Friday, February 15, 2013


So, my current favourite website is probably the UK centre-left multi-authored blog Left Foot Forward, which I have followed since it started for its high editorial standards and strong emphasis on calm, evidence-based analysis. It used to feel a little dull politically, a little New Labour. Recently, it seems to be becoming more angry, but also to depart from the usual left/liberal script. Check it out if you don't already.

Further to the left, and from the other side of the Atlantic, I have been spending a bit of time with The North Star lately.
The North Star’s only party line is that we do not have a party line. Articles posted here reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of the editors or other participants. We do, however, prioritize posting material that we think merits serious discussion, particularly if it covers opportunities for anti-capitalists—be they Marxists, anarchists, Occupiers, or whatever—to begin working together. Toward that end, we are as interested in publishing quality material as we are in hosting productive debates in the comments sections of each article. 
This project is partly inspired by the North Star Network, a Marxist group founded by the late Venezuelan-American activist Peter Camejo in the 1980s. Camejo believed that the future of radical politics in this country lay not with the plethora of three-letter left groups but elsewhere. Taking its name from Frederick Douglass’s first newspaper, the network sought to throw off the baggage of dogmatism and sectarianism plaguing American Marxism, emphasizing the importance of democratic, open debate.
It has some very good Marxist material on the Arab spring, for instance.

And some other suggestions:

February 15 Ten Years On: some personal reflections

As the Guardianistas and Radio 4 chatterati have been ramming down your throat today, it is the tenth anniversary of the massive butunsuccessful march against Britain’s military adventure in Iraq. I went on the march, and had a thoroughly enjoyable day, despite the weather, but left with a number of doubts.

At the time, my general view was that of Ian McEwan: “55% against the war”. I thought there were very good reasons to overthrow Saddam, but the reasons the Coalition set out to do it included more bad ones than good ones. The American-led Coalition prosecuted the war appallingly, both in a military sense and in a moral sense, causing innumerable new problems with terrible geopolitical ramifications. And we continue to pay the price for those mistakes. The Iraqi people, of course, continue to pay the highest price – and the death toll of Iraqis killed by other Iraqis continues to rise way beyond the death toll of Iraqis killed by Coalition forces.

But the February 15 march showed me the spectacle of a truly conservative anti-war movement. Yes, it was nice, in a way, to see large numbers of ordinary folk galvanised and angry: not just the usual suspects. But this cohort blurred into Daily Telegraph Little England isolation and yellow flag Liberal Democrat middle Englandism, on the one hand, and every variety of tankie Stalinism, Ba’athist national socialism and Islamist clerical-fascism, on the other (with a good smattering of vicious-minded anti-Americanism and poisonous Israel-hate).

The failure of the February 15 march to stop the juggernaut of war became a defining moment for many. For lots of people, especially in the generation that came of age politically then (those born in the mid-1980s, I guess), it marked a rupture with any hope invested in the Labour Party (which had been the party of government for five years already – and must have seemed almost the permanent party of government for the mid-1980s cohort). In the long run, this helped energise the return from the wilderness of the Liberal Democrats, who were able to pose as a progressive alternative – in a wave that crashed on the shores of the 2010 Coalition agreement, whose bitter hangover we are suffering now.

The SWP, as the most slickly organised group on the outside left and the string-pullers behind the Stop The War Coalition (StWC) front, also profited from that rupture, drawing countless well-intentioned kids into the smallest mass party in the world and its sorry orbit. The emergence of Respect, as the electoral vehicle of the alliance between the SWP and communalist Islamism, was the next twist in this dialectic, harnessing radical energy to truly reactionary aims. Happily, the SWP’s Stalinist practice was soon revealed as incompatible with Respect’s Galloway leader cult and its intolerance of dissent lost it the ownership of the StWC franchise. Less happily, its internal rape culture has now lost it its less morally debased rank and file members in the final scene of the tragicomedy. But unfortunately the SWP’s faux-Marxist dogma had done their damage, wasting so much activist potential on empty gesticulations and derailing radical analysis down the dead end of pseudo “anti-imperialism”.

My experiences with the Socialist Alliance and Anti-Nazi League had long since inoculated me against the SWP’s poison. My disgust at the objectively pro-genocidal posturing of the anti-war left during the Yugoslav wars had already hardened me against Stoppism. I'd marched against the previous Gulf War (one which hadn't had any good motivations, and was all about oil), but even as a young 'un I'd felt uncomfortable marching alongside pro-Saddam fascists.

By 2003, I had parted ways with any hope in Labour for well over a decade, and ironically the march served almost an opposite effect on me: a deepening disenchantment with the actually existing left that has helped me reconcile, to a limited extent, with mainstream politics, after a decade or so in the splendid isolation of anarcho-marxism. I never went full down the Harryist/Eustonite “pro-war left” road, but the further degeneration of the Stoppist-dominated left as the noughties continued to repel me. (Indeed, that was one of the reasons I took up blogging two years after that, to find a political community away from the irritating platitudes of the mainstream left.)

The Tory/Liberal Democrat government as the current decade began helped me recover the anger than animated me in the 1990s, and I hope a new radical movement might emerge in the vacuum left by the collapse of the SWP and its flotsam. As austerity, rather than distant suffering, starts to get ordinary people marching again, I hope we can turn a new page, a decade on, and move on from that February 2003 mindset.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

And all of this week's reading

The forces of emancipation confront the forces of repression

In Tunisia: The Poet and Politician - Who Was Chokri Belaid? The image above is from his funeral today, attended by over a million mourners, also out to protest the deepening authoritarianism of the "moderate" Islamist state, which responded with teargas. LabourStart is a good source for news on the struggle in Tunisia.

In Bangladesh: Thousands on the streets against far right Jamaat (who are, as Hackney Glyn Harries summarises, guilty of war crimes there, and control East London Mosque here). In Egypt, Morsi's theocratic state is now gender segregating trains. And in Britain, Nahla Mahmoud on why we need zero tolerance on sharia law.

Bigotry watch
Top read: Mystical Politics: Types of Antisemitism: "They of all people" and David Ward MP. Also: Alex Massie updates the Ward story, and Rabbi Neil James writes him an open letter. And following Ward, Steve Bell's at it again. And Lauren Booth and her Islamist allies spout Atzmonite hatred at a closed campus BDS event.

As well as antisemitism, anti-Irish racism remains rife in England and Scotland, not least in the English northwest, where it helps sustain the sectarian-rooted politics of the English Defence League and its splinters. A recent report has catalogued some of this.

The SWP sex implosion
I may actually write a blog post on this one of these days, but for now, here's the German sibling party of the SWP engaged in the same shit and, a must read for Trotwatchers, our friend Soviet Goon Boy's reflections. More arcane, the Commune on Chris Harman's Leninism. And one of the more interesting internal perspectives, from Tom Walker.

War and imperialism
Paul C has written an incredibly long but rich account of the anti-war left, which I still haven't read, but will do, partly on how the West's Libya intervention has impacted on Mali. Relevant, David Mepham rakes over the UK's relationship with the Gaddafi torture regime. Also relevant, our Carl  reminding George Galloway of his support for Arab dictatorships. And, from a different hemisphere, our James says Falklands: Time for the left to stop dancing to Kirchner’s tune.

Class war from above?
On the blacklisting of British workers.

It could be your hospital next
Lewisham Hospital is another thing I ought to post properly about, but you're probably better off with Jos Bell. And I hesitate to recommend a post with no paragraph breaks, but here Mark Wright makes the case that Lewisham A&E is the future of UK hospitals under the Coalition.

Bob's Beats
I've also relaunched the music blog, with the theme of "underrated", so far featuring the Bee Gees (yes indeed) and Charlie McCoy. If you want to contribute, give me a shout.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Fighting on

All your weekend reading:

Fight goes on to Save Lewisham Hospital

Hundreds of people gathered outside Lewisham Hospital last night in the aftermath of health secretary Jeremy Hunt's announcement in Parliament on the future of emergency and maternity services. Hunt had been forced to acknowledge the strength of the opposition to cuts and modify the recommendations put to him by the Trust Special Administrator he appointed to review South London health services. He stated that the Accident and Emergency department would now be downgraded rather than closed, retaining the ability to admit some patients who need to be taken into hospital. But in real terms this still means that there will be no full A&E at Lewisham with potentially devastating implications for the wider hospital....

Scarfe is probably not an antisemite. Bell probably is. « Shiraz Socialist

I wasn’t going to comment on the Gerald Scarfe cartoon published in the last Sunday Times, especially as Rupert Murdoch has apologised for it and Scarfe himself has stated that he hadn’t realised it would be published on Holocaust Memorial Day.
My personal view is that, on balance, the cartoon cannot fairly be considered antisemtic, but it certainly sails close to the wind, and its publication on Holocaust Memorial Day was a very serious misjudgement....

Free thought in a free body » Maryam Namazie - The big religions, not only Islam, have been created by men and in their interest; not surprisingly they want to control women’s bodies. Islamic fundamentalists cover women with veils, stealing not...

Physical Resistance Book Launch: A Big Success! - We were down in Brighton for the launch of Dave Hann’s book Physical Resistance: 100 Years of Anti-Fascism (Zero Press) last Friday which was an incredible and inspiring night. The place was packed...

The Centre Left: Why is the government letting faith schools interfere in the personal lives of their staff? - Yes, Tony Blair was wrong. The bolstering of faith schools and the consequent upsetting of the delicate existing balance between them and society at large, I wrote in 2011, was always a rather suspect idea: not because religious people have not the right to educate their children as they like – they do, up to a point – but largely because of the dangerous precedents they set with regards to human rights in general, not least of children themselves...

But, I am a Liberal!: My Time with the IDF: Jobnik Life (Part 2) - (This is Part 2 of a multi part piece. Read Part 1 here.) One of the most striking things about working with the IDF is the different role the military plays in Israeli life when compared to the p..

Yes, call out bigotry within our ranks. But we need to keep a lid on this bloodletting. - The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Counterfire members fiddle excessively with iPads and other electronica. Another, equally immutable fact of life is that people with good politics sometimes get things very wrong. Recent examples include Tony Benn, George Monbiot and Suzanne Moore. In their different ways, all three have been important allies in the struggle for a more just and egalitarian society. And yet in recent months all three have been rightly taken to task for saying some pretty awful things. The question is how we reconcile the latter with the former. How do we call people out without effectively casting them out?...

Timbuktu Endured Terror Under Harsh Shariah Law 

Shared by
Citizen Sane - TIMBUKTU, Mali — When the Islamist militants came to town, Dr. Ibrahim Maiga made a reluctant deal. He would do whatever they asked — treat their wounded, heal their fevers, bandage up without complaint the women they thrashed in the street for failing to cover their heads and faces. In return, they would allow him to keep the hospital running as he wished....

The 'Muslim Patrols' and the 'Jewish Patrols' - The Commentator - It's only natural, since we broke the story of the Muslim Patrols, that every Tom, Dick and Shariatmadari has had their say about the incident and what it means for Britain and its Muslim communities...

They of All People - It has been a fascinating week in anti-Semitism, but then they all are. The more I witness it, the more persuaded I become of the identity of the purer, more direct forms and the ignorant forms. After all, much ignorance – lack of knowledge and sophistication – is open with wonder and without prejudice, like that of a child, so ignorance is not the explanation or an excuse. I begin to think the ignorance a cover, conscious or not, for the hate, and the hate need not be virulent, but only casually alienating, marginalizing, and dehumanizing. This is true of all racism, but anti-Semitism has its longer unified and coherent history...

Is the seduction community promoting date rape? - Why is it that cults so regularly collapse into scandals involving sex? There is always the suspicion that it’s because they are invariably run by gruesome and sexless old men. The fanatical devotion they usually demand, combined with the vulnerability of those almost magnetically drawn to charismatic “gurus” who claim to be in sole possession of “the truth”, offers perhaps another explanation...

Is Liberal Conspiracy Hung Up on Jews?

Snap 2013-02-01 at 18.35.06
I like Liberal Conspiracy. As a blog it has much to recommend it, there is a diversity of posters and a variety of topics. Well, that’s what I like to think, however, some of its recent posts suggests an unhealthy concentration. At Liberal Conspiracy within the space of a few days, there have been two, rather mean spirited and fairly questionable, posts....

History is made at night: Fire at Freedom

Sad to hear that Freedom Bookshop in Whitechapel High Street was damaged last night in an apparent arson attack. The anarchist centre in Angel Alley has been a fixture of radical London life for decades - Freedom Press dates back to the 1880s, and I believe the current centre to the late 1930s. The place has been reinvigorated in the past few years as a base for various groups such as the Advisory Service for Squatters, and the scene of various social and cultural events under the banner of the Autonomy Club...