Posts Tagged ‘Imperialism’
Spartacist League Forms Syrian Battalion in Support of ISIS
RAQQAH, SYRIA – Marking the first time since the Bolivian National Revolution that Trotskyists have rallied in armed defence of their values, members of the Spartacist League of Britain have travelled to “the Caliphate” in order to defend ISIS from “imperialism”.
The formation of the so-called “Hammer Battalion” follows an announcement earlier this week of Spartacist League support for ISIS military victory.
“However, a senior ISIS source has hinted that not everyone in the movement is supportive of the group’s actions: “They spend more time condemning others for not being ISIS enough than actually fighting. Three of our best men were killed last month in a fight over whether the Soviet Union was a ‘deformed’ or ‘degenerated’ worker’s state.”
See more on Workers’ Spatula.
The source for this?
SL/B National Conference Summer 2015. The fight for a Leninist party
We must guard against a tendency, noted in the documents adopted by the December 2014 plenums of the ICL International Executive Committee and the SL/US Central Committee, to succumb to the pressure bearing down on our party to weaken our opposition to imperialism. The reintegration of Crimea into Russia in the aftermath of an imperialist-sponsored, fascist-infested coup in Kiev and the referenda for “self-rule” in the East Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk were largely met with howls of outrage by the liberal and reformist left in the West…. We took a correct, Leninist stance in forthrightly declaring “Crimea is Russian” and in defending the right to self-rule in Eastern Ukraine.
The US, supported by Britain, is now at war with the Islamic State (ISIS), which was initially funded by extremist Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia. [An IS motion of 23 October 2014 said:] “We have a military side with the reactionary ISIL when it engages in military conflict with the imperialists and their local forces on the ground, including the Iraqi Kurdish pesh merga, the Baghdad government, Shi’ite militias and the Syrian Kurds. We give no political support to any of these retrograde forces.”…
Here is some background:
Workers Vanguard 3rd of April 2015.
It is the duty of class-conscious workers everywhere, particularly in the U.S., to oppose all wars and occupations carried out by the imperialists. When the U.S. began air strikes against ISIS last year, we explained that “any force, however unsavory, that attacks, repels or otherwise impedes U.S. forces strikes a blow in the interests of the exploited and the oppressed” (“U.S. Out of Iraq! No Intervention in Syria!” WV No. 1051, 5 September 2014). We take a military side with ISIS when it targets the imperialists and forces acting as their proxies, including the Baghdad government and the Shi’ite militias as well as the Kurdish pesh merga forces in Northern Iraq and the Syrian Kurdish nationalists. This does not mean we give the slightest political support to the reactionary ISIS butchers.
Workers Hammer(UK) Winter 2014 – 15.
Many liberals and reformist organisations, while claiming to oppose the imperialists’ intervention in Syria/Iraq, are simultaneously backing the Kurdish forces that are acting as imperialist proxies. In the battle for the predominantly Kurdish city of Kobani in northern Syria, the US has carried out airstrikes against ISIS and dropped arms and other supplies to fighters on the ground, mainly from the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is allied to the nationalist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) based in Turkey. PYD military forces are acting as ground troops and spotters for the US imperialists, thus tying the fortunes of the oppressed Kurdish population to the imperialists’ war against ISIS. While we uphold the right of national self-determination for the Kurdish people, who are oppressed by the bourgeois regimes in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, “championing the Kurds in the current conflict can only mean lending support to imperialist plunder”, as we explain in “Down with US/British war against ISIS!”
Workers Vanguard. 31st October 2014.
ISIS today is in battle against the local tools of U.S. imperialism, the main enemy of the world’s working people. A setback for the U.S. in Syria might give pause to Washington in its military adventures, including by encouraging opposition at home. Such opposition adds to the tinder that must be ignited in class struggle against the capitalist rulers who, in their quest for ever greater profits, beat down the workers, black people and immigrants.
In our opinion the Sparts show the ultimate degeneration of revolutionary “defeatism” (wishing the destruction of one’s own ‘ruling class’ and its military).
This is where it led during the Second World War: saying that the Allies, backed by the French Resistance, were the same as the SS and Vichy.
One might say that the ultimate blame for this moral bankrupcy can be put at Trotsky’s feet.
As this indicates – on the eve of the Second World War.
Trotsky sharply rejected any notion of taking sides in the war:
By his victories and bestialities, Hitler provokes naturally the sharp hatred of workers the world over. But between this legitimate hatred of workers and the helping of his weaker but less reactionary enemies is an unbridgeable gulf. The victory of the imperialists of Great Britain and France would not be less frightful for the ultimate fate of mankind than that of Hitler and Mussolini. Bourgeois democracy cannot be saved. By helping their bourgeoisie against foreign Fascism, the workers would only accelerate the victory of Fascism in their own country. The task posed by history is not to support one part of the imperialist system against another but to make an end of the system as a whole.
Just as in 1914, Trotsky was urging his followers to swim against the stream. In doing so, he cut through the ideological claptrap of the ‘democracies’ opposed to Hitler. What he failed to do was to offer any real indication of a strategy which would enable the tiny Trotskyist current to relate to the broad anti-Fascist movement that would emerge in occupied Europe.
More: With the Masses, Against the Stream Marxists Archive.
Ian Birchall, the author of the article cited above, is a lot more forgiving to the “errors” that resulted from these words than the Tendance is.
Now is the Time to stand with our Kurdish and Turkish Sisters and Brothers.
As of July 24, Turkey has been pushed to an uncertain process. Unfortunately, the AKP government, government agencies and the military have taken steps that end resolution and peace process and de facto ceasefire.
The political detentions involving our party and constituents and gradually spreading to all provinces; heavy bombardments to Kurdistan Federal Region; prohibition of “Great Peace Rally” to be held by Peace Bloc by very simple reasons; inhibitions to various press and communication facilities; police raids to the several civil society organizations, and particularly to Eğitim-Sen, are the first indicators that next days will be distressing for Turkey’s society.
As of July 24, the President and the AKP put into operation the concept of executing country’s governance over security policy through the military and the police. The President and the AKP have prepared this new period by the political and psychological ground they have created for days. They made the society ready for the conflicting environment by launching psychological operations through their own media.
Erdoğan and Davutoğlu’s Middle East policy covering recent years has created very heavy effects on the expectations of peace and democracy in the society. Erdoğan and Davutoğlu’s new policies after July 24 will lead to irreparable damages. This path will certainly destroy the possibilities of resolution and peace and would create serious social costs.
We emphasize once again strongly that Turkey needs peace and resolution. The solution of our social, historical and political problems is possible by improving mutual dialogue, negotiation and democracy. The extension and continuation of violence will never serve to permanent, democratic and egalitarian solution for any aspect of society.
Turkey is at the very important crossroads for its future. Erdoğan and Davutoğlu’s new policies and practices are not likely to reach a “good” conclusion. The future of Turkey’s society cannot be left to the operations of the military to be performed outside of the country and the police to be carried in the country under the coordination of the Intelligence Agency of Turkey.
The environment of violence created by Erdoğan, who has lost majority in the parliament and his dreams of governing Turkey as “one man” until his death being collapsed, has no limits. His aim is to realize the scenario of a re-election, which would give him back his old power. His plan of ruling the power alone until re-election by making a coalition impossible leads catastrophic situations in the country.
The plan is to ensure a single-party government through re-election by creating the impression of “a comprehensive fight against terrorism.” This plan is to burn the country in order to obtain absolute power. To bring the attacks against Kurdish society together with the fight against ISIL cannot be accepted.
Militaristic attacks and bombardments, political detentions and pressures should be stopped immediately. We have not any problems, which cannot solved by talking and negotiation.
We once again make a call to Turkey’s democracy and peace forces and every conscientious, responsible citizen. Today is not the day of keeping silent and waiting. We cannot just watch in concern the approaches of the AKP and the President who lead Turkey step by step towards a huge conflict by their pursued policies. Let’s strengthen together the struggle for peace, resolution, justice, democracy and negotiation. Every passing minute would make it more difficult to take steps.
Peoples’ Democratic Party
Central Executive Committee
On behalf of Ensemble! Mouvement pour une Alternative de Gauche Ecologique et Sociale (Together! Movement for a Left Ecological and Social Alternative), member of the Left Front (Front de gauche), we wish to express our solidarity after the terrible attack which took place this week in Suruç against comrades travelling to Kobanê in order to rebuild a town which has become a symbol.
Your international appeal on the occasion of the demonstration planned for 26 July in Istanbul must reach the wideest possible audience ; active solidarity is also necessary.
Faced with the horror of such an act, we are conscious that the Islamic State (IS) is following a clear objective : to break the heroic resistance of the Kurdish people in Rojava, as well as the solidarity movement which has followed. Like all serious observers of the situation, we know that IS has benefited from the goodwill and even the active complicity of the Turkish government in order to attain its goals. As a formidable adversary, IS does not hesitate to exploit the most reactionary elements in Turkey such as anti-Kurdish racism and the authoritarian tradition coming from the 1980 coup, as prolonged by Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
However, we are also aware of the admirable capacity for resistance of the Kurdish people over the last several decades, the mass democratic politicisation which was revealed by the Gezi movement in 2013, especially among young people, and the first signs of an awakening of the militant workers’ movement in Turkey. The remarkable result of the HDP in last June’s parliamentary elections, in extremely difficult conditions, is a remarkable signal.
By killing these comrades, the IS has shown what it fears the most : the common democratic combat of the peoples of the region – a combat which implies a respect for Kurdish reality. This was the cause which the comrades died for in Suruç, and that you are continuing to fight for.
We will do our best to support you by continuing to participate in the solidarity movement with the Kurdish people, with the resistance of Rojava and the democratic and class struggle in Turkey.
Although we cannot be with you this Sunday in Istanbul, we will show our solidarity at this Saturday’s demonstration in Paris calledto condemn the attack in Suruç.
Clémentine Autain Myriam Martin
Jean-François Pélissier Marie-Pierre Toubhans
Spokespersons of Ensemble !
The Daily News reports:
The Turkish army’s ongoing military operations in Iraq and Syria to crack down on terrorists was engineered by the Justice and Development Party (AKP), whose objective to regain its one-party government is dragging Turkey into a “civil war,” the leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş, has claimed.
“A temporary government with its temporary prime minister is dragging the country step-by-step into a civil war, regional war. Turkey has already been bogged down the Middle East quagmire because of wrong policies in Syria,” Demirtaş told reporters July 27, before a party meeting in Ankara.
Demirtaş’s criticisms came as the AKP-led government started a comprehensive military campaign against terror inside Turkey and through cross border operations in Iraq and Syria. The target in Iraq is the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and in Syria the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The government strongly slammed the HDP for not condemning the PKK’s recent terror acts, with accusations that it relied on the terror organization.
For Demirtaş however, these operations were designed to let the AKP re-gain its one-party government that it lost in the June polls. “The AKP, as a ruling party already knee-deep in corruption, has begun wrathfully seeking ways to become the government once again,” he said, accusing the government of being responsible for the deaths caused by recent terror acts.
The real architect of this design was President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was the practitioner, he argued. “They should better know that we have no palaces, no red plates, no millions of dollars to lose. We came penniless and we’ll go penniless. You better think about yourself. We have no fear of anything,” he said.
“These massive cross-border operations are the government’s efforts to save itself. These are operations of the palace. The palace has established its own state with a massive budget, cover operations and institutions,” he said.
Peace was just ‘a move ahead’
Demirtaş vowed his HDP would continue to work for the next elections to avoid the AKP stirring up more trouble in Turkey, stressing, “Peace was just a move ahead. There was only step left,” in reference to the halted Kurdish peace process.
In response to Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli’s call for the closure of the HDP on charges of links with the PKK, Demirtaş said, “Parties are opened and closed by the people. They should better give an account of their dirty history.”
Nothing is True and Everything is Possible. Adventures in Modern Russia. Peter Pomerantsev. Faber and Faber 2005.
The richest man in Britain is Odessa born Len Blavatnik. He made billions from Russian oil after the collapse of the Soviet Union, owns Warner Music and lives in a £41m mansion in Kensington. Many other billionaires, whose fortune originates in post-Communist capitalism, appeared in last weekend’s Sunday Times Rich List.
Russia, Nothing is True begins, is the homeland of the “new jet set”, the “the richest, the most powerful, the most dangerous.” In Moscow, Peter Pomerantsev continues, “performance” is what counts. Life is one “glittering masquerade”.
Moscow even has a high performing English language television station, available on free-view in the UK. Russia Today, now known as RT, was set up by Presidential decree and a generous budget. George Galloway MP has his own show, Sputnik. Other figures on the outer circles of the British left, including the Stop the War Coalition, and supporters of convicted electoral fraudster, the former Tower Hamlets Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, appear regularly on RT (though the man himself is oddly absent). They are treated with the respect they perhaps consider that they unfairly lack in mainstream political life.
Pomerantsev, British born and educated, with fluent Russian from his émigré parents, plunged deeply into the whirlwind world of post-Soviet energy-capitalism. Nothing is True tells of his time working in television, “factual entertainment”.
As a producer Pomerantsev was employed for the station TNT, sponsored by the planet’s largest gas company. His first commission was How to Marry a Millionaire A Gold Digger’s Guide. He meets ‘former’ gangsters, like Vitaly Djomochka, who’d won fame through a mini-series about the life of criminals, The Spets, featuring real guns and bullets. He encounters a one-time Irish academic economist, Benedict, who’d run the gamut of Russian double-dealing and corruption before washing up at RT – only to be tossed aside when he will not co-operate with secret service. The Irishman, approaching retirement, retreated to Kaliningrad, the home of his wife. This Russian enclave in the Baltic has a waterfront that’s a replica of “seventeenth-century gingerbread German town”. These building are “hollow to the touch, painted Perspex, and plaster imitating stone, timber and iron.”
Raw tragedy comes to Pomerantsev when investigating the apparent suicide in New York of former supermodel, Ruslana Korshunova. She is linked to a “personal development” cult, Rose of the World. Its techniques come from a training programme used by Lifespring – the subject of numerous lawsuits in the United States. The television producer becomes interested in other post-Soviet cults. There was Kashpirovsky, who miraculously charged water via television with “healing energy”. There are the Night Wolves, ultra-nationalist bikers presently re-enacting the progress of the Red Army into Eastern Europe. There are lots, and lots, of other ultra-nationalists, New Age sects, like Vissarion’s New New Testament, and Orthodox traditionalists proclaiming anew Moscow as the Third Rome. Overt racists, Stalin worshipers dot the scenery.
Nothing is True is an in-depth trip into the landscape sketched in the BBC 3 series, Reggie Yates’ Extreme Russia. It could be read as fantasy reportage – part Narnia, part Mordor. But if this sounds a refined, and frankly, brilliant, essay on Kitsch – a word springing to mind during the portraits of the festivals of the Russian wealthy – Nothing is True is never less than serious. The Kremlin ‘demiurge’, Vladislav Surkov, “the political technologist of all of Rus”, may be Sauron. But he also Aslan. “The brilliance of this new type of authoritarianism is that instead of simply oppressing opposition, as has been the case with twentieth century strains, it climbs inside all ideologies and movements, exploiting them and rendering them absurd.” (Page 79) Pomerantsev worked as a generously paid consultant for a liberal media house, SNOB, which stands as a case study in the official tolerance and promotion of such “oppositions”.
Surkov, we are not in the least surprised to learn, is a fan of post-modern theories of simulacra. Pomerantsev does not name the texts in detail, but you can instantly feel the presence of Jean Baudrillard at work – or should we say, his lingering hyper-réalité. From the façades of Kaliningrad to the wars between Moscow business-gangster clans, the Oligarchs, to the battles in Ukraine, there are so many kinds of ‘surface’, that even the master-players get lost. They speak « several languages at the same time ». This is not just double-think, a split between what you say in the public and the private derision you cover it with, but, contrary to Pomerantsev’s own judgement, but a boundless enthusiasm for playing.
Is this just a Russian phenomenon ? Former Mayor Lutfur Rahman and his Tower Hamlets First Party look in many respects to have come out of Surkov’s tool-kit. A little anti-austerity for the left, a little religious enthusiasm for the ‘community’, the brazen funding of ‘players’, the ‘management’ of elections, the cajoling, the bullying…..
People, and not just ideologies, get mangled in this game. The ‘anti-hegemonic’ message of RT seduces European nationalists with anti-EU messages, religious reactionaries by the Kremlin’s fight against homosexuality, the far-left by tales of fighting US imperialism, the grinning ninnies of the Keisler Report try win business converts by criticising Western financial malpractice.
But the baron-bureaucrats of Moscow are not principally interested in taunting the West from the inside. They are part of a wealth accumulating machine that will crush anybody who gets in their way: rival oligarchs and masters of democratic and ultra-nationalist simulation in the Ukraine, the Russian masses, that is, anybody who does business with them.
“The worst thing is, that in all this interactive ferment, there is not the even the shadow of a new political space, or a new public spirit.” (“Le plus grave est qu’il n’y a pas dans tout ce bouillonnment interactif, l’ombre d’un nouvel espace politique ou d’un nouvel esprit public.” Jean Baudrillard. La Gauche Divine. 1985.)
IS= Fascism. Arms to the PKK and YPG!
A word of introduction.
There is a great respect in the broad labour movement for Counterfire activists.
They have helped, indeed initiated, the People’s Assembly. They have acted with selfless dedication to help create an important bloc of organisations that has brought together people on the left, trade unionists, and campaigners. The People’s Assembly is effectively the only mass movement in the UK challenging austerity and acting for a wide range of left policies and causes.
In view of this, and (some might say) breaking with the habit of a lifetime, this is not a sectarian attack but expresses some genuine concerns.
Last Saturday John Rees, a leading member of Counterfire, spoke at the London Demonstration in support of Kobane.
This protest was but one of the expressions of solidarity with Kobane that have been sweeping the world, from Turkey and Europe to Australia (the comrades at Shiraz signal how a local group can help).
Rees noted the manoeuvres of the regional powers, the unhelpful impact of the US-led intervention, and,.above all,t eh disgraceful stand of Turkey – sitting and watching as the beloved people of Kobane face the genociders of Isis.
Rees stated, very clearly “arm the Kurds!” (1)
As if to back this declaration up Counterfire published (October the 9th) this declaration by the Kurdish-Turkish Day-Mer centre,
“Nato member Turkey is effectively allowing Isis to destroy the Kurdish city of Kobane. This press release by Turkish Kurdish organisation Day-Mer, calls for international solidarity and for Turkey to allow Kurdish heavy weapons through to defend the city“
On the same site, pointedly marked “Opinion” we had this, from Lindsey German and Robin Beste (October the 12th), Ten reasons to oppose military intervention in Iraq and Syria. It concentrates on the reasons for the conflicts, blamed entirely on the ‘West’. Terrorism is apparently, the “product of the west’s disastrous foreign policies, endless wars and backing of barbaric regimes in the Middle East There is only one section dealing specifically with the Kurds . It reads.
The issue of the Kurds is central to countering Isis expansion in the region. The Iraqi Kurds are close allies of the west, but there is a very different attitude to the Kurds in Turkey and Syria. The PKK, which has been struggling for Kurdish self-determination for decades, is still listed as a terrorist organisation by the EU and the US. This is despite the PKK and its allies being prominent in the battle against Isis. Turkey has oppressed the Kurds for many years and will not help those in Kobane, now under imminent threat of seizue by Isis. Turkey could open its border to the Kurds, but refuses to do so, in contrast with its support for Isis in the past. Instead the Turkish parliament has voted to create a ‘buffer zone’ at the Syrian border which will involve the disarming of the Kurds.
Bombing (again no mention of US strikes near Kobane) will be “counter-productive” and not help anybody.
Their only practical demand is that,
Iraq and Syria should be flooded with humanitarian aid, particularly for the millions of refugees who have been fleeing the wars. The refugees should receive the aid and support they need, and not be treated as potential terrorists within Europe.
So, we are left in no doubt that some Kurds are “close allies of the West (bad), the PKK (good? it’s not explicitly said, ) and Kobane are threatened by Isis.
What the defenders of Kobane (and other Kurdish areas) should do (providing that is they are not “allies” of the West is left hanging in the air.
As are the Kurds facing the genociders of Isis.
It would seem that one part of Counterfire backs arming the Kurds and the other does not.
Meanwhile German’s isolated Stop the War Coalition has published a disgraceful morally corrupt article by a certain, Musa al-Gharbi.
One of its sections reads,
Finally, many Westerners have been horrified by ISIS’s persecution of religious minorities (especially crimes against Christians). However, the United States is complicit in this as well: US policies in Iraq helped spark this cycle of sectarian violence.
Meanwhile, its own armed forces were indoctrinated with anti-Muslim propaganda– complete with recommendations for servicemen to resort to “Hiroshima tactics,” in a “total war against Islam,” in which protections for civilians were “no longer relevant.”
Reflective of this mentality, the armed forces have been heavily infiltrated by white-supremacists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups who believe and act as though they are engaged in a holy war to begin in the Middle East and then be carried back into America.
This institutionalized misrepresentation of Islam and dehumanization of Muslims probably played a significant role in the aforementioned atrocities.
Musa al-Gharbi tries to deflect blame from those culpable of gencodical crimes by whataboutery.
His specious rhetoric about ” misrepresentation of Islam and dehumanization of Muslims” is not accompanied by any concern for the fate of the directly dehumanised Kurds.
Al-Gharbi is silent – there is no “Authentic Outrage” from this special pleader about the need for armed help for the beloved people of Kobane.
Well, he would be quiet, wouldn’t he?
(1) He also , hat-tip GH, “totally bizarrely called for Hamas, Venezuela, the ANC/SA, to arm the Kurds .. as if that could possibly happen!” But we let this pass.
Islamism: Discipline and Punish.
To much of the world the British daily, the Guardian is the best known English-language paper of the liberal-left.
It is important to emphasise the word ‘liberal’ (the Guardian advocated voting for the Liberal Democrats at the last election).
But the hyphen attaching the word to the ‘left’ is indissoluble.
Guardian writers, above all in the Comment in Free Section, shows the limits of what this left believes in.
The section, (run between 2001 and 2007 by former Communist Party of Great Britain member Seumas Milne), are, in the majority, consensus believers in a number of liberal values.
Some of the principles these people stand for are admirable, such as freedom of speech, promotion of diversity, human rights, gender equality, social equality, and tolerance.
Their advocacy of liberty extends to letting a range of people expressing their opinions in the paper who have very different interpretations of these ideas.
But they are heavily modified when it comes to one political and cultural issue, the nature of Islamism.
A couple of days ago the daily published an article by George Monbiot, Why stop at Isis when we could bomb the whole Muslim world?
The author, who has previously compared European recruits to the genociders of ISIS to volunteers who defended the Spanish Republic, argues,
“Humanitarian arguments, if consistently applied, could be used to flatten the entire Middle East.”
Let’s bomb the Muslim world – all of it – to save the lives of its people. Surely this is the only consistent moral course? Why stop at Islamic State (Isis), when the Syrian government has murdered and tortured so many? This, after all, was last year’s moral imperative. What’s changed?
Nothing, according to Monbiot, the latest US-led bombing will all end in disaster, killing, and destruction by the “destroying angels of the west”. He ends his article with the observation that politicians “scatter bombs like fairy dust.”
Monbiot now deigns to mention that the group amongst the Syrian rebels, which he compared to the Spanish Republican democrats – Isis – has its faults, “the agenda and practices of Isis are disgusting. It murders and tortures, terrorises and threatens. As Obama says, it is a “network of death”(14).
But it’s one of many networks of death.
Worse still, a western crusade appears to be exactly what it wants.
So it’s just one of many. And attacking them would make them worse.
Monbiot then fails to mention any form of physical military reaction to Isis that he could support.
Sound the alarm, run to the hills, the world is about to be flattened!
We can’t do anything at all!
Today the Guardian publishes Seamus Milne.
He begins well,
Theresa May devoted over three quarters of her speech in Birmingham to Muslims and the threat of a catch-all “Islamist extremism”.
Drawing on the tricks of Tony Blair’s invasion-prone government and Thatcher’s failed campaign against the IRA, she promised yet more anti-terror laws: this time to ban nonviolent “extremists” from television and protests, and to proscribe groups with no links to terrorism.
The package amounts to a straightforward attack on freedom of speech and democracy – in the name of the “functioning of democracy”. It would alienate Muslims from mainstream politics still further and create a new, all-purpose collection of thought crimes, allowing the authorities to ban views or activities they deem likely to cause “alarm” or “distress”.
Milne is now a defender of free speech.
He would have done well at this point to oppose something he once backed, to make causing offence to religious faiths a crime. (1)
But he doesn’t.
And, in the wider news, perhaps I missed this bit,
The justifications were straight out of the Blair playbook too: from May’s insistence that we are at war with an “ideology” and that “they” hate our values rather than our violent interventions in the Muslim world – to the claim that Isis could develop weapons of mass destruction to attack us“within a few hours’ flying time of our country”.
Yes I did miss that one, because it’s from the far-right Daily Express’s spin on the May speech….
I suppose Islamic State’s tortures, rapes, genocide and the threat to hundreds of thousands of Kurds would have merited a mention from anybody with genuine left-wing feeling.
In a sense they do get mentioned,
Like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya before it, the bombing has been sold as a response to a humanitarian catastrophe and imminent threat but already shows every sign of spreading the terror it is supposed to stop. Mission creep is already upon us, as Cameron softens the public up to join the US campaign in Syria. As in the past, the war is projected to last years, has been launched against our own mutant creation, and is fanning reverse sectarian cleansing on the ground. Revenge terror attacks at home are once again seen as almost certain.
Ah, “sold as a response to a humanitarian catastrophe”.
What Milne’s views on this catastrophe are, part from the fact that they have been “sold”, remain in decent obscurity.
One thing sticks out: no mention of the need to back the Kurdish and other fighters on the ground battling Islamic State/Isis!
But the prize for feeble-minded analysis of Islamism must go to a piece by Antony Loewenstein.
Speaking of how people treat recruits to the genociders in Australia he laments a “sudden terror panic“. Loewenstein uses a Muslim interlocutor to express the dismay.:
“There’s a lack of context, lack of spirituality and understanding, combined with impatience. Many Isis fighters are newly converted, newly pious … these men have grown a beard in three months and they don’t give Islam time to be understood.”
He is tired of having to defend his religion against bigots who take these instant Islamists to be the authentic representation of Islam.
“Keyboard warriors often ask: “Where is the universal Muslim condemnation of terror acts?” We’re distancing ourselves, so why do you keep asking? People just aren’t listening.”
“It’s been the same narrative of apology for decades and we’re sick of it. It’s like the probation the media is trying to grant me. I want to stand back, it’s got nothing to do with me and it’s nothing to do with Islam. I don’t need to come out and prove my innocence.”
Indeed, it is remarkable that those who trumpet their religious belief, in Islam and the Qu’ran, should be called to express disapproval of those who trumpet their religious belief in Islam and the Qu’ran – Isis.
As he continues in the vein we weary.
But there is some truth in this, though “dis-empowered” – an expression now confined to ageing social workers – is not perhaps the right word.
The pressure on the Australian Muslim community is immense, a feeling of being outsiders, exacerbated by a message that they’re different and under suspicion. Many Muslim women in particular feel disempowered and not trusted by the wider, white majority. Islamophobia is now unofficial government policy and some media’s central world-view
Muslims have ample reason to be sceptical towards government and intelligence services; real journalists would investigate why. Sadly, most in the media are failing in their basic duty to question.
Islamophobia is an ageing and muddled term as well: it tries to conflate opposition to islamism with prejudice, and offers no way to distinguish them.
This will not help clear up what ‘Islam’ is.
“Islam isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Samir says. His religion, just like Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and others, is complex, contradictory and open to various interpretations – but figuring that out can’t be done in an instant.
I will, as will most readers, give up at this point….
Why does this matter?
We could say that a paper that publishes Richard Seymour is a fun journal, a good laugh, and that nobody takes the ideology in these articles seriously.
But what is striking is that not a single Guardian commentator has come close to analysing Islamism in any depth whatsoever.
That is a extreme-right-wing ideology, with a very material institutional basis, support in the pious Muslim bourgeoisie, and wider roots in the class structures of many Middle Eastern countries.
Or the rich critique of Islamism, democratic, socialist and secular, offered by the Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan groups such as the Worker Communist parties (Mansoor Hekmat) and other left individuals and organisations in the Moslem world.
We could, for those interested in ‘Gender and Queer’ studies, also look at Michael Foucault’s concept of ‘micro-powers’ – intimate oppressive apparatuses that create a religious prison, in para-states and actual states.
Foucault’s Discipline and Punish is perhaps a good starting point to the operation of the Sharia, along with Nietzsche The Genealogy of Morals. (2)
We could look at its (or rather), since Islamism is a plural formation, their patriarchal roots, and its creation of sexual apartheid.
We might even mention that every single form of Islamism is viciously oppressive towards gays.
That it is anti-democratic and ‘communitarian’ on the template of 1930s ‘organic’ far-right.
We might even consider that its religion is a load of utter cack.
But nobody in the Guardian’s comment articles says that.
(1) “But for showing solidarity and working with Muslim organisations – whether in the anti-war movement or in campaigns against Islamophobia – leftwing groups and politicians such as the London mayor, Ken Livingstone, are now routinely damned by liberal secularists (many of whom have been keen supporters of the war in Iraq) for “betraying the enlightenment” and making common cause with “Islamofascists”, homophobes and misogynists. The pitch of these denunciations has been heightened further by the government’s plan to introduce a new criminal offence of incitement to religious hatred. This measure would extend to the most vulnerable community in the country the very modest protection already offered by race hate legislation to black people, Jews, Sikhs and all religious communities in Northern Ireland. It is not a new blasphemy law; it would not lead to a ban on Monty Python’s Life of Brian film; or rule out jokes about Ayatollah Khomeini’s contact lenses; or cover ridicule or attacks on any religion (unlike the broader Australian legislation) – but would only outlaw incitement of hatred against people because of their faith.” Guardian. December 2004)
This bill was thrown up precisely because it was a new “blasphemy law”. Does Milne back its return?
(2) I am all too aware of Foucault’s morally cretinous welcome to Khomeini, What are the Iranians Dreaming About (1978). More relevant to Isis is the way their beheadings of hostages could be compared to the violent and chaotic public torture of Robert-François Damiens analysed in Discipline and Punish (1975).
Western blind spot: the Kurds’ forgotten war in Syria.
A victory for the Kurds and their allies in Syria is a victory for all who want a future that is dictated neither by fundamentalists nor imperialists.
The current narrative from Cameron and Obama is simple: the head-chopping Islamic State is a threat to all of humanity, so western forces need to return to the Middle East. Yet this narrative is far from supported by the empirical evidence. Non-existent weapons of mass destruction and non-existent Islamic fundamentalist jihadists were used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by George Bush and Tony Blair. Iraq was transformed from secular totalitarianism to chaos: in turn, chaos and opposition to occupation seeded a jihadist movement.
Western support for opponents of Assad in Syria gave the so-called ‘Islamic State’ an opportunity to take territory. ISIS was able to seize huge quantities of heavy weaponry supplied by the USA and its allies. Thus, if US intervention has created or at least massively accelerated the growth of a monster, critics argue that more intervention will no doubt provide the Islamic State with more weapons, more support and more chaos on which to thrive.
Another reason for doubting the narrative is the fact that the most successful opponents of ISIS are not only unsupported by the west but are effectively at war with a NATO ally. If the ‘war on terror’ was real, the words Kobane, Rojava and YPG would be on our TV screens more often than a marriage date with George Clooney. In fact, few of us have much knowledge of the forgotten war in the Middle East. This is a war that ISIS, up until a few days ago, was losing. But a NATO country has joined to help defeat not the jihadist beheaders, but their most feared opponents.
As I write, the city of Kobane in the mostly Kurdish city in northern Syria is under threat from ISIS, who have laid siege to the city for over a fortnight. ISIS forces from all over the region, equipped with tanks and missiles stolen from Iraqi forces supplied by Qatar and the USA, have sustained a huge attack on this city on the border of Turkey. You won’t hear about Kobane on much of the media and not so far in speeches from Obama and Cameron. These are the Kurds the west does not support, and mentioning their very existence is virtually an existential threat.
The Kurds, who are said to be the largest stateless nation and are spread across Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq, have been fighting for autonomy for decades. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey saw their leader Ocalan captured in 1999. He remains in prison. In Syria, as a result of the civil war, the Kurds have created an autonomous self-governing republic, made up of three cantons, one of which is Kobane. The three cantons are known collectively as Rojava [western Kurdistan]. For several years the Rojavans have been fighting and beating ISIS and other jihadists like the Al Nusra front. When ISIS threatened thousands of Yazidi in Iraq, killing many and forcing others into apparently slavery, this triggered international outrage. It is largely forgotten that the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the community self-defence force from Rojava, crossed to Mount Sinjar and rescued many Yazidis.
While Rojava is known as a Kurdish territory, political and religious pluralism is strongly promoted. Syriac Christian militias are allied with the YPG, which also draws in Arab and Armenian fighters. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims, although others are Yazidis. The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) is usually seen as a sister party of the PKK but there are many other Kurdish and non Kurdish political parties in Rojava. The PKK affiliated party advocates political diversity, feminism and self-governance. Originally a Marxist-Leninist organisation, remarkably the PKK sees itself as an anarchist political organisation inspired by the ideas of the American social ecologist and green anarchist, Murray Bookchin!
An anarchist from North London who visited Rojava noted that they are carrying out an almost unique democratic experiment: ‘We went to a meeting of one the communes based in the neighborhood of Cornish in the town of Qamishlo. There were 16 to 17 people in the meeting. The majority of them were young women. We engaged in a deep conversation about their activities and their tasks. They told us that in their neighborhood they have 10 Communes and the membership of each Commune is 16 people. They told us “We act in the same way as community workers including meeting people, attending the weekly meetings, checking any problems in the places we are based, protecting people in the community and sorting out their problems, collecting the rubbish in the area, protecting the environment and attending the biggest meeting to report back about what happened in the last week”. In response to one of my questions, they confirmed that nobody, including any of the political parties, intervenes in their decision making and that they make all the decisions collectively.’ Others have termed Rojava the Chiapas of the Middle East, in reference to the Zapatistas of Mexico.
The Rojava Charter, a kind of constitution, is a remarkable document. It states, “[w]e the peoples of the democratic self-administration areas; Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians (Assyrian Chaldeans, Arameans), Turkmen, Armenians, and Chechens, by our free will, announce this to ensure justice, freedom, democracy, and the rights of women and children in accordance with the principles of ecological balance, freedom of religions and beliefs, and equality without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, creed, doctrine or gender, to achieve the political and moral fabric of a democratic society in order to function with mutual understanding and coexistence within diversity and respect for the principle of self-determination and self-defense of the peoples….The autonomous areas of the democratic self-administration do not recognize the concept of the nation state and the state based on the grounds of military power, religion, and centralism”. The feminist part of their ideology reflects a strong commitment: in fact 30% of YPG members are women, all-woman fighting units (YPJ), are common, and women share the highest military rank with men.
Rojava offers the threat of a good example. A self-governing anarchist society with ecological aspirations may or may not be the utopia it sounds like, however the west has little time for alternatives to capitalism that might just work. The allies of the US and UK tell us all we need to know about their war on terror. These allies include Saudi Arabia, which beheads citizens on a regular basis, outlaws LGBT people, doesn’t allow women to drive and like ISIS, does not tolerate churches, Shia mosques or the advocacy of religions other than the most constrained form of Islam. Like Saudi Arabia, Qatar has funded jihadists, and then we come to Bahrain which has been heavily repressing their population.
The roll call of allies is a list of shame, which includes some of the most repressive states on our planet. It is an oil-soaked catalogue of monsters. The Kurds currently armed and supported by the US in Iraq belong to a rival political organisation to the PYD. The suspicion is that Islamic State attacks, which were moving in on the shopping malls and US centres in Iraqi Kurdistan, prompted the US intervention. For, however loud the calls are to oppose ISIS, the YPG who so far have been the most effective opponents of jihadism are largely ignored.
Turkey, another NATO ally, has been accused of supporting ISIS, as part of its longstanding conflict with the Kurds. Turkey has refused to fight ISIS, their border has been porous to jihadists wishing to join ISIS and the recent release of over 49 Turkish hostages by ISIS has been met with a suggestion of a deal between Turkey and the so-called Islamic State. Turkey has been strongly repressing the Kurds, and has argued for a buffer zone, which would essentially remove Rojava and replace it with Turkish troops. Turkey has also attempted to prevent thousands of Kurds from crossing the border to fight ISIS as they besiege Kobane. It has been alleged that $800 million of oil has been sold by ISIS in Turkey. There is also evidence that Turkish troops have been training ISIS.
ISIS are currently concentrating their forces against their most effective opponents, the YPG and its independent democratic cause. In Kobane, the forces of ISIS terror, against which the west is supposedly at war, are at the door and massively outgun the besieged Kurds, thanks to the help of the west and its allies. The dark ironies of geopolitics cannot be made clearer: ISIS is armed with weapons captured from the US, who flooded the region with weapons, while Turkey, a NATO member, is further strengthening the terrorism against which NATO has declared war, by repressing a democratic movement fighting indigeounously against ISIS.
There have been reports of US attacks on ISIS positions near Kobane, but there is some debate as to whether these have been effective. Meryem Kobanê, Commander of the YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) in Kobane, noted on Saturday, September 27, that the strikes missed the ISIS forces.
The US and UK intervention has brought nothing but misery to the Middle East. The silence from Obama and Cameron regarding Turkey’s repression of the Kurds, shows that the ‘war on terror’ is more about the rhetoric than reality. All of us who want to see societies based on pluralism, self-governance, respect for minorities and empowerment of women, need to challenge our elected leaders over their failure to challenge Turkish opposition to Rojava. A victory for the Kurds and their allies in Rojava is a victory for all who want a future that is dictated neither by fundamentalists nor imperialists.
For more information on Rojava and the struggle against ISIS, see the following websites:
To this can be added this significant report,
Saturday, September 27, 2014 By I. Zekeriya Ayman
With the US and allied nations, including Arab countries, carrying out air strikes in Syria, the Turkish government is trying to convince the West it does not support the Islamic State (IS) forces the US is targetting.
Newly elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (the former prime minster) linked the adjective “terrorist” with “IS” for the very first time on September 23 during a US TV interview while attending the United Nations climate summit.
“Turkey will do whatever needs to be done to stop this terrorist organisation, militarily, and politically,” he said.
But the truth is that IS has received vital support from the Turkish government. It is known that IS has received crucial support from Turkey, which includes:
* Turkey positioning itself as an easy bridge for IS foreign militants to reach Syria, and Iraq;
* Trapped IS militants in Syria and Iraq escaping to Turkey to regroup and train;
* IS casualties being treated in Turkish hospitals and even having an hospital exclusively for their use;
* Turkey providing basic needs to IS under the guise of “humanitarian aid”;
* The Turkish government providing weapons and ammunitions directly to IS and provided safe passage for arms deliveries from elsewhere; and
*Turkey opening and closing its borders to suit IS.
The main reason the Turkish regime has supported IS, besides its interest in the toppling the Syrian regime, is the growing Kurdish resistance in Syria and the creation of a revolutionary “liberated zone” in the Kurdish territory of Rojava.
Parliament has voted for the third Iraq War. The last two have brought almost unimaginable suffering to the people of Iraq and have helped to create the current chaos, driving the country to the brink of break up.
They claim this is a humanitarian operation to defeat Isis. In fact, Isis is backed by various middle east powers and a new aerial bombardment will not defeat it. It will however, kill innocents, further fragment the country and inflame violence.
The record of the west’s wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya show that as well as creating misery and mayhem, western military interventions make the world a more volatile, dangerous place.
Cameron’s new war has built-in mission creep. Discussions are already underway for Britain to join the bombing of Syria, and there are growing calls for boots on the ground.
The Stop the War Coalition is asking every one of its supporters to attend the demonstration against the insanity of another war on Iraq.
There is this by contrast,
Kurds began a hunger strike tonight London in solidarity with the city of #Kobane, under siege & attack from ISIS.