How the old left still struggles to face new realities in the Middle East

In an interview, Dr H.A. Hellyer says: Many of our assumptions have been challenged in the past 5 years, since the revolutionary uprisings took place in the Arab world. I can still remember a world where academics wrote about the ‘resistance axis’ in the region, and the likes of Hizbollah and Bashar al-Assad’s Damascus were a part of that, described as ‘counter-weights’ to the machinations of right-wing neoconservatism and imperialism. The frames are wholly different now, on both of those points, due to the Syrian revolutionary uprising – and that leads to an important question for the Arab anti-imperialist left, as well as the old left in the West. Is this what left-wing politics is about, where we sacrifice the Syrian revolutionary uprising on the altar of some kind of imagined ‘resistance’ – while another type of foreign interference, be it from Tehran, Moscow, or Hizbollah, is critical in propping up a regime that has overseen the killing of tens of thousands of Syrian civilians? That’s a question that ought to be asked. In so doing, I hope the answer is not for the left to decide that they ought to become akin to the right-wing, whether in the West or the Arab world, and lose their time-honoured commitments to social justice as leftists. But rather, that the left ought to become more nuanced, and really take seriously the autonomy of people as a motivating factor, even when it is politically inconvenient. [Continue reading…]

Last year, Germano Monti, a freelance journalist and pro-Palestinian activist, wrote that neo-Nazis, Stalinists, Catholic fundamentalists and pacifists have found common ground in a diffuse brand of anti-imperialism: Fear of Islam is playing an increasingly significant role in the politics of the right wing. In the run-up to this year’s European elections, the leaders of various European extreme right-wing groups have met on a number of occasions – in Spain last November, for example, and in Rome in February 2014. Jens Pühse of the German NPD attended the Spanish meeting, as did members of the Syrian National Socialist Party (SSNP).

The SSNP is a close ally of Assad’s ruling Baath party and has two members in the Syrian cabinet: the deputy prime minister and another minister. The party deploys its own units to fight side-by-side with the regime and the Lebanese Hezbollah militias against the Syrian rebels. The ideology of the SSNP, which was founded in 1932 in Beirut, as well as its symbolism are obviously modelled on that of German National Socialism: a raised right arm is used as a salute, and the emblem emblazoned on the flag closely resembles a swastika. The SSNP’s Italian representative is the aforementioned Ouday Ramadan, who is in charge of organising support for the Assad regime in Italy.

The rapprochement between neo-Nazis, Catholic fundamentalists, Stalinists and pacifists under the banner of anti-imperialism is a crucial factor in the lack of solidarity with the Syrian people, particularly in left-wing circles. This small “red-brown army” is extraordinarily active on the Internet, with websites and blogs that initially seem to be left wing. Over the past three years, this army has managed to paralyse the Italian solidarity and peace movement for Syria by relentlessly invoking the spectre of a supposed NATO attack on Syria and a Zionist-Salafist plot against the Assad clan’s “secular, anti-imperialist and socialist” regime. [Continue reading…]

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