Bullshit Baffles Brains

August 3, 2008 at 2:36 pm (islamism, reaction, religion, SWP, voltairespriest)

SecularismIan Birchall has penned an article for Bob “Islamophobia Watch” Pitt’s pet journal What’s Next, in which he offers what in my view is a feeble justification for the SWP’s ongoing obsession with offering support to reactionary political-religious groupings in the name of “anti-imperialism”. Called “So what is secularism?” the article pertains to be a reply to a previous article by Andrew Coates of this parish. Andrew, of course, writes frequently on this issue and takes a particularly “militant” view of what constitutes a secular state.

I myself wouldn’t attach the weight to the question of legislating secularism that Andrew does, and I would sharply disagree with him about specific issues such as the French ban on the hijab in schools. However, the sheer disingenuity of Birchall’s article is quite breathtaking. Comparing the views people have of Voltaire to those they take of George Galloway, he points out that the 18th Century philosopher cosied up to Frederick the Great. This, of course, he did. Nevertheless quite what relevance this has to a conversation about the secular state, or indeed to Galloway’s reprehensible crawling to Saddam Hussein and other Baathist high-ups, is beyond me.

Going on to talk about prominent religious-political figures, Birchall mentions Martin Luther King and Malcolm X as people who (perhaps) “Coates would like to ban” and whose religion was a motivation for their political activity. Whilst the latter point is true, again here Birchall is being slippery because he ignores the fact that neither man left a legacy of, nor was primarily known for, religious politics. This is very different from the SWP’s co-inhabitants of the Stop the War Coalition and (prior to the split) Respect, who are the Muslim Brotherhood’s UK offshoot, the Muslim Association of Britain. This is not to mention their wackier associates such as Dr “Dancing Cows” Naseem of the Birmingham Central Mosque… and the Islamic Party of Britain. The political reality here is that whereas a coalition with people who happen to have a religious faith could obviously be built around a single issue, actively forming political blocs with religious-political parties is a very different matter. Birchall, of course, brushes over this rather crucial distinction.

Similarly, he fudges the issue of class-versus-“faith community” politics by simply saying that most Muslims are working class. This is a vacuous statement (most Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Atheists are also working class), but one which again he uses to sidestep the issue of the SWP’s relating to so-called “faith communites” primarily on the basis of their religion and not the politics of class. Of course he doesn’t defend this, because to do so would be to concede that his party no longer has secular politics at all.

Nevertheless his article appears to have impressed some people who should know better. I myself on the other hand am sick of watching SWP’ers characterising this debate as being between those who actively hate religious people (the various straw man “-ophobes” that they are so fond of bashing), and those who are not (those who agree with the SWP). If only a mature debate could be had about the separation of church and state, and if only those on the left who take the position that it is progressive somehow to work with reactionary religious-political forces would set out an honest stall in defence of doing so, we might make some headway. That’s my wish, but I guess I’ll not be holding my breath waiting to see it fulfilled.

48 Comments

  1. modernityblog said,

    Birchall wrote:

    “Where does this leave the hijab? Coates claims it is oppressive. I have my doubts. My old mother, a very proper Christian lady, used to wear a headscarf – whether to quell lust or just in order to look respectable I don’t know. The “simple fact” is that in the customs of most societies men and women dress differently. The logic of Coates’ position – that women should not wear the hijab because men don’t – is that women should be obliged to bathe topless in public swimming pools.”

    so Birchall is suggesting that dress codes only for women, and ONLY women are not oppressive? or he’s still not convinced?

    I find it hard to believe that Birchall went thru the 1960/70s and didn’t take in any of the feminists point’s concerning enforced dress codes for women?

  2. Nuke Matgamna said,

    Zionist twat.

  3. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Git a jawb.

  4. Nuke Matgamna said,

    It’s Sunday arse hole.

  5. Andrew Coates said,

    I’m afraid the historic debate between Birchallism and Coatesism took place some while back. See reply to Birchall:

    http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Latest/Birchallreply.html

    I retract nothing. Merely note that the accusation that Respect Galloway-style involved compromises with communalism (Islamicist variety) has since been repeated frequently by Birchall’s own comrades.

    As for people who should know better…(if they knew anything to begin with, educated as she was in a Convent where Voltaire and Dideroit remained on the Index) One is always told that swimming with dolphins brings peace and contentment Our aquatic ally, after no doubt a few sips of her truest (and no doubt only) friend, Chateau Shiraz, is entitled to her ructions, even if they are well over two years too late. No doubt she was under instructions from ol’ Purple Socks himself and the rest of the Papist cabel running high politics.

  6. modernityblog said,

    Reading Birchall’s comments I was struck by how it shows his limited intellectual reach:

    “I find Coates’ definition of secularism – “the freedom of the public sphere from religious dogma” – profoundly unhelpful, because it is so imprecise. If he means that there should be complete separation of church and state, then I have no problems. …”

    in a few words Birchall reveals that he can barely imagine what secularism is?

    then he goes on to:

    “But Coates apparently wants to ban religion, not just from the apparatus of the state, but from “the public sphere”. Now the fact is that a great many people hold religious beliefs, and inevitably their political conduct will be influenced by their beliefs. Those of us who are atheists may deplore this, and those of us who are Marxists may offer a sociological explanation. But we can hardly prevent it happening. “

    so does that mean if Birchall had been in the US, then he might have gone along with Chief Justice Roy Moore** ?

    because he wouldn’t want to prevent it or offend Fundi Xitians?

    Is Birchall capable of imagining a society where ostentatious signs of religious expression are minimalised, where religious groups are not privileged merely for their beliefs? and a wider secular space is created, but that allows for religious freedom, if people so wish.

    no,

    then again Birchall was a leading SWPer, so we shouldn’t be surprised by his rigid thinking, or his indirect justification for SWP’s policies.

    relax Chief Justice Moore, SWP is going to support you!! Birchall to the rescue 🙂


    **
    “MONTGOMERY, Alabama (CNN) — Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was suspended Friday pending the outcome of an ethics complaint for defying a federal court order to move a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court building. ”

    http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/08/22/ten.commandments/

  7. chjh said,

    The idea that Martin Luther King “wasn’t really known for his religious politics” won’t really survive reading any of the histories of the period. His speeches and his writing are suffused with religious imagery; the movement took black churches not just as their primary meeting points, but also as units of organisation; the movement’s songs were overwhelmingly religious in inspiration. And what of the organisation he founded and led – the Southern Christian Leadership Conference? It’s difficult to see what that name was intended to convey, other than religious politics.

  8. modernityblog said,

    as imagery is generally contemporary to the history of societies then the use of such language is a different point from invoking religious POLITICS

    language, politics, one a method of expression, the other the interaction of people based on a set of agreed views or towards a goal, close but not the same.

    even those who are NOT religious might invoke religious imagery as it often connects, but to rely on that as the ONLY intellectual vehicle for connecting with people’s consciousness is another matter entirely

    Birchall’s trite point:

    “But there are also many cases of a very different sort. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were both motivated by religious belief; would Coates have excluded them from the “public sphere”?”

    no, but that’s obvious

    still I doubt that had MLK wanted to create a SOLELY communalist organisation, publishing its narrow agenda and not much else, then he wouldn’t had had the impact that he had

    MLK’s impact came when he went beyond those limited organisations and connected with a wider milieu

  9. Wally Wibblywellies said,

    “MLK’s impact came when he went beyond those limited organisations and connected with a wider milieu.”

    The Feb 15 demo was called by STW, CND and MAB. Presumably this isn’t a ‘wider milieu’? Looked pretty wide to me. Ever seen a picture of Hyde Park from above that day, when the entire park was full of people?

  10. modernityblog said,

    the 15th of Feb 2003 demo was very large, anywhere between 800,000 to a million plus, depending on the source

    but anyone politically realistic, with a sense of history, would hardly compare street theatre in London to MLK, the American Civil Rights movement and all that comprised?

    in the end, you have to ask, what did it achieve?

    UK-wise, not a lot, made people feel good, I even got a T-shirt, but that counts for nought when viewed from the stand point of the American Civil Rights movement and the difficulty of their struggle

    Still I suppose we must allow the SWP their momentary delusions of grandeur?

    btw, 5 years on, what is there to show for it?

  11. Voltaire's Priest said,

    What you have to ask yourself also Wibbly, is what are the MAB’s actual politcs? They represent something politically very different to what MLK did, and not because of the different religions involved. A better comparison would be with the Evangelicals who work within the GOP.

  12. Voltaire's Priest said,

    PS Incidentally I was on that demonstration so I don’t need to see the pictures.

  13. Wally Wibblywellies said,

    “street theatre in London”

    Nuff said. The largest political demonstration in British history was ‘street theatre’. This could only be said by people who are soft on the war.

    “not because of the different religions involved.”

    Oh but it is!

    “A better comparison would be with the Evangelicals who work within the GOP.”

    I think that it more useful to compare many in this milieu with them. Especially since many of them are Christian Zionists, who have much in common with the ‘pro-war left’ and its hangers-on over the Middle East. They tend to support the same (imperialist) wars, hate and demonise the same political trends, that kind of thing.

  14. Wally Wibblywellies said,

    Especially given Matgamna’s latest little escapade. Will he be doing Beach Boys impressions a la John McCain for entertainment at future left socials?

  15. modernityblog said,

    Wally Wibblywellies wrote:

    “This could only be said by people who are soft on the war.”

    tut tut, another SWer or their mates, who can’t read what people write eh?

    I wrote:

    “I even got a T-shirt,”

    which translated for those dim witted SWPer/their muckers, means I was at both of the first two anti-war demo.

    again, cos you won’t have got it:

    I was against the invasion

    AGAINST!

    still that won’t register because you fail to answer the key point:

    “what did it achieve?”

  16. entdinglichung said,

    to summarize this: the “political agenda” of people like MLK, Camilo Torres or Mahmoud Mohamed Taha was rooted in their respective religion but the conclusion they drew from this was to engage in a struggle for a just society with equal rights for everybody … islamists or the dominion theologists in the US want to install a hierarchical and authoritarian political system where “non-believers” haver fewer or no rights … but probably, this is to complicate for SWP-members, etc.

  17. More on the pro-faith left « Max Dunbar said,

    […] on the pro-faith left There’s an interesting debate going on at Shiraz Socialist. A rousing defence of secularism by Andrew Coates has provoked this response by Ian Birchall – a […]

  18. modernityblog said,

    Max Dunbar’s analysis is rather good.

  19. maxdunbar said,

    Cheers Modernity. Appreciated.

  20. Wally Wibblywellies said,

    “I was against the invasion”

    Why should your supposed ‘opposition’ to the invasion register? Do you want a medal? In reality, the political agenda you promote is to build support for future wars, irrespective of your personal squeamishness.

    “What did it acheive”

    Well, it didn’t stop the war, that’s for certain. But then very few wars have been stopped by protest movements, however massive. You could criticise it for not engaging in strikes, mass insurrection, armed sabotage, and a whole array of other non-pacifist tactics, but I guess that’s not where you are coming from, is it?

    You are soft on the ideological rationale for the war, the so-called war against terror, i.e. using a manufactured idelogical crusade against Islam as a tool to build up popular support for wars of this type. Whether or not people like you were on a given anti-war demonstration means very little. You represent the weakest, most backward section of the anti-war movement, the one most likely to go over to supporting future wars.

    So I dont think the genuine left should take any crap on the lines of ‘what did it achieve’ from the likes of you. The problems of how to stop imperialist wars are evident, we don’t need advice from reactionary false friends of the antiwar movement who are likely to be supporting the next war.

  21. modernityblog said,

    Wally Wibblywellies,

    you’re a fairly typical low level muppet, you accused your interlocutors of political sins, then write:

    “So I dont think the genuine left should take any crap on the lines of ‘what did it achieve’ from the likes of you. “

    genuine left?

    who would that be? the SWP? Respect? Galloway? the ISG? Respect Renewal? a pile of tankies?

    so what did it achieve?

    or haven’t you ever thought about it?

  22. Wally Wibblywellies said,

    “who would that be?”

    Certainly not you, that’s for sure.

    “so what did it achieve?”

    Question answered above. Just repeating it ad nauseum does not render my reply to it less valid. Its a classic diversionary tactic, if you don’t like someone’s answer, repeat the question incessantly and the answer (hopefully) vanishes from view. Are you Jeremy Paxman by any chance?

  23. Wally Wibblywellies said,

    “a pile of tankies”

    Oh, and if anyone deserves to be called ‘tankies’ in this day and age, its the likes of you and Matgamna.

    Its Israeli tanks you cheer for.

  24. modernityblog said,

    Wally Wibblywellies,

    so you are one of John Rees’ slow witted lackeys?

    that explains a lot

    so the anti-war movements goes from millions, millions to the 10,000s, at best, and it never occurs to you to ask WHY?

    or even think about the issue?

    tragic

    still you can read Mark Steel’s astute observations:

    “When I joined the SWP in 1978 I was instantly impressed by so many aspects of its ideas and methods. But one of the most decisive sides to its character was its honesty. We were proud of what we could achieve and what we could influence, but wary of the exaggerations. In particular, Tony Cliff exhibited an almost impudent scepticism towards any stories that appeared too glorious to be true. But one result of this outlook was that every success reported, no matter how apparently tiny, was genuine and a source of enormous pride.

    How desperately we need a return to that honesty today. For by whatever criteria you wish to use, our party has shrunk to a shadow of the size it was even a few years ago.

    But the most disturbing side to the SWP’s decline has been the refusal to acknowledge this trend is taking place at all. For some time we were told there were ten thousand members, although this was a patently absurd figure.

    This number seems to have been revised downwards, which leaves two possibilities, either that the original figure was wrong or we’ve suddenly lost thousands of members, either one of which should merit a thorough discussion. But far from having one, anyone who has raised the issue has been derided.

    Secondly, the Stop the War Coalition began as a magnificent example of how the ideas of the SWP can influence a movement in the most exhiliarating fashion. But as the massive anti-war march receded into the past, relating to those people who went on it became more complex.

    The most typical attitude seemed to be that while no one regretted going on the march, they couldn’t see that it had made any difference. But instead of analysing how to address this sentiment, the SWP seemed to repeat the tone that suited the frenetic weeks before the war.

    Every march and protest was depicted as a triumph.

    And there was no acknowledgement of the process in which Stop the War meetings and rallies became smaller, and almost devoid of anyone under forty.

    But when the project appears to be collapsing, when the sturdiest of comrades desert in their hundreds,

    and there’s no attempt to raise the issue of why,

    the answer to whether our presence makes a difference is transformed.
    …”

    http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=1051

  25. Wally Wibblywellies said,

    “so you are one of John Rees’ slow witted lackeys?”

    Am I indeed? And you are calling me ‘slow-witted’?

    “and there’s no attempt to raise the issue of why”

    Too many mooslims is I guess your answer. Mine has to do with the limits of pacifist protest movements and the failure to use go beyond protest to mass action, which has revolutionary implications. Something I don’t think you would be too keen on, given your defence of Matgamna’s pro-war ravings. But keep repeating the question, Mr Paxman. It does wonders for the quality of debate.

  26. Waterloo Sunset said,

    But then very few wars have been stopped by protest movements, however massive.

    True. Anti-war movements, specifically, have never achieved the success of something like the anti Poll Tax movement. Or shaken the state in the way the Miner’s Strike did, despite its eventual failure.

    Why is that though? Is it coincidence? Or could it be one of these two factors?

    1) Tactics. Because of the fact the leadership of anti war movements are invariably dominated by the traditional left, the standard leftist lack of tactical flexibility always comes to the fore. March from point A to B. Repeat. One doesn’t have to be secretly pro-war to suggest that destroying them through tedium isn’t viable.

    2) Class composition. I’m not saying that there were no working class people involved in the anti war movement. That would obviously be laughable. In particular, the demonstrations did see a sizeable number of working class Muslim participants. But at the leadership level, it was middle class dominated and that came through in the movement strategy. And that’s what differentiates it from my previous examples. On one hand, the CND pacifist contingent. On the other, only middle class wadicals could seriously consider a slogan like “We are all Hezbollah” a good idea.

    It’s nothing new. The middle class left has always exoticised reactionary overseas movements under the guise of “anti-imperalism”. It’s an abandoment of a class analysis, not an expansion of one.

    Ho, Ho, Ho, Chi Minh, How many Trots have you done in?

  27. modernityblog said,

    I think the Wally Wibblywellies of the anti-war movement are probably part of the reason why it shrunk

    as people left the StWC, he might have called after them “you’re not hard enough!, go on fuck off”

    “go on, you are the weakest, most backward section of the anti-war movement, we don’t need you!”

    “that’s better, back to 3 men and a dog, but we are hard, the genuine left, when can we have a march? I want to wave a placard and shout”

    “let’s go down the Pub and slap each other on the back whilst one of our political masters decides what to do next”

  28. Wally Wibblywellies said,

    “In particular, the demonstrations did see a sizeable number of working class Muslim participants. But at the leadership level, it was middle class dominated and that came through in the movement strategy. And that’s what differentiates it from my previous examples. On one hand, the CND pacifist contingent. On the other, only middle class wadicals could seriously consider a slogan like “We are all Hezbollah” a good idea.”

    On the other hand, if anything, Hizbullah’s social base is a good deal more working class and poor than many of the ‘middle class’ radicals that were chanting such slogans. Which means in my view that the identification was not unhealthy in the way you say. Mind you, that was also a different war (Lebanon, not Iraq).

    Actually, the main reason why anti-war movements are often not as sucessful at developing a class axis than domestic economic issues is because at some level they involve breaking with the perceived interests of the nation, and solidarising with people’s under attack from ‘our’ country. Thatcher knew that very well, which is why she tried to portray the miners as ‘the enemy within’ and attempted to identify them with ‘enemies’ without (Galteiri, Libya, the USSR) etc.

    But actually, given Lebanon was under direct attack from Israel which had the support of Britain and the United States, it was imperative to solidarise with the Lebanese resistance, which meant Hizbullah (who were actually doing the fighting). That was quite right, and those who refused to solidarise with those resisting deserve to be called more backward. Class politics does not mean refusing to take sides when an oppressed people are under attack, it means being their most outspoken champions.

  29. modernityblog said,

    Anna Chen’s comments are good at illustrating the issues:

    “Having run the SA into the ground, the SWP now threaten to do the same to the fragmenting anti-war movement. Many are pointing out that if the SWP/StWC wishes to take credit for getting up to two million protesters onto the streets, they need to explain where that two million have gone, and why everything all but ground to a halt once bombing began.

    In my own case, having established press operations for the StWC after September 11, it was with a sense of bemusement that I found myself accused of the crime of making myself ‘indispensable’ by senior SWP members. I am now banned from doing press for the StWC even though they admit they need help. You’d think I was the Evil Daughter of Fu Manchu rather than a committed activist who plugged a gap previously ignored by the geniuses on the Left.

    The fractures threaten to widen if the StWC – which, after all, now owns the anti-war ‘brand’ – remains obstructive to other anti-war efforts. Their refusal to back the Menwith Hill and Fairford airbase campaigns, hostility towards the Peace Not War CD organisers, and their pre-empting of a Socialist Party-initiated student action by two days, make some suspect they prefer competition to cooperation.

    It would be nice to see all September events being built by the movement as a whole. We’d all rather work with the StWC but what do you do when you oppose the war but no longer trust the movement’s self-appointed leaders?

    If the Left wants to grow it has to decide whether it genuinely wants fresh socialist talent in the movement as it claims it does, or whether it stagnates. The choice is clear – use it or lose it. Everything else is just ice-picks at dawn.”

    http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages///////Politics/Chen.html

    Anna Chen is a former press officer of the Socialist Alliance and Stop the War Coalition.

  30. Wally Wibblywellies said,

    One further point is that if the anti-war movement had found a way, by some quasi-revolutionary method, of getting the government by the short and curlies, it would not have driven people away. It would have energised them and drawn many more into the struggle. It might have driven away some … Modernity seems to be volunteering that he would have been driven away … but not those who drifted away because they didn’t see that yet more demonstrations would achieve anything but were open to stronger methods. Really, what was needed for this to happen was a broader radicalisation, so that sections of organised workers use their muscle nothwithstanding war propaganda and the lot. How to acheive that is a difficult political-strategic question … easy to talk about, hard to acheive. But don’t think that making the anti-war movement more friendly to people who were wavering about the war is the way to promote such radicalisation. That is the opposite of a correct strategy.

  31. modernityblog said,

    Wally Wibblywellies,

    I’d like to discuss the problems of the anti-war movement, I really would, but as you assume (wrongly) that you know all and the rest of us know n’wot then any discussion with you is futile.

  32. modernityblog said,

    PS: I don’t think Anna Chen or Mark Steel EVER “were wavering about the war”

  33. Wally Wibblywellies said,

    Modernity challenges me to debate the problems of the antiwar movement. When I do so, he decides he doesn’t like what I say and therefore he doesn’t want to debate after all. Oh and ‘PS’, Mark Steel and Anna Chen are not involved in this discussion. I doubt he speaks for them. I think they might resent his implication that he does.

  34. modernityblog said,

    www wrote:

    “Modernity challenges me to debate the problems of the antiwar movement. “

    er, no I posed a number of questions but all you wanted to do was to give a monologue

    when you learn how to engage with other people’s points then such a discussion might be possible, but not until

    again (cos I assume you won’t understand), I raised points, you dismissed them, thus it would be futile to bring them up again as you won’t address them either, got that?

  35. Waterloo Sunset said,

    Wally

    On the other hand, if anything, Hizbullah’s social base is a good deal more working class and poor than many of the ‘middle class’ radicals that were chanting such slogans. Which means in my view that the identification was not unhealthy in the way you say.

    True. However, surely you’d accept that we can’t simply judge an organisation by how many working class participants it has? I’d go further then most, in that I question the integrity of any movement supposedly for working class liberation that has an overwhemingly middle class leadership and/or membership. But I wouldn’t claim that being mainly working class is, by itself, enough. Obviously you have to examine an organisation’s political program as well. Would you disagree that Hezbollah are a reactionary, right wing movement who take Iran as their inspiration?

    That aside, even if we take your point about Hezbollah being primarily working class, that in no way negates the point about the fetishisation of foreign groups with dubious politics, by the middle class left. It’s one of the main planks of the Western Maoists.

    Mind you, that was also a different war (Lebanon, not Iraq).

    Well, yes, but we’re talking about the anti war movement in general, no?

    Actually, the main reason why anti-war movements are often not as sucessful at developing a class axis than domestic economic issues is because at some level they involve breaking with the perceived interests of the nation, and solidarising with people’s under attack from ‘our’ country. Thatcher knew that very well, which is why she tried to portray the miners as ‘the enemy within’ and attempted to identify them with ‘enemies’ without (Galteiri, Libya, the USSR) etc.

    That’s a valid point, though I’m not sure it applies in the case of the Iraq war. Opinions polls showed a majority of the population opposed to the war at all times. The question is why that passive support was never able to be harnessed.

    But actually, given Lebanon was under direct attack from Israel which had the support of Britain and the United States, it was imperative to solidarise with the Lebanese resistance, which meant Hizbullah (who were actually doing the fighting). That was quite right, and those who refused to solidarise with those resisting deserve to be called more backward. Class politics does not mean refusing to take sides when an oppressed people are under attack, it means being their most outspoken champions.

    It’s perfectly possible to chew gum and walk at the same time. Opposing the invasion didn’t in any way mean that you had to back an organisation of the nature of Hezbollah. To take the position you’re taking is what led to sections of the left refusing to criticise the actions of Stalin, on the grounds of the Cold War.

    One further point is that if the anti-war movement had found a way, by some quasi-revolutionary method, of getting the government by the short and curlies, it would not have driven people away. It would have energised them and drawn many more into the struggle. It might have driven away some …

    I wouldn’t disagree with that as such, apart from the significant problem that we’re blatantly not in a pre-revolutionary situation at present. Which I think makes “armed insurrection” a non-starter. We have to face facts. The class is demoralised and we have consistantly lost the class war. Until we start to try and counter that domestically, we simply don’t have the strength to affect anything internationally. While “outgunned and outnumbered? Chaaaaaaaaaaaaaarge!” does have the effect of boosting individual morale, I don’t think it’s actually a realistic tactic in the current political climate.

    Mod-

    er, no I posed a number of questions but all you wanted to do was to give a monologue

    when you learn how to engage with other people’s points then such a discussion might be possible, but not until

    again (cos I assume you won’t understand), I raised points, you dismissed them, thus it would be futile to bring them up again as you won’t address them either, got that?

    http://modernityblog.wordpress.com/2008/06/24/open-thread-on-how-to-defeat-the-fascists/#comments

    Lulz. As I believe the young people say.

  36. modernityblog said,

    aye right enough WS 🙂

  37. chjh said,

    Back at #16, endichtlung offers a division into ‘good’ religious politicians and ‘bad’ religious politicians which at least recognises the political dimension of religious politics, even if he/she has a one-dimensional view of Islamists. But the standard ‘militant’ anti-religious viewpoint takes no acount of this – politics based on one’s religion is simply bad, irrespective of the actual politics concerned.

    And of course the huge, trumpeting elephant in the room here is Israel – a state which is founded on, and privileges, a particular religion, yet one whose right to exist as religiously defined these ‘hyper-secularists’ ardently defend.

  38. modernityblog said,

    tut tut, chjh,

    can you, SWPers, go a day without saying “Israel”?

  39. Waterloo Sunset said,

    Chjh

    But the standard ‘militant’ anti-religious viewpoint takes no acount of this – politics based on one’s religion is simply bad, irrespective of the actual politics concerned.

    Based on or influenced/inspired by? Because I think there’s a crucial difference. I think that many of the examples previously given fall into the latter category. MLK’s involvement in the civil rights movement was undoubtably inspired by his religious beliefs. But at no point did he argue society should be governed among those lines.

    Can you think of any examples of theocracies (which is, after all, what any group that bases its politics entirely on religion is calling for) which had “good” politics? The only vague ones I can think of are some of the radical fringes in the English Revolution. And the obvious difference there is that participation in those experiments was voluntary.

  40. chjh said,

    modernity – clearly I can, since I didn’t mention it in my first post. Way to ignore the actual point.

    ws – Among MLK’s religious beliefs were the ideas that all people are equal, and that colour discrimination is wrong. He wanted a society governed by those principles, and he was right to do so. The key point is that it’s entirely possible to base your politics on religious principles without wanting a theocracy – liberation theology, for instance, or many variants of Islamic-derived political activism.

    And yes, I’m opposed to theocracies, but I don’t think that rules out for ever working with people who think differently. One simple example – the issue of Tibet opposes a miltantly atheist government (which calls itself communist) against a political movement which looks to the restoration of a theocracy. Simple militant atheism leads you to line up with China against Tibetan independence.

  41. David T said,

    This debate took place three years ago.

    At that time Birchill’s party was in coalition with Jamaat and the MB. Bob Pitt owed his job to Ken Livingstone, and was assisting him in the same strategy: of allying with, defending and promoting the Islamist far right.

    Three years on.

    Birchill’s party were thrown of the roofs of tower blocks in the East End my their erstwhile comrades. Livingstone’s embrace of the far Right played a significant role in the loss of core voters, and the victory of the buffoonish Boris.

    Osler was right. Birchill was wrong.

  42. Wally Wibblywellies said,

    “when you learn how to engage with other people’s points then such a discussion might be possible, but not until.”

    I ‘engage’ with the likes of you according to the norms of warfare, i.e. ‘engaging’ with the enemy. You evidently require a different kind of engagement, i.e. constructive engagement. In other words, you want your interlocutor to grovel and credit you with good intentions, otherwise you won’t debate. Well tough, I don’t think you have good intentions. So run away from the debate if you choose, it’s no skin off my nose.

  43. Wally Wibblywellies said,

    “Would you disagree that Hezbollah are a reactionary, right wing movement who take Iran as their inspiration?”

    Relative to some of the secular, leftist type organisations that have existed in the past, Hizbullah could be termed right-wing. Relative to the Zionist state that seeks to lord it over Lebanon and the entire Middle East region, it is nevertheless engaged in a progressive struggle (and sporadic war) of resistance. This is why it has generated such enthusiasm from the poorest, most oppressed sections of Lebanese society, not just the Shia incidentally. Despite its militant Shia ideology, it is looked to as a defender of Lebanon in general by downtrodden sections of other communities.

    “It’s perfectly possible to chew gum and walk at the same time. Opposing the invasion didn’t in any way mean that you had to back an organisation of the nature of Hezbollah. To take the position you’re taking is what led to sections of the left refusing to criticise the actions of Stalin, on the grounds of the Cold War.”

    Well, regarding both Iraq and the Israeli war in Lebanon, I would argue that merely opposing the invasion was not enough. It might be the minimum basis for a broad anti-war movement trying to mobilise as many people as possible to protest, but the politically conscious elements in the movement have to argue for something more. Which is taking sides with the targets of imperialism and Zionism, solidarising with their resistance. This requires some level of visible, open solidarity with those doing the fighting. It does not need to be uncritical, but it does need to be upfront and confront chauvinist demonisation head on. Indeed, promoting that kind of radicalisation is key to transcending the crippling of the antiwar movement by pacifism, i.e. the demoralising politics of merely building for the next demonstration.

    “While “outgunned and outnumbered? Chaaaaaaaaaaaaaarge!” does have the effect of boosting individual morale, I don’t think it’s actually a realistic tactic in the current political climate.”

    I wasn’t actually advocating ‘charge’ in any tactical sense. Before we can go on the offensive, there has to be a change of consciousness, a deeper radicalisation, so that sections of society (i.e. the organised working class) will be willing to use their social muscle to defend the targets of imperialism. That is a political task, not a matter of tactical adventures. What I was attacking is the critique of the antiwar movement for not tailoring its politics to the kind of views that dominate this blog. Which in my view shade over towards pro-war reaction. The anti-war movement needs advice like that like it needs a hole in the head.

  44. Jim Denham said,

    At least WW is clear: He *does* positively support clerical fascism and the total destruction of Israel by openly anti-semitic /clerical fascist forces. Most SWP’ers / idiot anti-imperialists tend to avoid coming clean on the issue.

  45. sackcloth and ashes said,

    ‘The Feb 15 [2003] demo was called by STW, CND and MAB. Presumably this isn’t a ‘wider milieu’? Looked pretty wide to me. Ever seen a picture of Hyde Park from above that day, when the entire park was full of people?’

    And how many marchers were these organisations able to get out onto the streets of London five years later? The million or so who turned up to march against the war in 2003 looked at the people like WW who were at the heart of the ‘anti-war’ movement, decided they were twats, and voted with their feet.

    In a sense, what the STWC and MAB did was a Martin Luther King in reverse. He and the civil rights movement (and the anti-Vietnam protesters) started in the hundreds and ended in the millions. The swuppies, other pseudo-leftists and their Islamist chums have done precisely the opposite. And the prize oafishness of the SWP is that their experiences in RESPECT have not taught them any lesson whatsoever – they still tout themselves for theocrats, despite the fact that it’s gained them nothing.

  46. The Vietnam antiwar movement in reverse « Max Dunbar said,

    […] enough. The commentor ‘Sackcloth and Ashes’ made a good point: In a sense, what the STWC and MAB did was a Martin Luther King in reverse. He […]

  47. Lenny’s Bullshit Bingo « Shiraz Socialist said,

    […] hysterical and marginalised dead end in UK politics. Again Seymour doesn’t seem to understand the difference between single-issue campaigns involving people of faith and ‘actively forming political […]

  48. Lenny’s Bullshit Bingo « Max Dunbar said,

    […] hysterical and marginalised dead end in UK politics. Again Seymour doesn’t seem to understand the difference between single-issue campaigns involving people of faith and ‘actively forming political […]

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