Turns out that AROC stands for Arab Resource and Organizing Center, a local San Francisco Arab political organization that was behind the rally.
What kind of Arab political organization, you might ask? Well, that’s where things get, shall we say, interesting.
No, they’re not Islamist. I was right about that. But a quick survey of their Web site revealed various buzzwords and telltale phrases:
“oppose all war and occupation”
…and so on.
Furthermore, their “values” platform includes:
“1. Challenge the racism and religious discrimination.
2. Work to create an economically just world free from occupation and exploitation.
3. Oppose sexism, homophobia, classism, and ableism within our organization….”
…etc. They’re also stridently pro-Palestinian and demand the “right of return.”
And it dawned on me: These are the exact same phrases one sees spouted by American socialist and communist groups. And so these must be…Arab communists! [Slaps forehead.] Or, more precisely, Arab crypto-communists, since they take great pains in their literature to never say the c-word (or the s-word, for that matter). They say all the wink-wink nudge-nudge code phrases so like-minded far-left activists know how to identify fellow travelers, but keep the verbiage somewhat neutral so that mainstream freedom-minded Arabs might join up without full cognizance of the group’s true political slant.
(As a side note: I noted when I first arrived that the chants at the protest were the exact same chants I hear at leftist rallies, with the same rhythm and structure — but with the words changed. I assumed at first that this was coincidental, but I see now that it was likely intentional.)
So my original impression of the non-Arab leftist hangers-on was incorrect: the various Code Pinkers and communists probably all knew that the rally’s organizers were of a similar political orientation; and the AROC folks were glad to have fellow travelers on board, to at least beef up the protest’s numbers a bit.
But this brought up larger questions. It turns out that the diagram I presented above failed to include one of the options. According to the folks at this rally, there are three possible outcomes to the Arab Spring revolutions:
I distinguish “communism” from “democracy” because communism, by its own definition, is a “dictatorship of the proletariat”; according to theory, once a society goes communist, it never goes back, as other political parties are banned. (In practice, luckily, some communist countries have successfully reverted back to a democratic system. But that’s a different story.)
Of course, my diagram is a great simplification. A few extra steps are left out: What will likely happen, in most cases, is that the revolution will lead directly to simply a different kind of totalitarian government — a military dictatorship, for example. But in other cases, even if there is a brief moment of true democracy, the people may legitimately elect either an Islamist or a communist government, after which all future elections would be essentially cancelled as either Sharia Law or a dictatorship of the proletariat is implemented.
Now, as an aside, we should all remember the epic blunder made by the Iranian communists in the late 1970s. Both they and the Iranian Islamic fundamentalists wanted to kick out the pro-America Shah; but neither were on their own sufficiently powerful enough to get the job done. So the Iranian communists decided to join forces, albeit temporarily, with the anti-Shah Islamists, and together kick him out — on the presumption that when the revolution was over, the communists would either be able to outmaneuver the Islamists and seize complete control, or at worst enter into a sort of joint-rule arrangement that would presumably be an Islamo-communist hybrid.
Well, you know the rest of the story: Ayatollah Khomeini quickly cemented complete Islamic rule, and froze the communists out of power, killing some, jailing others, and driving the rest underground or out of the country.
I fear that Arab leftists may be repeating the same mistake this time around: Joining forces with the Islamists to expel the existing dictators, only to later see Islamic fundamentalists seize complete control, once again suppressing leftist parties even worse than they were suppressed in the first place. Ooops.
This may all be a pipe dream anyway: both my desire for pro-Western Arab democracies and the protesters’ desire for Arab communist states may simply be impossible. According to various political theories, Middle Eastern culture, with its emphasis on tribalist social structures, a fondness for class hierarchy, and an admiration for strength and power, among other attributes, may forever cling to the totalitarian model of government, and be incapable of ever implementing either a compromise-based flexible democracy, or the classless forced egalitarianism of communism.
And so, in the end, even though the San Francisco Arab Spring protesters were not Islamists, I still didn’t agree with them, because they were in favor of a heretofore unacknowledged third possible revolutionary outcome, which to me is only marginally preferable to the Islamist option.
Ringo experienced a similar dilemma at an earlier pro-Arab Spring rally in Los Angeles back in February.