Thursday, August 10, 2006

On the question: Why Be Hezbollah?

If and when protestors and those on the left claim that 'we are all Hezbollah' - what do they mean? In what sense do they claim this identity between Hezbollah - a local resistance group, literally the 'Party of God' - and themselves?

Obviously, the phrase 'we are all' identifies some element in Hezbollah that is able to be made universal. I suggest that this element is the figure of resistance. The argument might run something like this: America seeks, via Israel, to set up a whole chain of military bases and sympathetic regimes throughout the Middle East. They are doing this because they wish to gain greater control over the oil reserves in the region, which is of particular importance to America at this moment, because China and India are economically ascendant. America must therefore employ its current military superiority in order to ensure its future economic dominance. In doing so, it pays no heed to the sovereignty of other countries. Against this, then, Hezbollah are enacting the right to defend one's homeland. They are, one could say, resisting the imperialist aggression of America-Israel.

The reasons for which socialists may find an affinity between their own project and Hezbollah's is obvious if one subscribes to this account of events. But Daniel at Different Maps disputes the validity and strategic wisdom of making such a close affiliation with the Party of God. He draws out the dangers:
"Communism cannot offer ideological support to political Islam, without simultaenously effecting to castrate itself in the process. Political Islam ultimately holds to a universalist vision of society fundamentally hostile to Communist ideals."
The question, then, is this. Does Hezbollah's role as a figure of resistance provide sufficient justification for us to stand by it, even though its wider political program is largely antithetical to ours? Even though it is not always wise, but submits to the tit-for-tat imperative and blindly launches rockets into civilian areas?* Can we support Hezbollah simply because it is an agent that resists, and then disregard any other features of this agent?

Or is it the case that the downtrodden left is drawn merely to any example that it can find of resistance, simply because it is so much at a loss for figures of hope? (Discussion in the comments section of another Different Maps post suggests that George Galloway might provide another such compromising figure of "swaggering" anti-US virility.) Do we imagine that against this Goliath, any small boy with a sling and a rock will do?

Ultimately, this is not a question about Hezbollah at all. It is one about ourselves and the places to and reasons for which we look, not only for hope, but in order to conceive of the project that we must take up. It is about not only the methods that we choose, but also the very task that is at hand.

The fast and uncritical embrace of Hezbollah can serve as a trap for our imagination, causing us to be content with a solely reactive role in world politics. After all, to embrace Hezbullah, merely because they are fighting against that which we have determined to be bad, is slave morality par excellence. There is every chance, I feel, that we prejudge the fight and make it always already unwinnable by aligning ourselves with groups, based only on the criteria that they fight against 'a common enemy'.

Socialists must fight, but only after reconceiving the battle.

Daniel closes his post with the following statement:
"Since 9/11 the European left has been lurching confusedly from crisis to crisis, and failing to develop any significant political momentum. The reason for this simple - it has been fighting the wrong war, and in the wrong way. Politically esnared within an analytic scenario of an imaginary force against a fantastic object, it has accordingly found itself incapable of delivering anything more than a hysterical moralistic critique, when what has been needed is a true political critique - subtle, cool and mature enough as to be able locate precisely the various, and very real social points, at which we are ourselves complicit in what we would attack. Only in this way can we seriously hope to stop anything at all."

In other words, the problem may lie precisely in the fact that we are looking to figures of national resistance in the first place.

"... it takes courage to say the truth about oneself, the defeated. Many who are persecuted lose the ability to recognise their flaws. To them persecution seems the greatest injustice. The persecutors are, by definition, the bad guys; they, the persecuted, are persecuted because of their goodness. But this goodness has been beaten, defeated and frustrated, and so it was a weak goodness, a poor, unsustainable, unreliable goodness; for it won't do to grant goodness its weakness, like rain its wetness. To say that the good were defeated, not because they were good, but because they were weak, that takes courage."
- Bertolt Brecht, "Five Difficulties In Writing The Truth"

* (Draw me into no debates about 'proportionality' on this. Obviously Israel has been far-and-above the most amoral, barbaric destroyer of innocent civilian life. This goes without question, but does not, to my mind, make Hezbullah's launching of rockets into civilian areas for its own sake a smart move. One must give the Israeli propaganda machine nothing. There is almost never, if ever, justification, either moral or strategic, for the destruction of civilian targets and life. Lenin's Tomb disputes the claim that Hezbollah's targets were civilian and blindly chosen, I might add.)


Blogger daniel said...

Great blog, great post Catherine, and a great quote from Brecht. And thanks for the link.

One more thing neither of us mentioned, but could do with being mentioned - the fact is that neither the SWP nor any other party, is to my knowledge providing any kind of material support to Hezbullah.

In this way, to claim solidarity with Hezbullah seems to devalue the meaning of that term, since the truth is that we are not even really helping them in any significant way - only instead vaguely cheering them on from the safety of the sidelines.

10:35 am  
Anonymous Patrick said...

Yes, excellent post. In Parliament Square on Saturday I found myself willing someone, anyone to get up on stage and start hitting us with a few home truths for a change, instead of the long parade of lowest common denominator sermonising. From simple little things like, "Y'know, Tony Blair will soon retire to America, relatively fit and healthy and a very rich man...How? Why? What are we really doing about this?" to something perhaps a little more risque like "put your hands up if you think the Ayatollah [there were several placards of him on show] symbolises a better, progressive future?"

Someone, in other words, to rattle us a little bit, who might force us to face up to, yes, our slavish moralities, our many weaknesses, engage us in the kind of subtraction suggested by your Brecht quote. I don't know if anything 'positive' could or even should be said by such a party pooper - but at least s/he might jolt us out of the same old same old a bit, hint at some other possibility. Like thought or something.

But perhaps I'm being too harsh, or misanthropic, expecting too much of a rally, unavoidably amorphous and heterogeneous? It just seems so symptomatic though...(so too the irony of seeing scores of protesters carrying anti-Israel placards marching into M&S for their lunch).

{What's more is the chanting, the tired old slogans ("who let the bombs out", "Tony Blair - Terrorist", "what do we want? Justice! when do we wannit? Now!") - who's listening? is anyone in the crowd really listening - to themselves? There just seems to be this weary "here we are again" mentality to the whole thing, a sense of obligation for half-hearted carnival and moral outrage that completely punctures the efficacy both. It almost leaves me yearning for the good old days of the so called Black Block and their sorties against Burger King buildings. But that's probably not a useful nostalgia to indulge. But just imagine if you get everyone to be SILENT! Then they'd listen!}

7:17 pm  
Blogger mo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:10 pm  
Blogger mo said...

great blog, not because you have solved any major problem, or have been accurate and dead on, but because it is a reflection of what the left in the west is concerned with: iTSELF.

this whole argument about whether or not we should endorse Hezbollah smack of more rotting western narcissism than anything else. Who cares about OUR REAL SOCiALiST WORKER POSiTiON? because neither israel and its American hard-core worshippers nor the oppressed masses of the Muslim world gives a damn about our sound position anymore, and this time, they have all the reason to not care about us. What use there was to our dead-on position in the battlefields of southern Lebanon, when in fact it were the little missiles provided by Muslim brothers in iran and the local “way of life” that managed to resist israel’s onslaught, not our boring put-to-sleep slogans that cannot even convince us about our goals. As we marched symbolically against israel’s war crimes, oh sorry, israel AND Hezbollah’s war crimes, Hezbollah’s fighters were making their point across literally!

Hezbollah's victory in fact proves that Muslims and Arabs cannot afford to look for moral ethical leadership from us in the west. We are too absorbed about ourselves and how we see ourselves to even consider a tactical support of an unknown entity. Never mind the sheer ignorance involved in why is it that "the left" in the west doesn't know much about the Lebanese Hezbollah already.

Hezbollah have won a battle with israel, but unfortunately we in the west have long lost our battle with this entity in its war of propaganda with us through our corridors of news communication and education. We are defined through a historically biased pro israelI narrative that paints us as the liberator of “Jews as the oppressed people” and bind us to their fate through the Jewish state of israel. We sure know a lot about why israel needs to exist, even though we know it exercises racism and genocide on a regular basis. We know a lot about why israel is free to act the way it does. We demand the same kind of understanding from Arabs to no avail, failing to understand that others cannot be legally committed to our narrative. And as much as we demand the Muslim world to see israel the way we do, we forget to see the Muslim world, the way they want us to see it.

Why don't we know enough about Hezbollah? ask most “progressive persons" and, more or less, you hear the same thing about Hezbollah than you hear from CNN. We have not done our home work; we are too busy to reflect on ourselves. We care for israel by default, because we are israel. We created israel as a remedy for our mistaken past. We are too busy buying into israel and America’s narrative and the “way of life” to care about anybody else’s narrative or way of life.

I tell you a bit about this "monster" that we the cool lefties feel obliged not to support, even as OUR tax sponsored bullets and bombs rains on them.

in 2000, when Hezbollah took over the southern lebanon, they made a point of not closing down bars, liquor stores, and night clubs (not that there were many, but still). They also made a point of staying away from implementing islamic Law and they specifically announced that they do not plan to create an islamic government in lebanon or in the Southern part of the country. They explicitly denounced forced islamic dress code for women. Watch their TV station and you see a lot of not covered female anchors.

What makes you two convinced that Hezbollah cannot qualify for a left wing endorsement by our boring leftist SWP political party? (that consistently fails to be effective in British politics, let alone do much with its endorsement for Hezbollah or Lebanon) Hezbollah enjoys broad support among Muslim Marxists, and recently in latin America, there has been a lot of real tactical support for Hezbollah. Look no further than Chavez for this. Do they even need us? why can’t you see the the reverse possibility? that maybe in fact we the left in the west need their endorsement of our position? Only if we can be part of the global Muslim Arab struggle that we can find out role in transformation of the Western society? Why not start a dialogue with Hezbollah? if Chavez can talk to iran, why can’t we? Who is stopping us from knowing the islamic resistance? and who is stopping us from sharing our experiences with them? What if we can forge an alliance and teach them a few things while we are learning a few things too?

Western arrogance is not limited to neocons and israel. We in the "western left" are so damn full of it. The most important lesson from this war is that Hezbollah proved to Muslims AND to us in the west, that they basically do not need us to win and to put an end to israel's crimes.

At the end, it was clear that it's no longer important what we in the west are saying or doing. Muslims and the Arab world would have to find ways itself to stop this madness, because the west is just too busy with itself.

sorry both of you, I symbolically support Hezbollah not just because they resist, but because I believe in the complete failure of our philosophical imagination in the west. We in the western left like happy endings, perfect positions, for any non western concerned to be validated, it has to first pass through our acceptance filters, based on how it may involve our image that we beam across to ourselves.

We are so busy seeing ourselves that we have become blinded to what we do have in front of us collectively. The wall maybe in Palestine, but the real wall is what the western civilization faces as it rots in the cesspool of a technologically advanced narcissist barbarism it has become.

Wake up lipstick Communists of the Anglo Saxon world! we are not the solution to the world’s problems, in fact if anything we are much more part of the problem. Like what Nasrallah said to the SaudI Egyptian and Jordanian rulers, (by the way, how often you have tried to read hezbollah’s statements and interviews in the past few weeks? how often you have been forced to read israel’s official position?) If you cannot support us, at least remain silence and be a good quiet person. If you cannot support the resistance, then stay dormant, because we are strong enough to fight this on our own, as long as you are not directly helping the enemy.

this 33 day war and its consequences can be seen as a clue to the coming age. Just like this war proved, the solution to humanity is not going to come out of the west, not even from the leftists. It just won't and now we have the proof. Either Hezbollah and the rest of the Muslim Arab world have to find a universal for all (or form one new universality with the rest of those who understand the centrality of their struggle). Or else this is the end of humanity and our barbarism would prevail as fake humanity, so long as we are only looking at ourselves and ourselves only.

6:47 pm  

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