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‘Trojan Horse’ in Birmingham: Scandal Worsens as Shahid Akmal Faces New Allegations.

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Shahid Akmal, “white women have the least amount of morals.”

The Birmingham Mail has just revealed another scandal behind the ‘Trojan Horse’ allegations,

Undercover report reveals Birmingham school chief claimed women are ‘emotionally weaker’ and that British people have ‘colonial blood’.

By Nick Sommerlad

One of the ringleaders of the Islamist plot to take over British schools is exposed today as a sexist, racist bigot.

School chief Shahid Akmal told an undercover reporter from Birmingham Mail sister paper the Mirror, that “white women have the least amount of morals”, white children were “lazy” and that British people have “colonial blood”.

Akmal claimed that women were “emotionally weaker” than men and that their role was to look after children and the home.

He defended jailing or exiling gays and adulterers under Sharia Law as a “moral position to hold”.

Until he was removed last week, Akmal was the chairman of governors at Nansen Primary School in Birmingham, where music was banned and inspectors found pupils were not sufficiently protected from radicalisation.

The hardliner revealed he has plans to set up a series of after-school tuition centres to instil “our morals and our values and our principles” in impressionable youngsters.

Over a series of meetings, Akmal made a string of extraordinary statements and defended Britons fighting in Syria and Iraq as “freedom fighters”.

In a defiant attack, Akmal claimed the Government wanted to keep Muslims “suppressed” so they are easier to control.

Asked if white children were lazy he said: “Exactly. Thank you very much. And they don’t want to accept that.” He insisted: “I tell you, our women are much, much better consciously in the heart than any white women.

“White women have the least amount of morals.”

He argued that girls should be taught skills like cooking and sewing while boys should be taught trades like construction and mechanics.

Akmal attacked women who became “high flying” politicians: “She has to sacrifice her family, she has to sacrifice her children, she has to sacrifice her husband, all in the name of equality. And there are so many marriages that have broken up because of this.”

He appeared to defend British Muslims joining rebels in Syria and Iraq, despite official warnings of a terrorism threat when they return to the UK.

He said: “The fact that he has gone there to fight, they say that he is supporting terrorists. Because they don’t believe in the freedom fight.”

The alleged Trojan Horse plotters had been attacked for “wanting the best for our children”, claimed Akmal. He said: “They basically don’t want the children to do any better because they will demand education, they will demand better qualifications, they will want to go to Oxford and Cambridge and that’s a white only place. Very few non-whites go there.

“They want to keep us suppressed. It’s easier to control. If you get education you get a mind. When you get a mind, you ask questions. They don’t like that.

This comes as the  Clarke report into Birmingham schools was formally presented.

Amongst its findings ITN highlights this,

Teachers at schools involved in the ‘Trojan Horse’ investigation allegedly claimed the murder of Lee Rigby was “some kind of staged event or hoax”, according to a government report.

The report’s author, retired counter-terrorism officer Peter Clarke, analysed the contents of a social media discussion between teachers at Park View School who called themselves ‘The Park View Brotherhood’.

The teachers allegedly joked about Lee Rigby’s death on the WhatsApp messaging service. Credit: Daniel Reinhardt/DPA/Press Association Images

Clarke’s report says the group of teachers exchanged “highly offensive comments about British service personnel” on the WhatsApp messaging service.

He also described the general contents of the teachers’ discussions as “grossly intolerant of beliefs and practices other than their own”.

School chiefs and parents ‘involved in promoting Islam’

Last updated Tue 22 Jul 2014

Governors, deputy and acting headteachers, trustees and parents were involved in a pattern of behaviour “moving between schools” in Birmingham, an inquiry into alleged ‘Trojan Horse’ schools has found.

In a 151-page report for Birmingham City Council, Ian Kershaw concluded: “The evidence shows individuals have been seeking to promote and encourage Islamic principles in the schools with which they are involved, by seeking to introduce Islamic collective worship, or raising objections to elements of the school curriculum that are viewed as anti-Islamic.”

Mr Kershaw’s report said the problems had been allowed to run “unchecked” due to what he branded “weaknesses in the system and poor oversight of governance” mainly by the city council, but also by Ofsted, the Education Funding Agency and the DfE.

In his report, Mr Clarke, who served as head of the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism unit, said he “neither specifically looked for, nor found, evidence of terrorism, radicalisation or violent extremism in the schools of concern in Birmingham”.

But he went on to say: “I found clear evidence that there are a number of people, associated with each other and in positions of influence in schools and governing bodies, who espouse, sympathise with or fail to challenge extremist views.”

The inquiry concluded: “There has been co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action, carried out by a number of associated individuals, to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham.

It said witnesses had expressed three key concerns about the impact of the situation on pupils:

  • The first was that teachers feared that children are learning to be intolerant of difference and diversity.
  • Secondly, that although good academic results can be achieved by narrowing the curriculum, this means young people are not getting a broad education, and instead their horizons are narrowed.
  • Thirdly, that the evidence of young people being encouraged to “adopt an unquestioning attitude to a particular hardline strand of Sunni Islam” raises real concerns about their vulnerability to radicalisation in the future.

Criticising the role of Birmingham city council, the report concluded the authority was “aware of the practices and behaviours that were subsequently outlined in the ‘Trojan Horse’ letter long before the letter surfaced”.

It goes on to say that the council has not supported headteachers faced with “aggressive and inappropriate behaviour”.

Mr Clarke also warned that the DfE had allowed Park View Educational Trust (PVET) – the trust at the centre of the allegations – to move from running a single school to being responsible for three too quickly, without systems in place for holding the new academies to account.

” There has been no evidence of direct radicalisation or violent extremism,” she said. “But there is a clear account in the report of people in positions of influence in these schools, with a restricted and narrow interpretation of their faith, who have not promoted fundamental British values and who have failed to challenge the extremist views of others.

“Individuals associated with PVET in particular have destabilised headteachers, sometimes leading to their resignation or removal. Particularly shocking is the evidence of the social media discussion of the Park View Brotherhood group whose actions betray a collective mind-set that can fairly be described as an intolerant Islamist approach which denies the validity of alternative beliefs.”

She said that it was “upsetting” that efforts to encourage more British Muslims to become school governors had been “damaged by the actions of a few” and urged parents to continue to come forward to serve on governing bodies.

A new education commissioner is to be appointed at Birmingham City Council to oversee action to address the criticisms of the authority in the Clarke and Kershaw reports.”

 MSN news.

Shiraz Socialist commented a few days ago,

So we now have a situation in which the two reports commissioned into ‘Trojan Horse’ have both concluded that there was a real issue of organised, ultra-reactionary Islamist influence in some Birmingham schools. The newspaper at the forefront of the campaign of denial that followed the allegations has now relented and faced reality. The leader of Birmingham City Council has acknowledged what happened and apologised. But will those on the left (in particular, but not only, the SWP), who took the Guardian ‘line’ now admit their mistake? More importantly, will the NUT leadership, instead of prevaricating on the issue, now take a clear stand in support of secular education?

One solution: secular education!

Boot Religious Authority out of Schools!

Ex-Front National Candidate Gets 9 Months Prison for Racist Facebook Post.

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Far-Right Racist Attacks on Socialist Minister Taubira.

This was a major story on the French media this morning.

A former French local election candidate for the far-right National Front (FN) has been sentenced to nine months in prison for comparing the country’s black justice minister to a monkey. (1)

The court decision has sparked controversy in France, with anti-discrimination associations welcoming it as a reminder that racism should not be allowed to flourish but the party itself denouncing the move as “grotesquely disproportionate” and politically motivated.

Anne-Sophie Leclere provoked a storm last year when she compared Christiane Taubira to a monkey on French television and admitted to posting a photo-montage on Facebook that showed the justice minister, who is from French Guiana, alongside a baby chimpanzee.

The caption underneath the baby monkey said “At 18 months,” while the one under Taubira’s photograph read “Now”.

Leclere had been an FN candidate in Rethel in the northeastern Ardennes region for 2014 local elections, but the party soon dropped her and went on to do well in the March polls.

On Tuesday, a court in Cayenne — the capital of French Guiana — sentenced her to nine months in jail, barred her from standing in elections for five years and fined her 50,000 euros ($68,000).

It also slapped the FN with a 30,000-euro fine, putting an end to a case brought by French Guiana’s Walwari political party founded by Taubira.

Daily News.  AFP.

On France-Inter it was suggested that the absence of the accused (in French Guiana – South America) played a role in determining that there was a prison sentence.

Leclère said,

«Je n’ai pas tenu de propos racistes, j’ai juste reçu un photomontage sur Facebook dont je ne suis pas l’auteur. Je ne suis pas raciste», a affirmé l’intéressée, d’un ton empreint de colère contenue. «C’est une injustice, c’est un jugement partisan et politique», a-t-elle ajouté.

«On n’a trouvé aucun avocat pour nous représenter à Cayenne et je n’avais pas les moyens de me payer le billet d’avion», a expliqué Anne-Sophie Leclère au sujet de son absence au tribunal de Cayenne, saisi d’une plainte du mouvement guyanais Walwari destinée à «dénoncer le fond idéologique d’extrême droite du parti de Marine Le Pen».

I did not make racist remarks, I just cut and pasted a photomontage on Facebook (which I did not create). I am not racist” she asserted, her voice marked by anger, “It’s not right, it’s a politically biased decision.”

“I couldn’t find a lawyer to represent me at Cayenne, and I don’t have the resources to pay for a plane ticket there.” Anne-Sophie Leclère went on, explaining why she did not attend the Court in Cayenne, which was dealing with a complaint initiated by the Guianese movement, Walwari, which was aimed at “denouncing the basis of the extreme-right ideology of Marine Le Pen.”

Libération.

There will be appeals.

(1) The insult was truly vile: Taubira/guenon (female ape).

Reactions here.

Boko Haram chief voices support for IS ‘caliph’ and mocks Bring Back our Girls campaign.

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A screengrab from a video released by Boko Haram shows its leader Abubakar Shekau (centre) on July 13, 2014. More than 10,000 people have died in the extremists-led insurgency since 2009 (AFP).<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
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<p>Boko Haram, and its leader, Abubakar Shekau. More than 10,000 people have died in its insurgency since 2009 (AFP).</p>
<p><a title=LAGOS (Arab News): The head of Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists, Abubakar Shekau, has voiced support for the extremist Sunni Islamic State (IS) militant group, which has taken over large swathes of Iraq and Syria, in a new video seen Sunday.

“My brethren… may Allah protect you,” Shekau said in the video given to AFP on Sunday, listing IS chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, Al-Qaeda head Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Taleban leader Mullah Omar.

Baghdadi has proclaimed himself the new Islamic “caliph” and has urged all Muslims to obey him.

The IS has been condemned by Muslim scholars and other Islamist movements, including Al-Qaeda affiliates, for being too extremist.

In the 16-minute video, Shekau’s Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a June 25 bombing in the capital Abuja and an attack hours later in Lagos, which the authorities tried to cover up.

Shekau also mocked the social media campaign Bring Back Our Girls, which emerged to call attention to the plight of the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped on April 14 by the Islamists from the remote northeastern town of Chibok.

“We were the ones who detonated the bomb in filthy Abuja,” Shekau said, referring to the attack a popular shopping centre that killed at least 22 people.

Later that day, a huge blast rocked the Apapa port district of Lagos, which the authorities blamed on cooking gas explosion, with no casualties.

An AFP investigation has revealed the blast was a deliberate attack involving high explosives.

“A bomb went off in Lagos. I ordered (the bomber) who went and detonated it,” Shekau said in the video, which shows him flanked by at least ten gunmen in front of two armored personnel carriers and two pickup trucks (Arab News).

Malala: I Wish to See My Nigerian Sisters Released

140714l.MALALA-PIX-3.jpg-140714l.MALALA-PIX-3.jpg

 

Adebiyi Adedapo in Abuja  with agency report

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl-child education campaigner, who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban, has called on Boko Haram terrorists to free the abducted Chibok schoolgirls.

Malala, who commenced a three-day visit to Nigeria on Saturday, celebrated her 17th birthday in Abuja at a dinner held in her honour at Transcorp Hilton hotel.

She spoke exclusively after the dinner that ended at about 10.40 p.m, the News Agency of Nigerian (NAN) reported.

“On my 17th birthday my wish is to see every child go to school and I want to see my Nigerian sisters being released from their abduction and I want them to be free to go to school and continue their education,” she said.

******

This has been Boko Haram’s response (DT),

Boko Haram issued a new video yesterday mocking the bring back our girls social media campaign that highlighted the plight of the 223 schoolgirls kidnapped by the group in north-east Nigeria.

In a taunting broadcast apparently released to mark the girls’s third month in captivity, Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, said the girls would not be freed until the government released the “army” of Boko Haram fighters held in Nigerian jails. Shekau also claimed responsibility for three bombings last month and voiced support for the Islamic State, the fellow extremists who have seized much of northern Iraq.

The video, video obtained by AFP, served as a direct snub to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl and women’s rights campaigner who arrived in Nigerian capital, Abuja, over the weekend to voice support for the bring back our girls campaign.

Ms Yousafzai, who moved to Britain after being shot by the Taliban, met with parents of the missing girls yesterday and was also expected to hold private talks with Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president.

However, as she did so, serious doubts emerged about the girls’ chances of ever being rescued. In briefings with The Telegraph over the weekend, Western diplomats said that despite the huge international publicity that the social media campaign has generated, the efforts to find the hostages were little further on than they were back in May, when Britain, America and France began to help. With neither a prisoner swap or a rescue considered likely, they said there was little real prospect of any “breakthrough” in the case in the foreseeable future.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 14, 2014 at 10:54 am

The Return of Martin Smith (SWP’s ‘Comrade Delta’).

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Martin Smith (Comrade Delta) is back!

Hat-Tip Howie’s Corner.

Apparently with the support from some people  based in France.

By an obvious oversight, and no doubt mindful of some ‘other’ controversies involving members of political parties, Smith does not mention his most celebrated achievement.

But this is what he and his new mate say,

“Over the past 30 years both of us have been involved in one way or another with the struggle against racism and fascism.

On this blog we will carry news, discussion and debate on the rise of the far right and fascism — and the movements that are developing to challenge this threat both in Britain and Europe.

But our interests are many and varied. We will also write about other political and cultural matters.

If you don’t like football, you should look away from posts about West Ham or Spurs!

Please feel free to join the debate by posting comments.

We welcome serious comments and discussion — whether you agree or disagree.

We hope you enjoy the site.

Martin Smith and Tash Shifrin”

Dream deferred logo

The site posts this  poem.

A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore — And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over — like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes

No sores on Delta then!

Our old comrade Tony Greenstein offered in 2013 the best summary of (what most people thought) lay behind Smith’s career-ending débâcle ,

SWP Crisis Over Cover-up of Rape & Sexual Harassment Allegations against former National Secretary Martin Smith

The catalyst for the crisis in the SWP were the allegations of rape by one member of the SWP and the sexual harassment of another member by Martin Smith, former SWP National Secretary.  It is of course impossible to know whether there is any foundation to the rumours, although it is unlikely that there is no smoke without fire, but how they were dealt with by the SWP leadership speaks volumes about the mentality of the leadership clique led by Alex Callinicos and Charlie Kimber and their attitude to ordinary members.  It also speaks volumes about their commitment to socialism since it is difficult to imagine a more serious and vile act than rape by a senior member of the leadership of a political group against a young comrade.

Martin Smith is, regardless of the truth of these allegations, a particularly unpleasant individual, both politically and personally. Weekly Worker of 12 July 2007 Stop thuggery in workers` movement  described how Simon Wells, who was expelled from the SWP, was attacked without provocation by Smith, at Marxism 2007, when he refused to hand over the ticket he had paid for when queuing to go into a session:  “The SWP`s national organiser angrily demanded comrade Simon`s ticket to the Marxism event and, when he refused, Smith instantly attacked him. Wrestled to the floor, comrade Simon sustained bruising, abrasions and back strain.” 

It was also Smith who was primarily responsible for the SWP hosting and politically defending Gilad Atzmon against accusations of anti-Semitism.  From 2005 to 2009 the SWP was content to make use of Atzmon’s status as a leading jazz musician, regardless of his racist views.  Martin Smith, a devotee of John Coltrane and jazz, was content to ignore Atzmon’s views as taking secondary priority to his musical affections.

We believe Smith is no longer a member of the SWP.

But we were wrong about the end of his ambitions.

There are many articles about this whole affair.

This is one particularly worth looking at: Martin Smith: a retrospective.

In his capacity as head of LMHR Smith also embarrassed the party by forging a relationship between our organisation and the jazz musician Gilad Atzmon. Smith invited him to speak at Marxism in 2004, when Atzmon began spouting some of the anti-Semitic rubbish he now specialises in. Despite SWP members challenging Atzmon from the floor, Smith continued inviting him to SWP events, and to perform with him at concerts as late as 2007.

Update: Two British leftists (originally linked to the SWP), France based, SWP influenced,  and members of Ensemble, Colin Falconer (Gauche anticapitaliste, one of the components of Ensemble), see: Le Nouveau Poireau Rouge) and John Mullen (also in Ensemble, see :John Mullen à Montreuil -Blog anticapitaliste)   participate in Martin Smith’s enterprise (as can be seen, publicly named by a Mullen article, Guest post from France: the need for a united fight against the fascists on it).

Anybody reading their attacks on the French secular left should remember who this pair are prepared to work with.

One wonders if other members of Ensemble are aware of their comrades’ British connections.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 8, 2014 at 11:18 am

Venus in Fur, Film. Review. The Limits of Masochism.

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Venus in Furs.

“But the Almighty Lord hath struck him, and hath delivered him into the hands of a woman.”

Judith, xvi. 7.

Gilles Deleuze once suggested that Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Fur was not only the inspiration for the modern word masochism but illustrated the paradoxes of punishment (Présentation de Sachar-Masoch.1967). Traditional legal systems threatened, and inflict pain, supposedly as a deterrent. By contrast the ‘desiring machine’ Severin von Kusiemski, wishes to suffer. As a parody of law,  a contract reigns over and demands the whiplash. The Biblical epigraph that heads the novel is equally misleading. Far from embodying worshiped female superiority, the Goddess Wanda, is a creation, Pygmalion style, of the narrator. In these ways one can see how the theme can take us from sexuality to forms of power. 

It is a measure of the achievement of David Ives‘ 2010 play Venus in Furs in Roman Polanski’s cinematic adaption, that it embodies these contradictions in a compelling joute between two players.

The film pans onto a Parisian boulevard. In the background is a looming thunderstorm. An unkempt actress (Emmanuelle Seigner, Polanski’s wife), Vanda, hurries into a shabby theatre. She is auditioning for a production of Venus in Furs. Inside the director, Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) is about to leave, bemoaning on his mobile the talentless candidates he’s already seen. Vanda, late beyond excuse, but pushy to the point of breaking boundaries, persuades him to let her perform.

Vanda already has the script by heart. Alternatively thick and knowing, using the vocabulary of vulgarity and erudition, she dominates Sevrin’s delirium. His infantile ecstasy when punished by a sable-wrapped aunt (playing a role not dissimilar to Mademoiselle Lambercier for Rousseau) has swollen into an infatuation for a heartless Venus. Wanda, of the play, acts this out against the backdrop of a crackling fire. At regular intervals Vanda rails at the “sexism” of the whole scenario.

If a knife and physical pain play a role, psychological cruelty that spins at the centre of the film’s drama. As the novel says, “.Nothing can intensify my passion more than tyranny, cruelty, and especially the faithlessness of a beautiful woman.”

Vanda gets her claws into the inauthenticity of Thomas’ cosseted life with a highly-educated, monied, fiancée as one senses more than a flicker of longing for submission to her edgy presence, at the borderline of the pute. Pushing an implicit conclusion Wanda suggests that his real desire is for her handsome Officer admirer, and she helps a deliciously helpless Sevrin with make-up for his new role.

Echoes of Polanski’s films, from Knife in the Water 1962  (a weapon wielded by Wanda) to Rosemary’s Baby, 1968 (the storm outside) have been noted by critics. At its best Venus in Furs rivals Pinter’s The Servant (1963) with its intense power struggle. There one significant difference from the original novel is absence of three African women. Their presence might have given an additional theme – the  ‘race play’ fashionable in some leftist sado-masochistic circles. (1)

The strengths of the film Venus in Furs (though not the original book which is as vulgar in its pretend elegant way as Vanda) lies in its language, the conversation. This – in different registers of French – is wholly lost in the subtitles, which mix Valley Girl slang with the vocabulary of American Pie. There is no charm and little humour (though you will be able to avoid them on the DVD) It is hard to imagine the original, well received, US play by David Ives written like this.

In an age when somebody is convicted in connection with a sexual obsession with pig slurry the theme of ‘perversion’ has lost its ability to interest, let alone shock. Masochism reminds many of us more of Fifty Shades of Grey (though that was apparently female) than any deep experience or insight. But in Polanski’s film, as for the psychology – the picture is up there with the greats.

(1) Lest we forget (from the Charnel House):

Written by Andrew Coates

June 27, 2014 at 9:38 am

Left Unity and the Affaire Laurie McCauley.

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Is this Working Out?

Left Unity notched up a success last week with its Homes Not Spikes campaign in London,

“The spikes are gone. Tesco buckled under the outcry after it was found to have put in ‘anti-homeless spikes’ outside a central London store, and the company was forced to remove them.”

The Tendance welcomes this result.

Left Unity has many good policies, and, unlike some of the inward looking UK left, resembles  the rest of the  (stronger)  radical European left . These include calling for continental cooperation to ‘refound’ the EU on a social basis, backing for far-reaching democracy, feminism,  and a ‘radical reformist’ set of domestic economic and social policies.

Left Unity has some respected and energetic activists and has inspired a wider audience.

These features outweigh the potential damage caused by the influence of one figure on its race policies, which look like a step backwards to 1980s  and Left Unity’s  confusing adaption to ‘intersectionality’.

While rightly opposing the deep-seated hostility to migrants and minorities, it treats “communities” as blocs. Indeed it falls victim to its own attack on hostility to “the representation of Muslims as a monolithic bloc” by defending ‘Muslims’ ….en bloc!

It is right to give priority to the racism of the government and parties like UKIP.

But without a strategy to build unity against the oppression that religious ‘communities’ can create Left Unity risks isolating itself from activists fighting for their own emancipation from “community leaders”.  This misguided approach can be seen when Left Unity ‘defends’ community leaderships, distant from the left and the labour movement,  in the Birmingham academies. The failure to see groups like Islamists as part of an international extreme right-wing movement, further weakens Left Unity’s politics

But I digress.

One area seems to have created rising tension is linked to the ‘safe spaces‘ policy.

The key contentious points include guidelines :

To behave decently toward each other and try to consider other people’s needs (as would be normal in a well unionised workplace).

Venom should be reserved as far as possible for those who would destroy our organisation and our political actions .

Tolerance of other habits and norms will be expected - for example, The Youth and elders might make more noise!

We will not ignore examples of oppression or of transgressions in matters of safe spaces, or situations where transgressions occur.

Discrimination of any kind is unacceptable and will be challenged.

Respect should be offered to each other’s physical (and emotional) boundaries.

Members are asked to try to be aware of the positions and privileges they may be conveying, including racial, class and gender privilege. Be aware of the language you use in discussion and how you relate to others

If a member of an oppressed group requests that you change your use of language, be respectful and change your use of language. Do feel free to ask for clarification on this.

……

There follows a section of Bullying.

The way out of any dispute is said to be through Resolution procedures” operated by “Reconciliation teams.”

These are real problems, shouting, screaming, bullying and harassment, are endemic in political parties of any stripe.

But will these guidelines help solve them?

Anybody with any political experience, or at least most of them, can see the potential for destructive disputes that could come from this policy. Choices of “language”, a call to be aware of “privilege”, “emotional boundaries” “tolerance ” of other people’s habits – all are open to exactly the kind of emotional manipulation (not to say intolerance) that they claim to “protect” people from.

Mike Macanir has unpicked this policy to death. He observes that, “the proposed method of addressing these issues of oppression – by mixing them up with party disciplinary/disputes procedures – has been tried and failed, over and over again, and not merely failed, but proved positively destructive.” “The method of ultimatums backed by prominently displayed anger – “speaking bitterness” – is clearly visible in comrade Dowling’s contribution and those of her supporters. It is inherent in tying together the equalities policy with the disputes/disciplinary procedure in the draft ‘safe spaces’ policy. It was unsuccessful and destructive in the movements of the oppressed in the 1970s-80s and it will be unsuccessful and destructive if we try it again in Left Unity”

Cde Macnair’s detailed argument against rules which encourage people to “speak bitterness”  can be seen here.

The Affaire Laurie McCauley.

Now with the Affaire Laurie McCauley some people’s boundaries are being sorely tested.

According to the latest Weekly Worker Left Unity “have suspended Laurie McCauley from membership for having the temerity to write a “public article” in the Weekly Worker.1 Specifically his ‘crime’ was to include “personal attacks”, “breaches of members’ privacy”, “unreasonable attacks on our branch” – and other such outrages against socialist morality. Frankly, the comrades responsible for this move should hang their heads in shame.

Is it a straightforward matter of free-speech?

For those willing to go into the “Affaire Laurie McCauley” this is the offending article, Left Unity: What ‘Safe Spaces’ lead to. (22nd May).

It begins,

I approach this short report with a certain amount of trepidation. Not because of concerns about ‘exposing’ Left Unity’s right wing here in Manchester, but because the levels of dishonesty and sheer lack of vision on show are simply embarrassing. Nevertheless it is important, as a service to the movement – and in the hope of rescuing the branch – that recent goings-on, culminating in the shutting down of the branch’s email discussion list and attempted censure of one member for comments thereon, are documented.

Left Unity was supposed to be different. A pluralist party, we were told, which could accommodate varied views within its ranks. The mistakes of the ‘old left’, of enforcing a false ideological unity that only led to splits, would be avoided. Openness and transparency were to be the order of the day.

Regular readers will know how quickly this has fallen apart in LU’s Manchester branch, where the email discussion list was shut down amidst the unedifying spectacle of one comrade – former deputy leader of Respect Dawud Islam – being demonised for the heinous crime of not coming to a snap judgement on the guilt or innocence of Steve Hedley.1Hedley had been accused of domestic violence by a former partner, but was found to have no case to answer by the RMT union and is not under investigation by the police. Comrade Islam declined to immediately sign an e-petition calling on the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition to withdraw comrade Hedley’s candidacy for the May 22 local elections. He explained, reasonably enough, that he did not know enough about the specific case, and also expressed his view that candidates’ politics are the most important thing.

Comrade McCauley now chronicles the response to this piece (19th June),

This triggered an avalanche of outrage, accusing him of at best not taking violence against women seriously, and at worst of defending those men who perpetrate such violence. Dawud refused to be hounded into signing, however, and restated his position. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was a two-line email from myself suggesting that “innocent until proven guilty” was a pretty progressive principle. This prompted Ian Parker of Socialist Resistance, who had initially posted the petition, to declare the topic “no longer suitable for discussion on this list” – an ad-hoc committee put the list under moderation tout court: all “political” and “personal” postings are blocked, with only banal organisational stuff slipping through the net.

Comrade Parker actually submitted a motion at the next meeting to censure Dawud for his comments – which were not even public statements, existing only on the branch’s internal discussion list – and refer him to LU’s disputes committee. At the most farcical point in this meeting, Ian proposed that comrade Islam actually put his own name to the motion! In the end, comrade Parker backed down after a pseudo-apology from the ‘accused’.

….

Incidentally, the dispute involving Dawud was resolved shortly after publication. But having the branch’s dirty laundry given a good airing in the pages of the Weekly Worker was clearly too much for comrades Parker and Keenan. Their appetite for cracking the bureaucratic whip was evidently only whetted by Dawud’s dressing down, as on June 8 two motions were circulated on the email list calling for myself to be referred to the disputes committee. The first motion claimed that comrades’ interventions in meetings and on email lists should be treated confidentially – hardly the model of transparency LU is supposedly committed to. The second called for my suspension from the branch, until the disputes committee had reached a decision on the case being brought against me. Both motions were unsigned, as if comrades had taken my description of Dawud’s experience as “Kafkaesque” as an encouragement.

And the case against me? The second motion condemned the “personal attacks” and “reports in public of our internal branch discussions” in my Weekly Worker article. The first point can be usefully translated as ‘criticising what someone actually said’. My report did not focus on a critique of comrades’ hairstyles or fashion sense, or anything else that could be remotely construed as a ‘personal attack’. Rather it was the politics – or lack thereof – that I had targeted. As for the second allegation, I have already made the point about transparency.

The second motion also contained nebulous and entirely unsubstantiated claims of “persistent oppressive conduct towards other members” and “persistent disruption of LU internal meetings”. No examples of this “oppressive conduct” or “disruption” have been given – nor had anyone previously pulled me up for such alleged misdemeanours. Anyone present at the meetings I have attended – or who has more than a passing acquaintance with me frankly – can only find these claims risible. I have volunteered to lead off two branch discussions, with no-one complaining. In fact the one time we had a genuine political newbie along was at one of these meetings, and we later learnt that she had decided to join her London branch of LU following our meeting.

For those still with the will to live after reading this, all we know from Left Unity’s site is that the June NC minutes record , “Report to executive on Leeds dispute, with call for Disputes and Appeals Committees to convene ASAP – Felicity Dowling – Endorsed.”

Not knowing the people involved we are not going to get bogged down in personal rancour.

Or in pub gossip.

One thing looks more than probable.

The charges relate to the Safe Spaces policy, even if apparently the Manchester Branch puts them down to behaviour that would not be accepted in any political party.

It could well be that this is not a free-speech issue, or one dependent on the rules we have discussed.

But for many it seem that this is involved, and is being used to settle scores not to end them.

The resulting row must surely exacerbate personality clashes.

It is not, as one Left Unity theorist might say, an aleatory happenstance.

It’s hard not to hope matters will be clarified, but things do not look promising.

There is already talk about another dispute erupting in Leeds involving Workers Power.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 20, 2014 at 11:19 am

Left Unity Conference: the Good and the Not-so-Good.

with 11 comments

As Dave Osler has said, Left Unity is a party created not by deals between left groups but primarily by the hard work of activists alone.

Its Manchester Conference is to be congratulated on opening up a space for real debate on the left.

Many of the policy positions of the group, on Europe (it rejects the ‘No’ stand), and on economic policy (firmly anti-neo-liberal), are real steps forward.

“Left Unity opposes all programmes and demands for a British withdrawal from the European Union. By the same measure we oppose the EU of commissioners, corruption and capital. However, as the political, bureaucratic and economic elite has created the reality of a confederal EU, the working class should take it, not the narrow limits of the nation-state, as its decisive point of departure.”

We are for joining with others across Europe to campaign for a different form of European Union, a ‘socialist reconstruction’, as called for by the 4th Congress of the European Left Party.

Left Unity, we learn, would not take a position on the  Nationalist left campaign for a ‘Yes’  vote in the Scottish Referendum.

There are a host of other good policies on green issues such as fracking, Housing, and defending welfare.

In these areas some serious work has borne fruit.

There are wider topics, about the role such a party may take, and its relation to the broader labour movement and the left, that many will not agree on. Above all “coming soon to a Ballot Paper near you”.

These will be discussed here (as no doubt many others will do)  but not today.

But for the moment we have to signal that some material passed by the Conference is less than appealing to every internationalist and socialist. (see here).

The text of the Anti-Racist Commission begins well. It talks of the need to defend migrants, and to fight all forms of racism.

But this is extremely confused, when it is not plain wrong.

Racism against Muslims has deep roots in British history, extending into the colonial era.  Its most recent manifestations can be traced to the period after the ‘Rushdie affair’ when Muslims were increasingly identified as a ‘security’ problem, and a menace to national ‘values’.  Following the riots in northern cities, the government extended this attack to British Asians in general, alleging that they were ‘self-segregating’.

In the context of the ‘war on terror’, these discourses about British Asians were focused on Muslims in particular, and a neo-Powellite argument took hold that ‘multiculturalism’ had failed.  Politicians and media outlets claimed that by allowing diverse ‘cultures’ to ‘do their own thing’, Britain had tolerated islands of extremism in its midst. This counterinsurgency narrative validated a series of high profile attacks on the rights of Muslims, such as the Forest Gate raids in 2006 or the long-term imprisonment without charge and subsequent deportation of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan – only the most severe examples of the day-to-day state repression and racism experienced by the Muslim community.

The language of this ‘new racism’ blames racially oppressed groups themselves for failing to ‘integrate’ or ‘confront extremism’.  In so doing, it both validates racist repression and simultaneously instils fear and discourages resistance to racism.

The fact that it is culture and creed, rather than colour and breed, which is the ideological focus of these measures allows politicians to pretend that they are not racist.  Yet, there is a long history of ‘cultural racism’, which has become especially dominant in the aftermath of Britain’s colonial era.  Even the most biologistic forms of racism have always been supplemented by essentialising cultural stereotypes. The representation of Muslims as a monolithic bloc embodying the most hateful characteristics belongs to this tradition.

As an account of the Rushdie affair its stupidity and reductionism, not to mention the failure to defend Rushdie’s right to free speech, is reactionary in the extreme.

The rest is a completely jumbled up account of this aspect of race-cultural-relations in the UK.

There is not a word for a  strategy that is opposed Islamism.

Islamism may as well not exist.

No words are written on the Sikh, Hindi, or other religious communities (you can guess the obvious absence, it begins with ‘J‘).

Or indeed to defend secularism and advance secularist policies of equality  as the only basis on which a coherent anti-racist position can be built.

Then, while well-intentioned, this is their unreadable conclusion,

For all the negatives in the British situation, there are grounds for optimism.  Popular views on immigration and race are actually far more complex and ambivalent than opinion polls would suggest.  The ambiguities of popular opinion are, moreover, not a concluded fact but raw material which can be worked with by those seeking to draw out the best instinctive responses of ordinary people.  Anti-racism actually forms part of the common sense of millions of working class people who, thanks to decades of large-scale immigration, experience a ‘lived multiculture’ that is remote from the stereotypes of ‘failed multiculturalism’.  A left political articulation that operates on such lived experience, linking a popular anti-racist politics to a wider critique of class injustice, can begin to shift the balance, and offer a counterpoint to the racist Right which the mainstream parties cannot.

Now Tendance Coatesy wholly endorses this aspect of their policy,

Left Unity must challenge racist ideas in the labour movement, and even sections of the socialist movement.  Some openly support or implicitly endorse the idea of “British Jobs for British Workers” – the supposed need for greater and “tougher” immigration controls to defend worker’s rights. Left Unity must contest this wherever it appears.

But the previous material  on religions and multiculturalism?

It is no surprise that we learn that Richard Seymour was behind this confused document – and indeed moved it at the Conference.

He’s obviously been flipping through those 1980s Stuart Hall articles or old Paul Gilory stuff.

And observed nothing since – notably the latter’s critique of multiculturalism,

Like this,

“The fundamental challenge of our time, asserts Paul Gilroy, is to imagine an ethical and just world that truly fulfils the promise of humanism and enacts the idea of universal human rights.”

Update Seymour Addresses the Popular Masses: Pic of him reading out in support of above Motion.

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