Left critique of radical Islamism

Discussion: Michael Cooke on the left and fundamentalists | Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Source: here

INTRO by blogger: Lots of the left (esp. but NOT only in the West) take a position on far right movements like radical Islamism that amounts, effectively, to a refusal to critique such movements. This capitulation and liquidationism is given various justifications, among them that critiquing radical Islam aids ‘imperialism’, that it is ‘Islamophobic’ (itself an enormously problematic concept), that such movements can be contested and can even be ‘progressive.’ A classic past example was the adulation of the Iranian Revolution 1978-1979 (the problem obv is that this revolution was captured by the Islamists — NB these are not all Muslims — who then massacred trade unionists and leftists and instituted various reactionary measures). More recent examples can be seen with UK leftists working with far right Islamists to disrupt critics of Islamism (incl bizarre concessions like sexually segregating joint meetings, so as not to offend the Islamists) and SA leftists absorbing various anti-Jewish views incl. the slogan ‘kill the Jews’ in the BDS movement… With the Charlie Hebdo killings,  much of the left including a section of the anarchists managed the remarkable feat of saying absolutely nothing about the politics of the killers, preferring instead to take refuge in various platitudes about how ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘imperialism’ were ‘really’ the cause of the killings, French elite hypocrisy, or attacks on the paper for being ‘Islamophobic’ or hysterical claims about the white right in Europe (a ‘right’ that can barely top 5% in most polls, but anyway …). Whether or not the paper was ‘Islamophobic’ or whether France’s state’s concern for free speech was hypocritical or whether white fascists make propaganda from issues like Charlie Hebdo, is, however, a separate issue: here, right now, there is a radical rightwing (IslamisT0 movement, not radically different to the white right, and right here is a large part of the left that has no idea what to do — despite this movement’s known history of massacring leftists and workers and unionists, repressing women andd civil rights, merging church and state etc. — none of which has anything to do with the left project …… Right now, when this movement threatens the radical left project of the PKK in Rojava… the article below provides a way ahead, that refuses to capitulate to Western imperialism of teh radical Islamist right-wing movement …

The article:

iscussion: Michael Cooke on the left and fundamentalists

By Michael Cooke

For the record then, I have no patience with the position that “we” should only or mainly be concerned with what is “ours’” any more than I can condone reactions to such a view that require Arabs to read Arab books, use Arab methods and the like. As C.L.R James used to say, Beethoven belongs as much to the West as he does to Germans, since his music is now part of the human heritage.

Partly because of empire, all cultures are involved in one another; none is single and pure, all are hybrid, heterogeneous, extraordinary, differentiated, and unmonolithic. This I believe, is as true of the contemporary Untied States [or Australia] as it is of the modern Arab world … Edward Said[1]

June 12, 2015 Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — On April 11, 2015, a right-wing coalition calling itself Reclaim Australia organised rallies across Australia. In Melbourne it was confronted forcefully by a broad coalition of the left. The “Reclaimers” seemed to be racist fantasists, if their Facebook page is any indication: they describe themselves as patriotic Australians who want to stop halal, sharia law and Islamisation.[2]

Mustafa Sidaoul wittily and aptly pointed out in the letter columns of the Age, that the demand to ban sharia is not based on fact, given that sharia does not apply in Australia. Halal certification is a matter of supply and demand (i.e. an economic imperative), and concerns Australia’s need to expand our export market rather than a religious injunction.[3] For without halal certification Muslims will not buy Australian meat.

It is essential that the pernicious and erroneous views, as expounded by the likes of Reclaim Australia, are not only ridiculed but also confronted, which the left has done. The left has also pointed out that Islamophobia is fuelled by Western governments to justify their interventions in the Middle East. It is vital to point out that these imperialist policies provide almost perfect political, cultural and religious tinder to light fundamentalist fervour. While supporting the left’s stand on imperialism, this essay argues that there is a gap in the discourse. The left needs to contest Islamic fundamentalists like Islamic State (IS), given that they are inimical to what the left stands for.

You will not find in the agenda of Islamic fundamentalists the principles embraced by the left: separation of church and state, the right to religious freedom, a rejection of unbridled capitalism, the anti-colonialist struggle, the rights of minorities and the unifying of people of different cultures and religions into a broad coalition to oppose our country’s economic and imperial aims.

This contribution strongly rejects binary perspectives, such as the West versus Islam or religious fundamentalism versus secularism, as being spurious (more…)


Searchlight South Africa/ Baruch Hirson, 1991, “Third Worldism: The Albatross of Socialism”

PDF: Hirson – Third Worldism – albatross of socialism

Also from Searchlight South Africa, a journal edited primarily by the late Baruch Hirson, independent South African Marxist, this article argues against the left’s embrace of ‘third worldism’, meaning the support (more or less uncritical in practice) of nationalist movements and regimes in the colonial and postcolonial world. In the name of ‘anti-imperialism’ this boils down to abandoning class politics in favour of a de facto nationalist north vs south view of the world — and to various disasters for the left. It can be mentioned here that the direct lineal descendant of this ‘third worldism’ is the inability of large part’s of today’s left to take a critical and oppositional stand on radical Islamism, on the grounds that critique ‘helps’ ‘imperialism’ or is ‘Islamophobic’ (a hugely problematic concept in its own right) or will be done ‘later’ — as if the left project of progress, universalism and equality has anything in common with the far right politics of radical Islamism… Also read this article by Hirson critiquing widespread problems in left theorisation of imperialism and left ‘anti-imperialism’.

SOCIALISM: Once Again On The Colonial Question

Vol 2, No 2 (No 6)
A Marxist Journal of Southern African Studies

Baruch Hirson, 1991, “Colonialism and Imperialism”

PDF: Hirson – Colonialism and Imperialism

Article by the late independent South African Marxist Baruch Hirson: criticises narrowly economistic explanations of ‘imperialism,’ the sloppy use of the term as a catch-all, and the politics of a crude ‘anti-imperialism’ that amounts to an defense, largely uncritical, of dubious ‘third world’ regimes. Written ca the 1991 Gulf War, but still relevant today incl. on issues of how left relates — or capitulates — to reactionary currents like radical Islamism in the name of a vague ‘anti-imperialism.’ Includes discussion of the (disastrous) widespread failure to examine dynamics and autonomy of post-colonial states and ruling classes. Also see this article by Hirson’s journal Searchlight South Africa on ‘third worldism’ and the left.


Vol 2, No 3 (No 7)
A Marxist Journal of Southern African Studies