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Orthodox Trotskyism on the “Psuedo-Left” and Jeremy Corbyn

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Trotskyism vs. Revisionism Volume 7: The Fourth International and the Renegade Wohlforth

Standing Firm Against Pseudo-Left. 

While some of the left of Labour groups welcome Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign, and indeed attempt to bathe in its glory, including even the so-called ‘hard’ Workers Power now practicing entryism in Channel Four’s Economic Department (Paul Mason), of there remain Trotskyists who have not forgotten the ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUCVWXYZ of the Transitional Programme.

 

Much of the pseudo-left have indeed rallied to Corbyn’s side. Far from being a “hard left” plot to destroy the party, however, their concern is to preserve Labour’s role as the main political opposition to socialism and revolution. The Communist Party of Great Britain has long maintained the fiction that Labour is a “workers’ party” to this end, while the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition was formed as an electoral bloc between sections of the trade union bureaucracy and the pseudo-left as a means of preventing a political rebellion against Labour.

This also accounts for the backing that Corbyn has won from Unite, Britain’s largest union, along with several other unions. The greatest fear of the trade union bureaucracy is that Labour’s too obvious adoption of Tory policies will open the way for the emergence of a new, socialist, workers’ party.

But rather than proving Labour’s continued relevance to workers and youth, Corbyn’s candidacy has instead laid bare just how sclerotic, moribund and right-wing the party is. Faced with the possibility that it may be required to adopt an oppositional pose, it has gone into meltdown.

Writes Julie Hyland  on the esteemed organ of the International Committee of the Fourth International, The World Socialist Web Site.

The British section of the ICFI, the Socialist Equality Party, stood 2 candidates in the 2015 General election:  Katie Rhodes in Glasgow Central and David O’Sullivan in Holborn and St. Pancras.

They resolutely criticised the left wing alliance that also presented candidates in the election, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, and the left group, Socialist Unity.

……Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Left Unity. Representing better-off layers of the upper-middle class, these pseudo-left tendencies see the crisis only as an opportunity to further their own careers and gain lucrative posts in the trade union bureaucracy and the state apparatus.

More here.

Katie Rhodes scored  58 votes (0.1%) and David O’Sullivan obtained 100 (0,2%).

Their rivals, TUSC, stood 135 General Election candidates and won 36,327 votes, or 0.1% of the popular vote.

Meanwhile…is this what the Times has become these days?

Oh our aching sides!

Weekly Worker Sets Record Straight on Communist Infiltration of Labour Party.

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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e2/RIAN_archive_849240_XXVI_Congress_of_the_CPSU.jpg

Weekly Worker Congress, 2015 (Photo Courtesy, Sunday Times) 

“As we hit the rough midpoint of the Labour leadership contest, it is safe to say that the right – both within Labour, and meddling from without – is in total, blind panic.”

As the Labour leadership contest gets ugly, William Kane begins to worry about the sanity of the bourgeois press (Weekly Worker).

At the most delusional end, we find – unsurprisingly – The Mail on Sunday, whose foam-flecked red-baiting focuses on a truly astonishing claim from the MP, John Cryer: “I am reliably informed that members of the Militant Tendency are using Tusc [the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition] to pay £3 to vote for Corbyn.”2

Where are we to begin? Perhaps by suggesting Cryer looks up the word ‘reliable’ in a nearby dictionary, and considers whether it can really be applied to any source who claims that:

  • The Labour Party is being infiltrated by an organisation that no longer exists, and whose direct descendant, the Socialist Party in England and Wales, refuses to touch Labour – Corbyn’s campaign included – with a barge pole.
  • This infiltration is being conducted through the same organisation’s electoral front, set up as a competitor to Labour.
  • This peculiar course of action is being taken in spite of there being no need for it, since anyone can sign up for £3 if they so choose.

Indeed.

TUSC stood against Labour in the General Election.

It was made up of the Socialist Party, the SWP, and smaller forces, such as the Independent Socialist Network.

How long union support, officially from the RMT, will continue is unclear after the election of a new General Secretary.

The Socialist Party – committed to the building of a new workers’ party – is well-known for the view that Labour is a “bourgeois party” which cannot be reformed.

TUSC was prepared to stand against Labour in marginal seats.

On this basis it aroused opposition on the left:

Criticism from the Unite union

In February 2015, senior figures from Unite the Union condemned the Socialist Party and by implication TUSC, for standing candidates against Labour in marginal constituencies for the 2015 general election. The open letter addressed to the Socialist Party, which does not mention TUSC, accuses the Socialist Party of having a “derisory” electoral record.[ In response, the Socialist Party claimed that a Labour government “would be at best austerity-lite and a continuation of the crisis that faces working-class people.”

The Socialist Party may have wavered on this point (after the wave of support for Corbyn).

[Note: what the SWP thinks varies from week to week according to the rhythm of its own fads and recruitment drives,  so we shall pass over this for the moment.]

The Independent reports,

A victory for Jeremy Corbyn in Labour’s leadership contest will  effectively be “the formation of a new party” with radical socialist ideals at its core, according to the organisation that evolved from Militant, the Trotskyist faction expelled by Labour in the 1990s.

Right-leaning Labour MPs have accused Militant – which rebranded itself the ‘Socialist Party’ in 1997 following Tony Blair’s first election victory –  of  “infiltrating” the leadership contest.

The group’s deputy general secretary officially announced its formal support for Mr Corbyn claiming the unexpected surge in support for the Islington MP would “be a real step forward, and in effect the formation of a new party.”

Hannah Sell told The Independent that statements by leading Labour figures that they would not serve in a shadow cabinet headed by Mr Corbyn, pointed  to a schism, and the need for a new Labour constitution.

She forecast : “In the same way that Blair created New Labour and abandoned the values of his party, so a Corbyn victory would create the basis for a new 100 per cent anti-austerity party of the working class.”

We at the Tendance doubt this news, which would mean ditching a stand taken for well over two decades.

This is the TUSC general election result: “the party performed badly at the election, winning a mere 36,327 votes, or 0.1% of the popular vote. No parliamentary seats were gained and no deposits were saved.”

Cde Kane continues on the story that cheered us all up:

Hard left plot to infiltrate Labour race. Sunday Times 26th July.

HARRIET HARMAN has been urged to suspend the Labour leadership race after evidence emerged that hard left infiltration is fuelling a huge surge in party membership.

More than 140,000 new activists are projected to have joined by the deadline for registration to vote, a rise of more than two thirds since the election, with many signing up to back the hard left candidate Jeremy Corbyn.

The Communist party of Great Britain has called on supporters to join and back Corbyn as part of its revolutionary “strategy” while Green party activists have also been discussing how to vote for him.

He comments,

 

…we expect better things from The Sunday Times. After all, Rupert Murdoch’s papers are not indifferent to the internal goings-on of the Labour Party, but highly interventionist. We might consider them a sort of evil twin: both our organisation and their corporation think about Labour strategically, albeit from diametrically opposed political viewpoints.

How amused we were, then, to make the front page! A story about “hard-left infiltrators” voting for Corbyn seized upon our humble organisation as a significant agent in all this stuff. They quoted us – more faithfully than many comrades on the left, we might add – on transforming the Labour Party, on fighting for a left victory in the leadership election, urging people to register and vote for Corbyn.3

There was, naturally, some hair-raising revolutionary rhetoric, and a little photomontage of Provisional Central Committee chair Jack Conrad and the last issue of the paper (clearly in view, ironically enough, is the front page promo: “As Jeremy Corbyn surges ahead, right plots anti-democratic coup”). There you have it – it’s the Weekly Worker wot won it.

Seriously now – we find ourselves, above all, concerned with the precipitate decline in journalistic standards. When a mail-out writer for Labour List declared on July 27 that we “could organise an infiltration of a nine-year-old’s birthday party and I doubt anyone would notice”, he was being a touch unfair; but we do not claim to be a large organisation, and frankly even if everyone who had read this paper since Corbyn’s nomination had signed up (almost certainly not true, given our international reach), it would still not amount to a significant minority of the numbers who have done so.

It must be said that on Sunday when these stories in the Mail and Sunday Times broke, social media, that is, Facebook and Twitter, were buzzing with the happy voices of leftists chortling over their croissants and Co-op 99 tea.

Our instructions from the CPGB Central Committee (Provisional) were not slow in coming: well grubbed old mole!

More, please, please, more peals of laughter….

Cde Kane rightly observes,

we are not a large organisation, and target our propaganda more or less exclusively at other “hard leftists”, who in turn seldom take our advice.

Many on the left do read the Weekly Worker.

Some of (including the Tendance) have written for it.

It is well worth a read.

Now…must ask Cde Kane on next line (with approval from the SPA. GS?).

 

Nothing is True and Everything is Possible. Peter Pomerantsev. Review: Coming to You – Now!

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Nothing is True and Everything is Possible. Adventures in Modern Russia. Peter Pomerantsev. Faber and Faber 2005.

The richest man in Britain is Odessa born Len Blavatnik. He made billions from Russian oil after the collapse of the Soviet Union, owns Warner Music and lives in a £41m mansion in Kensington. Many other billionaires, whose fortune originates in post-Communist capitalism, appeared in last weekend’s Sunday Times Rich List.

Russia, Nothing is True begins, is the homeland of the “new jet set”, the “the richest, the most powerful, the most dangerous.” In Moscow, Peter Pomerantsev continues, “performance” is what counts. Life is one “glittering masquerade”.

Moscow even has a high performing English language television station, available on free-view in the UK. Russia Today, now known as RT, was set up by Presidential decree and a generous budget. George Galloway MP has his own show, Sputnik. Other figures on the outer circles of the British left, including the Stop the War Coalition, and supporters of convicted electoral fraudster, the former Tower Hamlets Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, appear regularly on RT (though the man himself is oddly absent).  They are treated with the respect they perhaps consider that they unfairly lack in mainstream political life.

Pomerantsev, British born and educated, with fluent Russian from his émigré parents, plunged deeply into the whirlwind world of post-Soviet energy-capitalism. Nothing is True tells of his time working in television, “factual entertainment”.

As a producer Pomerantsev was employed for the station TNT, sponsored by the planet’s largest gas company. His first commission was How to Marry a Millionaire A Gold Digger’s Guide. He meets ‘former’ gangsters, like Vitaly Djomochka, who’d won fame through a mini-series about the life of criminals, The Spets, featuring real guns and bullets. He encounters a one-time Irish academic economist, Benedict, who’d run the gamut of Russian double-dealing and corruption before washing up at RT – only to be tossed aside when he will not co-operate with secret service. The Irishman, approaching retirement, retreated to Kaliningrad, the home of his wife. This Russian enclave in the Baltic has a waterfront that’s a replica of “seventeenth-century gingerbread German town”. These building are “hollow to the touch, painted Perspex, and plaster imitating stone, timber and iron.”

Raw tragedy comes to Pomerantsev when investigating the apparent suicide in New York of former supermodel, Ruslana Korshunova. She is linked to a “personal development” cult, Rose of the World. Its techniques come from a training programme used by Lifespring – the subject of numerous lawsuits in the United States. The television producer becomes interested in other post-Soviet cults. There was Kashpirovsky, who miraculously charged water via television with “healing energy”. There are the Night Wolves, ultra-nationalist bikers presently re-enacting the progress of the Red Army into Eastern Europe. There are lots, and lots, of other ultra-nationalists, New Age sects, like Vissarion’s New New Testament, and Orthodox traditionalists proclaiming anew Moscow as the Third Rome. Overt racists, Stalin worshipers dot the scenery.

Nothing is True is an in-depth trip into the landscape sketched in the BBC 3 series, Reggie Yates’ Extreme Russia. It could be read as fantasy reportage – part Narnia, part Mordor. But if this sounds a refined, and frankly, brilliant, essay on Kitsch – a word springing to mind during the portraits of the festivals of the Russian wealthy – Nothing is True is never less than serious. The Kremlin ‘demiurge’, Vladislav Surkov, “the political technologist of all of Rus”, may be Sauron. But he also Aslan. “The brilliance of this new type of authoritarianism is that instead of simply oppressing opposition, as has been the case with twentieth century strains, it climbs inside all ideologies and movements, exploiting them and rendering them absurd.” (Page 79) Pomerantsev worked as a generously paid consultant for a liberal media house, SNOB, which stands as a case study in the official tolerance and promotion of such “oppositions”.

Post-Modern Politics.

Surkov, we are not in the least surprised to learn, is a fan of post-modern theories of simulacra. Pomerantsev does not name the texts in detail, but you can instantly feel the presence of Jean Baudrillard at work – or should we say, his lingering hyper-réalité. From the façades of Kaliningrad to the wars between Moscow business-gangster clans, the Oligarchs, to the battles in Ukraine, there are so many kinds of ‘surface’, that even the master-players get lost. They speak « several languages at the same time ». This is not just double-think, a split between what you say in the public and the private derision you cover it with, but, contrary to Pomerantsev’s own judgement, but a boundless enthusiasm for playing.

Is this just a Russian phenomenon ? Former Mayor Lutfur Rahman and his Tower Hamlets First Party look in many respects to have come out of Surkov’s tool-kit. A little anti-austerity for the left, a little religious enthusiasm for the ‘community’, the brazen funding of ‘players’, the ‘management’ of elections, the cajoling, the bullying…..

People, and not just ideologies, get mangled in this game. The ‘anti-hegemonic’ message of RT seduces European nationalists with anti-EU messages, religious reactionaries by the Kremlin’s fight against homosexuality, the far-left by tales of fighting US imperialism, the grinning ninnies of the Keisler Report try win business converts by criticising Western financial malpractice.

But the baron-bureaucrats of Moscow are not principally interested in taunting the West from the inside. They are part of a wealth accumulating machine that will crush anybody who gets in their way: rival oligarchs and masters of democratic and ultra-nationalist simulation in the Ukraine, the Russian masses, that is, anybody who does business with them.

“The worst thing is, that in all this interactive ferment, there is not the even the shadow of a new political space, or a new public spirit.” (“Le plus grave est qu’il n’y a pas dans tout ce bouillonnment interactif, l’ombre d’un nouvel espace politique ou d’un nouvel esprit public.” Jean Baudrillard. La Gauche Divine. 1985.)

Posts by Peter Pomerantsev LRB.

Badiou: Deleuze, Guattari and the ‘fascisme de la pomme de terre’.

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Badiou, Shanghai “la plus mémorable mobilisation démocratique que le monde ait jamais connue.Badiou: Deleuze,

Guattari and the ‘fascisme de la pomme de terre’.

Alain Badiou’s political philosophy is, apparently, grounded on singular situated truths and potential revolutions. Fidelity to the invariant truth is a matter of procedure. What he calls an ‘Idea’’ has three basic elements, “a truth procedure, a belonging to history and individual subjectivation”. Authenticity, we might say were we admirers of Sartre’s philosophy, hangs in there.

This has a range (to put it as its most modest) of applications. But Badiou is best known for his politics (which are not renowned for their modesty).

On the Chinese ‘Cultural Revolution’, the professor has aroused controversy time and time again by giving a positive, glowing, account (“at any rate from 1965 to 1968” although he does not give the exact day of the week in this time-span) of this “political truth”. (1) These have had local, indeed spatial, moorings, no doubt, for example, in Maoist re-education camps as well as some time in Shanghai. There is the also the possibility of becoming a “militant for the truth”, perhaps, one might hazard, exemplified in the acts of the Union des communistes de France (marxiste-léninistes), the UJM (M-L) founded in 1969 by Alain Badiou and others whose names, sadly or not, few can recall or care about.

On the issue of Communism the professor has declaimed that the “Idea of communism, subjectivation constituted the link between the local belonging to a political procedure and the huge forward march towards its collective emancipation. To give out a flyer in a marketplace was also to mount the stage of History” (2) In the light of, er, recent and not so recent events, Badiou is not enthusiastic about the State’s ability to deliver Communism. A True Communist Event occurs only when it is “subtracted from the power of the State. “ Yet he notes with pleasure that Mao “had begun” to deal with this issue, incarnated by Stalin, “in a number of his writings” – which Badiou has commented on “guided by the eternity of the True.” (3)

Alain Badiou is perhaps reticent, for reasons which will become apparent,  to mention that he too has mounted History’s stage. He too has experience of the “vigorous subjective existence of the communist hypothesis.” Indeed as Francis Dosse’s biography Gilles Deleuze Félix Guattari. Biographie Croisée (2009) illustrates in a fascinating snapshot, it was indeed “vigorous”.

In the journal of the UJM (M-L) Cahier Yénan (No 4. 1977) Badiou attacked the celebrated joint work of Deleuze and Guattari, L’anti-Œdipe as “vulgar moralisers”, and for ignoring the scientific teachings of Marxism-Leninism. The second piece under the pseudonym of Georges Peyrol, was titled, Le fascime de la pomme de terre. Badiou observed that the pair were “pre-fascists”. Badiou frothed at the metaphor of the “rhizome”, to grasp the tentacles of multiple being, the proliferation of social shoots (most celebrated in their Mille plateaux 1980). The Ontologist detected a parallel with Lin Biao’s revisionism, the One that dived into Two, had subtly become the One that symbolised the Tyrant. (4)

Revisionists! Pre-Fascists! During the 1970s these words did not just hang in the air in the Vincennes campus where both Badiou and Deleuze taught. Tendance Coatesy has already recorded the history of the oh-so-sage Professor’s Maoist troops during that period. Their efforts to imitate the Shanghai Commune included their assaults on another ‘revisionist’, Maria Antonitta Macciocchi. In this instance a colleague ran the intimidation from the same department of philosophy.

At the beginning the hostile M-L claque’s presence ensured that the lectures ended early. Later they would try to disrupt Deleuze’s lectures by claiming that a student union meeting to back a workers’ struggle was being held; other times the more erudite mentioned the bogey-name of Nietzsche (Deleuze’s 1963 study on whom no doubt proving by its title alone proof of serious pre-fascism). The admirers of the Little Red Book also assailed others, Jean-François Lyotard, and François Châtelet.

The stunts of the little band of Badiou’s Marxist-Leninists petered out as the decade proceeded. That has its own history, one which awaits Badiou to tell with anything resembling the truth.

When Deleuze passed away in 1995, Badiou, Dosse recounts, gave him a “vibrant homage.” He considered himself a “worthy successor” of Deleuze in his present Chair, on condition that one read him in the light of the “bonne philosophie” (the right philosophy). According to Dosse Badiou revealed that in 1991 he had proposed to Delueze to hold a public exchange of views (at the time when one of the Deleuze’s best-known works, What is Philosophy, was published). This was refused but as the resulting correspondence, giving reasons for this refusal, was apparently important. He equally refused to let this be published, which left Badiou with material he could not render public.

The book which did get to the printers, is Badiou’s, Delueze. La Clameur de l’Être (1997). It no doubt interests those fascinated by the obscurity of a (until very recent) apologist for the Khmer Rouge, and a conformed admirer of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. What rankles Dosse is that Badiou baldly repeats a much earlier idea: that Deleuze’s philosophy centres on the ONE, “C’est la venue de l’Un, renommé par Delueze l’Un-tout, que se consacre, dans sa plus haute destination, la pensée.” (5) In other words, he repeated, at the core of this ‘study’  the ridiculous claims he made back in the days of Cahier Yénan dressed up in more elliptical and pretentious language. He further – we note ourselves –  charged that Deleuze was something of a Stoic – which to many people has more than w whiff of his old ‘cultural revolution’ or more exactly Gang of Four  thinking about attacking ‘Confucius’.

Still, at least he didn’t call him once more a ‘pre-fascist’.

That’s Badiou for fidelity, hein?

(1) Page 2. The Idea of Communism. Alain Badiou. In The Idea of Communism. Edited Costas Douzinas & Slavoj Žižek. Verso. 2010. (2) Page 4. Badiou. Op cit. (3) Page 10.  Badiou. Op cit. (4) Pages 432 – 434. Francis Dosse Gilles Deleuze Félix Guattari. Biographie Croisée La Découverte. 2009 (5) Page 435. Dosse Op cit.

Everything (mostly) that you wanted to know about the politics of the fraud Badiou here: Révolution culturelle : Alain Badiou, le Grand Prestidigitateur. CLAUDE HUDELOT

This is worth noting, although it includes a link to Badiou’s evasive responses, Editor Calls Badiou a “Frozen Dinosaur”

Badiou is no stranger to Maoist militancy of his own. When he worked at the same university as Gilles Deleuze, he declared Deleuze an “enemy of the people” and would bring groups of fellow Maoist to disrupt the class.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 9, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Should We Ditch Multiculturalism? Response to Kenan Malik.

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Kurdish Fighters for Humanity.

Should We Ditch Multiculturalism?

The 100th Anniversary of the genocide of the Armenians was on Sunday the 5th of April. Le Monde reminded us that it “was in the name of Jihad that the Ottoman Empire entered the war against the Entente on the 1st of November 1914. It was also in the name of Holy War that the massacre of the Armenian Christians took place.” (Génocide des Arménians. Gaïdz Minassian. 4.4.15).

Few will need reminding of the echoes Minassian’s words evoke today. On Sunday Pope Francis and Justin Welby the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke to a much larger audience than their religious constituencies when they deplored the exactions Christians faced across the world today. The carefully weighed dignity of these speeches does not need underlining. Their martyrs are humanity’s martyrs.

Another intervention was made on Sunday by Kenan Malik in the Observer (Diversity and Immigration are not the problem. Political courage is. 5.4.15). Malik is not afraid to confront the issue of Jihadism. While most Muslims are integrated and “proud to be British” (83%) there is a problem. He writes that official multiculturalism is based on the idea of constructing Britain as a “community of communities”. The resulting state strategy pushes people into boxes, “as if each were distinct homogeneous whole”. In this move, the “most conservative figures came to be accepted as the authentic voice of minority groups.” Government run multiculturalism has fostered a “parochial sense of identity”. In these conditions “a small group of Muslims”, have found an “identity and an authentic Islam in Islamism.”

The Observer article describes another form of identity politics in the rise of UKIP. Some of Farage’s supporters (not least his activists) are “hard-line racists”. But the party’s wider support comes “from people whose hostility towards immigrants or Islam is shaped less by old-fashioned racism than by a newfangled sense of fear and insecurity.” “Euroscepticism, nationalism, opposition to immigration and populism” have a strong appeal for the ‘left behind’, the “disadvantaged and economically secure” as Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin have argued (Revolt on the Right. Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain. 2014).

Malik explains this in terms of his criticism of multiculturalism, “Once class identity comes to be seen as a cultural attribute, then those regarded as culturally different have come to be viewed as threats.” The ‘Polish builder’ or the ‘Bangladeshi neighbour’ come to symbolise the menacing forces of globalisation.

Despite the appeal of this picture it is not at all clear that one can explain the attraction of Jihadism in purely British terms. Every European country has a different set of policies towards communities of immigrant origin. France has, to say the least, not adopted multiculturalism. There are nevertheless Islamists, from a spectrum that goes from ‘conservatives’ (the polite British way of saying reactionary when it comes to Islamic politics) aligned to the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups, a variety of Salafist forces, to those (crossing over to) active Jihadists. Those recruited to fight for the Islamic State, Daesh, come from across the continent, and from elsewhere. This includes North Africa, including democratic Tunisia, countries whose politics and culture are criss-crossed with Europe’s.

Like Jihadism the rise of UKIP cannot be explained in purely British terms. The strong vote for the French Front National in the country’s elections has indicated a similar ‘left behind’ constituency. Identical language is used to explain the FN’s support in France: a protest at “post-industrial society” a loss of references, a wounded nationalism. (Le FN perce dans de nouveaux territories. Le Monde. 25.3.15.)

Malik has already tied these themes together. In A search for identity draws jihadis to the horrors of Isis, he argued in March,

Identity politics has, over the last three decades, encouraged people to define themselves in increasingly narrow ethnic or cultural terms. A generation ago, “radicalised” Muslims would probably have been far more secular in their outlook and their radicalism would have expressed itself through political organisations. Today, they see themselves as Muslim in an almost tribal sense, and give vent to their disaffection through a stark vision of Islam.

These developments have shaped not just Muslim self-perception but that of most social groups. Many within white working-class communities are often as disengaged as their Muslim peers, and similarly see their problems not in political terms but through the lens of cultural and ethnic identity. Hence the growing hostility to immigration and diversity and, for some, the seeming attraction of far-right groups.

Racist populism and radical Islamism are both, in their different ways, expressions of social disengagement in an era of identity politics.

There are specific influences at work in Britain. In From Fatwa to Jihad. The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy (2009) Malik filled in the details about how “conservative figures” came to be seen as leaders of Muslim communities. It was protests against Salmon Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. “What it really catalysed was a transformation of Islamism in Britain. The Rushdie affair provided an opportunity to bring order to the chaos of the fissiparous Islamist landscape – and for Islamists to stake a claim for the leadership of British Muslims and to present themselves as their true representatives.”(Page 123)

If Malik asserts that today’s jihadists are ‘estranged’ from their communities, others would argued that there are overlaps between these forms of Islamist politics and the violence of Al-Queda and ISIS. Awareness of the differences between the different strands of these movements should not prevent us from noting that some groups function as ‘paserelles’ between open and clandestine Islamism. Above all the emphasis on this form of religious politics, by definition identitarian, exclusive and intolerant, indicates a constituency for the central demands of rule by the Qur’an and the Sharia alone – the core of violent jihad. The Islamist project has taken the form of areas in which the ‘Sharia’ is enforced in a limited territory, to the ambition to restore a much large ‘Caliphate’. In Europe the practice of Islamists, notably Salafists, has been to attempt to create their own ‘micro-powers’  in which their form of ‘justice’ is preached, and, if possible put into practice.

Islamism and the Left.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the publication of the Satanic Verses. But one issue has remained constant: demands for “group right.” The response of British Muslims to the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher Supermarket were in general restrained. The small number of Moslems who raised calls in the name of this right to ban offence to the image of the Prophet marched to general indifference. They had little of the impact of the Rushdie protests – not least, as the British state does not seem at present anxious to recognise their ‘leadership’. It was left to self-proclaimed liberals and socialists to make the loudest clamour about the weekly’s ‘racist’ and ‘pornographic’ cartoons.

Why is this? As Michael Walzer has remarked, (Islamism and the Left. Dissent. Winter 2015.)

I frequently come across leftists who are more concerned with avoiding accusations of Islamophobia than they are with condemning Islamist zealotry. This is an odd position with relation to the Muslim world today, but it makes some sense in Western Europe and possibly also in America, where Muslims are recent immigrants, the objects of discrimination, police surveillance, sometimes police brutality, and popular hostility. I have heard Muslims called the “new Jews.” That’s not a helpful analogy, since Muslims in today’s Western Europe have never been attacked by Christian crusaders, expelled from one country after another, forced to wear distinctive dress, barred from many professions, and slaughtered by Nazis. In fact, right now, some Muslim militants are among the chief purveyors of anti-Semitism in Europe (they get a lot of help from neo-fascists in France and Germany and other countries, too.

He continues,

All these left responses to Islamist zealots—identification, support, sympathy, apology, tolerance, and avoidance—look very strange if we consider the actual content of their ideology. Jihadi opposition to “the West” should provoke serious worry on the left before any other response. Boko Haram began with an attack on “Western-style” schools, and other Islamist groups have undertaken similar attacks, especially on schools for girls. Values that the zealots denounce as “Western” are very much in contention here: individual liberty, democracy, gender equality, and religious pluralism.

And makes this telling point,

But individual liberty, democracy, gender equality, and religious pluralism aren’t really Western values; they are universal values that first appeared in strong, modern versions in Western Europe and the Americas. These are the values that pretty much define the left, which also first appeared in its strong, modern version in Western Europe and the Americas. The left is an eighteenth-century invention, an invention of the secular Enlightenment.

Without following the argument in details an important response has to be made to Walzar’s critic, Andrew March, who notes this,

A first dimension is a consideration of the way the Islamist challenge to post-Enlightenment left principles might cause those on the liberal left to rethink their core commitments. The model here is Marx’s critique of bourgeois rights in “On the Jewish Question,” the ur-text for all subsequent leftist skepticism about formal rights, legal equality, and individual negative freedom. There are, of course, hard and soft versions of this. A hard version dismisses rights and parliamentary democracy tout court as bourgeois fictions that obstruct rather than advance emancipation. A softer version merely cautions us against seeing the achievement of rights, representative democracy, and negative freedoms as the final victory rather than as a necessary first step toward deeper forms of freedom and solidarity.

Speaking as somebody from the ‘real left’ (apparently something these academics are fond of arguing the toss about) I agree with Walzer. I have no truck with ‘post-Enlightenment’ readings of human rights. I will stop following March’s argument at this point to make this clear, Marx’s early writings, strongly influenced by the notion that ’emancipation’ was something ‘beyond’ the individualism of bourgeois society, failed to grapple with their enduring material appeal. But the issue of the value of rights was taken up by the 19th century left and embodied in the programmes of many parties, including one of the most dogmatic, the Parti Ouvrier Français (founded 1880). Marx’s later writings include sterling defences of human rights, as Robin Blackburn’s An Unfinished Revolution: Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln (2011) indicates. They show a separation between right and power – the demands for what should be, and the actual state or government called on to deliver these declared needs. Embodied, or crystalised in substantial form, they are the backbone of the socialist and social democratic movement – as the fight over the British Welfare State demonstrates.

This applies equally to the ‘imperialist’ powers and the Islamic pro-states, to capitalism and to the (former) Stalinist regimes. Walzer emphasises Islamism for the obvious reason that it offers no possible mechanism for the translation of universal rights into power. March’s other arguments fall apart because they do not look at the importance this now holds for international politics and for the left. They are perhaps the best existing example to show that Claude Lefort’s description of a ‘totalitarian society’ as the ‘People as One’ is seriously flawed. The Islamist apparatus of power-knowledge, of surveillance, of discipline and punishment,  is the People Under the Vice-Regenency of God ( L’Invention démocratique,1981). Demands for human rights sound the trumpet of their defeat.

The flaws of the left’s position on Islam were dramatically shown in the way concern about Islamopobia has been allowed to over-ride support for democratic universal rights It is not only been the unedifying spectacle of those still trying to fish for Moslem souls for their groupuscules. The response to the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper-Casher tainted the left up its intellectual pinnacles. New Left Review has put on its website virulent attacks on French laïcité that evoke memories of the hatred of secularists – ‘laïcards’ – and Republican universalism expressed pre-Great War by Action française. Perhaps it is no coincidence that some of the Review’s authors are associated with the American Counterpunch which has seen fit to publish material questioning the innocence of Dreyfus….

Our Response.

It a different response it is important that the left responds firmly to the ‘fear and insecurity’ created by violent Islamism. This is not because of UKIP supporters’ ‘concerns’: it is to stand up for our sisters and brothers in every country where Jihadists threaten them. Few people on the left will deny that Western intervention in the Middle East has been a disaster. The UK government’s appeal to ‘British values’, apart from sounding hollow, is not an answer to a global problem. Freedom and democracy, fighting oppression and exploitation, have universal appeal. It is urgent that we stand with those fighting Islamism, and its foreign supporters, on the ground, above the heroic struggle of the Kurdish people. There is little clearer than this battle: rights and equality against genocide and slavery. These principles and objectives, which are secular and uniting, releasing us from communalist boxes, are the only ones which can confront Islamism and UKIP and the rightward – xenophobic – moving political landscape.

Malik notes the decline of the “economic and political power of the working class”. But the labour movement, in the broad sense, still has some substance in Britain. It is up to up those who are part of it to make its weight felt. Tackling austerity, bring people together for a programme of social advance may help make inroads into the constituency of the left behind. Should we then, to bolster our politics, drop all reference to multiculturalism – or more exactly the institutional policies of ‘community relations’ in the UK? Ought we instead “defend diversity and immigration”? There is little doubt that official multiculturalism is bogged down in the type of politics that has fed reactionary identity politics. But multicultural facts are not to be opposed. That in this sense it operates as  simply another word for diversity.

It’s hard to see Malik’s demands making their way to party manifestos, or onto demonstration placards. It is also far from obvious that this response that will be able to influence the wider public, left alone official policy. But there are hopeful signs for a broader change in politics that may contribute to giving them some substance.

The disgust many feel at the failure of some on the left to take a stand in favour of the anti-racist anti-fascist Charlie Hebdo, not to mention on the public murders of our Bangladeshi comrades by Islamists, the groundswell in favour of backing our Kurdish sisters and brothers, show some basis for a different approach. Diversity and the defence of immigration are part of that stand. Pro-European and world-wide internationalism another. We shall honour the martyrs by this fight. We will not let their deaths pass in silence.

Communist Party of Britain Backs Former Ukraine President’s “anti-Austerity” policies.

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Donestk Anti-Austerity Activists Says Communist Party of Britain.

The People’s Assembly has launched a Manifesto Against Austerity.

“The manifesto makes a compelling and powerful case for an alternative to austerity based on the needs of ordinary people — “A people’s Britain, not a bankers’ Britain.” It calls for a the building of a sustained mass movement to bring that alternative about, rather than simply calling for general election votes.”

The Communist Party of Britain has taken upon itself to add these comments to this – admirable –  document (Communist Party. For Peace and Socialism. Date: 2nd of March).

Bill Greenshields, CP representative on national committee of the People’s Assembly, says,

Challenging the pro-austerity and pro-privatisation media and political consensus is a dangerous thing to do. That’s the increasingly strident message from big business and the bankers through their representatives in national governments, the EU and Washington.

British special services “advisers” have arrived in Ukraine to strengthen the armed forces and fascist paramilitaries of the Poroshenko government.

This is part of a war against those who resisted the Western-backed coup against President Yanukovych.

He had committed the crime of rejecting austerity economics and politics, therefore saying “No” to closer ties with the EU.

As EU and US sanctions are ratcheted up against Russia for daring to give political support to the antifascists, Britain says it will “not yet provide lethal equipment” to the “Euromaiden” coup leaders now in control of the Ukrainian state. For how long? The threat of escalating war and foreign intervention to consolidate their pro-EU austerity “reforms” becomes greater.

Brother Bill recommends to the People’s Assembly this wisdom,

The movement needs to reflect the democratic structures that have grown among the anti-austerity antifascists in Ukraine…

We hesitate to make a comment.

Or perhaps one is not needed.

(Initially discovered here)

New Atheism Behind ‘War on Muslims’ – Morning Star

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Hate-Filled Philosophy Inspired Killer Craig Hicks.

The Morning Star today (Hat-tip Jim D).

The War on Muslims Reaches US Soil.

Somebody called Ramzay Baroud writes,

The murder of three US Muslims at a University of North Carolina condominium last week was no ordinary murder, nor is the criminal who killed them an ordinary thug.

The Daily explains,

Hicks, the terrorist who killed the three young Muslims, subscribes to a school of thought known as New Atheism — what (sic)  religious scholar Reza Aslan refers to as the school of “anti-theism.”

It is, in part, another hate-filled platform, and despite its supposed disdain for all religions, its malicious energy mostly targets Muslims.

New Atheists are of course different from the majority of atheists, who don’t use that designation to foment hate against a specific religious group.

The anti-theist idols include the likes of Richard Dawkins and US author Sam Harris, who, according to Aslan, respond “to religion with the same venomous ire with which religious fundamentalists respond to atheism.”

So,

Hicks too hated the three Muslim kids based on that same foolish, murderous logic.

But hating Muslims is not your everyday racism and prejudice, which has been “as American as apple pie and napalm” (a funny, sad line from the US comedy, M*A*S*H).

(Note: very funny, ha, ha.)

It is a readily available fodder for the ongoing war and future war in Muslim countries. It is the required amount of dehumanisation needed to wage war.

The ‘author’ then splurges in another direction,

Hicks is of the Fox News demographic, a gun-toting, unreasonably and immeasurably angry white US citizen. Self-proclaimed atheist or otherwise, it matters little (sic).

So Hicks, we are told, killed the students “execution-style” because of a dispute over parking spaces.

The same way that Chris Kyle — “the American Sniper” — made 164 confirmed “kills” in Iraq, targeting “savages” because that’s what national heroes do.

(Note ‘in the same way’….)

He concludes, spluttering,

It is time for Muslims to demand that Obama issue more than a statement but call the US government and hate-filled media to account. These outrageous double standards must end, before more innocent lives are taken.

And why not call the ‘New Atheists’ to account?

Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins beware: be afraid, be very afraid..

******

Further notes on Baroud’s politics (from here, January 8th 2015)

He thinks this: “Islam has set in motion a system to abolish slavery over 1,200 years before the slave trade reached its peak in the western world. ” (no Arab slave trade…..), “gender equality in Islam has been enshrined in the language of the Koran and the legacy of the Prophet Mohammed.”

I can’t be bothered with most of this history-as-fairy-story but I notice this in the same article

Baroud rails at the “the pornographic satire of Charlie Hebdo and its targeting of Prophet Mohammed…” and then remarks of those condemning the attack:

Did any of these “intellectuals” pause to think that maybe, just maybe, the violent responses to demeaning Islamic symbols reflect a real political sentiment, say for example, a collective feeling of humiliation, hurt, pain and racism that extend to every corner of the globe? 

Charlie had it coming to them…

As no doubt did the Jewish customers at the Porte de Vincennes Hyper Cacher.