DA LEFT


DewsburySix Birmingham Muslims have pleaded guilty to planning to attack on an EDL march in Dewsbury. The men were equipped with a homemade nail bomb, as well as knives and machetes. With them, they were carrying a document entitled “Operation in Defence of the Prophet Mohammed”, in which the Queen was named as a “Kafir Female Devil” and the EDL were told “the penalty for blasphemy of Allah and his Messenger Muhammad is death”. Jihadist literature was found on the men’s phones and computers.

This sounds to me as if the men were wannabe holy warriors who were outraged by the EDL’s insulting of Muhammad and saw the chance to launch defensive jihad. For the Socialist Worker’s Party, though, in the “What We Think” section of its newspaper, they were helpless victims of racism who felt compelled to lash out to defend themselves…

It is not equal to the violence of the state, or of racists or fascists who attack people because of their race or religion.

It was an act of despair against racist thugs.

How do they know? Seriously – how do they know? The men themselves claimed to have been provoked by the insulting of their prophet rather by violence or intimidation. Their reading materials and modus operandi suggests that they were inspired more by the abstract ideas of jihadism than material concerns in England. Their actions seem bold and ambitious rather than forlorn.

I am prepared to be convinced otherwise but, then, the SWP having nothing with which to convince one. They have not spoken to the men. They have not exposed evidence to bolster their argument. They are practicing amateur psychology of the kind that projects a stereotype of a people upon their actions. For them, people act not according to ideas but to material circumstances, and peoples held to be oppressed do not have their own obnoxious cultural trends but merely act according to structural oppression. This is not an inference; it is an assumption. It is also representative of willful blindness.

The SWP is not satisfied with merely sympathising with the motivations of these people – they have a measure of sympathy with their method. To be sure, they write that this “isn’t the way to take on the fascists”. But why is this so?

Had the attack gone ahead, it could have killed or injured people protesting against the EDL.

It could have generated sympathy for the EDL rather than weakening them.

And it could have helped the state increase the clampdown on Muslims and anti-fascists.

In other words, killing members of the EDL is not inherently condemnable. It is only the side-effects of such a tactic that strike these socialists as distressing. Could one execute its members and avoid these consequences it seems that this act might deserve more consideration. As it is, the SWP counsel against it and urge people who might think about slaughtering skinheads to join the “fight for a socialist alternative”. There is something tragicomic about this.

Me, I have always thought that the bulk of the people who turn out for the EDL are lairy young football fans who think that by chanting insults against Muhammad and Allah they stick it to the people who burn poppies and flags. It would be awful, then, if they, their friends and their families had to endure the pain of loss, still less the pain of nails and blades slicing through their flesh. There are those among them who believe that destruction and killing are justified and, indeed, meritorious, and such brutal thugs are abhorrent and frightening. It is not a cause for reassurance, though, that there are others who feel that mass murder would be an understandable response. It is quite the opposite.

A tedious feature of British politics is the feigning of outrage over the impolitic pronouncements of eccentric marginal figures. For liberals, conservatives and even social democrats this often entails bitching about far leftists. While I’ve been tacking to the starboard in recent times this is one habit I’d like to avoid reacquiring.

What bugs me about George Galloway’s success in the Bradford West by-election, then, isn’t what he said to Ahmedinejad (or what he said to Saddam; or Castro; or Assad; or, well – you get the point…). He’s an apologist for tyrants, certainly, but our Prime Minister sells weapons to tyrants. If we expended true emotion on every apologist for tyrants we’d be too worn out for the important things in life. What I am troubled by, however, is what the man’s candidacy represented: blatant communalism.

It’s no coincidence, one supposes, that he’s stood in the constituency with the largest proportion of Muslims in England; to many of whom, we’re told, he is a “superstar”. Well, okay, I guess anyone would stand where they’re most liable to win. But that’s the least of it: when it comes to appealing to tribal prejudices the Respect campaign did everything short of displaying a note of personal commendation from Mohammad. On Galloway’s website – along with an endorsement from one Carol Swords; because, of course, the backing of a convicted thug counts for a lot – we find Yvonne Ridley proclaiming that the sentences handed to young men after the Bradford riots represented an “apartheid-style justice that we haven’t seen since the days of South Africa”. Yes, what’s the UAE or Saudi Arabia compared to, er – West Yorkshire. I’m sure these guys will do wonders for community cohesion. Most egregiously we find a leaflet from Galloway’s gang that boasts, to “voters of the Muslim faith and Pakistani heritage”, that he’s supported the Gazans, backed the Iraqis and, uproariously, abstained from booze. That’s right: vote for me, I’m teetotal. It concerns me that this is something to brag about.

Apparently Labour – who are said to have done crap things for the area – put forward a candidate who also appealed to the voters on the basis of his faith. If this is true, a plague on their house as well. What’s disturbing is the extent to which our elections can depend on the candidates’ appeals to particular ethno-religious loyalties. This isn’t new – who could forget Dave Miliband’s audacious side-switching during the Sri Lankan conflict when it was realised that a lot of Tamils dwelled in marginals – but it takes someone as shameless as Galloway to make one realise how significant and unpleasant it can be.

Anyway, the triumphant Member of Parliament has taken to his twitter feed to mark the occasion…

There’s a certain former wool capital of the world that he’s forgotten to namecheck. Not for the last time, I suppose.

There are few less interesting things to post on a blog – photos of cats aside, perhaps, and Dr Who fanfiction – than critiques of small political groups the vast majority of citizens care less about than the price of spam. (That’s not to demean such groups. If I ever create something that exceeds the cost of processed meats in public visibility I’ll be surprised and delighted.) And, besides, I’ve preferred to explore my own ideas than attack other peoples’ here – for the past few seasons, anyway. Too much blogging is the result of people with a lot of pent-up frustration but no love for fist fights.

Having apologised at length for what’s about to follow, then, and while I’m on the subject of the leftist insouciance in the face of militant religion, here’s something that’s made me clasp my palms against my face. Longtime readers may have noticed that I’m more quarrelsome these days on the subject of religion. One thing that’s annoyed me is the failure of impassioned advocated of living and let living to take a long, hard look at what they’re living with. Or, to be blunt, supposed “anti-racists” have been apologising for or showing their ignorance of religious authoritarianism of the worst kinds. In another case, one Chris Nineham has done an interview denouncing “prejudices about Muslims [and] Islam”. And with whom? The Islamic Republic News Agency. The official news agency of Iran. No, not a different Iran. That Iran. Yeah.

So, Tunisia’s rare secularist majority will nonetheless be ruled by Ennahda. I don’t, at present, have a lot to add to last week’s comments. I’m just sad to hear it.

Someone who’s elated is George Galloway. I thought I’d said my last words on the man after – for want of a better phrase – becoming “indecent”. The trouble with the criticism of him, though, wasn’t that it was unfair – by and large – but that it was irrelevant. He’s even more irrelevant now but, still, unpleasantness deserves to be rebuked sometimes merely for being unpleasant…

They “should” choose them because their founder is “kind“? Jesus, George, if you’re going to lecture foreigners on who they should elect to rule their home you could at least give decent reasons.

There is a tendency – not restricted to “the Left” – to admire the strength of will and clarity of purpose of Islamists. (I doubt such people would endorse the consequences of their ideologies, but they do overlook them.) Their dogmatism is, to them, a sign of character and their contrary attitudes are a sign of independence. This seems especially attractive when they’re in conflict with imperialist states but for some this isn’t necessary. It’s a veneration of strong leadership; the kind of authoritarian instinct that makes a campaign seem attractive not because of its policies but because of its “brave” commander.

Noam Chomsky analyses the state of the U.S. (he’s not enthusiastic) and then turns his jaded eye to Europe and the “rampant” racism therein…

In Germany, Thilo Sarrazin’s lament that immigrants are destroying the country was a runaway best-seller, while Chancellor Angela Merkel, though condemning the book, declared that multiculturalism had “utterly failed”: the Turks imported to do the dirty work in Germany are failing to become blond and blue-eyed, true Aryans.

This vexes me for two reasons. Firstly because we have to break the mental link between Germans and the Nazis. That Fawlty Towers episode aired 35 years ago, people. I sighed when tedious commentators spoke of David Cameron criticising multiculturalism “in Munich, of all places” but I feel more like screaming when a guy as thoughtful as Noam Chomsky resorts to such a cheap slur. I have an idea for a series of sketches where a German shares a flat with a Brit or an American. “Could you do the washing up?” “Ah, slave labour, is it?” “Could my friend sleep on the couch?” “Lebensraum, eh?” “Don’t wear my hat! You’ll stretch it.” “Been measuring heads have you?” “Oh, forget it.” (What? No laughs? Oh, screw you guys! I’m off to BBC3.)

I haven’t read Sarrazin’s tome but is there anyone who thinks that’s a fair representation of Merkel’s words? Fair enough to even be a half-effective wisecrack? No. It’s evidently not. I mean, what’s funny is that all the Allied Powers – y’know, the guys who actually beat the fascists – ran societies that were, by my unscientific reckoning, about a million times less pluralistic than just about any nation in Modern Europe.

Shrill, accusative moralism, which, I’ll grant, characterised this blog many a time, now frustrates me. It often seems that social liberals display the same exclusivity they dislike in conservatives – to other opinions rather than to other lifestyles. Ultimately, though, they’ll find that their censoriousness is just as self-defeating. It pisses people off.

Andy Newman’s Socialist Unity blog is plugging this interesting demonstration…

The Al Quds Day Demonstration is a march in support of the Palestinian people and their rights, this year it will take place on Sunday 21st August from Portland Place (assemble near BBC Radio) at 2pm to Trafalgar Square. This rally is crucial in giving a voice to the destitute people of Palestine who have been under occupation for over 63 years!!!!!

Something about this paragraph aroused my suspicion. Yes, that’s right – multiple exclamation marks. Something else aroused my suspicions, though: the fact that Quds Day was established by that murderous theocrat the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Indeed, the page that Newman offers for more information bears this quote…

“The Quds Day is a universal day. It is not an exclusive day for Quds itself. It is a day for the oppressed to rise and stand up against the arrogant.” Imam Khomeini

Its “further resources” offer gems like this (under the heading Zionism – the Greatest Danger)…

The greatest evil facing the Muslim community (Ummah)and mankind today is not AIDS, Pollution, or Nuclear War. It is international Zionism. It is the Zionist greed for wealth, lust for perverted sex, greed for power, domination, and economic exploitation that is causing AIDS, POLLUTION as well as threatening NUCLEAR WAR.

Goodness, is there anything they won’t blame on Zionist greed? Peak Oil? The common cold? The Simpsons season 22?

Newman offers this selection of supporters…

Aloha Palestine

Friends of Al Aqsa

Friends of Lebanon

Innovative Minds

Islamic Centre of England

Islamic Forum of Europe

Islamic Students Association

Jews Against Zionism

Lebanese Community UK

London BDS

Muslim Association of Britain

Muslim Council Britain

Neturei Karta UK

Palestine Legal Aid Fund

Palestine Return Centre

Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Stop the War Coalition

UKIM

It’s especially pathetic to see Jews and leftists here – among paranoiacs who hate their semitic guts and Khomeinists who applaud a man who massacred their comrades. Leopold von Sacher-Masoch had nothing on them.

Flicking through twitter feeds I note certain likelinesses between would-be revolutionaries intoxicated by the London riots and the more belligerently pro-war commentators. For example,

A barricade has only two sides…

Equals…

Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists…

Or…

Collateral in riots is a shame…

Equals…

Regrettable beheadings notwithstanding…

Or, more simply…

Collateral damage…

And…

Epic Win! #croydon #hackney #lewisham #clapham #tottenham #chalkfarm #enfield #walthamstow #peckham #ealing

Equals…

We’re winning!

Or…

Victory in Iraq Day!

I’m increasingly disgusted with people (including, at times, myself) who find vicarious pleasure in the strife of others. On any scale of respectability it should be lower than public masturbation.

Increasingly, I prefer to discuss ideas rather than go after personages. That sounds desperately pretentious – “oh, I’m so high-minded dah-links” – put it’s more that I’m aware of how low-minded I can be and how such traits as spite, intolerance and egotism can run wild in the fractious spirit of confrontation. In other words, I prefer to save myself for fun encounters.

Still, it’s worth mentioning this. Unite Against Fascism are advertising a new book, Defending Multiculturalism. One of its contributors, whose chapter they excerpt, is Dilowar Khan, Director of the East London Mosque. He writes, of the EDL…

In June 2010 they singled out an Islamic conference and mounted a campaign calling for it to be banned for having so-called “radical” speakers. This wasn’t true, a fact that both the police and the local council confirmed.

As far as I’m aware, Khan is referring to a conference in Tower Hamlets, of which the council’s deputy leader said

This Islamic conference is not supported by the council and we call on the Troxy to call it off in the interests of public safety and social cohesion.

Doesn’t sound like a confirmation to me. But, hey, the councillor might have erred. Is Khan right to sneer at the notion that the speakers were “radical”?

No. The conference included, to select just one example, Dr Bilal Philips. If we open up his book Contemporary Issues we read his opinion that girls are prepared for marriage once they’ve started menstruating; wives have no right to refuse sexual advances from their husbands; hitting your spouse (silly me – I mean, of course, wife) is cool as long as they’ve provoked you; thieves should have their limbs sliced off and adulterers, apostates and homosexuals risk execution if they’re caught in the act. Radical? I think so. And if Khan doesn’t I’d be interested to hear why that’s so.

I’m not on, in, of, up or under “the left” and have no right to tell “it” what things should be said or done. After all, the wrong horses I’ve backed could fill the card at the Grand National. But it’s creepy and depressing that a paean to our supposedly harmonic land contains such a mendacious defence of such hideous ideas. And if people can’t engage critically with a subject – well – they shouldn’t be surprised if they can’t get through to its critics.

While I’m laying into anti-“conspiracy theory” types, let’s hear from the Socialist Worker. The author’s central concern, that the system is itself corrupt rather than being corrupted by a devious elite, is fair but they’re not happy with expressing this – they feel obliged to smear the whole damn concept. In prose more suited to a tabloid we’re informed…

An element of truth lies at the heart of most conspiracy theories—the ruling class do want to control society and act in secretive, undemocratic ways to do it.

But socialists argue that the problem doesn’t lie in a secret network of freemasons, the so-called Jewish lobby or an alien conspiracy. It is rooted in the way our society is structured to defend the interests of the elite who control the capitalist system.

Who said it did? Well, David Icke, I guess, but outside of the wide-eyed Jew or Lizard spotting fringe who’s claiming differently? They’ve lumped “conspiracy theories” and “conspiracy theorists” into a great big bag of nuts. That ain’t critical theory!

Still, if they’re unclear on what they’re trying to criticise I should be more specific with the things I’m trying to defend. (I won’t defend “conspiracy theories”, for example, as I’m not sure what I’d be defending.) Some of the habits the author ascribes to theorists are worth upholding. They tut at the souls who “get bogged down in [the] minutiae” of parapolitics. What would Paul Foot think of that? If we don’t get down and dirty with the details we’ll never grasp the truth of operations of the state and businesses. You can’t construct a worldview round some ideological precepts. The trouble is, the Worker‘s scribe seems to be issuing doctrine rather than laying out a case. The idea that “US foreign policy is controlled by an Israeli lobby” – which, by the way, I do not hold – is said to be untrue as “Israel is an unpredictable client state of the US“. Give over! Since when has a client state been so assiduously favoured?

Without quite saying it the Worker grants that “conspiracy theories” can be accurate. The deceits the Iraq war came packaged in are referenced, for example, but shrugged off as a distraction. (Just “minutiae”.)

This conspiracy must be seen in context and as a part of the true scandal of the Iraq war. It was a war about increasing the dominance of the US ruling class against other ruling classes.

It is the capitalist system that breeds war, oppression and brutality. It is a system that relies on ever increasing levels of exploitation in order to survive and grow.

Removing individuals at the top of society may seem like a solution, but replacements would appear—new bosses, new media moguls, new presidents and dictators.

Here’s something I can’t prove but would put money on: the belief that Bush and Blair deceived their way into Iraq has mobilised a lot more opposition to the conflict than any notion of the dominance of the ruling classes. People find the idea of being ripped off by a bunch of shysters far aggravating than dogmatic polysyllables – however justified they are. Hey, I’m not a Marxist – I don’t want to lecture anyone – but if you want to motivate the working class – or any class – you have to give them concrete examples of oppression or it just won’t bother them.

By the way, I find these claims about what “socialists” believe a little curious. This is the opinion of a subset of the Marxist fringe, not a joint missive from the international workers.

There is one concept more futile than “left unity” but the enduring dream of earnest lefty-bloggers everywhere remains the most ill-fated since the days of King Canute. Social democrats seem shocked that people who believe in overthrowing the class society might be a little riotous while socialists and anarchists seem disappointed that a bunch of people who think that a bit more tax and fewer reductions might be nice feel it’s wise to be peaceful and law-abiding. It’s not just a tactical dispute, they’re totally at odds! It’s like a germaphobe and urophiliac discovering that they’re not going to have much luck in the bedroom.

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