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Haiti, Oxfam – In Defence of Mary Beard; Contre Priyamvada Gopal. 

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Image result for Mary Beard

“Familiar posture of wounded white innocence” says Priyamvada Gopal.

I confess, I really like Mary Beard.

She wrote one of the best ever books on Roman history, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome  (2015).

Since the Renaissance at least, many of our most fundamental assumptions about power, citizenship, responsibility, political violence, empire, luxury and beauty have been formed, and tested, in dialogue with the Romans and their writing.

From that you can guess she is not a reborn 18th century writer who uncritically admires the ‘glory that was Rome’, lauds the Republic, and ignores issues about the role of slavery, class conflicts, the position of women, and above all the violence that went with Empire in its history, up to the Caesars.

On the last issue the BBC last week showed Beard’s latest programme, Julius Caesar Revealed  which put his genocidal conquests at the heart of his rise to power, and underlined the narrow nature of the ‘republican’ claims to defend liberty against the ‘populist’ rise of Caesarism (a term used by a variety of political thinkers, including Gramsci, to refer to the role of a “great personality” in conditions where catastrophe looms).

Mary Beard has recently published this book, Women and Power.

As Rachel Cook outlines its theme,

Beard’s primary subject is female silence; she hopes to take a “long view on the culturally awkward relationship between the voice of women and the public sphere of speech-making, debate and comment”, the better to get beyond “the simple diagnosis of misogyny that we tend a bit lazily to fall back on”. Calling out misogyny isn’t, she understands, the same thing as explaining it, and it’s only by doing the latter that we’re likely ever to find an effective means of combating it. The question is: where should we look for answers? Beard acknowledges that misogyny has multiple sources; its roots are deep and wide. But in this book, she looks mostly (she is a classicist, after all) at Greek and Roman antiquity, a realm that even now, she believes, casts a shadow over our traditions of public speaking, whether we are considering the timbre of a person’s voice, or their authority to pronounce on any given subject.

She continues,

Personally, I might have found this argument a bit strained a month ago; 3,000 years lie between us and Homer’s Odyssey, which is where she begins, with Telemachus effectively telling his mother Penelope to “shut up”. But reading it in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, it seems utterly, dreadfully convincing. Mute women; brutal men; shame as a mechanism for control; androgyny and avoidance as a strategy for survival. On every page, bells ring too loudly for comfort.

Mary Beard now has her own confrontation with efforts to shout her down.

After this,

The Cambridge Classics professor Mary Beard has been left “sitting here crying” after a provocative tweet concerning the Oxfam sexual exploitation scandal exposed her to a torrent of abuse on Twitter.

The Academic tweeted on Friday that “Of course one can’t condone the (alleged) behaviour of Oxfam staff in Haiti and elsewhere. But I do wonder how hard it must be to sustain “civilised” values in a disaster zone. And overall I still respect those who go in to help out, where most of us wd not tread”.

The tweet has sparked controversy over the last two days. One of hundreds to engage in the Twitter backlash was fellow Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal whose series of tweets against Beard included “this kind of thing is the *progressive* end of the institutional culture I have to survive day in day out” and “Cambridge desperately needs a Breaking the Silence on racism. About time and beyond”.

In a following tweet Gopal directly satirised Beard: “Obviously it’s not a great idea to randomly get your dick out, rape people etc. But it’s not easy to be politically correct while in shitholes. And overall I still respect people who head out to shitholes ‘cos I sure as hell wouldn’t dream of it’.”

Cambridge Student.

A Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal,   “an upper-caste woman from a liberal-ish Hindu family in India” as she puts it, has taken the time to Lecture Beard.

Gopal is keenly aware of her caste, but who’s had “a lot painful listening and learning from Dalit and other non-upper-caste intellectuals and campaigners”.

Associating Beard with the “genteel liberal racism that is the very lifeblood of Cambridge social intercourse” she talks, as they do over a cup of Earl Grey, of Theodor Adorno, and wishes to tell Beard about the Heart of Darkness, Black Agency,  Michel-Rolph Trouillot and the history of Haiti.

Not to mention “civilised values”.

Or to put it another way Gopal offers and over-intellectualises by a kilometre and ten by a “post-colonial”analysis of an emotional tweet.

Response to Mary Beard

I’m afraid that your good intentions notwithstanding, it is precisely this genteel patrician racist manner and this context of entrenched denial in which your tweet on Haiti, ‘civilised’ values (scare quotes noted but not enough, I’m afraid) and disaster zones was received. It was, as you now know, received with enormous shock. (Not by me though — I’m used to this kind of casual magisterial apologetic coming out of the mouths of my Cambridge colleagues; it’s the stuff of everyday college lunch table conversations and hence I’ve taken the simple step of not dining in colleges as far as is feasible ).

Your subsequent blog post, to not put too fine a point on it, did little to help your cause and is regarded by many as a ‘no-pology’, a stubborn refusal to see what was wrong with your original post and taking refuge instead in the familiar posture of wounded white innocence. This too is familiar to me at Cambridge: on the rare occasions I’ve bothered to raise questions of, let us say, ‘racially dodgy’ remarks that bring Cambridge or particular colleges into disrepute, I’ve been instantly shut down by what you would recognise, I am sure, as ‘snowflake’ behaviour: outrage, wounded innocence, protestations of good intentions, and finally the declaration that it’s not the racist pronouncements that are the problem but the person (me, in this instance) who calls them out. It is accompanied by another gesture which also manifests in your blogpost: a pronouncement that self-evidently the person who made the remark cannot possibly have made a racist observation because they do not consider themselves to be racist. Imagine if every misogynist you encountered made the same gesture — and they usually do: ‘I love women, OF COURSE I am not sexist, everyone knows I am not sexist.’ What would you say to him?

Your blogpost is not an adequate intellectual response to your, well, frankly outrageous tweet; it’s a series of postures of innocence and a continued refusal to analyse a problem in all its thorny difficulty. To those who felt violated and aggressed by the original tweet, your blogpost was a further slap in the face: a stubborn refusal to see what was so profoundly and deeply wrong with your claims in addition to bizarre, indeed cringe-making comparisons between the French resistance and aid workers. What is striking in both tweet and putatively exculpatory blogpost is your inability to see beyond Western agency: Western aid workers as resistance fighters, white aid workers as Mr Kurtz figures caving in the strain of ‘The horror, the horror.’

It is very generous for Gopal to speak for the Haitians, the French Resistance, and for all those who “feel violated” by a Tweet .

No less open-hearted and welcoming is her invitation to Beard to “come and meet my third years who next week will be discussing precisely Haiti and the Haitian revolution as they read Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s work on the elision of black agency in European historiography and European habits of thought. “

Yes, we Europeans have definite “habits of thought”…..

The row proceeds.

Some would say that another shouter-down made a pretty racist tweet.

The following is about the only sensible Tweet I have found.

********

More Background.

Launching an impassioned defence of her actions in the wake of the backlash, Beard tweeted “I am amazed that after decades of Lord of the Flies being a gcse English set book we haven’t got the point about the breakdown of morality in danger zones!! Just saying and this is NOT to condone the actions of a few aid workers”.

Beard then took to her Times Literary Supplement blog to further her defense, but admitted in a tweet that she was left “sitting here crying”. Her blog told of the torrent of abuse she had experienced: “the predictable name calling ‘pervert’, ‘sick cow’, ‘disgusting creature’ or gross misreadings… ‘how hard is it not to gangrape women in a disaster zone?’. ‘you’ve lost your house, your family are dead, fancy a shag? Do you take PayPal?’ (I didn’t really want to include that, but I felt that you needed to see the tasteless too.)”

She added: “I find it hard to imagine that anyone out there could possibly think that I am wanting to turn a blind eye to the abuse of women and children” and that ” while we deplore what has happened and expect better, it is worth thinking of the context in which it took place. 99% of us have no idea of the stresses of working in these environments (and yes, living in them is worse, as there is no escape route). Most aid workers deal with that, I suspect, by drink and cigarettes. But that kind of societal, infrastructural breakdown provides a space for much worse.

“That is not to condone the awful things that happened but to contextualise them. And that is what we need to do, if we want to stop this happening again.”

Cambridge Student.

Update (from Roger). Gopal’s previous ordure:

9/11 and the Mumbai attacks

In the title of her December 4, 2008 Guardian editorial on the Mumbai attacks, Priyamvada Gopal asserts that “Comparing Mumbai to 9/11 diminishes both tragedies.” But even this title is deceitful, since, as her readers soon discover, the piece is not concerned with the particularities of the two events. Nor does the danger of “diminishing” 9/11 give Gopal pause. On the contrary, diminishing and displacing 9/11 from our active preoccupations is her intent. Allowing the November attack on Mumbai to be deemed “India’s 9/11” would be, she argues, “to privilege the experience of the United States” and to be complicit with India’s “relentless Americanization.” 9/11 is either another brand name in McWorld or something even more sinister, an event so “fetishized” as to “sanction endless vengeance,” even as it obscures “the experience of millions [elsewhere] who have suffered as much” as those who died or were injured in the attack on the U.S. on that day. 9/11 “legitimized a false war,” “created legal abominations,” and “strengthened neoconservatism.”

While Gopal’s piece makes perfunctory mention of the suffering of the victims of 9/11, it says nothing of the actual contours of that event, much less the intentions behind it. The U.S. reaction concerns her more than the attack itself does. Rather than offering any analysis of the event about which she was writing, Gopal strains to change the subject. Presumably the killing spree that took place in Mumbai from November 26th to November 29th 2008 (and has now come to be referred to “11/26”), requires no analysis. But when we actually specify what 9/11 was, can the comparison with it really be so easily avoided?

The crucial point to be made about 9/11 — and the one that Gopal studiously avoids — makes the comparison with the Mumbai attacks inevitable: both were attacks inspired by Islamism on intensely cosmopolitan urban populations with the intention of inflicting the maximum number of casualties. Moreover, like New York, Mumbai is an old colonial port city with a rich if submerged history of radical democratic struggle. Like New York, Mumbai is the commercial and cultural, though not the political, capital of a pluralistic democracy. In short, like New York, Mumbai is one of world’s great nerve-centers of contemporary capitalism. Also, the attacks on Mumbai were not on the Hindu chauvinist politics of Bal Thackeray, just as the 9/11 attack was not on the neo-liberalism of Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg. In both cases, the targets were the profane pleasures of modern society. In both cases, the attacks were made, so to speak, in plain view, so that the fascistic menace was unmistakable (albeit in the absurdly comic form of expressionless young men who might, but for the assault rifles in their hands, be easily mistaken for ravers en route to Goa). Finally, as with 9/11, the regional strategic consequences bound to flow from the Mumbai attacks are profound.

In a certain respect, the semiotics of the attacks in Mumbai were even more ghastly than those of 9/11, since it witnessed the deliberate hunting of Jews qua Jews, especially at the Chabad House, where Jews were subjected to savage beatings before their execution, unlike even the Americans and Britons who were also singled out. For those who planned the attacks killing Jews was a priority and it was executed in the midst of a police siege by killers who had, in all likelihood, never so much as seen a Jewish person before. Though the murderous anti-Semitism on display in Mumbai ought by now to be an all-too-familiar aspect of Islamist ideology, Guardian correspondent Richard Silverstein, like Gopal on the editorial page, declines to acknowledge the obvious. Instead he insists that the attack on Chabad House was “not necessarily anti-Semitic,” claiming that the attackers were seeking “redress for crimes against Palestine” [“Why did the Attackers Choose to Attack Chabad House” Guardian 12/4/2008, cf. Alex Stein “Inspiration from India” Guardian 12/4/2008]. From this we may safely conclude that, for Silverstein, anytime a Muslim kills a Jew he need only utter the magic word “Palestine” to have his guilt absolved: Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza means that it is open season on Jews all over the world. In the same vein, William Dalrymple, informs the wised-up readers of the Guardian that “the horrific events have to be seen in the context of. . . the abject failure of the Bush administration” and the “ill-treatment of the people of Kashmir” [“Mumbai Atrocities Highlight Need for a Solution in Kashmir” Guardian 11/30/08]. In Arundhati Roy’s column, too, we rely upon the terrorists to tell the truth and to remind “us” of the “things we don’t want to talk about any more” [“The Monster in the Mirror,” 12/13/08]. It is one thing for a journalist to report the content of authoritarian manifestoes or the statements terrorists make in the course of an attack; it is quite another matter to rationalize such statements in the manner of Silverstein, Dalrymple, and Roy.

Highlighting the political significance of the attack on Chabad House cannot be allowed to obscure the fact that there was also something quite discriminating about the seemingly more indiscriminate killing of commuters at the Victoria Terminus. It is not enough to say simply that, compared to the foreigners and the rich people at the Taj and Oberoi Hotels, the victims there were poorer, working people, though this is true. It is also worth pointing out that at the train station, the attackers fired directly into crowds. The Muslims among the dead there were not unintended victims. They were punished for living and working in peace in secular democratic India, i.e. of having failed to join the jihad. Of course, the Hindus regarded as pagans were positively marked for slaughter. As for the attacks on Mumbai’s elite hotels, likewise, the clear intent was to comingle on their marble floors the blood of dying unbelievers of all sorts — Zionist, Crusader, and Infidel. There again was the same unbridled murderousness that has been a significant feature of previous attacks, such as the 2006 commuter train in Mumbai and the serial bombings earlier in 2008 in Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, and Delhi, to name just a few. These rather elementary aspects of the politics behind the Mumbai attacks rarely merit mention in the analysis to be found in the Guardian. But while the “Left” cannot remain at this elementary level of analysis, neither can it afford to ignore the obvious.

While Gopal is right to claim that in many respects 9/11 is not unique as a point of comparison (there have been many other Islamist terrorist attacks besides 9/11), her aim seems not to locate the attacks in an alternative history of recent Islamist terrorism, as, for instance, in relation to the bombing in Pakistan in September of the Islamabad Marriott that killed 53 and injured more than 250. Rather, the Mumbai attacks are treated as have no determinate character whatsoever, Gopal preferring to speak only of a “massacre of defenceless innocents.” Presumably the same is true of the bomb detonated December 5th, 2008 in a market outside a Shi’a mosque in Peshawar in which 22 people were killed and more than 90 were wounded. While 9/11 posed for everyone worldwide the question of modern Islamism, Gopal’s editorial reveals once again how the Left continues to rely on its old reflex responses — supposed “anti-imperialism” — to defer any confrontation with the full scope of the barbarism in our time. In this way, the piece tends to obscure or deny what is salient for advancing (or even imagining) a politics genuinely capable of both countering fascism and reconstituting an emancipatory politics in South Asia.

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Written by Andrew Coates

February 18, 2018 at 1:41 pm

Morning Star Joins “Counter Narrative” – “White Helmets” linked to Terrorist Factions.

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“Leadership of the White Helmets is some of the most hardline terrorist groups in Syria” says Morning Star.

There has been a lot of very distasteful material circulated about the White Helmets in Syria.

This began to be widely noticed last year.

Amongst others former leftist Tariq Ali joined in the smears against the humanitarian organisation just after the murder of comrade Jo Cox,

Yesterday the Guardian published a robust defence of the White Helmets.

Olivia Solan reported in great detail on the continuing efforts to besmirch them.

The main charge is that they are “a fraudulent terrorist organisation”.

Before reading some of the article we should recall that the “Daily paper of the Left”, the Morning Star,  recently published this:

Is BBC Panorama just a useful propaganda tool?  Alison Banville. Morning Star, 14th December 2017.

Two days before the episode was aired, independent investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley published a deep expose of the entire affair based on her own on-the-ground, investigations inside Syria.

“During my time in East Aleppo in 2016/17 with Syrian journalist Khaled Iskef, we translated documents (in Arabic) found by Iskef that referred to two British organisations, Adam Smith International (ASI) and Integrity Global in connection with the funding of Syrian ‘opposition’ structures in East Aleppo,” she recalls.

The next thing Beeley says is crucial to understanding what this story is really about. “These documents were found among the debris of the various Nusra Front (al-Qaida in Syria) centres, East Aleppo Council buildings and White Helmet centres. It is noteworthy that these three entities operating in what was terrorist-occupied East Aleppo until December 2016, always worked alongside one another, either sharing facilities and buildings or next door to one another in the various districts of East Aleppo where they centred their activities.”

Now, let me first point out that you may not be used to the phrase “terrorist-occupied East Aleppo” if your only sources of news are western corporate ones which routinely and reflexively describe the exact same place at that time as “rebel-held East Aleppo” in line with the official government narrative..

But if, like myself and my travelling companion, fellow independent journalist Mike Raddie, you had walked the streets of East Aleppo in April this year and listened to the people there who came out to meet us, you would have heard them talk not of “rebels,” but only of “terrorists.”

Because that’s what you call people who terrorise you. And when a man stands in front of you and tells you that these occupiers killed his six children, you simply do not have the right to call them anything else. If you’re in any doubt about the correct nomenclature here then more first-hand testimony from East Aleppo residents gathered by Beeley can be found at 21stcenturywire.com, and you might ask yourself as you read why it wasn’t brought to you by Channel 4 News, ITV News or the BBC?

……

This brings us to my second point regarding Beeley’s quote. “Nusra Front (al-Qaida in Syria) centres, East Aleppo Council buildings, and White Helmet centres,” where the documents confirming the Adam Smith Institute’s involvement were found, represent entities which “always worked alongside one another.”

Oh dear. This would be difficult to explain to the public wouldn’t it?

The White Helmets are eulogised by the entire western establishment and its duteous media. How could Panorama have accommodated the affiliation of these civil defence “heroes” with Nusra Front terrorists without undermining the entire edifice of propaganda propping up the White Helmets’ mythology? And without exposing them as what John Pilger has described as “a complete propaganda construct in Syria”?

Again, Beeley has done the on-the-ground work that so-called journalists in the “mainstream” media should have done and compiled “categorical” evidence that “the leadership of the White Helmets is some of the most hardline terrorist groups in Syria,” all the while being funded to the tune of £200 million by the British government.

White Helmets have been filmed standing on the dead bodies of Syrian Arab Army soldiers, celebrating executions, staging fake rescues and sawing the head off a 12-year-old child.

White Helmet members have been photographed in their “civil defence” uniforms and then the same individuals pictured holding guns as they pose with their terrorist factions.

The White Helmets are not recognised by the Switzerland-based International Civil Defence Organisation (ICDO) but the REAL Syrian civil defence is.

Oh yes, they do exist and, unlike the White Helmets, this genuine group works in all areas, saving civilians without discrimination, not just in the areas controlled by terrorist groups. They even have an emergency phone number that citizens can call for aid. it’s 113, in case you were wondering.

Panorama could have made their programme about this and included the evidence that the Free Syrian Police — that’s the Orwellian use of “free” by the way — and the local councils being funded by the British taxpayer through the secretive and unaccountable Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) and doled out by the Adam Smith Institute and Integrity Global are, along with the White Helmets, working alongside Nusra Front.

That is the real story, but they didn’t tell it.

No corporate media outlet is going to expose this huge propaganda exercise that is designed to destabilise Syria rather than, as the Foreign Office’s claims, “make communities in Syria safer by providing basic civilian policing services.”

This is not the first time they have used this ‘source’ as Paul tweeted earlier this year.

Yesterday the Guardian published this:

How Syria’s White Helmets became victims of an online propaganda machine

The Russia-backed campaign to link the volunteer rescuers with al-Qaida exposes how conspiracy theories take root: ‘It’s like a factory’

by

The Syrian volunteer rescue workers known as the White Helmets have become the target of an extraordinary disinformation campaign that positions them as an al-Qaida-linked terrorist organisation.

The Guardian has uncovered how this counter-narrative is propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government (which provides military support to the Syrian regime).

The White Helmets, officially known as the Syria Civil Defence, is a humanitarian organisation made up of 3,400 volunteers – former teachers, engineers, tailors and firefighters – who rush to pull people from the rubble when bombs rain down on Syrian civilians. They’ve been credited with saving thousands of civilians during the country’s continuing civil war.

They have also exposed, through first-hand video footage, war crimes including a chemical attack in April. Their work was the subject of an Oscar-winning Netflix documentary and the recipient of two Nobel peace prize nominations.

In spite of this positive international recognition, there’s a counter-narrative pushed by a vocal network of individuals who write for alternative news sites countering the “MSM agenda”. Their views align with the positions of Syria and Russia and attract an enormous online audience, amplified by high-profile alt-right personalities, appearances on Russian state TV and an army of Twitter bots.

The full article is long and can be read through the above link.

But one point should be underlined.

The source the Morning Star relies on, Vanessa Beely, and her 21stcenturywire.com, stink to high heaven.

Some of the most vocal skeptics of the UN’s investigation include the blogger Vanessa Beeley, the daughter of a former British diplomat who visited Syria for the first time in July 2016; a University of Sydney senior lecturer, Timothy Anderson, who described the April chemical attack as a “hoax”; and Eva Bartlett, a Canadian writer and activist who said the White Helmets staged rescues using recycled victims – a claim that’s been debunked by Snopes and Channel 4 News.

It continues,

Beeley frequently criticises the White Helmets in her role as editor of the website 21st Century Wire, set up by Patrick Henningsen, who is also an editor at Infowars.com.

In 2016, Beeley had a two-hour meeting with Assad in Damascus as part of a US Peace Council delegation, which she described on Facebook as her “proudest moment”. She also was invited to Moscow to report on the “dirty war in Syria”; there, she met with senior Russian officials including the deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Maria Zakharova, director of information and press at Russia’s foreign affairs ministry.

RT duly responded,

Question less: The Guardian whitewashes all criticism of Syria’s foreign-funded White Helmets

The Guardian has cast aside self-awareness, seized the moral high ground (its self-proclaimed permanent base), and jumped to the defense of Syria’s ‘White Helmets,’ painting the group as victims of an “online propaganda machine.”

Journalist Olivia Solon, in an article headlined ‘White Helmets became victims of an online propaganda machine,’ is keen to make sure that any questions about the motives of the group are dismissed as a ‘counter-narrative.’ That’s what others might call the ‘other side of the story.’ In full effect is the journalistic trope of our times… RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE!

The White Helmets, officially known as the Syria Civil Defense, is a humanitarian organization made up of 3,400 volunteers – former teachers, engineers, tailors and firefighters – who rush to pull people from the rubble when bombs rain down on Syrian civilians. They’ve been credited with saving thousands of civilians during the country’s continuing civil war.”

Even someone who eats lentils for every meal would have to admit that the passage above lacks a certain journalistic cynicism. Whether you like it or not, there are very definite questions hanging over the White Helmets – some of them are raised by Solon, but only in a mumbly, out-of-the-corner-of-the-mouth, staring-at-the-floor kind of way, before being roundly dismissed.

How can they be bad? the White Helmets starred in a movie that won an Oscar for heaven’s sake. (Of course it’s not relevant, but so did Kevin Spacey).

These guys wear white helmets and surely only good guys wear white! They’ve reportedly fallen victim to the worst villain there is, Darth Vad… erm… Russian Social Media!!

The way the Russian propaganda machine has targeted the White Helmets is a neat case study in the prevailing information wars,” Solon writes.

Indeed! Just as this article is itself a case study in lacking self-awareness, strategically balancing non-sequiturs and omissions and displaying a complete unwillingness to engage with the complexity of life, geopolitics and Syria.

The UAE based National describes those joining with the above,  “Alongside these channels there have been online attacks by a loose coalition of vocal activists and trolls, including anti-Western bloggers and far-right conspiracy theorists railing against the MSM [mainstream media], as well as evidence of Twitter bots furthering the reach of the smears.”

And the Morning Star.

I will conclude with one of the latest Tweets from the, no doubt also lentil-eating,  ‘terrorists” themselves.

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

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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.”

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 30, 2017 at 1:18 pm

Trotksyism and Political Confusionism: The Case of Sam Marcy and the “Marcyites”.

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Macryites: the Anti-Imperialism of Fools.

Louis Proyect recently had a post about  some the more unpleasant figures on the US left.

“Trotskyists” put down red carpet for obscure Stalinist blogger

On Friday, July 14th at the Solidarity Center in NYC, Stephen Gowans will be speaking on “Washington’s Long War in Syria“, his new pro-Assad book. Solidarity Center is the HQ of the International Action Center, the antiwar front of the Workers World Party, a group that emerged out of the Trotskyist movement after the founder decided to back the Soviet tanks rather than the Hungarian workers in 1956. They are essentially Stalinists–much more so than the Communist Party.

Among the sponsors of the meeting is something called UNAC, the United Antiwar Coalition, that has a steering committee that is a mixture of WWP’er Sarah Flounders and independent Stalinists like Phil Wilayto.

But the largest party representation is from Socialist Action, a tiny sect led by Jeff Mackler. After splitting from the SWP, Mackler and other party veterans formed SA in the early 80s to rebuild a purified Trotskyist group. It has failed abjectly but like the group it split from, it soldiers on in the foolish notion that it is to the USA that Lenin’s party was to Russia. Mackler is on the steering committee as is Marilyn Levin and Christine Gavreau, who like Mackler are in their seventies. I can’t say for sure if they are still in SA but I strongly suspect that they are. This is definitely not a formation that is going to compete with the DSA for fresh young blood.

As part of our wider project of charting “Confusionism” Lois has made a contribution.

“the ideological cocoon of the Marcyite wing of the American left that now includes Socialist Action. Indeed, nothing that took place within Syria held even the slightest interest for them. These are people who get their ideas from ZeroHedge, Moon of Alabama, Global Research, Information Clearing House and other bottom-feeding click-bait outlets of the lunatic left.”

Now Marcyites….

Recently we had a hard job on Facebook trying to explain Campism to French comrades, or rather I and one French comrade had a difficult job in explaining this to people in France and Belgium.

What is Campism? As used by the AWL and others it describes those who, despite the Fall of Official Communism, the end of the time when the planet saw the ‘Socialist Bloc’  pitted against the Imperialists still divide the world  into two camps, Imperialism, and Anti-imperialism, to French comrades.

Oddly (….) they had not heard of Max Shachtman

Macryites are the ultimate ‘campists’, the defenders of the original anti-imperialism of fools (a term which French left-wingers did not find hard to get). In the original version they believed in a “global class war”, one waged between states.

The term comes from Sam Marcy (pseudonym) and his faction.

“Basically he took the concept of “deformed worker’s state” in the opposite direction that most traditional Trotskyists do. In essence he believe that socialist states were necessarily deformed because socialism can not co-exist with capitalism. To that extent he opposed the idea of socialism in one country. At the same time through his theory of global class war he saw the socialist nation state as a key factor in the final downfall of world imperialism. WWP was one of the few parties to call for PRC-USSR unity. Of course WWP was in the awkward position of being a Trotskyist group condemning Khrushchev for being revisionist in denouncing Stalin.

In general as far as Trotskyism goes, the Sam Marcyist brand is the closest to genuine Marxism-Leninism. Of course in practice it amounts to simply supporting any anti-US force as anti-imperialist or even socialist. Its a sort of reverse Trotskyism.”

Marcy wrote, (The Global Class War and the Destiny of American Labor by Sam Marcy May 20, 1953)

the camp of the proletariat today, unlike the previous epoch, has the bulk of the oppressed peoples in the colonies and dependent countries within its camp as allies. The class of peasants, semi- and non-proletarian elements of the backward countries, which in previous epochs were the reserve of imperialist reaction, can now be regarded not merely in a social but the political sense as well, as having been attracted to and daily becoming more and more part and parcel of the camp of the proletariat. The revolutionary ferment all over the colonial world is testimony to this fact. Our class camp is numerically much larger, much more politically conscious than in all previous epochs. The second characteristic of our class camp is that it has state allies, states where the working class, if not in a political sense, then certainly in a social and historic sense, holds the ruling power.

Today’s Marcyites believe that while there are no longer many states where the working class ‘holds power’ on a formal socialist basis that there are some kind of ‘objective’ allies of the left in the ‘colonial world’. According to some positions this would go right down to ‘anti-imperialist’ states like, as Proyet complains, Syria.

Workers World in the US keeps the flame lit.

Perhaps the nearest we have to this line is the groupuscle Socialist Action around Gerry Downing though some in the Stop the War Coalition often sound like them..

Background,

Sam Ballan (1911 – February 1, 1998), known by his pen name Sam Marcy, was an American Marxist of the post-World War II era. He co-founded the Workers World Party in 1959 and served as its chairperson until his death.

Marcy was born in Russia to Jewish parents. During the Russian Civil War, his family was a target of anti-Jewish pogroms by the White movement and received protection from the Communist forces. They resettled in Brooklyn, where Marcy became an activist for the Communist Party USA. He studied law at St. Johns University and provided legal advice to labor unions in New York.[1]

Marcy grew discontented as a member of the Communist Party, viewing the Third International as increasingly detached from working class interests and instead a mouthpiece for Joseph Stalin, whose oppressive bureaucracy he despised. He joined the Trotskyist movement in the 1940s, building a branch of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Buffalo.[1] Yet he again became dissatisfied, finding the SWP uncommitted to revolutionary politics and instead oriented toward parliamentary reform.[2] Marcy, Vince Copeland, and other SWP members developed a theory of “global class war“, according to which Marxists had a duty to defend the existence of the USSR and its satellites in spite of their bureaucracy[3]. Over several years Marcy clashed with the SWP leadership on several questions, including their approach to Communist China and North Korea, whether the SWP should endorse Henry A. Wallace,[4] and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. On the last question, Marcy’s faction supported the Soviet military intervention, arguing that the initial worker uprising had attracted class elements that sought to restore capitalism.[5][6]

In 1959 the “global class war” faction set up a new organization, the Workers World Party, characterized by outspoken defense of all Communist governments in the world. After the first issue of the Workers Worldnewspaper was published, Marcy started applying his view of Marxism–Leninism to contemporary issues. Marcy’s writings included extensive works on socialism, the Cold War era and the rise of the powerful military-industrial complex. He also wrote about the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War, the economic forces behind capitalist downsizing and the impact of the scientific-technological revolution. [1] Selections of his works have been translated into many languages, including Persian, Spanish, Turkish, Korean, French and German.[citation needed]

His writings show a strong support for Mao Zedong and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, though he continued to defend China against imperialism following the reforms of Deng Xiaoping. Marcy defended China and also the Soviet Union against the charge of imperialism even while disagreeing with some policies and practices of the Communist Party leadership of both countries.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 10, 2017 at 5:51 pm

Solidarité avec le peuple syrien ! Solidarity with the Syrian People!

with one comment

Ensemble is a bloc of a number of radical left wing groups in France.

They, by majority vote, backed Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the recent Presidential election and some of their supporters were candidates for his list, La France insoumise .

Two of them are at present MPs in the National Assembly: Clémentine Autain, 11e circonscription de Seine-Saint-Denis, and Caroline Fiat, 6e circonscription de Meurthe-et-Moselle.

This declaration, signed by Roland Merieux, Ollivier Mollaz  and Francis Sitel appears on the Ensemble site.

Without translating the whole statement – which concerns the place of foreign policy in the overall strategy of newly elected President Macron in Syria – the key points are:

  • Macron considers that there is one, “absolute enemy” in Syria,  Terrorist Groups.
  • That against these enemies it is necessary for there to be co-operation between all those fighting them.
  • That a political solution to the conflict in Syria does not have to include as a condition the departure of Assad.

(Il n’existe qu’un « ennemi absolu » : les « groupes terroristes » (un lexique extensif qui est celui de Poutine et de Bachar al-Assad). 2) Contre cet ennemi, il faut la coopération entre tous ceux qui le combattent, en premier lieu la Russie. 3) La solution politique à rechercher pour la Syrie ne saurait inclure le départ de Bachar al-Assad.)

The declaration underlines, by contrast, that Assad is guilty of crimes against humanity, that he has waged war against his own people, and that he, as a result is “our enemy” and an enemy of France.

It concludes that only the Syrian People can legitimately decide who is in Power.

Comment:

In the light of these policy changes, which are not confined to France, it would be perhaps better if the left in Britain began to look into its position on Syria, where real genocides have taken place and where the Assad regime murders and tortures,  rather than other parts of the Middle East.

What is our stand on solidarity with the Syrian people against Assad?

The issue has come to the heart of French politics at present, as this public letter in Libération today demonstrates:

TRIBUNE : Monsieur le Président, maintenir Assad, c’est soutenir le terrorisme.

Dans une interview donnée à la presse européenne le 21 juin, Emmanuel Macron ne fait plus du départ de Bachar al-Assad un «préalable à tout». Une centaine d’intellectuels et de spécialistes de la région réagissent.

******

Emmanuel Macron doit conforter la légitimité de son pouvoir. 

Sur les questions sociales, pour précipiter et gagner l’affrontement sur le Code du travail et l’augmentation de la CSG, la procédure des ordonnances offre un moyen certes peu démocratique, mais efficace pour précipiter la concrétisation de la volonté présidentielle.

Pour ce qui est des questions internationales, il ne lui est pas même besoin d’user de ce type d’opération faisant peu de cas du rôle du Parlement. La Vème République les inscrit dans un « domaine réservé » où le Président décide souverainement. Emmanuel Macron a donc toute liberté pour déployer son activisme.

Outre les rencontres avec les dirigeants de l’Union européenne, Angela Merkel en premier lieu, une visite remarquée auprès du roi du Maroc, des entretiens avec Trump et Poutine, le voici qui se saisit de la décisive question syrienne.

De longue date monte au sein des cercles dirigeants la volonté d’imposer un tournant à la diplomatie française : en finir avec un « moralisme », louable mais hors de propos, pour rallier la realpolitik. Admettre enfin que Bachar al-Assad est toujours au pouvoir, et que l’appui massif de la Russie et de l’Iran lui permettra d’y rester. Donc qu’il faut cesser de vouloir l’écarter, et s’appuyer sur l’argument que l’ennemi prioritaire c’est Daech et les « groupes terroristes » pour prôner un accord avec Poutine et Bachar !

François Hollande, au lendemain des attentats de novembre 2015, avait évoqué un tel changement de la politique française à l’égard de la Syrie. On en a entendu des échos dans les propos tenus par Jean-Yves Le Drian lorsqu’il était ministre de la Défense. Mais le cap avait avait été maintenu : pas de solution politique possible incluant de manière durable le maintien au pouvoir de Bachar al-Assad.

Dans un grand entretien accordé à huit journaux européens, dont le Figaro, Emmanuel Macron opère un tel tournant. « le vrai aggiornamento que j’ai fait à ce sujet, c’est que je n’ai pas énoncé que la destitution de Bachar al-Assad était un préalable à tout ». C’est maintenir une ambiguïté puisque les rapports de force avait déjà conduit à une inflexion de la position française, conduisant à envisager une solution de transition préservant l’existence du régime, mais préparant la mise à l’écart de Bachar al-Assad : non un « préalable », mais une conséquence de ladite transition. Emmanuel Macron affiche également une grande fermeté apparente à propos de l’usage des armes chimiques, qu’il s’engage à sanctionner, seul s’il le faut. Depuis 2013 et la reculade d’Obama on sait ce que vaut ce type de « ligne rouge » !

« Dans le même temps », deux idées décisives sont avancées :
1) Il n’existe pas de « successeur légitime » à Bachar al-Assad.
2) Cette autre concentrée en une formule terrible : « Bachar n’est pas l’ennemi de la France, mais l’ennemi du peuple syrien ».

Donc pour résumer le propos du Président :
1) Il n’existe qu’un « ennemi absolu » : les « groupes terroristes » (un lexique extensif qui est celui de Poutine et de Bachar al-Assad).
2) Contre cet ennemi, il faut la coopération entre tous ceux qui le combattent, en premier lieu la Russie.
3) La solution politique à rechercher pour la Syrie ne saurait inclure le départ de Bachar al-Assad.

Ainsi, alors que Bachar al-Assad est coupable de crimes de guerre et de crimes contre l’Humanité, que pour se maintenir au pouvoir il mène depuis six ans une guerre barbare contre son peuple, qui est cause de centaines de milliers de morts, de millions de déplacés, de la destruction du pays, lequel est livré à des occupations étrangères… Cela ne suffit pas selon Emmanuel Macron pour qu’il soit considéré comme un « ennemi de la France » !

L’auteur de Révolution a oublié la « guerre aux tyrans !»…
Faut-il rappeler au Président de la France qu’on ne combat pas le terrorisme en s’alliant à ceux qui en sont les fourriers. Et qu’un peuple n’a pas à confier aux dirigeants de ce monde le soin de désigner qui a la légitimité pour le gouverner.
Parce que Bachar al-Assad est l’ennemi du peuple syrien, il est notre ennemi. Il devrait être celui de la France, même présidée par Emmanuel Macron.

Et c’est au seul peuple syrien de décider qui ne doit pas être au pouvoir, et qui peut légitimement y accéder.

Roland Merieux – Ollivier Mollaz – Francis Sitel.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 3, 2017 at 12:17 pm

George Galloway Goes Whatabout to Defend Trump.

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Mad leading Ipswich Tory Kev comments, “Well Said George Galloway!

Our old friend Galloway, fresh from his triumph as top man of the Brexit ‘left’ and leading light in the Stop the War Coalition, has taken to re-tweeting Brendan O’Neill (Spiked-on-Line), and Piers Morgan in defence of his new man-crush – Donald Trump.

These are some more of the Great Man’s latest personal Tweets:

Written by Andrew Coates

January 31, 2017 at 5:37 pm

Morning Star Hails Alepo ‘Liberation’.

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Galloway has added his own unique claim that ISIS was in Aleppo…..

This is  the latest, a careful and sober report of what’s happening.

Asma Ajroudi. Al Jazeera.

As the Syrian government forces, backed by allies, inch closer to a decisive victory in the ravaged rebel stronghold of east Aleppo, t he impending fall of the city to regime forces would be the biggest setback for rebels since the conflict broke out in 2011.

It could also mark the start of a wider military shift that sets the course of the war in the Syrian regime’s favour.

In less than a month, Syrian troops, with unfettered Russian air support, were able to recapture 90 percent of the eastern part of Aleppo. On Monday, the Syrian army claimed that 98 percent of east Aleppo was in the hands of regime forces.

Reports also indicate a massive exodus of people to either remaining rebel-held districts or government-controlled areas in the western part of Aleppo. The Russian Defence Ministry claimed that 13,346 civilians had left rebel-held areas in the past 24 hours, and 728 rebels laid down their arms and surrendered.

The United Nations human rights office had warned on Friday that hundreds of men have “gone missing” after crossing into regime-controlled areas of Aleppo as Russian and Syrian air strikes continue to pound the city.

The Independent reports,

UN chief warns of ‘atrocities against large number of civilians’ in Aleppo.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has raised alarm over “reports of atrocities against a large number of civilians, including women and children” in Aleppo, his spokesman said.

Syria’s army, loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, are reportedly close to capturing all of east Aleppo which has been a rebel stronghold in the country’s civil war.

Residents in the besieged areas of the city have described the situation as “doomsday”, with many unable to flee the fighting.

Le Monde carries this as its lead-story:

Syrie : l’ONU alerte sur des exécutions sommaires commises dans Alep par des forces pro-Assad

Le commissariat de l’ONU aux droits de l’homme s’appuie sur plusieurs témoignages en provenance de la partie est d’Alep, qui subit une terrible offensive depuis quatre semaines.

 

It is extremely unwise to talk of ‘liberation’ in these conditions – to say the least.

The French left group Ensemble says, Solidarité avec le peuple syrien, avec son combat pour la paix, la justice et la liberté !

  • L’arrêt immédiat de tous les bombardements et la levée des sièges des villes. ( An immediate stop to bombing, and raising the siege of cities and towns).
  • Une mobilisation internationale pour apporter une aide humanitaire massive aux populations. (World-wide efforts to bring humanitarian aid to the Syrian people).
  •  Le départ de Syrie de toutes les armées et milices étrangères.(All foreign armies and militias should leave Syria.)

Written by Andrew Coates

December 13, 2016 at 1:02 pm