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On Louis Proyect’s The Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism and the European left.

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Idlib, Syria: Thousands protest peacefully against Assad’s war, Friday 14 September.

Louis Proyect has just published this article (in Counterpunch), of significance not only in the US but for the European left, and across the word.

On the Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism.

Beginning with an overview  of “Rohini Hensman’s recently published Indefensible: Democracy, Counterrevolution, and the Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism” it extends to a wider series of reflections.

Project tunes into some of the key ethical and political problems, thrown up by a number of intense  conflicts across the world since 2011 and the response of various parts of the left to them.

In each of them the politics of an ‘anti-imperialism’, limited to opposing the ‘West’ (and de facto backing, amongst others, Assad’s regime, Putin and , though he mentions this to a much lesser degree, Iran) has been called into question.

Rohini Hensman’s recently published Indefensible: Democracy, Counterrevolution, and the Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism is an important contribution to the debate that has divided the left since 2011, the year that Syria became a litmus test. For some, support for Bashar al-Assad became tantamount to backing Franco in the Spanish Civil War while others saw my perspective as lending support to the USA, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other reactionary states carrying out the same neoconservative foreign policy that turned Iraq into a failed state.

In other respects, he observes that on a range of social and economic issues the US left was united (“ranging from defending immigrant rights to opposing fracking),at the start of the decade.

But, “The polarization deepened in 2014 when the Euromaidan protest became litmus test number two.”

“As was the case with Syria, the overwhelming majority of the left sided with Yanukovych who was seen as a progressive leader ousted by a coup organized and funded by the CIA. When war broke out in eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin-backed militias were freedom fighters while Kyiv became a tool of NATO and Western banks. Trying to avoid such geopolitical dualities became difficult, if not impossible.”

This could equally be seen here. The left (with at least some hope of a wider political influence than the US left, which was increasing after Ed Miliband began his Labour leadership)  has in general terms  been united on issues such as anti-austerity. This has parallels across Europe, although since that time the EU (UK) or sovereigntism has become  dividing lines.

It was during the Ukraine crisis that the same divisions over international issues, as in the US, became serious.

There was (lightly covered) with support for Putin and the Russian Federation’s claims  from the Morning Star, and the Stop the War Coalition (Counterfire-led) – a position not reflected so widely in the rest of Europe outside of the direct inheritors of the Stalinist parties – but also present.

Here is their activity in sharp focus,

Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine’ launched in London Socialist Appeal. 2014

Lindsey German (Counterfire), Boris Kagarlitsky (Institute for globalization studies and social movements), Andrew Murray (Communist Party of Britain), Alan Woods (International Marxist Tendency) and Sergei Kirichuk (Borotba) discuss the threat of fascism in Ukraine, the role of imperialism in the current situation and the need for a campaign in support of the antifascist resistance in Ukraine to provide a counterweight to the lies and distortions of the Western media.

Then there is the Middle East, where unity over opposition to the Invasion of Iraq began to crack, above all as the Arab Spring brought forth a movement for democracy against the Assad dictatorship.

Proyect talks of Syria, the cause of whose people he has been a consistent champion.

He cites US writers who have sided with Assad (and not, odd as it may seem, the worst of the red-brown Assad apologists….)

For Syrians, the notion put forward by Stephen Gowans et al that Syria was some sort of socialist utopia rivaling if not besting Kurdish Rojava was a cruel joke. Hensman writes:

Finally, it is an irony that people who see themselves as socialists fail to note the class dimension of the uprising. Janine di Giovanni provides a vivid description of the Damascus elite who support Assad: “[In June 2012,] for several weeks running, I watched the fevered hedonism of the Thursday afternoon pool parties at the Dama Rose Hotel … By lunchtime, women were rushing to hairdressers; the roads leading out of the city … were clogged with luxury cars … Restaurants such as Narenj, which … served traditional Arabic food to the elite, were still packed.” (di Giovanni 2016, 8). By contrast, in 2007 a third of Syrians were living beneath the poverty line, with nearly another third only slightly above this level. Swiss-Syrian socialist activist and scholar Joseph Daher (2016) writes that “even the regime-controlled Syrian General Federation of Trade Unions deplored in 2009 that “the rich have become richer and the poor poorer … (and) low income earners who make up 80 percent of the Syrian population are looking for additional work to support themselves”. He continues, “We must not forget that the popular revolution in Syria began as a result of social economic injustices and widespread poverty, in addition to political issues.”

This is the crucial, the crunch point: his summary of what’s facing people in Syria now:

We are now in the final hours of the seven-year ordeal in which attempts to restore the democratic values of Hourani’s government have been crushed by overwhelming air power and massive intervention by Iran, Hezbollah and Afghan mercenaries. The looming victory against “imperialism” leaves the country in shambles with dismal economic prospects and inescapable environmental disaster.

He continues, looking at the “campists” now backing, more or less openly, Assad.

A certain political myopia exists in such quarters. Despite their anti-fascist pretensions, they cannot fathom how Assad’s victory will strengthen reaction throughout the Middle East and Europe. In an interview on Portuguese television, General al-Sisi stated: “The priority is that we support the national armies to impose control over the territory, deal with the extremists, and impose the necessary stability in Libya, Syria and Iraq.” When the interviewer followed up with “When you refer to the National Army in Syria, do you mean the Syrian army?”, the General replied: “Yes.”

In  Proyect’s conclusion he suggests that capitalists, and those states who wish for  Assad’s victory, have their own interests at heart.

Hardly a surprising claim but can this be extended to speculation that a bloc is being formed out of “With Assad, al-Sisi, Putin and Haftar” in a “new axis of resistance against Islamists” or, even more speculatively, “would anybody be surprised that Netanyahu would apply for membership?2

One can only note that Louis’s belief that Boris Johnson is still UK foreign Secretary is one, amongst many reasons to doubt the emergence of such an alliance. And there is a leap from a certain support for Libya’s Hafter to….Assad, and Putin, Israel, Macron….. which is hard to jump. (“In July, Haftar met with an Israeli intelligence officer in Amman, to “deepen security coordination between him and Israel”. Not only does Haftar have these considerable forces in his corner, he can also rely on the backing of France’s President Emmanuel Macron and the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, as well as the United Arab Emirates.”).

The conclusion is, nevertheless, worth serious reflection:

 In all their heartfelt objection to imperialism, Assad’s supporters on the left seemed to have forgotten that Lenin wrote a book titled “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”. If you forget about the capitalism part of his analysis, you don’t get very far.

One cannot imagine that Iran (whose capitalist rather than geopolitical and religious-ideological interest, if there is one, which it far from sure,  goes unmentioned) and Putin’s Russian Federation, have backed Assad out of a wish to strengthen a multipolar world contesting American dominance purely out of hearty anti-imperialist good will. The extent to which religious ideology as a material force in the conflicts remains unclarified, but who can seriously doubt that it plays a substantial role in these wars.

While one is certain that much of the US left, anxious at all times to distance itself from any hint of support for its own imperialist military machine, has good reason to be wary of its state’s involvement.

But today this is of utmost urgence: 

Indefensible: Idlib and the left Leila Al-Shami

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Criticising the burqa means lining up with racists – says SWP.

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Defiant woman rips off her black burqa after ISIS were driven away. (Raqqa October. 2017)

The fall out from Boris Johnson’s comments on the Burka continues.

Nobody doubts that they have given the wink to the far-right and legitimised prejudiced diatribes against ‘Muslims’.

But there is also a pro-body veil reaction from some quarters.

Liberal people who (as a Facebook friend in the US remarks) are up in arms about the world imagined in The Handmaid’s Tale. But often the same individuals give weight to the idea that the religious obligations inflicted on women by this interpretation of Islam, are a choice to be celebrated.

There is talk – I thought it remained safely relegated to distant memories of courses on ‘theory’ – about the way it may free the female shape from the ‘male gaze’.

As if Islamic Law is about anything other than the behaviour of the believers in the sight of god enforced through violence if need be.

Not surprisingly the British SWP, with its long history of complicity with Islamism, has bent to this wind.

They are not trying to shout down criticisms of the burqa by linking them to the far-right.

Why criticising the burqa means lining up with racists

Boris Johnson’s attack on the burqa has left some liberals with a problem.

The article begins with this bold assertion:

“when supposed progressives criticise the burqa, it gives more credibility to the more overt Islamophobes.”

It then jumps to this statement,

Some liberals see the burqa as a reflection of sexist ideas.

They assume that women are pushed to cover themselves because female flesh has been deemed dirty or too exciting to men.

Of course there will be some Muslims who think this. But the idea is hardly Islamic—it’s deeply rooted in Western capitalist societies.

So that’s all right then.

Or not.

Think of rape trials where women are told they were “asking for it” because of what they wore. Or the Canadian cop who said that women should “avoid dressing like sluts” to escape sexual assault.

The SWP claims that

Many liberals, and right wingers, claim they want to “liberate” oppressed Muslim women who they assume have been forced to cover up.

Are they alone.

Apparently not:

We should oppose women being forced to wear coverings. And we should stand with the women in Iran who have defied the state and removed their hijabs in public, imprisoned as a result.

This is what the SWP said about these protests (4th of June):

Women are resisting the compulsory wearing of the headscarf—which is another very good thing happening at the same time.

Even women who want to wear it are saying it should be the right of women to choose.

As the left we have to support the women fighting back, and not leave the issue to the pro-imperialist right.

The problem is that the issue grabs attention in the West because it resonates with the Islamophobic representations of Iran.

The issue is being hijacked by Islamophobia by some in the media in the West.

End of story for the SWP until this week.

But its not Islam that’s at fault

But it isn’t true that Islam forces women to cover themselves. Like other religions, Islam suggests that men and women dress “modestly”. What this means is open to interpretation, which is why different Muslim women choose to wear different coverings, or none at all.

Women often say they choose to wear coverings to feel closer to Allah. It’s patronising to assume that every women who wears a hijab, niqab or burka has been told to do so by a man.

So they do it for Allah.

If religion is not a problem what is?

This also treats the main source of oppression facing Muslim women as Muslim men. In fact, the main oppressor of Muslim women is the state.

The state is of course the principal form of oppression for ‘women’: no doubt the ‘state’ has a special function in oppressing women……

Apart from wishing away decades of feminist debate about patriarchy, the family, and the old saying that the “personal is political’,

The confusion reaches its apex in confusing state legislation about the full body veil, ‘forcing’ women to give up the ” veils, headscarves or burqas  with the idea that criticising the burka is to “line up with racists”.

Socialists should defend a woman’s right to choose what she wears. That includes the right to wear a burqa—and the right not to wear one.

Forcing Muslim women to give up wearing veils, headscarves or burqas isn’t liberating, just as encouraging women to wear skimpy clothes isn’t. Instead it’s just another form of judging women on their appearance and dress, and taking control and choice away from them.

Is siding with the legislation, in say France, when it was backed by all the political parties at the time, the same as being on the same side as the ‘far right’?

Is ‘forcing’ people to not wear the oppressive full-body veil the same as “criticism”?

This argument gets nowhere.

Rather than point out that the SEP feels no compunction about lining up with the far-right over Brexit the issue at hand should be taken seriously.

This is a ‘liberal’ view  of a Muslim woman the SWP and others are trying to  shut up.

Boris Has Made it Almost Impossible for Muslims to Critique Veiling.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

In my view, scarves, cloaks and masks symbolise the negation of the female form, female inferiority and menace, and most troublingly, a wilful distancing from other humans in the public space.

One of Britain’s foremost scholars Ziauddin Sardar, has this to say on the controversial subject: “In a total perversion of Qur’anic advice, dressing modestly has been interpreted as dressing like a nun, covered from head to foot, showing only a woman’s face (in some circles only the eyes), wrists and feet.”

Females thus accept the burden of modesty while men do not, though both have this obligation. Millions of Muslim women do not submit to these pressures. One of them, a senior TV producer unloaded her frustrations in an email: “We came here to get away from these oppressive expectations. Britain offered hope, a place where you were protected by the law, could be educated, go out, be free. “You could make your own decisions, strive to be equal to men.

Now this freedom is crumbling away because of a few shouty, veiled women. Our voice remains unheard.”

She is right. Vast numbers of white Britons give us their support when most we need it. They did this week. We Muslims need to give a little too – abandon regressive customs and integrate for the greater good and our survival. With the hard right marching again across Europe, Muslims face an existential threat. This is no time for cultural and religious obstinacy.

These are her views (2015) in more depth:  As a Muslim woman, I see the veil as a rejection of progressive values.

They are much more materialist and historically rooted than airy abstractions about the ‘state’.

Muslim feminists of the past critiqued and repudiated the veil. One of them was a man, Qasim Amin, an Egyptian judge and philosopher, who in 1899 wrote The Liberation of Women.He was the John Stuart Mill of the Arab world. Huda Shaarawi set up the Egyptian women’s union in the early 1920s. One day in 1923, as she disembarked from a train in Cairo, she threw off her veil and claimed her right to be visible. Educated Iranian women started feminist magazines and campaigned against the veil around the same time. These pioneers have been written out of history or are dismissed as western stooges by some contemporary Muslim intellectuals.

After the transformative 60s, Muslim feminists resumed the fight for equality. European rule was over. It was time. The Moroccan academic Fatema Mernissi, Egypt’s Nawal El Saadawi and the Pakistani scholar Riffat Hassan all argued for female emancipation. They rightly saw the veil as a a tool and symbol of oppression and subservience. Mernissi’s Beyond the Veil ( 1975) is a classic text. So too El Saadawi’s The Hidden Face of Eve (1975). But more conservative Islamic tenets have taken over lands, communities, families, heads and hearts.

The promise of this version is a return to certainties and “purity” of belief, a mission backed by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Deobandi revivalists, funded by Arab money, now run more mosques in Britain than any other Muslim subgroup. Women are told not to travel without male relatives, not to work, to be subservient, to veil. This movement began as a reaction against the Indian raj and mutated into a fundamentalist creed. Today their pushback against “cultural imperialism” appeals to many alienated young Muslims. And, in part, it explains the growing popularity of the hijab, jilbab and full veil .

But in the Qur’an, the veil is mostly used metaphorically to describe barriers between good and bad, believers and nonbelievers. In two verses, women are told to lower their gaze, and to cover their private parts and bosoms. Men are also instructed to lower their gaze, and to dress modestly. One verse commands the women in the prophet’s family to fully veil, partly to protect them from enemies and supplicants.

Sahar Amer, associate professor at the University of North Carolina, has studied these sacred injunctions: “[Nowhere] is the hijab used to describe, let alone prescribe, the necessity for Muslim women to wear a headscarf or any other pieces of clothing often seen covering women in Islamic countries today. Even after reading those passages dealing with the female dress code, one continues to wonder what exactly the hijab is: is it a simple scarf? A purdah? A chador? Or something else? Which parts of the body exactly is it supposed to cover? Just the hair? The hair and neck? The arms? Hands? Feet? Face? Eyes?”

 

All religions cast women as sinners and temptresses. Conservative Islam has revived the slander for our times

 

Veils, in truth, predate Islam. Zoroastrian and Byzantine upper-class ladies wore them to keep aloof from the hoi polloi. When Islam’s armies first reached Persia, they were shocked at this snobbery; then they adopted the custom they loathed; the control of women was hard-wired into their psyches.

All religions cast women as sinners and temptresses. Conservative Islam has revived the slander for our times. Women have to be sequestered or contained lest they raise male lust and cause public disorder. Some young Muslim women argue that veils liberate them from a modern culture that objectifies and sexualises females. That argument is appealing; but if credible, why would so many hijabis dress in tight jeans and clinging tops, and why would so many Muslim women flock to have liposuction or breast enhancements?

It is complicated: veils for me represent both religious arrogance and subjugation; they both desexualise and fervidly sexualise. Women are primarily seen as sexual creatures whose hair and bodies incite desire and disorder in the public space. The claim that veils protect women from lasciviousness and disrespect carries an element of self-deception. I have been at graduation ceremonies where shrouded female students have refused to shake the hand of the chancellor. Veiled women have provoked confrontations over their right to wear veils, in courts, at schools and in colleges and workplaces. But I regard their victories as a rejection of social compromise.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 21, 2018 at 12:15 pm

Chris Williamson MP Praises Assad Apologist.

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The “Rebel” tent at The Levellers festival: Who on earth would want to attend this event?

Or this:

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Or this?

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Well now we know:

Not surprisingly Williamson has already got some stiff replies:

Vanessa Beeley — the Syrian conflict’s goddess of propaganda

Brian Whitaker. 

One spin-off from the Syrian conflict has been a war of words that reaches far beyond the Middle East. It’s a battle in which honest reporting and the search for truth have come under sustained attack.

Those leading the attack claim they are simply asking questions that need to be asked. It’s healthy scepticism, they say. But it’s a selective kind of scepticism where reports from some sources, primarily mainstream media in the west, are dismissed as untrue — not because evidence shows they are wrong but because they don’t fit the desired narrative.

At the same time, reports that do fit the narrative win praise on social media, regardless of supporting evidence, and people who venture to question them are liable to be assailed with abuse.

A prominent example is the work of Vanessa Beeley, a supporter of the Assad regime whose reports from Syria have turned her into a social media celebrity. The Russian propaganda channel, RT, describes her as “an independent investigative journalist” and, in addition to her Russian TV appearances, she is associate editor of 21st Century Wire, the conspiracy theory website that publishes most of her work.


Beeley (fourth from right) with President Assad in 2016. She described it as her proudest moment.
 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 20, 2018 at 12:42 pm

Tragedy of Yazidi Woman Who Met Islamic State Gaoler in Germany.

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Yazidi woman encounters ‘Islamic State’ captor in Germany

The past she was attempting to flee came back to haunt a young Yazidi woman in a small town in Germany. Her former IS tormentor confronted her on the street and “told me he knew everything about me.”

A 19-year-old Yazidi woman has fled Germany with her family after encountering the “Islamic State” (IS) fighter who had enslaved her in Mosul on the streets of Schwäbisch Gmünd, a town in Baden-Württemberg.

Ashwaq Haji Hamid arrived in the southwestern state with her family in 2015 through a programme aimed at assisting Yazidi women who had been subjected to violence by IS.

In 2014, IS committed what the UN concluded was a genocide of Yazidis in northern Iraq. The militant group also abducted scores of women and children, including Hamid, who were sold into slavery.

But while attempting to leave her past behind, she was confronted by her tormenter, who had kept her as a slave for 10 weeks.

“I ran away from Iraq so I would not see that ugly face and forget anything that reminds me of it, but I was shocked to see him in Germany,” Ashwaq Haji Hamid told InfoMigrants, a news site about migration run by DW, France Medias Monde and Italy’s ANSA agency.

“The first time was in 2016,” she said. “He was chasing me. He was the same person, but the second time, he came close to me and told me he knew everything about me.”

Deutsche Welle.

This tragic case raises the issue of how to prosecute Islamic state genociders.

Some of the members of the modern Einsatzgruppen who went and fought for Daesh have been found, some executed,  and others face prosecution.

Prosecuting the Islamic State Fighters Left Behind.

Jenna Consigli

 

In Syria, the SDF operates amid a civil war and depends on U.S. aid to maintain operations. It is reportedly holding 593 fighters from more than 45 countries, including Egypt, France, Germany, Morocco, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey.

For local IS fighters, the Kurdish enclave also holds no official legal authority complicating their ability to prosecute Syrian and Iraqi fighters. Still, the SDF set up counterterrorism courts, which have focused on reconciliation and prohibit the death penalty. In some cases, the SDF negotiated with local tribal leaders to have fighters released to face tribal tribunals. Though, the Kurds face an uncertain operating environment and overstretched prisons. Lack of adequate security has already allowed a number of ISIS fighters to escape.

In Iraq, out of the approximately 19,000 individuals detained for ISIS-related terrorism charges since 2014, some 1,350 are foreigners. Foreigners and citizens face quick trials, differing standards of evidence and harsh penalties. Iraq’s 2005 counterterrorism lawpermits judges to sentence anyone holding membership in a terrorist organization—regardless of their role—to death. As of March, more than 3,000 individuals had received the death penalty and many others faced life in prison for their involvement in the group. The Iraqi government now needs to delicately balance sectarian tensions. Building trust between citizens residing in formerly ISIS held territory and the Baghdad-led government remains its biggest challenge to permanently rooting out the Islamic State.

Western governments shifting responsibility to local forces to prosecute or indefinitely detain their citizens are unlikely to prevent these individuals from falling through judicial loopholes to reengage in jihadist activity. Especially for those detained in Syria, uncertainty about the country’s future and U.S. engagement creates potential for foreign fighters, like John Doe, to be released if they are not sent home. Such releases are likely to further destabilize an already volatile region.

Foreign fighters are known to exploit weak political and security environments to advance their jihadist agendas. If released, these fighters are likely to find another conflict zone to advance their violent ideology, disrupt communities and conduct attacks. Foreign fighters well versed in governance and combat will continue to pose a global threat, whether or not their citizenship is revoked. And if countries do not take responsibility for their citizens, the alternative—fighters further destabilizing other countries and taking advantage of civil unrest—feeds the cycle of terrorism.

Recall that those responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and subsequent strikes across Europe fought in foreign conflicts and formed global jihadist networks. While counterterrorism efforts have improved since 9/11, ISIS attacks across Europe, especially those in France in 2015, demonstrate that foreign fighters, and their networks, still pose a threat.

The U.S. and its allies need to choose a path for those who become Islamic State fighters. History has shown that leaving foreign fighters on the battlefield can have serious repercussions.

Daesh poses  the same kind of problem that came after the Second World War, of tracking down and prosecuting war criminals and those who took part in genocide.

This present case illustrates the difficulties faced: Two British ‘Beatles’ Islamic State Fighters Captured In Syria. They were part of the same group as ‘Jihadi John’.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 17, 2018 at 4:27 pm

Samir Amin (1931 – 2018) – from the Critique of Capitalist Development to the Rejection of Political Islam.

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Samir Amin, (1931 – 2018).

Tribute to Professor Samir Amin

This Sunday, August 12, 2018 we learned, with great sorrow and sadness, of the passing the eminent development economist Professor Samir Amin on the eve of his 87th birthday. An illustrious thinker, the late Samir Amin leaves behind a wealth of economic thought on developing economies that he has inspired since the early sixties by his many publications and thought-provoking conferences.

As its Director for 10 years (1970 – 1980), IDEP is particularly touched by the passing of one of its pioneer-directors who made an indelible mark in the history of IDEP through his accomplishments in training and research in the domains of development planning and economy management in Africa. His astute leadership enabled the institute to gain and strengthen its identity in the delivery of capacity development and research programs that were strongly tailored to fight against underdevelopment.

With Samir Amin, IDEP gained momentum and is proud to be continuing on with this momentum, almost forty years later, in delivering on its mandate of building the capacity of African countries to effectively plan for their development and efficiently manage their economies.

In this sad moment, we offer our condolences to his family and to the African continent, to which he has always devoted himself with remarkable zeal and dynamism.

United Nations Economic Commission on Africa.

In French (Amin was Franco-Egyptian):

Mort de l’économiste Samir Amin, figure de l’altermondialisme

Par LIBERATION, avec AFP — 

“UN BAOBAB EST TOMBÉ” : SAMIR AMIN, LE THÉORICIEN DU DÉVELOPPEMENT INÉGAL, EST MORT  l’Humanité.

Samir Amin, l’économiste du Sud, est mort Le Monde.

“Le Franco-Egyptien s’est illustré par son analyse critique du système économique mondial et par son engagement en faveur des pays du Tiers-Monde.”

Like many I first came across Amin through the debate on capitalism and underdevelopment.  My introduction was  ‘Unequal Development: An Essay on the Social Formations of Peripheral Capitalism‘ (1976 ). This was one of many books in which he developed the idea that, “how accumulation in advanced capitalist countries prevents development, however that may be defined, within the peripheral social formations, usually referred to as “underdeveloped” countries. Samir Amin ranks among those who realize the necessity not merely to comprehend the growing crisis of world capitalism, as it manifests itself within individual nation states, but also at the world level.”

A lucid and memorable tribute is given in Red Pepper,

Nick Dearden looks at the theories of one of Africa’s greatest radical thinkers

Samir Amin (1931-2018) was one of the world’s greatest radical thinkers – a ‘creative Marxist’ who went from Communist activism in Nasser’s Egypt, to advising African socialist leaders like Julius Nyerere to being a leading figure in the World Social Forum.

Samir Amin’s ideas were formed in the heady ferment of 1950s and ’60s, when pan-Africanists like Kwamah Nkrumah ran Ghana and Juliuys Nyrere Tanzania, when General Nasser was transforming the Middle East from Amin’s native Egypt and liberation movements thrived from South Africa to Algeria.

Africa looked very different before the International Monetary Fund destroyed what progress had been made towards emancipation and LiveAid created a popular conception of a continent of famine and fecklessness. Yet through these times, Amin’s ideas have continued to shine out, denouncing the inhumanity of contemporary capitalism and empire, but also harshly critiquing movements from political Islam to Eurocentric Marxism and its marginalisation of the truly dispossessed.

Global power

Amin believed that the world capitalism – a rule of oligopolies based in the rich world – maintains its rule through five monopolies – control of technology, access to natural resources, finance, global media, and the means of mass destruction. Only by overturning these monopolies can real progress be made.

This raises particular challenges for those of us who are activists in the North because any change we promote must challenge the privileges of the North vis-à-vis the South. Our internationalism cannot be expressed through a type of humanitarian approach to the global South – that countries in the South need our ‘help to develop’. For Amin, any form of international work must be based on an explicitly anti-imperialist perspective. Anything else will fail to challenge structure of power – those monopolies which really keep the powerful powerful.

Along with colleagues like Andre Gunder Frank, Amin see the world divided into the ‘centre’ and the ‘peripheries’. The role of peripheries, those countries we call the global South, is to supply the centres – specifically the ‘Triad’ of North America, Western Europe and Japan – with the means of developing without being able to develop themselves. Most obviously, the exploitation of Africa’s minerals on terms of trade starkly favourable to the centre will never allow African liberation, only continual exploitation.

This flies in the face of so much ‘development thinking’, which would have you believe that Africa’s problems come from not being properly integrated into the global economy which has grown up over the last 40 years. Amin believes in fact Africa’s problem stem from it being too integrated but in ‘the wrong way’.

In fact, as long as the monopolies of control are intact, countries of the centre have had few problems globalising production since the 1970s. Sweatshop labour now takes place across the periphery but it hasn’t challenged the power of those in the North because of their control of finance, natural resources, the military and so on. In fact, it has enhanced their power by reducing wages and destroying a manufacturing sector that had become a power base for unionised workers.

So there is no point whatever in asking countries of the centre to concede better trading relationships to the peripheries. Amin is also concerned at environmental activism which too often becomes a debate about how countries of the centre manage their control of the world’s resources, rather than challenging that control. It is vital that Northern activists challenge the means through which the ruling class in their own society exerts control over the rest of the world.

Amin’s views on political Islam brought him to the attention of many secularists, including this Blogger.

Political Islam in the Service of Imperialism 2007.  Monthly Review.

On an initial reading he offered a rigorous critique of Islamism.

All the currents that claim adherence to political Islam proclaim the “specificity of Islam.” According to them, Islam knows nothing of the separation between politics and religion, something supposedly distinctive of Christianity. It would accomplish nothing to remind them, as I have done, that their remarks reproduce, almost word for word, what European reactionaries at the beginning of the nineteenth century (such as Bonald and de Maistre) said to condemn the rupture that the Enlightenment and the French Revolution had produced in the history of the Christian West!

On the basis of this position, every current of political Islam chooses to conduct its struggle on the terrain of culture—but “culture” reduced in actual fact to the conventional affirmation of belonging to a particular religion. In reality, the militants of political Islam are not truly interested in discussing the dogmas that form religion. The ritual assertion of membership in the community is their exclusive preoccupation. Such a vision of the reality of the modern world is not only distressing because of the immense emptiness of thought that it conceals, but it also justifies imperialism’s strategy of substituting a so-called conflict of cultures for the one between imperialist centers and dominated peripheries.

The exclusive emphasis on culture allows political Islam to eliminate from every sphere of life the real social confrontations between the popular classes and the globalized capitalist system that oppresses and exploits them. The militants of political Islam have no real presence in the areas where actual social conflicts take place and their leaders repeat incessantly that such conflicts are unimportant. Islamists are only present in these areas to open schools and health clinics. But these are nothing but works of charity and means for indoctrination. They are not means of support for the struggles of the popular classes against the system responsible for their poverty.

On the terrain of the real social issues, political Islam aligns itself with the camp of dependent capitalism and dominant imperialism.

It is the latter assertion, which straightforwardly answers  the false assertion that Islamism contains a kind of sublimated ‘anti-imperialism’ which is attractive. This was clearly sensed by his critics who tried to claim that the reactionary nature of political Islam was hidden behind a “welfare” vision of society. While in many ways this seems strange perspective today in the light of the rule of Daesh,  Turkey may make the case for a synthesis between authoritarian populism and Islamist welfarism.

There were and are equally clear difficulties in claiming that  Islamism was in some unexplained manner not “really”anti-imperialist. Yet various forms of actually existing Islamism were engaged in armed combat with….imperialism well before they began murdering civilians outside of their own lands.

In the debate in Monthly Review that followed Amin was criticised in Analyzing Political Islam. A Critique of Traditional Historical Materialist Analytic by  2009

The point is that if the left is ever to become serious in challenging militant/political Islam, it has to move past and dump its heavy baggage of Eurocentrism and the careless analysis of political Islam. The current wave of militant Islam is a force to reckon with, and dismissing it as reactionary—true as it may be—is unhelpful. Yes, militant Islam has an extremely narrow ideological view of Islam, and an exceedingly oppressive vision of societal change, especially concerning the treatment of women.

This vision is not shared by the vast majority of Muslims in Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, and even India. That being said, this dominant obscurantist current of political Islam in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan is also locked in military/guerilla combat with U.S. imperial power and client states in the region.

But here’s the rub, militant Islam is also supported by people in these respective regions not, as mentioned earlier, because they support its vision of a Muslim “welfare state” rather, the support is because the United States is seen as ruthless, anti-Islam imperial occupier. Alongside, people in these states are also very tired of the tactics of Islamists, especially as they terrorize and target unarmed and uninvolved people. Overwhelming numbers in Muslim-majority states would like the Islamists to disappear, just as they would also wish the same for U.S. imperial presence and the client regimes that rule over them. If this complexity could be grasped, it may enable people on the left as well Western political leaders and the media to desist from homogenizing the makeup of entire Muslim-majority societies as reactionary or obscurantist.

Similarly, the popular anti-imperialist sentiment in Muslim majority states should not be confused with the actions of militant Islamists, which are not anti-imperialist. Militant Islam is conceived and imagined in the present, current context. It is, therefore, a “modern” manifestation that posits its own version of the Islamic “welfare state” for the current conjuncture to rival the Western capitalist state and Enlightenment notions of modernity. Understanding militant Islam in its current context will only enable the development of a coherent strategy of opposition and an alternative non-Eurocentric vision of society.

Comments on Tariq Amin-Khan’s text

Amin defended this analysis, focusing on how different forms of political Islam could be simultaneously ‘modern’, that is a part of a globalised world, and backward-looking, with their textual and ritual evocations of utopias.

Political Islam is a modern phenomenon. Tariq does not see that this was my thesis. All of the ideological, political and social movements of the “modern” world (i.e., of actually existing capitalism, which is both globalized and polarizing, thus imperialist by nature) are modern, because they are inseparable from capitalism. Bourgeois democratic liberalism, whether conservative or reformist, socialisms (social democracy, historical communisms), fascisms, ethnocentrisms (or para-ethnic movements), the nationalisms of the imperialist powers, the nationalisms through which dominated peoples express their resistance, movements of “religious renaissance” in all their forms, be it liberation theology, apparently “fundamentalist” revivals, both Christian and others, and new sects, all these movements are “modern”.

But it is not sufficient to understand them simply as modern. Even more, it is necessary to choose between them and identify those which move society forwards and, on the basis of a critique of capitalist modernity, participate in inventing socialist modernity.

As for the ‘welfarist’ aspect of political Islam,

the fact that the movements inspired by such formulations have recruited their rank and file from the most disadvantaged classes does not change the reactionary utopian character of these formulations. I include political Islam (even political Islams, in the plural), but also political Hinduism, political Buddhism, North American Christian fundamentalism, new sects and others, in this large family of illusions, apparently attached to the past (but in fact modern) and able to mobilize the “poor” in certain circumstances. Their success, like at the present moment, is the result of the failure of the relevant (socialist) lefts to oppose capital’s offensive, which has seized the historic opportunity provided by the erosion and then collapse of the progressive forces that had formed the world after the Second World War.

Amin was nevertheless primarily interested in the geopolitical game.

Describing the Middle East he stated in his original article on Political Islam that,

The region of the Greater Middle East is today central in the conflict between the imperialist leader and the peoples of the entire world. To defeat the Washington establishment’s project is the condition for providing the possibility of success for advances in any region of the world. Failing that, all these advances will remain vulnerable in the extreme. That does not mean that the importance of struggles carried out in other regions of the world, in Europe or Latin America or elsewhere, should be underestimated. It means only that they should be part of a comprehensive perspective that contributes to defeating Washington in the region that it has chosen for its first criminal strike of this century.

This view, which puts the conflict between ‘imperialism’ and the rest of the world, became more trenchant as the years went by.

During the Arab Spring he out the two, secularism and anti-imperialism, together and declared,

The ongoing U.S. project of military control over the planet by its armed forces, supported by their NATO lieutenants, the erosion of democracy in the imperialist core countries, and the medievalistical rejection of democracy within Southern countries in revolt (taking the form of “fundamentalist” semi-religious delusions disseminated by political Islam, political Hinduism, political Buddhism) all work together toward that dreadful outcome. At the current time the struggle for secularist democratization is crucial for the perspective of popular emancipation, crucial for opposition to the perspective of generalized barbarism.

2011: An Arab Springtime?

But imperialism came to play its role.

Counterpunch summarised his opinions in 2017.

A main pillar of Amin’s thought is that far from battling political Islam, the NATO and US have enabled such regional movements as a divide and conquer approach to maintaining power. This critique upends the dominant narrative of Uncle Sam’s war on terror as a noble pursuit.

According to Amin, since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the lone superpower has been spurring a “permanent civil war between Shiites and Sunnis, Arabs and Kurds.

What does all this mean?

Amin writes: “US armies have protected those who subsequently had to take the direction of the Daesh (or ISIL), the Caliph himself!”

In Russia and the Long Transition from Capitalism to Socialism, Amin presents a thought-provoking interpretation of Russian history in the global system. It involves geography and history and of course human agency.

He considers the Czarist Empire and the colonial empires, quite different. Further, Amin considers Lenin and Stalin and the Ukrainian crisis, the latter of which constitutes no small threat to widening armed conflict.

Russia remains a pivotal nation on the world stage, in spite of its capitalist restoration. Its importance as a counterbalance to the imperialism of the Triad (US, Europe and Japan) is Amin’s special focus, and for good reason.

For many  the belief that US was involved in the rise of Daesh seems an unproven and tied to conspiratorial claims about the  ‘sponsorship’ of the Islamic state made by supporters, amongst others, of the Assad regime.

Amin also made claims about the “le coup d’état euro-nazi de Kiev ” and, giving a name to the US involvement, stated that the Hillary Clinton had founded ISIS, “A ce propos la presse aux Etats Unis a reconnu que l’accusation portée par D. Trump à savoir que Hilary avait activement soutenu la mise en place de Daesh – était fondée.” (Samir Amin; l’élection de Donald Trump (25 / 11 / 2016) (1)

Amin, it might be said, failed to keep up with developments inside  Islamism. He ignored the self-driven ideological causes and nature of the Deash genocidal and totalitarian regime. There is a disregard for the weight of doctrine. There is no serious analysis of its relation to earlier forms of political Islam and the ideologies of radical Salifist currents that were drawn to jihad. There is nothing on the buds of tyrannical  “micro-powers” of Islamism dispersed across the world including within the ‘West’ and the way in which these can become ‘proto-states’ in trying to create a racist misogynist Caliphate.

In short, neither the ‘global jihad’ nor the blood-drenched reality of Islamist rule in Iraq and Syria, the Taliban and Boko Haram, the jihadis of the Maghreb and Mali,  and the Somalian killers, can be explained only in terms of geopolitical rivalries, or, as a regression to a pre-Enlightenment ‘utopia’ in modern political and technological armed dress.

Louis Proyect reflects on some of these issues here:  Samir Amin, dependency theory, and the multipolar world

Amin’s defence of a “multi-polar world” was nevertheless a positive vision of the future.

Beyond US Hegemony: Assessing the Prospects for a Multipolar World

A genuinely multipolar world will become a reality only when the following four conditions have been satisfied.

  •  Real advances towards a different, ‘social’ Europe, and hence a Europe that has begun to disengage from its imperialist past and present and to embark on the long transition to world socialism. Evidently this implies more than a mere exit from Atlanticism and extreme neoliberalism.
  • The prevalence of ‘market socialism’ in China over the strong tendencies to an illusory construction of ‘national capitalism’, which would be impossible to stabilize because it would exclude the majority of workers and peasants.
  •  Success of the countries of the South (peoples and states) in rebuilding a ‘common front’. This is also essential to provide the leeway for popular classes to impose ‘concessions’ in their favour and to transform existing systems of rule, replacing the dominant comprador blocs with new ‘national, popular and democratic’ blocs.
  •  Advances at the level of national and international legal systems, harmonizing respect for national sovereignty (including moves from state to popular sovereignty) with respect for all individual and collective, political and social rights.

Amin opposed the Muslim Brotherhood root and branch, “We should not just look at the Muslim Brotherhood as a political Islamist power but as a backward movement that rejects workers movements and social justice, preferring to talk about charity as a form to ensure their control over the people,” he once said, according to al-Ahram.” The New Arab.

Dearden puts Amin’s contribution best in these paragraphs,

Perhaps Amin’s central thesis is somewhat obvious, but it’s often forgotten – that a true revolution must be based on those who are being dispossessed and impoverished. But he goes further in undermining the assumption that any thinking emerging from the South will lack enlightenment, or that a lack of enlightenment should be excused.

He believes the Enlightenment was humanity’s first step towards democracy, liberating us from the idea that God created our activity. He has caused controversy in his utter rejection of political Islam. This ideology, embedded for example in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, obscures the real nature of society, including by playing into the idea that the world consists of different cultural groups which conflict with each other, an idea which helps the centre control the peripheries.

 

 

***********

(1) Again, opinion is perfectly manipulated on the subject. Jihadism is only the inevitable product of the triad’s continued support of reactionary political Islam inspired and financed by Gulf wahabism. The exercise of this so-called Islamic power is the best guarantee of the total destruction of the ability of societies in the region to resist the dictates of liberal globalization. At the same time, it offers the best pretext for giving the appearance of legitimacy to NATO’s interventions. In this regard the press in the United States acknowledged that Donald Trump’s accusation – that Hillary had actively supported the establishment of Daesh – was well founded.” Samir Amin Blog.

As ISIS Massacre in Sweida Druze call for “international force” protection as charges of Assad and Russian complicity surface.

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Druze Women Kidnapped by Daesh.

“She thinks reports of the demise of Isis are exaggerated and dangerous. “Every politician wants to be the one to prove he has made real headway against this group. Granted, 97% of the territory it held is now gone. But 3% is still around 1,000 square miles. That’s not a small amount of land. And its caliphate was never just Iraq and Syria. It was this global project. It is growing in Niger, it’s growing in Nigeria, it’s growing in Afghanistan, in Libya. It’s like seeds that have gone to the wind.”

Rukmini Callimachi: the podcasting terror expert getting into the minds of Isis.

Yazidis in Afrin forced to convert to Islam

5th of August. ANF News (Kurdish News Agency)

Occupation forces are forcing the Yazidi people in Basufane village of Afrin to send their children to mosque. Those refusing to do so are subjected to torture.

According to the sources, Yazidi citizens A.S. ve F. S. were tortured by the gangs because they refused to obey this imposition.

According to sources from Kaxira village of Mabata district, Furqat al-Hamzat gangs under the command of Abu Amsha have turned the village school into a center where religious lessons are lectured.

The house of villager Henan Ebdo stated has been turned into a mosque where children are given religious lessons. Another resident’s house has been burned down by the gangs.

Two months ago, the gangs tore down the Afrin Yazidi Union building, detonated the Zarathustra statue and burned the books about the Yazidi faith kept in the building.

After a New Massacre, Charges That ISIS Is Operating With Assad and the Russians

Daily Beast.   

The slaughter in the Druze region of Syria cost hundreds of lives last month. It happened after the Druze told the Russians they wouldn’t fight for Assad.

July 25 in the Syrian province of Sweida a massacre began in the early morning. Ten jihadists from the so-called Islamic State entered Sweida town. They wore the traditional baggy trousers and loose-fitting overgarments of Druze men, but beneath the clothes they had hidden explosive vests. Three detonated in the main vegetable market, then one of them accompanied the many injured to the hospital and set off his explosive charge there. The other six suicide bombers were overcome before they could detonate, according to senior officials in the Druze community.

At the same time, hundreds of ISIS fighters entered three nearby villages, moving house-by-house slitting throats and shooting to death men, women and children. Some reported that the killers left a witness from each family alive to tell their hideous story. In all, 273 Druze were killed and 220 injured, Druze officials told us.

They strongly suspect that the attack by ISIS was carried out in cooperation with the Russian-backed Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, and this is corroborated to some extent by ISIS prisoners we have interviewed who are being held by U.S.-allied Kurdish forces here in northern Syria.  The Druse politicians and officials came here to try to forge an alliance with like-minded Kurds for mutual self-protection, which is when they told us the details of the massacre.

The horror of the Sweida massacre in an area most considered safe—and in these last moments when ISIS rule in Syria appears to be all but over—was magnified when the Druze learned that some of their women and children had been taken captive by ISIS cadres. “Most of the Daesh attackers were killed,” a Druze official told us. “The only escapees were those who were kidnapped in the first village: 29 women, teenagers and babies.”

One 19-year-old student already has been beheaded by ISIS, which also quickly posted pictures of their Druze female captives and demanded that the Syrian regime stop attacking them and exchange ISIS prisoners held by the regime for these women and children.

In addition to the sensational pictures of the helpless women holding their hands above their heads in the desert, ISIS sent a video of one of their Druze captives, 35-year-old A Shalguinz, who delivered her baby in the desert.

“Daesh said they will make them sabaya [slaves] if the regime doesn’t’ give 100 prisoners to them and the regime refused,” one of our interlocutors told us.

The article, by respected reporters of the horrors of the Syrian events gives details of why the Druze suspect Syrian state complicity.

“We think there is complicity between Daesh and the regime,” another of the Druze leaders said. “It’s so obvious to us. The regime refused to send ambulances to assist the population. They cut the electricity as well and the local telephone service to make it difficult to communicate. They couldn’t cut the mobiles.”

One of the 10 captured ISIS attackers admits on an interrogation video shared by the Druze leaders that in the village massacres a man from the Syrian government guided them from house to house, knocking on the doors and calling the inhabitants by name so they would unwittingly open their doors to the ISIS attackers.

This is the heartfelt conclusion,

The leaders of Druze mountain tell us that they are now also appealing to the international community to be protected by an international force, as the Kurdish area is protected by the Americans, and to assist them to bring back the kidnapped women to their families.

“To safeguard our community and to protect the diversity in the future of Syria, we need to create a crescent against aggressors,” said one of the politicians. Running from north to south, including parts of Iraq, it would protect the Kurds, the Yazidis, Christians, and Druze. “The minorities are looking to the Coalition as the only credible force in the area,” he said, adding, “The crescent strategically speaking would also cut the Iranians from access to the regime.”

The world must decide whether or not to respond, but the record thus far does not hold out much hope.

Background:

Lebanon’s Druze leader attacks Syrian government over massacre

Reuters 27th of July.

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The main leader of the Druze sect in Lebanon on Friday attacked the Syrian government for failing to stop an Islamic State massacre of Druze in Syria, saying it should have noticed the militants gathering to attack.

No one can tell me that the squadrons of many American, Russian and foreign planes did not see this gathering which suddenly took the regime by surprise and raided Jebel al-Arab,” said Walid Jumblatt.

Islamic State’s assault on the city of Sweida and nearby villages in the Jebel al-Arab area on Thursday killed more than 200 people, many of them civilians.

Syrian state media said the army had intervened and battled the militants with both ground forces and air strikes.

Jumblatt, who heads the largest Druze political party in Lebanon, is a strong critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Other Druze parties are pro-Damascus.

The Kurdish led YPG issued this statement,

People’s Defense Units (YPG) Press Office released a statement condemning the ISIS attack in Suwayda city of Syria.

The statement by YPG Press Office reads as follows;

On July 25, more than 250 people were killed and hundreds more got injured due to IS attack on the Druze people in the city of Suwayda. During the attacks, hundreds of other people, mostly women, were kidnapped by IS. The attack carried out through suicide bombings and the following random shootings, caused us great sorrow.

The attack reveals once again the true face of IS and shows clearly that this terrorist group must be destroyed as soon as possible. IS terrorist organization continues its existence as a threat to the Syrian and all Middle Eastern peoples. As People’s Defense Units we will continue to intensify our efforts to struggle against the IS. As YPG-YPJ defense forces, we will continue our struggle in every place where the IS terrorism is present. We once again emphasize our determination to fulfill our responsibility concerning protection of all the peoples of Syria, including the Druze people, and we declare that we are ready to protect them everywhere where it will be necessary. This attack is as burdensome and painful as an attack on Kobanê and Cizir for us.

We give our condolences and respect to the Druze people, to those who lost their lives in this massacre.”

There is an entire Wikipedia pages in English, and in French on these massacres:  2018 As-Suwayda attacks.  Attaques de Soueïda.

The lack of an international response led the French weekly Marianne to write with indignation:

SILENCE, DAECH MASSACRE LES DRUZES

Written by Andrew Coates

August 11, 2018 at 12:29 pm

Today is the Anniversary of the Yazidi Genocide.

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SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN AIMS FOR AWARENESS ON 4TH ANNIVERSARY OF YAZIDI GENOCIDE

Activists on social media hope to raise awareness for thousands of missing people kidnapped by ISIS in 2014, hold events around the world and online.

 

Absolute solidarity and love to the Yazidi people.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 3, 2018 at 11:22 am