I saw a video of Nelson Mandela in a 2013 interview with Ted Koppel answering Kenneth Aldman on the question of the ANC's and Madiba's meetings with Gaddafi, Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat whom he had praised. He was asked rather pointedly if he would want any one of them to be a future president of South Africa, considering their track records in human rights in their own countries documented by the United Nations.
I didn't buy his answer which got him a standing ovation.
"That one of the mistakes political analysts make is to think their enemies should be our enemies. Our attitude towards any country is determined by the attitude of that country to our struggle. Yasser Arafat, Colonel Gaddafi [and] Fidel Castro support our struggle to the hilt. There is no reason whatsoever why we should have any hesitation about hailing their commitment to human rights as they’re being demanded in South Africa… They do not support [the anti-apartheid struggle] only in rhetoric; they are placing resources at our disposal for us to win the struggle. That is the position."
I sat down to analyse his statement. Coming from a conflict zone, I have seen how the old proverb - 'enemy's enemy is my friend' has been used, subverted and twisted for respective agendas. The enemy of my enemy is my friend is an ancient proverb which suggests that two opposing parties can or should work together against a common enemy. The earliest known expression of this concept is found in a Sanskrit treatise on statecraft dating to around the 4th century BC called the Arthashastra while the first recorded use of the current English version came in 1884. Some suggest that the proverb is of Arabic origin.
In his Arthashastra: Book VI, The Source of Sovereign States, Kautilya writes:
The king who is situated anywhere immediately on the circumference of the conqueror's territory is termed the enemy.
The king who is likewise situated close to the enemy, but separated from the conqueror only by the enemy, is termed the friend (of the conqueror).
- Kautilya, Arthasastra
If one starts questioning the Islamist movement in Kashmir, then the Sanghis or 'bhakhts' (people supporting the RSS-backed BJP government in India led by PM Modi) will use your position for their own means. If one starts criticising the Hindu-fascism, one is dubbed an anti-national and there are chances you could be charged with the British India imposed-law of sedition.
If one starts untangling the alliance that the Left seems to have formed with the Jamaat-styled Islamists, then one is automatically a capitalism upholding stooge. And lo behold, if one commits the blasphemous act of questioning regressive practices of Islamists, then there is the usual shooting, beheading, stabbing, threats, ostracism, and West-Mossad-RAW-Zionist paid agent label; I am not sure which one is more fatalistic.
I come from two traditions of my native place. One is the Progressive Movement of the 60s and 70s which boasted of stalwarts like P. N. Bazaz and G. M. Malik The other is the rich tradition of the 'zanadiaqa' the heretics of medieval Islamic heritage like Ibn Rush, Ibn Khaldun and others.
It is in my nature to speak of the oppressed worker and the caste discriminated Dalit or Pasmanda (my 'dark' skin and "Indian" features having given me enough experiences to empathize with them) It is also a duty to resist regressive practices in my own culture especially if injustice becomes the law, whether by state actors or non-state ones.
The Left needs to reprioritise and recalibrate (using a jargon from my profession of teaching); they need to introspect and reflect whether the class struggle that they are putting forth isn't being subverted and used as a proxy to bring a nation down. 'Taqiyya' and 'Kitman' are Islamic practices well employed by those Islamists who have today found their voice in a well-intentioned, well-meaning Left and those students whose heart is in the right place. Those "Thank You JNU" love notes displayed in the streets of Srinagar need to be seen in their proper context.
The best way to analyse this is to ask the nature of the empathy/alliance between the Left and Islamists. Two sworn-enemies (there were hit lists in the 90s from the Hizbul Mujahideen wherein several communist workers and leaders were named) getting together just to break up the idea of India for a failed ideology of a borderless utopian world.
The ''zanadiqa'' of yesteryears also dreamed of an equal and just world. They rose above the regressive aspects of their own cultures and made the daring commitment to truth and reasoning above texts. They were persecuted because of their stance and most lost their lives, a tradition which continues to this day with prisoners of conscience in Evin prison or those in Egyptian jails, Raif Badawi the most famous among them, sentenced to lashings and a jail term by Saudi authorities. Not to forget Ibn Rush or Averroes as he was known to the West - the Commentator of the Philosopher (Aristotle).
The late Christopher Hitchens didn't hesitate to call out the Left for its short-sightedness and duplicity. Nick Cohen in his Guardian article writes:
''Hitchens broke with the left, it reminded us, over the 9/11 atrocities and the second Iraq war. Leftists accused him of "betrayal," it continued, and quoted one who had described him as a "drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay". The BBC could not bring itself to add that the "leftist" in question was George Galloway, who saluted the "courage" of the secular fascist Saddam Hussein, went on to apologise for the regimes and movements of Sunni and Shia clerical fascism, and – lest we forget – led millions in demonstrations against the war to overthrow Iraqi Ba'athism without the supposedly moderate and respectable voices of liberal England uttering a word of protest against his presence.''
More than any other modern intellectual, Hitchens revolted against the sinister absurdity of a time when feminists, democrats and liberals in the poor world and immigrant communities were more likely to find their reactionary enemies indulged and excused by the left rather than the right.
To paraphrase Wilde, whom Hitchens adored, "on an occasion of this kind it becomes more than a moral duty to betray the left. It becomes a pleasure." I won't give you any guff about the left leaving Hitchens rather than Hitchens leaving the left. He walked out and slammed the door with barely one regretful glance over his shoulder. He remained a friend of and inspiration to many leftish writers, but for the "anti-imperialist left" that embraced life-denying, women-hating, gay-killing Islamists, he had nothing but contempt. Its indulgence of religious reaction had ruined it beyond redemption.
I have borrowed heavily from Nick Cohen's article to drive home the absurdity of the 'regressive Left' as coined by Maajid Nawaz, the British activist, author, columnist and politician. The Left needs to become relevant again or face its demise.