Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Need for Arab Anarchism

Sadly outside of Lebanon, the Left in the Arab world carries with it little or no poltical consequence. With perhaps the exception of the Workers Communist Parties of Iran and Iraq, which have mobilized workers, students, and women, there has been stagnation of the Left bringing it to the verge of historical extinction. Nowhere is this clearer than in Egypt. Once the hot bed of the Left and the Pan Arab movement, today the left wanders in the desert wondering What Is To Be Done. As Al-Ahram reports; What's left of the left?

He listed other reasons why the left was no longer a presence on the political scene. It is too scattered and divided, and on too many occasions the various factions have squandered whatever political capital they possessed on squabbling among themselves. "We need to unite, we need a party," he continued, "an Egyptian communist party that can Egyptianise Marxism... An elected, democratic party... We communists have never experienced democracy [from within].We know only centralization."

Without self-criticism and an honest acceptance of past mistakes the left "won't have any credibility with the people".

In the past, he continued, "the communist Egyptian left indulged in theoretical debates about Marxism. It learned Marxist texts by heart, adopted the experiences of others without devising mechanisms to fit our Arab reality. It approached Marxism as if it was sacred, ignoring the fact that it is not a monotheistic religion but a methodology."

"The left has been completely absent from [recent] national struggles, contenting itself with watching from the comfort of closed rooms while others were working."

But all is not yet lost. There is still hope, El-Hilali suggests, if leftists find a way to work together, though "not in the form of yet another political party". What is needed, he says, is a broad non-ideological coalition, "including as many factions as possible and able to steer away from the typical ghettoising of Trotskyites, Nasserists and the like".

Tamer Wageeh, of the Socialist Studies Centre, pointed to the "ill-defined" masses of activists who have taken to the streets in the last six years, citing Intifada solidarity demonstrations, anti-war protests and the more recent demonstrations demanding change in Egypt. But instead of swelling the ranks of left-wing factions these young and politicized activists are rejecting the left label.

"They don't define themselves as yassar (left) though they subscribe to its principles -- anti-privatisation, anti- imperialism, women's rights, Coptic rights and so on -- because the reputation of the Egyptian left has put them off. The challenge is to integrate these people into the movement."

So what label are they accepting do you think? Why like much of the anti-globalization movement, and those struggling around feminist or religious minority rights, they broadly call themselves Anarchist. And a good dose of anarchist zeal and organization is exactly what this old left in Egypt needs.

The fact they are discussing exactly this delimma one that all of the 'old' left, especially the Communist parties and the communist movement faced after 1989 at this late date, later than the movements in Europe which already had begun to move towards Euro-communism prior to the fall of the Berlin wall, is a good sign for a renewal of a more libertarian left in Egypt.
Anarchist Organisation not Leninist Vanguardism

As Richard Day points out in his book Gramsci is Dead, this is also the debate in the Western Anti-Globalization movement, where groups like the Socialist Workers Party and its theroiticians have attempted to comandeer the anti-globalization movement flumoxed by its web like organizational features, which they embrace yet wish to place a structural form on.

These old style parties of the Left in Europe, are eqaually flumoxed by Hardt and Negri's Empire, and the idea of a multitude, a term that to me reflects a widing of the idea of the proletariat; to include all the sans papier, the illegal immigrants that are now swarming Europe and North America. The movement of labour that is created by the movement of capital under globalization. Much of this multitude being from the Third World, and muslim.


Akca, Ismet,
'Globalization', State and Labor: Towards a Social Movement Unionism

Though Hardt and Negri can't bring themselves to say it, any more than Foucault could bring himself to say it with his critique of Governmentability and the politics of control, this is the core of the Anarchist critique of the State and Authority, under capitalism.

That if as Herr Dr. Marx says that capitalism is not just about the production and distribution of good, prices and wages, but about 'the social relations of the means of production'. Then in advanced capitalism, the critique of the modern state capitalism, and the capitalist state, the critique of globalization and its contradictions requires a revitalized anarchist critique of ideologies (Islam, Evangelical fundamentalism, Neo-liberalism, The Third Way etc.).

A fundamental critique of the hegemony of ideologies that attempt to interpret the social relations of globalization as the politics of identity and soverignty. Religion versus mass culture, of Anti-Imperialism that is merely Anti-Coca Cola, Islamism that is radical social democracy of Allah with a gun. Of the Imperialism of Zionism, and the failed social revolutions in the Middle East.

The anarchist critique has always been about the dialectical relationship between the individual and the community, neither can come into existence without a radical awareness of the 'other'. That is community is always new, it's existenance is not based on tradition, of aprori existence but of the growth and existence of indvidualization, which includes then a greater sense of need for community.

Anarchism challenges the statist quo, the very nature of all previous communities, by saying a new world is being birthed within the shell of the old.

That a different future is possible. That resistance is growth, not failure, that hope is eternal, that you can make a difference. This then is the challenge not only for the Egyptian left, but for the Left in general. The old models of socialist organizing have failed. Failed because they only saw politics as a means to an end instead of the end in itself. That to be political is to be active is as much an individual choice as it is a collective responsibility.

The classic question of Anarchism being identified with the Politics of the Deed, whether it was the bombings and bank robberies of the 19th Century or the assisination of politicians, which made Anarchism a political pariah, now comes back full ciricle with Bush's phony War on Terror.

The officials I interviewed [at the American consulate] were very American, especially in being very polite; for whatever may have been the mood or meaning of Martin Chuzzlewit [a Charles Dickens novel with an unflattering portrait of the U.S.], I have always found Americans by far the politest people in the world. They put in my hands a form to be filled up, to all appearances like other forms I had filled up in other passport offices. But in reality it was very different from any form I had ever filled up in my life. …

One of the questions on the paper was, "Are you an anarchist?" To which a detached philosopher would naturally feel inclined to answer, "What the devil has that to do with you? Are you an atheist" along with some playful efforts to cross-examine the official about what constitutes atheist.

Then there was the question, "Are you in favor of subverting the government of the United States by force?" Against this I should write, "I prefer to answer that question at the end of my tour and not the beginning." C.K. Chesterton Coming to America

The revival of the caricture of Anarchism as 'terrorism' came with the Black Block and the resulting news coverage of them during Seattle and the anti-globalization protests that followed. Once again direct action was misinterpreted by a fringe group as meaning destruction of property, rather than organising collective resistance. It found a niche in the media who wanted to exploit the image of Anarchism as mindless destruction, chaos, once again.

Ever since Haymarket the idea of the Anarchist as bomber, as terrorist has been used to create a state of fear and ideology of fear against Anarchy. As Richard Day points out in his introduction to Gramsci is Dead, this played into the hands of the state and its media quite nicely, since that has been the historic image of anarchism used to justify the police state. The origins of Interpol were founded in the International Anti-Anarchist league in the late 19th Century.

“Wild Beasts Without Nationality”: The Uncertain Origins of Interpol, 1898-1910

The United States, International Policing and the War against Anarchist Terrorism, 1900–1914

1899 -- US: Emma Goldman speaks at a large meeting at Cooper Union to protest the International Anti-Anarchist Conference in Rome.

Today in the United States the police under Homeland Security continue to spy on the modern day anarchist and social change movements; TARGETS of surveillance | PortlandTribune.com

As Kropotkin wrote this is NOT what anarchism is at all, but its very caricature. Anarchist Morality

In fact the Anarchist movement faced off squarely against the ultimate in statist reaction; fascism, during the Spainish Civil War. And it is this Internationalist anarchism that is needed again today in the Middle East. For exactly the reason that as a poltical ideology of the individual and the commons/community it provides an antitode to the new fascism of Islamism and the old medievalist regimes that dominate the region.

Finally it is anarchism that recognizes, and has done so historically, the key role of feminism as individualism that is important for the social revolution against Patriarchy.
In a patriarchical culture that is Islam this struggle is even more important in undermining the authoritarian statist quo of the Mullahs.
Unanswered questions

Proponents of democratic reforms to Muslim states will talk about liberalism versus anarchism, and reduce the liberation struggles in the Middle East down to this which is a false dichotomy. Anarchism arose from liberalism and superceded it. Anarchism expresses a dialectic of individual and collective rights, not through the political state, as classical liberalism does, but through the 'free association of producers' which would be a real 'free market' unlike the current monopoly capitalist mode of geo-politics.

American Values, American Interests: The United States and Free-Market Democracy in the Middle East

Also see: anarchism

Can you be a Muslim Anarchist?

Gnostic Heresy in Islam

Dr. Marx on Islam

Islam = Fascism

Below are links to articles on both Arabic Anarchism, Anarchist critiques of Islam, and Anti-Zionist Anarchism. I have linked to articles dealing with the similarity between this new war on terror and the old bugaboo about anarchist terrorists.

Further Reading on Arab Anarchism, Anarchy and Terrorism, Anti-Zionist Anarchism:

Arab Anarchism

التحررية الجماعية Communism libertarian


The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي ...

Left Hegelianism, Arab Nationalism, and Labor Zionism

Religious Fundamentalist Regimes: A Lesson from the Iranian Revolution 1978-1979

celebrating solitude

Social Philosophy Of Russian Anarchism (Kropotkin)

and of Muammar Al Qadhafi: An Essay In Comparison

An anarchist analysis of Islam

International Institute of Social History The Arab Middle East Section - collections from Egypt, Sudan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon.

Biography of Algerian anarchist Saïl Mohamed

Reality of the Egyptian Proletariat Sameh Saeed Abbood

Project for the creation of a Libertarian Studies & Research Centre in Morocco

SIYAHI INTERLOCAL Journal of Postanarchist Theory, Culture and Politics

Siyahi Interlocal began with a group of writers working in Istanbul, Turkey who had been interested in relations between anarchism and poststructuralist thought ('postanarchism') since the early Nineties. The group gave lectures around the country, wrote numerous essays on the subject, published an independent journal called 'Karasin' and produced several special issues of the country's oldest literary magazine 'Varlik'. By the turn of the millenium, they had begun integrating their work with similar projects already developing in Europe, North America and elsewhere, particularly through the translation of texts, as well as exchanging visits by writers working in that vein. This history finally culminated in the appearance of Siyahi Interlocal, the global electronic counterpart to the print journal by the same name that is currently published in Turkish. Today it is a meeting of minds hailing from France, Netherlands, Germany, Sicily, England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, the United States, Hawai'i, Australia and Turkey, all of whom have come together to create a space within which to develop new directions in radical theory and practice.

Anarchism, Terrorism and Al-Qaidah

Anarchism is NOT Comparable to Al-Qa`idah

Anarchist outrages, by Rick Coolsaet

german.pages.de - we will dance on their graves

Aljazeera.Net - Al-Qaida: The wrong answers

Apples and Oranges? Anarchism and Muslim Terrorists - Letters to the Editor

Dean's World: Terrorism of the Past

Troppo Armadillo: Are anarchists demanding the impossible?

Al-Qaeda, Victorian style
Graham Stewart

A bomb on the Underground was only one of the anarchist outrages that shook Europe a century ago

No War But The Class War
Against capitalism - Against the US government - Against state and fundamentalist terrorism

Anti-Zionist Anarchism

Islam and democracy: an interview with Heba Ezzat Rosemary Bechler
One of my first articles was entitled “Anarchism: a Word Unjustly Maligned inTranslation– because the Arabic word for anarchism means “chaos

Eyal's Radical Corner

Co-opting Solidarity: Privilege in the Palestine

LAKOFF, Aaron. Interview : Israeli Anarchism – Being Young, Queer, and Radical in the Promised Land

Interview With An Anarchist Refusnik

BRIDGES: Rubies, Rebels and Radicals


Orthodox Anarchist

Anarchism and National Liberation


Anarchists Who Knew How To Party


1 comment:

Oxygen Smith said...

Eugene, I really appreciate the time and understanding you put into this post. - Butz