Extremists are uniting in an anti-globalization movement. Marxism is discredited, so the radical left is a movement without an ideology. They still oppose globalization, materialism, and the perceived injustices within these systems. Some radicals, as individuals or as groups, are joining or allying with the contemporary revolutionary movement – the Salafist or Islamist movements.

This is a growing problem. Ultra Right-wing nationalists, Left-wing radicals, and Islamists are forming an ad-hoc alliance against their common enemies. At the state level, Venezuela, Syria and Iran have formed an alliance. At the popular level, the ideology of al-Qaeda is changing to adopt the slogans and interests of the International Left. Many of the most dangerous Jihadis are converts – typically former Leftists or criminals – rather than born Muslims.

The anti-globalist radical movements are slowly morphing and combining into a unified force.

In the past, I noticed that “Islamism” is an ideological movement sharing some roots with the revolutionary socialism. Islamism’s intellectuals, like the Muslim Brotherhoods, Sayyid Qutb, use Marxist-style themes and dialectic analysis, like universal revolution, the inevitable collapse of capitalist-democracy, disgust with Western materialism, the triumph of the frustrated underclass, etc. Just substitute the Dictatorship of the Proletariat with the Caliphate and you get the gist of Islamism. It’s almost more Marxist than Islamic in origin.

Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden recrafted the message of Islamism to make it a truly global movement – not one constrained to Muslims. Zawahiri:

Al Qaeda is not merely for the benefit of Muslims… I want blacks in America, people of color, American Indians, Hispanics, and all the weak and oppressed in North and South America, in Africa and Asia, and all over the world, to know that when we wage Jihad in Allah’s path, we aren’t waging Jihad to lift oppression from the Muslims only, we are waging Jihad to lift oppression from all of mankind.

Osama bin Ladin has repeatedly stated that the Islamist movement has a coincidence of interest with the radical left and there is nothing wrong with allying with socialists. In his latest message, he continues this theme, criticizing “major corporations” a dozen times

“This is why I tell you: as you liberated from the slavery of monks, kings, feudalism, you should liberate yourselves from the deception, shackles and attrition of the capitalist system… The capitalist system seeks to turn the entire world into a fiefdom of the major corporations under the label of “globalization” in order to protect democracy.”

I forget who exactly, but someone once said that Osama bin Laden would have been a Communist if he was born in the USA. It’s easy to misunderstand Al-Qaeda as a religious fundamentalist movement, yet there is a something more to it. Al-Qaeda does not even get along well with actual religious scholars.

The radical left has been searching for an ideology to replace Marxism. Right now, it is a scattershot of various policies and mini-ideologies, like radical environmentalism and anti-war activism. Islamists are reaching out to join forces with these movements.

Islamism, both Sunni and Shia variants, is fashionable, to take Ophelia Benson’s explanation. Radical “chic” clothing includes Palestinian Keffiyeh – head scarfs. It’s easy to fit in with a large group by bashing Israel or the US or “major corporations.” Pro-Palestinian movements spread on College Campuses, which slowly turned into fronts to spread the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Back in 2001, while I was attending New York University, I observed the first anti-war movements. It was a motley assortment of Stalinists, religious fundamentalists, and other radicals. They formed a unified anti-war front during 2003 and the runup to the Iraq War. The invasion may have been a catalyst, but it is my belief that this unification would have occured regardless.

The Radical Left is still searching for a post-Marxist anti-globalist ideology. Lee Harris describes this as the Intellectual Origins of America-Bashing.

The Rise of America disproved the Marxian thesis that the working class must be immiserizated by capitalism. The ultra-rich SUV-driving American Middle Class taunts Marxists with their very existence. When the revolution failed to happen, communists offered a series of modifications to explain why the revolution had not occured. Lenin said that Western Imperialism was the final stage of capitalism because empires sold surplus good to colonial markets, delaying the immiserization of the Western industrial working class. Yet that theory was falsified as well. Today, the radical Left is attracted to another alternative theory – the Baran-Wallerstein World-System theory. The Wealthy Industrial nation-states have become the international Bourgeoisie and the Third World plays the world of the Proletariat.

So some modern socialist radicals view Third World religious fundamentalists as a neo-proletariat and agent of the future. The 9/11 attacks signified the beginning of a Third World Uprising against globalization. To that extent, far-left wing groups sympathize with the short-term goals of Salafists and Islamists.

The far-right radicals and nationalist extremists are easier to explain. They hate Jews. So groups ranging from the US Ku Klux Klan to European Neo-Nazis are superficially aligned with Palestinians against Israel.

Assaf Moghadam warns that European Left-Wing radicals and Islamists may work together and turn violent.

Interestingly, there are a number of parallels between these two ideologies: Like the radical leftist wave that hit Europe in the 1960s and 1970s, the causes of Salafi-Jihadism lie in part in a revolt against perceived injustice. The goal of both the leftist movements and Salafi-Jihadists is essentially an elusive quest to help bring about a more just society—violence is seen here as a justified means to an end.

Second, both the New Left and Salafi-Jihadists reject bourgeois values, imperialism, and materialism. They both believe that they are struggling not only against an enemy, but against an idea that lies at the core of all problems afflicting their peers, and indeed the entire world. They believe that the scope of activities, and the importance of their actions are global in nature, as are their goals.

Third, parallels between the radical New Left and the strengthening Salafi-Jihadist movement can also be found in the individuals recruited to these respective ideologies.

There is another trend. Many former leftists, frustrated criminals, and other radicals are converting to Islam. These converts make up a disproportionate percentage of radical Islamists and jihadis.

Daniel Benjamin talks about the The Convert’s Zeal. Benjamin lists off a large number of converts who played a role in terrorist activities in Britain, Germany, France, the US, and elsewhere. These converts are more reliable and radicalized than born Muslims.

One might have thought that terrorist organizations would be leery of converts and worry that they were unreliable or even suspect them to be moles. The opposite has been true. According to French sociologist Olivier Roy, 10 percent of al-Qaida’s soldiers in the global jihad are converts, and in France the number might reach 25 percent. Roy takes this as an indicator of the group’s globalized nature, “because a convert is not motivated by his or her culture at all. He is not motivated by the political life of his or her country. He’s motivated by joining something global. Al-Qaida is made of born again [Muslims] and converts who join the global jihad. One day they go to Bosnia and another to Chechnya, or to Kashmir, or to Afghanistan, or to Fallujah.”

That suggests that for those who turn violent, the act is more a matter of standing against the crowd rather than standing out from it. Radical Islamism seems to have become the magnet for some of the world’s angriest people who feel the universe is out of joint and must be changed. For these converts, it is an ideology of revolt that is more attractive because of its crystalline hatred of the status quo than its theology.

The ideology of Al-Qaedaism is more important the the original organization.

And let’s not forget that Iran and Venezuela are becoming allies. Hugo Chavez considers the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as his ideological brother. Venezuela offers passports and sanctuary for Iranian-backed Hezbollah operations in South America. Meanwhile, Chavez is importing a vast number of AK-47s and ammunition. Many of these weapons will spread through the South American black market and fuel conflicts in the region.

And much like during the Cold War – socialist democrats and liberals are shocked by the craveness of the radicals. Many socialist democrats in the Muslim World offer a secular and modern political alternative in their region, but have been abandoned by the International Left.

I have a grim feeling about the future. I see a large number of radical movements organizing and developing a unifying ideology to oppose the world economic order. I am not speaking of reformists or hippies who want to modify the system to make it better. The radicals genuinely wish to destroy. The Cold War was a prelude to this new style of warfare.

As these ideologies spread and mutate, they will pick up steam as a mass movement. Al-Qaeda is a possible forerunner of this movement. I can see a 50 year war happening over the course of our lives.

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