Above: Prof Ramadan
Comrade Coatesy draws our attention to the unspeakably depressing fact that Tariq Ramadan (Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at St Antony’s College, Oxford and poster-boy for supposedly “moderate” Islamism) has been chosen deliver this year’s Orwell Lecture.
Now, Orwell was no saint, and certainly had his prejudices and blind-spots. He can reasonably be accused of a degree of sexism and homophobia. There are passages in his writings that have been considered anti-Semitic. He was a child of his time, and did not always rise above the prevalent backwardness of that time. But he was aware of his weaknesses and seems to have made genuine efforts to fight his inner demons. He was nothing if not scrupulously honest, self-critical (to a degree that sometimes played into the hands of his enemies), and humanist. He was also hostile to all forms of totalitarianism, religion and spirituality, despite a sentimental soft spot for the rituals of the C of E. All of which makes the choice of Professor Ramadan to deliver the lecture named after him, especially unfortunate.
The French revolutionary socialist and Marxist Yves Coleman wrote a trenchant critique of Ramadan back in 2007, published by Workers Liberty. We republish it below, preceded by Workers Liberty‘s introduction. Given Ramadan’s evident popularity not just on sections of the “left”, but also with Guardianista-liberals, and his selection as the Orwell lecturer, this is a timely reminder of just how unpleasant his underlying politics are:
“40 reasons why Tariq Ramadan is a reactionary bigot” was written by the French Marxist, Yves Coleman and has been reproduced by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL). The text presents factual information about the politics of Tariq Ramadan.
There are many issues the Left must address.
First is the question of honest polemic.
Useful political debate requires clearly presented political positions and an attempt to honestly engage with opponents.
And yet Yves Coleman believes that it almost impossible to either ‘catch’ or ‘corner’ Tariq Ramadan. He is difficult to pin down. The reason is simple: Tariq Ramadan often says one thing to one group, and something different, or contradictory, elsewhere.
This slipperiness connects with the second issue for the left.
No doubt, given the support Ramadan has on the “left”, there will be further “left” attempts to refute the damning contents of this document. However, it will not be good enough to answer Yves Coleman by producing further quotes from Ramadan.
It just won’t do to reply to the reactionary statements Ramadan has made on the issue of women’s rights, for example, by presenting other quotes suggesting he is a liberal on the question (and so implying Ramadan can’t have made the statements cited by Yves Coleman without having to address the quotes directly). Ramadan might well have made both the reactionary and the liberal statements. As Yves Coleman shows, on many issues Ramadan has done exactly that.
It will not do to protest that Ramadan is more liberal-minded, less rigidly reactionary than extreme Islamist groups like Hizb-ut Tahrir. He is. Mainstream Catholic ideologues are less rigidly reactionary than the Tridentines. They are still not allies for the left.
Nor will it do to try to change the question by saying that the left has also had Christian preachers sometimes share platforms with it to denounce apartheid or war. The left will work with campaigners who may be Muslims on the same basis. But Tariq Ramadan’s left-wing friends promote him not because he has campaigned on some progressive political issue (and despite his Islamic ideas), but because he is a (sometimes left-sounding) Islamic ideologue, regardless of him doing nothing for progressive politics other than making bland statements against poverty and so on.
The only possible “left” responses to this document are: to attempt to prove Coleman has mis-quoted Ramadan; or to attempt to explain away Ramadan’s statements (by claiming some sort of special privilege for Muslim bigots); or to accept Ramadan is a reactionary.
Third is the peculiar fact – one which Yves Coleman notes in his text – that the left finds no problem in condemning Catholic reactionaries, but often praises and promotes Islamic reactionaries such as Ramadan who have similar views. Criticisms of Tariq Ramadan are often called “Islamophobic”. But we do not say that Ramadan is worse than a Catholic reactionary because he is Muslim rather than Catholic. We only say that a Muslim reactionary is no more defensible than a Catholic reactionary.
The problem is that large sections of the left have degenerated and decayed to such an extent that they become unable to differentiate between critics of existing society who offer a positive alternative to capitalism (the working-class, class-struggle left), and those critics who are backward-looking reactionaries.
The kitsch-left has – seemingly – forgotten what it positively stands for, and can only remember what it is against (Blair, Israel and, most of all, America). Since Islamists are against Israel and the USA, and Catholic reactionaries generally are not, the kitsch-left thinks the Islamists are progressive. Or that Ramadan, a Swiss university professor, is the best person to invite to be a “Voice of the Global South” at the European Social Forum, precisely because he is an Islamic ideologue.
It is organisations such as the SWP – which found itself unable to condemn 9/11, and which supports the so-called resistance in Iraq – that promote Ramadan.
Forth is to understand Ramadan’s project.
Yves Coleman writes: “The basic thing is that Ramadan wants is to enlarge the power of control or religion on society. Ramadan always invokes French racism (which exists and can not be denied) and colonial history to explain the hostility he provokes in France. In this he is partly right, but what is at stake is the meaning of secularism. For him (as well as for the SWP and its French followers) secularism means that all religions are treated equally by the State and are respected. For the French Republican tradition, it means something different: it means (in theory) that people should not express religious views in the public sphere (in their job, in the schools, in Parliament, etc.) and should keep their religious views to the private sphere. That’s where the difference lies.
“Ramadan may not be a fundamentalist of the worst sort but he is clearly training a whole generation of religious cadres who are trying to change the content of secularism in France in a more pro-religious direction.”
Fifth is to understand the role Ramadan is playing in NUS.
Behind Ramadan – urbane, reasonable sounding – stand the Islamists of the MAB/Muslim Brothers.
Ramadan is the reasonable face of Islamic politics, and he is the thin end of the wedge.
Finally, we need to understand that attempts to shout down Marxist critics of Ramadan with demagogic accusations of “Islamophobia” and even “racism” are absurd.
Discrimination and even violence against Muslims are real. We oppose such bigotry.
However we also demand women’s liberation, gay liberation. The AWL is an atheist organisation, and fights for secular values. Therefore we will not ignore Ramadan’s bigotry or backwardness.
40 reasons why Tariq Ramadan is a reactionary bigot
By Yves Coleman
Tariq Ramadan often complains that the media accuse him of being two-faced. He considers that this critique is a plain racist slander in the line of the eternal cliché about so-called Arab “deceitfulness”. If we read Mr Ramadan’s writings we reach a much simpler conclusion: Tariq Ramadan is a sincere Muslim who defends reactionary positions on a number of issues, but that does not prevent him from holding critical views on many injustices, while being fundamentally a moderate in politics.
Just as Pope John Paul II condemned the “excesses of capitalism”, unemployment, greed, poverty, the war in Iraq and the way Israel treats the Palestinians.
Only somebody who has never thought about about the function of religions (of all religions) can be surprised by this coexistence of different interpretations of the world: a faith in myths (as in the Bible, Torah, Quran, Upanishads, etc.) and absurd superstitions; a use of reason in many daily (manual and intellectual) activities ; a sincere revolt against all injustices; a misogynist and homophobic moralism; a need for dreams and utopias, etc.
Revolutionaries do not question Tariq Ramadan’s right to defend his religious beliefs, or to proselytise. After all, as he rightly notes, nobody in France is scandalized by the constant propaganda waged by missionaries like Mother Teresa or Sister Emmanuelle in Asia. Nobody protests against the repeated presence of Sister Emmanuelle, Cardinal Lustinger (former cardinal in charge of Paris) and other priests, nuns and monks in all sorts of French TV shows and programs.
Nor is this a matter of a theological dispute with somebody who is always going to know Islam better than any “Western” atheist.
What we insist on is that there are other interpretations of Islam, from Muslims who are much more democratic and secular than Ramadan.
And we reject the dishonest gambit used by this Swiss philosophy lecturer to deflect criticism: each time a Muslim intellectual defends an opinion which is different from his, it is because she or he is “westernized”, has adopted a “West-centred vision”, or worse, has sold out to imperialist, colonialist and racist Western powers.
Revolutionaries do not claim that Tariq Ramadan holds reactionary positions on all issue. We simply ask his “left-wing” friends not to knowingly dissimulate his obscurantist positions and not to dismiss in advance the positions of other Muslims who are much less conservative than him as regards morals, secularism and all the issues of daily life.
This dissimulation comes sometimes from a unworthy paternalism (“he will shift as he comes into contact with us”), sometimes from a manipulative approach (“we are not interested in him, but in the immigrants he influences”), and sometimes from a political vision which blurs all class divisions (“the confluence of all anti-capitalist movements”, the “revolt of the multitudes”, and other such rubbish), sometimes from the cynical relativism of disillusioned former adherents of dialectical materialism (“after all, no-one knows whether scientific truths exist”), and sometimes from a “Third Worldism” which has still not given up on the Stalinist illusion of “socialism in one country”.
In all these cases, such hypocritical attitudes to Ramadan’s bigotry do a disservice to workers who still believe in Islam but who also want to fight against capitalism. And after all, as revolutionaries, it is those “Muslims” who interest us.
Tariq Ramadan does not approve of flirting, sex before (or outside) marriage, homosexuality, women’s contraception or divorce. He thinks that Muslim women should submit to their husbands if they are “good” Muslims. He believes that men must be financially responsible for the well-being of their family, and not women. In other words, Tariq Ramadan is opposed to or equivocal about feminism, women’s rights, gay rights and sexual liberation. One should also have strong doubts about his respect of the freedom of speech and thought: in Switzerland he contributed to a campaign against a Voltaire play, and he wants Muslim parents to control the content of State school programs according to “Islamic values”, to give only two examples. But that does not prevent him from constantly using the key words of today’s public relations industry: “respect”, “tolerance”, “communication” and “dialogue” in the manner of a cynical politician.
What a strange friend for the Left! Read the rest of this entry »
Above: Bayard Rustin
As the world gears up for the fiftieth anniversary of the great 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom, the Social Democrats USA remember the crucial role of Bayard Rustin, and the ”Shachtmanite” organisation, of which he was a member: their role has been figuratively airbrushed out of official histories. Rustin was the key figure linking the Civil Rights movement and the unions:
By David Hacker
The 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington is [this coming Wednesday]. Everyone knows about Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech that he delivered at the rally outside the Lincoln Memorial for this event. What most do not know is that the entire march was conceived and planned by the Shachtmanites. A Philip Randolph conceived it. But Max Shachtman also had a hand in the idea for the march. He also chose Rustin to be the main organizer for the march. When Rustin was caught and arrested for homosexual conduct in a men’s room in Washington, Shachtman (though he was a homophobe) outlined for Bayard a defense of his action. Randolph was being pressured to fire Rustin and Southern Senators, such as Strom Thurmond, were attacking him on the issue of immorality. But as a result of Shachtman’s defense, Rustin continued to be the main organizer of the march (though his official position was downgraded a bit.), and he hired many Shachtmanites such as Norman Hill and Tom Kahn to assist him. At the same time, Bogdan Denitch organized the West Coast version of the march in California. At the rally itself, Kahn wrote the controversial speech by SNCC chair John Lewis in which the advanced text contained attacks on the Kennedy Administration and stated that “the revolution is at hand. We will take matters in our own hands and create a source of power, outside of any national structure that could and would assure us a victory…If any radical social, political and economic changes are to take place in our society, the people, the masses, must bring them about.” Then Att. Gen. Robert F. Kennedy said that Lewis shouldn’t be allowed to deliver his speech at the March. Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle, the Catholic prelate of Washington protested that he wouldn’t deliver the invocation for the rally if Lewis delivered his speech. Randolph, King, Rustin, Kahn and Lewis and other leaders of SNCC argued about revising the speech while the rally had already started. Finally, Lewis agreed to a rewritten speech and he was allowed to address the masses gathered at the Lincoln Memorial. (Lewis is now a Democratic congressman from Atlanta.)
What most history books do not tell you about is the Socialist Party conference that was held in Washington after the rally was over. It was entitled, “Socialist Party National Conference on the Civil Rights Revolution”. This was a 2 day affair held at the Burlington Hotel from Thursday August 29-Friday August 30, 1963. (The SP had a party for Marchers and Conference participants on the evening of August 28th after the conclusion of the March on Washington and rally.) The first session was Thursday morning with the theme: “Toward Full Equality in a Progressive America. Chairman of the session was Richard Parrish ( who was the chairman of the Civil Rights Committee of the United Federation of Teachers, Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers and Treasurer of the Negro-American Labor Council. Parrish was also running on the SP line for a special election for NYC Councilmember at Large in Manhattan and was supported enthusiastically by all factions of the SP.) Speakers were Norman Thomas, Floyd McKissick, Chairman of CORE (spoke in place of James Farmer, who was in jail in Louisiana), A. Philip Randolph and Congressman William Fitts Ryan (D-NY), a leader of the reform Democrats. Special remarks by Samuel H. Friedman, SP VP candidate in 1952 and 1956 and former editor of the Socialist Call. The afternoon session was entitled: “The New Phase: A Prospectus for Civil Rights.” Chairman of the session was long time SP activists Seymour Steinsapir. Speakers were Bayard Rustin, Deputy Director March on Washington. Responding to Rustin’s address were Robert Moses, Field Secretary, Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, Ike Reynolds, Task Force, CORE and Tom Kahn, Staff, March on Washington. The evening sessions theme was “A Political Strategy for Civil Rights. The sessions’s chairman was Eleanor Holmes, now DC Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. She introduced the conference’s keynote speaker, Max Shachtman, who spoke on the topic, “Drive Out Dixiecrats For Jobs and Freedom.” Responding to Shachtman’s address were Ernest Calloway, President, St Louis Chapter of the Negro-American Labor Council, and Wiloughby Abner, Vice-President, NALC, National Staff, UAW. The final session of the Conference took place on Friday morning. It’s subject was “Fair Employment-Full Employment. The chairman of the meeting was Warren Morse (a name I am unfamiliar with). Speakers were Lewis Carliner, Assistant to the Director, International Affairs Dept., UAW, Norman Hill, Assistant Program Director, CORE, Cleveland Robinson, Secretary Treasurer, District 65 RWDSU, Co-Chairman of March, Herman Roseman, Economist. Closing Remarks and Summary by Norman Thomas.
Thus, well known figures took part in this conference. such as leaders of CORE, SNCC, Randolph, Rustin, Norman Thomas, Norm Hill, Kahn, prominent folk singers like Joan Baez, etc. But my main point is that the Shachtmanites, militant civil rights leaders, labor, were all united seemingly in the same broad realignment movement of the democratic Left. SDS was still also a part of this coalition, despite of Harrington’s tirade against them over the Port Huron Statement, the year before. As long as the Shachtmanite-militant civil rights alliances continued, it would be counter-productive for SDS to seem to be against this realignment coalition. This is the very positive aspect of the Shachtmanites activities in the SP that too many are unfortunately not aware of. Harrington was not at the March. He was in Paris writing his second book, The Accidental Century.
David Hacker is Vice Chair of Social Democrats USA. The above article is excerpted from a book he is writing about Max Shachtman. Historical note: The Socialist Party in existence in 1963 would be renamed Social Democrats, USA in 1972. Harrington chose to leave the organization at that time. But organized labor stayed and so did Bayard Rustin, becoming National Chairman.
More on Rustin’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, and his subsequent political evolution, here
Gary Younge in the Gruan doesn’t even mention Rustin’s Shachtmanism
More relativist garbage and pro-Putin apologetics from Mr John Wight and his fellow sub-Stalinists at the laughably misnamed Socialist Unity blog:
Many societies remain uncomfortable with homosexuality. In our own country gains in LGBT rights and equality are a relatively recent phenomenon. Whether we like to admit it or not, homosexuality and sexual promiscuity are still viewed as two sides of the same coin in some societies, feeding a misplaced understanding of homosexuality as solely a lifestyle choice motivated by hedonism. It is seen as a corrupting and corrosive influence on social cohesion as a consequence. There is of course nothing wrong with homosexuality as a lifestyle choice. The freedom to choose any lifestyle a person so wishes, as long as it does not impinge on the rights of others, is rightly deemed sacrosanct in a healthy society.
But social attitudes are inevitably buttressed and influenced by cultural traditions, which differ across the world and are the product of specific histories and inevitably develop at different rates of progress. These factors cannot simply be abstracted in favour of a western-centric approach on the part of liberal commentators and activists in Britain.
If you want the context, and/or have a morbid fascination with moral relativism, the full article is here.
Today’s Morning Star editorial is almost as craven, but at least makes it clear that, in their opinion “Russia’s law banning so-called propaganda in favour of homosexuality is a repressive measure that cannot be justified” … before going on to lecture Stephen Fry and Russian LGBT organisations to the effect that they “would gain more from closer links with oversees groups in and heightened publicity about discrimination rather than boycott proposals that imply a Western moral superiority.”
Again, readers may wish to read the full article in all its wretched, squirming relativism: it’s here.
Wight, Nooman, and the Starlinists find themselves in thoroughly suitable company when they denounce Stephen Fry over his call for a boycott of the Winter Olympics over this issue: the Daily Mail.
Fry has written a scathing response to the Mail. One section, in particular, applies to Wight, Nooman and the Starlinists every bit as much as it does to the Mail:
Of course I know Putin isn’t Hitler. But then Hitler wasn’t the full Hitler we now think of in back in 1935 either. The death camps and atrocities were years away. He became the Hitler of 1939 because we never stopped him. All historians agree now on how doubtful and uncertain he was in 35, 36, 37, and 38. The occupation of the Rheinland provinces of Alsace Lorraine and the annexation of Austria went unchallenged. The Olympic games reinforced his huge status at home.
Nor was Stalin the full Stalin in 1920. True terrible bloody leaders become so because they are not stopped. The last four lines of W. H. Auden’s The Tyrant come to mind:
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.
Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Franco and any other despot you care to mention: they become despotic, maniacal, more autocratic, more insane every time they are given a greater sense of their own power. The fanatical junior KGB officer Vladimir Putin will become, if he is allowed to get away with it, as autocratic as any Tsar or any Soviet chairman. Vladimir the Terrible will have blood on his hands. He already does, but there will be so so much more. Little children will die in the streets. All power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. That saying is so well-known it’s hardly worth repeating. You would think…
But apparently I don’t have the right to bleat my liberal opinion…
PS: and before anyone points it out, yes, I am generally sceptical about the political effectiveness of boycotts and certainly oppose the proposed “delegitimisation” boycott/disinvestment campaign against Israel. But Fry’s call for a boycott of the Winter Olympics so long as Russia hosts it, is an entirely proper response to Putin’s fascistic outlawing of so-called “gay propaganda” and Russian state-sponsored physical attacks on gay individuals – JD.
To slightly misquote PG Wodehouse:
“Loon is calling to loon like mastodons bellowing across primaeval swamps”…
The ad above appears in today’s Daily Telegraph: a good choice as, together with the Mail and Express, it’s become more or less the unofficial mouthpiece of Ukip. Today’s edition also carries the following:
The real impact of ‘loongate’, says James Kirkup, is to expose the “running sore” within the Tory party over core ideals.
With reports of Tory party activists already beginning to defect to Ukip over the comments, which have been attributed to an unnamed close ally of Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Political Editor James Kirkup said the story exposed “a running sore” within the Conservative ranks.
Emerging at the same time a Tory grassroots backlash over gay marriage proposals and following on from the Parliamentary infighting over an EU referendum, the Telegraph reporter said the continued Conservative unrest was making life easy for Ukip.
“Everyday is Christmas if you’re Nigel Farage,” he said.
“Each week that comes by the Tories find a way of splitting, dividing, essentially underlining that strategic fracture that they have on the issues where Nigel Farage harvests votes.”
“It is very tempting to vote for a collection of clowns or indignant, angry people who promise that somehow they will allow us to take your revenge…
“[UKIP is] against the political class, it is against foreigners, it is against immigrants. But it does not have any very positive policies. They do not know what they are for”
Kenneth Clarke nailed UKIP good and proper when he said that a few days ago. It was refreshing, as well, to hear him endorse Cameron’s 2006 description (now quietly buried by Tory HQ) of them “fruit cakes and loonies and closet racists.”
Farage and his shower, unused to scrutiny and criticism, have been complaining about “a morally reprehensible” “smear campaign” against its candidates in the run-up to this week’s council elections. It’s unfair, and unsporting, they bleat, to pick up on comments their candidates have made on Twitter and Facebook. Well, welcome to the rough-and-tumble world of serious bourgeois politics, Mr Farage: after all you’ve always wanted to be a part of it, haven’t you?
Today’s Daily Mirror carries an excellent exposé of UKIP candidate Alex Wood giving a Nazi salute and with a knife between his teeth (above). His Facebook page contains these comments about Africans:
“If I’m completely honest mate, they disgust me. I mean just look at the mud huts they live in and how they kill each other. It’s quite barbaric.
” This is what UKIP wants to prevent – our country ending up like Africa or some other third world country.”
The Shiraz legal team tell me that I have to point out that Mr Wood denies making those comments: ha ha ha.
Wood has now been suspended from the party and removed as a candidate: but how the hell did he get accepted as a member and selected as a candidate in the first place?
Even before the Wood exposé, UKIP had been forced to suspend another candidate, Anna-Marie Crampton, following these comments on the site Secrets of the Fed in which she claimed that the second world war was “engineered by the Zionists” in order to bring about the creation of the state of Israel. She also claimed that Zionists caused the Holocaust:
“Only the Zionists could sacrifice their own in the gas chambers…It was thanks to them that six million Jews were murdered in the war.”
Again, our legal eagles insist that I inform you that Ms Crampton denies that she made the comments, claiming the site was…ha ha ha…hacked…
What else have we got? Oh yes, there’s retired sheep farmer Susan Bowen, selected to stand in Tintagel, but now removed following the discovery that she used to be in the BNP.
Then there’s Chris Scotton, suspended from membership and as candidate in Leicester, following exposure of his Facebook “liking” for the English Defence League.
Well, at least Farage and his cronies did something about a few of the Nazis in their ranks: but what about Caven Vines, UKIP candidate in Rotherham, with close links to the BNP, who thinks there are too many Muslims in Britain? UKIP have refused to condemn him or, indeed, do anything at all about him.
Nor has they acted against the vice-chairman of Yeovil UKIP, Godfrey Davey, another candidate on Thurday, who tweeted:
“At the rate this government is going we will end up with civil war it will be us or the imegrants [sic]“.
Mr Davey also has views on other issues:
“Every time you give sodomites an inch they want a mile, no pun, pedeophilia here we come [sic].”
I suppose that in comparison with that sort of fascistic filth, UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom’s comments on Radio Five (John Piennar, Monday April 29) that women of child-bearing age shouldn’t be employed because maternity laws are “too draconian” were relatively inoffensive – even if they did amount to encouraging employers to break the law.
This shower of racists and ultra-reactionaries has been given an easy ride until now, mainly because a large section of the print media (the Mail, Express, Sun and Telegraph in particular) sympathise with them.
But why hasn’t most of the left been more outspokenly hostile to this bunch of racists, homophobes and all-purpose reactionaries? Today’s Morning Star, for instance, carries an extraordinary editorial headed “Ukip’s just a distraction“, some of which could have come straight from a UKIP press release:
“Farage denies that his party is xenophobic or racist, insisting that opposition to immigration is based on sound economic fears that huge numbers of Bulgarians and Romanians are poised to enter Britain, putting pressure on welfare benefits, state education, the NHS, housing and other social provisions.
“In truth there is no major political party in Britain that hasn’t spouted something similar in recent times to justify tough rhetoric about clamping down on immigration.
“So the jibe of racism could equally be pointed at the Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.”
Surely it couldn’t be that the Morning Star, like the Daily Mail and the Tory ultra-right, rather agrees with UKIP on at least one or two matters?
Above: O’Brien coming out?
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has reacted to the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic, who has been accused of inappropriate behaviour with male priests.
Earlier on Monday, Cardinal O’Brien apologised to those he had offended for “failures” during his ministry and announced in a statement that he was standing down as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church.
He will not take part in electing a new pope, leaving Britain unrepresented.
In a statement, Peter Tatchell said:
Cardinal O’Brien condemned homosexuality as a grave sin and was a long-time opponent of gay equality.
He supported homophobic discrimination in law, including the current ban on same-sex marriage.
In the light of these allegations, his stance looks hypocritical.
He appears to have preached one thing in public while doing something different in private.
Several other prominent opponents of equal marriage are guilty of double standards and vulnerable to similar exposure. They include anti-gay clergy and politicians.
It is estimated that around 40% of Catholic priests in Britain are gay, which makes the church’s opposition to gay equality so two-faced and absurd.
Nearly half of all Cardinals worldwide are thought to be gay.
Recent revelations in Italy have alleged the existence of a gay mafia within the Vatican, including senior Cardinals and other Vatican officials, and their participation in gay bars, clubs, saunas, chat rooms and escort services.
The Vatican is shamelessly championing homophobia and the denial of legal equality to gay people, while hosting a hotbed of secret, guilt-ridden clerical homosexuality.
Perhaps covering up for child abuse, promoting anti-gay bigotry, spreading AIDS throughout the world, and explaining away his organisation’s hatred of 50% of the human race finally wore him out?
“Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”
― Denis Diderot
Guest post by Pink Prosecco
It is pretty difficult I think to make a rational case against gay marriage, and John Sentamu, writing in the Guardian, does nothing to buck that trend.
He begins by admitting that sometimes the church has been a bit tough on homosexuals: “But that baleful history does not diminish the need to speak the truth in love.” That gives me the same bad feeling I get when reading a comment which begins ‘with all due respect …’ He goes on:
“I firmly believe that redefining marriage to embrace same-sex relationships would mean diminishing the meaning of marriage for most people, with very little if anything gained for homosexual people.”
Well, it wouldn’t diminish it for me (and I am married) and in fact would make me feel a bit more cheerful. He concludes that point:
“If I am right, in the long term we would all be losers”: Well, yes, of course – and if you are wrong, we won’t be.
He then starts to argue that society needs to respond “intelligently to differences” rather than treating everyone the same. That’s true up to a point – if you have a disability and need some adjustment at work for example. But Sentamu is using the rhetoric of anti-discrimination to justify – discrimination. He goes on:
“To change the law and smooth out this difference on grounds of equality would force unjustified change on the rest of the nation.”
Why is it that opponents of gay marriage always end up talking as though someone was trying to force them into one?
He eventually meanders back to his anti-discrimination rhetoric:
“The question for me is one of justice, and not equality. Justice is the primary category. It does not mean not treating everyone the same way, but giving everyone what they need or deserve.”
Sorry – I fail to see why I need or deserve marriage more just because I am not gay.
Finally: why did Socialist Unity feel the need to reproduce, without comment, this letter against gay marriage? And why did it attract only two comments? I suppose it mustn’t be a shibboleth.
Shiraz Socialist has on a number of occasions described Mr George Galloway, MP for
Blackburn Bradford West, as a “Stalinist,” a term that implies a belief in a form of socialism, characterised by state control of the means of production and opposition to private property.
Above: young Galloway while still a socialist… of sorts
In view of Mr Galloway’s inteview with Ms Decca Aitkenhead in today’s Guardian G2, in which he states:
“But my main political mistake, in retrospect, was that state ownsership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, in which I believed, and for which I campaigned, was a false God…Yes I’m not saying that everything in the private garden is rosy. There’s just more flowers than there were in the state garden. I’m sorry to say that, and, yes it is painful.”
…we accept that it was completely untrue to suggest that Mr Galloway is presently a “Stalinist” or, indeed, a believer in any ideology that could be described as in any remote way, however degenerate, as ”socialist.” We unreservedly apologise to Mr Galloway for any distresss caused to himself, any of his wives, or Mr Ovenden.
We accept that Mr Galloway is a godly, religious man, perhaps a Catholic or possibly a Muslim, but either way he opposes secularism and seeks to re-introduce religiously-based communalism to British politics. As Ms Aitkenhead notes:
“We had talked a great deal about the role of religion in politics, and could not have disagreed more. I thought it outrageous to urge voters in Bradford, as he did, to vote for him or fear the wrath of judgment day. Galloway can’t see the problem at all: ‘I believe that, on judgment day, people have to answer for what they did.’ When I ask if he is troubled that many voters thought he had converted to Islam, he replies: ‘Well, I don’t think many of them are interested in my religion’ – which is pretty rich, considering he put out a leaflet all about which candidate was more of a Muslim. Contrary to every report I’ve read, he doesn’t deny writing the leaflet himself. I think he is ludicrously slippery about invoking religion, playing it both ways to suit his own purposes, but, as he says, we are never going to agree because he doesn’t think politics should be secular. ‘So it’s apples and pears, dear’.”
A cross-posting from Representing The Mambo
The truth about the Russian Communist Party
The Russian parliamentary elections have thrown up a few surprising results, the most surprising being that despite systematic electoral fraud, Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party only managed 49% of the vote (down from 64% in 2007) and has seen it’s representation in the Duma drop by 77 seats. Clearly the national stereotype of all Russians preferring an authoritarian strongman in the mould of Stalin or Putin is a false one.
If United Russia only managed to get 49% in a blatantly fiddled election, one can only imagine what share of the vote they actually got. Putin and Medvedev, presumably aware of large scale of opposition and apathy now manifest throughout the republic, have thus far responded uncharacteristically cautiously to the vociferous outcry that followed the announcement of the results. There has been no systematic crackdown on the large demonstrations in the major urban centres that have called for the annulment of the results and fresh, free elections.
Any public display of anti-government feeling is usually ruthlessly silenced, but the scale of popular discontent this time round has forced the government to be slightly more conciliatory, by their standards, for now. I can’t for one moment imagine them relinquishing power, but clearly Putin’s popularity is on the wane, and unlikely to recover any time soon. The potential at least exists for him to be successfully challenged in next year’s presidential election, but the government has already started trying to manipulate the process, announcing the candidacy of ‘liberal’ oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov. Standing Putin-licensed candidates is a long-standing tactic of the regime, they provide an outlet for popular dissent and prevent the main man being challenged. And if the party or candidate gets too popular or criticalof the ruling party as in the case of the Right Cause bloc, they can be safely castrated.
The other notable result was the fairly dramatic increase in votes, from the 2007 elections at least, for Gennady Zyuganov’s Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), up to over 19%, an almost 8% increase on the previous legislative elections. They came a creditable second in the poll. Many on the left, desperate for any good news, are hailing the result, for example the Morning Star sees this as a great development. Indeed they have very fraternal relations with the CPRF . The article I have linked is the CPRF in full leftist mode, denouncing capitalism and the ‘corrupt’ regime. On the evidence of what is to all intents and purposes a puff piece, the CPRF is a genuine bastion of principled, leftist resitance to capitalism and the depredations of Putin’s regime.
The truth is though that it is nothing of the kind. The CPRF is no friend of anyone genuinely on the left. Their politics are poisonous mixture of extreme Russian nationalism, old-school Soviet era Stalin worship, overt racism, anti-semitism and glorification of ‘the motherland’ and Russian culture. One can genuinely compare their politics to the ‘left wing’ of the German NSDAP in the 1920s and early 30s (e.g. Nazi ‘anti-capitalist’ Ernst Röhm). What is more, they are basically the officially sanctioned, loyal opposition to Vladimir Putin and the current regime within the Russian ‘managed democracy’ system (i.e. dictatorship with a few democratic trimmings), a party of ‘national patriots’ has it’s uses to Putin and his cronies (usually as a way of squashing genuine leftwing opposition). They are tolerated and at times actively encouraged by the Kremlin.
I think the first thing to observe, from a purely electoral point of view, is that these results aren’t such a great leap forward. The CPRF have polled significantly better in previous post-Soviet parliamentary elections, and are merely recovering ground from their low point of 11.5% in 2007. Zyuganov got 17.8% at the 2008 presidential election (previously he got 32% and nearly won in 1996) and so the 19% vote at these elections is hardly evidence of rocketing support.
The CPRF claims to be the direct descendent of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and in particular seek to rehabilitate ‘comrade’ Joseph Stalin (in that respect, they are more Stalinist than post-Stalin CPSU) According to Zyuganov, where Russia has gone wrong has been that it hasn’t been Stalinist enough, and that the post-Stalin leaders of the USSR betrayed his legacy. In particular Mikhail Gorbachev, with his policies of Perestroika and Glasnost that the allowed capitalism to be restored and the working class impoverished, is to blame for the mess that Russia finds itself in.
Many current leading figures in the party were conservative functionaries in the old regime and long for a restoration of the old days, they are the diehards who would have supported the Gang of Eight in 1991.Take a look at their website and you can see Zyuganov, clenched fist, behind images of the old Soviet flag. It’s all very surreal. In some respects it is comparable with the rather sad, aged followers of Thatcher in this country who think that things would be great again if we got Maggie back or someone like her.
I won’t patronise my readers with a blow by blow account of all the crimes of Stalinist Russia, as I’m sure you are aware of the millions put to death in the gulags, the forced deportation and resettlement of millions of people, the labour camps, the annihilation of most of Stalin’s own party, the bogus theory of ‘socialism in one country’ (Europhobic leftists take note) the assassination of Trotsky, the complete absence of democracy, the suppression of independent trade unionism and the huge police state apparatus that was created to keep the people down. In many respects it is quite easy to argue that liberal capitalism in the West, especially under social democratic governments, was infinitely preferable to ‘socialism’ in the USSR. A party who wants a restoration of a barbaric, dehumanizing tyranny that bears no relation to any emancipatory notion of socialism that I understand is no friend of the left.
That said, the restoration of capitalism in Russia was a complete disaster. A few made obscene fortunes and many were left with nothing, and a state of anarchy reigned in large parts of the economy until Putin got stuck in (and not in a good way, I’ll hasten to add.) Many parts of the CPRF economic programme are perfectly supportable, if one views them in the abstract. They hardly represent the revolutionary transformation that ‘Marxist-Leninists’ supposedly believe in though.
Nation and Class
Probably the most disquieting aspect of the CPRF’s politics has been the eschewing of the traditional Marxist rhetoric of class and the class struggle in favour of extreme Russian nationalism from the outset. It’s why many people see them as a ‘red-brown’ formation (a hybrid of communism and fascism).
A whole milieu of extreme nationalist organisations sprang up after the fall of the Soviet Union, and the communist movement, poisoned by years of vulgar Stalin-inspired Russian nationalism that glorified the autocrats that have ruled Russia and her empire, and drew a direct of lineage between Stalin and previous rulers of the ‘motherland’ (a term that Stalin deliberately reintroduced in Soviet political discourse, something that would have had Lenin spitting feathers if he’d been alive to witness it. Lenin is guilty of many things but his disdain for nationalism and nationalist rhetoric is unimpeachable).
The CPRF was able to make common cause with the ‘patriotic forces’ and stand joint candidates and slates at elections. For instance Narodnaya Volya, a coalition of nationalists that has stated its affinity and ties with Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front National in France, endorsed the CPRF in the 2007 Duma election. Many leading Russian communists use the sort of language that to be frank, wouldn’t look out of place in the BNP.
Zyuganov himself was heavily involved in the ‘national patriotic’ movement in the immediate aftermath of 1991, and co-chaired the National Salvation Front, a coalition of old school ‘communists’ and hardline nationalists that opposed the move towards Western style free markets and liberal democracy.
Clearly the CPRF’s commitment to exclusive Russian nationalism outweighs their commitment to the Marxist principle of internationalism…….
I’m sure it’s well known to anyone with an interest in progressive politics that gays are treated brutally in many parts of Eastern Europe. Gay pride marches have been banned and viciously attacked with either the local forces of ‘law and order’ turning a blind eye to the beatings being meted or at times even joining in. One would expect that a party calling itself ‘Marxist’ would unconditionally defend gays and other sexual minorities when they were under attack from the state and other reactionaries. Not so with the CPRF. In fact, quite the opposite. Many Communist MPs actually call for the recriminalisastion of homosexuality and a ban on Gays and Lesbians adopting.
Consider some of the statements coming out of the mouths of leading members of the CPRF about homosexuality:
(homosexuality) “contradicts….. moral values of Russian people” (Zyuganov)
“good faggot is a dead faggot” (that little corker is from Pavel Tarasov, at one time a staffer for Zyuganov)
Zyuganov described the 2006 Moscow pride march as “unhealthy”
Zyuganov’s deputy in 2006, Ivan Melnikov had this to say regarding the pride march: “Moscow is not Berlin or Paris. Any displays of unconventional sexual orientation look revolting in Russia.”
I imagine right now Vladimir Lenin is spinning in his grave at what is being said in his name.
One of the flashpoints in the global gay rights movement in recent years has been the Moscow Pride marches. There have been numerous bans, outrageously homophobic comments by the mayor at the time, the now dethroned, massively corrupt and wholly unlamented Yury Luzkhov, and attacks on the marches that were clearly encouraged by the political establishment, including, scandalously, the CPRF.
The behaviour of the Russian ‘communists’ at the demo led the French Communist Party (PCF), hardly a hotbed of youthful radicalism itself, to suspend relations with the CPRF. A brave step, that some of the left in Britain would do well to take notice of. They considered support of gay rights to be a basic, non-negotiable socialist principle. I agree with them. Why doesn’t the Morning Star take a similar position?
It’s hardly a surprise that the CPRF are so virulently homophobic. They consider their politics to be a direct continuation of Stalin’s, and Russia under Stalin was not somewhere to be if you were gay. It was officially outlawed, and there was overt anti-gay propaganda by the government. Stalin himself expressly criminalised homosexuality in 1933, with 5 years hard labour as punishment with anyone convicted of the ‘crime’. And you know when Stalin said hard labour, he meant hard labour…….
“People are outraged by the anti-Russian invasion. They do not hide their bewilderment at seeing that organs of power, means of mass communication, are more and more in the hands of a non-indigenous nationality, individuals with dual citizenship, who enriched themselves unfairly at the expense of the people.”
Need I add anything to that?
This (slightly dense) article illustrates the CPRF’s (and particularly Zyuganov’s) close relationship with virulent ‘nationalists’ (racists). The CPRF have close links with the now banned far-right Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI), which organised anti-immigrant demonstrations all over the country, and organized legal defence campaigns for ethnic Russians when they are involved in court cases against non-Russians. They were led from 2008-10 by Alexander Belov, a notorious far-right nationalist politician (convicted in Russia of inciting racial hatred in 2009, and you have to be a serious racist to be convicted of that in Russia I assure you) who has appeared on official CPRF platforms on several occasions.
The links are deep between the Russian far right and the CPRF, and they tell you all you need to know about these Russian ‘communists’.
Far be it for me to say anything positive about that neocon and pro-Likud cesspit, Harry’s place, but this story about anti-semitism (and also more on the homophobia) in the CPRF is very disturbing indeed. Senior members of the party, including Zyuganov, have made outrageously anti-semitic statements. For example, from Zyuganov:
“Communists…rightly ask how it can be that key positions in a number of economic sectors were seized by representatives of one ethnic group. They see how control over most of the electronic media — which are waging a destructive campaign against our fatherland and its morality, language, culture and beliefs — is concentrated in the hands of those same individuals”
Albert Makashov, Communist Deputy in the Duma since 1995, had this to say about the Jews:
(a Jew is) “a bloodsucker feeding on the misfortunes of other people. They drink the blood of the indigenous peoples of the state; they are destroying industry and agriculture”
“I will round up all the Yids and send them to the next world!”
Fairly unambiguous really. Not a lot of room for manouevre or denial there. Former Grand Wizard of the KKK, David Duke, is reportedly a fan of Makashov’s……..and I haven’t made that up………
Putin’s Boot Lickers
The perception in Russia is that the CPRF is the ‘loyal opposition’ to Putin’s United Russia. They are given space to organise in a way that other more explicitly anti-Putin forces just aren’t in Russia’s tightly managed polity. This article, although published ten years ago, by the prominent Marxist intellectual Boris Kagarlitsky, places the CPRF firmly within the Kremlin’s orbit, pre-, peri- and post- Putin.
They are very useful to the Kremlin after all. They crush any genuine opposition from the left and provide a left-wing cover to the government’s ‘national-patriotic’ policies, e.g. Putin’s war in Chechnya in 2000. In return Putin gave CPRF deputies prominent roles in parliamentary committees and also at the time of the Second Chechen War supported the CPRF’s bid to get one of its deputies elected as Speaker of the Duma. We shouldn’t be under any illusions that the CPRF enjoy such political prominence in Russia because they are so useful, and toothless.
It also suits Putin’s interests to have a party around that unquestioningly revel in the ‘glory days’ of the USSR. There have been times when he has successfully played that card himself (he was in the KGB after all) and he has periodically stated his admiration for the days when the USSR was a global colossus, and his stated intention is to return Russia to such a place of international prominence. The neo-Stalinists in the CPRF naturally lap this up.
It is an absolute disgrace that the Communist Party of Britain are giving platforms to these scumbags. I seriously don’t see any difference between the CPRF and BNP members who support more state involvement in the economy. If sections of the left see any electoral success for the CPRF as something to be cheered, they have lost their minds.
That is what defeat after defeat does to you, I suppose.