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

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An initial attempt at a socialist and humanitarian response to the Paris massacres

November 15, 2015 at 6:29 pm (capitalism, democracy, Europe, fascism, France, Human rights, humanism, internationalism, iraq, islamism, Jim D, Marxism, Middle East, modernism, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", solidarity, terror, turkey, war, workers)

What follows is a statement drawn up by myself. It is based in part upon the AWL’s statement in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. I have not discussed it or “cleared” it with anyone. Critical comments are welcome -JD:

To massacre ordinary workers enjoying a drink, a meal, a concert or a sporting event after work, is a crime against humanity, full stop.

What cause could the Islamist killers have been serving when they massacred 130 or more people in Paris? Not “anti-imperialism” in any rational sense — whatever some people on sections of the left have argued in the past — but only rage against the modem, secular world and the (limited but real) freedom and equality it represents. Only on the basis of an utterly dehumanised, backward looking world-view could they have planned and carried out such a massacre. Such people are enemies for the working class and the labour movement at least as much as the capitalist ruling class – In fact, more so.

Modern capitalism includes profiteering, exploitation, and imperialism, but it also includes the elements of civilisation, sexual and racial equality, technology and culture that make it possible for us to build socialism out of it.

Lenin, the great Marxist advocate of revolutionary struggle against imperialism, long ago drew a dividing line between that socialist struggle and reactionary movements such as (in his day) “pan-Islamism” [in our day, Islamism]: “Imperialism is as much our mortal enemy as is capitalism. That is so. No Marxist will forget, however, that capitalism is progressive compared with feudalism, and that imperialism is progressive compared with pre-monopoly capitalism. Hence, it is not every struggle against imperialism that we should support. We will not support a struggle of the reactionary classes against imperialism.”

We, the socialists, cannot bring back the dead, heal the wounded, or even (unless we’re present) comfort the bereaved. What we can do is analyse the conditions that gave rise to the atrocity; see how they can be changed; and keep clear critical understanding of the way that governments will respond. This must not be mistaken for any kind of attempt to excuse or minimise this barbarity or to use simplistic “blowback” arguments to suggest that it is simply a reaction to the crimes of “the west” or “imperialism.”

Immediately, the Paris massacre is not only a human disaster for the victims, their friends and families, but also a political disaster for all Muslims, refugees and ethnic minorities in Europe. The backlash against this Islamic-fundamentalist atrocity will inevitably provoke anti-refugee feeling and legislation, attacks on civil liberties and hostility towards all people perceived as “Muslims” in Europe: that, quite likely, was at least one of the intentions of the killers. The neo-fascists of Marine LePen’s Front National seem likely to make electoral gains as a result of this outrage.

The present chaos in the Middle East has given rise to the Islamic fascists of ISIS, and their inhuman, nihilist-cum-religious fundamentalist ideology.

Throughout the Middle East, the rational use of the region’s huge oil wealth, to enable a good life for all rather than to bloat some and taunt others, is the socialist precondition for undercutting the Islamic reactionaries.

In Afghanistan, an economically-underdeveloped, mostly rural society was thrust into turmoil in the late 1970s. The PDP, a military-based party linked to the USSR, tried to modernise, with measures such as land reform and some equality for women, but from above, bureaucratically. Islamists became the ideologues of a landlord-led mass revolt.

In December 1979, seeing the PDP regime about to collapse, the USSR invaded. It spent eight years trying to subdue the peoples of Afghanistan with napalm and helicopter gunships. It was the USSR’s Vietnam.

The USSR’s war had the same sort of regressive effect on society in Afghanistan as the USA’s attempt to bomb Cambodia “back into the Stone Age”, as part of its war against the Vietnamese Stalinists, had on that country. In Cambodia the result was the mass-murdering Khmer Rouge, which tried to empty the cities and abolish money; in Afghanistan, it has been the Islamic-fundamentalist regime of the Taliban. In Iraq the West’s bungled attempts to clear out first Saddam’s fascistic regime and then various Islamist reactionaries, and introduce bourgeois democracy from above, have been instrumental in creating ISIS.

Western governments will now make a show of retaliation and retribution. They will not and cannot mend the conditions that gave rise to this atrocity, conditions which they themselves (together with their Arab ruling class allies) helped to shape. Ordinary working people who live in war-torn states and regions will, as ever, be the victims.

Civil rights will come under attack and the efforts of the European Union to establish a relatively humane response to the refugee crisis will be set back and, quite possibly, destroyed.

These blows at civil rights will do far more to hamper the labour movement, the only force which can remake the world so as to end such atrocities, than to stop the killers.

Public opinion will lurch towards xenophobia. Basic democratic truths must be recalled: not all Middle Eastern people are Muslims, most Muslims are not Islamic fundamentalists, most of those who are Islamic-fundamentalist in their religious views do not support Islamic fundamentalist militarism. To seek collective punishment against Muslims or Arabs, or anyone else, is wrong and inhuman.

The first, and still the most-suffering, victims of Islamic fundamentalist militarism are the people, mostly Muslim, of the countries and regions where the lslamists are powerful.

The only way to defeat the Islamists is by the action of the working class and the labour movement in such countries, aided by our solidarity.

Refugees seeking asylum in Europe do not in any way share blame for this massacre. In fact, many of them are refugees because they are fleeing Islamic-fundamentalist governments and forces like ISIS. To increase the squeeze on already-wretched refugees would be macabre and perverse “revenge”.

We must remake the world. We must remake it on the basis of the solidarity, democracy and spirit of equality which are as much part of human nature as the rage, hatred and despair which must have motivated the Paris mass-murderers.

We must create social structures which nurture solidarity, democracy and equality, in place of those which drive towards exploitation, cut-throat competition and acquisitiveness and a spirit of everything-for-profit.

The organised working class, the labour movement, embodies the core and the active force of the drive for solidarity, democracy and spirit of equality within present-day society. It embodies it more or less consistently, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on how far we have been able to mobilise ourselves, assert ourselves, broaden our ranks, and emancipate ourselves from the capitalist society around us.

Our job, as socialists, is to maximise the self-mobilisation, self-assertion, broadening and self-emancipation of the organised working class.

We must support the heroic Kurdish forces who are fighting and defeating ISIS on the ground in Syria and Iraq, opposed by the Turkish government. We must demand that our government – and all western governments – support the Kurds with weapons and, if requested, military backup: but we will oppose all moves by the governments of the big powers to make spectacular retaliation or to restrict civil rights or target minorities or refugees.

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‘Stop the War’ lie about being “lied about”

November 8, 2015 at 6:46 pm (apologists and collaborators, Free Speech, Human rights, internationalism, Middle East, posted by JD, protest, reactionay "anti-imperialism", solidarity, stalinism, Stop The War, Syria)

Andrew Murray has launched a group supporting pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine

By Eternispring

In response to Stop the War statement regarding Parliamentary meeting event on the 4th November 2015.

Lie No.1: Regarding “Andrew Murray’s support for the Syrian regime”

During the meeting Andrew Murray called for the support of the Syrian Army and the Iraqi Army in the fight against ISIS. This will be on record of the footage that Stop the War Coalition have yet to release of the meeting (unless they choose to edit it).

It should be noted that it is not the person of Assad himself which has caused the destruction in Syria, it is an entire military-security-intelligence apparatus of a fascist (self-defined nationalist-socialist) state. It is not Assad himself who has been dropping bombs every single day for the past 4 years, raped thousands of women and men, or tortured to death thousands of detainees, it an entire state set of apparatuses. Indeed, the long touted “political solution” supported by the International powers since 2012, whereby despite perceptions of “difference” between the US and Russia there has been a consistent unanimity on the necessary retention of the structures of the Syrian state and only disagreement on the fate of the person of Assad, has been rejected repeatedly by the revolutionary Syrian people. They can keep Assad if they think that they’ll maintain his regime. We only need see what happened in Egypt when a figurehead and some of his cronies were removed, only to be replaced by a worse one propelled by a vindictive ancien régime.

Andrew Murray’s support of the Syrian state is beyond dispute, as is wide swathes of the Stop the War coalition. They seek to play on “technicalities” of not directly stating “we support Assad”. Indeed President Sisi of Egypt says exactly the same thing when asked about his support for Assad in Syria, claiming “we must support the Syrian state, its not about the person”. The reader familiar with Stop the War coalition’s writings over the duration of the Syrian conflict, and their mocking writings about the Syrian resistance and existence of non-Assad Muslim “moderates”, will recognise this fact – never mind the absence of a (naive) outright “declaration” (which immediately opens up the movement to criticism as well as historical infamy), which is reserved for the Communist Party of Great Britain and the BNP, Stop the War’s leadership and outlets have (with rare exceptions) repeated close-to verbatim the narratives of the Syrian and Iranian governments.

Their rhetoric of a “sovereign Syria in which Syrians decide their fate”, for example, is taken right off the Russian manuscript. The irony of those proclaiming this maxim being entirely reliant on non-Syrian forces (Iraqi militias, Iranian revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah and now Russia’s airforce), whereby an independent regular “Syrian army” is practically no longer existent, entirely reliant on Iranian-sponsored militias, seems to be lost on those proponents.

Finally, it should be noted Andrew Murray’s (the Chair of Stop the War coalition) declaration of the necessity of supporting the “US-backed” (in fact US-created) Iraqi Army; this is another ironic contradiction for the “anti-imperialist” Stop the War coalition to support “Western-backed” forces in the Middle East, and is one from the few that will be seen in this article. Read the rest of this entry »

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Diane Abbott attempts to defend Stop The War’s refusal to hear Syrian voices

November 7, 2015 at 1:45 pm (apologists and collaborators, Free Speech, Human rights, internationalism, Jim D, Middle East, reactionay "anti-imperialism", stalinism, Stop The War)

Watch this!
Abbott on The Daily Politics show. A shameful performance – the definition of a “car crash” interview. The young Syrian woman is superb:

h/t Paul Canning

Edited to add: On the Friday the Stop The War Coalition responded with a bizarre post entitled ‘Andrew Neil smears Stop the War’, thus dismissing both the scrutiny from the left and Syrians and denying the facts as ‘smears’. The documented dismissal of Syrian voices is called “organised disruption.” They flat out lie that despite the video, despite the statement’s of both Labour’s Catherine West and the Greens Caroline Lucas, Syrians were not prevented from speaking!

The several reports on the behaviour of the stewards, including their calling the police, is dismissed as a “lie”. Whoever called them the police arrived, so there’s a simple way to find out if it is infact a “lie” that STWC called them – ask the police. Should we do that STWC? Over to you …

Of interest is the fact that the first person they rush to defend (“Lie one”) is their Chair, Andrew Murray. This is because this post’s information on Murray, supplied by Andrew Coates, was raised by Andrew Neil on the BBC in his questioning of Diane Abbott. Again, they flat out lie that Murray’s Communist Party and hence Murray does not regard Assad as “legitimate” and supports the regime’s war, aka ‘bombing’.

In order to back their claim that they solely face “diehard opponents on the left” in their opposition to UK support for civilian protection (rather than, as I have already covered, Syrian civil society and Syrian socialists) they fall back on the presence of a Tory MP

Are they rattled? Time will tell but the post ends in a classic of ‘projection’ – the Soviet and now Kremlin tactic of claiming that others are doing what you’re actually doing – “The lies of our opponents testify only to their desperation.”

Edited to add: Omar Sabbour has published a lengthy rebuttal to STWC’s post. He notes that the meeting was filmed and that unedited footage will show who is right about both the STWC claims on Syrians being allowed to speak and on who called police. It will also show what was said from the platform and Sabbour in his rebuttal goes into detail on why STWC’s arguments (“simply another form of Western narcissism and orientalism”) are so wrong – do go read.

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A State Jew? – David A. Bell on Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist by Pierre Birnbaum

November 3, 2015 at 4:05 pm (Andrew Coates, anti-semitism, Democrats, France, history, humanism, internationalism, reblogged, republicanism, secularism, socialism, zionism)

By Andrew Coates (at Tendance Coatesy),_1932,_2.jpg

Blum: a Generous Humanist Socialist, not a “State Jew”.

A State Jew. David A. Bell. Review of Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist by Pierre Birnbaum, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.

London Review of Books.

Thanks Jim D.

Bell begins  his review with this, which should give some pause for reflection,

The newspaper Action française habitually referred to Léon Blum, France’s Socialist leader, as the ‘warlike Hebrew’ and the ‘circumcised Narbonnais’ (he represented a constituency in Narbonne). On 13 February 1936, Blum was being driven away from the National Assembly when he encountered a group of ultra-right-wing militants who had gathered at the intersection of the rue de l’Université and the boulevard Saint-Germain for the funeral procession of Jacques Bainville, one of the founders of Action française, a reactionary political movement as well as a newspaper. Glimpsing Blum through the car windows, the militants began shouting: ‘Kill Blum!’, ‘Shoot Blum!’ They forced his car to stop and began rocking it back and forth. Blum’s friend Germaine Monnet, sitting with him in the back, tried to shield him with her body. Her husband, Georges, who had been driving, ran to look for police. But one of the militants managed to tear a fender off the car, used it to smash the rear window, and then beat Blum repeatedly over the head. Only the arrival of two policemen saved his life. They dragged him to a nearby building, where the concierge gave him first aid. The next day pictures of Blum, his head heavily bandaged, appeared in newspapers around the world.

We halt there.

To internationalist socialists Blum is above all known not for his Jewish identity – despite the book – but for his socialist humanist republicanism.

Blum defended French democratic republicanism, from the Dreyfus affair onwards. He was profoundly affected by the “synthesis” of socialism, including the Marxist view of class struggle, with democratic republicanism, that marked the life and work of one of our greatest martyrs, Jean Jaurès, assassinated in 1914 by a sympathiser of the far-right,  for his opposition to the outbreak of the Great War. Blum did not, however, play a part in the anti-War left.

That is the context in which we would take the shouts of “kill Blum”.  Political, not ethnic.

Blum was a leading figure amongst the minority of the French Socialists, the SFIO (Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière), who opposed what became in the 1920s the French Communist Party, the PCF. He was one of those who opposed affiliating the party to the Third International at the Congrès de Tours (SFIO).

Speech at the Socialist Party Congress at Tours, 27 December 1920 (best known under its French title, Pour La Veille Maison).

This is the crucial objection from the ‘reformist’ (but at this point, still Marxist) democratic socialists to the Third International – the Leninist one.

You are right to declare that the whole party press, central or local, should be in the hands of pure communists and pure communist doctrine. You are certainly right to submit the works published by the Party to a kind of censorship. All that is logical. You want an entirely homogeneous party, a party in which there is no longer free thought, no longer different tendencies: you are therefore right to act as you have done. This results – I am going to prove it to you – from your revolutionary conception itself. But you will understand that envisioning that situation, considering it, making the comparison of what will be tomorrow with what was yesterday, we all had the same reaction of fright, of recoil, and that we said: is that the Party that we have known? No! The party that we knew was the appeal to all workers, while the one they want to found is the creation of little disciplined vanguards, homogeneous, subjected to a strict structure of command – their numbers scarcely matter, you will find that in the theses – but all kept under control, and ready for prompt and decisive action. Well, in that respect as in the others, we remain of the Party as it was yesterday, and we do not accept the new party that they want to make.

To show how radical Blum was at this point, this is how he defended the dictatorship of the proletariat,

Dictatorship exercised by the Party, yes, but by a Party organized like ours, and not like yours. Dictatorship exercised by a Party based on the popular will and popular liberty, on the will of the masses, in sum, an impersonal dictatorship of the proletariat. But not a dictatorship exercised by a centralized party, where all authority rises from one level to the next and ends up by being concentrated in the hands of a secret Committee. … Just as the dictatorship should be impersonal, it should be, we hold, temporary, provisional. … But if, on the contrary, one sees the conquest of power as a goal, if one imagines (in opposition to the whole Marxist conception of history) that it is the only method for preparing that transformation, that neither capitalist evolution nor our own work of propaganda could have any effect, if as a result too wide a gap and an almost infinite period of time must be inserted between taking power as the precondition, and revolutionary transformation as the goal, then we cease to be in agreement.

Bear this in mind: these words are memorised almost by heart by many on the left.

The minority, for which Blum spoke, opposed to the Third International, retained the name, French Section of the Workers’ International, was significant: it referred to a claim to continue the traditions of the Second International, of Marxist, if moderate and reformist,  inspiration.

Blum offered social reform on this foundation. He led, during the Front Populaire (1936 -38)  a government (as President du conseil) of socialists and radical-socialists, backed by communists from the ‘outside’ and a vast movement of factory occupations and protests,  to implement some of them, on paid holidays, bargaining rights limiting the working week. He had great limitations – one that cannot be ignored is that his government did not give women the right to vote – and his role in not effectively helping the Spanish Republic remains a matter of controversy to this day. Indeed the absence of feminism – as well as a rigorous anti-colonialism (the FP “dissolved” the North African, l’Étoile nord-africaine of Messali Hadj –  in the Front Populaire, is something which should cause a great deal of critical investigation.

The review in the LRB is about a book, and this is what he has to say specifically about it:

Birnbaum, a well-known historian and sociologist of French Jewry, has written a short biography that focuses on Blum’s identity as a Jew, as the series requires. It cannot substitute for the more substantial studies by Joel Colton, Ilan Greilsammer and Serge Berstein, but it’s lively, witty and draws effectively on Blum’s massive and eloquent correspondence. Arthur Goldhammer has, as usual, produced a lucid, engaging English text. Birnbaum seems to have written the book in some haste: he repeats facts and quotations, and makes a few historical slips – France was not a ‘largely peasant nation’ in 1936; Hitler did not annex the Sudetenland in the summer of 1938, before the Munich Agreement. The chapters proceed thematically, highlighting Blum the writer, Blum the socialist, Blum the lawyer, Blum the Zionist and so forth, which produces occasional confusion as Birnbaum leaps backwards and forwards in time. But overall, the book offers a knowledgeable and attractive portrait. If there is a serious criticism to be levelled at it, it doesn’t concern the portrait itself, so much as the way Birnbaum draws on it to make a broader argument about French Jewish identity.

But there are issues of much wider importance in that broader argument.

Bell makes two points about his legacy as described in Birnbaum’s book,

As Birnbaum himself repeatedly notes, despite his ‘quintessential’ Frenchness, Blum always expressed pride in his Jewish heritage, often in the highly racialised language of the day. ‘My Semite blood,’ he wrote as a young man, ‘has been preserved in its pure state. Honour me by acknowledging that it flows unmixed in my veins and that I am the untainted descendant of an unpolluted race.’ While he could speak disparagingly of Jewish ritual, he recognised and respected a Jewish ethical tradition. In 1899, in the midst of the Dreyfus Affair, he insisted that ‘the Jew’s religion is justice. His Messiah is nothing other than a symbol of Eternal Justice.’ He went on to identify ‘the spirit of socialism’ with ‘the ancient spirit of the race’ and to comment: ‘It was not a lapse on the part of Providence that Marx and Lassalle were Jews.’ Blum, in short, thought the Jews could change the French Republic for the better by drawing on their own traditions to push it towards socialism.

This attempt to bring up Blum’s references to his Jewish background, even in terms more democratic than Disraeli’s novels, voiced above all by the character Sidonia, owes more to pre-1930s racial romanticism to racialism.

Does this prove Bell’s point that, “The republican model allows strikingly little space for what immigrant communities can contribute to a nation. Visitors to France can see at a glance just how much immigrants have brought to its music, literature, sport and even cuisine. But the republican model treats difference primarily as a threat to be exorcised in the name of an unbending, anachronistic ideal of civic equality. Even in the heyday of the Third Republic, many committed republicans recognised that different ethnic and religious groups could strengthen the republic.”

Yes it does: secularism is freedom for difference, not the imposition of homogeneity.

Blum could be rightly proud of his cultural heritage,as indeed in a ‘globalised’ world of migration many other people from different backgrounds should be, and are, within the democratic framework of secular equality.

There is little doubt that the spirit of nit-picking secularism can be as unable to deal with these backgrounds, as say, state multiculturalism, which treats ‘diversity’ as if this were a value in itself. If the first tends to be hyper-sensitive to, say, reactionary  Islamic dress codes, the second abandons the issue entirely.

But there are far deeper problems than superficial insistence on  Laïcité

The first is ‘Sovereigntist’ efforts to claim secularist universalism for French particularism. This is the rule amongst the supporters of the far-right Front National, historians and writers like Éric Zemmour bemoaning France’s ‘decline’ , though we should underline, not the novelist Houellebecq, who expresses disdain for things, not hate). There are those who call for all Muslims to be expelled from Europe, those  to those milder nationalists of right and left who commemorate “le pays et les morts” (and not anybody else – a return to the culturalist (not to say, racial)  themes of Action française to Maurice Barrès and to Charles Maurras. This is indeed “communalism”.

It is the major threat to French republicanism.

There is also the issue of anti-Semitism in France, woven into another kind of ‘communitarianism’. Alain Soral, his close friend the comedian Dieudonné, popular amongst young people from the banlieue and the more refined inheritors of the Marrausian tradition, the partisans of the  Indigènes de la République, (including those associated in the English speaking world) rant at thephilosémitisme d’Etat” in France.

It takes all the effort of refined ‘discursive analysis’ from academics to ignore that at its heart this is a current  which indulges in Jew baiting. The mind-set of these people was classically described by Sartre, “« Si le juif n’existait pas, l’antisémite l’inventerait.» (Réflexions sur la question juive 1946). They indeed spent an enormous amount of time ‘inventing’ the presence of Jews in politics, and giving them influence ‘behind the scenes’.

In words which might have been designed to pander to the world-view of the  Indigènes, Bell cites Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist,

Blum ‘the first of a new type of state Jew interested in giving greater weight to democratic sentiment within the framework of a socialist project.’ One wonders, though, what Birnbaum might say about a French Muslim politician today justifying an ideological position by reference to Muslim tradition and ethics (or sharia law). Would he have quite so favourable an  opinion? Or might he see the move as a ‘communitarian’ threat to ‘the unifying logic of the nation’ and to ‘French exceptionalism’? It is well past time to recognise that a nation can have many different unifying logics, and that a political model forged under the Third Republic fits the France of the Fifth Republic very badly.

Blum celebrated his Jewish heritage. It is hardly a secret. Nor is his post-war Zionism, or support for Israel, a stand shared in the immediate aftermath of the conflict by the USSR.

But did he become a  man of the  ‘state’ because he was a ‘Jew’, and does this aspect of his person matter politically – that is in terms of the state?

For us Léon Blum is only one of the sources of a generous humanist secularism, but a significant one. That he did not tackle issues like feminism, anti-colonialism, and a host of other issues, goes without saying. But it would be a great shame if his legacy was reduced to being a “State Jew”.

And it could equally be said that republican secularism has many strands, that it is being transformed by the views of secularists from North Africa, the threat of the Islamist genociders of Deash, the mounting oppression in Erdogan’s Turkey, backed by his Islamist AK party, and – no doubt – Israel’s evident failings. Every one of these cases shows that religious law is not any part of a “tradition” that socialists – believers in equality – would recognise.

The logic at work here binds us to our French sisters and brothers, binds internationalists across the globe, in the way that the Je Suis Charlie moment briefly melded our hearts and minds together.

That is perhaps the real ‘end’ of all exceptionalisms.

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Nationalism cannot save remnants of Scottish steel industry

October 28, 2015 at 3:44 pm (capitalism, internationalism, posted by JD, scotland, solidarity, unions, workers)

General view of the Tata steel factory in Cambuslang. Pic: DR

By Ann Field (at Workers Liberty)

Two hundred and seventy jobs are directly at risk after Tata Steel announced plans to “mothball” its Dalzell and Clydebridge plants, the final remnants of the Scottish steel industry after the Tories’ de-industrialisation of the 1980s.

Hundreds more jobs in local communities which depend on the plants and their workforces are also at risk.

The Scottish Labour Party has responded with a range of slightly confusing demands on the SNP government in Holyrood:

– Use public procurement powers to ensure that Scottish infrastructure projects place orders with the two plants.

– Support short-time working (but Tata, not the Scottish government, is the employer).

– Temporarily bring the plants into public ownership (but why only “temporarily”?).

– Cut Tata’s energy costs by putting pressure on Scottish Power and SSE (but why can’t we all have cheaper electricity?);

– Consult with “workers and the industry” to develop a government-led steel strategy (but why allow Tata to be involved if the industry is to be taken into public ownership?);

– Provide support for those who will soon be out of a job (which suggests a certain lack of confidence in the other demands).

Scottish Labour also demands action because of the “iconic” status of the Scottish steel industry. This is not a persuasive argument. Razor-gangs in Glasgow on a Saturday night also once enjoyed an “iconic” status. But this hardly justified their preservation.

However confused and inconsistent such demands might be, they reflect a genuine commitment to try to protect jobs in the residual Scottish steel industry. Local CLPs have also been campaigning on the streets to save steelworkers’ jobs.

SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon visited the two plants last week. A government-led taskforce has been set up to try to find an alternative buyer for the plants. According to Sturgeon, “nothing is off the table”, including public ownership.

The SNP, Scotland’s patriotic party, can hardly point to its record of supporting Scottish steel jobs. In 2012 it awarded all steel contracts for the new Forth crossing to China, Poland and Spain. Not a single one went to Dalzell or Clydebridge.

While any steps to save jobs are to be welcomed, more is needed than either Scottish Labour or the SNP are currently proposing.

And far more is certainly needed than anything the notoriously right-wing leadership of the Community trade union – the biggest union in the steel industry – has to offer by way of a ‘campaign’.

The job losses in the west of Scotland are part of a bigger wave of job losses in the British steel industry, hitting Tata workers in Scunthorpe, SSI workers in Redcar, and workers employed by Caparo Industries.

Jobs have also been lost or are now at risk in the steel industry throughout Europe and elsewhere – including China. These losses are a product of the unregulated and globalised nature of steel production and supply.

China and other major steel-producing countries (such as South Korea, India and Russia) have massively increased steel output in recent years, while global demand has been stagnant or declining.

The result is a typical capitalist crisis of overproduction. But, in the context of a globalised economy, it is a crisis on an international scale: in line with the logic of capitalism, excess steel output is sold cut-price (‘dumped’) in the international marketplace.

One ‘answer’ to globalisation – whether it be in the steel industry or any other industry – is nationalism: Put the blame on a particular country (in this case: China), demand controls on imports from that country, and retreat behind tariff barriers, national borders and trade wars.

This is the often unspoken ‘logic’ at the heart of the SNP’s demand for independence.

But why, in an independent Scotland, would the steel industry, with a current workforce of less than 300, be better able to compete against the more than 800 million tons of steel produced each year by China, and the 100,000 workforce of the biggest Chinese steel company alone?

The socialist answer to the anarchy of capitalist production – which produces too little of what people need, and too much of what can find a buyer in the marketplace – is not economic autarky, when states and nations try to wall themselves off from the world market and strive for economic self-sufficiency.

Our answer is the socialisation of the means of production: democratic planning; production to meet need not profit; work-sharing with no loss of pay; and environment-friendly production processes.

This campaign to saves jobs in the steel industry throughout the UK should be a part of an international campaign which brings together steelworkers and their unions to fight for such demands, backed up by industrial action.

The labour movement unites workers across national borders. Nationalism divides workers according to their national identities. In the fight to save steelworkers’ jobs – whatever their country, and whatever their national identity – the labour movement internationally must take the lead.

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“What made you appoint fascism-apologist Seumas Milne?”

October 21, 2015 at 5:29 pm (apologists and collaborators, Guardian, internationalism, labour party, reactionay "anti-imperialism", stalinism)

Above: Seumas

Shiraz doesn’t know very much about Kate Godfrey (KateVotesLabour) but she’s absolutely right about this appalling appointment:

So Mr Corbyn, what made you appoint fascism-apologist Seumas Milne?

I’m told the new politics is based on honesty.

So fine, here’s an honest question for Jeremy Corbyn.

How could you?

How bloody could you? How could you appoint Seumas Milne to be your voice, your eyes, your hands?

How could you think that not enough, and by appointing him Labour’s Director of Strategy, outsource your thinking to him too?

Mr Corbyn, you say that you want to listen to us, the people; and then you pick Seumas Milne – the one journalist who always knows better than the people who were there.

You pick a man who never heard an opinion that he didn’t filter; a truth that he didn’t dismiss as an orthodoxy, or a story of pain on which he didn’t have superior information.

As a columnist, Seumus Milne likes to write about foreign affairs.

Mr Corbyn, over the last months and in truth, years, I have tried to meet with you, or with your advisors time and time again.

Because I too like to write about foreign affairs.

As you take up your heavy responsibilities, I wanted to tell you what I know.

Mr Corbyn, I have spent my life in conflict zones. Prior to becoming a Labour PPC I worked in Somalia, in Sudan, in Libya, in Algeria, in Lebanon when the Israelis were shelling the passes, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Georgia, in Azerbaijan and in the DRC.

I worked in Syria, only there really is no Syria now, only the wreckage, and the hungry, and when the winter cold bites, the dead. Oh, and the barrel bombs. I would say the sarin — but your new advisor knows better.

I worked as part of international investigations, collecting evidence while the people around me collapsed from hunger.

I have seen a two year old dying, because all the frantic love and desperation of his mother, two aunts and grandmother could not make the medicines affordable.

I have seen clinics in refugee camps where patients cry with pain, and there is no-one to bring pain medication, and no-one to pay for it, and anyway, no pain medication to bring.

I’ve seen a bit bloody more than Mr Winchester-and-Balliol Milne.

And yet, it is Seumas Milne who is the expert on foreign affairs. And although, somehow, his is always the foreign affairs of dictators misjudged, and chemical weapons unused — until the bodies fell; of pure ideology and never of people — it is on the basis of that knowledge that you have promoted him.

It is Mr Milne’s knowledge of the world that befits him to be the voice of all those good, decent, careful Labour folk I love.

So let’s look at some of the things that Seumas Milne knows.

He knows that the West shouldn’t ‘demonise’ Putin — while Russian jets are scrambled by Assad, and responsibility for six of every seven deaths in Syria lies with the Russian-backed regime.

He knows that Assad had ‘no rational motivation’ for the worst chemical attacks since the Iran-Iraq war, and so that they probably didn’t take place.

He knows that the Iraqis who worked with the US in Iraq were ‘quislings,’ and that the right of it was with the ‘armed resistance.’

He knows that Lee Rigby fought in Afghanistan, and so that his murder ‘wasn’t terrorism in the normal sense.’

These are the truths that only Seumas Milne upholds.

Mr Corbyn, these are the truths that you have bought into.

These are the stocks that the leader of the Labour Party has seen, and shouted, ‘buy!’

We are ashamed in front of the world.

The decision to appoint Seumas Milne devalues everything that Labour stands for, and everything that Labour is. It is morally and ethically wrong.

Seumas Milne might act for you, Mr Corbyn. He might speak for you.

He does not speak for me.

  • Go to the profile of Kate Godfrey

    Kate Godfrey

    Three years as a Labour Party candidate. Ten years in the Middle East. Never noticeably successful.


    Permalink 19 Comments

    Morning Star shocker: a left wing article about the EU!

    October 18, 2015 at 4:53 pm (Europe, internationalism, posted by JD, stalinism, workers)

    The Morning Star’s coverage of the EU has always been rabid little-Britain nationalism dressed up with a few “left wing” phrases about “social dumping” and the like. It recently reached a nadir with this shameful letter and this disgusting editorial.

    So it came as a refreshing change to read something sensible and recognisably left wing on the subject of the EU; even so, the editors gave the piece a thoroughly misleading title, which I strongly suspect wasn’t chosen by the author,  ‘Corporate campaign worries labour right’; and I doubt that this strap-line was chosen by him, either:

    SOLOMON HUGHES finds even the Blairites are concerned about the businessmen that have come to dominate the official In campaign

    Stuart Rose launches the ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ campaign.

    THE Britain Stronger In Europe campaign for an In vote at the EU referendum has jumped straight into a strategy that I heard even top Blairites say is doomed to failure. They’ve made ex-M&S boss Stuart Rose campaign chief, cementing the bad strategy into the heart of the organisation.

    It looks like both the main pro- and anti-EU campaigns think that because the EU is an economic union, then this is a question of “economics” which is best addressed by “businessmen” lecturing us about what “business” needs.

    So the EU debate is going to be a lot like a bad episode of The Apprentice, with people rushing around talking about “business” and “markets” and “sales.”

    It’s hard to think of a worse voice for Europe than Rose. He is currently on the advisory board of Bridgepoint Capital, an investment firm profiting from NHS privatisation by its ownership of leading health contractor Care UK. Rose is also a senior adviser to HSBC European — he works for a bank busy trying to blunt EU regulation of finance.

    Britain Stronger In Europe is fronted by businesspeople such as Rose, Karren Brady and Richard Branson. Their first video was all about “deregulation” and “business benefit” and “consumer benefit,” although — blink and you miss it — there was a brief reference to the EU-backed right to maternity leave and holidays in their promo video.

    But at the Labour conference I heard Chuka Umunna argue: “If we are going to win this debate it has got to be a grassroots campaign. And actually it will not be won by the CEOs of companies that make up the members of the CBI writing letters to the Financial Times and the Times, telling people from on high about what they need to do when the referendum comes.”

    Chuka also said — ironically from an all-male, all-posh panel — that “those making the argument also need to reflect modern Britain, so we need to make sure we have all of the regions (and) both genders” making the case.

    Chuka argued that the In campaign “mustn’t be a Westminster or corporate elite telling everybody what they should do, because if it looks like that we are going to lose.”

    It looks like Britain Stronger In Europe took Chuka’s warning as a recommendation and decided that lectures from business execs was a good idea.

    Similarly Emma Reynolds MP — one of the refuseniks who left the shadow cabinet when Jeremy won — argued from another panel that the pro-EU campaign should be about “getting the message out through local people, not just us on the top table.”

    The top table she was on was about as Establishment as it could be. She was speaking at a fringe meeting organised by Chatham House, a foreign policy think tank deeply wedded to the status quo. The meeting was paid for by Citibank, who had its man on the platform too.

    Which points to the big weakness of the pro-EU campaign. They know that if it is all business-y it might lose. But they just can’t help themselves. So Reynolds calls for a grassroots campaign from a platform paid for by Citibank, a company that helped blow up the world economy with self-destructing financial investments and now fights against EU banking regulation.

    Similarly, when Umunna gave his speech about an EU campaign not being a “corporate elite” campaign, he did so from a platform funded by the City of London Corporation. He spoke next to the City’s chief lobbyist for deregulation, Mark Boleat, and Peter Mandelson — who used the occasion to give a big speech in favour of the TTIP trade treaty.

    There is a social bargain at the heart of the EU — capital can move freely within the EU borders, but so can labour. Money can move freely inside the EU, but so can people.

    Equally the EU imposes some deregulation, but it also imposes some regulations. The EU encourages privatisation of services but it also imposes some regulations of working hours and holidays. The EU limits some government social spending, but it also directs some EU funds to deprived areas.

    Arguably it is a pretty bad bargain, which is weighted much more to capital than labour.

    There are two responses on the left — either argue for a better bargain, Syriza-style, and say: “Another Europe is possible.” Argue for an In vote and change within Europe. Or say we can strike a better national bargain for working people by breaking with the EU bureaucracy.

    Personally I favour the former, because I think that the Out campaign is so dominated by the right it would direct how we leave — any exit as it stands would be shaped by the right, who would exit in favour of worse migration rules and a faster race to the regulatory bottom. It isn’t a great choice.

    But I do think that we can make the choice better by shifting the debate from rival “businessmen” lecturing us on whether we can have less regulation and more bigotry inside or outside the EU. And, oddly enough, Umunna and Reynolds agree.

    Even though they are thoroughly keen to do what capital wants, they know that in current circumstances people won’t just sit and be lectured by “businessmen.”

    There might be room for a less-corporate In campaign under Labour Yes — except that is run by Alan Johnson, who was so thoroughly committed to New Labour’s business-friendly consensus that it is hard to see him making any noise.

    Johnson didn’t really think another Britain was possible when he was a minister, so it is hard to see him arguing another Europe is possible.

    This leaves a lot of room outside the supposedly official In and Out campaigns to argue that precisely because the EU is an economic institution that the debate should not be led by businessmen.

    It’s an opportunity, but also a responsibility. We need to make the case that economics in the EU means how we run our schools or hospitals or welfare state. It means how we regulate banks, not how some ageing executive pleases the banks while lining his pockets.

    • Follow Solomon Hughes on Twitter @Sol­Hughes­Writer.

    JD adds: Comrade Hughes should sign up with the Campaign for a Workers’ Europe.

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    Labour Friends of Israel warm to Corbyn

    October 12, 2015 at 1:50 pm (anti-semitism, Champagne Charlie, Human rights, internationalism, israel, labour party, Middle East, zionism)

    This appeared in the Morning Star on Saturday. Given the Star‘s habit of publishing letters and articles by ‘absolute’ anti-Zionists, one-staters and anti-Semites (despite its theoretical commitment to two states in Israel/Palestine) and Corbyn’s history of associating (albeit unknowingly) with anti-Semites and of calling Hizbollah and Hamas “friends”, this is tremendously encouraging:

    The new party leader and his pro-Palestinian views both had a surprisingly friendly reception from the group, found SHLOMO ANKER

    BEFORE Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour Party leader, there was talk of tension within the party — especially from the right-wing media. People suggested that some in the party would even leave and form a SDP style split.

    So the reaction of the pro-Israel lobby group Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) is interesting, especially with so much discussion of Corbyn’s views on the Middle East and his record of being very sympathetic to the Palestinians.

    At the Labour Party conference, LFI had two main events and its reaction to Corbyn was surprising. Instead of fostering tension and paranoia towards him, the atmosphere was positive and Jewish Labour members both in and outside of LFI are really starting to warm to him. Or to put it another way: Jewish Labour members realise that what the media has said about Corbyn is not true.

    One LFI event was a broad discussion about a two-state solution. The speakers in general only spoke in defence of Israel, which included the usual exaggeration of the threat from Iran. It was disappointing that the oppression of the Palestinians was hardly mentioned.

    In the discussion afterwards I decided to commment on the suffering of those in Gaza. The reaction I received was unexpected. Instead of people being upset with me, the Chair of LFI, Joan Ryan MP, very much liked my question and the organisers even came to shake my hand.

    Pro-Palestinian activists later asked challenging questions and the organisers and pro-Israel members of the audience enjoyed the discussion — although one woman with a Free Palestine badge did get upset with the replies and walked out of the meeting.

    The second event for LFI was their annual reception where high-level members of the Labour Party come to drink, eat and discuss the Middle East.

    LFI invited plenty of people involved in Labour Friends of Palestine, as well as Corbyn and Hilary Benn. They both spoke alongside Errel Margalit (an Israeli Knesset member) and the deputy ambassdor of Israel. In his speech, Corbyn called for the end of the siege of Gaza but also praised the Jewish community for its work in defending refugees.

    The Telegraph and the Times reported on this event but only mentioned a heckler who shouted “Oi oi, say the word Israel!” after Corbyn’s speech. The newspapers forgot to mention that the heckler had partaken heavily in the wine served at the event and is well known as a bit of an “eccentric” who gets so agitated that even the Daily Mail had an article on his bad behaviour.

    The improvement of relations between Corbyn and LFI is partly down to the most pro-Israel of all the Labour MPs, Luciana Berger, being appointed to the shadow cabinet. Luciana was formerly the chair of LFI and unlike other pro-Israel voices in the parliamentary party, she is actually Jewish.

    But I should not exaggerate. LFI still has strong disagreements with Corbyn and in my opinion LFI’s work needs reform.

    Their priority seems to be mainly about Israel’s national security and they do not do enough to stand up for Palestinians.

    The rank and file people in LFI are often peace activists but the speakers they invite at events tend to not be as left-wing.

    Although while LFI are not supporters of Netanyahu and do formally oppose the occupation, the brutal reality of the occupation is generally not talked about at their events.

    I wish that LFI could reform and be focused on peace activism and not on defending the actions of the Israeli military and sometimes its government.

    Yet I must also criticise Labour Friends of Palestine too. I spoke with Graeme Morris MP who is the chair of the group and he seemed pessimistic about working with LFI. While he may be right about politics and is a charming fellow, Labour Friends of Palestine need to reach out more to LFI and begin to organise more joint events which will improve relations.

    If we are going to have peace and justice in the Middle East, let us at least start with friendship between these two sides within the Labour Party.

    Permalink 2 Comments

    Hands Off Syria?

    September 30, 2015 at 7:37 pm (apologists and collaborators, imperialism, internationalism, Jim D, Middle East, Russia, Stop The War, Syria)

    Stop the War holds Hands Off Syria protest at US Embassy London

    Above: ‘Stop The War’ placards outside US embassy, June 2013

    30 Sept 2015: A Russian general asked the U.S. to remove its planes from Syrian airspace Wednesday, just hours before Russian airstrikes began there.

     The Russian three-star general, who was part of the newly formed intelligence cell with Iraq, Iran, and the Syrian government, arrived in Baghdad at 9 a.m. local time and informed U.S. officials that Russian strikes would be starting imminently—and that the U.S. should refrain from conducting strikes and move any personnel out. The only notice the U.S. received about his visit was a phone call one hour earlier.

    The Russian strikes were centered about the city of Homs, according to initial accounts in the local press and in social media. That’s significant, because Homs is not known to be an ISIS stronghold (CNN)

    The leaders of the Stop The War Coalition claim to be against all interventions into Syria (without a UN mandate) … so we can expect a, STW-organised demo outside the Russian embassy any day now, eh ..?

    Permalink 7 Comments

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