Beyond left and right, Syria and the politics of solidarity
|From liberated Kafr Anbel|
Marko Attila Hoare wrote a very good and really thought-provoking article for Left Foot Forward recently, called "What does it mean to be left wing today?", arguing that on almost all issues the tribal identities of "left" and "right" are basically meaningless and often unhelpful. He does say that there is one issue on which the distinction continues to matter: "the left supports the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor while the right opposes it." I'd phrase it differently (but am having trouble doing so now, as I'm not as articulate as Marko) but it's about right. And following from that is this: "Consequently, to be left-wing in Britain today is to side with popular resistance to the government’s anti-redistributive policies; with anti-austerity protesters and striking workers; with those who campaign to defend their public services and welfare state." I think that precisely because of the unfairness generated by the Coalition government, I've found myself feeling more assertively "left-wing" since 2010, after a decade of feeling myself increasingly uncomfortable with the left.
One of the issues that Marko mentions in his article is this:
In Britain, old-guard Bennite leftists consider it axiomatic that to be left-wing is to oppose Western military intervention. Yet it was Tony Blair’s Labour government that pioneered liberal interventionism via Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq, while much of the conservative right has reacted against the idea of risking British soldiers’ lives to help foreigners.
David Cameron – Blairite in foreign affairs – could not mobilise enough of his own parliamentary party to win the vote for intervention in Syria. Liberals are more likely to support intervention in defence of human rights and popular revolutions abroad, while conservatives often view dictators like Assad and Mubarak as positive factors of stability.I was thinking of this tonight as I read two articles I liked whose authors I imagine wouldn't like to see their links sitting next to each other: Ben Cohen on humanitarian interventionism as passing fad and Louis Proyect on the idiocy of the "anti-imperialist" left's analysis. In both articles, a gut sense of solidarity with those in struggle and under attack prevails over ideological dogma. Proyect writes:
There’s a problem in reducing politics to litmus tests as to which state is pro-U.S. or anti-U.S., a bad habit of the “anti-imperialist” wing of the left that has little interest in what Syrian or Iranian Marxists stand for. In my view, the most urgent task facing the left today is uniting socialists, not disgusting third world dictators like Qaddafi or al-Assad who are worshipped because Nicholas Kristof editorializes against them.I think nobody articulates gut solidarity better than Terry Glavin. His recent articles for the Ottawa Citizen on the exodus Syria are vital reads: A way out of Syria, Syrians in Amman ‘The trust is lost’, and Into the unknown, culminating in the scorching The worst-case scenario in Syria is here now. Here's some of it:
It is important to remember the reasons why this particular Arab Spring phenomenon — which began as a cheerfully optimistic, largely non-violent and fervently pro-democracy uprising led mainly by teenagers — degenerated so quickly into a bloodbath of reaction, repression, counter-revolution and savagery.
It happened because the NATO countries, “led from behind” by U.S. president Barack Obama, allowed it to happen. It happened because the White House has preferred to avoid any confrontations with Moscow, Beijing, Tehran or Hezbollah. This is the Obama Doctrine. [...] there is no such thing as an America that is a force for progress in the world any more, either, at least not for the moment. History’s clock has turned backwards.And on the Jihadi fighters:
“Jihad” is merely armed struggle ordained by the Muslim religion. Syrians are mostly Muslims. Betrayed and abandoned by their erstwhile friends in the western world, they are waging a lonely struggle, surrounded by death and sorrow, and they naturally turn for courage and comfort to the traditions of the faith.
Besides, just how anemic and spineless would a religion have to be if it did not contain at least some kind of doctrinal obligation to rise up against a war criminal like Bashar al Assad? Any moral claim the NATO countries might have once been able to make against the temptations of jihad — that’s gone now, too.
Syria is gone.
Unrelated reading: depraved leftists, gender politics
Phil AVPS on the depravity of the SWP; Karima Bennoune says keep your fatwa out of my face (listen to her on Thinking Allowed); Meriam Sabih on Malala and the white saviour complex fallacy; Lejla Kuric on Malala's real enemies; Eric Lee on what Marxists need to remember about JFK; Nick Cohen on cowering from Islamism; Sarah AB on secular mesalliances against Islamism.