Shift #11

#11 cover

Issue 11 of Shift magazine.

Submitted by Steven. on November 24, 2012

Editorial - Opium of the people?

Originally published in January 2011.

Submitted by shifteditor1 on December 11, 2012

The past few months have seen an ever increasing stream of protests and events, of political analysis and of new groups being formed. These moments seem to be increasing in both intensity and occurrence and have made it such that a lack of coherent understanding of the ‘the cuts’, the protests that they have sparked and the responses that they have been met with, is understandable both in this editorial and amongst all of us. As we take a step back to reflect both on the past year’s historic attacks on welfare provisions and jobs, and the rise of popular protest against the new Con/Dem government, we are left mostly with questions and a feeling of, ‘what happened/is happening’ and ‘where are we going next’?

Shift is a project that aims to provide a platform for, and intervene in, movement debates. When we met several months ago, before Millbank brought a different set of political issues into focus, to talk about the theme for this issue we felt that the rise of the EDL and the uncritical nature of many Left/Islamic partnerships indicated that religion is an important issue to be discussed.

Religion has been and still is an important component of many political movements, including our own. The Muslim Association of Britain’s membership of the Stop the War coalition and the partnership between Respect and various hardline Muslim and Hindu groups are only the most obvious examples. From solidarity campaigners involved in organising around the Israel-Palestine conflict to the Tamil protests that brought Parliament Square to a halt, the presence of Quakers and Buddhists in peace campaigns, or the Christian café and ‘Islamic perspectives’ workshop at Climate Camp, religion is a presence within our movements and the wider world we seek to engage with. Religion, and Islam in particular, is also becoming central to emerging forms of far right politics. As the anarchist writers, Phil Dickens and Paul Stott explore in this issue, we must reject both fanatical Islam and fanatical Islamophobia. As Alberto Toscano discusses in our interview with him, the political mobilisation of religious movements is rarely ever progressive. Even those religious movements which seek to resist capital and power, such as the European Millenarian peasant revolts of the 1500s, can be conservative in their aims.

So whilst crisis and instability can bring with it a stronger longing for transcendental authority, our criticism of religious influences within radical movements both right and left must be part and parcel of the critique of capital and authority, where we understand the function of religion in capitalist society as one of veiling material social relations and turning social domination into an issue of morality alone. We believe this understanding can also guide us in our response to the cuts, where we must situate our response to these ‘reforms’ an expression of anti-capitalist struggle, rather than a protectionist, nostalgic or moralistic clinging to a defunct welfare state and democratic process. Indeed, recent nostalgia for the energy and dissent of the poll tax riots is perhaps a dangerous and false comparison to fall back on, one that ultimately shows a lack of ambition in collectively imagining the possibilities that ruptures such as those felt under Thatcher, and now again under the coalition, can open up.

This is the message delivered in our final two articles. In their respective analyses of the emerging anti-cuts movement, Werner Bonefeld, Keir Milburn and Bertie Russell argue forcefully that a politics based on an ‘anti-cuts’ position can never do anything more than defend the present. And why would we be interested in defending that present, replete as it is with wage labour, environmental destruction and instrumental education systems? The alternative they present is to move towards a politics that seeks to not only dare to reimagine, but also to control, the future.

Indeed, the future hasn’t felt nearly as exciting, or nearly as daunting, in a long time. We hope the articles contained in this issue can help spark the vital discussions needed for moving into that future.

An interview with Alberto Toscano

Alberto Toscano is a sociologist from Goldsmiths College, London, and author of Fanaticism: On the uses of an idea. In this email interview, SHIFT asks him why understanding the history of the term fanaticism is important for those engaged in emancipatory struggles today…Originally published in January 2011.

Submitted by Django on May 30, 2011

Perhaps you could start by giving us a brief overview of your theory on fanaticism.

As the subtitle of the book [Fanaticism: On the uses of an idea] suggests, my aim in writing the book was to explore the way in which the idea of fanaticism has been polemically employed, in particular to stigmatize doctrines and subjects that stray from certain normative understandings of politics. Unlike certain sociologists and political scientists (most recently Gérard Bronner), I have not produced a theory of fanaticism as a more or less unified phenomenon, but rather a critical analysis of some key episodes of intellectual and political history in which the accusation of fanaticism has played a prominent and symptomatic role (the Radical Reformation, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Cold War). A conceptual history of fanaticism reveals a systematically ambivalent or even paradoxical term, which is marshalled to oppose excessive universalisms and intransigent particularisms, steadfast atheism and religious allegiance, modernist utopianism and supposed atavisms. What intrigued me about this Janus-headed notion is the manner in which it combines two ideological traits of our allegedly post-ideological present: the condemnation of political projects aimed at radical social transformation and the identification of threats to ‘the West’ in absolutist religious movements. Heirs to both the Cold War denunciations of communism as a political religion and to a colonial discourse of counter-insurgency targeted at the fanaticism of religious revolts, many of those who today plead for Western civilisation and Enlightenment against internal and external extremisms repeat that peculiar trait of anti-fanatical discourse: the use of the very same idea to denounce a universalist politics of abstraction and a religious reaction to imperialism. To the extent that our political common sense has been shaped by the various polemics against fanaticism, any attempt to revive a radical politics of emancipation has to confront fanaticism’s history and its enduring uses. Two in particular deserve attention: the suspicion of a ‘politics of abstraction’ that would disastrously reduce the complexity of social life, and the view of fanaticism as a levelling of social differentiation – whether in the guise of the secular state’s transcendence over religious and cultural affiliation or in that of the separation between the political and the economic. As I try to show in the fifth chapter of the book, we can take our cue from aspects of Marx’s account of religious, political and economic abstractions to move beyond the invidious either/or: liberalism or fanaticism.

Alongside radical Italian writers collective Wu Ming, you recently contributed to a new collection of speeches given by Thomas Müntzer, radical Protestant leader of the 1524-25 peasant rebellion against the political-religious establishment. In his 1850 title The Peasant Wars in Germany, Engels became the first to read the peasant revolts as an expression of class conflict, albeit articulated through the only language available at the time i.e. that of religion; would you agree with this position? If so, we wonder what emancipatory potential and limitations you see in a) these historical antecedents to modern anti-capitalism; and b) religious movements.

While I think there is still considerable mileage in a class analysis of religious mobilization, Engels’s model risks relying excessively on the presumption that capitalist modernity brings to an end the disjunction between social relations and consciousness that gives religion its emancipatory rationality in pre-capitalist times. This means that Engels both overestimates the necessity of theology (some peasant programmes, for instance that of Gaismair in the Tyrol, are remarkably ‘materialist’ in their demands) and underestimated the manner in which religious languages persist in the context of capitalism’s uneven and combined development (a phenomenon acutely identified by Mike Davis in terms of the “re-enchantment of catastrophic modernity”). That said, Engels does emphasise a striking temporal and ideological dimension of the interaction between political contestation and religious vision, when he notes that the peasant’s rearguard millenarian resistance against a rising capitalism also allowed them to anticipate a future beyond capitalism. This utopian surplus was the object of Ernst Bloch’s fascination with this moment, and of his refusal to accept that the relationship between the economic, the political and the religious (or better, the utopian) was to be conceived according to a linear, progressive concept of time. As for the lessons to be learned from such moments, aside from the abiding attraction of their languages of transfiguration and refusal, things are not so clear. They are movements that respond to the violence and anomie of the imposition of capitalist social relations on other forms of life, and could thus be regarded, to borrow from Beverley Silver, as ‘Polanyi-type’ defensive movements against the capitalist expropriation of the commons and the disembedding of the economy from society. In that sense, they are of scant use for thinking of political opposition in worlds really subsumed by capital. On another level, the intransigent affirmation of another – even transcendent – justice, or the repudiation – even of a moral type – of this world, are not easily discarded by a politics of emancipation. For better and (most often) for worse, religious movements flourish when the sense that justice is immanent in the ways of this world wanes. But their motivational power is often inversely proportional to their capacity to identify the levers of real change.

We’d now like to concentrate on the relevance of all this for modern day political movements - both progressive and reactionary - many of which, particularly those on the far right, are now engaged in conversations surrounding religion. Is Marx’s phrase “the opium of the people” still relevant? What did he actually mean by it?

‘Religion’ is such a polysemic term that it is often extremely difficult to identify precisely what is at stake in the supposed resurgence of religion as a political force. My impression is that, aside from well-circumscribed academic domains with little political influence, political-theological debate is of little contemporary import, and that religion as experience, or even ecstasy, is also a rather marginal concern. What is really at stake today is the refunctioning of certain doctrinal and cultural repertoires to fashion large-scale collective solidarities in political, social and economic contexts marked by anomie, anxiety, crisis, catastrophe, disaggregation, and the ravaging advance of seemingly unstoppable military or economic powers. Unlike irreligious universalisms, religion can both be a goad to militancy (in this sense some have suggested that Marx would have done better to write of the cocaine of the masses…) and a salve against the painful experience of history (opium was medically used in the nineteenth as a painkiller, not just for intoxication). This ambivalence gives it considerably greater resilience than worldly ideologies for which failure can often appear as a terminal indictment. That said, I think it is important to note that, when it comes to politics, the supposed return of religion (itself a sociologically problematic notion, as one can make a strong argument for de facto secularisation in terms of everyday practices) is more a by-product of the drastic setbacks to emancipatory projects and ideals than it is the re-emergence of something ‘repressed’ by a secular ‘age of extremes’.

In terms of how your theory of fanaticism contributes to our understanding of liberal democracy, we’d like to refer to the work of such as Jacques Rancière and Slavoj Žižek regarding post-politics (see also Shift’s Issue 8 interview with Erik Swyngedouw). These thinkers have made the claim that in our current post-political condition, dissident voices face a choice between incorporation into and neutralisation by the liberal democratic consensus on one hand, and being written off as fundamentalists or extremists on the other. Does your work on fanaticism have anything to say on this, for example on whether this is really a new phenomenon? And how can radical emancipatory social movements respond to such a situation?

Not only is this not a new phenomenon, most of the arsenal of anti-emancipatory criticism and invective is already in place by the time of Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, to be periodically dusted off and reused whenever there is a threat to the political norm – whence the staggering lack of insight or originality in phenomena like the French nouveaux philosophes of the late 1970s, or their contemporary epigones. At the same time, excessive concern with one’s ideological detractors, especially when they’re of quite low calibre, is debilitating, whether it means trying to pre-empt their criticisms (bending over backwards to show one is not a ‘totalitarian’, in what cannot but appear a partial admission of guilt) or over-identifying with the accusation to provoke one’s adversaries. Radical social movements would be better off attending to the interesting history of the Left’s internal critiques of extremism (be it in Marxian critiques of Jacobinism, Leninist critiques of ultra-leftism, anarchist critiques of Leninism, left-communist critiques of Party idolatry – a whole history of ‘fanaticism’ that still remains to be explored), but also at trying to define radicalism in terms that are not merely mirroring those of their accusers. As contemporary movements around health, education, public services or the commons demonstrate, there are many demands that are both difficult to stigmatise as extremist (e.g. free education) but which at the same time contain remarkable anti-systemic potential. This is the irony of a world in which what Mark Fisher has aptly dubbed ‘capitalist realism’ makes it so that seemingly reformist goals have a kind of millenarian aura.

Finally we’d like to ask you about the relevance of your ideas on fanaticism for the Left’s relationship with Islam. How can the Left relate to fascist groups such as the EDL who oppose a political Islam to secular ultra-nationalism on the other? Similarly, what would a non-liberal/radical critique of religious fanaticism look like?

The EDL is a racist organisation and is obviously to be dealt with like the various far-right groups that have preceded it, and which it continues to overlap with (namely the BNP). Its rhetoric of a non-partisan opposition to political Islam is a thin veneer over a particularly disturbing mutation of racist thuggery. Aside from the necessity of making common front in local, national and transnational struggles against racism, I don’t think the Left needs to develop a particular relationship to ‘Islam’, any more than to ‘Christianity’ or ‘Hinduism’. First of all, it is dangerous to reproduce the governmental rhetoric, often verging on the neo-colonial, of ‘Muslim communities’ or the retrograde idea that being a Muslim (or a Christian, or a Jew) is somehow transitive with political identity. This can lead to a culturalist condescension that impedes political development. If individuals or groups which draw inspiration from their religious allegiances support egalitarian, anti-capitalist politics then it’s obvious that leftist movements should explore alliances with them. A critique of religious politics has to be part of a broader critique of abstractions, that is of the manner in which abstract entities can dominate human collectives – whether their form is that of the State, Capital or God (and these forms of domination obviously differ greatly, and relate to one another in intricate ways, such that we can have a ‘religion of Capital’ as well as capitalist religions). The distorted universalisms peddled by repressive forms of religious politics have to be countered by projects of social and political emancipation that can channel or recode their anti-systemic drives and truly challenge the narrowness of religious allegiances (which in the final analysis are never fully universal, contrary to contemporary paeans to the atheism in Christianity) at the level of everyday life.

Originally published in Shift magazine

Alberto Toscano teaches sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is an editor of Historical Materialism and the author of Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea and The Theatre of Production: Philosophy and Individuation Between Kant and Deleuze.

British Islamism: towards an anarchist response - Paul Stott

This article states 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." We do not agree with it but reproduce it as a contribution to discussion (our response is here). Originally published in January 2011.

Submitted by Django on May 8, 2011

Update: In 2015, Paul Stott confirmed on his blog that he had voted UKIP in the 2015 General Election, and was quoted as a UKIP member by the Irish Times in 2016.

In 2005 George Galloway defeated New Labour’s Oona King to win the parliamentary seat of Bethnal Green and Bow. It had been a highly charged campaign, with Galloway’s Respect Party working hard to particularly win over local Muslim voters due to King’s support for the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq. Galloway, Respect and their backers celebrated at the East London Mosque, where Gorgeous George made it clear in his acceptance speech who he thanked for his victory: “I am indebted more than I can say, more than it would be wise – for them – for me to say, to the Islamic Forum of Europe. I believe they played the decisive role.”

This article aims to kick-start a debate about how Anarchists should respond to the development of Islam and Islamism, (which I define as the political presence of Islam and the desire to develop norms of Muslim behaviour) in the United Kingdom. It is a debate that is long overdue.

Background

There are few things correct about Samuel Huntingdon’s clash of civilisations thesis, but one element he did get right was in recognising that the late twentieth century saw a global Islamic resurgence. That resurgence was – and is – an event as important as the French or Russian revolutions. The French expert on Islamism, Gilles Kepel, traces this resurgence to material factors. Urbanisation and population increases brought about by medical improvements fractured traditional rural brands of Islam in countries such as Egypt and Pakistan. This combined with the coming to power of anti-colonial movements in the Muslim world. These governments – whether nationalist, monarchical or ‘Socialist’ – usually failed to deliver the aspirations of liberated peoples, and instead became characterised by corruption and incompetence. Islamic evangelism provided – and continues to provide – ‘answers’ to such problems. That answer is Islam, a complete design for living. And that answer is applicable globally.

As late as 1989, it was very rare to talk about British Muslims, or Muslim communities. The existence of a conscious, political British Islamism arguably emerges from the most contentious background of any ‘ism’ – the agitation against Salman Rushdie, following his book Satanic Verses, and support for the death sentence issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Writers such as Kenan Malik and Anandi Ramamurthy have covered the fact that historically British Asian politics was both vibrant and often left leaning, via groups such as the Indian Workers’ Association and Pakistani Workers’ Association. A generic black or Asian identity was common – religious designation, and religious division only emerging after top down multi-culturalism was introduced from both national and local government following the 1980s riots.

Here communities were given labels, political representatives found for those labelled, and resources and political influence distributed accordingly. The realisation that sections within Muslim communities, voting as blocs, could come to hold considerable political influence soon became evident to all of the major political parties.

Political Currents and Developments

As left communists Aufheben illustrate [in their article Croissants and Roses, 17/2009 – the ed.], this stripe of multi-culturalism has little to do with progressive politics. One of those instrumental in calling for a national Muslim representative body was Conservative right-winger Michael Howard. In the decades since the Rushdie affair, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Association of Britain have come to considerable prominence, and Kepel is not alone in arguing that this influence mirrors, in part, colonialism. Representatives of the local power simply cut deals, on a ‘you scratch my back and I scratch yours’ basis with the governing power. In time, it is in both sides’ interest to maintain such arrangements, providing they work.

Many English cities have witnessed the curious sight of Asian (usually but not always Muslim) councillors switching overnight from one political party to another. During the war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006 a group of Muslim councillors in Margaret Beckett’s Derby constituency made the shock discovery that the Labour government supported Israel and would not condemn it for bombing civilians. Whatever next! They promptly switched to the Lib Dems, although cynics suggested their move had more to do with thwarted local ambitions, and offers from their new party, than anything else. Perhaps the classic example of just how scurrilous local politics has become in some cities is the 2008 defection of Tower Hamlets Respect Councillor Ahmed Hussain – all the way to the Conservative Party!

It is important to stress the centrality of the mosque in some of these developments. For some years now a reading of sources as diverse as Private Eye, the East London Advertiser, academics such as Delwar Hussain or journalists like Andrew Gilligan would lead you to the conclusion that the most important political institution in east London is not the Labour Party or a trades union – it is East London Mosque, dominated by the Islamic Forum of Europe and Jamaat-e-Islami. The election of Galloway, and a mosque-backed Independent in the 2010 Tower Hamlets mayoral election, reinforced this. In Waltham Forest, at one point no fewer than 16 councillors were attending Lea Bridge Road mosque – what price political openness and transparency in such circumstances?

It is worth noting that in office, Islamists have proved as useless at representing the interests of the working class as anyone else. Whilst Tower Hamlets residents are paying for the dubious honour of being a ‘host’ borough of the 2012 Olympics, all the events scheduled to occur in London’s poorest local authority have now been moved somewhere else. Whilst Independent Mayor Lutfur Rahman mouths impotently about legal action to bring the marathon back to the East End, the Chairman of East London Mosque, Dr Muhammad Bari, sits alongside Princess Anne and Lord Coe on the board of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The presence of Dr Bari’s beard ticks the multi-cultural box, but delivers nothing for the people of Tower Hamlets.

Things That Go Bang

One area where national power expects local power to deliver is in the reduction of radicalisation and terrorist plots from Islamist youth. 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. 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.

From 2009 Home Office figures, 92% of those in British prisons for terrorist offences affirm themselves to be Muslim. It is worth noting that these are not usually international actors – 62%, a clear majority, are British citizens. Since the 7/7 attacks the government has spent millions on de-radicalisation programmes, and a new term ‘Al Qaeda inspired terrorism’ has been coined. The fact that British Jihadis existed well before Osama Bin Laden’s name was widely known is conveniently forgotten, and a concerted government and police drive has occurred to remove any religious terms from discourse about terrorism. This has been the backdrop to an on-going conflict between government and Muslim representative organisations. Programmes such as Preventing Violent Extremism have been attacked for ‘stigmatising Muslims’ until Prevent was extended to include the far-right and even, ludicrously, animal rights extremism.

One consequence of such arguments has been that each new conviction following a terrorist plot, or each involvement of a Briton in a plot abroad, is presented as a surprise, or attention is instead switched to exposing ‘Islamophobic reporting’ by the media, rather than the act itself. This reached surreal levels when the 2009 Christmas Day ‘underpant bomber’ became the fourth former executive member of a University Islamic Society to be involved in an attempt to commit the mass murder of civilians. The Federation of Student Islamic Societies responded by insisting there was no evidence Muslim students are more prone to radicalisation than anyone else. What more evidence do we need?

An Anarchist Response?

Anarchists need to avoid the type of auto-leftism that dominates certain groups. We should be better than simply repeating the discourse of ‘Islamophobia’, and Muslims solely as victims, that the left has produced readily since 9/11.

Secondly, as Anarchists we should fear religious belief per se – because of its irrationality, its treatment of women, its ability to divide human beings and its long association with injustice.

We need to be realistic. Outside of the fantasies of the EDL and Muslims Against Crusades, shariah law is not about to be introduced in the UK. But there are politicians daft enough to cede power to shariah courts and Muslim Arbitration Tribunals at a local level (certainly for civil matters), and there are certainly Muslim organisations in our cities happy to soak up whatever power they can. If history has taught us anything, it should be that when power is ceded to religious currents, they rarely if ever give it back. Anarchist rejection of the law may not sit easily with campaigners such as Maryam Namazie and the One Law For All campaign, but we need to reflect on whether it is better to support such campaigns than see the consolidation of structures based on superstition, hierarchy and patriarchy.

Islamic organisations, backed by significant funding both from within the UK and abroad, are becoming a permanent presence in parts of the education and welfare systems. Having learned nothing from religiously divided education in Northern Ireland (where most children go to separate Protestant or Catholic schools from the age of five) the development of Muslim only schools is likely to not only do little for integration in our communities, but will even reverse it.

As London Mayor, Ken Livingstone awarded £1.6 million to East London Mosque for its welfare programmes – oh for the days when religious institutions that needed money for ‘good work’ did jumble sales! Such processes consolidate reactionary groups such as the Islamic Forum of Europe - they gain status, funding and power. There is no need for secular institutions to ask what services members of the public want or need when they can instead ask the mosque or any representative organisation that steps forward. We need to be aware Cameron’s big society may provide further opportunities for such nonsense, not less.

We must also fear the increased racialisation of politics. If there is such a thing as the ‘Muslim community’ with elected representatives, there is by definition such a thing as the white community. And we should know where that brand of politics takes us. 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.

Such an approach to me is Anarchism, and we need to stress that practice, whilst never abandoning Anarchist principles such as ‘No Gods, No Masters’, in the years to come.

Originally published in Shift magazine

Steven.

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

(Edit, this post has now got really long, I might reword it as a separate blog post)

Now, I'm not surprised by the perspective in this article- it pretty well fits with what people in Class War have been saying about Islam for a few years.

And there has been debate around it, again for at least a few years, so I dispute the claim that "it is a debate that is long overdue".

Secondly I also dispute the importance attributed to the issue.

The clear scale of the tabloid style 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.

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 whole 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 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 Express says.

Then the article talks about "Asian" and "Muslim" Councillors switching from one political party to another. I really don't 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.

I also find it quite concerning that the author refers to "Islamists" in office being as useless and representing the working class as anyone else. Of course I agree that you can't represent the working class in elected office. However, the author seems to refer to Mayor Lutfur Rahman as one of these "Islamists", but he is not. His ethnicity is Muslim but he himself is a left social democrat. As for Dr Muhammad Bari, a quick Google of him shows that he is also Muslim, but there is no evidence that he is an Islamist. Are there actually any Islamists who have been elected to positions of power in the UK?

Maybe there are 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?

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 numbers of these, as he states it is "significant" so I would ask what is the number?

Not that it is relevant anyway. In terms of Bosnia, white socialists 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 as for Afghanistan and Iraqi - 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?

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.

who has ever said that suicide bombings only happen after 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'm particularly surprised that a former Class War member now seems to be condemning anti-imperialist terrorism. Class War were virulent supporters of the IRA: religious-influenced terrorists who attacked civilians in the UK because the UK had invaded "their" country. Why support them, but not Muslims, despite the invasion of Muslim countries being so much more recent and violent?

As for Preventing Violent Extremism, is there any evidence about it targeting people other than Muslims? 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 said that don't worry it would be used to target the far right as well, but it was not, it was only aimed at Muslims. I'm aware of one member of staff even refusing instructions from management to generate lists of Muslims to be targeted by the project as she felt it was discriminatory.

This reached surreal levels when the 2009 Christmas Day ‘underpant bomber’ became the fourth former executive member of a University Islamic Society to be involved in an attempt to commit the mass murder of civilians. The Federation of Student Islamic Societies responded by insisting there was no evidence Muslim students are more prone to radicalisation than anyone else. What more evidence do we need?

what more evidence do we need?

As an anarchist, does the author 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 when it is not carried out by the state, its only legitimate user?

But there are politicians daft enough to cede power to shariah courts and Muslim Arbitration Tribunals at a local level (certainly for civil matters),

this statement again seems to play up to tabloid hysteria about "sharia law" (or Iraqi law )

Being an anarchist, of course I'm opposed to the entire bourgeois legal system. But why is this qualitatively worse than anything else? Especially as they only have authority if people agree to go to them. And directly comparable Jewish Beth Din courts have been around in the UK for hundreds of years - so again why the focus on Muslims?

The article then complains about public money being given to Muslim bodies like East London Mosque - again with no comparison to the huge amounts of public money given to Christian organisations.

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

But more importantly we need to avoid racist tabloid hysteria was 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 there are only about 100 people 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 what under 60 people in the past 40 years, whereas nationalist terrorists, some of whom Class War supported, have killed many, many times that number. In Europe, 99.6% of terrorist attacks are carried out by non-Muslim groups.

Unfortunately, this article is unsurprising, as Class War have been criticised in the past for their overreaction to parts of the left dropping their principles to cosy up to Muslims - the burning of the Arab caricature Mohammed on a bonfire, and support of members of the French headscarf ban, being two examples.

Of course we should continue to criticise religion and religious intolerance, but that doesn't mean joining in enthusiastically in a racist tabloid witchhunt.

Devrim

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

But more importantly we need to avoid racist tabloid hysteria was deliberately scapegoating a tiny, disproportionately poor and working class, section of society for all our problems.

This is a very very good post Steven.

Devrim

Devrim

But more importantly we need to avoid racist tabloid hysteria was deliberately scapegoating a tiny, disproportionately poor and working class, section of society for all our problems.

This is a very very good post Steven.

Devrim

thanks. It ended up being ridiculously long, so I think I will probably try to reword it into a proper response article next week sometime

knightrose

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

If you do write it, you should also send it to the editors of Shift.

qwertz

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yes, if you do write it, please send it to us, we'd like to publish it on our website as a response. We can also forward it to Paul Stott as I'm sure he'd appreciate the debate.

shiftmagazine (at) hotmail [dot] co [dot] uk

Khawaga

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Good post Steven. I found the article to come very close to bigotry. Perhaps that comes with reading too much Huntington and Kepel.

Spikymike

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Steven makes some good points.

However,the exagerated claims and a certain lack of perspective in the opening text (and possibly unfortunate contrasts with the authors membership of the IRA supporting former 'Class War') should not destract us from criticising the ideology of multiculturalism and 'community politics' of the state and it's leftist supporters, or equally the significant influence of the muslim religion and politics in some sectors of the population in Britain. The referenced 'Aufheben' article in the library here is certainly worth reading in that respect.

The relationship between the rise of political Islam and previous 'failed' anti-colonial struggles based on western liberal or 'socialist' ideologies should not be underestimated. It may not be critical in Britain but it has been a significant factor in the African and Arab world and inevitably has a spin off to the imigrant and migrant sectors of the population of other countries outside those regions.

A short article on Islamic fundamentalism as a state ideology, worth a read (despite a few misprints) can be found here:

http://internationalist-perspective.org/IP/ip-archive/ip_15_islamic.html

It does lean heavily on a particular view of 'capitalist decadence' but, whether you accept that or not, it makes some interesting points. Some references are a bit dated but some seem only too relevant today.

Rachel

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Paul Stott's article needs a good critique - I don't like it, - but I'm not sure Steven knows enough about the issues to write it.

Steven, go away and read the authors mentioned by Paul (Delwar Hussain, Kenan Malik, the Aufheben article) as well as Chetan Bhatt's 'Fetishism of the Margins' and the newish report on Sharia you can find on the WLUML website and then write it!

I'm too lazy.

Rachel

Paul Stott's article needs a good critique - I don't like it, - but I'm not sure Steven knows enough about the issues to write it.

Steven, go away and read the authors mentioned by Paul (Delwar Hussain, Kenan Malik, the Aufheben article) as well as Chetan Bhatt's 'Fetishism of the Margins' and the newish report on Sharia you can find on the WLUML website and then write it!

I'm too lazy.

Rachel, thanks for your faith in me!

I read the Aufheben article years ago (I was the one who put it on here), and I read the sharia report, which I have issues with. I have read other stuff as well - but a big chunk of my point was that this is a pretty irrelevant issue with the cuts we are facing. I wrote my full response yesterday evening, I'm so busy with anti-cuts stuff at the moment that no way am I going to waste any more of my time on this.

Please fill free to write something yourself though, or maybe try to get one of the Aufheben lot to!

Steven.

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Just to add I have reworded it and posted it here:
http://libcom.org/library/anarchism-british-islamism-putting-things-perspective-steven-johns

Steven.

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

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 whole 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 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 Express says.

In fairness the role of Islam is probably comparable to zionism.

gwry

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Steven wrote,"His ethnicity is Muslim" Why do liberals feel the need to twist the meanings of catagories, something they share with Stalinists oddly enough. It is a pretty kneejerk hysterical and muddle-headed response to a well argued contribution to the debate about Anarchism and Islam.The burning of Rushdie's book should have caused anarchists concern 20 odd years ago. By turning the issue into one of ethnicity the anarcho-liberals hope to shut down the debate. Islam is a religion, gettit? Anarchism is against religion, gettit? Therefore...
Surely. we are not to blame if right-wing press attacks a right wing religio-political ideology, using arguments about defending Enlightenment values, which we share to an extent. We should not back down and say ooh dear, lets turn it round to a debate about race, so that we can attack the EDL and the Daily Mail on safe ground.
No God, No Master!

Joseph Kay

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

gwry

Islam is a religion, gettit?

that's pretty simplistic imho. 'Islam' clearly signifies more than simple belief, especially when we're talking about Islamism, which is a political programme, and normally in public discourse it's a thinly-veiled reference to dark-skinned people, foreigners whatever their citizenship status. in any case, an ethnicity is a self-defined group based on shared values, culture, heritage etc, so Islam could well be considered an ethnicity. ethnogenesis is often spawned by conflict and the consequent othering.

gwry

Steven wrote,"His ethnicity is Muslim" Why do liberals feel the need to twist the meanings of catagories, something they share with Stalinists oddly enough. It is a pretty kneejerk hysterical and muddle-headed response to a well argued contribution to the debate about Anarchism and Islam.The burning of Rushdie's book should have caused anarchists concern 20 odd years ago. By turning the issue into one of ethnicity the anarcho-liberals hope to shut down the debate. Islam is a religion, gettit? Anarchism is against religion, gettit? Therefore...
Surely. we are not to blame if right-wing press attacks a right wing religio-political ideology, using arguments about defending Enlightenment values, which we share to an extent. We should not back down and say ooh dear, lets turn it round to a debate about race, so that we can attack the EDL and the Daily Mail on safe ground.
No God, No Master!

to be honest that was an offhand comment, in my article response I changed it to religion, just because I didn't want its use sidetracking the issue.

However, I do think that Muslim has become an ethnicity, rather than just a religion, in a similar way to being Jewish.

Or would you not accept that what Serbia was doing to Muslims was "ethnic cleansing"? Not only that, but especially with the way the term has changed recently, the development of the "Muslim community", some people self identify as Muslim when they may not be religious at all.

Similarly, there are loads of reports about issues related to Muslim ethnic groups in China, etc.

Arbeiten

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'm still really not sure why we need a specifically anarchist response to Islamic extremism and how, apart from the 'no gods no masters' section at the end, this could be considered anything other than a banal portrait of 'the situation'.

What for an anarchist/leftist (whatever) scares me most is the anti-terror laws which were hurried through parliament to deal with this threat which are now going to be used against us in the future....

Spikymike

However,the exagerated claims and a certain lack of perspective in the opening text (and possibly unfortunate contrasts with the authors membership of the IRA supporting former 'Class War')

I think what you mean is that you once exchanged some letters with someone out of CW who supported the IRA, which is a rather different bowl of rice. Certainly you couldn't produce any evidence that CW supported the IRA on the thread about the reply to this article

Jack_Ketch

Spikymike

However,the exagerated claims and a certain lack of perspective in the opening text (and possibly unfortunate contrasts with the authors membership of the IRA supporting former 'Class War')

I think what you mean is that you once exchanged some letters with someone out of CW who supported the IRA, which is a rather different bowl of rice. Certainly you couldn't produce any evidence that CW supported the IRA on the thread about the reply to this article

I have just posted this on your reply to my response, but as you are asking here as well I will post it again. From Class War issue number 83:

in our former theoretical magazine (The Heavy Stuff Issue 5) our position in solidarity with the then Provisional IRA campaign was quite unequivocal.

Steven.

I have just posted this on your reply to my response, but as you are asking here as well I will post it again. From Class War issue number 83:

in our former theoretical magazine (The Heavy Stuff Issue 5) our position in solidarity with the then Provisional IRA campaign was quite unequivocal.

Yeh. The piece in HS5 was a letter from Doncaster CW in response to an article in HS4 which roundly condemned the IRA. This is therefore hardly proof positive of your point as I make clear in the debate on your effort.

BTW, I look forward to your response to my various criticisms of your article.

Jack_Ketch

Steven.

I have just posted this on your reply to my response, but as you are asking here as well I will post it again. From Class War issue number 83:

in our former theoretical magazine (The Heavy Stuff Issue 5) our position in solidarity with the then Provisional IRA campaign was quite unequivocal.

Yeh. The piece in HS5 was a letter from Doncaster CW in response to an article in HS4 which roundly condemned the IRA. This is therefore hardly proof positive of your point as I make clear in the debate on your effort.

BTW, I look forward to your response to my various criticisms of your article.

I have responded to your criticisms below my article. However, I doubt that your criticisms are meant in any sort of constructive way, seeing as how you are someone who has taken individual enjoyment in offending Muslims by persistently referring to them as "Moslems".

Class war's newspaper stated that its organisational position was in solidarity with the IRA, later than the earlier articles which criticised it. I can only go by what the organisation itself stated.

Steven.

Class war's newspaper stated that its organisational position was in solidarity with the IRA, later than the earlier articles which criticised it. I can only go by what the organisation itself stated.

I hope I don't come off as being lazy, but I'm having a hard time navigating this discussion. Where was this most updated organizational position of Class War expressed? Which issue of which newspaper? Is this available online?

Tojiah

I hope I don't come off as being lazy, but I'm having a hard time navigating this discussion. Where was this most updated organizational position of Class War expressed? Which issue of which newspaper? Is this available online?

no worries, I'm sure it seems pretty confusing!

The only thing stated as an organisational position I have seen is from issue 83 of their newspaper Class War, which is from 2002, and contains the quote I have given stating the "unequivocal" position in solidarity with PIRA. It is online here:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/4900621/Class-War-Issue-83

Tojiah

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

That whole paragraph does not appear to be very well thought out.
CW

That is not to say we have not made thorugh analyses in the past - 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. Although we had reservations about the dangers of innocent civilians lives being lost, and harsh criticism of the more thoughtless and irresponsible bombings, overall we recognize it was part of a mass armed uprising.

(Emphasis mine)
So was it or wasn't it unequivocal? Was it unequivocal with reservations developing subsequently?

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

Crow-bombs: our biggest problem?
Crow-bombs: our biggest problem?
Author
Submitted by Steven. on May 10, 2011

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.

  • 1 The only website which refers to him as an Islamist that I can see (and an "Islamist supremacist" no less) is the nutty Zionist website Jihad Watch
  • 2http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/1e684162-1f94-11df-8975-00144feab49a.html#axzz1LtLQWqb7
  • 3 Members of Class War have in the past also abandoned anarchist principles on Islam, supporting France's state ban on the headscarf.
  • 4 The IRA for example have killed over 10 times as many civilians. Source: 1969–2001: 1,821 deaths, including 621 civilians. Source: 2002 online update of 1994 book — Malcolm Sutton (1994) Bear in mind these dead ... An Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland 1969–1993, Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications, ISBN 0-9514229-4-4.
  • 5http://articles.cnn.com/2006-10-11/world/iraq.deaths_1_gilbert-burnham-death-rate-ali-dabbagh?_s=PM:WORLD
  • 6 I would include here as an example Class War's burning of a decidedly dodgy effigy of Mohammed .

Arbeiten

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Otherwise, great response!

Steven.

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

"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

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Joseph Kay

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Jack_Ketch

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Joseph Kay

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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.

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)

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

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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.

Jack_Ketch

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.

Django

Jack_Ketch

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)'

Jack_Ketch

Django

Jack_Ketch

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

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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.

Jack_Ketch

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

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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.

jef costello

Jack_Ketch

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)

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

. 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.

Jack_Ketch

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:

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

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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?

Jack_Ketch

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

Jack_Ketch

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

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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.

Steven.

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.

Jack_Ketch

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.

Android

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.

Second question first: no: those views were on at least some occasions rather forcefully expressed. As for your first question, I don't think I can point you to such articles, certainly not immediately. You'll have to wait.

Jack_Ketch

Steven.

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?

it is someone in class war telling someone to join via the website or e-mailing or writing to them. He then enquires as to whereabouts the nutcase lives, defends the provisional IRA, and slags off the Irish posters who criticised them. Here is the post in full, so people can make up their own minds:
sort it out frosty

hiya The Outlaw,
You can join Class War by going to our website www.classwar.org, emailing our National Secretary at londoncwf[AT]yahoo.co.uk or writing to PO Box 467, London E8 3QX. Where abouts are you?

I recently wrote a piece in the latest Notes From the Borderland magazine (www.borderland.co.uk) disproving some of the slurs against the Irish republican movement (the Provisional IRA in particular) put out by, in that case, Trots. You might find that interesting. Otherwise a great place to start is by reading "The Spirit of Freedom" by Attack International which is a good intro to the struggle in Ireland.

If I was you mate I wouldn't take too much notice of what the people on this website say, its a laughing stock throughout the anarchist movement, full of ultra-leftist, pointy head, & liberal pish.

you may be interested to know that as well as supporting Irish nationalist terrorists, Islamic terrorists and fascists, the outlaw also supported loyalists, and opposed strikes.

Is The Spirit of Freedom online anywhere? What are the politics of that?

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'.

the outlaw had been a poster here for quite a while before this thread. We had confined him to libcommunity only, because people found him amusing. However, it was obvious to everyone that he was quite a deranged individual.

And you are still ignoring the entire debate linked to above that comment, which was a public debate in the anarchist press with a class war member supporting the IRA. Having just re-read the relevant parts of unfinished business, it shies away from openly supporting the IRA but it does defend them and talk about positive elements of Irish republicanism

Android

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Jack_Ketch

Second question first: no: those views were on at least some occasions rather forcefully expressed. As for your first question, I don't think I can point you to such articles, certainly not immediately. You'll have to wait.

No problem. Thanks for your replies. I will butt out now and leave you and Steven to it.

Jack, going back to your original comment:
Jack_Ketch

Er... Class War were not 'virulent supporters of the IRA';

we've been over this now and I demonstrated the veracity of this.

The IRA were not 'religion-linked terrorists';

other posters have addressed this

'the UK' never invaded Ireland because the United Kingdom of Great Britain was created in 1707,

this is being pedantic. The UK is the name of the nation state currently existing which is the continuation of the nation state which invaded Ireland.

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?

as Jef says, for the innocent workers they killed and maimed I don't think it made a big difference. If I want to be pedantic I could point out that Islamism is not a religion either as such, it is a political ideology which the vast majority of Muslims in the UK do not subscribe to.

Did you support the IRA then? Your defence of the shooting of the Protestant workmen sounds extremely dodgy ("it stopped sectarian killings"), not to mention untrue:

Some loyalist paramilitaries claim the Kingsmill massacre is the reason they joined paramilitary groups. One was Billy Wright, who said:

I was 15 when those workmen were pulled out of that bus and shot dead. I was a Protestant and I realised that they had been killed simply because they were Protestants. I left Mountnorris, came back to Portadown and immediately joined the youth wing of the UVF.

[36] He went on to lead a UVF unit in North Armagh and then to found the Loyalist Volunteer Force. Wright was suspected of at least 20 sectarian killings of Catholics in the 1980s and 1990s [Wikipedia]

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?

none of this is substantive criticism of my post, the crux of which rests on the fact that is blowing the issue of Islamism out of proportion to its relevance. Even if the things you pointed out here were mistakes it wouldn't change that.

Steven.

we've been over this now and I demonstrated the veracity of this.

No, you haven't. You've produced one piece from CW83 which refers back to a piece in HS5, the text of which you do not appear to have seen. In any event, as Paul's made clear on his blog, if you don't like that position there's the position in Unfinished Business, the first paragraph of which ends along the lines of 'we don't want to brainwash people into supporting the republican movement'. Given the prominence of that book - the text of which appears on Libcom - the most you can say is 'at the time HS5 appeared CW seemed to have a strong line in support of the IRA'.

Virulent support - your term - would be at least, in my opinion, the sort of support Red Action gave the IRA in the pages of their paper. Certainly not an article here in HS5 and an article there in CW83. And that seems to me to be the sum of what you've produced, barring the exchange of correspondence between Subversion and one CW member in Manchester and the posts of someone who, you claim, was a CW member in 2010. If it's the person I'm thinking of, they're most certainly not a member now. Let's leave aside the anecdotal evidence you've produced about every CWer being in support of the 'RA - as Paul (again) makes clear on his blog, that was emphatically not the case.

And, as Android admits, CW did not have official positions, certainly not ones which bound members five or six - or twenty - years down the line. Android's admission, which you haven't challenged, somewhat undermines your thesis.

other posters have addressed this

not very successfully

this is being pedantic. The UK is the name of the nation state currently existing which is the continuation of the nation state which invaded Ireland.

You said the UK invaded Ireland. This is wrong. There was no UK in 1169, there was no UK in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries and there was no UK at the time of the battle of the Boyne. The state which invaded Ireland was England. If you want to be lazy and post up things which make you look stupid, carry on. You've certainly posted up enough nonsense in your reply to Paul to make yourself look like a callow schoolboy.

as Jef says, for the innocent workers they killed and maimed I don't think it made a big difference. If I want to be pedantic I could point out that Islamism is not a religion either as such, it is a political ideology which the vast majority of Muslims in the UK do not subscribe to.

How can you say here that you don't think it made a huge difference who injured or killed people when you use that as something which did make a difference further on with your bit about Billy Wright? Come on, you can't have it both ways. As for Islamism, I haven't said it's a religion - Islam being the religion - but Islamists fight for a caliphate, a religious state, and their motivation is clearly primarily religious. You don't get people from other religious backgrounds fighting for a caliphate! As we know since at least 1972 the British government was talking to the IRA, but there's no comparable information in the public domain about possible negotiations with Islamists, although there was for some years that Covenent of Security (or similar). Oh - and I've never said anything about the proportion of Islamists among UK Muslims. I don't know why you threw that in, it's not as though that's relevant yet.

Did you support the IRA then? Your defence of the shooting of the Protestant workmen sounds extremely dodgy ("it stopped sectarian killings"), not to mention untrue:

The defence was not mine, it was what an IRA spokesman said to Tim Pat Coogan as recorded in his book, The IRA. made this clear above. As for my view on the IRA, yes, I did support them. But that was my decision and not related to my membership of Class War. As for the defence the IRA spokesman put forward to T.P. Coogan, there were no more killings in that area in the 1970s, which you tacitly admit.

But let's just look at some other aspects of your magnum opus in response to Paul's piece, in response to

none of this is substantive criticism of my post, the crux of which rests on the fact that is blowing the issue of Islamism out of proportion to its relevance. Even if the things you pointed out here were mistakes it would change that.

Let's not lose sight entirely of what you're up to here.

Starting at the top, you say that the debate about Islam and Islamism is covered within the articles available on Libcom.

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.

You're not being entirely honest here. There may be 'dozens' of articles relating to Islam on your site, but there's all of nine articles about Islam and / or Islamism in Britain, plus a couple of documentaries. There is, in other words, a dearth of information in the Islam section on what Paul's talking about. Judging by the standards of debate for which Libcom is famous - debates like the one where Harrison Myers links CW to the SS, debates like the one where CW was roundly condemned for burning effigies (notwithstanding the positions of what I'm told is your organisation, the AF, which is somewhat larger on positions than CW was), or debates like the one years back where some vile slurs were made against members of the Wombles - judging by that history, I am not so sure that you have entered into a meaningful debate about the development of Islam and Islamism in Britain which produced any original or substantial insights into the issue.

As an aside, you declare that 'the French Revolution was the triumph of capitalism over feudalism', a quote which seems to come from a 1967 article by Cobban. I'm by no means persuaded that that was in fact the case, not least because the French economy was rather later in the transition from feudalism to capitalism than at least one neighbouring country. Oh - and the Russian Revolution did not on its own lead to the Cold War, however much you might like to think it did. It's this sort of ahistorical nonsense which undermines whatever else you might have to say: it seems you haven't given the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution a great deal of thought. And if you haven't given those famous revolutions much consideration, I wonder what we'll find in the rest of your article.

When I've got a chance I'll get onto what substance there is to the remainder of the article.

AIW

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I agree with Stephens criticism of Pauls "Focusing our attentions on other working class people whom the media are demonising".
As others have implied, this bit is bollocks though:

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?

Paul is not responsible for Class War Federations arguments, only for his own.
Ian Bone is quoted:

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 (Class War) as our collective view was to become as opposed to Catholic nationalism as we were to Protestant unionism.

Leaving the Republican workers alone to defend themselves against the violence of the British Army.

Jack_Ketch

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Having seen the HS5 piece it's not in fact an article. It is a letter from one CW group - Doncaster CW - in response to an article in HS4 which roundly condemned the republican struggle. So in reality the most you can say is that individual members supported the IRA and by no means the group as a whole.

But if CW had a pro-IRA attitude, then why did the A(C)F enter into merger talks at the start of the 1990s?

Android

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Jack_Ketch

And, as Android admits, CW did not have official positions, certainly not ones which bound members five or six - or twenty - years down the line. Android's admission, which you haven't challenged, somewhat undermines your thesis.

How is me accepting your word that CWF did not have official positions relevant to Steven's claim that CWF were supportive of Irish Republicanism.

Steven's argument does not hinge on the fact of whether CWF had formal positions on issues or not. Various anarchist groups do not take formal positions beyond their political platform, it does not mean a general approach to issues can't be discerned. In this discussion Steven has referenced various articles and you have just replied with anecdotal evidence and quibbles.

Android

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Jack_Ketch

But if CW had a pro-IRA attitude, then why did the A(C)F enter into merger talks at the start of the 1990s?

This is interesting, I have not heard this before. I'd be interested in hearing what exactly happened.

Android

Jack_Ketch

And, as Android admits, CW did not have official positions, certainly not ones which bound members five or six - or twenty - years down the line. Android's admission, which you haven't challenged, somewhat undermines your thesis.

How is me accepting your word that CWF did not have official positions relevant to Steven's claim that CWF were supportive of Irish Republicanism.

Steven's argument does not hinge on the fact of whether CWF had formal positions on issues or not. Various anarchist groups do not take formal positions beyond their political platform, it does not mean a general approach to issues can't be discerned. In this discussion Steven has referenced various articles and you have just replied with anecdotal evidence and quibbles.

Mate

This is entirely irrelevant now. I have undermined Steven's thesis on CW and the IRA through my bit about HS5 & HS4. Tomorrow I will do the same to the rest of his article.

In brief, though, Steven makes a number of basic errors at the foundation of his argument which weakens the structure he seeks to build. I have pointed to his statements on the French and Russian revolutions. But it's his understanding of British Islamism as parochial - that is, a phenomenon without links to a wider Islamist network - which demonstrate his ignorance of the subject. Simply put, people like Abu Hamza acted as intermediaries between Islamist 'foot soldiers' and the central nodes of the Al Qaeda network.

Steven's misreading of Paul's article surfaces in several places, such as where Steven thinks Lutfur Rahman's being lumped in with Islamists, whereas Paul clearly says Rahman is an independent (if useless) mayor.

Steven's description of jihadi terrorists as anti-imperialist also sticks in the craw. I don't know where he got this idea from, but I hope he disabuses himself of it quickly.

AIW

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think this discussion needed to look at the important side track of Irish question. I think Paul should respond to the central point Stephen articulates which is demonisation.

Noting that groups like Libcom tend to have a go at the Palestinians in coordination with Israels offensives, is it a coincidence that you're having a go at the Irish Republicans to coincide with the Queens visit to the Republic?

Greetings from occupied Dublin

While for many years the occupation of the six counties was a major political flashpoint, our current concern is the occupation of Dublin City. While there are still approximately 5,000 British military personnel in the 6 counties, the next week will see 10,000 Irish police and Irish Army directly deployed in a security operation to accommodate the Queens visit. Major traffic restrictions and a complete ban on car parking within the city and routes in and out. The Gardai (Irish police) are already present on every street in large numbers, uniformed and plain clothes, all pedestrian movement is being monitored and an unconstitutional policy of “random” stop and search of citizens has been announced and is currently taking place. 1,000’s of households have been visited and residents questioned about occupancy and many were warned that their property will be searched when the Monarch is present. Residents were warned not to fly any flags or protest banners, and have been asked to contact police if they spot anyone doing so. All postering (even for those who have a City Council licence to do so) has been banned, and the cops are busy pulling all posters and stickers down , and sealing shut every manhole, drain cover and electricity box in the city and route The security cortege will stretch for a mile, according to the macho boasting from “spokespersons”. British security personnel will also be present, and many are expecting a pre-emptive operation by Special branch.

While the Gardai have announced that “reasonable protests” will be permitted “up to a point” they are gearing up to prevent this being possible, and it is likely that confrontation is being manufactured. Riot police will be deployed throughout the city, and water cannons have been borrowed from the RUC/PSNI.

The degree of felon setting that has taken place recently has been staggering. The majority of opposition to the Queen has been labelled as “dissident”, with the implication that those involved are “the same people that bombed Omagh”. The mass media, sections of the left and even Sinn Fein have fed into this. It appears also that no Court sittings are taking place in the coming week , so it is possible that anyone who is unfortunate to be arrested for anything , anywhere could be a-waiting bail for a few days ( dear god ,do not mention internment without trial).

On a slightly positive note- all members of the public have been completely banned from the Queens events and the surrounding areas, so the sycophants’ and arse lickers will have to don the knee- pads and be content to do their grovelling in front of the T.V. As the security bill is now officially announced as 30 million (in a bankrupt country, no less) there needs to be a whole lot knee bending and forelock tugging to get a return on that investment.

So thats my report from the Irish “Free State”, where I hope to continue my correspondence for as long as I am able

Android

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

AIW

I think this discussion needed to look at the important side track of Irish question. I think Paul should respond to the central point Stephen articulates which is demonisation.

Noting that groups like Libcom tend to have a go at the Palestinians in coordination with Israels offensives, is it a coincidence that you're having a go at the Irish Republicans to coincide with the Queens visit to the Republic?

This is just straight up bizarre.

Here is what happened since you seemed to have miss it: Shift published Paul Stott's text, then Dajngo archived it in the library here from the Shift website and then when Steven read it he decided to do up a response which touched on naturally enough the writers' political history.

It is that simple, no conspiracy theories needed.

Joseph Kay

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

AIW

Noting that groups like Libcom tend to have a go at the Palestinians in coordination with Israels offensives

saywut? :confused:

Fall Back

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

>IMPLYING a state visit by the Queen is comparable to a major assault by the IDF.

Android

This is just straight up bizarre.

Here is what happened since you seemed to have miss it: Shift published Paul Stott's text, then Dajngo archived it in the library here from the Shift website and then when Steven read it he decided to do up a response which touched on naturally enough the writers' political history.

It is that simple, no conspiracy theories needed.

That's Steven's version of events, of course. The allegation that CW were 'virulent supporters' of the IRA simply isn't true. It's very much of a piece with Steven claiming that the French Revolution 'was the triumph of capitalism over feudalism, setting the scene for the dominant new economic system for the entire planet', that the Russian Revolution led to the Cold War, that Libcom's already had the debate about the development of Islam and Islamism in Britain (if it had, Steven wouldn't have made some of his more egregious mistakes later in the article), or that jihadi terrorists are anti-imperialist.

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.

In the mid-1990s the Islamic Society at UCL was run by Hizb Ut Tahrir: and it was not the only university Islamic society to be filled by really virulent Islamists. I recall seeing a poster for a meeting of that society which incited violence against Jews, and it was clear to me when I attended the meeting that many of the people present had been what we now term 'radicalised', presumably while studying. The notion that radicalisation on campus is a recent phenomenon is mistaken. I am not aware of anyone from any campus Christian union who has been convicted of any offence, let alone terrorist-related crimes - but I am aware of four former officers of Islamic societies who have been. If Steven's able to show that student societies of any other faith have had members or officers convicted of terrorist offences, his argument of equivalency might have some weight. Without it it has none.

I see a qualitative difference between the violence of the state, whether by the British Army or police, and that of Islamist terrorists. Simply put, I am unaware of any time when the British Army or police set out to murder scores of people for the heinous offence of going to a nightclub or travelling on public transport. Perhaps Steven can provide some examples of when the British Army - or police - has done so.

Speaking of the British Army, Steven says

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?

I think you'll find that there are about 7,300 British troops in Afghanistan (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/FactSheets/OperationsFactsheets/OperationsInAfghanistanBackgroundBriefing.htm). A 2009 estimate of Taliban strength (http://rcanfield.blogspot.com/2009/10/new-estimates-of-taliban-strength-25000.html) suggested a force of 25,000. The UK deployment also includes a number of support troops, so the total of combat forces will be lower than 7,300 in any case. This is another case of talking bollocks, Steven, and it's exactly the same with your claim about Iraq, where at the end of January 2010 there were 150 UK personnel stationed (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/FactSheets/OperationsFactsheets/OperationsInIraqFactsandFigures.htm). So, if the British Army in Iraq are 'the vast majority of the people there shooting people and blowing things up' then there are less than about 50 jihadi terrorists in the entire country (ie the British forces are 75%+ of people shooting and exploding things, a 'vast majority'). Perhaps Steven has a number of sources to substantiate his claims.

I would be interested to know what research, if any, Steven carried out for his article: it appears to have been minimal.

Fall Back

>IMPLYING a state visit by the Queen is comparable to a major assault by the IDF.

No. He implies that Libcom have a go at people at times when they're in the news, the Palestinians in the case of IDF offensives and Irish republicans in the case of Ireland. It's not a nice claim, but there you go.

Fall Back

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

oic, a stunning insight consisting of "people on libcom talk about events when they are in the news". As opposed to apropos of nothing. I don't really see how it's "not a nice claim". I'd more go with utter banality.

Although doesn't really flow, given that the Queens visit has barely led to an increased coverage of Republican groups. They can usually handle this when they shoot a pizza boy or something.

Fall Back

oic, a stunning insight consisting of "people on libcom talk about events when they are in the news". As opposed to apropos of nothing. I don't really see how it's "not a nice claim". I'd more go with utter banality.

Although doesn't really flow, given that the Queens visit has barely led to an increased coverage of Republican groups. They can usually handle this when they shoot a pizza boy or something.

There is a difference between what you're saying, 'people on libcom talk about events when they are in the news' and what AIW's saying, 'people on libcom attack eg Palestinians when there's an IDF offensive'.

Maybe you haven't noticed that in the reporting of the Queen's visit to Dublin there has been mention of republicans, and republican groups. Maybe you haven't been following events.

But it would be nice if you could at least try to comment on the topic of Steven's article.

Jack_Ketch

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Steven

When you've responded to my comments on:

* the French revolution;
* the Russian revolution;
* British forces in Afghanistan and Iraq;
* the qualitative difference between British forces' violence and that of jihadi terrorists;
* the anti-imperialism of jihadi terrorists;
* and the international nature of Islamist terrorism

when you've responded to those, perhaps you could provide a source for CW members supporting the French government ban on the headscarf, preferably from before 2008.

Joseph Kay

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Jack_Keitch

people on libcom attack eg Palestinians

no, he explicitly said the libcom group ("groups like libcom"). a curiously baseless slur. i have literally no idea what he's talking about, unless he's identifying Hamas with 'the palestinians', which would be an odd thing to do on a libertarian communist forum.

Joseph Kay

Jack_Keitch

people on libcom attack eg Palestinians

no, he explicitly said the libcom group ("groups like libcom"). a curiously baseless slur. i have literally no idea what he's talking about, unless he's identifying Hamas with 'the palestinians', which would be an odd thing to do on a libertarian communist forum.

Groups like Libcom express their views on sites like Libcom and are presumably people.

But it would be more interesting, not to say entertaining, to see you leave this sidetrack and return to discussion of the substantive issue, Steven's poor article.

Django

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Jack_Ketch

I see a qualitative difference between the violence of the state, whether by the British Army or police, and that of Islamist terrorists. Simply put, I am unaware of any time when the British Army or police set out to murder scores of people for the heinous offence of going to a nightclub or travelling on public transport. Perhaps Steven can provide some examples of when the British Army - or police - has done so.

Presumably you don't mean states in general, just the British state, but there are plenty of examples of members of the British army committing murder if you want them - Ireland and Kenya spring to mind.

Unless you want to limit deaths to trains and nighclubs, as if the motivation of Jihadist terrorists is an objection to train travel or nightclubs alone.

Django

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Jack_Ketch

Android

This is just straight up bizarre.

Here is what happened since you seemed to have miss it: Shift published Paul Stott's text, then Dajngo archived it in the library here from the Shift website and then when Steven read it he decided to do up a response which touched on naturally enough the writers' political history.

It is that simple, no conspiracy theories needed.

That's Steven's version of events, of course.

No it isn't, unless Steven's pulled the wool over my eyes somehow I do actually remember archiving the article from the Shift website.

Django

Jack_Ketch

I see a qualitative difference between the violence of the state, whether by the British Army or police, and that of Islamist terrorists. Simply put, I am unaware of any time when the British Army or police set out to murder scores of people for the heinous offence of going to a nightclub or travelling on public transport. Perhaps Steven can provide some examples of when the British Army - or police - has done so.

Presumably you don't mean states in general, just the British state, but there are plenty of examples of members of the British army committing murder if you want them - Ireland and Kenya spring to mind.

Unless you want to limit deaths to trains and nighclubs, as if the motivation of Jihadist terrorists is an objection to train travel or nightclubs alone.

Of course I mean the British state. Steven isn't talking about the Mongolian state or the Costa Rican state, is he? And there are a number of examples of British soldiers committing murder - Ian Thain and Lee Clegg to name but two. But terrorism is (can be) murder with political aim in mind - but the political nature of the violence is core to the activity, no matter what definition of terrorism you subscribe to. What Clegg and Thain did, while despicable, does not fall under what most people would understand by terrorism because terrorism is a tactic employed to persuade a government to adopt or relinquish a policy or possession.

Joseph Kay

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Jack_Ketch

Groups like Libcom express their views on sites like Libcom and are presumably people.

i'm not sidetracking anything, i'm just curious, as a member of the libcom group, why i'm being bizarrely smeared as "having a go at the Palestinians", apropos of nothing.

Django

Jack_Ketch

Android

This is just straight up bizarre.

Here is what happened since you seemed to have miss it: Shift published Paul Stott's text, then Dajngo archived it in the library here from the Shift website and then when Steven read it he decided to do up a response which touched on naturally enough the writers' political history.

It is that simple, no conspiracy theories needed.

That's Steven's version of events, of course.

No it isn't, unless Steven's pulled the wool over my eyes somehow I do actually remember archiving the article from the Shift website.

No, that's Steven's version of the writer's political history, his version, not Paul's actual political history. We've been through this bit about CW and the IRA and I'm quite happy to go through it all again if you haven't yet gathered that Steven's talking bollocks about that as he is about so much else.

Joseph Kay

Jack_Ketch

Groups like Libcom express their views on sites like Libcom and are presumably people.

i'm not sidetracking anything, i'm just curious, as a member of the libcom group, why i'm being bizarrely smeared as "having a go at the Palestinians", apropos of nothing.

Why don't you PM AIW and ask him rather than distracting from the matter at hand?

Django

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Jack_Ketch

Of course I mean the British state. Steven isn't talking about the Mongolian state or the Costa Rican state, is he?

OK, so then it might make sense not to say “I see a qualitative difference between the violence of the state, whether by the British Army or police, and that of Islamist terrorists”, which can be (mis)interpreted easily enough as saying that there is a fundamental and qualitative difference between violence committed by state and non-state actors by virtue of their definition.

Jack_Ketch

But terrorism is (can be) murder with political aim in mind - but the political nature of the violence is core to the activity, no matter what definition of terrorism you subscribe to. What Clegg and Thain did, while despicable, does not fall under what most people would understand by terrorism because terrorism is a tactic employed to persuade a government to adopt or relinquish a policy or possession.

Right but saying that terrorism is violence as part of “a tactic employed to persuade a government to adopt or relinquish a policy or possession” isn’t that same as saying that terrorism is setting out to kill people for riding a train, or going to a nightclub (or going to a pub, in the case of the IRA). The first definition can be applied to plenty of the actions of the British state on a larger scale, e.g. sanctions in Iraq or Gulags in Kenya, which seems to be Steven’s substantive point.

Django

Jack_Ketch

Of course I mean the British state. Steven isn't talking about the Mongolian state or the Costa Rican state, is he?

OK, so then it might make sense not to say “I see a qualitative difference between the violence of the state, whether by the British Army or police, and that of Islamist terrorists”, which can be (mis)interpreted easily enough as saying that there is a fundamental and qualitative difference between violence committed by state and non-state actors by virtue of their definition.

Jack_Ketch

But terrorism is (can be) murder with political aim in mind - but the political nature of the violence is core to the activity, no matter what definition of terrorism you subscribe to. What Clegg and Thain did, while despicable, does not fall under what most people would understand by terrorism because terrorism is a tactic employed to persuade a government to adopt or relinquish a policy or possession.

Right but saying that terrorism is violence as part of “a tactic employed to persuade a government to adopt or relinquish a policy or possession” isn’t that same as saying that terrorism is setting out to kill people for riding a train, or going to a nightclub (or going to a pub, in the case of the IRA). The first definition can be applied to plenty of the actions of the British state on a larger scale, e.g. sanctions in Iraq or Gulags in Kenya, which seems to be Steven’s substantive point.

Yes. But all of this is muddying the issue which Steven affects to wish to debate, which is an anarchist response to the development of Islam and Islamism in Britain.

The first (linked) definition which appears on the internet of 'qualitative' is 'involving or relating to distinctions based on quality or qualities'. Foremost of the distinctions between Islamist violence and state violence is that there state violence is better graduated, organised, and - certainly in the case of British state violence - debated. State coercion is both hard and soft, both violent and non-violent. State coercion has behind it aspects of legitimation which few non-state actors possess. And when the state does something contentious, such as the killing of Jean-Charles de Menezes, there can be considerable debate - if not actual accountability - of state actions. The state is able to criticise itself: even the whitewash of the Widgery report into Bloody Sunday admitted that some of the firing 'bordered on the reckless', while the coroner who carried out the inquests, himself a former army officer, into the deaths of the victims that day described the events as 'sheer unadulterated murder'. This ability to absorb and indeed participate in debates about state violence is one of the things which makes the British state so strong. The loss of legitimacy the police faced after the killing of Jean-Charles de Menezes, after the killing of Ian Tomlinson, after the killing of Smiley Culture: these losses of legitimacy are temporary for many, if not most, people affected by the events, although each time state violence flounders and alienates people, a larger group of people probably remain alienated.

The violence meted out by groups such as the IRA, groups such as the Red Army Faction, does not itself seem to me to be comparable to the violence meted out by Islamist terrorists. I cannot imagine Islamist terrorists in Europe carrying out an operation like the assassination of Margaret Thatcher or the kidnapping of Hanns-Martin Schleyer. This isn't because Islamists are not capable of well-planned operations - September 11 is a good example of a well-planned, well executed operation. It's because for Islamists the population is the greater target than the government, the assault on the Pentagon notwithstanding. If jihadi terrorists in London had wanted to attack the government, they could easily have parked their car-bomb in Whitehall or pretty much anywhere within the Government Security Zone instead of targeting clubbers in the Haymarket.

Seems to me that all these violences have different qualities, from the objectives they seek to achieve, the means by which those ends are to be reached, the targets deemed acceptable and legitimate and so on.

We could go on about this all night, if you really want to.

JoeMaguire

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I thought the piece was good but at a glance I think it missed a few points. Firstly on the point of the political power of the mosque.

steven.

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?

Its different because the opportunism can be seen as largely driven by the pressure of the mosque.

steven.

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.

I find it hard to believe that given the size of mosque in question, the number of people who attend, given that the mosque does not operate in a social vacuum you think it has had 'zero impact' on your life.

The political backing of the mosque can make or brake local councillors in quite a number of areas, as can be attested with Galloway. I will also raise you an example of an overnight organisation, with no roots winning outright on the backing of the imam in Preston in 2003.

steven.

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. ...

What I am getting from Paul is an objection about the freespace given up to religion in the social/political sphere enabling bodies organised around identity politics to extract concessions and then become a new focal point to evolve further as a political entity. This should not be seen in the binary of freedom of religion vs.... but seen as what happens when (high) politics is frowned upon but culture, community and religious groups/issues are ring-circled for special status, and pull in their respective directions.

On a macro level, an example of community development would be the rise communalism in India

Sandria B. Frietag argues that communalist groups emerged in the nexus of relations between the ‘public' domains that the imperial nation state claimed for itself and the competing forms of ‘private' identity formation that communalist groups staged in the public sphere. As the colonial state increasingly negotiated with Indians on the basis of their religious group identity, it was clear that the rewards went to those ‘... who invoked only certain kinds of identities'. Drawing sustenance from constructed ‘identity slots' and ‘... authorised by the colonial state', communal groups began to experiment and contest their status more systematically in the public sphere.

Rachel

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I agree with some points Joe makes.

Regarding local politics, I think that Steven is right to point out that politicians switching sides is not related to Islamism in any way. It may be however typical of first and second generation immigrant communities - sometimes called 'machine' politics,

But the contemporary influence of the East London Mosque is an entirely different story. Steven, I'm surprised that you could live in east London, be involved in the anti-cuts movement and yet think the ELM has no impact on your life. I think you're missing something. Only 2 days ago I was at yet another (anti-cuts) meeting where a leftist expressed their fantasy that we could hook up with the ELM and thus have 'access' to the vast Bengali population of the borough. I've heard this so many times - let's forget about dozens of community centres (let alone dozens of other mosques), the ELM is now treated as the representative of 'Muslims' in the area by everyone from Prince Charles to Boris Johnson to Socialist Unity and apparently, Libcom. How else to explain your erasure of any distinction between the far-right 'community leaders' in charge of the ELM and 'Muslims'? You completely reinforce Paul Stott's point about representation (the most useful bit of his article).

I see you read a little bit more about Sharia, complicating slightly your earlier position of 'hey, why not'? I agree that there is something objectionable in the tone of Paul's mention of this, a little bit of 'we should wake up and smell the coffee'. But as Joe says the point of this is to question the growing acceptance of the once contested idea that people, or at least ethnic minorities, are defined through their belonging to religious communities.

Your opinion that these issues are so unimportant, so boring, so not worth your time, is belittling to the people, mostly from ethnic minorities themselves, who do the deeply unfashionable work of opposing both the racism of the British state and tabloid media on one hand, and religious fundamentalist politics on the other.

You seem unaware that there is a debate about this very thing within the Bengali community in Tower Hamlets, going back decades (read Delwar Hussain about this). You may not realise that, in your laudable attempt to not sound like the racist tabloid media, you are actually taking a side in this debate - the wrong one I reckon because you are parroting the ELM leadership in their assertion that they speak for the 'poor, working class Muslims'.

At the end of your revised article you point to the sidelining of Islamist politics in the Arab revolutions – why is this something that is good if it happens elsewhere, but here:“…we should be organising alongside Muslims and people of all religions in our communities and our workplaces against the savage public sector cuts”.

The SWP has tried to organise alongside ‘Muslims’ (by which they mean Islamic groups as opposed to organising alongside colleagues, workers, trade unionists, parents, service users, tenants, etc who may be Muslim) for years. These communal politics have set back the anti-cuts movement massively.

Sorry about picking on you more than Paul Stott – I guess I never saw myself as interested in the ‘anarchist debate’ about Islamism so I didn’t feel compelled to critique his article –whereas I do often read what you (Steven) has to say and so am disappointed when what you write is so weak.

Rachel, I'll respond to your points first, because they are constructive. I will return to Jack's pedantry at some point when I have more time.

Rachel

But the contemporary influence of the East London Mosque is an entirely different story. Steven, I'm surprised that you could live in east London, be involved in the anti-cuts movement and yet think the ELM has no impact on your life. I think you're missing something. Only 2 days ago I was at yet another (anti-cuts) meeting where a leftist expressed their fantasy that we could hook up with the ELM and thus have 'access' to the vast Bengali population of the borough.

the thing is, you correctly identify here that this is a "fantasy".

I stand by my statement that (aside from the bus stops) the Mosque has had no impact on my life. Admittedly I don't work in east London, so the only interaction I have with the council here is that I pay council tax and they take my rubbish. I'm involved in anti-cuts stuff in the borough where I work.

I've heard this so many times - let's forget about dozens of community centres (let alone dozens of other mosques), the ELM is now treated as the representative of 'Muslims' in the area by everyone from Prince Charles to Boris Johnson to Socialist Unity and apparently, Libcom.

whoa, where on earth did you get that from? Where have I ever said anything vaguely approaching the Mosque being any sort of legitimate representative of Muslims? Of course it's not, no more than the BNP is of white people.

How else to explain your erasure of any distinction between the far-right 'community leaders' in charge of the ELM and 'Muslims'?

sorry, I'm not sure what you mean here, could you explain?

You completely reinforce Paul Stott's point about representation (the most useful bit of his article).

I agree that this is the most useful bit of his article - but that bit was just lifted straight from the Aufheben piece, which doesn't over exaggerate or demonise Muslims in any way.

I see you read a little bit more about Sharia, complicating slightly your earlier position of 'hey, why not'? I agree that there is something objectionable in the tone of Paul's mention of this, a little bit of 'we should wake up and smell the coffee'. But as Joe says the point of this is to question the growing acceptance of the once contested idea that people, or at least ethnic minorities, are defined through their belonging to religious communities.

I didn't read any more. I did take an extra hour or two to write this longer reply though. Of course I don't think that ethnic minorities are defined through their religious communities, and have never said anything like this, I just don't see the point making a big deal about sharia law. When other religions have their own courts, without any media hysteria, and when there are much bigger law-related problems, for example Eric pickles now consulting on abolishing nearly 1300 statutory obligations of local councils, including things like the obligation to look after children, the coming attacks on TUPE rights, pension rights, unfair dismissal laws, etc.

Your opinion that these issues are so unimportant, so boring, so not worth your time, is belittling to the people, mostly from ethnic minorities themselves, who do the deeply unfashionable work of opposing both the racism of the British state and tabloid media on one hand, and religious fundamentalist politics on the other

I disagree with this. I don't think it is boring. And if Paul's article had addressed both state/media racism and religious fundamentalism I probably wouldn't have had any issues with it. However it didn't! And it was completely one-sided.

You seem unaware that there is a debate about this very thing within the Bengali community in Tower Hamlets, going back decades (read Delwar Hussain about this).

I am, actually.

You may not realise that, in your laudable attempt to not sound like the racist tabloid media, you are actually taking a side in this debate - the wrong one I reckon because you are parroting the ELM leadership in their assertion that they speak for the 'poor, working class Muslims'.

again, like I have said, I would like to ask you where I have said this? Seriously, I think you have completely misread my article if you think I have said anything vaguely like this in the slightest.

At the end of your revised article you point to the sidelining of Islamist politics in the Arab revolutions – why is this something that is good if it happens elsewhere, but here:“…we should be organising alongside Muslims and people of all religions in our communities and our workplaces against the savage public sector cuts”.

The SWP has tried to organise alongside ‘Muslims’ (by which they mean Islamic groups as opposed to organising alongside colleagues, workers, trade unionists, parents, service users, tenants, etc who may be Muslim) for years. These communal politics have set back the anti-cuts movement massively.

I think your proximity to SWP types is colouring your views here. By "Muslims" I'm referring to people who happen to self identify as Muslims. Nothing to do with mosques or Islamists or whatever. Many of my workmates are Muslims, including one of the most militant ones (although one Muslim colleague was unfairly sacked a couple of years ago, and won a tribunal for unfair dismissal and race discrimination), and we struck together over pay back in 2008, voted to strike for the reinstatement of a sacked colleague, and have recently voted to strike again over job cuts, although the union isn't giving us an official ballot. My closest workmate is also Muslim, so we set our desired pace of work together as well to make sure we don't get overloaded.

I'm talking about workers organising together as workers, whatever people's religious or ethnic identification.

Sorry about picking on you more than Paul Stott – I guess I never saw myself as interested in the ‘anarchist debate’ about Islamism so I didn’t feel compelled to critique his article –whereas I do often read what you (Steven) has to say and so am disappointed when what you write is so weak.

don't worry about it, you did comment that his article was "close to bigotry", which is far worse then you have said about mine. And like I say, I think you have completely misunderstood my response, so I would suggest re-reading it. And if you could point out if I have said anything which gives the view that I agree with having anything to do with so-called "community leaders" or whatever that would be good, because maybe I haven't made myself clear somewhere.

Steven.

Rachel, I'll respond to your points first, because they are constructive. I will return to Jack's pedantry at some point when I have more time.

Yes. Because to admit that the 'facts' you rely on are false would undermine your argument.

It's clearly pedantry to point out that while there are dozens of articles on Islam on Libcom very few of them deal with the matter at hand.

It's clearly pedantry to point out that counter to your claim that 'The vast majority of people [in Afghanistan and Iraq] shooting people and blowing things up are not Muslims, they are white people (probably mostly Christian) in the British Army.' there are 150 British forces in Iraq and 7,300 in Afghanistan, with - in Afghanistan - estimates of three times their number of Taliban.

It's clearly pedantry to wonder why you describe people fighting for a caliphate as anti-imperialist.

It's clearly pedantry to demonstrate that you're wrong to insist that Class War were 'virulent supporters' of the IRA.

Steven, the fact of the matter is that there's a gaping void at the heart of your article: an absence of supporting evidence and a lack of political nous. I wonder if, when these difficulties with the article are brought to their attention, Shift Magazine will be so ready to shove your scribbles up on their website in future. It hardly shows you, or, by association, them in a good light.

Rachel

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Steven, I don’t think I misread your article, but I did leave out a few steps in my arguing.

This is what led me to the accusation that you accept that ELM or similar organisations speak for Muslims, which of course you didn’t say in so many words.

You wrote:

we should be extremely wary of focusing our attentions on other working class people whom the media are demonising.

and

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

Since Paul Stott's article didn't focus on all Muslims but rather on Islamists (i.e. those who see Islam as a political programme) it's you who is minimising distinction between the reactionaries he's talking about and the majority of Muslims. It seems to me if you're suggesting that Jihadis or ISOC or the ELM should not be criticised then frankly it's you who is lumping all Muslims together. The point has been made many times before that white racists and right-wing Islamists both encourage the belief that Muslims constitute a monolithic identity (and therefore help create that identity). I'm not saying you're doing that (or are a racist) but you have confused criticism of institutions with scapegoating of 'poor, working class people'.

Paul Stott knows a lot of stuff but I think it takes him in some very wrong directions. But the answer isn’t to just say that’s ok to remain ignorant of what's going on in our communities and just keep insisting that what we really should do is unite and fight – the point is that religious fundamentalism, identity politics and state/(and left wing) promotion of communal organisations makes 'uniting' much more difficult.

Arbeiten

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think the point is that as an article, Paul's can easily nestle between Cameron, Clegg, Miliband and any other number of people spouting the 'its the minority but we have to focus all our attention on the minority' conversation. As anarchists/leftists whatever, we are pretty used to the way this economy of attention works, surely? Steven may not be the next Edward Said but its nice to read something a little different every once and a while surely?

I also think this dichotomy between unity vs. identity is a bit simplistic. Muslim children are over-represented in poverty statistics, and young men are over-represented in the prison population. Similarly up until 2004 (I think) it was perfectly legal to discriminate against Muslims in the work place because it was not covered until race legislation. While its not true of course that Muslims constitute a monolithic identity, there are socio-economic factors that affect some (a large enough proportion to affect statistics) of them. Obviously policy initiatives have failed on this front, with everyone throwing money at the first institution that claims it represents Muslims. However, the idea that some sort of working for unity would mean SWP 'we are all hizbollah ' lark, really shows how diametric this debate has become.

Jack Ketch, what do you mean by 'estimated three times that number of the Taliban', does it make it any less of an illegal occupation? There will always be more Afghani militants in Afghanistan as long as there is an illegal occupation further screwing the country over (I can't think of one example where an occupation force has remained the dominant number). Steven's point was, it seems to me, that more Afghans are getting screwed over than US/UK forces. It seems pedantry of you to make such a distinction?

I mentioned earlier (though nobody commented) that I though Stott's Srinagar example was untenable. I believe this because the context was different (free Kashmir) and the target was different (Indian occupation of Kashmir). This poor example was implanted into Stott's original piece to try and blithely reduce the impact of the British/American occupations of the middle east as connected to Islamic Extremism at home. I think this is a dangerous route to go down. yes, yes 9/11 was before the wars of course, but to claim the wars are not connected to Islamic extremism is pretty crass. 7/7 was after the invasions, as was the attempt at Glasgow airport and I'm sure we can think of more.

Steven.

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Rachel

Steven, I don’t think I misread your article, but I did leave out a few steps in my arguing.

This is what led me to the accusation that you accept that ELM or similar organisations speak for Muslims, which of course you didn’t say in so many words.

You wrote:

Since Paul Stott's article didn't focus on all Muslims but rather on Islamists (i.e. those who see Islam as a political programme) it's you who is minimising distinction between the reactionaries he's talking about and the majority of Muslims.

actually, the people Paul focuses on are not just Islamists. At least some of the people he names are not Islamists, and he also talks about Muslim and Asian local politicians in general.

It seems to me if you're suggesting that Jihadis or ISOC or the ELM should not be criticised then frankly it's you who is lumping all Muslims together.

again, I have never said anything like that. What I did say is that when we do so we should put things into perspective. We should just criticise state funding of religious projects of Muslims, we should do so for all religious organisations, and put some perspective on the amounts of money for different religions.

The point has been made many times before that white racists and right-wing Islamists both encourage the belief that Muslims constitute a monolithic identity (and therefore help create that identity). I'm not saying you're doing that (or are a racist) but you have confused criticism of institutions with scapegoating of 'poor, working class people'.

no I haven't. The media scapegoating I referred to was that of Muslims in general. See things like the lies about Muslim only toilets and stuff like that. This has contributed to anti-Muslim sentiment and racism in general, which extends to Muslims in general, not just the tiny minority of extremists.

You seem to be mixing up Muslim institutions with proletarians who happen to be Muslim - see your comments to me where you assume that when I say organising alongside Muslims you mean alongside mosques or community leaders.

Paul Stott knows a lot of stuff but I think it takes him in some very wrong directions. But the answer isn’t to just say that’s ok to remain ignorant of what's going on in our communities and just keep insisting that what we really should do is unite and fight – the point is that religious fundamentalism, identity politics and state/(and left wing) promotion of communal organisations makes 'uniting' much more difficult.

where then do you think Paul is going in wrong directions?

Of course I never said it's okay to be ignorant about anything. Just that we should put issues in perspective.

I could write an article and make a big deal about Muslim criminals, for example, then state that criminality makes 'uniting' much more difficult. But would this be a politically beneficial thing to do? I think not because it would be discriminatory to single out Muslim criminals.

Not only that but Islamic terrorism is not qualitatively different from Irish nationalist terrorism, so I also think it is hypocritical to make a big deal about the former but be part of an organisation which at least in large part supports the latter.

Steven.

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Jack_Ketch

Steven.

we've been over this now and I demonstrated the veracity of this.

No, you haven't. You've produced one piece from CW83 which refers back to a piece in HS5, the text of which you do not appear to have seen

how would I have seen that exactly? The newspaper which I have seen clearly states that the organisation's position is supportive of the IRA. You even supported the IRA yourself, so I find it hilarious that you are trying to say that class war didn't support the IRA!

On that note, seeing as you seem to think that shooting workmen on a bus, and blowing up people drinking in pubs is a great thing for the working class, to be honest I don't care if you disagree with my article, and I don't really have any respect for your opinion.

In any event, as Paul's made clear on his blog, if you don't like that position there's the position in Unfinished Business, the first paragraph of which ends along the lines of 'we don't want to brainwash people into supporting the republican movement'. Given the prominence of that book - the text of which appears on Libcom - the most you can say is 'at the time HS5 appeared CW seemed to have a strong line in support of the IRA'.

your organisation's newspaper stated 10 years more recently than unfinished business that its position was unequivocally in support of the IRA. On top of that, there is the discussion with subversion between the virulent IRA supporter in class war, then there is you, who also supported the IRA. Unfinished business says that they don't want to brainwash people, but it doesn't say they don't support the IRA at all. I have never seen anything from class war, or any of its members criticising the IRA. You state that some people were critical of it, fair enough, that may be true, but your newspaper said that your position was supportive.

And, as Android admits, CW did not have official positions, certainly not ones which bound members five or six - or twenty - years down the line. Android's admission, which you haven't challenged, somewhat undermines your thesis.

well, it doesn't really. Your newspaper stated that it was your position. If the organisation was such a shambles that it did not actually hold positions but its newspaper states that it does, and indeed that it has an "unequivocal" position, then that is hardly my fault.

as Jef says, for the innocent workers they killed and maimed I don't think it made a big difference. If I want to be pedantic I could point out that Islamism is not a religion either as such, it is a political ideology which the vast majority of Muslims in the UK do not subscribe to.

How can you say here that you don't think it made a huge difference who injured or killed people when you use that as something which did make a difference further on with your bit about Billy Wright? Come on, you can't have it both ways.

this doesn't make any sense.

Did you support the IRA then? Your defence of the shooting of the Protestant workmen sounds extremely dodgy ("it stopped sectarian killings"), not to mention untrue:

The defence was not mine, it was what an IRA spokesman said to Tim Pat Coogan as recorded in his book, The IRA. made this clear above. As for my view on the IRA, yes, I did support them. But that was my decision and not related to my membership of Class War. As for the defence the IRA spokesman put forward to T.P. Coogan, there were no more killings in that area in the 1970s, which you tacitly admit.

your style of debating, in which you basically keep saying that people have "tacitly admitted" something just because they don't specifically dispute it is quite ridiculous. It's the equivalent of me saying "well you haven't condemned paedophilia so you tacitly support it".

I have mentioned my amusement at your admission you supported the IRA. As for it being unrelated to your membership of class war, I very much doubt that, as neither of the other national federations would have you with that being the case.

As for tacitly admitting there were no more killings in that area - I specifically pointed out the counterexample of 20 sectarian killings being carried out by someone because of those events. Just because they didn't occur in an arbitrary area on a map does not mean they were unrelated, any more than you would buy an elephant repeller from me if I said you "well there haven't been any elephants around here have there?".

You're not being entirely honest here. There may be 'dozens' of articles relating to Islam on your site, but there's all of nine articles about Islam and / or Islamism in Britain, plus a couple of documentaries. There is, in other words, a dearth of information in the Islam section on what Paul's talking about.

an allegation of dishonesty too, excellent. In fact, what I said was entirely honest and correct - there are still far more articles here about Islam proportionately than other religions which have many more adherents.

As an aside, you declare that 'the French Revolution was the triumph of capitalism over feudalism', a quote which seems to come from a 1967 article by Cobban.

actually, it was a quote from me. I find it bizarre that you would assume it came from someone else.

Oh - and the Russian Revolution did not on its own lead to the Cold War, however much you might like to think it did.

there is no point replying to this sort of pedantic pointscoring. I take it also that by taking issue with my statements here, and not taking any sort of issue with Paul's article that you agree with his assessment that Islamism is as important as the French and Russian revolutions then?

Jack_Ketch

Android

This is just straight up bizarre.

Here is what happened since you seemed to have miss it: Shift published Paul Stott's text, then Dajngo archived it in the library here from the Shift website and then when Steven read it he decided to do up a response which touched on naturally enough the writers' political history.

It is that simple, no conspiracy theories needed.

That's Steven's version of events, of course.

you must be extremely paranoid if you doubt this version of events. What sort of sinister conspiracy do you propose is going on instead?

(if it had, Steven wouldn't have made some of his more egregious mistakes later in the article), or that jihadi terrorists are anti-imperialist.

you took issue previously with my referral to these terrorists as anti-imperialist. However, that just means that you don't understand what anti-imperialism means. But presumably you can use this misunderstanding to justify your support for Irish nationalist anti-imperialist terrorism, while not supporting Muslim anti-imperialist terrorism. Of course if you had a consistent working-class internationalist approach this would not be an issue as you would oppose both of them equally.

The notion that radicalisation on campus is a recent phenomenon is mistaken. I am not aware of anyone from any campus Christian union who has been convicted of any offence, let alone terrorist-related crimes - but I am aware of four former officers of Islamic societies who have been. If Steven's able to show that student societies of any other faith have had members or officers convicted of terrorist offences, his argument of equivalency might have some weight. Without it it has none.

no, my point was that the terminology around "radicalisation" is biased. I don't think it is any more "radical" to want to join the Army and kill people, than to want to join a terrorist group to kill people. This language comes out of the idea that the state is the only legitimate user of organised violence, which as an anarchist you and Paul should not be in favour of. Therefore in terms of people of various religions in the UK wanting to join violent organisations which kill people if anything I would think that fewer Muslims do than those of other religions.

I see a qualitative difference between the violence of the state, whether by the British Army or police, and that of Islamist terrorists. Simply put, I am unaware of any time when the British Army or police set out to murder scores of people for the heinous offence of going to a nightclub or travelling on public transport. Perhaps Steven can provide some examples of when the British Army - or police - has done so.

before answering about the Army, again, you seem to think it is acceptable to murder workmen for the crime of being Protestant, or blow up people drinking in pubs for that heinous offence (indeed, not only acceptable but worthy of support). So what is the difference here?

If with the Army you are unaware of times when they have killed innocent civilians, then I would suggest you occasionally pick up a newspaper.

Speaking of the British Army, Steven says

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?

I think you'll find that blah blah blah

are you seriously trying to say that most of the violence in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past 10 years has been carried out by British Muslims? If not, then you have no argument here, you are just being pointscoring and pedantic like this is a school debating club.

To be honest, I don't expect you to have a balanced approach to Muslims in the UK giving your track record, which included for years pointedly referring to them as "Moslems" or even "Mohammedans" despite many people pointing out that they found this offensive. You seemed to take much enjoyment in causing this kind of offence. Why did you eventually change your terminology?

Regarding Paul and class war, I mentioned the organisation's position because I am not aware of Paul's. Is/did Paul support the IRA? If not, then my points still stand on some level as he was still part of an organisation which stated its position was in support of the IRA, and which had members and groups within it which also supported the IRA. And I somehow doubt he would be part of an organisation which publicly declared its unequivocal support for Al Qaeda, or had members of groups who went around supporting Al Qaeda and denouncing those who oppose them as do nothing ultra-leftists.

Django

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The violence meted out by groups such as the IRA, groups such as the Red Army Faction, does not itself seem to me to be comparable to the violence meted out by Islamist terrorists. I cannot imagine Islamist terrorists in Europe carrying out an operation like the assassination of Margaret Thatcher or the kidnapping of Hanns-Martin Schleyer. This isn't because Islamists are not capable of well-planned operations - September 11 is a good example of a well-planned, well executed operation. It's because for Islamists the population is the greater target than the government, the assault on the Pentagon notwithstanding. If jihadi terrorists in London had wanted to attack the government, they could easily have parked their car-bomb in Whitehall or pretty much anywhere within the Government Security Zone instead of targeting clubbers in the Haymarket.

Seems to me that all these violences have different qualities, from the objectives they seek to achieve, the means by which those ends are to be reached, the targets deemed acceptable and legitimate and so on.

What's the difference between Islamists attempting to massacre clubbers in Haymarket and failing and Republicans successfully massacring pubgoers in Birmingham?

Django

What's the difference between Islamists attempting to massacre clubbers in Haymarket and failing and Republicans successfully massacring pubgoers in Birmingham?

apart from skin tone?

are you seriously trying to say that most of the violence in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past 10 years has been carried out by British Muslims? If not, then you have no argument here, you are just being pointscoring and pedantic like this is a school debating club.

To be honest, I don't expect you to have a balanced approach to Muslims in the UK giving your track record, which included four years pointedly referring to them as "Moslems" or even "Mohammedans" despite many people pointing out that they found this offensive. You seemed to take much enjoyment in causing this kind of offence. Why did you eventually change your terminology?

I'll just confine myself to these two paragraphs and give the remainder of your post the attention it deserves tomorrow.

Starting with your first point, let's remind ourselves what you wrote in the article:

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?

I see no mention of British Muslims. Do you? Let's look at the whole paragraph to make sure:

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?

No mention of British Muslims there at all. And in any event 'the vast majority of people' shooting people in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be the British Army, because there are fewer than 200 members of British forces in Iraq, and a bit over 7,000 in Afghanistan. With your mention of British Muslims in your reply you introduce something you hadn't in fact mentioned before.

Moving on to your second paragraph, here's a couple of things the AF have said about Muslims:

Islam is an enemy of all freedom loving people. It is certain that, if given the opportunity, Islam would introduce another form of authoritarianism in Britain and across the globe. It must be resisted".

"Muslims are essentially enslaved not to a god but to a set of bogus revelations found in the
Koran. And, it is the task of Islam to ensure that all of the peoples in the world are similarly enslaved".
Resistance #32 http://www.afed.org.uk/res/resist32.html

You've quite a bit of gall to take me to task for using, for example, 'Moslem' when you choose to associate yourself with a group which comes out with bile like that which isn't a million miles away from saying Islam is a vicious wicked faith.

Oh - and if you want to know Paul's position, why don't you go back to his blog and ask him?

Steven.

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Jack_Ketch

Starting with your first point, let's remind ourselves what you wrote in the article:

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?

I see no mention of British Muslims. Do you? Let's look at the whole paragraph to make sure:

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?

No mention of British Muslims there at all.

unfortunately Jack you think you are cleverer than you are. As I said before, even if your pedantic pointscoring were partly correct, it doesn't affect my central argument at all. In this instance unfortunately, your pointscoring is not correct. You may remember that my article was a response to Paul Stotts. If you look at my article again, you will see what I quoted from Paul immediately before that paragraph, which that paragraph was in response to:

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.

so my discussion around numbers was about numbers of British people in those areas over the last three decades. So do you wish to try to deny that British soldiers have been involved in violence in Iraq or Afghanistan in that time period? And do you think that British Muslims have carried out more violence?

Moving on to your second paragraph, here's a couple of things the AF have said about Muslims:…

You've quite a bit of gall to take me to task for using, for example, 'Moslem' when you choose to associate yourself with a group which comes out with bile like that which isn't a million miles away from saying Islam is a vicious wicked faith.

That is hilarious that you are actually trying to compare the AF to the BNP.

Again, unfortunately for you it may have escaped your attention but that article is from 2001, which is nine years before I joined the AF. Nor is it an official position of the AF. I don't think the AF article is very good (namely because it doesn't adequately differentiate between moderate or nonreligious Muslims and fundamentalist Muslims), but to try to say it's like the BNP is truly laughable. Especially as you yourself were part of the AF as well, so does that mean you are like Nick Griffin too?

And so I don't think this leaves me in any weaker position to point out that I have doubts about your views on Muslims when you found it so amusing to refer to them in pejorative and offensive terms. And you haven't answered why it is you seem to have stopped referring to them as that?

Rachel

Since Paul Stott's article didn't focus on all Muslims but rather on Islamists (i.e. those who see Islam as a political programme) it's you who is minimising distinction between the reactionaries he's talking about and the majority of Muslims. It seems to me if you're suggesting that Jihadis or ISOC or the ELM should not be criticised then frankly it's you who is lumping all Muslims together. The point has been made many times before that white racists and right-wing Islamists both encourage the belief that Muslims constitute a monolithic identity (and therefore help create that identity). I'm not saying you're doing that (or are a racist) but you have confused criticism of institutions with scapegoating of 'poor, working class people'.

Paul Stott knows a lot of stuff but I think it takes him in some very wrong directions. But the answer isn’t to just say that’s ok to remain ignorant of what's going on in our communities and just keep insisting that what we really should do is unite and fight – the point is that religious fundamentalism, identity politics and state/(and left wing) promotion of communal organisations makes 'uniting' much more difficult.

I don't think that the argument is that anarchists "shouldn't criticise" these institutions, just that we should bear in mind that mosques and muslim "community leaders" are not unique in the way that they influence local politics or make claims to represent whole ethnic or religious groups as communities. That doesn't preclude being critical of these things, where that criticism is actually relevant.

The whole thing kind of reminds me of the whole "murder music" debate, where some people were challenging the "black community" to adress homophobia, as if homophobia were wholly unique to a few reggae/dub artists and their fanbase (or at least their as if their homophobia was in some way a uniquely black homophobia). It affirms, rather than challenges, the idea that these community leaders are the legitimate representatives of their communities.

posi

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Steven's misreading of Paul's article surfaces in several places, such as where Steven thinks Lutfur Rahman's being lumped in with Islamists, whereas Paul clearly says Rahman is an independent (if useless) mayor.

Just a quick point, sorry if it has been made before. I think it is neither true that Rahman is an independent or an Islamist. What happened is:
1. Rahman was in the Labour Party and sought the Mayoral nomination. He was certainly seen to be close to the IFE, and there was an accusation that IFE supporters in the local LP had helped him win the nomination: I emphasise that this was an accusation, I don't know the truth of it. I think it is plausible, based on prior, unrelated stories about infiltration.
2. The Labour Party NEC evidently thought the allegations were plausible enough, or at least something was at stake from their point of view.

Having received a number of serious allegations concerning both the eligibility of participating voters and the conduct of Lutfur Rahman, the NEC has decided to investigate the allegations made. As a result, administrative action has been taken to remove Lutfur Rahman as a candidate pending the investigation. Nominations for Tower Hamlets mayor close this week and in the circumstances the NEC had no option but to impose another candidate. The NEC has voted to select Helal Abbas Uddin as Labour's candidate.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/davehillblog/2010/sep/21/lutfur-rahman-removed-as-labour-tower-hamlets-mayoral-candidate

3. Lutfur runs as an 'independent', but everyone who knew anything about what was going on on the ground knew that the people who were treading the streets, handing out flyers, were IFE members or associates. No doubt there were others too, but that was the backbone of it. A lot of money came from somewhere to produce the most mental piece of political propaganda I've ever seen: a paper distributed to every home in the borough, even posh ones in not particularly Bengali areas. As well as a human interest feature about two young Bengali guys meeting a lady who kept lots of snakes and an article which casually accused the Abbas of domestic violence, it had articles headed things like "Scholars condemn Abbas". It had an article about 'scholars' supporting Rahman as well. It was obviously playing a religious, Islamic card. I don't know if you call that 'Islamist': I'm not sure the question of being for the Caliphate is the decider, since the Turkish AKP is not (as far as I know) for the Caliphate but is generally referred to as Islamist. I wish I'd kept the paper. I can't emphasise enough how loopy it was.

Anyway. He was blatantly put in place by the IFE, although I'm sure he's not a member, they evidently thought he would further their interests more than available alternatives: in or out of the Labour Party. Everyone who keeps tabs on the borough's politics accepts that's the case. The secular pro-working class Bengali left in the borough, which is tiny (and admittedly, would mostly support Labour against RESPECT and Rahman in an election), would say the same thing.

Also, I used to live in Tower Hamlets (Shadwell, then Bethnal Green), I now live in Hackney. Both are East London. As far as the ELM goes, it has great influence in the former, and next to none in the latter. When people say 'East London', they sometimes mean just Tower Hamlets, Newham, and out: sometimes they also include Hackney in that. But in the case of this debate, it's an important distinction to make.

For example, my flatmate is a teacher in Tower Hamlets. At the recent NUT/Unison strike, the rally was held at the London Muslim Centre. Someone who objected was reviled as an Islamophobe by the SWP (Rachel has had a similar experience on another issue), and at least one woman striker - who my flatmate happened to talk to - decided not to go to the rally because "it was getting a bit local", and they didn't have their head covered. So it is an issue which has been raised in the context of local class struggle, and will be again.

Steven.

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hey posi, interesting post.

With the East London Mosque, I don't doubt that it has influence in Tower Hamlets, and as with any religious organisation I don't think it having influence is a good thing. However, as for Paul mentioning that 16 councillors attended it at one point, I just wanted to flag up with my response that you could look at all sorts of religious organisations (like Opus Dei, or some synagogue perhaps) and point out the influential people there, but this seemed to single out Muslims without mentioning that fact.

With regard to the Tower Hamlets Council strike, using the Muslim centre seems more like an indicator of SWP opportunism than actual Islamic influence. I may be wrong, there may be some practicalities, such as it was the right size, and cheap, or perhaps those running it let them have it for free (I know for example that a mosque in Edinburgh provided free food for the University occupation there against fees/cuts). Also of course lefties and unions often use the Euston friends meeting house, which is also run by a religious group.

Steven.

I may be wrong, there may be some practicalities, such as it was the right size, and cheap, or perhaps those running it let them have it for free (I know for example that a mosque in Edinburgh provided free food for the University occupation there against fees/cuts). Also of course lefties and unions often use the Euston friends meeting house, which is also run by a religious group.

Yes! The Mosque kitchen gave us 30 free meals a day when we were locked in over the weekend, to support the occupation! Probably helped by the fact that lots of the students involved had occupied during the Gaza siege a year or so before and the Mosque had supported them then. It certainly wasn't an Islamist influence on the fees occupation, they were just being nice. Edinburgh anti-cuts and lefty groups use a church hall for meetings pretty often too, it's cheap, that's all.

Steven.

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yeah, and the Hackney anti-cuts public meetings I went to took place in a church hall as well.

Rachel

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Posi, thanks for clarification that when we talk about the ELM we totally mean Tower Hamlets (and little bit Newham), not Hackney or other bits of East London.

I realise that there are as many gaps in my posts as in those of others whom I'm criticising.

Madashell,
Good point, I agree with it to some extent but that particular argument is not going on here, so I don't think it's relevant.

Romona, that's great news about your support from the local mosque. We have also had a lot of support in various campaigns from various local mosques, including the ELM.

Various local campaigns and strike assemblies have also met in churches in Tower Hamlets. That's a normal part of political life. But I would prefer that we don't meet in particular churches dominated by Opus Dei or right wing envangalist Christians, wouldn't you?

I don't think Posi or I were suggesting that Islamists are trying to influence the NUT or other campaigns – it’s about who speaks for communities, and about normalising what are actually highly contested positions and ways of doing things.

Posi's comments about Lutfur Rahman are accurate. There's really no debate about whether he was elected because he was backed by the ELM. It's not a conspiracy or even controversial, it's just a fact.

So far, so what, but the thing you may not realise is that he was also backed by Respect (who are also linked through some prominent activists to the IFE). So now Respect, who was the main, 'left' opposition in the borough for many years, are now aligned with elected mayor Lutfur Rahman who is in charge of the £70million+ cuts and some of their longtime grassroots activists are now wheeled out to defend the cuts, in a sickening spectacle. Now this you might say is normal enough - leftwing people come to power then they have to defend the savage attacks they make on the working class - but the twist here is that Respect, because of its links to Islamic right groups such as the IFE also represents a highly conservative force in the borough- they are in fact more socially conservative than the majority of Tower Hamlets Muslims.

So 'leftwing' Respect engages in social policing in the borough, around gender especially, and what makes a good Muslim. When the Respect candidate for mayor Abjol Miah was running against Labour's Rushnara Ali 2 years ago (the Labour, Respect, Lib Dem, Conservative and Green candidates were all of Muslim background btw), Respect members abused her for her Labour party membership, yes, but also for not being Muslim enough, for having a white boyfriend, for not wearing a headscarf, etc. Progressive? Many white leftists seemed to thinks so, and are happy to accuse people who challenge this of being Islamophobes if they’re white, or not ‘authentic’ enough Muslims if they aren’t.

So while I'd like to just stop worrying about it all and just unite, it's a little more complicated than that.

OK, Tower Hamlets politics is my specialist subject – maybe I need a new hobby. But my interest is less about the Islamists than it is about the white leftists who promote them, and the fashionably postmodern critics who apologise for fundamentalism in various religions. I’ve engaged in arguments with swp/Respect people around these issues for years, as well as speaking to Muslims from various different traditions on the same topics in the 2 decades I've lived in TH that’s probably why I’m not very good at explaining what I mean here - I'm too locally focussed, and forget that people think might actually think it's racist to even talk about British Islamism without giving 'equal time' to other religions, as Steven wants.

I can write equally long posts about Christian and Hindu fundamentalist movements if you feel that would make Libcom more well-balanced.

I'm going to try to stop now, and maybe the discussion will return to the far more important history of Class War : ) But let me say that while the tabloids, parts of the state and the far right focus disproportionally on Muslims and encourage an atmosphere of racism, it doesn’t mean that being interested in Islamism makes you right wing. If you’re interested you will find many, many books written about the Islamic right, many by people with sound politics (perhaps not ‘anarchist’), many of Muslim backgrounds themselves. The best of these do locate Islamism in a historical context which includes, the parallel rise of fundamentalism movements in other religions and how they operate in a globalised world.

posi

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hey, my point wasn't that the meeting being held there showed the influence of the Mosque - except insofar as the SWP make a point of sucking up to them on principle, whether or not it's wanted - it's that the reaction of the woman striker who I described to the meeting being held there shows that the mosque is at the centre of a conservative religious influence on popular opinion in the borough more generally.

Arbeiten

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Rachel, just to say it again, as you don't seem to have replied to me (as there is no response here, maybe it was just shit, i dunno?), but as I said earlier, to presume that unity = SWP 'we are all hizbollah' business is a pretty depressing state to be in. I think an anarchist response should be able to tackle both this sort of throw your wight behind the next group who claim to represent muslims AND tackle this bullshit 'lets talk about the minority of muslims loads and loads and loads to make them seem massive' response. This is what Stott seems to fail at. However whats unfolding here seems a bit more interesting than the typical discussion that Stott seems to regurgitate....

Steven.

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Rachel

Madashell,
Good point, I agree with it to some extent but that particular argument is not going on here, so I don't think it's relevant.

Rachel, I do think his point is relevant - it does echo one of the main things I was arguing in my response, namely that many of these issues Paul goes into related to Islam or equally valid for people of other religions, or no religion.

Various local campaigns and strike assemblies have also met in churches in Tower Hamlets. That's a normal part of political life. But I would prefer that we don't meet in particular churches dominated by Opus Dei or right wing envangalist Christians, wouldn't you?

I would agree with this, and I wouldn't say it was "a good thing" in the slightest that the SWP had the rally in a Muslim centre. However, I think this is an issue with opportunist (and mostly white) trots rather than with Muslims. SWP types often have extremely dodgy bedfellows - the Labour Party being perhaps the key example of this.

I don't think Posi or I were suggesting that Islamists are trying to influence the NUT or other campaigns – it’s about who speaks for communities, and about normalising what are actually highly contested positions and ways of doing things.

I think we are all in agreement that it is completely wrong to take religious and community leaders as the legitimate spokespeople for any "community."

Posi's comments about Lutfur Rahman are accurate. There's really no debate about whether he was elected because he was backed by the ELM. It's not a conspiracy or even controversial, it's just a fact.

again, no one is disagreeing with this. My issue was Paul seeming to refer to him as an "Islamist" , and making reference to other Islamists in power in the UK. However, I'm not aware of any Islamists elected positions in the government anywhere, so I asked who these people were (and pointed out that even if there were some they would be dwarfed by the number of Christians in power whose politics are influenced by their religious ideas)

So far, so what, but the thing you may not realise is that he was also backed by Respect (who are also linked through some prominent activists to the IFE). So now Respect, who was the main, 'left' opposition in the borough for many years, are now aligned with elected mayor Lutfur Rahman who is in charge of the £70million+ cuts and some of their longtime grassroots activists are now wheeled out to defend the cuts, in a sickening spectacle. Now this you might say is normal enough - leftwing people come to power then they have to defend the savage attacks they make on the working class - but the twist here is that Respect, because of its links to Islamic right groups such as the IFE also represents a highly conservative force in the borough- they are in fact more socially conservative than the majority of Tower Hamlets Muslims.

So 'leftwing' Respect engages in social policing in the borough, around gender especially, and what makes a good Muslim. When the Respect candidate for mayor Abjol Miah was running against Labour's Rushnara Ali 2 years ago (the Labour, Respect, Lib Dem, Conservative and Green candidates were all of Muslim background btw), Respect members abused her for her Labour party membership, yes, but also for not being Muslim enough, for having a white boyfriend, for not wearing a headscarf, etc. Progressive? Many white leftists seemed to thinks so, and are happy to accuse people who challenge this of being Islamophobes if they’re white, or not ‘authentic’ enough Muslims if they aren’t.

of course this is all ridiculous - but then that's why none of us here support Respect or these ridiculous white leftists.

So while I'd like to just stop worrying about it all and just unite, it's a little more complicated than that.

that's not what I'm saying at all - I just don't think it is productive to over exaggerate Islamic terrorism, and even tried to say that it has nothing to do with the invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan.

OK, Tower Hamlets politics is my specialist subject – maybe I need a new hobby. But my interest is less about the Islamists than it is about the white leftists who promote them, and the fashionably postmodern critics who apologise for fundamentalism in various religions.

me too.

I’ve engaged in arguments with swp/Respect people around these issues for years, as well as speaking to Muslims from various different traditions on the same topics in the 2 decades I've lived in TH that’s probably why I’m not very good at explaining what I mean here - I'm too locally focussed, and forget that people think might actually think it's racist to even talk about British Islamism without giving 'equal time' to other religions, as Steven wants.

I don't think that. None of your points here have been racist in the slightest. My issue was with Paul's article and how it was written, including how actual numbers were deliberately omitted in favour of assertions and percentages. You yourself commented that it was "close to bigotry".

It's clear that you are used to arguing with SWP types around this, because you seem to have made some assumptions that I hold some of their views ("organising alongside Muslims" meaning mosques for example)

Steven.

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Jack_Ketch

I'll just confine myself to these two paragraphs and give the remainder of your post the attention it deserves tomorrow.

And still no answers to my questions, including:
Steven

That is hilarious that you are actually trying to compare the AF to the BNP.

Again, unfortunately for you it may have escaped your attention but that article is from 2001, which is nine years before I joined the AF. Nor is it an official position of the AF. I don't think the AF article is very good (namely because it doesn't adequately differentiate between moderate or nonreligious Muslims and fundamentalist Muslims), but to try to say it's like the BNP is truly laughable. Especially as you yourself were part of the AF as well, so does that mean you are like Nick Griffin too?

And so I don't think this leaves me in any weaker position to point out that I have doubts about your views on Muslims when you found it so amusing to refer to them in pejorative and offensive terms. And you haven't answered why it is you seem to have stopped referring to them as that?

Steven.

7 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Just as a slight update on this, I thought it was worth pointing out that the author of the person who wrote the article I was responding to is now a UKIP supporter:

I was one of those who voted for UKIP in England.

http://paulstott.typepad.com/i_intend_to_escape_and_co/2015/05/for-the-left-neglect-begets-contempt.html

Which I must say is disappointing but not really surprising

wojtek

7 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

What's his reasoning?

Noah Fence

7 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I would imagine his reasoning would be somewhere in the spectrum of the reasoning of those that vote for any party at all and will obviously be faulty. Specifically, the majority of UKIP voters are bigoted assholes of one sort or another and I don't suppose that he is any different.

Chilli Sauce

7 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Fuck me, from Class War to UKIP. Wow.

Steven.

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Noah Fence

I would imagine his reasoning would be somewhere in the spectrum of the reasoning of those that vote for any party at all and will obviously be faulty. Specifically, the majority of UKIP voters are bigoted assholes of one sort or another and I don't suppose that he is any different.

Sorry, must have missed this post. In terms of the logic, it's not really clear. Having a look at his blog, there is lots of stuff criticising Muslims and the EU, so basically that seems to be the "logic" if you want to call it that. For example:

The EU's Border Force and the Risk of Terrorism
The annual risk analysis by the European Union's border force, Frontex, makes for sober reading. The European Union often does not know who it is letting in, nor who it allows to cross its territory:

"the identification issue concerns the potential threat to internal security. With large numbers of arrivals remaining essentially unclassified for a variety of reasons, there is clearly a risk that persons representing a security threat may be entering the EU." (p.61)

The danger this poses was evidenced last year:

"The Paris attacks in November 2015 clearly demonstrated that irregular migratory flows could be used by terrorists to enter the EU. Two of the terrorists involved in the attacks had previously irregularly entered through Leros and had been registered by the Greek authorities. They presented fraudulent Syrian documents to speed up their registration process." (p.7)

Britain has a degree of protection against such individuals, as we are not part of the Schengen agreement allowing free movement across the EU. However there is nothing to stop British jihadis mingling and liaising with such individuals once they have entered Europe, and all would be able to enter the UK, unquestioned, as soon as they obtain EU citizenship. Indeed Angela Merkel has guaranteed the right to remain to all Syrians, making Syrian documentation, whether genuine or fraudulent, ever more valuable to those with malign intent.

The European Union is making Britain less safe.

Also not sure how relevant this is but this is his new hot water bottle:

(for those with screen readers, it's a Union Jack)

Joseph Kay

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

wojtek

What's his reasoning?

http://paulstott.typepad.com/i_intend_to_escape_and_co/2015/05/for-the-left-neglect-begets-contempt.html

Paul Stott

The new left ensured that in time non-Stalinist Socialists came to place supporting ethnic minorities, gay rights, and feminism as their core activity.

This may not have mattered, but the old Communist parties also became subsumed by the new left's ideals, and the Labour party combined accepting the new left's views on society, with embracing the Conservative Party's views on economics.

Throw in the rise of the world's second biggest religion and its global resurgence - some of Islam's least pleasant adherents have lived in Britain since the 1990s - and it is not hard to see why so much of the working class has been squeezed, and more importantly feels squeezed, in the UK.

Noah Fence

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Ref the new hot water bottle - Holy shit, just when you think it can't get any worse it turns out that as well as a racist, he's a Britpop fan as well!

wojtek

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I've lost interest, but see also pro-Russia, anti-metropolitan elites and Spiked! v (real or imagined) silly student politics.

Refused

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Chilli Sauce

Fuck me, from Class War to UKIP. Wow.

https://twitter.com/Hayrr/status/282988246684811264

Hayrr X on twitter.com 23/12/2012

how long do you think before ukip is mostly ex class war federation members?

Steven.

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Just come across this awful Islamophobic, liberal article reproduced with a really bad intro on this "insurrectionist" anarchist website, so thought I might as well post a link to this and any other similar here as a reference link dump:

Burn the Koran, burn the Mosques…

https://325.nostate.net/2016/01/19/why-we-must-ban-islam-by-ex-muslim-socialist-writer-serkan-engin-turkey/

wojtek

6 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Stott's latest piece:
http://www.lapidomedia.com/analysis-islam-labour

Entdinglichung

4 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Steven.

Just as a slight update on this, I thought it was worth pointing out that the author of the person who wrote the article I was responding to is now a UKIP supporter:

I was one of those who voted for UKIP in England.

http://paulstott.typepad.com/i_intend_to_escape_and_co/2015/05/for-the-left-neglect-begets-contempt.html

Which I must say is disappointing but not really surprising

and a member:

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/uk/sorry-i-m-not-boris-ukip-s-only-mp-seeks-brexit-fans-in-kettering-1.2655199

Another Ukip member, Paul Stott, an academic specialising in terrorism studies

Red Marriott

4 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

For the record, worth quoting at length;

Another Ukip member, Paul Stott, an academic specialising in terrorism studies, told me his wife is from Sierra Leone. Although polls show immigration as the biggest issue for Leave voters, Stott said he finds more voters expressing concern about democracy and sovereignty. A ComRes poll for the Daily Mail yesterday showed the Remain side increasing its advantage on the issue of the economy and Stott acknowledged that the public’s risk aversion is a challenge for the Leave campaign.

“People seem to want a guarantee almost, that we will be better off. And there aren’t any guarantees. My position is that if something is a good product it will sell. Britain is the fifth biggest economy in the world. That isn’t going to change overnight,” he said.

Stott is confident that Kettering, along with the rest of Northamptonshire, will vote to leave the EU on June 23rd, but he is not ready to predict the overall outcome. “I think it’s going to be really close. Ask me a week before it and we’ll see,” he said.
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/uk/sorry-i-m-not-boris-ukip-s-only-mp-seeks-brexit-fans-in-kettering-1.2655199

jef costello

4 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

bloody hell

What Terrorism Costs France

Tucked away in the 'In Brief' section of the Daily Telegraph's sports pages, you could easily miss one of the saddest items of the day:

"The threat of terrorist attacks in France means no World Cup matches will be broadcast on big screens in public spaces, the government said yesterday."

When the barbarians are inside the gates, we lose the freedom to even socialise together. A desperately sad decision to see.

For the Left Neglect Begets Contempt

I wrote the little piece below in March in a debate about working class voters turning to the Front National in France, in a debate on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages. It now seems appropriate to post it here, given the pitiful votes for far left candidates in the 2015 election, the defeat of Labour, and the strong votes for the SNP in Scotland, and for UKIP in England and Wales. I was one of those who voted for UKIP in England.

The rise of the Front National, and other populist parties of the right, needs to be placed in historical context.

For a large part of their history, the Communist parties in Europe were in practice foreign nationalist parties - the job of the CPGB, or Communist parties in France, Italy or West Germany was to support the Soviet Union. The new left ensured that in time non-Stalinist Socialists came to place supporting ethnic minorities, gay rights, and feminism as their core activity.

This may not have mattered, but the old Communist parties also became subsumed by the new left's ideals, and the Labour party combined accepting the new left's views on society, with embracing the Conservative Party's views on economics.

Throw in the rise of the world's second biggest religion and its global resurgence - some of Islam's least pleasant adherents have lived in Britain since the 1990s - and it is not hard to see why so much of the working class has been squeezed, and more importantly feels squeezed, in the UK.

I can't imagine things are any better in France........

Mike Harman

4 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Paul Stott also appears on The Full Brexit's founding statement: https://www.thefullbrexit.com/about

With people such as Paul Embery and Maurice Glasman from Blue Labour, and James Heartfield from Spiked Online.

Also signed a 'University Free Speech' Spiked Online statement: http://paulstott.typepad.com/i_intend_to_escape_and_co/2017/03/signing-up-to-support-free-speech.html

R Totale

4 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

As a small postscript on this, I would've thought that his UKIP/Labour right dalliances (in some ways the latter is even more disappointing - I can just about see a common thread from Class War to UKIP in terms of anti-establishment populism, but Lord Glasman? Really?) meant that he'd definitively turned his back on the anarchist milieu, but just spotted him doing a bit of transphobic trolling in the facebook event for the anarchist not-bookfair, because obviously a UKIP member who's signed up to a project with an actual fucking baron is really well placed to say what priorities anarchists should have. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

R Totale

5 months 2 weeks ago

Another gem from everyone's favourite ex-Class Warrior:
https://policyexchange.org.uk/the-queens-speech-and-public-protest-the-government-is-not-clamping-down-on-the-right-to-protest-but-rather-with-the-deliberate-disruption-of-the-public-square-by-small-groups-of-privileged/

Fascism, fundamentalism, and the left

Looking at the relationship between fascism, islamism and class, and the response of the left. Originally published in January 2011.

Submitted by Phil on May 3, 2011

Since the May General Election, we have been witnessing the slow demise of British fascism as we know it. The British National Party’s spectacular failure tore open divisions and animosities that had been long brewing below the surface. Resignations, sackings, splits, and general disorder have turned the party in on itself. At the same time, the new government’s austerity measures and the fight back they have provoked has pushed racial politics to the sidelines, as people once more awaken to the realities of class war.

And yet, the English Defence League continues to grow. Part of this is down to the unique position it finds itself in. Not being a political party, it cannot suffer a decline in electoral fortune. Not being a social movement, they needn’t worry about grassroots organising. All they have to do is call demonstrations, and people will come. They offer an outlet for neo-Nazis, football hooligans, loyalists, and others just looking for a fight and a flash point, and as long as that is the limit of their ambitions they remain immune to the political factors which brought down the BNP.
The other side of the EDL’s success is down to political Islam.

I was tempted to say the “rise” of political Islam, but that wouldn’t be strictly true. Being an extreme minority position whose ideals are alien to most people on this island, it has no base with which to build a broad-based movement for political reform, nor to galvanise the populace into revolution. It will remain the preserve of a tiny band of lunatics espousing abhorrent views, and all that will change is how much attention they are given.

Cross-radicalisation

Unfortunately, at the moment, the answer to that is “a lot.” With stunts such as burning poppies on Armistice Day, and threatening to march through Wootton Bassett, groups such as Islam4UK and Muslims Against Crusades can stir up more than enough public outrage to make themselves seem important. The government’s use of the SAS to protect shopping centres, and the continual playing up of the terror threat, likewise adds fear to that outrage. And this feeds the atmosphere and sentiments that keep the EDL going.

Despite what it says, the EDL does not exist merely to “peacefully protest against militant Islam.” Chants such as “we hate Pakis more than you” and stunts like throwing pigs’ heads at mosques tell of overt racism and deliberate provocation. At its demos, supporters who break police lines regularly invade and attack Asian communities. For the EDL, the distinction between ordinary Muslims and militant Islamists does not exist.

At the same time, it cannot be denied that the message of clerics such as Anjem Choudary played a part in their rapid expansion. Founder Stephen Lennon has spoken before of how “preachers of hate such as Anjem Choudary have been recruiting for radical Islamist groups in Luton for years” whilst “our government does nothing.” This led to him and others deciding to “start protesting against radical Islam, and it grew from there.”

But this isn’t just a one-way process. It has been noted on more than one occasion that the EDL attacking Muslims provides “constituent parts” for those who would radicalise vulnerable people to encourage them to “go through the gateway towards being radicalised.”

The role of class is not insignificant in this process. Fascism grows by feeding off anger and feelings of marginalisation amongst the working class, and offering a solution that turns one section of the working class against another. Islamism is no different. The only difference is that one ideology is appealing to the white working class with patriotic and nationalist sentiments, whilst the other is appealing to the Muslim working class with religious sentiments. The antagonism between the two strands actually helps to form a symbiotic relationship. The two opposing ideologies feed off one another.

The failures of the left

Unfortunately, the anti-fascist movement has failed to recognise the implications of this. In particular, groups such as Unite Against Fascism have adopted a very black-and-white approach to this issue which has played into the EDL’s view that all those who oppose them are “in bed with radical Islam.” It has also resulted in accusations of “Islamophobia” being hurled about in a way that made the entire movement look ridiculous.

For example, back in June the EDL announced plans to march on Tower Hamlets in opposition against what UAF called “a peace conference, organised by a Muslim charitable foundation and aimed at building understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.” It emerged that this was in fact an event being organised by the Islamic Forum of Europe, “a virulent form of political Islam that is fascistic in nature like Jaamat Islam and verges on the anti-Semitic and is very exclusivist and undemocratic.”

That description comes from a statement issued by a number of local groups, including Muslim and Bangladeshi organisations, in opposition to the EDL’s “demonstration.” However, in taking such a position – “against fascism in all its colours” – the groups behind the statement were accused of being racist and in league with fascists.

Such an attitude will be familiar to anybody who has dealt for long enough with UAF and the Socialist Workers’ Party for whom they operate as a front group. Five years ago, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell criticised UAF for inviting Sir Iqbal Sacranie, then head of the Muslim Council of Britain, to speak at one of its events. He dubbed it “a sad betrayal of liberal, non-homophobic Muslims,” saying that “Sir Iqbal’s homophobic views, and the MCB’s opposition to gay equality, echo the prejudice and discrimination of the BNP.” For these comments, he was accused of “claim[ing] the role of liberator and expert about Muslim gays and lesbians” and of being “part of the Islamophobia industry.” Clearly, absurdity knows no bounds.

The problem is that those afflicted by such a narrow perspective are currently the most influential in the broader anti-fascist movement. UAF is able to draw in the support of students and young people on the sole basis of vague, anti-racist politics, whilst keeping class analysis out of the worldview keeps funding from mainstream organisations coming in. Thus, they are able to simply marginalise and ignore tricky debates such as this when it suits them.

Hope not Hate have, especially of late, shown a lot more political savvy in this regard. They recognise that “hate breeds hate,” and that “the EDL breeds Islamic extremism and Islamic extremism breeds the EDL.” This is certainly a better position than UAF’s. However, ever the statists, they delegate responsibility for “mak[ing] a stand against extremism on both sides of the divide” to “the Government.”

They, too, ignore class issues and reduce the matter to one of “extremism.” In essence, that those who diverge too far from the narrow spectrum of mainstream politics must be taken care of by the state.

The problem with this, as the left should be all too aware, is that under such auspices the definition on “extremism” goes beyond violent fascists and religious lunatics espousing holy war. Forward Intelligence Teams and police “evidence gatherers” are becoming ever more commonplace on demonstrations of all kinds, particularly those in opposition to the cuts. Their job is to gather footage of “domestic extremists” – that is, those who take to the streets to protest, picket, and make their voices heard.

By this definition, trade unionists, environmentalists, anti-war activists, and anti-fascists are extremists as much as the EDL and Muslims Against Crusades. As such, asking the government to “make a stand against extremism” sets a very dangerous precedent indeed.

Militant working class self-defence

Even if the English Defence League wasn’t a fascist organisation grounded in loyalism and hooliganism, it wouldn’t be an effective vehicle to challenge political Islam. It is a purely reactionary movement, more concerned with feeding right-wing anger than challenging the radicalisation of Muslims.

They don’t organise within Muslim communities. They don’t counteract the religious arguments of the Islamists with a class argument to address the real issues that affect and concern Muslims and non-Muslims alike. They don’t stand in solidarity with those who oppose the extremists in their own midst. And they don’t distinguish between issues of religious bigotry from those of religious freedom in order to distance themselves from the far-right and racism.

This is the approach taken by militant anti-fascists, who counter the propaganda of the BNP and EDL with a working class perspective. We argue from this point of view precisely because it is this argument that both the far-right and the mainstream media have worked to obscure, and to twist in favour of a racial or national interpretation of the world.

Likewise, for working class Muslims there is an enormous effort to paint the world around them as defined by religion. The Islamic far-right talks of holy war in the Middle East, ignoring the fact that capitalism and the control of markets is the root of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not to mention the fact that it is poor Arabs and Muslims who are dying and being oppressed, whilst the wealthy are able to serve or integrate into the class of people who benefit from the war. They certainly don’t mention how the regimes they seek to implement are, elsewhere, crushing workers’ movements as readily as those for women’s and LGBT equality.

The aggressive ultra-nationalism of the EDL only pushes class further off the agenda. Their approach allows community “leaders” – “moderate” as well as Islamist – to shore up their own position with the threat of outside invaders. It creates a sense of defiance that only exacerbates the division of the working class into supposedly homogenous “communities” based on race or religion, allowing the ruling class and various other interests to continue playing us off against one another.

Not only does such a situation make it harder for militant organisation against the various shades of far-right, it also thus makes it harder to organise around attacks on our class. The current climate of austerity is just one example, and questions of race and religion don’t merely distract from the matter at hand but turn us against one another whilst the ruling class wreaks havoc from above. This is how fascist regimes came to power in Europe in the 1930s, but it is also how the totalitarian regimes of the Middle East keep class antagonism crushed under-foot. A populace mobilised in the cause of holy war, or contained by a climate of fear instilled by strict religious laws, necessarily finds it difficult to see anything other than faith as the prime mover of world affairs.

In response, what we need is militant working class self-organisation. Grassroots mobilisation across all sectors of the working class, in the first instance, galvanises people to take a stand against threats such as fascism and Islamism.

But it is not just about defending the areas we live in from the forces of reaction. By organising in this way, we see the power that ordinary people can have, collectively, to make a difference. This helps to rebuild a genuine sense of community – based on vicinity, rather than faith or ethnicity – and the further organisational strength that this brings. Not only does this make anti-fascism far more effective, but it shores up our position in the broader class struggle.

Phil Dickens is an anarchist, anti-fascist, and trade unionist from Liverpool, England. He writes regularly about class struggle, racism, fascism, and imperialism, and his blogs can be found at http://truth-reason-liberty.blogspot.com and http://propertyistheft.wordpress.com

Originally published in Shift magazine

From the Defence of the Present to the Control of the Future - Bertie Russell & Keir Milburn

Anti-cuts politics are entrenched in defending a problematic present rather than fighting for a better future. Originally published in January 2011.

Submitted by shifteditor1 on December 11, 2012

The recent student unrest has massively expanded political possibilities in the UK and Europe. The game is afoot and the next move is to generalise the struggle beyond the education sector. For many an ‘anti-cuts’ message is the way to do this. There is a danger, however, that the logic of this position contains the mechanism of its own failure. We urgently need to foment a shift away from a politics that defends our own powerlessness, to one where we can become the collective authors of our own histories.

The last month has finally seen hope raise its head again. Spilling across liberated streets, universities, banks and politicians’ offices, the question can be heard echoing - ‘is this what making history feels like?’ Beginning with the tired press hysteria surrounding the ‘violence of Millbank’ on the 10th November, hundreds of thousands of school, college and university students have been in a state of permanent mobilisation. Over the following month, at least 27 universities experienced an ‘occupied space’ of some sort, each with its own distinct political and social relationships.

Beyond these ‘traditional’ but undoubtedly diverse campus occupations, the University of Strategic Optimism have conducted successful lectures in a branch of Lloyds TSB and a Tesco supermarket, the offices of Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming were briefly taken over, a Lib-Dem conference was forced to ‘re-schedule’ under the security threat posed by potential mass protests, the Really Open University conducted a three-day workshop series in Leeds beginning the Re-imagination of the University, and students occupied the Tate Britain gallery hours before the (once) prestigious Turner Prize ceremony was due to take place. Alongside the student mobilisations, the UK Uncut network has emerged, organising creative disruptions of ‘tax-dodging’ corporations such as Vodafone and Topshop. Then there was 9th December – a day when, after a high level of generalised disobedience culminating in the poking of the Duchess of Cornwall through the window of her Rolls-Royce, David Cameron was forced to concede that ‘the small minority’ could no longer be used to explain away social unrest.

So far, these diverse interventions, expressions and events seem to be resonating together. While the mechanisms of connection aren’t always totally clear, each occurrence seems to be amplifying, and being amplified by, the others. What is far from clear, however, is the ‘frequency’ on which this resonance is taking place. To put this differently we might ask, what is the shared politics that ties these events together?

Dissecting the defence of the present

“Why do men [sic] fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?” Baruch Spinoza

The dominant political logic of the unfolding events appears blindingly obvious: ‘We are all against the education fees and cuts! That is why we act together!’ This is the official story portrayed in the press, whilst National Union of Students (NUS) President Aaron Porter is unequivocal in stating that ‘students have taken to the streets to protest against the government’s attacks on further and higher education’. Placards on marches across the country proclaim ‘Stop Education Cuts!’ with numerous variations thereof. Notably, school and college students have been brought to the streets and the occupations through the proposed scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). Some, not least the NUS, have attempted to add a party-political spin to all this through calls of hypocrisy towards the Liberal Democrats; a placard on a London march perhaps best summed this up – ‘Shame on you for turning blue’.

The Browne Report and the Comprehensive Spending Review have undoubtedly been a catalyst in getting a limited cohort of people, most of whom are students of some kind, to ‘take to the streets’. However, to cast the recent contestations within an ‘anti-cuts’ framework is to make an inherently political decision that places strict conditions and limitations on future events. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be against the government cutting EMA, or withdrawing funding for teaching and research for all non-STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – eds.] subjects. On the contrary, it is suggesting that making ‘anti-cuts’ demands the key form of expression for the movement could leave us tied to the very conditions against which we are so vocally opposed.

This appears paradoxical; how can you be complicit in the conditions which you are opposing? The problem lies in the reactive nature of the ‘anti-cuts’ position. To paraphrase Werner Bonefeld speaking at last year’s Anarchist Bookfair, ‘being ‘anti-cuts’ is not a political expression’ – it is an empty or vacated position that remains characterised by the conditions against which it resists. It is this unplaceable emptiness that characterises the reactionary form of expression; it is precisely ‘empty’ of any collectively articulated values, dreams or desires. As such, the ‘anti-cuts’ form of expression contains an inherently ‘conservative’ frequency. It is not a collective belief or feeling that there can be other futures, but a demand that the world must remain the same - united in the defence of a scenario in which nothing changes.

The political rationale of the ‘anti-cuts’ position is therefore not the collective creation of different conditions of existence, but rather a negotiation of the conditions of the present. Forgoing the collective potential for us to author our own histories, it unwittingly participates in negotiating the social conditions in which existing historical processes can continue – the exacerbation of social inequalities and the continued exploitation of the many for the benefit of the few. The danger in the anti-cuts expression is that it comes to represent social inertia, rather than social movement - a commitment to the conditions of the present.

And what of the conditions of the present? Do we really want to defend these moribund, anti-social and elitist institutions? In the case of the university, its role has historically been to reproduce a small elite - normally from highly privileged backgrounds - capable of filling social roles of ‘governance’, either as politicians or as bosses. Although this filtering process is still very much a feature of the highly variegated universities, the university as an institution increasingly operates as a machine to produce a new form of docile, precarious, yet highly trained worker appropriate for the ‘contemporary state of the economy’. The university now operates as a factory producing a steady supply of multi-faceted immaterial labourers capable of working effectively in the cultural and information industries.

Within the university itself, the imposition of numerous metric systems leads to the consistent degradation of both teaching and research. The sole purpose of teaching has increasingly become to ensure students ‘get a job’; all focus turns to the ‘employability factor’ of courses, as academic-managers increasingly pander to the demands of corporations in shaping course content. Working conditions become increasingly precarious, as part-time and sessional contracts proliferate and everyone from support staff to senior academics are expected to ‘unofficially’ extend their working days. Smart phones and wireless broadband means there is no longer an excuse to not be plugged into the edu-nexus 24/7 – the edu-product must be delivered at all costs. If you aren’t responding to an angry email from a disgruntled student whilst you are taking a shit on the toilet, then you aren’t working hard enough!

The imposition of an ‘anti-cuts’ expression serves to endorse what currently exists, to validate institutions that separate and compartmentalise society in the private interest. But it also mistakes the terrain upon which the current struggle is taking place. The primary purpose of the ‘cuts’ is not the reduction of a temporary deficit in the public finances. They are, rather, aimed at further entrenching a certain conception of the future. By altering the composition of society they seek to eliminate other possible futures. This means that any movement that emerges in response to the ‘cuts’ must also operate on the same terrain. We can’t do so, however, by agreeing upon a single alternative blueprint of the future, around which we would then unite. You fight the closing down of possibility by opening it up, by widening the field of potential historical actors – we are engaged in a battle over the conditioning of the future.

What keeps a movement moving?

“Withdraw allegiance from the old categories of the Negative (law, limit, castration, lack, lacuna), which Western thought has so long held sacred as a form of power and an access to reality… Do not think that one has to be sad in order to be militant, even though the thing one is fighting is abominable”.
Michel Foucault

Our critique of reactive politics does not assume that this position prevails amongst those who have been taking to the streets and lecture theatres. There have been many moments over the last months that have exceeded this logic; indeed it is the nature of movement to exceed.

Social movements form in relation to specific issues and the logic of those issues influence the initial shape and composition of the movement. As the current movement formed in relation to ‘cuts’ in education, many assumed that the movement would come to understand itself in terms of an inter-generational antagonism, as those who benefited from a free education pull the ladder up behind them. In fact, the movement has primarily defined itself in terms of both the need for extra-parliamentary action (inaugurated by a boot through the window of Conservative Party HQ), and the re-emergence of class as a legitimate way of talking about politics (even if the operative conception of class is still quite static and sectional - “David Cameron – Fuck off back to Eton”).

This can reveal to us a more universal dynamic - movements move because they exceed the specific issues of their emergence. Movements create an excess, they are more than the sum of their parts. If movements are to continue to move then they need to find forms of expression for this excess. This does not usually involve creation out of nothing, it often involves certain elements of the movement turning away from mere function and towards expression. A movement comes to understand itself through expressing itself and it is by gaining control over this expression that the movement gains control over its own movement.

In the case of the Global Justice movement, it was a certain form of organisational process that turned from function to expression; consensus decision making became central to how the movement came to define itself. What was at first a seemingly unremarkable method of facilitating meetings became a motive force that opened up a new field of potentials and came to mark a new conception of politics. Of course the form of expression need not be an organisational form, it is also possible that the wheel will turn a full circle and that certain demands may become an expression of the excess of the movement. Directional demands are designed precisely for this purpose; what takes precedence is not the demands themselves, but the positive compositional effect they have on the ‘movement actors’.

There is of course the danger that these very expressions – which at one point were exciting and dynamic processes that collided beings and events together in new ways – become stagnant, having a pacifying effecting on movement. Perhaps the most recently identifiable stagnation was the ‘camping’ refrain that took hold of the Camp for Climate Action. That refrain, which emerged out of an earlier cycle of street-protests against intergovernmental summits, provided an exciting compositional effect that changed how and what was possible. The idea of a yearly camp, however, reflects a certain understanding of what is possible, it reflects a certain, low, level of intensity of the struggle. Both of which inform a certain conception of what politics is, who does it and where it takes place. The form through which a movement expresses itself contains a specific temporal and spatial conception of politics and if this gets out of sync with shifts in social relations then that mode of expression becomes redundant.

In fact doesn’t this lead us to a real excess that has been created by the recent ‘student’ movement? Political activism has begun to escape its status as a specialist interest, bringing into question the who, where and how of ‘history-making’. It is now quite legitimate, across new sections of society, to think politically and to act collectively. There is a new level of intensity to the struggle, with weekly protests accelerating the movement’s collective learning. The movement needs to express this new reality in ways that allow it to keep moving.

Of course it’s not always obvious which function will be turned to expression. It seems likely though that the best mode of expression will be a form of action that will simultaneously act as an expression of our power. Perhaps by prefiguring the sort of change that we are anticipating – e.g. Rosa Parks who sparked a struggle against segregation on US public transport by enacting the world she wished to see and simply sitting in the wrong part of the bus. Or perhaps it will be a form of acting that shows how the reforms and cuts rely on our cooperation to implement – e.g. the Poll Tax non-payment campaign or the Italian auto-riduzione movement in the 1970s.

The urgent task at hand is to ask what form of expression we can forge that will tip this over from a defence of the present to a general movement that controls the future. What is it that will allow not just ‘student’ uprisings to resonate together, but for this to overflow into all sectors of society - precisely so that these ‘sectors’ are no longer perceptible (neither students, nor workers, nor mothers, nor the poor, nor the middle class etc.)? What steps do we need to take to move this from an ‘interest group’ contesting a narrow issue to the generalised desire of people acting as authors, participating in the collective writing of many histories?

Bertie Russell and Keir Milburn are both based in Leeds.

Nirvana holds no promise of ‘life after capitalism’

When confronting religion, anti-capitalist often let Buddhism off the hook. Originally published in January 2011.

Submitted by shifteditor1 on December 11, 2012

There is a blind spot where the subject of Buddhism is concerned in certain ‘activist’ and lefty circles. Where religion as a whole is condemned as dogmatic and regressive, Buddhism often escapes the critic’s disdain unscathed. This is not necessarily a bad thing; such criticisms are often formulaic and react to the concept of religion without a semblance of informed engagement with the teachings themselves.

Three points are often cited for the argument that Buddhism should not be understood on the same terms as other religions, namely that Buddhism denies the existence of a god, that Buddhism denies the existence of the soul and that Buddhism is an empirical, experience-based teaching; followers being expected to test teachings for themselves through personal experience rather than accept them with ‘blind faith’. Whether or not Buddhism can be regarded as a religion according to the same criteria as other world religions is a question that has occupied commentators on the subject for centuries. I will not attempt to resolve it here, but I will, for the sake of the article, consider it as such; it seems to me that denying Buddhism’s position alongside other world religions is the result of a reductive reading of the material available to us. Or else it is an ill considered excuse for the spiritually inclined ‘atheist’. It is not my intention to cast aspersions on the spiritually inclined, simply to get things straight – if religion is what you’re after, Buddhism’s not a bad one to go for. But if you seek in Buddhism a vehicle for historical change and social emancipation, you will come up against fundamental limitations.

I intend to do two things in this article, firstly to explore, in brief, the social and political history of Tibet and Lamaism in Tibet in order to examine some of the complexities around the West’s idealisation of the country. I see no purpose in re-visiting the dialectical dispute between the traditional Left and the Human Rights position. On no level do I defend the occupation, neither am I comfortable with the idealising of any culture, as though it were some essential quality of a ‘people’ (a very un-Buddhist position, incidentally). Secondly, I will explore some of the core teachings of the Buddhist scriptures and consider their compatibility with certain core assumptions held within activist circles.

Like all world religions Buddhism can be found in many different avatars across the globe. This article is concerned with a particular image of the ‘undogmatic’ Buddhism that is enshrined within leftist circles in the West. This interpretation of Buddhism is based, most explicitly, on Tibetan Buddhism and so Tibetan Buddhism is the focus of this discussion.

A religion is not synonymous with the culture it exists within and to discuss Buddhism is not to discuss Tibet. However, an idea enshrined in the minds of many progressives is that of the Tibetan people’s staunch position on non-violence and their regard for all sentient beings. With this in mind, it is not surprising that the Free Tibet movement dominates much of the West’s awareness of global human rights concerns – after all, Tibet is understood to be a peaceful, egalitarian society in which all human and animal life is respected and cherished, ruled over by a tyrannical regime. I don’t want to undermine this position absolutely. Certainly the Chinese rule of Tibet is deeply problematic, to say the least, but the particular idealising of Tibet common in the West is no less so and, furthermore, serves primarily to dehumanise Tibetans and reduce their emancipatory process to a non-political struggle.

Tibet

If we look at historical accounts of Lamaism in Tibet, the picture that emerges is rather different from the idealised, romantic visions perpetrated by Western supporters of the religion. There is nothing particularly nasty or exploitative about the history of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism, relative to the history of the world, but neither is it an idealised utopia that is separated from the bloody history of the world. The narratives of exploitation, class and inequality persist everywhere.

Until the late 1950s, Tibet looked like many other feudal societies we are familiar with. The land was largely owned by wealthy monasteries and secular landlords, divided up into manorial estates and worked by serfs. The land owners accumulated enormous levels of wealth at the expense of peasants’ labour. Serfs were tied in lifelong bonds to work the land of the masters and were subjected to heavy taxation. Monasteries acted like banks, lending money to pay the taxes and charging such high levels of interest that many were held in debt to them for years.

Physical violence and religious conflict were certainly not absent in pre-1959 Tibet, either. Punishment for petty crimes was often brutal and monasteries fought between themselves over land possession and local power. In short then, the power structures in ‘old’ Tibet were no better, and no worse, than those in feudal Europe. And just as in Europe, industrialisation did not deliver on the promises of peace and prosperity.

There is no justification for the Chinese oppression in Tibet, try as many contemporary Maoists might to find one, but neither can we say that the Chinese destroyed an ancient culture of non-violence and harmony. ‘Culture’, indeed, seems to be the buzzword for many Free Tibet campaigners, omitting that there is nothing natural, unchanging or authentic in the patterns of social life. If anything, the Chinese occupation has taken a feudal society into the transition towards (state-)capitalism; not communism.

And with the large patterns of migration brought about by industrialisation, mainly of Han Chinese into Tibet, the post-feudal society has had to deal with a significant amount of ethnic tension. Chinese ownership of factories and shops, and their political power, has not made redundant an analysis of exploitation based on class, but it has added nationalist sentiments to the mix. Man has the ruthless capacity to rule over other Men, and over his natural environment. Religion can at times provide justifications for this rule and at other times can do the opposite.

The road to Nirvana

The real area of contention when considering Buddhism from a progressive, emancipatory perspective is to be found in its core teachings. All too frequently reduced to non-violence and meditation, a cornerstone of Buddhist thought is the principle of ‘Dukkha’, or suffering. According to Buddhist philosophy, all life is suffering, suffering is caused by grasping, or desire, and the only escape from suffering is to break the cycle of life, death and rebirth – ‘Sams?ra’ - and achieve ‘Nirvana’.

In Buddhist literature, ‘Dukkha’ is illustrated using the image of a potter’s wheel. A person experiencing suffering is like a rusty, old wheel. As the wheel turns, it squeaks and creaks and sticks at certain points in its cycle. A person who is free of suffering is like a perfectly oiled wheel, turning smoothly and quietly on its axis.

The sticking point here is that these key Buddhist teachings present an ahistorical and therefore inward looking account of suffering. Buddhist philosophy holds that suffering is implicit in the realm of human existence, so emancipation is achieved not by changing society but by escaping from it. The nature of the universe is constant fluctuation, the nature of Man is grasping for permanence, therefore, constantly disappointed by reality, Man’s only reasonable response is to remove himself from it entirely.

The nature of the universe and the nature of unenlightened Man combine to make suffering unavoidable. The constantly changing universe is the problem, not the particular society that Man has created, and so there is no struggle that he can embark on to change it, other than an internal one. Capitalism, exploitation and inequality become ‘manifestations’ of suffering, rather than reasons for it.

Even the language of activism appears out of place here – to struggle is to grasp, to grasp is to bring about disappointment, disappointment is suffering. Activism is necessarily action-based and Buddhism is necessarily based on the philosophy of stillness as a means of removal from suffering.

One way of looking at this distinction is that Buddhism advises inner change for the sake of personal emancipation and progressive politics demands outer change for the sake of human emancipation. In defence of Buddhism, though, the perfect response to the attainment of enlightenment is the choice to remain within the cycle of ‘Sams?ra’ as a ‘Bodhisattva’ and to work to bring about the enlightenment of all sentient beings.

Compassion is the ultimate articulation of Buddhist practice, but it is a spiritual, rather than a political, articulation. A Buddhist story tells of Siddhattha Gotama’s journey to enlightenment, which is said to equal the period of time it would take to wear away a mountain by stroking it with a sheet of silk once every hundred years. The striving for emancipation on a global scale, then, becomes meaningless without subscribing to the entire Buddhist metaphysical position. Without the patience of the enlightened mind suffering the world over is inevitable for a very, very long time.

Of course, to take the philosophy of self-responsibility, combined with the metaphysical assumptions of multiple life-times and realms of existence, to its logical conclusion brings us to the rather uncomfortable position that social inequality, wealth, physical handicap and all other distinguishing factors are merely the result of worthy or sinful actions committed in past lives. Conversely then, this philosophy of self-reliance arcs back on itself (a never ending Möbius strip) and becomes the ultimate irresponsibility – unconscious of the lifetime which gestated the fruits of my fortune, I am free to take no responsibility for them in this one. Karma becomes the irrefutable, all embracing alibi.

This metaphysical justification for our social positions renders emancipatory struggle futile. Rather, we are advised to cultivate Right Action and Right Mindfulness and trust that the fruits of our labour will be revealed to us in future lifetimes. Sickness and poverty, then, become the result of an unenlightened mind (the sicker, the more unenlightened) whilst wealth and health are the just rewards of deserving actions in the past. A social critique based on the politics of power and inequality is uncalled for here. That Buddhism encourages compassion and the goal of ‘enlightenment for all’ seems (to the unenlighened mind, perhaps) a poor substitute for equal access to food and health care in this lifetime.

In 1996, the Dalai Lama apparently issued a statement that read, in part, “Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability. [Marxism fosters] the equitable utilisation of the means of production [and cares about] the fate of the working classes… For those reasons the system appeals to me, and . . . I think of myself as half-Marxist, half-Buddhist.”

It is a nice sentiment and, in a sense, might transcend a certain ‘narcissism of minor difference’, except that the difference between Buddhism and Marxism isn’t really very minor, and the core difference is situated precisely in the Dalai Lama’s definition of Marxism – that is based on moral principles. But understanding the struggle against capitalism as a ‘historical materialism’, this surely stands at odds with the ahistorical and non-social view of ‘change’ in the Buddha’s teachings.

Polly has studied Comparative Literature and Comparative Religions at The University of Kent and now works as a freelance oral historian in London.

‘What is the alternative?’ - Werner Bonefeld

Werner Bonefeld discusses the crisis and the politics of work. This is a transcript of a talk to the anarchist bookfair, London, October 2010, published in issue 11 of Shift magazine. Originally published in January 2011.

Submitted by Anonymous on December 9, 2012

I

I want to start with a quotation from a Socialist Workers Party poster that I saw on the way to the Anarchist Bookfair. It said: ‘Fight Back the Wrecking Tory Cuts’. There is no doubt that the cuts have to be rejected and will be opposed; society will try to protect itself from misery. ‘Fight Back the Wrecking Tory Cuts’ says something disarmingly obvious, and yet there is more to it than it seems. What does ‘fight back the cuts’ entail as a positive demand? It says no to cuts, and thus demands a capitalism not of cuts but of redistribution from capital to labour; it demands a capitalism that creates jobs not for capitalist profit but for gainful and purposeful employment, its premise is a capitalism that supports conditions not of exploitation but of well-being, and it projects a capitalism that offers fair wages ostensibly for a fair day’s work, grants equality of conditions, etc. What a wonderful capitalism that would be! One is reminded of Marx’ judgment when dealing with the socialist demand for a state that renders capital profitable without ostensibly exploiting the workers: poor dogs they want to treat you as humans!

This idea of a capitalism without cuts, a benevolent capitalism in short, is of course as old as capitalism itself. In our time, this idea is connected with the so-called global financial capitalism that came to the fore in the 1970s. At that time, Bill Warren, for example, argued that all that needed to be done was to change the balance of power, of class power, to achieve, as it were, a socialist hegemony within capitalism – a strangely comforting idea, which presupposes that the hegemony of capital within capitalism is contingent upon the balance of class forces and thus changeable – ostensibly in favour of a socialist capitalism achieved by socialist majorities in parliament making capitalism socialist through law and parliamentary decisions. What an easy thing socialism is! All one has to do is vote for the right party, shift the balance of forces in favour of socialism, and enact the right laws. With the left enjoying hegemony, the state becomes a means to govern over capital, or as Warren saw it, to make money work, not for profit but for jobs, for wages, for welfare. This argument makes it seem as if money only dissociated itself from productive engagement because of a certain change in the balance of class forces. And the crisis of accumulation that began in the late 1960s – what do we make of this?

In the 1980s Austin Mitchell demanded the same thing in his book ‘Market Socialism’. He says ‘we need a state who will make money its servant, so that it is put to work for growth and jobs, rather than the selfish purposes of the merchants of greed.’ Later this became a demand of the anti-globalisation movement, from economists such as Joseph Stieglitz to proponents of the Tobin Tax, from journalists such as Naomi Klein, who wanted “no logo”, to political economists such as Leo Panitch who wanted the state to de-commodify social relations by putting money to work on behalf of workers within protected national economies – protected from the world market.

In the last 20 years ‘fighting back finance capitalism’ was a rallying cry for those who declared to make money create jobs, conditions, employment, that is, to create – in other words – the capitalism of jobs, of employment, of conditions.

Within the critical Marxist tradition, this sort of position is associated with the social-democratic conception of the state. This conception focuses on the way in which social wealth is distributed. It has little to say about the production of that wealth, other than that the labourer should receive fair wages for a fair day’s work. The perspective does not take into account the way in which we as a society organise our social reproduction; the question of the economic form of our exchange with nature is seen as a matter of benevolent state intervention.

This separation between production and distribution presupposes something that is not taken into account: distribution presupposes production. Distribution presupposes a well-functioning, growing economy, that is, capitalist accumulation. So the social-democratic position, which I outlined earlier with Panitch, Bill Warren and others, including the SWP, in fact translates working-class demands - for conditions, for wages, for security, in some cases for life - into the demand for rapid capitalist accumulation, as the economic basis for job creation.

Let’s talk about the working-class, this class of ‘hands’ that does the work. Does the critique of class society entail an affirmative conception of class, which says that the working class deserves a better deal – employment, wages, conditions. Is class really an affirmative category? Or is it a critical category of a false society – a class society in which wealth is produced by a ‘class of hands’ that have nothing but their labour-power to sell? To be a productive labourer is not a piece of luck, it is a great misfortune. The critique of class does not find its resolution in a better paid and better employed working class. It finds its resolution only in a classless society.

Class analysis is not some sort of flag-waving on behalf of the working-class. Such analysis is premised on the perpetuation of the worker as seller of labour power, which is the very condition of the existence of capitalist social relations. Affirmative conceptions of class, however well-meaning and benevolent in their intentions, presuppose the working-class as a productive factor of production that deserves a better, a new deal.

As I stated right at the start, it is obviously the case that the more the working class gets, the better. For it is the working class that produces the wealth of nations. It is the class that works. Yet, what is a fair wage?

In Volume III of ‘Capital’ Marx says something like this: ‘price of labour is just like a yellow logarithm’. Political economy in other words is indeed a very scholarly dispute about how the booty of labour may be divided, or distributed. Who gets what? Who bears the cuts? Who produces capitalist wealth, and what are the social presuppositions and consequences of the capitalist organisation of the social relations of production, an organisation that without fail accumulates great wealth for the class that hires workers to do the work.

II

I want to step back a bit to 1993, just after the deep recession of the early 1990s and the second of the two European currency crises. It was on 24 December 1993 that the Financial Times announced that globalisation – a term which hardly had any currency up until then – is the best wealth-creating system ever invented by mankind. And it said, unfortunately two thirds of the world’s population gained little or no substantial advantage from rapid economic growth.

In the developed world the lowest quarter of income earners had witnessed a trickle up rather than a trickle down. So since the mid 1970s - and Warren picks up on this - we have a system where money, the incarnation of wealth, is invested, incestuously as it were, into itself, opening a huge gap, a dissociation between an ever receding though in absolute terms growing productive base. This created something akin to an upside down pyramid where a great and ever increasing mortgage, an ever greater and ever increasing claim on future surplus value accumulated – mortgaging the future exploitation of labour. This mortgage tends to become fictitious at some point when investor confidence disappears - when, in other words, the exploitation of labour in the present does not keep up with the promise of future extraction of value.

It is against this background that Martin Wolf argued in 2001 ‘what is needed is honest and organised coercive force’. He said that in relationship to the developing world. And Martin Wolf is right – from his perspective. In order to guarantee debt, in order to guarantee money, coercion is the means to render austerity effective. Or as Soros said in 2003: ‘Terrorism provided not only the ideal legitimisation but also the ideal enemy for the unfettered coercive protection of a debt ridden free market society’, because, he says, ‘it is invisible and never disappears’.

So the premise of a politics of austerity is in fact the ongoing accumulation of humans on the pyramid of capitalist accumulation. Its blind eagerness for plunder requires organised coercive force in order to sustain this huge mortgage, this huge promise of future exploitation, here in the present.
Martin Wolf’s demand for the strong state does not belie neo-liberalism, which is wrongly caricatured as endorsing the weak and ineffectual state. Neo-liberalism does not demand weakness from the state. ‘Laissez faire’, said the late Sir Alan Peacock, formerly a Professor of Economics, ‘is no answer to riots’.

‘Law’, says Carl Schmitt, the legal philosopher of Nazism, ‘does not apply to chaos.’ For law to apply order must exist. Law presupposes order. Order is not the consequence of law. Law is effective only on the basis of order. And that is as Hayek put it in the ‘Road to Serfdom’: ‘Laissez faire is a highly ambiguous and misleading description of the principles on which a liberal policy is based.’ ‘The neo-liberal state’, he says, ‘is a planner too, it is a planner for competition’. Market freedom in other words requires the market police, that is the state, for its protection and maintenance.

Capitalist social relations, Schmitt claims, are protected by an enlightened state, and in times of crisis a more or less authoritarian direction becomes unavoidable. Chaos and disorder create the state of emergency which call for the establishment of a strong, market facilitating, order making state. The state is the political form of the force of law - of law making violence.

For the neo-liberals, disorder has nothing to do with markets. It is to do with what they perceive as irrational social action. That is, they see the democratisation or politicisation of social labour relations as a means of disorder, it undermines markets and renders state ungovernable. The state, however - argue the neo-liberal authors - has to govern to maintain order, and with it, the rule of law, the relations of exchange, the law of contract. Free markets function on the basis of order; and order, they argue, entails an ordered society; and an ordered society is not a society that is politicised, but one which is in fact governed – by the democracy of demand and supply, which only the strong state is able to facilitate, maintain, and protect.

III

What is the alternative?

I think the difficulty of conceiving of human self-emancipation has to do with the very idea of human emancipation. This idea is distinct from the pursuit of profit, the seizure of the state, the pursuit and preservation of political power, economic value and economic resource. It follows a completely different idea of human development – and it is this, which makes it so very difficult to conceive, especially in a time of ‘cuts’. One cannot think, it seems, about anything else but ‘cuts, cuts, cuts’. Our language, which a few years ago spoke of the Paris Commune, the Zapatistas, Council Communism, and the project of self-emancipation that these terms summoned, has been replaced by the language of cuts, and fight back, and bonuses, and unfairness, etc. And then suddenly, imperceptibly it seems, this idea of human emancipation - in opposition to a life compelled to be lived for the benefit of somebody’s profit, a life akin to an economic resource - gives way to the very reality that it seeks to change and from which it cannot get away – a reality of government cuts and of opposition against cuts. Government governs those who oppose it. Human emancipation is however not a derivative of capitalist society – it is its alternative, yet, as such an alternative, it is premised on what it seeks to transcend. The SWP poster, with which I started, focuses this premise as an all-embracing reality – cuts or no cuts, that is the question.

What is the alternative? Let us ask the question of capitalism differently, not as a question of cuts but as a question of labour-time. How much labour time was needed in 2010 to produce the same amount of commodities as was produced 1990? 50 percent? 30 percent? 20 per cent? Whatever the percentage might be, what is certain is that labour time has not decreased. It has increased. What is certain, too, is that despite this increase in wealth, the dependent masses are subjected to a politics of austerity as if famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence. What a calamity: In the midst of ‘austerity’, this rational means to perpetuate an irrational mode of production, in which the reduction of the hours of labour needed for the production of the means of subsistence appears in reality as a crisis of finance, money and cash, the struggle over the appropriation of additional atoms of labour time persists as if the reduction of the life-time of the worker to labour time is the resolution to the crisis of debt, finance, and cash flow. Indeed it is. Time is money. And if time really is money, then man is nothing – except a time’s carcass.
And here, in this calamity, there is hope. The hope is that the struggle against cuts, is also a struggle for something.

What does the fight against cuts entail? It is a struggle against the reduction of life time to labour time. The fight against cuts is in fact a fight for a life. For the dependent masses, wages and welfare benefits are the means with which to obtain the means of subsistence. The fight against the cuts is a fight for the provision of the means of subsistence. And that is, it is a conflict between antagonistic interests, one determining that time is money, the other demanding the means of subsistence. This demand, as I argued at the start, might well express itself uncritically as a demand for a politics of jobs and wages, affirming the need for rapid accumulation as the means of job-creation. It might not. It might in fact politicise the social labour relations, leading to the question why the development of the productive forces at the disposal of society have become too powerful for this society, bringing financial disorder and requiring austerity to maintain it. Such politicisation, if indeed it is to come about, might well express, in its own words, Jacques Roux’s dictum that ‘freedom is a hollow delusion for as long as one class of humans can starve another with impunity. Equality is a hollow delusion for as long as the rich exercise the right to decide over the life and death of others.’

Werner Bonefeld is Professor of Politics at the University of York. He recently published ‘Subverting the Present - Imagining the Future’ with Autonomedia.

Craftwork

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“No Messy Politics Please, We’re Anarchists!”

A response to Darisuh Sokolov's article in issue 9 of Shift Magazine. Originally published in January 2011.

Submitted by shifteditor1 on December 11, 2012

SHIFT provides a space for those of us defining as anarchists and based in the UK to ‘constructively’ critique ideas and movements. As the participants from the No Borders network referred to by Dariush Sokolov in his article Cochabamba: Beyond the Complex – Anarchist Pride (printed in Shift issue #9), who took part in the First World People’s Conference on Climate Change (CMPCC), we want to engage with the dialogue opened in #9. We agree with several of the points made, particularly the calling out of “economies based on the same model of petroleum, industrial agriculture, extraction, and growth before everything”. However, we reject a simplistic notion of relishing ‘our’ minority anarchist status. Here we reflect on the chasm we see between maintaining ‘purity’ of ideology and the reality of actually doing politics.

To be clear, we were always critical of what is going on in Bolivia and of other ‘progressive’ governments in Latin America. The glaring contradiction between Evo Morales’ anti-capitalist/eco saviour speeches and his ongoing extractivist industrialisation is just one of the reasons we wanted to attend, to hear what was going on and to report back. In all its complexity we felt that the CMPCC, coming as it did, hot on the tails of the fuck up that was COP-15, was an important event to engage with.

We spent a month in Bolivia participating in the summit working groups, workshops and panels on borders, militarisation, and climate migration, the autonomous parallel process known as Mesa 18, and various mobilisations. The booklet that we co-wrote on our return, Space for Movement – Reflections from Bolivia on Climate Justice, Social Movements and the State, is based on interviews with some of the people we met, and wrestles with big questions that the conference raises.

Dariush’s article suggests that we asked to go as delegates and that this was ‘ejected’ by the No Borders network meeting. The problems of representation in non-hierarchical groups is not our focus here. However, our perspective is that when we sought agreement to refer to ourselves as part of the UK No Borders network, at least some our comrades appreciated that we were asking for input, supported us going as individuals, and understood our reasons. To imply that we were ignorant of the power politics we were entering into was, to be honest, insulting.

The potency of serious political positions are too often trivialised in the mainstream, by reducing people to inaccurate categories (e.g. ‘layabouts’ or ‘violent thugs’ ). On the other side, ‘we’ seem all too ready to resort to equally lazy labelling, when we maybe want to make a real political point? We would like to ask, who are the white, English-speaking, privileged, careerists laden with middle-class guilt that Dariush refers to in his article? What if one of ‘us’ who went to the CMPCC was a working-class queer person of colour, fed up with being invisibilised and treated as a ‘minority’ both within the mainstream and the activist ghetto? For a generalisation to exclude the exception, to make this mistake even once, is to deny the political identity and positionality of all those who do not fit the stereotype. This creates yet another psychological border separating ‘us’ from ‘them’ within our very own movements.

These labels are powerful, isn’t that why we resist categorisations? For example, we highlighted problems with the term climate refugee in draft statements of the CMPCC, and pushed for the inclusion of references to repressive migration controls. A minor change yes, but these battles on the level of discourse are important, especially when we consider how political views are often formed, articulated and negotiated through written and spoken language.

Some of our strengths as anarchists include our refusal to be duped or easily seduced. Our critical minds question everything and, with apparently no positions of privilege to defend, we are willing to call out hierarchy and power wherever we encounter it. But, if the way we do this means that even people involved in anti-authoritarian groups and active in networks are called upon to doubt their political convictions, is it any wonder that others are put off from joining us in struggle? We will continue to honestly debate our actions, but we will also call out problems that we see within ‘our’ minority.

Of course we need shared values and principles but ‘we’ seem too quick to judge, without seeking to understand each other’s motivations. This can lead to a hyper-critical tendency that seeks to defend an imagined ideological ‘purity’. Who is the judge? Who sets the standards? Can someone be polluted by a particular action, the vegan who eats honey, the environmentalist who takes a flight, the No Borders activist who works with the local church-led refugee group? With our almost insurmountable mountain of radical positions, do we exclude those not up to the mark or do they simply choose not to participate? Unchallenged this rigidity inhibits our ability to create strong, diverse movements.

Climate change is here:
This brings us to the elephant in the room. The co-option of climate change discourses, by everyone from the BNP to consumer ad campaigns, seems to have led many anarchists to conclude that there is no point engaging at all with ‘the biggest threat to humanity and the planet’. We see that this position, although an understandable response, risks slipping towards collective denial or nihilism. Climate change is a real and current war on the world’s poor and whether we like it or not it does impact heavily on the global context we are working in. Increased militarisation of borders is just one state response to this reality that negates freedom and equality. We remain committed to fighting for climate justice, even though we are suspicious of how this discourse has already been framed and manipulated.

The Shift editorial made the valid point that fetishisation of carbon emissions associated with flights detracts from the real systemic cause of the crisis, i.e. capitalism. In this they concur with much of the discourse coming from Bolivia, as Evo says, it’s a matter of life and death; patriarchy, imperialism, capitalism are all threatening life on earth. Morales and other ALBA leaders propose their vision of global socialism as the only solution, and that’s where of course we differ. However, sharing some common analysis of causes, even at the level of rhetoric, we saw that it was important to enter into the sticky, grey areas of dialogue in order to distinguish our solutions.

Too often the millions of people that are expected to be displaced by climate change are referred to only in terms of ‘overpopulation’ and a threat to be managed. Statistics get bounded around, numbers of people, black numbers on white paper but what do they mean? At the first major international gathering of social movements which put climate migration on the agenda, we ensured that borders and increased militarisation were visible and argued that freedom of movement for all and freedom to stay are crucial to emerging climate justice discourses (see the article Freedom of Movement and Borders in an age of Climate Chaos on our blog).

As Dariush says, Bolivia does indeed still have borders, an army, prisons. In our work there, we heard different contextual understandings and certainly realised the Eurocentric basis of a No Borders position. For many it is the ability to keep out rich, Northern corporations and NGOs that was seen as the function of a border regime. But in a country where anti-capitalism seems to be the rule rather than the exception, with strong transnational solidarity and indigenous rejection of nation states, we found that what is often a freakish political position in Europe, for many, seemed uncontroversial.

There is much to be said for embracing the outsiderness of being an anarchist, especially in influencing power dynamics within and between movements. However, contrary to Dariush’s assertion that, “our desires and beliefs are largely out of step with those of just about everyone else we ever meet,” we found more in common then we had imagined. Many of the problems we encounter today have come about as a result of minority groups forming around collective ideologies, dreams and demands, which are imposed on the majority through coercion. Whilst the current anarchist movement is a minority in numbers, it is surely our belief in basic shared collective desires within the majority that calls us to organise, to act, to speak out, and to face the consequences. Movements will form, uprisings will happen, whether we are in them or not. But we believe that it is crucial that we locate ourselves in the wider struggle, and to do this we need to create relationships of mutual respect and spaces for dialogue.

Bolivia can be seen as an example of how movements are co-opted, how states can adopt radical rhetoric without relinquishing domination and control. We met with Bolivian political actors both within and against the state, who having fought side-by-side on the barricades now find themselves in very different political territory. There are ongoing struggles and attempts to expose the attacks on the social base that brought the ruling party, Movement for Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS), to power. However, for many Bolivians who were part of this process, there is no clear good/bad position when it comes to Morales and the MAS government. One compañera spoke passionately of her distrust of their socialist project, and a deep sense of betrayal from former comrades (see recent open letter to Evo Morales at http://narconews.com/Issue67/article4292.html). She was clear though that had we been from the right, she would have articulated her position differently to us. The threat from the European descendent oligarchs and the outside powers and financiers that support them remains strong. There is much to challenge, but also to necessarily defend. Bolivians we met didn’t seem ‘duped’, but repeatedly told us that it wasn’t about one man or one party, but about a wider push for change from below that would inevitably take many paths.

So how does this relate to what’s going on this winter on these islands? Who hasn’t asked themselves recently, why, when the system continues to expose itself; the banking crisis, MP’s expenses, police brutality etc, there isn’t more resistance? In an unfolding climate of coalitions and community organising in the UK against the cuts and the unprecedented attacks on the working-class, it’s crucial that we take ourselves to where politics is happening. This is what we call messy politics. This is also when our ‘ghetto’ can truly serve its purpose, providing nourishment, support, etc. Everytime we step out of our comfort zones, there is a balance to be found between staying true to our beliefs and actually engaging with people. Ultimately, each one of us has to reconcile these tendencies and we don’t argue here for any one strategy; however we echo Bristol Anarchists against the Cuts;

“For us at least is not about tunnel vision on the anarchist utopia and everything else can go to hell…If anarchists only involve themselves with the clandestine then they risk becoming even more marginalised at a time where we could be making headway.”

Despite mainstream media portrayals, the recent student protests were not an anarchist conspiracy shielding itself behind witless and innocent young scholars. They were however, in Bristol at least, infused from within and without with a little of that anarchist pride and rage, and have been practically, tactically and ideologically supported by local autonomous spaces and anarchist groups. Revelling in our minority status stands in contrast to seeing ourselves as part of a much broader struggle. The real work of building bridges, of developing true mutual aid and solidarity entails remembering that we’re not always right, being willing to admit our collective shortfalls and that we have things to learn too. To bring about real transformative, social change, exclusivity in our movements must be challenged, both in the global context of the bio-crisis, and in our locally based struggles. Once we accept that uneasy or unlikely alliances will at times be inevitable, we can begin the real work of how to build internally strong movements that can resist internal break down or external neutralisation. Or are we really more interested in dividing people into friends and foes?

Alice and Yaz live in Bristol and have been involved in the No Borders network for several years. The blog from their time in Bolivia is ayya2cochabamba.wordpress.com. The booklet they co-wrote on their return is downloadable in English and Spanish.