[Marxism] Sudan and the international Left

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Sun Jul 25 11:47:56 MDT 2004

Tony Abdo wrote:

"The real weakness of the international Left's style of organizing against
'war', is that it refuses to organize a movement across the board to
opposing the US war machine."

Well, how would you do it ? I think the Left has been rather successful in
exposing the shambles of the intervention in Iraq, and ripping up the bogus
justifications for fighting it. The mass mobilisations against the wars have
been very large, larger even than at the time of the Vietnam war. That is
not weakness, but strength.

The real problem is that this doesn't necessarily stop the military
intervention at all. Media fatigue sets in, the war becomes "normal", and
the invaders persevere, because there exists no real countervailing force
that can stop them, beyond guerrillas in the theatre of war and, possibly,
an electorate which withdraws its support.

What, basically, can you do ?

- convince people these wars are a bad and unjustifiable initiative
- demonstrate the real reasons these wars are being fought
- convince people they should not assist, or enlist in, these wars
- convince people to cast their vote against a militarist policy
- make a case against spending tax dollars on the military apparatus

Personally, I have posted a considerable amount about the Iraq war, because
I see it as a new testcase of imperialist social engineering. And explicit
case is being made for the "normalisation"" of war, a perspective of
"permanent war".

The idea at stake is, that you can justifiably organise a unilateral
military invasion of a sovereign country, with the objective of rebuilding
its whole social and political system, according to an advance "liberating"
blueprint which is consistent with the geostrategic objectives of the
invaders (which include control of access to oil resources, safeguarding
dollar hegemony, and strengthening regional influence and military

I am aware that the Sudanese conflict, horrific as it is, is far more bloody
still, but the point is that the Iraq intervention is a Western project
marketed as being liberating and for the good of all, in blatant violation
of international law. It's representative of the New Order. That is what is
politically important about it, beyond the terrible suffering inflicted on
the invaded country and many soldiers involved.

I don't think the problem really is that the Left is weak in terms of
numbers, the question is one of what modes of organising are most effective,
or could be effective, under current circumstances, where modes of
communication and obtaining knowledge have become very sophisticated and

In which case, one ought really to be considering and studying who is really
the most effective in organising, in terms of achieving outcomes that have
real effect. After all, "there is nothing that succeeds like success".
Success attracts people.
Some of the most successful people aren't Leftwing, but that doesn't mean
you cannot learn from what they do well.

By constantly dwelling on the failures of the Left, and issuing Jeremiads,
we don't get anywhere either, anymore than trying to present failures as
glorious successes. If Jeremiads dominate, something has gone deeply wrong
with ourselves, and then maybe it is we who have to change our own negative
outlook. Most times, if I have been defeated, it has been because of my own

For an example, whatever you might say about Michael Moore, it's clear the
guy is doing something very well, so what can really be learnt from that
experience ? Or, for example, Yoshie's posts attract a broad audience, so,
just running a good blog can be very effective in reaching people.

Conversely, the attempt to mimic "Leninist" parties in the West failed
spectacularly, but as long as we try to present this failure as a success,
we don't really get anywhere.

There are really no dead authorities on organising, only living ones, and,
most times, for people "seeing is believing", i.e. they trust organisational
styles only so far as those methods practically prove themselves. So there's
a sense in which, whatever it is that we do, we somehow have to prove that
"it works". Short of that, there is no short-cut to success.

Central to Marx's thought was the idea that if you want to be emancipated,
or help emancipate or liberate people, you first have to know about the
conditions they have to be emancipated or liberated from. If it ain't
broken, don't try to fix it. But if it is broke, do try to help fix it.

This required an honest, scientifically founded analysis of what the reality
is that people are facing, objectively speaking. What is broken, and what is
not broken ? In what ways are people really succeeding, in what ways are
they failing ?

And then the question arises, of how you would do it, how you would get
things done. In turn, that requires specific means to achieve specific ends,
since nobody can take on all of the problems all of the time, and some
themes appeal to some people more than others at different times.

Some people write, others go canvassing, yet others try to exert influence
with specific skills they have, and so on. Not everybody has the same skills
or strengths.

The question is one of whether you can promote a political perspective in
such a way that it catches on and has effect, with an organisational style
that is effective. There are no "authorities" in this sense, the only
authority there is, is practical experience.

All activism and intellectual dissent revolves around those basic questions,
i.e. what are the structures to be changed, what are they to be changed
into, and what is the agency for change.

As long as there is no answer to that beyond vague or dogmatic approaches,
then political action cannot be successful. And point is, there is no one
answer to that - any pretense that there is something like "the" answer is
probably counterproductive; at most you might be able to prove is that some
answers are better than others, but debating about this rationally assumes
that there are some shared, common criteria for evaluation.

So really I personally think the way to think about it is "how do we define
political success, and what are the conditions for achieving it, what are
the obstacles, and what are the factors in our favour - and given all that,
where do we start."

The real problem, which has disillusioned me terribly in previous years, is
that it was awfully difficult just to get an honest, constructive discussion
going about those simple issues. And personally I concluded, that I just
wound up talking to the wrong people. It wasted part of my life real good.
You learn that you can't be friends with everybody, and you can't be all
things to all people. A militant friend of mine used to say, "we all have
this task of finding our own place in the revolutionary chain, and help each
other to find it." But actually some of my worst adversaries turned out to
be people I thought were on my side.

The advantage of a list such as Marxmail is that you can offer some modest
ideas or analyses, without constantly having to deal with all sorts of
unconstructive flak from detractors, and if the discussion becomes tedious,
you can switch off the PC.
Initially, I felt a bit cagey about writing stuff that anybody could read.
But if you don't even feel OK about speaking your mind, how could anything
change ?

I don't pretend to be really politically active, nor to have all the answers
to all of the questions, all I hope for is some input into this forum.
Whatever is the answer, I think it takes the input of all of us collectively
to make it, unless you believe in geniuses (even so, a lot of so-called
"genius" is simply the result of systematic, sustained practice - "practice
makes perfect" as they say, and if you work long enough in a conscientious
way at mastering a task, chances are you will master it).

That's all I can do really for now, to moot some ideas, for the rest I have
to take care of personal matters at the microlevel that are often difficult
for me to cope with already, never mind the big picture I struggle to

As for the label "Left", what does it refer to, really ?

Some say, the labels Left and Right are useless these days. Left might
connote only Left Behind. One definition I can think of is the ideal (or
unfulfilled promise) of the French revolution of 1789, "Liberté, Egalité,
Fraternité". Not just freedom, but also social equality, equality in human
worth. Not just equality, but also human solidarity, comradeship and
fellowship. All these three, together, as the basis for human dignity.

If we cannot even cultivate that kind of understanding unity on this list,
what hope is there for us ?


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