Saturday, August 20, 2011

Slowly catching up 2: Counter-jihad and right-wing terror

In this post: Andres Breivik, Counter-jihad, the English Defence League, its "Jewish" Division, Zionist conspiracies, cultural Marxism, Lyndon LaRouche, and more...
The horrific massacre in Norway occurred just before I went away, and I was too busy to put my thoughts down then, and most of what I would have said then has been said by others since. It was striking to see the way that many of my allies in the battle against the clear and present threat posed by militant Islam reacted almost with morbid glee at the first reports of the massacre, when it was assumed it was perpetrated by an al-Qaeda operative or suchlike; the outrage confirmed their diagnosis that Europe is fast becoming enflamed in the clash of civilizations. It was similarly striking several hours later, as it became clear the perpetrator was a right-wing Aryan, to see the similar, gloating glee of the pseudo-anti-fascist left.

In my view, we need to avoid both sorts of either/or, with-us-or-against-us monochromatics, and take a more sober look at the threats we face. Much of the commentary took the form of whataboutery, or rhetorical points about double standards, or saying I told you so. A tiny number of commentators, such as Joan Smith, Francis Sedgemore and Nick Cohen, made more sophisticated points.

The fact that the atrocity was committed by an Islamophobe does not mean we can take our eyes off the Islamist danger. But it does impel us to take a hard look at the global counter-jihad movement (“the Vienna School of Thought” as he calls it) from which Anders Breivik emerged, as well as its terrorist fringe.

First, it is important to be clear that this movement, and Breiviks’ own ideology, cannot be reduced to fascism, at least not in its straightforward generic form. For a start, as the CST’s Dave Rich argues, his framing is culture not race; Breiviks explicitly rejects racism and fascism. This is not the empty rhetorical re-branding of the post-fascist Griffinite BNP, but a more profound post-racial reconfiguration of right-wing thought.

As always, Chip Berlet is a knowledgeable source of description of this ideology and milieu. He draws attention to the “Cultural Marxism” element of the worldview. The term “Cultural Marxism” appears some 600 times in Breivik’s manifesto. It is a meme which circulates widely on the conservative internet to the relative ignorance of liberals. At Talk2Action, Berlet writes that “The theoretical lineage of Breivk's thesis is primarily from cultural conservatives William S. Lind and the late Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, and to a lesser extent articles published by the LaRouche network.”


To remind you, Lyndon LaRouche is an ex-Trotskyist who runs a bizarre cult which has had extraordinary influence over public discourse in recent decades, despite having very few adherents. The LaRouche network inserted the notion of a “neoconservative” cabal behind Bush into our language, and disseminated the ridiculous but now widely accepted notion that the philosopher Leo Strauss was in some sense the shadowy figure behind Bush’s war on terror.

Many of LaRouche’s hate figures turn out to be Jewish, and it is no surprise that Cultural Marxism turns out to be a Jewish plot too, in this case emanating from the Frankfurt School. The Frankfurt School was a heterogeneous group of mainly Jewish Marxist and ex-Marxist social and cultural theorists, originally located in Frankfurt before driven by the Nazis into exile in New York and California. It included Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin and Henryk Grossman, and later Herbert Marcuse and Jurgen Habermas. Here’s Berlet:
According to Dennis King, the original party line in the LaRouche cadre organization was set in an essay by LaRouche himself in 1977, "The Case of Walter Lipmann". A long examination of LaRoucher's conspiracy theory appeared as "The New Dark Age: The Frankfurt School and `Political Correctness'" in Fidelio, Vol. 1, No. 1, Winter 1992 (KMW Publishing, Washington, DC). Fidelio was LaRouche's culture and arts magazine. But since LaRouche considers himself an extension of Marx, Marxism itself is not critiqued, but a plot by the Frankfurt School ideologues to create a "New Dark Age" which crushes Christian nations. LaRouche wrote a book: The Science of Christian Economy, and other prison writings, by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., 1991, 506 pp, which expanded the framework for the attacks on the Frankfurt School theoreticians.
According to scholar Martin Jay, the Frankfurt School has long been a scape[g]oat for right-wing conspiracy theorists complaining about "political correctness." (See: Martin Jay, 2011, "Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe," Salmagundi, 169, (Fall 2010-Winter 2011) in which Jay traces the history of this mania including a discussion of the LaRouche connection.)
It is unclear how William Lind and Paul Weyrich took up the incoherent and always capitalised Cultural Marxism idea from LaRouche, or if they coined it separately, but in the mid-1990s they began to talk about the Frankfurt School and its spawning of “Political Correctness”, and its was from them that Breivik took the idea. (Berlet provides further links: Tom Walker, Ecological Headstand: "Confessions of a Cultural Marxist."; Berlet “Breivik cited William S. Lind, Free Congress Foundation, & the LaRouchites”.)

Lind and Weyrich proposed a “cultural conservatism” to combat Cultural marxism. Just as Breivik himself was not a racist in the traditional sense, cultural conservatism, and its organs like the Free Congress Foundation and World Congress of Families, do not preach the kind of racism that the fascist far right have done. But subtler forms of cultural racism permeate cultural conservative language, for instance their insistence that Europe and North America face a “demographic winter” as those of European heritage are outbred by those of other heritage. (Breivik pinpointed 2083 as the year the demographic winter will hit; 2083 is the title of his manifesto.) Joe Conason, Bill Berkowitz and others have pointed out the threads that link this new right to more classical forms of fascist and antisemitic right-wing politics.

Oh, and here is Carl Packman in defence of Cultural Marxism.

***

More key players in the counter-jihad movement that Breivik was a fringe part of are Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. I’ve written about them before, so I won’t repeat myself. Modernity looks at Geller. At HP, the Centrist (no relation to the New and Contentious ones) and Edmund Standing look at Spencer, as part of their important on-going project of fighting anti-Muslim bigotry. While Geller and Spencer have taken pains to disassociate themselves with Breivik, Pat Buchanan has semi-endorsed him. See also Matthew Lyons on mainstream Islamophobia and the SPLC on white nationalists’ responses.

Marko has an original and interesting take on the Wilders/Spencer/Geller movement:
Such views are often justified by their holders as being ‘pro-Western’, whereby ‘the West’ is counterposed to ‘Islam’, as if the two were binary opposites. In reality, the very opposite is true: modern European civilisation was built upon foundations that were Islamic as well as Christian, Jewish, pagan and others. The Enlightenment gave rise to a Europe in which the sectarian religious animosities that characterised the pre-Enlightenment age could be transcended; modern Western liberal and secular values are founded upon the principle of religious toleration.
Far from being ‘pro-Western’; our contemporary right-wing Islamophobes, in seeking to rekindle the religious divide between Christians and Muslims that characterised pre-Enlightenment Europe, reject Western values in favour of pre-Western values. During their successful Vienna War of 1683-1699 against the Ottoman Empire, Austrian Habsburg forces slaughtered, plundered, expelled or forcibly converted to Christianity the Muslim population of the Hungarian and Croatian territories they reconquered, which were forcibly de-Islamised; the Austrians burned the Ottoman Bosnian city of Sarajevo to the ground. The subsequent Ottoman Bosnian victory over Habsburg forces in the Battle of Banja Luka of 1737 saved the Bosnian Muslims from their destruction as a people that an Austrian conquest of Bosnia would have involved. Yet when the Austrian Habsburgs did finally succeed in occupying Sarajevo and Bosnia in 1878, they protected the Muslim population and respected the Islamic religion. Europe, in the interval, had experienced the Enlightenment. It is the pre-Enlightenment Europe to which today’s right-wing Islamophobes look back nostalgically; something symbolised in the name of the anti-Islamic hate-blog, ‘Gates of Vienna’, named after the Ottoman siege of Vienna of 1683 and cited approvingly by Breivik. Hence Breivik’s own obsessive demonising of the Ottoman ‘other’ and its history, all the way back to the Middle Ages.


A related sentiment from Little Richardjohn, in the context of last week’s riots:
The first serious vigilant[e] action happened in Dalston, where large Turkish shopkeepers organised to chase away looters. Which destroys the case of the Enoch Powell Defence League at a stroke. Those pesky immigrants with their shops and communities and comradeship! Coming over here. Defending our streets. Restoring order. Margaret Thatcher must be turning in her grave.

***

There is an undeniable link between certain currents of Zionism and the global counter-jihad movement of which Breivik is a marginal outrider. However, suggestions floating around the wackier edge of the pseudo-left blaming Zionism for his atrocity are ridiculous, and generally come wrapped up in antisemitic and/or paranoid-delusional ideas. Conspiracy theorist Wayne Madsen, published by cranky truther Alex Jones’ Infowars (a site that is often linked to from Indymedia, Dissident Voice and other ZLeft sites) blames Mossad, and calls on people to start reporting “suspicious contacts with Israelis or Israeli sympathizers”. Ex-Israeli self-publicist Gilad Atzmon, much-loved by many British anti-Zionists and long-connected to the SWP, also blames evil manipulative Zionists. Bill Weinberg dissects some of this sort of crankiness here. Mike Whine gives other instances of this sort of anti-Zionist conspiracy thinking response to the attacks:
A leader of the Waltham Forest Palestine Solidarity Campaign [Ellie Merton] wrote over the weekend [on Facebook]: "As far as I can see, globally, Christian far-right supremacists work hand-in-hand with Zionist fascists, since their aims are mutually inclusive. This geezer was actively hooked up with EDL, who as we all know is inextricably linked with Zionist Federation in the UK". Another writer "read somewhere that the Labour Party youth had voted on a proposition to boycott all Zionist Entity goods and services. Could this be why Mossad programmed ABB to go on the rampage?"[More from Jessica Elgot.]
 A further example of this sort of thing comes from Slavoj Zizek in CiF. While not as nutty as Atzmon, this is more alarming, because Zizek should know better and so should CiF. Or maybe not. 

***

If the left adopted the meme that Breivik was a Zionist whose actions indict all conservative politics, the right adopted the meme that he was merely some lone wolf madman who indicts nobody but himself. I couldn’t put this better than Marko:
Some commentators have argued that this psychopathic mass-murderer represents such an exceptional case that his actual beliefs are irrelevant to understanding his actions. According to Simon Jenkins in the Guardian, ‘The Norwegian tragedy is just that, a tragedy. It does not signify anything and should not be forced to do so. A man so insane he can see nothing wrong in shooting dead 68 young people in cold blood is so exceptional as to be of interest to criminology and brain science, but not to politics.’ As a rule, Jenkins is absolutely wrong about everything, and this is no exception.

***

One of Breivik’s biggest ideological debts appears to be to the English Defence League, although he claims he was an ideological influence on it. The CST’s Dve Rich shows that Breivik had become more dismissive of the EDL in recent months, seeing is naive and overly confident about liberal democracy:
This may reflect the development in Breivik’s political thinking towards terrorism, as much as any changes in the EDL. However, Breivik is not the only convicted far right terrorist to have had contact with the EDL. It may be best to view the EDL as a gateway organisation: one which does not carry out or explicitly support terrorism itself, but creates and promotes the political discourse and identity-based grievance narrative, from which a small number of individuals move on to terrorism.
It is timely, then, to keep looking hard at the EDL, the way they are different from generic fascism and the way the are related to it. Flesh has a very thoughtful post on the EDL and forms of resistance to it, which I strongly recommend. As always, the scurrilous Malatesta blog has the best summaries of recent EDL activities. The most recent dispatch features their drunken, racist vigilante attempts during the riots; the one before shines the spotlight on their Anders Breivik connections, leadership troubles, the English Nationalist Alliance, and so on; and the one before that focuses on the Norway issue and the hapless EDL “Jewish Division”:
The EDL got into a right kosher pickle recently when paper Jewish Division leader Roberta ‘EDL No’ Moore tried to link up with the Jewish Task Force whose leader had been in jail for terrorist offences. Oops! Moore was eventually booted out for making mental statements and generally being a PR liability. And now there are ongoing problems with her replacement Robert Bartholomeus who appears to be endorsing Breivik’s actions much to the irritation of the various EDL forum posters.
After the Moore fiasco many on the EDL forums were angry that they should be seen to be supporting Israel when they were the ‘English’ Defence League. Tommy [Robinson] responded in no uncertain terms that EDL support for Israel would continue. Is this because of Alan Lake by any chance? Lake has been accused of being a Zionist and has been bankrolling Tommy for some time now and Lake, Moore and Tommy have all been photographed together. On the neo-Nazi websites accusations of being a ‘Zionist,’ ‘red’ or ‘nonce’ are frequently made and many have called the EDL a Zionist front and for once the accusation may prove true. If Lake is still funding Tommy then he’s hardly going to allow him to renounce one of his principle interests – which is Zionism. So although a lot of EDL members thought they were flapping the Star of David to annoy ‘muslamics’ the Star is now there for good and the EDL leadership, i.e., Tommy, is going to find it difficult to extricate himself from Israeli extremism. Paul Ray who was booted out of the EDL by Twitching Tom has been ranting away on his website about being a Knight’s Templar and attempting to link Breivik somehow to Alan Lake but this has yet to bear fruit. (And Knight’s Templar? That’s soooo 12th Century!).

Meanwhile, what of the BNP? Carl provides yet more proof of its fascism, but suggests it might be reaching its end game.

***

As I said at the start of this post, the Breivik’s right-wing Islamophobic terrorism should not let us forget the threat posed by Islamism. Not everything in his manifesto, and certainly not everything said by the counter-jihad ideologues he quoted, is false. A healthy response to the ultra-conservative right also includes standing up to the Islamist right, and we have no credibility as anti-fascists if we are not also firmly opposed to Islamist forms of fascism. We need to take seriously the imaginary and also very real fears that drive people towards groups like the English Defence League.

However, doing so involves navigating a fine and treacherous line. As Steve Hanson writes in relation to the courting of the EDL by the Blue Labour project (and I doubt if he felt any more comfortable finding himself in agreement with Peter Mandelson than I did), we “need to understand why the EDL is happening, we should be hearing the EDL, but not aiding them: we should be listening to them in order to create a landscape on which their language will become irrelevant, on which it will become noise, and this means making multi-cultural landscapes not only possible in places where they are assumed to be unwelcome, but everyday”. Related insight from Paulie in “Glassman: I’m not racist but...”

***

More links here.

15 comments:

Waterloo Sunset said...

It was striking to see the way that many of my allies in the battle against the clear and present threat posed by militant Islam reacted almost with morbid glee at the first reports of the massacre, when it was assumed it was perpetrated by an al-Qaeda operative or suchlike

This may be just clumsy wording on your part. If not, it suggests you need to choose your allies more carefully. Surely "my enemy's enemy is not necessarily my friend" isn't a hard concept to grasp.

This would be easier to look at if you named names though- the linked article doesn't really do so.

First, it is important to be clear that this movement, and Breiviks’ own ideology, cannot be reduced to fascism, at least not in its straightforward generic form. For a start, as the CST’s Dave Rich argues, his framing is culture not race; Breiviks explicitly rejects racism and fascism. This is not the empty rhetorical re-branding of the post-fascist Griffinite BNP, but a more profound post-racial reconfiguration of right-wing thought.

That's an interesting point and I think it's part of a wider pattern. The big question is if fascism (as opposed to Nazism) is necessarily racially based and I'd argue that it isn't. Which is why we're seeing the far right increasingly couch its analysis in terms of culture, not race, as Dave Rich point out.

In terms of links with the the more traditional far right, the important ideological figure here is not Griffin, it's Patrick Harrington and, to a lesser extent, Tony Lecomber.

If the left adopted the meme that Breivik was a Zionist whose actions indict all conservative politics

While that isn't the case (rare though this is, I'd defend Harry's Place on this one. Despite attacks from some of their opponents, the only way I think this can be related to them is to suggest they should clear out some of the dodgier commentors, which is very different than a claim that there were ideological similarities)), I think we need not to go that far in the other direction. The 'clash of civilisations' theory is central to Brevik's ideology. And I don't think it's confined to the self-proclaimed "counter-jihad movement", or even people like Melanie Phillips. You do see subtler versions of it relatively frequently, including from those who state that they're not against ordinary Muslims and from some who claim to be on the left.

Waterloo Sunset said...

A healthy response to the ultra-conservative right also includes standing up to the Islamist right, and we have no credibility as anti-fascists if we are not also firmly opposed to Islamist forms of fascism.

To spin off a bit from this.

This is also an incredibly complex and difficult line to walk.

In thinking about tactics, I'm reminded of two core AFA principles, both of which I still hold to regarding this issue. I'd be interested to know if you still do or if you've come to see them as disposable shibboleths.

Firstly, any anti-fascist propaganda should necessarily be aimed at potential fascist recruits, not at the victims of fascism. The latter already know they're victims. It's patronising and redundant to inform them of the fact. If we want to stop fascism growing, it's the former we need to have in mind. Realistically, I see very little evidence that the former is current practise among those campaigning against the Islamist right. Apart from some stuff aimed specifically at ex Muslims or those considering becoming such (fine as far as it goes but never going to have much traction among Muslims in general), the only group I can think of that is in this area is British Muslims for Secular Democracy. Aside from that, no matter how well meaning, everyone else is producing bogstandard "Islamists are bad" propaganda, aimed mainly at an audience that already agrees with them.

The other main principle I want to look at is the idea that fascism needs to be fought by 'insiders', not by parachuting people in from outside. In the case of the BNP, that always meant a major part of the activists needed to be from working class backgrounds. Similarily, we always said the best tactic around fascists organising at football was to work closely with football fans at the relevant ground to isolate the fascists and let them take the lead. Indeed, I remember us being extremely scathing about some on the left who would leaflet grounds before the match and then all fuck off to the pub when kickoff started. And that is basically how people are approaching the issue of Islamism currently. It's ironic that people who are very hostile to the SWP seem to be reproducing the worst of their working practise.

So those are the principles. And neither of them are currently being followed at the moment, hence the lack of meaningful Muslim involvement in this fight. There are two main ways out of this I can see, though neither of them are going to be easy to implement.

The first is the "post-AFA" tactic of serious community work in areas at risk of Islamist influence. (Although I'd still argue this should be done on a class rather than a communal basis). That might well bear fruit. But not quickly. Ten years or so I think is realistic. And it will take a hell of a lot of commitment, both ideological and practical, for anything like this to be effective. I'm not sure that commitment is there for most people currently. It's a bit more hard slog than writing righteous blog posts for an applauding audience.

Waterloo Sunset said...

The second is quicker, but it will still take a lot of work, as we currently have no capability to do so. We take an 'Old AFA' approach and work in a way to gain credibility among working class Muslims, particularly Muslim youth. That had some effect against the BNP- by gaining streetcred, AFA actually undermined the BNP, who not only hid but were seen to do so by local youth.

What I'd suggest we'd need to do to start that process is conclusively smash the EDL. Doing so would give us the opening with angry young Muslims we'd need to get a hearing.

Now, at the moment, we are unable to do this. I don't like that fact, but I think it's inarguable.

Without that, we'll have no real credibility, as we've shown ourselves to be ineffective. In that case, not only will we have "no credibility as anti-fascists", I'd bluntly say we don't deserve any.

So that's the situation as I see it. I'll be honest, I'm pretty pessimistic about any of this happening, small shoots of hope like Manchester AFA not withstanding. Specifically, I don't believe that most of the anti-Islamist campaigning types have the stomach for the work they'd need to put in for the first approach, let alone being prepared to actually put their necks on the line in terms of physical safety, risk of arrest etc for the second.

Benjamin said...

An excellent post with a variety of useful links. Good to have you back.

Bob said...

Thanks for comments WS and kind words Benjamin. Have to dash now but will go through them later.

Sarah AB said...

Waterloo Sunset - I found your comments interesting - and wanted to add something to your observation about it being important to work with the groups who might be affected - the potential EDL members and the potential Islamists. I think another important aspect of the various 'isms' and phobias is the way in which they are tolerated (though perhaps not shared) by wider groups, and I think these wider groups also need targetting. Thus, sections of the tabloid press sometimes seem, at least, EDL-lite - and that's picked up by HnH of course in their campaign. With Islamists it's sections of the left who sometimes seem the most to blame - and I think it's appropriate to focus on these - eg articulating concern if Labour MPs want to share a platform with people who hold hateful views. Apart from being wrong in itself, this tolerance for extremists drives people away from the left - and even to the far right.

bob said...

WS, your comments are extremely to the point. I’ll go through them one by one.

my allies in the battle against the clear and present threat posed by militant Islam
You are right; I did word this very clumsily. I had in mind specifically Pajamas Media, whose news item on the atrocity was almost breathless in its excitement at the dawning clash of civilisations, and who updated with several sources confirming their worldview, and continued to do so long after other media sources were realising the violence was white nationalist not Islamist. PJM, like The Propagandist or perhaps the Centre for Social Cohesion, I see as “allies” in a very weak sense, perhaps in the sense I also see the Muslim Defence League as allies against the English Defence League or as a French person living under Nazi occupation might have seen the militants of the totalitarian Communist Party as allies against the occupiers. I think a lot of what PJM say about Islamism and about leftist acquiescence in it is correct (although some of their commentators are unable to distinguish between Islamists and ordinary Muslims), and I think that many people who are politically closer to me on most issues could do with a big, bracing dose of PJMism from time to time. Islamism poses a clear and present threat, and the overwhelming majority of liberals and leftists are in denial about this. My point here, though, is being right about Islamism is no guarantee about being right about all the threats we face, and that getting it right about Islamism can go hand in hand with getting it wrong about right-wing extremism.

bob said...

is fascism (as opposed to Nazism) necessarily racially based and I'd argue that it isn't
I think that classical, generic fascism was always a racial ideology, in that it understood nation in racial terms. Thus Italian and Spanish fascism, which did not foreground biological race in the way that Nazism did, were still racial movements. (And I would argue that Revisionist Zionism, Ba’athist national socialism, Garveyite Black Nationalism, Hindutva, and early political Islam which were closely related to this classical, generic fascism, were also racist movements, even though they foregrounded nation rather than biological race.) Fascism since then (especially the re-branded fascism of the BNP and other Euronationalist parties) has mutated, and cultural rather than biological racism has been increasingly central since the 1970s. Thus twenty years ago someone who looked for biological language as a key indicator of fascism would have been barking up the wrong tree.

I see Breivik’s ideology, like that of many in the wider counter-jihad and cultural conservative movements (including the official ideology of the EDL, though not the beliefs of most rank and file members) as going beyond cultural racism and evolving further from classical fascism. To illustrate, a Sikh member of the BNP is effectively deluding themselves and accepting the party’s rhetoric and spin as reality, but while individual EDL members might be racist against Sikhs there is no incompatibility between being Sikh and being in the EDL. Cultural conservatives and counter-jihadis understand nation (including the pan-European nation and the wider Western “civilization”) in fundamentally cultural rather than racial terms. I suspect Breivik was completely in good faith in believing that “brown” people could be full and equal members of the Euro-nation if they genuinely took on “our” (his) values. There are of course racist undertones in some of his rhetoric, and that of some of the other counter-jihadis, but excavating these is not in my view useful, because it gets in the way of understanding the essential features of the formation, which is post-racist.

I should also be clear (and this relates to WS’s next point) that I see the counter-jihadi formation as quite a big continuum. Almost none of them would be at all supportive of Breivik’s means, and using the same language as him does not make them directly culpable for what he did. But even the softest end (and you could probably argue that sometimes includes me) promote arguments that he mobilised in his violence, and have to accept some kind of responsibility.

bob said...

I'm reminded of two core AFA principles, both of which I still hold to regarding this issue. I'd be interested to know if you still do or if you've come to see them as disposable shibboleths.
Actually, I still hold as strongly to both of these as I did in my AFA days.

Firstly, any anti-fascist propaganda should necessarily be aimed at potential fascist recruits, not at the victims of fascism
I accept this point now, with the same reservations with which I accepted it then. I accept that anti-fascist propaganda should be aimed at the same constituencies as fascist propaganda is, and this is why it was right for AFA to orientate towards white working class communities. It is also why those fighting the EDL also need to orientate towards white working class communities and not make hollow gestures towards “defending multiculturalism” or pointing out that the EDL, shock horror, are football hooligans who like a drink. It is also why those opposed to political Islam need to orientate to Muslim communities.

The qualification I had then about AFA, which was why I was also very supportive of groups like CARF, the Newham Monitoring Project, Greenwich Action Committee Against Racial Attacks, the Race Today collective, etc, was that victims of fascism have the right to self-defence and self-organisation and, to a certain extent, to at least a significant voice in defining the threat, and that anti-fascists need to act in solidarity with them, and not ever be in a position where they are patronisingly defending them or speaking for them. (I think outside London (e.g. in much of the North and the Westcountry), AFA managed to navigate this well, making strong connections to black communities under attack; in London, for a variety of reasons, this didn't happen.) So, although it holds that anti-fascist propaganda should not be directed at the victims of fascism, nonetheless anti-fascists need to act in very real solidarity with its victims.

That qualification does not have any relevance to how we deal with political Islam, because the targets of political Islam’s actual violence are so diffuse that it is impossible to orientate to them anyway: the targets are all of us, Muslims included (although Jews are probably particular targets, and there is a politics around that, which I’ll leave aside for the moment). But it is relevant to the fight against the EDL, as it means we need to find a way to orientate our propaganda to those who might be tempted towards the EDL while also acting in concrete and meaningful solidarity with Muslims under attack. A hard circle to square.

bob said...

The other main principle I want to look at is the idea that fascism needs to be fought by 'insiders', not by parachuting people in from outside
I absolutely agree with this too, as strongly as I did then. The problem comes if you are an outsider and can't see many insiders to work with. I basically agree with you about the two things we can do in this direction, but also about the extreme difficulty of doing either.

The first is the "post-AFA" tactic of serious community work in areas at risk of Islamist influence. (Although I'd still argue this should be done on a class rather than a communal basis).
I strongly endorse this tactic (strategy?). I think that Whitechapel United Against Division was a good taster of how this could work. When you say “communal basis”, I completely agree with you if you mean ethno-religious “community”, as in “the Muslim community”. If you mean geographical “community”, I disagree. I think the best route to self-organisation across ethnic lines is not actually explicitly orienting to class but rather towards place, as in “Whitechapel United”. More on this later,

We take an 'Old AFA' approach and work in a way to gain credibility among working class Muslims, particularly Muslim youth.
I endorse this too, but much less enthusiastically. One reasons for my lack of enthusiasm is this. In the short term, this can only mean elite squads of antifa shock troops parachuting in, and getting out. AFA’s “squadism” was different, because it always had a wider support base to lean on, in Irish Republican communities and in class conscious “non-combatants” in the neighbourhoods where we were based; even in periods when the “ideological” side of the AFA two-track approach was on the backburner, it was never completely neglected. There was a sense of a symbiotic relationship between the squads and the “mass” work. The “mass”/ideological work is so threadbare now that a physical strategy alone easily falls into the caricature of “squadism” that the SWP and co circulated in the AFA days: elitist macho violence etc. The second issue I have is the much more blurry space with the EDL between a hardcore fascist leadership and a soft non-fascist following. With the BNP, anyone who joined was a legitimate target. Because the EDL is not a membership organisation as such, it is less clear who is a legitimate target and who isn’t.

Specifically, I don't believe that most of the anti-Islamist campaigning types have the stomach for the work they'd need to put in for the first approach, let alone being prepared to actually put their necks on the line in terms of physical safety, risk of arrest etc for the second.
This is dead right. There’s also one other issue, which is the difference between what we (people like me) should be doing as individuals, and what we (the anti-fascist “movement”, such as it is) should be doing collectively. Bloggers who either dress up their anti-Islamist rhetoric as anti-fascist while ignoring actual right-wing fascism (e.g. The Propagandist people) or who talk a good talk on the BNP while ignoring Islamism (e.g. Socialist Unity or most of the left for that matter) have no credibility on an individual basis. But for me, as an individual blogger, to take steps to remedy that in myself (e.g. by making sure I post on both) is actually very easy. That’s just a very tiny first step, though, to rebuilding some kind of anti-fascist movement.

Waterloo Sunset said...

@ Sarah

While I think that's true, it's an even more difficult task. In essence, we're talking about reversing a societal shift that has been taking place since the 80's, if not earlier. (I don't believe either the EDL or the Islamists have arisen out of nowhere. They're a natural consequence of the 'drift' to the right).

I'd agree it's fine to focus on them, although I think some right wing commentators extrapolate too far from that to suggest that it means that Labour is de facto an Islamist party. An obvious analogy would be those sections of the Conservatives who hosted NF speakers back in the day. Those meetings were treated by anti-fascists as any other NF meeting, which I think is correct. What wouldn't have been correct is to move from that to deciding the Tories as a whole were "fascist" when that it isn't the case.

With the Labour Party, you're obviously better placed to influence things there (as a member, than I am). I also think Carl Raincoat does some good work in this area. I'm just being pragmatic. "Anarchist criticises Labour Party" is a bit "dog bites man" and isn't likely to be listen to by Labour Party members. And, thankfully, while the UK anarchist movement has lots of problems, an accomodation to Islamists isn't one of them. If anything, the occasional issue has arisen when people have gone too far in the other direction.

Waterloo Sunset said...

@ Bob

perhaps in the sense I also see the Muslim Defence League as allies against the English Defence League

I've been doing some digging into the MDL and this may have some bearing on your thinking.

The MDL aren't really a formal membership organisation, so it's been a bit difficult, but there seem to be two different groups of people using the name as a flag of convienence.

From what I can tell, there are actually two main MDL strands. There's an Islamist one (who have stated support for the Turkish Grey Wolves) and a larger group which seems to be just a bunch of Muslims (mainly male, mainly working class) organising together to oppose the EDL. They do identify primarily as Muslims, but a lot of that is because that's the basis they're being attacked on. The two groups don't really work together and actually don't get on that well, although those disagreements have mostly been kept 'within house'.

Part of that may be that actually, in my experience, the latter group aren't always all that devout. I've certainly seen MDL members swigging from cans of lager on several occasions.

On that, I'd say the main tack to use here is work out which MDL you're dealing with. If it's the first group, I'd fuck 'em off entirely. If it's the second, I don't really see the issue with cooperation. The only real issues I've seen there are more based on the standard problems with working with young excitable lads. I did have to gently suggest to a MDL member on an anti EDL demo that shouting "I fucked your mum up the arse" was possibly not a slogan that would do us much favours overall.

Sarah AB said...

Thanks WS - I just happened to come across this

http://www.bryanappleyard.com/2011/08/the-death-of-haroon-jahan/

and I think it ties in well with your point about opposition to extremism coming best from the community which might be vulnerable to that extremism.

"They came to Birmingham and, very quickly, Tariq’s extremism began to drop away.

“I realised how relaxed Birmingham was and it changed my attitude. I love it here, the Muslim community is so relaxed and I saw that it was the HT scholar I had been talking to that was stressing me out. When I came here and said that stuff, people would say to me ‘Are you lost?‘ Slowly I calmed down.”"

socialrepublican said...

I've been coming round to a more developed idea of what the "anti-Jihadist" crowd represent. Fascism doesn't really cut it, not because they are all totally respectable Liberals and really love democracy. They are, in fact, inveterate anti-Liberals and constantly bemoan actual democracy as weak, debauched and bound for collapse. Their differences from fascism lay more to do with the composition of their mythic core and their plain dillente-ism.

Their regard for the trappings, though not the substance, of Liberal democracy serves, not as appreciating a good in and of itself. They "defend" womens' rights yet despair of the effects of the currently pitiful level of female emancipation, birthrates, feminism, the decline of the family. They stand aghast as Islamists threaten and insult Gays and Lesbians yet seek out allies amongst those who whole outlook is one of a war between Hetero-normalcy and greedy sexual deviancy. Neither are they slouthes denoucing the "wrong" gay either. No shibboliths here.

Rather, it is an cultural ritual identifier, empty of practical consequence that marks them off from an parallel society they see as decadent and rotten. The "cultural Marxists" are a composite of threats and evils. A-moral, betrayers of a sense of social uniqueness, a antagonistic "elite" and the traitors who defile civilisation. The monolithic Muslims perform the role of agent of history, either to provide a crisis by which Society is re-invigorated or the destroyers of all.

For a fascist, the new god head is the nation, ewither conceived as a people, a state or a movement. The AJ's god head is the crisis itself. Their conception of their "nation" i.e what must be saved is to ill-thought out, so nebulous and contradictory. Their passion only becomes red-blooded when they move onto the high drama of the struggle.

Which leads to their, essentially, "playful" approach, their sense of posture and talking a frankly preposterous game. The responces to the Breivik "anomoly" are striking. Suddenly they have developed an appreciation of the subtleties of discourse. One previously they saw as a exercise in avoidence at best when faced with Islamism rhetoric and violence, if not down right complicity. In this alone, they share practice with high Decents. I put the motivations of this crisis worship down to the needs of ego in a time of anomie, a catostrophic collaspe in faith in their societies (the Straussian disease) and no conceivable anti-thesis of their own.

socialrepublican said...

I've never been a fan of the charge against Islamism as being "Fascism with a Green face". To combat a very real and hateful ideology as a clumsy transfered analogy is, at best, pointless.

Briefly and incompletely, Islamism's implicit rejection of nationalism, it's primacy of a theological re-interpretation as a route out of modernity's malaise and the added factor of a written block of work and theory of sacred import differ radically from fascism, either generically or specifically. Anti-fascism as is, seems ill-tooled to confront this.

As for the "Breivik as Zionist" meme....as with evangelical tele-preachers who connect every earthquake, bushfire or shelf collapsing to gays, so too the mono-focus of the "anti-zionist" will find them devils in everything. Breivik's Zionism was contigent, as, I suggest, is that of most of the AJs. Zionism in its neo-revisionism formations allows vicarious attachement to a great struggle of civilisation, judeo-christian blah blah at safe distance.