All this stuff in the Middle East

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Devrim's picture
Devrim
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Feb 21 2011 18:37
baboon wrote:
Of course Devrim Islamists can be courageous, as are expressions of tribalism. Suicide bombers can be brave individuals and elements of the highest reaches of the bourgeoisie can excel in courage in battle.

Well there is a complete non-point here. It is your idea that courage has anything to do with anything. I was just refuting it. Whether these people are brave or not has nothing at all to do with the balance of class forces.

baboon wrote:
But that's not really the point is it? It's a non-argument against the positive lessons of these struggles of the masses.

What does 'struggle of the masses' mean? Is it a workers struggle? In what way is the working class involved as a class? There are more questions to be asked, and it is difficult to answer them, but I don't think, from what I can see, that the events in Libya have in any way a working class character. I could of course be very wrong, but so could those talking about amorphous things like 'struggle of the masses'.

baboon wrote:
What you said was, that events in Libya has "mostly been motivated by Islamism and tribalism", which is clearly absurd. This is because the basic issues are repression, poverty and no future and these are common themes that are ongoing and not confined to one particular country or continent.
Khawaga wrote:
Well, you did say
Quote:
I think that the events in Libya seem to be mostly motivated by Islamicism and tribalism

and nothing else, which I found to be too simplistic. Hence my comment.

Yes, it is simplistic, and possibly very badly phrased. Of course poverty and economic conditions play a motivating role in many social movements. When there is rioting in the Kurdish cities of South East Turkey, I would presume that it plays a major role. I don't think that these people are rioting because they are rich and content with their lives.

Nevertheless, I think that if you agree that these sort of movements are channeled into nationalism, and in no way offer any way forward for the working class (if you don't the question is of course very different), the I can't quite see what the problem is in seeing the role of bourgeoise ideology here.

Of course to speak of motivations was wrong. We can't know for certain what is going on in people's heads. However, I would be very surprised if the expressions of this movement turned out to be anything but Islamicism and tribalism. Time of course will show us.

Devrim

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Khawaga
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Feb 21 2011 18:47
Devrim wrote:
I would be very surprised if the expressions of this movement turned out to be anything but Islamicism and tribalism. Time of course will show us.

Agree.

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mikail firtinaci
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Feb 21 2011 19:05
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I would be very surprised if the expressions of this movement turned out to be anything but Islamicism and tribalism.

The expressions of these movements are a combination of political and economical and social outcomes not ideologies. And as we saw in egypt and tunisia the end of dictators does not necessarilly mean the end of struggle for the masses. But I doubt after an Islamist "socialist" dictatorship in Libyan case workers-unemployed would hardly like to see a new one.

The islamism is a threat, but as in the egyptian case shows, islamists are hesitant to struggle for power in a situation where their fate can quickly be the same as the previous secular dictas. That is why all these vague talks about democracy, moderation etc. There is no basis of social calm before workers and unemployed on the street will see the chance of a real humane living conditions. No ideologies can provide this right now.

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When there is rioting in the Kurdish cities of South East Turkey, I would presume that it plays a major role.

that is totally irrelevant

Devrim's picture
Devrim
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Feb 21 2011 19:13
mikail firtinaci wrote:
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When there is rioting in the Kurdish cities of South East Turkey, I would presume that it plays a major role.

that is totally irrelevant

No, it is not irrelevant at all. It could of course be any example, but the relevant point is that the participants in lots of struggles be they nationalistic, or religious are quite possible motivated to some extent by economic hardship.

The question is why some people seem to think that these events are now 'struggle of the masses', but in other cases they are struggles that the people saying the same thing think have nothing to offer the working class.

Devrim

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mikail firtinaci
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Feb 21 2011 19:34

it is irrelevant and you know that. There is a difference between two cases. In the cyclical kurdish "serhıldans" what is seen is daily stone throwings called by PKK.

In various cases in middle east, INCLUDING the recent (yesterday) started south Kurdistan/nort Iraq "kurdish" revolt, the leading role is of workers' and unemployed proletarians. No despute it is the Tunisian workers and unemployed that led, initiated and set the initial goals of this middle east movement. The aim -though not clear- is to give a responce to the worldwide attack of capital on living conditions and political repressions continuing since ages. These are neither simple burst of angers nor burgeouisie manipulations.

Peoples' collective courage, pace of diffusion of the revolts, the hesitations and fear of the dominant classes to intervene or lead, the strikes accompanying these movements are all indications of these.

ocelot's picture
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Feb 25 2011 14:02

H&N stick their tuppence worth in

Guardian: Arabs are democracy's new pioneers

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[...]our hope [is] for the cycle of struggles spreading in the Arab world to become like Latin America, to inspire political movements and raise aspirations for freedom and democracy beyond the region. Each revolt, of course, may fail: tyrants may unleash bloody repression; military juntas may try to remain in power; traditional opposition groups may attempt to hijack movements; and religious hierarchies may jockey to take control. But what will not die are the political demands and desires that have been unleashed, the expressions of an intelligent young generation for a different life in which they can put their capacities to use.

As long as those demands and desires live, the cycle of struggles will continue. The question is what these new experiments in freedom and democracy will teach the world over the next decade.

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Feb 25 2011 17:36

I don't have any knowledge of the importance (or not) of tribal or islamist factors in what is currently happening in Libya (nor yet Iraqi Kurdistan), so I can't respond to that discussion.

I wanted to return to the OP, which was reactions to this:

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All this stuff in the Middle East is obviously just the Orange Revolution mk 2 (or 3 or whatever) it cannot and will not lead to anything even vaguely "socialist". It is not an example of working class self organisation either.

Just on a crass "geopolitical" level, I would say that there is a difference between the Orange or "colours" revolutions and what has currently started in N. Africa / ME. In the first case, the colours revolutions were clearly an extension of American power into old Warsaw Pact territory at the expense of receeding Russian influence - a dividend for winning the Cold War if you like - and seen very much in that light by all sides. In this case, this is very much a case of a loss or weakening of US power over this region. Obama risks going down in history as the US president who "lost the Middle East" ...and knows it. In terms of the global balance of power, it is very much a symptom of American Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Muppets). But that's a very broad-brush or impressionistic perspective of the kind you could find in any conventional media, and not particularly useful in terms of the analytical nitty gritty.

I also think there's an element of circularity in the position that there are no examples of "working class self-organisation" involved, either. Clearly we agree that just because a movement is majoritarianly (?) made up of working class (an sich) people and it is antagonistic to/in conflict with, the established state power and current ruling fraction, does not - by those facts alone - necessarily mean that the movement is thus a moment in the self-recomposition of th class as a revolutionary subjectivity (für sich). However, neither does it follow, that because existing processes of self-organisation by working class people do not fit some preconceived notion of what properly self-aware class-for-itself action should look like, that it is not therefore really working class self organisation.

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It may lead to some of the nations getting slightly nicer regimes for a bit, and that in itself is not a bad thing, but other than that it's pretty meaningless.

A number of people have already picked up on "meaningless" here, and with good reason. It is perfectly possible, probably inevitable, that we can look at these current, as yet to be resolved, struggles and see them as "meaningfull" - even overflowing with meanings - without yet fully knowing or agreeing what those meanings are. That we accept that we have to try and tease out those meanings by robust debate and continual attention to developments on the ground. But to start with "meaningless" is to end before we begin, by imposing a blockage, even censorship. It's the Officer Barbrady play - "Move along people, there's nothing to see here...". I find this position not credible on a epistemological level and a case of moral cowardice on a political level.

On the epistemological level, I find the idea that the future outcome of present struggles can be predicted with no room for uncertainty, relies on a notion of history that is closed, dogmatic and ultimately self-contradictory. I think this is partly a result of reading too many history books and adopting, by osmosis a "historian perspective" on the present. In a recent blog post on this year's Davos, the FT's Martin Wolf made the following comment:

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With the [2007-2008 financial] crisis fading into memory, how will historians assess its legacy? Journalists do not have the luxury of distance. So here are my guesses...

And that's the thing, historians have the luxury of waiting for enough temporal distance for the consequences of events to have become unambiguously clear. Through that distance they are able to study history as a closed object. (Zhou Enlai's witty response to the Parisian journalist on his assessment of the significance of the French Revolution notwithstanding). But journalists and revolutionaries don't do this - they deal with the present as an open process, always asking the questions, what is happening now? what does it mean? what is to be done? all with no guarantees of getting it right of avoiding error. Marx may have had a voracious appetite for history (and indeed all fields of human knowledge), but he was first and foremost a journalist, rather than a historian. Similarly revolutionaries cannot afford to wait for the distance of time - or artificially distance themselves from the messy contigencies of the present by looking at the world only through sectarian spectacles - for the closure of history, for then the opportunity for rupture is of course long past.

The orthodox Marxists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries constructed a theory of history that was both rigidly deterministic in it's "monorail" succession of pre-determined stages, and which ultimately sucked proletarian agency and the class struggle from change itself, leading to a mechanistic model of systemic breakdown without subjectivity or human agency. What I find surprising is that today there appear to be many people, probably a good number of whom would not identify themselves as being in the orthodox Marxist tradition, who hold to the same vision of history, a closed history in which even people in armed revolt, in the process of destroying the state that has held them prisoner for decades, remain without agency, the prisoners of the "iron laws of history" on the monorail which can only end up at liberal democracy, because that is the next station on the line.

To hold such a view of history as essentially closed against human agency, is one thing. But to hold it alongside a commitment to desiring the revolutionary self-emancipation of the working class is a case of massive cognitive dissonance. These two positions are irreconcileable by rational means. Perhaps why the presence of actual agency fills the suffers of this internal contradiction with such ressentiment towards all others not similarly afflicted.

So much for the "meaningless" gambit. Back to the question of what meaning(s)? I've gone into periodisation of the world system in further detail on the Does Imperialism Exist thread (http://libcom.org/forums/theory/does-imperialism-exist-21022011?page=2#comment-417115) so I won't repeat that here. A post on the Arabist today, puts it succinctly:

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[The above vid]A good AJE report on social discontment in Tunisia. A very good example of why it's enough to change the leaders, the very model of economic distribution has to be changed. Too many Arab countries basically adopted a economic model after decolonization where an elite replaced the old colonial class and the fundamental distribution of wealth remained the same.

Hmm. Bugger. I appear to be out of time as I have a plane to catch. I guess I'll have to pick up the positive analysis of what this means in a later post. Later.

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Noa Rodman
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Feb 26 2011 01:08

I think we can all agree that the revolts show human agency.