Sunday, November 20, 2011

For deserts covered with olive trees

First, some bloggery. I want to recommend a new addition to the blogosphere: The Big Picture. Strapline: “Omnivorous commentary on politics, policy, media, the Arts, pop culture, science, philosophy, and the multiverse at large.” So far my impression is of intelligent, contrarian liberalism and quality writing. One to watch.

I also want to recommend Facing the War, which first appeared back in 2009 but only really kicked off in the last few months. It comes from, I guess you’d call it, an anti-Stalinist, libertarian Marxist position. Most posts are snippets from the archive, but there are some pieces of original commentary, such as this wise one on the fruits of the Arab spring. I have recommended Ross Wolfe’s the charnel-house (focusing on anti-capitalist theory and the history of the Soviet avant-garde) a few times before, and it has really fascinating stuff and a very nice look, but suffers from the killer combination of tiny grey-on-black font and incredibly wordy posts.

The CST publish a nice obituary of Cyril Paskin, a veteran of the 62 Group and unsung hero of UK militant anti-fascism. (Minor quibble: Balham is not in South East London!)

I re-read this week Kenan Malik’s 2009 review of Christopher Caldwell’s Reflections On The Revolution In Europe. I think it popped into my Twitter feed because Malik’s reference to Lothrop Stoddard resonates with the current storm in a teacup between Pankaj Mishra and Caldwell’s fellow civilizationist Niall Ferguson, in which Mishra compares Ferguson to Stoddard, but I strongly recommend reading Malik.

I haven’t done an EDL round-up for a little while. Malatesta gives a précis of their Remembrance Day antics. Interesting that EDL activists have been attacking and threatening further attacks on Occupy camps in Newcastle and London, as well as attacking trade union buildings in Manchester. SWP front Unite Against Fascism claim this “proves” the fascist nature of the EDL. In their undergraduate ortho-Leninist analysis, anti-communism is “the” defining feature of fascism, the essence of its anti-working class nature. However, it seems to me the EDL’s thuggery against Occupy and leftists could equally well be explained as the politics of ressentiment, the kind of purported anti-elitist kicking at the cultured classes that also drives Class War, Richard Littlejohn and Spiked, or equally well again as part of the larger conservative kulturkampf that you get from highbrow American thinkers like Christopher Caldwell – see above.

Here’s Dan Hodge on the anti-establishment case for voting Boris not Ken for Mayor of London, and an ambivalent response from Carl Packman.

Read Noga's "A Conversation in D Minor", and follow the links. One of them I was already going to link to: via Norman Geras, an interesting article on “Camus the Jew” by Robert Zalesky in Tablet. I was especially interested in the part about Israel and Algeria:
Indeed, it is the theme of absurdity that most powerfully underscores Camus’ understanding of Jews, Judaism, and Israel. At the political and existential level, Camus felt a visceral connection with the absurd predicament of the young Jewish state. It was a political bond insofar as many on the French left, from whom Camus was estranged, had grown deeply anti-Zionist in the wake of the Suez War. In 1957, he publicly affirmed his sympathy and support for Israel. His reasons still echo today: Not only must Europe accept Israel’s existence as the only possible response to the continent’s complicity in the Final Solution, but Israel must also exist as a counter-example to the oppressive rule of Arab leaders. The Arab people, he declared, wished for deserts covered with olive trees, not canons. Let Israel show the way. 
A naïve hope, certainly, but one that suggests that Camus’ attachment to Israel was existential: His plea for cooperation and collaboration between Jews and Arabs in Israel echoed his pleas to his fellow pied-noirs and Arabs in Algeria. In fact, Camus had flown to Algiers in 1956 to urge a civilian truce between Arabs and French Algerians. His desperate claim that Arabs and European settlers were “condemned to live together” proved wrong, of course. They instead concluded they were condemned to kill one another—a conclusion, were he alive today, he would urge both Israelis and Arabs to avoid while there is still time.

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