Giffords shooting: at the very least Palin and the Tea Party have questions to answer

January 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm (Congress, Harry's Place, Jim D, Palin, Republican Party, United States)

Nobody knows the motivation of Jared Loughner, the man arrested for the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. It may well turn out that he is simply mentally ill, with no coherent political motivation of any kind. That’s certainly the view of Edmund Standing over at That Place. I can agree with Standing that knee-jerk political conclusions are best avoided “until all the evidence is in.” But not with his argument that Palin, the Tea Party and the ‘mainstream’ Republicans who tolerate these nutty bigots, have no case to answer. Their incendiary rhetoric against Giffords and other moderate Democrats over healthcare reform, and their use of images like this…


…have surely created a political climate in which the physical intimidation of moderates is encouraged.  Whether or not the rantings of Palin, her Tea Party followers and various ultra-right shock-jocks, directly contributed to the Giffords shooting is debateable: what is not is the fact that in March, Giffords was one of ten Democrats to be physically harassed over their support for Obama’s health reform bill, and her Tucson office was vandalised.
Make no mistake: Palin and the Tea Party bigots still have plenty of questions to answer before we should join Mr Standing in giving them a free pass.

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The racism of the anti-Obama campaign: Carter gets it right!

September 20, 2009 at 5:55 pm (Congress, Democratic Party, Human rights, Jim D, mccarthyism, Racism, Republican Party, United States)

Jimmy Carter is often an idiot. He talked irresponsible nonsense when he compared Israel with apartheid South Africa, for instance.

But he’s surely correct when he says:

“Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate on whether we should have a national programme on healthcare. It’s deeper than that. I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man … That racism inclination still exists. And I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country.”

And, of course, Obama – a master bourgeois politician and natural-born statesman – was very wise (from his own point of view)  to disavow Carter’s analysis.

Watch the extraordinary piece of film at the bottom of this post. It generally confirms Carter’s contention, but also contains some wonderful, unexpected moments – like when the black guy defends Mississippi and denounces the “New York liberal” who’s making the film!

Also: it’s clear that McCain was embarrassed by Sarah Palin’s thinly-disguised racism. He’s a conservative, but not a racist.

Nonetheless: there can be little doubt that the hysteria surrounding Obama’s health care plans, and the heckling he received from the Confererate  Good Ol’ Boy Joe Wilson in Congress last week, was classic Deep South racism  [Youtube=

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The TUC and Israel: dual standards and despair

September 19, 2009 at 3:12 pm (anti-semitism, Champagne Charlie, Congress, israel, Middle East, stalinism, unions, workers)

“I regard it as a kind of psychological displacement activity” a leading TUC left-winger told me: “It’s unions and delegates saying, in effect, ‘we can’t take on the government, we’re pretty crap at defending our members, but we can take a really hard line on Israel’.”

What is certainly true is that if this year’s  TUC is remembered for anything at all, it will be for  just two debates: high heel shoes at work and the call to boycott Israel.

What was finally passed on Israel/Palestine was a typical TUC fudge: the FBU motion, supported by Unison and Unite, calling for a total boycott of Israeli goods and questioning the TUC’s links with the Israeli union organisation Histadrut was overruled by a General Council statement, arrived at after much wrangling behind the scenes, that read: “To increase the pressure for for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories and the removal of the seperation wall and illegal settlements we will support a boycott of those goods and agricultural products that originate in illegal settlements through developing an effective, targeted consumer-led boycott campaign.”

Whilst the statement is less objectionable and dangerous than the FBU’s anti-all things Israeli position, two immediate problems present themselves. Firstly, as the FBU president Mick Shaw fairly pointed out, “these goods do not come with a label which says, ‘These goods are produced on an illegal settlement’.” So, EITHER this will be an impractical, ineffectual gesture…OR it will be turned in practice into an all-out boycott campaign of all Israeli products and links with Israel. The latter is quite clearly what people like the Palestine Solidarity Committee and other professional anti-semites and Israel-haters hope for. As the (Stalinist) Communist Party of Britain’s John Haylett writes approvingly in today’s Morning Star: “…it is important that the popular understanding will be that the TUC is in favour of a boycott of Israel…”

The second point to note is that the statement (like the FBU motion) talks explicitly about a “consumer-led boycott campaign.” In other words the leadership of Britain’s trade union movement is calling upon the general public to do something, but not especially upon trade unionists. If the TUC  and its affiliates (especially Unite) were serious about a boycott, they’d be calling upon workers not to handle, transport, load, unload or sell these goods. Instead, they call for a what will, at best, be an empty gesture devoid of trade union principle, international solidarity or any suggestion of working class unity. I say “at best” because at worst – if it were to take off – the “boycott” call would, inevitably, become an anti-Jewish campaign, directed against all those linked to, and in any way sympathetc to, Israel: ie predominantly Jews. That may not be the intention of most of those calling for a boycott, but it would certainly be the end result of a successful campaign.

Much better a positive labour movement campaign of solidarity with the Palestinans, with the Israeli peace movement, and with workers on both sides. The “boycott” call militates against that sort of working class campaign. It’s actually a council of despair as far as working class politics goes.

But, of course, some of those promoting the boycott are actively opposed to working class unity in the context of Israel/Palestine. How else to explain the calls for a “review” (ie: breaking) of links with Histadrut? ‘Ah, but the Histadrut supported the attack on Gaza’, comes the reply. To which we can only reply in turn that if the TUC broke off links with all unions and union federations that supported their own governments – including over imperialist wars and invasions – then it would have precious few international links at all. ‘Ah but the Histadrut is not really a proper trade union at all, but what Comrade Haylett correctly describes as a “cross between a trade union and an employers’ federation”‘ reply the Israel-haters. Two points to make on that: Histadrut is far from being the only trade union organisation in the world to have class-collaborationist links with employers (and – of course – people like Comrade Haylett always rather approved of Eastern European and other Stalinist unions that were -and in the case of Cuba and China, still are – part of their respective states); secondly, whatever its faults the Histadrut is the collective, representative body of the Israeli labour movement. To write off Histadrut is to write off the Israeli working class. But then, that’s what most of the supporters of the boycott have done already, isn’t it?

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India says no to religious politics as Congress surges ahead nationwide

May 17, 2009 at 7:31 am (BJP, Congress, elections, india, voltairespriest)

Finally, after quite literally weeks of voting in the world’s largest general election, India has given its verdict. In defiance of every opinion poll prediction of a “cliffhanger” result, the ruling United Progressive Allliance led by the secular Congress (I) Party has won a clear victory, dealing a crushing blow to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies. Once again, presented with a free choice, Indian voters have rejected the politics of myopic communalist bigotry and chosen a political path which separates religious belief from political practice.

As the complete results show, the Congress alone has won more seats than the BJP and its allies combined, marking a shift away from the recent trend of regional powerbrokers holding the national parties to ransom as they scrabbled to form governments. Further, Mayawati Kumari (the first Dalit regional premier and leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party) has been frustrated in her ambition to hold the balance of power or even the premiership, which must surely come as a blow to India’s sculptors given the amount of statues of herself that the old charlatan might have ordered. Indeed, the fading of the regional parties’ influence can probably be seen on balance as a positive, showing that people voted out of concern with national political issues rather than with local or communal/religious interests at the forefront of their minds.

As well as the welcome battering of the communalist parties, some of the Congress’ gains have come at the expense of the Stalinist-led Left Front, whom they have trounced in Kerala and (in tandem with their rather politically eccentric allies in the Trinamool Congress) even gained some strength against in the Communist stronghold of West Bengal. It was a bad night overall for the Communist Party (Marxist) leaders of the Left Front, who dropped 27 seats, mainly in Kerala and West Bengal. This perhaps reflects the CP’s establishment status in both states, as well as an evident national mood to vote the Congress back into power.

Overall, what does it mean? The Congress, with its history of dynastic governance by the Gandhis and its increasing neo-liberalism in policy and practice, will not provide an emancipatory politics for the Indian people. However the fall of the “Saffron” Hindu nationalists can only be welcomed by people who support the absence of religious influence from the State that is secularism in its true form. Whether a truly progressive national force will emerge that is able to transcend the semi-feudal politics of the Congress or the bureaucratism of the Stalinists, remains to be seen. Here’s hoping.

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