Sunday, November 6, 2011

They Don't Have a Prayer: The Arab Left and the Islamist Drive for Power

They Don't Have a Prayer: The Arab Left and the Islamist Drive for Power
By Barry Rubin

In the “good old days” of Stalinist Communism, the Left would have called the Islamists, “clerical fascists.” These forces, the party line would have surely explained, were attempts by the bourgeoisie to fool the masses, using religion to distract them from their “true interests” of having socialism.

Thus, there would have been no doubt that the Left would have opposed the Islamists, indeed might have been the most ferocious of their enemies. After all they have totally different views on social issues and they are also competing for state power.

True, there would have been some temptation to “use’ these forces. As a German Communist slogan once put it, “After Hitler, Us.” I was going to say that this idea didn’t work out so well for them, though Nazi rule in Germany was half-followed by the German Democratic Republic.

In today’s world, however, the Left has no such ambiguous stance as it would have in the days when Marxism-Leninism was the hegemonic doctrine and the USSR or China the idols they worshipped. This phenomenon of Western leftist enabling for Islamism has often been noticed in the West but has not been examined so much in the Middle East. One reason, of course, is that the Left is a far less significant force there.

Just as the “Arab Spring” has brought out Islamist and liberal forces, however, it has also revived the Arab Left. A number of former Leftists have as individuals defected to the moderate forces. Precisely because they were relatively Westernized and had distanced themselves from tradition, they more easily passed over to democratic ideas. Several, few in number but often loud in voice, have become Islamists themselves.

As institutions, however, the Left has retained its identity as a distinct force, with two leftist parties doing well in Tunisian elections, ready to form a coalition as junior partners of the Islamisst party, and saying nice things about the Islamists (they are't scary, they're pro-democracy!) to the Western media.
So the Arab Left is not the polar opposite of the Islamists for several reasons:

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