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Bahar Mustafa to Face charges on claim about Tweet, “kill all White Men”.

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Bahar Mustafa, welfare and diversity officer at Goldsmiths Students' Union

Bahar Mustafa: to Organise Encounter Group  for all Tweeters? 

London woman charged after alleged #killallwhitemen tweet 


A student diversity officer who came to prominence in a race row after allegedly tweeting the hashtag #killallwhitemen has been charged by police with sending a threatening communication.

Bahar Mustafa, of Goldsmiths, University of London, is set to appear at Bromley magistrates court on 5 November.

The 28-year-old from Edmonton, north-east London, faces two charges. One is sending a communication conveying a threatening message between 10 November 2014 and 31 May 2015. The second is for sending a grossly offensive message via a public communication network between 10 November 2014 and 31 May 2015.

Mustafa was initially accused of racism for asking white men not to attend a students’ union meeting intended for ethnic minority women and non-binary attendees.

She then became embroiled in a separate row, accused of using the hashtag #killallwhitemen on her Twitter account, which has since been deleted.

A Met police spokesman said in a statement: “A woman interviewed under caution regarding a complaint of racially motivated malicious communication made on a social media network has been summonsed to court.”

Mustafa is neither an employee of Goldsmiths nor a student, but an employee of the independent students’ union, elected by union members.

Mustafa remained in her position as welfare and diversity officer after a petition for a motion of no confidence fell short of the 3% of union members required to trigger a poll.

After the furore, Mustafa denied that her initial request for white men to stay away from a union meeting was racist or sexist, and said she had received rape and death threats.

  • This article was amended on 7 October 2015. It originally referred to “non-binary” women. That should have been non-binary attendees. This has been corrected.

First of all: it is ridiculous that the law is brought in to deal with people’s brain seepage on Twitter.

I am not a lawyer – outside the Barracks – but from the 6 week sentence for Jake Newson for grossly offensive tweets onwards there are serious concerns about these laws.

At the time of that particular prosecution this comment was made. (Guardian)

Thomas Hughes, executive director of free speech organisation Article 19, said the charity is “extremely concerned by the number of arrests and prosecutions for comments made online in the UK. Nobody should go to prison simply for causing offence. This is not only our view but a violation of international legal standards that protect speech that shocks, offends or disturbs.”

There are many other examples of courts cases, and this summary indicates the far too broad scope of the legislation:

Number seven: menacing tweets

A tweet that is grossly offensive, or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, will offend the Communications Act 2003. The Crown Court considered Paul Chambers’ tweet “… I am blowing the airport sky high” to be menacing, however the High Court overturned its decision. The High Court ruled that the Communications Act would not prevent satirical, iconoclastic, or rude comment, expression of the unpopular, unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, humour, comments that are distasteful or even painful to those subjected to them, silly jokes or jokes in bad taste that a person would be likely to brush aside or empty bombastic or ridiculous banter. A tweet that is indecent, obscene or menacing in character could result in a fine or a prison sentence of up to six months.

The test: If a tweet could create fear or apprehension in the minds of anyone who may reasonably be expected to see it the tweet could be considered a menace and an offence under the Communications Act.

Twitter and the law: 10 legal risks in tweeting from or to the UK.

There is no need to be a top Barrister to see that these criteria are wide enough to invite both malicious prosecution and to allow an intolerable degree of snooping into people’s expression of opinion.

More on this:  Freedom Of Speech (Even For Bahar Mustafa).

Secondly, as a white woman and former postgraduate (MA in Gender Media and Culture) of Turkish origin who is now a full-time student union officer at the very bourgeois Goldsmith’s College Mustafa is not exactly on many people’s lists of oppressed minorities in London.

This is not her opinion. She has stated earlier this year (Independent),

“I, an ethnic minority woman, cannot be racist or sexist towards white men because racism and sexism describe structures of privilege based on race and gender and therefore women of colour and minority genders cannot be racist or sexist, since we do not stand to benefit from such a system.”

This Blog is all in favour of nostalgic revivals of 1970s identity politics, apparently where the Goldsmith’s MA course finished.

But this should be on a kind of Sealed Knot basis, between consenting adults.

It may be hard for those of Turkish origin, probably of an orthodox Sunni background,  to claim victimhood in Turkey itself, for reasons that the name Kurd will indicate, not to mention the Alevis. But that is no reason for white middle class and prosperous Londoners of Turkish origin who have paid for expensive courses in Gender Media and Culture not to join in the fray when they can.

Mustafa has been, apparently, a “diversity and welfare officer”.

Our own judgement is that Goldsmith’s should organise a special diversity event for black, ethnic minority, white trash, and white men (one hopes, not those already killed), not to mention every gender there is, and non-binary attendees.

People will be able to call each other every name under the sun.

In the spirit of 1970s revivals I would call it an “Encounter Group”.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 7, 2015 at 12:32 pm

There’s something misguided about ‘Concerns’ for Muslims when people try to silence Iranian critics of Islamism.

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The Sharpest ‘Injuries’  –  Words. 

The Guardian Opinion desk Editor David Shariatmadari commented yesterday on the case of Warwick University Students’ Union attempting to ban Maryam Namazie, from addressing a meeting of its Atheists, Secularists and Humanists Society.

There’s nothing misguided about the left’s concern for Muslims. David Shariatmadari.

He comments,

Namazie’s supporters two things were very clear: first, this was a direct attack on free speech; second, lefties were once again siding with religious conservatives because of a misguided belief that Muslims, as a minority group, should be protected at any cost.

Shariatmadari starts poorly,

First – was the move to block Namazie’s appearance really an attack on free speech? She should certainly be at liberty to express herself within the law. The Guardian has in the past published her work. But does the withdrawal of an invitation really amount to censorship? Her words have not been banned, the state has not gagged her. Is Namazie’s capacity to share her ideas diminished if she doesn’t appear in front of 50-odd students? After all, she can still tweet and blog, as she showed over the weekend. If anything, the whole episode has increased her audience.

So, Warwick University SU’s decision was small beer.

The state has not banned her.

Namazie, can still speak. She can write, go on Facebook, she can tweet.  She can mumble to the wind.

No need for secularist uproar.

“All we’re really seeing is one student body’s messy weighing up of which values it wants to endorse, and which it wants to reject – and exercising its own right of free expression to make that choice.”

But until the SU reversed the decision she could not address the Atheists, Secularists and Humanists Society. That is the province of the SU who can decide, or not decide, if her speech is acceptable to them.

And they – as he indicates, have some reason to be wary, then they can tell their student members what they can and cannot listen to.

Shariatmadari makes clear there were reasons for the Students’ Union to be worried.

That leads us to a second point: what motivated those who didn’t want the event to go ahead? Were they really “kowtowing to Islamists”? Namazie is often described as a secularist, championing enlightenment values and defending the rights of women against conservative religious ideology. These are positions that most progressives would find it easy to get behind. But the way Namazie articulates her arguments might give them pause.

Indeed, he continues, the Guardians of what or what not Warwick students should be allowed to hear at their meetings, were right to pause.

At the World Atheist Convention in Dublin in 2011, she set out her stall as an equal-opportunity critic of religious belief. “In my opinion, all religion is bad for you. Religion should come with a health warning, like cigarettes: religion kills.”

However, she does regard Islam as a special case. She believes it is defined by the concept of “inquisition”. She contrasts it with Christianity, arguing that “a religion that has been reined in by the Enlightenment is very different from one that is spearheading an inquisition.” This would seem to hold out some hope for the “Reformation” of Islam. (Personally I feel that the analogy with 16th-century Europe is flawed. It misrepresents the nature of hierarchy in Islam, as well as being anachronistic.) And yet at the same time, Namazie denies the possibility of change and evolution.

She says that “under an inquisition things like ‘Islamic feminism’, ‘liberal interpretations of Islam’ – these are all in quotes for me – ‘Islamic reformism’ … are impossible. A personal religion is impossible under an inquisition.”

One might at this point note that comrade Namazie is Iranian ( Shariatmadari is proud to signal in his own background, that “My 90-something uncle, whom I’ve met three times, was a religious nationalist politician in Iran, but I was brought up in a secular household.).

Perhaps he has also met modern Iranian secularists. Perhaps he has heard about the censorship, the religious ‘legality’ of Iran, the repression, the torture, the gaol sentences for Namazie’s comrades, and the deaths of the beloved martyrs for secularism and the left, under the Islamist theocracy.

No. Shariatmadari goes to what he considers is the quick.

So, at a stroke, she denies the agency of all would-be Muslim reformers, Muslim feminists in particular. She undermines those imams and scholars who do preach a liberal, open version of Islam. She appears to think that Muslims with non-judgmental views about sex and sexuality are kidding themselves. In fact, she speaks as though she would actually like to shut down debate in these areas. At one point she quotes the Iranian political activist Mansoor Hekmat: “This is the religion of death.”

Hekmat is the author of many works on Marxism and Islamism, which have had a deep impact on the international left (see Wikipedia). He was the founder of the Iranian Worker Communist party.

This the article referred to, by comrade Hekmat said about Islamism, in fuller form, and not the Guardian’s abbreviated version.

Islam and De-Islamisation

I realise that the interests of some require that they rescue Islam (as much as possible) from the wrath of those who have witnessed the indescribable atrocities of or been victimised by Islamists. I also realise that the extent of these atrocities and holocausts is such that even some Islamists themselves do not want to take responsibility for them. So it is natural that the debate on ‘true Islam’ vis-à-vis ‘practical Islam’ is broached over and over again. These justifications, however, are foolish from my point of view (that of a communist and atheist) and from the points of views of those of us who have seen or been the victims of Islam’s crimes. They are foolish for those of us who are living through a colossal social, political and intellectual struggle with this beast.

The doctrinal and Koranic foundations of Islam, the development of Islam’s history, and the political identity and affiliation of Islam and Islamists in the battle between reaction and freedom in our era are too obvious to allow the debate on the various interpretations of Islam and the existence or likelihood of other interpretations to be taken seriously. Even if the debate were in the future and on other planets where the most basic rights and affections of humanity were not violated. In my opinion, it shows the utmost contempt for the science and social intelligence of our times if every excuse and justification that Islamists fling into society whilst retreating is scientifically analysed and dissected… In Islam, be it true or untrue, the individual has no rights or dignity. In Islam, the woman is a slave. In Islam, the child is on par with animals. In Islam, freethinking is a sin deserving of punishment. Music is corrupt. Sex without permission and religious certification, is the greatest of sins. This is the religion of death. In reality, all religions are such but most religions have been restrained by freethinking and freedom-loving humanity over hundreds of years. This one was never restrained or controlled. With every move, it brings abominations and misery.

What does this imply for free speech?

Moreover, in my opinion, defending the existence of Islam under the guise of respect for people’s beliefs is hypocritical and lacks credence. There are various beliefs amongst people. The question is not about respecting people’s beliefs but about which are worthy of respect. In any case, no matter what anyone says, everyone is choosing beliefs that are to their liking. Those who reject a criticism of Islam under the guise of respecting people’s beliefs are only expressing their own political and moral preferences, full stop. They choose Islam as a belief worthy of respect and package their own beliefs as the ‘people’s beliefs’ only in order to provide ‘populist’ legitimisation for their own choices. I will not respect any superstition or the suppression of rights, even if all the people of the world do so. Of course I know it is the right of all to believe in whatever they want. But there is a fundamental difference between respecting the freedom of opinion of individuals and respecting the opinions they hold. We are not sitting in judgement of the world; we are players and participants in it. Each of us are party to this historical, worldwide struggle, which in my opinion, from the beginning of time until now has been over the freedom and equality of human beings. I will not respect the superstitions that I am fighting against and under the grip of which human beings are suffering.

Given the action of Daesh, shown last night on Channel Four News training children to slaughter, one can’t help feeling that comrade Hekmat had a point – whatever we think about the details of the politics of the Workers-Communist Parties.

What kind of “respect” should we show these Islamists?

Freedom of speech does not mean deference or pandering to the intolerable.

By contrast, this is what Shariatmadari considers important.

What might lead people to decide they’d rather not give a platform to such rhetoric? Recognising the pressure British Muslims are under – surveilled by the state, victims of verbal abuse, vandalism and arson – could it be that some students felt welcoming a person who believes Islam is incompatible with modern life would be wrong?

He consdiers that many would not wish to live in a society ruled by Islamic values – glossing over the fact that even many moderate Muslims believe in some version of Shariah ‘law’ which by its very principle is a discriminatory – against Women, against non-believers – and is the rule of God, not of Democracy.

No, this is what matters,

However, the fact remains: at this historical moment, in this country, Muslims are subject to greater demonisation than almost anyone else. Absolutists may not like it, but this power imbalance must enter into the calculation.

So an Iranian woman whose views on Islamism stem from the experience of actually existing Islamic counties, contributes to those who wish to “insult and injure” Moslems.

How does this enter the calculation of the “power balance”?

He notices that,

We are lucky to live in a pluralist democracy, with freedom of choice in politics and religion. These are things we should cherish, but they are not in any serious danger. Were they really threatened – by the emergence of a theocracy, by the drafting of racist or misogynist laws – the left would oppose that with every sinew. I hope that more citizens in Muslim-majority countries can one day enjoy the level of political and social freedom that we do, and I support the men and women who try to bring that about.

But in the meantime it’s okay to call a halt to those who wish to insult “injure” (with no doubt the shparest of weapons – words), Islam.

Earlier this year Shariatmadari expressed great concern about the word “terrorism”.

Modern “terrorism” has the peculiar property that it relies on its enemies to grant it victory – and why not have a special word for that? Why not use it to describe the Charlie Hebdo attacks, which, in my view, fall into that category?

But the word itself casts a shadow of fear. Politicians deploy it to justify illiberal measures. The panic it evokes ramps up prejudice against minorities. It is even used to win support for wars. Wielded carefully, “terrorist” could still make sense, à la Fromkin. Used to frighten, cajole or slander, it’s one of the most toxic words of our times.

No doubt he will feel equal concern at those of the description of Iran, and all states whose ‘laws’ are based on the Shariah as  theocratic monsters.

No doubt he will point to liberal elements in their regimes and the need for careful language.

And no doubt he will wince at those of us who call Daesh genociders.

Tough: that’s freedom of speech. 

Stop the War Coalition Confusion on the Labour Motion to Back UN authorised Bombing of Islamic State.

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Stop the War Coalition: No intervention against Daesh.

First the bald assertion.

The Stop the War Coalition (StWC) notes that the Labour Party voted against British intervention in Syria, in present conditions.

Stop the War warmly welcomes the Labour conference vote in opposition to British military intervention in Syria.  It shares the view of conference delegates that this would only risk repeating the dreadful consequences of previous such interventions in Iraq and Libya.

We believe that every possible pressure must be put on Labour MPs to support the Party’s position if and when David Cameron decides to bring the issue to the Commons for a vote.  It is vital that the strong lead given by Jeremy Corbyn in favour of peace and in opposition to western interventionism, now endorsed by conference, be supported by all Labour MPs, whether or not there is a ‘free vote’ on the matter.

Just as Stop the War has criticised US bombing, and the possibility of British intervention, in Syria, so too we cannot support Russian military action.  It remains our view, supported by long history and experience, that external interference has no part to play in resolving the problems in Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East.

Only strong, sovereign and representative governments in Syria and Iraq can take the fight to Islamic State and provide a real alternative on the ground to its rule.  External powers should refrain from any direct or indirect military intervention and concentrate instead on assisting a negotiated end to the Syrian civil war, which would be a step in that direction.

Stop the War Coalition.

Next, this is what the motion says,

Conference believes the Parliamentary Labour Party should oppose any such extension unless the following conditions are met:

  1. Clear and unambiguous authorisation for such a bombing campaign from the United Nations;
  2. A comprehensive European Union-wide plan is in place to provide humanitarian assistance to the increased number of refugees that even more widespread bombing can be expected to lead to;
  3. Such bombing is exclusively directed at military targets directly associated with ‘Islamic State’ and is not aimed at securing regime change in Syria, noting that if the bombing campaign advocated by the British government in 2013 had not been blocked by the PLP under Ed Miliband’s leadership,  ‘Islamic State’ forces might now be in control of far more Syrian territory, including Damascus.
  4. Any military action is subordinated to international diplomatic efforts, including the main regional powers, to bring the Syrian civil war to an end, since only a broadly-based and sovereign Syrian government can ultimately retake territory currently controlled by ‘Islamic State’.

The motion is clearly opposed to British intervention, off its own back, in Syria.

But it equally gives forthright backing for bombing if given the go-ahead by the UN.

It therefore is the case that delegates did not vote against all intervention in Syria.

Finally, what does the StWC think of UN authorised bombing?

Here is their answer:

With or without UN agreement, bombing Syria by Russia or UK should be opposed. Lindsey German

Stop the War would oppose UK military intervention with or without a UN resolution (look at the consequences of UN authorised wars in Afghanistan and Libya).

Here is German’s organisation, Counterfire, publishing the StWC’s plans on the strategy to follow:

A plan of action: stopping the bombing of Syria

The main task must be to extend the enthusiasm and energy generated by his campaigning over the past months into every local community, workplace and college.

The more people are actively engaged in the campaign to stop the drive to war in Syria, and in the anti-austerity movement, the more we will be defending Jeremy Corbyn under such relentless attack.

How can we do this?

For the anti-war movement, we need to get onto the streets in every area and onto campuses with leaflets, petitions, posters, badges, etc, drawing people into an ever-widening network of activists for peace.

We need to re-invigorate local anti-war groups and start new groups where none exist. While organising locally, the untimate focus will be on parliament and the need to break the consensus that always takes Britain into disastrous wars on the coat tails of the United States.

In 2013, mass pressure on MPs, coupled with the memory of Tony Blair’s catastrophic war on Iraq, delivered an unprecedented defeat for the government, as David Cameron tried to bounce parliament into supporting the bombing of Syria’s Assad regime.

Now Cameron hope that by switching the target to ISIS, he can reverse that defeat and take the UK into yet another pointless war that will serve no purpose, other than to create more death and chao, and drive more refugees to flee the war zone.

We need to implement immediately a comprehensive lobbying of MPs…


A plan of action: the anti-austerity movement

Stop the War has always contrasted the vast government expenditure on the military and weapons of mass destruction, and the draconian austerity cuts to public and welfare services. Billions are spent on the UK war machine at the same time that brutal cuts in benefits are driving some desperate victims to suicide.

The protests at the Conservative Party conference from 3 October will help shape the political landscape over the next months. Tens of thousands will be protesting there, not just on the opening day – 4 October – but for the whole week. The anti-war message needs to be heard loud and clear by the movement, by the media and by the politicians.

Time is tight — the flashpoints are imminent, and we need to act now.

Within a few days of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Labour leader over 120 new members joined Stop the War Coalition, an indication that the movements that underpinned his victory are recognised as central to defending him.

The stakes are high. With enough pressure from below, David Cameron’s government’s plan to bomb Syria can be defeated for a second time, which would be a long term humiliation for the warmongers.

We also need a big campaign and protest over the scandalous delay in publishing the Iraq war inquiry report, blocked it appears by those — like Tony Blair and Jack Straw — likely to be criticised by Chilcot. With Jeremy Corbyn declaring that Tony Blair should be held to account for alleged war crimes, there is a real prospect that Blair could be driven out of public life once and for all.

Next year parliament will vote on the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons system, at a projected cost of over £100billion. The Campaign for Nuclear disarmament is already mounting a concerted campaign to get MPs to vote against. A huge protest movement before parliament votes will intensify that pressure.

The moment a vote on bombing Syria is announced, Stop the War will call a protest, but the success, the scale, and the impact of that protest depends on what we all do in the next few weeks. Its up to us.

It would seem that the StWC has not the slightest strategy for confronting Deash.

It is unlikely that many will heed this call for ‘revolutionary defeatism’: concentrating their energies on the defeat of British imperialism.

In the process they intend to use the anti-austerity movement to moblise against core parts of Labour and UNITE policy on Syria.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 1, 2015 at 11:19 am

Podemos Suffers Set Back in Catalan Elections.

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We can’t, not yet….

This morning the Spanish radio was full of the fall-out, and the ‘fractures’, resulting from the results of the Catalan elections.

The Significance of the Catalan Elections Montserrat Domínguez.

  • The pro-independence front loses the referendum. The anti-independence forces account for 52 percent, compared to the secessionist bloc’s 47 percent. It’s inconceivable that with these results, once the the cava wine bubbles evaporate, any serious politician (in Catalonia) will propose a unilateral declaration of independence. That would be undemocratic. But it’s the first time that the option to secede takes such flight: more than 1.9 million votes is a cry that no serious politician (in Madrid) can ignore.
  • In the polls, Ciudadanos breaks the roof: it tripled the results of the previous elections and, with 25 seats, stole the spotlight. The Sorpasso (overtaking) of the People’s Party (PP) in Catalonia is a warning: will this happen again in the general elections in December? We will never know what result Albert Rivera would have achieved if he had been the candidate of the Generalitat, the Catalan government; but being the second force in Catalonia gives wings to his aspirations to get to the Moncloa Palace.
  • The PP is increasingly irrelevant in Catalonia: it lost 10 seats, including Badalona — where Xavier García Albiol was mayor — which went to Junts pel Sí. It’s a real slap in the face for the party and its campaign strategy. Today, there is a cold wind in Moncloa and Genoa street: Rajoy is proving to be incapable of facing the challenges in Catalonia.
  • After a spectacular gain (from 3 to 10 seats), CUP now has the key to governance in Catalonia. If it fulfills its promise of not voting for Artur Mas as president, Junts pel Sí will be forced to come to an agreement on another candidate… and internal battle is guaranteed.
  • Podemos loses momentum: ICV alone got more seats (13) than the new coalition. The 10 deputies Podemos got in the parliament is very far from what it had hoped for. Does it mean that its success in the past municipal elections — Barcelona, Madrid, Cadiz, Zaragoza — was the zenith of its political career? (NOTE: it went up to 11)
  • The socialists are still alive. Maintaining almost the same numbe
  • When 77 percent of Catalan citizens vote, the message is strong and clear. The pro-independence front, which brings together Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) and the CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) party, earned a clear majority in the Catalan parliament, winning 72 seats. It now has the legitimacy and strength, said Artur Mas, to keep pursuing its dream of secession.
  • r of votes as in the last Catalan elections — after the internal bleeding and the appearance of new parties that contest their ideological territory — justifies Miquel Iceta’s sigh of relief, despite having lost four seats. And those half a million Catalan votes are worth their weight in gold in Pedro Sanchez’s race toward the Moncloa Palace.

Together for Yes (JxSí)[b][c] 1,620,973 39.54 Increase3.11 62 Increase4
Citizens-Party of the Citizenry (C’s) 734,910 17.93 Increase10.36 25 Increase16
Socialists’ Party of Catalonia (PSC-PSOE) 522,209 12.74 Decrease1.69 16 Decrease4
Catalonia Yes we Can (CSQEP)[d] 366,494 8.94 Decrease0.96 11 Decrease2
People’s Party of Catalonia (PPC) 348,444 8.50 Decrease4.48 11 Decrease8
Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) 336,375 8.20 Increase4.72 10 Increase7
Democratic Union of Catalonia (UDC)[c] 102,870 2.51 Decrease5.47 0 Decrease13
Animalist Party Against Mistreatment of Animals (PACMA) 29,785 0.73 Increase0.16 0 ±0
Zero Cuts-The Greens (Recortes Cero-Els Verds) 14,390 0.35 Increase0.28 0 ±0
Let’s Win Catalonia (Ganemos) 1,158 0.03 New 0 ±0
Pirates of Catalonia-To Decide Everything (Pirata.cat/XDT) 326 0.01 Decrease0.49 0 ±0

El País  commented,

Pablo Iglesias ha construido alrededor de Podemos una épica de partido ganador que ayer, tras lograr en las elecciones catalanas un resultado que sus propios dirigentes consideran decepcionante, sufrió el mayor revés desde su nacimiento.

Pablo Iglesias has built around Podemos an epic  in which they are the winning party. But yesterday, after the results of  the Catalan elections, which their own leaders considered disappointing , the party suffered the biggest setback since its birth.

We should observe that Podemos (link to their site here) did not go it alone this time. Inside Catalunya Sí que es Pot (CSQEP) they were allied with  Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds (Red Greens), and Esquerra Unida i Alternativa, (the more directly linked to the left bloc, Izquirda Unida).

This in itself is a step forward for a group that appeared to wish to ‘go it alone’ to the extent of organising, its own demonstrations against austerity rather than create united fronts.

What are the consequences of this poor result – not to mention their eclipse by a right-of-centre populist party, Ciudadanos ? *

Iglesias has announced today (Iglesias ofrece un referéndum catalán en el que pediría el ‘no’)  that if Podemos wins the nation-wide general election he will offer a proper referendum to the Catalans, in which his party will campaign against the separatists and for a multinational and pluralist Spain.

Inside Podemos some have criticised the alliances that they made in Catalan with left-wing and Green forces, declaring that people did not understand the “alphabet soup” (CSQEP) that resulted on the ballot paper.

It will be interesting to follow further developments.


“..populism requires the division of society into two camps – one presenting itself as a part which claims to be the whole; that this dichotomy involves the antagonistic division of the social field, and that the popular camp presupposes as a conditions of its constitution the constriction of a globalised entity out of the equivalence of a plurality of social demands.” (Page 83. On Populist Reason. Ernesto Laclau. 2005)

Enthusiasm for Podemos on the European Left, including Britain, was until recently widespread. It was accepted that the party had managed the difficult feat of giving a political voice to the indignados movement. That it has built a ‘populist’ constituency through language and demands that welded together the 99% against the 1%. That it used the (in Laclau’s words) ‘floating signifiers’ of the ‘people’ (crushing majority) against the Spanish ‘casta’ and had created a democratic organisation capable of challenging the rule of finance and the dominance of economic austerity. It is new, it uses the Net, it encourages direct communication not tired old bureaucratic structures, or divisions between the historical left and right.

This could be tied into the argument offered by Paul Mason in  Postcapitalism ( 2015). That, “By creating, millions of networked people, finally exploited but with the whole of human intelligence one thumb-swipe away, info-capitalism has created a new agent of change in history: the educated and connected human beings.”

Mason also asserts that, “In Europe, repressing policing and a untied front of all parties in favour of austerity beat the indignados into a sullen silence. But the results showed that revolution in a highly complex, information-driven society would look very different from the revolutions of the twentieth century. Without a strong, organised working class to push social issues rapidly to the fore, the revolts often stall. But order is never fully restored.” (Page  xviii)

But in general enthusiasm for new groups like Podemos, with no visible links to the workers’ movement,  is widespread. There is a constant search for new political agencies to replace the ‘old’ left and labour movement. In Mason’s case, despite his own above warning,  this went so far as to make this extraordinary claim, “Scotland, “presented with the opportunity to break with a neoliberal state and start afresh, millions of young people said, ‘Yes’ “(Page xix)

There is little doubt that there is a great deal of political fluidity in Europe today. Movements to break up existing states, often from the wealthiest regions of a country (as in Catalonia or in Italy with the Lega Nord) tired of paying for poor and apparently lazy ‘southerners’ , appear part of this process. The strong showing of the Catalan sovereigntists was welcomed by forces from the Scottish National Party, promoting the interests of their ‘ain folk’ against ‘Westminster, the hard-right Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (Belgium), who dislike the former industrial French speaking and Socialist voting Walloon,  and some leftists – the latter apparently convinced that Barcelona tax-payers are right not to want to subsidise their feckless compatriots.

Podemos may, or may not, be capable of offering what Mason (in the most significant part of Postcapitalism) calls “revolutionary reformism”. Mason’s list of ideas, a third managerial revolution, switching  off the neoliberal privatisation machine, suppressing or socialising monopolies is attractive. But everything depends on a political vehicle to implement them in a recognisably effective form.

That is, the need a political forces capable of reaching and transforming existing political institutions. They have to connect ‘giving voice’ to protests, social interests (not least the labour movement)  and being capable of administering solutions. They need parties.

In the case of Podemos this, which Ernesto Laclau called the “moment of articulation” – that is the details of how political parties operate – is becoming unstuck.  No doubt the ripple effect of the defeat of Syriza’s anti-austerity programme counts for much in their present impasse. They may have woven ‘floating signifiers’ together, but what anchors them?

Podemos’ vaunted horizontal democracy (apparently giving shape to Mason’s ‘networks’) is paralleled by an internal structure, built as a pyramid around a leader. This is deeply problematic and pretty much casts its claims to novelty to the dustbin. Iglesias has as El País indicates, a self-defined “epic” in which he will valiantly take on the Spanish ‘casta’. Like a figure in the Game of Thrones (a box set of which he generously donated to the Spanish King Felipe VI)  he is surrounded by intrigue. He finds it hard to work collaboratively. Forced to accept alliances with other forces, like the Green Equo and the long-standing Izquirda Unida, he has the ill-grace to refuse to take any joint responsibility, in the political battles.

Now that it is clear that Podemos has not the remotest chance of forming a future government in the Cortes Generales it will be of interest to see how his authority is maintained.

* Ideologically, C’s describes itself as a progressive, secular, constitutionalist, European federalist and postnationalist party. In addition, Albert Rivera has said that C’s defends autonomismAccording to its declared identity signs, C’s advocates four basic lines of action:  Defence of individual rights. Defence of social rights as well as the welfare state. Uphold the State of Autonomies and Europe’s unity. Regeneration of democracy and of political life. Wikipedia.


Warwick Students’ Union Backs Down from Denying Free Speech to Maryam Namazie.

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NSS welcomes Warwick Student Union’s decision to allow Maryam Namazie to speak

Posted: Mon, 28 Sep 2015 09:40

The National Secular Society has welcomed Warwick Student Union’s decision to host secular campaigner Maryam Namazie. The Union reversed their ban on her speaking following huge public pressure.

Ms Namazie had been blocked from speaking at a Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society event after the Student Union said the ex-Muslim campaigner could ‘insult’ religion. The SU were also concerned that Namazie, an NSS honorary associate who campaigns for human rights and equality, could ‘incite hatred’.

Informing Ms Namazie of their initial decision to block her, the SU wrote: “There a number of articles written both by the speaker and by others about the speaker that indicate that she is highly inflammatory, and could incite hatred on campus. This is in contravention of our external speaker policy”.

In a frank apology on their website, the SU admitted they had “failed, and failed badly in this case” and promised to “act immediately to examine how that happened, and to it put it right”.

NSS executive director Keith Porteous Wood commented: “We welcome the Student Union’s change of heart and hope their ‘continued commitment to free speech’ is reflected in actions as well as words. Freedom of expression is under growing threat, particularly when it involves discussions surrounding Islam. Every act of appeasement to those intent on closing down debate encourages self-censorship and depletes this freedom further.

“Freedom of expression is not only a pre-requisite for resolving challenging problems but for the functioning of democracy itself.

“The Student Union’s decision has saved it and the University from an escalation of this unfortunate situation and potentially even a legal challenge further down the line.

“While this case has ended in the right outcome, we still have grave concerns about an external speaker policy which says guests on campus must ‘avoid insulting other faiths’. This is extremely broad and open to a wide variety of interpretations, and therefore extremely restrictive to freedom of speech.

“Universities have a legal duty to defend freedom of expression and in our view certain Student Union policies may be working in direct conflict with that duty. This is an issue we hope to discuss with the NUS in the coming weeks.”

Statement from the Students’ Union:

Warwick SU has a process for assessing any potential risks or legal issues associated with any external speaker, and it is now very clear to us that in this case that process has not been followed.  Speaker invitations that may involve such issues are routinely considered by the SU President, who will also take advice from senior SU staff. This did not happen on this occasion. Neither the SU President, nor senior SU staff, were consulted as they should have been. This is a significant error for which there can be no excuse.  There is a great deal that we now must put right, and these are the first steps that we are putting into place:

1) The proper process has now been followed, as it should have been in the first place. The application by the Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society for Warwick Students’ Union to host Maryam Namazie as an external speaker has now been considered and approved.

2) The SU is now seeking to meet promptly with the leadership of the Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society to make the necessary arrangements for the event to take place in the format they have requested.

3) Warwick SU will issue an unequivocal apology to Maryam Namazie for this egregious and highly regrettable error.

4) Our process as to how we assess requests to host external speakers is very clear. However, it is also equally clear that how this process is communicated and understood by everyone in the SU who needs to be aware of it has failed, and failed badly in this case. We need to act immediately to examine how that happened, and to it put it right, and we will.

We want to assure everyone of Warwick Students’ Union’s continued commitment to free speech. We also want to take this opportunity to apologise to everyone who has expressed concern, or disappointment, or who has been hurt by this significant error and, as we said above, we will be issuing a full and unequivocal apology to Maryam Namazie.


This is welcome news.

That there remains a difficulty that will continue in other venues can be seen from the reaction of some ‘leftists’ who tried to cast doubt on Maryam Namazie’s politics – as if that were the criterion to give or to deny people free speech.

There is little doubt that the malevolent legacy of the kind of approach advocated by the former site Islamophobia Watch and its Master, Bob Pitt, who took it upon himself to wage war on left-wing opponents of Islamism, can be felt at work here.

To this way of thinking strong criticism of Islam, and above all, attacks on the politics based on the Qu’ran, are intrinsically Islamophobic.

Whether we agree with the Hekmartists’ (Mansoor Hekmat (منصور حکمت; June 4, 1951 – July 4, 2002) political practice, or their detailed ideas, or not, there is little doubt that Islamism is a major problem.

The views of people who have direct experience of it as a tyrannical ideology of states like Iran (Namazie’s country of origin), are of great importance.

In this respect secularism is just a matter of defending free-speech and the freedom of the state from rule by one faith: it is a call for material liberty. 

Furthermore this is not just something happening far away:  The ex-Muslim Britons who are persecuted for being atheists  28 September 2015 BBC.

An investigation for the BBC has found evidence of young people suffering threats, intimidation, being ostracised by their communities and, in some cases, encountering serious physical abuse when they told their families they were no longer Muslims.

There are also local councils that seem to have little awareness of the issue or any policy on how to protect these vulnerable young people.

There are no official statistics on apostasy in British Islam, and only a few academic studies based on a tiny handful of individual cases.

But growing numbers of ex-Muslims are sharing their experiences on online forums. Coming out as a non-believer at an age when young people of all backgrounds can rebel over relationships and cultural expectations means it’s often hard to identify religion as a factor.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 28, 2015 at 10:56 am

Socialist Action, Shadowy Gurus of the new Labour Leadership – Exposed!

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Labour Briefing AGM circa 1981. Pic: Sunday Telegraph.

Rumbled by the Telegraph and Andrew Gilligan!

For much of Labour’s history, the idea that the party was covertly influenced by revolutionaries, Communists and terrorists was dismissed as a fiction propagated by Right-wing tabloids.

But now it is true.

Very worrying.

Mr Ross, now an economic adviser, was a prominent member of an international Marxist group. In an election speech in 1974, Mr Ross – quoted in a biography of former London mayor Ken Livingstone – said: “The ruling class must know that they will be killed if they do not allow a takeover by the workers. If we aren’t armed there will be a bloodbath.”

The Sunday Telegraph has also uncovered evidence of how other key figures around Mr Corbyn, including his chief of staff, Simon Fletcher, as well as Mr Ross are or were members of a tiny, secretive Trotskyite sect, Socialist Action, which seeks a communist revolution and believes that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a “tragedy for humanity”.

In secret documents (so secret they do not publish them NOTE) seen by this newspaper, Socialist Action calls itself the “revolutionary wing of the Labour Party” and describes how it performed a “clandestine form of entry” to infiltrate the party.

Among groups on the revolutionary Left, Socialist Action is unique in another way. It already has substantial experience of power.


Socialist Action started as an overt organisation fighting elections in its own right, initially known as the International Marxist Group (IMG). Mr Corbyn’s brother, Piers, was a prominent IMG member and fought an election for it in the 1970s.


Modesty prevents us from mentioning another prominent member of the IMG in the 1970s, behind a world-famous Blog.

A main focus of the group’s attention was the monthly news sheet London Labour Briefing, a key instrument of the takeover of the 1980s party in the capital by what became known as the “loony Left”.

Briefing, set up by a separate group of Trotskyites, was strongly influenced (?????)  by Socialist Action. Mr McDonnell and Mr Corbyn, too, were both closely linked to it.

Some might possibly note the word “separate” and quibble about the word Trotskyist,  but, hey, left’s continue the fun!

According to the authoritative Parliamentary Profiles by the late Andrew Roth, Mr Corbyn, a political activist and councillor, was the general secretary of its editorial board. His byline appears frequently from the first issue in 1980 and he usually chaired main fringe meetings of Briefing at events such as the Labour Party conference. According to the March 1983 issue, he ran Briefing’s mailing list.

Mr McDonnell, another bylined writer from the early 1980s, remains a key figure at Briefing, now affiliated with the ultra-Left party pressure group he chairs, the Labour Representation Committee (LRC).

Briefing’s pages seethed with calls for “mass extra-parliamentary action” and it ran hit-lists of “traitor” Labour MPs and councillors to be purged. The group gave 30 pieces of silver – well, “silver milk [bottle] tops” – to former Labour prime minister Jim Callaghan.

A lifestyle section agonised about whether it was “bourgeois” to have children, while municipal tea dances put on by London councils were denounced as “heterosexist” as well as “primarily racist” (because they “reflect comfortable white society”).

Mostly though, Briefing, like Socialist Action, avowed what it called a “British revolution” – its motto was Trotsky’s “Take the Power”.

Yes, we are well and truly rumbled.

Labour Briefing is well-known for its close ties with Socialist Action (note snazzy SA site!).

They share the word “socialism” for a start!

Taking Power?

We should ask politely, if not at all…

But here’s the rub: I can even now recall the warmth with which much-missed Briefing Editorial members, such as Leonora Lloyd  and Mike Marquesse talked about their secret ‘guru’  John Ross.

Briefing, in a coded message to supporters, with due reverence, once published a photo of the Leader under the title, “A rare daylight picture of John Ross”.

Even today the influence of Socialist Action on the Briefing and the LRC is only equalled by the mighty forces of Socialist Fight and the Posadists, not to mention the Brent Soviet.

Andrew Gilligan: Bless!

Isis Threaten Sylvania: Banned from Passion for Freedom Exhibition.

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Isis Threaten Sylvania by the artist Mimsy is removed from Passion for Freedom exhibition at London’s Mall Galleries, after police raise security concerns. Below, Guardian critic Jonathan Jones reviews the artwork.

Isis Threaten Sylvania is a series of seven satirical light box tableaux featuring the children’s toys Sylvanian Families. It was removed from the Passion for Freedomexhibition at the Mall galleries after police raised concerns about the “potentially inflammatory content” of the work, informing the organisers that, if they went ahead with their plans to display it, they would have to pay £36,000 for security for the six-day show.

In Isis Threaten Sylvania, rabbits, mice and hedgehogs go about their daily life, sunning themselves on a beach, drinking at a beer festival or simply watching television, while the menacing figures of armed jihadis lurk in the background. “Far away, in the land of Sylvania, rabbits, foxes, hedgehogs, mice and all woodland animals have overcome their differences to live in harmonious peace and tranquility. Until Now,” reads the catalogue note. “MICE-IS, a fundamentalist Islamic terror group, are threatening to dominate Sylvania, and annihilate every species that does not submit to their hardline version of sharia law.

The Metro says,

The controversial piece shows loveable hedgehogs, rabbits, and mice living their everyday life in the fictional land of Sylvania – all while ISIS militants are seen lurking in the background.

A description for the piece in the exhibition catalogue reads: ‘Far away, in the land of Sylvania, rabbits, foxes, hedgehogs, mice and all woodland animals have overcome their differences to live in harmonious peace and tranquillity.

‘MICE-IS, a fundamentalist Islamic terror group, are threatening to dominate Sylvania, and annihilate every species that does not submit to their hard-line version of sharia law.’

The artwork was created by London based artist Mimsy, who reacted angrily to suggestions that her piece was not ‘real art’.

I love my freedom’, she said.

‘I’m aware of the very real threat to that freedom from Islamic fascism and I’m not going to pander to them or justify it like many people on the left are doing.

Explaining the police decision, a gallery spokeswoman said: ‘Mall galleries was approached by Westminster Police who expressed concern about the potential risks of including Mimsy’s work.

They made it clear there would be an additional policing cost if the work was included in the exhibition and indicated this cost would be passed on either to the artist or to the exhibition organiser.’

Background to the pictures (Metro March 2015).

All is not well in Sylvania…

An artist going by the name Mimsy has created a scathing satire of ISIS, and the west’s reaction to the terrorist group, using Sylvanian Family dolls.

The project, which is called MICIS, comprises of two images depicting the happy, care-free world of Sylvania, with threatening figures clad in black clothes and carrying guns and ISIS flags, lurking in the background.

Talking exclusively to Metro.co.uk, Mimsy explained what motivated her to create this project: ‘I was inspired by the theocratic barbarism of ISIS, the obvious fear of terrorism in the west, and the neo-liberal denial of any actual threat.’

Mimsy then went on the tell us why she chose to express these views with Sylvanian Family dolls.

She told us: ‘I played with Sylvanian Families frequently as a child of the early 90s, and for some reason thought they were the perfect depiction of innocence.’

She went on: ‘there is also a one-dimensional childish element to the image that perfectly summarises the mentality of religious fundamentalists. They are blowing themselves up and murdering for a cause that is as so flat, thin and childish, it may as well be depicted as if it were a toy set in an ARGOS catalogue.’

As the staff of Charlie Hebdo learnt in the most horrific of way, religious fundamentalists don’t like satire. So it’s hardly surprising Mimsy has decided to remain anonymous.

When asked to give us more information about herself, the artist simply said: ‘I’m a person who loves the free world, loves democracy (with all it’s flaws) and most of all loves satire.’

We love the Sylvanians.

We love you Mimsy. 

Shame on the Censors!

Written by Andrew Coates

September 27, 2015 at 11:17 am