Monday, February 27, 2012

The lack of democracy in Unite Against Fascism

I started writing a post about this weeks ago, and it is now a couple of thousands of words long and unfinished. I’ll finish it and serialise it over the next weeks, but in the meantime read this short version. UPDATE: I've started to post the long version, now in three parts, here. The most relevant post is here.

This is from Workers Liberty, via Shiraz Socialist, reporting on Unite Against Fascism, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) front which is one of the market leaders in what passes for anti-fascism in the UK:
“There has been quite a bit of fuss, including inside the SWP, about the lack of democracy in UAF, and so this year – for the first time since the campaign’s founding in 2003, believe it or not – there were elections for the national committee. However even this small step was largely a formality or, to be blunt, a fake. Rather than a proper open election for a multi-member committee, candidates had to be nominated for a variety of individual positions (chair, vice chair, secretary, assistant secretary, parliamentary officer and so on).

“Obviously this will have discouraged people from standing – and, lo and behold, there was only one candidate for each position. (Many of them were nominated by “Love Music Hate Racism” and “One Society Many Cultures” – “organisations” which decide these things how, exactly?) However this was only achieved by excluding Justin Baidoo, a young socialist and trade unionist from South London wishing to challenge SWP full-timer Martin Smith for assistant secretary, on a technicality. (See here.) The chair of his union branch had sent in the nomination, but failed to send in the reaffiliation form.

“Given this is the first time UAF has held elections, and given there were no other contested elections, you might think something could be done? Wouldn’t it have been positive to have a real election? But no, rules are rules – that is, when they allow the UAF leadership to carve out opponents. I guess it would have been particularly embarrassing for the SWP to have Martin Smith attacked from the left by a young, black socialist. (I should say that Justin chose not to get up on the floor of the conference and demand a vote on his exclusion – which I think was a mistake.)

“Nonetheless, surely the election still went ahead, with participants having the chance to vote for ‘Re-Open Nominations’? Don’t be silly! The ‘candidates’ were simply declared elected. I wondered if some SWPers cringed at this total absence of democracy.”
You can see a video of Justin here, and read his statement here. Personally, I agree with most of Justin’s sharp critique of the current state of the UAF – it is un-democratic, too reliant on state bans and moralistic denunciations of “bad” fascism, lacks positive demands, lacks a principled basis to the unity it preaches (e.g. seeking endorsement from right-wing politicians with objectively racist policies), and is a top-down body lacking a grassroots base in communities.

However, I didn’t sign Justin’s statement, because it would have been hypocritical to do so: I have come to see UAF as part of the problem not part of the solution, and will take a huge amount of convincing that it could ever become a different sort of animal. I think re-founding ant-fascism needs to happen outside of and despite UAF, not within it.

Update: A little more from Sacha Ismail's report of the UAF conference:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Assange/Shamir

From Nick Cohen's recent post in the Spectator, on Julian Assange's chutzpah in associating himself with the cause of freedom in Belarus.
Assange allowed Israel Shamir, a genuinely sinister Holocaust denier, to take unredacted US State Department cables to Belarus. These were pure gold for Lukashenko’s KGB because they contained the names of opposition figures who had spoken to American officials.
Shamir boasted in the far-left US magazine Counterpunch that Wikileaks had ‘revealed how… undeclared cash flows from the US coffers to the Belarus “opposition”.’ (His scare quotes.) 
Lukashenko’s goons could not have been more appreciative. Shamir arrived in Belarus shortly after street protests against the dictator’s theft of the rigged 2010 general election. The KGB beat, arrested and imprisoned hundreds of demonstrators. The Belarusian state media said that Shamir had allowed the KGB to ‘show the background of what happened, to name the organizers, instigators and rioters, including foreign ones, without compromise, as well as to disclose the financing scheme of the destructive organizations’. 
Among the figures the state press said Wikileaks had ‘exposed’ as America’s collaborators were Andrei Sannikov, widely regarded as the true winner of the election; Oleg Bebenin, Sannikov’s press secretary, who died in suspicious circumstances, as Lukashenko’s opponents are wont to do; and Vladimir Neklyayev, a writer and former president of Belarus PEN, who is now under house arrest. 
Shamir’s anti-Semitic conspiracy theories clearly did not bother Assange — in a furious phone call to the editor of Private Eye Assange claimed that Jewish journalists in Britain, several of whom weren’t Jews at all, were conspiring against him. He has also proved himself a loyal friend to post-communist autocrats — as he showed when he took a job on Russia Today — Putin’s English-language propaganda station. 
Meanwhile Wikileaks’ grassing up of the Belarusian opposition is hardly a secret, although Assange tried to cover it up. When reporters and rebellious staff inside Wikileaks protested, Assange tried to pretend that Shamir had never worked for him. Privately Assange told Shamir that he could avoid embarrassment by working under an assumed name. When the BBC’s Panorama revealed Assange’s double-dealing, his lawyers accused the BBC of using stolen documents to expose their client — a priceless accusation for the apostle of openness to level after he had received 250,000 stolen US cables.
Meanwhile, Assange is also working for the Kremlin backers of the Belarus regime:
How foolish of me it was to question whether Wikileaks founder Julian Assange really had a deal to distribute his new talk show to hundreds of millions of viewers. It turns out he does: with Russia Today, the English-language news network launched by the Russian government to massage its international image. 
That’s right: Assange, self-styled foe of government secrets and conspiracies of the powerful, is going to be a star on a TV network backed by the Kremlin. The same Kremlin that has done suspiciously little to investigate or prevent the killings and beatings of journalists that have plagued Russia for more than a decade. The same Kremlin accused of blatant fraud in December’s parliamentary elections. The same Kremlin whose control of the country’s broadcast media allowed it tosuppress coverage of the massive protests mounted in response to that fraud. The same Kremlin whose embrace of corruption led to Russia being named “the world’s most corrupt major economy” by Transparency International in 2011. 
And so on. That Kremlin is Julian Assange’s new patron. The same Julian Assange who accused President Obama of putting “a chill across investigative journalism” by prosecuting Army leaker Bradley Manning.
Russia Today has been the most strident supporter too of Bashar al-Assad's murderous regime in Syria. But CounterPunch, Shamir's publisher, has been pretty strident too.

Previous: Shamir and the Atzmon dossier; Counterpunch is controversial; Counterpunch for the record

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Vanity post

Histomatist is a very interesting blog. I disagree profoundly with much of the politics (the blogger is an SWP activist), but there's a wealth of material about Marxism and history. But I what I really like is the nice mix of self-promotion and self-deprecation embodied in the sidebar section entitled "What they say":
With that in mind, I thought I'd pass on some of the things "they" say about me:
  • "Bob from Brockley [is] a bit negative-leaning where this movement [Occupy] is concerned and also too focused on perceived antisemitisms (IMHO), but Bob certainly does his homework)" - Alan W Moore
  • "80th best non-aligned blogger of 2011" - Total Politics
  • "Bob from Brockley’s alrite tho even if he does live in south London" - Principia Dialectica
  • "my number one referrer of factualistic things" - Steve Aitch
  • "Yeah, Bob from Brockley. If I need to know how many angels to fit on the tip of a needle I know where to go. How many ‘hands’ does that guy have (three to make his points and a spare pair for the handwringing)? Friends of that other twit, Modders, could never be friends of mine." - Gert
While I'm here, a blog you might like: 21st Century Fix (thoughtful left-wing Labour). And also let me recommend Snoopy's response to TNC's guest post here, on Israeli democracy. Anyway, with apologies for slow blogging in 2012. (Or maybe you're thanking me for it.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Drunkenness is a right, not a privilege

One of the most commonly voiced criticisms of the Blair and Brown New Labour governments was of their tendency to social engineering. Brown and Blair were obsessed with breast-feeding, binge drinking, obesity and hoodies. Liberals complained about ID cards and control orders. The right spoke about the nanny state and health and safety gorn mad. Left-wing academics spoke about the criminalisation of inner city youth through Anti-Social Behaviour Orders and how programmes like Sure Start tried to re-make families in the mould of the Blairs.

Arguably, the growing backlash against New Labour top-down nannying was one of the dynamics that lost Labour the 2010 election. David Cameron’s small state Big Society rhetoric struck a chord with a nation tired of parenting tsars and citizenship classes.

So it grates to hear Cameron and co talking about the need for minimum prices for a unit of alcohol, to stop us drinking so much. Voices of dissent talk about how this is an unacceptable brake on the free market, and therefore probably illegal under the EU’s competition laws. But what about the basic right to get drunk? Specifically, why should the rich be allowed to exercise that right so much more freely than the poor?

The class conceit is astonishing. Having found myself more than once in a West End bar where a pint of beer costs a lot more than a South London full breakfast and having occasionally observed feral City of London suits at full throttle, I can certify that binge drinking is not the unique curse of the prole.

Not that class conceit is the unique curse of the Tories: the Blair/Brown war on fags and deep fried food (cheered on by a middle class public dieting on TV images of fat poor kids sent to bootcamp and thin posh ladies telling us what not to wear) was as at least in part a cultural crusade against an underclass who refused the aspirational myths of New Labour’s classless society. Behind the Big Society makeover, there is a striking continuity between the Islington prejudices of the Blair coterie and the Notting Hill prejudices of the Cameronians. The Coalition government actually has a "Champion for Active Safer Communities", which is about as New Labour as you can get

What’s galling, though, is the hypocrisy and double standards. There’s the duplicity of talking libertarian while doing authoritarian. But there’s also the duplicity of refusal to regulate the rapacious turbo-capitalism that pays for the banksters’ binge-drinking combined with an insistence on regularing the private drinking habits of the low income majority.

Despite Cameron’s fresh-faced new man image, there’s something deeply Victorian about this hypocrisy. I was reminded of Stephen Sedley, reviewing a history of British law, and his comments on the nineteenth century:
Reading Smith’s sometimes comical account of the legislative drive against prostitution, gambling and obscenity, I wonder whether the main restraint on the prurient outrage of the good and godly was probably not so much principled libertarianism as the need of respectable male society to have private access to prostitutes, to be able to place bets with its own bookies and to keep its own private libraries. So it was street prostitution, street betting and the public sale of offensive literature that were criminalised by Parliament and energetically prosecuted by the Society for the Suppression of Vice and its avatars.
That’s the Cameron Tories isn’t it: binge drinking for the Bullingden boys, but protect the proles on the street from their own vices.

Rant over. Off to open a can of Tennent’s Super.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Crisis of Israeli Democracy?

This is a guest post by TNC.

There is a fairly constant drumbeat from the far left in Israel and the Diaspora claiming the country is becoming less democratic due toinvestigations and proposed restrictions on NGOs, changes to libel laws, and the increasing influence of the religious. Emblematic in this regard is the Israeli blog +972. Yet even liberal, pro-Israel sources like TNR are joining the chorus. Here is Leon Wieseltier:

Like all liberal societies, Israeli society contains anti-liberal elements, and these anti-liberal elements, both religious and secular, have become increasingly prominent, and increasingly wanton, and increasingly sickening, recently. This anti-liberalism cannot be conspiratorially imputed to foreigners or enemies: Jews are doing this to Jews. The odious misogyny of the ultra-Orthodox is certainly not typical of Israeli life, from which the ultra-Orthodox have anyway seceded (except to exploit the welfare system, which magically makes practical men out of zealots); but more needs to be said. There has occurred a renascence of Jewish fanaticism in the Netanyahu years.

However, fellow TNR writer and historian Gil Troy has this to say:

Statistical projections warning of haredi hordes overwhelming “normal” Israel stoke the media hysteria. But statistical trends are not historical facts. In researching his 2003 book Real Jews: Secular Versus Ultra-Orthodox: The Struggle for Jewish Identity in Israel, Professor Efron traced these Chicken Little statistical warnings to the 1960s. “It has become a staple media trope,” Efron says, “with some predicting the tipping point in 10 years time, others seven, sometimes 15. It should have happened in 1970, then again, and again, but never did.” And while demographers insist that now the threat is real, the steady, underpublicized exit from the community may provide the counter that the million-person Russian immigration provided a decade ago. This attrition accounts for the mirror-image standoff. Haredi and non-haredi Israelis both feel embattled, threatened by the other, and abused by the other’s advantages.

There is no denying the political class—both right and left wing—is incredibly corrupt and unpopular as are the establishment parties. The country is in cyclical if not perpetual gridlock and Israelis have about as much faith in their politicians as Americans, which is to say not very much.

Unfortunately one of the primary impediments to pragmatic political action seems unlikely to be challenged anytime soon and is not due to the reasons most commonly trotted out such as demographics or the rise of conservative theocratic elements. To put it most simply, Israel is toodemocratic.

The Israeli system of proportional representation—where parties that get x% of the vote get x% members of the Knesset—allows incredibly small political parties to have a great deal of influence. These small parties often play a kingmaker role as the larger parties need their support to form a government. Being junior partners, they can always pull out if the larger party fails to deliver the goods. As political scientist Daniel J. Elazar notes:

Any group that wins a touch more than a bare 1 percent of the popular vote in a Knesset election gains a seat in the Knesset and, under present conditions, a chance to enter the governing coalition and indeed the government itself under advantageous conditions. The end result of all this, however, is to frustrate both necessary dimensions of good government. The government that results must rest upon so delicately balanced a coalition that it cannot muster the energy necessary to govern effectively, while the electoral system is so party-based that the people feel unrepresented most of the time.

In addition to giving small parties too much influence this sort of ultra-democratic system fosters a situation ripe for the proliferation of parties. This is precisely what has happened since independence. Today there are representatives of fourteen parties seated in the Knesset. The crisis is not rooted in an absence of democracy but in an abundance of democracy, including the potential for a tyranny of a majority. This, the critics say, is what is happening in Israel today. But the potential has existed and has manifested itself since independence. Why has it become such a pressing issue as of late for these critics? Is it because the left long dominated the institutions of power and as long as the right was being muzzled and prevented from running in elections these things didn’t matter?

Leaving those questions aside, something modest like the five percent election threshold in Germany (where a party running for office must receive at least five percent of the vote to have any representation) would decrease the influence of very small parties. Even a two percent threshold would cut down on the number of parties represented in the Knesset. The only problem is many Israelis seem dead set against this. To move away from their form of ultra-democratic politics is almost anti-Israeli. But these same people are often voices for a more pragmatic, centrist, politics. They do not see a contradiction between the two.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Starting to clear the backlog

persepolis_550_2

It's ages since I've had time to blog, so have built up a bit of a backlog of links. Here are some of the things I've bookmarked. I usually have a "post of the week" in these sorts of round-ups, but it's been about three weeks since the last, so I've got three "posts of the month", from Rosie, Raven and AJ. There's also an unexpected SE London thread through the post, although topics include Iran, Israel, Occupy, fascism and more.

First, Eltham resident Raven has a fantastic post about Stephen Lawrence and life in Eltham, finely balancing the realities of mundane racism and everyday conviviality in that corner of South London. Among the local reflections she links to are one by pastor Owen Hylton.

Second, Rosie had a brilliant satire of the twisted worldview of the Iranian dictatorship's propaganda outlet Press TV and its British leftist acolytes. (On the same topic, see also James B.)

Third, AJ Adler had a long and very thought-provoking post on the Christopher Hitchens haters. He analyses the meme of "compulsory hagiography" promoted by Glenn Greenwald, Corey Robins and other Hitchens-haters. I was reminded of similar rhetorical tropes, such as the common right-wing British "why is no-one allowed to talk about immigration?" and the common anti-Zionist trope of "people are scared to criticise Israel for fear of being called antisemitic".

The indispensable Roland Dodds has an essential round-up of posts on Israel Firstism, Ron Paul, realism. I started linking to some of the same things, but was more or less linking to everything, so just go via Roland. On the Israel First issue, I also recommend AJA again, in this excellent anatomy of a smear, and David Schraub, and following him Matt of Ignoblus. On Ron Paul, see also this Celebrity Deathmatch (via Soupster).

On to other topics now.

Free expression

The image at the top of this post comes from a Marjane Satrapi interview at The 99%. I love Satrapi's graphic style, and she is a great voice for personal freedom against religious dictatorship. The latter has become, once again, a major topic lately, with the madness of the Jaipur Literary Festival. For what it's worth, I think The Satanic Verses is one of the finest novels I've ever read, and would think so even if the Koranic satire storyline wasn't in it (and, to be honest, it's not actually a major storyline). Among the heroes of Jaipur were Amitava KumarHari KunzruJeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi who read from Rushdie's work, and were asked to leave the town for the sake of their safety. (SE London connection: Hari Kunzru was a participant in the Lewisham 77 anti-fascist history event in New Cross.) It is not to belittle Kunzru (who wrote an excellent article in the Guardian about it) to say that the three Indian writers were particularly heroic, as they will live with their act of courage now for the rest of their lives.

The descent of Indian democracy, driven by the authoritarian communalism of both Muslim and Hindu mobocrats and by the pandering to the Muslim vote by the secular Congress movement, is a depressing spectacle, far more so perhaps than the far more discussed (in the West that is) descent of democracy and free expression in that other great democracy, Israel.

Kenan Malik (SE London connection: I think he is my near neighbour in Blythe Hill) had a brilliant series of posts relating to free expression in this context. "Beyond the Sacred" is about blasphemy. (Mick Hartley picks up on that in a fine post on Sikh "community outrage".) And "To Name the Unnameable" was more specifically about the Jaipur events. Peter R responds to the concept of "outrage" in that in a very good post here.

Anti-capitalism

Ross Wolfe has two long interviews, which have some sections well worth reading. There's an interview of Ross conducted by C. Derick Varn of The Loyal Opposition to Modernity. The most interesting section is on #Occupy, and if you only read a small part (and I wouldn't blame you, as it's long) it'd be that part.
As with nearly any spontaneous political phenomenon, #Occupy is a mixed bag. Given the widespread depoliticization that has taken place over the course of the last generation, this is only to be expected. Many of the same old symptomatic tendencies from the protest culture of the last few decades played themselves out even as some of the more innovative forms were taking shape alongside them. Though it’s to a certain extent unavoidable, these dead forms from the past slip back into the present unconsciously, in pantomime. As with the leftover sectarian Marxoid groupings that have resurfaced of late — which are little more than living fossils — the mindless repetition of these old practices points to the longstanding ossification of Left protest politics. Moreover, the recent fetishization of “resistance” as the primary means of combating the “hegemony” of certain cultural forms is telling. It attests to the feeling of helplessness that so pervades our present moment.

To begin with the problematic side of #Occupy, I would first of all point to this uncritical reenactment of the old, largely outmoded forms of protest from the past fifty years. For all my criticisms of the New Left of the 1960s, at least its members had the courage to critique their predecessors in the Old Left. Perhaps it was the intergenerational animus that existed at that time, but one of things that has disappointed me about this latest movement is that it hasn’t had that Oedipal moment, when they finally kill the New Left. Only David Graeber seems to gesture in this direction, with his admonition against the “obnoxious, self-aggrandizing macho leadership styles of the ’60s New Left.”

In leveling this criticism, I have in mind the more “carnivalesque” elements of the movement — the puppets, the “Zombie march,” the harlequinism, and the emphasis on spectacle. While I admit that these have some utility and even some precedent within the practice of revolutionary politics (going back several centuries), these tactics have limited effect. The quasi-Situationist method adopted by some of the protestors strikes me as being quite prone to narcissism and exhibitionism... The theatrical routines I witnessed down at Liberty Plaza prior to the November 15th eviction often seemed to me politically empty.

Though these remained more or less constant features of the protests through October and into November, I tried to look past some of these more superficial elements to see what good the movement seemed to offer. For indeed, despite all the disorganization and well-documented inefficiencies, the sheer endurance of the encampment at Liberty Plaza was remarkable. It unexpectedly captured the political imagination of the day, and led to similar protests in over 800 cities across the globe. Now granted, some of these occupations have fewer than 10 people. But still, the sudden surge in political pathos provoked by #Occupy has been undeniable.
And then there's another long interview (also in the new issue of Platypus), by Ross, with the afore-mentioned Dave Graeber, the anarchist economic anthropologist who has become the theorist of #OWS (the SE London connection here is that he works at Goldsmiths in New Cross). To my mind, a lot of what Graeber says is baloney, but he is very interesting and insightful about Occupy. Here he is on the words "right" and "left" and the #Occupy movement's dark twin, the tea party movement.
There is an unfortunate tendency to identify “the Left” not as a set of ideals or ideas but of institutional structures. A lot of individualists, anarchists, insurrectionists, and primitivists see the Left as the various leftist political parties, labor unions, what we would generally call “the verticals,” and I can see why one would feel rather chary about wanting to identify himself with these. But at the same time, we’ve been hearing at least since the end of World War II that the difference between right and left is no longer relevant. It’s something that’s said about every five years in making some great pronouncement. And the fact that they have to keep doing it so regularly shows that it isn’t true....

The Tea Party was also claiming that they weren’t a right-wing group and that they were a broad populist rejection of the structure of the existing political order, in the same way that people want to see #Occupy Wall Street. But one is a very right-wing populist rejection, while the #Occupy movement is inspired by left-wing principles. And a lot of it has to do not even with one’s attitude towards market economics but corporate capitalism. It has this utopian ideal about what capitalism should be, which is actually far more utopian than any conception of what socialism, or whatever else would exist for the Left, would be. So the ultimate utopias of the Tea Party and #Occupy are profoundly different, which indicates a difference in their basic orientations. And #Occupy Wall Street is, in the end, anti-hierarchical. And I think that’s the key. The Right is not, in the end, anti-hierarchical. They want to limit certain types of hierarchy, and promote other types, but they are not ultimately an egalitarian movement. So I think that ignoring that broad left legacy is kind of silly. It strikes me as patently dishonest. I understand that it is sometimes tactically useful to throw as broad a net as possible, because there actually is a lot of common ground. Many right-wing populists have certain sincere objections to, for example, the monopolization of culture, or the fact that there is objectively a cultural elite. A certain social class monopolizes those jobs whereby you get to engage or pursue forms of value that aren’t all about money. The working classes have an overwhelming hatred of the cultural elite and a celebration of the army, to support our troops. It comes down to the fact that if you come from a working-class background, you have a very slim chance of becoming a successful capitalist, but there’s really no possibility that you could become a drama critic for The New York Times. I think it would be wonderful if we could find a way to appeal to such people in a way that wouldn’t be patronizing. But still, rejecting this split between the Right and the Left entirely, strikes me as going in completely the wrong direction.

What we have is this terrible synthesis of the market and bureaucracy which has taken over every aspect of our lives. Yet only the Right has a critique of bureaucracy. It’s a really simple-minded critique, but the Left really doesn’t have one at all.
And here he is on the "We are the 99%" slogan, which he might have coined.
I don’t think of it as an analysis so much as an illustration. It’s a way of opening a window on inequality. Of course, a slogan doesn’t ever answer the real structural question of how social classes get reproduced. What a slogan does is point you to how you can start thinking about a problem that you might not have even known existed. It’s been remarkably effective at that, for two reasons: one, because it points out just how small the group of people who have been the beneficiaries of the economic growth, of our productivity has been. They basically grabbed everything. Also, the slogan has successfully made #Occupy inclusive in a way that other social movements have had trouble with before. So I think that’s what was effective about it. Obviously there are infinite shades of difference between us, and class is a much more complicated thing than just the fact there is a certain group of people that is super rich or has a lot of political power. But nonetheless, it provides people with a way to start talking to each other about what they have in common, thus providing the form in which the other things can come to be addressed. You have to start with what you have in common. And that’s one thing we’ve had a really hard time doing up till now.
For a pithier, and less optimistic, take on #OWS, turn instead to David Schraub.

Anti-fascism

The English Defence League had a bit of a wash-out march in Leicester at the weekend, with their more explicitly racist splitters the Infidels hitting Rochdale. Summary coverage can be read at Malatesta's place and Hope not Hate.

Hope not Hate are re-launching imminently as a magazine, separate from Searchlight. I am not clear if there is any political difference, or merely personal. HnH have led Searchlight's turn to community-based work, which I would see as positive, and have also recently finally identified far right Islamic politics as part of the problem, which is also probably good. They seem more tied than Searchlight to the Labour electoral machine, which might be less positive, and perhaps are not seen as tainted by "Zionism" in the way Searchlight is, which may or may not be good. Any better insights, comments, etc very welcome.

Meanwhile, the very useful Lancaster Unity blog is closing shop, and its blogger, Ketlan Ossowski, has thrown in his lot with Searchlight's blog. His posts there are quite interesting. Searchlight have also (perhaps spurred by competition from HnH) stepped up their own blogging. I see from the Soupy One that Anti-Fascists Online is stepping into Lancaster Unity's shoes to some extent. Among the recent posting there is this one (originally in Kent News), with a SE London connection (as well as a Harry Potter one), on the ex-BNP racist outfit Britain First, which is based on the London/Kent borderland, and has put out highly dishonest leaflets about race attacks, capitalising on various events in the Lewisham, Sidcup and Sittingbourne areas.

On other ant-fascist topics, History at Night has a post on the far right WKR-Ball in Vienna, and resistance to it. Meanwhile, I finally got to the end recently of the official Anti-Fascist Action history, Beating the Fascists. The book's blog now features a promo video. (I also only just noticed the review by academic Nigel Copsey, who comes in for some criticism in the book.)

Anti-Zionism/Zionism

Thanks again to the Soupy One for re-introducing me to Anthony Cooper's blog, Just Thinking, which has been digging away at the continued presence of antisemitism and Holocaust denial in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, for example highlighting an on-going connection with our old friend Gilad Atzmon. Meanwhile, Keith Kahn-Harris has reviewed Atzmon's book for the Jewish Quarterly and the Soupy One dishes the dirt on the Palestine Telegraph.

Alan Johnson, formerly editor of Democratiya, has a really interesting interview with decent left philosopher Michael Walzer, on Israel's right to exist, Israeli democracy, and the rise of the ultra-orthodox.

The Arab Spring and its Islamist winter

I have not been following the events in Syria as closely as I would have liked to. Among the things that have caught my eye, however, was Carl's piece on Russia's economic interests in Syria, its seventh largest import partner. I thought this dramatised a dimension of global capitalism that the vulgar anti-imperialists in the "anti-war" camp often missed: the importance of Russian and Chinese neo-imperialism as drivers of geopolitics, which tends to get ignored in the focus on US-based capital.

More theoretical, Shift publishes a piece by the Wine and Cheese Appreciation Society of Greater London on Islamism, which argues that the latter is consequence, heir of and revival to Arab nationalism, concluding:
Just like every other religious fundamentalism seeking national renewal, the transition from Islamism to Fascism is fluent. This has nothing to do with the Koran, but it has everything to do with the disappointed idealism of Arab and Non-Arab Nationalists.
I started this post, more or less, with some comments on the rise of communalism in India, and it seems important to note that the forms of censorious populist nationalism, religious and otherwise, which are on the rise globally (the Putin democratatorship, ultra-Zionist right in Israel, the Euronationalism to which the EDL is connected, the terrifying Viktor Orbán in Hungary, as well as the "moderate" Islamists of the AKP and Ennahda), share the interesting and novel feature of combining their extreme moral authoritarianism with extreme economic liberalism, and this is one of the reasons why the old anti-fascist and anti-imperialist dogmas to which the left cling are increasingly anachronistic. Grappling with a politics which moves beyond those dogmas, and recreates some kind of authentic internationalism, we have Terry Glavin, whose Come from the Shadows is reviewed brilliantly by Peter R here, dealing with some topics I intend to return to soon.

And South London itself

I only just noticed this piece in the LA Review of Books on Lewisham during the summer 2011 riots: well worth reading. And that's enough for now.