The Middle Eastern Left and Capitulation to Imperialism

From a Maoist mailing list that I am on, an excellent piece on how Communists and the Left in general have so utterly failed the people of the Middle East. This is part – a small part, but still a part – of why Islamists are so popular. The Left has completely blown it. I had never heard of the Three Worlds Theory before. It’s hard to believe that any Leftists anywhere got behind such nonsense.
The record of the Iraqi Communist Party has been sorry indeed, and I had not heard good things about the WCP’s of Iraq and Iran. It’s incredible that the ICP-MLM’s line is that in the event of a US invasion of Iran, they will fight alongside the US to overthrow the regime. The only reasonable position to take in these cases is to fight the invaders.
I recall that in Iraq, in 1967 and 1973, after there had been a huge purge of the Left, the Communists who were in Iraqi prisons in 1967 and 1973 demanded to be let out in order to join the wars against Israel. They promised to go back to prison afterward. That’s the spirit! Viva patria libre.
This is a good piece. It doesn’t argue for throwing our weight behind fundamentalist nuts, but on the other hand, it doesn’t argue for supporting imperialism either.
However, I would also reject the usual leftwing notion, stated below, that Israel is a pawn, tool or colony of US imperialism. As a recent piece in Counterpunch pointed out, this must be some kind of a joke. Israel offers no benefit to the US or any other Western country. At best, it’s a giant millstone.
A typical Left theory is that imperialism wants to keep the Middle East stirred up and at war so they can sell weapons to it, make money off the weapons sales, and, in the case of Arab nationalists, divide and conquer the Arab World through the placement of an Israeli colony in the middle of it. Or, alternatively, to keep the Arabs dependent on our arms sales, profiting us and insuring their loyalty.
Although this theory is very appealing to Leftists (I even subscribed to it myself for a bit), it’s appalling in its stupidity.
First of all, capitalists want peace, not war. They make way more money when a region is at peace than when it’s at war, the arms industry aside. That Israel is some sort of a colony of the US and not the other way around (as Uri Avnery has noted) is a preposterous theory.
This theory has the advantage of letting the Israelis off the hook. Poor pawns of imperialism, boo hoo. Jew as victim all over again.
Further, it avoids the minefield of the Jewish Israeli Lobby in the West, which the Left does not want to touch.
Much of the Left is still sensitive to anti-Semitism.
Anti-Semites have always been our worst enemies, and they left piles of dead Communists, Leftists and progressives built of tens of millions of our dead, as high as mountains, in the past century. Further, any anti-Semite worth his salt will quickly remind you of the debt we on the Left have to the Jews, who have been instrumental in our movement. Finally, anti-Semitism as a form of racism is of course anathema to us.
The problem here is that Israel, and its heavily Jewish Amen corner in the US, is part of the problem. No mealy mouthed pussyfooting around the issue gets us away from that. That doesn’t mean we turn into anti-Semites. It just means we call em as we see em and place the blame where it lies. The media I read and listen to it is full of Jews screaming about Israel. There’s no logical reason why one must be an anti-Semite to oppose the Zionist regime.
The piece starts here:


…What this implies is that we should only support a communist or progressive national resistance to Israel. But this is just the usual western Left delusion.
What are the Communist forces in the Middle East?
The revisionists such as the Iraqi Communist Party that sat on the Iraq Governing Council as collaborators when the US was carrying out its genocidal attack on Fallujah.
The Worker-Communist Party of Iraq and Iran whose mentor Hekmat openly supported the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
The Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist- Maoist) who repeat the error of the ‘Three Worlds Theory’ by calling for ‘revolutionaries’ to fight to achieve the same objective as the US (overthrow of the current Iranian regime) in the event of a US invasion of Iran.
The Three Worlds Theory was the theory that revolutionaries and progressives should effectively unite with US imperialism to defeat the perceived greater threat of the Soviet Union. The CPI-MLM just takes the same dud theory and applies it to Islamic Fundamentalism.
Communists have sold out the people of the Middle East too often to be trusted now. It is obvious that the US and its proxy Israel is the main enemy of the people of the Middle East and other oppressed nations. They have devastated Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Palestine.
Why on Earth would the people of the Middle East choose to try to resist this dreadful force that is bringing their nations to ruin under the leadership of people that time and time again side with the country that is the cause of all their misfortune?
It’s absolutely ridiculous for Communists to make such a meal of criticising national liberation movements like Hamas. Yes, we know such movements can end up vacillating in their resistance to imperialism. But the Communists who make this criticism of Hamas just use this as an excuse for siding with American imperialism in a far more decisive manner than groups like Hamas and Hezbollah have done.
The vacillations of the national resistance movements are just used as an alibi by the Communists for their capitulation to imperialism.
Rather than criticising groups like Hamas from such a position of abject weakness, Communists should be criticising themselves for the way they have failed the people so dreadfully. Only once this is done can credibility be regained.
Does any of this mean we should tail Islamicists? Not at all, though that is the slander thrown against all Maoists that disagree with the policy of fighting on the same side as US imperialism.
The Maoist line in the case of an attack on an oppressed nation is to unite with all forces that can be united with to resist the foreign invasion. The Maoists therefore form a United Front to wage a war of national resistance. This front must be led by the Maoists, not by the reactionaries.
This leads to an obvious problem that initially the Maoist Party will be small and unable to lead. Therefore their priority is to build up their strength. This can and will lead to conflict with the reactionary government and the reactionary resistance movements, just as Mao’s PLA fought with the Chiang Kai-Shek’s army before and after the anti-Japan United Front had been formed.
Even while engaging in such conflicts Maoists must stress the line that the main enemy is the invader but that only the Maoists can lead successful resistance, not the reactionaries. Such a line is a world away from the line of uniting with imperialism against local reactionaries.
Finally, we must avoid the moralism that says we, who are not in the Middle East, should not tell them how to run their struggles. When Communist parties are going very badly wrong then it is our responsibility to point this out. The CPI-MLM has certainly not been shy of expressing its criticisms of the CPN (M), so I hardly think moralistic considerations should concern us either.

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10 thoughts on “The Middle Eastern Left and Capitulation to Imperialism”

  1. Dear Robert
    There are essentially 3 types of people in the West that support Israel: Zionists, Protestants and conservatives. Some Protestants may support Israel for obscure theological reasons, but the main reason is probably that they are Bible readers. 3/4 of the Bible consits of the OT, and it is all about Jews. They support Israel simply because they sympathize with Jews as the people of the Book living in their regained Promised Land. It is that simple.
    Many conservatives like Israel precisely because it is the last colonialist state. They never really were opposed to colonialism in the first place. What Israel is doing in Palestine isn’t essentially different from what colonialists once did in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Don’t forget that Israel was created by Europeans Jews. Conservatives generally liked the Cold War, which was psychologically satisfying to them because (1) it involved confrontation and (2) it was seen as a giant struggle between good and evil, with our side of course representing the good.
    People that liked the Cold War will also like the idea of a Clash of Civilizations between what they see as the civilized West and Islamic barbarism. In this view, Israel is simply a dike against Islam. These people do not see the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as a national conflict but as a religious conflict between an intolerant Islam and a liberal West. To them, Israel is a victim of terrorism.
    Hamas and Hezbollah are not seen by these new cold warriors as resistance movements created by Israeli occupation but simply as spears of Islam’s onslaught against the West. Don’t forget that Western Cold Warriors also saw every communist party in the Third World as an instrument of the Kremlin. Islamophobia is the new anti-communism and the Clash of Civilizations is the new Cold War, in which israel is an indispensable ally. Don’t forget that hard-liners thrive on confrontation and operate with black-white dichotomies.
    Regards. James

  2. Interesting piece, Robert. The Iraqi communist party also took the wrong side against the independent Southern Iraqi oil-workers union ( I think that’s the group), who were offering resistance to the imposition of a yellow state (occupation) sponsored union to assist the theft of Iraq’s resources. I can’t remember the details, but the Iraqi communist party argued ( in the Morning Star) the usual stuff about the advantage of ‘being inside the tent’ re the occupation government, and they received some support from the Morning Star (loosely, but not entirely, Communist Party of Britain).
    ” Anti-Semites have always been our worst enemies… The problem here is that Israel, and its heavily Jewish Amen corner in the US, is part of the problem… it just means we call em as we see em and place the blame where it lies. ”
    It might be fairer to say that some of our worst enemies have been antisemites – the White Russians, the nazis, and some of the Euro-American loony right. But that doesn’t make antisemitism necessarily a bad thing, any more than anti-homophobia, anti-catholicism, or even anti-communism. Antisemitism can’t mean racism or religious bigotry, since jews are neither a race nor, by and large, religious. They get their own special term, anti-semite. Why doesn’t really matter; the point is obviously whether this group should be exempt from criticism as a group, if we find that there is a very large coincidence between association with this group and support for practices we don’t like – support for a racist state in Israel, and support for (and participation in) illegal, discriminatory and mafia-like practices elsewhere, notably the USA. ‘ Call em as we see em’ !
    Re James Schipper:
    As far as I can see there are only 2 types of Protestant who support Israel. The evangelicals support Israel, not because of the Bible, but because their leaders tell them to, and they are weak-minded simpletons who would support or believe anything their leaders told them to, including gassing the jews tomorrow. Their leaders support Israel because jews have bribed them to – the Biblical stuff is convenient propaganda.
    American Presbyterian Protestants were the first group to divest from Israel, and to join the campaign for divestment. But some Northern Ireland Protestants (also Presbyterians) and/or their ‘leaders’ support Israel, as do some (not many) of their Scottish sympathisers. This support, largely, has more do with FOOTBALL (soccer) than anything. Some background: Presbyterianism is the Scottish form of Protestant church organisation. The Protestants in N. Ireland came from Scotland 400 years ago, and retained links to, and followed, the Scottish Church ( Incidentally, the Scots originally came from N. Ireland 1400 years ago, but there’s more to the story than that. And please note that one point there is only a gap of a mile or 2 between the 2 lands, across the Irish Sea). During the industrial revolution, the capitalists brought in a lot of scab labour from Ireland, and their descendants now make up between 1/3 to 1/2 of residents of Glasgow, Scotland, my hometown. There are 2 major football teams in Scotland – Glasgow Celtic, identified with the Catholics and Catholic Ireland, and Glasgow Rangers. the Protestants – these are known as the ‘ Auld Firm’, the old firm, as in business, company etc. These teams are also followed loyally by N. Ireland Protestants and Catholics, as they are far bigger than any N. Ireland teams. At some point in the last 10 years, Sinn Fein ( I take it you know about them) hit on using the analogy between the N. Ireland Catholic situation and that of the Palestinians, and it’s hard to deny that there WAS a large similarity with the Palestinians within Israel proper, but the situation had improved, and was improving, for years before Sinn Fein took this up, and the analogy between the West Bank and Gaza and the rest of Ireland may have been true historically, but that’s long over – to pretend that this was the situation in N. Ireland ( i.e. the ‘British occupation’) is dishonest, and is just the familiar strategy of victimhood identity politics, to get a foot in the door and get on the gravy train – the usual ‘Tammany Hall’ type Catholic politics – to be fair that’s true of most politics. Anyway, Celtic supporters took up the Palestinian flag, so Rangers supporters took up the Israeli flag, and their following in N. Ireland too – few of these people, on either side, know anything, much less give a shit, about Palestine/Israel. Unfortunately, most of the most reactionary and bigoted N. Ireland Protestant ‘loyalists’ are also Rangers supporters, and they still have huge influence – hence the recent statement, supporting Israel over Gaza, by prominent N. Ireland Protestant leader, John Trimble. Coming from a Scottish Protestant background, I find this embarrassing, so I have to point out that this mentality only exists within a small percentage of Rangers supporters, the hard-core Orange Lodge types; most Scottish nominal Protestants are in fact atheists and don’t identify with the church at all. And most Rangers and Celtic supporters are civilised, reasonable people who by and large get on very well and are well integrated – but, as ever, it’s the vociferous nutcases who get all the attention.

  3. Incidentally, I suspect you know this, but just in case you don’t, Diana Johnstone, one of the authors of that Counterpunch piece you refer to, wrote THE most essential book on the Yugoslav wars, ‘ Fool’s Crusade’ – absolutely essential to read and reread this.

  4. That’s great stuff on Scottish Zionists, LS. Yes, I do recall that Diana Johnstone wrote a lot of stuff on the Balkans War, but that was back when the Left was supporting a Communist-fascist named Milosevic, so I did not read much of that stuff.
    My opinion about N Ireland is that there is no such thing as North Ireland and Ireland. There is only one country – Ireland. UK needs to abandon its colony in Ireland and stop colonizing Irish land. The IRA has long supported the Palestinians, especially the PFLP.

  5. The ‘left’ supporting Milosevic? I must have missed that. The liberals, progressives, Trotskyists, and covert-Trot pseudo-communists (Communist Party of Britain) did their usual trick of pretending to oppose US policy, while promoting the propaganda used to justify it. Johnstone’s book demonstrates thoroughly how the Serbs and Milosevic were demonised.
    As to Ireland being one country. So Africa is one country? Just because they’re on the same land mass? The majority of the North, who have lived their for hundreds of years, want no part of the ghastly backward theocratic Irish state, where abortion and contraception is still outlawed, and child abuse by priests, near universal, has only recently come to be frowned on. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Irish independence ( I’m not convinced it was a good thing) or partition ( better than a bloody war since the Protestants weren’t having it), the outstanding problem was that a substantial minority of Catholics in N. Ireland didn’t identified with the Uk. So, to keep it short, the Good Friday agreement is the ideal solutiion, a sort-of half-way house, links to both states, and power-sharing for both communities – not entirely democratic, but better than constant friction. This solution should have been arrived at 90 years ago, or at least 40 years ago, but every side insisted on doing the wrong thing. ‘Bloody Sunday’ was a propaganda Birthday and Christmas rolled into one for the civil rights movement, but the IRA threw it away and alienated support witht their murder campaign, setting progress back for 40 years. Remember that the IRA killed more Catholics than the loyalists and the Brit army combined. It will probably be forgotten that Tony Blair achieved one good thing – near peace in N. Ireland – but the process was started by his predecessor, the Conservative John Major.

  6. I guess you know I support the IRA, right? I’m even sorry they put down their guns, and I think this “peace deal” is outrageous.
    Thx for telling me that there are spots where there is only 2-3 miles distance between Ireland and Scotland, though. Does this imply island-hopping?
    I also did not know that contraception was illegal in Ireland, and I thought that they had gained some sanity on abortion. That’s appalling about the priests and child abuse!
    But really, this is just colonial thinking. Folks would rather be colonized than be independent and free to be ruled by reactionaries. I thought we settled this with Fanon in 1964. People deserve to be free, whether to be ruled by reactionaries or not. Even Trotsky agreed – see his comments on the Chinese Nationalists fighting the Japanese.
    Whatever the rights and wrongs of Irish independence ( I’m not convinced it was a good thing)
    Oh! My! How that old British colonial mindset does linger…even on the Left. Tsk tsk tsk. Shame on you, LS. You’re better than that.

  7. A big proportion of the Irish Catholics, then and now, had big reservations about independence. One of the best arguments was that their economy is always going to be heavily involved with the UK, so better to be in the tent and have a vote. But I accept their decision. What I don’t accept is their notion of ‘the Protestant veto’ – that ‘the whole of Ireland’ voted for independence, and the N. Ireland Protestants have no right to veto it. Well, there never was a ‘whole Ireland’. You could say that ‘the whole of Britain’ vote against Irish independence and the IRA vetoed it with their terrorism. I support self -determination of peoples, within reason – that’s just basic democracy. If a part of a nation secedes, then any sizeable cohesive population that doesn’t wish to be included in the secession should have their wishes respected. A clear cut case is the Serbs in Krajina – there were next to no Croats there, and it was nearly contiguous to Serbia proper. N. Ireland is more akin to Sprska – there are 2 intermingled populations, though the Protestant and Serb are larger. What happened in Sprska would have happened in N. Ireland if anyone had tried to force the matter. So the Good Friday agreement is the ideal solution – pity the USA sabotaged all attempts to get some similar sane arrangement in Bosnia.
    Oh, and in my experience, most Catholic Irish HATE the IRA.

  8. The ‘left’ was systematically crushed in Muslim countries during the Cold War thanks to the collusion between the ‘Islamic Right’ (a term which is dodgy, but will doe for now) and US imperial interests. Ask any old leftist from a Muslim country (esp from Arab ME or Pakistan), and they will tell you exactly this.

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