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The Left and anti-Semitism, Livingstone Drags the Debate to the Gutter.

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Livingstone: “when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel.”

27 April 2016

Earlier today, JLM National Chair Jeremy Newmark made the following statement about events following the revelation that Naz Shah MP had posted antisemitic statements on Facebook some time before her election as an MP:

“Naz Shah is a politician who is clearly on a political journey, from a Respect firebrand in the choppy waters of local Bradford politics to the Labour Party. She courageously stood up to George Galloway’s bigotry at the General Election. However, her historic remarks and posting were repugnant and completely unacceptable.

Her contrition expressed over the past day seems to be genuine and sincere. This is part of that journey. We are optimistic that she will now take steps to deepen her understanding of Jewish identity. We do not ask or expect her to mute her criticism of the actions and policies of the Israeli government. We do ask and expect her to build upon her apology and contrition with a programme of education and action that includes standing up to anti-Semitism on the left and within the Palestine Solidarity Movement.”

Shortly after this statement was released it was announced that Shah had been suspended.  Jeremy Newmark commented:

“The suspension of Naz Shah by the Labour Party is fair and consistent. I hope it will provide the context for a programme of education as we, at JLM, have set out.”

Jewish Labour Movement.

Jim comments on Shiraz Socialist.

It was right and also inevitable that Naz Shah was suspended from the Labour Party following the revelation of anti-Semitic Facebook posts suggesting that Israel should be “relocated to the US” and likening Zionism to al-Qaida (made, incidentally, before she was an MP).

In her defence it should be noted that (1) she made an immediate and unequivocal apology, with no attempt to claim that this was just “anti-Zionism” and (2) she has been brought up in a political culture in which saying offensive things about Jews, Israel and Zionism is considered acceptable and in which many people don’t even recognise that anti-Semitism is much of a problem: check out Ken Livingstone’s reaction, for instance.

(More on site…)

I note in passing that the Facebook post – which Shah did not create –  was shared by many people, that it was one of many virulent posts circulating during the Israeli military actions against Gaza.

I, like many, opposed these armed repressive actions, and said so.

If some people got caught up in their emotions and have since, as Shah has, thought through her politics on a democratic basis then all credit to them, and to her.

This response does not help (Politics Home).

Speaking to BBC Radio London, Labour NEC member Ken Livingstone accused the “Israel lobby” of a campaign to smear its critics as anti-Semites, after Labour MP Naz Shah was suspended for sharing a post calling for Israel to be relocated to the United States.

“She’s a deep critic of Israel and its policies. Her remarks were over the top but she’s not anti-Semitic. I’ve been in the Labour party for 47 years; I’ve never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic. I’ve heard a lot of criticism of the state of Israel and its abuse of Palestinians but I’ve never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic…

“It’s completely over the top but it’s not anti-Semitic. Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews. The simple fact in all of this is that Naz made these comments at a time when there was another brutal Israeli attack on the Palestinians.

“And there’s one stark fact that virtually no one in the British media ever reports, in almost all these conflicts the death toll is usually between 60 and 100 Palestinians killed for every Israeli. Now, any other country doing that would be accused of war crimes but it’s like we have a double standard about the policies of the Israeli government.”

As I’ve said, I’ve never heard anybody say anything anti-Semitic, but there’s been a very well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticises Israeli policy as anti-Semitic. I had to put up with 35 years of this…

“Let’s look at someone who’s Jewish who actually said something very similar to what Naz has just said. Albert Einstein, when the first leader of Likud, the governing party now in Israel, came to America, he warned American politicians: don’t talk to this man because he’s too similar to the fascists we fought in the Second World War.

“Now, if Naz or myself said that today we would be denounced as anti-Semitic, but that was Albert Einstein.”

He hit back at Lord Levy’s criticism of the leadership’s response to the anti-Semitism storms in Labour.

“After Jeremy became leader I was having a chat with Michael and he said he was very worried because one of his friends who was Jewish had come to him and said ‘the election of Jeremy Corbyn is exactly the same as the first step to the rise of Adolf Hitler to power’.

“Frankly, there’s been an attempt to smear Jeremy Corbyn and his associates as anti-Semitic from the moment he became leader. The simple fact is we have the right to criticise what is one of the most brutal regimes going in the way it treats the Palestinians.”

There are many aspects to this controversy, which has been envenomed by Livingstone’s comments.

One is the claim that some people are deliberately making wild claims about antisemitism on the left which may, as Livingstone alleges, be connected to a broader attack on the socialist left.

This indeed happens and could be seen on Newsnight yesterday.

Lady Neuberger claimed the issue in Labour was “attached to Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader”, and “an issue within the hard left”.

A measure of how wide Neuberger was prepared to extend her net was that she included ‘Militant’, that is the Socialist Party in the charge.

This is a good illustration of just twisted the debate has become.

The Socialist Party has been both an opponent of boycotting Israel and a supporter of the right of the Jewish people to their own state (Boycotts of Israel: Will they help the Palestinians?)

Boycott:

Israeli Jewish workers are also inevitably alarmed when some of the staunchest advocates of boycott action in Britain and elsewhere, such as the SWP, have a record of opposing the right of the Jewish people to their own state. Whereas in the case of South Africa, a majority of black workers there supported international sanctions against the ruling white elite, Israeli workers are not in agreement with sanctions against Israel.

A boycott under these conditions is a mistake, and a gift to the Israeli right.

State:

The Palestinians and the Israeli Jews have a right to their own separate states. But achieving such states, with lasting, peaceful co-existence and decent living standards, will be unviable on a capitalist basis.

The only way that will be possible, will be on the basis of Israeli workers building the workers’ movement in Israel to challenge the power, profit and prestige of the Israeli capitalist class, and of Palestinian workers also building their own united movement.

I would say that the Socialist Party reflects what is in fact the mainstream left position of the issue, although one can be, to say the least,  sceptical about the possibility of socialist states in the region.

If many of us are opposed to the policies of the Israeli government, if we are critical and the structures it is built on, we continue to hold to this two-state position. Equally we have every sympathy for the Palestinians, their plight, and efforts to create their own independent state and society.

Another is the fact that in some quarters of the left, notably those influenced by the ‘anti imperialism of fools’, there is a strain of hatred against ‘Zionism’ which shades into antisemitism.

Livingstone’s remarks about Hitler’s support for Zionism indicates that his claim about never hearing anti-Semitic remarks in the Labour Party disproves the widely-held view that he loves the sound of his own voice.

But everybody else heard him.

In response all I can say is that if that if anybody thinks for one fucking minute that the majority of the left, and the part of it the Tendance belongs to, will ever stop fighting antisemitism and will cease from defending the right of the Jewish people to determine their own future and state, and that they have any sympathy for would-be genociders, they are fucking joking.

*******

Statement on “Labour’s problem with antisemitism”

from the Jewish Socialists’ Group

Antisemitism exists and must be exposed and fought against in the same way as other forms of racism by all who are concerned with combating racism and fascism.

Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same. Zionism is a political ideology which has always been contested within Jewish life since it emerged in 1897, and it is entirely legitimate for non-Jews as well as Jews to express opinions about it, whether positive or negative. Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews.

Criticism of Israeli government policy and Israeli state actions against the Palestinians is not antisemitism. Those who conflate criticism of Israeli policy with antisemitism, whether they are supporters or opponents of Israeli policy, are actually helping the antisemites. We reject any attempt, from whichever quarter, to place legitimate criticism of Israeli policy beyond the Pale.

Accusations of antisemitism are currently being weaponised to attack the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party with claims that Labour has a “problem” of antisemitism. This is despite Corbyn’s longstanding record of actively opposing fascism and all forms of racism, and being a firm a supporter of the rights of refugees and of human rights globally.

A very small number of such cases seem to be real instances of antisemitism. Others represent genuine criticism of Israeli policy and support for Palestinian rights, but expressed in clumsy and ambiguous language, which may unknowingly cross a line into antisemitism. Further cases are simply forthright expressions of support for Palestinian rights, which condemn Israeli government policy and aspects of Zionist ideology, and have nothing whatsoever to do with antisemitism.

The accusations do not refer to antisemitic actions but usually to comments, often made on social media, long before Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership. Those making the charges now, did not see fit to bring them up at the time, under previous Labour leaders, but are using them now, just before mayoral and local elections, when they believe they can inflict most damage on the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn.

The attack is coming from four main sources, who share agendas: to undermine Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Labour; to defend Israeli government policy from attack, however unjust, racist and harmful towards the Palestinian people; and to discredit those who make legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy or Zionism as a political ideology. As anti-racist and anti-fascist Jews who are also campaigning for peace with justice between Israelis and Palestinians, we entirely reject these cynical agendas that are being expressed by:

• The Conservative Party

• Conservative-supporting media in Britain and pro-Zionist Israeli media sources

• Right-wing and pro-Zionist elements claiming to speak on behalf of the Jewish community

• Opponents of Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour party.

The Jewish Socialists’ Group recognises that ordinary Jewish people are rightly concerned and fearful about instances of antisemitism. We share their concerns and a have a proud and consistent record of challenging and campaigning against antisemitism. But we will not support those making false accusations for cynical political motives, including the Conservative Party, who are running a racist campaign against Sadiq Khan, and whose leader David Cameron has referred to desperate refugees, as “a swarm” and “a bunch of migrants”. The Conservative Party demonstrated their contempt for Lord Dubs, a Jewish refugee from Nazism, when they voted down en masse an amendment a few days ago to allow 3,000 child refugees into Britain while Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, gave total support to Lord Dubs and his amendment.

The Jewish Socialists’ Group sees the current fearmongering about antisemitism in the Labour Party for what it is – a conscious and concerted effort by right-wing political forces to undermine the growing support among Jews and non-Jews alike for the Labour Party leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and a measure of the desperation of his opponents.

We stand against antisemitism, against racism and fascism and in support of refugees. We stand for free speech and open debate on Israel, Palestine and Zionism.

Comment.

While some of the Jewish Socialists’ points about the origins of the present furore are borne out by the facts there remain problems about this statement.

Apart from underestimating the growth of overt antisemitism, not just from stray comments but from full-blown Ant-Semites of the type described by Sartre in Réflexions sur la question juive, this downplays the extent to which by denying the right of Israel to exist at all – and thus of the Jewish people where large numbers wish to – has a coherence within the framework of the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’.

Support for the view that Socialist Fight’s claims about a ‘pan-national Jewish bourgeoisie’ at the heart of world-wide Zionism, may seem a lunatic fringe affair.

But backing, sometimes unconditional,  for the Islamist Hamas – which makes no secret about its hatred of the Jewish population in the Middle East –  on ‘anti-imperialist’ grounds is much more widespread.

We note that  within the Labour Party and the wider left there are strong critics of these positions, and that John McDonell  has been sufficiently concerned to issue a declaration calling for there to be no place for antisemitism in the movement.

 This careful and lucid examination of the media-famous incidents ignores the points raised in the previous two paragraphs: Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t got an ‘antisemitism problem’. His opponents do. Jamie Stern-Weiner 27 April 2016

 

Socialist Worker Attacks “dull and uninspiring” Jeremy Corbyn over Europe Referendum.

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SWP Predicts End of Tories if Brexit Comes. 

In Socialist Worker today Charles Kimber lays into Jeremy Corbyn,

It’s probably hard to make a good speech when you’re uncomfortable with the message you’re communicating.

That’s why Jeremy Corbyn made such a dull and uninspiring presentation launching Labour’s pro-European Union (EU) campaign last week.

The SWP National Secretary has his own unique theory as to why Corbyn calls for a Remain Vote:

It turned out the way to make Corbyn back the EU was to elect him Labour leader. He compromised to keep at least some of the right vaguely on side.

The reappointment of Pat McFadden as shadow minister for Europe was seen as the first victory for Labour’s right under Corbyn’s leadership. The announcement that the party would campaign to stay in the EU followed.

McFadden eventually resigned, but was replaced with another strongly pro-EU figure.

Kimber accuses Corbyn of being pivotal in moblising the ‘Remain’ vote.

If Corbyn backed Leave, it is highly likely that the vote would be to break from the EU. Polls suggest that Corbyn is far more trusted on the issue than Tories on either side.

His support would banish completely the myth that only the right wants to exit. He would particularly appeal to young people who presently see the EU as a left wing project.

In place of any argument about workers’ rights, social Europe, or internationalism, or whatever the SWP used to dredge up as ‘principled’ reasons to stand for Little Britain,  Kimber places this centre stage

Corbyn insists a Leave vote would boost the right. But with the political feeling in Britain at the moment it is more likely it would see Cameron’s resignation, turmoil in the Tory party, the loss of their parliamentary majority and an early election. This offers the hope of the end of the Tories before 2020, surely something to be grasped.

In other words, don’t vote just against Europe, but to get rid of the Tories….by replacing Cameron by a more right-wing anti-European Tory.

One can imagine the SWP National Committee…..

The comrades are respectfully silent.

Kimber is gazing into the dialectical  crystal ball.

The Leave side has won!

The Organiser sees movement, a hideous Tory party, a gnashing of teeth, resignations, fights,  disarray, messages of international support to Socialist Worker.

A new regime, perhaps of the hardest of hard rights.

Outrage, strikes, divisions: the regime falls.

Kimber continues his divination.  An election, which will….. – here the prophecy grows dark: only the shifting shapes of masses of workers and protesters can be seen.

There’s a glimmer….

2,000, perhaps 200,000 thousand copies of Socialist Worker sold!

Lowestoft recruits ten new members!

The comrades smile: the Seer of Socialism has Seen!

In French this is known as la politique du pire: the worse the better.

After the exalted visions the SWP cannot resist a sharp, but more mundane,  attack on Barack Obama.

Chief SWP theoretician Alex Callinicos finely analyses the speech of the Monarch of the global Empire,

Obama’s intervention stops anyone pretending any longer that they haven’t noticed where global capitalist interests are lining up. The Emperor himself has told them in words of one syllable that Brexit will harm his empire.

Meanwhile the Carnival of Reaction from the Leave camp continues:

‘We want our country back’ Farage rallies troops ahead of ‘Independence Day’ Brexit vote

NIGEL Farage has given his most rousing speech to date by declaring that a vote for Brexit will become Britain’s Independence Day.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 27, 2016 at 4:51 pm

Socialist Fight – Gerry Downing and Ian Donovan – backs “anti-Zionist fighter Malia Bouattia” in attack on “vile reactionary” Tendance.

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Ipswich Workers’ Militia: Preparing for NATO Application.

What a vile reactionary Andrew Coates is to attack this courageous left-wing woman, an Algerian Muslim anti-racist and anti-Zionist fighter Malia Bouattia, new President of the National Union of Students in this appalling post. She has faced attacks from the Tories, the Zionist lobby, the right wing in Labour and bogus ‘leftist’ like the pro-Zionists Andrew Coates whose attack on her in his Tendance Coatesy blog finishes, ‘The Gerry Downing-Socialist Fight  style  anti-imperialism of fools which led, and justified a rejection do support for the Kurdish people in their hour of need  signals a broader problem’. We confidently expect that both Malia and Socialist Fight will continue to supply all these vile reactionaries with even greater ‘problems’ in future.

Socialist Fight.

The Tendance is at the heart of the Ipswich Workers’ Militia,  known and loved in the movement.

An emergency meeting of our Central Committee was held last night to discuss our response to the dangers that  the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International’s challenge may present.

It was noted with concern that cde Downing and Donovan’s sterling record of fighting against ‘Zionists’ and the ‘pan-national Jewish bourgeoisie’, has won them many allies amongst international progressives, above all the respected Gilad Atzmon. (1)

In response, recalling the spirit of the 1930s ‘Popular Fronts’, we have decided, under Article 10 of  the ‘open door’ policy, to apply for NATO membership forthwith.

(1) Gilad Atzmon on “the Jewish Solidarity Spin”  By Ian Donovan  http://commexplor.com/

I am taking the liberty of republishing this, not because I agree with everything in it, but because it contains a great deal of profound material that Marxist critics of Zionism and its supporters, Jewish and non-Jewish, in the advanced capitalist world, ought to find invaluable.

Gilad Atzmon’s Blog.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 26, 2016 at 11:31 am

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

Following Austrian Far-Right British anti-Europeans Turn to Immigration.

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Stand up for Your Homeland: Brexiters Follow Lead of Austrian Anti-Immigration Far-Right.

Brexit is only way to control immigration, campaigners claim

Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove try to turn referendum debate back in leave side’s favour after Barack Obama intervention.

This stands out,

Duncan Smith said: “You cannot reject anybody unless you can demonstrate categorically that they pose an immediate threat to the life and livelihood of the UK.

“The reality is that we have to accept people, even criminals. There are a number of cases of people who have got criminal records, then come over here and commit crimes, and we can’t even get rid of them without permission of the European court of justice.

“We would have a policy to have controlled migration, it’s not an end of migration. It means you want people to come in here where there are needs for them – software engineers, engineers generally, skills that are required.”

The Financial Times reports,

Michael Gove, justice secretary, said Britain would be subject to a migration “free for all” as the next wave of EU applicants joined the club, a reference to countries including Serbia, Albania and ultimately Turkey.

Mr Gove claimed in the Times that the NHS faced “unquantifiable strain” if Britain remained in the EU.

The Brexiters’ campaign  immediately follows the success’of the far-right in Sunday’s Austrian Presidential Election..

The British far-right daily, the Express, gleefully reports,

Norbert Hofer, the candidate for Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party, won 36.4% of the vote, and will face an independent candidate in the final vote next month.

It was the Freedom Party’s best result in a national election after a campaign that focused on the impact of the .

More than 100,000 migrants have arrived in Austria since last summer.

The migrant crisis has divided the country and in a major U-turn the government, who initially backed ’s open-door policy, shut Austria’s borders.

Mr Hofer, who has run an anti-immigrant and anti-Europe campaign will now go head-to-head with environmentalist and pro-refugee Alexander van der Bellen Van Der Bellen on May 22 for the post, which is largely a ceremonial role.

The Austrian results saw the collapse of the Social Democrats’ (SPÖvote in their historic heartland, Vienna.

They got just  12,31%  for their candidate,  Rudolf Hundstorfer, in the Capital. The far-right  Hofer got 29,28%, and the Greens’ ally, Griss obtained 18,71%. (Wikipedia).

For more see: Grün-blau oder: Das Ende des roten Wien.

Apart from its anti-immigration programme the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ (Freedom Party, Wikipedia) offers an extreme cultural version of national ‘sovereigntism’.

From the mid-1980s, the concept of Heimat (a word meaning both “the homeland” and a more general notion of cultural identity) has been central to the ideology of the FPÖ, although its application has slightly changed with time. Initially, Heimat indicated the feeling of national belonging influenced by a pan-Germanic vision; the party assured voters in 1985 that “the overwhelming majority of Austrians belong to the German ethnic and cultural community.” Although it was noted then that Austria was the mother country which held the national traditions, this would later be favoured more explicitly over the pan-German concept. In 1995 Haider declared an end to pan-Germanism in the party, and in the 1997 party manifesto the former community of “German people” was replaced with the “Austrian people”. Under the leadership of Strache, the concept of Heimat has been promoted and developed more deeply than it had been previously. After his reelection as chairman in 2011, the German aspects of the party’s programme were formally reintroduced.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 25, 2016 at 12:07 pm

Khan 20% lead, Galloway at 0% in London Mayor race.

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(YouGov)

George Galloway is currently polling at 0 per cent in the London mayoral race

Fans of George Galloway, look away now – that said, there’s not many of you.

The Respect candidate is currently polling at 0 per cent, according to the latest YouGov/Evening Standard poll of 1,000 Londoners on the Mayoral race.

Clearly this did not work:

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All out for one last effort!

In case this doesn’t work there is this:

Mayoral candidate George Galloway is already planning to take Sadiq Khan’s Tooting seat if the Labour candidate beats him to City Hall next month.  SW Londoner.

Mr Galloway has thrown his hat into the mayoral race and will be representing the Respect Party in May’s election but is eyeing up his post-Mayoral race career.

With swipes at Zac Goldsmith ‘I respect him but no one should vote for him’ and ‘boring robot’ Sadiq Khan aside, he agrees with the other candidates that the housing crisis is the biggest issue plaguing London.

He said: “We need hundreds of thousands of council houses. It is the only democratic form of renting because you can evict your landlord and elect a new one.

“That would drive rent down in the private sector. We have the highest rents and house prices in the entire world,” he added.

However when asked where he would build these homes, Mr Galloway admitted that London may have to sacrifice London’s open spaces in order to solve the crisis.

“We need to build on brownfield sites, NHS and TfL land. We won’t be able to solve it just by building on brownfield we need to build on select greenbelt lands.”

He felt that Boris Johnson’s efforts to create affordable housing was not good enough and determined that 50% of London’s new housing should be affordable.

Mr Galloway also argued that Sadiq Khan’s promise to be the most ‘pro-business mayor’ is the wrong tactic.

He said: “Big business doesn’t need a mayor, it is the people who work for businesses that do. I will be the most pro-worker, the most pro-tenant.”

In regards to transport, he acknowledged that his plans to give all students free travel are radical.

He said: “All students will travel for free because of the theft of the EMA and the crippling tuition fees – these people need a break.”

When asked how he would pay for this he noted that seats are empty on buses already so the government are already paying for it.

On London congestion and air quality he said: “All delivery trucks would be banned from London in the daylight hours so they would have to deliver during the night.

“If your vehicle is highly polluting you will have to pay very dearly indeed.”

Mr Galloway believes that the Mayor of London need to have both a strong personality and strong policies in order to succeed, which is where he feels the frontrunners are lacking.

He said: “Both of the main candidates are above all else boring.

“Both of the previous mayors have been big figures. They were nobody’s robot. Sadiq Khan in particular even speaks like a robot.

“Zac Goldsmith looks the part until he speaks. I know him well, I like him and admire him. He is a principled and honourable guy but he is a Tory so nobody should vote for him.”

Mr Galloway did announce that should Sadiq Khan win the election, he would look to take his seat as Tooting MP in the by-election.

He said: “I think a by-election in Tooting would be very swift.

“It is easier to win a by-election than a general election, as you don’t have a national tide of feeling to compete with.”

However he is not giving up the top job without a fight, expressing his long-held desire for the position.

He said: “I have always wanted it. When Ken Livingston first ran I remember thinking ‘I wish I could have done that’.

“I watched his victory as an independent over Labour and that got me. It is a great and big job in every sense of the word.”

Written by Andrew Coates

April 22, 2016 at 9:37 am

Malia Bouattia: “Condemnation of Isis appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamophobia.”

with 25 comments

Anti-Jewish Riots and Killing in Constantine 1934.

Malia Bouattia, new President of the NUS,  stood on a radical grassroots platform and made headlines last year after opposing a motion to condemn Isis reports the Guardian.

The new president is a controversial figure among many students, coming to prominence in the national press after speaking against an NUS motion “to condemn the IS and support Kurdish forces fighting against it, while expressing no confidence or trust in the US military intervention”.

The motion failed to pass and Bouattia said she had objected to the wording, issuing her own statement expressing solidarity with the Kurds against Islamic State and condemning the group’s “brutal actions”.

“We recognise that condemnation of Isis appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamophobia,” she said at the time. “This rhetoric exacerbates the issue at hand and in essence is a further attack on those we aim to defend.”

Obviously this issue interests an audience on the left far wider than the student movement.

A particularly ridiculous response is offered by Lindsey German of Counterfire, who simply ignores the subject of the Kurdish fight and ISIS and states this,

Her most recent profile has been round a series of meetings opposing the government’s Prevent strategy. Her background as someone of Algerian descent gives her a first-hand knowledge of imperialism and racism. That means she understands the concerns of many of the students she will be representing.

The backlash against her has begun on day one. She will need all the support and solidarity that she can get. But today marks a victory for those who oppose war and racism. And a defeat for those who don’t.

Counterfire.

We note that anybody from an Algerian background, which saw a civil war in 1991 break out between the repressive Algiers state and violent Islamism (MIA, GIA, GSPC and the still active, AlQaïda au Maghreb islamique,  AQMI)  should express a position not just on imperialism and racism, and not only the blood-drenched Algerian military,  but on a very specific type of racism and persecution: that embodied in various forms of Islamism (Guerre civile algérienne).

This is what she says,

….describing how her family had been forced to flee civil war in Algeria when she was child .

“I know too well the price of terrorism, the consequences of racism and oppression,” said Ms Bouattia, a leading figure in the Students Not Suspects campaign against the Prevent anti-terrorism agenda.

“I saw a country ripped apart by terror and was forced into exile,” she explained, adding: “I know too well the damage done by racism and persecution.”

She explained how her university lecturer father was almost killed by a bomb and her school had been attacked by gun-wielding militia, causing her family to flee.

“I know many of you will have seen my name dragged through the mud by rightwing media, and might think I am a terrorist and my politics driven by hate,” she said, adding: “How wrong that is.”

THSS.

Bouattia comes from Constantine, Algeria. 

The city is also infamous for the French far-right Parti Social Français, PSF, and their successful efforts to incite Muslims against Algerian Jews that led to the antisemitic pogrom of 1936 (link gives another version of the causes) in which 25-34 Jews were killed and some 200 stores were pillaged. There is a long history of anti-Semitic activity in Algeria (by both pieds-noirs and Muslims) and the Vichy regime instituted official anti Jewish legislation.

In the present example 1941 around 18 to 20% of the City’s population were Jewish.

There have been no Jewish community in Constantine since the end of the Algerian war of Independence.

We would be interested to hear her views on this and more details about her – horrific – experiences in Algeria.

Indeed we would be curious  to know how the Algerian civil war was a creation of ‘imperialism’.

But it is about a contemporary Islamist movement, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria that the present controversy has erupted.

Here is the background: Report on that Motion (2014) by Daniel Lemberger Cooper

Two motions debated at NUS NEC

The meeting then turned to motions submitted by NEC members. Unfortunately this part of the meeting was no feast of reason. There are two motions I want to focus on: Iraqi solidarity and Israel/PalestineI urge you to read the motions before continuing.

The “Iraqi solidarity” motion had been worked on with Roza Salih, a Strathclyde university student of Kurdish descent (she submitted an almost identical motion to the Scottish equivalent of the executive, the Scottish Executive Council, which I will post later, which, incidentally, did pass! One must ask Scottish executive members why vote for a motion in Scotland, but not in England?!).

The motion was opposed by Malia Bouattia, the NUS Black Students’ Officer, for astonishing and bewildering reasons. Bouattia argued that the motion was “Islamophobic” and “pro USA intervention” – (see Aaron Kiely, a fellow NUS NEC member’s, tweet during the meeting as reflective of the position). The motion then fell as large numbers of NEC members either abstained or voted against (including the bulk of the political Left on NEC). I think this says a lot about the current state of the student movement.

(I must also put on record that after only a single round of speeches, Toni Pearce moved the debate on. This was wrong: there was no opportunity to respond to Bouattia’s allegations. I had my hand up to speak in response, but was not called.)

Let us look at Bouattia’s arguments: is the motion anti-Muslim or pro US intervention?

The motion was partly written by a Kurdish student activist, and presented by the International students’ officer, Shreya Paudel. I have looked again and again at the contents of the motion, yet I cannot track any Islamophobia or racism.

Pro-intervention?

The US occupation, and its aftermath, has been an utter disaster for the people of Iraq. Resulting governments, led by Nouri Al-Maliki, have been authoritarian and carried out virulent Shia sectarianism. A civil war in the mid 2000s killed 34,000 civilians. Today there are 1.6 million refugees.

The dynamics in 2014 are complex. ISIS, who have grown out of Al-Qaeda, have seized huge swathes of the country; there is a new, shaky, shia-sectarian government; and a Kurdish regional government, whose self determination I believe we should support.

The ultra-Islamist group ISIS is a threat to all the people of Iraq. It is repressing and persecuting minorities, including Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, and Sunni Muslim Arabs. On the 29th June it declared a “caliphate” (a religious dictatorship). It has carried out rape and other forms of sexual violence are being used as weapons against women in IS-occupied areas.

These developments have been exacerbated and driven by US policy deliberately fostering sectarianism.

The situation is desperate.

In this situation, it is fundamental that the political Left, trade union and student organisations, like NUS, show our solidarity with the Iraqi people, in particular the hard-pressed student, workers and women’s organisations, and those fighting for democracy and equality.

It is unclear whether Western forces (which congregated in Paris the day before the NEC meeting, on the 15th of September, to announce a “game plan” to defeat ISIS) will send boots onto the ground in Iraq. We know already that French aircrafts have begun reconnaissance flights over Iraq; and that US aid has assisted the Kurds and Yazidis. However it is unlikely they will want a re-run of a war that even they believe to have been a colossal failure. It may be more likely that the USA assists established forces from afar to defeat ISIS.

However, the motion cannot be clearer in saying that such forces cannot be relied upon to deliver democratic change in Iraq: “no confidence or trust in the US military intervention.” If one were to believe it is not sufficiently clear or that the motion is not worded strongly enough, fine: make an amendment to the motion; or seek to take parts to remove or strengthen a particular aspect. Instead, the whole motion – which calls for solidarity with oppressed forces in Iraq – was argued as wrong. This is a grave shame!

It is also true – and Left-wingers should think this over – that the Kurds and Yazidi’s thus far would not have been able to survive if it had not been for aid from the Americans. Calling simply for an end to this intervention is the same as calling for the defeat of the Peshmerga forces by ISIS. The policy is based on a negative criteria – opposing the US and UK – instead of positive criteria – solidarity with the oppressed.

Perhaps this is what Bouattia meant when saying that the motion is pro-intervention? Such a suggestion is arrived at only when one’s “analysis” becomes an issue of principle: that even within limited parameters, that to suggest that imperialism is not the only problem is somehow to “support” imperialism. This is the basis of “Stalinist” politics on international questions: that one considers forces that oppose the US as either progressive or, at worst, not the real issue -no matter how barbaric and reactionary and fascistic that force is. This is not a useful or effective way of looking at the world

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty published a short time afterwards some important qualifications about this report: Fact and fiction about the Kurdistan row in NUS.

Daniel Cooper: I objected to Malia opposing the motion on Iraq proposed by me, Shreya Paudel and Clifford Fleming, and responded to her claims that it was Islamophobic and pro-imperialist. Some people have claimed I misrepresented Malia. The only justification I have heard for this is, firstly, that I did not state that Malia condemned ISIS. That is because it was so blindingly obvious: before the right-wing attacks on Malia, the idea that anyone on NUS NEC would not condemn ISIS had not even occurred to me. And, secondly, that I failed to report that Malia offered to support a different motion on Kurdistan at the next NEC if it fitted with her politics. Whether or not I should have reported this or not, it is hardly decisive! Does anyone seriously believe that if I had stated either of these things it would have prevented right wingers distorting and making use of what I wrote?

The AWL now comment,

The controversy surrounding Bouattia’s attitudes to Islamism and to anti-semitism over the last two weeks is not simply a matter of interpreting this or that comment at a meeting, or exchange on the internet. It has deeper political roots, which we are precisely attempting to sketch out here

Last year, Bouattia denounced a left-wing motion to NUS NEC in support of the Kurdish national liberation struggle as “racist” and “imperialist” and helped get it voted down. This sparked wide criticism from Kurdish and left-wing students, but when some right wingers including in the press noticed this and tried to whip up a storm against her by absurdly and shamefully portraying her as a supporter of Daesh, she responded by whipping up a storm against the proposer of the motion, Workers’ Liberty comrade Daniel Cooper.

We remind the movement of this because we believe that Bouattia behaved like a petty and unprincipled factionalist, putting her resentment at her bad luck, her prestige and the chance to attack a political grouping she doesn’t like above the massive issue of the Kurdish struggle. Although the NEC eventually, two months later, passed a motion about Kurdistan, NUS circles spent far more time and energy on the row than on supporting the Kurds. So much for anti-imperialism!

We have little confidence that an NUS led by Malia Bouattia would be more habitable for political minorities and dissenters, more democratic or more serious about political debate and discussion than one led by Megan Dunn.

There remain a host of other  issues about the new NUS President, not least the fact that some on this left backed her.

That is a matter for students.

The Gerry Downing-Socialist Fight  style  anti-imperialism of fools which led, and justified a rejection do support for the Kurdish people in their hour of need  signals a broader problem.

The central question for a wider activist public is: what is Bouattia’s stand on Islamism?

How does she qualify, judge and assess the different Islamist movements?

If she does not support the misguided state ‘Prevent’ strategy does she offer any other way of combatting and fighting these anti-working class, anti-liberal, anti-feminist, anti-left, and violent groups?

Written by Andrew Coates

April 21, 2016 at 12:04 pm