Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Secularism

150 Years Ago the Paris Commune Adopted Secularism.

with one comment

Vive La Commune! Décret, datant du 3 avril 1871.

“150 years ago today, the Paris Commune decreed the separation of Church and State and established secularism as one of the fundamentals of the workers’ movement.”

The Paris Commune, Considering that the first of the principle of the French Republic is Liberty; Considering that freedom of conscience is the first of freedoms; Considering that the budget of the religious bodies is contrary to the principle, since it is an imposition on citizens against their own faith; Considering, in fact, that the clergy were complicit in the crimes of the monarchy against freedom,

Article I: The Church is separate from the State.

Article II: The religious budget is abolished.

Article III: The so-called mortmain property, belonging to religious congregations, movable and immovable, are declared national property.

Article IV: An investigation will be made immediately on these goods, to ascertain their nature and put them at the disposal of the nation.

From Lucien’s Blog:

“Our secularism, the permanent protest of a class on the move against all the forces that tend to paralyze it, really deserves to concentrate all the fury of the social conservatives. (…) Our secularism is however sure to win, because it expresses the instinctive tendency of a class towards its economic liberation. ” (Marceau Pivert, 1932)

“One day or another, the vast majority of the international proletariat will agree with Rosa Luxembourg to appreciate exactly the religious phenomenon and to adopt a tactic of proletarian anticlericalism in accordance with the demands of the class struggle”

(Marceau Pivert, 1937)

From Lucien.

Pour une laïcité prolétarienne

Solidarité avec les luttes sociales et féministes contre les cléricalismes, les intégrismes religieux, le capitalisme et le patriarcat rétrograde.

See also:


Written by Andrew Coates

April 3, 2021 at 11:55 am

Batley Grammar: Two More Members of Staff Suspended.

with 11 comments


The Left and Labour Movement Should Defend Secular Freedom.


Two more members of staff at Batley Grammar School have been suspended, it has been reported.

The school had apologised and suspended a teacher pending an investigation following a protest over the cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad being shown in a class last week.

The picture had been used as part of a religious studies lesson, and the teacher involved has since been suspended and gone into hiding with his partner and four children.

It has since emerged two other teachers have also been suspended although this information was not made available to the public.

According to Mail Online, one ‘school source’ said: “Two other teachers are also being investigated but the school has been trying to keep it secret because they don’t want attention being drawn to the fact that this went beyond the actions of one person.”

It is understood they were aware the material was going to be used, but were not in class when it was shown.

LBC continues:

Batley Multi Academy Trust said in statement on Wednesday that an inquiry panel would begin work within a fortnight and said: “We understand everyone will want clarity as soon as possible.”

It said: “We’re grateful for the constructive engagement with all our stakeholders over the last few days with regard to Batley Grammar, one of the schools within our trust.

“We believe the right way forward is for an independent investigation to review the context in which the materials (which caused offence) were used, and to make recommendations in relation to the Religious Studies curriculum so that the appropriate lessons can be learned and action taken, where necessary.”

This Blog does not usually recommend the Weekly Worker, still less ‘Eddie Ford’, although it is well known that many of our section of left contributed to its pages in the past, but one of the best articles on the issues raised is in this week’s edition, (extracts)

Blasphemy laws old and new

Outraged, the local mosque mobilised its supporters, forcing the school to adopt remote learning. Mohammed Hussain of the Batley-based ‘Purpose of Life’ group – a registered charity – declared that the teacher “has insulted two billion Muslims on the planet” and “we cannot stand for that”, sharing the teacher’s name on social media with a letter condemning him. Taking it upon himself to speak for the entire ‘Muslim community’, as so often happens, he went on to state: “We do feel that, if this had been something that offended the LGBT community or something that was anti-Semitic, he would’ve been sacked on the spot.” For Hussain, the teacher’s resignation “should be forthcoming immediately.”

Similar sentiments can be heard from the protestors. One of them was quoted in various media outlets as saying the western world “is at a loss in understanding the reaction” from the Muslim community, as they are “required to stand up when prophet Mohammed is insulted, and when all the prophets are insulted, including all the prophets of the Old Testament, including Jesus” – the British “Muslim community” everywhere needs to review the materials being taught in their children’s schools. Showing images of Mohammed, we are told, should be as unacceptable as using the word ‘nigger’. Just beyond the pale.

This begins with something on everybody’s mind.

The very first thing to say is that this is an extremely serious matter. In October last year Samuel Paty, a school teacher in Paris, was horrifically beheaded after he too showed Charlie Hebdo cartoons during a class about free expression. In that sense, very similar to Batley. It is widely reported that the teacher there, who loved his “fantastic job”, is now in fear for his life – as are his family. He was whisked away from his home on “police advice” after receiving constant death threats. He is unlikely to return to Batley, let alone his job.

Secondly, we should support the immediate reinstatement of the suspended teacher – the lesson was precisely designed, presumably, to elicit critical thinking and philosophical inquiry. In which case, why not show the cartoon? Teachers should be free to show cartoons, pictures or quote texts that are relevant to the subject. After all, how can you conduct a lesson on blasphemy otherwise? Thirdly, Kibble was totally wrong to make his wretched apology – it will only encourage a climate of censorship.

There are wider issues, as religious figures push for the banning of views they dislike.

Many of those protesting outside Batley grammar school, and beyond, want the UK to resurrect its blasphemy laws. The common-law offences of “blasphemy” and “blasphemous libel” were formally abolished in England and Wales in 2008 after an amendment was passed to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.1 

And in Scotland the blasphemy law was only formally abolished this month after the new Hate Crime Bill passed its final parliamentary vote. There is now a new offence of “stirring up hatred” on religious grounds, meaning that Scots could be subject to prosecution if their behaviour is deemed “threatening or abusive”.2 As a consequence, the threshold for prosecution for “stirring up hatred” on religious grounds remains lower than in England and Wales – inevitably having a chilling effect on freedom of expression north of the border. This only leaves Northern Ireland, where blasphemy continues to be an offence under the common law, despite an attempt in the House of Lords to abolish it in 2009.


This Blog covered the SWP line. This is a excellent answer.

According to the SWP, there is “a big difference between ridiculing a religion such as the establishment-backed Church of England and mocking the beliefs of the poor and oppressed” – apparently Islam is above analytical criticism, sceptical questioning, let alone biting humour, and can never be the belief of the rich and powerful. Ignorance in the extreme. Religions are almost always cross-class phenomena. The Church of England unites Elizabeth Windsor and Justin Welby with the worthy poor who huddle in church every Sunday. Roman Catholicism is the religion of Francis I, a bloatedly rich bureaucracy, and huge numbers throughout the Americas, Europe and Africa. The same with Islam. Sunni Islam unites the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the fabulously rich king of Saudi Arabia, with millions throughout the world. The same goes for Shia Islam, the Mormons and Judaism. Vicars, priests, imams and rabbis form a privileged middle class with a material interest in maintaining their hold over their congregations and fuelling hostility to secularism and anything that smacks of criticism.

There are countries with state churches, like England. But more widely it is not just the wealth of the pious religious bourgeoisie behind institutions of faith, right to their most extreme forms. Political Islamism enjoys the financial and political support of capitalist dictatorships, from Saudi Arabia to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The conclusion is absolutely spot on.

We do not want to unnecessarily offend religious people like modern-day zealots from the League of Militant Godless.5 Rather, we want to be freely able to use Marxism to investigate the truths and untruths of religion. Religion is profoundly human – bearing all the characteristics and contradictions of class society. In that sense, as Marx argued, religion is an encyclopaedia of humanity’s complex history.

Lest we forget, this is what actually existing Blasphemy laws are like,

Junaid Hafeez, a university lecturer in Pakistan, had been imprisoned for six years when he was sentenced to death in December 2019. The charge: blasphemy, specifically insulting Prophet Muhammad (P.B.H.) on Facebook.

Pakistan has the world’s second strictest blasphemy laws after Iran, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Hafeez, whose death sentence is under appeal, is one of about 1,500 Pakistanis charged with blasphemy, or sacrilegious speech, over the last three decades. No executions have taken place.

But since 1990 70 people have been murdered by mobs and vigilantes who accused them of insulting Islam. Several people who defend the accused have been killed, too, including one of Hafeez’s lawyers and two high-level politicians who publicly opposed the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted for verbally insulting Prophet Muhammad. Though Bibi was acquitted in 2019, she fled Pakistan.

Opinion: Is Pakistan’s blasphemy law a result of the ulema-state alliance?

Written by Andrew Coates

April 2, 2021 at 11:33 am

On “the Silence over the murder of Paris teacher Samuel Paty.”

with 8 comments


We owe it to him think, to speak, and to teach freely.

It’s no secret that this Blog devotes a fair amount of time to French politics and culture, and to issues that concern the Francophone  world – which includes a very large swathe of Africa.

These days, with the Net, which means debate across the world, reactions to the murder of Samuel Paty, reactions from French leftists on FB, and writing French contributions to their discussions-  with a spell check that even adds the accents! – takes place. There is Smart Television (you can watch the Arte French news journal, which is perhaps comparable to Channel Four News on the App box), you can listen to France Inter, watch BMTV on the Net –  you have detailed information about at the tip of your fingers.

French, for an English-speaker, is not inaccessible: about a third of our words are the same, and when it comes to politics the percentage is often so high that when I post some sentences I do not translate.

I first learnt directly about the French left in the 1970s from French members of my IMG ‘cell’ in central London (I was at an FE college), who had ties to the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire.

Active on the French left for some years in the 1980s, a time when I first met Labour’s leader, Keir Starmer, at a meeting in Paris in the middle of that decade, I would say that there are great similarities between our left-wing parties and people, from Labour to the Parti Socialiste, The Green Party to the Verts (Now Europe Ecologie Les Verts, EELV), and our different radical lefts, here and in the Hexagone. I, like others, have kept up these ties.  There are French people on the British left, and British and Irish people in the French left.

Dare I say it, we are are also culturally very close.

I watched events unfold after the slaughter of Samuel Paty, directly, on BFMTV, and through the news on France Inter. There are posts here on the background and issues.

Today this is in people’s minds.

The ceremony at the Sorbonne can be seen on this video, to the music of U2’s One, a favourite of Petty.




The brutal killing  of a teacher in France’s public education system is a tragedy with universal implications. But we, who are on the left have a special responsibility.  The religious motives of the murderer are beyond doubt. The issues it raises are many, but one stands out: the need to defend the rights of free speech, of free and open education against those who wish to impose their political-religious ideology on others. That there are people who can explain what is at stake by their familiarity with the language should help.

Today the ‘I’ publishes this heartfelt article.

I buy the ‘I’, a concise daily that many of us find, as they say, an “essential daily Briefing”. Kate Malby confirms this.

I recommend the paper.

The silence over the murder of Paris teacher Samuel Paty is deafening – we owe it to him to defend free speech

Kate Maltby

France and England are tricksy siblings. We’ve had our grumpy moments – don’t mention Le Brexit – and over the past thousand years, like most siblings, we’ve sometimes tried to steal each other’s toys. (Agricultural heartlands and strategic ports.)

But they are our neighbours, separated by just 21 miles across the English Channel. They are our friends, and not only because every school-exchanger has a warm memory of pimply but mysterious Jean-Luc, who taught the English kids to drink boxed wine.

The shared absurdities of medieval warfare, dimly recalled 700 years on, foster intimacy not enmity. Remember the aftermath of the 2015 attack on the Bataclan nightclub? Our government flew flags at half-mast; we mere citizens changed our Facebook filters to images of the French flag. #JeSuisParis and all that.

None of that this week. The murder of teacher Samuel Paty in a Paris suburb by an Islamic extremist – after he discussed freedom of expression in class and showed cartoons of the prophet Muhammad – has been met with barely a sound in British public life.

To be fair, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, waiting out election madness in the US, and laying down supplies for a possible no-deal Brexit. Our politicians made the right noises, then went back to sharpening their weapons for the forthcoming Manchester-Westminster civil war. But where are the hashtags? The headlines? The conversations?

Do we think of France as somewhere far away, out of mind?

Samuel Paty was no ignorant Islamophobe. A teacher with many Muslim pupils of Arab heritage, he took classes at Paris’ Arab Institute to better understand their background.

When it came time to teach civics, he taught his students about one of the biggest controversies in recent French history: the 2015 massacre at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and the ongoing social discussion about whether the magazine had been “provocative” by printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed.

He offered his students the choice to leave the room before the cartoons were shown. It wasn’t enough. He was killed on Friday, after parents reportedly led an online campaign against him.

It should be the leading news across a continent when a teacher is murdered in the line of public service.

She concludes,

For some in America and in Britain, defending freedom of expression – and even the basic right of teachers not to be murdered – can sound like defending Trump.

But for Samuel Paty, “freedom of expression” wasn’t a hard-right talking point. It was a matter of life and death.

We owe it to him think, to speak, and to teach freely.


Stand and Be Counted

Marieme Helie Lucas, an Algerian sociologist and freedom fighter, founder of the solidarity networks Women Living Under Muslim Laws, and Secularism is a Women’s Issue argues that the roots of the murder of Samuel Paty go back to the 1990s and the experience of Algerians in the ‘war against civilians’.  She argues that we should ‘Stand and Be Counted’.

Feminist Dissent.

Watch the ceremony above, listen to the music (in English) and weep.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 22, 2020 at 11:11 am