Thursday, August 30, 2007

Anti-gay pogroms: the deniers

Following a link from Matt Zeitlin's blog, Jogo went to this interesting collection of editorials on the Sodomy Laws website. A couple stood out:

Foucault and Iran

David Frum on Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism, by Janet Afary and Kevin Anderson. Fascinating.
Thanks: Jogo

Added links (c/o Noga and an anonymous commenter): Edward Said and the Iranian Revolution by David Zarnett; The philosopher and the ayatollah by Wesley Yang.

Four blogs

1. I've recently been linked to by Marian's Blog, an American political blog from the perspective of a woman of colour.

2. I recently had a visit in the comments from mnuez. Check out his blog here.

3. I've recently been linked to by the fascinating Democracy and Hip Hop project (but probably only because I once linked to them!). Loads of stuff: dig deep.

4. I've recently discovered I Intend To Escape ......................And Come Back

Pilger's bilge

Read Jon Pike on John Pilger's reprensible recent NS article advocating boycott of Israel.

Mutiny on the Manifesto

I may get around to throwing my tuppence into the ring (is that a mixed metaphor?) about the Hari/Cohen tiff and its related memes. In the meantime, here (courtesy of Jogo) is an excellent contribution from Michael Weiss at Jewcy.com.

ADDED: And this (also courtesy Jogo) is an interesting piece, by Jamie, on Andrew Sullivan's blog, putting the debate in the context of the anti-totalitarian left, which includes Bayard Rustin and Scoop Jackson.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hidden histories of Stalinism, fascism and the fight against them

Here's four quite disparate pieces which all tell some aspects of the hidden history of twentieth century's "dark noon".

1. They say that to prove one has a mind, one must change it. Tawfiq Chahboune shows that to be true of one of the most sublime minds of the mid-twentieth century. In which incarnation was he correct? (Follow the interesting comments post.)

2. Helen Szamuely, one of the EU Referendum bloggers, has a fascinating article about Stalinist apparatchik turned victim of Stalinism, Willi Muenzenberg.

3. Snowball has an extremely interesting piece on the same period. The opening question is Was Churchill an 'anti-fascist freedom fighter' or an imperialist gangster? But the bit I found interesting starts half-way through with the material from Raymond Challinor.

4. On a lighter, if still grim, note, Snowball also gives some wonderful anti-Stalinist jokes collected in the Soviet Union in the 1930s.

Armenian Genocide and the Jewish Community

The New Centrist with an interesting article (and interesting comment thread) on the Armenian genocide and the leadership of the American Jewish community.

The Anti-Nazi League and the Battle of Lewisham

This is a pamphlet put out by the Colin Roach Centre a decade ago, about the Anti-Nazi League and its two different incarnations, both times as SWP fronts. It gives a lot of the history of the Battle of Lewisham, and its signifigance in anti-fascist history.

[Extra link: Lewisham '77]

Andrej Holm update

Quick update: Andrej Holm has been released from prison on bail, but charges have not been dropped. Watch this space.

Alan Moore on V for Vendetta

Alan Moore on V for Vendetta:
“What had originally been a straightforward battle of ideas between anarchy and fascism [in the comic book] had been turned into a kind of ham-fisted parable of 9-11 and the war against terror [in the movie], in which the words anarchy and fascism appear nowhere. I mean, at the time I was thinking: look, if they wanted to protest about George Bush and the way that American society is going since 9-11 — which would be completely understandable — then why don’t they do what I did back in the 1980s when I didn’t like the way that England was going under Margaret Thatcher, which is to do a story in my own country, that was clearly about events that were happening right then in my own country, and kind of make it obvious that that’s what you’re talking about. It struck me that for Hollywood to make V for Vendetta, it was a way for thwarted and impotent American liberals to feel that they were making some kind of statement about how pissed off they were with the current situation without really risking anything. It’s all set in England, which I think that probably, in most American eyes, is kind of a fairytale kingdom where we still perhaps still have giants. It doesn’t really exist; it might as well be in the Land of Oz for most Americans. So you can set your political parable in this fantasy environment called England, and then you can vent your spleen against George Bush and the neo-conservatives. Those were my feelings, and I must admit those are completely based upon not having seen the film even once, but having read a certain amount of the screenplay. That was enough.”

[Whole interview here. Found via Out of Step]

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The abuse of terrorism

[Links fixed Thursday 23rd Aug]
As regular readers will know, I have little time for people who put the word "terrorism" in scare quotes, as if the terrorism that Bush and Brown et al talk about is nothing more than some ideological construct, some imaginary Western ethno-centric fear stirred up to justify neocon war. Terrorism is a real and terrible threat.

This makes it all the worse when the authorities invoke the concept of terrorism to clamp down on various forms of dissent that falls in to a completely different category. Ambivalent though I am about the Heathrow airport protestors (see VP at Shiraz and Janine at Stroppy for more on such ambivalence), they are not "environmental fascists", as Geoffrey Alderman libelled them in the JC this week,* nor should they be policed using laws designed to fight terrorism.

More outrageous is the German government's arrest of antri-gentrification social scientists under anti-terrorism laws as being members of an un-named "militante gruppe". As Richard Sennett and Saskia Sassen write:
"Terrorism" has two faces. There are real threats and real terrorists, and then again there is a realm of nameless fears, vague forebodings, and irrational responses. The German federal police seem to have succumbed to the latter; on the July 31 2007 they raided the flats and workplaces of Dr Andrej Holm and Dr Matthias B, as well as of two other persons, all engaged in that most suspicious pursuit: committing sociology.
Sign the open letter in their support here. [UPDATE HERE]

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Incidentally, it is interesting that the German state uses similar tactics to the Italian state in its campaign against Toni Negri: guilt by association, and the idea that academics constitute the "brains behind" terror operations, as if ordinary folk aren't capable of thinking up evil by themselves.
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*Update 2: see Michael Lazarus' rebutall of Alderman here.
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Previous: Anti-Germanism; The cheapening of the language; Anarchists against terrorism.

On the word kerfuffle, and logic's respect for noses

Noga, Nietzche's gay science, and the latest commieprof kerfuffle

The Wahhabi Death Cult and the noble resistance against imperialism

Every day that I log on to the internet, I find myself seeing the words "resistance" and "imperialism" together in relation to Iraq.

Marc Parent says, of "White House imperialism": "Wake up, Iraq. Wake up, Iraqis. You have no options left but resistance."

The Indian Maoists' Calcutta Conference call exclaims: "The colonial countries steadily assisted this aggression, first of all by the USA and the Zionist entity that is violating the ground and the whole rights of the people in a genocide war of total annihilation. The last chain in this barbaric aggression lies in the offensive against the resistance movement that is defending the bare existence of the people in their countries and abroad. The resistance movement is carrying with the international community the principle and the goal of life in freedom independence and self-determination. No to Zionism and racism, - no to imperialism , no to American hegemony."

Neil Clark writes that "The true heroes in Iraq are those who have resisted the invasion of their country." His colleague Seamus Milne similarly praises "the resistance."

Maoists, liberals, anarchists - a common rhetoric of "anti-imperialism".

The reality?

The Islamic State in Iraq, a Wahhabi insurgent group, murdered175 members of the Yazedi religion, a peaceful community, in suicide attacks in fuel tankers (a further 200 were wounded).

On Monday, five people died in a car bombing in the capital's Sadr City slum. A motorcycle bomb killed two Iraqis at central Baghdad's Shorja Market. Five mortar shells crashed into the Ubaidi neighborhood in east Baghdad just before noon on Sunday, killing 12 people and injuring at least 31 others. Four women and two children were among the dead. The day before, about 16 mortar shells rained on houses in the Sharqiya residential area in Khalis, north of Baghdad; adding that 24 people were wounded in addition to the three killed.

Iranian artillery fire destroyed a primary school and several houses in a border village near Hajj Umran in the Kurdish autonomous region north of Iraq on Sunday evening. Mohammed Abdul-Aziz, a statistician at the Ministry of Education, said that at least 125 children had been killed and 107 injured since 2005 in attacks on schools. These numbers do not include children killed or injured on their way to or from school.

These are not acts of resistance against American imperialism. These are acts of violence against civilians, whose only crime is not being Islamic enough, or not being Sunni, or not being Shi'ite, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Added: more on Yazedis (and Juan Cole) from IraqPundit; Osama bin Laden is not a revolutionary socialist from Hocemo Li Na Kafu?

Hat tip for news article: People's Republic. On Neil Clarke: Voltaire's Priest.

Previous: Blaming Blair's bombs, Resistance?

Anatomy of a Guardian article

A man, a pistol, Jerusalem's Old City, Snoopy does the nitpicking

Monday, August 20, 2007

Muslim, Italian and Zionist

Here are two articles on the fascinating figure, Magdi Allam, Eygptian-born Italian journalist.
Hat tip: Jogo

Revolutionary Yiddishism שלאָפֿלאָזאיקייט

שלאָפֿלאָזאיקייט
After The W left a comment on one of my posts, I checked out his blog, and want to highly recommend it. A lot if it is in Yiddish, but there's a lot in English too: texts by Chaim Zhitlovsy (one of my heroes) and I.L Peretz, as well as Matisyohu Mieses, another Yiddishist I am much less familiar with.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Faux-cialists

Another word for the lexicon: "faux-cialist", the poseurs who dress themselves in socialist garb while pursuing a reactionary agenda. Michael Weiss in Jewcy (via Judeosphere) contrasts authoritarian Chavez to reformer Lula, gangster Galloway to healer Kouchner, "simp" Tariq Ali to "sage" Barham Salih.

Left-right convergence and reactionary anti-capitalism

Rob Augman at ZNet on anti-G8 mobilisation [via 3wf]
Contemporary social conflicts, a widespread sense of alienation, deep feelings of powerlessness, and the increasing intensity of violent conflict sets off a whole host of resentments and oppositions to the global situation that are not emancipatory. Many people who are deeply dissatisfied with the global political and economic order do not gravitate towards progressive or social justice organizations. The rise of racist, nationalist, fundamentalist and other forms of reactionary politics emerge as responses to the global situation as well, and they compete for power and influence on the same social terrain of those on the Left. These are present in the discourses, policies and politics in struggles around globalization/anti-globalization as well, and were therefore are present in the mobilization against the G8 this year.

In Germany, with its history of National Socialism as well as uprisings of neo-Nazism and nationalism after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the left must struggle with and position itself against critiques of “the new world order,” of “globalization,” and even of “capitalism,” from non-emancipatory positions, including those from the (far) Right. Such non-emancipatory critiques range widely, from proponents of economic protectionism and political isolationism (which can be seen in Right-wing anti-war positions), to the cultural field of “preserving cultural uniqueness from commercialism,” all the way to the far Right and its attempts to solve social questions in hyper-nationalist ways.

The scale of right-wing involvement in anti-globalization politics, or broader sentiments of reactionary anti-capitalism, present facts that have not gone ignored by some on the German Left and can be seen present in the anti-G8 mobilization, whether against the far-Right, the state, or as self-criticism of our own social movements.

Notes on XXIst Century Socialism

threewayfight: Notes on XXIst Century Socialism by Bromma
Superb satirical take on Hugo Chavez's "Bolivarian revolution"

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A lexicon for our times

1. Rococco Left
Rococo Left is a term coined* by Noga of Contentious Centrist to talk about what has also been referred to as the "Indecent Left", the part of the far left that allies itself with far right forces abroad like Ba'athism and Islamism, while converging with the far right in the West in basing its analysis on anti-american and often anti-semitic conspiracy theories, instead of an ethical concern with social justice or a materialist critique of global injustice.

Rococco Left is a good term - for those of you who don't know what Rococo means, the first image google throws up is this one of a cock and balls, which is pretty apt - basically it's overblown, decorative, baroque. The word comes from the French rocaille, or shell, and the Italian barocco, or Baroque. The Rococco Left, like a decorative shell, is empty of substance, full of bombast, devoting time to the pointless frills and forgetting the important core.

*Comment no.10 here. Correction: actually by her friend - see comment!

2. Arrested radicalization
This is a term which Jogo drew my attention to, used on the 9/11 Cult Watch page I linked to. I think the term was coined by Chuck Munson of Infoshop. As Jogo puts it, "the term describes an intellectual process that has not been carried far enough, and that merely mimes true radicalism." A useful term!

See also: De-bunking the 9/11 movement; Chuck Munson on the sad decline of Indymedia.

3. Dove with claws
I take this from a post on Shagya Blog, linking to a piece in In These Times that I linked to a while back. It comes from the great Johnny Cash, talking about the Vietnam war:
This past January we took our entire show, along with my wife June, we went to Long Bien Air Force Base near Saigon.
And a reporter friend of mine asked, said, "That makes you a hawk, doesn't it?"
And I said, "No, that don't make me a hawk. No. No, that don't make me a hawk."
But I said, "If you watch the helicopters bring in the wounded boys, then you go into the wards and sing for 'em and try to do your best to cheer them up so that they can get back home, it might make you a dove with claws."
Wade Tatangelo characterises Cash's position as "anti-war/pro-soldier", which is not a bad place to be.

4. Untamed hawk
Merle Haggard takes it one step further. Asked "Do you feel like a dove with claws these days?" He replied:
How about an untamed hawk? I’m not going to be a part of the mainstream ever. I’m an American, and I think America is about differences of opinion, and it’s also about integrity and honesty and all those things. We need to gain that respect and that reputation around the world again, as well as in the middle of this country. I think the average American is in a state of confusion as to what to do or who to turn to for help.
By strange coincidence, Haggard's wonderful "I wonder if they ever think of me" has just come on my shuffle. The opening line is "There's not much a man can do inside a prison", pretty raw for the time. After lamenting the prisoner's loneliness for a couple of verses, you suddenly get this:
I wonder if they know that I'm still living
And still proud to be a part of Uncle Sam
I wonder if they think I died of hunger
In this rotten prison camp in VietNam.
See also: Mark Steel of the SWP in a pretty good article on country music radicals, including Cash and Haggard.


Bob's beats genre keywords: country music. Bob's beats artist keywords: Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard.
Keywords: Merle Haggarde

George Orwell's lessons for the left

Excellent post at The New Centrist on George Orwell's lessons for the left.

Previous: The New Leader magazine; Wikipedia and the anti-Stalinist left; Orwellian language; The Ministry of Re-shelving; The war on cliche.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Shagya Blob and 9/11 Truth

Because Shagya Blog added me to the blogroll, after a Battle of Lewisham posting, I reciprocated, but just noticed that I mistyped "Shagya Blob" instead, which I've now rectified. Hope no offense was caused!

On Shagya Blog, I found this fascinating link, about the 9/11 Truth Cult, from Larry O'Hara and the folks that brought us Notes From the Borderland. Also on the 9/11 Truth Cult, see this post on Hugo Chavez at ModernityBlog.

The Battle of Lewisham: clarity of vision

ModernityBlog makes Lewisham '77 site of the week, and gives an excellent account of why. Jim D also adds his voice. (Added: and Richard too.)

Anti-fascist hero: Moe Fishman

SALUD ! to Moe Fishman (1915-2007)
The Unrepentant Communist posts this moving obituary for Moe Fishman, International Brigade veteran. It is sad to see the passing of this generation of honourable men and women, many working class Jewish children of immigrants. My grandfather, a Communist in New York at the same time as Fishman, idolised people like Moe, who made the journey to Spain. As a child, the "International Brigade" conjured up the noblest form of heroism.

As I got older, and developed politically, I came to see the ignoble side of the International Brigade, its use by Moscow to destroy dissident forms of anti-fascism in Spain. I realised things were not as black and white as fascism versus anti-fascism. So the passing of people like Fishman touches me in another way too: the tragedy of noble impulses used so wrongly.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Cuba and the two souls of socialism

Twice before on this blog, I have mentioned Stalinist professor James Petras, once to note his participation in anti-semitic conspiracy theories regarding Mo-toon publisher Flemming Rose, once to link to a Marxist critique of his moonbat anti-Zionist writing. I was, therefore, interested to read a Cuban libertarian group's take on Petras on The New Centrist. (The 2006 piece appears in many places on the web, most readably in pdf at The Utopian, fairly readably at anarkismo, or with crap formatting but web links at Infoshop News.)

The Movimiento Libertario Cubano (MLC) start off with an extraordinary piece of Stalinist visciousness, "The Responsibility of the Intellectuals: Cuba, the U.S. and Human Rights", where Petras attacks the likes of Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Susan Sontag, Eduardo Galeano, Immanuel Wallerstein and Jose Saramago for criticising the Castro regime's stifling of dissent. The dissidents the regime locks up are, Petras writes, US agents. And Cuba is on war footing, because America is at war with her - a war directed by Zionists no less. ("The Bush government has declared that Cuba is on the list of military targets subject to mass destruction and war. And in case our moralistic intellectuals don’t know it: What Bush, Rumsfeld and the war-mongering Zionists in the Administration say -- they do.")

The most extraordinary passage in the Petras piece is this: "Cuba is justified in giving its attackers a kick in the balls and sending them to cut sugar cane to earn an honest living." Quite aside from the notion that being a Professor Emeritus and writing books on Zionist conspiracies is an honest living, this is surely one of the most horrible and dishonest defences of totalitarianism I've seen.

The MLC note, however, that Petras appears to have mellowed between 2003 and 2006, with a more nuanced view of the situation. They then proceed to demolish that more nuanced view too, as an utterly deluded representation of Cuba's brutal reality. While few on the left are as extreme as Petras' 2003 statements, his 2006 statements are quite typical of the fellow travelling view of many "democratic" socialists and liberals, so their critique should be required reading.

They end with this rousing declaration:
The “socialism” built by the “Communist” party and its leader is not reversible for the simple reason that it never was and the only chance in sight is nothing less than the development of a vast autonomous project that returns to the people everything the state and its “vanguard” perversely took from them. And this is inseparable from an ample and lasting and unrestricted regime of liberties: liberty to think and opine, liberty to organize, liberty to mobilize and liberty for people to take charge of their own lives without mediation or interference. Because in the end, socialism will be libertarian or it will not be: a historical confirmation that James Petras’ timid, hesitant and belated step forward doesn’t quite acknowledge.
You can also read a more recent interview with the MLC in English here. (Hat tip: Arieh)

Related: Interview with Venezuelan libertarians; Cuban anarchism: history of a movement; The Sam Dolgoff Archive; Ni Bush, Ni Chavez.

Footnote: title of this post in homage to Hal Draper.

Anti-Germanism

I posted something about Anti-Germanism here a while back. Here are some more links on Anti-Germanism. I’ve taken them from the Wikipedia entry on movement, but it was me who put some of them there.Lots of interesting stuff.

Ben Neill/The New Centrist

I’ve just become aware of the blog, The New Centrist, which I’m going to add to my blogroll. Mostly, it’s politics, of a kind of Euston variety. But there is also this post on the musician Ben Neill, which inspired me to find out a bit more. Consequetly, I got to this post, with mp3s, at What to wear during an orange alert. Go play.

The Misery of Islam - Al-Djouhall

The Misery of Islam - Al-Djouhall
A communist critique of Islam, for your edification and enjoyment.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Battle of Lewisham 2/Anti-fascist songs

The Lewisham '77 website has been growing. There is a map of the route, and loads of great photos, as well as YouTube video footage. Please spread the word - especially if you were there.

Following on Comrade Transpontine's suggestion of Junior Murvin's "Police and Thieves", Bob Marley's "Get Up Stand Up" and the Tom Robinson Band as the soundtrack to the Battle of Lewisham, and having used Heaven 17 to soundtrack my Battle of Lewisham post, I've been thinking of some other anti-fascist:
As the battle was nearly as much about the police as the fash, you can also listen to "Police and Thieves" (mp3 via Motel de Moka), the Clash's "Police on My Back" (mp3 via Blank Forever), or the KRS-One classic, "Sound of the Police" (mp3 via Certified Banger).

Any more suggestions?

Ward Churchill 8-1

This is an edited version of an e-mail from our occasional guest-blogger Jogo.

Terror-loving, racist, evilprof Ward Churchill was fired, finally.UC Regents voted 8-1.
Read the local (Boulder) newspaper story for a richly detailed account of the proceedings.
Note behavior of the Churchillites.
Can anyone, other than ACLU die-hards, fanatical commieprofs and domestic Hamas-loving insurgents, still maintain that Churchill was fired for his beliefs? There is an easy litmus test for evil (or useful idiot) commieprofs: if a prof is FOR Churchill, he's on the other side of decency. Canvass your colleagues, and take careful note of the results. You might need to remember, some day, when the shooting begins on campus, who was who in this fight.
Make no mistake, Churchill is the face of the pro-terror left. He is plainly a thug, never having demonstrated, from Day 1, even a pretense to professorial presentation of himself. His supporters (the tenured, the Colorado bar-certified, and the lumpen) are also thugs.
Good riddance to Ward Churchill. But this firing will only turn him into a Sheehanesque actor of titanic proportions.
Here are some more stories, possibly closed to non-registrants. Also some pix following.
*******
In one photo, Churchill, in uniform, raises his fist (why?) after the vote. Churchill talks to media after the vote, with corny AIM flag skillfully positioned in background.
But wait! What's this AIM business? Does the American Indian Movement support Ward Churchill? That is what the flag and the t-shirts are implying. Can it be true? Or .... might there be an internecine real-AIM/fake-AIM thing that we white people aren't aware of?
Note that Russell Means and his "Denver AIM" are considered by them to be renegades and evil-doers. Also note that Real AIM (and its honorable chairman and directors Dennis Banks and the Bellecourt brothers) have only contempt for Ward Churchill. Click the links under their letter for more interesting stuff.
*******

Friday, August 03, 2007

Concrete solidarity

While British transport unions boycott Israeli unions, Israeli unions are busy forging real links with Palestinian unions, surely the correct strategy for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine.
Report here via Arieh.

Update: more at Shiraz Socialist.
Update 2: Arieh also sent this JP article on another example of concrete engagement: the Northern Exposure initiative, created by Shatil, the New Israel Fund's empowerment and training center.

Dead Anarchists: 40 years of struggle - the memoirs of a Jewish anarchist



Dead Anarchists present the Weinberg Memoirs: Chaim Leib Weinberg and the Yiddish anarchist movement of Philadelphia from the 1890s to the 1930s. [via Make/Shift]

Blog links


Ward Churchill's pink slip


Drink-soaked Trotskyite Popinjays For WAR: Speaking Of Fake Academics & New Agers. . . Terry Glavin on Ward Churchill. I may write more on this before long.

Democratators R Us

Confessions of a Closet Republican: Hugo Chavez: Me, Tyrant? You, go home! Chavez in Mexico

Sarte on anti-semitism

The Contentious Centrist: a little of the passion

Defending Negri

The piece from Virtual Stoa I linked to yesterday was on Johann Hari on Antonio Negri, and referenced vintage Gene on Negri , which in turn referenced vintage David Aaronovitch on radical chic.

The Aaronovitch article is great. It opens:
I had to laugh, albeit bitterly. In the publisher's blurb for Tariq Ali's forthcoming Bush In Babylon, it is being claimed that the book - a polemic against the occupation of Iraq - will 'stand apart from the morass of sycophantic books now being presented', by 'eschewing the fashionable lurch to the Right by some former leftists'.

This 'morass' of pro-war literature has somehow slithered past me unseen. In the bookshops I visit the politics sections are dominated by Chomsky and Pilger (the negative Marx and Engels of the new far-Left), and staff recommendations seem to attach themselves exclusively to anti-Bush polemics.
"Chomsky and Pilger, the negative Marx and Engels of the new far-Left", I like that phrase.

The article goes on to look at other examples of radical chic: the fashion for the Iraqi "resistance", the rehabilitation of the likes of Kathy Boudin, and so on.

But the bit I want to take issue with, quite a minor part of the article, is where Aaronovitch takes on Negri:
There are echoes of this moral cockeyedness in the recent accolades accorded to that darling of the anti-globalisation movement, Antonio Negri, co-author of the deeply fashionable and completely impenetrable book Empire. A former leader of an illegal group called Potere Operaio, Negri repeatedly endorsed violence as a political means, while his group stockpiled weapons and firebombed the offices of rival parties.
Now, Negri is certainly guilty of spouting a lot of nonsense in his recent writings, and a lot of Empire is shit, but to relate the fashionable status of this nonsense to his alleged violent past is unfair. More to the point, reducing him to a caricature of a leftist terrorist, as Aaronovitch does here, is both unfair and either dishonest or ignorant.

First of all, it is important to place the violence of Potere Operaio in the context of the extraordinary violence of Italy in the 1970s, the anni di piombo ("years of lead"), which amounted to a civil war in Italy. This was the period inaugerated by the Piazza Fontana bombing (a fascist bomb attack blamed on the left, for which 4000 leftists were arrested, including Giuseppe Pinelli, whose "accidental death" in police custody inspired Dario Fo's play) and the Golpe Borghese fascist coup attempt (which involved senior military and police officers). It was the period of the Italian state's "strategy of tension", through violent means, including by proxy via the far right, who slaughtered many in atrocities blamed on the left. (In fact, analysis has shown that two-thirds of the violence of that period was of the far right, only a quarter of the far left [source: diplo].)

This is the context of the "illegality" of Potere Operaio and its stockpiling of weapons (if indeed it did stockpile weapons). Potere Operaio, and the wider autonomist movement of which it was a part, did involve itself in violence, incuding bank robberies and rioting. The fireboming of a rival mentioned by Aaronovitch is the Primavalle Fire, an arson attack on the fascist MSI. However, the autonomists was sharply critical of the terrorist/"urban guerrilla" strategy of the Red Brigades (BR), particularly after the Brigades went underground in 1974. The autonomists
"had always attacked the BR as a crudely anachronistic, Marxist-Leninist throwback to the 'Partigiani' (Partisans) of World War Two, which only played into the hands of the state. Reactions varied from the ambiguous ("They are comrades who have got it wrong") to Negri's "syphillis of the movement". [source: libcom]
The autonomists believed that only the mass action of the overwhelming majority of the workers could overthrow capitalism, not the violence of a vanguard acting in the name of the working class. Consequently, they devoted their attention, not to violence, but to factory committees, radio stations, squatted social centres and so on.

In fact, they underwent a rapid political evolution, of which Negri was a key thinker, from the political parties of the parliamentary left to "workerism" (an orientation to factory workers to "autonomism" (a libertarian emphasis on the autonomy of working class people). The shift from workerism to autonomism was signalled by the disbanding of Potere Operaio in 1973 and the growth of Autonomia Operaia. In other words, they moved in the opposite direction to the Red Brigades, who were committed their first lethal attack in 1974.

However, Negri was framed as the theorist behind the Red Brigades. On April 7 1979, Negri and other former Potere Opera militants were arrested.
"The prosecuting magistrate claimed that this organization had been the source of political violence throughout the 1970s and that Negri was the secret leader of a vast clandestine constellation of terrorist organizations -- despite the fact that his efforts of political organization had run in the opposite direction and toward more decentralized models. The emergency measures provided that Negri and thousands of others could be held for an extended period without being charged or coming to trial. When Negri did finally come to trial four years later, the original allegations of his masterminding terrorist organizations had been dropped. The judges prosecuted him instead primarily on the basis of his writings, holding him "morally" and "objectively" responsible for actions on that basis." [source: everything]
Negri, who was actually sentenced to death by the Red Brigades while he was in prison, continued to develop intellectually, moving away from Marxism, towards poststructuralist thught, and also towards religion. Thus, even if he had been guilty of the crimes he was alleged to have committed, the Negri of the '70s was a very different person from the Negri of Empire.

Aaronovitch, in short, is repeating the libel visiting upon Negri by the Italian state. Interestingly, the original architect of this lie was in fact the Italian Communist Party (PCI), which loathed Negri for leading workers away from Stalinism.
In particular, Magistrate Pietro Calogero, a PCI supporter, developed the 'Calogero theorem', effectively 'guilt by association', to prosecute the far-left intellectual Antonio Negri on terrorism charges. In fact, the 'autonomist' groups that Negri was a part of, though they did in the end provide many recruits to the Red Brigades, were divided over the use of terrorism, with Negri clearly opposing. That did not matter to the PCI-affiliated Calogero, for whom the opportunity to frame Negri on terrorism charges was too tempting. Negri's ultra-leftism was seducing the younger militants away from the PCI, and for this crime he had to be jailed.

'The left entered the criminal justice system through the struggle against terrorism', explained Antonio Negri from the prison cell Calogero put him in. 'It is the left that led the enterprise of political repression in the late 1970s.' 'Which left are you talking about?', he was asked. 'The Communists.'

The influence of the Italian Communist Party seems remarkable, except that it was a fiercely conservative organisation, defending the state and the family against the attacks of the new left radicals. [Source: Spiked]
And, of course, Aaronovitch was a member of the Communist Party at the time, in fact part of the Eurocommunist current which worshipped the Italian Communist Party. While an anti-Stalinist now, some Stalinist habits die hard.

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As a post script, I don't want to defend Empire (co-written with American academic Michael Hardt), but it also worth pointing out that its making of Negri as a " darling of the anti-globalisation movement" is largely based on lazy reading (or, more likely, reading the dust jacket) of that huge tome, not helped by its very unpenetrability. Empire is not an anti-globalisation book or an "anti-imperialist" book (in the sense that Chomksy/Pilger are "anti-imperialist"). In fact, it is a critique of certain anti-globalisation and "anti-imperialist" positions, based on the idea that what Negri calls Empire, the current form of globalization, is fundamentally qualititively different from the imperialism Lenin, Luxemburg and others analysed at the start of the last century. Negri also praises the globalization from below that is caused by Empire.

Links: Negri in the NYRB; the lowdown on Negri from Notbored; Negri on Italian terrorism; Negri replies to his accusers; Sergio Bologna on the autonomist movement; AWL on autonomism; James Heartfield: The biggest scandal in Italian politics; Tobias Abse's sophisticated hatchet job on Negri.

Previous: Negri on Cuba; Aaronovitch on the squaddists.

August 5th - Support imprisoned Iranian student activists and bloggers

Confessions of a Closet Republican: August 5th- Support imprisoned Iranian student activists and bloggers: "Arash Kamangir is asking all bloggers to join in a movement, generated by a group of Iranian bloggers, to publicize the plight of jailed student activists in the land of Ahmadinejad and the oppressed." Read the rest.

(See also: Bloodthirsty Liberal, Terry Glavin)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Hari versus Harry


As you may have noticed, I've been away from t'internet for a few days (quite a nice experience) so managed to miss the storm of controversy/storm in a teacup that is Johann Hari's litigation against Harry's Place. Read about it at DST4W. (Plus a bit more fuel for the fire from Chris Brookes via Will.)

Image from Onions.

Previous: Another Hari meme; Hari on Little Atoms; The Gay Destroyer.

The juvenile left

The jokes that are the SWP and Respect:

New Cross stories

Relentless bad press:

3:AM Magazine » So Much For The Underground: "...The East London Line has proved to be a fascination to me since I arrived in London and (unintentionally) found myself living in the (then) deeply-unfashionable area of New Cross in the South London backwater borough of Lewisham..."

I'm Medicated How Are You? - Placebo Biography - Part 1 "At the age of 17, Brian moved to London to study drama at Goldsmith’s College in New Cross, while Stefan finished his schooling in Sweden. The five years in South East London (New Cross, Deptford and Lewisham), was a dark period of Brian’s life. Recalling the depressing places he stayed and some of the bad habits he acquired. This added to the earlier psychosis, which in the end featured in the compositions on the first album ‘Placebo’. "