[Marxism] Paulsen's supposedly anti-democratic, anti-labor, Tudehesque line

Loupaulsen at sbcglobal.net Loupaulsen at sbcglobal.net
Sun Aug 20 13:22:05 MDT 2006

Louis Proyect writes, among other things:

I keep harping on this question of democracy, even though people like
Yoshie, Lou Paulsen and Walter Lippmann might think that democratic rights
are some kind of imperialist conspiracy hatched by the NED. [...] If you
want mullahs to arbitrate what choices are permissible, then at least don't
confuse that with the Marxist project.


One of the things I find disturbing about Nestor, Lou Paulsen and Walter's
special pleading for political Islam is that it neglects the importance of
the kinds of basic freedoms that the Bolsheviks fought for in Czarist


I posted the Workers World article not because I agreed with the analysis in
total, but because I wanted to remind Lou Paulsen that his group at one time
did not put forward the sort of Tudeh-esque nonsense that he has been
putting forward here recently. 

- - - -

Louis, instead of writing "Yoshi, Lou Paulsen, and Walter Lippmann, and
Nestor" each time, why not give us a euphonious name, like "The
Anti-Democratic Bloc of Wreckers and Islamophiles" ("the Bloc" for short) or

(We in WWP have been called similar stuff before.  David Horowitz does us
the honor of calling us "jihadists", and the Sparts used to call us
"Mullah-lovers" ages ago.  I remember at one time I was on the UIC campus
and some Arab student showed me a statement that his group had put out on
Palestine that began with the words "In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the
Compassionate", and I said it was a good statement, and after the student
had left a Spart who had been standing there got all up in my face about
"So, you are Mullah-lovers now?  Do you read the Qur'an?" and I told him, I
forget, something or other.  This insulting term is now apparently used
mainly by ultra-Zionists and Iranian monarchist/imperialist emigrés, as far
as I can tell from a websearch.)

Anyway, lest people should be completely confused, Paulsen, and for that
matter my party as a whole, are not opponents of workers' democracy, or of
the working class struggle, nor are we about to convert to Islam
notwithstanding the fears of David Walters.  Furthermore Yoshie and Walter
and Nestor have their own opinions and we are not functioning as a
disciplined "Islamophilic fraction".

Now, I can't speak for the others in the Bloc, but let me say a bit about
what I DO believe.

First off, I believe that the primary responsibility of Marxists in the
United States is to organize the workers and oppressed IN the United States
against our own imperialist bourgeoisie.  This means doing actual work in
all the struggles here against exploitation and oppression, and against the
imperialists' schemes for war and domination, and figuring out strategies
for going ahead HERE.  That is what it is important to "get right".

Second, I believe that pushing the struggle forward in Iran IS going to get
done.  It is going to get done by Iranians.  If everyone on Marxmail
(including me) were to be whisked off into space tomorrow, I believe that
Iranian communists' job of dealing with the problems of their revolution
would probably go on without serious interruption.  

Third, I believe in the Leninist principle of self-determination, which is
to say that I am for removing all sorts of imperialist interference from the
affairs of Iran *completely without regard* for whether this results in a
socialist state, a more stable Islamic bourgeois state, or any other
imaginable thing.  

Fourth, I think that, looking back over the decades of activity of Marxists
in the imperialist countries, the harm caused by our FAILING to give proper
advice to communists in the colonized world, compared to the harm done by
our giving BAD advice, or giving advice badly (variously: wrong advice, too
much advice, pretending that we can run their struggle just as well from
Chicago as they can on the scene, and acting like a lot of arrogant
colonialists), is on the order of 1 to 10 billion.

Fifth, I admit to a practical bias toward combating the propaganda of
imperialism directed at the US workers and petty bourgeoisie and which
actually has a poisonous effect here, viz. this insane crap about Iran
starting a nuclear war in two days
http://www.sbcbaptistpress.org/bpnews.asp?ID=23800 , and watching out for
its infecting the US left via the usual vectors, and giving this a priority
very much higher than opposing whatever Khamenei and Sistani have on their
websites.  This means that I think that the main duty of any US Marxist, in
analyzing the situation in Iran, is to avoid at all costs being found in a
literary bloc with Bush and Fox News against "the Islamic peril" and
"Islamic fascists" and so forth, and making sure that nobody confuses us
with the social-imperialists* of the past.  The way to do that is to analyze
the class forces in Iran dispassionately and carefully, in Marxist terms,
and dialectically, rather than mechanically writing as if the year were 1983
or 1996 or 1999.  

Again, our main task here is not to arouse the masses against Khamenei or
Sistani.  Our main task here is to arouse the masses against Bush and the US
capitalist class.  I think that the danger that people in Iran will
subscribe to Marxmail and read Paulsen's writings and be lulled into
passivity with respect to Khamenei is HIGHLY OVERESTIMATED.

Sixth, speaking as a comrade thousands of miles away from the scene, whose
WANTS are difficult to transform into reality, to say the least, I very much
WANT the struggle of the Iranian workers to advance.  I am in favor of
democracy and organizing rights and the emancipation of women, and for that
matter (this is a comparatively very small matter, I know) I favor Iraqis
being able to play chess, if they so choose, without fear of intimidation by
religious leaders (chess is haram, according to Sistani, citing hadith).
(However, I will point out that the Islamic Republic of Iran actually DID
send a very strong chess team to this year's Olympiad in Torino.)  

I WANT all these things.  However, I WANT the imperialists not to find some
way of using the struggle for democracy and workers' rights as a weapon for
destabilizing Iran against imperialism.  I don't want Khamenei overthrown BY
WASHINGTON, or overthrown in such a way that Washington carries off the
prize.  (Just as Trotskyists, in the past, did not want Stalin overthrown by
Hitler. (This analogy is of course incomplete and does not imply that
Khamenei is the "class equivalent" of Stalin.))  I believe that it is
certain that the US ruling class wants to do exactly this, and not only
wants to, but has been actively attempting this for some years now.
Therefore, I WANT Iranian workers, students, and all others who are fighting
for democratic rights in Iran to adhere to those socialist forces which are
pursuing an independent and clearly anti-imperialist course.

Seventh, it does not matter a great deal what I WANT for Iran, as my own
activity has little effect on the scene, direct or indirect.  But it might
matter what I want for the US left of which I am a part, and what I want is
for socialists in the US to follow the example of Lenin, whose practical and
literary activity was focused, first, on making revolution in Russia,
renouncing annexations, and carrying out the principle of
self-determination, and second, on making revolution in the other
imperialist countries, but very much less so on exposing and criticizing
various forces within the nations which were oppressed by Russia.

I hope this clears up some confusion,

Lou Paulsen
member, WWP

* By "social-imperialists" I'm not referring to the USSR as the Chinese
Communist Party did in the 1960's and 1970's.  I'm using the term in its
original Leninist meaning, dating to the WWI era, referring to socialist in
imperialist countries who nevertheless held a "white man's burden" view
towards their countries' colonies, asserting that colonial slavery was a
benefit to the colonized workers and it would be irresponsible to let them
go their own way as they might get into trouble.  (There are echoes of this
line in the soft-left view that we have to stay in Iraq now to "clean up the
mess", for example.)

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