Monday, March 28, 2011
The 'violence' on Saturday is now being used to justify a new crackdown on protesters - and, judging from today's Evening Standard, the UK Uncut is a major target.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Before we go any further, a digression. Can I please make an urgent appeal on behalf of sense and dignity for people to stop repeating the idiotic journalistic cliche that a minority of 'hardliners' (or worse, 'violent extremists') spoiled things for everyone else. So much work, you hear them say, so much time spent building up a great day, and these wreckers - yes, wreckers! - have to come and ruin it. Certainly, if all that matters is having a fun day out, giving a good impression in front of the media, the police and the politicians, and 'raising awareness', then I can see the logic. But, quite apart from the fact that people don't necessarily freak out and change their perspective on public services just because a few windows have been broken and paintballs thrown, that is not all that matters. A big march like this a wonderful, confidence-giving, life-breathing event. It helps give definition to the forces, from the left and the labour movement, who are prepared to resist the austerity project. It gives those involved a sense of their potential power. And hopefully it will lead to strike action to defend jobs and services, as Mark Serwotka, Len McCluskey and Billy Hayes promised from the platform.
Yet, what is strike action but a highly orchestrated and strategically situated form of disruption? And is that not what those who occupied Fortnum & Mason's, the most pretentious shop in London with the possible exception of Harrods, and paintballed the usual UK Uncut targets, did today? Isn't the whole intention to normal commerce and governance impossible, to make life difficult until they stop their attacks on us? Surely, the only possible basis for criticising this from an anti-cuts point of view is tactical? If it harms the movement, then there's a case for having this out within the movement. If, on the other hand, it does not harm the movement, then the real wreckers are those dispensing pithy denunciations according to script. Let's also drop the idea that this was done by nutters in balaclavas and face masks. The people involved were a mixture of activists from a variety of political backgrounds, engaging in a serious form of disruptive protest. There were trade unionists outside Fortnum & Mason's cheering them on, and I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few inside as well. Effective protest will always depend on a minority who are willing to risk arrest, or state violence, in order to throw a spanner in the works of unjust policies. Ed Miliband, speaking today, made his usual bland plea for 'peaceful' (meaning legal, parliamentarist) protest, while also situating this movement in the history of suffragism, civil rights and anti-apartheid struggles. Such revisionism does us no favours. All of those struggles were won by people who broke the law, and who devised strategies for breaking the law.
So, that said, those who have tried to argue for an anti-cuts strategy that excludes Labour have a little bit less credibility today. It was actually vital, not only that this was organised by the TUC, but that the Labour Party mobilised for it, and that their leader felt compelled to make an appearance. The labour bureaucracy can turn people out when it wants to, and today it turned out half a million by the reckoning of the police, the organisers and The Guardian newspaper - possibly it was bigger, but there's no need to haggle. Not only was the demonstration huge, but the crowds present represented an extraordinary depth and breadth of people from every segment of the working class - it was a very large, but concentrated manifestation of the labour movement as it exists in this country.
It has become a cliche, but it remains important to say, that among the women's groups, Labourites, socialists, Greens, anarchists and unaligned leftists, were people who don't usually do demonstrations. I saw council workers, nurses, librarians, bin men, firefighters, railway workers, civil servants, and teachers. Each of the sixteen trade union contingents were big, some enormous. Whole workplaces came out for this. Communities mobilised. Over 800 coaches were booked, as were more than a dozen trains. Thousands and thousands came in by scheduled trains and buses, and many of them could be seen wandering around in clusters through the centre's unexpectedly pedestrianised streets well into the evening - wherever I went, and I did take a long walk, a group of protesters with union flags and placards would suddenly appear, and just as suddenly scarper. Beyond the congregation zones, both official and ad hoc, the cafes, restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, and trusted purveyors of the "junior spesh" could be seen packed with FBU uniforms, Unison flags, NASUWT t-shirts, and so on.
Of note is who the crowds in Hyde Park were attuned to, and who they were not. Ed Miliband's speech was, as I've mentioned, weak tea. He was cheered politely, heckled a little, booed by some. His elevating rhetoric almost always falls flat, and the detail of his policy don't inspire - a turnout like this, an historic day like this, and he still has to keep to the tired old policy nostrums. Responsible cuts, yes, but the Tories are going too far. Cut the deficit, but tax bankers' bonuses. And so on. However, unlike Blair, Ed Miliband is not hated by, and doesn't hate, the labour movement. He is not embarrassed to be seen at protests, or be around working class people. And he will have a lot to think about after today - because every sign is that neither the trade union bureaucracy nor the Labour leadership expected anything like this turnout. Christ, until yesterday, the TUC were still talking about expecting 100,000 people. On the other hand, the more militant speakers such as Mark Serwotka were received with glee, particularly when the latter said: "imagine what a difference it would make if we didn't only march together but took strike action together." You may say he's a dreamer. But today we have seen that he's not the only one.
A word about Trafalgar Square. As planned, hundreds - maybe at one stage thousands, I've heard different reports - of people gathered in the square for a bit of Rabelaisian carnival. Every eyewitness report has described it as a party, a rave, pungent with the smell of home grown, but with little prospect of it turning into a big deal. At least it was until riot police attacked it, batoning people and roughing them up. They turned a peaceful gathering into a frightened and bloodied huddle, kettled in a small space. They did not break windows, occupy buildings or paintball facades: they cracked skulls. Having waited all day, and maintained a relatively light touch as long as the official TUC march was going on (this is important - they probably don't particularly want to sour relations with the trade union bureaucracy), they found their opportunity at nightfall by attacking a very small and defenceless crowd of ravers. As they have done on previous occasions, they started a fight and then took the ensuing melee as an excuse to kettle their victims. Why would they do this?
You may as well ask why they would assault Jody Macintyre, put Alfie Meadows in hospital, punch a fifteen year old boy, and rough up teenage girls. It is because it is their job to contain threats to 'public order', and they see violence and intimidation against selected groups of identified 'troublemakers' and 'ringleaders' as the most effective means of doing so. History would suggest that they are not wrong. That's one reason why the people who suffer from police violence and harrassment need to our solidarity. It's also why it is vitally important not to fall into the knee-jerk, at best disproportionate, denunciations of 'violence' against property. Because in doing so, you corroborate the police's narrative and alibi. You displace the proper focus on far more serious and potentially lethal violence inflicted by people who are armed and trained in its application - I don't know how bad things got tonight, but they are going to kill someone one day if things continue in this direction. And you thus assist the weakening and intimidation of your movement. Earlier today, I was listening to a policeman complain to a member of the public that people confuse the police with the government, and forget they're public sector workers. I thought, but did not say, that it's easy to forget when the police spend all their time attacking the government's opponents with big sticks. On which note, this is doing the rounds on Twitter: "Unconfirmed reports that forces loyal to Cameron are attacking rebels in Trafalgar square."
View March for the Alternative Route in a larger map
I'll try and post updates throughout the day but, really, Twitter is where to find me.
Friday, March 25, 2011
By RICHARD SEYMOUR
Published October 2008
“Imperialist intervention, strenghtening the former regime elements and the most retrograde components of the revolt, was the worst thing to have happened to the Libyan revolution.”
As British and American planes begin bombing another Arab country, now is the time to revisit THE LIBERAL DEFENCE OF MURDER, Richard Seymour’s searing critique of the doctrine of ‘liberal interventionism’.
Richard Seymour blogs at Lenin’s Tomb - http://leninology.blogspot.com/.. You can read his blog posts on Libya there. See also this recent piece on the GUARDIAN website:
In THE LIBERAL DEFENCE OF MURDER, Richard Seymour takes apart the mechanisms employed by liberals to justify the violence of this past decade, and shows us how appeals to the public to support war for ‘humanitarian’ reasons can often result in disastrous consequences.
Seymour examines the arguments of a range of left and liberal commentators, from Christopher Hitchens and Nick Cohen to Susan Sontag and Thomas Friedman, and provides a powerful indictment of their support for the Iraq war. He charts how such commentators represented American military power as an ally of progress rather than its enemy and were instrumental in mobilising public support for a misguided and illegal war.
Seymour also tackles the arguments of the ‘pro-war Left’ and demonstrates how they readily equated radical Islam with totalitarianism and refused to acknowledge the broader, and more complex, geopolitical climate that surrounded the attacks of 9/11.
Tracing colonial exploits in the nineteenth century and war mongering in the twentieth and twenty-first, Seymour shows how liberalism, a doctrine that appears to emphasise human equality and universalism, has often been implicated in violent systems of domination and exploitation.
Seymourexcavates the origins of liberal apologies for empire and tracks their development over three centuries, on both sides of the Atlantic, thereby providing an essential account of the many wars that have come to define the contemporary political landscape.
Praise for THE LIBERAL DEFENCE OF MURDER:
“A great deal of damning material on the apologists of recent illegalities” Philippe Sands, GUARDIAN
“A powerful counter-blast against the monstrous regiment of ‘useful idiots’” THE TIMES
“A powerful critique of ‘humanitarian intervention’ and of those liberal intellectuals who support it.” INDEPENDENT
“An excellent antidote to the propagandists of the crisis of our times.” INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY
“Essential reading” Owen Hatherley, NEW STATESMAN
“Among those who share responsibility for the carnage and chaos in the Gulf are the useful idiots who gave the war intellectual cover and attempted to lend it a liberal imprimatur. The more belligerent they sounded the more bankrupt they became; the more strident their voice the more craven their position. As the war they have supported degrades into a murderous mess, Richard Seymour expertly traces their descent from humanitarian intervention to blatant islamophobia.” – Gary Younge
“Indispensable ... Seymour brilliantly uncovers the pre-history and modern reality of the so-called 'pro-war Left.'” – China Mieville
Richard Seymour runs the popular Lenin’s Tomb blog, which comments on the War on Terror, Islamophobia and neoliberalism and has developed a cult following since it was founded in 2001. He also writes for other publications, including THE GUARDIAN. He is the author of several books, including THE LIBERAL DEFENCE OF MURDER and THE MEANING OF DAVID CAMERON.
Rebel forces are detaining anyone suspected of serving or assisting the Kadafi regime, locking them up in the same prisons once used to detain and torture Kadafi's opponents.
For a month, gangs of young gunmen have roamed the city, rousting Libyan blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa from their homes and holding them for interrogation as suspected mercenaries or government spies.
Over the last several days, the opposition has begun rounding up men accused of fighting as mercenaries for Kadafi's militias as government forces pushed toward Benghazi. It has launched nightly manhunts for about 8,000 people named as government operatives in secret police files seized after internal security operatives fled in the face of the rebellion that ended Kadafi's control of eastern Libya last month.
"We know who they are," said Abdelhafed Ghoga, the chief opposition spokesman. He called them "people with bloodstained hands" and "enemies of the revolution."
Any suspected Kadafi loyalist or spy who does not surrender, Ghoga warned, will face revolutionary "justice."
And look at the photo galleries. The prisoners are almost all black. It's true that Qadhafi bears considerable responsibility for promoting racism in Libya, that his regime encouraged chauvinist and supremacist movements in northern and central Africa, and that he has played a classic divide and rule game by pitting Libyan workers against sub-Saharan immigrant workers over the last decade or so - resulting in several episodes of mob assaults on immigrant workers. It's also true that while the basis for this revolt was and is the manifest injustices and oppressive cruelties of the Qadhafi regime, racism has haunted the revolt from the start, with the early hysterical rumours about "African mercenaries" (hint: Libyans are Africans - they meant black people). Now this racism has fused with the revolution in the most dangerous, ominous way. Yes, Qadhafi uses mercenaries to kill his opponents - it's not unknown for him to do this. He may be using some of his networks built up over years of intervention in sub-saharan Africa. But it just so happens that racism operates on real antagonisms. For example, I don't know or think it inherently important how many of these are black ('African'), and how many are brown ('Libyan', or 'Arab'), and how many are white (Russian and Ukrainian, one reads) - it only becomes important when you apply a racist ideological frame to the subject. And that frame, having corroborated the harrassment and beating of African and immigrant workers by some rebel forces, and threatening serious "mob violence" against said workers, is now justifying purges against black and immigrant workers, when the revolution had the capacity to end that oppression.
What racism does in this context is externalise antagonisms that are inherent to Libyan society - it makes it seem as if Qadhafi rules solely through and on behalf of his extended family and 'tribe' and with the use of 'foreigners', as if the problem with Qadhafi is that he's some sort of alien coloniser. This makes a certain amount of sense for the former regime elements who want to conserve the basic class structure and particularly the position of the national bourgeoisie that was formed under Qadhafi's regime - all of Libya is united, they say, we have no divisions, only a usurping entity. And it is those elements who consistently lobbied for an alliance with imperialism, from fairly early on, even when signs were appearing saying "no" to foreign intervention. They had to win that argument, or at least win significant sectors of the revolution to it. It's important to stress that the transitional council has never really commanded authority throughout the insurgency as a whole, and is still trying to overcome the 'disarray' of a very de-centralised, disarticulated movement. It incorporates elites and professionals, military officials, academics, politicians, capitalists and so on, but it does not incorporate the popular forces actually driving the revolution. Ironically, Ghoga, who is defending this racist purge, is himself a human rights laywer. So, in this sense, the alliance with imperialism is probably intended to overcome their lack of authority over the movement, and their inability to act as a hegemonic, cohering element in the revolt.
This will be for a variety of reasons. The revolt in Libya happened very suddenly, and was almost as suddenly pitched into a civil war situation by the sheer viciousness of Qadhafi's response, which went farther, quicker than Mubarak's crackdown. Unlike in Egypt, where there had been a decade of building and organising among labour groups, Islamists, liberals and the Left, this revolt had to come together in a remarkably short space of time. But another crucial factor is that those assuming leadership could not articulate a set of sufficiently popular demands to win over the majority of the revolutionary forces let alone the society at large, due probably to their situation in Libya's class structure. So, lacking the ability to concentrate the wider social forces in Libya within its ranks, and without the defection of further elite forces, particularly military elites, the council began arguing for intervention from day one - an argument which they would have known meant cutting a deal with imperialist states, who would otherwise tell them where to go and certainly not vote through a UN resolution on their behalf. It would seem that without a genuinely representative national organisation pushing a clear popular agenda, and under the weight of Qadhafi's assault, and with a fairly conservative rump of elites bolstered by imperialism, the emancipatory content of the revolt has been diminished, leaving the more rotten elements to come to the fore. That would be my explanation.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
The air strikes on Libya are, under the terms of the UN resolution, supposedly intended to protect civilians and result in a negotiated settlement between Colonel Gaddafi and the rebels. This has resulted in some controversy, as air strikes devastated Gaddafi's compound – Bab El-Azizia, the presidential palace abutting military barracks in Tripoli. The defence secretary Liam Fox has insisted, against British army opposition, that Gaddafi would be a legitimate target of air strikes. Assassination, whatever else may be said about it, would leave Gaddafi unavailable for negotiations. But a "compound" – what could be wrong with bombing such a facility?
In situations like this, the usual affective repertoire is unleashed. Gaddafi is a "Mad Dog", the Sun, the Mirror, the Star and the Daily Record inform us – an epithet first applied by Ronald Reagan when the latter bombed Gaddafi's compound, among other targets, in 1986. He is "barking mad", they say. Jon Henley in the Guardian went further – not just "barking mad", but "foaming at the mouth". "Cowardly Colonel Gaddafi," the Sun almost alliterated.
I grant that Gaddafi is a dictator whose determination to hold on initially seemed to defy reality. Yet the reality is that he has shown every sign of being a canny operator, from his rapprochement with the EU and US to his outmanoeuvring of the rebels. Besides, such language has connotations which overflow its formal significations, and does important ideological work in the context of war. It might help to look at an example of this at work...
President Barack Obama says he's intervening to prevent atrocities in Libya. But details of behind-the-scenes debates at the White House show he's going to war in part to rehabilitate an idea.
My main argument was that if Gaddafi committed large-scale human rights violations against his own people he would provide an opening to those in the administration who wanted to rehabilitate the doctrine of humanitarian intervention eight years after the Iraq war discredited U.S.-led military actions abroad. As it turns out, Gaddafi hasn't done enough to justify humanitarian intervention - despite their rhetoric to the contrary, the administration and human rights organizations admit that reports of potential war crimes remain unconfirmed. Instead, interviews with senior administration officials show that the rehabilitators convinced Obama to go to war not just to prevent atrocities Gaddafi might (or might not) commit but also to bolster America's ability to intervene elsewhere in the future.
Overcoming the 'Iraq syndrome', and reviving imperialist ideology. It's like, I say it here, it comes out there. As people keep saying on Twitter and Facebook, now would be a good time to review your copies of Liberal Defence.
Monday, March 21, 2011
If Cameron was looking for a Kosovo effect - which I would categorise as another kind of caesarist moment in that it consolidated the intelligentsia and political establishment behind Blair - he doesn't have that either. I remember the hysterical build-up to war over Kosovo, and there is nothing like the moral fervour and shrill liberal baiting that was prevalent then. They can wheel out the old satrap Paddy Ashdown to wheeze out some faded Gladstonian rhetoric, but it doesn't have the same ring to it. This isn't "overthrowing a tyrant", after all. The British military elites have made it clear that they're not up for that. Neither are other components of the fragile alliance against Qadhafi. This is about achieving a stalemate, with the likely result of a de facto partition of the country. That somehow isn't inspiring the bunting-laden festivities that are supposed to follow from British wars. It also points up a tension within the ruling ideology - humanitarian imperialism in this context sits uneasily alongside Islamophobia, especially when the latter is a far more predominant public sentiment. Those who could once be relied on to ventriloquise the intolerant martial bigotry of the popular press are no longer available for such ventures, especially if the supposed beneficiaries are, well, Muslims.
This loss of "imperial ardour", as Michael Ignatieff once called it, is devastating for those who seek khaki solutions to domestic woes. This Saturday will see a massive trade union-led demonstration against the austerity agenda in Britain. The TUC is calling it very conservatively, saying they expect 100,000 to attend. All signs are that it will be much bigger. The elements of Britain's shattered political make-up are still unsettled, still not reconfigured and re-polarised effectively; the opportunity is there either for a reactionary realignment based on Muslim and immigrant bashing, or for a leftist realignment based on the defence of welfare, public services, and trade unionism.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
The professed rationale for the intervention in Libya is of course a humanitarian one, as is to be expected given the way Western powers (if not all states) portray themselves. The work of writers such as Noam Chomsky, Mark Curtis, yourself and a host of others has, however, shown that Western foreign policy tends to have as its primary concern the power and privilege of domestic elites. What, then, is the real motive of those backing the intervention in Libya? What, fundamentally, do you think they are seeking to achieve?
I think there are various motives. One is to re-establish the credibility of the US and its allies by appearing to side with an endangered population and thus partially expunge the ‘Iraq syndrome’ as well as efface decades of arming and financing dictatorships to keep the local populations under thumb and permanently endangered. But a more fundamental motive can be inferred from the context: the region is experiencing a revolutionary tumult, and the revolution in Libya is no less genuine than those in Tunisia and Egypt (and the uprisings in Bahrain and Yemen). The thrust of this revolution is not just anti-dictatorship, it’s also anti-imperialist, against the IMF and alliances with Israel. So I would hypothesise that the US and its allies have been desperate to find a way to halt this revolutionary process somehow and, where they can’t do that, shape it in a direction more favourable to continued American hegemony in the region. The former regime elements in the leadership of the Libyan rebellion have been more open to an alliance with the US than other revolutionary movements partly because of the particular history and nature of the Qadhafi regime, whose legitimacy continued to rely somewhat on his past standing as a regional opponent of imperialism. This has given the US and EU a unique opportunity to stamp their authority in the process, even if they can’t control it...
Saturday, March 19, 2011
talk at ICA 19.03.11
(25 minutes in, if you want to watch).
What are we fighting for? I think we're fighting for self-government. I think all of our efforts so far have been a way of saying that we should be collectively in charge of our own lives. I think, whether we conceive it in this way or not, this means trying to move beyond the public; not so much new publics, but post-public. This is not just because notions of publicity are gendered and historically elitist - and by the way, Dan Hind's recent book 'The Return of the Public' is an excellent account of this - but because the public-private dichotomy is part of the means by which we are maintained as dependents. As public citizens we exercise a franchise, but in the private sphere we accept bondage: the discipline of the market compels us to accept it. For most of our waking hours, we cede executive control over our bodily and mental powers to someone else – in the vain hope of one day retiring with a decent pension. Whoops, that’s gone. You’ll just have to save more. But you’ll have to borrow more, because the economy needs you to spend. And we find that in all but the most mundane matters, when it comes to the activities and processes that constitute the major part of our lives, we have no autonomy. We do not govern ourselves.
Even our free time is not really ours. Much of it is spent commuting for a start - the average person's commute is equivalent to four weeks out of a working year. Four weeks - on that tube, that bus, that motorway lane. Think about what that's costing you psychically. Much of the rest is spent recuperating, essentially recovering our ability to labour so that we can go into work and do it all again the next day. And don't forget, of course, that even your free time isn't necessarily your own, because companies now want to organise your fun. Dress-down Friday - because Friday is funday; birthday parties, and office drinks, team-building outings, sporting days. Your fun, your enjoyment, your affection, often your time - on their orders. Awkward socialisation with middle and senior managers, stressful, moronic conversations, and long-winded explanations of what goes on in different departments that you didn't ask for, and you don't need. Then there's voluntary, unpaid overtime, worth £29bn a year to the employers - that's called flexibility, and what a good sport you are for doing that.
No more do we govern ourselves in our home lives which all too often become tiny kingdoms, patriarchies in which, among other things, children are acculturated to being ruled by others, and in which the first springs of what I would call 'capitalist guilt' are lodged in place - capitalist guilt is that gut-wrenching anxiety you feel when you're late for work, even though you probably won't get in too much trouble for it; it's the sickly shame that ruins your day when you throw a sickie, and immediately, absurdly start to think "should I go in anyway?" I'm just clarifying my terms.
So, we must be alert to the ways in which, when something beautiful starts to happen, people begin to declare their independence. They begin to run their own lives, to take their rightful part in the running of the whole of society. They exercise their due franchise fully, in every sphere of life. I will not exhaust you with utopian blueprints or detailed analysis of the Paris Commune, or the Russian Revolution, though these repay analysis. But look at the history. In almost every revolution, there are workers' committees, cordones, shurahs, soviets, popular councils, cooperatives, collectives, syndicates of some kind, some attempt to work out the protocols for self-government. Even in protest movements and rebellions short of outright revolution, people always confront the problem of how they organise themselves properly, democratically; sometimes that has to confront issues of oppression, sexual, gendered or racial oppression that can operate within movements; sometimes it just has to do with developing procedures that genuinely include everyone, avoiding majoritarian tyrannies (this is why in the students' occupations, we've seen experimentation with things like consensus decision-making); in striving toward self-goverment, toward the commune in other words, we always encounter unanticipated levels of complexity, but the basic problem remains one of self-government.
So, I want to look at the materials that are available to us to flesh out a 'new model commune', and it seems to me that the best starting point is to look at the tendencies immanent in recent struggles in the Middle East. Here, for example, are some of the features of the revolutionary movement that overthrew Mubarak, and even now is still fermenting in Egypt. First of all, they took over a nominally public space which the state wished to exclude them from access to, Tahrir Square. Having taken it over, and affirmed that they wouldn't simply go home at the end of the day - something we might want to think about - they saw off wave after wave of assault on the protests, from police and plain clothes thugs. They set up committees to keep watch for government men. They set up barricades, and routine ID checks for everyone attempting to enter the square. They set up a network of tents for people to sleep in - it's freezing overnight, so some of them jog round the square to get their temperature up. There are toilet arrangements - no small logistical matter when there are routinely hundreds of thousands of people occupying the capital's main intersection. They rig up street lamps to provide electricity. They set up garbage collection, medical stops - they occupy a well-known fast food outlet and turn it into somewhere that people shot at or beaten by police can get treated.
They set up a city within a city, and collectively coped with many more challenges than the average city would have to face in an average day. There was of course commerce, people hawking food and cigarettes, confident that the whole system of exchange wasn't being overthrown. Yet, far more of their actions were driven by solidarity, collective decision-making, and democratic delegation, than is ever usual for a city. Tahrir Square was the beginnings of a commune. Beyond that spectacular exercise in the capital, the labour movement that had been kicking since the 2006 strikes in Mahalla, was doing something that labour movement's usually don't do. It was starting to strike to demand a change in management. It was striking over the exercise of authority. This had happened in Tunisia, and usually it was because the CEO was some ruling party stooge. But it was the people who normally have no say in the running of the company - and Egypt's private sector economy is overwhelmingly informal, and insecure - seeking to exercise a sort of limited franchise. They did not seek to replace the management of the company with themselves, which would have been the ultimate statement of their confidence in their ability to rule themselves. But they were trying to have a say, and usually succeeded in that. And when the government withdrew the police from local communities and encouraged looting and thuggish behaviour, the people - instead of panicking, and deciding that we can't do without the police after all, please send the uniformed thugs back in Mr Mubarak - organised self-defence committees. Just as in Tahrir, they set up checkpoints, ID checks, and they made decisions about how their community would be run.
Now, this isn't socialism. Socialists were a current in the revolution, but not a big one. The major currents were Nasserists, Islamists, and liberals. And there are all sorts of political struggles that still have to continue - the horrible attacks on women in Tahrir Square on international womens' day shows that this fight has to occur within the revolution. And there's now the prospect that the army leadership will seek to consolidate a conservative ruling bloc with the assistance of the Muslim Brothers, who were an invaluable part of the revolutionary coalition but always the most right-wing element of it. While many Brothers will have been shaken up, radicalised and blasted with ecstasy by this revolution, their core base of small businessmen are probably anxious to get back to making money, and leave the commune behind. Still, the utopian moment of Tahrir Square and beyond showed us some of the lineaments of what a commune might look like. It demonstrated that with opportunity comes competence: that we can, if given the chance, quickly learn and apply the techniques of cooperation, solidarity and self-government.
Lately, our Party of Order - the Tories, the right-wing media, the police, the agents of authority and control - has been most vexed about the challenge posed by the mob, the student protesters. Cameron denounces them as 'feral', and the ideological frame that the media sought to apply, of selfish, solipsistic vandals disrespecting democracy, was ultimately supplied by one totemic incident, that of a fire extinguisher being lobbed from the top of Conservative Party headquarters. This 'mob', they said, clearly doesn't respect democracy. But democracy is not law and order. Democracy is the mob; the mob is democracy.
Democracy is supposed to mean popular sovereignty, not the unimpeded rule of a no-mandate government. It is supposed to mean that the will of the majority governs, not the interests of the rich. It is supposed to mean at minimum that people get the policies they vote for, not those they are overwhelmingly hostile to. In liberal democratic theory, the people are sovereign inasmuch as their aspirations and prerogatives are effectively mediated through a pluralist party-political state. They may not get all that they want all of the time, but the decision-making process will be guided by the public mood, which rival parties must compete to capture and express. Yet this system has only ever been effective to the limited extent that it has been when it has been supplemented by militant extra-parliamentary pressure, by the threat of disruption to stable governance and profit-accumulation. To the extent that the parliamentary system is ever really democratic, it is parasitic on a much more fundamental popular democracy. This reality, be it ever remembered, should exhort us to go further than we have, to turn our mobs into committees, shuras, soviets, communes. Let us, in future struggles, pose in practise the material possibility of our self-government.
It is, of course, a long-standing ruling class prejudice that we cannot govern ourselves. Trotsky once said, perhaps incautiously, that the Russian revolution was a gamble on the idea that ordinary working class people could rule themselves, and against the filthy aristocratic prejudice that they could not. His recent biographer, Robert Service, aligns with the Party of Order, insisting that Trotsky was foolish ever to have believed such a stupid thing. No surprises there. Trotsky, and the movements he inspired, hated the Stalinist regime for its savage despotism, the complete lack of genuine autonomy enjoyed by the mass of people. What the Party of Order hate about communism, however, is not what went catastrophically wrong with it, but what is right about it, what is admirable, just, plausible and emulable about it. It is the same thing that they hate about us - and we should welcome their hate, and their natural fear. It shows that their right to govern is no longer assured.
Radical Publishing: What Are We Struggling For?19 March 2011
£12 / £11 concessions / £10 ICA Members / £5 students and ICA Members under 26 (call box office to book)
Last year’s student protests saw a new generation take to the streets. Much was made of the vandalism and disruption that occurred, with some arguing it eclipsed the protests’ intentions—but were the students’ demands ever clearly articulated? Did the protestors know what they were struggling for? From pamphlets and theses to journals and zines—the relationship between protest and print goes back a long way and has helped galvanise and articulate dissent, but do radical publishers and radical thinkers still matter today and how do they relate to contemporary protest?
For one day, the ICA will host some of the UK’s most exciting radical thinkers, published by British radical publishers such as Verso, Zed Books, Zero Books, Pluto Press and AK Press, to grapple with these issues and more.
The event runs from 12–5pm.
12–1pm, Tactics of Struggle: with John Holloway and David Graeber
1–2pm, New Public: with Peter Hallward, Hilary Wainwright and Richard Seymour
3–4pm, New Psychic Landscapes: with Franco Berardi ‘Bifo’, Mark Fisher and Saul Newman
4–5pm, New Economics: with Andrew Simms, Milford Bateman and Ann Pettifor
Friday, March 18, 2011
Beware of getting what you wish for. The ceasefire Colonel Gaddafi has just announced is not a vindication of the decision of the UN security council to get tough, nor a result of the wide backing the vote got from the Arab League and, unusually, three members of the African Union.
It is the calculation of a man who, contrary to popular opinion is not mad, but behaving quite rationally. It is the move of a man who is trying to counter the threat of a foreign military intervention by splitting the coalition before it has really had time to gather in Paris on Saturday.
A ceasefire, if it holds, would partition the country, and allow Gaddafi to keep control of the most important part and the major oil ports which his forces have just won back. In one judo throw, Gaddafi has reversed the most powerful argument behind the resolution, preventing a massacre in Benghazi. The Libyan rebels in Benghazi certainly wanted a respite from Gaddafi's aircraft and heavy artillery, but hardly at the cost of abandoning their goal of liberating the whole of their country from a tyrant.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
10 in favour, zero against, five abstentions. So the vote went exactly as predicted. "The resolution 1973/2011 is adopted.," says the chairman.
This could get very ugly. The resolution authorises a whole series of military measures short of ground invasion, including air strikes. The worst case scenarios? Not that air strikes will kill civilians - that is absolutely guaranteed, and thus constitutes an aspect of even the best case. Not that the war will escalate - that is not a dead cert, but a strong probability. However, it's also unlikely to involve a ground invasion, which I need hardly say would be catastrophic. The worst case scenario seems to be that this will fuel the centrifugal forces tending toward partition between a 'Western' allied statelet in the east, and a rump dictatorship in the west. Qadhafi has spent years deliberately 'underdeveloping' the east to punish these regions and tribal federations for their tendency toward rebelliousness, leaving towns and cities that should be as rich as those in the Gulf states desperately poor, surrounded by shantytowns and slums - and so he has laid the material basis for such divisions. Imperialism creates divisions where none existed before (look at Iraq). This is how it always operates. So it's implausible that where there already are such divisions, and where such divisions have a direct bearing on the conflict underway, that imperialist intervention would not exacerbate them. This may be the worst thing that could possibly have happened to the Libyan revolution. That's a worst-case scenario.
The best-case scenario is that people are killed to little avail, and the former regime elements in the transitional leadership have just diverted energies and initiative down a blind alley. I suppose you might object that the best-case scenario is that the air strikes exclusively kill the bad guys, turning the initiative in favour of the revolutionaries, allowing them to sieze power, build a liberal democratic state, and the cavalry heads home. And the band played, 'Believe it if you like'. Look, I'd like to believe it. I'd also like to believe that Obama is a socialist, Hillary Clinton a feminist, and David Cameron a salesman for unsecured personal loans. But the occasions in which imperialism has directly assisted a revolutionary process are rather infrequent, wouldn't you say? In fact, I suspect you'd be struggling if I asked you to name one.
I'm also afraid that all the talk about the inaction, delaying, dilly-dallying and procrastination of the 'international community', not to mention the demonology about Russia and China obstructing the good guys once again, has played straight into a very familiar war narrative. Just when you've uttered your last "but why won't they DO something?", just when you're about to give up and lapse into foul depression, the good guys come to the rescue. It's like 1941 all over again. There was never any doubt, as far as I'm concerned, that the US would support a no-fly zone if it could be suitably internationalized and involve support from the miserable dictatorships of the Arab League. And no one will be tasteless enough to point out that those very same states are currently butchering their populations with the arms and financial assistance of the imperial powers commanding this coalition of the willing. Because that would just be sour grapes.
The public sector jobs massacre has begun with gusto, taking place twice as fast as was predicted. Rightwing mythology has it that the cuts are necessary because of Labour's reckless spending. The state has become bloated, choking the life out of the private sector. Cutting spending, privatising and currying favour with the City will spark off a new wave of dynamism from which all will profit. Negative growth in the last quarter? That's because of "the snow".
But the TUC's latest figures on the distribution of unemployment in the UK – which has now climbed to its highest level since 1994 – send a subtly different message. They show that joblessness in Labour constituencies is on average twice that in Tory constituencies. The extremes are telling. The Tory seat of Stratford-upon-Avon has only one jobseeker for every job. The core Labour constituency of Glasgow North West has 41.7 people chasing every job. The message, conveyed in the usual euphemisms about being "out of touch", is that the Tories are the party of the shires, warriors for their class who never have to see the misery they create. And the TUC is right. After all these years, and all these spin cycles, the Tories are still a party of wealth.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
"We turn, first, to the notion of respectability - at once, so different for different social classes, and yet so 'universal' a social value. It is an extremely complex social idea. It touches on the fundamental notion of self-respect: men who do not respect themselves cannot expect respect from others. But respectability also touches the more 'protestant' values of our culture; it is connected with thrift, self-discipline, living the decent life, and thus with observance of what is commonly held to be upright, decent conduct. It is strongly connected with ideas of self-help and self-reliance, and of 'conformity' to established social standards - standards set and embodied by 'significant others'.
"The 'others' are always those who rank and stand above us in the social hierarchy: people we 'look up to', and in turn respect. The idea of respectability means that we have taken care not to fall into the abyss, not to lose out in the competitive struggle for existence. In the middle classes, the idea of 'respectability' carries with it the powerful overtones of competitive success; its token is the ability to 'keep up appearances', to secure a standard of life which enables you to afford those things which befit - and embody - your social station in life. But in the working classes, it is connected with three, different ideas: with work, with poverty, and with crime in the broad sense. It is work, above all, which is the guarantee of respectability; for work is the means - the only means - to the respectable life. The idea of the 'respectable working classes' is irretrievably associated with regular, often skilled, employment. It is labour which has disciplined the working class into respectability. Loss of respectability is therefore associated with loss of occupation and with poverty. Poverty is the trap which marks the slide away from respectability back into the 'lower depths'. The distinction between the 'respectable' and the 'rough' working class, though in no sense an accurate sociological or historical one, remains an extremely important moral distinction. If poverty is one route downwards out of the respectable life, crime or moral misconduct is another, broader and more certain route. Respectability is the collective internalisation, by the lower orders, of an image of the 'ideal life' held out for them by those who stand higher in the scheme of things; it disciplines society from end to end, rank by rank. Respectability is therefore one of the key values which dovetails and inserts one social class into the social image of another class. It is part of what Gramsci called the 'cement' of society.
"Work is not only the guarantee of working-class respectability, it is also a powerful image in its own right. We know how much our social and indeed personal identities are caught up with our work, and how men (especially men, given the sexual division of labour) who are without work, feel not only materially abandoned but spiritually decentred. We know in fact that this is the product of an extremely long an arduous process of historical acculturation: all that is involved in the erection, alongside the birth fo capitalism, of the Protestant Ethic, and all that was involved in the insertion of the labouring industrial masses into the rigorous disciplines of factory labour. Work has gradually come to be regarded more as 'instrumental' than as 'sacred', as manual labour under capitalism is disciplined by the wage contract; leisure, or rather all that is associated with non-work and with the private sphere, has come to rank even higher than once it did in the hierarchy of social goods, as family and home have been progressively distanced from work. Yet, for men above all, the workaday world of work, and the formal and informal values associated with it, seem in many ways coterminous with the definition of 'reality' itself. And this, though endowed with extremely powerful ideological content reflects a material fact: without work, the material basis of our lives would vanish overnight. What matters here, with respect to crime, however, is not so much the centrality of work, and our feelings about it, as what we might call the calculus of work. The calculus of work implies the belief that, though work may have few intrinsic rewards and is unlikely to lead to wealth, prosperity and riches for the vast majority, it provides one of the stable negotiated bases for our economic existence: a 'fair day's wage for a fair day's work'. It also entails the belief that the valued things - leisure, pleasure, security, free activity, play - are a reward for the diligent application to long-term productive goals through work. The former come after, and as the result of, or recompense for, the latter.
"Of course, some professional crime could, technically, be seen as 'work' of a kind, and there are certainly testimonies by professional criminals which would support such an interpretation. But few people would see it that way. The sharpest distinction is made between the professional or organised life of crime, and the petty pilfering and 'borrowing' from one's place of work, which is regarded as a customary way of setting a funamentally exploitative economic relation to right, and is thus not understood as 'crime' in the ordinary sense at all. Crime, in the proper sense, when involving robbery or rackets for gain, is set off against work in the public mind, precisely because it is an attempt to acquire by speed, stealth, fraudulent or shorthand methods what the great majority of law-abiding citizens can only come by through arduous toil, routine, expenditure of time, and the postponement of pleasure. It is through this contrast that some of the most powerful moral feelings come to be transferred against deviants who trhive and prosper, but do not work. One of the most familiar ways in which the moral calculus of work is recruited into attitudes to social problems is in the way people talk about 'scroungers', 'layabouts', those who 'don't do a stroke' or 'live off the Welfare'. The characterisations are often applied indiscriminately, and without much evidence, to various 'out-groups': the poor, the unemployed, the irresponsible and feckless - but also youth, students and black people. These are seen as getting something without 'putting anything into it'. The image implies instant moral condemnation. At the same time it is important to remember that again, a real, objective material reality is distortedly expressed in these negative images of the 'scrounger' and the layabout. For the vast majority of working people, there is absolutely no other route to a minimal degree of security and material comfort apart from the life-long commitment to 'hard graft'. It must be remembered that this feeling that 'everyone should earn what he gets by working for it' also informs working class feelings about the very wealthy, or those who live on unearned incomes, or accumulate large pieces of property, or about the unequal distribution of wealth. There is evidence that what is sometimes called a 'pragmatic acceptance' of the present unequal distribution of wealth is matched by an equally strong feeling that there is something intrinsically wrong and exploitative about it. So sentiments stemming from the prevailing 'work calculus' have their progressive aspect too, though they are often used to underpin root conservative attitudes to all who transgress it.
"Another social image with special importance for public ideologies of crime has to do with the need for social discipline - and with England as a disciplined society. Once again, there are different versions of this very general social idea across the different class cultures; the idea is interpreted and applied differently within different cultural systems of meaning, while retaining sufficient common elements to appear to carry a more universal validity. The idea of a 'disciplined society' is enshrined in popular mythology - the whole nation 'at prayer' having been long ago supplanted by the whole nation in an orderly queue. It is especially strong at those high points of popular history, like 'the War', where a country of free individuals 'pulled itself together' to defeat the enemy. The 'discipline' of English society is not the rigorously organised tyranny of the bureaucratic or regimented state, but that 'self-discipline', flexible yet tenacious, while holds the nation together from the inside when it is under stress. In the English ideology, 'discipline' is always linked and qualified by an opposing tendency which tempers its authoritarian harshness: in the upper classes, the idea of discipline and anarchism (as caricatured, for example, in the roles played by John Cleese in the television comedy series, Monty Python's Flying Circus). Lower down the social scale, discipline is often qualified by the image of a sort of petty-bourgeois 'anarchy' (as, for example, in post-war Ealing comedies or Dad's Army). However, the capacity of popular mythology to counter or qualify the respect for 'social discipline' in these ways does not mean that it is not a strong sentiment - only that it is held, like so many other traditional social values, in a peculiarly British way, and with a very special English sense of irony.
"The traditional idea of social discipline is closely linked, on the one hand, with notions about hierarchy and authority. Society is hierarchical, in the dominant view, by nature. Competitive success may promote individuals up through this hierarchy, but does not destroy the notion of a hierarchical order itself. But the hierarchy, in turn, depends upon the giving and taking of authority. And the exercise of authority, both on the part of those who exercise it, and of those who give obedience to it, requires discipline. This trinity - the hierarchical nature of society, the importance of authority and the acclimatisation of the people to both through self-discipline - forms a central complex of attitudes. In this version of the dominant social image, indiscipline is seen as a threat both to the hierarchical conception of the social order and to the exercise of 'due authority' and deference; it is thus the beginnings, the seed bed, of social anarchy.
"[T]he three social image clusters we have so far discussed - respectability, work and discipline - are inextricably connected with the fourth image: that of the family.
"In the traditionalist lexicon, the sphere of the family is of course where moral-social compulsions and inner controls are generated, as well as the sphere where the primary socialisation of the young is first tellingly and intimately carried through. The first aspect has to do with the repression and regulation of sexuality - the seat of pleasure - in the family nexus; and thus with authority. The second has to do with the power which the family has, through its intimate exchanges of love and anger, punishment and reward, and the structure of patriarchty, to prepare children for a competitive existence, work and the sexual division of labour. The family, too, is a complex social image; different forms, functions and habits may be found in the different social classes. Thus the structures of sexual identity and repression within the working-class family, though in some respects reproducing the dominant stuctures of sex roles in the organisation of the family, are also profoundly shaped by the material experiences of the class - the construction of practices and a definition of 'masculinity' and masculine work and values in the world of production which are transposed into the sexual organisation of the family. Similarly, the apparently cross-class conception of the family as 'refuge' carries a particular weight and intensity when the world from which the family froms a 'refuge' is the daily experience of class exploitation in production and work. But the 'sense of family' is a strong value because it is an absolutely pivotal social institution. Few would deny its central role in the construction of social identities, and in transmitting, at an extremely deep level, the basic ideological grid of society. Family ideology is undoubtedly also changing; and we have learned to think of the family, also, in more positive, less punitive terms. But, when we come 'right down to it', the dominant image of the family - perhaps across classes - still has more to do with the duty of instilling a basic understanding of fundamental 'do's and don'ts' than it does of providing a mutually sustaining and releasing framework. Love is what we hope and pray will emerge from the family, but disciplining, punishing, rewarding and controlling is what we seem actually to do in it a great deal of the time. Reich, with some justification, calls it a 'factory for creating submissive people'. And, as we have come to see, the fundamental images of authority, power and discipline, aloong with the primary origins of what Giles Playfair calls 'the punitive obsession', are experienced and internalise first within its tiny kingdom. The alignment of the sexual and the social - a fundamental task of the family - is just the homology of structures which creates inside us those repertoires of self-discipline and self-control for which, later, the wider world is to be so thankful. It is little wonder, then, that fears and pancis about the breakdown of social discipline - of which crime is one of the most powerful indices - centre on the indiscipline of 'youth', 'the young', and on those institutions whose task it is to help them internalise social discipline - the school, but above all, the family."
- Stuart Hall et al, Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order, Macmillan, 1978, pp. 140-5
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
We have now acquired evidence that Raymond Berry, the principal organiser of the event, faced a call for disciplinary measures (revocation of his membership) by officials of the RMT (Rail and Maritime Trades Union) because he was a public and vocal, leading member of the EDL (English Defence League) and promoted the EDL objectives and extremist politics.
In correspondence, in September 2010, with union officials, Mr. Berry claimed – in his own words – the following:
- That he was a founder member of the English Defence League, but had decided to cease his involvement following disagreements over changes in the EDL leadership.
- That in spite of this, he continued to hold firm beliefs with regard to Sharia law and the Islamification of Britain.
- That he remained an active member “of such organisations as” S.I.O.E. (Stop the Islamification of Europe) and N.S.B. (No Sharia in Britain)
- That he was working, with other disaffected members of the EDL to start new groups with similar objectives.
In October 2010, Mr Berry continued his correspondence with union officials making new assertions, some contradictory to his position in September:
- That he would not voluntarily cancel his RMT membership on the grounds of his EDL membership
- That he saw no reason why he should not hold membership of the RMT and of the EDL, in spite of his disagreement with some aspects of RMT politics – i.e. that he found the RMT to be more controversial than the EDL.
So we now understand that as of October 2010, Mr. Berry – a founder of the EDL – remained connected with the EDL and unrepentant. Indeed, he desires to start other groups with similar right-wing, anti-Muslim objectives as well as retaining active associations with existing right-wing, anti-Muslim groups (such as S.I.O.E.)
Update: Apparently the event has been cancelled. This is the statement from Rainbow Hamlets...
The organisers of the so-called East End Gay Pride event have today announced on their website that the event has been cancelled. They say that they have decided to do so because they have been subjected to personal attack by Rainbow Hamlets and OutEast.
While we reject any suggestions of a smear campaign on the part of Rainbow Hamlets and other organisations associated with us, we welcome the decision of the East End Gay Pride Team to cancel the event. We believe it was the correct decision in the face of the disclosure that Raymond Berry, who yesterday resigned from the EEGP team, was a founder member of the EDL and who, despite resigning from the EDL, still shared its ideals and values and was looking to organise other projects based on them.
That disclosure has completely undermined the credibility and integrity of the entire event. We maintain that if the event had taken place, no right thinking member of the LGBT community could have participated in it with pride because of the divisive and hate-filled agenda on which it was based. By its very nature it would have excluded approximately 40% of the community.
We look forward to announcing our own events programme in the near future and hope to be in a position to promote a Pride Event in which all members of the community can be proud to participate later in the year.
Thank you for your continued support.
"A senior diplomat in a western mission to the UN in New York, who I have known over ten years and trust, has told me for sure that Hillary Clinton agreed to the cross-border use of troops to crush democracy in the Gulf, as a quid pro quo for the Arab League calling for Western intervention in Libya.
"The hideous King of Bahrain has called in troops from Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait to attack pro-democracy protestors in Bahrain..."
The space in which to argue that the drive for a no-fly zone is unrelated to the wider counter-revolutionary thrust of the US in the region is narrowing by the day.
Education Activist Network - Teach-in for the resistance
On Wednesday 16 March 4-8pm, the EAN will have a teach- in at King’s College London and London School of Economics.
After the increase in tuition fees and abolition of EMA, a mass demonstration on 26 March could reinvigorate the fight for education – as could a lecturers’ strike, and protests and student action on Budget Day. But our movement also faces new challenges.
Universities have accepted blood money from dictators and invested heavily in the arms trade. Multiculturalism is under attack by those who would divide and undermine our movement, and students have been the target of horse charges, dawn raids, pepper spray and kettling for daring to protest for education.
Join students, education workers, academics, journalists and campaigners to debate the challenges facing our movement and the strategies to overcome them.
4pm – The fight for Education – Learning from Wisconsin – LSE SU Underground
Live video link-up with student and teacher from Wisconsin. Doors open 3:30pm
■Defending the Right to Protest (KCL)
Hosted by Stop Kettling Our Kids and Defend the Right to Protest – includes Alfie Meadows, arrested student Bryan Simpson, campaigning lawyer Matt Foot and Emma Norton from Liberty
■The role of social media in the movement (KCL)
Panel debate with Laurie Penny (journalist), Richard Seymour (blogger) and Aaron Peters (UK Uncut)
■Defending Multiculturalism (KCL)
Don’t let David Cameron divide us! With Liz Fekete, Institute for Race Relations and Martin Smith, Love Music Hate Racism
■Sleaze, Spooks and Saif Gaddafi: Can we make our universities ethical? (LSE SU Underground)
With LSE occupier Lukas Slothuus, journalist Simon Basketter and Hesham Zakai from KCL Action Palestine
6:30pm Rally – KCL Lucas Theatre
March 26th – Building for our Day of Anger
■Billy Hayes CWU General Secretary
■Fightback author Guy Aitchinson
■Egyptian revolution eyewitness Wassim Wagdy
■Lois Clifton LSESU Environment & Ethics officer-elect
■Jim Wolfreys King’s College London UCU
■Krishna Sivakumaran, UCL student, Day X for the NHS
■Mark Bergfeld NUS NEC.
The ITV1 detective show, which has run for 14 series, ‘wouldn’t work’ if there was any racial diversity in it, producer True-May said.
‘We’re the last bastion of Englishness and I want to keep it that way,’ he told Radio Times.
He insisted he had never been tackled before about the ‘whites only’ rule in the show, which stars John Nettles as Det Ch Insp Tom Barnaby.
He said: ‘I’ve never been picked up on that but quite honestly I wouldn’t want to change it.
‘We just don’t have ethnic minorities involved. Because it wouldn’t be the English village with them. It just wouldn’t work.
‘Suddenly we might be in Slough. Ironically, Causton (one of the main centres of population in the show) is supposed to be Slough. And if you went into Slough you wouldn’t see a white face there.’
Asked why ‘Englishness’ could not include other races, he added: ‘Well, it should do and maybe I’m not politically correct.
‘I’m trying to make something that appeals to a certain audience, which seems to succeed. And I don’t want to change it.’
Monday, March 14, 2011
When a group of hitherto unknown individuals unconnected with the East End organised something they called 'East End Gay Pride', with its activism based on a Facebook group, it transpired that among its supporters were English Defence League members. This might have been a trivial matter of accidental support, except that the chief organiser initially welcomed the support of the EDL. Then, after criticism of this position was aired, the group was closed down and replaced with a new invite-only Facebook group, to which open EDL members were invited. The group has consistently suggested that it is really apolitical. I would be willing to believe this, but several of them appear to be aligned with Islamophobic politics or have EDL friends. They have responded to criticism from LGBT activists by complaining about "gay apologists", and the "anti-fun brigade" and have dealt with the complaints about the EDL involvement by belatedly removing the EDL members who they had themselves invited into the group and stating that no political placards would be welcome at the rally. Their statement, which they reproduce on a daily basis, equates the anti-fascist group UAF with the EDL. And, as their critics have pointed out, they appear to have no objection whatever to EDL members joining in the protest as long as they don't draw attention to themselves with placards etc. Given that the EDL contains some of the most viciously homophobic forces in British politics, some of whom would usually be more at home beating up LGBT people than parading with them, this is an astonishing stance. And their response to queries about why the "hate-filled Daily Star" was backing the event - I have no idea if the Star is actually supporting it -was to insist that not everyone finds the Daily Star to be "hate-filled".
Concerns have been expressed by local gay rights groups. (Unfortunately, word has not yet got to the organisers of Pride London, a celebrity-supported group which is prominently supporting the event, but raising none of the questions that other LGBT groups have.) UEL LGBT, which initially supported the protest, have decided with withdraw their backing because of the continuing ambiguity over the EDL's involvement. Out East have sent an open letter to the organisers, expressing concern about the involvement of EDL supporters in the group, and the denunciation of UAF. It has been co-signed by the LGBT activist Denis Fernando of UAF and the Greater London Trade Unions Council. The open letter questions why the group gives the impression that the East End is actually in danger of becoming a 'gay free' zone, never mentioning that local politicians, Muslim groups such as the Muslim Council of Britain, LGBT groups and the East London Mosque have actually been working together to counter this problem. Prominent statements have included this, from the Association of British Muslims: “There is nothing in the Qur’an against LGBT people. Allah has honoured every son and daughter of Adam, so such a hateful message is not only morally and ethically wrong but actually unislamic.” The approach of Out East and Rainbow Hamlets in dealing with this issue has been welcomed by LGBT trade unionists.
Centrally, the letter from Out East takes issue with the approach which reduces homophobia to a simple issue of nasty ideas and prejudice, saying: "Out East believes that our response to homophobia must be political because homophobia is a system which is present everywhere and not only a hate feeling from particular groups or individuals. Homophobia is not caused only by one particular group but is part of broader society and has political roots. It is easy to portray other minorities (even unintentionally) as the cause of homophobia rather than, for example, questioning the lack of means to fight discrimination in a period of cuts in public services. Instead, we want to highlight the intersection between sexuality, gender, race and class oppression. Homophobia is fed by political practices and ideologies which in turn encourage individuals to commit discriminatory acts."
But the legitimate concerns of LGBT activists have unfortunately not been dealt with in any but a snide, condescending and arrogant fashion.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
On a per capita basis, though, twice as many foreign fighters came to Iraq from Libya -- and specifically eastern Libya -- than from any other country in the Arabic-speaking world. Libyans were apparently more fired up to travel to Iraq to kill Americans than anyone else in the Middle East. And 84.1% of the 88 Libyan fighters in the Sinjar documents who listed their hometowns came from either Benghazi or Darnah in Libya's east. This might explain why those rebels from Libya's eastern provinces are not too excited about U.S. military intervention.
Indeed. No analysis of Libya and the regional revolt in which it is embedded can have any credibility whatever if it doesn't place imperialism at its centre.