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Communist Party, Morning Star, “Triggering Article 50 opens the way to progressive policies.”

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Triggering Article 50 opens the way to progressive policies……

Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths said leaving the EU must not become “an excuse for diluting people’s already meagre rights at work,” but said the left should set its sights on the opportunities the negotiations present.

“Triggering Article 50 opens the way to progressive policies outside the EU to control capital, raise public funds for infrastructure investment, enforce equal rights for migrant workers and radically cut or abolish VAT.

“Such policies would remain unlawful if we stay in the single market.”

Trade Unionists Against the EU’s Doug Nicholls saluted “a great day for workers in Britain.

Forty years of being controlled by those we don’t elect will soon be over, and we can rebuild a full-employment economy.

Morning Star.

A Morning Star Editorial declares,

Now Is The Time For Unity

Arguing for Unity around the Morning Star and the Communist Party of Britain’s programme the Editorial states,

A convincing left-wing resurgence requires unity. The labour movement cannot afford to rerun the arguments of the referendum ad nauseam, but should be pursuing a set of economic demands — the new deal for workers agreed at last year’s TUC is a good place to start — and framing any approach to the exit negotiations around how we meet those demands.

They conclude,

A determined push from the left to secure a British exit deal that promotes working-class demands and an end to neoliberalism will find an echo across Europe and help shape a progressive future.

A red rose future indeed!

Meanwhile in the world we live in Another Europe is Possible announces,

Unprecedented alliance vows to fight for a “Progressive Deal” after Article 50

Leading figures from Labour and Green parties, along with the general secretaries of a number trade unions, have released a statement vowing to fight on after the declaration of Article 50 today. 29th March 2017

  • As Article 50 is triggered, leading Labour and Green figures, along with trade unions, vow to oppose “a harmful, extreme form of Brexit”
  • New Progressive Deal launched, fighting for workers’ rights, free movement, environmental regulations and other protections.
  • Campaigners raise the alarm over the Great Repeal Bill – which will hand ministers unprecedented powers to change the law by decree

Leading figures from Labour and Green parties, along with the general secretaries of a number trade unions, have released a statement vowing to fight on after the declaration of Article 50 today.

The letter, which is signed by Clive Lewis and Caroline Lucas, as well as UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis, states: “With article 50 triggered, we are entering a dangerous moment for our democracy. The government is pursuing a harmful, extreme form of Brexit for which it has no democratic mandate. The British people must have the defining say over what kind of deal is reached. The result of the referendum was not a mandate to undermine our human rights or our rights at work, to scrap environmental protections or to attack migrants. We will not allow this government to pursue a race to the bottom in which we all lose.”

Writing in the Mirror this morning, Clive Lewis added: “There’s a difference between respecting the decision to leave the EU and giving Theresa May dangerous levels of power to decide the future of our country. Parliament let the British people down last month when they let the Prime Minister negotiate leaving the EU without any restriction or guidance.”

The unprecedented alliance of was drawn together by the campaign group Another Europe is Possible. It has launched a new Progressive Deal, which will fight to retain the six progressive elements of EU membership: free movement, workers’ rights, environmental protections, human rights, science and research funding and education links. The Progressive Deal (here) will be a focal point in the coming months.

Michael Chessum, national organiser for Another Europe is Possible, said: “The Tories are using the technicalities of the Brexit process to strip us of rights and freedoms. The antidote to that is clear, principled politics – and finding a message that can cut through. We need to challenge the consensus that immigration and free movement are the cause of falling living standards, and we need to champion workers’ rights, human rights and other protections. That is what the Progressive Deal is about – and if the left can unite around a clear vision, we can absolutely shift the outcome of these negotiations.”

 

The Way of the Strangers. Encounters with the Islamic State. Graeme Wood. Reflections on Islamism.

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The Way of the Strangers. Encounters with the Islamic State. Graeme Wood. Allen Lane 2017. La Fracture. Gilles Kepel. Gallimard/France Culture. 2016. Pour les Musulmans. Edwy Plenel. 2015 (2014).

The problem must be posed anew, the hypotheses inverted, for in this domain ‘ideology’ is but another name for ignorance: the religious expression of a social phenomenon is not its disguise, but its unveiling. Gilles Kepel. (1)

From the 7th of January 2015 Islamist murders at Charlie Hebdo and the Vincennes Hyper Cacher to the massacre on the 14th of July in Nice, on the Promenade des Anglais, was for those living in France, Gilles Kepel, begins La Fracture, “une année terrible”. That the anniversary of the 2016 jihadist killings in Belgium was marked last week by the Westminster atrocity has brought the Islamic State, Daesh, back to European headlines. In Mosul and Syria ferocious battles, waged with few scruples, continue against their genocidal tyranny.

Some figures have reacted to the latest tragedy with what Nick Cohen calls the “lies of the right” – Nigel Farage’s tirade against “migration” in first place – “debase civilised society.” (Observer 26.03.17) In Pour Les Musulmans the journalist Edwy Plenel one of the first to signal the dangers of Le Pen and the Front National in the 1980s (L’Effet Le Pen 1984 Edwy Plenel and Alain Rollathas written a generous appeal, in the spirit of Émile Zola’s Pour les Juifs (1896). Against hatred, and the accumulated prejudices against Muslims that makes them a “global enemy” and target in French political life, Plenel offers the British reaction to the 2005 London carnage, “We Are Not Afraid”.

Perhaps now is also the moment to look anew at Jihadism, the most violent wing of Islamism. In his column Cohen reflects a wider dissatisfaction with those who try to explain these outrages as responses to western foreign policy (the ‘anti-imperialist’ left), or the ‘result’ of multiculturalism (the ‘alt-right’).

Kepel was an early critic of the view that political Islam was a “mask” for deeper social causes. Since 9/11 we have heard much of the “religious disguise” that Al-Qaeda and now Daesh presented, while the ‘real’ issue of Western intervention, or more generally ‘neo-liberal globalisation’.  While these abstractions count for little, there are without doubt hard social facts that help extreme forms of Islamism flourish. In France the social divisions that leave many of those of North African descent marginalised, time in prison, and the psychological fragility of individuals, are conditions working behind the acts of individual Jihadists. But “l’idéologie donne la conscience de l’action et en détermine la forme.” Ideology is material, and exists, in ISIS/ISIL, as an organised would-be state, with international offshoots. Daesh, Kepel states, aims to provoke a violent fracture in France, which their ideologues elaborate from Salafist materials, a conquest of Europe, ending in the mass conversion, the enslavement or extermination of the inhabitants. (2)

The Islamic State.
These may be outrageous beliefs, but Kepel does not misrepresent them. The Way of Strangers is a thorough account, first hand evidence, of Islamic State ideas. Those wearied by the media use of the “so-called” before Islamic State will find that, after consideration, Wood, uses the term they use themselves. He shifts the attention to what they are and not to what a ‘real’ ‘Islamic’ state might be. It cannot be grasped as “Jacobinism with an Islamic veneer. It has its own story, the will of god written on the battlefield.

“The notion that religious belief is a minor factor in the rise of the Islamic State is belied by the crushing weight of evidence that religion matters deeply to the vast majority of those who have travelled to fight. “(3) Not only does it issue mountains of Fatwas and other pious declarations, but also, Wood demonstrates, the Islamic state cannot be understood without a deep immersion in the ideology of Salafism and a variety of Islamic schools. The “simplest explanation” for their roots is that their founders were “extreme Islamists”. As for effort to dismiss their faith basis, those doing so rarely have any knowledge of the clerics and scholars in its ranks.

“Since 2010, tens of thousands of men, women and children have migrated to a theoretic state, under the belief that migration is a sacred obligation and that the state’s leader is the worldly successor of the last and greatest of prophets. If religious scholars see no role for religion in a mass movement like this, they see no role for religion in the world.” (4)

In meetings, across the world, with those in sympathy with this goal Wood talks to figures, many of them converts, Musa Cerantonio, ‘Yahya’, Anjem Choudary, and some with decided distance from the Islamic state, such as Hamza Yusuf. The Way of Strangers melds these encounters, invariably over Halal food, with considerations on Islamic history, above all the legal school of Dhaharism, which rigorously bases its rulings on the Qur’an and the prophet, and no additional material or judgements. Parallels with the seventh century Kharijites, a vicious Muslim splinter group who practised mass excommunication, and denied all authority but their own, are dawn.

As one reads The Way of Strangers happy talk about Islam as a “religion of peace” quickly evaporates. The ‘literalist’ Islam of the Islamic, baked by scriptural authority, state sanctions the most severe forms of Hudud punishment, slavery, infamously including sexual captives, and the regulation of all aspects of personal life fused around loathing of the non-licit and the ‘kuffer’. It is obsessed with, The Way of Strangers continues, the takfir¸ the “sport” of declaring those who disagree with them and claim to be Muslims “apostates” under sentence of death. It has genocidal intentions, already put into practice against Yazidis. Wild dreams of a worldwide apocalypse the Islamic state’s followers, to come in decades not months, round off the picture.

Religious Genocide.

Most people do not want, Wood writes, to be part of a religion seen as “fanatical and bloodthirsty.”Most religions have zealots that the mainstream would prefer to make disappear and the Muslim bind is not unique”. Yet, is the Islamic State Muslim? “Whether it is ‘legitimate; is a question other believers answer for themselves, overwhelmingly in the negative” That can be said of any minority, “the group led and supported by Muslims albeit Muslims with whom they vociferously disagree.” To say that it has “nothing to do with Islam” is to deny that they “cite Koran, hadiths, and carefully selected thinkers within the Islamic tradition.” In brief, the denial of the Muslim roots of Daesh is a way of avoiding answering uncomfortable questions, starting with the fact that the Qu’ran does contain verses that support slavery, sexual oppression, and is riddled with ideas that are hard to reconcile with democratic values. Word for word reading shows them, and reasoning by analogy, historical context, and other methods used to adjust Islam to today, on the model perhaps of Saint Augustine’s 5th century reading of the Bible in On Christian Doctrine  always runs up against the problem that the book is claimed, however bizarrely, to be the inerrant word of god. (5).

The Way of Strangers is not just an important and brave book. It is a way of confronting difficult issues about religious politics above all religious genocide based on a form of spiritual racism. The immediate response to defend universal human rights a point of unity between people. Yet Wood leaves us with multiple dilemmas. If the Islamic State is now facing defeat in its Caliphate, will it be able to retain and rebuild support in other violent conditions? What will happen to those who have joined its genocidal regime? Will they return home, or will they, like the butchers of the Nazi Einsatzgruppen be tried and imprisoned?

*********

(1) Page 234. Gilles Kepel. The Roots of Radical Islam Saqi 2005. Originally published as Le Prophète et Pharaon. La Découverte. 1984.
(2) Pages 47 and 256 – 8 La Fracture. Gilles Kepel.
(3) Page 73. The Way of Strangers. Encounters with the Islamic State. Graeme Wood.
(4) Page 77. The Way of Strangers.
(5) Pages 217 – 8 .The Way of Strangers.

 

Marine Le Pen “Russia and France should work together to save the world from globalism and Islamic fundamentalism.”

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Marine Le Pen Meets Putin in Moscow.

Reuters.

President Vladimir Putin met French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in the Kremlin on Friday and told her Russia had no intention of interfering in France’s presidential election.

Le Pen, who has said she admires the Russian leader, was visiting Russia at the invitation of Leonid Slutsky, head of the lower house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Russian news agencies reported.

State TV showed Putin telling Le Pen Moscow reserved the right to meet any French politician it wanted.

Interfax : “PUTIN AT MEETING WITH MARINE LE PEN: RUSSIA HAS ABSOLUTELY NO INTENTION TO INFLUENCE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN FRANCE YET RESERVES RIGHT TO SPEAK WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF ANY POLITICAL FORCES.

France 24 reported earlier,

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen was due in Moscow on Friday for meetings with lawmakers less than a month before a presidential election clouded by allegations of Russian interference.

The leader of the National Front, an anti-immigrant and anti-European Union party, is seeking to bolster her international credentials ahead of the two-round French election on April 23 and May 7.

Her visit comes on the heels of a trip this week to Chad, base of a French military operation that’s aimed at rooting out Islamic extremists from a swath of Africa.

The head of the Russian Duma’s international affairs committee, Leonid Slutsky, was quoted by the Tass news agency as saying Le Pen would hold meetings on the “international agenda such as the war on terrorism”.

There was no official word as to whether the French far-right leader would meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom she has described as “good for world peace”.

The BBC also adds this,

“I believe that barring parliamentarians from speaking to each other, working together is an infringement of democratic rights,” Interfax quoted her as saying in a meeting with Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.  She vowed to push for the so-called “blacklists” of targeted invidivudals to be abolished. Ms Le Pen also said that Russia and France should work together to save the world from globalism and Islamic fundamentalism, Interfax said.

Background: Radio France International. (24.3.17)

Marine Le Pen est appréciée à Moscou, car elle prône le démantèlement de l’Union européenne, la levée des sanctions à l’égard de la Russie et surtout la reconnaissance de l’annexion de la Crimée par la Russie. Le Front national avait d’ailleurs envoyé un représentant en tant qu’observateur lors du référendum sur le rattachement de la Crimée à la Russie, qui avait attesté de la transparence du scrutin. L’attitude a convaincu le Kremlin d’être bienveillant à l’égard du mouvement d’extrême droite.

Marine le Pen is liked in Moscow, because she backs breaking up the European Union, lifting sanctions against Russia, and, above all, recognition of the Russian annexation of Crimea. The Front National had also sent a representative as an observer during the referendum in Crimea on joining Russia, which claimed that the vote was free and fair. This attitude convinced the Kremlin to take a friendly stand on the extreme right movement.

Et lorsque fin 2014, le parti a eu besoin d’argent, une banque russe, la FCRB, a accepté de lui prêter 9 millions d’euros, avant de se voir retirer sa licence quelques mois plus tard. Les relations sont toutefois restées au beau fixe entre le FN et Moscou, où Marine Le Pen est régulièrement accueillie par des instances aussi importantes que la présidence de l’Assemblée. A-t-elle été accueillie en plus haut lieu ? En tout cas, il n’en a pas été question officiellement.

When, at the end of 2014, the FN needed money, a Russian bank, the FCRB, agreed to lend it 9 million Euros, before having its licence withdrawn a few months later. Relations have nevertheless remained cordial between the FN and Moscow, where Marine Le Pen is regularly met figures as important at the President of Parliament. Has she been received by higher levels? If she has, it not been official.

As part of its detailed analysis of the FN programme Mediapart  (Le programme Le Pen 2017 au scanner de Mediapart) notes  that,

“Il y a de fait une vraie convergence politique et programmatique entre le Front national et Russie unie, le parti de Vladimir Poutine.

There is, in reality, a real political and programmatic converge between the Front National and Vladimir Putin’s Russia United party.”

The FN, in short, calls for a new strategic re-alignment, from one based on the United States, to one with the Russian Federation.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 24, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Yasmin Rehman wins secularist of the year award.

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Yasmin Rehman: Secularist of the Year.

A courageous campaigner for human rights against religious intolerance Rehman’s award should be widely welcomed.

It is fitting that she chose her acceptance speech to commend two “personal heroines” comrades Maryman Namazie and Gita Sahgal, who like herself have had to face the hostility of obscurantist bigotry, sexism and ill-judged criticism from some quarters.

It is time that all the left stands with these women.

Yasmin Rehman named Secularist of the Year 2017 (National Secular Society).

The Irwin Prize for Secularist of the Year 2017 has been awarded to Yasmin Rehman, the secular campaigner for women’s rights.

Yasmin has spent much of the past two years to get the Government to recognise the dangers faced by ex-Muslims and Ahmadi Muslims from Islamic extremists. She has used her own home as a shelter for women at risk of domestic abuse.

Accepting the prize, Yasmin Rehman thanked the Society for recognising her work and said she was “incredibly humbled” to be nominated among other figures who were “personal heroines.”

She said there were two women, Maryman Namazie and Gita Sahgal, whom she couldn’t have campaigned without, and that she was “honoured” to stand beside them.

Secularism was not opposed to faith, she said, before describing how she had been shut down as ‘Islamophobic’ and “racist” despite being a Muslim herself. There is anti-Muslim sentiment in society, she said, but ‘Islamophobia’ was being used to silence and curtail speech.

Yasmin said she didn’t know if she could ever go back to Pakistan because of her work in the UK, while in the UK it was “impossible” to get funding for secularist work. She asked where women could possibly turn if they faced religiously-justified abuse. Muslim women were left with nothing but religious, sharia arbitration, while faith healing was spreading, with ill women being controlled by male relatives and religious leaders and told to pray instead of seeking medical treatment.

FGM and honour-based violence were being dismissed as “cultural”, while in fact polygamist and temporary marriages were Islamic practises, she said. There is a slippery road from this to child marriage, and there should be “no space” in the UK for these practises.

“Great powers within the community” were holding women back, and low rates of Muslim female employment could not be attributed entirely to discrimination by employers.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “I’m particularly pleased that this afternoon we have a secularist who is also a Muslim to present our prizes. She is living proof that secularism and Muslims can co-exist if given half a chance and co-founded British Muslims for Secular Democracy in 2006.”

Mr Sanderson described how secularism protected the rights of all and said it and democracy were “interdependent”.

Dr Michael Irwin kindly sponsored the £5,000 award. The award was presented by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. She said: “The thing I find interesting and frightening at the moment is when I talk to young Muslims is how little they understand what secularism means.”

She said the Society’s most important work was in explaining what secularism meant for young people, particularly Muslims, and demonstrate that secularism was not atheism.

She warned of the growth of Muslim “exceptionalism” and that “universalism needs to be promoted.”

The Society was joined at the central London lunch event by previous winners of the prize including Maryam Namazie, who was the inaugural Secularist of the Year back in 2005. Peter Tatchell, who won the prize on 2012 also attended.

Turkish parliamentarian and 2014 Secularist of the Year Safak Pavey was unable to join the Society, but sent a message to attendees: “I wish I could be with you but we have the critical referendum approaching and we are very busy with the campaign. Each and every one of your shortlisted nominees is a very distinguished members of the secular society without borders.

“I wholeheartedly thank all of them for their courageous and precious contributions in defence and support of secularism and congratulate this year’s Secularist while looking forward to work together for our shared cause.”

Mr Sanderson praised her for working in “increasingly dangerous” circumstances to resist the Islamisation of Turkey.

Other campaigners were thanked for their work and Terry singled out Dr Steven Kettell, who was shortlisted for the prize, for his “excellent response” to the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public which had advocated expanding many religious privileges. Mr Sanderson thanked Dr Kettell for pointing out the many injustices that CORAB’s recommendations would have introduced, in his “excellent” report.

Scott Moore, the founder of Let Pupils Choose, was thanked for his campaign work. He said that, as an 18 year old, he had been campaigning for his entire adult life to separate religion and state, after religion was forced on him and taught as “absolute fact” during his childhood. He said the education system in Northern Ireland “robbed” pupils of their religious freedom. “All belief systems should be treated equally, but they are not.”

He was applauded for his hard-fought campaign work and Mr Sanderson said Moore gave him “hope for the future.”

Nominee Houzan Mahmoud spoke powerfully about the important of universal rights and freedoms.

Barry Duke, editor of the Freethinker, was given a lifetime achievement award for his commitment to free speech, LGBT rights and equality and resistance to censorship in apartheid South Africa.

The Society’s volunteer of the year was named, Sven Klinge, and thanked for the many occasions on which he has photographed NSS events.

Yasmin Rehman had been nominated, “for her advocacy of a secularist approach to tackling hate crime and promoting the human rights of women. She said, “I am incredibly honoured and humbled to be included in the list of nominees for this award particularly given the work being done across the world by so many brave and courageous people fighting against the hatred and violence being perpetrated by the religious Right of many faiths.”

Yasmin Rehman is a freelance consultant and doctoral candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Her area of research is polygamy and the law. She has worked for more than 20 years predominantly on violence against women, race, faith and gender, and human rights. Yasmin has worked for Local Government, the Metropolitan Police Service as Director of Partnerships and Diversity (2004-08) during which time she also held the Deputy national lead for forced marriage and honour based violence. Yasmin has most recently been commissioned as founding CEO of a race equality charity in East London, followed by Transforming Rehabilitation bid and now reviewing police responses to domestic abuse for national charities. Yasmin is currently member of the Board of EVAW (End Violence Against Women Coalition), an Independent Adviser for City of London Police and a member of the Centre for Secular Space.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 18, 2017 at 5:15 pm

Pakistan Asks Facebook to Track Down ‘Blasphemers’.

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“Enemies of Humanity” Says Pakistan Interior Minister.

Radio Pakistan ‘reports’:

NISAR VOWS TO BLOCK  BLASPHEMOUS CONTENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Interior Minister asks Facebook administration to cooperate in removal and blocking of the blasphemous contents.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan says those responsible for blasphemy will be dealt with an iron hand.

Talking to media after inaugurating citizen facilitation center in Islamabad on Thursday, he said the culprits of blasphemy are enemies of humanity.He said that we have asked Facebook administration to cooperate in removal and blocking of the blasphemous contents.

 The Interior Minister said that government is making all out efforts to block blasphemous material on social media. He said eleven people who commented on such posts are being interrogated.

He urged all Muslims countries to practice unity against sordid conspiracies against Islam as the matter of blasphemy hurts feelings of all Muslims.

He said the government will take strict action against blasphemous contents and will avail all the possible options.

The Minister said that cooperation from the US Administration is also being sought through US embassy in Pakistan in this regard.

He urged the international community to have immense consultations on the issue of blasphemy as it has become a critical matter for the world.

He said ridiculing a religion in the name of freedom of expression will not be allowed

Al Jazeera reports,

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani authorities have contacted social media website Facebook for help in investigating the posting of “blasphemous content” on the platform by Pakistanis, according to a statement.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan. Insulting the Prophet Muhammad carries a judicial death sentence and, increasingly commonly, the threat of extrajudicial murder by right-wing vigilantes.

At least 68 people have been killed in connection with blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to a tally maintained by Al Jazeera.

“There have been positive developments in the matter of the Pakistani government’s contact with Facebook’s management regarding the blocking of blasphemous content,” an interior ministry spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday.

Facebook would be sending a representative to visit Pakistan with regard to the matter, the statement said, and the government has appointed an official to liaise directly with the social networking website regarding the censoring of certain content.

In a statement quoted by the AP news agency, Facebook said it viewed government requests with care keeping in mind “the goal of protecting the privacy and rights of our users”.

The move comes after Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister, ordered a ban on all online content deemed to be “blasphemous” on Tuesday.

“Ridiculing a religion in the name of freedom of expression should not be allowed,” Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Pakistan’s interior minister, said on Thursday.

11 People under Threat.

Khan is spearheading the government’s efforts to have the material blocked.

Eleven people have been identified as having posted “blasphemous” comments or material on Facebook and will be acted against, the minister said. The identities of the 11 people in question were not immediately clear.

The authorities’ move comes after a senior judge at the Islamabad High Court called upon the government to block all blasphemous content online, “even at the cost of blocking entire social media”.

The petition at the High Court accuses five rights activists who were abducted in early January of running Facebook pages that had posted content deemed to be blasphemous.

No evidence has been shared directly linking the five activists to the Facebook pages in question, but during their three-week disappearance the men were the subject of a vast social media campaign accusing them of blasphemy.

“There is overwhelming evidence that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws violate human rights and encourage people to take the law into their own hands.

Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Issues.”

Amnesty: Pakistan: How the blasphemy laws enable abuse.

Al Jazeera continues,

Pakistan’s telecommunications regulator currently blocks hundreds of websites, including those run by ethnic Baloch dissidents, as well as sites containing pornography or material deemed to be blasphemous.

It is empowered under a 2016 law to block any content “if it considers it necessary in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, public order, decency or morality”.

In January 2016, Pakistan ended a three-year ban on video-sharing website YouTube, also over blasphemous content, after the content provider agreed to launch a localised version that would streamline the process for content to be censored for viewers in Pakistan.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeeras Web Correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 17, 2017 at 1:51 pm

Momentum Grassroots Conference: Why much of the Left Keeps its Distance.

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Grassroots Momentum,  “packed out” meeting says Monster Raving Greenstein Party.

Many people on the left have been wary of Grassroots Momentum and its Conference.

A clear indication of why comes in this report from the Monster Raving Greenstein Party,

A Fighting Start but It is Only the Beginning

Despite opposition from the Zionist Trotskyists (!) of the Alliance for Workers Liberty, the original statement to the conference opposing ‘unjust’ expulsions was amended to make it clear that fake allegations of anti-Semitism should be resisted.

As the said “Zionist” AWL have commented,

On the “anti-semitism witch-hunt”

An amendment was carried which was written down on a flipchart on the platform (illegibly to many) as “opposition to the antisemitism witch-hunt” and read out (inaudibly to some) as “opposition to the false antisemitism witch-hunt”.

This was done without debate, and with a fair scattering of abstentions, votes against, and people just not voting.

Why? Most people surely voted for the amendment because they oppose the Compliance Unit’s arbitrary ways, know that some charges of antisemitism have been invented or inflated arbitrarily, and anyway believe that prejudice is best dealt with primarily by discussion and education.

However, the term “antisemitism witch-hunt” is ambiguous and slippery. In some of the arguments elsewhere of those backing the amendment, it is taken to mean that any charge of antisemitism against anyone on the left must automatically be assumed to be witch-hunting invention motivated by hostility to the Palestinian people.

That is not true. There have been streaks of antisemitism in the left throughout our history – and, where Stalinism has been influential in the left, more than a streak – and the best sections of the left have sought to clean up that antisemitism and educate ourselves, rather than wave away all concerns as fabrications by the right wing.

We have called for an amnesty for all those summarily suspended or expelled by the Compliance Unit. We have opposed the suspension of Jackie Walker. Those stances can and must be combined with a proper recognition that the left must put our own house in order on antisemitism, and that someone being targeted factionally and arbitrarily by the right does not make everything they have said automatically ok.

There was another problem with the amendment. A number of people have been suspended on charges to do with antisemitism. Mostly they will get a hearing with at least some rules and safeguards. Some have had their suspensions lifted.

The far bigger section of the victims of the Compliance Unit are those excluded just for being left-wing, for allegedly sympathising with Workers’ Liberty or Socialist Appeal or Left Unity. Almost all of them have been denied a hearing, or an appeal, or even what would in any halfway fair system be considered definite charges.

That is the larger part of the Compliance Unit’s work. An amendment which just said “opposition to the witch-hunt”, reinforcing the already-included “opposition to unjust expulsions and suspensions”, would have been much better.

Tony Greenstein and Gerry Downing – in their different ways, the most vocal advocates on the web of the view in which the core of politics is about the heroic resistance of “anti-Zionists” such as themselves to the supposedly all-powerful, all-pervading, ever-conspiring “Zionists”, and the most strident denouncers of leftists such as Rhea Wolfson (“Zionist ally of Jon Lansman”) – stood for election to the committee. We are glad to report that they both failed, with Downing coming bottom.

Greenstein and Downing stood for election…

The Monster Raving Greenstein Party got 49 votes,  and Downing got 11 coming last in the poll, but he still stood.

Greenstein.

Greenstein, as the above article states, has denounced Rhea Wolfson.

Denounce is perhaps too weak a word.

This is what he says of her support for Momentum’s Jon Lansman’s exclusion of Jackie Walker from her position..within Momentum, “a White woman who supports the racist Israeli state scapegoating a Black woman.” (Blog)

Comrade Rhea is not the only person individually targeted for Monster raving abuse.

There is a long, a very long list, but we will limit this post to a special case, in Momentum...

Lansman has embarked on rehabilitating Zionism and the State of Israel“, (June 2016), “I could also ask Jon Lansman a few of those questions that Tony Benn once suggested, such as ‘who put you there’ ‘from where does your power derive’ and the clincher ‘how do we get rid of you’? There is a reason that dictators have always loved plebiscites.  That is because they get to choose the questions and to frame them in such a way that they get the ‘right’ answer. Most people won’t remember Hitler’s plebiscites on the Rhine and the Saarland but they haven’t had a very good reputation ever since.” (January 2017).

Here is how he attacked the Jewish Socialist Group: Bundists behaving like Stalinists – JSG Leaders Remove Critics of Lansman from Jews 4 Jeremy FB Group (February 2017).

Here is the most recent raving limits of Greenstein, a call to create a separate ‘democratic’ Momentum, “The fight for democracy is not a split. Lansman’s coup should be resisted by founding a democratic Momentum, urges Tony Greenstein (Weekly Worker. 23.2.17)

Small wonder that he was suspended from Labour, the old charge of bringing discredit on the party  would alone be enough.

Downing.

Gerry Downing, be it noted, is famous for his writings, and those of his comrade, Ian Donovan, on the Web site Socialist Fight, on the ‘International Jewish Bourgeoisie”.

This is located Donovan writes, in Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism 6-9-2014.

Jewish overrepresentation in the US and other ruling classes. For the United States, which is the most powerful state in human history, you can easily find informed Jewish sources that place the representation of Jews among billionaires, the most powerful elements of the capitalist elite, at between 40 and 48% – nearly half (for example see http://www.jewishworldreview.com/joe/aaron101007.php3). This is the only logically coherent explanation for the power of the so-called lobby. It must be faced fearlessly by Marxists, irrespective of any discomfort that may result from confronting the widespread prejudice (for that is what it is) that to mention, let alone try to analyse, such factual matters is in some way racist. To ignore them in this way is itself an act of betrayal of those on the receiving end of the crimes that result from this state of affairs, and in that sense a chauvinist position.

After a lengthy ‘analysis’ he concludes:

The Jews are not a nation, but they have a pan-national bourgeoisie that had national aspirations and wanted a territorial asset to give expression to that.

This pan-imperialist Zionist bloc within the bourgeoisie plays an active role in the oppression of the Palestinians.

Downing has been expelled from membership of the Labour Party.

Why?

Few would be bothered to read the above drivel but they will look at what the right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes revealed.

“An unbylined article on Downing’s Socialist Fight website, which Downing himself tweeted, is headlined: “Why Marxists must address the Jewish Question”. The piece speaks for itself:

“The role Zionists have played in the attempted witch-hunt against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership campaign is glaringly obvious… Since the dawning of the period of neo-liberal capitalism in the 1970s, elements of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie, from Milton Friedman to Henry Kissinger to the pro-Israel ideologues of the War on Terror, have played a vanguard role for the capitalist offensive against the workers.”

Downing appears to have an obsession with “Jewish” people”

Given this background it is not surprising that Downing was thrown out of the Labour Party,  and claims about “witch-hunting invention” are distasteful, to say the least.

Is Grassroots Momentum going to campaign to get him back?

Then there is this, which is equally serious, politically if not ethically.

Socialist Fight recently helped organise this pro-Assad  meeting on Syria:

Socialist Fight Public Meeting Vanessa Beeley Speaks

To continue on last Saturday’s  meeting.

Grassroots Conference 11 March 2017 Steering Committee Election Results

The candidate for this group, Labour Party Marxists, Stan Keable, got 13 votes.

The Latest Labour Party Marxists Bulletin describes the conflict within Grassroots Momentum.

Against Jon Lansman, but for what?

The outline three tendencies (how far they are organised factions is left open):

  • Some want a clean split from Momentum – the sooner, the better. There are, naturally, differences over with whom to split, to form what exactly and on what political basis.
  • Some want to continue to work in Momentum for now, while at the same time almost replicating the official body – with parallel structures and similar political limitations, but on a lower level: similar campaigns, similar leadership elections, etc.
  • Some – and LPM belongs to this third group – agree that we should continue to work within Momentum for the time being, but with a clear understanding of its limited shelf life, openly criticising its exceedingly pinched political outlook and subordination to the politics of Jeremy Corbyn’s 10 pledges.

But essentially it boils down, apparently, to two.

Tina Werkmann of Labour Party Marxists, the New Steering Committee, and, I am not spilling any beans, the group that produces the Weekly Worker,  gives an  overview.

Are political differences between the two groups?

Definitely. This is reflected in Grassroots Momentum as a whole: Those left on the old steering committee included Alliance for Workers’ Liberty supporters Michael Chessum and Jill Mountford (plus Fire Brigades Union leader Matt Wrack and Jackie Walker); the CAC is made up of Jackie Walker, Alec Price and Delia Mattis (Josie Runswick resigned early on and was replaced by Lee Griffiths). The CAC took control, chaired the whole day and managed to almost totally sideline the AWL.

Jackie Walker and her supporters hate the AWL with a passion, of course.

And I totally understand why. The ugly truth is that AWLers have actively participated in the ‘anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt against her. They supported Jon Lansman in sacking her as Momentum vice-chair in September 2016. In effect, this was a dry run for the next coup – the ‘big one’ on January 10 – when Lansman crushed any democracy in the organisation and simply imposed a new, crassly undemocratic constitution.

It was clear at the GM conference that the AWL has really made a lot of enemies in all of this – just to add to those of us who already opposed their pro-Zionist social-imperialism. There was a great deal of hostility against them on display – and it only increased during the day. I must confess, I almost felt a bit sorry for them. Almost

Because the few proposals on display were presented so out of context and in a truncated manner, AWL members tried to make various ‘points of order’ throughout the day. Some were more useful than others; some were presented more coherently than others. The AWL’s Rosie Woods, who had taken up a position near the stage, was greeted, after she’d been on her feet a few times, with a rather sectarian chorus of “Sit down, sit down” (led by Gerry Downing, of all people – he’s been on the receiving end of people’s displeasure a few times, so probably should know better). But to claim that they “disrupted” the conference, as some comrades have since done on Facebook, is seriously misleading and excuses the CAC’s role in the often disorganised and muddled way conference was planned and conducted.

Actually, it reminds me of the way Jon Lansman, Owen Jones and Paul Mason have tried to blame ‘the Trots’ (ie, the left) for the failures of Momentum to take off. Not a healthy response …

I happen to be one of those who thinks that the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty have sane politics on a variety of issues, from Europe (they are pro-Another Europe is Possible), the Middle East (as for their ” pro-Zionist social-imperialism“, they are for a democratic ‘two states’ solution to the Israel/Palestine issue, and back democratic secular forces against both Islamists, genocidal or ‘moderate’,  and tyrannies like Assad’s), and on the need for radical democratic socialist politics in the UK.

Many of us hold these views, without a need to ‘join’ anything more than pressure groups within the Labour Party.

We want to see a Labour government and  are intensely  aware of the difficulties that presents at the moment.

To that end wish to co-operate with the full range of party members, to reach out to the electorate, while trying to promote ideas of democratic socialism.

The above reports on Momentum Grassroots confirm that we are right not to get directly involved in this particular war, which involves those of the stripe of Greenstein and Downing, however much on the margins.

Regardless that is, if “Our comrades elected to the leadership of this new network will try to work seriously, constructively, and in cooperation with others, to make that happen” this will, I suspect, be the attitude of many on the left.

Meanwhile this is taking place in a couple of days:

CONFERENCE 2017  Momentum’s Inaugural National conference – Building to Win – Saturday 25th March

 9ac7b73e-a65d-4746-9234-2fbb4b9cf077.jpg

More information: Momentum conferences are like buses. Andy Stowe. (Socialist Resistance).

Written by Andrew Coates

March 16, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Dutch Elections: No Breakthrough in Sight for anti-EU Socialistische Partij.

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https://www.sp.nl/sites/default/files/styles/page_section_float_337/public/fb-kandidaten-a.png?itok=TAdcNLRh

Radical left Socialist Party remains stuck at 13-16%

Dutch elections: Polls open amid fears of far-right surge led by Geert Wilders’s PVV party

The focus of Wilders obviously dominates the news but we should also ask,  how are other parties and the left faring in Holland?

Tom Louwerse Leiden University summarises the position for the Dutch Left.

The 2017 Netherlands election: Polls suggest mid-sized parties are now the new norm in Dutch politics

On the left of the political spectrum, the Labour Party (PvdA) is the big loser. Its electoral decline started right after the 2012 elections in which they gained 24.8% of the vote. Within a year that was reduced to under 10% in the polls and it has remained at this relatively low level of support ever since, currently polling around 8%.

The other parties on the left seem unable to profit from this loss. The Socialist Party (SP) is the only opposition party that has not gained support compared to the last election, with the party polling around 8%. The Green Party (GL) is recovering from its poor 2012 showing: from around 2% then to around 9% now. Still, this is only a 7 percentage point increase, while the Labour Party has lost 17%.

Some of these votes seem to be going to the Democrats (D66), a ‘social-liberal’ centre party (currently at 10%), according to an analysis by Ipsos. And parties like 50PLUS (which targets the elderly), CDA and PVV also win over smaller numbers of former PvdA voters. But a sizeable share of 2012 PvdA-voters are now saying they will not vote or do not know who to vote for. Whether they will really stay at home or will eventually decide to vote for the PvdA anyway, might impact the size of the PvdA’s losses.

There is no clear front-runner on the left of the political spectrum. If such a party will emerge in the next few weeks, it might attract some strategic voters who would like to see at least one strong left-wing party that has a good chance of being part of the next government.”

A few years ago there were predictions that the Dutch Socialist Party, Socialistische Partij, was set to become a major political force in Holland. But, despite its hope in 2012 that the SP would overtake the Labour Party in the 2012 elections, what happened was ” the sudden collapse in support for the party during the final weeks of the campaign(for an overview see: The Dutch Elections and the Socialist Party. Daniel Finn. New Left Review. 77. 2012).

Despite the same  Labour Party (PvDA) now entering a prolonged crisis, with some predicting its marginalisation, the SP has not grown.

As Wikipedia states, “As of 2016 the ruling VVD-PvdA coalition has meant that the PvdA lost a huge part of its base. In the polls, the party currently stands at around 12 seats, losing 26, which has been a stable position for the last three years.[16] Despite that, the SP has gained little to nothing, remaining stable at around 16 seats in the same polls.”

From the site of the Dutch Socialist Party.

In terms of membership the SP, with more than 43.000 members, is the third biggest party in the Netherlands. Only the Christian Democrats (CDA) and Labour Party (PvdA) are bigger, but the gap is narrowing!

Members of the SP come from all walks of life. Factory workers and students, nurses and maintenance engineers, accountants and civil servants, school students and pensioners all work together in our party. Every member is part of a local branch and can participate in decision-making at branch meetings. Each branch chooses its own executive, nominates candidates for elected office and sends delegates to the Congress. On this basis the SP’s national organs – the Party Executive, the Party Council and the Congress – are also democratically elected and controlled.

The SP is represented at all levels in Dutch politics and in the European Parliament. We have fifteen Members in the 150-seat ‘Tweede Kamer’ (corresponding to the House of Commons or House of Representatives), eight in the Eerste Kamer (the Senate), two in the European Parliament and about 500 representatives on city and local councils and in provincial assemblies. The SP forms part of the local governing coalitions of forty municipalities, some of which belong to the largest Dutch municipalities. As of 2011 the SP also participates in governing coalitions in two of the Netherlands’ twelve provinces.

Participation in national government is considered only a matter of time.

The SP’s elected representatives donate their allowances to the party, and are reimbursed only for certain out-of-pocket, receipted costs. The surplus helps to cover the party’s activities. Representatives working for the party full time receive a modest professional salary.

Roemer: close door on ‘Sultan’ Erdoğan’s propaganda circus

In the view of SP leader Emile Roemer, there should be no place in the Netherlands for the bizarre propaganda circus that Turkish president Recep Erdoğan is touring around Europe in the runup to a referendum which may give him almost unlimited power.

Roemer argues that Erdoğan has been handled with kid gloves for far too long. “We have long tried to persuade the government that the talks over EU accession for Turkey should be suspended,” he recalls. “The fact that Erdoğan has no interest in the rule of law isn’t something that has only just emerged. He’s previously packed all of his prisons with journalists and even locked up elected representatives of the people.

“The last few days have shown us that the Turkish government is incapable of making agreements which you can trust. It’s audacious nonsense to insult the entire Netherlands while at the same time stoking up conflicts and turning people against the country in which they live, then calling on the principle of freedom of expression. That’s not how it works. Turkey should not be interfering in our domestic affairs. The situation is confirming what the SP has been saying for years, that we must be fully committed to combatting Ankara’s attempts to influence Dutch citizens.”

23 Jan 2017

Large-scale unregulated labour migration puts pressure on wages

The opening of the borders to central and eastern European (CEE) workers just a decade ago has led to labour market dislocation in the countries from which people have been attracted and repression, exploitation and underpayment in the Netherlands. The SP wants to see rogue temping agencies banned and work permits introduced for workers from CEE countries.

by Tijmen Lucie

The opening of the borders to central and eastern European (CEE) migrant workers has, particularly in sectors such as construction, horticulture, road transport and the food industry, led to repression and exploitation. Rogue temping agencies have had a free hand in putting people, especially those from central and eastern Europe, to work at low wages, using a number of dubious legal constructions. In this way worker is set against worker, wages are forced down and working conditions deteriorate.

The SP’s 10-point plan to combat oppression, exploitation and underpayment.

We halt at point 1.

  1. The Netherlands must take back control over who can come here from CEE countries to work. Free movement of workers must be scrapped. Employers should be required once again to apply for a permit if they wish to employ workers from CEE.

This stand has some history:

Dutch advance socialist case against immigration Nov 24, 2008 Neil Clark

Whether the SP’s present impasse is due to problems with the low level of labour movement activity, the “comparative dearth of social mobilization in recent years” (which like in the UK, has been in a downward spiral for some time),  the – unconvincing –  strategy of “revolutionary reformism”, and the impermeability of Dutch politics and civil society to radical left ideas,  as Finn (above) indicates, or that they’ve been sidelined by Wilders’ brand of national populism,  are matters for debate.

During the British EU Referendum the far-right Express reported,

Harry van Bommel, MP for Holland’s Socialist Party, told Express.co.uk: “If Britain leaves, that will give other countries courage.

“So now debate is beginning in the Netherlands about having a referendum on EU membership.

“We cannot go on the way we are – financing Greece, trying to keep countries in the eurozone. The eurozone will break up eventually.”

GHarry van Bommel says Brexit will give Holland ‘courage’

He added: “Because we’re in the euro, Dutch people see budget cuts, unemployment going up, and they relay that to the EU.

“Everyone knows the Commissioners in Brussels make €25,000 (£19,500) a month, yet pensions go down and the pension age goes up.

“These facts make the EU very unpopular. People distrust Europe and some people even hate Europe – it’s in an existential crisis.”

Van Bommel campaigns against a trade deal with Ukraine

Earlier this year the Netherlands overwhelmingly rejected a controversial EU proposal to remove trade barriers with Ukraine.

More than 61 per cent voted against the idea, with Dutch leader Mark Rutte admitting ratification of the treaty “cannot go ahead”.

But Eurocrats have ignored the result and claimed the deal will be adopted “very soon”, sparking a furious outcry from Eurosceptics.

What is clear now is that the SP’s anti-European Union and anti-migrant labour policies have been taken up, let’s just say (see last sentence), elsewhere.

The stagnation of the Dutch Socialist Party International Socialism. Issue: 151  22nd June 2016.Max van Lingen

Written by Andrew Coates

March 15, 2017 at 1:10 pm