wholeheartedly agree with USRed and am confident that the vast majority of North American third camp socialists would agree with USRed's position. Indeed, Matgamna's views on Iran put him to the right of most North American social democrats. And I also said that this reflected a right shachtmanite trajectory going back to the debate with Jim Higgins, the Alan Johnson debacle, the refusal to accept Barry Finger's courageous position on troops out now and the AWL's overall position on Iraq and Iran. Ultimately the AWL (majority) has simply bent the stick to far and abandoned third camp politics, making the opposite error of the SWP. Time to read some Hillel Ticktin.
Earlier in the week the BBC ran a report on the fact that in 1940 an old Etonian diplomat with connections in the British Government went to negotiate with representatives of Germany. He went having met with the Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax.
The story here on the BBC's news website is rather more circumspect in its comments than the actual News report.
The basis was for the "democratic imperialist" British to divide up the world with fascist Germany.