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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: Supporters of Suffolk Peoples Assembly and Ipswich Trades Council met with Ben Gummer MP on Tuesday, to support workers in the NHS and Civil Service who are striking for pay increases in a situation where public sector pay is falling in real terms.</p><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>On Monday thousands of UNISON Members were on strike for better pay.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Nurses, ambulance drivers and paramedics were striking for the first time in over 30 years.  </p><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>The Royal College of Midwives organisation hasn’t struck before in its 132 year history, yet 82% of those balloted voted for strike action.</p><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>The Ipswich Star’s photogallery of UNISON members at Ipswich Hospital<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<a href=http://www.ipswichstar.co.uk/news/hospital_strike_1_3803977?storyId=1.3803425</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>TUC Update on Monday’s action here:<br /><br /><br /><br />
http://www.tuc.org.uk/economic-issues/striking-nhs-workers-deserve-our-support</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>Today the PCS are on strike and held a picket this morning in Ipswich.</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>As Ipswich PCS branch Secretary Harvey Crane told Ben Gummer, many of his members hadn’t had a pay increase in 6 years. This is in a situation where huge job losses to the Civil Service are being pushed through by the government.<br /><br /><br /><br />
Mr Gummer argued that deficit reduction was the government’s priority and blamed Labour for the financial crisis in 2008</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>All union members should try to get to London this Saturday, October 18th, for the TUC’s "Britain Needs a Pay Rise" demonstration.</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>There are still a few places left on the coaches, which can be booked through UNITE.<br /><br /><br /><br />
Contact: Janice.clarke6@unitetheunion.org?” width=”454″ height=”340″ />

Coatesy is in the doorway, still arguing. 

(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.

As Protests to Back Kurds Grow National Union of Students Stands Aside.

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Solidarity with the Kurds – Not in our Name Says NUS.

Saturday sees another day of demonstrations in support of Kurdish resistance forces in the Syrian town of Kobane.

The protest at 2pm on Parliament Square follow a week of demonstrations across London.

The campaigners have already visited the square this week with action on Wednesday shutting down Westminster Bridge as well as causing issues around Parliament Square and Downing Street.

Campaigners have been seen throughout the city this week, bringing Oxford Circus and Angel tube stations and the Eurostar terminal in St. Pancras to a standstill.

Alexia Akkaya, a mother and blogger from west London, said she wanted to “scream and shout” in frustration at the situation in Kobane. She explained her reasons for marching: “I cannot sit back and watch the slaughter of innocent people. I am angry at the apparent lack of empathy by the Turkish government and the hushed British MPs and other influential people who had so much to say about other conflicts. I am not Kurdish but as a compassionate and loving human being and it is my duty to stand up in solidarity with the brave resistance in Kobane.”

London24 

Cover Photo

One group which has decided to “sit back and watch the slaughter” is the National Union of Students (NUS).

A move to get the students’ organisation (600 student unions) to back  the brave Kurdish resistance against the Isis/Islamic State genociders was dismissed this week as “Islamophobic”.

This is the motion presented to the NUS National Executive Committee (NEC) which fell. (here.)

Iraqi/Kurdish solidarity

Proposed: Daniel Cooper
Seconded: Shreya Paudel, Clifford Fleming

NUS NEC notes

1. The ongoing humanitarian crisis and sectarian polarisation in Iraq
– which has resulted in thousands of Yazidi Kurds being massacred.

NUS NEC believes

1. That the people of Iraq have suffered for years under the sectarian
and brutally repressive dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, the US/UK
invasion and occupation, the current sectarian regime linked to both
the US and Iran, and now the barbaric repression of the “Islamic
State” organisation.

2. That rape and other forms of sexual violence are being used as
weapons against women in IS-occupied areas, while minorities are being
ethnically cleansed.

 

NUS NEC resolves

1. To work with the International Students’ Campaign to support Iraqi,
Syrian and other international students in the UK affected by this
situation.

2. To campaign in solidarity with the Iraqi people and in particular
support the hard-pressed student, workers’ and women’s organisations
against all the competing nationalist and religious-right forces.

3. To support Iraqis trying to bridge the Sunni-Shia divide to fight
for equality and democracy, including defence of the rights of the
Christian and Yazidi-Kurd minorities.

4. To condemn the IS and support the Kurdish forces fighting against
it, while expressing no confidence or trust in the US military
intervention.

5. Encourage students to boycott anyone found to be funding the IS or
supplying them with goods, training, travel or soldiers.

6. To make contact with Iraqi and Kurdish organisations, in Iraq and
in the UK, in order to build solidarity and to support refugees.

7. To issue a statement on the above basis.

A report on the meeting by Daniel Lemberger Cooper  comments,

“The motion was opposed by Malia Bouattia, the NUS Black Students’ Officer, for astonishing and bewildering reasons. Bouattia argued that the motion was “Islamophobic” and “pro USA intervention” – (see Aaron Kiely, a fellow NUS NEC member’s, tweet during the meeting as reflective of the position). The motion then fell as large numbers of NEC members either abstained or voted against (including the bulk of the political Left on NEC). I think this says a lot about the current state of the student movement.”

Now observers may put part of this down to sectarian dislike of the movers of the motion, NUS internal politics, and simple snideness.

But this outweighs such a reaction:

The infamous Tweet:

It is hard to imagine, except with disgust, what “alternative narrative” to the “Western, racist” one that Aaron Kiely would spin about Isis.

We note, while passing on, that Kiely is “close” to the ex-Trotskyist sect, Socialist Action.

On the charge of ‘racism’ Cooper  remarks,

“The “Iraqi solidarity” motion had been worked on with Roza Salih, a Strathclyde university student of Kurdish descent (she submitted an almost identical motion to the Scottish equivalent of the executive, the Scottish Executive Council, which I will post later, which, incidentally, did pass! One must ask Scottish executive members why vote for a motion in Scotland, but not in England?!).Pro-intervention?”

This is what Malia Bouattia (who seems to be involved with something called, perhaps misleadingly, the ‘broad left’)  said after helping get the NUS to back the Palestinian cause,

‘So the struggle continues, but this victory alongside the global sea change of public opinion gives us new hope. The Black Students Campaign remains committed. We will continue to protest, march, boycott and campaign. And we will not stop until the rights of Palestinians are restored and Palestine is free.’ (from here)

Obviously freedom is not something the Kurds also deserve – unless it’s freedom from solidarity.

As the Kurds (increasingly joined by other supporters, including many of the left) gather, the NUS has decided to stand aside as  Islamist genociders threaten the beloved people of Kobane.

 

 In years to come the majority of the NUS executive, and particularly  Malia Bouattia and Aaron Keily, will be able to say, “Solidarity with the Kurds? Not in  our name!”

Solidarity with the Beloved People of Kobane!

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Support our Beloved Sisters and Brothers in Kobane! (ShenGal ROJAVA)

Kurdish protesters clashed with police in Turkey leaving at least 14 people dead and scores injured Tuesday as demonstrators in Brussels forced their way into the European Parliament, part of Europe-wide demonstrations against the Islamic State group’s advance on a town on the Syrian-Turkish border.

Turkey’s private Dogan news agency reported 8 dead in the eastern city of Diyarbakir and that the other victims died in cities in the east as police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters who burned cars and damaged businesses.

The activists are demanding more help for the besieged Kurdish forces struggling to hold onto the Syrian town of Kobani. Some European countries are arming the Kurds, and the American-led coalition is carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic extremists, but protesters say it isn’t enough.

A demonstrator in Cyprus urged the coalition to “hit the jihadists harder” so that Kurdish forces can hold the town.

Tensions are especially high in Turkey, where Kurds have fought a 3-decade-long battle for autonomy and where Syria’s violence has taken an especially heavy toll.

Protests were reported in cities across Turkey on Tuesday, after Islamic State fighters backed by tanks and artillery engaged in heavy street battles with the town’s Kurdish defenders.

Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse demonstrators in Istanbul and in the desert town of Kucuk Kenderciler, near Kobani on the Turkish side of the border. One person in Istanbul was hospitalized after being hit in the head by a gas canister, Dogan reported.

Some protesters shouted “Murderer ISIS!” and accused Turkey’s government of collaborating with the Islamic militants.

ABC

Protesters have returned to the streets of London as they rally in solidarity with Syrian Kurds in Kobani, the town Islamic State militants threaten to seize next. Earlier on Monday activists occupied one of the busiest Tube stations.

Hundreds of people march through London carrying banners which read: “Turkey stop supporting ISIS” and “Support Kurds resisting ISIS harassment in Kobani”.

Other banners call to “unite against ISIS”.

View image on Twitter

RT

Armed police patrol at Heathrow Airport as Kurds protest against Isis

A terminal at Heathrow Airport has been occupied by Kurdish and Turkish anti-Islamic State protesters.

The campaigners have blocked ticket barriers in terminal two of the airport and have been occupying the airport since 12pm today.

A group of about 50 demonstrators are holding banners reading ‘Stop fascist attacks in Kurdistan’ and ‘Kobane’, following news the Islamic State flag was seen on the border of Turkey and Syria.

No flights have been affected and passengers are able to travel as normal through the airport.

A spokeswoman for Scotland Yard said: “We were called at 11.55am to reports of a demonstration at Heathrow Airport.

“Officers are at the scene and an appropriate policing plan is in place.”

A spokeswoman for Heathrow Airport said: “There is currently a peaceful protest taking place in Terminal 2 in the departures area. Heathrow supports the right for peaceful protest. There is no impact on operations and passengers can travel as normal through the airport.”

Passenger Adam Tuckwell said: “The protesters are in good voice but all seems peaceful.”
The same group of pro-Kurdish campaigners blockaded Oxford Circus tube station yesterday afternoon.

Transport for London were forced to evacuate the station for an hour as the demonstration blocked passengers passing ticket barriers.

Evening Standard.

I may be wrong but I do not see a single Stop the War Coalition (StWC) poster in photos of the UK protests, or any sign of support for the Kurdish struggle against Isis on their Web site.

Perhaps this sheds some light on the thinking behind their failure to stand up when you need to be counted.

Counterfire (whose leadership has great influence in running the StWC)  carried an article (October 5th) stating.

The US-led bombing of Iraq and Syria will not save the Kurds. Western policy, its military and its arms are not there to save the Kurds.

Socialist Worker has wheeled out its tired old response to the tragedies now unfolding in Syria and Iraq,

The West wants to portray itself as supporting oppressed minorities such as the Yazidis or the Kurds.

But they will never support real struggles for self-determination. They just want to give a progressive gloss to the pursuit of their own imperialist interests

Islamic State grew out of the conditions created by the West’s last war on Iraq. We must go all out to build a campaign to stop their new war.

In other words (and we cannot find anything to suggest the contrary) these groups will do precisely nothing to back the Kurds.

We can confidently predict that these groups are waiting for Kobane to fall.

Then they can  crow that it was all “imperialism’s fault”. 

This is a more productive way to look at the Kurdish fight, (Four Things the Left Should Learn from Kobane).

The article begins, perhaps, misleadingly, with some doubtful claims.

That is, to criticise those who’ve recoiled in horror at the cruelty of the Islamic State/Isis..

There are very good reasons why the ‘West’ and lots of others, have a “fixation” with the Isis/Islamic state. They have created a mobile totalitarian genocidal regime. They deserve to be looked at and analysed in their own right.They have a strong basis in the history of modern Islamism, for all their  “deviance” from the main trends and their origins in very specific chaos, the Syrian Civil War and Iraqi sectarian religious politics,

As a “discipline and punish” tyranny people  how could anybody not be horrified? 

The assertion that this is a simple “pretext” for Western intervention is therefore misleading. Not because it’s wrong to think that this is how the policy may have been decided on. But because it distracts us from looking clearly at what the jihadists have created.

So saying “..it is becoming increasingly clear that ISIS is little more than a pretext for NATO to pursue other geopolitical aims – namely removing Assad and destroying Kurdish autonomy.” diverts attention from this – the most important aspect of  Islamic State/Isis: it is a mass murdering machine.

As we have indicated, the tyranny exists on its own basis, regardless of the geopolitics of the region. That, at any rate, is the way the Tendance would look at Islamic State/Isis.

But having said this,  this, the rest of this thought-provoking post is a valuable reminder of the best way of looking at the present, Kurdish, issue.

Listen to Kurdish Voices

The Western left often suffers from a debilitating and orientalist tendency to overstate the agency of the US and relegate communities and societies affected by intervention to passive actors, not worthy of considered analysis. Indeed, it is striking the number of anti-imperialist commentaries that rely less on the experiences and dynamics of Kurdish communities and more on rehashed critiques of the logic of Great Power predation. On the one hand, this can cause the left to duplicate caricatures of ‘ugly sectarianism’ and ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ in ways that don’t seem too far off the arguments of Cameron and Obama (for some useful correctives see here and here).

On the other hand, it offers little consideration of the voices of Kurdish communities under attack since their intentions and actions simply don’t matter to opposing ‘imperialism at home’. The resultant politics can often be deleterious. We might wonder, for example, what the people of Kobanê would make of calls for ‘peaceful alternatives’ to war. This is especially important, since in Western Kurdistan (Northern Syria) Kurds are defending what is arguably the best hope for left politics in the region. Even the most cursory glance at the constitutional make-up and political achievements of Kurdish cantons would put most Western organisations to shame. Yet this week, while hunger strike sand solidarity demonstrations from Kurdish people were taking place in the UK and beyond, anti-war groups organised an entirely separate and potentially conflicting protest. The sooner the Western left abandons its penchant for reducing class to geopolitics, the sooner it can offer authentic solidarity to groups and communities that deserve and need it.

The PYD/PYD deserves a great, a really great, amount of respect for its actions in the fight against Isis/Islamic State.

We should also pay attention to their political project, which is very significant, a democratic socialist and sectionalised programme.

In one area above all the author also states we should not

close off the possibility of any non-state and anti-capitalist alternatives based on the PYD/PKK project of Democratic Autonomy.

Read the rest (via above link), on The Disorder of Things.

This should also be considered.

As Kobane Makes Last Stand, Ocalan Gives Turkey Deadline for Peace Process

ANKARA, Turkey – Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, warned that Turkey has until October 15 to act on peace with the Kurds, otherwise the process is dead.

Ocalan, whose comments came through his brother Mehmet, had earlier said that peace talks with Ankara would end if the Kurdish city of Kobane in Syria, across the border with Turkey, falls to the Islamic State (ISIS).  There were fresh air strikes by the US-led coalition on Tuesday as the city teetered on the verge of falling.

In his latest comments from his prison cell on Turkey’s Imrali island, Ocalan told his brother on Monday that Ankara must act, or accept the end of peace talks.

“We can await a resolution till October 15, after which we can have nothing to do,” his brother quoted him as saying. “They (Turkish authorities) are talking about resolution and negotiation but there exists no such thing. This is an artificial situation; we will not be able to continue anymore.”

A peace process launched by Ocalan and Ankara in March 2012 has largely lagged, with the PKK accusing Turkish authorities of dragging their feet.

Commenting on Kobane,  Ocalan said: “Our people in Kobane are going to resist to the end. Resistance will be manifested everywhere and every single Kurdish-populated area where ISIS is present.”

The PKK-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG) have been the main protection force in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava), joined by Turkish Kurds fighting to defend Kobane.

“No concessions will ever be made to ISIS that is an artificial organization and will also cause trouble to the states, governments and persons supporting it,” Ocalan said.

“Whichever country is supporting ISIS will itself suffer damage. We will resist the ISIS to the end. Our people have to resist,” he said.

Turkey has angered its large minority Kurds be closing the border to fighters going to fight in Kobane.  Ankara fears pro-PKK Kurdish citizens returning from fighting in Syria with combat skills, and has opposed any moves that would strengthen the Kurds in Syria.

Rudaw (Kurdish News Agency)

For the moment it is of the utmost importance to join with our comrades in the Middle East, people who are our kith and kin, in solidarity.

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).