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Macron, Un Président Philosophe. Brice Couturier. The Anti-Populist Progressive? Review.

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Macron, Un Président Philosophe. Aucun des ses mots n’est le fruit de hasard. Brice Couturier. Editions l’Observatoire. 

An interview which broke with the deferential traditions of the 5th Republic made the French headlines all week. On Sunday the 15th of April the journalists Jean-Jacques Bourdin and Edwy Plenel questioned the head of state for two hours on the balance-sheet of his administration. Elected with a sweeping majority for the party La République en marche, he defended a policy of immediate reforms, from the rail service, to higher education. Macron “listened” to the anger of opponents – the railway workers, students, aeroplane pilots, functionaries, and the squatters occupying the ZAD at Notre-Dame-des-Landes. But republican norms had to be respected. Universities were victims of “professionnels du désordre” (le Monde 17.4.18).

As the exchange got underway Plenal, the anti-Macron founder of the independent Mediapart, and a former member of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, interrupted. “You are not our Teacher, and we are not your pupils”. An Editorial in Le Monde the previous day talked of Macron as a pedagogue ready to lecture, regardless of the wishes of his audience, until he had completed his lesson. (Macron au cours préparatoire. 14.4.18) Excluding the possibility that the President was unaware of his interlocutor’s troublemaking potential one assumes that a snappy put down far from a chance part of the course.

The Anti-Populist Progressive? 

But what syllabus is France’s President instructing us from? This is far from an issue limited to the Hexagone. There are policies on the European Union. Macron’s “camp progressiste” has stimulated interest amongst homeless supporters of the Third Way, Die Neue Mitte, and the liberal centre. For many of these people Macron represents a successful ‘anti-populist’ unifying force.  Much of the French left, which saw many transfers from the right of the Parti Socialiste (PS) and allied figures, to the new President’s camp, by contrast, announced immediately after his victory that this was a Presidency for the wealthy, for the ‘elite’. For former Socialist Minister Anicet Le Pors, he is “mandated” by international finance, the ruling circles of the EU, the bosses, the administrative technocracy, show business, and nearly all the media. (April 2018. Le Monde Diplomatique)

With the present unrest attracting attention the English-speaking left has been quick to label Macron a neo-liberal, a spin of Tony Blair and Thatcher, out to attack the labour movement and impose markets on the public sphere. The ‘bromance’ with Donald Trump over Syria adds force to the comparison with the former British Prime Minister.

Perry Anderson, in a peremptory post-election account, went deeper. Adorned in best periodic style, he suggested that the “neoliberal reformation of France”, attempted for over three decades, had been impeded on different sides by the constituencies of right and left. Macron, in effect, cut through the various knots tiring up the centre left and right, and formed a real “bloc bourgeois” ready to carry out a liberalisation of the economy, and free up entrepreneurial energy. (1)

But some clarity is needed about the beast in power. There are already plenty of books about the President, and the electoral campaign that swept him to the Élysée. But what is his ideology, beyond carrying out his neoliberal “mandate”? ‘Macronism’ appears a less promising candidate than Thatcherism or even the rebarbative Blairism. A suggestion by Régis Debray that – the reader will have guessed this – that the Head of State represents Americanisation, with a ‘Protestant’ twist (see below), this does not take us far. It might be better said that his ideology is something picked up and stuck together as the result of an academic, administrative, business and political career.

In Macron, un président philosophe, Courtier who has a solid academic, and media background, and a less firm commitment to a form of left wing liberalism, offers us a series of insights into this broad picture. As he indicates, the former assistant to the philosopher Paul Ricœur, graduate of French elite Political and Administrative colleges, Finance Inspector, Rothschild Banker, and Minister under François Hollande, offers rich intellectual pickings. Blair, the erudite few may recall, had the lecturer Peter Thompson at Oxford, and the lessons of reciprocity from John Macmurray, behind his Christian socialism. Macron has somebody, Ricœur, a thinker with a Protestant backdrop, whom people have often heard of, if not read.

The President, we learn, has many many more figures in his hinterland. French books have a vexing lack of indexes. It would be hard work to list every sage cited in un Président philosophe, they range from Hegel, Marx, Carl Schmitt, Nietzsche, Peter Sloterdijk, Joseph Schumpeter, Michael Young (meritocracy), to Jürgen Habermas. This only follows the reference-laden writings and speeches of the book’s subject.

From Ricoeur to Saint Simon. 

It would be useful to boil this down to the essential. To begin with here is the debt to Paul Ricœur. For Courtier he offered the germs of an “identitié narrative” from the individual to the nation, to history. The use for a President of certain ideas about France, recently indicated in recognition to the importance of the legacy of Catholicism, is obvious. Macron has, in other words, considers cultural legacies, the presence of memory, to hold the country together – a view whose originality or interest is not immediately apparent.

Next Macron can be compared to Saint-Simon, the prophet of a society run by “industrials” and “intellectuals”. In this vein he is said to consider globalisation as a system of fluxes to be organised and regulated (Page 253). Finance, the mark of neo-liberalism, is to be channelled to the long-term greater good.

If Macron is a believer in capitalism he acknowledges it is not a system that works smoothly, if with great effort, like some building a planetary network of Saint-Simonian canals. There are moments of creative destruction (Schumpeter), clearing out the old inefficient enterprises, bureaucratic burdens and the “corporatism” of organised labour. ‘Progressive’ states, and the transnational European project, are needed to both facilitate and harness this process. .

Finally, there is building European Sovereignty, and the problems that globalisation creates. Courtier refers to David Goodhart in outlining the problems France faces. (3). Can Macron bring together the France of the “zones péripheriques”, the old working class far from the elite, and the metropolitan “gagnants de la mondialisation” (winners of globalisation), regarded as Macron’s core backing, if not electorate, together? (Pages 291 -2)

The difficulty of reconciling the “somewhere’ salt-of-the-earth folk and the – scorned – “nowhere” cosmopolitans would appear hard for somebody identified with the (however misleadingly) with the latter “bobos”. The task of bringing integration against the ‘identitarians’ of the far-right and those who assert the absolute right to multicultural difference, by the “modèle republican français” appears equally arduous. The often reverential, if not hagiographical tone of Un président philosophe, does not help resolve the difficulties. The use of Goodhart to bolster his opinions indicates a rightward slant with no countervailing force. 

The philosophical commentator Alain famously declared that when somebody says that they are neither right nor left, he is sure of one thing – that they are not of the left. Macron is always careful to declare that he is of the right and the left. But there is a little indication of the latter. Pierre-André Taguieff has represented him as the herald of “successful globalisation”, a Europe in which France would be a “nation-start up” and the “État-enterprise”. To decipher the business-talk Anglicisms that pepper Macron’s speech is to confirm this view.

Managerialism, Saint-Simon, Schumpeter, both far from any conception of “bottom up” democracy, political or economic, and a homeopathic communitarian philosophy suggested by Courtier’s reading of Goodhart, do not make an attractive picture of France’s President. If this is what “progressivism” has become in Europe, than it is doubtful if it will attract many enthusiasts beyond France, and certainly not from left-wingers (3)

The European Project and the left.

In the article cited above Anderson pins the ultimate root of this strategy on the European Project. In the trickle down from his approach, others seize on every obstacle to the EU – Brexit included – as an advance against neo-liberalism. Today’s French strikes and protests – regardless of their specific causes or aims – are considered part of this movement.

But the real issue for the French left, in the aftermath of their defeat, may be said to have been whether Macron could be opposed by the “left populist” strategy of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise (LFI), to ‘federate the people” against the “elite” or by a new “left bloc” based on alliances between the parties (now stretching from the remains of the PS, Benoît Hamon’s group, the PCF, LFI and its allies, what is left of Les Verts, Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste, NPA) with the social forces presently fighting the wave of Macron reforms. This, as Stefano Palombarini suggested last June, would require an internationalist strategy towards changing the EU that breaks from the populist drift to ‘sovereigntism’. (4)

It is said that with his steam-roller reforms Macron has now been abandoned by whatever support he had from the ‘reformist’ liberal left. That after a year’s presidency he has veered towards authoritarianism  to “jacobinisme vertical”. Whether this is true or not the left is not united. There is no indication that the largest group in the French National Assembly, LFI, at the moment engaged in a “war of movement” to capture hegemony over the left, intends to explore this possibility. It might still be said, that to wrestle the European issue out of the hands of the Macrons and the existing EU system of governance, while fighting the sovereigntists, remains the key issue for our continent’s left, in all its diversity, strengths and weaknesses.

****

(1) The Centre Can Hold. Perry Anderson. New Left Review. No 105. May/June 2017. See: L’Illusion du Bloc Bourgeois. Bruno Amable. Stefano Palombarini. Raisons d’agir. 2017. Speculation that François Hollande and his immediate circle played a part in Macron’s Presidential ascension has waned with the publication of memories reproaching his one-time protégé for his actions.

(2) The Road to Somewhere. The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics. David Goodhart. Hurst & Company. 2017.

(3) Page 283. Macron: miracle ou mirage? Pierre-André Taguieff. Editions l’Observatoire. August 2017

(4) Face à Macron, la gauche ou le populisme? Stefano Palombarini

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Giles Fraser, former Guardian Columnist and Present Priest of St Mary’s, Newington, Touts for Assad in Syria.

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Giles Fraser, Vicar, former Guardian Columnist Touts for Assad.

Hat-Tip JP.

This will remind many people of the kind of criminal lies and delusions spread by the fellow travellers of Stalin.

As in  David CauteFellow-Travellers: A Postscript to the Enlightenment,  1973 (revised edition, as The Fellow-Travellers: Intellectual Friends of Communism,  1988.)

He is not alone:  London Times articles about Assadist university professors  Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist)

Fraser has a more recent history of deluded apologies for murder.

2016:

Giles Fraser (Guardian) attacks Charlie Hebdo.

Zineb El Rhazoui, formerly of Charlie Hebdo, “white atheist sneering at non-white believers” says Giles Fraser. 

Giles Fraser is a columnist for the Guardian.

In his spare time he is  parish priest at St Mary’s, Newington.

Giles Fraser does not like French secularism.

He devotes most of his energy to unmasking Republican France’s  “foundation myth”, the “glorious triumph of atheistic rationality over the dangerous totalitarian obscurantism of the Catholic church.” (France’s much vaunted secularism is not the neutral space it claims to be)

During his morning bath Fraser thinks of the Vendée and the Drownings at Nantes (Noyades de Nantes) of refractory clergy.

A walk on the beach sends him musing on the ‘Burkini’.

Passing by a Stationer’s  the Priest considers the shadow of the secularist Guillotine.

It goes without saying that he did and does not like Charlie Hebdo, modern Atheist “Iconoclasts

It is with little surprise that we find that Fraser now manages to drag Charlie into this debate: “Kelvin MacKenzie has been cleared by Ipso over his column on the Channel 4 News presenter. What message does that ruling send?” (Is it ‘open season’ on Muslims, as Fatima Manji suggests? Our panel responds.)

 Fraser comments,

Defending freedom of speech is one thing, but freedom of speech is brought into massive disrepute when it becomes a moral alibi for white atheists to sneer at non-white believers, and Muslims in particular. It was exactly the same with Charlie Hebdo – they hid their racism behind that all-purpose moral pass, freedom of speech. But at least they were equal opportunity offenders – they had a pop at all-comers: Jews, Christians, Muslims.

Racism?

Is Charlie a group of ‘white atheists’?

You mean that anybody criticising Islam gives an “alibi” to ‘racists”?

That Charlie “hid” its racism?

As in the case of this much loved comrade….

Zineb el Rhazoui, Charlie Hebdo survivor, discusses why the world needs to ‘Destroy Islamic Fascism’ (New York Times 18.10.16.)

Undeterred by fatwas and death threats, the author has released an incendiary and thoughtful new book, bound to provoke debate.

She leads a clandestine existence, on the move and under 24-hour guard as France’s most protected woman. Yet Zineb El Rhazoui, the Charlie Hebdo journalist who happened to be in Casablanca on January 7 last year, the day terrorists “avenging the Prophet” massacred nine people at the satirical magazine in Paris, believes she has a duty to defy Islamists desperate to silence her.

Shaken but undeterred by the fatwas and relentless, precise death threats issued via social media to “kill the bitch” since she helped produce the publication’s first survivors’ issue following the attack — and spoke about it in Arabic for the Arab press — the Moroccan-French writer refuses to assume an anonymous identity. Fleeing Paris or abandoning her human rights activism, and her unforgiving critiques of the religion she grew up with, are also out of the question.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 16, 2018 at 11:07 am

No Platform for Fascists and the International Marxist Group in the 1970s.

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Image result for National front protests 1970s

Smithfield Porters March Against Immigration, 1968

“The fascists specialise in organising street demonstrations, pickets, strikes and petitions in favour of their reactionary policies.”

“The aim of ‘No Platform’ is therefore to deprive the fascists of the weapons they are relying on to develop. The streets, the pickets lines, and the factories must be denied to fascists. That is what ‘No Platform’ means.”

The policy is not “to break up private meetings of the (National) Front”

“The essential aim must be to prevent the major propaganda functions of the Front, marches, meetings and demonstrations”.

Fascism- How to smash it International Marxist Group. October 1974.

From  Anti-fascism, anti-racism and ‘no platformThe Red Mole.

‘BY WHATEVER MEANS NECESSARY’: THE ORIGINS OF THE ‘NO PLATFORM’ POLICY. Evan Smith.

In the early 1970s, the term ‘no platform’ was first used to describe the anti-fascist strategy of denying fascist organisations the public space to organise and disseminate their propaganda. The denial of public space had been an integral part of the militant anti-fascist movement since the 1930s, employed by the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), various Jewish groups and other assorted anti-fascists.

..

The Red Mole was the newspaper of the International Marxist Group (IMG), a Trotskyist organisation that built quickly amongst the student and anti-Vietnam War movements in the late 1960s. In the issue for September 18, 1972, the front page headline declared ‘NO PLATFORM FOR RACISTS’. It described the NF and the Monday Club (a pro-empire and anti-immigration grouping within the Conservative Party) as ‘mortal enemies of the working class’ and stated that these two groups ‘must be stopped in their tracks’. The newspaper argued that these groups needed to be confronted and were ‘not going to be convinced by rational argument’, calling for ‘a concerted counter-attack’ at meetings of both groups.

The IMG proposed that groups like the NF could not be afforded ‘free speech’ because ‘their racist campaigns are a means to destroy the organisations of the working class which defend such bourgeois democratic rights’. The same issue claimed:

the only way to deal with fascist type organisations like the National Front is to break up their activities before they grow to a size where they can begin to smash the activities of the working class.

While acknowledging that ‘[w]e are nowhere near a threatened Fascist coup yet’, but said ‘the methods necessary on preventing such a threat must be explained and demonstrated in practice now… We must begin to adopt the right tactics right from the start.’

Evan Smith is now writing a comprehensive study of No Platform in the UK, titled, “No Platform: A History of Universities, Anti-Fascism and the Limits of Free Speech’.

I have just this to add to the study – something that shows the distance from present debates about free speech and No Platform.

After  the Red Lion Square events of 15 June 1974, in which a student sympathiser Kevin Gately was killed in clashes over the National Front (NF) Meeting in Conway Hall,  in  the IMG stepped up its anti-fascist activity. (1)

Action against the NF was, they explained, not a matter of suppressing ideas that we did not agree with. Nor was fascism an imminent danger.

The threat was of a different kind.

Fascist groups, like the British NF, the Italian MSI, or France’s Ordre Nouveau, were part of a wider push towards a ‘strong state’: they were outriders attempting to build ‘mass movements’ that would demand more and more repressive measures against the working class movements that (in the 1970s) were on the rise, flexing real industrial muscle through strikes (as in mass stoppages and demonstrations against the Industrial relations Act).

Racist workers had struck, the IMG noted in Fascism – How to Fight it – against immigrants, in Mansfield Hosiery Standard Telephone and Cables,  and Imperial Typewriters. There had been strikes against admitting the Ugandan Asians, expelled by the racist African regime. The NF organised public protests against them on a scale hard to gauge today. The first far-right anti-European (EEC) campaigns had begun. There was virulent hostility to Irish nationalism.

For the IMG and others on the left the National Front”s acts could be considered to have some kinship with the ‘strategy of tension’ of the Italian far right, a ratcheting up of social conflict in order to establish itself as an effective pressure group on the state to take repressive measures that would bolster their own strength. It had something in common with the ‘strong state’  developed by the Marxist theorist Nicos Poulantzas, “from a “parliamentary State” to a strong State (Etat fort) in which the executive predominates.” in which the extreme right could play a guiding role.

An IMG education session on fascism that I attended circa 1975 involved showing a film about the French Ligue Communiste’s efforts to present the fascist group Ordre Nouveau from holding a meeting at the salle de la Mutualité on the 21st of June 1973 on the theme of  « Halte à l’immigration sauvage ». Violent clashes took place, which led to both groups being officially dissolved (the LC became the  Ligue communiste révolutionnaire, LCR and ON became the Parti des forces nouvelles).

The importance of these events for the LCR is outlined here:  Dissolution de la Ligue communiste (1973)

For the IMG  their action gave us a way of putting the importance of street battles with the far right.

Whether the IMG was right, wholly, or partially misguided, – all at the same time, perhaps, given the arrival of Thatcher – one can see a gulf between the strategy of ‘No Platform’ of the time and the controversy today.

..

(1) RED LION SQUARE AND THE DEATH OF KEVIN GATELY

Note: I was at the Red Lion Square protest.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2018 at 6:43 pm

Sara Khan Critic, Roshan M Salih (Editor of 5Pillars) Speaks on ‘Zionist infiltration of Muslim Community’.

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Roshan M Salih is Editor of British Muslim news site 5Pillars  and a journalist at the Iranian Press TV.

Salih loathes  Sara Khan the Lead Commissioner for the Home Office’s Commission for Countering Extremism..

In 2016 he asked in a diatribe titled, Sara Khan’s The Battle for British Islam: A 250 page Prevent press release

Why should Sara Khan, someone without theological credentials, be given a platform to “save her faith”? And why should she have the last word on counter-extremism when there are far more qualified people to pronounce a verdict on it?

Adding to the argument that Khan lacks theological authority Salih considered that violent racist Islamism is not the real problem.

What needs to be looked at?

Rather, it is by holistically addressing issues such as British foreign policy and state and media Islamophobia, having a much more targeted counter terrorism policy, and by working with grassroots members of the Muslim community to root out the extremists rather than people like Sara Khan who have no ability to reach them.

So “reaching out to extremists” by “grass roots” Muslims (who these are is left open, perhaps he could vet a list?) is his domestic policy, for fighting “extremism”.

In the last few days it’s without surprise 5Pillars published a raft of articles denouncing Sara Khan’s appointment….

Salih has “controversial”, some might say extremist,  views of his own.

Here he was on on the Islamist mass murders in Nice (2016),

A former Al Jazeera reporter blamed “French Islamophobia” and the nation’s foreign policy for the Nice terrorist attack that claimed at least 84 lives and injured more than 200.

Roshan M. Salih, who is currently the editor of the British Muslim news website 5Pillars, wrote several tweets in the immediate aftermath of the attack blaming France for the massacre.

France is an Islamophobic nation with a hugely destructive foreign policy and these horrible attacks are a terrible blowback,” Mr. Salih wrote in one tweet.

“West buries its head in the sand about own crimes,” Mr. Salih wrote in another. “ISIS grew out of Western invasion of Iraq and thrived in Syrian war which France supported.”

So the killers  struck at ‘France’ – the whole nation is apparently at fault for Islamophobia and its foreign policy  –  impelled by the irresistible force of ‘Blowback’.

 Press TV, (owned by the blood-stained Islamist regime of Iran), for which Salih works, was in the news yesterday for this,

Ken Livingstone went on show titled ‘Has the Holocaust been exploited to oppress others?

Saturday was International Holocaust Memorial Day – a day when people all over the world remember the six million people, mainly Jews, who were murdered at the hands of the Nazis.

However, Ken Livingstone marked the day by appearing on a show that asked: ‘Has the Holocaust been exploited to oppress others?’

The show was published on Iranian state channel Press TV’s UK YouTube channel, and invited callers to call in with their opinions.

Host Roshan Muhammed Salih repeatedly claimed the Holocaust has become ‘an industry’, while a segment in the show showed an alternative event to Holocaust Memorial Day – a more general Genocide Memorial Day – being held at the same time in London.

A number of the listeners who called in then repeated anti-Semitic tropes, with one caller saying that Hitler ‘was extremely fantastic’ for the creation of Israel.

‘If it wasn’t for Hitler there would be no Israel,’ the caller, Ali, said. ‘So this idea that Hitler was a bad guy… He wasn’t so bad for Israel! He was extremely fantastic and it was useful for the fact that Israel has been created.’

Livingstone disagreed, telling Ali that that was a ‘really bad thing to say, it’s deeply offensive to Jewish communities around the world’.

However, he then repeated his claim from last year that Hitler worked with the Zionist movement to move Jewish people to Israel.

‘I mean Hitler wanted to eliminate every Jew who was living inside Germany, and that’s what he did in the 1930s,’ the former mayor said.

He worked with the Zionist movement to move… to get 60,000 to go, but it was about half a million – and then, he changed his policy and went for genocide.’

  It comes as no surprise  that the theme of Salih’s ‘talk’ is as follows

 

As for 5Pillars, what kind of a News site is it?

This speaks for itself:  (16th of January 2018)

US and Israel plot to establish Kurdish state in Middle East.

It transpires that the active involvement of the US in destroying ISIS in western Iraq and eastern Syria was not primarily to combat terrorism, as its spokespeople have been affirming for the past three years. It was to set up – in coordination with the Israeli occupation state – a Kurdish state in the area between Iraq, Turkey and Syria that could become a permanent US military base and serve as a substitute for the nearby Incirlik base in Turkey.

The bunch at the Sunday meeting included the following:

 

This is the idea of ‘human rights’ the Islamic ‘Human Rights Commission’ (whose idea of ‘human rights’ be seen here: In 2015, IHRC gave the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo their “International Islamophobe of the Year” award less than 2 months after 12 members of staff at the magazine had been killed by Islamic extremists) talks about.

Revealed: Charity leader Nazim Ali who blamed fire tragedy on “Zionists”

Islamic Human Rights Commission’s Nazim Ali blames “Zionists” for Grenfell fire tragedy

Sara Khan, Islamism, and her Critics.

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Image result for sara khan Inspire

Is there a problem with violent racist Islamism in Britain?

The Independent wrote last October.

More than 400 British Isis jihadis have already returned to UK, report warns.

Thousands of Isis fighters have already returned to their home countries amid confusion over the number of foreign jihadis remaining in the dwindling caliphate, a new report has found.

Research by The Soufan Centre estimated that at least 425 British Isis members have so far returned to the UK – the largest cohort in Europe.

But there are fears many have “disappeared” from the view of security services, who will not publicly confirm how many returnees have been jailed or are being tracked.

These people fought for a group that has engaged in ethnic and religious cleansing and genocide.

How can the support which led to their participation be tackled?

There are many reservations about the Government’s Prevent strategy, beginning with the fact that is initiated by the government, and extending to an appeal to “British values”.

Sara Khan wins over many by this saying this instead, (Mirror).

“The Bradford-born founder of Inspire vowed to tackle Islamism “in the name of our shared values, fundamental freedoms and human rights.”

Her statement  shines in contrast to the following,

Sara Khan’s appointment as the UK’s counter-extremism chief is symbolic of how the problem of radicalisation is ultimately addressed by the state.   Professor Tahir Abbas Visiting senior fellow at the department of government, London School of Economics.

..government rhetoric focuses on ideology, regressive interpretations of Islam, anti-integration sentiment, resistance politics, anger and disaffection towards failed Western foreign policy and lumps them all together as elements of a problem that has a singular solution. The solution is to modify and moderate Islam.

This is the heart of the problem for the last decade and a half.

Everything else that is important in understanding, breaking down and helping to eliminate issues of radicalisation points to a multivariate set of factors that are important in understanding the processes and the mechanisms through which radicalisation can be eliminated.

The research suggests strongly that radicalisation on the basis of religion is a later-stage process, whereas it is the sociological, political and cultural pressures that act as the initial push factors in relation to radicalisation.

In place of this – alas representative – gibberish Shiraz Socialist  In Defence of Sarah Khan  says,

Human rights and anti-extremism campaigner Sara Khan has come under renewed attack for accepting the Lead role in the government’s new Commission for Countering Extremism. Before this she has been condemned for accepting Home Office funding for her Inspire project and for being willing to work with Prevent.

Much of this criticism comes from Islamists and their apologists like the SWP. Some of it comes from left wingers genuinely concerned about Khan’s willingness to work with the government. Bizarrely, one of  the most outspoken critics of Khan’s appointment is former Tory Party Chair, Lady Wasi!

New counter-extremism tsar Sara Khan faces calls to quit BBC.

MEND (Muslim Engagement and Development) is another prominent critic of Sara Khan.

This organisation issued a speech about Holocaust Day (Wednesday).

While worthy in its content, in defence of refugees and Muslims facing persecution, manages the hard task of not mentioning once the genocide and ethnic-religious cleansing taking place in Syria and Iraq at the present moment. (MEND Head of Policy speech in commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day.)

The National Secular Society writes,

Many of those who claim to speak for Muslims do not like Khan because she promotes a positive message. She encourages a degree of integration into British society. She says Muslims should obey the same laws as everyone else and cooperate with the British state. She has called for honesty among Muslims about hateful ideologies and intolerant practices which are specific to, or particularly prominent among, those who share their religion.

Her organisation Inspire encourages girls and women from Muslim backgrounds to be aspirational. It has done important work countering the narrative of grievance and resentment peddled by so many. And Khan wrote a book, The Battle for British Islam, in which she tackled many of those peddlers, as well as their counterparts on the white far right, head-on.

Is this really work that we should explicitly describe as ‘controversial’? Anyone interested in the future of British society should support the general thrust of what Khan has tried to do.

That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be reasonable analysis and criticism of her work. But if such a thing exists it has been drowned out today amid a hurricane of apologism. Advocacy groups such as 5PillarsUK, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Public Affairs Committee have berated Khan. Politicians such as Sayeeda Warsi, Naz Shah and Diane Abbott have cravenly jumped on the bandwagon.

The Mirror also reports,

Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “The fight against terrorism requires equal partnership between all parties, including Muslim communities.

“This appointment risks sending a clear and alarming message that the government has no intention of doing so.

“Sadly it will be seen as a move to placate those small sections of society who see Muslims as foreign, alien, rather than as equal citizens in this country.”

This is another comment.

The more moderately toned response from the Muslim Women’s Collective offers problems of its own,

We and the British Muslim women who participate in the online forum we founded – the Muslim Women’s Collective – are keen to ensure that the commission and the government engage with diverse voices in the spirit of partnership. With the increase in Islamophobia that has occurred (particularly the attacks on visibly Muslim women) our concern is that the commission will neglect this idea, and cast an unjustifiably wide net in terms of who it considers religious extremists, in a manner that risks being counterproductive.

Bushra Wasty and Sulekha Hassa

That amongst the extremists we are talking about there are those that have committed war crimes on a scale that can only be compared to those that took place during the Second World War escapes these critics.

It is recommended that these people read what Sara Khan has actually written.

This is how we can reclaim the British Muslim identity from extremists. Independent April 2017.

The rise and appeal of global terror groups are acutely felt here; approximately 1,000 people have travelled to Syria and Iraq, many seeking to join violent jihadist groups.  Between 1998 and 2015 there have been 269 convictions for Islamist-related offences. Intolerance and extremism has erupted in violence as we saw last year with the brutal killing of Ahmadiyyah Muslim Asad Shah by Tanveer Ahmed. And Muhammad Syeedy, a 21-year-old Isis supporter from Rochdale, murdered 71-year-old imam Jalal Uddin.

These facts depressingly represent the tip of the iceberg. Online, the spread of Islamist beliefs is unprecedented. There are 54,000 searches each month in the UK alone for extremist material.  Teenagers and children as young as 10 have been declaring their support for Isis. In some cases the authorities have had to deal with parents who have been found guilty of radicalising their own children. The challenge of Islamist extremism is anything but insignificant, and the damage done is immeasurable.

Yet despite this clear threat, public debate about Islamist extremism has become toxic and polarised. Entrenched black and white parochial positions, a common feature of our divided post-EU referendum society, predictably emerge.

On the one hand there are those who try to imply that all Muslims are de facto Islamists. Others go into denial mode, play down this reality and erroneously criticise those who dare raise the existence of Islamist extremism as “Islamophobia”.

Part of the reason for this is because both sides are guilty of homogenising British Muslims; terms like the “Muslim community” are woefully unhelpful, outdated and do a great disservice to the highly diverse and complex picture that exists among Britain’s three million Muslims. There quite simply is no single community. Yet when language is so important, this term is repeatedly used by politicians, the media and sometimes by Muslims themselves.

These entrenched positions cloud our inability to recognise the reality about British Muslims.  We fail to recognise the emerging positive trend: how young Muslims are excelling and contributing in many fields, whether in the arts, music, politics, fashion, the arts and drama.  They serve in the Armed Forces and the police, work in the NHS and, much to the displeasure of Islamists, are patriotic, rejecting wholesale the idea of an Islamic caliphate.

But there also exists a negative trend among some British Muslims, albeit smaller yet highly significant.  When third generation British Muslims inspired by Islamist belief want to join Isis or seek to carry out attacks in London because of their hatred for Britain, hard questions about identity, integration and belonging need to be asked.

Khan concludes,

Muslims must define what British Islam stands for: an ethical and moral religious framework which advocates for human rights and equality while weeding out hate, violence and discrimination. Likewise, confronting the wider obstacles facing Muslims in our country – socioeconomic and political issues, as well as widespread anti-Muslim discrimination – is vital. It’s important to remember that no one, apart from extremists, benefits from the presence of Islamist extremism in Britain.

 We can be critical of the Prevent Strategy, we can be hostile to the government’s foreign policy, but as a person Sara Khan comes across as a serious individual deeply committed to human rights who deserves attention and engagement not the kind of  denunciation she now faces.

See also:  Congratulations to Sara Khan  Sarah AB.

Update:

Written by Andrew Coates

January 26, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Labour Against the Witch-Hunt Pickets and Attacks Corbyn.

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Labour Aaginst the Witch-Hunt complains, Corbyn “hasn’t spoken up against it.”

There is a serious issue about expulsions and suspensions from the Labour Party.

There is a need for the Labour Party to deal with this in democratic sensitive  way, and some people suggest that this has not always been the case. Others would like to see such cases dealt with as quickly and openly as possible.

But is Labour Against the Witch-hunt, the organisation set up (and suffering recent purges of its own) acting in a manner that helps resolve the issue?

They have had a hard job getting their operation set up.

Image result for tony greenstein picket

They focus, almost entirely, on the issue of anti-Semitism.

At the centre of their campaign, after some ideas on making disciplinary measures open, and “abolishing the Compliance Unit”,  is this demand.

We demand that the Labour Party rejects the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, which in its list of examples conflates anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and support for the rights of the Palestinian people. Instead, the Labour Party should adopt a simple, straightforward, definition of anti-Semitism, such as by Professor Brian Klug: “Anti-Semitism is a form of hostility to Jews as Jews, where Jews are perceived as something other than what they are”.

In other words they demand that the Labour Party adopts the LAW definition of anti-Semitism, so that they can say what they like about ‘Zionism’ as long as they do not show a particular form of hostility to Jews in which they “perceive” Jews for what they are not.

The definition they object to is this,

“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

It goes on to state, (which, be it noted, is not the definition),

Contemporary examples of anti-Semitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.

Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).

  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

Now denying self-determination to the Jews is a wide statement. As are the rest of the items in these bullet points.

But the simple phrase, “hatred against Jews” stands for itself.

Surely anti-Semitism is about hatred, and is directed at Jews?

We can argue about the rest for ever.

And will.

But it does not take a Barrister’s forensics to see how their alternative definition, “how Jews are said to be what they are not”, is full of holes.

“Anti-Zionists” can simply argue that, for example, saying that Zionists are (fill entry in, from insults ownards) such and such, if they are Jewish, and that they are something, not what they are not.

In other words they want to turn the Labour Party into a playground in which they can shout to their hearts’ content anything that comes into their minds against ‘Zionism’ , something which they do not define.

It is little wonder, with a leadership that contains odd-balls like Tony Greenstein, and the heavy involvement of the Weekly Worker, Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Committee)  that few people want to be part of this campaign.

As can be seen in Greenstein’s latest ravings.

Having the JLM in charge of ‘anti-racist’ training is like having the Yorkshire Ripper running a Woman’s (sic) Refuge

It is outrageous that the JLM – which is only open to racist Jews and supporters of Zionism and the ILP – should be lobbying for the witchhunt of Black and Jewish anti-racists.  Perhaps Labour’s General Secretary, Crooked McNicol would like to invite the British National Party and the EDL to provide him with lists of who to expel?

He reports on their Picket of Labour’s NEC yesterday,

The lobby/picket of the NEC was extremely lively and lasted for two hours.  This will be the first of a regular series of pickets of the NEC.

Most members of the NEC slunk in.  Jon Lansman in particular made a quick dash for the door.  The cowardice even of most of the ‘left’ NEC members is shameful.  With one or two exceptions, they did not feel able to discuss the reasons why we were there shows that they cannot justify their turning a blind eye whilst the racist JLM dictates the agenda.

..

… Tony Benn, Joan Maynard, Dennis Skinner, Norman Atkinson – were giants compared to the pygmies of today.  Even though Corbyn has a left majority on the NEC politically it is weak.  It consists of people like Rhea Wolfson of the JLM, another of those who scuttled in and who has supported the witch hunting of Jackie Walker.

In other reports (Jewish News) of the Picket Jackie Walker claimed an Israeli involvement in a well-organised campaign, financed by “millions” to  expel people from Labour  for anti-Semitism.

One of LAW’s leading figures said,

Stan Keable, the secretary of the protest group, criticised Mr Corbyn for “keeping quiet” about “false” charges of anti-Semitism and called on Momentum to back automatic reselections of MPs.

“I’ve got a criticism of Jeremy, that he’s stood back while all this is going on, while this witch-hunt is going on and the false charges of anti-Semitism is going on, Jeremy hasn’t spoken up against it,” he said.

“There’s a political battle going on, he should have spoken up because the idea that criticising Zionism or Israeli policy and practice is anti-Semitic is absolute rubbish and he should have stood up against it.

Greenstein himself advises the Labour leader to develop a spine and stop “appeasing” “Zionists”.

Jeremy Corbyn needs to develop a backbone and stand up to the racists and Zionists. For 30 years Jeremy supported the Palestinians and called out Zionism. The Zionists detest Corbyn and will do anything to remove him. Appeasing the Zionists and JLM is making a rod for his own back. We have to help Jeremy Corbyn get rid of the racists in our midst.

It seems that Ken Loach is attending a public meeting of this body on the 29th of January.

One wonders if he will join in attacking Jeremy Corbyn.

Tariq Ramadan: Charlie Hebdo Versus Mediapart, Culture Wars Split French Left.

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Charlie Hebdo Claims Plenel Ignores Ramadan’s Behaviour.

Following the May election of President Macron, and the sweeping victory of his ‘start-up’ party, En Marche! in the following legislative contest, France’s left has yet to recover from the catastrophe. Union opposition to the new head of State’s reform of the labour code has, despite the kind offer of Presidential contender for La France insoumise (LFI) Jean Luc Mélenchon (19,5% in the first round) to play a leading role in the battle, begun to peter out. Last Friday saw, across France, only 80,000 out on the streets. It would seem as if Macron, despite some dissatisfaction inside his party at its simulacra of democracy, intends to keep running faster than his opponents.

Yet few would have expected that the French left would begin to tear itself apart, not on the political balance-sheet of the Hollande years, nor on the incapacity for the left to present a credible electoral alternative to Macron, but on its own version of the ‘culture wars’.

The politics of religion and culture appears to be a new dividing line on the French left.

Inside LFI divisions over secularism, laïcité, erupted at the beginning of November, when one of their deputies, Danièle Obono, expressed “respect” for the anti-Semitic leader of Les Indigènes de la République, Houria Bouteldja (Chez les « insoumis », les voies impénétrables de la laïcitéle Monde 9.11.17). This risks opening up divisions between those who stand for a ‘strict’ republican secularism (from the original Mélenchon group, the Parti de gauche) and those who wish for an ‘accommodating’ approach towards conservative Muslims and the defence of ‘modest dress’, above all the veil. 

Ramadan…

But these splits are as nothing compared to the fissure on the left that has erupted in the wake of the Tariq Ramadan affair. Rapidly this shifted from the accusations of rape to more ideological issues. Abdennour Bidar called the (on leave of absence) Oxford Don’s work pitiful “dogmatism”. Despite a call for a ‘moratorium’ on aspects of Sharia ‘law’ such as stoning, and the other Hudud punishments, the doctrine is not questioned. The promotion of a mediaeval Summa of the Law of God is wrapped in modernist language designed to present a progressive veneer to the wider public.

At the same time there remains (as Caroline Fourest famously outlined in Frère Tariq. 2005) enduring radical – intolerant – edge for a more popular, that is, Muslim, audience. (le Monde. 15.11.19). Indeed some have questioned whether he ever really called for a change in aspects of the Sharia, such as women’s testimony being worth half that of a man, non-Moslems in a permanent position of legal inferiority, or indeed of the death penalty for apostates or blasphemers. We know that for all his regrets at the murder of our comrades, Ramadan was outraged at their disrespect of religion, and lowered himself to claim that the Weekly’s criticism of Islam was motivated by “money” (Tariq Ramadan accuse Charlie de lâcheté et de faire de l’argent avec l’islam) and wittered on about complexity, like some Revered Flannel, “Il faut nous réconcilier avec la complexité et non pas nous imposer la simplicité émotionnelle.” Later in the same year, 2015, he refused to show solidarity after the Bataclan slaughter by talking of the “déshumanisation de nos «ennemis» ou perçus comme tels….” 

Readers of Ramadan’s books in an English version can verify the inflexible heart of Ramadan’s Islam quickly. Here are two typical passages from The Messenger (2007). The author states of the Qu’ran in this, “revealed Book the written text, is made up signs (ayat), just as the universe, like a text spread before our eyes, is teeming with signs. When the heart’s intelligence, and not only analytical intelligence, reads the Qu’ran and the world, then the two texts address and echo each other, and each of them speaks of the other and of the One. The signs remind us of what it means to be born, to live, to think, to feel, and to die. This doctrine, based on the “the oneness of God, the status of the Qur’an, prayer and life after death.

In the UK Ramadan has indeed concentrated on his role as a Herald in the Academy, apart from a brief foray into the support for the Ken Livingstone backed international campaign to defend the Veil, and more recently giving his good graces as a government adviser on ‘extremism’. But as Le Monde has more recently noted, as a preacher (prédicatuer), that is on Ramadan’s platform on which he assumes an active political role, is barely known in the country where he resides, Britain (le Monde. 18.11.17)

But Caroline Fourest indicates one aspect of it….

Note the name of Edwy Plenel which will figure greatly in the following.

Hatred Between Charlie Hebdo and Mediapart.

Things have not stopped there. After some highly disobliging front page cartoons, a veritable ‘war’ over Islam and Ramadan has erupted between Charlie Hebdo and Mediapart (le Monde. 16.11.17). The former accuses the founder of the web based news site, Edwy Plenel of undue comprehension of and indulgence towards Ramadan (by implication, Islamism), including public ‘dialogues’ with the preacher. (Entre « Charlie » et « Mediapart », l’histoire d’une haine). Above all the Editor of Charlie, Riss, has accused Plenel of condemning this to death a second time, even knighting their Islamist enemies, by asserting that they have engaged in “war” against Islam, a claim the Mediapart journalist hotly contests (Dans Charlie Hebdo, Riss accuse Plenel d'”adouber ceux qui demain voudront finir le boulot des frères Kouachi).

Image result for plenel charlie hebdo

This the full Editorial.

 

Plenel is the author of Pour Les Musulmans, (2014) In that work he states that “assimilation” on the French republican “model” is a call for the disappearance of Muslims as Muslims. For him this stand reflects a hatred of Islam, crystallised secular “intolérance”, “une laïcisme intolérante” and a rejection of the dominates and the oppressed being as they are, “un rejet des dominés et des opprimés tels qu’ils sont.” (2)

With these opinions the present clash comes a great deal of historical and personal baggage, even moments of friendship, or at least, co-operation, outlined in Le Monde, (16.11.17). This has been submerged, Charlie’s harsh language, and disobliging cartoon of Plenel has been met with a growing pile of defences from the Mediapart camp. One charge is that Charlie’s anti-Plenel Front Page is a new version of the notorious Nazi “Affiche Rouge” denouncing Jewish resistance fighters.

Image result for affiche rouge edwy plenel

 

Which not suprisingly got this reply.

The intervention of not just Caroline Fourest (who published images of public addresses by Plenel and Ramadan) but former Prime Minister Philippe Valls (on the side of Charlie), has injected further venom. There is a petition backing Mediapart and former Fourth Internationalist Plenel, supported by figures from the left of the left. (En défense de Mediapart et d’Edwy Plenel.) It says that Charlie’s comments are “diffamatoire, et haineuse” . It is certainly the case that Plenel immediately registered the present accusations against Ramadan, and compared them to crimes by paedophile preists (Edwy Plenel: le cas de Tariq Ramadan “ressemble à celui des prêtres pédophiles”).

This could be continued for pages but for the moment stops here….

It would be an exaggeration to say, as Le Monde does in the Saturday edition of the Idées Supplement, that there is an almost insurmountable gulf between this “so French” quarrel and elsewhere. In Britain, they observe, Tariq Ramadan’s latest adventures have barely stirred the media. Whether by policy, a long-standing deference to religious figures, or by fear of audience incomprehension. this may well be true. Le Monde’s Philippe Bernard even makes the claim that Ramadan is a “respected intellectual” this side of the channel ( Tariq Ramadan, un intellectuel respecté au Royaume-Uni.)

The British historian Sudhir Hazareesingh offers the interesting suggestion that British  people talk American and talk of “hyphenated” identities, such as British-Asian. (« Charlie » contre « Mediapart » vu du Royaume-Uni : « Une discussion consternante ») Both talk of a “quasi-consensus” around religious tolerance, anchored within a wider policy of multiculturalism. Yet, from the standpoint of some of the left this is not the case. Multiculturalism may be accepted as a fact in Britain, and diversity and tolerance valued aspects of the country’s culture. But as a politique, that is a state policy, many on the left in the UK do not agree with the institutionalisation of the place of religious figures and norms within the public sphere, nor, in particular, with the public funding of separatist faith education.

Secularism.

Let us be clear on one point. There are secularists in the UK, smaller in number than in France, without the Constitutional pillars that define French laïcité. Yet if we not as present as we are in le Monde, we are very visible even in the pages of the Guardian and the Observer. Secularists here are both of the establishment type that parallel La Libre Pensée in France and more radical left-wing secularists – for example in the Teachers’ union (NEU), and, to cite some this Blog has contact with, those around by Southall Black Sisters and Ex-Muslims networks. It was from this quarter that the petition came against Ramadan’s continued teaching at Oxford while he stood accused of serious sexual offences.

It would be true to say that very few British secularist leftists would identify with Manuel Valls and some of the more arid defenders of laïcité. The ex-PM would appear less the reincarnation of 3rd republic Radical Socialist norms, or even the defender of a French particularism posing as a Universalist, than a nationalist demanding assimilation. If the government Prevent Programme remains controversial in the UK, though hardly the dominant issue for the left that Le Monde describes, it could be seen as coming from the same template as French repressive policies championed by the same Valls.

But it would be equally difficult to sympathise with those engaged in ‘accommodation’ with religious difference to the point where tolerance becomes acceptance of reactionary institutions, and, above all, politics. Voltaire had some words about not accepting infamous abuses….

Le Monde editorialised a couple of days ago, recognising the risk of intervening between two enraged assailants, and called for an end to this ever-escalating fight: « Charlie »-« Mediapart » : halte à l’escalade.

Anti-Semitism.

Distinct from either side in this dispute some of us find the radical leftists of sites like Ni Patrie ni Frontières  speaking more sense. This section of the French left looks to a grass roots way of fighting reactionary religious-political ideas, from Islamism to the European far-right independently of both Official secularism and Official multiculturalism.

Having said this there remains a further point. Perhaps the most striking parallel between the French and British landscape is the division on the priority given to tackling anti-semitism and anti-Muslim prejudice. This, it can hardly have escape anybody’s attention, is one of the live issues dividing our left, last week, yesterday, today, and no doubt next week.

This leads us back to the Hexagone… To cap it all Gérard Filoche, the respected retired Inspecteur du travail, a well-known figure on the left of the Parti Socialiste, has been  found to have tweeted an image from a far-right site. This is not just any picture, but, taken from the Egalité et Reconciliation, portrays President Macron with an Israeli and US flag, a Nazi style arm-band with a dollar sign on it, while 3 well known Jewish figures, including a Rothschild, hover in the background. (Gérard Filoche, antisémite ? Le naufrage d’un colérique en 6 polémiques.)

There is a serious motion to expel Filoche from the Socialists (Filoche menacé d’exclusion du PS après un tweet antisémite). Filoche has admitted making an arse of himself, says that he was not the person who did the tweet…..but assumes responsibility. (Filoche mis en cause pour un tweet antisémite : «C’était une connerie»)

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(1) P 41 and Pages 39 – 40. The Messenger. Tariq Ramadan. Allen Lane. 2007.

(2) Pages 106 – 107. Pour les Musulmans. Edwy Plenel. Nouvelle édition. 2016.