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Nazis in Ukraine

25 Feb

I have been watching the events of the last two weeks or so in absolute horror. The sight of open Nazis in Ukraine with Nazi insignias on their clothes, waving far right flags used in the war by Nazi collaborators and getting, until recently, uncritical coverage in the BBC and other media outlets, fills me with rage and despair, as an antifascist, as a Jew and as a human being 😦

There is however a real risk of any social anger against Yanukovich and his backers in the Kremlin being written off as being driven by the extreme right, a tactic that Russia has made use of before despite an increasingly intolerant and far-right political climate towards gay people, Muslims and other minorities with the Putin regime’s tacit approval. While they have come to be dominated by the extreme right, such as the extreme right wing, antisemitic Svoboda party, one of whose activists established a ‘Joseph Goebbels research centre’ and the the even further right Pravy Sector, initially at least the makeup of the protests was a lot more mixed and included left-wingers and even anarchists. The character of the protests changed when neo-Nazi activists were able to overpower other groups protesting, by for example smashing up a stall by Ukrainian trade unions in the square. The fact that they were physically more well prepared and well armed put the fascists at the forefront of most of the fighting against the police and government. They were able to set up barricades deciding who came in and out of the protest camps and most of these were dominated by far-right groups. However even now the protests are not fully dominated by Nazis – many homeless people came to the protest camps for example attracted by the free food.

It may seem unusual in the UK but protests with this sort of mixed character are not unusual in Eastern Europe. In 2009 for example, there were protests in Moldova against the Communist Party who at the time controlled the country. These protests eventually forced the removal of the governing party and resulted in a victory for a coalition of ‘pro-European’ parties, some of whom, but not all, included the extreme right. Russia was quick to allege fascist involvement in the protests, a charge that didn’t really stick given the wide range of people involved in them. But there was a grain of truth involved in these claims. The protests split the country with many Russian speakers, rural people and older people being against them and shocked by the disorder. On the other hand fascist groups were involved in the protests as well as ordinary people, leftists and ‘liberal‘ pro EU nationalists such as the ‘Hyde Park‘ group (portrayed in western media as a liberal, pro-European integration group, but when I took their leaflet on a demonstration I walked past while I was living there, I discovered it was racist).

Although I do have some time for some of the activists in this group and others of a similar political nature, the insipid pro-EU liberalism of these organisations as a whole, and uncritical attitude towards anything which opposes Russia, leaves much to be desired – their politics don’t tend to go further beyond the idea that “we should join the EU and all be nicer to each other”, and with the implied idea being that EU integration, likely to be opposed by Russians, is itself a good idea in itself, that it will automatically make the country more prosperous etc – and that the only “problem” is Russia. Thus in these social movements and organisations you get liberals, pro-EU “economic liberals” and free-market types alongside social democrats and leftists who think that joining the EU will lead to a more “european style” democracy and standard of living – and fascists, who will have very different motivations for wanting closer ties to the West from the above, but the vagueness and apolitical liberal nature of the above means it’s easy for them to support it or to be supportive. When there I came across a few people who supported government austerity plans and supported the EU because they imagined that they would largely impact old Russian people who were “communists” – these plans were popularised on this basis, too.

Groups like Hyde Park are often in favour of human rights and campaign for very reasonable things, but they also campaign against things like “the russification of the national curriculum”. Being pro-western and pro-EU usually implicitly means the increased use of the national language – and the marginalisation of the Russian language. It is doubtful whether many of these groups would organise protests against for example, Romanian and Ukrainian nationalists in the same way.

In addition, irredentist nationalist slogans such as ‘Basarabia pamant Romanesc‘ (Bessarabia is Romanian land) were common during these protests, some people (not all of them far-right) thinking that closer integration to the EU would be a way to reunite with Romania, something which is by no means only supported by the extreme right but is promoted by them as the answer to the country’s problems – an answer that by implication excludes Russians. A closer look at the groups promoting this ideology reveals racism against Russians and Jews as well as extreme homophobia. I once looked out of the window on the way to work and saw protesters with Romanian flags, ‘Basarabia pamant Romanesc’ and the Celtic cross on a black background leaving you in no doubt as to where they were politically.

Here’s a video of Moldovan fascists marching to be part of Romania.

When I was there the new Moldovan government introduced an austerity programme which included, for example, ending free bus travel for pensioners. Surprisingly this received a bit of public support from some people I met who initially at least saw these policies as targeted at old Russians and Communist Party supporters. One of these people also told me that “our language is very dirty, with a lot of Russian words”. On my way to work I used to walk past a headquarters of a religious group with an icon of Jesus and Mary facing the traffic – facing inward was a billboard alleging a conspiracy between Jews and the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church complete with “photo evidence”, a surprising theory given that this church has been caught selling copies of the Protocols and other extreme-right literature in Russia.

That said most people I met there who had been involved in the protests or were at least supportive of them were definitely not fascist, but were very dissatisfied by the inequality presided over by the Communist Party and also, frequently, actual and perceived discrimination in favour of the Russian minority. They were in the majority of cases motivated by real and justified anger at the government, and in the moldovan case fash were in a definite minority. The protesters occupied government buildings and struck at the power of the state. You have to remember that the left in these places is practically non existent and where it does exist the organized left isn’t worthy of the name, being bag carriers for the Kremlin and presiding over neoliberal policies and corruption, promoting Russian nationalism and trading on Soviet nostalgia, but with something far nastier frequently lurking underneath – the former communist president of Moldova describing a black opposition activist as ‘a negro who came down from a tree’ . The lack of a left that is not nostalgic for the soviet union and with it, Russian rule over the ‘backward’ eastern european countries, itself a key idea in Russian imperialist nationalism has been one of the contributory factors that has opened the gateway for the extreme right.

The fact that Russian far-righters have been involved on the opposite side to the Maidan protesters, and, ludicrously, that the police have reputedly been told that the protesters are led by Jews despite clear evidence of fascist involvement, demonstrates that the idea that Yanukovich’s regime and the Kremlin are motivated by antifascism is hard to swallow, as is Putin’s claim that he is against corruption and imperialism when the regime is perfectly happy to tolerate their own oligarchs and use Russian military bases in former soviet countries as a way to control them.

With that in mind however, it is clear that the far right have played a huge part in the Ukrainian protests, bigger than their part in Moldova or even for that matter in the Orange Revolution in 2007, where groups such as UNA-UNSO, a paramilitary organization which was one of the forerunners of Svoboda, played a role in the demonstrations, and several figures in Viktor Yushchenko’s party had links to them. By unbreaking the link above BTW you can see an odd article combining a call for Ukraine to join the EU with antisemitic statements about ‘Jewish lords’. It is estimated that around 30% of protesters are involved in far-right groups such as Svoboda and Pravy Sector and many more will sympathise with them, especially because these neo-Nazis have been doing the bulk of the fighting with the government. Even more concerning is the fact it looks likely that Svoboda may enter a coalition in the new government. This used to be their old logo by the way:

Svoboda's original logo. nice huh?

If Russia’s conduct has been grotesque as they try to portray themselves as a bulwark against fascism it has been equally sickening to see the UK government portray these events as entirely peaceful protesters while Nazi symbols have been on display and protesters have been photographed with weapons, wearing helmets and shields with far-right leaders screaming about how they want to kill their enemies. The images of lynch mobs and ‘government supporters’ forced to pray at shrines for dead protesters (when they say government supporters what does that mean, officials or just some poor random Russian?) And the reports that Nazi propaganda has now been legalized are extremely disturbing – whether or not we should have such a law it’s a strange priority for a new government. The images of these “friendly protesters” daubing Celtic crosses and SS symbols on areas they occupied should worry anyone.

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The more disturbing part of this is the entirely uncritical attitude of the EU and the American government, describing the protesters as being ‘peaceful’ even when they are photographed with fascist insignia and weapons. It is, to pit it mildly, very unlikely that Ukraine will become a Nazi dictatorship to say the least. One of the candidates for the new president, Klitschko, looks like an apolitical figurehead brought in on the basis of his popularity elsewhere, and he is far from being universally popular with the protesters at Maidan, especially not the organized far right. Like most of the high profile politicians there such as Yulia Timoshenko, the corrupt ‘gas princess’ feted by the west and seemingly transformed into some sort of Aung Sung Suu Kyi figure, Klitschko has had his own rumours of corruption such as a doping scandal.

It may even be that Yanukovich’s old party get back in at the next elections. We don’t know, all sorts of scenarios could play themselves out. However the deeply concerning thing for now is the possibility of further ethnic violence in both Ukrainian and Russian areas – already there are reports of Crimeans in Sevastopol holding ‘antifascist’ rallies to ‘defend Russia’. In the early 1990s the leaders of the pro-Russian separatist breakaway state of Pridnestrovie (Transnistria) used pro-Romanian and anti-Russian sentiments by Moldovan nationalist leaders such as the slogan “Suitcase – train station – Russia”, to justify breaking away from Moldova. The fears people had of the possible consequences of Moldovan independence were very real given that during the 1940s the Nazis had turned the area into a giant death camp.

And in addition the very real likelihood of attacks on, for example, Jews – in the last few months several antisemitic attacks have taken place and there are reports of Jews being threatened and told to get out of the country – as well as Crimean Tartars who often traditionally identify with Ukraine in an area that is majority Russian and who are discriminated against and tend to have a far higher poverty and unemployment rate than the rest of the population as it is, having been deported by Stalin and only allowed to start returning at the end of the 1970s.

The wider implications of the protests and what they mean for the far-right will be felt for a long time to come. While it is very unlikely that the far right will emerge completely victorious and the leaders of a new Ukrainian Reich, as some of the more hysterical commentary from pro Russian sources has seemed to imply, this is a huge victory for the far right and they are extremely strengthened by it, they have grown in confidence and gained a fair amount of experience and some public support, despite the fact that the majority of Ukrainians have not participated in the protests and nowhere near the numbers of, for example, Egyptians who did. The repercussions of this will be felt for a long time to come. At the level below the top echelons of the state institutions like MAUP, the Ukrainian university which had ex KKK leader David Duke to speak and routinely gives ‘lectures’ attacking Jews, will feel more confident in propagating their views now they know they can do so with impunity.

Some further thoughts.

It is difficult for leftists to argue in these countries that there was anything good about for example Lenin and Trotsky when many Eastern Europeans experienced even Lenin’s rule as a brutal occupation and following his death the cult of Lenin became inextricably linked with the Soviet state and Russian rule. The whole concept and vocabulary surrounding ‘communism’ has for a lot of people become linked to ethnicity (although austerity measures, rising inequality and attacks on already shit pay and conditions affect everyone regardless of ethnicity) therefore especially here, taking all your views from these ‘dead Russians’ is unlikely to be helpful, one reason perhaps why Trotskyism never took off there).

There is a worrying tendency in many eastern European countries for some people within the state to take advantage of the bitterness that people feel about the Soviet occupation and communist rule and use this to argue that the Nazi occupation was as bad, or less bad than what happened under communism. Ironically these trends started to develop in some countries under communism itself with Ceausescu arguing before his death that Antonescu, the fascist leader during the war, had in fact been a national hero. Likewise in Ukraine, the Holodomor (the famine in the 1930s which killed millions of people) has become a cornerstone of the far-right, who have used popular anger about the suppression of information about this issue and the lack of recognition about it, especially in Russia, as a way to promote nationalist conspiracy theories and far-right ideology.

In Hungary, much of the Jewish community have boycotted the official commemorations of the holocaust because they whitewash Hungary’s involvement in the war and refuse to admit that the government did anything wrong. A similar trend has emerged in Lithuania, where the EU has actively assisted in propagating this agenda, and where leading politicians have described Nazi sympathizers during the war as heroes and partisans and anti-Nazi fighters as criminals. And the EU are somehow absolutely fine with this state of affairs just as they are with the ‘peaceful protesters’ in Ukraine.

'peaceful' protesters

Watching this from over here makes me feel so powerless. Not really much else I can say. And yeah I know I don’t have links to back up everything I’ve said here but it’s late, work in the morning and I’ll put them in tomorrow or over the next few days. Comments, criticisms etc always welcome.

“Jewsplaining”

31 Jul

has there ever been a political movement so divorced from reality, and so completely up its own arse as “intersectionality”?

Now it seems, “Jewsplaining” is actually a thing. people are arguing that being Jewish is a “privilege” in the same way that being white or being a man supposedly always is with no regard to economic circumstances, no regard to anything else.

It seems that now we have to fight “Jewish privilege”.

really? really?

Let me be very clear here, when I say intersectionality is up its arse. I am NOT saying that opposing racism and sexism are not important or that from time to time people shouldn’t look at themselves and examine what “privileges” lead them to think the things they do. But Marxism opposes intersectionality. Marxism does not just say that “classism” is just another “oppression” based on what your accent is or how your dress or what your parents did. It is not just about rich people treating working class people badly, not being “allies“, needing to go to back of the “progressive stack” and needing to “check their privilege”. There are two main classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Capitalism is based upon the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, rather than try and make capitalism “nicer” (which is what intersectionality basically is) we should have the “revolutionary watchword – abolition of the wages system!” Today, it sounds a bit like what you might read in the pages of “Workers’ Girder” but it’s true. Capitalism cannot be made “nicer” or “more representative”. Is it any better to have for example a gay boss who treats you like shit than a straight one? The economic system depends on the position of the w/c as an exploited class. But that position also gives it its potential to be a revolutionary class, not just passive victims.

I am NOT saying that this means that working class people are all the same or have exactly the same conditions (it’s this that has given certain wealthy Guardianistas the license to compare their economic position, which while they might be selling their labour value, essentially got there because of the social capital which comes from being in a wealthy family, with those of working class people far lower down the socio-economic scale – witness Laurie Penny’s attempts to claim that she is a “precariously employed young person” and so on. I am also not saying, as some in the “vanguard parties” have done, that their supposed emphasis on the primacy of class means that “women’s issues” are just that, some sort of “bourgeois deviation” not relevant to the rest of the class, and that women and to some extent ethnic minorities exist outside of it whatsoever and are simply not important compared to the burning issues of how many monopolies to nationalise, whether their latest union lash-up has “socialism” in the title, how to deal with “dogmatists” and “autonomism” and how many hours in the general strike to call for without being “ultra-left”. These conditions are what enabled Comrade Delta and many others to get away with what they did for so long. Sexism is a class issue. Racism is a class issue. Homophobia is a class issue. They all affect members of the working class both with people’s attitudes and with institutional discrimination and “divide and rule”.

I quite frequently write on this blog about anti-semitism and sexism. Why? Because I have experienced these prejudices (not least from leftists) and they affect my life. I am not however under any illusions that either can be overcome without the abolition of capitalism or that we can just struggle alone. Sexism to take one example is always going to affect working class women more, because of patriarchal attitudes and low-paid work and usually having to still be the caregiver for the children, not being able to afford childcare, being less able economically to escape their situation, fewer job prospects and having to simply put up with it, whereas wealthier women can frequently just buy their way out of it. Many women stay with abusive partners because they simply cannot afford to leave them, a situation which is getting worse with attacks on wages and benefits, and women are frequently paid less for doing the same jobs, as well as often having to come home and do huge amounts of unpaid housework. It is laughable to pretend that the experiences of some of my mates with sexism and the experiences of someone like Theresa May are the same simply because they are women, even if they have “white privilege”.

I just read this bizarre article where the author is pillorying herself for “gentrifying the neighbourhood” because she is white and saying that by being white, she is “triggering other people’s pain”. I find such stuff deeply concerning to be honest. By having a go at herself like this how is she helping? Is she helping to prevent racism? Quite plainly not. Mindless self-flagellation does not help you recognise and understand the position of those less fortunate than yourself. It is not just patronising, it is verging on “noble savage” territory that elevates their position in society beyond any individual characteristics. These people are laughed at behind their backs. For God’s sake stop embarrassing yourself, stop thinking about yourself and everyone in racial terms. Go out and meet some normal people ffs.

But anyway …  now we get this. Proof that with this stuff, without a proper class struggle perspective, without any sort of analysis beyond “look at me, I’m trying so hard to examine my own privilege” while making the non-privileged bit parts in your own drama while you “deconstruct” your identity, or “look at us and how oppressed we are” your politics can rapidly go into the sewer. You can say goodbye to any form of common struggle if you haven’t got the right “intersections”. And the sad thing they probably think this kind of saying “fuck you” regardless of circumstances to white people is progressive and that it’s going to help in some way.

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“Jews were not considered white at the time of the Holocaust. Now with their status as white, they’re oppression is something we are supposed to “never forget,” while slavery and the continued genocide against people of color all over the world is something we’re supposed to “get over” and we’re supposed to “stop using the race card.” For reparations of the Holocaust, the Jews got an entire country. Brown people, meanwhile, can barely even get equal opportunity standards at jobs and colleges without people rushing to call it reverse racist, meanwhile our country pays for the bombing of Palestinian children in order to protect Israel for the Jews. Why? Because they consider the Jews white and they consider the Palestinians POC.

Antisemitism is definitely a thing, but there’s a reason why it’s called antisemitism and not racism, and that’s because Jews are considered white and, for the most part, benefit from white privilege.

Edit: Also, you ever notice how white Jews only bring up the Holocaust when brown people are talking about our oppression? Woooow, it’s almost like the Holocaust doesn’t even affect them in their daily lives and they’re only using the murder of 11 million people (brown people included) to try and silence POC.

Wow.

So wait a minute – “white Jews only bring up the holocaust when brown people are talking about our oppression”? The other week I was at a holocaust memorial service. I didn’t see much silencing going on there or people trying to shut up anyone else, just people remembering their dead relatives or being there for religious reasons. In fact, in my experience it’s often mentioned at these types of events that just as the Jews were the victims of prejudice, we should not turn a blind eye to or be racist or otherwise prejudiced ourselves. And nobody ever tells Jews to “get over” the holocaust, or that anti-semitism doesn’t exist any more, do they? No capitalists ever promote anti-semitism, use the “chic” of Nazism or use anti-semitic imagery in order to sell their shit products.

And of course attacking all white people is a great way to stop racism isn’t it, just as saying “kill all men” is a great way to stop sexism.

The laughably simplistic analysis of the Middle East in the name of “opposing racism” which both ends up repeating anti-semitic stereotypes about Jews and power and – well, talking absolute shit – completely ignores the role of US capital and the fact that the US’s support of Israel is neither to do with “guilt” over the holocaust, wanting to “protect Israel for the Jews” or considering Jews white.  The US government is quite happy to turn a blind eye to antisemitism when it is politically and economically worth doing. Leaving beside the fact that these views simply don’t make sense outside of the context of the US (actually, they don’t make sense at all) in countries where the dominant social prejudices are simply not against “people of colour” (leaving aside parts of Europe where prejudices against Muslims, Roma or Jews all with the same skin colour are the dominant social prejudice, what about Northern Ireland? Or Kosovo – would a black American soldier or NGO worker living there really be any more “privileged” than Serbs in an Albanian area or Albanians in a Serbian area? And aren’t divide and rule arguments encouraged by nationalist politicians about who’s the most “privileged” rather than uniting on a class basis against bosses and landlords partially responsible for what’s happening there anyway?)

I have been working as a temp administrator in a private school which mostly caters to rich international students, many of whom want to go and study at Oxford or Cambridge University afterwards. So about two months ago, the guy who teaches Arabic came into the office. This guy is originally from Palestine. He started talking about how many “rich Arabs” there are in Israel and the Middle East who would like to come and study in the UK, he then started talking about how he is running a business not a charity and he doesn’t want any students “whose parents are teachers or clerks in the bank”. I asked him where he was from, he said Israel, I asked whether that was Israel or Palestine. My manager who is from Ukraine then said “oh that’s a complicated subject”, she then starts talking about how “the Jews” own most Ukrainian businesses and how 70% of the politicians in Ukraine are Jewish.

Who is the most privileged here? I have a feeling it could be me, because I am white and Jewish and English is my native language, even though I am an agency worker, have few rights, and earning far less than they are. While I’ve been working there, I have heard other anti-working class and racist remarks from the managers, including about “lazy” English people and how the genes of people in the West have “degenerated” because of their lazy lifestyles. Oddly enough, these “privileges” haven’t meant that I was able to get rid of my managers or that I am in a better economic position than they are!

On the flipside of course, there is the perception of Jews on some sections of the liberal left as being some magical, special “breed”, noble savage shit along the lines of Julie Burchill, which is not anti-semitic but is deeply patronising and irritating, especially when it is tied to a political agenda (either opposing it, or supporting it) about Israel.

Some of the reactions by Jews to the “Jewsplaining” stuff are also fairly disturbing and the language used about “gentiles” (really??) disturbingly reminiscent of campaigns to stop people from “marrying out” and prevent “assimilation” (ie stop the “calamity” of Jews marrying non-Jews, as if marrying a non-Jew means you automatically stop being culturally Jewish or even following the religion. Without this “calamity” I wouldn’t be here). We get diatribes against “tumblr goyim” and people saying that “gentile is a privilege”. Would the idea that “gentile is a privilege” apply to working-class Palestinians in Gaza? Because that’s where this idiocy leads straight back to. Implicit support for the president of the US based on the fact he is black. Implicit support for the Israeli state based on it being a “Jewish state” or implicit support for other Middle Eastern states based on their leaders being Muslim and not white. Implicit support for Thatcher based on the fact she was a woman.

Or even to a situation like my family – some of my non-Jewish family members have still experienced anti-semitism based on our surname and the fact there are Jewish people in the family. It is telling that so much of this stuff doesn’t actually challenge capitalism but sees their priorities solely in terms of how diverse a “project” is or how many ethnic minorities or women are in “leading positions”. Capitalism lives on but this time on lines which merely seem more open and diverse. Is the “pink pound” for example really any less desirable than the ordinary pound to business? Do openly gay people not serve as members of the Tory party, despite their tradition of disgusting homophobia which continues with policies on housing benefit for example making it more difficult for working-class gay people with unsupportive families to leave home? Just because this stuff disadvantages someone it does not make everyone else better off as a result – racism, homophobia, sexism etc impede our ability as a class to struggle effectively whether we are directly affected by it or not.

While often well-intentioned privilege theory only helps reinforce these divisions. If you care about actually fighting this stuff rather than establishing a “hierarchy of oppression” become a communist.

The Fuhrer of the Nazi Hippies

28 May

David Icke – Class hatred, Nihilism and Narcissism

When footballer David Icke appeared on Terry Wogan’s show in 1991 claiming to be the Son of God there was little sign that he was going to become one of, if not the leading figure in a cult phenomenon. It was fascinating and horrible that somebody who was clearly having some sort of mental breakdown could be allowed to humiliate himself in this way on national television. If someone who was that obviously ill appeared on a similar show today the presenters would rightly be castigated for mocking and letting the audience laugh at his delusions. Watching the interview today is like watching some sort of car crash TV, something that could, unfortunately, be applied to the rest of his “career”, although for very different reasons.

What I aim to do in this blog is to present the facts so you can connect the dots, as he himself would say, and make up your own mind about Icke and his theories. I think that the evidence of David Icke’s own words and actions shows that he is not ill and worthy of pity or for that matter a brave “truth-seeker” – he is a vicious anti-semite, a liar and a charlatan and this post will aim to prove it. His politics are the politics of elitism, nihilism and narcissism, a vacuous self help philosophy about “freeing your mind” and “consciousness” as though he is some sort of life coach. The sheeple will fall into line, they’re just software programmes on legs ready to be manipulated by anyone, whether that’s the lizards or the truth seekers.

Of course, if you challenge him on any of this you’re just “solid gold programmed”, as opposed to the “open, awake” people who have watched his videos and know where he’s coming from. As if the only explanation for rejecting him and his politics is because you are a zombie. Unwashed scum, “little girls in women’s bodies” with “big gobs” who need to know their place, who have been pre-programmed to reject him and everything he says. Watch this video and look at the class hatred dripping off it at the start as he sets his fans up for the abuse he receives from the “morons” and the “robot radicals” as they mouth off at him. Obeying their masters because they obviously have no independent thoughts of their own. Because that’s what these “software programmes on legs” do, as opposed to rich blokes in suits who earn a handsome living flying round the world doing talks about matters which are “too deep” for them to understand.

He claims that everything relating to his anti-semitism has been taken out of context. He complains that these “little girls” are taking out of context quotes and turning them into something different. All these people are a personification of “how the world is controlled by a tiny group of people who manipulate the masses.” Let’s see shall we.

Continue reading

9/11 truthers made to look like twats again.

18 Mar

if you know me at all you may be aware of my feelings on the so-called 9/11 “truth” movement which in my opinion is snake oil to sucker the gullible emotionally and financially at best and at worst a gateway to fascism. Either way it has nothing to do with the truth about 9/11 and in fact hampers any efforts to investigate the real facts of that day and its leading proponents, Alex Jones, David Icke, Nick Kollerstrom etc make their living through utter parasitism.

Given this I found this hilarious. One of them was called up in court for refusal to pay his TV license on the grounds that the BBC is a “terrorist organisation”, they thought it could be a chance to air their “views” in a “court of law” (actually only a tiny magistrate’s court). Things did not go according to plan however.


A couple of Mondays ago, on a cold, colorless morning at 9am sharp, I found myself in the singular predicament of joining the back of a queue of around fifteen 9/11 “Truthers” in a dismal magistrates’ court in Horsham, a small English town about an hour from London. These Truthers were mostly male, middle aged, and—I’m sorry to say—a little stinky.

Their conversation sounded something like this:

“… you believe that you’ll believe anything…”

“…Building Seven…”

“… Osama Bin Laden, don’t make me laugh…”

And the delightful…

“… other than the lizard thing—which I personally don’t have any great problem with—everything else that man has said has been spot-on…”

More here. Enjoy 🙂

Purim tomorrow and its revolutionary message.

23 Feb

My ideas about religion are somewhat “interesting” heh, I’ll do a more in depth blog post about it at some point. I am thinking over some ideas in my head, that may or may not make any sense at all. Religion can be at times extremely damaging especially when it promotes religious nationalism and is used to bolster up movements such as zionism but I do not always believe it has played a reactionary role, for example if you look at the liberation theologists of South America – “if I feed the poor they call me a saint, if they ask why they are poor they call me a communist”. In Judaism and Islam there are also examples of religious texts supporting popular uprisings rather than the rulers although this message has also been suppressed by the ruling class and institutions supporting official religion and the establishment. The truth is probably you can make religion what you want it to be and use it to suit any purpose you want.

I would post something long and intellectual  (and probalby will at some stage) about Marx and his views on religion and what I think of it today. And at some point I will. Briefly however I wanted to say that tomorrow is Purim. If you do not know what that is it is basically the story of how the Jews managed to stop a plot by King Xerxes’ adviser Haman to kill them all. Instead Haman ended up being hung in the town square. Of course part of it is not exactly revolutionary because the Jews Esther and Mordechai were already high up in society (esther was the king’s wife, although if you read the story she appears to have been coerced to be married into that family more for economic reasons).

The revolutionary part of it is the fact that so many people stood up against corrupt officials who were planning murder for their own gains. Of course there was no real revolution because if there was the king himself would have been overthrown by the people, but who knows how differently the biblical story would have turned out if there had been.In any case there was a significant change and afterwards the royals knew as a result of the pressure they were under that they could not use anti-semitism to consolidate the power of the throne again and were compelled to punish Haman and his six sons.

And that is a message not just for Jews but for the entire working class that if we stand up against oppression and capitalist exploitation and we need to stand together and fight together to overthrow this corrupt barbaric system.

In some Jewish communities there are “local Purims” to celebrate the community’s escape from some sort of disaster, whether it is man made or natural. Although this is in a religious context I do not necessarily see anything wrong with showing this type of solidarity as long as it’s not nationalistic/to promote hatred of others not in the group.

Certainly the Nazis were worried enough by Purim to ban it because they believed that it was about themselves, and punish anyone in possession of a copy of the Book of Esther, Jew or Christian, with death. When Streicher, the editor of Der Sturmer, was hanged in 1946 his last words on the scaffold were “Purimfest 1946!” because he thought the Jews would now celebrate his death.

Er yeah I’m tired and ought to go bed but those are my thoughts for tonight, probably confused and shit but there you go. Have a good one if your celebrating it and if your not have a good one anyway.

The world is their playground.

20 Feb

The world is their playground.

I am going to write about something that I have been meaning to look into in more depth for a while. As you may be aware the Cambridge Union recently asked Marine Le Pen to speak.

Oxbridge student unions are no stranger to right wing freaks.

In the past Julian Assange, international fugitive from rape charges and hero of conspiracy loons and “anti-imperialists” everywhere has been invited to speak to the Oxford Union via video link, and they invited Nick Griffin to speak a few years before that.

On a thread on urban75 my attention was drawn to another incident where the “liberal” president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, who has been in favour of affirmative action and refused to allow an army-based program onto its campus because of its discrimination against gay people, invited Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to speak on its campus. A head of state whose hands are dripping with the blood of political opponents and trade unionists, who openly tortures people, who uses anti-semitic propaganda to bolster support for his regime.

When you think that YOUR intellectual curiosity exists in a vacuum devoid of any social responsibility, that you can ignore the motives of people coming to speak to you and treat the place simply as a “forum for robust debate” you are in effect treating the world and everyone in it simply as a playground, as one poster there put it, for your intellectual curiosity. A world where nothing else matters except YOU and whether YOU “develop” personally – and what kind of development? A world where the “debate” of “ideas” (in fact nothing so high minded, just networking opportunities and opportunities for people like Le Pen to persuade the up and coming bourgeoisie of other countries that they are “moderate” and “reasonable”) occurs independently of anything else and where nothing else matters except the members of that debating society themselves. A world where these ideas and the situations that produced them exist independently of any real world consequences and any struggle.

I am writing this article because I want to respond to a truly terrible piece in the Independent in which it is argued that

There’s a difference between Nick Griffin showboating for votes on national television and Le Pen exposing her views to the ridicule of a few curious students

The problems begin with the article immediately. While it is true that there is a difference (I’ll come to that later) Le Pen is said to be “exposing her views to the ridicule of a few curious students” rather than being on *shock! Horror!* television, “showboating for votes”. As if Le Pen is simply exposing herself to “ridicule” rather than trying to get votes and influence, as all politicians do. Secondly there is no guarantee that her views would have been ridiculed at all!

Nick Griffin himself went to Cambridge, where he studied history, then law – or was this lost on the writer of the Independent piece?

Finally, it hardly needs saying that the Cambridge Union are hardly a just a “group of curious students” – notable alumni include Ken Clarke, Michael Howard and Vince Cable, and the Cambridge Union have hosted several other guests from Ronald Reagan to Gaddafi, still described on their website in glowing terms.

The Cambridge Union is deemed to be better than Question Time – er, why? Because Question Time is targeted at a mass audience? I think it’s somewhat more than that. The entire piece is based on a mistrust of the working class who should not be trusted with hearing fascist ideas whereas the Cambridge Union are, despite the fact that the backgrounds many of them will have grown up in, the sense of entitlement, of belonging to an elite, cleverer, more powerful, perhaps superior to the rest of the population, and the resulting lack of contact with working class people and ethnic minorities could well contribute to a sympathy with the politics of the extreme right. Such an event would hardly be without precedence.

The beginning of the article opens with the claim that “the critics say that giving the MEP – who was re-elected for the second time in 2009 – a platform to speak at the Cambridge Union gives her ideas legitimacy and free publicity. Aaron Kiely, NUS Black Students’ Officer, has even demanded “the invitation to fascist Marine Le Pen [be] withdrawn immediately.”” Oh the audacity of him to demand that the representative of a party with a history of far-right views in a country which has hardly been noted for its fantastic record on racial relations is pulled out of such a debate.

The article goes on to say that Marine Le Pen doesn’t need free publicity, that she appeared supporting David Cameron’s stance on Europe a few days ago, and is now part of the mainstream. Later on it goes on to say that the Cambridge Union address will be a chance to show her how wrong she – and the FN’s British counterparts – are when they attempt to make far-right views part of mainstream society. It is confused, incoherent nonsense and all of it is wrong.

The article itself says that she is mainstream. She even supports David Cameron’s stance on Europe – well, so that’s OK then! Although we have a far-right government in power which has introduced workfare schemes and other draconian changes to the benefit system and is driving down working and living conditions, and although successive labour and tory governments have tried to head off far-right opposition by adopting, in name at least, much of their rhetoric and demands such as “british jobs for british workers”, it is not so far fetched that many of the students at Cambridge will not only be supporters of the Tory party but may be sympathetic to views that are further right than the official line of that party. If their views really are so similar then why would the idea of Le Pen convincing some of the people hearing her talk be so far fetched?

The article talks dismissively of a “prolonged debate about whether we should deny the far right a platform”. In the case of the Cambridge Union this is rather like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. Suffice to say the principle of stopping fascists from speaking, breaking up their meetings, etc, in periods where the extreme right have been on the rise, is not simply a matter of interfering with “free speech” and spoiling these people’s fun. In the past it has been a matter of survival.

We have to look at the “very specific context” here, we are told, because rather than being on Question Time where all those chavvy proles are in the audience or watching on television, Le Pen will be speaking to a small audience predominantly made up of students. This makes a fundamental difference apparently – students at one of the country’s elite universities are inoculated against far-right views, even though they are “mainstream” and close to David Cameron’s. I think it may well make a difference but not in the way the author of this article thinks.

One of the arguments for allowing her to speak is because students who may be studying the rise of the far right will have an opportunity to see her squirm, “Paxman-like”. If they are Cambridge students they will surely have access to other material about the far right, and in any case she will have been on her best behaviour. She is speaking to people, many of whom will in all likelihood become a future political elite and she needs to persuade them that she is not an extremist, that she is “moderate”. That she is somebody they can do business with. Secondly a massive assumption is being made here, that watching Question Time (with Newsnight hardly the most proletarian show on earth, vanishingly few people watch it and those who do are probably already somewhat familiar with what fascism is) or another television programme where a fascist politician is interviewed cannot offer a similar insight. The unwashed masses who watch Question Time (!) are not to be trusted, Cambridge University denizens are.

After all, it’s an academic environment! Well, that’s me told!

“Those in the auditorium will at the very least have a brief background of Le Pen and will know to be sceptical of the dangerous words being uttered.”

The dangerous words like supporting the European policies of the British Tory Party, of which many of them will be enthusiastic supporters of? Didn’t think so! Why is it assumed that going to an elite university means you are clever, that you are able to distinguish in the rarefied atmosphere of a debating society that Le Pen’s words are “dangerous” yet many of the people watching television programmes, who have to face issues such as racism, discrimination, and so on and are at the sharp end of it, are somehow too stupid with their “vague notions of what a politician might stand for” to be trusted to hear the words of the extreme right – who are not so extreme now after all! She will downplay all of the FN’s troublesome racist past and pass for reasonable. But it’s all right people – “those in the audience will be well aware of this”. That’s OK then.

The whole article is symptomatic of the elitist bollocks that passes for journalism in the realms of the Independent and the Guardian. Rather than being dumb proles with their “vague notions of what a politician might stand for” (as if there are no students, especially not in Oxford or Cambridge, without a clue about politics) the Cambridge students “will force an answer on subjects that she has tried to avoid”. Not just might. Will. They will force an answer! Rather than allowing politicians to dodge questions as usual or to stop her political opponents from speaking because of arcane “points of order”, no! They will! They will force an answer!

There’s an assumption that because she’s not looking for votes this is somehow harmless. Are votes the only form of political influence – are they even the main form of political influence that matters these days?

The article gives the conclusion that “it will be up to the audience to show her just how wrong she is, and why nationalist parties such as her British counterpart the BNP do not have a place in British society.” Will it really be up to them – and will they even want to, or will they, like Nick Griffin and many other bourgeois and upper class fash here and in France, end up playing a key role in the development of such parties? Such massive assumptions and such fawning over the elite vanguard saving us all from the far right.

The world really is their playground. No responsibilities and certainly no consequences.

Palestinian solidarity movement – part 2.

22 Dec

In my last post I went into a bit of detail about what I dislike about the Palestinian solidarity movement and also Jewish groups around it. During a conversation on twitter (yeah i know!) somebody made the point that expecting zionism to be overthrown by a slight alteration to Jewish theology is absurd, moreover, while pressure on Israel from diaspora Jewish communities could have an impact in changing it’s behaviour ultimately it is completely naive to expect that Jewish self hate and self flaggelation about how bad they are for not doing xyz will have any impact on Israeli policy and do anything other than alienate people from their cause, people who quite rightly do not see why they should “hold themselves accountable” for the actions of Israel, which the individual citizen has very little control over. There is also no reason why people who have no influence over Israel’s actions should “hold themselves accountable” especially since, as the same organisations repeatedly point out, zionism and Israeli policy are not the same as Judaism.And by the same token condemn those who do not “hold themselves accountable”.

Since a lot of the rhetoric about this (Jewish activists holding themselves accountable for the occupation of Palestine and that sort of shit) is coming from Jewish organisations I would not say that anti-semitism is involved. Rather I would say that its a particular kind of identity politics and quite a bizarre one. I would also say that it is quite damaging, it should be enough to explain the basics of israeli policies and its injustices against palestinians, the history of violence in Israel, etc, rather than laying it out in terms of “we’re guilty everyone look how guilty we are”. It is a gut reaction when thinking about israel for many jewish people, to feel ashamed etc, but you cannot base your entire worldview on that reaction.

too many people do not do that.

The IWCA and the SP have recognised the fact that it is a bad idea to say, dismiss everyone as a racist who opposes mass immigration and that it is both wrong, and counterproductive, to equate the fact that somebody has voted BNP with them being a paid-up nazi due to the dismal alternatives on offer and the failure of large parts of the left to engage properly with working class people and that it is a bad idea to parachute people into areas they dont know anything about and deliver leaflets about how bad the BNP are come election time without tackling any of the reasons why people would want to vote for them, and while these views are still bitterly opposed by some on the left, it has become a much more mainstream view than it was a few years ago. Trying to send people on guilt trips does not work and it certainly will not get them to take you seriously especially when it comes from people who have no little or no involvement with you personally or politically, who dont know about your life, your concerns, etc

A similar approach is needed here I think and the answer is not in my opinion to come across as some sort of finger wagging liberal. A lot of people who are unsettled by campaigns such as BDS and what they see as a disproportionate criticism of Israel in the media, are actually very critical of Israel themselves. The reason that they dont get behind these campaigns isn’t usually because they’re massive zionists it is because they are (quite rightly in my opinion) anxious about what would happen if Israel did not exist, alot of them have friends or family in Israel, etc, or simply that based on some of the placards and messages on palestine demos they are quite rightly worried about it especially when, like the majority of the left’s approach, to many of the people the IWCA members knew or ended up campaigning alongside, little or no attempt is made to engage with the jewish community except for a few groups like for example Neturei Karta who believe in an extreme fundamentalist version of Judaism which says zionism was a heresy (it was) but it says among other things that the holocaust was a punishment from god for the Jews not being religious enough. Hardly the most reassuring group of people if you’re worried about anti-semitism.

In terms of the question of israel’s right to exist, i would say (and this may be controversial) that it was 75 years ago and the majority of people there were born there and have known no other home. In my opinion the creation of Israel should never have happened. But it has, and it is now 75 years later, and you cannot say that the entire group of people in that country should just leave, as otherwise you are making a whole other refugee problem to replace the first one. Some of the rhetoric about this is completely unhelpful, and again I would not say that anti-semitism was involved all of even much of the time, but it shows that people have not thought about what they are saying. Actually sometimes it is involved, and even when people are not personally anti-semitic they are often unwilling to say anything. There is an idea that because criticisms of Israel are not always anti-semitic it means that no criticisms of it EVER are.

Now I want to get to the next part of my criticism. Like all single issue movements there is not a class analysis involved. Recently I saw a headline about how the BDS movement has managed to get the ANC to endorse BDS as part of its official policy. The ANC today is not the organisation that it was, which helped to overthrow apartheid in South Africa. Today the ANC is a deeply undemocratic organisation which has ruled South Africa since the fall of apartheid which was in 1994. Recently the government shot several miners who were on strike and used apartheid-era laws to try to try the remaining survivors for murder. Several of its leading figures have made inflammatory remarks against gays and lesbians in what is already a deeply homophobic environment. I do not think that that kind of endorsement is something to be celebrated and like many single issue campaigns it makes the assumption that the fact that governments or important people make those kind of statements it adds a legitimacy to the campaign which it does not.

As for the BDS campaign itself I do not agree with it and will say why. This is not to say that I think nothing should be done about Israels activities. I am not a zionist. Ido not and will never support Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians and I will happily do what I can to oppose them. I just don’t think that the things I described are things that I want to be part of.

The whole idea that zionism is wholly a “spiritual” problem or a problem to do with guilt (i was told once on a demo that the reason why Israel was supported by western countries is because of guilt over the holocaust) is part of it. The real reason why this and many other wars continue is because of the fact that people make money out of war and they also use war as a distraction from economic problems, as a way of “unifying” the nation etc. Israel’s leaders certainly do this and they are not the only ones. Reducing it to a moral problem or a problem thats uniquely jewish aint gonna solve it, all it will do is annoy people. Cosying up to bourgeois leaders even if they share your political views on a single issue will not stop the conflict it will not help the working class in either country and only trying to work alongside people in israel and palestine, trade unionists etc will do that

the israeli/palestinian conflict DOES receive a disproportionate amount of attention from many activists on the left. there are many reasons for this. anti-semitism might be part of it, but it is not the only reason. I would say perhaps one of the most important reasons is because of the historic importance of the region in Christian culture and the fact that some of the places (Bethlehem etc) are so familiar to us all, and also the fact that Israel has been an ally of the US for so long. Most people in the western world have hardly heard of what has been taking place in Western Sahara since the 70s which in many ways is almost identical, there are settlements, a huge fuck off wall, massive control of water and other resources etc. As I said there are reasons for the lack of coverage of these places. I dont think that the way to talk to somebody who should bring this up is to seem to confirm their fears.

I just do not believe that socialists and marxists should be campaigning for the leaders of the ruling class to impose sanctions on Israel any more than they should campaign for sanctions to be imposed on any other state, when sanctions only end up harming the working class and those who they are supposed to be aimed at carry on doing exactly the same thing, and leading even more of a life of luxury. In the case of North Korea for example sanctions have not harmed the government they have allowed the north korean government to use food and allocation of resources as a weapon to control the population, and as you can see the Kim dynasty are hardly suffering from a lack of food. In addition Israel’s political discourse is completely paranoid and apocalyptic with the government and it’s propagandists portraying every war as a battle for its survival. Austerity measures have already been imposed on the w/c population (with the impact falling on already marginalised groups like israeli arabs etc) for a long time. Much is made of the fact that sanctions helped to defeat the apartheid gov’t in south africa, but in fact it had more to do with the armed wing of the struggle within South Africa and the actions of workers which made the regime untenable, and where boycotts did help they were targetted, for example, trade unionists not loading shipments of weapons destined for that country.

(the south africa comparison is also, in my opinion, very flawed, if i was to compare it to anywhere it would probably be Serbia in the late 80s and 1990s, but that is another post).

It does not trouble the ruling class at least in the EU to impose these types of measures there is a section of them which already views Israel as something of a liability.

In any case the people at the UN security council and the leaders of governments who would be responsible for implementing the boycott, divestment and sanctions policy are not exactly blameless, having supplied many regimes including israel’s with weapons and the technological expertise to make them over the years (and have also benefited from israeli, among other, military expertise). in the case of divestment it gives the impression that there is an “ethical” way for capitalism to invest its money (by not investing in a particular company) whereas we all know that companies are often delighted to to give the appearance of being ethical, such as the “costa foundation” and initiatives like that, which end up driving further privatisation initiatives within those countries. Starting schools etc seems like a really good idea until you consider that what is happening is actually deepening the dependence of those communities on the company which will probably control what they are taught, as well as degrading the quality of state education. The british state has committed atrocities that make Israels look like a picnic in the park but it is (and not just with Israel) to that state that liberal single issue campaigners turn rather than trying to build working class solidarity which really could end this conflict and many others

Even in the case of sanctions on Burma in the case of tourism etc, some Burmese socialists made the point that it was better for Burmese people to encounter foreigners for work, tourism etc rather than be completely isolated from the world and dependent on what the government told them. And of course many companies found ways around the boycotts anyway, such as TOTAL.

I am sure that there are some things I’ve missed out but these are the basic points, other criticisms I know have been covered elsewhere but I’ll be happy to go into them in the comments