Clive on Paris: “Just some thoughts. No conclusions.”

November 17, 2015 at 8:46 am (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, Cities, Clive Bradley, democracy, Europe, Human rights, imperialism, internationalism, iraq war, islamism, kurdistan, Middle East, misogyny, murder, secularism, solidarity, Syria, terror, turkey)

By Clive Bradley (via Facebook):

For what they’re worth, my feelings about Paris, etc. Friday was personally upsetting because Paris is a city I know quite well: I’ve never been to the Bataclan, but for sure I’ve walked past it. I have friends in Paris. Elia and I have been to Paris for our anniversary in the past. It brings it home to me in a way which – to be honest – other recent atrocities don’t.

The reason for posting now, though, is that I’m frustrated by some of what I’m seeing in social media and in the news about the politics of this. It’s horrific to see the racist, nationalistic, xenophobic nonsense spouted in some quarters. It seems to me the single most important thing we have to do to fight ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh is fight for the rights of migrants and refugees, both because what Daesh want is to stir up Islamophobia and other kinds of hate – that’s the aim of the attacks – and because genuine democracy, equality and freedom are the real weapons in any meaningful struggle against terrorism and religious fascism.

It’s true, of course, as some of my friends have pointed out, that a big factor in explaining the rise of Daesh is Western intervention in the Middle East. Indeed, French colonialism played a particularly appalling role in the Middle East and Arab world more generally (Algeria). If you had to pick a moment when the fuse was lit which led to the current crisis, I think it might have been when the French kicked Faisal out of Damascus just after World War One (the British gave him Iraq as a consolation), thus preventing the independent state the Arabs had been promised in the war against the Turks. (This is one reason among many I won’t update my status with a French flag – or indeed any national flag).

But what events like Paris, and Beirut, and Baghdad (many times) and everything that’s been happening in Syria (and Libya), and so on – and on – show is that Daesh nevertheless has to be fought. Their chilling statement about the Paris attacks – Paris as a den of perversion, and so forth – brings home that I, for instance, am a target of their hate. Everything I stand for and everything I am. How, then, to fight them?

Sadly, they won’t go away just because we don’t retaliate by bombing them. The single greatest victory against them in recent weeks was the retaking of Sinjar by the Kurds (

To fight Daesh/IS, we should give the Kurds, the main military force opposing them on the ground with an agenda of democracy and human rights (ie not the murderous Assad regime), all the support we can.

But the uncomfortable fact is that the Kurds won this battle with US military air support. So maybe not all Western intervention is bad; or at least, if the Kurds want it and need it, shouldn’t we do what they want? And while Western intervention has mainly had disastrous consequences – the Iraq war being only the most obvious example – Western non-intervention in Syria has been pretty disastrous, too. We need to face the fact that this stuff is difficult. I’m not, here, advocating anything, just pointing out the complexity.

And there’s another question to do with Western ‘involvement’ which is harder to tackle. Daesh is the product of Western involvement up to a point; but it is much more directly the product of Saudi Arabia. (…/isis-wahhabism-saudi-arabia…). A big thing the West could do to fight Daesh is break links with Saudi Arabia – but of course this they don’t want to do for obvious reasons, namely oil. The very least they could do is not promote Saudi Arabia as ‘moderate’ or champions of human rights. But in fact, something much more profound in the way the Western world works needs to change (and for sure this will have consequences in my own little bit of it).

Another thing we could do is challenge ‘our’ NATO ally, Turkey, who have been consistently more concerned to subvert the Kurds than to fight Daesh, and whose repression of the Kurds, which of course has long historical roots, is now deepening again. (I posted this the other day:…).
Just some thoughts. No conclusions. Might try to go back to sleep.

Kurds take Sinjar from the Islamic State group


  1. Jim Denham said,

    Comrade Dave writes:

    Corbyn’s actual position on Syria. As opposed to stop the wars position, Hilary Benns position or the media caricature. .
    – Stop Turkish attacks on Kurds
    – stop Saudi funding direct or In direct on IS
    – there needs to be talks between the governments involved for the creation an “acceptable” (I.e. Not an Assad government).q In Syria capable of defeating IS.
    – he is though against the Bombing campaign. Although he doesn’t say if he supports air support for the Kurds.

    Main problem is he wont condemn those on the left that actually support Assad and will share platforms with them even if he doesn’t and wants him out.

    • John R said,

      Corbyn “is though against the Bombing campaign. Although he doesn’t say if he supports air support for the Kurds.”

      Jeremy Corbyn has never, ever supported any NATO airstrikes even when they saved the lives of the people of Kobane.

      It would be major front page news if he ever did.

      • John R said,

        Here’s an interview that Corbyn gave in Sept 2014 to CNN explaining why he opposes airstrikes.

      • Lamia said,

        If Corbyn had had his way, and there had been no western airstrikes and special forces and intelligence help, then every single Kurd and other minority from Northern Syria and Northern Iraq would now be dead, enslaved or in exile. It is pure hypocritical bullshit for him or his supporters to claim he ‘supports’ the Kurds.

        The Kurds have won great victories against ISIS in recent months – mostly with US air support, in some case with US or UK special forces help. It is about time sections of the Western left got their heads around the fact that this isn’t all about them and their long-time grudge against the USA and the UK.

  2. Steven Johnston said,

    That is the problem for any capitalist politician, how do you manage capitalism and keep your hands clean? You ultimately will get into bed with some real *****!

    As for Saudia Arabia I understand how difficult it is for the West, if they break with the Saudias then you weaken their position and strengthen their enemies. Do we really want the fundies in power there?

  3. Steven Johnston said,

    “If Corbyn had had his way…” Yes, but under capitalism the politicians are not in control. As socialists we know this. In office but not in power.

  4. Rilke said,

    According to the Corbyn line, my grandfather who carried a rifle in the Spanish Civil War against Franco, was involved in engagements against the Guarda Mora and certainly shot to kill, was not much more than a racist imperialist assassin.
    I am trying my best to support Corbyn, but he appears more and more like a confused Anglican vicar who thinks he can stop ‘sin’ simply by saying he does ‘not agree with it.’
    By the way, T.E. Lawrence was in favour of a united Arab state and respected the ‘fighting qualities’ and ‘dignity’ of the Arabs in their fight against the Turks and was ‘shamed’ by the betrayal of them by the British and French after WWI. He was also an anti-semite, against women’s equality, deeply misogynistic, against expanding the franchise in Britain (he supported university wards) and a proto-fascist.

    • John R said,

      Here is what (then) Labour leader George Lansbury said in Oct 1933, (the same year Hitler came to power) –

      “I would close every recruiting station, disband the Army and disarm the Air Force. I would abolish the whole dreadful equipment of war and say to the world: “Do your worst”.”

      He was a Christian pacifist and remained leader until 1935 when he had to resign due to not supporting sanctions against Italy who were poised to invade Abyssinia.

      Corbyn is similar to Lansbury in his refusal to accept reality. His comments about arresting Jihadi John just beggared belief.

      Btw, here’s a fake Labour leaflet Ukip have put out in Oldham. Corbyn’s recent interviews re Isis and Jihadi John will no doubt provide more ammunition for them and the Tories there.

    • Clive said,

      This is an entirely secondary point (in fact I don’t understand why you’ve raised it) but I don’t think it’s fair to call TE Lawrence a proto-fascist. He explicitly rejected overtures from Mosely; he shared the casual anti-semitism of the English aristocracy of the time (though he wasn’t one – his father had been, but he wasn’t brought up in that class), but doesn’t seem to have had any animosity towards Jews (not that anti-semitism can be reduced to that, but it still seems of some relevance).

      Generally, his work doesn’t have the casual racism of – for instance – a contemporary (and friend) like John Buchan. He wasn’t an anti-imperialist by a long shot, but his support for Arab independence was genuine (though for sure he anticipated a ‘brown dominion’ under British tutelage to begin with). I don’t think it’s true, either, that he was ‘deeply misogynistic’ – I suppose depending what you mean, exactly. He found relationships with women difficult (apart from Charlotte Webb), but is that the same thing?

      Of course, I hold no brief for TE Lawrence! But after studying him quite intensely for the last few years (for work reasons) I think he was considerably more complex and nuanced and interesting than your little summary suggests.

  5. Glasgow Working Class said,

    It may be a fake leaflet but maybe some truth in it.

    • Political Tourist said,

      Orange bigot supports Ukip, no surprises there then.

      • Steven Johnston said,

        British nationalism, Palestinian nationalism, Kurdish nationalism or even European trans-nationalism or any other nationalism…if you support any of these are you any less of a bigot?

  6. Glasgow Working Class said,

    The Kurds deserve a State for their tenacity and this should be backed by the UN. It is time Turkey realised the Ottoman Empire is gone and dead. I admire those Kurdish women just like Israeli women fighting fascists.

  7. Rilke said,

    I take your more detailed points about Lawrence and thank you for making them.
    My broader point was only that you can hold certain apparently coherent and progressive political postions, in this case in respect of an Arab state and Western interference in the Millde East, but at the same time still be deeply confused and let us say, ‘arrogant and dismissive’ of democratic and progressive values. Many on the left seem to think that the position you adopt on certain major political issues determines your ethical and political philosophy, but it does not follow. I know of extreme and even potentially deadly right wingers in Italy and Germany who are well versed ‘green environmentalists’ and I knew of French fascists who were and are supporters of Irish republicanism. My main point I suppose, is that parties such as the SWP and STWC and others espouse certain apparently admirable ‘political positions’ but at the same time they are deeply ambigious and suspect in terms of their deeper political philsophy and ethical content.
    I am uncertian about your point about Lawrence and the casual anti-semitism of his class and time argument though. There were people around him who were not causally antisemtic, so this implies that it could be actively denied at the time. It is an awkward question, it troubles me about Dostoevski also. It can be argued that he simply reflected certain causal anti Semitic views around in the lower Russian gentry and he was not an anti Jewish bigot. But some of the writing, diary entries and the letters imply otherwise and there were people around that were not casually anti semitic…so maybe he just was an anti semite! I regard Dostoevski as a writer of genius…but….

  8. Clive said,

    Oh I see, and yes, I take your general point.

    I’ve not read anything in Lawrence which is anti-semitic in the way that Dostoyevsky clearly is. In fact Lawrence was surprisingly not hostile, even warm, towards the Zionists in Palestine (he ‘facilitated’ a meeting between Faisal and Chaim Weismann which came up with a proposal for a kind of partition which they tried to get the Paris Peace Conference to adopt, One of the ‘what ifs’ of history).

    I guess in any case you raise a different issue, here. I agree that Dostoyevsky was a genius despite his politics (not only the anti-semitism) – and btw a vastly greater writer than TE Lawrence. That’s a difficult issue, but for sure, and up to a point, you can and have to separate an artist’s value from crudely what they thought about this or that (at least when it clearly is to do with predominant ideas at the time).

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