Monday, April 07, 2008

Three Groups of Forces in the Middle East

Samir Amin recently observed:
Today, political conflicts in the region find three groups of forces opposed to one another: those that proclaim their nationalist past (but are, in reality, nothing more than the degenerate and corrupt inheritors of the bureaucracies of the national-populist era); those that proclaim political Islam; and those that are attempting to organize around 'democratic' demands that are compatible with economic liberalism. ("Political Islam in the Service of Imperialism," Monthly Review 59.7, December 2007)
That's a broad-brush portrait, typical of Amin, and yet this picture is indeed recognizable in many, if not all, countries in the Middle East, though it probably fits Egypt, where Amin was born, the best.

Amin thinks that "The consolidation of power by any of these forces is not acceptable to a left that is attentive to the interests of the popular classes."

What is to be done instead, in his opinion, then?

Amin's recommendation is this:
For the left to attempt to become involved in these conflicts solely through alliances with one or another of the tendencies* (preferring the regimes in place to avoid the worst, i.e., political Islam, or else seeking to be allied with the latter in order to get rid of the regimes) is doomed to fail. The left must assert itself by undertaking struggles in areas where it finds its natural place: defense of the economic and social interests of the popular classes, democracy, and assertion of national sovereignty, all conceptualized together as inseparable.
If there is an organized left in the Middle East which is, or can in short order become, strong enough to undertake the strategy -- refusing to side either with formerly nationalist regimes or their Islamic challengers or liberal intellectuals -- that Amin recommends, by all means it should. But I don't see such a left in the Middle East.

1 comment:

Naj said...

Economy aside, I cannot see how middle eastern cultures can accommodate left-ism?

I would argue that Islam in itself is somewhat of a leftist religion, but it exists in a cultural bed of feudalism.

I really think it is futile to try to indoctrinate oriental people into Western notions that have mostly evolved out of industrial revolution brought about by colonization of much of the orient!