Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category
Rhea Wolfson Speaks of Racist Abuse: “Pretentious, self serving, martyrdom promoting, precious nonsense.” Says Leading ‘anti-Zionist’.
Rhea Wolfson is a breath of fresh air.
Like many activists I was very pleased to see a fresh face standing for the Centre left Grassroots Alliance slate for Labour’s NEC along with the other strong candidates, Ann Black, Claudia Webbe, Darren Williams, Christine Shawcroft, and Pete Willsman.
Reflecting the diversity of the democratic socialist, labour spectrum reflected on this list, which includes those from all parts of this tradition, Rhea is an activist with her own views. She immediately attracted criticism, from the Progress Right-wing of the party, from the Eustonites, and, as can be seen from her own account, from others who have nothing to do with the labour movement or any form of left.
Harry’s Place – the ‘Eustonites’ – singled her out.
Saul Freeman wrote,
Rhea Wolfson, a young socialist who has stated that “winning 2020 should not be the priority of the Labour Party” and asserts that “to focus only on elections loses sight of other ways of making effective changes in society”.
If Ken & Rhea didn’t exist, some of us would be tempted to invent them as clumsily drawn characters to use in our blog posts where we write about the moral and political collapse of the Left.
He appeared to suggest that her opinions fitted in a box that included the Stop the War Coalition, amongst people who, “who sneer at the dull incrementalism of parliamentary social democracy”.
Now I appreciate that Rhea isn’t too concerned about this aspect, but how could I vote for Labour in 2020 anyway? It wouldn’t be the safe or responsible thing to do. I mean – and I know this is stretching the argument – what if Labour actually achieved power? Is anyone seriously suggesting that we vote to empower those that hold the STWC world view, in whole or in part? How might history judge us?
Harry’s Place was not the only critic.
Rhea has written her own account – which should be read.
On Tuesday afternoon, I announced that I was standing for election to represent Labour Party members on its National Executive Committee. My first 24 hours as a candidate were a crash course in why so many are reluctant to put themselves forward. In less than a day I have faced racist and sexist abuse through social media, directed to both my family and me, been smeared by Tory blogs, and had senior figures in my own party attack me unfairly.
My day got worse from here. The right wing blog Guido Fawkes then picked up the story. This led to more attention and more hatred on social media. And I presume it was thanks to this coverage that I won the attention of the far-right.
A neo-Nazi blog covered my candidacy. There, I am described as a ‘dirty Zionist Jewess’. The writer has publicised my twitter account and instructed its readers to send Nazi images to me. The comments on the page include photoshopped images of me in a gas chamber. More harrowing still, they have shared my sister’s Twitter handle and suggested that she be targeted too.
This is such pretentious, self serving, martyrdom promoting, precious nonsense. Those of us who have actually been active in the anti-fascist movement, you know actually facing up to fash and driving them off the streets, would find this pathetic. I’ve been targeted for close on a decade by Redwatch – Southern Coast, a neo-Nazi site dedicated to physically targeting anti-fascists for attacks in the street or home or both. People on it have been attacked but we don’t moan. I’ve been attacked but you just put it down to experience.
Those who wish can try to finish this particular line of thought on the original site.
Greenstein added, in response to the suggestion that Rhea should be entitled to a Safe Space that,
Tony Greenstein is currently believed to be appealing against his suspension from the Labour Party.
By contrast how is the labour movement reacting?
Left Futures reports.
GMB condemns antisemitic abuse of centre-left candidate for Labour executive
GMB Scotland today utterly condemned the vile antisemitic abuse suffered by their Glasgow Branch Secretary, Rhea Wolfson, who is standing for a position on the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
A spate of deliberate attacks on social media by Nazi propagandists occurred following confirmation of Rhea’s candidacy and GMB Scotland have said they will bring these hate crimes to the attention of the police, while using every tool at their disposal to flush out the online racists.
Gary Smith, GMB Scotland Secretary, said:
There is no place for anti-Semitism or racism of any kind in our politics or society and Rhea has the total solidarity of her trade union in the face of this vile abuse.
Rhea is a hugely talented and principled activist; a popular and respected member of our union in Scotland and beyond with an established track record of campaigning for social justice and human rights.
We can’t let this hate go unchallenged. What sort of message would that send out to young people of all backgrounds who may want to get involved in making our communities and workplaces more fair, peaceful and prosperous?
GMB Scotland looks after our members and we call on all representatives from across civic society and politics to condemn these hate crimes.”
Like many others who were involved in forming and supporting the Grassroots Alliance when it was set up in 1998 I can say that all this brings back recollections of the response of those hostile to it at the time. *
This piece, which enjoyed cult status in some quarters (though not, for reasons which become immediately clear, amongst those individually singled out), brought us back down memory lane.
WHEN I was first at college, the most romantic and sexy left group on campus was Tariq Ali’s International Marxist Group. They smoked dope, they dropped acid, they bonked, they argued, they partied. When they got militant the blokes all put on denim jackets, tartan scarves and black gloves, and occupied things. And the IMG women were cool, too, divided between free-loving Alexandra Kollontais and Earth Mothers.
The International Socialists (forerunners of the Socialist Workers Party, and political home to Paul Foot) and sections of my own Communist Party were hostile to the IMG. “IMG, IMG, idle sons of the bourgeoisie”, was one little chant that we all enjoyed in those far-off days. Hour after hour we would sit up debating with IMG members the virtues and vices of Ernest Mandel’s critique of the Neither Washington Nor Moscow problematics.
Echoes of this past were ringing in my ears when I read the accounts this week of the attempts by Liz Davies, the ousted Labour candidate for Leeds, to get elected to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party this autumn. She is part of a slate – the “centre-left” slate, no less – which is canvassing for the votes of ordinary Labour Party members, even as I write. She’s had a very good press for, after all, what is she doing, other than trying to debate, in a party that now stifles debate? Poor Liz.
As always. Nice to see you again, comrades. But “centre-left”? Please.
I should point out that Liz had nothing to do with the IMG whatsoever.
That was before the Web, Twitter, Trolling, and when the likes of Saul and Greenstein could only grind their teeth in their basements amid the smell of damp socks.
At least Aaronovitch could do funnies.
*The Alliance’s founding groups were originally Labour Reform, a centrist democratic group within the Party, and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, the left wing democratic grouping, who subsequently brought in other more left-wing groupings from within the Labour Party. Private talks with trades union representatives to build a broader base had failed on union demands and this initiated the inclusion of a much broader Left group from the grassroots, including Labour Left Briefing and the Editor of Tribune, Mark Seddon. Successful efforts were also made to include the Scottish Left. Wikipedia.
Livingstone: “when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel.”
27 April 2016
Earlier today, JLM National Chair Jeremy Newmark made the following statement about events following the revelation that Naz Shah MP had posted antisemitic statements on Facebook some time before her election as an MP:
“Naz Shah is a politician who is clearly on a political journey, from a Respect firebrand in the choppy waters of local Bradford politics to the Labour Party. She courageously stood up to George Galloway’s bigotry at the General Election. However, her historic remarks and posting were repugnant and completely unacceptable.
Her contrition expressed over the past day seems to be genuine and sincere. This is part of that journey. We are optimistic that she will now take steps to deepen her understanding of Jewish identity. We do not ask or expect her to mute her criticism of the actions and policies of the Israeli government. We do ask and expect her to build upon her apology and contrition with a programme of education and action that includes standing up to anti-Semitism on the left and within the Palestine Solidarity Movement.”
Shortly after this statement was released it was announced that Shah had been suspended. Jeremy Newmark commented:
“The suspension of Naz Shah by the Labour Party is fair and consistent. I hope it will provide the context for a programme of education as we, at JLM, have set out.”
Jim comments on Shiraz Socialist.
It was right and also inevitable that Naz Shah was suspended from the Labour Party following the revelation of anti-Semitic Facebook posts suggesting that Israel should be “relocated to the US” and likening Zionism to al-Qaida (made, incidentally, before she was an MP).
In her defence it should be noted that (1) she made an immediate and unequivocal apology, with no attempt to claim that this was just “anti-Zionism” and (2) she has been brought up in a political culture in which saying offensive things about Jews, Israel and Zionism is considered acceptable and in which many people don’t even recognise that anti-Semitism is much of a problem: check out Ken Livingstone’s reaction, for instance.
(More on site…)
I note in passing that the Facebook post – which Shah did not create – was shared by many people, that it was one of many virulent posts circulating during the Israeli military actions against Gaza.
I, like many, opposed these armed repressive actions, and said so.
If some people got caught up in their emotions and have since, as Shah has, thought through her politics on a democratic basis then all credit to them, and to her.
This response does not help (Politics Home).
Speaking to BBC Radio London, Labour NEC member Ken Livingstone accused the “Israel lobby” of a campaign to smear its critics as anti-Semites, after Labour MP Naz Shah was suspended for sharing a post calling for Israel to be relocated to the United States.
“She’s a deep critic of Israel and its policies. Her remarks were over the top but she’s not anti-Semitic. I’ve been in the Labour party for 47 years; I’ve never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic. I’ve heard a lot of criticism of the state of Israel and its abuse of Palestinians but I’ve never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic…
“It’s completely over the top but it’s not anti-Semitic. Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews. The simple fact in all of this is that Naz made these comments at a time when there was another brutal Israeli attack on the Palestinians.
“And there’s one stark fact that virtually no one in the British media ever reports, in almost all these conflicts the death toll is usually between 60 and 100 Palestinians killed for every Israeli. Now, any other country doing that would be accused of war crimes but it’s like we have a double standard about the policies of the Israeli government.”
“As I’ve said, I’ve never heard anybody say anything anti-Semitic, but there’s been a very well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticises Israeli policy as anti-Semitic. I had to put up with 35 years of this…
“Let’s look at someone who’s Jewish who actually said something very similar to what Naz has just said. Albert Einstein, when the first leader of Likud, the governing party now in Israel, came to America, he warned American politicians: don’t talk to this man because he’s too similar to the fascists we fought in the Second World War.
“Now, if Naz or myself said that today we would be denounced as anti-Semitic, but that was Albert Einstein.”
He hit back at Lord Levy’s criticism of the leadership’s response to the anti-Semitism storms in Labour.
“After Jeremy became leader I was having a chat with Michael and he said he was very worried because one of his friends who was Jewish had come to him and said ‘the election of Jeremy Corbyn is exactly the same as the first step to the rise of Adolf Hitler to power’.
“Frankly, there’s been an attempt to smear Jeremy Corbyn and his associates as anti-Semitic from the moment he became leader. The simple fact is we have the right to criticise what is one of the most brutal regimes going in the way it treats the Palestinians.”
There are many aspects to this controversy, which has been envenomed by Livingstone’s comments.
One is the claim that some people are deliberately making wild claims about antisemitism on the left which may, as Livingstone alleges, be connected to a broader attack on the socialist left.
This indeed happens and could be seen on Newsnight yesterday.
Lady Neuberger claimed the issue in Labour was “attached to Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader”, and “an issue within the hard left”.
A measure of how wide Neuberger was prepared to extend her net was that she included ‘Militant’, that is the Socialist Party in the charge.
This is a good illustration of just twisted the debate has become.
The Socialist Party has been both an opponent of boycotting Israel and a supporter of the right of the Jewish people to their own state (Boycotts of Israel: Will they help the Palestinians?)
Israeli Jewish workers are also inevitably alarmed when some of the staunchest advocates of boycott action in Britain and elsewhere, such as the SWP, have a record of opposing the right of the Jewish people to their own state. Whereas in the case of South Africa, a majority of black workers there supported international sanctions against the ruling white elite, Israeli workers are not in agreement with sanctions against Israel.
A boycott under these conditions is a mistake, and a gift to the Israeli right.
The Palestinians and the Israeli Jews have a right to their own separate states. But achieving such states, with lasting, peaceful co-existence and decent living standards, will be unviable on a capitalist basis.
The only way that will be possible, will be on the basis of Israeli workers building the workers’ movement in Israel to challenge the power, profit and prestige of the Israeli capitalist class, and of Palestinian workers also building their own united movement.
I would say that the Socialist Party reflects what is in fact the mainstream left position of the issue, although one can be, to say the least, sceptical about the possibility of socialist states in the region.
If many of us are opposed to the policies of the Israeli government, if we are critical and the structures it is built on, we continue to hold to this two-state position. Equally we have every sympathy for the Palestinians, their plight, and efforts to create their own independent state and society.
Another is the fact that in some quarters of the left, notably those influenced by the ‘anti imperialism of fools’, there is a strain of hatred against ‘Zionism’ which shades into antisemitism.
Livingstone’s remarks about Hitler’s support for Zionism indicates that his claim about never hearing anti-Semitic remarks in the Labour Party disproves the widely-held view that he loves the sound of his own voice.
But everybody else heard him.
In response all I can say is that if that if anybody thinks for one fucking minute that the majority of the left, and the part of it the Tendance belongs to, will ever stop fighting antisemitism and will cease from defending the right of the Jewish people to determine their own future and state, and that they have any sympathy for would-be genociders, they are fucking joking.
from the Jewish Socialists’ Group
Antisemitism exists and must be exposed and fought against in the same way as other forms of racism by all who are concerned with combating racism and fascism.
Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same. Zionism is a political ideology which has always been contested within Jewish life since it emerged in 1897, and it is entirely legitimate for non-Jews as well as Jews to express opinions about it, whether positive or negative. Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews.
Criticism of Israeli government policy and Israeli state actions against the Palestinians is not antisemitism. Those who conflate criticism of Israeli policy with antisemitism, whether they are supporters or opponents of Israeli policy, are actually helping the antisemites. We reject any attempt, from whichever quarter, to place legitimate criticism of Israeli policy beyond the Pale.
Accusations of antisemitism are currently being weaponised to attack the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party with claims that Labour has a “problem” of antisemitism. This is despite Corbyn’s longstanding record of actively opposing fascism and all forms of racism, and being a firm a supporter of the rights of refugees and of human rights globally.
A very small number of such cases seem to be real instances of antisemitism. Others represent genuine criticism of Israeli policy and support for Palestinian rights, but expressed in clumsy and ambiguous language, which may unknowingly cross a line into antisemitism. Further cases are simply forthright expressions of support for Palestinian rights, which condemn Israeli government policy and aspects of Zionist ideology, and have nothing whatsoever to do with antisemitism.
The accusations do not refer to antisemitic actions but usually to comments, often made on social media, long before Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership. Those making the charges now, did not see fit to bring them up at the time, under previous Labour leaders, but are using them now, just before mayoral and local elections, when they believe they can inflict most damage on the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn.
The attack is coming from four main sources, who share agendas: to undermine Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Labour; to defend Israeli government policy from attack, however unjust, racist and harmful towards the Palestinian people; and to discredit those who make legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy or Zionism as a political ideology. As anti-racist and anti-fascist Jews who are also campaigning for peace with justice between Israelis and Palestinians, we entirely reject these cynical agendas that are being expressed by:
• The Conservative Party
• Conservative-supporting media in Britain and pro-Zionist Israeli media sources
• Right-wing and pro-Zionist elements claiming to speak on behalf of the Jewish community
• Opponents of Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour party.
The Jewish Socialists’ Group recognises that ordinary Jewish people are rightly concerned and fearful about instances of antisemitism. We share their concerns and a have a proud and consistent record of challenging and campaigning against antisemitism. But we will not support those making false accusations for cynical political motives, including the Conservative Party, who are running a racist campaign against Sadiq Khan, and whose leader David Cameron has referred to desperate refugees, as “a swarm” and “a bunch of migrants”. The Conservative Party demonstrated their contempt for Lord Dubs, a Jewish refugee from Nazism, when they voted down en masse an amendment a few days ago to allow 3,000 child refugees into Britain while Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, gave total support to Lord Dubs and his amendment.
The Jewish Socialists’ Group sees the current fearmongering about antisemitism in the Labour Party for what it is – a conscious and concerted effort by right-wing political forces to undermine the growing support among Jews and non-Jews alike for the Labour Party leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and a measure of the desperation of his opponents.
We stand against antisemitism, against racism and fascism and in support of refugees. We stand for free speech and open debate on Israel, Palestine and Zionism.
While some of the Jewish Socialists’ points about the origins of the present furore are borne out by the facts there remain problems about this statement.
Apart from underestimating the growth of overt antisemitism, not just from stray comments but from full-blown Ant-Semites of the type described by Sartre in Réflexions sur la question juive, this downplays the extent to which by denying the right of Israel to exist at all – and thus of the Jewish people where large numbers wish to – has a coherence within the framework of the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’.
Support for the view that Socialist Fight’s claims about a ‘pan-national Jewish bourgeoisie’ at the heart of world-wide Zionism, may seem a lunatic fringe affair.
But backing, sometimes unconditional, for the Islamist Hamas – which makes no secret about its hatred of the Jewish population in the Middle East – on ‘anti-imperialist’ grounds is much more widespread.
We note that within the Labour Party and the wider left there are strong critics of these positions, and that John McDonell has been sufficiently concerned to issue a declaration calling for there to be no place for antisemitism in the movement.
This careful and lucid examination of the media-famous incidents ignores the points raised in the previous two paragraphs: Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t got an ‘antisemitism problem’. His opponents do.
(The book will be presented at Berkeley: Towards a Politics of Revolutionary Love – Houria Bouteldja. 04/19/2016 – 1:00pm to 2:30pm. 691 Barrows Hall, UC Berkeley.
http://crg.berkeley.edu/node/990oWe invite you to hear her presentation of her book, just published a few weeks ago in France, and already the object of a very highly mediatized controversy. Live translation of Houria Bouteldja’s presentation into English will be provided.)
Review: Post-Colonial Race-Baiting.
“Et que penser de la discussion sur les mérites culinaires comparés de la viande de nègres, d’Allemands et de Marseillais, ou sur la meilleure manière de civiliser les sous-hommes d’Afrique ou des Indes en les réduisant en poussière avec la « fée Dum-Dum », alias « balle Nib-Nib »?
And what to consider about the discussion on the relative culinary merits of the flesh of Negroes, Germans, and the inhabitants of Marseilles, or on the best way of civilising the African and Indian sub-humans by reducing them to dust by ‘Fairy Dumdum’ alias, the ‘Nib Nib bullet’?
Le Jardin de Supplices. Octave Mirbeau. 1899. (The Torture Garden).
Segré and Pérez have systematically shredded this historical picture to pieces. We can bin the idea that empires are a European invention, and, most fundamentally, that European colonisation began outside Europe, and not in the conquests of the East, and of Ireland. On the darker side of the history of the Arab rule in Iberia and of the Caliphate’s incursion and domination of large parts of Europe she is, perhaps understandably, more or less silent. Flowing amongst her would-be lyrical invective Bouteldja offers a few valid ideas. One stands out, that the Atlantic slave trade and violent colonialisation provided models for the Nazis. This insight is nevertheless amply considered elsewhere (by Hannah Arendt, to only give the best known). One might extend the idea and examine Timothy Snyder’s argument that Hitler was a ‘zoological’ ideologue who thought that ‘race’ was real and that struggle between races was the ultimate reality of history. Unfortunately this comes rather too close to Bouteldja’s allusions to the idea that ‘whites’ are engaged in the fight to the death with ‘blacks’…. (1)
Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous
ess with Jean Paul Sartre. Shoot Sartre (Fusillez Sartre) is her refrain, which sounds perhaps better in her armchair than on the paper. The Intellectual, novelist and philosopher, is an analogy for the French left. Why? This turns out to be well known, and may be summarised quickly. In the Maspero edition of Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (1968) his famous preface was withdrawn, on the insistence of Joie Fanon, who called Sartre a Zionist because he defended Israel in the Six Day War of June 1967.
Bouteldja is keen on the equally famous – and morally cretinous – Sartre lines expressed in that text: that killing a colonialist serves two purposes: the death of an oppressor and the making of a freedom fighter’s independent manhood. She admires Fanon, one of her titular figures along with James Baldwin and Malcolm X. But, like his widow, she detests Zionists. Exit – as she might say in one her numerous attempts at pithiness – Sartre. Welcome the unconditional supporter of the Palestinians, Jean Genet, “What I like about Genet is that he doesn’t give a Fuck about Hitler.” (“Ce que j’aime chez Genet, c’est qu’il s’en fout d’Hitler” Page 20)
The European Civil Religion of the Shoah needs, Bouteldja is not shy to assert, needs blasphemers. Not to deny the Holocaust, or (?) not to give a toss about it, but to remove the moral legitimacy that atoning for the genocide gives the West and Israel. The Jews have turned from ‘dhimis’ (that, is second class citizens) in Europe, to become their colonial soldiers in the service of ‘imperialism’ (Page 51). The Jews, post 1945, have accepted the “racial pact of the Republic”, become part of the ‘Jewish-Christian civilisation”, “part of the race of the Lords”, trading their history and memories for a “colonial ideology” (Page 53) And in that context, for the ‘South’ the Shoah is less than a ‘detail’ of history, it is nearly invisible. Anti-semitism is European (Page 55). Arabs are not philosemites, but they are not anti-Semites either (Ibid). The European religion of commemorating the Holocaust is just that…European, a distant sound for those suffering from colonialism. Only by abandoning Zionism can the Jews drop their white masks and become comrades, sharing the skin of the noirs In other words, do what Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous tells them to do.
Bouteldja is a master of racial baiting, shouting down her opponents. These passages effectively deny self-determination to one group of people, the ‘Jews’, along with some unpleasant claims that insult people’s right to give genocide the importance it has. Her panders in academic post-colonial studies will no doubt be able to explain away these passages. They will surely be at Berkley in the near future.
Some such people, and her domestic allies, will no doubt dismiss the sexism, homophobia and racism attacked by Segré and Pérez. No doubt there is an audience for an assertion and exploration of the identities and oppressions of the multiple communities of immigrant origin in Europe, ill-served by all the states, including the formally egalitarian France. Many writings exist. There is a need to talk about the new forms of anti-racism. There are occasional gleams of interest in the present work of personal experience, overshadowed all too often by slabs of pre-digested ideology. Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous, indeed has also the most ambitious possible intention: to speak for “nous”, the ‘noirs’ the ‘indigènes’ and to hail, with a shout the Vous, the Whites. Without doubt we should include the text on the reading lists. But, but, but…….
But behind the brave words there is a lack of substance. There is absolutely no discussion of the horrors taking place across the whole Middle East, from Yemen to Turkey, passing by Iraq and Syria, not to mention Israel and Palestine themselves. There are genocides happening there right now.
Bouteldja ignores them. Expect for a brief sentence about young people in the banlieue falling for violent extremism she ignores the international phenomenon of Islamism and, most significantly, the popular fight against it. The pamphlet avoids these, and other, profound issues in a puppet theatre, the crudest of seaside shows, with the Jews dangling on the strings of Imperialism, as if their cords only need to be cut for peace and justice to reign.
Faced with a culture ruled by White “égoists et individualistes”, a West “in decline” what does Bouteldja offer? Is there a way out of oppression? She proposes a “radical questioning of Modernity and a consideration of an alternative civilisation.”(Page 92) What is this superior option to the White Republic and is false promise of liberty equality and fraternity?
Fanon’s Third Worldism, American Black Power ideology steps aside. She summons god, Allah, for a world without hierarchy, a “une seule entité et authorité à dominer: Dieu” – a single entity authorised to rule: god. “ a côtés de tout leurs frères et soeurs en humanité” – alongside all their brothers and sisters in humanity. (Page 133).
(1) Black Earth. The Holocaust as History and warning. Timothy Snyder. Bodley Head. 2015.
Some notes from Frantz Fanon. A life, David Macey. Granta Books. 2000.
Of interest in this context.
“Even when Fanon is remembered in Algeria, the memory can be clouded by partial amnesia and ignorance, Fanny Colonna, who taught as the University of Tizi-Ouzo until she was forced by the rising tide of violence and xenophobia to leave for France in the early 1990s, recalls meeting school students who had read Fanon in their French class but did not know that he was black.”(Page 8)
““The Third Worldist Fanon was an apocalyptic creature; the post-colonial Fanon worries about identity politics, and often abut his own sexual identity, but he is no longer angry. And yet, if there is a truly Fanonian emotion, it is anger. His anger was a response to the experience of a black man in a world defined as white, but not to the ‘fact’ of blackness. It was a response to the condition and situation of those he called the wretched of the earth. The wretched of the earth are still there, but not in the seminar rooms where the talk is of post-colonial theory. They came out in the streets of Algiers in 1988, and the Algerian army shot them dead. They have been subsequently killed in there tens of thousands by authoritarian Algerian governments and so-called Islamic fundamentalists. Had he lived, Fanon would still be angry. His readers should be angry too.”(Page 28)
“Anti-Semitism was by no means unusual in North Africa, and no, despite all the talk of African and Afro-Arab unity, was anti-black racism. In both Algeria and Tunisia black people were commonly referred to as Al-âbid (the singular is ‘Ab’d’), meaning slave’ –a reminder that the corsairs of the Barbary Coast had enslaved black as well as white.”(Page 316)
“the function of the violence of the colonised is to negate and transcend the seriality created by the violence of colonisation. In doing so, to create a group-in-fusion with a common project and praxis.”(Page 485)
“The themes of Third World solidarity and unity, of a version of pan-Africanism and of the liberating power of violence have not worn well. Fro a generation, Fanon was a prophet. He has become a witness to the process of decolonisation but, whilst his discussion of racism remains valid, he has little to say about the outcome of that process.”(Page 503)
Zionists to the Gulag: the “excellent Houria Bouteldja (Richard Seymour).
The left-wing political scientist, Thomas Guénolé, recently (18th March) rowed with the spokesperson of the Parti des Indigènes de la République, Houria Bouteldja on the French television (France 2) programme, “Ce soir (ou jamais !)” sur France 2 (Atlantico).
He took out a photo of her posing with the slogan, Zionists to the Gulag (note, which adds, Peace, mais gulag quand même, but Gulag even so).
“si une femme noire se fait violer par un homme noire, il est légitime qu’elle ne porte pas plainte pour protéger la communauté noire”.
If a black women is raped by a black man, it’s right that she does not go to the police in order to protect the black community.”
On gays, “comme chacun sait, la tarlouze n’est pas tout à fait un homme. l’arabe qui perd sa puissance virile n’est plus un homme”.
Everybody knows that a poof is not completely a man, the Arab who loses his potency is no longer a man”.
Her reply was to state that she couldn’t give a toss what Guénolé thought, and that his fundamental accusation against her was that she was not white.
Now is the time to return to a critical examination of the ideas of this person and her group.
Houria Bouteldja, the “excellent Houria Bouteldja” as Richard Seymour calls her (here), is the spokesperson for the Indigènes de la République. She is known to the American left from the reprinting of their statements by the International Socialist Organization, and a star article, with Malik Tahar Chaouch, translated by somebody who should have known better (The Unity Trap) in the oddly named Jacobin, which claims to be ‘reason in revolt”.
Her group, which opposes “race-mixing” and attacks the “philo-Semitism” of the French State, amongst many other criticisms of ‘Jews’ and ‘Zionists’ has also received a respectful audience in Britain, including a ‘Blog’ and billing at meetings of the Islamic ‘Human Rights’ Commission. Verso has published a book recently criticising French secularism by one of the Indigènes’ ‘white’ supporters, the former leftist and self-styled ‘feminist’ Christine Delphy..
Rumours that an English version of Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous is in preparation at Verso, with an introduction by Ian Donovan have been strongly denied.
This is not a translation of Segré’s tonic review of Bouteldja but a discussion of some key points. The article begins with a summary of the authoress’ views which will perhaps explain that the prospect of a full account of the text – after all a honest attempt to make intelligible a picture of the world that bears comparison with such landmark thinkers as David Icke – would be hard to accomplish. But we salute comrade Sergé for having waded through this singular oeuvre. This is just to make known to an English speaking audience some of his main points
Sergè provides an outline of the Bouteldja contribution to historical materialism. White imperialism since the key date of 1492 is structured by racial inequality. With this legacy imprinted across every ‘white’ society, legislation for equality puts ‘whites’ (blancs) first and relegates the “indigenes” (indigenous, that is, native American, African Blacks, Arabs from the Maghreb from 1830, and the peoples of Asia). As part of this process white women’s rights have been obtained through both their owns struggle and through the existence of imperialism.
The fault lines lie deep. The French declaration of Human Rights (first version, 1789) was inspired by the African Declaration of Independence of 1776, created on the basis of the massacre of the indigenous population. Indelibly marked by its murdering, enslaving colonial origins the bourgeoisie invented the category of the white race to divide, and to prevent any alliance with its indigenous slaves. For those in the Third World today even those of immigrant descent, including herself, are ‘white’ from the fact of living in (imperialist) Europe.
Amongst the many discoveries Bouteldja makes during her exploration of the history of ‘white’ imperialism is Sartre. He is the incarnation of the French left, even the revolutionary left. As such, in the allegory for the history of that left, he was botha fighter against French colonialism and a supporter of the creation of the state of Israel. The author of Réflexions sur la Question Juive, was a ‘Zionist’. That affiliation cannot be tolerated: “Fusillez Sartre !” (shoot Sartre!). The thought could be developed…..Sartre is an emblem, a symbol of the gauche Française. Should they also be shot?
It can be seen that Boutelja has a keen interest in the ‘Jewish Question’. For her, anti-Zionism is the crucial issue: confrontation between the indigènes and the ‘whites’, a clash over the State of Israel, is the site of a historic battle between “us” (her side) and “you” – well, you. She reveals the Jewish task, “they have been chosen by the West” for three cardinal missions: to settle the crisis of moral legitimacy for the white world – the result of the Nazi genocide – to sub-contract republican (that is, French) racism, and to be the armed wing of Western imperialism in the Arab world. (“élus, par l’Occident », et cela « pour trois missions cardinales » : « résoudre la crise de légitimité morale du monde blanc, conséquence du génocide nazi, sous-traiter le racisme républicain et enfin être le bras armé de l’impérialisme occidental dans le monde arabe » (p. 51).
From the – reasonable – point that the Shoah was an extension of colonial barbarity into Europe itself, the zoological view of history as a struggle for mastery between ‘races’ that would resort to extermination – to the other two ‘missions’ is not a leap, but a change of topic. Bouteldja considers that the “Arab essence” and ‘Arab land” is colonised by the Jews – Israel- as a result of a conscious ‘white’ decision, “they have offered Israel to you.”
It is without surprise that we learn that Bouteldja rejects “white rationality”.
This is the leading Indigène’s alternative: Allah Akbar! “In Islam divine transcendence induces humility and a continuous awareness of transience. The wishes, the projects of the faithful are marked by cries of ‘in cha Allah’. We begin one day and we will end one day. Only the all-powerful is eternal. Nobody can rise up against Him. Only the proud believe that they can. From this pathology of pride are born the blasphemous theories of the superiority of Whites over non-Whites, of the superiority of men over women, of the superiority of the human race over animals and nature. One does not need to be a believer to interpret this philosophy and apply it to the mundane. (*)
Followers of the Qu’ran have never been known to practice slavery and religious or racical superiority….
The Charnel House has published an excellent translation of earlier critique of this group: Toward a materialist approach to the question of race: A response to the Indigènes de la République.
* … Allahou akbar ! Et il ajoute : Il n’y a de Dieu que Dieu. En islam, la transcendance divine ordonne l’humilité et la conscience permanente de l’éphémère. Les vœux, les projets de ses fidèles ne sont-ils pas tous ponctués par ‘in cha Allah’ ? Nous commençons un jour et nous finissons un jour. Seul le Tout-Puissant est éternel. Personne ne peut lui disputer le pouvoir. Seuls les vaniteux le croient. De ce complexe de la vanité, sont nées les théories blasphématoires de la supériorité des Blancs sur les non-Blancs, de la supériorité des hommes sur les femmes, de la supériorité des hommes sur les animaux et la nature. Nul besoin d’être croyant pour interpréter cette philosophie d’un point de vue profane » (p. 132).
Paris: January 2014. Anti-Semites at far right Jour de colère (Day of Rage).
Owen Jones writes in the Guardian.
“A Labour activist has been suspended, reinstated and suspended again after claims she made antisemitic remarks. The left must speak out ever more loudly in solidarity with Britain’s Jews.”
Owen writes about the case of Vicki Kirby, although we could extend this to the groupuscule of recently suspended Labour members Gerry Downing’s Socialist Fight. They have extended their group to Ian Donovan who broadcasts a “theory” of a “pan-national Jewish bourgeoisie” which makes up the vanguard of the global ruling class.
In this context Owen’s intervention is to be broadly welcomed.
How can we deal with anti-Semitism?
…there are a number of things Labour as a party should do. Firstly, change the rules so that anyone found guilty of antisemitism – or any other form of racism – is expelled from the party. Their readmission should only happen when they have demonstrably been shown to have been re-educated.
The first difficulty with the initial proposal is that racism is an extremely wide term. At what point does the widespread hostility towards migrants shade into dislike, then into hatred, then into xenophobia, and then into racism? Given that roughly half the country entertains at least some feelings of antagonism towards members of different ethnic/national groups disentangling this from racism is going to be a mighty task. Apart from anti-foreigner views, there are thorny issues of inter-religious hatred, which are again hard to separate from racism, and intra-religious hatred.
The second difficulty is how to think of any form of “re-eduction” that would work – even if one accepted the rebarbative word. The wars in Syria and Iraq and the activities of the genocidal Islamist racists have led the government to offer a controversial Prevent programme as a solution to home-grown ‘radicalisation’. It is not demonstratively effective. It has shaky premises in the promotion of ‘British values’. ’ Even without this kind of approach the idea that people have to show that they have “acceptable” ideas leads to all kinds of problems about defining what is and what is not right. Making Labour an island safe from these views is not simple.
Who would be in charge of this ‘re-education’ and what would definition of anti-racism would it consist of?
The third difficulty is that, as the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty point out, at present Labour suspends and expels people (as in the two cases cited above) through the decisions of the Compliance Unit. They state, “The unelected “Compliance Unit” cannot be allowed to be the plaintiff, judge, and jury of Labour Party membership. It should be abolished.” (Against anti-semitism, for due process).
‘Due process’ for excluding individuals and organised groups who promote anti-semitism and other forms of racism has to take these issues on board.
Can Owen answer this criticism?
Owen also writes,
Secondly, set up two commissions: one on antisemitism, the other on anti-Muslim prejudice, respectively headed by a leading Jewish and a Muslim figure. Both forms of bigotry are on the rise in Britain, and both exist within progressive circles and the Labour party. The commissions could issue a series of recommendations, both for dealing with it when it arises within Labour, and also in wider society too.
It is a step forward form an anti-racist standpoint that Owen uses the term “anti-Muslim prejudice” – that is hatred against people who have a Muslim background or belief – rather than the highly ambiguous ‘Islamophobia’ – which refers to the fear or dislike of a religious belief.
It is not nevertheless clear why these bodies should be headed by ‘leading Jewish and Muslim’ figures – the status of anybody as a “leading” Jewish figure (for whom?) is not clear, let alone whether, in the current climate of inter-Islamic conflict, the credentials of anybody to represent ‘Muslims’ is going to be uncontested.
Owen’s conclusion is a valuable one.
It is incumbent on the progressively minded to take antisemitism seriously. We wouldn’t belittle the seriousness of other forms of bigotry, or seek to deflect from it. It is possible to passionately oppose antisemitism on the one hand, and on the other oppose the policies of Israel’s government and support Palestinian national self-determination. Both these issues have to be completely disentangled: a discussion about serious antisemitism should not be a launchpad into a debate about Israel. It cannot be acceptable that Jewish people feel uncomfortable in Labour, or indeed in Britain. The left should speak out ever more loudly about antisemitism as an act of solidarity with Britain’s Jews. After all, socialism is about the emancipation of humanity from all forms of oppression, or it is nothing.
Unraveling these issues, given the example already cited of Socialist Fight, and, more widely, the kind of ‘anti-Zionism’ illustrated in the photo above of the French far-right, up to many other forms of ‘anti-Zionism’ such as the Indigènes de la République, fashionable on parts of the left, including the oddly named US publication Jacobin, accused of anti-semitism, is not going to be easy. (1) But few would deny that the UK has a miniscule problem compared to that posed by the French far-right – traditional or Islamist – and the “political confusionism” that reins there in some – still limited – quarters.
The Anti-Racism and Anti-Imperialism of Fools: the Indigènes de la République against class-struggle.
Ni patrie ni frontières !
This is an important left-wing contribution to the critique of the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’.
Although the context is French and Dutch there are many implications for Britain and the wider anglophone world.
Antiracism and class struggle in France : dialogue around the PIR (Parti des Indigènes de la République).
Late 2014, early 2015, a debate took place in the Netherlands between various leftist organizations and Sandew Hira, a historian who has taken the initiative, together with others, to build the Decolonise The Mind (DTM) movement in the Netherlands. The debate began after rapper Insayno was rejected to speak at an anti-racist demonstration. In one of his raps he had asserted : “The treatment of the concentration camps is only a joke compared to our slave trade”. After some discussion about the scientific nonsense, the political destructiveness and the heartlessness of comparing the various massacres in this way, the debate quickly turned to how to organise against racism, the role of white people in the anti-racism struggle, and how the Left and the DTM movement could struggle side by side.
During the debate we asked Hira about the ideas and principles of DTM. He explained them quite clearly, but we did not really get to know much about the practice of the new movement. At the moment it seems mainly engaged in the training of activists, most of whom seem to have been active in the anti-racism and pro-Palestine movements. DTM is still a relatively small, mainly academic movement that does not organize actions or campaigns by itself.
In the debate and also in various meetings Hira often mentioned that he has two important international friends with whom he cooperates very closely : Ramon Grosfoguel of the Berkeley University of California and Houria Bouteldja of the movement “Les Indigènes de la République” in France. That organisation celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2015 and already had quite some time to build a movement, even outside the universities.
We asked two French comrades what they knew about those Indigènes. How does this movement operates, and how are their ties with the extra-parliamentary Left ? In this way we might be able to take a little look at the future of a part of the anti-racism movement in the Netherlands. That’s important, because as those who followed the debate may have noticed, we at Doorbraak are not too keen on how Hira and DTM try to insert some not so liberating ideas into the growing movement against racism.
Of course, the French situation is very different from the Dutch one. In both countries there is indeed a lot of racism, a legacy of the shared colonial past, but the Left and the anti-racism movement in France are really much bigger. Progressive intellectuals also play a much more important role, and there are constantly great nation wide debates, also on racism. However, the practical organizational activism seems to be relatively modest.
We asked our questions to Nad, with whom we organized two meetings in 2012 on the jobless movement RTO in which she is active, and Yves Coleman of the magazine “Ni patrie ni frontières” (“No country, no borders”) and our regular translator. Both live in Paris and are very involved in the anti-racism struggle. Nad answered the first three questions, and Coleman the rest. And because both, of course, did not always agree with each other, we offered them the opportunity afterwards to respond on each others answers with critiques and additions. So we started with Nad.
The present document is a record of questions put to Nad and Yves Colman.
It should not be necessary to say this but both are, by PIR terms, indigènes.
The initial section of the debate takes up the origins of the Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR) and their 2005 Manifesto L’appel des « Indigènes de la République . Many people, including this writer, were struck by the serious tone of the latter document. It was set out by a variety of individuals, mostly involved in minority immigrant associations. Its wider support included political activists of the mainstream left, various ‘other globalisation’ movements (Attac) active in those days, and some on the Trotskyist left.
The group was soon criticised by people for whom who I have respect. Claude Liauzu (1940 – 2007), author of the indispensable Histoire de l’anticolonialisme en France, du XVIe siècle à nos jours (2007) accused them of ” reducing colonialisation to a crime, and reducing present-day problems to the reproduction of colonial racialism, and reducing the study of the past to a search for repentance. (Manipulations de l’histoire. Claude Liauzu. Le Monde Diplomatique April 2007).
As a ‘party’, created in 2008, the group continues to influence debate on race in France.
But it has been challenged on the left.
Last year this was translated: Toward a materialist approach to the racial question: A response to the Indigènes de la République. Malika Amaouche, Yasmine Kateb, & Léa Nicolas-Teboul Vacarme (June 25, 2015).
The PIR’s spokesperson, Houria Bouteldja, has, over the years, made many ‘controversial’ comments, including the claim that homosexuality does not exist in low income “popular” French areas,