Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 28, 2014

The Anti-Imperialism of Fools

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 9:52 pm

As we all witnessed yesterday Syria’s foreign minister Walid Muallem said thatSyria will offer to help the US fight the Islamic State (IS) militant group. This of course has left the so called Anti-war camp and “Anti-Imperialist” left in the U.S/West and even Arab assadists that support Assad either confused or silent on the matter. It’s important to note these are the same leftists or as some call them ‘tankies’ that support Russian imperialism and Iranian mini-imperialism in the Middle East and don’t even care whether Russia is a capitalist oligarchy or if Iran has communist political prisoners in its jails or killed because of their ideas this shows you how unprincipled they can be by becoming reactionary by supporting bourgeois nationalism and fascism. This article will focus on the many ways to break the regime’s “resistance” and “rejection of U.S/Western Imperialism” narrative and a way for critically think about Syria and the peoples mobilization against the regime.

full: The Anti-Imperialism of Fools.


  1. The US, Syria, the Gulf States and Israel all have their motivations for permitting the emergence of ISIS, as much as they conflict with one another. But all of them agree on one thing, they consider the sectarian violence between working class Shia and working class Sunni as something to be encouraged. About a year ago over at the North Star, I expressed sadness over this conflict in Syria, observing that Hizbollah, for all its objectionable qualities, is significantly composed of working class Shia. Much the same may be true of ISIS, I don’t know enough to say for sure.

    It is this conflict that the left must find a way to engage, and, beyond Syria, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are two of the most reprehensible participants in this regard. The left should support the overthrow of these regimes as strongly as it does Assad in Syria, because it will be difficult for a non-sectarian working class politics to emerge as long as they finance and arm radical Sunni religious movements centered around hostility to the Shia.

    Comment by Richard Estes — August 28, 2014 @ 10:54 pm

  2. Note: my comment should read. “Much the same may be true of ISIS in relation to working class Sunni . . . . “, although readers probably figured that out.

    Comment by Richard Estes — August 28, 2014 @ 10:55 pm

  3. Calm down dude!

    Very few people in Hezbollah or ISIS or the working class in any country, including the USA, have had the luxury of reading the classic Marxist texts.

    Check your privileges, boys!

    Comment by Dieter Neumann — August 29, 2014 @ 2:35 am

  4. While I agree with the point that article is in terrible need of an edit. Unreadable.

    Comment by steve d — August 29, 2014 @ 6:19 am

  5. Btw Richard is totally wrong about Hezbollah which is a petit bourgeois outfit through and through. See: http://www.revleft.com/vb/hezbollah-article-its-t49826/index.html

    Comment by steve d — August 29, 2014 @ 6:28 am

  6. Richard:

    ‘A 1996 poll to determine popular support for Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, said Judith Palmer Harik, a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, showed that “44 percent of the Shiites sampled of high socio-economic status indicated affiliation with Hezbollah.”’

    Comment by steve d — August 29, 2014 @ 6:32 am

  7. Neo-Stalinism, which is the anti-imperialism that isn’t, has taken up the running where Stalinism left off and is a gateway ideology to outright fascism for petit-bourgeois lefties who spout but in fact despise revolution.

    Neo-Stalinism has ditched the Marxist understanding of international political economy in favour of a black and white world view that sees a unified Western imperialism versus the rest with the rest not being semi-colonies run by imperialist stooges but in absolute opposition to it. Hence the likes of Assad far from being the brutal stooges of imperialist capitalism are actually the vanguard of anti-imperialism. Even Stalin didn’t dare try this trick. Their entire perspective is that `the rest’ will break the domination of Western imperialism and restore the world to some 19th Century pre-imperialist ideal where power is balanced between multiple powers above the heads of the masses. A repulsive ideal in itself but also a completely insane one driven by the desparate desire to avoid looking to the genuine Marxist solution to the unravelling of US-sponsored globalisation: world proletarian revolution. They would rather be the booster of the revolting Russian imperialist kleptocracy than embrace the fact that America has taken capitalism as far if not further than it can go and that the alternative is between socialism and barbarism as it was always predicted it would be. A socialist world or a regime of world barbarism, a New Dark Ages, from which there will be no escape. A return to the 19th Century is contra-indicated but that will not stop our neo-Stalinist chums from pushing it or supporting the Assad, Gadaffis and Putins of this world in the name of anti-imperialism.

    Comment by David Ellis — August 29, 2014 @ 1:08 pm

  8. David, you’ve perfectly described the politics pioneered by Sam Marcy. Turns out he saw which way the wind was blowing and cut the rest of the middle class American left off at the pass.

    Comment by Steve D — August 29, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

  9. Steve D: I am well aware that Hizbollah has promoted a crony capitalist, neoliberal economics in Lebanon as the article that you linked explains. But that doesn’t mean that it is not significantly composed of working class Shia, especially those who have actually fought against Israel in southern Lebanon (with Lebanese leftists joined Hizbollah fighters on the frontline in 2006) and continue to do so in Syria.

    You seem to be under the misapprehension that I said that Hizbollah is an exclusively working class organization, obviously, it’s not, which is consistent with a sectarian, religiously based organization.

    You may find this characterization of Hizbollah interesting, it is from 2006, but likely to still be valid today:

    [While general sympathies have been growing across many sectors of Middle Eastern society, hardcore support for Islamist parties tends to come from within the poorest urban slums, from workers in factories and from the rural villages where support for Islamist groups such as Hezbollah is nurtured and cultivated as a counterweight to what is seen as class-based exploitation. According to a nationwide public opinion poll conducted by Statistics Lebanon with 400 participants in June 2006, Hezbollah drew most of its support from lower socio-economic groups; 81 per cent of those expressing support for Hezbollah were of lower socio-economic strata with monthly income below US$1,000; 38.6 per cent had below middle school education, 45.6 per cent received secondary education, and only 15.8 per cent had college education. Having been left out of the processes of globalisation, democratisation, modernisation and state building; with hardly enough to eat or a place to sleep, the poorest classes in Lebanon have created their own political allegiances. For those who have nothing to lose, Hezbollah has shown the way: there are a whole world and a heaven to conquer.]


    Of course, it is terrible that, as you observe, Hizbollah has exploited this support for the benefit of middle and upper income Shia, in this, the authors of the article naïvely exaggerated the radical potential of Hizbollah as a political and social organization. Accordingly, it is entirely possible that the leadership of Hizbollah intervened in Syria to deflect attention from it. But characterizing Hizbollah as a middle class organization, as if the middle class is fighting and dying in Syria, is an evasion, one that erases the horrific tragedy of Shia and Sunni workers killing each other in Syria and Iran at the instigation of Saudi Arabia and Qatar (and probably the US as well).

    Personally, I agree with this following critical perspective of Hizbollah, one contrary to the article I linked above:

    Hence, the problem isn’t that Hizbollah lacks significant working class participation, but rather that the Shia working class have abandoned the left for it. This is the challenge facing the left, trying to understand why working class Sunni and Shia prefer sectarian religiously based groups to leftist ones.

    Comment by Richard Estes — August 29, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

  10. Received today:

    Dear Louis Proyect,

    I am a big fan of your blog. I just read Cancer, Politics and Capitalism on Counterpunch. I just had a quick comment for you about it. But quickly, having studied chemistry and earth science, and after having watched my mother die from lymphoma, I am particularly interested in the intersection of hard science research in relation to diet and cancer.

    You write in your recent article:

    “Nutritionists are always urging us to eat fruits and vegetables, especially those with anti-oxidant properties such as blueberries and cabbage but there has never been a rigorous study of diet and cancer. This has a lot to do with
    the near impossibility of conducting a demographically representative study of the effects of eating “good” food and bad.”

    One of the most rigorous studies of diet and cancer was conducted by Dr. T. Colin Campbell in a book he wrote that summarizes the studies findings, called The China Study. Here’s a Youtube video of one of his presentations:

    Check it out.

    Chris B.

    Here’s Dr. Campbell’s full BIO:

    Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry (Cornell) & Author of The China Study. Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long Term Health (Campbell TC and Campbell, TM II, 2005)

    T. Colin Campbell, who was trained at Cornell (M.S., Ph.D.) and MIT (Research Associate) in nutrition, biochemistry and toxicology, spent 10 years on the faculty of Virginia Tech’s Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition before returning to the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell in 1975 where he presently holds his Endowed Chair (now Emeritus).

    His principal scientific interests, which began with his graduate training in the late 1950’s, has been on the effects of nutritional status on long term health, particularly on the causation of cancer. He has conducted original research both in laboratory experiments and in large-scale human studies; has received over 70 grant-years of peer-reviewed research funding (mostly NIH), has served on several grant review panels of multiple funding agencies, has lectured extensively, and has authored over 300 research papers. Also, he a) coordinated a USAID-supported technical assistance program for a nationwide nutrition program for malnourished pre-school age children in the Philippines (1966-74), b) organized and directed a multi-national project responsible for nationwide surveys of diet, lifestyle and mortality in the People’s Republic of China (1983-present), c) was a co-author and member of National Academy of Science’s expert panels on saccharin carcinogenicity (1978); food safety policy (1978-79); diet, nutrition and cancer (1981-82); research recommendations on diet, nutrition and cancer (1982-83); and food labeling policy (1989-1990), d) was the organizer and Co-Chair (but listed as Senior Science Advisor) of the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research report on international diet and cancer recommendations (1993-1997), e) was the principal witness for the National Academy of Sciences in two Federal Trade Commission hearings on issues concerning product-specific health claims (1984-1986), f) was Visiting Scholar at the Radcliffe Infirmary, University of Oxford/England (1985-1986), g) was the Senior Science Advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research/World Cancer Research Fund (1983-1987, 1992-1997), h) presently holds an Honorary Professorships at the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine and i) is on the Research Advisory Board of the Chinese Institute of Nutritional Sciences in the Chinese Academy of Science, the government’s leading institution responsible for nutrition research and policy in China and is an Advisory Professor of the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. He is the recipient of several awards, both in research and citizenship. In summary, he has conducted original research investigation both in experimental animal and human studies, and has actively participated in the development of national and international nutrition policy.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 29, 2014 @ 7:52 pm

  11. Thanks for the response. Interesting reading.

    I think it’s clear that Hezbollah is a petty bourgeois nationalist organization. Of course it has many members from the lower classes, as do the Democratic party in America and the KKK. That’s because the bulk of the population is lower class. An organization made up solely of the exploiting classes couldn’t be a party, at best it’d be something like Skull and Crossbones or the Rotary Club.

    Comment by steve d — August 30, 2014 @ 6:31 am

  12. Also before the war with Israel Hezbollah enjoyed high support from the rich and relatively low from the lower classes. War has a patriotic effect, especially an invasion. Plus Hezbollah runs a network of businesses and uses some of the profits for social work which buys the support of poor people.

    Comment by steve d — August 30, 2014 @ 6:33 am

  13. “Hezbollah enjoyed high support from the rich and relatively low from the lower classes. War has a patriotic effect, especially an invasion.”

    Seen as you fear bottom up movements I fail to see what point you are making here? Though everything you say is an outright lie. No wonder you agree with this garbage.

    Comment by Simon Provertier — August 30, 2014 @ 4:01 pm

  14. Try reading once in a while instead of just running your fingers. I linked to a lot of info earlier.

    “Using 1993 survey data, the study found that Hizballah adherents were less likely than expected to be deeply religious, to have a low socioeconomic status, and to have a strong political alienation.” – http://jcr.sagepub.com/content/40/1/41.refs

    And no I don’t fear “bottom up movements.” That’s a canard. I’m for working class movements that are proletarian in content AND form. You are apparently for everything that goes “bang.”

    Comment by Steve D — August 30, 2014 @ 4:39 pm

  15. “I think it’s clear that Hezbollah is a petty bourgeois nationalist organization.”

    No one said that it wasn’t. Rather, my point was that Hizbollah has substantial Shia working class involvement, much like ISIS probably does in regard to the Sunni working class, and that the fratricidal violence between Sunni and Shia workers is being financed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with the acquiescence, if not complicity, of the US.

    You seem disinterested in my call for the left to condemn this and challenge it as aggressively as you want the left to do in regard to Assad in Syria.

    Comment by Richard Estes — August 30, 2014 @ 5:16 pm

  16. Louis Proyect talks about the anti Imperialism of fools and then to undermine the case the imperialist Steve D turns up with his witless and willfully ignorant mutterings.

    SteveD certainly does have a fear of bottom up movements, he has already shown us 2 examples – the KKK and lynchings! I guess for SteveD the bottom need some sense from the top in order to make them palatable! So maybe we need an idea that was popular among a section of the privileged classes first, what could that be? Hezbollah, no! Oh wait, how about Socialism and Marxism!

    If SteveD was then to come back and say, well yes socialist ideas were articulated by the privileged classes but they only spoke of a real development among the oppressed, then can I refer him to Hezbollah and how the following statement is just utter kindergarten banal drivel:

    “Hezbollah enjoyed high support from the rich and relatively low from the lower classes. War has a patriotic effect, especially an invasion.”

    Comment by Simon Provertier — August 31, 2014 @ 10:40 am

  17. “You seem disinterested in my call for the left to condemn this and challenge it as aggressively as you want the left to do in regard to Assad in Syria.”

    I have no clue where you got this. I’m opposed to all imperialist and bourgeois camps, from Assad to Isis, from Netanyahu to Hamas and the misnamed PLO. I’m similarly disinterested in what the left wing of capital does since it’s irrelevant to the working class movement for international communism except to distract it from its tasks.

    If you’re really interested in these politics please see: http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201408/10217/middle-east-war-pogroms-and-destruction-consciousness



    Thanks comrade

    Comment by steve d — September 1, 2014 @ 7:44 am

  18. FYI: disinterested .ne uninterested. To be disinterested is a bourgeois virtue: it means e.g. that you have no skin in the game you are refereeing and can thus be what is called objective. To be uninterested is, well, not to care about, not to “take an interest.”

    Comment by Susan Barton — September 3, 2014 @ 5:41 pm

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