Dec 8, 2006

Hindu Fascism

The excellent blog sketchythoughts recently posted an interview with a South Asian antifascist living in New York City, along with an analysis of the interview. The whole thing is worth reviewing, but in particular the questions it prompts around the class composition of fascist movements. Based on his experiences fighting Hindu fascism in North America, the interviewee concludes that wealthier segments of the Indian population in the diaspora are more supportive of Hindu fascism than are working class or poor folks.

“Mathew explains that the Hindu far-right draws most of its support from the well educated professional middle class. Not surprisingly, this is in direct contradiction to the liberal myth that it is the “backwards” and poor classes which are drawn to fascism – while i certainly don’t want to pretend that the global far right is homogenous, there are many many other examples of fascism growing within the most “advanced” and “modern classes,” regardless of the traditionalist drag they may hid behind.”

This may well be the case, but it would be interesting to research the question more fully, and to think about the differences between fascist movements in exile/diaspora and those in the “fatherland,” so to speak. Some commentators (mostly from the right) seem to make a similar point in the case of Islamic fascism – whether or not the term is used with any precision. That is, the support base for Al-Qaeda and other groupings is thought to be largely in the underclasses in the middle east and Central/South Asia, while many of the targets of counter-terrorism investigations in the US and Europe are educated, often wealthy, immigrants from the middle east or Central/South Asia. I don’t know whether this assessment is accurate (in either the Hindu or Muslim cases), and I’m not sure what all the implications would be for anti-fascism, but it’s worth pursuing.

Dec 7, 2006

Stan Goff on the Crisis of Authoritarian Socialism in the U.S.

Stan Goff, Special Forces militarist turned Marxist, has put out a new piece critiquing Marxism-Leninism (M-L) concepts and models as a way of building revolutionary movements. His critique centers on the centralizing and rigid traditions of M-L politics, contrasting them with more decentralized and experimental forms of organization and resistance.

I came across this piece while viewing the blog, Red Flags, a Maoist oriented blog that is a fellow political traveler to the Revolutionary Communist Party. While I have no political sympathy with most of Red Flags politics, I can appreciate the blog administrators attempt to stimulate discussion and debate around revolutionary ideas and practice. Red Flags is also a fairly non-sectarian blog although many of it's more consistent commenting vistors are unabashedly authoritarian and uphold the Stalinist tradition as a model of politics.

Goff's piece, while aimed at the Marxist Left, is worth reading by those coming from the libertarian tradition for it's asking how to bring "an effective politics of resistance into being".

From the article, Doctrine by S. Goff

It is the organizing principle of the "Leninist Party" that still carries the day, democratic centralism, and the method inhering in that organizational model, which requires "the line", which I have come to believe is responsible not merely for a failure of the left to gain a consistent foothold among the broad masses, but which is - more significantley - an illusion that "the left", as we define it, is the only appropriate vehicle to carry out the transformation of society. This illusion is shared by many elements in what we widely call the left, that "correct ideas lead to correct practice", yet we have never questioned the whole notion of correctness, with its hubristic assumptions of cookie-cutter universality...

By and large, we remain trapped in the development paradigm, which still fails to grasp energy physics as the zero-sum game that it is, and establishes goals that would leave the masses at the mercy of machines and bureaucrats. This has not only led us to remain insular; it continually leads us into competition for people and resources with more organic efforts that have more traction and relevance than the projects flowing out of our DC process, making a fetish of collectivity, and stifling individual initiative and the creativity that goes with it.

Dec 1, 2006

Uprising or Civil War in Mexico

"we do not recognize the official president or the legitimate one. What happens at the top does not matter at all to us. What matters is what will arise from below. When we carry out this uprising, we will do away with the entire political class, including those who call themselves the ‘parliamentary leftists'."

more at Narco News

Nov 29, 2006

Social critic and author Mike Davis writes that in the growing world of urban slums,

"Marx has yielded the historical stage to Mohammed and the Holy Ghost. If God died in the cities of the industrial revolution, he has risen again in the postindustrial cities of the developing world.

Today, populist Islam and Pentecostal Christianity... occupy a social space analogous to that of early twentieth-century socialism and anarchism... where... Islamist movements like Justice and Welfare... have become the real governments of the slums: organizing night schools, providing legal aid to victims of state abuse, buying medicine for the sick, subsidizing pilgrimages, and paying for funerals.

And indeed, a Justice and Welfare activist recognized that 'confronted with the neglect of the state, and faced with the brutality of daily life, people discover, thanks to us, solidarity, self-help, fraternity. They understand that Islam is humanism'."

Nov 28, 2006

Terraces & Peripheries: Left Snobbery & the Radical Right

An examination of far-right influence within Italian soccer and wider realms of the "peripheries".

from the article,

"In its renunciation of everything, the left has ended up regarding it as inappropriate to maintain any kind of organic link with the 'people', who by definition are not (and never have been) very presentable in sophisticated settings, whether economic or intellectual. The result, as everyone who takes the trouble to do the least work on the ground will easily find out, is quite depressing. In the peripheries, the left is perceived, without too many fine distinctions, as one of the various faces of the 'centre', people who come from outside, who live a gilded life out there (or so it seems) in the world of inclusion, of individuals, of post-work and post-something, but who have nothing to do with those for whom every day is a struggle".

Nov 16, 2006

The Three-Way Fight and militant antifascism: a short review

A communiqué from a group of western U.S. antifascists recently appeared on the international class struggle anarchist news website, anarkismo. The communiqué adopts the concept of a Three Way Fight. From the title and language it is clear that the authors have followed and find an affinity with some of the concepts and debates associated with this blog. The following review of the communiqué is more tangential than in-depth, and should not be taken as an endorsement of the communiqué.

The authors (who situate themselves politically as participants in the anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist movement) argue that there is a contemporary radical fascism that is “extremely hostile to bourgeois democracy and capitalism” as well as to the “egalitarian, anti-authoritarian values” of the authors’ own movement. This perspective parallels that of other radical and libertarian antifascists who have attempted to draw attention to the autonomous, popular and insurgent aspects of fascist movements - those historical as well as contemporary. These are sometimes seen as characteristics of a fascism in its movement developing stages as opposed to fascism in power.

This autonomous characteristic is important and often ignored (or denied) by much of the Left. Seeing fascism as a movement that is opposed to the current order helps explain why many disaffected people – middle, working, poor - are attracted to it. We can also see how such a movement can develop in the void of State order, with the reactionary forces constructing their own governing system complete with economies, defined social relations, and policing mechanism like militias.

While the authors do not deny the links sometimes existing between fascists and agencies of the State, they attempt to define fascism as being more than a pejorative for strategic approaches by a ruling class on the defensive. They describe modern fascism as a heterogeneous political consciousness based on a hyper-authoritarianism and myths for a national rebirth. These fascist ideas appeal to sectors of global society who feel alienated and marginalized by neo-liberal globalization. A central argument of the authors is made when they state,

“It can only be expected that as global capitalism continues to dominate and alienate more people, the various forms of fascism, like anti-authoritarianism, will continue to gain ground, though not necessarily at a comparable pace… A global economic or ecologic crisis will send a lot of people looking for answers, and some people will find the superficial self-serving answers they are looking for in fascism”

This is an extremely important position. One, it proposes that the emergence of a fascist consciousness is the product of peoples own choices, based on their own experiences in the face of prevailing socio-economic conditions, rather than their thoughts being a manufactured ideology imposed from outside (although fascism certainly is an ideology about a final imposition of values and social patterns). Two, it makes clear that anti-authoritarians are facing an opposition other than the current State.

At this point the communiqué transitions into an argument for the necessity of armed defense (offense?) against fascism. The authors use two examples to illustrate their point. The first is the 1979 Greensboro Massacre and the second is the emergence of armed White militias in New Orleans immediately following the Hurricane Katrina.

Not having any fundamental differences with either the examples that the authors outline or the political framework they are laying out, I still have some reservations and questions regarding the communiqué.

Admittedly I was prepared to not like the piece. Within the radical antifascist camps there is a tendency to emphasize the action component over the more difficult development of ideas and analysis. In part, this is because much of the U.S. Left only gives lip service to militancy and the use of force when necessary, especially in combating fascists. While politicos want to argue politics into a coma, radical antifascists understand the urgency and need for “direct action”, now, and not after the speeches and paper sales. Still, this overemphasis can easily become an over-hyping, a self justifying of the antifascist groups existence, where action gets center stage and the more difficult development of political positions is put off or superficially developed.

The result is that ideas and strategies within the antifascist movements become stunted. The lack of ongoing and critical dialogue (internal and external to the movement’s organizations) can lead to general confusion over what the struggle is about, and possibly, and unfortunately all to often, sections of the movement adopting exaggerated and potentially dangerous stances.

The title of the communiqués, Armed Resistance and Militant Anti-Fascism, and the articles emphasis on armed action, initially, reinforced what I was expecting.

The article does, if only briefly, attempt to elaborate a position, a position that is at odds with much Left conceptions of fascism. The authors then cite examples of antifascist work that attempts to build more broadly and build semi-popular action.

In the communiqué the author’s state,

“The presence of whites and blacks working together to defend a community against the racist militias was often cited locally by residents as having helped ease the tensions in a racially and economically divided area that was devastated before Katrina ever came ashore. The militia’s power had been clearly diminished after facing armed opposition, and their power withered away as free medical clinics and aid distribution sites were developed into full operations”

There is no doubt that the action cited here defended a community against racist terror attacks. The authors point out that residents working with antifascists created new spaces for survival. This organizing, with real risks involved, is an essential in creating a radical consciousness (individual as well as collective) that defies the State’s logic. This autonomous action prepares people to act independently and can prefigure more substantial breaks with the State in the future.

Still, the armed component of the communiqué resonates louder than the examples of intersections between conscious antifascists and a community under attack. Perhaps the article is not intended to be a full analysis – it is fairly short – but I think that the possible result is that the action side of things becomes itself the political strategy.

Next, I ask what is the reason for the release of the communiqué? A survey of U.S. antifascist activity through news, periodicals or websites shows little discussion of militant antifascist action beyond street protest. While this alone makes such a communiqué valuable, I’m still trying to see what the overall message being put forth is. The piece lays out an important analysis of modern fascism, but I am compelled to ask (once again) if they aren’t overemphasizing the armed action component of antifascist struggle? Do the authors assume that domestic fascists and “proto” fascists are preparing for violent force against their opposition? Against anti-racist campaigns? Are the authors announcing in not so many words that they would be ready and capable of repelling an attack or there is a need to start organizing armed antifascist militias? Or was the communiqué only issued to draw out lessons from past and present antifascist activity? Perhaps all of the above.

Given the poverty of contemporary and radical antifascist analysis the communiqué should be looked over and debated. I hope these initial thoughts spark some of that.

Nov 14, 2006

War Within The HammerSkin Nation

The S.P.L.C. has just published a new report on the factionalism within the neo-Nazi "skinhead" movement. The report details the rise of the Vinlander Social Club/Blood and Honour U.S.A, from rogue element within the movement, to a potential dominant trend opposing the traditional leadership of the Hammerskin Nation.

The VSC/B&H have made clear their dissatisfaction and contempt for previous forms of neo-Nazi organization and are seeking to form new relationships and networks.

From the B&H U.S.A. website,

"There are conflicts raging on the Nationalist scene. At times, bitter ones have made enemies out of former friends. Alliances change and many feel frustrated from the disunity. We are not going to act as a hammer of one position against another. Still, we have our views on all matters, which we will not compromise. And we have our friends, who we shall not abandon for the sake of fragile peace and make-believe harmony. We believe in Direct Action, Leaderless Resistance and National revolution. We base that belief, not only on the company we keep, but we take this radical, often lonely and always dangerous stand because we have seen the failures of the old ways. And the entities and ideas which failed at the peak of their strength can hardly be picked up and polished as a new alternative for the future, which will surely become far more alarming and oppressive times."

The report issued by the S.P.L.C. is important because it's documenting internal shifts - organizational and political - that may alter the neo-Nazi scene fundamentally. But that said, one must read the report with a critical and suspicious eye. The S.P.L.C., while hailed by many anti-racists for their research and lawsuits against fascists and the far-right, is an unofficial organ of the federal government. An article from the now defunct ARA Research Bulletin describes them this way,

"The Southern Poverty Law Center has quietly gone about filling a special role in government monitoring. As a private organization wrapped in the banner of Civil Rights, it carries out political surveillance that current u.s. law forbids the f.b.i., a.t.f. and other police agencies from doing".

Unfortunately, radical anti-fascists have developed to few investigative apparatus, and even fewer media outlets dedicated to research and analysis. If the radical and anti-system antifas are to be truely independent, then there is gonna have to be serious work put in to building autonomous infrastructures. The S.P.L.C., A.D.L, and those who would work with them, are unreliable and ultimatley at odds with us.

Nov 11, 2006

Intra-Ruling Class Conflict? - Pt 2

An article by James Petras was emailed to me this past Monday. Although the article is pre-midterm elections by just a few days , I think Tuesday's outcomes give strength to aspects of Petras' postions, notably, that pressure from the public sphere will play a manipulatable role in the confrontation between the ruling class strategy Baker represents and that of the NeoCons.

I think a weakenss of Petras' argument (or, at the least, that which I dont fully accept) is his continual refering to NeoCon as the ZionCon. With the way Petras employs the term one would assume that the primary basis of that neoCon thought which has been the overwhelming dynamo of the Bush administration is that it is a NeoCon ideology devised solely to support Israel. Petras ignores NeoCon thought that emphasis nation-building premised on Western democratic morals and culture. I see the Bush clique as an at times contradictory combination of secular NeoCon thought and the mesianic fundamentalism of the pro-Zionist Christian Right. I question if Petras dosent overestimate the later as the defining element of recent U.S. foriegn policy.

From, Texas Versus Tel Aviv: US Policy in the Middle East:

If Baker has moved methodically and prudently toward a re-orientation of US policy from the line pushed by the ZCCM (Zioncons), he has done so by carefully organizing an army of researchers, experts and notables whose reports will be distilled into a series of policy proposals which will argue for a ‘winning empire-building strategy’ as opposed to the current impasse and decline of empire. Baker knows first hand the power of the Zioncon configuration and therefore it is highly unlikely that he will openly attribute the current disastrous course of policy to the subordination of US policy to the interests of the State of Israel. Instead he has established an organizational apparatus whose composition in fact excludes the Zioncons, and therefore re-establishes US imperial interests as the centerpiece of policy-making. Likewise Baker will not directly confront Rumsfeld, Chaney, Rice, Elliot Abrams and the other civilian-militarists in power; instead he will present a series of findings and proposals, which will be incompatible with their tenure in office. Baker is counting on the growing majority of Republican and Democratic Congress-members questioning current policy, a shift in the mass media, growing dissent among active Generals, career State Department and Pentagon officials, sectors of the economic elite and massive repudiation by public opinion to force the Rumsfeld-Hadley-Abrams power center out of office and their replacement by officials and advisers more open to a new approach to the Middle East.

Nov 9, 2006

Dr. Strangelove Out, CIA Big Boss In

As mentioned in a previous blog post, James Baker's Iraq Study Group, has been brought in to review the Occupation and provide some direction.

Donald "Strangelove" Rumsfeld's quick resignation yesterday was perhaps less to do with voter displeasure with the war than as part of the Baker plan. Bush's nomination of former CIA boss, Robert Gates, came almost instantaneously with Dr. Strangelove's announcement of departure, perhaps illustrating that the shuffle was conceived of in advance of the midterm election. And given that Gate's is himself a member of the Iraq Study Group, the probability ratio for the scenario is only heightened.

from, San Francisco Chronicle
CHANGING COURSE: Rumsfeld out Iraq strategy, Pentagon policy will be shaken up, analysts say.

Nov 8, 2006

A Massacre

As the Dems and their supporters whoop it up and party, their Israeli friends are bombing Palestinians. Even beauracrat al Fatah boss/ Palestinian Authority president Abu Mazen declared a massacre and three days of national mourning at what the U.S. backed I.D.F. did yesterday.

Early Wednesday morning Israeli tanks launched an artillery attack on the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun killing 19, including a family of 13, seven of whom were children. In total, 70+ Beit Hanoun residents have been murdered by the I.D.F since the offensive began last week. Another 300+ have been injured.

Although Ehud Olmert ushered out an statement with regrets for any innocent loss of life in the I.D.F. operation, it is nothing given the continual and overwhelming assaults the Israeli State has leveled against Gaza.

In response to the attack Hezbollah’s Secretary-General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said,

"Once again we are shaken by the images of limbs and blood and tears ... and the world stands silent…Where are the Arabs? Where are the Arab rulers? ... Where is the scream of anger in the face of the butchers to repel them and make them feel that continuing to kill will bring them to their end?"

The response by Nasrallah is not untypical for him. He often has condemned Arab governments for their lackeyism and refusal to intervene on the side of the Palestinians. Nasrallah’s speeches and Hezbollah’s ability to engage the I.D.F. and remain undefeated (although not militarily victorious either) has gained Hezbollah much sympathy from diverse quarters – Arab, non-Arab, Islamic, secular, Right and Left.

So as the Dems celebrate, the killings go on.

Nov 7, 2006

Thoughts on the vote and why some do or don't do it

Alright, every politico has heard the line, "If voting changed anything it would be illegal". I won’t bore with more stale rhetoric trying to justify the quote. Instead I’ll put this forward: there are a lot of people who DO vote because they want change. They get involved in campaigns or they get in conversations at work or in the union or in their schools or at home, they want to be involved so they vote. They might flier or they put up signs in their yards or they might even have an informational event at their homes.

People, on varying levels, are concerned about the future of themselves, their families and the life of their communities. They want to see things done about: schools that are overcrowded and under-funded; what they will do in the future because their major town employer is closing up shop and moving overseas to take advantage of the heavier exploited labor pool; how their going to keep well when their healthcare coverage is inadequate or simply non-existent; trying to hold back the continued downward slide of the disparities between people don’t have much and people who have more than enough; not wanting to see increased border militarization; an end to the war and occupation of Iraq… You get the picture. These are real issues weighing heavily on peoples minds. And many people still think “democracy”, and making moves on what they most are concerned with, comes through casting their vote. I think this is understandable.

I say understandable because there are few examples of contemporary U.S. non-electoral organizing movements that can demonstrate the ability to force a win in their demands (large and small) on an independent political basis (or, even if they don’t win, people continue to see the potentials in their own activity). Even when there are organizing drives that are based within the grassroots, to often they are not participatory and allowing for maximum input and formulation of direction from the base – unions are notorious for this line of action where goals and strategy are set by the leadership and the base is asked to ratify without having full discussion and debate of the issues at hand. So, all of us being accustomed to this top-down format often see the ballot as a way to have a say - small, but a say nonetheless.

Many anarchists point towards low voter turnouts as an indicator of people’s anger or alienation from the “system”. While many don’t vote, more often it has less to do with a conscious rejection of the system as it has to do with apathy. Yes, I know that there is a slice of the populace who are active/action oriented in various ways and abstain from voting (I’m one of them), but for a good many who don’t vote, unfortunately, they are not likely to be found working within collective projects: sorry, but apathy is not a coherent expression of anti-system politics - it is more cynicism and despair often coupled with the notions of, “I have to concern myself with my own happiness and getting what I need – so FTW and all those schemes of trying to right the wrongs, because nothing is going to change.”, or something to this effect.

But the apathetic are understandable, too. They see anti-system politics, challenging the authority, and ideas of fundamental rearrangement of society as pie in the sky utopianism. Those who do know history see movements having come and gone and people having their lives lost or wasted for ideas. They say the dreamers, organizers and rebels fought the good fight, but where did it get them other than in trouble or dead. And in the end things still look bad if not worse. So why waste precious moments trying to change things that arent ever going to change? The politics of dog-eat-dog individualism overrides the politics collectivism. But once again, this is all understandable although unfortunate.

Until, movements arise that demonstrate the need and ability to move beyond the ballot, breaking with the system and it’s values, then many will continue to participate in the voting process.

Until, situations unfold creating space in which individuals re-evaluate their relationship with society and through a personal evaluation come to participate in projects with a vision for collective action, then political apathy and the capitalist mentality of competition and pursued personal satisfaction will remain.

So in the mean time, what? Aiding in the erosion of public trust in governemt and beauracrats while simultaneously working to build autonomus networks in neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools. We need to be building cultural institutions that promote working class pride while antagonistic to authority and their representatives. We need to popularize emerging struggles and connect them with struggles in other regions and locales if and when possible. We must continuously push for the greatest reforms by forcing concessions from the State, while never relying on reforms as an end. Never allowing the rules of the system to define our objectives or strategy… and, while not berating those who do vote, always expressing why the vote will never get us in a position of having a real say and control over our lives.

And with that said, a few closing words from the band Chumbawamba's album, Never Mind The Ballots:

Here's To The Rest Of Your Life
Why settle for what we're shown, When there is so much more
Sometimes the book of law is only half the story
The choice seems obvious, There is no choice
Only the option of looking outside
This narrow definition of what you see is all there will ever be
There comes a time--that time is now when every second, every day when every action, every thought will tell the world how you cast your vote

They break our legs, And we say thank you when they offer us crutches
They break our legs, And we say thank you when they offer us crutches

Tired of mild reform, Sick of hand-me-downs
We topple all the theories to the ground
All real change must come from below
Our bosses must live in fear of the factory floor

And when they smile and they ask for my support
I'll give them these words and a bloody nose
You don't help your enemy when you're at war!

There are moments in all of our lives:
Tiny sparks still deep inside
When a new-born baby cries
When you're watching clouds in a summer sky
The first time you walked out on strike
Love and sex and holding tight
Things that can't be bought by promises and votes

I hate the straight-jacket schools I grew up in
I hate MPs, judges, and magistrates
I hate being taught to base my life on TV stars
I hate being kept waiting by bureaucrats
I hate wars, and all the people who love them
I hate the idea of living on other people's backs
I hate being filed and registered and classified
I hate being watched and monitored
I hate police
I hate the way you talk down at me
I hate being told what to do
I hate you when you don't listen
I hate the way you distort my sexuality with pornography
I hate the pain we inflict on each other, on animals, and on the earth
And I hate how love songs have become cliches Through endless, shallow repetition

Each angry word, Every cynical put-down, Every song is carefully born from a hope of something better to come
Dreams make the plans to change this world not just some future heaven
But today and every day
In our place of work, In the queue for the metro bus
Organize!Here's the rest of our lives!

Nov 2, 2006

Communique from APPO


In these moments, the Federal Police (PFP) are trying to enter Ciudad Universitaria (the university facilities in Oaxaca), they have launched tear gas inside and some elements have entered the premesis. Before these facts which violate any judicial orders including University Autonomy, which the Autonomous University Benito Juárez, in Oaxaca, won after a great student struggle, and which cost the lives of many of their best students.

The Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca makes the energetic call for the absolute defense of Ciudad Universitaria. We cannot permit that these university students be assaulted by the forces of occupation that the despots of the PFP have become.

We call the people of Oaxaca to the absolute defense of Ciudad Universitaria, en past days we have called for the peaceful withdrawal from the points where the APPO were established, and we did that to demonstrate the APPO’s disposition towards dialogue in this conflict, despite the fact that the government of Fox and Calderón, evidenced by the invasion of federal troops, was not. We showed ourselves to be prudent, willing to dialogue, the invading forces were not assaulted, and we only called for peaceful resistance; all of our actions were carried our in an orderly and peaceful manner, we ordered withdrawal so as not to fall into provocations, we called for people not to fall into confrontations with the PFP despite their aggressions. But as imperialist lackeys, you, Fox and Calderón, confuse prudence with weakness, peacefulness with cowardice, and thinking that the people of Oaxaca are a cowardly people, you are trying to put an end to them.


Oct 31, 2006

Debate on death, privledges, and responsibility

As is being reported in the anti-authoritarian press, a young anarchist and journalist from the U.S. was shot and killed by government agents in Oaxaca. Bradley Will was working with Indy Media and helping to publicize the struggle in Oaxaca. He was killed while reporting on street fighting.

The debate within some circles is over why has so much attention been payed to Bradley while other comrades who have been murdered has largely been ignored - or so it seems. Bradley's death has definitely galvanized many U.S. anarchists to organize Oaxaca support, and in some cities anarchists and other militants have stormed Mexican Consulates.

When the Oaxaca struggle has been ongoing for almost 6 months, it has received only minimal attention and support from many anti-authoritarians here in the U.S., even though it is only a few days drive from the southwest territories of this country. It is fair to ask and offer up criticism's regarding why the support for our comrades in Oaxaca has been minimal. While I sympathize wth Bradley's friends and comrades who are turning his memory in to a part of their organizing, I am critical of the fact that he is being held up as a martyr. Some organizing groups are calling their demonstrations "Direct Action at Mexican Consulate for Brad Will and Oaxaca". A better expression against the Mexican governments repression would to be holding up all the martyrs of Oaxaca equally.

Still, I think this question reflects on a larger issue facing the radical and revolutionary libertarian movement in this country - why have we as a movement offered up minimal responses and organizing on a general scale over the last 4 years. There was so much momentum moving into this millennium post-Seattle. The enthusiasm and energy seems to have turned into confusion and a malaise. Personally, I think we as a movemnet are in a state of ideological and strategic crisis, and that the unfortuante death of comrades like Bradley jilt peoples minds and make this reality much more evident.

Revolt in Oaxaca

Oaxaca is in the midst of revolt and resistance. A mass of the residents united in popular assemblies have termed Oaxaca City an independent and self managed commune (relating it to the Paris Commune of 1871), the APPO. The popular assemblies took form when citizens joined in and aided with striking teachers from Section 22 of the Síndicato Nacionál Trajabadores Educativas (Teachers Union) who were attacked by security forces loyal to Oaxaca's ruling Governor. The initial teachers strike and subsequent attack on it by government (and paramilitary) forces happened earlier this summer. The popular assemblies and it Commune have continued since.

The assemblies are semi-mass bodies, multi-tendency, and have functioned as a dual power in Oaxaca. Workers, students, Leftists, anarchists have all participated in the Communes organization and life.

This past weekend security forces attacked yet again and killed several people including a U.S. based anarchist and journalist.

Oaxaca, like other regions of Mexico that have experienced revolt againstst the Mexican government, are highly influenced by both the legacy of Zapatista struggle and of radical syndicalism (which has a long history of participatory politics and libertarian socialism in Mexico going back to the anarchist unions and radicals like the Magon brothers).

In a world where the Left resistance continues to be inspired and characterizeded by centralized and authoritarian parties, Oaxaca and the struggle in Mexico represents the popular and libertarian spirit of revolt. Oaxaca representsts an example of a resistance not bound by the cult of authority - vanguard or parliamentary.

Oct 19, 2006

intra ruling-class conflict?

Looks like the Trilateralists are stepping in to put the brakes on the NeoCon's revolution. James Baker is head of a bi-partisan commission that is accessing the war in Iraq. The commission, The Iraq Study Group, is suspected to announce after the midterms that the mission to bring "democracy" to Iraq (and by extension the surrounding region) is an unattainable goal under current circumstances. The commission is expected to suggest some of the following: a possible carving up of Iraq along sectarian lines creating a confederation of provinces; a withdrawal of U.S. /coalition troops; negotiating amnesty for insurgents. These would-be plans fly in the face of NeoCon/Bush rhetoric and has Press Secretary Tony Snow saying these recommendations would be "nonstarters".

The significance, I think, is that the NeoCons understood that Iraq and subsequent attempts at "nation building" would jeopardize U.S. interests and stability - risks that would not go over well with citizens here is the capitalist centers who have become accustomed to lifestyles that, in large and small part, have been built on the back of global looting, and who (generally) don’t wake up to the sound of bombs and machine gun fire. The NeoCon's are not nationalists and they base many of their concepts on a global restructuring of political and social relations. This restructuring could well mean (and probably in fact does) that the U.S. and other leading capitalist metropolis' will have to adjust and alter.

The NeoCon line as articulated by the present administration combined post-9/11 "War against Terror" with U.S. duty to spread so-called Euro-Enlightenment ideas of democracy. This combination was hoped to undercut any question that war and it's subsequent price-to-pay would put stress on the national infrastructure. For the NeoCon's, their course was no guaranteed success and they did not hold hegemony within the ruling class, they had an ear with the Bush administration. But their program was a gamble. As the war and occupation becomes for the public glaringly brutal and seemingly endless, now perhaps we will be seeing more open political conflict and dissention amongst the bosses.

When I saw this picture of Condi and Abu Mazan, taken during Condi's most recent Mid East venture, a speech by El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X) came to mind. Malcolm contrasts the “House Negro” with the “Field Negro”. Malcolm makes it clear that he and the masses, the oppressed, are from the field.

These two "leaders" are definitley not coming from the field.

Excerpted from his speech, Message to the Grassroots, delivered on 10 Nov, 1963 in Detroit, Michigan.

…back during slavery… There was two kinds of slaves. There was the house Negro and the field Negro. The house Negroes - they lived in the house with master, they dressed pretty good, they ate good 'cause they ate his food -- what he left. They lived in the attic or the basement, but still they lived near the master; and they loved their master more than the master loved himself. They would give their life to save the master's house quicker than the master would. The house Negro, if the master said, "We got a good house here," the house Negro would say, "Yeah, we got a good house here." Whenever the master said "we," he said "we." That's how you can tell a house Negro…

(originally posted a few weeks ago but some how the entry was lost. thanks to the AngryIndian for posting it - RX)

Oct 10, 2006

Right-wing anti-imperialists are not promoting feudalism: A reply to Michael Karadjis

I promised three weeks ago that I'd reply to Michael Karadjis's "Hizbullah, Iran and 'Right-Wing Anti-Imperialism': A Reply to Critics," which was posted on Green Left Bloggers on September 20th. Here are my thoughts.

Karadjis offers one of the strongest and most thoughtful versions of the position that Lebanon's Hezbollah represents "a genuine national liberation movement." Although I disagree with his assessment, my own thinking has benefited from the information and analysis he puts forward. I also especially appreciate his efforts to keep the debate substantive and respectful. It's a welcome contrast to the mean-spirited comments and personal attacks that often pass for political critique, especially on the web.

As one of the "critics" that Karadjis responds to in detail, I'd like to address three issues covered in his September 20th post: (1) the nature of right-wing anti-imperialism, (2) the question of describing Hezbollah as right wing, and (3) antisemitism in Hezbollah and more broadly among Lebanese and Palestinians. (For background on what I think about Hezbollah, see my essays "Defending my enemy's enemy" and "Further thoughts on Hezbollah".)

1. On right-wing anti-imperialism. Karadjis rejects my claim that right-wing anti-imperialism is a significant political tendency in today's world, but he interprets the phrase to mean something quite different than what I intended. This is primarily my fault, since I didn't adequately explain my use of the term in either of my essays about Hezbollah. So let me try to correct that here.

When I refer to right-wing anti-imperialists, I'm not talking about forces that oppose imperialism because they are feudal, semi-feudal, or otherwise "reactionary" in the sense of turning back the clock to an era before capitalist modernity. I agree with Karadjis that such forces don't amount to much. I also don't mean to imply that right-wing anti-imperialists form a cohesive, unified international bloc. Rather, I'm talking about a diverse array of political currents in various parts of the world, many of which are relatively new. These currents embody related or parallel responses to the brutalities and contradictions of global capitalism on the one hand, and the failures of the revolutionary left on the other.

Right-wing anti-imperialists are anti-imperialist in the sense that they oppose -- politically or militarily -- the systems of dominance by global corporate elites or the interventionist policies of the United States or other industrialized capitalist states. They are right wing in the sense that they reject the Enlightenment principles of universalism, egalitarianism, and popular sovereignty while embracing hierarchy and elitism as natural features of society. Right-wing anti-imperialists encompass both secular and religious-based ideologies. They often reject bourgeois cultural values (such as materialism, individualism, consumerism) but endorse the underlying institutions of an economic system based on class exploitation. They may romanticize a mythic past but do so in ways adapted to modern conditions.

Examples of right-wing imperialism include large sections of the Islamic right, various nationalist forces in eastern Europe, and Rioss Montt's recent forays into populist politics in Guatemala. There are right-wing anti-imperialist tendencies within India's massive Hindu nationalist movement, although the movement is predominantly wedded to a strategy of alliance with the United States (and Israel) and economic development through free-trade neoliberalism. Within the United States, Pat Buchanan-style right-wing anti-interventionists represent a related development, and parallel forces exist within other industrialized countries.

Other proponents of a three-way-fight perspective have described all of these developments as fascist. Because we're talking about a range of political strategies and ideologies, I think it's useful to apply the term fascism more narrowly. Within the anti-imperialist right, I distinguish between "reformist" branches that advocate change within the established political framework and "revolutionary" rightists (i.e. fascists) who aim to overthrow established political systems and forcibly reshape all social and cultural spheres along totalitarian lines. The example of Hezbollah, which is clearly not fascist, highlights the need for such distinctions.

Whatever we call these forces, a basic premise of three-way fight politics is that their conflict with global capitalism's rulers is more than just superficial or episodic. They represent a growing trend rooted variously in local elites, middle classes, declassed strata, and even workers, who have been restricted or marginalized by global capitalist development yet are also alienated by left anti-capitalist alternatives. These rightist forces, as Don Hamerquist has argued regarding their Islamic sub-grouping, represent "a multi-sided danger to the global capitalist system. It includes a threat to withdraw women's labor, a source of massive profits, from the global labor force. It involves a rejection of consumerism, self-indulgent individualism and similar elements of the bourgeois worldview and lifestyle. It threatens to link political rebelliousness with the massive underground economies that flourish at the margins of the capitalist system."

These comments represent a rough sketch, not a fully elaborated analysis. Right-wing anti-imperialism's specific features and relationships with other social and political actors vary from place to place and change over time. Certainly, the whole topic needs more study and discussion. But by positing right-wing anti-imperialism as a distinct and important political current we are trying to raise issues and questions that most of the left has ignored.

2. Is Hezbollah a right-wing movement? Karadjis and I agree that Hezbollah's politics are complex and contradictory, and we often agree, more or less, about how to assess this or that specific feature. But we disagree about how to put the pieces together into an overall picture. Karadjis sees Hezbollah's negative side as so many scattered flaws or shrinking vestiges of its original Khomeinist influences. I see it as an expression of an underlying right-wing philosophy that has persisted since Hezbollah's founding two decades ago. I base this assessment mainly on two books. Naim Qassem, Hizbullah: The Story from Within (Saqi, 2005) includes a fairly straightforward statement of Hezbollah's core principles and longerm goals by the party's deputy secretary-general. Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, Hizbu'llah: Politics and Religion (Pluto, 2002) offers one of the most detailed and, as far as I can tell, one of the most careful analyses available of Hezbollah's religious-political ideology. Both of these books make clear, as I wrote previously, that Hezbollah as an organization considers it a religious duty to advocate an Islamic state, and that the Islamic Republic of Iran most closely approximates Hezbollah's political ideal. Nothing in Karadjis's essay substantively challenges this assessment, and I see no indication that Hezbollah's core philosophy has substantively changed in the last few years.

I pointed out previously that although Hezbollah calls for an Islamic state it also says that such a state may only be established when a large majority of the people supports it. Karadjis sees a contradiction between advocating an Islamic state and opposing the use of force to impose it, and he implies that I'm undermining my own position by presenting this supposed inconsistency. This puzzles me. Lots of people, even right-wingers, promote oppressive goals and policies without demanding that they be imposed by force against the will of the majority. That's less bad, but it's still bad.

It's quite true, as Karadjis points out, that some of Hezbollah's oppressive policies are shared by secular nationalist and even leftist organizations. That's a helpful corrective to claims that there's something uniquely dangerous about "Islamist" politics. But Hezbollah's vision of an Islamic state does set it apart from secular groups. This vision centers on the precept that human law is inherently inferior to God's law, and that society should be ruled by one religious jurist, whose supreme authority is divinely ordained. Hezbollah doctrine says that Ayatollah Khomeini and his successor, Ayatollah Khamanei, have held this authority over all Muslims and that their commands constitute fixed truths.

This radically anti-democratic and anti-humanist philosophy coexists in tension with Hezbollah's practical day-to-day politics. Saad-Ghorayeb writes that the vision of an Islamic state forms "a permanent feature of Hizb'ullah's intellectual structure and political thought" but is not included in its programme. If Hezbollah's pragmatic side helps the party to build alliances and function in Lebanon's pluralistic political and cultural environment, its theocratic ideals help the party to maintain internal cohesion and the loyalty of many devout members. The ability to combine these two sides testifies to the exceptional skill of Hezbollah's leadership.

3. On Lebanese and Palestinian antisemitism. Karadjis and I agree that Hezbollah leaders such as Secretary-General Hassan Nasrullah have made anti-Jewish statements, and that such statements are wrong. We agree that caution is needed in criticizing Hezbollah in this area, because Zionist propaganda routinely falsifies or exaggerates charges of antisemitism to discredit legimitate criticisms of Israel and to demonize Arab and Muslim anti-Zionists, in particular. I agree, further, with Karadjis's point that some secular Arab nationalists, such as the original PLO, have also expressed anti-Jewish prejudice, so we can't just blame such prejudice on Islamist ideology.

Within these parameters, I disagree with Karadjis on two points. First, he claims that Hezbollah's expressions of anti-Jewish prejudice are only a matter of "occasional statements" that "are at odds with more serious analysis by Hezbollah." But Nasrullah, Qassem, and other Hezbollah leaders don't generally make irresponsible, offhand comments -- on the contrary, they're known for their lack of rhetorical excess. As Saad-Ghorayeb argues in detail, the stereotyping and demonization of Jews is both widespread in Hezbollah's discourse and interwoven with its larger religio-political philosophy.

Second, Karadjis argues that Hezbollah's anti-Jewish prejudice -- or any anti-Jewish prejudice among Palestinians or Lebanese -- is entirely a response to Zionist oppression. "To Palestinians and Lebanese, that is those who have lived under the terror, under the jackboot, of Zionist oppression, and who have not been involved in the western holocaust against Jews, 'the Jews' represent the same thing to them as 'the whites' do to South African, Australian and American blacks: the oppressor." I agree that this is an important part of the story, and one that's often ignored or misunderstood by westerners. My thanks to Karadjis for raising this factor, which I failed to address previously in relation to Hezbollah. (For more on this kind of reaction to Zionism, see Esther Kaplan's thoughtful essay "Antisemitism After September 11th.")

But Karadjis overreaches when he claims that Arab antisemitism is entirely a response to Zionism. In fact, anti-Jewish bigotry has been present in Arab and Muslim communities for centuries before political Zionism brought Jewish settler-colonialism to Palestine. Maxime Rodinson, a prominent French Marxist, Mideast scholar, and staunch anti-Zionist, addressed this point in his 1981 essay, "A Few Simple Thought on Anti-Semitism":

"Contrary to what has been said and written in Arab and Muslim circles, the condition of Jews in the world of Islam was not idyllic. It is quite true that the negative aspects of the Jewish situation in Muslim countries have been much exaggerated by Zionist propaganda.... It is quite true that on the whole the situation of Jews in Muslim countries over fifteen centuries has been better than in the Christian countries.

"But this does not alter the fact that the status of
dhimmi applied to Jews and Christians was inegalitarian and that it kept them in positions of inferiority, which was in any case perfectly natural at the time. Judaism and Christianity were tolerated religions, 'protected' in a certain sense and enjoying special status. But their believers were none the less considered enemies of the true faith. Appreciations of them were disparaging, suspicious, and scornful. In the case of the Jews, these attitudes were able to find support in many passages from the Koran dating from the time when the Jewish tribes of Medina constituted Muhammad's main adversary, passages that can readily obliterate the favourable attitude toward Jews and Christians reflected in other, earlier passages.... [In Muslim countries during the Middle Ages,] the Jews... were considered enemies within, cunning and sly, seeking to damage the True Faith in a secretive fashion....

"Many instances of disparagement and suspicion of the Jews, and of slander against them, therefore exist in the Muslim tradition, especially at the popular level.... The accusation of ritual murder, for instance, may be found in the
Thousand and One Nights (a charge levelled against Christians and Mazdeans as well), and the origin of Muslim sects which the 'orthodox' majorities consider as undermining Islam from within is often ascribed to converted Jews.... In various Muslim countries, public signs of contempt are attached to the Jews, and the most difficult and repugnant jobs are reserved to them." (Rodinson, Cult, Ghetto, and State: The Persistence of the Jewish Question [Al Saqi, 1983], pp. 184-6.)

This long heritage of Muslim hostility to Jews -- as much as any reaction to Zionism -- shapes Hezbollah's promotion of anti-Jewish bigotry. Saad-Ghorayeb writes (p. 174): "As odious as Zionism is to Hizb'ullah, the party insists that its strong aversion to Judaism is unrelated to its abomination of Zionism, and hence exists irrespective of the existence of Zionism. According to Hizbu'llah's interpretation of the Qur'an and the Old and New Testaments, from time immemorial the Jews have continuously demonstrated their quintessentially evil nature. Qasim [i.e., Naim Qassem] expresses this view succintly: 'The history of Jews has proven that, regardless of the Zionist proposal, they are a people who are evil in their ideas.' From the very origins of their existence, the Jews 'created mischief for people' wherever they went."

Qassem's statements aren't random -- they're expressions of a cohesive ideology. That doesn't mark Hezbollah as any sort of unique evil, but it should make all of us seriously question claims that Hezbollah represents any sort of liberation movement.

By Who Name You Be Coming In!?

Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert apparently is joining forces with a Kahanist (read: fascist)politician and his party.

He embroiled Israel in a superfluous and failed war, and this week threatened to join up with the most Kahanist politician active in Israel since the death of Rehavam Ze'evi. What is happening to us, to our Ehud Olmert? Nothing. Olmert is coming back to himself.

That politician is Avigdor Lieberman. Here's his perspective on Israel's Palestinian population, according to writer Tom Segev.

He suggests giving up Wadi Ara as part of an agreement to swap land with the Palestinians. Such a deal would revoke the Israeli citizenship of hundreds of thousands of Arabs and force them to become citizens of Palestine.

He's also rejecting multiple peace offers from Bashar Al-Assad because of Syria's support of Hamas and Hezbollah, which amounts to those groups having offices in Damascus. But Olmert is making pleasant comments about Saudi King Abdullah, despite the fact that the Wahhabi kingdom provides Hamas with 70 percent of its funding.

In short, like all politicians, Olmert sucks.

Sugar Plumb Fairy! Sugar Plumb Fairy!

Ok article about the Iranian nuclear issue and Washington's refusal to debate or negotiate, although this "leftist" seems not at all bothered by the mindless sloganeering, like Marg Bar Amrika (Death To America) which to him implies political consciousness, instead of mindless propaganda driven into people's brains.

It's this institutional anti-Imperialism, backed up by state terror, which helped turned the inevitable opposition towards a pro-western orientation, much like the mindless anti-Communist propaganda of the Cold War turned a significant segment of the American left into apologists for Stalin and Mao.

He also oversimplifies Ahmadinejad's election victory as total support for his actions and policies, overlooking the fact that one of the reasons he won was due to his populist economic program, his humble background and the repression of the opposition, i.e. the banning of thousands of Majles or parliament candidates from running for office by the Council of Guardians, the closure of opposition media and the imprisonment of opposition activists since the late 1990s, including the famous reporter Akbar Ganji, who served in prison from 2000 until this year.

At the same time the mosques served also as a center for political education and the streets functioned as a stage for practice and a show of force, in the face of the hostile U.S. attitude materialized in the form of economic sanctions against Iran. The Farsi slogans "Marg bar Amrika!" (Death to America), and "Marg bar Esrael!" (Death to Israel) and "Marg bar Saddam!" (Death to Saddam) were the regular diet of the working mass and millions of small shopkeepers.

It is clearly evident that the government, especially under the leadership of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has gained a strong support of an overwhelming majority in its well-publicized resistance to the dictates of the West, a.k.a. the United Nations Security Council members majority looking to sanctions.

Coups For Sale

Thailand's interim, army-appointed prime minister unveiled his new cabinet on Monday, with a respected central bank governor as finance minister in an apparent bid to reassure investors after last month's coup ...

Confirmation of Pridiyathorn Devakula as finance minister was seen as a response to investor desires for a steady hand on the economic tiller amid slowing growth and after months of political unrest capped by the Sept. 19 coup against Thaksin Shinawatra.

Oct 9, 2006

Inner workings: Blocking Iran unites Israel, Arab kings

In order for the Arab regimes to work with Israel and to counter Iran's appeal to the Arab street, they would have to solve the one problem that's defined the Arab experience for over half a century now. And it won't work.

Arab American Press writer, Ali Moosavi, writes on fear and plotting by Israeli and Saudi politicians.

Godless frogs

More of that anti-Semitism. Thank Shizzzmmmaagghh for those that follow an ancient religious text as a model for society in the 21st Century.

The French Embassy on Monday canceled a New York party for a book about Vichy France's collaboration with Nazi Germany because of the author's postscript that says Israel has oppressed Palestinians.The Cultural Services of the French Embassy's office in New York had planned to hold a party on Tuesday to fete the September publication of author Carmen Callil's "Bad Faith" about Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, the Vichy government official who organized the deportation of French Jews to Auschwitz.Callil told Reuters on Monday that the party was canceled after complaints from "fundamentalist Jews."

Don't touch that, Ahmed ... It's not candy.

Anyone who thinks these bomblets are anything other than Israel's biblically granted right of self-defense is obviously an anti-Semite. I mean, why else would you think blowin kids up is bad?

"Since the war between Israel and Hezbollah ended in August, nearly three people have been wounded or killed each day by cluster bombs Israel dropped in the waning days of the war, and officials now say it will take more than a year to clear the region of them."

Oct 3, 2006

British Fascists target their opposition with "Redwatch"

The Guardian covers news of the Combat 18 influenced RedWatch - a site dedicated to exposing anti-racist organizers and other leftists in Britain.

The Guardian publicizes a liberal and not all that honest perspective on the issue. The article states,

Sympathisers claim Redwatch is little more than an act of self-defence, insisting that they are only doing what anti-fascist campaigners who monitor the activities of rightwingers have been doing for years. But Lowles says this is a dangerous myth: "This is absolute rubbish. There is no anti-racist equivalent to this site. There is nothing that lists home details of fascists and certainly nothing that encourages attacks on them. Redwatch is not an act of revenge but something altogether more sinister. It is designed to intimidate and harass anti-racists and anti-fascists to the point where the individuals targeted no longer campaign against fascist groups. It is political intimidation and classic fascism."

Reality is that some, although mainly the radical antifascists, have a long history of publicizing personal information on fascists - their home addresses, places they socialize, and their associates. It's all a part of undermining and making it difficult for the fascists to operate due to the elevated risks for them.

While I do think that anti-fascist organizers need to take threats to themselves seriously, I think it is a mistake to campaign for the State to take on the work of shutting down sites like RedWatch. What's to stop the State from shutting down radical Left and anti-fascist sites next... Uhhhhh, nothing.


Here's something that you won't see in the American media:

Apparently, the settlers took advantage of the Lebanon war to expand their so-called "illegal settlements" (as if they're all not illegal) but somehow I don't think this will make Rice's agenda for her Mid-East trip this week.

Sep 23, 2006

Michael Karadjis on "Hizbullah, Iran and 'Right-Wing Anti-Imperialism'"

Michael Karadjis, who argues that Hezbollah is a "genuine national liberation movement" and not right wing, recently posted a lengthy piece on GreenLeft Bloggers entitled "Hizbullah, Iran and 'Right-Wing Anti-Imperialism': A Reply to Critics." The essay includes detailed responses to my "Further thoughts on Hezbollah." While I don't agree with Karadjis's core argument, his discussion is thoughtful, comradely, and well worth reading. I hope to post a reply soon.

Sep 11, 2006


Looking at Hamerquist's “Fascism & Anti-Fascism”
by J. Sakai

We weren’t thinking about fascism while we watched two 757s full of people fly into the ex-World trade Center. And maybe we still weren’t thinking of fascism when we heard about the first-ever successful attack on the Pentagon. But fascism was thinking about us.

Lebanon: Roundtable on the Borderline

Account of a meeting between Israeli and Lebanese anarchists on the border in which they discuss the war, hezbollah, the anti-war movement and anarchism in Lebanon.

Taking part are anarchists who had direct contact with this war on both sides of the border, their meeting was facilitated by networks of global solidarity within autonomous spaces in Europe, and also through the growing global anti-capitalist anti-authoritarian movement. A movement that is witnessing crises, but also signs of life! Anarchists who took part are Eyal and anat, holding Israeli passports; and Hazem and Imad holding Lebanese passports.

read more

The War With al-Qaeda
by Juan Cole, from Informed Comment

Monday, September 11, 2006

The War with al-QaedaThe war with al-Qaeda has many dimensions. There is the war with the organization itself. There is the struggle against its offshoots and copycats. There is cooperation with Muslim governments and communities in derailing the threat. There is the question of the strength of Sunni fundamentalist parties that might support al-Qaeda. And there is winning hearts and minds in the Muslim world.

read more

(while i find Cole's blog informative and comprehensive, i nor 3Way Fight support his liberal and pro-State politics. and while it would be wrong to suggest his proscription for dealing with religious fundamentalism is the same as the neo-Cons, he ultimatley ends up supporting a form of imperialist intervention as a way to "win hearts and minds in the Muslim world". winning rights and the creation of a broad and inclusive participatory and secular political framework can only be achieved through organization and action on the part of the oppressed and rank and file. it can not be achieved through any State (or trans State ie., UN) apparatus. -RX)

Sep 7, 2006

Eyewitness Lebanon: In the land of the Blind

by Michael Schmidt - reporting for Anarkismo

from text:

I’m an anarchist communist journalist and wrote this piece specifically for I entered Lebanon via Syria, from the north during the second half of the war, on the last access road not yet bombed by the Israelis (yet a plantation I travelled through was flattened an hour after I passed). I travelled mainly in Beirut and in its bombed southern suburbs, and in Sidon in the south as far sout-east as the target of Ghazieh, leaving on the first military transport flight out after the ceasefire came into effect...

...Most commentators note that Hezbollah sprang up in 1985 among Shi’ites in the Palestinian refugee camps of southern Lebanon - three years after the last major Israeli invasion - as a new generation of radicals tired of the compromises struck by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation under the late Yassir Arafat and Fatah. The right unsurprisingly sees Hezbollah as an outright terrorist organisation publicly dedicated to the obliteration of Israel. The left, however, is not at all sure how to deal with Hezbollah, especially given the fact that it appeared to be the only force that resisted the Israeli invasion. Marxist-Leninist journalists such as Michael Karadjis of Australia’s Green Left Weekly (8) claim it as a “a national liberation movement, rather than an ‘Islamist’ or ‘terrorist’ organisation” that has managed remain non-sectarian and avoid the pitfalls of both Islamic fundamentalism (being hostile to a marginal Al Qaeda presence in Lebanon) and of opposing Jews for their faith instead of Zionism for its imperialism. But however “non-sectarian” it is, it is hardly in favour of free thought - as the martial tone of its propaganda videos on al-Manar TV show (9).

Is Hezbollah “Islamo-fascist” as the European, American and Israeli right claims? The Lebanese people should be able to tell, having direct experience of home-grown fascism thanks to the Khataeb (Falangist) party, founded along Spanish Falangist lines in 1936 and responsible for the Israeli-sanctioned Sabra and Shatilla massacre of Palestinian refugees in southern Beirut in 1982. Certainly Hezbollah is a theocratic right-wing organisation built on conservative social grounds and an obscene leadership cult - and I suspect its adoption of the goose-step and the Nazi salute is far from accidental. The most visible faction of the Lebanese anarchist movement (10) characterizes Hezbollah as “reactionary”. I’d prefer the term clerico-populist.

read more

Anti-Arab Racism, Islam, and the Left

Rami El-Amine, founder and editor of Left Turn has been active in and reporting from Lebanon. He has published an article entitled, Anti-Arab Racism, Islam, and the Left. Below is an excerpt critiquing Three Way Fight and particlary the article, Defending My Enemy's Enemy,

"the anti-capitalists who blog at posted an entry titled 'Defending My Enemy's Enemy' during Israel's recent invasion of Lebanon in which they argued that while Israel is the clear aggressor in the conflict and needs to be opposed, it doesn't mean the left should support Hezbollah. The bloggers argue:

…Hezbollah is essentially a right-wing political movement. Its guiding ideology is Khomeini-style Islamic fundamentalism. Hezbollah's political ideal, the Islamic Republic of Iran, enforces medieval religious law, imposes brutal strictures on women and LGBT people, persecutes religious and ethnic minorities, and has executed tens of thousands of leftists and other political dissenters.

If it's not already, this argument will one day become part of one of Hillary Clinton's or even George Bush's (minus the part about LGBT people) speeches justifying a war on Lebanon and Iran. Even though the entry is insignificant in terms of the number of people who probably read it, it articulates a political view that a lot of the left, particularly anarchists and anti-authoritarians, subscribe to but are not as open about -- hence their conspicuous absence from a lot of the organizing against Israel's invasion".

Sep 4, 2006

The wrong idea

By L.G.B.
A vibrant democracy is supposed to uphold the freedom of speech, regardless of its content, in order to facilitate the exchange of ideas and better inform the citizenry so that they can be better decision makers.

That’s the idea, anyway.

However, a neoconservative think tank called the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies recently snitched on a Pakistani-American from Brooklyn, New York to the Feds. Javed Iqbal, a 42 year-old father of four and an American citizen, is charged under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, or IEEPA for supporting terrorism and is being held on a 250,000-dollar bond.

His crime? He isn’t being charged for operating a training camp, gunrunning, stockpiling weapons, plotting a terrorist attack or even being a member of a terrorist group. Iqbal’s crime is offering to sell the Hezbollah TV channel Al-Manar to an undercover FBI agent.

Before being hauled away, the Staten Island resident ran HDTV, Ltd. In the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn when he was contacted by a Lebanese informant asking for satellite television to be hooked up in his apartment. According to the prosecution, upon finding out he’s Lebanese, Iqbal offered him Al-Manar. Al-Manar has been banned as a global terrorist entity by the Treasury Dept. since March. Despite the fact that the channel can be seen on the Internet for free, it’s a crime to sell it, as Iqbal found out. The irony is that a group whose name calls for the defense of democracy would put a man in prison for offering a satellite channel which would offer nothing more than an alternative point of view. But according to the snitch himself, David Dubowitz, that was the idea all along. “The general thrust of the content is glorification of suicide bombings and calls for violent attacks against American troops in Iraq,” he told the New York Daily News. In other words, the threat that Al-Manar posed was portraying resistance in Palestine and Iraq as rational and, dare I say, justified.

This is the opposite of what we’re fed by the likes of MSNBC, Fox and CNN.

The Daily News, in fact, goes on to quote Hezbollah’s spiritual adviser, Hassan Fadlallah calling CNN, “the Zionist News Network,” a truthful statement considering, for example, that The Situation Room’s Wolf Blitzer is a former correspondent for the Jerusalem Post.

Dubowitz went on to state that Al-Manar is a terrorist organization and not a TV station because it’s used to raise money for Hezbollah. While that may be true, most of Hezbollah’s money doesn’t come from viewers outside of Lebanon, but from inside the country and mainly from Iran. Ruining Iqbal’s life won’t serve to disrupt the flow of money to Hezbollah, but rather the flow of information to the American public.

Much has been said about Bush’s call for democracy as a foreign policy goal, but what is overlooked is that “democracy” in Washington-speak means “hegemony” and “influence,” or “stability” when they’re having rare moments of honesty.

Specifically, stability in the Middle East means securing the interests of Israel and the Persian Gulf monarchies; Seymour Hersh’s revelation in the New Yorker that Israel’s Lebanon invasion was coordinated with Washington would explain the timing of Al-Manar’s new status.

Under the IEEPA, the President is granted the authority “to deal with any unusual and extraordinary threat … to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.” In this sense, the charges against Iqbal since Hezbollah is a threat, especially to the foreign policy as it currently exists. In fact, if the charges are proven to be true – his lawyers insist that Iqbal was entrapped and that the prosecution’s case violates the first amendment – then he broke the law and there’s not much more to it.

Every government has its interests and there will always be safeguards in place to ensure that nothing will interfere with those interests. The question isn’t about legality but morality, i.e. the equal application of the law. The IEEPA was established in 1977 in order to clarify the powers presidents had dealing with national emergencies, according to Wikipedia.

In addition to Iqbal, the IEEPA-related charges have also been brought against Americans who traveled to Iraq before the war to act as human shields. Marc Rich, the financier who was convicted under the act in 1983, was pardoned by Bill Clinton in 2000, exposing how privileged people can escape the legal noose that Iqbal isn’t likely to avoid. Worse yet, Vice President Dick Cheney himself violated the law while CEO of Halliburton and - to the shock of many, no doubt – hasn’t been charged under the act.

Incidentally, both Rich and Cheney’s violations had to do with Iran: Rich traded in Iranian oil in 1983 during the hostage crisis, while a subsidiary of Halliburton had an office in Tehran. Publications such as Fortune magazine have documented this, and according to, Cheney and his company have a history of working\ with governments that are officially under IEEPA sanctions by Washington.

Those countries include Iran, Myanmar (Burma), Libya and Iraq during the 1990s, despite Cheney’s involvement in creating the Project for a New American Century, a think tank that called for the invasion of Iraq. Halliburton violated sanctions against Azerbaijan and the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act in 1997 alone, only having to pay $15,000 to the Dept. of Commerce for the latter, but no jail time. Among the “classes” of those charged include those that support or threaten to commit terrorism and terrorists who threaten to undermine the Middle East peace process.

While commerce is restricted with Iran and Syria under the IEEPA, Israel is nowhere to be found for their occupation and settlement of the occupied territories, nor for their state terrorism in support of such clear violations of international law. And while Belarus and Zimbabwe are subject to the IEEPA for undermining democratic institutions, Egypt and Azerbaijan are notably absent.

This political weapon produces a lopsided system in which the interests of an empire override democracy and the rule of law. Law is war by any other means, to quote Clauswitz, and Iqbal is another tragic and unnecessary casualty of that war.

Aug 26, 2006

Further thoughts on Hezbollah

"Defending my enemy's enemy," my attempt at a nuanced discussion of the recent Israel-Lebanon war, has been aired on several blogs and listservs and has gotten a wide range of comments, pro and con. These responses have challenged me to look at several gaps and weaknesses in the original argument as well as places where I just didn't convey my meaning clearly. I offer these follow-up notes in the spirit of continuing discussion and learning. They're organized around three sets of questions.

(Sources are listed at the end of this essay. For the online discussion of "Defending my enemy's enemy" see Don Hamerquist, "Islamic radicalism and the left"; and blog postings on Sketchy Thoughts, August 4 and August 6, 2006; and on Ideas for Action, August 4 and August 16, 2006.)

1. Given that Hezbollah has been the main force defending the Lebanese people against recent Israeli attacks, is it insensitive and out of touch to criticize Hezbollah's politics now? Does this criticism feed passivity and inaction by reinforcing the common view that neither Israel nor Hezbollah deserves our support?

"Defending my enemy's enemy" argues clearly that U.S. activists have a pressing responsibility to defend Hezbollah and the Lebanese people against Israeli aggression, the vastly greater threat. The essay was intended to counter two oversimplifications -- first, the idea that the war was a simple conflict between Good Guys and Bad Guys and, second, the idea that we should denounce Israel and Hezbollah equally. I regret that the essay doesn't present this second point as clearly and forcefully as the first, but it is there. Treating both sides as equally culpable certainly does lead to passivity, which in practice means passively supporting U.S./Israeli aggression.

At the same time, I don't think it's good organizing strategy to paint Hezbollah only in positive terms. Precisely because criticisms of Hezbollah are already widespread, we need to take a clear stand against the U.S. and Israel as the main aggressors while also addressing Hezbollah's political flaws accurately and without demonization. If we want to mobilize protest and resistance, that's a lot less out of touch than telling people their concerns about Hezbollah are either wrong or unimportant.

I hope it's clear that this is not about trying to "dictate" Hezbollah's politics. None of us is in a position to dictate anything to Hezbollah. It's about trying to understand an important political actor and relate to it in an informed and principled way.

2. Given that three-way fight politics is largely rooted in U.S./Canadian/European antifascist activism, is it a helpful framework for understanding Hezbollah or other examples of political Islam in the Middle East?

The idea that there are significant right-wing forces radically opposed to both the left and global capitalist elites doesn't just come from encounters with neonazis. If the concept of right-wing anti-imperialism has relevance anywhere, it's in the Middle East. The Iranian Revolution was a wake-up call for me because it showed how militant, mass-based hostility to U.S. hegemony could take a right-wing form -- and because so much of the U.S. left failed to understand this. Three-way fight politics is an attempt to go beyond old leftist categories because the old categories don't adequately describe political reality today -- including political Islam.

That said, there's plenty of room for applying new categories badly, too. "Defending my enemy's enemy" is pretty vague on exactly how the concept of a "revolutionary right" relates to Islamic political movements, so several caveats are in order. First, as Max argues on his blog Ideas for Action, political Islam has to be analyzed in the context of Mideast history and politics, not shoe-horned into a North American or Euro-fascist mold. Second, political Islam includes many different kinds of movements, organizations, and ideologies, which relate to the United States, global capital, local elites, etc. in a variety of ways. If "revolutionary" in this context means actively working to overthrow the established political framework, then only some Islamic rightist groups can be labeled revolutionary (and Hezbollah isn't one of them).

Third, like any theoretical model, three-way fight politics is at best a useful approximation of reality. Saying that there are three major political poles doesn't mean all forces can be divided neatly into three camps. We need to be mindful of movements -- such as Hezbollah -- that don't relate to the three poles in a simple or static way. And we need to be willing to rethink our assumptions and categories where they don't make sense.

3. Is it accurate to describe Hezbollah as right wing?

Several people -- including folks sympathetic to my overall argument -- have questioned my description of Hezbollah as right wing. While I still think the label is accurate, the situation is more complex -- and possibly more fluid -- than what I presented before.

There are good reasons to be skeptical about the rightist label. Michael Karadjis, an Australian leftist who has long followed Hezbollah's development and has spent time in Lebanon, argues that it's a big mistake to equate the party's policies with Khomeini-style fundamentalism. In the areas it controls, Karadjis reports, Hezbollah doesn't enforce religious law, doesn't impose special strictures on women but rather allows them to be visible and active, doesn't persecute other ethnic or religious groups, and works with leftists rather than execute them (although Karadjis also cites one scholar's claim that Hezbollah did kill a number of communists during its formative period, in 1984-85).

Several other points bolster this view. Since its first official declaration in 1985, Hezbollah has consistently said that an Islamic state can't be imposed by force, but can be instituted only when a large majority of the people wants it. Hezbollah has promoted dialogue between Lebanon's diverse religious communities and opposes the archaic system that apportions the country's political offices based on religious affiliation. Unlike some Sunni fundamentalist groups, Hezbollah argues that the secularization of society is a much lesser injustice than Israeli occupation.

After interviewing Hezbollah women activists in the 1990s, Maria Holt wrote: "In the view of the women of Hizballah, women are accorded a strong role in society. They are permitted to acquire education, to work, to become leaders, and to have a political input. At the same time, however, a woman must not attempt to usurp the position of men in the society." In Hizballah, "women are still excluded from the centers of power and accorded a status secondary to that of men." (Holt, pp. 187, 189) This assessment is consistent with many right-wing religious movements, as I've discussed elsewhere ("Notes on Women and Right-Wing Movements"), but it's probably fair to say that it's relatively progressive given the larger context. And there's evidence that women's status in Hezbollah has been improving -- in 2005, Hezbollah appointed the first woman to its political council, or politburo, which coordinates the party's committees.

All of this sharply delineates Hezbollah from the cultural totalitarianism of Afghanistan's Taliban or Algeria's Islamic Salvation Front, which has murdered women for not wearing the veil. You can make a good case that those groups represent a new form of clerical fascism, but there's no way Hezbollah can be labeled fascist. Although its militant resistance to Israeli and western intervention has brought it a reputation for extremism, Hezbollah's stance on a range of important issues is strikingly moderate.

But this is not the whole picture. First, although it accepts political pluralism in practice, Hezbollah still advocates an Islamic state, i.e. a theocracy, a policy it considers a religious duty. This state would look a lot like Iran's, which Hezbollah considers the closest thing to a perfect political system anywhere in the world. Naim Qassem, Hezbollah's deputy secretary-general, comments that Iran has "manifested success through its attention to freedoms, respect for opinions divergence, women's rights and the management of state institutions" (Qassem, p. 236). Sounds like the old CP talking about Stalin's Soviet Union.

Hezbollah's ideological bond with Iran's Islamic Republic is far deeper than, say, its alliance with Syria. Hezbollah-controlled areas are plastered with images of Iran's religious/political leaders. In several recent antiwar demonstrations in Europe, according to Workers Left Unity Iran, Hezbollah supporters have clashed with Iranian leftists who raised the slogan "No to imperialist wars; No to Iran's Islamic regime."

Second, Hezbollah is formally subordinate to Iran's supreme authority (originally Ayatollah Khomeini, now his successor, Ayatollah Khamenei), who the party regards as the religious, legal, and political leader of all Muslims worldwide. This doesn't mean that Hezbollah is a puppet of the Iranian government -- it actually exercises a great deal of political autonomy. It does mean that Hezbollah's leaders seek Khamenei's guidance or ruling on major policy questions or when they are deadlocked. Accounts vary as to how often this happens; Amal Saad-Ghorayeb cites Hezbollah's decision to participate in Lebanon's parliamentary elections as one example.

A third reason to call Hezbollah a right-wing organization is that its pragmatic pluralism doesn't apply to everyone. On his Sketchy Thoughts blog, Kersplebedeb cites the case of a Lebanese gay man, Nasser Karouni, who sought asylum in the United States. Karouni argued that Hezbollah, which controlled the region where his family lived, considered homosexual sex a capital offense and had persecuted or killed gay friends and acquaintances of his. I would treat this report with a bit of caution: the source article lacks details or any specific dates after 1984, when Hezbollah was still taking shape, and this is the only reference I've found anywhere to Hezbollah's policy regarding homosexuality. (Queer sex could presumably bring the death penalty in Hezbollah's ideal Islamic state, if Iran's penal code is any guide.)

And then there's Jews. In her detailed explication of Hezbollah's political/religious philosophy, Amal Saad-Ghorayeb shows that Nasrulluh, Qassem, and other Hezbollah spokespeople have repeatedly demonized Jews as evil, deceitful, cowardly, violent, and power-hungry. This bigotry is distinct from Hezbollah's charge that Zionism is inherently oppressive (a position I share), although it infuses references to Zionism as "the most dangerous and malicious enemy of humanity" and the like (Saad-Ghorayeb, 142). Several Hezbollah spokespeople, including Nasrulluh, have also claimed that Jews either fabricated or helped to perpetrate the Nazi genocide.

I have to pause here and note that charges of antisemitism are routinely used to demonize Muslims and Arabs and to rationalize Israeli (and U.S.) racism, whose impact on Arab peoples has been vastly more devastating than Arab violence against Israelis. As I wrote before, Hezbollah does not exist to kill Jews and is not continuing Hitler's work. It resists Israeli oppression but also -- because of its underlying right-wing philosophy -- promotes anti-Jewish stereotyping and bigotry. Not more and not less.

How do we put all of this together? Saad-Ghorayeb argues that Hezbollah has pursued a dual strategy, balancing its version of Islamic ideals on the intellectual level with a largely secular programme on the level of practical politics -- a combination she suggests is unstable in the long run. Using different terms, we could say that Hezbollah offers a contradictory mix of radical theocracy and populist nationalism.

Hezbollah's highly skilled leadership has navigated this tension, in part, through strategic shifts. The most dramatic of these took place after the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1990, when Hezbollah moved from revolutionary opposition to the Lebanese political system to a policy of trying to transform it from within. This shift was probably influenced (but not determined) by the rise of a more moderate faction in the Iranian government. Given the explosive nature of Middle East politics, it's quite likely that Hezbollah will go through further changes in the years ahead.


Aima, Abhinav. "Hizbollah At Crossroads: From the Will of God to the Will of His People." Middle East Studies Program, Ohio University, 2000.
Halliday, Fred. "A Lebanese fragment: two days with Hizbollah."
Hamzeh, A. Nizar. "Lebanon's Hizbullah: from Islamic revolution to parliamentary accommodation." Third World Quarterly 14, no. 2 (1993).
Hizballah. "An Open Letter: The Hizballah Program." The Jerusalem Quarterly 48 (Fall 1988). Slightly abridged translation of Hizballah's first public declaration, 1985.
Hizbullah. "The Electoral Program of Hizbullah, 1996."
Holt, Maria, "Lebanese Shi'i Women and Islamism: A Response to War." In Women and War in Lebanon, ed. Lamia Rustum Shehadeh. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999.
Leonard, Arthur S. "Lebanese Asylum Seeker Wins Round." Gay City News, 10 March 2005.
Qassem, Naim. Hizbullah: The Story from Within. Translated by Dalia Khalil. London: Saqi, 2005.
Saad-Ghorayeb, Amal. Hizbu'llah: Politics and Religion. London: Pluto Press, 2002.
Shatz, Adam. "In Search of Hezbollah." The New York Review of Books 51, no. 7 (29 April 2004).
Workers Left Unity Iran. "The anti war movement, Hezbollah and the issue of political freedoms: A statement from Workers Left Unity Iran" [2006].

Aug 22, 2006

Interview with anarchist militants in Lebanon

IndyMedia broadcasts an interview with anarchist militants who undertook organizing and delivering aid to villages in southern Lebanon. Their action took place before the ceasefire and in the interview they speak of being made targets by Israel and, mistakenly, by Hezbollah.

The interview shows both courage and dedication on the parts of the R.A.S.H. militants, and stands as a concrete example of independent, autonomous, and libertarian solidarity.

From interview introduction:
"7 Lebanese youth working with the R.A.S.H., the antifascist Red Anarchist Skinhead collective in Europe decided to return to Lebanon to help with relief work as the death toll in their country mounted. Within a few days they were risking their lives walking through southern Lebanon with 80lbs of food and water on their backs to arrive at villages near the Israeli border that humanitarian organizations had deemed unreachable. With Israeli missiles falling all around them, they supplied food to starving people unable to evacuate their villages.

21 year old Hassam is a part of the group who on their own in spontaneous acts of mutual aid continued to provide aid in the most dangerous regions of Lebanon."

In the interview Hasam states aspects that motivated their collective’s effort,

“There were people who weren’t able to leave (the southern villages). And those were the people with the most need… We choose to do this on a volunteer basis to show the people who we were helping that we are not expecting from them anything, were doing this really to help. It’s not like if we are doing this for political conditions like it’s happening in Beirut…we wanted people to see that there was still hope… there are people who are accepting to take risks, accepting to sacrifice their life…”

“It’s about standing up and doing something. Everyone can do something… people in the USA can do something, they can make a stand…to show that they wont support Israel or send military stuff… all our lives we are having jobs we hate to buy stuff we don’t need, there’s people dying everyday there are tragedies all around the world…”