Perez thunders on another Gould response part2

Gould's Book Arcade ggouldsb at
Mon Sep 1 21:19:59 MDT 2003


Yesterday Perez posted, three times for emphasis, a piece on Green Left in
Australia in which, after repeatedly accusing me of scabbery in previous
posts, he swings over to a calmer, more comradely tone. Gee whiz! I am, in
fact, a bit relieved that Perez has decided on a bit more civility (after he
has done the dirty work with all the abuse). If he keeps to his newer,
calmer tone, after this post, I too will return to my more moderate tone. It
seems to me that the immediate cause of Perez's more moderate tone is the
fact that, despite all his intimidating bullshit about scabbery, significant
other voices like Lueko Williams and Fred Feldman, who are rather more
integrated members of the Marxmail club, than a bit of an outsider like me,
are quietly typing away, raising similar points to myself. Perez can hardly
go on and accuse them also of scabbery, so he changes his tune a bit. Fair
enough. (In this context, I feel a bit like Albania and Yugoslavia must have
felt in the early stages of the Sino-Soviet dispute, where China and Russia
attacked each other by way of indirect abuse, ostensibly directed at Albania
and Yugoslavia.)

However, Perez concludes his last, more moderate post, with another piece of
confusing humbug:

"That's the point of the Harlan County song. The question ACTUALLY posed for
us are NOT the best tactics in the underground struggle against the
occupation within Iraq, whether it should be primarily a military struggle
or some other kind of struggle, etc. etc. etc. The question actually posed
for us is: which side are you on?"

This little paragraph is a piece of  hypocrisy.  Under the guise of the
proposition that tactics in Iraq are not our business, and that we should
only register solidarity with what Perez dubs the Iraqi resistance, which he
insists includes the bombing of the UN compound as an act of revolutionary
war, Perez is inevitably implying that those Iraqis who don't join his
imaginary Iraqi national resistance, which includes the terror bombers of
civilians, are in some way guilty of collaboration with the imperialist

It is obviously not our business, from the distance of Atlanta or Sydney, to
issue prescriptions to the political activists and the masses in Iraq about
what they should do in relation to their immediate struggles. What got me
going in the first place, on this question, was the implication by Perez and
others that those Iraqi activists who did not immediately take up a military
option against the imperialist occupiers, are in some sense collaborators
with imperialism. What angered me is that I know some Iraqi militants like
that, particularly the activists in the Workers Communist Party of Iraq, in
Australia (some of whom have now gone back to Iraq). Incidentally, the
Workers Communist Party of Iraq in Australia, is one of the components,
along with the DSP, of the Socialist Alliance. That group of Iraqi comrades
opposed the imperialist assault on Iraq but also bitterly opposed the Saddam
Hussein regime on the basis of their political and social experiences. In
Iraq, they seem to have some illusions in the UN, but they are strongly
opposed to joining the Bremer puppet Iraqi administration. Their practical
activity in Iraq has been directed at reorganising Iraqi trade unions and at
mobilising the dismissed Iraqi Army men in demands placed on the imperialist
occupation administration, for proper payment. For these activities, some of
them have now been arrested.

I found and find it gratuitously offensive for Perez to implicitly label
these comrades as collaborators with imperialism because they don't
automatically join his mentally constructed, partly imaginary national Iraqi
resistance, in military activities against the imperialist occupiers, along
with Baathists etc., at this stage in developments.

I won't labour these points any further, as, to some extent, as Perez
sensibly says, further developments will illuminate us. From this point on,
if Perez adopts a calmer, less insulting tone, I'll respond similarly. (For
purposes of information, I've included in my Marxmail posting, the post
Perez put on the Australian Green Left site, as otherwise, my comments on it
are more or less unintelligible.)

The following is the conclusion from "Their Morals and Ours" by Leon

A means can be justified only by its end. But the end in its turn needs to
be justified, From the Marxist point of view, which expresses the historical
interests of the proletariat, the end is justified if it leads to increasing
the power of man over nature and to the abolition of the power of man over
"We are to understand then that in achieving this end anything is
permissible?' sarcastically demands the Philistine, demonstrating that he
understood nothing. That is permissible, we answer, which really leads to
the liberation of mankind. Since this end can be achieved only through
revolution, the liberating morality of the proletariat of necessity is
endowed with a revolutionary character. It irreconcilably counteracts not
only religious dogma but every kind of idealistic fetish, these philosophic
gendarmes of the ruling class. It deduces a rule for conduct from the laws
of the development of society, thus primarily from the class struggle, this
law of all laws.
"Just the same,' the moralist continues to insist, "does it mean that in the
class struggle against capitalists all means are permissible: lying,
frame-up, betrayal, murder, and so on?' Permissible and obligatory are those
and only those means, we answer, which unite the revolutionary proletariat,
fill their hearts with irreconcilable hostility to oppression, teach them
contempt for official morality and its democratic echoers, imbue them with
consciousness of their own historic mission, raise their courage and spirit
of self-sacrifice in the struggle. Precisely from this it flows that not all
means are permissible. When we say that the end justifies the means, then
for us the conclusion follows that the great revolutionary end spurns those
base means and ways which set one part of the working class against other
parts, or attempt to make the masses happy without their participation; or
lower the faith of the masses in themselves and their organization,
replacing it by worship for the "leaders". Primarily and irreconcilably,
revolutionary morality rejects servility in relation to the bourgeoisie and
haughtiness in relation to the toilers, that is, those characteristics in
which petty bourgeois pedants and moralists are thoroughly steeped.
These criteria do not, of course, give a ready answer to the question as to
what is permissible and what is not permissible in each separate case. There
can be no such automatic answers. Problems of revolutionary morality are
fused with the problems of revolutionary strategy and tactics. The living
experience of the movement under the clarification of theory provides the
correct answer to these problems.
Dialectic materialism does not know dualism between means and end. The end
flows naturally from the historical movement. Organically the means are
subordinated to the end. The immediate end becomes the means for a further
end. In his play, Franz von Sickingen, Ferdinand Lassalle puts the following
words into the mouth of one of the heroes:
..... 'Show not the goal
But show also the path. So closely interwoven
Are path and goal that each with other
Ever changes, and other pathe forthwith
Another goal set up."
Lassalle's lines are not at all perfect. Still worse is the fact that in
practical politics Lassalle himself diverged from the above expressed
precept-it is sufficient to recall that he went as far as secret agreements
with Bismark! But the dialectic inter-dependence between means and end is
expressed entirely correctly in the above-quoted sentences. Seeds of wheat
must be sown in order to yield an ear of wheat.
Is individual terror, for example, permissible or impermissible from the
point of view of 'pure morals"? In this abstract form the question does not
exist at all for us. Conservative Swiss bourgeois even now render official
praise to the terrorist William Tell. Our sympathies are fully on the side
of Irish, Russian, Polish or Hindu terrorists in their struggle against
national and political oppression. The assassinated Kirov, a rude satrap,
does not call forth any sympathy. Our relation to the assassin remains
neutral only because we know not what motives guided him. If it became known
that Nikolayev acted as a conscious avenger for workers' rights trampled
upon by Kirov, our sympathies would be fully on the side of the assassin.
However, not the question of subjective motives but that of objective
expediency has for us the decisive significance. Are the given means really
capable of leading to the goal? In relation to individual terror, both
theory and experience bear witness that such is not the case. To the
terrorist we say: it is impossible to replace the masses; only in the mass
movement can you find expedient expression for your heroism. However, under
conditions of civil war, the assination of individual oppressors ceases to
be an act of individual terror. If, we shall say, a revolutionist bombed
General Franco and his staff into the air, it would hardly evoke moral
indignation even from the democratic eunuchs Under the conditions of civil
war a similar act would be politically completely expedient. Thus, even in
the sharpest question -- murder of man by man-moral absolutes prove futile.
Moral evaluations, together with those political, flow from the inner needs
of struggle.
The liberation of the workers can come only through the workers themselves.
There is, therefore, no greater crime than deceiving the masses, palming off
defeats as victories, friends as enemies, bribing workers' leaders,
fabricating legends, staging false trials, in a word, doing what the
Stalinists do. These means can serve only one end: lengthening the
domination of a clique already condemned by history. But they cannot serve
to liberate the masses. That is why the Fourth International leads against
Stalinism a life and death struggle.
The masses, of course, are not at all impeccable. Idealization of the masses
is foreign to us. We have seen them under different conditions, at different
stages and in addition in the biggest political shocks. We have observed
their strong and weak sides. Their strong side-resoluteness, self-sacrifice,
heroism-has always found its clearest expression in times of revolutionary
upsurge. During this period the Bolsheviks headed the masses. Afterward a
different historical chapter loomed when the weak side of the oppressed came
to the forefront: heterogeneity, insufficiency of culture, narrowness of
world outlook. The masses tired of the tension, became disillusioned, lost
faith in themselves-and cleared the road for the new aristocracy. In this
epoch the Bolsheviks ("Trotskyists") found themselves isolated from the
masses. Practically we went through two such big historic cycles: 1897-1905,
years of flood tide; 1907-1913 years of the ebb; 1917-1923, a period of
upsurge unprecedented in history; finally, a new period of reaction which
has not ended even today. In these immense events the 'Trotskyists' learned
the rhythm of history, that is, the dialectics of the class struggle. They
also learned, it seems, and to a certain degree successfully, how to
subordinate their subjective plans and programs to this objective rhythm.
They learned not to fall into despair over the fact that the laws of history
do not depend upon their individual tastes and are not subordinated to their
own moral criteria. they learned to subordinate their indivdual desires to
the laws of history. they learnd not to become firghtened by the most power
enemies if their power is in contradiction to the needs of historical
development. They know how to swim against the stream in the deep convition
that the new historic flood will carry them to the orhter shore. Not all
will reach that shore, many will drown. but to particiape in this movement
with open eyes and with an intense will-only this can give the highest moral
satisfaction to a thinking being!
P.S.-I wrote these line during those days when my son struggled unknown to
me, with death. I dedicate to his memory this small work which, I hope,
would have met with his approval-Leon Sedoff was a genuine reovlutionist and
despised the Pharisees.-L.T.

This is my most recent post on Bob's position. I've sent it twice to
greenleft, for some reason it isn't posting. Trying it again and if it
doesn't work, I guess I'll give up

*  *  *

I don't usually post much here --Atlanta is rather a long way away--
even though I follow some discussions, not as many as I would like, but
there are only so many hours in a day.

But since Bob has brought over some of the debate from Marxmail I
thought I'd post my latest in response to Bob from there. I'll also go
back and find my original post criticizing Bob's position (after double
checking to make sure it isn't already here).

I'm not sure the discussion is going to go much further. I think at the
root of the disagreement is a disagreement on the basic character of the
struggle being waged by people in Iraq. If we agreed on THAT, the heat
of this polemic would quickly dissipate, because neither of us is in an
especially good position to judge whether or not the tactics being
pursued are the best.

The exchange seemed to start on that level, whether the UN attack was
poor or even impermissible tactics, but a round on that quickly brought
to the fore the underlying disagreement on the character of the
struggle. Having gotten that far, it is not clear to me how much
*further* we can go. I pointed out the German 1945 analogy is completely
and radically wrong, but, of course, that is so only if you accept my
premise that what is going on in Iraq --with whatever other secondary
things mixed in-- is essentially an anti-imperialist struggle, to be
viewed in the framework of decades of such struggles.

Bob rejects this just as vehemently as I assert it. This is, I think, as
far as can be reasonably gotten now.

Now the actual developments on the ground should tell us who is right
and who is wrong. If Bob is right, the *tendency* will be for these
post-occupation attacks to come to an end, and rather quickly (indeed, I
think they've *already* gone on long enough to give Bob cause to
reconsider his premise).

In my case, it is rather more complicated. If we check in six months
from now and we're still seeing a dozen attacks a day and 5-15 coalition
dead a week, I would say that confirms my point. If this form of the
resistance to the occupation withers away, I would not necessarily view
it as definitive, it could be for the reasons Bob said or it could be
for other reasons.

*  *  *

I want to reiterate & emphasize what I say in the post below: some of my
characterizations of Bob Gould's position on this are extremely sharp,
because I view the positions as catastrophically wrong. But that is it:
I am talking about *positions*, not a person.

It would, of course, be easy enough for me to do a "class analysis" to
show the shopkeeper mentality and so on, but then it would be hard for
me to respond when Bob finds the root of my deviance in the role of a
reproducer of bourgeois ideology as a CNN hack. Both of these are BS.
The truth is at the level of these discussions we are all participating
in them as part of the "intelligentsia" whatever it may be that we do
for a living, and actually in our two individual cases, what we do for a
living fits in quite well with that anyways.

My experience has been that this sort of "class analysis" showing the
other side is "petty bourgeois" is especially useful when you want to
split an organization; and that usually the split is a mistake, it
solves nothing, and your "petty-bourgeois" enemies of today are quite
likely to come haunt you as your comrades in the same organization a
quarter century down the road. At any rate, Bob and I don't belong to
any common organization, so the "use value" of making it all real
personal is vanishingly small.

And I'll admit one more thing: I felt absolutely no hesitation in
letting Bob have it from both barrels, so to speak, in terms of his
position, comfortable in the knowledge that he could, would (and in fact
did) respond with just as much vigor.

It may often be advisable to adopt a more understated tone, but I think
on THIS issue, given the importance of Iraq and its importance to world
politics, the revolutionary movement is well served by speaking with
complete and utter frankness.

We should also remember that despite our differences on this, I'm sure
Bob --as I do-- recognize that the main axis of out political efforts
must be directed at exposing and combating the occupation.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jose G. Perez
Sent: Sunday, August 31, 2003 8:29 PM
To: 'marxism at'
Subject: RE: Jose Perez & Iraq Part 2

Bob Gould writes, about my response to his two part post: "Abuse is
usually the sign of a weak argument."

I am sorry if Bob feels abused. I know he is a person that has been
identified with the revolutionary and workers movement for decades. I
respect that and respect him for it. I tried in my posts to make clear I
was characterizing and criticizing a specific political position, a
mistake, and not railing against a person.

The characterization is very sharp because the mistake is very serious.
Bob does not see this resistance in the framework of the anticolonial
revolution of modern times. He views it EXCLUSIVELY as the death throes
of a particularly nasty bourgeois regime.

That radically false starting point leads him towards all kinds of
conclusions --some of which, as I point out, he fails to follow through
on, much to his credit-- which reflect the pressure of bourgeois and
petty-bourgeois public opinion in the imperialist countries in which
most of us live.

Bob says he is trying to pick his way through a complicated situation.
And it is true that the situation for revolutionary fighters in Iraq is
extremely complicated, to say nothing of dangerous. My point, however,
is that it is not complicated FOR US. It isn't complicated because the
overriding axis of our work and our positions is dictated by what "our"
governments have done. "Our" governments have placed the boot of
military occupation on the throat of the Iraqi people. And I submit the
response to that is not "complicated."

That's the point of the Harlan County song. The question ACTUALLY posed
for us are NOT the best tactics in the underground struggle against the
occupation within Iraq, whether it should be primarily a military
struggle or some other kind of struggle, etc. etc. etc. The question
actually posed for us is: which side are you on?


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

Abe Books:

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