Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 7, 2013

Marxist Idealism and the Arab Spring

Filed under: middle east — louisproyect @ 7:51 pm

by Pham Binh on February 7, 2013

in analysis

marxtf

The bourgeois-democratic revolutions known as the Arab Spring have ruthlessly exposed the methodological and analytical deficiencies of many Marxists. Evidence-based, detailed, rigorous, and critical evaluation of the social, political, and human contradictions driving these revolutions is rare (rarer still is any sense of what is to be done to aid these struggles) while lazy thinking, abstractly correct positions, and we’ll-have-to-wait-and-see-how-things-turn-out passivity are common.

These deficiencies became painfully obvious once the Arab Spring spread from Tunisia and Egypt to Libya and Syria. The revolutions that swept Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak from power were “clean” and “pure” for Marxists because they were against U.S.-backed dictators and vindicated our bias towards general strikes and working-class action.

This was the good Arab Spring.

The revolutions in Libya and Syria, on the other hand, were unclean and impure, tainted by U.S. imperialism, backed by reactionary powers like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and quickly devolved into armed struggle, with little or no role played by the working class acting as a class. These revolutions were not nice, worker-based, and peaceful but vicious, militarized, and complicated by foreign powers and Islamic extremists who played a prominent role.

This was the bad Arab Spring.

Missing from both the good and bad Arab Spring narratives are the complex layers of interlocking contradictions between and within classes, parties, governments, and peoples as well as any appreciation of the intangible, non-material factors that revolutions involve (the moods of the masses, the feeling in the streets). Instead, Marxists have used each revolution as fodder for pre-set political morals – “strikes are more effective than arms” (Syria), “no to U.S. intervention” (Libya), “the need for a revolutionary Marxist workers’ vanguard party” (Egypt) – without any regard for the actual political, social, or historical terrains or even the wishes and aspirations of the people making these revolutions.

read full: http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=5759

8 Comments »

  1. From what I’ve read, Pham is about as “Marxist” and Chris Hitchens was in 2008.

    It’s plain and simple. If you think there can be organic “bourgeois democratic revolutions” in 2013, that means capitalism can still be progressive, and so socialism is not on the menu. So then the fight is not for revolution in a period of decadence, but of pursuing positive reform. Of course that’s exactly where the logical conclusion of Pham’s politics lies.

    Pham’s politics seem to originate in the sterility of academia and the dead trees of book pages rather than the real world. It’s a bizarre kind of mechanical application of a vulgarized historical materialism.

    Only the blind would think capitalism is in any kind of ascendant phase or that positive reform is on the table. Even the system’s most vocal adherents don’t dare pretend that to be so.

    The odd thing Louis is that you continually post his junk without comment. Should we take that as a full endorsement of what is written or (hopefully) just a recommendation to read it?

    Comment by Clifford Saint Claire the Beloved — February 8, 2013 @ 6:19 am

  2. To me there are two kinds of combatants on the rebel/revolutionary side of the Arab Spring: the masses, who depending on the country are either fighting or protesting (or in Syria doing both); and a “new” kind of Islamic “mercenary” fighter who goes from country to country combatting Shi’ism, Ba’athism, American-backed regimes, etc. I put new and mercenary in quotations because the prototype of this fighter emerged in the Arab Afghan Bureau during the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980s; and from what I can tell, they consider being a professional guerrilla sort of a religious duty and not a chance to make a lot of money. In a weird way, I can see these people as taking up the banner of Debray’s focalism, except of course, they are doing it for a retrograde variant of Sunni Islam. Like Debray and Guevara, they are outnumbered by the armed masses and the government enemy 1000 to 1, and I know in Iraq these fighters ran up against the native insurgent groups like the 1920 Revolutionary Brigade and the Shia Jaish al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army); they were not liked. Now the irony is that some of the Iraqi fighters have decided to cross the border into Syria and fight against Assad; it would be interesting to see where the survivors of that go next.

    Comment by Strelnikov — February 8, 2013 @ 10:49 am

  3. Perhaps Clifford could put his words of wisdom somewhere were Arab revolutionaries might read it – they need to be clear that we are no longer in an ascendent phase of capitalism so reforms are not possible so they need to fight for socialism. And anyone who says otherwise is like Hitchens (a pro-imperialist) or an academic (OMG) i.e. not really a Marxist.

    Comment by Shane H — February 8, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

  4. “they need to be clear that we are no longer in an ascendent phase of capitalism so reforms are not possible so they need to fight for socialism”

    That’s exactly the message any genuine Marxist would be pushing, no matter how difficult. “Represent the future of the movement in the present.” That’s what they’re supposed to do. Not chase after the tail end of the private militias of Mullahs and Khans.

    And my words are vindicated, since the working class deals with the exact same system of exploitation and oppression they did before in Egypt, Libya, etc, all despite the new management in place in those countries. In fact that’s the source of the renewed discontent in Egypt, where they’ve realized that nothing has changed for working people. Meanwhile phony Marxists want to cheer on one side of a bourgeois squabble over the other from the safety of their laptops on the other side of the world like they were watching a football game on the TV.

    It would all be hilarious if (1) self proclaimed Marxists shouldn’t have known better, learning as much from the tradition of the trend (Marx, Engels, Luxemburg, etc). as from the dead end bourgeois “national liberation” struggles of the 20 century that led to exactly naught for working people ANYWHERE and (2) working people weren’t the ones being slaughtered in interimperialist conflicts.

    There’s a reason the Spanish Civil War spawned international brigades and Libya, Syria, etc., spawned interest from bands of fanatical religious terrorists.

    Comment by Clifford Saint Claire the Beloved — February 8, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

  5. The odd thing Louis is that you continually post his junk without comment. Should we take that as a full endorsement of what is written or (hopefully) just a recommendation to read it?

    Of course it is an endorsement.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 8, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

  6. Louis, surely it would be more constructive to offer a critique of what Clifford wrote than simply write: Of course it is an endorsement. If he;s wrong as concerns Binh then show us, educate us.

    Comment by Pandora — February 10, 2013 @ 3:10 am

  7. Clifford quoted:

    “Represent the future of the movement in the present.”

    So your future has little or no interest in democracy, I take it?

    “And my words are vindicated, since the working class deals with the exact same system of exploitation and oppression they did before in Egypt, Libya, etc”

    Oh? You mean elections have been banned again? There are only unelected dictators running things still?

    “Meanwhile phony Marxists want to cheer on one side of a bourgeois squabble over the other from the safety of their laptops on the other side of the world like they were watching a football game on the TV.”

    Well, you go right on over there and let your golden words fall from your mouth like piss from a dick. I’m sure they’ll go over just dandy.

    Comment by Todd — February 11, 2013 @ 4:59 am

  8. Cross-posted at the North Star site.

    At least two points need to be clarified:

    1. Opposition to NATO’s involvement is not opposition to the guerrilla. It was simply a *strategic assessment* based on *historical evidence* of how a NATO military campaign alters the trajectory of the rebellion.

    2. CIA and NATO military coordination, perhaps even leadership, of parts of the rebellion, need to be examined in terms of their *long term* geopolitical or regional effects. Benghazi is likely now a CIA station in North Africa. Is it realistic to think that the Libyan revolutionaries can keep the combined forces of the largest Western militaries and intelligence agencies at a safe distance from their political institutions?

    Then, what does the author have to say about Mali? There, the insurgents are in part made up of belligerents who fought to defend Gaddhafi, and it would appear that the current Malian government is the more “bourgeois” of the two.

    Comment by JC — February 16, 2013 @ 9:41 pm


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,035 other followers

%d bloggers like this: