Avnery on Romney’s rejection of the ‘two-state solution’

September 30, 2012 at 4:31 pm (Human rights, israel, Jim D, Middle East, palestine, Republican Party, United States)

That wise commentator, Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom, comments upon Mitt Romney’s dangerous and ignorant comments about the Middle East.

Demonstration at a-Ram checkpoint, 2002

Above: Avnery at checkpoint protest

The whole article is essential reading (A Message from Romney at http://www.avnery-news.co.il/english/index.html), but Avnery’s thoughts on Romney’s rejection of the two-state solution, and others who also reject it for a vast range of different reasons, is absolutely spot-on:

THE GIST of Romney’s message is that the two-state solution is dead. This reminds me of Mark Twain’s famous: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

It is now in fashion to say so. Quite a trend. However, different people have different reasons for believing that the two-state solution is dead.

Parents, teachers, pedophiles and cannibals all say they love children. But their motives are not the same. This is also true for the would-be undertakers of the two-state solution. They include:

One: Idealists, who wish for people of different nations to live together in harmony and equality in one state. (I would like them to study the history of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Sudan, and the present situation of the French in Canada, Scots in Britain, Flemish in Belgium and Basques and Catalans in Spain.)

Two: Arabs, who really believe that this is a peaceful way to get rid of Israel.

Three: Settlers, who want to turn the whole of historical Palestine into their dominion and, if possible, “cleanse” the country of non-Jews.

Four: Israelis, who believe that the settlements have created a situation that is “irreversible”. (Meron Benvenisti, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, coined this phrase already in the early 1980s, when there were less than 100 thousand settlers. I told him then that nothing was irreversible except death. Situations created by human beings can be changed by human beings.)

Five: Anti-Zionists, including Jewish anti-Zionists, who hate Zionism indiscriminately, with all its good and bad aspects, and for whom the very existence of a “Jewish” state is an abomination.

Six: Muslim fanatics, who believe that Palestine is a Muslim waqf (religious grant), so that allowing any part of it to non-Muslims is a deadly sin.

Seven: Jewish fanatics, who believe that all of Eretz-Israel, from the Nile to the Euphrates, has been promised to the Jews by God, so that conceding any part of it to non-Jews is a deadly sin.

Eight: Christian fanatics, who believe that the second coming of Jesus Christ will be possible only after the ingathering of all the Jews in this country (with no place in it for anyone else.)

Sorry if I have forgotten someone.

SOME OF these people have invented something called the “one-state solution”. That is an oxymoron. There is a one-state problem, there is no one-state solution.

From time to time it is worthwhile to come back to the basic facts of our life:

There are two peoples living in this country.

Neither of the two will go away. They are here to stay.

While the Arab Palestinians living in the country are still a minority, they will constitute the majority quite soon.

Both peoples are intensely nationalistic.

The two peoples have different cultures, languages, religions, historic narratives, social structures, standards of living. At present, after some 130 years of continuous conflict, there is intense hatred between them.

The possibility that these two peoples could live peacefully in one state, serving in the same army and police, paying the same taxes and abiding by the same laws enacted by the same common parliament, is nil.

The possibility that these two peoples could live peacefully side-by-side in two states, each with its own flag and its own elected government (and its own soccer team), does exist.

Such co-existence can take different forms: from a loose confederation with open borders and free movement to closer forms of evolving structures, like the European Union.

I hope this is not too complicated for Romney to understand. But it may become irrelevant if  — as I fervently hope — he is not elected.

I would hate for an ignoramous to be given the opportunity to learn world affairs on our backs.

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Liddle: “I could not remotely conceive of not trying to shag the kids”

September 30, 2012 at 11:53 am (child abuse, children, crime, Jackie Mcdonough, law)

Rod Liddle is one of those people, like Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Littlejohn, about whom I rarely comment, here or anywhere else. Partly because these people are such utter cocks that comment is generally otiose. Also because getting lefties and liberals annoyed is exacly what these people aim for (he only does it to annoy / because he knows it teases) and I don’t want to play into their hands.


(Rod Liddle is associate editor of The Spectator. He writes a weekly column in the magazine, as well as contributing to The Sunday Times and The Sun).

Nevertheless, I feel obliged to draw your attention to a piece in this week’s Specator where Mr Liddle appears not just to excuse the sexual exploitation of pupils by teachers, but to confess (or boast) that had he become a teacher…well, read an excerpt for yourself:

“I never found out [what sort of teacher I’d be] because the one thing stopping me from being a teacher was that I could not remotely conceive of not trying to shag the kids. It seemed to me to be virtually impossible not to, and I was convinced that I’d be right in there, on day one. We’re talking secondry school level here, by the way – and even then I don’t think I’d have dabbled much below year ten, as it is now called. I just thought we ought to clear that up early on. At my old comprehensive school a few teachers were known to be schtupping the pupils: one of them, a female teacher who was extremely foxy in a Pot Noodle scuzzy kind of way — she copped off with some fifth-form lad, and another teacher (a man with a guitar and a faux rebellious attitude) gained the affections of an extremely attractive fourth-form girl. As pupils, we didn’t remotely mind about this and both teachers were very popular. But I knew, when I was considering my career options, that this sort of behaviour was definitely frowned upon by the authorities and that I would not last the week in my new job. Frowned upon, although not much more, I ought to say — certainly not the deranged howling that is kicked up these days, the fury and the righteous anger.”

NB: The Sexual Offences Act, 2003 makes it a criminal offence for a teacher to have any form of sexual contact with any pupil at their school who is below the age of 18, even if the pupil is above the legal age of consent. Such “abuse of a position of trust” also applies to carers and trainers of young people under the age of 18 in any other institution.


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Seumas Milne on ‘Stalin’s missing millions’

September 29, 2012 at 4:30 pm (apologists and collaborators, crime, grovelling, Guardian, hell, history, Human rights, Jim D, murder, Russia, stalinism)

This article by Seumas Milne, written shortly before the final collapse of the USSR, appeared in the Guardian of March 10 1990. It is not available anywhere else online (as far as I can tell), nor is it included in the new book, wonderfully entitled The Revenge of History, made up of the “cream” of Milne’s Guardian columns. We publish the piece as a service to the international workers’ movement and in the interests of the study of moral and political bankruptcy:


From THE GUARDIAN Saturday March 10 1990

The figure of 25 million deaths that is being attributed to the Stalin regime should be revised in the light of glasnost reports. Seumas Milne analyses new Soviet data that records much lower gulag populations

Stalin’s missing millions

All over South-east of England billboards have appeared in the past week declaring: “Once upon a time there was an uncle who murdered  25 million of his children.” Next to this startling slogan is a photograph of the man who was the undisputed leader of the Soviet Union for a generation, hugging an Aryan-looking Young Pioneer with pigtails.

The advertisement is a trailer for Thames Television’s  block-buster documentary series on the life of Stalin, which begins on Tuesday. Forthcoming press publicity will follow a similar theme, setting out the kind of absurdities which could have led to arrest and execution at the height of the Soviet Terror in the late 1930’s.

The programmes come as glasnost has provoked a stream of new information and memoirs about the Stalin era in the Soviet Union itself, 30 years after Khruschev’s secret speech denouncing his former boss led to the first phase of revelations and rehabilitations. For the most part attention in the Soviet media has turned to more pressing problems. But the flood of new horror stories has emboldened an academic and political current which is bent on overturning the consensus view of Hitler and Nazism as the supreme evil of 20th century history.

Not only is it increasingly common for Stalin to be bracketed with Hitler as the twin monster of the modern era, even in the Soviet Union, but in West Germany and Austria a significant “revisionist” academic trend — represented by historians like Ernst Nolte, Andreas Hilgruber, and Ernst Topitsch — goes on to argue that the Stalinist system was actually responsible for the Nazis and the second world war.

Central to these debates is the issue of the number of Stalin’s victims. Controversy about the scale of repression in the Stalin era has rumbled on in Western universities for many years, and has now been joined by Soviet experts who are equally divided. Thames Television, with its 25 million deaths, has opted for the furthest extreme.

Hitherto, the British writer Robert Conquest who in the 1950’s worked for the Foreign Office propaganda outfit IRD, led the field with his view that Stalin was responsible for 20 million deaths. Phillip Whitehead, one of the Stalin series producers, says he is not to blame for the advertising campaign but thinks a 25 million figure can be defended if the Soviet dead in the first three months of the Nazi invasion of 1941 are included on the grounds of Stalin’s negligence.

But even that is not enough for Thomas Methuen, publishers of of the companion book to the series, who bid up the figure to 30 million in their publicity and — in an echo of the German revisionists — describe Stalin as “the greatest mass killer of the 20th century.” The record estimate so far has been 50 million, made in the Sunday Times two years nago.

There are three basic catagories of people usually regarded as Stalin’s victims: first there are those executed for political offences, most of whom died in the Terror years of 1937-8. Then there are those who died in the labour camps or in the process of mass deportations. Finally — and almost certainly the biggest number — there are the peasants who died during the famine of the early 30s.

In the complete absence of any hard evidence from the Soviet Union, estimates for a grand total of all three have been made by extrapolating the number of “excess deaths” from census figures. This process is fraught with statistical problems, including the fact that the 1937 census was supported, and the 1939 census is thought to have been artificially inflated by terrified Soviet statisticians.. Add to that disputes about the size of peasant families and the possibilities for discrepancies multiply.

Among Soviet specialists and demographers in the West, the majority view appears to be that the kind of numbers used by Robert Conquest and his supporters are wildly exaggerated. Prof Sheila Fitzpatrick, of Chicago University comments: “the younger generation of Soviet historians tend to go for far lower numbers. There is no basis in fact for Conquest’s claims.”

Some of the most recent Western demographic analysis, by Barbera Anderson and Brian Silver in the US, estimates that the most likely figure for all the “excess” deaths — whether from purges, famine or deportations — between 1926 and 1939 lies in a range with a median of 3.5 million, and a limit of eight million.

Estimates of that order have found support across a broad range of academic work, from Frank Lorrimer’s pioneering post-war analysis to Prof Jerry Hough’s 1979 study to the 1980s research by the British academic, Stephen Wheatcroft, now at the University of Melbourne. But this growing consensus has been thrown on the defensive by Soviet specialists like Roy Medvedev, who — using the same data — have apparently backed Conquest’s position, or something like it.

When it comes to the famine deaths, an exact figure will almost certainly never be known. But suddenly, after years of working in the dark, specialists are obtainingv some hard Soviet data. Last month, the KGB published for the first time the records of the number of victims of the Stalin purges.

Between 1930 and 1953, the report states, 3,778,234 people had been sentenced for counter-revolutionary activities or anti-state crimes,of whom 786,098 were shot. From his office at the Hoover Institute in California yesterday, Conquest said it was difficult to say whether the figures were right, but he thought “they could be true.”

Even more remarkably, the records originally made by the NKVD (forerunner of the KGB) of those held in labour camps and penal colonies during the Stalin years are now becoming available. An article from a “restricted access” Soviet Interior Ministry journal has been passed to the Guardian, which lists the total Gulag populations during the 1930s and 1940s.

Originally collated for Khrushchev in the 1950s, the figures show how the camp numbers rose relentlessly from 179,000 in 1930 to 510,307 in 1934, to 1,296,494 in 1936, to 1,881,570 in 1938 at the height of the Terror. The population fell during the war, but reached its peak in 1950 when 2,561,351 people are recorded as detained in camps or colonies.

These figures published openly here for the first time are huge: but they are a long way from the 19 million camp population estimated by Robert Conquest. The Soviet report records that an average of 200,000 were released every year, and puts the death-rate in the camps at 3 per cent a year per on average, rising to more than 5 per cent in 1937-8. The camps were mostly emptied of political prisoners after Stalin’s death.

Are the figures credible? In the context of the current political atmosphere in the Soviet Union and the fact that they were in a restricted publication, it seems improbable that they have been tampered with. Of course, they do not cover the famine and other disasters. But they do begin to add credence to the mainstream academic view that the deaths attributable to Stalin’s policies was closer to 3.5 million than 25 million.

Why do numbers matter anyway? After all Robert Conquest may be out by a factor of five or 10, but the repressions were still enormous.

If, however, a figure of 20 million or 25 million becomes current currency, it adds credence to the Stalin-Hitler comparison. Already, anyone who questions these figures — even in the academic debates — is denounced as a “neo-Stalinist.”

As the Irish writer Alexander Cockburn who started what turned into a highly emotional exchange last year in the American journal, the Nation, puts it: “Any computation that does not soar past 10 million is somehow taken as being soft on Stalin.” And by minimising the quantitative gulf between the Hitler and Stalin killings, it becomes easier to skate over the uniqueness of the Nazi genocide and war.


JD adds: when the Soviet archives were fully opened in 1991, they yielded new data that most reputable scholars consider to broadly confirm Robert Conquest’s position if not (quite) the figure of 20 million deaths directly resulting from Stalin’s rule and policies.

In the preface to the 40th anniversary edition of  his pioneering work, The Great Terror (first published in 1968) Conquest stated that in the light of documents released since 1991 from the Presidential, State, Party and Police archives, and the declassification by Russia’s Federal Security Service of some 2 million secret documents:

“Exact numbers may never be known with complete certainty, but the total of deaths caused by the whole range of Soviet regime’s terrors can hardly be lower than some thirteen to fifteen million.”


According to his friend, Kingsley Amis, when his (Conquest’s) publishers asked him to expand and revise The Great Terror, Conquest suggested the new version of the book be entitled I Told You So, You Fucking Fools.

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Herbert Lom, last of The Ladykillers

September 28, 2012 at 9:50 pm (cinema, comedy, drama, good people, Jim D)

Herbert Lom, actor. Born Herbert Karel Angelo Kuchačevič ze Schluderpacheru, 11 Sept 1917 (Prague); died 27 Sept 2012 (London).

The Ladykillers Poster

Lom was one of the great character actors of post-war British cinema who rarely played leading roles but regularly stole the show from better-known stars. In his younger days especially, his saturnine good looks might have made him a matinée idol, but his strong accent (he was Czech-born) led to his being typecast as smooth, sinister foreign criminals and villains for most of his career. As he once commented, “In British eyes anyone foreign is slightly villainous.”

He fled his homeland as Hitler invaded, arriving in Britain in 1939 with his girlfriend Didi, who was Jewish. She was turned away at Dover for not having the correct papers. Her subsequent death (from starvation) in a concentration camp haunted Lom for the rest of his life.

Most of the obituaries have emphasised his role as Clouseau’s boss Drayfus in the various Pink Panther films, but to be honest these became less and less entertaining (something Lom was well aware of); even the best of the early ones cannot hold a candle to the funniest Ealing comedy of them all, The Ladykillers, in which Lom played his usual sinister role with a straight-faced menace that was in delicious contrast to the almost farcical antics going on around him. It was, Lom once said, “one of the few films I’m proud to have been associated with.”

He was (as far as I know) the last surviving member of the brilliant cast and production team that made this 1955 masterpiece.

RIP Herbert.

(Graun obit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/sep/27/herbert-lom)

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Samuel L. Jackson says “Wake The Fuck Up!”

September 28, 2012 at 6:51 pm (celebrity, Champagne Charlie, Democratic Party, elections, good honest filth, Republican Party, United States)

I am still far from convinced that US socialists should vote for Obama, but I have to admit that the more we see and hear that ignorant, dangerous jerk Romney, the more difficult it becomes to resist the lure of lesser-evilism.

However, I offer the film below not to in order to endorse Obama, but because it’s such an extraordinary production. It certainly puts the typical Brit “party election broadcast” to shame. Enjoy…

And on the subject of Obama-cool, here are a few pseudo-Blue Note album covers that I just stumbled across:

196724 276549335787194 128498206 n Jazz For Obama 2012: The benefit concert and the mock album covers542353 276907849084676 545146993 n Jazz For Obama 2012: The benefit concert and the mock album covers

262388 280732225368905 50012304 n Jazz For Obama 2012: The benefit concert and the mock album coverstumblr m9zy0he2401qmvhifo1 r2 500 Jazz For Obama 2012: The benefit concert and the mock album covers

H/t (album covers): Bruce R

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Charlie Hebdo, “Muslims” and free speech

September 28, 2012 at 12:01 am (anti-semitism, AWL, Cross-post, France, Free Speech, Islam, islamism, libertarianism, media, publications, Racism, religion)

A discussion piece, cross-posted from the Workers Liberty website and the paper Solidarity: http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2012/09/25/charlie-hebdo-muslims-and-how-defend-freedom-expression

By Yves Coleman

The author is a French socialist activist, involved in publishing the journal Ni Patrie, Ni Frontières (No Fatherlands, No Borders).

“If you insult Muhammad, it is as if you insult my own mother.” (A participant, during a debate on Radio Tropic FM, September 20, 2012.)

It all began with excerpts from a stupid video posted on the Net.

Then a French satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, intervened. This weekly publication has always been characterized by its bad taste, rude machismo supposed to be funny and popular, and its cheap anti-racism. This typical French form of pseudo anti-racism has a peculiarity: it conveys all racist or anti-Semitic clichés under the pretext of attacking… racism. This position makes ist “humor” often perfectly acceptable to extreme right people. One example is the cover of the latest Charlie Hebdo: it shows a Jew with a traditional hat pushing a wheelchair in which sits a Muslim (or Muhammad?), with the subtitle “Untouchables” – which is also the title of a French film which won great popular success and was supposedly anti-racist. A first-degree understanding of this cartoon encourages the reader to think that Jews and Muslims are exempt from criticism in France, which obviously implies that:
– that Catholics (culturally dominant in France) are much more tolerant than the supporters of the other two religions of the Book
– French Jews, even if they are a small minority, form a powerful “lobby” (a thought which was also expressed by the Tropic FM “Muslim” listener quoted before)
– And finally, that “Muslims” have installed a reign of terror in France through their intellectual terrorism, their physical threats or even attacks.


In fact, Charlie Hebdo has only jumped on the opportunity given by The Innocence of Muslims to reinforce the “critical” current which tends to present all Muslims as fanatics or terrorists.

Fifteen years ago, the newspaper Charlie Hebdo was considered by the anti-globalization left, as a rare example of the “free press” (according to Serge Halimi, director of the Left anti-globalization monthly Le Monde diplomatique).

When this weekly came under the leadership of a former stand-up comedian and playwriter (Philippe Val), who became a vulgar court philosopher close to Sarkozy, of course radicals and left-wing people found that publication was no more trendy. And especially because a feminist reformist, Caroline Fourest, started writing in Charlie Hebdo, criticizing all religions, all fundamentalisms, including Islamic fundamentalism and therefore criticizing Tariq Ramadan, an anti-globalization and left icon for a while. Anti-Semitic “jokes” made by the cartoonist Sine (who had a long experience in anti-semitic remarks) allowed a false debate to take place between Sine supporters (supposed to be left, even far left minded) and Philippe Val supporters or Charlie Hebdo readers, supposed to be all Sarkozysts and “Islamophobes”. The terms of the debate were faked because none of the two camps really opposed BOTH anti-Semitism (including when presented as “anti-Zionism”) and anti-Arab racism, even when it was concealed under a criticism of Islam. Finally, Sine was sacked from Charlie Hebdo and created his own satirical monthly, Val was appointed to manage a public radio station, where he soon distinguished himself by firing an two anti -Sarkozyst stand-up comedians (Didier Porte and Stephane Guillon), and Charlie Hebdo continued its muddled comments on all kinds of subjects.

It is obvious that the new issue of Charlie Hebdo devoted to caricatures of Muhammad or of Muslims (the previous issue with similar content, around the time of the “Danish cartoons” row in 2006) provoked an arson attack on its office, the protection of the police and several trials for “Islamophobia”) had only one main objective: to create the buzz in order to sell more copies of this weekly, taking advantage of the atmosphere created by the reactions to The Innocence of Muslims. “Freedom of speech” had nothing to do with this provocation.

In addition, we know that, during the recent years, in France as well as in Europe, the extreme right hides its fascist and racist ideas under the banner of the freedom of expression, and a critique of “political correctness gone mad”, etc. So we must be conscious that freedom of expression often becomes an often adulterated commodity in certain hands.

At the same time, a tiny number of Muslims have fallen into the trap: they wanted to organize demonstrations, all banned by the “Socialist” government.

Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen, the new leader of the National Front, took the opportunity to call for a ban on hijabs and yarmulkes on the streets.


In short, a new false debate was launched by the media, amplified by radio and community media, where we were required to take stands: either on the side of all “Muslims”, whatever their orientation was (Muslims whose religious representatives called to ignore the provocation and not to demonstrate) or the side of Charlie Hebdo, supposedly the main voice of the “Islamophobic” left.

Yet there is a plethora of more important matters today than discussing the opportunity to publish cartoons of a prophet-warrior who died 15 centuries ago. The wave of layoffs, rising unemployment, lack of teachers in schools, repression against undocumented people, policing of all those who receive welfare, increase of productivity and of accidents, increase of suicides related to the deterioration of working conditions, harassment organized by foremen and bosses, etc.., all these topics deserve hundreds of articles, dozens of radio and TV programms, and thousands of discussions.

But the media prefer to organize false debates with their auditors or with confused Islamophile or Islamophobic intellectuals, almost never inviting atheists or rationalists to express their views, to discuss the only topic of interest for them: freedom of expression.

The opinion expressed by the listener whose quote begins this article, and many other views expressed on the Net, are perfect examples of the current ideological confusion.

Personal insults against individuals are dealt within the frame of bourgeois justice. People who are insulted can complain if they feel defamed. And there is an entire legal arsenal for this purpose. No need to add more to these laws.

You can also use a quick solution, as seemed to suggest the quoted listener (i.e., to smash the face of the person who insulted your mother or religion) but is this really the best solution?

Finally, one can imagine how it could work in another society, where in the neighborhoods, in the schools, or companies, general assemblies, committees of residents or workers would meet to resolve such disputes without going by judges and lawyers … But this would imply that participants agree to settle their dispute by accepting a collective, non-violent solution.

Freedom of expression, contrary to what the Tropic FM listener believes, has nothing to do with a trivial personal insult. Freedom of expression depends on a fragile collection of collective rights that regulate all media, from a simple leaflet to a TV progamme, newspaper or book, but also the right to protest and organize – collective rights which have been won after decades of struggle by the working class and other democratic forces.

This freedom of expression is reduced to a minimum in the Western world, not because of some protests made by fundamentalist Muslims or some Islamist attacks, but because of the mighty power of capitalists. The banking, finance and industry magnates who control the media rarely encourage freedom of expression. And ther words of workers, unemployed and exploited are almost never heard, or filtered by journalists who carefully respect the interests of their masters.

The situation is also not so much better in the so-called left parties or large unions.

It is well known how the French Communist Party defamed, denounced to the cops and bosses, punched or sent to the hospital hundreds of Trotskyist and anarchist activists for decades. When it did not murder them, as it happened under the German Occupation, under Stalinism in the Eastern bloc, or during the Spanish Civil War.

We know that the French Socialist Party gives power and freedom of speech only to individuals coming from the ranks of the petty bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie.


 This is reflected in the media which are linked to this party, in the social composition of its MPs, Senators and Ministers, in its current implementation of austerity, in its anti-immigrant policies carried out under the previous government, its support to the police forces, French armed interventions abroad, etc.

We know that the unions muzzle speech and freedom of action of workers hostile to their bureaucracies, when they do not exclude them, plain and simple.

We also know how the small pseudo left-wing and anti-imperialist group called “The Indigenous of the Republic” with the help of some intellectuals (Said Bouamama and Pierre Tevanian) recently prevented Caroline Fourest, a secular, anti racist and left-reformist feminist to talk and criticize the National Front at the Communist Party “fête”, on September 16, 2012, all that in the name of anti-fascism … and fight against Islamophobia. (To check the falsity of these two lies, one only needs to read Fourest’s book against Marine Le Pen or the one where she interviews Taslima Nasreen and expresses a much more moderate view than Nasreen!).

So let us be wary, too, about left or extreme left groups who want, in the labor movement, trade unions, or in the street, to impose their ideas with clubs or fists whenever it suits them. Or those who claim to defend freedom of expression, but are unable to practice it in their own unions and political organizations and their publications.

About the cartoons published in Charlie Hebdo, some “Muslims” wanted to have both the right to express their indignation in the street against the newspaper and also to protest against The Innocence of Muslims. The French government has banned several demonstrations, and the few which have been organized have been spectacular failures (from one to 150 protesters, according to the cities), showing that the vast majority of “Muslims” did not fall into the trap, even if they were offended by the film and/or the magazine.

As a supporter of freedom of expression, I do not see why I should support any ban by the French State. These demonstrations should be allowed to proceed without being banned by the state, whatever one thinks of their dubious or reactionary political or religious content. And activists should also have the right to protest against these demonstrations (it is symptomatic that the only “Muslim” demonstrator sentenced to prison after the September 15 demonstration has explained he wore a telescopic club to defend himself against… Jews. A typical example of the delirious anti-Semitism inspired both by Koranic anti-Judaism, fascist anti-Semitism and extreme right anti-Zionism.).

As a rationalist atheist, I do not see why I should support those who want to introduce in France a law against blasphemy, or limit the freedom of expression with regard to the criticism all religions, including Islam.

We know that both the Organization of the Islamic Conference (which includes 57 states), the United States and the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations want France to adopt new laws against blasphemy. We know that French government is regularly criticized as “anti -religious”, “Islamophobic”, because of the laws against the headscarf or niqab, and that they pretend that the Church of Scientology is persecuted in France.


The French state uses secularism when it suits its interests for domestic policy issues; it finances Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim cults, in several French departments.

It maintains Catholic churches, and its finances (religious) private instruction throughout the country. We have no reason to support the French government but we must also oppose all those who would like to impose laws restricting criticism of religions, supposedly because it offends believers, god or the prophets.

Similarly, without supporting a publication like Charlie Hebdo in its quest for sales and publicity, I see no reason to support those who want to destroy its headquarters, or physically threaten its cartoonists or journalists, or want them to be condemned by the bourgeois judicial system because of their bad taste and/or “blasphemy.”

As an atheist, I can only oppose any law against blasphemy, any restriction to the criticism of religions, if a government, left or right, wants to impose them in France.

Meanwhile, we should also denounce anyone, including in the Left, who is critical of one religion (Islam) while remaining silent or very secretive about other religions, so he can present as progressive his anti-Arab racism, or his support to French, European or American interventions in Africa, Libya or Afghanistan.

We must denounce Iran’s trial to recover the initiative it lost since, in Tunisia and Egypt, dictators were overthrown by the people, or are highly contested. Iran where a religious foundation linked to the regime immediately took advantage of the The Innocence of Muslims to increase the price on Salman Rushdie’s head.

We must denounce the National Frront attempt to participate to this debate in order to stir up hatred against the Arabs, whether Muslim or not, and against Jews, two elements of the National Front political patrimony.

Finally, we must denounce the obvious diversion organised by all media about these non-events. Several facist groups (including l’Oeuvre française et les Jeunesses nationalistes) organize a “ride” to Paris with buses and a “nationalist rally” on 29 September 2012, but the media have not shown any interest for this demo. Yet the themes of the meeting of 28th and demo of the 29th should alert all those so-called advocates of freedom of expression: Promotional material for the event calls for a “General mobilization of all the French patriots and nationalists. After the French natives revolt in Lyon, let’s participate to the French march on the capital! Against lawless areas, against the government’s anti-national policy, against anti-white racism: We want to be masters in our fatherland! Against immigration-invasion governments hirelings, against the violation of our interests by US-Zionist and euro-globalist forces, against foreign preference: let’s struggle to give France back to the French and become masters in our homeland! “

This disgusting prose is a significant example of the xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism and fascistic form of anti-Zionism which flourish on the internet at every minute.

National, cultural and religious identities are being promoted by states, churches and all sorts of fascist and populist demagogues. But neither Muslim nor non-Muslim workers  lose their free will, intellectual independence or critical faculties just because they are exposed to vicious hateful propaganda.

Workers have a choice: either they support their exploiters and their demagogic leaders who claim to share the same faith and/or culture, or they unmask all the political uses of their beliefs and background.

As atheists and non-believers, we must also stand against all left or right, populist or fascist currents who claim the heritage of the Enlightenment or human rights to better hide their reactionary or obscurantist projects!

NB: The term “Muslim” is put in quotation marks in this article, because journalists, demographers, sociologists and many radical, left-wing or anti-globalization activists generally stick the religious label of Muslim on the front of all those who come from countries where Islam is the state religion, or whose families are practicing islam, or simply those whose names sound “Arab”, as if there were no atheists among these so-called “Muslims.”

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Support Pussy Riot Gig

September 27, 2012 at 6:26 pm (anarchism, atheism, comedy, Feminism, Free Speech, Human rights, music, Russia, solidarity)

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NUS to ‘no-platform’ Benn and Galloway?

September 26, 2012 at 8:34 pm (AWL, Feminism, Free Speech, Galloway, Jackie Mcdonough, men, misogyny, strange situations, students, SWP)

The Last WikiLeaks Supper

Above: the Messiah Julian and his rape-denying disciples, including Benn and Galloway

The expression “hoist with one’s own petard” springs to mind:

(from the Counterfire‘ website):

Leading anti-war campaigner and socialist Tony Benn will be ‘no platformed’ like Tommy Robinson of the racist EDL and Nick Griffin of the fascist BNP if a motion to the National Union of Students gets passed this week. If local student unions follow the national union then Tony Benn may be refused a platform in any student union in the country.

Refusing to allow fascists a platform has long been the policy of the left and the student movement. But in a remarkably ill-thought out move the National Executive of NUS is about to apply the same policy to Tony Benn and Respect MP George Galloway.

The reasons given for this unusual step are comments they made about the charge that Wikileaks whistleblower Julian Assange raped two women in Sweden. The motion states that Galloway ‘referred to a man inserting his penis into a sleeping woman as, “bad sexual etiquette’ and that Tony Benn said of the Assange case, “the charges are that it was a non-consensual relationship. Well that’s very different from rape”.’

Tony Benn has since, at the request of Goldsmith Students Union, of which he is the honoury president, retracted his remarks, apologised and restated his life-long commitment to women’s liberation. But still the NUS is persisting with its resolution.

The comments in both Galloway’s and Benn’s cases are of course wrong. It is wrong to state that non-consensual sex is not rape, and it was wrong to try to defend Assange from extradition by dismissing the claims of the women involved.

But beyond this, there is a fundamental problem by responding to these comments by trying to no platform Benn and Galloway. ‘No platform’ is an exceptional position that the Left has typically campaigned for Unions and other organisations to adopt in the fight against Fascism.

It is an unprecedented departure from the left’s defence of freedom of speech on the grounds that there can be no free speech for those who would deny such freedoms to others. There can be no democracy for those who would use genocide and extermination to end democracy.

These conditions clearly do not apply in this case. It is the exceptional danger posed by Fascism that prompted the tactic of no platform to be applied exclusively to fascists. To apply it indiscriminately to other political views we oppose means fascists cannot be isolated by the no platform policy as an exceptional threat.

Backward ideas about rape are profoundly upsetting and damaging to the fight against women’s oppression. However, the prevalence of these ideas (which the motion acknowledges) points to the fact that they stem from the sexist society in which we live. Therefore it is within society that we have to fight these ideas.

Surely it is much better to have Tony Benn, a figure that many people look up to as an inspiration, apologise and restate his commitment to women’s liberation as he has done, than to let damaging remarks remain unretracted where they can continue to damage and distract our movement. This is a fight we can win – we can change people’s minds, we can challenge sexism in our movement.

Astoundingly, if the writers of the motion genuinely believe these remarks have put Benn and Galloway beyond the pale, then there are a lot of people missing who should be named in this motion.

While the motion makes brief reference to Roger Helmer (UKIP MEP) and Andrew Brons (an MEP for the fascist BNP and a former leader of the fascist National Front), why are the members of the Coalition government who are overseeing massive cuts to rape crisis and domestic violence services not in this motion?

Why not the whole of the Cambridge Union Society who invited Dominique Strauss-Kahn to speak there earlier this year? Why not those government ministers whose refusal to demand that Assange will not be extradited from Sweden to the US is effectively prolonging the injustice to the women involved? All these people have gone far further than to make an offensive remark.

What’s more, the NUS would not dream of no platforming war criminal Tony Blair. And the NUS quite regularly opens its platforms to Zionists. In this context the attempt to no platform Tony Benn and Galloway looks absurd.

And why is the NUS, which has let its members down so badly over the fight against fees and cuts, not organising against the closure of rape crisis centres? Where are the leaflets, the posters, the protests, the pickets and the demos?

Tony Benn was a wholehearted supporter of the student movement of 2010. Which is more than the NUS executive can claim. It would be better if the NUS spent less time either censuring or no platforming Tony Benn and George Galloway and more time actually defending its members.


A response from AWL students, here.

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Andy Williams: the ‘Moon River’ man

September 26, 2012 at 8:05 pm (Jim D, music, Republican Party, song, United States)

OK: we can’t ignore the passing of Andy Williams.

Here he is with Henry Mancini (co-writer, with Johnny Mercer, of ‘Moon River’) a few years ago:

The Los Angelese Times obit, here

If my tribute here at Shiraz seems less than usually fulsome, it may be because (1) I never particularly liked his singing, and (2) this (from the Guardian‘s obit):

Although he was a lifelong Republican, Williams became a close friend of Robert and Ethel Kennedy in the mid-60s. He was present when Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles during the 1968 campaign for the presidential nomination. Williams sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic at the funeral and voted for George McGovern at the Democratic party convention, having been nominated as a delegate by Kennedy. More in keeping with his political convictions was his outspoken criticism of Barack Obama, and he allowed the rightwing radio commentator Rush Limbaugh to broadcast his recording of Born Free with added gunshot sounds. Sony Music (now the owner of CBS Records) forced Limbaugh to remove it.

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Open letter to the Editor of the Morning Star

September 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, Civil liberties, conspiracy theories, democracy, Feminism, Free Speech, Human rights, internationalism, Jim D, libertarianism, media, misogyny, politics, religion, Russia, secularism, stalinism, thuggery)

Dear Mr Bagley,

You are editor of the Morning Star, a paper that claims to stand for “peace and socialism.” It is the successor to the old Daily Worker and has close links with the British Communist Party. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and its eastern european satellites, the Star has been largely dependent upon the British trade union movement for its funding and survival.

On Saturday September 22 this year the Morning Star published an article attacking the Russian punk-anarchist band Pussy Riot, supporting their imprisonment at the hands of the Putin regime. The content of the article was pretty vile and, frankly, had no place in any self-respecting socialist (or even liberal) publication. Your initial explanation (posted to the blog Tendance Coatsey) was unconvincing:

” The article was presented by the arts team as an alternative viewpoint on the Pussy Riot furore and appeared on our culture pages. The article did not appear particularly controversial in its own right. Its main focus was Pussy Riot and purported US State Department backing.”

The article states, with obvious approval, that the jailing of Pussy Riot “proves [that Russia] … cares for Christ as much as the French care about Auschwitz and this shocked the Europeans who apparently thought ‘hate laws’ could only be applied to protect Jews and gays.” It repeatedly and gratuituosly brings Jews into the argument, defends Putin against media criticism, describes Pussy Riot as “viragos” and supports the Orthodox Church’s role in Russian society, even accusing Pussy Riot of “blasphemy.” Now, I’d hardly call that “not … particularly controversial,” Mr Bagley. But maybe your criteria for what is “controversial” in left wing circles are different to mine.

But if that was all there was to it, I’d be (just about) willing to let the matter go, putting it down to a serious error of judgement from a paper whose instincts are evidently less democratic and secular than those of the milieu I move in.

But the content of the article is, in many ways, the least important aspect of this whole business. Even more important is the matter of the author of the piece – one Israel Shamir, a notorious holocaust denier, anti-semite and associate of numerous European neo-Nazi organisations. Surely it should be a-b-c that even in the highly unlikely event that Mr Shamir were to write something entirely unobjectionable, no self-respecting socialist publication should touch it with a bargepole.

Now, a crucial question arises: did the Star know who Mr Shamir is before deciding to publish his piece? You have stated that you and your colleagues did not – which given Shamir’s notoriety (easily revealed by a two-minute Google search) is in itself a damning admission from a publication that claims to be “steadfastly committed  to the values of anti-racism, anti-fascism, international solidarity and social justice.”

Surely the content of the article alone should have set alarm bells ringing?

But it gets worse. It turns out that the article had first appeared in the US magazine Counterpunch and, in that publication, had included a passage that does not appear in the version printed in the Star: “Western governments call for more freedom for the anti-Christian Russians, while denying it for holocaust revisionists in their midst.” The absence of that sentence in the version the Star printed, raises an obvious question:

EITHER that passage had already been deleted by the time the article reached the Star’s editorial team;

OR it was edited out by the Star itself.

If it was the former, then your explanation / excuse of being unaware of who Shamir is and the nature of his views, is just (but only just) believable. If it is the latter, then clearly you must have had a pretty good idea of just how dodgy Shamir’s views are, yet went ahead and published the piece (albeit in a very mildly expurgated form) anyway. To be frank, neither explanation does you or the Star any credit, but the second (much more likely, in my opinion) scenario is very nearly unforgivable.

I say “very nearly” unforgivable, because a proper, fulsome retraction, apology and explanation, printed prominently in the Star might just about have retrieved the situation. Well, an “apology” of sorts did appear, not particularly prominently, on page 4 of the September 24 edition. It is wholly inadequate :

Clarification over Shamir article in Saturday’s Star.

A NUMBER of you have raised concerns over the decision to reprint an article by Israel Shamir on the Russian band Pussy Riot that appeared in the weekend’s Morning Star.
The paper would like to reassure readers that the piece was syndicated from Counterpunch in good faith without knowledge of the author’s background.
We would like to reiterate the paper’s commitment to publishing writers who reflect and remain steadfastly committed to the values of anti-racism, anti-fascism, international solidarity and social justice that the paper has campaigned for ever since its establishment.
It remains guided by those goals and will seek in future, wherever possible, to establish the full biography of writers before publishing their work.
In the meantime the Morning Star would like to distance itself from the opinions of the author of the piece, which do not reflect our position or those of the wider movement.
We apologise wholeheartedly for any distress caused.

This so-called “clarification” is entirely unsatisfactory, fails to address any of the central issues, and actually manages to compound the offence:

  • What exactly were the “concerns” and what was the “distress” about Shamir and his article? The Morning Star is silent. The very vivid anger that has been expressed on left-wing blogs and in (unpublished) letters to the Star at his anti-Semitism and far-right opinions is not even mentioned.
  • In the same vein: how far does the Morning Star wish to “distance itself from the opinions” of Shamir and precisely what opinions are you referring to?
  • If the Morning Star is committed to the “values of anti-racism” and “anti-fascism” why were they unaware of the fascist and racist views of one of the most notorious international propagandists for the far-right, Israel Shamir?
  • As numerous people have pointed out, it is hardly necessary to establish “the full biography”of Shamir before realising this: a simple Google enquiry would have done – assuming the staff of the Morning Star have, unlike most well-informed people involved in anti-fascist activity, not heard of Shamir.

“We apologise wholeheartedly for any distress caused” is the sort of thing that the bourgeoise press prints when they’ve lost a libel case involving a politician’s personal life. It is a wholly inappropriate phrase to use in this context. What I and many others feel is not “distress” but anger.

The ‘clarification’ does not condemn Shamir.

It does not condemn his fascist views or even mention anti-semitism.

It fails to ‘clarify’ anything that has come out in this controversy, except that the “decision” to “reprint” ultimately comes from an arrangement to “syndicate” material from the (dodgy) US publication Counterpunch.

This ‘clarification’ is not just evasive, it is a disgrace — almost as much of a disgrace as the publication of Shamir’s article. Until proper, honest accounting for this shameful episode appears in the Star, I and many other activists will continue to raise the matter and denounce the Star as unfit to represent the British socialist and trade union movement.


Jim Denham

(Unite member)

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