Corbyn and his Sturmabteilung: is this serious political debate?
As many readers of this Blog, often the majority, are not from the UK, this is a stark reminder to them of how far things have go with us.
Left Socialist Blog
Unconvincing ‘anti-racist’ makeover of Front National.
As part of its modernisation the far-right Front National, at present topping polls for the first round of the French Presidential elections but slipping fast, claimed to have dropped any association with anti-Semitism, and all forms of race hate.
Today a spanner was put in the well-oiled works of Marine Le Pen’s party.
The documentary, filmed, like revelations in UK parties, undercover, showed Benoît Loeuillet, head of the FN in Nice, casting doubt of the number of deaths in the Shoah, and citing the negationist “Leuchter report” associated with Holocaust denier M. Faurisson. The councillor declared, “Il n’y a pas eu de morts de masse comme ça a été dit” there were not the mass deaths as has been said.
The film, to be broadcast tonight, is also revealing about the pervasive racism inside the FN something that English language reports on this have so far not explored Another councillor, Philippe Vardon, is shown complaining that all the people he shakes hands with are blacks (“Ça commence à être inquiétant : tous les mecs qui me serrent la main, ils sont noirs”). (le Monde)
The message is that not only is Holocuast denial far from extinct within the FN but that close links with the cultural racist “identitaires” movement is at the heart of the far-right party.
Guardian report: France’s Front National suspends party official over Holocaust denial.
France’s far-right Front National has suspended a party official for Holocaust denial after he suggested there was no mass killing in the Nazi concentration camps.
Benoît Loeuillet, head of the FN in Nice, was secretly filmed making the comments, which will be broadcast in a documentary. “I don’t think there were that many deaths … during the Shoah,” he is heard saying.
Jean-Marie Le Pen fined again for dismissing Holocaust as ‘detail’
Asked by the journalist filming him about Holocaust deniers, Loeuillet, said: “I don’t really know what to think. It’s complicated … there weren’t 6 million [deaths]. There weren’t mass deaths as we’ve been told.”
The film-makers, from TV Press Productions, had asked to follow the FN in the Alpes-Maritimes region earlier this year to understand why so many young voters support the far-right party led by Marine Le Pen, a frontrunner for the first round of France’s presidential election at the end of April.
I signal this on the We are Committed to Voting Labour site.
It has not been removed.
Posted by Abul Monsur “I am a Muslim and will never support a wrong doing of another Muslim or Muslim nation. Religion teaches us to be fair and just to ALL.” says he.
This follows Ian Leask
Criticism of the Rothschilds is starting to be suggested as antisemitic. Presumably by those who don’t like that criticism, and by friends of Israel who like to cover up the horrendous atrocities being undertaken by the Israeli state by branding that criticism as antisemitic too.
Well frankly I don’t give a damn where the Rothschilds come from or what religion they follow, if any, and I’m not drawing any comparison between them and the state of Israel either. All I can see is that the state of Israel is a grotesque terrorist fascist Apartheid Country, and the Rothschilds are obscenely rich and do indeed own personally, if not 80% of the World’s wealth, then an amount grossly out of proportion to their worth to the planet. There’s nothing antisemitic about that. Fuck it. If only these people getting all up tight about screwing things round to be antisemitic when they’re not, would also spend as much energy directing criticism of anti Islamic hate too. But that seems to be mainstream. In a decent society you should not tolerate either, but accept criticism where it is due.I campaign against Racism in any shape or form but when someone or group deserve to be critised for there actions against the morals of sociaty as a whole then I will speak out no matter who that individual or group Is!
Corbyn and his Sturmabteilung: is this serious political debate?
As many readers of this Blog, often the majority, are not from the UK, this is a stark reminder to them of how far things have go with us.
Michael Foster, who has given party £400,000, says he did not use word ‘Nazi’ in piece referring to leader’s Sturmabteilung.
The Labour party has suspended a prominent donor for likening Jeremy Corbyn’s team to Nazi storm troopers.
Michael Foster, a former celebrity agent who has donated more than £400,000 to the party, said the Labour leader and his team had “no respect for others and worse, no respect for the rule of law”.
His comments were published in article published in the Mail on Sunday, titled: “Why I despise Jeremy Corbyn and his Nazi stormtroopers’, by Jewish Labour donor Michael Foster.”
The piece appeared on 14 August after the high court ruled against Foster’s bid to stop Corbyn from being automatically allowed to stand for re-election as leader.
The former Labour parliamentary candidate in Camborne and Redruth said: “To me, respect for the rule of law is fundamental to a democracy.
“The courts decided that the rules as they stand allowed it. This decision advantaged Corbyn and his Sturm Abteilung (stormtroopers).”
Foster has said that he did not use the word “Nazi” in his article, but it was included in the headline by the Mail on Sunday.
This is what the relevant section of the article says,
To me, respect for the rule of law is fundamental to a democracy. Once political parties believe they are above the law it ends with all opposition silenced, whether it is my grandparents in Dachau, or the Left in Erdogan’s Turkey rounded up and held uncharged in prison.
The courts decided that the rules as they stand allowed it. This decision advantaged Corbyn and his Sturm Abteilung (stormtroopers), but on Friday afternoon the Appeal Court handed down a big decision for British democracy.
It disallowed the attempt by arriviste followers of Corbyn to flood the Labour electoral college. This caused the mask of reasonableness of the Corbynista leadership to slip even further.
Suddenly the most holy of holies, the NEC, was labelled a shoddy organisation capable of using a ‘grubby little device’. Cross this lot and you are straight into the firing line.
Corbyn no longer has a clear path in his bid to destroy the Labour Party as we have known it in Government and in Opposition for the past 70 years.
The Mirror adds,
Mr Foster insists his remarks referred to Mr Corbyn’s “leadership cadre”, and could just as easily have compared them to the “Pretorian Guard or Revolutionary Guard or Red Guard – a group there to secure the leader and his political plans.”
There are already voices from the left calling, ironically or not, for support for Foster against the decision to suspend him…
This is not the only example of complete political hysteria and confusion in the Labour Party.
A few days ago there was this, from Owen Smith, candidate to lead the Labour Party, during the debate with Jeremy Corbyn on Question Time.
Mr Smith said: “Under Jeremy’s leadership, we’ve seen people coming into the Labour party from the hard-left of politics people who are bringing into our party anti-Semitic attitudes and that cannot be acceptable,
“There are people on the far left of the Labour party who are flooding in to our party and that’s their word, not mine.The Alliance of Workers Liberty only a couple of weeks ago said ‘let’s flood into the Labour party’.
“Just the other day I saw a tweet purporting to be from Jeremy’s team to members of a hard-left group saying ‘you’re welcome to come to Jeremy’s rallies, just leave the flags and banners at home’. And the reason for that is we’ve seen some of those flags and banners at some of Jeremy’s rallies and unfortunately some of those people are bringing in attitudes to our party from the hard-left that I don’t think is welcome.”
“There are people who have come from the AWL and the SWP (Socialist Workers Party) and some of the other left-wing groups which have either not been part of the Labour party or have been proscribed by the Labour party and some of those people are advocating joining the Labour party in order to support Jeremy and in order to control the Labour party. Some of the people around Jeremy are absolutely encouraging it, of that there is no doubt.”
The AWL replied (in our view, in measured terms),
On BBC Question Time (Labour leadership debate, 8 September) Owen Smith, in the stream-of-consciousness style that has come to typify Smith’s approach to political debate, links the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (as part of the “hard left in our Party” “flooding into the Party”) to those on the left who “associate anti-Zionism, anti-imperialism”, “anti-Israel” perspectives (sic). That is, he implicitly called us anti-semitic.
This incoherent tirade against the “hard left” was a disgraceful intervention into an important issue that deserves serious, well-informed debate.
Smith’s comments referred back to an earlier exchange with Jeremy Corbyn in the programme in which he accused Corbyn of not doing enough to make the Party a safe place for Jewish members; and the hard left (which would, he implied include the AWL, were causing this problem). There were other accusations streamed into Smith’s tirade, but let’s focus on the accusation of anti-semitism.
You don’t have to know very much about what the AWL stands for, agree with the AWL’s two-state position on Israel-Palestine, or even be very left-wing to be aware that any accusation of “left anti-semitism” against us, however half-stated, is ludicrous. We have spent many years exposing, analysing and fighting this phenomena and it has not won us many friends on the organised hard left!
Livingstone: How Long, How Long, How Very Long He’s Gone.
This Blog has not gone into the details of the rows and distressing state of the Labour Party debate.
Nor has it made it more than generally clear that we support a vote for Jeremy Corbyn, though like many on the long-standing left we are not uncritical.
For the moment I will leave it that this, but something has now happened that calls for some comment.
We would wish that this individual is not a Corbyn supporter.
We would prefer to have nothing whatsoever to do with Livingstone.
We wish he would just shut his gob and go away.
The Daily Mirror has just reported this.
Ken Livingstone took to the airwaves this morning to defend former Labour colleague Keith Vaz today, but ended up in a lengthy defence of his own comments about Hitler.
The former Labour Mayor of London told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire he believed “someone’s private life should remain private.”
He said he didn’t think Mr Vaz paying for sex was a conflict of interest with his role on the Home Affairs select committee.
He said: “I don’t think the fact, if it turns out to be true, that he has paid for sex prevents him from conducting an inquiry into prostitution and the problems of prostitution.
“The problem with prostitution is what happens to the poor prostitutes and not so much their clients.”
Mr Livingstone said in the 40 years he’s been a colleague of Mr Vaz, he never recalled him mentioning sex or drugs.
He added: “Do you judge someone’s political career on the basis of one incident like this, or on the total of four decades. Everyone makes mistakes.”
Host Victoria Derbyshire asked Mr Livingstone about his suspension for “bringing the Labour Party into disrepute”, over comments he made linking Hitler with Zionism.
He replied: “I’m still waiting for the committee to sit down and decide whether what I said was true or not.
“I think they keep putting it off because the simple fact is I’ve got so much evidence that says what I’m saying is true.”
He went on to say that the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem sells pamphlets to tourists about the “deal” Hitler did with the Zionists.
“I’ve got so much evidence,” he insisted.
Mr Livingstone insisted he’d never said Hitler was a Zionist.
“To suggest Hitler was a Zionist is mad,” he said. “He loathed and feared Jews all his life.
But he did do a deal with the Zionist movement in the 1930s, and that led to 66,000 German Jews going to what is now Israel, and escaping the Holocaust.”
He said people should “go on websites”, and cited “dozens and dozens of books” which confirm that Hitler did a “deal” with the Zionist movement throughout the 1930s.
Asked if he was bothered about offending British Jews, he said: “If anyone has been offended by what I said, I’m truly sorry about that.
“But I’ve been struck by the number of people who’ve come up to me on the street and said “I’m Jewish, I know what you said is true. Don’t give in to this bullying.”
La Fin de l’intellectual français? De Zola à Houellebecq. Shlomo Sand. La Découverte. 2016.
Internationally celebrated for The Invention of the Jewish People (2009) Shlomo Sand is a redoubtable controversialist. That study, which argued that those following the Jewish religion only began to consider themselves a “people” during the Middle Ages, continues to be debated. Sand’s assertion that most Jews owes their origins to religious conversion, and not to ancient Hebrew origins, was intended to strike at the heart of the “National Myth” of the state of Israel. How I stopped Being a Jew (2013) announced a wish to break with “tribal Judocentrism”. Warmth for the secular ideals of Israel, and for the Hebrew language, has not protected him from vigorous criticism from a wide variety of Zionist critics.
La Fin de l’intellectuel français has equally iconoclastic ambitions. Apart from frequent autobiographical notes, during which we learn he was once a Marxist who wished to change the world, it is no less than a charge, an accusation, against Europe, and against France in particular: that the Continent is lifting the drawbridges against the “Muslim foreigners”. A “contagious plague” of Islamophobia, uniting left secularists and traditional nationalists, has infected the Hexagone. For Sand, “media intellectuals” (intellectuels médiatiques) both circulate this “code” and pile up its symbolic property. “A une vitesse suprenante, une puissante intelligentsia médiatique s’est constituée pour qui la stigmatisation de l’autre’”… “La détestation de la religion musulmane” has become “le nouvel opium de l’intellectuel’ ‘antitotalitaire.” (Page 238) At an amazing speed, a powerful media intelligentsia has been built around the stigmatisation of the Other. ” “The loathing of the Muslim religion” has become the “new opium of the anti-totalitarian intellectuals.”
Put simply, to the author the stars of the modern Parisian media salons, those setting the tone, the style and the substance are small in number. They include (putting them in British terms) Éric Zemmour (a ‘declinist’ second cousin to our historians nostalgic for the Empire with specific French gripes against the ‘héritières de mai 68’, ), Alain Finkielkraut (a ‘philosopher’ of the erosion of educational and grammatical standards, and what one might call “Parisianistan’, an even closer co-thinker to Melanie Phillips), Renaud Camus (a professional indignant xenophobe railing at the ‘replacement’ of Europeans by foreigners, and potential Editorialist for the Daily Express), and Michael Houellebecq, who needs no introduction, even, one hopes, to dimwits.
The bulk of La Fin de l’intellectuel français consists of chapters on the historical role of French intellectuals, and considerations of their social functions, from Gramsci, Pierre Bourdieu to Régis Debray. There is mention of lesser-known writings, such as Harman and Rotman’s Les Intellocrats (1981) which highlighted the small Parisian world of publishing, and heralded the birth of the new “media intellectuals” that came to the fore in the late seventies with the nouveaux philosophes, André Glucksmann, Bernard-Henri Lévy and others, long forgotten, defying the totalitarianism they had freshly rejected.
As a pared down version of Michael Scott Christofferson’s Les Intellectuals contre la Gauche (2014 – French, expanded, edition), this history, a grand narrative, charges the French intellectual class with having abandoned Marxism and the left. Amongst many other faults it ignores that the left continued to exist during that decade. Mitterrand’s 1981 victory – initially ruling in coalition with the Parti Communiste français (PCF) – was supported by the mass of the intelligentsia, within which an unbroken critical, if minority, left – never once mentioned in La Fin – has continued its own way, up till the present. This indicates one of the many ways in which the dominance of ‘media intellectuals’, in, unsurprisingly, the media is not the same as the kind of more entrenched intellectual hegemony that Gramsci outlined.
Readers unfamiliar with the history of the term intellectual and the politics of French intellectuals, from the “critical collective intellectual”, Zola and his cohorts, that arose during the Dreyfus Affair, Julien Benda’s defence of disinterested universalism (La Trahison des clercs. 1927), Paul Nizan’s Leninist commitment to the “soldats de la plume” (Les Chiens de Garde. 1932), will find, at least some passages to reflect on.
The Collaboration, the Resistance, post-war ‘engaged’ thinkers, in the mould of Sartre, Beauvoir and Camus, receive particular attention. The less reputable aspects of the Existentialist couple’s war record and minimal participation in real resistance were, for Sand a stumbling block for his own hero worship. Those who have not stumbled across writings such as Carole Seymour-Jones, A Dangerous Liaison (2008) that portrays in more depth than La Fin de l’intellectuel français the worst side of the pair’s war-time treatment of their Jewish lover, Bianca Bienenfeld, may even now be shocked.
Sand is, while not widely known outside of specialised circles, is the author of a fine study of Georges Sorel, L’illusion du politique (1984) Based on his PhD thesis this intellectual biography demolished a number of misconceptions, including the idea that Sorel was a proto-fascist, while making the various writings and stages in Sorel’s thought as clear as is possible. He followed this (echoed in the present volume) with a dispute on fascism, with the Israeli historian Zeev Sternhell. Apart from demonstrating again that 1920s and 1930s French ‘non-conformist’ admiration for Mussolini, and then (to a lesser extent) Hitler, indicated just how far real fascism did not take root in France, Sand demonstrates analytical fineness. He even admits that the far-right (and most notorious intellectual Collaborator) writer Drieu la Rochelle had talent (Page 158). Indeed the text displays – against Sartre’s belief that no anti-Semitic novel had any merit – a serious acquaintance with the romancier’s (in our opinion) interminable and tedious Gilles. (1939) (Page 215)
None of this delicacy is offered in the concluding chapters of La Fin de l’intellectuel français. It is tale of French Islamophobia, of nationalism and bigotry masquerading as Universalist secularism that would have been lifted from the pages of Socialist Worker or the web site of Counterfire. It is with no surprise that we learn that his first salvo against Charlie Hebdo, appeared in the far from philo-semitic ‘wise-guy’ publication, Counterpunch (,A Fetid Wind of Racism Hovers Over Europe. January 2015) a site which has published articles contesting the pardon of…Dreyfus. (1)
Sand loathes Houellebecq, who is perhaps an acquired taste. This may be why he fails to pick up on one of the few funny jokes in Soumission, the creation of the “Indigenous European a direct response to Indigénes de la République” – one group of racists giving ideas to another. Je Suis Charlie, is not, as it is for many of, the emblem of love and freedom. For the nuanced connoisseur of French pre-War ideologies, it was a publication that produced, week in and week out, a “representation méprisante et irrespectueuse de la croyance d’une minorité religieuse” a picture that shows disrespect for a religious minority. (Page 225). No doubt that explains why Muslims, frustrated, unhinged with only a fragile belief to cling to, decided to react with murderous folly (Page 227). Doubtless it also accounts for why they killed at the Hyper-Cacher….
That the middle class demonstrated on the 11th of January 2015 in solidarity with Charlie we do not doubt. But oddly, Sand does not deeply cite his authority on this point, Emmanuel Todd, for whom they also showed the spirit of Vichy, Catholic Zombies (walking unconsciously in the steps of their religious past), soaked in the ‘culture of narcissism’, objectively xenophobe, like the Parti Socialiste, and …pro-Europeans – the (Sociologie d’une crise religieuse. Qui est Charlie? 2015). So, with every one of his bugbears wrapped together, what next? Todd, we are not astonished to learn, despises this bloc, the MAZ, prefers those who rejected the Maastricht treaty, and….is himself a nationalist, or, as they call it today, a “sovereigntist” who wishes to reassert French Sovereignty over the economy, against the European Union….
In his pursuit of allies in the fight against French laïcité Sand might consider a much deeper problem than hostile reactions to Islam or those who make summary judgements about ‘Islamo-gauchisme’. It lies in this sovereigntism: a nationalists turn with far deeper roots than religious or ethnic hostility: a true xenophobia, embraced not just by the Front National, but by the centre-right, and that section of the left which shares Todd’s loathing of the European Union, if not other European states (not to mention the US). There is a name for this, which we have already used, xenophobia, and the point where nationalism slides into racism.
One can accept that that anti-Muslim feeling is prejudice, that there is a strong dose of racist defence of “la terre et les morts” against all classes of immigrants but particularly Muslims, and Catholic Mayors suddenly discovering that are secular republicans. That one can pretend that specifically French forms of secularism are universal at one’s peril.
One can accept all of this, even some gestures towards the sub-existentialist phrases about fear of the Other …but, are there not some problems about violent forms of Islamism, some difficulties, as indicated in Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran, to halt just there. That amongst contemporary forms of Islamism, the status of the Kufur, the rules governing women, most visibly their ‘modesty’ and punishing the ‘immodest’, bedrock human rights issues, remain…issues.
Sand passes in silence over the ideas of the strongly left-wing and pro-Communist Charlie editor, Charb. Perhaps he should read his posthumous Lettre aux escrocs de l’islamophobie qui font le jeu des racists (2015). If that proves too much for him he has no excuse whatsoever for ignoring the mass of serious literature in French on Islam, and Islamism, from Gilles Kepel, Olivier Roy, François Burgat, Gilbert Achcar in French. The vast majority of these writings, are as nuanced, as profoundly researched as one could wish, with all due consideration for the immense difficulties of marginalised Maghrebian and African populations. I would recommend he begin with a genuine intellectual with knowledge of both the evolution of former Maoists towards ‘anti-totalitarianism’ and Islamism, Jean Birnbaum, and his Un Silence Religieux. La Gauche Face au Djihadisme. 2016. He is certainly not a sign of the ‘end’ of the species.
The secularist Ligue des droits de l’homme has been at the forefront of the fight against the ‘Burkini ban’ (l’Humanité) So much for Sand’s recent claim that “La laïcité, comme autrefois le patriotisme, s’avère, de nos jours, l’ultime refuge de l’infâme ” (Nouvel Obs. 24.8.16.)
(1) THE DREYFUS CASE, REVISITED: Israel Shamir sifts through the Dreyfus case: was he really a victim of anti-semitism?
Rhea Wolfson is a breath of fresh air.
Like many activists I was very pleased to see a fresh face standing for the Centre left Grassroots Alliance slate for Labour’s NEC along with the other strong candidates, Ann Black, Claudia Webbe, Darren Williams, Christine Shawcroft, and Pete Willsman.
Reflecting the diversity of the democratic socialist, labour spectrum reflected on this list, which includes those from all parts of this tradition, Rhea is an activist with her own views. She immediately attracted criticism, from the Progress Right-wing of the party, from the Eustonites, and, as can be seen from her own account, from others who have nothing to do with the labour movement or any form of left.
Harry’s Place – the ‘Eustonites’ – singled her out.
Saul Freeman wrote,
Rhea Wolfson, a young socialist who has stated that “winning 2020 should not be the priority of the Labour Party” and asserts that “to focus only on elections loses sight of other ways of making effective changes in society”.
If Ken & Rhea didn’t exist, some of us would be tempted to invent them as clumsily drawn characters to use in our blog posts where we write about the moral and political collapse of the Left.
He appeared to suggest that her opinions fitted in a box that included the Stop the War Coalition, amongst people who, “who sneer at the dull incrementalism of parliamentary social democracy”.
Now I appreciate that Rhea isn’t too concerned about this aspect, but how could I vote for Labour in 2020 anyway? It wouldn’t be the safe or responsible thing to do. I mean – and I know this is stretching the argument – what if Labour actually achieved power? Is anyone seriously suggesting that we vote to empower those that hold the STWC world view, in whole or in part? How might history judge us?
Harry’s Place was not the only critic.
Rhea has written her own account – which should be read.
On Tuesday afternoon, I announced that I was standing for election to represent Labour Party members on its National Executive Committee. My first 24 hours as a candidate were a crash course in why so many are reluctant to put themselves forward. In less than a day I have faced racist and sexist abuse through social media, directed to both my family and me, been smeared by Tory blogs, and had senior figures in my own party attack me unfairly.
My day got worse from here. The right wing blog Guido Fawkes then picked up the story. This led to more attention and more hatred on social media. And I presume it was thanks to this coverage that I won the attention of the far-right.
A neo-Nazi blog covered my candidacy. There, I am described as a ‘dirty Zionist Jewess’. The writer has publicised my twitter account and instructed its readers to send Nazi images to me. The comments on the page include photoshopped images of me in a gas chamber. More harrowing still, they have shared my sister’s Twitter handle and suggested that she be targeted too.
This is such pretentious, self serving, martyrdom promoting, precious nonsense. Those of us who have actually been active in the anti-fascist movement, you know actually facing up to fash and driving them off the streets, would find this pathetic. I’ve been targeted for close on a decade by Redwatch – Southern Coast, a neo-Nazi site dedicated to physically targeting anti-fascists for attacks in the street or home or both. People on it have been attacked but we don’t moan. I’ve been attacked but you just put it down to experience.
Those who wish can try to finish this particular line of thought on the original site.
Greenstein added, in response to the suggestion that Rhea should be entitled to a Safe Space that,
Tony Greenstein is currently believed to be appealing against his suspension from the Labour Party.
By contrast how is the labour movement reacting?
Left Futures reports.
GMB condemns antisemitic abuse of centre-left candidate for Labour executive
GMB Scotland today utterly condemned the vile antisemitic abuse suffered by their Glasgow Branch Secretary, Rhea Wolfson, who is standing for a position on the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
A spate of deliberate attacks on social media by Nazi propagandists occurred following confirmation of Rhea’s candidacy and GMB Scotland have said they will bring these hate crimes to the attention of the police, while using every tool at their disposal to flush out the online racists.
Gary Smith, GMB Scotland Secretary, said:
There is no place for anti-Semitism or racism of any kind in our politics or society and Rhea has the total solidarity of her trade union in the face of this vile abuse.
Rhea is a hugely talented and principled activist; a popular and respected member of our union in Scotland and beyond with an established track record of campaigning for social justice and human rights.
We can’t let this hate go unchallenged. What sort of message would that send out to young people of all backgrounds who may want to get involved in making our communities and workplaces more fair, peaceful and prosperous?
GMB Scotland looks after our members and we call on all representatives from across civic society and politics to condemn these hate crimes.”
Like many others who were involved in forming and supporting the Grassroots Alliance when it was set up in 1998 I can say that all this brings back recollections of the response of those hostile to it at the time. *
This piece, which enjoyed cult status in some quarters (though not, for reasons which become immediately clear, amongst those individually singled out), brought us back down memory lane.
WHEN I was first at college, the most romantic and sexy left group on campus was Tariq Ali’s International Marxist Group. They smoked dope, they dropped acid, they bonked, they argued, they partied. When they got militant the blokes all put on denim jackets, tartan scarves and black gloves, and occupied things. And the IMG women were cool, too, divided between free-loving Alexandra Kollontais and Earth Mothers.
The International Socialists (forerunners of the Socialist Workers Party, and political home to Paul Foot) and sections of my own Communist Party were hostile to the IMG. “IMG, IMG, idle sons of the bourgeoisie”, was one little chant that we all enjoyed in those far-off days. Hour after hour we would sit up debating with IMG members the virtues and vices of Ernest Mandel’s critique of the Neither Washington Nor Moscow problematics.
Echoes of this past were ringing in my ears when I read the accounts this week of the attempts by Liz Davies, the ousted Labour candidate for Leeds, to get elected to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party this autumn. She is part of a slate – the “centre-left” slate, no less – which is canvassing for the votes of ordinary Labour Party members, even as I write. She’s had a very good press for, after all, what is she doing, other than trying to debate, in a party that now stifles debate? Poor Liz.
As always. Nice to see you again, comrades. But “centre-left”? Please.
I should point out that Liz had nothing to do with the IMG whatsoever.
That was before the Web, Twitter, Trolling, and when the likes of Saul and Greenstein could only grind their teeth in their basements amid the smell of damp socks.
At least Aaronovitch could do funnies.
*The Alliance’s founding groups were originally Labour Reform, a centrist democratic group within the Party, and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, the left wing democratic grouping, who subsequently brought in other more left-wing groupings from within the Labour Party. Private talks with trades union representatives to build a broader base had failed on union demands and this initiated the inclusion of a much broader Left group from the grassroots, including Labour Left Briefing and the Editor of Tribune, Mark Seddon. Successful efforts were also made to include the Scottish Left. Wikipedia.
Opportunism, loud-mouths, and more than distasteful allegations have marked the anti-semitism controversy embroiling the British left, and the Labour Party in particular, in recent days.
Some say, with justification, that the issue is being used as a stick with which to beat Jeremy Corbyn.
In our view Corbyn has responded with measured dignity, and John McDonnell has expressed the wishes of many.
For those – and there are great numbers of us – who follow what’s happening in Syria and Iraq, there’s a lot happening which is causing us burning concern.
It’s hard not to feel that with millions of refugees in the Middle East, many of whom are desperately trying to enter Europe, with Islamists from ISIS committing real genocide, with mass killings by the Assad regime, with murders by the Shariah enforcing A-Nusra Front, religious sectarian hatred involving the wholesale religious cleansing of the region, that this British row is irrelevant in the face of events that really matter.
There are, nevertheless some deeply thought-out reflections on the controversy.
Ross Wolfe’s Reflections on Left antisemitism, towers over many analyses.
Bob makes the point about the famous ‘Brenner’ book: Lenni Brenner says Ken’s wrong. He links to an interview (IB Times) with David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialists’ Group who states, “”badly written and with poor scholarship – a piece of tabloid journalism glued together with selective facts and lots of conjecture”.
This is worth – critically – thinking about: The Livingstone Formulation – David Hirsh April 29, 2016 .
Significantly for left as a whole Jon Lansman has just published an important piece on Left Futures which is headed, Why the Left must stop talking about ‘Zionism’
I would argue that it is time for the Left to start talking in a new language – one that expresses our views about Israel, about the policies and actions of its government and about the rights of Palestinians without alienating any of those who might agree with us. It is not necessary to abandon any non-racist criticisms of Israel, however robust they may be, in order to do so.
Clearly if need there were this is a case in point: “Normal service to be resumed as the UKs Zionist political class push the country towards the 19th century.“
But it is not just language but politics which are at stake.
A serious argument is that, as John Rees argues, there is a case for a “secular, democratic state across historic Palestine (which) has nothing in common with anti-semitism.” (Counterfire)
What the revolutionaries wanted was a democratic, free, non-oppressive and non-exploitative society. The Palestinian revolution is no different. It does not want to ‘drive the Jews into the sea’. In the founding statutes of the Palestine Liberation Organisation demanded a democratic, secular state in which Jews and Arabs could live in peace in the historic land of Palestine, as they did before the forcible exclusion of the Arab population that was the necessary precondition of the establishment of a religiously exclusivist state in 1948. The exclusivity of that state is nowhere more obvious than in the fundamental ‘law of return’ in which a Jew from any part of the globe, no matter if they have never had the remotest contact with the Middle East in their lives, can migrate to Israel and become a citizen, but no Palestinian refugee forced from their home can exercise a legal right to return.
That state, its extensions and colonial conquests, its racist laws, checkpoints, walls and settlements will have to be completely overthrown before that vision of a homeland for both Palestinians and Jews can be realised.
The often toted alternative, a two state solution now sadly and disastrously accepted by the PLO leaders, is actually a retreat in the face of the argument that Arabs and Jews must have racially exclusive states because they cannot live together. That is wrong, and so unworkable. It would, indeed it has, perpetuated war in the region, and will not abolish it.
It would be important, for this to be more widely accepted, for those who accept Ress’ view to clarify how they see the role of Hamas and Hizbollah in this overthrow. and the creation of a democratic secular state.
Socialist Worker published this, August the 5th 2014 which puts forward one position.
(This is an edited version of an article by Egyptian Revolutionary Socialist Mostafa Omar. Read the full version at global.revsoc.me/2014/07/towards-a-revolutionary-perspective-on-hamas)
We consider Islamist movements such as Isis in Syria and Iraq as reactionary to the core. Its racism wipes out the idea that the unity of the oppressed is fundamental to resisting dictatorship and colonialism.
We differentiate between such utterly reactionary Islamist movements, and Islamist movements such as Hamas and Hizbollah. The latter two movements came into existence to resist imperialism.
We consider Hamas to be a resistance movement against Zionism and imperialism.
From this perspective we unconditionally support Hamas when it is engaged in military or non-military struggles against Israel. This is because it weakens the Zionist state and terrifies the Arab regimes and the US.
It therefore strengthens the potential for class struggle in the Arab states against this imperialist system.
Our unconditional support for Hamas is not uncritical. Hamas’ strategy is to associate itself with regimes which are reactionary and conspire constantly to repress their people and suppress the Palestinian struggle.
Secondly Hamas adopts an elitist approach to dealing with the Palestinian masses. This weakens the capacities of mass resistance in the long term.
Like all colonised peoples, the Palestinians alone have the right to decide their destiny.
But our support is critical because the fate of revolutionary change in the Arab world and the fate of the Palestinian Resistance are organically connected to each other.
This is the rub: very very few people have the slightest confidence, let alone belief, that Hamas (a key actor on the ground in any future settlement, rather than the Lebanese Hezbollah), are committed to a “secular, democratic state”.
To say the least.
Yet those who use the language of a “resistance” have locked Hamas into a fight with “Zionism” and “Imperialism” with their “unconditional” but not “uncritical” support.
Perhaps one of the many reasons why people look to the Two State position is that they cannot possibly see any democratic way out of the conflict which involves Hamas playing the determining role that Mostafa Omar supports.