[Marxism] Communists link up with Islamic radicals (WSJ)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sat Dec 23 22:08:02 MST 2006

Some find it dismaying these days that there's a convergence of
views among those now resisting Washington's occupation of Iraq,
Israel's invasion of Lebanon, and all those who oppose US threats
to invade Iran, or at least, to unleash Isreal to do the dirty
deed on Washington's behalf. Iran and Venezuela, for example,
have found strong common ground on the economic level, joining
forces to mutually strenghen their interests. Counterpunch had
to print a statement that the interview they had pubished with 
the leader of Hezbollah was not genuine. That statement, quite
interestingly, contained no redbaiting nor any disassociation
specifically with the views stated in the purported interview.
They didn't say "the interview isn't genuine and, by the way,
we hate Che Guevara.". They didn't mention Guevara at all.

This Wall Street Journal report contains a heavy dose of red-
baiting, particularly aimed at London's Mayor Ken Livingstone.
And it goes particularly ballistic at the growing convergence
of revolutionary left and pro-Cuban radicals with the Islamic
resistance movement such as Hezbollah, the group which fought
Israel to a standstill earlier this year, for the first time
that had ever taken place.

Venezuela, Iran create oil joint venture (Tehran Times)

December 9, 2006

Anti-Americans on the March

Inside the unlikely coalition of the U.S.'s sworn enemies, 
where Communists link up with Islamic radicals

Hezbollah, Chávez and London's 'Red Ken'
December 9, 2006; Page A1

(See Corrections & Amplifications item below.)

AYTAROUN, LEBANON -- Ibrahim Sayid was raised a Muslim, but he put
his faith in class struggle, not Allah. He joined the Lebanese
Communist Party at the age of 16. As a medical student in the Soviet
Union in the 1980s, he cursed Mikhail Gorbachev as a "traitor" for
jettisoning Marxism.

Today, back in his home village just a few hundred yards from Israel,
Dr. Sayid, 44, still has little time for Islam. He is married to a
Christian and shuns the local mosque, badly damaged when Israeli
troops stormed into Lebanon this summer.

Instead of communism, he has embraced a new cause: Hezbollah, the
militia and social movement rooted in Shiite Islam. The Party of God,
as it is translated into English, is led by turbaned clerics and
aided by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has ruthlessly
persecuted communists.

"We all have the same goals," explains Dr. Sayid, who now works in a
Hezbollah clinic. The first of these goals is "resistance" against
Israel, which during the summer war battled Hezbollah militiamen just
outside Dr. Sayid's village. He says resistance also has a broader
target: America, its allies in the Arab world and beyond, and global

When the Cold War ended a decade and a half ago with the collapse of
the Soviet Union, Mr. Sayid and others like him around the world
mourned the apparent triumph of U.S. military, economic and
ideological might. Many Americans rejoiced, with some embracing the
theory that the demise of Marxism marked "the end of history," a
period when ideological conflicts would give way to a world united in
acceptance of a model typified by the U.S.

Al Qaeda's attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001
didn't fundamentally alter this conviction. Political Islam was seen
as a grave threat but seemed limited in its appeal by its dependence
on religious zeal. Such assumptions are now under strain as secular
rebels, antiglobalization militants and other strains of revolt rally
to the banner of "resistance" offered by Islamist groups such as

Religion, excoriated by Karl Marx as the "opiate of the masses," has
become a great mobilizing force -- even for zealous atheists. The
phenomenon extends beyond the Middle East to Europe, Latin America
and Africa, too. Causes that a few years ago seemed moribund or at
least passé -- socialism, Third World solidarity, strident
anti-Americanism -- have been injected with the fervor, though rarely
the actual faith, of Islamic radicalism.

"We are all here to fight American hegemony," Naim Qassem,
Hezbollah's deputy chief, told hundreds of secular activists from
around the world who gathered last month in a Beirut conference
center. They were there to celebrate his Islamic movement's "divine
victory" over Israel this summer and cheer a broader battle against
America's vision for the world. Mr. Qassem was dressed in flowing
robes and a cleric's turban. Many in his audience wore T-shirts or
badges featuring portraits of Che Guevara, clenched fists and other
emblems of secular radical chic.

Adding to its revolutionary cachet, Hezbollah is now battling to oust
Lebanon's pro-American government. Along with assorted allies, the
Islamist group staged a huge peaceful rally in central Beirut Dec. 1
and is the driving force behind a mass sit-in near the offices of
Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, a pro-business former banker. The
protesters, encamped in tents for a week now, vow to stay until the
government falls. Stoking fears the showdown may spiral into serious
violence, Hezbollah has called for another mass demonstration Sunday.

Some of Hezbollah's biggest fans are in Europe. There, the hard left,
demoralized by the collapse of communism, has found new energy,
siding with Islamist militants in Lebanon, in Iraq and in a wider
campaign against what they see as an American plot to impose
unrestrained free-market capitalism.

"We are all Hezbollah now," read posters carried through London this
summer during an antiwar protest march. Earlier, London Mayor Ken
Livingston, once known as "Red Ken," invited a controversial Egyptian
cleric to the British capital, arguing that his views have been
distorted by the West.

In deeply Roman Catholic Latin America, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela has
become the exemplar of a new populism that sees common cause with
Iran and Hezbollah. Mr. Chávez, re-elected in a landslide last
Sunday, has met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad several times
and this summer was given the Islamic Republic Medal, Iran's highest
honor. Amid the rubble of Beirut's southern suburbs, a Hezbollah
stronghold, portraits of Mr. Chávez now hang alongside pictures of
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah put them up after Mr.
Chávez denounced President Bush as the devil in a September speech to
the UN. "Gracias Chávez," they say.

Africa, too, is boarding the bandwagon. A summit of the 53-nation
African Union this summer in Gambia featured two special guests: Mr.
Chavez and Mr. Ahmadinejad. Back in Tehran, Mr. Ahmadinejad in
November hosted Zimbabwe's authoritarian Prime Minister Robert
Mugabe, an erstwhile devotee of Mao Zedong. Fulminating against
President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr. Mugabe said
likeminded countries must "fight against these evil men and their
evil systems."

In the U.S., the principal target for both Islamist and leftist
anger, there has been little sign of any ideological realignment of
the kind seen elsewhere. The anti-American movement overseas poses
scant immediate threat to U.S. pre-eminence. Still, it could
complicate American diplomacy, particularly in the Middle East, where
the Iraq Study Group and others are urging Washington to reach out to
Iran and Syria, both vocal foes. It also risks emboldening America's
many critics in Europe and Latin America, aggravating friction on a
host of issues from the Israel-Palestine dispute to trade.

With America's reputation badly blemished across much of the globe,
widespread anger at Washington's foreign policy is fusing with local
grievances in an unstable mix of discontent. The result is a motley
assemblage rife with contradictions and competing agendas. The
Islamist-led protest movement has none of the central organization
once provided by the Comintern, the body set up by Vladimir Lenin to
coordinate global communism. Nonetheless, it is giving voice and a
sense of common cause to those opposed to America's plans.

Leading the way in embracing it are mostly fringe groups with names
redolent of the 1960s: The Global Peace and Justice Coalition, The
Socialist Workers Party, The League for the Fifth International.
While such outfits are quirky, they "magnify trends in the
mainstream," says Nick Cohen, a British writer who is publishing a
book next year about the alliance between Islamists and leftists,
"What's Left?" Karl Marx, he says, would be horrified.

"The sight of Godless communists in alliance with Islamo-fascists is
one of the wonders of the modern world," Mr. Cohen says.

Mainstream left-of-center parties still generally shun Islamists but
chunks of their support base don't. Mr. Blair in Britain, for
example, has come under fire within his own Labour Party for
supporting President Bush's troubled Middle East policy, which
critics say demonizes Islamist groups. In Spain, the socialist prime
minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has reached out to Muslims,
propounding what he calls "an alliance of civilizations" and voicing
sympathy for Hamas and Hezbollah. He has good relations with Mr.
Chávez, Fidel Castro of Cuba and Bolivia's populist leader, Evo

At the Beirut conference last month, a Mexican Marxist denounced
America for "colonizing" New Mexico. A South Korean foe of free trade
raged against American beef. A Turk fumed about American military
bases. A Frenchman denounced American genetically engineered foods
and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. There were even a few
Americans. One thundered against big business, another against the
Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A big part of Hezbollah's appeal is simply that, unlike other
tarnished icons of revolt, it can point to successes. It has defied
Israel's military, by far the region's most powerful. It prodded
Israel to end its 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000 and
unexpectedly bloodied Israeli troops in clashes this summer.

Hezbollah shows that "resistance," whether fuelled by religion or
secular zeal, "can break governments and roll back the American
project," says John Rees, a former editor of the journal
International Socialism and a leader of Britain's anti-Iraq war
movement. Hezbollah, he says, isn't a terrorist outfit but a social
movement seeking better living conditions for its supporters. "It is
better to think of it as an AFL-CIO with guns," he says.

An American who traveled to Beirut in November to cheer Hezbollah,
who identified himself as Bill Cecil, summed up the appeal of
Islamism to non-Muslims: "Your enemy is our enemy; your victory is
our victory," he told a conference. Mr. Cecil, an activist for a
radical group in New York, later appeared as a guest on the breakfast
show of Hezbollah's television station, al-Manar. America, he told a
veiled female presenter, is "not a democracy ... but a dictatorship
of giant corporations." America "needs a government that provides for
the people like Hezbollah helps people here."

Nowhere is the Islamist-leftist axis more potent than in Lebanon. The
three-day Beirut jamboree, which featured fiery anti-American oratory
and field trips to buildings bombed by Israel, was hosted jointly by
Hezbollah and the Lebanese Communist Party, once-bitter enemies now
united by what they proclaim as common goals.

Sitting beneath a portrait of Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara in
his Beirut office, Khaled Hadadeh, the general secretary of the
Lebanese communists, admits that Hezbollah and the Communist Party
hated each other for years. "We started out in blood," says Mr.
Hadadeh, a Sunni Muslim by birth but now a firm atheist. Che Guevara,
he says, "is our symbol, like Jesus Christ or Mohammed."

Hostility to Israel and the U.S. now trumps past differences. The
Communist Party disbanded its own armed wing at the end of Lebanon's
civil war in 1990, but 12 of its members died fighting alongside
Hezbollah this summer, Mr. Hadadeh says. Piled in the corner of his
office are trophies of this summer's war: an Israeli army helmet, an
Israeli rifle and a Hebrew newspaper.

Mr. Hadadeh says he has met Mr. Nasrallah 15 times and admires him
greatly. At their most recent meeting in a secret location this fall,
he says, they discussed not just the recent war with Israel but also
the need to develop "a counter-project to the neo-liberal model," the
free-market policies backed by Washington.

Responsible for working out what this might mean is Ali Fayad, a
political science lecturer and head of Hezbollah's in-house
think-tank, the Consultative Center for Studies and Documentation.
Mr. Fayad, who joined Hezbollah in the 1980s while still a student,
now sits on the politburo of an organization that mimics the rigidly
hierarchical structure of the Soviet Communist Party. Israeli bombs
destroyed Mr. Fayad's offices, so his center now works from new
premises in a half-built apartment block. Well-versed in Western
economic and political theory, he runs a staff of more than a dozen
researchers and has led the militant group's outreach to foreign

Part of Hezbollah's appeal lies in its tactical flexibility. Unlike
many Sunni Muslim radical groups such as al Qaeda, which denounce
non-Muslims and even many fellow Muslims as heretics who must be
shunned or punished, Hezbollah's Shiite leadership doesn't care if
its allies include atheists, Mr. Fayad says. "That is their problem
not ours," he says, so long as "we have the same political position."

The friction between the two branches of Islam surfaced at the recent
Beirut meeting. A Sunni Muslim from Jordan had to be ejected from the
hall after he started cursing Iran -- Hezbollah's main sponsor -- for
aiding Shiite militias in Iraq. Hezbollah's foreign fans watched in
dismay as Shiite and Sunni attendees screamed at each other.

Despite such volatile tensions, Mr. Fayad still sees Islam derailing
America's ambitions. Hezbollah's success in Lebanon, the debacle in
Iraq and the victories of populist anti-American politicians in Latin
America, he says, show that "it is now the end of 'the end of
history.' " A recent article by Richard Haass, former director of
policy planning at the U.S. State Department, has strengthened his
conviction that America is in retreat, Mr. Fayed says. Writing in the
U.S. foreign-policy journal Foreign Affairs, Mr. Haass declares that
America's post-Cold War hopes for the Middle East have failed and
that the region's "American era...has ended." Mr. Fayad is in no
doubt about what comes next: "It is an Islamic era in the Middle

Among those grappling with this new perception of reality is Joseph
Samaha, a secular Christian, former radical socialist and one of
Lebanon's most-thoughtful intellectuals. Over the summer he became
editor in chief of Al Akhbar, a new newspaper sympathetic to
Hezbollah. He scoffs at Westerners who cheer radical Islam as
"naïve." But he concedes that Islamists now represent the only viable
alternative to corrupt, authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia
and elsewhere. "It is sad, but it is like that," he says.

The ideological reshuffling marks a curious reprise: Russia's early
Bolshevik leaders, many of them Jewish, worked hard to cultivate
Muslims, seeing them as a useful ally against Britain and other
European colonial powers then ruling over large Muslim populations,
notably in India and Indonesia. The alliance led to doctrinal
gymnastics as Soviet theorists sought to reconcile atheism with the
Quran. Some even argued that the Prophet Mohammed was a precursor of
Karl Marx.

For much of the 20th century, however, the left and Islam were bitter
enemies. Spain's right-wing dictator, Gen. Francisco Franco,
recruited Moroccan Muslims to fight Soviet-backed foes in the Spanish
Civil War in the 1930s. In 1962, Saudi Arabia, worried by Egypt's
tilt toward Moscow, created the Muslim World League to rally Islam
against communism. Three years later, Islamic groups in Indonesia
joined in an army-led mass slaughter of communists. Anticommunist
fervor reached its peak in the 1980s, when thousands of Muslims
flocked to Afghanistan to battle the Soviet occupiers.

Much the same enmity existed in Lebanon. When Dr. Sayid, the surgeon,
first joined the Lebanese Communist Party in the late 1970s, Mr.
Nasrallah, now Hezbollah's leader, also was getting into politics --
partly out of disgust at the spread of atheistic communism.

In an autobiographical account of his early years published in an
Iranian newspaper, Mr. Nasrallah recounts how his own village was
"turning into an area for the activity of intellectuals, Marxists and
especially supporters of the Lebanese Communist Party." He left the
village and joined a group called Amal, a Shiite organization.

Iran's Islamic revolution of February 1979 and the Soviet invasion of
Afghanistan at the end of that year soured communist-Islamist
relations further, provoking often-bloody clashes in Lebanon and

Iran's new Islamic government launched a brutal crackdown on the
Soviet-backed Tudeh party, a leftist group that had helped topple the
American-backed Shah. And Iran sent Revolutionary Guard zealots to
Lebanon to help set up Hezbollah and injected the new group with
their own fierce enmity to atheism and communism.

Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 accelerated the rise of Islamist
groups. It uprooted Yasser Arafat's secular Palestine Liberation
Organization, which had bases in Lebanon, and left Hezbollah as the
main force of "resistance."

Dr. Sayid moved to Minsk in the then-Soviet republic of Belarus to
study medicine. He says he went there as a true believer and was
appalled when Mr. Gorbachev began his program of "perestroika," or
economic restructuring, and the Soviet system started to unravel. The
reforms, he says, were a "counter-revolution."

In Lebanon, meanwhile, a vicious civil war raged. Moscow put its
weight behind the nominally socialist and mostly secular forces of
Walid Jumblatt, leader of the country's small Druze sect, an offshoot
of Islam. In Dr. Sayid's village and other areas of southern Lebanon,
previously strong support for the Lebanese Communist Party wilted as
Hezbollah became the dominant force. Hezbollah's reputation was
boosted by its fierce resistance to Israel and its provision of
medical care and other services.

In its first public manifesto issued in 1985, Hezbollah declared
itself hostile to "both the USSR and the U.S., both capitalism and
communism, for both are incapable of laying the foundations for a
just society." Though focused on the struggle with Israel, the
manifesto also sought a wider audience, addressed to "all the
Oppressed of Lebanon and the World." Eventually the Lebanese
Communists began cooperating with Hezbollah, attracted mainly by its
power but also finding common cause in its emphasis on championing
the poor.

Amid the unraveling of the Soviet Union, few outside Lebanon paid
much attention to the global pretensions of Hezbollah. Then came the
al Qaeda attacks on America of 2001. Washington, traumatized,
launched a "war on terror" against what it viewed as a small group of
homicidal religious zealots.

As anger at the U.S. mounted in 2003 ahead of the invasion in Iraq,
the snowballing antiwar movement took on a curious aspect,
particularly in Europe: an alliance of forces that previously loathed
each other.

Mr. Rees, the British radical who attended last month's Beirut
conference, played a big role, allying his own organization, the
Socialist Workers Party, with the Muslim Association of Britain, a
group that says it wants to bridge Muslim and non-Muslim communities
yet is accused by critics of siding with radical Islamic groups. The
two organizations spearheaded the antiwar campaign in Britain. Today,
Mr. Rees says he has reservations about some of his Islamic allies'
views, particularly those regarding women and homosexuals.

"If there were a level playing field, I might choose different
allies," he says. But he says America's own policies left him with no
choice: "I find myself on the same side as Hezbollah, as Chávez. I
didn't choose them. America did."

At a big Islamic festival this summer supported by London's mayor,
Mr. Livingston, Islamist activists and left-wing politicians declared
their solidarity. "Muslims and the left must and can come together,
because we face the same enemies -- imperialism, colonialism and
racism," said Redmond O'Neill, a senior aide to Mr. Livingston.

In Aytaroun, the Lebanese village near the border with Israel, Dr.
Sayid, the Soviet-trained physician, has abandoned the socialist
dreams of his youth. Communism, he concedes, "is not going to take
root in this soil."

He has quit the Communist Party and now serves Hezbollah, working at
a Hezbollah hospital bedecked with Islamic inscriptions and portraits
of Iranian ayatollahs. When the war started this summer, his wife, an
Orthodox Christian from Belarus, and three children left for her
homeland. Dr. Sayid stayed behind to treat the injured, including
Hezbollah fighters.

On a recent afternoon, Dr. Sayid sat with a group of Hezbollah
activists in the office of the local mayor, also of Hezbollah. The
mayor was wounded in the leg during the war and Mr. Sayid has been
treating him.

One of the group showed off pictures of Hezbollah's "divine victory"
-- an Israeli tank on its side, an Israeli warship in flames. Dr.
Sayid says he is "not fully in agreement" with Hezbollah. But he
believes it can succeed where communism failed. "It is strong. People
support it." Hezbollah, he says, "shows the world America is wrong."

At a Damascus rally, protesters carry pictures of Latin American 
revolutionary Che Guevara and Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (left) and Iranian President Mahmoud 
Ahmadinejad make a clenched-fist salute during a trip to the Orinoco 
River basin in southeastern Venezuela to witness the opening of a new 
oil well in September.

Corrections & Amplifications:

London's mayor is Ken Livingstone. This article misspelled his
surname as Livingston.

The fighting spirit of the Iraqi resistance, the elan of the Hezbollah, 
and the irrepressible militancy of the Iranian government has 
engendered a certain sense of camaraderie on the Marxist Left in
the West. If socialism has few adherents in the Middle East, should
we throw in our lot with those who have the muscle to stop the
imperialists in their tracks?

Furthermore, to make ourselves attractive to them, perhaps it might
make sense to downplay our stubborn emphasis on class, especially
since Islam purports to unite owner and employer on the basis of
faith. It was probably symptomatic of such barely concealed desires
that Counterpunch ran an interview with Hezbollah’s leader Hasan
Nasrallah in which he says, “You will witness how our people have
embraced Chávez and Ernesto Che Guevara. Nearly in every house, you
will come across posters of Che or Chávez.” A red-faced Counterpunch
had to admit some days later that the interview was a fraud. FULL:

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