Thursday, July 03, 2008

Allied Menace: Islamists, Marxists, and the radical Left make common cause


Some leftists go farther. Several - Carlos the Jackal, Roger Garaudy, Jacques VergŠs, Yvonne Ridley, and H. Rap Brown - have actually converted to Islam. Others respond with exhilaration to the violence and brutality of Islamism. German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen termed 9/11 "the greatest work of art for the whole cosmos," while the late American novelist Norman Mailer called its perpetrators "brilliant."

And none of this is new. During the Cold War, Islamists favored the Soviet Union over the United States. As Ayatollah Khomeini put it in 1964, "America is worse than Britain, Britain is worse than America and the Soviet Union is worse than both of them. Each one is worse than the other, each one is more abominable than the other. But today we are concerned with this malicious entity which is America." In 1986, I wrote that "the U.S.S.R. receives but a small fraction of the hatred and venom directed at the United States."

Leftists reciprocated. In 1978-79, the French philosopher Michel Foucault expressed great enthusiasm for the Iranian revolution. Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson explain:
Throughout his life, Michel Foucault's concept of authenticity meant looking at situations where people lived dangerously and flirted with death, the site where creativity originated. In the tradition of Friedrich Nietzsche and Georges Bataille, Foucault had embraced the artist who pushed the limits of rationality and he wrote with great passion in defense of irrationalities that broke new boundaries. In 1978, Foucault found such transgressive powers in the revolutionary figure of Ayatollah Khomeini and the millions who risked death as they followed him in the course of the Revolution. He knew that such "limit" experiences could lead to new forms of creativity and he passionately threw in his support.
Another French philosopher, Jean Baudrillard, portrayed Islamists as slaves rebelling against a repressive order. In 1978, Foucault called Ayatollah Khomeini a "saint" and a year later, Jimmy Carter's ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, called him"some kind of saint."

This good will may appear surprising, given the two movements' profound differences. Communists are atheists and leftists secular; Islamists execute atheists and enforce religious law. The Left exalts workers; Islamism privileges Muslims. One dreams of a worker's paradise, the other of a caliphate. Socialists want socialism; Islamists accept the free market. Marxism implies gender equality; Islamism oppresses women. Leftists despise slavery; some Islamists endorse it. As journalist Bret Stephens notes, the Left has devoted "the past four decades championing the very freedoms that Islam most opposes: sexual and reproductive freedoms, gay rights, freedom from religion, pornography and various forms of artistic transgression, pacifism and so on."

These disagreements seem to dwarf the few similarities that Oskar Lafontaine, former chairman of Germany's Social Democratic party, managed to find: "Islam depends on community, which places it in opposition to extreme individualism, which threatens to fail in the West. [In addition,] the devout Muslim is required to share his wealth with others. The leftist also wants to see the strong help the weak." Why, then, the formation of what David Horowitz calls the Left-Islamist "unholy alliance"? For four main reasons.

First, as British politician George Galloway explains, "the progressive movement around the world and the Muslims have the same enemies," namely Western civilization in general and the United States, Great Britain, and Israel in particular, plus Jews, believing Christians, and international capitalists. In Iran, according to Tehran political analyst Saeed Leylaz, "the government practically permitted the left to operate since five years ago so that they would confront religious liberals."

Listen to their interchangeable words: Harold Pinter describes America as "a country run by a bunch of criminal lunatics" and Osama bin Laden calls the country "unjust, criminal and tyrannical." Noam Chomsky terms America a "leading terrorist state" and Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a Pakistani political leader, deems it "the biggest terrorist state." These commonalities suffice to convince the two sides to set aside their many differences in favor of cooperation.

Second, the two sides share some political goals. A mammoth 2003 joint demonstration in London to oppose war against Saddam Hussein symbolically forged their alliance. Both sides want coalition forces to lose in Iraq, the War on Terror to be closed down, anti-Americanism to spread, and the elimination of Israel. They agree on mass immigration to and multiculturalism in the West. They cooperate on these goals at meetings such as the annual Cairo Anti-War Conference, which brings leftists and Islamists together to forge "an international alliance against imperialism and Zionism."

Third, Islamism has historic and philosophic ties to Marxism-Leninism. Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian Islamist thinker, accepted the Marxist notion of stages of history, only adding an Islamic postscript to them; he predicted that an eternal Islamic era would come after the collapse of capitalism and Communism. Ali Shariati, the key intellectual behind the Iranian revolution of 1978-79, translated Franz Fanon, Che Guevara, and Jean-Paul Sartre into Persian. More broadly, the Iranian analyst Azar Nafisi observes that Islamism "takes its language, goals, and aspirations as much from the crassest forms of Marxism as it does from religion. Its leaders are as influenced by Lenin, Sartre, Stalin, and Fanon as they are by the Prophet."

Moving from theory to reality, Marxists see in Islamists a strange fulfillment of their prophesies. Marx forecast that business profits would collapse in industrial countries, prompting the bosses to squeeze workers; the proletariat would become impoverished, rebel, and establish a socialist order. But, instead, the proletariat of industrial countries became ever more affluent, and its revolutionary potential withered. For a century and a half, author Lee Harris notes, Marxists waited in vain for the crisis in capitalism. Then came the Islamists, starting with the Iranian Revolution and following with 9/11 and other assaults on the West. Finally, the Third World had begun its revolt against the West, fulfilling Marxist predictions-even if under the wrong banner and with faulty goals. Olivier Besanconneau, a French leftist, sees Islamists as "the new slaves" ["new parasites" would be more accurate] of capitalism and asks if it is not natural that "they should unite with the working class to destroy the capitalist system." At a time when the Communist movement is in "decay," note analyst Lorenzo Vidino and journalist Andrea Morigi, Italy's "New Red Brigades" actually acknowledge the "leading role of the reactionary clerics."

Fourth, power: Islamists and leftists can achieve more together than they can separately. In Great Britain, they jointly formed the Stop the War Coalition, whose steering committee includes representation from such organizations as the Communist party of Britain and the Muslim Association of Britain. Britain's Respect Party amalgamates radical international socialism with Islamist ideology. The two sides joined forces for the March 2008 European Parliament elections to offer common lists of candidates in France and Britain, disguised under party names that revealed little.

Islamists benefit, in particular, from the access, legitimacy, skills, and firepower the Left provides them. Cherie Booth, wife of then-prime minister Tony Blair, argued a case at the appellate-court level to help a girl, Shabina Begum, wear the jilbab, an Islamic garment, to a British school. Lynne Stewart, a leftist lawyer, broke U.S. law and went to jail to help Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheikh, foment revolution in Egypt. Volkert van der Graaf, an animal-rights fanatic, killed Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn to stop him from turning Muslims into "scapegoats." Vanessa Redgrave funded half of a œ50,000 bail surety so that Jamil el-Banna, a Guant namo suspect accused of recruiting jihadis to fight in Afghanistan and Indonesia, could walk out of a British jail; Redgrave described her helping el-Banna as "a profound honour," despite his being wanted in Spain on terrorism-related charges and suspected of links to al-Qaeda. On a larger scale, the Indian Communist party did Tehran's dirty work by delaying for four months the Indian-based launching of TecSar, an Israeli spy satellite. And leftists founded the International Solidarity Movement to prevent Israeli security forces from protecting the country against Hamas and other Palestinian terrorism.

Writing in London's Spectator, Douglas Davis calls the coalition "a godsend to both sides. The Left, a once-dwindling band of communists, Trotskyites, Maoists and Castroists, had been clinging to the dregs of a clapped-out cause; the Islamists could deliver numbers and passion, but they needed a vehicle to give them purchase on the political terrain. A tactical alliance became an operational imperative." More simply, a British leftist concurs: "The practical benefits of working together are enough to compensate for the differences."

The burgeoning alliance of Western leftists and Islamists ranks as one of today's most disturbing political developments, one that impedes the West's efforts to protect itself. When Stalin and Hitler made their infamous pact in 1939, the Red-Brown alliance posed a mortal danger to the West and, indeed, to civilization itself. Less dramatically but no less certainly, the coalition today poses the same threat. As seven decades ago, this one must be exposed, rejected, resisted, and defeated.


Malevolence and the Mufti


Time and again the Arab world throws up absolute rulers who do nothing but harm, working their way into power by exploiting and imprisoning and killing as they see fit. There seems no way to stop these ruthless careerists except by deploying superior violence against them. A perfect example of the type is Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem between the world wars.

Haj Amin, the subject of David G. Dalin and John F. Rothmann's "Icon of Evil," was born in about 1895 into the most prominent family of Ottoman Palestine. Authoritarian by nature, he possessed the skills necessary for operating in the culture of absolutism in which he had grown up. When he was still in his early 20s, the British acquired their Mandate in Palestine as a result of World War I and in 1921 made the crucial mistake of contriving Haj Amin's election to be Mufti.

This position - as the country's senior Islamic official - gave Haj Amin unique standing to wield unchecked power over the Palestinians. It also afforded him access to large sums of money. Whether he was a sincere Muslim is doubtful - for one thing, he never finished his religious studies, and for another he seems to have been fond of fine wines.

The situation in which Haj Amin found himself was new, to be sure. In common with many other peoples, Palestinians were caught in the huge political forces released in the recent world war. British intentions for the Mandate were unfathomable. Under the British aegis, moreover, Jews soon began to seek refuge in Palestine from persecution at the hands of Nazis. Still largely tribal and rural and in any case not militant, many - probably most - Palestinians were willing to cooperate with these immigrants.

But Haj Amin was not so amenable; instead, he recruited and commanded a national movement of violence with the aim of forbidding all compromise with Jews. Regular and severe anti-Jewish riots and attacks culminated in the great Arab Revolt of 1936, which aimed simultaneously to end British rule and Jewish immigration but cost thousands of lives, mostly Arabs. In reality, Haj Amin was launching the Palestinians on the impossible task of reversing the course of world events, and that is the origin of the disaster that overwhelms them to this day.

Haj Amin's authoritarian character no doubt dictated his policy, but he was also perpetuating the absolutism of the Muslim world, in which the killing of enemies is the natural end of the political process, integral to the exercise of power, and altogether a matter of culture and custom. Palestinians who opposed him were blackened as collaborators and traitors; they were murdered by his agents in larger numbers than Jews. In the end the British had had enough, and by means of their superior force obliged Haj Amin to flee abroad.

My enemy's enemy is my friend, according to one of the staples of the absolute order. So in his quarrel with the British and the Jews, Haj Amin turned to Hitler. Spending the war in Berlin, he met Hitler in person, as well as Himmler, Ribbentrop, Eichmann and others. Letters of intention were exchanged at these levels, but he did not succeed in extracting promises that Germany would liberate Palestine and hand it over to him. Hitler viewed Arabs and Jews in the same racist perspective. My enemy's enemy, in this case, was also my enemy.

Raising Muslim volunteers for the Nazi SS, visiting concentration camps, endorsing the Final Solution and hoping for a special commando team to exterminate the Jews of Palestine, Haj Amin made himself a very public war criminal. Yet he escaped justice at the end of the war and settled in the Middle East - where he once again urged Palestinians to resort to violence. Morally and politically disgraced, he died in 1974, but many Arabs - Yasser Arafat prominent among them - continued to believe that he had set an example to follow.


Europe is not an example to follow

Some of the people who are most adamant against outsourcing economic activity from the United States to other countries often seem to think we should outsource our foreign policy to "world opinion" or act only in conjunction "with our NATO allies."

Like so many things that are said when it comes to public policy, there is very little attention paid to the actual track record of "world opinion" or of "our NATO allies."

Often there is a blanket assumption that European countries are just so much more sophisticated than American "cowboys." But there is incredibly little interest in the track record of those European sophisticates whom we are supposed to consult about our own national interests- including, in an age when terrorists may acquire nuclear weapons, our national survival.

In the course of the twentieth century, supposedly sophisticated Europeans managed to create some of the most monstrous forms of government on earth- Communism, Fascism, Nazism- in peacetime, and to start the two World Wars, the bloodiest in all human history. In each of these wars, both the winners and the losers ended up far worse off than they were before these wars were started.

After both World Wars, the United States had to step in to save millions of people in Europe from starving amid the wreckage and rubble that their wars had created. These do not seem like people whose sophistication we should defer to.

Between the two World Wars, European intellectuals- more so than ordinary people- completely misread the threat from Nazi Germany, and were urging disarmament in France and England, while Hitler was rapidly building up the most powerful military force on the continent, obviously aimed at neighboring countries.

During the Cold War, may European intellectuals once again misread the threat of a totalitarian dictatorship- in this case, the Soviet Union. When they finally recognized the threat, many saw the question as whether it was "better to be red than dead."

They were no more prepared to stand up to the Soviet Union than they had been ready to stand up to Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Worse yet, much of the European intelligentsia objected to America's standing up to the Soviet Union.

Many of them were appalled when Ronald Reagan met the threat of new Soviet missiles aimed at Western Europe by putting more American missiles in Western Europe, aimed at the Soviet Union.

Reagan, in effect, called the Soviet Union and raised them, while many of the European sophisticates- as well as much of the American intelligentsia- said that his policies would lead to war.

Instead, it led to the end of the Cold War. Are we now to blindly imitate those who have been so wrong, so often over the past hundred years?


Our little emperors: does worrying do more harm than good?

A backlash has begun against the all-must-have-prizes culture that has produced children used to getting their own way

As the mother of two young daughters, Ruth Appleton is used to doling out praise for almost everything they do. Even she was taken aback, however, when her younger daughter, Rachel, now 5, arrived home from nursery clutching a certificate for "sitting nicely on the carpet". "It made me wonder what she was doing the rest of the time," said Appleton, from Porthcawl, Wales. "I thought it was a bit over the top rewarding her for something so routine. But it's part of a whole culture of stickers and smiley faces and `celebration assemblies'."

Anyone with children at primary school will instantly get the picture: no child's existence is complete without "circle time", or "show and tell" sessions at which they are encouraged to parade their achievements and examine their feelings. The received wisdom on child-rearing says nothing should be allowed to damage a child's sense of self-worth: just last week the Football Association (FA) decided to ban teams including children under eight from publishing their results, for fear of putting the kids under too much pressure if they lost a match.

As parents, we are encouraged to nurture our children's sense of "self", but are we unwittingly doing them more harm than good? Our child-centred society means we fret over what our kids eat, what they wear, their friends, their exam grades and their safety. A US academic has coined the term kindergarchy - a new (affluent) world order in which children rule. "Children have gone from background to foreground in domestic life with more attention centred on them, their upbringing [and] their small accomplishments," wrote Joseph Epstein, a recently retired lecturer at Northwestern University, in The Weekly Standard, a US magazine. "On visits to the homes of friends with small children, one finds their toys strewn everywhere, their drawings on the refrigerator, television sets turned on to their shows. Parents seem little more than indentured servants."

Epstein's recollections of his own childhood evoke an utterly different world. Parents didn't feel the need to micro-manage their children's lives. He doesn't remember his parents reading to him, or turning up to watch him compete at athletics. They left it to him to decide which foreign language to study at secondary school and weren't much bothered that he was a mediocre student.

Now, he says, it's a wonder more teachers aren't driven out of the profession by parents bombarding them with e-mails, phone calls and requests for meetings. "Students told me what they `felt' about a novel," he recalled. "I tried, ever so gently, to tell them no one cared what they felt. In essay courses, many of these same students turned in papers upon which I wished to - but did not - write, `Too much love in the home'."

In Britain, too, there has been a seismic shift in parenting. "At the weekends, the kids are saying to us, `What are we doing today?' - in other words, `You are going to entertain us, aren't you?' " said Appleton, who works part-time for Netmums, an online network for mothers.

It is becoming a worldwide trend. A recent production of Snow White at a primary school in Japan featured 25 Snow Whites, no dwarfs and no wicked witch, as parents objected to one child being picked out for the title role. In Sweden a boy was prevented from handing out invitations to his birthday party at school because he was "discriminating" against the two classmates he did not invite.

A straw poll in Netmums' virtual coffee house produced distinctly mixed feelings about the phenomenon. "The cushioning effect of awarding stickers and praise for inconsequential trivia masks what children really need and are looking for - guidance, consistency, self-reliance and love," said one mother, Liz. Another, Jeanette, was concerned that her daughter's teachers would not correct spelling mistakes, "because she was spelling the words how you said them", nor correct her writing when she drew letters back to front. "The reality is, she does need to be corrected," said Jeanette. "Children have to learn. I'm not saying it has to be negative, but there has to be a balance. When our kids go into the workplace, they are in for a shock."

That would appear to be true. Earlier this year the Association of Graduate Recruiters said the generation born since 1982 - the so-called generation Y - were "unrealistic, self-centred, fickle and greedy". They used the example of a new recruit to a transport company who rang his mother to complain: "I have got to go to London tomorrow and they haven't even given me a map." The employer threw up her hands in anger, according to Carl Gilleard, AGR's chief executive: "Here was someone working for a transport company, who had spent three years at university, who was aggrieved because he hadn't been given a detailed map."

On a more sinister level, the child-centred approach also seems to have contributed to a decline in standards of behaviour in schools, with children ever more conscious of their "rights" and teachers afraid to chastise unruly children for fear of being attacked or accused of assault. Last week Boris Johnson, the London mayor, highlighted the problem of indiscipline in schools as a factor in street violence. "Too many kids in London are growing up without boundaries, without discipline and without the family structures they need," he said. "We should bring back discipline and the idea of punishment."

In Merseyside an academic is bucking the trend of navel-gazing in schools. Peter Clough, head of psychology at the University of Hull, is working with children at All Saints Catholic high school in Knowsley, attempting to teach them to be "mentally tough". "Positive psychology says, `Count your blessings.' My kind of psychology says, `Life can be hard and you have to learn to deal with it'," he explained. According to Clough, mentally tough pupils do better in exams and are less likely to see themselves as victims of bullying. If they fail at something, they try again. Using a diagnostic test devised by AQR, a business consultancy, Clough has been assessing his group's attitudes to challenges, looking at such factors as whether they consider themselves optimists or pessimists and whether they think they can stay cool in stressful situations. Those with the lowest scores are learning visualisation, relaxation and anxiety-control techniques to help them toughen up. "I'm encouraging kids not to run away from stress but face up to it," said Clough. "If you've got a maths exam, just do it."

We have to decide what we want our children to be - tough go-getters or touchy-feely carers. Or is it even about them? Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at Kent University, believes our child-centredness is really adult-centredness. "It's a way of reassuring ourselves that our children are going to be insulated from pain and adversity," he said. "We tell children they are wonderful now for tying their shoelaces or getting 50% in an exam. But really it's our way of flattering ourselves that we're far more sensitive to children than people were in the past." The trouble is, Furedi says, that it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. "You're subtly giving kids the message that they can't cope with life," he said. "I have a son of 12 and when he and his friends were just nine I remember being shocked at them using therapeutic language, talking about being stressed out and depressed."

While researching The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education, its co-author Dennis Hayes, visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University, discovered a leaflet telling students that if they studied sociology they might come across poor people and get depressed and if they studied nursing they might come across sick people and get distressed - so the university offered counselling.

"It was telling students they could not cope before they started," he said. "The focus on feelings has become ridiculous. One friend told me his daughter was crying at home one night and when he asked why she said, `It's my turn to put my worries in the worry box tomorrow and I haven't got any!' " Perhaps we underestimate the resilience of children. One coach of an undereights football team was in favour of publishing results, saying they just enjoyed playing, whatever the score. "They didn't care that they lost," he said of one game. It was only 21-0, after all.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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