Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

As Official Visit to Go Ahead Trump Tells British PM to “Focus” – but not on his Use of Britain First Propaganda.

with 6 comments

Image may contain: text

 

Donald Trump has retweeted three inflammatory videos from a British far-right group.

The first tweet from Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, claims to show a Muslim migrant attacking a man on crutches.

This was followed by two more videos of people Ms Fransen claims to be Muslim.

Responding to Mr Trump’s posts, UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman said it was “wrong for the president to have done this”.

BBC.

This has deeply offended many people, starting with Brendan Cox, the husband of Jo Cox. Her killer shouted Britain First before stabbing her.

Brendan Cox, the husband of slain British lawmaker Jo Cox, said Wednesday that President Donald Trump has “become a purveyor of hate” after retweeting three anti-Muslim videos from a British far-right account.

“This is like the President retweeting the Ku Klux Klan. This is not a mainstream organization and for the President of the United States, our greatest ally as a country, to be retweeting, to be providing a microphone to those voices,” Cox told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360.”

“I think no matter what your perception of the UK, I think has been shocked by that.” CNN.

This aspect of the news was not just taken up in the UK and the US. The French left-wing daily, Libération noted, “Jo Cox, a été tuée en pleine rue par Thomas Mair. Ce dernier avait crié «Britain First !» avant de lui tirer dessus puis de la poignarder. ( Donald Trump hérisse les Britanniques en relayant des vidéos d’un groupuscule fasciste).

This is not just a detail. Our friends in France have just baptised a road after our fallen comrade.

Murdered British MP Jo Cox joins Churchill in having French street named in her honour.

Instead of trying to explain his offence away Trump has now gone on the attack.

In rare clash between allies, US president tells May to focus on terrorism rather than on him – but sends tweet to wrong person

Donald Trump has publicly rebuked Theresa May over her criticism of anti-Muslim propaganda, opening an extraordinary diplomatic spat between the transatlantic allies.

“Theresa@theresamay, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom,” the US president tweeted on Wednesday evening. “We are doing just fine!”.

Trump’s message came in response to criticism from the British prime minister’s spokesman over the president’s retweeting of incendiary videos posted by the deputy leader of a British far-right group.

However, the “@theresamay” Twitter handle that Trump targeted does not belong to the British prime minister, but to a woman called Theresa Scrivener. Minutes later Trump deleted and reposted the tweet, this time with the correct handle: @Theresa_May.

It is

In this context this is bad news.

No 10 responded to Trump’s tweet by defending Theresa May’s record on tackling Islamist extremism. The prime minister’s official spokesman offered no further criticism of Trump, stressing instead the “close and special relationship” between the UK and US.

Asked for May’s response to Trump’s tweet, he said:

Firstly I should say that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in this country are law abiding people who abhor extremism. The PM has been clear where islamist extremism takes place it should be tackled head on and we are working hard to do that both at home and internationally including with our US partners.

For an example of that i would point you to the work the PM is doing with the US preseident and President Macron and others to get terrorist content removed from the internet as quickly as possible.

He also insisted Trump’s state visit would go ahead, saying: “The offer of a state visit has been extended and accepted and we will set out more details in due course.”

 

Advertisements

Written by Andrew Coates

November 30, 2017 at 1:18 pm

Culture Wars on the Left, The Gender Recognition Act, and Transphobia in the UK.

with 18 comments

Image result for helen steel anarchist book fair

Helen Steel: Attacked by Trans Activists.

For some years the left has rightly taken up LGBT issues.

But the ‘T’, transgender, side of this has become increasingly fraught and the word itself is now an invitation to argument.

For some people Transgender people are (also?) women or men.

The Gender Recognition Act has brought the issue to the fore.

The Socialist Feminist Network – a site that should be compulsory reading for those commenting on the subject – has this,

What do Socialist feminists say about gender identity ideology?

The proposed changes by the Tory government to Gender Recognition Act are a fundamental change to the legal definition of the sex categories man and woman allowing individuals to opt into their chosen gender. Women are currently protected as a sex under the equality act. If anyone of the male sex identify into this protected characteristic it renders it meaningless. Males who identify as women will have legal protection but the female sex will lose protection as a distinct category.

They go on to say,

Under the Transgender umbrella a number of self- identities exist including non-binary, bi gender, gender queer and gender fluid. If the effect of the Bill, is in practice, to give male bodied people access to female intimate space that will be an unacceptable outcome. The stereotypical criticism of women as “pearl clutchers” for expressing concern over access to toilets is a horribly sexist dismissal of the idea of the importance of safety for women and girls. There are concerns about toilets, yes, but also about male access to female sport facilities, to refuges for women fleeing violence and to the female prison estate etc.

We believe that there may be possibilities that strengthening sex discrimination law will have the effect of improving rights to express gender more freely whilst not undermining existing laws that protect women.

This is probably the most controversial section,

We do not accept that transwomen are women and trans men are men. We associate this with unscientific thinking and the demand that it is an accepted truth of progressive politics as worryingly authoritarian. The demand that the left adopts this level of irrational thinking is often associated with vicious misogynist attacks, usually against feminists, on those who will not submit to the lie. There is a worrying trend of silencing women associated with transgender activism, petitions demanding feminists lose jobs, memes suggesting that we are hateful, petty snarking etc. and this is unacceptable. We are confident that our movement will back us and provide support to us in this.

They conclude,

Repeatedly feminists refuse to acknowledge the term “cis” women to describe themselves. It is simply a descriptive word, why object so strongly?

Our view is that women’s struggle for rights are part of a wider class struggle and should be at the centre of our movement. However gender theory denies us the vocabulary to discuss our biology or be explicit that even reproductive rights are for women. This is not just a problem in Ireland; recently students at Oxford University demanded the removal of references to women’s biology from abortion rights literature on the grounds that they were “transphobic” and “cis sexist”. Not only did they demand the removal of words describing female biology but they also threatened disaffiliation from abortion campaigns.

Language determines consciousness, or to put it less strongly, the structure of language influences cognition and world view. Therefore we will not simply shrug our shoulders at attempts to re-classify the meaning of a word as fundamental as “woman”. By demanding that we drop some words that describe our reality but insisting that we utilise others that frame a new context, gender theory is seeking to determine new classifications. At a minimum the left should try to unpack these new frameworks to understand what lay behind these motivations.

We should always try to understand the relevance of seeking to reframe language both in relation to the world around us and in relation to power. To place the word “cis” in front of the word woman immediately makes the actual woman/ adult human female “other”. In this classification anyone who “self identifies” is more oppressed than a “cis woman”. It creates a hierarchy of women, soon to be manipulated into new insidious classifications such as “cis women” having “privilege” or in some way being oppressive to those who “self-identify” as non cis or part of the transgender umbrella. These kinds of mental gymnastics have resulted in the absurdity of a major British political party, the Greens, calling women “non- men”. In this post- modern construction feminists become “cis sexist” and are then the valid target of abuse, this abusive behaviour, not surprisingly, follows familiar patterns of misogyny but that now have the cover of the cis / trans binary.

This is the pit in which liberal feminism currently thrashes around, a post- modern word salad, insisting feminism must centre everyone, except ourselves. This will not do. Instead we want a socialist feminism that unapologetically centres women, particularly working class women, in our movement. We say, unapologetically, feminism is for women.

The following article appeared in the Observer this Sunday.

UK transgender rights row intensifies as book fair is cancelled. 

Accusations of ‘transphobia’ have led to bitter divisions within Labour and the Women’s Equality party, feminist and anarchist movements.

An annual book fair that has served for more than three decades as the most important meeting point for the British anarchist movement has become the latest casualty of widening splits over the issue of transgender rights.

Organisers say that they no longer have “the appetite or the energy” to stage next year’s London Anarchist Bookfair, following fraught scenes at the event last month. A group of feminists were confronted by other activists who accused them of distributing “transphobic” leaflets that promoted prejudice against transgender people.

The acrimony follows highly publicised splits in universities, women’s organisations and political parties over the issue. Lily Madigan, a 19-year-old who has just won a vote in Kent to become Labour’s first women’s officer from a transgender background, has been at the centre of a row within the party.

…….

The increasingly angry disputes follow government proposals to streamline the process for how people can change their gender, under the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). A public consultation is to be held on speeding up and demedicalising the process, with the current need to be assessed and diagnosed by clinicians seen by some as intrusive.

Choosing whether one is a man or a woman is a matter of self-identification, trans activists assert. Some opponents of the GRA have warned that this may lead to young, vulnerable people making decisions they later regret. Others have suggested that self-identifying undermines the status, rights and experience of biological women.

The rows “are going on within all sorts of social movements”, said Helen Steel, the veteran social justice campaigner known for her role in taking on McDonald’s in the 1997 “McLibel” case.

She said she had been left traumatised by her experience at the book fair, claiming she was surrounded by a “baying mob” after intervening to stop the bullying of two women who had been distributing leaflets about the GRA. (1)

“I have been aware that women have been bullied on this issue for a long time now but, until it happened to me, I was not aware of the extent of the bullying and am shocked by it,” Steel said. “I have been an environmental and social justice campaigner for most of my life. In all that time, I have never experienced such a toxic environment.”

Opponents of Steel and the other feminists assert that to have allowed the distribution of the leaflets was to create an environment in which transphobia was encouraged, discriminating against a group of people who already experience high rates of suicide, poverty and persecution.

Spiked-on-line’s  Ella Whelan had already opined, LILY MADIGAN IS NOT A WOMAN

Having a 19-year-old boy as a women’s officer is ridiculous.

Lily Madigan, a transgender teenager formerly known as Liam, has been elected as the women’s officer for the Labour Party branch in Rochester and Strood in Kent.

Madigan’s election has caused a stir — something this teen is used to doing. At 18, he hired a solicitor and threatened to sue his mixed Catholic secondary school for not allowing him to use the girls’ changing rooms or dress according to the girls’ uniform code.

……

So, here we have a trans teen who has previously been part of an effort to undermine a women’s officer’s career now being elected as a women’s officer. Understandably, some are angry about this. How can a teenager who has only recently declared himself to be a woman be eligible as a women’s officer? As Teresa Murray, vice-chairwoman of the executive committee of Rochester and Strood CLP, said: ‘Lily will have to work very hard to convince other people that her very presence there is not going to undermine them.’

The role of a women’s officer is important, feminists argue, because the lived experience a woman is something men cannot understand. Therefore, in order for women to feel politically represented, they must be represented by women. Now, some of us may disagree with this and think that it elevates the narrowness and divisiveness of identity politics over the idea of politics as a universal democratic pursuit. But it is what some people believe, and of course have a right to believe. And yet identity politics and the cult of diversity have now gone so far that women in politics are being pressured to accept a man as their ‘female representative’.

The new obsession with transgenderism is throwing up many difficult questions. What does it mean to be a woman? Is simply looking like a woman enough? And what about the rise in transgender feeling among young people? Are we comfortable with children fixating on their gender — with girls binding their breasts or boys taking drugs to prevent puberty? These are serious issues and they must be discussed openly, without fear of ostracism or demonisation. But that isn’t happening. Tragically, transgender politics has become a new dogma, promoted by almost every wing of the elite, and that is bad for young people, for women, and for freedom and critical thinking.

It is tempting to reject anything the ex-RCP says but Labour does not appear to have been thought through the difficulties this appointment raises.

But do we agree with this?

Theorising Feminist Transphobia Phil Burton

“According to Janice Raymond’s The Transsexual Empire, trans women represent patriarchal agents within the women’s movement. In plainer language, she argues they are men who have surgically altered their bodies to become simulacra of women’s bodies, but that does not make them women. The socialisation of being brought up male, along with its myriad entitlements, privileges, expectations, and complicity in the reproduction of patriarchal social relationships remains. Therefore the acceptance of trans women runs the risk of constituting an alien presence within the women’s movement”

After further analysis of this current of thought, from the marketing of femininity,  a concern “with all women’s experiences and seeks to articulate them, which includes trans women, and is characterised by inclusion and an interest in the individual” and the contrasting, “marketable commodity” of feminist transphobia, with “roots in anxiety”,  Phil concludes,

There is no reason why, for instance, the existence of trans men and trans women should reinforce the gender binary, especially when the performance and resistance of gendered practices vary as much among trans as they do among cis people. Indeed, by arguing that treatment/surgery should not take place isn’t one upholding the binarism by forcing people to inhabit the gendered bodies they received? Additionally, the existence of a gender industry no more delegitimises trans people than the gay men’s health care “industry” (or the so-called pink pound) does gay men.

Yes, both try and produce subjects of particular kinds, but all institutions and constellations of institutions do so, sometimes for profit. So what? Furthermore, some elements of second wave feminism are exclusionary of women, and there remains perspectives that criticise BDSM lesbians, butch lesbians, indulge bi-erasure and critique bisexuality, and of course, there is the small fringe of lesbian separatism. The difficulties some feminists have with trans women are inseparable from identity border wars, but simultaneously newer generations of feminists view these feuds as old hat and irrelevant to the main job of critiquing and opposing patriarchy and capitalism.

The comrades from the Socialist Feminist Network raise legitimate concerns.

Not least, for political activists,  is the following, “To place the word “cis” in front of the word woman immediately makes the actual woman/ adult human female “other”. In this classification anyone who “self identifies” is more oppressed than a “cis woman”. It creates a hierarchy of women, soon to be manipulated into new insidious classifications such as “cis women” having “privilege” or in some way being oppressive to those who “self-identify” as non cis or part of the transgender umbrella. ” And, “recently students at Oxford University demanded the removal of references to women’s biology from abortion rights literature on the grounds that they were “transphobic” and “cis sexist”.

Many will sympathise with the wish to be inclusive and to understand the point of view of trans activists and to fight against the prejudices towards them.

But Phil raises a number of straw figures to argue against, beginning with the idea that critics of trans people who wish to identify as women, be recognised as women is linked to the wilder claims of those who consider them as “patriarchal agents within the women’s movement”.

It is very far from clear what “forcing people to inhabit the gendered bodies they received” means. Perhaps it implies that we can leave our bodies for new ones.

But one thing overshadows anything else.

The hatred against so-called Terfs, (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists), extended to anybody who criticises trans-activists, is repellent just as is some of the language used by some feminists against them.

Or this litany of lies.

Related image

The more recent sight of people screaming “TERF Nazis” at radical feminists is not easy to forget or forgive.

Image result for Terfs

Biological differences between men and women exist. There is a limit to the social construction of identity, and those limits, outlined in Norman Geras in, Marx and Human Nature: Refutation of a Legend (1983), include physical differences in our “corporal organisation” which no gender reassignment can deconstruct. We can begin with reproduction and menstruation, or, the Socialist feminists call it “women’s biology”.

Kindness towards people does not include the obligation to remain silent about these issues.

 

*******

(1) Comrade Helen Steel’s statement includes this:

  • Half an hour later, I was surrounded for over an hour by a baying mob of around 30 trans activists who shouted misogynistic abuse in my face and at others, and who would not leave me alone. This included: ugly Terf, fucking Terf scum, bitch, fascist and more. That kind of behaviour should have no place in anarchism or any other progressive politics.
  • Despite that provocation, I did not at any time threaten or assault anyone. No trans activists were threatened by anyone else in my sight or hearing.
  • While I was surrounded, I saw a man’s hand moving towards my face and when it was within inches of my face I blocked it and pushed his arm away. He then started shouting that I had assaulted him and I should be thrown out.
  • Some of those in the baying mob tried to stoke anger and division by calling me a snitch, making false claims that I had filmed them assaulting a feminist at Speakers Corner and had handed that footage to the police. Footage of the incident is available and actually shows me intervening to protect the victim of the assault, not filming it. The videos embedded in this article show what actually happened, please do watch them and see the truth for yourself.

Image result for Terfs anarchist book fair

Her opponents’ views can be seen on Phil’s Blog and here: Transphobia at the London Anarchist Bookfair 2017

 

Update: This by Helen Saxby, one of the best overviews of the whole debate,  has been signaled by a feminist socialist comrade on Facebook. When Women’s Rights Are #NotaDebate

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 28, 2017 at 11:54 am

Pakistan, Government Caves in to Islamist ‘Blasphemy’ Protests.

with 2 comments

Caving in to Faizabad protesters’ demand, Law Minister Zahid Hamid is ready to resign

According to sources, the law minister, who is ready to resign, is concerned about his safety. His ancestral home in Pasrur also came under attack from protesters on Saturday.  He discussed his safety concerns at length with the chief minister in the meeting that lasted about an hour.

Hamid reportedly said he was ready to resign but wanted the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership to play an active role in clearing his name from the controversy.

The minister also released a video message on Youtube to assure the people that he believed in the finality of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  He read out the oath from the existing law and said, “I believe in finality of Prophethood. I am not a follower of any claimant of prophethood, nor do I believe that any such claimant of prophethood is a Muslim. Neither do I belong to any Qadiani Group or Lahori group, nor do I call myself as Ahmadi.” He said the Constitution of Pakistan declared Qadianis, Ahmadi Group and Lahori Group as non-Muslims. “I love Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) from the core of my heart and am a true lover of the last Prophet (PBUH). I and my family are prepared to lay down our lives for the honour and sanctity of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).”

The message is yet another attempt from Hamid to clear his name from the controversy that may jeopardise not only his political career but also his life. Some reports suggest that two ministers, including Hamid, may tender resignation if the stand-off persists.

This is from the Ahmadis on the threats they face:

Pakistan’s Anti-Ahmadi Laws

30 years ago the Government of Pakistan enacted a series of anti-Ahmadi laws (Ordinance XX) that made it a criminal offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslims.

The law states that Ahmadi Muslims cannot:

  • Call themselves Muslims
  • Refer to their faith as Islam
  • Call their place of worship a ‘Mosque’;
  • Make the call for prayers (Adhan)
  • Say the Islamic greeting ‘Assalamo alaikum’ (Peace be on you)
  • Preach or propagate their faith

Any of the above will be punishable by three years imprisonment and a fine.

If the offence is regarded as blasphemy then an Ahmadi could be sentenced to death.

This makes the Ahmadi Muslim community unique in Pakistan as being the only religious community in Pakistan to be targeted by the state simply on grounds of faith.

The Financial Times states,

“The government stands defeated, the protesters have won,” said one senior government official. “Now we must consider the consequences for the future of Pakistan.” The weekend’s events are the latest sign that Pakistan’s powerful army, which has run the country for almost half of its 70 years as an independent state, is once more gaining the upper hand over the civilian government.

They add,

On Sunday, Gen Bajwa met Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and according to officials, made it clear that the army would not use force to restore order. Instead, Mr Abbasi agreed to concede to one of the protesters’ main demands by removing Zahid Hamid, law minister, as well as withdrawing a two-day ban on Pakistani news channels.

By Monday morning, the leaders of the protest had signed a formal agreement to stand down, in which they particularly thanked Gen Bajwa, “whose special efforts helped to put the agreement together and averted a major disaster for the nation”.  Another signatory is Major General Faiz Hameed, the head of the counter-intelligence division at the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), further underlining the military’s role in brokering the agreement.

 

More: Pakistan Today,  Tehreek-e-Labaik using Facebook to incite hatred; social media ‘inaccessible’ in Pakistan

Written by Andrew Coates

November 27, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Stalin. Waiting for Hitler. 1928 – 1941. Stephen Kotkin. A Democratic Socialist Review.

with 5 comments

 

Stalin. Waiting for Hitler. 1928 – 1941. Stephen Kotkin. Allen Lane. 2017.

The Yugoslavian communist, A. Ciliga, a sincere man and an unimpeachable witness, one of the few who has escaped alive from the Soviet convict gangs, has written in his book, Au pays du grand mensonge: “Those who have not lived in the Soviet prisons, concentration camps and places of exile in which are shut up more than five million convicts, those who are not familiar with the greatest jail history has ever seen, where men die like flies, where they are beaten like dogs, where they are made to work like slaves, can have no idea what Soviet Russia is, what Stalin’s ‘classless society’ means.”

Boris Souvarine. Postscript to Stalin: a critical survey of Bolshevism. 1935

The first volume of Kotkin’s study of Stalin, Paradoxes of Power, 1878 – 1928. (2014) portrayed the dictator as the product of “immense structural forces”, the legacy of Tsarism, the mode of government he took over from Lenin and the Bolsheviks “castle in the air” version of socialism. But the author could not neglect the character of his subject, whose “cold calculation and the flights of absurd delusion were products of a single mind, he was shrewd enough to see right through people, but not enough to spare him a litany of nonsensical beliefs.” (1)

That these “closely mirrored the Bolshevik revolution in-built structural paranoia” is only one of the many elements that contributed to the harrowing themes of the present book. This begins with the mass murders, starvation and famine of agricultural Collectivisation, followed by the mid-1930s Great Terror, and concludes with Stalin’s’ miscalculations faced with the threat of Hitler’s Germany

There are few grimmer tasks for the left than facing up to the reality of Stalin’s Russia. What enthusiasm can be mustered for the October Revolution has to face the totalitarianism that followed. This is not a new dilemma. That Stalin was, in his own and Kotkin’s opinion, a “communist and revolutionary” and that he developed within “the moral universe of Marxism-Leninism” was galling – and contestable – to radical left critics of the first hour, like Boris Souvarine.

This cosmos was bleak. The collectivisation and war against the Kulaks, the first Five Year Plan, took place against the background of famine and epidemics which “probably killed between 5 and 7 million people between 1931-33. Perhaps 10 million more starved nearly to death ” (Page 127) In response Stalin accused peasants of “not wanting to work.” (Page 128) Yet industrialisation began, investment quadrupled to 44 % of GDP in 1932. At the time well-wishers of the burgeoning New Civilisation were enthusiastic But, Kotkin observes, “unrelenting optimism spread alongside famine, arrests, deportations, execution, camps, censorship, sealed borders. (P 305) “Stalin’s anti capitalist experiment resembled a vast camp of deliberately deprived workers, indentured farmers and slave labourers toiling of the benefit of an unacknowledged elite.” (Ibid)

The Great Terror.

Stalin. Waiting for Hitler tackles the Great Terror. There is a lengthy account of the assassination of Kirov by Nikolayev, the pretext for the mass killings and imprisonments that followed. The hysteria reached its peak in the Great Trials of the middle of the decade. At its height, “just for two years, 1937 and 1938, the political police, the NKVD, would report 1,575,259 arrests, 87% of them for political offences, and 681,692 executions.”(Page 305)

It is hard to get a measure of the suffering of so many victims. Vsevolod Meyerhold, one of the country’s top theatre directors was one of the countless to fall into the hands of the butchers. In 1939 he was tortured and made to confess to spying for Britain and Japan. After systematic beatings, “Meyerhold’s interrogators had urinated into his mouth and smashed his right (writing) hand to bits” (Page 649) A footnote adds that while this was happening NKVD chief Beria awarded the larger part of his flat to one of his mistresses (Page 1029). He was executed by firing Squad in February 1940. 

Kotkin is not engaged in the history of the Gulag, only the contours of the Archipelago are sketched, and there are no Kolyma Tales Nor are there accounts of how Communist self-criticism ended in denunciations, or the whispers by a population-turned-delators to the NKVD. We are brought instead to the party machine and to Stalin’s Little Corner in the Moscow Kremlin, where he scanned lists of those caught in the lights of the hunt. “At least 383 execution lists signed by him have survived, containing the names of more than 43,000 ‘enemies of the people’, mostly the highest-level officials and officers (P 490). What kind of man performed filled his days with this never-ending work? Faced with a flood of letters of those appealing for those caught up in the murders, he “showed no sign that he was in the least tormented by the slaughter” (Ibid).

This was a war that hit the masses and the elite, clearing the way, Kotkin suggests for an intentional renewal of the bureaucracy. The new cadres, who took the posts of those found out as ‘wreckers’ ‘spies’ of anti-Soviet elements’, were described as “healthy young representatives of a healthy young people”. With rising salaries they were rewarded as such (Page 603) Stalin engineered human souls reinforced an already privileged caste, “The terror that murdered officials en masse accentuated the ascendancy of the functionary class.”(Page 604)

Over half of Stalin. Waiting for Hitler is occupied, as its title indicates, with Soviet foreign policy and, above all, with the build up to the war with Hitler’s Germany. From the Spanish Civil, an occasion to further Stalin’s obsession with Trotsky through attacks on the ‘Trotskyist’ (anti-Stalinist Marxist) POUM, Trotsky’s 1940 assassination, the ill-judged war with Finland (met with mass resistance by the Finns), the division of Poland with little perceivable long-term gain, to his wavering dealings with Mao in China, there were few signs of strategic genius.

Above all Stalin failed to prepare properly for the confrontation with the German army. This was not just the result of the purges of competent military and intelligence personnel. His tactical abilities were flawed. “Instead of acting cunningly, Stalin fooled himself. He clung to the belief that Germany could not attack before defeating the UK….”(Page 897)

A landmark.

Kotkin’s achievement as a historian of Stalin should not be overshadowed by the often hard to digest text. Key developments risk being submerged by lengthy day-to-day accounts. The plodding style, and turns of phrase such as the “wee hours” are not a help to the reader. But nobody can fail to recognise that the work is a landmark.

With such a protagonist in his sights Waiting for Hitler raises deep issues about the nature of the USSR under Stalin. One commanding thread lies in an effort to come to terms with the basis of the tyranny of the ‘vozhd’, the Leader, as Stalin came to be called. The author’s observation that he operated within a “near permanent state of emergency” could be said to cast light on the nature of Stalin’s rule. Lenin has used exceptional measures – a monopoly of political power, imprisonment of opponents, execution of ‘counter-revolutionaries’, censorship – in ‘defence’ of the revolution. These were indefinitely prolonged. That alone gave the Lenin appointed General Secretary scope for his efforts to impose his brand of ‘Marxism Leninism’ on his most “precious resource”, the people of the USSR.

Could both the original disregard for law and independent justice in the name of higher interests, the need to fight the Enemy, be compared to the pro-Nazi political theorist, Carl Schmitt’s speculation on the foundations of politics? Does the justification of the “state of exception” as a “transcendence” of normal politics cast light on the arguments of those who try to justify the “exceptional” circumstances of the Bolshevik Revolution to treat its opponents with contempt? In Stalin’s career, there is little doubt that the division of the world into friends and foes, with no-holds barred in the fight, “gave free rein to his savagery”. To those who seek psychological explanations for his behaviour Kotkin states, “Stalin’s sociopathology was to a degree the outgrowth of dictatorial rule”. (Page 5)

“Marx had never advocated mass murder but freedom” (Page 302). This may be scant consolation for those crushed by Stalin, his successors and emulators. But it important for those of us who are democratic socialists to make sure that the real history of Stalin’s rule is as familiar inside our own camp as that of those whom we venerate. We look forward to reading Kotkin’s Death of Stalin.

******

(1) Page 736. Stalin. Paradoxes of Power. 1878 – 1928. Stephen Kotkin. Allen Lane. 2014.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 26, 2017 at 2:07 pm

Taylor Swift: an envoy for Trump’s values and Nazi Icon? The Guardian’s Editorial.

with 4 comments

Image result for Taylor swift trump

Trump Backs Swift.

The Guardian view on Taylor Swift: an envoy for Trump’s values?

Swift’s songs echo Mr Trump’s obsession with petty score-settling in their repeated references to her celebrity feuds, or report in painstaking detail on her failed romantic relationships (often, there is crossover). The message is quintessentially Trumpian: everyone is out to get me – but I win anyway. Seeded with clues to the identities of her famous associates, her lyrics reel in and solidify a hardcore fanbase – usually young, female followers known as “Swifties” – who passionately defend her honour on social media by attacking her detractors.

Swift seems not simply a product of the age of Trump, but a musical envoy for the president’s values.

The danger is even greater according to this reliable News Site, Vice, which the Guardian’s Newshounds have consulted

Can’t Shake It Off: How Taylor Swift Became a Nazi Idol

Nazis and members of the “alt-right” consider Taylor Swift an Aryan pop queen who is “red pilling” America into a race war through her pop hits.

Hard-bitten reporters have dug the following out.

Taylor Swift – A Nazi Icon?

What do Taylor Swift and Nazis have in common? To most, not much. To Nazis, just about everything. When it comes to the Aryan beauties they admire most, modern neo-Nazis seem to take a liking to Taylor the best. According to white supremacist blogger Andre Anglin, Taylor Swift is a secret Nazi in disguise, just waiting for her chance to unveil her aspirations for a fascist regime.

“Firstly, Taylor Swift is a pure Aryan goddess, like something out of classical Greek poetry. Athena reborn. That’s the most important thing,” Anglin said. “It is also an established fact that Taylor Swift is secretly a Nazi and is simply waiting for the time when Donald Trump makes it safe for her to come out and announce her Aryan agenda to the world. Probably, she will be betrothed to Trump’s son, and they will be crowned American royalty.”

Ranker.

This is not the first time in recent months when Swift’s name has entered the political world.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 25, 2017 at 11:39 am

Slave Auction in Libya, After Outrage, Protests Begin.

with 6 comments

This morning on Europe 1 there was the harrowing testimony of a 17 year old man, Arnaud,  from Cameron who had escaped from slavery in Libya.

“Chaque jour, il y a des tortures, des bastonnades, des électrocutions et des travaux forcés”

Every day there were tortures, beating, electrocutions  and forced labour.

“”Tu deviens un objet. Ce qu’on nous a appris à l’école sur la traite négrière, tu comprends que c’est revenu”,

You become an object. What you learnt at school about the African slave trade, you can see that it’s come back. 

Arnaud, now a refugee in France added,

“En Libye, le mouton vaut plus que l’homme noir.”

In Libya a sheep is worth more than a Black Man.

In France there has been a strong moblisation against Slavery in Libya.

Manifestation contre l’esclavage, à Nouakchott, en Mauritanie, le 29 avril 2015.

Paris, des milliers de personnes ont manifesté samedi à l’appel du Collectif contre l’esclavage et les camps de concentration en Libye (CECCL).  (Le Monde. 23.11.17).

Rwanda has announced that it is willing to take 30,000 victims of the slave markets, (Jeune Afrique,Marché aux esclaves en Libye : le Rwanda prêt à accueillir 30 000 migrants africains“).

Background:

Video Of Migrants Sold In Apparent Slave Auction In Libya Provokes Outrage Worldwide

“I am horrified,” the UN secretary-general said.

After a video surfaced showing migrants apparently being sold at auction in Libya, people worldwide have been calling for action.

Last week, CNN published a report on modern slavery in Libya, featuring a video that reportedly was shot in August and appeared to show a man selling African migrants for farm work.

“Big strong boys,” the man said in the video, according to a CNN narrator. “400 … 700 … 800,” he called out the mounting prices. The men were eventually sold for about $400 each, CNN reported. The Libyan government said it has launched an investigation into slave auctions in the country.

Following the CNN report, demonstrators took to the streets in Paris and other cities last week to express their outrage, and Libyans showed their solidarity on Twitter with the hashtag #LibyansAgainstSlavery.

Solidarity!

Written by Andrew Coates

November 24, 2017 at 1:10 pm

Skwawkbox – ‘left’ Fake News Site – Loses Appeal to Independent Press Standards Organisation over…..its own Fake News.

with 3 comments

Image result for skwawkbox fake news

A Byword for Fake News.

Skwawkbox is notorious, not just in the MSM but on the left, for spreading misleading stories.

One that stuck in the craw was this claim, in July this year,  “DISABLED CLAIMANTS TOLD: 2 YRS TO GET JOB OR BE SANCTIONED FOR A YEAR.” Another , in August, was that Venezuela was a horn of plenty,  UNDERCOVER VIDEO SHOWS FULL SHELVES IN #VENEZUELA SUPERMARKETS.

The Blog site with big pretensions did score a scoop not too long ago with an interview with Dennis Skinner….defending his House of Commons vote  with the Tories for a the government Brexit. Skinner defended his action in these words, “With all the treaties, Maastricht and the others, I don’t decide who’s in the lobby – some rag tag and bobtail of Tories plus a few unionists.”

But it was there lies over Grenfell Tower that really hit a nerve.

Former Ken Livingstone employee Bob Pitt and wrote this,

On 16 June, in an article headed “Video: Govt puts ‘D-notice’ gag on real #Grenfell death toll #nationalsecurity”, Skwawkbox took up the claim made by grime MC Saskilla on the BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme that the number of victims in the Grenfell Tower fire was far greater than had yet been officially admitted, with as many as 200 people having died.

Skwawkbox used this claim to give credence to rumours that the government was engaged in an attempt to prevent the media reporting the true extent of the disaster: “At the same time, multiple sources told the SKWAWKBOX that the government has placed a ‘D-notice’ (sometimes called a ‘DA Notice’) on the real number of deaths in the blaze.”

By contrast, BuzzFeed News took the trouble to contact the Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee — which, as a quick google would reveal, is the actual body responsible for issuing D-Notices, not the Home Office. BuzzFeed was able to report that it had “confirmed with the DSMA secretariat that there are no advisories issued about the fire at Grenfell Tower, that notices would not be sent in relation to civilian disasters such as this one, and that so far as the DSMA secretariat is aware there is no national security element whatsoever to the tragedy”.

Faced with the collapse of its story, Skwawkbox was forced to back off and post a grudging retraction: “EDIT: the SKWAWKBOX is now satisfied that no D-notice was issued. No plain answer to this blog’s question of otherrestrictions on information about lives lost at Grenfell has yet been provided, but a ‘D-notice’ (or DSMA-notice as they are now termed) was not.”

Did Skwawkbox apologise for getting the story wrong and offer assurances that there would be no repetition of this stupid and provocative reporting? You must be joking. Instead, Skwawkbox’s proprietor was stung by the well-deserved criticism of his article into posting an indignant defence of his shoddy journalistic methods. In a quite astonishing display of chutzpah, he declared that he himself had been the victim of “fake news”!

Skwawkbox — an embarrassment to the Left

We learn now that not only has Skwawky no regrets about its story but that its owner, a certain Steve Walker (cited below), had the cheek to take the Mail to the  Independent Press Standards Organisation because the right-wing rag dared to call his public  pissoir a conduit for fake news.

After examining this case, and another, in which the site alleged that the PM was under investigation for conflicts of interest over Brexit,  he has just been sent away with his long tail between his legs.

The judgement says:

  • The complainant’s blog had reported claims made by third parties that a D-notice had been issued in relation to the Grenfell fire disaster. As these claims had proven to be untrue, it was not significantly misleading for the publication to have said that the complainant had “spread” “fake news”.
  • The Committee also noted that the complainant denied the report that he had published “false allegations” that Theresa May was under investigation for potential conflicts of interest relating to Brexit, as he had merely repeated claims that had been made about Mrs May. However, the article had made clear that the blog had “repeated claims” that the Propriety and Ethics Team had launched an investigation into Mrs May. As such, the article was not significantly misleading on this point.

This is how he responded to the judgement:

ATTACKS ON SKWAWKBOX INTENSIFYING AND DESPERATE. WONDER WHY..

Now the story brokejust before last week, and they have not replied beyond insulting the people they made an appeal to.

Hence we republish it for people to make their own minds up about the judgement.

But clearly Skwawkbox is unrepentant and feels free to continue spreading his version of reality on the Web.

Decision of the Complaints Committee 16690-17 Walker v Mail Online

Summary of complaint

  1. Steve Walker complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Revealed: Far left blogger behind ‘fake news’ story that government is gagging media over true scale of Grenfell deaths is corporate boss who sells services to the NHS” published on 30 June 2017.
  2. The article reported that an “anonymous, left wing blogger” who published the “fake news story” that the government had gagged the media over the Grenfell fire disaster, was a “corporate CEO who sells private services to the NHS”. It said that the story that the government had issued a D-notice, an official request to editors not to publish sensitive information, had gone viral, but no such government D-notice had been issued. The article also said that the blog had falsely reported that Theresa May was being investigated by the Cabinet Office for a conflict of interest on Brexit. The article named the complainant as the blogger and included photographs of him. It said that his company had made money from the NHS by selling it a mailing system.
  3. The complainant said that the article had inaccurately reported that his company sold services to the NHS, and that it benefited from the privatisation of the NHS, implying that the articles published on his blog were hypocritical. He said that the company provided a free service: clients were given access to the mailing system for free, and the company made money from the traffic generated, at no cost to the client.
  4. The complainant also disputed that his blog had spread “fake news”. He said that his blog, which stated that Theresa May was being investigated by the Cabinet Office for a conflict of interest on Brexit, made clear that this was a claim being made elsewhere in the media. Similarly, the blog reporting on the D-notice made clear that these were claims being made by sources, and that the claims were unconfirmed. Contrary to the article, he had not published “false claims”; the report of the claims was true; and when the claims were proven to be unfounded, the blog was amended.
  5. The complainant said that the article had included images taken from his Facebook profile without consent, including an image of him posing with his family.  The complainant also raised concern that his interview with the journalist had been recorded, without his explicit consent.
  6. The publication said that the article was accurate. It said that the complainant had spoken on the record to the reporter, and the reporter had a recording of the conversation to ensure that the subsequent article was accurate. The reporter had interviewed the complainant and had asked him whether he made a profit out of his business, and the complainant had said that as a business, it had to make a profit. It noted that the complainant’s job title was Sales Director, and the company website included testimonials using phrases such as “excellent value for money”.
  7. The publication said that it was not inaccurate to report that the complainant’s blog had been accused of spreading “fake news”. Irrespective of whether the blog had made clear that it was reporting claims, the information it had distributed had been false.
  8. With regards to the D-notice story, the publication said that the complainant’s blog was the first outlet to publish it, and the complainant had since accepted that it was inaccurate. It said that the blog had been widely criticised for spreading “fake news” following this story, and it considered that it should have been immediately obvious to the complainant that the allegations were false as D-notices were only used for matters of national security. It also argued that the blog had asserted that the claims were likely to be true: it had stated “if it is true that the government has issued a D-notice – and every instinct is screaming that it is” and went on to state that if it were the case “then the government has placed a national security gag on mainstream news editors to prevent them from disclosing what’s already known about the number of lives lost at Grenfell Tower.”
  9. The publication also noted that its article had stated that the complainant’s blog had reported “claims” that Theresa May was under investigation by the Cabinet Office. It said that there was no evidence in this blog that the author had made any attempt to verify the claims.
  10. The publication accepted that the complainant’s company distributed mailing software to clients for free, but it said that the company charged its clients for the letters sent using the software. It did not consider it significantly misleading for it have asserted that the “system” was sold to the NHS, as it was a fact that the “service” was sold to it. The publication said that the article had not accused the complainant of hypocrisy; rather, it had juxtaposed his business activities against the views he had expressed on NHS privatisation.  Regardless, it offered to amend the assertion that the complainant’s company sold the mailing system to the NHS, to make clear that it “provided” the system to the NHS. During IPSO’s investigation, it made further amendments to the article to make clear that the blog had reported claims, and it offered to append the following footnote, with a similar wording to be published as a standalone correction:

A previous version of this article said that Foojit made money from the NHS “by selling its mailing system to the Levenshulme Health Clinic in Manchester”. Mr Walker has contacted us to point out that in fact Foojit’s mailing system software was provided to the Clinic for free. What the Health Clinic pays for is any letters it sends using Foojit’s services. In addition the article has been amended to say that the Skwawkbox blog posts published by Mr Walker reported on claims made by other sources. We are happy to make this clear.

  1. The publication said that the photographs were sourced from the complainant’s open Facebook site and could also be found on his wife’s Facebook site. They merely showed the complainant, his wife and adult child; the child’s face had been blurred at the complainant’s request. The remaining images were sourced from publicly available resources, such as social media postings relating to the complainant’s business. The publication did not consider that any private information had been disclosed by publishing any of the images.

Relevant Code provisions

  1. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
  2. i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
  3. ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

  1. iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Clause 2 (Privacy)

  1. i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.
  2. ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual’s private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant’s own public disclosures of information.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Findings of the Committee

  1. The complainant’s business provided mailing software to its clients for free, and the business had charged the NHS for mail sent using the system. As such, it was not significantly misleading for the publication to have described this model as the complainant selling a “mailing system”, “mailing solutions” and “private services” to the NHS, and to claim that his company benefited from the privatisation of the NHS. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article on this point. While this point did not raise a breach of the Code, the Committee welcomed the publication’s offer to publish a clarification to address it.
  2. The Committee noted the complainant’s concern that the publication had accused him of spreading the “fake news” story that the government had “gagged” the media over the Grenfell fire disaster, when his blog had made clear that he was reporting claims that a D-notice had been issued.
  3. The complainant’s blog had reported claims made by third parties that a D-notice had been issued in relation to the Grenfell fire disaster. As these claims had proven to be untrue, it was not significantly misleading for the publication to have said that the complainant had “spread” “fake news”. There was no breach of the Code on this point.
  4. The article under complaint had not made clear that the complainant’s blog had repeated claims made by third parties about the D-notice: it had said that he was “behind the ‘fake news’ story”, and that he had “reported that officials had placed a D-notice”. However, the Committee also noted that the complainant had given significant weight to this claim in his blog. Indeed, the blog had strongly suggested that it was true: it had said “every instinct is screaming that [the claims are true]”. Given that the complainant had endorsed the credibility of the claims and had effectively adopted them, it was not significantly misleading for the publication to have said that the complainant had “reported” that the government had issued a D-notice. There was no breach of the Code on this point.
  5. The Committee also noted that the complainant denied the report that he had published “false allegations” that Theresa May was under investigation for potential conflicts of interest relating to Brexit, as he had merely repeated claims that had been made about Mrs May. However, the article had made clear that the blog had “repeated claims” that the Propriety and Ethics Team had launched an investigation into Mrs May. As such, the article was not significantly misleading on this point. There was no breach of Clause 1.
  6. The publication had published images that had been taken from the complainant’s Facebook profile and from social media sites relating to the complainant’s business. The images showed the complainant’s face and did not disclose information about which the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
  7. Where the complainant was aware that he was speaking to a journalist, the journalist was not required to obtain his permission to record the conversation for note-taking purposes. There was no breach of Clause 2.

Conclusions: The complaint was not upheld.

20.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 23, 2017 at 5:37 pm