[DEBATE] : Community Activism (was unmasked!)
critical.montages at gmail.com
Sat May 24 21:58:50 BST 2008
On Sat, May 24, 2008 at 2:15 PM, Peter van Heusden <pvh at webbedfeet.co.za> wrote:
> And the turn-out of any march about Zimbabwe has been much smaller than this
> "thousands". Of course the recently elections sparked a flurry of analysis.
> But don't confuse analysis with activism. The protests at the Zim consulate
> after the elections were in the 100s, not 1000s.
> I agree "the left" has difficulty in building bases among the informal
> sector. A significant chunk of the "social movement" activism happens amidst
> such people, however, even if its not theorised in that way. Unfortunately,
> "the left" in South Africa is small - if by "left" we mean people associated
> with "left ideologies". Sometimes it is influential out of proportion to its
> And we're also talking chalk and cheese here. This mailing list is typically
> for "left news and discussion". Dealing with the "simmering resentment" is
> something that typically happens on the level of community activism /
> organising - something which might be informed by "left ideology" but which
> often involves a practice quite far removed from such ideology. Its probably
> worth thinking about this disconnect between "left" and "community
> activism", but responding to your immediate point, there's no huge pool of
> work happening on Zim and Mugabe that could have been happening on
> Zimbabweans in SA instead.
Maybe all Lefts in the rest of the world look bigger than they
actually are from where I stand in the USA. You are right: I erred in
mistaking the volume of analysis for that of activism on an issue.
You are also right that "community activism / organising" is
"something which might be informed by 'left ideology' but which often
involves a practice quite far removed from such ideology." I just
read this interesting blog entry on "a Hezbollah handyman" working on
fixing the streets. Listening to his view, I conclude his world view
is a mixed bag, composed of what's true, what's most probably false,
all things inbetween -- it's a coherent world view, and as such more
efficacious than an apolitical world view, but there is nothing in it
that is special or unique to Hezbollah, it being probably close to
"common sense" among politicized common people on the Left in the Arab
world. Merely on the level of analysis, you can find a smarter take
among the remaining Arab Marxists, but those Arab Marxists can't beat
Israel or fix streets.
Marxists, at one time, had a winning formula solidly rooted in the
prevailing economic structure of the Third World that politically
worked for them: Marxists help peasants take land from landlords, and
peasants help feed them. What happened in Nepal is probably the last
instance of this formula.
Today, many countries of the Third World, too, have become more urban
than rural, but a majority of the urban population are structurally
excluded from regular employment and state services. Islamists have
found a way of getting politically ahead by directly providing
services to them. A secular counterpart of the same phenomenon may be
an increasing NGO-ization of activism noted by both activists and
scholars, except that NGO-ization seems to be, more often than not, a
political dead end for secular leftists in a way that structurally
similar service work hasn't been for Islamists. I wonder why.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Talking to a Hezbollah handyman
Hezbollah is associated with a lot of horrible things in the West, but
few would attribute lane painting to the group. I took this photo this
afternoon after observing several crews of the Hezbollah construction
company Jihad El Bina busy in what they described as a mission to
restore downtown Beirut to its former glory. They told me they would
leave the posh district "in a better state" than they had found it
after setting up a sprawling tent city here 17 months ago in an effort
to paralyze the US-backed government.
I couldn't help but joke with the man in the photo above about the
color of paint he was using. "Now come on," I said, "I'm sure this
lane was painted blue before you guys moved in."
(Blue is the color of the pro-Western parties and yellow is Hezbollah's color)
He laughed and then asked me to join him for a cigarette break. I sat
down on the floor and began to ask about his view of the situation.
After a few minutes, he decided to show me a photo from his wallet to
help put things into perspective. It wasn't a photo of his wife or
children but rather a folded-up newspaper clipping of Hezbollah
soldiers in marching formation. He pointed himself out as the third
man on the right.
He had quite a few things to say in what developed as cordial
conversation/lecture. I cannot confirm any of his claims but I will
publish them here to provide a little insight into what at least some
followers of the party think.
He said the following:
-The United States provided air support to Israel during the July 2006
war as evidenced by the large number of planes attacking Lebanese
territory. (He said Hezbollah tracked over 500 aircraft while Israel
has far less than that number)
-Hezbollah deployed only a small number of its troops during the
recent take over of West Beirut. He said the group merely directed
other militias to carry out the operation--meaning it had only
exercised a fraction of its true strength.
-Hezbollah discovered large arms caches across Beirut, with weapons
presumably supplied by the US government.
-Syria's negotiations with Israel are not intended to make peace, but
merely to regain territory
-There will never be peace with Israelis, whom he accuses for being
behind the string of assassinations in Lebanon.
-Peace in Lebanon will only last for two years at a maximum. After
that, a regional war is likely to break out involving the usual
suspects: USA, Iran, Israel, Syria.
Again, these are the views of one man on the street and certainly do
not represent the views of the party or its members in general.
Here are some more of the guys fixing up the streets:
Posted by Habib Battah at Friday, May 23, 2008
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