After a couple of false starts, for which I apologise, here’s the 13th Carnival of Socialism, which invited contributions loosely based around the (partly provocative) question “Why is the left obsessed with the Middle East?”
This was a quite deliberately controversial choice on my part, as I think that better debates tend to come from questions where people directly disagree, rather than by inviting semi-consensual discussions around a theme. This did however seem to piss off some people, who were expecting something in a more “write me a post about socialism and art” type of format. Apologies for that, but I think you’ll see what I was trying to get at.
I was looking really for commentary on the left (from leftist and ex-leftist perspectives), as opposed to simply expositions of left-wing ideas. My intention with this theme was to try and solicit contributions from outside of the usual circle of left-wing bloggers, and introduce some newer perspectives. It’s in that light that I was delighted to receive a contribution from Marxist From Lebanon (don’t call him “Lebanese Marxist”), who will be new to many of you. In one amongst many arguments the course of a fascinating post, he posits that parts of the left have fallen into a kind of knee-jerk oppositionalism since 9/11:
“Ever since Bush opened his never ending “War on Terror”, the Middle East was more on the spot light than it used to be. Ariel Sharon compared the Palestinians ( without doing any difference to the civilians) to the Terrorists that Bush was fighting. The Marxists and the Leftists fell in the error of supporting in defecto any movement or rogue nation against the United States, unless if they were al-Qa’eda.”
Read it through – whether you come to agree with him or not, you’ll certainly find it both thoughtful and insightful.
Next up was the ringmaster himself, John Angliss, whose lighthearted contribution suggests that it’s because the Middle East gives the left an unusual opportunity to speak in terms that the general public find interesting and relevant. John, you may be jesting, but I rather think you might have a more serious point than you think.
On an intertwined subject, whilst flicking around a Google Blog Search, I came across this post by Louis Proyect, which I felt to be more than worthy of inclusion. It’s a discussion of socialist attitudes to Islam, and in particular attempts to discuss the SWP’s attitude to political-religious organisations like the MAB. This blog’s doughty SWP commenter, JohnG, engages Louis in a debate underneath.
I also came across a very thoughtful article on a similar issue from disillusioned leftist Josh Strawn, front man for band Blacklist, on his blog. He gives us, perhaps, an view into the psyche of some people on the left (and ex-left) who linger on issues like the Middle East and related areas. Similarly to our periodic commenter Paddy the Puritan, Josh confesses to initial feelings of elation on 9/11:
“I thought it was a victory for our side. I thought it was the beginning of the revolution. I even thought they were part of the whole anti-globalization movement. They had hit at the heart of it all, the symbol of U.S. economic hegemony.”
But for him the elation was replaced quickly by revulsion at his own feelings, and a sense of shame which led him to question much of his former worldview. He actually became pro-war, and he chastises those of us who remain on the left for our practice of taking swipes at what he believes to be a liberatory project:
” And now the left chastises the action because rocking the boat is costing lives. Best to have left the wound (that we helped create) to fester, according to them. It costs nothing, save for the well-being of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, and Palestinians. It lets the ‘radicals’ keep their hands clean. They can Bike Against Bush or whatever the nonsense-of-the-day might be and call it compassion.”
I think he’s badly wrong, but he certainly got me thinking.
On the other side of the equation, I also found this post by this blog’s friend Tom of Newer Labour, who finds himself in the not-very-comforable, and many would argue self-contradictory, position of being an anti-war signatory of the Euston Manifesto. Whether you think the lad’s confused or not, his article does give an insight into some of the agonising that left-reformists go through when trying to define their stances on the Middle East in the face of Trot “anti-imperialism” on the one side and neocon “pro-war leftism” on the other.
Finally, I have received a contribution from someone called Judeosphere which compares the left’s obsession with the Middle East to Evangelicals’ obsessing over the same subject. S/he is someone who I’m presuming isn’t technically on the left or indeed a disillusioned lefty type either. But I’m including the contribution anyway ‘cos it’s interesting. So go ahead and moan. See if I care.
Oh, and to the guy who sent me the poem, many thanks. I will use it, but it will need to go in a separate post if that’s ok, purely because it doesn’t relate to the topic at hand.
So there you have it. Not the usual contributors, and not a normal topic. I’ve no doubt some of it was inflammatory, and some of it will provoke debate. Good, it was meant to. Because that’s how we on the left keep ourselves relevant, our rhetoric sharp and our ideas fresh.