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The Guardian: Everything that’s wrong with the Liberal Stand on Islamism.

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Islamism: Discipline and Punish. 

To much of the world the British daily, the Guardian is the best known English-language paper of the liberal-left.

It is important to emphasise the word ‘liberal’ (the Guardian advocated voting for the Liberal Democrats at the last election).

But the hyphen attaching the word to the ‘left’ is indissoluble.

Guardian writers, above all in the Comment in Free Section, shows the limits of what this left believes in.

The section, (run between 2001 and 2007 by former Communist Party of Great Britain member ), are, in the majority, consensus believers in a number of liberal values.

The present editor,  has stated that “Queer theory informs my politics and journalism – and made me understand Robert, my childhood alter ego.” (Here)

Some of the principles these people stand for are admirable, such as freedom of speech, promotion of diversity, human rights, gender equality, social equality, and tolerance.

Their advocacy of liberty extends to letting a range of people expressing their opinions in the paper who have very different interpretations of these ideas.

But they are heavily modified when it comes to one political and cultural  issue, the nature of Islamism.

A couple of days ago the daily published an article by George Monbiot, Why stop at Isis when we could bomb the whole Muslim world?

The author, who has previously compared European recruits to the genociders of ISIS to volunteers who defended the Spanish Republic, argues,

“Humanitarian arguments, if consistently applied, could be used to flatten the entire Middle East.”

Let’s bomb the Muslim world – all of it – to save the lives of its people. Surely this is the only consistent moral course? Why stop at Islamic State (Isis), when the Syrian government has murdered and tortured so many? This, after all, was last year’s moral imperative. What’s changed?

Nothing, according to Monbiot, the latest US-led bombing will all end in disaster, killing, and destruction by the “destroying angels of the west”. He ends his article with the observation that politicians “scatter bombs like fairy dust.”

Monbiot now deigns to mention that the group amongst the Syrian rebels, which he compared to the Spanish Republican democrats – Isis – has its faults, “the agenda and practices of Isis are disgusting. It murders and tortures, terrorises and threatens. As Obama says, it is a “network of death”(14).

But it’s one of many networks of death.

Worse still, a western crusade appears to be exactly what it wants.

So it’s just one of many. And attacking them would make them worse.

Monbiot then fails to mention any form of physical military reaction to Isis that he could support.

Sound the alarm, run to the hills, the world is about to be flattened!

We can’t do anything at all!

Today the Guardian publishes Seamus Milne.

He begins well,

Theresa May devoted over three quarters of her speech in Birmingham to Muslims and the threat of a catch-all “Islamist extremism”.

Drawing on the tricks of Tony Blair’s invasion-prone government and Thatcher’s failed campaign against the IRA, she promised yet more anti-terror laws: this time to ban nonviolent “extremists” from television and protests, and to proscribe groups with no links to terrorism.

The package amounts to a straightforward attack on freedom of speech and democracy – in the name of the “functioning of democracy”. It would alienate Muslims from mainstream politics still further and create a new, all-purpose collection of thought crimes, allowing the authorities to ban views or activities they deem likely to cause “alarm” or “distress”.

Milne is now a defender of free speech.

He would have done well at this point to oppose something he once backed, to make causing offence to religious faiths a crime. (1)

But he doesn’t.

And, in the wider news, perhaps I missed this bit,

The justifications were straight out of the Blair playbook too: from May’s insistence that we are at war with an “ideology” and that “they” hate our values rather than our violent interventions in the Muslim world – to the claim that Isis could develop weapons of mass destruction to attack us“within a few hours’ flying time of our country”.

Yes I did miss that one, because it’s from the far-right Daily Express’s spin on the May speech….

I suppose Islamic State’s tortures, rapes, genocide and the threat to hundreds of thousands of Kurds would have merited a mention from anybody with genuine left-wing feeling.

In a sense they do get mentioned,

Like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya before it, the bombing has been sold as a response to a humanitarian catastrophe and imminent threat but already shows every sign of spreading the terror it is supposed to stop. Mission creep is already upon us, as Cameron softens the public up to join the US campaign in Syria. As in the past, the war is projected to last years, has been launched against our own mutant creation, and is fanning reverse sectarian cleansing on the ground. Revenge terror attacks at home are once again seen as almost certain.

Ah, “sold as a response to a humanitarian catastrophe”.

What Milne’s views on this catastrophe are, part from the fact that they have been “sold”,  remain in decent obscurity.

One thing sticks out: no mention of the need to back the Kurdish and other fighters on the ground battling Islamic State/Isis!

But the prize for feeble-minded analysis of Islamism must go to a piece by .

Speaking of how people treat recruits to the genociders in Australia he laments a “sudden terror panic“.  Loewenstein uses a Muslim interlocutor to express the dismay.:

“There’s a lack of context, lack of spirituality and understanding, combined with impatience. Many Isis fighters are newly converted, newly pious … these men have grown a beard in three months and they don’t give Islam time to be understood.”

He is tired of having to defend his religion against bigots who take these instant Islamists to be the authentic representation of Islam.

“Keyboard warriors often ask: “Where is the universal Muslim condemnation of terror acts?” We’re distancing ourselves, so why do you keep asking? People just aren’t listening.”

“It’s been the same narrative of apology for decades and we’re sick of it. It’s like the probation the media is trying to grant me. I want to stand back, it’s got nothing to do with me and it’s nothing to do with Islam. I don’t need to come out and prove my innocence.”

Indeed, it is remarkable that those who trumpet their religious belief, in Islam and the Qu’ran, should be called to express disapproval of those who trumpet their religious belief in Islam and the Qu’ran – Isis.

As he continues in the vein we weary.

But there is some truth in this, though “dis-empowered” – an expression now confined to ageing social workers – is not perhaps the right word.

The pressure on the Australian Muslim community is immense, a feeling of being outsiders, exacerbated by a message that they’re different and under suspicion. Many Muslim women in particular feel disempowered and not trusted by the wider, white majority. Islamophobia is now unofficial government policy and some media’s central world-view

Muslims have ample reason to be sceptical towards government and intelligence services; real journalists would investigate why. Sadly, most in the media are failing in their basic duty to question.

Islamophobia is an ageing and muddled term as well: it tries to conflate opposition to islamism with prejudice, and offers no way to distinguish them.

This will not help clear up what ‘Islam’ is.

“Islam isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Samir says. His religion, just like Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and others, is complex, contradictory and open to various interpretations – but figuring that out can’t be done in an instant.

I will,  as will most readers, give up at this point….

Why does this matter?

We could say that a paper that publishes Richard Seymour is a fun journal, a good laugh, and that nobody takes the ideology in these articles seriously.

But what is striking is that not a single Guardian commentator has come close to analysing Islamism in any depth whatsoever.

That is a extreme-right-wing ideology, with a very material institutional basis, support in the pious Muslim bourgeoisie, and wider roots in the class structures of many Middle Eastern countries.

There are Marxist and other political studies which go into this in depth (Maxime RodinsonGilbert Achcar the latter’s sole contribution to the Guardian on the topic relates to ‘Holocaust denial’).

Or the rich critique of Islamism, democratic, socialist and secular,  offered by  the Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan groups such as the Worker Communist parties (Mansoor Hekmat)  and other left individuals and organisations  in the Moslem world.

We could, for those interested in ‘Gender and Queer’ studies, also look at Michael Foucault’s concept of ‘micro-powers’ – intimate oppressive apparatuses that create a religious prison, in para-states and actual states.

Foucault’s Discipline and Punish  is perhaps a good starting point to the operation of the Sharia, along with Nietzsche The Genealogy of Morals. (2)

We could look at its (or rather), since Islamism is a plural formation, their patriarchal roots, and its creation of sexual apartheid.

We might even mention that every single form of Islamism is viciously oppressive towards gays.

That it is anti-democratic and ‘communitarian’ on the template of 1930s ‘organic’ far-right.

We might even consider that its religion is a load of utter cack.

But nobody in the Guardian’s comment articles says that.

Nobody.

**********

(1) “But for showing solidarity and working with Muslim organisations – whether in the anti-war movement or in campaigns against Islamophobia – leftwing groups and politicians such as the London mayor, Ken Livingstone, are now routinely damned by liberal secularists (many of whom have been keen supporters of the war in Iraq) for “betraying the enlightenment” and making common cause with “Islamofascists”, homophobes and misogynists. The pitch of these denunciations has been heightened further by the government’s plan to introduce a new criminal offence of incitement to religious hatred. This measure would extend to the most vulnerable community in the country the very modest protection already offered by race hate legislation to black people, Jews, Sikhs and all religious communities in Northern Ireland. It is not a new blasphemy law; it would not lead to a ban on Monty Python’s Life of Brian film; or rule out jokes about Ayatollah Khomeini’s contact lenses; or cover ridicule or attacks on any religion (unlike the broader Australian legislation) – but would only outlaw incitement of hatred against people because of their faith.” Guardian. December 2004

This bill was thrown up precisely because it was a new “blasphemy law”. Does Milne back its return?

(2) I am all too aware of Foucault’s morally cretinous welcome to Khomeini, What are the Iranians Dreaming About (1978). More relevant to Isis is  the way their beheadings of hostages could be compared to the violent and chaotic public torture of Robert-François Damiens analysed in Discipline and Punish (1975).

Very Short Treatise on Intolerance (Teresa May).

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Theresa May addressing the Conservative Party conference.

Teresa May Outlines Plans to Clamp down on ‘Harmful Individuals’. 

Very Short Treatise on Intolerance.

Nietzsche wrote somewhere that the greatest haters, with the longest memories and deepest grudges, are learned religious men. (1) The contrary can easily be found. But malevolent violence in the Middle East – inspired and carried out by those who see themselves as holy – is something thrust in front of us every single day.

That this affects Europe was equally brought home quickly. It is not an exaggeration to say that the world of social media and instant media reporting, has worn away the sense of distance. That thousands of European volunteers, including hundreds of British citizens, have joined the Jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq became news in weeks. For those who follow the right sites, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, more information piled up every day.

From these sources the oppressions and crimes of the Islamist forces rapidly became known. In Iraq and Syria the Islamic State and Isis began to carry out ethnic and religious cleansing, tortured, raped, and committed acts of genocide.

Clamp-down on ‘harmful individuals”.

That there are those who continue to justify the Jihadists, here and now, is equally public. The British Conservative Party has announced that it intends, if elected in 2015, to legislate. It will issue “banning orders” on “extremist” groups. It will ratchet up its ‘anti-terrorism’ strategy and ‘anti-extremism’ programme. There will be ‘terrorism Asbos’ – extreme disruption orders, that will restrict the actions of named individuals, including a ban on their media appearances. (BBC)

Opponents of the proposals will state that it not possible to ban a version of a faith, which is a private matter. But the liberal argument in defence of free speech appears to hit a wall at this point. The Jihadists’ behaviour is not confined to “self-regarding acts” (John Stuart Mill). It is anything but limited to the individual: they are carrying out the Word of god, as spoken by their own authorities, to bring the world into line with their ideas.

Jihadists and Violence.

If we argue that the consequences of Jihadist ideology are violent few would disagree. The link could not be plainer and self-designated. They appear to be, and are intolerance incarnate. But if Mill’s doctrine has its faults, a much greater one is to “augment the authority of whatever sacerdotal or legislative body (that) may represent the majority”, as John Morley pointed out. (On Compromise. 1886)

Give those in government  and their functionaries that power and it is not hard to see that Teresa May’s laws would open the door to abuses. A floodgate of malicious accusations (anonymous or Tabloid inspired). As somebody who has been the target of a ‘moderate’ Islamist – soon proved false – claims, one also see the scope for factional warfare between Muslim groups and their opponents, secularists or otherwise, opening up. And that is before we consider the potential for racists and other hate groups using the legislation for their own purposes. That the idea appears to encompass “extremisms” as a whole – left, right, religious and otherwise – rings others alarm bells. As David Davis (Conservative) observed, these measures “quite incredible powers to limit democratic rights”. Or as  puts in the Tory  Telegraph, “The concept of extremism has become rather like fascism: a catch-all term for things we don’t like.”

It would be hard to find any organised religion (with the possible exception of the Society of Friends) that did not claim special powers over other people and society. If we oppose this claim then it’s not the individual who’s the problem but the institutions that would bring compulsory rules over other people’s lives. The Conservatives’ proposals come close to this, very close indeed for anybody suspected of “extremism”.

By contrast those who consider that there is no special place for religion in our common political institutions, would not consider the public body the best authority make the ultimate decision over what is and what is not an acceptable “moderate” religious belief. Secularists would leave the faithful to battle amongst themselves over whether they are hard-liners or reasonable. This would leave the rest of us free to exist as human beings, at liberty to adopt, to approve, to mock or to criticise any religious belief that tries to impinge on our lives.

There remains the problem of Islamism. Some simply deny that there is any connection between Islam and ISIS/Islamic State. We have seen the attempt by some to get the media to call the Islamic State the “un” or “so-called” Islamic State. It’s as if Trotskyists demanded that the old Soviet Union be always referred to by its “proper” name, as a “degenerated/deformed workers’ state”.

The analogy can be extended. Some commentators have compared the reaction of political Islamists, including those in government, as in Turkey, to the left’s difficult coming to terms with Stalin’s blood-drenched rule. This is not an easy process, and it has not ended yet.

One thing is certain coming to terms with the crimes of the Islamists in the Middle East will not be helped by fine-sounding phrases that instantly dismiss any connection between their ideology and Islam. This is a claim shared by Teresa May who states, ” Islam is a religion of peace.” We would wish for evidence to back this  assertion. 

It may be said that those who loudly clamoured for bans on books and publications,  which “offended” Islam, from the Satanic Verses onwards, are not in a good position to demand freedom of expression. That is indeed a rod of their own making. 

Intolerance of the Intolerant. 

None of this implies any let up on the pressure on violent Islamists. Those who follow the tradition of Voltaire’s  Traité sur la tolérance (1763) are not tolerant of fanaticism. The crimes of Isis/Islamic State, including those committed by European Jihadists, should be answerable to courts and due process. We can, already, clamp down on incitement to violence and religious hatred. The means to bring to account those actively involved in Jihad exist. The killers in the service of the Assad regime deserve the same treatment – bringing up a subject which, to examine properly, would extend this ‘short’ treatise by several pages.

What we do not need is increased “authority” to legislate on what is, and what is not, ‘extremism.”

(1) “The really great Haters in History have always been priests, but also the cleverest haters – in comparison with the cleverness of priestly revenge every other piece of cleverness is practically negligible” Genealogy of Morals. 1887.

Update: Ukip Complains Theresa May’s Anti-Extremism Pledge ‘Could Shut Party Down’.

The Home Secretary revealed the new “extremism disruption orders” would ban those who “spread hate but do not break existing laws” from the airwaves and make it easier to formally proscribe groups deemed to be linked to terrorism.

The orders will apply to those who “spread or incite hatred” of gender, race or religion as well as those who engage in “harmful activities” for the “purpose of overthrowing democracy”. That’s prompted fears the laws could be used on non-violent political groups and the political enemies of those in power.

Critics said the powers were draconian and mocked the notion of banning those who are not proven to have broken the law, while human rights Liberty said the powers were “worthy of a caliphate”.

The eurosceptic party that is jeopardising the Tories’ chance of winning the next election – and to which two MPs and other prominent politicians have already defected – also suggested it could be banned with such an order.

Suzanne Evans, deputy chair of Ukip, told a fringe event at the Tory Party conference that the power could be used to close down her party, the BBC’s Norman Smith reported.

Hope Not Hate call for contributions to debate on “To ban or not to ban?” : here.

How should society tackle extremism?

There will be various streams to this debate, so ideas and contributions on them all will be useful:

  • What is extremism?
  • Where does extremism come from?
  • How should the Government tackle extremism?
  • How should communities tackle extremism?
  • What are the limits of freedom of speech?

Delist the PKK from ‘Terrorist’ Organisations.

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UK Prime Minister David Cameron: We call on you to delist the PKK.

The end game is a solution to the Kurdish Question in Turkey and the defeat of the terrorist organisation known as ISIS. These are goals we share Prime Minister.PKK were instrumental in defending the Kurdish people who suffered from a racist forced assimilation policy since the establishment of the new modern state of Turkey.It was Turkey that labelled the PKK as ‘terrorists’ so as to justify further genocidal policies against the whole Kurdish civilian population from whom they came and had and continue to this day to have mass popular support!Turkey claim that they want a negotiated, political solution to the Kurdish Question and indeed just recently spoke of hopes for direct talks with the PKK leadership in Qandil Mountains.

Turkey has been negotiating with the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan since 2011 and Turkey has seen many political changes that have now created the political conditions for the PKK to disarm and to enter the political scene.

But we believe that to go further the PKK now need to be politicised and decriminalised to fully participate in the political process.

We also believe that by decriminalising the PKK, you, the UK Government would strengthen the fight against ISIS by allowing the PKK to work freely and much more effectively to achieve a shared objective of the defeat of ISIS and development of democracy for not just the Kurdish people but of all peoples of the Middle East.

Sign here.

This is what the brave comrades of the PKK’s Syrian and Iraqi groups did recently,

“While the Yazidis expressed their anger at the KDP peshmergas’ withdrawal from Sinjar in early August, the YPG/YPJ forces crossed the now meaningless Syrian-Iraqi border to rescue the stranded Yazidis. They soon were joined by the guerrillas of the PKK. After having created a humanitarian corridor to lead the refugees to Rojava, they established a refugee camp in Derik, where the people await further humanitarian aid. The YPG/YPJ forces and PKK guerrillas now hold posts in south Kurdistan and continue to fight the Islamic State, along with the US-backed peshmergas.”

The PKK started out with the aim of an independent Kurdish state in the 1970s, but long transformed its vision and now advocates regional autonomy or “democratic confederalism” through grassroots democracy, gender equality, and ecology, while rejecting the nation-state as an oppressive, backward institution.

It is intellectually and journalistically lazy and factually fraudulent to keep calling the PKK a separatist organisation, as many news outlets do.The PKK condemned civilian attacks that were committed in their name, declared several unilateral ceasefires and currently is engaging in peace talks. Even the Turkish state accepts the PKK as a negotiating partner.”

This “terror” label also criminalises entire communities and millions of ordinary people, while shunning any theoretical approach to what the PKK wants. There are countless accounts of Yazidi refugees, who express their gratitude to the PKK for saving them. They praise the PKK and the YPG/YPJ forces for protecting the people. The PKK must be recognised as a political actor and the US and the EUshould remove it from their “terror lists”.

Secondly, Rojava must be recognised internationally. In the midst of the Syrian war, the people there created self-governance structures in the form of three autonomous cantons. These have 22 ministries with one minister and two deputies each, one Kurd, one Arab and one Assyrian, at least one of which has to be a woman. Several schools, women’s academies, working, living, and farming cooperatives, and women’s and people’s councils have been established.

The defence forces of these structures are the oldest and most experienced opponents of the Islamic State. The embargoes on Rojava oppress the region in which ten thousands of refugees are now stranded. They must be immediately lifted.

The peoples of the Middle East are well able to create their own visions of freedom and democracy, if hegemonic powers would quit hijacking these attempts for their own gains. This is a utopia that the Rojava revolution is trying to live and which it has achieved to a remarkable extent. Heavy weapons will not defeat the Islamic State, but a democratic, gender-egalitarian, autonomous organisation of the people in the Middle East will. The Rojava revolution shows us that a different world is possible.

 Dilar Dirik 

Kurdish female fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPJ) at a military training camp. [Reuters]

Wikipedia:

Designation as a terrorist group.

The PKK has been placed on the terrorism blacklists of Turkey and a number of allied governments and organisations.The military alliance NATO has declared the PKK to be a terrorist group; Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952, and fields the group’s second-largest armed contingent. Closely tied to NATO, the European Union—which Turkey aspires to join—officially lists the PKK as having “been involved in terrorist acts” and proscribes it as part of its Common Foreign and Security Policy. First designated in 2002, the PKK was ordered to be removed from the EU terror list on 3 April 2008 by the European Court of First Instance on the grounds that the EU failed to give a proper justification for listing it in the first place.

However, EU officials dismissed the ruling, stating that the PKK would remain on the list regardless of the legal decision.Most European Union member states have not individually listed the PKK as a terrorist group.The United Nations only blacklists al-Qaida, the Taliban, and affiliated groups and individuals, pursuant to UNSCR 1267.As such, the PKK has never been designated as a terrorist organisation by the UN, though three out of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council treat it as such on an individual basis.

The PKK is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US State Department and as a Proscribed Group by the UK Home Office.Additionally, France prosecutes Kurdish-French activists and bans organisations connected to the PKK on terrorism-related charges,having listed the group as a terrorist organisation since 1993.[126] However, French courts often refuse to extradite captured individuals accused of PKK connections to Turkey due to technicalities in French law, frustrating Turkish authorities. On the other hand, Russia has long ignored Turkish pressure to ban the PKK,and the group is also not included in the official terror blacklist of China (PRC).”

PKK Official site.

More PKK Combat news.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 29, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Humanitarian Intervention in Iraq: Seymour Pops a Happenstance for a Desideratum.

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Seymour Cautiously Predicts Civil Strife in Middle East. 

An elegiac Richard Seymour begins today by lifting out hearts.

“We face an absurd situation.  A war that is already, on its face, a sort of defeat.  Liberal and left intelligentsia once more carolling support for ‘humanitarian intervention’.  From the political class, the feast of reason and the flow of the soul, as always.  “

As always.

Indeed.

The “vim” , he discourses, that is ” impossible to fault as a desideratum.”

Flows.

A Feast.

As always.

Methinks.

What else?  Well, isn’t it about time – isn’t it always time? – to arm the rebels?  The bearers of this slogan are a living illustration of an old axiom about the proximity of liberalism and ultra-leftism, for they are ultimately as dependent upon the happenstance benign behaviour of imperialist states as those who call for direct military intervention.  And then, what else?  A solidarity campaign.  Fundraising, petitions, protests outside Downing Street, a workers’ convoy of aid to the Kurds.  If the Iraqi left is non-existent, its working class weak, let the imperishable British left substitute for it.

Note: this looks very like (as Seymour would no doubt opine on imperishable reflection) a reference to the mass-line of Tendance Coatesy.

“And behold the mortal dread, the fear of the risen proletariat, in the looks of ISIS.  “

By happenstance, perchance, mayhap…..mortally…..the sight of the  “risen proletariat”….. after  the crucifixions of ISIS…..?

Seymour continues, lugubriously,

I may sound frankly tired and cadaverously grim about the prospects, but don’t let that fool you: I very well am both tired and grim.

Note: Buy Seymour a copy of Fowler’s Modern English style with entries on elegant variation and inversion underlined.

It would be tone dumb, as well as in factual error, to counter this by saying that military action is illegal.  No such axiom will do.  The answer to the ridiculously simple slogans of humanitarian intervention cannot be shibboleths of our own.

Tone dumb indeed.

That copy of Fowler’s is winging its way already…..

The prospect which the British government is shamelessly vaunting, that they can defeat ISIS in three years, is about as believable as any other ‘cakewalk’ scenario….

The biscuit taken, the  sonorous (perhaps I should say, orotund?) conclusion arrives.

“Civil war, then, in both Iraq and Syria, for the foreseeable future.”

Yet,

As usual, I have no solutions.”

 

As always…

Now, Back the Kurds!

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tatchell

Comrade Tatchell’s Call is the Right Response. 

Few will have much time for those who simply dismiss any action against the genociders of ISIL as “imperialism”.

It is unfortunate that those who wish to “stop the war” rely on arguments that conflate the murders of a totalitarian gang with all the other forces at play.

It is even more unfortunate that ‘Little Englander’ arguments are used against the war, about its expense, and the fear that killers may attack “us”.

But we should be extremely wary of getting enthusiastic for a bombing campaign without clear objectives, and without a real chance of a democratic outcome.

It would be misguided to jump on the bandwagon that looks as if it’s going to lead to moves for “regime change” in Syria – a recipe for more chaos, suffering and the growth of Islamist killer forces.

But there is one dimension in which we can support intervention.

Patrick Cockburn states

What the plans of President Obama and Mr Cameron lack is a diplomatic plan to bring the war between the non-Isis parties in Syria to an end. The two sides fear and hate each other too much for any political solution, but it may be possible for the foreign backers of the two sides to pressure them into agreeing a ceasefire. Neither is in a position to win against each other, but both are threatened by Isis, which inflicted stinging defeats on both Assad and anti-Assad forces in the summer.

Britain should press for such a truce even if it is only engaged militarily in Iraq, because it is the outcome of the war in Syria that will determine what happens in Iraq. It was the Syrian war beginning in 2011 that reignited Iraq’s civil war and not the misdeeds of Mr Maliki.

If Isis is to be combated effectively, then the US, Britain and their allies need to establish a closer relationship with those who are actually fighting Isis, which currently include the Syrian Army, the Syrian Kurds, Hezbollah of Lebanon, Iranian-backed militias and Iran itself. The necessity for this is being made tragically clear in the Syria Kurdish enclave of Kobane on the Syrian-Turkish border, where Isis fighters have already driven 200,000 Kurds into Turkey.

Perhaps as the Stop the War Coalition has published Cockburn they might heed what comrade Peter Tatchell says,

The truth is that if the US and UK are serious about fighting ISIS they should start by aiding the people on the ground who know the region best, have local roots and who are already leading the fight against the jihadist menace – the peshmerga army of the Kurdish regional government in Iraq and guerrillas from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and allied movements in Syria. This aid could include training, weapons, military intelligence, food and medical equipment. With extra assistance and supplies, they could be a powerful, effective counter-force to ISIS. The aim would be to empower them to liberate themselves.

Kurdish protesters made this call in London during the last week. They want international military aid to enable Kurdish fighters to roll back the ISIS advance.

Sadly, the UK Stop The War Coalition (STWC) has allowed its opposition to war to trump support for democracy and human rights. It is laudable to oppose western military attacks but a betrayal to show no solidarity with the democratic, secular, liberal and left forces in Iraq and Syria who are fighting ISIS and Assad’s blood-soaked tyranny.

Not backing military aid to these progressive forces, as an alternative to Western intervention, is a serious misjudgement. STWC’s failure to support those fighting an emerging genocide has a whiff of de facto acquiescence and collusion.

I hate war and see it as a last resort. But to stave off a bloodbath and enslavement, the progressive anti-ISIS fighters deserve assistance from the West and the whole international community. If military aid to partisans fighting Nazi fascism was the right thing to do in the 1940s, then surely support for those opposing ISIS clerical fascism is the right thing to do today.

We can discuss for hours the ultimate responsibility for the rise of Islamic State.

But there is one major problem that affects everything here and now:  the actions of the Turkish government, nominally a backer of the anti-ISIS coalition.

The Guardian today publishes this report, on the attitudes of the Kurds,

Like the majority of Kurds here he firmly believes that Ankara is actively supporting Isis with heavy weaponry, medical care and money – a charge that the Turkish government vehemently denies. Facebook pictures and YouTube videos that appear to back up their suspicions are eagerly shared among the picnickers, and continuous attacks by Turkish security forces on Kurdish activists gathering in border villages is proof enough for most that Turkey does not want the Kurds to prevail in Kobani.

“We arrived on Monday from Siirt,” explains Mehmet, 55. “We want to show support and be there for our brothers and sisters across the border. We want to show them and the world that we will not give up on them. We will stay as long as we have to.” Guardian.

Yesterday Le Monde reported complicity from Turkey towards the Islamic state in an on-the-spot (and lengthy) report, (A la frontière du dijhad).

So, how are we to back the Kurds?

George Galloway, after some distasteful rhetoric, and for all the distaste we have for him, had a brief moment of good sense in the House of Commons yesterday,

Galloway eventually outlined a plan when Rory Stewart, the Conservative chairman of the Commons defence select committee, challenged him to “please bring us towards his solution to this problem”. The MP for Bradford West called for a strengthening of forces already fighting Isis; arming the forces fighting Isis; and strengthening of Kurdish forces. Guardian.

If Galloway’s Moment of Clarity was not to last (he has since been raving in support of Assad and people’s right to set up states based on Islamic ‘law’) this is of rather more weight:

The Morning Star says (Editorial, Friday),

What’s needed instead is support for those anti-Isis forces in the region which are genuinely broad-based and secular.

The Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish authorities on the ground should set the terms for assistance in that struggle, endorsed by the United Nations, not the US president, his wire-pullers and their imagined allies in Turkey and the Gulf states.

With this consensus growing on the British left * (one that already exists on the largely pro-Kurd Continental left) – outside the depleted ranks of the SWP and other die-hard ‘anti-imperialists’ – we hope that others will voice their backing for the Kurdish fighters.

* See for example, (Socialist Resistance) STOP THE BRUTAL ATTACKS BY ISIS IN KOBANE, and the declarations by groups such as the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (see this important article, ISIS horror forces a culture shift on the left) and the general trend towards  backing the Kurds, amongst many other declarations.

The French bloc Ensemble (in the Front de Gauche) refuses to back “national union” behind the air-strikes but then adds a call for  “un engagement dans le soutien aux peuples en lutte contre l’Etat islamique, essentiellement de la force de la résistance kurde et syrienne, qui sont des acteurs essentiels pour l’avenir de la région et par le refus des interventions déstabilisatrices des grandes puissances.” A commitment to support the peoples in struggle against the Islamic state, principally the Kurdish and Syrian  resistance, who are the central actors in assuring the region’s future, against the destabilising effects of the great powers’ interventions.

Bob Lambert, Police Spy, Resurfaces to Offer to Advise Government on Islamists.

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Bob Lambert Receives  Islamic Human Rights Award (2007).

In the news, for what reason?

Ministers have been urged to enlist the help of several controversial Muslim groups to stem the flow of British jihadists to Iraq and Syria.

Calls are growing for Whitehall to restore ties in particular with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), one of the country’s largest Islamic organisations. The group, which once enjoyed a close relationship with the government, has been ostracised since 2009 when one of its officials signed a declaration supporting Hamas and calling on Muslims to destroy “foreign warships” preventing arms smuggling into Gaza.

Robert Lambert, a former head of the Metropolitan police Muslim contact unit who is now a lecturer in terrorism studies at the University of St Andrews, said that the MCB and other Muslim groups could be valuable partners in the struggle against home-grown jihad….”

Originally in the Times (yesterday) – Hat-tip DT.

The rest of the story goes,

“In many instances the government considers these groups to be unsuitable partners because, in the government’s view, they are extremist and do not subscribe to British values,” he said.

Dr Lambert described the MCB aa notable example of a national umbrella body that has potential to help tackle violent extremist radicalisation and recruitment” and praised one of its affiliates, the Muslim Association of Britain [MAB], for its work with young Muslims around the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London.

In a 2011 speech at a security conference in Munich David Cameron said that “the ideology of extremism [was] the problem”, pledging to confront non-violent Islamism as well as jihadists.

The MAB said it was fully prepared to work with the government, while the MCB said that it would co-operate but would not seek taxpayer funding.

“We are more than happy to work productively with the government on this issue, but we will be mindful of getting involved in initiatives that will further alienate young people,” it said.

Lambert has been exposed as a secret policeman (Infiltration of animal rights, anti-racist and environmental groups), agent provocateur (he has been accused of arson by Caroline Lucas, M.P) , and is the father of an (abandoned) child by one of the activists he was spying on.

For more on this story of abuse and attacks on democracy, see Wikipedia). (1)

His defenders included Bob Pitt, of Islamophobia Watch and .

Pitt notably lauded Lambert’s “achievements” and has attacked the “demonisation” of his activities as a “young copper.” (see this link for full list of Pitt’s posts defending the secret policeman).

Abdullah wrote this in 2011.

The “exposure” of the former special branch officer Bob Lambert comes at a convenient time: it can serve as a distraction from the scandals that have engulfed the neocon tendency in the government. Lambert has been a staunch critic of the government’s Islamophobic rhetoric and exclusivist policies. This, to a large extent, explains the excitement that has greeted disclosure of information about Lambert’s past career among certain people.

These people seek to achieve two things: to assassinate Lambert’s character and discredit his academic work. Both will fail.

Those of us who worked with him during the difficult decade after 11 September 2001 always knew he came from a police background, and specifically the special branch unit. It was no secret. If at any point he was involved in the infiltration of legitimate protest and political groups while being a special branch officer, then that was wrong. That being said, the political authors of such a policy should bear the full responsibility for it and not any single officer.

What has stood out about Lambert has been his commitment to peace, justice and social harmony. He was never as preoccupied with words as he was with deeds. Hence he entered into partnerships with almost everyone who was committed to these ideals.

It appears that this callous secret policeman is a lecturer at the ‘university’ of Saint Andrews.

A fine gauge of the quality of the education that they have to offer.

It is unlikely that anybody else is likely to take Lambert’s kind offer of advice seriously.

(1) Guardian June 2013. “A woman who had a child with an undercover police officer who was spying on her says she feels she was “raped by the state” and has been deeply traumatised after discovering his real identity.

She met the undercover officer – Bob Lambert – in 1984. At the time, Lambert was posing as “Bob Robinson”, an animal rights activist, on behalf of the then secret police unit known as the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS).”

Standing up to UKIP? A Critical Appraisal.

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Will this Defeat UKIP?

Some on the left remain in mourning for the failure of the Scottish referendum to “bring their country into the world of free and sovereign nations”. Some console themselves that Alba is already a “transformed, empowered country.” (Neil Ascherson. Observer. 21.8.14.)

Westminster Centralism appears on the wane. A large constituency demands a “grant of real responsibility to local communities.” This means, they say, a change in the structure of the British constitution, perhaps an English parliament, certainly greater control for regions and cities inside and outwith Scotland’s borders.

Constitutional issues are not the preserve of Scottish nationalists or the new regionalists. UKIP has made its transition from pressure group to serious political contender by demanding that Britain be ‘free’ from the legislative power of the European Union. The issue of sovereignty is the central concern of Nigel Farage’s party. UKIP is, first and foremost, anti-EU. It wants ‘independence’ for the British people from ‘Brussels’. It is not ‘Eurosceptic’; it is Europhobic.

The Scottish separatists want to see the back of ‘Westminster’, for the good of their own people. Some, notably in the SNP, claim to see the European Union as a positive force that would help them towards that aim. With their common concern with national power we can call both parties, despite this major difference on the EU, “sovereigntists.” The party once led by Alex Salmond believes in a limited degree of pooled sovereignty in order to ‘save the nation state’ (as Milward called it), UKIP is simply wants to shore up the nation state. (1)

Stand up to UKIP.

Left-wing activists, called to support the campaign Stand up to UKIP, which plans a major demonstration outside the Party’s conference next weekend, can be forgiven for forgetting the word “independence” in the title. The launch of this campaign, after all, declares,

“It has built up its electoral base by both presenting itself as a party opposed to the European Union, but more importantly by spreading poisonous lies and hatred towards migrants and MuslimsWe believe UKIP is a racist party. This may be something Farage and the party’s leadership is quick to deny. But in the run up to the European elections UKIP’s mask slipped. UKIP presents the anti-racist movement with a major problem – dragging British politics to the right.”

Let us leave aside the claim that UKIP specialises in ‘anti-Muslim’ campaigning. This will come as news to the Bangladeshi organisers of the Ipswich ‘Multi-cultural festival’ at the end of August this year, who included a full page UKIP advertisement, along with Labour and Tory endorsements, in the day’s programme. It will also be a surprise to anybody reading official UKIP material, which does not single out the topic of Islam, but instead includes it within a blanket condemnation on multi-culturalism – the real reason to be astonished at the Ipswich anomaly.

Andy Jones argues, “UKIP is the main organised expression of the new anti-immigrant racism.” (International Socialism. June 2014. No 114) Nobody can deny that it has gained support for its hostility towards migration – their leaflets warning of a mass Bulgarian and Rumanian invasion are still fresh in people’s minds. Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin point to their ability to “recognise and often moblise public resentments of immigration and ethnic minorities among the white majority” (Page 159 Revolt on the Right. 2014). 

Is this part and parcel of a “party of bigots, sexists, Islamophobes and homophobes”? Perhaps. But does this imply that they have won votes as this kind of party? Stand up to UKIP clearly seems to think that “exposing” them as such will eat away at their support. Others consider that this is part of their appeal.

Ford and Godwin state that UKIP’s “electoral base is old, male, working class, white and less educated, much like the BNP’s (Ibid). Their analysis of the attitudes within the group they identify would tend to support the view that many of UKIP’s less attractive and prejudices attitudes have an echo within their constituency. Others note that the Stand up to UKIP list of bigoted opinions, slightly more politely expressed, is shared with middle class and upper class voters, the readership of the Daily Mail, Telegraph, and the Times. That UKIP voters are by no means largely working class. (2) 

In the publicity for the 27th demonstration at UKIP’s conference it’s stated, “UKIP likes to say it is the “people’s army” in opposition to the political elite in the mainstream parties. But it is a racist party that blames migrant workers for the problems in society it is acting as a shield for the bankers who are really responsible for the economic crisis.”

Is shouting “racist party” outside the UKIP meeting going to change anybody’s opinions?  I say shouting, but screaming ‘racist’ is the likely prospect. The involvement of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) signals the direction the protest is taking. This Sealed-Knot re-enactment of the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) demonstrations of yesteryear is a dead-end. The chorus, conducted by the Socialist Workers Party (Stand up’s main initiator) is not going to win over anybody outside their ranks. 

Revealing the role of UKIP as “shield for the bankers” is as unlikely undermine their support as “unmasking” them as an unsavoury load of old racists. The competition created in the labour market by migration is  – on at least some evidence deliberately encouraged by employers – is the material basis on which people ‘blame’ foreigners for low wages.

A trade union approach is to set a standard, the Living Wage, and high social benefits and work protection for all. Only unions are capable of grappling with these problems directly, bringing the actual and potential UKIP voters together with migrants on the basis of common interests. The left needs to focus on campaigns by the TUC and its affiliates, to prevent the bosses from setting one group against another. It is the European Union which should create the conditions for continent-wide higher wages and social benefits, a strategy of upgrading standards. Any form of sovereigntist politics, from UKIP, the SNP (which advocates lower corporation tax in Scotland) to the Conservative Party’s own Eurosceptic policies (the most direct threat), is an attack on this internationalist approach.

Defeating UKIP.

After Douglas Carswell’s resignation from the Tory party and decision to stand for UKIP in Clacton on the 9th of October the party is rarely out of the headline. Polls gives Carswell a wide lead. The group now has 39,143 members. The left has to think, deeply and seriously, without yelling, about how to deal with UKIP’s appeal. 

UKIP’s biggest weakness is not that it is a party with an exceptionally high membership of obsessives, xenophobes and oddballs. Having set out on a ‘populist’ path, that is, with the call for the British to rise up against the Brussels elite, its focus anti-European policies cut if off from the large numbers of people who (correctly) identify the ‘elite’ with a domestic Establishment. Many in these circles, including those who are virulently opposed to ‘Brussels’, are attracted, with a degree of ‘cultural cringe’ to the United States. They are prepared to cooperate with Washington and Wall Street in enterprises like TIIP, which open the way to an even greater extension of free-market power.

Farage’s organisation does not combine their prejudices with a degree of ‘social’ demands (protecting ‘the British worker’ ‘our NHS’). It opts for hard-line free-market policies. Continental populists, by contrast, are often opposed to ‘globalisation’ and ‘neo-liberalism’. Some European ‘populist’ parties, like the French Front National, have even tried to influence trade unions (3). This may reflect their middle class base, although the French FN equally benefits from electoral backing in middle class and wealthy areas (the traditional fiefs of the right and extreme-right in cities like Paris). 

Yet UKIP’s electoral success (27.5% of the vote in the European elections) has had exactly the same effect: a constant drag towards the right, hauling political players towards its brand of patriotism.

That they are braggarts, demagogues, that their xenophobic policies (directed against other Europeans) have racial overtones (against any ‘foreigners’ – that is, including British citizens, ethnic minorities), is important. This should be brought out and attacked.

But the only way Farage’s party will be sent back to the margins is by facing up to the issue of Sovereignty. To Stand up to UKIP is to stand up for the European Union, to engage in the transformation of its structures and to build a European Social Republic.

****

Note: for a real anti-racist campaigning group see Hope not Hate which has covered everyday racism, UKIP, the BNP and other UK far-right groups, including Islamists.

(1) The European Rescue of the Nation State (1999) by the late Alan Milward.

(2) “The data on which Ford and Goodwin base their analysis of Ukip voters consists, as they acknowledge, of people who intend to vote Ukip, rather than those who have. On the occasions when Ukip’s vote increases dramatically (such as in European elections) their new or temporary voters are more likely to be middle-class, financially secure and from Conservative backgrounds. And, while Ukip did indeed attract more former Labour voters during the later New Labour years, they have won a substantially higher proportion of Tory voters since the coalition came to power.

So there might be another explanation for the high Ukip vote in Labour areas. As the BBC’s political research editor, David Cowling, points out, in Labour’s safest seat in the country at the 2010 election, 28% of voters still supported other parties. This is not because Liverpool Walton is peppered with enclaves of bankers and stockbrokers; it’s because a substantial section of the working class has always voted for parties other than Labour and now that vote is going to Ukip. Ford and Goodwin argue that Ukip’s success has reduced the swing to Labour among old, poor and male voters. But that’s different from saying that Ukip is eating into the existing Labour vote, as it clearly is into the Conservatives’.” David Edgar.

(2) See the collection of articles in Nouveau Visages des Extrêmes Droites. Manière de Voir. Le Monde Diplomatique. 134. Avril Mai 2014.

Update: SWP Party Notes,

Stand Up to Ukip: Doncaster 27 September
Ukip look odds on to win their first MP in the Clacton by-election on 9 October following the defection of Douglas Carswell to Ukip from the Tories.
Nigel Farage hopes to exploit the tensions inside the Tory party together with rising Islamaphobia to increase Ukip’s influence. This will drag politics further to the right, further boosting racist scapegoating.

The demonstration outside Ukip’s conference in Doncaster on Saturday 27 September is a key step in developing campaign against Ukip.

Every branch needs to think about transport to Doncaster. Approach trade unions for sponsorship and to publicise the demo and we should produce tickets to sell. (a template is attached). We should leaflet FE colleges and universities as they return. Using the Stand up to Ukip statement, which has an impressive list of ‘big’ names on it around work and with people we know locally is a good way to talk to people about the importance of coming to Doncaster and showing that there is organised opposition to Ukip.

More transport has been put on over the last week – including from Huddesfield, Chesterfield, Nottingham, West Midlands, Newcastle, Derby. For the full list go to standuptoukip.org

There are SUTU public meetings tonight in Manchester and Cambridge.

To order colour 2-sided A5 leaflets advertising the demo in Doncaster, emailinfo@standuptoukip.org – 1,000 cost £15.