Robin Yassin-Kassab

A Social Media Mea Culpa

with 2 comments


Jill Stein in Moscow

On Facebook (which steals my time and makes me angrier than I already am) I remarked that the Tories will be in power for another decade in Britain now that ‘leftists’, mistaking an electoral party for a social movement, have re-elected the pro-Putin, pro-Khamenei Jeremy Corbyn to leadership of the Labour Party. (Here is the excellent Sam Hamad on Corbyn’s foreign policy.) Likewise, or even worse, some American ‘leftists’ will be voting for Jill Stein in their presidential elections. Stein believes that wi-fi rays (not just internet use) damage our brains. She attended a dinner with Putin in Moscow, then told Russia Today that ‘human rights discourse resonates here’. This while Russia occupies parts of Ukraine and rains white phosphorus and thermite cluster bombs on Syrian hospitals. Speaking in a city where it isn’t safe to be black, or openly gay, to write investigative journalism, or to dissent from the Putin line. Stein’s running mate believes that Assad won an election fair and square. Even if she could win, this hippy-fascist mix would not in any way be a progressive alternative. But of course she can’t win. What she can do is take votes from Hillary Clinton, and help Trump to win (something Putin is praying for). Yes, Clinton is as horrible as anyone from the American establishment, but she’s a hell of a lot better than Trump, the white-nationalist candidate whose election will have immediate and terrible effects on American society. As Clay Claiborne points out, voting for Stein in this context may be one definition of white privilege.

The discussion after my anti-Corbyn post includes me commenting on the stuff I wrote on this blog before 2011 (particularly on Iran), and one lesson I think I’ve learned since. As that stuff can still be viewed here, I’m posting part of the discussion.

When Hamza wrote: I personally like Jeremy more than I do some of his supporters. I don’t think he is as misguided as many on the “left”,

I replied (and I’ve deleted expletives): I saw him welcoming the imperialist Russian invasion of Syria “so long as it is humanitarian.” I note his sectarian wailing against Saudi Arabia while he takes money to appear on Iranian state TV. He’s close to the Stop the War fascists. He came to the first Syria Solidarity UK meeting and recommended demonstrating against the Sauds. He brought the propagandist Patrick Cockburn to miseducate parliament on Syria. Idiot is the best you can say about him.

Nicholas reponded thus: Epic rant! I happen to agree mostly…but at the risk of drawing your fire you wrote fairly complimentary stuff about Iran in 2007 in comparison to KSA…..not 100 miles from Corbyn’s position. Of course this was before their intervention in Syria and its murderous consequences.

I replied: I did. And I think my politics was a lot less based in reality before the Arab revolutions, but ffs, that was a decade ago. Since then Iran has sent occupation troops to Syria and organised sub-state Shia jihadist militias in Iraq (helping to create the ISIS backlash). It has also helped kick off the war in Yemen (though it can’t be blamed for the criminal Saudi terror-bombing). If someone held the same attitude to Germany in 1900, 1940, and 1960, would you take them seriously?

Then Niall wrote: But Germany had different regimes in 1900 1940 and 1960. Iran has been ruled by the same people since the early 1980s. And it’s known Rouhani and Khamenei helped kill 5000-30,000 political prisoners in 1988.

To which I responded: You are right. My politics before 2011 was far too much involved in the chessgame of states than in popular struggles. This is precisely what I accuse my opponents of now. I have learnt a very big lesson in the recent period. I would argue that until the American invasion of Iraq, the Iranian state was more sinned against than sinning in geopolitical terms. Other states were worse. Which doesn’t excuse its internal repressions. I also (wrongly) gave the Iranian state the benefit of the doubt, or I excused it to some extent, for its post-2003 domination and sectarianisation of Iraqi politics. I understood why they feared Iraq and wanted to interfere. By the time Iran moved into Syria – which had never attacked Iran – I changed my tune. There are many early posts on my blog which I’m not proud of. I keep them there so people (and me too) can see how I’ve changed through time, if they want. I still oppose Zionism and American imperialism, of course. But I hope my writing these days is a bit more nuanced. I see myself back then using the phrase ‘the empire’, for instance, as if there were only one empire. I suppose the world did look like that from 1991 to about 2004, but still, it was far too simplistic.

Now then. Time to get off the internet….

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

September 24, 2016 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Iran, the Left, UK, USA

Tagged with ,

2 Responses

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  1. You mentioned me on your blog! I’m quite chuffed there Qunfuz old boy.


    September 24, 2016 at 5:31 pm

  2. It’d almost be fascinating if it wasn’t so depressing to see the way the British (English and Welsh mainly I’d guess, though suspect similar in Scotland with SNP who are no better) left has fallen into the arms of the Labour Party. Though I’m doubtful there would been a great difference had that not been the case, I think the Labourism of a large section of it has in part at least acted to stifle any possibility of a politics that might have recognised and shown some solidarity with Syrians struggling against oppression from emerging. Labour is by definition top down and nationalist, with a history of racism and imperialism, and that approach to Syria is all too clear. Corbyn can trot out his hollow talk of ‘peace’ all he likes.

    I hadn’t expected anything else of Corbyn himself. Like you say, Stop the War and also his association with the Stalinist scum around the Communist Party of Britain and the Morning Star spelled that out clearly. It’s when you see self proclaimed anarchists and others losing the plot and joining the orbit around Labour that you realise the depth of the left’s disintegration. The period following the collapse of social democracy in the 1970s and Labour’s resulting neoliberalisation from the 80s onwards should have prompted a disorientated left to rethink its politics and the fact of its increasing alienation from the very people who are supposed to be its strength.

    That opportunity was spurned and what we have today are the sorry results of that failure. The toxic dead weight of Leninism was never substantially thrown off and a Labour Party that had shown its true colours time after time was never broken with. Anti working class liberalism at home and the anti imperialism of fools abroad. For internationalism as the solidarity with people fighting oppression to mean the cheerleading of (or at best accommodation with) murderous authoritarian dictatorships is a sick joke. The liberal left would prefer socialism without the working class and anti imperialism without the anti imperialists, then we can all have fun unthinkingly moving our favourite national flags around the map.

    Sam Marsh

    September 30, 2016 at 11:16 am

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