The Anti-Imperialism of Fools: A Cautionary Tale for the Brit Anti-War Left

December 8, 2014 at 8:47 pm (Chomsky, ex-SWP, imperialism, intellectuals, internationalism, islamism, israel, Marxism, Middle East, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Shachtman, solidarity, stalinism, trotskyism)

Above: about as “anti- imperialist”-foolish as you can get: Rees, Murray and Galloway

By Camilla Bassi

‘The Anti-Imperialism of Fools’

Preface
The day after 9/11 I attended a local Socialist Alliance committee meeting in  Sheffield, England, as a representative of the revolutionary socialist organisation,  the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.The Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) comrades  present discussed the 9/11 attack as regrettable in terms of the loss of life but as  nonetheless understandable.They acknowledged the attack as tactically misguided, yet refused (when pressed to do so) to condemn it. Later, in November 2001, at a public meeting of the Sheffield Socialist Alliance, I shared a platform with a then  national committee member of the SWP to debate the US and UK war in Afghanistan. Besides from agreeing on opposition to the imperialist war onslaught, I was alone on the platform in raising opposition to the Islamist Taliban rule and in arguing for labour movement solidarity with forces such as the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), which resist both imperialism and  Islamism and demand a rogressive, democratic secular alternative.

The SWP  comrades present, both on the platform and from the floor, alleged a political error  on my part and those who argued along with me. Their rationale was that, to fully oppose the War on Terror, we had a duty to oppose the main enemy and greater  evil – US and UK imperialism – and this alone. Anything else, they argued, would  alienate the masses of disillusioned, angry British Muslim youth that socialists needed to win over.

The SWP’s dual camp of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ (a socialistic inversion of imperialist war discourse of ‘the status quo versus  regression’) came to dominate England’s anti-war movement. They publicly  launched their initiative the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) ten days after 9/11, with the aim of mobilising a broad political grouping against the War on Terror.

Since then the SWP vanguard of the StWC has, at critical moments, steered the political course that England’s anti-war protests have taken. Read the rest of this entry »

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Soul Deep: Jimmy Ruffin and Paul Weller support the miners

November 20, 2014 at 8:41 am (good people, music, posted by JD, RIP, solidarity, unions)

In memeory of Jimmy Ruffin, May 7 1936 – Nov 17 2014

The Council Collective performing the extended version of Soul Deep live on Channel 4’s The Tube, 14th December 1984 at the studios of Tyne-Tees Television in Newcastle Upon Tyne. In aid of the striking miners this single featured Paul Weller, Mick Talbot, Dee C. Lee, Jimmy Ruffin, Junior Giscombe, Dizzy Hites and Vaughan Toulouse.

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Why does Malala so bother some on the “left”?

November 17, 2014 at 2:20 am (civil rights, fascism, Human rights, islamism, misogyny, Pakistan, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", solidarity, terror, women, youth)

Pakistani rights activist Malala YousafzPakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai, stands with her father Ziauddin Yousafzai

A view from Pakistan by Pervez Hoodbhoy:

Why Does Malala Yusufzai’s Nobel Bother So Many On The Left?

Take Arundhati Roy. For one who has championed people’s causes everywhere so wonderfully well, her shallow, patronizing remarks were disappointing…

Arundhati Roy’s charm and lucidity have iconized her in the world of left-wing politics. But, asked by Laura Flanders what she made of the 2014 Nobel Prize, she appeared to be swallowing a live frog:

“Well, look, it is a difficult thing to talk about because Malala is a brave girl and I think she has even recently started speaking out against the US invasions and bombings…but she’s only a kid you know and she cannot be faulted for what she did….the great game is going on…they pick out people [for the Nobel Prize].”

For one who has championed people’s causes everywhere so wonderfully well, these shallow, patronizing remarks were disappointing.

Farzana Versey, Mumbai based left-wing author and activist, was still less generous last year. Describing Malala as “a cocooned marionette” hoisted upon the well-meaning but unwary, Versey lashed out at her for, among other things, raising the problem of child labour at her speech at the United Nations: “it did not strike her that she is now even more a victim of it, albeit in the sanitized environs of an acceptable intellectual striptease.”

But hang on a bit! This “kid” and “cocooned marionette” did not achieve world-wide admiration for opposing US-led wars or child labour or for a thousand and one other such good-and-great things. The bullet that smashed through her skull came because she opposed the Pakistani Taliban’s edict that all education for girls must end forever in the Swat valley after 15 September 2009, and her vigorous campaign for every girl child’s right to education.

It is perfectly clear why Malala has had to be damned to eternity by her left-wing critics: she has been photographed in the company of men judged to be villains: Barack Obama, Gordon Brown, Ban Ki Moon, Richard Holbrooke, and others. It is also obvious that she could not have won the Nobel peace prize—which is always an intensely political affair—but for support from the highest quarters in the western world. Consequently many on the left have easily dismissed her condemnation of drone strikes in Pakistan, as well as the $50,000 from her Nobel Prize money which she gave for rebuilding Gaza schools, as thin ploys aimed at image building.

Unsurprisingly leftist critiques of Malala’s Nobel have been eagerly seized upon by right-wingers in Pakistan, helping seal the narrative for many of my countrymen and women. For cultural and religious reasons, as much as for political ones, they have already come to loathe the West even more than arch-enemy India. In the weeks after she was shot, several students at my university told me they see Malala Yousafzai as Malala ‘Dramazai’, an ‘Illuminati Psy Op’, and a willing tool of the West who is out to badmouth Pakistan and make it appear unreasonably dangerous. Many doubted that she had been shot at all—the Taliban know how to kill.

Pakistan’s officialdom also harbours a hidden, but deep, hostility to her. Although the government officially acclaimed the Prize, a resolution to honour Malala was unsuccessfully moved last week by the opposition in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s provincial assembly. Instead the KPK assembly passed another resolution to press the US government to free the “daughter of Pakistan”, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a convicted Al-Qaida affiliate who is now serving out her 86-year sentence atFort Worth, Texas. Mainstream Urdu newspapers describe Malala as a poster girl of the West, and a Trojan horse for introducing secularism in Pakistan.

I have no expectations from the millions of my conspiracy obsessed fellow Pakistanis. But have Malala’s left-wing detractors—including those who I have long respected for their outspokenness in opposing multiple forms of oppression and imperialist wars—ever really bothered to know why she was shot?

In the following, I have translated and condensed a 9-page pamphlet entitled Aqeedon ka Tasadum explaining why Malala had to be killed. Written in Urdu and signed by the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, it was circulated shortly after the shooting:

Preamble: This is a war of two faiths, Islam versus kufr (unbelief). On the one side there is true education and modesty; on the other is nudity, music, dancing, and disgraceful gyrations. On the one side there is respect for the veil; on the other are those females who appear on TV and give interviews to men who are not relatives. In fact they dare to mock the Taliban and mujahideen who seek to prevent nudity, lewdness, and Westernization. So here is why this so-called Malala, a pawn of Western interests and secular forces, had to be brought to justice:

First, is Malala a child? No! She was born on 18 July 1998, which makes her 15 years and 4 months old. She had crossed puberty and shown the signs. Thus she had to be treated as an adult woman responsible for her deeds.

Second, is the killing of women allowed in Islam? Yes! After the conquest of Mecca, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had personally ordered several women to be killed, including by stoning to death. Hazrat Ali too had declared as correct and justified the strangling of a Jewish woman who had verbally abused the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

Third, what does Pakhtun culture say? Although some media commentators claim that killing girls is against our culture, this is nonsense. If a boy and girl are even suspected of doing something together, it is common to kill both.

Fourth, was Malala guilty? Yes! This so-called innocent “child” actually wrote a diary under the false name of Gul Makai, and daily criticized us in it. She called Obama her ideal, and preferred the secular education of Lord Macaulay to Islamic education.

Fifth, was Malala unarmed? No! She was armed with the pen, a weapon sharper than the sword, with which she daily defamed Islam and Muslims. She portrayed the Taliban as beastly savages. This is why we rightly punished her.

Conclusion: By focusing on Malala this filthy (Pakistani) media shows it is prostituted to the Americans. It says no words of protest against the strip-searching and incarceration of the daughter of Islam (Dr Aafia Siddiqui). It makes a false hero out of one who deserved what she got.

A puzzle: why does such savage bestiality often find no, or only cursory, reference in today’s left-wing discourses? Boko Haram’s sex captives, ISIL’s beheadings, Taliban suicide attacks against civilians, and scores of atrocities by multiple Islamic groups should appal and disgust all those who believe in human equality, decency, and freedom. The Left is most certainly built upon these strong moral foundations, so why the near silence?

The explanation has two parts. First, a portion of the Left has a wholly negative view of western agendas, uncritically rejecting everything as self-serving and hypocritical. Second, many progressives today do not wish to leave a comfort zone where all global problems can be safely blamed on to the West. Having two baddies—America and Islamism—threatens to muddy up the waters. They would prefer to keep life simple.

But shouldn’t one be a little cleverer, more discerning? It is doubtlessly true that the pursuit by the United States of its strategic and economic interests fed and fuelled the rise of violent Islamism through its multiple wars and interventions, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US continues to be the principal protector and ally of Saudi Arabia—which has long funded jihadists across the globe. It stokes anger through its unconditional support for aggressive Israeli expansionism. In such situations it is right and proper to condemn the US and fight back.

At the same time, one must recognize that western culture and politics have changed in important ways. This is not because of the Obamas, Bushes, or Blairs but owes instead to a protracted, centuries-long struggle by the working class and activists. No longer can any western country afford to be seen as a merciless colonizer, or to freely militarily ravage and economically plunder as in past centuries. Constraints on their still callous corporate and political elites have steadily grown. Therefore western agendas and interests can sometimes be intelligently leveraged for furthering what is important for peoples everywhere: education, peace, female emancipation, freedom of thought and action, labour rights, and all that the Left holds important. Malala has played this game with the West well, giving us hope that in these bleak times there are still some among us who have their heads screwed on right.

A young Pakistani progressive, Ghausia Rashid Salam, departs from common opinion by paying her this tribute:

“We should be honoured that Malala emerged from our country, because we know better than any white man, better than any South Asian, what Pakistan is, and what life here is like. We know, better than anyone else in the world, how resilient you have to be to emerge from a life under the Taliban and not give up fighting for your rights, or the rights of others. We should be happy that the Western world can see for itself the brutal conditions we, and other parts of the world, live in, because the more fortunate parts of the world need to check their damned privilege and start making genuine efforts to bring change.”

It is surely time for one-track leftists to learn that we live in a multiple-tracked world, to recognize that there can be more than one baddie, and to resist from simplifying at the cost of accuracy. Else they do grievous wrong to all.

Pervez Hoodbhoy teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad. This article first appeared on telesur

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A rejoinder to the AWL’s detractors

November 14, 2014 at 8:57 am (AWL, islamism, Marxism, mccarthyism, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD, secularism, socialism, solidarity, students, trotskyism)

Pete Radcliff writes:

There are some particularly unpleasant sectarians in important positions on the left, in Nottingham and elsewhere, who vilely denounce my friends in the AWL (as well as me) as ‘Zionist’ or ‘pro-imperialists’ – because whilst supporting the Palestinians they advocate a 2 states solution for Israel/ Palestine – or they accuse the AWL of being ‘racists’ because they have always criticised ‘Political Islamism’.

There was a recent attempt by student union officers, under the influence of a group called the ‘Student Broad Left’ in UCL, to ‘no platform the AWL’. They basically argued that the AWL was a physical threat to Muslims because the AWL supported a motion to the NEC of the NUS written by a Kurdish student officer from Edinburgh. It is pretty bizarre stuff – to support a campaign against ISIS makes you Islamophobic and a physical threat to Muslims. Here is my friend and comrade Omar Raii‘s response: http://uclu.org/blogs/omar-raii/rejoinder-to-awls-detractors

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The Half Decents: Syria Benefit Gig for Médecins Sans Frontières

November 12, 2014 at 2:17 pm (anti-fascism, gigs, Harry's Place, Human rights, internationalism, London, Middle East, music, posted by JD, solidarity, Syria, The blues)

Congratulations to Dave ‘Blind Lemon’ Osler for initiaing this. At one point Dave was looking for a drummer and I considered offering my services, but the thought of getting a drum kit to a gig in central London was just too terrifying – JD

Some causes transcend political barriers. The plight of those trapped between the murderers of the Islamic State and the slaughter at the hands of Assad’s forces is one of those issues.

The Facebook Event page is here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/594797527292791/

On Saturday, 6 December, a band composed of bloggers, journalists and political activists from across the political spectrum will be playing a gig to support Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) and their vital work in the region.

Dubbed “The Half Decents”, our ad-hoc band will perform a familiar blend of rock classics and blues standards, with a sprinkling of indie pop. The evening will be hosted by 89Up, the public affairs agency (http://www.89up.org/), and will include guest speakers and a support act.

We’re asking anybody who wants to attend to donate at least £10 to Medecins Sans Frontiers, via this special JustGiving Fundraising Page.

https://www.justgiving.com/Half-Decents

Leave your name and we will email before the gig with all the details you will need.

The Half Decents is made up of Davis Lewin (Henry Jackson Society), Paul Evans (Slugger O’Toole), David Osler (ex Tribune), David Toube (Harry’s Place), Brett Lock (ex OutRage!) and Adam Barnett (East London Advertiser).

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Solidarity with the Kurds – or NATO-bashing?

November 6, 2014 at 12:22 pm (anti-fascism, Eric Lee, internationalism, islamism, kurdistan, Middle East, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", solidarity, Stop The War, Syria, turkey)

Solidarity With Kobane  London takes part in Global Rally

By Eric Lee (cross-posted from the Workers Liberty website)

At the 1 November demonstration in Trafalgar Square in support of besieged Kobane, it struck me that the speakers — and more broadly, the left — were not singing from the same page.

On the one side there were those who were demanding that Britain and NATO do more to help the Kurds fighting against the Islamic fascists of IS.  For example, Peter Tatchell led the crowd in chants demanding that David Cameron authorise the dropping of more aid to the Kurds, including weapons.

There were calls for Turkey to be suspended from NATO because it, unlike other NATO countries, was not prepared to help the Kurds.

And more generally most of the speakers especially the Kurdish ones, had not a critical word to say about the USA, the West, NATO or imperialism.  Everyone was focussed on the evil that is “Islamic State”.

On the other side, some of the far-left speakers went overboard in denouncing NATO, the USA and the West, going so far as claiming that IS was a creation of NATO and Washington.

This was particularly the case with a spokesman for the “Stop the War Coalition” — an organisation whose presence at the event surprised many of the participants.

 The Coalition’s website has almost nothing at all about the war taking place today in Syria and Iraq and indeed the only reference to it is video of George Galloway denouncing the support NATO is giving to the Kurds.  Galloway also voted against this support in the Commons.

It seems to me that elements of the British far left find themselves in a bit of a bind.

 On the one hand, there’s this extraordinary, inspiring resistance movement in Kobane, which has captured the imagination of many who would normally be the natural constituency for the left.  The people on the ground, fighting IS, belong to a movement which was seen, until recently, as part of the broad international left.

 Obviously they deserve our support — and yet that seems to mean supporting the US and British air strikes, supporting NATO.  

To get around this, the far leftists have decided on the “ISIS is NATO” line, which is an extraordinary position — one is almost at a loss for words to describe it. 

For those not understanding how IS could be both under NATO attack and simultaneously a creation of NATO, some of the speakers went so far as to say that IS was using American weapons 

The implication was that America gave them weapons.

This is, of course, utter nonsense.  The American weapons that have fallen into the hands of IS were taken from the retreating Iraqi army.  Taken — not handed over as a gift by the Americans. 

One of the anti-NATO, anti-American tirades came from an organisation I’d not previously heard of called the Revolutionary Communist Group.  (I’m sure that specialists will know the entire history of this micro-sect, but for me it was new.) And groups like this, which get invited to speak at mass rallies, give only a very small piece of their line because they’d be booed off the stage if people knew what they really believed. 

The RCG’s speaker shouted the usual stuff about solidarity with the Kurds, but a quick glance at their website shows that they are in fact enthusiastic supporters of the bloody Assad dictatorship and its army.  The same Syrian army that abandoned Kobane — an army that no Kurd wants to have back.  But there was no mention of that to the largely Kurdish crowd in Trafalgar Square. 

So what are people like this, who support Assad and Saddam, who demonize NATO and the USA, doing at these rallies? 

They’re there because they can’t afford not to be there.  To have nothing to say when the battle of Kobane rages would be unacceptable; they must somehow show solidarity with the embattled Kurds. 

But they oppose the very thing — NATO air support — that has made that battle possible.  The tide may be turning in Kobane because of US bombing and air drops.

On the ground, some Kurds have been heard chanting “Long live Obama!”  How embarrassing for the anti-Americans on the far left.

These people with their crazy views, denouncing the essential support given by the west to the Kurds, praising Assad and Saddam, have no place at Kurdish solidarity rallies. They are there purely to cover their tracks, to provide themselves with some kind of moral cover as IS continues with its murderous rampage across Syria and Iraq.

We should give them no platform.

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Unite backs the Kurds in Kobane, condemns Turkey

November 1, 2014 at 11:04 am (Andrew Coates, anti-fascism, Cross-post, internationalism, kurdistan, Middle East, solidarity, Syria, Unite the union)

By Andrew Coates  (from Tendance Coatesy):

The biggest trade union in Britain, UNITE, has issued a statement of support for the Kobane resistance.

The statement came after representatives from Centre for Kurdish Progress met with UNITE officials and briefed them on the developments in the town of Kobane, where Kurdish fighters have been holding off an ISIS onslaught for the past 48 days.

In the statement, UNITE said it “offered its support and solidarity to the brave people of Kobane” and that “The bravery shown by the Kurds in Kobane in defence of the entire community is to be commended”.

The statement also highlighted Turkey’s role in the developments and said, “we were appalled that the Turkish government put its own nationalist politics ahead of the plight of Kurdish people”.

Kurdish Question. 

World Kobane Day (1)Screen_Shot_2014-10-31_at_20.36.44

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AWL statement: Solidarity with democratic and socialist forces resisting ISIS! Mobilise for 1 November!

October 31, 2014 at 1:26 am (anti-fascism, AWL, genocide, Human rights, internationalism, iraq, islamism, kurdistan, Middle East, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", solidarity, Syria)


Above: Muayad Ahmed, secretary of the Worker-communist Party of Iraq

From the Workers Liberty website:

Solidarity with democratic, workers’ and socialist forces in the Middle East resisting ISIS! Mobilise for 1 November!

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty conference (London, 25-6 October) sends solidarity to democratic, working-class and socialist forces resisting ISIS in Kurdistan, Syria and Iraq, including our comrades in the Worker-communist Parties of Kurdistan and Iraq.

We support the people of Kurdistan in their fight for self-determination and self-rule. More broadly, people in Kobane and elsewhere are fighting a life and death battle to defend basic human freedoms, particularly freedom for women.

We are supporting and mobilising for the international day of action on 1 November. We call on the British and international left to get off the fence and support these mobilisations.

Even when they may aid a liberation struggle, we do not endorse or have trust in bombing or the sending of ground forces by the US and its allies, or by Iran. The US has bombed ISIS units attacking Kobane; but it helped create the conditions for the rise of ISIS; it continues to ally with a variety of reactionary regimes and forces in the region; and by its very nature it acts for reasons that have nothing to do with democracy or liberation.

We protest against the Turkish government’s undermining of the fight against ISIS, motivated by fear of a challenge to its rule in Kurdistan.

We call for the free movement of refugees, including their right to come to the UK.

We will build solidarity with democratic forces in the region – but particularly working-class and socialist organisations. We will continue to work with our comrades in the Worker-communist Parties of Kurdistan, Iraq and Iran; the Iranian Revolutionary Marxists’ Tendency; and Marksist Tutum in Turkey – and the workers’ and people’s organisations they are building. We invite others on the left and in the labour movement to work with us to build solidarity with these comrades and with the class-struggle left throughout the Middle East.

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Attila The Stockbroker asks “where is the left” in support of the Kurds?

October 22, 2014 at 5:50 pm (anti-fascism, internationalism, islamism, kurdistan, Middle East, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", secularism, solidarity, Stop The War, turkey)

Letter published in todays’s Morning Star:

Secular, progressive Kurds in need of left

I salute the heroic struggle of the secular, progressive Kurds of the YPG (People’s Protection Groups) as they battle to defend Kobane from fascist murderers equipped with much heavier and more modern weapons.

The Turks and the Western leaders appear prepared to let the fascists wipe out the Kurdish fighters — people like me and you, people of the left — including the women who save the last bullet for themselves rather than fall into the hands of the fascists.

It seems to me that there is a cynical plan in place. If Kobane falls, there will be crocodile tears about massacres and the drums will start beating for a ground war and the gruesome cycle starting all over again.

There is, of course, an alternative.

The Kurds are once again victims of the same kind of geopolitics which denied them a homeland when the Sykes-Picot agreement was drawn up at the end of the Ottoman empire.

With modern weaponry they could defend their own communities successfully — they certainly have the fighting ability to do so.

But the Turks and the Western powers are scared of their left-wing radicalism and their desire for an independent homeland.

And, sadly, many on the left turn their backs. They can’t bring themselves to support fellow progressives desperate for military aid in fighting fascism, because they see that in some way as “supporting imperialism.”

The Kurds are crying out for support, for Western governments to help them.

They demonstrate with banners saying “Your silence is killing us.” They are right.

This is Guernica, this is Madrid. These are our comrades. But where is the left? Where are the thousands who rightly throng the streets in support of another stateless, oppressed people in Palestine? Where is the Stop The War Coalition? Why the silence? Why, why, WHY?

ATTILA THE STOCKBROKER
http://www.attilathestockbroker.com

************************************************************************************************************

JD adds: Very interesting article on the Kurds, intervention and the European left, by Yasin Suma, here

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Support the demo, London, this Saturday!

October 17, 2014 at 1:37 pm (posted by JD, protest, solidarity, TUC, unions, UNISON, Unite the union, workers)

October 18 2014 - March and Rally

Let’s make this the start of a real fightback on pay

Local Government and School workers’ unofficial blog (GMB, Unison, Unite), here

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