The historical Alliance Between European leftists and Islamists

| February 20, 2019

A few years ago when Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, travelled to Gaza, an Israeli media outlet called her a “Communist” and an “Islamophile” – writes Erfan Kasraie

The part of the statement about her being a Communist is factually accurate given her past membership in the Italian Communist Youth Federation. What about the claim of her Islamophilia? First, it is not uncommon for a leftist politician to sympathise with the Islamist worldview.

Mogherini would not be the only western politician with a leftist past to harbour Islamist sympathies. Throughout the Western world, left-wing politicians are often accused of appeasement, sympathy and alignment with Islamists even those of a radical nature. This unwritten alliance goes beyond leftist politicians in the democratic nations and includes Cold War communist hold-overs as the governments of Cuba and North Korea and the 21st-century socialist movements such as the one in power in Venezuela. The friendship between such entities and the regime in Iran is a prime example of their ties to the broader Islamist ideology.

Iran’s contemporary history is rife with an alliance between various hues of the ruby red revolutionary left and the pitch black reactionary Islamists. Barely months into the reign of the Islamic Republic, the leaders of the Tudeh Party, one of the oldest communist political parties in Iran, declared Khomeini appointed cleric Sadeq Khalkhali, who was known as the butcher of Tehran for ordering countless executions, their preferred candidate for the presidency. At the same time, the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Tudeh Party of Iran, Nour Al-Din Kianuri, praised Ayatollah Khalkhali for his courage to hand the agents and mercenaries of Imperialism to the firing squad.

The leftist-Islamist alliance is not limited to just one or a few historical accounts but is rather deep-rooted in history with strong ideological and philosophical underpinnings. About half a century ago, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi astutely identified this lurking alliance against his rule and coined the epithet “Red and Black Reactionaries” to refer to its followers. A few years later, the alliance spilt out into the open as leftists and Islamists marched hand-in-hand and fought should-to-shoulder to depose the Shah and bring Ayatollah Khomeini to power.

Cultural Marxism

Although much has been said and written about Marxism and its various historical interpretations, it is hard to find a single definition of this ideological school of many students. Classical Marxism builds upon the class struggle with the bourgeoisie on one side and the proletariat on the other. In the 1960s, more than a century after Marx and Engels published the Manifesto of the Communist Party, a new version of Marxism that came to be known as Cultural Marxism emerged.

Cultural Marxism is historically rooted in the Frankfurt School which refers to a period between World War I and World War II when thinkers such as Theodor Adorno developed the Critical Theory. This view of the sixties has grown popular among the left-wingers in Europe and North America, becoming the dominant discourse of the humanities and social sciences, especially in European universities.

The influence of Critical Theory was so monumental that more than half a century later, it dominates European institutions of higher education. Contrary to classical Marxism, cultural Marxism sees the society as the battleground between the “exploited” and the “exploiter”. In other words, the conflict is no longer class based but between the majority and the socially marginalised groups. Followers of cultural Marxism generally advocate LGBT rights, the foundations of feminism, ethnic minorities, and so on, but they also have a point of attachment to the Islamists.

While Christianity is in their view an exploiting force to be looked down upon, the adherents of Islamism are generally seen as belonging to the ‘exploited” camp and hence deserving of leftist support. Although theoretically, such reconciliation between cultural Marxism and Islamism must be a logical impossibility, in practice, and in spite of their fundamental differences and diametrically opposing views on a vast range of issues from women rights to transsexuals, homosexuals, and so on, the two worldviews have managed to forge a deep connection to each other.

As difficult as it is to understand this strange marriage at first glance, a second look at the origins of Cultural Marxism sheds some light. Cultural Marxism was developed in a period when the blossoming artistic and philosophical movement of postmodernism in France was gaining popularity by the day. Strange works of art without aesthetic elements were introduced. Avant-garde art, surrealism, and postmodern thought based on epistemological relativism all boomed in the same period.

Perhaps one will have as much difficulty (or ease) explaining the friendship between Islam and Cultural Marxism as one would have revealed why Robert Rauschenberg’s completely blank whiteboard, which appears at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, is considered a work of art.

Moreover, it is perhaps the same sum-of-contradictions that takes the founder of the Pink Code Feminist Group, Medea Benjamin to Tehran not to join Iranian women in their fight against oppression and discrimination but to support the anti-woman regime of Iran’s Ayatollahs and receive an award from them as well.

Beyond that, if we put together the pieces of this complex puzzle, we will find out how and under what conditions the link between cultural Marxism, postmodernism and Islamic radicalism was established and understand among others the intellectual basis for Michel Foucault’s support of the Islamic Revolution. It’s enough to see that Foucault, a postmodernist theorist, joined the Communist Party of France in 1950 and was influenced by Marxism and the Frankfurt School. During the Islamic Revolution, he strongly supported it and twice travelled to Iran during the same period.

Reverse Orientalism

Three years ago, when French philosopher François Burgat travelled to Qom, he told one of the clerics of the Islamic Republic, “We are all your students, and we know that Shi’a political and religious thought has much richness and, therefore, we are interested in learning more from you.” Burgat, a French left-wing orientalist, is called the “Reverse Orientalist” by Sadiq Jalal al-Azm, the Syrian thinker.

In a paper entitled, “The European Left Who Loves Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Despises Taha Hussein,” Yemeni lawyer, Hussein Alwadei, writes, “The European Left believes that the true voice of the Middle East is the voice of Ruhollah Khomeini, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists. According to him, the European leftist sees concepts such as democracy or human rights as colonial values ​​of the West, and believe that these concepts do not correspond to the reality of the Middle East.”

In Orientalism, there is even a humiliating view of the people of the Middle East. From this perspective, the people of the Middle East are people who want to be superstitious and avoid modernity and despise progress and science. From the viewpoint of Reverse Orientalists; the repression, torture and murder of intellectuals and critics in the Middle East are the dominant and real values ​​of these countries.

Concepts such as secularism, liberalism, and democracy are hodgepodges of inconsistency, void of the cultural context of the Middle East, and that the peoples of the Middle East, the Islamic Republic and the Islamic State want an Islamic Caliphate, not a modern government.

The European left, under the shadow of cultural Marxism, does not consider human rights abuses in these countries as brutal. Instead, they consider these brutal acts as part of those countries’ culture, and existential reality of those nations to be simply ignored and disregarded.

The European Left adheres to the concepts and values ​​of freedom of speech and democracy and secularism, but only endorses and expects them for the European societies, and not the Middle East.

It is for these reasons that the left wing of the European Union’s foreign policy condemns the violation of democracy and human rights in Myanmar, but not when visiting Tehran, despite the many requests and demands from human rights activists.

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