Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The English Defence League continued again

Some more articles and posts on the English Defence League for your attention. My conclusions at the very bottom.

"Who Are the English Defence League? And Are They Fascist?" by Ben Gidley at Arguing the World: argues that the EDL is the unstable inheritance of two different traditions, one "suited" (associated with the anti-Islamic right) and one "booted" (basically football hooliganism), then makes some points about why the EDL matters and some speculations about how to combat them. Also posted at Engage and Harry's Place, both with discussion threads. Unfortunately, HP's thread illustrates the law of diminishing returns with blog commentary and is not worth ploughing through, except to get a taste of the EDL's more intellectual supporters. However, the comments by Monty are intelligent so I extract them here:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Back to the 1980s

So, we are nearly two months into the new ConDem government, and it is every bit as depressing as I feared it would be. My overwhelming sensation is of a return to the 1980s, the decade in which I learnt about politics. David Peace on Newsnight a few weeks ago (pitted against the appalling Lynne Franks) echoed my thoughts, when he said that "a battle is upon us and maybe... the struggle and the sacrifice of people [like] the miners in 84/85 might yet prove to be an inspiration in the battles to come - because there will be a need now to protect every hospital, every school, every benefit and every pension that this country has."[04:08+] However, more depressingly, the follow up point he made is that in the 1980s, the resources working class communities had for resilience through the dark times (communal infrastructures, a strong moral economy, organisations like unions and tenants groups) no longer exist, having been eviscerated after a quarter century of class war from above.

I listened to that again this week, as I slowly absorbed Osborne's "emergency" budget, with its mix of ideologically driven follies (the "free" schools) and grim austerity. Among the blog posts that best convey my thoughts are this one by Paul Sagar and this one by David Osler.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

From Gaza to Whitechapel

First, on the Gaza flotilla. I missed this very thought-provoking post, "National populism and democracy", by Paulie, putting the issue in a wider context, as well as this also thought provoking post by Richard at Third Estate, "Bringing the War Home (Why I am not a Palestinian)". Meanwhile at Engage, Martin takes on the Catholics, at ZWord, Eamonn takes apart the Tony Judt piece I linked to a while back, at Huffington Post Ben Cohen highlights the geopolitics, And if anyone still thinks the flotilla activists are the good guys, this is one of the flotilla organisers:
Meanwhile, Yasser Kashlak, a Syrian businessman of Palestinian descent who heads the “Free Palestine Organization” and is funding this boat, as well as another that is to carry journalists and parliamentarians, said over the weekend on Hizbullah’s al-Manar television station that he was more and more optimistic that one day these same boats would take “Europe’s refuse [the Jews] that came to my homeland back to their homelands.

“Gilad Schalit should go back to Paris and those murderers go back to Poland, and after that we will chase them until the ends of the earth to bring them to justice for their acts of slaughter from Deir Yassin until today.” Kashlak, a fervent Hizbullah supporter, called Israel a “rabid dog sent to the region to frighten the Arabs. He said he had a message for Israelis: ‘Get on the ships we are sending you and go back to your lands. Don’t let the moderate Arab leaders delude you, [you] cannot make peace with us. Our children will return to Palestine, you have no reason for coexistence. Even if our leaders will sign a peace agreement, we will not sign.’”
Richard's post mentioned above also addresses my other current obsession, the English Defence League. AWL report on the weekend's Scottish Defence League static demo, and call for less polite opposition.

There are also lots of posts from the Whitechapel Anarchist Group about the complex politics of the EDL demo in East London at the weekend. A prequel to the story is this report in April of WAGs stewarding an RMT anti-BNP event in Barking, which begins to highlight the stupidity of Unite Against Fascism (UAF). This post launches Whitechapel United Against Division, a silly name in my opinion but a good sentiment: against the EDL and the Islamists of UK-IC. This post explains why UK-IC should be seen as preachers of hate. As I reported, the Tower Hamlets venue due to host UK-IC sensibly changed its mind, but the fools at UAF continued ahead with their counter-demonstration against the EDL.(See also this article from AWL.) A couple of days before the kick off, there was a minor incident involving the EDL on Whitechapel High Street.Whitechapel Unity Platform against Racism and Fascism issued a sensible statement against both the EDL and the Islamists that week. It appeared to be signed by an impressive array of Bangladeshi activists, organised by the Bangladesh Welfare Association, the main organisation of the maistream secular Bengali community in the East End. The WAG perspective is also set out in a number of videos here. And reflections on the weekend's events are set out here. And here's another account from an anarchist, Gawain. And this post by Dave Hill gives a good account of the micro- and macro-politics of other anti-EDL demo, organised by United East End.

Meanwhile at the other end of town, One Law for All held their rally against Sharia Law. A small posse of Islamist idiots went along to oppose them. And the EDL turned up to oppose them. Peter Marshall reports here.

The EDL is also the topic of a long post by James, which I recommend. It argues very convincingly that the EDL is an example of identity politics of work, nourished by the left’s abandonment of economic justice for the politics of recognition. Here is his apocalyptic conclusion:
As the EDL becomes more mainstream it may well fracture into disparate groupings. Or, unless something is done about the profound sense of alienation felt by so many at not just the bottom, but the lower middle as well (historically the base of fascism), there may be something more than a few fights in Whetherspoons on match day to contend with - by which time those most enthusiastic advocates of both the ruthless free market and multiculturalism will be safely enclosed in their gated communities, - while both of those groupings whom the labour movement always claimed to represent: the poor and ethnic minorities, will suffer the real consequences of dithering inaction and an unwillingness to confront a potentially nightmarish situation in the here and now through fear of what are trivial by comparison short-term consequences.
I agree completely with his analysis but I think he overestimates the social base the EDL actually have in working class communities. Patriotism and probably xenophobia are deeply rooted in such communities, but anti-Muslim racism and anti-immigrant sentiment, the drivers of the EDL’s meteoric rise, are perhaps more shallow and, although whipped up by the mainstream media and pandered to by politicians, might be easier to dislodge. The EDL’s social base is in football hooliganism, whose disreputability probably prevents the EDL from getting wider purchase in the working class.

Talking of immigration, Flesh’s excellent miscellany touches on this.
Jon Cruddas... says that Labour is no longer the voice of the voiceless. Trouble is, the voiceless don’t speak with one voice, and Labour’s wants to speak for only some of the voiceless. Richard Darlington on a leadership contest fought over immigration; Denis McShane on why Labour is wrong to scapegoat immigrants. I wish I understood what lay between the current state of affairs regarding borders, and borderlessness. Also, a bit like Jon Cruddas, I detest this stupid hierarchical political system. I’m not persuaded of the need for chiefs – I think we need participation, subject experts, consensus-generation techniques, executives, occasional representatives and administrators. And in my world, everybody cleans the toilet.

The same post, and another, look at the 2012 London mayoral contest and its two declared Labour combatants, Ken Livingstone and Oona King. My sentiments are broadly the same as Flesh’s – Ken fundamentally lacks integrity but Oona has yet to make a convincing case – but I think Flesh overstates the case against Ken. Much as I hate both him and Hugo Chavez, for example, I think an oil deal that benefits both Londoners and Venezuelans is a good thing. And I think his ecological credentials in office were pretty impressive. The fact is, on strictly London issues, he did a good job as mayor; his knowledge of how London works is unparalleled and his technocratic and pragmatic mind was good at coming up with solutions. Some of the best things Boris has done – implement the Living Wage, fight for Crossrail, promote the contribution migrants make to the capital – follow Ken’s agenda. I dearly hope that Oona can convince us that she can provide a strong alternative. (Although, as Jim FitzPatrick notes, the stitch-up in a Ken-dominated London Labour Party makes it unlikely she’ll get the chance.)

Finally, for a bit of balance, here's Richard Barnes, Tory Deputy Mayor of London, coming across pretty well in an interview (h./t Dave Hill). More from Dave: Ken v Boris on housing; Oona on housing and Ken.

Miscellaneous stuff below the fold.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bob From Brockley: The drink

I've been thinking for a while of doing this, but is anyone interested in meeting up in the flesh for some non-virtual drink and chat? I'm setting a date of Saturday 17th July.

So, if you've ever wondered if I look more like this or like this, or even like this, this or this, e-mail me at bobfrombrockley at googlemail dot com. Apologies in advance if it takes me ages to reply - I'm very slow with my e-mail.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The English Defence League continued

More on the English Defence League, from Malatesta:
The ‘non-racist, non-violent’ EDL are much more attractive to the casual and not-so-casual racist in that they offer the potential of a scrap, a barrel of lager and a much needed ego-boost. This week has been eventful on a small level for the EDL. At the weekend a few EDL ‘supporters’ confronted a pro-Palestinian demo in Birmingham and after a bit of fruitless argy-bargy attempted to go and watch the England game but found themselves barred from the boozers and filmed by the cops. They then went home to watch the telly. On Tuesday, a handful of EDL went to Whitechapel in East London and after being kettled into a boozer for a bit were then escorted out of the area by the cops for their own safety, pursued by a large and angry crowd of locals. We can presume that the EDL are not likely to set up a local chapter there. Further out in Barking on the same day the EDL/BNP were attending the Royal Anglian homecoming parade as were ‘Muslims Against Crusades.’ This new grupuscule is very similar in tactics and ideology to Anselm Choudary’s Islam4UK and after making a bit of noise they were abused by the EDL/BNP contingent and then escorted away by the police. These ‘militant Islamic’ groups are as suspect as the EDL in that they gather in extremists who are then more easily monitored by the state. With their usual naivety the EDL assume that all anti-fascists, UAF, SWP etc., support these bozos and are therefore claiming a great victory against anti-fascism. So this week’s activities by the EDL have amounted to little more than a humiliation in Whitechapel, several photos to put in their hooligan scrapbooks and a few crowing posts on Indymedia. The SDL have also planned a demo in Kilmarnock this weekend but if their previous excursions north are anything to go by this may be dismal.
 Nick Ryan in OpenDemocracy has a long and pretty good account of the micro-politics of the East End of London, including EDL's war with the Islamists, and the conflict between Islamism and secularism in the Bangladeshi community, and a trip down memory lane to the days of Mosely. Here's the opening:
This Sunday two armies are threatening to clash on the streets of the East End of London. One involves a broad coalition of ethnic, Islamic and far-left groups, plus trade unions, churches and teachers. The other is a loose collection of far-right thugs, football hooligan 'firms', UKIP aficionados, and the odd Sikh or two, united by a fear (or hatred) of Islam.
Finally, this post by Yascha Mounk is not about the EDL, but rather about the new European right, which is instructive for thinking about where the EDL might go.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

All I got was a lousy Nobel prize winner

Just wading through the backlog...

Murky in Turkey: what on earth is going on in the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara?

Izzy/Pal and Zio/Anti-Zio: Ignoblus has been reading some of the same things as me (Linda Grant, Tony Judt, Ralph Seliger), and has interesting things to say.

The burka is horrible, but should not be banned: one of the best things I've read about the burka debate, by Kenan Malik.

Anarcho-antisemitism: How Infoshop.org suppresses complaints of antisemitism.

Character assassination: Christopher Hitchens on Prince Charles, prince of piffle.

A local blog for local people: A little more Brockley Max, a little more save Goldsmiths Nursery, and some 1970s Deptford Rock Against Racism. Maybe see you at Hillyfields on Saturday!

The English Defence League: I missed this piece of EDL news, which rather undermines Tony Greenstein's claim that the EDL are basically Zionist:
Two members of the EDL have appeared in court accused of soliciting the hate killings of Jews; they specifically face a total of 7 counts of “soliciting to commit murder”, and “using threatening or abusive language likely to stir up racial hatred”. These included posting comments on the extremist website ‘The Aryan Strike Force’ such as “Jews are parasites feeding off others”, “Jews will always be scum” Kill the Jew, Kill the Jew! Burn down the synagogue. Burn the scum”, “Jews will always be scum and must be destroyed”, and “I would encourage any religion or race which wants to destroy the Jews, I hate them with a passion”.
 Why Labour lost the election: I agree with Max.

Image c/o Rosie.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Quick updates

Some updates on last week's posts.

The Islamic conference at the Troxy has been cancelled, which I presume means that the English Defence League protest and UAF counter-protest are also not happening, and presumbly also that the anarchist mobilisation against both the EDL and the Islamists will also not be happening. (Text of the Whitechapel United call at the bottom of this post, below the fold.)

More on the EDL: on the involvement of Loyalist gangs (ammunition for Waterloo Sunset's suggestion that the EDL represent a kind of homegrown loyalism), on the EDL's alleged involvement in the Zionist Federation's pro-Israel rally, on the fascist idiots in the EDL. Related: Gary Younge on whether gay rights is a Western value.

The Save Goldsmiths Nursery campaign now has a blog and on-line petition.

Brockley Max: some nice photos (h/t Gregor). No Atzmon, thankfully.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Banned from the Troxy

Just going to add a couple of things to my already distended list of links to do with Gaza, Israel, flotillas and so on. Eve Garrard, highly recommended, on Israel, human decency and common humanity. Tony Judt, not someone I endorse in general, is worth reading on the binaries in the debate. (Via Feministe.) More trivial, Gene channels Lenny Bruce on Lenny Lenin as a goy and Carl spots George somewhere dodgy.

On the English Defence League, read this at Harry's Place. The piece is problematic, as it equates UAF with the EDL, which is completely unfair. (See comment thread here for discussion of that.) Anyway, it's about the upcoming ruck at the Troxy in the East End. My friend Gil writes:
Incidently I recently came across a JC article from the '30s that detailed a small BUF gathering outside the Troxy where Blackshirts were "parading around" and trying to sell their paper. Apparently there were some scuffles, and the reporter claims he heard several people comment "It's lucky the police are here to protect them or else those Blackshirts would receive such a lesson that they wouldn't come again". Apparently the Blackshirts were calling out "Read the Blackshirt. The only British paper not financed by Jews".
On immigration, is the end to child detention an own goal?

Local matters. Goldsmiths College is planning to close its nursery. For details of upcoming protests, go here. (It seems Goldsmiths' involvement in school privatisation has been defeated, so there is hope.)

Bob' beats: General Ludd versus John Henry. Here's Johnny Cash:

[Alternatively, listen at Blip.]

OK, that's me until next week, when I will be back to lighter blogging...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The flotilla continued, and a couple of other things

The Gaza flotilla
More links to add to the ones here and here. Modernity (1 & 2), Moriel Rothman, Michael Walzer, Gershom Gorenberg, Meretz USA, George Friedman Tom Berman, Gadi Taub, Leon Wieseltier, Amos Oz, Jo-Ann Mort (all on what Israel should and shouldn't have done), Jo-Ann Mort again (on the blockade), Joshua Teitelbaum (on Turkey), Dan Kennedy, Mark Gardner (both on Helen Thomas and her ilk), Conor Foley (on the humanitarian narrative), Meir Javedanfar (on Iran), Toby Greene (on the blockade), Norman Geras (on sanctions), Norman again (on rogue states), and again (on boycotts), Mira Vogel (on boycotts), Judeosphere (on rogue states).

In case it's not obvious, given that they contradict each other, I do not endorse all of the opinions in those links. My own view of the incident is set out here.

Ken versus Oona
There are many reasons to support Ken Livingstone as mayor of London. His opposition to "the" war is, however, not one of them. Jeremy Corbyn, Walter Wolfgang and others wrote a letter to the Grauniad saying:
The war in Iraq has done so much to rupture public trust in the Labour party, we believe it would be a retrograde step for Labour not to select a candidate for mayor of London who opposed the war. Labour's backing for the war caused millions to be alienated from the party and ruptured our relations with voters in communities who had always previously shown strong support for Labour. Selecting a candidate who supported the war against a candidate who opposed it would send the wrong signal to Londoners.
This strikes me as utterly silly gesture politics, as international relations and military policy are emphatically not within the Mayor's remit. A candidate should be chosen who will do a good job of being the Mayor.

On Oona King's pro-war stance, however, see this post by Norm.

Monday, June 07, 2010

More flotilla, more EDL, more Londonism, etc

Gaza and the flotilla
More links to add to the ones here: EngageKellie, Greens Engage, Roland, Workrep, Darren Red Star Commando, Nick Cohen, Jim Denham, Linda Grant, Natalie Rothschild, Brendan O'Neill, WAC-MAAN, Lorna Fitzsimons (replying to Mehdi Hasan replying to her), Sean Matgamna, Yacov Ben Efrat, .

Also worth noting, the IDF attack has stirred considerable outrage in Israel itself. This in turn has provoked a right-wing backlash. Octogenarian Uri Avnery was attacked by right-wingers. The right-wards drift in Israeli politics (mirroring the rise of various forms of populist and ultra-nationalist right-wing politics across Europe and in the US), it seems to me, is part of the context for the IDF actions.

The Workrep post linked to above is just one that points out the imbalance between the hysterical indignation around these deaths and the utter silence from the left about several other human rights and labour issues elsewhere. David Osler notes that there "is a certain irony in hearing the head of the Turkish government condemn acts of state terrorism and rail against breaches of international law" given the grimness of the situation in Turkish Kurdistan. Contentious Centrist also notes some situations that get a little less attention, here and here. As Mr Osler says, these comparisons and contrasts do not exonerate Israel's stupid and deadly policies, but they provide some welcome context.

With a few exceptions, such as World War 4 Report and LabourStart, reading the UK or US left and liberal press one would get the impression that Gaza is one of the few places in the world where hardship or brutal repression is taking place. What about the Niger Delta, where villagers experience oil spills equivalent to the Exxon Valdez disaster every single day? What about Gujerat, where Muslims live in fear, de facto denied their political rights by communalist violence? What about Colombia, where the army attacks striking workers with impunity?

Meanwhile, what is life like in Gaza itself? Ask the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights there. The Hamas Internal Security Services are closing NGOs for political reasons and harassing and detaining Fatah activists; the Hamas Ministry of the Interior is clamping down on freedom of association; Hamas-linked armed gangs terrorise a children's summer games camp with impunity... For those, like Mehdi Hasan, who accuse Israel's friends of "No proper acknowledgement of the heartbreaking humanitarian catastrophe inside Gaza", it'd be good to hear an acknowledgement of this sort of thing.

The English Defence League and the British National Party
Libcom on the EDL's "Jewish Division". The Commune on Who votes for the BNP. Pete Radcliffe of the AWL against Unite Against Fascism.

Meanwhile, I was thinking about the EDL when I read this post by Lady Poverty.

Paul Krugman, New York Times:
The mood on the right may be populist, but it’s a kind of populism that’s remarkably sympathetic to big corporations.
Fair enough -- but at least it's populist, which means taking the concerns of ordinary people as your starting point, and reconcilingthem to whatever political program you want. That is fundamentally different than making high-minded appeals to capital in the hope of electoral gain, only to engage the recalcitrant through the force of the state.
It's worth reminding ourselves that, if "neither capital nor the state," populism is an objective. This means we have to be better at populism than those elements that are succeeding at it now -- unless, of course, we like the picture that is emerging!

UK Politricks from a Brockley perspective: immigration, Londonism, Labourism, etc
Apparently, John Cruddas is Labour's most popular politician. This is ammunition for those (like me) who are very worried at Labour appearing to re-brand itself as the anti-immigration party, as Cruddas has a very good take on this issue. Meanwhile, the anti-immigrant dog whistle politics continue to be sustained by the lies of the Daily Mail and other media outlets, which published an utterly false briefing from the pernicious MigrationWatch.

I'm a fan of the Guardian's Dave Hill and his Metropolitan Lines dispatch. So I was very pleased to read this, tucked beneath a report on Ken Livingstone's campaign re-launch.
Bob From Brockley is a learned, witty and prolific political blogger. He devotes only some of his attention to specifically London matters, but he does it extremely well. Browse his categories on "Sarf London" in general, Lewisham in particular and Brockley in, ah, very particular, and you'll be stuck with having to agree with me.
Talking of which, I had a wonderful time at the Brockley Max Hacienda on the Hill on Saturday. Among other things, I had a chat with Transpontine in the sun (who I should tip my baseball cap to for some of the links above), and managed not to heckle Gilad Atzmon as he accompanied local songstress Sarah Gillespie.

Rudolf Rocker, Nietzsche and Yiddish London
As I've mentioned before, the German anarchist Rudolf Rocker is one of my personal heroes, so I was glad to see him getting an outing at Radical Archives, which featured his translation of Nietzsche into Yiddish while he was in London. In fact, I think, his Yiddish was not great, and it's more that he transliterated it into Hebrew characters, but that's not unimpressive in itself!  RA links to Russian-language blogger Laplandian, who I presume is the same person as one of my favourite Wikipedia editors of the same name. This post, on the song "Bella Ciao", requires no Russian language skills! More on that here. (The Gypsy klezmer artist involved, Miskha Ziganoff, also recorded this wonderful doyne, that's the Romanian/Bessarabian song form that is hidden in Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue".

Theme tunes
I don't think I've noted that Graeme and TNC have added their sounds to the theme tune meme. Go listen.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The English Defence League and the Gaza Flotilla

I have been extremely depressed in the wake of the botched and deadly IDF raid on the flotilla. I have never supported the Israeli blockade on Gaza. I think that the IDF tactics in this case were unbelievably stupid. And I think the deaths on the Mavi Marmara were tragic.

But the narrative of indignation that seems to be unconditionally accepted across both the mainstream media and certainly by most people I know, misses several of the crucial facts.

I tend to see it like Flesh:
The Israeli military took the bait dangled by the Mavi Marmara, which refused to port at Ashdod and so provoked the Israeli action its activists probably hoped for, which resulted in 9 deaths and many injuries. Unsurprisingly (Iran arming Hamas and Hesbollah) Israel is very defensive at the moment. A very right wing government is in power, with solid popular support. Hamas and Hesbollah need to take responsibility for Israeli popular support for their right-wing government. And every death and injury on the Mavi Marmara must be investigated.
Nobody serious says that Gazans are hungry – but they are entirely dependent and unable to leave. Like Israelis, they voted in their bad leaders. Hamas, which is jointly responsible for the blockade, has diverted much of the construction aid to Gaza into its own fortifications, rendering the rebuild impossible. Hamas is even more content than the Israelis to squeeze Gazans, and has refused to accept the aid the Mavi Marmara activists died to bring directly to them.
For a fuller picture than you will get from mainstream or left/liberal sources, go to these posts and also follow their links: Kellie, Francis (1, 2, 3), Terry, Martin (1, 2, 3), TNC, TULIP, Engage, Eamonn (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and Gene.

Meanwhile, some friends Israel could do without. A tiny number of English Defence League members turned up at a pro-Israel demonstration, some possibly from the semi-fictitious "Jewish Division" of the EDL (it also has a "LGBT Division" and of course prominent Sikh members).

This has been grist for the mill for the hardcore anti-Zionists including Tony Greenstein*, whose post on the topic was somewhat dishonest (tempered slightly in a subsequent edit, but only slightly) and Andy Newman.  Newman initially accepted at face value the EDL's claim that the Zionist Federation had welcomed their support, but after a while qualified this. Dave Rich of the Community Safety Trust has attempted to put the record straight.

There is no doubt that some Jews and some Zionists support or sympathise with the EDL, attracted mainly by its virulent hatred of "Islamic extremism", a slippery term that sometimes includes all Muslims as well as those who are genuinely deserving of hatred. But these Jews are a pretty marginal minority, and the mainstream are better represented by the denunciations of the EDL made by the Board of Deputies and other communal leadership organisations.

If you want to know who the EDL are, read my post from earlier this week, the excellent posts by the Community Safety Trust (1, 2, 3) or the post by "Malatesta" up at Harry's Place. This by Louis Amis is also informative and worth reading, but too soft on the EDL.

The HP post, incidentally, is subject to the dangers of Harryism: many people in the comment thread, mostly from North America, are far to the right of its posters; many are supportive of the EDL and some are racist against Muslims. The squeeze on a genuinely decent and thoroughly anti-racist left, between the phobic Harryists and the pro-Hamas left, is another cause for depression. (On this sort of thing, see this from Anti-German Translation and some of these from Entdinglichung.)

The maverick veteran anti-fascist Terry Fitz adds his comment to the HP comment thread, worth extracting:
It is quite clear from the long article in The Guardian on the 29th of May, using information supplied by Searchlight, that the EDL is a loose amalgam of the remains of C18, NF elements, disaffected BNP members and football firms.
I would describe it as a racist flash mob that communicates through the net and mobiles. It has no real structure which is one of its strengths. It has come out of a widely held fear of Muslims as a result of various atrocities carried out across ther world by extremists in the name of that religion.
It has tapped into a widespread dislike, or at the very least suspicion, of all Muslims because of the actions of a few. The EDL only has to announce an event for the almost defunct but now rejuvinated UAF to call for a counter demonstration which involves them inciting young Muslims to attack the police.
The ensuing arrests and violence further alienate these young men from a society which they already feel has a dislike of them because of their racial origins and faith.
We are caught in a circle which can only lead to more arrests, injuries and possibly deaths. In Tower Hamlets we have a paricularly dangerous situation whereby on the 20th of June some of the most extreme preachers in Islam will be at the Troxy Centre on Commercial Rd. The EDL are already talking about a counter demonstration and the SWP/UAF are calling for opposition.
UAF/SWP are using their contacts through the failed Respect project to wind up young Bangladeshis and are convening a meeting this Saturday in Bethnal Green to form a front group to oppose the EDL. All in all the omens are not good and I will keep you all informed of progress or the lack of it.

*Talking of Tony Greenstein, here's one of Michael Ezra's strolls down memory lane to 1983.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The English Defence League

The Guardian at the weekend had a long and revealing article on the EDL. There's a video to go with it. The BBC have also been undercover, and their documentary is called "Young, British and Angry" (I haven't watched that yet; it's available for just a few more days on the iPlayer).

I think the investigations confirm my sense that it is wrong to call the EDL fascist; they are too heterogeneous and contradictory. Nonetheless, it is clear that they are an important focus for street violence, and are creating a climate that is increasingly devisive, as well as intimidating for non-white people. It is also clear their ability to mobilise people makes them a focus for fascist recruitment and potentially for fascist regroupment, especially given the on-going crisis in the BNP.

How to respond remains, therefore, a key question for the anti-fascist movement. Or, rather, the lack of a serious anti-fascist movement makes the question of how to respond particularly urgent. This urgency was dramatised by the EDL march in Newcastle at the weekend, which saw a poor response, which is very well analysed by Scottish Socialist Youth. Here's a snippet:
So what did the labour movement response to fascism entail? A couple of lonely union banners, shit music, some woman dancing with a hula-hoop, a few speakers and a shockingly low turnout of no more than 150 is probably the best way of summing it up. Outright lies as well – one speaker applauded the police’s actions while informing the assembled turnout of embarrassed looking trade unionists, confused onlookers and obscure paper sellers that the EDL had been ‘denied the right to march in our city today’. Surrounding the union rally was huge lines of police, which only served to alienate the public from the event, and either way, did not stop a leading EDL member, Joel Titus, from swaggering his way through the crowd earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, as the EDL began to assemble in the city centre, Unite Against Fascism were massing on a quiet road a couple of miles away. What followed was a stage-managed display of militancy, with angry chanting and plenty of talk of ’smashing’ the EDL, before the 500 or so protestors marched into a pre-arranged tight police kettle within what was just about shouting distance of the EDL. If you shouted REALLY loudly, that is. Which they did of course, not that you could even see the EDL through the thick lines of police, parked riot vans and so on.
Meanwhile, the EDL are planning to march in Cardiff this weekend. The Walsall march on 19 June has been cancelled, partly because the mosque it was protesting against has been denied planning permission, not least because of large numbers of Muslims complaining that there are too many mosques in the area already!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Cultural acceptability

All I seem to have time for at the moment is round-ups. In my most recent, I linked to Gita Sahgal's OpenDemocracy post. I was reminded of the importance of this when I read this from Peter Risdon:
A wife-basher’s violence would no doubt be less damaging if carried out under medical supervision, but that doesn’t mean our hospitals should feature supervised domestic violence evenings.

From an editorial about Female Genital Mutilation at the Australian Daily Telegraph. In a paraphrase of an older quotation, it ends:

And if people want to play the culture card, here’s a quaint old cultural practice of our own. In Australia, we put child mutilators in prison. For years.
The via is Tim Blair, who has an update:
Secretary of the Royal Australia New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Dr Gino Pecoraro is interviewed by the ABC: “Dr Pecoraro says it may well be better for the girls involved if the parents had a far less severe but culturally acceptable alternative.”
Those two words, "culturally acceptable", are why we need people like Gita Sahgal.

And why we need One Law For All, who are marching in London on 20 June.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Gnome Chomsky 7: with Gnobert

Getting more sophisticated now, but more obscure.

From The Wizards of Ur:

And so Gnobert Wilson and Gnome Chomsky ride off into the sunset, leaving Gnoman Mailer to face the music. Gnome Chomsky and Gnoman Mailer are easy enough names to get, but we named Gnobert Wilson after Robert Wilson, a famed avant-garde theatrical director. Not long ago, I was talking to a fellow parent at my son's annual pre-school picnic and he mentioned something about Robert Wilson the theatrical director, so I told him about my comic. He seemed to find it incredibly hilarious that I had named a small blue gnome in a beret after Robert Wilson and kept going on about it. I'm not quite sure why he found it so funny, and didn't want to burst his bubble by admitting that name had been a bit of a desperate stab in the dark as far as Adam & I were concerned. If you know anything about the real Robert Wilson and why it might be funny that he is being depicted as a gnome we'd love to hear about it.
Meanwhile, I've already linked to this, but I will again:
Apparently [Noam] Chomsky was on his way to give a lecture at the Palestinian university in Bir Zeit when he was denied entry:
Prof Chomsky said the officials were very polite but he was denied entry because 'the government did not like the kinds of things I say and they did not like that I was only talking at Birzeit and not at an Israeli university too.'
Note that we only have Chomsky's word for the rationale behind his exclusion: handy that it aggrandises his own reputation. Note too the characteristic Chomskyan attempt to cast himself as the fearless outsider:
He added: 'I asked them if they could find any government in the world that likes the things I say.'
Well, yes, that might be difficult, now that Pol Pot and Milosevic are no longer around. But I reckon authoritarian populist Hugo Chavez is quite pleased with the things Prof. Chomsky says, and he also seems pretty popular with the theo-fascist government of Iran. [...]

Of course Chomsky shouldn't have been denied entry to the West Bank, any more than that other objectionable self-publicist Geert Wilders should have been refused entry to Britain. But to present this incident as the action of a repressive state against a poor innocent scholar is at the very least disingenuous (but unfortunately rather typical) of the BBC.