Remembering Eddie Barns: fighter for justice

May 31, 2013 at 6:47 pm (Anti-Racism, civil rights, class, Disability, good people, Human rights, humanism, immigration, Jim D, socialism, solidarity)

  • Eddie Barns

I don’t think I ever met Eddie Barns, who died in late April,  but he was clearly a fine comrade and exceptional human being. A comrade who’d just heard the news today emailed:

“I didn’t know that Eddie had died. I’m shocked and very sad. He was a top guy. He was one of the Labour councillors in Hackney in the 1980s who voted  against cuts when the rest of them caved in; he continued to be active on the  left; he was friendly and supportive to us; and for the last few years had  thrown himself into defending immigrants both through campaigning and through legal support. The last time I met him was in my kitchen, discussing defending a  cleaner who was threatened with deportation.”

Below is an invitation from Eddie’s friend, Kate Adams of Kent Refugee Help.  If you are unable to attend please make a donation to the Eddie Barns Memorial Fund (emergency assistance for vulnerable refugees threatened with expulsion). There is no doubt in my mind that the demands of Eddie’s work contributed to his early death.  Your contribution will help Eddie’s much needed work to continue.
Please forward this on to all friends that believe refugees must get justice and are able to help Eddie’s  work. If you have a means of distributing the attached that will be of great help.
Wes McLachlan
Community Action for Young Refugees
Dear  Friends,
A reminder about the Memorial Gathering for Eddie Barns,  former Hackney Rebel Councillor and Kent Refugee Help’s first caseworker.
This is our event for Refugee Week. We  are launching a fund for emergency welfare payments to refugees  in Eddie’s name.
Please see the attached leaflet for details of the fund which you can print  off if you wish to donate and are unable to attend the Memorial.
Please send cheques:  Co Sue Powell,  Trustee , Kent Refugee Help 6 Church Street, Wye, TN25 5BJ.
Eddie Barns Memorial leaflet.pdf Eddie Barns Memorial leaflet.pdf 74K   View   Download
We do hope you are able to come to celebrate Eddie’s life and his wonderful  activism and compassion which defied borders.
All Welcome. Note the link to the obituary in the Guardian, Other Lives  written by Eddie’s friend Patrick Mc Glyn
Other obituaries appear in Labour Briefing  April 2013 and Labour  Briefing Magazine of the Cooperative.
Date : Saturday  15th June, 1 pm
Venue: 6 Church Street, Wye, TN25 5BJ
Lunch provided.
Speeches and songs
Open Mic- share your remembrances of Eddie with us
For those not local to  Kent, Wye is a beautiful village in the north downs. Sue Powell, KRH trustee is  opening up her home for the event.
Trains from London  Charing Cross direct 1 hour 31 minutes, from London St Pancras, change at Ashford International, 59  minutes 
No Disruptions from  Engineering works that day.
if you are coming by  train, turn left out of the station exit and keep straight and turn left for  Church Street- 10 minutes. A lift can be arranged from the station for anyone with  mobility difficulties.
If you have not already done so RSVP to Kate:   Mobile:07703788773
Best wishes and in  solidarity
Kate Adams
Kent Refugee Help

Permalink Leave a Comment

‘Stop The War’ rump backs Assad

May 31, 2013 at 12:51 am (apologists and collaborators, internationalism, islamism, Jim D, John Rees, Lindsey German, Middle East, stalinism, Syria)

By Mark Osborn (Solidarity paper and AWL website)

Above: Assad stooge and Stop The War favourite Issa Chaer on Press TV

The latest campaign by the Stop the War campaign, the remnant of the group which ten years ago organised big marches against the invasion of Iraq, is to prevent Western intervention in Syria.

An attempt at a major public meeting on the issue, held in London on 21 May, attracted only 50 people. This was a meeting organised by leftists (Counterfire and Socialist Action) to oppose Western intervention in Syria at which no platform speaker was willing to criticise the disgusting Syrian regime. They say: “our duty is to build a movement against Western intervention.” But, even if such an initiative made sense as an immediate priority, what makes combining opposition to intervention with championing freedom and democracy problematic?

Only that Counterfire has made a political choice not to criticise Assad’s filthy regime. Why? Because in this war Counterfire and Socialist Action are effectively siding with the regime.

Stop the War’s organisers are seriously politically disorientated. And that leaves them sharing platforms with a ridiculous Stalinist, Kamal Majid, and a Syrian academic, Issa Chaer, who when interviewed by the Iranian state’s propaganda outlet, Press TV, said, “I see President Assad as the person who is now uniting the country from all its backgrounds, all factions and all political backgrounds… anybody who calls for President Assad to step down at this stage; would be causing Syria an irreversible destruction.”

Majid’s reasons to oppose Western intervention in Syria are, from a genuinely left wing perspective, senseless.

He says: the US wants to overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad.  Don’t we all? Apparently not. Majid thinks this would be a bad thing.

The American dilemma is rational: they want Assad to go, and replaced by some sort of stability, but don’t know how to get it. They are worried that intervention might embroil them in an expensive, bloody war — like in Iraq or Afghanistan — and  end with Syria falling to pieces in sectarian slaughter. They are alarmed by the rising Islamists. So they try to negotiate a new government. But that too is problematic because Assad hangs on, and the Russians and Iranians continue to back Assad.

Majid says: the US and Europe want to intervene to grab Syrian oil and gas. Yes, the EU was the biggest customer for Syrian oil before the civil war and sanctions. But if the US and EU simply wanted Syrian oil they could use the normal capitalist mechanism of buying the stuff with cash. Assad would be delighted to hand over oil for dollars.

Another argument is: US wants to get rid of Hezbollah in Lebanon? Invading Syria would not remove Hezbollah, the reactionary, militarised, Shia party from Lebanon. If the US wanted to remove Hezbollah from Lebanon it would have to invade Lebanon, not Syria! However, Lebanon is one of quite a few countries on the US’s list of “places we do not intend to invade anytime soon”.

Of course Hezbollah’s recent turn towards very significant fighting for Assad in the town of Qusair is very alarming. This might be the point at which the civil war spills over the border. An anti-war campaign worthy of the name would oppose Hezbollah, not seek to protect them. Counterfire won’t do that because Hezbollah oppose the US and Israel and so are to be considered “on our side”.

The final argument is: US wants to remove Assad because it intends to invade Iran. The cartoon used by Stop the War shows Uncle Sam vaulting from Libya to Syria to Iran, bringing democracy. Whatever else is wrong with US policy it is not that it wants democracy in Libya, Syria and Iran. Stop the War presents itself as the group which opposes democracy.

There are foreign troops in Syria already — Iranian troops. A genuinely anti-imperialist movement would also oppose Russian policy and demand the withdrawal of Hezbollah’s fighters and Iranian troops from Syria. For STW it is quite a come-down from a million people on the streets against the Iraq war to a couple of dozen cranky Stalinists and fragments from the SWP in the basement of a London college. The reason is that the premise of the meeting — that the US is about to invade or bomb Syria, and that the main issue for us in Syria is stopping the West — is nonsense.

Indeed, if the US is eagerly looking to use its troops and planes, it has a funny way of going about it. It is now over two years since the uprising in Syria began and — despite plenty of regime outrages that could act as a justification, and pressure from some on the American right — Obama has shown no appetite for a major intervention. He has applied diplomatic pressure favouring the opposition, but has also prevented advanced weaponry getting to the Syrian rebels.

In April US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “Military intervention at this point could … embroil the US in a significant, lengthy and uncertain military commitment.”

US policy has shifted a little recently towards efforts to engage the regime and find a diplomatic process which can end the war. The US is working with the Russians to organise a peace conference in Geneva in June.

Western advocates for lifting the EU arms embargo on weapons for the Syrian opposition see their efforts as strengthening the opposition during negotiations, rather than helping the rebels overrun the state. The BBC comments, British Foreign Minister William Hague, “has argued that partially lifting the EU arms embargo… would complement, rather than work against, the peace process because it would strengthen the opposition’s hand in negotiations with President Assad.”

Unions should stop funding STW’s nasty little rump of a campaign

Permalink 12 Comments

Woolwich: motion for union branches

May 30, 2013 at 11:53 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, AWL, Civil liberties, class, Human rights, humanism, islamism, Jim D, murder, solidarity, unions, workers)

Model motion for union and Labour Party branches,  drawn up by the AWL:

Unite against the EDL and Islamism: defend civil liberties

This ****** condemns:
1. The murder of off-duty soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich on 22 May.
2. The reactionary politics of Islamism, in this case extreme, ultra-violent Islamism, which seems to have inspired the killing.
3. The ramping up of racist hostility towards Muslims, from abuse and harassment in the street to the firebombing of a mosque in Grimsby to demonstrations by the English Defence League and British National Party. According to the interfaith group Faith Matters, on 30 May there have been 201 anti-Muslim incidents since the murder, a 15-fold increase.
4. Possible attacks on civil liberties, including reviving the Communications Data Bill, which would allow police and security services access to all electronic communications.

1. That the main threat posed by Islamism is directed against working-class organisations, women, LGBT people, atheists and secularists, dissidents and critical-minded people in Muslim countries and some communities in the UK.
2. That acknowledging that British foreign policy has created conditions which help Islamists to grow should not mean failing to condemn Islamist politics.
3. That opposing the racist backlash and attacks on civil liberties must be top priorities for the labour movement.
4. That this is a wake up call – if the left and labour movement cannot build a force in working-class communities capable of appealing to the angry and dispossessed, then reactionary ideas like Islamism and nationalist racism will continue to spread.

1. To issue a statement based on this motion.
2. To support and publicise protests against the racist and fascist threat, and oppose attacks on civil liberties.
3. To contact local Muslim organisations and mosques to offer support in defence against racists and the far right.

Permalink 2 Comments

100 years of The Rite of Spring

May 29, 2013 at 8:01 pm (culture, France, history, Jim D, modernism, music, revolution, theatre)

Stravinsky’s  The Rite of Spring (‘Le Sacre du Printemps’) opened 100 years ago in Paris, to derisive laughter that quickly developed into a riot. The orchestra was bombarded with vegetables and other missiles, but kept playing. Nijinsky’s choreography, featuring dancers dressed as pagans, caused as much outrage as Stravinsky’s polyrhythmic and dissonant score.

The critics (and some fellow-composers) were savage:

“The work of madman …sheer cacophony” –  Giacomo Puccini

“A laborious and puerile barbarity” Henri Quittard, Le Figaro

“If that’s a bassoon, then I’m a baboon!” – Camille Saint-Saëns

It was “a revolutionary work for a revolutionary time” as George Benjamin writes in today’s Graun.

‘Riot of Spring’: Norman Lebrecht in Standpoint, here.

Above:  Stephen Malinowski’s animation of Part 1 ‘The Adoration of the Earth’ (from NPR)

Permalink 6 Comments

Statement from the family of Michael Adebolajo

May 28, 2013 at 6:10 pm (good people, tragedy)

Sometimes no further comment is necessary or appropriate:

“Nothing we say can undo the events of last week.

“However, as a family, we wish to share with others our horror at the  senseless killing of Lee Rigby and express our profound shame and distress that  this has brought on our family.

“We send our heartfelt condolence to Lee Rigby’s family and loved ones.

“We wish so state openly that we believe that there is no place for violence  in the name of religion or politics. We believe all right thinking members of  society share this view wherever they were born and whatever their religion and  political beliefs.

“We wholeheartedly condemn all those who engage in acts of terror and fully  reject any suggestion by them that religion or politics can justify this kind of  violence.

“We unreservedly put out faith in the rule of law and with others fully  expect that all the perpetrators will be brought to justice under the law of the  land.

“And we pray for Lee Rigby’s soul to rest in peace, for the Lord to comfort  his parents and loved ones and provide all of us affected the strength and  fortitude to cope with this tragedy.

“In all the circumstances and in respect to on-going police investigations,  this is the only statement we wish to give. We ask that we are not contacted for  further comments.”

Permalink 1 Comment

After Woolwich, humanity in all its variety, reasserts itself…

May 28, 2013 at 2:10 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, fascism, good people, Guardian, humanism, Islam, islamism, Jim D, Racism, strange situations, terror)

Two items in today’s Graun in the aftermath of Woolwich. I’m not attaching too much significance to either – and in particular, I’m not trying to suggest that tea and custard creams are usually the way to deal with racists (see #2 below); but I found both these items intriguing and, in their different ways, strangely encouraging:

1/ Interview with Ingrid Loyau-Kennett

Ingrid Loyau Kennett

She’s the woman who jumped off her bus, initially with the intention of giving first aid to Lee Rigby, but who then found herself engaging in debate with the killers in order to prevent further mayhem. “It’s only you and there are many of us” she (now) famously told one of them.

The Graun interview shows her to be complex (Catholic, single parent) and in many ways admirable (many sensible opinions) …and a Tory:

Loyau-Kennett says she is “naturally rightwing”. She adds: “I don’t agree with the socialist thing where they praise everything rather than praising hard work. I’m proud that we are now represented by David Cameron rather than Gordon Brown. I voted for him.”

The killers should now face “severe punishment”, she says. “I will not waste any of my energy in hating, or even thinking further about these men. Yes, they deserve to be in jail because they killed a man who did a lot for society and who could have done a lot more in his life, and been an excellent father. The trouble with jail is that we have to pay for their keep. Will they stay in jail for ever? I don’t think so, because of the judicial system these days.”

Before her bus had arrived, one of the men had talked into an onlooker’s cameraphone, quoting “an eye for an eye” in an attempt to justify his actions. Loyau-Kennett believes the killers should face the same retribution.

“If it were possible, then, yes, they should die a painful death,” she says. “But we can’t do that, unfortunately. They wanted to behead someone, so they should face the same. If they want to do something like this, they should have gone to where the action is [in Afghanistan, etc]. That is cowardice. They were egotistical. They are like the men who drive round thinking they are king of the road. It’s just me, me, me. It’s that thing where young men are bored. They should be jailed for murder, just as I think people who drive when drunk and kill someone should be jailed for ever for murder. No television in jail. Nothing. They must pay for what they did. But will that happen in this era of so-called human rights?”

2/ Mosque offers tea to would-be protesters

All too predictably, the far-right have been cashing in, targeting individual Asians and Mosques. The EDL has been given a new lease of life, and members of the BNP and UKIP have mobilised to stir up hatred and racism. In Grimsby, petrol bombs were thrown into a Mosque and those inside, including children, were lucky to escape with their lives.

A Mosque in York was targeted…

(NB: the following is in today’s print edition of the Graun, but not the on-line version)

Around half a dozen people arrived for the protest. A St George’s flag was nailed to the wooden fence in front of the mosque. However, other members of the group accepted an invitation into the mosque, tensions were rapidly defused over tea and plates of custard creams, followed by an impromptu game of football.

Leanne Staven, who had come for the protest, said that she had not come to cause trouble but because “we need a voice”. “I think white British who have any concerns feel we can’t speak freely,” she said.

Mohammed el-Gomati, a York University lecturer, said: “There is the possibility of having a dialogue. Even the EDL who were having a shouting match started talking and we found out that we share and are prepared to agree that violent extremism is wrong. We have to start there.”

Permalink 7 Comments

Enemy intelligence: ban the word “community”

May 27, 2013 at 8:51 am (Anti-Racism, communalism, London, media, multiculturalism, politics, populism, reblogged, secularism, terror)

Intelligent comment from behind enemy lines.

We occasionally publish worthwhile comment from unlikely sources. It should go without saying that this does not mean that we endorse the overall politics of the author, or indeed, everything in the article itself…

By Iain Martin (Daily Telegraph 24 May)

Above: can’t we go back to ‘Team GB’?

Tune into any BBC London programme at the moment and one word dominates. That word is community. Even on a normal day on the capital’s airwaves you will hear it a great deal, but in the aftermath of the Woolwich terror attack its use has gone into overdrive. On the BBC London news last night it – or the frequently used variant communities – was averaging 11 mentions per minute.

When did this word get such a grip that even passers-by vox-popped by a TV crew will deploy it a couple of times in a sentence when they are asked to asses the impact of a particular event? I wonder whether it really is widely used in everyday discourse or whether it is just what people feel they ought to say when tensions are high and a microphone is put under their nose. Having said that, yesterday I did overhear youngsters at a bus-stop discussing their horror at the Woolwich murder, and both used the word community, as in the perpetrators were a “disgrace to their community” (in the words of one). So perhaps it really has seeped into everyday speech through constant repetition in schools and on television.

The word took hold after the riots of the early 1980s, when there was a breakdown of trust, in certain inner cities, in the police and traditional institutions. After various inquiries, public policy was reconfigured to ensure that “communities” must be consulted on policing and much else besides. The traditional approach – in which people clustered together in a particular place voted for councillors and MPs who would then represent their interests – was out. With it went the widely held understanding that to live alongside each other none of us can get everything that we want.

From that point, other techniques were developed to make “excluded” people feel included. To facilitate this there suddenly emerged the “community leader”, someone unelected and usually possessing the gift of the gab. If they were smart they might get a well-paid gig with local government, or even national government, advising on “community relations”. Inevitably, under successive governments over three decades which all wanted to avoid tensions, this hardened into an orthodoxy, underwritten by third-rate academics in new disciplines. “Community” was the key word, used over and over again.

Of course, like many linguistic devices pushed by ultraliberals it actually has ended up with the opposite meaning from the one many people seem to intend when they use it. Rather than suggesting togetherness the term is actually highly divisive. Rather than emphasising common endeavour it sets one person’s alleged “community” against that of his neighbour.

I actively dislike the term and would refuse to be described as, say, a member of the claret-drinking community. Indeed, the traditional approach is still favoured by many, many millions of us in Britain of all creeds and colours. We think of life in terms of family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, perhaps religion, charity, hobbies such as sport or music and then the nation. Sometimes the various groups and circles involved are distinct and sometimes they overlap. We also accept common institutions as a bulwark of liberty, of course. And it is all wrapped up, ultimately, in that word that I used at the end of the list: the nation. How wonderful it was for a few weeks during the Olympics. The dreaded word “communities” disappeared. We heard instead of Team GB. Can’t we go back to that?

Permalink 1 Comment

Pedal on Parliament – We’re Everyone

May 26, 2013 at 11:33 am (Cycling, Rosie B, scotland)

Saturday it rained hard all day. That wasn’t encouraging for those of us who were going to Pedal on Parliament.   However Sunday was windless, and only a haar to shut out the son.  In this spring of constant freezing winds and even snow, the weather passed as balmy.

Last year’s Pedal on Parliament was the first.  The organisers expected a few hundreds.  3,000 showed up.  This year we were 4,000 strong.  It was very satisfying to wait in Middle Meadow Walk and see the snake tail of the procession extend right along the Meadows.  All sorts of cyclists waited, from finger-thin lycrists to a woman who looked like George Orwell’s spinster cycling to morning service, from trick cyclists to wobbling kiddies.

I don’t think our actual ride had such a dramatic effect as last year, when a mass of cyclists took over the Royal Mile, essentially owning the streets for once.  For reasons of traffic flow we were marshalled in batches.  The sense of numbers being united for a cause, which is part of a demonstration, was there when we were waiting for the ride to begin but lost when we cycled in dribs and drabs.

We got more of the mass feeling at the gathering in front of Holyrood Palace.


The rally began with David Brennan, the instigator of the first Pedal on Parliament, laying out the theme of making cycling ordinary:-

We aren’t ‘cyclists’, we’re everyone – from the mum taking her children to nursery to the road cyclist doing 100k at the weekend. But we’re also the kids in the back of the car looking wistfully out of the window because their parents can’t risk them riding to school, the people who drive to the gym to ride on stationary bikes because the roads are too fast and busy. There’s a real hunger out there for conditions where everyone can ride, from 8 to 80 and we’re calling on the Scottish government to make the investment to make that a reality.

Cycling is a single issue campaign, which means that the responses of the crowd are unlike those at a left-wing demo.  At the rally the police got a round of applause because they were on bicycles and had stopped the traffic for us.  The media got a cheer because they are mostly on our side.  The Saturday Glasgow Herald had run this editorial, which could have been a campaigner’s press release:-

Cycling should be a simple idea whose time has come. It is a cheap and available activity that has been shown to have positive effects on longevity, health and well-being. It is a convivial activity and a great morale booster. It is easily incorporated into daily life, especially in summer. It can be enjoyed at any level from a toddler on a pink trike to the Lycra-clad fanatic putting 100k under his wheels each weekend. If enough of us swap four wheels for two, cycling could make a significant contribution to tackling climate change as well as relieving congestion and improving air quality. Yet for generations cycling has been in decline. Transport policy has focused on cars and lorries and the way we travel has made us less healthy. Cyclists have become regarded as a rather eccentric minority, often viewed with outright hostility by motorists. Most Scots now consider cycling too risky, with some justification. (Another cyclist died on Thursday after a collision with a pick-up truck south of Inverness.)

To return cycling to levels that can contribute to healthier living and the shift to a low carbon economy, without a rise in road deaths and injuries, major changes in public policy will be required. As transport is devolved, the Scottish Government must take the lead on this issue.

The SNP administration talks about safer cycling and has a target of 10% of all journeys being taken by bike by 2020 but its rhetoric has not been matched by action.

Around £25 per head per year needs to be spent to achieve that goal. The actual spend is less than £3. Only a concerted campaign, supported by opposition parties at Holyrood, prevented cuts to the budget for active travel (cycling and walking) last year.

The Green politician got the warmest reception but a Tory councillor could be applauded when he pointed to Boris Johnson and his London cycling schemes and Andrew Mitchell, who cyclists don’t see as a snob supposed calling the police plebs, but as another cyclist being discriminated against.

The Times has been campaigning for safe cycling ever since one of their journalists was killed cycling, and gave us a front page picture on Monday.


Sally Hinchcliffe, one of the organisers of Pedal on Parliament, wrote in The Guardian:-

None of us had ever organised a demonstration of this scale in our lives, half of us had never even met each other until the day before the first demo, and we were astounded when somehow – through a mixture of determination, tweeting, mass flyering, blogging and countless emails – we managed to assemble 3,000 cyclists on the Meadows in Edinburgh to lobby Scotland’s politicians for more investment and better conditions for cyclists of all kinds.

We were delighted to be joined not only by the “lycra brigade” but by hundreds of families, with several kids even completing the ride on balance bikes. The day was both moving and joyful, a carnival of cycling and a serious attempt to show the politicians that investing in cycling wasn’t just something for existing cyclists, but for everyone.

Fast forward a few months, and essentially nothing had changed – for all the warm words from our politicians about how we were “pushing on an open door”. While the walking and cycling budget had at least stopped declining, it was nowhere near the level that was needed to see real growth in cycling across Scotland.

We were invited to meet the minister for transport, Keith Brown, but although he listened, it didn’t translate into any real action. He recently told the BBC that modernising Scotland’s transport meant building more motorways, and they’ve managed to find the money for a programme of road building while cycling has to wait to see if it gets a few crumbs out of “Barnett consequentials” (windfall money from the Westminster budget).

While Westminster’s all party cycling group’s recent Get Britain Cycling report laid out a realistic roadmap of how mass cycling could be achieved, Scotland is stuck with the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland, a document that is neither a plan nor provides much in the way of any action. Though Scotland’s health, pollution and carbon emission reduction policies rely on achieving a growth in bike use, it doesn’t seem to have any real idea of how to achieve it, other than yet another campaign urging road users to be nice to each other. Once again, Scotland was getting left behind.

With no leadership coming from the top, we knew we were going to have to supply the political will ourselves. Following the lead of the Dutch and the Danish who took to the streets repeatedly in the 1970s to get their cycle paths, we started planning the next mass demonstration. This time our message was explicit: “we are everyone”.

Outside the Council Buildings on the Royal Mile

The message has got out that cycling is a rational and healthy means of transport, not just a pursuit for eccentrics or sports maniacs in lycra.  Now we need the money and the transport policies to follow the message.


Permalink Leave a Comment

The banality of the blowback ‘explanation’

May 24, 2013 at 7:31 am (Afghanistan, Clive Bradley, From the archives, Galloway, Guardian, iraq war, islamism, Jim D, Lindsey German, murder, national liberation, palestine, religion, Stop The War, SWP, terror)

Above: the explanation?

All too predicatably, the usual suspects have rushed to explain the Woolwich killing by means of the so-called ‘blowback‘ argument (utilised with varying degrees of obvious gloating). Comrade Clive dealt with this back in the immediate  aftermath of the 2005 7/7 bombings. Obviously, the 7/7 attacks were somewhat different to what happened in Woolwich (though it seems likely that the Woolwich perpetrators intended to commit ‘suicide by police’), but I think Clive’s essential case remains incontrovertible  – JD:

‘Blowback’: a banal non-explanation

Just a note on the ‘blowback’ argument, which is put a bit less crudely in today’s Guardian by Gary Younge. Whereas the SWP/Galloway version of this just ritually nods at condemnation of the bombings, Younge seems more sincere, ‘to explain is not to condone’, etc. And, of course, presented with a ‘war on terror’ which is supposed to reduce terrorist attacks against us, it is not unreasonable to point out that, so far, this has not succeeded (I think, logically, this argument only runs so far, since nobody has suggested that the ‘war on terror’ will prevent terrorism until it is actually won; but there is some rhetorical force to this point).

And of course, if you think of the Beslan massacre, for example: you simply cannot account for the background to these events without explaining about Russian action in Chechnya. Clearly, Chechen Islamists did not materialise from nowhere, and there is a context to their existence. The same is true of Islamists elsewhere. Or to put this another way: of course if there were no real grievances to which Islamists could point, they would not be able to recruit anybody. Hamas would not be able to recruit young people and tell them to tie explosives to their chests and climb aboard buses, if the Palestinians were not actually oppressed and suffering grave injustices at the hands of the Israeli state.

But if this is all that is being said, surely it is banal. I suppose there may be some right wing crazies who think Hamas has grown among Palestinians purely because Arabs are bloodthirsty masochists or somesuch nonsense. But obviously, Hamas refers to real things in the real world to build its base, or it wouldn’t have one.

And the observation that there are actual grievances to which Islamists point as a way to recruit (or even, conceivably, that it is these grievances which motivate particular individuals to carry out atrocities) tells you absolutely nothing about the political character of the movement to which they are being recruited.

Of course it’s true, up to a point, that that the London bombs are connected to the British presence in Iraq. But this in itself is not an explanation for them. So if the ambition is to ‘explain but not condone’, you need to explain why people are recruited to these organisations – ones that want to blow up ordinary people on their way to work – rather than other ones. That bombs have dropped on Iraq and Afghanistan (or Jenin, or wherever) simply is not an explanation.

It would not be an explanation even if the organisations in question were identifiably nationalist, as opposed to salafi-jihadist. There have been plenty of colonial situations in the past which have produced armed struggle but not bombings of this kind.

But in any case they are not nationalist in the old sense, but something different – something whose political programme is not concerned with this or that grievance (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc) but with restoring the Caliphate, instituting sharia law, punishing apostates, and so on. Moreover – and this seems to me very important indeed – as far as the most extreme of these groups go, like the one presumably responsible for 7/7 – they are what can reasonably be called death cults. If the aim is explanation, then you need to tell us why this backward-looking death cult has prevailed over the old-style nationalists (not to mention more leftist movements – just to type the words tells you the fall of Stalinism has something to do with it), and so on.

And once you have identified the political character of these movements – what do you propose to do about it? We can withdraw from Iraq. But if you think withdrawal from Iraq will mean the jihadists will disappear from the Iraqi political landscape, I think you are deceiving yourself. There are much deeper social grievances which animate the militant Islamist movements, to do with the exclusion of the middle class from economic and political power, the decline of the old social classes, etc. Those social questions need to be addressed. And they need to be addressed by radical, democratic movements in those societies.

And, of course, Islamists – of all types – are the militant enemies of democratic movements and of democracy itself. Either you recognise the need to fight alongside democratic movements against the militant Islamists, in Iraq and elsewhere (including within Muslim communities here, of course) or…what? Even the more sophisticated blowback argument of the Gary Younge variety gives no sense of identifying the militant Islamists as our enemy – the enemy of socialists, of democrats, of feminists, of women in general, of lesbians and gay men, of trade unionists, and so on, both in the ‘Muslim world’ and on our doorstep. It criticises the method of fighting terror adopted by our governments, but as though there was simply no need to fight it at all. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 17 Comments

‘Bitter fruit’ this time as well?

May 22, 2013 at 11:45 pm (apologists and collaborators, assassination, crime, fascism, islamism, Jim D, London, mental health, murder, reaction, SWP, terror)

Remind you of anything?

This, for instance:

Horror in the United States: Bitter fruit of US policy

Socialist Worker, Sat 15 Sep 2001

The full horror of the attacks in the US was breaking as Socialist Worker went to press. Very many innocent people had been killed or injured.

Nobody knew for sure on Tuesday who was responsible. If it was people from the Middle East it will be because they believe, wrongly, that it is the only way to respond to the horrors they have suffered from the US and other governments. The tragic scenes in New York and Washington are the bitter fruits of policies pursued by the US state.

US president George Bush spoke of terrorist outrages on Tuesday. Yet the state he heads has been responsible for burying men, women and children under piles of rubble. Ten years ago his father sent hundreds of US planes to bomb Iraqi civilians night after night during the Gulf War. They killed over 100,000 civilians and conscripts—’collateral damage’ in the US’s war for oil.

Two years ago the US and NATO bombed towns and cities in Serbia and Kosovo for 78 days. Children, hospital patients, old people—all these and more had as little warning that bombs were about to drop on them as did those who died in the US this week. And the US, backed by Tony Blair, imposes a murderous embargo on the people of Iraq, backed by frequent bombing raids.

In Israel the US supports Ariel Sharon, a war criminal. Israel has murdered over 600 Palestinians in the 11 months of the intifada (uprising). Faced with the might of the US, some people can become so desperate that they try to fight back against this military giant with the limited weapons they have to hand.

They do not have Cruise missiles—so they take to turning a hijacked airliner into a suicide bomb instead. It is not a method that can break US power. Some military officials would have suffered from the explosion at the Pentagon. But many more innocent civilians were killed in New York and Washington. Tuesday’s suicide raids were born of desperation at the supreme arrogance and contempt of the rulers of the most powerful capitalist state on Earth.

In 1998 the US responded to a bomb attack on its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by blowing up the only medicine factory in the desperately poor country of Sudan, and by bombing Afghanistan. It will be looking for similar revenge now. That will drive more people to hate the US.

It is the responsibility of everyone who is revolted at the lethal world order the US and its allies sit at the top of to offer a way forward. It needs to be based on the mass collective power of ordinary people across the world, and targeted precisely at our rulers.

Permalink 17 Comments

Next page »