What if Israel bombs Iran? A Discussion Article

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

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 ...

Comments

Off the mark

No doubt, Sean intended his "discussion article" to provoke debate. Certainly, it does facilitate discussion when
comrades are honest and make their views clear. But the article, which includes only minimal and superficial reference to independent working-class politics and any idea of working-class agency, instead dishonestly zigzags between empathising with Israeli hawks and using figleaf, weasel words to avoid openly 'advocating' an Israeli strike against Iran in advance. He says we should "least of all" support Ahmedinejad, as if we were under any compulsion to pick sides and support Olmert a little bit more instead.

(Throughout Sean also takes for granted the idea that the Iranian regime is indeed developing nuclear weapons. This claim is highly tendentious - it is not the opinion of US intelligence - and Sean does not cite any evidence in support of this assertion. Sean clearly uses this only for the reason that if true it helps justify his broader argument in an article light on analysis of what is actually going on in the Middle East as opposed to on the British left. The same could be said for his over-simplified drawing of an equals sign between the Iranian regime and al-Qaedist suicide bombers. However, since my opposition to Sean's position is far from reliant on any illusions in the peaceful intentions of the Iranian regime, I shall ignore this for now).

Sean begins: "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 Iran back into the worst chaos". The only part of the article citing reasons why Sean would be critical of an Israeli bombing raid on Iran (we may assume that a ground invasion would be impossible) this paragraph is interesting in that its main argument is simply that an attack could well be counterproductive for Israel because of how Islamists would react. Note that the opening sentence tells us that the cause of the carnage would in fact be that "supporters of Iran" would retaliate! And Sean's focus is not the interests of the labour movement or the tasks of Marxists in the (potential) belligerent countries, but rather hoping for a balance in the world of geopolitics, military manoeuvre and weapons competition. The reference to Iranian workers is only in passing, even though sabre-rattling and sanctions against Iran, Ahmedinejad's "anti-Zionist" rhetoric and Israel's oppression of the Palestinians all serve to foster a generalised chauvinism in the region and create enormous obstacles to the development of an internationalist labour movement. Sean's view is crude and one-sided and he is far from condemning the Israeli government's effort to cling onto its status as the leading regional power by force: if he realises that such a bombing run would hamper the possibility of workers in the region "uniting to fight for a socialist Middle East", he certainly doesn't show it.

From then on Sean confuses what is "rational" in the interests of Israeli imperialism and great-power realpolitik with what is "rational" in the interests of humanity. As if gazing into his crystal ball Sean predicts that Israel "will not tolerate" and "will act to stop" Iran's nuclear proliferation; Israel "will bomb Iran, with or without the agreement of the USA and NATO"; Israel "will act" on its interests; "Israel will act to stop this Muslim fundamentalist regime". Yet here the word "will" almost seems to be used not to mean that these events are likely but rather as an expression of defiance - you may have doubts in its leaders' confidence, but Israel will stand up for itself! Sean asks us to see the situation from Israel's point of view - "In Israeli eyes the facts and alternatives here are stark" - but is clearly talking about the alternatives as seen in the IDF leadership, ignoring the question of how an attack would be viewed through the eyes of any class-conscious Israeli (or indeed Iranian) worker. He focuses on the tasks of the Israeli government and indeed nearer the end of the article he neatly concludes: "the harsh truth is that there is good reason for Israel to make a precipitate strike at Iranian nuclear capacity".

What an awful, awful thing to write. Good reason for "Israel" to do this: or do you mean that the Israeli military would be justified in attacking Iran? This just playing the game of speculating on manoeuvres the great powers might make with their armies and airforces to guarantee stability, while discounting out of hand as utopian any possibility of the working class acting independently in the regional crisis. Of course, as a "left" figleaf Sean writes that he would rather it was the Iranian workers than the Israeli bombers who got rid of Ahmedinejad, as if the two eventualities are in any sense comparable or would have any similar results. Sean does not want to "advocate" or "endorse" an attack: but this is just playing with words, and clearly given the tone of the piece and the fact that he is so keen to defend the rationale for an attack which is not yet on the cards the article can only be read as offering justification for Olmert et al. How can you say there is "good reason" to do something but not "endorse" it?

Indeed, Sean denounces those who would "condemn" the Israeli government for "refusing to stand idly by", an argument which - if you believed that Saddam Hussein could launch an offensive in 45 minutes - could equally have been used to justify the invasion of Iraq in opposition to those who would prefer to "appease" the Iraqi dictator. Much in the same vein of those on the far left who accuse Third World tyrants of being insufficiently ardent in their opposition to US imperialism, Sean is incensed by "idlers" who would sit on their hands rather than stand up to Ahmedinejad, by fair means or foul.

Sean asks "In the name of what alternative would we condemn Israel?" (having decided that the only choices on offer are (i) Israel attacks Iran or (ii) Iran attacks Israel) and goes on to score easy points against those who say that Israel has no right to exist or that Iran has a right to nuclear weapons. His conclusions do not automatically follow though - thinking that there is "good reason" for a pre-emptive bombing attack on Iran is not merely the logical corollary of the belief that, whatever its government's crimes and whatever its history, the Israeli nation has the right to self-determination and to have a state alongside Palestine if it so chooses. You do not have to be "kitsch left" to oppose an Israeli attack on Iran, nor do you have to be "kitsch left" to refer to Israel's hypocrisy in keeping its own nukes, which Sean avoids reference to. We can say these things whilst posing a positive alternative opposed to all "sides" in the stand off. Even if working-class forces are currently weak in the Middle East, Marxists cannot put off building this independent class camp for the sake of taking sides in some more 'immediate' conflict: doing so and fostering jingoistic illusions actually makes our main objective more difficult to realise.

Sean makes occasional, tokenistic references to 'the workers': these are abstract and separate from the general thrust of the article, and indeed Sean makes no effort to delve into the tasks of the working class in the region or how it might intervene in the crisis. Nor, for that matter, does he refer to the oppression of the Palestinian's or the utter hypocrisy of Israel, the region's sole nuclear power, posturing as "anti-nuclear".

Indeed, one among the "kitsch left reasons for criticising Israel" Sean throws up in his list is of a rather different character to the others: "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." Sean clearly thinks this is just utopian, and portrays this approach in a carping and dismissive fashion. Of course, none of us think that there's going to be a worldwide socialist revolution in the next week, month or even before Iran is bombed. But that is our sole objective, and the way Marxists respond to more 'immediate' national disputes does indeed shape the possible future outcome: it is impossible to just mix and match between fighting for revolution and playing at imperialist geopolitics like Sean does. You can, however, oppose both regimes and their militarists.

We are not armchair generals willing the Israeli government to stand up for themselves against the "Muslim fundamentalists" or hoping that the big Western imperialist powers will be able to maintain some sort of ersatz "safety" for the Israeli Jews by keeping Israel's rival regional powers weak until that bright, sunny future day when the workers storm the Knesset and take power. Not only do we refuse to put our confidence in the Israeli generals, but we must ardently denounce their aggressive and imperialist stance, the very mirror-image of the Iranian theocrats and one which puts working-class unity further down the agenda.

Matgamna's madness

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!

How to discuss

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
http://www.workersliberty.org/node/7128

Nuclear Weapons and the Working Class

David Broder,

I read your long reply to Sean's article with interest. Have you considered the fact that nuclear weapons do not tend to differentiate between the working class and the ruling class in who they kill? David Hirsh is right when he suggests that people should look at what the Iranian leadership actually say and consider those words as opposed to reinterpreting the words and trying to pretend that they said he something else. It does not really matter whether the President of Iran said that Israel should be wiped off the map or erased from the pages of time, his intent was clear and as David Hirsh has shown via his links, Ahmadinejad has also called for "death to Israel..."

If we take the Iranian President at his word he has denied that he is trying to obtain a nuclear weapon. However, at the same time Associated Press reports that that he has also admitted that he has doubled the amount of centrifuges from 3,000 to 6,000. The Associated Press report goes on to state:

"A total of 3,000 centrifuges is the commonly accepted figure for a nuclear enrichment program that is past the experimental stage and can be used as a platform for a full industrial-scale program that could churn out enough enriched material for dozens of nuclear weapons. Iran says it plans to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment that will ultimately involve 54,000 centrifuges."

Iran is awash with oil. It has no need for nuclear power for domestic consumption at the moment. What if Ahmadinejad or a replacement President suddenly changes their mind and decide that with the nuclear capability they will have a bomb?

You may very well take what you believe to be a principled stand against any preemptive action by the State of Israel or anyone else, against Iranian nuclear facilities, but it is not just Israeli Jews who are concerned about the nuclear threat as Jaffa is walking distance to Tel Aviv and it has a decent sized Arab population. A nuclear bomb landing on Tel Aviv or anywhere else in Israel will not differentiate between working class and middle class, between Jew, Christian and Muslim.

Marxists may be against wars or foreign intervention that they see as "Imperialist" but they are certainly not pacifist. One wonders whether you are so blinded by the language of anti-Imperialism and discussions surrounding the working classes that you are forgetting that millions could die if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon. In the horrific event that does happen you can write an article discussing the failure of the working classes and where they went wrong. It will not bring the millions back to life.

Real lives are at stake and a nuclear armed Iran should be a bigger concern than whether or not Sean referred to the working classes frequently enough in his article.

Workers Power and the bomb

The problem with Workers Power's view of the world - even if they were correct about Iran being a semi-colony - is that class vanishes. They don't actually care about the working class of Iran, they care about the "anti-imperialist" vanguard in Tehran. They say nothing about the Iranian clerical-fascism (mainly because they see the Ahmadinejad regime as a legitimate "anti-imperialist" brother-in-arms), they give not one thought to what it would actually mean for Iran to have nuclear weapons.

A nuclear armed Iran would be their dream come true - Iran would really be able to show it to the "Zionists" then. Luke has latched himself on to David's critique (a hysterical poshlost) and is attempting to groom the 'anti-imperialism' out. In fact, David is a million miles away from Luke's position because, and for all the sane reasons, he is against all nuclear weapons.

'Marxists' like Luke and his comrades in Workers Power fall down flat in the face of the really tough questions. They shy away from even asking such questions for fear of disrupting their tough, macho, self-secure and rather smug view of themselves as the fighting vanguard. "What if Israel bombs Iran?" is one such question. Such an attack is almost certain - whether or not Iran openly declares nuclear weapons capability, they are openly refining Uranium - because Israel sees itself threatened (they are "right to do so" in the sense that this is palpably the case: the declared intention of Ahmedinejad is to wipe Israel out). In his very first paragraph Sean spells out the consequences of such an attack. These consequences alone explain why socialists would oppose an attack.

Sean then lays a trap for the likes of Luke, a trap that Luke is only too willing to leap feet first into. When Sean writes "in the name of what would we condemn Israel?", this is not the rabid exclamation of a pro-war Israeli chauvinist but a question designed for the kitsch-left. Read the alternatives he sets out and see which one Luke and Workers Power fits in to.

Against the current

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?

Sacha

Semi-colonies

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.

Sacha

No, Bill, I provided plenty

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

Sacha

"Moral Stuff"

Luke C

I am very sorry that I worry about "moral stuff" like real lives being at stake and millions of people that could die. Maybe I should drop all morals and join your party? Quite frankly, your post is as ridiculous as the party that you support.

bill j

Can you show me where in the complete works of Lenin, he says that a so called oppressed nation can wipe a so called oppressor nation off the face of the earth with a nuclear bomb?

Don't Doubt So Much Thomas

David Avery truckerD suggests that Iran would not really use it on Israel because it would be equivalent to a death wish. David Hirsh above has already commented that people should pay attention to what the Iranians actually say.

The Ayatollah Khomeini who ruled Iran for much of the 1980s said:

"We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world."

Even the supposedly moderate Iranian President - Rafsanjani is quoted to have said:

"If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession . . . application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world."

These quotes have become quite famous. They were used by the neoconservative author and commentator Norman Podhoretz and he was accused of using fake quotes. He then backed up his sources and his critics on the quotes went quiet:

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/podhoretz/1340

Mr. Morals

Luke C could well do with learning that Iranians are not Arabs. I suppose he does not feel it necessary to concern himself with such matters. What he does not realise is that by referring to the Iranian population as "Arab masses" he exposes himself as a complete fool.

He comments that an attack on Iran by Israel would be "IMMORAL" (Yes, I noted the capital letters) presumably irrespective of whether or not Iran were pointing nukes at Israel. He does not make a comment the other way round. An attack by Iran on Israel would be perfectly justified in the eyes of Luke C. It would be one in the eye for imperialism. A few million deaths? Who cares? Only sentimental bourgeois moralists. He has exactly the same morals as those Trotskyists who welcomed Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge victory in 1975 - a "liberation" was the term used. A fine liberation that led to 1/4-1/3 of the population being massacred. "A wildy [sic] different morality" indeed.

Transforming the region

Luke,
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?
TomU

A Logic Test

bill j writes

"If Israel bombs Iran it is oppressing it - if socialists support the oppressed nation, then socialists support Iran. It really couldn't be clearer."

How about the following statement:

If Iran bombs Israel it is oppressing it - if socialists support the oppressed nation, then socialists support Israel. It really couldn't be clearer.

Given Iran has threatened to wipe Israel off the map and given there are people, including some on this thread, who are proud to admit they "want to destroy Israel" then by bill j's logic socialists must support Israel.

Luke C who does not know the difference between Arabs and Iranians has decided to come back. One would have thought that he would be too embarrassed to after displaying such ignorance. What is absolutely clear is that Luke C supports Iran, a country that oppresses woman by forcing them to dress in a particular way, that hangs homosexuals for being homosexual and the list goes on. (I do not know much about Luke's party but maybe it is one like the Militant who believe homosexuals will disappear after the revolution anyway). He also claims that my comment about Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge was a slander. If Luke understood the history of Trotskyism he would note that Trotskyists in general in April 1975 referred to the Khmer Rouge as liberators. Even the leading Trotskyist theorist Ernest Mandel referred to Pol Pot's Kampuchea as a wokers state.

Moreover, Luke C goes on to say, "You want to support Israel, and continually justify its oppression of the Palestine." As well as not making any grammatical sense, what he is implying about me is, of course, nonsense.

"MikeyMikey" what a

"MikeyMikey" what a ridiculous way to debate. Totally dishonest and sacha if you're gonna pick up anyone on this thread for debating in a uncomradely way I think you've found your man. I won't go over the political points again as no-one has answered them!

I'm a member of Permanent Revolution, but your caricature of Workers Power is pathetic to be honest.

Leaving aside your bizarre and apolitical definition of an oppressor nation you say the following:

1) You say people are proud that they want to destroy Israel. But the poster in question clearly said they would be proud to destroy Israel as an imperialist client state and replace it with a workers state. Something I take it you'd support as well.

2) Stop banging on about a poster making a slip about Iranians being Arabs. Fair enough to correct someone on that but the way you're doing it just makes you look like a snob. As does your point about something not making "grammatical sense".

3) What a pathetic dig saying that Workers Power might support the ideas that homosexuals might disappear.

What is clear from the above is that Luke and Bill have outlined political points and the AWL majority have responded with dishonest slurs and apolitical posts.

Sacha you can hardly complain at people doing this to the AWL when your comrades write posts like the above. How about someone actually responds with a political post?

"Get out while you can"

I must repudiate the suggestion that I (or indeed anyone else who disagrees with Sean) should "get out while I can". I have absolutely no intention of running away.

Central to the malaise of the left is the idea that people who disagree should be in separate, competing monolithic sects, with each individual group allowing no internal debate (cf the bureaucratic regime of the Socialist Workers' Party, or the anarchist idea that if you disagree with a majority 'consensus' you should just go off and do whatever you like instead).

For any group to have a healthy culture and rational politics it must have free and full debate and a frank and honest exchange of views (although there is no inherent value in disagreement and heterogeneity as such).

Indeed, on this page comrades will have noticed that I referred to Sean's piece as "awful", and Tom U described my reply as a "hysterical poshlost". Of course, while these superficially 'aggressive' epithets do not in themselves substitute for political ideas, there is no reason why we should pretend to agree, shut ourselves up or run away from having the debate.

In terms of the substantive politics of the debate, many of those who have commented are posing the question as "who do you support, Iran or Israel?" Missing is any reference to the working classes in the belligerent countries, either in terms of what impact an Israeli attack would have on Iranian workers, what Israeli workers should do to mobilise against an attack or how Iranian workers can fight their government or help fight for self-determination for Kurds, Azeris etc. Sean's piece includes an abstract, propagandist idea of "the answer is socialism", but it's not connected to the immediate conflict or any specific demands or activity. All the posts so far simply tie in the fate of the working class in each country with that of their rulers.

Furthermore I do not accept the oppressor/oppressed nation schema used here. You might talk about what Lenin said about Indians fighting the British or the Moroccans fighting the French for self-determination, but that bears no comparison to Iran's relationship to the USA, never mind to Israel. The fact that Iran is much poorer than Israel and operates under various IMF rules - endorsed by Ahmedinejad - does not mean that it is a semi-colony (of which state is it a semi-colony? And what would be your alternative plan for Iran? Economic independence from the rest of the world? What measures should it take to assert its 'self-determination'?). That is not to say, of course, that the primary motivation for Israeli/US/UK sabre-rattling against Iran is not to keep it down, halt the gains it has made since the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and stop it acquiring regional dominance. Ahmedinejad and Olmert etc. are rivals, nukes or no nukes.

In a war between two powers vying for regional dominance there is no question of taking sides. We do not support a slave holder with 100 slaves fighting one with 200 for a fairer share of the spoils, never mind the other way round. The working class in all countries involved must fight against the war, against nuclear proliferation on both sides, against their own rulers and for the self-determination of the nations oppressed by their own governments.

Workers Power: Even the party name contains an error.

The organisation that runs this web site is known as the Alliance for Workers' Liberty. Whoever came up with the name understood the required use of grammar in plural possessive adjectives, that when used in this context, the word "Workers'" should contain an apostrophe after the "s". Workers Power clearly decided to jettison the apostrophe. Either they decided that apostrophes were superfluous to the revolution or they are just plain stupid.

Pondering which it was, I decided to browse the website of the League for the Fifth International, the international organisation to which Workers Power belongs. A couple of clicks later and I landed on an article about Iran, America and Israel. This was not just any old article, rather, it was deemed to be a "Statement of the REVOLUTION International Council, June 2008." As it had such a grand and pompous sounding provenance, I thought it best to read it. The title of the statement is "Growing threats against Iran: Fight back the war plans of the US an [sic] Israel!" Yes, it is true, there is a spelling error in the title. Giving them the benefit of any doubt, I contemplated that it might be a simple typing error and sloppy pre-publication editing and as such I struggled on with the rest of the revolutionary statement. The statement contains so many grammatical errors, "their" instead of "there", "this" instead of "these" and the list goes on, that it should be an embarrassment to the authors.

Sadly, I still did not feel that I had enough evidence to come to a conclusion as to whether those who run Workers Power are just plain stupid or not. REVOLUTION is a youth organisation and the possibility exists that the members of its International Council do know how to spell but are actively and purposely misleading the youth that read their statements in order that these youth will fail their GCSE English exam and be unemployable. These unemployable youth will therefore be able to donate all their time to standing outside supermarkets trying to sell newspapers and recruiting others to the revolutionary cause. Whilst this seemed to be a remote possibility, I had to accept that if it were true it would be a cunning plan indeed. More work would be required to be able to have any confidence in the conclusion that I drew.

I was not enamoured by the idea but I realised that it was necessary for me to read at least one more article. The one I selected was entitled "Why the price rise" that appeared in the summer 2008 issue of Workers Power. This article is ostensibly an effort to explain the reason for the recent rise in the price of oil. In practice the article is complete garbage - the author hasn't a clue about what drives market prices.

By this stage, I realised that I could not face reading any more articles from Workers Power or its international affiliates. It was simply too painful. In any event, by now I was happy with the conclusion I had drawn: Workers Power and the League for the Fifth International are run by complete idiots.

A Question of Priorities and Risks

AndyB is proposing some kind of revolutionary defeatism. Down with America and Israel but also down with China, Russia and Iran whilst being for the workers. This is theory. In practice we are light years away from any international revolution but not necessarily so far away from military intervention in Iran.

The left have continually made errors. No more so than in the Second World War. The Troyskyist position at the time was to oppose to Hitler and the fascists but also to oppose America and Britain and their imperialist war. A principled position they argued. Irving Howe put it in Labor Action in December 1941 that World War II was "a war between two great imperialist camps ... to decide ... which ...shall dominate the world." It is "a war of finance capital ... a war for stocks and bonds and profits ... a war conceived and bred by world capitalism." The trade unions that supported President Roosevelt's decision to enter the war were slated by Labor Action for supporting this "capitalist" war. Whilst this was going on the Nazis were marching through Europe murdering millions.

Realistically, in that period the workers were in no position to defeat Nazism, the best bet in doing so was the Allied powers. Had the Trotskyist left taking this on board and not seen Nazism as just an extended form of imperialism, their position may have had more credibility.

Reading Howe's words from 1941 makes me sick. It makes me sick to see AndyB and others use the same argument about Iran in 2008. A war about capitalism, a war about oil they chant. If we are lucky they may say oppose Israel and Iran but in practice it seems to me more about championing for Israel to be destroyed. Criticism of Iran is comparatively mute and if there is any at all, and if there is any, it is far less vocal than the criticisms of Israel and America. There are those who believe that Israel should be destroyed, they are on this thread and proud of it. If someone wants a country to be destroyed and believes that it has no right to exist then logic would follow that they also believe that it has no right to defend itself. This is a disgusting position to hold.

Socialists should consider which side presents the greatest harm to the working class and the world. Israel may not be perfect but it has trade unions, workers can go on strike, opposition to the government is tolerated and the list goes on. Israel is not arguing for another country to be wiped off the face of the earth, it wants the right to exist in secure and peaceful borders and to defend itself against aggression. Iran on the other hand does exactly what for the workers? There is no need for me in this post to discuss the life for ordinary Iranians in their own country, that is easily available to see. As Azar Nafisi commented in her excellent book, Reading Lolita in Tehran, Iranians cannot even read the novels of Jane Austen. The Iranian state and regime is a far greater threat to the world that either Israel or America.

AndyB dismisses the words of the Iranian President and tries to suggest that he does not really mean what he says. That would be a big gamble. I am glad that he thinks so. I do not think the Israeli working class are prepared to just dismiss the words of Ahmadinejad so lightly.

'Good reasons'?

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

"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.

Disgraceful.

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 that seem like partial support

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.

mikef it's a funny kind of

mikef it's a funny kind of logic saying we cannot support an Israeli strike but on what basis can we condemn it. At the very least it suggests that Sean M would be against mobilising against an Israeli strike.

Such an attack would not only involve "limited" nuclear weapons but would be devestating for pro-working class movements and politics in the middle east. Saying on what basis can we condemn such a strike is totally removed from marxist politics.

"That it may all be in aid of an ultra left bidding war for the affections of Cde Broder makes it doubly so."

Sean dedicated a big chunk of his second article to going on about recruitment showing quite clearly that he is living in a left bubble. Who cares what this or that individual in the AWL does or who they join.

Comments from 'How I came to advocate an Israeli nuclear...'

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:
http://www.permanentrevolution.net/entry/2237

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?
Cheers,
Lawrence

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...

Libel, etc

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.

Splitters

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.
Pity.

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".

Real Life Scenarios

Finally, amidst the waffle, Jason concedes that it is OK for the Israeli army to shoot a man who is about to kill tens of people via exploding his suicide bomb.

We do not know what the intelligence really is on the Iranian nuclear programme and their aims. We do know that the global intelligence was wrong or there were lies or whatever you wish to call it on WMD in Iraq, but just because they get it wrong once does not mean that they will always get it wrong. In the event Israeli intelligence, Mossad, has conclusive proof of an Iranian nuclear weapon programme and given its stated aim to wipe Israel off the map, then what is the difference between attacking those nuclear installations prior to them being used for their intended purpose or killing the suicide bomber?

The former is a similar moral dilemma but just on a bigger scale. Recently in a very mysterious act Israel bombed a target in Syria and everyone seemed to keep quiet about it - both the Israelis and the Syrians. It was widely suspected in the press that what was bombed was some kind of nuclear related installation linked to North Korea. Who really knows? In any event, if it was a nuclear installation of any kind, surely getting rid of it was a good thing.

In the case of Iran - the world - and that includes socialists - should not allow genocidal lunatics the ability to have a nuclear bomb. It is as simple as that. If socialists wish to prevent genocide then they must accept that in the limit any act that stops that genocide, include the bombing of a nuclear installation, is justifiable.

What I accept, is that before any such act is undertaken, the Israelis or the Americans must have much better intelligence than they had with Iraq's alleged WMD programme.

Back to my scenario, an attack Jason makes on it is that it is hypothetical. Well he is wrong. In 2001 and 2002 there were a number of instances that this was a real decision and often a split second decision that a soldier had to take. We heard in the news about various successful suicide bomb missions in Israel. Those that were stopped by an act similar to the one I have described were less well reported.

Dan2 has little to add. He does not answer my question but just paints my scenario as nonsense. As I have just stated, the scenario was not nonsense, it was a real life scenario and a scenario played out on more than one occasion.

reply to Dan 2 from the WW front page discussion

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.

"In the event Israeli

"In the event Israeli intelligence, Mossad, has conclusive proof of an Iranian nuclear weapon programme and given its stated aim to wipe Israel off the map"

Again this is just living in fantasy land with no material basis and a million miles away from marxist politics.

I'll repeat:

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".

And add that even the USA security services don't think Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. What is your evidence that they are?

"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."

Why do you think it is wide of the mark, on what basis? They all have religious fundamentalists in their midsts and India had the BJP in power at one point (and didn't go around letting off nukes all over the place). Of course Ahmedinejad will make outrageous statements from time to time to try and back up an image of anti-imperialism (an entirely false anti-imperialism) and play to prejudices. But anyone who thinks that the Iranian ruling class would do something which would result in their inevitable annihalation (along with the rest of Iran) just doesn't deal with the material reality of life. Why would a ruling class do such a thing? It's just not a serious analysis of what is going on.

"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."

So you wouldn't mobilise against an act that would be a massive set back for pro-working class politics in the middle east. Fair enough, says it all.

Who really is "living in fantasy land"?

I implied that Iran would like to see Israel wiped off the map. This is not fantasy land! This is reality! This is exactly what they want and believing anything else is a fantasy.

I also gave a scenario if Israel had proof that Iran was developing a nuclear weapons programme. Dan2 declares, "there is no evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons." How the hell does he know? Has Dan2 access to the files of Mosssad, the CIA, MI6 etc? The point is he does not know. What we do know is that Iran aims to build a nuclear programme of sufficient size that a nuclear weapon can be made.

Dan2 goes on to boldly declare, "If Iran did develop them [nuclear weapons] only someone totally removed from reality would think that Iran would launch a nuclear attack on Israel."

He completely ignore the points I made earlier in this thread which I repeat below:

The Ayatollah Khomeini who ruled Iran for much of the 1980s said:

"We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world."

Even the supposedly moderate Iranian President - Rafsanjani is quoted to have said:

"If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession . . . application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world."

Dan2 also has the cheek to tell me that my post is, "a million miles away from marxist [sic] politics" in the same sentence that he comments that I am living in fantasy land. One wonders exactly what planet he is living on.

You can imply what you like

You can imply what you like about Iran wanting to see Israel wiped off the map. I assume you say Iran that you mean the Iranian ruling class. And as said above no bourgeois ruling would do something knowing that as a result they and the country they are in would be obliterated. There is just no logic.

To put things another way on whether Iran or not has nuclear missles or is developing them. What proof do you have that it does? Because the US security forces have said they don't believe they are.

Also Iranian leaders can say what they like to deflect from their own shortcomings but there is no way the Iranian ruling class would allow a nuclear attack on Israel knowing they would be obliterated from Israel and the USA.

BJP leaders in India have made hysterical statements but they didn't launch a nuclear attack on Pakistan, but in Iran's case this is even less likely knowing how harsh the retaliation would be.

Nothing that you're saying is based in a material assessment of what is going on.

Ignoring the evidence

Dan2 states: "there is no way the Iranian ruling class would allow a nuclear attack on Israel knowing they would be obliterated from Israel and the USA." He feels completely competent to dismiss the quotes that I have provided from Khomeini, from Rafsanjani and the well known Israel must be wiped off the map of the current leader. As far as he is concerned it is not logical for the Iranian leaders to act in such a way. I agree, it is not logical, but who says that they have to act in a logical fashion?

I have never said I have proof that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. What I have said is that if there is proof that Iran is developing them, then it would be better to stop them developing them, if necessary with force, than allow them to develop them. The US intelligence estimate that you quote may or may not be accurate. What if Israeli intelligence does have, or obtains such evidence?

Dan2 is living in some kind of fantasy land where everyone acts in a logical fashion. If that were true what logic is there in hanging homosexuals in Iran?

The reason I can dismiss

The reason I can dismiss those quotes is because they don't fit into the material reality of the situation. People can say what they like but as a marxist you'll know that class forces react for material reasons and no national ruling class will do something that will result in them being obliterated from the face of the earth. Indeed the only country in the middle east likely to launch a nuclear strike is Israel, in the form of bunker busters.

If you think that imperialist forces can act as a force of good as far as the working class are concerned, then fair enough, but again that says it all.

As for homophobia, along with racism, sexism etc it is used by the ruling class to divide and rule the working class, and that is the logic from their point of view. Including the Iranian working class who are utterly reactionary.

Wrong Assumptions

Dan 2

What if the following assumption of yours was wrong: "class forces react for material reasons"? Consider the following:In the Third Reich the Nazis murdered the Jews. If they were acting for material reasons they would not have done so but used the Jews as slave labour.

Your whole theory has just been blown apart hasn't it?

"I do not support... nuclear..I simply will not condemn." Duncan

"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.

Actually mikey mikey the

Actually mikey mikey the nazis did use Jews for slave labour but never mind. But that aside the Nazis used anti-semitism and racism in general to prop up their regime, again there was a material reason. A ruling class would not, on the other hand, do something that would mean for all certainty they would be obliterated from the planet. If you believe otherwise fair enough, but in my view you're not a marxist.

Marxists

Dan2

Yes, the Nazis did use Jews as slave labour - but they were more interested in killing them. It does not make rational sense to kill them when they could have continued using them for slave labour for further material gain. You cannot explain this away.

Regarding what the ruling class may or may not do - your Marxist theories simply may not hold. President Ahmadinejad is not a Marxist and nor are the Mullahs who dictate what policy can or cannot be passed. They do not have to behave in a way based on your interpretation of how Marx says they should behave.

The Communist Manifesto and other works by Marx, Engels and their followers are not some kind of fail proof discussion on human behaviour. I am sorry to inform you of this, but it is the case.

As said the rational sense

As said the rational sense was the extreme racism and anti-semitism which served to undermine the working class and prop up the fascist state. As you'll know xenophobia, nationalism and racism are core parts of fascist ideology. The Nazi state did actually, on mass, use the Jews for slave labour. The fact that they also carried out genocide was part of their extreme ideology, but fascism does have material underpinnings. Carrying out an act which will result, for definite, in your annihilation as a ruling class and a nation does not. The Iranian ruling class aren't all "mad mullahs" with no logic, they act like any other bourgeois ruling class.

But if you think the Iranian ruling class is just itching to get hold of some nukes to obliterate Israel and in turn see themselves wiped from the face of the planet fair enough. But I think you are, as you put it, living on another planet.

My mistake

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."

Sects and lying sects

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.

Mark what a pathetic and

Mark what a pathetic and needlessly personal post. How can you say other people's posts "drive out real debate and discussion" and then write a post like the above which is full of personal attacks and almost devoid of political debate. Is this really how some members in the AWL carry on?

The Weekly Worker Group ['CPGB'] and 'Two States'

Ben,
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?
TomU

Four points

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.

Most of the things in the

Most of the things in the long post above either don't answer questions that have been asked in numerous posts above or just repeat things.

But again this is said:

"The Iranian bomb is particularly alarming. It just self-evidently is."

So because you say "it just self-evidently is", then it is! But in reality the ruling class of Iran is little different than the BJP in India or a military dictatorship in Pakistan etc They act as a class, not as collective delusional religious suicide bomber.

Ruling classes act on material interests, if you say otherwise you might as well throw marxism out of the windown. No ruling class will do something in the sure knowledge that it will result in them being obliterated.

Also Sean might think "on what basis" can an Israeli attack on Iran be condemned? On the simple basis that it will be a massive backward step for pro working class forces in the middle east and Israel.

"Ruling classes act on material interests"?

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.

TomU

Lawrence Parker/Mark Fisher

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.

Well why would a ruling

Well why would a ruling class, acting collectively, do something that would result in their obliteration? Give me a logical argument and I might think you have a point. Just comparing a national ruling class to an Al-Qaeda suicide bomber like Sean has done is just ridiculous.

I've already commented on the Holocaust above. The extreme racism that came out of the Nazis was a reflection of the facsist ideology and the material basis of fascism. Fascism uses racism to divide the working class and the Nazis used anti-semitism and racism in general to this affect (and as you say ruling classes use nationalism, racism etc all the time). Obviously the racism will vary according to each particular fascist movement but it is always there. The hatred and genocide did have a material reason and was crucial in maintaining the regime and the imperialism of Germany.

The ruling class doing something that will result in its inevitable obliteration does not. And saying that the Iranian ruling class is any different than other ruling classes such as India, Pakistan, Israel etc is wrong in my view.

The Nazis did more than that

Dan,

The Nazis did more than just use anti-Semitism to "divide the working class". Yes, that was one aspect of it but you cannot explain the Holocaust simply in these terms. To say that "The hatred and genocide [I presume you're talking about the Holocaust here] did have material reason and was crucial in maintaining the regime and the imperialism of Germany" (my emphasis) is both obscene and a-historical nonsense. Even as the defeat of Nazi Germany was a sealed-deal, they continued - actually sped up - their efforts to annihilate the Jews. Wouldn't it have been more in the interest of "maintaining the regime" to divert efforts to the defence of Berlin, for example?

You give me a 'logical' argument for the Holocaust ... can't think of one? Well, that's a good sign. It wasn't 'logical' was it?

TomU

Mark another pathetic post.

Mark another pathetic post. You're just making yourself look bad with needlessly personal and apolitical posts. Even if you think other people's posts are what you say then you've just surpassed them all. Well done.

CPGBer in lying shocker

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.

Or Mark, you could admit you

Or Mark, you could admit you don't know the theory of revolutionary defeatism (I'm not in the CPGB by the way).

Dan, either address the issue or butt out

"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.

WWG and the 'Permanent Revolution'

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?
TomU

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