Don Hamerquist sends the following comments on "Defending my enemy's enemy":
I’m in general agreement with this piece and I also largely agreed with your earlier criticism of the common left perception that the Bush Administration is fascism in development. [This refers to a separate essay that hasn't been published yet.]
When pushed, both Workers World and the Spartacists will reduce the so called ‘war on terror’ to a surrogate for some other ruling class strategy - a more aggressive pursuit of imperialist interests and/or the imposition of ‘fascism from above’ in the imperialist center. To the contrary, I think that there is a growing consensus within the ruling class that global capitalism is seriously threatened from the right – a threat that is painted as fascist with increasing frequency. I think that this is not only public relations and propaganda, it is how the ruling class ideologues see the world. Further, I think that the feeble mass response in North America and Europe to greatly expanded opportunities for solidarity and struggle is largely explained by the popular acceptance of major elements of this changing capitalist worldview. It is important to open up discussion in these areas.
The feeble organized metropolitan left is dominated by positions that don’t see Islamic radicalism as a serious and unique threat to the global capitalist system.These range from simplistic “war for oil” determinism to elaborate visions of an inter-imperialist challenge to U.S. global hegemony from new capitalist centers in China and India. Islamic radicalism is most commonly viewed as a some kind of “manufactured external threat”, as Professor Adel Safty, (ZNET 7/6) puts it. The basic problem with these positions is the obvious fact of a clear international ruling class consensus about the nature and magnitude of this particular threat. This consensus frequently overrides ruling class differences on the proper response to the threat, e.g., with respect to the war in Iraq. It also tends to overrides national and regional divergences in political and economic interests between blocs of capital and different ideological conceptions of the requirements for capitalist social equilibrium. I think that it is far more important to delineate this ruling class consensus, which includes important intellectual and governmental “dissidents”, such as Friedman and Barnett, not to mention the current governments of France, Spain etc., than it is to concentrate on alleged excesses and irrationalities in the Bush administration policy and posture.
I have some problems with your paper’s use of Worker’s World and Spartacist League positions. This is a serious debate and we should look for the strongest representatives of alternative positions. For Workers World, revolutionary analysis begins and ends with Lenin’s assertion that litmus test of a revolutionary is opposition to one’s own imperialism. The Sparts are what they always have been. Unless you want to debate Bordiga vs. Gramsci or Radek vs Bela Kun, its better to ignore them. I’d suggest Tariq Ali and Gilbert Achcar as serious and substantial advocates of the anti–Imperialist front politics of which Workers World is more a caricature. Less ideologically defined liberal/left positions criticizing a view of Islamic radicals as just “part of the movement” can be found on Juan Cole’s “Informed Comment” website, and, perhaps, more significant, on the “Baghdad Burning” website. These positions are substantive, not corrupt as, for example, Hitchens is, but they do lead towards a similar anti-fascist united front position that would include “reasonable” segments of the global capitalist ruling class. Both positions are clearly susceptible to reformist politics, but they are held by revolutionaries as well.
While writing this I’ve seen some postings about your piece that demonstrate the inexhaustible capacity of the left to repeat certain errors. Revolutionaries have to be willing to fight, but they also have to think. Some leftists can manage one, but not the other, at any given moment. Lots botch both. Our particular framework of analysis is not conducive to simple answers to the ‘What Is To Be Done’ question. This makes it doubly important that we fight against the difficulty becoming an excuse for passivity or inactivity. In this country, passivity amounts to support for the global ruling class.
However, there is a century of experience with struggles where the left suspended its critical and ethical faculties, supporting and participating in activity in conflict with its analyses, principles, and objectives. The results have been uniformly disastrous. To those who, without knowing who we are or what we do and have done, argue that our positions are illegitimate because they might ‘demoralize the movement’ and undermine the resistance to imperialism, I have to say that I’ve heard that before…a lot. I’ve accepted it more times than I like to remember. People I’ve worked with have spent lifetimes in jail – some have been killed – in large part because of this mindset. Others that I could name that have advanced the position are now professors, congressmen, pillars of the capitalist community and members of governments.
I intend to write in more detail about both the politics of global capitalism and the emergence of a neo-fascist challenge to that system, but I realize that it helps maintain some momentum in the discussion to respond fairly quickly, if briefly.
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- Notes on Women and Right-Wing Movements (Matthew Lyons)
- The Shock of Recognition (J. Sakai)
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