Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

CounterPunch and the Red-Brown Front.

with 7 comments


Soon to be in Red and Brown?

“The Pol Pot the Cambodians remember was not a tyrant, but a great patriot and nationalist, a lover of native culture and native way of life.”

Israel Shamir. CounterPunch. September the 18th 2012

When Alexander Cockburn died in July there were many tributes. Serge Halimi of Le Monde Diplomatique (August) wrote of his ability to confront the most difficult topics, bravely risking contradicting the views of his own readers. Robin Blackburn in New Left Review (No. 76. July-August) attributed this streak, extending to a “defence of the civil rights of Scientologists and sex offenders”, to “honourable liberalism and contrarianism.” He was not a “crowd pleaser or a seeker after easy popularity ”and owed something to Adorno’s “hatred of cliché and cant.”

For Blackburn “Being Alexander’s friend was a wonderful thing.” But many people wonder about the friends that Cockburn’s magazine, CounterPunch, has made over the last few years. These include Israel Shamir, the convert to Russian orthodoxy who has attacked in its pages the “black legend” of Khmer Rouge genocide. The Guardian has accused him of Holocaust denial and antisemitism. In case anybody has doubts about the latter Shamir has railed incontinently against the influence of the “Jewish lobby” and “Jewish Marxists” when his attack on Pussy Riot, from the magazine, was published by the Morning Star then hastily withdrawn,with apologies, from its web site.

Shamir is not isolated in the journal Cockburn founded. CounterPunch has welcomed Gilad Atzmon, another ‘critic’ of Jewish “identity” politics branded by left-wing anti-Zionists, as anti-Jewish and a fellow-traveller of Holocaust denial. The opponent of all Western military interventions, and one time critic of post-modernist waffle, the Belgian physicist Jean Bricmont, who has associated with the ‘red-brown’ fascists of Alain Sorel, also figures.

Writers linked to a fringe of the European far-right networks, that is, the wing that calls itself nationalist, ‘anti-Zionist’ and ‘anti-imperialist’ have an established place in the “contrarian” CounterPunch. There is a crossover of authors published by the American ‘muckrakers’ and the web-pages of the holocaust denying Entre la Plume et l’enclume (Shamir) Soral’s Egalité et Réconciliation, which promotes an alliance of bet wen the ‘world of labour ‘ and the ‘values’ of the far-right, (Bricmont) to the Réseau Voltaire, best known for its director, the 9/11 ‘Truther’ Thierry Meyssan, which publishes CounterPunch regular Franklin P.Lamb.

These sites are open to those who oppose the “Americanisation” of the world, who support the “peoples” national aspirations, against “globalisation”, and the reign of la « pensée unique », neo-liberal economic orthodoxy. Alain Soral even finds in Islamism, a source of resistance, “ses valeurs sont aussi des valeurs de résistance au mondialisme » (its values also resist globalisation- here) A background theme is the wish to create a modern version of the Cercle Proudhon, a pre-Great War circle where the French far-right Monarchists of Action Française met a small layer of revolutionary syndicalists on the common ground of loathing for bourgeois democracy and cosmopolitan liberalism – perhaps what we now call liberal globalisation.

The journal now edited by Jeffery Saint Clair is undoubtedly capable of venting very different views. But it is hard not to feel that CounterPunch is up to its neck in red-brown muck they produce. A common thread is a defence of ‘free speech’ and opposition to Western military interventions, most recently threatened in Syria. Bricmont offers a defence of this position,

“..the left in the West has been almost completely persuaded by the arguments in favour of humanitarian intervention and, in fact, often criticizes Western governments for not intervening as rapidly or as often as they should. So, on the rare occasions when I protest publicly, I can do so only with those who agree to protest, who are not all on the far right, far from it (unless, of course, one defines opposition to humanitarian wars as being on the far right), but who are not on the left in the usual sense, since the bulk of the left support the policy of intervention.”

In other words, some of his allies are on the far-right. Bricmont does not regret this. He is primarily against “militarism and the imperialism of our own countries. The left does not want to have anything to do with his fight in this respect, so, “The world is far too complicated to keep a “pure” attitude, where one only meets and talks with people from “our side”. What is his Bricmont’s side? In defending Atzmon he has called for a complete opening of the vanes of public expression, so that all may express the good ideas they have about Jews and Israel, in total freedom. (Lettre à Dominque Vidal. 22nd April 2012) What could be greater fun or more libertarian? Bricomont cites Soral, by chance perhaps, as a victim on the present-day censorship. He would be a possible beneficiary. More joy indeed.

Colmáin: A Mind at the End of its Tether.

To illustrate CounterPunch’s direction we need look no further than an extraordinary piece by Gearóid ó Colmáin (September the 15th 2012). This  puts a different shade on all of this. The author is concerned about the “death of free speech in France.” At this year’s Fête d’Humanité Caroline Fourest, he notes, was denied her “constitutional right to freedom of speech” (in what Constitution one wonders). The “pro-Israeli reactionary who masquerades as a “left-wing” feminist” “war mongering” “Reactionary and Islamophobic” woman faced the righteous anger of the ““Indigènes de la République” and was prevented from speaking. As a result “Fourest has been presented as a martyr of human rights, feminism and free speech “ by the “war-mongering harpies of France’s mainstream media” (Fourest is gay, and no doubt as a media figure is one of these ‘harpies’ to Colmáin).

Compare and contrast with the treatment (in this version of events)  given to Bricmont!

For this author he is a genuine “anti-war” activist. The Physicist was excluded from the Fête, before the event, by the agitation of shadowy anarchists from Antifa.

“Antifa launched a campaign on Indymedia against Bricmont’s attendance at the festival, where they threatened to assault him if he spoke about humanitarian intervention. In the insane world of Antifa activism, Bricmont’s opposition to NATO-fomented terrorism in Libya and Syria makes him a “fascist”.

Antifa is just one of the international anarchist groups currently being used by the intelligence agencies of imperialist states to sow confusion and chaos among the ranks of disaffected youth, inciting them to mindless, violent acts that serve the agenda of an ever- encroaching police state. This organization, in particular, targets intellectuals who denounce Zionism as well as alternative media outlets, which expose the mechanisms and institutions that promote US imperialism throughout the world. It does all this under the guise of “anti-fascism”.”

Not satisfied with this Colmáin take a sideswipe at the rest of the left,

“The supporters of Melanchon – a demagogue who likes to prop up his left-wing credentials by pretending to support president Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and other centre-left governments in Latin America- do not seem to realize that the ALBA countries all supported Libya’s colonel Gaddafi last year and now openly declare their support for President Bachar al-Assad in his struggle against NATO, and Gulf-state funded terrorism.”

Somebody who repeatedly calls Jean-Luc Mélenchon “Melanchon” (unlikely to be a sub’s error) may not perhaps be an expert on French politics. Nor does Colmáin mention that the ‘antifas’ correctly pointed out that the Indigènes worked closely with the “l’antisémite Souhail Chichah » who had led a crowd that shouted down Fourest in Brussels a few months back. The ‘anarchists’ also state that the people at the Fête were “des racistes et des islamistes et leurs idiots utiles de complices gauchistes. » (Victoire : le pétochard Jean Bricmont chassé de la Fête de l’Humanité 17 September 2012) It is all very well condemning them. No doubt it gives Colmáin some additional pleasure to indulge his theory that the ‘anars’ are tools of the “intelligence agencies” – no doubt may more of us are too, and meet regularly at the Denver International Airport bunker.

What’s At Stake.

But there is a major difference between the treatment of Fourest and Bricmont. To put things simply : The organisers of the event disinvited Bricmont ; the opponents of Fourest physically prevented her from speaking.

Now many of us are all in favour of letting Bricmont and his friend Atzomon speak and write freely, whatever their opinions. Some may, the Tendance included, consider Fourest to be an admirable liberal-minded secularist who defends women’s rights. We, unlike the Amerian believers in freedom of speech, have discussed her views – in detail, here But above all, what CounterPunch fails to recognise is that what might seem a spat about opinions in, say, their country the USA, in Europe rapidly becomes a direct political struggle.

The Fête d’Humanité is a political event. It is not surprising that different sides in a poltiical struggle treated it as such. The swift response of the Editor of the Morning Star to criticism of Uisrael Shamir, and their publication of his article, illustrates that this rule applies in Britain.

Writing in the Weekly Worker (A Radical for All Seasons. No. 924) on Alexander Cockburn’s death Jim Creegan observed, “In an American left comprised not of parties and mass organisations with genuine heft, but mainly of journalists and professors with nothing but their own opinions, poised at various points along an axis between reformism and a radicalism of uncertain contours, Alexander Cockburn was perhaps the outstanding figure.”

Creegan went on to observe that Cockburn had some sympathy for “for the middle class lunatics of the radical right – the militia movement, advocates of the right of juries to overturn federal laws, and the Tea Party. To be sure, he rejected the retrograde social and political views of these groups, as well as the outlandish conspiracy theories that flourished in their midst (and in much of the left besides). But he seemed to believe (wrongly, in my opinion) that their anti-statism and individualism bespoke a rebellious impulse that could possibly be turned to the advantage of the left, given the correct approach.”

The same approach seems to lie behind the present turn. Marine le Pen was not a “real” fascist to Cockburn anyway (Counterpunch 3rd of May).There’s no real problem with such people, they are not some kind of Carl Schmidt ontological enemy. There are just serious disagreements. We can go further. Shamir says in his most recent CounterPunch piece (October the 2nd), that “I am rather fond of the loonies and almost-loonies: they are seeking answers, and it is not their fault that they can’t find them.” CounterPunch likes Shamir the truth-seeker too. They have extended this generosity to the European ‘anti-imperialist’ far-right. That is, a fringe that has, since the 1990s, worked towards a ‘red-brown’ alliance. Unfortunately hey may be loonies, but they have a reactionary political agenda which reaches much further than a quest for free-speech and opposition to Western interventions. Maybe some day CounterPunch will take that seriously. Like the good comrades of Antifa. For now they remain in their American, oh so American, political bubble.

The guide below shows some of the connections between Francophone figures mentioned here (Meyssan, Soral, Gnette, founder of La Plume l’enclume etc). From here: http://jssnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/tableau_de_la_galaxie_Dieudo-1024×866.gif

Written by Andrew Coates

October 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm

7 Responses

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  1. Gearóid ó Colmáin is a member of the Pôle de renaissance communiste en France (PRCF), (mentioned here http://dissidentvoice.org/2012/06/sanctioning-progress-the-economic-war-on-belarus-2/). He is apparently “based in Paris” but still can’t spell Mélenchon.

    On his Party, which is strange and distasteful, to say the least: “il se revendique du « marxisme-léninisme », autrement dit le stalinisme selon ses détracteurs. Il déclare que son but est de créer la rupture révolutionnaire avec le capitalisme qui instaurera la dictature du prolétariat, d’abord dans le cadre national, puis dans tous les pays grâce à l’internationalisme prolétarien.” Il “défend les régimes cubain et nord-coréen”

    Thus, “Décès de Kim Jong Il: Message de condoléances du PRCF à la délégation générale de la RPDC
    Monsieur le délégué général,

    Le Pôle de Renaissance Communiste en France s’incline avec respect devant la dépouille du secrétaire général du Parti du Travail de Corée et dirigeant éminent de la République Populaire et Démocratique de Corée, Kim Jong Il.

    Tout en maintenant fermement le cap de la construction du socialisme et de l’indépendance nationale de la RPDC, Kim Jong Il fut un dirigeant pragmatique qui sut engager le dialogue avec la Corée du Sud pour tenter d’aboutir à la réunification du pays sous le slogan “Un état, deux systèmes”.

    Nous vous prions, monsieur le délégué général, de transmettre au Parti du Travail et par son intermédiaire au peuple coréen tout entier, les condoléances des communistes français restés fidèles au marxisme-léninisme.

    Le secrétariat national du PRCF
    Affiché sous Accueil, Asie, International” http://www.initiative-communiste.fr/wordpress/?p=10246

    The PRCF is intensely nationalist, “le PRCF refuse le principe même de la supranationalité au nom du principe de souveraineté nationale” http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C3%B4le_de_renaissance_communiste_en_France

    They jointly stood a candidate, Michèle Dessenne M’PEP-PRCF, against Jean-Luc Mélenchon at Hénin-Beaumont, in the legislative elections this year.

    Here is Colmáin talking about Belaurus,

    “The reason working men and women in Western Europe never hear about the achievements of the socially-oriented industrial economy of Belarus is because the editors of the Western newspapers and TV channels are far too busy attending secret meetings with the captains of finance and other class-peers, in order to co-ordinate their next collective assault on the rights of working people all over the world through austerity, war and a vast quotidian tapestry of hypocrisy, deceit and lies.” http://dissidentvoice.org/2012/06/sanctioning-progress-the-economic-war-on-belarus-2/

    This is the individual giving lectures about ‘freedom of speech’.

    Andrew Coates

    October 5, 2012 at 5:04 pm

  2. I am staggered, over and over again, that a media outlet can publish Shamir and maintain any reputation at all.

    Here he is interviewed by the Tehran Times:-


    “Q: It has always wondered me how the Jews have taken control of the majority of mainstream media outlets in the U.S. and Europe. You once said that “in the U.S., even in Western Europe, no view can be proposed to the general public unless approved (after being vetted and corrected) by a Jewish group.” What has really made the Jews so powerful and influential in the media?

    A: This is complicated question; I wrote a lot about it. Let us give three reasons.

    1- The very-rich people who pay for the Matrix being produced trust Jews because Jews, as a rule, do not have much feeling and compassion for the ordinary non-Jews.

    The Jewish media people are used like the Janissaries or Albanians were used by the Ottoman Caliphs; as a sort of foreigners who will not be misled by compassion. It is interesting that the U.S. and NATO promoted creation of an Albanian statelet in Kosovo, relying upon the pro-imperialist position of the Albanians.

    2- The very Neo-liberal matrix or ideology is “neo-Jewish” or “post-Jewish,” because it uses Jewish stereotypes: despises ordinary man, loves money, and admires Closeness.

    3- Media has owners; all important U.S. media is owned just by five persons, all but one Jewish, and that influences their take on the world.”

    Does the editor of Counterpunch read this kind of stuff? Does he think it’s reasonable comment, or a cute little quirk of Shamir, who is sound on so many other questions?


    October 13, 2012 at 11:55 am

    • They are fucking filth Rosie,

      That is the answer.

      Andrew Coates

      October 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm

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  6. […] This seems like a bit of an overstatement. Again, back in 2018, I wrote “anti-fascist opposition to co-operation with the far-right is not something new, a neoliberal attack on the left, or something that can be simply equated with the work of Ross. Instead, it’s a theme that’s come up again and again in debates within our movements, running back at least as far as the arguments made by people like the Dutch antiracist organisation “De Fabel van de illegaal” and the authors of the “My Enemy’s Enemy” collection during the summit protest/anti-globalization movement of almost 20 years ago, through to people like Spencer Sunshine warning of the danger of far-right and antisemitic participation in the Occupy movement, and a subject that’s been brought up to the present day by a wide variety of writers including Elise Hendricks, Sol Process, Vagabond, Matthew Lyons and other contributors to the Three-Way Fight project, Andy Fleming, the Olympia anarchists who spoke out against Sadie and Exile, along with others like Bob from Brockley, Louis Proyect and Andrew Coates.” […]

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