Islamic Fascism, or Zionist Fascism?
The label ‘Islamic fascism’ has been thrown around by the far right for a long time. Now Bush has labelled Hizbollah ‘Islamic Fascists. Why has Bush gone all the way to demonise Islam? This can only be to deflect attention from the sheer barbarism of the US and Israel exporting democracy via missile launches onto the poor people of Gaza and Lebanon. Who really deserves the label ‘fascist’ today?
Bush wants to upgrade the crusade against Islam into a new war against fascism
How convenient when the US is suffering setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Israeli’s cannot destroy Hizbollah despite 10,000 troops, drones in the air and spies on the ground. Labelling Hizbollah fascist also serves to split Hizbollah from the rest of Lebanon in the UN ‘ceasefire’ deal that will see Lebanese troops replace the Israeli’s and Hizbollah between the Israeli border and the Litani River.
But there are obvious objections to Bush’s label as well as less obvious ones that need to be understood. Here is Juan Cole’s view of Bush attempt to invoke the label fascism to give new lift to the war on terror.
Cole shows that fascism cannot apply to Islam in even a superficial way. He says that Islam is inconsistent with fascist ideology. Hizbollah has no state to terrorise people and it has entered the Lebanese parliament to take advantage of democracy. Moqtada al Sadr in Iraq is participating in the Iraqi puppet regime that Bush would not possibly describe as fascist. Both are minorities in their national parliaments.
Cole doesn’t attempt to go into the underlying fallacies. Fascism arose out of deep crises in modern imperialist states in Europe in the 1920s where proletarian revolution was on the agenda. Fascism mobilised the declining middle class in a movement to smash the proletarian vanguard. In wars against fascist powers, workers in imperialist ‘democracies’ try to take control of the armed forces so that instead of shooting workers conscripted to fight for ‘fascist’ countries, they collaborate to turn their guns on all the ruling classes.
In Lebanon, it’s clear that Hizbollah has massive popular support despite Israeli attempts to split Christian and Sunni Lebanese from it. Hizbollah is a popular, democratic militia that is based in the Shia and Palestinian working class rather than trying to destroy it. It does not kill Israeli conscripts in the IDF except in defence of its military positions. Not does it kill prisoners of war or target civilians except in reprisal to Israeli bombs and missiles. It is the success of the ‘democratic’ struggle of Hizbollah to defend Lebanon from Israel’s invasions that Bush and Olmert find so threatening. Their response is to demonise it as fascist and insist that it be disarmed by UN forces.
Perhaps Hizbollah can be labelled ‘fascist’ by association with Iran?
The Shia theocratic regime in Iran is based on the small bourgeoisie of the bazaar and has some of the features of European fascism. There is a reactionary theocratic state and the ‘revolutionary’ guards are like fascist gangs used to attack any democratic opposition. To apply the term ‘fascist’ to characterise such a regime is imply that the main purpose of the capitalist state is to smash the proletarian revolution.Yet this regime is a reaction to a history of imperialist coups, puppet regimes and proxy wars and is not first and foremost a movement to smash the revolutionary threat of workers to overturn the semi-colonial capitalist state. However, in so far as such regimes do engage in the destruction of the revolutionary leadership of the labour movement by mobilising paramilitaries based on the middle class, they can be considered ‘semi-fascist’.
In wars between such semi-colonial authoritarian regimes (even when they are fascist) and imperialism, we must take the side of the semi-colonies, despite their reactionary rulers. Trotsky backed Haile Selassie against fascist Italy in the 1930s even though Haile Selassie appeared to be more reactionary than Mussolini. Trotsky was even prepared to support a form of the semi-fascism in Brazil against US imperialism. Nevertheless we know that only the workers have the class interest to fight imperialism to the death, and that sooner or later the national bourgeoise will resort to semi-fascism to smash the revolutionary proletarian movement. That is why in such wars we fight for the masses to overthrow their capitalist leaders or all political colours as a necessary condition of defeating imperialism.
Clearly, even if Bush’s label ‘fascism’ did apply to Hizbollah, Hamas, the Iraqi Shia resistance, as an extension of a ‘semi-fascist’ regime in Iran (which they are not) they are a reaction to imperialist oppression and are based on the anti-imperialist working class. They are not directed principally at smashing a revolutionary leadership but rather harnessing it to nationalist movement. Rather than condemning such Islamic movements or regimes, we have an obligation to defend them from imperialism while at the same time working to overthrow them by means of popular workers and peasants revolutions.
Why doesn’t Bush call the Zionist state Fascist?
All the features of European fascism, or semi-fascism, are much more obvious in Israel. But to recognise this would not only destroy the attempt to demonise Islam as fascist, it would expose and destroy the pretentions of lsrael to any democracy and furthermore to any right to exist on Palestinian land. Let us see how Bush’s arguments can be easily turned around in the case of Hizbollah, Hamas and the Iraqi Shia.
So George Bush thinks Hizbollah are now Islamic Fascists. What is it about them that makes them fascists? They are a liberation movement that arose out of the 18 year Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon between 1982 and 2000. They contest the parliamentary elections and have 12 seats in the Lebanese parliament. They are a popular, democratic militia that does not engage in political assasinations. They are more popular and democratic than the militia that fought Britain for US independence over 200 years ago.
On the other hand, the Israeli occupying force Hizbollah drove out of Lebanon in 2000 was founded in blood and terror in 1948 causing the diaspora of millions of Palestinians, over 500,000 to Lebanon. The Zionists objective in invading Lebanon in 1982 was to smash the Palestinian resistance. Israel allied with the Christian Falange fascist militia and under the leadership of General Sharon slaughered up to 3000 innocent civilians, women and children in the refugee camps of Sabla and Shakira.
So George Bush thinks Hamas are Islamic fascists. Why is that? Hamas won the elections in what today passes for ‘Palestine’, that is, the ‘bantustans’ on the West Bank and Gaza where several million Palestinians are concentrated into refugee camps. No sooner had Hamas won the election, Israel supported by the US, blocked payment of funds necessary to keep the Palestinian National Authority running. Then, when the Hamas Members of Parliament voted to recognise Israel’s right to exist, Israel arrested the leadership, and bombed and invaded Gaza and parts of the West Bank.
So George Bush thinks that the Shia resistance in Iraq is Islamic fascist. Would this be the same Shia that was repressed by the US backed dictator Saddam Hussein for decades? The same Shia that live across the Iranian border and who were brutally killed in their 100s of thousands during Saddam’s 8-year war again backed by the US? The same Shia that rose up against Saddam after the 1991 Gulf war only to be betrayed by the US (UN) forces to Saddam’s murder squads? Now the same Shia who have formed a militia very similar to Hezbollah, with a broad social base in the South of Iraq, and which has joined the new Iraqi government? One doubts that George Bush would call his stooge government a puppet or fascist government.
Then of course George Bush thinks that the Nazi general staff behind the Islamic terror everywhere are the Iranian mullahs, Ahmadinejad in particular. The Iranian regime is a right-wing clerical regime that represses democratic opposition, but it is nationalist and anti-imperialist and even voted into power periodically. It originated in 1979 as a national revolution against the tyranny of the US backed Shah, himself put in power by the US when it overthrew the popular government of Mossadegh in 1953. It represents the backward national bourgeoisie of the bazzar against imperialist plundering and oppression. Whatever its rightwing reactionary clerical interests, it is nationalist and anti-imperialist and is only interested in suppressing democracy to retain the lead of the nationalist movement, not in smashing a non-existent working class socialist vanguard.
Zionist Fascism ‘sui generis’
George Bush throws the label fascism around to attempt to demonise and de-legitimise the Islamic resistance to Israel and imperialism in the Middle East. But in his ignorance he overlooks the one candidate for fascism in the Middle East, the US gendarme, the Zionist state of Israel.
If George Bush knew his history and geography he would know that Zionism was an extreme nationalist movement for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine that did deals with both the Allies and the Ottomans in the first war, and both the Allies and the Axis in the second world war. Worse, the Zionists sacrificed the lives of many Jews to the Nazi’s in return for the Nazi recognition of a Jewish state in Palestine.
By the scientific criteria used by revolutionary Trotskyists to characterise fascist regimes in Europe between the wars, Zionist Israel can be considered a form of fascism ‘sui generis’ (fascism with special characteristics).
(1) First, like Fascism, Zionism was a reactionary response to extreme capitalist crisis in the epoch of imperialism.
The Zionist movement collaborated with the imperialist powers to found a national state for Jewish capital facing a crisis of profitability in the capitalist economies of Europe. It was an extreme reaction to capitalist crisis in the epoch of imperialism. Israel was intended to be the geographic territory for the recolation of surplus Jewish capital and labour. In this regard the special characteristic of Israel is that it was a new capitalist state founded in an epoch when no national capital could stand alone and so was necessarily forced into a semi-colonial dependence on imperialism. Clealy this marks Israeli fascism as ‘semi-colonial’.
(2) Second, like Fascism, Zionism abandoned democracy for repression of the vanguard of the working class.
The repatriation of Jewish labour to Israel in the 1930s contributed to the defeat of the European working class, particularly Jewish socialist workers. The collaboration with the imperialists forced many Jews to adopt Zionism against socialism. The founding of Israel by acts of war supported by imperialism in 1948 were at the expense of the existing Palestinian people who were terrorised, disppossessed, displaced and used as a reserve army of labour. In other words, Israel was founded on the suppression of the most democratic right of Palestinians, that of national self-determination. In this regard the special characteristics of Israel were that first, it was an indirect agent in the smashing of the revolutionary socialist movement in Europe, and second, as a new state its existence required the forced dispossession and enslavement of the Palestinian working class.
(3) Third, like Fascism, Zionism provided an extreme nationalist and racist ideology to justify its occupation of Palestine.
Zionism is a reactionary nationalism which holds that Jews are ‘different’ and cannot be assimilated. This made it a natural ally of the fascists who wanted Jews to be eliminated, and the enemy of the workers who when rejecting Zionism for socialism had much more success in evading the Nazi genocide. However, Zionism elevated Jews to a similar racial ‘superiority’ as the Nazis did to the ‘Ayrian’ race. In the occupation of Palestine, almost all land is reserved for Jews. Arabs who live inside the 1967 ceasefire line are denied land ownership and other basic rights. In the so-called ‘occupied territories’ the constant terror used against Palestinians reveals a Zionist racism towards peoples other than Jews. Those who consider this to be merely ‘apartheid’, even if worse than that of South Africa, are merely treating a symptom of the disease which is, in the final analysis, Zionism. This is more than a racist settler ideology, but a fundamental racist myth that Jews are ‘different’ and ‘superior’.
Those who argue that Zionism is fascism, without any attempt to justify this scientifically, fall into the same trap as George Bush. They label any reactionary regime as ‘fascist’. Ironically, some are now beginning to use this term to describe the USA of George Bush. Some may think that appropriate, yet in the USA today, unlike Israel, there is as yet no revolutionary threat to a regime in terminal crisis. The Minutemen are probably the precursor of fascist bands organised in response to undocumented migrant workers, but they are far from being a social force capable of repressing the millions of such workers. Until the labour movement begins to rise up and rejects ‘democracy’, we cannot talk about fascism in the USA.
From Class Struggle 68 August/September 2006