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Haiti, Oxfam – In Defence of Mary Beard; Contre Priyamvada Gopal. 

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“Familiar posture of wounded white innocence” says Priyamvada Gopal.

I confess, I really like Mary Beard.

She wrote one of the best ever books on Roman history, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome  (2015).

Since the Renaissance at least, many of our most fundamental assumptions about power, citizenship, responsibility, political violence, empire, luxury and beauty have been formed, and tested, in dialogue with the Romans and their writing.

From that you can guess she is not a reborn 18th century writer who uncritically admires the ‘glory that was Rome’, lauds the Republic, and ignores issues about the role of slavery, class conflicts, the position of women, and above all the violence that went with Empire in its history, up to the Caesars.

On the last issue the BBC last week showed Beard’s latest programme, Julius Caesar Revealed  which put his genocidal conquests at the heart of his rise to power, and underlined the narrow nature of the ‘republican’ claims to defend liberty against the ‘populist’ rise of Caesarism (a term used by a variety of political thinkers, including Gramsci, to refer to the role of a “great personality” in conditions where catastrophe looms).

Mary Beard has recently published this book, Women and Power.

As Rachel Cook outlines its theme,

Beard’s primary subject is female silence; she hopes to take a “long view on the culturally awkward relationship between the voice of women and the public sphere of speech-making, debate and comment”, the better to get beyond “the simple diagnosis of misogyny that we tend a bit lazily to fall back on”. Calling out misogyny isn’t, she understands, the same thing as explaining it, and it’s only by doing the latter that we’re likely ever to find an effective means of combating it. The question is: where should we look for answers? Beard acknowledges that misogyny has multiple sources; its roots are deep and wide. But in this book, she looks mostly (she is a classicist, after all) at Greek and Roman antiquity, a realm that even now, she believes, casts a shadow over our traditions of public speaking, whether we are considering the timbre of a person’s voice, or their authority to pronounce on any given subject.

She continues,

Personally, I might have found this argument a bit strained a month ago; 3,000 years lie between us and Homer’s Odyssey, which is where she begins, with Telemachus effectively telling his mother Penelope to “shut up”. But reading it in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, it seems utterly, dreadfully convincing. Mute women; brutal men; shame as a mechanism for control; androgyny and avoidance as a strategy for survival. On every page, bells ring too loudly for comfort.

Mary Beard now has her own confrontation with efforts to shout her down.

After this,

The Cambridge Classics professor Mary Beard has been left “sitting here crying” after a provocative tweet concerning the Oxfam sexual exploitation scandal exposed her to a torrent of abuse on Twitter.

The Academic tweeted on Friday that “Of course one can’t condone the (alleged) behaviour of Oxfam staff in Haiti and elsewhere. But I do wonder how hard it must be to sustain “civilised” values in a disaster zone. And overall I still respect those who go in to help out, where most of us wd not tread”.

The tweet has sparked controversy over the last two days. One of hundreds to engage in the Twitter backlash was fellow Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal whose series of tweets against Beard included “this kind of thing is the *progressive* end of the institutional culture I have to survive day in day out” and “Cambridge desperately needs a Breaking the Silence on racism. About time and beyond”.

In a following tweet Gopal directly satirised Beard: “Obviously it’s not a great idea to randomly get your dick out, rape people etc. But it’s not easy to be politically correct while in shitholes. And overall I still respect people who head out to shitholes ‘cos I sure as hell wouldn’t dream of it’.”

Cambridge Student.

A Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal,   “an upper-caste woman from a liberal-ish Hindu family in India” as she puts it, has taken the time to Lecture Beard.

Gopal is keenly aware of her caste, but who’s had “a lot painful listening and learning from Dalit and other non-upper-caste intellectuals and campaigners”.

Associating Beard with the “genteel liberal racism that is the very lifeblood of Cambridge social intercourse” she talks, as they do over a cup of Earl Grey, of Theodor Adorno, and wishes to tell Beard about the Heart of Darkness, Black Agency,  Michel-Rolph Trouillot and the history of Haiti.

Not to mention “civilised values”.

Or to put it another way Gopal offers and over-intellectualises by a kilometre and ten by a “post-colonial”analysis of an emotional tweet.

Response to Mary Beard

I’m afraid that your good intentions notwithstanding, it is precisely this genteel patrician racist manner and this context of entrenched denial in which your tweet on Haiti, ‘civilised’ values (scare quotes noted but not enough, I’m afraid) and disaster zones was received. It was, as you now know, received with enormous shock. (Not by me though — I’m used to this kind of casual magisterial apologetic coming out of the mouths of my Cambridge colleagues; it’s the stuff of everyday college lunch table conversations and hence I’ve taken the simple step of not dining in colleges as far as is feasible ).

Your subsequent blog post, to not put too fine a point on it, did little to help your cause and is regarded by many as a ‘no-pology’, a stubborn refusal to see what was wrong with your original post and taking refuge instead in the familiar posture of wounded white innocence. This too is familiar to me at Cambridge: on the rare occasions I’ve bothered to raise questions of, let us say, ‘racially dodgy’ remarks that bring Cambridge or particular colleges into disrepute, I’ve been instantly shut down by what you would recognise, I am sure, as ‘snowflake’ behaviour: outrage, wounded innocence, protestations of good intentions, and finally the declaration that it’s not the racist pronouncements that are the problem but the person (me, in this instance) who calls them out. It is accompanied by another gesture which also manifests in your blogpost: a pronouncement that self-evidently the person who made the remark cannot possibly have made a racist observation because they do not consider themselves to be racist. Imagine if every misogynist you encountered made the same gesture — and they usually do: ‘I love women, OF COURSE I am not sexist, everyone knows I am not sexist.’ What would you say to him?

Your blogpost is not an adequate intellectual response to your, well, frankly outrageous tweet; it’s a series of postures of innocence and a continued refusal to analyse a problem in all its thorny difficulty. To those who felt violated and aggressed by the original tweet, your blogpost was a further slap in the face: a stubborn refusal to see what was so profoundly and deeply wrong with your claims in addition to bizarre, indeed cringe-making comparisons between the French resistance and aid workers. What is striking in both tweet and putatively exculpatory blogpost is your inability to see beyond Western agency: Western aid workers as resistance fighters, white aid workers as Mr Kurtz figures caving in the strain of ‘The horror, the horror.’

It is very generous for Gopal to speak for the Haitians, the French Resistance, and for all those who “feel violated” by a Tweet .

No less open-hearted and welcoming is her invitation to Beard to “come and meet my third years who next week will be discussing precisely Haiti and the Haitian revolution as they read Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s work on the elision of black agency in European historiography and European habits of thought. “

Yes, we Europeans have definite “habits of thought”…..

The row proceeds.

Some would say that another shouter-down made a pretty racist tweet.

The following is about the only sensible Tweet I have found.

********

More Background.

Launching an impassioned defence of her actions in the wake of the backlash, Beard tweeted “I am amazed that after decades of Lord of the Flies being a gcse English set book we haven’t got the point about the breakdown of morality in danger zones!! Just saying and this is NOT to condone the actions of a few aid workers”.

Beard then took to her Times Literary Supplement blog to further her defense, but admitted in a tweet that she was left “sitting here crying”. Her blog told of the torrent of abuse she had experienced: “the predictable name calling ‘pervert’, ‘sick cow’, ‘disgusting creature’ or gross misreadings… ‘how hard is it not to gangrape women in a disaster zone?’. ‘you’ve lost your house, your family are dead, fancy a shag? Do you take PayPal?’ (I didn’t really want to include that, but I felt that you needed to see the tasteless too.)”

She added: “I find it hard to imagine that anyone out there could possibly think that I am wanting to turn a blind eye to the abuse of women and children” and that ” while we deplore what has happened and expect better, it is worth thinking of the context in which it took place. 99% of us have no idea of the stresses of working in these environments (and yes, living in them is worse, as there is no escape route). Most aid workers deal with that, I suspect, by drink and cigarettes. But that kind of societal, infrastructural breakdown provides a space for much worse.

“That is not to condone the awful things that happened but to contextualise them. And that is what we need to do, if we want to stop this happening again.”

Cambridge Student.

Update (from Roger). Gopal’s previous ordure:

9/11 and the Mumbai attacks

In the title of her December 4, 2008 Guardian editorial on the Mumbai attacks, Priyamvada Gopal asserts that “Comparing Mumbai to 9/11 diminishes both tragedies.” But even this title is deceitful, since, as her readers soon discover, the piece is not concerned with the particularities of the two events. Nor does the danger of “diminishing” 9/11 give Gopal pause. On the contrary, diminishing and displacing 9/11 from our active preoccupations is her intent. Allowing the November attack on Mumbai to be deemed “India’s 9/11” would be, she argues, “to privilege the experience of the United States” and to be complicit with India’s “relentless Americanization.” 9/11 is either another brand name in McWorld or something even more sinister, an event so “fetishized” as to “sanction endless vengeance,” even as it obscures “the experience of millions [elsewhere] who have suffered as much” as those who died or were injured in the attack on the U.S. on that day. 9/11 “legitimized a false war,” “created legal abominations,” and “strengthened neoconservatism.”

While Gopal’s piece makes perfunctory mention of the suffering of the victims of 9/11, it says nothing of the actual contours of that event, much less the intentions behind it. The U.S. reaction concerns her more than the attack itself does. Rather than offering any analysis of the event about which she was writing, Gopal strains to change the subject. Presumably the killing spree that took place in Mumbai from November 26th to November 29th 2008 (and has now come to be referred to “11/26”), requires no analysis. But when we actually specify what 9/11 was, can the comparison with it really be so easily avoided?

The crucial point to be made about 9/11 — and the one that Gopal studiously avoids — makes the comparison with the Mumbai attacks inevitable: both were attacks inspired by Islamism on intensely cosmopolitan urban populations with the intention of inflicting the maximum number of casualties. Moreover, like New York, Mumbai is an old colonial port city with a rich if submerged history of radical democratic struggle. Like New York, Mumbai is the commercial and cultural, though not the political, capital of a pluralistic democracy. In short, like New York, Mumbai is one of world’s great nerve-centers of contemporary capitalism. Also, the attacks on Mumbai were not on the Hindu chauvinist politics of Bal Thackeray, just as the 9/11 attack was not on the neo-liberalism of Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg. In both cases, the targets were the profane pleasures of modern society. In both cases, the attacks were made, so to speak, in plain view, so that the fascistic menace was unmistakable (albeit in the absurdly comic form of expressionless young men who might, but for the assault rifles in their hands, be easily mistaken for ravers en route to Goa). Finally, as with 9/11, the regional strategic consequences bound to flow from the Mumbai attacks are profound.

In a certain respect, the semiotics of the attacks in Mumbai were even more ghastly than those of 9/11, since it witnessed the deliberate hunting of Jews qua Jews, especially at the Chabad House, where Jews were subjected to savage beatings before their execution, unlike even the Americans and Britons who were also singled out. For those who planned the attacks killing Jews was a priority and it was executed in the midst of a police siege by killers who had, in all likelihood, never so much as seen a Jewish person before. Though the murderous anti-Semitism on display in Mumbai ought by now to be an all-too-familiar aspect of Islamist ideology, Guardian correspondent Richard Silverstein, like Gopal on the editorial page, declines to acknowledge the obvious. Instead he insists that the attack on Chabad House was “not necessarily anti-Semitic,” claiming that the attackers were seeking “redress for crimes against Palestine” [“Why did the Attackers Choose to Attack Chabad House” Guardian 12/4/2008, cf. Alex Stein “Inspiration from India” Guardian 12/4/2008]. From this we may safely conclude that, for Silverstein, anytime a Muslim kills a Jew he need only utter the magic word “Palestine” to have his guilt absolved: Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza means that it is open season on Jews all over the world. In the same vein, William Dalrymple, informs the wised-up readers of the Guardian that “the horrific events have to be seen in the context of. . . the abject failure of the Bush administration” and the “ill-treatment of the people of Kashmir” [“Mumbai Atrocities Highlight Need for a Solution in Kashmir” Guardian 11/30/08]. In Arundhati Roy’s column, too, we rely upon the terrorists to tell the truth and to remind “us” of the “things we don’t want to talk about any more” [“The Monster in the Mirror,” 12/13/08]. It is one thing for a journalist to report the content of authoritarian manifestoes or the statements terrorists make in the course of an attack; it is quite another matter to rationalize such statements in the manner of Silverstein, Dalrymple, and Roy.

Highlighting the political significance of the attack on Chabad House cannot be allowed to obscure the fact that there was also something quite discriminating about the seemingly more indiscriminate killing of commuters at the Victoria Terminus. It is not enough to say simply that, compared to the foreigners and the rich people at the Taj and Oberoi Hotels, the victims there were poorer, working people, though this is true. It is also worth pointing out that at the train station, the attackers fired directly into crowds. The Muslims among the dead there were not unintended victims. They were punished for living and working in peace in secular democratic India, i.e. of having failed to join the jihad. Of course, the Hindus regarded as pagans were positively marked for slaughter. As for the attacks on Mumbai’s elite hotels, likewise, the clear intent was to comingle on their marble floors the blood of dying unbelievers of all sorts — Zionist, Crusader, and Infidel. There again was the same unbridled murderousness that has been a significant feature of previous attacks, such as the 2006 commuter train in Mumbai and the serial bombings earlier in 2008 in Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, and Delhi, to name just a few. These rather elementary aspects of the politics behind the Mumbai attacks rarely merit mention in the analysis to be found in the Guardian. But while the “Left” cannot remain at this elementary level of analysis, neither can it afford to ignore the obvious.

While Gopal is right to claim that in many respects 9/11 is not unique as a point of comparison (there have been many other Islamist terrorist attacks besides 9/11), her aim seems not to locate the attacks in an alternative history of recent Islamist terrorism, as, for instance, in relation to the bombing in Pakistan in September of the Islamabad Marriott that killed 53 and injured more than 250. Rather, the Mumbai attacks are treated as have no determinate character whatsoever, Gopal preferring to speak only of a “massacre of defenceless innocents.” Presumably the same is true of the bomb detonated December 5th, 2008 in a market outside a Shi’a mosque in Peshawar in which 22 people were killed and more than 90 were wounded. While 9/11 posed for everyone worldwide the question of modern Islamism, Gopal’s editorial reveals once again how the Left continues to rely on its old reflex responses — supposed “anti-imperialism” — to defer any confrontation with the full scope of the barbarism in our time. In this way, the piece tends to obscure or deny what is salient for advancing (or even imagining) a politics genuinely capable of both countering fascism and reconstituting an emancipatory politics in South Asia.

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Written by Andrew Coates

February 18, 2018 at 1:41 pm

The Weekly Worker and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty: A Forgotten Love Affair.

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Spooky but True: the Untold Tale of Weekly Worker AWL Unity.

Followers of the minutiae of the left,  and there are them, will know that no bitterer enemies exist than the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee CPGB-PCC). and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

Both publish papers, which it has to be said, many on the left read, the former’s Weekly Worker for its articles on theory, socialist history its reports on Italy, Iran,  and some other European countries, curious letters, and serious book reviews. The AWL’s Solidarity has valuable – accurate – reports on trade union and welfare issues, the Labour Party, and covers the history of the left, and international topics. It  also carries good coverage of books.

The two groups are now locked in a never-ending battle.

“Social-imperialism” and  comparisons with ‘Stasi busybodies” are some of the milder terms used by the Weekly Worker to describe their foes in the AWL. The AWL dismisses the, admittedly groupusculaire  WW, and its key ally, the Monster Raving Geenstein Party.

Yet things were not always so….

It was in the year 2000.

Spring was coming. The world was full of daffodils and gamboling hares. And love.

Report of a partisan observer John Bridge and other Weekly Worker writers discuss the AWL 09.03.2000

Five observers from the Communist Party of Great Britain attended the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’s 7th conference over the weekend of March 4-5. In general we met with a friendly reception. There was certainly a keen interest in our ideas, as witnessed by a sale of over 40 copies of the Weekly Worker. An impressive figure and much to the credit of the AWL – especially given that there were no more than around 80 of their comrades in attendance.

..

The AWL is a small organisation of serious revolutionaries – it has 110 full and a handful of candidate members – with a relatively long history in Britain’s Trotskyite milieu. Once they existed as a faction in Tony Cliff’s International Socialism organisation. That is, until they were bureaucratically expelled. Since then, led by Sean Matgamna, they have been through a labyrinthine series of name changes, primeval unities and fragile partnerships. However, what distinguishes the AWL from that which often falsely passes itself off as Trotskyism is its culture of comparative openness and a willingness to think.

..

We in the CPGB share and defend exactly that approach.

Love blossomed,

Rapprochement begins

Two representatives of the CPGB’s Provisional Central Committee and two representatives of the AWL’s National Committee met on Friday March 3.

Discussion began with Mark Fischer outlining the history of the PCC’s struggle for a reforged CPGB and why we put Partyism at the centre of our work. It was explained to the comrades from the AWL that we have no CPGB golden age. Our project is about the future, not the past.

We also discussed the importance of trade union bulletins and trade union work. CPGB comrades assured the AWL representatives that we had no objections to trade union work nor trade union bulletins. There was, however, the matter of priorities.

Blair’s constitutional revolution was raised, along with the national question in Wales and Scotland. One AWL comrade did not see why we were so concerned with such issues. This led on to what the CPGB’s PCC understands by economism.

The entry work the CPGB carried out in the SLP was praised and criticised by the AWL comrades. We replied that it was easy to criticise from the outside.

The commitment of the CPGB to a minimum-maximum programme was touched upon. CPGB comrades questioned the AWL about their project of a new Labour Representation Committee. We were told that this was for propaganda purposes and at the moment was of no particular importance.

The principles of democratic centralism were emphasised by the CPGB comrades, as was the need for a polemical communist press in the conditions of today. We stressed the necessity of engaging with advanced workers – ie, those susceptible to theory.

Both sides agreed to hold a further meeting in mid-March and to have a joint day school in early April on the Party question. The three headings of debate will be: economism; organising the class; party and programme.

Halcyon days!

CPGB-AWL rapprochement. 27.7.2000.

Representatives of the CPGB and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty have been meeting to explore areas of difference and agreement between us. Over the coming weeks, we will feature edited minutes, starting here with those of the March 3 meeting. Comments and criticisms are welcome.

Agreed in conclusion: to put economism; organising the revolutionaries to revolutionise the labour movement; and Party and programme – minimum-maximum and transitional – on the agenda for a day school (date to be fixed). Next four-hander discussion: Friday March 17, to cover minimum-maximum and transitional programmes, and the nature of the ‘official communist’.

CPGB-AWL cooperation. 15.11.2001.

The Communist Party of Great Britain and the Alliance for Workers? Liberty are continuing to explore areas of theoretical difference and agreement, and are looking at the possibility of joint work. Representatives of the executive committee of the AWL and the Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB met recently to discuss a number of issues of current practical concern and issues of ongoing debate between the two organisations.

Alas.

The dalliance did not last, as this document (January 2003) indicates.

Followed by,

By Paul Hampton
The CPGB, those pretentious squirrels of left-wing tittle-tattle, outdid themselves by chickening out of a debate with the AWL over Iraq.

They have sought in vain to manufacture mischief with some AWL comrades who disagree with the group’s position on Iraq. After a series of private e-mails demanding that the AWL minority agitate to “clear out the leadership of the scabs”, the CPGB invited David Broder to debate with them at their overinflated “communist university”, under the title: troops out – but when? David referred the matter to the AWL office, which generously put up Sean Matgamna to speak for our politics.

The Weekly Worker responded in the shape of a piece by a certain Ian Donovan.

Workers’ Liberty: Descent into cultism

Ian Donovan assesses the current trajectory of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

Being “transnational Jewish bourgeoisie” Donovan one can imagine the angle he took on the Palestine Israel issue which divided the two groups.

Yet the vicarious-Zionist AWL has issued not one word of criticism or analysis of this ultra-reactionary phenomenon, which is one of the key, concrete manifestations of Zionism today.

He defended George Galloway,

the matter in hand is to defend Galloway against the bourgeois witch-hunt.

And,

Whether over Galloway, the question of the Iraq war, Israel-Palestine, the Socialist Alliance (where it has squandered an enormous opportunity to be joint initiators of a genuinely broad paper of a pro-party minority), the AWL is retreating headlong back into the most bizarre and unsavoury forms of sectarianism.

Our interest in this tale is waning, so I will end there, yet it remains etched on many a broken heart.

Heartfelt Plea from International Journal of Žižek Studies.

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Stop, Stranger and Ponder the Real!

Against the “campaign to erase Žižek”, his ” growing exclusion from the public media”, and the “almost unheard of personal brutality” of the attacks on him, in the interests of proletarian democracy and the completion of the sentence’s signification with its last term we publish this heartfelt appeal.” More on the International Journal of  Žižek studies here:

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "journal zizek studies"

Discerning readers may note that Jacques-Alain Miller and his mates’ “ferocious campaign ”  denouncing Žižek’  as a “fraud”  have previous,

First panic attack

In 1981, Zizek spent a year in Paris, where he met some of the thinkers whose work he had been so avidly consuming. He would return often. In 1982, however, Lacan died and his mantle passed to his son-in-law, Jacques-Alain Miller – a man who would play an important role in Zizek’s career. A former student of Althusser’s, Miller had impressed Lacan with the coherence he brought to the master’s sprawling theoretical system. While many Lacanians accuse Miller of simplifying Lacan (perish the thought!), others believe that Lacan’s posthumous reputation would not have grown without Miller’s ordering influence. A shrewd political operator, Miller was eager to expand the Lacanian empire farther than its progenitor had ever imagined. Miller taught two classes in Paris: one that was open to anyone, and an exclusive, thirty-student seminar at the École de la Cause Freudienne in which he examined the works of Lacan page by page. After a brief interview, Zizek and Dolar were invited to attend this latter class. “Miller took enormous interest in us because we came from Yugoslavia,” Dolar remembers. “We had been publishing Lacan in Problemi and Analecta for years, and he was grateful for that. He thinks very strategically and didn’t have anyone else established in Eastern Europe. To him, we were the last stronghold of Western culture on the eastern front.”

But it all ended in tears,

As the head of the main Lacanian publishing house, Miller was in a position to turn Zizek’s doctoral dissertation into a book. So, when not presenting his fabricated dreams and fantasies, Zizek would transform his sessions into de facto academic seminars to impress Miller with his keen intellect. Although Zizek successfully defended his dissertation in front of Miller, he learned after the defense that Miller did not intend to publish his thesis in book form. The following night he had his first panic attack, which had all the symptoms of a heart attack. Eventually, he placed the manuscript with the publishing house of a rival Lacanian faction.

Jacques-Alain Miller on Slavoj Žižek:

“So you remember that Freud asked himself the famous question, “What do women want?” As a man, he asked himself this question; and perhaps as a woman too. We do not have the answer, in spite of thirty years of Lacan’s teaching. We tried. So it’s not a discriminating question. I have another question, which has been troubling me for years, which is —What do Americans want?—I have the answer! A partial answer. They want Slavoj Zizek! They want the Lacan of Slavoj Zizek. They like it better than the Lacan of the Freudian Field, for the time being perhaps. The question is, do they want very definite concepts? Or do they want some room to wrangle? Some negotiating space? And that is the case with the concepts of psychoanalysis.”

from Ordinary Psychosis lacanian ink 46

Remember,

“Nowadays, you can do anything that you want—anal, oral, fisting—but you need to be wearing gloves, condoms, protection.”
― Slavoj Žižek.

And,

“In a traditional German toilet, the hole into which shit disappears after we flush is right at the front, so that shit is first laid out for us to sniff and inspect for traces of illness. In the typical French toilet, on the contrary, the hole is at the back, i.e. shit is supposed to disappear as quickly as possible. Finally, the American (Anglo-Saxon) toilet presents a synthesis, a mediation between these opposites: the toilet basin is full of water, so that the shit floats in it, visible, but not to be inspected. […] It is clear that none of these versions can be accounted for in purely utilitarian terms: each involves a certain ideological perception of how the subject should relate to excrement. Hegel was among the first to see in the geographical triad of Germany, France and England an expression of three different existential attitudes: reflective thoroughness (German), revolutionary hastiness (French), utilitarian pragmatism (English). In political terms, this triad can be read as German conservatism, French revolutionary radicalism and English liberalism. […] The point about toilets is that they enable us not only to discern this triad in the most intimate domain, but also to identify its underlying mechanism in the three different attitudes towards excremental excess: an ambiguous contemplative fascination; a wish to get rid of it as fast as possible; a pragmatic decision to treat it as ordinary and dispose of it in an appropriate way. It is easy for an academic at a round table to claim that we live in a post-ideological universe, but the moment he visits the lavatory after the heated discussion, he is again knee-deep in ideology.”
― Slavoj ŽižekThe Plague of Fantasies

In its most recent edition, this fine journal has published these indispensable works:

Toilet Humour and Ecology on the First Page of Finnegans Wake: Žižek’s Call of Nature, Answered by Joyce

Daniel Bristow

Abstract

This article draws out ecological aspects convergent on the first page of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939) and explores them through Žižek’s theoretical perspectives on humanity today and its relation to the waste and chaos that underpins the state of nature that it is reliant on; that is in relation to the Lacanian category of the Real. It does so in an attempt to bring together Joyce and Žižek (who has tended to reject the writer in his work) so as to demonstrate the theoretical possibilities that can arise out of their synthesis. The essay’s methodology is tripartite, working through a theoretical part – utilising, as well as Žižek’s ecology, Lacanian psychoanalysis and the ecosophical thought of Félix Guattari – a textual part, drawing on Joyce scholarship pertinent to the first section of the Wake, and towards a practical part, which aims to condense the work of the essay and outline a route to a possible praxis, which takes into account the real of nature.

 

What WALL-E Can Teach Us About Global Capitalism in the Age of the Anal Father

Felicia Cosey

Abstract

This article employs the animated feature film WALL-E to examine a contemporary incarnation of paternal authority, the anal father of enjoyment.  Slavoj Zizek coined the expression “anal father of enjoyment” to identify a metaphorical father who operates counter to Sigmund Freud’s oedipal (or primitive father).  Unlike the oedipal father, the anal father does not command the subject to sacrifice enjoyment as a price for entry into the social order.  Rather, the anal father directs the subject to enjoy excessively.  This article reasons that the anal father figuration is a result of global capitalism.  While a post-apocalyptic event, such as climate change, may destroy the planet, it does not end capitalism.  Yet, WALL-E suggests that with the demise of the anal father, capitalism can be replaced with an alternative economic system.

Alas, they have not published these indispensable oeuvres:

Slavoj Žižek: Trump Presidency could result in a “big awakening” and begin “new political processes.”

The leadership of ‘events’

Andrew Coates unravels Slavoj Žižek’s ‘communist hypothesis’

Slavoj Žižek: A Radical Critique. Andrew Coates.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 5, 2018 at 5:05 pm

Sara Khan Critic, Roshan M Salih (Editor of 5Pillars) Speaks on ‘Zionist infiltration of Muslim Community’.

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Roshan M Salih is Editor of British Muslim news site 5Pillars  and a journalist at the Iranian Press TV.

Salih loathes  Sara Khan the Lead Commissioner for the Home Office’s Commission for Countering Extremism..

In 2016 he asked in a diatribe titled, Sara Khan’s The Battle for British Islam: A 250 page Prevent press release

Why should Sara Khan, someone without theological credentials, be given a platform to “save her faith”? And why should she have the last word on counter-extremism when there are far more qualified people to pronounce a verdict on it?

Adding to the argument that Khan lacks theological authority Salih considered that violent racist Islamism is not the real problem.

What needs to be looked at?

Rather, it is by holistically addressing issues such as British foreign policy and state and media Islamophobia, having a much more targeted counter terrorism policy, and by working with grassroots members of the Muslim community to root out the extremists rather than people like Sara Khan who have no ability to reach them.

So “reaching out to extremists” by “grass roots” Muslims (who these are is left open, perhaps he could vet a list?) is his domestic policy, for fighting “extremism”.

In the last few days it’s without surprise 5Pillars published a raft of articles denouncing Sara Khan’s appointment….

Salih has “controversial”, some might say extremist,  views of his own.

Here he was on on the Islamist mass murders in Nice (2016),

A former Al Jazeera reporter blamed “French Islamophobia” and the nation’s foreign policy for the Nice terrorist attack that claimed at least 84 lives and injured more than 200.

Roshan M. Salih, who is currently the editor of the British Muslim news website 5Pillars, wrote several tweets in the immediate aftermath of the attack blaming France for the massacre.

France is an Islamophobic nation with a hugely destructive foreign policy and these horrible attacks are a terrible blowback,” Mr. Salih wrote in one tweet.

“West buries its head in the sand about own crimes,” Mr. Salih wrote in another. “ISIS grew out of Western invasion of Iraq and thrived in Syrian war which France supported.”

So the killers  struck at ‘France’ – the whole nation is apparently at fault for Islamophobia and its foreign policy  –  impelled by the irresistible force of ‘Blowback’.

 Press TV, (owned by the blood-stained Islamist regime of Iran), for which Salih works, was in the news yesterday for this,

Ken Livingstone went on show titled ‘Has the Holocaust been exploited to oppress others?

Saturday was International Holocaust Memorial Day – a day when people all over the world remember the six million people, mainly Jews, who were murdered at the hands of the Nazis.

However, Ken Livingstone marked the day by appearing on a show that asked: ‘Has the Holocaust been exploited to oppress others?’

The show was published on Iranian state channel Press TV’s UK YouTube channel, and invited callers to call in with their opinions.

Host Roshan Muhammed Salih repeatedly claimed the Holocaust has become ‘an industry’, while a segment in the show showed an alternative event to Holocaust Memorial Day – a more general Genocide Memorial Day – being held at the same time in London.

A number of the listeners who called in then repeated anti-Semitic tropes, with one caller saying that Hitler ‘was extremely fantastic’ for the creation of Israel.

‘If it wasn’t for Hitler there would be no Israel,’ the caller, Ali, said. ‘So this idea that Hitler was a bad guy… He wasn’t so bad for Israel! He was extremely fantastic and it was useful for the fact that Israel has been created.’

Livingstone disagreed, telling Ali that that was a ‘really bad thing to say, it’s deeply offensive to Jewish communities around the world’.

However, he then repeated his claim from last year that Hitler worked with the Zionist movement to move Jewish people to Israel.

‘I mean Hitler wanted to eliminate every Jew who was living inside Germany, and that’s what he did in the 1930s,’ the former mayor said.

He worked with the Zionist movement to move… to get 60,000 to go, but it was about half a million – and then, he changed his policy and went for genocide.’

  It comes as no surprise  that the theme of Salih’s ‘talk’ is as follows

 

As for 5Pillars, what kind of a News site is it?

This speaks for itself:  (16th of January 2018)

US and Israel plot to establish Kurdish state in Middle East.

It transpires that the active involvement of the US in destroying ISIS in western Iraq and eastern Syria was not primarily to combat terrorism, as its spokespeople have been affirming for the past three years. It was to set up – in coordination with the Israeli occupation state – a Kurdish state in the area between Iraq, Turkey and Syria that could become a permanent US military base and serve as a substitute for the nearby Incirlik base in Turkey.

The bunch at the Sunday meeting included the following:

 

This is the idea of ‘human rights’ the Islamic ‘Human Rights Commission’ (whose idea of ‘human rights’ be seen here: In 2015, IHRC gave the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo their “International Islamophobe of the Year” award less than 2 months after 12 members of staff at the magazine had been killed by Islamic extremists) talks about.

Revealed: Charity leader Nazim Ali who blamed fire tragedy on “Zionists”

Islamic Human Rights Commission’s Nazim Ali blames “Zionists” for Grenfell fire tragedy

Michel Collon, Conspiracies, Political Confusionism and…… Steve Hedley (RMT).

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Michel Collon, Conspiracy Theorist and Confusionist. 

Michel Collon is a member of the Parti du travail de Belgique  PTB (English here) and sits on its central committee. This party, which counts around 10,000 members, has 47 local councillors and 2 MPs in the Federal Parliament and a number of other representatives, and at present is said, according to opinion polls to be the second largest political force in Wallonie. It is of a ‘Marxist-Leninist” origin, that is pro-Chinese ‘Maoism’, publishing in 1994  a book in support of Stalin, Un autre regard sur Staline (éditions EPO) and supported Kim Il Sung. Since 2008 it claims to have become an “open” party, turned towards electoral campaigning as a party of the working class, with references to other European lefts from different traditions, including the Portuguese Communist Party (Parti du travail de Belgique : du maoïsme au parlementarisme ?). It’s success in the last year owes a lot to the massive corruption scandals affecting the Belgium  Parti socialiste  and the PTB’s ability to carry out grass-roots campaigns on immediate issues such as public services.

Collon has his own past which includes, “Il a participé à la conférence “anti-impérialiste” Axis for Peace, organisée en 2005 par Thierry Meyssan du Réseau Voltaire“. That is he took part in a conference held by the far-right, conspiracy (9/11 Truthers) Meyssan and the Réseau Voltaire which has been accused of anti-Semitism. It is at present, pro-Assad in Syria. In 2015  Collon claimed that the murderers of the Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper-Cacher were armed, trained and indoctrinated by French Socialist Minister Laurent Fabius as part of the war in Syria and Libya, “en réalité, ils ont été armés, formés militairement, endoctrinés par Monsieur Fabius et ses amis ; qui ont envoyé pendant trois ans des milliers, des dizaines de milliers de frères Kouachi, faire encore pire qu’à Charlie, en Syrie et en Libye. ” (Michel Collon sur les attentats de Charlie Hebdo : « les frères Kouachi ont été armés par Fabius »).

In his most recent book Collon has nevertheless attacked the conspiracy theories Alain Soral, on the grounds that Soral does not understand the mechanisms of capitalism behind these affairs. (Pourquoi Soral séduit  2017). It goes almost without saying that he is a writer for RT (Russia Today) defending Putin’s regime against US plots to demonise the state. (A quoi sert la diabolisation de la Russie ?)

Collon now runs a web site, InvestigAction (founded in 2004) which publishes in French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish and (American) English. It is a classic “conspi” site, whose aim is as follows, “Investig’Action’s mission is to provide an alternative point of view about the world news and denounce medias’ lies.

 This is from their mission statement,

How did the Western media cover the various wars that followed the first Gulf war? Are there similarities regarding the way the media covered each of these events? Are there major “war propaganda” principles? Yes, there are.

 Hiding the interests. Our governments fight for human rights, peace, or whatever noble ideal it might be. A war should never be presented as a conflict between divergent economic and social interests.Each war must be preceded by a spectacularly big media lie in order to win public support. And after that, keeping on demonizing the enemy, especially by showing continually pictures of atrocities the latter committed.Hiding History. Hiding the historical facts and geography of the region, making local conflicts that are stirred, or even provoked by the Great Powers themselves, incomprehensible. Organizing the amnesia. Avoiding any serious reminder of past cases of media manipulation – it might make the public too suspicious.

Without tiring the reader this is an example of their approach to the popular protests in Iran,

Q: Why do you think the western countries are trying to use people against Iran and not use military force? What is the difference?.

Followed by,

Iran: Surviving another attack supported from abroad

Venezuela,

Western Journalists Threaten Venezuela.

North Korea, (Robert Charvin).

In spite of everything, and paying the price for it, the People’s Republic of Korea has remained sovereign, counting only on its own capacities, creating a spirit of uncompromising resistance to this day, blending in its ideology Marxism and Confucianism, in which journalists from the great Western press do not have the least bit interest.

I think we can guess before reading what their views on Israel and Zionism are.

But here it is, (November 2017)

Two stories reported by Haaretz on Wednesday underscore the unchanging goal of Zionism: the destruction of the Palestinians as a people and as viable communities, and the theft of their land for exclusively Jewish colonial settlement.

The site has received numerous criticisms from the French speaking left including this,  Michel Collon, un militant de la confusion ! (2014) which amongst other descriptions in the same vein calls it an “une imposture journalistique”. Ornella Guyet notes that Collon has attended events, alongside figures from the far-right,  to support the following, “Mouammar Kadhafi et de Bachar Al-Assad”.

Steve Hedley is a former member of the Socialist Party (resigned in 2013).  He is Senior Assistant General Secretary of RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers. An active campaigner for leaving the European Union he attended the ‘European’ Rally of the small Trotskyist party, the Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique (POID) in May 2016.

He has now found another odd far-left  crew to talk to, Investig’Action.

Brexit, Corbyn and trade unions: interview with Steve Hedley (January the 14th 2018).

Responding to the question as to why he and his union are against the Eu Hedley replies.

Very simply, because the European Union was and is a rich man’s club. It was set up as a bulwark against the Soviet Union. NATO was the military arm and the European Union was the economic arm. It’s a trading bloc that is competing against other trading blocs. If you look at the history of the European Union, it has free movement of capital, free movement of labour, and a neoliberal economy written into the treaties. Therefore to be part of the European Union is to accept all of those things.

More grist to the mill of Collon’s conspi site.

 

Jon Lansman, Tony Greenstein, Ann Black and Christine Shawcroft.

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Left NEC Success.

In Patrick Cockburn’s Chaos and Caliphate: Jihadis and the West in the struggle for the Middle East (2016) the author compares the effects of the multiple civil wars in the Middle East to the mass murders, ethnic and religious cleanings that followed the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and the history of Eastern Europe in the decade after 1939. Hundreds of thousands have died, murders have culminated in  acts of genocide, whole communities have been uprooted – the fate of the Christians and other non-Muslim minorities is dire,  Shia and Sunni sectarian battles rage, the Kurds are (again, today) menaced by Turkey, and there are millions of refugees. Governments routinely use torture. Daesh, is still around, after having, as Cockburn puts it, tried to create an Islamic ‘Khmer Rouge” state.

Despite this, or perhaps because of this, some people on the left continue to consider that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians  is the central international issue the Labour Party should be taking up, not only in the region, but  globally.

This has reverberated to damaging effect inside the Labour Party. Apart from a hyper-sensitivity – given the gravity of the some of the language and images ‘Anti-Zionists’ have employed against Israel, an understandable reaction –  there are those who wish to bring alongside Corbyn’s success their own overwhelming interest in promoting the hardline anti-Zionist side on the issue.

Militant anti-Zionism is contentious, it avoids confronting the apocalyptic destruction that is happening right now in Syria and Iraq, not to mention Yemen and elsewhere.

It is divisive, and promoted, no doubt by a minority, as such.

Such a reaction came with the results of Labour’s NEC and particularly with this from one of the dividers, Tony Greenstein,

The witch-hunting of socialists under the bogus pretext of anti-Semitism, i.e. opponents of the world’s only Apartheid state, Israel, is coming to an end in the Labour Party.

Greenstein, considers that the religious and sexual apartheid of states and militias inspired by varieties of Islamism and the mass killings taking place in the region  unworthy of his attention.

He is clear about own thing, and indeed yelps with joy at it, above all the attention he has received in the wake of a result to which he contributed nothing,

A Momentous Day for Democracy as Chief Witch-hunter, Ann Black is sacked

Christine Shawcroft is a good socialist and she has stuck up for her principles in the past, notably over her support for Lutfur Rahman, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets.

No doubt Greenstein, revelling in this “success” forgets this (Jewish Chronicle 2016),

Mr Lansman says there is no reason why Zionist Labour supporters cannot find a place in the Corbyn Labour Party.

“I have Zionist friends in the party. Jeremy supports the existence of Israel, he wants peace and co-existence. Why should Israel supporters not have a place in Labour? Of course they should. I’ve been arguing for two states long before it was acceptable within the Jewish community to argue for two states.

Many will agree with this. A critical stand towards the Israeli government, and backing for – however difficult it may seem at present, a comprise two state solution. This is not the militant anti-Zionist view which is against the existence of  Israel.

In his jouissance Greenstein may have equally forgotten this,  (Jewish Chronicle December 26th 2017), another interview with Jon Lansman,

He described Mr Greenstein – a Jewish anti-Zionist who has been suspended from the party over comments he made about Jewish MP Louise Ellman – as “probably the rudest person I know in politics. He says many offensive things, most of the time”.

On the NEC elections like many people I am happy with the result – not least because the candidates I voted for won.

I am not happy that Ann Black is no longer chair – the details of her politics and decisions are less important than that she is a respected person (I was part of the original Grassroots Alliance that backed her). She has stood up to supporters of Tony Blair in the past. Ann is particularly liked for having kept in close contact with ordinary members during her service on the NEC.

Christine has many good qualities but like many people I have concerns – illustrated not just by her support for the anti-Labour Lutfur Rahman (and the involvement of her close allies with this individual)  but also  her own split as part of the ‘Original’ Labour Briefing with the ‘LRC’ Labour Briefing (Labour Briefing… and now there are two). Her qualifications for the role as the neutral chair of the Disputes Panel do not look promising.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 18, 2018 at 1:20 pm

Syria, Hasna al-Hariri: Will the Left Speak Out Against Assad’s Tortures and Rapes?

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Assad’s Prisons: It is hard to get out alive from this place. In the corridors you see heaps of corpses.

The Stop the War Coalition’s official position on Syria is the following,

1. The STWC has never supported the Assad regime. Just as we never supported the Taliban, Saddam Hussein or Colonel Gaddafi. Only in the minds of ‘them or us’ pretend patriots does the opposition to our own government’s wars mean support for dictators or terrorists. Our case has always been that war will worsen the problem and not solve it. We were right in that analysis in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

2. The STWC has never supported Russian intervention in Syria and issued a statement opposing the bombing as soon as it began.

3. The STWC does believe that it is the people of Syria who are the only ones who should decide the fate of their country free of all great power and regional power interference.

4. The STWC is utterly opposed to the IS as a totally reactionary and, in the Arab Spring, counter revolutionary force.

5. The STWC believes that the invasion and dismemberment of Iraq, and western support for Saudi Arabia, were and are instrumental in the creation of the IS.

6. The STWC does not support calls for western invention, including an air war to establish a no fly zone, whether those calls emanate from Syrian exiles or anyone else, just as we did not support such calls from anti-Taliban or anti Saddam Afghans or Iraqis. Syrians do not all speak with one voice but many are opposed to western bombing.

At the end of the declaration is this:

The STWC concentrates on campaigning against UK government policy because this is where we are citizens and voters. No one else can change UK government policy but a movement in this country. But of course we support anti-war movements in other countries who, rightly, are focussed on opposing their own governments. This is how genuine internationalism work

It is a very narrow take on “internationalism” that excludes the duty to come to the aid of people suffering the brutality of,  which is too often ignored on the left, the Assad regime.

That this is not just the result of the actions of the ISIS genociders or the result of bombing by outside forces is clear.

This was published in Le Monde last week: « En Syrie, le viol était le maître mot »

It is, to say the least, a harrowing account of the  tortures carried out by Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.

The full article is behind a pay-wall (or in the print edition, where it takes up a full page).

In the main section Hasna Al-Hariri,  54 years old, talks of the cruelty to which prisoners are subjected, a long calvary of horror.

Women, raped, later give birth amid ” la crasse, les poux, les infections, à même le sol”, filth, lice, infection and the soil.

Victims who are released have been shunned as ‘dishonoured’.

LesInrocks rightly says, the account by “freezes your blood”.

Enfants nés de viols, tortures, humiliations : une survivante raconte l’enfer des prisons de Bachar Al-Assad.

L’Echo published this letter to Hasna Al-Hariri,

Votre mari a été assassiné en essayant de vous libérer de prison contre une grosse somme d’argent. Vous avez été emprisonnée trois fois, pendant de longs mois. Pendant vos détentions dans ces centres de “renseignement”, vous avez été torturée. Vous avez été violée. Vous avez vu des femmes, de 55 ans, de 40 ans, de 25 ans se faire violer. Vous avez vu des adolescentes se faire violer. Vous avez vu des petites filles de 13 ans se faire violer. Vous avez vu une enfant de 13 ans se faire violer devant sa maman.

Vous avez aidé à la naissance de cinquante bébés. Vous avez vu mourir dix bébés. Vous avez vu mourir cinq mamans. Vous n’aviez aucun matériel pour ces accouchements, pas un drap, pas un essuie, pas un seul bout de tissu, pas même d’eau.

 

Your husband was murdered trying to free you from prison with a large bribe. You have been imprisoned 3 times, during many long months. During your time in gaol in the “investigation” centres you were tortured. You were raped. You have seen women, 55 years old, 40 years old, 25 years old, violated. You have seen adolescents raped. You have seen young women of 13 years old being raped. You saw a child of 13 years old being violated in front of her mother.

You have helped 50 babies be born. You have seen 10 babies die. You have seen 5 mothers die. You had no material to help with these births, no towels, no  wipes, not a shred of a tissue, not even water.

The letter continues,

Vous avez vu une jeune femme qui avait ses règles. Pleine de sang. Vos geôliers lui ont jeté des rats. Les rats lui ont dévoré l’entrejambe. Elle est morte.

You saw a young woman having her period. She was covered with blood. Your gaolers threw rats on her. The rates ate her crotch. She died.

I stop there, it is already distressing.

This discuss the documentary, Syrie, le cri étouffé, revealing the horrors to which women are subject in Assad’s prisons, and  which forms the basis for these articles.

 

This is the only account I can find in English.

Atem Al Zinzaneh (Darkness of Jail)

Hasna al-Hariri—the mother of martyrs, or Syria’s Khansa’ [traditional heroic Arab female symbol of stoic heroism], as she likes to be known—is a 65 year-old lady and Syrian Revolution activist since its inception in 2011 from Deraa. She is today’s Atem al-Zinzaneh’s guest.

Hasna never for one day expected that either the regime or the Syrian army would shoot, for the mere cause of Deraa’s people asking for their detained children. She never imagined that they would abuse Deraa’s elders, or their wives and honor. This was the main reason behind her own participation in the Revolution. She was arrested for the first time in May 2011—for attempting to bring medicine, bread, and food to children during the siege of Deraa—in the Deraa branch of military security.

Hasna tells of seeing Hezbollah men inside the branch in May 2011. She personally saw Hussein Hamiyyeh, an officer of the Lebanese Hizbollah. Investigations then centered on the extent of Israel’s, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s, role in financing the demonstrations. Hasna was surprised how they would think of foreign intervention—but not at all care for the injustice to which Syrian citizens are subjected. She was arrested for a second time with her daughter Bushra at the 12th Brigade of the Syrian army, then transferred to the Deraa military security branch.

Hasna al-Hariri remember that rape cases in the branch were perpetrated by Brigadier General Abu Habib in the Suweida branch; and by Brigadier Wafiq Nasser, Captains Zuhair al-Ali and Abdullah Amoury, and officer Rawad in Deraa. She tells of incidences of sexual assault of both males and females inside the military security branch; in addition to forcing them to sexually assault one another. She also mentions the killing of more than one hundred and twenty young men, whose blood flowed to reach the women’s prison dormitories.

More on the crimes of the Assad regime:  Syria Solidarity Campaign.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 11, 2017 at 1:19 pm