Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Archive for the ‘Colonialism’ Category

La Fin de l’intellectual français? De Zola à Houellebecq. Shlomo Sand. A Critical Review.

with 2 comments

Image result for La Fin de l'intellectuel français? De Zola à Houellebecq. Shlomo Sand

La Fin de l’intellectual français? De Zola à Houellebecq. Shlomo Sand. La Découverte. 2016.

Internationally celebrated for The Invention of the Jewish People (2009) Shlomo Sand is a redoubtable controversialist. That study, which argued that those following the Jewish religion only began to consider themselves a “people” during the Middle Ages, continues to be debated. Sand’s assertion that most Jews owes their origins to religious conversion, and not to ancient Hebrew origins, was intended to strike at the heart of the “National Myth” of the state of Israel. How I stopped Being a Jew (2013) announced a wish to break with “tribal Judocentrism”. Warmth for the secular ideals of Israel, and for the Hebrew language, has not protected him from vigorous criticism from a wide variety of Zionist critics.

La Fin de l’intellectuel français has equally iconoclastic ambitions. Apart from frequent autobiographical notes, during which we learn he was once a Marxist who wished to change the world, it is no less than a charge, an accusation, against Europe, and against France in particular: that the Continent is lifting the drawbridges against the “Muslim foreigners”. A “contagious plague” of Islamophobia, uniting left secularists and traditional nationalists, has infected the Hexagone. For Sand, “media intellectuals” (intellectuels médiatiques) both circulate this “code” and pile up its symbolic property. “A une vitesse suprenante, une puissante intelligentsia médiatique s’est constituée pour qui la stigmatisation de l’autre’”… “La détestation de la religion musulmane” has become “le nouvel opium de l’intellectuel’ ‘antitotalitaire.” (Page 238) At an amazing speed, a powerful media intelligentsia  has been built around the stigmatisation of the Other. ” “The loathing of the Muslim religion” has become the “new opium of the anti-totalitarian intellectuals.”

Put simply, to the author the stars of the modern Parisian media salons, those setting the tone, the style and the substance are small in number. They include (putting them in British terms) Éric Zemmour (a ‘declinist’ second cousin to our historians nostalgic for the Empire with specific French gripes against the ‘héritières de mai 68’, ), Alain Finkielkraut (a ‘philosopher’ of the erosion of educational and grammatical standards, and what one might call “Parisianistan’, an even closer co-thinker to Melanie Phillips), Renaud Camus (a professional  indignant xenophobe railing at the ‘replacement’ of Europeans by foreigners, and potential Editorialist for the Daily Express), and Michael Houellebecq, who needs no introduction, even, one hopes, to dimwits.

The Intellectual.

The bulk of La Fin de l’intellectuel français consists of chapters on the historical role of French intellectuals, and considerations of their social functions, from Gramsci, Pierre Bourdieu to Régis Debray. There is mention of lesser-known writings, such as Harman and Rotman’s Les Intellocrats (1981) which highlighted the small Parisian world of publishing, and heralded the birth of the new “media intellectuals” that came to the fore in the late seventies with the nouveaux philosophes, André Glucksmann, Bernard-Henri Lévy and others, long forgotten, defying the totalitarianism they had freshly rejected.

As a pared down version of Michael Scott Christofferson’s Les Intellectuals contre la Gauche (2014 – French, expanded, edition), this history, a grand narrative, charges the French intellectual class with having abandoned Marxism and the left. Amongst many other faults it ignores that the left continued to exist during that decade. Mitterrand’s 1981 victory – initially ruling in coalition with the Parti Communiste français (PCF) – was supported by the mass of the intelligentsia, within which an unbroken critical, if minority, left – never once mentioned in La Fin – has continued its own way, up till the present. This indicates one of the many ways in which the dominance of ‘media intellectuals’, in, unsurprisingly, the media is not the same as the kind of more entrenched intellectual hegemony that Gramsci outlined.

Readers unfamiliar with the history of the term intellectual and the politics of French intellectuals, from the “critical collective intellectual”, Zola and his cohorts, that arose during the Dreyfus Affair, Julien Benda’s defence of disinterested universalism (La Trahison des clercs. 1927), Paul Nizan’s Leninist commitment to the “soldats de la plume” (Les Chiens de Garde. 1932), will find, at least some passages to reflect on.

The Collaboration, the Resistance, post-war ‘engaged’ thinkers, in the mould of Sartre, Beauvoir and Camus, receive particular attention. The less reputable aspects of the Existentialist couple’s war record and minimal participation in real resistance were, for Sand a stumbling block for his own hero worship. Those who have not stumbled across writings such as Carole Seymour-Jones, A Dangerous Liaison (2008) that portrays in more depth than La Fin de l’intellectuel français the worst side of the pair’s war-time treatment of their Jewish lover, Bianca Bienenfeld, may even now be shocked.

Sand is, while not widely known outside of specialised circles, is the author of a fine study of Georges Sorel, L’illusion du politique (1984) Based on his PhD thesis this intellectual biography demolished a number of misconceptions, including the idea that Sorel was a proto-fascist, while making the various writings and stages in Sorel’s thought as clear as is possible. He followed this (echoed in the present volume) with a dispute on fascism, with the Israeli historian Zeev Sternhell. Apart from demonstrating again that 1920s and 1930s French ‘non-conformist’ admiration for Mussolini, and then (to a lesser extent) Hitler, indicated just how far real fascism did not take root in France, Sand demonstrates analytical fineness. He even admits that the far-right (and most notorious intellectual Collaborator) writer Drieu la Rochelle had talent (Page 158). Indeed the text displays – against Sartre’s belief that no anti-Semitic novel had any merit – a serious acquaintance with the romancier’s (in our opinion) interminable and tedious Gilles. (1939) (Page 215)


None of this delicacy is offered in the concluding chapters of La Fin de l’intellectuel français. It is tale of French Islamophobia, of nationalism and bigotry masquerading as Universalist secularism that would have been lifted from the pages of Socialist Worker or the web site of Counterfire. It is with no surprise that we learn that his first salvo against Charlie Hebdo, appeared in the far from philo-semitic ‘wise-guy’ publication, Counterpunch (,A Fetid Wind of Racism Hovers Over Europe. January 2015) a site which has published articles contesting the pardon of…Dreyfus. (1)

Sand loathes Houellebecq, who is perhaps an acquired taste. This may be why he fails to pick up on one of the few funny jokes in Soumission, the creation of the “Indigenous European a direct response to Indigénes de la République” – one group of racists giving ideas to another. Je Suis Charlie, is not, as it is for many of, the emblem of love and freedom. For the nuanced connoisseur of French pre-War ideologies, it was a publication that produced, week in and week out, a “representation méprisante et irrespectueuse de la croyance d’une minorité religieuse”  a picture that shows disrespect for a religious minority. (Page 225). No doubt that explains why Muslims, frustrated, unhinged with only a fragile belief to cling to, decided to react with murderous folly (Page 227). Doubtless it also accounts for why they killed at the Hyper-Cacher….

That the middle class demonstrated on the 11th of January 2015 in solidarity with Charlie we do not doubt. But oddly, Sand does not deeply cite his authority on this point, Emmanuel Todd, for whom they also showed the spirit of Vichy, Catholic Zombies (walking unconsciously in the steps of their religious past), soaked in the ‘culture of narcissism’, objectively xenophobe, like the Parti Socialiste, and …pro-Europeans – the (Sociologie d’une crise religieuse. Qui est Charlie? 2015). So, with every one of his bugbears wrapped together, what next? Todd, we are not astonished to learn, despises this bloc, the MAZ, prefers those who rejected the Maastricht treaty, and….is himself a nationalist, or, as they call it today, a “sovereigntist” who wishes to reassert French Sovereignty over the economy, against the European Union….


In his pursuit of allies in the fight against French laïcité Sand might consider a much deeper problem than hostile reactions to Islam or those who make summary judgements about ‘Islamo-gauchisme’. It lies in this sovereigntism: a nationalists turn with far deeper roots than religious or ethnic hostility: a true xenophobia, embraced not just by the Front National, but by the centre-right, and that section of the left which shares Todd’s loathing of the European Union, if not other European states (not to mention the US). There is a name for this, which we have already used, xenophobia, and the point where nationalism slides into racism.

One can accept that that anti-Muslim feeling is prejudice, that there is a strong dose of racist defence of “la terre et les morts” against all classes of immigrants but particularly Muslims, and Catholic Mayors suddenly discovering that are secular republicans. That one can pretend that specifically French forms of secularism are universal at one’s peril.

One can accept all of this, even some gestures towards the sub-existentialist phrases about fear of the Other …but, are there not some problems about violent forms of Islamism, some difficulties, as indicated in Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran, to halt just there. That amongst contemporary forms of Islamism, the status of the Kufur, the rules governing women, most visibly their ‘modesty’ and punishing the ‘immodest’, bedrock human rights issues, remain…issues.

Sand passes in silence over the ideas of the strongly left-wing and pro-Communist Charlie editor, Charb. Perhaps he should read his posthumous Lettre aux escrocs de l’islamophobie qui font le jeu des racists (2015). If that proves too much for him he has no excuse whatsoever for ignoring the mass of serious literature in French on Islam, and Islamism, from Gilles Kepel, Olivier Roy, François Burgat, Gilbert Achcar  in French.  The vast majority of these writings, are as nuanced, as profoundly researched as one could wish, with all due consideration for the immense difficulties of marginalised Maghrebian and African populations. I would recommend he begin with a genuine intellectual with knowledge of both the evolution of former Maoists towards ‘anti-totalitarianism’ and Islamism, Jean Birnbaum, and his Un Silence Religieux. La Gauche Face au Djihadisme. 2016. He is certainly not a sign of the ‘end’ of the species.

The secularist Ligue des droits de l’homme has been at the forefront of the fight against the ‘Burkini ban’ (l’Humanité) So much for Sand’s recent claim that “La laïcité, comme autrefois le patriotisme, s’avère, de nos jours, l’ultime refuge de l’infâme ” (Nouvel Obs. 24.8.16.)

(1) THE DREYFUS CASE, REVISITED: Israel Shamir sifts through the Dreyfus case: was he really a victim of anti-semitism?

Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution, *US* Socialist Worker Debates the Issues.

with 6 comments

Image result for syria

The US Socialist Worker (long divorced from its British parent, and the paper of the International Socialist Organization, ISO) has carried an important debate on Syria in the last week.

Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution. Ashley Smith

THE SYRIAN Revolution has tested the left internationally by posing a blunt question: Which side are you on? Do you support the popular struggle against dictatorship and for democracy? Or are you with Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime, his imperial backer Russia, his regional ally Iran and Iran’s proxies like Hezbollah from Lebanon?

Tragically, too many have failed this test.

From the very beginning of Syria’s revolution–even before the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front some years later–a whole section of the left opposed the popular uprising against the Assad dictatorship that began in early 2011, part of the Arab Spring wave of popular rebellions against dictatorship and repression.

Since then, they have turned a blind eye to Assad’s massacre of some 400,000 Syrians, and his regime’s use of barrel bombs, chemical weapons and barbaric sieges of cities like Aleppo. Today, 11 million people–half the country’s population–have been displaced, with the Assad regime responsible for the lion’s share of the death and destruction.

The author criticises the “campist” belief that, ” there is only one imperialist power in the world–the U.S.–and that it is an all-powerful manipulator of international events.”

The U.S. does remain the world’s dominant imperialist power, but as a result of its failed war in Iraq and other factors, it has suffered a relative decline in strength. Washington is now challenged internationally by imperialist rivals like China and Russia, as well as regional powers. In this new imperial order, the U.S. is less capable of controlling world events–it fears popular revolt all the more.

This is perhaps a more specifically US stand,

The campist misreadings, however, have led them to the conclusion that the U.S. government is pulling the strings in the rebellion in Syria. Some have gone so far as to argue–absurdly–that the U.S. backs ISIS against Assad. Ironically, this puts the campists in agreement with Donald Trump, who, in his latest ravings, claims that Obama and Clinton were “founders” of ISIS.

One of the most striking paragraphs is the following,

A genuine internationalist left must stand with Syria’s popular resistance to Assad, which began as a nonviolent uprising against the dictatorship–and against intervention by American and Russian imperialism, as well as by the region’s main powers.

This stands in clear contrast to the entire strategy of groups in the UK, notably the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) , which  claims not to “take sides”.

The STWC’s John Rees’ states,

The STWC has never supported the Assad regime. Just as we never supported the Taliban, Saddam Hussein or Colonel Gaddafi. Only in the minds of ‘them or us’ pretend patriots does the opposition to our own government’s wars mean support for dictators or terrorists. Our case has always been that war will worsen the problem and not solve it. We were right in that analysis in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

There is no group, in other words, that they do stand with.

This is Smith’s conclusion,

No one committed to solidarity with the Syrian struggle can align themselves with either wing of the U.S. imperial establishment. Instead, the left must reject imperialism in any form, including Russia’s.

Rather than look to imperialist powers or dictatorial regimes in either camp, the left should stand for workers’ struggle across borders and in defense of oppressed nations and their fight for self-determination.

In Syria, the revolution has suffered a defeat for the time being. While civil society activists continue to seize every opportunity to assert their goals, their forces have been ravaged by counterrevolution–in the form of the Syria regime and its international allies on the one hand, and the Nusra Front and ISIS, which was particularly eager from the start to target the rebels than regime forces, on the other.

But as Gilbert Achcar argues in his book Morbid Symptoms: Relapse in the Arab Uprising, this setback, however devastating, comes amid a long period of revolutionary crisis in Syria and the whole region.

The task of the international left today is to oppose intervention by any of the imperialist and regional powers, reject the tyranny of the Assad regime itself, demand the opening of the borders to those fleeing the violence and chaos, collaborate with Syrian revolutionaries–and win people away from campism to the politics of international solidarity from below.

There is nothing specific about the Kurdish YPD and their alliances, nothing specific about the very special threat to progressives and democrats posed by Islamic State, – with all the international echoes that Jihadism poses.

Some will welcome (despite scepticism about how it will work out) US backing for the democratic Kurdish forces and be concerned about Turkish intervention.

Others will point to the specific threat created by the  Jihaist genociders of Daesh and the international volunteers for their death squads not least from Europe.

The debate that the article has caused has unfortunately focused on the role of the US rather than such issues. One reader commented, ” “Assad must go!” is the mantra not of the left, but of the Western imperialists.” Another states, “no to U.S. militarism being used to put in place a government that becomes a U.S. pawn.”

Perhaps the UK SWP reflects this debate by publishing the following today,

Turkish and Syrian socialists issue joint statement against intervention

The US, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and all the others must keep their hands off Syria.

All support given to the Baas [Assad] regime must be stopped in order for the war to come to an end.

The Syrian people must decide their own future.

Turkey must immediately cease military operations in Syria, stop its enmity against the Kurds, and open its borders to Syrian refugees.

We call all the revolutionary Syrian forces to unify their struggle against: the dictatorship, the foreigners regional and imperialist interventions, and against the reactionary forces.

We believe that the victory of Syrian people on all these counter revolutionary forces, demand the unity of all the revolutionary forces of all the Syrians.

Long live peace, long live the revolution!

Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party (Turkey)

Revolutionary Left Current (Syria)

Now the this Blog has serious disagreements with the ISO, not least on issues which cross over to this searing problem, such as  its refusal to back secularists, like the French ligue de droits de l’homme, in France, against both Islamist and Nationalist-racist bigotry.

Bbut this debate is highly welcome.

Details on quite how anybody is going to stop foreign intervention in Syria and help the Syrian democratic cause win is perhaps too much to ask.



Written by Andrew Coates

August 31, 2016 at 12:50 pm

Brussels: Against the Grief Police.

with 4 comments

There are plenty of people feeding off the deaths in Brussels.

From the far-right, UKIP, to a host of others, there was a call to bring in tough border controls and halt migration.

Marine Le Pen has called for an immediate crack down Islamic fundamentalism and on areas where she considered it flourished.

She  said,

Dans l’urgence, et pour la sécurité de tous, il est impératif de procéder à la fermeture immédiate de la frontière franco-belge, fermeture réelle et non pas fictive comme depuis plusieurs semaines, et au rétablissement de contrôles sur l’ensemble des frontières nationales de notre pays.

In this emergency, for the security of everybody, it is imperative to immediately close the French-Belgian frontier, a real shut down and not a gestural one that’s been in place for the last few weeks, and reestablish controls over all our national borders

The far-right leader has repeated this today saying on France-Info, “”Il faut arrêter Schenguen.” – we have to end the Schengen agreement on free movement within (continental) Europe.

Reacting after the Brussels bombing George Galloway took another step towards  a common front with the far-right in announcing (RT),

Free movement between European states should have been abandoned after the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) attacks in Paris last November, former MP George Galloway said in the wake of Tuesday’s bombings in Brussels.

The Respect Party’s candidate for mayor of London argued that suspending the right to free movement could have prevented attacks on European soil.

Socialist Worker  has jumped into the fray:

Nordine Saidi of the Brussels Panthers group spoke to Socialist Worker

“I’m wholeheartedly with the wounded and the families of victims. I’m shaken by these terrorist acts which nothing can justify, but unfortunately I am not surprised. Our foreign policy in Libya, Mali, Syria and Iraq, and its effects here—state racism and Islamophobia—cannot be ignored if we want to understand this chaos and escape from it.

I am enraged by the inhumanity towards deaths that take place ‘elsewhere’. These are deaths in which we are complicit and responsible. Without that double standard, perhaps we could have avoided these deaths at home.

I will not have people tell us that we cannot mourn the deaths in Brussels.

I will not have people lecture us about our feelings, which should apparently be “elsewhere”.

I will not have some SWP mouthpiece tell me that I, “we’, are “complicit in the genocidal acts of Daesh.

I will not accept the dictates of the Grief Police. *

Dilem (Algérie)



Cartoonists for Peace.

*From Sunny H. 

Caliphate John Tummon Joins the Labour Party.

with 12 comments

A former campaigner for a hard-left party who defended Isis as having “progressive potential” has been allowed to become a Labour member.

John Tummon, a former activist for Left Unity, a political party founded by Ken Loach, the film director, made controversial remarks about the terrorist organisation in 2014. His comments were last night denounced by some Labour moderates as appalling.

This is the background.

2014: Caliphate John’s 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. (from Unity Resolution)

“We also distance ourselves  from the Eurocentric brand of secularism that  believes that the peoples of the Middle East must accept western terms of reference by consigning  their religious faith to a separate part of their  lives from their political aspirations, if they are to  develop progressive societies.”

In another passage of Tummon’s amendment, which was seconded by Mark Anthony France, he writes: “Left Unity neither supports the western alliance nor the Islamic State and we see the struggle of the Kurds, the Sunnis and other Middle Eastern peoples as dependent on their ability to work together to establish a geographically wide, inclusive polity as an alternative to the existing nation states in the region.

“Insofar as the call for a Caliphate means such an inclusive, diverse polity, we support the call for it among the peoples of the Middle East.”

The motion got no support beyond its movers.

These are some of his replies to the Blog’s coverage and critical comments:

Andrew, your demonisation of me seems to know no bounds and the lack of grammatical grasp that has caused lots of people who say they are angry at this proposed amendment shows their political cowardice in denouncing any attempt to try to reach out towards a more strategic analysis of the Middle East shows the moralism ratehr than the politics of you and them and dependence on western media for your facts.”

“What do you know about what the concept of the Caliphate is, has been and might be apart from via propaganda?

Using secularist reflexes rather than engaging empathy and curiosity is the mark of Left dogmatism.

Yes, IS has picked up the flag of the Caliphate for its own tactical reasons, but not only Al-Qaeda but lots of ther organisations have publicly criticised them for abusing this call. Read Hizb-ut-Tahrir on the Caliphate. Nation states do not appeal to Muslims for well-documented reasons and, at bottom, the Caliphate represents a means of dispensing with them. The absence of a non-IS organised movement in favour of a Caliphate is not the way to assess this, because it is so fundamental.

The reality is that both the nation state and the Caliphate are shells which have to be defined in terms of their political content; they are both subject to class struggle and other struggles once in place, so to argue ‘there is nothing “remotely democratic or socialist about even the most ideal schemes for a caliphate” is an ahistorical comment which assumes an unwarranted closure of possibility and ignores the fact that, to paraphrase Marx, people make history but not in circumstances of their own choosing. Removing the Versailles settlement would loosen up all sorts of forces, including democratic and socialist forces; just look at Scotland once the assumption of a centuries-old political structure no longer applies – it frees up and releases the political imagination – tens and tens of thousands have joined the SNP, RIC, Greens and SSP.


More recently (13th December 2015) Caliphate John has said this:

ISIL did begin an insurrection against the post-WW1 imperialist settlement in the Middle East and I advocated critical support for the development ISIL was and still is trying to provide – a new, overarching settlement in the northern Middle East, as I said, but I disagreed then and still do now about how they have gone about it – in a sectarian and terroristic way, which has alienated all but the most desperate, stateless Sunnis. I am much clearer about the second part of this than I was then, because of what has become apparent since.

Back in August 2014. When this discussion happened, the news about ISIL was new and its sudden expansion was accompanied by a handful of atrocity stories but I had good reason to cast doubts on, because of the undeniable track record of truth being the first casualty in war and the way Srebrenica had been used in this way in the 1990s, especially that keynote photograph of Bosnians behind barbed wire which, it turned out, actually surrounded the photo-Journalists, who had erected it. What I was wary of, therefore, was of the Left yet again being softened up for demonising an opponent, especially after Cameron had closed down 40 websites in which we might have found out something the western media is not loyally feeding us on. That has remained the case over the past 18 months, although other important things have changed, chiefly, the relentless use of terror by ISIL, which is no longer something I doubt. What I hoped for and was explicit about at the time was that their rise would create a new political space in which a more humanitarian and less sectarian version of Islamism, which does exist, by the way, could take a federalised arrangement forward as a progressive alternative to the Versailles settlement. This has clearly not happened amidst a horrific cycle of violence which has got worse. I can no longer advocate a policy of critical support for ISIL.

Debates and positions on the Left move on, and so should they. The idea that whatever someone thought and said at an earlier stage is the be all and end all of what we need to know about them because subsequent developments proved them to have been wrong on some key aspects would mean that no-one – not Marx, Lenin, Bakunin. Trotsky, Mandel, Gramsci or Althusser – would have a reputation that was not in tatters. Part of me feels that the reason why I have been subjected to so much of this abuse is that some forces on the Left really have a lot to lose through any process of thinking outside the box in order to try and get to what is really happening. That’s what I tried to do and still am.

Irrespective of whether or not you or Jim accept this, I won’t be doing any more self-justification. I will only come on here to debate what Andrew put at the start of this thread.


“Socialist Fight”: Political Confusionism from Ukraine, the Islamic State to the world ‘Jewish-Zionist Bourgeoisie”

with 55 comments

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty reported last year on this strange event.

Fake anti-fascism and fake trade unions

As many as 30 (thirty) people turned up to the most recent mass action staged by the so-called ‘Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine’ (SARU) campaign: a picket of the US embassy in London, backed by the equally misnamed ‘Stop the War Coalition’.

The comrade gave special attention, to a ‘Trotskyist’ speaker at this event:

Pride of place amongst the speakers belongs to Gerry Downing of ‘Socialist Fight’ and his delirious ‘anti-imperialist’ contribution in which he applauded the seizure of Debaltseve by Russian-separatist forces in breach of the recently concluded Minsk peace deal:

“The Ukrainian army suffered a humiliating defeat. That defeat is a defeat not only for American imperialism and its forces but also for Franco-German imperialism. We should salute that victory and be unequivocal about it.

It was a major victory and sets up the struggle for the next phase. And no doubt there will be a next phase.

We reject completely and totally the notion that Russia and China are imperialist countries. We have no dual defeatist position. We are unequivocally for the defeat of Kiev and European imperialism in this conflict.”

Unfortunately but understandably, an Everton fan who had once been to Ukraine to watch a game of football became so intoxicated by the protest’s politics that he used his contribution to launch into a diatribe against “Trots”.

The SARU chairperson gently admonished him, pointing out the difference between good “Trots” (ones who support Russian imperialism) and bad “Trots” (we who can tell the difference between police-state Stalinism and socialism).

The protest finished with the chant: “Obama, McCain! No more weapons for Ukraine.”

Of course, Obama and McCain have not actually provided Ukraine with any weapons. But such a basic factual inaccuracy can readily be excused on the grounds of poetic licence: “Lavrov, Putin!” neither scans nor rhymes with “Ukraine”.

Apart from apologising for Russian imperialism, SARU has also been busy in recent weeks pretending that there are real trade unions in the so-called Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR).

This was of interest since Downing is known to many people on the left.

Not for his activism but simply, er, his presence.

And his org, Socialist Fight.

Socialist Fight is a supporter of one of the more exotic imaginary Fourth Internationals – or rather, to give it its full grand title Liaison Committee for the Fourth International.

It  is also known for this stand:

We defend the ‘Islamic State’ in Syria and Iraq against the bombing of US imperialism but do not ally with them against the Kurdish defenders of Kobane and Rojava (Western Kurdistan). We support the Kurdish nation’s right to self-determination and to their own nation state, even though they are scattered over four other nations now. The Islamic State is a reactionary utopia and has no legitimate right to self-determination. We do not object if the Kurds take advantage of airstrikes against ISIS to defend their own territory in a process of nation-building but we reject any strategic alliance with US-friendly forces on the ground, like the Free Syrian Army. The Kurds have every right to accept arms from Assad.

Socialist Fight supporter Iain Donovan also has a special political position on the “Jewish “pan-national bourgeoisie.”

Now – 2016 – we have this to confront.

This is the presentation that was given by Ian Donovan to the Socialist Fight public forum on 17th February 2016:

Zionism, the hegemonic Racism of Today.

There has been a major, revolutionary change in the position of Jews in capitalist society. No other ethnic minority has achieved such a tremendous turnaround. They have gone from an often feared and hated group that significant sections of the imperialist bourgeoisie were prepared to see persecuted and oppressed in a manner that in some cases became genocidal, to arevered minority whose bourgeois layers have a great moral authority among the imperialist bourgeoisie, which regard it as a priceless asset and vanguard. So now, instead of scandals about the Royals’ support for Hitler, we get the Royals’ involvement in child abuse scandals with the likes of Jeffrey Epstein and Alan Dershowitz, arch-Zionists.

.. the Jewish body politic became monopolised by the Jewish bourgeois caste in the imperialist countries.

That developing caste had, since the dawning of the age of imperialism in the late 19th century, sought to advance its ‘national’ project, Zionism, mainly by seeking sponsors from parts of the non-Jewish imperialist bourgeoisie. After WWII, after the genocide, it succeeded in establishing its own state, which further helped consolidate the Jewish people on a nationalist, increasingly right-wing trajectory.

It also produced a major shift in the attitude of the non-Jewish bourgeoisie towards that caste. The defeat of the Jewish left meant the destruction of the toehold of anti-Semitic ideology in the consciousness of the non-Jewish bourgeoisie. Over time, it led to the dawning of a very different consciousness, of the Jewish bourgeois caste embodying a culture rooted in commodity economy older and with more experience than the mainstream of the gentile bourgeoisie.

It also, with its broader international outlook, not bound to the traditional nation-state, helps the bourgeoisie generally to see beyond its older, traditionally territorially based chauvinism vis-à-vis each other. Thus as a vanguard layer of the bourgeoisie, its advantages for that class are similar, though in a degraded way, to the attributes that made the Jewish left a key part of the proletarian vanguard in the earlier period.


 So what conclusions do we draw from this about the importance of the Jewish Question, and Zionism, today? It is centrally this: the Palestinian struggle is of world historic import for the working class of the entire world. For without the Zionist project, the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie, which is a key component of the vanguard of world capital, would have no unifying ethos to hold it together. This may be a vanguard, class conscious formation, but it is fragile. Without the Zionist project as a unifying focus, it would over time dissolve through assimilation into the various imperialist bourgeoisies.

Not everybody agrees with Donovan’s rantings.

This happened in 2014:

No place for anti-Semitism. Weekly Worker. 18.9. 2014.

A Communist Platform member has been shown the door. Peter Manson reports

The September 14 meeting of Left Unity’s Communist Platform saw a parting of the ways with a member of its steering committee, Ian Donovan. This followed comrade Donovan’s espousal of views that can only be described as anti-Semitic: 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. Donovan says he intends to write a book laying out this ‘theory’ in detail.

Once this line of thinking had been fully revealed to other members of the steering committee, they urged him to step down from the CP. When he refused, the September 14 members’ meeting was called, which had before it a motion from comrades Jack Conrad and Moshé Machover stating that anti-Semitism is “incompatible with membership of the Communist Platform” (see below).

In response, Donovan put in an ‘amendment’ – of the ‘replace all’ type: it would have transformed the motion into something completely antithetical to the original. He announced that if this amendment was heavily defeated he would leave the platform. Not unexpectedly, his amendment received only one vote and, true to his word, he left the meeting – and the CP.

What are the present other political activities of this lot, we ask, rhetorically……

The Anti-Racism and Anti-Imperialism of Fools: the Indigènes de la République against class-struggle.

leave a comment »

Ni patrie ni frontières !

This is an important left-wing contribution to the critique of the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’.

Although the context is French and Dutch there are many implications for Britain and the wider anglophone world.

From mondialisme.org, the journal: Ni patrie ni frontières. 

Antiracism and class struggle in France : dialogue around the PIR (Parti des Indigènes de la République).

Late 2014, early 2015, a debate took place in the Netherlands between various leftist organizations and Sandew Hira, a historian who has taken the initiative, together with others, to build the Decolonise The Mind (DTM) movement in the Netherlands. The debate began after rapper Insayno was rejected to speak at an anti-racist demonstration. In one of his raps he had asserted : “The treatment of the concentration camps is only a joke compared to our slave trade”. After some discussion about the scientific nonsense, the political  destructiveness and the heartlessness of comparing the various massacres in this way, the debate quickly turned to how to organise against racism, the role of white people in the anti-racism struggle, and how the Left and the DTM movement could struggle side by side.

During the debate we asked Hira about the ideas and principles of DTM. He explained them quite clearly, but we did not really get to know much about the practice of the new movement. At the moment it seems mainly engaged in the training of activists, most of whom seem to have been active in the anti-racism and pro-Palestine movements. DTM is still a relatively small, mainly academic movement that does not organize actions or campaigns by itself.

In the debate and also in various meetings Hira often mentioned that he has two important international friends with whom he cooperates very closely : Ramon Grosfoguel of the Berkeley University of California and Houria Bouteldja of the movement “Les Indigènes de la République” in France. That organisation celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2015 and already had quite some time to build a movement, even outside the universities.

We asked two French comrades what they knew about those Indigènes. How does this movement operates, and how are their ties with the extra-parliamentary Left ? In this way we might be able to take a little look at the future of a part of the anti-racism movement in the Netherlands. That’s important, because as those who followed the debate may have noticed, we at Doorbraak are not too keen on how Hira and DTM try to insert some not so liberating ideas into the growing movement against racism.

Of course, the French situation is very different from the Dutch one. In both countries there is indeed a lot of racism, a legacy of the shared colonial past, but the Left and the anti-racism movement in France are really much bigger. Progressive intellectuals also play a much more important role, and there are constantly great nation wide debates, also on racism. However, the practical organizational activism seems to be relatively modest.

We asked our questions to Nad, with whom we organized two meetings in 2012 on the jobless movement RTO in which she is active, and Yves Coleman of the magazine “Ni patrie ni frontières” (“No country, no borders”) and our regular translator. Both live in Paris and are very involved in the anti-racism struggle. Nad answered the first three questions, and Coleman the rest. And because both, of course, did not always agree with each other, we offered them the opportunity afterwards to respond on each others answers with critiques and additions. So we started with Nad.

The present document is a record of questions put to Nad and Yves Colman.

It should not be necessary to say this but both are, by PIR terms, indigènes.

The initial section of the debate takes up the origins of the Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR)  and their 2005  Manifesto L’appel des « Indigènes de la République . Many people, including this writer, were struck by the serious tone of the latter document. It was set out by a variety of individuals, mostly involved in minority immigrant associations. Its wider support included political activists of the mainstream left,  various ‘other globalisation’ movements (Attac)  active in those days,  and some on the Trotskyist left.

The group was soon criticised  by people for whom who I have respect.  Claude Liauzu (1940 – 2007), author of the indispensable Histoire de l’anticolonialisme en France, du XVIe siècle à nos jours (2007) accused them of ” reducing colonialisation to a crime, and reducing present-day problems to the reproduction of colonial racialism, and reducing the study of the past to a search for repentance. (Manipulations de l’histoire. Claude Liauzu. Le Monde Diplomatique April 2007).

As a ‘party’, created in 2008, the group continues to influence debate on race in France.

But it has been challenged on the left.

Last year this was translated: Toward a materialist approach to the racial question: A response to the Indigènes de la République. Malika Amaouche, Yasmine Kateb, & Léa Nicolas-Teboul Vacarme (June 25, 2015).

The PIR’s spokesperson, Houria Bouteldja, has, over the years, made many ‘controversial’ comments, including the claim that homosexuality does not exist in low income “popular”  French areas,

The demonization of the most popular Russian leader (Vladimir Putin) of all time: More Confusionisme. John Wight, Socialist Unity.

with 39 comments

Most Popular Russian Leader of All Time……..

This Blog commented recently that “Political Confusionism” – (from our French comrades’ “Confusionnisme”) is a growing, if marginal, phenomenon on the left.

Larousse defines Confusionnisme as “Fait d’entretenir la confusion dans les esprits et d’empêcher l’analyse objective des faits.”,  That is, “To bring (and keep)  confusion in people’s minds and to prevent an objective analysis of facts.”

From the anti-imperialism of fools to the defence by the co-Chair of the British Young Greens of the reactionary  full-face veil on the spurious grounds that it is being attacked as part of the government’s Prevent strategy we can see how this works.

Emotions, hostility to the ‘West’ and “Empire”, “Islamophobia”  and “racism” are used to confuse people and prevent solidarity with our sisters and brothers fighting nationalist strongmen,  communalist bullies and Islamism.

It is an entirely appropriate extension of the word in English to call “confusionism”  the much more deliberate ideological strategy taken up by those promoting the defenders of Vladimir Putin.

In the comments on an excellent article on Shiraz Socialist about just how reactionary Putin is, and how he has garnered supporters ranging from the European far-right ( Front National, the Hungarian Jobbik, the Bulgarian Attack, the Slovak People’s Party, and various far-right parties in German) to some people on the ‘left’.

Whether they do so for venal reasons (the Front National has benefited from generous Russian loans) or out of conviction, that the Kremlin leader is a bulwark against decadence, or a much needed-counterweight to Western power, is irrelevant.

The facts – that is the record of Putin’s rule – are obscured and confused.

Prominent amongst British confusionists is a certain John Wight, contributor to the Socialist Unity site, run by Andy Newman, unsuccessful Labour candidate (2015) for Chippenham.

Wight, not surprisingly, pops up on Russia Today (RT).

On the 25th of January Wight wrote on RT’s site.

Alexander Litvinenko: Just another pawn in their game

The sight of retired British judge, Sir Robert Owen, shuffling from a dark ante room into an international press conference in London to pronounce that Vladimir Putin ‘probably approved’ the murder of Alexander Litvinenko was pure comedy gold.

It was also a travesty of justice, given the seriousness of the crime and the implications of yet another barrage of anti-Russian and anti-Putin propaganda it has unleashed across the Western media. Yet further proof that for Western ideologues Russia under Putin’s leadership can never be forgiven for refusing to stay on its knees after the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

But as comrade Dagmar  has pointed out (comments), Wight really excelled himself a couple of days later,

The demonization of the most popular Russian leader of all time.

Vladimir Putin is probably the most popular Russian leader there has ever been, polling up around a phenomenal 80% as recently as November 2015 in a study carried out by a team of American researchers. This makes him inarguably the most popular world leader today, though you would think the opposite given the way he’s routinely depicted and demonized in the West.

Paradoxically, the main reason for Putin’s popularity in Russia is the same reason he’s so reviled in the US and Western Europe. It comes down to the simple but salient fact that when it comes to leadership and political nous Vladimir Putin is playing chess while his counterparts in London, Washington, and Paris are playing chequers.


The most populous country in Europe is not and never will be a Western colony or semi colony. For people who currently cannot conceive of any relationship with Russia other than as a deadly or defeated foe, the sooner they accept this reality the sooner will stability be restored in places like Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

While Vladimir Putin and his government are not beyond criticism – in fact, far from it – their misdeeds pale in comparison to the record of Western governments in destroying one country after the other in the Middle East, presiding over a global economy that has sown nothing but misery and despair for millions, at home and abroad, leading in the process to the normalization of crisis and chaos.

Their deeds, as the man said, would shame all the devils in hell.

American Herald Tribune.

This on-line journal (not to be confused with the greatly respected International Herald Tribune) publishes plenty of other articles of a confusioniste tendency:

The Zionisation of Kurdistan: An inconvenient truth (Ahmad Moussa. Janaury 22nd). And by the same author(14th of December 2015) The self-proclaimed ‘Islamic’ State’ and the ‘Jewish’ State: What’s the difference for the Palestinians? Both entities demonstrate similarities between them particularly in relation to Palestine; the only difference is the international community’s double standards when it comes to intervention.

A taste for US far-right militia-men is in evidence:The political assassination of LaVoy Finicum? January 28th.

But pride of (recent) place must go to this article:

LGBT Organization endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Becky Akers  22nd January.

Men pretending to be women support a Gorgon pretending to be human for president. Nor does the syzygy end there: group and Gorgon also share a set of initials.

“The nation’s largest LGBT rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign”—or HRC—“announced that it has endorsed Hillary [Rodham] Clinton”—another HRC—“for president,” the Washington Post trilled. For anyone blissfully ignorant of PC acronyms, “LGBT” translates as “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender.” What, no pedophiles or enthusiasts of bestiality? Seems a tad hypocritical that perverts who sue us for “discriminating” when we exclude them nonetheless exclude their fellow pervs.

At any rate, “HRC President Chad Griffin” felt he (yeah, I’m guessing here at Chad’s gender du jour) had to explain HRC’s choice of HRC: after all, the latter has wavered in her advocacy of debauchery as much as she has on everything else. Her vacillation is especially egregious when compared with Bernie “Socialist” Sanders’ devotion to deviants—but of course, Bernie can’t win, or so his unprincipled constituency at the HRC assumes.

Wight is no doubt at home amongst his confusioniste confrères

Written by Andrew Coates

January 29, 2016 at 6:33 pm