Adventure Playground

Hey, remember adventurism? That was a good word. Fred Halliday has a look at one kind.

It is striking, however, that – beyond such often visceral reactions – there are signs of a far more developed and politically articulated accommodation in many parts of the world between Islamism as a political force and many groups of the left. The latter show every indication of appearing to see some combination of al-Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizbollah, Hamas, and (not least) Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as exemplifying a new form of international anti-imperialism…Many in the sectarian leftist factions (and beyond) who marched against the impending Iraq war showed no qualms about their alignment with radical Muslim organisations, one that has since spiralled from a tactical cooperation to something far more elaborated. It is fascinating to see in the publications of leftist groups and commentators, for example, how history is being rewritten and the language of political argument adjusted to (as it were) accommodate this new accommodation…The London demonstrators against the war saw the flourishing of many banners announcing “we are all Hizbollah now”, and the coverage of the movement in the leftwing press was notable for its uncritical tone.

A correspondent in Iran was asking me about that just the other day. How come they support Islamism and groups like Hizbullah? he asked. How is that happening? How indeed.

All of this is – at least to those with historical awareness, sceptical political intelligence, or merely a long memory – disturbing…For while it is true that Islamism in its diverse political and violent guises is indeed opposed to the US, to remain there omits a deeper, crucial point: that, long before the Muslim Brotherhood, the jihadis and other Islamic militants were attacking “imperialism”, they were attacking and killing the left – and acting across Asia and Africa as the accomplices of the west.

See, there are more than two possibilities, that’s the problem. There’s not just, on the one hand, the US and the west and imperialism and hegemony and wickedness, and on the other hand, everything good. No, things are not quite like that. People can hate George Bush just as cordially as I do and still be complete shits – bad people – people who oppress and push around and torment other people. So just seeing a bunch of people and noticing that they hate Bush is not quite enough reason to think they must be on the right track.

The modern relationship of the left to militant Islamism dates to the immediate aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution…Jihad was obviously a form of anti-imperialist struggle…Such forms of affinity were in the latter part of the 20th century succeeded by a far clearer alignment of Islamist groups: against communism, socialism, liberalism and all that they stood for, not least with regard to the rights of women…This melancholy history must be supplemented by attention to what is actually happening in countries, or parts of countries, where Islamists are influential and gaining ground. The reactionary (the word is used advisedly) nature of much of their programme on women, free speech, the rights of gays and other minorities is evident. There is also a mindset of anti-Jewish prejudice that is riven with racism and religious obscurantism…It does not need slogans to understand that the Islamist programme, ideology and record are diametrically opposed to the left – that is, the left that has existed on the principles founded on and descended from classical socialism, the Enlightenment, the values of the revolutions of 1798 and 1848, and generations of experience. The modern embodiments of this left have no need of the “false consciousness” that drives so many so-called leftists into the arms of jihadis.

Enough with the adventurism already.

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