The Left

Riding the Islamist tiger

The Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram reports on the recent Cairo Conference which brought together elements of the “anti-imperialist” Left (including the UK’s Socialist Workers Party) and the Islamist Right.

The whole thing is appalling on many levels. But there is one encouraging note.

Ali Fayyad of Hizbullah… complained that, “many socialists in Europe still refuse to work with us, calling us ‘terrorist'”.

Whoever these socialists are: thanks.

Fayyad continued:

“The differences of Hamas and Hizbullah with the left are minor — family and social priorities…”

Yes. The right of women to live freely, the right of homosexuals to live at all– mere piffle.

[Fayyad] referred to Gramsci’s argument about creating a common front at important historical junctures to induce historical change, after which the different groups can go their separate ways.What a lovely irony to have an Islamist quoting a Western communist theorist.

It may be an irony, but I don’t know if I’d describe it as lovely.

As Nick Cohen writes in What’s Left (now available in North America!):

The far left had no future– that had been clear for decades. But if it could downplay Marxism and appeal to Muslim grievance, maybe it could make it as a communalist party exploiting support for political Islam. Their theorists had been saying since the early Nineties that if they got into bed with Islam they could “secretly try to win some of the young people who support it to a very different, independent, revolutionary socialist perspective”. Perhaps that daydream consoled them. Perhaps it allowed them to pretend to themselves that they were covertly building up the radical left rather than riding the Islamist tiger. Maybe they no longer believed in their hearts in “independent revolutionary socialist perspectives”– no one else did– and just wanted to ally with the real threat to the established order.

Update: Nick Cohen writes that that word “secretly” should not have been part of the above quote, and that it will be removed from the next edition of the book. See his comment of April 16, 05:17 PM.