“Progressive” politics and North African fascists
I posted at the weekend on Ken Livingstone’s misnamed “Progressive London” shindig. I’ve since noted a number of items related to what I wrote in that post.
First, Johnny Guitar was on a similar wavelength to me. His post, entitled “How bizarre”, begins: “it is a bit hard to see how a motley crew of SWPers (Weyman Bennett), Stalinists (Kate Hudson and Andrew Murray) and Islamists (Ismail Patel and Dilwar H Khan) can, with some help from Ken Livingstone and Jeremy Corbyn, construct an alliance capable of giving Cameron and Osbrone sleepless nights. I could be proved completely wrong, though I seriously doubt it.” However, he focuses on one Mitchel McLaughlin, a Sinn Fein veteran who spoke for it when the IRA was slaughtering civilians and now knows a thing or two about implementing harsh spending cuts in a right-wing coalition government. (By the way, “Progressive” Nasserite Andy Newman is calling for the Irish to vote for Sinn Fein...)
Meanwhile, HP provides a little more information about another of the speakers, Intissar Kherigi, who I simply noted was a representative of the British Muslim Initiative, a Muslim Brotherhood front. Turns out she is also the daughter of Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia’s En-Nahda party. HP give a taste of his politics: “declaring other Muslims to be “kuffar“, trying to get secularists sacked, supporting suicide bombing, and accusing intellectuals (falsely) of defaming Mohammed.”
Shiraz Socialist publish a couple of shameful articles from the vaults of News Line, the paper of Gerry Healey’s Trotskyist cult the Workers Revolutionary Party. The articles, from 1983, exhibit a particularly disgusting brand of anti-Zionist antisemitism, portraying a reactionary Zionist web that stretches from the “rich Jews” who colluded with Hitler right through to rival Trot group Socialist Organiser, a conspiracy that silences opposition by playing its “anti-Semitic trump card” – phrases that have become all too common on the left. Anyway, the articles are relevant now because they contain a defence of the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi as anti-imperialist: try and swallow the words “in support of the Libyan masses under their leader Muammar Gaddafi.” And it is relevant to the “Progressive London” post because it generously quotes Ken Livingstone defending the WRP. Ken claims News Line “gives you an objective presentation of the news and political developments and supports the base struggles of the working class in industry and the community” and describes his enemies in the Labour Party as “agents of the Begin government”. I had forgotten how far back Ken goes with this “anti-imperialist” swamp. More on this sort of thing from Andrew Coates, David Osler and Michael Ezra and (from the archive) Sean Matgamna and Paul Anderson.
Regime change from below?
I have been totally unable to keep up with the overload of exciting news coming out of the Middle East. Here are some of the things I’ve managed to catch. Some splendid and very to the point vitriol on Libya from Terry Glavin. Francis Sedgemore focuses on the relationship between the realpolitik and the reality. Terry and Francis both highlight the disgrace of the West’s recent toadying up to Gaddafi, a relationship (pictured in full glory by Doug Saunders and Darren Red Star, and further unearthed by Francis) which can be summed up well in three words: blood for oil. Francis says: “it makes me want to vomit, in much the same way as the fact of Henry Kissinger’s continued existence.” The Kissinger reference is apposite, as Kissinger’s “realism” is the intellectual justification for this type of un-ethical foreign policy. The hypocrisy of Blair and Bush using the idealist pro-democracy rhetoric of the neo-conservatives in Iraq while boosting the regime of someone not so dissimilar to Saddam in Libya. Time for a more thorough break with the “reality-based community”.
David Cameron, speaking in the Middle East, is (a bit like New Labour in 1997) making some encouraging noises on the need to break with the old realism, and refuse the choice between repression and extremism. But how does he show it? By taking a bunch of UK arms mongers to Kuwait with him to flog Made in Britain weaponry to a bunch of repressive oil monarchies.
One of the facets of the Western love-in with Gaddafi that seems to be less reported is on immigration. In one of the most obscene manifestations of the corruption of European human rights culture, the EU, while not maintaining formal diplomatic ties with Libya, outsourced much of its immigration policing to Gaddafi’s brutal security forces. He violently contained the flows of black Africans seeking a liveable life north of the Mediterranean so that Europe would not have to bloody its lily-white hands. (The lobbying company Nick Clegg’s wife works for, DLA Piper, is helping Gaddafi try to get millions of Euros in trading concessions from the EU for this service.) Arguably, this is on a par with the disgraceful freeing of al-Megrahi the Lockerbie murderer at the behest of the oil lobby.
In a brief mention of this, the Evening Standard manages quite extraordinary verbal gymnastics: “Human rights law currently prevent European countries from deporting illegal immigrants and bogus asylum seekers back to the Arab country as they are routinely tortured and imprisoned by Gaddafi’s regime.” For starters, the issue is not the migrants who get through but can’t be sent back, but Gaddafi’s own part in not letting them get here. And how you can acknowledge that his government tortures with impunity while still thinking asylum seekers fleeing his regime are “bogus” I don’t know. And the Standard tries to blame human rights law, while it is the flouting of its spirit by the European countries that sign up to it that is reprehensible.
On the other side of the political spectrum, here’s someone else disgusting: journalist and semi-academic Nir Rosen, who tittered on Twitter about the assault in Cairo of CBS’s Lara Logan. As Michael Weiss shows, Rosen is a prime example of the reverse-Orientalism of the Western left, which approves of sexual and other violence against women if it is perpetrated by “unleashed brown natives”. He also thinks, like “Progressive London” speaker Lindsey German, that fascist Hezbollah is democratic, pro-social justice, anti-imperialist and wonderful. (See also J-P Pagano. Update: Also Terry Glavin, Michael Totten.)
Relevant to that, and to my “Progressive London” post, is Spiked’s Brendan O’Neil with an excellent article in The Australian on Palestine as the obsession of the radical West and not Arabs.
Optimism (“this is not an Islamic revolution”) about Islamism in Egypt and Tunisia from Olivier Roy. Extra cause for optimism from this report which describes a 15,000-strong anti-Islamist demo in Tunis. Pessimism, on the other hand, from Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
On Western responses: insightful thoughts on commentary on Egypt and on “Egyptics” from A Jay Adler. Peter Ryley on the soft bigotry of lowered expectations. Marko Hoare writes about Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam and his LSE connection (note: the late, great Fred Halliday emerges as a man of integrity; liberal cosmopolitan David Held as a man of low integrity). Michael Weiss on the human rights whitewashers.
A Jay Adler and Carl Packman analyse the situation in Tunisia and in Algeria, Egypt and Yemen, both writing in the spirit of Albert Camus. Hardt and Negri hail the multitudes in Tunis, Cairo and Benghazi as a new eruption of democracy, sweeping away the myth of the clash of civilisations.
Commentary on the Libya from David Osler, including the left’s romance with Gaddafi. James Bloodworth on the pathetic admiration of the Latin American left for Gaddafi (some of the money quotes from Rebecca).
Finally, round-ups from Kellie and Modernity. Martin notes that For the latest from Libya, this site seems fairly reliable, and Mona Eltahawy continues to do a great job of pulling together all the news from the democratic awakening in the Arab world. And, to conclude, a big fuck you from Little Richardjohn.