[Re: Why ]

Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky gorojovsky at SPAMinea.com.ar
Sun Jun 18 10:31:31 MDT 2000

En relación a Re: [Re: Why ],
el 18 Jun 00, a las 8:44, Abu Nasr dijo:

> Dear Comrades!
> I think Sevag is right, the sectarianism has developed and remained
> due largely to outside forces, i.e., imperialism.

In doing so, imperialism has proven that Trotsky's assesment of its
consequences ("the civilized ones bar the way to those who want to
civilize themselves") was one of the deepest observations that could
be made against this last stage of capitalism...

> Of course we know that like feudal estates in Europe which were not
> classes in the capitalist sense, the Ottoman empire ruled on the basis
> of its "milla" system.

I am not sure that "we know that ... feudal estates ... were not
classes in the capitalist sense". In fact, I believe that many
misunderstandings in the First World when trying to think our Third
World issues largely are a consequence of this misunderstanding,
which tends to be stronger in countries such as Canada, the USA,
Australia or NZ who lack a feudal past or a feudal host of old usages
to fight against.

> Each religious community or "milla" ("millet",
> in Turkish) had to recognize the Ottoman Sultan and pay a tax and in
> return that religious community's religious leaders could rule their
> own community pretty much independently as regarded their community's
> affairs, i.e., their laws, social regulations, religious activities.
> Note that this also created elites within each religious community
> that were extremely conservative.

This system is a rent-based expoliation regime, thus opposed to
capitalist colonialism. But imperialism in the Middle East, as
elsewhere, kept the most useful features of the area alive in order
to ensure its grip over the whole structure. Capitalism did not
generate a _bourgeois_ Middle East, it reinforced the old regime in
order to keep the Middle East subordinated to the interests of the

> That laid the basis for religious-communal differences that
> predominantly Christian Europe found useful to exploit as soon as it
> could.  And it has done so constantly and it has built its whole
> philosophy on these differences. Similarly the French in North Africa
> were just preoccupied with the differences between Berbers and Arabs
> -- differences almost forgotten sometimes by the North Africans
> themselves.  It was divide and rule.  And if you think the expulsion
> of France in 1943 has ended all the sectarianism, just read the
> Lebanese constitution.  And this was definitely not the choice of
> popular politically conscious Lebanese of all the sects.  They say,
> for example that Arab nationalism arose among the minorities.  Why?
> Because they wanted to eliminate the sectarian line dividing them from
> Muslims.  Even the anti-imperialists Islamicists of the old
> "aristocratic" generation like Shakib Arslan tried to unite different
> sects against imperialism through his newspaper "La Nation Arabe".
> Of course there is sectarianism in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere too.
> Even outside the Arab world, Pakistan was partitioned from India on
> sectarian lines in the 1940s.  But in Lebanon the sectarianism was
> embedded officially in the constitution so any political battles
> almost had to become sectarian since it was predictable that the
> ruling classes would seek to defend their interests by appealing to
> "their" sect members to fight for them on a sectarian basis. But what
> sustained these ruling classes except an international capitalist
> order of which they were an integral part?  Lebanon was a huge banking
> centre in the Arab world up until the Civil War and the Oil boom moved
> lots of that to the Gulf, and that emphasises the comprador nature of
> the rulers of at least Maronite and Sunni background.
> The Civil War degenerated into sectarianism, but pretty much as in the
> colonial period, the "great powers" had interests that they pushed by
> sectarian proxies.  The west, obviously was interested basically in
> the status quo, and they played groups against each other.  Just most
> recently the Zionists tried to tell the Lebanese Christians that if
> the south were liberated they would all be massacred by Shii Hizb
> Allah partisans, etc.  This is a good example of how the imperialists
> try to play sects off against each other to keep their own interests
> intact.
> With revolutionary greetings!
> Abu Nasr
> "sevag " <sev at cyberia.net.lb> wrote:
> Dear Commrades:
>     I am thrilled to see the level of interest and understanding in
>     the
> posts and i hope we'll have more feeback from our Commrades from Latin
> America on Lebanon, specially that the societies of the 3rd world are
> not that different from each other.
>     Imperialism is not just a phase that a country passes through, nor
>     is it
> something that fades away when imperilaism as a direct military
> control over the 3rd world ends. It remains in the culture and
> institutions of the 3rd world society, thereby not having any
> geographical location or boundaries.
>     What i mean is that there should be such cultural divergence or
> contradictions in other 3rd world countries caused and brought to the
> surface by imperialism and which still shapes the behavior of these
> societies world wide.
>     In the Lebanese context this traditionalism is mainly identified
>     on
> secterian divisions but more importantly on specific classes within
> each sect. These classes true that they are the monopolizers of the
> political system in Lebanon, but they are very much self-interested
> but howveer must adhere to their other classes in their sect for
> support. The nucleus which gives them the legitimacy is the mass
> support of their sect. But as Commrade Riad put, they are pretty mcuh
> self-centered.
>     Now the question imposes itself: Does this secterian differences
>     arise
> from the society, or is it imposed on the society by the system?
>     Most people would argue that the first is correct because of many
> different reasons. However, we should put some time zones. True that
> at the back of the Lebanese mind there was a such secterian identity
> and ideology, but what i am trying to say is that these differences
> mainly emphazied by imperialism and manifested itself in the Lebanese
> political system, re-imposed itself on the Lebanese regardless of the
> latter's belief in it. Hence, imperialism caused seceterianism and its
> emergence as a dominant social and political force, which initself
> caused the creation of the independent Lebanon, which intself being a
> secterian State divided the society mroe strongly along secterian
> lines. And i would even argue that this State dividing the social
> forces along such lines was sometimes even agianst the will and the
> want of the people itself.
>     Such ties still persist in the Lebanon today, and I think the ills
>     of
> imperlaism shapes the societies of the 3rd world. This imperialism
> that ended (more or less) in the 1st half of the 20th century,
> continued to play its role by new means, mostly global capitalist
> means. Such similarities could be found in the different countries of
> the 3rd world, and I want to argue that it shapes to a very large
> extents the social and political institutions of these societies.
>     I wait for your posts, and thank you.
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Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at inea.com.ar

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