By Rhodri Evans (in the Workers Liberty paper Solidarity)
A “common sense” which has dominated much left thinking since the late 1980s or early 1990s is now breaking down. That’s a good thing.
The old line was to support whomever battled the USA. By opposing the USA, they were “anti-imperialist”, and therefore at least half-revolutionary.
So many leftists backed the Taliban. They sided with Khomeiny’s Iran. They claimed “we are all Hezbollah”.
But Syria’s dictator, Assad? Some leftists have taken the US support for the Syrian opposition, and the US threats to bomb Syria, as mandating them to side with Assad. Most find that too much to swallow.
And ISIS? Leftists who have backed the Taliban are not now backing ISIS. Not even “critically”.
The outcry about ISIS ceremonially beheading Western captives has, reasonably enough, deterred leftists. So has the threat from ISIS to the Kurds, whose national rights most leftists have learned to support.
And so, probably, has the fact that other forces previously reckoned “anti-imperialist” — Iran and its allies, for example — detest ISIS as much as the US does.
The Taliban converted Kabul’s football stadium into a site for public executions, and chopped hands and feet off the victims before killing them. The Taliban persecuted the Hazara and other non-Sunni and non-Pushtoon peoples of Afghanistan.
Now the media coverage of ISIS has focused thinking. But leftists who now don’t back ISIS must be aware that their criteria have shifted.
The old “common sense” was spelled out, for example, by the SWP in a 2001 pamphlet entitled No to Bush’s War.
It portrayed world politics as shaped by a “drive for global economic and military dominance” by a force interchangeably named “the world system”, “globalisation”, “imperialism”, “the West”, or “the USA”.
All other forces in the world were mere “products” of that drive. They were examples of the rule that “barbarity bred barbarity”, “barbarism can only cause more counter-barbarism”, or they were “terrorists the West has created”.
The pamplet promoted a third and decisive idea, that we should side with the “counter-barbarism” against the “barbarism”.
It was nowhere as explicit as the SWP had been in 1990: “The more US pressure builds up, the more Saddam will play an anti-imperialist role… In all of this Saddam should have the support of socialists… Socialists must hope that Iraq gives the US a bloody nose and that the US is frustrated in its attempt to force the Iraqis out of Kuwait” (SW, 18 August 1990).
But the idea in the 2001 pamphlet was the same. The SWP talked freely about how “horrifying” the 11 September attacks in the USA were. It refused to condemn them.
“The American government denounces the Taliban regime as ‘barbaric’ for its treatment of women”, said the pamphlet. A true denunciation, or untrue? The SWP didn’t say. Its answer was: “It was the Pakistani secret service, the Saudi royal family and American agents… that organised the Taliban’s push for power”.
Bin Laden was behind the 11 September attacks? Not his fault. “It was because of the rage he felt when he saw his former ally, the US, bomb Baghdad and back Israel”.
Now Corey Oakley, in the Australian socialist paper Red Flag, which comes from the same political culture as the SWP, criticises “leftists [for whom] ‘imperialism’ simply means the US and its Saudi and Israeli allies.
“Syria, Iran and even Russia, whose strategic interests brought them into conflict with the US, are portrayed as playing a progressive role…
“Events in Iraq… leave such ‘anti-imperialist’ fantasies in ruins. The Saudis are conspiring with the Russians while US diplomats negotiate military tactics with their Iranian counterparts… Israel tries to derail a US alliance with Iran while simultaneously considering whether it needs to intervene in de facto alliance with Iran in Jordan.
“If your political approach boils down to putting a tick wherever the US and Israel put a cross, you will quickly find yourself tied in knots. The driving force behind the misery… is not an all-powerful US empire, but a complex system of conflict and shifting alliances between the ruling classes of states big and small…
“The British, Russian, French and US imperialists are no longer the only independent powers in the region. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt – though all intertwined in alliances with other countries big and small – are powerful capitalist states in their own right, playing the imperialist game, not mere clients of bigger powers…” (1 July 2014).
The shift signifies an opening for discussion, rather than a reaching of new conclusions.
On ISIS, a frequent leftist “line” now is to deplore ISIS; say that the 2003 US invasion of Iraq contributed to the dislocation from which ISIS surged (true); express no confidence or trust in US bombing as a way to push back ISIS (correct); and slide into a “conclusion” that the main imperative is to campaign against US bombing.
The slide gives an illusion of having got back to familiar “auto-anti-imperialist” ground. But the illusion is thin.
The old argument was that if you oppose the US strongly enough, then you oppose the root of all evil, and hence you also effectively combat the bad features of the anti-imperialist force. But no-one can really believe that the US created ISIS, or that there were no local reactionary impulses with their own local dynamic and autonomy behind the rise of ISIS.
Our statement of basic ideas, in this paper, says: “Working-class solidarity in international politics: equal rights for all nations, against imperialists and predators big and small”. We have a new opening to get discussion on that approach.
From Informed Comment:
By Lars Berger
The decision by President Obama to launch missile and air strikes against Islamic State (IS) and the al-Qaeda affiliate “Khorasan” in Syria draws the United States ever closer to yet another prolonged military confrontation in the region.
But there’s a difference this time: the participation of a coalition of Arab states, variously offering diplomatic, intelligence and military support. So far, the partner states have been named as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Jordan.
From Washington’s perspective, the importance of Arab participation is obvious: a synchronised display of high-level multinational cooperation is clearly meant to head off the usual criticism of the often unilateral nature of US foreign policies.
This is of particular importance for President Obama, who has invested considerable capital over the years in distancing himself from the Bush administration’s war in Iraq.
As he put it in his brief statement announcing the strikes: “The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone.”
The White House clearly hopes that the participation of Arab partners will undermine that radical Islamist narrative of “the West versus Islam”, and instead reframe the conflict as another chapter in the decades-old struggle between the vast moderate Muslim majority and a tiny minority of radicals.
But aside from these explicit American goals, Obama’s new Arab partners have interests of their own.
Regional rivals: Saudi and Qatar
Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia can hope to shift attention away from the criticism for their attitude to Islamist extremism. Over the years, they have been charged not only with supporting radical Islamists in Syria, but also with allowing their religious elites to propagate a version of Islam that is open to easy manipulation at the hands of radical jihadist recruiters.
Both countries will also hope that weakening the radical Islamists of IS will help moderate elements of the Syrian opposition regain the initiative against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Some among the elites of Riyadh and Doha might even be hoping Washington will realise the threat of IS will never be extinguished while Bashar al-Assad’s regime remains in place – and that Obama will see the job is finished.
Finally, Saudi Arabia in particular clearly has to be concerned with preventing the success of an organisation which aims to establish the perfect “Islamic state”.
IS’s claim to ultimate leadership of the world’s Muslim community as put forward by its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, is a direct challenge to the Saudi claim for global religious leadership based on King Abdullah’s role as “custodian of the two holy places” in Mecca and Medina.
Saudi authorities are fully aware that al-Baghdadi’s radical Islamist fringe project has attracted followers from Saudi Arabia, with recent estimates putting the number at up to one thousand.
As Nawaf Obaid and Saud al-Sarhan have pointed out, Saudi Arabia is the ultimate target for any “serious” radical Islamist organisation, whether IS now or al-Qaeda in years past.
Al-Qaeda on the Arab Peninsula (which consists not just of Yemeni Islamists, but also Saudi Islamists), driven out by Saudi counterterrorism measures over the last decade, is now beginning to mutter words of approval and support toward IS, and Riyadh will be deeply concerned about the spectre of being engulfed in an arc of Islamist instability to its south and north. Read the rest of this entry »
By Gabriel Noah Brahm (at The Times of Israel):
Step by misstep, the faltering BDS (Boycotts, Divestments, Sanctions) movement is stumbling into an abyss of hatred that will soon lead to its rejection by reasonable people everywhere. In fact, at this rate, critics of the campaign to unfairly stigmatize Israel for its supposed lack of “academic freedom” (news to Freedom House, the respected organization giving the Jewish State a laudable rating of 1.5 on a seven point scale, 1 being the freest) will have little more to do than quote BDSers themselves–in order to discredit an extremist ideology that rejects a two-state compromise solution to the Israeli/Palestinian dispute in favor of denying Israel’s right to exist. First, one of its otherwise more intelligent spokespersons, the distinguished political theorist, Corey Robin, of Brooklyn College, is reported by Jonathan Marks, in The Chronicle of Higher Education, as having surprisingly confessed to an undeniable overlap between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in the BDS movement:
“You say you’re a left-wing critic of Israel, so I presume you’ve supported some actions against the state. Well, guess what: I bet among those who also support those actions there are people who want the Jews to disappear. “
Next, to make matters worse, the prominent Italian philosopher (and member of the European Parliament), Gianni Vattimo, comes out with the following statement of his own, in a recent book called Deconstructing Zionism–in which, if nothing else, the emeritus professor candidly names names, identifying unabashedly who at least some of Robin’s (and his own) allies and would-be Jew-disappearers, as a matter of fact, happen to include:
For good reasons of international stability, one never dares—or almost never, except in the case of Islamic heads of state like Ahmadinejad—to question the very legitimacy of Israel’s existence…. When Ahmadinejad invokes the end of the State of Israel, he merely expresses a demand that should be more explicitly shared by the democratic countries that instead consider him an enemy.
Yes, the philosophy of BDS embraces the “philosophy” of Iran’s former President, and Holocaust denier, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad–the one who, like Professor Robin, dares to speak the truth. Israel is illegitimate. Its end should therefore be sought.
So! With that bracing reminder. Knowing for sure who at least a couple of BDS’s more recognizable fellow travelers include–a terrorist-sympathizing dictator/puppet who famously threatened to wipe Israel off the map, and a Heideggerian postmodernist who thinks that “democratic countries” above all should give credence to the essential thought behind the Iranian nuclear bomb project–do the opponents of BDS really need to mount arguments in favor of peace and reconciliation instead?
As the preeminent man-of-letters, Edward Alexander, helpfully reminds in a brilliant editorial of just a day ago, Jews Against Themselves: The BDS Movement and Modern Apostasy, it was the courageous German historian Matthias Küntzel who accurately discerned that “Every denial of the Holocaust contains an appeal to repeat it.” Well, Küntzel’s point is to the point, indeed. And furthermore–the point I myself would stress here and now–today the additional link that needs to be made above all is to the analogous denial inherent in the BDS campaign for the delegitimation of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. For what BDS, Ahmadinejad, Corey Robin, and other leaders of the not-so-stealthy “stealth campaign” to seek to infiltrate the norm of a one-state “bi-nationalism” from-the-river-to-the-sea all seem to forget (including the influential Queer Theorist, Judith Butler, and the anti-Israel activist, Omar Barghouti, who openly proposes to “euthanize” Israel) is that the real tragedy, the true nakba even, of modern Israel’s rebirth is that it came a decade or more too late.
Is rolling the clock back now supposed to help? BDS and its allies–”well, guess what”–want to do just that. Only it’s far too late for that, and the only people they are really hurting with their fantasy of time-travel are the Palestinians themselves. Which is why I join with Abu Mazen in rejecting BDS for the ideological arm of a new kind of terror campaign that it is. For, as Marc H. Ellis also frankly avers in his grotesquely phantastical contribution to Vattimo’s same edited volume,
“At least in the present the very announcement of a process of ending a Jewish State of Israel would probably precipitate a mass exodus of Jewish Israelis to Europe and the United States—if, that is, the borders of the various states would accept millions of Jewish Israelis.”
And “if not”? The ideologists of BDS don’t really care to comment. After all, why should they? Disappearing Jews is what BDS is all about.
H/t: Terry Glavin, via Facebook
From Workers Liberty:
Iranian trade unionist Shahrokh Zamani has been imprisoned since June 2011.
His crime? Attempting to build independent trade unions to stand up for his and fellow workers’ rights.
Sharokh, a member of the Painters’ Union, was charged with “propaganda”, “endangering national security”, and “participating in an illegal organisation”.
International human rights organisations say that Shahrokh has been physically and psychologically abused, denied medication, and denied visitors.
Shahrokh is a class-war prisoner. If we allow the Iranian state to get away with crushing him, it will be a defeat for all those fighting for workers’ rights in Iran, and around the world.
Between now and January 2014, we will be seeking to collect 10,000 signatures in workplaces, universities, colleges, schools, and communities to demand Shahrokh’s release.
Please support the campaign. Email email@example.com or ring 07775 763 750 for more information. Visit the campaign website here.
Those fearless, insightful people who dare break with the establishment consensus and put forward the only real explanation for terrorism – ‘blowback’ – are rarely heard, such is the conspiracy of silence and denial they’re up against. Very occasionally, the wall of silence is breached and their profound thoughts on the subject get published . Here, here, here here and here for instance.
But even at the New Statesman, which published Mehdi Hasan’s courageous and groundbreaking article ‘Extremists point to western foreign policy to explain their acts, Why do we ignore them? the carping voices of denial are to be heard. On the letters page this week, one Simon Jarrett of Harrow, writes:
If Mehdi Hasan were to follow his own logic, he would now be poring through the 180,000-word rant against multiculturalism written by Anders Behring Breivik, trying to find points of compromise on immigration and cultural mixing that would reduce the future possibility of such acts as the killing of 77 Norwegians. Breivik, like the two murderers of Drummer Lee Rigby, was a fascist “performing” terrorist murder as “political communication by other means.”
Meanwhile at the New Statesman blog, even someone who agrees with Mehdi about foreign policy, thinks there might just be a little bit more to it all…
I keep promising myself (and readers) that I’ll never write another word about that posturing charlatan Galloway. But for a blogger, he’s the gift that just keeps on giving:
George Galloway: “But there have been achievements in North Korea. They do have a satellite circling the earth. They have built a nuclear power industry even though they suspended it on false promises from President Clinton and other U.S. statesmen. They do have a cohesive, pristine actually, innocent culture. A culture that has not been penetrated by globalization and by Western mores and is very interesting to see. But I wouldn’t like to live there. And I’m not advocating their system. Not least because they certainly don’t believe in God in North Korea…”
H/t: Pete Cookson
From the International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran (IASWI):
Reza Shahabi, an Iranian labour leader imprisoned since June 2010, went on hunger strike on 17 Dec 2012 to protest against mistreatment by jail guards as well as prevention of his medical treatment by the judicial authorities.
Reza Shahabi’s physical conditions have deteriorated. He has announced that he will refuse taking his medication and eating food until he is allowed to be transferred to a hospital outside prison for complete treatment.
Mr. Reza Shahabi who had gone under major surgery of his neck, and according to doctors’ recommendations was in need of at least “two months rest at home”, and “incapable of withstanding any further punishment,” was sent back to Ward 350 of Evin prison on August 14, 2012. Since then, his health deteriorated significantly. In addition, his jail guards have be very insulting and he has been threatened recently by one of his guards. Reza was taken to hospital on December 15, 2012 but the jail guard accompanying him refused to allow him for proper examination and forced Reza, with threats of beating and assaulting him, to go back to prison.
Reza Shahabi is the Treasurer and Executive Board member of the Syndicate of workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, which belongs to the Municipality of Tehran and has more than seventeen thousand employees. All Executive board members of this union have been persecuted, dismissed and many were jailed since the formation of the Syndicate in 2005. He has recently been sentenced to 6 year imprisonment and five year ban on all union activities as well as 7 million Toman fine; the appeal court seems to have confirmed his sentence for four years imprisonment, five year ban on all union activities and 7 million toman penalty. Reza Shahabi’s health deteriorated significantly after severe beatings and mistreatment following his arrest. The authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran are directly responsible for any consequence resulting from continued imprisonment and mistreatment of Reza Shahabi.
Below: sample protest letter. Reza Shahabi must be immediately released and promptly treated.
I (we) are writing to protest the continued persecution of labour activist and the gross violation of workers’ rights in Iran. We continue to witness many labour activists brutally persecuted and unjustly imprisoned in Iran. In particular, I am seriously concerned about the health and well being of Reza Shahabi. Reza Shahabi, the executive board member and treasurer of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran Bus Workers’ Company, has been incarcerated for more than two and half years. Shahabi was severely beaten during his interrogation in detention. He underwent cervical spine operation on July 24, 2012. Medical doctors have been recom- mending treatment of his back as well. Contrary to doctors’ recommendations, Shahabi was sent back to Ward 350 of Evin prison on August 14, 2012. Since then, his health has been drastically deteriorated. On December 17th, 212, Reza Shahabi went on hunger strike to protest intimidating behaviour of his jail guard as well as the continued lack of proper medical treatment. He has also refused to take any medication.
I (we) strongly condemn the unjust arrest and sentence against Reza Shahabi and other labour activists. I (we) also denounce ongoing persecution and arrests of labour activists in Iran. I (we) demand the immediate and unconditional freedom of Reza Shahabi and all detained labour activists in Iran.
Please send your protests letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; avaei@Dadgostary- tehran.ir; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; CC: email@example.com
Have you noticed how many of those people who’ve recently been writing about Salman Rushdie and expressing varying degrees of horror at the Ayatollah’s muderous fatwa, just have to throw in a little aside about Rushdie’s alleged arrogance, lack of self-awareness, or simply not being a very nice person? The slippery Pankaj Mishra in the Graun even berated Rushdie (in the context of the fatwa) for “peevish righteousness” against “those who criticised or disagreed with him.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/sep/18/joseph-anton-salman-rushdie-review).
Now, I don’t know Mr Rushdie and so if writers in the Graun and elsewhere are saying he’s not a nice man, etc, then who am I to disagree? What I can tell you, however, is that he’s certainly a more forgiving person towards at least one of those who betrayed him in 1989, than I would be.
Let’s be clear about this: what was at stake then and in the years that followed was a fundamental question of freedom of expression. It was, to put it simply, a battle between the forces of enlightenment (actually, The Enlightenment) and the forces of barbarism. There was no middle ground. Rushdie’s enemies included not just the cynical, fascist, rulers of Iran and some Muslim people foolish enough to allow themselves to be influnced by them, but also plenty of non-Muslims including some Western “liberals.”
The list of writers, commentators and so-called “intellectuals” in the West who scabbed on Rushdie (and I’m omitting those who merely equivocated) is a despicable role of shame: John Berger, Germaine Greer, Roald Dahl, Jimmy Carter and (probably nastiest of all) John le Carré, who accused Rushdie of (you guessed it) “arrogance” and “self-canonisation.” The treachery of la Carré led to a long-running feud between him and Rushdie (the latter vigorously supported by Christopher Hitchens).
As far as I’m concerned the likes of le Carré are simply beneath contempt and branded, forever, with infamy. In fact, I’d go so far as to agree with David Aaronovitch that:
It is a conceit of the British that, had fascism come to this country or we been invaded, then our reaction would have been very different from that of, say, the French. In those non-Muslims who attacked Rushdie, who blamed him for stirring things up, who argued that the book should not be published in paperback, who said that he had brought the danger on himself and publicly resented the costs of his protection, you see the same arguments and psychology that would have justified collaboration with totalitarianism.
Well, it seems old Salman isn’t quite as peevish and self-important as has been made out: according to today’s Times, Rushdie (speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival), expressed his regret for the quarrel with le Carré. “I wish we hadn’t done it,” he said. “I think of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as one of the great novels of postwar Britian.”
He added that la Carré had also expressed regret: “He’s a proud man, David Cornwell [la Carré’s real name -JD], but he said, ‘If I was wrong, I was wrong for the right reasons.'”
That would not be good enough for me. But then, I’m obviously more “peevish” than Rushdie.
NB: Before they made up: the Rushdie-le Carré exchanges, http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/burning/le-carre-vs-rushdie.html
H/t (for the Aaronovitch quote): prof Norm, http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2012/09/blaming-salman.html
Wikileaks a CIA operation (part 2)
“As the NATO alliance inches closer to a military attack on Syria, a new front in the destabilization of the Damascus government has been opened by the intelligence agencies of the Western powers. The vehicle chosen by the CIA and its allies for this new assault is once again the shadowy limited hangout operation calling itself Wikileaks, and its chief spokesman, the Australian Julian Assange,” author and historian Dr. Webster Griffin Tarpley wrote in the article published on Friday.
Tarpley said that Assange and his staffers released “some 2.43 million e-mails by Syrian government officials, politicians, and companies doing business” with Damascus to “discredit the Syrian government, and even more to harass companies in the NATO sphere who are working as contractors for Damascus.”
. . .
He went on to say that the website is “complicit in the violent overthrow of the Syrian government by the NATO-backed death squads.”
“Assange has now taken refuge in the Ecuador Embassy in London. By contrast, US soldier Bradley Manning, who is accused of providing the raw material for Cablegate, has been brutalized by the US government ever since his arrest. The radically different treatment given these two has been a cause for comment,” the American author wrote.
Commenters to this article have a more nuanced take:-
The fact that Wiki always chooses to “reveal” certain info against specific countries and at specific times is a clear indication of its political complicity. And, more significantly, its Zio-friendly stance reveals its allegiance to CIA-Mossad.
It was obvious that he was a tool in the hands of the Zionist disinformation machine.But I`m not sure if he managed to contribute with his secrets disclosure in anything than mere gossip.
like Al-Qaida Wikileak too is ffiliated to CIA and was created by US Regime. No nation in the world can match US in Treachery. US, Al-Qaida, Wikileak, Arab League, all on the same side and same train in Syria.
I have to sit here and laugh anyone would believe Assange. If the US government wanted him – they would have had him by now. He’s CIA/Mossad! [That theory is especially comprehensive.)
Assange – antisemite and tool of Zionism, crazed hater of the USA and CIA plant, hounded by corrupt judiciaries and protected by them. No wonder his hair has gone white.
From the (Iranian) Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations, via LabourStart:
« URGENT ACTION: Reza Shahabi given 6 years sentence. Massive clampdown on Iranian labour activists »
Mahmoud Saleh and 59 activists arrested On Friday 15th June at noon, 60 members of the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations and a number of labour activists were arrested by agents of Karaj city.
According to the latest news, Mitra Homayooni, Vafa Ghaderi, Reyhaneh Ansari, Khaled Hosseini, Mahmoud Salehi, Saeed Moghaddam, Cyrus Fathi, Ghaleb Hosseini, Mohammad Abdipour, Jalal Hosseini, Alireza Asgari, Masoud Salimpour, Abbas Andriyany, Sediq Amjadi, Fattah Soleimani, Maziar Mehrpour, Mhommad Molanai, Vahed Seyyedeh, Jalil Sharifian, Sediq Khosravi, Yusuf Ab Kharabad, Faramarz Fetrat Nejad, Jalil Mohammadi, Nezam Sadeghi, Afshin Nadimi, Hussain Pilooti, Rahman Ebrahim Zadeh, Abbas Hashem Poor are among the detainees. (If new names appear, they will be added to the list).
The detainees were transferred to Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj and until now no further news is available. We, members of the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations, condemn the arrest of the members and other workers activists. We demand the immediate release of all workers activist. We expect all workers activists and organizations to protest against these arrestments.
Further news will be announced later
– Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ organizations
UPDATE: As of 16 June, nine still remain in the custody of the intelligence office. Others including Salehi have been released. They are believed to be:- Cyrus Fathi, Alireza Asqari, Jalil Mohammadi, Saeed Marzban, Masood Salim Pour, Maziar Mehrpour, Reyhaneh Ansari, Faramarz Fetrat Nejad and Mitra Homayouni.