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Posts Tagged ‘Seumas Milne

‘Straight Left” from Tankie Faction in the Communist Party of Great Britain to the Heart of the Labour Party.

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Straight Left.

“The hatred and contempt with which each side treats the others—as also the bewilderment and distress of the silent majority of Party loyalists—seems now to exceed that in the Labour Party at the height of Bennism. In the Eurocommunist camp, as then on the Labour Left, it is typically expressed in generational terms—‘Why don’t you just die?’ was the shout of one of the new wave ‘pluralists’ when, at a recent aggregate, an old-timer attempted to speak.

Whereas in previous Communist crises, such as those of 1939–40 or 1956, the factory branches remained solid or even increased in strength, while it was the ‘intellectuals’ who were then wracked by doubt, this time it is the industrial comrades who have been ready to put their Party loyalties in question. In their majority they seem to have rallied to the Morning Star. Trade unionists—‘white, male, middle-aged’, as they were recently characterized by the Party’s Industrial Organizer, after a week at the TUC—are no longer honoured in the Party but viewed with social and even sexual disgust.

As in other political formations of the Left, political disagreement has been exacerbated by sociological discomforts which it seems increasingly difficult for a unitary organization to contain, and although the outcome is different in the Communist and the Labour Party, it does not seem fanciful to discern the same fissiparous forces at work: a simultaneous break-up of both class and corporate loyalties.”

Raphael Samuel. The Lost World of British Communism. Part 3. New Left Review I/165, September-October 1987.

This, apparently, is the atmosphere that reigned in the party, the CPGB, that some of Jeremy Corbyn’s key staff, from Seumas Milne to the new deputy director of strategy and communications,  Steve Howell, were involved with  in their – relative – youth.

The faction, “Straight Left” appears to be a common tie,

The leading ideological force in the Straight Left faction was Fergus Nicholson, who had previously worked as the CPGB’s student organiser. According to Michael Mosbacher in Standpoint magazine, the faction was “a hard-line anti-reformist pro-Soviet faction within the Communist Party”. Unlike the leadership, they supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia  in 1968 and Afghanistan in 1979. They also thought the party should concentrate its work in Trade Unions , and not in social movements such as feminism and environmentalism.

Because the CPGB’s rules banned the formation of factional groups, SL operated in secret. Members of the faction contributed funds to the organisation through significant monthly donations, which helped fund the groups educational gatherings, often referred to as camping weekends. Its meetings were not publicly announced, and writers in their newspaper Straight Left and their theoretical magazine Communist wrote under pseudonyms like Nicholson, whose pen-name was “Harry Steel”. The Straight Left faction also produced anonymous bulletins to try to influence CPGB Congresses usually under the heading “Congress Truth”.

The faction produced a dissident internal pamphlet entitled “The Crisis in Our Communist Party – Cause, Effect and Cure”, which was distributed nationally but not under its name. This was authored (in all likelihood in conjunction with others), by veteran miner and communist Charlie Woods, who was expelled from the CPGB for putting his name to the publication.

The reason for the sudden interest?

After Jeremy Corbyn’s campaigns chief Simon Fletcher quit his role earlier this month, it was branded a victory for Seumas Milne. Fletcher was known to have clashed with Corbyn’s director of strategy and communications on a range of issues, including the EU. Now, in a sign things are moving further in Milne’s favour, Steve Howell has been appointed as deputy director of strategy and communications.

Happily, the pair are unlikely to clash over their political views anytime soon. They are old comrades who were both involved with Straight Left, the monthly journal in the Eighties that became associated with the ‘Stalinist’, pro-Soviet, anti-Eurocommunist faction that eventually split from the Communist Party of Great Britain. Described by Standpoint magazine as ‘a hard-line anti-reformist pro-Soviet faction within the Communist Party’, the Straight Left movement was also where Milne met Andrew Murray, the first chair of the Stop the War campaign who previously called for solidarity with North Korea.

Introducing Corbyn’s new spinner: the Straight Left comrade who is Mandelson’s old communist chum. (Steerpike. Spectator).

This was also immediately noticed on the left, provoking it must be said some jealousy on the part of former members of rival factions within the defunct Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB).

Bob from Brockley  posted,

Fletcher’s replacement is Steve Howell, brought in from a PR firm in South Wales. Howell has not been politically active for a while, as far as I can see, but does have history: like Milne and Andrew Murray he was active in the Stalinist faction Straight Left. Howell, then based in Sheffield, led its Yorkshire group. Their faction was called “the artists” – most of its key figures were Oxbridge types, in contrast to the salt of the earth workerists who led the main rival tankie faction, the Communist Campaign Group.

At that point in the 1980s, hardcore Stalinists (known as “tankies” for their support for the tanks sent in by the Soviets to crush dissent in its various satellites) were fighting to keep the Communist Party of Great Britain loyal to the memory of Uncle Joe Stalin, who was seen as something of an embarrassment by its Eurocommunist leadership. Straight Left sought to re-orient the party towards operating in the Labour Party and trade union movement.

Some of the denunciations of its tactics by rival Stalinists from the time are amusing, but also a bit sinister now it finally has achieved getting some of its activists into key positions in the Labour Party.

This is from the ultra-tankie Leninist newspaper (forerunner of the Weekly Worker) in 1983:

And this is about Straight Left’s strategy of covertly using the Labour Party rather than Communist Party as the vehicle for promoting Stalinism, a strategy the Leninist denounced as “liquidationism”:

I have no idea if Howell has, like Murray, remained true to his Stalinist roots. (His schoolmate and old comrade in Hendon Young Communists, Peter Mandelson, clearly hasn’t.)

Now the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty have offered their assessment.

Corbyn’s Leader’s Office is dominated by the former Guardian journalist Seumas Milne and by people close to Andrew Murray, chief of staff of the Unite union. Milne’s political formation was in the Stalinist sect “Straight Left”.

Another Straight Lefter was Andrew Murray… Milne, like Murray, is still a Stalinist. Writing for the Guardian, as he has done for many years, he puts his views in urbane double-negative form, but he is still a Stalinist… Operators used to snuggling into the established political and media machines, ideologically imbued with and trained over decades in ‘top-down’ politics, will not serve Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, and us well in opening up and revitalising the Labour Party” (Solidarity 382, 28 October 2015).

“Stalinist ideas were drilled into swathes of labour movements and the left in decades when activists could see the USSR (or Cuba, China, Albania) as practical examples of the alternative to capitalism. Today we have a more demoralised Stalinists and Stalinoids: while sometimes loud in denunciation of Tory misdeeds, they generally see no further in positive policy than what were only stepping stones for Stalinism in its heyday: economic nationalism, bureaucratic state-directed economic development…

The Article 50 fiasco, and the Labour leaders’ waffle about a “People’s Brexit”, cannot but have been shaped by nationalist anti-EU prejudices in the Stalinist-influenced left. Stalinist bureaucratic manipulation fits with the Blairite heritage: “policy development” means not debate in the rank and file leading up to conference decisions, but formulas handed down by clever people in the Leader’s Office. The office’s response to the Copeland by-election has been to get another “Straight Left” old-timer, Steve Howell, seconded from the PR company he now owns….

Martin Thomas.  The dangers of Stalinism in Labour. Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

Of particular interest are the claims about the EU, “Fletcher was known to have clashed with Corbyn’s director of strategy and communications on a range of issues, including the EU.” and “the Labour leaders’ waffle about a “People’s Brexit”.

This article, published by those Simon Fletcher is said to be close to (aka Socialist Action), which argues against the fantasy that there is a “People’s Brexit”, may help explain his departure.

There is no ‘People’s Brexit’  By Tom O’Leary. Socialist Economic Bulletin. (Published by Ken Livingstone, Simon Fletcher’s former employer)

There is no socialist or even ‘people’s Brexit’. Everyone operating in the UK will still be subject to the laws of the market. The problem will be that the market will suddenly be much smaller and less productive than the EU Single Market the UK has been participating in for the last 25 years. If the Tories continue to get their way, there will also be a stripping away of the workers’ environmental and consumer rights that were instituted under the EU’s ‘Social Chapter’. These have long been a Tory target for abolition in the UK. Post-Brexit, the economy will be operating behind a series of tariff and non-tariff barriers as others protect their markets. All of these will make the economy less competitive and will increase costs.

Of course, the pound could depreciate sharply again to offset these disadvantages, but this would lower living standards and real incomes even further. If currency devaluations alone were the answer then Britain would be an earthly paradise. In 1940 there were 5 US Dollars to the pound. Now there are 1.25. Over the same period the relative size of the UK in the world economy has shrunk dramatically in real terms, to less than one-third its proportion of world GDP, 2.3% now versus 7.3% in 1940.

There is a widespread notion on the right that Brexit will lead to ‘taking back control’ of the economy. Unfortunately, this is also shared by important sections of the left. It is a delusion. The 1930s saw a whole series of countries taking back control, in what might be called an early anti-globalisation movement. Although the authors of these policies are now widely and rightly derided their arguments will actually be very familiar.

It was said that other countries were taking our jobs, they are dumping their output on us causing our industries to fail and that those industries need protecting and government support, or state aid. Once we have done that, then we would be able to trade freely with the whole world. Of course, the more virulent version also included vile invective against foreigners, immigrants, Jews, gay men and others. When the economic policies went spectacularly wrong, the racist invective became policy.

The reason these policies failed spectacularly should be clear. Behind the protective barriers, costs rise, potential markets are closed off (especially as they respond with barriers of their own), industry becomes less not more productive, profits decline and workers are laid off. The economic crisis that ensued was finally resolved only by general rearmament.

Economics aside Milne, it is said,  is equally no friend of the politics of the internationalist supporters of Another Europe is Possible.

And he has this in his file: Seumas Milne: Charlie Hebdo Had it Coming to them.

More detailed background:

WHAT WAS STRAIGHT LEFT? AN INTRODUCTION BY LAWRENCE PARKER

Straight Left’s origins lie in the left pro-Soviet oppositions that emerged in the Communist Party of Great Britain in the 1960s. In this period, a definite ‘party within a party’ emerged, with figures such as Sid French, district secretary of Surrey CPGB, becoming key leaders. The general critique that emerged from this faction was a concern over the CPGB leadership distancing itself from the Soviet Union (such as around the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968) and other ‘socialist’ countries; a preference for a more ‘workerist’ identity (for example, the faction would have been happy with the CPGB’s paper remaining as the Daily Worker in 1966) and a concentration on workplaces/trade unions; and a sense that the party was squandering its resources in futile election contests and alienating the left of the Labour Party, with whom it was meant to be developing a close relationship on the British road to socialism (BRS), the CPGB programme. However, a significant part of the faction felt that the BRS was ‘reformist’ and ‘revisionist’ in all its guises from 1951, counter-posing a revolutionary path to the parliamentary road to socialism envisaged in the CPGB’s existing programme.

Read the rest of the article on A Hatful of History.

 

Seumas Milne: Enemy of the North African Left and Secularists.

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Opponent of North African Left and Secularists. 

Seumas Milne  has a new job.

Guardian columnist Seumas Milne has been appointed as Labour Executive Director of Strategy and Communications. The appointment is considered controversial in Labour circles.

The appointment of Milne is the surest sign yet that Jeremy Corbyn will fill senior positions with hard left allies in an attempt to assert his dominance. Milne is considered one of the most left wing commentators in the media. He has worked as comment editor and labour editor for The Guardian, as well as writing for The Economist, and has spent 10 years as an executive member of the National Union of Journalists. He has also written several books, including one about the miners’ strike of the 1980s.

Milne will join the Labour leader’s office on the 26th October, next Monday, on leave from his position at The Guardian.

Labour List.

Much will be made of Milne’s various political stands, including, no doubt the time when he stood as a ‘Marxist-Leninist’ candidate in mock elections at his exclusive public school, Winchester College (information from an Old Wykehamist).

These are just two which make him unfit to represent Labour to an important section of the world left, his opposition to the North African left and support for their Islamist allies, and, as he showed with his reactionary anti-Charlie Hebdo rants, his hostility to secularists and lovers of freedom of expression everywhere.

The first issue is Tunisia:

, Guardian Comments Editor, has described the Ennahda party (right-wing Islamists)  as “progressive” and gave space to pro-Islamist views during his time as Comment Editor (for six years, 2001-7).

In October 2011 he said this (Guardian)

The once savagely repressed progressive Islamist party An-Nahda (Ennahdha)  won the Tunisian elections this week on a platform of pluralist democracy, social justice and national independence.

In January 2011 the Guardian published this – reflecting Milne’s enthusiasm.

We are building a Tunisia for all  

Oddly this had happened in February that year, (BBC)

Police have cleared crowds of Tunisians who marched through the capital Tunis on Friday demanding the resignation of interim PM Mohammed Ghannouchi, a long-time ally of the ousted leader.

It was the biggest rally since Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia last month after 23 years in power, after being toppled by weeks of unrest.

Mr Ghannouchi’s interim government has promised elections by mid-July.

But crowds marched down Tunis’ main avenue chanting: “Ghannouchi leave.”

Later police fired tear gas and warning shots as they cleared the demonstrators from in front of the interior ministry .

Witnesses said one protester was injured when police fired warning shots at the crowd which some estimates said was 100,000-strong.

By the beginning of 2013 this was happening:

Tunisia: Islamists Kill Secularist Left Leader, General Strike Today.

Milnes did not support the left-wing Tunisian Front Populaire. Or (presently ruling, left-of-centre secular party) at the head of a coalition with the Islamists and nationalist parties,  Nidaa Tounès, of PM Habib Essid. 

Instead he backed full-square the Muslim Brotherhood franchise, the pro-business, pro-liberal economics, Islamists of Ennahda.

The second issue is Charlie Hebdo.

Charlie: Pornographic Humiliation of Muslims.

Paris is a warning: there is no insulation from our wars writes, in the Guardian.

The attacks in France are a blowback from intervention in the Arab and Muslim world. What happens there happens here too
Nothing remotely justifies the murderous assault on Charlie Hebdo’s journalists, still less on the Jewish victims singled out only for their religious and ethnic identity.

But…….

What has become brutally obvious in the past week, however, is the gulf that separates the official view of French state policy at home and abroad and how it is seen by many of the country’s Muslim citizens. That’s true in Britain too, of course. But what is hailed by white France as a colour-blind secularism that ensures equality for all is experienced by many Muslims as discrimination and denial of basic liberties.

What of Charlie?

Charlie Hebdo claims to be an “equal opportunities offender”, abusing all religions alike. The reality, as one of its former journalists put it, has been an “Islamophobic neurosis” that focused its racialised baiting on the most marginalised section of the population.

This wasn’t just “depictions” of the prophet, but repeated pornographic humiliation.

I will not dignify this with longer extracts but note this conclusion, and note it well,

Europeans are fortunate that terrorist outrages have been relatively rare. But a price has been paid in loss of freedoms, growing anti-semitism and rampant Islamophobia. So long as we allow this war to continue indefinitely, the threats will grow. In a globalised world, there’s no insulation. What happens there ends up happening here too.

In brief, the slaughter was terrible, but Charlie Hebdo was so awful that there was bound to be a “blowback”.

For in plain English: they (and one assumes the victimes at the Hyper-Cacher) had “it coming to them”.

The failure to back the left, and instead support the right, during the important events in Tunisia, and his misinterpretation of Charlie Hebdo’s satire,  are enough to make Milne unsuitable to represent the Labour Party for important constituencies.

That is, on Tunisia he stands against the majority of the North African and European left, and to the overwhelming majority of the Francophone left which mourned the Paris slaughter in January this year. 

He has already mightily annoyed Kate Godfrey (“Mr Corbyn, I have spent my life in conflict zones. Prior to becoming a Labour PPC I worked in Somalia, in Sudan, in Libya, in Algeria, in Lebanon when the Israelis were shelling the passes, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Georgia, in Azerbaijan and in the DRC”), who criticises a much wider field of misjudgment on international issues.  ”

“So Mr Corbyn, what made you appoint fascism-apologist Seumas Milne?”

Bob’s view:  Three reasons why Milne’s appointment was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Seumas Milne: Charlie Had it Coming to them.

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Charlie: Pornographic Humiliation of Muslims – had it coming to them.

Paris is a warning: there is no insulation from our wars writes in the Guardian.

The attacks in France are a blowback from intervention in the Arab and Muslim world. What happens there happens here too

Nothing remotely justifies the murderous assault on Charlie Hebdo’s journalists, still less on the Jewish victims singled out only for their religious and ethnic identity.

But…….

What has become brutally obvious in the past week, however, is the gulf that separates the official view of French state policy at home and abroad and how it is seen by many of the country’s Muslim citizens. That’s true in Britain too, of course. But what is hailed by white France as a colour-blind secularism that ensures equality for all is experienced by many Muslims as discrimination and denial of basic liberties.

What of Charlie?

Charlie Hebdo claims to be an “equal opportunities offender”, abusing all religions alike. The reality, as one of its former journalists put it, has been an “Islamophobic neurosis” that focused its racialised baiting on the most marginalised section of the population. This wasn’t just “depictions” of the prophet, but repeated pornographic humiliation.

I will not dignify this cack with longer extracts but note this conclusion, and note it well,

Europeans are fortunate that terrorist outrages have been relatively rare. But a price has been paid in loss of freedoms, growing antisemitism and rampant Islamophobia. So long as we allow this war to continue indefinitely, the threats will grow. In a globalised world, there’s no insulation. What happens there ends up happening here too.

What goes around, comes around.

They had it coming to them…..

Written by Andrew Coates

January 15, 2015 at 11:24 am

Seumas Milne and the ‘Multipolar World’: Clutching at Straws.

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‘s Multipolar World. 

On parts of the left a theory has gradually developed that an emerging “multi-polar world” is the best defence against American-led imperialism.

This view, taken from academic studies of international relations, and given a political edge, is behind many apparently bizarre positions.

Such as backing Beijing, Moscow, or even Tehran ‘against’ the ‘West’.

The tiny entrist faction, Socialist Action, has taken this to mean that the left should defend countries, like China,

In a conflict between the world’s greatest imperialist power and a former colonized and dominated country the most elementary position should be clear: anyone on the side of progress and justice defends semi-colonial, emerging China against the offensive of imperialism and its allies.

It is not even necessary to believe China is a socialist country to form this conclusion. It is simply necessary to take the same principled position that the left would take if the USA and its allies were to organize an assault on any other semi-colonial country whatever the character of the economic or political system in place.

Socialist Action, 14th May 2014. Jude Woodward.

An even less influential groupuscule, the Global Revolutionary Alliance,  carries this article,

John Morgan:  I’m not certain about a return to the bipolar model anytime soon. While we have seen the rise of new powers capable of challenging American hegemony in recent years – China, India, Iran, and of course the return of Russia to the world stage – none of them are capable of matching the pervasive influence of the American economy and its culture, nor of projecting military power around the world as NATO has been doing. At the same time, we can plainly see now that America and its allies in Western Europe have already passed their economic limits, now racking up unprecedented debt, and their power is beginning to wane.

Rather than the return of a bipolar world, I think we will see the emergence of the multipolar one, as Prof. Dugin has suggested, in which several nations wield significant power but none reigns supreme above all. In order to protect their interests, stronger nations will need to forge alliances with weaker ones, and sometimes even with other strong nations. But I think the era of the superpower is rapidly coming to an end.

The Morning Star frequently gives voice to similar arguments.

In that daily reviewing a book on the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya Carlos Martinez allows himself to claim,

Thus Libya is a boon for Nato in the geostrategic context of the Project For A New American Century, the US’s desperate attempt to maintain its hegemony and prevent the emergence of a multipolar world order. 

This is a strategy of  “divide and ruin” — violating national sovereignty, creating civil wars and removing states that refuse to play ball, all in the interests of creating an unstable global political environment that only the Western powers have the military weight to control. 

It is a thread that runs through the wars in Libya and Syria, the Nato and EU-sponsored boiling pot in Ukraine, the “revolt of the rich” in Venezuela, the CIA-funded social media campaigns in Cuba and Barack Obama’s so-called Asia pivot. It’s the duty of all progressive humanity to recognise and oppose such a strategy.

Rarely however are the actual policies of the Russian Federation celebrated as a progressive side to these developments.

Nor expressed them clearly in the mainstream media.

Until, that is,  the Guardian journalist  has given them an airing in this week.

A real counterweight to US power is a global necessity is a strange ideological concoction.

Milne makes a number of sweeping claims.

He begins by blaming everything that has gone wrong in the Middle East on the US-led ‘world order’.

The results of the invasion of Iraq are certainly a major factor in the chain of events that have led to the present – multiple – crises in the region. The US and its allies bear a heavy responsibility. The invasion was wrong wrong and wrong.

But there is nothing on the politics of post-invasion Iraq, the rise of the Mahdi Army, the conflicts between Shiism and Sunnism, and a host of other developments that have flourished in the aftermath of this “shock”.

Most seriously he ignores  any internal causes for the steps beyond the traditional repression and intolerance of Islamist politics: the genocidal Isis/Islamic State. That’s as if, to give a comparison, as if Hitler could be explained in terms of the Versailles Treaty and the manoeuvres of the 1920s Great Powers.

For Milne it is not necessary to go further than geopolitics to account for the growth of an Islamist  totalitarian movement, based on ‘micro-states’ policies of ‘discipline and punish’, and killing, have their own life and own responsibilities. Why the Arab Spring has largely failed – outside of Tunisia – is another ‘non-US led’ issue.

For Milne there is one important topic: NATO (the ‘West’) is a  diabolical force that has been challenged – however partially – by Russia.

 But if the Middle Eastern maelstrom is the fruit of a US-dominated new world order, Ukraine is a result of the challenge to the unipolar world that grew out of the failure of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. It was the attempt to draw divided Ukraine into the western camp by EU and US hawks after years of eastward Nato expansion that triggered the crisis, Russia’s absorption of Crimea and the uprising in the Russian-speaking Donbass region of the east.

The Ukrainian right-wing has its own responsibilities and we are far from those who put the blame on ‘Russia’ for what has happened in the country.

But Milne makes the interesting claim that the President of the Russian Federation has appealed for a global way out of such crisis .

It fell on deaf ears.

But there is little chance of the western camp responding to Putin’s call for a new system of global rules. In fact, the US showed little respect for rules during the cold war either, intervening relentlessly wherever it could. But it did have respect for power. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, that restraint disappeared. It was only the failure of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – and Russia’s subsequent challenge to western expansion and intervention in Georgia, Syria and Ukraine – that provided some check to unbridled US power.

Yet they cannot stem the new multipolar system of powers.

Along with the rise of China, it has also created some space for other parts of the world to carve out their political independence, notably in Latin America. Putin’s oligarchic nationalism may not have much global appeal, but Russia’s role as a counterweight to western supremacism certainly does. Which is why much of the world has a different view of events in Ukraine from the western orthodoxy – and why China, India, Brazil and South Africa all abstained from the condemnation of Russia over Crimea at the UN earlier this year.

This has its limits, but they do not stop Milne’s claims to swell and swell.

But Moscow’s check on US military might is limited. Its economy is over-dependent on oil and gas, under-invested and now subject to disabling sanctions. Only China offers the eventual prospect of a global restraint on western unilateral power and that is still some way off. As Putin is said to have told the US vice-president, Joe Biden, Russia may not be strong enough to compete for global leadership, but could yet decide who that leader might be.

Despite the benefits of the emerging multipolar world, the danger of conflict, including large-scale wars, looks likely to grow. The public pressure that brought western troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan is going to have to get far stronger in the years to come – if that threat is not to engulf us all.

It would appear that there is something of the argument (used by New Left writers amongst others) that the old Soviet Union might be repressive and reactionary at home but by the sheer fact of its presence tilted global politics in favour of the left, bringing fear to capitalists and concessions to social democracy in its wake. More convincingly some asserted that the Kremlin’s support for national liberal movements was decisive. Less persuasively that it was its  saving grace.

Milne studiously avoids (as Shiraz points out) discussing Stalinism and its immediate aftermath.

He effectively asserts (or wishing) for something similar: that the ‘multi-polar world (Russia and China its chief among many heads) can provide £some check” to “unbridled” US power – as if Washington was a war horse needing constant restraint from….war.

How far is this shown by recent events?

Today’s Latin American left cannot have much of a debt to anything remotely resembling this, or to Putin – unless Milne can provide some evidence so far hidden from the rest of us.

Not can Russia be said to have played a role in supporting any left project or holding back the US (and more to the point, international capital) from blocking progressive policies.

China and Russia’s presence, as capitalist powers, suggests that globalisation is proceeding. It can hardly be expected that they will do anything that threatens the interests of …capitalism.

They are indeed both ‘imperialist’ in the classical Marxist sense that they export capital, and influence global politics by virtue of their economic power, not by persuasion. The conflicts they enter into are part of ‘their’ perceived interests in this respect.  Their only ‘challenge’ to neoliberalism is that their political structures are authoritarian and repressive.

Although their super-patriotism and moral conservatism (in Russia above all) appear to attract some European far-rightists and former leftists they hardly act as much of a ‘counterweight’ to a more direct menace to the left: the growth of the  populist and racist far-right in Europe – not to mention the rise of Islamist reaction in the Middle East and elsewhere. 

The existence of competing superpowers is more generally said to have been a major contributing factor to two World Wars in the Twentieth century – at least according to  Marxists.

Lenin, who is not the be-all–and-end-all on this topic, nevertheless  provided a useful  5-point definition of imperialism:

(1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; (2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy; (3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; (4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and (5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.

These terms are contested, and the role of political sovereign nations in a globalised world has altered, not to mention capital flows and the world division of labour.

One thing is also clear: the ‘multipolar’ model gives us little indication of how to support people’s such as the Kurds of Kobane, struggling might and main against the Islamist genociders – that is the  duty of international solidarity. 

But that does not matter for the left supporters of “multipolarism”:  Milne thinks that the “division of the world” between competing capitalist nation states is a progressive thing.

The left should, if we follow this advice, do all it can to favour the “emergence of a multipolar world order.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 31, 2014 at 6:10 pm

The Guardian: Everything that’s wrong with the Liberal Stand on Islamism.

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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 ), are, in the majority, consensus believers in a number of liberal values.

The present editor,  has stated that “Queer theory informs my politics and journalism – and made me understand Robert, my childhood alter ego.” (Here)

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 .

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.

There are Marxist and other political studies which go into this in depth (Maxime RodinsonGilbert Achcar the latter’s sole contribution to the Guardian on the topic relates to ‘Holocaust denial’).

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.

Nobody.

**********

(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).