[lbo-talk] Platypus: what we are, what we do, and why

Christopher Cutrone ccutrone at speedsite.com
Fri Apr 9 06:38:49 PDT 2010

A strategic priority must be made of building a Left in the core countries of global capital, i.e., in the U.S., Europe, Japan, et al.

More than 50 years of "Third World" so-called "revolutionary" movements have failed to produce any emancipatory results whatsoever.

What this means, simply, is that it is not workers in, e.g., Pakistan, who need to be convinced that there is the possibility of a progressive-emancipatory politics in the metropolitan countries, but rather metropolitan workers needs to be convinced that there are people in the periphery who are not given to reactionary, violent ideologies. It is not for ethical but strategic reasons that this is simply the case.

I publicly interviewed Tariq Ali during the worst period of the Iraq occupation, and he lied through his teeth, saying that the sectarian-communalist violence in Iraq, i.e., of the mosque and marketplace bombings, was not being perpetrated by the Iraqis but by "British special forces!" Ali had written in the New Left Review that the Sadrists were somehow progressive by virtue of the fact that their Baghdad neighborhood strongholds were the same locations that more than 50 years ago were centers of Iraqi Communist Party activity -- but Ali completely dismissed the actual ICP today for "collaborating" with the occupation! This is just as bad as Hitchens and Makiya, in some ways worse, because the latter at least make their devil's bargain openly, whereas Ali, et al. still pretend to Leftist bona fides.

Even the hint of apologetics for Talibanism in places like Pakistan by reference to drone attacks, etc. is simply unworthy of anything even remotely "Leftist." People have endured far worse throughout history without this meaning that they immediately, inevitably became Right-wing. The Left cannot be a Left if it apologizes for the Right.

As long as metropolitan workers think that such is the "Left," the world is hopeless.

-- Chris

--- On Fri, 4/9/10, Adaner Usmani <adaner.usmani at gmail.com> wrote:

> From: Adaner Usmani <adaner.usmani at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [lbo-talk] Platypus: what we are, what we do, and why
> To: lbo-talk at lbo-talk.org
> Cc: ccutrone at speedsite.com
> Date: Friday, April 9, 2010, 12:57 AM
> It is telling, Chris, that in
> enumerating the protagonists of this
> "Islamist terrorist conspiracy" you reproduce a
> laundry-list of
> alliances that is entirely a figment of the imperialist
> imaginary.
> Hamas in Gaza as members of the same 'Islamist Terrorist
> Conspiracy'
> as the Afghan Taliban? Give it a rest [1]. The Islamic
> Republic in
> Iran as allied to the perpetrators of 9/11 and 7/7? Hell,
> not even the
> perpetrators of 9/11 and of 7/7 could reasonably be called
> members of
> the same "Islamist terrorist conspiracy" [2]!
> So farcical is your starting-point, here, that no lay
> observer of
> everyday events in the Middle East/South Asia could
> possibly take any
> of this seriously, much less any historian of political or
> militant
> Islam. You are well within your rights to discuss political
> strategy
> and the future/fate of the 'Left', both in the US and also
> around the
> world, it seems [3]--but the premise of any intelligent,
> political
> discussion of these issues has to root itself in facts, not
> in Fox
> News soundbytes.
> Setting this aside, around the question of why
> anti-imperialism is a
> necessary part of Left politics, there is much to say [4].
> Indeed,
> there is almost too much, so all I will do is outline the
> contours of
> a good answer, quickly and in the abstract.
> Anti-imperialism is
> critical for two sorts of reasons, relating (1) to Left
> politics in
> the US and (2) to Left politics abroad.
> ONE: In the US, an anti-imperialist politics does several
> things:
> (A) It foregrounds, for workers, the barbarity of their
> State and
> ruling elite. At its most effective, this has the effect of
> eating
> into the ideological supports of the present order--it
> calls into
> question its most basic foundations (the notion of a
> cohesive national
> formation, etc.). "If your ruling-classes are willing to
> spend
> billions of dollars developing a drone program that has
> already
> slaughtered hundreds of civilians in Pakistan, why is it
> that they're
> cutting education budgets at home? What does this tell you
> about how
> much they care about your rights, your needs?" This kind of
> thing.
> (B) An anti-imperialist politics that cuts through the fog
> of racist
> tropes about the populations being massacred ("that they
> attack us
> because their culture is hostile to our freedoms") can lay
> the
> foundations for a true internationalist ethic--a
> legitimate
> universalism. It foregrounds the fact that people
> everywhere are
> more-or-less the same ("what would you do if your home was
> bombed,
> your children killed?"). Aside for being the sine qua non
> for the
> internationalist politics Platypus seems to want to
> resurrect, this
> line can also have the attendant benefit of inuring
> workers, in the
> US, to racist attempts to divide them.
> (C) Anti-imperialist politics are desirable also because
> the defeat of
> your ruling classes is a good thing. When wars go badly,
> political
> regimes lose legitimacy. This, for example, was prominent
> in the
> Left's opposition to Italy's invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.
> Fascism
> stood to benefit, if the invasion went well.
> (D) Moral/humanitarian values--Platypus seems to pooh-pooh
> this as
> apolitical, but I fail to see why. Insofar as the Left is
> interested
> in transforming the world according to certain values, it
> is important
> to argue for the importance and relevance of those same
> values,
> day-in, day-out. Presumably, these would include an
> opposition to the
> massacre of hundreds of thousands of men, women, children
> for the
> purposes of imperial expansion. Complicity or silence on
> these issues
> is not a habit that the Left should ever cultivate. All
> else aside, a
> US workers' movement that denounces the moral depravity of
> its
> ruling-classes is better equipped for a Left future.
> TWO: In the occupied/dominated countries, an
> anti-imperialist politics
> does several things:
> (A) Imperialist intervention makes it that much more
> difficult to
> build Left politics in these countries. War and occupation
> have (1)
> the ideological effect of chloroforming class cleavages in
> the garb of
> national oppression; (2) the practical effect of making it
> impossible
> to organize, due to escalating violence and death. All of
> this is
> retrogressive for a Left project in these countries. RAWA,
> who you
> haughtily refer to in inverted commas, says this time after
> time, and
> you should take them seriously: thirty-odd years of
> imperialist war in
> Afghanistan have decimated progressive forces in that
> country. Further
> war and destruction takes us backward in the battle to
> rehabilitate
> them--not forward, not sideways (which would be your
> position, I take
> it). Very often, lest we forget, imperialist wars empower
> the most
> reactionary elements in society--this is the case with
> Afghanistan
> today, for example. A similar dynamic has unfolded in
> Pakistan: the
> expansion of the US war in the region has gone hand-in-hand
> with a
> strengthening of the position of the Pakistani Army in
> domestic
> politics--this, only two years after it was tossed from
> power in a
> mass upsurge. [5] This makes Left politics (which exists in
> much more
> robust form than anything Platypus has to show for itself,
> mind you)
> that much more difficult. [6]
> (B) Anti-imperialist politics in the US, independent of
> whether they
> end imperialist war, carry valuable ideological lessons for
> the
> populations under siege. Workers in Pakistan who hear of
> American
> workers protesting drone attacks (particularly workers
> protesting on
> anti-imperialist lines) will--all things being equal--be
> much more
> receptive to class politics, and much less enamored with
> national/religious politics. After all, a narrative of the
> "barbaric
> West" and/or the "Christian crusaders" makes less sense
> when
> Western/Christian workers rise up to oppose their own
> Western/Christian rulers.
> Anyway--I take all of this to be quite elementary to Left
> politics
> (and an incomplete list, I'm sure), so I apologize if
> people find it
> repetitive.
> best,
> adaner
> - - -
> [1] http://www.brandeis.edu/crown/publications/meb/meb41.html
> [2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/apr/09/july7.uksecurity
> [3] As a rule of thumb, I'd recommend against proclamations
> that the
> Left is 'dead' everywhere--the more countries about which
> you say this
> without concretely engaging their respective histories, the
> less and
> less it means. Without a careful, balanced assessment of
> why
> individual Left projects have run into problems (far too
> often, in my
> experience, the Platypus line collapses a very varied
> history into,
> uniformly, a failure of the Left's own making), this
> argument comes
> off as quite puerile, really--"I want my *true* Left and I
> want it
> NOW!"
> [4] By the way, I am stunned that you persist with this
> notion that
> Hitchens/Makiya are as much a part of Left politics as
> someone like
> Tariq Ali. Being critical of a heinous regime does not
> purchase you
> penance for having endorsed the massacre of the Iraqi
> people. Neither
> Hitchens nor Makiya ever had a monopoly on criticism of
> Saddam's
> regime--not before the war, not during, and not
> retrospectively.
> Platypus dresses up their immature, fatal idiocy around the
> Iraq War
> as a sensitivity to the plight of Iraqis under Saddam,
> something
> which--it is alleged--the rest of the Left was blind to.
> This is
> profoundly misleading, aside from being untrue. In short,
> you are
> celebrating an odious, racist and decisively not Left
> politics--the
> kind that outsources the salvation of the 'darker nations'
> to Uncle
> Sam, because--at its core--it believes them incapable of
> emancipating
> themselves.
> [5] http://www.solidarity-us.org/current/node/2606
> [6] http://progpak.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/we-have-workers-and-struggle-part-ii/
> > But there was and is an Islamist terrorist conspiracy!
> There were attacks in Britain on 7/7 as well as in the U.S.
> on 9/11 and in Madrid and in Bali and the African cities
> where American embassies were bombed, etc., etc.!
> >
> > This Islamist terrorist conspiracy is less dangerous,
> in purely physical terms, than the govt. violence of the
> U.S. and Britain, et al. But that doesn't mean it's not
> dangerous. What about the Taliban regime in Afghanistan?
> What about the Islamic Republic in Iran? What about
> Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in Gaza?
> >
> > Why does saying so mean "buying into" attacks on civil
> liberties?! One doesn't have to defend Gitmo to condemn the
> Islamist terrorists in no uncertain terms!
> >
> > Clearly, the damage the U.S. and Britain et al. have
> done in Afghanistan and Iraq, etc., *far* outstrips the
> harms suffered by residents of Europe and the U.S. in the
> "war on terror," which of course I oppose!
> >
> > -- Chris

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