Perez thunders on another Gould response part1

Gould's Book Arcade ggouldsb at
Mon Sep 1 21:19:15 MDT 2003


I deeply and viscerally object to being labelled a scab because of a
difference of opinion with the excited Jose Perez. I object even more to
Gary McLennan labelling me a scab, by mealy mouthed inference, when he
refers, in a fulsome way, to what a wonderful post Perez's was. At least the
vituperative Perez said it up front. He didn't shelter behind someone else,
like McLennan.

It's important to try and understand why a relatively seasoned political
animal like Perez should fling around rhetoric about scabs in one post, and
then break it down slightly in his next post. It's obviously a linguistic
device to intimidate the shit out of anyone who dares to disagree with his
construct, by asserting that anyone who doesn't accept Perez's wisdom, is a
scab. That's a poisonous form of debate, right out of the repertoire of
Stalinism. It also tells you something about the underlying political
attitudes of the bloke using the abuse.

I note that, given the gravity of the issues discussed, Louis is not
enforcing his rules too rigidly, so I hope he will give me the same
indulgence as Perez, in my response.

Perez and his co-thinker, M. Junaid Alam, are not too concerned with
pedestrian matters of geography or individual identity. Perez treats
yesterday morning's post by my mate Ed Lewis, in which Ed clearly indicates
disagreement with me on some questions, as if we are the same person. Alam
seems to think that the Workers Communist Party (of Iraq) I'm quoting is
somewhere in New Zealand. Alam says: "For all his talk of "social reality",
Ozleft has only a couple (of) barbers and a tiny Communist sect out in the
island of New Zealand to console him."

All the participants in this argument, on both sides, including me, present
evidence drawn from whatever sources are available to attempt to give an
appraisal of the forces at work in Iraq. Alam selects sources to strengthen
his argument, but objects to some of my sources, particularly Shiite
barbers. This morning, Louis presents as major evidence in chief, one
journalist's account of an interview with one anonymous student, and we are
presumably meant to be impressed by that.

I insist that an accurate picture can only be formed by going to all the
sources available, and my examples were presented in that spirit, to correct
the one sided picture presented by the barrage of ostensible evidence posted
on Marxmail and other places, which in fact consists mainly of journalists
reports that suit the poster's arguments. This kind of procedure by the
Perez camp is the mirror image of the posture adopted by the Stalinist pro
imperialist group in Australia ( who only
place on their web site material praising the imperialist occupation of
Iraq. An accurate picture is acquired by as substantial an overview of all
the sources available that one can get access to. In my view, the recent
International Crisis Group report on Iraq is as distilled an overview of the
actual situation, drawn from all the sources, that we are likely to get at
this point, and my judgements on the actual situation are largely formed by
this report, rather than solely by the excited journalism so attractive to
Perez and others.

I reject Perez's proposition that what is taking place in Iraq primarily
represents the activities of some comprehensive movement that he calls the
Iraqi Resistance. I submit that the evidence suggests that Perez and others
are mentally taking a number of contradictory elements and forces, and
cobbling them together. I submit that several of the actions that he
characterises as actions of the Iraqi resistance, are actions of individual
terrorism that as, Lueko Williams put it quite well yesterday morning, are
counterproductive to the construction of a broad based Iraqi resistance, and
counter productive to the mobilisation and consciousness of the Iraqi
working class.

I go further than Williams, however, and assert that the nature of these
actions suggests they may well be the actions of counter revolutionary
forces like the remnants of Baathist intelligence or Islamic fundamentalist
terrorist groups. I put in this category the bombing of the water supply and
electricity pylons to Baghdad, and the indiscriminate bombing of the UN
compound, which killed mainly civilians, including Iraqi civilians. I also
put in this category yesterday's bombing of the Shiite holy places in Najaf.
I assert that the bombing into the hereafter of a major leader of Shiism, an
imam who had been collaborating with the imperialist occupation forces,
along with a hundred or so of his congregation, the pleasant street leading
to the holy place, and the main Shiite holy place itself, is a counter
revolutionary act of the most vicious sort, which, while it might contribute
to making Iraq ungovernable by the imperialist occupying authority, also
cements the hold of more conservative forces on the Shiite community. This
vicious act is providing the clearest and most palpable impulse towards the
breaking out of blind communal conflict between the Shiite majority
community and the other communities in Iraq.

I ask Perez and his supporters whether he considers this particular act as a
legitimate act of the "Iraqi resistance" and that I am a scab for expressing
opposition to it.

I further assert that it's a dishonest debater's trick to lump together my
opposition to those acts, with my clearly stated point of view, that other
acts of direct, clearly military conflict with the American occupiers, were
in a different category. I expressed the point of view that, while such
actions were understandable, and not morally objectionable, that I shared
the view of what I believe is the overwhelming majority of Iraqis, that such
actions are, at this stage, probably strategically unwise, though I was
deliberately not dogmatic about that.

Any rational, materialist consideration of the demographics of Iraq clearly
underlines my point. Iraq has a population of 26 million. Between 15 million
and 15.5 million of them are Shiites. Between 4.5 million and 5 million of
them are Kurds. Between 4.5 and 5 million of them are Sunnis. About 0.5
million of them are Turcomans, and about 1 million of them are Assyrian
Christians, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestant, Mandeans, Yazidis and other
non Muslims.

All observers agree that the Kurds are, broadly speaking, in a military
alliance of convenience with the imperialist occupying force,  the non
Muslim million are by and large collaborating with the imperialist
occupiers, as are the Turcomans, who look to Turkey for support. The Shiite
60% majority, the 15 million, were, until yesterday, by and large taking a
wait and see position towards the occupying authority, while trying to
assert their own independent community interests vis a vis the occupiers, in
a non military way. The military conflicts with the occupiers, including the
terrorist acts, which are unsupportable from the point of view of Marxism,
are largely taking place either in Sunni areas, or, like the terrorist act
at Najaf, being directed provocatively at the Shiite majority, certainly not
by Shiites, who would be reluctant to violate the holiest of Shiite holy

My above potted political demographic is further illuminated by the
political developments in the last couple of days. Jose Perez's artificial
western "orientalist" construct of a unified Iraqi resistance, including
Baathist remnants and their terrorist acts, is a dangerous mystification,
and it is not scabbing, as Perez calls it in his deliberately insulting way,
to point out these obvious facts.


A youngish member of the DSP, Stuart Munckton, has attacked me for bourgeois
moralism in asserting that the bombing of civilians in the UN compound was
uncivilised. He waves around Trotsky's excellent book "Their Morals and
 Ours", as some kind of justification for supporting Perez's view that the
UN compound is a legitimate military target and the killing of civilians an

Well, as the God-botherers often say, the Devil can quote scripture for his
own purpose. Munckton's use of Trotsky's profound little book, to which he
only really refers in passing, is a piece of the utmost demagogy, and his
further comments that he doesn't yet really know whether or not the UN
bombing was justified, as there's not enough information yet, indicates that
the reason for this demagogy is to divert attention away from the more or
less obvious fact that the DSP leadership are paralysed by an internal
argument over the question, and have not yet come to a decisive conclusion.

This impression that I have, that the DSP leadership are still arguing
internally over these matters, is confirmed by the fact that Peter Boyle,
who earlier posted the International Crisis Group report on Green Left and
Marxmail, obviously for a political purpose, made a post on Green Left from
home last night, after what must have been a very gruelling all day regular
Monday meeting of the rather top heavy 10 or 15 full timers (out of the DSP
membership of 80 in Sydney and 300 nationally). Boyle's post attempted to
direct the discussion on to other matters than whether the Najaf bombing
should be condemned, which would have been one of the dominating political
questions at yesterday's meeting.

Munckton's use of "Their Morals and Ours" is the utmost demagogery because
it is a complete distortion of the thrust of Trotsky's approach to questions
of morality. When I mentioned Trotsky initially, in one of my posts, it wasn
't specifically in relation to the pamphlet "Their Morals and Ours" but to
another statement of Trotsky's "For Grynzspan" and Munckton seems to confuse
the two documents. Nevertheless, "Their Morals and Ours" is very relevant to
this discussion.

Surely the most relevant aspect of Trotsky's powerful pamphlet is its
general conclusion, the heading of which is, "Dialectic Interdependence of
End and Means". As Stuart Munckton talks about everything except Trotsky's
conclusion, which may even suggest that he didn't make it as far as the
conclusion, it seems worthwhile to me to read Trotsky's conclusion into the
record from Einde O'Callaghan and David Walter's excellent and useful
Marxist Internet Archive. For reasons of continuity, I'll put this extract
at the end of this article.

Munckton attacks me because I did not "support  the right of the Iraqi
people to resist by any means necessary the occupation or we don't." Earlier
in his piece, he ridicules my proposition that "It's almost a rule of thumb
in evaluating whether an upheaval is a genuine people's war or not, that one
of the primary tests is the behaviour of the rebel force towards civilians."

Well, this is, indeed, one of the nubs of the question. I base my rejection
of the Najaf bombing, the UN bombing, and the destruction of the water and
electricity to Baghdad, on the proposition that those acts have a profoundly
negative affect on the struggle, and in that sense, they are immoral by the
yardstick of proletarian morality, in which means and ends are
inter-related. Munckton, like Perez,  reduces the question crudely to a
proposition that in the war situation, that they claim exists, more or less
any means are acceptable. That is not Trotsky's position at all, with his
concluding stress on the "dialectic interdependence of end and means".

My approach is clearly true to the spirit of Trotsky's analysis,
particularly to his extended conclusion. The conclusion to "Their Morals and
Ours" is a powerful investigation of the dialectic interdependence of end
and means, and includes a condemnation in general of individual terrorism as
unacceptable from the point of view of proletarian morality, which takes
into account both means and ends. Munckton's philistine reduction of the
question to the intentions of the bombers alone, about which we are both
clearly speculating, is a stupid affront to the spirit of Trotsky's analysis
in "Their Morals and Ours" and in particular to his broad conclusions. Any
objective reading of "Their Morals and Ours", written in 1938, as a guide to
how to approach questions of proletarian morality, inevitably indicates a
general condemnation, in most circumstances, of individual terror directed
at civilians.

(It's instructive to note the speculative example that Trotsky gives of the
possible bombing of Franco and his staff into kingdom come, as a morally
defensible act. Trotsky quite deliberately does not complicate the argument
by mentioning an actual event that all Communists and socialists concluded
was an enormous political mistake. In 1923, during a vicious repression
against the Communists in Bulgaria by the Bulgarian state, the Bulgarian
Communists organised a very effective bombing from the basement of the
national cathedral in Sophia, which blew to bits the Tsar of Bulgaria, his
staff and generals, the higher clergy and several hundred civilians. This
bombing was a very successful act militarily, as were the bombings of the UN
compound and the Shiite holy places in Najaf. It was an absolute disaster
politically. It led to the most brutal wholesale repression of both the
Communist movement and the radical peasant movement in Bulgaria, including
the summary execution of many Communists and radical peasants. The bombing
of the Sofia cathedral was subsequently condemned both by the Comintern and
the Bulgarian Communist Party, as a very considerable political error and
crime. The example of the Sofia cathedral bombing was clearly in the back of
Trotsky's mind when he confined his example of a morally defensible act, in
time of war, very narrowly to the bombing of a fascist general and his

If Munckton or Perez were to front up to a Colombian revolutionary or a
current leader of the IRA, perhaps, and ask the  IRA leader why they didn't
blow up the British House of Commons or maybe Westminster Abbey with the
Queen and the British State in it, or blow up the water supply or
electricity to Belfast, they probably wouldn't give you a careful analysis
drawn from Comrade Trotsky about proletarian morality. (Though some might.
Serious revolutionaries are often these days pretty educated in Marxist
theory.) They would very probably make simple propositions to you about how
such actions would be politically counter productive, because they would
enrage the British and Irish masses against the revolutionary movement. They
would thereby be expressing, in simple, practical form, one aspect of the
underlying spirit of Trotsky's "Their Morals and Ours". (They would also
probably immediately get the hell out of your company because they would not
unreasonably be pretty suspicious of anybody even raising such

It's very useful that Munckton has raised "Their Morals and Ours". It's
easily accessible on the web, thanks to the wonderful Marxist Internet
Archive, and any Marxist worth two bob, who is interested in these
questions, ought to study it very carefully, before they lightly go off at
the mouth in defence of individual terror tactics that are completely
indefensible from a Marxist point of view.


Perez's last major piece attacking me on Marxmail is eccentric in the
extreme. He bursts into song, with a few stanzas from Harlan County to
deliberately insult me. His final section, his approving quote from Malcolm
X about the Kennedy assassination, is really bizarre:

Peres says:

"The whole history of white, European colonialism and modern imperialism is
filled with monstrous, genocidal atrocities. For someone to show up now, in
2003, going tsk tsk the Iraqi resistance isn't fighting by gentlemen's
rules, is scabbing. As Malcolm X said after the Kennedy assassination:

"President Kennedy never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost
so soon . Being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming home to roost never
did make me sad; they always made me glad."

Putting aside, for the moment, the accusation of scabbing directed at me
because of a different estimate of the objective situation in Iraq, it's
worth examining the egregious lunacy involved in quoting Malcolm X in this
context. Malcolm X was a courageous revolutionary leader and was later
murdered for his courage. Nevertheless, that statement, which is so
appealing to crazed ultra lefts, was politically extremely unwise. It's
worth noting that the Soviet Union, Castro and the Cuban leadership and the
American SWP all condemned the Kennedy assassination. From the hindsight of
history it seems pretty clear now that Kennedy was assassinated from within
the extreme right wing of American society. To quote approvingly Malxolm X's
unwise remarks, in the context of implying that anyone who does not take a
similar attitude to acts of individual terror directed at civilians in Iraq,
is a scab, such a view is quite mad and extremely dangerous politically.

Gould's Book Arcade
32 King St, Newtown, NSW
Ph: 9519-8947
Fax: 9550-5924

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