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Momentum: Latest Internal Disputes.

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….rigorous and effective political discussion is not some self-indulgent distraction from the ‘real work’ – be that getting a Labour government or nudging up attendance figures at some demonstration. The great promise of Momentum is that it provides an opportunity to fight for political clarity among greater numbers of people….

Labour Party Marxists: Momentum: Fight for political clarity

Before beginning this post on Saturday’s Momentum Steering Committee meeting,  we note that there is no mention on the Momentum aligned  The World Transformed plan to hold events on the theme of “our Brexit” and “a Great Britain that takes power back from the economic elites Trump and Farage belong to.”

This has lost Momentum a lot of good will.

In the light of the Richmond Park by-election result, we await clarification of this idea, “Targeting marginal constituencies and areas with high Ukip support with a string of local events discussing Brexit to “Take Back Control”. How this will tie in with the decision to ” to fight for migrants’ rights and to defend and extend free movement, and fight for Labour to do the same.” when the events are intended to involve not just opponents but  “supporters of Brexit” (“bring together leave and remain voters“) remains to be seen.

But Momentum had other business to discuss than the details of most important issue in British politics today.

Left wins on democracy, but right keeps hold of Steering Committee – report of 3 December Momentum NC

Ed Whitby, Northern (North East and Cumbria) regional delegate

Today’s Momentum National Committee (3 December, Birmingham) was long overdue – no meeting for seven months, due to repeated cancellations of the NC by the Steering Committee – so the agenda was absurdly full with proposals about how to run the forthcoming conference, how delegates should be elected, how motions will be decided, etc, as well as motions on other issues.

The left, more radical, pro-democracy wing of the NC won on some democracy issues including the structure and powers of the upcoming national conference, passing policy for a conference of delegates from local groups that can meaningful decide Momentum’s policy and plans; as well as on some other issues (eg defending freedom of movement and migrants’ rights, and fighting expulsions and suspensions). But the more conservative wing managed, by one vote, to block holding a new election for the Steering Committee, even though it was elected seven months ago, before many events, debates and controversies.

..

The key votes:

•  The NC voted for a sovereign national policy-making conference, representing members via local groups with most of the time committed to motions and debate, as well as political education.
• That this conference should make policy and establish a constitution.
• We voted down the proposal from the SC majority that we could only discuss three key areas.
• We voted that the conference would be on 18 February, 25 February or 4 March (25 February clashes with Scottish Labour conference).
• We voted for a composite from the Northern, London and Midlands regions advocating motions can be submitted one each from local groups, liberation groups, students and youth, affiliated unions, the NC and regional networks; three weeks before conference; with compositing, an e-forum to discuss motions and an online priorities ballot.
• Two delegates for every 100 members or part thereof (at least gender balanced and groups sending more than four must send at least one young person).
• Those not covered by a group can send at same rate elected by ballot.
• If not covered by a group 30 people can submit a motion.
• Liberation groups and students and youth can send delegates, to be agreed by NC in consultation with these groups subject to verification of structures and elections.
• We elected a Conference Arrangements Committee of seven people: Alec Price, Huda Elmi, Josie Runswick, Delia Mattis, Lotte Boumelha, Jackie Walker, James Elliott.
• We voted against complicated formulas for voting and instead for simple delegate voting at conference.
• We voted that group delegates should be elected at face-to-face local Momentum group meetings.

This seems like major victories for democracy. The risk is that the incumbent Steering Committee will try to void or get round these decisions. We must urge them not to do so.

……

….many good proposals were won, but the failure to re-elect the Steering Committee, and the fact that the NC was stuffed with delegates elected on a dubious basis or not really elected, leaves many issues of democracy unresolved. On the other hand, given that, the victories the left won were even more impressive. However, there is a real risk the democratic gains achieved today will be overturned. The membership must fight to stop this happening.

Decisions taken

• For Momentum Youth and Students’ proposal to fight for migrants’ rights and to defend and extend free movement, and fight for Labour to do the same. This could be very significant indeed.
• A national housebuilding programme.
• The North West region motion for action against suspensions and expulsions from Labour and in defence of Wallasey, Liverpool Riverside and Brighton and Hove Labour Parties.

And,

No votes were taken on censuring the SC, on basic accountability, on the Momentum company structures.

This shows the, very low, turn out, for the on-line elections inside Momentum.

So, we know one thing clearly: there are some people who consider that there is a continuing battle between left and….right in Momentum.

There are also individuals, apparently on the Conference Arrangement’s Committee, publicly making the traditional virulently  sectarian remarks about opposing factions present at this meeting.

We look forward to seeing how they run this Conference. 

Whether it will be a force to win a Labour Party that fights for and wins an alternative to neoliberalism” remains to be seen.

But, as Red Flag, the group formerly known as Workers Power (League for the Fifth International) comment,

Written by Andrew Coates

December 4, 2016 at 12:20 pm

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

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Image result for Slavoj Žižek caricature

Slovenian Hipster Hegelian, Marxist Medialogue and Lacanian Lad Likes Trump.

In 1990, the well-known Slovenian sociologist, philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek was the Liberal Democracy of Slovinia candidate for the Presidency of Slovenia (an auxiliary body of the President of the Republic, abolished in 1992).  The party is a member of the LIberal International and Alliance of Liberal and Democrats for Europe Party.

Slavoj Žižek is in the Presidential news again, this time it’s the US race.

He has courted predictable outrage with remarks appearing (‘dialectically’) to favour Trump.

Earlier this year the Slovenian Hipster Hegelian, Marxist Medialogue and Lacanian Lad, was in trouble for calling for the ““militarisation” of European responses to the refugee crisis in Against the Double Blackmail: Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbours (2016) This, it should always be recalled was  in the context of this ‘contradiction’, “my greatest problem with all this humanitarianism is that people are not aware of what is really happening in Europe – the massive anti-immigrant populist movement.”The following particularly aroused controversy.

The Slovenian savant  considered that there is a need to

Formulate a minimum set of rules that are obligatory for everyone, without feat that will appear ‘Eurocentric’ religious freedoms, the protection of individual freedom against group pressure, rights of woman, and so on; and second, within these limits, unconditionally insist on the tolerance of different ways of life.

Such should be a “positive emancipatory leitkultur..”

Many might consider that those who attacked Žižek as a ‘racist’  were themselves trying to impose their own “leitkultur” which involves accepting absolute “difference” and a right to impose reactionary mores inside “their” community.

To make himself clear Žižek  went on to say,

With regard to the refugees, our prop­er aim should be to try and recon­struct glob­al soci­ety on such a basis that des­per­ate refugees will no longer be forced to wander around. Uto­pi­an as it may appear, this large-scale solu­tion is the only real­ist one, and the dis­play of altru­ist­ic vir­tues ulti­mately pre­vents the car­ry­ing out of this aim. The more we treat refugees as objects of human­it­ari­an help, and allow the situ­ation which com­pelled them to leave their coun­tries to pre­vail, the more they come to Europe, until ten­sions reach boil­ing point, not only in the refugees’ coun­tries of ori­gin but here as well. So, con­fron­ted with this double black­mail, we are back at the great Len­in­ist ques­tion: what is to be done?

One would have to be soothsayer to imagine the details of what world order the author has in mind here – but the intentions are surely good…..

But let that pass.

As often is the case with Žižek, people pick and choose what they want to hear.

I like this (though it’s old hat chez Coatesy),

…yet another Left­ist taboo that needs to be aban­doned is that of pro­hib­it­ing any cri­tique of Islam as a case of ‘Islamo­pho­bia’. This taboo is a true mir­ror-image of the anti-immig­rant pop­u­list demon­isa­tion of Islam, so we should get rid of the patho­lo­gic­al fear of many West­ern lib­er­al Left­ists that they might be guilty of Islamo­pho­bia.

Yet, I didn’t like this, on Donald Trump,

“Read Trump closely – it is difficult to do, I know – and if you extract his total racist and sexist stupidities, you will see that here and there, where he makes a complete proposal, they’re usually not so bad,” “He said he will not totally dismantle universal healthcare, raise the minimum wage, and so on.”

“Trump is a paradox: he is really a centrist liberal, and maybe even in his economic policies closer to the Democrats, and he desperately tries to mask this. So the function of all of these dirty jokes and stupidities is to cover up that he is really a pretty ordinary, centrist politician.”

Less noticed is that at the conclusion of Against the Double Blackmail Žižek called for a kind of left-wing leap in the dark, an act of profound ontological will, against the course of history.

As he put it, in strangulated sub-Walter Benjamin sentences,

In contrast to classical Marxism, in which ‘history is on our side’ (the proletariat fulfills a predestined task of universal emancipation), in today’s constellation, the big Other is against us; left to itself, the inner thrust of our historical development leads to catastrophe. To apocalypse. Here, the only thing that can prevent catastrophe is pure voluntarism, i.e. our free decision to act against historical necessity.

The  latest Žižek news is now of just such a jump into catastrophe…..

The ‘alt-right’ site Breitbart reports,

Slovenian-born philosopher and cultural theorist Slavoj Žižek said a Hillary Clinton presidency is a greater danger to the nation than a President Donald Trump.

Žižek explained that while he is “horrified” by Trump, he believes a Trump presidency could result in a “big awakening” that could set into motion the formation of “new political processes.”

By contrast, Žižek said he sees Clinton as “the true danger”–pointing specifically to her insincerity, her ties to the Wall Street banks, and her dedication to the “absolute inertia” of our established political system.

Zižek explained that Trump has been able to “disturb” the entrenched political system and argued that a Trump win could set into motion “new political processes”:

“In every society, there is a whole network of unwritten rules, how politics works, and how you build consensus. And Trump disturbed this. If Trump wins, both major parties–Republicans and Democrats–would have to return to basics, rethink themselves, and maybe some things can happen there. … It will be a kind of big awakening. New political processes will be set in motion, will be triggered.”

Žižek, who has been described as “the Elvis of cultural theory,” rejected the narrative that a Trump presidency would introduce fascism in America. “Look, America is still not a dictatorial state. He will not introduce fascism,” Žižek said.

While the rockstar Lacanian Marxist professor, who has been described as a “leftist rabble-rouser,” said he was concerned by Trump’s pledge to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, Žižek explained that, in his view, the threat of a conservative court pales in comparison to the danger posed by a Hillary Clinton presidency:

“Listen, Trump has openly said … he will nominate right-wingers [to the Supreme Court], so there are dangers [to a Trump presidency]. I’m just afraid that Hillary stands for this absolute inertia, the most dangerous one, because she’s a cold warrior, and so on, connected with banks pretending to be socially progressive.”

How far should we take any of this seriously?

In  Slavoj Žižek: A Radical Critique we noted (Weekly Worker No 855 Thursday March 03 2011)

Will Žižek go further in this mystical, millennialist direction? Critics have accused him of randomly lumping together ideas, of repetition, of contradiction and of opaque thoughts. It would be better to say that his ideas are often hidden behind great verbal radicalism and convoluted digressions, as shown by his current religious themes. Very few people who take the time to decipher his writings will find substantial tools to use for mundane politics. The pictures of class divisions (included/excluded), immaterial production (exploitation reduced to rent), privatisation of the ‘commons’, and the dictatorship of the proletariat – not to mention the residue of Badiou’s timeless metaphysics – are, we have argued, botched. Nobody is going to storm heaven – or the state – with copies of these writings in their haversack.

Nobody with this rag-bag of ideas is going to begin the revival of mass emancipatory politics. It is even less likely that Trump, if he is elected (which we sincerely hope not) will lead to a “new political processes.” of benefit to any form of left.

Whatsoever.

We suspect this has the ring of truth about it,

Slavoj Zizek is auditioning to be on a CNN roundtable.Alex Shephard

The last time we checked in on collection of bodily fluids Slavoj Zizek, he was saying on-brand things about the election. Specifically, he had a “provocative thesis” that Trump was a liberal centrist. (In a Trump-ian twist, Zizek also described Trump in a way that is loosely descriptive of himself—as “personally disgusting, bad racist jokes, vulgarities, and so on.”) With five days to go until the election, Zizek is back and he’s trying on a new stained black t-shirt—the stained black t-shirt of punditry.

 No sleepless nights worrying about the future of  Žižek, though a few at the possibility that Trump might win.

*******

Written by Andrew Coates

November 5, 2016 at 1:15 pm

The British Left’s Hypocritical Embrace of Islamism: a Reply to Maajid Nawaz.

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The British Left’s Hypocritical Embrace of Islamism.

Maajid Nawaz writes, in the Daily Beast,

The desire to impose religion over society is otherwise known as theocracy. Being veterans of the struggle to push back against fundamentalist Christians, American liberals are well acquainted with the pitfalls of the neoconservative flirtation with the religious-right. How ironic, then, that in Europe it is those on the left—led by the Guardian—who flirt with religious theocrats. For in the UK, our theocrats are brown, from minority communities, and are overwhelmingly Muslim.

Stop: if Nawaz considers that the Guardian is representative of the ‘left’ then there is a problem here. The paper officially backed the Liberal Democrats an election ago, – his party – not even going far enough to the left to support Labour.

True there are plenty of columnists for the Guardian (and exceptions, does he ever read Polly Toynbee?) like Reverend Giles Fraser, who have a soft spot for Islamism and spend their time wittering away about “shared identities” and linking Islamist “radicalism” with a fight against injustice.. Some, like Seumas Milne (who has stronger  claims to be on the left),  think that the struggle for progressive principles runs so far ‘within’ Islamism that he could back the right-wing Ennahda  party in Tunisia for its apparent calls for ‘social justice’ against left-wing secularist parties.

The Guardian also opened its pages to writers who loathed Charlie Hebdo, and French secularism, at the time of the Islamist attack on the Weekly, and the murder of Jewish customers at Hyper- Casher.

Seumas Milne denounced Charlie for repeated pornographic humiliation.” of the Prophet. Fraser felt the pain of “a beleaguered, economically fragile Muslim community”.

While condemning the killings with a sentence or two,  they immediately went out of their way to understand the ‘anger’ of people at seeing rude cartoons about their religion.

These people, and they include would apparently set up a list of rules and regulation to govern what is satire and what is not. It should, we heard endlessly, only attack the ‘powerful’. That, according to Will Self, we should drop the “sexual fetish” of defending the right of people to express themselves freely.

It was no doubt no coincidence that Respect’s MP,  George Galloway was particularly keen on a set of regulations to keep in check people’s tendency to make fun of others.

For those who came up with their hare-brained idea we can only guess that at their public schools they  had read Juvenal’s line

…difficile est saturam non scribere. nam quis iniquaetam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se

It is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself.

Yup, injustice, that’s all satire should be about.

But one doubts if their ‘rules’ can fit Viz magazine’s idea of satire:

https://40.media.tumblr.com/d8b147fa7dbc341d3a74323a6295a52b/tumblr_ndpet99xRw1r7pphso1_500.jpg

https://i2.wp.com/i762.photobucket.com/albums/xx262/SteveStrummerGB/Viz.png

I jest.

On the left there were others who stood with those who would regulate free speech to suit the demands of ‘Muslims’, and some (like a former supporter of your party Nawaz, the Liberal Democrat voting, Tariq Ali, as well as more obvious sources, like the Socialist Workers Party) who essentially claimed that Charlie “had it coming”.

But there were plenty of left-wing people, and organisations who stood with the martyrs of Charlie.

Groups like the Alliance for Workers Liberty, the paper, the Weekly Worker, and, more importantly countless Facebook friends, democratic socialists, social democrats, liberals and believers in human rights – hundreds of thousands of left-wing and liberal people in this country wept at the murders of our beloved comrades at Charlie and the Jewish victims of the anti-Semite killers  and stood up against Islamist violence when it counted.

Your write,

There is a natural fear among Europe’s left, that challenging Islamist extremism can only aid Europe’s far-right. But the alternative to this fear must not be to instead empower theocratic fascism. There is a way to both challenge those who want to impose islam, and those who wish to ban Islam. It has not escaped me, nor other liberal Muslims, that while challenging Islamist extremism we must remain attentive to protecting our civil liberties. We are born of this struggle, after all.

Some of us are born of this struggle as it echoed in the United Kingdom. and across the world:

The Real Origins of Secularism.

Secularism, in the form of laïcité, was the product of the 19th, not the 18th century. As Georges Weill explained (Histoire de l’idée laïque en France au XXe siècle. 1929, new edition, 2004) it was during the 1840s that the idea that administration and government of the country should be free from any religious power, emerged. Edgar Quinet ( 1803 – 1875) was one of the first to advocate a “une séparation complète radicale” of religious institutions from the State (Page 147 – 149)

Quinet’s emphasis on the idea of secular education, “l’école laïque ” was to be at the centre of all the subsequent fights for laïcité. Jules Ferry, who created the basis for a republican education system liberated from the –Catholic Church –, was only able to begin to realise this ideal after the Second Empire, under clerical domination, had fallen. The Third Republic (founded 1875) was rocked by divisions on the issue. It was only in 1905 that France saw a real separation of Church and State (with numerous exceptions, notably concerning private Catholic education, which continued, with subsidies).

Weill indicates that far from being the result of a violent hostility to religion French secularism originates in four sources. The first came from ‘Galician’ Catholics who opposed the ultramontagne power of the Pope over their own affairs, and, as the century progressed from Catholics who became attached to republican ideals. The second was amongst liberal Protestants, who had obvious (and blood-stained) reasons to distrust the power of the official Church. A third were desists, who wanted religion, illuminated by science, to be free from the doctrinal control of Papal Curia.

Only in the fourth category, the “libres penseurs”, can we find those with some debt to Hébert. The early workers’ movement owed a debt to Christian belief, particularly to Lamenais’ Paroles d’un croyant (1834), which rooted Christianity in democracy and social causes (in many respects more advanced than British ‘Christian socialism’ and still worth reading). But as the century progressed anti-clericalism spread amongst the socialists as well as amongst those who would become the so-called ‘Radical Socialist’ party (the word ‘radical’ comes from the British ‘radicals’ like John Stuart Mill). Many of the popular classes simply abandoned religion. 

For myself this is one part of the socialist heritage: the ‘synthesis’ between democratic Marxism and universal human rights for which  one of our greatest martyrs, Jean Jaurès, was assassinated.

Note that many secularists are ‘believers’.

Secularism is freedom to believe….

At a time when our comrades are again being slaughtered in Bangladesh for the crime of criticising  Islam and Islamists in the shape of the genocidal Daesh movement are attacking minorities, enslaving, and as you say…..

Will you join with this movement?

Back the Kurdish fighters, and the brace voices for secularism and freedom in every country – in many cases people deeply rooted in the Left?

The choice is for everybody.

Populism, Popular-Democratic Fronts and Tim Farron.

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https://i1.wp.com/www.heraldscotland.com/resources/images/4009486.jpg

Tim Farron: New Populist Front – but don’t invite Gays!

Older left-wingers will remember the group, the Democratic Left.

It was the official heir of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and grew out of the magazine Marxism Today.

We have written on some of the theories and politics behind this group, Stuart Hall, Thatcherism, and Marxism Today (also published in North Star. June 2013).

One of the principal criticisms of the current that became the Democratic Left, was its its willingness to dissolve any form of class politics into a very nebulous form of “democratic alliance”. In the case of Stuart Hall this took the shape of looking for “new constituencies for change” to win over a hegemonic majority opposed to the ‘National Popular” configuration that cemented the electoral  the base of Margaret Thatcher’s ‘authoritarian populism”.

The idea that there is an alternative, progressive, type of populism, is not new. The present rise in the intellectual  popularity of “populism” on the British left, articulated in a “democratic” left-inflected way, woes something to another influence on the Democratic Left, the “post Marxism” of Ernesto Laclau, and, to a lesser extent Chantal Mouffe (she has since adopted a form of left republicanism or “agonistic pluralism” *).

Laclau developed the idea out of his studies of Latin America, including Peronism, and a critique of the Althussarian  and Poulantzian position on the class grounds of ideology. Ideology is something which only take a class alignment in specific configurations of discourse. This leaves open the possibility of “democratic” as well as reactionary forms of populism. That is ” the basis of populism in the creation of “empty signifiers”: words and ideas that constitute and express an “equivalential chain”. This “equivalential chain” is made possible only when a list of unfulfilled political demands create a ‘logic of equivalence” between them. ” To translate: populism can become ‘popular’ when the frustrated masses fuse their demands (through what mechanism?) together.

Like Castoriadis’ concept of the “social imaginary” this appears to encourage a great deal of political creativity. Unfortunately it also allows politicians to ‘creatively ‘ make alliances and launch campaigns around demand with whoever seems to advance their cause. It is also suggested that it lets political parties and activists lose sight of the need to give a voice to clear interests – like class – and to make “socialism” such a flexible ‘democratic’ signifier that it loses all specific meaning.

We hear that Laclau has had an impact of Podemos and (we are surprised at this) the more seriously left-wing Syriza (Why Ernesto Laclau is the intellectual figurehead for Syriza and Podemos In the Spanish case it appears to mean appealing to the “masses” against the “elites”, the “political caste” (la casta), and claims to have gone “beyond” the “old” divisions between left and right.

In a British left-wing  version, advanced by, amongst others,  Owen Jones, left populism appears to mean pandering to anti-European fears. It can, in fact, mean just about anything that is “popular”

This is the end result of the (soon to dissolve) Democratic Left:

The Democratic Left stated a belief in a pluralist and socialist society “incompatible with the structures and values of capitalism.” Beginning as a political party, it decided not to stand candidates but instead to support tactical against the Conservatives at the 1992 General election and soon become a non-party campaigning organisation. DL campaigned on modernising unions, including Unions21; anti-racism and cultural diversity; democratising Britain, including Make Votes Count; social exclusion and poverty, including the Social Exclusion Network; focussing on coalition building, and operating in effect as a ‘socialist anti-Conservative front’.

Wikipedia.

Hard-line critics of this approach dismissed it as an end to class politics, without any solid basis in society, and (for Trotksyists) a renewed “popular frontism”, without specific socialist politics.

The Democratic  Left withered away during the early Blair years, though we hear that some of them are still around in the New Politics Network (always something ‘new’…) and the journal Soundings.

We were reminded of these ideas when we read Red Pepper in June.

Many of the SNP candidates in the last election were chosen from or influenced by this movement, even though the movement is autonomous from the SNP. They have come to Westminster not with a nationalist but an anti‑austerity and pro-democracy agenda. As George Kerevan, now MP for East Lothian, said in the last issue of Red Pepper: ‘Watch out for SNP campaigners south of the border. If there are anti-austerity demonstrations in London, I will be there.’

He’s not alone. And although with Cameron in office there is probably little that he and his fellow SNP activists can achieve through sitting in Westminster and sticking to conventional procedure, there is much that a progressive anti-austerity alliance of MPs, including from Plaid Cymru, the Labour left and the victorious Green Caroline Lucas, can contribute to amplify the voices and demands of the movement across the country.

Hilary was once a critic of the Democratic Left and Marxism Today…..

It will be interesting to see this ‘populist’ left reacts to this generous offer:

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, began his first day in office by calling for progressive groups on the left to come together to forge a joint agenda on key constitutional issues such as electoral and Lords reform. He also revealed that defence of civil liberties, more social housing, climate change and continued UK membership of the European Union will be the primary issues on which he first intends to define his leadership.

This seems one of the – many – stumbling blocks to this new alliance (Guardian).

The new Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, on Friday night repeatedly avoided answering whether he regarded gay sex as a sin during a live television interview.

Just one day into his role as party leader, in an interview with Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News, Farron was asked whether he personally believed, as a Christian, that homosexual sex was a sin.

After replying that as liberals it was not “our views on personal morality that matter”, Farron said that to “understand Christianity is to understand that we are all sinners”.

* See the readable On the Political. Chantal Mouffe.  2005 and the, less readable, Agonistics: Thinking The World Politically. Chantal Mouffe. 2013.

 

New Lib Dem leader Tim Farron: Britain Wrong to Bomb Islamic State in Syria.

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Britain could be playing into Isis’s hands by bombing Syria, the new leader of the Liberal Democrats has said.

Reports the Independent.

Tim Farron raised concerns about a revelation that British pilots embedded with other nations’ forces were conducting air strikes on Syria despite MPs voting against action in 2013.

He argued that the suffering caused by such strikes could lead people to support terror groups such as the so-called ‘Islamic State’.

“The decisions you make there are not based on some overall theological sense of what you should do but on what is right,” he said.

“Is it right for us to attack a sovereign country? Is it right for us to overstep a mandate that we have not been given by the electorate or government? Is it right to incite ISIS, or indeed not to incite them – but to play into their hands and be martyrs.”

In response to a freedom of information request from the human rights group Reprive, the Ministry of Defence disclosed that US, French and Canadian armed forces were deploying UK pilots in Syria.

Jennifer Gibson, staff attorney at Reprieve, said the debate about UK action in the Middle East needed to be more “open and honest”.

“It is alarming that Parliament and the public have been kept in the dark about this for so long,” she said.

Yet more worrying is the fact that the UK seems to have turned over its personnel to the US wholesale, without the slightest idea as to what they are actually doing, and whether it is legal.”

An MoD spokesperson said the so-called Islamic State group was a threat to the UK and clarified the position of the British pilots.

“UK embeds operate as if they were the host nation’s personnel, under that nation’s chain of command,”

“Isil poses a direct threat to the UK and to countries around the world. The UK is not conducting airstrikes in Syria and the government has made clear it would return to Parliament if it proposed doing so.

“We have a long-standing embed programme with allies but there are currently no pilots taking part in this region. When embedded, UK personnel are effectively operating as foreign troops.”

The Independent’s Defence Correspondent Kim Sengupta explained that the revelation could have undermined trust in the Government.

Many people would be concerned that British air power is being used, without Parliamentary authority (which was promised)  to launch bombs in Syria.

There has, however, been this Twitter reaction,

Tim Farron’s honeymoon period as newly elected Lib Dem leader barely lasted 12 hours after his comments on ISIS and his religious convictions caused a social media backlash.

TheySay.io analysed over 80,000 tweet mentions and 15,000 Tweets relating to Farron over 24 hours and found that whilst social media reaction was initially mostly positive, there was a significant increase of negativity following his BBC Radio 4 interview this morning.

Further analysis indicated that the negativity was due to a variety of topics including but not limited to the current state of the Lib Dems, right wing criticism of his political stance and some bemusement and concern about the influence of his religious convictions.

Below are a selection of random tweets covering some of the points.

As the first “random Tweet” comes from David Aaronovitch one equally doubts if many people care about what the former Communist, present-day pro-military intervention everywhere,  and Murdoch columnist, thinks either.

Farron’s intervention could be put down to a desire to make a stir on the first day of his leadership by appealing to the Liberal Democrats’ ‘anti-war’ past.

But….the  claims about the bombing seem to be true.

To repeat the Independent’s story:

Freedom of information request by human rights group Reprieve reveals UK service personnel acted under auspices of US and other nations within coalition

British pilots have carried out air strikes in Syria, marking a significant expansion of the UK’s role in the campaign against Islamic State.

The UK pilots were embedded with coalition forces, including the US and Canada, and the number involved is understood to have been in single figures.

Details of British personnel’s involvement in strikes by allied nations’ forces were revealed by a freedom of information request from the pressure group Reprieve.

This is clearly wrong – it is active intervention in the Syrian civil war without democratic authorisation – even if it remains the case that not many people will be concerned if Isis fighters are killed.

And it is also the case that any support, called for the Kurds, fighting their genocidal enemies, is to be welcomed.

What the masses of the entire world care about ISIS/Islamic State/Daesh  is this:

Escape from Isis.

We were prepared for harrowing tales of life under Isis, but never expected positive stories to emerge from the horror, says director Edward Watts.

One cold March morning in Iraq, my small team and I looked out across fields of lavender towards the trenches of the Islamic State, the most feared terrorist group in the world, with a sense of hope.

When, weeks earlier, Channel 4 commissioning editor Siobhan Sinnerton offered me the chance to direct a film about the lives of women living under the rule of the Islamic State – the film that became Escape From Isis – we both knew the project would entail insane hours of relentless work amid tales of unimaginable human suffering. And so it proved.

But neither of us could have guessed that here, on the frontline with Isis, we would find a positive twist to the story.

Through hard work and a series of lucky breaks, I got the opportunity to follow an underground network of activists who, unseen by the world, were trying to free women held by Isis militants and used as sex slaves. That morning, we were waiting for a family of 24 to be guided across the frontline to freedom after eight months in the hands of Isis.

The brutality that people endure inside the Islamic State is difficult to comprehend. One woman’s story will always stay with me. At only 21, Aeida was abducted with her two-year-old daughter and one-year-old son. The militants beheaded people in front of the children and kept the family in a house where women were used as sex slaves.

During her interview, Aeida had just described witnessing a nine-year-old girl being taken away to be raped when she suffered an extreme traumatic flashback and collapsed, struggling to breathe, her face contorted by the horror she had witnessed.

I was torn between the film-maker in me, who knew I needed to record, and the human being, who did not want to add in any way to her suffering by pointing a camera at it. Even after making 20 documentaries, I still find it a difficult balance to strike.

You do see Aeida collapse in the film, but in the edit, I could not watch the material without shedding tears.

Team bonding

For most of the shoot, there were only four of us: me, our main character Khaleel, driver Hazim and fixer Hassan Ashwor, running around northern Iraq in Hazim’s dad’s old saloon. Having a small team allowed me to sneak into places that were off-limits to bigger units – and build the relationships on which our access depended.

The most essential member of the team was Hassan. He had worked as a translator for the US Marines – good preparation for work in television – and was a true TV soldier. His incredible stamina, translating almost continuously for up to 24 hours, helped me to build trust with the secretive rescue network, who had never before allowed cameras to film them.

The humour of our little team carried us through hell; I remember teasing driver Hazim about his quest for a girlfriend as we drove past blown-up buildings and the craters left by roadside bombs.

That cold morning, two hours passed on the frontline with no sign of the family. I decided to snatch a shot of an Isis observation post on the frontline ahead. We wrestled the tripod to the front of the trench and I fitted a long lens. I had just put my eye to the viewfinder when Hassan nudged me: “They’re coming.”

I swung the camera up to the hills and saw the family of 24, a tiny group of black-clad figures, scrambling towards us and freedom.

Everyone – the soldiers, my team, relatives of the escapees – leapt over the frontline and ran helter-skelter into no man’s land to meet them, heedless of the danger. I filmed the soldiers carrying several of the women the final few hundred yards to safety.

The family had walked for two days to escape. They were too exhausted to take another step and were loaded into trucks and driven away. I flicked off the camera and wiped away the sweat. Hassan grinned at me. “No one has seen anything like that before,” he said.

I’m proud that, thanks to all of our hard work, they now can.

Progressive humanity stands with these brave people fighting the Islamic State genociders.

SWP Goes Islamist?

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Anti-Quilliam protest in Plymouth

SWP With Plymouth Islamic Society.

A PROTEST against a speaker specialising in Islamism and counter-extremism has taken place at Plymouth University tonight.

Around 30 people gathered to show their anger at Sheikh Dr Usama Husan giving a lecture at the uni.

It comes after he failed to condemn an image from the online cartoon ‘Jesus and Mo’ showing Jesus and Mohammed saying ‘hey’ and ‘how ya doin’ to each other.

Dr Hasan is a senior researcher in Islamic Studies at Quilliam was speaking at the Jill Craigie cinema tonight on the topic of Islam and democracy in the wake of the Arab Spring.

The University cites Dr Hasan as a trained imam and a scientist with a PhD, MA and MSc from the Universities of Cambridge and London, and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Around 30 people from the university’s Plymouth Islamic Society protested at the event as he had not condemned the actions of Quilliam co-founder Maajid Nawaz, a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn who retweeted the controversial image.

They gathered peacefully in the lobby area of the Roland Levinsky building ahead of Dr Hasan’s arrival. A few ‘boos’ were heard as he entered the lectured theatre. Plymouth Herald

Hat-Tip Howie’s Corner.

Bob Pitt then entered the fray after reports of the SWP participation in the Muslim protest became public knowledge,

It is true that the Plymouth University demonstration “came after” Usama Hasan failed to condemn Maajid Nawaz’s tweet of a “Jesus and Mo” cartoon. But it is misleading to suggest that this was the sole reason for the protest.

First of all, the objection is not simply to the one cartoon but to the entire “Jesus and Mo” series which, as the online petition against Nawaz points out, “contains many highly offensive images of Jesus and Muhammad including homo-erotic scenes of them in bed together, being at bars together drinking alcohol using foul language, and reading pornographic magazines”. The petition further objects to the swearing and abuse with which Nawaz responded to his critics.

As the Quilliam Foundation NOT welcome in Plymouth Facebook page makes clear, the objection to Usama Hasan’s appearance in Plymouth was also wider than a complaint about a single cartoon. The organisers of the demonstration opposed Quilliam for having promoted the far-right extremists “Tommy Robinson” and Kevin Carroll, and for having “provided lists to the govt of alleged extremist sympathisers which included the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Safety Forum and even the Islam Channel”.

Plymouth University ISoc also condemned a cartoon tweeted by Usama Hasan himself, which trivialised domestic violence. They were joined by Fawcett Plymouth, who wrote to Plymouth University calling for the cancellation of the event at which Hasan was to speak.

The organisers’ appeal for support for the demonstration concluded: “We do not want the QF in Plymouth, they are a danger to community cohesion and peaceful relationships that exist here between the mainstream Muslim as well as diverse communities.”

The Islamists explained that,

“Join us in protesting and leafleting against the Quilliam Foundation appearing at Plymouth University. The Quilliam Foundation have been invited to speak and we strongly object. The QF founder tweeted on 12th January offensive caricatures of the Prophets Mohammed and Isa (Jesus), peace be upon them.

They claim to be a moderate Muslim group but have welcomed right wing extremist Tommy Robinson and Steve Carroll from the racist English Defence League. QF is a think tank that has received over £1million from the government. In return they have provided lists to the govt of alleged extremist sympathisers which included the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Safety Forum and even the Islam Channel.

We do not want the QF in Plymouth, they are a danger to community cohesion and peaceful relationships that exist here between the mainstream Muslim as well as diverse communities. We urge you to turn up and help us protest and leaflet to let people know what QF really stand for which is fuelling Islamaphobia and harming community relationships, and that they are not welcome here in Plymouth. This event has been organised by both local Muslims and non Muslims.

They posted a video clip of an elderly Swuppie selling Socialist Worker – here.

We certainly do not endorse the activities of the Quilliam Foundation.

But the nub of the matter is that the protest was sparked off by the Jesus and Mo cartoons.

I would like to see the Jesus and Mo Cartoons but Suffolk Library blocks the site – in effect bowing to the Islamist demands for censorship. 

This is what came up when I tried to go on the Jesus and Mo blog.

Access to the page:
… has been prevented for the following reason:
Blocked site: jesusandmo.net
You are seeing this error because what you attempted to access appears to contain, or is
labeled as containing, material that is contrary to the Library’s Acceptable Use Policy.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 2, 2014 at 11:53 am

Face Veil Controversy: An “Obscene Outfit” to Jean Luc Mélenchon but not to Socialist Worker.

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“Obscene Outfit” says Mélenchon.

YASMIN ALIBHAI BROWN writes in the Independent,

Birmingham Metropolitan College was similarly cowed and had to reverse a directive forbidding students from covering their faces. One hooded lady crowdsourced a protest against the college. Some overexcited student union members, Muslim objectors and online petitioners have forced a U-turn. Shabana Mahmood, MP for Ladywood, Birmingham, welcomed the capitulation. Happy days. Muslim women can now to go to courts and college in shrouds.

That all-covering gown, that headscarf, that face mask – all affirm and reinforce the belief that women are a hazard to men and society. These are unacceptable, iniquitous values, enforced violently by Taliban, Saudi and Iranian oppressors. They have no place in our country.

In this passionate and well argued piece Alibhai Brown continues,

None of our sacred texts command us to cover our faces. Some branches of Islam do not even require head coverings. These are manmade injunctions followed by unquestioning women. We are directed always to accept the rules of the countries we live in and their institutions, as long as they are reasonable. For security, justice, travel, education and health identification is vital. Why should these women be exempt? We Muslims are already unfairly thought of as the enemy within. Niqabs make us appear more alien, more dangerous and suspicious. If it is a provocation for Ku Klux Klan to cover up so they can’t be recognised, it is for Muslims too.

This is a struggle between the light of the faith and dark forces here and also in Islamic countries. The clothes symbolize an attempted takeover of the religion just when believers are looking for liberty, autonomy, democracy and gender equality. Malala Yousafzai doesn’t hide her determined face. Nor do our female Muslim MPs and peers or civil rights lawyers.

So why do we get this gang announcing in Socialist Worker, the following,

Students celebrate beating Birmingham college niqab ban

The successful campaign in Birmingham should serve as a warning to college bosses everywhere – students will not allow their Muslim friends to be scapegoated.

‘Islamophobia’ Watch has joined the fray.

Bob Pitt is, amongst his usual forth, particularly exercised over a Tory MP’s Twitter comments,

Pitt and the SWP would have heart attacks if they were on the French left.

This is what Jean Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the Front de gauche, and their presidential candidate, said on the Face veil (during the 2010 debate on French laws in 2010).

Full veil: Mélenchon “for a general ban”

29/04/2010

The chairman of the Left Party (PG), Jean-Luc Mélenchon has called for a total ban of the full veil in the Figaro.

According to him, the restriction prohibiting the wearing of the full veil in public services alone is “an incredible cowardice.”

He added that the law “must be of universal application.”

In more detail Jean Luc Mélenchon set out his position (2010) on his Blog.

Je parle du voile intégral

Why is he wearing the full veil degrading for women? Firstly, because it is obscene. It reduces the wearer to the status of sexual potential prey. As it is not proposed to blind men, it is designed to hide the object of desire from  natural desires of  all those watching. It’s worth noting how it is insulting to men who are deemed as being that are predatory and obsessed. In any case, the fully veiled woman bears a humiliating statement of  that she has the status of property of another.  is attached to the veiled woman.

A human being can not be the property of another. This is contrary to the human rights principle, that all are born free and equal in rights.

Mélenchon wanted a  law that would not just ban the full face veil in public places but for legislation to guarantee ” it would give “ l’obligation de mixité des lieux publics et services publics.” – the obligation to have women and men together in all public places and services. That is, to refuse all demands for single sex treatment.

Mélenchon has done far more defending French Muslims and “métsisage’ (cultural mixing) than the likes of the British Islamophiles.d.

What passes for defending Muslim women’s rights for the SWP and Bob Pitt, is deeply misguided.

Some liberal-minded people may think that people can do what they like (Harry’s Place), a way of presenting the issue is profoundly misleading terms.

The face veil is there to maintain the wearer’s  ‘purity’ and to treat others as ‘unclean’ because they do not have the modest dress that their interpretation  of a religion demands.

This is to accept the installation of a group of people with what are close to  a racist form of religious intolerance inside public institutions.

This is not about ‘choice’ but a right to demand the restriction of choice.

Let us be clear: there is no right to be oppressed.

The face veil  is dramatically opposed to the progressive goal of “métsisage’ (cultural mixing).

An important  place where there should be taking place, in education, has become  a battle field, pitting progressives against those from the extreme-right and the Islamists, who oppose this.

The full face veil is as Yasmin Alibhai Brown says, a reflection of “unacceptable, iniquitous values, enforced violently by Taliban, Saudi and Iranian oppressors.”