Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Culture wars

Cheap booze now! (Gay marriage later.)
The decision to introduce minimum prices per unit of alcohol has meant my post on that topic has had some Twitter action over the weekend. Read it here, or read Patrick Hayes saying some related things here. The decision was preceded by a whole raft of Budget decisions designed to shift more wealth from the working and out of work poor to the very rich, more proof that this Coalition government has declared class war.

The IFS have analysed the likely impact and found that people within "safe" limits will pay "£40 and £71 extra per year for their alcohol if they buy their drink from supermarkets and off-licences" and that this figure holds whether you're rich (and won't notice it) or poor (and will). Another finding is that "The policy could also lead to substantial transfers of revenue to the alcohol industry." Of course, the drinks industry does not donate money to the Tories. On the other hand, as Carl points out, it will also benefit community pubs, which are closing at a scary rate, which is probably true, but not a big enough benefit to offset the offensiveness.

Talking of Patrick Hayes, I think Sarah supplied my favourite-est ever comment ever on my cheap booze post, asking if someone had Spiked my drink.With that in mind, I enjoyed this post by Ophelia Benson on Brendan O'Neil on gay marriage. Best bit:
And Brendan O’Neill, who is a coal miner from the very rudest part of Glasgow, knows this because coal miners have a Deep Instinctual Knowledge of elite-formation and cultural signifiers, which they adeptly turn into think-pieces for scrofulous little outlets like Spiked.
Londonism/KenWatch
The London elections coming in May - the first major elections since Cameron took the reigns - should be an opportunity for the capital to pass judgement on the vile Coalition government. Instead, the media, parties and candidates are doing their best to ensure the election is all about personalities, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to stomach giving my vote to Ken Livingstone. Here's some reading on that: Andrew Gilligan on Ken's Islamophilia; A letter from Jewish Labour supportersJonathan Freedland says I've backed Ken Livingstone for mayor before, but this time I just can't do it; Atul Hatwal on Livingstone's crumbling Labour flank; Dan Rickman is Ken's last Jewish supporter; Jim on Ken's criminal communalism and oppurtunism.

About the best case for voting Ken I've come across (and it's a damning one) is from Jim Denham:
Two bottom lines: vote Labour. And expel Livingstone from the Party.  
If poor Eric Joyce can be expelled simply for getting pissed and punching a few Tories, then surely Livingstone’s blatant antisemitism should be sufficient to get him booted out.

I’ve campaigned and voted for candidates as bad as Livingstone before: Liam Byrne for one. Voting Labour is a class duty, not a petty bourgeois choice. But that doesn’t mean we have to tolerate whatever the Party machine serves up. Miliband’s defence of the racist Livingstone is disgraceful. Livingstone must be expelled. 
But until he is, we must reluctantly vote for him, as the official Labour candidate.
Anyone got any better reason?

Faith and reason, tolerance and terror
I have once or twice used (or at least thunk) phrases like "militant secularist" or "secular fundamentalist". I find the anti-God propaganda of the Hitchkins extremely tedious. But recently I've been swaying somewhat towards the Hitchkins position by what seems like the increased belligerence of the militants of the faith-based persuasion. Nick Cohen had an excellent post about this, written on the occasion of the wonderful Peter Tatchell's receipt of the Secularist of the Year award. Relevant reading: Anne Marie Waters on middle clas feminists and Sharia law, Rupert Sutton on faith-based homophobes on campus. In my last post, I already mentioned Sunder's excellent review of DV8's Can We Talk About This? (more reviews here), but read it now if you didn't then.


After Toulouse
In her link to Nick Cohen's piece above, Ophelia Benson says "That guy on the scooter in Toulouse? I’m betting he’s not a reader of Richard Dawkins." She wrote that before we knew who the shooter was, and I guess she was proved right. A lot of nothingness has been said about the shootings by a lot of people, including those (like me) who sprung to the conclusion that the shooter must be a white racist, as well as those who have spoken since the perpetrator was identified. I have to confess that part of me was hoping the shooter would be a white racist. We don't need any more provocation for anti-Muslim racism, I thought. I'm ashamed of that reflex now.

Jim Denham and Nick Cohen said sensible things about this. Read them. Here's the key bit from Jim's post:
But we on the left – and, especially, that section of the left that was inclined to put the killings down to the “political context” – now have some explaining to do. As the simplistic "It is no coincidence that Sarkozy’s racism has been followed by one of the worst racist attacks in France in a generation” explanation has been blown out of the water, we are now obliged to offer our more considered analysis and explanation, in the light of what we now know.
I am not the first to note that when a terrorist is a white neo-Nazi, the liberal-left will focus on his ideology, beliefs and any evidence of a supportive mainstream discourse. However if a terrorist is an Islamist, the same people focus exclusively on his grievances and deprivations. Here’s a particularly crass example, all the more unpleasant because it doesn’t even mention antisemitism as a factor in the equation. Note, also, that the (non) ”explanation” given in this dreadful little piece of hackery and insult-to-the-intelligence, could have been wheeled out just as well, had the perpetrator been a member of the white far-right. 
The problem with much of the “left”, when it comes to Islamist terrorism, is that they (the “left”) deny any autonomy to the perpetrators. Unlike white far-right terrorists, Islamists are not (it would seem) thinking individuals, autonomous actors, motivated by any coherent ideology. They’re merely victims who react to external forces – racism, “islamophobia,” alienation, poverty, imperialism, etc, etc. The “left” (or at least, a large part of it) effectively infantilises these people, denying them even the perverse dignity of being responsible for their own actions, and of having their own internally coherent political agenda. And that is, ultimately, a form of racism in itself.
The bottom line is that Islamism is one of the most, probably the most, pernicious ideologies in existence today, and combating it, by any means necessary, is surely one of the most, possibly the most, urgent task we face.

This remains true, even if we can - and must - qualify this in several ways. As Ed Husain and Rabbi David Meyer have eloquently noted, we must not let Toulouse intensify Muslim/Jewish antagonism. And we mustn't take our eyes of the threat posed by violent anti-Muslim bogotry. In Sunder's review of Can We Talk About This? he mentioned "the central importance of the symbiotic relationship between Islamist and populist far right extremism, each giving its purported enemy the recruiting poster slogans to demonstrate the conspiracy that they must fight, furthering their mutually beneficial mission of polarizing the public debate into a foundational clash of civilizations." And it is also worth noting (as Jim does) that Islamism is a form of far right politics too. But still...

Jew-hatred
I guess this topic is relevant to the previous three. A recent ADL poll suggests the extent of antisemitism in the UK, and its recent growth, with dual loyalty accusations and the alleged connection to finance capital among the themes. Along with the "avenging Palestine" motivation of Mohamed Merah and any number of examples from the most recent CST incident report, it is clear that anti-Zionism and antisemitism are close relatives, one often serving as the alibi or the vehicle or the vector of spread for the other.

Anti-ness
Lots of interesting material on Contested Terrain at the moment, including the stuff you might miss in the top right, such as Lipstadt on Eichmann’s Antisemitism and Arendt and Claude Lanzmann interview in The Guardian, as well as the material from Shift. Here's a prescient anticipation of the Occupy movement, from my comrade SL at his new unpronounceable blog. And IWCA on deglobalisation.

Image credits: Dirt cheep beer from Cooking Lager; Ken Livingstone and al-Qaradawi from Andrew Gilligan; Faith and Reason from Haunted TimberPeople march through the streets of Paris on March 19 after the Ozar Hatorah Hebrew school shooting, from MSNBC..

23 comments:

darren redstar said...

Fascism is not the preserve of white skin, bob. The murders of the Jewish children was the act of a fascist, and that doesnt change because his inspiration was a univeral Ummah, rather than a fourth Reich.

bob said...

Some extra links I should have included: on the left's silence on antisemitism (re Toulouse) from Rob Marchant and Alan A; on Livingstone Rob again (and earlier) and Dan Hodges.

--

Darren, I agree that fascism is not the preserve of white skin and that Islamism is a far right ideology. I am not sure if "fascism" is exactly the right term, but basically agree.

kellie said...

That 'Dirt Cheap' can design uses Hobo type..

Brian Goldfarb said...

"But until [Ken livingstone] is [expelled from the Labour Party], we must reluctantly vote for him, as the official Labour candidate." As a recidivist Labour voter (I continually re-offend), I would in most circumstances agree with the Shiraz Socialist (I'm a Merlot Mauvist, for preference, but let that go). However, living in a democracy (sort of) means that we can follow our consciences and not just our class ( or whatever) duty. And, frankly, the reasons for not voting Ken far outweigh those for voting for him. I'd like to add one: Ken's cynicism in attacking Boris for taking money for writing his Daily Telegraph column (why not? Boris is a Tory and he doesn't hide the income), and Ken is hiding his use of a limited company to reduce his tax liability.

Pot, kettle and black are among the words that come to mind.

Sam said...

I have one argument for voting Ken. It's not a good one, but it's good enough, and it can be summed up in one word: Boris.

Incognito said...

Hey Bob, long time.

If Islamism is a far-right ideology- how come there is such a connection between the Islamists and the left?

weggis said...

"But until he is, we must reluctantly vote for him, as the official Labour candidate."

So who did you vote for in the 2000 GLA election?

TNC said...

I just about fell out of my chair when you stated:

“The bottom line is that Islamism is one of the most, probably the most, pernicious ideologies in existence today, and combating it, by any means necessary, is surely one of the most, possibly the most, urgent task we face.”

Have you gone over to the “dark side”? Any means? Really? Where do you draw the line? How about the surveillance of Muslim community organizations, student associations, mosques, etc. like the NYPD is doing here in the US? Would that be acceptable? How about water-boarding terrorist suspects? Or do you mean we need to use both police methods and the military/warfare? Or is it all of the above?

I realize I am not completely dispassionate in this regard, but it is getting really annoying reading about “Muslim/Jewish antagonism” in the West. To be specific, the way the antagonism is framed creates an incredibly distorted picture, one of two rival (tribal?) groups going at it head-to-head. But we know from the accounts of these attacks, whether in France or the UK, the perpetrators are Muslims and the victims are Jews.

A similar framing occurred during the Crown Heights Riots in Brooklyn, one of raging Jews versus raging Blacks. But the rioters and ragers were not Jews. They were simply trying to defend themselves and their property.

We need to be clear in our language. All are not equal in these instances. There are criminals and there are victims.

Incognito, I do not completely agree with Bob and others that Islamism is a form of far right politics. I think it is more complicated than that. However, it has often found expression in a form of anti-colonial and/or anti-imperialist politics (Hamas, Hezbollah) and on occasion an explicitly revolutionary politics (Iran). As has often been noted, the New Left replaced the industrial working-class as the agent of radical social change with the downtrodden Third World freedom fighter. I know this is as much of a simplification as saying all Islamists are on the far right, but I do think it explains some of the connection between the radical left and Islamists.

kellie said...

Hey Bob, not unrelated to the above, I went to a preview tonight of Barbaric Genius, a documentary on John Healy, author of The Grass Arena, directed by my friend Paul Duane. It'll be playing at the Odeon Panton St in May - 'twas very good, I think you'd like it.

Waterloo Sunset said...

Jim's argument on Livingstone is conclusive if, as he does, you agree that voting Labour is a "class duty". He's entirely consistent on it. If you share that analysis, there is no way you can not vote for Livingstone logically. If you don't share it, as I obviously don't, Jim's argument simply isn't relevant.

Probably the strongest argument I've heard for a Livingstone vote is "he's a dick, but if you look at it solely in the context of what the Mayoral role entails, he's actually going to do a better job". It wouldn't swing it for me, but it's probably true. On purely technocratic grounds, Livingstone is more competent at this kind of thing.

I think we should differentiate between people not voting for Livingstone for whatever reason (fair enough, I haven't voted Labour ever) and people actively voting for Boris Johnson. As you say yourself, "this Coalition government has declared class war". As such, voting for Johnson is going "fuck the proles". And anybody who takes that position is an objective enemy. Fuck anybody who votes Tory.

However if a terrorist is an Islamist, the same people focus exclusively on his grievances and deprivations.

Also particularly ridiculous, considering how well-off most Islamist terrorists have actually been. That's pretty standard with terrorism, though there have been some exceptions.

The bottom line is that Islamism is one of the most, probably the most, pernicious ideologies in existence today, and combating it, by any means necessary, is surely one of the most, possibly the most, urgent task we face.

Depends where you're talking about. In the Middle East, you can make a strong case for that. Although it begs the question of what you, specifically, propose to do about it; concentrating on non-local struggles is often a justification for inactivity and not putting one's neck on the line.

In the West, not really, though after the anti-Semitic murders in Toulouse I can understand why people are drawing that conclusion.

MAC get a derisory number out on the streets. Less out than even the NF. The only far right groups in the UK currently capable of putting a significant firm out are the EDL and their various offshoots.

I'd see it much like C18. Certainly worth opposing, but not a political or ideological threat.

Terrorism is a threat because of terrorist actions (and, unfortunately, I don't believe that it's possible to eradicate the possibility entirely). David Copeland was a murdering bastard and his actions caused much grief to the family and friends of those killed. Toulouse is obviously the same. Neither had any chance of changing society towards their ideological objectives. The threat is still the drift, not the putsch.

Incognito-

If Islamism is a far-right ideology- how come there is such a connection between the Islamists and the left?

Not just the left, unless you consider the Reagan government, Sadat, much of the Foreign Officer and large swathes of MI6 to be left wing.

Aside from that, I think TNC has got it right on why sections of the left have linked to Islamists. It's mostly to do with the wholesale abandonment of class politics by the cobweb left, in favour of accommodation to identity politics. It's interesting to note that those groups who previously had the most narrow industrial conception of the working class seem to be the most prone to this.

Why are they far right? Well, it's based on examining their politics, which seems a sensible method on this kind of question. They want a theocracy. They're heavily socially conservative. They're fiercely anti socialist/communist. How can they not be part of the right? What part of their platform (as opposed to connections) do you see as left wing?

TNC said...

Hi WS:
To be open regarding my deficiencies, I am not an expert on Islam or Islamism. I am much more familiar with Western radical, revolutionary, and extremist groups and organizations. As to whether Islamism is a left-wing or right-wing political expression, it is an important question.

What does it mean to be on the Left today? How has this changed from the past?

I think we agree the emphasis on class analysis (and by extension, one would hope, class solidarity) of the Old Left was largely been replaced by the identity politics of the New Left. Again, overly simple but the point is still valid. Namely, Islamism as an anti-colonial, anti-imperialist movement of brown folks fighting for “social justice” against their white oppressors is an ideology of the Left.

But this position is not actually why I stated I am unsure whether Islamism is an ideology of the far right. I am not even certain the left-right political dichotomy is applicable. Sometimes I wonder if we might be trying to impose a terminology that may not apply. Are “Left” and “Right” universal concepts? I agree they are anti-socialist but they are also anti-capitalist. Capitalism is usury. Perhaps even worse, it is "Jewish" in their minds.

On a somewhat related note, have you read Ze’ev Sternhell’s “Neither Right nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France”? I know you have an interest in this sort of stuff and it is well worth checking out.

Have a good one.

--TNC

bob said...

ON KEN

I have some sympathy for the “class duty” line, especially in a context of Boris’ ideological centrality to the Cameron project (even if he doesn’t toe the line in day to day politics) and the Coalition government’s brutal prosecution of class war from above. I presume the AWL line in 2000 was that Ken was a viable candidate standing to the left of Labour with at least nominal commitment to socialism and working class values, so didn’t vote Labour then. (Jim, if you’re around, you could clarify.) But presumably the same would be true of Galloway, and I presume they didn’t advocate voting for him in Bradford. Clearly, Galloway is way beyond the line that Ken at least approaches, but it isn’t clear to me where the line should be drawn. When is enough enough with Ken?

So, two reasons remain to vote for Ken. There’s the negative reason Sam cites, to vote against Boris. And there’s the technocratic reason WS cites: the mayor’s powers are limited and Ken is very good at the job. Objectively, Ken is far better for London than Boris, on everything that matters and that is within the remit of the job: transport, housing, planning, etc. (Noga, I think it was, once pointed out here that that is like the “making the trains run on time” argument for the Nazis, but I’d say that’s a little disproportionate a comparison.) On the other hand, the mayor’s limited power means Boris can’t do that much damage.

However, the mayor of London has great symbolic power. Both Ken and Boris have wielded that in a positive way in several instances: in arguing for regularisation of undocumented migrants and in championing a living wage. Ken was also an important voice after the 7/7 attacks, with his wonderful speech setting out the cosmopolitan values that were under attack. But Ken has used his symbolic power to very damaging effect too, as this latest “rich Jews” kerfuffle reminds us: he devotes a huge amount of time to objectively reactionary/superficially radical gesture politics, from pandering to theocrats to touting for authoritarian regimes.

[On Islamism to follow.]

bob said...

ON ISLAMISM

1. “By any means necessary” was a trite, stupid thing to say. It also begs the question about who is using the “any means”. There’s the means we – humans, citizens, activists, bloggers – can use, and the means we endorse the state using. As a libertarian, I tend to think that the more power states have, the less power citizens have. But having avoided being killed in the lucozade plan bombs in 2006 only through the vigilance of the secret state (and who knows how many other foiled terror attacks in London), and having been in France last week watching the transport police courteously search the trains for a shooter on the run, I’m no longer so sure. (So, NYPD style human mapping probably OK, water-boarding probably not.)

As humans, citizens, activists, bloggers, etc, the useful means at our disposal are probably ideological and not physical action, although I would have no objection to anyone taking out MAC’s handful of fanatics. And, while excusing and explaining are away (the left’s standard attitude to Islamism) is to give in in advance, moralistic denunciation is a poor means of winning the argument.

Probably the most effective thing we can do is very un-glamorous and un-belligerent: presenting an alternative radical politics and cosmopolitan values that win people over and fill the vacuum that Islamism fills. And, for those of us outside the Muslim communities were Islamism recruits, perhaps we need to do a lot more to work out how to even open up lines of communication, as well as giving solidarity to those fighting the fight within those communities, such as Southall Black Sisters or the Swadhinata Trust.

2. What kind of threat does Islamism pose? Within the Muslim majority world, it poses a huge threat – to democracy, to women and girls, to non-Muslim minorities, to less than strictly observant Muslims, to homosexuals, to workers, to popular culture, to human values. In power (e.g. in Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, under the Doebandi Taliban and Takfiri al-Shabaab in the regions they control, in Gaza under the classically Islamist Hamas, or in the Islamic Republic of Iran), Islamist rule has been among the most horrifically brutal the modern era has seen. As a mass non-state movement (including, most worryingly, in Egypt and Pakistan, but also in Iraq, across North Africa), it has been a source of terrible violence and intolerance. In the best case scenario, Turkey, where the AKP might better be described as post-Islamist, it has made for a less tolerant world, and helped impose harsh neo-liberal social policies.

As internationalists, we should care about this, and do what we can to support those resisting it, among whom trade unionists and feminist groups are probably particularly key. But, as WS implies, those of us located in, say, South London, South Yorkshire or South Wales shouldn’t let that distract from our day to day political travails on our doorstep.

Globally, but also including in countries like the UK, Islamism poses the threat of terror and violence, as with the Toulouse shooting, the London bombs, and so on, but not to mention the hundreds killed from roadside bombs and suicide attacks in Kabul and Mogadishu and Kandahar and Damaturu and Peshawar.

While the Islamophobic image of Muslim communities in the West incubating countless Mohamed Merahs is a paranoid fantasy, the liberal platitude that he is a lone wolf exception is also a fantasy. MAC may only have a handful of activists (Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah claims a thousand members here; we can assume that is an exaggeration) but when you add all the Muslim Defence League Facebook likers, all the people in Jamaati and Muslim Brotherhood linked groups, all those who attend Salafi mosques, it’s not an insignificant movement. Yes, the threat is of drift not putsch in the UK (and in France, Belgium and so on), but the drift is substantial.

bob said...

3. Is Islamism a far right ideology? I stress that Islamism is a far right movement for two reasons of political expediency. First, it is intended to shame highlight the hypocrisy of the self-professed leftists who enter into alliance with it. How can you claim to be left-wing, and support people whose moral values make Jean Marie Le Pen look liberal? Second, it is intended to neutralise the conservative paranoia this alliance, with people like Nick Cohen or PJM using it to discredit the entire left.

Analytically, I think it kind of works. On the one hand, the far right has always had close affinities with sections of the far left, from the “socialism of fools” Bebel identified, to the syndicalists who become fascists, to the Strasserite wing of the Nazi party, to New Left support for militaristic right-wing “national liberation” movements in the Third World. On the other hand, Islamism has many traits that are clearly of the right rather than of the left: extreme social/moral conservatism (including hostility to women’s rights); belief in the authority of tradition and the clerisy; anti-communism and hostility to workers’ rights; militarism and a hyper-masculine warrior ethos.

There also ways that analytically the depiction of Islamism as right-wing doesn’t completely work. Lenin was an influence on the classic thinkers of political Islam. As TNC says, Islamism is anti-capitalist, or at least poses as anti-capitalist (although in power, both in moderate form with AKP and in more extreme forms such as Ahmadinejad or Saudi Arabia, it privatises wildly, actively dismantles anything vaguely socialistic and encourages unfettered free enterprise). It is influenced by anti-imperialist arguments from the left, and often sees itself as part of an anti-imperialist movement.

Ultimately, though, I’m not sure how much it matters, because, like TNC, I’m not sure how salient or worthwhile the terms “left” and “right” are. Islamism is not bad because it’s right-wing; it’s bad because it’s bad.

P.S. Good to hear from you Incognito!

bob said...

4. Jewish-Muslim antagonism. Point taken TNC; you’re probably right in the context of the sorts of places we live. But Jewish-Muslim relations in France, the UK and US are always overdetermined by what’s going on in Israel/Palestine, and there Jews are not merely victims of Muslim criminality but active protagonists – and some of them at least are the criminals, and many of the criminals are motivated partly by a clash-of-civilisations worldview in which Islam and not just Palestinian Arabs is constructed as an eternal enemy that needs eradicating.

Sarah AB said...

I understand 'taking out' to mean 'killing'. I agree with most of your other points, but are you really saying people should murder those in MAC, horrific though their views are?

Rebecca said...

Bob, I'm not quite sure what you mean by your last comment: "But Jewish-Muslim relations in France, the UK and US are always overdetermined by what’s going on in Israel/Palestine, and there Jews are not merely victims of Muslim criminality but active protagonists – and some of them at least are the criminals, and many of the criminals are motivated partly by a clash-of-civilisations worldview in which Islam and not just Palestinian Arabs is constructed as an eternal enemy that needs eradicating."

I can only speak for the US, since that's my country. I don't think you're reading the situation correctly at all.

The number of Jews in the US who engage, or who have ever engaged, in acts of criminal violence against Muslims is miniscule - perhaps a handful of attacks by the likes of the Jewish Defense League. There have certainly been attacks on Muslims in the US that are motivated by anti-Muslim hatred (or attacks on other people whom the attackers thought were Muslim - for example, a number of Sikhs have been attacked for being Muslim) - but very few of the attackers have been Jews. It seems to me that you're trying to create a symmetry (for the US) that simply doesn't exist.

And as for attacks upon Jews as Jews - in the US it's usually not Muslims who attack Jews, although again there have been a handful of attacks or attempted attacks that were foiled by the FBI (a plot a couple of years ago to bomb a synagogue in New York, for example). It's usually people from the extreme right-wing, if the attacks have a strong ideological motivation. For acts of vandalism against synagogues and other buildings housing Jewish institutions (scrawling swastikas or anti-Jewish slogans), if the criminals are caught, it's usually some idiotic teenager and his friends - scary for the victims, but not a serious threat to Jews in the US.

Murderous assaults by Muslims in the US (the 2001 terrorist attacks, or the Muslim psychiatrist in the US army who killed over a dozen fellow soldiers a few years ago) usually have a larger target than Jews.

bob said...

Thanks for v good points. Proper answer later, but just to clarify. The number of Jews in the US who engage, or who have ever engaged, in acts of criminal violence against Muslims is miniscule - perhaps a handful of attacks by the likes of the Jewish Defense League. I completely agree. In the US, as I tried to say, Jews are rarely the criminal attackers. What I meant was that the experience or perception of the situation in the US (oe UK) is filtered thru Is/Pal, so can't be seen in isolation

Waterloo Sunset said...

Bob-

all the Muslim Defence League Facebook likers

I don't take Facebook likes seriously as a symptom of anything wider.

That aside, it's way too simplistic to see the MDL as an Islamist organisation. (My understanding is that there are actually two rival MDL's, though that is quite dated information so may no longer be the case).

The limited experience I've had of them suggests they're mostly just a flag of convenience for young Muslims (overwhelmingly lads) who want to turn out against the EDL, not an organisation with an actual policy.

Obviously, I'd rather they were identifying on class/militant fascist lines as opposed to religious ones. But that's just a symptom of how weak class politics and militant antifascism currently is in the UK. And, to be fair, the EDL are attacking them on religious lines, so it does make sense they'd defend themselves accordingly.

This isn't to say there may be some potential recruits to Islamist ideology in their ranks. (Young, alienated angry Muslims are obviously the main Islamist recruitment demographic). But I think we need to counter that one with the battle for hearts and minds; writing them off before we start as active Islamists is counterproductive.

TNC/Sarah-

In vague defence of Bob, I think his use of language here is reflecting his ultraleft/AFA political past. In that milieu (which I was obviously in as well and sort of still am), fiery rhetoric is standard practise.

I talk about fighting fascism by "any means necessary". But that's rhetorical rather than literal. There's a lot of stuff I wouldn't countenance- attacks on people's kids for example. Really, these kind of terms are a shorthand way of saying "I identify with militant tactics, not liberal ones".

I took Bob's talk about "taking out", to mean he possibly would support physical confrontation with MAC. (If so, I don't really have an ideological disagreement with him. I'm just very unconvinced it would be wise tactical). I don't think it was a reference to targeted assassinations.

Yes, there are situations such as in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, where breaking out the ammunition is necessary. But we are not only not in that situation, we are nowhere near it or even moving towards it currently. So it's an entirely theoretical discussion. (I'm pretty sure you'd be unlikely to find a militant anti-fascist in the UK who was actually in favour of killing fascists currently).

bob said...

Re Sarah I understand 'taking out' to mean 'killing'. I agree with most of your other points, but are you really saying people should murder those in MAC, horrific though their views are?

Well, I wouldn'd shed any tears if Anjem & co were murdered (and it would be especially fitting if it was by, say, an ordinary Muslim tired of their dishonouring of the faith), but I wouldn't actually want to incite anyone to do it. Maybe kneecap them.

bob said...

Re Rebecca,

Absolutely agree that there is no symmetry or equivalence between antisemitic violence and Islamophobic violence. They need to be treated separately, and not measured up against each other in some obscene zero sum victimhood competition. And - in the US, France, UK etc - very little Islamophobic violence is committed by Jews, and still relatively little (although not a negligible amount) antisemitic violence is carried out by Muslims. And specifically anti-Jewish violence is only a smallish element within Western Islamist violence. So, in short, yes.

bob said...

Re WS on MDL,

To be honest, I don't know much about them and I only occasionally look over Mrs Bob's should at Facebook, so defer on that. I understand there are two MDLs, one more Islamist one (which may only exist on Facebook) and one associated with the UAF (which isn't a membership organisation either). Is that right?

Waterloo Sunset said...

That's certainly my understanding and, like you, I'm cynical about whether the Islamist one has any non-virtual presence.

Couple of qualifiers.

I'm not sure how directly linked most of the MDL lads are to the UAF. My impression is that it's mostly that the UAF are the only visible anti-fascist street presence and hence they turn up to their demos, as opposed to them being UAF partisans.

The other issue is a complicated one. I think that they're certainly a demographic at risk from Islamist recruitment. But I think we need to try and differentiate between actual ideological Islamists and young angry kids who are using Islamist rhetoric as a way of pissing off the mainstream.

With the latter, I think we're sorely missing a populist class politics approach (much like Class War in their heyday) which I think might bear some fruit.