Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

As American Help is Dropped to Kobane Kurds, Stop the War Coalition Enters New Crisis.

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US state department file photo.

US Drops Help to Kobane: Not in Our Name? 

“…the airstrikes by the US, Britain and their allies are not intended to save lives or to defeat ISIS, but to strengthen the west’s domination of the Middle East region strategically and control its resources, most notably its oil.”

Wrote Aaron Kiely (Socialist Action) on the Stop the War Coalition site on the 15th of October.

Why students should oppose bombing Iraq and Syria and whipping up of Islamophobia

Kiely does not mention any alternative way to aid the Kurds and others to defeat Isis.

His main concern apparently is that there is a “disgusting smear campaign against the Stop the War Coalition, CND, prominent NUS student leaders and others, accusing the anti-war movement of supporting the barbaric terrorist group Isis.

Speaking for “Muslim communities” he says they are “are strong opponents of terrorism”. He adds, “Young people and students want a future free from the scourge of war, terrorism and Islamophobia.”

Keiley is infamous for  Tweeting his opposition to an “Islamophobic”  motion at the NUS – that is one supporting the Kurds, drafted with the close help of/and by Kurds.

He may well “oppose” Isis, but if there was no evidence of supporting the Kurds then, there is none now.

Their right to freedom from Islamist racism and mass murder (Isis/Islamic State)  is not mentioned.

What, then,  does the Stop the War Coalition (StWC)  think of the Kurdish plight?

 Leading figures of the StWC, Lindsey German and Robin Beste, have argued (3rd October),

  • The issue of the Kurds is central to countering ISIS expansion in the region. The Iraqi Kurds are close allies of the west, but there is a very different attitude to the Kurds in Turkey and Syria. The PKK, which has been struggling for Kurdish self-determination for decades, is still listed as a terrorist organisation by the EU and the US. This is despite the PKK and its allies being prominent in the battle against ISIS. Turkey has oppressed the Kurds for many years and will not help those in Kobane, now under imminent threat of seizue by ISIS. Turkey could open its border to the Kurds, but refuses to do so, in contrast with its support for ISIS in the past. Instead the Turkish parliament has voted to create a ‘buffer zone’ at the Syrian border which will involve the disarming of the Kurds.
  • Bombing will prove counter productive because it will do nothing to help the people already suffering, but will lead to far greater levels of death, injury and destruction. This has been the experience over the past 13 years, not only in Iraq, but in Afghanistan and Libya too.

Today we learn (BBC),

US military aircraft have dropped weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State (IS) militants in the key Syrian town of Kobane.

US Central Command said C-130 transport aircraft made “multiple” drops of supplies provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq.

US air strikes have helped push back IS in the town near the Turkish border.

Correspondents say the airdrops are likely to anger key US ally Turkey.

The drops of supplies provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq were “intended to enable continued resistance against Isil’s attempts to overtake Kobane,” Centcom said in a statement. IS is also referred to as Isil and Isis.

All the aircraft involved had returned safely, it added.

The US air drops represent a significant shift in Washington’s policy towards the Syrian Kurds.

Syrian Kurdish fighters confounded the bleak predictions about Kobane’s imminent fall, and the air drops are now taking place despite objections from the Turkish government: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said his country would not agree to any US arms transfers to Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Nevertheless, the US state department recently declared that it had held the first direct talks with the Syrian Kurdish Party – considered an ally of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which fought a three-decade war against the Turkish army until 2013.

Reporting on this today the French left paper Libération states that the French government has put an ultimatum to Qatar to stop all support for the Islamic State/Isis.  Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian stated to the Emir of the country  that one does not have to “choose” between the Syrian dictatorship and Isis terrorism, but should oppose both.

The Kurdish News agency, Rudaw has stated,

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—The Turkish government has agreed to give Kurdistan Region Peshmerga forces passage to the besieged Kurdish town of Kobane, a well-placed source told Rudaw today.

The official source said that Turkey has responded positively to a request from Kurdish President Massoud Barzani to allow Peshmerga forces pass through Turkish territory to relieve Peoples Protection Units (YPG) fighters in their battle against the Islamic State (IS).

According to the source who didn’t want to be named, Barzani and Peshmerga Minister Mustafa Sayid Qader have coordinated the plan with Salih Muslim, leader of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and his YPG commanders.

Muslim met with Barzani in Duhok last week where the two discussed the fighting in Kobane between the YPG and IS militants who have besieged the town for more than a month.

There are good reasons to be very cautious about this report on Turkey’s change of attitude.

But nobody can contest that the US action has taken place.

It may well not stem the offensive of the Isis genociders.

But is the StWC right to claim that this bombing will prove to be “counter-productive”.

I don’t think so.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 20, 2014 at 11:20 am

End Pakistan Blasphemy Laws: Free Asia Bibi!

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LAHORE, Pakistan — The Lahore High Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the death sentence of a Pakistani Christian woman in a high-profile blasphemy case and dismissed her appeal for acquittal.

The defendant, Asia Bibi, 47, a farmworker, was sentenced to death in 2010 after being convicted of blasphemy. She has denied the accusations, which she said stemmed from a dispute with Muslim co-workers.

Ms. Bibi now plans to appeal the decision in the country’s Supreme Court, said her lawyer, Naeem Shakir. But given huge backlogs at the court, analysts said it would probably be at least three years before the appeal would be taken up.

The ruling was the latest chapter in a long ordeal for Ms. Bibi, whose case has focused international attention on how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have become a weapon against religious minorities.

It was also a factor in the 2011 assassination of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab Province who vociferously campaigned for Ms. Bibi’s release and for overhaul of the blasphemy codes. Religious conservatives were outraged by Mr. Taseer’s advocacy, and he was shot dead by his police security guard in Islamabad. Months later, his son Shahbaz Ali Taseer was kidnapped by Taliban militants and his whereabouts is still unknown.

Meanwhile, Ms. Bibi has languished in prison, and successive governments have been reluctant to touch the issue.

Death sentences have rarely been carried out in blasphemy cases, but that is in part because such allegations have frequently led to deadly vigilante attacks on the accused or their lawyers.

The Lahore courtroom was packed with clerics and members of extremist groups who supported the prosecution, and they erupted in celebration upon hearing the two-judge panel’s decision to dismiss Ms. Bibi’s appeal. “Let us celebrate by distributing sweets!” said one cleric who was reciting verses from the Quran throughout the almost two-and-a-half-hour court proceeding.

“I am very happy,” said Qari Salaam, a co-worker of Ms. Bibi’s and the main complainant in the case. “The judges have given a verdict on merit, and Asia deserved it.”

New York Times.

The ‘dispute’ arose  in this way,

In June 2009, Noreen was harvesting falsa berries with a group of other farmhands in a field in Sheikhupura. She was asked at one point to fetch water from a nearby well; she complied but stopped to take a drink with an old metal cup she had found lying next to the well. A neighbor of Noreen, who had been involved in a running feud with Noreen’s family about some property damage, saw her and angrily told her that it was forbidden for a Christian to drink the same water as a Muslim, and some of the other workers considered her to be unclean because she was a Christian. Some arguments ensued. Noreen recounts that when they made derogatory statements about her religion, she responded, “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?” Wikipedia. 

Later, some of the workers complained to a cleric that Noreen insulted Muhammad. A mob came to her house, beating her and members of her family before she was rescued by the police.[4] The police initiated an investigation about her remarks, resulting in her arrest under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code.[3] She subsequently was imprisoned for over a year before being formally charged.[17]

Further information,

As reaction pours in from around the world to yesterday’s Lahore High Court ruling upholding the death sentence for Asia Bibi in her wrongful blasphemy suit, a Christian human rights watchdog group is calling on the Supreme Court of Pakistan to expedite a hearing in the case, and a London-based music band that is “disgusted” with the decision has launched a music video supporting the imprisoned mother of five children.

In an audible and visual show of its disgust at the high court decision, ooberfuse, an electronica band from Woolwich, London today released FREE, a music video crying out for an end to the persecution of non-Muslim religious minorities in Pakistan and around the world. They join a British Pakistani Christian Association protest this Saturday from 11:00 a.m.- 1:00 p.m. at 10 Downing Street, the London residence of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

You can hear the radio play edit by clicking here: http://tinyurl.com/k3zeg3g

Cherrie Anderson, frontwoman of the band, explained: “We have been calling out for Asia’s release ever since we translated Asia’s autobiography into English. Asia’s own words inspired our defiant anthem FREE. We will carry on our campaign until religious minorities around the world enjoy the freedoms people of all faiths and none enjoy here in the UK.”

ASSIST  news. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

The London Free Thinker (October the 18th) reports on the protest.

London protest over blasphemy sentence.

Bibi has since released a memoir from prison called Blasphemy, detailing her ordeal:

I’m a prisoner because I used the same cup as those Muslim women, because water served by a Christian woman was regarded as unclean by my stupid fellow fruit-pickers.

I can no longer bear the sight of people full of hatred, applauding the killing of a poor farm worker. I no longer see them, but I still hear them, the crowd who gave the judge a standing ovation, saying: ‘Kill her, kill her! Allahu Akbar!’

Bibi’s case drew global criticism in 2011 when Pakistan’s minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti and eastern Punjab governor Salman Taseer were killed for supporting her and opposing blasphemy laws. Taseer was killed in the capital Islamabad by one of his police guards after visiting Bibi in jail.

Bhati was killed months later by the Pakistani Taliban, who called him an “infidel Christian”.

Bibi has since released a memoir from prison called Blasphemy, detailing her ordeal.

I’m a prisoner because I used the same cup as those Muslim women, because water served by a Christian woman was regarded as unclean by my stupid fellow fruit-pickers.

Bibi’s lawyer Sardar Mushtaq said:

We have the right to appeal in 30 days, and we will continue this legal battle by approaching the Supreme Court of Pakistan. We have a strong case, and we will try our best to save her life.

Kate Allen, UK Director of Amnesty International, said:

This is the latest blasphemy outrage to come out of Pakistan. It seems obvious that this is a case of religious persecution, and it’s very likely the result of a squabble which escalated out of all proportion.

Blasphemy accusations in Pakistan are often used to settle petty vendettas and persecute minority groups. It’s a complete disgrace that the courts are complicit in these vendettas.

There has also been an alarming spate of killings of people who have spoken out against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Mohammad Asghar, a Scottish man, is also on death row in Pakistan after being sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Asghar, 70, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was sentenced to death earlier this year after writing a series of letters claiming to be the “Prophet” Mohammed. Last month Asghar was shot and wounded by a police officer at the Rawalpindi prison where he is held.

 

Free, Free the Beloved Asia Bibi!

Written by Andrew Coates

October 19, 2014 at 10:49 am

The Establishment. And how they get away with it. Owen Jones. A Socialist Review.

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The Establishment. And how they get away with it. Owen Jones. Allen Lane 2014.

Last Tuesday supporters of the Suffolk People’s Assembly and the PCS trade union lobbied Ipswich Conservative MP, Ben Gummer. Part of the TUC campaign “Britain Needs a Pay Rise” we were there to raise concerns from the decline in the real value of public sector pay, the growing cost of living, declining working conditions, to the attacks on those receiving welfare benefits. Gummer, after admitting that he had the privileged background (Cabinet Minister dad, public school and Cambridge in case you ask) understood our worries. He knew “where we were coming from”. But tight budgets and a squeeze on spending had been needed to deal with the legacy of the last government. Now the country was on the mend.

The Honourable Member ended by evoking his recent visit to a local school Academy. Its intake includes many of the less than privileged. Yet these students were rearing to compete on the global market. Equipping them to stand up their counterparts on the East, to give them “opportunity”, was, Ben’s words suggested, a task his government had begun in earnest.

Right in the first chapter of Owen Jones’ The Establishment, one comes across Gummer’s other constituency: the TaxPayers’ Alliance. Jones meets it founder, Matthew Elliot, who founded this “unashamedly populist” campaign for lower taxation. Inspired by the American hard-right Tea Party, its influence began before the 2008 Bankers’ crash. The Alliance now boasts that it got the Tories from saying they wanted to “match Labour’s spending plans to talk about spending cuts”. The ‘shock’ of crashing banks gave them a golden opportunity to go further and further.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance awarded Ipswich MP Ben its monthly  ‘pin up’ status a couple of years ago for his attempt to rename National Insurance a Tax. (1) This is not the only link. Jones signals their campaign to end Trade Union facility time. Mr Gummer – the members of the PCS present at the lobby were well aware – has very publicly pursued this demand locally.

Needless to say the socially and (genuinely) caring liberal Ben, can quickly turn into a ferocious tigress protecting her young when the interests of one group of taxpayers, finance, are at stake. It was not so long ago that he floated the idea of reviving the ‘business vote’, an extra ballot paper for companies (no doubt with an eye on Labour controlled Ipswich Borough Council).

Dig a little and what is the core of the up and coming Conservative’s politics? For Ben Gummer the City of London, which Jones describes as marked by a “reluctance to pay taxes and an acute hostility to any form of government intervention” (Page 241) is the foundation of UK prosperity. Above all he ducks the banks’ responsibility for the economic crisis, and the government’s deficit (critics might begin with the bank bail-out….), and loads it onto the ‘tax and spend’ policies of Blair and Brown.

It is not a long journey from The Establishment to Ipswich. The previous story is an illustration of how the author succeeds in showing “how they get away with it”. Activists on the left will find many similar echoes from their own experiences of contact with professional politicians (not just Conservatives and Liberals), and “movers and shakers” in the country.

Outriders.

As most reviewers, even if they might disagree with many of Jones’ views,  have said, The Establishment is a thoughtful and thorough exploration of the world of “powerful”, who “manage democracy”. This “oligarchy”, a self-selecting elite, as Ferdinand Mount has described it, it is one profoundly changed since the 1980s (The New Few or a Very British Oligarchy. 2012) To Jones it’s “politicians who make laws, media barons who set the terms of debate; business and financiers who run the economy; police forces that enforce a law which is rigged in favour of the powerful.” What ties them together is a belief in their own rightness that they are “worth” their positions.

In their ‘heroic age’, Thatcherites could consider themselves as radicals sweeping away the old system. Now the free-market consensus has taken on a life of its own. It’s an apparatuses, helped by ‘hired hands’ and driven by the undoubted profits of financial institutions and, increasingly, a revenue flow from the state into private owners of public assets.

It is striking that “outriders”, from the Tax-Payers’ Alliance, ‘free-market’ think tanks, still consider themselves to be living in this time when they had to fight off the remnants of the post-War settlement, beat down trade unions, and remove left-wing politics from the national life. The Daily Mail, Jones observes, still thinks it is battling away at a ‘Liberal’ Establishment.  Paul Staines (aka “Guido Fawkes”)  also on the hard right says of the the political class: “I hate the fucking thieving cunts.”

The first chapter of Jones’ book underlines the contrary. The hard-right have succeeded in defining ‘common sense’, from the media, much of the public, to the highest reaches of power. They have “shifted the terms of debate and softened up public opinion” with the willing collaboration of media outlets, the BBC at the forefront, which never loses an opportunity to provide them with a platform. “They have helped shift the goalposts of debate in Britain, making ideas that were once ludicrous, absurd and wacky, become the new common sense. In the terminology of right-wing political thinker, they have shifted the ‘Overton Window’.”(Page 44)

Overton, we learn, was the vice-president of a US right-wing think tank, the grandly titled Mackinac Center for Public Policy. His concern was to ‘shift’ what is reasonable, opening a new Window of opportunity. But for policies to be Policy the outriders, scouting out the way, have to find collaborators willing to work with them.

If The Establishment covers the ideological and economic conditions for the rise of the free-market ‘counter-revolution’ in the 1970s and 1980s it does not stop there. Blair and Brown were happy to go along with what the Conservatives, starting with Thatcher, had created. “The government of both Blair and Brown were instrumental in transforming Thatcherism into a permanent settlement.”(P 61)

Owen Jones is not afraid to confront the Labour Ministers who profited handsomely from this agreement on free-market foundations. Tony Blair, and his immediate followers, are probably the most notorious. But it’s the special merit of Establishment to focus on less well-remembered instances.

Former Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt ended up as a lobbyist for private health companies. Perhaps even more startling in this particularly area is the case of Paul Corrigan a one-time activist in the Communist Party of Great Britain, and sociology lecturer, who is now deeply involved, a leading figure,  in the NHS privatisation process itself (see Wikipedia). Corrigan is married to Labour Peer,  Hilary Armstrong and is a  Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Pride of place must go to David Blunkett, former Home Secretary and subsequently in charge of the DWP. Jones meets the man himself. Blunkett can never resist the opportunity to re-enact the Monty Python Three Yorkshiremen sketch. After talking of a life existing on “bread and dripping” the former Minster bushes away how he personally profited from the largesse of the notoriously incompetent A4E (amongst his many other well-rewarded private posts, from News International onwards). There is no interrogation of how A4E’s exploitation of state revenue only happened because of his own legislation. The MP proffers only this, “I’m not living a flash lifestyle, but I’m very comfortable.”(Page 76) Though not quite as comfortable as David Miliband, reported by Jones to have made a million in two and a half years after his failed Labour leadership bid in 2010.

This ‘revolving door’, by which former Cabinet Ministers end up being rewarded by companies their legislation has helped, works for politicians of all parties. If the Tories do badly next year, and when the Liberals are drubbed, we will see another crop. Jones remind us that 46 of the top fifty publicly ranked traded firms in the UK had a British parliamentarian as either a director or a shareholder.

The problem is not that politicians are especially venal as such – a pretty hollow claim given the opportunities for far easier money-making in other walks of life. It is that, as Jones says, “Mainstream politicians had been transformed by policies that once belonged to the dreams of the outriders. A mentality of greed had been promoted amongst the business elite, now this mentality had infected the political elite too. Politicians became unapologetic lobbyists for private interests both inside and outside Westminster.”(Page 83)

When one reads this it’s hard not to think of this, possibility, cited in Tomas Picketty’s influential Capital in the Twenty First Century. That some would “privatise all pubic assets. According to the national accounts of various European countries, the proceeds from selling all public buildings, schools, universities, hospitals, police stations, infrastructures, and so will be roughly sufficient to pay off all outstanding public debt. Instead of holding public debt via their financial investments, the wealthiest European households would becomes the direct owners of schools, hospitals, police stations, and so on. Everyone else would then have to pay rent to use these assets and continue to produce the associated public services.”(Page 541 –2 Capital in the Twenty-first Century. 2014).

In many respect we are paying rent to private owners for an ever-growing number of ‘public’ services. What this means is that wealth is transferred from the majority to this minority through the mechanism of taxation and charges for indispensable common goods (health onwards). If Picketty is right about the tendency of modern Capital to favour the transformation of entrepreneurs into the holders of such claims (‘rentiers’) the free-market system may be encouraging its own cannibalism. One could also investigate the way these profiteers are directly shaping a whole range of public social policies, for the institutions they themselves run.

Democratic Revolution.

There are many other themes brought up in The Establishment, covering the media, the increasing harshness of Law and  the Police, and their use to suppress protests, the demonisation of the poor, and an array of illuminating sections on the Oligarchy’s inner courts, the City, and the Tax-dodging Tycoons and corporation. I was impressed by the grasp – not common amongst political writers – of the last decade’s coercive and shambolic changes in the Benefit system and the obstacles and misery these have created for millions of people.

But it is the political alternative to the present system that should provoke the most attention. Is the ‘elite’ at fault for the way it’s recruited? There is one area where this appears blatant: professional politics. Jones, following many others, observes is that MPs are increasingly drawn from a narrow stratum of society, often with no experience of anything other than politics, and even fewer from working class backgrounds. That this is an international phenomenon can be seen in an article in Le Monde yesterday (16.10.14). It notes that only 2,6% of French MPs come from manual or ordinary clerical occupations. But can this be changed by the kind of “equality of opportunity” that the free-market’s supporters promote?

But, as he points out, we should start by considering the corporate influence on law, from the UK to the European Union. Jones is not clear on how the EU should be approached. If it inspires unbridled hatred form one section of the Establishment, in the area of Britain’s sovereignty, another endorses it, precisely because it is remote from any democratic control. He concludes, not very confidently, that, “It is the Establishment that really reigns supreme.”(Page 294).

This sounds as if he would, or is edging towards abstention on any conflict – that is the Referendum – on UK membership. The loudest yelps for liberty come from those who wish to follow the worst aspects of US policy and politics, including its boss class of slave-drivers.  What other vehicle for ‘internationalist ‘ ambitions could be offered, other that is than a refounded and transformed Social European Union, remains to be seen.

For a democratic revolution we need democrats. The grip of the free-market outriders has, Jones, considers, to be challenged by bringing the “fragments” of opposition together. One thing that implies is that more solidly organised left-wing think tanks should be formed, and backing existing ones such as the New Economic Foundation and Class. More fundamentally The Establishment advocates public ownership. But perhaps we need the kind of public owners who can run them democratically. That is, the creation of a counterpart to the ideal of dedicated public servants of the past, educated with a feeling for the common good – and kept under control by open public mechanisms. “service users and workers”.

There are plenty of other policies to develop. Probably equally ambitious is the demand that along with clamping down on tax Avoidance we should “drive the power of Big Money from politics” (Page 311).

Will these and other proposals shift the ‘Overton Window’ “away from the Establishment” and “open up been more radical possibilities”? Change Owen concludes is “not won through the goodwill and generosity of those above, but though the struggle and sacrifice of those below.” In Le Monde Diplomatique (October 2014) Jones has written of the weakness of Ed Miliband’s alternative to the Right, and even UKIP. The French Socialist government and President Hollande, for all their initial rhetoric about challenging ‘finance’ never tried these policies, and is now drifting  ever rightwards. Will those prepared to go out on the streets to act now help turn the tide to the left, or at least stem the headlong plunge to the right? Are the embers of socialism about to be relit? 

The struggle of those people in Ipswich who lobbied Ben Gummer and all those who will be at Saturday’s TUC demonstration indicates some who are doing their best to do so……

Photo: Ben Gummer was photographed outside his office last week, when supporters of Suffolk Peoples Assembly and the Trades Council lobbied for the "Britain needs a Pay Rise" demonstration.</p>
<p>Ben’s smile seemed a little forced, possibly because the latest polls show Labour’s David Ellesemere is 7% ahead in polls for the Ipswich seat, with around 38% to Gummer’s 31%.   </p>
<p>UKIP are currently on 19% and the Lib Dems 6%.</p>
<p>(photo by Tony Dooley)” /></p>
<p class=Lobby of Gummer.

(1) Wikipedia. “Gummer first proposed annual tax statements to UK taxpayers, due for introduction in 2014. These will show shares of government spending in proportion to the amount of tax the taxpayer paid in the year. it was opposed by the Labour Party. Gummer’s proposal was favorably received by the press. He became The Suns Westminster “hero of the week” It was included in the 2012 Budget with George Osborne calling it “an excellent idea”. The TaxPayers’ Alliance subsequently honoured Gummer as their ‘Pin-Up of the Month‘. It also got the support of the Prime Minister.

Goldsmith’s Student Union Rejects “Eurocentric” motion to Commemorate European Genocides.

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As student supporters of the NUS decision not to back the Kurdish struggle against Islamist genociders claim that the motion to commit them would “outsource” NUS campaigning to “MI5 and MI6″ we get the following claim,

the bottom line is that Malia promised to, and has, rewritten the motion to fully condemn ISIS

Well, it’s a claim, but her supporters seem a lot, a real lot, more concerned to “defend” Malia than to anything to defend the Kurds.

Now, this crops up.

From The Tab (October the 15th).

student politicians have rejected a motion to commemorate the Holocaust – after claims it would be “eurocentric” and “colonialist”. 

A motion was proposed at the Goldsmiths Students’ Assembly yesterday to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day and victims of genocide.

Education officer Sarah El-alfy urged students to vote against the proposal, rejecting it as “eurocentric”.

….

One student added: “The motion would force people to remember things they may not want to remember.”

Another suggested she couldn’t commemorate the Holocaust because she thought the Union was explicitly “anti-Zionist”.

One of the students present said the proposal should be voted against as it would affect the Union’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The unfortunately-named President Howard Littler said after: “Someone brought up Israel-Palestine out of the blue but I made a point of information and said I didn’t want to conflate the two.”

He later audaciously added that the whole thing is just “a storm in a teacup”.

This report should be treated with extreme caution but here is the  following.

The Tab asks. 

Would you vote for or against the motion? Read it in full and have your say

Motion for the Student Union to commemorate the victims of genocide, totalitarianism and racial hatred

The Student Union recognises the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, of the other genocides, of totalitarianism and racial hatred. It further recognises that commemorating the victims of genocide, racial hatred and totalitarianism, and promoting public awareness of these crimes against humanity, is essential to sustaining and defending democratic culture and civil society, especially in the face of a resurgence of neo-fascism, racial hatred and neo-Stalinism across Europe.

The Student Union shall organise commemorative events for students and members of the public on Holocaust Memorial Day (27th of January), on the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism (23rd of August annually), on the Holodomor Genocide Memorial Day Act (4th Saturday in November, Annually) and on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day (24th April annually).

The motion fell by one vote.

The report continues.

The SU have yet to release minutes as they agree on the contents for the next meeting on 18th November.

But those attending are encouraged to live-tweet the event using the hashtag “GSUAssembly”.

One student named T. Walpole, present at the Assembly, objected: “Our union is anti-Zionist.”

They added: “This is a colonialist motion. Vote it down.

“White people should not be proposing motions to condemn genocides without a lot of thought. This does not have that thought.”

Now let’s disregard these (reported) morally cretinous comments.

The fact is that Holocaust Memorial day is not just about the Shoah,

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) is the charity which promotes and supports Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD). 27 January is the day for everyone to remember the millions of people killed in the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. 27 January marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

Holocaust Memorial Trust.

The trust does not include the Ukraine (Holodomor) or the Armenian genocide (Turkey).

Bu Goldsmith does not include, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.

Or, something many consider a genocide,  by Pakistan and  its Islamist allies, Bangladesh in 1971.

In this light, and the complications that this could cause, and vagueness about ‘civil society’, the motion appears badly worded (Hat-tip Bob B).

But the issue of how to commemorate these mass killings, even by ‘white people’, and, by people of different political ideologies and faiths or none at all,  is obscured by something which cannot be wished away.

This is what the College’s “Education officer” tweeted,

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 12.47.38

She now comments (I checked on the Tweet), with no further explanation whatsoever,

Thanks for mass misinforming people and wrongfully framing such an important issue.
There is also the person who tweeted this,
Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 13.09.38

LGBTQ* Officer Cyd Thomlinson also said the motion was “time wasting” and called the proposer “a toddler throwing a tantrum”.

They boasted: “We did just collectively destroy his self esteem if that helps.”

Thomlinson also argued for the inclusion of the Transgender Day of Remembrance in the motion but did not propose an amendment for it.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 15.08.00

Goldsmith’s SU has a lot of answering to do.

Updates:

More including some (evasive) ‘explanations’ from the union on the Huffington Post.

And  by the Students’ Union.

On Tuesday night a Motion was voted down by a majority at Goldsmiths Students’ Union’s Students Assembly – a democratic meeting in which all students are invited to discuss and vote on issues that are important to them.

Subsequently The Tab wrote a piece entitled ‘vile SU refuse to commemorate Holocaust [sic]’. It is worth noting at this point that the article was co-authored by the proposer of the original motion, both of whose motions were voted down at the Student Assembly.

Many baseless claims are made, however the central tenet is that the Students Assembly and the Students’ Union opposed remembering the victims of the Holocaust. This is an insulting misrepresentation. We have in the past commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day and will in the future.

A nuanced discussion about how best to effectively and collectively remember these events was had at Students Assembly. Re-drafting motions and re-entering them at a later date isn’t unusual in Students’ Unions and shouldn’t be misinterpreted as opposition. Sarah El-alfy, GSU Education officer, offered to help the proposer re-draft the motion and bring it to the next Student Assembly and this reflected the positivity in the room about the motion with the ambition to strengthen it further. A motion that includes remembering the Holocaust will be brought to the next Student Assembly in November. We feel these facts have been ignored in the subsequent reporting.

We will be writing to the Editor of The Tab in due course to seek correction of many of the factual inaccuracies in the report. Seperately, The Tab, in their article misgendered one of our students. We would like to ask for this to be corrected along with the rest of the article.

Signed

Goldsmiths SU executive team

Misgendering is the least of their problems.

What about the Tweets, starting with the one by  Sarah El-alfy?

 

SWP Calls for Left to Get “Act Together” as they channel Bel Littlejohn.

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SWP’s New Intellectual Guru. 

We are pleased to announce that the SWP has called for “unity” on the left, and for us to get our “act together”.

(Hat-tip D/O)

Latest Socialist Worker. 

No to austerity, no to racism: Unite to win.

The left outside the Labour Party has to get its act together.

We’re too fragmented and inward-looking.

We need socialists in every workplace and community and standing in elections, who argue and organise to target the rich, not scapegoat immigrants, Muslims, and people on benefits.

Millions of people are alienated from mainstream politics. But they not anti-political.

When up to 15,000 people gather in George Square in Glasgow for a Scottish independence rally last weekend, when 1,300 meet at a People’s Question Time in east London, when 2,000 listen to Naomi Klein on capitalism and climate change there is no shortage of interest in politics.

We need a stronger left to focus it.

The Socialist Workers Party is fighting for more resistance, against racism and war, for a stronger and more united left, and for a revolutionary alternative at the heart of every struggle.

Join us

What could be fairer than that?

As one of the SWP’s most prominent intellectual gurus, Bel Littlejohn would say, “right on!” “Let’s get our act together!.

The Swuppies remain the  lodestar of the zeitgeist 

Meanwhile this is all they say on the struggle of the beloved people of Kobane. 

Western allies kill Kurds

BRITAIN AND the US are supposed to be backing Kurds fighting Islamic State in Kobane in northern Syria.

But Turkey, a member of Nato and ally to the West, chose last Sunday to murder Kurds.

The Turkish government broke a 20-month ceasefire with the PKK Kurdish group that is fighting Islamic State in Kobane.

It launched bombing raids with F-16 jets against Kurdish bases.

The Turkish Hurriyet newspaper said air raids near the south eastern village of Daglica on Monday caused “heavy casualties”.

The newspapers Cumhuriyet and Milliyet also reported clashes on Monday between the PKK and Turkish troops in the Tunceli area of east-central Turkey.

These outrageous bombing raids and assaults follow brutal suppression of Kurdish protests in solidarity with Kobane.

At least 19 people have been killed by the Turkish state during such protests in the past week and it has introduced curfews.

 Yes, that’s all.

As International Solidarity with Kurds and Kobane Grows is Counterfire Splitting?

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Düsseldorf Kurden Demonstration Terror IS 11.10.2014

IS= Fascism. Arms to the PKK and YPG!

A word of introduction.

There is a great respect in the broad labour movement for Counterfire activists.

They have helped, indeed initiated, the People’s Assembly. They have acted with  selfless dedication to help create an important bloc of organisations that has brought together  people on the left, trade unionists, and campaigners. The People’s Assembly is effectively the only mass movement in the UK challenging austerity and acting for a wide range of left policies and causes.

In view of this, and (some might say) breaking with the habit of a lifetime, this is not a sectarian attack but expresses some genuine concerns.

Last Saturday John Rees, a leading member of Counterfire, spoke at the London Demonstration in support of Kobane.

This protest  was but one of the expressions of solidarity with Kobane that have been sweeping the world, from Turkey and  Europe to Australia (the comrades at Shiraz signal how a local group can help).

Rees noted the manoeuvres of the regional powers, the unhelpful impact of the US-led intervention, and,.above all,t eh disgraceful stand of Turkey – sitting and watching as the beloved people of Kobane face the genociders of Isis.

Rees stated, very clearly “arm the Kurds!” (1)

As if to back this declaration up Counterfire  published (October the 9th) this declaration by the Kurdish-Turkish Day-Mer centre,

Nato member Turkey is effectively allowing Isis to destroy the Kurdish city of Kobane. This press release by Turkish Kurdish organisation Day-Mer, calls for international solidarity and for Turkey to allow Kurdish heavy weapons through to defend the city

On the same site,  pointedly marked “Opinion” we had this, from  Lindsey German and Robin Beste (October the 12th), Ten reasons to oppose military intervention in Iraq and Syria. It concentrates on the reasons for the conflicts, blamed entirely on the ‘West’. Terrorism is apparently, the “product of the west’s disastrous foreign policies, endless wars and backing of barbaric regimes in the Middle East There is only one section dealing specifically with the Kurds . It reads.

The issue of the Kurds is central to countering Isis expansion in the region. The Iraqi Kurds are close allies of the west, but there is a very different attitude to the Kurds in Turkey and Syria. The PKK, which has been struggling for Kurdish self-determination for decades, is still listed as a terrorist organisation by the EU and the US. This is despite the PKK and its allies being prominent in the battle against Isis. Turkey has oppressed the Kurds for many years and will not help those in Kobane, now under imminent threat of seizue by Isis. Turkey could open its border to the Kurds, but refuses to do so, in contrast with its support for Isis in the past. Instead the Turkish parliament has voted to create a ‘buffer zone’ at the Syrian border which will involve the disarming of the Kurds.

Bombing (again no mention of US strikes near Kobane) will be “counter-productive” and not help anybody.

Their only practical demand is that,

Iraq and Syria should be flooded with humanitarian aid, particularly for the millions of refugees who have been fleeing the wars. The refugees should receive the aid and support they need, and not be treated as potential terrorists within Europe.

So, we are left in no doubt that some Kurds are “close allies of the West (bad), the PKK (good? it’s not explicitly said, ) and Kobane are threatened by Isis.

What the defenders of Kobane (and other Kurdish areas) should do (providing that is they are not “allies” of the West is left hanging in the air.

As are the Kurds facing the genociders of Isis.

It would seem that one part of Counterfire backs arming the Kurds and the other does not. 

Meanwhile German’s isolated Stop the War Coalition has published a disgraceful  morally corrupt article by a certain, Musa al-Gharbi.

One of its sections reads,

Finally, many Westerners have been horrified by ISIS’s persecution of religious minorities (especially crimes against Christians). However, the United States is complicit in this as well: US policies in Iraq helped spark this cycle of sectarian violence.

Meanwhile, its own armed forces were indoctrinated with anti-Muslim propaganda- complete with recommendations for servicemen to resort to “Hiroshima tactics,” in a “total war against Islam,” in which protections for civilians were “no longer relevant.”

Reflective of this mentality, the armed forces have been heavily infiltrated by white-supremacists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups who believe and act as though they are engaged in a holy war to begin in the Middle East and then be carried back into America.

This institutionalized misrepresentation of Islam and dehumanization of Muslims probably played a significant role in the aforementioned atrocities.

Musa al-Gharbi tries to deflect blame from those culpable of gencodical crimes by whataboutery.

His specious rhetoric about ” misrepresentation of Islam and dehumanization of Muslims” is not accompanied by any concern for the fate of the directly dehumanised Kurds.

Al-Gharbi  is silent – there is no “Authentic Outrage” from this special pleader about the need for armed help for the beloved people of Kobane.

Well, he would be quiet, wouldn’t he? 

 (1) He also , hat-tip GH, “totally bizarrely called for Hamas, Venezuela, the ANC/SA, to arm the Kurds .. as if that could possibly happen!” But we let this pass.

Nick Cohen on Islamist Fascism.

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Islamist Fascism?

“It has been a mistake on the part of socialists to see Islamist movements either as automatically reactionary and “fascist” or as automatically “anti imperialist” and “progressive”. Radical Islamism, with its project of reconstituting society on the model established by Mohammed in 7th century Arabia, is, in fact, a “utopia” emanating from an impoverished section of the new middle class. As with any “petty bourgeois utopia”, its supporters are, in practice, faced with a choice between heroic but futile attempts to impose it in opposition to those who run existing society, or compromising with them, providing an ideological veneer to continuing oppression and exploitation.

It is this which leads inevitably to splits between a radical, terrorist wing of Islamism on the one hand, and a reformist wing on the others. It is also this which leads some of the radicals to switch from using arms to try to bring about a society without “oppressors” to using them to impose “Islamic” forms of behaviour on individuals.”

“On some issues we will find ourselves on the same side as the Islamists against imperialism and the state. This was true, for instance, in many countries during the second Gulf War. It should be true in countries like France or Britain when it comes to combating racism. Where the Islamists are in opposition, our rule should be, “with the Islamists sometimes, with the state never”.

Chris Harman (SWP) The Prophet and the Proletariat. 1994. As John Rees (former SWP) from Counterfire and the Stop the War Coalition spoke in support for arming the Kurds at a demonstration for Kobane on Saturday a Kurd stood on his left hand side.

The Kurdish comrade was carrying a placard that read, “Kurds are heroes of fight against Islamist Fascism“.

Nick Cohen is spot on when he commented in his Observer column this Sunday that “Without knowing or caring, Kurds protesting against the world’s willingness to let Kobani fall to Islamic State have inflamed two acute causes of western discomfort. They had no hesitation in describing radical Islam as “fascism” and seeing Kobani as our generation’s Guernica.”

I personally am reminded of the first time I came face to face with Islamist reaction, in 1983, at the annual May Day Demonstration in Paris.

Iranians are all too aware that their Islamic regime has May the First as a holiday as well, one of those “progressive” gestures that seduced, for a time, their own and Europe’s left.

On this occasion a group of die-hard Khomeini supporters, knotted in a tight bunch and carrying posters of the Guide of the Revolution,  tried to join the trade union march.

Almost instantly a mixed bunch of Iranian exiles, French leftists, Turkish and Kurdish left-wingers, stood in front of them.

As I joined we shouted “le fascisme ne passera pas!”  Fascism will not pass!

The Khomeinists were pelted with bottles, stones and (in my case) a beer can. The followers of the Imman’s Line backed off, and then returned throwing tear gas directly in our faces. As the police began to intervene they disappeared. A report in Libération the following day asserted that the Islamists had been caught by the police assembling some heavier weaponry. The blood-stained tyranny that Khomeini and his followers  built was vastly more important in turning many European leftists against Islamism ,

Amongst many other events (above all the Algerian civil war of 1990s) this profoundly marked my own attitude towards Islamism. In Algeria the Islamists began – well before the cancellation of elections in 1991 which the Front Islamique du Salut was predicted to win and which let loose the decade’s fighting between a vicious military and murderous armed Islamists  – to target leftists, feminists, intellectuals and democrats. They murdered and tortured throughout that war. They have not stopped trying since.

Since then most leftists, certainly in continental Europe, have has a visceral hostility to Islamism, certainly those who’ve had contact with the tens of thousands of exiles from countries where it’s had an impact  – Chris Harman, the SWP, their splinters,  and the British Respect Party excepted.

The idea of standing on the “same side” has been ridiculous for a long-long time, well before Al Qu’eada – not to mention the rise of Isis/Islamic state and its international supporters   (in Algeria) of Soldats du califat (Jound al-Khilafa).

With this in mind, like many of my fellow leftists I have followed the tragedy in Kobane closely. Not just because it’s a tragedy – that counts enormously – but because we are politically implicated.

Cohen writes, “Flow in waves to Kobani,” demonstrators chanted as they mounted vain protests against Turkish inaction that amounts to collaboration. “Stop Isis fascism.”

This deeply echoes in our hearts. With even John Rees on board he is right to mention that, “there are heartening stirrings of camaraderie on the European left. Cohen observes that the plight of the Kurds and others attacked by Isis/Islamic State, raises broader issues,

To me, it seems obvious that militant religion is a radical reactionary force. In whatever form it comes, it grinds down on women’s rights and denies the basic freedoms of liberal society. It is equally clear that its Islamist variant relies to an extraordinary degree on fascist Europe’s Jewish conspiracy theories. If you doubt me, look at the declaration in Hamas’s founding covenants that Jews “were behind the French Revolution [and] the communist revolution”. It might have come from Hitler. (Although even Adolf would have hesitated to repeat Hamas’s claim that Jews also created “the Rotary Clubs [and] the Lions” to achieve “Zionist interests”.)

Radical Islam, like fascism before it, wallows in the cult of death: “Death to intelligence! Long live death!” cried Franco’s general José Millán Astray in 1936. “We love death more than you love life,” cry today’s Islamists fighters. There is the same support from the financiers and businessmen, from what we old leftists used to call the capitalist bourgeoisie, and the same shared belief that women can never aspire to be anything other than dutiful wives.

In one respect, radical Islam trumps the fascists and, indeed, the communists. The old totalitarianisms could promise their followers that death would lead only to the greater glory of the Fatherland or the inevitable triumph of the working class. An Islamist can tell his willing executioners that death will not only further Islam’s global triumph but take the martyr to paradise too.

Why do people in Europe, at least on the left,  not describe these groups as ‘fascist’? Cohen suggests two reasons.

Firstly, “Many liberals fear that condemning radical Islam in clear leftwing language will allow the white far right to paint all Muslims as extremists.”

Secondly, that Islamism had no state so it can hardly be a ‘real’ fascist movement. He notes, that this no longer holds: The ‘Caliphate’ has been declared, “the Islamic State, with its own supreme caliph, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, and all the modern weaponry the Iraqi army left behind when it fled.”

The first argument is really an argument at all, but a description of the way some liberal-minded people find it hard to be ‘judgemental’ about anything, above all about different ‘cultures’.

It’s the second point that’s the principal one.

It may well be that to analyse Islamism in terms of classical fascism is not always helpful.

As political concepts ‘fascism’ or ‘Nazism’ (terms the European left has had no problem in using loosely for the domestic far-right, as the name Anti-Nazi League and Unite Against Fascism indicate) are only ‘ideal types’. That is, lists of very broad features. Features such as a dictatorship  based on ultra-nationalism, ‘total’ control, repression of dissent, and the imposition of ‘class harmony’, and genocidal  racism, are just that ‘features’ not structures that get stamped into history that pop up in the same form whenever there is a social crisis. All of these elements shift and change.

Some theorists have suggested that the way the radical right can take up ‘left’ radical themes, the “popular”, even “democratic” side of the ideology, is key (Laclau, Ernesto. 1977. Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory: Capitalism, Fascism, Populism). One can see this in the way radical right-wing ‘anti-system’ parties attack  ‘rotten’ and ‘elite’  Parliamentary institutions today,  in the name of the People. Populist ‘Anti-imperialism’ also had its 1930s parallel in the far-right’s hatred of the ‘plutocratic’ nations (the US and the UK), controlled by the Jews.

Such a ‘democratic’ element – in the sense of ‘popular’, appealing to the “people”, even if it’s only to follow the Leader, is not always present.  The NSPD’s ‘race’ doctrine, many be grounded on the Volk, but other far-right groups, notably the ‘first’ fascist movement, Action Française, agitated before the First World War against the ‘Jacobin’ idea of the People and advocated a restored French Monarchy freed from the ‘anti-France of Jews, Freemasons, socialists and Protestants.

So fascist ideas are fluid – we might consider how people tried to gauge them when they first appeared, before Mussolini and Hitler, not to mention other authoritarian regimes in 1930s Europe. Perhaps only hostility to Marxism, or rather ‘class struggle’ (which divides the ‘nation’), the left-wing labour movement are constant (European) themes. A deeper link to the ‘anti-Enlightenment’ and hatred of the doctrine of human rights is possibly another.

Comparisons with Islamism tend to halt at the point where Harman begins: the Quranic ‘utopian ideal“. Comparisons only go so far: if the Islamists loath the Enlightenment it’s because  it brings the secular world forward, and gives humans, not god (and the ‘Book’ he apparently dictated), rights – a more diffuse reaction than the European far-right’s fight against the Left.

A, book, and speech bound, ideology, a religion, can be infused with a vast variety of visions. Time, class, culture, and individuals inflect it, or rather them - Islamisms. The political result however is fairly clear: a striving for a state, a regime, a power to bring it about. This, for all its various forms, tends towards “monocratic, authoritarian” and “enforced”  rule (as Michael Mann has described Islamism). This is only a tendency, as Turkey’s Islamists only drift towards this, and retain a strong democratic, if populist and Turkish nationalist, and increasingly corrupt,  authoritarian  element.

Yet, as Mann indicated, when it comes to the radicals,  Islamists are not nationalists. They do not adopt extreme blood and soil nationalism (although there are racist strains in their belief in the superiority of Arabic and the ‘original’ Muslims, underlined by the belief in the importance of descent from the Prophet and his companions).The state exists for them for a purpose, to impose and regulate the Sharia which is for ‘everybody’. Ideally Islam would embrace the world, not just a country. (Fascists. Michael Mann 2004)

There are other important differences.

Today’s radical Islamism is clearly not the product of a political crisis in which the bourgeoisie tries to head of a militant labour movement (one classical way of looking at fascism). Some claim that it is the ‘product’ of the failure of Arab nationalism and Arab socialism. This fails to explain its growth in countries like Nigeria or Indonesia, or indeed Pakistan. What then is it? Nobody has a definitive answer and this is certainly not one.

Harman was suggestive when he talked of Islamism as a ““utopia” emanating from an impoverished section of the new middle class” – except that,as Cohen notes,  many of the backers of Isis/Islamic State are extremely wealthy.

From this pious bourgeoisie to an Islamic state we have to go through some important stages. ‘Islamic Behaviour’ – Harman’s words – is not so much a slogan as the key to an Islamist “transitional programme“. Radical Islamism (a continuum with other forms of political Islam) has the following features – worked through with the class and political aspects already mentioned.

  • The importance of the Sharia as the basis for ‘micro-powers’ (the equivalent of leftist ‘liberated territory’) Islamists have begun (Algeria is the paradigm, repeated in many countries, such as Egypt, recently efforts were made to create  this in Tunisia) by imposing their ‘law’ on areas where they establish their initial control. Sharia  ‘patrols’ treated as relatively harmless in London, are set up to impose Islamic norms on public life (no alcohol. women forced to war ‘modest’ dress, ‘unclean’ behaviour repressed). From small groups of the ‘pure’ (Salafists) to radicalised Mosques as centres of this ‘power’, we then turn towards creating a ‘mini-state’.
  • The Sharia state: some Islamist movements (as in Somalia, Al-Shabaab – Islamic Courts Union) centre their strategy on this ‘law’.
  • All forms of Sharia law are discriminatory and barely  merit the term ‘law’ in the modern sense: there is no equality before the Sharia, no equal rights for women or for non-Muslims.
  • This legal-political apparatus can be best be looked at in terms of the coercive categories Michael Foucault described in Discipline and Punish and Nietzsche’s history of the violent ‘training’ of people to accept legal norms in The Genealogy of Morals.
  • Radical Islamist  ‘morality’ has exceptional importance in that it is potentially more intimately imposed than even the most brutal of previous totalitarianisms; it is intended to regulate not just the heart by every single human gesture (for a comparison amongst orthopraxic religions, the  list of taboos followed by ultra-orthodox Jews, that are purely intended for believers, is about the nearest example).
  • Radical Islamism, whether Shia or Sunnite, has shown itself to be radically sectarian: always splitting internally, and only uniting against other Muslims tendencies (Shia and Sunnite).
  • It is only ‘anti-imperialist’ in the sense that it is ‘anti’ any movement but its own.
  • It becomes genocidal when these norms are imposed on those who refuse to accept them, for religious, anti-religious, or national reasons.

One conclusion is clear: these movements are not and can never be the allies of the left against anybody. Cohen rightly sounds, nevertheless, a note of caution,

If you live in Iraqi Kurdistan, the fine distinctions between fascist state-based totalitarianism and religious totalitarianism have vanished. All you know is that for decades, mass murderers have marched towards your homeland wanting to slaughter you because you are from the wrong race or worship your god in the wrong way.

Quite.