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Dear Phil

Thank you for your letter.  You have already indicated on your redline website that any comments I post will be "moderated" by yourself, and I note that my most recent comments have been removed from your website.

You write in your letter (full text below) "Geoff, you must be aware that .. an editor or an admin has the final right of reply".

Your rights as an "admin" are one thing.  How you choose to exercise those rights is another.   Every newspaper owner and every blogger has the right to determine what appears in the columns of their respective publications, just as every employer has the right to decide the terms and conditions under which their employees work.   However they way in which they choose to exercise those rights can vary greatly.   Those who do not value dialogue and debate on their own turf are unlikely to encourage free debate in the wider society.   That is just one reason why I believe that the military should never be allowed to take control of the state power, and the same may be said of all those Marxists who are intolerant of dissenting opinions.

Why would anyone go to such lengths as you (withholding all comment over 25 days, only to post your "last word" minutes before closing the thread to any new comments) in order to have the "last word"?   That is to degrade political dialogue into some kind of trademe auction in which there is one "winner" and many "losers".  We are all the losers when such ploys are used - yourself included.

You then write  "By contrast, I canít seem to see any open comments section on your blog.  I apologise in advance if Iím wrong about this, but if a comments section is there, it certainly isnít easily identifiable".

To "apologise in advance" implies that you know what you are suggesting may be untrue.   So why suggest it in the first place?  Why not just ask a question?   You have chosen not to answer many of the questions I have put to you, but you know that I will always answer any  question which you put to me.   So I will now answer the question which you did not ask.

There is no comments section as such in www.republican.co.nz   However I  always publish critical or hostile comment from readers.   I put no limits on the number, length, or timing of comments.   In the past I have personally invited you send in your comments to the republican website so you must know that I do accept and publish critical comment.    In that I follow the kaupapa of our people:  discussion must be allowed to continue as long as is necessary to achieve a consensus.  Even if that was not the case - even if I carefully censored or suppressed every response which came to me - that would not make your approach right.   The sins of our enemies can not be used to justify our own errors.

The only grounds which you have given for censoring my comments is that you disagree with me.  You say "Redline is a Marxist site and its purpose is to promote Marxism and discuss Marxist ideas with people who want to know about them" followed by the presumptuous claim "And thatís not really you, is it?"

However one of the major bones of contention between us has been your promotion of the idea which must be contentious even among Marxists, which is the doctrine of the  "legitimacy of the popular will" in opposition to the legitimacy of democratic electoral process.  This argument, which arose specifically in relation to the military coup against the democratically elected government of Muhammed Morsi in Egypt, is advanced by some who are Marxists and some who are military despots, but is it really Marxism or is it fascism?

You allege that I have "smeared" the "brave revolutionaries" George Habash and Leila Khaled.   I had pointed out that that Habash and Khaled were secular modernists schooled in the American University of Beirut who were  part of a tiny political elite fundamentally at odds with the dominant Muslim culture of their society.  These first are statements of fact, the second a reasonable supposition which  I don't think even you would seriously challenge.  That does not constitute a smear.   The western educated political elite includes those on the right who staff pro-western military and secular regimes and Marxist revolutionaries on the left who are your kindred spirits, of whom Habash and Khaled are but two examples.

It is no coincidence that you identify with these university educated secularist Marxists who are fundamentally alienated from the wider society of their birth.  You are also alienated from your society.   You would probably assert that the common factor in your alienation is capitalism.  There is some truth in that.  Capitalism alienates us all.   Even the capitalists who manage to unite at the level of the national state, are in a constant state of economic war one with the other.

Habash, Khaled et al are secularists in a religious culture as well as being Marxists in a capitalist society.  Although thus doubly alienated, and restricted to the fringes of middle eastern society, they do enjoy a measure of support because they are the only expression of secularism which is not friendly to the imperial project in the middle east, and therefore are the natural rallying point for those who  hold to both secularism and anti-imperialism.  Your situation is different.  You are secularist in a secular culture.  Your Marxist group is not the only liberal secularist option in New Zealand society and most of  your secular (as distinct from socialist) aspirations have been fulfilled, not by yourselves but by those to whom you are most opposed - the "capitalist" parties of National, Labour and so on.  An overwhelming majority of the New Zealand parliament, the mass media, and the public as a whole is committed to secular liberalism.   You have women's rights and gay rights, abortion, contraception and marriage equality.   You may of course say that there is still much to be done in the area of secular rights, that things are still not good enough, and so on, but you yourself have conceded the point when you asked "We have got all  this so why do we not have socialism?".

That is a question to which your ideology, whether it be Marxism or secular liberalism, has failed to provide answers.  That is the source of your frustration.  You want socialism and you want secular liberalism.   Your political strategy implies that there is some connection between the two.   But people understand very well that they can have secular liberalism without Marxism.  Some people, such as myself, are suggesting that there is actually a conflict between socialist ideals and the liberal secularist ideology.    Socialism is not necessarily or exclusively based on secular doctrines.  It has strong historical associations with Christianity, and as one of your Iranian Marxist correspondents has pointed out "You can get away with calling yourself a socialist because socialism in Iran is associated with social and economic justice and it would not necessarily mean that you are against the Islamic Republic or an atheist".   Religion in general is sympathetic to socialism, but Marxists such as yourselves are not to be content with socialism.  They also want to destroy religion, and everything that goes with it.

Neither is socialism necessarily in the vanguard of liberalism.  Even established Marxist regimes - for example the Maoist regime in China and the Castro  regime in Cuba - have had a conspicuous element of social  conservatism.  The elimination of prostitution, gambling and drug use were among the first priorities of the communist government in China.   Yet  it is a curious fact that  in the western capitalist nations the tenets of secular liberalism, rather than the ideals of socialism, which have become the definitive point of political difference for most Marxists.  Thus we have the grand coalition of liberal secularism, extending from the free marketeers of the extreme right to the Marxist ideologues of the far left, in opposition to their own "Christian fundamentalist" minorities, and, more particularly, in opposition to socially conservative Islamist movements in the third world.   The great twentieth century struggle between socialism and capitalism has been superseded by the twenty-first century global conflict between liberalism and social conservatism, even within the affections of those who proclaim themselves to be Marxist.

You say "About the only thing we can collectively agree on is opposition to Western intervention in the Third World, and I guess opposition to Israel.."    If you are correct on that point then you are effectively dissociating yourself from the vast array of ethical principles which have been enunciated by moral philosophers and religious leaders of all faiths over many millennia, and to which I pay respect.

In practical terms, many years have passed since I last opposed Western intervention in the third world,  and I have not opposed Israel at any time in my life.   However you probably thinking of "opposition" as nothing more than the vocal or written expression of opinion.   You state your support of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and opposition to Israel, the Islamic Republic of Iran and an immensely long list of other states and political institutions and you appear to believe that the opinions that any given individual holds on all these institutions is of great importance.   While I consider political opinions to be worthy of analysis and debate,  I choose not judge to people on their opinions, whether political or religious.  I am more interested in how people behave towards each other, regardless of whether in their opinions they are socialist or capitalist, Christian or Muslim, Protestant or Catholic, Shia or Sunni. Christians have long argued over whether a person is "justified" by works or by faith.   God may tend to the latter, but I am not God.  The  idea that a person could be justified by opinions (which are a long way removed from faith)  is increasingly prevalent in this age of highly opinionated bloggers, talk back radio hosts and media personalities.  However I believe that it is absurd to erect barriers between people merely on the basis of how they think, and that to judge people on the basis of their opinions is to open the way to sectarianism which leads to the gates of hell.

There are other reasons why I choose not to identify with any worldly power.  I have seen the  folly and subsequent embarrassment of Marxists who have variously identified with the Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China, right down to Albania, Cuba, the Khmer Rouge or the Democratic Republic of Korea.  I can see positive aspects to all those regimes, but I believe that one should not sacrifice one's  moral and political integrity by a process of  identification with any state or political institution.  Whether we are talking about the PFLP or the State of Israel, the IRI or the USA, each should be appraised fairly, objectively and dispassionately.

But these are all issues which would require patient discussion to resolve, a discussion which you have determined not to allow on your website.   So be it.

If you really want socialism, you are going about things the wrong way.   Invective and  attempts to silence the voice of dissent will not work.

Geoff Fischer
 
 

Text of Phil Ferguson's letter.

Geoff, you must be aware that the usual practice is that an editor or an admin has the final right of reply.

Your particular comment, to which I responded, had about 25 or 26 days on the list without a response, so anyone who was interested had plenty of time to take it in.  Then I exercised my right of final reply, to which Iím fully entitled as one of the editors/admin people.

Youíve had plenty of rights of reply on the list.

What you donít have the right to is endless replies and final rights of reply.

By contrast, I canít seem to see any open comments section on your blog.  I apologise in advance if Iím wrong about this, but if a comments section is there, it certainly isnít easily identifiable.

You are a socially-conservative Christian who politically identifies with socially-conservative Islam.  Fair enough.  Iíve no interest in interfering with that.  But Redline is a Marxist site and its purpose is to promote Marxism and discuss Marxist ideas with people who want to know about them.  And thatís not really you, is it?

About the only thing we can collectively agree on is opposition to Western intervention in the Third World, and I guess opposition to Israel, but our world views are so disparate that most of the discussions are completely fruitless and frustrating.  Inevitably so, because there is a massive chasm between us politically.

Nothing is to be gained on either side by continuing to talk Ė or yell Ė at cross purposes.

Phil