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Leading Bangladesh Gay Activist Xulhaz Mannan Hacked to Death as Islamists’ Rampage Continues.

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Murdered Bangladeshi gay activist Xulhaz Mannan (From Paul C).

Homage to the Martyrs!

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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.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 25, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Does Galloway Blaze Trail for ‘Left’ Shift to Align with Nationalist Right?

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Galloway Evokes Battle of Britain Spirit in London Mayor Bid.

 

This nationalistic posturing  reminds me of what’s been happening in France.

While there are admirable protests about the projet de loi Travail (El Khomri) and the interesting Nuit Debout movement anti-Europe nationalism.

They call it “souverainisme“, demands for  national sovereignty, migration, border controls, security, the constitution and cultural identity.

Most of those associated with this trend are clearly on the right, if not the extreme right.

But some on the French left have also been attracted by these themes.

This article from last year describes how some have passed over to the French nationalist right:

PARIS — When the newspaper Libération last month accused self-professed “left of the left” philosopher and best-selling author Michel Onfray of “doing the [far-right party] Front National’s bidding,” French intellectuals circled the wagons.

Onfray, who declined a request for comment for this article, went on to accuse France’s successive governments of “being contemptuous of the people” — what he calls, using the English term, “the ‘old school’ people”: French blue-collar workers, the unemployed, the poor, the pensioners. As for National Front leader Marine Le Pen, he said: “I don’t resent her as much as I resent those who made her possible.”

The first is the fate of France’s poor and working class – the “proletariat” Onfray says has been abandoned by the right and the left alike. In that vision, the governing left’s policies favor the globalized elite and the well-to-do, while catering to the needs of minorities (“the margins,” says Onfray) — such as immigrants, homosexuals and women.

The second theme is the visceral hostility towards Europe and the euro, seen as constraining economic and social policy and a fatal blow to the infamous “exception française,” a large and costly welfare state that’s supposed to shield the French from the turmoils of the global economy.

The drama is being played daily in the court of public opinion. Think of it as “the people vs. the euro.”

Onfray is well known for this vein of rhetoric.

This is what he said of the attitude of those who backed – ostensibly pro-European Constitution referedum (2005) towards those who would vote No to this agreement (the Non won).

They despised the common folk:

Les gens qui vont voter Non à la constitution européenne sont des crétins, des abrutis, des imbéciles, des incultes. Petit pouvoir d’achat, petit cerveau, petite pensée, petits sentiments. Pas de diplômes, pas de livres chez eux, pas de culture, pas d’intelligence. Ils habitent en campagne, en province. Des paysans, des pécores, des péquenots, des ploucs.

The people will will vote to the European Constitution are cretins, morons, imbeciles, uncultivated. They are hard up, small-brained, narrow mined and inward looking. They have no qualifications, no books at home, no culture, no brains. They live in the country, in the provinces. They are peasants, rustics, bumpkins, yokels.

Clearly Onfray hopes to repeat the result of the referendum on the European Constitution.

He however faces a nebulous target.

But British nouveaux réactionnaires have a unique opportunity: the UK Referendum on the European Union.

takes up the Onfray challenge:

Railing against those “a Byzantine system of governance largely beyond the reach of Euro-plebs” the former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party and writer for Living Marxism muses, for the anti-elitist Spectator magazine, on The strange death of left-wing Euroscepticism

The further removed the left becomes from everyday people, the more it views the public as an obese, probably racist blob to be re-educated rather than as political citizens to be engaged. The left’s turn from hating the EU to at least wanting to stick with it is directly proportionate to its loss of faith in the masses. Democracy is no longer seen as a tool of progressive change. Lefties now trust EU suits more than they do the loud, odd locals of their own towns.

This comment from Briançon’s article sums up the empty nature of this stand,

““Europe here serves as proxy for globalization,” said a government adviser, who didn’t want to be identified for fear of “adding fuel to the fire.” “I call it the defeatist wing of French intellectual life: There’s no chance we’ll be able to make it, so let’s retract and retreat.”

Will others, hostile to ‘capitalist’ EU but more specifically to the free movement of labour, a substantial group  inside the so-called Lexit camp, follow their French counterparts and align, like Galloway, with the hard right?

Allied with UKIP for the European Referendum Galloway looks a trail-blazer.

Secular Critic of Islamism, Nazimuddin Samad, Hacked to Death in Bangladesh.

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Nazimuddin Samad, from his Facebook page

Nazimuddin Samad: Murdered for Criticising Islam. 

The Dhaka Tribune reports.

Student on hitlist killed by militants Mohammad Jamil Khan

Killers were chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ while hacking the Gonojagoron Moncho activist

A masters student of Jagannath University was killed by suspected Islamist militants in Old Dhaka’s Sutrapur area last night.

Nazimuddin Samad, 28, was a student of the law department’s evening batch.

He was attacked at Ekrampur intersection around 8:30pm by three assailants while walking to his home in Gendaria with another youth after completing classes at the university near Bahadur Shah Park.

The youth accompanying the victim has remained traceless since the incident, police said.

Nazim is the son of Shamshul Haque from Bianibazar area of Sylhet. He was the information and research secretary of Sylhet district unit Bangabandhu Jatiya Jubo Parishad. He was also an activist of Gonojagoron Moncho’s Sylhet wing.

His friends said that Nazim used to campaign for secularism on Facebook and was critical of radical Islamists. A day before the murder, he expressed concerns over the country’s law and order in a Facebook post.

Police said that the killers who came on a motorcycle first intercepted them and then attacked Nazim with machetes. At one point, he fell on the street and then the attackers shot him to confirm death before leaving the place.

Businessmen of the area closed the shops immediately after hearing the gunshots.

During the murder, the killers were chanting “Allahu Akbar,” police said quoting locals.

Visiting the spot, the Dhaka Tribune reporter found the crime scene cordoned by the law enforcers and all the shops closed. Police recovered a bullet shell from the spot.

Nurul Amin, assistant commissioner of Sutrapur division, told the Dhaka Tribune that police went to the spot on information and found the body in a pool of blood. They were confirmed about his identity by the ID found in his pocket. Later, the police informed the university authorities and sent the body to hospital.

Doctors at Sir Salimullah Medical College Hospital declared him dead at 9pm.

AC Nurul further said that it is clear that the assailants kept an eye on Nazim’s activities for long and were aware of his way back home. “We are investigating the case sincerely to know the motive of the murder,” he added.

JnU Proctor Nur Mohammad said that Nazim got admitted to the university two months ago. “We have informed his family about the murder and are taking detail information about him,” he said.

Shamir Chandra Sutradhar, inspector (investigation) of Sutrapur police station, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Even though the spot was crowded at the time of the murder, they are not sharing any information with the police.

“However, we are trying to identify the assailants by talking to the shopkeepers and residents of the area.”

Comrade Samad’s background is described here:

Samad, a student of Jagannath University, used to write frequently against religious extremism. He had written “I have no religion” on his Facebook profile under religious views. In some of his recent posts, Samad had supported a petition to remove Islam as Bangladesh’s state religion, according to the New York Times.

“Evolution is a scientific truth. Religion and race are invention of the savage and uncivil people,” he reportedly wrote on Facebook. However, about a month back, Samad deactivated his Facebook account at the request of his family.

According to the Times, Samad’s Facebook page identified him as a member of the Shahbag movement, which seeks punishment for Bangladeshis who fought for Pakistan during the 1971 war for independence.

International Business Times. 

The International Humanist and Ethical Union has published these moving reflections,

Nazimuddin’s writing

Tributes and alarmed messages are flooding in on Nazimuddin’s personal Facebook page, where he regularly posted atheist and feminist criticism of Islam. He was critical both of the Islamist political parties, and against the failings of the current government. Shortly before he was killed, he wrote a post implying that the ruling Awami League party would fall if it did not make swift changes, writing (in Bengali): “The situation of the country, deterioration of law and order in the country, speak that maybe you cannot stay long in power.”

In earlier posts, Nazimuddin responded to a cleric’s violent speech against women which referenced the Quran, contrasting the speech with the claim that “Islam is the highest honor given to women!” He asked for justice for a girl known as Tonu, who had been raped and killed in the military area of ‘Cantoment’, Comilla.

Nazimuddin recently criticised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s support for madrassa (Islamic schools), which are increasingly associated with Islamist radicalism and militancy in the country. Nazimuddin had also shared posts from Washiqur Rahman Babu who was killed last year in a similar attack, carried out by two madrassa students who claimed they were acting on orders from someone associated with their Islamic schools.

In another post, he proposed a satirical strategy to overcome the aggressive push toward Islamism in the country, writing: “Please let’s have Sharia Law for just five years in Bangladesh. Rule the country with Medina Law. I guarantee you, after this 5 years, no Muslim of Bangladesh will ask for Islamic law! The loss and damage we will have after five years, it will take 1400 years to restore us to a modern country.”

Nurul Amin, assistant commissioner of Sutrapur division police, is reported as saying that the assailants must have kept an eye on Nazim’s activities ahead of the attack, and were aware of his route home. “We are investigating the case sincerely to know the motive of the murder,” he said.

Reaction

President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), Andrew Copson, commented tonight:

“It is clear from Nazimuddin’s Facebook posts and protest activity that he was a politically and socially engaged young man. He offered criticisms of certain radical religious figures and doctrines, thoughts of a kind that many people, not just atheists and humanists but also many religious people, express all over the world, every day.

“Every time a thoughtful and honest person like Nazimuddin is hacked or gunned down, apparently for doing nothing more than speaking their minds on secularist, political and religious topics, we and others will make a point of finding out what he said, what he did, what he wrote about, and sharing it. It will be seen by more people than ever would have seen it before. And we will remember his name and the growing list of names of those who were singled out and killed, by small-minded, hateful extremists who appear to think that words can be killed. They cannot.”

We mourn deeply this death, and extend love to all Nazimuddin’s family and friends. 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 7, 2016 at 11:39 am

Guardian Smears Charlie Hebdo – again.

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Guardian and its like have never pardoned French secularist satire.

After the Charlie Hebdo/hypercacher slaughter The Guardian could just not wait to spit on the corpses of the dead.

Seamus Milne, former Comments Editor at the paper, (now something to do with the Labour Party) stated of its cartoons, “This wasn’t just “depictions” of the prophet, but repeated pornographic humiliation.” Milne put the blame for the attacks down to Western policy in the Middle East and the ‘war on terror’.

This is their angle during the present week:

How did Charlie Hebdo get it so wrong?

In blaming all followers of Islam for terrorism, the French magazine is finding its catharsis in bigotry.

The editorial then laid the blame squarely on two factors – the complicity of the average, unaffiliated Muslim, and the erosion of secularism by a conspiracy of silence. Terrorism was fomented, it said, and people died because society could not voice discomfort at the many little “iceberg tips” of religious expression that had cumulatively eroded laïcité – the secularism written into the French constitution. Terrorism happened, in short, because freedom of speech was curbed.

The editorial gives credence and sanction to the view that there is no such thing as an innocent Muslim. That even those who do not themselves commit terrorism, somehow by just existing and practising, are part of a continuum that climaxes with two men blowing themselves up in Brussels airport.

I assume Malik is not a French speaker, or she would have read that the  Editorial – in the original – was signed by Riss, somebody not held in universally high regard in secularist left quarters.

That is to say, it’s more what English speaking journalists  would call an “Op-Ed”, an opinion piece,  than an authoritative statement of the weekly’s views.

It is also translated into what one can only call an “approximate” English; a task in any case facing difficulties for Riss’s highly colloquial style. (1)

The English title reads, How did we end up here?

The French reads: Qu’est-ce que je fous là ? – which most would agree is somewhat different to the former.

Riss asks, after the Brussels attacks,

In reality, the attacks are merely the visible part of a very large iceberg indeed. They are the last phase of a process of cowing and silencing long in motion and on the widest possible scale. Our noses are endlessly rubbed in the rubble of Brussels airport and in the flickering candles amongst the bouquets of flowers on the pavements. All the while, no one notices what’s going on in Saint-German-en-Laye. Last week, Sciences-Po* welcomed Tariq Ramadan. He’s a teacher, so it’s not inappropriate. He came to speak of his specialist subject, Islam, which is also his religion. Rather like lecture by a Professor of Pies who is also a pie-maker. Thus judge and contestant both.

I assume the Guardian has no French speaking journalists, or at least those that follow French politics.

Ramadan, who “puts himself forward as a man of dialogue, someone open to a debate” has hit the French news recently (19th of March) because of this:

Tariq Ramadan reconnait avoir rejoint l’Union mondiale des savants musulmans (UMSM)*.  Une organisation sur la liste des organisations terroristes des Emirats Arabes Unis. L’Union mondiale des savants musulmans est dirigé par le sulfureux théologien des Frères Musulmans : Youssef Al Qaradawi.

L’homme, recherché par Interpol, est un « savant » antisémite, homophobe, auteur d’une fatwa autorisant à mener des attentats suicide. Une fatwa que l’on retrouve sur plusieurs sites du Hamas. Youssef Al Qaradawi a aussi réclamé la destruction de mausolées chiites et  justifié l’assassinat de personnalités comme Mouammar Kadhafi  et Saïd Ramadan Al Boutih.

Tariq Ramadan has admitted having joined the International Union of Muslim Scholars. This organisation is on the Arab Emirates List of terrorist organisations. It is run by the Muslim Brotherhood theologian Youssef Al Qaradawi.

This man, wanted by Interpol, is a ‘scholar’, who is anti semitic and homophobic. Qaradawi is the author of a Fatwa authorising suicide bombings – found on many Hamas sites. He has also called for the destruction of Shiite Mausoleums and justified the killings of Gadafi and Saïd Ramadan Al Boutih.

Tariq Ramadan fait enfin son « coming out ».

The controversy over whether one should debate with this figure – in view of the above facts about his racist far-right links, has been stormy.

This appeared a couple of days ago:

Le Monde: « Accepter le débat avec Tariq Ramadan ne signifie pas être d’accord avec lui »

As for blaming the ‘average Muslim’ for genocidal terrorism I find no evidence in Riss’ article.

What he does do, and in a highly questionable way, is to place the spread of cultural Islam – with all its intolerance and attempts to impose its ‘law’ on everyday life, alongside the fact of the killings.

“From the bakery that forbids you to eat what you like, to the woman who forbids you to admit that you are troubled by her veil, we are submerged in guilt for permitting ourselves such thoughts. ”

The device of citing anecdotes about bakeries and the Burka in the context of murder is more than doubtful:.

It is precisely the kind of ranting which prevents secularist opposition to the religious imposition of veiling  (a declaration of ‘purity’ against the ‘impure’) getting a hearing.

But that is Riss, and a good reason why his thoughts are not treated with seriousness that the Guardian and like-minded mates  claim for it.

Another Guardian article by their ‘religious correspondent Harriet Sherwood (Charlie Hebdo criticised for linking all Muslims to Brussels bombings) lists their manufactured outrage.

As Sarah Brown  says,

I was looking again at the possibilities I started out with and thought I should make clear that I don’t think this is ‘an attack on all Muslims as potential fifth columnists’. Some have been saying it as good as paints all Muslims as terrorists and that’s clearly not the case.

To repeat, Riss puts alongside these observations, he does not link them in a causal chain.

Mailk concludes,

The magazine characterises its mission as war with a “silencing” establishment, and sees only one way to prevail: more freedom of expression, more secularism. But its thesis needs to be challenged. Is this silenced, hesitant, subdued France that Hebdo describes the country in which a minister called women in hijab “negroes who accept slavery”? If that is too timid, what would it propose: banning hijabs, banning beards?

To employ Hebdo’s own concluding rhetorical device, let us ask “the world’s oldest and most important question”: how the hell did we end up here? Imagine being that liberal, energised by the moral certainty of your secularism, sustained by belief in the supremacy of your values and righteous indignation. Mightn’t you ask yourself: how the hell did I end up here, advocating bigotry and prejudice?

Perhaps Malik might care to make some observations about the bigotry and prejudice of the scholarly  organisation the eminent Oxford Professor, Tariq Ramadan has recently joined?

But, no, silence.

The Guardian one notes does not exactly open its pages to defenders of Charlie Hebdo either.

 (1) This is today’s example of the ‘English’ version of the Editorial:

This week’s big debate was about the reality of Salah Abdeslam’s perpetuity. About his eventual sentence. Whether ‘life’ was going to mean life. A wind of panic swept over some of us when we realised that the possibility of a life sentence (that most perpetual of perpetuities) was not quite ‘real’ because, in the normal course of things, after a few decades of imprisonment, there was a chance that he might be released.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 6, 2016 at 12:12 pm

Gerry Downing Expelled from Labour Representation Committee for Anti-Semitism.

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Gerry Downing Unanimously Booted out of LRC.

Gerry Downing was this afternoon expelled from the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), by unanimous decision of the national committee, on grounds of his antisemitism.

From D. O. Saturday 2nd April.

Now that Downing has been kicked out, not just from the Labour Party but from the left-wing LRC, where does his campaign stand?

His pretend Fourth International has called for a united campaign to defend him.

This is their latest statement.

Statement by the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International on the Expulsion of Comrade Gerry Downing from the British Labour party. 22-3-2016

Tony Greenstein partially defended Downing, on narrowly democratic grounds, while solidarising with the witch-hunters on the substantial allegation of ‘anti-semitism’ despite testifying that our comrades are not ‘personally’ racist. This inherently contradictory stance, which coincides with the capitulatory politics of the CPGB whose sympathiser he is, nevertheless did not save him from being witchhunted himself. We welcome his support as far as it goes but continue to demand a proper united front campaign with full freedom of propaganda for the left tendencies to argue their views.

We reject all restrictions by self-appointed ideological censors on the freedom of Marxists to analyse ruling class politics, including those of the parts of the ruling class that are of Jewish origin. Anyone seeking to restrict freedom of historical materialist analysis in this way is crossing class lines, and siding with bourgeois politics against Marxism. We defend Tony Greenstein despite these important political differences

We reject all restrictions by self-appointed ideological censors on the freedom of Marxists to analyse ruling class politics, including those of the parts of the ruling class that is of Jewish origin. Anyone seeking to restrict freedom of historical materialist analysis in this way is crossing class lines, and siding with bourgeois politics against Marxism. We defend Tony Greenstein despite these important political differences.

He is the latest victim of the renewed onslaught by the supporters of Tony Blair in the Parliamentary party and in the bureaucracy of the Labour party. Whatever our political differences with him for over thirty years he has been the foremost advocate and fighter for the cause of the oppressed Palestinians against their Zionist oppressors in the British labour movement.

This document usefully highlights the fact that now it’s the case of Cde Greenstein that is coming to the fore:

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Telegraph 1st of April.

Activist who derides critics as ‘Zionist scum’ admitted to Labour in latest anti-Semitism scandal to hit Party

Labour admitted a previously barred activist who refers to his critics as  “Zio idiots” and “Zionist scum”, and claimed that Jews supported the Nuremberg laws, it has emerged.

Tony Greenstein, a prominent campaigner from Brighton, was barred from entry to the Party last summer when vetting of new applicant was stepped up during the leadership contest to prevent a surge of “entryism” from groups who did not share the “aims and values” of Labour.

However, following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader, Mr Greenstein slipped back into the party unnoticed.

Evidence compiled by Labour’s compliance unit when Mr Greenstein attempted to join the party last summer, seen by The Telegraph, included his claims in online forums Margaret Thatcher was an “obviously legitimate” target for the IRA and that “Zionists collaborated with the Nazis”.

John Mann MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Committee into Anti-Semitism said that it was “hugely inappropriate” for Mr Greenstein to have been admitted to the Party.

For those on the left who have not been in a cave five hundred metres underground for the last ten years Tony Greenstein is a familiar figure.

He writes for the Weekly Worker, almost entirely on Zionism and Israel.

Although that paper has many articles worth reading – and I say this not just because many of the authors are friends – Greenstein’s obsessive works are not amongst them.

Greenstein’s activities, as an ‘anti-Zionist’, but more significantly within the labour movement and left have earned him an impressive number of enemies over the years. Those who cordially loathe him include not only union ‘bureaucrats’ (hard-working and respected employees of the TUC and Northern Unemployed Workers’ Centres), but also people from every section of the left right up to a  members of an array of anarchist and libertarian groups.

About his only admirers appears to be New Left Review. In 2013 published a strange article, denying that anti-Semitism was a problem in France, and giving a long list of people with Jewish names who are apparently the intellectual ‘gatekeepers’ of the country’s media. It  cited Greenstein’s blog (Tony Greenstein’s Blog) as an authority on something to do with Israel (Gabriel Piterberg Euro-Zionism and its Discontents.)

Greenstein, to his honour, does not deny that anti-Semitism is a problem and that some people can use the issue of Israel for a racist anti-Jewish agenda.

He has campaigned against the ‘anti-Zionist’   Gilad Atzmon precisely on this issue.

On the Downing case he has had this to say (last week).

I have no doubt that neither Downing nor Donovan are anti-Semitic in a personal sense and that is why I would not support their expulsion. But at a time when the anti-Zionist left is under attack in the Labour Party and I am under threat of expulsion personally, I would want to have nothing to do with any campaign Gerry might mount against his expulsion. His behaviour and his politics are insupportable and have weakened the position of anti-Zionists in the party, myself included.

Weekly Worker.

The Times and the Telegraph are therefore completely off the ball.

Recently Cde Greenstein joined the Labour Party.

Because of his past -standing as a candidate in Brighton local elections against Labour,  and ‘difficult’ (to say the least) relations with Brighton Labour Party, not to mention the kind of antagonism outlined above, it is hard, even with the best will in the world, which I do not have,  not to see this as a self-serving stunt.

We intend to treat it as such, and could not care less about the outcome of the Labour Party’s internal review of his membership.

To get involved is to to get entwined.

More importantly it is to divert attention from the cases of serious left-wing activists caught up in attempts to remove them from the Labour Party.

Compare and recall:

Tony Greenstein on Andrew Coates:

However none of that is to justify Andrew Coates chauvinism and racism either. Coates has repeatedly given support to the Israeli state and its claims there on the basis of some Biblical ‘return’. In other words he justifies the colonisation of the West Bank in much the same way as he justifies Israel’s colonisation of Israel behind the Green Line (which has long since been eradicated).”

The Left https://www.facebook.com/groups/869685873109930/? 25th of March 2016.

Let me be clear, I do not support the ‘Zionist state’: I support the right of the Jewish people to exist in the Middle East.

The problem with anti-Zionism in its present form is that many of its supporters are aligned with people who deny that right.

Further discussion on the issue of Israel – its past and present wrongs – has to begin from this observation.

Nuit Debout: Is France Finally to Have a Spanish ‘Indignados’ Movement?

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On Lâche Rien!

Several thousand people launched an occupation of the place de la République, Paris, at the end of Thursday’s  demonstration against the new labour law. The group, Convergences des luttes (converge of struggles) was behind the initiative. Up to 4,000 people were present at the height of the protest.

The left weekly, Politis, says it’s the birth of a new, unprecedented, movement (Nuit debout», acte de naissance d’un mouvement inédit).#

A statement read to the crowd from the philosopher and economist Frédéric Lordon observes,

Il est possible que l’on soit en train de faire quelque chose. Le pouvoir tolère nos luttes lorsqu’elles sont locales, sectorielles, dispersées et revendicatives. Pas de bol pour lui, aujourd’hui nous changeons les règles du jeu. En donnant au capital des marges de manœuvre sans précédent, cette loi est génératrice de la violence néolibérale qui frappe désormais indistinctement toutes les catégories du salariat et, par là, les pousse à redécouvrir ce qu’elles ont en commun : la condition salariale même.

It’s possible that we are in the middle of doing something. Those in power tolerate our struggles when they are local, by a particular social or employee group, separated, around specific demands. Today they have run out of luck: we are changing the rules of the game. Giving capital unprecedented freedom, this (labour) law creates neo-liberal violence which will henceforth hit every type of employees, and for that reason, pushes workers to discover the thing they have in common: the condition of being a wage-earner.

Le Monde asks if this is the first step towards a movement, which many compare to the Spanish ‘indignados’ (the indignant) which gave rise to Podemos,  that the supporters dream will sweep the country.

The occupiers took decisions on the basis of a 80% majority of support for motions (that is, not “consensus” model that bedevilled the Occupy movement).

A key proposal is to draw up, cahiers de doléances,  the lists of grievances that preceded the French Revolution. They hope to spread the movement across France.

This morning the CRS removed 500 occupiers from the Square.

Est-ce l’amorce d’un mouvement qu’ils rêveraient « lame de fond » ou peut-être « déferlante » ? Est-ce l’annonce d’un « sursaut citoyen » qui mettrait dans la rue des Français de toutes conditions avides de protester et débattre, en criant leur défiance abyssale envers leurs élus et envers un système ? Est-ce le prélude d’un processus dit « révolutionnaire » ?

Whether they carry the “wind of revolution”, as one participant stated, remains to be seen.

The Tendance’s favourite recent French left group, HK et les Saltimbanques, sang.

We wish the young comrades well!

This music really sums up the wrongs of the world and how to fight back.

More here: «Nuit debout» : expulsés à l’aube.

A NUIT DEBOUT NE SE COUCHERA PAS !

Le 31 nous ne sommes pas rentrés chez nous après la manifestation.

Au plus fort de la nuit, nous étions plus de 4 000 Place de la République.

Concerts, débats citoyens et projections ont ponctué cette nuit qui s’est déroulée sous les hospices de la bienveillance et de la fraternité.

Mais à 5h45, la police a encerclé notre rassemblement pacifique, et maîtrisé jusqu’au bout, avant de nous contraindre à quitter les lieux manu militari et sans explication.

Nous nous insurgeons contre cette violence injustifiée étant donné la légalité absolue de notre occupation de la Place.

Nous appelons dès aujourd’hui, toutes les forces progressistes à rejoindre et amplifier ce mouvement en nous rassemblant à nouveau Place de La République dès maintenant ce 1er avril et jusqu’à dimanche soir au moins.

Une assemblée générale est prévue vers 17h. Et ce soir des débats et de la musique encore…

Vendredi 1er avril depuis la Place de la République

NUIT DEBOUT

Un Silence Religieux. La Gauche Face au Djihadisme. Jean Birnbaum. Review Article.

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Un Silence Religieux. La Gauche Face au Djihadisme. Jean Birnbaum. Seuil 2015.

 
“Quand on voudra s’occuper utilement du bonheur des hommes, c’est par les dieux du Ciel que la réforme doit commencer.”

When we wish to carry out some useful work for human happiness, reform will have to begin with the gods in the heavens.

D’ Holbach. Système de la nature. 1777. (1)

The Brussels killings, have “nothing to do with Islam” said the Belgian Muslim on Sky News on Saturday. Amongst the disarray that follows each atrocity, the dignified quiet of mourning, there is this statement, “It has nothing to do with Islam” – Jean Birnbaum cites the official, the specialist, the columnist, and the academic in France, as across the world. Charlie Hebdo, the Hyper-Cacher, the Bataclan, and now Brussels; the slaughters in the Middle East, North Africa, Nigeria, and so many elsewheres, have nothing to do with Islam. These are, we are informed, acts of terrorism, with ‘causes’, about which the interested will find a very long, very weighty, list. But one is stubbed out: religion, left in silence. Rien-à-voirisme, that is, “nothing to with-ism” is the response. Jihadism has nothing to do with Jihad.

The massacre in Lahore leaves us enveloped in the deepest of silences, the most profound sadness. But we have to listen. Jean Birnbaum asks, by what right does anybody have to deny the religious claims of the Jihadists? If members of Daesh are ever brought to the Hague Tribunal and judged for Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity will the religious doctrines that order their lives and by which they destroy those of others, be ruled inadmissible evidence?

Birnbaum’s Un Silence Religieux is not an essay on the failings of politicians grappling with the need to avoid scapegoating religious minorities. It is not about the generous feelings of people who wish to show respect for the beliefs of Muslims. It is not against those who point out the faulty syllogisms of the hate mongers who assert that ‘all’ Muslims are Islamist Jihadist sympathisers because…they too are Muslims. It is not, to cite a daily reiteration of his point, about the BBC’s official “rien-à-voirisme” labelling the Islamic State “so-called”.

Un Silence Religieux, the Gauche Face au Djihadisme is a dissection of the French left’s failure to tackle the fact of the irruption of Islamic belief in politics and war. His charge is that the majority fail to deal with the power of religious faith, its “autonomous force” in the lives of the Jihadists, reinforced in rituals and in murder. That Islam far from being consigned to the past, is a “universalism” with its own political impact – Islamism – is hard to accept, he argues, for a French left that is incapable to taking religion seriously.

If French left-wingers, intellectuals and activists, are more likely to dismiss faith as reactionary than, say, the English-speaking left, there remain those who take the that there is a form of “rebellion” at work in Islamism, a – distorted – projection of social causes. For every reflection on the Middle East and Islamism itself, another immediately jumps out: on Europe’s Islamists, on Europe’s states, on the French Republic, and the Salafism of the housing estates. That is to follow Olivier Roy, an “Islamisation of radicalisation”, (l’islamisation de la radicalité) a ‘nihilist’ and ‘generational revolt by those uninterested in written doctrine. (Le Monde. 30.11.15). To look for the sources in the failings of the French Republic, Western foreign policy, to look everywhere but in religion, In short, to explain away the fact of faith, that “day after day” by prayer and ceremonies guides the Jihadists, animated by the “récits mythiques et les formes symboliques” that “orientent leur esprit” (Page 31).

For Birnbaum this “community of fate” is the only ideal in the world for which young people by tens of thousands are willing to risk their lives, “le combat en faveur du rétablissement du ‘califat.” (Page 186) That claim, for all the elegance, clarity and passions he puts into this landmark essay, as they say, se discute – that is, it is very very debatable.

Un Silence Religieux traces the French left’s refusal to come to terms with the force of religion in the anti-colonialist history of North Africa. The minority of the country that stood in support of the struggle for Algerian independence and against the vicious repression of the French state was also marked by a tendency to remain silent about problems posed by the nationalist movement. Above all they treated the central role of Islam as “folklore”, the result of colonial underdevelopment that would disappear in the universalism and third-world socialism of the new society.

Four years after independence, in 1966, Pierre Maillot, closely involved in the conflict and its aftermath, sent an article criticising the Algerian programme of Arabisation and Islamisation to the ‘personalist’ left journal, Esprit. They accepted its truth, but judged it “inopportune” to publish.

Readers of the (colonial) Algerian raised Camus’ condemnation of all forms of blind terrorism, and those familiar with the section of the French left that backed the FLN’s opponents, led by Messali Hadj, and the small circulation writings of those who quickly denounced the new regime’s bureaucratic and repressive turn are familiar with some of the issues. But, as Claude Lanzmann recalls, having been overwhelmed by the necessity to defend the fight for independence against French repression and torture, the majority of the anti-colonial left was not about to denounce the efforts of the independent nation to create a new society.

One result, as Birnbaum states, was that nobody singled out the project that Maillot and a few others tried in vain to signal, the “arabo-islamisme” of the majority of those fighting against the occupiers, and the FLN’s determination to make Islam the centre of national life. Those critical of the new government concentrated their fire on these issues, and the emerging bureaucracy In Socialisme ou Barbarie, Jean François Lyotard warned in 1963 immediately after independence of the economic difficulties facing an underdeveloped country and a regime empty of democratic political life which began with populist slogans, including Ben Bella’s simultaneous railing against “cosmopolitanism” and calls for an Islam freed from “superstition”. Even the anti-totalitarian Claude Lefort, warning in the same year of the dangers of One-Party rule, considered the issue of secularism and Islamism to be a diversion from the economic – agricultural – and social problems of the country. (2)

Birnbaum argues that the legacy of this stand has indelibly marked the French left. The view that Islam is a religion of the “dominated” served to explain away the dominance of religious themes in the anti-imperialist Algerian struggle, to make it seem as if it was vehicle of revolt, and to conceal the autonomous importance of religious fervour. This had a long afterlife. In the 1980s Ahmed Ben Bella, the emblematic figure of the revolution deposed by the 1965 Boumédienne coup, was inspired by the Iranian example and became a fervent Islamist. An Arab nationalist (with all the problems that creates in a country with a strong Berber minority) he came to pronounce that Islamism was the “only authentic revolt against the economic and cultural domination of the West.” (Page 96) Freed from Maghreb detention he put his ideas into action, and, within a few years, founded an Islamist party opposed to the Algerian one-party state. Bella’s former comrades on the French left – and here I am speaking from direct experience – excused the turn. Asked if there was room for atheists in his version of the Islamic society when his template theocracy murdered non-believers it was said that a follower of Das Kapital could be considered one of the People of the Book.

It is hard, however, not to consider that the attitude of the French left towards Islam, like other European lefts, has been influenced by much wider considerations. The Bolsheviks, we learn from the Socialist Workers Party, tried in their early years to win Muslims to socialism. The early Comintern responded favourably to Pan-Islamism, as an anti-imperialist force. No less an authority than J.V. Stalin, supported the fight of the Emir of Afghanistan for independence, since his struggle “weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism.” If Trotsky’s assertion that, “the rule of Islam, of the old prejudices, beliefs and customs ……these will more and more turn to dust and ashes” was not fulfilled the tradition of supporting any movement which saps imperialist power was established. It has endured. If the principle that undergirded the strategy, that all these movements were part of the era of revolutions which would produce, sooner or later, the “transition” to socialism and a communist mode of production, has become threadbare there are still many on the left, in France and across the world, who remain trapped within its premises. (3)

From Foucault to Harman.

In this respect Birnbaum offers two contrasting accounts of the relation between Islam and revolution. The first is a sympathetic (some would say, unduly so) account of Michael Foucault’s writings on the late seventies Iranian Revolution. Foucault, we learn, was struck both by the originality of this revolt, a people united in a “ collective will” without – apparently – a vanguard – and by its originality, that is, its ‘political spirituality”. He remained, Birnbaum assures us, suspicious of “power”.

At the time Maxime Rodinson discerned the potential in the clerics for the totalitarian exercise of that power in the Iranian movement. If he charged Foucault with ignorance about the ambitions already apparent in Islamism, from the Moslem Brotherhood onwards, others have questioned the ‘anti-modernist’ project itself. In a comprehensive study of these writings, Janet Afray and Kevin Anderson (Foucault and the Iranian Revolution. 2005) ask ““Did not a post-structuralist, leftist discourse, which spent all of its energy opposing the secular liberal or authoritarian modem state and its institutions, leave the door wide open to an uncritical stance toward Islamism and other socially retrogressive movements, especially when, as in Iran, they formed a pole of opposition to an authoritarian state and the global political and economic order?” (4)

Foucault was no doubt right about the importance of the Iranian Revolution and its long-lasting effects. The evidence for that legacy is there to read on the left. Alistair Crooke’s claim that “The key event that emerge from the Islamist revolution has been the freeing of thinking from its long tutelage to the tyranny of instrumentalism” may be more muted today. Judith Butler’s claim that the Burka represents a form of oppositional spirituality to the Western gaze, follows Foucault in ignoring the struggle of Iranian feminists against the veil. For Butler the March 1979 enforcement of the Muslim dress code to cries of “You will cover yourselves or be beaten” is invisible as well. Such indeed is the autonomous power of Islamist spiritual ideology. (5)

Birnbaum then delves into Chris Harman’s The Prophet and the Proletariat (1994) for a less exalted view of Islamic revolution. Harman, a leader of the “puissant” (powerful – yes….see Page 148) Socialist Workers Party recognised the importance of the Iranian revolution. A polemic against those who considered the Islamists ‘fascists’., and those who were prepared to directly align themselves with Iran against imperialism, Harman’ account, notably of the Algerian government’s own role in encouraging ‘moderate’ Islamism in the 1970s and early 1980s, indicates the realism of the text. To Harman the class character of diverse Islamist movements, in the petty bourgeoisie, amongst ‘new exploiters’, went without any fascist ambitions to attack the workers’ movement. He noted (see J.V. Stalin, above), “the destabilising effect of the movements on capital’s interests right across the Middle East.” Their main fault in this respect was not being anti-imperialist enough; their petty bourgeois utopia envisaged justice without challenging capitalism.

Harman stated, that this, “utopia” emanating from an impoverished section of the new middle class. As with any

“petty bourgeois utopia” its supporters are, in practice, faced with a choice between heroic but futile attempts to impose it in opposition to those who run existing society, or compromising with them, providing an ideological veneer to continuing oppression and exploitation. It is this that leads inevitably to splits between a radical, terrorist wing of Islamism on the one hand, and a reformist wing on the others. It is also this which leads some of the radicals to switch from using arms to try to bring about a society without “oppressors” to using them to impose “Islamic” forms of behaviour on individuals.“ (6)

In fact what Harman advocated was not a formal alliance with the Islamists ‘against the state’ but – sometimes – being on the “same side” against racism and against (see J.V. Stalin again) against imperialism. Always naturally involving discussion, and exposing the ‘contradictions” of the Islamists’ utopian ideas and trying to win them to “revolutionary socialism.” As Birnbaum observes, this was not only an “optimistic” belief, it also rests on the assumption that the “objective” course of history, the working out of economic laws, favours the socialist left. Given the SWP’s own self-belief in the creation of its party as a “tribune of the people”, is equally, Birnbaum accurately gauges, is tied to the much shakier claim that they would emerge as the principle voice and vehicle for the oppressed.

This is not the place to more than outline the collapse of this attempt to embrace the same constituency as the Islamists. Birnbaum does not cover the grotesque alliance that brought forth the shambles and shame of Respect, a party that claimed to represent ‘Muslims’, and the SWP’s work with its leader, George Galloway, now puttering around on Russia Today, railing against Europe. Nor does he cover the miasma that came from these quarters following the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the British Je ne Suis pas Charlie, workshop organised by the ‘anti-racist’ movement, Unite Against Racism, from those who had barely heard of the Hebdo who knew, just knew, that they (and the Hypercacher victims?) had it coming to them. But Un Silence Religieux, well informed as ever, does cover the more limited attempts on the French left, in the shape of the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) to reach out to Islam. The admirable Pierre Rousset’s comment that the NPA’s acceptance of a veiled candidate in Avignon that this was (see J.V.Stalin above) an alliance against the “main enemy” and an inability to take religion seriously. And yet, as Rousset has more recently remarked, for the veiled candidate, Ilham Moussaïd, the « le voile incarnait ce projet politique » (7)

These examples would appear to show that anything but the most transient and punctual joint-action between those engaged in politics on the basis of Islam and those engaged in politics as socialists – that is those who derive their principles from the supra-human and those who base them on the world – is bound to run aground. If the British left could oppose the invasion of Iraq in alliance with a variety of forces, including the Liberal Democrats, it is hard to see how this can endure into the Syrian conflict where even the most moderate Islamists have sympathies for …Islamists who wish to create an Islamic – moderate – state. And that is without confronting the issue of secularism in its broadest and weakest sense. No Islamist, by definition, can back the principle of freedom from religion in the running of the public sphere.

Marxism and Religion.

Are there deeper fault-lines within Marxism that have contributed to this failure to come to terms with the religious reality of Islamism? Birnbaum discusses Marx’s conjecture that faith, as an imaginary projection of social relations, will evaporate once a fully transparent, communist society is created. He spends some time on the equally speculative writings on the origin of the religious imaginary in human alienation, despair and hope for the future. The feeling that somehow, at is origin, that Christianity, and – once whispered – Islam was a form of ‘primitive communism’, or at least socialistic, views expressed with some verve by Karl Kautsky and repeated by many, from Rosa Luxemburg, to, Birnbaum discovers, Gramsci, may yet encourage a renewal of that famous “dialogue” between the left and the believers that clearly some hanker after. Knowledge of the exclusive nature of these early communities, not to mention the reign of Mohammed, do not encourage imitation amongst more than small circles. The history of utopian communities is riddled with factionalism and failure. Medieval and other apocalyptic revolts with their mass killings, and hysteria, may also be important moments of early class – peasant – class conflict – but they do not inspire modern supporters of the right not to believe.

But for Islamism that time has long passed. Birnbaum contrasts the hopes for a fully human world that animated the Spanish Internal Volunteers with the Jihadist refrain of Viva la muertre! (Page 213) The social relations that are turned upside down and projected in the visions of death that appear in the jihadist wish for the “end of the world” and a “good death” are perhaps the affair of specialists, who might trace them in Olivier Roy’s nihilism. They do not fit easily into the explanations of those who wish to uncover a Universalist society of equality – a religious utopia in Ernst Bloch’s sense – amongst those attracted to violent Islamism. What we see bears a strong resemblance to another of Foucault’s visions, a disciplinary society based on obsessive regulation of every gesture by the learned interpreters of the Qur’an, or their home-made improvised pretenders. A world in which every form of behaviour, every belief we hold in our hearts under surveillance – by the vice-regents of god – and corrected. Which is ruled by punishment, always punishment. And mortal cruelty. (8)

Birnbaum asks why the enthusiasm for Islam, which has led in the form of Daesh, to a “cruel violence” a hatred of modern Reason, in its different shapes, philosophical, Marxist, bourgeois or proletarian, inspires. The left, after the Fall of Official Communism, the triumph of capitalist economics and the predatory wars of the West, briefly came to life in the anti-, or ‘other-‘globalisation movements, which have faded. We are, in sum, confronted with not the end of the ‘grand narratives’ of the left, progress, emancipation, but at an impasse.

Shoulder to Shoulder.

In these conditions what remains? If we recognise “la force autonome de l’élan spirituel” we have made a step forward: ideology is a material practice. But is that all? The rationalist strain in Marxism, which owes something to d’Holbach, has tried to concentrate on exposing the ‘error’ of religion. Yet science, atheism, or simply rational explanation, has so far fared badly faced with ideology. Translating Reason into lived experience has always looked a formidable task. But now when a world-view so all-encompassing, enforced by a web of publishers, of ‘educational’ bodies, and Courts, state backed or not, and financed so generously by the twin arms of Islamic intolerance, Riyadh and Tehran exists how can this be confronted but by open political struggle? (9)

They are already engaged in inter-Muslim warfare. But outside, from the institutions down to the jihadist micro-powers, right up to the Islamic State itself in Syria and Iraq, another battle, ideological, and ultimately, physical, is taking place. New fault-lines are emerging. It is clear, and Birnbaum admirably contributes to the literature, that there are many in the Islamic world, including those who consider themselves good Muslims, who for love of the world and its people, promote democracy, human rights, and free-thought about religion. We are less sanguine than Birnbaum’s former teacher, and one-times supporter of the Gauche Prolétarienne, Christian Jambert, on the resources available inside Islamic philosophy that can continue to the spirit of liberty. Will they, as d’Holbach suggested, be able to reform the idea of god? Will we be able to attract widely for the secular cause of freedom? For the moment it is for us to stand shoulder to shoulder with these democrats. (10)

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(1) Page 67. D’Holbach. Premières oeuvres. Les Classiques du people. 1971.
(2) Albert Camus. Chroniques algériennes. 1939 – 1958. Gallimard. 2012. Pages 498 – 591 Claude Lanzmann. Le lièvre de Patagonie. Gallimard. 2009. Page. 56. Jean-François Lyotard: L’Algérie évacuée Socialisme our Barbarie. No 34. 1963. La Politique et la Pensée de la Politique. (Les letters nouvelles. 1963) Reprinted in: Sur un colonne absente. Claude Lefort. Gallimard. 1978.
(3) Page 75. J.V. Stalin. The Foundations of Leninism. Peking. 1970. Also available here, The Foundations of Leninism  THE NATIONAL QUESTIONLeon Trotsky: Perspectives and Tasks
in the East. 1924. C:\Documents and Settings\Compaq_Owner\Desktop\Temporary\Leon Trotsky Perspectives and Tasks in the East (1924).htm.
(4) Page 136. Foucault and the Iranian Revolution.. Gender and seduction. Janet Afray and Kevin B. Anderson University of Chicago. 2005.
(5) Resistance. The Essence of the Islamist Revolution. Alastair Crooke. Pluto Press.2009. For Judith Butler the Burka, “signifies belong-ness to a community and religion, a family, an extended history of kin relations, an exercise of modesty and pride, a protection against shame, and operates as well as a veil behind which, and through which, feminine agency can and does work.”(Page 142) It is related to the fear of “decimation of Islamic culture and the extension of US cultural assumptions about how sexuality and agency ought to be organised and represented,”(Page 142). The Precarious life. The Powers of Mourning and Violence, Judith Butler. Verso 2006
(6)  Chris Harman. The Prophet and the Proletariat.
(7) Pierre Rousset. Le NPA, sept ans après : projet, réalités, interrogations. January 2016. K:\Le NPA, sept ans après _ projet, réalités, interrogations – Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières.html
(8) Michael Foucault, Discipline and Punish. Penguin, 1991.
(9) Marx et la baron d’Holbach. Denis Lecompte. PUF. 1983.
(10) On the forces sustaining and dividing the power of Islamism see: Riddles of the Book. Suleiman Mourad. New Left Review. No 86. Second series. 2014. Christian Jambert. Q’est que la philosophie islamique. Folio. 2011.