Alliance of Leftist and Islamist Leaders

False Friends

Hatred of the USA is uniting leftist and Islamist leaders. Anti-Semitic propaganda and conspiracy theories are part of the way they see the world says Wolf-Dieter Vogel in his essay

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chávez (photo: dpa)
Here's looking at you, kid: Hugo Chavez's support for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has caused some uncertainty in leftist circles

​​ The stoning of adulteresses; torture carried out in the name of Allah – is this the "better world" that Hugo Chavez dreams of? The alleged election victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is, in any case, in the opinion of the Venezuelan leader, "very important for the peoples who are fighting for a better world." In the struggle against the "attacks of global capitalism" – by which he means the dissidents on the streets of Tehran – he has promised full solidarity with the Iranian president.

Nicaraguan head of state Daniel Ortega was also happy. By electing Ahmadinejad, he said, "the Iranian people" had chosen to "reject imperialism in all its forms."

Islamist-socialist axis

It comes as no surprise to learn that the Nicaraguan counts the Iranian amongst his friends. At the latest with their decision to ally themselves with the clergy on banning abortion, Ortega and his Sandinista Liberation Front relinquished any claim to representing emancipatory politics.

From left: Bolivia's President Evo Morales, ousted Honduras' President Manuel Zelaya, Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez and Ecuador's President Rafael Correa (photo: AP)
Meeting of the 'Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America': common enmity towards the USA is unifying leftist and Islamist anti-imperialists

​​ Chavez's support for Ahmadinejad has, however, caused some uncertainty in leftist circles. His "Bolivarian Revolution" has, after all, been firmly on the side of all those – women, homosexuals, lesbians – whose rights have been violated by the mullah regime.

But Chavez's friendly overtures are not really surprising. Though it has tended to be disregarded, and sometimes even had the support of his followers, the Venezuelan leader has been maintaining friendly relations with the Iranian regime for years. And this is about more than just maintaining economic cooperation or his country's membership of Opec.

Chavez, like his Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales, is regularly at pains to stress the closeness of the ties between his country and the Islamic government. During a visit to Tehran in 2005, he emphasised the "common anti-imperialist and revolutionary" virtues, and later praised Iran's struggle against "colonialism, servility and compliance."

Black and white analysis

It is, of course, their common enmity towards the USA that is unifying leftist and Islamist anti-imperialists. Their world view requires a black and white analysis that has little to do with any real and necessary criticism of the imperialistic behaviour of the major powers: for them it is about the "good" oppressed peoples' fight against their enemies, the "outsiders", who attack "their" culture, however that may be defined; the "good people" who are lied to and cheated by propaganda or other influences from "outside".

In short, a view of the world tailor-made for conspiracy theories.

How this works is set out with admirable simplicity on the Chavez website "for the development of socialism in the 21st century", The workers, students, women and youth of the Islamic Republic chose to vote for Ahmadinejad, according to author, Carlos Aznarez, because "the people are able to recognise someone capable of ably steering the ship through times of storm." Those who choose to oppose him cannot belong to the people and are operating, according to Chavez, with the backing of the EU and the CIA.

Anti-Chávez demontration in Venezuela (photo: AP)
Political protest in Venezuela: Chavez's alliance with radical Islamists is making it difficult to take the emancipatory aspirations of the Bolivarian Revolution seriously

​​ Where common interests depend only upon culturally defined understanding of self-determination and hostility to the "empire" then, naturally, Hezbollah and Hamas, too, are counted as being among the important allies.

It is worth noting that Chavez in his expressions of solidarity with the Islamist organisations does not stop at merely criticising the Israeli attacks on Gaza or Lebanon. Instead, in a style rather reminiscent of Ahmadinejad himself, he goes on to equate them with the acts of terror perpetrated by the Nazis.

Anti-Semitic propaganda

The Anti-Defamation-League (ADL) has pointed out that, in the wake of the president's rhetoric during the war in Lebanon, Chavez-inspired groups were actively engaged in spreading anti-Semitic propaganda, involving caricatures that featured both the Star of David and swastika, "Jews Out" graffiti and the like.

The ADL quoted the pro-government newspaper El Diario de Caracas as saying that "the Jewish race is doomed to disappear". Is it any wonder, then, that similar declarations of support for holocaust-denier Ahmadinejad have also been voiced in Bolivarian Revolution circles during the course of current events in Iran? Aznarez was quick to expose opposition mobilisation as something orchestrated by "North American-Israeli Zionistic fascism."

Obstructing investigations

Such attitudes of course are not limited merely to the followers of the "Bolivarian Revolution". The more radical the group on the Latin American left, the more criticism of US or Israeli actions tends to be replaced by gestures of solidarity with dictatorial regimes and displays of anti-Semitic resentment.

Demontrations after election victory of Ahmadinejad in Teheran (photo: AP)
"Attacks of global capitalism": According to Chavez's anti-imperialist reading, the Iranian protests after the controversial elections were part of US-sponsored propaganda

​​ In May, in Buenos Aires, in a gesture of solidarity with their "Palestinian cousins", a group of thugs violently disrupted a ceremony to mark the foundation of the state of Israel. The left has also been guilty of obstructing investigations into an attack on a Jewish community centre in the Argentinean capital in 1994 when 88 people died. The reason being that prosecution of those responsible, believed to be within the Iranian government, would legitimise US military action.

In the Mexican left-wing newspaper La Jornada, commentator José Steinsleger congratulated Hezbollah following the Lebanon war for "sending out a message of hope to oppressed peoples throughout the world."

Islamist organisations as deliverers of the oppressed? Even in the national liberation movements of the 1960s to 1980s the idea of the social revolution often got lost amongst the anti-imperial rhetoric. Whilst at that time criteria such as human rights or class struggle at least existed as an ideal, the current anti-imperialist protest often emanates from regimes and movements whose objectives fall far short of the achievements of the bourgeois revolution.

Those who give support to such regimes are not only supporting torture, stoning and murder in the name of Allah, they are also making it difficult to take the emancipatory aspirations of the Bolivarian Revolution seriously. "Good" oppressed peoples fighting against the enemies of the nation, the "outsiders" who attack one's "own" culture – however that may be defined.

Wolf-Dieter Vogel

© 2009

Journalist Wolf-Dieter Vogel lived in Mexico City for six years. He has worked for the Nachrichtenpool Lateinamerika (news pool Latin America, ARD Radio and the Taz newspaper. He now lives in Berlin.

Translated from the German by Ron Walker

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