Socialism, Populism, and Neoliberalism in the Arab World

Sisera: The CIA’s coups have been out of control for decades, agreed.
But you support minority rule governments in the Middle East (Saddam Hussein, certainly and possibly Assad who is at least an ethnic minority. Hezbollah operated for years in a largely Christian country, etc.) because the alternative would mean Americans die in terror attacks from those countries becoming terror bases.
I don’t know that you could argue any Latin American oligarchy was more brutal than Saddam Hussein.
So you just value certain American interests that are different than his.

Saddam was brutal but he was a populist. He just didn’t tolerate any minority rebellions or opposition really. But in return for that he was a great socialist and populist leader who did great things for his people. Saddam’s rule was not oligarchic rule by a ruling class. Actually when the Ba’ath took power, they took out the local oligarchs, confiscated their land, imposed heavy taxation, nationalized many industries, etc.
Saddam was a man of the people. He was for the little guy, the average Joe Iraqi Workingman. You could also argue that Stalin and Mao were brutal in similar ways. Leftwing regimes can be pretty brutal. I am not one to dismiss that. But leftist and Communist regimes are not cases of ruling class rule or the rule by a small group of rich and capitalists over everyone else.
The whole time Hezbollah was around, Lebanon was a minority Christian country. It hasn’t been majority Christian since the 1960’s or maybe 1970’s. Anyway the Christians are not in opposition to Hezbollah. One of the Maronite leaders, Aoun, is in an alliance with Hezbollah. Hezbollah has Christian and Sunni militias in Christian and Sunni areas. The Greek Orthodox have always supported Hezbollah. It’s a populist movement. Hezbollah only came into existence because of the Israeli invasion.
You may be correct about Syria. Democracy may well vote in radical Islamists, and that would not be a pretty picture. The Syrian rebels give you a taste of what life would be like without Assad.  We already know what life in Iraq was like post-Saddam. A sheer Hell of a charnelhouse. Surely Saddam was better than what came after.
Assad is a populist. He works for everyone. It’s not a matter of the rich running the place and fucking everyone over. They just had elections for Parliament and 85% of the seats were run by Sunnis. The Sunnis run the business community. The army is full of Sunni generals. The minority rule thing is sort of dumb. Assad cuts everyone in because he has to. Anyway, if you go the democratic route in the Middle East, you end up with Islamists.
I actually do not mind popular or populist dictatorships that serve the people. That’s fine. Assad appears to have majority support too. It’s not like the majority want Assad gone and he just usurped them.
Saddam was difficult, but there were 1 million Shia Ba’ath Party members. Shia were persecuted not for being Shia but for being Islamists. Anyway, Saddam was the best choice. Look what happened when he was gone.
For whatever reason, the rich and the capitalists in the Arab World are not evil like in Latin America, the Philippines, Indonesia, etc. Everyone wants socialism in the Arab world. But Arab socialism allows businessmen to earn money, so everyone gets cut in. You don’t have hard-line socialism or Communism because you don’t have diabolical ruling classes like you have in Latin America. If the rich and the capitalists are willing to go along with a socialist or populist project, why can’t they have full rights?
Hezbollah does not control Lebanon. Anyway, Lebanon is minority rule and has been forever. Christians are guaranteed 50% of seats in Parliament but are only 30% of the population. Hezbollah is not a ruling class group. They are basically socialists like most Islamists.
You see, radical neoliberalism, Latin American style economic conservatism, Republican Party politics, etc. is a no seller in the Arab World. Literally nobody but nobody but nobody wants it. The only people proposing it are Lebanese Maronites because they are close to Europe and they are trying to distinguish themselves from Arabs by being individualists and different.
You can’t sell any sort of oligarchic rule, ruling class rule, economic conservatism of any of that in most Muslim countries. Because Mohammad, if you read him closely, was a pretty socialist fellow. Now the ruling classes in the Arab world used to be feudalists who worked the fellahin like serfs.
But the Arab nationalist revolutions that rocked the Arab world got rid of all of that. All rulers wiped out the feudal holdings and liberated the peasants. The large landowners tried to justify their rule by saying that Mohammad said there are rich and there are poor and that is fine. They got corrupt Muslims clergy to go along with this, similar to how the ruling classes get the Catholic Church to go along with the project of the rich.
This alliance was most notable in Iraq, but it existed in other places like Palestine. Egypt was largely feudal before Nasser. Nasser was not only an Arab nationalist but also a working class hero. Leftists all over the Arab World used to have pictures of Nasser on the walls. He too liberated the Muslim peasants. Feudal rule ended in Palestine in the 1930’s in the midst of an Arab nationalist revolution there.
Getting rid of oligarchic and feudal rule was easy in the Arab World because the masses never supported the oligarchs or feudalists. Rather, they hated them. So Arab socialism was an easy fit all over the region. Even the business communities gladly went along.

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7 thoughts on “Socialism, Populism, and Neoliberalism in the Arab World”

  1. Yes, Saddam and Assad are objectively great administrative leaders.
    But the point is their people don’t want them.
    I’m just pointing out that you don’t always support democracy yourself, if the alternative is a whole region of Al Qaeda-stans.

    1. In 1972 just before the war, the Parliament set aside 50% of the seats for Christians in order to proportionally represent them. So they were certainly a more cohesive plurality:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parliament_of_Lebanon
      And in the war, Israel actually sided with Christians early on. (The U.S. backed the Harriris). But that was back in the day when the Israelis hadn’t gone off the deep end with backing terrorists to overthrow stable Arab governments. They thought they actually win by befriending people….

      1. and naturally Hezbollah was arch rivals of Israel, who was defending the Christians.
        But now the tides have turned because Israel’s pet Jihadis genocide Christians.

      2. Yeah and that decision was very controversial because it was based on the census of 1958! And it has stood at 50% all this time while the Christians have dwindled to 30%. Not very democratic at all, but the Christians insist on this and refuse to do a census, preferring undemocratic rule to a fair democracy that would result after a census. Fuck that. Do a census! Fair is fair. You see the Christians are lying, cheating and stealing just because democracy will result in their being a minority. That’s shitty.
        When did Israel side with the Christians? In the Civil War? The Hariris were not in power in 1982.

    2. No, Saddam’s people probably wanted him I would think. Most Iraqis were opposed to him being overthrown.
      Assad seems to have majority support. Most Syrians think it’s either Assad or Al Qaeda.
      Of course I don’t always support democracy. I support some undemocratic regimes. But I probably would not be opposed to them going to democracy either. Those are popular regimes that rule in the name of the people. It’s not oligarchic rule. If people want some Commie dictatorship, I am not going to stop them.
      I’m usually not going to demand to overthrow some government just because I don’t like them the way the ruling classes go. We on the Left mostly just suffer through rightwing regimes and pledge to get rid of them peacefully. We tend to suffer through Islamist regimes too. The key difference here is that the Left is generally willing to live with rightwing regimes, even though we hate them. In my case it would be due to a respect for democratic norms.
      You are getting into the Leftists tolerate their own dictatorships but not those of others. But Commie dictatorships tend to have majority support. The Right tries to overthrow regimes they don’t like even when they only have minority support. Then they put in a dictatorship and rule by death squad or fraud.
      The Arabs don’t seem to do democracy well for whatever reason. Democracy just brings chaos for Arabs. I will not automatically try to overthrow any Arab democracy though just because it is chaotic. I’m just saying that sometimes popular dictatorship is the way to go.
      You think there is no difference between oligrachic rule or a small ruling class that fucks over 80% of the people is the same thing as popular rule with the support of 70% of the people? I usually don’t have a problem with a popular dictatorship. If the people with to live that way, that’s their business.
      The difference between us and them is that we tolerate rule by the opposition. We just sit there and suck it up. We don’t lie, cheat, steal, murder people, burn shit down, blow up the economy, destroy the country, etc. just because we can’t get our way. And we definitely would not do that if we were only a minority.
      We on the Left don’t do the minority rule thing, and the rich and the capitalists do all the time. They know they don’t have the support of the masses, but they try to put in minority rule because that’s the only way they can rule. We would never do that.

        1. The difference between me and economic Rightists is that I will tolerate this new government of chaos in Iraq. Sure Saddam would have been better if left in place but that horse left the gate already. Yes many people are dying now, but what are you going to do? The people want a democratic system there and that’s what they’ve got. It’s leading to a lot of conflict, but oh well.
          Most Iraqis opposed the invasion. Remember early in the invasion when US forces drove through towns like Nasariyah expecting to be welcomed with flowers. They would get halfway through town before the whole place would open up on them. They were hiding on rooftops, everywhere. A LOT of people fought the US in those Shia cities in the South. Yes some were Shia Baathists (there were 1 million of them!), but a lot of locals just took up arms against the US.
          It comes down to basic nationalism. Those Shia down there were not real wild about Saddam, but they were willing to fight for their country. I remember in the Yom Kippur War, a lot of Communists were in prison in Iraq. They begged the government to let them out just to go fight Israel. They said that afterwards they would head right back to prison.
          Sometimes you just gotta fight for your country, man. As much as they hated Saddam, no one likes an invader, especially one with fake and ill intentions and no moral reason to invade like the US.
          It was a Nazi like war of aggression. Those were outlawed at Nuremburg.

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