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The "left" and anti-imperialism: why do we persist in making the same mistakes? watch

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    NB: This thread is open to all, not just leftists. But I want constructive comments only.

    So I was musing earlier on the unending stupidity of so called "leftists" here in Britain. I myself am a fan of Marx, socialism, and am an all round pinko-commie, but I have always viewed the British left with considerable amounts of disdain bordering on severe dislike.

    The situation is that the British left seems to put anti-imperialism above all else (not necessarily a problem) and ally itself with the most reactionary, inhumane bigots on the planet in an attempt to "get" at the imperialists (this IS definitely a problem). It is basically a case of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". This is not a new tactic, and as an Iranian socialist, I am somewhat acquainted with the rise (and fall) of the left in Iran, who tried exactly the same thing, so here's some history (which we seem to be doomed to repeat).

    Back in the 1970s when the Iranian revolutionary movements were taking hold, there were several leftist guerilla movements. The Islamists that took over in 1979 would have you believe that the revolution was purely a religious affair, but that's not true, it had a major secular, liberal, socialist and nationalist element, which was crushed after the revolution.

    One of these guerilla groups was the Organisation of Iranian People's Fadayee Guerillas (OIPFG), lead by a chap called Farrokh Negahdar (since exiled and now living in London). Nice moustache no? Anyway, the OIPFG realised that Lenin hadn't defined which class the Shia clergy fell in. To cut a long story short Negahdar and his chums decided the clergy were petty bourgeoisie and therefore a natural ally of the working classes. They decided in the struggle against the imperialist United States and their puppet, the Shah, unity was paramount and the Shia clergy ought to be defended. So they fell behind the reactionary Islamists of the day 100%.

    Not everyone was happy with this and the OIPFG eventually split into a Majority and Minority faction.

    After the Revolution, with the Shah safely out of the way, the Shia clergy conveniently forgot about their anti-imperialist alliance with the OIPFG Majority faction and began butchering them left, right and centre (along with other communists, liberals, Mojaheds, and so on). The point I've been making here is that the Iranian left (stupidly) allied themselves with the reactionary clergy in the name of "anti-Imperialism" and got royally ****ed over.

    Back to the West. Here in Britain we have "leftists" organisations like the Worker's Revolutionary Party defending Gaddafi. We have Hugo Chavez in Venezuela defending Basher al Assad and Ahmadinejad. The Trotsykist World Socialist Website defends Ahmadinejad and Chavez under the guise of anti-imperialism. Doesn't this ring any bells?

    Admittedly this is all nothing new, and it's easy to dismiss these people as extremists and fruitloops. But this begs a question (which I suppose leftists are better equipped to answer): WHY does the left keep using the same tried, tested and failed tactics?

    Setting aside the fact that the WRP are supporting a brutal dictator in Libya and the human rights argument, can they truly not see that Gaddafi isn't some brave socialist warrior, fighting for the oppressed proletariat? Do they not see that they are nothing more than Lenin's selfsame useful idiots? This is why the left is on its deathbed, if not already dead.

    In my opinion this is fundamentally the problem the British left have, they are naive, easily used and uneducated (seeing as they haven't learned anything from their Iranian comrades). As a leftist, this puts me between a rock and a hard place...either I have to fall behind reactionary "leftist" parties which are utterly stupid in their outlook on world politics, or capitalist centrist parties such as New Labour. Or to be completely politically uninvolved.

    All thoughts and opinions welcome.


    (Original post by Oswy)
    I am particularly interested in your opinion
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    (Original post by Democracy)
    ...

    Setting aside the fact that the WRP are supporting a brutal dictator in Libya and the human rights argument, can they truly not see that Gaddafi isn't some brave socialist warrior, fighting for the oppressed proletariat? Do they not see that they are nothing more than Lenin's selfsame useful idiots? This is why the left is on its deathbed, if not already dead.
    At the risk of trying to answer important and difficult questions in a paragraph or so.

    My first thought would be to consider the current and corresponding strength of capital and capitalist ideology with the weakness of socialism and socialist ideology. Even though the crises of capitalism, whether more obviously concerned with the economic, political, social or environmental, are clear for us to see, this is still very much the era of capital. Understandably, those of us on the left feel like the underdog, because right now we are the underdog and easily will be for decades, maybe a century or two One unfortunate consequence of this is that there's a tendency for us to grasp at, and side with, whoever and whatever appears to be at odds with the centre(s) of capitalism (ideologically or economically). Like you suggest, it's thus partly the 'enemy of my enemy' syndrome.

    Personally I try to stay on track in my opposition to capitalism and the promotion of a more equitable and sustainable way of life, ideally one which is substantively socialist in Marxist terms.
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    Coming from a non-leftist: if you want to fund and wage wars for humanitarian purposes (a) pay for them yourself (don't tax moi) and (b) happy conscription!

    I, personally, would be happy to pay charity for rescue services that save people from brutal regimes.
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    The overwhelming and extremely unhelpful tendency of all people in all situations to see complicated and nuanced situations in terms of black and white, us vs them, you're either with me or you're against me. The same reason why people on the right, who start out merely as libertarians, soon get bored of mature arguments and start making social darwinist assertions against the poor. The same reason so many on the left harbour this extremely counterproductive hatred for the upper classes.
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    (Original post by AnarchistNutter)
    Coming from a non-leftist: if you want to fund and wage wars for humanitarian purposes (a) pay for them yourself (don't tax moi) and (b) happy conscription!

    I, personally, would be happy to pay charity for rescue services that save people from brutal regimes.
    What do you think of Jakepearson's reasoning (i.e. given tyrants wouldn't arise in a an-cap world and are products of the states we should utilise the power of the state for a more liberaltarian outcome [disposal of tyrants])?
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    Your problem stems from the fact that you can't differentiate between the we and the they. We discuss **** on TSR and such forums, they decide whatever they bloody well like despite your best God-convincing arguments. They are just greedy and corrupt ****s, who if you don't have enough testimonial evidence against to make such a claim (because they are still alive and people generally wait for them to die, before they publish anything), you can look to who their role-models are, hint: It wasn't Jesus. How did it go, power.. corrupts? Something like that. What I mean to say is, you can find plenty of evidence of the way people in positions of power generally use it and what they achieved.
    Your identifying with "leftism", or "rightism" or any other "ism" has often the unfortunate effect of making the identifier think that their opinion matters within such a circle. I am sorry, but it doesn't.

    The question you're asking is very easy to solve, if you have the data needed to make a satisfactory resolve, but since you can't (or rather, won't) have it, then it's not so simple. Why does the left side of the political spectrum do the same **** again? Well, you need to think about a) who is making these decisions b) who does it (hope to) benefit and in what way. hint: it's not you in either of them, nor Jesus. Poor Jesus.

    Now, to the last part: "..either I have to fall behind reactionary "leftist" parties which are utterly stupid in their outlook on world politics, or capitalist centrist parties such as New Labour. Or to be completely politically uninvolved."
    Well, it seems to me that you can either a) stick to your faith/principles/blabla and fail; b) abandon them for some other and maybe not fail; c) abandon them and achieve nothing politically; and the magical d) there is no magical d) there is only disillusionment. Though, maybe that's not true. There's still Jesus! Woah!
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    (Original post by Annoying-Mouse)
    What do you think of Jakepearson's reasoning (i.e. given tyrants wouldn't arise in a an-cap world and are products of the states we should utilise the power of the state for a more liberaltarian outcome [disposal of tyrants])?
    This stance is called neo-libertarianism and amounts to, "its ok to use state power for some things but not other things". I am a paleo-libertarian.

    Lets look at this from a practical perspective. State owned armies hardly ever do a good job at sorting out these disasters. This Libyan mission is quite frankly suicide. Look at the strategic mess that was Iraq and Afghanistan, especially on behalf of the Americans who completely cocked up relationships with local people to help them locate members of terrorist groups like the Taliban and the even more extreme splinter group, Al Qaeda. Look at how many innocent people have been arrested. Look at how the British completely messed up helping Holocaust survivors settle into the state of Israel, or how during WWII 60 million people died. And look at how well the Israeli and Palestinian states are settling their conflicts at the moment. Look at Blackhawk down when Bill Clinton sent a team of special troops into Somalia in 1993 and there forces were completely and utterly demolished (as a result of a collaboration of incredibly powerful anarchist militia groups might I add).

    The military should be a private business and act with utmost professionality, in my opinion. It should be voluntarily funded by charity and by commercial interests (for instance BP could quite easily have hired a few military contracts to help protect their stock in Libya as well as the interests of their factory workers abroad [both British and Libyan] and possibly even the interests of consumers - which includes everyone who has been killed by Qaddafi and the many, many more people that are going to be slaughtered by this 'no-fly zone').

    Furthermore generals should be held full responsibility for their actions by free market justice, even if it means death penalty when they make an atrocious mistake; this is people's lives we are dealing with here and generals (and other state actors, including politicians who steal and get the country into massive debt and public prosecutors who get the wrong people thrown in jail) employed by the state are too often protected from the law.

    I also believe the role of private militias should be limited to saving, protecting and exporting people rather than waging outright war. Some people are happy living under tyrannical regimes. Other people are not. Militias should help out the latter. People could also be exported from their country on the condition that they work to pay off the expenses.
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    (Original post by Oswy)
    At the risk of trying to answer important and difficult questions in a paragraph or so.

    My first thought would be to consider the current and corresponding strength of capital and capitalist ideology with the weakness of socialism and socialist ideology. Even though the crises of capitalism, whether more obviously concerned with the economic, political, social or environmental, are clear for us to see, this is still very much the era of capital. Understandably, those of us on the left feel like the underdog, because right now we are the underdog and easily will be for decades, maybe a century or two One unfortunate consequence of this is that there's a tendency for us to grasp at, and side with, whoever and whatever appears to be at odds with the centre(s) of capitalism (ideologically or economically). Like you suggest, it's thus partly the 'enemy of my enemy' syndrome.

    Personally I try to stay on track in my opposition to capitalism and the promotion of a more equitable and sustainable way of life, ideally one which is substantively socialist in Marxist terms.
    Thanks for this, it was a really useful answer. I realise that socialism and Marxism as well are still relatively young philosophies though it does seem that the British left is being damaged more by itself than the right...pity.
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    Personally, and this is just based on what I have read, British Socialism has never focused on Marx's 'Scientific' model. Instead, many British Socialists [and i realise i am generalising here] tend to take a more emotional standpoint that focuses on the negative aspects of the current system, and not the root cause of those subsequent aspects. [See bankers bonuses for example, they are a point of stigma, yet few 'socialists' actually can articulate how in Marxist theory this is inevitable in Capitalism]. In other words, it is just as you say, British Socialists are focused on perceived symptoms of Capitalism, rather than the actual core of the system itself.
    To this end, they will focus on the opposing ideology to attempt to weaken the current economic system, but are infact simply undermining their own credibility by aligning themselves with individuals who do not represent their ideals, and who they would perceive [if they were under the regime they supported in the foreign country] more oppressive than the one they are in now.
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    I don't think this is applies only to the British left. Have a look at certain organisations in the USA, France, Germany, etc. and you'll find similar positions.

    I don't want to be awkward and simply direct you to a wikipedia page, but have a read of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proleta...ternationalism

    Particularly from 'The Third International: Leninism versus Left Communism' down. And in particular:

    On the question of imperialism and national determination, many Trotskyists and all proponents of third worldism argue that workers in "oppressor" nations (such as the USA or Israel) must first support national liberation movements in "oppressed" nations (such as Afghanistan or Palestine) before there can be any basis for proletarian internationalism.
    Most non-Leninst socialist organisations have a different understanding of imperialism, so it isn't simply a case of choosing between Labour or "reactionary "leftist" parties".

    You might also want to check out these guys: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allianc...ers%27_Liberty
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    (Original post by AnarchistNutter)
    This stance is called neo-libertarianism and amounts to, "its ok to use state power for some things but not other things". I am a paleo-libertarian.
    With all respect this is not what it amounts to at all. It is a school of libertarianism which states that isolationism is damaging, and dare I say impossible, in a post-9/11 world. We believe that states are motivated by self-interest, like humans, and therefore must act accordingly on the international stage to protect the rights of their civilians from attack or threat of attack. This includes disarming rogue, nuclear-armed regimes when it is practical. The idea of utilising state power in this way because we realise it is better than the consequences - a world where terrorists and other despotic regimes are armed and ready to attack our way of life and very existence.
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    I used to have the same problem with the lefts support of the PIRA in the 80's - I never could see it as a good thing that someone was trying to blow me to smithereens and it was puzzling that the people who I wanted to agree with thought differently.
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    (Original post by JakePearson)
    With all respect this is not what it amounts to at all. It is a school of libertarianism which states that isolationism is damaging, and dare I say impossible, in a post-9/11 world. We believe that states are motivated by self-interest, like humans, and therefore must act accordingly on the international stage to protect the rights of their civilians from attack or threat of attack. This includes disarming rogue, nuclear-armed regimes when it is practical. The idea of utilising state power in this way because we realise it is better than the consequences - a world where terrorists and other despotic regimes are armed and ready to attack our way of life and very existence.
    But who must pay to fund your moral crusades?
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    (Original post by Democracy)
    In my opinion this is fundamentally the problem the British left have, they are naive, easily used and uneducated (seeing as they haven't learned anything from their Iranian comrades). As a leftist, this puts me between a rock and a hard place...either I have to fall behind reactionary "leftist" parties which are utterly stupid in their outlook on world politics, or capitalist centrist parties such as New Labour. Or to be completely politically uninvolved.

    All thoughts and opinions welcome.
    I agree with this last point. I personally don't believe in state ran democracy and so to vote for any party would be contrary to my political beliefs. Thus I'm left politically stranded. I struggle to voice many opinions since many issues could be avoided if we didn't have the current capitalist system.
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    (Original post by AnarchistNutter)
    But who must pay to fund your moral crusades?
    The taxpayer. Given that I believe in consequentialism there's no moral opposition to taxation as long as it provides for greater liberty in the long run. I'd quite like taxation to be abolished in the long run, much like I believe the state should be abolished, but it's unrealistic to talk of that at the moment. First we have to deal with the threats we face, including Islamic radicalisation and nuclear-armed slave-states like Iran.
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    I find much to agree with here, both with the worries of the OP and with the "enemy of my enemy" explanation for it, so I've stumbled on this too late to add much. I’ve been thinking about this, and fretting over how we could have fallen so low quite a bit recently so perhaps I can offer a couple of observations as to why the tendency to get into bed with anyone who is attacking a capitalist country has been so prominent in the modern Left .

    A) Firstly, I think you’re very close to the mark with pointing out that there does seem to be a certain lack of education in the British Left. I think this may be because Leftist politics is increasingly becoming merely a pathway to fashionable iconoclasm. People want to do the trendy rebellion and “anti-establishment” thing, especially at the moment, and find socialism a convenient flag to rally round whilst having a very poor grasp of the theories they actually identify with. This being the case, they are therefore happy to just condemn any government action simply because it is a government action and then get some cool facebook photos of them waving a red flag. Nothing wrong with being in a minority opposition to the government, of course not, but sometimes the reason you are in a minority is because you are being an idiot. If, however, your only real aim is just to be in a minority then this is unlikely to fuss you.

    With the decline of academic Marxism far too many in the Left are thinking ideologically, and too few dialectically: many of our problems may have their roots in holding our Marxism dogmatically. The key to science is revision and constant criticism, Marx and Lenin were not infallible, but your average modern teenage socialist does love a cult of personality. How long do the all-too-common arguments; “because we have a bad history in the Middle East, we should never do anything there,” or “we’re not going to help in Zimbabwe or Saudi Arabia, therefore we shouldn’t do Libya either” stand up to a process of examination? Not long, but if you’re holding blindly to the belief that a capitalist country can never act morally, you can probably go a long way with a quasi-religious faith.

    Along with this goes the increasing fluffiness of Leftism, an increasingly non-judgemental ethos. We allied, quite correctly, with the struggle for sexual and racial emancipation, but identity politics is death to objectivity. Again a lack of thought, again it ceases to matter how violent or immoral someone is, as long as they are one of “us” we are happy to make their excuses. The number of people who came out against the blasphemous Danish cartoonist for example - yes the left are progressives who believe in multiculturalism, but they allowed this to obscure the fact that this was a violent attack on free expression.

    B) This leads to your second point – such a Left is easily led. Consider the prominent “Leftists” of recent years and you’ll probably get names like Galloway, Moore, Tariq Ali and other unsavoury demagogues. Such people have much to answer for in creating the illusion that terrorism and extremism are a result of poverty and globalising consumerism, and indeed the spectacle of chubby Brits waving “We’re all Hizzbullah now” signs. It really is a feat of quite impressive contortionism to crawl up the arses of the very people who are screwing you in yours, but the modern Left has lost the capacity for self-criticism, has allowed solidarity to become warped to cultishness. Possibly such extremist movements take advantage of a sublimated nostalgia for the old international Left organisations: unfortunately what has filled the global anti-capitalist void is far less laudable.

    C) There is a danger in any ideology with a deterministic element to be non-judgemental. If you buy for a second the view that theocratic mass murders are in fact the victims of circumstance, and combine this with the idea that Western countries are solely vehicles for spreading capitalist evil, then it becomes very easy to exonerate these people’s barbaric crimes. The presence of violent revolution in the genesis of our movement helps us little here, as does the fact it has been romanticised and therefore it is perhaps the case that violence is seen less critically than it should.

    There you are: a death of intellectual rigour, a rapidly declining suspicion of dogma, the adoption of identity politics, a few of the wrong people in the wrong place and the warping of the principals of solidarity and revolutionary violence that lie at the core of Marxism, all contribute to a failure to realise that violence against a capitalist country is not necessarily motivated by anti-capitalism.

    This has been a pretty harsh critique of the modern Left, I feel as though I had better clarify my own position. I do buy the materialist view of history, I do buy that capitalism is A) inherently harmful and B) ultimately doomed, and I believe that the treatment of the Palestinian people has been inhuman and shameful, but I do not think we serve out interests in offering our solidarity indiscriminately.
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    The CPGB (www.cpgb.org.uk) are a Marxist party who don't support brutal regimes. They recently called for people not to vote for George Galloway because of his support for the regime in Iran.
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    (Original post by Democracy)
    Thanks for this, it was a really useful answer. I realise that socialism and Marxism as well are still relatively young philosophies though it does seem that the British left is being damaged more by itself than the right...pity.
    I think you are right in you're critisicm of the position of many on the left. I'm almost certain that the WRP are funded or were funded by Gadaffi so that may explain it!!

    for a left group that opposes the same points that you do perhaps its worth looking at the CWI. http://www.socialistworld.net/ The british section was the millitant tendancy in the 80s

    theres a good lead off on Iranian revolution which highlihts some of the points that you made yourself - check it out if you're interested http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/mp3...9/Iran1979.mp3
 
 
 
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