Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

George Galloway Says: Hello Ladies! Hello Libel Law Débâcle!

with 10 comments

 Hello Ladies!  Go on say it, you know you want to!

We recently heard about George Galloway when he mysteriously disappeared from Socialist Worker’s list of top MP outside “earners” – he was number 3.

Thanks to the prompt action of Tendance Coatesy the SWP’s accidental oversight was swiftly corrected.

Now we learn that he may need every penny he snaffles from Russia Today, Press TV (Iran’s pro-regime broadcaster), not to mention two appearances on the Edinburgh Fringe (Register of Members’ Interests).

The old todger is now in yet another row:

Complaints to solicitors’ regulator over libel demands from Galloway’s lawyers.

Complaints have been sent to the Solicitors Regulation Authority by Twitter users who have received £6,000 libel demands from solicitors working for the MP George Galloway.

The bitter legal dispute, which has erupted over accusations of antisemitism, has become more complex after Galloway’s office said the money would only be used to cover his law firm’s expenses and the Respect party leader would not “receive a penny”.

Reports the Guardian.

Ho ho!

It’s only losers that are prosecuted.

A less respectful (geddit) report than the Guardian’s says the following,

George Galloway’s high street firm faces rough ride as media law big guns back twitterati in libel row

Top media lawyers have implored the profession’s watchdog to investigate George Galloway’s law firm over its handling of the MP’s defamation claims against Twitter users.

The backlash against Bradford high street outfit Chambers Solicitors — which is best known for immigration work — began earlier this week after the emergence of a Twitter account called @SuedByGalloway, which implores:

“If you’re being sued by Galloway/Chambers Solicitors/ don’t worry — follow us so we can help you.”

Since then, several media law big guns have been working with the account to assist those threatened by Galloway. Legal Cheek can confirm that at least three well-known London libel lawyers are currently helping the tweeters fight the MP rather than pay demands for up to £5,000.

They include Mark Lewis, the leading media lawyer from the News of the World phone hacking saga, and defamation doyen Mark Stephens.

Lewis, of London law firm Seddons, told Legal Cheek that the costs figure “could never be justified” and that a complaint will be sent to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

The saga began when Chambers Solicitors — acting for the firebrand Respect Party MP for Bradford West — sent at least a dozen tweeters demands that they settle or face defamation proceedings.

Galloway — who was famously expelled from the Labour Party in 2003 following his vocal opposition to the second Iraq invasion before going on to appear on Celebrity Big Brother three years later — alleges that those receiving the claims labelled him anti-Semitic on the social media site.

Responding to the Bradford law firm’s tactics, Lewis told Legal Cheek:

“A lawyer’s duty is to stand up for people who cannot otherwise defend themselves from very threatening demands. Mr Galloway’s solicitors claimed £5,000 plus VAT for standard letters on top of damages. That is horrific and brings the solicitor’s profession into disrepute. Mr Galloway’s spokesman says that the letters weren’t shown to the client before they were sent. That is a matter of practise and the SRA must investigate.”

More on Legal Cheek.

Meanwhile the Huffington Post (Sarah C Nelson) looks at the previous story,

George Galloway ‘Anti- Semitism’ Lawyers To Be Reported To Regulator

A legal firm acting for Respect MP George Galloway will be reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), it has emerged.

The development comes as a number of people reported receiving letters written by Chambers Solicitors acting on behalf of Galloway, demanding up to £5,000 libel costs + VAT and requesting public apologies for allegedly calling him anti-semitic.

As the letters began to arrive, a Twitter account was set up to offer free legal advice for the recipients – which has since gained the backing of several high profile lawyers including solicitor and libel expert Mark Stephens and Mark Lewis.

Lewis, who was a leading figure in the News of the World hacking scandal confirmed to the Huffington Post UK that he would be making a complaint to the SRA on behalf of three clients on Wednesday.

Informing Legal Cheek the costs demanded in the letters “could never be justified”, he said: “A lawyer’s duty is to stand up for people who cannot otherwise defend themselves from very threatening demands. Mr Galloway’s solicitors claimed £5,000 plus VAT for standard letters on top of damages. That is horrific and brings the solicitor’s profession into disrepute.

“Mr Galloway’s spokesman says that the letters weren’t shown to the client before they were sent. This is a matter of practice and the SRA must investigate.”

In an earlier conversation with HuffPost UK, Lewis added: “By all means defend a reputation where it is proper to do so but do not go back to the days of chilling people from speaking out.”

As Galloway would no doubt reply, “I’m demanding that they be prosecuted. I’m begging them to be prosecuted for perjury.”

Communist Party of Britain Backs Former Ukraine President’s “anti-Austerity” policies.

with 6 comments

Donestk Anti-Austerity Activists Says Communist Party of Britain.

The People’s Assembly has launched a Manifesto Against Austerity.

“The manifesto makes a compelling and powerful case for an alternative to austerity based on the needs of ordinary people — “A people’s Britain, not a bankers’ Britain.” It calls for a the building of a sustained mass movement to bring that alternative about, rather than simply calling for general election votes.”

The Communist Party of Britain has taken upon itself to add these comments to this – admirable –  document (Communist Party. For Peace and Socialism. Date: 2nd of March).

Bill Greenshields, CP representative on national committee of the People’s Assembly, says,

Challenging the pro-austerity and pro-privatisation media and political consensus is a dangerous thing to do. That’s the increasingly strident message from big business and the bankers through their representatives in national governments, the EU and Washington.

British special services “advisers” have arrived in Ukraine to strengthen the armed forces and fascist paramilitaries of the Poroshenko government.

This is part of a war against those who resisted the Western-backed coup against President Yanukovych.

He had committed the crime of rejecting austerity economics and politics, therefore saying “No” to closer ties with the EU.

As EU and US sanctions are ratcheted up against Russia for daring to give political support to the antifascists, Britain says it will “not yet provide lethal equipment” to the “Euromaiden” coup leaders now in control of the Ukrainian state. For how long? The threat of escalating war and foreign intervention to consolidate their pro-EU austerity “reforms” becomes greater.

Brother Bill recommends to the People’s Assembly this wisdom,

The movement needs to reflect the democratic structures that have grown among the anti-austerity antifascists in Ukraine…

We hesitate to make a comment.

Or perhaps one is not needed.

(Initially discovered here)

Front National Goes UKIP as Mad, Racist and Nazi Candidates Flourish.

leave a comment »

La une de «Charlie Hebdo» du 4 mars.

Latest Charlie Hebdo: The Front National is no Longer Scarey. 

“We’ve been thoroughly un-diabolised!”

But……..

A nauseating anthology of Front National Local Government Candidates’ comments on social networks.

It seems that Britain’s UKIP is not alone.

French Front National candidates for the forthcoming French Departmental (regional) elections (22nd 29th March) have been  offering mad, racist and far-right opinions which often even outdo the British party.

L’Humanité.

These have an international echo,

French amateur singer affiliated with the far-right National Front party said his musical career is being blocked by Jews because he is not part of their clique. Here.

The remarks cited above go further, talking about the size of people’s noses (geddit?), praising Charles Martel ll (a sure sign of the ‘defence’ of the ‘Occident’), calling for Socialists, Communists and Muslims to commit suicide, and for a hunt against Arabs, not to mention a hatred of gays.

So far only those with overt Neo-Nazi and Fascist  views have been excluded from the Party.

That is, “Guillaume Jambard, en Gironde (« Travail, famille, patrie »), Alexandre Larionov, dans l’Aveyron (les « Juifs », une « race parasite » qui « merrite » (sic) une « mort cruelle ») et Thierry Brésolin, en Ardèche (« Marine, tu es la réincarnation d’Hitler. Toi, tu vas nettoyer la France »)”

Work, Family, Fatherland (Vichey), The Jews are a parasitical race, who meritt (sic) a cruel death, and one claiming that MArine Le Pen is a “reincarnation of Hitler who will cleanse France.”

The Front National’s leader, Marine Le Pen, has registered 29 – 33 % in the latest opinion polls for a Presidential candidate (le Monde).

For these regional elections polls have given the FN up to 30% – the highest score (le Parisien)

Charlie Hebdo: Religious Authority and Political Power. Chahla Chafiq.

leave a comment »

Nassreddin: The Laughter of the Good will bring Low the Power of Divine Authority. 

Religious Authority and Political Power. Chahla Chafiq (1) 

Charlie Hebdo. 25th February 2015 (Translated and adapted).

“One of the tales of Nasreddin Hodja, the hero and 13th century author of many works - extremely popular in the Persian, Turkish, Armenian and Arab worlds – touches on the relationship between earthly power and religious authorities.

“Nasreddin, whilst still young, had just been dignified with the title of Mullah. He was thus able to be a teacher at the Madrassa. One morning he wanted to take down a volume, high up in the bookcase. He climbed on a pile of Qur’ans. One of his colleagues was outraged. “By Allah, Nasreddin! You are impudent! Aren’t you frightened of dirtying the Sacred Scriptures?” “I used to be afraid of that.” Nasreddin replied, “But now I’m a Mollah, the Qur’an should be afraid of me.”

The message of  Nasreddin is that, in the name of the divine, humanity can take such a degree of authority that it would scare even all-powerful God.

Behind the ironical smile in the story a great fear is hidden. We have directly experienced this dread, during the murders of the 7th of January, the result of a plan to exterminate the staff of Charlie Hebdo. Half a century before, on the 14th of February 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini pronounced his Fatwa against Salman Rushdie. The ruling unleashed a Holy War against disobedient writers. The actions of this religious leader, a head of state, and the Jihadist enterprise of the Kouachis and Coulibaly, have both the same basis: the Islamist will to institute the Sacred Order on Earth.

In this project terror is an indispensable tool. The Inquisition, the persecution of heretics, the Wars of Religion, have taught us that no religion is immune from such a turn. It happens the moment religion become the source of law that dictates the rules of life, of governance, and political authority.

Today’s Islamists have not ceased making plain to the world the dire results of the fusion between religion and politics. Their transformation of the concepts of the Umma (the Community of all Believers), of Harem, Halal and Jihad into ideological codes, have allowed to them to treat any refusal to bow to their Diktat as hatred of God, and to consider this a Satanic deed to be fought.

From Fatwa to Massacre.

A few months after the Fatwa against Rushdie several thousand political prisoners in Iran were “liquidated” following the same kind of ruling. These crimes, which remain unregistered internationally, were justified inside Iran as a means to cleanse the body of the Umma of impure elements. The same logic is used to maintain the Islamist order: assigning women and homosexuals to inferiority, anti-Semitism, privileging one religion or doctrine over another, and forbidding freedoms. This world-view gives the agents of Islamism an unlimited and unconstrained power. Injustice and immortality have become “duties” in the name of “divine justice” and the “moral order”.

In this fashion Islamism has joined the same outlook of “identity” movements of Christianity, Judaism and those from other religions. All of them recycle old conservative ideas – bringing them close to the far right. The domination of the market, which erodes the sense of belonging, an economic crisis that has created a social, cultural and political vacuum, at a time when humanist ideas are in retreat, have created a context within which these movements offer an appealing sense of “meaning”. Rivals, these competing identity movements have nevertheless been allies in order to stem advances in human rights. This has happened in France, over gay marriage and equality education in schools. It can be seen internationally every time there are moves to promote gender equality, sexual rights, and freedom of belief, of expression and creation.

The present development of these identity movements is a political phenomenon that cannot be grasped without taking account the context and the actors involved. Looking into the processes that have led to the rise and expansion of Islamism one can see straight away the impact of dictatorships that call themselves Muslim, including those who accept modernisation, but refuse democratic values in the name of protecting their cultural and confessional (culturel – see note 2) identity.

In the same picture we can see that these dictatorships have received the backing, past and present, of the most powerful states in the world, acting out of their own interests. Only yesterday the Western powers helped the growth of Islamism with their strategy of encircling the Soviet Union with a “green” cordon. Today, in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the manipulation of religious figures, Islamist and Jewish fundamentalist, has benefited pro-War supporters on every side.

Yet, we cannot reduce society to these elements. Where are the other people on the scene? What role do those who do not share these ideologies and interests play? What, in their own fields, are they doing with their resources to reflect, to act and to create?

Democracy and Secularism.

We have to admit that faced with the offensive of political-religious identity movements, many of these actors are paralysed by a series of confusions: between the cultural and the confessional (culturel), between Islamism and Islam, between democracy and imperialism. These confusions, whatever the intentions of those they originate with, have strengthened the vision of the Neoconservative supporters of a “war of civilisations”.

To escape from this there is only one-way out: to demolish the fantasy of a “Muslim World” and the “West” and to return to the reality of social, cultural and political struggles. From there we can raise the problem of “religion and politics” in relation to democratic ideals.

Founded on the recognition of the autonomy of individuals, free and equal, creators and subjects of laws, democracy, far from being just an affair of the ballot box, is a political project whose deepening means freedom from all intangible sacred power. Now, more than ever, secularism (laïcité) is a vital stake in advancing human rights and liberty.”

(1) Chahla Chafiq-Beski is an Iranian left-wing exile, writer and novelist who lives in France. Her latest book is Islam, politique, sexe et genre. PUF.  2011. “L’écriture est devenue mon lieu d’existence, hors frontières, pour vivre la liberté.” Writing has become my home, beyond frontiers, to be able to  live in freedom.”

Portrait de Chahla Chafiq

(2) Culturel – from Cult, same word as English, but primarily retaining the original sense of religious practice, confession.

Stop the War Coalition’s John Rees Links Charlie Hebdo Slaughter to ‘Security Service Behaviour”.

with 6 comments

Qureshi, Rees and Bullivant at Cage Press Conference

National Stop the War Coalition Officer with Cage Campaign

John Rees was in pensive mood a few days ago.

As I chaired yesterday’s press conference about the revelation that ‘Jihadi John’ was Kuwaiti born West Londoner and college graduate Mohammed Emwasi, I found myself thinking that few other events could as effectively illustrate the gaping chasm between the establishment approach to the war on terror and the facts.

Counterfire.

Rees found himself thinking (if that’s the word) about a list of ‘facts': He was stopped from leaving the country to go and marry his fiancé in Kuwait, he was physically assaulted by police, MI5 tried to turn him into an informant, His fiancé was told by security officers not to marry him as he was a terror suspect, He was never charged and no evidence was ever given for these accusations.is attempts to use the press complaints process and the diplomatic services of the UK government to free himself from what he regarded as ‘imprisonment by the security services’ all ended in failure.

The great Thinker comments,

This case is probably the best documented study we have ever had of why a young, bright man becomes an Islamic State killer. The fact that our own security services and the insane assumptions of the ‘war on terror’ mindset played their part in this transition should be pause for thought.

Ample comments has been made about this, and other remarks from the so-called human rights group Cage, during his  contact with the human rights group CAGE between 2010 and 2012.

Yet this remains intriguing – or disgustingly foul:

Moreover, this is now an emerging pattern of security service behaviour: they tried to recruit the killer of Lee Rigby and both Charlie Hebdo killers and the perpetrator of the recent attacks in Denmark were known to the security services.

This should at least raise questions about whether the security services are contributing to the very terror they are supposed to be preventing.

So the deaths of our beloved martyrs at Charlie – no mention of the Hyper-Cacher – raise “questions” about the security services which may have been “contributing “ to them.

The very fact that the ‘security services’ were interested, or even there,  seems to be the “evidence”.

It would be interesting to know the source of Rees’s extremely serious allegation.

He does not give one.

It is the first I’ve heard of any parallel between the relations between the relations between the British security services and Mohammed Emwasi and the French security services Chérif and Saïd Kouachi – apart from the fact they were on the ‘radar’ of concern.

Time for Rees to put that Thinking Cap on again……

In the Memory of our Beloved Comrade Avijit Roy, Murdered by Islamists.

with 3 comments

Memorial Protest for a Beloved Fighter for Freedom.

Avijit Roy, who has been killed in an attack in Dhaka at the age of 42, was a Bangladeshi-American blogger, published author, and prominent defender of the free-thought movement in Bangladesh.

Mr Roy rose to prominence though his prolific writing on his self-founded site, Mukto-Mona – an internet gathering of mostly South Asia free-thinkers, ratio­nalists, sceptics and humanists founded in 2000.

He was a passionate atheist and an adherent of metaphys­ical naturalism – the school of thought that rejects the supernatural concepts and explanations that are part of many religions.

He was the author of numerous books, and had many articles published in magazines and journals.

In a conservative country like Bangladesh, his subject matter was often contentious, covering sensitive issues such as homosexuality – which he argued was inherent in nature – religious unbelief and cosmology.

Mr Roy’s followers argue that many of his secular ideas are in the tradition of the great Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore, who died in 1941 and is often referred to as “Bengal’s Shakespeare”.

Some of the last books Mr Roy wrote, Obisshahser Dorshon (The Philosophy of Disbelief) and Biswasher Virus (The Virus of Faith), were critically well received around the world.

In the Virus of Faith he argues that “faith-based terrorism will wreak havoc on society in epidemic proportions”.

In one of his last published articles in the Free Inquiry magazine, Mr Roy wrote: “To me, religious extremism is like a highly contagious virus. My own recent experiences in this regard verify the horrific reality that such religious extremism is a virus of faith.”

He said in the article that a book he published last year “hit the cranial nerve of Islamic fundamentalists” and led to him being targeted by militant Islamists and terrorists.

It also led, he said, to a man openly issuing death threats against him on Facebook.

“Avijit Roy lives in America and so it is not possible to kill him right now,” Mr Roy quoted one threat against him as saying, “but he will be murdered when he gets back.”

BBC.

The Independent reports,

Avijit Roy and his wife were returning from a book fair at Dhaka University on Thursday evening when they were attacked.

Witnesses told local media their bicycle rickshaw was stopped by two men who dragged them on to the pavement but police chief Sirajul Islam said the couple were ambushed as they walked towards a roadside tea stall.

Both accounts said at least two men with machetes started hacking at the couple as they lay on the ground.

The attackers then ran away, disappearing into crowds.

Mr Roy, believed to be in his 40s, was pronounced dead during emergency surgery at the Dhaka Medical College hospital and his wife, Rafida Ahmed Banna, lost a finger and is being treated for serious injuries.

Police found her severed finger alongside two machetes and a bag possibly belonging to the attackers at the scene

In Commemoration: Avijit Roy.

News From Bangladesh:

BD News 24.

Avijit’s killing stirs world media Mohammad Abu Bakar Siddique

The brutal killing of writer, blogger Avijit Roy in hand of machete-wielding assailants has created a shockwave in the global media.

The leading news organisations from around the world including BBC, Reuters, the Guardian, The New York Times, NDTV etc condemned the barbarous killing, bringing out detail of the attack.

BBC placed the news on the attack that left the Bangladesh-born US citizen dead and his wife also a blogger Rafida Ahmed Bonna, critically injured, as its lead on the following day, with the headline suggesting “US-Bangladesh blogger Avijit Roy hacked to death.”

The contributions of Avijit, a naturalised US citizen, particularly his activism for scientific knowledge and secularism through online and publications, his receiving threats from militants groups, the attack by the widespread protest against the killing and for arrest of the attackers, and the country’s context were mentioned in the BBC’s report.

The killing of the son of the country’s one of the most prominent professors Ajay Roy was covered Reuters, as “American blogger killed in Bangladesh machete attack,” the New York Times reported “Avijit Roy, Bangladeshi-American Writer, Is Killed by Machete-Wielding Assailants,” besides several other versions with updates.

Roy came to Dhaka for publication of his new books in the book fair around mid-February with his wife, and on the evening they fell under the attack in the TSC area in Dhaka University on the way back from the fair.

Avijit wrote a number of books on mainly philosophy, rationalism and science, in line with his activism, also in online, for secularism and freedom of expression, for which he had been receiving death threats since long, including the recent one when social media fanatics openly declared to kill him on coming home, family told media.

The UK-based the Guardian reported “American atheist blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh” mentioning the previously happened similar attacks on the free thinkers.

“American-Bangladeshi atheist blogger Avijit Roy hacked to death by suspected Islamist extremists,” wrote the UK based the Independent.

The Telegraph wrote: “Atheist US blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh,” while The Times headlined “Atheist US blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh”

CNN titled “Prominent Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy killed” where it detailed with the facts related to the killing and the shocks emerged from it.

It reported on the very attack in two more stories with title “American writer hacked to death in Bangladesh spoke out against extremists”, and “Blogger’s brutal death for speaking his mind.”

From the murder to the UN condemnation, the media all around the world are coming up with the follow ups as well.

The attack was widely covered in the media of neighboring India and Pakistan.

India’s NDTV and Pakistan’s Dawn among the prominent news media covered the story, his contributions, threats were mentioned.

These news media are also following the developments in Bangladesh and the world, in response to the attack, protest and condemnation that began in Dhaka.

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew Coates

February 28, 2015 at 5:12 pm

TUC Welfare Conference: Fight for a Decent Benefit System!

leave a comment »

Embedded image permalink

Photo: 

TUC: Welfare Conference, called by the TUC Consultative Committee for Unemployed Workers’ Centres.

Up to a hundred activists came to the Welfare Conference, held on Friday in Congress House. As the introductory speakers made plain the Liberal-Conservative Coalition, assisted by large sections of the media, have launched a frontal assault ion the basic principles of an equitable benefit system.  Instead of helping people in need they have attacked the most vulnerable.

Eleanor Firman (Disabled People Against Cuts, DPAC and UNITE) illustrated what this has meant on the ground. As a result of cuts in housing benefit and the bedroom tax their group in Waltham Forest had had to defend those facing eviction.

She talked of how the Work Capability Assessment targeted disabled people. Those not meeting the government’s criteria – enforced through a flawed system run by private companies (ATOS and now Maximus), could expect to be treated with “harshness”, to the point of being left destitute. This was only one example of how welfare ‘reform’ was making people’s lives a misery. The answer was to challenge the DWP with the help of bodies like UNITE Community and, where they still exist, Law Centres.

Workshops covering benefit sanctions, the basis of the benefit system, unpaid work, and equality were held.

In the one I attended, on Sanctions, participants concentrated less on particular stories of injustice than on the nature of the arbitrary regime. We tried to bring together a rejection of all sanctions with proposals for real social security for all.  Disabled needed to be assessed not by private companies and computerised questionnaires, a source of many sanctions, but by clinical criteria, – the work of GPs. The power of ‘work coaches’ to decide to withdraw benefits – whether they should eat or have a home – should be removed.

There were fruitful discussions throughout the day. Groups talked through proposals for a universal minimum income, others investigated the socialisation of basic needs, “universal goods in kind’, proposed by the Greek party, Syriza. A group of us looked into the use of Blogging, Twitter and other social media to spread an alternative message to the media hate campaigns.

Others planned activities on Monday the 2nd of March Day of Action against Maximus and the 19th of March Day of Action Against Benefit Sanctions. Further protests against benefit sanctions are planned to coincide with May Day.

Stop Sanctions: A Priority.

In the afternoon Richard Exell, the TUC’s senior Policy Officer on these issues, spoke. He cast aside his prepared notes. Instead he talked of how public opinion had been swayed behind the Coalition’s polices. Cautious about demanding an end to all sanctions Richard observed, however, that the way they had left hundreds of thousands destitute may help to alter popular attitudes. The children of claimants, through no ‘fault’ of their own, were left hungry and dependent on food banks and charity. Now they will affect those in low-paid work who received benefits. There was a need to develop alternatives to this and to Universal Credit.

Paula from DPAC stated that the introduction of the new system, with its new complicated ‘claimants’ commitment’ spelled ‘Armageddon’ for those reliant on benefits.

A set of principles and demands – drawing on the Centres’ Charter for the Unemployed is being drawn up. It will include demands for a decent level of benefits, an end to sanctions, and opposition to all forms of workfare – to make volunteering really ‘voluntary’ – a higher minimum wage, rent controls, and decent jobs for all.

These will be put into a coherent form at a further meeting on the 25th of March. The finished programme will be designed to take into union bodies and wider afield.

In a speech that touched on the way activists can change government and party (Labour) policy Lynne Groves drew on the way the Bedroom Tax had been challenged, and cuts in social services opposed. Activists and the wider public were urged to get involved in UNITE Community Branches, open to all.

At the end of the meeting Kevin Flynn noted the seriousness and richness of the debates that had taken placed. Amongst other points he welcomed the “historic formation of the National Union of Bloggers”.

The breadth and depth of the experiences of those attending this meeting – about 100 strong – were striking. The words ‘the labour movement’ really came to life. There was strong participation of the disabled, young people, women, and black people. Those attending came from a wide variety of work backgrounds: from heavy industry, clerical and service work, to the voluntary sector. Delegates attended from all over the country, from Newcastle, Liverpool to the West Country and even South London.

It was, as always, a real pleasure to hear Northern accents. The discussions were more than good-natured and creative. Everybody had something to contribute. It was, in short, bloody great!

 

The Anti-Semitic insults of Coulibaly to his victims in the Vincennes Kosher Supermarket.

with 13 comments

In case anybody is in any doubt about the racism of the attackers of Charlie Hebdo and the Vinceness supermarket this is only the latest news on their Anti-Semitism.

This is expressed very clearly in information released today concerning the latter slaughter.

“After signifying to his victims that he was attacking them because they were Jewish, the terrorist accused them of “financing” the killing of  women and children – according to a recording.

Friday, January 9, Amedy Coulibaly recorded his hostage-taking at the Hyper-Cacher, Vincennes, with GoPro, the content of which was revealed in the on-going legal proceedings. The Obs has published on its website  a partial transcript. In seven minutes, Coulibaly killed three people before asking the survivors: ” You have not understood, eh? What are your origins? “”Jewish.” “answers one of them.  Coulibaly replied:” Eh bah then you know why I’m here then! Allahu akbar!

Then, someone told him that his victims “had done nothing” He replied,You haven’t done anything? “Later he explained that he did not kill women, yet his victims did. “You kill women and children everywhere! And you think things are like that?  You know very well, stop making your … ” The rest of the recording is inaudible.

According to  Le Nouvel Observateur, the police also noted that Coulibaly was not a trained user of weapons, he  needed ten seconds to find the button to change the charger from the Kalashnikov.

Libération

In Le Monde an inquiry into the background of the other murderers, the Kouachi brothers was published on the 20th of February . For one member their family, “Ils étaient très racistes envers tous ceux qui n’étaient pas musulmans et arabes.” They were very racist towards anybody who was not a Muslim or an Arab.

Reproduced in Le Point

Written by Andrew Coates

February 26, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Galloway Number 3 in ‘House of Scroungers’ says Socialist Worker – er, Not.

with 7 comments

Socialist Worker says,

House of Scroungers

Tory MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind says it’s “quite unrealistic” to expect MPs to live on their salary of £67,000 a year.

They note that,

“Gordon Brown, the former prime minister, declared additional income of close to £1 million. Geoffrey Cox, the Conservative MP, declared earnings of £820,000—12 times the annual MP wage.”

And conclude:

As Jack Straw with great foresight said in 2010 “Their behaviour, prima facie, does indeed bring the Parliamentary Labour Party, as well as parliament, into disrepute, because it appears that former Cabinet ministers are more interested in making money than they are in properly representing their constituents.”

For an unaccountable reason George Galloway got left off Socialist Worker’s little list, so we have helpfully supplied the full one.

Charlie Hebdo is Back and Kicking! Rumour that British Left will be on Future ‘Une’.

with 3 comments

 

The Pack is on Charlie’s Heels Again!

More than a month after two gunmen attacked French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris, killing 12 people, the newspaper’s newest issue is due to be released on Wednesday as it resumes publication.

The paper rushed out a “survivors’ issue” the week after the shooting, which took place on January 7. Since then, however, Charlie Hebdo has been absent from newsstands.

“We needed a break, a rest… There were those who needed to work again straight away, like me, and those who wanted to take more time,” says Gérard Biard, the publication’s new chief editor. “So we reached a compromise, and agreed on February 25… to start off again on a weekly basis.”

If the cover of Charlie Hebdo’s next issue says anything, it’s that it will be business as usual at the publication. It features an illustration of a range of political and religious figures, including former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, a jihadist and the pope, as a pack of rabid dogs over the headline, “… Here we go again!”

France 24.

On France-Inter this morning the new editor of the trusty and much-liked weekly, Gérard Biard, expressed concern that their cartoons sparked more indignation today than in the past.

Phooey! We would like to see more outrage!

There is a rumour that the British Left will figure on a future Cover with the same theme as today’s issue.

Tariq Ali, clothed in a dead-sheep, will lead the charge against the lovable Charlie mutt.

Ten Afghan Arabi sheep were sacrificed to make this coat.

Behind him follows the SWP’s Alex Callinicos, in his Scarlet Pimpernel outfit,  and Unite Against Fascism’s leadership, dressed in altar girl and boy costumes.

SWP Leader Prepares to Rescue Dusky Maidens from Charlie’s Evil Grasp. 

Unite Against Fascism: ‘Shocked’ By Charlie’s Blasphemy.

Will Self, snorting cocaine, will be arm-in-arm with Assad Ali, Seumas Milne, George Galloway  and Salma Yaqoob.

Will Self: Heavyweight Critic of Charlie Hebdo. 

Talking of heavy-weights (former) in the background one can glimpse Sebastian Budgen with one of his family’s excellent Hampers – they kept him popular during his years at Greyfriars.

Budgen at Greyfriars.

“Jihadism” is it a form of fascism? Debate on French Left.

with 13 comments

“These remarks follow the text of Laurent Lévy on this site entitled “Islamo-fascism” or “jihadism”. This is not an answer but a few notes which aim to stimulate debate.

1 The term “jihadism” is probably the most suitable, it is in any case much better that “Islamo-fascist”, which does not in itself  exclude discussion on these two terms.

2 Has Jihadism nothing to do with Islam? Lawrence said we do not have to take the self-definitions of those principally involved. Some caution is indeed required. Not so long ago there were countries that defined themselves  as People’s Democracies – a term which was very questionable  in the least. Which leave us with the question – one that I do not find it so easy to solve – who is the judge in these matters?

The attacks in Paris were condemned by currents unlikely to be held to represent a “moderate Islam” – the Palestinian Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah, which called the murderers the worst enemies of the Prophet. It is not up to non-Muslims to contradict them, says Lawrence. The end of the sentence seems common sense: non-Muslims are not the best position to judge what is  Islam or what is not. The beginning of the same sentence is rather more questionable. We are not obliged, or to take as given, what Hamas or Hezbollah say,  on the grounds that they are not representatives of “moderate Islam.” After all, there are within Sunni Islam many currents that deny that the  Alevis or the Shias even  belong to Islam. Why should we believe them? On the grounds that we are not Muslims (which is true) and that they are not moderate (also true)? In a climate of hysteria and a climate of heightened national security we clearly have an interest in avoiding putting all Muslims in the same category. But, to return to the “people’s democracies”, could it be said so easily that they  had nothing to do with the communist movement?

3- On the question of fascism, I am to be relatively cautious, without being satisfied with the approach developed by Lawrence. For words to make sense we should not use them indiscriminately.  A military dictatorship, for example, does not need to be a fascist to be abominable and to be fought (and calling the French riot police, the  CRS the SS is probably not the acme of political analysis). We must therefore be wary of using ready-made categories that can easily become stale and fixed.

There is no doubt that the emergence of fascism in the interwar period in Europe was a way to break the working class. That class, influenced by the creation and the breath of the October Revolution had become a legitimate player in the conquest of political power. But if we limited fascism to this, the issue would not be restricted to  a debate for historians about the 1920s and the 1930s. Today the impact of  October (or the Chinese Revolution in Asia) is minimal, and instead of a rising working class, the labour movement, which we witness, is  in a poor state. Can we say that the issue of fascism no longer exists. The counter-revolutionary AND totalitarian dimensions of the  “jihadist” groups  is such that we cannot dismiss the term ‘fascism’ so easily. When Pierre Rousset speaks of “religious fascism” because these organisations occupy the same niches as fascism, there is no lack of argument. An article by Farooq Tariq, leader of the LPP (Pakistan) states: “The fanatical religious groups are being constituted as forms of fascism. ” ( ttp://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article33933 ).

These views can of course be criticised I do not think these can be dismissed out of hand.

In short this is an ongoing debate.”

A reply to  Islamo-fascism” or “jihadism” Laurent Lévy. 

Lévy  notes that the ‘syntagma’ (syntactic arrangement) Islamic-fascism has been used by the nominally ‘socialist’ Prime Minister, Manuel Valls (that is, be wary of the words!!!).

He asserts that is not up to the non-Muslims to decide on what is Islamic or not, and that most consider that the Islamic state is not Islamic.  Lévy  argues that in terms of class analysis one cannot talk of Islamic-Fascism. “..sectarian, violent and totalitarian movements claiming Islam does not fall within this analysis ” That they cannot be compared with movements helped by the “bourgeoisie to break the labour movement and to take over certain sectors of the capital to help solve its internal contradictions.” in the 1920s and 1930s.

But that, Jihadism, is the word that designates, “these currents that claim Islam in the attempt to impose by mass violence a totalitarian society.”

Comment.

It is interesting that the relation between Islamist ‘counter-revolution’ and classical European fascism is raised.

What would seem a better way to approach this is to look at one form of actually existing Islamism: the Islamic State, Daesh (1). Not just its international actions, but the structure of the state they have created in Syria and Iraq: a  racist, repressive, genocidal regime, based on slavery and the oppression of women, with a highly developed system of ‘law’ (the Sharia, as they see it).

Whether we call this Jihadism or fascism it is clear that it is a ‘totalitarian’ political entity.

A murderous one to boot.

(1) ‘Actually existing’ – an expression I take from the pro-Soviet left in the 1970s which talked of ‘actually existing socialism’.

‘Oscars’ for the Most Barking Mad Left Writing.

with 9 comments

The ‘Barking': Top Award for Left Writing.

The Oscars tonight will be overshadowed by the new ceremonies for the ‘Most Barking Left Writing’ (Hat-Tip: Dave Osland).

The principal coveted trophy, (pictured), will be awarded this evening in the Spring Road Allotment Shed – former Telephone Box.

The past year has seen some strong contenders for the prize.

We have had John Tummon, of Left Unity, and his ‘Calpihate motion

To show solidarity with the people of the Middle  East by supporting the end of the  structure of the  divided nation states imposed by the Versailles  settlement and their replacement by a Caliphate type polity in which diversity and autonomy are protected and nurtured and the mass of people can effectively control executive authority’. Left Unity distances itself specifically from the use of intemperate, inaccurate and moralist language such as ‘terrorism’, ‘evil’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘viciously reactionary’, ‘murderous’, genocidal’, etc in discussion about the Middle East; these terms are deployed by people and forces seeking not to understand or analyse, but to demonise in order to dominate, and they have no place within socialist discourse.”

We have had Socialist Worker publishing Hassan Mahamdallie who compared the outsiders fighting for the genociders of the Islamic State (Da’esh) and the foreign  volunteers who backed Spanish democracy (“in the 1930s radicalised young men from the same mining communities illegally made their way into Spain to take up arms against general Franco’s fascist army”).

He added this sentence, “It has been disheartening to watch establishment Muslim leaders apologetically rushing out with condemnations. They have pointlessly distanced themselves from “John the Jihadi”—who is alleged to have killed Foley—and declared that Isis is “un-Islamic”.

The tonnes and tonnes of material written about the Ukraine has been ruled worthy of a special award – to follow.

The slaughter at Charlie Hebdo, and the Hyper-Cacher, has brought a fine crop in.

Tariq Ali set the bar high by announcing after the attack (this is a version from the 28th of January),

How serious is Islamophobia in France and other European countries?

France is the worst in Europe and tries to mask it by proclaiming its secular values (sound familiar?), but these values don’t apply to Islam. In fact, French secularism means anything but Islam. And when satirical magazines taunt them, they react. It’s as simple as that.

Only yesterday he tried to keep in the running by saying (Guardian), of Charlie.

In the 80s it had become a stale magazine, and people have told me that one reason for attacking the Muslims and reprinting the Danish cartoons was to boost circulation.” He argues that Je suis Charlie stickers express something other than support for freedom of expression and condemnation of those who murdered in the name of Islam – a loathing for Muslims.

Note: Charlie Hebdo stopped publication from 1981 t0 1992 except for a special issue in 1982.

The Socialist Workers Party Central Committee gave Tariq his angle on the 8th of January,

Racists and right wingers are trying to use Wednesday’s horrific killings in Paris to divide working people, justify imperialist intervention and whip up Islamophobia.

Almost everyone will recognise that the attacks are wrong and completely unacceptable. We must not let them be exploited to generate racism, justify more wars, or to give a boost to the far right.

The media present Charlie Hebdo as simply a “satirical magazine”. But it is not the French equivalent of Private Eye as some commentators have suggested. It may have been once, but it has become a specialist in presenting provocative and racist attacks on Islam. That does not justify the killings, but it is essential background.

Let’s unite against racism and Islamophobia.

The ever-reliable John Wight on Socialist Unity said this (8th January)  as the dead still lay unburied,

The free speech ‘merchants’, those who were so up in arms over matters related to the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, who use free speech as a sword rather than a shield, would like nothing more than to silence one of the only voices in the country’s national life who dares challenge the demonisation of Muslims and the Muslim community, establishment support for the apartheid state of Israel, and a political status of quo of military intervention overseas and social and economic injustice at home.

But it’s the Economic & Philosophic Science Review that stands out,

Fake-”left” line-up once more with imperialism to “condemn terror” over the Paris attacks, proving even further their craven capitulation to the warmongering demonisation being used to whip up World War Three. Attacking the Islamists as “reactionary” is opportunist sophistry, as is writing them off as “isolated individual terrorists” . Such pretend “Marxism” is just a cover for petty bourgeois moralising and “free speech and democracy” reformist humbug that solves nothing but helps feed the “kill them all” fascist revenge mentality stirred up by capitalist cynicism.

Further afield Ramzay Baroud‘s efforts post-Charlie in the Morning Star to pin the blame for hatred of Muslims and the crimes of Imperialism on the New Atheists merits an honourable mention.

Socialist Fight, Gerry Downing and Graham Durham of the Crickelwood People’s Republic (twinned with the Donbass),  is outstanding.

Ian Donovan is also one to to watch, “in his opinion, there is a Jewish “pan-national bourgeoisie”, which has constituted itself as ruling class “vanguard” in key imperialist countries, and it is this that accounts for US support for Israel.” (Weekly Worker).

Donovan’s recommendation, Support George Galloway MP for Bradford West, is surely in line with these views

The Weekly Worker’s Letter Page yields a rich harvest notably this which is clearly the front runner:

Sounds absurd?

Phil Kent has accused me of holding positions I never held in relation to Stalin, the issue of peak oil and reptilians (Letters, January 15). He also claims I am an elitist, because I believe in leadership.

Firstly, I never argued that Stalin’s victims “deserved to die” – I challenge Kent to prove otherwise. In passing, it’s interesting to note that following the demise of the Soviet Union, when Boris Yeltsin released the figures for individuals in Soviet prisons, these were lower than the USA. The capitalist media went silent.

Secondly, I never argued that rising oil prices would “soon” mean the end of capitalism. What I argued is that rising oil prices in the period of declining oil production, following the global peak, would lead to the collapse of capitalism, if no viable substitute for cheap oil was found. World oil production goes through three stages: rising production, peak and decline. We are still at the peak stage, when oil supply is at its maximum.

Thirdly, I never claimed that the future of humanity “may rest on the beneficence of extra-terrestrial reptiles”. I replied to Andrew Northall’s letter of December 18 and referred to the reptilian control theory, which argues that for thousands of years humanity has been controlled by a reptilian race, using their mixed reptile-human genetic bloodlines, who have oppressed and exploited humans, while claiming descent from the ‘gods’ and the divine right to rule by bloodline. Ancient and modern society is obsessed with reptilian, serpent and dragon themes, possibly due to this heritage. Even the flag of Wales has a dragon on it.

Most people have closed minds, depending on the issues. Mention the possibility of aliens secretly manipulating humanity behind the scenes and the shutters come down. Perhaps Kent should contemplate Einstein’s words: “If at first an idea does not sound absurd, there is no hope for it.

Tony Clark Weekly Worker.

As Unite Against Fascism Meets UN Makes War Crime Charges against Syrian Regime and *all* Islamist forces.

with 3 comments

CCTV of the three girls

London Girls Go to Join War Criminals.

“Three east London schoolgirls have flown to Turkey and there are fears they may cross the Syrian border and join the Islamic State terrorist group.”

BBC.

“In a report published on Friday, the Commission stressed that both the Syrian regime and the main Islamist militant groups active in Syria – Islamic State (IS) and al-Nusra Front – had committed atrocities, as well as other smaller factions.

The report warned that despite the Commission’s “long-standing position” not to name suspects, maintaining that policy would “reinforce the impunity” of alleged war criminals.

Speaking on Friday, investigators said that they had increasingly been sharing information with countries to enable them to prosecute their own citizens for crimes committed in Syria.

They revealed that four of the lists of names of alleged war criminals had been passed to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and a fifth would be handed over in March.

The five lists, compiled since the Commission began investigating in 2011, are understood to contain approximately 30 to 40 names each.”

BBC

The Guardian reports today,

A study released last month by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue found that women on the receiving end of that social media onslaught were captivated by the violence they saw. Examining the social media accounts of six European women who ultimately travelled to Syria and Iraq, they discovered that one described the brutal murder of the American aid worker Peter Kassig and 18 Syrian hostages as “gut-wrenchingly awesome”.

Another woman, who watched a different beheading video, wrote: “I was happy to see the beheading of that kaffir [non-believer], I just rewinded to the cutting part,” and called for “more beheadings please!”, according to the study.

“Umm Hussain”, alternately named in reports as mother-of-two Sally Jones from Kent, tweeted: “Know that we have armies in Iraq and an army in Sham [Syria] of angry lions whose drink is blood and play is carnage.”

The study concluded: “There is no doubt … that the women who migrate to the territory controlled by Isis revel in the gore and brutality of the organisation. They appear desensitised to the horrific nature of the violent acts being committed.”

Charlie Winter, of the Quilliam Foundation, said that although Isis propaganda sometimes suggested that women would have an active, and even armed role, the reality was that they were heavily controlled once they arrived.

Winter recently helped translate a long Isis communique that set out in great detail the designated role of women under the group’s version of sharia law. Circulated late last month and titled Women in the Islamic State: Manifesto and Case Study, the document railed against westernised notions of female liberation, damning fashion shops and beauty salons as the work of the devil.

“It is always preferable for a woman to remain hidden and veiled, to maintain society from behind this veil,” it said. It added that girls could marry at the age of nine, and “pure girls” should ideally settle with a husband by 17 and should not be “corrupted” by careers. It was also clear that women would not take up arms unless the survival of Isis depended on it.

Meanwhile ‘Unite Against Fascism’  is holding its conference.

You can follow it at  Live Blog: Unite against racism and fascism – UAF national conference 2015

It will be interesting to see if anybody there cares to comment on the BBC and Guardian reports.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 21, 2015 at 12:45 pm

Unite Against Fascism and the SWP’s ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’.

with 4 comments

SWP Leadership: One to Command and 921 to Obey.

Citizen Camembert: Charlie Hebdo Editor.

Paris, a surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions,  Laïcité , Islamophobia, republicanism and by the lust of vengeance and of hate.

Some little time before sunset, and the place, the West Barricade, Charlie Hebdo Offices The wicked journal was about to be published – again! A hideously ugly crippled former shoe-maker, the Vieux Cordelier was putting the paper to bed.

The same hour, back in England, in the SWP Headquarters, Sir Sir Percy Callinicos and his valet Charlie Kimber were talking. The pleasant oak-raftered coffee-room of the building.

A beautiful dusky French mademoiselle entered the room.

“And to whom do I owe my saving from the clutches of the Charlie Hebdo?”

“The Scarlet Pimpernel, Mademoiselle Caroline” he said at last “is the name of a humble English wayside flower; but it is also the name chosen to hide the identity of the best and bravest man in all the world, so that he may better succeed in accomplishing the noble task he has set himself to do.”s.

His manservant interjected.

“Gad, mademoiselle, that Charlie Hebdo!”

“Gadzooks!” continued Sir Percy. “That blaggard Camembert, the big cheese, is behind it all. It’s one thing to make fun of the almighty between chaps like us: but Charlie’s for the brutes in the street!

She paused, this band of young and dashing Englishmen had, to her own knowledge, bearded the implacable and bloodthirsty tribunal of Charlie Hebdo, within the very walls of Paris itself, and had snatched away condemned victims, almost from the very foot of the Weekly’s guillotine.

As she prepared in her mind a speech at the Unite Against Fascism Conference Mademoiselle recalled her dramatic recuse. Sir Percy had explained it casually enough. “Yet, ’tis simple enough, m’dear,” he said with that funny, half-shy, half-inane laugh of his, “you see! when I found that that brute Charlie meant to stick to me like a leech, I thought the best thing I could do, as I could not shake him off, was to take him along with me.”

A charred copy of the rag still lay on the sumptuously carpeted floor.

With the help of the valet, Kimber, she  recommenced writing her Conference rallying-call against the vile Charlie Hebdo.

……

That Monday was held the brilliant wedding of Sir Richard Seymour with Mlle. Caroline de Tournay de Basserive.

Afterwards at the function at which H. R. H. the Prince of Wales and all the élite of fashionable society were present, the most beautiful woman there was unquestionably Lady Callinicos, whilst the clothes of Sir Percy Callinicos were the talk of the jeunesse dorée of London for many days.

They seek him here,

they seek him there,

Those Frenchies seek him everywhere,

Is he in heaven?

Is he in Hell?

That damned elusive Pimpernel!

Unite Against Fascism Unites Against French Anti-Racists’ Support for Charlie Hebdo.

with 10 comments

Racist Islamophobic Propaganda Says UAF.

This is how the leading French anti-racist, anti-fascist organisation, the MRAP (Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples  -Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples)  reacted to the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher at the Porte de Vincennes.

Restons Charlie : refusons le racisme et la haine 13th January.

We were on 11 January, millions who were “Charlie”: Stay “Charlie!”

Staying “Charlie” is to refuse racism and rejection of the Other. It is to reject scapegoating and to refuse to accept a ‘Patriot Act’ contrary to the values of the republic. The heinous crimes committed against the  kosher supermarket and  Charlie must be answered by the application of the law, but with even more urgency, more than “living together”, it needs solidarity. This requires us to ensure that the motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” are not mere words. This must become,  through our shared wills, the everyday  reality of life in our cities and in our neighbourhoods. Those who sow the seeds of racism,  considering one group as of lesser value, of exclusion,  sow the seeds of violence. We should adopt the words Zahia Ziouani, director of the Orchestra, “Divertimento”: “Obscurantism,  ignorance and intellectual poverty are the causes of the  tragedies we have just experienced. We have to overcome them through education and culture . “

Since 11 September 2001, the “war against terrorism” has only amplified chaos and led the world to a dangerous dead end. MRAP reiterates what it said 13 years ago: the war against terrorism cannot be won by individual action, it is the causes that must be addressed. We stand against the “war of civilizations” that has led the world to a catastrophic disaster. It is urgent to fight for a world of justice, peace and democracy!

And this is equally, if not more, important:

LES ASSOCIATIONS DE L’IMMIGRATION SOLIDAIRES AVEC CHARLIE HEBDO 11th January.

The Signatories of this appeal – Immigration associations – wish to denounce in the strongest possible terms these terrorist acts and salute the memory of the victims. We share the sorrow and grief of their families and relatives. We are in solidarity with the  whole team of “Charlie Hebdo”.

We take issue with wretched  attempts to trivialise or justify these crimes, and stand against conspiracy theories – already popping up on social networks-  and whose obvious motivation, a supposed defence of the sacred and efforts to deny the responsibility of the fanatics, is clearly based on a denial of the deadly reality.

We call for their total rejection and greater vigilance. Our condemnation  is clear and unambiguous We have complete solidarity with the families and relatives of the victims, and with the staff of “Charlie Hebdo”. We will not accept being lectured at, or being ordered around. We oppose any form of discrimination, lumping people and groups together, racism and Islamophobia.

Declaration of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo by:

Fédération des Tunisiens Citoyens des deux Rives – FTCR, Comité pour le Respect des Libertés et des Droits de l’Homme en Tunisie – CRLDHT,  Association des Tunisiens en France – ATF, Association des Travailleurs Maghrébins en France – ATMF, Association des Marocains en France – AMF,  Massira – Algérie,  Agir pour le Changement Démocratique en Algérie – ACDA, Association Citoyenne des Originaires de Turquie – ACORT, Association des Iraniens Républicains de Paris – AIRP, Comité Indépendant contre la Répression des Citoyens Iraniens – CIRCI, mmigration Développement Démocratie – IDD, Le Manifeste des Libertés, Forum de Solidarité Euro-Méditerranéen – FORSEM, Réseau Euro-Maghrébin Citoyenneté et Culture – REMCC, Union des Travailleurs Immigrés Tunisiens – UTIT, Mouvement Citoyen des Tunisiens en France – MCTF, Collectif 3 C, L’Association interculturelle de production, de diffusion, de documentation audiovisuelles – AIDDA, Association de défense  des Droits de l’Homme au Maroc – ASDHOM, Association Vérité et Justice pour Farhat Hached – AVJFH, Association Filigrane, Dynamique Citoyenne des Tunisiens à l’Etranger – DCTE,  Collectif des Femmes Tunisiennes – CTF, Arts et Cultures des Deux Rives – ACDR,  Union des Tunisiens pour une Action Citoyenne – UTAC, Association des Tunisiens du Nord de la France – ATNF , Association Na’oura ASBL – Belgique, SOS Migrants – Belgique, Comité de Vigilance pour la Démocratie en Tunisie – Bruxelles, Association des Tunisiens de Maine et Loire – Anger, Association des Tunisiens de la Sarthe – UTS, Association Tunisienne Culture et Solidarité, Association Démocratique des Tunisiens en France – ADTF, Centre Euromed Migration et Développement EMCEMO – Amsterdam, Association des Tunisiens en France  – ATF – Var, Plateforme Euro-Marocaine Migration et Développement Démocratie Citoyenneté, Association Zembra, Association des Tunisiens en France  –  ATF – Nord, Association Younga Solidaire, Association Appel Egalité, Droits Ici et Là-bas –DIEL, Association des Tunisiens en France – ATF – Bouches du Rhône, Coalition International des Sans Papiers et Migrants – CISPM, IMAGECOM, Afrique Survie Immigration – ASM, INTEGRATION 21 – Paris 19ème, Association des Tunisiens en France – ATF – 13, Union des Tunisiens de Suisse – UTS, Comitato Degli Immigrati Tunisini In Italia Italie, Plateforme Euro-Marocaine Migration développement démocratie et Citoyenneté, Réseau Maroc Euromed des ONGS Maroc, Association Culturelle Tunisienne pour l’Insertion et la Formation – ACTIF, Association Alif’s Bordeaux, Association Perspectives Nice, Association Tunisienne de Côte d’Or – ATCD, Association Ailes – femmes du Maroc, Association Tounssia Hourra, Institut de la Culture Arabe Moderne – ICAM

Texte à l’initiative du Forum des Associations des Luttes Démocratiques de l’Immigration – FALDI

By contrast we see this in Britain:

Unite Against Fascism (UAF):

NATIONAL CONFERENCE

Saturday 21 February Congress Centre, TUC, Great Russell Street, London.

Notably this:

2.00 – 3.30 Session: Je ne suis pas Charlie: incitement of hatred is not freedom of speech.

Chair: Alan Gibson NUJ; N’Della Paye (France); Azad Ali MEND; Jude Woodward UAF.

Alan Gibson, NUJ “the branch chair Alan Gibson, states: “Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons lampooning Islam, and particularly the depictions of the Prophet Mohammed, have been racist”. (More here) Gibson is a member of the Socialist Workers Party.

Jude Woodward, a member of the groupuscle Socialist Action, on Charlie Hebdo (Here) “Rather it is a populist right-wing libertarian rag, which delighted in producing the most offensive possible images to accompany its outpourings of spleen. Its targets were the marginalised, primarily Muslims but often it was sexist and homophobic too.” ” extensive version of the right to freedom of speech is limited by the other great liberal principle that individual freedom, including that of speech, can and must be curtailed by the prevention of harm to others.” “Rather than get pulled into defending Charlie Hebdo or others to publishing provocative, racist, sexist, homophobic and Islamophobic material, the correct response to the murderous assault in Paris is to come to the defence of the beleaguered Muslim community.“Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo, je suis Musulmane.”

Assad Ali,

We must not call Charlie Hebdo killers ‘terrorists’, says boss” (Here)

“AZAD ALI, Islamic Forum of Europe (undercover footage): Democracy, if it means that, you know, at the expense of not implementing the sharia, of course no one agrees with that.” “Mr Ali has also threatened journalists – not Parisian cartoonists, but an undercover colleague who secretly taped his “no one agrees with democracy” quote – though there is, of course, no suggestion that he has carried out the threat or any other act of violence.” (from Here).

N’della Diouf represents the very small group the Mamans Toutes égales (compare with list of immigrant associations above) who protest against educational establishments  that will not let veiled women accompany their children on school trips. We let others to judge her wisdom in being seen in this company.

I note however that she signed with members of les Indigènes de la République –   the  militant wing of post-colonial studies, who specialise in homophobic barracking of the gay writer Caroline Fourest – this appeal in 2011 after Charlie Hebdo was firebombed: Pour la défense de la liberté d’expression, contre le soutien à Charlie Hebdo !

More in this band of haters of French secularism in Medipart.

Straight to the point: Unite Against Fascism (UAF) has not a single representative of a mainstream and respected French anti-racist, anti-fascist organisation at its conference.

Instead it indulges those with a gripe against Charlie Hebdo, notably a member of the SWP, a notorious Islamist, and a representative of the groupuscule Socialist Action.

More anti-racist cartoons from Charlie  Avec Charlie, l’immigration autrement.

New Atheism Behind ‘War on Muslims’ – Morning Star

with 4 comments

Hate-Filled Philosophy Inspired Killer Craig Hicks.

The Morning Star today (Hat-tip Jim D).

The War on Muslims Reaches US Soil.

Somebody called Ramzay Baroud writes,

The murder of three US Muslims at a University of North Carolina condominium last week was no ordinary murder, nor is the criminal who killed them an ordinary thug.

The Daily explains,

Hicks, the terrorist who killed the three young Muslims, subscribes to a school of thought known as New Atheism — what (sic)  religious scholar Reza Aslan refers to as the school of “anti-theism.”

It is, in part, another hate-filled platform, and despite its supposed disdain for all religions, its malicious energy mostly targets Muslims.

New Atheists are of course different from the majority of atheists, who don’t use that designation to foment hate against a specific religious group.

The anti-theist idols include the likes of Richard Dawkins and US author Sam Harris, who, according to Aslan, respond “to religion with the same venomous ire with which religious fundamentalists respond to atheism.”

So,

Hicks too hated the three Muslim kids based on that same foolish, murderous logic.

But hating Muslims is not your everyday racism and prejudice, which has been “as American as apple pie and napalm” (a funny, sad line from the US comedy, M*A*S*H).

(Note: very funny, ha, ha.)

It is a readily available fodder for the ongoing war and future war in Muslim countries. It is the required amount of dehumanisation needed to wage war.

The ‘author’ then splurges in another direction,

Hicks is of the Fox News demographic, a gun-toting, unreasonably and immeasurably angry white US citizen. Self-proclaimed atheist or otherwise, it matters little (sic).

So Hicks, we are told, killed the students “execution-style” because of a dispute over parking spaces.

The same way that Chris Kyle — “the American Sniper” — made 164 confirmed “kills” in Iraq, targeting “savages” because that’s what national heroes do.

(Note ‘in the same way’….)

He concludes, spluttering,

It is time for Muslims to demand that Obama issue more than a statement but call the US government and hate-filled media to account. These outrageous double standards must end, before more innocent lives are taken.

And why not call the ‘New Atheists’ to account?

Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins beware: be afraid, be very afraid..

******

Further notes on Baroud’s politics (from here, January 8th 2015)

He thinks this: “Islam has set in motion a system to abolish slavery over 1,200 years before the slave trade reached its peak in the western world. ” (no Arab slave trade…..), “gender equality in Islam has been enshrined in the language of the Koran and the legacy of the Prophet Mohammed.”

I can’t be bothered with most of this history-as-fairy-story but I notice this in the same article

Baroud rails at the “the pornographic satire of Charlie Hebdo and its targeting of Prophet Mohammed…” and then remarks of those condemning the attack:

Did any of these “intellectuals” pause to think that maybe, just maybe, the violent responses to demeaning Islamic symbols reflect a real political sentiment, say for example, a collective feeling of humiliation, hurt, pain and racism that extend to every corner of the globe? 

Charlie had it coming to them…

As no doubt did the Jewish customers at the Porte de Vincennes Hyper Cacher.

Solidarity with our Coptic Brothers and Sisters!

with 4 comments

“The hatred of the Christian Copts in Egypt plays the same function that anti-Semitism played in Weimar Germany.”  Gilbert Achcar (International Viewpoint).

Islamic State Video Shows Beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians

By Rukmini Callimachi and David D. Kirkpatrick- NYT

A video released Sunday by the Islamic State appears to show the mass beheading of a group of 21 Coptic Christians, who are made to kneel beside the sea in what is identified as the coast near Tripoli, Libya.

It is the first time that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has released an official video showing such a killing outside of the territory it controls in Syria and Iraq.

The footage begins with slow motion images of the Egyptian Christian hostages, who were kidnapped in Libya several weeks ago, walking single file along the sandy beach. The hostages are all wearing orange jumpsuits. Each one is led by a black-clad executioner who is grasping a knife. The only sound is that of the crashing waves. They are made to kneel, and then one by one they are beheaded.

The lead executioner, who wears a brown mask over his face, thrusts his dagger at the camera. “Oh people, recently you have seen us on the hills of as-Sham and Dabiq’s plain, chopping off the heads that have been carrying the cross for a long time,” he says in fluent English, using terms referring to localities in and around Syria. “And today, we are on the south of Rome, on the land of Islam, Libya, sending another message.”

The high-quality video, which bears the logo of Al Hayat, the official publishing arm of the Islamic State, is in stark contrast to the footage released in the past by affiliates of the group. The footage in those videos was shaky and grainy, suggesting an amateur production. By contrast, the five-minute clip released Sunday is professional and cinematic, and is filmed in the same style as previous Islamic State videos, including one that showed the mass beheading of captured Syrian soldiers last year.

The video suggests that at least some of the Islamic State’s franchises abroad are becoming ever more tightly linked with the central group. Stills of the Libya video appeared last week in Dabiq, the Islamic State’s official English-language magazine. And the footage released today was preceded by an announcement on the group’s official news media, which foreshadowed the release, saying: “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross.”

Coptic Solidarity.

Financial Times

The Egyptian military said it carried out dawn air strikes on Monday against groups in Libya affiliated with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant after the extremists posted footage showing the beheading of a group of Egyptian workers in the central Libyan city of Sirte.

A spokesman for the Egyptian military said the air force hit training camps and weapons caches belonging to the extremists. State television showed footage of fighter jets taking off in Egypt. The military spokesman said all returned safely after accomplishing their mission “with accuracy”.

He said the raids were “to avenge and respond to the criminal acts by terrorist groups and elements inside and outside the country”.

See also L’Etat islamique signe par le sang sa présence en Libye (le Monde)

Written by Andrew Coates

February 16, 2015 at 12:29 pm

Freedom of Speech in Denmark, but…..

with 12 comments

Lars Vilks Muhammad drawings controversy.

The Krudttønden cafe in central Østerbro, Denmark,  was sprayed with bullets on Saturday afternoon. The attack came during a free-speech debate with controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who had depicted the prophet Muhammad in cartoons.

From the recording of the meeting on the BBC site:

We hear: “Yes, it is freedom of speech but” “the turning point is but…” “Why do we still say but…”

Sounds of shots….

There have been plenty of “buts” recently. Above of from those enemies of free-speech and liberty who begin “I condemn the Charlie Hebdo killings, But.”

 Follow latest updates

Parts of Copenhagen were on lockdown Saturday night after deadly twin attacks on the Danish capital.

A café holding an event in support of freedom of speech was attacked by two gunmen early on Saturday, leaving one man dead and three police officers injured.

After searching for the gunman for hours, police reported another shooting near a synagogue in downtown Copenhagen after midnight. One man died from a gunshot wound to the head and two police officers wre left injured. The gunman fled on foot, and police warned people to be vigilant and follow the instructions of officers flooding the city centre.

The meeting was organised by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced several death threats for his controversial caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad.

The attack came just over a month after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, in which Islamist terrorists killed 17 people.

The French ambassador to Denmark, Francois Zimeray, was one of the speakers at the event, which was described by Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Danish prime minister as a “terrorist act”.

As many as 200 bullet holes ripped through the window of the Krudttoenden café and at least two people were taken away on stretchers, including a uniformed police officer.

From here.

Also already in Wikipedia.

Deaths: Finn Nørgaard, 55, a film director, Dan Uzan was killed while guarding the synagogue in Krystalgade during a bat mitzvah celebration.

Two police officers were also hit but their injuries were said not to be life-threatening.

Danish Red-Green Unity bloc (Enhedslistens, De Rød-Grønne) statement, We must stand together against terror and extremism

Enhedslistens political spokesperson Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen, said after the attack to a debate on Oesterbro :

- I think we are all deeply affected and shocked by what has just happened in Copenhagen. Everything indicates that there is a terrorist attack on a peaceful debate event. You can not condemn enough.  It is completely incomprehensible and mad that someone seems prepared to attack other people because of drawings or positions they disagree with. I hope the police quickly catch the person or the initiators behind the acts.

- The strongest response to such attacks is to show that we do not let ourselves be cowed. We must continue to think, write and draw exactly what we want.  And we must stand together and show that terrorists and extremists will not succeed to sow discord and hatred in our society.

To those about to launch statements about Lars Vilks and the Freedom of Speech seminar full of “buts“, (notably the figures present at this event, Islamophobia and the war on terror who seem to live in a world where Islamist Genociders do not exist except as a product of ‘imperialism’) we say this:

We are not prepared to engage in the dead-end of arguing about what is, or what is not, in the Qu’ran, or ‘Islam’.

But this is what one part of actually existing Islamism, Da’esh, Islamic State, right now.

Paraded in cages ‘to be burned alive’ like Jordanian pilot: ISIS releases video claiming to show 17 Kurdish fighters in humiliating procession through Iraqi city.

Each prisoner was accompanied by black clad and flag waving jihadis, some armed with AK-47s

Each prisoner was accompanied by black clad and flag waving jihadis, some armed with AK-47s

Coptic Christians Captured by Islamic State in Libya.

More on that story, International Business Times.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 15, 2015 at 11:44 am

Islamic State Targets Copts.

with one comment

copt

This story broke from Thursday onwards.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry is investigating the authenticity of pictures purportedly showing the Egyptian abductees in Libya, the Ministry Spokesman Badr Abdel Atty said on Thursday.

Twenty-one Coptic Egyptians were abducted in the Libyan city of Sirte on two separate occasions, only one week apart. Seven were kidnapped on December 31, 2014, while the remaining 14 were captured on January 3.

Pictures allegedly belonging to the abductees went viral on social media websites after they were published by a magazine affiliated with the Islamic State fighters. Those featured in the pictures were clad in orange, a colour usually signalling the captives’ death sentence by the group.

Late on Thursday, Egypt commenced emergency procedures to evacuate all Egyptian nationals wishing to return from Libya, reported state television.

Egyptian Streets.

IS tells reasons of kidnapping Egyptian Copts in Libya, Cairo follows up

“This month, the soldiers of the Khilāfah in Wilāyat Tarābulus captured 21 Coptic crusaders, almost five years after the blessed operation against the Baghdad church executed in revenge for Kamilia Shehata, Wafa Constantine, and other sisters who were tortured and murdered by the Coptic Church of Egypt. The operation was planned by Hudhayfah al-Battāwī (rahimahullāh), wālī of Wilāyat Baghdad at the time, alongside the senior military commander, Abū Ibrāhīm az- Zaydī (rahimahullāh), both of whom played a crucial role – through their passion and zealousness – in preserving the morale of the Islamic State,” the report continued.

“And so, five years after the blessed operation in Iraq, Allah (ta’ālā) granted the Islamic State expansion to Libya, Sinai, and elsewhere, allowing it to easily capture the Coptic crusaders-  the followers of the dead Shenouda and the supporters of the tāghūt Sisi – as the Salaf said,” the report said.

Priest Stephanos Shehata of of Samalout Coptic Orthodox Diocese in Minya (Upper Egypt) told Dostor newspaper Friday that IS (a.k.a. ISIS or ISIL)militants have asked for the release and appearance of those two women and escorting them to to Minya in order to release the 21 kidnapped Copts.

See: Original article by the Islamic State (PdF).

“The article was concluded with this call to kill Copts: “Finally, it is important for Muslims everywhere to know that there is no doubt in the great reward to be found on Judgment Day for those who spill the blood of these Coptic crusaders wherever they may be found…”

 While showing the Coptic abductees in death dress, there was no explicit mention of whether they have already been executed.”

Coptic Solidarity.

The BBC reports,

Egypt has offered to evacuate its citizens from Libya after Islamic State (IS) released photos which it says show 21 Coptic Egyptians kidnapped there.

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said Egyptians would be airlifted out of Libya, state-run news agency Mena said.

It came as a relative of one of those kidnapped told the BBC the victim’s family had “collapsed emotionally”.

A number of Egyptian Coptic Christians were kidnapped in two raids in Sirte, Libya, in December and January.

The pictures released by IS were published in the latest online edition of the group’s magazine Dabiq.

A statement from the office of Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said a special committee was closely following events in order to “clarify the situation and learn the truth”.

In Cairo, the families of the 21 hostages, who were working in Libya, have staged a protest accusing the president of not doing enough for them.

Speaking on Friday, an uncle of one of the kidnapped men said there was “an atmosphere of complete devastation” in his village following the publication of the pictures.

“We urge the president to exert his utmost efforts to bring our children back home,” said Bashir Zaki. “We elected him and love him, he shouldn’t neglect us.”

Written by Andrew Coates

February 14, 2015 at 12:36 pm

From the French Left, on Defending Charlie Hebdo, Pierre Rousset.

with one comment

Charlie Hebdo Rally: Generous and Open Republican Unity.

“Had the sect which was rising in Paris been a sect of mere scoffers, it is very improbable that it would have left traces of its existence in the institutions and manners of Europe.” “laughing at the Scriptures, shooting out the tongue at the sacraments, but ready to encounter principalities and powers in the cause of justice, mercy and toleration.”

Ranke’s History of the Popes. Thomas Babington Macauly. 1840

“An Englishman who professes really to like French realistic novels, really to be at home in a French modern theatre, really to experience no shock on first seeing the savage French caricatures, is making a mistake very dangerous for his own sincerity. He is admiring something he does not understand. He is reaping where he has not down, and taking up where he has not laid down; he is trying to taste the fruit when he has never toiled over the tree. He is trying to pluck the exquisite fruit of French cynicism when he has never tilled the rude but rich soil of French virtue.”

French and English. C.K.Chesterton. 1908.

In The Flying Inn (1914) G.K.Chesterton imagined a Britain in which Compulsory Temperance is introduced under Progressive Islam. A Muslim Preacher Misyra Ammon, the Prophet of the Moon, has appeared. He announces “English civilisation had been founded by the Turks; or perhaps by the Saracens after their victory in the Crusades.” Vegetarians, philanthropists, aristocratic Suffragettes, and Ethical Societies don fezzes, unite behind his Cause and the Imperial Commission for Liquor Control. Inns cannot serve alcohol without a sign. But all the signs have been abolished. Humphrey Pump and Captain Patrick Dalroy defy the order with an ambulant barrel of rum. Its location, shifts, “flies”.

Chesterton added that the League of the Red Rosette, “the formidable atheist and anarchist organisation” interrupts the new Prophet’s services. The novel approaches its end, when a “a coarse strip of red rag, possibly collected from a dust-bin” is “tied round the wooden sign-post by way of a red flag of revolution”. The ‘Turks’ are driven back.

The Flying Inn can be criticised in many respects –  not least of which is that I don’t find it very amusing. Its Edwardian racial and class stereotypes – and jokes – have not worn well. Recently another novel that imagines Islamic government in Europe has been published. I have not read Michael Houellebecq’s Soumission – a qualification that in British left terms gives me the right to talk about it for several paragraphs. It’s about a Muslim ruled France in 2022. President Ben Abbes, with the consent of his ‘centrist’ Prime Minister François Bayrou, introduces a through-going programme of Islamisation. The economy is run on “distributionist” lines, the (small) property-owning capitalism advocated by…C.K.Chesterton.

Whether the author of The Flying Inn would be charmed at this is less than certain. He would perhaps have felt more warmly towards this statement, “The real enemy of Muslims, what they loathe and fear above all, it’s Catholicism: it’s secularism, laïcité atheistic materialism.” (Soumission. Review. Christopher de Bellaigue. 7.2.15).

A Month After the Paris Murders.

Over the last month, after the slaughters at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket at the Porte de Vincennes, secularists and laïques have discovered friends, and many enemies. All are ‘appalled’ at the murders. But……laughing at the Scriptures, in this instance, by “savage caricatures”, has caused great offence. In Britain much – not all – of the left has been appalled by the “pornographic” representation of the Prophet. Many of them, as we have noted on this Blog, have become stern Instructors on the Noble Art of Satire, finding fault in the magazine’s ‘sadism’ and attacks on the apparently powerless institutions of the Mosque, the memory of the Church, and the faith of the marginalised and oppressed. Alain Badiou has even compared Charlie’s lapses of taste to Voltaire’s rudeness at the Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc.

The most persistent theme has been to call the paper racist. This is not confined to the English-speaking world, although this smear is frequent enough in certain circles here. Camille Emmanuelle, married to Charlie cartoonist, Luz, resumes the list of charges against the Weekly, “Charlie Hebdo «est devenu un journal raciste, homophobe, transphobe, sexiste et tout particulièrement islamophobe ». (Charlie Hebdo: être aimé par des cons, c’est dur, être haï par des amis, c’est pire). If it’s less common in France to say that Charlie ‘had it coming to them’ (a statement that immediately evokes…..and the people at Hyper-Cacher ?…) one can still sense that something of that spirit is there amongt the ‘leftists’ who rail against the Charlie ‘laïcards’ – god botherers.

In this context the intervention of Pierre Rousset, a veteran of the Trotskyist movement (Ligue communiste révolutionnaire, Fourth International) and the broader French left, in his article Après Charlie Hebdo et l’Hyper Cacher : penser le neuf, repenser l’ancien (11th February 2015) assumes its significance. Rousset begins his article by thanking those, (himself, and François Sabado included), who immediately expressed solidarity with Charlie. (1) He then passes to those who equally swiftly seized on the demonstrations of ‘national unity’ to fall back on their « routine » criticisms of the French state. Most importantly Rousset is concerned with those who attempt to « morally assassinate » the people who were « assassinated physically » the Charlie team.

Much of the piece is a response to another person associated with the Fourth International, Gilbert Achar, and his comments on the events. (What caused the killings? 3.2.15.) Achcar has claimed that French response was ‘what anybody would expect’ – although he adds that one should not exaggerate any parallels with the attack on the Twin Towers. Nevertheless a lot of police repression, and Islamophobia was aroused. The ‘core issue’ that emerged was the ‘condition of populations of immigrant origin inside France.’ The SOAS-based academic rejects out of hand any talk identifying Political Islam with Fascism. The responsibility for the emergence of violent jihadism lies with ‘the imperialist powers, and above all, the United States’.

While Achcar does not indulge in the ‘but…..’ analysis of the majority of Charlie’s enemies, he still lays into the weekly, “Charlie Hebdo is a blatant illustration of the left-wing arrogant secularism”.

For Rousset, on the contrary, the reaction in France was far from what “one would expect”. The great demonstration of January the 11th expressed a ‘non-exclusive solidarity’. They refused any amalgamation between Islam and terrorism. While there have been assaults on Muslims it was significant that this was decisively rejected by those saying Je Suis Charlie. Many immigrant and minority community  associations backed the post-‘attentats’ commemorations.

The Left’s Failure to Confront Fundamentalism.

The heart of Après Charlie Hebdo lies in the statement that the radical left is ill-equipped to deal with fundamentalism. In large part this is due to their own weak links with immigrant populations, or those (3rd generation) of migrant descent. But perhaps more significantly this left’s strategy is awry.

The far-left is, in Rousset’s eyes, fixated on the ‘main enemy ’ imperialism, and unable to see these political movements as forces that act in their own right. He notes that we are not dealing with unknown quantities, « Le rôle de l’islam politique au pouvoir (Egypte), puis des islamismes « radicaux » contre les révolutions populaires dans le monde arabe ont dans une large part clarifié le débat sur la nature progressiste ou non de ces courants politico-religieux. » The role of Political Islam in government (Egypt), and that of radical Islamists against the mass revolutions in the Arab world, has largely clarified the debate about their progressive nature of these political-religious currents.”

Political agents on the fringe of Islamism, the ‘sects’ that commit acts of terrorism, and the sectarian state of the Caliphate, have their own internal logic. They are the enemies of progressives – and the enemies of Muslims. The world, he notes, is not bounded by Chinese Walls: what happens ‘there’ affects us all ‘here’. We have to fight the Islamist reactionaries, and struggle against discrimination and racism, with Muslims, for a society of solidarity.

One group’s strategy is signaled out by Rousset, the British SWP. He notes their communiqué after the January massacres. It condemned the slaughter but found time to lay responsibility on Charlie Hebdo for its ‘ racist’ provocations.

This is what he has to say,

« On comprend que le SWP britannique réagit ainsi, car il lui faut effacer ses traces et faire oublier ses propres responsabilités. Il a été l’une des principales organisations de la gauche radicale à présenter la montée du fondamentalisme islamique comme l’expression d’un nouvel anti-impérialisme ; il a aussi rendu inaudible la parole des femmes qui, en Grande-Bretagne même, appelaient les milieux progressistes à les soutenir face à l’emprise fondamentaliste. »

It is understandable that the SWP reacts in this way: they had to cover their tracks, to hide their own responsibilities. The party has been one of the main organisations on the radical left to present the rise of fundamentalism as the expression of a new ‘anti-imperialism’. In this way the SWP has stifled the voices of women, who in the UK itself, have called on progressive groups to back them against the power of the fundamentalists

Defending Charlie, a Generous Republic and Secularism.

Rousset defends Charlie, without admiring every one of its cartoons, or contributors. He underlines their left-wing commitment, describing them as a slice of the left, not ‘one’ group. The accusation of racism is simply risible. The veteran Trotskyist notes that some of the cartoonists published in his own journal Rouge (Ligue Comministe Révolutionnaire). The victim, Charlie, is not ‘perfect’ he rightly says.

There are questions about who to satirise and who to not. It is right to be able to blaspheme, it’s the right of a free society based on laïcité. Whether it is worth giving such prominence to lampooning religious symbols so relentlessly remains an issue. One does not need to cede to Anglo-American cultural imperialism to become bored – even for this English admirer of French ‘savage satire’ – with 3rd Republic anti-clericalism. And yet…..there are indeed – all too visible – religious « principalities and powers » that need criticism in the name of justice.

The generous spirit of Rousset is displayed in the sorrow with which he considers the fate of those who fell in January, the individuals and their friends. There is not a shred of ‘arrogance’ in his writing. His optimism and humanity stands out in  Rousset’s endorsement of « unité républicaine » « une certaine idée généreuse de la République, d’une citoyenneté commune. » embracing those who lives in the margins, and for a fight against all the racisms (all the other forms of prejudice and discrimination, against the Rom onwards)  that exist in France, is profoundly stirring. We are far from harvesting the last crop from the  rich soil of French virtue.

(1) They observed of the 11th January demonstration, “Whatever the confusion in the minds of participants, their reaction and behaviour showed that the demonstrations were a tremendous expression of fraternal feeling. Participants chatted amongst themselves and helped one another move along amidst the crush of the masses of people who had gathered. Some scenes on the short-lived afternoons of the 10th and 11th brought back memories of the demonstrations of 1995 or even 1968, with solidarity as the dominant theme.”

“We are all Charlie” burst out as a cry of human solidarity against the murders. It captured a range of opinions. The idea of a “working-class Charlie” was even put forward – in order to link solidarity with the murdered journalists with the need to mobilize in defense of social rights. The formulation is open to debate, but the idea is a correct one in that it seeks to inject social and democratic content into the anger and sadness.

This is the groundswell from French society that has been expressed since January 7th and anti-capitalists should be part of it, engaging in dialogue with the millions of people who have been involved. These were not reactionary demonstrations. The dominant themes were not support for cross-party national unity or the law-and-order and anti-democratic measures announced by the government. Society went into action, spontaneously, and with a great deal of confusion, but in a progressive direction all the same. This is the starting point for our thinking and it’s in this framework that we must assess the problems that now confront us.”

I could not agree more – in my very bones!

Charlie Hebdo – And now what? The events, their impact and the issues at play. François Sabado, Pierre Rousset  23rd January. 2005.

Police across the Country Take a Keen Interest in Charlie Hebdo Readers.

with one comment

Subversive: Needs ‘Community Reassurance’.

This story hasn’t stopped developing:

Several British police forces have questioned newsagents in an attempt to monitor sales of a special edition of Charlie Hebdo magazine following the Paris attacks, the Guardian has learned.

Officers in Wiltshire, Wales and Cheshire have approached retailers of the magazine, it has emerged, as concerns grew about why police were attempting to trace UK-based readers of the French satirical magazine.

In at least two cases – in Wiltshire and in Presteigne, Wales – officers have requested that newsagents hand over the names of customers who bought the magazine.

“This is so ridiculous as to be almost laughable. And it would be funny if it didn’t reflect a more general worrying increase in abuse of police powers in invading privacy and stifling free speech in Britain,” said Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of free expression campaign group Index on Censorship.

“Does possessing a legally published satirical magazine make people criminal suspects now? If so, I better confess that I too have a copy of Charlie Hebdo.”

….

Five million copies of the magazine – which has a usual print run of around 60,000 – were published in a special edition, with about 2,000 of them reportedly distributed in the UK.

If you are a newsagent or reader who has experienced police contact related to Charlie Hebdo, please get in contact using the form below. Reading on mobile? Click here to complete the form.

Note: I too have a copy!

Cde Sarah AB  asks,

Why are the police so interested in Charlie Hebdo readers?

…….

These incidents have not escaped the eagle-eyes of French newshounds,

La police anglaise voulait ficher les lecteurs de «Charlie Hebdo»

Libération asks, “Acheter Charlie Hebdo est-il devenu si subversif que cela mérite d’être fiché ?”

Has buying Charlie Hebdo become so subversive that it means ending up on Police Files?

This is the rozzers’ explanation (Dyfed-Powys),

“Visits were made to newsagents who were maybe distributing the Charlie Hebdo magazine to encourage the newsagent owners to be vigilant. We can confirm the visits were only made to enhance public safety and to provide community reassurance.

We can think of more than a few people on the oh-so-British left who’d probably agree with the Police.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 11, 2015 at 12:07 pm

New Left Review (Verso) ‘abridges’ Badiou on Anti-Semite Charlie Massacre.

with one comment

Abridged Version Available on Verso Blogs.

There is a debate about  a translation of Alain Badiou’s Le Rouge et le Tricolore on the Verso Blog (New Left Review).

Alain Badiou analyses the events of the Charlie Hebdo attack in their global and national contexts, making the case for the incompatibility of the red flag of communism with the Tricolore of French national identity.”

Badiou considered the attack on Charlie and the Kosher supermarket to be  fascist.

He made these observations to back up the assertion.

Le Monde version.

D’abord, il est ciblé, et non pas aveugle, parce que sa motivation est idéologique, de caractère fascisant, ce qui veut dire strictement identitaire : nationale, raciale, communautaire, coutumière, religieuse… En la circonstance, les tueurs sont antisémites. Souvent le crime fasciste vise des publicistes, des journalistes, des intellectuels ou des écrivains que les tueurs estiment représentatifs du bord opposé.

Verso (Dave Broder translation),

A fascist-type crime, in my view, has three characteristics.

Firstly, it is not blind, but targeted: its motivation is an ideological one, of a fascistic character, which means a narrowly identitarian one: national, racial, communal, folk, religious… In this case, the murderers visibly targeted three identities that classical fascism often attacked: journalists considered to represent the enemy camp, policemen defending the hated parliamentary order, and Jews…

Read rest on Verso site.

Tendance Coatesy’s gloss on this section of the article (from Alain Badiou on Charlie Hebdo, Le Rouge et le Tricolore. A Critical Appraisal.)  arguing why the slaughter was fascist, “It was first of all targeted, and not random, next the motivation was of a fascist nature, from an identity, in this case anti-Semitic.

Why is the word “anti-Semitic” (as in  les tueurs sont antisémites, the killers are antisemites)  left out?

Apparently, the translation is not of the Le Monde article linked at the end, but supposedly some earlier, longer version, which is for some reason not available online.”

This is the Mediapart version:

D’abord, il est ciblé, et non pas aveugle, parce que sa motivation est idéologique, de caractère fascisant, ce qui veut dire : stupidement identitaire, nationale, raciale, communautaire, coutumière, religieuse… En la circonstance, les assassins avaient visiblement comme cibles trois identités souvent visées par le fascisme classique : les publicistes considérés comme du bord opposé, les policiers défendant l’ordre parlementaire haï, et les Juifs.

Certainly it does not mention anti-Semitism.

But as this is close to the crux of Badiou’s rhetoric (I was going to say argument, but the whole article is more a sustained exercise in rhetorical fireworks than a calmly laid out set of reasons).

Badiou has himself been accused of anti-Semitism (for calling Sarkozy – mother’s father, Jewish –  ‘l’homme aux rats’).

It is therefore of more than causal importance.

Why, then, was the term absent in the Verso piece?

The audience for the Le Monde article is, on any definition, greater than that of Medipart’s.

So why not go for the stuff people have actually read in France?

Another comment, “It is interesting to note what the Le Monde chose to leave out”

To coin a phrase, if Le Monde ‘abridged’ then, here, in the case of this translation, we have Vice Verso.

Perhaps there is a wider background.

This is what New Left Review veteran Tariq Ali thought about the murders at Charlie (no mention of the Kosher supermarket at the Porte de Vinceness, or  anti-Semitism at all).

How serious is Islamophobia in France and other European countries?

France is the worst in Europe and tries to mask it by proclaiming its secular values (sound familiar?), but these values don’t apply to Islam. In fact, French secularism means anything but Islam. And when satirical magazines taunt them, they react. It’s as simple as that.

Outlook.

It may well this is the message which New Left Review and Verso intends to broadcast, above any other.

There is plenty of self-indulgent cack on the Verso site to endorse this judgement on their ‘angle’ about Charlie Hebdo.

Item: Frédéric Lordon writes on the commemoration demonstrations for all those killed in the Islamist massacres,

Sunday’s marches above all saw the educated bourgeoisie contemplating its own strength and giving in to its self-enchantment. It’s not certain, however, that this makes for a ‘country’ or even a ‘people’, as we may well soon have good reason to remind ourselves.

One can see Ali rubbing his hands at many of Badiou’s own comments on Charlie Hebdo’s humour, such as these,

It may be amusing for the comfortably-off, but it is an indulgent ‘Western’ provocation against not only vast popular masses in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, but also a very large section of the working population in France itself

These are all points where lurid cultural racism fuses with blind hostility, crass ignorance and the fear that the vast mass of Africans or banlieue residents – the wretched of the earth – inspires in the hearts of our self-satisfied petty-bourgeois.

But……

Badiou mentions ‘anti-Semitism’.

Well –  it’s not important? 

Protest Against Charlie Hebdo’s “uncivilised expressionists” as Police take “an interest” in those who buy our Weekly.

with 6 comments

The rally was organised by the Muslim Action Forum, which expressed 'deep regret' at the Paris terror attacks

“Insult Mum and I will Punch You” (Pope Francis…)

1000s of Muslims including Scholars and Spiritual Leaders shall protest outside Downing Street to denounce the uncivilised expressionists reprinting of the cartoon image of the Holy Prophet Muhammad peace be upon Him. MAF once again invites the world to the Declaration of Global Civility. The global Muslim community shall not be hijacked by coldblooded killers or uncivilised expressionists.

Muslim Action Forum. (MAF)

Hat-Tip JB.

Apparently this all part of a campaign for “global civility”.

Petition:

  • I believe that through mutual consideration and the revival of civility as a shared medium of dialogue we are better equipped to reconstructing a more enlightened society.
  •  I endorse emphatically the Declaration of Global Civility drafted by the campaigners of Global Civility
  • I call upon the British Parliament to table a debate in both Houses of Parliament to discuss the endorsement of the Declaration of Global Civility.
  •  I call upon all civilised people and institutions globally to disassociate themselves from any actions that are an affront to global civility. I denounce the actions of all those people who are connected with the production of the cartoons of the Holy Prophet Muhammad peace be upon Him and believe that these actions are an affront to the norms of civilised society.

Number of signatures: 106893

One of the key points on the Declaration of ‘global civility’ is a call to curb what people say, or ” Reckless and malicious expressions will lead to vilification and demonisation of each other and our communities. “

In other words, say something we don’t like, “an affront to the norms of civilised society”and…….

This is  one of  their ‘civil responses’ (from Facebook Page).

Be careful, be very careful, or…….

Some of Sunday’s marchers take inspiration from a (cinema advertisement) by the Prophet Alan Partridge.

Newspaper report on protest.

Thousands of British Muslims gathered near Downing Street to protest against cartoons showing the prophet Muhammad and voice opposition to “insulting” depictions.

A leaflet issued by the Muslim Action forum (MAF), who organised the rally, said recent republishing of cartoons, caricatures and depictions of Muhammad by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and other publishers is a “stark reminder” that freedom of speech is “regularly utilised to insult personalities that others consider sacred”.

The group also expressed “deep regret” at the Paris terror attacks, which included a massacre at Charlie Hebdo, saying they were a “violation of Islamic law”.

The words “Charlie and the abuse factory” and “learn some manners” were written on signs held by demonstrators. A number of speakers addressed the crowd while there were communal prayers before a delegation took a petition signed by more than 100,000 British Muslims to 10 Downing Street.

It calls for “global civility” and says the production of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad are “an affront to the norms of civilised society”.

Shaykh Tauqir Ishaq, a senior spokesman for MAF, said: “Perpetual mistakes by extremists, either by cold-blooded killers or uncivilised expressionists, cannot be the way forward for a civilised society. The peace-loving majority of people must become vociferous in promoting global civility and responsible debate. At this time of heightened tension and emotion, it is crucial that both sides show restraint to prevent further incidents of this nature occurring.”

Shaykh Noor Siddiqi, another MAF representative, said: “The actions of the UK media in not publishing the cartoons is highly appreciated by British Muslims and we hope that this kind of self-restraint and mutual respect will ultimately lead to a harmonious society.”

Across the street on Whitehall a handful of counter demonstrators holding a Britain First banner gathered.

Scotland Yard said it was not aware of any arrests during the protest.

Guardian.

More reporting in the Telegraph.

The MAF site cites ‘blasphemy law’ as a restriction on free speech.

Blasphemy Laws – seeks to restrict hateful literature being published that is “reviling”, “scurrilous” or even “ludicrous matter” relating to Christian concepts. The specifically relate to the Christian God, Jesus Christ, the Christian Bible or the Christian Book of Common Prayer.

It fails to mention this: “On May 8, 2008, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 abolished the common-law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel in England and Wales, with effect from 8 July 2008.”

We have further questions: 

It’s strange march for “civility” that includes people who cite the Pope’s notorious statement that nobody should be allowed to “insult” the faith of others.

Religions routinely  insult other people by their claim that only one set of believers are ‘saved’.

Hitting people for saying things, “a punch in the nose” – even about our mothers – is not normally called civilised.

Even if we believe that a religion is talking about real people.

But then the MAF carries images of people carrying placards saying, “We love the prophet Muhammed more than our lives.”

Some unkind people might call that blind fanaticism.….

And…….

It would be interesting to have a full list of the “scholars” and “spiritual leaders” on this threatening demonstration.

The MAF site states that it’s backed by the “major Muslim organisations in the UK” .

Which ones?

Meanwhile the Police in Wiltshire are doing their best to keep on eye on “uncivilised expressionists” by drawing up a list of people who buy Charlie Hebdo.

Your offer of commemorative badges in support of journalistic freedom highlighting “Je suis Charlie”, prompts me to suggest a degree of caution following my experience. Tongue in cheek, I asked my helpful newsagents to obtain a copy of the edition of Charlie Hebdo issued after the dreadful massacre in Paris, if indeed a copy was ever available in north Wiltshire. To my surprise, a copy arrived last Wednesday week and although the standard of content in no way matches that of the Guardian I will cherish it. However, two days later a member of Her Majesty’s police service visited said newsagent, requesting the names of the four customers who had purchased Charlie Hebdo. So beware, your badges may attract police interest in your customers.
Anne Keat
Corsham, Wiltshire

Guardian.

Update: Police Apology.

Wiltshire police issue apology for seeking details of Charlie Hebdo readers after Paris attacks. Full story soon.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 9, 2015 at 12:04 pm

The Very Political Nudity of Golshifteh Farahani.

leave a comment »

La comédienne a été chassée d'Iran en 2008.

The Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, has posed nude in the irregularly published  French photography magazine, «Égoïste».

Libération has just published the picture.

This gives some background.

Exiled Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani has sent a message of defiance again to the ruling Ayatollahs in Tehran by appearing completely naked on the cover of French magazine Egoïste, French media reported on Thursday.

“France has liberated me,” the 31-year-old actress told the magazine, according to the daily 20 minutes daily newspaper.

Paris “is the only place in the world where women do not feel guilty. In the East, you are that [guilty] all the time. As soon as you feel your first sexual impulses,” she added.

The winner of Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and Best Narrative Feature at Tribeca Film Festival in 2009 was reportedly informed by Iranian authorities in 2012 that she was not welcome home anymore.

Days after the video was released an official of the supreme court of the Islamic Republic reportedly called her family in Tehran and shouted at her father, telling him, according to The Guardian, that she would be “punished, that her breasts would be cut off and presented to him on a plate.”

Her ban from returning to Iran came after she revealed her right breast in a black-and-white video with 30 other French cinema “young hopes” to promote the Césars, considered the “French Oscars.” Farahani had been nominated for her role in “Si Tu Meurs, Je Te Tue” (If You Die, I’ll Kill You). The Iranian actress has also posed nude for French magazine Madame Figaro.

“I was told by a Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guide official that Iran does not need any actors or artists. You may offer your artistic services somewhere else,” Farahani said, according UK daily The Telegraph.

Farahani is known for her role opposite American stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe in “Body of Lies” and is the first Iranian woman who starred in a major Hollywood movie since the country’s 1979 revolution.

Al Arbaiya News. 

In Libération, the Iranian sociologist Chahla Chafiq, author of Islam, politique, sexe et genre (PUF) is cited.

She states” The obligation to wear a veil symbolises sexualised boundaries. It confirms in this way the body of a woman as a place upon which the community places its honour, denying the freedom and autonomy of women. Golshifteh Farahan’s act has broken that wall. “…l’obligation du voile symbolise les frontières sexuées. Il confirme par cela la conception du corps de la femme comme un lieu où s’inscrit l’honneur communautaire, niant ainsi la liberté et l’autonomie des femmes. L’acte de Golshifteh Farahan vient casser ce mur).

More from Egoïste.

Wikipedia (English): Golshifteh Farahani.

Socialist Unity Defends Galloway and Attacks “Free Speech Merchants” who Defend Charlie Hebdo.

with 6 comments

Happier Times: Galloway with a Respectful Listener. 

This week’s Question Time included George Galloway on the panel.

Galloway did not appreciate his robust reception.

The Huffington Post reports,

After an bruising appearance on Question Time Thursday night, George Galloway is appealing to the public to complain to the BBC about his treatment.

Galloway posted a telephone number, instructing his 234,000 followers: “to call to register your complaints about the lynch-mob masquerading as @bbcquestiontime last night. Please do.”

….Upon leaving the show, Galloway tweeted that his car had been “kicked and thumped”, though footage later posted on YouTube shows the 60-year-old climbing into a car apparently unmolested as police officers stand by.

A small crowd can be heard shouting at Galloway asking him: “Why are you an anti-Semite?” but the car leaves without delay.

Twitter user BaggyBrett remarked: “It wasn’t an attack. It was a demo against him. He’s glorifying it for the sake of creating his agenda.”

The controversy has yet to die down.

To John Wight on Socialist Unity.

Someone tweeted last night after the show ‘Je Suis George Galloway’. It is hard to argue with that sentiment after the attempted political and public lynching of the Respect MP on Question Time.

In the same article he ventured this view,

The free speech ‘merchants’, those who were so up in arms over matters related to the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, who use free speech as a sword rather than a shield, would like nothing more than to silence one of the only voices in the country’s national life who dares challenge the demonisation of Muslims and the Muslim community, establishment support for the apartheid state of Israel, and a political status of quo of military intervention overseas and social and economic injustice at home.

While disagreeing with the poster Socialist Unity showed its dedication to free speech by letting this comment on Wight’s piece stand,

This show was A disgrace to democracy and stunk of being set up by The Jewish Lobby within the BBC, I demand A full investigation into the Production team and other involved.

More, from a very different angle, on the Galloway Show: here.

These are Galloway’s views on Charlie Hebdo,

Footage has emerged showing firebrand MP George Galloway condemning the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for producing “pornographic, obscene insults” against the Prophet Muhammad.

….we condemn utterly the murder of 17 people in the events in Paris. But we will not allow this Charlie Hebdo magazine to be described as a king of loveable, anarchic, fun book of cartoons.

“These are not cartoons, these are not depictions of the Prophet, these are pornographic, obscene insults to the Prophet and by extension, 1.7billion human beings on this earth and there are limits.

“There are limits. There limits to free speech and free expression especially in France.”

Galloway described the newspaper’s purpose as “to further marginalize, further alienate and further endanger exactly those parts of the community who are already alienated, already endangered. It is a racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag.”

“Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo,” he declared.

Galloway has also offered to teach satirists how to do satire (a crowded field),

View image on Twitter

 

 

Update: this is brilliant and essential reading: Why Blasphemy law is unpardonable: a pre-emptive attack on IERA debate.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2015 at 11:54 am

After Kobane, Where Now for the Kurdish Liberation Movement?

with one comment

  Three YPG fighters in Kobane shortly after they liberated the city from ISIS militants in January. Photo: AFP

Three YPG fighters in Kobane shortly after they liberated the city from ISIS militants in January. Photo: AFP

Kurdish forces advance miles outside Kobane, retake 100 villages

 By Omar Kalo (Rudaw)

KOBANE—Kurdish forces continue to push Islamic State (ISIS) militants out of the Kobane area and have retaken more than 100 villages from the extremist group in the past two weeks.

Fighters of the Peoples Protection Units (YPG) have now reached the village of Karamox, 20 kilometers east of Kobane.

In their advance against ISIS, the YPG fighters are supported by Peshmerga artillery and coalition airstrikes.

Since they drove out ISIS militants from the city last month after 133 days of fighting, the Kurdish forces have advanced against the Islamist group in all directions and reclaimed many of the villages that fell to the group in September.

Last week, the YPG fighters took back the village of Kofi, 25 kilometers south of Kobane as well as the village of Rovi on the main road between Kobane and Aleppo.

On the western front, the Kurdish forces are now positioned 20 kilometers away at Karako village.

YPG commanders inside the city told Rudaw that 15 ISIS militants fled the Kurdish advance west of Kobane on Friday and crossed the border into Turkey.

Autonomy in Kurdistan  Matt Petersen & Joen Vedel

From the Kurdish Question.

After driving ISIS from Kobane, the Kurdish liberation movement considers their successes and looks forward toward the continuing struggle for autonomy.

Last week, we met with Hilmi Aydoğdu, Presidency Council member of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK)* at DTK offices in Amed, Kurdistan.

This was just days after the YPG (People’s Defense Units) won a months long battle with ISIS, liberating the city of Kobane. Since our interview, the YPG and other Kurdish fighters have continued to retake surrounding villages in the Kobane Canton, which is one of three autonomous communes in Rojava, the majority Kurdish area of northern Syria.

Earlier this fall, as images of the women warriors of the YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) circulated widely in Western news and social media, radical movements worldwide began to take a renewed interest in the Kurdish freedom movement. This led many to closely study the DTK’s July 2011 declaration of “democratic autonomy” within Turkey. We visited Amed (Diyarbakir), in southeastern Anatolia, which is the political capital of the Kurdish movement, and the headquarters of many of its political organizations, to meet with participants in the movement and learn more about the current Kurdish struggle.

We asked Hilmi what the recent liberation of Kobane meant for the Kurdish movement; about the implementation of democratic autonomy and confederalism within both Rojava and Turkey; and the role of the Kurdish movement as a secular force in the Middle East.

• • •

The main purpose of the Kurdish struggle is the freedom of Kurdish people in all of Kurdistan. What we understand by freedom includes self-rule and independence in terms of using our own economic and natural resources. This is what we call democratic autonomy.

In the Middle East there are many different ethnic communities, many religions and belief systems. It is possible that these people can live together and share their riches with each other, by abolishing the oppression and exploitation in the Middle East. What we call confederalism is the system that includes all these communities and peoples. And to achieve this, we first have to struggle for the democratic autonomy of Kurdistan, and then to spread it to the rest of the region.

This democratic autonomy entails a restructuring of society. We have a struggle that took 40 years, and within this process all the social values and norms in Kurdistan have been drastically transformed. The clearest sign of this social transformation is the women’s struggle. In Kurdistan women were experiencing a double slavery; they were slaves of the system and the slaves of men as well. Our struggle has contributed to the participation of women in all of social life. What we see in Kobane represents this transformation. We believe that a free society is not possible without the freedom and participation of women, demonstrated by the presence of women in every field of life and work.

Our 40 years of struggle revitalized an almost annihilated people. In this 40 year struggle the labor and creative power of women has played a key role. In Kobane, women were fighting shoulder to shoulder with men. The success of Kobane comes from this. The true power behind this success is the actualization of the highest level of creativity, power, and spirit of women. This is the only way for the liberation of our people. The role of women was decisive in Kobane.

The model of democratic autonomy has been realized in Rojava. The building of this model is experienced now in three cantons. Our people, together with other communities living in Rojava, have gained an initiative over their lives within the form of equal representation. Now these people together try to share social prosperity in an equal manner.

For the question of how Syria is going to be liberated, the replacement of Assad with another dictator is not a solution. Rojava proposes a solution to exploitative capitalist modernity in the Middle East. This proposition has disturbed both the reactionaries and imperial powers. They were afraid that Rojava could be an exemplary model, and so they organized ISIS and unleashed them to attack Rojava.

The cantons of Rojava are totally democratic. Whole religious sections are able to represent themselves thanks to the model of democratic autonomy in Rojava, and its spirit of social solidarity. The factor that expelled ISIS is this model of governance, because this model actualizes the dynamics, energy, and potential in people. When we totally expel ISIS, Rojava will achieve further political, economic, social and cultural improvements.

What we express as democratic autonomy/confederalism is a model against capitalist modernity. The primary dynamic of this model is the Kurdish freedom movement. The fascist military coup in 1980 totally crushed the revolutionary opposition in Turkey and it created an intimidated society. The Kurdish movement from the very beginning ceaselessly resisted this fascism. They organized vast resistance in the prisons and began armed struggle on August 15th, 1984. The ceaseless resistance of this movement relied on its power of organizing a philosophy of life, and acted solely by relying on its own power. This movement exposed a vital social power.

The paradigm of the Kurdish movement includes the transformation of not only the Kurds, but also all the oppressed sectors in Turkish society. Therefore the gains of the Kurdish movement have direct impact on the other social sectors in Turkey. However, the role that the Kurds play on the transformation of other oppressed sectors of Turkey could have been larger. The 1980 military coup waged a psychological war, especially through the media, which created a perception in the society that those in the Kurdish freedom movement were monsters. This is an ongoing process. Our struggle has damaged this perception to some extent, but it is still present in Turkish society. The damage of the military coup on the Turkish Left also restrains the impact of the Kurdish freedom movement on Turkish society. If the Turkish Left was not fragmented and dispersed as they are now, the opportunities that the Kurdish movement creates could have been better realized in Turkish society. This is an important disadvantage for the Kurdish struggle.

The Kurdish movement is the only movement that aims at creating a democratic social life in the Middle East. Moreover, the Kurdish movement is the only movement that sees the togetherness of different values of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and other belief systems as a strength and opportunity for developing a social system. There is no other movement in the Middle East that pursues such a democratic social model. I wish there was. If so, they could fight together in solidarity.

The Kurdish movement, especially following the path of leadership, changed the color of the whole Middle East. The reforms that took place in Europe in 14th and 15th centuries have been rapidly experienced in Kurdish society in the last 40 years, such as liberation in culture, art, gender relations, a new democratic perspective, organization of all sections of society on the basis of politics, civil society, and gender. We saw the invincibility of an organized society in Rojava and in Kobane particular. The Kurdish freedom movement is an alternative for both Turkey and the Middle East because it has organized itself in all fields–military, cultural, and beliefs–as an alternative system that is adaptive to contemporary needs.

* Hilmi Aydoğdu was formerly chair of the DTP (Democratic Society Party), a Kurdish political party that was banned by the Turkish government in 2009. The DTP was succeeded by the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party), which last year merged with the HDP (People’s Democratic Party). The HDP plans to run in the June 2015 general elections as a broad alliance party, including both the Kurdish movement and the Turkish Left opposition, where it hopes to reach the 10% threshold to join Turkey’s Grand National Assembly

* The DTK (Democratic Society Congress) is an umbrella organization for the Kurdish movement founded in 2005, as a confederation of civil society organizations, political parties, and individual members of diverse ethnic, political, and religious groups.

Originally published in The New Inquiry (http://thenewinquiry.com/features/autonomy-in-kurdistan/)

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2015 at 11:12 am

The SWP (Socialist Review) Instructs Charlie Hebdo on How to do Satire.

with 9 comments

Tim Sanders * in Socialist Review tells satirists how they should do satire….

“The savage killing of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and journalists by terrorists in Paris is utterly contemptible, but not inexplicable.”

And,

There’s been a vocal campaign extolling the “western values” of free speech and the right to offend, claiming that satire should be free from constraints and able to offend indiscriminately. This is where I part company with the satirists of Charlie Hebdo. The point of satire is to attack the powerful, to expose their hypocrisy and absurdity, and of course to be funny. If satire is directed downwards it is not satire, it’s bullying.

And, on Charlie (which he suddenly on expert on),

Sadly Charlie Hebdo had been drifting away from its roots in the revolutionary events of France 1968 for some time. In the aftermath of 9/11 its output became blatantly Islamophobic and increasingly Zionist. They carried cartoons which were vile racist caricatures of the sort I haven’t seen since the National Front and BNP published such stuff in the 1970s and 1980s. Worse, some of the anti-Arab cartoons are so stereotypical that the addition of a Star of David would immediately turn them into the sort of anti-Semitic filth produced by the Nazi Third Reich. These are images designed to offend and humiliate a marginalised and persecuted minority. Yet they went largely unchallenged.

Ach…Zionist – what would racism be like without ‘Zionism’?

Not that there is any evidence of this, or the rest – gleaned no doubt from Sander’s quick Google of the Front Pages of (16 page long) Charlie Hebdo.

But there are rules of satire – which is seems have to be followed.

Expliquez-nous les règles cher Maître de conférences…..

“Satire should spear the powerful.”

 But printing nasty and bad taste cartoons, attacking religious authority,  is beyond the pale.

They get a magic card, if they are ‘Muslims’ (as if all people from an Islamic background remain ‘Muslims’ for ever) showing that they are not “rich and powerful”.

Many might indicate that the Islamists and other religious bigots have both of these qualities.

The Mosque’, like ‘The Church’ (all exceptions counted), has wealth, whatever the believers’ money.

Back to the “rules”:

Satire: Do not do anything that might help ‘the state’.

Satire: do not laugh at Muslims,

This is worse than bullying; it is satire in the ideological service of the state (and Charlie Hebdo receives a hefty subsidy from the French government). Islamophobia is not satire. Laughing at Muslims is like sharing a joke with the Nazis of the Front National. And I don’t think any cartoonist worth their salt would relish the idea of their deaths being mourned by the likes of Netanyahu, Hollande, Merkel and the other world leaders who headed up the march in Paris after the killings.

There are some things – religious figures (Charlie only attached gods, prophets, religious dignitaries, and fanatical activists, from Catholic ‘ultras’ to  Islamist ‘barbus’ ) – which are too sacred for SWP supporters to satirise….

Any laughter is…bullying – from a small circulation weekly which nobody is obliged to read.

Charlie is apparently proved guilty by the character of those who (officially) mourned the deaths….

Oh, and Charlie received money from the French state after the atrocity.

But Tim Sanders can’t be bothered to mention this fact.

The sight of these champions of free speech (the same ones who have banned Muslim women from wearing the veil and outlawed pro-Palestine demonstrations) marching in the name of free expression seems almost beyond parody. Fortunately many cartoonists and satirists have already proved this fear wrong with merciless exposure of these hypocrites. I have a radical, non-satirical idea to prevent further atrocities like this: How about not invading other people’s countries?

No mention of the Jewish victims in the Kosher supermarket: Yoav Hattab, 21, the son of the Chief Rabbi of Tunis, Philippe Braham, in his 40s, Yohan Cohen, 22 and Francois-Michel Saada, in his 60s.

Perhaps they were also “Zionists”.

One assumes that they should have stopped invading ‘other people’s countries’ as well.

In any case, Charlie was ridiculing a “a marginalised and persecuted minority” (what is the evidence for the persecution by the way – are Muslims as Muslims prevented from following their religion in France?).

The slaughter was not “inexplicable”.

For the SWP it is eminently explicable.

They had it coming to them.

*****

No doubt following this, and in line with the policy of “unconditional support for Muslim communities”, the SWP will back the prosecution of Charlie Hebdo for blasphemy in Ireland,

The sale of the Charlie Hebdo magazine published after the Paris atrocity is threatening to become the first major test of the Irish Republic’s blasphemy law, Muslim representatives and secularists have warned.

Ireland’s Islamic Cultural Centre has said the presence of a depiction of the prophet Muhammad on the front page of the satirical publication, on sale now in Irish shops, is a clear breach of the country’s blasphemy legislation.

The Irish Republic is the only nation in Europe to have introduced a blasphemy law in the 21st century. Secular and atheist groups in Ireland have been campaigning for its abolition since it came into being in 2010 – the last year of the Fianna Fáil-Green government.

The advocacy group Atheist Ireland is to meet the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, in Dublin next Tuesday, to urge the taoiseach to hold a referendum on abolishing the law before the general election in 2016.

Ahmed Hasain, the executive secretary of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Dublin, said: “In our view, the sale of this magazine is a breach in Irish law. It is blasphemous and it is illegal under the legislation. It’s against the law here in Ireland, that is quite clear.”

Hasain said that while the centre has not decided whether or not to lodge a complaint to the Irish authorities, individuals or groups have the right under Irish law to use the legislation to prosecute those distributing the magazine since last week.

He described the law introduced by the former Fianna Fáil justice minister, Dermot Ahern, as very helpful. “It’s good that the law is in place as it protects every faith,” he said.

Michael Nugent, writer and co-founder of Atheist Ireland, agreed with Hasain that technically speaking the sale of around 1,500 copies of the Charlie Hebdo edition in the state had breached the blasphemy law.
Advertisement

He said: “The Charlie Hebdo cartoons seem to meet the first test of the Irish law, that is that it is ‘grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion’. The next test in the law is ‘thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion’.

“So if anyone wants to try to have a prosecution brought, [cases must be brought by the state ] what they would have to do is demonstrate that outrage has been caused. But it would be irresponsible to encourage or show outrage at a time like this. People who are offended should respond more proportionately than by showing outrage. That is a major flaw in the Irish law – it encourages outrage.”

Ahead of its meeting with the taoiseach, Atheist Ireland announced a new international campaign against blasphemy laws. The organisation has joined forces with secular groups from Britain, Canada, Iceland, the US and New Zealand. They are organising an online global petition against laws which they say “legitimise mob violence, vigilantism, and persecution of minorities”.

Prof Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion, has advised Atheist Ireland to keep up the pressure in the republic to repeal the law.

“Of course you are right that the major damage done by this legislation is the international one,” he told the organisation. “I wouldn’t expect any harsh verdicts being handed down in Ireland, but those countries that continue to have an intimidating anti-blasphemy practice like to quote European countries to unmask western hypocrisy.”

Blasphemy in Ireland is a crime punishable with a fine of up to €25,000 (£19,000).

Guardian.

* Background:

Tim Sanders was born on 8 October 1957 in Castle Donnington, Leicestershire. He attended the King Edward VI School in Lichfield from 1970 to 1976, and studied at the Harrow School of Art from 1976 to 1979, specialising in illustration and leaving with “a perfect ability to draw fire extinguishers”.

Sanders draws pocket cartoons and political cartoons, using the signature “Tim”. He was cartoonist for the Socialist Worker, and in 1995 a collection of his cartoons was published as “In the Heat of the Scribble.” In 1999 Sanders began working as pocket cartoonist for the Independent, replacing Chris Priestley.

As well as working for The Independent and Independent on Sunday, Sanders has drawn cartoons and illustrations for a range of publications, including The Guardian, Observer, Daily Telegraph, Mail on Sunday You Magazine, Nursing Times, Broadcast, and Red Pepper. Sanders is also a Spanish speaker and a scholar of Hispanic art.

Sanders is not cited, I note, as a fluent French speaker.

“Disparition”, Yemeni photographer Bushra Almutawakel: Challenging

leave a comment »

Disparition (disappearance). Bushra Almutawake.

Global Voices comments (from Eloïse Lagrenée):

“Disparition” by Yemeni photographer Bushra Almutawakel, illustrating how women could vanish into darkness and invisibility, step by step, under fundamentalist pressure and the full niqab.”

Hat-Tip: SH.

From Slate: Bushra Almutawakel says,

“I want to be careful not to fuel the stereotypical, widespread negative images most commonly portrayed about the hijab/veil in the Western media. Especially the notion that most, or all women who wear the hijab/veil, are weak, oppressed, ignorant, and backwards,” Almutawakel explained. Her photographs question the place of gender in a more subtle, often playful, way by challenging people’s expectations.

Yet Almutawakel’s way of pushing boundaries doesn’t amuse everyone. “Some men—even some Western-educated men—could not find the humour in What If, ” Almutawakel said in an email. “Some of them asked me if I was supporting the idea that men wear the veil instead of women.”

Almutawakel’s latest project for the hijab series shows how men’s traditional clothing can be similar to women’s in the Middle East. Her pictures show a woman dressed in long, loose masculine outfits that include a head covering.

By offering different ways of looking at the hijab, Almutawakel conveys a bigger picture—a picture that is far from being just black and white.”

Slate Magazine.

About the Artist

Boushra Y. Almutawakel studied in the USA and Yemen and was a founding member of the Al-Halaqa in Sana’a, an artists’ group which created a space for discourse and exhibitions and forged links with international artists. Boushra has worked as a photographer for the United Nations, CARE International, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, the Social Organisation for Family Development, the National Institute for Health Education, The British Council, The French Embassy,and many others, while pursuing her own personal photographic projects. In 1999, she was honoured as the first Yemeni Woman Photographer, with a number of other Yemeni women pioneers by the Empirical Research and Women’s Studies Centre at Sana’a University.

In 2001 Boushra won a World Studio Foundation Scholarship toward her study for a Diploma in Advertising Photography at the Portfolio Centre, Atlanta, USA, completing the program in 2002.  As a photo student, she won Mac on Campus (1st place),Show South (gold), among others and her work was published in CMYK magazine (2001-2) and GraphisNew Talent Design Annual (2002).

Boushra worked as a consultant on cultural affairs for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington (2002-3) and organised a series of events in the DC area, as part of the  ‘Windows on the Cultural Heritage of Yemen”, a symposium at the Smithsonian, as well as exhibits, lectures, concerts and film screenings on Yemen. From 2005-2006 she worked at the Ministry of Human Rights in Sana’a, focusing on women’s issues, while also pursuing her photography.

Her work has been acquired by the British Museum in London, The Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, the Barjeel Foundation, as well as by other well known collectors. Boushra Almutawakel currently works and lives in Sana’a, with her husband and their four lovely daughters. “

Muslima.

In the images of ‘disparition’ (disappearing) it’s hard not to see the critique of enforced religious dress codes indicated on Global Voices.

Aesthetically one can say that this photo series has both ‘significant form’ and ‘significant content’ – indicating, through everyday images,  the political and gendered significance of a developing, ever more enveloping, Islamic dress codes.

Or, more simply: Disparition  is sharp and right to the point. 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 4, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA) rejects any Electoral Unity with the Front de Gauche (FdG).

with one comment

 

No Syriza Style Left Unity for NPA. 

At its weekend – 3rd – Congress the majority of the NPS has decided to “turn the page” on electoral discussions with the different groupings in the Front de gauche (FdG).

From Libération (adapted).

If the NPA will join alongside the FdG “in struggles” there is no longer any question of talks with them about electoral alliances.

For the coming departmental and regional elections of 2015, and for the 2017 Presidential elections, the NPA will not ally with the Front de gauche, said Ludovic Wolfgang, spokesperson for the new majority. We will not discuss with them the possibility or not of presenting a candidate.

He did not rule out an agreement with Lutte Ouvrière for the Presidential elections.

“This will send a very bad message to the outside world ” said Sandra Demarcq, of platform 1,  in the minority, who proposed a less inflexible stand towards the FdG.

This minority platform was signed by Olivier Besancenot, former Presidential candidate (2007 –  first round,  1.2 million votes, 4.25%).

At its formation in 2009 the NPA had over 9,000 members. After splits which have seen hundreds join the Front de Gauche (from the Gauche Unitaire, ‘Picquet Tendency’ to Convergences et Alternative the Gauche anticapitaliste, the latter two now part of Ensemble)  the  NPA has shrunk to 2,100 members.

AFP

The motion against national unity states, “Le mouvement ouvrier doit refuser de faire bloc autour du gouvernement dans une prétendue lutte commune pour la liberté d’expression, qu’il musèle, et contre le terrorisme, dont il favorise l’expansion.

The workers’ movement must refuse to rally behind the government and its claim to defend freedom of expression – which it muzzles, and its campaign against terrorism, which it had helped promote.  

Rejecting national unity is fine, it is not the left’s job to support a union sacrée.

But it is disappointing that the NPA appears bent on adopting an “anglo-saxon” (more exactly a ‘post-colonial’ and liberal ‘multicultural’)  stand on anti-racism, with the use of the word ‘Islamophobia” – which conflates political and social criticism of Islamism with hatred of Muslim individuals – creeping in. While the NPA has carried articles on hatred against Jewish people, the motion on this issue studiously marginalises Antisemitism – the motive for the attack and murders at the Kosher supermarket at the Porte de Vincennes. That is, while mentioning this hatred as a cause of this slaughter, it refuses to make the struggle against Antisemitism – unlike the issue of hostility to Muslims – part of the NPA’s campaign against national unity.

Furthermore in its motion of feminism (see comment by Julien Gousse) below) it defends sexist Islamic dress codes, ignoring the compulsion behind this religious rule forcing women to be ‘modest’.

The Blog de Julien Gouesse, says this (I have rendered some sentences more idiomatically English)  on the Congrès.

I participated to the third congress of the new anti-capitalist party as a delegate from Friday, January 30th to Sunday, February 1st, 2015 in Saint-Denis. It took place after local, elected, aggregates,  in which 1403 activists were involved amongst about 70% of those who paid their party dues. The texts were on various topics, the profile of the party for the future elections, climate, our feminist intervention, our antifascist action, our analysis of the French (the national unity following the attacks, the Macron law, …) and the international (Syriza, Podemos, Daesh, …) situation, our media system, our security service, our involvement in the unions, … You can find the motion « climate » here. I learned of the launch of the economic work group’s website too.

I’m satisfied with the conference on the whole despite some minor organisational problems. For example, several texts that should have been worked out in the parallel commissions with the agreement of  all participants were given a final form (far from the embarrassment of public scrutiny) in order to force the inclusion of some modifications unacceptable to some delegates.

That’s why I refused to vote for the anti-racist feminist motion that was distributed to us a few minutes before the vote and because of a paragraph that claims that the debate on this issue is resolved in the party whereas it is definitely not the case:. This is what was presented « The defence of women’s right to employment and education is particularly important against the pressure from all sides to put them back to home or unemployment. Wearing the scarf (le foulard – Muslim head covering) mustn’t be an obstacle on this plan« .

I’m mostly relieved that our party will not participate to the next elections with the Left-wing Front. This will not  prevent us from being together in mobilisations.

Finally, I am wholeheartedly with the Greek people and I hope that it will get a lot of social progress through Syriza but the range of possibilities within the institutions is limited, there will be no shortcut in the class struggle, the Greeks will have to remain mobilized and vigilant. Voting for parties totally independent from the social democracy is a good start but will it be enough to get rid of the austerity policies? After the appetiser  the main course remains. I admit that I’m more interested in the Catalonia integral cooperative than in Podemos.

More from the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste on its Conference here.

The same weekend the ex-NPA current, Gauche anticapitaliste has just merged with the Alternatifs, the Fase, and the Communistes unitaires with other smaller groups) in Ensemble. This is now the ‘third major component of the Front de gauche.

Congrès d’Ensemble. L’unité, le Front de gauche et Syriza pour boussoles.

Fields of Blood. Religion and the History of Violence. Karen Armstrong. A Secularist Review.

with 5 comments

 

Fields of Blood. Religion and the History of Violence. Karen Armstrong. The Bodley Head. 2014.

The blood-stained rise of the Islamic state – Da’esh – in Iraq and Syria, and the massacres in Paris in early January by supporters of Al-Qaeda, have brought the issue of religious violence into the centre of public debate. As John Gray observes, the intensity of the religious revival – that is, in Islam – has shaken up many of our ideas, deeply affecting the unbelievers.

That is, except perhaps for many on the English speaking left. This left has simply hauled up the drawbridges and repeated old certainties. They have failed to back ISIS’s most resolute opponents, the Kurdish fighters of Kobane – a position not unrelated to the USA’s role in helping defend the city. Instead of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the left-wing secularists of Charlie Hebdo a large number tersely condemned the slaughter and then lost no time in deploring the ‘Islamophobic’ weekly and the French Republic’s ‘double standards’, its support for armed interventions in Muslim countries, its repression of those who will not join its ‘union sacrée’. Perhaps, some now say, the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Couliably ere driven in their murderous direction by conditions in the ‘anti-Muslim’ French society.

The violence of the Western powers is terrifying, as the invasion of Iraq clearly indicated. It is heartrending. But this does not get us far. A world-wide increase in religiously inspired, predominantly Islamist, violence has its own conditions. There are a good number of studies devoted to the subject. Karen Armstrong’s Fields of Blood, stands out in that does not shy away from looking at the deeper relationships between faith and brutality, from the ancient world to modern Islamism and terror.

It is said by some that faith is behind most of the world’s conflicts. That is, religion equals violence. This requires some grasp of what human violence is. The former nun, and prolific author, begins Fields of Blood with speculations about human beings’ ‘three brains’, (a reptilian primitive and aggressive one, a protective social one, and a reasoning modern one). The author passes to the origins of warfare in ‘agrarian states’, dominated by a tiny group of exploiters, and its links to religion, which often endorsed violence if it became institutionalised.

In this vein Armstrong describes – amongst many many other subjects – Sumerian religion, the ‘Aryans’ sense of religiously endorsed violent honour (it’s never a good sign when somebody evokes them on the basis of no empirically uncontested facts whatsoever), Judaism, the Roman Empire, the rise of Christianity the Crusades, Islam, Jihad, the European Wars of Religion, the French Revolution, and – I skip – the modern world. The book does not skirt around the history of Christian violence, or adopt the post-colonial studies fairy tale about a uniquely tolerant Islam.

Religion, she observes, simply, did not exist as a separate social or conceptual dimension in societies until recent times. Against those who repeat, without reflection, that confrontation between different ideas about the Holy is a major cause of today’s wars, she states, “Like the weather religion ‘does lots of different things’.”(Page 359) From the past to the present religion is not one thing but many. Entwined with power (from the first cities in Mesopotamia onwards) it has indeed played a role in legitimating violent actions. But religion has also helped resolve conflicts, to calm people down; religious people have performed countless acts of faith-inspired kindness towards others.

But the modern world there is a one thing that always tries to suppress the many, and no doubt kindness itself. This is the nation state, “its ineluctable violence and oppression” (Page 159) Armstrong’s argument, despite the lengthy narrative, is fairly simple. It’s the contemporary state, marked by its “secular” character that lies at the source of overweening violent power. It has stood in for the divine, “the state (the governmental apparatus) was supposed to be secular, but the nation (‘the people’) aroused quasi-religious emotions.”(Page 267) The State claims to contain violence but the nation unleashed it. “If we define the sacred as something for which one is prepared to die, the nation had certainly become an embodiment of the divine, a supreme value.”(Page 267) Many would comment that is a rather big if…..

Godless Secularism.

Fields of Blood then, holds no brief for the “godless secularism” of the nation state, an “idol” to which enemies are sacrificed. There is a long history of “secular war” for the “nation”. (Page 274) It is hostile to religious minorities; to minorities of any kind. The French Revolution’s ‘civic religion’ was enforced “by coercion, extortion and bloodshed” (Page 364). Even today “….secularism seemed propelled by an aggression towards religion that is still heard by many Europeans today.”(Ibid.)

Armstrong’s “secular nation state” lacks only one thing: any attempt to unpack the meaning of “secular”. It is certainly not distinguished from the sacred – since the Nation and its state has assumed quasi-divine status. It is not a matter of the separation of Church and State (laïcité), since the fairly limitless list of countries she associates with it include many with Established Churches. The meaning hovers close to the original senses, of ’worldly’, or, in one of the original significations of the terms, the mundane present.

Political structures, ranging from the French Republic, to the Turkish (Sunni institutions under state control), Middle Eastern Arab nationalist regimes (Islam recognised as official faith, but no governing and little legal role for the Moslem umma), to the American Constitution (device, In God We Trust), are perhaps in a sense more clearly ‘secular’. The “secular liberal establishment” (who, where?) has marginalised religious power. Oddly she does not cite in detail the clearest case where atheistic secularism has caused probably the greatest harm: under the name of Communism. From a justified tearing up of powerful and oppressive institutions they tore into believers.

But, as this list indicates: like the weather, secularism does many things.

Islamism.

In Armstrong’s tale we inevitably come to Islam and the most violent forms of Islamism – political religion. What is the background to its contemporary revival? The most important legacy is that of the “the secular rule of colonial powers”. It continued to be linked to violence by repressive military regimes that tried to modernise many countries in wake of colonialism, a compulsory modernisation that tried to tear up people’s religious roots, “Humiliation, foreign occupation and secularising aggression had created an Islamic history of grievance.”(Page 294)

Islamism is the product of these conditions. From building enclaves of faith Islamists have tried to reshape the political structures of their societies. They have done so violently, that their dream of restoring an imaginary righteous Caliphate, that one of their most extreme forms, Da’esh, rules over 8 million people in the Middle East by torture, slaughter, slavery and genocide. But, for Armstrong this should be balanced by the fact that the vehicles of ‘secular’ Western foreign policy, and its prime agent Israel, have rained destruction down on the region. Or in other words, there is a strategy by the ‘new imperialism’ that mirrors the earlier colonial period.

At the start of Fields of Blood is this claim, “In some societies attempting to find their way to modernity, it has succeeded only in damaging religion and wounding psyches of people unprepared to be wrenched from ways of living and understanding that have always supported them. Licking its wounds in the desert, the scapegoat, with its festering resentment, has rebounded on the city that drove it out.”(Page 14)

There is little doubt about the identity of this ‘scapegoat’: religion. Its most visible, dramatic, form is Islamism. For all her commendation of acts of terror Armstrong believes that secularism has caused great harm. Put bluntly it does nothing to “build a sense of global community, and cultivate a sense of reverence and ‘equanimity’ for all, and take responsibility for the suffering we see in the world.”(Page 365) What exactly taking responsibility for all the misery in the world entails is not elucidated.

Charlie Hebdo and After.

In a recent interview, which deals with the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher supermarket killings, Armstrong risks descending into incoherence. She talks of free speech as “scared symbol” just as much as the image of the Prophet is to Muslims. John Gray, in a not dissimilar way, evoked the spectre of “evangelical atheists” in his review of Fields of Blood. But is the Sharia, a “counterbalance to the state”, only a symbol? It is tyranny with very material shapes, above all, in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Trying to impose it, from ‘enclaves of faith’ to state apparatuses, is a blood-drenched process. There is nothing symbolic about it victims.

In this way many actually existing Islamisms, regardless of their connection to, or break from, the Qur’an, are hostile to freedom, and bound to violence.

Perhaps we might care to reflect on Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature (2011). Pinker argues that the modern world is less violent than the ancient one. This may or may not be the case – intuitively it is not, but he cites evidence for his assertion. Less contentious, one hopes, is the view that the ‘humanitarian’ and ‘rights’ revolutions – the ideas that include universal rights to liberty and protection from violence – are signs of ethical progress. They do not depend on a particular faith, or on faith at all – except that there are good reasons (including self-interest) to support them. That is, naturally, the point of secularism: love of the human world and its surroundings, the here and now and the conceivable future. Regardless of anybody’s longing for something more than that.

Greece Must Not Stand Alone.

with 3 comments

GREECE MUST NOT STAND ALONE

Chartist (More excellent articles on Greece on this site).

Mike Davis on why support for the new Greek government is vital and in Labour’s interests

(This Blog has been asked to publicise this important article – all are more than welcome to do so).

Hope, dignity, bread could summarise the slogans of the newly elected Syriza party in Greece. It has been an historic victory, the first radical left party to be democratically elected in Europe since the Second World war. Expectations of the people will be high for the new government. So too will be opposition from banks , corporate capital and neoliberal politicians. Elected on a landslide vote, gaining 149 seats—two short of an absolute majority and 36% of the poll Syriza, led by the 40 year old Alexis Tsipras, has grown from small beginnings ten years ago to replacing the discredited socialist party Pasok as the hope and champion of the Greek people for an end to five years of crippling austerity.

Spain 1936 & Chile 1970

Parallels with the newly elected Spanish popular front republican government of 1936 or the Chilean government of Salvadore Allende in 1970 are not fanciful. The commitments of these two earlier governments to radically redistribute wealth and power, to nationalise the banks and secure a new deal for workers and peasants are not dissimilar to the radical commitments of Syriza to end the debt burden and poverty of a beleaguered people resulting from the harsh conditions of the bailout, to build a ‘bottom-up’ social transformation, and to end corruption and tax avoidance of the corporate and political elites.

The Spanish republic was rapidly immersed in conflict as anti-democratic forces allied with the monarchy and landed gentry took the form of a military insurrection led by General Franco. After a three year civil war the Republic ended in defeat. Salvadore Allende’s radical ‘Marxist’ government was upended in a bloody coup supported by the US CIA. Both reactions led to the deaths and imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of workers, socialists, communists and democrats.

There are two striking differences with republican Spain and Greece in 2015. There is no Hitler or Mussolini to aid Greece’s home grown fascists in Golden Dawn and the deep state military which has been licking its wounds since the overthrow of the Colonel’s junta in 1974. Secondly, globalisation. This means a Syriza-led Greece faces a more complex corporate financial opposition in the shape of the neoliberal dominated IMF, European Central Bank and EU. These powerful forces that have already wreaked huge damage on the Greek economy through its compliant governments are now positioning to overturn the democratic will of the Greek people. The forces ranged against the Greek government today are the unaccountable vested interests of global capital, currently in the shape of the Troika. Syriza minister are refusing to negotiate with unelected officials and want only to engage with elected European governments.

Syriza have accommodated. No longer debt cancellation but debt relief is the policy aim. Nationalisation of the banks remains party policy but was not prominent in the recent Thessaloniki programme. The case for ending austerity is compelling. Public services and welfare cuts, privatisation and 30% reduction in wages and pensions has not rebooted the Greek economy. The debt as a proportion of GDP has almost doubled in six years (108 per cent of GDP in 2008 to 176 per cent of GDP in 2015). The E240 billion euro bailout has simply gone to banks and back in interest payments while unemployment has grown to over one in four adults and two out of every three young people. This is no basis for economic recovery let alone paying off a debt or increasing state tax revenues. Austerity only works for the rich and even enlightened capitalists see the inhumanity of such a programme.

Secondly, the people have had enough. This is not just the working class who have seen wages eroded and collective bargaining rights removed but also Greece’s sizeable middle class and small business people many of whom turned to Syriza in the election.

Third, a movement against austerity is gathering force across Europe. Podemos (We Can) the recently formed radical party in Spain came from nowhere to win seats in the European parliament in May. There are similar radical movements in Italy, while in Germany Die Linke and the Green party are growing forces to be reckoned with. Within the traditional social democratic and Labour Parties that have sustained links to the trades unions as in Britain, France and Scandinavia an anti-austerity pro growth sentiment is gathering pace. The Greek result could help swell that opinion. Labour leaders will ignore it at their peril as we approach the May general election.

Labour should see writing on wall

Labour leader Ed Miliband should see the writing on the wall. People are sick of austerity policies. Huge cuts in living standards, privatisation and light touch tax and regulation of corporate capital were never going to restart a sustainable economy working for the many not the few. Unfortunately unless Labour move away from the current austerity-lite agenda its own fate could soon resemble that of other discredited European social democratic parties.

The stakes are high. The populist right also talks anti austerity. In fact Syriza has agreed coalition terms with a right-wing party (Independent Greeks) to secure its parliamentary majority. Marine Le Pen’s Front Nationale in France welcomed the Syriza victory., (as did Socialist President Hollande). Britain’s home-grown right-wing populists in the form of UKIP also talk anti-austerity. So the socialist and democratic left must be quick and determined in getting the message of Greece.  The left has the initiative with Syriza’s victory. It must capitalise on it. An Early Day motion in the British House of Commons (EDM 729) welcoming the Syriza victory and its economic and social plans should be endorsed by the whole parliamentary Labour party.

The arguments for a debt amnesty and renegotiation have precedents. Germany, the main bulwark for fiscal discipline itself enjoyed a debt pardon in 1953 when a London conference of Western world leaders agreed to write off a crippling debt burden that opened the doors to the German ‘economic miracle’. Having undergone Italian fascist and Nazi occupation Greece emerged from the Second World War into a civil war. By the end its economy was shattered. No reparations have been paid by Germany to Greece. War losses at the hands of the Nazis included: demolition of a quarter of all buildings; annihilation of 2,000 villages; destruction of 66% of motor transport, 75% of the merchant fleet, 90% of railway rolling stock and all main road bridges; and deportation, slaughter or starvation of around 700,000 people, including the murder of 60,000 Jews.

Further the Greek people have endured six years of military dictatorship (1967-74) followed by over 40 years of rule that has largely only benefitted the corrupt political elites, corporate and shipping oligarchs who enjoyed a tax free regime.

With a 50% debt cancellation and restructuring of the remainder the government will be able to restart the economy on a sustainable growth course, with new jobs and a clean progressive tax system.

Athina-20150125-00637

In Britain the Greece Solidarity Campaign has coordinated activity in support of the anti-austerity movement in Greece and sought to raise awareness. WE recognise thestruggle of the Greek people is our fight. It has established Medical Aid for Greece, organised fact finding delegations to Athens with Labour MPs and MEPs, trade union leaders and local activists, organised local publicity initiatives, the latest being at the British Museum to lobby Angela Merkel on her recent visit.

Australian trade unionists have campaigned to ‘Let Greece Breathe’. TUC leader Frances O’Grady has put out a powerful call for Solidarity with Syriza. Letters to the press and an Early Day Motion signed by a cross –party group of MPs have called for active support. For Labour and trade union activists there are basic forms of solidarity: Pass a resolution through your union, political party, faith or community group (see below). Lobby your MP or MEP to support debt relief and the democratic mandate of the Greek government in Europe and Westminster. The Campaign aims to extend its activities into establishing a cross-party parliamentary support group. GSC is not a charity and recognises that the best way to support the Greek people is to end austerity policies in our own countries. That would be the best gift we could exchange with our Greek compatriots.

Mike Davis is CHARTIST‘s Editor and Press Office for the Greek Solidarity Campaign.

Greece solidarity model resolution

We welcome the formation of the new Syriza government in Greece that places people at the heart of its programme of change.

We note the crippling bail-out package imposed through the EU/IMF Memorandum has created enormous hardship. As well as damaging society these policies have failed to reboot the Greek economy. The public debt in relation to GDP is now far greater than it was before the programme started in 2010.

Greek people have chosen a new path. They have chosen a government committed to ending the austerity programme. They have voted for immediate debt repudiation and renegotiation. They have voted for the humanitarian crisis to be addressed as the top priority. The government are taking immediate steps to support those suffering the most under the austerity measures and to restore basic rights.

The Greek election results have implications for the UK and the whole of Europe. Austerity policies have been a choice by those in power, and they have failed. Greece reminds us that different economics and politics are possible.

Undoubtedly there will be pressure on the new Syriza Government from the EU, the banks and their friends not to deliver their promises

Solidarity with Greece at this time is an imperative for Greeks and for all European working people.

We applaud the courage of the people of Greece in choosing hope and a new direction in policy that can start to rebuild a sustainable Greek economy and faith in politics.

We resolve to

  • Defend the right for Greece to end austerity
  • Support the action on debt being called for by the new government of Greece
  • Call on our political representatives to exercise their vote within official sector finance agencies, within the European Parliament and pursue other diplomatic activities that will support debt reform
  • Sign the open letter of support to the Greek anti-austerity movement (GSC website)
  • Call on prospective parliamentary candidates standing in the coming Westminster elections to support the Greek’s anti-austerity policy
  • Affiliate to the Greek Solidarity Campaign (delete if already affiliated)
  • Contribute £X to the Medical Aid for Greece appeal. Every penny raised is sent to support the Solidarity Health Clinics (delete if already contributing)

Written by Andrew Coates

January 31, 2015 at 12:09 pm

Lisa Mandel on Charlie Hebdo ……and the Far Left

leave a comment »

"Jesus Charlie", par Lisa Mandel.

Lisa Mandel

 

 

 

 

I was born in a very observant far-left family. God and Father Christmas don’t exist. What exists? The Class struggle!

 

 

Mandel 4

I grew up in religious gatherings.

 Lisa Mandel2

On the 7th of January 2015 it was the terrorist attack.  I was beside myself. I called up my mother, and was for a moment in tears,  unable to speak. It’s as if I lost a member of our family.

 

 

Lisa Mandel 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took part in the spontaneous demonstrations, it was beautiful….

I would like to thank Lisa for making my day.

Lisa Mandel (no relation, as far as I can find, to Ernest Mandel) is the daughter of Health Service workers. She is a cartoonist. These images are taken from Le Monde des livres (Friday): Après l’attentat contre « Charlie Hebdo », la BD solidaire.

Her Blog, Free as an Egg.

Wikipedia.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 31, 2015 at 11:26 am

Syriza’s First Actions: ‘Voodoo Economics’?

leave a comment »

The Financial Times does not approve…..

Syriza and voodoo economics

“One by one they were rolled back, blitzkrieg-style, mercilessly, ruthlessly, with rat-a-tat efficiency. First the barricades came down outside the Greek parliament. Then it was announced that privatisation schemes would be halted and pensions reinstated. And then came the news of the reintroduction of the €751 monthly minimum wage. And all before Greece’s new prime minister, the radical leftwinger Alexis Tsipras, had got his first cabinet meeting under way.

After that, ministers announced more measures: the scrapping of fees for prescriptions and hospital visits, the restoration of collective work agreements, the rehiring of workers laid off in the public sector, the granting of citizenship to migrant children born and raised in Greece. On his first day in office – barely 48 hours after storming to power – Tsipras got to work. The biting austerity his party had fought so long to annul now belonged to the past, and this was the beginning not of a new chapter but a book for the country long on the frontline of the euro crisis.”

Rachman comments,

Unfortunately, much of the European left seems to have temporarily lost the ability to reason – amidst the excitement of seeing the radical left take power in Athens. (Read this article, by Owen Jones, for example) Alexis Tsipras, the new Greek prime minister, is being written about as if he is a cross between Salvador Allende and Rosa Luxemburg. If and when the Syriza experiment fails, the left will be ready with a new “stab-in-the-back” theory. It will be the fault of the Germans, or the bankers, or (inevitably) the CIA. Nothing to do with the “rat-a-tat efficiency” with which Syriza has set off down the path of financial ruin.

The hard-right French journal, Valuers Actuelles, went even further yesterday predicting that Germany would not cede an inch.

Syriza au pied du mur… de l’argent.

That is, Syriza is up against what is known in English as the ‘Bankers’ ramp’.

Commentary without hostility towards  this “experiment’ and its immediate chances:

How Syriza could make a debt relief deal palatable to Germany

To sum up, there is a way forward if everybody negotiates in good faith – but the stakes are very high. The danger of political accidents is clearly there. But a messy default and potential break-up of the currency union is in nobody’s interest. So in the end a compromise is the most likely outcome.

The Weekly Worker, another left group suffering from the sleep of reason (according to the FT), states, under the cheerful heading of “Victory tainted by right populists” warns Syriza’s problems are only just beginning – Eddie Ford

Naturally, like many on the left, we in the CPGB celebrate the fact that the left received such a healthy vote and that large numbers of the Greek people said ‘Enough is enough’ – or, as the headline went on The Daily Mash spoof website, “Greeks vote to stop having shit kicked out of them”.4 Obviously, we stand in solidarity with Syriza and the Greek masses against any threats or blackmail from the IMF, ECB, World Bank – let alone the Orthodox church, Greek generals or Golden Dawn. We also applaud the way that Syriza has steadily built up a solid network of international connections and opposed left-nationalist calls to pull out of the euro/European Union (like the isolationist KKE).

But…..

Before the election we warned against Syriza assuming office – especially with minority support – without the possibility of solidarity in the shape of the international revolutionary movement. But we did not imagine that it would choose to do so alongside a rightwing party. Now the problems facing the Syriza-led government are monumental, and look set to get worse before they get better – if they ever do.

Skipping to the good bit…

At his swearing-in ceremony, Tsipras vowed to defend the constitution. Far better to have stood against the entire constitutional order, including the 50-seat top-up and all the rest of the nonsense. Unfortunately, Syriza is not committed to the disbanding of the standing army, let alone immediately withdrawing from Nato – it is taking on a thoroughly reformist coloration.

Some celebration!

Perhaps the cds of the Weekly Worker prefer talking about something they know rather better, the British Left: Honeymoon or hangover?Initial euphoria on the left at the electoral victory of Syriza has given way to mixed feelings, notes Paul Demarty – but little sign of rethinking

Meanwhile l’Humanité, which doubtless has lost the ability to reason, points to the effects the Syriza victory is having in Spain.

Après Syriza, l’Europe a les yeux rivés sur Podemos

All eyes will certainly be on Spain this Saturday, when Podemos is organising a national demonstration against austerity in Madrid.

LA MARCHA DEL CAMBIO – The march for Change.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 30, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Alain Badiou on Charlie Hebdo, Le Rouge et le Tricolore. A Critical Appraisal.

leave a comment »

Badiou: Wave the Red Flag not the Tricolore.

‘Le Rouge et le Tricolore’ Alain Badiou.

In le Monde (28.1.15) Alain Badiou has called for the “reactivation of the Communist idea” in place of the “totem” of the “République laïque” in order to stand up to “les crimes fascistes des terroristes”.

The philosopher and one-time prominent figure in the ‘post-Leninist’ and ‘post-Maoist’ L’Organisation politique (defunct 2007) begins by sketching a portrait of global capitalism, dominated by the “abstraction” of money, and run by an international oligarchy. He sees within this context a drama, opposing the “civilised” capitalist West to blood thirsty “Islamism”. Murderous gangs, trying, by force of arms, to impose obedience to the corpse of a God, are, in this scenario, opposed by those who, in the name of human rights, have launched savage military expeditions that have destroyed entire states (Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Sudan Congo, Mali and Central Africa). Western aggression, in support for these ‘rights’, has resulted in millions of victims. Every state, from the liberal West, to the authoritarian and nationalist Russia and China, and the theocracies of the Emirates, is now part of the same world, predatory capitalism.

Real universalism, Badiou asserts, that is, taking the destiny of humanity in hand, means a new historical and political incarnation of the communist “idea”. This would break with the universe dominated by money and the capitalist oligarchies. It would end the battles between identities and counter-identities, the West and the ‘Rest’.

In this war, France has its own special ‘totem’ the “République démocratique et laïque”. This is the ground of the  “republican pact” that seals France’s self-image. Its origins lie in the massacres of the Commune in 1871 (which was supported he asserts by Adolphe Thiers, Jules Ferry, and Jules Favre), which Badiou sees as the origin, the founding crime,  of the 3rd republic.

It is impossible not to notice a slight of hand at work here. All of these figures played an ignoble role during the Paris Commune. Thiers, a “monstrous gnome” in Marx’s words, collaborated with the Prussian occupiers, Ferry, the Mayor of Paris during the early days of the City’s siege, slipped away when the Communards took power, and Favre, enemy of the First International, were leading figures in the government that viciously crushed the insurgents. So far so much fidelity to the ‘truth’.

But,  their “republican” reign was initially not properly republican at all. It is famously described as “républican d’appelation et monarchiste de vocation” – republican in name but monarchist by calling. (1) Ruled by the Right the Republic soon became the focus of other forces – the left, republican and then ‘radical socialist’, not to mention the first French Marxist party Parti Ouvrier Français, the reformist socialist ‘Possibilistes’, the Fédération des travailleurs socialistes de France, and other groups.

Why, then, in the years that followed, had the French left re-asserted its “republicanism”, a position which has endured to this day? This has a very long history, going back to the French Revolution. Perhaps the most crucial experience for the modern socialist movement was Jaurès and the left’s “Défense Républicaine” during the Dreyfus Affair. Jaurès defined this very clearly, he wanted to defend the Republic not only against nationalists and-Semites, which he called “la réaction royaliste et boulangiste” but also against the bourgeois republicans, who were ready to sacrifice justice out of fear of the Army Establishment. He argued for the “modesties garanties” of the rule of republican law, against an arbitrary legal system – for human rights – as the bedrock of the democratic workers’ movement. (2)

Now one can question Jaurès’ claim that national sovereignty is necessary for socialism, that “que la nation soit souveraine dans l’ordre économique pour briser les privileges du capitalisme osif comme elle est souveraine dans l’ordre politique” (that the nation should be sovereign in the economy as it is politically, to break the privileges of idle capitalism). (3) One can seriously question Jaurès claim that true patriotism leads to internationalism. But the modest defence of the simplest of human rights, the protection of individuals against arbitrary laws and punishments, is very far from being a “totem”. It is not from an admirer of the Chinese Cultural Revolution – something that Badiou had persisted in despite all his “posts” – that anybody is going to take criticisms of these foundations of French republicanism.

Badiou avoids history. He points his finger at the actually existing French republic, its prisons for the ill educated, its past (and present?) pretensions to carry a “mission civilisatrice”(Jules Ferry’s always cited phrase), and the failures of its education system. He speculates that wearing the veil, becoming a pious Muslim may be a sign of the spirit of revolt, faced with police repression and racism. He offers no evidence that Islamism is he result of these causes – which would require a global explanation, covering movements from Boko Harem, Al-Qaeda, ISIS/Islamic State, and countless other groups.

The philosopher strongly reprimands  Charlie Hebdo. Run by “ex-leftists”, it is “in a sense” the accomplice of police morality conveyed through doubtful sexual jokes looks strange coming from this author. Comparing Charlie to an “obscene” – and forgotten – piece by Voltaire on Joan of Arc, he tries to remind us of the bad taste of even the most celebrated of the Lumières for all his “authentic” fights for freedom. It’s hard to forget that the author of The Communist Hypothesis (English edition, 2010) defended the “extraordinary uprising” of the Chinese Cultural revolution. Its “freedom” in “the fight of the new against the old” was, he noted, nevertheless joined with “iconoclasm, the persecution of people for futile motives, a sort of assumed barbarism”. (4) Voltaire, as far as one is aware, did not burn religious books or demolish temples, make monks perform forced labour, or force Muslims to eat pork. Nor do Charlie propose to follow in the Red Guards’ footsteps.

And yet…Badiou cannot avert his eyes from the “réal”. Perhaps he is less a “post” than another “ex-leftist”? For him the three killers, young Frenchmen, committed “un crime de type fasciste”. It was first of all targeted, and not random, next the motivation was of a fascist nature, from an identity, in this case anti-Semitic. To impose this it used extreme violence, saying in effect “Viva le meutre!” (the cry of the Falangists in the Spanish Civil War). Finally, by the enormity of the crime itself it aimed to provoke a reaction of repression, which would then justify the act.

Has this fascist act, then, been successful? There were millions in the streets behind the “pacte républicain”, fearful and yet full of pride in the nation’s grandeur. Badiou thinks that the French state created an obligation to demonstrate behind the Tricolor, to the point where not to support the Je Suis Charlie march was itself a crime. Freedom of expression that is to dissent from this “union sacrée” was close to being abolished in the days following the murders. The Police were praised to the skies. Liberty became the right to applaud the Police. The banlieue and its Muslim inhabitants are scorned, closely monitored, and under permanent suspicion.

This may be true. But only 70% of the French public is said to believe that it was an affair of Islamist terrorism. Amongst those casting doubt on the ‘official version’ there are theories that other shadowy force were involved, from Mossad, the US to the French secret services. Jean-Marie Le Pen has expressed opinions in this vein, indicating perhaps complicity between a native and patriotic fascism and a more directly religious one. The problems raised by this rise in irrationalism from many quarters cannot be boiled down to the opposition between the “dangerous” Muslim classes and the French Imperial State.

Badiou concludes by calling for another way, a different future. One that it without country, and that prepares the way for an egalitarian identity for humanity itself. The choice should not be between small bands of fascists based on a sectarian Islamist identify, or for French and Western superiority. This can be found…..behind the Red Flag…..

Or not.

If people are following the Red Flag today it’s the banner of democratic socialists, like Syriza, not believers in the ‘communist invariant’ displayed in the Cultural Revolution.

Badiou offers no words of defence of Charlie or of freedom of speech, or indeed of democracy, capitalist, socialist,  or any other kind.  he appears to think that people are mostly dupes of the République démocratique et laïque. Only a savoury remnant – perhaps visible to the keen eyes of those able to see the Event that will bring communism back onto the political horizon – able to “name the indiscernible.”

While we await its coming, the impression that many people have is that the Je suis Charlie movement, and marches, expressed a deep and intimate sadness at the deaths of the cartoonists, at the fate of the Jewish victims, and the policeman – everybody killed in the slaughter. That it remains an open wound. That most do not care at all about union sacrées or flags: many of us are not even French!  That we loved the people murdered and continue to mourn them. And that we hold tight to the “modest guarantees” of law and freedom that should be there for all – for the Je ne suis pas Charlies, the Je suis Charlies and for all humanity.

(1) Page 362. Jacques Julliard. Les Gauches Françaises. Flammarion. 2012.

(2) Page 239. Jean Jaurès. Gilles Candar. Vincent Duclert. Fayard. 2014. Also see: Jaurès et le Reformisme Révolutonnaire. Jean-Paul Scot. Seuil. 2014. Notable Chapter 9 “Rattacher le Socialisme à la République.

(3) Page 122. République et Socialisme. Ansi Nous Parle Jean Jaurès. Pluriel 2014.

(4) Page 129 The Communist Hypothesis. Alain Badiou. Verso. 2012.

An Enlightened Response to Ian Birchall. 2006.

with 4 comments

What next? had an important debate on secularism in the first decade of the century.

It continues to attract attention.

Ian Birchall on secularism

This article, written in 2005 by the British socialist Ian Birchall, is an excellent summary of a Marxist approach to religion and secularism, highly relevant to the discussions that have been taking place in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo killings. –PG” Socialist Worker (US)

 Because of the republication of Ian Birchall’s article (itself a response to my article, In Defence of Militant Secularism) on the US Socialist Worker site (International Socialist Organization) the reply is presented here, unchanged, in order to give a complete view of the debate.

The Reply was published in the last ever issue of What Next? It only appeared in an on-line edition.

An Enlightened Response to Ian Birchall. 2006.

In ‘So What is Secularism?’ (What Next No 30) Ian Birchall takes me to task for a defence of secularism. He begins by questioning the use of polemical style, races through a picture of the Enlightenment, offers an interpretations of the history of French laïcité and the Marxist approach to religion. Birchall compares the stands of those opposed to the veil to those socialists who refused to support Dreyfus, and defends, with some gusto, the political project of his party, the SWP, and Respect. Some of his points are well-taken (those concreting the abstraction of many of my formulae).

Other judgements, however, are extremely contentious. Birchall fails to grapple with the nature of political secularism, its philosophical roots, the account of the French secular education system is hopelessly skewed, and his belief that Respect is “secularism in practice”, is wholly misguided.

Birchall’s portrait of the Enlightenment resembles Aghion’s farce Le Libertin (on Diderot) more than a serious historical review. Voltaire, it is true, is praised for his involvement in the case of La Barre (one could add, the Lally affair, the Sirvin affair, and, above all, the Calas affair – all victims of ecclesiastical intolerance). But apparently the kept servants and was reluctant to let his acid scepticism spread to them. Bad, bad Voltaire!

He and Diderot are single out for vacillations towards organised despotism. Marx is cited to show that their combat against organised religion ignored the need to change social conditions (by the way, didn’t Marx have some dubious relations with his servant Helene?). All this may well be true. Yet the complex network of ideas emanating from the Lumières contributed to a directly political fight amongst the masses. They’re the origin of the concept of human rights, from the early feminist Olympe de Gouges, to Tom Paine. In any case, the values of the Enlightenment, which I advocated, were rather broader: the cloister summarised by Kant’s What is Enlightenment ?(1784). That is, the freedom from the command to obey, “Have courage to use your own understanding/”. It is precisely this that is threatened by a renewed acceptance of religious authority and which needs defending.

The picture of the French tradition is of laïcité is less summary, though no less lop-sided. Birchall present a functionalist explanation of the growth of mass secular education, endowing students with the cultural capital of republicanism in order to bolster the nation. The relentless clash, for the whole of the 19thc century, between the Catholic Church and

republicans over the control and content of schooling is left unmentioned. Yet this was the crucial point: the right of the Clergy to oversee all aspects of educational life.

The socialists (an approximate translation of laïc, which includes the notion of freedom from church control as well as from religion) included Catholic ‘Gallicans’ opposed to Rome’s power, progressive Christians (against the Erastian fusion of church and state), deists (in Voltaire’s tradition) and free-thinkers, atheists and socialists. (See Georges Weill, Histoire de idée laïque en France au XlX siècle. Hachette 2004).

It’s not hard to trace a very different picture of the line-up in this battle to Birchall’s. Amongst the latter were the most fervent supporters of Dreyfus, such as the most important figure of French socialism, Jean Jaurès. Their nationalist opponents for example, Maurice Barrès, explicitly attacked secular rationalist education, in Les Déracinés (1897) blaming it for France’s military weakness. That Jules Ferry, with whom the famous 1905 Separation of Church and State is most associated, supported colonialism as well as secular education can be acknowledged. But that hardly means he backed secularism because he favoured imperial expansion.

The push and pull in France over secularism has endured to the present day. From the mass Catholic demonstrations in the early 1980s to protest at planes to brig their state-aided private schools under public supervision, to the contrary mass mobilisation at a project to extend religious educations; right in the early 1990s, this is a live issue. It is within the teachers’ unions that support for laïcité is staunchest. Some allied groups, such as La Libre Pensée, consider the present system already far too complicit with faith institutions. This is surely right, and one needs seriously to consider the institutional framework of a schooling system which excludes so many and fails to tackle inequality (ethnic as well as class), and a host of other social issues which socialists would consider priorities.

It is not surprising, there, that with this background that a swift response came against an Islamist inspired campaign to promote the veil in public educational institutions (and, notably, secular segregation). Apparently Birchall is unaware of the nature of Islamism: from moderate and conservative wins, to the most radical the different strands are untied in their opposition to secularism in any shape and form. All these shades of politics rest on the weight of a revealed truth: a book, whose authority is beyond doubt, grounded on Islam. One does not have to be an advocate of Michel Onfray’s ‘aetheology’ to see there is a serious problem here.

It is one thin to accept the multicultural argument that religious figures will always be present in public life (obviously the case), and that some may be progressive, other not. It is quite another to incorporate the demands of religiously inspired political groups into the foundations of public bodies.

Birchall considers that those who wish to prevent schools (the target of the ban on all ostentatious religious symbols) from being a battleground for those who wish to impose their ‘pure’ style of dress are comparable to those French ouvrièrists like Jules Guesde, who refused to defend Dreyfus. As I have indicated, humanist socialists, like Jaurès, assassinated

for his opposition tot he Great War, were strong supporters of secularism. It would traduce their memory to imagine them defending any form of theological code, whether in schools or outside. Birchall further considers any ‘state ban’ on the veil anathema, though it is hard to see how any regulation affecting the education system could be anything other than a mater of the state.

Finally, Birchall claims that voting figures that respect is not a communalist or religiously based party. Post-Big brother, it may seem cruel to talk of its leader these days, though as a laughing-stock his career is progressing well. Still, George Galloway has repeatedly stated that his organisation is the ‘party of Muslims’, and he himself their representative. True he has wider allies. Notably the curious figures who signed to petition to free Tariq Aziz. Perhaps it’s indicative of his trajectory that one of them was a person I cited myself to demonstrate a convergence between Respect’s stand and the culturalist far-right: Alain de Benoist.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 29, 2015 at 1:52 pm

Syriza and the British Left.

with 19 comments

Back Syriza!

Syriza’s victory was inspiring.

Their electoral triumph has sent a message about the extension of what is politically possible on the left.

The anti-austerity campaign of the People’s Assembly should, rightly, get a powerful boost.

It is no longer possible to say that a political force rejecting austerity can never win.

Is there such a movement in Britain?

The People’s Assembly has brought together the left and trade unions on a programme against government cuts and privatisations which in many respects resembles Syriza’s.

Paul MacNay, from Athens,  writes on the People’s Assembly Facebook Page that,

We need a radical programme for a new Europe which will benefit the whole world – (in which currently where 85 families hold half of the wealth).

…..

If the Greek election result is a catalyst, Syriza (with its a formative alliance of more than a dozen groups) provides a model for the non-social democratic left. We need to give ourselves a good talking to. It’s time to sink the differences based on minor shibboleths of distinction. We need to abandon redundant organisational models, Bolshevik pretensions based on distorted perceptions of how people organised in a very different world one hundred years ago. We may even grow to like each other if we renounce those traditions … even if, initially it merely involves the suppression of mutual-loathing in pursuit of a better world!

If we take the painful and awkward steps necessary to shake off the bad habits of the past; if we can outgrow the trivia of quibbling over who has precisely the correct line; if we embrace the experience of the Greek people; we should be able to build a People’s Coalition that shakes the financial citadels and brings back joy and purpose to the people of Britain too.

Bad habits do, however, persist.

Despite having backed Syriza’s miniscule left opponents in the ANTARSYA bloc (a gaggle of groupuscules who arguably helped to deprive them of an outright majority) Socialist Worker states,

THE VICTORY of Greece’s Coalition of the Radical Left, or SYRIZA, in parliamentary elections is a long-awaited breakthrough against the ruling class agenda of austerity and repression that has inflicted suffering across Europe and plunged Greece into an economic and social crisis unseen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

We can expect that having tried to snaffle as much of Syriza’s reflected glory as they can the SWP will soon be hurling accusations against Syriza as it enters in a coalition with the hard-right Independent Greeks, ANEL,  (a choice dictated by Greek Parliamentary structures, not by politics). There is a need for some real – balanced – analysis. In this respect there is an excellent article by comrade Harry Blackwell on the Socialist Resistance site, from which we publish extracts.

New period for the left in Europe.

The central focus facing the government will be the economic crisis and the negotiations on debt with the Troika. However it is to be hoped that the new government will also raise the centrality of the ecological crisis and give official backing to the protests around the climate summit in Paris in December 2015 by for example providing state trains and paid time off for public employees to travel there. But for Europe’s only left government at present, it should also be able to put forward governmental level solutions to the climate crisis and stimulate the need for global action on the crisis facing ours and all the other species of the world.

And so we enter a new period in Europe. We must redouble our efforts to build anti-austerity action and new left parties across Europe. Social Democracy must be confronted for its complicity in the impoverishment of working people. There will be some who will sit on the sidelines and watch for any ‘backtracking’ by the Tsipras government and rush to say ‘I told you so …’. But the real task is to build the movement of solidarity, anti austerity and new left parties. In Britain that means redoubling efforts to build Left Unity and making 2015 the year that we can begin to turn the corner.

Harry notes,

The vast majority of the left and working class in Greece endorsed Syriza, whose central message put forward a programme for government rather than mere vocal opposition to austerity. The highly sectarian Greek Communist Party (KKE) is still an important part of the anti-austerity movement and its vote increased slightly on its vote in 2012 as it gained one percent to win 5.5% of the vote and increase its seats from 12 to 15. However this is still a long way from its electoral high point in Greece in the 1970s and 1980s when it regularly won around 10% of the vote.

The KKE embraces what used to be called ‘Third Period Stalinism’ (after the period in the late 1920 when communist parties described social democratic parties as worse than fascists) and refuses to countenance deals with Syriza. It puts forward a programme of nationalism, calling for immediate exit from the Euro and EU and reinstatement of the Drachma as Greece’s currency. So sectarian is the KKE that their MEPs refuse to sit in the United European Left group in the European Parliament, alongside Syriza (and their ‘sister’ Communist Parties of France, Portugal and Cyprus), and instead sit with the far right French National Front in the so-called ‘Non-Attached’ group.

The left wing grouping within Syriza, the ‘Left Platform’, have repeatedly called upon the KKE to support Syriza in Government to no avail. The KKE has a short memory of course, as it has previously served in a Greek government led by New Democracy with four ministers. This is creating turbulence within CPs across the world, not least within Britain’s Morning Star daily newspaper where old-time Stalinists continually invoke support for the KKE alongside the more obvious enthusiasm of its readership for Syriza.

Sadly Harry is right about the Morning Star.

They stated yesterday  (Editorial),

The Greek Communist Party (KKE) had already made clear its position not to enter into any coalition which does not seek to put the country on the path to socialism from the outset, based on a programme of transformational policies that would entail withdrawal from the EU and Nato.

Syriza once claimed to share a similar perspective, but the prospect of electoral success has seen it jettisoned over the past three months.

The article concludes with sectarian sourness,

But even before negotiations with the troika begin, Syriza economists are making it clear they intend to govern within the constraints of a balanced budget, membership of the eurozone and the commitments implied by continuing Nato membership.

Insofar as they can still propose measures which benefit Greek workers and their families while doing so, they should receive support from the left across Europe.

In the unlikely event of Syriza ending up on a collision course with the troika, they will need all the solidarity that socialists, communists, democrats and the trade unions everywhere can muster.

However, should a Syriza-led government dash the hopes raised by its own rhetoric, the main beneficiaries in Greece could well be the New Democracy conservatives and the Golden Dawn fascists.

The Tendance agrees with the most important point in comrade Harry Blackwell’s argument: we will not sit “on the sidelines”.

If there is not a political organisation in Britain that can play the same role, there are forces in the labour movement, inside the Labour Party and outside of it,  that can push for politics that reject austerity and stand for hope and a better Europe.

Back Syriza!

*****

Liam is also worth reading,

SYRIZA and the bleedin’ obvious

“If SYRIZA has come to power on a programme of public beheadings, banning women from driving and torturing its critics, it may have received a slightly warmer welcome from the governments of Europe writes Liam Mac Uaid. Instead, its proposals to roll back austerity and drag the people of Greece from poverty and misery have been explained away as harbingers of potential economic catastrophe across Europe. Ed Miliband was no more enthusiastic about the result than Cameron or Merkel, restricting himself to a begrudging “just like our elections are a matter for the people of this country, so who the Greek people elect is a decision for them.”

And this is important (first hand reportage) by Matthew: Greece shakes Europe. Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

“Syriza is not an establishment social-democratic party but a party with roots in Greece’s left tradition, with no previous ties to the deeply corrupt state and its political elite. Its presence in the corridors of power will shake the centres of capital across Europe and beyond.”

Written by Andrew Coates

January 28, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Kobane Liberated.

with 3 comments

Kobane Liberated!

KOBANE BORDER—Kurdish forces inside Kobane said today that the city is now under full control and Islamic State (ISIS) militants have been driven out of all neighbourhoods.

Muslih Zebari, a Peshmerga commander in Kobane told Rudaw that ISIS militants remain only in a small village attached to the city “And the Peshmerga and YPG fighters are already on their way there,”

“Retaking that village is easy and today all of Kobane will be free,” he said.

A strong ISIS force invaded Kobane in mid-September last year but a coalition of YPG fighters, Peshmerga and US airstrikes halted the radical group’s advance until it was liberated today.

Zebari said that the Peoples Protection Units (YPG) and the Peshmerga are gearing up to drive out ISIS from several other villages in the outskirts of the city.

“In the fighting, an ISIS tank and lots of ammunition have fallen in the hands of the Kurdish forces,” Zebari added.

Zebari said that the only Kurdish casualties were a few soldiers with slight injuries.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the YPG fighters have killed more than 1,000 ISIS militants in the battle for Kobane.

RUDAW

Kurdish militia drove the Islamic State group from the Syrian town of Kobane and raised their flags on Monday, dealing the jihadists an important blow after months of heavy fighting. 

France 24.

Across the border in Iraq meanwhile, a top army officer announced troops had “liberated” Diyala province from IS jihadists.

In Syria, the Kurdish advance marked the culmination of a battle lasting more than four months in which nearly 1,800 people were killed.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) had “expelled all Islamic State fighters from Kobane and have full control of the town”.

“The Kurds are pursuing some jihadists on the eastern outskirts of Kobane, but there is no more fighting inside now,” said the Observatory’s Rami Abdel Rahman.

US Central Command said Kurdish forces now had control of 90 percent of Kobane.

“While the fight against ISIL (IS) is far from over, ISIL’s failure in Kobane has denied them one of their strategic objectives,” Central Command said in a statement.

Kurdish forces were carrying out “mopping-up operations” against remaining IS forces in the Maqtala district, on the town’s eastern outskirts.

YPG spokesman Polat Jan also announced the news on Twitter, writing: “Congratulations to humanity, Kurdistan, and the people of Kobane on the liberation of Kobane.”

Mustafa Ebdi, an activist from the town, said the “fighting has stopped”.

YPG forces were “advancing carefully in Maqtala because of the threat of mines and car bombs,” he added.

The United States, which has led a coalition bombing IS forces in Syria and Iraq, was cautious, declining to confirm an end to the battle.

Heavy coalition bombing

The Kurdish advance came after the Pentagon said the international coalition had carried out 17 air strikes against jihadist positions in Kobane within 24 hours.

The targets included “tactical units” and “fighting positions” as well as an IS vehicle and staging areas.

The loss of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, would be an important defeat for IS.
The group has lost 1,196 fighters since it began its advance on the town on September 16, said the British-based Observatory.

At one point, the jihadist group had looked poised to overrun Kobane.

IS wielded sophisticated weapons captured from military bases in Syria and Iraq and committed hundreds of fighters to the battle.

But Kurdish forces gradually pushed back the jihadists with the help of the US-led air raids and a group of fighters from Iraq’s Kurdish peshmerga forces.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 27, 2015 at 12:46 pm

Syriza: Some European Left Reactions.

with 6 comments

Syriza: Hope in Europe.

Un souffle d’espoir 
pour tourner la page 
de l’austérité L’Humanité – closely aligned to the Parti Communiste Français, Front de Gauche.

The breath of hope in place of austerity.

Il y avait hier soir à Athènes quelque chose de léger dans l’atmosphère, qui éclairait les visages et réchauffait les cœurs.

Last evening there was something happy in the air, which lit up people’s faces and warmed their hearts.

Eine Alternative ist möglich Die Linke (German Left Party).

Die deutsche LINKE steht an SYRIZAs Seite.

Die Linke stands on Syriza’s side. 

Meine Erfahrungen aus Athen: Es herrscht eine Riesenbegeisterung in den Straßen, Aufbruchsstimmung, Demokratiebewegung. Vor allem junge Menschen sind begeistert. Davon sollten wir in Deutschland uns ebenso begeistern lassen, wir brauchen in Deutschland nicht weniger, sondern mehr linke Politik!

“My experience in Athens: there reigned an atmosphere of holiday enthusiasm, of optimism, of democratic movement. Above the youth are enthusiastic. So, we in Germany should also be equally enthusiastic, we need not less, but more, Left-wing politics!

Parti de Gauche - Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Front de Gauche (France).

Grèce. Pour la première fois, un peuple européen a porté à la tête de son gouvernement un parti de l’autre gauche pour se débarrasser de l’austérité.

For the first time a European people has brought to the head of government a party of the ‘other’ left in order to get rid of austerity.

Podemos (Spain) Pablo Iglesias, de Podemos, felicita a partido Syriza por triunfo en Grecia

Pablo Inglesias, of Podemos, congratulated the Syria party for its Greek victory.

Podemos dice que Grecia marca un nuevo tiempo que llegará a España. (El Païs)

Podemos says that Greece has marked a new era which will come to Spain.

Ensemblepart of the Front de Gauche, France.

L’espoir a gagné !

Hope has won!

Cécile DUFLOT (Députée EE-LV, ex-ministre de l’Egalité des territoires et du Logement) – French Green Party.

Il est l’heure de l’alternance européenne.

Now is the time for the European Alternative.

John McDonnell, Labour Representation Committee,

“Take heart from the scale of the #syriza
vote & recognise that the revolt against austerity across Europe is growing as each cut bites.”

Socialist Party, Belgium (le Soir),

Elio Di Rupo, a salué « la victoire éclatante de Syriza » et « espère qu’elle rendra espoir au peuple grec ».

The Socialist Party, former Prime Minister, Elio Di Ropo, saluted the “stunning victory of Syriza” He “hoped it will give hope to the Greek People.”

Socialist Workers Party (UK).

A new day for Greece and Europe

THE VICTORY of Greece’s Coalition of the Radical Left, or SYRIZA, in parliamentary elections is a long-awaited breakthrough against the ruling class agenda of austerity and repression that has inflicted suffering across Europe and plunged Greece into an economic and social crisis unseen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Note: as Socialist Worker tries to crawl on the Syriza bandwagon it’s worth remembering that the SWP, as is their wont, did not back Syriza but a collection of sects,  the miniscule Anticapitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow ANTARSYA cντικαπιταλιστική Αριστερή Συνεργασία για την Ανατροπή, ΑΝΤ.ΑΡ.ΣΥ.Α.) The reasons include the fact the Syriza is pro-European and  “For some time Syriza has been moving to the right, but it’s difficult to do that during the election.” (SW) This gaggle of groupuscules received 0.64 of the vote in the election.

The Weekly Worker, which seems to have been converted to John Holloway’s politics of “how to change the world without taking power”, said a few days ago,

“Our duty is to warn about the danger of Syriza being a 21st century version of the popular front governments of the 1930s … and express solidarity with the working class and people in Greece who have had their living conditions savaged by the troika, leading to a situation where wide sections are surviving on food parcels and other forms of charity. ” What if Syriza Wins?

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty carried an article by Nicos Anastasiadis which noted,

The first reaction to a Syriza victory will be great joy from the working people and poor who have suffered from Memorandum policies. We will see great wave of expectation of change.

And this (on Shiraz Socialist): After the Syriza victory: for a United Front of the left throughout Europe!

Left Unity says,

Syriza victory shows a different Europe is possible

Responding to Syriza’s victory in the Greek elections, Left Unity’s Salman Shaheen said:

“Finally Europe is set to have a government that will stand up against austerity.

“We send our warmest congratulations to our sister party and the people of Greece.

“We believe the best way to support them is to spread solidarity across Europe and construct similar left wing parties everywhere.

“Later this year we could see Podemos come to office in Spain. This is just the beginning.”

European Left Party (which represents numerous left parties in the European Parliament and outside of it).

The struggle for change in Europe has begun.

The overthrow of the Greek memorandum government is an important step that will be completed on January 25th, 2015 by  the imminent grand electoral victory of SYRIZA.

This victory will not be confined only to the restoration of democracy in Greece. It will be expanded to stop the humanitarian disaster inflicted on the Greek people.

It will send a strong message to all the peoples of Europe and especially of the southern countries that would portray the following:

“The Merkelism is not invincible. Austerity can stop. Europe can change”

We, the representatives of political parties, social movements, trade-unions and other social activists of the European South that met in Barcelona, on at the 1st European South Forum, express our determination, in common, to work together, in order to defeat the neoliberal austerity strategy that has been brutally imposed in our countries through the Troika’s Memorandums,  extreme national austerity programs and the structural counter-reforms. Together, we promote a collective and concrete alternative for a progressive exit from the crisis, in the direction of the re-establishment of Europe on the basis of democracy, solidarity, and social and environmental sustainability.

We do not face the current crisis as if it were either a series of “national abnormalities”, or as a conflict between Northern and Southern Europe. Instead, starting from the south, our priority is to enlarge the European front of resistance against neoliberalism and push forward European solutions that will strengthen the unity of the peoples of Europe, against the current resurgence of austericide, reactionary, chauvinistic, and extreme right-wing projects and forces.

The future of the Eurozone is not jeopardized by our plan for an immediate break from austerity and an alternative strategy for economic and social development. On the contrary, it is jeopardized by the destructive austerity that is being imposed by the neoliberal establishment, under the guidance of the present conservative majority in Europe.

Therefore, in order to put an immediate end to the European crisis and to rescue the idea of the European peoples’ unity, we urgently need a policy change:

1. A Green New Deal for Europe. The European economy has being suffering 6 years of crisis, with an average unemployment around 12%. The dangers of a 1930’s style deflation is on its doorstep. Europe could and should collectively borrow at low interest rates to finance a program of economic reconstruction, ecological transition, and sustainable and social development with emphasis on investment in people, social protection, public services, energy, technology and needed infrastructures. The program would help crisis ravaged economies to break free from the vicious cycle of recession and rising debt ratios, to create jobs, and to sustain recovery.

2. Defeating unemployment. The average European unemployment is today the highest since official records began. Today, almost 27 million people are unemployed in the European Union out of which more than 19 million belong to the Eurozone. The official unemployment Eurozone average has risen from 7,8% in 2008 to 11,5% in August 2014. For Greece, from 7,7% to  26,4% and for Spain from 11,3% to 24,4% during the same period. We urgently need a major job creation plan, which will create, through targeted European and national public investments supported by the ECB, secure, stable and dignified employment and viable life-prospects for millions of Europeans, especially young people, women and immigrants who have been brutally victimized and relegated to social exclusion.

3. Credit expansion to cooperatives and small and medium-sized firms. Credit conditions in Europe have deteriorated sharply. Small and medium-sized firms have been hit especially hard. Thousands of them, particularly in the crisis-hit economies of the European South, have been forced to close, not because they were not viable, but due to the absence of credit fluidity and the lack of demand. The consequences for jobs have been dire. Extraordinary times require non-conventional action: the European Central Bank should follow the example of other Central Banks all around the world and provide cheap credit to banks, on the strict pre-condition that those same banks increase their lending to small and medium-sized enterprises by a corresponding amount.

4. Suspension of the new European fiscal framework, as a pre-condition for the exercise of a truly sustainable and developmental fiscal policy.

5. A genuine European Central Bank – lender of last resort for member-states, not only for banks. The commitment to act as lender of last resort should be unconditional and should not depend on the conditioning or submission of a member state’s agreement to a reform program with the European Stability Mechanism.

6. Macroeconomic and social readjustment: Countries with surpluses should do as much as deficit countries to correct macroeconomic imbalances within Europe. Europe should monitor, assess and demand action from countries  with current account surpluses, in the form of stimuli, in order to alleviate the unilateral pressure on deficit countries. The current asymmetry in the adjustment between surplus and deficit countries does not harm the deficit countries alone. It harms Europe as a whole.

7. A European Glass-Steagall Act. The aim is to separate the commercial from the investment banking activities and prevent such a dangerous merging of risks into one uncontrolled entity.

8. Effective European legislation to tax offshore economic and entrepreneurial activities.

9. A European Debt Conference, with the participation of all the public members involved at a state, European and international level, inspired by the London Debt Agreement of 1953, which essentially relieved Germany of the economic burden of its own past and thus assisted the post-war reconstruction of the country. Such a conference must come up with a solution negotiated and adapted to each country, for each creditor and bondholder including the partial restructuring of terms and interest rates, the abolition of a large part of the public debts and the introduction of a “growth clause” for the repayment of the remaining parts. In that context all available policy instruments should be employed, including the European Central Bank, acting as last resort lender to issue special Eurobonds that would either replace national debt or lead to a significant debt forgiveness.

10. A resolute fight against fraud and corruption, and the crony capitalism suffered by our countries.

All these must go hand by hand with a committed struggle against patriarchy, inequalities, and against racism and xenophobia.

Before and after the outburst of the crisis, ideas as those proposed above were treated by the neoliberal establishment as “illusionist” and “populist”. Today, such ideas that formulate a concrete alternative against austerity are becoming more and more assumed and defended by our peoples and compete for social and political majorities in a number of European countries. It’s high time we transform popular discontent and aspiration into a massive political wave of change, for the establishment of economic democracy, popular sovereignty and environmental sustainability. The year 2015 can signal a new historical cycle of progress for our countries and Europe.

It’s time to make markets pay! The drift to increased inequality and precarious employment is not a real option for working people in Europe. Market structures affect protective institutional arrangements (welfare states, industrial relations rules, political systems, and other societal arrangements) in a way that Europe is stepping back from human rights and the burden of economic adjustment is not at all shared equally across European societies.

Therefore, we, the forces and organizations gathered here, commit to:

Work in coordination and provide the political and social momentum to achieve these changes;

  • Monitor the social and economic performance in our countries and our continent;
  • Foster the European Conference on Debt; and
  • Ensure continuity to the work of this Forum. And from this promoting team, and with the incorporation of all parties and organizations here gathered and the ones still to come, bolster new and future editions of this Forum.

Barcelona, 24th January 2015

 The Guardian reports,

Greece is headed into a new era of anti-austerity as the radical leftist Syriza successfully formed a government with the Independent Greeks party after falling agonisingly short of an outright majority in Sunday’s landmark elections.

“I want to say, simply, that from this moment, there is a government,” the Independent Greeks leader, Panos Kammenos, told reporters after emerging from a meeting at Syriza’s headquarters.

“The Independent Greeks party will give a vote of confidence to the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras. The prime minister will go to the president and … the cabinet makeup will be announced by the prime minister. The aim for all Greeks is to embark on a new day, with full sovereignty.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Charlie Hebdo in its own Words: Translation of ‘Tout est pardonné’ Leader.

with 13 comments

CharlieThere is a mountain of commentary about Charlie Hebdo. Few, particularly the most hostile to the Weekly, take the trouble to look at more than the Front Page, let alone the articles. Despite some excellent pieces explaining what Charlie is about and where it stands on the French left, the content of the magazine gets skimmed over.

The degree of ignorance this absence fosters is perhaps best indicated by Socialist Workers’ claim that, “Charlie Hebdo is a strange combination—a left wing paper that’s become notorious for its racist attacks on Muslims. Its murdered editor, cartoonist Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier,  considered himself a progressive, anti-establishment figure. Yet the paper is steeped in a “republican” tradition that sees the state as progressive and everything from minority languages to religion as its enemy.” (Socialist Worker). SW even directly smeared the paper talking of the toke it “has played in the legitimisation of racism in France.”Galloway and the Stop the War Coalition have made similar declarations, asserting that Charlie is Islamophobic.

They appear not to have the courage – or perhaps the ability, or (more probably the honesty)  – to read what Charlie actually says. It is not in the least bit ‘strange’. Indeed French leftists find the British left’s failure to confront Islamist religious bigotry and state sponsored religious authority less than ‘progressive’. Not to mention Socialist Worker’s decision to publish material claiming that the overseas jihadists fighting with the genociders of  ISIS could be compared with volunteers for the Republic in the Spanish civil war. Some – as in the comments box here – claim that it represented “imperialism and Zionism”.

This, the Leader of the famous  Tout est pardonné issue, makes it brilliantly clear what Charlie’s secularism is about – something very different to these distorted charges.

I have rendered the syntax and idioms into colloquial English rather than give a literal translation.

People will be able to make their own judgements – free from the prissy censors of oh so British liberals and the ‘left’ enemies of Charlie.

Est-ce qu’il y aura encore des “oui mais”?

Are there still the “Yes buts?”

For a week, Charlie, an atheist paper, has achieved more miracles than all the saints and the prophets together. This is the one of which we are the proudest, that you have in your hands the weekly which we have always produced, by the group who have always produced it. The thing that made us laugh the most is that the bells of Notre-Dame rang out in our honour…

For a week, as portrayed so wonderfully by Willem, Charlie has moved, across the world, more than mountains. Charlie has masses of new friends: people without a name, world celebrities, the lowest and the most privileged, sinners and religious dignitaries, the sincere and the Jesuitical, those who’ll be with us for life, and those who are only here for a short time.

At present we accept all of these people and haven’t the will or the time to distinguish amongst them. Not that we are fooled for a moment. But we gives our heartfelt thanks to those, the millions, whether they’re ordinary citizens or those who are part of the established institutions, who are genuinely on our side, who have found each other here, who “are Charlie”. And we say to those who couldn’t give a toss: fuck off!

One question, nevertheless, vexes us: is the denigrating expression, “secularist intellectual” (laïcard intellectuel) going to be dropped from the political vocabulary? Are we finally going to stop finding learned circumlocutions to put murderers and their victims in the same basket?

Over the last years we’ve felt rather alone, trying with our cartoons to push back the muck and intellectual trickery that has been thrown against our friends who’ve staunchly defended secularism (laïcité). That we’re Islamophobes, Christianophobes, provocateurs, irresponsible, throwing fuel on the fire, racists, and ….you got what’s coming to you. Yes, we condemn terrorism, but. Yes, threatening cartoonists with death is not good, but. Yes, burning down a paper isn’t right, but.

We’ve heard all that, and our friends have too. We’ve often tried to laugh it off – that is, after all what we do best. And yet, it’s begun again. The blood of Cabu, Charb, Honoré, Tignous, Wolinski, Elsa Cayat, Bernard Maris, Mustapha Ourrad, Michel Renaud, Franck Brinsolaro, Frédéric Boisseua, Ahmed Merabet, Clarissa Jean-Philippe, Philippe Braham, Yohan Cohen, Yoav Hattab, François-Michel Saada, had not even dried before Thierry Mayssan had explained to his Facebook fans that this was, obviously, a Jewish-American-Western plot.

We already hear, after Sunday’s demonstrations, from those who turned up their noses at the march. Their lips slavering, they’ve come out with the old arguments that justify, overtly or covertly, religious fascism. They are enraged at the praise given to the ‘SS’ Police.

No – in this massacre there is no death less worthy than any other. Franck, who died in Charlie’s offices, and all his colleagues murdered during the week of barbarism, met their deaths defending ideas which are, perhaps, not their own.

We are going to try, regardless, to be optimistic, even if it’s not at present the fashion. We will hope that, from the 7th of January onwards, everybody will firmly defend secularism. That it will not be accepted, as a pose, or out of electoral considerations, or by cowardice, to legitimate, or even tolerate, communalism and cultural relativism. This only opens the way to one thing: religious totalitarianism.

Yes, the Israel-Palestinian conflict is a reality, Yes geopolitics are a series of manoeuvres and low blows, yes social conditions for those called “people of Muslim origin” in France are deeply unfair, Yes, we must never stop fighting racism and discrimination. There are, fortunately, many means to deal with these serious problems. But every one of them is ineffective without one: secularism (laïcité). Not ‘positive’ secularism, not ‘inclusive’ secularism, but secularism – full stop.

Only this, because it’s based on universal rights, can bring about equality, liberty, fraternity and sorority. Only this allows full freedom of thought, a liberty that, more or less openly, according to their marketing position, every religion rejects as soon as it leaves private life, and enters into political territory. Only this allows, ironically, believers to live undisturbed. All of those who claim to defend Muslims, and who accept a totalitarian religious discourse, defend in effect their own butchers. The first victims of Islamic fascism are Muslims.

The millions of anonymous people, all the official institutions, all the heads of government, all the political, intellectual and media personalities, all the religious dignitaries who, during this week, have proclaimed “Je suis Charlie” should know ‘I am Secularism’ – Je suis la laïcité‘. We are convinced that, for the majority of those who’ve supported us, this goes without saying. We will let the others deal with their own shit.

There is one final important thing. We’d like to send a message to Pope Francis, who’s been this week himself a Je suis Charlie. We’ll accept that the bells of Notre Dame ring out in our honour when it’s Femen who pull them.

We Show Galloway and Stop the War Coalition some “Unpleasant” “Insults” from Charlie Hebdo.

with one comment

Carlie Back pageGeorge Galloway boldly declared “Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo” during a damning address at a freedom of speech rally in Bradford on Saturday.

The Respect MP told a crowd of protestors gathered outside Bradford City Hall that the French government should be ashamed of themselves for standing by the “racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag” in the wake of the attacks in Paris that killed 17 people last week.

These are not cartoons these are not depictions of the Prophet, these are pornographic, obscene insults to the Prophet and by extension, 1.7billion human beings on this earth and there are limits.

“There are limits. There limits to free speech and free expression especially in France.”

Charlie Hebdo sought “to further marginalize, further alienate and further endanger exactly those parts of the community who are already alienated, already endangered,” he argued.

Independent.

The Stop the War Coalition publishes this,

Mark Maguire: Why Je Suis NOT Charlie Hebdo

“The right of a rather unpleasant French magazine to publish anti-Islamic cartoons may be defended, but it is an uncomfortable thing to hold up as a symbol of press freedom, even if it is a true measure of a society’s freedom how it tolerates opposing views.

Of course, it is also widely understood that there is a fine line between freedom of expression and incitement to religious, racial or cultural hatred, but Charlie Hebo has strayed some way over the wrong side of that divide.”

NB: The images are from a copy of the Charlie Hebdo issue just bought in Ipswich.

Charlie

Note the banners of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units and placard saying “Kurds will never forget you”.

All our support for Syriza!

with 3 comments

Greece is the most striking example of what happens when political matters are being dealt with by economic powers. The fact that non democratic entities such as the European Central Bank or the IMF sort out problems which were created by those same economic powers in the first place, is a serious step back regarding the concept of democracy as a whole, which used to guarantee that the citizens’ decision was the most sacred contract within European societies.

On the contrary this country, which suffered the worst financial scam, is being punished a second time instead of the actual culprits being punished: those politicians who hope to give back what they lost in speculations by directly dispossessing their citizens.

Greece today is crumbling as a result: it has become a place where misery, hunger, necessity, unemployment and social, work and environmental need and insecurity are added to the total inability to supremely decide on economic or social policies. The elections of 2015 represent a historic opportunity to start giving the economy back to the Greek people, which should always have been the case. Unfortunately, we are worried to see that conditions are being put on the free decision of the Greek citizens to give a unique chance of victory to parties that are questioning the antidemocratic tendency imposed by international economic institutions and by the European Commission.

We, the signatories, civil servants from different backgrounds, demand for the Greek people to be free to choose. We cannot accept the intimidation campaigns which are currently conditioning the votes through the media or international institutions.

We urge the European institutions to make sure these elections remain trouble-free, and to prevent any attempt to limit and/or condition the decision made by the Greek people. We think that Syriza’s victory can be the starting point of what will stop the trend which, in the name of financial speculation, is destroying economies, the environment and the well-being of the people. They will ensure that, beyond the 25 January, the sovereign decisions of the Greek people will be respected.

 

Alberto Garzón – Deputy of Izquierda Unida at the Congress of Deputies (Spain)
Gabriele Zimmer - Deputy of Die Linke at the European Parliament and President of the GUE/NGL (Germany)
Sergio Coronado - Deputy of Europe Écologie Les Verts at National Assembly (Francia)
Maria Dolors Camat – Deputy of ICV-EUiA at the Catalonian Parliament and president of ICV (Catalonia, Spain)

Frances O’Grady,Trade Union Council (TUC) : Why the Greek Elections are so important – for the Greeks and Europe as a whole

This Sunday, the Greek people go to the polls in what must be one of the most important elections not just for Greece but for Europe as a whole. What is at stake is the future of democratic control of the economy, and the European establishment’s love affair with austerity.

Nowhere in Europe has suffered so much from the after-effects of the global financial crisis. The austerity programme imposed on the Greek people by the troika of the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission has seen unemployment rocket to 25% (and more than 50% among young people), the minimum wage and pensions slashed, public services sold off and in some cases – eg Greece’s public service broadcaster – shut down. Many Greek people have been left destitute, homeless and fearing for their futures. Some have left the country or abandoned their hopes of starting a family.

Above all, these changes have undermined democratic control in the country known as the birthplace of democracy – something that has helped the neo-nazi thugs of Golden Dawn grow. Unelected forces from outside the country have dictated the terms on which the Greek government and economy can continue to function. Labour’s equivalent in Greece, PASOK, has all-but collapsed under the strain. Collective bargaining has been undermined, and the unions’ role reduced to fire-fighting, resisting closures, sell-offs and attacks on living standards.

For the rest of us in Europe, the elections on Sunday are important because they could see the rejection of austerity and renewed discussion of the sort of sustainable investment plans that the ETUC has advocated. The IMF has – astoundingly without showing any remorse – accepted that the levels of austerity they helped impose on Greece were based on flawed economic models. Every serious commentator I know acknowledges that, somehow, Greece’s debt needs to be reduced, and that continued austerity in Greece is not the answer. That means some form of rescheduling the debt, including debt forgiveness, must be arranged, and the infamous Memorandum under which Greek national sovereignty and economic sustainability was removed needs to be replaced.

The costs of the global economic crisis need to be shared more fairly, and of course, there are problems in Greece that exacerbated the crisis, and are not externally imposed. Public debt was too high before the crisis. But that wasn’t the fault of the people who are now paying for austerity: Greece needs to address the oligarchy that led it down the ruinous path it was already following before the global financial crisis hit, and whose members have so far not had to pay the price.

Although the Greek people have suffered most under austerity, if they reject it that will have repercussions in forthcoming elections across Europe – starting with Spain – because austerity is hitting everyone (arguably it already hit Germany in the last decade when pay growth stagnated and the sort of low paid jobs we are used to in the UK spread to Europe’s richest economy.) The UK’s working poor and middle classes have also suffered from the ideological craze for slashing the state back to the size it was in the 1930s, the spread of low-productivity and zero hours jobs, and stagnating wages.

Now every poll shows Syriza, the left party headed by Alexis Tsipras, who I met last year, in the lead. Some European politicians have, disgracefully, been threatening the Greek electorate with dire consequences, including expulsion from the Eurozone, if they dare to vote the wrong way! There are powerful forces mobilising against the interests of the Greek people. So if they choose an alternative path on Sunday, they will deserve and need our support and solidarity.

 Greece Solidarity Campaign.

See also:  Greece: the prospect of a Syriza victory (Shiraz Socialist).

Alexis Tsipras of Syriza is far from Greek orthodox: The Communist ‘Harry Potter’ who could implode the Eurozone (Independent).

Written by Andrew Coates

January 22, 2015 at 12:29 pm

Islamic Human Rights Commission, Charlie Hebdo, Richard Seymour and the Indigènes de la République

with 5 comments

Indigènes de la République Against Free Speech at the La Fête de l’Huma.

This will be held shortly:

What now for Europe? The instrumentalisation of the Paris attacks

Saturday, 24 January at 4pm to 7pm.

Speakers:

Houria Bouteldja - a French-Algerian political activist and blogger. She is also the spokesperson of the Party of the Indigenous of the Republic (PIR) – (Indigènes de la République.)

Kevin Cobham – Cambridge educated criminal defence lawyer and people-centred human rights advocate.

Ramon Grosfoguel – professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate of the Maison des Science de l’Homme in Paris

M’Baïreh Lisette – Activist for almost 50 years and an expert in crisis management. He is a spokesperson of the Party of the Indigenous of the Republic (PIR) and also the former Secretary General of the Association of French Overseas Elected Representatives. (1)

Arzu Merali - co-founder of IHRC and Head of Research

Richard Seymour – author and broadcaster.  He writes for The Guardian, and appears on Telesur.  His most recent book is Against Austerity (2014), and he is completing a PhD at the London School of Economics.

There are therefore 2 speakers from the Party of the Indigenous of the Republic (PIR) – (Indigènes de la République.)

From the statement of the Indigènes de la République on the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and the killings at the Jewish supermarket.

“… like most Muslim organizations, we have condemned in the strongest terms the deadly shootout against Charlie Hebdo, in the same way that we mourn the five new victims of this blind folly.”

….

But….

Like delighted maneuvering vultures, our accusers jumped at the chance to pin the “moral responsibility” of the attacks on the struggle against islamophobia, because Charlie Hebdo’s drifts towards islamophobia were criticized in a social and political context of unequal treatment of Muslims, a context favourable to all sorts of violence. Some among these accusers are certified islamophobes. In this way they may try to clear their own responsibility, but more importantly they aim to mobilise state repression against our respective and common struggles, or in other words they aim to silence them, in the name of a selective “freedom of expression”, one which is strictly subordinate to their privileges. We witnessed this selectivity during the summer of 2014, with the repression of pro-palestinian marches, and before that with the banning of Dieudonné’s shows, and at this very moment with the trial of Saïd Bouamama and Saïdou Zep concerning their book and their song both entitled “Nique la France” [Fuck France].

So we should not be surprised that by taking advantage of the circumstances, the new found motto of “freedom of speech” is being used to impose a single way of thinking, to the benefit of the social order that it supports, by radicalizing the arsenal of symbolic violence and repression against its opponents.

In response to those who have criticised the Indigènes.

” it is they who, by their excesses and their encouragement to Islamophobia, have fueled this unhealthy climate for many years, while, conversely, we kept warning against fatal outcomes of this sort. In pointing a finger in our direction, they hope to keep people looking away from their responsibility or their passive complicity. In other words, they are hitting early, so they will not have to account for the heavy consequences of a policy in which they are deeply involved.”

In other words the imperialist French republic is responsible for the slaughter.

And Charlie had it coming…..

We further note (from here),

Houria Bouteldja (see above), porte parole du mouvement « le mode de vie homosexuel n’existe pas dans les quartiers populaires “

The homosexual way of life does not exist in working class and deprived areas. – says one of the speakers at Saturday’s event.

They certainly seem to have a problem with gays, as this, part of the continuing campaign against feminist and lesbian writer Caroline Fourest indicates,

La journaliste et essayiste Caroline Fourest a été prise à partie samedi à la Fête de l’Humanité par une trentaine de militants qui l’ont contrainte à annuler une intervention sur le thème «Comment faire face au FN» Libération 2012.

That is Fourest was shouted down and prevented from speaking – amid a confrontation during which Communists and leftists yelled, “Le Fascisme ne passera pas” at the Indigènes thugs and their allies.

Charlie Hebdo.

Now they announce that the millions strong demonstration in support of Charlie was against them, “cette mobilisation se faisait contre nous.”

This is what they say about the murderers,

A Kouachi et Coulibaly, ce qui a été transmis c’est l’expérience de l’humiliation, la privation des biens matériels, de la culture et de la langue, c’est aussi les non-dits, les viols, les tortures et l’esclavage ; héritage psychique de l’histoire de nos ancêtres

Koucahi and Coulibably, they have had the experience of humiliation, of materiel deprivation, of cultural and linguistic deprivation, there are rapes, tortures and slavery, unsaid, in their background: the psychological inheritance of our ancestors.

Charlie vu par les Arabes et les Noirs des quartiers

So the killings were all about the assertion of the ‘Other’ faced with the Colonial French State (Frantz Fanon). No doubt their violence was a cry to assert their dignity….

The Indigènes de la République may only be a small group of university educated enthusiasts for Fanon. Grosfoguel also uses Franz Fanon’s theory of the zones of being and non-being (???) to explain Islamophobia as a form of ‘racism‘ – tracing it back to the Reconquista in Spain.

No doubt medieval Islamic empires were not colonial…..

They may only be the political wing of post-colonial studies…..

But we observe that this event is a bit more serious.

Where does this ‘Human rights’ group come from politically?

The commission organises the annual Al-Quds Day demonstration in London, initiated by Ayatollah Khomeini.”

These are the people Richard Seymour, responsible for much of Left Unity’s ‘anti-racist’ policy,  is now associating with.

 Update:

Ex-Head of M15 agrees with the Indigènes, the Islamic Human Rights Commission and Seymour.

Charlie Hebdo: Publishing cartoon of prophet Mohammed was an act of provocation, says ex head of MI6.

The publishing of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of  the Muslim prophet Mohammed was an act of provocation, showing a lack of respect of other peoples’ religion in the West and the backlash which came should have been expected, the recently departed head of MI6 has stated.

In his first public appearance since standing down from the post of ‘C’ Sir John Sawers declared his support for Pope Francis who had spoken out against “provocateurs” on religious matters and warned that they can expect violence in return.

Independent.

(1) Involved in an ‘alternative’ anti-colonial genocide day. Zionism, to this group, is (citing Edward Said), a ” fléau raciste, colonial et déshumanisant.”

Written by Andrew Coates

January 21, 2015 at 12:21 pm

French Greens, Left Socialists, Front de Gauche and Communists Back Syriza.

leave a comment »

Clémentine Autain, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Cécile Duflot et Pierre Laurent, au gymnase Japy à Paris, lundi, lors d'un meeting de soutien au parti grec Syriza.

French Feminists, Left Socialists, Greens and Communists Back Syriza.

A 500 strong meeting in support of Syriza with the leader of the French Green Party (EELV), the left of the Socialist Party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the French Communist Party was held in Paris yesterday.

The objective was to support the right of the Greek people to take their own destiny in hand. That is, to help Syriza and its leader, Alexis Tsipras, – at present leading the polls for next Sunday’s elections in Greece. Another objective was to show that an “alternative” – rosé (Socialist), green and red is possible in France.

“Si Syriza gagne, puis Podemos, nous aurons du vent dans les voiles”

If Syriza wins, then Podems, we’ll have wind in our sails!

Full report Libération.

Interviewed on France Inter this morning Cécile Duflot, head of France’s greens, was not clear as to whether such an alliance was possible.

The report on the radio station mentioned that Olivier Besancenot of the Nouveau Parti anti-Capitaliste (NPA) had also been present at the rally.

Charlie Hebdo and Laïcité – secularism.

with 5 comments

“Je suis le véritable Père Duchesne, foutre!”

The original hard-line anti-clerical, Jacques-René Hébert. 1790.

Hostility to Charlie Hebdo is widespread on the Anglophone left, liberal and socialist. While deploring the Paris murders a series of “buts” keeps cropping up. But…Charlie was provocative (a pretty redundant remark), but they insulted people’s deeply held beliefs, (see previous comment), but (and this is a brazen distortion) they attacked the faith of the banlieues, the poor, the marginalised. They have “disproportionately targeted Muslims by lampooning their prophet and besmirching their religion” (Counterpunch) They have “abused” the tradition of satire. Their “malicious purpose” is to “denigrate” Islam. Peter Mason in the Weekly Worker notes some on the British ‘left’ not only confused – claiming like the SWP that Charlie reinforced, even legitimised, the wave of Islamophobia” –  but back religious censorship.

These claims reached fever pitch in the Saturday Guardian column of Gilles Fraser. He detects a red thread from the “totalitarianism” of Dechristianisation in the French revolution – “murderous state sponsored suppression” – to today’s French secularism. The link is the creation of an “external religious threat against which to frame itself.” Far from being “neutral’ France’s secularism shows its true colours in Charlie, which singles out, “a beleaguered, economically fragile Muslim community that has received a great many knocks at the hands of the French state and its colonial past”.

Tendance Coatesy has covered Fraser’s wilfully distorted portrait of the two phases of Dechristianisation, the short-lived Age of Reason (1793-4, the time of Père Duchesne and Hébert), and the worship of the Supreme Being (Robespierre) during the French Revolution. Nigel Aston gives a fuller picture. (Religion and Revolution in France. 1780 – 1804. 2000) Aston describes how both periods were marked by Anti-Christian ideas. At the same time the Constitutional Church, in which one of the first anti-slavery campaigners, Abbé Grégoire (and close colleague of the British Quaker Thomas Clarkson), which they tried to impose over the Catholic Church, with limited success, a patriotic Christianity.

The French Revolution may have been hostile to France’s existing institutionalised religion. But was it ‘secular’? Aston notes, that it began with efforts to create its “own symbols and its mystic character drawn from masonry, sentimental literature (notably Rousseau) and classical antiquity.”(Page 262) That is, it was not concerned with creating a neutral public sphere, a separation of religion and the state, but with the formation of its own civic cult.

The Real Origins of Secularism. 

Secularism, in the form of laïcité, was the product of the 19th, not the 18th century. As Georges Weill explained (Histoire de l’idée laïque en France au XXe siècle. 1929, new edition, 2004) it was during the 1840s that the idea that administration and government of the country should be free from any religious power, emerged. Edgar Quinet ( 1803 – 1875) was one of the first to advocate a “une séparation complète radicale” of religious institutions from the State (Page 147 – 149)

Quinet’s emphasis on the idea of secular education, “l’école laïque ” was to be at the centre of all the subsequent fights for laïcité. Jules Ferry, who created the basis for a republican education system liberated from the –Catholic Church –, was only able to begin to realise this ideal after the Second Empire, under clerical domination, had fallen. The Third Republic (founded 1875) was rocked by divisions on the issue. It was only in 1905 that France saw a real separation of Church and State (with numerous exceptions, notably concerning private Catholic education, which continued, with subsidies).

Weill indicates that far from being the result of a violent hostility to religion French secularism originates in four sources. The first came from ‘Galician’ Catholics who opposed the ultramontagne power of the Pope over their own affairs, and, as the century progressed from Catholics who became attached to republican ideals. The second was amongst liberal Protestants, who had obvious (and blood-stained) reasons to distrust the power of the official Church. A third were desists, who wanted religion, illuminated by science, to be free from the doctrinal control of Papal Curia.

Only in the fourth category, the “libres penseurs”, can we find those with some debt to Hébert. The early workers’ movement owed a debt to Christian belief, particularly to Lamenais’ Paroles d’un croyant (1834), which rooted Christianity in democracy and social causes (in many respects more advanced than British ‘Christian socialism’ and still worth reading). But as the century progressed anti-clericalism spread amongst the socialists as well as amongst those who would become the so-called ‘Radical Socialist’ party (the word ‘radical’ comes from the British ‘radicals’ like John Stuart Mill). Many of the popular classes simply abandoned religion. 

The importance within these streams of thought of one wing of the Freemasons, best known in the Grand Orient Lodge, is well known. They straddled deism and freethinking. Their political influence can be judged in many ways, yet clearly their principled defence of free thought and hostility to clerical privilege, remain a positive legacy.

Secularism comes into Practice.

By the end of the 19th century these forces converged in the shape of republican cabinets. Jules Ferry, equally the defender of France’s ‘civilising mission’ through its colonial ambitions, was the figure best known for putting some of these policies into practice. His belief in the “devoir d’hommes de race supérieure” is clearly a case of a ‘particularism masking as universalism’. It was strongly contested by socialists at the time – Jules Guesde called these colonial policies “une des pire formes de l’exploitation capitaliste” (Page 183 Historie de l’anticolonialisme en France. Claude Liauzu. 2007) But in the sphere of education Ferry’s Lettre aux instituteurs (1883) recommended a more modest yet fundamental principle: that teachers should be neutral about the ideas they deal with and respect the autonomy of their students.

To reduce these people’s efforts to open up education to free debate, to pour scorn on their attempts to remove the power of religious authorities over public life is contemptible. This was the practice of those who fought against the campaign to pardon Dreyfus and the views of what became the French far right – Action Française.

French secularism and French society have evolved considerably since the 19th century. But we might consider that some of the principles they developed are still have the utmost importance. As a universal ideal the axiom that public life should be free from the interference of religious authority remains preferable to the domination of religious authority. We have multi-faith societies – making it even more imperative that conflicting beliefs should not compete over who is to rule. Secularism is the gguarantorof the rights of religious and cultural minorities – by its very natrue an attempt to be as neutral as possible between communities. As Henri Pena- Ruiz of the Parti de Gauche has put it, faced with the “resurgences de irrationalisme et de l’obscurantisme, comme celles du fanatisme religieux et des ‘identiés collectives’ de nature exclusive” (Page 269. Qu’est-ce que la laïcité? 2003).

There is not the slightest reason to idealise the existing French state. Possibilities are not actualities, ideals are not real institutions – though those supporting them try to make them so. The last people who tried to create islands of liberty around ideas in the tradition of  Père Duchesne were the situationists, whose impact was negligible. We have to confront the reality: the French state is based on the domination of the bourgeoisie and capitalism – forces that undercut egalité and fraternité and regularly threaten liberté. The left aims to bring these principles into this political life, against powerful forces.

But secularism continues as a political force, in the projects and policies of people trying to grapple with the issues raised by multi-faith societies and by belief itself. Is it better to have a public education system free from the dogma of faith or to permit religious bodies to impose their doctrines on students? Recent events in the UK suggest that this is a response that stifles free thought and encourages a communal division of society. Is it better to remain liberated from the chains of religious censorship – blasphemy laws by any other name – or permit people to insult not people, not ethnic groups, but religion? If France has not resolved its difficulties it would be a very stupid or a very disingenuous individual to advocate the British model as an alternative.

Charlie Hebdo is a magazine of caricatures. Le Monde reminds us that the word caricature comes from an Italian one, meaning to charge, to load (La caricature, art brûlant. Philippe Dagen, 17.1.15). Its designers specialise in loading charges against the enemies of freedom – those who would wish that their authority – religious or political – is obeyed. They are determined not to submit. They will not submit. Charlie is loved. With the laughter of the peoples of the world directed against them the oppressors feel unease. They have every right to be uneasy.

*****

For a very fine article on Charlie see:  A week inside Charlie Hebdo: how the ‘survival issue’ was made. Ed Vulliamy.

A sad addendum:

Former revolutionary and more recently prominent Liberal Democrat Tariq Ali states,

‘France Tries To Mask Its Islamophobia Behind Secular Values’

Ali shows not the slightest sadness at the brutal Paris murders.

This is a sample of the senescent stentorian style we know all too well,

How should the idea of secularism in France be seen? Is mocking religious beliefs of others a key element of it?

It is, but it’s concentrated on Islam, a tiny bit on Catholicism, while Judaism is usually left well alone. Why not show Moses regularly gang-­raping Palestinian men and women? Just as an idea.”

Ha, bloody ha.

This is what our poor old todger eventually comes out with:

“In fact, French secularism means anything but Islam. And when satirical magazines taunt them, they react. It’s as simple as that.”

Charlie had it coming to them….

To think I was once in the same organisation as this reactionary.

Hommage to Cabu.

with 2 comments

Cabu was a Light against Darkness.

The Independent explains who he was,

Jean Cabut, who was killed in Paris last Wednesday aged 76, was better known as Cabu, a cartoonist who earned the wrath of Muslim fundamentalists with a depiction of the Prophet Mohammed, which became the subject of a court case in 2007; the film-maker Jean-Luc Godard once called him “the best journalist in France”.

Conscripted into the French Army for two years during the war in Algeria, Cabu produced cartoons for the army magazine and also for Paris Match. But his experiences in Algeria turned him into a virulent anti-militarist and he remained a relentless campaigner for non-violence and critic of the French political establishment. In 1960 he became one of the founders of Hara-Kiri, a satirical magazine which, after it was banned by president Charles de Gaulle in 1970, simply changed its name to Charlie Hebdo and appeared with the same cover the following week. Cabu also produced political cartoons for its rival Le Canard enchaîné and other magazines.

His best known characters was Mon Beauf (My brother-in-law), an incarnation of bovine French provincial complacency. On one occasion the notorious Gaullist mayor of Nice, Jacques Médecin (to whom the character bore a physical resemblance), sued Cabu for libel. (Médecin was later tried and convicted for corruption.)

Cabu (Jean Cabut)  was deeply loved by millions (Dispa­ri­tion de Cabu : l’hom­mage poignant de Doro­thée et Corbier).

Andrew Hussey in the New Statesman (print edition) says that Cabu was like a “member of the family”.

His cartoons cheered me up when I was down, and made me happier when I was happy.

He was witty, cutting, fine, graceful and warm.

He was a true comrade – there for all the fights, anti-militarist, green, for the left, for secularism and freedom.

This is from the very first serious article I had published in English – circa 1984 while living in Paris – after the Front National made its first electoral breakthrough (European elections).

 

Cabu,  on t’a tellement aimé!

Written by Andrew Coates

January 18, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Guardian Writer, Gilles Fraser, Attacks Secularism and Charlie – Again.

with 7 comments

Guardian’s Fraser Thinks Secularism is Bound to Terror.

“Atheism is aristocratic; the idea of a great Being that watches over oppressed innocence and punishes triumphant crime is altogether popular.”

Maximilien Robespierre

Somebody should keep a list of all the people commenting on Charlie Hebdo who (1) Know little of the magazine, (2) Know little of France. (3) Know little of the history of  French secularism (laïcité).

Gilles Fraser manages the, not exactly rare, feat of embodying all three features.

In the Guardian today he writes,

The glorious triumph of atheistic rationality over the dangerous totalitarian obscurantism of the Catholic church is one of the great foundation myths of republican France. And coded within this mythology is the message that liberty, equality, fraternity can flourish only when religion is suppressed from the public sphere. It is worth remembering what this ideological space-clearing involved.

At the end of the 18th century, France’s war against the Catholic church reached its bloody conclusion. By Easter 1794, the same revolution that once proclaimed freedom of conscience had forcedly closed down the vast majority of France’s 40,000 churches. What began with the confiscation of church property and the smashing of crosses and chalices, ended with forced conversions and the slaughter of priests and nuns at the guillotine.

It is in this period, the so-called Reign of Terror, that the modern English word terrorism – deriving from the French terrorisme – has its origins. “Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice; it is therefore an emanation of virtue,” argued Robespierre, in what now sounds like a sick press release from Islamic State. Over in the Vendée, those who remained loyal to their centuries-old faith were massacred in what historian Mark Levene has called “an archetype of modern genocide”. The systematic de-Christianisation of France was not the natural and inevitable collapse of sclerotic religion and the natural and inevitable rise of Enlightenment rationality. It was murderous, state-sponsored suppression.

Gilles – perhaps one day you might care to read a history of the French Revolution.

In its stand on religion there were two distinct phases.

The first was very short lived: the period of the Cult of Reason.

The phenomenon of Dechristianisation was characterised, principally, by being short-lived, and also not a government organisation. The Public Safety Authority and the Convention were hostile to, at least suspicious of, the phenomenon.

The first closure of churches was in the provinces, under the aegis of Deputies (représentants en mission) or Surveillance Committees. But Paris was soon to follow suit.

Dechristianisation varied in intensity from one region to another. The campaign was two-fold. First, all institutionalised religions had to be eradicated and then a new civil Religion of Reason was established (Celebration of Reason : 10th November 1793).

The Convention moved from a Christian, to a revolutionary era. Fabre d’Eglantine succeeded in totally changing the calendar, which by abolishing Sunday, and through the terminology adopted, emphasised the anti-Christian ideal.

From Dechristianisation under the reign of Terror.

The second, the most violent phase of the Revolution, which happened under the reign of terror with Robespierre and Saint Just  in complete control, began after the radical dechristianisation had been suppressed. The radical atheist Jacques René Hébert publisher of the anti-Christian, Le Père Duchesne was guillotined (at the same time as Danton).

This is what followed,

On 7th May 1794, Robespierre stopped Dechristianisation. The Convention ruled that the French people recognised the existence of a Supreme Being and immortality of the soul. The existence of the Supreme Being and immortality of the soul did not seem to contradict the beliefs of Protestants in the 18th century.

The initial de-Christianisation was certainly violent. But was it the Enlightenment at fault? One of the most famous of all Enlightenment thinkers, Condorcet (Esquisse d’un tableau historique des progrès de l’esprit humain) died in prison  – in 1793.

From this we conclude that on one point, and one point only Gilles is right: state suppression (paranoid naitonalism in fact), not the Enlightenment, drove the Terror’s approach to rival ideologies.

The bloody suppression that Gilles cites, notably in the Vendée (1793 – 96), was not principally religiously inspired.

It was part of the defence of the Revolution against the armed Counter-Revolution exaggerated by nationalism – hardly without foundation since France was now being circled by its military enemies.

It is hardly surprising that after the – failed – effort to get to grips with the history of the Revolution Fraser does not bother to deal with the long democratic struggle to achieve the separation of Church and State in France which culminated in the founding document of  modern French laïcité in 1905 (loi de séparation des Églises et de l’État). 

He todgers along to make this point instead.

But these days, the Catholic church is no longer any political challenge to the French state. And the reason publications such as Charlie Hebdo persist with their crass anti-clerical cliches (where the joke is usually a variation on bishops buggering each other) is that a powerful strain of French self-understanding actually requires a sense of external religious threat against which to frame itself. But as the Catholic church is no longer planning to sponsor a coup against the state, Republican identity requires something new to define itself against – something just like radical Islam. As Voltaire put it: “If God did not exist it would be necessary to invent him.”

Thus France picked a fight with Islam by banning the headscarf from schools in 2004 and the niqab from all public life back in 2010 – bans which closely echo the hostility of earlier generations to the veiling of nuns.

So secularism is all about ‘external threats’ – not about creating a free and equal public sphere. It’s all about ‘picking fights’ – the presence of Salafists determined to impose their own ‘mini- states’ and repression on ‘their’ people – well, it’s not a presence. 

Charlie attacks the powerful – from Sarkozy to Hollande – and the reactionary. It defends  the weak.

The Islamists have power, they have money, and they are part of the reaction.

No, for the Guardian religious affairs columnist  it’s all about the fear of the ‘Other’ , something which ‘it’ ‘defines itself against – one of the tiredest conceptual tricks  out of the post-colonial studies bumper book of of clichés, that many would wish would simply go away and expire.

Perhaps even Fraser had noticed that the rise of violent Islamism, the Algerian civil war (begun in 1992) had happened. That there has been a growth in every European country of reactionary Islamism. That some young people have joined the genociders to kill, main and oppress in the Middle East……

Apparently  not.

Secularism and Charlie are  all about “bullying and goading” poor ‘Muslims’.

Fraser does not bother to distinguish between the vast variety of different ‘Muslims’ in France, or even admit that there are – many – secularists of a North African background.

Note to Fraser: Charlie is not going to stop criticising religion.

It is not going to give up.

It is not going to go away.

The precious principle of laïcité- freedom of thought and equality of belief – is not going to vanish.

Your ‘radical’ pretensions – from Occupy onwards – will again and again be put to the test.

So you have plenty of time to read up on the subject and write something showing at least a minimum acquaintance with the  subject.

You could start here: Histoire Socialiste de la Révolution Française. Jean Jaurès.

“On the religious question Hebertism was nothing but vain and superficial violence, incoherence and contradiction.

From August to December 1793 a lively dechristianization movement was outlined. A portion of the revolutionary people rose up not only against non-juring priests and the church, but against Christianity itself. And they attempted to tear the very idea from men’s spirits by destroying the symbols and emblems that allowed it to enter thought through people’s eyes. It was a war on religion as a means of war on belief. It was priests that fanaticized the Vendée; it was the priests who were accomplices of the selfish rich in Lyon. The Revolution would only be assured; human liberty would only be definitive when the power controlled souls and forced them submit to all the tyrannies of the earth and heavens disappeared. And let us not distinguish between juring and non-juring priests, between constitutional priests and refractory ones. What did the constitutional priests do? What did they do in the Vendée, in Lyon, in Toulon, in Marseille, in Lozère? Either they were secret accomplices of the enemy through their inertia and timidity or they were powerless. Their semi-fanaticism had less of a hold on the ignorant than the wholehearted fanaticism of the others. If the constitutional priests didn’t serve as an expected diversion, if they didn’t serve as a caution useful to the Revolution among the believers and the simple, what was their role? And why would the revolution lend itself any longer to a compromise that was nothing but a dupery? For in order to handle the constitutional priests with care, in order not to offend their faith, they were forced to be gentle with the refractory priests. It wasn’t possible to get to the heart of questions and lay bare the roots of the falsehood that supports the entire church, both the constitutional and the refractory. Let us thus have done with this, and since fanaticism forms a thick layer covering intelligence impenetrable to reason, since it is pointless to talk to men who believe through machine-like habit, it is that machine-like habit that must be broken. It must be proved to these fools that the God they adore is nothing but impotence and nothingness, and in order to do this the instruments of his religion must be wrested from him. The sacred vases must be taken from him, they must be profaned in the sight of the heavens in order to prove to the simplest of fanatics the nullity of a God who doesn’t even know how to defend himself. Philosophy required centuries to liberate the spirit through the spirit; it is by force that the chains that were forged by ignorance, a form of slavery. There are the chalices and the monstrances, and a donkey wearing a stole, a miter on his head, beating his flanks with a host attached to his tail, showing off the ridiculousness of the old religion and forever disgusting the believers in a faith that lends itself to such degrading parodies.”

More via link above.

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Charlie: We Publish ‘Provocative’ Bolshevik anti-Religious Caricatures.

with 4 comments

Very British Bolsheviks Shocked by Soviet Islamophobia!

We defend our beloved Charlie to the hilt.

But there are those who do not – apparently from the very British Bolsheviks.

As Seymour writes ” How dare you call this horseshit ‘satire’?”

Some more ‘horseshit’, from the early Soviet Union.

315L12402_6D8L6

From the always to the point The Charnel-House.

And to those above,  these below (from Early Soviet (anti)-Islamic propaganda here) though in fact they are from the late, rather than the early twenties.

0_822c4_2466b8fe_L.jpg

0_822bd_e062ae73_L.jpg

Our oh so-British Bolsheviks should surely protest to Lenin!

And also: Le combat des Lumières est devant nous Par Jean-Claude Monod.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 16, 2015 at 12:13 pm

Bristol Students’ Union Bans Charlie Under ‘Safe Spaces’ Policy.

with 2 comments

Seumas Milne: Charlie Had it Coming to them.

with 3 comments

Charlie: Pornographic Humiliation of Muslims – had it coming to them.

Paris is a warning: there is no insulation from our wars writes in the Guardian.

The attacks in France are a blowback from intervention in the Arab and Muslim world. What happens there happens here too

Nothing remotely justifies the murderous assault on Charlie Hebdo’s journalists, still less on the Jewish victims singled out only for their religious and ethnic identity.

But…….

What has become brutally obvious in the past week, however, is the gulf that separates the official view of French state policy at home and abroad and how it is seen by many of the country’s Muslim citizens. That’s true in Britain too, of course. But what is hailed by white France as a colour-blind secularism that ensures equality for all is experienced by many Muslims as discrimination and denial of basic liberties.

What of Charlie?

Charlie Hebdo claims to be an “equal opportunities offender”, abusing all religions alike. The reality, as one of its former journalists put it, has been an “Islamophobic neurosis” that focused its racialised baiting on the most marginalised section of the population. This wasn’t just “depictions” of the prophet, but repeated pornographic humiliation.

I will not dignify this cack with longer extracts but note this conclusion, and note it well,

Europeans are fortunate that terrorist outrages have been relatively rare. But a price has been paid in loss of freedoms, growing antisemitism and rampant Islamophobia. So long as we allow this war to continue indefinitely, the threats will grow. In a globalised world, there’s no insulation. What happens there ends up happening here too.

What goes around, comes around.

They had it coming to them…..

Written by Andrew Coates

January 15, 2015 at 11:24 am

French Communist Daily Publishes Charlie Cartoon on Front Page.

with 6 comments

Those who claim that Charlie was an ‘imperialist’ and ‘racist’ plot by those in thrall to power should answer this question: why has  the French Communist Party aligned daily published this front page today?

Note the line on the Front Page above, “founded by Jean Jaurès.”

That is, by one of the best anti-militarist secularists and socialist democrats ever to have walked the planet.

The defender of  Captain Alfred Dreyfus.

The defender of laïcité.

Killed by an enemy of freedom:  Raoul Villain a supporter of Action française, a group that backed the Catholic Church against the ‘insults’ of the unbelievers.

* More coverage from L’Huma here.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 14, 2015 at 1:19 pm