Current international realities have repeatedly posed the question of the relationship of the peace movement and the left to clearly reactionary regimes that have fallen victims to aggression by the United States and its proxies. It is not an uncommon occurrence that reactionary ruling circles, especially in what we are accustomed to call the third world, come into conflict with the major imperialist powers.
The story of the Emir from Afghanistan who back in the twenties of the previous century led a struggle for independence, mainly against the British, is the classic example. Many social democrats (or a better term would be social chauvinists) denied the justice of that struggle because of the terrible backward and reactionary nature of the Afghan feudal society.
Without in any way ignoring the nature of Afghan society, progressives acknowledged that the anti-imperialist struggle of the Emir of Afghanistan was basically progressive and objectively a just war against imperial domination.
Internationalists and supporters of peace must make a distinction in this complex international situation between the internal politics of a given country and the way it defends its national integrity. The willingness to oppose U.S. intervention against countries small and big with progressive and or reactionary internal politics is a basic element of progressive politics.
This fundamental insight, which seems paradoxical, but which is not, has become acutely relevant in the evaluation of current events. Two major wars of aggression presently conducted by the United States against Afghanistan and Iraq are at the center of world politics. Both Iraq and Afghanistan were under reactionary domination when the United States attacked. Moreover, both these wars are direct results of the present stage in U.S. imperial policy and exemplify the tendency of the United States to relying more and more on the use of force to solve major international issues.
The Descent of U.S. Hegemony
One might ask why the United States, with its tremendous political and economic power must resort to armed aggression and use its very own troops against such paltry political formations. The most reasonable explanation for the current adventuristic and militaristic policies of the United States is that the United States is in serious trouble. The essence of the matter is that the U.S. has lost and is losing constantly the ability to subjugate the countries of the world by economic and political means. Hence, the resort to war, as in Afghanistan and in Iraq, is evidence of a deepening political and economic weakness that tries to overcome its limitations by the use and threat of force. Despite its astonishing military superiority, the United States is bogged down in Iraq with no chance of pacifying the country. Afghanistan witnesses a constant increase in the strength and the prestige of the Taliban and a continual rise in violence, not to speak of the expanded volume of the drug trade.
The eminent historian, Immanuel Wallerstein, expressed the opinion of many international analysts in locating the source of the present U.S. aggressiveness in the descending political and economic strength of the United States. The United States had interpreted the fall of the Soviet Union as the harbinger of a new era, the American century, in which absolute US hegemony in all fields would be assured for decades and decades.
But with the emergence of Europe, the rise of China and other Asian forces a new surge for national independence, sovereignty and self- determination spread throughout the globe. The specific circumstances of this world wide tendency differ from country to country. The local leaderships that dare to defy US hegemony often represent vital progressive and anti-imperialist movements, but we can also be speaking about reactionary, clericalist and tyrannical governments. In between these two polar phenomena there are a multitude of intermediate positions and policies. Many countries cannot dare to go up against U.S. imperialism, but also refuse to go along with U.S. attempts to isolate its “enemies” or even destroy them by war. See in this respect the interview with Samir Amin at the current meeting of the non-aligned countries in Cuba on the Hagada Ha’smolit website.
Our thesis must be elaborated simply and clearly. The clearly reactionary and oppressive regimes of the Taliban or the Iraqi Ba’ath do not change the basic political facts that the wars by the United States against these regimes are unjust and aggressive in their nature and that the resistance by peoples of these countries against the U.S. invasion is wholly and unqualifiedly justified.
Democrats and supporters of peace must make a distinction in this complex international situation between the internal politics of a given country and the way it defends its national integrity. The willingness to oppose U.S. intervention against countries small and big with progressive and or reactionary internal politics is a basic element of progressive politics.
The struggle for national independence, sovereignty and the right of each and every people to dispose of its own natural wealth and resources is a cornerstone of peace and international stability. The United States, under Bush, is waging a fierce ideological campaign that denies the importance of respecting sovereignty and makes national independence subservient to fitness qualifications defined by the U.S. government. Countries are categorized as terrorist or assisting terrorism, as democratic or non-democratic according to bureaucratic whims in D.C. Of course, the contradictions and the hypocrisy in this categorization reveal that entire process is a travesty, nothing more than supplying a license for intervention and aggression.
The Iranian Case
The battle against aggression by the United States or one of its proxies is an easier and less complicated matter when the object of aggression is a regime which enjoys some degree of international prestige. The struggle against US aggression in Vietnam was facilitated by the widespread, though far from universal, understanding that Vietnam was on the road to progressive social transformations. Similarly, the battle against U.S. aggression against Cuba draws much inspiration from the progressive nature of the Cuban regime. Even so, it was vital, in these relatively “easy” circumstances to mobilize and include in the peace movement different groups and individuals who, though they opposed U.S. policies, wished to disassociate themselves from the internal regimes in those countries.
Returning to our region, one can discern similar disputes regarding the way progressives and members of the peace movement relate to the Hezbollah and Iran. For our present purpose, Iran is the best “test case.”
The present leadership of the regime in Iran is surely the worst that we have seen, even among the fundamentalist and clericalist forces in that country. This regime which has managed to increase its isolation by inflammatory anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli drivel, has a horrendous record in terms of human and democratic rights. An imprisoned Iranian student leader died recently at the hands of his jailers. Ahmadinijad, who seems to have a proven record of strike breaking in Teheran, and his people, are presently leading a purge of the universities of teachers and cultural figures that oppose their fanatic fundamentalism.
Wars are packed with events and counter-events, declarations and counter declarations, and you can pick out almost any combination to prove that one side or the other was right, or that both sides were wrong or even that the whole thing was a misunderstanding. But this one is not too complicated. Some friends may have forgotten, but wars are a continuation of politics by other means: Lebanon II was a war of aggression by a U.S. proxy, Israel designed to reshape the internal balance of political forces within Lebanon in favor of the pro- U.S. coalition, to remind Syria of the immanent dangers involved in its practical alliance with Iran and Hezbollah and to strengthen U.S. pressure and threats against Teheran with the possibility of an attack (even a nuclear one) by Israel.
Our Patriotic Duty
Why is our analysis of Iranian realities and U.S. intentions so important? The forces of peace and the left are not calling on the people of Israel to oppose U.S. imperialist schemes and come to the aid of Iran and/or Hezbollah. We are saying something totally different. Bush and his gang represent only a section of the U.S. ruling circles, and this section is presently on the defensive even in the United States. In its desperation, Bush’s coterie can come up with ideas for new adventures and dirty tricks. One of these tricks might be to play the Israeli card against Iran as a surrogate for a needed U.S. bit of action. We are fulfilling a supreme national and patriotic duty when we tell the people of Israel that we can and must stay out of this kind of madness which puts Israel and Iran on a collision course in the interests of the Bush administration.
Some might suggest that support for Iran versus the United States might facilitate the existence of the worst kind of dictatorship in that country.
There is such a danger and therefore it is vital that progressive forces articulate their stand on the most detailed and exact level. It is wrong, in the name of solidarity to ignore, even for a minute, the ugly and repressive nature of the internal Iranian regime. We must be clear on this, even as we mobilize against US imperial designs on Iran and its resources.
It is often the case that external pressures increase the strength of reactionary and chauvinist elements. In this sense, the international campaign for the peaceful solution of the Iranian nuclear problem is important in preventing the imposition of reactionary internal laws and policies designed to crush what can be made to appear as the internal co-conspirators with the external enemies.
In general, the propaganda against third world opponents suggests that these regimes are monolithic and driven primarily by pure ideological motives. Radical Islam is almost always framed in these terms. We are supposedly dealing with a unified and highly coordinated worldwide conspiracy. This presentation is designed to hide the fact that each and every single movement, howsoever opposed to the U.S, is of a distinct nature, with its own history and separate goals and interests. The existence of a world wide conspiracy of radical Islam is a figment of the Bush people’s feverish imagination, but it serves them well, nevertheless, as a rallying cry similar to that employed against the world wide communist threat, which was certainly not monolithic and much less of a threat than that presented to the public for mass consumption.
Olmert and his government, with no little inspiration from Washington, inculcated a general perception that the end of Lebanon 2 meant nothing more than the beginning of a waiting period for the next war. The public was made to believe that war was inevitable between the radical Islamic alliance – Iran, Hezbollah and Syria and between Israel. Things have cooled down a bit in the last month, but nothing has been said or done to dispel the belief that the present is only an interval between wars.
One important element in avoiding the “war with Teheran is inevitable” trap is a deeper understanding of how the possible outbreak of hostilities with Teheran “fits” into the Bush-Cheney plans. The demonization of the Hezbollah is an important element in the propaganda war. As a terrorist organization, the Hezbollah has not been very active in attacking civilians. One report from Washington notes that Hezbollah has not performed any terrorist acts since 1994. It does seem that Hezbollah has a propensity for getting into fights with the IDF, and capturing soldiers, a rather provocative and dangerous sort of thing to do – but this doesn’t really fit the terrorist definition. Some people on the left thought it necessary that it was important to criticize Hezbollah for its actions during the way. One friend thought it necessary to remind us that Hezbollah does not meet the criteria for being a revolutionary organization in that it failed to present a reasonable alternative of coexistence with Israel. However, the political and ideological distance between the authentic left and the Hezbollah is such that it never occurred to us to criticize the Hezbollah as a force of the left. It never occurred to us on the left to demand revolutionary strategy from an Islamic fundamentalist organization.
This does not mean that we thought it logical to censure Hezbollah for fighting back with relatively ineffective missiles when faced with a massive attack on Lebanon and its people from Israel’s U.S.-equipped armada. We did what every decent and honest peace loving person would do: we demanded a complete cease fire from all concerned.
Now have we already forgotten who was ready to agree and why and how the demand for a cease fire was frustrated as Lebanon was being raped?
On any given day, we on the left will be ready to condemn Hezbollah’s denial of the right of Israel to exist alongside an independent viable Palestinian state. But we are painfully aware that Israel and its major ally cannot be exempted from their share of responsibility. The left demanded recognition of the rights of the Palestinians to their own state in Palestine well before the Palestinian Liberation Organization decided in 1988 to recognize ‘ in principle, the right of Israel to exist. We did this then when the PLO was commonly considered a terrorist organization and still refused any constructive solution to the Jewish community in Palestine.
In fact, the PLO was the political expression of the Palestinian national movement and the strategy of armed struggle that did not exempt citizens was a serious weakness. But it did not cancel the progressive nature of the Palestinian cause. Can the international community and especially the U.S. and Israel wash their hands from the responsibility that the Palestinians in their move away from terrorism and towards willingness for mutual recognition were “rewarded” with unending degradation and suffering for their forward looking realism. The scene did become more and more conducive to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism to hegemony in the Palestinian community. Yes, we are firmly and unremittingly against all forms of terrorism. Yes, it is also clear that cluster bombings are sowing terrorists all over the place. There is very little use for the repeated mantra about how we oppose terror as long as the cluster bombs keep coming down, as long as hundreds of thousands in Gaza are hungry.
Bush and company want us to believe their demonic accusations against radical Islam, falsely presented as a world wide conspiracy which can only pursue insane policies of world domination. This is a vulgar and superficial analysis designed to unleash again and again the dogs of war.
Each day brings new evidence that forces such as Hamas, Hezbollah and the Iranian regime have their own practical interests and needs. There is almost daily evidence that these forces are subject to the universal laws of political differentiation. Each group contains forces of reason and realism, and these will respond to a genuine politics of peace and compromise. That kind of politics, which rejects all forms of demonization and is based on the rational analysis of all options, is the key to preventing the next war.
We would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to a new website devoted to the history of the radical left in Israel in the period from 1967 to around 1991. The address is Israel-Left-Archive.Org.
The catalog of the site, which contains thousands of documents, is in English. However, naturally, most of the documents are in Hebrew