The Iranian Acid Test of the Left

The name ‘Max Shachtman’ is not familiar to most English readers. Shachtman was the leading figure in the US Socialist Workers’ Party, the American section of Leon Trotsky’s Fourth International. As a talented journalist, he contributed to the party’s newspaper, The Militant. During the mid-1930s, he became frustrated with Trotsky’s defense of the Soviet Union as a ‘degenerated workers’ state,’ and due to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and Hitler’s invasion to Poland, he urged Trotsky to cease from defending the USSR as socialist country, claiming it is a ‘bureaucratized collectivist’ state.

James P. Cannon and Trotsky objected Shachtman’s attempts to abandon the defense of the USSR and later on, after Trotsky himself was assassinated by Stalin’s agent, he broke with the SWP and formed his own party, the Workers’ Party. He developed his own theory of the Third Camp – neither the US nor the Soviet imperialism, but the working class as a revolutionary agent – but later became a fervent supporter of the U.S. administration, zealous opponent of the traditional Left and the father of American neoconservatives. He refused to denounce the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961 and after the Vietnam War broke out, refused to join the Left in calling upon the US to withdraw its military from the country, favoring peace talks.

The late Shachtman is not a mere piece of history; he is first and foremost an example to people who became disillusioned from the Communist dream and extract from his experience the right conclusions. I recall Shachtman today as it is evident how the contemporary Left, in Israel but also outside of it, is enslaved to ideas which do not allow it to see the reality. Thus, following Saturday’s events, no Leftist in Israel or in the US called upon Iran to cease from its attempts to initiate a war against Israel. Whilst the Left has worshiped the 1979 Iranian Revolution as an anti-imperialist resistance and became quite sober after its militants there were executed by Khomeini, today – decades after the nature of Iran’s ruthless regime was exposed – the Leftists prefer not to condemn the Ayatollahs in their struggle to annihilate Israel. The automatic support of the Left in ‘anti-imperialist’ regimes brings good people to blame Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu for planning to launch another war in order to save his skin from the ongoing investigation carried out against him by Israel’s police.

Of course, there are more examples that indicate how dogmatic the Left is. The liberal Leftist milieu in the U.S. is unwilling to back President Trump in his strong, principled campaign against North Korea since they perceive the North Koreans as the ‘other’ or the ‘weaker’ side. They do not wish to back Trump’s Jerusalem decision by claiming that it is an obstacle for peace whilst it is well known that not Jerusalem, but the Right of Return is the core issue to be debated. In their eyes, Israel is the ultimate devil. The cocktail of dogmatic thought and postmodernist ideas, a mixture between Lenin and Derrida, hinders them from supporting the right side in human history. Thus, they wish to see an ‘anti-imperialist’ coalition that will ally the Iranian fascistic regime, the anti-Semitic BDS supporters in the West and the ‘resistance’ movements in and outside Israel/Palestine against what they grasp as the ultimate demon: the Jewish State.

No one argues here that honest people, or true humanists in general, should endorse the US without any criticism. Israel’s leadership itself is not immune to errors. However, it is the late Shachtman who taught us that in the course of human history, one should take a stand against evil and display moral principles. You can’t be humanist or honest person and refuse to condemn Iran’s provocative aggression against Israel. You can’t be dedicated to genuine morality and ignore the risk of another war to be launched in Northern Israel. You must have the certitude to go out and say who’s right and who’s wrong. That’s what the late Jewish Trotskyist stood for. More than 45 years after his death, he still serves as a true litmus paper in terms of supporting the right side in human history.

About the Author
DAVID MERHAV is a journalist writing for The Jerusalem Post, The Jerusalem Report and The Forward. Since 2008, he is working as journalist & Op-Ed columnist in Makor Rishon daily, Hebrew conservative newspaper published in Jerusalem; He also served as the Public Relations director for the Jabotinky Institute in Israel.
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