Tendance Coatesy

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There’s something misguided about ‘Concerns’ for Muslims when people try to silence Iranian critics of Islamism.

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The Sharpest ‘Injuries’  –  Words. 

The Guardian Opinion desk Editor David Shariatmadari commented yesterday on the case of Warwick University Students’ Union attempting to ban Maryam Namazie, from addressing a meeting of its Atheists, Secularists and Humanists Society.

There’s nothing misguided about the left’s concern for Muslims. David Shariatmadari.

He comments,

Namazie’s supporters two things were very clear: first, this was a direct attack on free speech; second, lefties were once again siding with religious conservatives because of a misguided belief that Muslims, as a minority group, should be protected at any cost.

Shariatmadari starts poorly,

First – was the move to block Namazie’s appearance really an attack on free speech? She should certainly be at liberty to express herself within the law. The Guardian has in the past published her work. But does the withdrawal of an invitation really amount to censorship? Her words have not been banned, the state has not gagged her. Is Namazie’s capacity to share her ideas diminished if she doesn’t appear in front of 50-odd students? After all, she can still tweet and blog, as she showed over the weekend. If anything, the whole episode has increased her audience.

So, Warwick University SU’s decision was small beer.

The state has not banned her.

Namazie, can still speak. She can write, go on Facebook, she can tweet.  She can mumble to the wind.

No need for secularist uproar.

“All we’re really seeing is one student body’s messy weighing up of which values it wants to endorse, and which it wants to reject – and exercising its own right of free expression to make that choice.”

But until the SU reversed the decision she could not address the Atheists, Secularists and Humanists Society. That is the province of the SU who can decide, or not decide, if her speech is acceptable to them.

And they – as he indicates, have some reason to be wary, then they can tell their student members what they can and cannot listen to.

Shariatmadari makes clear there were reasons for the Students’ Union to be worried.

That leads us to a second point: what motivated those who didn’t want the event to go ahead? Were they really “kowtowing to Islamists”? Namazie is often described as a secularist, championing enlightenment values and defending the rights of women against conservative religious ideology. These are positions that most progressives would find it easy to get behind. But the way Namazie articulates her arguments might give them pause.

Indeed, he continues, the Guardians of what or what not Warwick students should be allowed to hear at their meetings, were right to pause.

At the World Atheist Convention in Dublin in 2011, she set out her stall as an equal-opportunity critic of religious belief. “In my opinion, all religion is bad for you. Religion should come with a health warning, like cigarettes: religion kills.”

However, she does regard Islam as a special case. She believes it is defined by the concept of “inquisition”. She contrasts it with Christianity, arguing that “a religion that has been reined in by the Enlightenment is very different from one that is spearheading an inquisition.” This would seem to hold out some hope for the “Reformation” of Islam. (Personally I feel that the analogy with 16th-century Europe is flawed. It misrepresents the nature of hierarchy in Islam, as well as being anachronistic.) And yet at the same time, Namazie denies the possibility of change and evolution.

She says that “under an inquisition things like ‘Islamic feminism’, ‘liberal interpretations of Islam’ – these are all in quotes for me – ‘Islamic reformism’ … are impossible. A personal religion is impossible under an inquisition.”

One might at this point note that comrade Namazie is Iranian ( Shariatmadari is proud to signal in his own background, that “My 90-something uncle, whom I’ve met three times, was a religious nationalist politician in Iran, but I was brought up in a secular household.).

Perhaps he has also met modern Iranian secularists. Perhaps he has heard about the censorship, the religious ‘legality’ of Iran, the repression, the torture, the gaol sentences for Namazie’s comrades, and the deaths of the beloved martyrs for secularism and the left, under the Islamist theocracy.

No. Shariatmadari goes to what he considers is the quick.

So, at a stroke, she denies the agency of all would-be Muslim reformers, Muslim feminists in particular. She undermines those imams and scholars who do preach a liberal, open version of Islam. She appears to think that Muslims with non-judgmental views about sex and sexuality are kidding themselves. In fact, she speaks as though she would actually like to shut down debate in these areas. At one point she quotes the Iranian political activist Mansoor Hekmat: “This is the religion of death.”

Hekmat is the author of many works on Marxism and Islamism, which have had a deep impact on the international left (see Wikipedia). He was the founder of the Iranian Worker Communist party.

This the article referred to, by comrade Hekmat said about Islamism, in fuller form, and not the Guardian’s abbreviated version.

Islam and De-Islamisation

I realise that the interests of some require that they rescue Islam (as much as possible) from the wrath of those who have witnessed the indescribable atrocities of or been victimised by Islamists. I also realise that the extent of these atrocities and holocausts is such that even some Islamists themselves do not want to take responsibility for them. So it is natural that the debate on ‘true Islam’ vis-à-vis ‘practical Islam’ is broached over and over again. These justifications, however, are foolish from my point of view (that of a communist and atheist) and from the points of views of those of us who have seen or been the victims of Islam’s crimes. They are foolish for those of us who are living through a colossal social, political and intellectual struggle with this beast.

The doctrinal and Koranic foundations of Islam, the development of Islam’s history, and the political identity and affiliation of Islam and Islamists in the battle between reaction and freedom in our era are too obvious to allow the debate on the various interpretations of Islam and the existence or likelihood of other interpretations to be taken seriously. Even if the debate were in the future and on other planets where the most basic rights and affections of humanity were not violated. In my opinion, it shows the utmost contempt for the science and social intelligence of our times if every excuse and justification that Islamists fling into society whilst retreating is scientifically analysed and dissected… In Islam, be it true or untrue, the individual has no rights or dignity. In Islam, the woman is a slave. In Islam, the child is on par with animals. In Islam, freethinking is a sin deserving of punishment. Music is corrupt. Sex without permission and religious certification, is the greatest of sins. This is the religion of death. In reality, all religions are such but most religions have been restrained by freethinking and freedom-loving humanity over hundreds of years. This one was never restrained or controlled. With every move, it brings abominations and misery.

What does this imply for free speech?

Moreover, in my opinion, defending the existence of Islam under the guise of respect for people’s beliefs is hypocritical and lacks credence. There are various beliefs amongst people. The question is not about respecting people’s beliefs but about which are worthy of respect. In any case, no matter what anyone says, everyone is choosing beliefs that are to their liking. Those who reject a criticism of Islam under the guise of respecting people’s beliefs are only expressing their own political and moral preferences, full stop. They choose Islam as a belief worthy of respect and package their own beliefs as the ‘people’s beliefs’ only in order to provide ‘populist’ legitimisation for their own choices. I will not respect any superstition or the suppression of rights, even if all the people of the world do so. Of course I know it is the right of all to believe in whatever they want. But there is a fundamental difference between respecting the freedom of opinion of individuals and respecting the opinions they hold. We are not sitting in judgement of the world; we are players and participants in it. Each of us are party to this historical, worldwide struggle, which in my opinion, from the beginning of time until now has been over the freedom and equality of human beings. I will not respect the superstitions that I am fighting against and under the grip of which human beings are suffering.

Given the action of Daesh, shown last night on Channel Four News training children to slaughter, one can’t help feeling that comrade Hekmat had a point – whatever we think about the details of the politics of the Workers-Communist Parties.

What kind of “respect” should we show these Islamists?

Freedom of speech does not mean deference or pandering to the intolerable.

By contrast, this is what Shariatmadari considers important.

What might lead people to decide they’d rather not give a platform to such rhetoric? Recognising the pressure British Muslims are under – surveilled by the state, victims of verbal abuse, vandalism and arson – could it be that some students felt welcoming a person who believes Islam is incompatible with modern life would be wrong?

He consdiers that many would not wish to live in a society ruled by Islamic values – glossing over the fact that even many moderate Muslims believe in some version of Shariah ‘law’ which by its very principle is a discriminatory – against Women, against non-believers – and is the rule of God, not of Democracy.

No, this is what matters,

However, the fact remains: at this historical moment, in this country, Muslims are subject to greater demonisation than almost anyone else. Absolutists may not like it, but this power imbalance must enter into the calculation.

So an Iranian woman whose views on Islamism stem from the experience of actually existing Islamic counties, contributes to those who wish to “insult and injure” Moslems.

How does this enter the calculation of the “power balance”?

He notices that,

We are lucky to live in a pluralist democracy, with freedom of choice in politics and religion. These are things we should cherish, but they are not in any serious danger. Were they really threatened – by the emergence of a theocracy, by the drafting of racist or misogynist laws – the left would oppose that with every sinew. I hope that more citizens in Muslim-majority countries can one day enjoy the level of political and social freedom that we do, and I support the men and women who try to bring that about.

But in the meantime it’s okay to call a halt to those who wish to insult “injure” (with no doubt the shparest of weapons – words), Islam.

Earlier this year Shariatmadari expressed great concern about the word “terrorism”.

Modern “terrorism” has the peculiar property that it relies on its enemies to grant it victory – and why not have a special word for that? Why not use it to describe the Charlie Hebdo attacks, which, in my view, fall into that category?

But the word itself casts a shadow of fear. Politicians deploy it to justify illiberal measures. The panic it evokes ramps up prejudice against minorities. It is even used to win support for wars. Wielded carefully, “terrorist” could still make sense, à la Fromkin. Used to frighten, cajole or slander, it’s one of the most toxic words of our times.

No doubt he will feel equal concern at those of the description of Iran, and all states whose ‘laws’ are based on the Shariah as  theocratic monsters.

No doubt he will point to liberal elements in their regimes and the need for careful language.

And no doubt he will wince at those of us who call Daesh genociders.

Tough: that’s freedom of speech. 

Stop the War Coalition Against *any* Bombing of Islamic State.

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Stop the War Coalition Says Do Nothing to Stop these Genociders. 

With or without UN agreement, bombing Syria by Russia or UK should be opposed

Lindsey German 30 September 2015.

ONE OF the main reasons for disillusionment with mainstream politics has been the denial of democracy that was the vote by parliament to take Britain into the Iraq war.

The Labour party conference has passed a resolution opposing the bombing of Syria unless a number of stringent conditions are met. These include unequivocal UN authorisation for such a bombing, attempts at diplomatic solutions to the crisis, and proper provision for refugees from Syria.

Stop the War would oppose UK military intervention with or without a UN resolution (look at the consequences of UN authorised wars in Afghanistan and Libya). The Labour resolution sets the bar for intervention very high, but that may change with Russia now bombing Syria.

Stop the War is against Russia’s attacks on Syria. We think they should stop immediately. And we would welcome less hypocrisy from those who have supported US and allied bombing over the last year.

It is unlikely that all of the conditions agreed by the Labour party conference will be met when David Cameron urges parliament to vote for bombing. However, it seems that a number of Labour MPs will vote with Cameron in defiance of party policy.

They will do so because they have learnt none of the lessons from previous interventions, including the bombing of Libya that is today a source of ISIS support and weaponry, as well as the starting point of many refugees.

They will maintain a willful ignorance about the fact that bombing of ISIS has been carried out for over a year, including covertly and illegally by British pilots and drones. They will ignore all the evidence that previous interventions have increased the threat of terrorism, not diminished it.

Some of them will also vote in favour of bombing, not out of any particular conviction but because they want to embarrass and defeat Labour’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy’s position is unambiguous, repeated in his leader’s speech this week: he is not abandoning his lifelong commitment to opposing war and nuclear weapons. So some on the right of the party will join the Tories in voting for bombing in order to ensure the motion is carried.

The call by some, including left-winger John McDonnell, for Labour MPs to have a free vote on this matter, will only encourage more of them to vote with the Tories. For right wing Labour MPs to defy both conference policy and a party whip is harder than for them to vote according to their ‘conscience’.

War is not an issue of conscience, but a political question. There are a number of people who oppose wars in principle. But there is no principle involved in supporting wars regardless of circumstances or outcomes. To pretend that it is so is to impute much more lofty motives to a whole number of the MPs who routinely vote for war.

Instead they should respect the mandate that Jeremy has won, not least because of his longstanding opposition to the Iraq war and his promise to apologise for it.

Perhaps MPs of all parties should also reflect that one of the main reasons for disillusionment with mainstream politics has been the denial of democracy that was the vote to take us into Iraq.

The BBC reports:

Labour members have voted to oppose airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria, without a mandate from the United Nations.

Activists in Brighton voted in favour of a motion tabled by the Unite union to make their support for strikes conditional on UN backing.

The vote is not binding on MPs but Jeremy Corbyn has said the party must heed the opinion of members.

It follows calls from a senior Labour figure for a free vote in Parliament.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told a meeting hosted by The Guardian at the Labour conference that Syria and the renewal of Trident were issues on which he did not expect consensus within the party and he believed a vote on military action in Syria should be made “on the basis of conscience”.

The UNITE Motion (Original version):

Conference notes the evidence of an increased Russian military build-up in Syria; the announcement of talks between US and Russian military leaders aimed at avoiding the risk of clashes in Syria on Friday, 18th September; the meeting between the Israeli and Russian presidents in Moscow on Monday, 21st September, focused on preventing accidental conflict between their forces in Syria; and the growing international diplomatic effort to achieve a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Syria.

Conference also notes the likelihood that David Cameron will seek House of Commons support to extend UK participation in the bombing of Iraq to Syria in the near future.  

Conference believes the Parliamentary Labour Party should oppose any such extension unless the following conditions are met:

  1. Clear and unambiguous authorisation for such a bombing campaign from the United Nations;
  2. A comprehensive European Union-wide plan is in place to provide humanitarian assistance to the increased number of refugees that even more widespread bombing can be expected to lead to;
  3. Such bombing is exclusively directed at military targets directly associated with ‘Islamic State’ and is not aimed at securing regime change in Syria, noting that if the bombing campaign advocated by the British government in 2013 had not been blocked by the PLP under Ed Miliband’s leadership,  ‘Islamic State’ forces might now be in control of far more Syrian territory, including Damascus.
  4. Any military action is subordinated to international diplomatic efforts, including the main regional powers, to bring the Syrian civil war to an end, since only a broadly-based and sovereign Syrian government can ultimately retake territory currently controlled by ‘Islamic State’.

Conference believes that only military action which meets all these objectives, and thus avoids the risk of repeating the disastrous consequences of the 2003 regime-change war in Iraq and the 2011 air campaign intervention in Libya, can secure the assent of the British people.

Tendance Coatesy unequivocally supports the UNITE motion calling for UN authorised action in Syria, and the call from comrade John McDonnell  for a Parliamentary vote on the basis of conscience, given the range of opinions inside the Labour Party’s elected representatives and the gravity of the situation.

In the Labour leadership election Jeremy Corbyn did not win a mandate for his views, as Chair of the Stop the War Coalition, on their detailed  position on the Middle East.

This was not something put to a ballot of members, affiliates and supporters.

The Stop the War Coalition effectively calls for the peoples of the world to stand aside faced with the genociders of Daesh/ISIS.

This is the defining political issue of the tragedy in Syria and Iraq – entangled with many others . It cannot be walked away from.

These are the “circumstances” Lindsey German blithely  dismisses.

The motion calls for UN authorisation.

If that happens, which is not yet clear, the immediate “outcome” of increased attacks on the Islamist killers we can hope to see is that the PYG and our Kurdish sisters and brothers will be bolstered by weakening ISIS, and that the murderers will be forced back.

The UNITE motion is good sense and adds sound points about European help for refugees.

We would back the aim of encouraging, “international diplomatic efforts…. to bring the Syrian civil war to an end, since only a broadly-based and sovereign Syrian government can ultimately retake territory currently controlled by ‘Islamic State’.

Whether this will happen is no doubt far from clear.

But we cannot  remain indifferent to the fate of our sisters and brothers in Syria.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 30, 2015 at 4:12 pm

Warwick University Student Union Bans Feminist, Marxist, Secularist Maryam Namazie.

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Comrade Maryam: Banned for being a Feminist, Secularist and Marxist. 

A prominent secularist and activist has been barred from speaking at a student union event due to fears her speech would “incite hatred” against Muslim students.

Reports the Independent.

Maryam Namazie had been booked by the Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists (WASH) group to speak about secularism to Warwick University’s Student Union on 28 October.

However, the group was notified last month that Ms Namazie’s speech had been cancelled. The decision has led campaigners to raise concerns about student bodies across the UK thwarting freedom of speech on their campuses.

The union said that “after researching both [Ms Namazie] and her organisation, a number of flags have been raised. We have a duty of care to conduct a risk assessment for each speaker who wishes to come to campus”.

Articles written by Ms Namazie indicated she was “highly inflammatory” and “could incite hatred on campus”, according to the union.

Ms Namazie, who fled Iran with her family in 1980 after the revolution, said she was likely to have spoken about apostasy, blasphemy and nudity in the age of Isis. She told The Independent she was “angry” her talk had been blocked.

“They’re basically labelling me a racist and an extremist for speaking out against Islam and Islamism,” she said.

“If people like me who fled an Islamist regime can’t speak out about my opposition to the far-right Islamic movement, if I can’t criticise Islam… that leaves very [few] options for me as a dissenter because the only thing I have is my freedom of expression.

“If anyone is inciting hatred, it’s the Islamists who are threatening people like me just for deciding we want to be atheist, just because we don’t want to toe the line.”

Ms Namazie, who considers herself an anti-racist campaigner, added: “To try to censor me, does a double disservice to those people who are dissenting by denying people like me the only opportunity we have to speak.”

This really sticks in the craw:

Isaac Leigh, president of Warwick Student Union said: “The initial decision was made for the right of Muslim students not to feel intimidated or discriminated against on their university campus… rather than in the interest of suppressing free speech.”

“A final decision on this issue will be reached by the most senior members of the Student Union in coming days,” he said.

Ms Namazie hoped her talk would be rescheduled.

Comrade Namazie is respected not just in secularist and human rights circles but widely on the international left.

As editor for the Worker-communist Review, Maryam Namazie is a Central Committee member of the Worker-communist Party of Iran. She advocates ideas inspired by Workerist Communism, especially those of the Iranian theorist Mansoor Hekmat.

She is strongly feminist.

Maryam Namazie is also the spokesperson of Fitnah- Movement for Women’s Liberation, a protest movement which is, according to their website, “demanding freedom, equality, and secularism and calling for an end to misogynist cultural, religious and moral laws and customs, compulsory veiling, sex apartheid, sex trafficking, and violence against women.”

According to Namazie, the name of the movement comes from ahadith, or a saying from Islamic prophet Muhammad, which in her opinion portrays women as a source of harm and affliction. She explains that even though the term is generally perceived as negative, the fact that women who are called fitnah are those who “are disobedient, who transgress the norms, who refuse, who resist, who revolt, who won’t submit” makes it suited for a women’s liberation movement.She has explained that the creation of the movement was sparked by contemporary movements and revolutions around the world, especially those in the Middle East and North Africa, although she emphasizes Fitnah has global relevance.

It is not hard to see that an uppity Iranian feminist secularist and Marxist might indeed offend religious bigots.

In this light one can only describe the decision of Warwick University Student Union – my own former student union – as a deep deep stain.

Comrade Marayam’s own Blog: here.

More in the Guardian.

Petition: Allow Maryam Namazie to speak at The University of Warwick.

More from the comrades at Shiraz here.

Benjamin David (President of Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists) has published a response on the student union’s website.

Dear supporters

As President of WASH, I feel that it is important that I comment about the recent controversy regarding the decision taken by The University of Warwick’s Student Union to prohibit Maryam Namazie from speaking on campus. For those unfamiliar with Maryam, she is a secularist, a human-rights campaigner, and leader of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain – as well as being a friend of mine.

After submitting a guest-speaker application to the SU, I received the following response explaining their decision to bar Maryam:

…after researching both her and her organisation, a number of flags have been raised. We have a duty of care to conduct a risk assessment for each speaker who wishes to come to campus.

There a number of articles written both by the speaker and by others about the speaker that indicate that she is highly inflammatory, and could incite hatred on campus. This is in contravention of our external speaker policy:

*must not incite hatred, violence or call for the breaking of the law

*are not permitted to encourage, glorify or promote any acts of terrorism including individuals, groups or organisations that support such acts

*must not spread hatred and intolerance in the community and thus aid in disrupting social and community harmony

*must seek to avoid insulting other faiths or groups, within a framework of positive debate and challenge

*are not permitted to raise or gather funds for any external organisation or cause without express permission of the trustees.

In addition to this, there are concerns that if we place conditions on her attendance (such as making it a member only event and having security in attendance, asking for a transcript of what she intends to say, recording the speech) she will refuse to abide by these terms as she did for Trinity College Dublin:


As a student of the University, I must confess that I cannot but help feel an element of embarrassment – as well as feeling that my society has been vitiated in light of the encroachment on the strong secular and free-speech principles that the society espouses. We have appealed the decision and we will submit a further post detailing the outcome in due course. The restriction of free-thought and non-violent free-speech is the most dangerous of all subversions, a subversion that is only amplified in light of the fact that Maryam has always campaigned against violence and discrimination and has done so passionately for many years – something that should have been taken on board when the SU’s assessment was made. Maryam often describes the true facts concerning her own experiences and those of people she works with in relation to radical forms of Islam – not all forms of Islam, just those pernicious, radical strands of the religion – things that most peaceful Muslims would also condemn. I must profess that if those facts are an incitement of hatred – which I most definitely believe they are not – then the solution is to change the way people are treated in certain faith communities, not to insist Maryam lie about her life through censorship. As Maryam stated in her blog:

“The Student Union seems to lack an understanding of the difference between criticising religion, an idea, or a far-Right political movement on the one hand and attacking and inciting hate against people on the other. Inciting hatred is what the Islamists do; I and my organisation challenge them and defend the rights of ex-Muslims, Muslims and others to dissent.”

And, what is more:

“The Student Union position is of course nothing new. It is the predominant post-modernist “Left” point of view that conflates Islam, Muslims and Islamists, homogenises the “Muslim community”, thinks believers are one and the same as the religious-Right and sides with the Islamist narrative against its many dissenters […]This type of politics denies universalism, sees rights as ‘western,’ justifies the suppression of women’s rights, freedoms and equality under the guise of respect for other ‘cultures’ imputing on innumerable people the most reactionary elements of culture and religion, which is that of the religious-Right. In this type of politics, the oppressor is victim, the oppressed are perpetrators of “hatred”, and any criticism is racist.”

The infringement of free-speech is becoming insidiously ubiquitous, and many universities, including The University of Warwick, are circumventing the freedom of speech in pursuit of inoffensive, sanitary narratives. As many of those at Warwick University know, few universities have sullied its free-speech as much as our university has. Spiked-Online’s ‘University Free-Speech Rankings‘ recently imputed the university with their infamous red-ranking, stating that:

“The University of Warwick and Warwick Students’ Union collectively create a hostile environment for free speech. The university, which has received an Amber ranking, restricts material that is ‘likely to cause offence’. The students’ union, which has received a Red ranking, has instituted bans on the Sun and theDaily Star, launched a campaign to have ‘offensive’ wallpaper in a local bar removed and banned ‘prejudiced’ entertainers from performing in the union. Due to the severity of the students’ union’s actions, the institution’s overall ranking is Red” 

I believe that we at the University of Warwick need to come together, as secularists, as students, revering the intellectual suffusion of ideas and dialectics, to construct a truly formidable voice of opposition for the sake of those beloved principles that we promote. Lest we forget: “censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently, the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship” – George Bernard Shaw

Benjamin David

(President of Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists).

Written by Andrew Coates

September 26, 2015 at 11:16 am

French Trotskyist Current, the Gauche Unitaire (Picquet Tendency), Joins the French Communist Party (PCF).

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A formal statement has just been issued announcing that Gauche Unitaire (GU), which has a long background in Fourth International Trotskyism, and whose best known figure, Christian Picquet, has been a leading figure in the Ligue communiste révolutionnaire, will engage in a process of ‘regroupment’ inside the Parti Communiste Français (PCF).

The Gauche Unitaire was created from a small grouping inside the LCR which opposed to the formation of the Nouveau parti anticapitaliste (NPA) in 2009. The immediate cause of the split was the refusal of the NPA to join forces with the PCF and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Parti de Gauche in a common list for the European elections in 2009.

The background was long-standing disagreement with the NPA’s belief that “between us and the Parti Socialiste’ there is nothing’ – an assertion hard to justify when the PCF retained over 200,000 members and the closely aligned union federation, the Confédération générale du travail (CGT), continued to show an unwillingness to disappear.Behind this it is said that Piquet and his comrades’ turn to a more “centrist” republican democratic socialism cut them off from the belief inside the NPA that the time had come for a radical new movement riding high on the anti-globalisation protests (if one can remember them…..).

The “Picquet Tendency” became the Gauche Unitaire. It was a founding member of the Front de gauche (FdG) the social and electoral bloc of these forces that present united lists for that Euro contest, and subsequent French national and local elections.

Another group which emerged out of the Nouveau parti anticapitaliste, equally critical of its ambition to incarnate on is own, the radical left, was the closely related Convergence and alternative. This now forms part of the ‘third’ pillar of the FdG)  Ensemble .

The Gauche Unitaire identifies itself as democratic socialist, republican, anti-capitalist, and has been a supporter of French laïcité.

It considers that the left needs to change society by ” mobilisations sociales prolongées et de consultations populaires” – in other words, grass roots, trade union and civil society activity, combined with democratic electoral advances.

It is no secret that Tendance Coatesy has very similar views.

Over the last year the Gauche Unitaire has run into difficulty inside the Front de Gauche. A majority of its members have joined Ensemble (which groups together many people with radical left, democratic socialist and feminist ideas, including the ‘self-management’ and left-Green current Les Alternatifs: see more on their site here). GU had formally withdrawn with the FdG over disputes about eligible places on European election lists. It is thought that the group at present is down to well below 100 members.

A declaration announcing the decision for the GU to join the PCF  is in  l’Humanité and Piquet’s blog today.

There will be a joint press conference tomorrow.

 Point presse Pierre Laurent et Christian Piquet
Jeudi 10 septembre à 13h
Siège du PCF – 2, place du Colonel Fabien

Christian Piquet’s Blog:

mercredi 9 septembre 2015

Une déclaration commune du PCF et de Gauche unitaire

Ce 8 septembre aura marqué une date importante. Dans l’histoire de la gauche autant que dans celle de la coalition à laquelle nous participions jusqu’alors… Le Parti communiste français et Gauche unitaire ont en effet officialisé le processus qui les amène à se regrouper aujourd’hui au sein du PCF.

Une page est ainsi tournée, celle qui avait vu Gauche unitaire, en 2009, se constituer en parti à partir du courant unitaire du Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste, regrouper très vite des hommes et des femmes issus de diverses traditions, et devenir cofondatrice du Front de gauche. Les évolutions de la situation française, les immenses périls qui pèsent sur la gauche et le monde du travail, la situation pour le moins difficile du Front de gauche (sur laquelle j’ai eu maintes occasions de m’exprimer ici) ont amené les militantes et militants de GU, lors du III° Congrès de l’organisation, en juin dernier, à considérer que l’heure était au regroupement, et non plus à la dispersion, à l’éparpillement, à l’entretien de différences n’ayant guère de sens en regard des enjeux décisifs du moment politique présent.

Les convergences entre nos camarades communistes et nous-mêmes n’ayant cessé de se confirmer au fil des années, c’est donc un choix de responsabilité qu’a fait Gauche unitaire. Sur les réseaux sociaux, un journaliste a constaté que cette décision contrastait avec les fragmentations, polémiques brumeuses, claquages de portes obscures, rivalités d’égos ou scission qui rythment la vie du camp progressiste et contribuent surtout à démoraliser celles et ceux qui attendraient plutôt des perspectives d’espoir. Il a parfaitement raison ! Ce jeudi 10 septembre, à l’issue du conseil national du PCF, appelé à se prononcer à son tour, Pierre Laurent et moi-même présenteront à la presse l’aboutissement du processus de rapprochement engagé ces derniers mois. J’aurai ensuite l’occasion de revenir ici sur ce qui m’a motivé, avec mes camarades, dans la volonté d’écrire une nouvelle page du combat pour que la gauche redevienne la gauche. Je reproduis déjà, ci-dessous, la déclaration conjointe de nos deux partis.

« Nos deux organisations ont en commun de puiser au meilleur de la pensée humaine, de l’apport des Lumières, des idéaux mis en avant par la Révolution française, de l’action de Jaurès en faveur de la République sociale. Elles se revendiquent, face à un capitalisme dont la cupidité n’a cessé de grandir, de l’apport irremplaçable de Marx, qui avait choisi le mot de communisme pour désigner le mouvement même d’abolition de l’ordre existant. Si l’histoire tourmentée du XX° siècle a profondément meurtri, et même dévoyé, cette belle promesse de « mise en commun » s’opposant à la concurrence de tous contre tous, il s’agit à présent de la réhabiliter afin de rouvrir enfin à l’humanité un horizon d’espérance. Par-delà leurs histoires propres, leurs traditions politiques respectives, la manière dont ils ont pu appréhender le passé, le Parti communiste français et Gauche unitaire ont pu vérifier, à la chaleur du travail réalisé conjointement, qu’ils se retrouvaient dans une commune volonté de reconstruire une perspective crédible et ambitieuse de transformation sociale.

« Cela fait ainsi de nombreuses années que nos deux formations constatent leur convergence de vues. Elles portent une identique appréciation sur les menaces que font peser les politiques libérales sur l’avenir de la planète et sur la paix, sur les droits sociaux et conquêtes populaires, sur les politiques publiques garantes de la cohésion de notre société, sur les fondements mêmes de la République en France, sur les équilibres écologiques. Elles s’opposent de même aux orientations mises en œuvre par François Hollande et Manuel Valls qui, loin de rompre avec l’orthodoxie austéritaire et le pouvoir de la finance, s’efforcent de satisfaire les désidératas du grand patronat, tournant le dos à la majorité populaire qui avait rendu possible la victoire remportée sur Nicolas Sarkozy en 2012.

Elles mesurent également le risque que la situation de très grave crise sociale et politique que connaît notre pays ne profite à une droite dure et revancharde, avide d’en finir avec tout ce qu’il subsiste du programme du Conseil national de la Résistance. Elles s’inquiètent tout particulièrement de constater que le découragement et l’écœurement qui s’emparent de larges secteurs de la population font aujourd’hui le lit du Front national, de ses idées de haine et de son programme de discriminations.

Elles réaffirment, dans cette situation de grands périls, la nécessité de faire grandir l’exigence d’une autre politique, pour rassembler de nouveau la gauche sur un nouveau projet social et démocratique, et lui permettre de retrouver le chemin du peuple. Elles agissent dans ce cadre pour que le Front de gauche soit un instrument au service d’un tel rassemblement de la gauche sur la base d’un changement complet de cap, qu’il soit à même d’agir efficacement pour une nouvelle majorité de gauche et un gouvernement qui répondent aux attentes de nos concitoyens. Elles se retrouvent, s’agissant des prochaines élections régionales, autour de la nécessité de favoriser les rassemblements les plus larges, aux premiers et seconds tours, à partir de propositions audacieuses récusant la logique de l’austérité nationale, condition pour battre la droite et l’extrême droite, garder à gauche le plus grand nombre de Régions, aboutir à de nouveaux contrats majoritaires à la tête de celles-ci.

« À partir de ces constats, au vu de l’ampleur des défis qu’il s’agit désormais de relever, et en fonction de l’appréciation portée sur ses six années d’action au sein du Front de gauche dont elle est l’une des trois composantes fondatrices, le III° Congrès de Gauche unitaire, fin juin 2015, a considéré que l’heure n’était plus à l’émiettement et à l’éparpillement des forces travaillant à ouvrir une nouvelle perspective pour la gauche. Elle a donc décidé de regrouper ses forces avec celles du Parti communiste français au sein de ce dernier. À la suite des discussions positives ayant eu lieu tout l’été avec la direction du PCF et des échanges, tout aussi positifs, entre militants des deux formations, cette décision a été définitivement ratifiée les 5 et 6 septembre par les délégués des sections de Gauche unitaire, réunis à Paris.

« Le regroupement sera effectif après qu’à son tour la réunion du conseil national du PCF, qui se tiendra le jeudi 10 septembre, en soit saisie.

« Pierre Laurent et Christian Picquet présenteront le même jour à la presse, à 13h, le sens de ce regroupement.

« À la fête de L’Humanité, l’aboutissement de ce processus sera présenté aux participants, à l’occasion d’une rencontre publique qui se tiendra sur le stand du conseil national du PCF, le samedi 12 septembre à 12h.

« Dès la semaine qui suivra la fête de L’Humanité notre rassemblement sera alors totalement effectif au niveau des sections et fédérations concernées, ainsi qu’au conseil national et au comité exécutif national du PCF. »

No I am not going to translate this heavy bloc of left-wing prose, apart from anything else most of the words are the same in English.


Richard Seymour Mocks Burns Victim and War Veteran Simon Weston in latest Attack on Liberal Defence of Murder.

with 27 comments

On 2 September 2015, (Richard) Seymour left a Facebook comment about a Telegraph column detailing Falklands War veteran and serious burns victim Simon Weston’s comments regarding Labour Party Leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn’s plan, Weston believes, to “surrender” the Falkland Islands to Argentina. Seymour stated in his comment: “Seriously. Who gives a shit what Simon Weston thinks about anything? If he knew anything, he’d still have his face.” Seymour was unapologetic on twitter for his comment.



Guardian confirms Richard Seymour does not work for them after hate post

The Guardian newspaper has confirmed that Richard Seymour does not work them after he posted a hate comment on Falkland’s veteran Simon Weston. The Guardian has though confirmed that Seymour was a regular author on its web-site with a profile at: Richard Seymour.

Simon Weston suffered serious injuries whilst on active duty on HMS Sir Galahad when the Argentines attacks it. His injuries included severe burns to his face.

Richard Seymour wrote in a comment:

“If he knew anything he’d still have his face”.

Seymour refused to apologise on his comment which appeared on an article written by Simon Weston in the Daily Telegraph.


Simon Weston.

Criticism of these comments should not the preserve of right-wingers like Guido Fawkes.

This is a matter for the left.

Whether Seymour apologies or not this indicates two possibilities:

  • Seymour is an incontinent troll who sinks as low as the mood takes him to amuse himself by hurting people.
  • Seymour feels he has the moral right to lecture disfigured supporters of the Falklands War by pointing to their injuries.

Either is not a pleasant option.

Most people would crawl and away and die rather than stoop to this kind of language.

Still, here everybody can see the “limitation of humanitarianism in this situation” (Lenin’s Tomb) .

Very clearly.

We should note that regardless of his Guardian status, Seymour is a prominent author at Verso books and helped frame some policies in Left Unity (we hope not those on people with disabilities).

Richard Seymour


Verso adds that  Richard Seymour lives, works and writes in London. He runs the Lenin’s Tomb website, which comments on the War on Terror, Islamophobia and neoliberalism.

His moral status is further undermined when we observe that earlier this year he spoke at this event: What now for Europe? The instrumentalisation of the Paris attacks.

It was organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) which is closely linked the Iranian theocratic dictatorship.

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 murdered by Islamic extremists.

He shared a platform with the “anti-race mixing” group the Indigènes de la République – whose writings he has published on his Blog – who specialise in attacking gay feminist and secularist Caroline Fourest. (see this on the “excellent Houria Bouteldja, a member of Le Parti des indigènes de la République. Lenin’s Tomb) (1).

(more Islamic Human Rights Commission, Charlie Hebdo, Richard Seymour and the Indigènes de la République)

This is a translated French response to this, the militant wing of Post-Colonial Studies: Toward a materialist approach to the question of race: A response to theIndigènes de la République.

Amongst the authors’ criticisms of the “excellent” ideologues, are these, “for Houria Bouteldja, feminism is a luxury which indigène women may not profess to claim.” “Riding the gathering wave of identitarianism, it proposes a systematic cultural, almost ethnocentric, reading of social phenomena. This leads to the adoption of dangerous positions on antisemitism, gender, and homosexuality.”

Seymour’s latest venture is this:

(1) This is what she said about the racist anti-Semite comedian Dieudonné in this post, “I thoroughly disagree with his political choices: the fact that he has been seduced by Soral’s nationalistic views, that he knows nothing about Palestine and Zionism, and his alliance with the far-right. At the same time, I feel ambivalent. I would start by saying that I love Dieudonné; that I love him as the indigènes love him; that I understand why the indigènes love him. I love him because he has done an important action in terms of dignity, of indigène pride, of Black pride: he refused to be a domestic negro. Even if he doesn’t have the right political program in his head, his attitude is one of resistance.” I now add that in the eyes of the indigènes, this is what they see in him first and foremost, rather than seeing the nature of his allies. A man standing upright. Too often were we forced to say “yes bouana, yes bouana.” When Diedonné stands up, he heals an identitarian wound. The wound that racism left, and which harms the indigènes’ personnality. Those who understand “Black is beautiful” cannot miss this dimension, and I emphasize, this particular dimension in Dieudonné.”


I notice another madman, Mike Pearn, who claims to be on the ‘left’, and is known to this Blog, made vile comments as well:

Guardian Boosts Anti-Charlie Hebdo Hatred: Emmanuel Todd.

with 15 comments


Emmanuel Todd: Loathes Charlie Hebdo, Now Warns of European ‘Suicide’.

The Guardian loves France.

The France of a Year in Provence, and now, the film of Posy Simmond’s Gemma Bovray.

The Guardian hates France.

The France of secularism, of a left that is for ever rubbing the liberal warm feelings of the majority of its eceumentical readership.

The Guardian has an ignoble history of printing violent attacks on the secularist satirists of Charlie Hebdo.

After the murders at the Weekly, and at the Hyper Cacher Seamus Milne, former Comments Editor at the paper, stated of its cartoons, “This wasn’t just “depictions” of the prophet, but repeated pornographic humiliation.” Milne put the blame for the attacks down to Western policy in the Middle East and the ‘war on terror’  – no doubt a serious warning to Bangladesh to cease its imperialist ambitions there if it wants to end the slaughter of secularist bloggers.

Now they have found Emmanuel Todd to stand as proxies for their campaign against the militant leftist secularist Charlie.

The printed article below contains a reference to Todd’s La Chute finale (1976), a study which predicted that the Soviet Union would decompose. He has been living off the reputation it gave him as a seer since 1989. Indeed (this is unlikely to be a coincidence) le Monde gave the book a favourable  mention   a few weeks ago (Emmanuel Todd, la fin de l’étoile rouge).

He is a ‘demographer’. Todd’s central theme is that changes in family structures (nuclear, extended) are related to economic and political change. His most famous claim is that “nuclear” families are the oldest form. We not competent in this field, but one be assured that his ideas are not ‘universally’ accepted.

Todd is the kind of French essayist, or polemicist, who churns out a yearly book on a “controversial” subject every year. Less repetitive than Régis Debray, but always, always, contrarian.

InL’Illusion économique : Essai sur la stagnation des sociétés développées, 1998. Todd advocated “Intelligent protectionism”.

Après l’empire : Essai sur la décomposition du système américain, (2002) is an extended essay on the title.

This recent statement (11.7.2015) should give pause for thought to those on the left, or to liberals,  rushing to adopt Todd’s views on Charlie Hebdo,

 Europe is “contrôlée par l’Allemagne et par ses satellites baltes, polonais, etc” et qu’elle est “devenue un système hiérarchique, autoritaire”“On est en train sans doute d’assister à la troisième autodestruction de l’Europe”, estime-t-il, rappelant les précédentes : “Il y a d’abord eu la guerre de 14, puis la deuxième guerre mondiale.” Il en conclut que “l’Europe est un continent qui, au XXe siècle, de façon cyclique, se suicide sous direction allemande.”

Europe is controlled by Germany and its Baltic and Polish (etc) satellites” and it has “become an authoritarian and hierarchical system. ” “we are without doubt witnessing the third self-destruction of Europe, “he asserted, referring to the historical precedents, “First there was the 1914 war, then the second world war.” He concluded, “Europe is a continent which, in the 20th century committed suicide under German leadership.”

This year Todd published a book, and articles, attacking the massive wave of solidarity, mass demonstrations and commemorations for Charlie and the victims of the Hyper Cacher.

Now we have this in English.

The article’s main theme is this: “The street demonstrations were the self-glorification of the French middle class. That made me explode.”

With customary modesty he begins with,

…what he called his own “magnificently crafted Exocet missile” at the nation, with a book arguing that the street rallies were a giant lie.

This is the missile:

The rallies, he argued, were not what they claimed to be – an admirable coming-together of people from different ethnic, religious and social backgrounds standing up for tolerance – but an odious display of middle-class domination, prejudice and Islamophobia. To Todd, they represented “a sudden glimpse of totalitarianism”. These “sham” demonstrations, he claimed, were made up of a one-sided elite who wanted to spit on Islam, the religion of a weak minority in France. The working class and the children of immigrants had been notably absent, he said. The most enthusiastic demonstrations, he decided, had occurred in the country’s most historically Catholic and reactionary regions, an affirmation of the middle class’s moral superiority and domination, and their Islamophobic quest for a scapegoat.

Todd’s central argument is that there are fundamentally two Frances. There is a “central” France, including Paris and Marseille and the Mediterranean, where there is equality on the family level and a deep-rooted attachment to secular values of the French revolution and the republic. Then there is a France of the periphery, for example, the west or cities such as Lyon, which has stayed true to the old Catholic bedrock, where people may no longer be practising Catholics, but they’re still infused with all the social conservatism of that Catholicism, its hierarchies and inequality. He calls this “zombie Catholicism”. Infuriating his critics, Todd maintains that the post-attack rallies represented zombie Catholicism on the march.

The pro-Charlie Bloc  (bloc MAZ, Middle class, Aged and Zombies) is given a fuller analysis in French (oddly….discussion of two parts of it are missing in the Guardian article – although written by a respected French journalist).

Its ideology is:

  • « européiste », par son soutien à Maastricht en 1992 et à la Constitution européenne de 2005 ; Pro-European, backing the Maastricht Treaty and the European constitution,
  • islamophobe, au vu de la diffusion d’une « obsession de l’Islam » dans la presse papier, du succès des livres d’Éric Zemmour et de la relégation des attentats de l’hypercacher au second plan du mouvement des « Je suis Charlie »  Islamophobic, related to the racist rantings of Zemmour who wants to expel all Muslims from Europe.
  • germanophile, par sa défense du « modèle allemand » que la France devrait imiter à tout prix. Germanophile, defending the German model, which they want France to defend at any cost.

More here.

It would be interesting to know how he found statistical evidence for the Je Suis Charlie marchers’ support – or even readership – of Zemmour.

Readers of the introduction above will note that Todd is, by pure coincidence, anti-European and something of a Germanophobe.

The statistics he used to bolster this analysis have been rigorously unpicked.

Où est Charlie ? Ce que montrent réellement les cartes d’Emmanuel Todd –T. Joliveau is one of the best.

Joliveau questions, rightly, if you built a picture of the sociology mass demonstrations of public concern by aligning them to their geographical origin. Can one find evidence of this, “mystérieux indicateur de zombitude catholique” and transfer this to those who turned up on rallies? Nothing is less certain.  The tie with Catholicism is even less clear. he notes, “Une légère sur-participation à la manifestation dans les villes de tradition catholique semble confirmée mais il est moins justifié par un traitement statistique que par une typologie du recul du christianisme que Todd sort un peu de son chapeau.” there is a slight over-representation of demos in Towns and Cities with a Catholic tradition appears confirmed, but is less justified by a statistical alignment with the retreat of Catholicism, which Todd has rather pulled out of his hat.

Joliveau also points out, by way of how you can shape statistics, in this lengthy and detailed examination, that you can equally draw a correlation between the areas where there were fewer demonstrations and zones where there are high numbers of  low paid, unqualified and unemployed people, and supporters of the Front National.

What is clear is that there was a link between those with higher education and  support for Charlie on the marches (les diplômés de l’enseignement supérieur court ou long).

There is a little doubt that there are a lot of (self-evident) indications  this is true.

Is Todd saying that educated people – that is by definition those likely  to read left-wing satirical magazines and are concerned about issues such as freedom of expression and (not the least!) defend a hard-line secularist weekly– are ‘Catholic zombies”.

That the scores of immigrant associations who backed the protests are all ‘Islamophobes’ is less certain.

The idea is so incoherent that it is barely worth considering.

His theory is that the rise in Islamophobia is in turn stoking anti semitism in run-down suburbs, and that anti semitism is growing in the middle class.

Presumably the same middle class that worshiped Charlie…..

We stood up, with millions across the world,  for Charlie with every fibre of our being.

Todd can dislike the vulgar and 68er Charlie as much as he like.

He can engage in Anglo-American language about being careful not to offend religious sensitiveness.

As Joliveau says, the support was a “Symbole non d’un collectif, mais d’un rassemblement d’individus ayant chacun leur propre raison d’être là avec les autres.”

We all had our own reasons to show our sorrow, our internationalism, our solidarity and our love.

We are certainly not anti-Euro, protectionist nationalists like Todd.

We are not surprised that Polity Press is publishing a translation of this book.

Unlike pro-Charlie writings, (see the Tendance’s  review of Charb’s pamphlet), it will not doubt be on university courses.


Note: this is another demolition of Todd’s statistics: Un esprit de système caricatural Les catégorisations opérées par Emmanuel Todd et son déterminisme sociologique sont discutables. 

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

with 7 comments

The British Left’s Hypocritical Embrace of Islamism.

Maajid Nawaz writes, in the Daily Beast,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



I jest.

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

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

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

Your write,

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

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

The Real Origins of Secularism.

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

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

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

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

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

Note that many secularists are ‘believers’.

Secularism is freedom to believe….

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

Will you join with this movement?

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

The choice is for everybody.