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Comrade Maryam Namazie awarded the Prix de la Laïcité 2016.

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Comrade Maryam Namazie at Paris Hôtel de Ville. 

 was awarded the  2016  Prix International de la Laïcité 2016  on Wednesday (Comité Laïcité République

The Parisian ceremony, hosted by the City Hall (Hôtel de Ville),  was attended by Anne Hidalgo,  Paris Mayor, and Manuel Valls, French Prime Minister (Paris).

“Maryam Namazie, scientifique iranienne et militante de la laïcité et des droits des femmes, a reçu le Prix international pour son action sans relâche. Elle a enthousiasmé le parterre par sa verve, sa fermeté et sa vision universaliste de la laïcité, meilleure protection contre les diktats obscurantistes.” (Communiqué du Comité Laïcité République, CLR)

The Iranian scientist, and activist for human rights and feminism, Maryam Namaziereceived the International Prize in recognition of her tireless, efforts. Her eloquence, her determination, and her universalist vision of secularism – the best protection against the diktats of obscurantism – were greeted by the audience with enthusiasm.

Namazie delivered this address: In Defence of Laïcité: Our Lives Depend on it.

I am truly honoured to have been awarded the International Secularism (Laicite) Prize from the Comité Laïcité République in Paris on 2 November. The wonderful Malek Boutih won the National Prix and Étienne-Émile Baulieu the Scientific Prize for 2016.

Here is my acceptance speech in English.

The French translation, thanks to Marieme Helie Lucas is available here.

Thank you for this wonderful honour. I am so glad to have the support of so many present here, including my husband and son, as well as my Muslim parents.

We live in an age where totalitarianism is masked as divine righteousness, theocrats legitimised, dissent vilified and victims blamed for their own murder.

This is a time where “solidarity” is no longer an act of defending revolutionaries but fascists; where there is always support for Islamist projects like Sharia courts, the burqa, gender segregation, apostasy and blasphemy laws – whether de jure or de facto – but never for those who refuse to be silenced, erased and “disappeared”.

It’s a time when “progressive” all too often means protecting regressive identity politics, which homogenises entire communities and societies, and deems theocrats as the sole legitimate arbiters and gatekeepers of “community” values.

It’s a politics of betrayal – devoid of class struggle and political ideals – which sees any dissent through Islamist eyes and immediately labels it “Islamophobic” and blasphemous.

We are called “aggressive apostates”, “fundamentalist secularists”, “native informants”, “inflammatory”. We are accused of violating the “safe spaces” of Islamists on universities and even “inciting hatred”.

Don’t believe it. That is the Islamist narrative.

In the world today, it is we who are being slaughtered not the other way round.

In their world everyone dies yet we are accused of being “offensive” – as if cartoons and apostasy are worse than murder.

Islamists discriminate against, shun, flog, imprison, terrorise, abduct, and slaughter but somehow it is always the victim whose “provocation” is to blame – whether it’s Charlie Hebdo or Avijit Roy…

Laicite is not a theoretical discussion for ivory tower academics and champagne socialists. It’s a matter of life and death for many of us:
• The likes of Asia Bibi in Pakistan facing execution for blasphemy
• Young ex-Muslims (Islam’s Non Believers) in Britain facing a life-time of shunning
• The likes of Afsana Lachaux whose rights violations in a discriminatory Sharia court in the Middle East have been upheld by French courts due to bilateral agreements
• Human Rights Activist Narges Mohammadi given a 16 year prison sentence for opposing executions; Jafar Azimzadeh sentenced to 11 years for labour organising; or dual nationals used as pawns such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliff as well as Siamak and Baquer Namazi in Iran
• Blogger Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for writing about religion and politics and on and on and on…

“Secularism is the solution”, is a graffiti Raif Badawi saw scrawled in a Saudi prison lavatory. Yet we are told that secularism is a neo-colonialist demand by so-called “anti-colonialists” whose worldview always coincides with the ruling elite, including in former colonies, and never the dissenters. Those “anti-fascists” who are only anti-some fascists, some of the time. Those who are “anti-racist” as long as we do not venture outside the pigeonholes that we are meant to live and be buried in; (if we dissent, though, they are at the forefront of insisting on racist cultural relativism and “different” rights for “different” people). The so-called progressives who condemn us to living lives within the confines of Islam whilst the sky has no limits for them…

They cannot begin to understand that no one needs Laicite more than those who live, struggle and die under the boot of the religious-Right.

And this includes the innumerable voting with their very feet and dying as we speak to seek refuge in secular societies, including the women, men and children of Calais, who deserve the basic human right to asylum and protection, not vilification and criminalisation.

And it includes believers. The right to religion must have a corresponding right to be free from religion to have any real meaning.

The historical battle that we are faced with today is not a clash of civilisations as the vile far-Right says in order to promote what is fundamentally white and often Christian identity politics. Rather, it’s a clash between theocrats on the one hand and secularists and universalists on the other – across real or imagined communities, borders and boundaries -and including many Muslims and migrants.

Secularism is not French or Western or Eastern; it’s universal.

It must be unequivocally and unashamedly defended against this era’s totalitarianism.

Today more than ever, we need Laicite and we need it now.

Our very lives depend on it.

Thank you.

We learn that the latest Charlie Hebdo has an account of a meeting with Namazie (“Rencontre avec Maryam Namazie, féministe iranienne et récemment récompensée du prix international de la laïcité par la Mairie de Paris.“).

In Britain comrade Maryam Namazie, of the  Worker-communist Party of Iran and  spokesperson of Fitnah- Movement for Women’s Liberation has not received the recognition that she is due.

Namazie strongly distances herself from far-right anti-Islamic groups, whom she doesn’t regard as allies, but enemies as well. At the World Atheist Conference in Dublin in 2011, referring to the far-right, she said “they are like the Islamists” and that Muslims need equal protection under the law, while she stressed the need to be able to criticise religion.

Despite these clearly expressed views she has been attacked by British obscurantists and their allies,

In September 2015, the students’ union of Warwick University briefly banned her from a forthcoming talk on campus organised by the Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists’ Society because of a fear that she might “incite hatred” of the university’s Muslim students. In an interview with the Coventry Telegraphs Simon Gilbert, she was quoted as saying: “It angers me that we’re all put in a little box and that anyone who criticises Islam is labelled racist. It’s not racist, it’s a fundamental right. … The Islamic movement is a movement that slaughters people in the Middle East and Africa. It’s important for us to speak about it and criticise it.” The ban was lifted after a few days.

In December 2015 she gave a talk about blasphemy at the Goldsmiths University in London, sponsored by the university’s Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society. During her talk, members of the university’s Islamic Society caused a disruption by heckling and switching off her PowerPoint presentation when Namazie displayed a cartoon from the series Jesus and Mo. Namazie asked for the disruptive students to be removed, but security refused to do so.

Wikipedia. 

Glory to Maryam Namazie!

Jeremy Corbyn Speak out on Syria!

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Confbanner

Morally Bankrupt. 

Jeremy Corbyn must ‘break silence’ on Assad and Russian bombings

Labour and Momentum activists sign letter calling on Corbyn to help Syrians stop the war.

The people who launched this appeal are right to express their concerns.

They are deep comrades.

LIke many I was repelled at the baying at the Stop the War Conference against people who expressed their views .

 

Dear Jeremy,

We write as members of the Labour Party and Momentum, as socialist activists, or as other supporters of your leadership of the Labour Party. We agree wholeheartedly with your opposition to militarism and nuclear weapons, and your call for an end to British arms exports to countries such as Saudi Arabia. Yet we are concerned by your silence – thus far – on the ongoing slaughter of civilians by Russian and Assad-regime forces in Syria.

We share your scepticism about kneejerk military responses to the situation in Syria, such as the bombing campaign against ISIS proposed by David Cameron last autumn. We are not asking you to back Western interventions of this kind, but simply to say clearly and unequivocally that the actions of Assad and Russia in Syria are barbaric war crimes, and that you will seek to end them, and to hold their perpetrators to account.

We applaud your efforts, over decades, to end the crimes of brutal regimes supported by Western powers. But we do not believe that this exhausts the duties of anti-imperialists, socialists and peace activists in Western countries. The fact that Assad is supported not by the USA or Britain, but by Russia and Iran, does not make his crimes any less horrific, or the political future he represents for the people of Syria any less dismal. Nor does it mean that Western political leaders are powerless in acting to oppose these crimes.

We know only too well that there are those in the anti-war movement who will denounce any move critical of Russia, Iran, or Assad as tantamount to support for Western imperialist intervention. We also know that there are those on the right of British politics who will claim any such move as a concession to their policy of militaristic grandstanding. The debate on Syria has been polarised between these two positions – scrupulous “non-intervention” in the face of massive carnage enabled by Russian intervention, versus support for bombing campaigns as part of a Western “war on terror”. We have all been asked to take up a position in these terms. But the terms are false.

We appreciate your concern not to lend support to right-wing calls for fruitless bombing campaigns. But in the face of the horrors being perpetrated across Syria, with impunity, and above all by Russian and Assad-regime forces, we believe socialists and anti-war activists cannot simply look on in silence. We ask that you condemn, clearly and specifically, the actions of Assad and Russia in Syria, which have caused the overwhelming majority of civilian deaths and which present the biggest obstacle to any workable solution to the Syrian crisis.

We also urge you to lend your wholehearted support to practical measures to support civilians and pressure the regime to end its attacks, such as airdrops of aid to besieged civilians by British military forces. Guaranteeing delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians is not only a way to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people at risk of disease and starvation. It is also a non-violent and humanitarian way to pressure the regime into a negotiated political solution to the conflict, by undermining a key part of its strategy: the “kneel or starve” campaigns deployed against opposition areas since 2013. “Food not bombs” should be the rallying cry, not “Hands off Syria”, which only gives the Assad regime and Russia carte blanche to continue with their slaughter.

Failure to act on this issue now threatens to undermine practically and politically much of the work done over many years by the anti-war movement. The legacy of yourself and the anti-war movement over Syria must not be one of silence and inaction in the face of such momentous atrocities.

Yours fraternally,

Written by Andrew Coates

October 10, 2016 at 1:43 pm

Clive Lewis and the Trident Speech.

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Clive Lewis speaking in Liverpool

Clive Lewis said he was clear that Labour policy was to renew Trident

Clive Lewis is the greatly respected, and liked, MP for Norwich South. Elected in 2015, his successful campaign election last year was a ray of hope in an otherwise desolate East Anglian political landscape. Clive is Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, a cause with which this Blog deeply identifies. He is Chair of the Anti-Academies Alliance, another issue which draws wide support across the Labour Party, teachers’ unions and the left, not least in another East Anglian town, Ipswich. Lewis was one of 36 Labour MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn for party leader in 2015. His speeches at labour movement events, such as the annual Burston Rally in Norfolk, attended by activists from all over East Anglia, have been exceptionally well-received.

To put it simply, this Blog thinks Clive Lewis is a good thing.

Why Clive Lewis was furious when a Trident pledge went missing from his speech

The shadow defence secretary is carving out his own line on security.  Says, STEPHEN BUSH in the New Statesman.

Clive Lewis’s first conference speech as shadow defence secretary has been overshadowed by a row over a last-minute change to his speech, when a section saying that he “would not seek to change” Labour’s policy on renewing Trident submarines disappeared.

Lewis took the stage expecting to make the announcement and was only notified of the change via a post-it note, having reportedly signed it of with the leader’s office in advance.

Lewis was, I’m told, “fucking furious”, and according to Kevin Schofield over at PoliticsHome, is said to have “punched a wall” in anger at the change. The finger of blame is being pointed at Jeremy Corbyn’s press chief, Seumas Milne.

 The article continues, pointing out that the GMB (Not to mention UNITE) take the view that building Trident is important for their members.

One of Corbyn’s more resolvable headaches on the NEC is the GMB, who are increasingly willing to challenge  the Labour leader, and who represent many of the people employed making the submarines themselves. An added source of tension in all this is that the GMB and Unite compete with one another for members in the nuclear industry, and that being seen to be the louder defender of their workers’ interests has proved a good recruiting agent for the GMB in recent years.

Strike a deal with the GMB over Trident, and it could make passing wider changes to the party rulebook through party conference significantly easier. (Not least because the GMB also accounts for a large chunk of the trade union delegates on the conference floor.)

So what happened? My understanding is that Milne was not freelancing but acting on clear instruction. Although Team Corbyn are well aware a nuclear deal could ease the path for the wider project, they also know that trying to get Corbyn to strike a pose he doesn’t agree with is a self-defeating task.

Bush concludes,

There are three big winners in all this. The first, of course, are Corbyn’s internal opponents, who will continue to feel the benefits of the GMB’s support. The second is Iain McNicol, formerly of the GMB. While he enjoys the protection of the GMB, there simply isn’t a majority on the NEC to be found to get rid of him. Corbyn’s inner circle have been increasingly certain they cannot remove McNicol and will insead have to go around him, but this confirms it.

But the third big winner is Lewis. In his praise for NATO – dubbing it a “socialist” organisation, a reference to the fact the Attlee government were its co-creators – and in his rebuffed attempt to park the nuclear issue, he is making himeslf the natural home for those in Labour who agree with Corbyn on the economics but fear that on security issues he is dead on arrival with the electorate.  That position probably accounts for at least 40 per cent of the party membership and around 100 MPs.

If tomorrow’s Labour party belongs to a figure who has remained in the trenches with Corbyn – which, in my view, is why Emily Thornberry remains worth a bet too – then Clive Lewis has done his chances after 2020 no small amount of good.

Politics Home states,

A senior Labour source said: “Clive punched a wall when he came off the stage because Seumas altered his speech on the autocue.

“He was fuming as he sent a post-it note on stage as he was sat there ready to speak and didn’t know what the exact change was. Apparently Clive had agreed it with Jeremy but Seumas changed it.”

The Huffington Post reports,

Former Shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry and Lewis both co-chair the Trident review, which had been expected to resume its work as part of the new International Policy Commission, once fresh members and officers are appointed.

Lewis and Thornberry both abstained from the Commons vote on Trident renewal this year. Corbyn voted against.

Thornberry today told the BBC that the defence review was continuing.

And HuffPost has been told that the reason Lewis was angry was because he was already nervous about his first major conference speech, having been an MP for just over a year and in the defence job for a few months.

He did not object to any of the substance of the changes to his speech, but only to the last-minute nature of them, one source claimed.

Despite the last-minute watering down of his speech, CND was still furious that Lewis had declared party policy was to keep Trident rather than review it.

CND’s Kate Hudson accused him of a “U-turn”: “Lewis has clearly signalled that the Labour leadership will not seek to change Labour policy and appears to have abandoned its defence review conducted extensively over the past year.

“The majority of Labour members oppose Trident replacement, so where is the democracy in that?”

Green party leader and MP Caroline Lucas added: “It’s deeply disappointing to see the Labour party failing to oppose Trident replacement.”

But moderates welcomed the shift, with Labour MP John Woodcock saying: “The Trident vote is now behind us, the manufacturing work is going ahead and the matter is settled.

It is no secret that when the name, Seumas Milne, comes up this Blog’s hackles are raised. From Milne’s support for the right-wing Islamist  Tunisian  Ennahda party, his vilification of Charlie Hebdo, right back to his favourable judgements on the former Soviet Union, Milne has expressed views with which we profoundly disagree.

This incident, as Steve Bush indicates,  has more immediate causes.

GMB On Trident Renewal Vote July the 18th 2016.

GMB Calls On Politicians To ‘Stop Playing Fast And Loose’ And Get On With Trident Renewal Government needs to push ahead with approval of the Trident successor programme to give stability and security to workers and industry says GMB.

 UNITE’s policy on the issue of Trident,

Unite Executive Council statement on Trident 17 July 2016.

We welcome the Labour party Defence Review as a vital and serious contribution to UK defence strategy and, in particular, the renewed focus Jeremy Corbyn has placed on defence diversification, in the context of the priority he rightly places on world disarmament.  Whatever decision is taken on Trident, defence diversification must be an urgent priority for the next Labour government and Unite will campaign to ensure that it is.  Nevertheless, it is a fact that defence diversification is not going to be taken seriously by the present government, and we cannot ask our members in the affected industries to buy a pig in a poke.  The possibility of new jobs of similar quality tomorrow will not support workers and their families and communities today.

 

Unite recognises the strength of arguments against Trident from a financial point of view, and from the perspective of an assessment of the actual contemporary threats to British security, such as terrorism. We also of course accept the compelling moral argument against the use of nuclear weapons which needs little elaboration as well as the UK’s commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  But neither is there a moral case for a trade union accepting the obliteration of thousands of its members’ jobs and the communities in which they live being turned into ghost towns.  The consequences would reverberate throughout the manufacturing sector across the country.

Unite remains opposed in principle to the possession or deployment of nuclear weapons (including Trident) but our first duty remains to our members. Therefore until there is a government in office ready, willing and able to give cast-iron guarantees on the security of the skilled work and all the employment involved, our priority must be to defend and secure our members’ employment.

 Clive Lewis has friendly relations  with UNITE.

On Lewis’ abstention on the Commons Trident Vote Socialist Worker said at the time,.

Some 41 Labour MPs abstained following a call from Labour’s shadow foreign and defence secretaries Emily Thornberry and Clive Lewis.

The pair—who are supporters of Corbyn—had said MPs should treat the vote “with the contempt it deserved” by not taking part.

They argued that the debate was a deliberate attempt to divide Labour. In practice this meant failing to oppose the Tories.

Some are already following this remark to its conclusion:

Written by Andrew Coates

September 27, 2016 at 11:50 am

After Fifteen Years Why Has the Stop the War Coaliton Foundered?

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Image result for stop the war coalition

After 15 Years what do they have to show for it all?

Lindsey German of the revolutionary socialist group Counterfire and the Convenor of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) writes today.

Our conference next month marks the 15th anniversary of our movement. A time to say no to all the wars arising from the war on terror. And to continue our commitment to opposing the system our government is at the heart of, imperialism.

If the StWC is opposed to all wars “arising from the war on terror”, and it bases its opposition on being against ‘imperialism’ is the StWC simply an ‘anti-imperialist’ group.

The confusion that has lain for years over the StWC comes from this source.

It can be ‘against’ Western, and specifically UK, involvement in ‘bombing Syria’  but it has absolutely no answer to the multiple wars in that region, except being against the one force they identity as ‘imperialist’ – the US and its direct allies.

Who are opposed to Assad, who is backed by the Russian Federation, and Iran.

Who are not – officially – supported by the StWC because the StWC is against all ‘foreign’ involvement in Syria – even (they officially) claim those fighting ‘imperialism’, like Assad.

Who the US and its NATO allies oppose.

But even here, since some US allies, such as the Saudis and the Gulf states, back non-ISIS jihadist forces to the US against Assad and against…the Kurds.

Who, a progressive left force, are supported (in the shape of the YPG) by the Americans…

Who have been driven to oppose to Turkey, its ally, when they fight the Kurds..

Who are also…

Well, we could go on.

And on.

Stopping the War is clearly not on the cards in Syria, nor has the slogan any meaning in dealing with the fighting in Iraq.

StWC claims not to “take sides” in Syria, but somehow be to be against “war” without being pacifists – that it absolutely against any violence.

But the violence continues, and there is no such thing as a non ‘intervening’ side when not doing something is to let things, continue…

The incoherence of the position of the STWC is to imagine, or at least claim, that they are both  au-dessus de la Mêlée  and anti-imperialist.

But we all incoherent faced with the mass killings taking place.

But failing to stand up for human decency in the face of the genocides taking place and saying, in effect, “none of our business”, leave a nasty taste in the mouth.

Most people have simply walked away from this crew.

Let the Festivities Commence!

It would be churlish not to leave the StWC with some crumbs of comfort.

In a note of self-celebration and a much needed pat on the pat, German also states today,

We did a great thing collectively with Stop the War. We have maintained it as an organisation and in the past year have seen a considerable increase in support, despite (or perhaps because of) the attacks on Corbyn. We are, I think, the major anti-war movement in any Nato country. The attacks from the right over the Syria bombing vote in 2013 showed the legacy of the movement and what damage we did. Ditto the Syria vote last year, used as a vicious attack on Jeremy Corbyn (and joined in by the pro-intervention left). There are many issues to debate about our history, and still a job to combat interventions in the Middle East and through Nato expansion.

But no, let us continue churlishly.

In reality all that remains of this “great thing” is that the StWC struggled to get a couple of thousand  people at its last demonstration (November 2015) and barely more than a couple of hundred at the CND anti-Trident protest outside Parliament this July.

One notes who they chose as a speaker at the November event.

And this sprightly new face, before his more recent Brexit campaigning:

Image result for november 2015 stop the war coalition demonstration tariq ali

Irrelevance.

The major reason for their decline is that the StWC is  as we have just seen, an irrelevance in the face of the events unfolding in the Middle East.

Another is that  the group, no doubt caught up in what Counterfire calls the ‘actuality of the revolution’  feels free to expound on a variety of issues  with a less than direct link to war.

It published this tissue of lies a few days ago:

Liberté. Égalité. Fraternité…Unless You’re a Muslim Woman

These are some of the most shameful episodes in the treatment of Muslim women in France that I can recall. They are state sponsored bullying and racism pure and simple. Islamophobia is only one form of racism, although it is the major one in Europe today. But it is the only one which targets the behaviour and dress of women in particular, and tried to alter this behaviour in the most draconian way.

German shamefully tries to link the ban on the Burkini to French international interventions.

She can barely resist saying of the atrocities, “they had it coming to them…”

France has also been increasingly strongly involved in interventions in Muslim countries, most notably Syria and Libya, which have led to increases in the level of terrorism.

Without going into great detail about  the issue we simply note.

  • It was not the French ‘state’ which tried to ban the burkini, but right-wing local authorities on the country’s coastline.
  • The French ‘state’ in the shape of the Conseil d’Etat (Council of State, the clue being the second part of the name…) overturned the ban. It said it was incompatible with human rights.
  • It was kind of German to express concern for the mass murders carried out by Daesh supporters in France. But perhaps something a little more forthcoming than a reference to “increases in the level of terrorism” linked to “interventions in Muslim countries” might have been more appropriate for those close to the victims in  Nice, Paris and Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, to cite but the most recent atrocities.

Labour Election Results, The Eustonites Wail and Gnash their Teeth.

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Zombie Labour Catastrophe.: Say Today’s Euston Manifesto Supporters.

Younger readers of this Blog, not to mention anybody not up on the last decade of so’s history of the British left may not know what a ‘Eustonite‘ is.

The term comes from the Euston Manifesto of 2006.

There people were particularly associated with the statement, Norman Geras, Marxist scholar; Damian Counsell; Alan Johnson, editor of Democratiya; and Shalom Lappin. Other members include Nick Cohen of The Observer, who co-authored with Geras the first report on the manifesto in the mainstream press; Marc Cooper of The Nation; Francis Wheen, a journalist; and historian Marko Attila Hoare. (see complete list).

This declaration included many statements which, at first sight, the democratic socialist left would agree with.

Such as,

We defend liberal and pluralist democracies against all who make light of the differences between them and totalitarian and other tyrannical regimes. But these democracies have their own deficits and shortcomings. The battle for the development of more democratic institutions and procedures, for further empowering those without influence, without a voice or with few political resources, is a permanent part of the agenda of the Left.

The values and goals which properly make up that agenda — the values of democracy, human rights, the continuing battle against unjustified privilege and power, solidarity with peoples fighting against tyranny and oppression — are what most enduringly define the shape of any Left worth belonging to.

 As can be seen these general principles were vague enough, or more charitably, broad enough,  to embrace just about the whole of the liberal and democratic socialist left,.

But a great deal of fire was aimed at the supposed opposite, the “non-democratic left”, and more broadly the organised forces of  those who opposed US-led military adventures in the Middle East.

This was stated clearly in the Manifesto’s introduction,

We reach out, rather, beyond the socialist Left towards egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment. Indeed, the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line between the forces of the Left that remain true to its authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values.

How could this line be drawn?

This was a sticky point,

The manifesto takes no position on the invasion of Iraq. However some of its most prominent contributors, including Nick Cohen and the proprietors of the left-wing blog Harry’s Place, supported the invasion. Of the manifesto’s principal authors, two were broadly against the war and two broadly in support. Of eight people advertised as attending a Euston Manifesto Group meeting at the 2006 Labour Party Conference, six supported the Iraq War. One of these, Gisela Stuart MP, declared during the 2004 American presidential election that a victory by challenger John Kerry victory would prompt “victory celebrations among those who want to destroy liberal democracies”.

In practice this meant making a distinction between those who actually did something to oppose the War and those, either who supported the invasion or whose reservations were too qualified for them to join with the morally “flexible” – read undemocratic, read ‘totalitarian’  – left.

On that left, comrade Paul Flewers stated at the time (Accommodating to the Status Quo. A Critique of the Euston Manifesto). (1)

There is plenty that is wrong with the far left. But these problems did not start with Respect’s dalliances with sundry dubious Islamic individuals and organisations. Over the decades sections of the far left have adapted to various anti-democratic and anti-working-class forces in an attempt to overcome isolation or to gain an ally against the ruling class. Left-wing groups have long engaged in all manner of squalid petty manoeuvres, and one need not dwell for long upon their internal regimes to recognise their manipulative and undemocratic nature. This is both demoralising, as it corrupts the fight for socialism, and self-defeating, as it has deterred many people from engaging with the left and demoralised many people who did get involved.

His conclusion is relevant today,

The Eustonites aim almost all their fire to their left, condemning what they see as the left’s dalliances with anti-democratic forces, and in so doing effectively lumping in everyone to their left in that basket. A lot of people on the left are in fact quite happy to oppose the ruling class without lining up with assorted mullahs, sundry nationalists and all sorts of other anti-working-class forces. There is plenty of scope for socialists to oppose imperialism without giving a carte blanche to Islamicism or other non-socialist outlooks, just as there was a space for genuine socialists 50 years ago to promote genuine freedom between the opposing millstones of imperialism and Stalinism.

There are real problems with the left’s traditions, not least in respect of the question of the relationship of socialism and democracy, and it is one of many issues that we must critically assess if we are to make any progress in proposing a positive alternative to capitalism. However, just like the Encounter socialists half a century ago, those behind the Euston Manifesto are not attempting to provide any meaningful alternative to capitalism. Quite the opposite: they are moving in an entirely different direction. Far from providing a positive course to challenge the status quo, the Euston Manifesto is outlining an approach for a broad ideological and institutional capitulation to it.

Those of us who hold to the strong ethical principles of socialism have little need to defend our record since that time: we have given active support for the democratic goals of the Arab Spring, backing for democratic and secular forces fighting Islamism, defence of Laïcité.

Sometimes we, the democratic socialists,  been on the same side as former or present Eustonites,  against those who have compromised with our Islamist enemies.

But we are socialists not liberals.

Democratic socialism is the base of the labour movement. It is not a set of ideas shared by the supporters of free-market liberalism, or Blair’s Third Way.

This offers no prospect of emancipation or the ambitious task of reforming and replacing the institutions of the British privatising state and promoting the basic goals of social equality and welfare.

It would be perhaps better to define the present shape of Euston thinking as social liberalism, not any form of socialism or social democracy. But in attempting to find  a balance between individual liberty and social justice, they offer absolutely no indication of what kind of social equity they support, what kind of egalitarian measures they would back, and why exactly the present Labour leadership has become such an important threat, even totalitarian menace, to those battling for freedom, here and internationally.

The attempt to draw a ‘line’ – of their own making – has reached a crescendo  over the last months with  today’s Eustonites’ obsessive fight against Jeremy Corbyn.

The Gerasites (doubtless claiming the legacy of the – despite disagreements one might have with his later views – fine Marxist thinker Norman Geras), look at last week’s election result.( Zombie Labour. Jake Wilde)

….the Labour Party as “the walking dead, aimlessly trundling on, a parody of political life” is as accurate as it is brutal. Like all good writing, it got me thinking. Firstly about the counterfactual: what if it had been a wipeout, a disaster, a game-changer? And secondly where does this zombie Labour Party stagger off to next.

The people keeping Corbyn in the leadership position are those who would view any attempt to move towards the electorate as a betrayal. They firmly believe that it is for the electorate to realise that the policies, the slogans and the general attitude and positioning they are being offered by Corbyn’s Labour Party are objectively correct. This is why there has been no attempt to gauge the views of the electorate during the run-up to 5 May. Indeed the only polling that has been undertaken is blowing the whole £300,000 budget on asking questions of non-voters.

..

But no heavy defeat occurred, simply the worst performance of any opposition party for three decades. Once the far left have control of something there is only one outcome – that thing dies. Whether it is a country or a city council, a newspaper or a political party, death is inevitable. It’s not always the put-it-in-a-box-and-bury-it-in-the-ground kind of dead though; sometimes it is Ian Dunt’s walking dead. So even before 5 May the Labour Party was already dead but, like so many zombies, it doesn’t know it yet.

…the results on 5 May mean that the Corbynistas were the ones who hung on and the Labour Party is now past the point of resurrection.

Harry’s Place thought so highly of this piece that they have reproduced it.

All we can say is: look at the picture above before you continue with these witless rants.

(1) See also Sparks, flashes and damp squibs. Andrew Coates reviews Nick Cohen’s What’s left? How liberals lost their way (Fourth Estate, 2007)

In fact many on the left have rejected those who wish to be aligned with islamism. Leftist websites and journals have ferociously criticised Respect’s communalist alliance with islamism, as well as mocking Galloway’s antics. Cohen cites Mike Marqusee’s widely circulated critique of the STWC, but ignores the fact that Mike continues to attack the American occupation. Many others have followed this dual track.

A central issue at the moment is to oppose potential American intervention in Iran, while supporting the opponents of the theocrats in Tehran. Another is the domestic cause of republican secularism – the best answer to religiously inspired political bigotry. None of which is helped by lumping ‘the left’ into a heap, or by standing aside, as does the Euston Manifesto (many of whose hands are less than clean with their implicit support for western militarism).

Islamist Bigotry: Saudi man gets 10 years, 2,000 lashes over atheist tweets.

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Promoting Islamic Virtue and Preventing Vice.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a man to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for expressing his atheism in hundreds of Twitter posts.

Al-Watan online daily said Saturday that religious police in charge of monitoring social networks found more than 600 tweets denying the existence of God, ridiculing Quranic verses, accusing all prophets of lies and saying their teachings fueled hostilities.

It says the 28-year-old man admitted to being an atheist and refused to repent, saying that what he wrote reflected his own beliefs and that he had the right to express them. The report did not name the man.

 The court also fined him 20,000 riyals, about $5,300.

Associated Press.

The Iranian Press TV also publishes the story:

A court in Saudi Arabia has handed down a 10-year prison sentence along with 2,000 lashes to a man, accused of posting atheistic and irreligious tweets.

The unidentified 28-year-old, who allegedly admitted to be an atheist in the court hearing, was fined 20,000 riyals, about $5,300, along with corporal punishment and jail term, Al-Watan online daily reported on Saturday.

The Saudi religious police said that they have found more than 600 tweets on the convict’s account about denying the existance of God, ridiculing religious beliefs, and disrespecting prophets.

The man has reportedly refused to repent, saying he had expressed what he believed.

The Saudi Arabia’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), or religious police, is a government agency tasked with enforcing Islamic law as defined in the Arab Kingdom. It is also responsible for monitoring social networks.

This is another recent story on Press TV:

Iran has increased the bounty on the apostate writer Salman Rushdie’s head by $500,000 for insulting the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), a religious authority announced.

Caretaker of 15th of Khordad Foundation, Ayatollah Sheikh Hassan Sane’ei made the remarks in a statement issued on Saturday following worldwide protests against the production of a sacrilegious movie in the US, which insults Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), ISNA reported.He added that the bounty, which was announced by late Imam Khomeini on the writer’s head, is now increased by $500,000 to $3,300,000.

The blasphemous movie sparked protests in Iran, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Sudan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and in European countries including Britain, where demonstrators set ablaze the effigies of President Barack Obama and the US flags.

The British Indian novelist and writer was sentenced to death by Imam Khomeini for insulting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, which was written in 1988 and sparked global protests by Muslims around the world.

Imam Khomeini issued a fatwa (religious edict) on 14 February 1989 calling for his death.

The caretaker of 15th of Khordad Foundation also said that these insulting acts against the Islamic sanctities would not be halted until the late Imam’s decree on apostate Salman Rushdie is carried out.

“The late Leader (of the Islamic Revolution) sought to root out these blasphemous plots hatched by the agents of the US and Zionist regime through announcing bounties, and now it’s the best time for fulfilling this job”, the statement added.

Ayatollah Sane’ei said his foundation supports those people who actively fight against these anti-Islamic plots and conspiracies.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 28, 2016 at 11:44 am

Iranian Elections: Theocracy, not Democracy.

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Iranian Theocracy: Islamism is Incompatible with Democracy.

As ‘elections’ in Iran approach (February the 26th) it’s well to take stock.

Not so long ago, well in 2010, Labour Candidate for Chippenham (2015), Andy Newman argued (Socialist Unity),

Iran simply is a constitutional democracy. I refer Dave to the discussion of the 1979 constitution in Ervand Abrahamian’s book “A History of Modern Iran” Cambridge, 2008. pages 162 to 169. Abrahamian is no apologist for the government, and his book is dedicated to the “memory of more than three hundred political prisoners hanged in 1988 for refusing to feign belief in supernatural”. Abrahamian discusses how the constitution tempers the power of the Guardian Council.

The electorate, all women and men over 16 years old, can vote for the president, as well as for members of the the Majlis (parliament), and provincial and district councils. The Majlis has authority to pass laws, scrutinise the activity of the executive, approve or veto the president’s choices of ministers, debate any issue, and appoint people to the Guardian Council. Indeed over the last 30 years the majlis has acted as a much more substantive parliamentary body in holding the executive to account than the Palace of Westminster has.

The maturity of the democracy is shown in the way that two loose political parties, the Radicals and Conservatives have developed, that government initiatives are often modified or defeated by the Majlis, and that contested transitions of power have been effected by means of democratic vote.

The paradox that this democratic infrastructure exists alongside the concept of “jurists’ guardianship”velayet-e faqeh derived from the revolutionary Islamic theory of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini explains a lot about modern Iran. The Islamic revolution was not per se a religious one, but one that combined a complex mixture of nationalism, political populism and religious radicalism.

This ‘paradox‘ is getting a parading just now.

The grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of Iran’s Islamic Republic, will not be allowed to stand in this month’s election in Iran, the clerical vetting body said on Wednesday, in a blow to reformist forces in the country.

Hassan Khomeini, 43, the first member of the Khomeini family to register for polls and an ally of President Hassan Rouhani, lost an appeal to the body against a ban. The setback comes at a time of growing rivalry between reformists and conservatives stirred by a deal with world powers that lifted economic sanctions against Tehran as part of a nuclear agreement.

Hardliners fear Iranian voters will now be more inclined to reward reformist and moderate candidates in Feb. 26 elections to the 290-seat parliament and the 88-seat Assembly of Experts, the body responsible for choosing the next Supreme Leader.

The Guardian Council, a clerical vetting body responsible for overseeing all elections, excluded thousands of parliamentary hopefuls and hundreds of candidates for the Assembly of Experts, leaving a field mostly of conservatives.

Reuters.

You will find scant reference to the details of this “Vetting” in the house journal of the anti-imperialism of fools, Coutnerpunch. They are more concerned, as, criticising US imperialism first obliges, in the Washington Tehran nuclear deal.

Franklin Lamb for example concentrates on this,

Notes from Tehran. February the 12th.

Many relatively moderate candidates were rejected by hard-liners during the vetting phase. Several of these blocked candidates support President Hassan Rouhani, a key architect of the Iran nuclear deal that they support.

And,

So-called moderate supporters of Iran’s President Rohani may have a major impact on this month’s elections and bring changes to Iran. The Iranian public is sophisticated about what JCPOA is likely to mean for them. Recent polls show that there has been an approximately ten percent drop in public support for the agreement.

It is left to Jane Green in the Morning Star to expose the nature of this ‘Islamic Democracy’.

…the coming elections in Iran are little more than the veneer of democracy, as the ability to stand is tightly controlled by the Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader, Ayotollah Ali Khamenei.

Elections to the Majlis (parliament) are held every four years and prominent figures hoping to appear on the ballot paper need to determine beforehand whether Khamenei and his inner circle of advisers will oppose their candidacy.

It is said that the Supreme Leader does not explicitly advise anyone against running, but his office or other high-ranking officials will often reveal his views on specific cases.

Also, when candidates register their names, the Guardian Council has to qualify them based on several criteria, notably their full “practical” loyalty to the Supreme Leader and their recognition of his authority over all matters of the state.

Finally, once elections are complete, the Guardian Council is solely responsible for endorsing the final result, despite sharing supervision over the vote counting process with the Interior Ministry.

Through these methods the Islamic Republic can claim that the elections are free and fair because everyone is eligible to vote.

While attempting to control the outcome of the elections, the regime’s leaders are keen for a massive turnout for the contest in four weeks’ time and have mobilised their entire publicity machine.

The turnout in this election has assumed significance since it will be used as a measure of the popularity of the regime and a test of its political stability.

However this disguises the high degree of manipulation which precedes the selection of those who appear on the ballot paper at all.

Given the conservative nature of the regime in Iran and the fears of many hardliners that Rouhani is “too reformist,” there is every chance that conservatives will take the opportunity to further squeeze out the limited voices for change which there may be in the Majlis.

Of 3,000 candidates put forward by reformists, only 30 have been allowed to stand by the Guardian Council, a mere one in 100 of those wishing to stand.

It is worth remembering that these are candidates who are deemed “reformist” within the very narrow confines of that term in Iranian politics.

There are no candidates opposed to the regime, standing for the rights of women or actively promoting the right of Iranian workers to engage in free and open trade union activity.

Persistent reports in Iranian opposition media indicate that the powerful Sepah Pasdaran (the Guards Corps) are confident that at least 180 out of the 290 seats of the new Majlis will be filled with their candidates, carefully selected from within the ranks of their commanders and ideologists.

In total 40 per cent of the 12,000 hopefuls for parliamentary election, including a significant number of MPs in the outgoing Majlis, have failed to qualify.

Those disqualified include Ali Motahari, a persistent critic of the hard-line Islamists in the regime, and Rasoul Montajabnia, the vice-president of the pro-reform Etemad Melli Party founded by Mehdi Karoubi, one of the two reformist candidates during the 2009 presidential candidates.

Others excluded are Majid Farahani, the head of the pro-reform Nedaye Iranian Party, and Akbar Alami, a former reformist member of parliament.

Sadegh Zibakalam, professor of political science at Tehran University, stated that the reformists now expected the president to step forward.

“According to the constitution, as the president and the country’s second power [after the leader] Mr Rouhani should supervise the implementation of the constitution. So now everyone’s expecting him to protest against the wide disqualifications.”

Jamshid Ahmadi, assistant general secretary of solidarity group Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights (Codir), has called into question the legitimacy of the elections.

“It is clear that many potential candidates have been excluded due to their political opinions,” he said.

“That hardly makes for an electoral process that can, in any normal sense, be described as free and fair.

“Until real opposition candidates are allowed to stand and the Iranian regime cleans up its act on human rights the elections will be little more than the illusion of democracy.”

Islamist Theocracy is incompatible with democracy. 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 13, 2016 at 4:23 pm