IG statement (was: Andy falls..)

Lou Paulsen wwchi at enteract.com
Sun Sep 30 08:32:09 MDT 2001


-----Original Message-----
From: Jim Farmelant <farmelantj at juno.com>
To: marxism at lists.panix.com <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Date: Sunday, September 30, 2001 6:44 AM
Subject: Andy falls off Hitchens' bar stool


>Perhaps the following is what Andy has in mind?  If so, such a view
>does not seem to be too characteristic of the left.  If Andy has
>evidence otherwise, then he should feel free to share it
>with us.
>
>http://www.internationalist.org/left&war0901.html


Actually, Jim, to be fair to the Internationalist Group [IG], I read that
statement, and as far as it presents the duties of Leninists to defend
oppressed countries against imperialism, I don't see a problem with their
line.  Furthermore, I don't find anything in the IG statement that goes
farther toward "defending" the tactic of hijacking planes and crashing them
into occupied buildings in the oppressor nation, as practiced by Islamicist
militants, than I would go.

No, the problems with the IG statement are (1) that it is dripping with
sectarianism and the urge to point out that only the IG are real
revolutionaries and everyone else on the left are class traitors, and (2)
that it doesn't understand the difference between the needs of theory and
the needs of agitation (leaflet-writing and statement-writing).  They have
apparently never heard the slogan "mild in manner, bold in matter" (which
was one of Vince Copeland's favorite expressions), or if they have heard it
they reject it as trash.

Fixing on a quote from Ollman calling on the left to "make our truth
digestible," they interpret this as meaning that we should lie to the
masses, or change our message, if we are afraid that telling the truth will
isolate us.  But I don't believe that Ollman meant it that way, and I
believe Ollman's advice is good advice if interpreted along the lines of
making the "bold" matter "mild" enough in manner so that the masses will
listen to what we are saying.  We should not change WHAT we say to the
masses, but it is necessary to work long hours on our leaflets and
statements to craft HOW we say it to them.

Thus, they correctly say that Leninists would defend Afghanistan -against
imperialism- in the present war.  (Of course for those of us who believe in
the dialectic, "defense" never exists in the abstract but is always
*against* some opposing force.)  However, the IG concludes from this that
every leaflet and statement must include the  words, "DEFEND AFGHANISTAN."
And they take all other Marxists and parties to task for ignoring this
elementary task.   And yet, in my view, when there are worldwide
demonstrations against a war against Afghanistan, to the extent that those
demonstrations have any effect, that effect is to make it more difficult for
the imperialists to conduct the war, which in my view is defense in
practice.

But I will also say this in justice to the IG: when they refer to the
practice of socialists' "front-loading their appeals with 'anti-terrorist'
rhetoric",  they have identified a phenomenon which, in my personal opinion,
raises more questions than most people on this list probably think that it
raises.  Words like "condemn" and "terrorism" are going to be interpreted by
the masses according to the consciousness which the ruling class has imposed
on them.  That is, 'condemn' is going to be interpreted undialectically, and
'terrorism' is going to be interpreted in terms of the bourgeoisie's
definition of terrorism, not Lenin's or Trotsky's.  Therefore, if it is
possible to write appeals without doing that, I think they will be more
correct appeals.

Some people will say, and HAVE said in coalition meetings, that if you don't
put a "condemnation of terrorism" in the first paragraph of the leaflet, or
in the demands of the antiwar coalition, the masses will challenge you on it
and say that we have adopted the killing of the WTC / Pentagon / airline
workers as our own action.  My experience in practice is that although it is
necessary to "go where the masses are" in terms of voicing their own
feelings of grief about the attack, the absence of such a 'condemnation' has
little enough practical effect.  People who are prepared to listen will
listen even if it isn't there; people who are prepared to attack you will
attack you even if it is there.

Lou Paulsen
Chicago

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