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Labour’s Great Leap Forward.

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Labour’s Great Leap Forward.

The 2017 Labour Party Conference was a success. Above all a series of policy decisions, on ending PFI, re-establishing public ownership of key sectors, rail and utilities, represents the first serious challenge to the regulative stand that has dominated European social democracy since the 1980s. It strikes at the neoliberal principle that as far as possible the functions of the national and local state should be hived off to private enterprise. Decisions in favour of union rights replace the idea that the workplace is a place of creative energy with only accidental conflict that can be sorted out with a minimum of legislation. Government intervention in the economy has been re-established as a principle. Taxation will be rebalanced in favour of the less-well off. The Health Service will be regenerated, free of the burden of hived-off services.

Labour has taken the first steps towards refounding social democracy and democratic socialism within a common framework. That is to bring together the aspiration for Crossland’s more just form of distribution (The Future of Socialism. 1956) with the long-standing socialist commitment to public ownership and an end to the “automatism of the competitive capitalist economy” that Aneurin Bevan advocated (In Place of Fear. 1952) One can only hope that new policies for social security, afflicted by the disaster that is Universal Credit, at present a site under construction, will receive the same attention.

The New Synthesis and its Limits.

Labour has not resolved its divisions on Europe, making claims about a new consensus – after a vote on the issue, including Free Movement – was avoided. Ideas that the EU would forbid public ownership, even that the presence of migrant workers – whether used by employers or not – is a problem were floated by the leadership.

The claim that competition regulations automatically rule out all forms of public ownership is clearly false, as this article indicates, Nationalisation Is Not Against EU Law. The associated theory, that a sovereign Parliament under Labour control will be freer to make its own economic policies under Brexit, remains. The view that ‘market forces”, in the shape of holders of government bonds, pounds, banks and financial institutions, will weaken in a country outside the EU is not widely held. It is unlikely that the “deep state” of international capitalism is kinder, or more open to influence, than the pooled sovereignty of the European Union.

The other element in Labour’s ‘synthesis’ between different strands of left thinking, human rights, is represented in the stand taken against anti-Semitism. Its persistence on the fringes has to be confronted. Controversy will continue on international issues, with a small, but entrenched, section of the party convinced of the merits of backing any enemy of the West.

The regeneration of the party has been accompanied by the growth of Momentum, a significant influence of Labour delegates. This has brought to the fore newer ideas, which some trace to the ‘alter-globalisation’ movements of the 21st century’s first decade. Perhaps some Momentum activists are influenced by “intersectionality” (drawing together a variety of fights against oppression) and a leading figure from that time, invited to their Conference event, Naomi Klein and her commitment to the Leap Manifesto, a  call for “energy democracy”, “Caring for the Earth”and restoration, in Canada, to the “original caretakers of this land” (No is not enough. 2017). Others on the European left make a more general point. For Christophe Aguiton the network has helped Labour regenerate, capturing within its own structures the kind of social discontent about austerity and radical politics associated with Podemos in Spain. (La Gauche du 21e Siècle .2017)

Labour’s mind will now turn to electoral strategy. Some will be concerned with gaining support amongst those, often Northern and working class, who backed Brexit. Influenced by David Goodhart’s distinction between “anywheres” and “somewheres” Labour should now concentrate on winning over the rooted, provincial electorate, disaffected with both austerity and cultural change, the ‘left behinds’ who reject the “metropolitan elite”. (The Road to Somewhere. The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics 2017). To some left-wingers this tallies with a version of identity politics, in which working class culture, embodying virtue, resists cosmopolitan liberalism – the EU. This electorate is “more real” than, say, the Canterbury students who helped get a Labour MP into Parliament in a Tory safe seat. That layers of the Somewheres have cast their ballots for UKIP may perhaps explain the Conference declarations against migrant workers.

Left blocs. 

Bruno Amable and Stefano Palombarini deal with dilemmas for the French left many of which echo these issues, L’illusion du Bloc bourgeois (2017). Written in the run up this year’s Presidential election the authors race the steady erosion of the social ‘bloc’ which tied together the electorate of the French left, public sector workers and the working class.

Amable and Palombarini trace how the interests of this bloc, in workers’ rights, social protection, raising living standards, all enveloped in policies of state intervention, were eroded by successive ‘Socialist’ (that is, Parti Socialiste) led governments since the mid-1980s. The 1983-4 ‘turn’ to market driven policies, under the Mitterrand Presidency, was marked by the ideology “modernisation” which projected onto the construction of Europe the domestic priority for liberalising the economy. It weakened their base, undoing the assent for the party.

This modernising turn shook up workplace relations, gave priority to ‘flexibility’, greater power to financial markets, and has had a direct impact on people’s lives, their career paths, their job security, and sapped their ability to negotiate better terms and conditions. Rather than cultural shock at the ‘new’ – reactions to greater social liberalisation, and to immigration – has eaten away at left support. In other words, it’s not that the ‘Somewheres’ (known in French as ‘la France périphérique). are reactionary, they cannot recognise themselves in a political party – or electoral alliance – which does not meet their goals. The fate of the PS, reduced to dust in this year’s elections, is the result of a long process in which their leadership has failed to listen to their voice, and objective needs. 

Modernisers.

That British ‘modernisers’ around Tony Blair appealed to ‘globalisation’ rather than the European Project illustrates that the EU is not the convenient target for all the faults of neoliberalism that some suggest. Blair’s own strategists, less worried about left-wing competitors than the French PS, and keenly aware of Labour’s monopoly of the left-voting working class, found their own worker figure. This was the “aspirational” worker discussed by Philip Gould, as well as by Roger Liddle and Peter Mandelson (The Unfinished Revolution. 1998, The Blair Revolution. 1996).Labour could only secure of a majority for its own ‘left bloc’ by reaching beyond its traditionally organised workers, public and private, to this electoral pool. Seemingly unconcerned with the less attractive effects of flexibilisation and marketisation, these figure were to be equipped with new skills to compete on the “global market”. The welfare state was resigned to be a ‘launch pad’ for employment, not a ‘safe home’ for the causalities of capitalism, or for those in need, the basic right for all for a decent life. That we now see people in absolute poverty living on our streets shows the way this has turned out. 

Yet the result appears the same. After the 2008 Banking Crash the appeal of unfettered markets waned; the ‘bloc’ behind Third Way modernisation cracked. There was not enough money, apparently, around to shore up the remaining public and organised union base, while the ‘aspirational’ workers looked to those who embraced austerity wholeheartedly. Not surprisingly, as Amable and Palombarini, argue for France, a real problem is that the section of the base which has been shaped by the opportunities which better social protection, the welfare state, social security, abstains.

In France there have been efforts to rebuild the ‘left bloc’ around the ‘Sovereigntist’ (reasserting French national state power over the EU) or ‘Left Populist’ line of federating the People against the Oligarchs. The nature and the future of this attempt, around the figure of Jan-Luc Mélenchon, is not our concern here, except to note that half-hearted populist efforts by Labour leaders to evoke populist themes, which draw on “resentment” at oligarchical – business and financial – power have not been met with success.

Labour’s Path.

Labour’s strategy sets out a different path. It is already a movement, with trade union, large constituency parties, and deep roots in civil society. It is not an appeal to an abstract ‘construction’ the people, or heavily dependent on a Web network. It is policies that are developed for, and by these constituencies that Labour needs to win. Two themes stand out: social ownership and equality. They are shaping into a framework that could take them up. That is to expresses both the social democratic goal of “society protecting itself” (Karl Polanyi), and the radical aspiration for democratic ownership, and that the workplace becomes a place where people have rights and are not the objects of flexible markets. Both point, it hardly needs saying, to far more radical changes to come.

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Written by Andrew Coates

September 28, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Labour to Adopt New Rules to Fight Anti-Semitism.

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This Blog is amongst those who consider that anti-Semitism is a problem.

It has become increasingly to the fore as what our French comrades call “political confusionism” has infected a part of the left. This ranges from those who adopt the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’, that is taking the attitude that Israel is the major threat in world politics, and that ‘anti-imperialists’ have to align with the opponents of ‘Zionism’ to outright anti-Jewish individuals.

A range of political belief, parties and groups, centred on the belief that the state of Israel is the legitimate expression of Jewish national aspirations, without necessarily agreeing on the actions of that state, or its policies, is always referred to as “Zionism”, without qualification.

It is possible to be opposed to this from many standpoints.

We could start with the position of Hannah Arendt, who for all her distance from orthodox socialism,  has deeply influenced a whole part of the left, including the writer of this Blog.

Arendt had been a tireless advocate for Jewish victims and for the existence of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine, but she envisioned the homeland as a federated, pluralistic, democratic, secular state — a homeland for Palestinians and Jews coexisting peacefully as neighbours without an official state religion. This may seem a pipe dream now, but in early Zionism this was called the “general” view. The “revisionist” view that Israel must be a Jewish state and a homeland only for Jews did not come to dominate the discourse until the end of World War II, when the Holocaust was revealed in its full terror and destruction.

Arendt’s statement, ” to a principled liberal, truth and justice must always be higher values than patriotism.” applies a fortiori  to socialists.

We do not share her latter belief in the overwhelming  virtues of citizenship wedded to national sovereignty for the following reasons:

  •  internationalists who are against nationalism, or putting the interests of one ‘people’ first, rather than universal interests, would be opposed to  movements that give priority to a nation,  even if few would be so childish as to deny people’s self-defined right to form a state that is national.
  •  one can oppose the specific forms of nationalism that various Zionist groups and parties have taken – that is the founding moment of Israel as a territory, state and administration.  Arendt
  • Many more people may be against specific policies, such as the occupation of the West Bank the failure to reach agreements with the Palestinians to the legislation inside Israel that favours one section of the community over the other.

Put simply, we can criticise Israel from the standpoint of universal values.

Those who are dedicated to fighting for the national rights of the Palestinians and yet who oppose the existential right of Israel, that is its existence, seem in a poor position to criticise the nationalist premise of Israel.

For reasons many of us find hard to grasp Israel is considered as the embodiment of evil, far outclassing the threats posed by, say, Assad, the genocidal Islamists of ISIS, the ethnic cleansers of Burma, the murderous armed bands at work in Central Africa, and, so it goes.

Modern-day anti-semitism is often mixed in with self-descriptions as Anti-Zionism, as in the French based Parti anti-Sioniste, which finds evidence of Zionist activity even in Algeria: “It seems that Algeria is still under increased supervision and threat from US-ZIONISTS as shown by the recent seizure of spy equipment at Algeria’s airport in a flight from Qatar.” In 2012 these ‘anti-Zionists” stood Holocaust denier the ‘humoriste Dieudonné ” as a candidate in legislative elections.

That indicates clearly that while we agree wholly that anti-Zionism -is not in itself at all  anti-Semitic, many anti-Semites call themselves anti-Zionist.

With this in mind we look at the following:

The Labour Party has reached this decision:

Labour is to adopt tough new rules to tackle antisemitism following a heated debate at the party’s annual conference, but some activists have accused the party of policing “thought crime”.

The change comes after Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, pledged that the party would investigate how it gave a platform at a conference fringe event to a speaker, Miko Peled, who said people should be allowed to question whether the Holocaust happened.

Senior Labour figures will hope that the passing of the rule change on Tuesday will send a signal that the party is prepared to get tough on anti-Jewish hate speech within its ranks.

The rule change proposed by the Jewish Labour Movement, which has been backed by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the party’s national executive committee, will tighten explicitly the party’s stance towards members who are antisemitic or use other forms of hate speech, including racism, Islamophobia, sexism and homophobia.

Momentum, the grassroots leftwing group that has been Corbyn’s key support base, told delegates in its daily alert on Tuesday that they should vote in favour of the motion. The majority of the delegates at this year’s conference are aligned with Momentum; the group’s backing for the rule change means it is highly likely to pass.

Although the majority of Labour members are expected to back the amendment, there was heated debate after the change was proposed in the conference hall.

Delegate Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, who chaired the controversial fringe event on Monday night, was one of those who spoke against the rule change.

Wimborne-Idrissi, one of the founders of the anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Labour, said she was concerned the change referenced the “holding of beliefs” as opposed to expressing them. “Holding them? That’s thought crime, comrades, and we can’t be having it,” she said.

Hastings and Rye delegate Leah Levane also attacked the JLM’s change, saying the group did not speak for all Jews in the party.

Levane’s local party had proposed an alternative change, which described anti-Zionism as “legitimate political discourse” that should not be taken as evidence of hatred of Jews, but it said she would withdraw this because “the pressure is too great … We are not going to be risk being seen as the splitters”.

This row remains live:

The party was engulfed in an antisemitism row on the morning of the rule change debate, after remarks by Peled, an Israeli-American author, at an event on free speech and Israel. The Daily Mail reported that he said: “This is about free speech, the freedom to criticise and to discuss every issue, whether it’s the Holocaust: yes or no, Palestine, the liberation, the whole spectrum. There should be no limits on the discussion.

“It’s about the limits of tolerance: we don’t invite the Nazis and give them an hour to explain why they are right; we do not invite apartheid South Africa racists to explain why apartheid was good for the blacks, and in the same way we do not invite Zionists – it’s a very similar kind of thing.”

At the same meeting the Daily Mirror reports,

During the discussion, Michael Kalmanovitz, a member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, said the claims were part of a right-wing effort to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and the left.

He went on to call for two pro-Israeli groups to be expelled from the party.

He said: “The thing is, if you support Israel, you support apartheid. So what is the JLM (Jewish Labour Movement) and Labour Friends of Israel doing in our party? Kick them out.”

Loud cheers, applause and calls of “throw them out” erupted in the room of around a hundred activists in response.

The Guardian continues,

Watson said Labour’s conference organising committee would investigate how Peled had been given a seat on a panel at the event.

“I’m sure these allegations from the fringe, which is nothing to do with the Labour party, will be investigated,” he said. “It is disgusting to deny the Holocaust. These people are cranks, they have no role in the mainstream of politics and we certainly don’t want them in the Labour party.”

Watson said antisemitism “has always been there on the fringes … But it is a very small number of people in our society, if they get involved in the Labour party we want them out”.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, also condemned Peled’s remarks and gave his backing to the rule change. “I hope the conference votes for that motion because we should have absolute zero tolerance when it comes to the quite disgusting and pitiful antisemitism that sadly we’re sometimes seeing on social media these days,” he said.

A party spokesman said: “Labour condemns antisemitism in the strongest possible terms and our national executive committee unanimously passed tough new rule changes last week. All groupings in the party should treat one another with respect. We will not tolerate antisemitism or Holocaust denial.”

Responding to the row in a series of tweets Peled said he did not deny the Holocaust, and suggested that Watson and Ashworth were confusing freedom of speech with antisemitism

“Oh boy! … free speech is now antisemitism too… @UKLabour should know better” he said in one tweet.

 He followed this with the following comment, referring to the ‘Holocaust’ of Global Warming,

Written by Andrew Coates

September 26, 2017 at 5:02 pm

La Fabrique du Musulman. Nedjib Sidi Moussa: ‘Manufacturing Muslims’.

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La Fabrique du Musulman. Nedjib Sidi Moussa. Libertalia. 2017.

In the wake of the Tower Hamlets foster care furore Kenan Malik has written of the “inadequacy of all sides to find an adequate language through which to speak about questions concerning Muslims and Islam.” (Observer. 3.9.17) This inability to talk seriously about these issues as shown in the prejudiced press coverage, risks, Kenan argues, shutting down criticism of outing people in “cultural or faith boxes” and “blurring the distinction between bigotry against Muslims and criticisms of Islam”.

La Fabrique du Musulman (Manufacturing Muslims) is an essay on very similar dilemmas about “La Question des Musulmans” in French political debate. Moussa tackles both the “box” theory of faith and culture, and efforts by those taken by the “anti-imperialism of fools” to align with the “petite bourgeoisie islamique” and form alliances with Islamist organisations starting with the issue of ‘Zionism’. In 147 pages the author does not just outline the left’s political bewilderment faced with the decomposition of the classical working class movement. He pinpoints the “confusionnisme” which has gone with its attempts to grapple with the problems of discrimination against minorities in the Hexagone – its relations with forces with ideologies far from Marxism or any form of democratic socialism.

Indigènes, Race War and the US left. 

Moussa is the binational son of revolutionaries who supported Messali Hadj in the Algerian War of National Liberation. As the offspring of those who backed the losing side in a war that took place before independence, between the Messalists and the victorious FLN, who will not be accepted as French, he announces this to underline that he does not fit into a neat ‘anti-colonial’ pigeonhole (Page 11). He  examines the roots and the difficulties created by the replacement of the figure of the ‘Arab’ by that of the ‘Muslim’. Furthermore, while he accepts some aspects of ‘intersectionality”, that is that there many forms of domination to fight, he laces the central importance of economic exploitation tightly to any “emancipatory perspective” rather than the heritage of French, or other European imperialism. (Page 141).

La Fabrique is an essay on the way the “social question” has become dominated by religious and racial issues (Essai sur la confessionnalisation et la racialisation de la question sociale). The argument of the book is that the transition from the identity of Arab and other minorities in France from sub-Saharan Africa to that of ‘Muslim’ has been helped by political complicity of sections of the French left of the left in asserting this ‘heritage’. In respects we can see here something like an ‘anti-imperialist’ appropriation of Auguste-Maurice Barrès’ concept of “la terre et les morts”, that people are defined by their parents’ origins, and fixed into the culture, whether earthly or not. This, with another conservative view, on the eternity of race struggle, trumping class conflict, has melded with various types of ‘post-colonial’ thought. This is far from the original “social question” in which people talked about their exploitation and  positions in the social structure that drew different identities together as members of a class and sought to change the material conditions in which they lived.

In demonstrating his case La Fabrique is a critique of those opponents of the New World Order but who who take their cultural cue from American enemies of the “Grand Satan” and descend into ‘racialism’.  (Page 18 – 19) In this vein it can be compared with the recent article, “American Thought” by Juraj Katalenac on the export of US left concepts of “whiteness” as a structure of oppression reflecting the legacy of slavery (Intellectual imperialism: On the export of peculiarly American notions of race, culture, and class.) No better examples of this could be found than Moussa’s targets –  former Nation of Islam supporter Kémi Séba, “panfricanist” and founder of Tribu Ka, condemned for anti-Semitism, and a close associate of the far right, recently back in the news for burning African francs, and the Parti des indigènes de la République (PIR).

The PIR’s spokesperson Houria Bouteldja, offers a picture of the world in imitation of US Black Power lacing, in his best known text, diatribes against Whiteness (Blanchité) and laments for the decline in Arab virility, more inspired by Malcolm X and James Baldwin than by the nuances of Frantz Fanon. In the struggle for the voice of the indigenous she affirms a belief that commemorating the memory of the Shoah is, for whites, the “the bunker of abstract humanism”, while anti-Zionism is the “space for an historic conformation between us and the whites”. Bouteldja is fêted in Berkley and other ‘post-colonial’ academic quarters, and given space in the journal of what passes for the cutting edge of the US left, Jacobin. (1)

La Fabrique outlines the sorry history of the PIR, highlighting rants against integration, up the point that Bouteldja asserts that the wearing the veil means “I do not sleep with whites” (Page 51). The discourse on promoting ‘race’ is, Moussa, is not slow to indicate, in parallel to the extreme right picture of ‘racial war’. He cites the concept of “social races” offered by Tunisian exile and former Trotskyist, Sadri Khiari on a worldwide struggle between White Power and Indigenous Political Power (“Pouvoir Blanc et la Puissance politique indigène”) (Pages 60 – 61). Moussa notes, is the kind of ideology behind various university-based appeals to “non-mixité”, places where in which races do not mix. One can only rejoice that Khiari has not fused with Dieudonné and Soral, and – we may be proved wrong – no voice on the left France yet talks of a “transnational Jewish bourgeoisie” to complement the picture, and demand that Jews have their own special reservations in the non-mixed world.

Many of the themes tackled in La Fabrique are specifically French. Britain, for example, has nothing resembling the concept of laïcité, either the recognition of open universalism, or of the more arid arch-republicanism that has come to the fore in recent years. The attempts at co-operation, or more formal alliances with Islamists, and the sections on various moves, between opportunism and distance of those in and around the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (MPA),  intellectuals of the ‘left of the left’,  and the ambiguities of Alternative Libertaire on the issues, though important in a domestic context, are not of prime interest to an international audience. (2) Other aspects have a wider message. The convergence between ‘Complotiste’, conspiracy theories, laced with anti-Semitism, circulating on the extreme-right and amongst reactionary Muslims, finding a wider audience (the name Alain Soral and the Site, Egalité et Reconciliation crops up frequently), including some circles on the left, merits an English language investigation. There are equally parallels with the many examples of ‘conservative’ (reactionary) Muslims who, from the campaign against Gay Marriage and equality education (“la Manif pour tous”), have become politically involved in more traditional right-wing politics, and the beurgeois, the prosperous Islamic market for Halal food and drinks. 

Islamogauchistes.

In one area there is little doubt that we in ‘Anglo-Saxon’ countries (a term in the book that jars), that is the English speaking world, will find the account of alliances between sections of the left and Islamists familiar, So familiar indeed that the names of the Socialist Workers Party, Respect and the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) are placed at the centre of the debate about these agreements, from the 2002, 2007 Cairo Conferences Against US and Zionist Occupation (Page 74), attended also by Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), to the definition of Islamophobia offered by the Runnymede Trust (Page 87).

If one can criticise Moussa in this area it is not because he does not discuss the details of the failure of the SWP and the forces in Respect and the StWC have failed to carry out Chris Harman’s strategy of being “with the Islamists” against the State. The tactic of being their footstools collapsed for many reasons, including, the SWP’s Rape Crisis, the farce of Respect under George Galloway, and was doomed in the Arab Winter not just after the experience of MB power in Egypt, Ghannouchi and Ennahda in Tunisia and, let us not forget but when the Syrian uprising pitted the Muslim Brotherhood against Assad, Daesh was born, and the British left friends of ‘reformist’ Islamism lapsed into confusion. If the Arab ‘patrimonial states’ remain the major problem, there is a growing consensus (outside of groupuscules like Counterfire) on the British left that actually existing Islamist parties and movements are “deeply reactionary”. (3)

To return to our introduction: how can we talk about Islam and Muslims? We can, Moussa suggests, do without the use of the term ‘Islamophobia’ to shout down criticism of the ‘sacred’. The tendency of all religious believers to consider that their ideas make them better than everybody else and in need of special recognition cannot be left unchallenged. They need, “libre examen…contre les vérités révélés, pour l’émancipation et contre l’autorité”, free investigation against revealed truths, for emancipation against authority (Page 143). There should never be a question of aligning with Islamists. But systemic discrimination, and economic exploitation remain core issues. It is not by race war or by symbolic academic struggles over identity that these are going to be resolved. La Fabrique, written with a clarity and warmth that gives heart to the reader. Whether all will follow La Fabrique and turn to the writings of Socialisme ou Barbarie and the Internationale situationniste to find the tools for our emancipation remains to be seen. But we can be sure that in that “voie” we will find Moussa by our side.

*****

(1) Pages 66 – 67, Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous. Houria Bouteldja. La Fabrique. 2016. In discussing Fanon few who read him can ignore his sensitive complexity. For example, did not just discuss the ‘fear’ of Black sexuality amongst whites, but the dislike of North Africans for “les hommes de couleur”, as well as efforts by the French to divide Jews, Arab and Blacks. Page 83. Peau noire masques blancs. Frantz Fanon. Editions du Seuil. 1995.

(2  La Fabrique du musulman » : un défaut de conception. Alternative Libertarire. Droit de réponse : « La Fabrique du musulman », une publicité gratuite mais mensongère. Alternative Libertaire.

(3) See on the history of the period, Morbid Symptoms. Relapse in the Arab Uprisings. Gilbert Achcar. Saqi Books. 2016.

When the Tory Students and British State Backed the Islamist Mujahidin – Secret Affairs. Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam. Mark Curtis.

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Federation of Conservative Students in the 1980s.

With Activate making a splash (We warned CCHQ that something like ‘Activate’ would happen) people may recall these campaigns the Tory yoof backed in the 1980s.

In addition to supporting no-holds-barred privatisation, controversial positions embraced included the support for American intervention in GrenadaRENAMO, the UNITA rebels in Angola, and the Contras in Nicaragua.[14] “Hang Nelson Mandela” slogans[17] were apparently worn by some leading members.

In the case of their support for the Mujahdin in Afghanistan there is a lot of background to fill in.

Training in Terrorism: Britain’s Afghan Jihad

This is an edited extract from Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam

Mark Curtis

The war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s was to mark the next phase in the development of global Islamic radicalism, building on the Islamic resurgence during the previous decade. Following the Soviet invasion of December 1979, tens of thousands of volunteers from around the Muslim world flocked to join their Afghan brethren and fight the communists. During the course of the war, they went on to form organised jihadi militant groups that would eventually target their home countries, and the West, in terrorist operations. These mujahideen, and the indigenous Afghan resistance groups to which they were attached, were bolstered by billions of dollars in aid and military training provided mainly by Saudi Arabia, the US and Pakistan, but also by Britain.

Britain already had a long history of supporting and working alongside Islamist forces by the time the Soviets crossed the Afghan border, but the collusion with the mujahideen in Afghanistan was of a different order to these earlier episodes, part of Whitehall’s most extensive covert operation since the Second World War. The problem with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher put it after six months in office, was that ‘if its hold on Afghanistan is consolidated, the Soviet Union will, in effect, have vastly extended its borders with Iran, will have acquired a border more than 1,000 miles long with Pakistan, and will have advanced to within 300 miles of the Straits of Hormuz, which control the Persian Gulf.’

In public, the prime minister and other British leaders denied British military involvement in Afghanistan and claimed to be seeking purely diplomatic solutions to the conflict. In reality, British covert aid to the Afghan resistance began to flow even before the Soviet invasion, while Whitehall authorised MI6 to conduct operations in the first year of the Soviet occupation, coordinated by MI6 officers in Islamabad in liaison with the CIA and Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI. British and US covert training programmes were critical, since many of the indigenous Afghan forces, and the vast majority of the jihadi volunteers arriving in Afghanistan, had no military training. It was a policy that was to have profound consequences.

Review .Originally published in 2011, that is, before the Arab Spring Turned to Winter and Daesh took off on its genocidal path.

 

Secret Affairs. Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam Mark Curtis. 2010. Serpent’s Tail.

Hat-tip to Paul Flewers who suggested I read this book.

“Egypt’s future is uncertain after the death or fall of Mubarak and, whether there is a revolution or not, the Brotherhood could play a role in government or in the transition….Britain is the largest foreign investor in the country, amounting to around $20 billion. British elites want to be in a better position than after the fall of the shah of Iran in 1979 in 1979, and cultivating the Islamists is likely regarded as critical.”

“Britain likely sees the Brotherhood – as it did from the 1950s to the 1970s – as counter to the secular, nationalist forces opposition in Egypt and the region….” (Pages 308 – 9. Secret Affairs. Mark Curtis. 2010.)

Secret Affairs is a pioneering and unsettling study. It unravels how British officials have worked with apparently ‘anti-imperialist’ Islamists that they have found “useful at specific moments.” It sheds light on one of the less publicly acknowledged sides of British global policy – its “collusions” with Islamist groups and parties. Mark Curtis writes, “With some of these radical Islamic forces, Britain has been in a permanent, strategic alliance to secure fundamental long-term policy goals; with others, it has been a temporary marriage of convenience to achieve specific short-term outcomes.” (Page xi) Two geo-political aims have guided this policy, to keep control over energy sources in the Middle East and maintain the City’s place in a stable international financial system. More than out of sheer delight in the undercover world British intelligence agencies have pursued these rational, foreign policy, objectives.

For many it will be a mental wrench to consider that the British State could be complicit with Islamism. Islamists, in all their heterogeneous forms, are, according to a refrain that tends to drown out all others, a real or exaggerated threat. To the right they are from a civilisation out to clash with the West; to most of the left, a riposte to its imperial, Crusader, ambitions. After digesting Secret Affairs the claim that the West has declared a no-holds barred ‘war’ on Islam, sounds hollow.

On occasion even the most extreme Salafist inspired Islamists have been in the loop of the secret services, though more public state policy has been to nurture “moderate” Muslims, a moderation that exists sometimes only in comparison with the most violent Jihadists. If one turns the study’s conclusions upside down, one can also see some interesting aspects of Islamist politics: why, and how, they expect to use their contacts, half-hostile, half-respectful, with countries like Britain. Mark Curtis equally offers important signposts to the future direction Whitehall policy will take towards a key Islamist actor in post-Mubarak Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood.

State Islamist Sponsors.

The thread tying together Secret Affairs is an account of its relations with “the two most significant sponsors of radical Islam” – Pakistan, which promoted “the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the terrorist cause in Kashmir and its surge in central Asia” and Saudi Arabia, “the largest financier of the Islamist cause worldwide. “(Page 223 – 4)

Mark Curtis is a master of weighing up what governments have considered to be the national interest beyond alliances with these states. He enters the murky intelligence world without his vision becoming darkened by the complexity of the dealings involved. The author argues that Britain has “long connived with Islamist forces and their Pakistani state sponsors.” (Page 293) He cites Martin Bright, “it is depressing that so few of the left have been prepared to engage with the issue of the Foreign Office appeasement of radical Islam except to minimise its significance.” (Page 307) He comments, that this is not so much appeasement, as an effort to “achieve key British foreign policy goals” (Ibid).

In 2011 the arguments of Secret Affairs are extremely important.  The euphoria surrounding the popular uprisings against the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes, and the demonstrations unrolling from Algeria and Tunisia to Libya, Jordan, Yemen, and the Gulf States with its waves reaching Tehran, has spread across the world. It is more than welcome. Liberals and the left have greeted the democratic aspirations and secular demands of the protesters.

Some ‘anti-imperialists’ consider the unrest to be the much-waited-for blowback to a Western ‘crusade’ against Islam that carries social opposition in its train. Its client dictators, Mubarak and Ben Ali, gone, they hope for a more radical moves, revolutions with wider ambitions, social and international. They may even be, it is often whispered, occasionally said out loud, radical forces, potential allies in a push for deeper change. Comforting stories, about veiled women involved in the struggle, have circulated, sometimes designed to demonstrate the irrelevance of religion, other times to indicate its ‘progressive’ role.

Islamist groups, swathes of which have, on Curtis’s evidence, had ambiguous contacts in the past with Western states, are now held to be potential allies of the left. In the Iranian revolution, and its aftermath, such a common front has functioned to political Islam’s advantage and has not benefited any popular interest. If some Islamist groups have been prepared to work with Britain in the past, one wonders what kind of present-day agreements rival leftist suitors will reach, and what will be the result.

Divide et Impera.

Mark Curtis (interview here) takes us back to Britain’s colonial empire and its mid-twentieth century dissolution. The Raj was, he alleges (on the balance of evidence), kept in control by a strategy of divide and rule, between different groups in the sub-Continent. In the 19th century “promoting communal divisions” was deliberate policy. (Page 5)

Religious identity, a kind of ‘multiculturalist’ separate development, as promoted. From its 19th century origins in the Aligraph movement, the British looked favourably on the party that drove the demand for partition and the formation of Pakistan, the Muslim League. The ‘Muslim card’ was used against the Indian National Congress. After Indian independence the Pakistani glacis was a “strategic asset” for the Anglo-Americans. “Narenda Sarila notes that ‘ the successful use of religion by the British to fulfil political and strategic objectives in India was replicated by the Americans in building up the Islamic jihadis in Afghanistan’. (Page 34)

Geopolitics and high strategy are a specialist area, subject to infinite shifts, changing alliances, and differing judgements. But Secret Affairs unearths some coherent policies towards Islamism. In the post-Great War Middle East Britain the manager of ‘protectorates’ such as Palestine and Iraq, pursued such a complicated strategic course that there will never be a consensus about its course. Faced with the creation of the State of Israel at the end of the Second World War, “there remains disagreement as to whose ‘side’ Britain was really on ..”(Page 41) One theme however did emerge. As Curtis notes, it was during this period that British officials began to regard Islamists, of various stripes, as “bulwarks” against communism. (Page 43)

This has been a long-standing reason to collaborate with Islamism. Readers will stop at particular details of this history. Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship of a galaxy of anti-communist causes (including those of the international far-right, and outright anti-Semitism), in tandem with its promotion of the “global Islamic mission” has been given free reign from the Cold War onwards. Curtis describes Indonesia’s Western endorsed massacre of up to a million ‘communists’ in 1966. “Islamist groups, trained and equipped by the Indonesian army, played a critical role in the slaughter.” (Page 97)

Britain Sends Communists to their Death.

One specific example sticks in my mind. In 1982 the Khomeini regime was brutally repressing the left, and executing thousands of them. The British obtained a list of members of the Tudeh (Iranian Communist Party) members from a Soviet defector, Vladimir Kuzichkin. MI6 and the CIA jointly decided to pass on this list to Tehran. Dozens of alleged agents were executed and more than a thousand arrested, while the party was banned. There were show trials of a 100 members (where some were sentenced to death). The British operated “in pursuit of specific common interests – the repression of the left – even though Iran was by now considered a strategic threat and overall anti-Western force.”(Page 130)

Back in the ‘sixties Islamism was also opposed to a far greater perceived threat, Arab nationalism. This is a tangled tale, with the British sometimes trying to use the Muslim Brotherhood against pan-Arabism, yet often being repulsed by the organisation’s ingrained hostility to the ‘Crusaders’. The pro-Western Egyptian President, Sadat, went with the grain in using Islamists to smash his country’s Marxist and nationalist student groups. Islamic parties and groups attracted the “urban poor”, and, more significantly, “the devout bourgeoisie, a class hitherto excluded from political power.” (Page 108)

Encouraging Islamisation turned out to be double-edged sword. Sadat’s peace treaty with Israel further pushed them towards maximalism; he ended up assassinated by al-Jihad in 1981.

The alliance between the Western powers and Islamism formed during the Afghan jihad against the rule of the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) was infinitely more solid and direct. Britain appears to have helped the Afghan opponents of the left before the Soviets sent in troops in 1979. When tanks rolled in Margaret Thatcher gave full backing to those fighting the “godless communist system.” US allies, Saudi Arabia, Egypt (sending Islamists radicalised under Sadat) and Pakistan undertook the practical organisation of the war against the PDPA and their Soviet backers. This shored up the Saudis, already funding Islamist causes around the world, and Pakistan, then promoting an Islamisation programme and boosting its domestic far right (notably the Jamaat-i-Islami), under General Zia.

Muscular Liberals for Islamism.

Many of the ‘muscular liberals’ who now frenetically oppose Islamism, were as enthusiastic as Thatcher for the Afghan jihad. French nouveaux philosophes (such as the ubiquitous Bernard-Henri Lévy) saw it as the high-point of the fight for freedom against Moscow. There were also ‘leftists’ who saw the Mujaheddin as combatants against ‘Russian imperialism’.

They failed to foresee the fruits of their surrogates’ victory. As is well-known the fall-out from this war, which created a pool of violent Islamist activists ready for global combat, led to the Taliban regime, and, ultimately, provided a base for al-Qaeda, neither bolstered liberalism nor the left.

Amongst the Mujaheddin supporters, whether Tory, liberal or leftist, few seem to have taken seriously the ideologues who would eventually emerge to announce, that, “This [Clash of civilisations] is a very clear matter, proven in the Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet, and any true believer who claims to be faithful shouldn’t doubt these truths, no matter what anybody says about them.” That “we are in a strong and brutal battle, between us and the Jews, with Israel being the spearhead, and its backers among the Zionists and Crusaders.” (Messages to the World. The Statements of Osama Bin Laden. Edited by Bruce Lawrence. 2005).

Londonistan.

Many recent theatres of war, Bosnia, Albania, and Algeria, are covered in Secret Affairs. Again the traces of Western co-operation with various Islamists, and the half-wary, but intimate, relations between them are described. But perhaps the most memorable chapters are concerned with those at a distance from the battle-fields, in ‘Londonistan’. “London in the 1990s was one of the world’s major centres for radical Islamic groups organising terrorism abroad.” (Page 256)

Hw could this happen? It is claimed that a “covenant of security” was reached: that as long as the Islamists did not commit acts of terrorism in the UK, they would find this country a “safe haven”. Readers of the French press will be well aware of the anger felt in that country at the UK’s sheltering of brutal Islamic activists in the Algerian GIA (Groupe Islamique Armé). – responsible for attentats in Europe and sadistic murder in Algeria.

Other lands, where it could legitimately be shown that these refugees faced considerable danger, were also vociferous in complaining about the UK authorities’ tolerance. At times this lenience reached extraordinary levels. In 1994 Osama Bin Laden had a London office, even visiting that year. His Advice and Reformation Committee were permitted to continue (despite its transparent violent intentions) until Al-Qaeda’s East African bombings in 1988. (Page 182) There was little outrage in Britain at the murder of 224 people, mainly Africans, in these attacks on US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The policy did not end there. In the late 1990s Abu Hamza, a Special Branch contact was allowed to organise military training in England for his Supporters of the Sharia organisation. (Page 267)

Why would the British authorities have allowed Londonistan to develop? Curtis considers the view that it enabled the intelligence services to monitor and infiltrate Islamist groups. It may have been a way of cultivating relations “with possible future leaders”, help give the British a certain “influence” or “leverage” “over the internal politics” of Arab and other states. More crudely, “another major advantage of hosting radical Islamist groups in London, linked very closely to fundamental and current British foreign policy aims – the promotion of international divide and rule.”(Page 265)

The Raj and the Middle East were templates of a kind. But in present conditions encouraging divisions between states, and the Balkanisation of existing states (literally in the case of the former Yugoslavia), may be also factors. Some people in the “intelligence community” many have, even if not by formal policy, have therefore continued the policy of diviser pour mieux régner.

The public side of the British state, and the ordinary population, not to mention the left, only seem to have become concerned about Islamism in the wake of 9/11 and London’s own carnage on 7/7. The assault on the Twin Towers, that led, after the ousting of the Taliban to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, was followed in 2005 by the London massacre. Suddenly heavy-handed anti-terrorism legislation was passed. the Labour government began to differentiate between ‘good’ moderate Islamists and ‘bad’ ones.

On the left some claimed that Britain was indeed at “war with Islam.” Sections of the left expressed at least “understanding” of why people would want to murder Londoners as a “legitimate target”. This is a sordid evasion of reality. Curtis remarks that, “The bombings were, to a large extent, a product of British foreign policy, not mainly since they were perpetuated by opponents of the war in Iraq, but because they derived from a terrorism infrastructure established by a Pakistani state long backed by Whitehall and involving Pakistani terrorist groups which had benefited from past British covert action.”(Page 285) Britain, he observes, prepared the ground. It “has helped marginalise secular nationalist and democratic forces within the country..”(Page 294) In the political void the Islamists have grown. Its goals, and its targets, have no anti-imperial core: they are directed towards creating a purified Islamic state and against all who will not fit into this vision. The present vicious reaction in Pakistan in favour of killing ‘blasphemers’ illustrates the priorities of this movement.

Britain and Islamism’s Future: Slouching Back to Egypt.

Secret Affairs is an eye-opener. It is primary an investigation, that rarely gets an airing, into British Realpolitik towards Islamism. It dredges up its deep roots in Britannia’s imperial past. It is also thoroughly modern. Not only are the UK’s declining international strategic interests at stake, but far-from shrinking financial ones, including Saudi financial investment and the City’s part in so-called Islamic banking and ‘Islamic finance’.

There is much further light shed on the complexities of British and American alliances, and hostilities, with Islamist forces in occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. Relations with regional competitors, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, and US patronage of regional insurgency against Tehran, are given due weight. From geopolitical analysis Curtis moves to political judgement. Here we find an underling continuity, not rupture between British Cabinets’ approach to Islamism. That is, its willingness to negotiate as well as threaten, to use, to co-opt the most acceptable elements, as well as imprison the recalcitrant.

Curtis has his finger on the faults in this approach. He  points to the foolhardy agreements made with Islamists who operated on British soil, and the failure to grasp how the intelligence and diplomatic services’ strategies overseas can literally ‘blow back’ towards home. Internationally, collusion with radical forces has contributed to “the rise of radical Islam and the undermining of secular, nationalist, more liberal forces…”(Page 346) If one would wish for a wider explanation of the crisis of anti-colonial nationalism, and the decline of the left in countries with Muslim majorities, Curtis’s observations should play a major part in building up a fuller left picture of the place of Islamism.

Secret Affairs has been listened to in some expected quarters. Even some who generally subscribe to the Crusader view of the West’s role in the Orient, such as John Pilger and the SWP’s Socialist Review, have reacted positively to its analysis. But how far have they thought it through ? An obvious conclusion is that Islamism has gained more from its dealings with the British state than Whitehall has.

Operating with much weaker forces, the small factions of the pro-Islamic left, if they ever reach agreements with them, will see their interests overshadowed. Strong parties, notably those in the ‘International’ of the Muslim Brotherhood, who intend to use the state as a moral actor to enforce Islamisation on people’s private lives, may find some minor advantage in encouraging a radical veneer. Justice, as for political religions of all faiths, is a slogan that only lightly covers a commitment to free-markets. The Brotherhood apparent liberal and democratic Constitutionalism has made them politically acceptable, their liberal economic policies, potential partners. *If they have some support from the urban poor, it is their base in the pious bourgeoisie that counts. They play little role in the social unrest sweeping the working class (here).

It much more likely that they will return, strengthened by the crises sweeping the Middle East, to the High Table of global politics, to negotiate, this time openly, with the British and Americans.

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* See their attempts to whitewash their racist and totalitarian past here.

See: Margaret Thatcher praised jihadists in Afghanistan

Written by Andrew Coates

September 2, 2017 at 11:29 am

The State: A Cautionary Tale? Review of Peter Kosminsky’s Drama about British Recruits to the Islamic State.

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Image result for The State channel four

The State: A Cautionary Tale?

The first episode of The State, the tale of four British people who leave Europe and join the Islamic State in Raqqa Syria, was shown last night. Channel Four, at a time of glossy, paper-thin, series, terrestrial, streamed or in Box Sets, needs no justification to show serious tragedy. Peter Kosminsky, who adapted Wolf Hall, it was a “narrative that needed to be told”. “As far as I know there’s been no other depiction certainly in drama, of what happens to young British Muslims when they arrive in Islamic State.” (The ‘I’. 17.8.17)

The audience hardly has to be told of the importance of the subject. Globalisation means not only that media had brought a cascade of information about Daesh and its acts, but also has facilitated the recruitment of these supporters amongst several thousand other Europeans. As Graeme Wood put this in the Way of Strangers (2017) “Since 2010, tens of thousands of men, women and children have migrated to a theocratic 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.”

This should not lead us to forget that ISIS was able to create its original totalitarian strongholds from many more Middle Eastern recruits in the wake the bloodbaths of post-invasion Iraq, and the Syrian civil war. Or that, as Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan have recounted, their “draconian rule and religious obscurantism” was initially resisted in Raqqa itself by brave individuals like schoolteacher Souad Nofa (Pages 187 – 190. Isis. Inside the Army of Terror. 2015)

In this vein, The State Kosminsky has stated that the production is based on extensive research both about life in Raqqa, and the “relationship many radical Muslims have with their faith”. “These people are either recent converts to Islam or people [who are] born Muslims, but who’ve been relatively recently ‘born again’ relatively recently and come to an interest in the faith”.

Radicalisation.

Sunday’s broadcast did not begin with lengthy treatment of the process of ‘radicalisation’ that led to the voyage to Raqqa. We are rushed into the crossing into Syria, hungry for clues about whether the recruits were ‘self-radicalised’, dreamt of their own pious utopia, or were pushed into Jihad by a passage through Salafism and recruiters who float in its milieu, as Gilles Kepel famously suggests (La Fracture. 2016).

Some indications about their background do emerge. Adolescent Ushna is anxious to fit in and wed. She hopes to be “a lioness amongst the lions” but her manners suggest an effort to adapt to Daesh’s Islamist rules, as do the other, mobile phone hugging, companions. Single mother and Junior Doctor, the Black British Shakira,  wants to tend to the – Islamist – sick. In a  scene, with echoes of The Handmaid’s Tale, women are instructed by American convert  Umm Walid, brittleness peppered with “sweeties”,  in their proper role as helpmeets. This Ushna challenges, as if she was in a university seminar, by citing female warriors at the time of the Prophet. 

Towards the end of the programme, a speech, in which the male combatants are informed of the coming Apocalypse, when America has been lured into their territory and Armageddon will unfurl, suggests something of Olivier Roy’s Jihadist “imaginaire” (Le djihad et la mort. 2016). Yet the characters already show ambiguity towards this war, a global jihad waged with the utmost force against the unclean, unbelieving “Kuffar” (the word constantly used in The State), whose violent momentum Roy considers the source of the attraction of ISIS.

The State is, Kosminsky has announced, a “cautionary tale” far from a “recruitment video”. We can expect disillusion, although it is hard to see why anybody should feel empathy for those, portrayed by actors,  who have joined an armed totalitarian organisation, a would-be state, whose genocidal acts are more than well known and self-advertised. It is certainly a powerful story, well dramatised. 

 

Whether this series will help shed light on the wider conflicts in the Middle East, from the Civil War in Syria to Iraq, where, as Gilbert Achcar has underlined, there are many other murdering bands, not to mention the Assad regime itself, remains to be seen (Morbid Symptoms: Relapse in the Arab Uprising  2016) But we hope, that after we see how Daesh treats women, we’ll hear a lot less of the genre of comments by Judith Butler about the Burka carrying “many meanings of agency” which Westerners have not grasped. (Precarious life. The Powers of Mourning and Violence. 2006)

Next episode tonight…

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The State is a four-part mini-series following the story of four British men and women who have left their lives behind to join ISIS in Syria, and although it is a fictional story, it is based on extensive research of real life events.

Channel Four.

The Mail reviewer Christopher Stevens  says,

The State is no sort of truthful drama, as it claims to be. This is a recruitment video to rival Nazi propaganda of the Thirties calling young men to join the Brownshirts.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 21, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Yazidi female fighters, Charlottesville: ‘Unite against fascism

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Image result for yazidi female fighters unite against fascism

Members of the Yazidi Sinjar Women’s Units (YJŞ) currently fighting the Islamic State in its self-declared capital Raqqa, have sent an exclusive photograph to The Region in which they commemorate Heather Heyer, the anti-fascist activist killed in Charlottesville.

The four women are seen in the photograph making victory signs and holding two messages written in black ink on white paper in front of a YJŞ flag and poster of imprisoned Kurdistan Worker’s party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan. One of the messages reads, ‘R.I.P Heather Heyer,’ while the other states, ‘Unite against fascism,’ with #Charlottesville written to the side.

In a short statement sent to The Region along with the photograph, the women said they were deeply affected by Heather Heyer’s death and called her “a martyr.”

“As women who have suffered at the hands of Daesh [ISIS] we know well the dangers that fascist, racist, patriarchal and nationalist groups and organisations pose. Once again men of this mind-set, this time in America, have martyred a woman, Heather Heyer, who was resisting against the division and destruction of communities.”

Thirty-two -year-old Heather Heyer was killed after a vehicle driven by white-supremacist James Alex Fields Jr., rammed into a group of counter protestors demonstrating against a “Unite the Right” rally organised by white nationalist and far-right groups in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The statement went on to say that women across the world had stood with the Yazidis following the Islamic State attack on Sinjar in August 2014 – during which thousands of women belonging to the minority religious group were killed and kidnapped – and that now Yazidi women were “organised and strong enough to fight back.”

“We believe that Heather Heyer’s struggle is our struggle and that the fight against fascism is a global battle. For this reason, we are calling on women around the world to unite against fascism and put an end to terrorist groups like Daesh and those made from the same cloth that kill women like Heather.”

The YJŞ was established in October 2015 to “protect the Yazidi population” according to the group’s founding document. The all-female group is allied to the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBŞ), which was trained by the PKK, and adheres to the ideology of its imprisoned leader Ocalan.

The Region.

From the Kurdish Question. 12.7.17.

Three internationalist volunteers of the People’s Defense (Protection) Unit (YPG) have been killed in clashes with the jihadist Islamic State (ISIS) group in Raqqa, northern Syria.

Briton Luke Rutter (Soro Zinar), 22, and Americans Robert Grodt (Demhat Goldman), 28, and Nicholas Alan Warden (Rodi Deysie), 29, lost their lives in battles on 5-6 July.

The YPG released a statement sending condolences to the families of the men and said they had “fought bravely against Daesh [ISIS] fascism and terrorism.”

The YPG released videos of the men’s final messages and photos on its Facebook page. (Click the names below to watch the videos.)

Demhat Goldman

Soro Zinar

Rodi Deysie

Since the Rojava Revolution and fight against ISIS hit global headlines hundreds of international volunteers have joined YPG/YPJ ranks. With the death of the three volunteers, the number of international volunteers killed in battle has gone up to 28.

List of International Volunteers killed in action in Rojava-Democratic Federation of Northern Syria
1. Ashley Johnston 23 Feb 2015 AUS
2. Kosta Scurfield 2 Mar 2015 UK/GR
3. Ivana Hoffman 7 March 2015 GER
4. Mihemed Kerim 5 May 2015 IRAN
5. Keith Broomfield 3 Jun 2015 USA
6. Arnavut Karker. 26 June 2015 AL
7. Reece Harding 27 June 2015 AUS
8. Kevin Jochim 6 Jul 2015. GER
9. John Gallagher 4 Nov 2015 CAN
10. Gunter Hellstern 23 Feb 2016 GER
11. Mario Nunes 3 May 2016 POR
12. Jamie Bright 25 May 2016 AUS
13. Levi Jonathan Shirley 14 July 2016 USA
14. Dean Carl Evans 21 July 2016 UK
15. Martin Gruden 27 July 2016 SLO
16. Firaz Kardo 3 August 2016 SWE/EGYPT
17. Jordan MacTaggart 3 August 2016 USA
18. William Savage 10 Aug 2016 USA
19. Michael Israel 24 Nov 2016 USA
20. Anton Leschek 24 Nov 2016 GER.
21. Ryan Lock 21 Dec 2016 UK
22. Nazzareno Tassone 21 Dec 2016 CAN
23. Paolo Todd 15 January 2017 USA
24. Albert A Harrington 25 January 2017 USA
25. Merdali Süleymanov 23 April 2017 KAZ
26. Robert Grodt 5 July 2017 USA
27. Nicolas A Warden 5 July 2017 USA
28. Luke Rutter 5 July 2017 UK

Written by Andrew Coates

August 15, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Skwawkbox Goes “undercover” in Venezuela and finds a Horn of Plenty in Supermarkets.

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Image result for venezuela las colas para supermercados 2017

Venezuela, March 2017, Queue for 2 Bags of Goods.

“If seeing is believing, then these simple, everyday scenes that would be familiar to anyone in a developed nation should be enough to cast serious doubt on the perception that the Establishment media seem eager for us to adopt.”

UNDERCOVER VIDEO SHOWS FULL SHELVES IN #VENEZUELA SUPERMARKETS

On Thursday the SKWAWKBOX published a first-hand account of the situation in Venezuela that challenges the prevailing portrayal and exposes the ugly reality of much of the opposition ‘protest’ as violent, even murderous and co-ordinated with ‘economic war’ on the socialist government to create the impression of a failed state.

A key part of the ‘failed state’ narrative is the claim of nationwide shortages in food and other key goods, as corporate and Establishment news attempts to convince that the socialist project has been a disaster.

That shortage-narrative has been raised by objectors to Thursday’s article as proof of the claims of the right-wing opposition.

As Thursday’s article showed, what shortages there are appear to have been manufactured by opposition-run monopoly corporations – but even those appear to have been greatly exaggerated.

For her Empire Files series, journalist Abby Martin filmed undercover in a series of Venezuelan supermarkets – and found something very different to what those watching BBC and other mainstream news would expect.

Skwawky reminds me of a certain Édouard Herriot (1872 – 1957) Parti Radical, and many times French PM) who remarked during a visit to Stalin’s Russia in 1933 that, the “Soviet Ukraine was “like a garden in full bloom”.

This is what Wikipedia has to say, Shortages in Venezuela.

Under the economic policy of the Nicolás Maduro government, greater shortages occurred due to the Venezuelan government’s policy of withholding United States dollars from importers with price controls.[6] Shortages are occurring in regulated products, such as milk, meat, coffee, rice, oil, precooked flour, butter prices and other basic necessities like toilet paper, personal hygiene products and medicines.[4][7][8] As a result of the shortages, Venezuelans must search for food, occasionally resorting to eating wild fruit or garbage, wait in lines for hours and sometimes settle without having certain products.

This is what Human Rights Watch says (2017 report),

Under the leadership of President Hugo Chávez and now President Nicolás Maduro, the accumulation of power in the executive branch and erosion of human rights guarantees have enabled the government to intimidate, persecute, and even criminally prosecute its critics.

Severe shortages of medicines, medical supplies, and food have intensified since 2014, and weak government responses have undermined Venezuelans’ rights to health and food. Protesters have been arbitrarily detained and subject to abuse by security forces.

Police and military raids in low-income and immigrant communities have led to widespread allegations of abuse.

Other persistent concerns include poor prison conditions, impunity for human rights violations, and continuous harassment by government officials of human rights defenders and independent media outlets.

Here is what the Morning Star said in July,

OVER 100,000 Venezuelans queued at the San Antonio del Tachira border crossing into Colombia over the weekend to buy foods and medicines that are in short supply at home.

It was the second weekend in a row that the socialist government has opened the border with Colombia, which was closed, as were all crossings, a year ago to obstruct smuggling.

Speculators were accused then of causing shortages by buying state-subsidised food and petrol in Venezuela and taking them to Colombia to be sold for far higher prices.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has played down talk of a humanitarian crisis, blaming his government’s political enemies and self-serving smugglers for shortages.

He dismissed as a “media show” televised images of 500 women pushing through the border checkpoint a few weeks ago claiming to be desperate to buy food.

Venezuelan state TV ran footage on Sunday of citizens returning from Colombia empty-handed, dissuaded by “price-gouging” and the threat of violence from their neighbours.

So Skwawkbox have been caught out spinning faubations yet again.

Any shortages are the fault of the ‘monopoly capitalists” and….well there are no “real” problems with food in supermarkets as a single video shows.

Perhaps one could ask who, with hyper-inflation, can afford to but anything.

Full marks for ‘undercover’ investigation into a Venezuelan supermarket though.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 12, 2017 at 10:51 am