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

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The State: A Cautionary Tale?

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

The audience hardly has to be told of the importance of the subject. Globalisation means not only that media had brought a cascade of information about Daesh and its acts, but also has facilitated the recruitment of these supporters amongst several thousand other Europeans. As Graeme Wood put this in the Way of Strangers (2017) “Since 2010, tens of thousands of men, women and children have migrated to a theocratic state, under the belief that migration is a sacred obligation and that the state’s leader is the worldly successor of the last and greatest of prophets. If religious scholars see no role for religion in a mass movement like this, they see no role for religion in the world.”

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

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

Radicalisation.

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

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

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

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

 

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

Next episode tonight…

******

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

Channel Four.

The Mail reviewer Christopher Stevens  says,

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

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 21, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Barcelona Attack, Love, Solidarity and Sadness: Reflections.

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Barcelona: “No tenim por! No tienen miedo! We are not Afraid!

 

Spanish police kill five suspected terrorists in resort town of Cambrils

Suspects believed to have been preparing attack following killings in Barcelona on Thursday afternoon; one woman injured has since died. El País

ISIS claims responsibility for Barcelona terror attack that killed at least 13 people

Police detain three suspects, naming Driss Oukabir, who allegedly rented the van used in the attack El País

Isis supporters celebrate Barcelona attack after the terror group claim responsibility.

Independent.

Several pro-Isis social media channels put out messages in Spanish such as “Kill the Spanish pigs” and users changed their profile pictures to Driss Oukabir, a suspect in custody.

More: Daesh reivindica el atentado y llama a matar “cerdos españoles”

Barcelona and its people have a special place in many hearts.

The history and culture of the City is celebrated and loved throughout the world.

It goes without saying that many are keenly aware of the tragic 20th century history of Barcelona. Some on the English speaking left will have read the translation of Max Aub’s Campo cerrado (1943, translated as Field of Honour 2009), “It tells the story of Rafael Serrador, a young man from Castellón, near Valencia who, aged sixteen, moves to Barcelona. He gradually becomes involved in politics. He is very unsure of himself and what he believes and ends up joining the Falange, i.e. the Fascists. He starts becoming disillusioned when the leader tells him that he is interested only in ideas and not people. When the Spanish Civil War does break out, at the end of the novel, we follow events in Barcelona as the workers resist the take-over of the city by the Fascists and Nationalists. At this point, Rafael realises the error of his ways and fights with the anarchists rather than the Falange.  (The Modern Novel).

It is to be hoped that the same left will respond with dignity to the present horrific events.

We do not need a further recycling of the idea that the murders took place because of “imperialism”, and “Western Wars”.

Nor do we need yet another ‘Nothing to do with Islam’, “so-called Islamic State” lecture, still less ‘Islam is a religion of Peace’ homily.

A simple declaration of love for those affected by the slaughter and condemnation of the killers is the principal message called for. 

We could however mention this,

Islamist extremists suspected of opening fire on diners at Turkish restaurant popular with foreigners in Ouagadougou.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 18, 2017 at 12:29 pm

As Trump’s Crassness Reaches New Heights Antifa in the Spotlight.

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Trump’s Crassness Reaches New Heights.

In the wake of these events Louis Proyect has written an important article,

Antifa and the perils of adventurism

I would suggest reading the full post but these extracts are worth flagging up:

Turning now to Charlottesville, it is obvious to me that if the protests had been disciplined and under the control of marshals such as was the norm during the Vietnam antiwar movement, there would have been much less of a chance that James Fields would have been able to drive his Dodge Challenger into a crowd, killing a young woman and injuring 19 others.

The antifa contingent came to the city with the intent of turning it into a battle between the fascists and their own street fighters in the same way that it “intervened” at the Berkeley protest against Milo Yiannopoulos. Fortunately, nobody was killed or injured at Berkeley but the protest lacked political clarity.

The same cannot be said about his appearance at the University of Washington in Seattle on Inauguration Day. During a melee between the black bloc and cops outside the hall where Yiannopoulos was speaking, IWW member Josh Dukes was shot by Elizabeth Hokoana, a Trump supporter. Her husband Marc was arrested with her as an accomplice. Dukes has lost his gall bladder, half his colon and is left with a severely damaged liver.

If you want to keep tabs of the adventurists who are unaccountable to anybody outside of their ranks, you need to consult the “It’s Going Down” website. There you can read an assessment of the Charlottesville events by an anonymous author, which is typical of the lack of accountability that exists in this milieu. Titled “Charlottesville and the Rise of Fascism in the USA: What We Need to Do”, it is certainly not what one would call an exercise in false modesty.

Louis summarises the ideas behind these groups, which could stand for sections of the  larger and more important (not least because fascism has held state power in countries on the Continent European anti-fascist movements,

The enemy is not fascism as much as it is capitalism that exploits the working class according to civilized norms that would never be associated with the swastika or other fascist regalia. How do I know? Just read the NY Times op-ed page that screams bloody murder about Trump but gave Obama and Hillary Clinton a free pass. It was, after all, Democratic Party indifference to the suffering of the majority of Americans that led to the current crisis.

In a way, the American antifa movement suffers the same kind of political myopia as the original movement in postwar Germany, where Socialists and Communists tried to root out the residual Nazism left behind in the German state. This history is detailed in a Jacobin article titled “The Lost History of Antifa” written by contributing editor Loren Balhorn who is a member of Die Linke.

This is harshly put, but the ultimate focus on “capitalism” remains behind  many, though far from all,  present day movements in Europe.

Unfortunately Louis fails to mention the more positive side of this hard-line approach, that is building working class resistance to the far–right. The British Anti-Facsist Action may not have represented large forces but the ideas they held could sum this stand up, “AFA had what they called a “twin-track” strategy: physical confrontation of fascists on the streets and ideological struggle against fascism in working class communities.”

At a time when the French Front National is the largest party amongst manual employees and has an ever stronger presence in the traditionally unionised left-voting areas of France, such as the North, this remains an issue which has to be taken seriously.

Proyect ends with these controversial comments,

As a small, self-appointed savior of the America people, the antifa milieu has little grasp of the tasks that face us. Right now it is the cops, not Richard Spencer, that is killing Black people with impunity. All across the country, fracking and other forms of environmental despoliation will be on the rise under Donald Trump. This requires a powerful mass movement to confront, not small-scale skirmishes. We are dealing with frightening confrontations over North Korea that cry out for a new anti-nuclear movement, not stupid, childish window-breaking.

I doubt that anybody involved with window-breaking, fist-fighting idiocy is capable of rising to the occasion but I urge people who have been seduced by their fake militancy in the same way that they got a kick out of the viral Richard Spencer getting punched video to wise up. We are in for some stormy battles and intelligence is needed much more than empty bravado.

This is how the US media reports Antifa,

What is Antifa? CNN.

Antifa is short for anti-fascists. The term is used to define a broad group of people whose political beliefs lean toward the left — often the far left — but do not conform with the Democratic Party platform. The group doesn’t have an official leader or headquarters, although groups in certain states hold regular meetings.

Antifa positions can be hard to define, but many members support oppressed populations and protest the amassing of wealth by corporations and elites. Some employ radical or militant tactics to get their message across.

Scott Crow, a longtime Antifa organizer, says the “radical ideals” promoted by Antifas are starting to be adopted by liberals. “They would never have looked at (those ideals) before, because they saw us as the enemy as much as the right-wingers.”

The majority of Antifa members don’t fall into a stereotype. Since the election of President Donald Trump, however, most new Antifa members are young voters.

The exact origins of the group are unknown, but Antifa can be traced to Nazi Germany and Anti-Fascist Action, a militant group founded in the 1980s in the United Kingdom.

Modern-day members of Antifa have become more active in making themselves known at public rallies and within the progressive movement, said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. “What they’re trying to do now is not only become prominent through violence at these high-profile rallies, but also to reach out through small meetings and through social networking to cultivate disenfranchised progressives who heretofore were peaceful,” Levin said.

Members have been spotted at high-profile, right-wing events across the country, including Milo Yiannopoulos’ appearance at the University of California, Berkeley in February. They also protested (at – Blog Editor’s note)  President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.

While it can be difficult to distinguish Antifa activists from other protesters, some dress head to toe in black. Members call this the “Black Bloc.” They also wear masks to hide their identities from the police and whomever they are protesting (against – Blog Editor’s note).

The group is known for causing damage to property during protests. In Berkeley, black-clad protesters wearing masks threw Molotov cocktails and smashed windows at the student union center where the Yiannopoulos event was to be held. Crow said members use violence as a means of self-defense and they believe property destruction does not equate to violence.

“There is a place for violence. Is that the world that we want to live in? No. Is it the world we want to inhabit? No. Is it the world we want to create? No. But will we push back? Yes,” Crow said.

Peter Beinart gives a different perspective.

What Trump Gets Wrong About Antifa

If the President is concerned about violence on the left, he can start by fighting the white supremacist movements whose growth has fueled its rise.

In his Tuesday press conference, Donald Trump talked at length about what he called “the alt left.” White supremacists, he claimed, weren’t the only people in Charlottesville last weekend that deserved condemnation. “You had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” he declared. “Nobody wants to say that.”

I can say with great confidence that Trump’s final sentence is untrue. I can do so because the September issue of The Atlantic contains an essay of mine entitled “The Rise of the Violent Left,” which discusses the very phenomenon that Trump claims “nobody wants” to discuss. Trump is right that, in Charlottesville and beyond, the violence of some leftist activists constitutes a real problem. Where he’s wrong is in suggesting that it’s a problem in any way comparable to white supremacism.

What Trump calls “the alt left” (I’ll explain why that’s a bad term later) is actually antifa, which is short for anti-fascist. The movement traces its roots to the militant leftists who in the 1920s and 1930s brawled with fascists on the streets of Germany, Italy, and Spain. It revived in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, when anti-racist punks in Britain and Germany mobilized to defeat Neo-Nazi skinheads who were infiltrating the music scene. Via punk, groups calling themselves anti-racist action—and later, anti-fascist action or antifa—sprung up in the United States. They have seen explosive growth in the Trump era for an obvious reason: There’s more open white supremacism to mobilize against.

As members of a largely anarchist movement, antifa activists generally combat white supremacism not by trying to change government policy but through direct action. They try to publicly identify white supremacists and get them fired from their jobs and evicted from their apartments. And they disrupt white-supremacist rallies, including by force.

As I argued in my essay, some of their tactics are genuinely troubling….

Full article here.

This is how Spencer Sunshine reported his experience of Charlottesville.

I Almost Died in Charlottesville

The anti-racist demonstration against the August 12 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was the most frightening I have ever been to. Yes, I was in the crowd when a car—driven by a man who had been marching in uniform with a neo-Nazi group—slammed into the crowd, killing one and injuring at least 19. But that was only part of it. With armed militias on the streets playing an unclear role, police being even more opaque about their intent and 1,000 fascists on the streets of what seemed like a ghost town, this was not an ordinary demonstration.

Although the event was set to start at noon, attendees of the White nationalist “Unite the Right” rally started gathering at Emancipation Park early in the morning. Various counter-protesters met up in different parts of the city rather than holding a single, unified rally or march, and anti-racist clergy members headed directly to the park early in the morning. Around 9:30 a.m., the antifascists who ended up having fights with White nationalists arrived.

Authorities almost immediately lost control of the situation and declared the White nationalist rally and the anti-racist counter-demonstration an “unlawful assembly.” At about 1:40 p.m., the car rammed into anti-racists who were celebrating the fact that “Unite the Right” had been halted.

Charlottesville, Virginia, is a picturesque town, filled with precious little houses and statues of Confederate generals. It was the city council’s attempt to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that set off previous Far Right demonstrations. The first, a torch-lit rally led by alt-right figure Richard Spencer, was in May. The second, a small Ku Klux Klan rally, took place in July. But the August 12 event billed as “Unite the Right” ended up being the largest White nationalist gathering since a 1987 rally in Forsyth County, Georgia, in support of it remaining a sundown county where Black people weren’t allowed to live. That drew 3,000 people.

I have been warning people for the past year about the rising tide of White nationalist violence. In a July 2016 article for Colorlines, when it still looked like Republican candidate Donald Trump would go down in flames, I warned about a new wave of White nationalist and other Far Right violence. I saw that Trump was energizing the movement. A series of clashes with antifascists also seemed to invigorate some of the Far Right. I sounded the alarm in June—after Jeremy Christianallegedly murdered two men on a Portland, Oregon, light rail who were trying to stop his racist and Islamophobic harassment of two young women—that we should “expect more murders” from the Far Right. Their movement is a drumbeat of violence, created by the demonizing narratives they use against groups they perceive to be threats: “foreign enemies,” historically oppressed groups and domestic political opponents. Whether they are people of color, Muslims, Jewish people, LGBTQ people or perceived Communists, the Far Right always imagines a monster that they can act monstrous toward.

Last week, I published another warning on the website of Political Research Associates where I am an associate fellow. I wrote that up to 1,000 people were coming to “Unite the Right,” including members of the neo-Nazi group Vanguard America. James Alex Fields Jr., the 20-year-old who was charged with murder for allegedly driving his car into a mass of counter-protesters, rallied with the group that day, sporting their logo and shield.

In fact, the only thing I was wrong about was that counter-protestors didn’t outnumber the White nationalists as I predicted they would. They appeared to be there in equal numbers, and during the face-off at the park in the morning, the White nationalists outnumbered the anti-racist counter-protestors by about five to one.

Full article here.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 16, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Yazidi female fighters, Charlottesville: ‘Unite against fascism

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Image result for yazidi female fighters unite against fascism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Region.

From the Kurdish Question. 12.7.17.

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

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

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

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

Demhat Goldman

Soro Zinar

Rodi Deysie

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

August 15, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Row in Northern Ireland Labour Party, Boyd Black: ‘Maoist’ BICO Resurfaces.

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Image result for British and Irish Communist organisation

BICO Once again.

There is, as yet, no comprehensive history of British and Irish ‘Marxism-Leninism’. Popularly known as Maoism, for the various groups’ alignment with Beijing during the 1960s, this political current had influence in much of the rest of Europe, and in the United States, where it was described as the New Communist Movement in the 1970s (1) French Maoism continues to draw attraction, with many colourful escapades to its name, and even a proto-armed wing, La Nouvelle Résistance Populaire (NRP), and the leader of the Gauche Prolétarienne, Benn Lévy, the hardest and the hard M-Ler, who became Sartre’s secretary and ended his days as student of the Torah in Jerusalem. (2) The former M-L Dutch Socialistische Partij, Socialist Party, with parliamentary representation, and its counterpart in Belgium, the, Parti du travail de Belgique /en Partij van de Arbeid van België, also attracts interest, not least in the latter’s days as enthusiasts for North Korean Juche.

But here possibly only Alexei Sayle’s learned tome stands out. Largely concerned with his activism in the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) he summarised their, and his orthodox Communist parents’ activism as, “my hobby and my family’s hobby was the elimination of private property via the violent expropriation of landowners, industrialists, railroad magnates and shipowners…”(3)

Maoism is however back in the news. A former member of  the British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO) are apparently involved in the controversies taking place in the Northern Irish Labour Party.

John Rogan writes,

There was an article in the Belfast Telegraph about the ruction in the Labour Party in NI by its ex-Secretary (Kathryn Johnson) which may be of interest.

The main person she seems to be angry with is Boyd Black. As a curious historical footnote for Leftist Trainspotters everywhere, Mr Black was at one point a member of the pro-Stalin, pro-Mao, pro-Kymer Rouge British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO) and stood as a “Unionist” candidate in the 1986 Fulham by-election.

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/news-analysis/kathryn-johnston-the-fight-for-the-soul-of-the-labour-party-in-northern-ireland-36016846.html

Black seems to have something of  a history of “controversy”.

Image result for British and Irish Communist organisation

His background is acknowledged.

On another occasion, “Boyd Black, Blacks election agent confirmed that he had been a member of the British and Irish Communist Organisation at one time.” 

Whatever his present relations to the group, if there are any, are  we note that BICO’s publication in Britain at the present is Labour Affairs which takes a keen interest in the Labour Party.

This is how they describe their present form,

Who We Are

Monthly journal of the Ernest Bevin Society.  It is a small independent left-wing magazine based in Britain, but covering the wider world.  Previously Labour and Trade Union Review.

The Ernest Bevin Society began as the British portion of the British and Irish Communist Organisation, but then decided Leninism was no longer relevant.  In the 1970s it advocated Workers Control as general reformism as the best way forward in Britain.  It warned ahead of time that the methods being used to fight Thatcher were going to fail.  But retained a general confidence in socialism after the Soviet collapse.

We did also warn well ahead of it becoming obvious that Yeltsin was going to fail.  And said in 1989 that People’s China was not in fact about to collapse.

We condemned New Labour for having adjusted to Thatcherite fantasies rather than what actually existed.  And were flatly against the war on Iraq, fully expecting Saddam’s rather bad system to be replaced  by something much worse.

See out publisher’s website at Athol Books.

For historians we lack a complete organigramme of the groupuscule’s original relations to other supporters of Marxist Leninism. Indeed while Wikipedia mentions this it is difficult to see the nature of the link to either the “first wave” M-L split with orthodox Communism, based on the Sino-Soviet dispute, or the “second wave” , which arose from enthusiasm for the Cultural Revolution.

Wikipedia sets them out as this,

Brendan Clifford was an Irish emigrant from the Sliabh Luachra area of County Cork who had migrated to London and become involved in left-wing politics there.[1] Clifford and some of his followers had been in Michael McCreery’s Committee to Defeat Revisionism, for Communist Unity and later they joined the Irish Communist Group.[2][3]

This body consisted largely of Irish people who were living in London and were opposed to the Soviet-aligned communist organisations intended for Irish people. Following a 1965 split, the Maoist wing named itself the Irish Communist Organisation, which later became the British and Irish Communist Organisation. The broadly Trotskyist wing, led by Gerry Lawless, became the Irish Workers’ Group.[4]

The ICO undertook an investigation into the development of Maoism, and concluded that it was not a suitable model for an anti-revisionist group. The Chinese Communist Party had supported some aspects of Nikita Khrushchev‘s “revisionism“, and then been dishonest about its past positions.[5]

One founder-member, Dennis Dennehy, was Secretary of the Dublin Housing Action Committee, which organised a highly successful protest movement in the early 1960s.

In 1968, the ICO issued a press release which defended the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia

BICO is known, above all, for the writings on the Irish Question of Brendan Clifford. According to the Bible in such matters, he was an “unemployed Jesuit trained, gravedigger” who spent time in Trinity College Library Dublin researching Irish republicanism. This is what he found in works on the founders of this tradition.

“Having blown off the dust he was flabbergasted to discover that these saintly heroes, who he had been told were the Irish equivalents of Garibaldi and Mazzini, were a shower of bigoted, racist, shitbags, who hated England because it had prevented Ireland from establishing its own empire with its own blacks to chain up and flog. The odd man out among this unsavoury crew was Wolfe Tone, a Protestant who view of the Vatican tallies closely with that Ian Paisley.” (John Sullivan. As Soon As This Pub Closes)

The ‘two nations’ theory which he developed from these studies made Clifford’s name. His collected articles, from the Irish Communist, published in 1971 under the name Aspects of Nationalism (1972) begin with a long discussion of Stalin’s Marxism and the National Question. On this basis he took a stand for “Protestant national rights”. .

There is no mention of Clifford or a forerunner to BICO in Bob Purdie’s authoritative history of the Civil Rights movement Politics in the Streets (1990). It can be safely said to be beyond marginal to People’s Democracy – the most important grass-roots radical organisation in the land since the 1920s.

All COBI is known for is the ‘two nations’ theory. The view retains a certain intuitive appeal, no doubt reinforced by later Irish ‘revisionist’ histories which look at the conservative sides of nationalism, and Catholic cultural and political domination of the Republic In less studious environments problems immediately arose. COBI therefore backed protests such as the Ulster Workers’ Council and all attempts by the Protestant side to resist Irish unity. The one problem, no doubt unforeseen, but perhaps familiar to anybody who ever met Unionists, not to say, Orangemen, is that a group so dominated by violent racist bigots would be hard to find, although American ‘white nationalists’ stand muster.

The remnants of BICO seemed to have pursued with the Historical Review. The British branch became the Ernest Bevin society. The have been fading into decent obscurity.  They are rare creatures. The present writer may be one of the few people alive to have met them…..

****

(1) Revolution in the Air. Max Elbaum. Verso. 2002.
(2) De Pierre Victory à Benny Lévy, de Mao à Moïse. Philippe Lardinois. Editions Luc Pire. 2008.
(3) Page 132. Stalin Ate My Homework. Alexei Sayle. Sceptre. 2010. Sayle accurately makes this description, “Woodcraft Folk…. they formed the paramilitary wing of the Co-operative movement.”(P 91) See also the less amusing, Thatcher Stole my Trousers. Alexei Sayle. Bloomsbury Circus. 2016.

Update, for a serious account of this dispute: Clarion.

LPNI WTF?

By Labour Party of Northern Ireland members

The Labour Party in Northern Ireland’s executive committee has recently undergone a catastrophic breakdown in communication, followed by a series of resignations which received a degree of local media attention and attention on the left. Sadly, the explanations given by those involved have been consistently misleading. Whilst the context is political, as might be expected, much of the upset is interpersonal and the motivations of those involved represent a complex combination of the two. As things stand, there is a toxic air about this local party’s dissent into in-fighting, but if we look carefully it might be possible to discern some lessons for the Labour left.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 14, 2017 at 12:41 pm

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

with 9 comments

 

Image result for venezuela las colas para supermercados 2017

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

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

UNDERCOVER VIDEO SHOWS FULL SHELVES IN #VENEZUELA SUPERMARKETS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is what the Morning Star said in July,

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Skwawkbox have been caught out spinning faubations yet again.

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

August 12, 2017 at 10:51 am

Skwawkbox Tries to Shut Down Debate about Brexit and Freedom of Movement.

with 3 comments

Image result for Labour campaign for free movement

Skwawkbox Says: “Noise about freedom of movement by some of the usual undermining suspects.”

Self-appointed Corbyn and Labour Party adviser Steven Walker is notorious for scaremongering on his site Skwawkbox. 

Now he’s turned his attention to the Labour Party Conference in an attempt to spread fear about possible “protests” by people who “wish to damage the party” at Labour Conference on the issue of Brexit.

The SKWAWKBOX can reveal that a move is planned inside Conference by ‘moderates’ desperate to disrupt Jeremy Corbyn’s surging popularity to disrupt Labour’s Conference by means of either a ‘mirror’ protest inside the hall or a ‘walk-out’ to join protesters outside, which of course makes an even bigger mockery of the term ‘moderate’ than it already is.

It is worth noting that Walker uses this ‘report’ to attack the growing campaign for freedom of movement.

The vast majority of Labour members – already bristling at the increase in ‘noise’ about Brexit and freedom of movement by some of the usual undermining suspects as Conference draws closer – will have no tolerance for this ridiculous, self-indulgent stunt and will back any and all measures the party’s leadership takes to block the infantile behaviour.

Let the tone of this sentence sink in….

SELF-INDULGENT ‘MODERATES’ PLANNING TO DISRUPT LABOUR CONFERENCE.

If one can delve into Walker’s mind, a murky, fog clouded, region, the reasoning seems to be that since, “Corbyn’s ability to remove Brexit as an vote-factor for millions of voters ” is an “an incredible political achievement” (here) attempts to bring up ‘divisive’ issues, that is either questioning Brexit or whatever Corbyn may, or may not, say, on Brexit, is the work of “undermining suspects”.

No doubt Skwarky will froth at this:  Finally, Labour’s left are standing up for freedom of movement, “A new campaign is tackling the Labour leadership’s growing anti-immigration narrative.”

This, Labour Campaign for Free Movement.

And this:

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

August 6, 2017 at 1:12 pm