Friday, August 05, 2005

Mind the gap

One particular pertinent factor in the modern conjuncture is the decline of the left and of Marxism as an idiom of denunciation of capitalism and its injustices including racism, class oppression and imperialism. Opposition and action against imperialism, especially of US militarism, was an important element of this leftist idiom. America and its allies targeted communist and leftist movements worldwide as part of the cold war, which added to the left’s popular credibility.

Nationalist movements, including Arab nationalism, veered towards a leftist idiom, as in Gamal Adbel Nasser's "Arab socialism", and the Ba'ath Arab Socialist Party, borrowing heaving from Marxist motifs and vocubulary. The failure of these movements, then the collapse of communism and the Soviet [Union] made these idioms increasingly redundant

In the process, and partly to fill the gap left by the failure of radical leftism, jihadi Islam became a world antagonist of America (while America retains many Muslim allies). This would explain its attraction to disenfranchised groups in the west, and conversion to it by individuals seeking action and redemption...This dominance of militant Islam as the chief antagonist to the West in a "war of the worlds" would also explain its attraction to remnants of the old sectarian left.

Sami Zubaida.

1 comment:

Caspar Henderson said...

Extreme anxiety
By John Lloyd
Financial Times, August 5 2005

Paul Foot, who died last year, was among the most honoured of British journalists. He was an ornament to the ideal of holding power to journalistic account. Born into a liberal family of the upper-middle class, he adopted in young manhood a revolutionary variant of Marxism, which took the organised shape of the Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party.

The SWP gave to him a moral yardstick against which to measure, and always find wanting, the quotidian world of politics, business and the law. Always, because the SWP’s position had, like most present-day Marxist sects, evolved into a secular variant of Catholicism a la Benedict XVI - a position of huge ethical certainty. The party’s programme for power, too self evidently ridiculous to be made public except to the initiated, is for a variant of proletarian dictatorship of a Leninist kind (in its Paradise Ungainable, God is Lenin and Lucifer is Stalin). Had the party led the revolution that it saw as the world’s destiny, it would have precipitated a social and humanitarian catastrophe.

It doesn’t matter. The party’s role and attraction is to give, largely to the educated young, the satisfying possession of a moral stick with which to beat an immoral world: and Foot - self-sacrificing, witty, arrogant, determined, blinkered, accepted and lauded across much of the political spectrum - was beater-in-chief.

Every newspaper of the left, and some of the right, opened its columns to him.

Last week, Dilpazier Aslam, a trainee journalist on The Guardian, had his traineeship terminated. He is a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, less a party than a network of activists with a more or less common set of beliefs that may be called radical Islamist: Aslam proudly broadcast his membership to all he met on the paper. A very public organisation, Hizb ut-Tahrir has as its core aim the establishment of a Caliphate, or absolute Muslim rule, throughout the Muslim world. Some of its branches have declared themselves violently anti-Semitic, and all believe in the degeneracy of the non-Muslim (and some of the Muslim) world. Like the SWP, its “programme” would, if followed, cause the gutters to flow with blood. For Aslam and many of its adherents it was, like the SWP, a moral cudgel and a network of like minds.

Significantly, Hizb ut-Tahrir does not call for a Caliphate in the UK. In a revealing and chilling interview in the current Prospect, Hassan Butt, an Islamist militant, says he discarded Hizb because he found its lack of ambition intolerable. Islam, he believes, must be forced on everyone. In this sense, Butt and radicals like him are more like Foot and the SWP, Trotskyites who believe in world revolution; Aslam and Hizb are “Stalinists”, who believe not in socialism in one country but in a Caliphate in one region.
In the aftermath of the London bombing on July 7, The Guardian invited Aslam to write an opinion piece, which appeared, under the headline of “We rock the boat”, on July 13. It was a hideous piece of work.

The piece, though more overt than some of its kind, was in the “they had it coming” vein that has throbbed strongly through The Guardian opinion pages in the past few weeks. Pouring contempt on the don’t-rock-the-boat elders of the Islamic community, Aslam forecast that “the agitation” would “build until it can be contained no more”.
He dismissed the argument that London shouldn’t be targeted because hundreds of thousands had marched through its streets against the war, with the observation that “the pond that divides Britain and America is a shallow one.” The paragraph, though recoiling from its own logic, is an underpinning of terrorism: thus did the ultra left exculpate the red and nationalist terror of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in western Europe and North America.

Aslam, outed by bloggers, was asked by The Guardian if he would renounce his party and denounce anti-Semitism and violence. He refused to leave the first and said he had never espoused the other two, thus couldn’t denounce them. Like any good Marxist, he could point to statements of dissociation from actual acts (”a sad day... not the way... “) while, with the left hand, writing a polemic giving such acts a rationale and dignity.

The termination of Aslam’s traineeship was, by strict liberal standards, an outrage. I called most of the managing editors of British national newspapers and they all said they did not ask party affiliation, and would be embarrassed to know what to do if a reporter was revealed as an “extremist”: they did not think they could properly fire him. The world’s most famed liberal Anglophone paper has acted - most of its journalist staff, and some of its senior executives, believe this - in an illiberal way. Aslam had not shown the talents of a Paul Foot, but his beliefs were no more totalitarian: less, probably.

But there is likely to be a deeper reason. The sacking of Aslam was illiberal, but a possible sign that the paper - now that a weak and piping time of peace has given way to something like armed hostilities - wants to draw a line between liberal and pseudo-democrat.

These lines, as Tony Blair and his colleagues found when constructing New Labour, are crude, often arbitrary and sometimes unfair. But at the end of the day, you know what they mean. They are illiberal acts to bolster liberalism from those who exploit it. Paul Foot and others were canny enough to keep their grand and sanguinary designs for the world in the background: Foot concentrated on being a master of exposure. Aslam’s grand design has moved to the foreground, he was a master of nothing, and so he went.