Archive for the ‘Trotskyism’ Category
Relatives rally to mark anniversary of abduction by Boko Haram and demand security from new Nigerian president.
Let us also remember the Stop the War Coalition’s response to this tragedy,
Nigeria, Boko Haram and the fantasies of benevolent western intervention Xavier Best. May 2014 (originally from Counterpunch – where else?)
Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls and US policymakers and the “free press” have exploded into a fit of pro-interventionist hysteria. It’s hard to escape media reports about the ruthless cruelty of Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau and his vow to sell his hostages into slavery.
Outrage has covered a broad spectrum of media and political personalities from Rep. Peter King who said “If the president decided to use special forces, I certainly would not oppose them,” to Michelle Obama who joined the “Bring Back Our Girls” Twitter campaign and released a video condemning the “grown men” in Boko Haram attempting to “snuff out” the aspirations of young girls.
Missing from this hysteria is a serious look at the US role on the African continent and the credibility of its “humanitarian” claims. Since the early post-war period the US has been an overwhelmingly negative force in Africa. Shortly after the Second World War US policy makers decided that the African continent “was to be ‘exploited’ for the reconstruction of Europe.”
The author adds,
It is widely conceded that the popular base of Boko Haram is a response to severe economic inequality that has disproportionately impacted Nigeria’s northern region. Unlike the south, Nigeria’s north faces severe problems meeting basic human needs of education, healthcare and clean water. Unemployment among young males in northern Nigeria “is in excess of 50 percent.”
This stark inequality is largely a symptom of what’s commonly called its “oil curse”, nations which are extraordinarily rich in natural resources but, due to corporate and often western-backed policies, are unable to meet the basic material and educational needs of its citizens. Consequences of this curse can be deciphered in the Pentagon’s latest Quadrennial Defense Review where the Department of Defense outlines a policy “to sustain a heightened alert posture in regions like the Middle East and North Africa.” The review also highlights “the security of the global economic system” as one of the primary goals of US “National Security Strategy.”
Many would dismiss these observations as a “justification” of Boko Haram’s crimes but it’s quite the opposite. The crimes of the Nigerian state, amply documented by reputable organizations like Human Rights Watch, have done far more to strengthen the arguments of Boko Haram than any analyst ever could.
The crimes of the Nigerian state apart, as far as one can tell the StWC’s main concern was the stop a Western Military intervention…….in Nigeria!
There is absolutely no analysis of the totalitarian machine and murderous ideology of Boko Haram.
That they regard the kidnapped women as war booty, in line with their version of Islamism, is just pushed aside with a few words. ‘Hysteria’ – they call it.
Nothing about the history of the North of Nigeria, their background as Muslim states, where slavery was continued well into the twentieth century, and where the Sharia is increasingly imposed – making non-Muslims into second-class citizens. Nothing, for these self-declared ‘anti-imperialists’, on the enduring imprint of Shehu Usman dan Fodio (1754 – 1817) who established a government in Northern Nigeria based on Islam before the advent of Colonialism. The British Colonial Government thereafter established indirect rule in Northern Nigeria based on the structure of this Islamic government.
Nothing on how Nigerian governments have failed to tackle the deep-rooted bigotry of the Northern Islamists, and in particular the cultural presuppositions that have favoured the growth of Boko Haram, that interact with social inequalities. Or indeed the rest of the religious-social issues in the country’s complex politics.
In these conditions religious ideology, worked out in proto-state military apparatuses like Boko Haram, are, to put it mildly, material forces.
Instead we had a range of the same commentary from the StWC people about ‘imperialism’.
This is one: How Nigeria’s kidnapped girls have become tools of US imperial policy in Africa. Glenn Ford 21 May 2014.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a climate change denier is in possession of good fortune, and must be in want of right-wing sponsors.“
Spiked-on-Line (ex-Living Marxism, Revolutionary Communist Party)
Hat-Tip: Adam Barnett.
Left Foot Forward carries this story: Why is the Daily Express still quoting this crank in its weather stories?
Climate change denier Piers Corbyn believes the earth is ‘cooling’.
The Express reports: Piers Corbyn, forecaster for WeatherAction, said: “It is going to be very warm and sunny, with strong sunshine making it very hot and dry.“We could certainly beat 24C (75F) or 25C and even nudge close to a 27C (80F) in some spots which get the best of the sunshine.”
Adam notes: “Here’s Piers Corbyn on global warming, from his website” …we point out that the world is now cooling not warming and there is no observational evidence in the thousands and millions of years of data that changes in CO2 have any effect on weather or climate.”
Corbyn is wont to attack “Green Fools” who believe in climate change.
He is a one-man one-idea one-voice rebuttal of Naomi Klein.
On his more than strange website (Weather Action), this cartoon appears,
This quote gives a flavour of his thinking,
Polar bears did very well in the warmer times. They didn’t die out at all; they didn’t die out in the last 10,000 years, nor during the previous interglacial, nor the one before that. So, they’re just used as a deceitful heartthrob; you know, to pluck your heartstrings because the polar bears might die out.
This has drawn the admiration of London May Boris Johnson (Daily Telegraph. January 2013),
I wish I knew more about what is going on, and why. It is time to consult once again the learned astrophysicist, Piers Corbyn.
Now Piers has a very good record of forecasting the weather. He has been bang on about these cold winters. Like JMW Turner and the Aztecs he thinks we should be paying more attention to the Sun. According to Piers, global temperature depends not on concentrations of CO2 but on the mood of our celestial orb. Sometime too bright the eye of heaven shines, said Shakespeare, and often is his gold complexion dimmed. That is more or less right. There are times in astronomical history when the Sun has been churning out more stuff — protons and electrons and what have you — than at other times. When the Sun has plenty of sunspots, he bathes the Earth in abundant rays.
Adam is not equally impressed,
But Mr Corbyn is in a league of his own. As a study by researchers at the University of Sunderland into his wacky method of making weather predictions months in advance reported: “Some forecasts are clearly very good, and a few are very poor, but the majority fall in the grey area in between, where an optimistic assessor would find merit, but a critical assessor would find fault.“ In other words, you could get as reliable a weather forecast by looking out of a window.
I looked out of my window during the Winter and noticed it was oddly warm the whole time, with no snow at all in Ipswich. Corbyn proved wrong! In the 1970s Piers Corbyn (Wikipedia) was a member of the International Marxist Group.
His ‘student cell’, based in London University affiliate (independent since 2007) Imperial College, was somewhat separate to other IMG London student groups. Notably from the Central London Cell, ULU, Central London Poly and FE colleges, (I was a member, doing my ‘A’ levels at Westminster Further Education College), and the LSE cell.
The little band of Imperial College strugglers that Piers was part of rankled the Uni authorities and the NUS top-knobs. Apart from that I personally knew little of them.
This recounts part of Piers’ political career, described in a highly unsympathetic not to say, sub-Spart, way by an anarchist, (BM Blob. 1988).
One spokesperson that became well known was Piers Corbyn. He was a Trotskyist apparatchik belonging to the International Marxist Group (before the IMG dissolved itself into the Labour party). His influence was immense as regards general Elgin Ave policy and the line taken by the squatters newspaper (EASY-Elgin Avenue Squatters? Yes! ) This newspaper emphasized getting support from this or that institution (e.g. Young Liberals or, Paddington’s then Labour MP) and rubbished the libertarian current which called for “Free Housing for all” instead of the usual “nationalize the land” nonsense. The former demand was put forward by The Diggers who had a few years earlier been based elsewhere in Notting Hill. Later they were to become the backbone of the Rainbow Tribe Tepee people (c/f above photo) and The Peace Convoy.
This continues in a similar vein:
Despite all the mystifications and contradictions surrounding an alternative lifestyle, they nonetheless in Elgin Ave and elsewhere called for a radical approach to housing. Although Corbyn was an adept entryist and able, at times, to push para-state bodies like Student Community Housing (SCH) and the obsessively legalistic, Family Squatting Advisory Service (FSHS) he also kept getting way-laid by the libertarian atmosphere of Notting Hill. He once noted for instance how a guy known as “Shaky Dave” found in building street barricades, more therapeutic help than anything social workers, asylums or drug dependence had to offer. Later – befitting the trajectory of the IMG – Corbyn became a Labour party councillor in Southwark (Elgin Ave was rehoused in Camberwell) where from his bureaucratic perch, he defended the Pullens Estate and other Southwark squatters against the more Militant controlled Southwark Council who were evicting them. Many a Southwark squatter has mouthed-off about Corbyn, often saying how his presence spreads the illusion that something can be done by reforming the Council, thus pacifying the necessary direct action. One anarchist even punched him in the face.
There was an interview with Corbyn about the Notting Hill period on the BBC 4 series, “Lefties”. He has we learn, left the Labour Party. Down in his manor another opportunity opens: The Republican Socialist Campaign in the General Election for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, 2015
Republican Socialist Stands for Bermondsey The Republican Socialist Party (RSP) has chosen its first ever parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark, the seat currently held by Simon Hughes. Steve Freeman, who stood for the constituency as an independent in 2010, has agreed to stand.
Pundits are confidently predicating that Steve may well, possibly, get into double figure votes. With all that lovely climate change denying dosh sloshing about Piers will no doubt be tempted to support a fellow struggler for truth. Or perhaps he is happy with the UKIP backing Daily Express.
Islamists Join with Right-Wing Against Gay Marriage in France.
This has been signaled to me (JM):
Hassan Aglagal, Moroccan member of the NPA (Nouveau parti anti-capitaliste), is outraged to see Muslim Participation and Spirituality (Participation et Spiritualité musulmane), a reactionary religious movement of Moroccan origin, regularly participate in anti-racism initiatives alongside left formations. Following our position against holding a joint meeting with the UOIF [ 1 ] , he asked us to make public his outrage at this situation.
(1) L’Union des organisations islamiques de France. A Muslim Brotherhood grouping (The Qur’an is our Constitution!) with social and political views on most issues that would classify it on the reactionary right (see Pourquoi je n’irai pas au rassemblement contre l’islamophobie aux côtés de l’UOIF). Its British counterpart is represented in Unite Against Fascism (UAF) by Mohammed Kozbar of the Muslim Association of Britain (1)
(The Tendance covered the above Meeting – noting the presence of the homophobic ‘racial and spiritual struggle’ group, Indigènes de la République. amongst other problems, earlier this month.)
Participation and Islamic Spirituality (PSM) is an association representing the movement Al Adl Wal Ihsan (Justice and Charity) in France. This is a movement of political Islam founded in 1973 in Morocco by the mystical Sufi Abdelassame Yassin (1928-2012) who it considers “an intellectual and spiritual father”. PSM essentially works in France to highlight, among a wider audience, the man he was and his “teachings”.
However, like the UOIF, PSM is not a purely religious based organisation and does not hesitate to get actively involved in the social debate, defending reactionary positions. It backed demonstrations on March 24 and May 26, 2013 along with the right and the extreme right in the (so-called) Manif pour Tous, and has undisguised sympathy for the Alliance Vita, one of the major anti-abortion lobbies in France PSM has also participated in the anti-abortion body’s summer school in 2013.
While the movement claims to renounce violence, two political murders have been attributed to Al Adl in Morocco. Yassine’s followers have been directly involved in the murder of two left wing students active in UNEM (National Union of Students of Morocco) in November 1991 in Oujda Ait Mohamed Benaissa Ljid in March 1993 in Fez.
This reactionary and obscurantist movement, like all forms of political Islam, keeps repeating the hollow slogan “Islam is the solution” as a response to all social and political questions. It advocates a return to a pure and simpler past with the application of the “Sharia” and the laws of “true Islam”, that is those of the time of the Prophet! Their policy, advanced with similar bodies since the seizure of power by the Ayatollahs in Iran, took advantage of the weakness of the left and the rise of the movements of this ideological-political affiliation, has enabled it to become the largest organised force in Morocco. Obviously, all the reactionary Islamist movements such as “Justice and Charity” reject secularism and the separation between religion and politics and oppose equal rights and freedom of expression. Members of PSM have no interest in revealing their political project, and have the ability to hide their true ideas by practicing concealment based on the ” taqiya “. (Note: the pious practice of dissimulating one’s true beliefs in the service of Islamism).
It’s amazing to see organizations like the NPA, PCF, Togetherness, The antifa Capab present with reactionary organisations of the mettle of UOIF and PSM! Both associations can in no case be partners of leftist organisations.
If it is right to lead the battle against racism and against ALL oppression, we must work with partners who have credibility, not with reactionary and obscurantist organizations such as the UOIF and PSM!
(1) See recently (5th March),
Professor Reza Moradi interrupted a talk on immigration organized by the University and College Union (UCU) held at the London Metropolitan University, to criticize the decision to invite Mohammed Kozbar, vice president of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), to take part in the discussion panel.
IB Times “MAB is what is known as a ‘soft’ Islamist organization, normalizing and justifying terrorism, the Caliphate and sharia laws,” Moradi wrote on his Facebook page after the incident. “I am outraged that my union would share a panel with an organisation, despite its links with the Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, its defense of death by stoning for adultery and support of the death penalty for apostates such as me.
“This is not standing with immigrants and refugees – many of whom have fled the brutality of Islamofascists in our own countries, including myself – and of course many Muslims.” “I don’t want my university to give legitimacy to any kind of political movement.
See also (from Confusionnisme Info) Maroc : A propos de l’islampolitique et la gauche radicale
Demonstrators outside Holloway prison condemn charges against Shilan Ozcelik: No Backing from SWP.
Right whip up Islamophobia over Isis reports the latest Socialist Worker (17th March).
by Annette Mackin
Detainee rights campaign group Cage and its director Moazzam Begg have been the target of more Islamophobic smears.
The Mail on Sunday newspaper claimed it had evidence that Moazzam visited the camp where Londoner Mohammed Emwazi allegedly trained as an Isis fighter.
It quotes unnamed “official sources” speculating over the identities of men wearing balaclavas in a photo from around 2012.
The paper had already attacked Cage and Moazzam for saying that it was Western imperialism and state terror that helped make Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John”, into an Isis fighter.
Mohammed Tasnime Akunjee, the solicitor for the students from east London who have allegedly travelled to Syria to join Isis, has also come under attack.
Andrew Gilligan in The Telegraph newspaper said that he is an “extremist” with links to “terror apologists” Cage. This was after the solicitor criticised police handling of the case.
The sisters of the students also now face “radicalisation” tests as the tide of Islamophobia grows higher around such cases.
This week three teenagers from Britain were arrested in Turkey on “suspicion of preparing terrorist attacks”. They were bailed pending further inquiries.
Is the SWP complaining that those who go to support Isis, a murderous reactionary group, are arrested?
That nobody should do anything to stop people – enthused at the idea of participating in their ethnic cleansing, and genocides – joining them?
This contrasts with the complete absence of any Socialist Worker coverage of the plight of Shilan Ozcelik (from the Kurdish news site Rudaw).
LONDON – Demonstrators converged outside London’s Holloway prison in support of Shilan Ozcelik, a British girl of Kurdish descent who is believed to be the first UK citizen to be arrested for trying to fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
Saturday’s demonstration followed a statement signed by various Kurdish organizations, among them the Roj Women’s Association, the Kurdish Youth Assembly and the Kurdish People’s Assembly.
”The Kurdish community and supporters of the Kurdish struggle are incensed at the arrest and imprisonment of 18 year old Shilan (Silhan) Ozcelik, who is accused of wanting to join the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS),” the statement said.
”The UK government has been criminalising the Kurds for at least 13 years, yet not one Kurdish individual has been charged and convicted of being a PKK member, despite many raids, arrests and intimidations,” it added.
”The case of Shilan Ozcelik is the most recent chapter of this story and the Kurdish community are now concerned that the UK government will once again criminalise the community who have been the biggest supporters of the international fight against ISIS terror and fascism,” Friday’s statement declared.
The PKK, which is in peace negotiations with the Turkish government after a three-decade guerrilla war for greater rights for the country’s large Kurdish population, remains banned in Turkey and is regarded as a terrorist group by the European Union and United States.
However, calls have been growing for months for a reappraisal of the group, since its YPG affiliate in Syria has had a frontline role in fighting ISIS and has been backed with limited arms supplies and airstrikes by the US-led coalition.
Firat News, which is close to the PKK, has called the charge against Ozcelik a “scandalous decision.”
Ozcelik has been charged with a terrorist offence under the UK’s 2006 Terrorism Act.
The teenager from London was arrested earlier this year at Stansted airport. Her supporters say she travelled to Brussels in an attempt to try to join the YPG or its women’s YPJ wing. She was arrested on January 16 as she returned from Brussels.
Neither the YPJ or YPG are themselves banned in the UK.
Campaigners have condemned the charge against Ozcelik and launched a petition, writing to British Prime Minster David Cameron and Home Office Minister Theresa May to call for the immediate release of Ozcelik.
Several foreign fighters have traveled to Syria and neighboring Iraq to fight with Kurdish forces battling ISIS.
Last week, Ivana Hoffman, a native of South Africa with German citizenship, was killed fighting alongside Kurdish forces in Syria in the war against ISIS, according to agency reports.
Before that, a British man, Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, and an Australian Ase Johnson, were reported killed while battling ISIS.
Foreign fighters also have joined the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq, which remains a staunch US and Western ally in the war against ISIS.
All the SWP has to say about ISIS (Ignoring completely the heroic struggle of those fighting them, above all the Kurds), is this: Isis – the real problem is Western imperialism.
There is no need to read any more.
Charlie Hebdo Rally: Generous and Open Republican Unity.
“Had the sect which was rising in Paris been a sect of mere scoffers, it is very improbable that it would have left traces of its existence in the institutions and manners of Europe.” “laughing at the Scriptures, shooting out the tongue at the sacraments, but ready to encounter principalities and powers in the cause of justice, mercy and toleration.”
Ranke’s History of the Popes. Thomas Babington Macauly. 1840
“An Englishman who professes really to like French realistic novels, really to be at home in a French modern theatre, really to experience no shock on first seeing the savage French caricatures, is making a mistake very dangerous for his own sincerity. He is admiring something he does not understand. He is reaping where he has not down, and taking up where he has not laid down; he is trying to taste the fruit when he has never toiled over the tree. He is trying to pluck the exquisite fruit of French cynicism when he has never tilled the rude but rich soil of French virtue.”
French and English. C.K.Chesterton. 1908.
In The Flying Inn (1914) G.K.Chesterton imagined a Britain in which Compulsory Temperance is introduced under Progressive Islam. A Muslim Preacher Misyra Ammon, the Prophet of the Moon, has appeared. He announces “English civilisation had been founded by the Turks; or perhaps by the Saracens after their victory in the Crusades.” Vegetarians, philanthropists, aristocratic Suffragettes, and Ethical Societies don fezzes, unite behind his Cause and the Imperial Commission for Liquor Control. Inns cannot serve alcohol without a sign. But all the signs have been abolished. Humphrey Pump and Captain Patrick Dalroy defy the order with an ambulant barrel of rum. Its location, shifts, “flies”.
Chesterton added that the League of the Red Rosette, “the formidable atheist and anarchist organisation” interrupts the new Prophet’s services. The novel approaches its end, when a “a coarse strip of red rag, possibly collected from a dust-bin” is “tied round the wooden sign-post by way of a red flag of revolution”. The ‘Turks’ are driven back.
The Flying Inn can be criticised in many respects – not least of which is that I don’t find it very amusing. Its Edwardian racial and class stereotypes – and jokes – have not worn well. Recently another novel that imagines Islamic government in Europe has been published. I have not read Michael Houellebecq’s Soumission – a qualification that in British left terms gives me the right to talk about it for several paragraphs. It’s about a Muslim ruled France in 2022. President Ben Abbes, with the consent of his ‘centrist’ Prime Minister François Bayrou, introduces a through-going programme of Islamisation. The economy is run on “distributionist” lines, the (small) property-owning capitalism advocated by…C.K.Chesterton.
Whether the author of The Flying Inn would be charmed at this is less than certain. He would perhaps have felt more warmly towards this statement, “The real enemy of Muslims, what they loathe and fear above all, it’s Catholicism: it’s secularism, laïcité atheistic materialism.” (Soumission. Review. Christopher de Bellaigue. 7.2.15).
A Month After the Paris Murders.
Over the last month, after the slaughters at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket at the Porte de Vincennes, secularists and laïques have discovered friends, and many enemies. All are ‘appalled’ at the murders. But……laughing at the Scriptures, in this instance, by “savage caricatures”, has caused great offence. In Britain much – not all – of the left has been appalled by the “pornographic” representation of the Prophet. Many of them, as we have noted on this Blog, have become stern Instructors on the Noble Art of Satire, finding fault in the magazine’s ‘sadism’ and attacks on the apparently powerless institutions of the Mosque, the memory of the Church, and the faith of the marginalised and oppressed. Alain Badiou has even compared Charlie’s lapses of taste to Voltaire’s rudeness at the Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc.
The most persistent theme has been to call the paper racist. This is not confined to the English-speaking world, although this smear is frequent enough in certain circles here. Camille Emmanuelle, married to Charlie cartoonist, Luz, resumes the list of charges against the Weekly, “Charlie Hebdo «est devenu un journal raciste, homophobe, transphobe, sexiste et tout particulièrement islamophobe ». (Charlie Hebdo: être aimé par des cons, c’est dur, être haï par des amis, c’est pire). If it’s less common in France to say that Charlie ‘had it coming to them’ (a statement that immediately evokes…..and the people at Hyper-Cacher ?…) one can still sense that something of that spirit is there amongt the ‘leftists’ who rail against the Charlie ‘laïcards’ – god botherers.
In this context the intervention of Pierre Rousset, a veteran of the Trotskyist movement (Ligue communiste révolutionnaire, Fourth International) and the broader French left, in his article Après Charlie Hebdo et l’Hyper Cacher : penser le neuf, repenser l’ancien (11th February 2015) assumes its significance. Rousset begins his article by thanking those, (himself, and François Sabado included), who immediately expressed solidarity with Charlie. (1) He then passes to those who equally swiftly seized on the demonstrations of ‘national unity’ to fall back on their « routine » criticisms of the French state. Most importantly Rousset is concerned with those who attempt to « morally assassinate » the people who were « assassinated physically » the Charlie team.
Much of the piece is a response to another person associated with the Fourth International, Gilbert Achar, and his comments on the events. (What caused the killings? 3.2.15.) Achcar has claimed that French response was ‘what anybody would expect’ – although he adds that one should not exaggerate any parallels with the attack on the Twin Towers. Nevertheless a lot of police repression, and Islamophobia was aroused. The ‘core issue’ that emerged was the ‘condition of populations of immigrant origin inside France.’ The SOAS-based academic rejects out of hand any talk identifying Political Islam with Fascism. The responsibility for the emergence of violent jihadism lies with ‘the imperialist powers, and above all, the United States’.
While Achcar does not indulge in the ‘but…..’ analysis of the majority of Charlie’s enemies, he still lays into the weekly, “Charlie Hebdo is a blatant illustration of the left-wing arrogant secularism”.
For Rousset, on the contrary, the reaction in France was far from what “one would expect”. The great demonstration of January the 11th expressed a ‘non-exclusive solidarity’. They refused any amalgamation between Islam and terrorism. While there have been assaults on Muslims it was significant that this was decisively rejected by those saying Je Suis Charlie. Many immigrant and minority community associations backed the post-‘attentats’ commemorations.
The Left’s Failure to Confront Fundamentalism.
The heart of Après Charlie Hebdo lies in the statement that the radical left is ill-equipped to deal with fundamentalism. In large part this is due to their own weak links with immigrant populations, or those (3rd generation) of migrant descent. But perhaps more significantly this left’s strategy is awry.
The far-left is, in Rousset’s eyes, fixated on the ‘main enemy ’ imperialism, and unable to see these political movements as forces that act in their own right. He notes that we are not dealing with unknown quantities, « Le rôle de l’islam politique au pouvoir (Egypte), puis des islamismes « radicaux » contre les révolutions populaires dans le monde arabe ont dans une large part clarifié le débat sur la nature progressiste ou non de ces courants politico-religieux. » The role of Political Islam in government (Egypt), and that of radical Islamists against the mass revolutions in the Arab world, has largely clarified the debate about their progressive nature of these political-religious currents.”
Political agents on the fringe of Islamism, the ‘sects’ that commit acts of terrorism, and the sectarian state of the Caliphate, have their own internal logic. They are the enemies of progressives – and the enemies of Muslims. The world, he notes, is not bounded by Chinese Walls: what happens ‘there’ affects us all ‘here’. We have to fight the Islamist reactionaries, and struggle against discrimination and racism, with Muslims, for a society of solidarity.
One group’s strategy is signaled out by Rousset, the British SWP. He notes their communiqué after the January massacres. It condemned the slaughter but found time to lay responsibility on Charlie Hebdo for its ‘ racist’ provocations.
This is what he has to say,
« On comprend que le SWP britannique réagit ainsi, car il lui faut effacer ses traces et faire oublier ses propres responsabilités. Il a été l’une des principales organisations de la gauche radicale à présenter la montée du fondamentalisme islamique comme l’expression d’un nouvel anti-impérialisme ; il a aussi rendu inaudible la parole des femmes qui, en Grande-Bretagne même, appelaient les milieux progressistes à les soutenir face à l’emprise fondamentaliste. »
It is understandable that the SWP reacts in this way: they had to cover their tracks, to hide their own responsibilities. The party has been one of the main organisations on the radical left to present the rise of fundamentalism as the expression of a new ‘anti-imperialism’. In this way the SWP has stifled the voices of women, who in the UK itself, have called on progressive groups to back them against the power of the fundamentalists
Defending Charlie, a Generous Republic and Secularism.
Rousset defends Charlie, without admiring every one of its cartoons, or contributors. He underlines their left-wing commitment, describing them as a slice of the left, not ‘one’ group. The accusation of racism is simply risible. The veteran Trotskyist notes that some of the cartoonists published in his own journal Rouge (Ligue Comministe Révolutionnaire). The victim, Charlie, is not ‘perfect’ he rightly says.
There are questions about who to satirise and who to not. It is right to be able to blaspheme, it’s the right of a free society based on laïcité. Whether it is worth giving such prominence to lampooning religious symbols so relentlessly remains an issue. One does not need to cede to Anglo-American cultural imperialism to become bored – even for this English admirer of French ‘savage satire’ – with 3rd Republic anti-clericalism. And yet…..there are indeed – all too visible – religious « principalities and powers » that need criticism in the name of justice.
The generous spirit of Rousset is displayed in the sorrow with which he considers the fate of those who fell in January, the individuals and their friends. There is not a shred of ‘arrogance’ in his writing. His optimism and humanity stands out in Rousset’s endorsement of « unité républicaine » « une certaine idée généreuse de la République, d’une citoyenneté commune. » embracing those who lives in the margins, and for a fight against all the racisms (all the other forms of prejudice and discrimination, against the Rom onwards) that exist in France, is profoundly stirring. We are far from harvesting the last crop from the rich soil of French virtue.
(1) They observed of the 11th January demonstration, “Whatever the confusion in the minds of participants, their reaction and behaviour showed that the demonstrations were a tremendous expression of fraternal feeling. Participants chatted amongst themselves and helped one another move along amidst the crush of the masses of people who had gathered. Some scenes on the short-lived afternoons of the 10th and 11th brought back memories of the demonstrations of 1995 or even 1968, with solidarity as the dominant theme.”
“We are all Charlie” burst out as a cry of human solidarity against the murders. It captured a range of opinions. The idea of a “working-class Charlie” was even put forward – in order to link solidarity with the murdered journalists with the need to mobilize in defense of social rights. The formulation is open to debate, but the idea is a correct one in that it seeks to inject social and democratic content into the anger and sadness.
This is the groundswell from French society that has been expressed since January 7th and anti-capitalists should be part of it, engaging in dialogue with the millions of people who have been involved. These were not reactionary demonstrations. The dominant themes were not support for cross-party national unity or the law-and-order and anti-democratic measures announced by the government. Society went into action, spontaneously, and with a great deal of confusion, but in a progressive direction all the same. This is the starting point for our thinking and it’s in this framework that we must assess the problems that now confront us.”
I could not agree more – in my very bones!
Charlie Hebdo – And now what? The events, their impact and the issues at play. , 23rd January. 2005.