U.S. Leftists and Iran
Source Carrol Cox
Date 09/07/15/06:45

[Note: My eyesight has deteriorated to the point that I can no longer
reread the whole of the text below fast enough and easily enough to know
whether or not I have kept it minimally coherent. I have already
submitted this first to LBO, then to the A-List, but have received no
substantive ressponses on list.]

Joseph Catron wrote: Perhaps we should …focus our attention on the
crimes of our own government. Those are, after all, our concern, in a
way the internal affairs of the Iranian state are not. Crazy talk, I
know ...

This is heading in the right direction, but "crimes" tends ti reaffirm
the implicit premise in the positions you are questioning: The premise
is that the goal of leftists is to have correct thoughts and feelings,
which are defined as having the right MORAL posture in respect to
whatever topic has been raised - in the present instance, the Iranian
regime. That is no doubt an entertaining activity, and I approve of
leftists having fun. [1] But it is literally inconsequential - that is,
no consequence flows from it. And neither do any consequences
necessarily flow from focusing on the _crimes_ of the u.s. regime. Not
that those 'crimes' do not dwarf, in comparison, the worst offenses of
Iran or Libya or North Korea, but that simply attending to them is as
much an exercise in mere moralism as have been the posts attacking the
Iranian regime.

If anyone, avoiding kneejerk response, has followed Yoshie's course from
the beginning of her attention to Iran,you will find that her point of
departure was an empirical judggment of the U.s. anti-war effort, which
she then raised to a level of theory in respect to the global struggle
against imperialism. The theory (never expressed by her in these
words), and the theory which Nestor Gorojovsky tends to support also, is
that only resistance on the "periphery" could defeat u.s. imperailism.
(Angelus Novusdescribed this perspective as revolutionary defeatism.)
Moreover, Yoshie had come to feel from her experience in the anti-war
movement, this external attacks on the empire of capital (whether or not
anti-capitalist) can expect no or little aid from a left movement within
the core capitalist cpre. They are on their own. Hence, for example, her
bracketing Chavez and Ahmadinejad. It follows that the most we can do
in the U.S. is give what individual support (ideologically) that we can
to those regimes. (Referencews to her as a mullah, etc. are merely
clumsy slanders.)

Now I have come to disagree with this theory, and have no particular
opinions on the regime in Iran (or Venezuela for that matter) for
essentially the same reason I reject the maunderings about "the
developmental state" by the Pollyanna of the LBO list. I don't believe
that capitalism _or_ capitalist aggression around the world _can_ be
defeated by external opposition. That is why, for example, I insist that
"Capitalism is Capitalism" is a sensible taugology. (The proposition
"feudalism is feudalism" would be nonsense.) It can only be defeated by
movements within the capitalist core: The U.S. and the European Union
(along with their junior partners, England and Japan, and the
camp-followers Australia and Canada). It is similarly fruitless to hope
for signifcant opposition to imperailism from peripheral capitalist
powers, China, Russia, Brazil, or India. It's up to us, and our priority
is to build a movement at home, not hope for salvation from the
resistance at the periphery.

The anti-war movement was, is and will be as weak as Yoshie concluded
it to be. That was not her error. Her error (and mine at the time) was
to think it could be otherwise, to expect of it what no anti-war
movement in isolation can achieve. Moreover, in what might be called
"normal" periods" [2] leftists must accept the fact that they cannot
directly, in the present, affects u.s. policy, at home or abroad, for
the reason I have been hammering on for ten years: there is no left (in
any coherent sense) in the U.S., and it is silly to make demands on or
to criticise that which does not exist. But there do exist, I believe,
thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of radical leftists, and millions
of potential (passive) leftists [3]. Now, one cannot will such a
coherent left into existence - that is the trap of voluntarism. Nor can
one create it in small incremental steps, moving from the present in a
"progressive" manner. Actions _and thought_ dominated by present
empirical actuality are wasted action, wasted thought.

Mass movements, from which a left can emerge, occur under conditions
which cannot be known in advanced, which in fact are contingent upon
events and actions which do not, as they occur, point clearly to any
such future. This is simple summary of _all_ capitalist history. No one
has, ever, predicted in advance the coming of mass movements. No one
predicted the CIO; no one predicted that a bus boycott and the feeble
invisible anti-wqr movement of the ealry '50s would prove to be the
seedbeds of one of the greatest explosions in u.s. history. So all of
this is leading to what will seem like a rather anti-climactic

Someone wrote a poem which goes something like this, "They cannot see
out far, / they cannot see in deep / But when was that ever a bar / to
any wathc they keep." That sort of, in an analogjous way, points
towards where I want to go with this argument.

We keep trying to jumpsart mass movements. MASS MOVEMENTS, not
elecotroal movements. Just as the CP & its followers kept trying to
build an anti-war movement in the early '50s; just as various radicals,
some associated with the CP, some with the SWP, some pacifists, some
civil-rights workers, some just individual radicals, etc etc etc keept
sponsoring political training schools, kept talking to anyone they could
buttonhole, kept trying to initiate this or that movement of reistance
(to the Korean War, to nuclear testing, to the blockade of Cuba), drove
once a week from Stanford to San Francisco to attend little groups made
up of the equivalent of today's greay-haired hippies (complaining all
the time but not letting that keep them back), kept working rather
pointlessly to keep this or that local NAACP chapter alive, went to
demos of six lonely people against an execution. . . .

None of that had the least effect on current policy in the u.s. It never
got anywhee - except for the fact that wityhhout it there would have
been no Montgomery bus boycott, no March on Washington, no sprouting of
local groups all over the u.s. demanding local open-housing ordinances,
not Panthers, no Mobe, no Moratorum like that in Novemb er 1969 which
stopped the nuking of North Vietnam.

Don't' focus attention on _anyone's_ crimes; focus attention on how to
build resistance to the continued crimes, at home and abroad, of the
U.S. state. We won't succeed, but in that way, and only in that way,
will we contribute to some future (and now not visible) mass struggle(s)
which will make a difference.

Incidentally, Rosa Luxemburg's "socialism or barbarianism" was not an
empty slogan She saw that barbarianism was a very reall outcome of
capitalism, perhaps even the most likely outcome. It's up to leftists in
the u.s. and Euope to battle to prevent that likely outcome. There is
energizing as well as debilitating despair. We need more of the
energizing kind.


[1] One qualification, for there is always the potential for unintended
consquences. Criticism of the current Iran regime by Americans may, as
argued above, be fluff, mere entertainment, OR, regardless of the
critic's own intentions, a contribution to preparing the way for a
future attempt by the u..s. to overthrow that regime. No matter how
often the critics _say_ that they are against such intervention, no
matter how deeply they would oppose it, the material effect remains the
same: support for u.s. subversion or military overthrow of 'hostile'
governments. And probably overthrow of the regime from within, by
Iranian patriots, can occur only when Iran in material fact AND in the
consciousness of its populace is truly independent, that is secure from
any threat from outside. The goal at present has to be independence, not
liberty. I'm trying to work out a post differentiating & relating these
concepts of independence, liberty, freedom, and equality. I don't know
if I can get it written or not.

[2] Periods of relative inaction, of poor to worse turnout at left
demonstrations or forums, are precisely _normal_, and failure to realize
this, to realize how infrequent & dependent on contingency, "active"
periods are, is the source of much of the mindless criticism of the
left, such as the posts early in the history of the LBO list wwhich
would contain the phrase, "No wonder the leftis so weak…." For much of
the last 200 years, in all nations and localities, _nothing_ leftists
might have done would have transfromed the normal into a period of high
activity and growing strength.

[3] By "passive leftists" I refer to those whose attitudes and much of
their thinking are already left but who have not realized (a) the
anti-capitalist nature of those attitudes and (b) that such purposes can
be realized only in extra-legal activity. (Demonstrations are
extra-legal but not illegal. Sometimes the line is a fine one.) Such
movements grow by existinng rather than by persuading people with
arguments: that is, their visible existence and dynamic of the movement
makes its goals visible in action, thereby providing a focus for
otherwise scattered responses. Only after joining the movement in action
will many begin to seek more abstract and precise formulation of the
informing ideas ("values") of the movement.

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