Did they pay him for this banal crap?

July 26, 2008 at 12:18 pm (blogging, blogosphere, Champagne Charlie, grovelling, publications, SWP, wankers)

A pretentious sub-Marxist pseudo-academic sucks up to his party boss:

“He shows that the USSR, fat from being concerned with emancipatory politics, adopted a manipulative sance towards left-wing movements, encouraged loyal parties to limit their radicalism and to connive in pro-colonial policies. In fact, his principle diagnosis here is that the twin pincers of Stalinism and fascism crushed the tradition of ‘socialism from below’ mid-century, and that this tradition was partially revived in the ‘New Left’ movements of the 1960’s. Thus, if the postwar strength of the USSR did not confirm the socialist case, Harman maintains, its collapse did not disprove it.”

 OOh me-oooh-my, what masterful, original analysis! Did the New Statesman pay Lenny Seymour real money for such profound insights as that? And did they know that the book he’s reviewing was written by one of his own party bosses? Still, the Karadzic sympathiser and genocide-minimiser Seymour does get a bit bold right at the end of his puff and actually ventures a mild criticism of Harman for “defend (ing) a version of Marx’s conception of the ‘Asiatic mode of production’.”   Sadly, Leading Intellekshull Comrade Lenny doesn’t deign to expand upon that point: was Marx wrong about the Asiatic Mode or what? Pray educate us, oh great post-Marxist banalyst Mr Lenny “Seymour” Gobshite.


  1. modernityblog said,

    re-reading the end of that thread, it is small wonder that SWPers and their mates can’t grasp even the simplest notion:

    “… it strikes me as the most disgusting hypocrisy that the ICJ would indict Al-Bashir and not indict Bush, Cheney, Balir, et. al. for the on-going carnage in Iraq.
    Phillip Allen

    All true. But does that make Al-Bashir some sort of freedom-fighter?
    anticapitalista | 25 Jul, 23:37 | # “

    Al-Bashir? a what? you’d think that “anticapitalista” could look up al-Bashir and see the bleeding obvious? but no

    Al-Bashir – “Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.” – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3273569.stm

    “On 30 June 1989 he led fellow officers in a mutiny against Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi. General Bashir said in a televised communique that the coup was “to save the country from rotten political parties”.

    The coup was also aimed at preventing the signing of a peace treaty with John Garang’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). General Bashir opposed the plan, which would have allowed secular law, instead of Sharia, in the south.

    Gen Bashir proclaimed himself chairman of a 15-member Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). He signed a “constitutional decree” dismissing the government and other state bodies.”

    only in the mind of SWPer’s (or Seymour’s fans) could a violent dictator that came to power via a coup be considered to be a “freedom-fighter”?

  2. Andrew Coates said,

    A world-historical genius like Harman, who has grasped the inner truth of over well over 10,000 years of history (plus a few things more), and is learned about its every detail to boot, with his faithful majordomo, Syemour, would surely reply with a distainful flick of their knout sto these snivelling objections.

    I mean, according to the Grave, his Master discovered that the existence of class society is not inevitable. Well spotted! That the Enlightenment was an Islamic creation for which we should all be truly grateful – weren’t those feudal Muslim Empires wonderful! The debt that Voltaire, Hume, Dideroit and Kant, owed to Averros’ medieval scholasticism and his ‘commentary’ on Aristotle has long been ignored by bourgeois historians. To their shame. And, that’s not the only gem in this review, Lenin sei danke! Seymour has learnt big words like ‘essentialism’.

    Truly money well spent by the New Statesman.

    Modernity,. not to mention other shilly-shallying “Zionistnazis” (as Jock McTrousers describes us lot on Dave’s site) , can be moaning minnies for all they like. But Seymour surges onwards and upwards.

  3. johng said,

    er modernity he says ‘BUT does that make him some sort of a freedom fighter?’. He’s not arguing that he IS one but the opposite of one. As is Lenin all through the posts where people who really are apologists for karadzic DO in fact appear. Why is it neccessary to tell lies? If there are disagreements just state them (as opposed to making things up).

  4. johng said,

    Harman nowhere argues that the Enlightenment was the creation of Islamic empires. What he quite correctly argues is that the renaissence was heavily influenced by scholarship emenating from the Islamic world (which is simply a historical fact, although it may greatly alienate bigots masquerading as liberal universalists). One can trace this quite concretely in terms of the development of scholarship and its dispersion during the period of the renaissence. Having said that, I’d be very interested to find out if Andrew Coates believes that 10th century France was more more liberal then 10th century Egypt. 11th century? 12th century? 13th century? 14th century? 15th century? 16th century? (where would you like to stop?).

  5. charliethechulo said,

    Is the notion that Islamic scholarship contributed to the Enlightenment in Europe contentious? Even amongst neo-cons? Not as far as I’m aware. Once more, Lenny “Deniar” Seymour and his representative here, John **** Boy, are tilting at straw persons.

    Abtw: the point about Al-Bashir is that a comment-ator at ‘Lenin’s Tomb’ should even feel the need to raise the question of whether he’s a “freedom fighter”!

  6. modernityblog said,

    ops, my apologies to “anticapitalist”.

    I had misread his comments, and JohnG thanks for pointing that out.

    I suppose I had become so accustomed to the vulgar rantings in those comments boxes, the sucking up to dictators, the apologists for genocide and the prevailing “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” philosophy that I had, wrong in this particular instance, assumed that any indicted by the ICC would naturally be lionised by those fake “anti-imperialist”

    still not an uncommon mistake, given those concerned.

    a question for JohnG:

    does the SWP support the indictment of Al Bashir for his criminal acts connection to mass murder in Darfur?

    if not, why not?

  7. johng said,

    He did’nt raise the question. he was pointing out the absurdity of suggesting that karadzic was a freedom fighter to someone whose politics are completely at odds with the Tomb. Another way of reading Modernities contribution is that he operates on a set of half baked stereotypes about the left which he picks up from the colour supplements as a way of avoiding any discussion of real issues. In terms of indicting Al Bashir, I have no objection to the bastard being indicted but then again I don’t see International law as the solution, so in all honesty, my position would be a neutral one. I’m not part of what Andrew Collier describes as the ‘human rights left’ because of the appalling political stances generated by that position. As to the deep intermingling of Islamic and Renaissence culture in medieval Europe, the occassional reference is made to this, but it tends to be downplayed because such an account challenges the theses of the uniqueness of European history which is so important to mainstream sociological and political accounts of the pre-conditions for the emergence of western modernity. Harman’s account is a useful corrective to that, which is all Lenin said, and the reaction here rather demonstrates that.

  8. johng said,

  9. paul fauvet said,

    JohnG is actually right. The Lenin’s Tomb thread on Karadzic is full of fans of greater Serb chauvinism and downright genocide deniers who make Richard Seymour look quite moderate.

    Seymour (and presumably the SWP leadership) are not cheerleaders for Karadzic. That much at least is in their favour. Where their aproach to the Balkans comes horribly unstuck is that they tar all the warring parties with the same brush, and do not recognise the legitimacy of Croatia or Bosnia defending themselves against aggression.

    They will denounce the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from the Krajina in Croatia in the 1995 Operation Storm, but if you point out that the ethnic cleansing began with Serb forces expelling Croats in 1991, and that Belgrade urged Serbs to leave the Krajina (so that it could resettle them in Kosovo), you will be accused of “Croatian nationalism”.

    On that thread, I asked Lenin a direct question, which I shall reprint here:

    “Four days ago, writing about Iraq, Lenin declared that “the killing of occupation soldiers is more than understandable – it is an absolute necessity”.

    “From your analysis of the nature of the Iraqi resistance (which I don’t share, but that’s beside the point), this position is entirely coherent. It’s just a shame you don’t extend it to other places suffering aggression and occupation. Why did nobody in the SWP ever say that the killing of members of the Bosnian Serb Army and of the assorted Serb paramilitaries “is more than understandable – it is an absolute necessity”.?

    “Why is Moslem resistance to occupation praiseworthy in Iraq (and in Palestine), but not in Bosnia?”

    I got called all sorts of names of course – but there hasn’t been a strauight answer to that question.

  10. johng said,

    What you leave out Fauvet is that you declared the ethnic cleansing of Krajina Serbs by the Croatians as justified. The tendency of the human rights left to end up hailing deeply unsavoury forces is, if anything, far more pronounced then that on the anti-war left. Indeed the demonisation of whole communities seems to be very much part of the ‘human rights left’. So there was a period when certain individuals were hailing the scorching of Sunni ‘triangle’ as a blow for freedom and democracy, at the same time as this rhetoric was being used to justify sectarian atrocities. This was also true of the Turkoman minority in Iraq whose ethnic cleansing was held to be in some sense a legitimate retaliation for the crimes of Saddam. This whole logic began with the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. I can remember a personal friend of mine in SOAS who rather naively went there at the height of the civil war, so outraged was she by the failure of the world to do halt Serb aggression. and initially a big fan of Croatia. She came back a very different and much more cynical person, is perhaps all that needs to be said.

  11. johng said,

    Personally I think this tendency has much to do with the solution favoured by the ‘human rights left’: that is to say human rights intervention by international organisation. It produces a very abstract picture of social dynamics, and as the interventions run into the inevitable local turbulence, whole populations start being seen as the difficulty: this tends to be the way with counter-insurgency, and human rights counterinsurgency tends to be no different from any other kind.

  12. charliethechulo said,

    Translated into plain English, that means what, exactly, John? Let the natives fight it out amongst themselves?

  13. modernityblog said,

    JohnG wrote:

    “Another way of reading Modernities contribution is that he operates on a set of half baked stereotypes about the left which he picks up from the colour supplements as a way of avoiding any discussion of real issues.”

    I don’t read the colour supplements, but here’s the difference I will apologise if I make a mistake, unlike the middle class misfits that run the SWP.

    JohnG, you might learn some humility yourself, it is Andrew COATES, not Collier. Not that you even took the trouble to read what he wrote.

    so the SWP’s line is neutrality on Al Bashir, how radical!

    still try to answer Paul’s question:

    ““Why is Moslem resistance to occupation praiseworthy in Iraq (and in Palestine), but not in Bosnia?”

  14. modernityblog said,

    JohnG wrote:

    “What you leave out Fauvet is that you declared the ethnic cleansing of Krajina Serbs by the Croatians as justified”

    did he? WHERE exactly, can you prove it?

    please provide his words

  15. Jim Denham said,

    While we’re (sort of) on the subject of Chris Harman, can I recommend this ‘open letter’ from Sean Matgamna? It really puts the sub-Marxists of the SWP in their place…

  16. johng said,

    No in plain english it means that i don’t see international law as a neutral instrument. that this should be regarded as a controversial position amongst Marxists is deeply odd. Oh and deep and sincere and humble apologies to Andrew Collier. Thats an appalling slur on his name and reputation. I am of course not at all neutral on the question of Al Bashir anymore then I’m neutral on George Bush. I’m neutral on the question of whether an international court indicts him or not, which is not at all the same thing.

  17. johng said,

    “Your vision of operation Storm is absurd – the Krajina was part of Croatia, and the Croatian government legitimately reoccupied it”

    You really ought to read threads you comment on Modernity. He tries to weasle his way out of it further down but its there in black and white.

  18. modernityblog said,

    ahh JohnG I see

    but strangely enough you left off the key part of his statement:

    “The first ethnic cleansing took place when Serb forces seized the Krajina in 1991 and set up their puppet Republic of Serbian Krajina. This was based on the ruthless purging of some 80,000 ethnic Croats from the region.”

    paul fauvet | 25 Jul, 09:56 | #”

    and in fact he acknowledges it “James O, I did not defend the ethnic cleansing of the Krajuna serbs – and I will be charitable enough to assume that you do not defend the earlier ethnic cleansing of the Krajina croats.

    so JohnG you are clearly cherry picking here and misrepresenting Paul’s view, a tactic you have employed before, both here and at Socialist Unity

    but I shall be charitable and put it down to your illiteracy, same old SWP, same old JohnG

  19. paul fauvet said,

    Johng, your misrepresentation of your opponents’ views is uncannily similar to the way Stalinist propagandists behave.

    I thought I had made it abundantly clear that I do not approve of ethnic cleansing carried out by serbs, croats or anybody else. I do not approve of atrocities carried out by the Croatian army – but that does not mean the Croatian government did not have the right, and indeed the duty, to retake parts of its territory that had been seized in an act of naked aggression.

    The alternative to Operation Storm would have been to leave the Krajima as an effective province of Serbia, thus granting a significant victory to the Greater Serbia project.

    Futhermore, Operation Storm was vital for the defence of the beleagured Bosnian enclave of Bihac, which was under attack from Serb forces based in Krajuna. If the Krajina had remained under the control of Karadzic’s friends, then perhaps the Moslems of Bihac would have suffered the same fate as those of Srebrenica.

  20. modernityblog said,

    JohnG misreads most of what people type, then grabs the wrong end of the argument, beats the strawman to death, and finally proclaims “Victory!”

    a very SWP way of doing things

    another example of his inability to honestly represent the views of others is posted in Andrew Coates’s thread

    let’s be honest, you don’t have to be thick and middle class to join the SWP but it helps!


  21. charliethechulo said,

    Guys: I think you’ve destroyed and humiliated John ****Boy, once and for all. An excellent job. Mind you, how any SWP’er could read Matgamna’s open letter to Harman and still face the world, beats me.

  22. sackcloth and ashes said,

    Well, there you go. Richard Seymour provided Harman with a nice little puff-piece for his masterpiece so that he’d get the same for ‘The Liberal Defense of Murder’ – provided it gets printed by Verso at some point in the near future (it’s a year behind schedule), and provided they correct the Americanism in the title.

    Oh, and John G***, there’s a small matter of thesis submission, viva, then doctorate – you seem to be taking more time on a PhD than Seymour did to get his BA.

    Five years plus. It’s not going well for you, mate, is it?

  23. charliethechulo said,

    I still want to hear what Seymour thinks is wrong about Marx’s desciption of the Asiatic Mode of Production.
    Perhaps his Representative on Blogs, Mr John G*** Boy can elucidate?

  24. Andrew Coates said,

    Johng, let’s start by your absurd reference to a book about something called ‘Islamic’ science: what is Islamic, or Christian, or Jewish or Hindu or any religious view, about science of any kind? The fact is that the contribution to the re-discovery of ancient *Greek* (that’s the language not the faith of the ‘state’) learning was, it is well-known, by translations form Hellenic texts by speakers of that tongue into Arabic. The Renaissance’s re-discovery of these writings (whose description as ‘science’ except in the very broad sense of its Latin root as ‘knowledge’ is pretty contentious) was certainly helped by, say Avversoes and Jewish writers of the same period), who were essentially *commentators* on such as Aristotle’s Categories (Metaphysics, after Physics). This has been a staple element of the European History of Ideas, and (regarding the Middle East’s tramission of this philosophy) features prominently in works such as Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (the volumes dealign with the Byzantine Emprie). However, it was, it should be noted, the Fall of Constantinipole, the massacre and enslavement of its inhabitants, which drove Greek speaking scholars to Italy and beyond, that really saw the recovery of ancient Greek literature and philsophy. In this sense no doubt the Ottoman Empire’s tyranny was thus indirectly responsble for the peak period (16th century) flourishing of the Renaissance. Its achievements in philosophy and science, fossilised eventually in ‘Scholasticism’ (initially called the nominalism and realism debate) were not mirrored in countries of Islamic culturee since post-Avveroes it is said that the ‘gates of interpretation’w ere clsoed.

    Oh and Avveroes was persecuted by the Islamic bigots of his own time – not by Christians.

    What was the connection to the Enlightenment? This often considered to have some of its roots in works such as Bacon’s Advancement of Learning, which radicalised nomanalism to the point of advocating the germs of the experimental method. As such it was a break with Scholasticsm and the Aristotlean culture (still present in two religious environments, Thomism in Catholicism and in many forms of Islamic philosophy). In short, the Enlightenment, in its various forms, was soemthing beyond and distinct from the contribution of Islamic thinking.

  25. Dr Paul said,

    Point 19: Here we have a defence of a massive clearance — indeed, the biggest single clearance — of the Yugoslav disaster. This is not a denying of an atrocity; it is the applauding of one. Fauvet says he is not in favour of ‘ethnic cleansing’, yet praises as necessary the expulsion of 200 000 or so Krajinan Serbs on the basis of military necessity. This is obscene; it is no different to saying that the massacre at Srebrenica was ‘necessary’ to stop the Muslim militia/army attacks upon Serb villages in Eastern BiH. Is the sort of person the AWL & Co wish to be associated with?

  26. Andrew Coates said,

    Just to note that my comment was stuffed with typs – I was writing just as the public terminal was about to log-out. But I did write one word (a hapex perhaps?) which I liked: nomanlism.

    Anyway, the point is that ancient cultures’ contribution to the Englightenemnt are all very fine and it’s good to recognise them. As it for, say, philosophers in countries that called themselves Muslim. To the Rennaisance. But the point Seymour made was about the Enlightenment, and the argument he draws on (which is a tired cliche) is that somehow ‘Islam’ is part of the fount of wisdom that not only (undeniably) flowed into Europe, but that it equally made a decisive contribution to the Enlightenment and science.

    This is completely false. Tthe latter phenomena are *breaks* with *all* forms of dogmatic scholasticism (the Aristotlean pillar of Muslim philosphical ‘science’, and of European scholasticism), this is wholly false. I suggest anyone who thinks this looks at Aristotle’s doctrine of causality (formal, final, material and efficient) and tries to square the first three with scientific method. There are in reality no ‘national or ‘religious’ lebals tneed to stick on science: conjectures and and attested use know no religious doctrine. The claims of Seymour etc are in fact the usual multicultural religious claptrap, on a par with such notions as that nuclear physics can be found in Vedic hymns, Buddhism previewed quantum mechanics, and the idea that ley-lines traced prehistoric humanity’s intimate knowledge of energy sources. In this area (and no doubt many many others) Seymour Harman have the credibility of the claim that Shakespeare should be read in the original Klingon.

  27. johng said,

    On Fauvet’s attempts to deny the implication of his political position Dr Pauls comment says all that needs to be said.

    In my view there was such a thing as Islamic or Islamicate civilization, and any understanding of the development of science and philosophy has to be understood in terms of the societies that the the spread of Islam both reflected and enabled. There was no ‘secularism’ during this period of history anywhere after all (the way in which Andrew Coate’s wierd worship of the French Republic leads him into anachronism is about the only interesting thing about his argument: as well as his obvious lack of familiarity with any serious historical literature on the Islamic world). It was a feature of the Islamic world during this period that it was far more tolerent of religious diversity then christian europe it is true (this was partly a function of neccessity given the much more diverse societies that characterised the Islamic world) and any genuine materialist account of the massive leaps in intellectual life have to take this into account. Its possible incidently to argue that modern judaism was the product of this islamicate as opposed to islamic world. His comparison of proper global history of the modern world with Hindu nationalist obscurantism is simply a demonstration of his own ignorence of modern secular historiography.

    It is of course true that the Enlightenment broke with Aristotelianism, but its equally true that in most historical accounts the path cleared by the Renaissence is considered an essential element in the social and cultural changes which made possible the quarrels between ancients and moderns which he is referring (as is the later reformation). However he appears to confuse the 17th century scientific revolution with the 18th century enlightenment, the two being related but not at all identical. All in all a deeply unmarxist understanding of world history. Perhaps he should read Harman’s book and educate himself as opposed to worshiping the French state.

  28. johng said,

    charlie i’ve answered you on the tomb, but given the kind of half baked understanding of historical developments in these parts of the world (no such thing as islamic science, philosophy or literature, just science, philosophy and literature etc, etc) its hard to see how you could even begin to understand a debate that pre-supposes basic knowledge both about marxism and about world history.

  29. tim said,

    Is JohnG arguing that Croatia should have ceded the Krajina to Serbia.
    I think he must be.

  30. johng said,

    This summary of a debate amongst prominant indian marxists in the early 1980’s provides some of the basic background as it was understood at the time:

    a useful preliminary would be to read habib’s ‘the peasent in indian history’ which sketches out the relevent issues but is sceptical about both the ‘feudal’ and the ‘asiatic mode’ paradigms.

  31. johng said,

    No Tim. I’m arguing that it is wrong to respond to complaints about ethnic cleansing by stressing its legitimacy as part of a wider military campaign. It is astonishing how very little liberal internationalists actually care about ethnic cleansing if its the ‘wrong’ kind of victim.

  32. johng said,

    This is also useful:

  33. tim said,

    So what should Croatia have done with regard to RSK Johng.
    Not conceptually, actually.

  34. modernityblog said,

    JohnG wrote:

    “Its possible incidently to argue that modern judaism was the product of this islamicate as opposed to islamic world.”

    is it? which modern scholars argue that?

    which one? please can you name a few and the relevant works?

    [by modern scholars, I mean professional academic, experts in those fields]

  35. johng said,

    This would be the sort of thing:

    in particular:
    . Merchants and Intellectuals, Rabbis and Poets: Judeo-Arabic Culture in the Golden Age of Islam by Raymond P. Scheindlin

    Its worth remembering that Baghdad was the centre of jewish culture and life for much, much longer then Jerusalem ever was. The notion that Judaism was not in some sense shaped and indeed enriched by the experiance of interacting with the most advanced culture in the world of that time for a thousand years would surely be counterintuitive.

  36. modernityblog said,

    so one bloke? is that it???hardly a mountain of historiography?

    btw, JohnG why was “Baghdad was the centre of jewish culture and life for much, much longer then Jerusalem ever was.”

    WHY (that the key point) wasn’t Jerusalem always so central to Jewish life and culture?

    and I am talking SPECIFICALLY about Jerusalem, what events and actions brought that about? which relate to Jerusalem?

  37. johng said,

    Well there is a large debate about that modernity actually. The literature on the relationship between Hellinism and Judaism (which proceeded the expulsion of the Jews. Most Jews did not live in Palestine by that time anyway, the great centres of Jewish life being Alexandria and Athens) is one of which there is a broad variety of scholarship. The notion that the Jews of Baghdad were ‘exiles’ from ‘the kingdom of Israel’ (which one?) is similarly laughable outside of theological belief. The scholarship on Baghdad and Judeo-Islamic scholarship (a much more concrete reality then the rather laughable idea of a judeo-christian synthesis) is also vast. A better experiment would be to ask you if you know of any of the great Jewish philosophers and theologians of the Islamic world? If not why not? The great urban civilizations of the Islamic world represented a sociological as well as philosophical continuity with the ancient world. Meanwhile Europe was in its dark ages. Those prosperous Jewish communities that ended up in the cultural backwater of medieval Europe were partly singled out as prosperous, precisely because of the general backwardness of the culture (as well as the parochial blinkered bigotry which ensured that Jews were the only trading community in that benighted region). The Jews of Europe represented the fruits of Islamicate civilization to a backward, flyblown, ignorent, and undepeloped christian west. Hence the development of the stereotype of the ‘economic Jew’. In the Islamic world both urbanisation and its associated values of traders and culture meant the Jews were by no means exceptional in this regard. The Armenians, The Parsi’s, a whole host of trading communities existed under the shelter of the vast umbrella of the new urban and trading civilization.

  38. Paul Fauvet said,

    Johng – you really don’t want to read or listen to what other people have to say, do you?

    Let’s take this step by step. Presumably, since Trotskyists are not pacifists, you agree that there are such things as just wars. No doubt you would classify as a just war the Bolsheviks’ resistance to the white armies and their foreign backers.

    You and I would both agree that socialists at the time should have supported the red army. Yet the red forces, as well as the whites, committed atrocities. I don’t find it at all difficult to argue that while we agree with the war aims of the red army, we condemn the behaviour of certain red army units. Do you have a problem with that?

    World War II is even clearer – no doubt you think it was a good idea to defeat the Nazis.
    Yet you, like me, probably think that the fire bombing of German cities towards the end of the war was not justified by the war aims, and would nowadays be classified as a war crime.

    So what is your problem with Operation Storm? We both condemn ethnic cleansing – though I note that the ultra left usually only talks about the ethnic cleansing of the Krajina serbs in 1995 and not the ethnic cleansing of Krajina croats in 1991.

    The brutal behaviour of Croat army units does not invalidate Operation Storm any more than the fire bombing of Dresden invalidates resistance to the Nazis. The alternative would have been to allow Belgrade, through its Krajina puppets, to annex part of Croatia. Would you have favoured that?

    And if you cite the illegal referendum on the future of the Krajina, in which only Serbs could vote, I will remind you that the great majority of Sudeten Germans were in favour of the Third Reich’s dismemberment of Czechoslovakia.

    In the end though, you cannot look at Operation Storm, or Srebrenica, or the destruction of Vukovar, or the siege of Sarajevo in isolation. The nasty fact that the SWP and similar groups do not want to face is that the whole of the Balkan wars was a criminal enterprise driven by Milosevic and the men around him, whose desire for ethnically pure Serb areas led inevitably to genocide.

    You can either support Milosevic, Karadzic, Mladic and their friends, or you can support their victims. There is no middle ground.

  39. modernityblog said,

    JohnG wrote:

    “Well there is a large debate about that modernity actually. “

    exactly, I ask a very, very specific, question as to why Jerusalem wasn’t always so central to Jewish life and culture, and what fucking answer do I get?

    one that engages with the point? no, not at all.

    why? because JohnG doesn’t know the history of the period, and for him to detail it would show how stupid his arguments were

    what JohnG proceeds to do is to broaden out the topic and waffle, because he doesn’t really know about the history of the period, typical SWP bullshiter

    Jerusalem was attacked around 600 BC and Jews carted off as prisoners back to Babylon (to become modern-day Iraq), that’s 1200 years even before the advent of Islam

    Jews have interacted with all of the Middle East for 1000s of years, so to suggest that they somehow haven’t contributed or had not exchanged ideas is ridiculous.

    One of the reasons that Babylon was central, apart from its cultural and economic strengths, was that Jerusalem was particularly underdeveloped, had been attacked numerous times, occupied by various armies, which eventually led to a vicious Roman campaign of murder in the region.

    So there are very tangible and obvious reasons why Babylon, not Jerusalem was more central. MATERIAL reasons why that is the case.

    Not that our SWP intellectual, JohnG,would know that, but whatever the reason there were Jews at the centre of Middle Eastern culture from before 600 BC, over a thousand years before the “golden age of Islam”.

    Which returns us to the rather pedestrian SWP question, was Jewish culture enriched during the “golden age of Islam”?

    clearly it was, but that’s as much to do with how the Jews interacted with their “hosts” as to the benevolence of their rulers, not forgetting that when Jews ceased to be ‘useful’ they were often persecuted.

    And we shouldn’t forget that during this period it is fairly volatile, certainly compared to Europe, much of it was an improvement, but it wasn’t just one thing or the other,

    Jews had to pay special taxes for existing, wear distinctive clothing, were legally second-class citizens and had to show immense difference to Muslims, etc.

    There’s a lot more, and it cannot be reduced down to the 12 word summary that is so beloved of SWPers and Sun readers, its complex and Bernard Lewis explains it much better than I, in his book the Jews of Islam.

    and that’s why asking questions in these areas is useful, as it aptly demonstrates how SWP intellectuals don’t really know the historiography of the period (other than that gathered from colour supplements)

    because had JohnG, been truly familiar with the period he would have been able to pull up a few experts in that area, real experts, not stuff just garnered from a quick Web search.

    Or at the very least JohnG would have been able to develop some chronological scheme (that’s what history’s about), but to do would have invalidated his trite argument as the dates would show Jews collaborating and existing in the Middle East long before Islam was invented.

    as I said, typical SWP bullshit, doesn’t engage with the points and hopes to wear opponents down by volume

  40. johng said,

    Modernity you’ve entirely missed the point. Let me make it clear. The reason that Jews were all around the region and that the great centres of Jewish life were not in any sense unnatural or abnormal, nor something to be regreted. Judaism without Hellenism, without the Roman Empire without Islam, would not be Judaism. It would no longer exist. It would be a forgotten religion of no interest to anyone but antiquarians. The specifically Islamic contribution (hardly the same as the primitive little kingdoms in 600 BC in Palestine which spent their time killing each other when they were’nt being conquered by others) to this was immense, both philosophically and in terms of economically flourishing communities. That the status of Jews (and indeed anyone else) varied over a period of a thousand years is hardly very surprising. For a certainty experiments in the co-existence of religions both philosophically and practically, was far more a reality in the Islamic world then it was in the Christian. But there was nothing unusual or strange about Jews living in Athens, in Cairo, in Baghdad and not in Jerusalem. As stated if they had all lived in Jerusalem they would today all be Muslims. There would have been no development of Jewish culture, no development of Jewish life, or anything else. It was precisely the intermingling of cultures that led to their persistance. There is a lesson there somewhere.

  41. paul fauvet said,

    It’s good to see that the SWP, in the person of Johng, is so concerned about Islamic civilisations.

    It is thus rather odd that they are so indifferent to the fate of Islamic civilisation in the Balkans. For part of the genocidal project of the Serb ultra-nationlists was to wtpe out all traces of Islamic culture in Bosnia.

    Wherever the Bosnian Serb Army went, it defiled and destroyed mosques. One of the finest pieces of Ottoman architecture in the country was the Ferhadija Dzamija mosue in Banja Luka (now the capital of that grotesque statelet, the Republica Srpska). It was built in 1583, and blown to pieces by Serb vandals in 1993. A British parallel to such vicious destruction would be dynamiting St Paul’s cathedral or York Minster.

    Serb fascists also destroyed a Jewish shrine in Sarajevo and a good number of Croat catholic churches.

    But the main targets of cultural ethnic cleansing were the moslems. Over 800 Bosnian mosques were destroyed. More than 800!

    Imagine what the Brtish ultra left would say if Israeli troops were to destroy a Palestinian mosque! Yet 800 Bosnian mosques can be destroyed, and there’s not a whimper from the SWP.

    So it seems that moslems are only worthy of our solidarity if they live in the Middle East. Resistance to occupation is a good thing if done by Palestinian or Iaqi moslems, but a bad thing if done by Bosnian ones

  42. johng said,

    No Paul. Thats almost exactly wrong. The descent of Yugaslavia into ethnic slaughter was the product of corrupt old bureacrats playing the ethnic card in the face of economic crisis bought on by the dissolution of the old titoist regime. The position of Socialists in Croatia would not have been the same as the position of Socialists in Iraq or in Palestine or in India or in any of the examples you list. It would have been the same as the position of Socialists in Belgium or in France or in Russia during the first world war. Ideologically and politically there was little to choose between these bastards and the break up of the former Yugoslavia has meant, to use an old formulation, ‘a carnival of reaction’ on all sides. The notion that Socialists would have gone along with this logic is mad (hopefully I can use this term on this blog without fear of censure). Look at the political reality for any genuine working class politics in any of the States of the former Yugoslavia at the moment. Non-existent. In the Bosnian state, which can only exist on the basis of International organisations the reality is of a population so bitterly divided by ethnic particularism that it is not possible even to imagine a left wing strategy. I fully agree (and I know you will throw up your hands in horror) with Misha Glenny when he stated that those who talked the language of partition as if it was the language of national liberation were ‘stirring a bucket of blood’ (I’ll never forget the phrase) and his invocation of the analogy of the ‘invasion of the body snatchers’ is worth remembering as well. I speak as someone who has seen the logic of ethnic violence at first hand. It was the biggest disaster in Bosnia, where any talk of partition meant horror of the most terrible kind, paradoxically precisely because of the cosmopolitan traditions of the region. For this reason whilst I hold to the analyses you so despise, there is indeed something tragic about Bosnian nationalism (I will never forget a tremendously moving but also complex argument I had with a Bosnian Muslim on this issue: what was fascinating was that it was not hostile: he understood and recognised exactly why I was arguing what I was arguing, despite disagreeing: despite modernities endless attempts to paint me as a boneheaded hack I recognise the reality of tragedy in politics). But CROATIAN nationalism? Are you mad? Just how deep does this pathological wish fulfillment go (these are the forces which massacred muslims with as much ferocity as the Serbs).

    For socialists the task in the former Yugoslavia would have been to argue that these divisions were artificial even though the argument was lost. You have to explain what happened to the working class in these countries, each of them trapped by national mythologies so powerful that the only prospect for peace is virtual foreign occupation. How is this compatible with even the possibility of socialism? Why is this the case? Questions which cannot even be asked within your paradigm of good governance. Diving for dear life when we should be diving for pearls. Why is that?

  43. johng said,

    What I find so hard to credit about Paul Fauvet’s position is that I have no doubt, given his deep connections with Mozambique, that he understands these realities very well. Let me give a parrallel. In India and Pakistan, the chauvinists on both sides like to mobilise the victims of the worst excesses of partition as trump cards in any argument. The particular communities are well known, but on both sides of the border, they are sweetmeats for the chauvinists of the respective national communities. In pakistan there are stories about the victims whose hair literally turned white at the horrors they saw during that period. In India with the Sindhi’s it is exactly the same. What is the attitude of socialists to these communities? Do we dismiss these communities as reactionary scum? Absolutely not. We mourn the way that their suffering at the hands of reactionary chauvinists has made them ideological prey for the opposite numbers of those who murdered their families. I have exactly the same attitude to those Jews from the Arab world who suffered dispossion and were then flung into confrontation with Palestinians in a conflict that had nothing to do with them. Anyone person who has no empathy with this situation, is not in my view a human being.

    But I will say this about South Asia. There is absolutely noone on the left who argues the kind of disgusting crap which tries to glorify one set of chauvinists over another. That is what I find simply incredible about his line on the former Yugoslavia.

  44. modernityblog said,

    JohnG wrote:

    “Modernity you’ve entirely missed the point.”

    no, you DID.

    I ask a very direct questions about specific material circumstances and you couldn’t answer it.

    You waffle a lot but don’t produce anything meaningful, historically speaking, its all a mishmash of various different ideas that have come into your mind, the product of an article in the Sunday paper, or something that another ignoramus in the SWP has told you. etc

    All basically useless, because you can’t engage with people’s points and the specific history.

    It is a very English middle-class approach to things, to ignore other people’s arguments and to trundle on as if nothing but your own thoughts matter, almost like a foreign office mandarin?

    You can bull shit the idiots on Lenin’s tomb, but your reductionist idiocy doesn’t work in the real world.

    Now fuck off, your dishonesty is boring, after 100 times.

  45. paul fauvet said,

    JohnG, why are you so eager to absolve the Milosevic regime for responsibility in the collapse of Yugoslavia ?

    The first move in destroying the Federation was Milosevic’s abrogation of the Serbian Constitution, removing the autonomy of Kosovo and Vojvodina in 1989, purging their local communist parties, and then bringing the Montenegrin party under control. That gave Milosevic four of the eight votes on the Federal presidency.

    With Milosevic insisting on the supremacy of the Serbian Communist Party over the Yugoslav party, invoking the federation when it suited him, but the rights of the Serbian republic when it didn’t, the writing was on the wall for the other members of the federation.

    Tito had built a structure designed to prevent the supremacy of the largest republic. Milosevic destroyed that structure, so of course the Slovenes, the Croats and eventually the Bosnians decided to leave.

    I don’t mind you quoting Misha Glenny. In fact, I agree that “those who talked the language of partition as if it was the language of national liberation were ’stirring a bucket of blood’”. But, if by “partition” you mean the collapse of Yugoslavia, then that was started in Belgrade.

    And if we are referring to the attempted partitions of Croatia and Bosnia, then there is no doubt at all that it was the Serb ultra-nationalists who actively moved to dismember those states. The Izetbegovic government and its supporters (who included a good number of ethnic Serbs, particularly in Sarajevo) had no desire to see their country partitioned.

    As for Croatia, I should stress that support for the territorial integrity of the country by no means implies support for the treacherous and anti-semitic Franjo Tudjman. The Emir of Kuwait is doubtless even more reactionary than Tudjman was – but that doesn’t mean the left should have been indifferent to the Iraqi seizure of Kuwait in 1990. Opposing aggression does not mean we are advancing uncritical support for the government of the state that has been attacked.

    Tudjman was a liability for the Croatian cause – he was forever seeking deals with Milosevic, in which the victim would have been Bosnia, and surreptitiously supported the creation of a Croat mini-state within Bosnia. With a more principled leadership in Zagreb, the Croat-Moslem war would never have happened.

    I don’t see why Croatian nationalism is any more reactionary than other nationalisms. The SWP seems to have no difficulty with Palestinian nationalism, despite the reactionary expressions that sometimes takes (particularly in the shape of Hamas).

  46. johng said,

    No Modernity. I didn’t miss the point. You asked about why Jews were not in Jerusalem but in Baghdad. And you wanted to say this was because of the exile, whether in 600 BC or after. I disagree. Its really that simple.

  47. johng said,

    I’m not eager to absolve Milosovic at all. I just disagree entirely that the working class in Yugoslavia had a horse in this race. You quite rightly refer to the fact that, in reality, the Croatian state wanted to partition Bosnia between itself and Serbia (you don’t use this language but I doubt you’d disagree). The logic of ‘who started it’ becomes irrelevent in this context. This was not a war of national liberation. It was a war for survival between utterly venal elites who got their populations to butcher each other to ensure their own supremacy. The fact that Milosevic controlled the largest military made him the most aggressive. Another dynamic was that Serbia was relatively backward compared to Croatia, hence the wish to seperate on the one side, and the wish to prevent seperation on the other. Just a few years before mass strikes had occured across these lines against both sets of bureacrats. You can’t just ignore this in your analyses. Its as if there was to be war between the northern league in the north and a section of the national ruling class in Rome with both sides wanting to plunder corsica. The idea that you could say ‘the northern leagues are bad, but their cause is just, but in any case, Rome is the main enemy, and the solution is for the west to arm corsica” is just bonkers. If you were a socialist on the ground you would argue against all of this. Even if you knew you had lost. Sometimes socialists can’t win their arguments. But you don’t just go along with any old crap as a consequence. Of course it was a disaster for Bosnia. Any scheme of partition at all was a disaster for Bosnia. Its why Partition was not national liberation. It was just communal slaughter. You don’t have a situation where the only way to keep the peace between mutually hateful populations is the presence of foreign armies if thats the case. The present situation is in no sense the outcome of a successful national liberation struggle. If that was the case socialists would be the most fervent opponents of national liberation.

  48. johng said,

    Its also true that the logic of partition needs to be understood by people who are fortunate enough not to have experianced it (this is for the benefit of others Paul, I’m sure you understand this). Take the Indian example. If you are a peasent sitting on your own land and you are told that your land might be taken away from you because of lines on a map you get very upset. If your also told that partition will be decided on the basis of the proportion of the population you get to thinking. You also know that the ‘other side’ is thinking exactly the same, because, actually, they’re just like you, and you know them well. Your land is all you have. So to keep it you must persuade the ‘others’ to leave. And you know that they are just as attached to it as you are. Added to this potent self interest comes fear. If you find yourself on the wrong side of the border what will happen to you……..

    This is the reality behind the fine talk of ‘self determination’ and ‘co-existence’.

  49. modernityblog said,

    JohnG wrote:

    “You asked about why Jews were not in Jerusalem but in Baghdad.”

    NO, again, NO,

    read what I wrote, you dense fucker

    I wrote:

    “and I am talking SPECIFICALLY about Jerusalem, what events and actions brought that about? which relate to Jerusalem?”

    my point is at #36, if you want to re-read it

    I made the point three (that’s 3) times, because I knew that you would misread it

    it just shows that’s why it is utterly useless to debate contemporary SWPers, they are either too dishonest or stupid to admit their ignorance, which is bountiful in almost biblical proportions!

  50. johng said,

    But its the same question really. Jerusalem was a provincial backwater which like many other places and many other small peoples were repeatedly conquered and repeatedly fought over (amongst the inhabitants as much as anyone else) . What made Judaism a world religion (or indeed Jerusalem an urban centre of historic significance) was precisely what happened AFTER the supposedly golden age, not before. Thats my point.

  51. johng said,

    After all if you look at the dates of the composition of the Talmud, hundreds and hundreds of years after the events you refer to (the exile in babylon) written by scribes with no first hand knowledge of any of these events which have proved so potent, written, in that time, long after even a direct memory of the house of david was possible (a few mud huts?) what your seeing is the crafting of a heroic narrative for an existing community, existing precisely long after the events you refer to, and much more prosperous and powerful in reality, then they were in the ‘golden age’ they’re mourning about. And that act of writing is when Judaism really begins, not when the mythological events they write about occur. Identical problems of historical interpretation exist in other religions. Thus the Mahabharat preports to be about events 1000 BC and its stories probably originated about 300 BC but its canonical writing down (this is disputed) probably occur after the beginning of the common era, and certainly anything like modern understandings of Hinduism only come to be practiced according to the western calander in about 300 AD when the brahmanical hinduism comes to be connected to the patterns of kingship associated with the break from the Buddhist empires. And yet try telling that to a religious Hindu who wants to imagine he is in some kind of unbroken relationship with the Veda’s (dating from about 1000 BC) and who lives and feels this ‘history’.

    Its bollocks though. Most mythology is.

  52. modernityblog said,

    JohnG wrote:

    “But its the same question really. “

    NO, it is NOT the same fucking question,

    only in the mind of a dim witted SWPer would a historical question about Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Jerusalem

    be read as meaning Baghdad

    that’s what you’re up against, entrenched. almost palatial, cretinism

    only in the mind of a SWPer would the first six hundreds years, BEFORE* the invention of Islam, not exist nor be of merit?


    *that’s leaving aside the period before AD.

  53. johng said,

    You asked why were not most Jews in Baghdad EVEN BEFORE. Your belief is that this is because of Jerusalem’s peculiarly tragic history and the stories told in the Old Testement (written long after most Jew were not in Jerusalem). I disagree. I don’t understand where your anger is coming from.

  54. tcd said,

    wow, look what happens when “socialists” take sides in national and religious struggles 😦

  55. johng said,

    Israel Finkelstein the archeologist on the Jewish kingdoms and the fragility of our knowledge:


  56. modernity said,


    how many fucking times must I repeat what I wrote?

    JohnG I did NOT, got that NOT say “You asked why were not most Jews in Baghdad EVEN BEFORE.”

    I would hardly ask a question to which I knew the answer? and certainly not from a dim wit like you

    I wrote:

    [36…”WHY (that the key point) wasn’t Jerusalem always so central to Jewish life and culture?

    and I am talking SPECIFICALLY about Jerusalem, what events and actions brought that about? which relate to Jerusalem?”

    as anyone with literacy skills would be able to see, it is the caps, and that BIG word: SPECIFICALLY that gave it away, location: Jerusalem

    but I see the SWP’s problem here, they have to argue that “Golden Age of Islam” stuff rather than acknowledge the Jewish presence in Jerusalem, long before the 7th century

    to do otherwise would upset the SWP’s racists mates in Hamas

    so a professional intellectual, JohnG, has to barstardise history, not mention dates or the Jews’ complex existence in the Middle East before the 7th century or it will annoy some cranky racists in Hamas/MB? no more tickets to Cairo conferences?


    talk about revisionism!

  57. tim said,

    Your views on massacres.
    Are they in any way an attempt to justify your political links with people from Jamaat e Islami in th East End?

  58. johng said,

    What the fuck are you talking about Modernity? Your now to trying to pretend that I’m claiming there weren’t any jews in Jerusalem before the 7th century AD? Are you on crack? I would suggest you read the link on Israel finkelstein before you embaress yourself any further. It is YOU who are misunderstanding. In a big way.

  59. modernity said,


    afterwards, I was left wondering WHY, you would so deliberately mis-read Jerusalem for Baghdad?

    particularly when I made the point a few times?

    and why you specifically avoid discussing the topic of Jews in Jerusalem, before the 7th C

    doesn’t that fit the SWP’s script?

    still I suppose if you rely on Chris Harman for your grasp of history then you’ll believe any old shite!

  60. Sue R said,

    I am currently reading Prof Finelstein’s book, ‘The Bible Unearthed’ and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the Bible. It’s just a shame that teh Islamic world, whatever their record in the Middle Ages, doesn’t take archeology seriously nowadays, except in Egypt where it’s a major moneyspinner. Actually enquiring into societies prior to the coming of Islam is a sin/crime, I forget the technical name for it, but it is strictly forbidden.

  61. modernity said,

    Sue R,

    as an atheist, I would take so much of that pre-history with a cupful of salt, but you’ll notice my point concerns Jews in Jerusalem did not depend on it, as I argued:

    “only in the mind of a SWPer would the first six hundreds years, BEFORE* the invention of Islam, not exist nor be of merit?


    *that’s leaving aside the period before AD.”

    because we do not have to rely on archaeology, there are written Roman records so we can gain some outline of events and a degree of sequence even allowing for discrepancies

    which is long, long before the invention of Islam, and that “Golden Age”

    you’ll notice that SWPer’s don’t engage with the question of Jews status in those societies or the ups and downs of their existence over time, to the SWPers it is all a bit like the Potemkin villages

    you won’t hear SWPer discussing the special taxes for Jews, merely existing or the clothing rules, and legal second class citizenship, etc in that “Golden Age”?

    coincidence? or another shibboleth?

  62. Sue R said,

    Modernity, I was not suggesting that you were a Biblical literalist, but all I am saying is that intellectually it is an interesting exercise to KNOW the truth behind myths. I totally agree with you regarding the blinkered nature of SWPers (or anyone with an ideological agenda that has to be accomodated.). I remember a photo that Lenny Lenin used on his blog to illustrate the wickedness of White Zimbabweans and the slave trade. The problem was the phot he used showed an ARAB slave dealer with captured slaves. I pointed this out to him, but I don’t know that he really took it on board. What’s it they say in teh X-files? The Truth is Out There.

  63. modernity said,

    Sue R,

    agreed, the problem is even when you KNOW you’re on solid ground and you take it to the current crop of SWPers on simple stuff, say a sequence of events in any period they’ll bloody well deny it

    so when an SWPer is talking about Jews and Judaism, you almost know 99.99% of the time that they:

    1) haven’t understood it
    2) did get it from scholarly or expert sources
    3) will mangle it to suit their present alliances, etc

    I doubt they read many ‘real’ books outside of Harman’s guff or crap from Rees & co

    shame really, I knew a few SWPers, decades back and they were not stupid, I suppose they have long since left the SWP, or would be spinning in their graves at the SWP’s sucking up to Hamas, etc

  64. modernity said,

    ops, that was:

    did not get it from scholarly or expert sources

  65. dave said,

    “blinkered nature of SWPers”

    oh piss off

  66. modernity said,

    be honest,

    when did you last hear the words:

    SWPer and intellectual (or even intelligent) in the same sentence? (outside of SWP circles)

    you’ve heard of Communist Party intellectuals, well known figures, Thompson, Hill, Hobsbawm, etc

    even Trot intellectuals? Mandel, etc

    whatever you thought of their politics, they were all bright sparks

    but the SWP? err, no, nope, no one comes to mind

    its not like books, thinking and SWPers go together, is it?

  67. dave said,

    Well, does it matter that greatly to you? 😉

  68. Jim Denham said,

    Sean Matgamna once said to me:
    “All the post-Cliff SWP ‘intellectuals’ (with the possible exception of Harman) are – despite their public school educations – really quite thick.”
    How right he was, eg:
    John Molineux, Lenny “Seymour” Antisemite, John “Stupid” Boy, John “Fucked over by Galloway” Rees, Lindsay German, etc etc.

  69. dave said,

    Again, who cares? Does it make you lose sleep at night? Surely best to worry about the number of intellectuals in your own party, that’s your job,.. so how many intellectuals have the AWL got? Well, none, but that’s my opinion.

  70. dave said,

    Anyway, I’m pretty sure only Callinicos went to public school

  71. Stephen Marks said,

    Modernity seems to think that JohnG’s account of the history of Judaism is coloured by his and the SWP’s political stance on Zionism and Palestine. If that is true of anybody, it is more true of Modernity. In particular, the idea that the Jews were ‘ethnically cleansed’ from Palestine by the Romans, though convenient for Zionists, is not seriously held by any modern historians.

    For a succinct explanation of why see http://themagneszionist.blogspot.com/2007/07/no-rivkele-there-wasnt-roman-exile-of.html

    The author, who blogs as ‘The Magnes Zionist’, is not a supporter of the SWP, or indeed a marxist of any sort, but an observant orthodox Jew, and a university lecturer in Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. As the name of his blog suggests, he is a follower of the late Rabbi Judah Magnes, founder of the Hebrew University, and a ‘cultural zionist’ who favoured a binational Palestine, in the tradition of Buber and Arendt.

  72. Stephen Marks said,

    On the other hand, JohnG is surely wrong to accuse Paul Fauvet of supporting the ethnic cleansing of the Krajina Serbs simply because he maintains that Croatia was entitled to reoccupy the territory. After all one can maintain that Czechoslovakia was entitled to reoccupy the Sudetenland in 1945 without therefore approving of the ethnic cleansing of the Germans.

    It is true that the peculiar structure of Titoite Yugoslavia meant that all questions of economic policy tended to be ‘ethnicised’. But the first person to take this process beyond the institutional bounds and limits set by Tito was Milosevic.

    Serb nationalists always knew how to disguise Serbianism as a certain sort of ‘Yugoslavianism’ – the dominant nationality in multinational societies always use this sort of ‘internationalism’, as Lenin knew in his warnings against bureaucratic Great Russian chauvinism. For those aware of the coded language in which these things were discussed under Titoism, it was clear what Milosevic was up to, before Tudjman was ever elected in Croatia. That was a political choice which Milosevic made. Communist leaders in other parts of Eastern Europe made different choices, although history left just as much inflammable material lying about in Hungary, poland and Romania.

  73. modernity said,

    Stephen wrote:

    “Modernity seems to think that JohnG’s account of the history of Judaism is coloured by his and the SWP’s political stance on Zionism and Palestine.”

    Stephen thank you for your contribution.

    Did you read all that I wrote in this thread ? seriously did you?

    Because if you did, I wonder if you too shared my confusion?

    If I asked YOU, about Jerusalem, would you (as JohnG did) bang on about Baghdad?

    If, hypothetically speaking, I asked you a very specific point, and emphasised it was about Jerusalem, surely even you would be able to answer about Jerusalem?

    No, I didn’t specifically think it was the SWP’s position which governed JohnG’s comments, and I am more than happy to explain away his comments as stupidity, ignorance rather than malice.

    But it did occur to me, afterwards, why do the SWP go on about the “golden age of Islam” and yet never seem to look at the particulars of Jews existence during it, special taxes, forced to wear certain clothes, etc.

    I just wondered ?

    do you know the answer? why would the SWP and its intellectuals be so reluctant to spell out the nature of the Jews second class/third class citizenship under the “golden age”? why?

    thanks for the link I always enjoyed reading The Magnes.

  74. Sue R said,

    Although Biblical archeology is considered an irrelevancy here in Britain, in Israel it is highly political. A museum of Palestinian antiquities opened in Gaza on July 25th, owned as a tourist attraction by a Palestinian businessman, Jawdat N Khoudary it displays objects dug up by his contruction workers (he owns a building firm) oar dragged up by local fishermen, There is an account in the New York Times with teh headline, ‘Museum Offers Gray Gaza a View of its Dazzling Past’, as well as other accounts in other papers and on the BBC. Mr Khoudary is calling it ‘El Mak’haf’, arabic for musuem and a word hardly heard in Gaza (he says). He has to be circumspect about what he displays, a full-breasted statue of Aphrodite is not on display and he had to clear a the display of a piece of masonery with two crosses on it. There are many Gazan artefacts in the Israel Museum, dug up by Israeli archeologists during the 60s and 70s. The curator Dr Dothan says she would be happy to arrange a long term loan to the Gazans if there was stability and peace in the Gaza strip.

    The sin/crime for enquiring into pre-Islamic society is called Jahihiyyah. Many pre-Islamic objects have been destroyed and defaced in Palestine, including sacred sites such as the Tomb of Joseph in Hebron. Article 20 of the PLO Charter makes it an offense to suggest that Jews lived in Gaza or Palestine before 1948 or had any history at all with the area. It’s not necessary to go back to Roman days by the way to find evidence of Jewish occupation, apparently in 1929 there was an Arab pogrom against Jewish inhabitants where Jews were chased out.

    As I said before, whatever beason of reational knowledge the Islamic world may have been in the twelfth century, it ain’t it now.

  75. Voltaire's Priest said,


    If you don’t care what anyone else thinks of the “pah’ee” then why are you so sensitive to criticism of it?

  76. Andrew Coates said,

    So Islamic civilisation was a light to” a backward, flyblown, ignorent, and undepeloped christian west.” I suppse those those ignorant fly-infested and baclward lands were just longing to be invaded and ruled by the superior Caliphate.

    Or not.

    Johng is pretty ignorant of the history of Western philosophy to say the least. I suppose that Boethius and Saint Augustine, who were the key figrues for centuries transmitting ancient philsophy, were part of this insect life. Have you actually read them? King Alfred, another ignorant mite-infested type, did and translated part of the Consolation of Philsophy – which, like Augustine’s Confessions, contains interesting ideas on time and eternity. Philosophy in Europe existed before Averoes, as any reader of Aberlard and Heloise’s letters (they knew Greek as well), can tell you.

    The point is not to deny that the various Arab language thinkers transmtited ancient Greek ideas, with commentaries and innvoations of their own. It is that there is a bizarre claim that this is somehow the fruit of *Islam* – which it clearly is not, since to cite just one obvious example, the Qu’ran is a pile of poetic cack with as much philosophical and scientific rigour as Gensis.

  77. johng said,

    St Augustine Andrew was not a European. God almighty what an idiot. Modernity I simply have no idea what your talking about. You asked me why Jerusalem was not a centre of Jewish life (apparently in the mistaken belief that I didn’t know anything about the stories of the Babylonian exile or the fall of the Temple). I answered you by stating that the majority of Jews had not been resident in Jerusalem from long before the fall of the temple, and that prior to that, I didn’t think the fact that the centres of Jewish life were in Athens and Alexandria rather then Jerusalem was because they were all in ‘exile’. You have become tremendously upset and attempted to persuade yourself that I have either misunderstood your question or am engaged in an excercise seeking to deny that Jews lived in Jerusalem before the 7th century AD (why you think this I have no clue). My argument was entirely different. That the greatness of Jewish cultural and economic life, and what Judaism actually became, was related to its Hellenic and later Islamic contexts, precisely in the periods that contemporary theologians would regard as exile. Jewish life in the Roman Empire was far richer then anything that existed at the time the OT was written (estimated anytime between 7th century BC and 4th Century BC) and Jewish kingdoms during the same period were far larger and more significant then the little feuding tribal federations of mud huts that existed prior to this, and whose very existence can hardly be established. The development of Jewish life during the ensuing Islamic centuries was similarly rich, and is not best understood as an ‘exile’ but part of how Judaism came to be what it is today. If not for that experiance its doubtful if Judaism would even exist. Its the product of that history not something which exists in spite of it. Just how many kingdoms from the 7th century exist today Modernity? The only reason that the idea of the Jewish nation even exists today is because of the theology of exile. But this is theology. In terms of ‘second class citizenship’ of course nothing of the kind existed in the Islamicate world or indeed in the western christian world (although this privilage of second class citizenship did exist in the Roman world). This for the simple reason that there were no ‘citizens’ during this period. Its a bloody absurdity. Sue R for some reason seems to believe that the relatively undeveloped state of the middle east today in relationship to the western world somehow undermines my argument. I have absolutely no idea why.

    In relationship to Marks perfectly correct description of Serbian nationalism posing as Yugoslavian nationalism I would not dissent in the slightest. My argument is better captured in Fauvet’s critique of me in not making any distinctions politically between Croatian ethnic cleansers and Serb ethnic cleansers. I don’t.

  78. tim said,

    Do you make any distinction between regaining territory and a massacre of 8000 prisoners?

  79. modernity said,

    JohnG wrote:

    “You asked me why Jerusalem was not a centre of Jewish life”

    er. NO, and No again, I asked a slightly more subtle question:

    WHY that occurred and how it pertained specifically to Jerusalem, got that J-E-R-U-S-A-L-E-M

    anyway on to more of your idiocy, JohnG wrote:

    “In terms of ’second class citizenship’ of course nothing of the kind existed in the Islamicate world or indeed in the western christian world (although this privilage of second class citizenship did exist in the Roman world).”

    strange, how you become extremely legalistic and picky when it suits you?

    anyone else would read it differently, how Jews were treated as second-class citizens

    But let’s get to specifics:

    are you denying that Jews had to pay special taxes, for merely existing in this “Golden Age”?

    Do you deny that Jews were not seen as equals, in the “Golden Age”?

    Do you deny that they were often compelled to wear special dress codes, to distinguish them from Muslims?

  80. johng said,

    I don’t deny any of those things Modernity. This was true right across the world at this time of innumerable social groups in innumarable polities. It was however considerably more liberal then anything that existed elsewhere at the time.

    It occured modernity largely because Jerusalem only becomes a great city with the rise of great empires on either side of it which then led to the development of trade and society which allowed Jews to get out of it. Otherwise Jerusalem would still be a few mud huts, if that, and the Jewish religion would not be remembered in the contemporary world. Being ground between different empires was hardly unusual in those days, and is not in itself an explanation.

  81. johng said,

    No Tim. I equate ethnic cleansing with ethnic cleansing. Do you?

  82. modernity said,

    JohnG wrote:

    “This was true right across the world at this time of innumerable social groups in innumarable polities. “

    again, confusing the issue

    we are talking of specifics, why do you find it so fucking hard to talk to the POINT?

    you can’t treat Jews as people can you?

    you are loath to mention them as people, just as a few passing references here and there, footnotes in history against the backdrop of the “Golden Age”

  83. tim said,

    Do you make any distinction between regaining territory and a massacre of 8000 prisoners?

    No Tim. I equate ethnic cleansing with ethnic cleansing. Do you?

    As was pointed out to you earlier in the thread, the Czechs regaining the Sudetenland,Croats regaining the Krajina, or Poles regaining control of german populated areas of Poland are not the same as killing 8000 prisoners as part of a programme to eradicate adult males of a specific group.

  84. johng said,

    Not at all Modernity. The literature I referenced, and which you dismissed, treats Jews precisely as people, with a real historical existence, development, and culture, which like other peoples is bound up with the age in which they lived and the social transformations of that age. The only thing relevent about your whole approach to this discussion is your refusal to the do the same.

  85. modernity said,

    listen shit for brains, JohnG

    I did not dismiss ANY literature, show me where I did?

    on the contrary, I like scholarly works, and they wouldn’t dismiss Jews either, but you are INCAPABLE of referring to Jews as anything of significance

    want evidence?

    look back at your own posts, they pass over Jews as people, as part of history, to you they are nothing, a mere add-on to the “Golden Age”

  86. johng said,

    Modernity you dismissed a three volume work which referred to one article. The fact that you respond with such hysterical bigotry to references to an islamic golden age and the place of jewish culture and thought within it, suggests that you should refrain from reading scholarly literature in any objective fashion and simply cherry pick works which confirm your prejudices. I really wouldn’t want to be responsible for giving you a hernia or anything and your perfectly entitled to your nationalist view of history. however you might refrain from your bigoted attacks on people who don’t share your views.

  87. johng said,

    Tim who said it was? However ethnic cleansing is ethnic cleansing, a proposition which seems to be beyond you.

  88. modernity said,

    JohnG wrote:

    “Modernity you dismissed a three volume work which referred to one article.”

    er, no, again, I dismissed YOUR quick web search, not that author, who appears to be an expert in this field.

    Not that you’ve probably READ him, just the product of your google skills!

  89. tim said,

    Would the removal of Jews from the West Ban be ethnic cleansing John?

  90. modernity said,

    JohnG wrote:

    “…hysterical bigotry…your prejudices…your nationalist view of history…your bigoted attacks…”

    ahh the age old SWP tactic, when their backs up against a wall call other people “racists and bigots”, it is a good deflection, but a bit boring when you’ve seen it used for decades

    my point is that you have a simplistic and dismissive view of Jews under Islamic rule, and in particular the Gold Age

    there is a great deal of complexity to this subject and your wish to largely erase and present a sanitised view of that period is instructive for its political malevolence, as well as demonstrating your intellectual bankruptcy, as an academic, you cannot see any finesse, you cannot see any subtlety, it is all broad brushes to you

    strange, how this goes along with your current political agenda and recent past alliances

    obviously they are not connected! oh yeah

  91. johng said,

    Sorry WHAT is simplistic and dismissive? Your own stupid attempts to engage in a discussion as far as I can see. Please identifty exactly what is stupid and dismissive (your MO modernity is simply to begin by assuming a standard set of cliches about the anti-imperialist left and then to shoehorn everything they say into such a framework. if this fails you just make shit up or on the other hand ask them a ‘pointed question’ about another topic. Its deeply tedious. As are your constant attempts to slander me personally on the basis of no evidence whatsoever.

    No Tim, I would not regard the removal of the settlements as ‘ethnic cleansing’ and nor would any other sensible person.

  92. tim said,

    Would you regard the removal of Jews from other parts of Palestine as ethnic cleansing?

  93. tim said,

    No Tim, I would not regard the removal of the settlements as ‘ethnic cleansing’ and nor would any other sensible person.

    If all of the settlers were rounded up and shot, in the same circumastances as Srebrenica, I presume you’d see that as ethnic cleansing?

  94. Bookmakers Odds said,

    I think we can see whats coming here.
    1/2 on JohnGs logic leading him to the conclusion that there is one group of people in the world, whose forced removal and/ or killing, are not covered by his definition of Ethnic Cleansing.

  95. johng said,

    The removal of Jews from the rest of Palestine would be ethnic cleansing. The removal of settlements built to progress a military occupation would not be. I should think that should be clear enough. Although what on earth this has to do with the discussion at hand I have no idea.

  96. tim said,

    Just trying to probe your logic John.

    In your opinion, were the Arabs settled in Kurdistan under Saddams Arabisation programmes “progressing a military operation”
    And are the Chinese in Tibet, or Moroccans in Western Sahara.

  97. johng said,

    The situations are not at all analogous. In the cases you mention what you have is regimes insisting that the various peoples should consider themselves to be Iraqi or Chinese. The Israeli’s are not demanding that Palestinians become Israeli’s.

  98. tim said,

    So the Jewish settler,(whose presence I disagree with by the way) are the only group in the whole world,who by your definition of ethnic cleansing, could be massacred without that massacre being categorized as ethnic cleansing.

    Or are there other groups John?
    Can you think of one.

  99. Sue R said,

    Do you mean the Bosnians? or Croats?

  100. modernity said,


    I doubt JohnG will lower himself to answer, but Sue R.

    I didn’t realise that about the PLO charter.

    I confess limited knowledge of archaeology and I think the pre-history period is very specialised.

    my earlier point (which Stephen Marks seem to misread) was in terms of the Roman writings and how we can derive a lot from them indirectly

    clearly, ANY written account (from the works of josephus to the Benn diaries and beyond) can aim to portray a particular angle, settle old scores, justify political schemes or suck up to new rulers, etc but in doing so they reveal a lot of indirect information

    eg. who was at a particular meeting on a certain day, the general tone of events, the admin structures in organisations, etc

    which when cross referenced does expand our knowledge of events and actions

    related to Jerusalem, 0 AD (or whatever it is called, 1 AD?) it at least tells us of the Jewish presence in that City, straight from Roman sources

    Not even the SWP could call it a “Zionist” invention! (try as they might), some 600 years before that “Golden Age”

  101. modernity said,

    PS: Marko’s post HP seems good

  102. Sue R said,

    Modernity: I found the reference to the PLO Charter on a website belonging to an Isreali, Emet m’Tsiyon. I assume it is true and not a lie.

  103. modernity said,

    Sue R

    there’s an english version of the PLO Charter, somewhere, I’ll look it up


    reading Marko’s piece on HP

    do you believe that Srebrenica was NOT genocide, Seymour holds that view

    “That is true, and strange: the massacre of thousands of men of military age is an atrocity, but under no reasonable definition is it genocide.


    or is genocide denial one step too far for even you?

    please do let us know, I sincerely hope that you will distance yourself from Seymour’s position

  104. modernity said,

    Sue R,

    I think this is what you meant:

    “The Palestinian National Charter: Resolutions of the Palestine National Council July 1-17, 1968”

    “Article 20:

    The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void.

    Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood.

    Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.” [my emphasis]


    well I never, puts a different light on things, but in fairness, it is from 1968, so might have changed a bit? not sure

  105. Andrew Coates said,

    Just one to Johng: Saint Augustine received his Education in Latin, he spent a lot of time in Italy, and he was an remains a pillar of European culture. He is thought possibly to have been ethnically Kabylle. Augustine of Hippo is a good example of how bogus it is to fix labels on someone by religion(such as Islamic) can obscure a more complex reality. IN any case I have proved my point beyond any doubt that European cultrue was some benighted hell-hole before the Islamic light was brought to it.

    Modernity I hope you realise that Hoare’s involvement with the Henry Jackson Society (named after a very Cold Warrior) does not endear him to the left, or anyone who’s a sincere democrat opposed to extending American world leadership by force.

    He is however right about those who refused to ‘take sides’ between warring military factions in the break-up of Yugoslavia tilting to one-side, or in fact anyone taking an interest in the horrors being partisan. He was and is clearly anti-Serb. Johng is surely justified in saying ethnic cleansing is ethnic cleansing, even if he too seems to become stareblind when it comes to the Middle East. Johng quotes Misha Glenny who specifically criticised Hoare’s mother for her backing for Croatian nationalism, and Glenny’s comments rang true at the time.

    There is a long potential discussion about who was ‘to blame’ for the horrors unleashed in the break up of the Yougslav Federal state (my own preference was for federalism, since I am a European federalist and if it cannot work on a small scale what hope is there for a larger federation?)

    The point now is: do you stand for the on the prosceution of those who committed war crimes during that period? Seymour lets mruderers off the hook by his relativism: there should be *No exceptions* in pursuing killers, from wahtever side. And it is starkly obvious that the Serbs were responsible for the most outstandingly revolting acts and merit whatever a – flawed – Court decides.

  106. modernityblog said,


    point taken, I do think, whatever Marko’s views in other areas he IS an expert on the Balkans and has many very well informed views on the region.

    agreed about the prosecution of all those guilty of war crimes in the Balkans, including troops from Western nations.

    Let’s be honest a LOT of the Left didn’t exactly cover themselves with political glory when it came to analysing the breakup of Yugoslavia.

    and you too noticed, JohnG’s, err, blind spot !

  107. voltairespriest said,


    Point taken about Hoare. But… I just can’t stand the man!

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