Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category
Socialist Workers Party leader “failure of the US in Iraq was a “bigger defeat” than the one it suffered in Vietnam.”
Writer Tariq Ali introduced a meeting on The American Empire and its Discontents. He argued that the US was an “ultra imperialist” power that had united other advanced capitalist powers under its leadership.
He said, “The dominance of the US remains unchallenged.” In the discussion others argued that Ali underplayed the weaknesses of US imperialism.
Alex Callinicos introduced a meeting on Imperialism Today.
He said the failure of the US in Iraq was a “bigger defeat” than the one it suffered in Vietnam.”
“Courses explored aspects of Marxist theory including alienation, the dialectic, exploitation and accumulation. Other meetings debated the origins of women’s oppression, gene editing, art and revolution and Shakespeare.”
More on Socialist Worker site.
And people wonder why we hold them in contempt.
Tariq Ali: Better off tilting at Windmills than engaging in Politics.
Recently former Marxist Tariq Ali made a return to British politics.
He starred at the 13th of June Camden “rally of shame” calling for Brexit, or as they tried to call it, Lexit (left Exit, geddit?).
Ali stood on the same platform as Caroline Tacchella, a representative of the Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique, a French Trotskyist group, whose historical record even a genial codger like Tariq must remember with loathing.
The group from which this micro-party originates (the ‘Lambertists’) are famous for opposing the French students in 1968.
In a celebrated confrontation hundreds of this sect’s Service d’ordre paraded in military style, demanding that the petty bourgeois intellectuals not build barricades in the Sorbonne but wait for the working class and its vanguard (not unrelated to the said Lambertists, known at the time as the Organisation Communiste Internationaliste, OCI) to lead the movement.
Ali, one might possibly know, is one-time student leader, and the author of self-congratulatory writings on 68, (1968 and After: Inside the Revolution, 1978, Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties ,1987 and others too numerous for even their author to have read) one would expect him to know that particularly history and shun any association with the Lambertists.
Update (from JM)
The British arm of this sect, publishes Workers’ Tribune, whose latest issue you can download here.
Many of those leftist youths, the anciens combattants, or vétérans as we, a decade or more younger, used to call them in Paris, not without a hint of affectionate mockery, have kept the course.
Others have fallen by the wayside.
None in a more spectacular fashion than Ali in his present convulsions.
From spitting on the grave of our comrades at Charlie Hebdo, to backing Brexit, and now...this:
The Canterbury Tales: Internationalism in Poetry.
Amid all the hatred and lies spread during the Referendum, not least by the ‘Lexit’ Left, there is one figure of British identity to whom we cleave.
Chaucer (1343 – 25 October 1400) has a good claim to be the father of British literature.
He was also profoundly European, full of wry humour about regional and national differences, and, in modern terms, an internationalist.
Chaucer had a deep sense of change,
Ye knowe eek, that in forme of speche is chaunge
Withinne a thousand yeer, and wordes tho
That hadden prys, now wonder nyce and straunge
Us thinketh hem; and yet they spake hem so,
And spedde as wel in love as men now do;
Eek for to winne love in sondry ages,
In sondry londes, sondry ben usages.
A humanist, in the deepest sense, he brought to light the burgeoning and changing English tongue, still marked by traces of inflections, in all its richness, a fusion of English and the Romance languages.
And for ther is so gret diversite
In Englissh and in writyng of oure tonge,
So prey I God that non myswrite the,
Ne the mysmetre for defaute of tonge;
And red wherso thow be, or elles songe,
That thow be understonde, God I biseche!
The Canterbury Tales’ five-stress lines rhyming couplets are loved deeply.
The characters of the Wife of Bath and in the Miller’s Tale – to name only two – will be cherished wherever English is spoken. His affectionate anti-clerical lines (the Friar’s Tale) indicate more than a religious bent, they are social satire.
I learnt Chaucer doing my ‘A’ Levels at Westminster Further Education College – a state institution – at the time located in Peter Street, Soho.
Our teacher was a gay bloke talking to a class which included a large group of black youngsters and a very wide number of nationalities.
We were entranced by the poems, and by our text, The Wife of Bath.
After the results of our ‘A levels – a high pass rate, many of us getting As and Bs – he took us to his gaff in Lamb’s Conduit Street where he lived with his partner. We got pissed out of our minds and I ended up with a Scottish women in some low dive in the Strand.
Chaucer holds a special place in the feelings of us British people.
I do not think that any other European country has quite the single figure of the poet of the Tabard Inn, or studies late medieval writing so widely.
A few years ago, after an Ipswich Trades Council meeting, we were talking about him in the pub.
With one exception we had all studied Chaucer for ‘A’ Level English and held him in deep affection.
A man who brought to English the influence of the Italian stories of Boccaccio and French medieval poetry, (he was fluent in French and conversant in Italian) yet was equally extremely English, he was, and remains, a model of internationalism.
The French poet Eustache Deschamps (1340–1406) called Chaucer his “revered teacher, father, and master”.
One line in the Canterbury Tales which I will always remember – as a warning to those who are now siding with the Reaction in the European Referendum – is this,
But Cristes lore, and his apostles twelve,
He taught; but first he folwed it himselve.
Palme D’or Triumph for the Daniel Blakes of the Whole World.
Some good news, at last.
Ken Loach has won the Palme d’or at Cannes for I, Daniel Blake.
“Daniel Blake is a 59-year-old joiner in the North-East of England who falls ill and requires state assistance for disability from the Employment and Support Allowance. While he endeavours to overcome the red tape involved in getting this assistance, he meets single mother Katie who, in order to escape a homeless persons’ hostel, must take up residence in a flat 300 miles (480 km) away.”
France 24 reports,
The 79-year-old Briton attacked the “dangerous project of austerity” as he accepted the festival’s top prize from actor Mel Gibson and Mad Max creator George Miller, who headed this year’s jury. “The world we live in is at a dangerous point right now. We are in the grip of a dangerous project of austerity driven by ideas that we call neo-liberalism that have brought us to near catastrophe,” Loach said, adding: “We must give a message of hope, we must say another world is possible.”
And, he continued, “Necessary”.
Le Monde’s review noted that ‘welfare reform’ forms the heart of the film. That in the UK there is a veritable ‘crusade’ against the disabled, to root out those feigning illness (“la chasse aux tire-au-flanc a pris les allures d’une croisade) in a “néo-victorienne” Britain.
Moi, Daniel Blake n’est pas une satire d’un système absurde. Ken Loach n’est pas un humoriste, c’est un homme en colère, et le parcours de l’ouvrier privé de travail et de ressources est filmé avec une rage d’autant plus impatiente qu’elle est impuissante.
I, Daniel Blake, is not a satire about an absurd system. Ken Loach is not a humourist, he’s full of anger, and the progress a worker without a job, and without assets, is filmed with an indignation that is as exasperated as it is impotent.
This Blog is not an uncritical admirer of Ken Loach. He is against austerity and for social rights, the cause of the left. But his more specific politics, which include a lengthy membership of Respect and support for the cultural Boycott of Israel, as well as no known activity against Islamist genociders, or support for the Kurdish people in their fight for dear life against ISIS, are not always the same as ours.
Nor are all of Loach’s films, for all of their skill and intensity, always as deep as they set out to be.
Of the most recent The Angels’ Share (2012) is amusing but slight tale of Scottish scamps. It is not free, for all its would-be irony, of whatever the Caledonian equivalent of Oirishness is,. The Spirit of ’45 (2013) may seem a strangely uncritical account of the post-war Labour government. Jimmy’s Hall is a fine story set in the Irish Free state. But it is straining things for this emssage to pass, ” The behaviour of the state’s police is shown and explained to be occurring at a time when Stalin was in full control of the Soviet Union and it is obvious that the state and church are fearful of forces that threaten to destroy them. It is this tension between the ideals of Christianity and the fear of the church and its natural tendency to be reactionary that is the central issue that the film explores.”
It can still be argued that the trio have strong narrative coherence, and, in the case of Jimmy’s Hall, insights into the history of republicans, and the left, in the Irish Free State, and the characters swept up in the struggle for independence, the civil war, and their fate in in the aftermath, as well as cinematique beauty.
Loach will, nevertheless, be remembered for Poor Cow, Kes, Land and Freedom, and smaller, less technically polished, but robust films such as Raining Stones, Riff Raff and the Navigators, which demonstrate that ‘social realism’ is not always worthy but unwatchable didacticism, and Bread and Roses, which shows politically engaged drama at its best.
That said by tackling head-on the effects of the ‘reform’ of the British Welfare state I, Daniel Blake, hits at a sensitive nerve, and, frankly, righteous indignation is an emotion that’s widely shared about this. Its tale of people pushed from pillar to post, has been compared to Loach’s exposee of homelessness in the 1966 television play Cathy Come Home ,
The Minister in charge of the system of oppression bearing down on Daniel Blake, Iain Duncan Smith, is now a leading Brexit campaigner.
Appropriately Loach stands on the other side of the European Referendum debate, the solution is ultimately voting to stay. “we need to “make alliances with other European left movements”.
Sivadhasan is a Tamil Tiger soldier during the last days of the Sri Lankan Civil War. After the armed conflict resolves, his side loses and he is forced to move to a refugee camp. There he decides to move to France to take a fresh chance at life. However, in order to secure political asylum, he requires a convincing cover story. He is given the passport of a dead man, Dheepan, and pairs with people he barely knows posing as his family. Along with his supposed wife, Yalini and his supposed 9-year-old daughter, Illayaal, they get on a ship bound for Paris. Upon arrival, he lands a job as a resident caretaker and starts building a new life in a housing project in Le Pré-Saint-Gervais, a northeastern suburb of Paris, which turns out to be another conflict zone for him.
I saw Dheepan only a few weeks ago.
One hopes that Loach’s picture will not take so long to get to our screens.
Interviewed on Channel Four News last night Bernard-Henri Lévy, French ‘public intellectual’ is the latest in a long list of figures to have their say on the Labour Party ‘anti-Semitism’ controversy.
He solemnly declared, “something is rotten in the state of the Labour Party”.
The former New Philosopher expressed horror that there was backing for Hamas and Hezbollah – not something, he opined, we see much of in France.
Yes but….Er… (2014)
While awaiting further ex-Cathedra pronouncements, and the pie-throwing actions of Noël Godin here are some things worth recalling about Lévy relevant to the debate about anti-Semitism and the left. For those who wish an overview of the man and his works this, Wikipedia, is a good place to start, although the French version is much, much, better.
Casual attitude Towards Facts.
Lévy’s the Testament de Dieu (1979) is a lengthy, one might without condescension call it a rambling, disjointed diatribe (I have read it believe me) , which argues for the centrality of the Law of Moses at the foundation of human rights.
It was amongst the first of his books to be riddled with errors.
Pierre Vidal-Naquet pointed out (the list is too long to reproduce) that Lévy put the birth of ‘original sin’ on the 7th Day of after the world was created. That is on the day of rest (Monsieur Bernard-Henri Lévy place au « 7e jour » (p. 238) de la création le péché originel. Il faut croire qu’Adam et Ève ont profité du repos du Seigneur ; mais cette précision surprendra les lecteurs de la Genèse ).
More recently, Lévy was publicly embarrassed when his essay De la guerre en philosophie (2010) cited the writings of French “philosopher” Jean-Baptiste Botul.Botul’s writings are actually well-known spoofs, and Botul himself is the purely fictional creation of a living French journalist and philosopher, Frédéric Pagès.
Polemics as History.
L’Idéologie française (1981) is a ‘reading’ of French political history that discovers the origins of its specific form of Fascism in a wide, to say the least, sources. For the author these included most of the founders of French socialism, from Revolutionary Republicans, Marxists, Mutualists to anarchists, the pre-Great War anti-Parliamentary left, blasted for the tiny group known as the le Cercle Proudhon, uniting radicla Monarchists and syndicalists, the 1930s neo-socialist, modernising social democrats, the ‘personalist’ Christian review Esprit (better known today for its ‘anti-totalitarianism’), intellectuals, Bergson was an impulse to racism, and, above all French Communism, as well as better known sources, notably those which were actually fascists, such as Action française, Charles Maurras and company. All of France, to the author, was riddled with anti-antisemitism.
In other words French fascism, and Pétain’s ‘national revolution’ were the product of just about everybody who wrote or was politically active in the inter-war years.
Informed readers will immediately recognise that the book draws on the, also controversial, histories of the origin of the French far-right national revolutionary current by Zeev Sternhell. Sternhell has read the original literature, although amongst many critiques cast doubt on his arguments and sources : Un fascisme imaginaire Jean Sévillia).
It is far from clear that Lévy had more than glanced at the writings he cites. A leaf through the book last night revealed him citing Georges Sorel’s La révolution dreyfusienne (1908). He describes it as a virulent anti-Dreyfusarde tract, hinting at anti-Semitism. In fact the short pamphlet was about the end of the conservative ‘republican aristocracy’ whose unity was shattered by the Affair. This had led to the the political triumph of a ‘social’ republican wing that, Sorel believed, was the occasion for the working class to secure its own autonomous interests.
That aside Lévy may have skimmed one section. Sorel has some harsh words for literary figures (he included Zola in this list) who value more the effect of their literary positions (parti pris) than the positions themselves. These stray lines, we may conjecture, might have seriously rankled Lévy.
The book was roundly criticised, when not laughed at. Amongst those writing hostile reviews figured left-wing firebrands Raymond Aron, Pierre Nora, Immanuel Le Roy Ladurie, and others too numerous to list.
This might be some time back, but we expect this talent for anti-Semitic spotting will be put to use in his interventions about the Labour Party.
Backing for Islamists.
During the 1980s and 90s Bernard-Henri Lévy was more than a literary supporter of the Afghan Islamists’ fight against the Communists and their Soviet backers. His most celebrated, by himself and no doubt others (including President Chirac) was his involvement with ‘Commander’ Massoud’s faction of the Mujaheddin (the depth and reality of that acquaintance remains contested).
Massoud became an enemy of the Taliban, but was far from a liberal: his call to arms began against the Communist PDPA, well before the Soviet intervention. No doubt a case could be made that he was a “good Islamist’, but he was part of that mouvance, as the name of his original group, Jamiat-i Islam, indicates. (see Quand les djihadistes étaient nos amis. BHL en Afghanistan ou « Tintin au Congo » ?). He was, for those who backed the Mujahideen, above all anti-Soviet. It would be interesting, nevertheless, to know if Lévy asked his friend about the group’s attitude towards Israel….
A comparison might be made with those ‘anti-imperialists’ who suddenly found a great deal of virtue in the Islamic ‘resistance’ to the American occupation of Afghanistan.
Bernard-Henri Lévy and Human Rights
This question is often asked: Why Does Everyone Hate Bernard-Henri Lévy? ( )
Whole books have been dedicated to criticising the man, his works and his actions (Le B.A. BA du BHL, Enquête sur le plus grand intellectuel français, de la journaliste Jade Lindgaard. Une imposture française, ouvrage des journalistes Nicolas Beau et Olivier Toscer 2006. Un nouveau théologien de Daniel Bensaïd, 2008.)
Bernard-Henri Lévy is in short, often a figure of fun. Many of those who enjoy French language polemical literature are keenly aware of the pitfalls of taking his language too seriously. Sometimes the ‘public intellectual’s’ views are more widely shared – he is opposed to the nationalist enthusiasm for ‘sovereigntism’; he can – sometimes – make stirring speeches against racialism. Sometimes they are not: the claim that religious dogma is the bedrock of human rights cannot be sustained.
People are entitled to be wary of somebody whose chief object is more often to impress than to convince. His occasional ability to rise above phrase-mongering does not translate well – a quick look at Sartre: The Philosopher of the 20th Century by Bernard–Henri Levy (Le siècle de Sartre, 2000) may put people off the French political and intellectual pamphleteering for life. The contorted syntax faithfully reproduces the original – which just about lumbers along in French. The florid expressions could serve as a template for a factory of purple patches.
The contrast between his clumsy, hammering, style and the lucid writings of other modern French political essayists – I cite a few I’ve read recently, all from different political sides, Alain Finkielkraut, Emmanuel Todd, Jean Birnbaum – is startling.
Bernard-Henri Lévy is also politically – a rhetorician who aspires to the court of power. Sarkozy indulged him; Hollande appears to keep him at a distance. To the wider public he is often out to make a case effectively, to convince us with a skilful show, and less positively, a person who trades in bombast.
That his words may, to evoke Sartre’s images, serve as a sword, as pistols, is, post-Libya, possibly true. That these are used in the service of justice is less than clear.
A principled politics of human rights does not involve backing for groups like the Mujahidin, or, more recently, unbridled enthusiasm for Western interventions everywhere, from Syria to Libya. It means supporting people, not states and certainly not posing as a political player in armed efforts to impose rights.
It is our hope that we are not about to endure another bout of Lévy’s histrionics, at the expense of the British Labour Party.
Sausage Identical to the one said to be on Way to Kate Hopkins’s Bum.
It was a joy to see Sadiq Khan won the London Mayor election.
For readers not in the UK (roughly half those reading this blog) this is a report,
Sadiq Khan became the first Muslim mayor of London in the early hours of Saturday after a bitter campaign marred by accusations of dog whistle racism on the part of his rival, the millionaire environmentalist Zac Goldsmith.
The Labour MP for Tooting in south London finished comfortably ahead of his Conservative rival whose camp accused Khan of “pandering to extremists” and tried to depict him as a Jeremy Corbyn loyalist who planned to use the capital for a “dangerous experiment”.
In his victory speech, Khan said he was “humbled” to be elected. In sharp remarks, he directly addressed Goldsmith’s campaign saying that he was proud “that London has today chosen hope over fear and unity over division”.
He added: “I hope that we will never be offered such a stark choice again. Fear does not make us safer, it only makes it weaker – and the politics of fear is simply not welcome in our city. I promise to always be a mayor for all Londoners, to work hard to make life better for every Londoner regardless of your background.
“I have a burning ambition for London. I want every single Londoner to get the opportunities that our city gave to me and my family.”
Referring to his late father, who came to London from Pakistan, Khan said he would have been proud “that the city he chose to call his own had now chosen one of his children to be mayor”.
Owen Jones notes,
Zac Goldsmith has lost, his reputation ruined, a political disgrace consigned to the history books. He had a choice. He could have capitalised on his reputation as a liberally minded, eco-friendly Tory, crossing partisan divides, love-bombing a city that has increasingly become a Labour heartland. Initial polls suggested he had a chance, even a significant lead. The cheerleaders for Tessa Jowell, the Blairite candidate in Labour’s selection race, wrongly suggested Sadiq Khan was unelectable.
Instead, Goldsmith waged a campaign soaked in racism, in one of the most ethnically diverse cities on Earth, shamelessly exploiting anti-Muslim prejudices in an effort to secure a shameful victory. Khan was a candidate who “repeatedly legitimised those with extremist views”, he wrote in the Mail. London was offered a campaign of fear, smear and bigotry. And London overwhelmingly told it where to go.
A more detailed analysis of the national results will follow, though it is clear that attempts to drive Labour down to the ground have not born fruit.
For the moment we note that critics of Jeremy Corbyn claim any successes as their own work, and any set backs as his.
This is one reaction from a leading British commentator after, on Wednesday she tweeted:
French co-thinkers of Hopkins yet to react: Two Hours of a Muslim London Mayor and Daesh have not yet blown up Big Ben.
Then there is this, from the Weekly Worker, no doubt endorsed (?) by the ‘Labour Party Marxists’.
Both of them.
The Provisional Central Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain, meeting on May 1, agreed to call for a vote for George Galloway (first preference) in the London mayoral election and Sadiq Khan (second preference).
We call for a first-preference vote for George Galloway in spite of his notorious alliances with the Iranian regime, with Ba’athists and other oppressors in the Middle East, and in spite of the political differences for which we have repeatedly criticised him.
We do so because the witch-hunt around allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ currently being conducted by the Labour right and the mass media is an attempt to smear any opposition to US policy in the Middle East as racist, and is part of a class struggle conducted by the capitalist class to recover full control of the Labour Party by its paid agents.
Sadiq Khan has come onside for capital in this witch-hunt; Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have collapsed in the face of it. In contrast, George Galloway has responded robustly and broadly correctly. In this context a first-preference vote for Galloway is a useful, if limited, protest against the witch-hunt.
It is not yet known how the ‘Provisional Central Committee’ will react to the results, including Galloway’s 1.4% (Wikipedia):
|Mayor of London election 5 May 2016 |
|Party||Candidate||1st Round||%||2nd Round||Total||First Round Votes Transfer Votes|
|Liberal Democrat||Caroline Pidgeon||120,005||4.6%||335,931||455,936||
|Women’s Equality||Sophie Walker||53,055||2.0%||198,720||251,775||
|Britain First||Paul Golding||31,372||1.2%||73,883||105,255||
|One Love||Ankit Love||4,941||0.2%||28,920||33,861||
|Labour gain from Conservative|
Murdered Bangladeshi gay activist Xulhaz Mannan (From Paul C).
Homage to the Martyrs!
The Hindu reports,
Two people were hacked to death Monday at an apartment in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka, police said, with a local television channel identifying one of them as a leading gay rights activist.
“Unidentified attackers entered an apartment at Kalabagan and hacked two people to death. Another person was injured,” Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesperson Maruf Hossain Sorder told AFP.
He did not identify the dead, but private television Channel 24 said one of them was the editor of Roopbaan, the country’s only magazine for the LGBT community.
The BBC continues.
A leading gay rights activist and editor at Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine has been hacked to death, media reports and officials say.
Another person was also killed and one person injured when attackers entered an apartment in Dhaka, police said.
Julhas Mannan was an editor at LGBT magazine Roopbaan and previously worked at the US embassy, friends said.
The killing comes two days after a university teacher was hacked to death by suspected Islamist militants.
Since February last year suspected militants have killed several secular or atheist writers and members of religious minority groups.
BBC Bengali Service editor Sabir Mustafa said staff at Roopbaan, which had not been condemned by the government and received some support from foreign embassies, had been careful to protect their identities but had not believed their lives were at risk.
Suspected extremists in Bangladesh are gaining a sense of security that they can carry out killings with impunity, he says.
Meanwhile Bangladesh’s best known blogger said he had received a death threat on Sunday.
Imran Sarker, who led major protests by secular activists in 2013 against Islamist leaders, said he had received a phone call warning that he would be killed “very soon”.
Earlier this month, a Bangladeshi law student who had expressed secular views online died when he was hacked with machetes and then shot in Dhaka.
Last year, four prominent secular bloggers were also killed with machetes.
The four bloggers had all appeared on a list of 84 “atheist bloggers” drawn up by Islamic groups in 2013 and widely circulated.
There have also been attacks on members of religious minorities including Shia, Sufi and Ahmadi Muslims, Christians and Hindus.