Archive for the ‘Anti-Fascism’ Category
Secular Emancipation: What UK Education Needs.
Amongst the confused reactions to the very evident problems raised by the Birmingham Schools and the influence of Islamist ideology in education two responses stand out for their good judgement.
The first is Shiraz Socialist’s defence of secular education.
It makes this simple observation,
….it is important to note that whether or not the Trojan Horse document proves to be genuine, there is no doubt about the influence of Islamic fundamentalists over many Birmingham schools: teachers and other school staff members have already come forward with reports of segregation of boys and girls in classes and assemblies, bans on sex education and bullying of non-Muslim staff. Shiraz Socialist has spoken to several Birmingham teachers, including activists within the main teaching unions, who have confirmed that these claims are true and, in some cases, such things have been going on for years.
The all-too predictable line taken by an article in today’s Guardian (“Despite reasonable evidence suggesting the plot letter is a hoax, it has sparked debate in the city, with far right groups looking to capitalise”) simply will not do: the concerns about Islamic fundamentalists undermining secular education are not the preserve of the far right, but are felt by teachers, Labour councillors and MPs and -not least - many Muslim parents who want their kids to have an inclusive, secular education.
The second is by comrade Rumy Hasan (a long-standing defender of left-wing secularism) on the National Secular Society site.
Since the ‘Trojan Horse’ letter came to light, some 200 reports have been received by Birmingham City Council, including claims that boys and girls are being segregated in classrooms and assemblies, pressure on girls to cover their hair, sex education being banned, the prevention of the teaching of non-Islamic faiths in religious education classes, and non-Muslim staff being bullied. Yet all this is precisely what has been happening in Free Schools such as Al Madinah in Derby (which Education Minister Lord Nash found dysfunctional) and the Madani faith school in Leicester. But none of this should be surprising: on the contrary, it is entirely to be expected that leaders of faith communities wish to impose values and practices in schools in their neighbourhoods that are in accordance with their religion. The reason for this is that the emphasis on a multifaith society facilitates the primary identity of some minorities being on the basis of their faith.
Bob Jones, the elected West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, is correct to state that ‘My main concern is that the Secretary of State is attempting to divert attention away from the governance and diversity issues that might be embarrassing to his policies and approach to school governance’. Indeed they should be embarrassing and it really is high time that the both the government and the opposition grasped the nettle that a firm commitment to a rounded secular education is what is needed for the benefit of children and for society at large, and act accordingly.
One should add that the actions of the Birmingham ‘faith communities’, imposing their religious ideology on education, are inconceivable n a secular educations system, like France’s.
A great deal of noise has been heard from liberals and multicultural leftists about the robust prohibition of faith symbols, from the veil to the cross, in French schools, as well as other progressive policies designed to prevent these kind of communalist politics in education.
We hear very little from British left and liberal quarters equates about sexual segregation and other aspects of religious bigotry being imposed in Birmingham schools and elsewhere.
Henri Pena-Ruiz of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Parti de gauche (left Party) recently said (March 2014), that it was ten years since the law banning ostentatious religious signs from French schools was passed.
“It has discouraged religious proselytism and those who would wish to take schooling hostage (for the religious agenda). Today communalist demands are rare.”
Pena-Ruiz calls secularism an “emancipatory demand”.
The British left could learn from this approach.
Dix ans se sont écoulés depuis le vote de la loi issue des travaux de la Commission Stasi. Cette loi, destinée à mettre les écoles à l’abri des conflits d’appartenance religieuse en y interdisant les signes religieux ostensibles, a été salutaire. De façon efficace, elle a dissuadé les divers prosélytismes de prendre l’école en otage. Aujourd’hui, sur le terrain, les revendications communautaristes sont très rares, voire inexistantes. – See more at: http://www.lepartidegauche.fr/vudailleurs/articleblog/laicite-scolaire-une-exigence-d-emancipation-27296#sthash.xt6Fksp6.dpuf
Benefiting Islamist Reactionaries.
“A London council at the centre of an investigation into alleged fraud is also under scrutiny over its links to Islamic extremism, according to a classified government document leaked to The Telegraph. Ministers sent inspectors to Tower Hamlets council, in east London, last week to investigate the alleged abuse of public resources to reward supporters of Lutfur Rahman, its controversial directly-elected mayor.”
Andrew Gilligan continues,
The document, a report to Mr Cameron dated Sept 2013, expresses particular concern about the council’s lavish funding of the East London Mosque and the Osmani Trust, a Muslim-only youth group. The mosque is also named in the counter-terrorism local profile, the document reveals. The document says there are “serious concerns” about both organisations’ “links to extremists, or willingness to host extremist speakers or organisations”.
The East London Mosque has hosted hundreds of meetings with extremist preachers, including a “live telephone Q&A” with the al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, advertised with a picture of Manhattan under bombardment. Both bodies are closely linked to the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), which seeks a sharia state in Europe and played a key part in Mr Rahman’s election as mayor in 2010. Together they have received more than £2 million in council funding.
Can we say, with George Galloway (2010) that, “I don’t know who is or isn’t a member of the IFE, and I have only the haziest knowledge of what they stand for….” ?
Is the IFE the “European wing” of Jamaat-e-Islami, the violent Bangladeshi Islamist group, normally classed on the extreme right? Wikipedia makes these allegations about one of the founders of the IFE.
Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin Mueen-Uddin born 27 November 1948), is one of the convicted war criminal for killing Bengali intellectuals in collaboration with Pakistan army at the time of Bangladesh liberation war. After the liberation of Bangladesh, Chowdhury escape from Bangladesh and took British citizenship.
Chowdhury is a trustee (former Chairman) of Muslim Aid, and a director of Muslim spiritual care provision in theUnited Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS). On 3 November 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal which is set up by the government of Bangladesh to judgeinternational crimes committed during 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, sentenced Mueen-Uddin, in absentia, to death for killing 9 teachers of Dhaka University, 6 journalists and 3 doctors in 1971.
Mueen has remained in the United Kingdom since leaving Bangladesh shortly after its independence in 1971. Mueen-Uddin denies the charges. Since moving to the UK in the early 1970s, Mueen-Uddin has taken British citizenship and built a career as a community activist and Muslim leader. In 1989 he was a key leader of protests against the Salman Rushdie book, The Satanic Verses. Around the same time he helped to found the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe,Jamaat-e-Islami’s European wing, which believes in creating a sharia state in Europe and in 2010 was accused by a Labour minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, of infiltrating the Labour Party. Tower Hamlets’ directly-elected mayor, Lutfur Rahman, was expelled from Labour for his close links with the IFE.
Until 2010 Mr Mueen-Uddin was vice-chairman of the controversial East London Mosque, controlled by the IFE, in which capacity he greeted Prince Charles when the heir to the throne opened an extension to the mosque.
He was also closely involved with the Muslim Council of Britain, which has been dominated by the IFE. He was chairman and remains a trustee of the IFE-linked charity, Muslim Aid, which has a budget of £20 million. He has also been closely involved in the Markfield Institute, the key institution of Islamist higher education in the UK.
The IFE makes this bland description of itself,
Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) is a community organisation that seeks social and spiritual renewal. Through the values enshrined in the Islamic faith, members of IFE are obliged to be full and active participants in society, benefiting all people. IFE has branches throughout the UK and has affiliates in Western Europe. Its youth wing is called the Young Muslim Organisation UK (YMO UK), with branches across Britain. Its women’s wing is Muslimaat UK. With origins in the 1970s, IFE brings together Muslims of all backgrounds who have made Europe their home. As a collective, IFE facilitates an enlightened appreciation of Islam that is relevant to the context and realities of our time. We undertake social activities – from schools and youth clubs to community engagement and women’s empowerment projects, spiritual development – from prayer to retreats
But dig a little deeper and we find that the IFE is indeed closely aligned to the Jamaat.
This is their protest against the hanging of convicted genocider and war criminal Abdul Qader Mollah,
The Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) condemns in no uncertain terms the hanging to death of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami Assistant Secretary-General, Abdul Qader Mollah, on Thursday as an act of judicial murder( Statement Issued 13th December 2013)
Mr Mollah’s summary execution follows a sham trial which has been described by international human rights groups as failing to meet international standards, politically influenced and discredited.
IFE considers Abdul Qader Mollah’s death as state murder by a government doing all it can to cling onto power indefinitely. The whole process has been a farce, and the Bangladeshi government has ignored international demands to ensure that this process calls under international jurisdiction.
The execution of Mr Mollah, in breach of all international standards will, no doubt, plunge Bangladesh further into crisis. The threat of violence and civil unrest is very real. The IFE is concerned that this pre-determined process will be used by the Awami League regime to declare a state of emergency and derail any attempts to hold free and fair elections in January.
The IFE urges the international community, and in particular the UK government to reconsider the financial and diplomatic support afforded to this regime.
There are clear questions about the public funding of groups involved in Bangladeshi politics.
For the left, apart from those deluded enough to think that Rahman is “Progressive”, the issues are wider.
Last year Gita Saghal commented,
Fundamentalist demonstrations from the Jamaat associated East London Mosque have been taking place regularly after Friday prayers, according to activists. Secular Bangladeshis of all religious backgrounds and none were finally able to rally and march outwards from Altab Ali park through Brick Lane and the surrounding streets. It was a suitable demonstration that the secular activists who have been receiving regular death threats have not been cowed into retreat.
Thousands of leaflets have been distributed from the East London Mosque and across the world labelling prominent bloggers as atheists. Sermons have been read attacking atheists, Hindus and suggestive statements made regarding sexual assault.
In Bangladesh, fundamentalists paraded a banner which said, ‘we demand the death penalty for atheist bloggers because they use obscene language to criticise Allah, Mohammed and the Quran.’ Statements such as these, along with murderous attacks on atheist and free thinking bloggers, need to be considered alongside the leaflets identifying named individuals as atheists and accusing them of insulting religion, to see whether they amount to incitement to murder.
Fundamentalists consider it an obligation for believers to kill apostates; a recent Moroccan fatwa makes this very clear, as does the experience of an atheist from Bangladesh, applying for asylum in Canada.
This is worth remembering every time people read something on Tower Hamlets,
Reports this morning indicate an accelerating fight in the Ukraine.
Ukraine crisis: Casualties in Sloviansk gun battles
Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian armed men have traded gunfire in a battle for control of the eastern town of Sloviansk, the interior minister says.
At least one Ukrainian officer was killed and both sides suffered casualties, Arsen Avakov said.
Pro-Russian forces took over the town on Saturday, prompting Kiev to launch an “anti-terror operation”.
Kiev and Western powers accuse Moscow of inciting the trouble. The Kremlin denies the charge.
Le Monde puts this in the context of a “general offensive”,
Le gouvernement ukrainien, confronté à des insurrections armées prorusses coordonnées dans l’Est, a lancé dimanche 13 avril une opération « antiterroriste »de reconquête à hauts risques.
The Ukrainian government, faced with armed pro-Russian and co-ordinated insurgencies in the East, has launched a highly risky “anti-terrorist” operation of reconquest on Sunday, April the 13th.
So how will those who stand ‘for’ the Ukraine react?
Will they ‘choose’ sides and back the “anti-terrorist operation”?
This is the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty position on the Ukraine.
Russia: hands off Ukraine! Keep Russian troops out!
Western governments: cancel Ukraine’s debts!
The labour movement should back Ukraine’s left in its efforts to create “third pole” against both Russian imperialism and the Ukrainian oligarchs.
This is Socialist Resistance’s line,
A defeat for Russian imperialism in Ukraine is both a victory for that mass movement and the Russian working class. Socialists in imperialist countries should see their primary responsibility as establishing links and building support for those groups in Ukrainian and Russian society which are opposing the oligarchs and organising a real movement against them. That is rather different from helping Putin hold on to power by annexing his own imperialist “buffer zone”.
Others are less decided.
This is the Left Unity Party’s view,
Left Unity statement on Ukraine
Left Unity has issued a statement on the situation in Ukraine, saying that there should be “no foreign intervention in Ukraine – whether political, economic or military”.
The acting officers of the new left wing party are calling for “democracy and equality for all the people of Ukraine”, condemning the different forms of nationalism, corruption and neoliberalism, and the drive to war.
Against nationalism, corruption, privatisation and war
The continuing political and economic crisis in Ukraine is taking a dangerous military turn.
Left Unity takes the position that there can only be a political solution to this crisis and that neither foreign military intervention nor foreign political and economic intervention provide the answers to Ukraine’s complex problems.
But does this also mean ‘backing’ the ‘anti-terrorist’ offensive?
We simply ask.
Autonomist Police Scatters SWP.
The SWP found out today that their rape-apologist bullshit has got no place in Liverpool. Their stall outside the NUS conference in Liverpool (it was outside because they’d already been refused entry to the conference) was turned over and their literature scattered to the wind. Let this be a lesson to them – we won’t accept their rape apologism here.
They spouted the usual crap: “sectarian”, “political nobodies”. So fucking what? More tellingly though, they made accusations of “sending men to intimidate women”. 50% of the people involved in tossing their shit papers on the floor and ripping down their shit posters were women.
This histrionic post ends with this gibberish,
The SWP covered up rape, threw survivors under the bus and intimidate anyone who tries to confront them about it (anyone remember the Glasgow anti-bedroom tax rally?). UAF grasses militant antifascists to the police. We won’t tolerate an organization that is so misogynistic in nature and so repugnant in its political opportunism anymore. We’re drawing a line now. Try not to cross it.
From Liverpool Class Action an “Autonomous anarchist group currently active in Merseyside.”
This follows the censorship of the SWP Marxism Festival by ULU.
Despite affiliated universities (notably the School of Oriental and African Studies;) letting rooms to real reactionaries, Islamists, who openly preach misogyny advocate female circumcision and hatred of gays – against which ULU has done precisely nothing, student union officers issued a statement that ended with this,
To the SWP, we say that you are beyond help and progressive debate. You are disgrace to the left and we have no wish to help support any growth in your oppressive organisation. The bottom line is that you do not have any right to use this space, you are not welcome here or anywhere near our union and we will not be harassed by your organisation. As students and activists, we stand united against sexism.
A little further back there was this, (December 2013),
Tom Munday on the turning over of an SWP stall and the burning of their papers at Sussex university.
The actions of these groups, and those on the ‘left’ who sympathise with them, are straight-forward authoritarian policing. They suppress political debate. They revile and scream rather than talk. They are the self-appointed political police of the left.
They are also hypocrites: no autonomist or ‘anti-sexist’ group dares carry out of the same actions against the Islamists, guilty of not just of a bureaucratic and incompetent sexism, but open misogyny.
We do not advocate censoring their views either: debate, and free speech are a condition of secularism.
The Sussex self-appointed police of the ASN (Autonomous Students Network) continue their actions,
Despite being repeatedly told by survivors that their presence on campus is triggering, the SWP loyalists continue to cover campus in their propaganda, hold meetings and are even running a candidate for the student union elections. As long as they act like that, we will continue to act like this.
Solidarity as ever with all survivors, we will not back down.
Burn the SWP.
‘Tom Munday’ in the Weekly Worker was right in analysing this as follows,
The reaction of the ASN represents only the most recent incarnation of a morality culture fostered by groups like the SWP. What we effectively see here is the most facile aspects of Blairism regurgitated as ‘socialist’ doctrine. The very notion that all the injustice and violence of the world can be willed away with good intentions and a true heart is fanciful to say the least, but lapses into outright narcissism when it expects the terrible realities that infest society at large to not find themselves duplicated within the left itself. Add into this mix an SWP-esque brand of directionless actionism and you end up with Frankenstein politics: at best leading us towards disingenuous ‘safe spaces’ policies.
In the era of Wars and Revolutions. American Socialist Cartoons of the mid-twentieth century. Edited by Sean Matgamma.
“Although in some places, notably in the Untied States, Trotskyism is able to attract a fairly large number of adherents, and develop into an organised movement with a petty Fuehrer of its own, its inspiration is essentially negative. The Trotskyist is against Stalin just as the Communist is for him, and, like the majority of Communists, he wants not so much to alter the external world as to feel that the battle for prestige is gaining in his own favour.”
George Orwell. Notes on Nationalism. 1945. ( Orwell and Politics. Page 355. Penguin 2001.)
In the Era of War and Revolutions publishes American left-wing cartoons for the most part long unavailable (even on the Web). They are largely from the papers of what became the Trotskyist American Socialist Workers’ Party, and their publications, such as Labor Action, the Militant, Socialist Appeal and New Militant, although there are some from the Communist Party (US), Daily Worker.
It is immediately striking that capitalists wear top-hats, and are corpulent. while workers are muscle-bound titans. No punches are pulled. Stalinism is a horror, American capitalism is embodied in Jim Crow and Lynching, As Sean Matgamma says in the Introduction, this is “clear and stark class-struggle politics, counterposed to both capitalism and Stalinism.”.
Orwell was simply wrong to say that Trotskyists were single-minded opponents of Stalin and Orthodox Communism. There is an equal focus on capitalism, the 1930s struggles of the US labour movement, Fascism, and, as World War 2 approached, and was fought, imperialism.
It would have been useful to have outlined the political evolution of the SWP (US) and the publications in which the cartoons appeared.
Its opposition to American participation in the World War – the subject, or sub-text, of many of the designs - takes some explaining.
The SWP’s own supporters claim that (2008),
The Socialist Workers Party…… maintained the Marxist view that in the modern epoch there is no progressive wing of the capitalist class. The major industrialized capitalist rivals, dominated by finance capital—what Marxists term imperialism—are constantly driven to wars of conquest in which they try to redivide the world’s territories. The working-class vanguard, the party held, needs to explain the imperialist character of the war and why workers and farmers must oppose it, fighting instead for their own class interests worldwide.
Vanguard workers in the United States came under increasing attack as Washington sought to drum up a patriotic campaign in support of its war drive. The Smith “Gag” Act was passed in 1940, prohibiting the advocacy of “overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States.” Under this thought-control law, 18 leaders of the Socialist Workers Party and Teamsters Local 544 in Minneapolis were railroaded to prison for their class-struggle course in the labor movement, including opposition to the imperialist war. They spent between 12 and 16 months behind bars.
Not everybody, one suspects, will have much sympathy with that stand. Apart from the wider problems it raises it stood uncomfortably close to the US ‘isolationists’ of the period.
Yet Stalinism, for all Orwell’s cavils, is something that was rightly a major issue for the American Trotskyists. In the Era reminds us that there were people on the left prepared to speak their opposition, and dramatically illustrate it in their publications. That some of the SWP became so obsessed with the Soviet Union that they became what would be later be called ‘neoconservatives’ perhaps shows the difficulty of maintaining a Thrid Camp position.
The SWP itself still exists, a small group of property developers who continue to publish Trotksy and use their other resources to back Cuba.
The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty are to be congratulated for publishing this material. It deserves a place on every socialists’ bookshelf. For this Blogger, who has only a passing familarity with the American left, it is a useful reminder of its rich past.
In an era of wars and revolutions, by Carlo and others, edited by Sean Matgamna. 312 pages, £8.99. To order by post, pay £8.99 plus £1.60 postage here.
More information from the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.
Note on some of the cartoonists - Laura Gray (Slobe),
From Labor Action.
Labor Action regularly published cartoons and caricatures penned by Jesse Cohen, who worked under the name Carlo, while the Militant ran graphics by Laura Slobe, whose party name was Laura Gray. Despite the new wave of public and scholarly interest in the history of comics and cartoons, neither Carlo nor Laura Gray has attracted much attention from historians of the graphic arts. Readers of this magazine might recognize Carlo’s work from the short profile we published in issue 37 (Summer 2004); now it’s Laura Gray’s turn.
Like Jesse Cohen, Laura Slobe attended high school in the 1920s, came of political age during the 1930s, and remained active on the far left after World War II. She was born in Pittsburgh, but grew up in Chicago, where she studied at the Art Institute of Chicago before working for the Works Progress Administration Art Project. As a young, avant-garde artist she concentrated her efforts on painting and sculpture, which remained her lifelong passions. She joined the SWP in 1942, and her first cartoon appeared in the Militant two years later. The labor journalist Art Preis later remembered that, “From the first, her work added such a fresh, bright, satirical note to the paper that it was enthusiastically hailed by our readers everywhere.” According to another SWP writer, “The cartoon’s subject matter was on the agenda of the Militant’s staff meetings. After the staff discussed and decided what the topic would be, Gray would go home and start to draw.” In addition to serving on the staff of the Militant, Gray “worked at a series of jobs to support herself, including painting store mannequins and creating window displays for some of New York’s big department stores.” She remained the SWP’s in-house artist from 1944 until her death in 1958. Tragically, she had contracted tuberculosis in her early twenties, and had a lung removed in 1947. She died after a brief bout with pneumonia.