The following article was written for a zine called Intifada, which should be out in a week or so :)
Since Israel’s latest brutal invasion of Lebanon, some leftist groups and individuals have seen fit to declare their support for Hezbollah. This support has manifested itself predominantly in writing on the Internet and on solidarity marches, protests and demonstrations. In this article, I hope to show that no leftist should support Hezbollah – a sexist, homophobic and anti-working class organisation.
The socialist left (and sadly, some anarchists), both in Aotearoa and globally, seem to formulate their support along one of two lines, described here by the UK Class War Federation in their statement delightfully titled “HezBollocks and IsRabies”:
Firstly, wholesale adoption of the Islamist agenda, cheerleading Hamas or Hezbollah without qualification or criticism. This ‘Idiot anti-imperialism’, the trademark of today’s SWP [The UK equivalent of Aotearoa's Socialist Worker], says my enemy’s enemy is my friend and any criticism of them, no matter how mild, is ‘racism, islamophobia, and Zionist pro American warmongering.’
The second approach is slightly more subtle – Hezbollah is fighting back, therefore we must support Hezbollah and the slogan ‘we are all Hezbollah’ is an act of basic solidarity with those who are fighting back against imperialism – the slogan is compared with the Parisian students who, when Danny Cohn-Bendit was attacked in the bourgeois press as a German Jew, marched through Paris chanting ‘nous sommes tout les jiufs allemands!’ (we are all German Jews).
This argument is crap – Hezbollah isn’t a nationality or a racial epithet, it is a political party/militia
My enemy’s enemy is my friend. Surely there are few justification for political support that are stupider! Zionists fight antisemitism, should we support them? Neo-Nazis oppose Israel, should we support them? The support for Hezbollah can only be explained on one of two grounds – complete ignorance of their beliefs, or the limiting of ones politics to hatred of Israel (and perhaps the USA) to the exclusion of the global working class, women, queers and revolution.
The majority of the civilians killed by Hezbollah were not the Israeli bourgeois, but rather the poorest sectors in society. The rich of the North moved South to stay with friends or family during the rocket attacks, or hired houses for a few weeks. The middle class had bomb shelters in their houses or apartment blocks. Meanwhile, the poorest sectors of Israeli society (predominantly Israeli Palestinians and Israeli Jews from Arab countries), not able to afford bomb shelters, were left to fend for themselves. Meanwhile, in Lebanon, Hezbollah push a sexist and homophobic agenda, especially in the South where their power base lies.
Surely, as revolutionaries, we should be expressing our solidarity with the working class of Lebanon, Palestine and Israel, not with their reactionary oppressors. We should be supporting the work of Lebanese, Palestinian and Israeli leftists, anarchists and all those working for that old cliche, peace with justice and self-determination. For, to quote again from the Class War Federation:
Re-jigging the lines on a map will create new oppressions, new grievances and new horrors, and we as revolutionaries should have no part in assisting that.
How would this be manifested? To quote one example of a positive, liberatory force in Lebanon that wholeheartedly deserves our solidarity and support:
7 Lebanese youth working with the R.A.S.H., the antifascist Red Anarchist Skinhead collective in Europe decided to return to Lebanon to help with relief work as the death toll in their country mounted. Within a few days they were risking their lives walking through southern Lebanon with 80lbs of food and water on their backs to arrive at villages near the Israeli border that humanitarian organizations had deemed unreachable. With Israeli missiles falling all around them, they supplied food to starving people unable to evacuate their villages.
The left is often criticised by Zionists for being antisemitic. From what I have seen, read and experienced, this is not the case. There are few antisemitic incidents on the left, and I think most of them are probably unconscious. However, a community can be unwelcoming to Jews without being antisemitic. It seems to me that support for Hezbollah, while not antisemitic in or of itself, does tend to make a community extremely unwelcoming for Jewish leftists.
I can think of a number of Jews who waver from leftist Zionism to cultural Zionism to non-Zionism to anti-Zionism, and I know that for many, comments such as “we are all Hezbollah!” are likely to push them far away from both Jewish anti-Zionist voices and from the radical left in general and back into the mainstream Zionist fold. Is this what we want?
We need to be fostering and encouraging revolutionary currents, and not supporting reactionary religious fundamentalist organisations simply because they happen to be physically confronting imperialist forces at a given moment.
And if Hezbollah is victorious in their goals, then what? Does blind support for them swap into opposition? Good luck finding Lebanese leftists struggles to support then, because Hezbollah’s success will naturally mean the end of the secular left in Lebanon.
Seeing the world in only black and white is perhaps the most destructive force in existence for much of the left. Rather, we should recognise that the struggle against capitalism and imperialism does not simply come from one angle. Fascists struggle against modern capitalism (although they are also often used by modern capitalism against leftist anti-capitalists), and likewise, Islamists struggle against imperialism. The Three Way Fight weblog phrased it thus:
The idea that there are significant right-wing forces radically opposed to both the left and global capitalist elites doesn’t just come from encounters with neonazis. If the concept of right-wing anti-imperialism has relevance anywhere, it’s in the Middle East. The Iranian Revolution was a wake-up call for me because it showed how militant, mass-based hostility to U.S. hegemony could take a right-wing form — and because so much of the U.S. left failed to understand this. Three-way fight politics is an attempt to go beyond old leftist categories because the old categories don’t adequately describe political reality today — including political Islam.
A commenter on Three Way Fight proposes a way forward from here:
Rather than trying to figure out the right “anarchist” line on conflicts like in Lebanon, wouldn’t it be better to simply understand the underlying forces of the conflict, using the best tools of materialist analysis, as well as the connections to U.S. domestic politics (not just foreign policy)? This would enable us to concentrate on our real task: building a radical working class in this country. In other words, the problem for revolutionaries is not to lend abstract “critical support” to this or that struggle overseas but to build a movement here, one that renders the U.S. incapable of propping up apartheid states like Israel or right-wing fundies like the Mujahadeen.
I think this theory is perhaps the most practical solution I’ve heard yet. Creativity is needed if we’re ever going to create a better society, and this is as good a place as any to start. For, to quote one last time from Three Way Fight:
George Bush declared after September 11th: Either you are with us or against us. Surely we can do better than that.