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Submitted by cathy n on Thu, 18/09/2008 - 13:18

This debate needs a political etymology!

What is striking with Jason here, John Palmer before, Machover, others on this and other forums where this debate has taken place is the patterns underlying their political positions. In the way they all to one degree or another swear they are no friends of the Iranian regime (and in large part they are truthful about that), but then go on to embark on all kinds of special pleading for the regime.

Special pleading is partial to almost total suppression of the truth. In this debate, on the question of the Iranian ruling class, the special pleaders say:
• it is just like any other ruling class (no, e.g. the British ruling class did not come to power in a recent counter-revolution);
• well, okay they may be clerical fascists but yah boo sucks so are the Israeli rulers (not true).
• alright you say the Iranian ruling class did organise a Holocaust denial conference but it was all much more pluralistic and open-ended than that (but why would any 21st century human being want to “debate” the Holocaust-what’s to debate(?)).
• we don’t want the Iranian ruling class to have nukes but we don’t want to point the finger at the Iranians right now so we won’t point the finger at the particular regime which has a drive to get nukes.

All of this flows from Iranian defencism of course and that is one political pattern. A defencism which might say something like: Iran are under attack and as much as we want the Iranian working class to lead Iranian defence and be the political force behind any “victory to Iran” we still have trim our politics to emphasise the hypocrisy and rapaciousness of the western bourgeoisie.

But there is another root to the special pleading it seems to me. Yes, it’s Stalinism. Or rather the Stalinoid politics which infected the Trotskyist movement (and more generally the left, sections of the labour movement, its bureaucracy included) in the last century.

Take the example of Cuba and the Castroites.

It’s the strongest case example for special pleaders it seems to me because Cuba has been under real threat of invasion and continuous economic etc blockade for many decades. And is a very small country under threat from a very large imperialist country.

The Third Camp position? It is to defend Cuba’s right to self-determination, to fight the actions of the imperialist power in the region and to oppose the blockade. But also to be crystal clear about the nature of the regime, not to suppress any small detail, any small matter of truth about what it represents. And to do this because we stand with the workers of Cuba against both its rulers and the imperialists.
Against the Third Camp there are all kinds of “defences” made about the Cuban regime on the left, ranging from hagiography to the kind of special pleading we have seen in this discussion. I was treated to the special pleading type of “defence” at an event at the Tolpuddle Martyrs festival a couple of years ago, where Jeremy Dear of the NUJ saw fit to not mention the suppression of the media in Cuba (special pleading by omission), and some twit from the TUC saying he realised it was all “very difficult” and we should be critical but one had to realise that a. the options for the regime were limited and (sigh), b. it is easy for us to criticise in the west, we should be more self-conscious etc etc.

“Defending Cuba” in the above fashion (this wasn't the usual Cuba is somekindasocialist nonsense) in post-Trotsky Trotskyists has it’s origins in an infection of Stalinism, a capitulation to Stalinism as being the “best available” post-capitalist political option especially if that option is opposed to the imperialist western powers.

And therefore my point is that the suppression of truth in “left wing” politics, here and elsewhere, also has its origins in that entire framework of Stalinoid infection.

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