Thursday, June 14, 2007

Paul Berman on Tariq Ramadan: Part 8

Leftist Detour?
(Image from Wikipedia)

Let me take a detour today from Tariq Ramadan and provide a bit from Paul Berman's point about an effective alliance between leftists and Islamists:
Britain's Stop the War Coalition, which organized the February 2003 march and a good many additional demonstrations during the next years, was visibly dominated by the [UK's] tiny Socialist Workers Party, in alliance with Britain's version of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim Association of Britain. Trotskyists and Islamists: "an odd marriage," as the Economist put it [in "Muslims and socialists: With friends like these" (February 8, 2007)]....

Yet the marital oddity did not prevent millions of non-Trotskyists and non-Islamists from tramping through the streets under the leadership of this alliance, quite as if the millions felt confident that, no matter what might come of the march, the Socialist Workers could reasonably be ignored (a safe assumption) or even regarded with irritable fondness, and quite as if the Islamists, whom nobody could ignore, authentically represented the oppressed and the downtrodden, and therefore lent majesty to the march. Such was the implication, anyway. Nothing like a Trotskyist-Islamist alliance could possibly have mobilized millions of Britons in the past. ("The Islamist, the Journalist, and the Defense of Liberalism," page 39-40)
Moreover, when one hears longtime leftists such as George Galloway or London's leftist mayor Ken Livingstone praising known Islamists, then something strange is in the air. Galloway might be dismissed as a kook, but Livingstone is a popular figure on the left 'despite' his arguably antisemitic remarks (see Chris Tryhorn, "Livingstone attacks 'scumbag' Standard," Guardian Unlimited, February 10, 2005) and his support for Muslim religious leaders like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who "favours female genital mutilation, wife-beating, the execution of homosexuals in Islamic states, the destruction of the Jewish people, the use of suicide bombs against innocent civilians and the blaming of rape victims who do not dress with sufficient modesty," as former Livingstone supporter Peter Tatchell noted in "An embrace that shames London" (New Statesman, January 24, 2005), an article in which he criticized Livingstone for inviting al-Qaradawi to London.

These bits may seem like so much chaff, but they may be straws in the wind from a storm that's coming.

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At 6:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There seems to be more direct cooperation between Islamists and anti-war leftists in Europe than in the US. I don't recall Cindy Sheehan ever marching with any imams. Would you agree?

Do you recall the death of Rachel Corrie a couple of years ago? She was American, wasn't she? US online forums were very unsympathetic, expressing the opinion that she caused her own death by standing in front of the bulldozer and that she had no business interfering between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It seems that most Americans are still pro-Israel. If American anti-war activists do keep some distance from Islamists, perhaps it is to avoid being accusing of supporting terrorists.

I'm surprised that European leftists would feel so comfortable to cooperate with people whose social views are an anathema to European liberal values and who may have weak ties to organizations that support terrorism. Leftist politicians and political parties need to win elections, too.

At 6:45 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

On Sheehan and Corrie, I don't really know. Corrie effectively aligned herself with Islamists, perhaps -- though I presume that her actual intention was to support a Palestinian state -- but I don't know much about the support or lack of support for her on the left in America. I would have expected the left to support her, however.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:21 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

Exept for the weirdest, The American left is still stung by 9/11 and aligning themselves with the Islamist is not popular. I think most people in America have issues with the war, because it doesn't seem to alleviate the threat of terrorism and do not understand its purpose since the connection to WMD's has disappeared. The right has all its thinks tanks in action, still trying to make that connection. From what I've read on certain blogs, the alignment with Isreal by the right is that they are kick butt and take no prisoners, macho kind of people, which the right wishes they were. I think it is a gut level affinity, rather than any pure ideological reason. This happened mostly after 9/11. I still see anti-semitic comments on those blogs, as I see people trying to reconstruct the antebellum south. This not an academic appraisal just one I have gotten from browsing the net.

At 8:35 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hathor, you may be right about the right ... or at least one faction of the right. I suspect that there are three linked "rights" in the US.

The right that you noted, which has a gut-level identification with Israel as tough. This is the Paleoconservative right.

The right that identifies with Israel as a democracy that we ought to support. This is the Neoconservative right.

The right that would support Israel even if it were led by a military junta. This is the Christian right.

As for the left in the States, I know it only via internet these days, but if one thinks of leftists like Noam Chomsky, then one sees that some leftists explicitly blame US foreign policy for 9/11 and even defend Islamists -- didn't Chomsky recenly give a talk to Hezbollah in Lebanon?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:02 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

I consider him to be extreme. I don't know, but I had read some statements he had made about 9/11 to guess you could be right. I am not speaking about people like him, that includes Ward Churchill. I don't think they influence the average person's vote.

The Christians that want the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Apocrypha do want the Israelis to succeed. Their involvement with the right is only because they think they can impose their beliefs on others and the US to become a Christian nation. I believe they will eventually leave the right. I don't think they will flock to the left either.

At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Unfortunately I think you are for the most part correct. But perhaps (I may be wrong) you might not appreciate that the "few" Right leaning people, aware of history had and in some cases vehemently expressed objections to the opening of a second, unnecessary, and sure to be a complicated Second Front.

To be sure, most of the people who were requested to give their views, and expressed an opposing one, were summarily dismissed or ignored by the Neo's, who labelled them lefties. After all,they were able (well sorta) to proclaim, "we have the mandate!"

And the lefties were knocked on their heels by accusations of well, if you see the US press, nuff said.sonagi mentions a salient point, the left must win elections.
sonagi, I for one do not believe that "most Americans" are pro-Israel. I believe the US government is pro but the US suffers a dearth of young Americans willing to stand in the lines with their obviously older counterparts intent on holding on to their entitlements. The young for the most part "blog their hearts out" but don't follow up. I am coming around however, I see a generation which is coming to realize that to change things, they have to do it.

I could certainly rant for paragraphs but I lack the ability and requisite skills most of gypsy's regular commentors possess. My generation's predecessors, unless there's a few Byrd's or Thurmond's who manage to hang on, will die off in time. Well I hope in time.

There are those I certainly hope will come to this blog and be willing not only to post, but to follow up. And to foment revolution. Not to "moisten the tree" as Jefferson suggested but to reach the end of the line.


At 9:37 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hathor, I don't know who has influence on voters, probably not Chomsky, but he does have resonance on the left -- and he's the genuine thing, unlike that poser Ward Churchill.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:44 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, the revolution would be blogged, I don't doubt, but would it also be violent? I hope not...

Neoconservatives are Wilsonians, by the way, and express a profoundly American belief in an ability to export democracy. I've long been rather skeptical that it can be so easily exported.

Evangelicals are strongly pro-Israel, but how large a group are they, and will their next generation remain evangelical?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I cannot recall just how I mentioned it to you. I know a bit about Wilson, I remember he sent US Marines into Haiti on July 28'th 1915 and that the Marines weren't withdrawn until 1941 just prior to Pearl.

I seem to recall it had something to do with something eerily similar to the present something about, "bestowing the fruits of democracy." In realizing this context I realize the parallels between the present day "Neos" but fail to see a connection (that I've made) to the "Evans."

If I did so, correct me, you are recognized by JK as being adept. If I did seem to indicate a connection I withdraw it. It was not intended.

Recall, JK has more difficulties than your usual visitors and thus feels somewhat inadequate when it comes to joining your discussions.

But JK does seek enlightenment.

At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I again left out, I cannot recall, I thought it was TJ it might've been Paine, "the tree of liberty ... blood of patriots", that kinda moisturizing.

No,Revolution need not be violent. The ballot does replace the bullet.

The individuals' recognized Power I fervently hope would somehow, somewhat decree.


At 10:38 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sorry, JK, I didn't mean to imply that you'd made a link between Wilsonians and Evangelicals.

I suppose that one could argue that both share a desire to convert the world, but that's apples and oranges, isn't it? Evangelicals had been apolitical until the Moral Majority, yet even after that, they didn't delve much into foreign policy -- beyond not liking Godless Communism but liking Godly Israel.

And I'll vote for ballot over bullet, when possible...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"but if one thinks of leftists like Noam Chomsky,"

Younger leftists may have read a couple of his books, but they don't quote him. Even though he is still alive and kicking, I view him as a historical figure with little residual influence. One of my favorite leftist thinkers is Chalmers Johnson (if I can tag him as a leftist), who gave us the very useful term "blowback." His language is less polemic, and his assertions are less extreme than Chomsky's. Chomsky's appeal is moral; Johnson's is pragmatic. Thus, Chalmers Johnson has not been savaged by the right the way Noam Chomsky has been.

RE: leftist support for Rachel Corrie - The online forums I was referring to were mainstream forums that attract diverse viewpoints.

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I used to like Chomsky until I started reading his political analyses and realized that they all sounded remarkably like sophisticated conspiracy theorizing. Quickly, that sort of reading became stale.

Chalmers Johnson is a realist thinker. Blowback is a concept that realists understand. In the Cold War, Johnson was a Cold Warrior. I suppose that that made him rightwing. Now, he cautions America against intervening abroad. I suppose that this makes him leftwing.

I'm being ironic. He did, in fact, alter his views prior to the Cold War's end. One of my best friends at Berkeley had Johnson for a doctoral advisor. Both were interested in analyzing "power" -- another realist preoccupation...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:24 AM, Blogger A.H. said...

It is an interetsing set of of ideas that you raise, as ever. You are of course right on what you say: the anti-war movemement makes a useful anti-government platform for the socialist movement in the UK: of course, peace and socialism and Christian thinking have been embedded together for a long time. What you see frequently in the UK, however, on the streets, in shopping centres, isn't an alliance between a socialism based on Christianity and Islam (not an easy alliance that one); rather a linking of marxist socialism and Islam and pro-Iraq sentiments. Galloway and Livingstone are peculiar leftists: Galloway is depised by the left-wing Government, as is Livingstone, who has sunk from a champion of the left to something of a god with clay feet. Livingstone isn't that popular on the left and some of his lunatic outbursts have done nothing to make him approved. Livingstone is popular only as a sort of Trojan horse to upset the Blairites. He is very much the enemy within. Also, his popularity is only London based...he has little influence upon the North and the grass roots of socialism. Galloway...since his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother...has become a bad joke.

At 6:28 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Eshuneutics, I'm pleased to hear that Galloway and Livingstone are falling (or fallen) stars, but I have a question.

You made a distinction between two lefts in Britain -- a Marxist and a Christian one. Is the Labour Party in Britain more the former or more the latter? In the 70s and early 80s, it seemed more Marxist, but Blair seems to me to hark back to the Fabian socialism of the Webbs.

But maybe I'm a bit ignorant on the history of British socialism.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:26 AM, Blogger A.H. said...

A very interesting question? of course generalisations are dangerous...and I realise that I am generalising. The left-swing is quite a confusing entity in the UK. The peace-party-socialist-left wing would be represented by someone like E.P.Thompson. The anti-war slogans of the Marxist socialists are a Saturday occurence in many big cities. I suppose they are the left of the left. Then, you have the Benn sector of socialism: again, anti-war, and socialists of the old school. Blair's socialism is mixed with Christian principles, or it seems: Catholicism. There is a sense (within the country) that Blair's religious socialism is awkward, it smacks too much of politics sanctioned by religion rather than a politics upholding common human beliefs: such as socialism's belief in the Beatitudes...the peace-makers...the meek...etc. The current Labour party is not Marxist, part of its problem, for it seems more in line with Thatcherite capitalism and increasinlgy separate from its historical roots. Blair does see himself as continuing the Fabian tradition: Tony Bernard Shaw! There was a really interesting programme recently on the BBC which showeded the change in Labour very simply. In its early days, Blair went out of his way to show a modern, contemporary view of socialism. yes, cool Britannia, but international conferences were removed from Downing Street to minimalist, urban, antiseptic venues. The past was out. Now, Blair has shunned this image of New Labour--the trendy corporate image of a Livingstone--and returned to a Labour-Downing Street historical image. As the PM has become obsessed with his legacy, so he has favoured images that return to socialism and it past. Hope this answers your question.

At 5:36 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Eshuneutics, thanks for the reply. I always learn something from your comments.

I think that I'll just have to do more reading on this point, for it seems fairly complex.

Speaking of the Beatitudes, my post of June 16th might interest you...

Jeffery Hodges

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