[Marxism] What if...?

John Edmundson johnedmundson at paradise.net.nz
Thu Nov 1 17:43:59 MDT 2007

On Thu, 2007-11-01 at 20:39 +0000, Matthieu Gues wrote:
> foreverblaze said :
> >"First off I want to say that what if thinking is bad. 
> It distracts us "Marxists" from analyzing the material conditions 
> we see occurring before our very eyes. However, since you are a newcomer 
> and I want you to feel welcome to the list I will entertain your query."
> And later :
> >"In conclusion we should not fantasize about imaginary reactions 
> to arbitrary events in hypothetical historical contexts. 
> It does nothing but allows us to wax nostalgic in the what ifs 
> instead of focusing on reality."
> Thanks to you. I agree and I do recognize all the dangers and traps in such a thinking. 
> But I also insisted that we should only focus on short-term consequences, 
> as a mean of proving that the adage "If only we had stopped Hitler" could very well be simply wrong. 
> I do not see what i'm doing here as mere nostalgia, to me it's a way of combating the US rhetoric.
> I am sorry if I waste anyone's time, or if this is not the place for such a debate.
> Then :
> >"Your basis of analysis is flawed Hitler stated that his conquest in the Rhineland was merely to test the French response. Hitler himself admitted  that if France had responded Hitler would have simply pulled back the troops. Your scenario is predicated on the thought that  Hitler was ready to fight and that the defeat would have forced him into isolation. This however does a lot of unsubstantiated historical manipulation. You would be required to imagine Hitler would foolishly send his unprepared forces to slaughter which would in turn reshape his entire political ideology  to the point of abandoning his aspirations for conquest. This seems like a poor slippery slope argument which magically transforms 1936 Hitler into 1945 Hitler. (who still wouldn't tacitly accept defeat) In a condition like this it is unimaginable what would or would not have been done by the Soviets. Stalin and his advocation of "Socialism in one country" most likely wouldn't have
>  taken direct military actions unless provoked by numerous amounts of arbitrary triggers. Adversely, KGB agents would most likely be attempting to insight political instability within Germany; which could have provoked a German preemptive assault."
> I thank you for your corrections. 
> I do not especially cling to the idea of Hitler abandoning his schemes of invasion, it was just a very optimistic idea I put forth. The whole "what if Hitler" thing is based on utmost optimism.
> If this topic/debate is really against the rules of the list, tell me so.

Hi Matthieu, and welcome to the list.

There is very little that is against the rules of this list; endless
arguments about Stalin versus Trotsky is one that you should avoid

Having said that, I doubt you'll get enthusiasm for this sort of "what
if" discussion. The problem is that the basic premise for it is flawed.
It seems to me that it arises from the response on your blog to your
defence of Ahmadinejad. People responded with the Hitler analogy, saying
in effect, "Ahmadinejad is a new Hitler - Iran is threatening its
neighbours, he is making antisemitic comments and he needs to be
stopped. The world shouldn't make the mistakes it made with Hitler."
Rather than try to speculate about what might have happened if "the
world", or the French state had acted differently in the 1930s, I
believe it is better to debate the present situation. This is not only
more possible (not entirely speculative) but also more politically
useful in that it sharpens your own and your readers understanding of
what actually is happening today with regard to Iran.

1. Ahmadinejad is not a new Hitler. Firstly, Hitler was the leader of
one of the world's foremost capitalist and imperialist countries. He was
talking about "lebensraum" and the need to liberate the "oppressed"
German speaking people of Europe. Ahmadinejad is the president of a
third world country being threatened with invasion by the most powerful
country in the world. He hasn't invaded anybody and is highly unlikely
to. He has far less power within Iran, where the Supreme Council for the
Islamic Revolution (if I've got the name right) holds real power, than
Hitler had in Germany. The comparisons between the two are superficial
and shallow.

2. As you've already said on your blog, the much reported "wiped off the
map" quote is a gross misrepresentation of what Ahmadinejad actually
said. Not only did he not say it, he couldn't achieve it if he wanted
to. Israel is the nuclear power and the dominant military power in the
region, not Iran. Israel receives billions of dollars of US aid every
year and it is Israel that routinely invades its neighbours, as well as
brutally occupying Palestinian land. (Actually I would argue that all of
Israel is occupied Palestinian land but perhaps that's a different
argument.) If anyone wants a "New Hitler in the Middle East" analogy to
argue about, then Israel fits the bill much more closely than Iran.

3. If the argument is "Ahmadinejad equals Hitler", then the objective is
regime change in Iran. The United States, as the world's leading
Imperialist power, needs no encouragement to carry through this agenda,
having carried out far too many (one is too many) regime changes.
Arguing on these terms hands over the initiative to your hostile
respondents. You're better to point out the irrelevance of that argument
and refocus it onto the real issue, US attempts to assert its dominance
over the Middle East - which it is doing for its own reasons - not out
of concern for the people of Iran.

4. If the US does attack Iran, either by itself or using its Israeli
proxy, it is likely to provoke a bloodbath. Iraq was weakened by ten
years of brutal sanctions and ongoing bombing raids, all following its
defeat in the 1st Gulf War. Despite this, the US is mired in an
unwinnable war years after the invasion. Iran is much bigger, stronger,
and less "degraded" by preparatory aggression. War in Iran would be
disastrous, as well as probably being equally unwinnable. Furthermore,
if the US achieves its objectives, and gets a stranglehold on the
world's oil, many people will suffer, far more than will ever suffer
from the actions of the Iranian government.

What you will find on this list is a lot of information and debate over
the issues around possible war with Iran. If you haven't done so
already, I suggest that you have a look through the archives to see what
you can find there.

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