IGNORING ISLAM - THE ORGANIZED LEFT AND ISLAMISM
Afghanistan 2001, Iraq 2003, Libanon 2006, Gaza 2008 - the "free West" is at war. "You are either with us, or you're against us", as George W. Bush stated once. Still, the majority of the left is more busy ignoring these events as well as focussing on other things.
It's a fashion in almost all shades of the left wing to declare solidarity with the vicitims of the " War on Terror" - at least on the moment these victims are brought into hospital, shredded or bombed to pieces by Western bombers. It's a whole different case if they are able to succeed, like in Iraq, to be one step earlier and dodging the deadly American rain of bullets and/ or if they are able to go underground. It's also a different case if they, like in Gaza, give their vote to the "wrong" political party. In these cases the left relies on three principal arguments, with which they declare why political Islam would be "bad" (according to some even worse than American imperialism):
1. Islamists are reactionary. They deny that religion serves as "the opium of the people" (Marx). Instead of preaching class struggle, they preach religious war and instead of calling for the liberation the women they are calling to veil the women.
2. There are in recent history no known positive examples of an alliance between the left and Islamists, nor a positive example of an Islamic state.
3. Anti-imperialism denies the class contradictions in the imperialist lands itself, as well as those in the countries attacked by imperialism. For example American soldiers would be "exploited workers", while many resistance groups only want to restore the domination of the "local exploiters" and therefore can only be supported with huge reservations.
The left and Imperialism
It's a positive development that finally such a discussion is started, because the left has entered the 21st century rather hopeless. They are against an invasion of Iraq, but also against Saddam Hussain as well as against the (non-Ba´athist) armed resistance in Iraq. In the case of the liberation war for Palestine the left has put its hope (in vain) on a "fraternizing working class" of both sides, this while one "working class" is bombarding the other "working class" with phosphorus bombs on their densely populated residential areas.
With this the uncertainty and wishful thinking of the left has become quite obvious. This in a time in which the old world order is replaced by a new one and a religious tainted movement fights the old and now even stronger enemy that is Western imperialism.
Some communists have consistently become Muslim (1). However most of them nowadays concentrate themselves rather on Latin-America; Here lies Cuba, here you´ll find the Zapatista´s and Hugo Chavez, all leftwing projects, with which they are able to indentify themselves. From here however subcommandante Marcos of the EZLN sends his fraternal greetings to the opressed people of Gaza (the so-called "antisemites" who have voted on Hamas), it's here where Chavez meets the secretary-general of the Hezbullah, Hassan Nasrallah, while the leftwing government of Bolivia expells the ambassador of the Israeli zionist state.
Furthermore there is no open war in the region. There is - not withstanding the inspiring initiatives - no project that directly threatens the survival of imperialism. In the Middle East this is however certainly the case. The US, with the military power standing behind her clenched interests, is involved in a direct showdown; in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Palestine. Already in 1967 Ché Guevara wrote, several months before his execution in Bolivia; "We need to be aware that imperialism is global, a global system, the last fase of capitalism. It can only be beaten in one big, global confrontation."
So also for our Cuba-friends and Venezuala-enthusiasts, the Middle East is of great importance: not only because their idols have given clear statements on the events and the situation there, but also and foremost because imperialism as a global system can emerge stronger from this confrontation, and by that it could also become a direct threat to the liberation projects of the left. Without exaggeration, we can claim that without the defeats in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Afghanistan the pressure of US imperialism on Latin America would be much stronger - including the related military agression and coups d´etat. Last but not least this point makes one thing very clear: The by old Stalinist groups up to the Trotskist youth groups spreaded and the in the introduction summarized argumentation examples are very problematic.
Lack of information and misunderstandings
What makes the left have such a dismissive attitude towards the strongest threat against world imperialism since the revolutionary tidal wave of 1968? There are several causes which partly overlap each other;
1. Incomprehension of the Arab culture and the Islamic religion, of which the differences between that culture and beliefs and their own are substantially greater than those between them and the countries in Latin America.
2. The universal claim of the communist idea is questioned by Islamism, because it adopts traditionally "leftwing" issues (social justice, national independence, anti-repression and armed liberation struggle).
3. Finally many are happy to cite the "classics" (Marx, Engels, Lenin), who in their day never knew such a movement, nor such a threat from the side of imperialism. Furthermore there are little serious information sources about the Islamist movements. The bourgois media is professionally working towards the new enemy image of Islam.
Anti-imperialism and national + social liberation
These days imperialism is not only the foundation for the big multinational concerns and the financieroligarchy, but also nessacery for the profligate and mass-oriented lifestyle which is propagated in the West and which has ensured that the working class is mostly integrated in the existing system as well as stripped it of its revolutionary potential.
Without the destruction of imperialism on a worldscale, no revolutionary break through is possible. Since 1945 the American imperialists carried out serious interventions in over 70 countries in the world. The reason for these interferences were mostly of an economic or strategic nature. The absolute condition for national and social liberation is therefore the defeat of the "Military Industrial Complex" (NATO imperialism) and the destruction of the myth of the invincibility of the last remaining superpower in the world (the USA). With this we have arrived at those who fight this battle; In the Middle East, the frontline of the current anti-imperialist liberation struggle, this is without a doubt a religious movement.
The womens issues
The many shades of the Islamist movement have just as many shades of role image about women. In Iraq women are a tight component of the armed resistance, in Palestine the Islamist resistance movement Hamas knows a firmly-rooted basis among the women, while the Lebanese Hezbullah carries out explicit programs to promote womens emancipation.
At the same time some simple numbers from the BRD (Germany): The year sales of cosmetics amounts up to 11 billion euro´s, while in the same timeframe more than a million cosmetic surgeries are performed. It's at least doubtfull to which extent this glorification of a so-called "perfect" physical beauty, which apparently doesn´t make emancipated Western women happier, would be superiour to the Islamist view in which the woman accepts her body as a gift from god and in which physical temptations are deliberately not openly shown.
Religious war and Jihad
Fanatical, vengeful and ruthless - this is how the war in the name of Islam is seen by many. Accordingly the unsympathetic, terrorists are sketched as a mirror of the Western Crusades.
However the Jihad is bound by concrete restrictions and goals. Among these rules we do not only find the commandment to make no innocent victims, but also the commandment to retaliate in moderation and to take up any peace offering. "The most important goal of Jihad (anti-imperialist defensive war) is offering help to those who are oppressed and ensuring a good future for them", thus the Islamic Army in Iraq. An "Islamist State" would also guarantee the protection of the (mostly religous) minorities as well as social justice, enviromental protection and stimulation of education and scholing. Ofcourse also here - just like with the communists - there is a gap between pretension and reality; still the broadly association of the Islamic society with the not so serious reports from the culturally very different and underdeveloped Afghanistan are of a very limited use if one wants to examine the concept of the Islamist resistance movement.
The Islam as civilization
To get a better understandingof the Islam, especially for the left, one must see that Islam is not "just" a religion, but also asks for very concrete regulations and values for the organization of society. This is also an important difference with traditional Christianity: instead of comforting believers by referring to the afterlife, Islam unmistakenly calls up for active resistance against injustice, oppression and abuses. Also by the ban on usury and the obligation of every muslim to donate 2,5 % of his possesion to the poor and needy on a yearly basis (as well as the payment of Zakat - the faith accomplice tax which immediately flows back into the community) , the values of the Islam are in full conflict with those of the free market.
"Religious people believe in the Prophet, Bush believes in Profit", as George Galloway, ex-Labour-parliamentary representative and current leader of Respect, put it once.
This ofcourse doesn't mean political Islam hasn't got immense problems. Just like traditional European communism declared itself universal, but at the same time was deeply divided, we see the same in Islamist circles - not just between Sunni and Shi´a.
The left and Muslims; Traditional Enemies
Finally arriving at this point, the left falls back on the last two arguments. One argument states that Muslims have never had a society as it's desired by the left. Apart from the fact that Muslims could make exactly the same argument with regard to the communists, ofcourse all models of society are subjected to internal (human failure) as well as external (enemy threat) factors and thus threats or destructions.
The other argumentation sounds more logical. After the islamic revolution in Iran of 1979 many members of the communist Tudeh-(=workers) Party were prosecuted and executed as spies of the USSR by the Islamic revolutionary government. Similar incidents took place in Algeria, Palestine, Egypt, Sudan and Iraq, mostly deadly conflicts during the 70s and 80s.
But we need to mind two things in this regard;
First; the hope of the mainstream-left during these days was put upon the USSR, which by Islamist forces was seen as simply the opposite side of the other superpower (the US imperialism). (By this theory which was in that time propagated by chairman Mao and vice-chairman Lin Piao, both superpowers - the USA and USSR - represented two sides of the same imperialist coin, who wanted to divide the world among each other. In this theory the USSR represented the superpower of social-imperialism; socialist in words, but imperialist in actions.)
Second; The left has always resisted granting any religion whatsoever a positive role. A Moroccan Islamist, who studied the ideas of Mao Tse Tung during the '70's, asked the following question; "Do we renounce the communists because of the social justice they pursue, or because of the fact they mock the Profet" - the answer was ofcourse the latter.
Nowadays besides the negative experiences with these kind of cooperations, also several positive experiences have took place; under this last category we count the cooperation between Hezbullah and the Communist Party Lebanon (in the context of the United National Front), the cooperation between the Islamist resistance movement Hamas with the marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) (in the context of the Popular Front) as well as several alliances in Europe, like the partnership Respect in Great-Brittain. In this regard it's mainly important which individuals from the Islamist scene work together with which persons from the leftwing scene and for which common goals.
This is what matters; Keeping an eye on the common interests between the left aswell as muslims. The primary victims of US agression are found throughout the Islamic world, who in their anti-imperialist struggle for liberation fall back on the religion that has shaped their society for many centuries. These kind of phenomena have occurred troughout history and are not necessarily in contrast with the goal of a social and just society. Even if the situation of the Iraqi women would deteriorate on a short term under Islamism, as many in the left scene proclaim, then however on the long term the foundations are shaped by the national liberation war for her obviously legitimate struggle; Because an end is made to the bombings and tortures of the Americans, the Iraqi´s themselves get the opportunity to reshape their own society.
Claiming in advance that the Arab woman in such a situation would not be able to fight for her rights is nothing more than pure racism and sexism. This even more, because the Prophet formulated human and womensrights over a thousand years before the European feminist movement formulated them.
As long as an unjust and barbarian economic order (the globalist capitalism) exists, it will be attempted to bring alternative models of society into practice. As long as the armies of the US and NATO keep on occupying other countries, so that the great capitalist concerns can plunder their natural resources, armed resistance against this will keep on taking place.
The cardinal issue here is on which side of the frontline the leftwing movement is. It comes to providing serious information about resistance movements, in regard of the Islam and the Arab culture. Furthermore, on the ability to be unprejudiced and to have self-criticism. A catholic Chavez is for few in the scene a problem; a shiíte Nasrallah on the other hand is. In reality it's not about retaining any "emancipatory values" whatsoever. It's about the success of the Islamphobic smear in the bourgeois media which arouses irrational fears. Those in the leftist spectrum who do not convincingly take their distance from this, are unequivocally disqualified as exponents of social change and allies to the rejected of the world.
<<Create one, two - many Vietnams!>> (Ché)
Against global imperialism - the global Vietnam!
An answer to Eric Krebbers a.o. (as a reaction to 'Breakthrough against Muslimfundamentalism' - Jan/Feb 2009. Gebladerte series Nr. 32)
-------- Some examples of famous Communists who converted to Islam are: The Venezuelan international Communist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez (more known by his name de guerre 'Carlos'), the French Communist (and former member of the Political Bureau of the PCF in the sixties) Roger Garaudy and the, also, French Communist and internationalist Jacques Vergès (co founder of the Parti Communiste de Réunion in the fifties).