November , 2018

People Aur Politics

A liberation zone for democratic rights, multiculturalism, international brotherhood and peace.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Rashed Rahman blog  — The task of ...
Factories under control of the Red Guards in Italy, 1920 As the Communist International’s Third Congress ...
The Rebirth of History: Times of Riots and Uprisings Translated by Gregory Elliott, Verso, London and ...
If the Congress-led coalition government has been a disaster, a BJP-led government will be an ...
V.I. Lenin in 1920, drawing by Isaak Brodsky September 1, 2017 — Links International Journal of ...
July 13, 2018 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell's Marxist essays and commentary ...
As a United Nations staffer said recently, while attending an internal briefing on the Lord's ...
The scandal over the «scientific team from the USA» broke out, despite attempts by the ...
Marking the first US drone attacks of 2013, the Obama administration ordered two separate missile ...
  Taliban had wrested away control of Swat, Shangla nd Buner out of the Pakistani state. ...

Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

The siege and resistance in Gaza: Interview with Toufic Haddad-Written by Omar Hassan

Posted by admin On October - 24 - 2018 Comments Off on The siege and resistance in Gaza: Interview with Toufic Haddad-Written by Omar Hassan


Toufic Haddad is an activist, academic, and author of Palestine Ltd: Neoliberalism and Nationalism in the Occupied Territory (I.B. Tauris, 2016). He recently completed a postdoctoral research fellowship from the Arab Council for Social Sciences, entitled “The Political Economy of Siege and Resilience in the Gaza Strip”. He was interviewed by Omar Hassan.


Palestine solidarity activists the world over have been incredibly inspired by the courageous protests taking place in Gaza since March 30. Can you explain the conditions in Gaza that have led to this important development?

There are many interrelated issues going on here, both historical and more contemporary. The most immediate and pressing issue, of course, is the overall conditions of siege that the Gaza Strip has been subject to since the 2006 electoral victory of the Islamic Resistance Movement – Hamas.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has recently described Israel’s siege as “caging Gazans in a toxic slum”. Here is a territory where 97 percent of water is polluted and in less than two years the poisoning of ground aquifers will be irreversible. You have 48 percent unemployment, 63 percent youth unemployment, and an economy that has collapsed due to debt and a lack of liquidity. On top of this you have education, electricity, wastewater and health sectors in states of advanced disrepair and collapsing. The overwhelming majority of the Strip’s two million residents have not been able to leave Gaza for 12 years, gravely impacting everything from education and health to family life and livelihood, to say nothing of the psychological dimension. The regime of control Israel imposes over Gaza is unprecedented globally, with some academics calling it a “digital occupation”. Remote control machine guns and the constant presence of drones monitor and police this tiny territory (360 km2) while Gaza’s access regime is so sophisticated that Israel counts every calorie and controls every chemical compound that enters the territory.

It would be imprecise, however to explain or reduce protests to purely humanitarian questions. Gaza has been under siege because the international community and Israel want to prevent an alternative political model emerging within Palestinian politics there. Hamas has led this alternative political project, and has and could again legitimately take power in Palestinian politics if elections took place. This counters the existing Western state approach to “managing” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, through the US-sponsored Oslo process. These actors have thus imposed the siege in an effort to prevent this tendency from making any gains or spreading further to the West Bank.

But the issue is far larger than Hamas. The entire peace process had no solution to the question of Palestine overall, and which is represented in its most concentrated form in Gaza.

People tend to forget that “the Gaza Strip” only exists by virtue of the results of the 1948 war. Namely it is a rump territory where the victims of the Zionist campaign to ethnically cleanse Palestine ended up. Three-quarters of the Gaza Strip residents are refugees originating from the coastal and southern regions of Palestine. This is the demographic reverse of the West Bank, where refugees constitute only a quarter of the population.

The collective experience of displacement and its harsh living conditions transformed Gaza into the crucible of Palestinian nationalism and the refugee return movement, with the territory birthing the most significant vanguard political tendencies of the Palestinian movement historically – from the Communist Party in the 1950s and ’60s, to Fateh in the late 1960s, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad more recently. These protests are the latest incarnation of these dynamics, where we witness yet another popular uprising being launched around all the historical issues of the Palestinian movement (for return, self determination, liberation, etc.), and all the new means that Israel, and now the international community, have used to try to control and subvert Palestinian rights.

The catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza has been known for a long time, and there is no shortage of reporting on it from all the major international agencies. But the humanitarian approach has been a means used by international actors to guise Gaza’s political significance, which embodies all the main questions of Palestine – from the question of the right of return of Palestinian refugees, to 50 years since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, to 12 years of siege, to the political question of the Palestinian opposition to the Oslo process.

In addition to all these historical factors and the issue of the siege, there is yet another important factor that has arisen. Hamas, which won the 2006 elections and attempted to reform the Palestinian national movement through its capture of the Palestinian Authority’s state-like institutions via elections, eventually came to the conclusion that Gaza is ungovernable within existing constraints. That meaning: they are abandoning civil governance and service provision because they understand – correctly – that it is a trap. The pretence that the institutions of the Palestinian Authority could manage Gaza and its contradictions, without sovereignty and freedom of movement and goods, is false. Self-governance – the crowning achievement of Oslo – became a way to alleviate Israel from the most “burdensome” elements of its occupation, while Israel remained and remains in ultimate control. When we add that the Fatah government in Ramallah has cut its spending on Gaza in recent years as a means to pressure Hamas, we realise that the protests are both a popular rejection of the Occupation, the siege, the political crisis of Palestinian politics, as well as a way for Hamas to kick the “problem” of Gaza back to its rightful address – Israel and the international community, who are the main parties responsible for the perpetuation of the problem of Palestine for 70 years.

Israel has tried to justify its massacre of over 120 Palestinians in these protests by claiming that the protests have been organised and led by Hamas “terrorists”. On the left we obviously reject this characterisation of Hamas, but can you tell us about the political leadership of the movement and how it has related to the various political factions?

Any attempt to define the protests as a creation of Hamas is reductionist and seeks to put the Israel/Palestine conflict back into the “war on terror” framework, which I think the demonstrations have been very successful in breaking out of. This has not stopped Israeli commentators from attempting to repackage these demonstrations within this discursive logic, with one describing the protests as a “collective suicide bomb” on Israel’s “border”, and Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman describing Hamas as “cannibals” sending children to be killed in order to make Israel look bad.

But as noted, the protests have deeper roots and considerations deriving from Gaza’s historical and contemporary predicament. With Hamas’ recent decision to abstain from governance, the path was opened for popular forces, and particularly a younger generation of activists, to take initiative and see what could be done to change the situation, not relying on the existing political order – be it international or domestic. Having said this, the traditional structures of the Palestinian national movement – the PLO factions, together with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have all gathered around the new mobilisations and their organic leadership to form the Higher Committee for the Great March of Return, which oversees the movement and protests. So it is a combination of new and old actors, experimenting with new and old tactics.

At the end of the day, Hamas is still the dominant political player in Gaza, and its ability to mobilise forces in Gaza is unmatched there. In this regard, Hamas’ decision to abstain from governance essentially greenlighted its members to join popular mobilisations, providing numerical and logistical weight. This should not however be confused with Hamas being the organisers of the demonstrations. At the same time, we should reject arguments that attempt to counterpose Hamas to them. Hamas is an organic actor in Gaza, and it is and will be a part of any mobilisation against the occupation there – whether it initiates these movements or follows them. Islamophobia has played a negative role in attempting to reduce the question of Gaza to a “war on terror” logic, but at the end of the day, the majority population of Gaza is Muslim, and Islamic institutions have played a major role in providing services and political leadership for the national movement under occupation, in light of the failures and impasse of the secular national movement of the PLO, stuck in the trap of Oslo. In this light, there is no reason to apriori delegitimise Islamist mobilisation within the Palestinian national context, while we can also still support, and should support, progressive wings of Palestinian politics – parts of which will also include Islamists by the way. Ultimately it is the racist Zionist settler colonial project in Palestine and Western imperial support for it which is the source of the conflict, and we should reject explanations that lose sight of that.

Finally, it is important to note that the current protests represent the evolution of struggle dynamics whereby the broader Palestinian theatre has witnessed the failure of the political leadership and strategies of all factions. This includes the failure of Fateh’s “Oslo approach”, and the stalemate/dead end of approaches which rely upon armed struggle. We are thus witnessing the evolution of new dynamics and social forces which also gives the initiative a particularly exciting feel.

Can we talk a little bit more about some of the individual stories of the martyrs killed by IDF snipers? The statistics can be numbing – over 120 killed, thousands wounded, etc. Can you give us a sense of who these people are and what their motivations might have been?

Although it is difficult to answer your question without being on the ground in Gaza – which is almost impossible at this stage – I think it is safe to say that the base of the movement is composed of what can be termed the “Oslo generation”. These are youth, mainly up to 30 years old, who grew up in Gaza during the Oslo years (now, a quarter-century on) and who have never left the Gaza Strip, and never had minimal opportunities for a decent living. Their parents would have witnessed or participated in the first (1987) intifada, but have since also witnessed the drastic deterioration of life quality as a result of the Oslo process itself. Keep in mind that the “peace process” was used as a cover for Israel to implement apartheid, beneath the joint guise of “security needs” and “withdrawal from population centres” for the purposes of “Palestinian self-governance”. Israel used the peace process to forcibly impose “closure” on the West Bank and Gaza as a way to pen Palestinians in, particularly Gaza residents, and to take their lands. The majority of Gaza’s labour force used to work inside the Israeli labour market, and almost everyone was thrown out of work and imprisoned in the economically unsustainable Gaza Strip as a result of “peace”. A fence was built to hermetically seal the Gaza Strip in 1995 – the height of the peace process – seven years before Israel would build its apartheid wall across the West Bank. So youth in Gaza have grown up totally isolated from the rest of the world – without opportunities for normal living, with a historical understanding of their refugee status and its causes, and with the dashed hopes of the peace process. We can add to this the sense of betrayal of the international order to their cause, and the ineffectuality of their leadership and parents’ generation to change their condition. Let’s not forget that the land, just on the other side of these Israeli snipers – is refugee property. So it is right there – they can see their land, but not access it. The starkness of the injustice is only compounded by the difficulty of daily living and the brutality and trauma of Israeli actions that have killed 4,500 Palestinians in Gaza alone since 2008.

This is the context which drives the protests on the ground, and this context forms the personal life experience of the protesters. Israeli journalist Amira Hass recently interviewed some of these youth, who told her “We’re dying anyway, so let it be in front of the cameras”. The international order has been deaf to the cries of Gaza, so these protests de facto represent a prison riot that is attempting to put Gaza back on the table, after Western governments and Israel, together with the Arab order, thought they could bury it in a debilitating siege, and through isolation.

When I think of the protesters, I think of the figure of Wissal Shaikh Khalil, the only woman killed on the horrific May 14 protest, where almost 70 Palestinians were killed – more than 500 shot in the head, and with more than 3,000 injuries from live ammunition. The picture we get from her is of a young woman who is frustrated by the situation, who sees the older generation as having been passive and acquiescent to conditions. She stood up and said “I don’t believe in this, I’m not taking it, and I want to go out with the boys and challenge the Israelis as well”. On that note, while the overall situation perpetually generates protest, protest itself becomes a way of also overcoming social and traditional restrictions on life. Because obviously, when you’re under siege and in states of extreme poverty, what happens is that society becomes much more dependent on extended family and tribal networks as a way of survival and welfare. This has enormous negative consequences on people’s sense of individuality, and reinforces patriarchal values which is very stultifying for youth and women in particular.

The demonstrations also witness clear participation of older people protesting because the siege means that they cannot take care of their families. I’m reminded of Mu’een Assa’i (58) who, a day before he was killed in the protests, offered one of his kidneys for sale online to feed his family, describing life in Gaza as “unbearable from all sides”, and that he was serious and of sound mind. The siege is crushing new and old generations alike while preventing the transition of youth into adulthood, and social actors performing their traditional roles. Society is on the brink of collapse. The explosive conditions can either lead to implosion and social and political collapse, or explosion, towards Israel, the primary source of Palestinian oppression. It has done the latter, to avoid the former. An Arabic news correspondent went to the buffer zone where the demonstrations were taking place and interviewed an elderly woman there. He joked that most women of her generation would be at home, making bread, and asked her what she was doing? With cold resolve, she responded: “My husband has been killed, two of my sons have been killed, another is in a wheelchair, and I don’t care if a bullet hits me through the forehead”. People clearly feel they have little to lose. Non-action is a form of certain slow death. Under these conditions, why not risk active/faster death, if there is at least a chance something can change?

I’d like to talk about what seems to me to have been quite a stark contrast between the scenes in Gaza and then the relative passivity inside the West Bank and in the 1948 areas of Palestine, even in response to Trump’s decision to move the embassy. While there have been protests, there seems to be a “gap” in energy. Am I overstating that, or is this a fair point to make? And if so, what’s behind it?

I think it’s somewhat accurate, though it is more helpful to understand matters in their specificity, which includes appreciating how Israel has undoubtedly fragmented the Palestinian people geographically, politically and socially. Folks need to take into consideration that Israel has different interests in different parts of historical Palestine, and therefore implements different strategies to realise its goals. Political actors and mobilisations take on different forms as a result of these dynamics, and hence it becomes difficult to generalise a common type of struggle, because the means of oppression and control, and with it resistance, vary in each locality.

In this reading, Gaza is the most intense of the theatres, because it is the least important for Zionist aspirations. Gaza is the territory that Rabin – the Nobel peace prize winner – wished would “sink into the sea”. But the West Bank is different. Israel has key strategic interests there in so far as the territory is much larger, contains the strategic high grounds, contains important water reserves, and also contains the historical sites which are important for the Zionist movement to assert its mythology of “returning the Jewish people to the land of Israel”.

This is why Israel basically used the peace process to be able to “separate” from the Palestinians across the 1967 occupied territory, while investing its energies in massive colony construction projects in the West Bank, tripling the number of settlers there since 1993. Israel aims to annexe these territories, thereby uniting the conquests of 1948 Palestine with those of 1967.

In more recent history – because of the Palestinian rejection of the Oslo framework with the eruption of the Al Aqsa (second) intifada in 2000, and especially after the 2006 elections – Israel and the Western states have tried to make the West Bank seem more prosperous compared to Gaza, as a way to lessen the anti-Oslo political tendency, manifested most coherently in Hamas. Namely, the West Bank was given a “carrot” while Gaza was given the “stick”, with the entire logic of the arrangement aimed at getting Palestinians to believe that resistance was futile. While there were nominal improvements to economic conditions in the West Bank since 2007, one should not be deceived, as the situation there remains extremely unstable, with worsening economic conditions in recent years, and no less a brutal occupation regime, albeit administered differently. We must not forget that the West Bank is much larger and more difficult to organise, while Israel is also on the ground there, and on a daily basis enters the hearts of Palestinian cities and towns to conduct arrest campaigns. This does not happen in Gaza, which also helps resistance experience and leadership to accumulate.

Israel currently holds around 7,000 Palestinian prisoners, and the overwhelming majority of these represent the political leadership of the West Bank. If these persons were free to organise, the West Bank context would certainly look different. Israel well understands this, which is why it doesn’t rely upon the Palestinian Authority to arrest these persons – they do it themselves.

On top of this is the dynamic of Fateh, and in particular the majority branch of the party loyal to Abu Mazen [Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas], nominally in control of Palestinian governance functions in the West Bank. These actors see the West Bank as their last stronghold. Fateh in general has a different strategy to addressing the Palestinian condition, which derives from its historical experience of struggle through the PLO. As far as Fateh is concerned, the Palestinians have paid the price of armed resistance (winning recognition through it) while Palestinians should use current conditions to avoid a damaging frontal confrontation with Israel. They believe this will ultimately defeat Zionist ambitions because as long as Palestinians survive and remain in Palestine, organised as self-identifying Palestinians, they will remain “the non-Jews” within the “Jewish democratic state” from an Israeli perspective. Fateh believes this contradiction will eventually force either statehood or the collapse of Zionism. So the PA and Fateh in the West Bank are not interested in a popular mobilisation that could threaten their hold on power, and displace their claim as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian struggle. They are interested in maintenance of status quo and demobilisation. Thus a debilitating , divided internal situation prevails across the Palestinian political sphere and within the West Bank in particular, where factional unity cannot be achieved on the ground, and with the Israeli occupation army doing its part to ensure that none of the Palestinian actors in the West Bank gain much traction – including Fateh.

Alternatively, in Gaza we see the opposite: all factions – including most Fateh branches there, together with the left, are increasingly unified. There are even joint operations rooms and the exchange of military expertise and equipment. But this is hardly possible in the West Bank where the Abu Mazen faction of Fateh dominates and will not allow alternative strategies and actors to gain momentum and potentially displace it and its strategy. We also must acknowledge that Abu Mazen and Fateh still have a fairly wide political and social constituency, with about 16 percent of employed persons working in the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank (with wages significantly higher than the private sector), and a public sector driving at least 40 percent of consumer demand. The PA is the main economic player in the West Bank, and there are few opportunities besides it – work in Israeli settlements, or the majority state of private sector actors who struggle in a “race to the bottom” in their “mom and pop” shops. There is always unemployment. Israel’s broader “de-development” policies can be thanked for this as well.

On a popular level of course, the West Bank and Palestinians everywhere are inspired by Gaza, and we do witness demonstrations taking place, including among Palestinian communities inside 1948 Palestine (Haifa in particular). But it would be wrong to compare their size and intensity to Gaza, because the political conditions for organising, and the political interests and tactics of Israel vis-à-vis each population and territory differ.

Let’s move to the regional level now. Palestinian protests have historically been a trigger for democratic and anti-imperialist forces across the region, but at this moment the counter-revolutionary aftermath of the Arab spring seems to be making practical solidarity extremely difficult. How do you read this current moment, and where do you see the Palestinian movement in this broader context?

Historically Palestine has been the “cause of the Arabs”, but it’s been obvious to most that this hasn’t been the case for decades, if it ever was, and Palestinians have been left to their own fate, especially after Oslo. With the Arab uprisings of 2010/11, the limited support the cause received further deteriorated in light of local revolutionary dynamics understandably becoming more important. Moreover the Palestinian movement was fracturing internally around the same time, between the West Bank and Gaza, which created a crisis of representation and leadership. Popular forces across the Arab world remain in solidarity with Palestine of course, however this solidarity cannot actualise in a context marked by the extreme counter-revolutionary forces and dynamics that have been unleashed to crush these revolutionary tendencies.

The major counter-revolutionary waves that have been unleashed have understandably preoccupied Arab revolutionary actors, further isolating the Palestinian theatre from its natural periphery. Political actors should be aware however that this is temporary, and will not last indefinitely. Eventually revolutionary dynamics will re-ignite across the region for years if not decades to come, as the old regimes have no answers to the questions the revolutions posed, and the genie will not be able to be put back in the bottle.

In the meantime, we are witnessing instead unprecedented Arab state collusion with Israel – represented most vividly in Saudi-Israel rapprochement, but also unprecedented Egyptian-Israeli collusion. Egypt has even invited Israel to bomb the Sinai with its fleet of drones to squelch the local opposition movements there. The Arab states seek to team up with Israel and the Trump administration to counter “Iran” – but really any perceived local opposition to their rule. These dynamics are debilitating for the Arab revolutionary currents, particularly in the absence of a larger progressive movement and network to be able to sustain it, and which must be built through struggle. At the end of the day, the Middle East and Palestine features within a central axis of world trade, energy and political conflicts. This means that any genuine democratic forces in the area must counter a substantial number of reactionary elements of the world order, together with their local manifestation. The stakes in this respect couldn’t be higher.

What role do you see for solidarity activists in countries like Australia?

In order for the Gaza protests to be successful, we need to have regular, determined demonstrations and solidarity activity going on in the West. We have to use the protests in Gaza to educate around Palestine and build a new generation of activists, and a movement at large, that can expose the cruel apartheid regime Israel has established there, with active Western donor state abetment.

We have to plan for a long term struggle, because currently there are no prospects at this time that the situation in Gaza is resolvable. Donors and Israel vacillate between “technical humanitarian” and “military” solutions, but both have been tried, and both have miserably failed. In fact these approaches are deeply implicated in creating the situation today, because they have attempted to hive political issues from economic and humanitarian ones.

Not one of these actors however is talking seriously about resolving the political problem of Gaza, which in fact is the strongest instantiation of the political problem of Palestine. We can be assured that these actors will fail, as the situation has long passed any “technical” solution, and Western governments know very well what they do in Palestine. While pretending to sponsor peace, by supporting the Oslo process, Western states have actually been cementing apartheid – sometimes quite literally. USAID funds to the Palestinians have gone to pave an alternative road system, separate from that used by Jewish colonists. It’s not just the US though. UK arms sales to Israel have reached historic heights, while Germany is selling Israel nuclear submarines. Meanwhile, these actors feign impartiality, subvert Palestinian democratic processes, and bankroll neopatrimonial Palestinian governance structures in an effort to displace the main contradiction between Zionism and Palestinian nationalism, into intra-Palestinian political and class conflicts. They also protect and abet Israel from sanctioning, with these powers never failing to declare that Israel is their ally. In this respect, donor aid to the Palestinians pales in comparison to the funding and benefits given to Israel by Western states, while these actors also argue that the former is given because it helps Israel solve/manage its Palestinian “problem”.

Western solidarity movements can thus play a key role in the struggle to expose this political farce, and the time is long overdue for this. Western state support of a brutal apartheid regime in Israel/Palestine is certainly not representative of the interests of the average Western taxpayer. Solidarity actors in the West are uniquely positioned to do this, and the more they organise, the less bloody the conflict will be. Western states ultimately form the strategic, diplomatic, economic and military conditions which allow Israel to operate, and without this, the project is unsustainable.

Here a historic opportunity has arisen for the Palestinian movement to be wedded to new social and political struggles in the West, which can make the connection between what happens to Palestinians in Gaza, to the scourge of racism, policing, surveillance, immigration policies, austerity and neoliberalism at home. The connection is both moral and inspirational, as well as very practical: Israeli policies and doctrines are widely implicated in everything from wall construction on the Mexico-US border to the impunity of Western urban policing squads, sent on training missions to Israel. In this regard, Palestine and Gaza in particular, is an example of how people with very little can challenge and change history. We must learn from this example and bring this inspiration and ethos into our own lives in the West, where everywhere you scratch the surface – sometimes not even that – injustice lurks at every corner.
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Feminisms of the Left-Nancy Holmstrom

Posted by admin On October - 24 - 2018 Comments Off on Feminisms of the Left-Nancy Holmstrom

This essay was originally a talk at the conference held at the New School for Social Research on April 21-22, 2016.

I like our panel’s title: “Feminisms of the Left.” There is a long and confusing collection of names for those who are both leftists and feminists: Marxist feminist, socialist feminist, materialist feminist, black feminist, feminist socialist, anarcho-feminist, and so on. And straddling the line between socialist and liberal feminists would be social-welfare feminists. In the 1960s and 1970s, in the heyday of the women’s liberation movement, when “feminism” was too tame a word, the mainstream feminists were social-welfare feminists. They supported abortion rights of course, and equal pay for equal work, as do all feminists, but they also supported public child care and welfare. Gloria Steinem and Ms. magazine are examples. But the movement declined just as so many activists were moving into careers and families; American politics was moving rightward, into neoliberalism, and this general trend took mainstream feminism with it. So instead of collective social provision, we heard about individual responsibility and self-sufficiency. The Clintons’ welfare “reform” exemplifies this change—and Gloria Steinem’s support for Hillary Clinton, despite all that Clinton has done against the interests of the majority of women in the world, is a sad example of the rightward evolution of mainstream feminists.

There are still social-welfare feminists, of course, who should be included on the continuum of “feminists of the left,” though they are less explicitly anti-capitalist than the rest. Personally, though I am a Marxist, I usually choose the label “socialist feminist” to describe myself just because it is the most inclusive and is less likely to be misunderstood. As I define the term, all socialist feminists (whether they would identify with the label or not) see class as central to women’s lives, yet at the same time none would reduce sex or race oppression to economic exploitation. All socialist-feminist politics have an anti-capitalist edge, not merely anti-neoliberal capitalism. Parenthetically, as with any continuum, it is not always clear how to draw the lines. For example, Iris Young, whom I knew for decades, saw herself as a socialist feminist, as do I, but is included as a liberal feminist in an encyclopedia entry

Which word we choose to identify ourselves largely depends I think on the political context we’re in, and the debates in which we’re involved, as well as how we understand these categories. So the same label may not mean the same analysis, and different labels may not mean different analyses. For example, Margaret Benston was one of the first Marxists to analyze women’s domestic labor, back in 1969. She considered herself a Marxist, used Marxist categories, wrote in Monthly Review, and is described as a Marxist feminist, but in fact her analysis was more like that of feminists who were calling themselves “socialist feminist” in order to distinguish themselves from Marxists. Hilary Wainwright calls herself a feminist socialist rather than a socialist feminist to signal her interest in bringing insights from feminism into the socialist movement and into visions of socialism. She’s been arguing this since the 1970s and recently expressed her frustration that she still has to make the same argument.

Sometimes these different labels do signal different theoretical analyses of women’s oppression and capitalism—in particular, whether you believe that capitalism and patriarchy are two distinct, though intersecting, systems—or three, to accommodate racism as well. Or, alternatively, if  you believe that we live in one system, capitalism, that has various kinds of oppression, including sexism and racism, as constituent aspects of that system. But I have found over the years that these abstract differences don’t necessarily entail political differences, which are most important for social transformation.

Feminists of the left are involved in all kinds of struggles, not only those that are explicitly gendered. In some contexts one sort of issue may predominate, and rightly so, in others a different one. For example, women involved in Black Lives Matter organized Black Women’s Lives Matter because women had been left out of the picture. Given the realities of black women’s lives, black feminist theory is less likely to omit class issues than white feminist theory.

What defines socialist feminists is both the politics they articulate and the way they organize themselves and articulate those politics. It goes without saying that we support all struggles for women’s legal rights, but that is far from enough. Gender inequalities today are significantly less than class inequalities, as two recent sex-discrimination lawsuits reveal. In one, a woman who sold bonds at Morgan Stanley sued because her salary of over a million dollars a year was much lower than her male colleagues’; women at Walmart sued because their annual salary was $1,100 lower than the men’s, but the average pay for all Walmart employees is only $10 an hour. So the men’s salaries are pretty damned low too! And non-union Walmart is now the largest private employer in the United States—versus unionized General Motors not so long ago. It’s the struggles of working class women that socialist feminists focus on, whether the struggles are on the job, in the community, or wherever. Working class women’s struggles around the world exemplify certain core principles of socialist feminism, as Johanna Brenner and I discussed in the Socialist Register of 2012.

A core principle of socialist feminism is self-organization, the idea that, in Eleanor Marx’s words, women’s emancipation must come from themselves. But at the same time, they can’t do it alone, but only in coalition with others, so socialist feminists work to build inclusive movements, connecting workplace and community, waged and unwaged work, and caring labor recognized as labor. An excellent model of labor-community organizing is the Chicago Teachers Union work uniting the interests of teachers and parents. Public employees combining with those they serve is a huge step forward, something we’ve never heard from New York teachers. Similarly, I would like to see the transit workers unions reaching out to riders about common interests, like better staffing. Hilary Wainwright has several examples like this in her book Reclaim the State (Verso, 2003).

The paradigmatic gendered struggle for legal abortion was won in 1973 with Roe v. Wade, but socialist feminists pressed to go beyond an individual right to choose to include the material and social conditions necessary for women to have a genuine choice as to whether or not to have children. The concept of reproductive rights was developed in the late 1970s by socialist feminists with prodding from women of color who wanted protection against sterilization abuse along with the social changes that would support their decision to have children: child care, maternity leave, welfare, decent medical care, housing, and education. Reproductive rights pushes toward an anti-capitalist politics because unlike legal abortion, these challenge capitalist profits. We never won these in the United States, and where they were won, neoliberalism has brought continual attacks on these benefits.

In contrast, environmental struggles do not seem gendered. What could be more universal than the need for clean air and water? But this does not mean it is not a women’s issue. Just as women’s rights are human rights, as feminists have argued, so are human rights women’s rights. Feminists should not confine themselves to issues uniquely or primarily affecting women. Moreover, there is often some gender dimension even if it’s not explicit. The UN Population Fund says that women in developing countries are particularly impacted by climate change, directly because of the difficulty of meeting their families’ needs and indirectly by the wars engendered by scarce resources. Women are often the leaders of grassroots environmental movements, which socialist feminists strongly support, as they stress that the roots of the environmental crisis lie in capitalism’s inherent drive to expand production.

Sometimes it’s important to work with others who do not share all our left feminist values. La Via Campesina—the worldwide peasants movement—took a strong position opposing violence against women, which they defined in both interpersonal and structural terms. So that is very progressive and quite different from the conservative “law and order” approach of much anti-gender-violence work. But La Via Campesina at the outset was not comfortable with issues of sexual freedom, abortion, and LGBT rights. Working together, however, with the World March of Women, their position has evolved.

The same conflict can arise in the United States when we are involved in economic struggles with people who are more conservative socially. In Chicago the movement against school closings brought together a diverse group, including gay socialist feminists and black community activists, not all of whom supported gay rights. Rather than tackle their differences directly, they worked in solidarity, recognizing that the parents should be in the leadership of the struggle. Over time, that kind of solidarity is the best way to overcome distrust and change minds.

Another way one can advance struggles from a feminist point of view is to pay attention to the structure and process of the groups in which one works. Differences of power and privilege along sex or gender lines are particularly intimate and subtle. So transforming this power requires the transformation of ourselves and our relationships—an insight associated with the women’s liberation movement. One way to address this problem is to allow—or better yet, to encourage—women’s caucuses, whether in unions, social movements, or left groups. In Occupy, despite their focus on horizontal process, the idea of separate spaces for women and people of color met some resistance, which is sad. Leftists should note that more than one hundred years ago, Marx and Luxemburg supported organizing men and women both together and separately. After the Russian Revolution when Alexandra Kollontai was in the government and women were organized independently within the Communist Party, women won all kinds of gains and prevented women’s jobs from being given automatically to returning soldiers rather than allocated according to need.

In the United States today, there is a new openness to socialism. From Occupy to Black Lives Matter to the Sanders campaign, to new labor organizing, we begin to see the possibility of a new radical left. A key strategic question for that emerging movement is whether the insights of socialist feminism will be brought into the center of its politics.


What Is the Secret to the Success of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-MILAN VAISHNAV

Posted by admin On October - 14 - 2018 Comments Off on What Is the Secret to the Success of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-MILAN VAISHNAV

One political party dominates the world’s largest democracy. Why has India’s BJP has become so powerful?


The BJP is a Hindu nationalist political party in India that believes that Hinduism and Indian national identity are more or less synonymous.

For many in the party, Indian culture is quite simply Hindu culture. Given that Hindus make up 80 percent of the country’s population, BJP members believe India is fundamentally a Hindu rashtra (nation). Although there is a great variety of opinion within the party, its core philosophy of Hindutva (Hindu-ness) has often been criticized for being anti-minority in nature.

The party’s current incarnation dates back to 1980, but it was the natural successor to an earlier political party known as the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which was formed after independence. The Jan Sangh, as it was known, in turn built on an earlier tradition of Hindu revivalist movements, whose roots date back to the British Raj.
The BJP, of course, represents more than just Hindu nationalism. It also espouses a muscular foreign policy and national security posture. It is generally more pro-business than most of India’s political parties, which tend to be left of center.

Like any big-tent party, it is hardly a monolith. You will find internationalists, isolationists, libertarians, and nationalists all residing under the general umbrella of the BJP.


The BJP came to power in the 2014 general election, when India was in the midst of an economic downturn. The ruling Indian National Congress, or Congress Party, was beleaguered by massive corruption allegations, slowing economic growth, rampant inflation, and a pervasive sense of “policy paralysis.”

The BJP’s leader, Narendra Modi, cast himself as the right man in the right place at the right time. For more than a dozen years, Modi had served as chief minister of the state of Gujarat, which had enjoyed high growth and a reputation as an investment-friendly destination under his tenure.

Modi’s pitch to the electorate was quite simple: make him prime minister and he would do to India what he did to Gujarat. It did not hurt that he was a gifted public speaker with a compelling life story, having been born into a backward caste family of modest means.

Since 2014, Modi has been able to reshape the party in his own mold. He has drawn on his aspirational agenda to expand the party’s electoral footprint at the state level as well.

Today, the BJP and its allies control twenty of India’s twenty-nine states. That is more than double the number it ran four years ago. For comparison’s sake, its archrival, the Congress Party, runs just three states today.

But the party’s success cannot be reduced to Modi’s popularity alone. Under his watch, the BJP has also strengthened its electoral operations, engineered broad-based social coalitions, and struck useful alliances with smaller regional parties. All of this has improved its stature across India.


The BJP is distinct from other political parties in India in at least two ways.

First, there is the issue of Hindutva. Most Indian political parties are avowedly secular, in that they believe no one religion should be advantaged over any another.

In India, secularism means that the government maintains an equal embrace of, and equal distance from, all religious traditions. It does not mean a strict separation of church and state, as it does in the United States and Europe.

Recently, the appeal of secular parties has dimmed, as there is a perception that they have cynically used minority groups like Muslims as “vote banks,” rather than treating them as genuine political constituencies. Some on the right have also accused secular parties of catering to minorities, at the expense of the majority Hindu population.

The BJP makes no bones about its belief that it principally serves the interest of India’s Hindus. Within the party, there is a great deal of variation in terms of what this means in practice. There are those who are fundamentally anti-minority; those who want to see a more level playing field among faith communities (when it comes to things like subsidies and welfare); and those who are somewhere in between.

The second perceived difference is on economics. The BJP has traditionally espoused more pro-business policies than its competitors, who prefer a more center-left, social democratic posture. When in opposition, it criticized many of the Congress Party’s key social welfare schemes as being too costly and socialist.

However, since it came to power, the party has doubled down on nearly every such scheme.

In practice, the economic differences between the BJP and the Congress are probably overstated. Most political parties in India share what Indian economist Montek Singh Ahluwalia once called a “strong consensus for weak reforms.”


The BJP’s current single-party majority in the lower house of parliament actually represents a break with the past— or, at least, the previous twenty-five years before it came to power in 2014.

It is true that between 1952 and 1989, India was a one-party dominant system led by the hegemonic Congress Party. The Congress Party benefited from the reservoir of goodwill it inherited as the party that helped India achieve independence from Great Britain. It was a catchall party that prided itself on its pan-Indian footprint and multi-ethnic, cross-class composition.
With the exception of the period between 1977 and 1979—when a coalition of opposition parties briefly displaced the Congress in the wake of anti-democratic Emergency Rule imposed by the Congress Party under former prime minister Indira Gandhi—the Congress Party reliably formed the government in New Delhi.

But between 1989 and 2014, no single party was strong enough to form a government on its own, without the help of myriad coalition allies. Most analysts believed that coalition politics was here to stay—until the BJP’s electoral victory in 2014.

The 2014 result, in many ways, marked a break with the patterns of electoral competition that had prevailed for at least a quarter century.


What is unusual about the BJP is that it is not simply a political party. It is the political expression of a family of Hindu nationalist organizations, collectively known as the Sangh Parivar.

The ideological guiding force of the Sangh is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS is a volunteer service organization made up of individuals driven by a common desire to unite Hindus under the aegis of a Hindu rashtra.

The Sangh’s constituent units range from a farmers’ union, to a women’s wing, to a nonprofit charged with bringing education to India’s most disadvantaged groups living in rural areas.

The RSS is arguably India’s largest nongovernmental organization, and it serves as a mentor to the BJP cadres.


One has to separate the BJP government’s record into at least three categories: economics, foreign policy, and social issues.

In terms of economics, I would say the government gets credit for instituting a number of reforms that have modernized the Indian economy. For instance, the government ushered in the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which helps to unify India’s fragmented network of indirect taxes. It has also put in place a new bankruptcy and insolvency code, which for the first time has established an orderly process for firms to exit the marketplace if they go belly up.

In my view, however, the government could and should have done more to fundamentally reset the balance between the state and private capital, which for too long has been tilted in favor of the former.
For instance, India is home to hundreds of state-owned enterprises, many of which lose money and are a severe drain on the treasury. When it comes to core sectors of the economy—from agriculture to banking—there is far too much red tape. Modi had a once-in-a-generation mandate to tackle these problems plaguing India’s political economy, but his government has preferred (in their own words) a strategy of “persistent and creative incrementalism.”

I think foreign policy has been one of the relative bright spots for the BJP government. It has broadened and deepened India’s relations with the United States in very productive ways, especially when it comes to defense cooperation. The Modi government has also spent a fair amount of political capital building diplomatic and economic bridges to the country’s east, in order to forge closer ties with the economically dynamic countries of Southeast and East Asia.

But it is on the social side that I have the greatest concern. In several instances, Hindu majoritarianism has whipped up social tensions in India. This has detracted from an agenda of inclusive growth and development. The BJP’s 2014 election slogan was “Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas” (together with all, development for all). Creating new social divisions is fundamentally at odds with that mantra.
—–Milan Vaishnav

Vaishnav’s primary research focus is the political economy of India, and he examines issues such as corruption and governance, state capacity, distributive politics, and electoral behavior
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We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is only for reading purposes that included information for research and educational purposes. For the original source we are providing “url” of that article which is a ‘fair use’ of anything you find on this web site. However, if you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

For a ‘Dalitariat’ revolution-M.P. RAJU

Posted by admin On October - 6 - 2018 Comments Off on For a ‘Dalitariat’ revolution-M.P. RAJU

The book provides an overarching analysis of almost all the important problems faced by India today and is a must read for all those interested in caste-class issues.
MANY writers have attempted to study the manifold fault lines underlying the Indian republic that cause perpetual tremors debilitating the polity continually despite the socio-economic revolution famously promised by the Constitution of India. In Anand Teltumbde’s, Republic of Caste: Thinking Equality in the Time of Neoliberal Hindutva, we have a system-centric and unique attempt at understanding these fault lines.

Are not almost all the ailments of this country attributable directly or indirectly to the fact of India being a republic of castes? This is the thread that runs through almost all the premises of the book, such as demolishing the icon of Dr B.R. Ambedkar, critiquing the reservation imbroglio, identifying the class-caste bias inbuilt in the Constitution, exposing the game plan of the ruling classes representing neoliberal forces and Hindutva protagonists, pointing out the strategies involved in branding Dalits and Adivasis as Maoists followed by their targeted lynching or pointing fingers at the wayward political experiments of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party.

The recent spurt in mob lynchings has made many wonder how such diabolic and horrendous happenings are possible in the land of Krishna, Buddha, Asoka and Mahatma Gandhi. Teltumbde has dealt with the issue with reference to the instances of lynching of Dalits. Analysing the facts of anti-Dalit lynchings in the recent past, especially the ones that occurred in Khairlanji, Kawlewada, Dulina and Bhagana, the author draws important lessons from the recent lynching incidents, including those against members of minority communities. He brings out the police-bureaucracy-politicians nexus at the ground level. The last hope of the people—in the judiciary—was also disappearing. “Barring some honourable exceptions, the courts have always been biased against the poor, tribals, Dalits and Muslims” (page 173).

The author believes that the characteristics of a lynch mob—its easy assumption of moral righteousness and confidence about its impunity—are not generated spontaneously. They are honed expressions of a strategy perfected over many years of experiment and observation, mainly through precedents involving Dalits.

There is an attempt to re-baptise Marx into an Ambedkarite and Ambedkar into a Marxist. This is born out of the author’s conviction that the only plausible solution lies in merging Dalits and the proletariat. He urges Dalits to foreground the need to annihilate caste and to reorient themselves to see society in class terms. He is unambiguous in his view that annihilation of castes will necessitate a thoroughgoing democratic revolution, which can happen only through a class struggle, which presupposes a meeting point between Ambedkar and Marx. However, Teltumbde sees Ambedkar as reactive and thus purely pragmatic, and Marx as scientific and as having a theoretical foundation, which has objective rigour and correctly explains the past. Ambedkar is pictured as having only a short-term approach, whereas Marx is praised as one who has given a scientific framework for revolution and a theory to bring it about. So, the author is harshly and uncharitably critical of Ambedkar in comparison to Marx.

Ambedkar had identified Brahmanism and capitalism as the two enemies of workers and Dalits. So Teltumbde may be right when he concludes that Ambedkar never saw any contradiction between class struggle and anti-caste struggle.

Reservation as a ‘conspiracy’
The author offers a detailed conceptual analysis of the policy of reservation. It was not the British who introduced reservation but native rulers such as Shahu Maharaj (1874-1922), the king of Kolhapur; the Justice Party in Madras Presidency; and the princely states of Mysore, Baroda and Travancore.

It was Ambedkar who proposed separate electorates for Dalits with reserved seats during the Round Table Conferences (1931-32). After the Poona Pact in September 1932, reservation as a policy of giving preference for Dalits was incorporated into the Government of India Act, 1935. In 1943, Ambedkar, as a member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council, got this preferment policy transformed into a quota system reserving 8.5 per cent seats for Dalits in educational institutions and public employment.

Teltumbde smells a conspiracy by members of the Constituent Assembly in incorporating the policy of reservation in the Constitution. Thus, the policy of reservation was a “cynical game of the ruling classes” and Ambedkar was fooled into it. According to the author, the cost of reservation far exceeds its benefits. Moreover, it is a stumbling block to the realisation of the dream of paving “the way for the consolidation of all the sub-castes of Dalits into a class”. He is dismissive of the demand for instituting quotas in the private sector as a game plan called manipulation of expectations.

But the author’s ambivalence is evident. In the first chapter, he attempts to demonstrate that reservation became a weapon in the hands of the ruling classes, but he states in the introduction that it does not automatically mean that it is inherently bad and should be discarded. According to him, extending reservation to the Scheduled Tribes (S.Ts) diluted the concept of reservation, and even if it was permitted, the S.Ts ought to have been combined with Dalits. He is also against reservation for Backward Classes (B.Cs). He pities the “myopia” of the Left and the way all Left parties vied with one another to support the Other Backward Classes’ (OBCs) demand for reservation. According to him, this was bound to lead to “casteisation of society, which would eventually prove detrimental not only to Dalits, but also and most particularly to the idea of class unity”.

His grievance is that no one paused to question the Constitution that enabled it. But he forgets that non-implementation of the constitutional provisions in favour of the B.Cs by the Jawaharlal Nehru government was one of the reasons cited by Ambedkar for his resignation as Law Minister.

Teltumbde holds that reservation became the pretext to conserve caste in the Constitution. His analysis of the system of reservation appears to have left out a number of recent studies and his arguments do not appear to have considered the constitutional principles, including those stressed by Ambedkar.

His strong suggestion to improve reservation by excluding all Dalit families, who happened to avail themselves of reservation even once, is an argument in false fatigue to exclude the so-called creamy layer even in the case of the Schedules Castes/S.Ts. There may be many takers for the solution proposed by Teltumbde to the problem of reservation. See who is speaking through the modern messiah of Dalits.

A question may be pertinent: If India remains a republic of caste would the burden of blame not rest on Ambedkar and the Constitution that he was instrumental in drafting? In answering this, Teltumbde raises a serious allegation that Ambedkar had disowned the Constitution and had declared in Parliament that he was used by the ruling class, represented through the Congress, as a “hack” and that he should be the first person to burn it. This is one of the basic premises on which the author builds his conclusions. He repeats this charge against Ambedkar at several places in the book (pages 25, 51, 126, and 261).

The author also doubts the sincerity of the subsequent explanation given by Ambedkar himself.

To understand the correctness of this accusation, we may have to view the statement in its context and the changes, if any, in Ambedkar’s attitude towards the Constitution. The statements of Ambedkar are found in his speech dated September 2, 1953, in the Rajya Sabha during the discussion on the Andhra State Bill, 1953. The object of the Bill was to create a new State for Andhras on linguistic lines.

Ambedkar had already resigned as the Law Minister on the issues of the Hindu Code Bill and the failure of the government to implement constitutional provisions, especially those seeking to benefit the B.Cs and S.Cs. He continued to be a bitter critic of the government and its disregard for the Constitution.

In his speech, Ambedkar initially made a few comments attacking the government for its delay in forming Andhra as a separate linguistic State and for a few drawbacks in the Constitution such as the non-inclusion of Andhra in the schedule, which Ambedkar had to omit due to non-response from the Prime Minister and the Home Minister during the drafting of the Constitution. Then, he dwelt on a few specific suggestions for amending the Constitution providing for the protection of minorities and S.Cs in the new Andhra State as also in other States.

Referring to the fact that in the Andhra area, a few high-caste communities possessed almost all the land, resources, trade and even the smallest jobs and S.Cs were landless labourers, Ambedkar wanted to know “whether the reservation, which was blissfully granted to us by the Congress party for 10 years, is going to disappear”.

To this, one member intervened, “You accepted it.”

Ambedkar retorted: “Yes, what else can one do; if you can’t get puri you must get roti.”

Minorities & Governor’s role
Continuing his argument, he suggested two amendments to the Constitution to protect the minority communities against the community in office practising communalism: one, to give the power to the Governor to override the government in such matters, and two, appoint small committees of these minorities who can make representations either to the Ministry or to the Governor.

Ambedkar knew that the absence of these provisions in the Constitution would be seen as his failure as the maker of the Constitution, a charge that has already been made against him. He explained this absence by stating that not giving such powers to the Governor was not his idea but was the result of the tradition India had inherited as part of its hatred for the British. Ambedkar went on:

“People always keep on saying to me: ‘Oh, you are the maker of the Constitution’. My answer is I was a hack. What I was asked to do, I did much against my will.”

A member, P. Sundarayya, retorted: “Why did you serve your masters then like that?”

This led to a lot of commotion and the Chairman had to call for order repeatedly.

Thereafter, Ambedkar explained that we had inherited certain ideas of democracy on account of our hatred for the British, and one such idea was that the Governor should merely be a rubber stamp. He said: “If a Minister, however scoundrel he may be, however corrupt he may be, if he puts up a proposal before the Governor, he has to ditto it. That is the kind of conception about democracy which we have developed in this country.”

Immediately came the objection that Ambedkar had apprehended. M.S. Ranawat, representing Rajasthan, challenged him: “But you defended it.”

Ambedkar’s explanation
Ambedkar replied: “We lawyers defend many things. [Interruption] You should listen seriously to what I am saying, because this is an important problem.”

He further explained the need to give some powers to Governors for the protection of minorities and quoted the example of similar provisions in the Constitution of Canada. Then he posed a question to Home Minister Dr K.N. Katju, whether such a provision had made the Canadian Constitution undemocratic.

To this Dr Katju replied: “My answer is that you had drafted this Constitution.”

Ambedkar replied: “You want to accuse me for your blemishes?”

The Chairman had to intervene: “He has said that he defended the present Constitution because it was the majority decision. Get along.”

Ambedkar continued arguing for amending the Constitution to incorporate provisions similar to the ones in the Canadian and English Constitutions that seek to protect minority communities and take into consideration the sentiments of smaller communities. Pointing to the lack of similar provisions in the Indian Constitution, Ambedkar went on:

“Sir, my friends tell me that I have made the Constitution. But I am quite prepared to say that I shall be the first person to burn it out. I do not want it. It does not suit anybody. But whatever that may be, if our people want to carry on, they must not forget that there are majorities and there are minorities, and they simply cannot ignore the minorities by saying, ‘Oh, no. To recognise you is to harm democracy.’ I should say that the greatest harm will come by injuring the minorities.”

This was the context of Ambedkar’s observations, on the basis of which he is accused of denouncing the Constitution. His was a rhetorical plea to amend the Constitution and an expression of pain at its misuse and must not be treated as disowning the Constitution.

After this speech, Ambedkar again spoke in the Council of States on September 18, 1953, during the discussion on the Estate Duty Bill. Although he supported the Bill, he expressed his pain at not getting the Hindu Code Bill passed. He lamented that the Hindu Code was hanging fire for four years and nobody knew if it would hang fire perpetually. “And no one is sorry for that except myself” (Book & Writings of Ambedkar, Vol 15, page 871)

Attitude to the Constitution
On March 19, 1955, Ambedkar was confronted with his so-called denouncement of the Constitution. He was speaking in the Rajya Sabha on the Constitution (Fourth Amendment) Bill, 1954, which had sought to amend Article 31 regarding the provision for compensation when the government acquires any property. He said: “… Article 31, with which we are dealing now in this amending Bill, is an article for which I, and the Drafting Committee, can take no responsibility whatsoever. We do not take any responsibility for that. That is not our draft.”

He went on to explain that in view of the substantial differences of views, Article 31 was allowed to be there, which was an ugly thing and was an exception to the other parts of the Constitution, which was otherwise excellent. He went on: “If I may say so, and I say it with a certain amount of pride: the Constitution which has been given to this country is a wonderful document. It has been said so not by myself, but by many people, many other students of the Constitution….” (Book & Writings of Ambedkar, Vol 15, page 948).

Dr Anup Singh (Punjab) interrupted him: “Last time when you spoke, you said that you would burn the Constitution.”

Ambedkar: “Do you want a reply to that? I would give it to you right here. My friend says that the last time when I spoke, I said that I wanted to burn the Constitution. Well, in a hurry I did not explain the reason. Now that my friend has given me the opportunity, I think I shall give the reason. The reason is this: We built a temple for a god to come in and reside, but before the god could be installed, if the devil had taken possession of it, what else could we do except destroy the temple? We did not intend that it should be occupied by the Asuras. We intended it to be occupied by the devas. That is the reason why I said I would rather like to burn it.”

B.K.P. Sinha (Bihar) intervened: “Destroy the devil rather than the temple.”

Ambedkar: “You cannot do it. We have not got the strength…” (Book & Writings of Ambedkar, Vol 15, pages 948-949).

Thus, it would be unfair to conclude that Ambedkar was withdrawing his statement to please somebody. There was no change in his views. The rhetorical statement he had made earlier was properly understood by the listeneres, except a few like Katju, as reflected in the comment made by the Chairman then and there itself.

It is relevant to take note of the fact that the First amendment to the Constitution was made by the provisional Parliament when Ambedkar was the Law Minister. By this amendment, many Articles, including Articles 15 and 19, were amended. Although the Bill was introduced by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, it was passed only after Ambedkar intervened and explained the reasons behind the amendments and clarified the doubts of members. He made the speech on May 18, 1951 (Book & Writings of Ambedkar, Vol 15, pages 332-342). During the speech, Kamath interrupted, saying, “You yourself made it.”

Concluding the discussions on the final draft of the Constitution on November 25, 1949, Ambedkar had this to say on the merits of the Constitution: “However good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it happen to be a bad lot” (Constituent Assembly of India Debates, Vol XI, page 975).

Ambedkar was aware of the possible condemnation of the Constitution especially by communists since they wanted a Constitution based on the principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat. According to him, “They condemn the Constitution because it is based upon parliamentary democracy” (Constituent Assembly of India Debates, Vol XI, page 975).

“What I do say is that the principles embodied in the Constitution are the views of the present generation or if you think this to be an overstatement, I say they are the views of the members of the Constituent Assembly. Why blame the Drafting Committee for embodying them in the Constitution? I say why blame even the Members of the Constituent Assembly?” (Constituent Assembly of India Debates, Vol XI, page 975) Then Ambedkar pointed out the provisions to amend the Constitution and welcomed the critiques to amend the Constitution. He went on: “If those who are dissatisfied with the Constitution have only to obtain a 2/3 majority and if they cannot obtain even a two-thirds majority in the Parliament elected on adult franchise in their favour, their dissatisfaction with the Constitution cannot be deemed to be shared by the general public” (Constituent Assembly of India Debates, Vol XI, page 976).

Socio-economic revolution
While playing a singular role in making the Constitution, Ambedkar might not have succeeded in drawing up a Dalit manifesto as imagined by today’s Marxian Dalit intellectuals, but he was clear about what he was doing, and the ordinary Dalits, Adivasis, B.Cs, women and minorities have not doubted his wisdom, consistency and unparalleled contribution to the poor masses and their future generations. He might not have gifted them any magic wand like class struggle or a prescription like historical materialism, but he has initiated the process of ushering in a socio-economic revolution by promoting fraternity among all by assuring the dignity of the individual (Preamble of the Constitution). This unique role has not been dampened in any manner by his cultural experiment of converting to Buddhism or his rejection of Marxism (while sympathising with it) on two grounds: its reliance on violence and dictatorship.

Spread over 13 chapters, with an Introduction encapsulating them, the book provides an in-depth analysis of almost all the important problems faced by India today. The absence of a concluding chapter may be because of the fact that the author’s conclusions are spread across all the chapters. It can be seen as 13 separate but inter-related booklets put together in the form of a book. The Foreword by Sunil Khilnani highlights the achievements of the work in glowing terms.

The author offers a mine of information and analysis, disclosing interesting intersections between events and movements, which often go unnoticed by experts in the respective fields of research. In this work, the author shares with readers his dream of witnessing a revolution that marches on through the struggle by the “dalitariat”, an amalgamated class consisting of Dalits and the proletariat. The book is a must read for all those who are interested in caste-class issues.

M.P. Raju is an advocate practising in the Supreme Court. He is the author of several books, including Minority Rights: Myth or Reality (2002) and India’s Constitution: Roots, Values & Wrongs (2017).

Fair Use Notice
This web site may contain copyrighted material the use of which we are making only for educational purposes. This is a non -profit web site and does not accept any type of advertisement, paid or otherwise. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance the understanding of humanity’s problems and hopefully to help find solutions for those problems.

We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is only for reading purposes that included information for research and educational purposes. For the original source we are providing “url” of that article which is a ‘fair use’ of anything you find on this web site. However, if you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

US Switching to Ukraine as Location to Start World War III Against Russia-

Posted by admin On October - 6 - 2018 Comments Off on US Switching to Ukraine as Location to Start World War III Against Russia-

The United States Government is now treating Ukraine as if it were a NATO member, and on September 27th donated to Ukraine two warships for use against Russia. This is the latest indication that the US is switching to Ukraine as the locale to start World War III, and from which the nuclear war is to be sparked against Russia, which borders Ukraine.

Here is why Syria is no longer the US alliance’s preferred choice as a place to start WW III:

On September 4th, US President Donald Trump publicly threatened Syria, Iran and Russia that if they exterminated the jihadists in Syria’s only remaining jihadist-controlled province, Idlib, then the US might launch a full-scale invasion against Syria, Iran and Russia in Syria. Either the US or Russia would then quickly escalate to nuclear war so as not to lose in Syria — that would be the conventional-war start to World War III.

The leaders of Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Syria (Putin, Rouhani, Erdogan, and Assad), agreed in two meetings, one on September 7th and the other on September 17th, to (as I had recommended on September 10th) transfer control of Syria’s only remaining jihadist-controlled province, Idlib, to NATO-member Turkey. This action effectively prevents the US alliance from going to war against Russia if Russia’s alliance (which includes Syria) obliterates all the jihadist groups in the Al-Qaeda-led Syrian province Idlib. For the US to war against Russia there would also be war against fellow-NATO-member Turkey — out of the question.

The US has been using Al Qaeda in Syria to train and lead the jihadist groups which have been trying to overthrow Syria’s Government and to replace it with a government that has been selected by the Saud family who own Saudi Arabia. Ever since 1949 the US Government has been trying to do this (to place the Saud family in charge of Syria). That plan is now being placed on-hold if not blocked altogether, because of the Russia, Turkey, Iran, Syria, agreement. As I reported on September 25th, “Turkey Now Controls Syria’s Jihadists”. The US would no longer be able to save them, but Turkey would, if Erdogan wants to. “Turkey is thus now balanced on a knife’s edge, between the US and its allies (representing the Saud family) on the one side, versus Russia and its allies (representing the anti-Saud alliance) on the other.”

During the same period in which the US Government was setting Syria up as the place to start WW III, it was also setting up Ukraine as an alternative possibility to do that. US President Obama, in a very bloody February 2014 coup which he had started planning by no later than 2011, overthrew Ukraine’s democratically elected President, and replaced him by a rabidly anti-Russian racist-fascist regime whose Ukrainian tradition went back to ideologically nazi Ukrainian organizations that had supported Hitler during World War II. Though communism is gone from Russia ever since 1991, the US aristocracy never ended its goal of conquering Russia; the Cold War was secretly continued on the US-NATO side. Ukraine’s nazis (meaning its racist-fascists) are now the US and UK aristocracies’ chief hope to achieve this ambition of a US-and-allied global conquest. Here are the recent steps toward WW III regarding the US alliance’s new (since 2014) prize, Ukraine:

On September 28th, John Siciliano at the Washington Examiner bannered “Ryan Zinke: Naval blockade is an option for dealing with Russia” and he reported that Trump’s Interior Secretary Zinke had said “There is the military option, which I would rather not. And there is the economic option. … The economic option on Iran and Russia is, more or less, leveraging and replacing fuels.” He was saying that in order for the US to get its and its allies’ (mainly the Sauds’) oil and gas into Europe replacing some of Russia’s dominant market-share in that — the world’s largest energy-consuming — market (and also shrink Iran’s market-share there), a military blockade against Russia and Iran would be an option. Currently, most of Russia’s oil and gas into Europe goes via pipelines through Ukraine, which the US already controls. Siciliano’s news-break received a follow-up on September 30th from Zero Hedge.

On October 1st, George Eliason, the great investigative journalist who happens to live in Donbass, the southeastern part of Ukraine that broke off from Ukraine when Obama’s coup overthrew the democratically elected Ukrainian President who had received over 90% of the votes in Donbass, reported at The Saker’s site, that Ukraine’s war against Donbass was now returning in full force. Headlining “War Crimes in LNR and DNR [Donbass] —The Unannounced War”, he opened:

On September 28th, Lugansk Peoples Republic (LNR)Deputy Foreign Minister Anna Soroka and Andrey Chernov gave a presentation unveiling a photo album entitled Unannounced war. This collection of 150 images details the war crimes by the Ukrainian government during the war from 2014-2018.

Over the last 4 years, many journalists including myself reported on the war crimes committed by Ukrainian punisher battalions and sometimes the Ukrainian army. These war crimes are privately funded by Ukrainian Diaspora groups led primarily by US and Canadian citizens.

The Ukrainian punisher battalions and Ukrainian volunteer battalions take pride in the fact there is no need to hide any of Ukraine’s crimes from the West’s prying eyes.

Even now, when there is supposed to be a ceasefire so the children can go to school, Kiev is shelling cities and towns across Donbass. On September 29th, in just 24 hours Ukrainian army units shelled DNR (Donetsk Peoples Republic) over 300 times violating the ceasefire.

The US Government is trying to bully Russia and its allies, and now is overtly threatening to go to a naval blockade against Russia. Those two warships that the US just donated to Ukraine could be helpful in such a blockade. Alternatively, Ukraine’s re-invasion of Donbass might become Trump’s opportunity to ‘aid a NATO ally’ and precipitate WW III from a conventional war in Donbass. Either way would likely produce from Russia a nuclear blitz-attack to eliminate as many of America’s retaliatory weapons as possible, so as to beat the US to the punch. In military terms, the side that suffers the less damage ‘wins’, even if it’s a nuclear war that destroys the planet. The side that would strike first in a nuclear war would almost certainly suffer the less damage, because most of the opponent’s retaliatory weaponry would be destroyed in that attack. Trump is playing nuclear “chicken” against Putin. He is sorely trying Putin’s patience.

If the US regime uses any of these entry-points to a conventional war, Russia would simply be waiting for the US to nuclear blitz-attack Russia, which the US regime has long been intending to do. Regardless which side goes nuclear first, the blockade and/or re-invasion of Donbass (repeating there such things as this and this) will have started WWIII. And, clearly, any survivors would likely view the US in the way that most of today’s world views the fascist powers in WWII: as having been the aggressors. Consequently, if the American people cannot first overthrow the US regime and establish an authentic democracy here, then WWIII seems likely to result, which would be an outcome far worse, for the entire world, than an overthrow of the government that the entire world considers to be by far the most dangerous on Earth.
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Major Arms Deal Gets Green Light Ahead of Russia-India Summit-ALEX GORKA

Posted by admin On October - 6 - 2018 Comments Off on Major Arms Deal Gets Green Light Ahead of Russia-India Summit-ALEX GORKA

26.11.2015 Выгрузка зенитных ракетных комплексов С-300 (авиабаза «Хмеймим», Сирийская Арабская Республика)

The Russian-Indian time-tested partnership has experienced an upward trend in all areas of cooperation in recent years. Last year, the two great powers marked the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations. The leaders meet regularly and hold phone conversations to discuss acute problems. A very important event has just taken place to bring the two nations even closer.

The Indian Cabinet Committee on Security, chaired by PM Narendra Modi, approved the $6.2 billion S-400 Triumf deal with Russia on Sept.26. It’s rather symbolic that the final decision to purchase the five cutting-edge air defense systems to protect Indian critical infrastructure sites was taken just a few days before the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India scheduled on Oct.4-5. The Indian government defied the US threats to impose sanctions for buying Russian weapons in accordance with the 2017 “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (CAATSA) the way it did to “punish” China for buying the same systems and Su-35 combat planes.

The law allows making a waiver for India but US officials do not guarantee New Delhi will be exempt. It takes a risk by dealing with Russia. India has signed multiple multi-billion deals with US weapons producers. Defense Secretary James Mattis and State Secretary Mike Pompeo tried to talk India out of the S-400 deal during the 2+2 talks in September. Randall G. Schriver, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, has warned that a waiver is not a slam dunk decision. Indeed, if an exemption is made, others will demand waivers too, but with no sanctions imposed, the CAATSA will be deprived of any purpose. The US has put itself into an awkward situation and has to make a hard choice.

Russia and India are in talks on the way to make non-dollar payments. They could resort to clearing options, another currency, such as the Singapore dollar, or a go-between based in a third country. The US uses go-betweens to sell arms to the Syrian Kurds.

The two nations have a 60-year history of military cooperation, with Russia being the single largest supplier of hardware. The sides joined together to develop the BrahMos supersonic anti-ship and land-attack cruise missile. India also fields Russia’s S-300 air-defense system, and its INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier is made in Russia and uses Russian aircraft.

The list of Russian weapons used by the Indian military is really long. India is finalizing negotiations with Russia to purchase 48 additional Mi-17-V5 utility helicopters. The agreement on the purchase of four frigates may be signed during the upcoming Russian-Indian October summit. New Delhi also wants to lease a Russian nuclear submarine

Moscow accounts for 62 per cent of New Delhi’s arms imports. The Russian weapons and equipment in the Indian inventory have to be maintained, modernized, and spare parts have to be supplied. India just couldn’t all of a sudden suspend the military cooperation with Russia even if it wanted to. But it doesn’t. It’s widely believed that the S-400s are the best in the world. Nobody else could offer India a system with comparable specifications. And no American sanctions can prevent the great power, such as India, from buying what serves better its national security interests.

The Indian government has been already criticized by opposition for getting too close to the United States. The general elections are in April-May 2019. Signing the deal during President Putin’s upcoming visit will be the right step to win voters’ support. India defies the US sanctions anyway by buying Iran’s oil. New Delhi continued to trade with Tehran during previous rounds of restrictions. The EU, Russia, China, and Iran have recently agreed to create a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to bypass US sanctions against Iran. Russia and India could do the same.

The two great powers are expected to conclude an ‘action plan’ for expanding civil nuclear energy partnership during the upcoming top-level meeting. It will focus on a second site for Russian nuclear plant in the country. Russia’s Rosatom is currently the only foreign investor in India’s civilian nuclear energy sector, with the first two 1,000W units of the Kudankulam power plant already commissioned. The site is scheduled to have six VVER-1000 reactors with an installed capacity of 1,000 MW each. In March, the trilateral agreement was signed by India, Russia and Bangladesh on nuclear energy-related cooperation in personnel training, experience sharing and consulting support.

Russia played a key role in facilitating India’s entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), or Shanghai Pact, last year. It strongly supports India’s bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

No doubt, the October summit will re-affirm the fact that the traditionally close relationship has been upgraded to a “special privileged strategic partnership” as the world is shifting from a unipolar order to a possible multipolar structure. The decision to purchase the S-400 and defy the US exerting outright pressure proves the Indian government is adamant in its desire to boost cooperation with the old partner and friend.
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We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is only for reading purposes that included information for research and educational purposes. For the original source we are providing “url” of that article which is a ‘fair use’ of anything you find on this web site. However, if you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

The Indian economy in a tailspin-Prabhat Patnaik

Posted by admin On October - 5 - 2018 Comments Off on The Indian economy in a tailspin-Prabhat Patnaik

shiva trishul

Originally published: Peoples Democracy (September 30, 2018)   |
THE Indian economy is in a tailspin. This cannot be attributed only to innocence in economic matters of the command-centre of the NDA government. While that is indubitably a contributing factor, the current travails of the economy point to something deeper, namely the dead-end to which neo-liberalism has brought the economy. Without moving away from the neo-liberal trajectory, the economy cannot come out of its current difficulties.

India’s success in raising the GDP growth rate, the main selling point for the neo-liberal regime, was, unlike China’s, built upon the quicksand of a persistent trade and current account deficit on the external front. This was covered all this time by financial inflows, which were large enough even to add to the foreign exchange reserves. A major factor contributing to such inflows in recent years was the much lower interest rates in metropolitan economies, especially in the U.S. where they were virtually pushed down to zero to revive the economy after 2008, compared to India.

But now the U.S. itself has started raising the interest rates; and uncertainty over the future of neo-liberalism in the wake of Trump’s protectionist measures is making globalised finance flow massively to the U.S. as its safe “home base”. The dollar, for both these reasons, is rising relative to other currencies, especially relative to the rupee. This state of affairs is not going to be reversed in the foreseeable future, which is why the rupee continues to slide vis-à-vis the dollar, even after Arun Jaitley announced a slew of measures on the 14th to attract finance into the economy to stem the rupee’s slide.

The sliding rupee is raising import costs, especially of crude oil; and the latter get passed on in the form of higher petro-product prices.This fact together with the rise of crude prices in the world market, following an agreement within the OPEC itself, has now raised petrol and diesel prices in India to dizzying heights; and the rise continues daily. Here again there is no question of any respite within the neo-liberal regime from the relentless impact of this exchange-rate-depreciation-cum-inflation syndrome. The only thing Arun Jaitley can think of doing is to attract sufficient financial inflow to stabilise the rupee, but that as suggested above is now more difficult; and even if there is some temporary reprieve through such inflows, it cannot but be temporary.

Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram attack the NDA for its economic incompetence, which is undeniable, but they have hardly any better ideas. At the most they may jack up interest rates a bit more, but that, while its effects on financial inflows would be dubious for reasons already mentioned, would amount at best to merely papering over the cracks (since the basic problem of the current account deficit would still remain unaddressed); besides it will worsen unemployment, and damage further the economy of the small producers.

One way of providing relief to the people against the skyrocketing petrol and diesel prices, whose effects are felt even by the poorest persons because they increase the transport costs of all goods, is to lower the taxes on these goods which make up the bulk of their prices. Some state governments, of whom Kerala was an early example and Karnataka the latest, have indeed reduced their taxes on petro-products to provide relief to the people. But there are limits to the extent to which such relief would be forthcoming, for two obvious reasons, both related to the neo-liberal regime.

One is our overwhelming reliance on indirect taxation, and the eschewing of direct taxation, because of the compulsion to retain so-called “investors’ confidence”, so that finance flows in adequate quantities to keep the balance of payments on an even keel. The second is the disastrous move towards a Goods and Services Tax, again in conformity with the demands of a neo-liberal economy, which has affected government tax revenues adversely.

In the face of this already adverse effect, the need to maintain government revenues becomes even more pressing, and puts a limit to the degree to which taxes on petro-products can be lowered (unless greater direct taxation is resorted to). Indeed the only reason that some states have been able to reduce taxes, for lowering petrol and diesel prices, is because these goods fall outside the GST ambit; but naturally they cannot keep doing so beyond a point without raising revenue in other ways. (And such ways are no longer available to state governments even to the limited extent they were earlier).

The way out of the current economic predicament however is obvious, though invisible to eyes blinkered by neo-liberalism. Since the inflow of finance will no longer cover the current account deficit, the slide in the rupee would require controlling this deficit; and this can be effected only by directly controlling inessential imports. Even in 2013 when the rupee was sliding, the government had controlled gold imports as a means of stemming this slide.Wealth-holders then were moving from rupees to gold. This had boosted gold imports, and direct controls over such imports played a significant role in reducing the trade deficit and halting the rupee’s slide. The ambit of import controls now will of course have to be wider, but there is no escape from such controls. The rupee will have to be stabilised immediately with a combination of import controls and use of foreign exchange reserves.

But this may not be enough to stabilise petro-product prices in view of world market trends. These prices will have to be not just stabilised, but actually lowered to prevent down-the-line cost-push inflationary effects on commodities in general. This can be done by significantly lowering taxes upon them, and making up for the revenue shortfall caused by such lowering through larger direct taxation, in particular wealth taxation.

Wealth taxation in any case is the best way to finance public expenditure as it has no adverse effects upon any investment “incentives”: since all forms of wealth are taxed without discrimination, there is no special disincentive for holding wealth in the form of productive assets. In addition it has the effect of keeping wealth inequality in society in check, which, as is commonly accepted now, is an essential prerequisite for democracy.

It is shocking that in India, where wealth inequalities have been rising so sharply of late, there is hardly any wealth taxation. Using direct taxation on wealth as a substitute for indirect taxation on petro-products will thus kill several birds with one stone: it will prevent the inflationary squeeze on the people that rising petro-product price are imposing, and at the same time bring greater wealth equality in society which is desirable per se.

Lower petro-product prices, it may be argued, would encourage larger consumption of such products, which, in the current context of rising world crude prices, would raise the country’s import-bill, bringing pressure on the rupee once again. Alongside controlling, and lowering petro-product prices therefore, the government has to take steps to control petro-product consumption directly. Since much of this consumption occurs within the government itself , with the defence sector in particular being a major consumer, controlling consumption can be effected through a set of directives within the government. As for consumption outside the government sector, several measures can be taken which effectively ration the use of petro-products.

Many of these measures are advocated and even implemented on environmental grounds. The “odd-even” scheme for instance that was implemented in Delhi, was also a means of petro-product rationing. In many countries, to avoid congestion in peak hours, a minimum number of occupants per car is insisted upon; this also acts as a measure of directly controlling petro-product consumption. In other words, measures of petro-product rationing would also kill several birds with one stone: they would reduce road congestion; they would reduce environmental pollution; and they would also reduce the consumption of petro-products with beneficial effects for our balance of payments.

A combination of direct import controls on inessential items, reduction of petro-product prices, measures for reducing the consumption of such products, and direct taxation, especially on wealth, is the obvious way of getting out of the tailspin in which the Indian economy is currently caught. But this combination of measures which is desirable, not just for getting out of the current travails, but on other, more long-term considerations as well, runs contrary to the direction of neo-liberalism. There is however no alternative to them if we are to avoid the fate of countries that eventually run to the IMF and get caught in the vice-like grip of “austerity”.

About Prabhat Patnaik
Prabhat Patnaik is Professor Emeritus at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His books include Accumulation and Stability Under Capitalism (1997), The Value of Money (2009), and Re-envisioning Socialism (2011).


Socialism and Gay Liberation: Back to the Future-Doug Ireland

Posted by admin On September - 7 - 2018 Comments Off on Socialism and Gay Liberation: Back to the Future-Doug Ireland


(DOUG IRELAND, a veteran radical journalist, is the U.S. correspondent and a columnist for the French political-investigative weekly magazine Bakchich and the International Affairs Editor of Gay City News, New York’s largest LGBT weekly ne)
Doug Ireland
IN 1865, WHILE MARX, IN HOLLAND, was playing the Victorian parlor game “Confessions” with his daughter Jenny, when asked for his favorite maxim he replied, “Nihil humani a me alienum puto” or “nothing human is alien to me,” a dictum he had lifted from the second century B.C. Carthaginian slave-turned-playwright Terentius (Terence.)

Unfortunately, this admirable and inspiring attitude was never extended by either Marx or Engels to same-sexers. Well before the invention of the word “homosexual” by Karoly Maria Kertbeny in 1869, the correspondence of Marx and Engels is riddled with what we would now characterize as unmistakable homophobia of a vicious character. When the pioneering German homosexual liberationist Karl Ulrichs sent Marx one of his books on the subject, which Marx forwarded to his collaborator, Engels described Ulrichs’ platform of homosexual emancipation from criminal laws as “turning smut into history.” Marx, in commenting on Karl Boruttau’s Gedanken über Gewissens Freiheit (Thoughts on Freedom of Conscience), disparaged the author as “this faggoty prick” (Schwanzschwulen) The homophobia of Marx and Engels has been meticulously documented by Hubert Kennedy of San Francisco State University, Ulrichs’ U.S. biographer, in his es-say“Johann Baptist von Schweitzer:The Queer Marx Loved to Hate,” which is included in the anthology Gay Men and the Sexual History of the Political Left, edited by Gert Hekma, Harry Oosterhuis, and James Steakley (Haworth Press) and is also available online.

Notwithstanding this unfortunate lapse into prejudice by socialism’s two most famous names, virtually all of the early important figures who worked for homosexual liberation were socialists. John Addington Symonds, the most daring innovator in the history of nineteenth-century British homosexual writing and consciousness, was a radical socialist; he helped found several “Walt Whitman Societies” in the north of England—the first recorded English groups of gay men founded explicitly to discuss same-sex love—wrote the pro-homosexual A Problem in Greek Ethics, published in 1883, and circulated privately printed essays in defense of homosexuality that were very influential. Edward Carpenter, the libertarian socialist poet and essayist who played a significant role in making possible the birth of the Fabian Society and the Labour Party, took up Symonds’ homosexual liberationist mantle on the latter’s death in 1893, and his 1908 book on the subject, The Intermediate Sex, would become a foundational text of the gay liberation movements of the 20th century. Oscar Wilde, who wrote The Soul of Man Under Socialism and joined the agitation in favor of clemency for the Haymarket Martyrs, was profoundly influenced by the writings of Ulrichs and adopted his “Uranian” terminology. Wilde and his friends referred in their letters to the campaign for legalization of homosexuality as “the Cause,” joining a secret Uranian organization, the Order of Chaeronea, to fight for it (Wilde’s position as an important precursor of gay liberation was solidly documented by Neil McKenna’s groundbreaking 2003 revisionist biography, The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde.) The Order of Chaeronea’s founder, George Ives, also thought of himself as a socialist.

In Germany, the pioneer sexologist Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, a member of the Social Democratic Party, founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee in 1897 to fight for repeal of the statute criminalizing homosexuality, and he was able to secure public support for repeal from socialist leaders like Karl Kautsky, Edouard Bernstein, and the SDP’s parliamentary leader August Bebel (who introduced the repeal bill into the Reichstag). The man who became Hirschfeld’s deputy and eventually his successor as head of the Scientific Humanitarian Committee in 1929, Kurt Hiller, was a well-known radical socialist essayist who coined the slogan, “The liberation of the homosexuals is the task of the homosexuals themselves.” When the pacifist novelist Henri Barbusse became the editor of the French Communist Party’s newspaper, l’Humanité, in 1926, and — well before Stalin’s recriminalization of homosexuality in 1933 — began polemicizing against homosexuality as the product of decadence in the bourgeois sector of society and a perversion favored by fascism in articles widely reprinted in the world Communist press, it was Hiller who provided the most stinging rebuttal to Barbusse in a famous gay liberationist speech, the “Appeal on Behalf of an Oppressed Human Variety,” written for the Second International Congress for Sexual Reform held in Copenhagen in 1928. Thanks to the work of Hirschfeld, Hiller, and their colleagues in the early German homosexual rights movement, the German Communist Party was the only one in the Western Hemisphere to reject Barbusse’s bigotry.

In the United States, however, both Socialists and Communists bought into the “homosexuality-is-capitalistdecadence” argument and used homosexual stereotypes to attack their enemies. It was thanks to American anarchist writers and propagandists that the defense of homosexuality developed in Europe by the likes of Ulrichs, Hirschfeld, Carpenter, and Symonds crossed the Atlantic to these shores — at a time when no other political movement or notable public figure in the United States dealt with the issue of same-sex eroticism and love, as Terence Kissack has detailed in his important 2008 book, Free Comrades: Anarchism and Homosexuality in the United States, 1895-1917.

“THE ANARCHIST SEX RADICALS,” Kissack writes discerningly, “were interested in the ethical, social, and cultural place of homosexuality within society, because that question lies at the nexus of individual freedom and state power.”Thus the American anarchists were virtually alone here in the States in defending and iconizing Wilde (who had said he was “something of an anarchist”) after his trial and imprisonment, at a time when his plays were banned and his books removed from library shelves. The towering figure of American anarchism, Emma Goldman, an extremely charismatic public speaker, spoke repeatedly to large audiences all over the United States about homosexuality in the first two decades of the last century, devoting whole lectures to the subject. And Alexander Berkman’s Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist, a best-seller published by Goldman’s Mother Earth publishing house in 1912 (with an introduction Goldman had solicited from Carpenter and a frontispiece excerpt from Wilde‘s “Ballad of Reading Gaol”), was one of the most important political texts dealing with homosexuality to have been written by an American before the 1950s.

When Harry Hay, who’d been influenced by Carpenter’s writing, led a group of queer Communists and fellow travelers in founding the “Bachelors for Henry Wallace” during the 1948 Progressive Party presidential campaign, that pioneering (if closeted) effort at starting a gay organization became the nucleus for the creation of the Mattachine Society in 1950 as the earliest lasting homophile organization. But if Mattachine’s roots in the radical left have long been well-documented, Christopher Phelps, in his essay which appeared in the last issue of New Politics, has performed a singular service of historical excavation in demonstrating that there were similar homosexual liberationist stirrings in a parallel time frame in Norman Thomas’ Socialist Party. (Phelps gets extra points for understanding the importance of his discovery because he is not homosexual himself.)

When Sylvia Rivera and other transgendered and gender rebels launched the fight-back against a brutal police raid at New York’s Stonewall Inn 38 years ago, that sparked the birth of a radical gay liberationist rebellion — against the State, which made us criminals; against the medical and psychiatric professions, which declared us sick; and against the culture of heterotyranny which made us the targets of disdain, ridicule, opprobrium, hate, and violence. Born in the wake of the Stonewall rebellion, the gay liberation movement insisted — to borrow from the title of an early film by the gay German cinéaste Rosa von Praunheim — that “it is not the homosexual who is perverse, but the society in which he lives.”

Drawing from feminist critiques of the tyrannies of patriarchy and the family, gay liberation rejected the white, middle-class culture’s patriarchal rigidities, hierarchies, and rituals; homophobia and misogyny were seen as two sides of the same coin. Gay liberation insisted on the right to plural desires and opposed “any prescription for how consenting adults may or must make love,” as the historian and gay activist Martin Duberman then put it. Gay liberation was, he wrote, “a rite of passage — not into manhood or womanhood as those states have been traditionally defined; not sanctioned by supernatural doctrine; not blueprinted by centuries of ritualized behavior; not greeted by kinship rejoicing and social acceptance; not marked by the extension of fellowship into the established adult community,” but rather placing “ourselves in the forefront of the newest and most far-reaching revolution: the re-characterization of sexuality.”

In the early seventies, when I came out, gay liberation saw itself as “a paradigm of resistance” to the stultifying political culture of the Nixon years, and was infused with a sense of commitment to unleashing the collective energies of a hitherto invisible people as part of the much larger effort to maximize social justice and human liberation for all. The early cadres of gay activists were almost always graduates of the sixties struggles on the left — for civil rights, against the Vietnam war and the “corporate liberalism” that dominated the large multiversities. Since official liberalism of that day rejected gay liberation as a “pathetic” celebration of “perversion,” we felt it was doubly subversive, and were proud of that.

The accomplishments of the post-Stonewall gay liberation movement were many. It shattered forever the silence that had imprisoned same-sexers in untenable solitude and alienation; its raucous, media-savvy confrontations changed the nature of public discourse on homosexuality — symbolized by the insistence on the word “gay,” a code word for same-sex love for more than a century, instead of the clinical, one-dimensional “homosexual.” The most significant victory was the successful fight to have the American Psychiatric Association drop same-sex attraction from its catalog of “disorders” in 1973. And, of course, gay liberation made coming out — the most radical act in a homophobic society — not only the basis of mental and emotional health for gay people, but the imperative for creating the political movement that could carry through the fight for civil rights.

AS MORE AND MORE PEOPLE BEGAN TO come out, thanks to the liberationists’ clamorous visibility, the out gay community increasingly began to reflect the demographic, political, and cultural makeup of the society as a whole. And thus the gay liberation movement was replaced by what Jeffrey Escoffier, in his seminal 1998 book American Homo: Community and Perversity, called “the gay citizenship movement.”

Gay liberation considered innate homosexuality as much a challenge to a suffocating and unjust social order as the political radicalism that many of its proponents, including myself, embraced. But it was transformed in a relatively short time into a more limited quest for gay citizenship.

Or, as Escoffier wrote, the liberation movement “celebrated the otherness, the differentness, and the marginality of the homosexual; whereas the gay politics of citizenship acknowledges the satisfaction of conforming, passing, belonging, and being accepted.”

The de-radicalization of the gay movement was accelerated by a number of factors. For one thing, gay liberation was largely the work of people who had been participants in or influenced by the sixties movements for black civil rights and against the war in Vietnam, or by labor or radical campus struggles. As the first generation of activists began to burn out, the movement was populated with younger people with little or no previous history of political protest. Simultaneously, the fulgurant rise of the commercial gay ghetto and the emergence of the gay market contributed to the rapid growth of an out gay middle class, which saw itself as having more of a stake in the dominant culture than did the young marginals and intellectuals who made up the movement’s first wave.

Finally, the backlash against visible homosexuality and against the demand for full gay citizenship drove the movement to seek political advances through a more traditional form of interest-group politics. The need to appeal to the non-gay electorate helped water down and eventually extinguish the radical liberationist discourse; in this, the gay movement did not escape the similar fate of other initially radical social protest movements.


From 1981, when it was first identified as a “gay cancer,” until well into the ’90s, AIDS was used to stigmatize homosexuals, especially gay males, by the political homophobes of the right. And whatever shards of liberationist thinking and attitudes that remained in the gay community were effectively snuffed out.

First, the epidemic and the social opprobrium it brought with it forced the gay community to turn back in upon itself in a struggle to survive. Government was entirely absent from the fight against AIDS in the Reagan years, so the burden of prevention, education, and even care for the sick fell upon gay people themselves. AIDS consumed an enormous amount of the gay community’s money and energies, as we took day-to-day responsibility for our afflicted “extended families” of friends and lovers.

Worst of all, this grimmest of reapers also took away forever thousands of gay liberation’s most original and tireless activists, a hemorrhage unparalleled in the history of any other U.S. social movement. I always think of my late, dear friend Vito Russo, the epitome of radical gay and AIDS activism and the author of The Celluloid Closet (a history of gays in film) as symbolizing the enormity of this lethal hemorrhage of irreplaceable talent.

Finally, any radicalism that still existed in the gay community was increasingly channeled into the fight against AIDS with the founding of ACT UP. The struggle for simple survival took primacy over the larger issues of social and sexual transformation.

By the end of the nineties, the institutionalization of the gay movement was complete. The Human Rights Campaign, the wealthiest national gay organization with the largest staff, some 114 people now — to which today’s corporate media invariably turn for the “gay view” on issues — adopted a top-down, corporate structure that demands little more of its members than writing a check or attending a black-tie dinner, or occasionally writing a letter (or more likely sending an e-mail) to a public official. In their endless search for corporate sponsorships for gay events and activities, in their insistence on presenting a homogenized and false image of gay people, the gay institutions like HRC and their access-obsessed gaycrats are committing serious strategic and tactical errors — like acquiescing in a truncated version of the still-to-be-passed federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act for gays and lesbians that excludes the transgendered — which play into the hands of our heavily funded and organizationally sophisticated enemies on the right.The lack of attention paid to queers in the Black and Latino communities by the institutional gay movement, and their invisibility in the image of homosexuality portrayed by HRC and much of the gay media, also works to our detriment. (Witness the fact that in all the November, 2008 state referendums to ban gay marriage, those communities of color voted overwhelmingly against marriage equality for same-sex couples.)

Yes, the political center of gravity in this country has moved significantly to the right in the decades since Stonewall — and with it the political center of gravity of the out gay community. But now that three and a half decades of struggle have created an ever-enlarging cultural and political space for LGBT people, I’m sensing a hunger for a return to some of the earlier principles of sexual liberation for all with which our movement began, not just here at home but abroad — and that includes a growing demand for our gay institutions to abandon their navel-gazing isolationism and embrace international LGBT solidarity.

In the long term, developing new strategies of resistance and liberation will require the gay movement, which has become so embourgeoisé, to begin a serious and radical rethinking of homosexualities and gender identities so as to understand at a deeper level why the fear and loathing of same-sex love and gender variants are so deeply engrained in society and culture not only here in the United States, but around the world. This also means breaking the forms of social control implicit in the gay market ideology. And re-connecting to other movements for social justice who should be our natural allies — all the while remembering the dictum of a great black civil rights organizer who also was gay, Bayard Rustin, who taught us that “all successful coalitions are based on mutual self-interest,” which means embracing the struggles of others as we ask them to embrace ours.

But, as important as the demands of the gay citizenship movement are, ultimately one cannot change minds and hearts simply by legislation alone. Only a fundamental redefinition of human freedom that includes a re-characterization of human sexuality in all its glorious varieties — the original project of gay liberation — can do.



The terror machine-K.P. FABIAN

Posted by admin On August - 30 - 2018 Comments Off on The terror machine-K.P. FABIAN

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Al Qaeda-linked militant who led a bloody campaign in Iraq. He was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June 2006.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who rose to be the Caliph of the ISIS, addressing worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul on July 5, 2014.
Abu Mohammad al-Adnani al-Shami, ISIS spokesman, with an Islamist flag at an undisclosed location in this video grab taken on October 2, 2013. The group announced on August 30, 2016, that Adnani was killed in Aleppo, Syria.

A historically sound account of the origin, growth and reach of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
THE general public as well as international relations scholars will benefit from this eminently readable book by Stanly Johny, who combines academic rigour with the ability and mobility of the journalist to reach out to places and persons. He wrote this book in order to answer questions such as: How did the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) emerge as the most potent “terror machinery” of our time in a matter of few years? What enabled the ISIS to attract many thousands more fighters than Al Qaeda? “It was from this surprise and confusion that this book was born,” says the author.

The book has two parts. The first deals with the ISIS, its origins, growth and its defeat in Iraq/Syria. The second part deals with its connection with India. In the first part, we are given a historically sound account of the origin of the group. It is a rather complex story with many unfamiliar names, but Stanly presents it coherently.

‘True Islamic emirates’
The narration starts with Al Qaeda, founded by the Saudi Arabian billionaire Osama bin Laden in 1989 following the successful anti-Soviet jehad in Afghanistan. Inspired by Sayyid Qutub, the Egyptian thinker who wielded much influence in the Islamic world, bin Laden despised the Muslim countries as “un-Islamic”. He had a programme to establish “true Islamic emirates” where the Sharia would prevail. But, that programme was not implemented. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian who had installed himself in a mountainous enclave in northern Iraq, controlled by Ansar-al-Islam, a Salafi-jehadist group of Iraqi Kurds fighting Saddam Hussein’s government, was destined to carry forward the idea of establishing a Caliphate. It may be recalled that United States Secretary of State Colin Powell had incorrectly asserted in his infamous February 5, 2003, speech in the United Nations Security Council that Zarqawi was in Iraq working with Saddam’s government. The author points out that Powell was wrong not only about Zarqawi but also about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Zarqawi and bin Laden met in Afghanistan, by then ruled by the Taliban who called it “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”. The meeting did not go off too well as the two interlocutors had diametrically opposite world views. Zarqawi wanted to target Shias, whereas bin Laden wanted the support of the entire ummah that included Shias. However, bin laden handed over $5,000 as seed money to Zarqawi to set up a network in Herat, close to Afghanistan’s border with Iran. By the time U.S. President George Bush invaded Afghanistan in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, Zarqawi had built up a force of 3,000.

After fighting the U.S. forces in Afghanistan for a while, Zarqawi, through Iran, came over to Iraq where he found a favourable climate as the U.S. had destroyed the Ba’athist state there. The Shias, until then suppressed under Saddam, gained power, a development that corroborated Zarqawi’s thesis that Shias needed to be put down at any cost. Zarqawi wanted to establish a foothold in “Greater Syria” with a view to establishing a Sharia-ruled state. He “welcomed” the ongoing sectarian war in Iraq.

Unlike bin Laden, who carried out attacks from his hideout without seeking to control territory, Zarqawi wanted to carve out territorial havens. Although a U.S. air strike killed Zarqawi in June 2006, the organisation that he had built up survived.

Caliph of the ISIS
The next important protagonist is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a “low-level Islamic academic” who rose to be the Caliph of the ISIS. His original name was Ibrahim bin Awwad bin Ibrahim al-Badri. His was a Salafist family. He was arrested by the U.S. security in Falluja when he went there to meet a friend who was on the wanted list. He was sent to a prison called Camp Bucca in southern Iraq, named after the U.S. firefighter Ronald Bucca, who died in the 9/11 rescue operation. Ibrahim led the prayers for the 24,000 inmates and gave Friday sermons. In short, Camp Bucca was “a pressure cooker for extremism”. The Americans respected Ibrahim and used him to settle quarrels among inmates. It assessed that he was not a dangerous person and released him after 10 months. That was in December 2004.

Ibrahim joined the Al Qaeda of Iraq and did propaganda work for it. In October 2006, Zarqawi’s successor, al-Masri, announced the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), but that announcement was not followed up by much action. Bin Laden was not pleased with the announcement either. But, Ibrahim was all for the ISI.

When al-Masri was killed in a raid by the U.S. in April 2010, Ibrahim emerged as the leader of the ISI with the support of military officers who had worked under Saddam. When bin Laden was killed by the U.S. Navy SEALs in April 2013, Ibrahim’s status as a jehadi leader was reinforced. Later, he transformed the ISI into the ISIS. That announcement was opposed by Joulani, who was heading a jehadi group called Al-Nusra, which held pockets of territory in Syria. Both Joulani and Ibrahim appealed to bin Laden’s successor, al Zawahiri, whose verdict was that Ibrahim should focus on Iraq and Joulani on Syria. Ibrahim rejected the verdict. The ISIS and Al-Nusra fought against each other and the ISIS conquered Raqqa in March 2013. By January 2014, the ISIS, which declared Raqqa as its capital and was formally expelled from the Al Qaeda family.

The author shows a good sense of history when he draws attention to the two failed attempts to establish a Wahhabi state by the Al Saud family. The still enduring Wahhabi state was finally established in Saudi Arabia in the 1920s. The author feels Saudi Arabia is the third Wahhabi state and the ISIS is the fourth in history. He points out that a crucial difference between the fourth and the third is that while the latter agreed to live in peace with its neighbours and accept the emerging international order, the former has adopted “continuous jehad” as the duty of every true Muslim.

Jehadism & the West
A remark or two might be in order at this stage. The author correctly refers to the anti-Soviet jehad in Afghanistan and bin Laden as the starting point of jehadism in our times and delves much deeper into Islamic history. It will be interesting to ask why the jehad in Afghanistan was necessary.

Obviously, because the Soviet military invaded Afghanistan. By now it is accepted by most scholars that the U.S. Special Forces were working in Afghanistan months before the Soviet military entered the scene and that Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, sent him a message congratulating him for giving the Soviets their “own Vietnam”. In short, if Carter had not maliciously drawn the Soviet military into Afghanistan we might not have had bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, and if Bush had been wise enough not to invade Iraq in 2003 even the ISIS might not have entered history.

Another point to be noted is that the ISIS became a force to reckon with only after it captured Mosul in June 2014. The U.S. under Barack Obama could have prevented the capture of Mosul, but chose not to do so as U.S. intelligence for a while considered the ISIS as a counterweight to be used against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Let us not forget that the Pentagon controlled Iraqi airspace and did know that al-Baghdadi was advancing towards Mosul from Syria.

In short, to understand the origins of jehadism, it is necessary to highlight the contribution of the West in different ways. Any account that leaves out the commissions and omissions of the West is historically unsound.

The India connection
The second part dealing with the ISIS’ India connection will no doubt be of greater interest to the public. The organisation got more foreign fighters than others in the same category mainly because it had territory. The ISIS looks at the world through a “core and periphery prism”. It does not believe in a nation state and seeks a “perpetually expanding Caliphate”. The South Asia operations are carried out from the ISIS wilayat (province) of Khorasan in Afghanistan. Dhabiq, the ISIS’ online English magazine, once carried an interview with an ISIS leader who said that they would take over Kashmir in the near future.

Indians from India and West Asia have joined the ISIS in Khorasan. It is to be noted that the ISIS got many more operatives from the economically advanced south Indian States compared with the relatively backward States in the north. A study by Brookings Institution shows that of the 142 recruits from India, Kerala accounted for 37, Telengana 21, Maharashtra 19, Karnataka 16, Uttar Pradesh 15, Madhya Pradesh six, Tamil Nadu five and Gujarat four.

The Salafist
The author tries to explain the reasons for the relatively large number of ISIS recruits from Kerala. The Salafist movement in Kerala goes back to 1922 when the Muslim Eikya Sangham (Organisation for Muslim Unity) was founded. It started exhorting its adherents to live as the Prophet and the ancestors lived. Over time, Salafism moved away from its reformist currents and embraced the “puritanical Wahhabi ideals”. The strong connections with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf are also a contributing factor. What is striking is that the young who are attracted to the ISIS are educated and employed.

Stanly has met and talked to parents of the young people from India who joined the ISIS and some of those who were arrested before they could leave. The case of two brothers, Ijaz Rahman, 34, a doctor, and Shihaz Rahman, 28, a management graduate, is particularly interesting and even intriguing. At some point of time in their life they turned “extremely religious” and started giving up “luxuries”. They left to join the ISIS with their wives and Ijaz’s son. Shihaz pretended that he was taking his family to Mumbai while Ijaz claimed that he was going to Lakshadweep. Rashid, supposedly the leader of the group of 21, including six women, who left India, is a 30-year-old software engineer associated with the Islamic scholar M.M. Akbar’s Peace International School. The family members of the 21 have said that they were influenced by online propaganda. Most of them sent messages to their families that they had reached Dawlatul Islam, an expression used by the ISIS to refer to territory it controls.

In the last chapter, the author correctly argues that despite the ISIS losing territory in Iraq and Syria, its “organisational network and fighting force are far from destroyed” as evidenced from terrorist attacks carried out in different parts of the world. Further, there is no guarantee that the ISIS will not come back to the cities it has lost as it might not be possible for the government to undo the huge damage caused by the war against the ISIS and restore harmony and normalcy. The ISIS has indicated clearly that it will be “globalising” its operations.

There is a useful glossary and some documents in the annexure. The detailed footnotes are helpful. The editing could have been better. It is stated (page 73) that at its peak the ISIS was as big as the United Kingdom, “ruling over 2 million people”. The comparison with the area of the U.K. is more or less correct. But, according to Rand Corporation, at its peak the ISIS had 11 million people under it. Mosul was captured in June 2014 and not in July 2014 as stated on page 101. In a book that contains so many unfamiliar names, an index would have been useful.

Ambassador K.P. Fabian is the author of Diplomacy:

ISIS and counter-revolution: towards a Marxist analysis-Anne Alexander

Posted by admin On August - 29 - 2018 Comments Off on ISIS and counter-revolution: towards a Marxist analysis-Anne Alexander






Four years after the Arab revolutions of 2011 the hopes that the uprisings kindled seem to have been all but extinguished. Libya, Syria and Iraq present grim variations on the theme of “failed states”.1 Meanwhile, a United States-led military coalition of Western powers and their Arab allies is back in action in northern Iraq and Syria, justifying their intervention with the same “humanitarian” rhetoric that provided cover for the catastrophic occupation of Iraq after 2003. In Egypt the dictatorship has resurrected itself in a more violent and bloody form than even the worst days of Hosni Mubarak’s rule, killing over 1,000 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in a single day on 14 August 2013, jailing over 40,000 political prisoners during the following year and creating a new cult of personality around Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. The iron grip of repression on Bahrain has not eased since the crushing of the uprising there in 2011.


Looming over all this, at least in the vision of the region that emerges from the Western media, is the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), now also known simply as the Islamic State (IS) or by its Arabic acronym, Da’ash. This violent, sectarian jihadi group seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in June 2014, routing the Iraqi army. It has captivated the Western media with well-publicised atrocities including the beheading of captured British and US citizens and systematic brutality against women, religious minorities and Muslims from other backgrounds to their own. As they have advanced across western and northern Iraq, ISIS fighters have carried out massacres and ethnic cleansing, including mass killings of members of the Yazidi religion, Shia prisoners in Iraqi jails and men from the Albu Nimr tribe, to mention only a handful of examples.2


Why is ISIS so mesmerising? It is tempting to reduce the impact of the group to the internet pornography of its violence and hope that by looking the other way it will exhaust itself and burn out. But this leaves too many questions unanswered. Is it a neo-Wahhabist state modelled on the emirates built two centuries ago by the ancestors of the Saudi ruling family and the Islamist preachers who were their allies? A gang of foreign mercenaries led by an over-ambitious communal warlord? The political and military glue holding together a new alignment of the “Sunni elite” in Iraq? Or a transnational network of alienated jihadists? Does its rise reflect the “Sunni-Shia faultline”? What about the Kurds? What role have the US, the Gulf states and Iran played in its rise?


This article represents a preliminary effort to set an agenda for answering some of these questions. It focuses on three primary tasks: first to sketch out a general theoretical framework for the analysis of ISIS from a Marxist perspective, and then to explore the specific Iraqi context in which ISIS first set down roots in more detail, followed by an analysis of the interaction between the defeat of the Syrian Revolution and the consolidation of Nouri al-Maliki’s authoritarian rule in Iraq after 2008. The focus on Iraq reflects the key role played by the current Iraqi leadership of ISIS. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has led the group since 2010, is said to be from Samarra’a, the crucible of the 2006-7 sectarian civil war, although at the time he was apparently in US detention at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq, and only released in 2009.3


Finally, the article locates ISIS within the context of the crisis of reformist Islamist movements in the wake of the 2011 revolutions. The general and specific levels of this analysis are deeply connected. The catastrophe that has engulfed Iraq reflects the working out of processes at global and regional levels, but the scale of that catastrophe has in turn intensified those same processes. The weakening of US hegemony as the concrete outcome of military defeat in Iraq lies behind the relative rise of regional powers such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, and has set in motion a fractal process creating the conditions for the consolidation of new proto-states such as the Kurdish entity in northern Iraq.4 Will ISIS itself fall into this pattern? Its leaders have made a wager with history that they can stabilise not just a new state, but a new kind of state—the first outpost of a transnational caliphate. There are many reasons to question their judgement, just as there are many reasons to oppose the strategy adopted by the US and its allies for “dealing with ISIS” through bombing. Only the revival of forms of social and political struggle that connect the poor and oppressed of the region across differences of religious belief, language or culture can provide a real alternative to both.


Neoliberalism, sectarianism and imperialism


The 40 year long process of the adoption of neoliberalism by ruling classes across the region is the reference point onto which the other phenomena we are discussing here can be mapped. While there is not space here to explore the development of neoliberalism in the Middle East in detail, three key points are of particular importance to the analysis proposed here.5 First, neoliberalism did not entail the withdrawal of the state from the economy. On the contrary, as Sameh Naguib notes, the adoption of neoliberal policies created “an even more intimate relation between the state and capital”.6 Profitable state-run industries and services were earmarked for privatisation while others faced neglect and eventual closure, but this process created new amalgams of the state and private capital, where “privatisation” often meant the sale of public assets to the sons and daughters of officials from the ruling party.7


There were also real changes in welfare and public services as neoliberal policies transferred a greater proportion of their costs onto the poor, while facilitating their transformation into machines for making profits. Those who could not afford to pay big business for healthcare and education turned to other “private” providers: religious institutions and charities. Ironically, the political beneficiaries of this process were often the Islamist opposition movements that combined providing charitable services for the poor and lower-middle class with calls for greater personal piety and cultural resistance to the “secular state”.8


While it is tempting to see this long sweep of social change as creating a smooth transition to the new economic and political order, in reality the process intensified the uneven and combined development of the region. Unevenness increased both within economies at national level,9 and also between them. It also accentuated the frictions caused by the combination of features from different phases of capitalist development.10 For lack of space, we will simply highlight two specific axes of unevenness that have proved particularly important.


The first is the friction caused by uneven development within national economies, with some areas and sectors being more rapidly integrated into global markets and flows of investment than others. The rapid progress of the Syrian Revolution of 2011, through the most impoverished provinces and the city suburbs that had become home to the tens of thousands who abandoned Syria’s agricultural heartlands in the face of a devastating drought between 2008 and 2010, is one example.11 The three poorest regions of the country, Deir Ezzor, Hassaka and Raqqa,12 are also those that have been the cradle of ISIS’s consolidation in Syria.


The second, and equally important, example is the growing weight of Gulf capital on both a Middle Eastern and a global scale. As Adam Hanieh demonstrates, conglomerates spanning circuits of productive, commodity and financial capital accumulation have begun to play a crucial role in the wider region: investing in production and services, and using loans, diplomacy and threats to drive through neoliberal policies bent on opening new markets.13 This unevenness made the Gulf states into more powerful regional actors than they had been in the past, capable of shaping the outcomes of revolution in Egypt and Syria by backing military-led counter-revolution in one case, and working for the hegemony of Islamist armed factions over the military struggle in the other.


Neoliberalism did not entirely sweep away the political and social relations of the previous phase of capitalism, but rather combined with them in new and unstable amalgams. Eleven years after the US invasion the World Bank lamented in its 2012 “Iraqi Investment Climate Assessment” that Iraq’s economy was still dominated by the state: “the private sector today has limited role or presence, and incentives for its expansion are absent”.14 This does not mean that the application of neoliberal principles to the economy had no effect: they profoundly reshaped Iraqi politics and society. This process first hollowed out the state behind its Ba’athist facade under sanctions during the 1990s, then partially smashed it and reconstituted a new authoritarian system run by sectarian parties and militias after 2003.


The second anchor for our analysis is Karl Marx’s approach to understanding where ideas come from. Whether we are examining religious belief in general, particular sectarian ideologies or the political perspectives of specific Islamist movements, a Marxist analysis has to depart from the widely-held premise that these ideas have a life of their own, separate from material reality. In the case of the Middle East, many mainstream analysts go further, claiming that the religious beliefs of the people living there determine material reality, so that the region can only be understood through the prism of its “ancient hatreds”.15 It is no accident that the ideas expressed by ISIS’s fighters are frequently described using metaphors drawn from biology or epidemiology. Alastair Crooke, in a widely-read article, presents ISIS as a “mutation” of the “Wahhabist gene”, in other words of the transplantation of the ideology developed by Muhammad Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, the 18th century Arabian preacher, and his followers in the course of his movement’s long alliance with the Al Saud dynasty.16


The problem with such approaches is not that they are always wrong in substance: Crooke is certainly correct that the “Wahhabism” disseminated by Saudi official policy has been taken up by groups that risk becoming a threat to the Saudi regime itself. But by making ideas, rather than human action, the motive force of history, they obscure the ways that society changes. As Chris Harman explains, “Humans cannot act independently of their circumstances. But this does not mean they can be reduced to them. They are continually involved in ‘negating’ the material objective world around them, in reacting upon it in such a way as to transform both it and themselves”.17


The actual history of Iraq tells a very different story from the simplistic picture presented in the media. Religious, linguistic, ethnic and tribal communities are not, and have never been, a simple mosaic of discrete pieces. In Iraq, for example, marriage between Sunni and Shia Muslims was relatively common during the mid-20th century. Sunni and Shia Islam cross the linguistic divisions between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, while there are tribal confederations with Sunni and Shia members.18 Moreover, all of these “communities” are divided by social class—the landowners, businesspeople and senior state officials who claim to represent the whole, of course, have very different interests to the majority.


However, although these horizontal social cleavages, particularly those based on social relations formed in the course of production, give a “truer” picture of Iraqi society than the vertical divisions based on religious belief or tribal affiliation, 20 years of war, sanctions and occupation have created a new material basis for sectarian consciousness. Clerics who can increase the appeal of their sermons by giving families access to the mosque’s electricity generator, or tribal leaders whose connections with government officials provide access to jobs and patronage for their supporters, create social relations that help to knit together different social classes despite their contradictory “real” relationships. The strength or weakness of these social relations cannot be measured in isolation from the strength or weakness of other social relations. In a society shattered by civil war, where millions have fled their homes, the offer of a job fighting for a tribal leader or a sectarian militia may make the difference between life or death for individuals and their families. In contexts such as these there will be few opportunities for workers to test out class solidarity in practice.


Likewise, the starting point for understanding Islamist movements cannot simply be the ideas that they articulate, but rather their social content: in other words, the relationship between their members and leaders and class divisions in society. Mass Islamist movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, usually contain enormous social contradictions within their structures, with the class interests of the leadership often at variance with the aspirations of members from the working class, urban poor or lower middle class.19 ISIS is, and always has been, of a very different character as a movement. It is an elitist, military organisation which, as we will explore in more detail below, is rooted in the competition between armed sectarian factions in US-occupied Iraq.


This does not mean that the organisation is incapable of benefiting from the contradictory aspirations of people from different social classes for political or social change, and the defeat or marginalisation of other forces that appeared to advance these hopes. For example, ISIS has thrived by appearing to offer Sunnis in Iraq protection from their systematic oppression at the hands of the sectarian Shia Islamist parties at the helm of the Iraqi state. However, the entirely sectarian agenda of ISIS, combined with its military structure and rejection of any programme for political or social change that ordinary people could make their own, means that revolutionary socialists cannot take the same perspective towards the organisation that we do in relation to Hamas, Hizbollah or other armed Islamist forces.20 Unlike these organisations, which have at times provided a deflected route towards the expression of real social and political grievances for ordinary people, ISIS’s politics represent a dead end.


The third anchor for our framework is a Marxist analysis of imperialism in the region, and specifically of the catastrophic impact of US intervention in Iraq. As Alex Callinicos has discussed at length in this journal and elsewhere, the failure of this “vainglorious project” has had profound consequences at both global and regional levels.21 As noted above, US imperial overstretch in Iraq, combined with the workings of neoliberalism at a regional level, created a fractal process of centres with fraying peripheries across several dimensions. The relative loosening of US hegemony gave regional powers more room to manoeuvre against each other, just as it created spaces in which new and unpredictable actors such as ISIS could arise. Yet further imperialist interventions to “correct” the problems spawned by previous interventions—whether by bombing raids or deploying “boots on the ground”—will either bolster ISIS’s claims to be defending the people under its rule or set the scene for the rise of successor movements. Although there is no space to explore properly the relationship between imperialism in the Middle East and the rise of racism and Islamophobia in Europe and the US, these processes are intimately connected, feeding in turn into the alienation afflicting some of ISIS’s foreign recruits.


The final pivotal point on which our analysis rests is an understanding of the role of human agency in determining the outcome of impersonal and long-term “processes”. In one sense, this is an issue about connecting together different scales of analysis. One of the great strengths of revolutionary Marxism is its ability to connect together individual and collective action with abstractions that help us understand better how society works. Marxist analysis offers a unique perspective because it grasps the kind of agency that provides a real alternative to ISIS: the active intervention of the mass of ordinary people across the region in the struggle for the demands of bread, freedom and social justice, which became the watchwords of the 2011 revolutions.


Iraq after 2003: “consociationalism” and neoliberalism embed sectarianism in society


The US occupation of Iraq in 2003 set in motion processes that transformed the Iraqi state and society, leading directly (although not inevitably) to the resurgence of ISIS in 2014. US officials strove to create a “consociational democracy”, where power would be shared between representatives of different religious and national communities according to a quota system. The consociational approach to governing Iraq reacted with the extreme neoliberalism espoused by figures such as Paul Bremer, appointed to run the Coalition Provisional Authority in the wake of the invasion, to produce a toxic combination in a society shattered by sanctions, war and occupation. US officials expected confidently that they would be able to keep the mechanisms set in motion in 2003 working in their favour, nudging the balance of sectarian power in the “right” direction from time to time as necessary. In reality, the system they created quickly ran out of their control, and could only be temporarily corrected by an enormous infusion of money and troops during the “surge” of 2007-8.


It is important to put the developments after 2003 in the correct context. Iraqi society before 2003 was certainly not free of sectarianism. The Ba’athist regime had long used sectarianism and encouraged ethnic conflicts in its efforts to maintain power. For example, its propaganda portrayed all Shia opposition groups as a “fifth column” working for neighbouring Iran, and it settled Arab citizens in largely-Kurdish areas of northern Iraq in order to assert control over the oil-rich northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. However, the impact of sectarianism on society was blunted by a number of factors, including the mixing of Iraqis from different religious backgrounds in state employment. The capital city, Baghdad, retained a large Kurdish population, even at the height of Saddam Hussein’s brutal war against the Kurdish insurgency in the north,22 and, despite the efforts of some Shia Islamist forces to persuade them otherwise, the majority of Iraqi Shia conscript soldiers did not break ranks and side with their Iranian co-religionists during the Iran-Iraq war. Moreover, the legacy of the great political struggles of the 1940s to the 1960s, dominated by competition between secular currents such as the Communist Party and the Ba’ath Party itself in the context of high levels of strikes and social protests, was still influential among an older generation of activists.23


However, the defeat of Iraqi forces in 1991, and the impoverishment of Iraqi society as a result of the sanctions regime that was imposed immediately afterwards created much more fertile ground for sectarianism to take root in society. Reeling from the impact of the uprising that began in the South, the Ba’athist regime desperately sought allies who could exercise military and political power on behalf of the state. Saddam Hussein created an Office of Tribal Affairs in order to manage relationships with tribal leaders who had been empowered by the weakening of central government. He also presented himself as a great Sunni leader, mobilising faith campaigns and courting the Sunni religious establishment. At the same time the weakening of state institutions under the crushing pressure of international sanctions created spaces into which religious institutions expanded their activities, providing welfare, education and health services to an increasingly desperate population.24


From the very beginning, even before they had set foot in Baghdad, US officials decided to deal with Iraq as a country composed of competing, distinct communities. This view of Iraqi society seems to have been based on the rough estimates of the percentages of Arab Shia, Sunni Kurds and Sunni Arabs reflected in a map of Iraq that circulated widely among US officials in 2003.25 Sectarian “balance”—and therefore its corollary, sectarian competition—was enshrined in America’s Iraq from the start.26


The practice of muhasasa, or the use of a sectarian quota system for appointments, was implemented by political parties whose survival was bound up with entrenching sectarianism. As Toby Dodge explains, it is a system “that has, in effect, privatised the Iraqi state. The system has allowed the Iraqi political elite to strip state assets for personal gain and to fund the parties they represent”.27


A key reason why this process quickly spiralled out of control was its interaction with the neoliberal assault on Iraq’s remaining infrastructure. Paul Bremer rushed through laws forcing open the public sector, the welfare system and health services to privatisation.28 However, although US corporations initially made a quick buck from the contracting process, it was not international investors who were the main beneficiaries of the partial dismemberment of the Iraqi state, but rather local strongmen, leaders of militias and sectarian parties who were able to turn many of its institutions into highly profitable protection rackets.29


The initial political winners of this process were the Shia Islamist parties closest to the US, such as the Da’wa Party and its rival, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). They led the efforts to mobilise Shia support for the occupation on a sectarian basis, in an attempt to undercut the success of other Shia Islamist forces such as Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement, which opposed the US. Kurdish allies of the US also benefited, with the head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Jalal Talabani, becoming Iraqi president in 2005. The PUK and the other major Kurdish faction, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Masoud Barzani, meanwhile consolidated their grip on the Kurdish-majority regions of northern Iraq, which had attained de facto independence during the 1990s under the protection of the US no-fly zone.30


The rising calls for Shia communal solidarity from the Shia Islamist parties allied with the US reflected the danger that a combined Sunni-Shia insurgency represented to the new political establishment. Even if their attacks were not coordinated with each other, the mere fact that the occupation was under combined attack from fighters in “Sunni” Fallujah and “Shia” Sadr City and Najaf threatened to disrupt the mechanisms by which the US and their allies were attempting to govern Iraq. Opinion polls in March and May 2004 commissioned by major US newspapers and even by the Coalition Provisional Authority itself showed that 80 percent of Iraqis in both Sunni and Shia majority areas thought of US troops as occupiers, and 81 percent wanted them to leave, despite the fact that Sunni areas had borne the brunt of repression.31


It was a military as much as political problem, demonstrated by the fact that in 2004 Shia troops refused orders to march on Fallujah with the US to quell resistance there.32 Yet the US and its allies were successful in derailing the beginnings of a cross-sectarian alignment between insurgents in majority Sunni and Shia areas. They isolated and stormed key areas in western Iraq that were centres of military resistance, in particular Fallujah. However, this was complemented by a strategy to bolster the idea of a common “Shia” interest in securing power in the emerging structures of the post-Ba’athist state. The intervention of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a key figure in the Shia clerical establishment, was critically important in this respect. Al-Sistani spoke strongly in favour of participation in the 2005 parliamentary elections, making it extremely difficult for anti-US Shia leaders such as Moqtada al-Sadr to support calls from Sunni insurgents for a boycott.33


The rise of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the sahwa, and the surge


Over the course of 2004-5 the potential for building political and military alliances against the US that cut across sectarian divisions ebbed away. One major factor was the consolidation of a sectarian consensus among the major Shia Islamist parties, who agreed broadly on a goal of seizing control of the apparatus of the state (and the inability of anti-US Shia forces such as Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army to challenge this consensus). Another important factor was the US strategy of smashing military resistance by full-scale assaults on Fallujah and other towns in Anbar province. In combination, these events created the space in which Sunni sectarian jihadist groups, such as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), were able to grow. AQI was founded by Jordanian Islamist Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi in 2004, following a declaration that his small group of Islamist fighters had pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda organisation. AQI’s appeal in western Iraq was largely bound up with the fact that the group’s fighters won a reputation for effectiveness against US troops, yet their leaders focused on igniting a sectarian civil war by carrying out mass bombings of Shia shrines and sites of pilgrimage.34 Meanwhile, the armed wings of various Shia factions, including ISCI’s Badr Brigade and the Mahdi Army, were working as anti-Sunni death squads within the police and security forces, killing and torturing hundreds of Iraqis every month.35 The bombing of the Shia al-Askari mosque in Samarra’a in February 2006 triggered a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in Baghdad, transforming previously mixed neighbourhoods into segregated enclaves and forcing those on the “wrong” side of the sectarian divide to flee.36


The temporary alliance between jihadist groups and other anti-US fighters in western Iraq presented a huge military and political problem for the US. Success in set-piece battles such as the assaults on Fallujah produced conditions for a perpetual insurgency. In 2006 they appeared to have made a breakthrough by breaking the tactical alliance between the jihadi forces and other armed groups from Anbar Province. It is worth outlining the “Awakening” (sahwa in Arabic) in some detail. It began as a localised military partnership between US forces and a number of Anbari tribal leaders. US forces provided training, payment and arms to Anbari volunteers who joined them in the fight against AQI.37 The alliance was initially promoted by second or third rank tribal leaders, whose ascendancy through the Sahwa eclipsed more prominent tribal leaders who had fled into exile because of the high levels of violence.38 Some sources hint that AQI posed a social challenge to the authority of these tribal leaders and attracted some of those who were marginalised within the tribal hierarchy.39


The alignment between AQI and other Anbari insurgent groups was in large part based on their assessment that US forces represented the primary threat to local people’s security. The city of Fallujah’s experience with the US occupation and the Iraqi government was extremely bitter, for example, the city was besieged and then stormed by US troops twice in 2004:


The 2004 offensive destroyed 70 percent of the city’s infrastructure including 36,000 buildings, 8,400 shops, three pipelines for water purification and two electricity stations. When civilians returned, US forces tracked them with fingerprints and iris scanners. Each had to show a US-issued personal biometric ID card when entering or exiting the city.40


AQI quickly squandered their credibility, however, by launching brutal campaigns of murder and intimidation to enforce their authority over their allies and the areas under their control. Their sectarian tactics also caused repulsion among many Anbaris, who certainly felt alienated and marginalised by the growing sectarianism of the Iraqi state, but were not engaged in a tit for tat sectarian civil war.41 Narratives from the US Army’s official oral history of the Awakening (which is over 300 pages long) make clear the intensive work US officers put in to “win hearts and minds”. An interview with “Miriam”, the wife of an Iraqi police officer, describes the work of “Captain Stephanie”, the US officer who worked with her and other women in a local NGO:


Stephanie distributes products. We call her “Santa” or “Mamma Claus.” Stephanie helped people love security. She helped women get jobs. She put rules on who should be hired: target unemployed college graduates to maximise employment… At the time, it was raging with insurgency. There were no rations available, except through Stephanie. She brought in a truckload of food and supplies—1,500 shares.42


The “Sons of Iraq” programme beyond Anbar was an attempt to transfer the Awakening to other Sunni majority areas. US forces recruited 100,000 largely Sunni volunteers across Iraq, paying them around $300 per month. As the security situation improved, US commanders promised that SoI volunteers would eventually be offered jobs in the regular Iraqi security forces or in the civil service. In 2009 the programme was officially handed over to the Iraqi government, despite the fact that Nouri al-Maliki’s regime “viewed thousands of armed Sunnis as a strategic threat”, and thus disbanded the SoI units, in some cases accompanied by extra-judicial executions or exile.43


The Awakening and the Sons of Iraq programme were part of a wider US strategy of a “surge” in troops that swelled the number of US soldiers in Iraq to 166,000 by 2007. It was these “boots on the ground” and the massive financial commitment accompanying them that made the Awakening a temporary success. As David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq during this period, tacitly admits in a lengthy and hubristic article published in October 2013, a key change in tactics by US forces after 2007 was essentially the reconquest of Baghdad neighbourhood by neighbourhood, establishing local, small-scale bases for US troops who had previously been concentrated in large bases away from the local population.44


Yet a closer look underlines why that success was ultimately shallow and short-lived. The Awakening was not in itself a break with the strategy of sectarian divide and rule. It simply represented US efforts to “redress” the sectarian balance in favour of Sunni Arab social and political elites in western Iraq, after fighters from the region had demonstrated that they could not be cowed by other means. The lubricating factors were money, jobs and weapons, while AQI’s brutal methods aided the US by alienating their potential supporters. The Awakening did nothing to challenge the sectarianisation of the state: on the contrary it contributed to its further fragmentation by creating another body of armed men who were almost exclusively from one specific religious group.


Al-Maliki’s ascendancy and the failure of the sectarian state


In many ways, the years following the “victory” of the US surge in 2008 repeated a dismally familiar pattern from the 2003-6 period. Sunni political elites from western Iraq attempted to negotiate a place for themselves within the sectarianised state apparatus. Their hopes had been raised by cooperation with the US and they approached their Shia Islamist rivals such as Nouri al-Maliki of the Da’wa Party with renewed confidence. The parliamentary elections of 2010 at first appeared to augur well for a “rebalancing” of political and sectarian factions within the state: the Al-Iraqiyya electoral bloc won the most seats, with Maliki’s State of Law bloc coming second. Al-Iraqiyya was a cross-sectarian alliance of parties led by former Ba’athist Iyad Allawi, which included a number of groups with strong roots in Sunni-majority areas of Iraq.


Maliki’s reaction to this unexpected defeat was to undo the results and impose a State of Law government under his leadership. His supporters in the judiciary issued rulings that undermined Al-Iraqiyya’s claim to form the next government. In December 2011 he had bodyguards working for the Sunni vice-president, Tariq al-Hashemi, arrested and, based on their confessions, ordered Hashemi’s trial on charges of organising terrorism and sectarian death squads, leading to a death sentence in absentia for the most senior Sunni politician in the Iraqi state. Other major Sunni politicians, such as finance minister Rafi’a al-Issawi, were targeted. The arrest of al-Issawi’s bodyguards on terrorism charges in December 2012 triggered a widespread protest movement across western Iraq.


Meanwhile, in the background, Maliki pursued a ruthless campaign to assert his personal control over Iraq’s sprawling armed forces. Not content with using a pattern of sectarian appointment-making to ensure that Shia commanders predominated in the upper levels of the military, Maliki created an entirely new command structure through regional Operations Commands which answered to him personally through the Office of the Commander in Chief (OCINC). Finally, he bolstered Shia sectarian militias and death squads, such as the Asa’ib Ahl-al-Haq, a splinter from Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, and which is thought to operate at least partially under Maliki’s command. Maliki’s control over the Iraqi Army and his use of sectarian paramilitary groups intermeshed through the OCINC, which purged army officers who had taken action against the Shia militias.45


It is important to understand the specific characteristics of Maliki’s regime, as they help to explain the swiftness of the Iraqi army’s collapse at Mosul. He systematically used sectarian rhetoric to bolster his own power and undermine his rivals, and organised and enabled sectarian violence and discrimination. But Maliki’s power was also highly personalised, relying on networks of cronies in the army and the institutions of the state, including the Iraqi army commanders who apparently fled Mosul even before their troops.46 Thus behind the imposing authoritarian facade, which brooked no criticism, rivalry or dissent, it was also fragile, incompetent and increasingly dysfunctional.


The initial response in Sunni areas of Iraq to Maliki’s offensive was not, in fact, to relaunch military action against the central government forces. Quite the contrary. Maliki’s repression and attacks on Sunni politicians triggered a widespread popular protest movement that experimented with tactics reminiscent of the street protests and occupations of the Arab revolutions of 2011. The protest movement seems to have mobilised wide social layers in the cities of western Iraq such as Ramadi and Fallujah, catching established politicians by surprise. In its early stages tens of thousands took part; their slogans demanded an end to sectarian discrimination against Sunnis and challenged Maliki’s use of repression under the banner of “fighting terrorism”. They found at least a rhetorical echo from other Iraqi political figures, including Moqtada al-Sadr, who issued a series of supportive statements, but declined to offer any more than verbal backing for the movement. A violent raid on one of the protest camps at Hawija by the Iraqi security forces on 23 April 2013, which killed 50 people, was the final turning point on the road that led to the rapid resurgence of AQI, triggering a wave of sectarian bombings in response.47


This cycle of events took place, however, in a world that had significantly changed since 2007. As discussed above, the counter-revolutionary backlash against the uprisings of 2011 included a significant rise in sectarian rhetoric across the region (with the regimes of the Gulf playing a critical role in both directly filling the airwaves and social media with anti-Shia sectarian bile and enabling others to do so). The question of sectarianism at a regional level was not of course confined to rhetoric but had by 2012-13 taken the form of interventions by regional powers into the spiralling conflict in Syria, with Sunni Islamist forces armed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf States confronting Hizbollah’s Shia Islamists backed by Iran alongside Assad’s troops. The Assad regime had taken the decision early on to mobilise sectarian militias, such as the shabiha, largely drawn from members of the ruling family’s Alawite sect, but as its attempts to defeat the revolution faltered, its strategy became more and more focused on transforming the battle into a sectarian civil war pitting the Alawite elite and other minorities against the Sunni majority and pulling in regional support from Iran on that basis. This process eventually marginalised and defeated the armed revolutionary factions and local committees that had led the uprising at the beginning.


The Syrian Revolution’s transformation into civil war also had profound consequences for the revival of AQI in Iraq. It created new spaces where the jihadi fighters could operate beyond the reach of any state and accelerated the process of erasing the Syrian/Iraqi border that had been in train for several decades. This in turn intensified the mutual interactions between jihadi groups in Syria and Iraq. The flows of fighters, arms and battle experience went in two directions across this now vast region, with Syria functioning as a hinterland for Iraqi jihadists, who were able to simultaneously create an effective military presence within the Syrian conflict and relaunch themselves back into Iraq as a result.48


But by far the biggest change was in the relative strength of the US as an actor in the struggles over the carcass of the Iraqi state, and more broadly over the resources of the Middle East. After 2011 the US not only did not have the “boots on the ground” that contributed to “victory” in the surge, but was in no position to turn the clock back and reconquer Iraq for the third time in the space of a decade. This was not simply the result of the military and political failures outlined above, but reflected the impact of the global economic crisis on the US after 2008. The occupation of Iraq cost an estimated $1 trillion dollars and the lives of 4,500 US soldiers.49 In a world racked by the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s, US officials no longer had the blank cheque they had been given to spend their way to victory when neoconservative dreams of a “New American Century” seemed a realistic prospect.


From prison-breaks to state power?


In 2010 AQI appeared to have been crushed. Within two years, however, the organisation had begun to revive, and by September 2013 the Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think-tank, announced that it was “resurgent”: capable of operating across Iraq to unleash a wave of its signature car bombings which were beginning to push casualty rates back up to war-time levels last reached in 2008.50 January 2014 saw AQI (now renamed ISIS after announcing a merger with the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda) take full control of its first city, Raqqa in the north east of Syria, after heavy fighting with other jihadi forces, including its own erstwhile sister organisation in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra (JN).51 Six months later ISIS seemed unstoppable as Mosul fell to its forces on 10 June.


This dizzying upward curve of military and political success conceals startling transitions and poses challenges that it is very unlikely that ISIS in its current form will overcome easily, if at all. The most serious of these challenges are connected with ISIS’s claim to statehood. The group’s audacity in imposing jihadi governance on major population centres in Syria and Iraq demands that it transform itself from guerrilla network to conventional army. At the same time it has to move from running a protection racket—collecting “taxes” from frightened shopkeepers—to collecting real taxes and ensuring the delivery of basic services for hundreds of thousands of people. There are many reasons to doubt that this will be easy for a small, elitist, military organisation reliant on spectacular acts of violence to ensure compliance with its will.


One of the major contrasts between ISIS and other armed Islamist movements that have achieved some degree of state authority in areas under their control, such as Hizbollah or Hamas, is illustrated by the means through which AQI began to revive within Iraq during 2012. In contrast to Hizbollah, which complemented its military struggle with Israel by organising welfare services for decades before it first entered a coalition government, AQI seems to have rebuilt itself in 2012 through a coordinated series of jail-breaks. The “Breaking the Walls Campaign” did exactly what its title suggests: AQI fighters smashed their way into prisons across Iraq to restore experienced jihadis to their ranks, culminating in an attack on Abu Ghraib prison on 21 July 2013 which released 500 or more prisoners.52


Meanwhile, AQI’s fighters were also operating in Syria alongside Jabhat al-Nusra, Al Qaeda’s branch there. Again AQI’s military experience was instrumental in creating opportunities for the organisation to grow in Syria, where it began to compete with JN and ultimately with Al Qaeda’s overall leadership in Afghanistan. Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, AQI’s leader since 2010, announced the merger of the Islamic State of Iraq (as AQI had renamed itself in 2006) and Jabhat al-Nusra on 8 April 2013.53 This provoked a furious response from JN’s leader, Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani, who rejected the merger, and earned al-Baghdadi a reprimand from Al Qaeda’s leader, Egyptian militant Ayman al-Zawahiri, who instructed the Syrian and Iraqi branches to restrict their work to their respective states.54


Yet events were unfolding in Iraq that would dramatically accelerate ISIS’s development, allowing it to eclipse its parent organisation. Within days of Baghdadi’s announcement of the merger with JN the Iraqi army had stormed a camp set up by Sunni protesters in Hawija, Kirkuk governorate, killing dozens.55 This bloody end to the “Sunni spring” protests that had rocked western Iraq for months presaged the polarisation of the movement between those who began to look to armed solutions and those who were prepared to compromise with Nouri al-Maliki’s government in Baghdad. The moment was ripe for intervention by ISIS, which launched a series of sectarian attacks, while Iraqi government forces raided Sunni neighbourhoods, carrying out mass arrests during “anti-terrorist” operations in Anbar and Diyala provinces.56


At this stage ISIS was still a resurgent guerrilla group, shunning urban areas and keeping its distance from the protest camps. It is unlikely that any of ISIS’s fighters were involved in the clash with the Iraqi army at Hawija, as the military forces most closely aligned with the political demands raised by the protesters were the neo-Ba’athist Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandiya (JRTN).57 Nor did ISIS at this stage appear to have recovered enough credibility to be able to work with local armed groups in defending their areas. This was to change dramatically within a few months as ISIS began asserting formal control over urban areas in both Iraq and Syria, and in some cases attempting to build or run government institutions. This assertion of formal control does not mean that ISIS came into cities only to conquer them: the group’s seizure of Mosul was preceded by ISIS penetration of the city over the course of several years.58


In Ramadi and Fallujah in Iraq, ISIS fighters took the opportunity afforded by a new upsurge of protest against yet another provocative arrest of a leading Sunni politician, Ahmed al-Alwani, on terrorism charges by Nouri al-Maliki on 28 December 2013. Protesters poured into the streets in both towns. ISIS fighters appeared alongside them, planting their black flag on municipal buildings in Fallujah as well as surrounding Ramadi and seizing part of the main highway to Baghdad.59 They faced different responses from the local political and military leaderships in the two cities. Ramadi’s political leaders, who were largely supportive of the Iraqi Islamic Party and prepared to cooperate with the government in Baghdad, rejected ISIS and called on local residents to work with Iraqi government forces to expel them. In Fallujah, however, political and military leaders attempted to negotiate an ISIS withdrawal through mediation with a newly-established military council of their own, rather than leaving the Iraqi army to bombard and attempt to recapture the city.60


Nouri al-Maliki’s government did nothing to allay Fallujah residents’ fears that the history of the 2004 assaults on the city would repeat itself. With elections on the horizon, he made the call for Shia unity behind the crushing of rebellion in Fallujah a key campaign issue while the Iraqi army increased its shelling of the besieged town. The city’s military council was thus forced into a “Faustian bargain” with ISIS, cooperating with them against the Iraqi army, but attempting to restrict their role in running the now almost empty city.61


ISIS experience in ruling Raqqa began with rebel groups taking over the city as Syrian government control collapsed in March 2013 and key tribal leaders switched allegiance from the Assad regime.62 ISIS then emerged victorious from a long and bloody power struggle with other jihadi groups to assert its authority over the town in January 2014. There are indications that ISIS focused its military assets in Syria on the battle for Raqqa in order to secure the city.63 Until the capture of Mosul in June 2014 Raqqa represented ISIS’s most developed attempt at building or running government institutions. In a detailed study, largely using social media sources, Gabriel Garroum Pla lists an array of different state institutions in Raqqa claimed as institutions of its new state by ISIS, including schools, bakeries, media institutions and courts. ISIS social media accounts claimed that an office of Consumer Protection checks for counterfeit medicines, the Awqaf Department (Religious Endowments) collects taxes and rents from shops, while the Unified Collection Office takes payments for electricity, water and phone bills. These services were provided within a system of rule which also includes spectacular displays of public violence, such as regular public executions and the crucifixion of victims’ bodies, the public burning of illicit material such as alcohol or cigarettes, and the institution of “Dignity” checkpoints where citizens are interrogated about their personal observance of ISIS’s version of Sunni ritual.64


Reports from Mosul are sparse, but interviews with residents in October and November 2014 suggest that ISIS was attempting to implement a similar system of rule to that instituted in Raqqa. “Mays”, a teacher, speaks of changes to the curriculum, with ISIS decrees banning subjects such as art and physical education and imposing strict dress codes on pupils. “Faisal” describes severe water and electricity shortages, while “Nizar’ recounts how the homes formerly belonging to the city’s Christian population had been given to ISIS members.65 Other anonymous reports via social media paint a similar picture of acute water shortages in a city overcrowded with refugees from elsewhere in Iraq, skyrocketing fuel prices, and pervasive fear of ISIS reprisals against dissenters.66


The shift from conducting guerrilla operations to running daily life in major cities has the potential to open up enormous contradictions for ISIS. Raqqa is Syria’s sixth-largest city and had a population of 220,000 in 2004, while Mosul is the second-largest in Iraq with a population of between 1.5 and 2 million. At one level, intensifying social contradictions in the cities under their control will confront ISIS with the same dilemmas that any ruler faces: how to balance coercion and consent in order to stop those they rule discovering their power to overturn the system which oppresses them. This is where ISIS’s trademark brutality can be a liability as much as an asset: fear and horror have their uses in the short term but are difficult to maintain indefinitely.


At a military level, ISIS’s bid for statehood also poses severe challenges. The transition from underground guerrilla network to a more conventional armed force, with territory to lose, requires knitting together new command structures, providing different weapons and training, and mastering different kinds of tactics. ISIS fighters have so far seemed capable of making use of captured US equipment,67 but rapid success can equally rapidly come undone as supply lines stretch and fighters have to divert resources to deal with restive populations. However, there is nothing certain about ISIS’s rule imploding under the weight of its own contradictions, as it it did in Iraq in 2006. Other factors which come into play here include the impact of Western intervention. Alongside news of discontent and misery in territories under its rule, there are also frequent reports of how US bombing pushes other armed groups to ally with ISIS for self-protection. Fighters from the Free Syrian Army and Islamist factions in Syria were reported to be seeking alliances with ISIS in late November as US bombing intensified.68


Counter-revolution and the crisis of reformist Islamism


The final context for the rise of ISIS is the crisis of reformist Islamism in the wake of the revolutions of 2011 and the counter-revolutions that followed. The popular uprisings which rolled across the region in early 2011 were fraught with promise and danger for the major Islamist organisations such as Ennahda in Tunisia or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria. The success of the street protests and strikes in shaking loose the structures of power appeared to offer a historic opportunity for their leaders to negotiate new openings for themselves within the state, far exceeding the modest gains they had made through years of patient electoral work. Yet the major reformist Islamist organisations69 that did win elections and form governments, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, found themselves trapped between the still-mobilised movement from below on the one hand, and the resurgent structures of the old regime on the other. Unable to contain continued social and political protests and restore the “normality” that prospective investors and large swathes of the middle class craved, and equally unable effectively to confront the core of the “military-bureaucratic machine” of the state, they lurched from triumph to tragedy in the space of a year. The overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Mursi by the Egyptian military on 3 July 2013 was then followed by the mass murder of his supporters at protest sit-ins in Cairo and Giza and a counter-revolutionary offensive aimed at wiping out all trace of the 2011 Revolution. This offensive was not therefore aimed solely at the Brotherhood, but rather at the whole loose coalition of forces that had assembled in the uprising against Mubarak: left and liberal activists, striking workers, Islamists outside the Brotherhood who identified with the revolution’s basic demands of bread, freedom and social justice.


At a regional level, the primary backing for Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s counter-revolution came from the states that represent the capitals of the Gulf. They chose to reinstate Mubarak’s old order rather than work through Islamist reformists such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Here the unevenness in regional development operated to intensify counter-revolution. Without the confidence that the massive financial resources of Saudi Arabia, UAE (and more recently Qatar) were behind him, would Sisi have had the audacity to commit crimes of the same magnitude? Note here that Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi rulers made decisions based strictly on their judgement of who would be the safest pair of hands to restore conditions for a return on their investment, not their presumed ideological affinity with Islamist currents.70 In Syria, counter-revolution came from two directions: a “secular” authoritarian regime which was in reality prosecuting a sectarian civil war as its basic survival strategy, and later the gradual rise of ISIS itself which overcame other factions opposed to Assad in order to impose its rule over rebel-held areas, as described above.


The defeat of reformist Islamist currents by revived authoritarian regimes, or their eclipse by other forces was always likely to lead to a resurgence of specifically jihadi alternatives. The history of Egyptian Islamism is littered with examples of this pendulum-like movement. Sayyid Qutb, whose ideas about the permissibility of rebellion against tyranny have inspired generations of jihadists, was a disillusioned reformist who turned towards vanguardist terrorism because the consolidation of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s rule in Egypt convinced him that neither the existing state nor a popular movement from below could be trusted to deliver the kind of society he wanted to see.


The catastrophic defeat of reformist Islamist movements on a regional scale has intersected with the specific dynamics of Iraqi society, projecting ISIS to a wider audience, and allowing it to vie with Al Qaeda’s historic leadership for the allegiance of those looking for successful, powerful organisations that appear to be able to challenge imperialism and dictatorship. ISIS is also attractive in the context of that defeat because it offers false explanations and constructs new narratives of victimhood, providing other targets for their rage and disappointment: Shias, Christians, “immodest women”. Other dynamics of frustration and alienation are most likely at work on ISIS’s recruits from Europe: anger at rising levels of racism and Islamophobia in the context of endless imperial interventions in the Middle East.


This does not mean, however, that we can expect to see ISIS-type spectacles across the Middle East. As this article has outlined, the specific dynamics of Iraq since 2003 have interacted with the defeat of the Syrian Revolution to produce a zone of intense competition between regional powers, and new political and military actors, such as ISIS itself, in the Jazeera region, that lies between Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Kurdistan, and its hinterland. These conditions are not present across most of the region, and more importantly, much of the rest of the region has a far richer experience of the kinds of struggle from below that are the real alternative to ISIS.


This is why it is also crucial to grasp the significance of 2011 as a rupture with the past. The revolutionary crisis was at once the detonation of the accumulated tensions between the social and political aspects of the transition from state capitalism to neoliberalism (if we can use such short-hand terms for a messy and complex reality) and the potential negation of the entire process. It is important here to distinguish between the idea of 2011 as creating the possibility of a reversal of neoliberalism, in other words the restoration of the state capitalist regimes that the region’s nationalist and Stalinist left craves, and the potential for opening a route to a different kind of society altogether.


Of course, even at the dizzying heights of the revolutionary wave, as regimes across the region were reeling under the impact of the greatest popular uprisings the world had seen for decades, there would have still been a very long way to travel before potential became reality. Yet the key point here is that the revolutions of 2011 made other futures beside neoliberalism possible. Moreover, and this above all is the reason why the revolutions potentially negated the trajectory of the previous decades, it was the agency of millions of ordinary people that detonated the revolutionary crisis in the first place. They marched in the streets, went on strike, occupied their workplaces, organised popular committees, broke open the regimes’ torture chambers and took up arms on a scale few had imagined was possible. There was nothing inevitable about the explosion of revolution in 2011. This rupture was not simply a natural consequence of shifting tectonic plates or the realignment of the stars: it was created by struggle from below.


And it is no accident that such struggles were, from the first, profoundly anti-sectarian, both in form and content. Anti-sectarian banners, slogans and chants dominated Tahrir Square in Egypt during the uprising against Mubarak, and were the watchwords of the early stages of the Bahraini and Syrian uprisings. The revolutionary wave also triggered a mass movement against sectarianism in Lebanon for the first time in decades. This was not a temporary aberration, but was an expression of the class content of the revolutions: the real horizontal cleavages that unite workers and the poor across the region in the face of neoliberalism and imperialism.




1: Sameh Naguib, Phil Marfleet, John Rose and Alex Callinicos gave very helpful comments on the draft of this article. Special thanks are also due to all the participants at the SWP educational on “Analysing ISIS” on 22 November 2014, as the article was rewritten in the light of the intense and fruitful discussion there.


2: Chulov, 2014; Human Rights Watch, 2014a; Human Rights Watch, 2014b.


3: Cockburn, 2014, pp28-29.


4: The emergence of a Kurdish statelet in Iraq’s northern provinces was triggered by the weakening of the Ba’athist state in the 1990s, but the inability of the US occupation to re-empower Baghdad’s authority over the region has created the conditions for its consolidation.


5: See chapters 1-2 of Alexander and Bassiouny, 2014, for a more detailed discussion of the development of neoliberalism in Egypt, and Achcar, 2013, and Hanieh, 2013, for regional perspectives on the process.


6: Naguib, 2011, p5.


7: Haddad, 2011.


8: Harman, 1994.


9: For more on this question see Alexander and Bassiouny, 2014, chapter 2.


10: Leon Trotsky, in his analysis of Russia’s economy at the beginning of the 20th century, argued that the uneven and combined nature of that development created an “explosive amalgam” of contradictory social and political relations which, when ignited by the sparks of protests and strikes, triggered a much deeper revolutionary process than any had foreseen (Trotsky, 1992). Trotsky’s argument centred on the combination of social and political relations across two distinct modes of production: feudalism and capitalism. When we are using the term here, we are referring to the combination of social and political relations from different phases of capitalism—Choonara, 2011.


11: Maunder, 2012.


12: Go to www.ruralpovertyportal.org/country/home/tags/syria for more details on rural poverty in Syria before the revolution.


13: Hanieh, 2013.


14: Cordesman and Khazai, 2014, p227.


15: Burleigh, 2014; Conant, 2014.


16: Crooke, 2014. See Al-Rasheed, 2010, pp13-68, for an overview of the role played by Wahhabism in the process of state formation in Arabia.


17: Harman, 1986, p11.


18: Batatu, 2004; Zangana and Ramadani, 2006, p60.


19: Harman, 1994; Naguib, 2006.


20: See articles by Philip Marfleet and Bassem Chit in this journal for more on the recent development of Hamas and Hizbollah, and Assaf, 2013b, and Harman, 2006, for further background.


21: Callinicos, 2014a; Callinicos, 2014b, p19; Callinicos, 2009.


22: Zangana and Ramadani, 2006.


23: Alexander, 2003, and Batatu, 2004.


24: Alexander and Assaf, 2005a.


25: International Crisis Group, 2013, p4.


26: Alexander and Assaf, 2005a, and Zangana and Ramadani, 2006.


27: Dodge, 2014, p17.


28: See Dodge, 2010; Herring and Rangwala, 2006, pp222-236, for more on this process.


29: See Herring and Rangwala, 2006, pp236-241, for more on the role of US transnational corporations in Iraqi “reconstruction”, and Dodge, 2014, for its later impact.


30: There is not space in this article to deal properly with the impact of the Kurdish question on Iraq. For a historical perspective on the Kurdish question see McDowall, 2003, and for the role of Kurdish parties in post-2003 developments see Herring and Rangwala, 2006.


31: Alexander and Assaf, 2005a, p27.


32: Alexander and Assaf, 2005a.


33: Alexander and Assaf, 2005b.


34: Alexander and Assaf, 2005a.


35: Buncombe and Cockburn, 2006.


36: Damluji, 2010, pp75-76.


37: Montgomery and McWilliams, 2009.


38: Al-Jabouri and Jensen, 2011.


39: International Crisis Group, 2014.


40: International Crisis Group, 2014, p9.


41: International Crisis Group, 2014.


42: Montgomery and McWilliams, 2009, p43.


43: Dermer, 2014.


44: Petraeus, 2013.


45: Sullivan, 2013.


46: Dodge, 2014; Sullivan, 2013.


47: International Crisis Group, 2013, and Assaf, 2013a.


48: Cockburn, 2014.


49: Chulov, Hawramy and Ackerman, 2014.


50: Lewis, 2013.


51: Pla, 2014, p27.


52: Lewis, 2013, p7.


53: Lewis, 2013, p9.


54: Atassi, 2013.


55: Human Rights Watch, 2013.


56: International Crisis Group, 2013, pi; Lewis, 2013, p21.


57: Lewis, 2013, p19.


58: Abbas, 2014.


59: International Crisis Group, 2014, p6.


60: Al-Jazeera Arabic, 2014.


61: International Crisis Group, 2014; Al-Hayat, 2014.


62: Holliday, 2013.


63: Lewis, 2013, p17.


64: Pla, 2014, p35 and pp27-28.


65: BBC News Online, 2014.


66: Beauchamp, 2014.


67: Chulov and Lewis, 2014.


68: Mahmood, 2014.


69: “Reformist” is used here to indicate where these organisations sit within a broad spectrum of responses to the state by Islamist currents, ranging from guerrilla warfare aimed at overthrowing the existing regime to withdrawal from society in order to found a conservative utopia, and is not meant to imply that these Islamist organisations can be equated with social democratic organisations. See Alexander and Bassiouny, 2014, chapter 1, for more on this point.


70: See my review of Gilbert Achcar’s and Adam Hanieh’s recent books for more on this point (Alexander, 2014).




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