[Marxism] On being able to "criticize"

John Obrien causecollector at msn.com
Sun May 9 13:36:58 MDT 2004

I address this to Comrade Juriaan's posting on something Comrade Brian Shannon wrote - but is certainly not limited to Comrade Juriaan - and I am hoping that Comrade Juriaan and others on this list will actually agree with my points on.  

[I beg understanding from you comrades and subscribers with my writing style - not being an academic or receiving any good schooling.  I was self taught with small financial resources, being of the poor U. S. working class.  Fortunately, a friend provided me with a computer and pays for the internet service I have, to allow me to take part in receiving these email postings, from this wonderful list - which I really appreciate. So I beg your understanding on my "writing style" - and responding quickly without a measured long thought out approach.]


I recognize Brain Shannon's name, since it appeared prominently for years in a publication, that most people on this list are aware of (and many on this list have stated recently has been discussed enough - or at least for a while - and I do not want to be the person bringing up this organization or its publication - to start a new round of emails!)

However, I do want to point out  to Comrade Juriaan, that I assume you are not really seriously suggesting that Brian Shannon can not contribute his thoughts on what should be done in Iraq, or what forces actually there, such as the Iraq CP are doing.  

Your writing implies this - and also that old Stalinist thing about "Socialism in one country" - and "no criticism".  

Surely, when some Communist Party leaders in Nazi occupied Europe, turned over the names of left opponents (Trotskyists and Anarchists) to the Nazis - this deserved then and now to be criticized?  Even though we are not citizens of France?  

The whole sad history of the German CP "in their view of social democrats being social fascists" - in not uniting with the Social Democrats in fighting the Nazis, surely this can be criticized - even though we may not be German citizens?

Surely [if such reports are true? - and many believe they are!!] the involvement of some of the Bolivian CP in betraying Che Guevara to alert the U. S. and their lackys to where Che was, that directly led to Che's murder - deserves to be  criticized - even though we are not Bolivians?

Collusion or the appearance of such, needs to be discussed and we need to encourage the Iraq CP, as we would any prominent person or group, in any form or place, that people leave such formations - where one appears to be supporting something terribly wrong. 

Does the Iraqi CP, actually as I write this in early May 2004, think they will be "winning over" U. S. controlled Iraqi government figures, to support a workers government?  

Should we have criticized those Leftists who were in a "coalition government" and wanted to continue French occupation of African countries - such as in Algeria? - even though many of us are not Algerians?  I hope so!!!!

I criticize some British Leftists for their support of the continuing British occupation of Northern Ireland.  Yet I am not a British citizen.  Should I not be able to do this?

I criticize collaboration or perceived collaboration with imperialism - I hope everyone does! Maybe if we are more outspoken - it will force the Iraq CP and any other such "accommodations" to practice some revolutionary politics and principles.  If people had done more of this in the past - we could have possibly avoided some sad chapters of Left history.

I criticize torture, the death penalty, nuclear power, racism, sexism, homophobia, environmental destruction AND class collaboration - by whatever government carries it out - and by whatever group supports such, for whatever convenience,
"strategic consideration", "political conditions" or whatever excuse, to allow such accommodation and betrayal from principles. 

We should all be for a better world and vision. We should all practice what we say we truly believe in and work for such - and encourage others - if we really identify as Leftists.  We  should be consistent on this.

If we can criticize one government or political party - we should be able to criticize any formation - if they are doing something that helps our enemies and/or keeps people oppressed.

John O'Brien
Los Angeles, CA
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Jurriaan Bendien 
  To: Marxmail List 
  Sent: Sunday, May 09, 2004 10:39 AM
  Subject: [Marxism] Reply to Brian on the Iraqi CP


  Nobody is saying you cannot state your opinion about the Iraqi CP and define
  your position, and I have stated my own view. "Outrageous" ? It sounds
  exciting. But it's one thing to state your opinion of what a political party
  in another nation does, it's another thing to "tell them what to do"
  unilaterally from afar, and to say that one indeed should unilaterally "tell
  them what to do", because, as I have noted, that's buying into the
  imperialist argument. You then proceed the fudge the issue by saying:

  "I once was in an organization where exchanges were limited in time and
  place and where personal letters that included political discussion were
  denounced as cliqueism."

  You don't actually state your political affiliation. We can all be
  cyber-radicals and pretend we're changing the world somewhere else with
  missives from afar, but, while it's possible to have a real effect with a
  post, I don't think that cyber-radicalism is very credible as an active
  political stance. Nor is it true that digital cliqueism cannot exist in
  cyberspace either.

  The distinction between "personal" and "political" which you imply is not
  one which I would accept anyway. A disjunction or contradiction between the
  "personal" and the "political" arises, when people cannot actually put into
  practice what they politically believe in, and by the time you're arguing
  grandiosely that you ought to be telling the Iraqi CP unilaterally what to
  do, you've created a massive contradiction between the personal and the
  political. Here in the Netherlands there are quite a few members of the
  Iraqi CP, but nobody on the Left here says that "we should tell them what to
  do and what's good for them". You can have a dialogue, you can state an
  opinion, but you do so on the basis that these people who grew up there, and
  were forced to leave through political persecution, have a better sense of
  what's needed and relevant in their country than an outsider. If I may be so
  bold as to drag out a Lenin quote with contemporary relevance here:

  "Only lazy people do not swear by internationalism these days. Even the
  chauvinist defencists, even Plekhanov and Potresov, even Kerensky, call
  themselves internationalists. It becomes the duty of the proletarian party
  all the more urgently, therefore, to clearly, precisely and definitely
  counterpoise internationalism in deed to internationalism in word. Mere
  appeals to the workers of all countries, empty assurances of devotion to
  internationalism, direct or indirect attempts to fix a "sequence" of action
  by the revolutionary proletariat in the various belligerent countries,
  laborious efforts to conclude "agreements" between the socialists of the
  belligerent countries on the question of the revolutionary struggle, all the
  fuss over the summoning of socialist congresses for the purpose of a peace
  campaign, etc., etc. -- no matter how sincere the authors of such ideas,
  attempts, and plans may be - amount, as far as their objective significance
  is concerned, to mere phrase-mongering, and at best are innocent and pious
  wishes, fit only to conceal the deception of the people by the chauvinists.
  (...) There is one, and only one, kind of real internationalism, and that
  is - working whole-heartedly for the development of the revolutionary
  movement and the revolutionary struggle in one's own country, and supporting
  (by propaganda, sympathy, and material aid) this struggle, this, and only
  this, line, in every country without exception. Everything else is deception
  and Manilovism."
  For the sake of completion, I should point out especially that the reference
  to "Manilovism" is not in fact about sex, but to a character appearing in
  chapter 2 of Nikolai Vasilevitch Gogol's comic masterpiece "Dead Souls", an
  easygoing sentimental landowner. In the novel, the main character (the minor
  nobleman Chichikov), travels around a backward district of Russia buying up
  "dead souls". When serfdom was in existence in Russia (and it wasn't
  abolished until after Gogol's death), wealth was reckoned in souls, the
  number of serfs owned by an individual, and this also determined the amount
  of tax paid. Each census would then re-assess the number of souls owned by a
  landowner, and this statistic would determine the level of tax they paid
  until the next one. Chichikov was buying the right to the names of the serfs
  who had died since the last census, just a liability to their previous
  owners, because the tax had to be paid, but no work could be got out of
  them. Only some way into the novel does the purpose Chichikov has for these
  useless "paper souls" become clear - obviously there is going to be some
  kind of swindle. When the first part of the novel was submitted to the
  censors, they insisted that the title be changed, because they felt that
  "Dead Souls" sounded as though the novel was an attack on the church's
  doctrine of the immortality of the soul. After finishing the first part,
  Gogol aimed to write about the redemption of Chichikov, believing that his
  work would assist the transformation of Russian society. In the face of
  opposition from the church, the manuscript of part 2 was burnt, not without
  considerable agonising by Gogol. All that remains are some fragments and a
  description of parts of the work in the journal of a friend to whom it was
  read. www.bibliomania.com/0/0/140/2404


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