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World Press Freedom Day Sees List of Honour Back Charlie Hebdo as 145 Writers Join List of Shame.

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The List of Honour of those who Back Charlie and Freedom.

Not in our name: World Press Freedom Day 116 days after Charlie Hebdo.

On World Press Freedom Day, 116 days after the attack at the office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 11 dead and 12 wounded, we, the undersigned, reaffirm our commitment to defending the right to freedom of expression, even when that right is being used to express views that we and others may find difficult, or even offensive.

The Charlie Hebdo attack – a horrific reminder of the violence many journalists around the world face daily in the course of their work – provoked a series of worrying reactions across the globe.

In January, the office of the German daily Hamburger Morgenpost was firebombed following the paper’s publishing of several Charlie Hebdo images. In Turkey, journalists reported receiving death threats following their re-publishing of images taken from Charlie Hebdo. In February, a gunman apparently inspired by the attack in Paris, opened fire at a free expression event in Copenhagen; his target was a controversial Swedish cartoonist who had depicted the prophet Muhammad in his drawings.

But many of the most disturbing reactions – and the most serious threats to freedom of expression – have come from governments.

A Turkish court blocked web pages that had carried images of Charlie Hebdo’s front cover; Russia’s communications watchdog warned six media outlets that publishing religious-themed cartoons “could be viewed as a violation of the laws on mass media and extremism”; Egypt’s president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi empowered the prime minister to ban any foreign publication deemed offensive to religion; the editor of the Kenyan newspaper The Star was summoned by the government’s media council, asked to explain his “unprofessional conduct” in publishing images of Charlie Hebdo, and his newspaper had to issue a public apology; Senegal banned Charlie Hebdo and other publications that re-printed its images; in India, Mumbai police used laws covering threats to public order and offensive content to block access to websites carrying Charlie Hebdo images. This list is far from exhaustive.

Perhaps the most long-reaching threats to freedom of expression have come from governments ostensibly motivated by security concerns. Following the attack on Charlie Hebdo, 11 interior ministers from European Union countries, including France, Britain and Germany, issued a statement in which they called on internet service providers to identify and remove online content “that aims to incite hatred and terror”. In the UK, despite the already gross intrusion of the British intelligence services into private data, Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that the country should go a step further and ban internet services that did not give the government the ability to monitor all encrypted chats and calls.

This kind of governmental response is chilling because a particularly insidious threat to our right to free expression is self-censorship. In order to fully exercise the right to freedom of expression, individuals must be able to communicate without fear of intrusion by the state. Under international law, the right to freedom of expression also protects speech that some may find shocking, offensive or disturbing. Importantly, the right to freedom of expression means that those who feel offended also have the right to challenge others through free debate and open discussion, or through peaceful protest.

On World Press Freedom Day, we, the undersigned, call on all governments to;

  • Uphold their international obligations to protect the rights of freedom of expression and information for all, especially journalists, writers, artists and human rights defenders to publish, write and speak freely.
  • Promote a safe and enabling environment for those who exercise their right to freedom of expression, especially for journalists, artists and human rights defenders to perform their work without interference.
  • Combat impunity for threats and violations aimed at journalists and others threatened for exercising their right to freedom of expression and ensure impartial, speedy, thorough, independent and effective investigations that bring masterminds behind attacks on journalists to justice, and ensure victims and their families have speedy access to appropriate remedies.
  • Repeal legislation which restricts the right to legitimate freedom of expression, especially such as vague and overbroad national security, sedition, blasphemy and criminal defamation laws and other legislation used to imprison, harass and silence journalists and others exercising free expression
  • Promote voluntary self-regulation mechanisms, completely independent of governments, for print media
  • Ensure that the respect of human rights is at the heart of communication surveillance policy. Laws and legal standards governing communication surveillance must therefore be updated, strengthened and brought under legislative and judicial control. Any interference can only be justified if it is clearly defined by law, pursues a legitimate aim and is strictly necessary to the aim pursued.

PEN International
Adil Soz – International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Africa Freedom of Information Centre
Albanian Media Institute
Article19
Association of European Journalists
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Belarusian PEN
Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism
Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Centre for Independent Journalism – Malaysia
Danish PEN
Derechos Digitales
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
English PEN
Ethical Journalism Initiative
Finnish PEN
Foro de Periodismo Argentino
Fundamedios – Andean Foundation for Media Observation and Study
Globe International Center
Guardian News Media Limited
Icelandic PEN
Index on Censorship
Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information
International Federation of Journalists
International Press Institute
International Publishers Association
Malawi PEN
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda
Media Watch
Mexico PEN
Norwegian PEN
Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión – OLA
Pacific Islands News Association
PEN Afrikaans
PEN American Center
PEN Catalan
PEN Lithuania
PEN Quebec
Russian PEN
San Miguel Allende PEN
PEN South Africa
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
Swedish PEN
Turkish PEN
Wales PEN Cymru
West African Journalists Association
World Press Freedom Committee.

Good on all who back this letter.

Vous serez honoré(e)s parmi toutes les Nations. 

Partisans de la ligne de Charlie, Moblisez-Vous!

Here is the declaration of Shame.

Junot Díaz, Lorrie Moore, Joyce Carol Oates, Eric Bogosian and Michael Cunningham are among the 145 writers who have signed a letter protesting PEN American Center’s decision to award its “freedom of expression courage” award to the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, because the award seems to endorse drawings of the prophet Muhammad and other images that “must be seen as being intended to cause further humiliation and suffering” among France’s embattled Muslims.

“It is clear and inarguable that the murder of a dozen people in the Charlie Hebdo offices is sickening and tragic,” the letter states, referring to the attack by Islamic extremists in Paris in January. “What is neither clear nor inarguable is the decision to confer an award for courageous freedom of expression on Charlie Hebdo or what criteria exactly were used to make that decision.”

By honoring Charlie Hebdo, the letter said, “PEN is not simply conveying support for freedom of expression but also valorizing selectively offensive material: material that intensifies the anti-Islamic, anti-Maghreb, anti-Arab sentiments already prevalent in the Western world.”

New York Times.

I’ve got a little list — I’ve got a little list…..

On the Ambiguities of ‘Islamophobia'; Debate Launched by Yves Colman and AWL.

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The supplement Anti-semitism and anti-Muslim racism in Europe, by Yves Colman (from Ni patrie ni frontières) is published by the Alliance of Workers’ Liberty. It is essential reading.

These are some comments on one section,  About the ambiguities of the “Islamophobia” concept.

The original title is perhaps more forthright: De l’usage réactionnaire de la notion d’« islamophobie » par certains sociologues de gauche et… Amnesty International. It is also, Yves notes, “a slightly different and longer version”. In French he refers to, for example, to claims about ‘hypersensitive’ Jews, by  French academic, Olivier Esteves (joint author of De l’invisibilité à l’islamophobie : Les musulmans britanniques (1945-2010) with  Gérard Noiriel. 2011).  I doubt if anybody outside of France would be greatly  interested in Esteves, although Yves’s annoyance at the use the writer makes of Maxime Rodinson would be shared by many on the left in the scores of countries where Rodinson’s works on Islam are read and appreciated.

This, nevertheless,  suggests a wider point. The political and cultural bearings of any discussion about Islamophobia – and anti-Semitism – are different in France and Britain. This is not just that different writers can be, or need to be, cited, but   that there are some deeper distinctions. Not only has continental Europe a more direct exprience of the history of the consequences of anti-Semitism, but France has a distinct relation to Islam (North African colonialism was more ‘immediate’ than, say the Raj), and a much stronger secular and radical left, which is hostile to the kind of religiously inspired fudging of these issues that exists in the UK.

Much of this may be well-known, but it is less appreciated in the UK, and elsewhere, just how far a large chunk of the French left just does not accept the same premises on these topics. It is  doubtless partly due to the efforts of groups like the SWP, who systematically turn reports on France to fit their own ‘line’, but also from other groups, who are themselves aligned with the various (minority) French groups who make up such bodies as the Collectif contre l’Islamophobie.

We have to begin, then,  by noting that in France, to a much greater degree than in the English-speaking world, the concept of ‘Islamophobia’ remains contested, above all on the anti-racist left. Houda Asal observes that it remains “champ de bataille ” (Battle field). That is, as a political issue of great importance, its content remains to be clearly defined (Contretemps). Above all, she notes, the identification of Islamophobia (a term she backs, as a supporter of the group cited above) as a form of racism, has met with sustained objections amongst important sections of the French left. A variety of objections have been made to the word, not least by important French left parties, such as the Parti de gauche of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who are firm secularists and fear a restriction on their right to criticise reactionary religious politics.  Apart from the obvious point that faith is not in the genes, this runs up against the idea that people can have their ideas challenged and that they should be free to leave their ‘birth’ religion. 

Yves Colman begins his article by giving some reasons why the word Islamophobia is not just ‘essentially contested’ but eminently contestable. This is is so not just in terms of French debates, but for the whole international left.

He begins,

I have tried not to use the word “Islamophobia” in this article and chose expressions like “anti-Muslim paranoia”, “anti-Arab”, “anti-African” and “anti-Muslim racism”, in line with what Sacha Ismail proposed in Solidarity.

Among many other reasons, I prefer not to use the word “islamophobia” for the following motives:

• The phenomenon involved is not a simple phobia (fear) but a paranoia, therefore much more serious than a simple fear;

• This concept is manipulated by Islamists and the 57 States of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to prevent any criticism both of political Islam and Islamic religion;

• It’s used by left militants and social scientists who refuse to criticise religion: for example, Clive D. Field 60 considers the rejection of sharia courts in Britain an “islamophobic” prejudice!

It remains to be seen if one can clearly distinguish paranoia and fear. Or, that there is any point in saying that because anybody intensely dislikes, say Boko Haram, they are imagining something about them.

Viewers of this week’s BBC 2 documentary Kill the Christians, might equally become fearful about Islamic religious intolerance and hatred towards non-Muslims.

It is hard to see what worse one could imagine about groups such as the Islamic State – Daesh.

Which is not to say that racists, of any stripe, are not capable of deluded fantasies about the objects of their loathing.

There are few more disgusting sights than listening to Nigel Farage speaking, and his views on Muslims are no exception.

UKIP is striking evidence of that – and spans a very wide variety of targets. ‘Populism’ in this case seems about very classical scapegoating, too simple in fact to need any sophisticated cultural, ideological/discourse analysis. However it does not have one clear target: it’s an heap of images, Polish, Gypsy, Muslim, Chavs, Africans, Caribbeans, idle British benefit claimants, Brussels,  single mothers, and, let’s not forget, the large Hindu and Sikh populations, to give a far from exhaustive summary.

But the deep rooted, all-embracing, hatred of one group has yet to take hold. There is not the obsessive loathing against Jews looked at in books such as Sartre’s  Réflexions sur la question juive (1946), with their institutional and political backing in National Socialism and other European extreme-rights, has yet to take hold in large sections of the population. There is no version of the Protocols featuring Muslim ‘Elders’. Éric Zemmour, who advocates expelling Muslims from Europe, does not lead a political party, even a groupuscule. 

These reservations should not obscure the principal point that  across Europe there is widespread intolerance against migrants and all ethnic minorities.

In this noxious mixture there are anti-Muslim strands.

How can this best be termed? Sacha Ismail’s list strikes me as right: there is “anti-Arab”, “anti-African” and “anti-Muslim racism” .  Though unfortunately one has to add a long list of other prejudices, xenophobic hatred, and biological racism to the tally. There is, though not at present of visible importance in Europe, intra-Muslim conflict, too well known to catalogue.

These qualifications said, Yves’s argument is extremely fruitful: it has implications for the left’s strategies to oppose this tide of prejudice.

The Left and ‘Islamophobia’.

As a first step we have to look at what we should not do. 

The line advanced in the pages of the Socialist Workers Party magazine, Socialist Review, by  Hassan Mahamdallie of the Muslim Institute (January 2015) gives some indications of very misleading approach.  (Resist the racist offensive against Muslims)

Mahamdallie works with this central premise,

Although the term “Islamophobia” is widely used to describe the phenomenon of hatred and discrimination against Muslims, we should regard it like other racisms as having historic roots, and a particular role to play in modern capitalist societies.

This is true in the west, whose governments are failing to deliver the needs of their working classes, whilst engaging in military interventions in regions they see as strategic. Muslims in the West are being used as scapegoats for a situation not of their making, and simultaneously being divided from the rest of the population, cast as alien, dangerous and thereby set apart from those with whom they have most in common.

‘Islamophobia’ is not at all reducible to the something that can be reduced to  a “function” or role in “scapegoating”. The expression is already flawed enough without this. But it’s the political consequences which Mahamdallie draws that are most ambiguous:

local initiatives include the vibrant campaign around the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham; the work of activists to repulse the racialisation of child abuse “grooming” cases in towns such as Rotherham; and the defence of Tower Hamlets council and schools. This is a vital bulwark against Islamophobia, not only in demonstrating that Muslims can count on the support of others, but in radicalising a new generation of activists, Muslim and non-Muslim, who can feel that they can move from the defensive to the offensive, and by doing so making themselves active in changing the world around them for the better.

These are very far from clear issues. Anybody who ‘defends’ the Birmingham schools, to start with, is misled. Why Tower Hamlets Council leadership should be ‘defended’ without any qualification (or evidence in the courts) is equally questionable. Not to mention why the left should be deeply involved in the child abuse cases, which defy any kind of rational political intervention….

Indeed the words hornet’s nest barely cover the issues Mahamdallie baldly cites.

But, (we learn)

…there are bigger issues at stake, which means breaking out of the Good Muslim/Bad Muslim framework and championing the right of Muslims to practise their religion and to express themselves culturally and politically freely and without fear, to organise against war and injustice without suffering the fate of activists such as Moazzam Begg and to defend their communities and leadership without being labelled as “fundamentalist” conspirators.

It is natural that Britain’s Muslims should reach out for allies in this struggle. The responsibility falls on the wider movement against racism and imperialism, on trade unionists and socialists to actively demonstrate, without pre-conditions, that it will consistently unite with Muslims under attack. Only then can we begin to roll back the state repression and the bigotry and discrimination that are in danger of being embedded in British society.

No socialist can accept the phrase, “Without pre-conditions’, without, pre-conditions…..

We have just seen some reasons why; there are plenty of others.

Defending those who identify as Muslims, from racist assaults, is absolutely right, in general.

But what of  organised groups, political and religious associations? Every single Salafist? And is every individual to be backed? ‘Against’ the state, and ‘against’ what else? Every, well the word begins with a ‘J’……

There is a drift, ultimately, to the blanket ‘defence’ of every Muslim, which the SWP, and many on the left, make all too often – for all their ‘yes ISIS is terrible’ but…...

Yves notes, that Islamophobia is used, in this context above all, to protect a range of figures from criticism (from Islamists to ‘traditional’ leaders, ‘conservative’ – reactionary – clerics, academics and perhaps most important, would-be political leaders) , to encircle ‘The’ (as if there is ‘one’) Muslim ‘community’ and as Charlie Hebdo’s murdered Editor, Charb says, to encourage ‘identity’ against the ‘enemies’ of Islam (Lettre ouverte aux escrocs de l’islamophobie qui font le jeu des racistes. 2015(1)

Behind this is not a powerless body of migrants, but some wealthy and powerful countries, the 57 States of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Does the left defend “without pre-conditions” all of these bodies?

Clearly not.

Multiculturalism. 

Yves takes us the critique of official multiculturalism”. He singles out

“….imaginary “communities” whose self-proclaimed representatives want to impose a “traditional” law on their cultural/religious group, we can’t just look away and forget the necessity of defending democratic rights for everyone… including Muslim workers.”

The comrade from Ni patrie ni frontières looks at Amnesty International’s report 63 (April 2012).

This asserts,

“States must take measures to protect women from being pressured or coerced by third parties to dress in certain ways, and in so far as social, cultural or religious norms prescribing dress codes are a reflection of discrimination against women, the state has a positive obligation to take steps to prevent such discrimination.”

He states,

Amnesty is right to criticise the discriminatory policies adopted by Western states: in the countries where the hijab ban has been implemented (outside Turkey and Tunisia, where these decisions were taken by Muslim governments), it has only served to expel young girls from the state-run, or “non-denominational” schools, which was a major setback; it has pushed them either to abandon their studies, or to follow long-distance education and remain isolated at home, and made them more vulnerable to (self-) indoctrination; and it has reinforced the influence of private schools and religious (Christian or Muslim) schools.

I disagree that the French law on wearing ostentatious religious symbols in schools is wrong. There is no reason why a public education system should be permitted to become a battleground in which personal religious symbolism, above all, religious standards of ‘modesty’ and ‘purity’, should be allowed to enter. The French concept of laïcité for all its obvious faults (notably, the failure to tackle class and other inequalities), nevertheless represent an advance in this area: schools should not be the place for the aggressive assertion of faith, either by the instructors, or by those trying to extend the  ‘micro-powers’ of religious observance.

To those who say that we not ‘defend’ the French state, I reply: schools are funded and run by the state. Unless you plan to take them away from the public authorities we are discussing about what should happen within them. Secularists want them to be secular. Obviously some on the left do not agree.

Anti-Semitism.

“The Islamophobia concept is sometimes used to counter the necessary struggle against anti-Semitism, the latter being presented, by the most extremists, as a “Zionist” tool to prevent any criticism against Israeli war crimes (see for example the opposition raised in the left by the working definition of anti-Semitism elaborated by an European Union commission which proposed to point the limits of anti-Zionism). “

In other words, everyone but the anti-Semites are responsible for…anti-Semitism.

There is another example of this in the  Parti des Indigènes de la République, and its leading figure Houria Bouteldja (admired by Verso Books and Richard Seymour amongst others).  Bouteldja has recently argued that there is a State philosemitism  in France (philosémitisme d’État). This state, apparently, ‘uses’ this, including the Shoah, as shields (boucliers idéologiques) to disguise its own racism. Thus, Arab anti-Semitism in France is…..a reaction to this State (racist) philosemitism. (François Calaret Combattre le philosémitisme » : impasse de l’antiracisme).

We wonder where this particular journey will end.

 In provisional conclusion: Yves Colman’s discussion and the major piece, Anti-semitism and anti-Muslim racism in Europe, are essential reading for everybody on the left. The AWL are to be congratulated on publishing it.

As the comrade says,

It’s never too late to recognise our errors and wage a clear fight against all forms of racism. For this we must understand their specificities, without negating the existence of any form of racism and without building an absurd hierarchy between them.

More articles by Yves on site Ni Patrie, Ni Frontières.

More on the increasingly overtly anti-Semitic  Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR)Non au philosémitisme d’État » : un slogan indigne !  (Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples).

Update: RW points us to this translation of the speech that marked this turn by Houria Bouteldja, membre of PIR translated into English.

The most striking is this sentence, “Last question: what is it that prevents the « real left » from struggling against state philosemitism? I will answer unambiguously: the real left is itself, with a few exceptions, philosemitic.” (State racism(s) and philosemitism or how to politicise the issue of antiracism in France ?).

Yes, they like Jews those French leftists……

How awful.

(1) I am considerably more a “follower of the line of Charlie Hebdo” than Yves Colman.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 17, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Leaked International Socialist Organization Bulletins Show New ‘SWP’ Crisis.

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https://i2.wp.com/www.internationalsocialist.org/images/WeekX.jpg

ISO: Now Where Did they Get the idea for those Placards From?

Caliphate John was recently bemoaning the good old days on the left when internal debate was carried out through secret party documents so that, no doubt, his musings in support of Isis could be decently kept from the eyes of a prying public.

But it’s not only poor old John Tummon (ex-Left Unity leading cadre)  who whinges about the new Internet culture.

The American group, the International Socialist Organization, is also prone to whining about this.

Comrade Ross Wolfe informs the world of his latest findings from this group (which published on January the 19th Ian Birchall’s anti-secularist polemic with Tendance Coatesy as part of the ‘line’ on Charlie Hebdo).

 Leaked ISO Internal Bulletins Scandal.

Below you will find the latest batch of internal bulletins from the International Socialist Organization, a US Trotskyist sect. Multiple concerned members, troubled by the group’s lack of transparency and accountability, sent me the documents via e-mail. Like last year’s set, these are marked “for members’ eyes only.” Such secrecy is usually justified by dusting off passages from Lenin’s 113-year-old tome What is to be Done?, which sought to adapt Marxist organizational principles to the tsarist police state. Police infiltration, monitoring, and surveillance of radical groups certainly continues to be a problem, as documents from 2008 confirm, but I would be hard pressed to find anyone who believes this is some sort of new COINTELPRO or Okhrana.

…….

Following a recent row resulting from my disclosure of a reported rape coverup in Solidarity-US, which implicates a prominent “socialist feminist” initialed JB (Joanna Brenner?) in the obstruction of an internal investigation, Shaun Joseph of the ISO Renewal Faction reassured me: “Character assassination is basically how these people [leftists] work, as I know all too well. All this stuff about protecting the survivor’s identity is bullshit — it’s so transparently self-interested.” Shaun was expelled from the ISO a year ago, along with the rest of the Renewal Faction en masse. Last month people tried to claim I threatened to release information about the victims in the Soli case, which was, of course, a complete fabrication. They even led a “boycott, divestment, sanction, and unfriend” campaign against me (I’m not kidding), threatening to block anyone who still had mutuals with me on Facebook. It’s pretty sad that the most politically meaningful act anyone can imagine is an ultimatum to cut ties with some person on social media. Like cutting someone off from the leper colony of the contemporary Left is some great punishment. Most people outgrew this petty bullshit in middle school.

It’s essential to read the full Charnel House post (though one doubts if many with bother with the bulletins themselves)  but I note in passing that another enemy of Coatesim and all of its works crops up in this,

Using paranoia to crush criticisms or complaints is nothing new, though it’s a tradition more strongly associated with Stalinism than with Trotskyism. Time was that you could get rid of troublemakers in the party simply by suggesting they might be “wreckers” or “British spies.” Paul Heideman and Carlos Rivera-Jones insinuated I was an informant or a snitch. Not much has changed, it seems. But it’s hard to read lines like the following as anything other than a paranoid misogynist entrapment fantasy: “If the state were to attempt to harm our organization by making false claims via infiltrators, we can assume that they would most likely do so by having consensual sex with a member, and lying afterward to claim that the encounter was non-consensual.”

Robert Kurz: a Theorist Now Making his Mark in the English-Speaking World?

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Reading Marx in the 21st century-Robert Kurz

‘Wertkritik’

In the latest Historical Materialism there are two articles on Robert Kurz (24 December 1943 – 18 July 2012) was a German Marxist philosopher, social criticism publicist, journalist and editor of the journal Exit!. He was one of Germany’s most prominent theorists of value criticism.  His works have yet to be translated into, and published in, English.

They are worth signaling.

The late Robert Kurz was one of the principal theorists of ‘the critique of value’ in Germany. This paper uses the recent release of a collection of his essays in French translation and his posthumously published Geld ohne Wert [Money without Value] (2012) as a starting point for a discussion of the critical project that Kurz undertook over a period of 25 years. Kurz was exemplary in returning to the most radical insights of Marx, even when these went against some of the other ideas of the master. He was an ardent proponent of a crisis theory of capitalism: that the categories of the capitalist mode of production have reached their ‘historical limit’ as society no longer produces enough value. On this basis Kurz argued that none of the proposals for dealing with this crisis within the framework of capitalism are feasible. Kurz demonstrated that the basic categories of the capitalist mode of production, such as money, are not universal but that they developed at the same time, towards the end of the Middle Ages, with the invention of firearms and the states’ need for money that this fuelled. In Geld ohne Wert, Kurz asserts that money in pre-capitalist societies was not a bearer of value but a representation of social ties. He wonders whether, with the current crisis, we are seeing a return to a form of money without value, but now within the framework of a social sacrifice to the fetishistic form of mediation. The paper concludes by suggesting that Kurz has not yet reached a wider public outside Germany because for many his ideas still prove too radical to face.

And

Satanic Mills: On Robert Kurz  Author: Esther Leslie

A critical overview of the contribution of German Marxist Robert Kurz (1943–2012), focussing in particular on The Black Book of Capitalism: A Farewell to the Market Economy (first ed. 1999) and War for World Order: The End of Sovereignty and the Transformations of Imperialism in the Age of Globalisation (2003). This review explores the genesis and the main tenets of Kurz’s theory – especially his concept of value, the automatic subject, crisis and anti-Semitism – and tracks how they are mobilised in his writings over time. It also touches on the legacy of these ideas in political groups such as the Anti-Germans.

Both articles are of great interest and importance.

Kurz seems, to put it mildly, a tosser.

He seemed to think that anybody that didn’t hold to his idea that the critique of the ‘value form’ revealed  an incipient crisis was wrong.

But then I am an Althusserian who has always loathed ‘Wertkritik’.

Mind you Esther, an ex-SWP loyalist, seems to think he was also wrong because he was opposed to Islamism.

So he couldn’t have been all bad.

There is one minor point.

Can I be, no doubt not the first, to mention that apart from what Esther thinks is his unique contribution to the topic, there is another Black Book of Capitalism: the title of a French book, Le Livre Noir du Capitalisme (The Black Book of Capitalism) a French (collectively edited) book published in 1998 which has an entry in the English language Wikipedia. It was a major media event with an impact in the Hispanic speaking world.

Kurz’s Schwarzbuch Kapitalismus: ein Abgesang auf die Marktwirtschaft (The Black Book of Capitalism: A farewell to the market economy) published in 1999 passed almost unnoticed outside of the German speaking sphere.

One can read one of his articles here:  Reading Marx in the 21st century-Robert Kurz

Written by Andrew Coates

December 31, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Turkey: Black Sunday for Freedom.

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Turkey: Chuck Press that offends the Palace into the Bosphorus! 

Some time ago it was claimed that Turkey was an example of democratic, tolerant and pluralist  Islamism. That the Erdogan governments had established a more open country – at least in comparison to the nationalist Atatürk  parties and military regimes. Western leaders praised Erdogan’s pro-market policies. It was suggested that political Islam was evolving a home-grown democratic culture, with parallels to European Christian democracy.

How long ago this seems now!

The 2013 – 2014 protests in Taksim Gezi Park   indicated that not everybody in Turkey admired or accepted the politics of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The crack down on media outlets associated with the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen (whose politics have been critically examined on Tendance Coatesy, Gulen Movement, an Islamic Opus Dei?) perhaps marks the moment when Erdogan has passed beyond the threshold of authoritarianism towards – crazed –  dictatorship.

Turkey’s President has drawn ridicule internationally for claiming that Islamic explorers discovered the Americas three centuries before Columbus, and for his Science, Industry and Technology Minister Fikri Işı’s assertion that it was Muslims who first found that the Earth is round.

Erdogan’s Palace has equally drawn attention to himself, “It is reportedly larger than the White House, the Kremlin and Buckingham Palace: Turkey’s new presidential palace spreads over some 50 acres of forest land, boasts 1,000 rooms, an underground tunnel system, state-of-the-art anti-espionage technology and a blend of modernist and medieval architecture. The ornate palace reportedly cost more than $350 million.”

A third bridge across the Bosphorous has been named after the 16th century Sultan Yavuz Sultan Selim  – responsible for massacring tens of thousands of members of the liberal religious group the Alevis.  Selim was in many ways a forerunner of today’s Islamist genociders (1)

Plans to teach the old Ottoman language (in a form of Arabic script) indicate that the country’s leader looks to its own imperial past, rather than to democracy.

Turkey has been accused of playing an ambiguous game in Syria, covertly supporting jihadists and other Islamist reactionaries.

Earlier this year the Turkish state restricted use of Twitter alleging it was “biased” and had been used for “systematic character assassination” of….Erdogan.

Now there is this.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) shows no signs of reigning Erdogan back from his actions.

Turkish Press Review

Monday’s newspapers cover the government-orchestrated crackdown on local media figures and police officials across Turkey
 ISTANBUL

The Anadolu Agency does not verify these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.

On Monday, Turkish media outlets largely covered the government-orchestrated crackdown on local media figures and police officials in 13 provinces across Turkey.

All the people detained are alleged to have links to the U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen and his so-called “Gulen movement.”

MILLIYET headlines “December 14 Operation,” and says the operation has been on Turkey’s agenda for a while. The total number of people in custody has risen to 25 since the crackdown began.

The daily said police took Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of Turkey’s Zaman daily, into custody. There were some formal difficulties with detaining Dumanli initially, due to the lack of a necessary document.

Dumanli, who is a staunch critic of the government, dismissed all the allegations against him, and protested his innocence in a speech at the daily, before he was taken away by the police.

ZAMAN runs with the headline “Black Day for Democracy,” changing its logo and the whole front page into black, and says December 14 marked the worst day in Turkey’s history for freedom of speech.

The daily said the detainees were taken into custody after Parliament passed a law that enabled prosecutors to detain the people based on reasonable suspicion.

Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Hadi Salihoglu said he has ordered the detention of 31 people on charges of forgery, fabricating evidence and forming an alleged crime syndicate to overthrow the government. Earlier, it was reported that the prosecutor’s office had given the order for 32 detentions, but Salihoglu revised down the figure to 31.

Hidayet Karaca, chairman of the Samanyolu Media Group, is another senior media figure who was detained earlier in the day.

Producer Salih Aslan and Director Engin Koc of a Samanyolu TV series were also taken into custody in Eskisehir province and sent to Istanbul, police said.

The front page of Monday’s HURRIYET reads, “First the Headline, Later Detention,” referring to the ZAMAN daily’s editor-in-chief holding an editorial meeting for Monday’s paper at 3 a.m., and then being taken into custody at midday.

The Zaman newspaper is alleged to be close to the so-called “Gulen movement.”

Turkish newspapers also covered Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s remarks about the wave of arrests across the country on Sunday.

VATAN quoted Davutoglu on its front page: “Those who infiltrated state institutions and wiretapped the president and prime minister must know that their actions have consequences.”

In December 2013, an anti-graft probe targeted several high-profile figures, including the sons of three former government ministers and leading Turkish businessmen.

The government then denounced the December probe as a “dirty plot” constructed by a “parallel structure,” an alleged group of bureaucrats embedded in the country’s institutions, including in the judiciary and the police.

Since then, hundreds of police officers have been detained on charges of eavesdropping on Turkey’s top officials, disclosing highly-sensitive information, forming an organization to commit crimes, violating privacy, illegally seizing personal information and forgery of official documents.

(1) From Ottoman Persecution of the Alevis (Wikipedia).

Typical persecution methods

From the early 16th century the Ottoman administration was specialized in “chasing” Qizilbāshes. This century was perhaps the most harsh century for the Alevis (Qizilbāshes). They were persecuted for both sympathizing with the Safavid struggle, but also because of their “heretical” beliefs. In order to capture Qizilbāshes the Ottoman state used several methods.

Being “Qizilbāsh” was a crime on its own and Qizilbāshes were kept under constant surveillance. Some of the most frequently used surveillance and persecution methods in the Ottoman Empire were:

  • Persecution based on others’ reports / notifications.
  • Open or secret persecution.
  • By asking people who were regarded as more “credible” or “objective”, for example officials or Sunnis.

Typical punishment methods

The Ottomans also had different methods of punishment against Qizilbāshes. Most of the punishments took place by fabricating a reason to kill them.These false accusations were often led into the formal procedures to make them seem more realistic.In cases where the accused Qizilbāshes had many sympathizers or relatives, the Ottoman regime tried to avoid riots by not killing too many at a time.[16]

Some of the most common punishments were:

  • Expulsion: Many Qizilbāshs were expelled to Cyprus and cut off from their villages and families, but the Qizilbāshes who were halifes were executed immediately. The most typical displacement locations were Cyprus, Modon, Coroni, Budun(?) and Plovdiv.
  • Imprisonment: Some were also jailed and then usually expelled to Cyprus to cut them off from their families.[20]
  • Forced labour: A second method of punishment was to send Qizilbāshs for forced labor on galleys (Kürek mahkumiyeti) where they should work as oarsmen.
  • Drowning: Some Qizilbāshes was executed by being drowned in the Halys River (Kızılırmak)
  • others were executed “on the spot”.[23] Other times Qizilbāshswere executed with the sole purpose, to deter other Qizilbāshs and give them a “lesson”.
  • Execution: This method, often termed siyaset or hakkından gelme in the Ottoman archives, was perhaps the most widely used method of punishment of Qizilbāshes.
  • Stoning: Although stoning was normally only used against people who had committed adultery, this punishment method was also used on Qizilbāshes. There is an example of a Qizilbāsh named “Koyun Baba” who was stoned because of his faith.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 15, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Spartacist League Backs Isis Against US Imperialist “Main enemy”. Denounces Kurds as “US Adjuncts”.

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Imperialist ‘adjuncts’ Says Spartacist League. 

If ever there was a more bizarre example, and distasteful vile and foul,  at that, of ‘dialectical’ excuses for genociders it would be hard to find.

“It goes without saying that we internationalist communists are die-hard enemies of the ultra-reactionary social and political program of ISIS, whose methods of rooting out “apostates” amount to mass slaughter. We condemn communal atrocities on all sides. ISIS is itself the imperialists’ creation, having emerged out of the intercommunal slaughter triggered by the U.S. occupation.”

Workers Vanguard.

But (there’s got to be a but..) 

“But ISIS today is in battle against the local tools of U.S. imperialism, the main enemy of the world’s working people. A setback for the U.S. in Syria might give pause to Washington in its military adventures, including by encouraging opposition at home. Such opposition adds to the tinder that must be ignited in class struggle against the capitalist rulers who, in their quest for ever greater profits, beat down the workers, black people and immigrants.”

“We uphold the right of national self-determination for the Kurdish people, who are oppressed by the bourgeois regimes in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.”

However (there’s got to be a howeverr)

“However, in Iraq and Syria today as in Iraq after 2003, when the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan enrolled as adjuncts of the U.S. occupation, the nationalist parties have subordinated the struggle for Kurdish national rights to their role as imperialist proxies. Championing the Kurds in the current conflict can only mean lending support to imperialist plunder.”

“Protests called by Kurdish nationalist groups in Germany, Australia and elsewhere have backed U.S. airstrikes in Syria and demanded that the imperialists supply the Syrian Kurds with arms. These calls have been echoed by many reformist leftists around the world, giving credence to the “humanitarian” cover for the imperialist onslaught. Thus, the New Anti-Capitalist Party in France and some leaders of the Left Party in Germany (not to mention the bourgeois German Greens) have called on their respective capitalist governments to arm the Kurds in Kobani.”

 “By selling their souls to the imperialists as well as to various regional bourgeois regimes, Kurdish leaders help perpetuate the divide-and-rule stratagems that inevitably inflame communal, national and religious tensions and serve to reinforce the oppression of the Kurdish masses.”

Yet all ends happily…..

“The goal of Marxists in the belly of the imperialist beast is to instill in the U.S. proletariat the understanding that it has the social power and historic interest to destroy capitalist-imperialist rule from within, through socialist revolution. To realize this task requires forging a revolutionary workers party committed to the struggle for workers rule over the entire planet.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 7, 2014 at 6:40 pm

From one French left to another: President Hollande and Manuel Valls.

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French President: Laughing-Stock?

“Il s’est présenté comme l’homme qui n’aime pas les riches. En réalité, Le Président n’aime pas les pauvres. Lui, l‘homme de gauche, dit en privé ‘les sans-dents’, très fier de son trait de humour”

He puts himself forward as somebody who doesn’t like the rich. But in fact, the President doesn’t like poor people. The ‘man of the left’, proud of his joke, calls them, in private,  the “toothless”.

Merci pour ce moment. Valérie Trierweiler. 2014

Valérie Trierweiler’s account of her life with President François Hollande remains a best-seller. Its portrait of the former Paris Match journalist’s love, her saintly devotion to public life and her deep left roots, his ruthless pursuit of power, his cheating, her shattered private life, and his (alleged) disdain for the less well off, is not widely accepted as reliable political history. But on Page 179 one thing stands out. An opinion poll in May this year registered 3% who wanted the partner of France’s First Lady to stand again in the Presidential elections of 2017.

This may be an extreme result. But at present Hollande’s personal unpopularity stands at over 70% of voters. 80% of French electors are unhappy with his policies. Only 15% have any confidence in him. The traditional right is engaged in a battle for control of their party, the UMP. Ex-President Sarkozy, despite the ‘Bygmalion’ scandal over corrupt election funding that makes anything in the UK look pretty small beer, has returned to the scene. On the far-right, Marine Le Pen, continues to figure prominently in the opinion polls. Nobody on the left – least of all Jean-Luc Mélenchon now calling for a ‘Sixth Republic’ – offers a serious electoral alternative.

It is no coincidence that in this climate of frustration recent weeks have seen violent protests following the death of the young botanist, Rémi Fraisse during protests at a dam project in Sivens. The new wave of autonomists and those involved in the “Zones à défendre’ – Zadists – may be attracted by a spectre risen from the grave: the Comité Invisible. The authors of the post-Situationist L’insurrection qui vient (2007) have just heralded, in a new pamphlet (À nos amis) revolutions ‘everywhere’ (discussion in English here). Perhaps. But the banlieue, if not exactly quiet, quieter than expected. The new French ‘Intifada’, announced from the predominantly (by no means exclusively) Muslim poor suburbs, has not, yet, happened (and with the example of the Da’esh its Islamist side looks less and less appealing).  (1) 

While waiting for them to become visible, and reluctant to pay for what should be free literature that offers details of the “soulèvement” (uprising) underway, we remain in mundane domains. The fate of the French left is being played out inside the institutions of the 5th Republic. The politics of the French Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste, PS) are at the centre. The PS in its Déclaration de principes (2008) dropped one half of its traditional Jaurèsian ‘synthesis’ – democratic Marxism and pursuit of the class struggle – and concentrated on the other – democratic and Enlightenment values. (2) In his electoral programme François Hollande appealed to equality and declared war on “finance”. But his attempts to ‘master’ financial markets, and influence the European Union to support pro-growth policies instead of continued budgetary ‘rigour’ soon ebbed away. We might say then that the leadership of the PS has drifted away from any social democratic reforms. That it now concentrates on promoting France as a “competitor” on the world market.

The details of this retreat are not hard to find. Since 2012, public sector workers have had their wages frozen, the minimum wage (SMIC) has only increased…minimally (0,8% since July 2012), it’s been made easier to sack employees, pension rights have been eroded, regressive indirect taxes (VAT ‘social’) have gone up, and the famous tax on Fortunes (Impôt sur la Fortune) adapted so that it has considerably less effect than its (rich) detractors asserted. (3) A vast recruitment drive for new teachers, that is, plans for 60,000 new posts, has so far resulted in 3,856 new jobs (Le Monde. 6.1.14). Despite some youth job creation unemployment has risen by half a million since May 2012.

Turn Rightwards.

After the disastrous local and European election results this year Hollande pushed out left-wing Ministers, Arnaud Montebourg and Benoît Hamon, the Greens (Europe Ecologie-Les verts, EELV) quit, and installed a new Prime Minister, Manuel Valls. Valls, on the PS’s right. As Interior Minister Valls heavy-handed approach to law and order, Roms had already earned him the hostility of the Greens and the left. This is said to have hastened the departure of the EELV from their position as junior government partners.

Valls admired Tony Blair, and appears determined on emulating his ‘progressive’  pro-business policies. A marginal figure for a long period (he got a humiliating vote in the PS open ‘primaries’ for Presidential candidate) this choice appeared a desperate one. It was based more on his apparent popularity to ‘tough minded’ voters, not too fond of migrants or too scrupulous about how criminals are treated.

But Valls has also floated the idea that there should be a wide-ranging re-alignment in French politics. The idea of a ‘common home’ for the centre (by which is meant those who have backed right-wing governments and presidents in the past) and the (economically) liberal ‘centre-left’ (in Mandelson speak, ‘progressives’) is modelled on Italy’s Partito Democratico. It is aimed at ‘reform’ of the country’s ‘restrictive practices’ (employment protection laws – to begin with), balanced budgets (welfare cuts) and pro-business (tax cutting) policies. This may not be a viable strategy, (the idea extends to changing the PS’s name) but it has attractions for many sections of the French political scene. Eradicating any form of democratic socialism from mainstream Hexagonal political life would be an, intended, bonus.

Not surprisingly Valls has faced great hostility within his own party. Inside the National Assembly, the 41 ‘frondeur’ deputies, and outside, the Appel de 200, have attacked Valls. They have voted against his ‘reforms’ (such as on labour ‘flexibility’ such as Sunday Working). A new current amongst activists, Vive la Gauche has emerged. The ‘social democratic’ wing of the Socialists has rallied around the unlikely oppositional figure of Martine Aubry, the Mayor of Lille and a long-standing player in the PS. Long associated with the Rocardian reformist wing she has now called to drop the “old liberal recipes” for economic reform, for investment, not cuts. While some note a lack of clear ambition to lead the Parti Socialiste her criticisms have been widely heard. In the meantime there are reports of members’ disillusion resulting in a catastrophic loss of party membership. (Le Monde 30.10.14)

To the Socialists’ left the Front de Gauche (FdG) has not developed into a vibrant and attractive alternative. Jean-Luc Mélenchon now, apparently, considers that the real fight is between the People and the “oligarchy”. The PS and Hollande the “old” left have become pillars of this elite. The Parti Communiste Français (PCF), part of the FdG, have by making some municipal election agreements with the Socialists, are….the conclusion is obvious.

Demanding the real “sovereignty” (‘profoundly anti-capitalist’) of the People Mélencohon’s ambitions rise to the creation of a New 6th Republic. (Nouvel Observateur. 8.10.14.)In the meantime the (still?) leading public face of the FdG looks to the prosperous medium-sized town of Grenoble, where his small organisation the Parti de Gauche, allied with the EELV and local left-winger against the PS and the PCF, and now control of council.

The resulting Mouvement pour la VIe République (M6R) has not won over the masses, although parts of the FdG, such as Ensemble, have backed the project. Mélenchon himself has become associated with Green protests, like the one at Sievens already cited. One is reminded of the British left’s interest in democratic reform, and ‘new politics’ (of whatever stripe) which always seems to rise when there is little prospect of socialist policies being implemented by any government.

Economics first.

In reality it’s the conflict outlined above, over economics, which is redefining the nature of the French left. Does the left represent the working majority, and the ‘poor’ (sans-dents), equality and collective rights? Or is the ‘left’ iitselfan ‘outdated’ concept (as they said, way back in the 1930s) and what’s needed is ‘production’ ‘flexibility’ entrepeneuriship and growth before anything else can be achieved? Or is it impossible to get the latter without the labour (socialist) movement leading their direction? It must be said that the, formal, split between France’s Parliamentary and trade union left does not help weigh the outcome of the clash between these perspectives in favour of this latter possibility.

These are the terms of the political and ideological battles underway. They are not concerned with “culture wars”, like the one underway over Eric Zemmour’s Le Suicide Français (defending Vichey, battling ‘political correctness’), or the half-hearted dispute around Marcel Gauchet (an unoriginal theorist of ‘totalitarianism’ who’s apparently also got some rightist inclinations). It is not the “republic”, since there is no movement outside political enthusiasts, a declining constituency, for this ‘revolutionary’ change. It’s not even over Race and Ethnicity (important though these issues are). The root of the far-right Front National’s popular appeal is economic: a rejection of migration (like its homologue UKIP) and the effects of the market, unemployment and low wages (offering a ‘national’ economic policy as an alternative).

The Socialist Head of State is, we are informed, a great football fan. He does not believe that the score is final until the match is ended (Le Monde 5.11.14). If at the moment he might be a laughing-stock (as Trierweiler helpfully calls him, the object of “risée générale’), perhaps. But the “reforms” of his new Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, may finally bear fruit. Enterprise will be set free, growth will return, and unemployment) will go down. Yesterday Hollande has – widely – stated that he will not seek re-election is he fails to cut the dole queue. 

We shall see on the 15th of November whether the French Trade Unions and left – who plan a day of action against government policies – if any serious alternative is emerging.

MOBILISATION NATIONALE LE 15 NOVEMBRE !

(1) The French Intifada. The Long War Between France and its Arabs Andrew Hussey. 2014.

(2) On Jaurés’ synthesis see: Jean Jaurès. Gilles Candar. Vincent Duckert. Fayard. 2014.

(3) Dossier.: Politique Française sans Boussole Le Monde Diplomatique. September 1014.

“Le Parti communiste organise, ce week-end, en Seine-Saint-Denis, une conférence nationale. Objectif : poser de nouvelles pierres à la construction d’une alternative aux politiques d’austérité, que le président de la République devait une nouvelle fois défendre jeudi soir. ” Humanité 7.11.14.