Morning Star letters page: a “total waste of space”

October 9, 2017 at 7:42 pm (Beyond parody, Brexit, comedy, conspiracy theories, CPB, Europe, Jim D, nationalism, plonker, publications, stalinism)

Image result for picture Morning Star EU

The letters page of the Morning Star is not somewhere I’d normally recommend for either political enlightenment or a good laugh.

But following the super-patriotic Daily Mail of the Left‘s  decision to publish a token anti-Brexit letter last week, various rancid old Stalinists and Little-Britain nationalists have been spluttering with rage. One Mike Magee, for instance, fulminated in hilarious cod-Marxiese against the publication of any such “ignorant and ill-founded” letters from unbelievers (I personally just love the claim that such letters might “confuse” those who are “already unsure of which line is correct”).

As letters do not appear on the M Star‘s website, I feel it’s a public service to republish Mr Magee’s stern missive, followed by a straight-faced riposte from a splendid husband-and-wife team, who (not for the first time) bring some much-needed sanity and decency to the paper’s letter page.

Don’t add to the EU confusion
MANY readers will want to reply to Alan Yearsley’s letter (M Star October 4) criticising the Star for not giving equal coverage to the Remainers protesting at the Tory conference that Brexit is a monstrosity. I would direct a contrary criticism to the Star.

The paper’s editorial line is based on sound factual evidence as exemplified by left-wing anti-EU campaign Lexit, including now the referendum result, whereas Mr Yearsley and his Remainers simply “believe” (imagine, presume or surmise without credible evidence) we can reform the EU from inside.

 He cites a couple of “benefits” which do not require membership of the capitalist club, and there are many more such examples of collaboration across borders that do not require a corporate state to exist.

 The EU is an oversized homunculus which no amount of reforming surgery can beautify – 45 years inside prove it.
The Star’s editorial line is Marxist even though the rest of its content is directed at a wider left-leaning readership. Marxism is a scientific outlook formed from careful study and analysis of human society throughout history, and our modern day observation and experience of it.

 Neither science nor Marxism relies on human hopes and fancies but on human experience.

 My point is that publishing ignorant and ill-founded letters is not part of the Star’s remit. It only serves to confuse further those who are already unsure of which line is correct.

 An aim of the capitalist media is to obfuscate reality and thereby confuse the mass of the people. It is not the function of our paper to add to that confusion.
MIKE MAGEE Frome

The Star’s letters page is total waste of space
Mike Magee is absolutely right (M Star October 8-9), and Alan Yearsley is quite wrong (M Star October 4) in his criticism of our paper

There is no place in it for ignorant and ill-founded letters, which only serve to confuse.

In fact, discussion of difficult and complicated political questions like Brexit is best avoided altogether.

Our paper’s editorial line is there to be followed. What else is it for?

Come to think of it, do we really need a letters page? It merely provides space for arrogant readers who think they have all the answers to lay down the law to the rest of us.

If we scrap the letters page, that would allow more space for news reports and the all-important Star comment, which tells us what to think and saves us the trouble of thinking for ourselves.

Of course a paper like the one were are suggesting would lose a lot of its present readers, so a very much larger Fighting Fund would be needed. We are sending a small cheque to help.
BETTY AND CHRIS BIRCH London SW6

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Chakrabarti slaps down McCluskey’s stupid remarks on antisemitism

September 27, 2017 at 11:18 am (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, crap, Jim D, labour party, plonker, Racism, Unite the union)

Len McCluskey (on BBC Newsnight): “I’ve never recognized [that Labour has a problem with anti-Semitism]. I believe it was mood music that was created by people trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. In 47 years of membership of the Labour Party, I’ve never been at a meeting where there was any anti-Semitic language or any attacks on the Jews. They would have had short shrift in any meeting I was at.”

“Unfortunately, at the time there were lots of people playing games. Everybody wanted to create this image that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour had become misogynistic and anti-Semitic because they wanted to bring Jeremy Corbyn down.”

Shami Chakrabarti: “With the greatest of respect to Len, I was the person charged with investigating this. It wasn’t Len,” she said. “I have seen things which Len hasn’t seen. I would ask Len to read my report.

“There are real reasons why someone like Len may not have experienced racism and anti-Semitism. There is an obvious reason why he may not have experienced it. I was charged with investigating by Jeremy and the National Executive and I set out my findings, warts and all.”

  • See also, Coatesy on Labour’s new rules to fight anti-Semitism, here

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Roald Dahl: wonderful storyteller, vile human being

September 13, 2017 at 1:06 pm (anti-semitism, children, conspiracy theories, culture, Free Speech, Human rights, islamism, literature, posted by JD, Racism)

By Stephen Knight at  Godless Spellchecker’s Blog

ROALD DAHL FAILED ON FREE SPEECH AND THREW SALMAN RUSHDIE TO THE MOB

September 13th marks the birthday of the late and great children’s author Roald Dahl. In celebration of his prolific storytelling, the day has also been dubbed ‘Roald Dahl Day’.

Dahl’s exceptional storytelling was a huge part of my childhood. I adored his hilarious tales which were perfectly complemented by the illustrations of Quentin Blake. That’s what makes my loss of respect for him as an adult all that more regrettable. If you want to keep your rosy, Dahl infused childhood in tact, you may wish to go away now.

You may remember, or at least know of the fallout that continues to pursue Salman Rushdie to this day after he published a work of fiction in 1988 titled ‘The Satanic Verses’.

The book dealt partly with the life of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad. This didn’t go down well in the Muslim world, leading to then supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, issuing a Fatwa for Rushdie’s death.

Rushdie requires police protection and had to live for 8 years in a safe house. Fortunately, he has avoided harm so far. Others haven’t been so lucky, namely a number of people attempting to translate his book into their native language.

History will look back at those who threw Salman Rushdie under the bus during this time rather unfavourably. Indeed, if Charlie Hebdo reminded us of one thing, it’s that the moral confusion of the left has remained alive and well since the Rushdie Affair. For some reason, it seems an even more egregious transgression when coming from those that write for a living themselves.

Unfortunately, Roald Dahl was quite vocal in his belief that Rushdie’s writing was the problem, rather than the fascist mob who wished him dead for a work of fiction.

‘In a letter to The Times of London, Dahl called Rushdie “a dangerous opportunist,” saying he “must have been totally aware of the deep and violent feelings his book would stir up among devout Muslims. In other words, he knew exactly what he was doing and cannot plead otherwise. This kind of sensationalism does indeed get an indifferent book on to the top of the best-seller list, — but to my mind it is a cheap way of doing it.” The author of dark children’s books and stories for adults (who himself once had police protection after getting death threats) also advocated self-censorship. It “puts a severe strain on the very power principle that the writer has an absolute right to say what he likes,” he wrote. “In a civilized world we all have a moral obligation to apply a modicum of censorship to our own work in order to reinforce this principle of free speech.”

And for a childhood destroying bonus round, a ‘dash’ of anti-Semitism from Dahl:

‘There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity; maybe it’s a kind of lack of generosity towards non-Jews. I mean there is always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.

Of course, the work of Dahl should be celebrated and judged on its own merits, but I also think it’s important to remind people which side of the argument he was on during this vital test of principles.

Stephen Knight is host of The #GSPodcast. You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.

  • JD adds: more on Dahl’s anti-Semitism, here

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‘Manufacturing Muslims’

September 6, 2017 at 2:46 pm (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, culture, France, identity politics, islamism, literature, Middle East, post modernism, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", religion)

A review by Andrew Coates of what would seem to be a very important book – unfortunately only available in French at the moment.

From Tendance Coatesy:

La Fabrique du Musulman. Nedjib Sidi Moussa: ‘Manufacturing Muslims’

La Fabrique du Musulman. Nedjib Sidi Moussa. Libertalia. 2017.

In the wake of the Tower Hamlets foster care furore Kenan Malik has written of the “inadequacy of all sides to find an adequate language through which to speak about questions concerning Muslims and Islam.” (Observer. 3.9.17) This inability to talk seriously about these issues as shown in the prejudiced press coverage, risks, Kenan argues, shutting down criticism of outing people in “cultural or faith boxes” and “blurring the distinction between bigotry against Muslims and criticisms of Islam”.

La Fabrique du Musulman (Manufacturing Muslims) is an essay on very similar dilemmas about “La Question des Musulmans” in French political debate. Moussa tackles both the “box” theory of faith and culture, and efforts by those taken by the “anti-imperialism of fools” to align with the “petite bourgeoisie islamique” and form alliances with Islamist organisations starting with the issue of ‘Zionism’. In 147 pages the author does not just outline the left’s political bewilderment faced with the decomposition of the classical working class movement. He pinpoints the “confusionnisme” which has gone with its attempts to grapple with the problems of discrimination against minorities in the Hexagone – its relations with forces with ideologies far from Marxism or any form of democratic socialism.

Indigènes, Race War and the US left. 

Moussa is the binational son of revolutionaries who supported Messali Hadj in the Algerian War of National Liberation. As the offspring of those who backed the losing side in a war that took place before independence, between the Messalists and the victorious FLN, who will not be accepted as French, he announces this to underline that he does not fit into a neat ‘anti-colonial’ pigeonhole (Page 11). He  examines the roots and the difficulties created by the replacement of the figure of the ‘Arab’ by that of the ‘Muslim’. Furthermore, while he accepts some aspects of ‘intersectionality”, that is that there many forms of domination to fight, he laces the central importance of economic exploitation tightly to any “emancipatory perspective” rather than the heritage of French, or other European imperialism. (Page 141).

La Fabrique is an essay on the way the “social question” has become dominated by religious and racial issues (Essai sur la confessionnalisation et la racialisation de la question sociale). The argument of the book is that the transition from the identity of Arab and other minorities in France from sub-Saharan Africa to that of ‘Muslim’ has been helped by political complicity of sections of the French left in asserting this ‘heritage’. In respects we can see here something like an ‘anti-imperialist’ appropriation of Auguste-Maurice Barrès’ concept of “la terre et les morts”, that people are defined by their parents’ origins, and fixed into the culture, whether earthly or not. This, with another conservative view, on the eternity of race struggle, trumping class conflict, has melded with various types of ‘post-colonial’ thought. This is far from the original “social question” in which people talked about their exploitation and  positions in the social structure that drew different identities together as members of a class and sought to change the material conditions in which they lived.

In demonstrating his case La Fabrique is a critique of those opponents of the New World Order but who take their cultural cue from American enemies of the “Grand Satan” and descend into ‘racialism’.  (Page 18 – 19) In this vein it can be compared with the recent article, “American Thought” by Juraj Katalenac on the export of US left concepts of “whiteness” as a structure of oppression reflecting the legacy of slavery (Intellectual imperialism: On the export of peculiarly American notions of race, culture, and class.) No better examples of this could be found than Moussa’s targets –  former Nation of Islam supporter Kémi Séba, “panfricanist” and founder of Tribu Ka, condemned for anti-Semitism, and a close associate of the far right, recently back in the news for burning African francs, and the Parti des indigènes de la République (PIR).

The PIR’s spokesperson Houria Bouteldja, offers a picture of the world in imitation of US Black Power lacing, in her best known text, diatribes against Whiteness (Blanchité) and laments for the decline in Arab virility, more inspired by Malcolm X and James Baldwin than by the nuances of Frantz Fanon. In the struggle for the voice of the indigenous she affirms a belief that commemorating the memory of the Shoah is, for whites, the “the bunker of abstract humanism”, while anti-Zionism is the “space for an historic conformation between us and the whites”. Bouteldja is fêted in Berkley and other ‘post-colonial’ academic quarters, and given space in the journal of what passes for the cutting edge of the US left, Jacobin. (1)

La Fabrique outlines the sorry history of the PIR, highlighting rants against integration, up the point that Bouteldja asserts that the wearing the veil means “I do not sleep with whites” (Page 51). The discourse on promoting ‘race’ is, Moussa, is not slow to indicate, in parallel to the extreme right picture of ‘racial war’. He cites the concept of “social races” offered by Tunisian exile and former Trotskyist, Sadri Khiari on a worldwide struggle between White Power and Indigenous Political Power (“Pouvoir Blanc et la Puissance politique indigène”) (Pages 60 – 61). Moussa notes, is the kind of ideology behind various university-based appeals to “non-mixité”, places where in which races do not mix. One can only rejoice that Khiari has not fused with Dieudonné and Soral, and – we may be proved wrong – no voice on the left France yet talks of a “transnational Jewish bourgeoisie” to complement the picture, and demand that Jews have their own special reservations in the non-mixed world.

Many of the themes tackled in La Fabrique are specifically French. Britain, for example, has nothing resembling the concept of laïcité, either the recognition of open universalism, or of the more arid arch-republicanism that has come to the fore in recent years. The attempts at co-operation, or more formal alliances with Islamists, and the sections on various moves, between opportunism and distance of those in and around the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (MPA),  intellectuals of the ‘left of the left’,  and the ambiguities of Alternative Libertaire on the issues, though important in a domestic context, are not of prime interest to an international audience. (2) Other aspects have a wider message. The convergence between ‘Complotiste’, conspiracy theories, laced with anti-Semitism, circulating on the extreme-right and amongst reactionary Muslims, finding a wider audience (the name Alain Soral and the Site, Egalité et Reconciliation crops up frequently), including some circles on the left, merits an English language investigation. There are equally parallels with the many examples of ‘conservative’ (reactionary) Muslims who, from the campaign against Gay Marriage and equality education (“la Manif pour tous”), have become politically involved in more traditional right-wing politics, and the beurgeois, the prosperous Islamic market for Halal food and drinks. 

Islamogauchistes.

In one area there is little doubt that we in ‘Anglo-Saxon’ countries (a term in the book that jars), that is the English speaking world, will find the account of alliances between sections of the left and Islamists familiar, So familiar indeed that the names of the Socialist Workers Party, Respect and the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) are placed at the centre of the debate about these agreements, from the 2002, 2007 Cairo Conferences Against US and Zionist Occupation (Page 74), attended also by Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), to the definition of Islamophobia offered by the Runnymede Trust (Page 87).

If one can criticise Moussa in this area it is not because he does not discuss the details of the failure of the SWP and the forces in Respect and the StWC have failed to carry out Chris Harman’s strategy of being “with the Islamists” against the State. The tactic of being their footstools collapsed for many reasons, including, the SWP’s Rape Crisis, the farce of Respect under George Galloway, and was doomed in the Arab Winter not just after the experience of MB power in Egypt, Ghannouchi and Ennahda in Tunisia and, let us not forget but when the Syrian uprising pitted the Muslim Brotherhood against Assad, Daesh was born, and the British left friends of ‘reformist’ Islamism lapsed into confusion. If the Arab ‘patrimonial states’ remain the major problem, there is a growing consensus (outside of groupuscules like Counterfire) on the British left that actually existing Islamist parties and movements are “deeply reactionary”. (3)

To return to our introduction: how can we talk about Islam and Muslims? We can, Moussa suggests, do without the use of the term ‘Islamophobia’ to shout down criticism of the ‘sacred’. The tendency of all religious believers to consider that their ideas make them better than everybody else and in need of special recognition cannot be left unchallenged. They need, “libre examen…contre les vérités révélés, pour l’émancipation et contre l’autorité”, free investigation against revealed truths, for emancipation against authority (Page 143). There should never be a question of aligning with Islamists. But systemic discrimination, and economic exploitation remain core issues. It is not by race war or by symbolic academic struggles over identity that these are going to be resolved. La Fabrique, written with a clarity and warmth that gives heart to the reader. Whether all will follow La Fabrique and turn to the writings of Socialisme ou Barbarie and the Internationale situationniste to find the tools for our emancipation remains to be seen. But we can be sure that in that “voie” we will find Moussa by our side.

*****

(1) Pages 66 – 67, Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous. Houria Bouteldja. La Fabrique. 2016. In discussing Fanon few who read him can ignore his sensitive complexity. For example, did not just discuss the ‘fear’ of Black sexuality amongst whites, but the dislike of North Africans for “les hommes de couleur”, as well as efforts by the French to divide Jews, Arab and Blacks. Page 83. Peau noire masques blancs. Frantz Fanon. Editions du Seuil. 1995.

(2  La Fabrique du musulman » : un défaut de conception. Alternative Libertarire. Droit de réponse : « La Fabrique du musulman », une publicité gratuite mais mensongère. Alternative Libertaire.

(3) See on the history of the period, Morbid Symptoms. Relapse in the Arab Uprisings. Gilbert Achcar. Saqi Books. 2016.

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Morning Star or Daily Mail? Spot the difference

August 31, 2017 at 1:11 pm (apologists and collaborators, Beyond parody, class collaboration, conspiracy theories, CPB, Daily Mail, Europe, Jim D, language, nationalism, populism, publications, Racism, stalinism)

Image result for picture Morning Star EU

OK, the picture above is a bit of a giveaway, but pretend you haven’t seen it and play the game. Guess which national newspaper has recently used the following wording in editorials about Brexit:

  • “‘Soft Brexit’  would represent contempt for democracy”
  • “Irrespective of what governments in Dublin and London or the people of Ireland and Britain may want, others in the EU will disregard these views and impose their own”
  • “Such unsubtle pressure is surely intended to encourage British MPs unreconciled to the referendum result”
  • “…misrepresenting the 17 million-plus people who voted to leave the EU as racists or xenophobes”
  • “…an elite institution that does not represent them – undermining popular sovereignty in Britain”
  • “Starmer’s deluded hope … running up the white flag”
  • “…agreeing to remain in the customs union … will weaken Britain’s negotiating position”
  • “… further evidence that there is a ‘fifth column’ in British political, business and media circles”
  • “…continuing subjugation to EU diktat”
  • “The alternative is to stand up to EU bureaucrats”
  • “Britain given the runaround” (headline)
  • “[Barnier] has briefed, leaked, grandstanded and stonewalled in his efforts to maximise the pressure on … David Davis to capitulate”
  • “[Barnier] has … rejected all proposals put forward by the British government so far on post-Brexit residency rights”
  • “Those [EU] proposals would make even the greediest gold-digger in a divorce court blush with embarrassment”
  • “Yet it is the EU which insists that there must be customs controls between the EU and the United Kingdom”
  • ” … the ECJ or its puppet European Free Trade Association”
  • “in Britain, we can unelect our negotiators. The Irish people have no such option”

Yes, all this borderline-racist anti-Europe conspiratorial rhetoric and de facto support for the British government against Johnny Foreigner appeared in various editorials in the same newspaper … and it wasn’t the Daily Mail.

  • See also: Coatesy on other recent pronouncements from the pro-Bexit “left”, here

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Contemporary Left Antisemitism: a review

August 25, 2017 at 2:35 am (anti-semitism, civil rights, conspiracy theories, labour party, left, reformism, stalinism, zionism)


Above: Dave Hirsh on left anti-Semitism and the Chakrabarti Inquiry 

Dale Street reviews Contemporary Left Antisemitism by Dave Hirsh (Routledge).


This is the third book on the theme of left antisemitism to have been published in less than twelve months. It follows Dave Rich’s The Left’s Jewish Problem – Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism (published in September 2016) and Antisemitism and the Left – On the Return of the Jewish Question by Bob Fine and Phil Spencer (published in February 2017).

Different aspects of left antisemitism and how it manifests itself today are covered in different chapters of Hirsh’s book: The “Livingstone Formulation”; the Labour Party since Corbyn’s election as party leader; the campaign for an academic boycott of Israel; conflicts over definitions of antisemitism; the nature of contemporary antizionism; and antizionism within the Jewish community. (Hirsh’s orthography is deliberate. He uses the terms “antizionism”, not “anti-Zionism”, to make a political point. What passes itself off today as a critique of Zionism has got nothing to do with real-world Zionism. As such, it is not anti-Zionism, nor even a form of anti-Zionism.)

Although discreet aspects of contemporary left antisemitism are covered in the different chapters of the book, a number of common themes run through all of them. Hirsh locates today’s left antisemitism within the broader context of the political degeneration and ossification of (broad layers of) the left. That left exists in a binary political universe: good nations and bad nations; oppressor and oppressed nations; imperialism and “anti-imperialism”; white people and people of colour. The universality of class politics has been replaced by the politics of “campism”. Rational political argument has been replaced by a “politics of position”.

Anyone positioned in the wrong “camp” is to be denounced rather than reasoned with. This, argues Hirsh, represents a reversion to the political practices of early-twentieth-century totalitarian movements. Such a world view is conducive to a particular interpretation of the Israel-Palestine conflict, which, in turn, is conducive to antisemitic ways of thinking and antisemitic consequences.

Israel is in the camp of bad, white, imperialist, oppressor nations. Palestinians constitute the antithesis of Israel. To be “of the left” is to be on the side of the Palestinians and against Israel — not just the policies pursued by its government but its very existence. This demonisation of Israel — which itself constitutes an expression of left antisemitism — opens the door to traditional antisemitic tropes. Jews are uniquely cruel — they murder children in particular and are committing genocide of the Palestinians. They are uniquely powerful — they control US foreign policy and the global media. And they are uniquely dishonest — they cry “antisemitism” to avoid being called to account for their crimes. Indeed, they are so uniquely evil that they alone of all the peoples of the world cannot be allowed to exercise national self-determination.

Of all the states in the world, the Jewish one alone is singled out for (the traditional antisemitic “strategy” of) boycott and ghettoisation. Similarly, of all of the nationalisms in the world, the Jewish one — Zionism — is uniquely evil. It is racist, genocidal and akin to Nazism. Hirsh uses the expression “flattening”: The different currents within Zionism, the historical context of the emergence and development of Zionism, and the distinction which socialists otherwise make between state and people are all “flattened” in order to create an essentialist interpretation of Zionism and “the Zionist state”.

But the result is not a critique of real-world Zionism. It is an ideology of antizionism which justifies its politics by reference to a “Zionism” of its creation. Hirsh also makes the point that there is a world of difference between opposition to Zionism before and after the creation of Israel. The former was opposition to a political idea. The latter entails opposition to the existence of the state in which the Zionist project has been realised.

Arguments that such an approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict are antisemitic in substance and in consequence are brushed aside by their opponents through invocation of the “Livingstone Formulation”, to which Hirsh devotes an entire chapter. (Named after Ken Livingstone. Not because he invented it — he did not — but because of the level of egregiousness and notoriety which his use of the Formulation has achieved.) The “Livingstone Formulation” can be summed up as “I am not antisemitic and have not done or said anything antisemitic. You are accusing me of such things only because of my entirely legitimate criticisms of Israel.”

This is not simply a modern manifestation of an antisemitic trope (that Jews raise accusations of antisemitism in bad faith). It also shuts down any space for rational argument — because it rules out a priori any need to assess the validity of this “bad-faith” claim of antisemitism.

Corbyn’s election as Labour Party leader makes this left antizionist antisemitism a contemporary issue, not in some general sense but in a very immediate sense, for three particular reasons. Corbyn himself belongs, at least in part, to that tradition, as is evidenced by his support for the “anti-imperialist” Stop the War Coalition, his involvement in the “Deir Yassin Remembered” campaign, his defence of Raed Salah and Steven Sizer, and his attitude to Hamas and Hizbollah. A broad layer of Corbyn’s rank-and-file supporters share to some degree the left antizionist approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict and its antisemitic consequences. Some of them do more than just share that approach. They energetically promote it. And the Labour Party under Corbyn has to date failed to politically confront the issue, as is exemplified in particular by the Chakrabarti Inquiry of 2016.

Chakrabarti’s superficial conclusion was that manifestations of antisemitism in the Labour Party were just the classic case of a few bad apples, rather than something rooted in a widely shared set of political assumptions.

Hirsh describes his book as “among other things, a gathering together and a distillation of the work I have been doing over the last decade.” The fact that some readers will already be familiar with the book’s arguments from earlier articles by its author does not reduce its political value. In fact, some of the most damning material in the book is not Hirsh’s general political analysis of left antisemitism but the “micro-descriptions” of the abuse and harassment meted out to members of the UCU trade union who argued against an academic boycott of Israel. But there are some issues in the book which are either open to challenge or would have merited further exploration and explanation.

Hirsh rightly points to the prevalence of left antisemitism on the British left and in the broader labour movement. But he goes a lot further: “It is not accidental that the issue of antisemitism has become pivotal to this process of defining who is inside (‘the community of the good’, to use Hirsh’s expression) and who is not.” Hirsh seems to be saying that an acceptance of antizionism has become the decisive test for membership of the left. But this claim does not stand up to scrutiny.

Just as antizionism essentialises Zionism, so too Hirsh seems to be essentialising the contemporary left. Hirsh hints at a dystopic future for the Labour left and the Labour Party. The Corbyn phenomenon is “not currently a physically violent movement.” Opponents of antizionism are “not yet, in the Corbyn Labour Party, (dealt with) by physical violence.” Corbyn’s election as Prime Minister “might” see an increase in “the denouncing of most Jews as pro-apartheid or as defenders of racism and neoliberalism.” If these sibylline musings are meant seriously, they should surely have been substantially expanded upon. As they stand, they merely provide an easy target for those who want to condemn the book without engaging with its core arguments.

These momentary visions of the use of totalitarian physical violence to crush political dissent and the unleashing of government-sanctioned antisemitic campaigns also sit uneasily with Hirsh’s lesser-evilist approach to the election of a Labour or a Tory government: “In this context (of a choice between two variants of populism), of course, it is quite legitimate to prefer Labour populism to Tory populism.”

In dealing with antizionism within the Jewish community Hirsh tends to focus on individuals who have been prominent in debates in academia. Antizionist Jews with a high profile in promoting left antisemitism in the labour movement are hardly mentioned (save in relation to the UCU). Tony Greenstein, for example, escapes scrutiny entirely, even if he makes an anonymous appearance at page 113 of the book: “Some of those activists who had already been making the same speeches about Israel for thirty years suddenly found themselves being given huge standing ovations at union conferences for speeches in favour of boycotting Israel.” And while it is understandable that a senior lecturer in sociology might want to sing the praises of sociology, the chapter which portrays sociology as a key to understanding antisemitism (“Sociological Method and Antisemitism”) really makes little contribution to an understanding. (In any case, it would have been more appropriately entitled: “I Used To Be a Trotskyist. But Then I Discovered Sociology.”)

Like any other writer, Hirsh could use only the material available to him at the time of writing his book. Thus, the Ken Livingstone of his book is simply someone who thinks that Hitler supported Zionism (until he went mad). Jackie Walker did no more than use some unfortunate turns of phrase in a Facebook post and in an intervention at a Labour Party fringe meeting. And Bongani Masuku is a heroic South African trade unionist unjustly accused of antisemitism. But by the time of the book’s publication earlier this month, things had moved on.

Livingstone was alleging “real collaboration” between Nazis and Zionists, with the big-hearted Nazis supposedly acceding to Zionist requests for help with training camps, weapons and banning sermons in Yiddish. Walker was likening her treatment to that of a black lynching in the Jim Crow states, claiming that she had been targeted (by Zionists, of course) in “an attempt to destroy Jeremy Corbyn and an entire political movement.” And Bongani Masuku had been found guilty of antisemitic hate speech by the South African Equality Court, while the trade union federation of which he was an employee surreally denounced the verdict as an attack on “workers’ rights to offer solidarity.”

That’s sums up the problem with writing a book about contemporary left antisemitism: By the time of its publication, the examples which it cites have become examples of yesterday’s left antisemitism. Hirsh’s book is a valuable contribution to understanding the forms and nature of left antisemitism. It provides not just a better understanding of the phenomenon but also a political challenge to its influence. His book is the third book on the same theme in less than a year. It would be surprising if it was not followed by at least another three over the next twelve months.

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Antisemitism? What antisemitism?

August 23, 2017 at 9:44 am (anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, conspiracy theories, fascism, labour party, scotland, Troothers)


Above: SPSC supremo Mick Napier rants about “Zionism” and “Israel” (sic) at the anti-Semitic Al Quds Day rally

By Dale Street
The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) has issued two statements in response to the report Jew Hate and Holocaust Denial in Scotland, published earlier this month by Jewish Human Rights Watch.

The report contained 140 pages of screengrabs of antisemitic material – including Holocaust revisionism, Holocaust denial and multiple references to the Rothschilds – posted by Scottish Palestine solidarity activists on their personal Facebook pages.

A number of those activists have been involved in PSC events – the report included pictures of them staffing SPSC stalls, and copies of posts supporting SPSC events.

The first SPSC statement was empty verbiage. It ignored the report’s contents. Instead, it denounced the report’s author, Jewish Human Rights Watch and the Israeli government for alleged collusion in “undermining and criminalising the Palestine solidarity movement.”

The second statement was an even longer exercise in empty verbiage, peppered with accusations of “incremental genocide”, “sinister racist language”, “Israel’s settler colonial project” and “invective worthy of Goebbels ‘Die Sturmer’.”

(The paper was actually called “Der Sturmer” (not “Die Sturmer”), and its editor was Julius Streicher (not Goebbels). But why should the SPSC bother itself with what it doubtless considers to be a detail of history?)

But the second statement distinguished itself by including the following piece of hitherto unsurpassed idiocy:

“Even those who fall into the trap of seeing the criminal impunity of the Jewish supremacist State in the Middle East as part of a world-wide Jewish supremacy are rarely driven, as Collier alleges, by animus towards Jews, for which Palestine is only a cynical cover.

“Rather, almost all are moved by human compassion at the terrible suffering inflicted on the people of Gaza by Israel and its sponsors in Washington, London, the EU, supported by Israel’s Arab allies such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.”

That is to say: Antisemities (i.e. people who believe in world-wide Jewish supremacy) are rarely driven by antisemitism (i.e. animus towards Jews).

And when these antisemites boycott the world’s only state with a Jewish majority-population – but no other state on the face of the earth – they are driven by the milk of human kindness (“human compassion”), not by anything so base as antisemitism!

But as the SPSC continues to wrestle with its torturous arguments that antisemites are not driven by antisemitism, least of all when campaigning for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish-majority state, help may be at hand in the form of “Jewish Voice for Labour” (JVL).

Describing itself as a “network for Jewish members of the Labour Party”, JVL will have its official launch at this year’s Labour Party conference in Brighton in September.

JVL chair is Jenny Manson, described in a JVL press release as “a retired tax inspector”, the Garden Suburb branch chairperson in Finchley and Golders Green CLP, an active supporter of Jews for Palestine, and editor of two books (one of them on consciousness: What It Feels Like To Be Me).

Manson was one of the five Jewish Labour Party members who submitted statements in support of Ken Livingstone in March of this year. According to her statement:

“… These actions by Ken were not offensive, nor anti-Semitic in any way, in my view.

 … In my working life as a Tax Inspector I saw a (very) few instances of anti-Semitism, such as the characterisation of ‘Jewish Accountants’ as accountants who skated close to the edge. I have never witnessed any instances of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

 Anti-Semitism has to be treated as a serious issue, which is entirely separate from the different views people take on Israel and Zionism.”

 The JVL’s brief “Statement of Principles” includes the following:

“We uphold the right of supporters of justice for Palestinians to engage in solidarity activities, such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. We oppose attempts to widen the definition of antisemitism beyond its meaning of hostility towards or discrimination against Jews as Jews.”

A JVL press release likewise states that the new organisation:

“Rejects attempts to extend the scope of the term ‘antisemitism’ beyond its meaning of bigotry towards Jews, particularly when directed at activities in solidarity with Palestinians such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.”

In other words, this “network for Jewish members of the Labour Party” will be campaigning in support of the ‘right’ to boycott Jews, and in favour of restricting the definition of antisemitism so as to exclude the most common forms in which contemporary antisemitism manifests itself.

JVL already has the backing of the “Free Speech on Israel” campaign and the “Electronic Intifada” website. It is sure to find a natural ally and kindred spirit in the SPSC as well – and vice versa.

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Jackie Walker and Scottish PSC: full-on anti-Semitism at Edinburgh Fringe

August 5, 2017 at 6:24 pm (anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, conspiracy theories, Jim D, labour party, posted by JD, Racism, scotland, stalinism)

Any pretence that Jackie Walker and her supporters might once have had, that she’s simply an honest-to-goodness”anti-Zionist” but not an anti-Semite, now lie in ruins. She’s now in Atzmon territory:

Inline image

Can anyone tell us who the “they” might be in the sentence “What they wouldn’t let Jackie Walker tell you?”

                                         Inline image

 The banner at the front of the stage is the banner of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Last week a report was published contained 140 pages of screengrabs of antisemitic material posted by SPSC members and activists:
 
 
If the link does not work, google: jewish human rights watch holocaust denial in Scotland
(Gosh! I didn’t know that Princess Di was assassinated by Mossad. Gosh! I didn’t know of plans to build a statue to Adolf Hitler in Israel. Gosh! I didn’t know that the Rothschilds were behind the assassination of President Kennedy. Of course, I already knew that 9/11 was really an inside job by Mossad, just as ISIS is really a Mossad front organisation.)

To save anyone spending time reading the entire report, here are examples of what has been posted by (some) SPSC members and (some) PSC activists:

“The Real Holocaust of World War Two: The Genocide of 15 Million+ Germans.”

“I had not known that many of the claims they (i.e. Jews) made about the Holocaust were in fact fraudulent.”

“It is mostly they (Jews) who push for race mixing and miscegenation, knowing full well that it would eventually lead to those of white European descent being minorities in their own countries and the eventual extermination of white European DNA”.

“Holocaust Against Jews is a Total Lie – Proof.”

“International Red Cross Report Confirms the Holocaust of Six Million Jews Is a Hoax.”

“Not ‘Death Camps’ but Work Camps.”

“ISIS Leader ‘Al-Baghdadi’ is Jewish Mossad Agent.”

The Paris attack “had every single hallmark of a Mossad false flag operation.”

“The Real Reason Why Princess Diana Was Assassinated: Princess Diana was assassinated by Mossad because … …”

“25,000 Ukrainian Children Organs Harvested in Israel.”

“What do both these men (Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi) have in common? They refused to accept American dollars for oil and their central banks were not owned by the Rothschild family.”

“I suggest you investigate the role of the elite in the creation, funding and propagation of Bolshevism and Communism, both Jewish led and funded movements.”

“Israel Did 9/11 to Destroy Seven Countries in Five Years.”

“The problem here is Bashar Assad. He still refuses to open the door to Jewish greed, i.e. Rothschild Central Bank and all the Zionist corporations of the Jewish Lobby, therefore must be replaced by an obedient puppet as in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, etc.”

“Jewish Bolshevik mass murderer Genrikh Yagoda was responsible for between 7 and 10 million deaths. The fact that you’ve never heard of him is exactly why the Jews should not have total control of the media.”

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AWL statement: Yes, antisemitism *is* an issue!

July 29, 2017 at 3:59 pm (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, labour party, Livingstone, London, posted by JD, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", stalinism, wankers)


Above: antisemitic protest by some local Momentum people (not backed by national Momentum) at Haringey Council meeting

By Ira Berkovic (also in the present issue of Solidarity and on the Workers Liberty website)

Controversies have arisen in some local Labour Parties and Momentum groups around whether to endorse definitions of antisemitism proposed by various civil society organisations. Two main definitions have been promoted in the labour movement, one from the European Union Monitoring Centre (EUMC) and one from the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA). Both include short “definitions”, supplemented by lengthier “guidance”.

Some local government bodies, including Haringey Borough Council in north London, are due to debate (or already have debated) endorsement of the IHRA definition and guidance. The local Momentum group in Haringey organised a protest to lobby councillors to vote against endorsement. The protestors claimed such policies are a part of a “Zionist” campaign to restrict “free speech on Israel”.

Some believe that, in all the controversies around antisemitism in the Labour Party, there is no actual antisemitism at all, but only an effort to silence critics of Israel. It seems not to have occurred to them that in almost none of the prominent cases (Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone, and others), the things said or written were not “criticisms of Israel” but comments about Jewish financiers funding slavery and comments that alleged Jewish complicity in the Holocaust. In cases where the charge relates more directly to comments about Israel (that of Vicki Kirby, for example, who tweeted that Islamic State should attack “the real oppressor”, Israel), no-one claims that those in question are sincere Palestine solidarity activists with track records of important advocacy and solidarity work for Palestine who are somehow being targeted or silenced because of this.

Quite how the “Free Speech on Israel” campaign serves the cause of Palestine by devoting its energies to defending the likes of Walker and Livingstone on these matters is not clear. Neither the occupation of the West Bank nor the siege of Gaza have been much threatened by these people’s fervent insistence that there is no antisemitism in the British Labour Party (or, as some argue, in society at all). The Palestinian people are not one inch closer to freedom because some Labour Party activists in north London have worked themselves into a lather defending Ken Livingstone’s right to spout toxic lies and misleading half-truths in the national media.

The alternative lens for understanding antisemitism proposed by the “Free Speech on Israel” campaigners is that antisemitism can only ever consist of direct, implicitly racist, hostility to Jews as Jews. As it is rare to find anyone on the left guilty of this, there cannot be any antisemitism on the left. And attempts to combat antisemitism within the movement are therefore addressing an almost non-existent problem, and must have an ulterior motive. The real issue, they argue, is the fabrication of antisemitism to bolster Israel. Labour Parties and Momentum groups should be passing motions about that, not ones which attempt to mobilise opposition to antisemitism.

It is true that antisemitism is no longer, in most of the world, a “cutting edge” form of racism and bigotry, experienced primarily materially. It has largely receded to the level of ideology, but socialists should still understand how an idea can, in Marx’s phrase, “descend from language into life”. The global rise of a right-wing nationalist populism that draws on antisemitic tropes about “globalist financiers” shows how antisemitism could easily regain a material form, as such movements grow on the streets. Governments informed, at least in part, by such ideologies are in power in Russia, Hungary, and the United States.

There is also the continued existence of a powerful global Islamist movement, steeped in antisemitism. Against such a backdrop the desire to discuss, understand, and guard against antisemitism is a perfectly legitimate one. And yet antisemitism remains the only form of bigotry which most of the left responds to not by simply opposing it and sympathetically investigating any complaints, but by immediately impugning the motives of the plaintiff and ascribing bad faith and ulterior motives. Whatever the precise details, a Momentum demonstration outside Haringey council chambers against the council adopting a firm stance of opposition to antisemitism will appear to almost everyone who notices it as a demonstration against the idea that antisemitism should be firmly opposed.

Undoubtedly there are instances in politics where allegations of antisemitism are manipulated for factional ends. This can be true of any bigotry: for example, the Bengali-background socialist Ansar Ahmed Ullah has noted how political Islamist forces have manipulated the concept of “Islamophobia” to stifle criticism of their politics and legitimate secularist-atheist criticism of Islam (Solidarity 308, 8 January 2014). But just as such manipulation does not negate the existence of real anti-Muslim racism, neither do any instances of political manipulation and instrumentalisation of antisemitism mean that the issue of antisemitism is not real.

The IHRA guidance, which is now more current than the EUMC’s, is imperfect, as any attempt to distil so complex and varied an ideological edifice as antisemitism down to a few bullet points will be. One of its points, certainly, is politically dubious: it defines any attempt to “deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination” as antisemitic: this definition would include anyone, including members of Workers’ Liberty, who do not see all Jews, wherever they live, as part of a singular nation capable of expressing a unitary self-determination through the state of Israel. We believe that the Israeli-Jewish nation currently living in historical Palestine does constitute a national group, which does have a right to self-determination. And it is true that denials of that right to the only majority-Jewish national group on earth by people who extend it as a principle to every other national group cannot but tend towards exceptionalisation and discrimination: that is, towards antisemitism.

The guidance’s assertion that claims that “the State of Israel is a racist endeavour” are antisemitic is perhaps also ambiguous: any serious historical analysis of Israel’s foundation must identify elements of ethnic cleansing in the 1948 war, and conclude that much of the Zionist movement and early Israeli state policy was informed by racist ideas. Certainly, the contemporary state of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the occupied territories and the Arab minority within Israel is racist. Such political assessments are patently not antisemitic. However claims that Israel, uniquely amongst world states and even amongst states whose foundation was based entirely or in part on colonial settlement and the displacement of an indigenous population, is so profoundly racist that it requires dismantling (rather than, say, radical upheaval and reform), do indeed suggest, at the very least, a remarkable double standard.

Workers Liberty has long argued that a form of political antisemitism exists in some sections of the left, consisting in an implied hostility to Jews, based on an exceptionalising and essentialising ahistorical attitude to Zionism. This left antisemitism can be traced back to the industrial-scale denunciations, antisemitic show-trials, and conspiracy-mongering about “Zionism” conducted by the Stalinist ruling class of the USSR. We have argued that this left antisemitism is distinct from the racialised antipathy towards Jews on which Hitlerite antisemitism is based.

If the IHRA guidance can be criticised on any more thoroughgoing basis, it is that it collapses these distinct categories into one, which risks obscuring as much as it clarifies. That is an argument for further discussion, better education, and further clarification of terms and concepts. It is certainly no argument for the approach Haringey Momentum has taken.

Those who propose its adoption in the labour movement out of a desire to clarify the understanding of antisemitism, and deepen opposition to it, have far better instincts than those whose political antenna are (mis)tuned to detect the shadowy Zionist plot to defend Israel behind every attempts to discuss antisemitism in the labour movement. Workers’ Liberty sides with those people and their better instincts against those who would downplay or dismiss the issue of antisemitism.

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Orwell, Fake News, Alt-Right, Alt-Left and … Skwawkbox

July 24, 2017 at 7:59 am (Andrew Coates, blogging, conspiracy theories, intellectuals, literature, media, men, Orwell, politics, populism, publications, socialism)

Comrade Coatesy has an important piece over at his blog (posted 22 July) and I know he doesn’t mind his stuff being republished here at Shiraz. We should also acknowledge the fact that we’ve used material from Skwawkbox in the past (having checked its accuracy), but like Coatesy and others, have become increasingly disturbed by its apparent preference for sensationalism over fact-checking.

Image result for Orwell essays everyman

Orwell and Fake News, Alt-Right, Alt-Right.

George Orwell never ceases being cited. These days he more often appears for good reasons than for bad ones.

Recently people have had recourse to Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes in Salvador Dali (1944) in order to defend his ability as a “ good draftsman” while being, “a disgusting human being”. That qualified support highlighted, few share the judgement that the Surrealist’s “Mannequin rooting in a taxicab’ as “diseased and disgusting”. The important idea, one, which Orwell repeats about Dickens as Bechhofer Roberts published an early version of what much later developed in the account of the Other Woman, Ellen Ternan, is the distinction between public work and “private life”. In this instance Dali’s alleged infidelity, and the search for his DNA to prove paternity, is irrelevant to the merits or otherwise of his products.

A more weighty issue is taken up in yesterday’s le Monde (Relire « 1984 » à l’ère de la post-vérité). Stéphane Foucart discusses Orwell as a reference in the era of “post-truth” (post-verité). He quotes Looking Back on the Spanish War (1942), “..for the first, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary life.” Life in Republican Spain was portrayed as “one long massacre” by the pro-Franco British press. Orwell went on to imagine a future in which “the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only he future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event “it never happened” – well it never happened. If he says that two and two are five – well, two and two are five.”

English speaking readers are more familiar with this passage, a premonition of the theme of 1984, than French, who, to Foucart, only began to register that dystopia in the 1980s, with intellectuals such as Michael Gauchet dismissing it. More recently there are those who have taken Orwell to their hearts, for his “common decency”. The idea that the over boiled cabbage and Thought Police of Ingsoc, and a planet divided into three rival Party-Oligarchies, has relevance today may seem to stretch a point.

That we know that the past is both so obviously not there, yet is worthy of objective inquiry in ways that other ‘not theres’ are not, is an old metaphysical difficulty. That the standard of objectivity was weakened by what used to be fashionable in the old days of ‘post-modernism’ is well known. But that there are different ‘truths’, a liberal, in the American sense, rather than a conservative principle has become less about controlling history than the present. Was the telly screen a rudimentary form of the Internet asks Foucart? Are Trump’s efforts to purge the Presidential archives of documents challenging his view on climate change? ‘Alternative facts’, reports that bear no relation to truth, have, with the sacking of the White House’s Sean Spicer is now a topic which has made the news.

The Media and State Power.

Orwell was concerned not just with Red Atrocity reports in the Daily Mail. He also wrote of the potential totalitarian effects of government control of the media, in his time the Radio. He defended freedom of expression against all forms of censorship, including the suppression of critical reports about the USSR which he believed was taking place post-war in favour of “uncritical admiration of the Soviet Union” (The freedom of the press – Animal Farm. 1945). As Orwell later wrote, “If you do not like the Communism you are a red-baiter, a believer in Bolshevik atrocities, the nationalism of women, Moscow Gold and so on.” (In Defence of Comrade Zilliacus. 1947. Intended for Tribune, not published…)

The Trump administration has power. But there is nothing resembling an effective state broadcasting monopoly outside of North Korea, despite accusations against the People’s Republic. Trump supporters have their networks, their web sites, the loud media outlets. The British right has the dailies, the internationally influential Mail, the declining Sun, the poor old Telegraph, the ageing Express and the Star, which few get beyond the front page to read. Its media imitations of the American alt-right, languish in obscurity. In Britain if these forces are capable of manufacturing truths, from the endless drip drip against migrant workers and Europe to scare-stories about left-wingers, and have an effect on opinion, they took a jolt at the last election. As the laughable Election Day front page of the Sun demonstrated so well.

The Alt-Left and Alternative Facts. 

Come the arrival of the ‘alt-left’. In Britain this means enthusiastic pro-Jeremy Corbyn people. Sites such as The Canary may not be to everyone’s taste but have a readership. But the debate over alternative facts has spread inside the left. Is it justified for Skwawkbox to engage in its own war of attrition with the arms of sensational, scaremongering, stories. The best known at the moment is their recent ‘scoop’ that claimed that everybody on disability benefit transferred to Universal Credit , who did not find a job in two years would be subject to sanctions? That is that they risk losing a large part (if not all) of their income?

This story has been demolished by Disabled People Against Cuts. (1)

Is their mealy-mouthed justification for running the tale acceptable?

They continue to publish wild stories.

That the Daily Mail has attacked the site with its own falsehoods does not give the author a free-pass when it comes to truth and accuracy. 

The writer of 1984 did not live in the age of click-bait. Nor of self-publishing on an industrial scale. But some things have not changed. It would not be to misuse Orwell to cite this, “the controversy over freedom of speech and of the Press is at bottom the desirability, or otherwise, of telling lies. What is really at issue is the right to report contemporary events truthfully. Or as truthfully as is consistent with the ignorance, bias and self-deception from which every observer necessarily suffers.” (The Prevention of Literature. 1947)

***
(1) The 2 year job rule for disabled people on Universal Credit is not true!

Disabled People Against Cuts.

Thank you to Gail Ward who put this together.

In the last few days it has been widely reported by various bloggers that those disabled claimants claiming Universal Credit are subjected to finding a job within two years or face a 1 year sanction. This is utter fabrication and feeding many claimants fears which could potentially cause harm. So today I called Welfare Rights, who called DWP while I remained on the phone, they denied that this information was correct and was downright alarmist and dangerous. That doesn’t mean I trust DWP and have submitted a FOI too given 7 years of shenanigans. So you see folks, you can take the fear project and destroy it with Facts!

All Orwell references in Essays. George Orwell. Everyman’s Library. 2002.

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