Gould's Book Arcade ggouldsb at bigpond.net.au
Sun Sep 7 23:46:05 MDT 2003


I'm finding it tedious to have to start every post on the Iraq question by
responding to the most recent pieces of gratuitous abuse directed at me, and
now even at Lueko Willms (and by implication, any other dissenters). Gould
is obviously the Albania-Yugoslavia of this argument, and the thunderclaps
directed at my skull are obviously intended as un example pour les autres,
or whatever the correct French phrase is.

Nevertheless, the character of the unwarranted abuse tells you a lot about
the political outlook of the junior thunderers, so I'll examine it a bit.

Lou Paulsen wades into me on Marxmail about a week ago, with his two cents
worth, and equates me with Kautsky, and himself and Jose Perez, by
implication, with Lenin. I'm kind of flattered by the world historic
importance he gives to the argument, but the attempt to intimidate those who
disagree with him, by the use of this out of proportion thundering, is a bit
off the planet.

He's quite dishonest, when he equates me with some bloke in Chicago who
supports leaving the imperialist troops in Iraq. Unless he's like Rip Van
Winkle, and just woken up from a very long sleep, he can hardly be unaware
of the fact, if he's read recent posts on Marxmail and the Australian Green
Left site, that I have been involved, here in Australia, along with others,
in a strenuous battle in the Sydney anti war movement, defending the
immediate withdrawal of all imperialist troops from Iraq. If he hasn't read
those posts, he should read them, and then he might not be so quick to make
unwarranted accusations or implications, when facts refute him. I don't at
all like being slandered in this way, when I've spent quite a lot of time in
recent weeks, strenuously campaigning for a political position in which the
side I've been part of, has deliberately chosen to adopt the useful ANSWER
formulations as our standpoint in the anti war movement here.

This is by no means the first time I have been attacked in a long and active
political life. As a matter of policy I never let slanders go unanswered.
The hand wringing, parson-like way Lou cautions me that I'm going the way of
Hitchens, is another abusive device to save Lou the problem of engaging with
my arguments. It is particularly irritating, because I've spent quite a lot
of time, as a minor public intellectual in Australia, polemicising against
our local Hitchens, Keith Windschuttle, and he can read my lengthy exposure
and polemic with Windschuttle on the OzLeft website at
http://members.optushome.com.au/spainter/Ozleft.html  if such topics don't
bore him, and the reference to Hitchens isn't just a form of abuse to beat
me with.

Nestor arrogates to himself, as does Jose Perez on occasion, the role of
self appointed commissar, expressing "Third World" opinion, from which
standpoint he pontificates, at considerable length. Nestor has his own
unique exotic and idiosyncratic version of left Peronism, into which
intellectual framework he incorporates everything that happens in the world,
and proceeds to lecture the rest of us about the critical importance of this
outlook to everything in the universe, and how backward we all are if we don
't immediately recognise the importance of his ideological construct.

Nestor's gratuitous abuse directed at Willms, telling him to keep his mouth
closed and only open it to oppose German imperialism in Iraq, is really
rather breathtaking. The implication that Willms, who I don't really know
from the proverbial bar of soap, is not involved in anti imperialist
activities in his country of residence, is gratuitously offensive in the
extreme. I'll bet London to the proverbial brick, that Comrade Lueko, who I
deduce from previous posts of his may well be a supporter of the USEC, is
active in his own country, as many of us are. Nestor's offensive demeanour
is just an intimidating Third-Worldist device to attempt to silence
opposition to his very problematic political positions.

Really vintage Nestor is the place where he denounces Willms for insensitive
commentary from the imperialist metropolis, because of Willms' hostile
attitude to the bloodstained General Galtieri. Nestor then goes on to
denounce just about the whole of the Argentine left, for having the same
outlook on Galtieri, as Willms. This piece of hypocrisy by Nestor underlines
Fred Feldman's point, that this posturing by Nestor, Perez and others, that
activists in imperialist countries should only exercise solidarity with
movements in the Third World, without expressing their own views, is
actually a sly device to disguise the fact that Jose and company,
themselves, impose their own political programme on developments in the
Third World, in this case, Iraq. In the thundering Perez intellectual
universe, you are only allowed to comment on developments in Iraq if you
make a prior commitment to acceptance of his undifferentiated Third Worldist
construction about developments in Iraq.

This way of proceeding intellectually bears a striking resemblance to
Evangelical Protestant Christians' view of theological matters, and the role
of the Bible in Christian Revelation. Evangelical Christians insist that the
whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is the inspired word of God, not to
be questioned. They treat this Revealed Truth as internally self
referential, and then slyly introduce themselves as the proper interpreters
of this Revelation. From that point on, they slip easily between the
ostensible Revealed Truth of their Revelation, and their own role as the
sole legitimate interpreters of this Revealed Truth.  They steadily evade
the point made by sceptics, agnostics, athiests and alternative
religionists, who point to the circular, self referential aspect of the
behaviour of Christian Evangelicals towards their "Revelation".

Jose and his school use a very similar methodology, to the Evangelical
Christians, in their approach to revolutionary processes in the Third World.
They pay general obeisance to an undefined Revelation called the
Revolutionary Process, or Anti Imperialism, in this case the "Iraqi
resistance",  and firmly plonk themselves in the role of the only orthodox
and licensed interpreters of this process, and proceed from that point on
exactly like my Evangelical Christian neighbours across the road. (My
bookshop is located opposite Moore Theological College, which is the
intellectual powerhouse of Protestant Evangelical Christianity in the
Southern Hemisphere. I have many congenial arguments in the shop with these
Bible Christians, without either of us having much success in undermining
the others' beliefs.)

I describe Jose and his school's methodology sharply, because it is clearly
a kind of intellectual trick to strengthen Jose's hand in arguments with
Marxists who don't automatically accept his views. Where it becomes
seriously irritating is the point at which Jose and others go over the edge
from this intellectual trickery, to the inevitable next stage, which they
seem to have in common with my Evangelical God Bothering neighbours, where
they abuse, curse, and thunder down imprecations on the heads of unrepentant
non believers like myself. This abusive phase is part of an attempt to
intellectually intimidate waverers.

- - - - - - - - -

Enough of self defence. It's getting boring. At this point I think it useful
to summarise my political position in relation to Iraq.

The first thing I must say is that there are elements of contradiction in my
position, which Perez and Paulsen immediately jump on to condemn me, and
justify their own political momomanias. To me it seems entirely normal, from
a Marxist point of view, to sometimes have some elements of necessary
contradiction in one's political position. Contradiction is one of the main
features of the material world for Marxists. Political positions Marxists
hold often have necessary contradictory elements that stem from different
elements and necessities in the material world. I'm deeply suspicious, after
a long life of socialist political activity, of allegedly Marxist monomanias
that don't incorporate or even acknowledge elements of contradiction that
flow from different circumstances and situations in the material world.

A primary political necessity for socialists and Marxists is to strenuously
oppose the American imperialist invasion of Iraq. This is despite the
obvious and longstanding and vicious features of the reactionary regime of
Saddam Hussein. Along with millions of others, who equally loathed the
regime in Iraq, I opposed and, still oppose, the imperialist invasion.

It is now necessary to campaign vigorously in all countries for the
immediate withdrawal of all imperialist troops from Iraq. This is
particularly the task in imperialist countries like Australia, who have
troops in Iraq.

Nevertheless, despite the reactionary means of its removal, the fall of the
hated Hussein regime was a good thing, from the point of view of the
majority of the Iraqi masses who loathed the regime. The presence in Iraq,
however, of the imperialist occupying forces is a very bad thing, which now
is clearly recognised by the majority Shiite community, and their leaders,
who were the group initially most enthusiastic about the fall of the Saddam

As socialists and anti imperialists in imperialist countries, we have an
obligation of solidarity with all the masses in Iraq struggling for their
independence from imperialism, for the withdrawal of the imperialist troops,
and for a better future. We also have a powerful obligation of proletarian
solidarity with the majority of Iraqis who are also struggling for the
removal of the remnants of the oppressive Baathist regime, and against its
restoration. We also have an obligation of solidarity with socialist and
secular forces in Iraq who are battling, on the ground, in fairly difficult
circumstances, against ultra Islamicist Wahibi Jihadist forces who want to
enforce their reactionary political and religious notions on the Iraqi

There are obviously elements of contradiction in all these requirements of
solidarity, all of which have some validity. These elements of contradiction
flow from the situation itself.

In making solidarity concrete, we need first of all to have as accurate a
picture as possible of what are the forces and circumstances actually at
work in Iraq and amongst the Iraqi masses.

Any half way serious Marxist ought to make a serious attempt to comprehend
the present situation in Iraq in a materialist way.

I submit that Iraq ought to be comprehended in the following way. By and
large the Kurds, currently led by bourgeois nationalist organisations, now
have effective control of Kirkuk and some influence in Mosul. They are in an
uneasy tactical alliance with the American occupiers, and are busily putting
out of business any Baathist remnants in their areas of control. There are
nearly 5 million Kurds, with some Arab and other minorities in the Kurdish

The Shiites, about 15 million people, are the overwhelming majority in the
south of the country and in part of Baghdad. They look in large part to
certain religious leaders, some of whom are in conflict with each other.
Initially, both the Shiite masses and their leaders  more or less acquiesced
to the imperialist invasion, as it was associated with the removal of the
hated Baathist regime. Their predominant preoccupation was their loathing of
the Baathist regime, as it had killed very many Shiites. Nevertheless, even
from the start of the invasion, they took a generally strong stand for swift
removal of the occupying power. Some sections of the Shiite leadership have
a leaning towards a Shiite theocratic Muslim state, though not one as
extreme as that desired by Wahibi Jihadist Sunni Islamic fundamentalists. In
the Shiite areas the masses have been busy settling accounts with the
remnants of the Baathist state, and many of the worst Baathist torturers and
Baathist leaders have been killed, or immobilised, particularly in the
period since the terrorist attack on the Shiite holy place in Najaf.

By and large the 15 million Shiite majority haven't been engaged in military
conflict with the occupation troops, although many of the Shiites are now
armed. At the mass funeral for the recently murdered Shiite imam, which took
on an enormous political character, the speakers made three general
political demands. One was for the punishment of the Baathist remnants. The
second was for the right to police their own areas, and the third was for
the withdrawal of the occupation troops from Iraq. An enormous banner was
displayed at the entrance to the final funeral rally, which read "Punishing
the Baathists is a religious duty".

The "Economist" of September 6th - 12th 2003 reports, underneath a photo of
the enormous procession:

"Before they joined the funeral procession of their leader, Ayatollah
Muhammad Baqer al-Hakim, the Shia cleric who was killed, along with more
than 100 others, on August 29th, militiamen from his Badr Brigade went
hunting Baathists in the back streets of Najaf. A dozen suspects were
captured, in a shooting match outside the home of the alleged leader of
Najaf's Baathist underground, Karim Ghaith. Three men were killed. Mr Graith
himself was captured, and his four-storey villa torched. The militiamen then
launched a dozen more raids, before they went off to police the funeral with
banners declaring that the life of their leader would be avenged in Baathist

In the Shiite areas there is also an energetic, secular socialist minority
of Shiites spearheaded by the militants of the Workers Communist Party, who
have managed, by vigorous self defence, to open some offices in Shiite
areas, and hold those offices against assaults by fundamentalist Shiites.
These secular socialist Shiites are engaged in energetic working class
organising activities, of the class struggle sort.

In the Sunni majority area, part of Baghdad and north, inhabited by about 5
million Sunni Muslims and the majority of the million non Muslims in Iraq,
there is a situation of considerable conflict. The majority of the million
non Muslims are discretely collaborating with the imperialist occupation

There is a concentrated organising effort in Baghdad and in some other
cities by the Workers Communist Party to organise trade unions and workers
committees, and to defeat the Baathist remnants in the trade unions and
overthrow them, with, on the face of it, some success. (See the Workers
Communist Party web site. The link to it is on OzLeft. I was surprised this
morning, when looking at the Iraq links on Marxmail, to see that it was not
there on Marxmail.) Obviously there is an implicit contradiction between
campaigning to remove Baathist remnants in the trade unions, and forming a
military alliance with Baathist remnants, in an immediate military assault
on the imperialist occupation troops. It seems to me that there is a
tactical difference about the timing in a military conflict with the
imperialist occupiers, and a conflict of objectives, because the Baathist
remnants are clearly struggling for a restoration of the Baathist regime.

Parallel with these circumstances, there is a some legitimate military
resistance to the occupation by ordinary people in the Sunni areas,
particularly some Sunni tribal areas.

There are also some vicious terrorist activities, pretty obviously by
Baathist remnants, and/or Wahibi Jihadist Sunni Islamic fundamentalists (or
even bourgeois provocateurs), like the destruction of electricity and water
infrastructure to Baghdad, the assassination of the civilians in the UN
compound, and the assassination of the Shiite Iman and part of his flock.
What Perez describes and insists that we all describe as the "Iraqi
Resistance", is actually the combination of the legitimate military
resistance of some of the Sunni population to the occupiers, and the
indiscriminate terrorism of the Baathist remnants and some reactionary
Islamicists, which is not supportable by any reasonable proletarian
socialist yardstick. The terrorism of the Baathists and Wahibists is hated
and rejected by the overwhelming majority of the population of Iraq.

There are therefore sharp elements of contradiction stemming from the
objective conditions in Iraq, presented to socialists in imperialist
countries, in taking a correct and useful political stand on these
developments. Perez and company's linguistic trick in lumping together all
elements of violent conflict with the imperialist occupiers and with anyone
else, including some of the Iraqi masses, as acts of the "Iraqi Resistance,
has thoroughly reactionary consequences.

The necessary contradiction in taking a stand in relation to these
developments, which in fact Perez and company insist we do by the way they
define the ground rules, is a difficult one. The secular socialist forces,
with whom as socialists we have a primary and basic obligation of
solidarity, are in practical day to day conflict with the Islamicists and
Baathists, both for the practical space to develop the workers' movement in
the country, and even for their own physical survival. The Shiite majority,
the Kurds, the non Muslim million, and the secular socialist Sunnis are in
the sharpest possible conflict with the Baathist remnants and the Wahibi
Jihadist Islamicists.

I resolve this conflict in a political way by making assertions which may
appear contradictory to the monomaniac anti imperialist Perez. I solidarise
with the demand raised by most of the forces in Iraq for the immediate
withdrawal of the imperialist troops. I also solidarise with the demand of
the Shiites, the Kurds, the non Muslim million,  the secular socialist
minority of the Sunnis for the liquidation of the remnants of the Baathist
state. For instance, I support the battle of the Workers Communist Party and
the significant section of the masses they currently lead, to overthrow the
bureaucratic Baathist remnants in the trade unions. It flows from this that
I agree with the more or less explicit attitude of the secular socialists in
the Sunni areas, the Shiite majority and the Kurds, that at this stage, it's
not appropriate to have a mainly military conflict with the occupiers.

However, in so far as, despite the views of a large part of the Sunni masses
led by the secular socialists, some Sunni militants take up a military
option against the occupiers at this stage, I don't condemn that. I do,
however, condemn the terrorism of the Baathist remnants and the Wahibi
Jihadist Islamicists and in that condemnation I take my cue from the
overwhelming majority of the Shiites, the Kurds and a large section of the
Sunni population. If Perez and company say that I'm a scab for that point of
view, they are implicitly indicting for scabbery, the Shiite majority, the
Kurds and the secular socialists of the Workers Communist Party in the Sunni
areas. Such an indictment seems to me the height of left talking Orientalist
arrogance, by people like Perez and company, who live, like I do, in
imperialist countries. It's impossible to practice the generalised
solidarity with what he calls the "Iraqi Resistance", demanded by Perez,
without violating the rights of the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi
population and the quite intense moral obligation on Marxists in the West
for solidarity with their secular socialist brothers and sisters in Iraq in
their struggle to establish an effective workers movement in Iraq.

The seemingly contradictory elements in my slogans on these questions flow
directly from the material contradictions in the real political
circumstances on the ground in Iraq. Both Perez and Lou Paulsen then extend
their petty linguistic device from what I actually say, to their imputation
as to where they say my slogans will lead me, which is even more politically

In their stand on the Iraq developments, in which they mentally manufacture
a presently existing generalised military uprising against imperialism
(which, in fact, does not exist), Paulsen and Perez and company, fail to
recognise the contradictions in their position, which precludes any serious
proletarian or socialist internationalism with the forces struggling to
re-establish a workers movement in Iraq. In practice, they advocate
indiscriminate support for all elements of an "Iraqi Resistance", some parts
of which are busily trying to exterminate my Iraqi socialist brothers and
sisters, and the Baathist part of which did exterminate some of my socialist
brothers and sisters in the past.

I witnessed a very significant revolutionary leader, Gerry Healy and his
organisation go down that path in relation to the Iraqi Baathists once, and
this led me, amongst other issues, to separate myself very definitely from
Healy's organisation. I'm determined to make a very loud noise against
anyone in the socialist movement, like Perez, who seems hell bent on
repeating Healy's mistakes in relation to the Baathists. History the second
time around can be really dangerous farce.

One argument advanced by Perez and his supporters, as they are pushed into a
corner, will inevitably be:-  maybe the Iraqi resistance are a small
minority now, but it will get bigger. I submit that in the form that he and
his mates envisage it, of a united front between Baathist remnants,
socialist forces, Sunni Islamicists and Shiite Islamicists, and even Kurds,
that kind of generalised Iraqi united front resistance is inherently
unlikely objectively speaking. The Kurds, the non Muslims, the Shiites, the
Turcomans and the secular Sunnis won't have a bar of the Baathists who are
really quite isolated. The Shiites, the Kurds, the Turcomans, the non
Muslims and the secular Sunnis won't have a bar of the Wahibi Jihadist Sunii
Islamicists either.

One real current danger in Iraq is the possibility of a fratricidal communal
civil war between Shiites and Sunnis, and Kurds and Arab Sunnis. The
criminal assassination of the Shiite Imam and many of his congregation was
obviously intended to precipitate such a civil war. Happily, such a civil
war hasn't yet developed. What did develop was a substantial problem for
imperialism, in that the Shiites rapidly produced their own armed militias,
which the imperialist occupiers are now busily trying to disarm. In general,
socialists should support the right of the Shiite community to have their
own militias, but we should also support the struggle of secular Shiites
against the imposition of a more moderate Shiite fundamentalist set-up on
the Iraqi masses.

Despite all the problems obviously inherent in the situation, the imperative
of anti imperialism dictates the necessity for fighting for the immediate
withdrawal of imperialist troops from Iraq, despite some dangers inherent in
the situation in Iraq. In conditions of that withdrawal, if it's achieved,
we should exert ourselves for the maximum solidarity with the secular
socialist labour movement forces in the country, hoping that they can stake
out a substantial political territory by mobilising the masses on a class

The alternative schema proposed by Perez and company, is one of ostensible
solidarity with evey aspect of what they say is the Iraqi resistance,
including its Baathist and Wahibi Jihadist Islamicist aspects, which are
actually directed against the masses in Iraq. This schema is a nasty left
Orientalist schema, only really possible for leftists and liberals in
imperialist countries and of no use at all to secular socialist forces in
Islamic countries, who view the world differently based on real material
conflicts in the world in which they inevitably have to live, work and
campaign for socialist outcomes.


Perez and company are forced to note the condemnation by the Cuban
authorities of the terror bombing of the UN compound, but they attempt to
reduce it to some kind of petty diplomacy. As the bloke on Marxmail, who has
just paid tribute to the combination of principle and diplomatic skill
displayed over many years by the Cuban regime in relation to imperialist
pressure, points out, it seems to me that, with the Cubans, what you see is
what you get. There's no evidence at all that the stated position of the
Cubans on these questions is one of petty diplomacy. Over many years, they'
ve condemned such actions as the bombing of the UN compound.

It seems to me that in their long running battle for survival in an
imperialist world, they have usually made the kind of distinctions made by
Trotsky in "Their Morals and Ours", though of course they don't quote
Trotsky. They just use a similar method. The reason they generally condemn
indiscriminate terrorism, while it may have a diplomatic aspect, is
primarily political. They clearly want to indicate to the masses of the
world that there are other ways of defeating imperialism, and they are
correct about this.

In my view, it is impermissible for serious Marxists in imperialist
countries not to attempt to make the kind of distinctions that the Cubans
make. It is necessary to place one's main emphasis in opposing imperialism
and all its works in imperialist countries, from which flows the need for
absolute intransigence in support of the immediate withdrawal of imperialist
troops from Iraq. Nevertheless, it is also necessary for socialists to take
a strong stand in support of secular workers and socialist forces in Iraq
and other similar countries. The advanced workers and intellectuals, and
anti imperialists in many countries, of whom there are now millions, are by
and large, very serious people. They are also, by and large, not idiots.
They expect serious discussion of serious questions.

One of the things that drives me in expressing my views on this general
topic so passionately, is that it is second nature to me, in these kind of
situations, to consult as widely as I can amongst people and socialist
activists, if they exist, from the countries affected. One of the things
that drove me to my views on the Timor question was the fact that I know
dozens and dozens of Timorese, and I never found any opposed to the UN
intervention in Timor. (Obviously, such considerations are not the whole
story, but one at least ought to take note of them in formulating one's
principled position on the question.)

A similar thing prevails in relation to the Middle East and Iraq. I know
many, many people from the Middle East and many, many people from Iraq. I
don't know anyone from Iraq, particularly socialist or working class
activists, of whom I know several dozen, who share the leftist Orientalist
indulgence of Perez and his school, towards either the Baathist regime or
the Wahibi Jihadist Sunni fundamentalists.

P.S.  All the above notwithstanding, it is obviously necessary for
socialists in imperialist countries to make the maximum use of the quagmire
into which imperialism has got itself through its vicious invasion of Iraq,
to build the movement for the immediate withdrawal of imperialist troops
from Iraq.

The necessity is both to take the maximum propaganda advantage against
imperialism, from Iraqi developments, but also to defend the rights and
interests of the Iraqi masses, including the rights and interests of the
Iraqi working class and the secular socialist forces in Iraq.

-Bob Gould, 8/9/03

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

Abe Books:

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