Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blog recommendation

(Found via A Very Public Sociologist)

Fill your ears (Nothing to do with elections)

I mentioned Chumbawumba last week, and lo and behold, The Lost Turntable posts some of their music, which took me straight back to 1997... Meanwhile, Seán has a Proustian moment sparked by Public Enemy's "Fight The Power", taking him back to 1990. I hadn't moved to London in 1990, and sadly missed the Battle of Trafalgar, but that moment - and the perfidy of the Anti-Poll Tax movement's Trot leadership - helped shaped the politics that would make me such a big Chumbawumba fan through the 1990s. As an aside, Do The Right Thing is one of my favourite ever films.

London's left and the peach paper

I just posted on the far right in the London Assembly elections. If you only want to read one post, read that one instead of this one. But I have to say the far left has a pretty crap presence in the proportional section (that's the one with the "peach" ballot - see left) of the GLA election.

Basically, there are three choices to the left of Labour, and all of them are appalling.

In the order they appear on the ballot, first you've got the Left List. That's the electoral front for the SWP, who lost the electoral name "Respect" when Linda Smith wouldn't give it back to them. Their list includes Lindsey German, Big Brother's Carole Vincent, the likeable but useless Oliur Rahman, and Kumar Murshid, who was at the centre of the corruption allegations around Lee Jasper and the other Ken cronies. On Kumar read: John's blog; Vikram Dodd's profile; or news stories on his "alleged" corruption from the Graun, the Evening Boris, the Beeb. In short, the new Stalinists.

Next up, "Respect (George Galloway)". The fact they put George's name in the name of the party is a good indication of the man's megalomania and delusions of grandeur: the party is the vehicle of this man's madness. Their politics aren't even left-wing, but a hodge-podge of Islamism and demagoguery. In short: the would-be new Stalin.

Finally, Unity for Peace and Socialism. Apparently, they are "an electoral alliance between the Communist Party of Britain and the British domiciled sections of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of Bangladesh and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE)." Their politics can be summed up by their call for "respect for China's sovereignty and borders today following attacks by supporters of Tibetan separatists on the Olympic torch relay", which will surely resonate with Londoners... In short: the old Stalinists.

What a pathetic bunch.

P.S. This made me laugh.

Keep the BNP out of London

I've still got a couple more election-related posts to put up before tomorrow. Yesterday, I did a couple of posts on the London Assembly "yellow" ballot, for local members (1,2). Today, a couple on the "peach" ballot (see image left). The peach ballot paper has a list of all the political parties and independent candidates that are standing in the election and one column. There's a complicated formula, but basically 5% of your votes equals a seat in the GLA.

There is, therefore, a real danger that the fascist British National Party will be sitting in the next London Assembly. I believe, therefore, that it is vital that you vote on the peach ballot, even if you vote on no other ballot.

This does not mean you need to vote for one of the "mainstream" parties to keep the "extremists" out. (As Ross notes here, the actions of the "mainstream" parties have helped fuel the BNP's rise.) Nor does it mean that election time is only time to fight fascism - like owning a dog, that's an all year round responsibility on all sensible people. And, finally, it doesn't mean you have to swallow the spectacle of politicians the BNP themselves endorse mouthing fake anti-BNP soundbites. And it certainly doesn't mean voting for racists in the mainstream parties. But it does mean: get out and vote.

Read these two posts:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Astrologist, Holocaust revisionist and... Respect member

University College London has sensibly withdrawn a researcher’s fellowship after he published an article claiming that the gas chambers of Auschwitz never existed. Nicholas Kollerstrom posted the article, 'The Auschwitz “Gas Chamber” Illusion', on the website of the revisionist Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust. He is also a keen astrologer.

Money quote: "Some of my best friends are Jewish." No, I made that up. Here it is:
“I have some very good Jewish friends and have never had the slightest interest in the Nazi movement,” he said. “I never go to Germany. I have always belonged to things like the Green Party, CND and Respect.”
Says it all really.
[Source: JC]

UPDATE: More at Blairwatch and Liberal Conspiracy

Bob from Brockley's election endorsements: The rest of London

I just posted my recommendations on who to vote for on Thursday in Lewisham and Greenwich for the Greater London Assembly. As a postscript, here are some other candidates I like:
  • Murad Qureshi, Labour, London West Central: One of the few Muslim candidates not endorsed by the Muslim Brotherhood's UK branch, the Muslim Association of Britain. If that's not reason alone to support him, he has good green credentials (e.g. is against the expansion of Heathrow) and is a leading campaigner for a living wage for Londoners. Check his blog here.
  • Shane Collins, Green, Lambeth and Southwark: One of the Green Pary's more colourful candidates, Shane gets my vote for being the main organiser of that South London fixture, the cannabis festival in Brockwell Park. More on him here.
  • James Cleverley, Conservative, Bexley and Bromley: I can't actually endorse a Tory candidate, but on a purely personal level, this is to wish good luck to James C, a very nice man and a Lewisham blogger.

Bob from Brockley's election endorsements: Lewisham and Greenwich

Part of Thursday's election in London will be for Greater London Assembly members. Although the Mayoral race - the Ken and Boris show - has dominated coverage, the Assembly elections are also of some interest. The Assembly elections has a part which is about one's local representative, for constituencies which encompass two or more London boroughs (the yellow ballot paper, see above left).

I live in the constituency of Greenwich and Lewisham. The current Assembly Member (AM) for Greenwich and Lewisham is Len Duvall, Labour, a basically decent bloke and good representative. He won the last election by a majority of 14,083, a comfortable margin, and is therefore highly likely to keep his seat.

In safe Labour seats, I think it is worth voting for more radical candidates, in the hope that eventually the Labour party will realise that they cannot keep on playing to the Middle England vote (e.g. cutting income tax while raising the tax burden for the working poor).

In Greenwich and Lewisham, there are two strong non-Labour candidates: Chris Flood (Socialist Alternative) and Susan Luxton (Green). Both are very good local councillors, Sue in Ladywell and Chris in Telegraph Hill. Both are very nice people. Both have good policies. And Sue is a blogger who links to this blog, which gets her lots of points.

What makes Socialist Alternative different from many other left parties in local politics is an absolute dedication to local issues, and making things better on a local level. The votes that their candidates get - Ian Page and Dave Nellist for example - indicate this.

There are in addition a whole bunch of right-wing populist and other minor parties standing here, who I won't bother mentioning. The BNP are not standing, as the far right is represented by Tess Culnane, representing the National Front. Culnane, a supporter of the expelled former BNP leader John Tyndall, is basically too far to the right, too much of an old-fashioned fascist, to fit in with the current Euro-nationalist British National Party, which indicates how far beyond the pale she is.

The Left List, the electoral front for the Socialist Workers Party, are putting up Jennifer Jones. Last week I posted a guest post on some of the many, many reasons not to vote for Jones. I'll just add that it shows how much contempt the SWP show for the people of Lewisham and Greenwich that they're standing a child who has no political experience beyond the petty world of student politics, where, even in that unsavoury swamp, she has excelled herself in fratricidal and bureaucratic thuggery. She seems to have no interest in local issues, and a sole focus on gay and lesbian identity politics, on supporting Islamist 'anti-imperialist' movements, and in a pathological hatred of Israel. It also demonstrates the contempt of the SWP for the socialist movement that they are willing to dent Chris Flood's vote; one would have thought that they'd stand aside when there is a socialist politician with a genuine local base. Well, no, I guess one wouldn't expect that actually. (See this discussion at Socialist Unity on that issue.)


Monday, April 28, 2008

Reasons to vote for Ken, no.4

Because Boris Johnson's social policies would hurt ordinary Londoners and only benefit the rich few.

Sample Boris quotes:
  • Writing in his Spectator days: "both the minimum wage and the Social Charter would palpably destroy jobs."[source] The reality: London's economy has thrived under the minimum wage.
  • From the same era: "If NHS services continue to be free in this way, they will continue to be abused, like any free service. If people have to pay for them, they will value them more."[source] Well, maybe they would value them more, but lots of them would die first.
More from UKWatch, Paul Owen, yourfriendinthenorth, Johan Hari.

Book meme roll call

Updated and reposted, 29 April

(Start here.) So far, we've got Andrew with Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel, Matt with Yours in Struggle: Three feminist perspectives on anti-semitism and racism, Noga with Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf (in lieu of The Sephardic Kitchen, by Suzy David, of which I thoroughly appove), and Martin M with the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

Folllowing the Noga branch, we get to the New Centrist with George Nash’s The Conservative Intellectual Movement Since 1945, Selma with Heidegger, Roland with Bradley Martin’s Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader and Snoopy with something about Israeli birds. Following the Andrew branch, we get Kate with The deadly space between by Patricia Duncker. The Andrew and Noga branches ultimately converge, it seems, on Beaman.

What a cool collection of books.

So much good stuff

And here's just some of it.

New Centrist has some very good posts at the moment, including one on free markets and food riots. He also weighs in on the "beyond left and right" discussion here.

Martin in the Margins has loads of good material too, including Moderate Muslims fight back, Of saints and secularists and Ziauddin Sardar and the neo-con label.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Three sentences

Martin in the Margins has tagged me with a book-related meme. Here's the task:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

The nearest book to me was Hannah Arendt's Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewess. I'm only on p.85, so I skipped forward. Here's the sixth, seventh and eighth sentences (the "her" being Rahel):

"Passion's insistence on absoluteness caused her capacity for novelty to perish, its organ to atrophy. Where hope does not wait expectantly, it is difficult for anything unexpected to occur. Her future would now be prolongation of the past; if the future were some day 'going to appear as the present', all it could do would be to 'repeat the past'."

I'm tagging Noga, Graeme, Andrew, Matt and Martin M.

As a postscript, I should say I was tempted to go be dishonest, as these sentences don't really advertise the book that well. But other nearby books were one by Jacqueline Rose, which I thought might be too much for you to stomach, and a report on hate crimes against London's Jews, which isn't very weekendy...

Six items

Common thread - something to do with totalitarianism, those who resist it, and those who accomodate to it.

1. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, ex-Muslim, head to head with a stupid Jewish liberal

Al-Jazeera's newest (Jewish) star: Kathy Shaidle on Avi Lewis. Fantastic account of Avi Lewis doing a really bad job of interviewing Ayaan Hirsi Ali, biting off a lot more meat than he can chew. Sample:
Lewis asked Hirsi Ali for her "critique against Islam." Ali, the epitome of poised, calmly responded that "Islam means submission to the will of Allah. A doctrine that requires the individual to become a slave is, in my view, is bad."

"But aren't there different kinds of Islam, just as there are different interpretations of Christianity and Judaism?" Lewis asked.

"No," his guest replied.

Here Lewis began to unravel. Hirsi Ali's calm, cool demeanor actually seemed to agitate him as much as her answers. Grinning for some unknown reason, Lewis insisted that "Evangelical Christianity has risen to the highest ranks of power" in the United States. "They shoot abortion doctors in the United States of America! Homophobia is rampant!" The "abortion doctors" trope is a favorite among the bien pensant elites, of course, but mass-murder, in this case, means that seven murders have been committed and, as Hirsi Ali points out in her interview, they have all been prosecuted and punished -- since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

2. We Are Change: Scary wacko cultists
Cedar Lounge Revolution on the WAC-os (plus a little more here)

3. Bernard-Henri Levy nails Jimmy Carter
Brilliant op-ed by BHL in the WSJ. Sample:
"The problem is not that he is, or is not, talking to the Syrians... The problem is also the formidable nose thumbing he got from Hamas's exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal, who, at the very moment he was receiving Mr. Carter, also triggered the first car bombing in several months in Keren Shalom on the Gaza strip – and that this event elicited from poor Mr. Carter, all tangled up in his small-time mediator calculations, not one disapproving or empathetic word."
More Carter from Dean's World. More BHL on Darfur and the Beijing Olympics (via Norm).

4. Voice of the banlieu? French-Jewish-Afro-Brazilian comic art

Forward article on Alexis Peskine - fascinating.

5. Gay Paree

An exhibit of photographs that show the disturbing extent to which Paris (and Parisians) got along just fine during the Nazi occupation.

6. The assassination of Leon Trotsky: The Movie
As Roland says, God bless the internet. Roland adds: "And speaking of Trotsky, a nice article on Christopher Hitchens is up at Prospect Magazine."

Hat tip for some of these: Jogo

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I forgot to celebrate St George's Day again

Read Derek Wall on Peter Tatchell on St George at Socialist Unity: "Palestinian rebel for human rights?"

Or listen to Billy Bragg, Pulp and Blur at The World of Wingrove.

(Last year: Provisional St George's Day Post)

Political advice at the station

the last bus home: Political advice at the station

I know how you feel mate.

Keywords: Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson, Transport for London, Oyster cards, Mayor of London

Greenwich and Lewisham, leave Jones well alone

A guest post by Not Jones

Bob writes: I have been promising to give you my endorsements for the candidates standing in my local area in the upcoming elections. We are very privileged to have this guest post by Not Jones on one candidate you definitely shouldn't vote for.

Greenwich and Lewisham is a constituency represented by the London Assembly. Residents who are eligible to do so will be casting their votes at the coming elections on 1st May. It’s beyond this author’s capactity to comment on all the candidates, but among them is somebody who deserves to be commented on. My sources are friends, acquaintances and direct experience.

This is Left List’s Jennifer Jones. Jennifer Jones has just, after a delay while electoral irregularities were investigated, been permitted to take up a sabbatical post as Campaigns and Communications Officer at Goldsmiths, University of London. The irregularities, incidentally, related to the exploitation of voter apathy by touring halls of residence with a laptop, requesting ID cards (sometimes even waking up sleeping students, it is reported) and using them to mop up e-votes - a practice that Goldsmiths Student Union in all its e-innocence had failed to anticipate and could not discipline. Jennifer Jones won, even after all her hard work, by a slender margin of 18 votes. A candidate with an extreme agenda, the turn-out was thin, she gained from it - this is your first lesson, voters. Her election means that Goldsmiths is saddled with a turn-off year of divisive campaigning and bad blood - as a member of the irrelevant, broken and misleadingly-named RESPECT Coalition it goes almost without saying that she’s leader of her local Stop the War gang and consequently pursues a steady course of doing anything but (Iraqis say they want troops to remain because they detest Al Quaeda even more? I’m sorry, but Jennifer Jones knows better).

She campaigned at Goldsmiths on a Stop the War Coalition and Free Palestine ticket and is best known there for running an aggressive anti-Zionist campaign disguised as a Palestinian twinning project. This project, in the best Stalinist traditions, rewrites Israeli history, hosts SWP polemicists and has stifled at least one courteous but persistent critic of this unpleasant local twist on Palestine twinning, who found herself demeaned, ridiculed and finally locked out of the Facebook group where the discussion and arrangements take place, with her public posts expunged.

Jennifer Jones, an LBGT rep, sticks up grotesquely for Hamas because, like all pro-Palestinian activists on the confused post-Left, she mistakes it for an anti-imperialist resistance. If she’s capable of discerning its homophobic, misogynistic, murderous and despotic nature, she doesn’t bother herself about it because for her, the culpability lies with you, me and above all the Americans. The reason Democratiya’s Alan Johnson can paint her portrait so deftly without even knowing she exists is that Jennifer Jones is a kitsch left cliche. Look in vain for her manifesto - it’s almost as if the Left List is fielding robots. Don’t be fooled by the anodyne election pledges, though - they’re cosmetic, as any Harry’s Place reader would guess.

The Left List, by the way, is RESPECT. When - and this is indicative - RESPECT squabbled and split last year their nominations officer Linda Smith flounced off with Galloway to found RESPECT Renewal. Despite being voted out that November, Linda Smith wouldn’t sign the requisite form and consequently remains the only nominations officer recognised by the Electoral Commission. If she won’t let the RESPECT candidates put RESPECT next to their name - which she won’t - RESPECT can’t do a thing about it. How embarrassing, how inept. Who would vote for this party and its dirty washing?

Back to Jennifer Jones. At Goldsmiths, the community she is supposed to represent is split by her campaigns. Large tracts of the student body recognise that the Palestine twinning is anti-Israel activism cynically masquerading as concern for Palestinians. Their resulting proposal to mitigate the conflict exascerbation by extending the twinning to an Israeli institution fell by only 2 votes - the turn-out at this debate, as is disturbingly usual where the Israel-Palestine conflict is concerned, was large. The debate was unpleasant, as a previous debate on the same issue had been.

Jewish students at Goldsmiths who are not inclined to condemn Israel’s very existence are feeling less than comfortable these days but, when criticised about this, Jennifer Jones evinces a rumplestiltskin-like defiance, retorting on more than one occasion that the only Jews who object to the twinning are the Zionist ones and it’s not her business to cater to racists. Like many in the SWP, she is comfortable with applying political tests to Jews in this way. And like many in the SWP, she can only recognise racism on the right and has a blind spot when it comes from her own quarters on the hard left.

Residents at one Goldsmiths hall of residence know that, as of last year, she’s banned from the premises for aggressive behaviour - inappropriate enough for a university Campaigns and Communications officer, let alone a London Assembly candidate. If Jennifer Jones is the best the Left List can muster they’re onto a loser. And in fielding such a poor candidate the Left List reveals itself as no more than a pastiche for political pygmies.

Greenwich and Lewisham, here are your candidates. Vote wisely, for London and for yourselves, and pass over Jennifer Jones.

Dennis Bovell in dub

Transpontine writes:
"Thanks to Music Like Dirt's musical map of London , I have come across another South London musical landmark: Dennis Bovell's Studio 80 at 6/8 Emerson Street, London SE1. Bovell is renowned as a musician, producer and sound engineer who started out with UK reggae outfit Matumbi. [...]

There’s also Dennis Bovell’s Brockley connections with Lovers Rock, but that will have to wait for another post."
Read the rest here.

Dennis Bovell's dub of Manu Chao's "Politiks Kills" with Linton Kwesi Johnson (another South Londoner) is available as a free download [mp3].

Read more about (and listen to music by) Bovell at An Idiot's Guide to Dreaming, Amigos de Duritti (on Bovell and LKJ) and Burning Dervish. You can listen to some Dennis Bovell - and some other outstanding dub reggae tracks - at The Book I Read. Bovell also produced The Pop Group - see Sounds of the Suburbs.

Image from Idiot's Guide.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Boris and Ken show continues

Well last week VoteMatch told me to vote Boris Johnson or Lindsey German. This week I did the more challenging Fantasy Mayor at the New Statesman (cap tip: Flesh Is G) and it said put Ken Livingstone first and Sian Berry second. Which is good, as that's what I've already done, being a postal voter (I may not vote often, but I try to vote early).

As well as the Mayor show, the key vote is over the proportionally allocated seats in the London Assembley, as the fascist British National Party are quite likely to reach the 5% needed for a Member (see Jim J for more on this). Here, a vote for any of the non-fascist parties (and we can probably include Galloway's Respect [sic] in that category) is a vote worth casting. I voted Green in that category, partly to alleviate my guilt at voting for Ken, and partly because I think that it is actually good to have Greens in the Assembly, balancing Ken's/Labour's social agenda with an environmental one.

Later this week, as promised, I will give my recommendations for the Lewisham and Greenwich candidates!

Bonus link: This made me laugh.

A little bit of music

1. Nappy Brown "Coal Miner". From the wonderful Locust Avenue, three perspectives on labour from 1961, including:
Napoleon "Nappy" Brown, mining technician. Work ethic is basically good, productivity noted by supervisors, but some attitudinal issues remain. Case recommended for further supervision.

"Coal Miner" was one of Brown's last singles for Savoy, the jazz label he had helped give a second life as an R&B purveyor. (Brown's 1955 "Don't Be Angry"--which Savoy's owner thought was partially sung in Yiddish-- was his biggest chart hit.) "Coal Miner" is an odd record, with Brown accompanied by an at-times harsh saxophone and flute (the mix is very trebly and sharp, to the point of distortion sometimes); the sound is quite unlike most of Brown's other Savoy tracks. I wonder if "Miner" was meant to be a spin on Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang," from the previous year. While not doing much in the U.S., it eventually became a prized Northern Soul record in the U.K.
A great track, but the thing that struck me was that thing about Yiddish. Here's wikipedia: At his first recording session, according to frequently repeated anecdotes, Brown's unique delivery featuring rolled consonants and improvised syllables allegedly led Savoy president Herman Lubinsky to believe that Brown was singing in Yiddish." And here's more on Lubinsky.

2. Desperate Bicycles "New Cross, New Cross 7" - Refill Records. This is a punk six-track from 1978 , which you can listen to at It's a new one on me, and joins Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, Ben Human and Half Panda in that elite category of bands who have name-checked South London's second coolest neighbourhood. Even though they're actually from across the river in East London. Read more here.

3. Danbert Nobacon The Library Book of the World. Anyone who has been around the same block as me politically has probably seen Chumbawumba live more times than they'd care to think about. Danbert Nobacon, of the aforesaid, has released a solo album. Danbert says:
The Library Book of the World... is a theatrical concept album about trying to write a book on our current global predicament, in which I play the role of psychic medium plugged into the mainline of human history, hearing voices from present ghouls and future ghosts as well. Well that was yesterday. Today it's vaudeville on a convict ship, a tale of being held in isolation in the hold, and cut adrift in the rising seas of the Atlantic, haunted by Perception Management Inc.'s best lines, and wrestling with every sleight of language in the attempt to dislodge the mirage of our consent. Tomorrow, as the waves are crashing all around, it will be fifteen songs which form a partial soundtrack to the history/current affairs book I am actually writing, (working title Smart Lies, Secret Wars and Climate Revolt).
Hmm. You can hear tracks at OregonLive or at MySpace. I have to say, it doesn't do too much for me, but give it a listen. Buy it from Bloodshot Records.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The unconscionable cruelty of Polly T

While I don't agree with its conclusions, this post at Freeborn John is very, very good.

Decentism and defectors, lumpen and otherwise

This post is a contribution to a number of inter-related debates that are currently exercising the blogetariat: David Edgar's response to David Mamet's desertion from "brain-dead liberalism", Marko Attila Hoare's claim that the defining axis in politics today is West v anti-West not left v right, and the premature announcement of the demise of the Euston Manifesto.

On the on-going debate, more recent key texts include: Shuggy's attack on Marko's use of the word lumpen, Marko's ironic mea culpa, Shuggy's rejoinder, Waterloo Sunset's mano-a-mano with Marko, Martin M's oblique comments on all of this and Alan Johnson's spirited defence of the Euston legacy.

Here, I mainly want to write about the David Edgar essay on defectors from the left. Being something of a defector myself, I was very prepared to get irritated. However, the piece was actually quite thoughtful and interesting. There are four things things I wanted to take issue with.

I. The anti-Stalinist legacy

First, and least important, Edgar appears shockingly ignorant of the existence of a "decent" anti-Stalinist left prior to 1956. I mean, I can't expect him to be familiar with the likes of CLR James and Victor Serge, but we can expect him to have heard of Leon Trotsky and certainly George Orwell. In fact, long before the "Kronstadt moment" (I think he's lifted that phrase from anti-Stalinist Daniel Bell, who started out in an anarchist milieu, who famously said his Kronstadt moment was Kronstadt), there were leftists who opposed Leninist authoritarianis, such as Rosa Luxemburg and Britain's own Sylvia Pankhurst.

This seems trivial and pedantic, but its significance is that the equasion of leftism with Leninism works in two, dangerous ways: it allows Stalinists to portray any dissident leftists (e.g. Orwell) as evil renegades, and it allows the right to dismiss leftism in general.

II. Islam versus Islamism

Second, there is the vexed question of Islam versus Islamism. Edgar is right to note that there is a slippage amongst some of the defectors and decentists between these: Martin Amis was a bit sweeping, Nick Cohen can be, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali thinks all Islam is irredeemable. But most of the "defectors" are pretty clear on the difference. Certainly Ed Hussein is clear.

And even if they weren't, it wouldn't excuse Edgar's slippage.
'Cohen is careful to point out that "Islamism has Islamic roots", and, clearly, the group that he dubs the "far right" goes beyond the adherents of Jamaat-e-Islami. It's also a group that - defined in the old-fashioned way as Pakistanis and Bangladeshis - remains at the bottom of the socioeconomic heap. As Trevor Phillips pointed out in his "sleepwalking into segregation" speech, made after 7/7, a Pakistani man with identical qualifications to a white man is still going to earn £300,000 less in his lifetime.'
In fact, Asians defined as Pakistanis and Bangladeshis is an entirely different thing from either Islam or Islamism, and to claim otherwise is disingenuous. Are Saudi residents in the UK at the bottom of the heap? Are Turkish Cypriots even? Some Islamic states are amongst the richest in the world. And Islamist politics has stronger roots among rich Muslims than poor Muslims.

III. The politics of alliance

The third thing, which follows directly from this, is about the politics of alliance. Edgar compellingly makes the case for the left to make alliances, even unsavoury ones, with the oppressed. He cites the Civil Rights movement, when white and Jewish Northern middle class leftists joined forces with Southern blacks who were led by Christians, and he cites the Black Power moment, when white radicals allied with Black Power people, dispite the latter's dodgy sexual politics.

This claim, though, is problematic in three ways. First, it glosses over the tensions and critiques that went on in those alliances. Within the Black Power movement, there were different positions: on the one side were people like Huey Newton, who were moving towards more empancipatory sexual politics, and on the other side were the likes of Eldridge Cleaver (mentioned in Edgar's article as a defector) who had very brutal sexual politics. And the white radicals who worked with the Black Power movement had different positions on this. Some, like the posturing ideologues of Ramparts magazine (such as David Horowitz, another defector), were slavishly uncritical of Cleaver and his bullshit. Others, such as Jean Genet, pushed away at the contradictions within the Black Power movement. There are many white liberals and radicals nowadays, like George Galloway and Madeleine Bunting, who decry any criticism of Islamist sexual politics as orientalist and Islamophobic; they are the David Horowitzs of today.

Second, Edgar's "left" is a white, metropolitan left. In fact, weren't Huey Newton and Stokely Carmichael as authentically part of the left as the whities at Ramparts were? And today is there not a viable mass left in the Islamic world, which cautions against alliances with the Muslim Brotherhood - forces like the Iraq Freedom Congress or the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan?

Third, there is the crucial question about what issues one makes unsavoury alliances about. In the fight against racism, I believe it is correct for anti-racists to work closely with the targets of racism, including those who might have unpleasant politics. But the groups from the Bangladeshi and Pakistani populations in the UK who are actively fighting racism are not the Muslim Association of Britain, but groups like the Southall Black Sisters, the Monitoring Group, the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism and the Newham Monitoring Project - groups who also caution against an alliance with Islamism. If the SWP was making close alliances with these groups, instead of with the Muslim Association of Britain, then I'd take Edgar's point more seriously.

Fighting an unjust war might also be a cause worth making alliances for too. But here, the Stop the War movement has not just made a tactical alliance with Islamists, they have allowed them to set the agenda. Hence the yoking together of protest against the Iraq war with causes like the Israeli occupation, defending the Iranian regime, and solidarity with Hezbollah. Here a naive 'anti-imperialism' has been used as an alibi for antisemitic conspiracy theories.

At any rate, forming a political party with Islamists goes way beyond mere strategic alliances...

IV. Pathologising defection

The fourth thing is simple. It may be the case that there are certain pathologies of defection, which Edgar analyses very well, with a play-wright's understanding of character. But this does not necessarily make defection wrong - any more than the undeniable fact of pathologies of leftism makes leftism wrong (as people like David Horowitz would have us believe). As Tom Freeman notes,
Edgar says that he’s “interested in the politics of defection”, although he seems to be more fascinated by the psychology of defection (or rather, the psychology of changing your mind when political cliques of some sort are involved).
V. And...

A final point: why are so many playwrights called David?

Solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe

Excellent source: This is Zimbabwe
Sokwanele - Zvakwana is a peoples' movement, embracing supporters of all pro-democratic political parties, civic organizations and institutions in Zimbabwe. Sokwanele and Zvakwana both mean 'enough is enough' in the vernacular.
Found via Martin M.

Also read: Is Zimbabwe now a client state of the People's Republic of China, by the Jura Watchmaker.


One thing that has made me angry in relation to the Chinese arms-to-Mugabe outrage was the claim from the South African government that they could not interfere with the passage of the weapons. "We are not in a position to act unilaterally and interfere in a trade deal between two countries," they said last week.[source] The anti-apartheid movement was based precisely on the premise that the international community has the right and the duty to interfere in the business of other states if it was unjust. The ANC exhorted the citizens of the world to boycott apartheid goods. And now they are safely in power, they resort to the sanctity of national sovereignty.

The ANC - in contrast to the South African workers - still think of Mugabe as an anti-imperialist. "African National Congress president Jacob Zuma adopted a softer tone towards the Zanu (PF) government after a week of criticism, saying it was an integral part of the solution and was "a fraternal liberation movement and an ally"."[source]

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Ken and Boris show

I did this VoteMatch thing to see if I'm voting for the right candidate in the London elections (hat tip: Clare). Scarily, the two candidates my views most tally with were:
  • Boris Johnson (Conservatives)
  • Lindsey German (Left List)
I'm just off to shoot myself.

Instead of a pesakh post

I usually do some kind of a Passover blog post at this time of year. As I'm not likely to blog after today until some time next week, here's some cool Jewish folk rock at Waxidermy: Mark Biddelman - Shiru Ladonai Shir Chadash.

Reasons to vote for Ken, no.3

Because Boris Johnson is a racist, which makes him totally unfit to run a diverse city like London. Boris accuses Livingstone of practising "the politics of division", but racist comments can be pretty divisive Boris.

Sample BoJo quotes:
  • As a journalist in 1999, Boris accused the Macpherson Inquiry, which reported on police racism following the Lawrence murder, of 'hysteria', adding that the "weird recommendation" the law might be changed so as to allow prosecution for racist language or behaviour "other than in a public place" was akin to Ceausescu's Romania".[source] Try telling that to someone who actually lived in Ceausescu's Romania.
  • On a Blair visit to war-torn Congo: "no doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird."[source]
  • In 2003, he is reported cheerily remarking to Swedish Unicef workers and their black driver in Uganda, "right, let's go and look at some more piccaninnies".
  • As recently as 2006, he said "we in the Tory Party have become used to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing".[source] David Wearing takes up the story: "[This] elicited an understandably brusque rejoinder from the Papua New Guinean High Commissioner. Johnson’s reply was that he would gladly add the insulted nation to his “global itinerary of apology”, racked up from past gaffs, and that he “meant no insult to the people of Papua New Guinea, who I’m sure lead lives of blameless bourgeois domesticity”. Johnson’s half-suppressed smirk was palpable. It was plain that Papua New Guinea might as well have been Narnia as far as he was concerned. His feeble explanation that his remarks had been inspired by “relatively recent” photos in a Time Life book, which he was “fairly certain” depicted Papua New Guinean cannibalism, hardly helped matters."
  • He employed the racist Taki on the Spectator. In Taki's columns during BoJo's editoriship, writes Wearing, "New York Puerto Ricans have been described as “a bunch of semi-savages … fat, squat, ugly, dusky, dirty”, Kenya... as “bongo-bongo land”, and black people referred to as “Sambo”. After Charlene Ellis, 18, and Latisha Shakespeare, 17, were shot dead in Birmingham in 2003, Taki blamed “black thugs, sons of black thugs and grandsons of black thugs,” adding for good measure that “West Indians were allowed to immigrate after the war, multiply like flies and then the great state apparatus took over the care of their multiplications”. And in other articles: ""Orientals ... have larger brains and higher IQ scores. Blacks are at the other pole." In another, he described black American bastketball players as having "arms hanging below their knees and tongues sticking out"."
Plenty more from Michael Hodges.

Admittedly, this is a reason not to vote Boris, rather than reasons to vote for Ken. But I don't think any of the other non-Ken candidates have a hope in hell chance of winning, so if you don't want to a racist for London Mayor, vote Ken.

(Next week, I plan to post on who to vote for in the Lewisham and Greenwich Assembley elections, a topic which has exercised commenters here.)

Previously: Reasons to vote for Ken, no.1, 2, 2.5

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

OK, I've now read Marko Attila Hoare's return to the Decentism fray.
It has been a rare treat to be engaged in a genuinely constructive and interesting discussion in the blogosphere. Doesn’t happen as often as it should… I refer to the debate between myself, Bob from Brockley, Peter Ryley, New Centrist, Peter Ridson, Never Trust a Hippy and one or two others about the meaning of progressive politics today.
This debate has helped me think about the central schizophrenia in my politics, which, to use Marko's analogy, is my inability to decide which is more worth fighting for, a bird in the hand or two in the bush. Marko correctly characterizes this debate as (at least partly) between people like the Drink-Soaked Trots, who fight for two birds in the bush (a socialist transformation of society, whatever that may look like) and people like Hoare, Alan Johnson and much of the Euston group, who fight for a bird in the hand (reform of existing capitalism to immediately improve the lives of its victims). As for me, I oscillate between these positions.

In that, I am, in strictly Marxist terms, a classical centrist, which, of course, is a very dirty word amongst the Drink-Soaked. This means I respect Marko's defence of liberal capitalism as a space in which it is possible to secure reform, and as worth defending in its own right.

Where I part with his analysis is here:

Which brings us back to the question with which we began: of whether the inequalities in wealth and power under the global capitalist order make it impossible for large parts of the Third World to enjoy the standard of living, the rights and the benefits that we enjoy in the West; whether Third World countries will always be kept down by the richer countries that profit from their exploitation (there is also the question of just how many people globally could enjoy Western levels of access to heating, electricity and consumer goods before the environment collapses altogether, but that is a problem we would have to address even in a hypothetical post-capitalist world, and is the subject of a whole other discussion).

There are in fact several cases of countries, thoroughly exploited economically by the developed West, carrying out successful national-liberation struggles to achieve their independence vis-a-vis the latter.


We can compare the Turkish and Irish experiences favourably with those countries that liberated themselves from Western domination under the banner of a radically anti-Western or anti-capitalist ideology - China, Cuba, Iran. Their experiences show that the anti-Western, anti-capitalist cure may be worse than the Western neo-colonial disease. For all the qualifications that must be made (Turkey’s oppression of the Kurds; Ireland’s domination by conservative Catholicism; the restriction of personal freedoms in both countries; etc.), the Turkish and Irish experiences show that not only is it entirely possible for colonised countries to achieve genuine national and economic liberation within the global capitalist order, but that this is best achieved under the banner of a Western-style or Westernising nationalist ideology, rather than an anti-capitalist or anti-Western ideology.

This argument, I think, completely misses the point of mine and Peter's critiques of Marko's position. Neither I, nor any Drink-Soaked Trots, would ever argue for any sort of support for 'anti-imperialist' anti-Western revolutions of the Chinese/Cuban/Iranian sort (except in the same, strategic way that Marko would support the Communist-led sides in the Yugoslav, Greek and Albanian civil wars of the 1940s.

My position is that the expropriation of the global South by the global North (or 'West') happens seperately from the direct, military forms of political domination that go under the terms 'imperialism' and 'colonialism'. Instead, contemporary forms of economic inequality are driven by what Peter calls 'a specific model of global capitalism that was not based on free markets, as often stated, but on markets fixed and governed by powerful multi-lateral institutions, which were rapidly transforming societies and destroying communities'.

It is the failure of the trad left to grasp this (and hence their continued anachronistic application of Leninist formulae to the contemporary moment, in the half-baked idea of the American 'empire') that leads them support 'anti-imperialist' regimes like Chavez's or the Ayatollahs'. The Drink-Soaked, in contrast, understand this difference, as do our allies Asayake and Last Superpower. And this is what makes us closer to a 'pro-Western' position than that taken up by the trad left.

So, I am not arguing for an anti-Western, 'anti-imperialist' politics. I am arguing for a critique of neo-liberalism that escapes the anti-imperialist, anti-Western paradigm.

I just noticed Peter has also posted again on this, making some very pertinent points, all of which, I think, I agree with.

Stop Chinese Arms Shipments to the Zimbabwean Regime!

Arieh sent this communique from a group of South African anarchist communists, which can be read in full at Zabalaza.Net

The Working Class Takes a Stand: Stop Chinese Arms Shipments to the Zimbabwean Regime!

We welcome and support the decision by the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union for their workers neither to unload nor transport the shipment of Chinese-made armaments destined for Zimbabwe. This is a very encouraging sign of working class solidarity and internationalism, and we hope that such actions will indeed prevent this weapons consignment from reaching its destination - the Zimbabwean Defence Force. [Read the rest.]

There is a stop press addition at the bottom, dated today: "SAfm radio this morning reported that given the detention of the Chinese ship in Durban, another ship of arms is steaming towards the Mozambican port of Beira, hoping to gain easier access to Zimbabwe. We are getting in touch with our Mozambican comrades to try and ensure the Beira docks are also locked down."

What "genocide loophole"?

Read Hocemo Li Na Kafu? on the Jonah Goldberg piece that I posted recently, refuting Goldberg's position.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Reasons to vote for Ken, no.2 and a half

Well, he may not be good for the Jews, but he is good for London.

(Jonathan Freedland makes everything I tried to say here irrelevant. Read him.)

Keywords: Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson

Top blogging

The great Chris Dillow has included one of my posts in his "top blogging" list, which is nice.

Among his posts you should read are on why he is leaving London, and on why politicians are so thick and/or corrupt they don't realise what fools they look.

Among the other posts he nominates are a few that touched a nerve with me.
Go read em.

Paine today: decentism redux

The debate rumbles on. The Fat Man tells me to calm down. And in fact I have nothing to add to Waterloo Sunset's and my comments here, to Paulie's excellent intervention here, and in particular to the Fat Man's return to the fray here.

Here is an extract from that:

What has happened in the aftermath of 9/11 is that a section of the left woke up, and spotted that another section had drifted into an accommodation with Islamism and anti-Semitism, a trend that had been going on since the 60’s and 70’s. They promptly mounted a challenge. They haven’t comprehensively won, but now every egregious excrescence is met with reasoned argument and passionate scorn. It is hugely to everyone’s credit. This fostered a new internationalism, countering pessimistic ‘realism’ with a wholehearted belief in human possibilities across the world.

All of this is excellent. However, my concern, expressed in recent posts, is that, after our exertions, we too begin to doze off. We get so comfortable attacking the left that we forget that we are left as well. We relax and, in doing so, we forget the grotesque injustices and inequities in even those societies that are liberal capitalist democracies. We forget the shantytowns and favellas, we forget environmental devastation and we forget that, if the current food crisis gets worse, millions of poor people will starve to death whilst I poke fun at government obesity strategies. Only connect.

That sums it up well for me!

Just noticed: The Jura Watchmaker has a bit more to say too here.

P.S. And Terry gives us another reason why Marx still matters, despite what the Burkeans might say.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Decentism: Burke and Paine again

More on Marko Attila Hoare's important post and the on-going debate about it.

Jura Watchmaker (aka Francis Sedgemore), one of the Drink-Soaked Trots, has been one of his antagonists. He returns to the fray here. A couple of extracts:

One thing that stands out in Hoare’s post is his use of the term “homogenous citizenship”, when defending his vision of an egalitarian society. Homogenous? Hoare’s support for an “ultra-liberal immigration policy” aside, this reeks of the aculturalism that I associate with Burkean liberal-conservatism. The last thing I want to see is a homogeneous society. It would be the social equivalent of thermodynamic heat death. 
There are other issues I have with Hoare’s post, including the display of what is for an historian a shocking ignorance of the struggle for enfranchisement of the working class in western societies.
On homogeneous citizenship: I think JW is missing Hoare's point here, if I'm reading JW right. Hoare is not advocating a culturally homogeneous citizenship or social homogeneity. He is, I think, advocating all citizenship being equal and empty of cultural content, and hence equally open to all, of any culture, making for a less culturally homogeneous society. This is a typically republican position, not a conservative position. Conservatism is (partly) about national values, national culture, citizenship as merely an expression of national identity.

Neoconservatives and muscular liberals vaccilate between a republican conception of citizenship and a conservative one - as does the New Labour government, with its contradictory stands on this issue.

On the working class struggle for enfranchisement: Again, I'm not sure if you can read MAH's ignorance of this from his post. However, this radical, proletarian republican tradition JW refers to is indeed important. The British democratic socialist tradition which is, in some ways, the antecedent of today's British "decent left", was very conscious of its deep roots in a proletarian republican movement, which Paine was not part of, but certainly a key influence on. This radical republican tradition, and the wider radical Englightenment it was part of, is the foundation of that part of the Western legacy which is worth exporting elsewhere.


Freeborn John has an extremely erudite post about the debate. He knows a lot more about Paine and Burke than I do - and probably more than the interlocuters in this debate do too. For example, I had no idea that Paine sat on the right side of the French Assembley.

One of the interesting comments that Freeborn John makes is this: "A characteristic of those involved in this debate who feel closer to Paine than Burke is that, on this point, they agree with Burke: democracy should be representative, and particularly not direct." I'm not sure where he gets that from. Of course, JW talks about the working class struggle for enfranchisement, which might imply representative democracy, but it is clear from the rest of his post that he believes - as I certainly do - in a far deeper form of democracy than simple voting. I think even Marko, perhaps the closest of all of us to conventional liberal democracy, would agree that (especially in a domestic context) the struggle for a deepening of democracy is a key part of our politics, and something that differentiates us from conservatives of any sort.


Freeborn John also writes:
In his post, Bob from Brockley argued against Marko Hoare's Pro-West/Anti-West analysis as follows:
But my most important quibble is that the West, whatever that is, has all too often not been the embodiment of the values Hoare describes here as “Western”: “he extension of the liberal-democratic order across the globe, through the politics of human rights, promotion of democracy, universal values and interventionism (not necessarily always military)”.

Most importantly, while the West was on the right side in the fights against fascism and Stalinism, its involvement in the third of what Hitchens calls the great questions of the twentieth century, colonialism, has tainted its claim to represent freedom and democracy.
In this, he was guilty of simplification: people like Smith and Paine had argued against colonialism as early as the late eighteenth-century. Paine and many other Liberals fought against the slave trade and were finally first to abolish it, then to drive Britain into what might be a unique fight against slavery around the world, something that occupied the Royal Navy into the twentieth century and that might actually have cost more than the profits that had been gained from the slave trade. The Liberal tradition cannot be blamed for colonialism - it fought it - and it is this tradition Hoare means, I am certain, when he writes of the "West".
Yes, there was a Western struggle against Western colonialism. The problem is, neither the brutal aspects of Western colonialism nor the Western traditions of Abolitionism, democratic internationalism and anti-colonialism can be thought of as the essence of what "Western" means, to the exclusion of the other. As I tried to make clear in this post, "the West" is a deeply contradictory formation. But that is why "pro-Western" is an uncomfortable label for me.


It is probably also worth saying something on why Peter R's phrase "Paine abroad and Burke at home" resonated with me - and with JW and MAH - as this is something Freeborn John wonders about. It is probably not out of a deep understanding of Paine or Burke (at least not on my part), although Paine is an inspiration for me. It is the issue, as JW makes clear in this post, of the at home/abroad division. We criticise those whose radicalism stops at the border, the leftists who think Blair represents incipient fascism and that fundamentalist Christians are the real Taliban, while they are happy to see brown-skinned people suffer under real fascist dictatoris and theocrats: these people (from Ken Livingstone and Tony Benn to Noam Chomsky and George Galloway) are "Paine at home but Burke abroad". But we also criticise those who want to export democracy and secularism to the Middle East, but make their peace with the Ancien Regime at home: "Paine abroad but Burke at home".


Finally, on the phrase "decent left": JW distances himself from it, seeing it as synonymous with "centrism", a swear word for the Drink-Soaked Trots, while Freeborn John seems to place the likes of Fat Peter, JW and me in it (with Hoare, the Harry's Place bloggers, Nick Cohen and Oliver Kamm described as a Neo-Conservative). What do I conclude from this? Probably that the term - like neoconservative - is so slippery as to be meaningless...

Funky Black Hebrews

At Aquarium Drunkard I read:
Compiled by the Numero Group, and released next month, Soul Messages From Dimona is a soul collection combining the elements of jazz, funk, soul and gospel, all performed by American ex-pat artists who, from 1975-1981, made their home in Dimona, Israel. Musically taking elements from their native homes of Detroit and Chicago, these five groups embraced Black Hebrew Culture, and expressed its message in the funk. Dig.
MP3: Soul Messengers :: Burn Devil Burn
MP3: Tonistics :: Holding On
The Soul Messengers have already featured here, by the way, via Waxidermy. And Dimona came up a while back here, because of the South London black Reform Jewish family, the Levys, who want to emigrate to Israel, but whose Jewishness is considered suspect (possibly for racist reasons) by the Israeli authorities, mainly because Mrs Levy went to Dimona to have her fourth daughter, Shlomeet, there, being "a believer in natural birth and an Israeli Jewish friend in the UK had told her about a natural-birthing clinic in the town."

So, I followed the links, and read this:
Between 1975-1981, a group of American ex-pats took their native sounds of Detroit and Chicago and intermingled them with the messages of the Black Hebrew culture. The results are a heavenly mix of spiritual soul and jazz with an undercurrent of gospel psychedelia. Featuring the Soul Messengers, the Spirit Of Israel, Sons Of The Kingdom, and the Tonistics, Soul Messages From Dimona is the only living document of a thriving community at both the center and fringe of the world.
Passion of the Weiss takes up the story:

At any given time, there are approximately seven tapes in my father’s car. They are as follows: Billy Joel’s, Stormfront, Bob Marley’s Legend, and greatest hits collections from Inner Circle, The Pointer Sisters, Taylor Dayne and ZZ Top. The final tape is a compilation of Israeli gypsy pop that he brought home from Israel when I was about 17. It is quite possibly the worst album ever made. It kind of sounds like a recording of the lead singer of Gogol Gordello yelling epithets at a group of feral cats, while trying to attack them with a guitar and a sack of hearty Ukrainian potatoes. On several different occasions, my dad tried to force my sister and I to listen to the Israeli music. That was the closest either of us ever came to requesting legal emancipation.

Thanks to Passion of the Weiss funk consigliere, The Aquarium Drunkard, I’ve spent a significant portion of my week listening to Soul Messages From Dimona, a collection of gospel/funk/soul songs that have managed to erase all negative connotations that I may have had of Israeli music. Granted, the musicians who made it were Black Hebrew musicians from Detroit who moved to Dimona, Israel from 1975-1981, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. Besides, this is great stuff, therein confirming my long-time suspicions that if black people and Jews came together like the shaolin and the Wu-Tang, we’d be dangerous. Or at least as good as Jordan Farmar.

Pre-Order Soul Messages From Dimona

MP3: Soul Messengers-”Savior in the East”
MP3: Soul Messengers-”Go to Proclaim”

"Go To Proclaim" has cool singing in slightly off Hebrew.

You can check out the Soul Messengers own page here (yes, they're still going strong). They're part of the Kingdom Productions stable of black gospel and soul acts out of Dimona. For videos, check out Bahkooryah's YouTube space.

As a post script, Dimona is in Hezbollah rocket range from Lebanon. Dimona was the target of an attempted double suicide bombing attack on February 4; the second bomber was killed in the first explosion. One Israeli was killed and 11 injured. Although Abbas condemned the Hamas attack, the Palestinian Authority newspapers described the bombers as shahids, glorious martyrns.

Incidentally, if you are interested in black Jews (apart from Jordan Farmar), then check out these posts on Daniel's blog.

Added: It seems Numero has issued some other gems, such as Eccentric Soul: Twinight's Lunar Rotation (see The Smudge of Ashen Fluff) and Don't Stop: Recording Tap (see Gorilla Vs Bear).

Photograph by Wendel White. [Source]

Fill your ears on Friday: more mp3 goodness

Just a few things from around the blogs.

We've done Marc Ribot, now let's do John Zorn. Undomundo posts a couple of Zorn pieces, with his usual accomplices, including Ribot and the great Cyro Baptista. Give em a listen. [More John Zorn]

I've been a Billy Bragg fan for more years than I care to think now, and I still keep on enjoying him. He's one of Britain's greatest lyricists. His new album is out very soon, so he's getting a bit of mp3 blog action, for example from Catfish Vegas, Choir Croak... and To the dogs. [More Billy Bragg]

I think the wonderful Scroobius Pip has made an appearance on this blog before. There's another Dan Le Sac collaboration, "Look for the Woman", posted at Music=Liberation.

One of my favourite ever cover versions is The Be-Good Tanyas (the bluegrassy female vocal harmony group who achieved prominensce from their part in O Brother, Where Art Thou) doing Prince's "When Doves Cry". Check it out at Swillmerchant.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

SHIFT Magazine, issue 2

Just noticed issue 2 of the excellent SHIFT Magazine is out now. Haven't read it yet.
Another airport, another camp. Many of the marquees and tents were the same, and most faces were familiar too. Yet the atmosphere at the No Borders camp last September was very different form the Climate Camp that had happened a month earlier. For a start, there were no police, journalists or livestock on site! Out were the dreadlocks; black hoodies were back in fashion. New airport, new camp, new politics? The No Borders camp had set up at Gatwick airport. Not to protest the flying habits of the middle classes but to demonstrate against the building of Brook House, a new detention centre at Gatwick airport. Read more ...


No Borders interview - Alice (Brighton No Borders)
A foot in both camps - Merrick
Marching to oblivion - Little Red Wagon and Pedro Rocha
Spacehijackers interview - Robin
In defence of free spaces - international call

Revisiting between Burke and Paine in the twenty-first century

Glad to see my recent post has sparked some debate, both on the comments thread and elsewhere. Peter expanded his argument here. Marko replied to my and Peter's comments here.

Marko makes an excellent case as to why he is not "Burke at home". He makes a very clear distinction between the politics of radical liberal democracy (Paine) and conservatism (Burke), which is important to hold on to. (I like his claiming of Charles James Fox as an alternative model to Burke.)

He also takes up my criticisms:
Bob from Brockley questions whether the West can be upheld as a positive model, given the murderous record of Western colonialism, and Western support for murderous dictators such as Saddam Hussein and Pinochet. As I made clear in my original article, the dichotomy ‘Western vs anti-Western’ cannot be projected back in time and equated with the Cold War divide between the Western and Communist blocs, let alone with the divide between the Western colonial powers and the colonised world. The ‘Western vs anti-Western’ dichotomy is a new one; the end of colonialism and of the Cold War has enabled both Western values and the Western alliance to assume a more unambiguously positive character that they did not possess before. As a historian of the Yugoslav Revolution, I can safely say I view the Communist-led sides in the Yugoslav, Greek and Albanian civil wars of the 1940s as the positive ones. I would not have supported the Americans in Vietnam or the Contras in Nicaragua. But these are yesterday’s wars that took place in yesterday’s world. I fear that Bob’s argument dangerously resembles the moral relativist one: that the geopolitical West is wrong today because it can never shed its guilt for past crimes. The ‘Western camp’ that I support is one that, as I made clear, embraces both former Cold Warriors and former Marxists, irrespective of whether they once held correct or incorrect views on Pinochet or Mao, the Contras or the Khmer Rouge. The point is where they are now, not where they were then.
I appreciate that 'the West' he is talking about is not exactly the Cold War West. I appreciate that the West has moved on from its high imperialist past and its Cold War past; I hope I am not still in the jungle fighting yesterday's wars, as some Stalinophile lefties are. I am glad that Marko has not become so "decent" as to side with the Cold War West in those historic wars, as Oliver Kamm, for example, has done in some cases: it is as important not to read today's anti-totalitarianism back on to yesterday's wars as it is not to read the Cold War into today's struggle.

But I believe that 'the West' continues to play a role that is not wholly positive, but, rather, plays a contradictory role.

It is the home of liberal democracy, which it has promoted elsewhere in some contexts. For this reason, the West is a beacon for democrats across the world. Western efforts at "exporting" democracy are A Good Thing.

But the West is also the heart of a global economic system that is bad for the world, that exploits and impoverishes peoples and the planet. The West in this latter sense must not be confused with the leading Western nations - as the faux "anti-imperialists" of the idiot left think, wrongly seeing neo-liberalism as a new imperialism. But the West in this latter sense is not A Good Thing. As Peter said, "political economy and the sharp inequalities... are NOT the 'root causes' of terrorism, but ARE of hunger, misery, environmental collapse and human despair."

While I am happy to ally myself with pro-Western people in the first sense, I am not happy to call myself pro-Western because of the second issue. Therefore, I cannot accept that the line between pro-Westerners and anti-Westerners is the principal line in politics today. The line between those who support the neo-liberal destruction of humanity and our habitat and those who oppose it is still - vitally - important.


The final issue is far more trivial.

New Centrist argues (and both Peter and Bob seem to agree):

Hoare also ignores the existence of ultra-leftists, anarchists, and other self-styled revolutionaries who advocate a third perspective that is classically “anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist” while also critical of Jihadist terrorism. I’m referring here to Three Way Fight, World War 4 Report, etc.

In fact, the radical leftists of this kind appear on my diagram in the far left, equidistant between the pro-Western and anti-Western camps.
I didn't mean to suggest that Hoare's (extremely useful) diagram missed out the libertarian and Third Camp left. What I wanted to drew attention to was the problem in defining the 'old' Left/Right paradigm in terms of Plan v Market. Support for planning and state control was the (wrong) solution proposed by some opponents of an earlier phase of capitalism, but was never the only, or indeed, best one. To suggest it was creates a straw man of the the Old Left.

To conclude, I agree with Marko's point that "In practice, if you want to avoid irrelevance and oblivion, you have to take sides in the struggle that really matters." I agree that the struggle for democracy matters and we need to take sides on this. But I believe the struggle for social justice also matters, and we need to take sides on this too.

Other links: Simply Jews, Dodgeblogium.
Also read: this fantastic spoof at Decentpedia, as linked to by Marko.