[Marxism] re: Winning" and "losing" in Iran and everywhere

M. Junaid Alam alam at lefthook.org
Thu Aug 10 15:57:32 MDT 2006

Louis writes:
"No, this is wrong. The AFL-CIO is a working class institution. The 
American government is a bourgeois institution. They are on opposite 
sides of the class struggle, even when the trade union bureaucracy 

Does the bureaucracy mislead? Or does it lead? I do not understand why 
bright minds often digest rather dim ideas. The political explanation 
offered by all present socialist groups for the failure of working-class 
militancy is always this: they were mislead. They were betrayed. They 
were duped.

A question: what kind of pack of morons ends up repeatedly 'hoodwinked' 
by its own elected leadership? And another: why has Marxist analysis 
become infused with soap-opera melodramatics? "The history of class 
struggle in the West? Betrayal by the leadership at all turns!"

I don't think so poorly of the intellect of organized American workers. 
They are acting in what they perceive to be their interests, and what 
may very well be their short-term economic interests, when they turn a 
blind eye to, or become actively complicit, in oppressing others around 
the world via their leadership's decisions.

Lenin's pamphlet is very impressive considering the problems he 
immediately faced. But ten years after he wrote it, he authored 'The 
split in socialism,' where he launched all kinds of nervous questions 
and tentative formulations about a labor aristocracy, a turn of Western 
workers away from class struggle, and the general failure of the 
working-class to respond to capitalism in the way Marx predicted.

When are the rest of us going to catch up to the method of Marx, by 
upgrading our analysis to beyond the predictions of Marx? When are we 
going to take stock of the massive and evident, hypnotic, psychological 
and social power of religious, national, and ethnic impulses, instead of 
treating them as mere road bumps on the road to an idealized pure class 
struggle? Orwell was correct in 'Notes on nationalism' when he pointed 
out that nationalism almost always supercedes international solidarity. 
That is confirmed on either side: (A) masses siding with imperialism 
against other more oppressed masses, and (B) those other more oppressed 
masses siding with whatever socialist - or upper-class elements 
available - that will lead them into struggle against imperialism.

As a partial aside, the always pithy Uri Avnery rendered a brilliant 
account, I think, of how (mostly A) pans out psychologically:

"For this war is being fought on the backs of the weak, who cannot 
afford to "evacuate themselves" from the rockets' area. The rich and 
well-to-do have got out long ago - in Israel as well as in Lebanon. The 
poor, the old, the sick and the handicapped remain in the shelters. They 
are the main sufferers. But that does not cause them to oppose the war. 
On the contrary, they are the most vociferous group in Israel demanding 
"to go to the end", "to smash them", "to wipe them out".

That is not new, either: the weakest in society always want to feel that 
they belong to the strongest nation. Those who have nothing become the 
biggest patriots. And they are also the main victims." 

Getting to particulars about a protest by busworkers in Iran - Fact one: 
The busworkers were repressed by the Iranian regime and the 
revolutionary guards. Fact two: The Iranian regime and the revolutionary 
guards train, arm, and finance the only people who have rattled Zionism 
in 100 years. What do you think is more important? Better wages for 
busworkers, or a long-awaited sense of dignity and *victory* for people 
defending themselves who haven't seen anything approaching military 
success since Saladin?

In an ideal world, the workers overthrow the Islamists, pitch in with 
anti-Zionism minus the noxious baggage of holocaust denial, establish 
secular socialism, and save the baby seals to boot. But in our world we 
are not so lucky. The Iranian regime is not socialist. Under the current 
president, wages and subsidies for some workers have actually increased, 
but clearly this is no Venezuela.

And so what? Things in the world do not happen exactly as we want them 
to. What we do, flap our arms? In the present, real-world political 
constellation, the only issue where we can have any effect on anyone is 
this: do you support plans to invade and subvert Iran, dominate and 
dismember the Arabs, and secure Zionism under the aegis of the US, or 
not? The "or not" position does not necessitate a spirited defense of 
beating up workers anywhere; only a grounded understanding that you do 
not control the whole world and all the contraditions within it.

On a final note, I have seen many a socialist defend ostensibly 
socialist countries that have executed and tortured far more workers and 
peasants than Iran could ever dream of, using one rationalization or 
another about the grand scheme of things - and that's when they're not 
defending the actual crimes outright. The only difference with the 
Iranians is they don't pretend to be socialists while doing it.

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