Anarchism and British Islamism: putting things in perspective - Steven Johns

Crow-bombs: our biggest problem?

Paul Stott opens his article stating that it aims to kick-start a debate about how anarchists should respond to the development of Islam and Islamism in the United Kingdom. It is a debate that is long overdue."

Jumping straight to his conclusion, I would first like to emphasise that I agree with his final points wholeheartedly:

There is a need to stress the type of alternative, bottom up multi-culturalism that we live with and support daily – getting on with neighbours, colleagues and school friends as people, not as identities based on their colour or creed. Joining together with people as fellow workers and fellow members of working class communities targeted by cuts will be a lot easier on that basis, than the multi-culturalism of the state and the left.

This being the case I hope that my disagreements with the rest of the article are taken in the constructive spirit they are intended.

My disagreements with the rest of the piece go right back to the opening paragraph, to the statement that this is "a debate that is long overdue". Anarchists love nothing more than to argue incessantly over irrelevant issues (look at me now!), often the more irrelevant the better.

Islam and Islamism and our approach to them is one such issue. On the website I help run, libcom.org, for example we have dozens of articles about Islam, and we have had dozens of debates about it in our forums over the past eight years - far more than we have about any other world religion. Anarchists are certainly not immune to a media frenzy, unsurprisingly, as things we read about in the paper and end up discussing with friends and co-workers we want to discuss with one another as well.

However, we should always remember that the media is not neutral, it has an agenda, and so to counter this we should always try to put things in perspective. The main issue with Stott's article is the complete lack of perspective.

The clear scale of the exaggeration of the issue is quite well illustrated by this statement:

[the global Islamic] resurgence was – and is – an event as important as the French or Russian revolutions.

Now I ask on what basis is this even close to being true? The French revolution was the triumph of capitalism over feudalism, setting the scene for the dominant new economic system for the entire planet. The Russian revolution was the world's first major proletarian revolution and experiment in socialism, which was crushed and instead turned into the second imperialist superpower and led to the Cold War, which dominated much of the world's political life, including class struggle, over the past 100 years.

The supposed growth of political Islam has had nowhere near as big an impact as either of these two events, no matter what the Daily Star says. I say "supposed" growth because despite a recent resurgence I would question whether political Islam now even has the same influence it did 30 years ago.

Political developments
The article continues to discuss "Asian" and "Muslim" Councillors switching from one political party to another. I fail to see what is surprising about local politicians being opportunistic with their party affiliations. What is new here, or different from politicians of any other ethnicity doing the same?

As for the statement "the most important political institution in east London is not the Labour Party or a trades union – it is East London Mosque", this seems more like hysteria that fact. Having lived in East London myself for nearly 10 years I think I can pretty much safely say that the mosque has had zero impact on my life, apart from possibly being responsible for the two most ridiculously close together bus stops in London.

Paul does identify various people with some form of authority who are associated with the mosque. However, I am sure you could identify many more influential people associated with a particular synagogue or church. But would this have any political utility? Perhaps, but then why single out Muslims here, especially given how they are being victimised by the media, the far right and elements of the government?

I also find it quite concerning that Paul refers to "Islamists" in office being as useless at representing the working class as anyone else. Of course I agree that you can't represent the working class in elected office. However, Mayor Lutfur Rahman seems to be referred to as one of these "Islamists", but he is not. His religion is Muslim but he himself is a left social democrat.1

Are there actually any Islamists who have been elected to positions of power in the UK? After a brief search I have been unable to find any. But it is conceivable that there could be a couple, but whether there are or not there are still far far more Christians in positions of power whose religious ideas affect their political ones. So why the focus on Muslims?

Bang
Now, onto the terrorism, which seems to be the main problem which Paul identifies with Islamism:

Although rarely acknowledged, a small, but not insignificant number of British Muslims have been fighting, killing and dying in their version of Jihad for the best part of three decades, in places as diverse as Bosnia, Kashmir, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq and Israel.

I assume the author knows the number of these fighters, as he states it is "significant" so I would ask out of curiosity what is the number?

Whatever the absolute number, absolute numbers are not relevant without any sort of context. In terms of Bosnia, white socialists (not to mention NATO) went to fight there on the Muslim side, so why does this paint Muslims in a particularly bad light? As for Israel, far more British people go there to fight for the IDF. And Afghanistan and Iraq? The vast majority of people there shooting people and blowing things up are not Muslims, they are white people (probably mostly Christian) in the British Army. So again why focus on Islam here, when in terms of the amount of violence actually being carried out it is so much less than that by people of other religions?

As for the statement that:

The first British suicide bomber died in Srinagar as far back as 2000 – so much for the idea that such attacks solely occur because the government was stupid enough to follow the Americans into Iraq.

I would ask who ever said that suicide bombings happened solely because the UK invaded Iraq?

Plenty of people - correctly - stated that the UK being involved in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq would make the UK more of a target for Islamic terrorists, and surprise surprise it did.

I am particularly surprised that a former Class War member now seems to be condemning anti-imperialist terrorism. Class War were virulent supporters of the IRA: religion-linked terrorists who attacked civilians in the UK because the UK had invaded "their" country. What is the justification for supporting them, but not Islamic terrorists, despite the invasion of Muslim countries being so much more recent?

Regarding the comments around Preventing Violent Extremism, while the government attempted to state that it was meant to address all kinds of extremism, it wasn't just scapegoating Muslims, this was just window dressing to try to make them not look racist. Everybody who had something to do with PVE knows that it was just aimed at Muslims - the funding was even mostly allocated according to how many Muslims lived in an area. 2

When in my Council PVE was due to come in, many staff were concerned that it would be used to stigmatise Muslims, and asked me to raise this as a union issue, stating that Islamic extremism has never been an issue in our area, so why couldn't we use the funding to do more integration type work and oppose all types of extremism including racism? Management told us not to worry, saying that it would be used to target the far right as well. But it was not, it was only aimed at Muslims. I'm aware that one worker in the IT department even refused instructions to generate lists of Muslim children to be targeted by the project as she felt it was discriminatory.

Stott moves on to criticise the Federation of Student Islamic Societies for "insisting there was no evidence Muslim students are more prone to radicalisation than anyone else" pointing at four Muslim students convicted of terrorist offences as supposedly definitive evidence to the contrary.

As an anarchist, does Paul see any qualitative difference between the authoritarian violence of a state (by the British Army) and the authoritarian violence of a proto-state (Islamist terrorist groups)? I certainly do not - and far more Christians in role in the Army to go around murdering Muslims than do Muslims murdering Christians.

Or is violence only bad or evidence of "radicalisation" when it is not carried out by the state, its only legitimate user?

Moving away from an anarchist response?
Paul slams politicians "daft enough to cede power to sharia courts and Muslim Arbitration Tribunals at a local level". But this statement again seems to play up to tabloid hysteria about "sharia law". People must voluntarily agree to attend these courts and tribunals, which it is true do discriminate against women, which is terrible. However, if they do discriminate in a way which contradicts UK law then British courts can be used to overturn discriminatory decisions. And while it is true that some "volunteers" are effectively forced into attending, banning these courts would just force them underground, and women would still be forced in the same way to attend. These courts are also directly comparable to Jewish Beth Din courts which have been around in the UK for hundreds of years - so again why the focus on Muslims?

Supporting state bans on voluntary alternative systems is not an anarchist position.3 Helping women being pressured into attending these discriminatory courts resisting, or supporting them getting discriminatory decisions overturned however could be. Ways we could practically do this include opposing cuts to bodies which inform people of their rights, opposing cuts to women's services, interpreting services, legal aid etc.

The article then complains about public money being given to Muslim bodies like East London Mosque. I also oppose public funding of faith organisations. However singling out a Muslim organisation without making any comparison to the huge amounts of public money given to Christian or other religious organisations obscures the real issue, and makes Muslims seem like the problem.

In the conclusion states that "anarchists need to avoid the type of auto-leftism that dominates certain groups".

But more importantly at a time of unprecedented public sector cuts we need to avoid the racist tabloid hysteria which is deliberately scapegoating a tiny, disproportionately poor and working class section of society for all our problems.

This article makes no attempt to put the "problem" of Islam into any kind of context by comparing with other political forces or religions which are predominantly white. In fact it expressly tries to avoid putting the problem in context by avoiding actual numbers and using percentages. E.g. "92% of those in British prisons for terrorist offences affirm themselves to be Muslim" - pointedly not mentioning that this is not 92% of thousands, but 92% of only about 100 people who are in prison for terrorist offences in total, and not mentioning that "terrorist offences" is a very broad term.

It doesn't even put the problem of Islamic terrorism in the UK into any sort of perspective. Muslim terrorists have killed under 60 people in the past 40 years, whereas nationalist terrorists, some of whom Class War supported, have killed many times that number.4 In Europe, 99.6% of terrorist attacks are carried out by non-Muslim groups. And of course if like me you see no qualitative difference between the violence of terrorists and the violence of states, then this needs to be compared with those deaths as well in terms of determining what the biggest issue is - and these numbers do pale in comparison to the 650,000+ deaths in Iraq only up to 20065. Of course, Paul is doing a Ph.D. in British jihadism and so I'm sure spends a huge amount of time researching and thinking about Islamic terrorism so this could mean there is the appearance of attributing it with disproportionate importance.

Of course we should continue to criticise religion and religious intolerance, as well as the state's divisive top-down multiculturalism. On this note I would echo Paul's recommendation of Aufheben's article on the development of the Muslim community in Britain. But that doesn't mean that we should join in with a racist tabloid witchhunt. We should avoid language or behaviour6 which encourages non-Muslim working class people to view Muslims as a problem, and alienates Muslim or Asian working class people, possibly pushing some towards extremists.

And given that the working class is under the biggest concerted attack from employers and states in decades, we should be extremely wary of focusing our attentions on other working class people whom the media are demonising. Especially given the sidelining of political Islam and the escalation of class struggle in the North African/Middle Eastern revolts, we should be organising alongside Muslims and people of all religions in our communities and our workplaces against the savage public sector cuts. We can demonstrate the bankruptcy of the Islamists in opposing austerity here and in the Middle East and show that it is by uniting in our common class interest that we improve our lives and our conditions.

Comments

Arbeiten
May 10 2011 21:27

Refreshing article, I have been worried about a certain amount of anti-islamism hysteria gathering on the anarchist front. It's a bit of a double bind too, which I'm glad in your second paragraph you nipped in the bud. I really don't feel that here in london/britain/europe anarchists really need a 'Islamism discussion'. If you really want to discuss Islamism there are plenty of other platforms on which it could be done, why a specifically anarchist response?

Malcy
May 10 2011 22:51

Otherwise, great response!

Steven.
May 11 2011 13:33

I see that Paul has now seen this:
http://paulstott.typepad.com/i_intend_to_escape_and_co/2011/05/british-islamism-towards-an-anarchist-response.html

I didn't realise he wrote the article last year, I thought it was just from the other day, as the publication date was not included when it was posted to libcom.

Jack_Ketch
May 11 2011 21:59

"I am particularly surprised that a former Class War member now seems to be condemning anti-imperialist terrorism. Class War were virulent supporters of the IRA: religion-linked terrorists who attacked civilians in the UK because the UK had invaded "their" country. What is the justification for supporting them, but not Islamic terrorists, despite the invasion of Muslim countries being so much more recent?"

Er... Class War were not 'virulent supporters of the IRA'; the IRA were not 'religion-linked terrorists'; 'the UK' never invaded Ireland because the United Kingdom of Great Britain was created in 1707, centuries after the arrival of Strongbow in Ireland in the 1100s and nearly 60 years after the Cromwellian invasion of Ireland - the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was formed in 1801. You don't seem to know what you're talking about.

In addition, the IRA were, in the words of Bobby Sands, fighting for a 32-county democratic socialist republic. Islamist terrorists are fighting for a caliphate. Can't you see there's a difference?

If there's so much to question in one small portion of your article where I have some knowledge, how much of the rest is cobblers too?

RedEd
May 12 2011 04:54

Whilst I don't think its useful to compare the IRA and Islamist groups, I'd like to defend some on Steven's comments. The (70s,80s,90s) IRA were intimately linked with a sectarian religious divide, which was of course created to a great extent by the British state, but the fact remains that most IRA members saw 'the prods' as in some way the enemy, and effectively organised along religious community lines rather than class lines. Additionally, the IRA had some links to members of the Catholic clergy. Saying that the IRA were not religion linked seems incorrect to me. Your point about the UK not invading Ireland is factually correct, but I think perhaps a little pernicity. The politcal entity that became the UK sponsored invasions of and directly invaded Ireland. Perhaps Steven should have made a foot note explaining that the House of Normandy were the first ruling political group to initiate invasions of Ireland from the British mainland in the series of events that lead to the occupation, etc., but would it have been useful?

I think Steven was not trying to say that the IRA are as bad as Al-Quaeda. He was trying to say that many of the criticisms made of Islamism could be made of movements some anarchists support. One implication being that those anarchists lack a consistent class struggle internationalist critique which they could benefit from developing.

Jack_Ketch
May 12 2011 08:10

While it's true to say that the Provisional IRA were predominantly Catholic, if Steven's term 'religion-linked terrorists' is to have any meaning, especially in the context of an article about Islamist terrorists, it can't mean simply that they were drawn from one religious background, but that their primary motivation was religious; and that they received significant support from important religious figures. I note that you do not disagree with my statement that the IRA were fighting for a 32-county democratic socialist republic. The IRA were not fighting for a theocratic state - therefore their primary motivation was not religious, unlike that of Islamist terrorists. There is of course a long and proud tradition of Protestant involvement in Irish republicanism from Wolfe Tone onwards: republicanism is not a sectarian political ideology. As for support from the Catholic Church for the IRA's campaign, though it is true to say that some priests were involved either in providing spiritual support or material support for the IRA, the Catholic hierarchy were always vigorously opposed to the IRA's activities - carrying on a tradition which stretches back at least as far as the Tan war. The association or involvement of priests with the IRA was not ubiquitous throughout the Six Counties, let alone the rest of the island. As the IRA were not primarily motivated by religion nor did they receive significant support from the Catholic Church it is hard to see how the claim that they were religion-linked can be sustained.

Turning to the issue of the United Kingdom, I don't think I am being pedantic when I say that the UK never invaded Ireland. England, English Crown forces, invaded Ireland on a number of occasions, most famously under Elizabeth I and Cromwell. Although it is true to say that the successor states to the former Kingdom of England maintained their presence in Ireland, this was - as I say - maintaining possession rather than invading anew. The last 'invasion' of Ireland would have been the Williamite campaign in Ireland after the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Again, before the creation of a unitary state in Great Britain... The United Kingdom, both as England, Wales and Scotland between 1707 and 1801, and as the UK of Great Britain and Ireland from 1801 to 1922, was a very different creature from its predecessor states. Saying that the UK invaded Ireland is like saying that the United States fought the French and Indian War in the 1750s and 1760s: a load of old bollocks, frankly.

By the way, it was the Plantagenet Henry II who was on the throne when Strongbow received his invitation from Dermot MacMurchada; Strongbow was out of favour with Henry II and Henry denied giving him permission to accept Dermot's proposal.

The issue here is not, to my mind, so much the matters we're discussing here - as I made clear in my previous post - but whether when Steven's attitude to accuracy and honesty is as questionable throughout his article as it is in the paragraph I highlighted.

Joseph Kay
May 12 2011 08:56

If someone blows up a pub for a 32 county socialist republic, or blows up a tube train to free palestine/establish a caliphate, what, from a libertarian communist point of view is the difference? Surely the problem with terrorism - and the analogy being drawn - is one of methods, not motives?

Jack_Ketch
May 12 2011 09:47

I'm not getting drawn into that rather different discussion.

Joseph Kay
May 12 2011 09:54

ok, me neither, but i think that was the point being made: islamism/islamic terrorism is apparently a big enough problem anarchists need a specific response to it, yet the anarchist response to a far bloodier campaign previously was to cheerlead it. which begs the question why single out islam(ism)?

Jack_Ketch
May 12 2011 10:07

Ask Steven why he decided to post Paul's article & write a response.

Jack_Ketch
May 12 2011 10:21

Oh - and "the anarchist response" to the IRA was not "to cheerlead it", was it?

Joseph Kay
May 12 2011 10:23

Someone else posted it I think, and Steven didn't realise it was an old article and turned his impromptu response into a blog. As for his reasons, well, he can speak for himself I guess. But presumably he disagreed with Paul's post enough to motivate him to respond to it.

jef costello
May 12 2011 11:44

I think pulling 11 men on their way home from work off of a bus and shooting the protestants and letting the catholic go would have a stong religious element.

Quote:
At first, the workers assumed that they were being stopped and searched by a British Army or RUC checkpoint, and when ordered to line up beside the bus, they obeyed. At this point the lead gunman ordered the only Catholic, Richard Hughes, to step forward. Hughes' workmates—thinking that the armed men were loyalists who had come to kill him—tried to stop him from identifying himself

Even workers showing solidarity across religious lines get shot dead. I think this shows the attitude of the organisation more than a few words
The identification of each side with a religion is something that can hardly be denied even if there were a few protestants in the IRA (and fewer as time when on and the attacks increased I would imagine, not that anyone was likely to keep records)

Quote:
I note that you do not disagree with my statement that the IRA were fighting for a 32-county democratic socialist republic.

I would disagree with that, although some might have been pushing for a socialist republic I don't think it was the mainstream thought in the IRA, especially and the Official/Provisional split was based on the officials being too marxist/socialist although again it's hard to know exactly because I doubt anyone kept that kind of information. I don't see why anarchists would or should suppport a violent sectarian campaign whose avowed aim is simply morre of the same. I can see why catholics on the ground, faced with discrimination and violence might feel that it was necessary but it doesn't mean it should be suppported or defended.

Jack_Ketch
May 12 2011 12:43

jef

You point to one incident out of thirty years of conflict and in the context of a vicious murder campaign carried out by loyalists. But if you care to read the link you provide, then you'll see that matters are not as clear cut as you intimate. There is no consensus that the attack was carried out under the banner of the IRA; the claim that SARAF had no links to the IRA is equivocal, but in any event it hardly appears to have been greeted with joy within republican circles.

The stated aim of the IRA from 1916 to the present has been the foundation of a 32 county republic based on the 1916 Proclamation. The centrality of James Connolly to modern republicanism, too, supports my argument. That Sinn Fein under Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have determined on a different direction does not mean that the IRA were not fighting for what their most famous Volunteer claimed.

As to your final point, perhaps you could be more forthcoming than Steven and post up some evidence to show CW's 'virulent support' for the IRA. You (ie you, Steven and Joseph Kay) are long on claim but remarkably short on evidence.

We did go on Bloody Sunday marches, we did have stalls at the Green Ink Irish Bookfair at the Camden Irish Centre, but 'virulent support of the IRA'? Put up or shut up.

Django
May 12 2011 12:44
Jack_Ketch wrote:
Ask Steven why he decided to post Paul's article & write a response.

I posted it (which is easy enough to see on the tracker) because I'm uploading relevent articles from Shift and because it's an interesting debate worth having. Paul's article basically says as much.

Jack_Ketch
May 12 2011 12:53
Django wrote:
Jack_Ketch wrote:
Ask Steven why he decided to post Paul's article & write a response.

I posted it (which is easy enough to see on the tracker) because I'm uploading relevent articles from Shift and because it's an interesting debate worth having. Paul's article basically says as much.

doesn't really answer joseph kay's question, 'why single out islam(ism)'

Django
May 12 2011 12:58
Jack_Ketch wrote:
Django wrote:
Jack_Ketch wrote:
Ask Steven why he decided to post Paul's article & write a response.

I posted it (which is easy enough to see on the tracker) because I'm uploading relevent articles from Shift and because it's an interesting debate worth having. Paul's article basically says as much.

doesn't really answer joseph kay's question, 'why single out islam(ism)'

confused

Ask the author? Or are you saying me posting it is singling out islamism? You can see on Shift's website that it's the second article listed, after Nic Beuret's which was the one last I posted.

Arbeiten
May 12 2011 16:17

I'm also not a fan of the Srinagar example. Though the guy was indeed British and indeed a Muslim, I would argue that the context (Kashmir) and the motives (free Kashmir state) are completely different to the 7/7 bombers or Abu Hamza. The burning of poppies, Islam4UK, 'baby killer' protests are emphatically connected to to the wars in the middle east.

jef costello
May 12 2011 16:32
Jack_Ketch wrote:
You point to one incident out of thirty years of conflict and in the context of a vicious murder campaign carried out by loyalists. But if you care to read the link you provide, then you'll see that matters are not as clear cut as you intimate. There is no consensus that the attack was carried out under the banner of the IRA; the claim that SARAF had no links to the IRA is equivocal, but in any event it hardly appears to have been greeted with joy within republican circles.

And you pointed out Bobby Sands, who was admittedly a single man rather than a single incident.
If it was a response to loyalism then why shoot ten men on the basis of their religion, especially ones who actually tried to protect a man from the other religion? You can't use loyalist crimes to justify this without completely undermining yourself as far as I can see.
If you're trying to claim South Armagh Brigade wasn't part of the IRA and wasn't one of the most lauded groups taking part in the struggle then I'm a bit surprised.
To be honest you've picked and chosen from the republican movement to try and argue a point that doesn't make sense really. If it is just the fault of the leaders then why haven't they been challenged? What are your thoughts on the OIRA/PIRA split ?

To be honest I doubt this is going to get us anywhere because your conception of the IRA is not one that I believe can be justifie or is logically consistent.

In terms of Class War cheerleading the IRA I must admit I don't know that many class war members but on forums there have been several who have been at best soft on the IRA. It has been a widespread problem on the left at times, up to the point where two RA members carrie out an IRA bombing. In general I think that all nationalist struggles damage us and I don't just argue against Irish nationalism I just find that along with Palestinian nationalism it is the one most supporte amongst leftists and therefore most damaging.

Spikymike
May 12 2011 17:03

Well despite some fraternal co-operation between Subversion and Manchester Class War in the past (both groups now defunct of course) we in Subversion had to continually challenge the support given by some members of Class War for both Irish nationalism and the IRA (see for instance correspondence with a London CW member and Subversion in the Library here).

On a similar theme also read Dave Douglass's autobiography to see how his leftist support for Irish nationalism and the IRA drifted on to influence CW.

I think Steven has picked up on some of my previous comments on the earlier thread in his revised piece, though the link I provided is still perhaps relevant.

RitaRearguard
May 12 2011 18:31

Very interesting. Our job is to defend muslims against islamophobia not to defend Islam for obvious reasons. Yes there was some element in Islamicist terror attacks that has been a response to the horrors of impearialism. We always said that the first way to deal with this movement is for the west to get out of Chachnya, Palestine etc etc and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have made things worse.
But lets get things the blowing up of innocent civilians will achieve nowt, only a mass movement the likes of which we are seeing in the middle east will defeat impearialism and secondly we have to look at the kind of society that these groups want. We should defend the Palestinian resistance as a whole against the enemy Israel but we understand that Hamas has for example passed legislation in Gaza banning women from driving motorbikes and men working in beauty parlours. Islamacists don't wish for a socialist society but will tolerate capitalism as the Qu'ran says that it should in effect it aims for a society where women are subjugated to men and the Qu'ran is law, they have no liking for Kafur (unbelievers) especially athiests and the position on sexual liberation is apparent, they hate it. Also in many Islamic states (especially Iran) the penelty for renouncing Islam is death and in most Islamic communities questioning or criticising Islam is'nt tolerated.
Abu Hamza, Anjam Chaudry etc have said clearly they want to sweep western secularism away and that includes us, they hate us.
Our task, I think is to support socialist and secular groups in muslim countries. Indeed the right to freedom of belief in this country was achieved with much suffering by groups such as Ranters and Quakers. Our task is to defend secularism and support those trying to breakout of religious dogma whilst at the same time defending the rights of muslims in the west to practice their religion free from Islamophobia.
We stand by the people of Afghanistan to determin their own lives but oppose the Taliban, Al Qaida or any group wanting to keep the country in the Middle Ages.
Sounds like a contradiction. I think not. I think it is a principled position on the question.
Lastly, most muslims in this country have little love for Al Qaida and their ilk.

Jack_Ketch
May 12 2011 18:39

Spikymike

Thank you for addressing the issue. However, what's in question is not what individual members might have felt but the views of the group. You have taken a more nuanced view than some of the other posters on the subject. As you say, some members of CW were indeed republican sympathisers: others, however, were most emphatically not. If Class War were 'virulent supporters' and 'cheerleaders' of the IRA I'd expect that something from the paper could be picked up, something from the Heavy Stuff, something from Decade of Disorder, something from Unfinished Business... As far as I'm aware, the only 'pro-IRA' statement in the paper was in about issue 2: Ian Bone writes that -

Sean and Stella agreed to help me get Class War No. 2 out. ... Stella was a member of Red Action and Sean a close sympathiser so they contributed a Provisional IRA cheerleader piece 'I.I.IRA - Fuck the Queen and the UDA', It was the last time a pro-republican piece was to appear in the paper as our collective view was to become as opposed to Catholic nationalism as we were to Protestant unionism.
Ian Bone, 'Bash the Rich', p. 127

Dave Douglass may have supported the IRA as may other individual members of the organization, but - as I have said - many others were vehemently opposed to the IRA. It is untrue to claim the Class War Federation was supportive of the IRA.

Jack_Ketch
May 12 2011 19:42
jef costello wrote:
Jack_Ketch wrote:
You point to one incident out of thirty years of conflict and in the context of a vicious murder campaign carried out by loyalists. But if you care to read the link you provide, then you'll see that matters are not as clear cut as you intimate. There is no consensus that the attack was carried out under the banner of the IRA; the claim that SARAF had no links to the IRA is equivocal, but in any event it hardly appears to have been greeted with joy within republican circles.

And you pointed out Bobby Sands, who was admittedly a single man rather than a single incident.
If it was a response to loyalism then why shoot ten men on the basis of their religion, especially ones who actually tried to protect a man from the other religion? You can't use loyalist crimes to justify this without completely undermining yourself as far as I can see.

I don't think that there's any undermining of my position. Let me quote from Tim Pat Coogan's 'The IRA' (1995 edition):

Sectarian assassination is such a feature of the struggle that it deserves a special examination, as do the Protestant paramilitary forces and their endeavours. The sectarian assassin can be either a bigoted racialist or a genuine patriot. He can strike to punish, as he sees it, treacherous and rebellious members of a sub-species which is threatening life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is how many Protestant assassins, particularly in the UVF, see their actions. Or he can coldbloodedly retaliate for an earlier killing as the IRA did at Bessbrook in South Armagh on 5 January 1976, when ten Protestant workmen were machine-gunned to death after they had been ordered out of their mini-bus and forced to line up for death one of the few occasions when the IRA went in for outright sectarian murder.
Why? I asked an IRA spokesman. Looking me straight in the eye he replied: 'Why not? It stopped the sectarian killings in the area, didn't it?' Unfortunately he was right. Five Catholics had been killed in two attacks in that area on the previous day. The attacks stopped immediately.
(p. 443)

Indeed, I'm not going to deny it was sectarian. But I am going to argue that that was far from the norm for the IRA, as Tim Pat Coogan suggested and as the other long quote below substantiates. I would agree with Peter Taylor's remark that it is an event which republicans would rather forget because it disgraces every principle they hold dear. (Peter Taylor, Provos, p. 196)

Quote:
If you're trying to claim South Armagh Brigade wasn't part of the IRA and wasn't one of the most lauded groups taking part in the struggle then I'm a bit surprised.

The article you linked to said that the action was claimed by SARAF. Now I have had a chance to get home and have a look at the books I have more detailed information in front of me. I never said anything about the IRA's South Armagh brigade. And nor did you. Indeed, the link on which you relied, which was all I had to go on earlier, is rather equivocal on the event.

Quote:
To be honest you've picked and chosen from the republican movement to try and argue a point that doesn't make sense really. If it is just the fault of the leaders then why haven't they been challenged? What are your thoughts on the OIRA/PIRA split ?

I don't see how this is relevant. Your thesis, which argues that the IRA were involved in a sectarian campaign against Protestants doesn't stand up to examination. As Tim Pat Coogan noted, in the bold section of the quote, the Kingsmill killings were one of the few times the IRA indulged in sectarian killings. Following a detailed analysis of IRA sectarianism, Robert W. White ('The Irish Republican Army: an assessment of sectarianism', in Terrorism and Political Violence 9(1) (1997), pp. 20-55) concludes thus:

...I examined who it is that the IRA killed between 1969 and 1993. This examination supports the view that the IRA direct their violence against the British. The single largest grouping of victims of the IRA is British soldiers. Further, combining the figures for the British Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and the Ulster Defence Regiment/Royal Irish Rangers shows that over half of the IRA's victims have been members of the security forces. The results suggest that the IRA is at war with the British and their security forces in Northern Ireland; IRA behavior, in general, is consistent with their non-sectarian ideology.
This is not to deny that, over time and across geography, the IRA did kill Protestant civilians. Many of these deaths, however, may be attributed to IRA accidents and mistakes and to the IRA's attempt to influence British policy through the bombing campaign in the early 1970s. Also, many of the deaths were confined to the years 1975 and 1976, and to Belfast, especially North Belfast. Finally, in comparison to the widespread and consistent targeting of Catholic civilians by Protestant paramilitaries over time, the IRA is far less sectarian than are Protestant paramilitaries. Because of this, it is perhaps best to view the IRA as a non-sectarian organization that, when they do desire, can and will strike out at the Protestant community in Northern Ireland, as at Kingsmills.

The killings at Kingsmill, therefore, were very much out of the ordinary and in no way normal IRA practice. As such, your case is rather undermined, because you argued that

Quote:
I think pulling 11 men on their way home from work off of a bus and shooting the protestants and letting the catholic go would have a stong religious element.

with the implication that this 'strong religious element' could be applied more widely to an understanding of IRA tactics and targeting. That simply isn't the case. And so we return to what I said in my initial post on this thread - the IRA were not 'religion-linked terrorists', and I note you have not bothered to contest my definition of what I mean by 'religion-linked terrorists': it seems, therefore, you accept my understanding of the term. Given that, perhaps we can move on.

Quote:
To be honest I doubt this is going to get us anywhere because your conception of the IRA is not one that I believe can be justifie or is logically consistent.

God knows your conception of the IRA isn't one which stands up to comparison with the facts.

Quote:
In terms of Class War cheerleading the IRA I must admit I don't know that many class war members but on forums there have been several who have been at best soft on the IRA. It has been a widespread problem on the left at times, up to the point where two RA members carrie out an IRA bombing

Right. So out of hundreds of people who have passed through the ranks of CW over the years, you can think of several who have had a soft spot or similar for the IRA. Hardly the sort of thing I was thinking of when I asked for evidence of Class War's 'virulent support' for the IRA. And then you bring in Red Action, a group with whom it's well known that Class War had considerable differences! You're all over the place on this one.

Quote:
. In general I think that all nationalist struggles damage us and I don't just argue against Irish nationalism I just find that along with Palestinian nationalism it is the one most supporte amongst leftists and therefore most damaging.

I don't know where you get the impression that Irish nationalism has a great deal of support among 'leftists'. Certainly that's never been the impression I've received over the past 20 years. The more distant something is the more support it typically attracts, like the Zapatistas some years ago, or Che Guevara and Fidel Castro back in the 1960s - or Hugo Chavez now. People have commented on how many lives were lost through the Troubles and how few comparatively have been lost to Islamist terrorists.What disturbs me about this, in the context in which this thread emerged, is that you and some of the other contributors on this thread are not, in my view, bringing this up out of horror at the bloodshed, but as an underhanded way of having a go at Class War. It's evident from Steven's article that's why he's included it. Yet as I have argued, Class War did not 'virulently support' or 'cheerlead' the IRA. You've yet to show me anything which suggests I am wrong to say that, that I am wrong to say the IRA are not 'religion-linked' terrorists, or indeed that I am wrong in anything I pulled Steven up on.

Steven.
May 12 2011 21:11
Jack_Ketch wrote:
Spikymike

Thank you for addressing the issue. However, what's in question is not what individual members might have felt but the views of the group. You have taken a more nuanced view than some of the other posters on the subject. As you say, some members of CW were indeed republican sympathisers: others, however, were most emphatically not. If Class War were 'virulent supporters' and 'cheerleaders' of the IRA I'd expect that something from the paper could be picked up, something from the Heavy Stuff, something from Decade of Disorder, something from Unfinished Business... As far as I'm aware, the only 'pro-IRA' statement in the paper was in about issue 2: Ian Bone writes that -

Sean and Stella agreed to help me get Class War No. 2 out. ... Stella was a member of Red Action and Sean a close sympathiser so they contributed a Provisional IRA cheerleader piece 'I.I.IRA - Fuck the Queen and the UDA', It was the last time a pro-republican piece was to appear in the paper as our collective view was to become as opposed to Catholic nationalism as we were to Protestant unionism.
Ian Bone, 'Bash the Rich', p. 127

Dave Douglass may have supported the IRA as may other individual members of the organization, but - as I have said - many others were vehemently opposed to the IRA. It is untrue to claim the Class War Federation was supportive of the IRA.

From Class War issue number 83:

Quote:
in our former theoretical magazine (The Heavy Stuff Issue 5) our position in solidarity with the then Provisional IRA campaign was quite unequivocal. That support came at a time and in a context of the nationalist communities of the six counties fighting an all out war. As a class and as an oppressed nationality, against the British state, its soldiers and the loyalist death squads. In the face of bitter repression by the state, through murder and internment without trial, the bombing campaign against the British mainland was initiated. That bombing was part of the context of the overall struggle which people of both islands could see.

I will address some of your other points later when I get a chance. This demonstrates the support for the IRA. The virulent nature of some of this is demonstrated in the debate with Subversion, full of sentences in capital letters, etc. Some of this debate is viewable here:
http://libcom.org/history/northern-ireland-ira-class-war

I intend to post the rest of that debate up shortly.

Jack_Ketch
May 12 2011 21:52

So what you're saying is that in the summer of 2002 CW said there was an article about ten years before which CW agreed with then. The position was rather different when I was involved, where as I've said some people were for the 'RA and some against. If the best you can do is one article in a magazine from 1992 or thereabouts that hardly indicates the 'virulent support' you mention in your article, does it?

Steven.
May 12 2011 22:04
Jack_Ketch wrote:
So what you're saying is that in the summer of 2002 CW said there was an article about ten years before which CW agreed with then. The position was rather different when I was involved, where as I've said some people were for the 'RA and some against. If the best you can do is one article in a magazine from 1992 or thereabouts that hardly indicates the 'virulent support' you mention in your article, does it?

in class war's organisational newspaper there was an article clarifying class war's position on the provisional IRA, referring to class wars theoretical journal, which stated that the organisation's position was solidarity with the IRA.

I didn't see any official position retracting that.

You also seem to be ignoring discussion I linked to above with Subversion, with an IRA-supporting class war member. What is particularly funny on that is that a psychopathic banned poster in the comments to that article talks about how he also supports the IRA (including the continuity IRA, on other threads he stated how he also supported Islamic and fascist terrorism), then a class war member comes on the thread trying to recruit him to the organisation! That comment is here:
http://libcom.org/history/northern-ireland-ira-class-war?page=1#comment-363863

Android
May 12 2011 22:21
Jack_Ketch wrote:
So what you're saying is that in the summer of 2002 CW said there was an article about ten years before which CW agreed with then. The position was rather different when I was involved, where as I've said some people were for the 'RA and some against. If the best you can do is one article in a magazine from 1992 or thereabouts that hardly indicates the 'virulent support' you mention in your article, does it?

Your objection seems implicitly anyway not to be with Steven's substantive point that Class War supported the PIRA, but rather you'd rather he didn't refer to it as 'virulent support'. Your assertion that CWF held within differing views on this is rather weak IMO. As Steven said as in organisation articles were published in support of PIRA and so reasonably people assumed that Class War supported PIRA. Can your point to published material by Class War to reflect your contention that people within CWF rejected Irish nationalism?

Jack_Ketch
May 12 2011 22:32

When I was in Class War the only 'official' position I was aware of was the bit in Unfinished Business, which seems more nuanced than the article in the Heavy Stuff from what I can tell from CW 83, which as far as I can tell none of us has read. I could name you quite a number of former members who were by no means supporters of the IRA in any of its incarnations without troubling my memory. You also ignore the fact that we did not have 'official positions' in Class War. If you're going to judge CW by the yardstick of Trot groups, then you'll misunderstand us.

We had Unfinished Business on the stalls for more years than I care to mention. I can't recall Class War selling republican merchandise on the stall while I was a member: which you would have expected if we had retained the position apparently advanced in HS5.

I'll see if I can dig out a copy tomorrow so I can read the article in all its glory.

Jack_Ketch
May 12 2011 22:43
Steven. wrote:
You also seem to be ignoring discussion I linked to above with Subversion, with an IRA-supporting class war member. What is particularly funny on that is that a psychopathic banned poster in the comments to that article talks about how he also supports the IRA (including the continuity IRA, on other threads he stated how he also supported Islamic and fascist terrorism), then a class war member comes on the thread trying to recruit him to the organisation! That comment is here:
http://libcom.org/history/northern-ireland-ira-class-war?page=1#comment-363863

I'm not so sure you know the meaning of 'recruit'. After all, Outlaw asks 'how can I join Class War': to which he receives information. Not really someone out of CW trying to persuade someone to become a member, is it? Personally I think that the CW member should have engaged more with Outlaw to get his measure instead of saying 'to join us you write to us'. When I was a member we corresponded with people, met them (several people) to get a better idea about them and if they were ok there was a three month probationary period. Which is a bit longwinded, perhaps, but we didn't have things happen to us after instituting this procedure which had occurred earlier, and of course we didn't have the fash infiltrating us.

Android
May 12 2011 22:48
Jack_Ketch wrote:
When I was in Class War the only 'official' position I was aware of was the bit in Unfinished Business, which seems more nuanced than the article in the Heavy Stuff from what I can tell from CW 83, which as far as I can tell none of us has read. I could name you quite a number of former members who were by no means supporters of the IRA in any of its incarnations without troubling my memory. You also ignore the fact that we did not have 'official positions' in Class War. If you're going to judge CW by the yardstick of Trot groups, then you'll misunderstand us.

I am aware that CWF did not hold 'positions' as such hence why I asked if you could point me to articles that reflected an opposing viewpoint on this. If views are expressed to a greater or less extent consistently in support of Irish nationalism and there is no opposition from members who opposed this, then is it not meaningless that CWF members held such views, if they were not at least expressed.