by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog
File it under “things we’d like to be true…so we never examine it”: The West’s unstated belief that their politics are exponentially morally superior to those of Saudi Arabia. “We only work with them – we are not at all like them,” is what it boils down to.
This article aims to show just how similar “Oriental despotism” is to “Occidental domination” in 2018 by revealing the similarity of Jamal Khashoggi’s socio-political vision to that of Westerners.
This is the final part in a 4-part series which aims to pull the sheet off Khashoggi, who is as much as a “reformer” as Hillary Clinton was a “leftist” or Emmanuel Macron was “centrist”. I think it’s necessary because there has been so much talk about Khashoggi, but very little examination of “Khashoggi-Thought” – what he espoused and stood for.
Part 1 showed what true “dissidents” in the Muslim World look like and why the elite-defending Khashoggi does not qualify; Part 2 showed how his rabid anti-Iran warmongering and his hysterical anti-Shia sectarianism precluded any possibility of his being even merely a “reformer”; Part 3 demystified and stripped the Islamophobia from “Salafism” to show that many in the West want to “return to a golden era” – like 1776 in America – just as Khashoggi and other Salafists want to return to 676; and also reminded readers that the West and the Muslim World are the only two regions of the world where we still find supporters of monarchy, which is an inherently reactionary and inegalitarian concept in 2018.
Khashoggi, just like Western conservatives and centrists, denied any sort of modern leftist political movement – socialism, Islamic socialism, etc. – which could undermine the social powers as apportioned up until the 19th century.
Pushing technocratic & elitist bourgeois democracy, anti-socialist economics, window-dressing cultural liberality, and rationalising warmongering is what modern fake-leftism is; because this definition fits Khashoggi, the Clintons, Macron, Blair and others, we now see how similar they are. Therefore, the death, and alleged martyrdom, of Khashoggi allows us to show what Western democracy truly wants to defend: we will see it stands 100% in favor of modern despotism – either/or monarchical or bourgeois – both in the Orient and the Occident.
Non-jingoistic Westerners should not be dismayed at such a thesis: it allows us to increase global unity by showing the similarity of the 1%.
Rationalising China’s success is a must across the West, but how do they do it in Saudi Arabia?
A good test to see if someone is a fake-leftist is to get their views on China. Everybody loves Cuba – music, dancing, beaches, cigars – so supporting them is too easy; it takes a real leftist to squint hard at China and see their leftist commitment and beauty.
If someone claims to be a leftist but only talks about the only-crimes-and-never-successes of the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution, instead of their 266% GDP increase since 2008…this person is a centrist at best – i.e. a fake-leftist. (I write from the Lost Decade-denying Eurozone, which is at -12% since 2008) Such persons get seriously annoyed at being properly pegged on the global political spectrum like this…but I did not invent the spectrum.
Absolutely everybody is starting to notice China’s huge leaps amid the West’s austerity-imposed suicide. But how do they explain it?
Is it the result of their rock-solid socialist constitution, written in 1982? Or is it by accusing the Chinese of having a totalitarian system? Or is it by accusing them of being “radishes” – only red on the outside. Due to their undeniable success, we journalists simply must make some explanation – what did Khashoggi choose?
Khashoggi provided the answer in this article run by Saudi media giant Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, the Chinese model and Vision 2030.
It’s an interesting article because he basically tries to equate the Saudi monarchical governing class with the Chinese Communist Party. LOL, unexpected, no? The Long March, the Cultural Revolution, the Century of Humiliation – all that produced something…just like the blood-red commie “House of Saud Party”, if you believe Khashoggi!
“In fact, the Chinese economy has always been and continues to be a fair economy compared to similar totalitarian regimes. Moreover, the Chinese economy is suitable for all classes of the society and displays a firm determination to fight corruption to the point that leaders, who get involved in corruption, including receiving briberies or committing frauds, are executed.
I think Saudi Arabia can achieve the same because of its cultural background. It is an Islamic country….”
Seemingly no Muslim outside of Saudi Arabia would say that Saudi Arabia is an “Islamic country”; it is the “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” and not even the “Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”. As I related in Part 3, a common line in the Muslim world is “Saudi Arabians are not Muslims, they are Wahhabis.”
Beyond the Islamic objections…it is rather hilarious that a total monarchist – a system based purely on class elitism, anti-democratic disempowerment, intimidation, and blood instead of brains – thinks that the House of Saud can all of a sudden produce something which “is suitable for all classes of the society”.
Such a misguided idea, since we must classify it in order to fully understand it, is an 18th century idea known as benevolent despotism…and it is totally reactionary. It’s unofficial motto of “Everything for the people, nothing by the people” is not remotely similar in essence or practice to the People’s Democratic Dictatorship in China; it is, however, extremely similar to the ideal in Western Liberal Democracies in the 21st century, as they expound a (allegedly) merit-based, “benevolent technocratism”.
Benevolent technocratism – which was essentially the campaign platform of Hillary Clinton, and which provides the justification for (still-failing) economic policy domination by the Eurozone’s “best” economists – is 100% fake-leftism.
Benevolent technocratism is the same old despotism of the bourgeois, and thus fake-leftism
Khashoggi’s view of ideal governance is perfectly described for us in this same article:
“I like to simplify things for a better understanding before I try to make others understand them. That’s why I try to imagine the National Center as an operating room where in the middle is the Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman as the chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs surrounded by ministers, members of the Council, and other experts.
Right in front of them, I imagine personal computers linked to the room’s database and a few meters far many screens showing numbers and graphics with goals set for each ministry and government institution. I also imagine the chairman of the Council zooming in on one screen to see the reasons behind flaws and the concerned minister explaining why they occurred and suggesting solutions to tackle them. This system, as I imagine it, is able to make every minister work hard and held accountable.
From this scope, can the plan be monitored and its executors held accountable with complete transparency without an elected Council and without the basis of democracy to achieve the success of both the transformation plan and the Vision? Personally, I think this is possible but it can only happen in Saudi Arabia considering its social and cultural background, which is based on Islamic ethos and considering the fact that others have done it as well.”
Does anyone not envision Eurozone/EU leadership operating in the same “too smart to be touched by commoners” style? Khashoggi’s vision is basically to be a West European-aping technocracy where the “talented tenth” rules with assumed but unproven moral aims.
Khashoggi admits – and without shame – that this fantasy lacks democracy, but this fantasy is also robotic, technocratic, clinical and nearly inhuman. There is no way any of these so-called experts have spent a day sweating in the Saudi sun, yet they sit in total removal from Saudi society and decide policy for 33 millions. (Oh, and they’re all related, LOL; or, like in France, they all went to the same school.)
Crucially, because they have the data and computers then of course they will have the same success as China! Too bad political science is not a “science”, and that moral motivations matter. What Khashoggi fails to realize is that China’s “technocrats” get to the top by having a PhD in something not offered in any Western university: socialism (with Chinese characteristics).
The US, being not Western Europe, also aspires to ape this aristocracy, but for various reasons they only recently became even less class-mobile than Europe. This is why the loss of Hillary was so significant – it was a blow against this aristocratic technocratism which long-ago swept the West’s intellectual centre, Europe.
Contrarily, China’s President Xi spent seven years in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution (LOL, or according to The New York Times where he “fled” to), where he taught farmers how to read by firelight. In Cuba an admired and beloved small-town cobbler who just got elected to help keep Cuban parliament real – an unthinkable development in Western Liberal Democracies. In Iran there are plenty of representatives of the lower class all throughout the government, and this policy has been cemented by the totally-misunderstood Basij, which I tried to explain here.
Never uttered in the West: they believe that technocratism is more important than democracy
“The second frame of reference is China’s huge economic success, comes alongside arguments related to democracy being a precondition for progress. Therefore, we are witness to a new ‘Chinese model’ different from the commonly spread model of Western democracy.”
Khashoggi is obviously implying that China has had success despite not having democracy, therefore anti-democratic Saudi Arabia can do the same.
Too bad that Khashoggi’s frame of reference – the alleged anti-democracy of China – is not at all accurate. The Chinese frame of reference is “socialist democracy”, which is qualitatively different from “Western bourgeois / liberal democracy”. Calling socialists “anti-democratic” is as false as socialists who say the liberal democratic West is “anti-democratic”: the two are structurally different, making both sides right about each other, but only partially. Liberal Democracy, I must admit, does have certain freedoms socialist democracies do not…these freedoms are not universally-guaranteed, but are reserved for those with money, but that is technically a “freedom”.
Again, Khashoggi is failing to see socialism’s motivations, concerns, demands and goals anywhere – he sees Chinese success solely as resulting from technocratism.
But in socialist democracy, where non-elite-born hold at least SOME top posts, then we will inevitably find that all technocrats do not interpret all social data the same: this is the exact point of conflict where Western Liberal Democracy totally collapses and reveals its essential, unmodern elitism.
Khashoggi, like Macron or Hillary, does not want this socialist-style of representation in their governance, nor do they want socialist-style policies, because such policies are not 100%-focused on maintaining the elitist lifestyle of the bourgeois/monarchical/1% class which they are a part of.
But any objective reading of postwar China – a country under blockade, refusing foreign investment, long-banned from top international organisations (like modern Iran), pulling itself out of swamps caused by a “century of humiliation” solely via their own policies, efforts and domestic investments – shows that China’s success is due solely to socialism. The same goes for Iranian Islamic Socialism, which has had similarly spectacular redistributive success amid similar global Cold War. Not so to Khashoggi who, like all journalists and commentators, must find an explanation for China’s astounding success in the past decade:
“The reason might be principles of Confucianism”, which is more utter nonsense.
China had Confucianism all through their Century of Humiliation…and also totally undemocratic inequality. They had it in the Ming and Ching eras and long, long before…and totally undemocratic inequality. I adore Confucianism, but as a social-moral model – as a political model it is totally outdated. Pushing pure Confucianism is “Chinese Salafism”, and this is what China’s Cultural Revolution explicitly overturned: the political disempowerment of the rural Chinese peasant caused by politically-outdated Confucianism.
But a Salafist’s only tool is an old calendar – they want to wax nostalgic and turn the pages backwards, never forwards.
Khashoggi is an anti-socialist, monarchy-loving Salafist – he will always only hunt around China’s past for its success, and never objectively examine its present.
Trump’s entire “Make America Great Again” hinges 100% on mining an allegedly-perfect late 18th century past.
Macron, in combination with EU-technocratism, is a Petainist Salafist – a few days after a far-right assassination plot was uncovered, Macron praised the Nazi collaborator Petain as an inspiration for today.
In a time when France’s president enforces detested policies by decree, when democratic votes are ignored across Europe, we should see that there is very little difference between modern Muslim un-democracy and Western un-democracy.
The only people who don’t admit this are ethnocentric Europeans, who can apparently subsist on the pride produced by flattering themselves with feelings of superiority, and also by those Christians who refuse to have fraternal feelings towards Muslims as Muslims have towards their fellow Abrahamic believers (those who are also not imperialists, of course). Such flattery is indeed the manna of their far-right, but also the Western fake-left, and this is the point of this article.
Fake-leftism means never admitting the small circle democracy is limited to
When we start calling things by their proper names, “fake-leftism” becomes more and more obvious in journalists like Khashoggi.
Fake-leftism leads to absurdly unreflective statements such as this, which have no basis in modern facts: “Western countries are adept at finding the reasons behind low voter turnout in elections or to determine why people are unhappy with the parliament’s performance.”
I suppose Western countries are adept…compared to Arab monarchies. Turnout is quite low and in 2016, when this article was written, any citizen-observer of the Eurozone (as well as the European Union) could see that disapproving performance registered no “democratic” impact on economic policy whatsoever. Both Khashoggi or a self-aggrandising Westerner could have written that sentence – both are fake-leftists.
Fake-leftism means someone who is out of touch with what Leftism means on the global scale, as they assume “left” and “right” only matter domestically; but it also means someone who pretentiously believes they are in tune with the average person despite spending their entire lives pointedly avoiding the average person. Khashoggi revealed this in an article titled The Saudi labor ‘shop’ must close, undergo reforms:
“I listened to the new Education Minister Ahmed al-Issa talk of his plan to transform education and enable it to produce competitive youth by launching “independent” public schools. He said children in private schools do not exceed 15 percent of the kingdom’s students, while 85 percent attend public schools. This surprised me as I used to think the rate of those in private schooling was higher, since that is the preference of all of my relatives and acquaintances.
I discovered then that those of us at the GCF (the annual Saudi Global Competitiveness Forum) are a small minority in a much bigger community that was totally absent, despite being the target of the forum. This community is supposed to be the working class to whom ministers keep promising hundreds of thousands of jobs year after year. Although the organizers want the whole Saudi economy to be more competitive, most citizens who graduate or fall out of public schools and universities are unable to compete.
If we want King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) to be more appealing than Dubai or the free-trade zone in Ethiopia, for example, we must make our environment more competitive for business investments.”
The first paragraph reveals what Khashoggi is: A journalist who was totally out of touch with the 99% of Saudi Arabia…or at least the 85% (“99%” is, of course, not statically accurate, but it has become a useful byword and tool of understanding). He’s also a bad journalist for not knowing such a basic fact of life about his own country – it is reminiscent of a parliamentarian from Macron’s party who recently provoked outrage from a “Yellow Vest” protester on TV because she did not know the minimum wage.
I included the 2nd and 3rd paragraph because it’s important to show how abruptly his line of thought ends: Khashoggi does have a class epiphany, and he even relates it honestly…but he blames his fellow citizens for being “unable to compete”. He then drops the idea altogether and moves on to “Competition” and free trade.
Furthermore, he clearly believes that in this article he has established a plausible link between societal-domestic-interpersonal competition between citizens and competition between businesses, corporations, trade zones and nations. That is so wrong and so false that I do not have the time to disprove it; if you have to ask, you’ll never know, as Louie Armstrong said about jazz.
“Arab citizens are losing faith in democracy even though it has been at the forefront of their demands.”
Reading Khashoggi finds that he specialises in this type of nonsense typified by Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times, truly one of the world’s greatest fake-leftists. (Indeed, it is amazing that such a warmonger and elitist votes for the “left party” – only in the West…) For the average Muslim or Saudi Arabians it is just as shocking to see Khashoggi described as a “reformer”. Again, there is no difference in 2018 between the Oriental or the Occidental despot.
Anyway, the truth is that Arab citizens are losing faith in one type of democracy – Western Liberal…and so are Westerners themselves. This realisation is great because it increases global unity, so why resist it? Socialist Democracy, however, is in bull form in any country which can withstand the decades of capitalist-imperialist blows, and the failure to recognise these trends and to abandon socialism makes someone a fake-leftist, as we all know.
I could go on and on dissecting Khashoggi’s writing for “fake Muslim leftism”, but the point has been established. I doubt anyone with an income under $100,000 / not working at a major Western NGO thought for a single moment that Khashoggi was a “reformer”, but hopefully this article showed how he is truly no different from Western rightists, centrists and fake-leftists.
Conclusion: Why Kare for Khashoggi? Why anything in the Muslim world? Answer: more imperialism
Western shareholder control of Aramco would give them the most powerful economic weapon in the world today. Talk about Google and Apple and smartphones all you want, but the global economy rises and falls according to the price of oil; because of this fact, Western capitalist logic dictates that they must control oil-producing nations.
The introduction of Western Liberal Democracy & their constitutional monarchy in Saudi Arabia would inevitably result in the control of Arabia’s oil by the international 1%. What that nefarious group has now is merely secondary control, with primary control held by the House of Saud.
Say what you want about Saudi Arabia – their leaders control their oil, at least. Say what you want about Iran – their People control their oil (which is why the West wants to ban Iranian oil, as if it contained the contaminating ideas of Muslim democracy, Islamic socialism, etc.). Saudi Arabia is also one of the world’s relatively untapped markets for international capitalists, much like Iran. Both nations have economies which are hugely state-controlled – and this cannot be tolerated in neoliberal capitalism, and thus it inexorably moves to change them & to Westernise them. Even if the Pentagon and Tel Aviv want no changes to the status quo in the region, we must see that the forces of capitalism are stronger than the forces of nationalism (or Zionism), and we all see this painfully plainly in Europe today.
Crucially, many in the House of Saud are anti-neoliberal (but not anti-capitalist) because they correctly understand that the monarchy cannot stand in 2018 without explicitly anti-neoliberal economic measures: two-thirds of all Saudi workers are employed by the government, major welfare programs, etc. Few leftists will objectively remark on this fact, but that is leftist economics in a very significant, real-world sense: Just as all capitalism is not “neoliberal”, not all socialism is “perfect socialism”, and the House of Saud is undoubtedly using socialist-related economics to buy their People’s support.
Double-crucially, while the old guard of the House of Saud realises this reality, many of the younger princes do not. Like the younger generation of Westerners, their young princes have been inculcated in anti-socialist neoliberal capitalism, and this inherently imperils the monarchy’s ability to buy off the Arabian People.
This line of thinking was rendered excellently by the prolific Whitney Webb for MintPress (whose leftist analyses were not ruined by her study of religion in university, I note) in her article The Real Reason the Knives are Out for MBS, so I only need to make a brief summation here:
What is of primary importance to the Western ruling factions are the Aramco Initial Public Offering and the $6 trillion in potential privatisation schemes of Vision 2030. However, as Webb notes: where does Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman really stand on the economic spectrum? Foreign investment into Saudi Arabia has plummeted, the IPO for Aramco (the world’s most profitable company) still has not taken place, and maybe MBS is not such a neoliberal traitor after all? He thus incarnates this shifting conflict between the neoliberal, younger generation of princes (and their Western puppeteers) and the older generation which grasps that neoliberalism – foreign control of a nation’s economy – can only lead to the loss of the monarchy’s absolute control and thus their pampered existence.
Let’s not forget why the West needs traitors in charge: Saudi Arabia’s collusion with Washington is what allows the “exorbitant privilege” of the US (petro)dollar, which makes the US financially impregnable; Saudi oil money is truly the liquidity which fuels the many risky investments of Wall Street; the Saudis make enormous US arms purchases not just for themselves but for the entire region.
We must look at the defense of Khashoggi by the West via the economic lens (which, of course, is verboten in Western mainstream discourse): how can international high finance finally get full control over Saudi oil, especially if MBS is not so neoliberal anymore yet remains in power?
Answer: Reduce the power of the Saudi absolute monarchy to a Western Liberal Constitutional monarchy (like the UK, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, etc.), which would create bourgeois “rule of law” and thus allow Saudi assets to be sold to Western capitalists.
I have demonstrated that there are myriad capitalist pressures pushing the West to make Saudi Arabia conform and to not be independent: and, after all, conformity merely means “Western Salafism”, i.e. Western Liberal Democracy in the form of constitutional monarchy. Khashoggi was playing the leading propaganda role in this effort calling for a constitutional monarchy, which amounts to a soft coup against the absolute monarchy of the House of Saud.
And that is ultimately why MBS had Khashoggi killed.
By killing the West’s head propagandist MBS is saying: there will be no bourgeois, Western constitutional monarchy. The West is so up in arms over Khashoggi because it is a red flag that they are perhaps dealing with a Crown Prince who will not play neoliberal ball, as he had falsely promised to Western puppeteers in order to get their approval to ascend to Crown Prince.
Because the Western 1%, and the Mainstream Media they own, wants to obscure this lens – how the defense of Khashoggi fits in with the inevitable capitalist pressure from international high finance to get control over Saudi oil – they thus want us to believe that Khashoggi was a “reformer”. But the West doesn’t care at all about democratically empowering the 99% in Saudi Arabia, of course; and the mere step up from absolute to constitutional monarchy is no “reform” in the 21st century – modern political thought declares that this is a bogus reform.
Webb did not stress enough the existence of an alternative – socialist democratic control of Saudi oil. Nor did she stress that Khashoggi was actually facilitating this neoliberal takeover, not hindering it.
Khashoggi was no journalist but a pro-Western, pro-neoliberal propagandist – he had no importance to MBS otherwise.
Capitalism-imperialism always plays multiple destabilising games at once – in order to ensure their interests prevail: thus, there is no conflict between their supporting MBS but also supporting Khashoggi at WaPo as a back-up plan. However they get control of Saudi resources is fine – whether it’s via a puppet or a soft coup, they don’t care.
Khashoggi was no “dissident” against the monarchy, but I’ve reminded readers that this was no problem for the monarchy- and bourgeois-loving West; he was tapped to be the Western 1%’s “Head Saudi Propagandist” because his writings clearly show that he wanted a Western-style bourgeois technocracy & constitutional monarchy in order to rule Saudi Arabia more “efficiently”…which means becoming Westernised as much as possible, economically unequal as much as possible, and Socialist Democratic not at all.
Time well tell: Mehdi Ben Barka, PressTV’s Serena Shim and others will be remembered as true martyrs for the Muslim world and for all of humanity; Jamal Khashoggi will soon be forgotten, except for the gruesome details, and that is because he was no friend nor supporter of the People but of the elite of which he was a part and which he unquestioningly and immorally supported. I hope this series shed light on that.
But I also hope that this series showed how Khashoggi is no different from the fake-leftists in the Western world. Muslims and Saudi Arabians are not any different from those in any other global region, and emphasising, clarifying and promoting our common humanity – and the common struggles of the 99% worldwide – is the goal of leftism.
This is the final article in a 4-part series which examines Jamal Khashoggi’s ideology and how it relates to the Islamic World, Westernization and Socialism. Here is the list of articles slated to be published, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!
Khashoggi Part 4: fake-leftism identical in Saudi Arabian or Western form
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.