Friday, March 31, 2006

Sarf London Blog Round-up Spring 06

As I haven't posted a Sarf London Blog Round-up for ages (unless you count this), here's a little one.

Baked with pride on the Lower East Side

In Mol Araan - as we approach Passover.

Freedom, Enlightenment, Islam and Liberalism

So, am I a 'hard liberal' as well as a muscular liberal? - via BagRec, who has broadcast a March for Free Expression special at the wonderful Little Atoms.

Sylvia Pankhurst and the House of Lords

Sylvia Pankhurst and the House of Lords

There is a campaign to put a statue of Sylvia Pankhurst, the great suffragette leader and radical campaigner, on College Green in Westminster, outside the House of Lords. This is being resisted by the reactionary old codgers in the Lords.

Here’s the Guardian report:
‘The words "Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee" do not have a ring of militant fervor, and yet to achieve its aims, members may need to adopt some of the tactics of its namesake. The Lords Administration and Works Committee - a bunch of hereditary male peers - has refused to allow a statue of the pioneering suffragette to be erected in Westminster. For those who believe that Pankhurst was the greatest feminist of her generation, this is an insult to the sisterhood.’

Sylvia is someone I massively admire (when I added the “heroes” section to my link list over to the right earlier this year, I made sure to include her), so you might expect me to support this campaign.

New Labour MP Vera Baird says
‘”Sylvia was the greatest democrat of all the suffragettes... "The statue should stand near to the parliament she worked and suffered for. It is a disgrace that these unelected peers fail to see what pride and inspiration women would get from such a great memorial."’
In fact, I think that it is an insult to a woman who had nothing but scorn for the parliamentary system. This is the woman Lenin wrote his dirty little pamphlet “Left-Wing Communism: an infantile disorder” about, attacking her for refusing to subordinate her unruly East End movement to the Labour Party’s parliamentarism. Her break with the official suffragette movement led by her mother and sister was partly about her disillusion the narrow, parliamentary conception of democracy that animated the official suffragettes. She didn’t work and suffer for parliament; she worked and suffered against it.

Her mainly working class organisation, the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELF), soon renamed itself the Workers Suffrage Federation and later the Workers Socialist Federation. (She broke with her mother Emmeline and sister Christabel’s WSPU because of their support for terrorism – an arson campaign – which Sylvia saw as fundamentally undemocratic.)

During World War I, ELF’s newspaper took on the controversial name The Women’s Dreadnought, later changed to Workers’ Dreadnought. Most of the suffragette leaders agreed to put their campaigning on hold for the duration of the war and threw their weight behind the national effort. In contrast, Sylvia Pankhurst and her East London comrades campaigned against the imperialist war.

The Dreadnought was strongly supportive of refugees and asylum-seekers in Britain. In August 1914, when war was breaking out, the Woman’s Dreadnought wrote on
“the unfortunate plight of Germans and other foreigners who are in England at this time. We in East London know that many of these people have lived with us as friendly neighbours for years. Some of them are political refugees, who, because they have dared to try to get reforms in their own autocratically governed countries, have been obliged to fly here for safety. Let us preserve our self-control at this trying time, and endeavour to see that these people are not to bear the blame of the wrongs which are being done in this war.”
This passage is very characteristic of the politics of the Dreadnought. Defence of asylum is based less on the liberal ideology of rights than on a humanist politics of neighbourliness, empathy and everyday life, and a down to earth appeal to an East End “neighbourhood nationalism” or “militant particularism”.

Pankhurst’s support for asylum rights – which emerged from a radical liberal context – took on a new place in her political thought as she rapidly shifted towards a communist position. This shift can be narrated through her immersion in the East End, both in the world of white working class women in areas like Bow (where she lived) and Hoxton, and in the world of the Jewish community. She lived with a shoe-making family named the Paynes in Bow from 1909; her circle of close friends were working class women like Charlotte Drake, ex-barmaid, labourer’s wife and mother of five, Melvina Walker, ex-ladies’ maid and docker’s wife, and Mrs Cresswell, mother of six and wife of a paint factory worker.

Her day to day engagement with the life-struggles of working class people reconfigured her politics from a liberal grammar of rights to an orientation to material needs: housing issues, food supply issues, workplace issues. The ELF’s opposition to the war was focused on the politics of everyday life, not on abstract pacifist principles. They campaigned against food rationing, organized rent strikes and called for the commandeering of empty homes for the newly homeless.

Pankhurst initially welcomed the 1917 revolutions in Russia. Her close links with Russian refugee activists in London meant she was well informed about the flowering of freedom from Tsarist dictatorship and the subsequent spontaneous emergence of new forms of working class democracy.

But from a very early date, she came to distrust Lenin and his methods, and refused to align her movement with the newly formed Communist Party in Britain. She saw Lenin’s essentially authoritarian and anti-working class character very early on.

From the 1920s, tiring of her struggle with Leninism, she devoted most of her energy to fighting that other great evil of the twentieth century, fascism. With her much younger Italian lover, Silvio Corio, she opened a tearoom in Woodford and had a son, Richard. They organised solidarity with the resistance to Mussolini’s dictatorship and then fought against the Italian fascist invasion of Ethiopia. After Corio's death Pankhurst settled in Addis Ababa with her son. She died there in 1960, passing away from coronary thrombosis during her regular nap one September afternoon. She was buried in a place reserved for the heroes of Ethiopia, the Emperor, Haile Sellassie, attending the ceremony.

Links: Sylvia Pankhurst - Suffragette and class fighter, Libcom Library Panhkurst pages, Socialist History Project: Communists and the Labour Party, Anarchist Communism in Britain, The Movement for Workers Councils in Britain, German/Dutch Communist Left (scroll down for Syliva).
File under:
Tags: , , ,

Keywords: suffragette, East End, suffragettes, women's movement, suffregette, Mussolini, sufragette

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Comment is free 2

Lots of the Engage-niks have been given a home at the Guardian blogosphere: David Hirsh, Jon Pike, Brian Bivati and Linda Grant, as well as Harry Hatchet (of the eponymous Place) and Norm. Hope they're not going to be lured by the big Guardian audience into deserting their previous posts!

Also recommended: Brian Whitaker.

Engage has some good stuff at the moment, on conservative neo-realists and the "Israel lobby", on Ken Livingstone, etc. Both Engage and Comment is Free focus heavily on the John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt article in LRB on the "Israel Lobby". For more on this, see Martin Kramer's Sandbox [via Snoopy] and Rosner's Blog [via Kramer].

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Belarus and Darfur

Via Muscular Liberalism, br23, a blog from Belarus, with news and coverage of the denim revolution.

I don't know enough to take any sort of authoratative position, but I believe that democracy is about more than the quantitative - the numerical count of votes. For democracy to be meaningful, dissent, difference and debate must be able to flourish. Jonathan Steele, one of the Grauniad's liberal foreign affairs infoolectuals thinks that Uncle Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus, has basically been given a bad press by the evil right-wing cabal who control the Western press and the opposition to him is funded by the CIA and therefore meaningless. Lukashenko may be a control freak, Steele says, but the people are happy and economic progress is being made.

This is the logic of the liberal fellow traveller. Stalin may have been guilty of a few excesses, the fellow traveler logic goes, but he put bread on the table; there was full employment. (A parallel logic, not uncommon on the Tory far right, is that Hitler may have been a little nasty but at least he got the trains running on time and tried to do something for his country.)

But Jonathan Steele is a man who dignifies the insurgency in Iraq with the title "resistance". He is a man who thinks the genocide in Darfur is basically an insignificant squabble between neighbours over property inflated by Zionist neocons and "Christian right"). Shalom Lappin nailed this well at Engage:
"It is important to recognize that Steele is not denying the relevant facts concerning the atrocities committed in Darfur. He is systematically misrepresenting them by whitewashing the actions of the Janjaweed, and the government that it serves. He is misconstruing these actions as the unfortunate side effects of a clash between competing regional and social groups in the area, rather than as a deliberate campaign of mass violence that the government is waging against part of its own population. This is a particularly grotesque instance of the sort of propaganda journalism that runs rampant in the Guardian, as well as several other parts of the British press."
Paul Bogdanor goes further, and lists Steele with a list of "left-wing deniers", putting him on a par with Holocaust deniers. (BevanKieran, at a comment here, goes even further, but you can find his choice words yourself.) Meanwhile, who supports him? The SWP's most prolific blogger.

Tags: , , ,

Monday, March 20, 2006

Chomsky yet again

I was going to post on this too, but ModernityBlog, again, has saved me the trouble. Whole post reproduced here:
"I am not a fan of Noam Chomsky, after his defence of Faurisson and unsavoury associates.

I was indebted to Harry’s Place for their diligence in highlighting the Guardian's kowtowing to Chomsky and Diana Johnstone over Srebrenica.

The letter by Kamm, Wheen and Aaronovitch is a very clear indictment of Chomsky’s shoddy methods and bias.

I have no doubt there will be some counterblast from Chomsky and his cult, which are guaranteed to confuse the issues."

Dress Danish March for Free Expression this weekend

ML1 has kindly taken the time to write some lengthy comments on my previous post about the March for Free Expression this weekend. I should clarify my position. I believe that we should ruthlessly criticise religions where we believe they contribute to oppression or ignorance. I support the Enlightenment principle of free inquiry. I do not, however, believe that freedom of speech is an inalienable right that should be put above all others. I do not, for example, support the “right” of fascists to publish racist and anti-semitic material. I don’t want the state to intervene to stop fascists publishing racist and anti-semitic material – I don’t support censorship. But I am never going to make any effort whatsoever to defend fascists from censorship, as Chomsky has done for example. I see free speech fundamentalism – the placing of free speech above all other rights, seeing it as an inalienable, sacred principle – as ultra-liberal ideology.

I have a problem, too, with some of the rhetoric coming from certain types of secularists, including Christopher Hitchens, which sees all religion as bad, period. I am not religious, but I think that religion – even Islam – can add something to political debates in a public sphere based on respect and tolerance. So, while I want to join the fight against Islamist totalitarianism, disrespect and intolerance, I do not want to be conscripted into a war against Islam – or religion – in general.

The Danish cartoons are hard for me to call because I am not sure really that they were in the spirit of criticizing Islam(ism) for its totalitarian tendency. Looking at the cartoons, they actually strike me as gratuitous, infantile and possibly racist attacks on Islam as such. They do not make a responsible contribution to any debate. That is why I am glad no British publisher actually published them.

So, as the Danish cartoons were the starting point of the current campaign for free expression, I am not sure I want to endorse the campaign, even though I sympathise with its aims and am clearly on its side (in a “with us or against us” kind of way).


Meanwhile, Peter Tatchell is going to speak at the march, as is Sayyida Rend Shakir al-Mousawi, a direct descendent of the Seventh Imam. And Nick Cohen has written about it in his column:
“Next Saturday at 2pm in Trafalgar Square, there will be a rally for freedom of expression. I think it's fair to say that previous generations would be astonished that their descendants would have to take to the streets to demand such a basic right, but after the death threats against cartoonists, it seems we do.
Fortunately, the British National Party is nowhere to be seen and the rally will be filled with democratic leftists, Liberal Democrats, secularists and Iranian and Saudi Arabian dissidents.
With the white far right out of the picture, the brown far right has barged in and Islamic fundamentalists are proposing to hold demonstrations against free speech away from central London. So, if you want to protest on Saturday, you have a choice: for free speech or against? Come on, it's not that hard a choice. All will be welcome in Trafalgar Square. Dress? Danish.”


As if we need more reasons to fight against the new totalitarianism, read this on the Afghan theocrats: capital punishment for choosing the wrong faith (via LGFWatch). But for food for thought about getting into bed with the wrong allies in the fight on the new totalitarianism, read this on Theo Van Gogh (also via LGFWatch).

Tags: , Islam, Denmark, Free Speech, Muslim, Cartoons, Jyllands-Posten

Friday, March 17, 2006

Divestment, Beethoven

[Post re-edited 20th March]

1. Anti-Zionist Watch: I would sympathise with those who call for divestment from Israel, if they get behind divestment from corporations who sponsor genocide in Sudan. More from LGFWatch

2. BobFromBrockley Vanity Watch: I've been taken up in a flimsy debate about Chomsky here.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Stumbled Upon 4

This is a photo from Cuba by Andrew Moore. Looks like a photo of my house.

This is a nice piece of music by the Migrant Pickers. [MP3]

Comment is free

The whole new Guardian blog thing is getting some attention, e.g. for providing a new outlet for George Galloway's evil views. Here's the better contributors:

Yossi Alpher, Brian Bivati, Ariel Dorfman, Jonathan Freedland, Peter Tatchell

The worst include Rajnaara Akhtar, Mad Bunting, Andrew Murray, Steven Rose, Salma Yacoob

Somewhere in between: Gary Younge and Mike Marquesee. (Currently blogging for the anti-'war' march - obviously not a cause I support - see here.)

Kronstadt 16 March 1921

According to the wonderful Daily Bleed, on this day in 1921:
Russia: Bolsheviks stage final bloody assault on rebellious Kronstadt sailors. Kronstadt put Trotsky in power & Trotsky has squashed Kronstadt, shot its rebels like partidges. He has earned the sobriquet, the "Red Butcher".
Links: Kronstadt 1921, Spartacus, People's History, the Demands of the Insurgents and their publication, Murray Bookchin

P.S. Just noticed this, from a nice Borough Market visitor. And this, from an evil Leninist monster. Makes it easy for me to think which side I'm on.

File under:

Iraq reading - towards a decent left

Oliver Kamm in the Guardian and in The Progressive. Harry Barnes on why the Stop the War arguments don't add up. Gary Kent on reclaiming the left.

Flemming Rose: Straussian neo-con Mossad agent

When I first posted about the Danish cartoon furore, I got a comment from 'Anonymous' giving some basic biographical data about Flemming Rose, the editor of Jyllands-Posten, the Danish periodical at the centre of the storm. (I also got a recommendation from ModernityBlog for M&S Danish Unsmoked extra lean bacon. Thanks!)

So, Anonymous helpfully mentioned Rose's Ukrainian Jewish background. I didn't think much of it, perhaps someone who knew about this blog's Jew-ish slant thought I/my readers might find it interesting.

Then I noticed similar posts to other sites, often contrasting David Irving's treatment, say, or putting 'anti-semitic' in scare quotes. I became aware that a whole conspiracy theory has built up around Rose (or 'Rose' as they prefer to call him - today's fascists tend to be liberal with quotation marks). He is a Zionist, a Mossad agent, a friend of 'Jewish extremist' Daniel Pipes*, an agent of the Project for the New American Century, etc etc.

Commieprof James Petras, Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, for example, asks "How is the Israeli secret service, Mossad, implicated in provoking the Western-Islamic/Arab conflict, and how do the consequences measure up to their expectations?", noting that Rose "has close working relations with the Israeli state (and in particular the far right Likud regime)". This is the mild version, and I won't link to the more extreme versions, because I don't link to fascist websites, even when they masquerade as leftist, anti-Islamophobic or New Age websites.

An illustration, as if we needed another, of the horrid convergence between sections of the left and the far right, brought together by a common hatred of Zionism. Or should that be 'Zionism'?

An illutration, too, of what is wrong with free speech fundamentalism - the idea that you should defend anyone's right to free speech, even libelous fascists.


An interesting side angle: Wikipedia has been one of the battlegrounds of the struggle. The biographical data that asserts Rose is of Jewish origin, and taken as the evidence for Rose's Mossad links, appeared on Wikipedia, with no real evidence, and then dissappeared when sensible wiki-people took action. (See Judeopundit.) This illustrates one of the problems with letting ordinary folk like us write reference books.


* Added my own scare quotes around 'Jewish extremist' to make intended irony apparent. A google search for "jewish extremist daniel pipes" throws up 47 hits, many from David Duke's website.

Essential reading: Flemming Rose and Me, by Daniel Pipes and ModernityBlog's How to Spot a Wrong One

Keywords: Fleming Rose, Leo Strauss, Zionism, conspiracy theory, Islamofascism, free speech, anti-semitism, anti-semites, anti-semite, Ukraine, Mohammed
Previous:Robert Kagan is not a Straussian! (scroll to bottom)
Tags: , Islam, Denmark, Free Speech, Muslim, Cartoons, Jyllands-Posten

Muscular liberal conspiracy

After saying yesterday I'd not be blogging much for a while, I'm already bactracking.

Mainly, I wanted to note a new member of the Axis of Bob: the Muscular Liberals blogspot, which has been going since November somehow without me noticing. They are involved in the March for Free Expression (which I blogged about here).

The march is now endorsed by people I trust. LGFWatch, for example, a blog I've been meaning to add to my roll for ages - and Jew90, another member of the Axis of Bob. It is also endorsed by Freedom for Eygptians, the Religious Policeman and Ekklesia. (Not to mention Soldatka, one of the Suicide Girls.)

At the same time, though, I am not wholly in favour. I do not think that free expression is an unalienable right. Like the Chief Rabbi and Tariq Ramadan, I believe in responsible speech. I believe we need to cultivate a form of civic behaviour based on respect, including respect for religion. I don't want anyone stopping the Danish cartoons getting published, for example, but I don't really want them published and don't feel moved to march for them.

So I think I won't be joining any bloggers' get-together for the march, flattered as I am to be asked. But another Axis of Bob member, Richard of Bagrec, is.


On this topic, read this great post from Pickled Politics, which starts thus:

There are some people who cannot see a conspiracy without Jews behind it, others who cannot see a society without emphasising racial discrimination. There are also those who cannot see a Muslim without talking about terrorism / ‘Islamo-fundo-krypto-stupido-fascism’, and the ones who make it their business to scream Islamophobia at every given opportunity.

Where would we be without these career agitators who would have nothing to do with their lives if the world was a happy place? A lot better off, that’s for sure.


So, Alan Johnson and Jane Ashworth of Democratiya/LFIQ have pulled out from the march, not liking the fact that Nazi fellow-travellers the Freedom Association are involved. AWL are also cautioning against it. Fuel for the ex-WRP uber-leftists at IslamophobiaWatch. Make up your own mind! (By the way: great new issue of Democratiya now out, featuring Andre Glucksmann, Oliver Kamm and others.)

[Treyf Suicide Girl links from the judeo-blogosphere: YNet Nice Jewish girls: Jezebel, Daily Jews same title same model, Adam Goldberg: the Hebrew Hammer, JewSchool: Naked and Profane (Katya - IDF soldier), a real Suicide Girl (intense shit), Jewlicious: Matisyahu and the Suicide Girls]
Previous: The bikini behind the Burka, Defending the Enlightenment, Free speech fundamentalism

Tags: , Islam, Denmark, Free Speech, Muslim, Cartoons, Jyllands-Posten

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


I am too busy at the moment to blog properly, not even to produce the quick links that I've been managing lately. What better way to take the opportunity of this hiatus than to go back to some of the posts you probably didn't read because they are too long. Posts like:

Or, more productively, you might wish to read some good posts by people with more to say than me, or at least more time to say it:

p.s. The vitriol in the title is in these four posts, not in mine.

Friday, March 10, 2006

France and its Muslims: Riots, Jihadism and Depoliticisation

A report from the Crisis Group (hat tip: La Empanada)

Opening paragraph:
"France faces a problem with its Muslim population, but it is not the problem it generally assumes. The October-November 2005 riots coupled with the wave of arrests of suspected jihadists moved the question of Islam to the forefront of French concerns and gave new life to concerns about the threat of a Muslim world mobilised by political Islamism. Yet the opposite is true: paradoxically, it is the exhaustion of political Islamism, not its radicalisation, that explains much of the violence, and it is the depoliticisation of young Muslims, rather than their alleged reversion to a radical kind of communalism, that ought to be cause for worry. The key to minimising the risks of rioting and militant jihadism is to curb forms of state violence being exercised against predominantly Muslim, working-class neighbourhoods and to promote political participation by their residents."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Divestment controversy

Regular readers will know I strongly oppose generalised boycotts of Israel - particularly from organisations that don't have boycott policies against other unethical regimes. I also reject the idea that Israel is an "apartheid state". I'm not going to rehearse the arguments here - my position is best articulated by my comrades over at Engage.

I do, however, support divestment from specific companies that are acting unethically in the Occupation, if this is part of a comprehensive international ethical policy. For this reason, I supported the Church of England's divestment from Caterpillar, even if I did not buy all of the reasoning behind it. So I'm not joining my fellow anti-anti-Zionists in their delight at the decision not to divest.

Classical ‘Christian’ anti-Semitism and the Islamic Republic

A very thorough and interesting post at It's Almost Supernatural on anti-semitism in Iran.

The Bikini Beneath the Burka

Post lightly updated 10 March

Soyooz: The Bikini Beneath the Burka

And for another face of feminism, check out No Lay's "Unorthodox Daughter" on the fantastic grime compilation Run The Road - mp3 link from EmptyFree.

What's wrong with liberals?

Jogo writes:
What is wrong, grotesquely wrong, is that this story is not one of the "five most emailed articles" by NY Times readers.
Read Eric Frey in The Forward too, for a slightly different view [via Jew 90]

Blog links: DemocracyCellProject, Beantown Bwana, PowerLine, IsraPundit

Jew 90 Superhero

A warm welcome to a new and promising blog: Jew 90 Superhero.

(Formerly trading as Cuddebackville Citizens' League)

You know you're middle class if...

Great post at Small Town Scribbles, currently my favourite blog.

Camille Paglia on Larry Summers

Camille Paglia on Larry Summers [hat tip Jogo]

(Previous post here)

Anti-semitism in the London dance world?

Read this: part 1 here, part 2 here.
[Via Engage]
Update at An Unsealed Room. [Via Solomania]

Blank Noise Project

Fighting sexual violence in India

Solidarity with Iraqi workers

I'm glad my MP, Joan Ruddock, supported the motion put forward by David Anderson in solidarity with the Iraqi workers' movement, as represented by the Iraqi Workers' Federation (IWF) and the Kurdish trade unions.

(She also has correctly supported Ian Blair, stood firm against war criminals and called for university staff salaries to better reflect new funding to universities. (On that last issue, see here.))

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Cool radio

Today while I work I am listening to Vibraphonic FM.

Lewisham farewell

Lewisham News will soon be leaving Lewisham. Here's a nice valedictory post (is that the right word?)

Immature and wicked

Google search of the day: "immature and wicked".

South London wanderings

Slightly lost in Southwark for LGBT history month: Peter Tatchell, Linda Bellos, prisons and public toilets.

Oliver Finegold

Daniel has met Oliver Finegold (the reporter in the Ken Livingstone Nazi camp guard affair)

March for freedom of expression

I'm about 95% in favour of this:
March for Free Expression