Friday, September 30, 2011

For the weekend

Returning to something more like normal service, although I have another controversial guest post by a very different guest blogger coming up. Here's some stuff I've been reading in the last week or so.

[Added: meant to space my posts out better, but too innumerate to schedule for when I mean to, so don't miss my longer and more important post on left antisemitism.]

Site of the week: Southern Fried Chicken, documenting South London's favourite food (see Transpontine on Deptford as the deep South). For more South Londonism, Crossfieldswhat sets out the case against the Convoys Wharf redevelopment plans. See also: Deptford Is...

Cable Street stuff, and future and past anti-fascism: I hope you have checked out my Cable Street anniversary listings and worked out what you're going to. Meanwhile, here's Jim Denham on Cable St revisionism. There's more stuff at Steve Silver's blog. Silver is a bit of a tankie Stalinist, as far as I can see, as well as a Searchlightnik, so a pinch of salt, but do read his reviews of Roger Mills' book and David Rosenberg's book on Cable Street (both of which you should buy) and his post on Cable Street, the East End and Bolshevism. That mentions one of Silver's relatives who returned to Russia in 1917 and was never heard from again - a common story in the area: significant numbers of East Enders, especially anarchists (the dominant group on the left there up to 1917) must have died in the gulags. The Rosenberg review mentions both him and Rosenberg were in Anti-Fascist Action together in the 1980s "before it went through a leadership change" - there's a lot of history left implicit in those few words, as Searchlight and AFA split due to Searchlight being believed to be spreading lies about anarchists, fomenting divisions and passing information on activists to the police, while I presume Rosenberg went with the ARAFA group based in Islington, which advocated a more anti-racist, community-based policy for AFA. I'm slowly reading Beating the Fascists, which addresses the Searchlight split quite well but the ARAFA split very inadequately and possibly dishonestly. More on that in a future post. Incidentally, Rosenberg is one of the people viciously and personally attacked by Gilad Atzmon in his new book, subject of my last post here. And talking of anti-fascism, here's the Great Unrest on UAF triumphalism - I'll return to that post later.

More on the EDL: Paul Jackson, a Searchlight-linked researcher at Northampton, on the EDL as a social movement (h/t Flesh).

Anti-capitalism: There's a new print issue of Shift magazine out, and worth getting down to yer local anarchist infoshop to buy, or order on-line here. The riots are the main theme. The issue editorial is here, and editor Raphael Schlembach writes on "Insurrection and a conservative revolution" here. From a related place, here's Ross Wolfe on regressive resistance on Wall Street, and Doug Henwood's account of Occupy Wall Street.

Anti-Zionism: Slack Andy on Max Brenner, blood and chocolate in Australia. Matthias Kuntzel and Colin Meade on Gilbert Achcar: In the Straightjacket of Anti-Zionism: A critical review of Gilbert Achcar’s The Arabs and the Holocaust. Achcar responds.

The Arab Spring in its Autumn: Hussein Agha and Robert Malley on The Arab Counterrevolution.

Grub Street: James Bloodworth on why Hitchens is no Orwell. Everybody Hates a Tourist awards the Mail a fail.

Anti-Catholic racism: Andy Newman on a neglected topic.

Literature, evil, extreme heavy metal etc: Graeme's new place A Wandering Ghost.

Left antisemitism and its rejection: Credit where credit's due/blame where blame's due

Andy Newman on left antisemitism
Reuben at Third Estate describes this as a good week for the anti-racist left. Item 1, the Guardian published (both in print and Comment is Free) an article against left-wing antisemitism, by blogger Andy Newman of Socialist Unity.

Like my Shirazite comrades, I have been critical here in the past of Andy and his blog, but in general he has been forthright in condemning left antisemitism, both because racism is bad in itself and because its presence in the anti-Zionist camp besmirches the cause of Palestinian solidarity. Credit is due to him for raising this issue in a mainstream left-liberal outlet.

Andy uses a number of examples to show the current threat level of left antisemitism, including a new book by Gilad Atzmon (more on that below), the paranoia-porn of Zeitgeist: the Movie, and the promotion in the pages of the internet rag CounterPunch (Newman bizarrely calls it a "respected American leftist publication") of wacko blood libel conspiracy theories from Alison Weir.

Predictably, the good liberals below the line at Comment Is Free went nuts with Andy, and the Graun had to close the thread quite quickly. CiFWatch often seem a little hysterical about these things to me, but here they present an enormous weight of evidence for the scale of the Jew-hating there. And, sadly, the Guardian gave a platform to Atzmon to disingenuously and dishonestly reply to Andy too, and publishing former Graun journalist Jonathan Cook has written a similarly dishonest and disingenuous defence.

Alison Weir
Shamefully, the Guardian not only gave Weir right to reply, but direct readers to it prominently on the web page of Andy's article. (I don't recall them giving David Duke or Nick Griffin right of reply when their writers attack them.) I was saddened to see Weir validating her crackpot theories with a quote from Nancy Scheper-Hughes, an anthropologist who has written some extraordinary books about Brazil and other places.  "Israel is at the top. It has tentacles reaching out worldwide." The language here (the source is a CNN interview) is reminiscent of antisemitic imagery. But looking at Scheper-Hughes' talks and writings on the organ trade, I feel Weir has snipped it out of context, and really emphasised one element of her work and ignored others.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cable Street 75

Cross-posted from Poumista

The 75th anniversary of London's Battle of Cable Street is fast approaching. here are some dates for your diary, if you live in this part of the world (plus one in Leeds), including one event in New Cross on the 13th.

On-going until 4th October
Restoring the Past: the Cable Street mural today. Exhibition at Studio 1:1, 57a Redchurch Street E2. Weds-Sunday 12 noon-6pm

Friday 30 September
Manouche Cable St Cabaret at Wilton's Music Hall. 
On our street there are artist studios, recording studios, social clubs and corner-shops. We bring you the best in Cable Street Talent – it’s 1936 and we are going to sing, drink, dance and laugh as if we don’t have a care in the world. Manouche are an all-live, electrified, gypsy swing ensemble. Performing specially arranged works of Django Reinhardt and swing classics of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s, they fuse elements of Electro Swing dance beats and Surf Guitar into their own up-beat compositions. There will also be a photo exhibition kindly donated by the International Brigade looking at those anti-fascists who then went on to fight in the Spanish Civil War. We also hope to welcome the Clarion Cycle Club as they arrive from Edinburgh. Look up Manouche on Facebook. Or check out their music on the Manouche youtube channel

Saturday 1 October
11.00am Anti-fascist footprints: a walk through the East End, from Gardiners Corner to Cable Street Led by David Rosenberg, for theBishopsgate Institute Tickets: £8/£6 Info: 020 7392 9200

5.00pm Anti-fascist footprints: a walk through the East End, from Gardiners Corner to Cable Street Repeat walk, this time for Iniva Tickets: £6/£5 Info:

Dances and elegies at Wilton's Music Hall. 730pm This concert provides a frame for the Cable Street events at Wilton's - extraordinary music for extraordinary times. As the Spanish Civil war was starting, Benjamin Britten played his Suite Op 6 at a concert in Barcelona; the same evening, in the same city, the premiere of Berg's 'Violin Concerto' was played by Louis Krasner, who later became Peter Sheppard Skaerved's teacher. At the centre of the programme, a most English piece by a German composer - Paul Hindemith's extraordinary 'Trauermusik'-'Music of Mourning' for George Vth. This wonderful elegy for viola and strings ends with the chorale "Vor deinem Thron Tret ich hiermit"-better known here as 'All people that on earth do dwell'-the 'Old 100th'.

Jewdas: ¡No Pasaran! Cable Street – Party like it’s 1936! In a time of austerity, riots, and a rise in the price of beigels, Jewdas returns to Cable Street………. Live Bands, Film, Talks, Cabaret, Fascist Baiting and Revolutionary Borscht. Live Music from: Daniel Kahn & Merlin Shepherd – a mixture of Klezmer, radical Yiddish song, political cabaret and punk folk, accompanied by top UK Klezmer clarinettist; Klezmer Klub feat. David Rosenberg – songs of Yiddish London telling the story of the Jewish east end from 1900 to the 1930s; The Ruby Kid – Hip-hop and spoken-word poetry, influenced by the cinema of Woody Allen, the politics of Hal Draper and the music of Aesop Rock; The Electric Swing Circus – electro swing sensation.Big band swing. Gypsy jazz. Thundering drum beats. Phat bass lines; + Stephen Watts reciting poetry of the East End; + Full film programme of riots, resistance and rabbles; + Talks on Gandhian resistance, Spanish Civil War, Anti-fascist activism today as well as performance poetry. + Communist-Fascist Arm Wrestling, The Three Yentas, Live Guernica tribute painting, Cantorial Drag; + DJ Notorious spinning speeches, 30s swing and hard beats; +…more. Dress Code: 1930s chic. Fascist, Communist. Yiddish Musical Hall. Free entry for all who were there in 1936! For the rest of you its £7 on the door and £5 if you book in advance here.

Sunday 2nd October 
75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street.  March from Braham Street Aldgate at 11.30am to a rally at the Cable Street mural at 1pm. Speakers; Max Levitas Battle of Cable Street Veteran; Frances O'Grady Deputy General Secretary TUC; Matthew Collins Searchlight; Robert Griffiths General Secretary Communist Party; Bob Crow General Secretary RMT; Kosru Uddin Labour Councillor; Julie Begum Swadhinata Trust; David Rosenberg Jewish Socialists' Group; Gail Cartmail Assistant General Secretary UNITE; Diana Holland Assistant General Secretary UNITE; Akik Rahman Altab Ali Memorial Foundation. More info on UnionBook.

Noon-10pm: Exhibitions and events at Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Grace’s Alley E1 8JB.   020 7375 0441 12-6 // 12-6 Stalls all along Graces Alley by campaigning groups, local organisations and supporters with street theatre and music by Spanish civil war re enactment group La Columna, The Lost Marbles, The Fairly Fresh Fish Co, Klezmania and The Cockney Awkestra. Plus, inside, Protest and Survive photo exhibition, featuring Phil Maxwell etc. // Launch of Five Leaves' five Cable Street books at 3.00pm with Bill Fishman and other Cable Street veterans as guests. // Five Leaves' panel on "Rebel Writers of the 1930s" at 4.00pm, with Andy Croft, Ken Worpole and Mary Jouannou. // Continue into the evening with Billy Bragg, Shappi Khorsandi, Michael Rosen and The Men They Couldn't Hang. // Produced by Alternative Arts for The Cable Street Group. // full programme here.

JEECS Walk: The Battle of Cable Street Clive Bettington discusses the events of the iconic battle and discusses some of the myths which have arisen. 2pm Tower Hill tube £10 (£8 Jeecs members) 07941 367 882. Booking recommended

Monday 3rd October
7.30 Crossing the Street, Wilton's Music Hall. Video installation by Shiraz Bayjoo and Jessica Harrington. Curated by Carole Zeidman, Commissioned by Wiltons Music Hall. The battle of Cable Street 75 years ago reveals much about the character of and the sense solidarity between its residents. The area has historically housed a celebrated mix of people from varying backgrounds, cultures and with different economic circumstances. The riots of 1936 were emblematic of an attitude and belief that people could be brought together successfully to fight for a shared interest despite other differences. 75 years on and the memory of Cable Street has entered local mythology, but how does it resonate with local residents now and what significance does the area hold for them today?

8pm -  David Rosenberg illustrated talk with readings to Leeds Jewish Historical Society at Shadwell Lane Synagogue
Tuesday 4th October: 
Film: from Cable Street to Brick Lane, by Hazuan Hashim and Phil Maxwell. Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Grace’s Alley E1 8JB. From Cable Street to Brick Lane" is an independent documentary dealing with the fight against racism and fascism in the East End of London. The film will explore how different communities came together in the 1930's, 1970's and 1990's to challenge racism and intolerance. Focusing on the two iconic East London streets of Cable Street and Brick Lane, the film will feature interviews with veterans of the battle of Cable St and of the more recent struggles around Brick Lane. Driven by these eyewitness accounts and observations Hashim and Maxwell examine the impact of these interrelated historic events and how they relate to contemporary issues in East London. See for inspiration.   020 7375 0441.

The Battle of Cable Street at LJCC.  10.30am-3.30pm £35.00.  This anniversary falls during the Ten Days – there could be no better way to reflect on the conflicts of the past and prepare for the challenges of the future. Speakers will include Ian Bloom and David Rosenberg.

JEECS Walk: The Battle of Cable Street Clive Bettington discusses the events of the iconic battle and whether certain of the myths which arose are true 11am Hill tube £10 (£8 members of JEECS)   07941 367882 Booking recommended.

Wednesday 5th October
7pm at Housman’s Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, N1. Readings and discussion with authors Roger Mills and David Rosenberg about their East End/Cable Street related books.
David Rosenberg (Jewish Socialist Group) author of Battle For The East End and Roger Mills (Cable Street Group) author of Everything Happens in Cable Street discuss their new books, just published by Five Leaves Publications, in the context of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street.

The Battle of Cable Street was a landmark event in British anti-facist struggles, when an estimated 300,000 demonstrators, including many Jewish, socialist, anarchist, Irish and communist groups, built roadblocks in an attempt to prevent a march by the British Union of Fascists, led by Oswald Mosley, through London's East End. Ignoring the strong likelihood of violence, the government refused to ban the march and a large escort of police was provided in an attempt to prevent anti-fascist protestors disrupting the march. Despite the actions of the police and the government the anti-fascist's motto of "They Shall Not Pass" won the day.

6th October 2011
Images of resistance 1936 in film: Films about Cable Street and the Spanish civil war At the Jewish Museum NW1. An evening of films documenting and responding to the anti-fascist events of 1936. The launch of Yoav Segal’s two commissioned films, The Battle of Cable Street and No Pasaran, supported by the Pears Foundation. Followed by Eran Torbiner’s film Madrid before Hanita about volunteers from the Jewish community in British Mandate Palestine, who joined the International Brigades to fight fascism in Spain. Meet veterans after the screening and join the Q&A. £10 including free entry to museum galleries.

Sunday 9th October
11am inter-generational walk: How the East was won with David Rosenberg, for the Jewish Museum. For children aged 10+ accompanied by an adult. £15 for child+adult. This is part of the museum’s 1936 Radical Roots season

Monday 10 October
7.00pm Fighting Together for a Better Past: the story of Cable Street. Panel discussion with David Rosenberg, Tony Kushner and Nadia Valman
Jewish Museum London, 129-131 Albert Street, London NW1 7NB. Free with museum admission Info:

Tuesday 11th October
Everything happens in Cable Street. Talks, presentations and walk with Bernard Kops, Roger Mills and David Rosenberg at London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road EC1  in the morning and Cable Street Walk in the afternoon.Tickets: £15/£10
Info:, 020 7332 3851

Wednesday 12th October
David Rosenberg Reading/discussion at England’s Lane Bookshop, Hampstead.

Thursday 13 October
5.00pm David Rosenberg on The Battle of Cable Street Presentation with images and readings Small Hall Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmith's College, London SE14 6NW Info:

16 October
Bernard Kops: The Battle of Cable Street, London Jewish Museum. 3pm. £10 including free entry to the galleries. Kops, who grew up in the East End and was 10 at the time, witnessed the events as they unfolded. In conversation with publisher Ross Bardshaw (Five Leaves Publications) Kops will read from his short play about the day’s events as well as from his memoir and his other written work. The reading and conversation will be followed Q&A.

18th October 2011
7pm 75 years on: the British Far Right. Discussion led by journalists on the strategies employed by far-right groups in Britain today. Join journalists James Montague, Rebecca Taylor (Time Out) and Nick Lowles (Searchlight) for a debate about activism, nationalism and political memor.  At the Jewish Museum. £10 including free entry to museum galleries.

Thursday 20th October
6.30pm Brick Lane bookshop, 166 Brick Lane E1 David Rosenberg/Roger Mills reading/discussion.

Saturday 22nd October
Anarchist Bookfair, from 10am-7pm at Queen Mary College, Mile End Road, E1, includes meeting on the Battle of Cable Street at 11am.

Monday 24 October
10.30am-12.30pm for five weeks Jewish Responses to Fascism in the 1930s A course based on Battle for the East End. Includes a guided walk around the East End. Tutor: David Rosenberg. London Jewish Cultural Centre, Ivy House, London NW11 7SX

26th October 2011
7pm The rear-view mirror: art and remembering. An illustrated discussion with speakers including curator Corinna Till (Whitechapel Gallery, Reclaim the Mural) and art critic and writer Sacha Craddock, for an illustrated conversation chaired by Michael Keenan (curator, studio1.1 gallery), based on the exhibition Restoring the Past – the Cable Street Mural Today At studio1.1 gallery. £10 including free entry to museum galleries.  7pm, tickets £10.

27th October
The rear-view mirror: art and remembering: Conversation with Paul Butler at the Whitechapel Gallery. 7pm.

Battle for the East End: Jewish responses to fascism in the 1930s
268pp ISBN: 978 1907869181 Five Leaves Publications, 2011, £9.99
During the 1930s, Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts intensified their campaign against the Jewish community, particularly in London’s East End. As that campaign became more overtly antisemitic, and more physically intimidating, Jewish groups debated how to deal with the Fascist threat, ultimately building their own defence organisations, and forging alliances with other campaigners.  The simmering tensions in East London culminated in the Battle of Cable Street, when more than 100,000 people, especially from the local Jewish and Irish communities, prevented Mosley’s troops from marching through the East End.

In Battle for the East End, David Rosenberg charts the changing nature of the British Union of Fascists’ ideas about Jews and describes the growing rifts between the official leaders of the Jewish community and those who wanted to mount an active resistance to the fascists.

Battle for the East End is written by an anti-fascist activist with a real feel and connection both to the politics and the geographical area he writes about. For anyone who wants to understand the political, historical and cultural context in which the Battle of Cable Street took place then Battle for the East End is a must for the bookshelf.” Searchlight Educational Trust.
Order it online: To purchase the book online go to:

Battle for the East End is one of five publications that Five Leaves are publishing to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street. To see the other titles visit: Roger Mill’s  Everything Happens in Cable Street; and re-issues of classic titles The Battle of Cable Street by the Cable Street Group; October Day – Frank Griffin‘s long-forgotten novel with a new introduction by Andy Croft, and Street of Tall People - Alan Gibbon‘s book aimed at 10-13 year olds.

Continue below for a couple of extracts from the Five Leaves blog.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Guest post: "Shit happens" versus "fascism happens"

A guest post by Jogo

Note: This post was originally a private e-mail sent to me by Jogo, posted here with permission. Like all guest posts here, it does not represent Bob's view.

This article is 80% bullshit.

The writer, a commieprof at Sussex University with impressive credentials, builds her argument with two of the most most-used leftist strategies:
  • Using stories of several people who got fucked to make larger points about "America" fucking people as a general practice. Rhetorically, this is no different from telling the stories of, say, several wretched immigrants who became millionaires to support a larger story about America being the land of freedom and opportunity.
  • Applying a Utopian benchmark to America. America's behavior is wrong and shameful compared to some non-existent, unspecified country that would in all ways behave admirably ... in "a better world." America is never compared -- by such people as this commieprof -- to other actual countries.

The first subject of the commieprof's article, Julia Shearson, is a "white American" who became a Moslem AFTER September 11! Why did she do that? What is the story here? We aren't told. She's not only a Moslem, she wears the total hijab and she is a director of the Cleveland chapter of the sinister quasi-anti-American outfit CAIR.

You might say it's nobody's business why she became a Moslem; it's her existential and civil freedom to become whatever she wants. That's true. But if you're using her story to bash America -- to paint America as totalitarian, cruel, racist and treacherous -- I think you owe the reader quite a bit more information.

The commieprof tells us that Julia Shearson is "white," as though that fact .... um ... tells us something about her. Also that "her family" came to America on the Mayflower. These factoids tells us nothing about her. So she's white. She actually sounds kind of uneducated and stupid. There are plenty of morons in this country who can trace their ancestry to the Mayflower, whose passengers started making descendants 400 years ago.

There were no Shearsons on the Mayflower. In 400 years of reproductive activity and marriages it is possible to be REMOTELY related to a passenger on the Mayflower. Does this confer some special status upon the person? Only to racist commieprofs and the millions of poor students whose minds have been fucked by them. Julia Shearson plays the Mayflower Card to give herself added credibility because -- yes -- it is highly unusual for a white person whose ancestry goes back to Plymouth Rock to become a Moslem.

Julia Shearson has a daughter who looks vaguely Arabic. But no visible husband. What is the story here? We are not told. But we remain curious. Was she an other-fetishizer, like Obama's wacky mother? Why is Julia's dear/sweet Moslem husband not with her? I'd like to know a lot more than I've been told about this story.

Now here's a question for you (asked in the REAL world, not the Utopian world): it's a couple of years after 9-11, imagine you're a Fed sitting at your computer looking for red flags turned up by an algorithm. Hmm ... what have we here? A woman in Cleveland, single mother of a child with a Saudi Moslem sperm-donor, works for CAIR, no previous political history, converted to Islam AFTER 9-11. Hmm .... after 9-11, now that's a bit weird. Is this a person of some slight interest? Shall we put her on a list? Yes? No? Might things start out OK (her merely being put on a list) and then -- not due to fascism -- go awry (her getting handcuffed at an airport)? You know, like "shit happens" rather than "fascism happens?"

If you don't like the real world, you won't like that question.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mid-week miscellany

Here's some stuff I've been reading in the past week or so: Martin in the Margins on some of the better 9/11 posts. The Fat Man on John Pilger's abandonment of critical thought. Flesh is Grass on producerism and populism. Richard Landes on Islamism's end times. Peter Whittle on the riots in Woolwich (he blames the left). New Cross blogger Dommy interviews a drug-dealer about the riots. Christopher Caldwell on antisemitism in France (he blames the left too). Nick Cohen on the treachery of Julian Assange. Joseph W on John Mearsheimer on Gilad Atzmon.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Political influences 4: John Lennon

At the start of the year, I wrote a post on nations, states and the one-state solution, which ended with an invocation of John Lennon’s “Imagine”. It was pretentious, self-dramatising and exaggerated to talk about a “defining moment” in the way I did, and I cringe to re-read that final paragraph of the post. Hopefully, I am not alone in having lots of “defining moments” in my political life, moments that forced me to re-think my assumptions. This series describes some of those defining moments, the twists and turns in my political journey. I hope I keep on having them and that I am not eternally that fourteen year old in the back of the camper van.

That was my one and only visit to Israel, and the whole visit was probably a “defining moment”.

The British left (which I already felt a part of back home) then held “national liberation” as a sacred principle. This was the period when “national liberation movements” – and a whole pantheon of their various initials (FSLN, ANC, PFLP, PLO) – were worshipped by first world leftists. My experience in Israel forced me to think through that aspect of the leftist religion, and see its hollowness.

On one hand, I was surprised by the depth of emotion (“patriotism” in Orwell’s sense?) I felt for Israel, even though I was raised in a household without even the tiniest, faintest trace of Zionism. I felt a sense of belonging, attachment, recognition that was new to me.

On the other hand, the injustice afflicting the quotidian lives of Palestinians (for example, the difference between the bus service in East Jerusalem and that in West Jerusalem) was strikingly, shockingly apparent.

It was towards the end of my brief time in Israel that my “Imagine” moment occurred, and I had already been thinking about these issues. Driving past the Sea of Galilee in the soft warm night, within sight of the Golan Heights glowing the in the last of the sunlight, back to my cousins’ kibbutz in their battered old VW van, “Imagine” came on the radio. Probably just a singalong sentimental pop song to most people hearing it over the airwaves, it hit my adolescent ears pretty hard. Hearing “Imagine there's no countries/ It isn't hard to do/ Nothing to kill or die for” while in bullet range of the disputed border with Syria was, well, salutary.

All the madness I’d glimpsed in Israel – the frenzy of longing for the land on both sides, the killing that came out of this – was not, I thought while listening to John Lennon, emphatically not the “inevitable” result of “age-old” “tribal” loyalties and hatreds carried in our two peoples’ hot desert blood, as the British media would tell us.

The frenzy and the killing are products of hopes, dreams, fantasies, stories, songs. They are contingent, subject to change. And, surely therefore (as I pretentiously wrote before), can we not forge our own futures if we open our imaginations?

I took my new-found confused/sceptical sensibility home to Britain, and before long I was doubting some of the most basic shibboleths of my left milieu. For instance, I began to reject the Irish Republicanism that was also part of the cultural code of the British left. (The extent to which it was is probably clear from the fact that John Lennon saw no contradiction between the no borders sentiments expressed in “Imagine” and the ethno-nationalist sentiments expressed in “Sunday Bloody Sunday”.) Why, I thought, did oppression sanctify one people’s national self-determination at the expense of another’s? Why does the left compromise its universal humanism for the murderous ideal of the nation-state?

And the catastrophes of the last quarter century – the killing fields of Sudan, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and the tragic unfolding of the story of Israel and Palestine – have done nothing to change my rejection of the idea that the nation is a sane way to imagine our world.

The First Intifada, the intifada of stones, began soon after I returned home. Having seen the mundane indignities that made up Palestinian life, I had a basic, visceral sympathy with the stone-throwing kids. But the part of me that was in that VW van listening to John Lennon knew that a genuinely “free” Palestine would not be created by Palestinian national self-determination, and that dignity does not come from nation-states. After the hopeful remission of the Oslo years came the Second Intifada, the intifada of suicide bombs and rockets. I knew then that the possibility of imaginations being opened was receding, but I still hold the faint hope that another world is possible.

Previous: Beautiful Boy; On nations and states; On the need for an anti-nationalist politics.
Elsewhere: Martin: From nationalism to Niebuhr and the nature of evil; HiM@N: Love techno, hate Britain.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

No-one like us, we don't care: The EDL, and some other stuff


Owen at Third Estate has a post on the EDL and “anti-fascist obfuscation”, taking a similar position that Flesh and Sarah have taken in the comments thread here, rejecting the left’s obsession with “confrontation”. // Here (pdf) is an interesting analysis of the EDL from a year ago, by Nigel Copsey, historian of British anti-fascism. // Here’s Spinwatch on the EDL’s funders – they’re not so salt of the earth after all. More on the same funders from the Center for American Progress. They make much of their links to Anders Breivik. And here’s his manifesto mapped by the Guardian databloggers.

Here’s the RCP’s Brendan O’Neill on the class hatred at the heart of the anti-EDL clique. The fact is “that a great deal of anti-EDL protesting is driven by a barely disguised hatred for that apparently ugly, uncouth, un-PC blob of white flesh that inhabits inner-city council estates”. I think he’s half-right. You can see that sort of class conceit at work amongst liberals and wadicals – like Laurie Penney or the “twits” who called EDL thugette Angel Jo a “scrote”. (Scrote, like chav, is a keyword in the middle class imaginary about the white underclass; it’s a term that comes from the lexicon of the police.) And he is right that the left sees the white working class as somehow having failed the left, rather than the other way around (that’s a position he shares with Red Action/IWCA, see below). But he is wrong (a) to think of opposition to the EDL as coming from a “clique”, as if it’s some conspiracy from above by the liberal elite; and (b) to say that class conceit causes anti-EDL sentiment. O’Neill says: “it's becoming increasingly clear why Leftists have leapt upon this small political grouping and blown its threat out of all proportion – because campaigning against the EDL provides them with a PC platform from which to express their disappointment and/or disgust with the white masses” (emphasis added). But surely that is not the “why”; the “why” is that leftists see the EDL as fascists (mistakenly) and racists (correctly), and they don’t like fascists and racists.

Not only but also

Let's start with some South Londonism: Transpontine debunking some myths about Millwall and the 1926 General Strike. // Moving on, Sarah has had several good posts in the last few weeks at Harry’s Place, including this update on the Assange saga and this round-up of responses to the PA bid for Palestinian statehood. // Meanwhile, Alan Johnson makes the case against Palestinian statehood at HuffPo. // Worth re-reading (if overblown in places): Phyllis Chesler on a postcolonial attack on “white” feminism. // Also worth re-reading, from a very different angle (and also overblown in places): Red Action on multiculturalism, from 1999. // And, relevant to some of our recent debates, “Off the Nazis! ...but how?: Potential and Limitations of Militant Anti-Fascism” from Bring the Ruckus. // Finally, some new essential reading: Anti-National: Love Techno, Hate Britain? by History is Made at Night.


The video at the top is Armenian South London rap hero Blade, with "Gripper the Pitbull", a song that takes me back to New Cross in 1992/3. For more info, see here. Seemed kind of appropriate to the themes of this post.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Zionism/Apartheid/Stalinism/Trotskyism: going off on a tangent

Jessica Goldfinch writes at Greens Engage on what Greens might or might not want to affiliate to. This is interesting on the echoes of the anti-apartheid movement in the “Palestinian solidarity” movement.

For the record, I can’t remember any anti-white racism in my Anti-Apartheid branch, but agree about the brushing under the carpet of some of problems within the resistance in South Africa. More importantly, my branch was unusual in that there was internal dissent. There was a significant Trotskyist group, mostly affiliated to either the sensible (“Slaughterite”) faction of the Workers Revolutionary Party* or to Labour Briefing (with close links to South African Trots), who fought against the Stalinist leadership of AA and its slavish following of every ANC line.

In particular, the Trots drew attention to ANC murders of internal dissidents, many carried out by or on the orders of the Stalinist Chris Hani, who later became something of an ANC martyr when he was in turn murdered by far right white racists. Those in solidarity with the dissidents were treated as pariahs within the mainstream anti-apartheid movement, and denounced as agents of imperialism. (Worth adding that the denouncing was often led by Jewish South African exiles.)

My early exposure to this apartheid-era anti-ANC dissent inoculated me against the illusions many leftists would have in post-apartheid “black rule”. I think of this often now, as I watch the ANC repression of grassroots social justice activism (such as Abahlali baseMjondolo), its support for Mugabe’s dictatorial regime, the corruption and authoritarianism of the party leadership, and the racist demagoguery of the party left.

I was prompted by Jessica’s post to do a little googling around Searchlight South Africa, the group around Baruch Hirson and Paul Trewhela, South African exiles who had served time in apartheid prisons for their resistance to the racist regime who then fought to get the British left to recognise the totalitarian nature of the ANC leadership and its brutal treatment of dissenters. Few listened during the apartheid years, when most of the left wanted to see things in black and white (if that’s the right term to use!), and few listened during the presidency of Saint Mandela, but their warnings seem very relevant now. Here are some readings: the story of Searchlight South Africa; the table of contents; Inside Quadro, Trewhela’s expose of the ANC’s Stalinist repression; Trewhela on Mbeki and AIDS; Trewhela at Libcom; Hirson at MIA; Various documents on the Stalinism of the ANC (including “Inside Quadro”, mistakenly attributed to Hirson); Trewhela on John Pilger’s belated discovey of the ANC’s dark side; on the exile history of the ANCPanduleni: A comrade they could neither destroy nor buy.

In the 1980s, it was an article of faith across much of the left that apartheid defined the essential evil in the world, and that the ANC defined the essential good. More complex, critical, reflective thinking was almost impossible in this time. Those who raised questions about the ANC, such as the South African Trotskyists, were denounced as traitors and witch-hunted out of the mainstream left. It was right to resist the Stalinist groupthink then, and it is right to resist it now.

Previous: The indestructible beats of Soweto; Mbeki and Mugabe; RCP v WRP;

*Some day I will post my own recollections of this group of Trots. For now, Marko Hoare on the Slaughterite ("Workers Press") faction of the WRP.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Total nonsense 2011

I see Total Politics are drip-feeding us their award-winners. I didn't get around to voting this year, and don't seem to have placed. There's a different system this year, which separates "blogs" from "bloggers", which sensibly reflects the shift towards group blogs and authors who post in multiple locations rather than one place. 

Among green "bloggers", the top 20 contains few I ever read, apart from the great DocRichard at no.18, who I ought to link to more. However, I am happy to be introduced to Viridis Lumen, Jonathan Kent , Natalie Bennett and Nishima Doshi. Where are Weggis, Gordon and eh? And among "blogs", the greens include only one of my regular reads, Barkingside 21. Here's my favourite green blogs and bloggers in no particular order: Sue Luxton and Ute Michel’s Green Ladywell (read more about Sue here), Barkingside 21, Flesh is Grass, Richard Lawson’s Mabinogogiblog, Peter Cranie, Dean Walton's Green Blog, Adrian Windisch’s Green Reading, Weggis, Greens Engage, Isca Stieglitz, Jessica Goldfinch for House of Lords, Matt Sellwood of Hackney’s Anglo-Buddhist Combine, Gordon’s Green Feed, Greenwich Darryl’s 853 and, although he's semir-retired, Jim Jepps’ Daily (Maybe) (he's now here).

The "non-aligned" (what does that mean? in this context it mostly seems to mean "boring and mainstream") includes the great Nick Cohen, the also great Paul Mason, my friend Michael Ezra and the lovely Simon Hoggart (surely not a "blogger" by any definition). "Media" blogs, which seems to include both bloggers who blog about media and bloggers who are part of the mainstream media, two totally different things, actually includes a number of sites worth visiting, but that seem too mainstream to really be included in a blog award, which I guess shows how blogging has really gone overground in the last year or two, with both good and bad effect. So, I can't begrudge places for the Spectator Coffee House (no.1) and The Staggers (no.3) or the very smart and witty John Rentoul and the muck-raking Andrew Gilligan. More interesting are the tabloid-watchers of Five Chinese Crackers (no.24). Media "bloggers" overlaps a little, and includes a few more I'd recommend: Fraser Nelson (no.3), the fantastic Alex Massie (no.10), acerbic Peckham resident John McTernan (no.18), the genuinely original Madam Miaow (no.30), Danny Finkelstein (sadly behind the Times paywall, no.31) and David Aaronovitch (way down at no.49, but a columnist rather than a blogger, so no complaints).

Now we get to the real meat, as far as I'm concerned, the "left-wing" categories. Mostly, as usual, this is completely dominated by dull Labour party hacks. Under "blogs", you have to get to no.15 before there's a blog I actually read, the not exactly left-wing Harry's Place. Huge kudos to my comrade James Bloodworth for Obliged to Offend, a new entry at no.18. More comrade, Though Cowards Flinch, at no.29, Stumbling and Mumbling (no.31), Madam Miaow (no.52), Shiraz Socialist (no.55), the lesser Bob (no.56), Harpy Marx (no.58), Normblog (no.63) and Tory Troll (no.72) and Pickled Politics (just no.73). Left-wing "bloggers" appears to have been sown up by some Green Scottish syndicate voting. Apart from them, here's my choices (overlapping with the last lot): 6 Owen Jones, 8 James Bloodworth , 12 Chris Dillow, 14 top Londonist Dave Hill, 24 Rob Marchant, 38 the great Jim Denham (my personal no.1), 41 Adam Bienkov,
45 my friend Carl Packman, 51 Edmund Standing (not exactly left-wing), 55 David Osler (surely deserving of a much higher place), and 61 Harry's Place (not exactly "a blogger"!).

One disgraceful ommission (apart from me) is Harry Barnes' wonderful Three Score Years And Ten. Also missing (as far as I can see): Between the Hammer and the AnvilBoffyInfantile and DisorderlyLeft OutsideTendance CoatesyVery Public Sociologist. and most surprising, The Third Estate.

One thing worth noting is the completely inexplicable inclusion of Mehdi Hasan very near the top of a few lists. You can read the long version here and here, but in short the man is both a talentless writer and an apologist for the most obnoxious ideologies of our time.

Previous: 2010, 2009.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Template trouble

I seem to have fixed the column width glitch. Can't work out why the links, fonts and colours are all messed up when you look at the blog, but fine when you look at the individual posts. In messing around, I came across this theme, which I quite like. Am I weakening brand recognition by playing around. Onward to Wordpress, when I get around to it...

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The EDL in East London

In Tower Hamlets

I wasn’t in Tower Hamlets on Saturday, when the English Defence League attempted at “static” demonstration there, but I’ve now managed to read through a fair amount of commentary and reportage. It seems it was a victory for everyone. For the EDL, they mobilised something from 600 to 1000 people, got a lot of media attention, drank a lot and had a generally fun day – although they failed to actually get to Tower Hamlets. For the “anti-fascists”, endlessly re-living the Battle of Cable Street, they considerably outnumbered the EDL and managed to keep the bigots out of the borough – except it was the police and not them who managed that. For the police, there was relatively little disorder and mayhem, and Theresa May’s ban on a march managed to get enforced – although it took 3000 pairs of boots on the ground and undoubtedly a huge bill to pay.

The EDL and the Muslims
The English Defence League, parroted by many of its middle class apologists in the Harry’s Place comments threads, claims to be against “Islamism” or “Islamic extremism” and not against “Islam in general”. This claim is completely hollow. Here’s some comments from EDL supporters, to give you a flavour of their real views. Or, more to the point, watch this video of Stephen “Tommy Robinson” Yaxley-Lennon (the EDL’s cult of personality fuhrer) advocating Anders Breivik style policies in London on Saturday:
"Every single Muslim watching this video on youtube, on 77, you got away with killing and maiming British citizens ... you had better understand that we have built a network from one end of the country to the other end... and the Islamic community will feel the full force of the English Defence League if we see any of our British citizens killed maimed or hurt on British soil ever again."
As one Indymedia contributor says, “So if some Islamist terrorists carry out another 77 style attack, it will be the fault of any Muslim living in Britain and they should be attacked?”

Or, for more evidence, read some of the examples from Laurie Penny’s report, which is actually one of the better things she’s written.

Sarah AB quotes Maryam Namazie, who knows a thing or two about Islamism, on this subject in an HP comment thread:
“And it is also clear who [the EDL] are from their tactics, one of which is organising demonstrations in front of mosques and terrorising people passing by or entering. Look, if you are concerned about the political Islamic movement and mosques being funded by Islamic states to promotes Islamism, then by all means demonstrate but why not do it at the Qatar embassy (if you are concerned about the Burnley mosque for example) or for that matter Jack Straw’s office (who is thought to be responsible for the Emir of Qatar’s £1.5 million gift to the mosque). Yes I am opposed to faith schools but I wouldn’t stand with a group that brings out thugs in front of an Islamic school and threatens children going in who are sent their by their parents…”
I wouldn't, by the way, bother reading an HP comment thread on this topic. It’s full of the usual toxicity: HP below-the-line commenters, unlike the above the line posters, see all Muslims as scum and see the EDL as generally good “working class” chaps who are to be applauded for sticking it to the Pakis. Possibly the only perceptive comment I read came from one CBinTowerHamlets:
Unlike your regular extremist organisation, the EDL is not infamous because of its stated agenda, but simply because of its nature, the thuggery of its members and their general Islamophobia. If you were to define it by its stated objectives, namely opposition to [Muslims Against Crusaders, Anjem Chaudhury’s horrible extremist cult] and to compulsory sharia law, then it’s so mainstream that most Muslims would agree with it. If you define it by its members’ behaviour, then even most Islamophobes would steer clear of it. I don’t think it’s a “proper” extremist organisation, it’s just a bunch of angry pals, largely from the football hooligan fraternity, who decided to go demonstrate and enjoy a ‘day out’ doing so. They’re full of latent prejudice but haven’t developed an extremist ideology from it.

The EDL and the Jews
As reported here, EDL leader and Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) broke his bail conditions to turn up at the demo – dressed in ridiculous comedy haredi rabbi disguise (under yet another nom de guerre: Rabbi Benjamin Kidderman. He’s a veritable Sacha Baron-Cohen!) – and on the arm of Roberta Moore. Moore, for those lucky enough not to know, is the frothing at the mouth former leader of the EDL’s alleged “Jewish Division” (a handful of American and Israeli Jews and British non-Jews on Facebook, with no real world presence apart from Roberta and a couple of her pals).

Friday, September 02, 2011

Something for the weekend

Apologies for slow blogging here these days (you're probably grateful actually). Here are some quick links.

Post of the week: Sarah Correia: Sarajevo from Ramazan to Bajram

The Normblog profile of my friend Michael Ezra. Dodgy opinions on political heroes and TV, and I'd hate to be at that dinner party! // Terry Glavin: Warsaw Ghetto, January 1943. Homs, Syria, August 2011: "NATO must help us." // IWCA analysis of the riots: The lumpen rebellion (trenchant and incisive, but in my view flawed).

Iz/Pal-ish:  Marko AH: Why we should support Palestinian statehood. // An open letter to Israel boycotters (via Green Gordon/Weggis). // Noam Edry: Zionist art at wadical Goldsmiths.

On the English Defence League: Some analysis from the AWL: A ban will do no good; Anti-fascists fall out in Norwich; Working class self-organisation can beat the EDL in Tower Hamlets. // Dishing the dirt at Malatesta. // Hope not Hate on the guns of the EDL: chilling.