Friday, March 25, 2011

"We Will Steal What We Can, In The Struggle To Be Free."

The peculiarity of what passes for a Canadian "left" is helpfully exposed by such crises and opportunities as are now posed by the ongoing effort to bring down the savage billionnaire and slave-owner Moammar Gaddafi. Where a "progressive" standpoint should be there is instead a masquerade. It is a sham, and what it is intended to conceal is a comfortable and isolationist parochialism, modulated according to fashion between adolescence and senility.

On the Libya question, predictably, the limited bandwith ranges from yesbuttery to whataboutery to an outright butwhatifisshness that is indistinguishable from paleoconservative reaction. It is causing Haroon Siddiqui of the Toronto Star to sound more like the Yankee dingbat Pat Buchanan with every passing hour. Its drooling anti-imperialism is merely an anti-Americanism that is, parodoxically and hilariously, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the American zombie-left.

Because it's Friday and I've got a lot of work to do before the day's done, I thought I'd just present a handful of contrasting analyses and perspectives from the still-living left. A range of perspectives is readily at hand.

By way of the always-reliable American progressive journalist Marc Cooper, here's the key question, posed Lebanese-British Marxist Gilbert Achcar, whose point of view is not to my tastes (nor to Marc's) but nevermind: "Can anyone claiming to belong to the left just ignore a popular movement’s plea for protection, even by means of imperialist bandit-cops, when the type of protection requested is not one through which control over their country could be exerted? Certainly not, by my understanding of the left." In a similar vein, here's Clive Bradley over at Workers' Liberty: "To oppose – that is, demonstrate against, and make a serious effort to prevent – the limited military action against Qaddafi, is to tell the rebels in Benghazi “you’re on your own.” What socialist would want to send out such a message? Only one not deserving the name."

Another sensible socialist articulation of the necessity of solidarity with the Libyan rebels is put forth by the Worker-communist Party of Iran - but then I would say that, wouldn't I? I've long been an admirer of the WPI's Maryam Namazie, the National Secular Society's 2005 "secularist of the year" award winner and vice-president of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association. So with that grain of salt out of the way, here's the WPI: "The military attack on Libya took place at a time when the Gaddafi regime, aided by its army and armed mercenaries, and having attacked the revolutionary people and forces in a number of the liberated cities and recaptured those cities, was about to attack Benghazi, i.e. the main stronghold of the revolutionary people. The military attack by the Western powers stopped further advances by the Gaddafi army and in particular averted a massacring of the people of Benghazi."

Over at MuslimsDebate there is a more forceful enumeration of the reasons for an internationalist intervention, set out by Khaled Muttawa, aptly titled For Those Who Do Not Support Helping the Libyan People in Their Hour of Need.

If it's a thorough overview of the broader historical context of "humanitarian intervention" you might want, you could do no better than take the time to put up your feet and read our pal Roland Dodds' inquiries into the subject, here.

For a look-see at the implications of the realist-grotesque pipsqueaking advocated by so much of the "left" and adopted by the German government in order to ingratiate itself with Russian oiligarchs - there's a neologism for you - MEP Daniel ("Danny the Red") Cohn-Bendit weighs in on the side of former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer: "Everyone has seen pictures of the Warsaw ghetto. Everyone knows what happens when an army takes over a city. That's why all parties in France, including on the left, were in favor of a military intervention in Libya. In Germany, that didn't happen." Fischer, the former German Green Party leader, asks the relevant question and answers it: "What use is vocal multilateralism, what use are German leaders’ lofty speeches about international law being exercised by the Security Council, if Germany refuses to endorse a resolution for the protection of Libya’s citizens from a brutal regime employing all means at its disposal in its fight for survival? Nothing. Empty talk. And that will not be forgotten in the region, in the UN, or among Germany’s friends."

Our own Eva Sajoo raises a critically important point about the disastrous folly of the conventional approach adopted by the western powers in their misapprehensions of the so-called "Arab world," a folly so fatally exposed by the bravery of hundreds of thousands of frightfully poor and oppressed Arabs in recent weeks, as it applies to Afghanistan: "We offer the Afghan people the same choice that marked our policies in Egypt and across the Middle East: better a corrupt, authoritarian system than rule by Islamic extremists. The spectre of al-Qaeda or the Taliban and their acolytes taking over was the greater evil that allowed us to toss any semblance of political ethics out the window." This is proper analysis. Further: "Nothing serves to deter the rise of a progressive civic Islam across the Muslim world as much as our stubborn insistence that the only available choices are between theocracy and autocracy. Tell that to the women in Afghanistan who have braved the depredations of both, and now risk paying the price of our misapprehension."

There remains much hope that the "Arab Spring" will blossom in Palestine in spite of the Hamas nightsticks that have cracked heads as tens of thousands of young Palestinians have turned to "Facebook demonstrations" in recent days. It is most heartening to see that the Israeli -Palestinian One Voice movement (again I confess my bias, having been a One Voice supporter for some while) has declared its full solidarity with the Palestinian protestors.

Predictably siding with the young Palestinians' tormentors by doing Hamas the favour of the propaganda of futile gestures, the Canadian "anti-war" masquerade is preparing for a sea cruise this summer. But hey, make a donation, get a free t-shirt.

If it's within a quieter and more visceral meaning of solidarity in which you prefer to situate yourself, I'd be happy to settle for that with you. I would be glad enough if wherever I might be, people would remember we're woven in a tapestry; we steal what we can, with the courage to be free. I've found where I belong, among the poorest company. It's why I don't let it get me down. And so sings Drever McCusker Woomble:


Blogger brian platt said...

I'm happy to see that a Canadian is taking command of the mission. This is right in Canada's wheelhouse. Or, at least, should be.

2:29 PM  
Blogger memphis said...

Gilbert Achcar's puts forward the most humane, nuanced case for the NFZ, eschewing double standards, and speaking as someone with a deep historical knowledge of the region, with genuine sympathy for the movement (s) on the ground. Just curious on which points you two diverge?

7:27 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

I don't assess Achcar's analysis based on any deep historical knowledge of the region which he may or may not have. Marc noted an ideological rigidity in his standpoint, which seems fair; as for me, I regard Achcar to be among the still-living left. It's just not particularly to my taste is all.

It is, as you say, humane and nuanced. It is indeed against double standards, although as I read him ( ) this is not out of any commitment to a proper standard for its own sake but rather more out of concern for the polemically debilitating effect of double standards in "anti-imperialist" discourse. What Achcar does is he applies a fairly conventionial reading of the Libyan predicament from a fairly conventional Marxist analysis - and that in itself is quite refreshing, homesick as I tend to be for "conventional" Maxist analysis, but it only not to my taste because it tends to solely rely on theoretical considerations that derive from a Marxist reading of history, beginning with Lenin's justifications for the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and concluding: "The left should learn how to expose imperialist hypocrisy by using against it the very same moral weapons that it cynically exploits, instead of rendering this hypocrisy more effective by appearing as not caring about moral considerations. They are the ones with double standards, not us."

Really? That's a bit weedy for my liking. Either the Libyan intervention is "imperialist" or it isn't - and it isn't. And who is the "us" that is so unblemished of double standards here? The very "left" in which Achcar himself notices a double standard?

Siding with the ragtag Libyan rebels against the tyrant Gaddafi would be the right thing to do even if it could not be so easily shoehorned within a Marxist historiography. Against tyranny, always; doing the right thing comes first. That's practice. If it doesn't conform with "theory," then there's something wrong with the theory.

Fair play to Achcar. It's just that his method of establishing the casus belli in the case of Libya is not especially to my tastes is all. Where "we" belong is in the poorest company, whether there is a citation from Lenin to make us feel okay abut it or no.

10:03 PM  
Blogger memphis said...

So, I was following Marc's comments. He said the following "OBVIOUSLY there is an irreconciliable hypocrisy in intervening in Libya while supporting the repression in Bahrain, Yemen and Gaza (among a long list of other places). yes, yes and yes. So when, for opportune reasons, the big powers wind up at least temporarily on the right side, you kick them out of bed because they cheated on you before? You tell them. no, you cant do the right thing in Libya because you are an asshole and you have done wrong in Gaza?"

Interesting. Both he and Achcar share this position, with the latter saying that the issue of hypocrisy should be used against the big powers by wielding their weapons down the road. Both Marc and Gilbert have said that their should have been a no fly zone to protect civilians in Gaza when they were being pummeled for weeks. I wonder how practical this move, to mobilize governments, is; when we all know that were Libya the Congo, there would be no intervention.

1:37 AM  
Blogger dmurrell said...

TG does a good job at criticizing the various left-wing opposition to the West's participation in the Libyian conflict.

But what about the mainstream Canadian centre-left? Surely the latter has more influence on Canadian views. CTV News, CBC News, the Toronto Star, and The Globe and Mail -- surely the mainstays of the centre-left -- are not exactly supporters of the Canadian mission in Libya. CBC News, for example, has Brian Stewart opining, nearly always making negative comments about the West's intervention. More criticism of the centre-left Toronto media is necessary.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Dave: My point is not to simply criticize the left. My point is to show that something else is present in all the spaces where the left used to be in Canada, and this has serious consequences for all of us. When I hark back to earlier times - the isolationist "pacifism" of the 1930s, for instance - it is only to show that what is occurring on the main currents of the left is not entirely new, although it is perhaps something we have not seen in our lifetimes.

What you call the "centre left," by which I take you to mean the main currents of liberal thinking in Canada, is not the place I would look for much robust and legitimately progressive thinking in these matters in the first place, certainly not what we used to call proletarian internationalism. And as I pointed out, I don't expect to find it among conservatives, so I don't find it remarkable that it is not there, either - although I must say there are conservatives who are principled in the old Canadian "Red Tory" tradition, and who are paradoxically characterized as neoconservatives, with whom I have seen at the very least the basis of conversation, in a popular-front sort of way, with people like myself, who came out of the "left."

The concern I have about what you call the mainstream Canadian centre-left is that its hollow core, which is at best radical-chic, invites the infusion of all manner of claptrap in the way nature abhors a vacuum. It sucks in some of nastiest detritus from the margins to its left. This is how the "mainstream" Canadian debates about Afghanistan became so enfeebled. But to be fair, there are many good and decent people at the centre-left or "mainstrean" liberal leadership in Canada on these issues, not least Bob Rae. Not always to be agreed with, but he's a gude wan.

Memphis: I didn't catch that bit about Marc wishing there had been a no-fly zone during Cast Lead. It seems pretty silly to me. Yes to a robust international intervention in Gaza-Palestine, in this way:

It is hypocrisy to leave it all up to Israel to defend itself against Hamas terror and then bitch about the means to which Israel resorts to defend itself. It is hypocrisy to declare solidarity with the Palestinians and issue grave condemnations about the violations of their rights while at the same time enabling their Islamist-crackpot tormentors and providing vast subsidies to the maintain the UNRWA apartheid Palestinians are subjected to in all the Arab countries where they have been confined in camps for the past half-century. Hypocrisy, as they say, abounds.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Further: An effective UN-enforced "no fly zone" in Gaza would have prevented the thousands of rockets fired into Israel that provoked Cast Lead in the first place.

10:40 AM  
Blogger memphis said...

Here we arrive at a point of disagreement, as the occupation cannot in my view be conceived of as defensive. Its planned, systematic, decades old and involves the uprooting and ruling over one people by another. Not sure how provocation can be thrust the side that's absorbed the most violence, and has their rights under international law abrogated. I check into Marc's comments from time to time. He commendably waded through this around the time of so called "cast lead". Worth reading and above the quality of much of what passes for American liberal left analysis- here Obama and the Rebublicans for all intents an purposes share the same turf.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Our point of disagreement is that I don't accept the legalistic fiction that Gaza is "occupied," and unlike you I have found absolutely no evidence that there was a way for the Israeli government to stop the persistent rocket attacks from Gaza except by force.

6:05 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

Memphis seems to be the latest in a long line of anti-"zionists" who think they can toss around words like occupation and uprooting when they have absolutely nothing to do with the facts on the ground. Gaza isn't "occupied"; if it were, there wouldn't be a blockade. I know israel pulls off miraculous feats, but blockading and occupying at the same time isn't one of them. As for "uprooting," the only uprooting that has gone on there is the uprooting of the Israeli settlements, and the subsequent uprooting of the greenhouses left by the Israelis for the Palestinians to help their fledgling economy; unfortunately, the powers-that-be in Gaza opted to destroy those economy generators and chose to lob crappy rockets instead. But why not, when they have crybabies like Memphis to weep for them when they reap what they sow.

1:33 AM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

Oh, and incidentally, the reactionary, anti-war, whatever they want to call themselves hard lefties have some bloody nerve going on about "hypocrisy" and "double standards". Their double standards about human rights make a pretzel look straight.

1:35 AM  
Blogger memphis said...

I've seen with my own eyes the settlements fortified by IDF protection in Hebron that physically dominate Palestinian villagers in their midst. I've heard anguished Palestinians speak of being routinely denied permits to build on land that is actively being increasingly absorbed, as policy, by Israel for decades. There are no terror attacks emanating from the West Bank but the 22 per cent of what it supposed to be a Palestinian state is rapidly disapeering from under an occupied and, yes, dispossed peoples feet. There's plenty of blame to be spread, and too many lives have been lost. There's an urgent need to create exilic narratives, that connect the jewish and Palestinian experiences. Both tell a story of loss. If you sincerely believe that no uprooting of Palestinians is or has taken place, then I suppose that puts you somewhat to the right of Avigdor Lieberman. Not a hopeful place. We can do better.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Memphis: I expect you would agree then, if your concern is correcting "exilic narratives," that the predominant and overbearing narrative of the flotillistas and the Israel-apartheid crowd and all that cacophony has utterly drowned out such voices as OneVoice and others who legitimately crave peace between the peoples in the Levant? There has been horror and terror inflicted on all sides in Israel - and that can be said without the yesbuttery and equivalence mongering that places Hamas death-cult slaughter rituals in the same moral category with the sometimes bloody bludgeoning that is an unavoidable and occasional side of IDF self-defence efforts. I sure hope so.

But again, sadly, a conversation about the gallant struggle of millions of Arabs underway at the moment returns to the agonies of little Israel and dismembered Palestine. Not the healthiest way to develop a narrative, exilic or otherwise.

1:24 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

Of course I meant uprooting in Gaza, since that was the topic of discussion. Naturally like all good ideologues you retort with finger-wagging and categorizing (ie "to the right of Lieberman"). That's ok, as Trudeau said about Nixon, I've been called worse by better people.

As for Marc Cooper, he sounds like one of the more decent and thoughtful commenters from the left on Israel. But his basic premise is flawed: according to him, "The core issue is still an unresolved conflict about ending an occupation and establishing an independent Palestinian state – everything has to start from here to be serious."

Unfortunately, that is NOT the core issue. The core issue remains what it has always been: Arab/Muslim rejectionism. It was so in 1948, 1967 and remains so now. Of course, some Arabs, including many Palestinians have changed their position and now accept that Israel is here to stay. But many others -- and especially those with power (think Khamenei and Ahmadinejad in Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, half of Fatah) think otherwise, egged on or at least encouraged by the witless support of hard and in many cases reactionary leftists who, among other things, maintain the fiction that core problem is the settlements. Some of the comments that follow Cooper's article make that clear enough: Israel is illegitimate, the crime was in 1948, Israel has no right to self-defence, etc etc.

Terry: Sorry for being part of the "subject change" in this thread. The Libyans and other Arabs fighting for their freedom deserve better than to have "Gaza" distracting from their struggle. Unfortunately, the Arab revolts, which have overtly had little or nothing to do with Israel or Zionism, have discombobulated the antizionistas so much they are desperate to drag it back in, and if advocating a "no-fly zone" over Gaza does the trick (as if the Western powers would consider it), they'll use that stick.

2:40 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home