Friday, March 30, 2012

Communalism and UK politricks

It is very sad that all of Britain's high profile socialist politicians (Ken Livingstone, George Galloway) happen also to be extremely unsavoury. I guess it's nothing new: is Galloway is the Henry Hyndman of today? Or the Oswald Mosley ca.1931?

KenWatch
I added a couple of links in the comments to my last Ken Livingstone post:, by Rob Marchant (and earlier) and Dan Hodges. Since then, Ken has made the most half-arsed apology imaginable for his antisemitic comments (read his JC article). That's at the heart of Ken's problem: utterly unable to admit error or apologise for anything, a terrible character trait. Here's more links. Adloyada: Ken Livingstone speaks from the heart; Jen Lipman: As a Jewish Labour supporter I can't back Ken; Jon Lansman: Ken and the Jews; David Osler: Shut up and vote Ken.

GalloWatch
The Ken story has of course been eclipsed by the George story, with GG winning the Bradford West by-election by a country mile. Here's some commentary: Carl Packman on the sick antisemites at the heart of Respect; Dave Semple says it's not so bad (disagreeing with his comrade Carl); Jon Lansman on austerity in Bradford; Dan Hannan on the rise of sectarian politics; Gerry Hassan on George's come-back; Representing the Mambo; Francis on the whistling of dogs and Galloway's murderous allies; Tulip Siddiq on taking the Asian vote for granted; Lucy Lips on sectarian Britain; and reb Matgamna on Galloway, from the archive. More analysis from LFF.

Anglo-Jewry
I wrote a whole bunch in Judy's comment thread here, about her allegations of Labour entrism in Anglo-Jewish communal bodies. 

Islamism
I have thought further about my last Islamism post, and semi-retract some of what I said. Read the comments here. Kind of related (and also to the stuff above), I'm tempted to pay £1 to read Respect's Salma Yaqoob, Quilliam's Maajid Nawaz and two other British Muslims talking about how Bosnia in the 1990s changed their lives. And Yves Coleman on whether the far left will learn from Toulouse.

Also (and mostly related to the above)

29 comments:

Sarah AB said...

http://thecentreleft.blogspot.com.es/2012/03/faced-with-anti-semitism-left.html

Thanks for the links Bob - perhaps you have linked to it elsewhere, and I missed it, but here's another excellent piece by Rob Marchant, posted after the other one refer to here.

Thanks also to the link to Carl Packman's piece - it's *outrageous* that Carole Swords, in particular, is being invoked to prop him up.

darren redstar said...

Galloway as Mosley 1931?, mosley was thwarted in his electtral ambitions in 1931, and successfully chased away by communist and labour activists when he attempted to speak, incident which are often cited as reasons for his embracement of fascism ( though Mosley was running with the fascist bacillus long before that) . Galloways electoral success, and the lack of forthright opposition, allow him to maintain his internal narrative as the chosen one, without the necessity of creating a fascist movement to bolster it. shorn of the sub trots of the SWP, respect is purely a fan club.

Jim Jepps said...

Reuben Bard-Rosenberg had what I thought was a good comment on Ken here http://www.bigsmoke.org.uk/?p=61498

I'm still uneasy to be honest, but none of the options available seem that palatable.

modernity's ghost said...

Indeed

"Clearly Ken’s record is not unblemished. His comments to the Reuben Brothers, wherein he told them to “go back to Iran” and “see if they can do better under the ayatollahs”, were fairly indefensible. Leftists shouldn’t be telling anybody to go back to where they came from.

But telling Jews to go “back” to a country where Jews face discrimination and persecution – not to mention the fear that comes with having an anti-Semitic loon as President – is rather beyond the pale.

As as socialist and a Jew I hate anti-semitism. And I get irritated by the tendency of some on the left to sometimes downplay or deny it – or to robotically respond to any accusation by ritually repeating that line about anti-Zionism not being anti-Semitism. Yet the new accusations against Ken simply lack sufficient clarity to justify moving one’s vote elsewhere in this very politically important election. On May the 5th I will be voting Livingstone."

For Reuben politics trumps antiracism here?

Jim,

Importantly it doesn't deal with the nub of Ken's problem (and I suspect many that defend him):

Ken determines Jews as a religious group but does not accept Jews as an ethnicity and a people, and did not respond on this other than to say as an atheist he found this hard to comprehend.”

So basically, Ken is denying Jews a right to determine who they are.

Ken does NOT apply that to any other group, just Jews.

Jim, why? And can you see the problem here?

Waterloo Sunset said...

I don't think there's a direct parallel between Galloway and Livingstone- the issues with them are quite different. Galloway is, at his heart, genuinely communalist I think. In the same way as his support for the Soviet Union was honestly held. Livingstone, on the other hand, is entirely opportunist. The only thing Livingstone has ever believed in, in my view, is Ken Livingstone.

On the Bradford election, some observations. This is a mixture of stuff of my own and things based on talking to some associates in the area.

It's undoubtedly the case that Galloway did try to appeal to Muslim voters, as Muslims. (The teetotaller stuff, in particular). And it's highly likely he got some votes on that basis. However, this result cannot be explained solely on that basis. (Jim D mostly writes polemics, so can be forgiven for not having looked at these factors seriously. Lucy Lips is just shit at analysis. I suspect that post would have been pretty much written beforehand and just put in when Galloway won).

Reasons I'm saying that it isn't just a communalist/sectarian vote:

1. The size of Galloway's majority precludes it. If you look at the demographics for that area, there has to have been a significant vote for Galloway from non Muslim voters. (And no, I don't believe this was entirely made up of SWP and Respect members).

2. The large turnout. This means that at least some of Galloway's support came from those who are either newly qualified voters, non voters or infrequent voters. It's worth noting that's standard with this kind of "anti mainstream" vote, where a candidate outside the three gets in. The BNP have definitely benefited from it in the past, so have Respect, as have the IWCA. Not sure on Militant/SP or the Greens but I suspect it was the case with Caroline Lucas. Worth noting that the trad left groups like TUSC and the Socialist Alliance never have had this effect on an election. Which raises some interesting questions.

3. I have it on good authority that most of the Muslim 'community leader' types were still calling for a Labour vote. They were simply ignored. So the Muslim vote was not monolithic. One thing that hasn't been analysed much so far is that a generational gap seems to have been heavily at play here; one that Galloway was very good at exploiting.

4. Galloway had actually previously attacked postal voting as he believed it would work to his disadvantage. He's a savvy enough tactician that there has to have been reason behind that.

Waterloo Sunset said...

Other, more miscellaneous, comments.

1. Bradford Council are notoriously shit, even as local councils go. Allegedly corrupt and certainly ineffective. They have been since the days of Eric Pickles. For just one example, Bradford's supposed "investment" was supposed to bring jobs and money to the area. Eight years on, it's still a big hole in the ground and work has been suspended due to the recession. The Labour candidate is head of Bradford council. This is at least in part an anti council vote.

2. Both the Labour candidate and much of the local councillors are also really poor politicians. Whatever you think of Galloway's politics, he's a very strong political operator; charismatic and an impressive public speaker. Whereas the Labour campaign was farcically poor. The candidate didn't even bother to turn up for hustings.

3. Bradford Labour are in no position to gripe about communalism. They both encourage and traditionally have strongly benefited from it. Even on this campaign, they still arguably ran a more communalist campaign then Galloway. In other words, what they're actually complaining about is that this time communalism didn't deliver them the votes they expect and see as theirs by right.

Rosie said...

The large turnout. This means that at least some of Galloway's support came from those who are either newly qualified voters, non voters or infrequent voters. It's worth noting that's standard with this kind of "anti mainstream" vote, where a candidate outside the three gets in.

That's borne out by this:-

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2012/03/young-muslims-galloway

"Galloway used all his political know-how to rally up support from young people and students alike, many of whom were Muslims from Bradford, capturing their hearts and minds and helping to cause one of the biggest recent upsets in British politics. Galloway gained a celebrity status as he casually walked around on campus after he stood for the seat, embracing Asian students as they rushed to take pictures.

These students and young people then went on to rally many other young Muslim voters in areas across Bradford such as the heavily Asian populated Manningham. Make no mistake about it, Galloway touched the hearts of the youth in Bradford especially in the last 48 hours before voting closed; hundreds of young people campaigned to make the unthinkable a reality.

The campaigners were oblivious of Galloway's track record beyond the war, or his reputation as an opportunist and one who "never delivers" for his constituent members. His supporters, many of whom have never voted before in their lives and who seem politically unaware, were now taking part in the democratic process for the first time - to see young Muslims participating in itself was inspirational."

God only knows what he will deliver to them. Perhaps they will be thrilled when he goes and tells whatever bloody-handed Islamist leaders that arise from the Arab spring what lions they are and how he salutes them for their courage etc. After all, without the voters giving him the MP title he would be a less acceptable courtier.

modernity's ghost said...

Three obvious points than any analysis of Galloway's victory need to consider are:

1) What historical connection does Galloway have with Bradford West?

2) What made him stand there, in particular?

3) What happened to the Tory vote? Did they merely decamp for the moment and join the Galloway set? Or something else?

Waterloo Sunset said...

All good points Mod

1 & 2 are obviously linked. Galloway has no historical connection with the area. (Cynically, I'm not sure if he even has any real knowledge of Yorkshire. I've not seen any evidence). Respect are relatively strong locally which will have been a factor. But he'll have stood there specifically because he believed he had a good chance of getting elected compared to elsewhere.

3 is a damn good point. I'm not currently sure on that one, but it certainly bears more examination. It certainly didn't switch to the Lib Dems (who lost their deposit) so either the Tories voted Galloway or they stayed home. Both Labour and the Tories dropped 10,000 votes from the last election (which is obviously massive, especially considering the turnout)which does provisionally suggest Galloway took votes from both of them. In fact, if you add up the main three parties lost votes, they approximately add up to Galloway's improvement on the previous Respect election result.

darren redstar said...

Galloways forgetting of where he is the new mp, doesn't bode well for the people of west bradford

bob said...

Thanks all for very interesting comments. First, on Ken.

Mod says: "Importantly [Reuben] doesn't deal with the nub of Ken's problem (and I suspect many that defend him):

“Ken determines Jews as a religious group but does not accept Jews as an ethnicity and a people, and did not respond on this other than to say as an atheist he found this hard to comprehend.”

So basically, Ken is denying Jews a right to determine who they are."


Ken himself says: "I do explicitly see Jewish people as a people – not either a religion or an ethnicity but a people." (recent mea culpa in JC http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/comment/65807/please-lets-move-ken-and-jews-dramas )

Not sure if we can take him at face value or not, but that seems quite clear, plus he goes on to be pretty positive about Israel.

bob said...

As a footnote, in the 1980s, Ken alienated the Board of Deputies, which then still insisted that Jews were a religion only and NOT an ethnicity, by giving GLC money to Yiddish and other Jewish cultural projects as part of his broader multicultural strategy. It took a couple of decades for Anglo-Jewish communal leadership to come over to Ken's position on this, and now they berate him from the opposite angle!

Waterloo Sunset said...

On Galloway, the Louder Than War coverage seems to reinforce my view that a) this was mostly anti mainstream as opposed to specifically pro-Galloway, b) talking about this solely in religious terms is simplistic to the point of banality and c) local issues had a lot to do with the result.

http://louderthanwar.com/george-galloway-in-bradford/

I will also snarl slightly about the fact that I'm having to go to music websites, as opposed to any of the 'national' press to get decent analysis of local election results. As opposed to fucking London Mayoral elections, because that's south of the M25 so is 'real news' apparently.

bob said...

On Galloway

My Mosley 1931 analogy was not an accurate one, but meant to indicate post break with Labour pre fascist. Of course, Galloway was a Labour loyalist for many many years before leaving and has campaigned on a "real Labour" basis while Mosley was in and out of a few before he formed his own. I'm not sure that Mosley's parties after 1931 were anything other than fan clubs, though, and his turn to fascism was not about the need to create a fascist movement to bolster his narrative, but rather about fascism fitting perfectly with his messianic monomania.

The more I read about Bradford, the more I tend towards the view that the Muslim/communal/"anti-war" vote was only one of many dimensions, overplayed by the mainstream commentariat. He campaigned on local issues too, and captured a significicant non-Muslim vote.

It is not accurate, however, to talk about a large turnout or a majority of the actual electorate. The 50% turn out was actually lower than any election since the 1970s, and I think since the constituency was created. In 2010, I think the turnout was 64%. I am not mathematically clever enough to know whether we can calculate the Muslim vote, and I haven't seen if there is any data on ward voting in this election. Manningham and Toller are over 50% Muslim, Heaton about a third, but Thornton and Allerto, and Clayton are overwhelmingly White British.

This is a really important point, and resonates with what I've seen in lots of other areas: Bradford Labour are in no position to gripe about communalism. They both encourage and traditionally have strongly benefited from it. Even on this campaign, they still arguably ran a more communalist campaign then Galloway. In other words, what they're actually complaining about is that this time communalism didn't deliver them the votes they expect and see as theirs by right.

modernity's ghost said...

WS,

My understanding was that Tory voters tended to turn out. One of their defining characteristics.

This might not be the case in Bradford West, but I think it's more likely that they simply changed party, backing Galloway, against the LP.

That would explain the decline in the Tory vote & the volume of his.

Bob,

Face value, surely as a politician Ken will say, almost anything to get himself elected?

If that really is Ken's position, then why did it come over so poorly in the original meeting?

Waterloo Sunset said...

Bob-

The more I read about Bradford, the more I tend towards the view that the Muslim/communal/"anti-war" vote was only one of many dimensions, overplayed by the mainstream commentariat. He campaigned on local issues too, and captured a significicant non-Muslim vote.

I'd go further and say that I'm coming to the conclusion that communalism had no real effect on the outcome of this election.

Anti-war vote, probably. But I see that as single issue voting, not communalism. People vote on single issues all the time; students voting Lib Dem because of their tuition fee pledge, hippies voting Green because of their drugs policy, indeed, the argument against voting Livingstone is essentially a single issue one.

It's somewhat dubious that single-issue voting is an issue when Muslims do it, when that doesn't seem to raise the same ire in other cases. Arguing that Muslims should be treated differently is really not an anti-communalist stance. Although that is partly because many decents, despite their claims of being militantly pro-democracy, have never actually forgiven the bulk of the British public for not agreeing with them.

But even saying that, I do agree this was mostly a vote on local issues, not national, let alone international ones. I think this is a vital point from the article I linked to:

I can’t speak for the ins and outs of every issue in Bradford, but I’ve seen enough of how a few key people have operated to think that whatever Galloway does, it can’t possibly be worse. He’s pictured with a lot of loving supporters but his ‘sod it, may as well’ contingent will be the silent majority.

That, in my view, gets to the core of why Galloway won this election.

The reason I think that's being ignored in the blogosphere is because it doesn't fit into either of the two main narratives people are trying to push.

On one hand, we have the Galloway partisans like Socialist Unity. They want to see this as a vindication of Galloway and of their own politics on "anti-imperialism". And a lot of them want to see this as the green shoots of a left revival. So accepting that, actually, Galloway got in because of local anger at the council isn't helpful for them. Especially when it seems some of his voters don't actually like him all that much.

On the other hand, the likes of Harry's Place want to see this as being because Muslims in Bradford West are all either Islamists or ignorant morons and they hate them. I don't think that's unfair. You'll note that all the attacks on Galloway's voters over there have been on Muslims, not on non Muslims who voted for him. And it's not just the usual right wing suspects. Lucy Lips' reaction said, specifically, that this was a sectarian vote. And some of the people very much part of the HP mainstream consensus have made their contempt for Muslims absolutely clear in the comments. I really think it is inarguable that HP is not simply against Islamism, after this. So they've simply taken an analysis which matches what they already believe.

Thanks for the correction on the turnout. If that's the case it gets even more complex. It's well documented that a significant part of Galloway's support seems to have come from new, genuinely young, voters. So the question is what happened to the votes previously cast for Labour, if they didn't go to Galloway?

This is a really important point, and resonates with what I've seen in lots of other areas

Not just Bradford Labour either. I think it's pretty obvious that some of the most vocal players of the "communalism" card regarding this result wouldn't have said anything about it if Labour had won. In fact, their posts on the election would have been triumphalist, even gloating.

Waterloo Sunset said...

Mod-

This might not be the case in Bradford West, but I think it's more likely that they simply changed party, backing Galloway, against the LP.

I think that Bradford West is likely to have been something of an anomaly on that. Tory voters are no less prone to being influenced by local issues than Labour. And the previous Tory council (who were running Bradford up to the local council election) are as unpopular in the area as Labour are now. The fact you've got the two parties having run things in succession means neither are currently able to disassociate themselves from the council's unpopularity, unlike a lot of other places.

This isn't to say that I don't think you may well have a point about the possibility of some Tories having tactically voted, simply that I don't think it's the only or even main factor at play.

Even if the whole of the lost Tory vote from the last election had gone to Galloway (which isn't likely, obviously), he'd still have only won by a few hundred votes if the Labour vote had held up. The fact that the Tories lost roughly the same number of votes as Labour suggests something else was going on.

modernity's ghost said...

Not arguing all of Tory vote went to Galloway, but to me it seems highly plausible, given 1) what we know about Tory voters 2) the decline in the Tory vote 3) the size of Galloway's vote.

Part and part.

modernity's ghost said...

Bob,

WS has a very strong point here, "I really think it is inarguable that HP is not simply against Islamism, after this. So they've simply taken an analysis which matches what they already believe."

bob said...

Re this from the Bradford article WS recommended:

I can’t speak for the ins and outs of every issue in Bradford, but I’ve seen enough of how a few key people have operated to think that whatever Galloway does, it can’t possibly be worse. He’s pictured with a lot of loving supporters but his ‘sod it, may as well’ contingent will be the silent majority.

The uselessness and cronyism of Bradford Labour was undoubtedly a factor, as it was for the rise of Respect in Newham, where dissatisfaction with Labour machine politics was channelled into Respect voting. However, in Newham and even more in Tower Hamlets, what happens is sections of the machine simply transfer from Labour to Respect, and the cronyism and incompetence continue is a new form.

Machine politics based on religious authority, kinship ties, patronage, grace and favour, social networks etc etc is one dimension of communalism. It's not by any means a Muslim thing: Ken is a master of oiling the ethnic machines in London, such as the NW London Irish machine. The Lib Dems took over the white working class Bermondsey Labour machine. And so on.

The other dimension of communalism is the "sectarian" thing, the identitarian politics: voting for a party because it represents an identity. It seems that this has been enormously exaggerated in the Harryist/mainstream coverage of Bradford. But it is surely clear that Galloway and his supporters have worked hard to milk it, both in Bradford, and in East London.

Also, responding to the "it can’t possibly be worse" argument: Galloway campaigned on some local issues, but it is pretty obvious to me that he is using Bradford as a stage to access a national, even global, stage. His calling it Blackburn the day after he was elected, as Darren notes, is one example. Or the fact he was never seen in Tower Hamlets when he was the MP there (despite it being a bit more convenient than Bradford for the Five Live and Press TV studios and London international airports...).

bob said...

On the HP issue, I'll have to go and read HP and its toxic comment threads now, to see whether I agree. That's not fair!

bob said...

Got side-tracked by the news about GG's new (fourth, young, Amsterdam-based) wife. ‘The next few months will be interesting because I will be working back in Westminster as an MP. But we will be moving around between London, Bradford and Amsterdam.’
Unbelievable. Wonder if he'll fit in a visit to Blackburn while he's on the move. (Actually, though, thinkign about it, Leeds Bradford airport has excellent connections to Amsterdam, so maybe I'm being unfair!)

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2124227/George-Galloways-new-Dutch-bride-Putri-Gayatri-Pertiwi.html#ixzz1r9LjlnA2

bob said...

Following on the marriage story, looking at the pictures of the last 3 Galloway wives, each younger than the one before, all Muslim, I couldn't help but think of the "other-fetishizer" phrase, but was pre-empted by Rosie's comment at HP: "The fetish seems to be for women who are very attractive, going by their pictures. That’s quite a common fetish, I believe. Also, given his political activities he would run into more Muslim women than yer average Dundonian RC."

bob said...

David Goodhart on Bradford - a more subtle take on the communalist argument: http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2012/04/george-galloway-bradford-west-bloc-voting-labour-ethnic-minority/

bob said...

Two more interesting links:
John Mann http://labourlist.org/2012/03/bradford-debacle-galloway-is-right-labour-must-listen/

Helen Pidd
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/apr/04/how-women-won-it-for-galloway

Sarah AB said...

There have been several Galloway related posts at HP. I felt the main emphasis was on the communalism of the campaign, rather than on having a go at the voters themselves.

Waterloo Sunset said...

Bob-

Oh, yeah, I'm pretty sure Galloway is going to be entirely shit as a local MP. That doesn't negate the "how can it be any worse" argument however. Indeed the author of the linked piece makes clear that she, and many of the people she talked to, are highly cynical about Galloway. This is as far more about a "fuck you" to the political establishment as it is an actively pro Galloway/Respect vote. And, on that basis, it's probably worked. Bradford hasn't had this much national attention for years. We've even had "the hole" mentioned in national media.

Sarah-

I'm talking about comments like these (all above the line, from Lucy Lips and the guest post by Phil)-

This was a candidacy that was aimed at demonstrating that, if Muslims are appealed to in the name of religion, they will vote for you.

All politicians know that, in elections, there are certain claims, certain ‘dog whistles’

In areas with a substantial Muslim population, as we have seen this morning, it is entirely possible to win a local campaign by asking the electorate to vote as Muslims

But there’s a squeamishness about opposing this sort of sectarianism, when it comes from minority groups.

These people voted as Muslims not as immigrants because their principal religious and political identity is Islam.


I think it's clear from those that the 'official' Harryist line is that all Muslims in Bradford West who voted Galloway are a monolithic bloc who vote exclusively on religious lines.

I also don't believe for a second that Alan A's post about communalist Labour tactics would have been written if Labour had won. Although I accept I can't actively prove a negative there.

Sarah AB said...

Sorry not to respond earlier, WS - I was away. I accept that you back up your point - although I don't respond to these quotes quite as you do. It could be argued that this piece goes further,

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/02/muslims-step-outside-antiwar-comfort-zone

I commented on it briefly here:

http://hurryupharry.org/2012/04/05/a-tour-around-the-blogosphere/

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