Israel-Iran: For Reason in Politics! 2

Submitted by cathy n on 21 August, 2008 - 6:13 Author: Editorial, Solidarity, 21 August, 2008

The issues involved here are to-be-or-not-to-be for rational politics. The downright irrationality of the outcry is clear from the fact that the assessment that Israel has "good reason" to bomb Iranian nuclear installations, was preceded by a paragraph warning of the region-wide evil consequences of an Israeli attack and by the political judgement: "We do not advocate an Israeli attack on Iran, nor will we endorse it or take political responsibility for it."

It was immediately followed, in the next sentence, by the political judgement: "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."

The premiss of those who denounced the discussion piece is that if you don't say something is 100% unreasonable, the pure product of the imperialist, or "racist", or US-catspaw, nature of Israel — or if you write anything other than what might serve as an agitational leaflet against a surge of pro-Israeli chauvinism — then you are endorsing what Israel may do, "excusing" it! It is preposterous. It is a recipe for rampant irrationality.

If to "recognise" something — here that Israel has good reason to act against atomic bombs in the hands of the Iranian mullahs — is to endorse and excuse any action that others may take for the reasons you recognise, and to incur a share of responsibility for it, then the conscientious socialist will be duty bound to behave like the superstitious person who dares not say certain words, or walk under ladders, for fear that will trigger fearful events! You won't dare think certain sorts of thoughts for fear you will unleash what you think about on the world! It is a form of crass, deeply primitive superstition!

If there is no political space between candidly assessing a situation, whether mistakenly or correctly makes no difference in principle — ".... there is good reason for Israel to make a precipitate strike at Iranian nuclear capacity...." — if there is no space between that and endorsing, advocating or "excusing" such an attack, then full and honest analysis, objectivity, reason itself in politics is ruled out. And then?

Then, you are left with some variant of the method in politics that you allow yourself to see or note only those aspects of reality that fit your line, which are pre-selected by your "line" or doctrine — and whatever manipulation you are trying to work on your readers. This is the Stalinist and Catholic Church approach; the "first put out your own eyes" school of "revolutionary” politics. It is no part of a Marxist — or, indeed of any other species of rational approach. Marxists try to tell the truth, without lopping off the "awkward" bits: we draw our political conclusions from that.

It is the old "Varga" question in the Communist International. The Hungarian Eugen Varga was the Comintern's leading economist, notoriously a biddable hack. Asked in a telegram to write "an economic analysis" for a Comintern journal, he wired back: what should the analysis show? Stabilisation or imminent crisis?"

Apocryphal, probably. Yet it is all too accurate a parable about what we have taken to calling "Apparatus Marxism", the derivation of slogans, perspectives and general politics from what the "Party apparatus" thinks will best serve its concerns, such as recruitment.

That "left" is dominated and to a large extent shaped by an approach to most problems that is back-to-front: agitation and the search for issues on which to agitate, comes first, then — maybe — the reality is analysed.

From agitation to agitation, from one thing to another, like the butterfly skimming nectar off flowers, and no chance to think things through, that's the pattern.

Of course, it should be the other way around: programme and analysis first, and then, spun from that, agitation. If it isn't, then rational politics is more or less impossible.

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