The Left and Malala Yousafzai

December 1, 2012

Woman as Reason

Meredith Tax, a women’s liberationist and political activist since the late 1960s, author of The Rising of the Women: Feminist Solidarity and Class Conflict, 1880–1917, and now U.S. Director of the Centre for Secular Space, a think tank formed to oppose fundamentalism and promote universality in human rights, has recently written an important and controversial blog post, “Code Pink, the Taliban and Malala Yousafzai“.

In her post she takes up the delegation of Code Pink, a U.S. peace group that purports to be feminist, to Pakistan, where they marched with former cricket champion turned politician Imran Khan to the borders of South Waziristan, a Taliban stronghold. There they protested U.S. drone strikes that have killed hundreds of innocent civilians, including children, and apologized for the strikes. However, they had not a word to say about the many hundreds killed in Pakistan by the Taliban, or those killed in Mumbai, India, by Lashkar-e-Taiba, part of a coalition of terrorist groups supported by their host and guide, Imran Khan.


What Code Pink didn’t see coming, as Meredith Tax reports, is that while they were in Pakistan, “in nearby Swat, another Pakistani child, 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, was gunned down by the Pakistani Taliban because she was an advocate of education for girls.”

Tax continues, “No turn of events could more forcefully illustrate the idiocy of the U.S. peace movement’s one-sided approach to solidarity.”

The outcry against the shooting of Malala was so fierce and so passionate that, as Tax points out, “even Imran Khan had to condemn it, though it took him ten hours to do so and he didn’t mention the Taliban.” As for Code Pink: “Code Pink’s Washington office also did a hasty press release Oct. 10 saying they prayed for Malala’s recovery and offering $1,000 to her school, while making ‘a connection between drone attacks and growing extremism in Pakistan’—as if there were no Taliban before there were drones.”

Tax’s post let the voices of women in the region speak eloquently for themselves. What they said, loud and clear, was that they opposed both U.S. imperialism’s drones and—as Afiya Zia, a feminist researcher and activist based in Karachi, Pakistan, said—we “‘simultaneously oppose the masculinist misogyny and non-democratic rule and violence employed by local authoritarian forces including the army, tribal rulers, landed political rulers, the ulama/clergy or indeed, any patriarchal forces.'”

Scathingly, Tax conjectures that, “Perhaps the U.S. antiwar movement is so small because of its failure to develop a politics that is critical of both U.S. imperialism and fundamentalist movements like the Taliban.”


There were plenty of angry responses to Tax’s post, but what those who responded could not do—including those from Code Pink and the other so-called peace delegates—was to bring themselves to actually condemn the Taliban as they did the U.S. Oh, well, yes, now that Tax brings it up, and now that they did gun down a 14-year-old school girl who got all that press, they grudgingly condemn the Taliban too. Many used the argument that, since they were Americans, only the U.S. deserved their condemnation. With that logic, Pakistanis could only condemn the Taliban and leave condemning the U.S. to others.

Tax’s polemic is well taken. This is the same Left who is incapable of condemning both U.S. imperialism and Bashar al-Assad’s slaughter of thousands of civilians. As Raya Dunayevskaya says in her essay on page four in this issue: “It is at this point that the movements opposing war show their own negative character. The falling into a trap is inevitable when one does not view positively what they are fighting for, instead of only what they are fighting against.”

The fact that the U.S. is such a huge and deadly imperialist power blinds much of the Left to the fact that there are two worlds in every country and we actually can and should, at one and the same time, condemn U.S. imperialism and support indigenous struggles including—or especially—those of women, minorities and LGBT people. Because that’s what it comes down to, not only that you condemn both the U.S. and the Taliban, but why. It is because you are grounded in a philosophy of liberation that you know enough to support those struggling for freedom and a new human society, even when their enemy isn’t exclusively the U.S.

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