The events in the last weeks in Istanbul - and increasingly in Izmir, Ankara and elsewhere in Turkey - are truly inspiring. With passing similarities to the Occupy movement, the protests have in fact been socially diverse, joined by trade unions, women in headscarves and a huge cross-section of the Turkish urban population. There are good accounts at The Centre Left; the Gezi Park/Taksim Protests posts at Istanbul & Beyond; and elsewhere.
The repression has been appalling. And Turkish media's reportage of it has been muzzled, of course - but the BBC has not given itself much credit in its repeated descriptions of protesters throwing Molotov cocktails, without mentioning the large amount of evidence pointing to the possibility the throwers were agents provocateurs.
Thankfully, noone on the left seems to have stooped so low as to support Erdogan. I keep expecting the SWP or Alexander Cockburn or Tony Benn or John Pilger or MRZine to jump up and call OccupyGezi "bourgeois" (as they did with Iran's Green Revolution) or the AKP "objectively progressive" (as they do with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood). Ken Livingstone's buddy Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi has supported the AKP state, though, so perhaps they'll soon follow.
No, sadly, it is on the Zionist right that I found the worst response to the protests. Influenced by the Islamic sect of Adnan Oktar, the reactionary Yori Yanover makes a truly appalling case against the protests by a bizarre analogy with Israeli politics.
Erdogan is an exemplar of the time we are living in: the age of the democratators, the elected leaders who bend state power to their authoritarian will, suppressing dissent, buying consent, chipping away at their constitutions to maintain their power. One of the hallmarks, taken to absurd degree in Erdogan, is the tendency to talk about themselves in the third person. Here are some extracts from Sultan Erdogan's recent speeches:
"If you call this roughness, I'm sorry, but this Tayyip Erdogan won't change."
"To those who... are at Taksim and elsewhere taking part in the demonstrations with sincere feelings: I call on you to leave those places and to end these incidents and I send you my love. But for those who want to continue with the incidents I say: 'It's over.' As of now we have no tolerance for them. Not only will we end the actions, we will be at the necks of the provocateurs and terrorists and no-one will get away with it."
Looking at the repression of basic freedoms carried out by the Erdogan and Putin regimes, I find it hard to get excited by the data-mining carried out by the US NSA which has occupied the twitterati lately. The bizarre "whistle-blower", Edward Snowden, has taken in refuge in China, a country which locks up nearly as many journalists as Turkey, and Russia has suggested it might consider offering him asylum. (For how Putin's Russia treats whistle-blowers, see some of these articles by the great Miriam Elder.) The involvement of the vile Glen Greenwald in the whole affair makes it even fishier for me. And the data mining seems to me (and David Simon) like no big deal. Amidst the hype, I've only seen sensible commentary from Francis Sedgemore and, obviously, The Onion.
(Oh, and talking of "whistle-blowing", here is A Jay Adler on Bradley Manning. And, of course, we must spare a thought for the upstaged Julian Assange.)
...non-intervention has profound consequences. It is not a neutral act. Proposals for peace conferences that will not be respected, even if they take place at all, are merely a fig leaf to cover the embarrassment of the poorly endowed. And so, when discussing the worth or otherwise of any international conflict, it is not enough to point out what went wrong. It is also important to consider the consequences of doing nothing and to see that inaction is rarely cost-free.Meanwhile, Russia (again) arms and enables Assad, and blocks action against him. Iran has his back. Hezbollah (remember "We are all Hezbollah", comrades?) slaughters Syrians and Palestinians in alliance with him.
And still the likes of George Galloway and the mis-named Stop the War Coalition continue to provide a moral alibi for him. And - it would be funny if the situation were less tragic - they have been joined by the BNP's Nick Griffin. Even I do not loathe Galloway enough to say Griffin is his mirror image, but there are certain parallels (a pornographic love of power, racial nationalism, a Lawrence of Arabia fascination with the Arab orient, an intense "anti-Zionism", paranoid conspirationism...). Read the three-part series by Dave Rich, starting here, on the intellectual roots of Griffin's position, in the "Political Soldiers" faction of the old National Front.
For some on the left, making reference to problematic trends within domestic Islam remains a no-no. Some anti-fascist organisations have grasped this nettle – the anarchists of Antifa were probably first, whilst the anti-fascist organisation Hope Not Hate, under the leadership of Nick Lowles, has returned to this subject repeatedly.
This remains a step too far for some on the revolutionary left, and broader organisations such as Unite against Fascism or the Stop the War Coalition. Here a condemnation of an attack such as Woolwich (or Toulouse, or 7/7) is quickly followed by a pivot into either opposition to the EDL/BNP or broader critiques of Western foreign policy. The Jihadists are then forgotten about, until the formula is repeated the next time. And the next.
- Must read post of the week: Roland Dodds "Check Your Privilege and Fake Victimhood".
- A very important article by Samanth Subramanian, showing how it is not "ancient hatreds" which drive genocide (in this case, by the Sri Lanka's Sinhalese Buddhists, with their long-standing genocidal war against the Tamils, now turning to an newly minted Muslim enemy) but rather the genocidal logic of national purity.
- Also on genocide: Jeff Mudrick from Cambodia on why [people there hate Noam Chomsky.
- Obama has announced the appointment of Samantha Power as Ambassador to the United Nations. She has been denounced as a ZioCon by the leftist idiots and as an evil Israel-hater by the rightist idiots, so I feel Obama might be making the right decision. Power's A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide is a wonderful book which I strongly recommend. Here are some of her New Yorker blogs. And here Ralph Seliger pushes back against some of her left critics.
- Important essays on antisemitism by Eve Garrard, Norman Geras and David Hirsh, published by Fathom [pdf]. Note, Alan Johnson's intro to David H's piece erroneously says the EU has an official definition of antisemitism, but Hirsh's article, written before the disastrous Fraser v UCU verdict, remains pertinent.
- Questions to which the answer is no: was Iraq invaded for its oil? (And questions to which the answer is China: who owns the oil now?)
- The right: Marko Hoare on the degeneration of British neoconservatism.
- The left: Fred Englis on the hubris of Dave Graeber; Martin Thomas on the ISN as therapy.
- Anti-fascism: AWL asks What kind of anti-fascism? Meanwhile, a South London Anti-Fascists Group has been forming to respond to the rise in fascist activity since Woolwich.
- The latest Lewisham Hospital Worker bulletin [pdf].
- Khomeini's frown: BenSix on theocratic joylessness and fear.
- Finally, returning (sorry) to George Galloway. First, I only just saw he's now gone and praised North Korea! And he's recently told Putin's propaganda outlet that he'll stand for Mayor of London come 2015. Here he is, in his own inimitable words: "We will execute a regime of justice and fairness and democratic penetration[wtf?] of their [the bankers] workings, because there is no point in having an economy unless it works for the people." As Sunny says, "I’m sure the residents of Bradford will be pleased to know that their elected representative is already looking to move on."