Oct 31, 2006

Debate on death, privledges, and responsibility

As is being reported in the anti-authoritarian press, a young anarchist and journalist from the U.S. was shot and killed by government agents in Oaxaca. Bradley Will was working with Indy Media and helping to publicize the struggle in Oaxaca. He was killed while reporting on street fighting.

The debate within some circles is over why has so much attention been payed to Bradley while other comrades who have been murdered has largely been ignored - or so it seems. Bradley's death has definitely galvanized many U.S. anarchists to organize Oaxaca support, and in some cities anarchists and other militants have stormed Mexican Consulates.

When the Oaxaca struggle has been ongoing for almost 6 months, it has received only minimal attention and support from many anti-authoritarians here in the U.S., even though it is only a few days drive from the southwest territories of this country. It is fair to ask and offer up criticism's regarding why the support for our comrades in Oaxaca has been minimal. While I sympathize wth Bradley's friends and comrades who are turning his memory in to a part of their organizing, I am critical of the fact that he is being held up as a martyr. Some organizing groups are calling their demonstrations "Direct Action at Mexican Consulate for Brad Will and Oaxaca". A better expression against the Mexican governments repression would to be holding up all the martyrs of Oaxaca equally.

Still, I think this question reflects on a larger issue facing the radical and revolutionary libertarian movement in this country - why have we as a movement offered up minimal responses and organizing on a general scale over the last 4 years. There was so much momentum moving into this millennium post-Seattle. The enthusiasm and energy seems to have turned into confusion and a malaise. Personally, I think we as a movemnet are in a state of ideological and strategic crisis, and that the unfortuante death of comrades like Bradley jilt peoples minds and make this reality much more evident.

Revolt in Oaxaca

Oaxaca is in the midst of revolt and resistance. A mass of the residents united in popular assemblies have termed Oaxaca City an independent and self managed commune (relating it to the Paris Commune of 1871), the APPO. The popular assemblies took form when citizens joined in and aided with striking teachers from Section 22 of the Síndicato Nacionál Trajabadores Educativas (Teachers Union) who were attacked by security forces loyal to Oaxaca's ruling Governor. The initial teachers strike and subsequent attack on it by government (and paramilitary) forces happened earlier this summer. The popular assemblies and it Commune have continued since.

The assemblies are semi-mass bodies, multi-tendency, and have functioned as a dual power in Oaxaca. Workers, students, Leftists, anarchists have all participated in the Communes organization and life.

This past weekend security forces attacked yet again and killed several people including a U.S. based anarchist and journalist.

Oaxaca, like other regions of Mexico that have experienced revolt againstst the Mexican government, are highly influenced by both the legacy of Zapatista struggle and of radical syndicalism (which has a long history of participatory politics and libertarian socialism in Mexico going back to the anarchist unions and radicals like the Magon brothers).

In a world where the Left resistance continues to be inspired and characterizeded by centralized and authoritarian parties, Oaxaca and the struggle in Mexico represents the popular and libertarian spirit of revolt. Oaxaca representsts an example of a resistance not bound by the cult of authority - vanguard or parliamentary.

Oct 19, 2006

intra ruling-class conflict?

Looks like the Trilateralists are stepping in to put the brakes on the NeoCon's revolution. James Baker is head of a bi-partisan commission that is accessing the war in Iraq. The commission, The Iraq Study Group, is suspected to announce after the midterms that the mission to bring "democracy" to Iraq (and by extension the surrounding region) is an unattainable goal under current circumstances. The commission is expected to suggest some of the following: a possible carving up of Iraq along sectarian lines creating a confederation of provinces; a withdrawal of U.S. /coalition troops; negotiating amnesty for insurgents. These would-be plans fly in the face of NeoCon/Bush rhetoric and has Press Secretary Tony Snow saying these recommendations would be "nonstarters".

The significance, I think, is that the NeoCons understood that Iraq and subsequent attempts at "nation building" would jeopardize U.S. interests and stability - risks that would not go over well with citizens here is the capitalist centers who have become accustomed to lifestyles that, in large and small part, have been built on the back of global looting, and who (generally) don’t wake up to the sound of bombs and machine gun fire. The NeoCon's are not nationalists and they base many of their concepts on a global restructuring of political and social relations. This restructuring could well mean (and probably in fact does) that the U.S. and other leading capitalist metropolis' will have to adjust and alter.

The NeoCon line as articulated by the present administration combined post-9/11 "War against Terror" with U.S. duty to spread so-called Euro-Enlightenment ideas of democracy. This combination was hoped to undercut any question that war and it's subsequent price-to-pay would put stress on the national infrastructure. For the NeoCon's, their course was no guaranteed success and they did not hold hegemony within the ruling class, they had an ear with the Bush administration. But their program was a gamble. As the war and occupation becomes for the public glaringly brutal and seemingly endless, now perhaps we will be seeing more open political conflict and dissention amongst the bosses.

When I saw this picture of Condi and Abu Mazan, taken during Condi's most recent Mid East venture, a speech by El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X) came to mind. Malcolm contrasts the “House Negro” with the “Field Negro”. Malcolm makes it clear that he and the masses, the oppressed, are from the field.

These two "leaders" are definitley not coming from the field.

Excerpted from his speech, Message to the Grassroots, delivered on 10 Nov, 1963 in Detroit, Michigan.

…back during slavery… There was two kinds of slaves. There was the house Negro and the field Negro. The house Negroes - they lived in the house with master, they dressed pretty good, they ate good 'cause they ate his food -- what he left. They lived in the attic or the basement, but still they lived near the master; and they loved their master more than the master loved himself. They would give their life to save the master's house quicker than the master would. The house Negro, if the master said, "We got a good house here," the house Negro would say, "Yeah, we got a good house here." Whenever the master said "we," he said "we." That's how you can tell a house Negro…

(originally posted a few weeks ago but some how the entry was lost. thanks to the AngryIndian for posting it - RX)

Oct 10, 2006

Right-wing anti-imperialists are not promoting feudalism: A reply to Michael Karadjis

I promised three weeks ago that I'd reply to Michael Karadjis's "Hizbullah, Iran and 'Right-Wing Anti-Imperialism': A Reply to Critics," which was posted on Green Left Bloggers on September 20th. Here are my thoughts.

Karadjis offers one of the strongest and most thoughtful versions of the position that Lebanon's Hezbollah represents "a genuine national liberation movement." Although I disagree with his assessment, my own thinking has benefited from the information and analysis he puts forward. I also especially appreciate his efforts to keep the debate substantive and respectful. It's a welcome contrast to the mean-spirited comments and personal attacks that often pass for political critique, especially on the web.

As one of the "critics" that Karadjis responds to in detail, I'd like to address three issues covered in his September 20th post: (1) the nature of right-wing anti-imperialism, (2) the question of describing Hezbollah as right wing, and (3) antisemitism in Hezbollah and more broadly among Lebanese and Palestinians. (For background on what I think about Hezbollah, see my essays "Defending my enemy's enemy" and "Further thoughts on Hezbollah".)

1. On right-wing anti-imperialism. Karadjis rejects my claim that right-wing anti-imperialism is a significant political tendency in today's world, but he interprets the phrase to mean something quite different than what I intended. This is primarily my fault, since I didn't adequately explain my use of the term in either of my essays about Hezbollah. So let me try to correct that here.

When I refer to right-wing anti-imperialists, I'm not talking about forces that oppose imperialism because they are feudal, semi-feudal, or otherwise "reactionary" in the sense of turning back the clock to an era before capitalist modernity. I agree with Karadjis that such forces don't amount to much. I also don't mean to imply that right-wing anti-imperialists form a cohesive, unified international bloc. Rather, I'm talking about a diverse array of political currents in various parts of the world, many of which are relatively new. These currents embody related or parallel responses to the brutalities and contradictions of global capitalism on the one hand, and the failures of the revolutionary left on the other.

Right-wing anti-imperialists are anti-imperialist in the sense that they oppose -- politically or militarily -- the systems of dominance by global corporate elites or the interventionist policies of the United States or other industrialized capitalist states. They are right wing in the sense that they reject the Enlightenment principles of universalism, egalitarianism, and popular sovereignty while embracing hierarchy and elitism as natural features of society. Right-wing anti-imperialists encompass both secular and religious-based ideologies. They often reject bourgeois cultural values (such as materialism, individualism, consumerism) but endorse the underlying institutions of an economic system based on class exploitation. They may romanticize a mythic past but do so in ways adapted to modern conditions.

Examples of right-wing imperialism include large sections of the Islamic right, various nationalist forces in eastern Europe, and Rioss Montt's recent forays into populist politics in Guatemala. There are right-wing anti-imperialist tendencies within India's massive Hindu nationalist movement, although the movement is predominantly wedded to a strategy of alliance with the United States (and Israel) and economic development through free-trade neoliberalism. Within the United States, Pat Buchanan-style right-wing anti-interventionists represent a related development, and parallel forces exist within other industrialized countries.

Other proponents of a three-way-fight perspective have described all of these developments as fascist. Because we're talking about a range of political strategies and ideologies, I think it's useful to apply the term fascism more narrowly. Within the anti-imperialist right, I distinguish between "reformist" branches that advocate change within the established political framework and "revolutionary" rightists (i.e. fascists) who aim to overthrow established political systems and forcibly reshape all social and cultural spheres along totalitarian lines. The example of Hezbollah, which is clearly not fascist, highlights the need for such distinctions.

Whatever we call these forces, a basic premise of three-way fight politics is that their conflict with global capitalism's rulers is more than just superficial or episodic. They represent a growing trend rooted variously in local elites, middle classes, declassed strata, and even workers, who have been restricted or marginalized by global capitalist development yet are also alienated by left anti-capitalist alternatives. These rightist forces, as Don Hamerquist has argued regarding their Islamic sub-grouping, represent "a multi-sided danger to the global capitalist system. It includes a threat to withdraw women's labor, a source of massive profits, from the global labor force. It involves a rejection of consumerism, self-indulgent individualism and similar elements of the bourgeois worldview and lifestyle. It threatens to link political rebelliousness with the massive underground economies that flourish at the margins of the capitalist system."

These comments represent a rough sketch, not a fully elaborated analysis. Right-wing anti-imperialism's specific features and relationships with other social and political actors vary from place to place and change over time. Certainly, the whole topic needs more study and discussion. But by positing right-wing anti-imperialism as a distinct and important political current we are trying to raise issues and questions that most of the left has ignored.

2. Is Hezbollah a right-wing movement? Karadjis and I agree that Hezbollah's politics are complex and contradictory, and we often agree, more or less, about how to assess this or that specific feature. But we disagree about how to put the pieces together into an overall picture. Karadjis sees Hezbollah's negative side as so many scattered flaws or shrinking vestiges of its original Khomeinist influences. I see it as an expression of an underlying right-wing philosophy that has persisted since Hezbollah's founding two decades ago. I base this assessment mainly on two books. Naim Qassem, Hizbullah: The Story from Within (Saqi, 2005) includes a fairly straightforward statement of Hezbollah's core principles and longerm goals by the party's deputy secretary-general. Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, Hizbu'llah: Politics and Religion (Pluto, 2002) offers one of the most detailed and, as far as I can tell, one of the most careful analyses available of Hezbollah's religious-political ideology. Both of these books make clear, as I wrote previously, that Hezbollah as an organization considers it a religious duty to advocate an Islamic state, and that the Islamic Republic of Iran most closely approximates Hezbollah's political ideal. Nothing in Karadjis's essay substantively challenges this assessment, and I see no indication that Hezbollah's core philosophy has substantively changed in the last few years.

I pointed out previously that although Hezbollah calls for an Islamic state it also says that such a state may only be established when a large majority of the people supports it. Karadjis sees a contradiction between advocating an Islamic state and opposing the use of force to impose it, and he implies that I'm undermining my own position by presenting this supposed inconsistency. This puzzles me. Lots of people, even right-wingers, promote oppressive goals and policies without demanding that they be imposed by force against the will of the majority. That's less bad, but it's still bad.

It's quite true, as Karadjis points out, that some of Hezbollah's oppressive policies are shared by secular nationalist and even leftist organizations. That's a helpful corrective to claims that there's something uniquely dangerous about "Islamist" politics. But Hezbollah's vision of an Islamic state does set it apart from secular groups. This vision centers on the precept that human law is inherently inferior to God's law, and that society should be ruled by one religious jurist, whose supreme authority is divinely ordained. Hezbollah doctrine says that Ayatollah Khomeini and his successor, Ayatollah Khamanei, have held this authority over all Muslims and that their commands constitute fixed truths.

This radically anti-democratic and anti-humanist philosophy coexists in tension with Hezbollah's practical day-to-day politics. Saad-Ghorayeb writes that the vision of an Islamic state forms "a permanent feature of Hizb'ullah's intellectual structure and political thought" but is not included in its programme. If Hezbollah's pragmatic side helps the party to build alliances and function in Lebanon's pluralistic political and cultural environment, its theocratic ideals help the party to maintain internal cohesion and the loyalty of many devout members. The ability to combine these two sides testifies to the exceptional skill of Hezbollah's leadership.

3. On Lebanese and Palestinian antisemitism. Karadjis and I agree that Hezbollah leaders such as Secretary-General Hassan Nasrullah have made anti-Jewish statements, and that such statements are wrong. We agree that caution is needed in criticizing Hezbollah in this area, because Zionist propaganda routinely falsifies or exaggerates charges of antisemitism to discredit legimitate criticisms of Israel and to demonize Arab and Muslim anti-Zionists, in particular. I agree, further, with Karadjis's point that some secular Arab nationalists, such as the original PLO, have also expressed anti-Jewish prejudice, so we can't just blame such prejudice on Islamist ideology.

Within these parameters, I disagree with Karadjis on two points. First, he claims that Hezbollah's expressions of anti-Jewish prejudice are only a matter of "occasional statements" that "are at odds with more serious analysis by Hezbollah." But Nasrullah, Qassem, and other Hezbollah leaders don't generally make irresponsible, offhand comments -- on the contrary, they're known for their lack of rhetorical excess. As Saad-Ghorayeb argues in detail, the stereotyping and demonization of Jews is both widespread in Hezbollah's discourse and interwoven with its larger religio-political philosophy.

Second, Karadjis argues that Hezbollah's anti-Jewish prejudice -- or any anti-Jewish prejudice among Palestinians or Lebanese -- is entirely a response to Zionist oppression. "To Palestinians and Lebanese, that is those who have lived under the terror, under the jackboot, of Zionist oppression, and who have not been involved in the western holocaust against Jews, 'the Jews' represent the same thing to them as 'the whites' do to South African, Australian and American blacks: the oppressor." I agree that this is an important part of the story, and one that's often ignored or misunderstood by westerners. My thanks to Karadjis for raising this factor, which I failed to address previously in relation to Hezbollah. (For more on this kind of reaction to Zionism, see Esther Kaplan's thoughtful essay "Antisemitism After September 11th.")

But Karadjis overreaches when he claims that Arab antisemitism is entirely a response to Zionism. In fact, anti-Jewish bigotry has been present in Arab and Muslim communities for centuries before political Zionism brought Jewish settler-colonialism to Palestine. Maxime Rodinson, a prominent French Marxist, Mideast scholar, and staunch anti-Zionist, addressed this point in his 1981 essay, "A Few Simple Thought on Anti-Semitism":

"Contrary to what has been said and written in Arab and Muslim circles, the condition of Jews in the world of Islam was not idyllic. It is quite true that the negative aspects of the Jewish situation in Muslim countries have been much exaggerated by Zionist propaganda.... It is quite true that on the whole the situation of Jews in Muslim countries over fifteen centuries has been better than in the Christian countries.

"But this does not alter the fact that the status of
dhimmi applied to Jews and Christians was inegalitarian and that it kept them in positions of inferiority, which was in any case perfectly natural at the time. Judaism and Christianity were tolerated religions, 'protected' in a certain sense and enjoying special status. But their believers were none the less considered enemies of the true faith. Appreciations of them were disparaging, suspicious, and scornful. In the case of the Jews, these attitudes were able to find support in many passages from the Koran dating from the time when the Jewish tribes of Medina constituted Muhammad's main adversary, passages that can readily obliterate the favourable attitude toward Jews and Christians reflected in other, earlier passages.... [In Muslim countries during the Middle Ages,] the Jews... were considered enemies within, cunning and sly, seeking to damage the True Faith in a secretive fashion....

"Many instances of disparagement and suspicion of the Jews, and of slander against them, therefore exist in the Muslim tradition, especially at the popular level.... The accusation of ritual murder, for instance, may be found in the
Thousand and One Nights (a charge levelled against Christians and Mazdeans as well), and the origin of Muslim sects which the 'orthodox' majorities consider as undermining Islam from within is often ascribed to converted Jews.... In various Muslim countries, public signs of contempt are attached to the Jews, and the most difficult and repugnant jobs are reserved to them." (Rodinson, Cult, Ghetto, and State: The Persistence of the Jewish Question [Al Saqi, 1983], pp. 184-6.)

This long heritage of Muslim hostility to Jews -- as much as any reaction to Zionism -- shapes Hezbollah's promotion of anti-Jewish bigotry. Saad-Ghorayeb writes (p. 174): "As odious as Zionism is to Hizb'ullah, the party insists that its strong aversion to Judaism is unrelated to its abomination of Zionism, and hence exists irrespective of the existence of Zionism. According to Hizbu'llah's interpretation of the Qur'an and the Old and New Testaments, from time immemorial the Jews have continuously demonstrated their quintessentially evil nature. Qasim [i.e., Naim Qassem] expresses this view succintly: 'The history of Jews has proven that, regardless of the Zionist proposal, they are a people who are evil in their ideas.' From the very origins of their existence, the Jews 'created mischief for people' wherever they went."

Qassem's statements aren't random -- they're expressions of a cohesive ideology. That doesn't mark Hezbollah as any sort of unique evil, but it should make all of us seriously question claims that Hezbollah represents any sort of liberation movement.

By Who Name You Be Coming In!?

Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert apparently is joining forces with a Kahanist (read: fascist)politician and his party.

He embroiled Israel in a superfluous and failed war, and this week threatened to join up with the most Kahanist politician active in Israel since the death of Rehavam Ze'evi. What is happening to us, to our Ehud Olmert? Nothing. Olmert is coming back to himself.

That politician is Avigdor Lieberman. Here's his perspective on Israel's Palestinian population, according to writer Tom Segev.

He suggests giving up Wadi Ara as part of an agreement to swap land with the Palestinians. Such a deal would revoke the Israeli citizenship of hundreds of thousands of Arabs and force them to become citizens of Palestine.

He's also rejecting multiple peace offers from Bashar Al-Assad because of Syria's support of Hamas and Hezbollah, which amounts to those groups having offices in Damascus. But Olmert is making pleasant comments about Saudi King Abdullah, despite the fact that the Wahhabi kingdom provides Hamas with 70 percent of its funding.

In short, like all politicians, Olmert sucks.


Sugar Plumb Fairy! Sugar Plumb Fairy!

Ok article about the Iranian nuclear issue and Washington's refusal to debate or negotiate, although this "leftist" seems not at all bothered by the mindless sloganeering, like Marg Bar Amrika (Death To America) which to him implies political consciousness, instead of mindless propaganda driven into people's brains.

It's this institutional anti-Imperialism, backed up by state terror, which helped turned the inevitable opposition towards a pro-western orientation, much like the mindless anti-Communist propaganda of the Cold War turned a significant segment of the American left into apologists for Stalin and Mao.

He also oversimplifies Ahmadinejad's election victory as total support for his actions and policies, overlooking the fact that one of the reasons he won was due to his populist economic program, his humble background and the repression of the opposition, i.e. the banning of thousands of Majles or parliament candidates from running for office by the Council of Guardians, the closure of opposition media and the imprisonment of opposition activists since the late 1990s, including the famous reporter Akbar Ganji, who served in prison from 2000 until this year.

At the same time the mosques served also as a center for political education and the streets functioned as a stage for practice and a show of force, in the face of the hostile U.S. attitude materialized in the form of economic sanctions against Iran. The Farsi slogans "Marg bar Amrika!" (Death to America), and "Marg bar Esrael!" (Death to Israel) and "Marg bar Saddam!" (Death to Saddam) were the regular diet of the working mass and millions of small shopkeepers.

It is clearly evident that the government, especially under the leadership of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has gained a strong support of an overwhelming majority in its well-publicized resistance to the dictates of the West, a.k.a. the United Nations Security Council members majority looking to sanctions.


Coups For Sale

Thailand's interim, army-appointed prime minister unveiled his new cabinet on Monday, with a respected central bank governor as finance minister in an apparent bid to reassure investors after last month's coup ...

Confirmation of Pridiyathorn Devakula as finance minister was seen as a response to investor desires for a steady hand on the economic tiller amid slowing growth and after months of political unrest capped by the Sept. 19 coup against Thaksin Shinawatra.


Oct 9, 2006

Inner workings: Blocking Iran unites Israel, Arab kings

In order for the Arab regimes to work with Israel and to counter Iran's appeal to the Arab street, they would have to solve the one problem that's defined the Arab experience for over half a century now. And it won't work.

Arab American Press writer, Ali Moosavi, writes on fear and plotting by Israeli and Saudi politicians.

Godless frogs

More of that anti-Semitism. Thank Shizzzmmmaagghh for those that follow an ancient religious text as a model for society in the 21st Century.

The French Embassy on Monday canceled a New York party for a book about Vichy France's collaboration with Nazi Germany because of the author's postscript that says Israel has oppressed Palestinians.The Cultural Services of the French Embassy's office in New York had planned to hold a party on Tuesday to fete the September publication of author Carmen Callil's "Bad Faith" about Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, the Vichy government official who organized the deportation of French Jews to Auschwitz.Callil told Reuters on Monday that the party was canceled after complaints from "fundamentalist Jews."


Don't touch that, Ahmed ... It's not candy.

Anyone who thinks these bomblets are anything other than Israel's biblically granted right of self-defense is obviously an anti-Semite. I mean, why else would you think blowin kids up is bad?

"Since the war between Israel and Hezbollah ended in August, nearly three people have been wounded or killed each day by cluster bombs Israel dropped in the waning days of the war, and officials now say it will take more than a year to clear the region of them."


Oct 3, 2006

British Fascists target their opposition with "Redwatch"

The Guardian covers news of the Combat 18 influenced RedWatch - a site dedicated to exposing anti-racist organizers and other leftists in Britain.

The Guardian publicizes a liberal and not all that honest perspective on the issue. The article states,

Sympathisers claim Redwatch is little more than an act of self-defence, insisting that they are only doing what anti-fascist campaigners who monitor the activities of rightwingers have been doing for years. But Lowles says this is a dangerous myth: "This is absolute rubbish. There is no anti-racist equivalent to this site. There is nothing that lists home details of fascists and certainly nothing that encourages attacks on them. Redwatch is not an act of revenge but something altogether more sinister. It is designed to intimidate and harass anti-racists and anti-fascists to the point where the individuals targeted no longer campaign against fascist groups. It is political intimidation and classic fascism."

Reality is that some, although mainly the radical antifascists, have a long history of publicizing personal information on fascists - their home addresses, places they socialize, and their associates. It's all a part of undermining and making it difficult for the fascists to operate due to the elevated risks for them.

While I do think that anti-fascist organizers need to take threats to themselves seriously, I think it is a mistake to campaign for the State to take on the work of shutting down sites like RedWatch. What's to stop the State from shutting down radical Left and anti-fascist sites next... Uhhhhh, nothing.


Here's something that you won't see in the American media:


Apparently, the settlers took advantage of the Lebanon war to expand their so-called "illegal settlements" (as if they're all not illegal) but somehow I don't think this will make Rice's agenda for her Mid-East trip this week.