Thursday, June 25, 2015

Far right violence from Charleston to Mold Tesco

Last week saw the horrific attack by Dylann Roof on a black church in Charleston. There has been lots of debate about whether his actions should be named "hate crimes" or "terrorism" or not, which I won't comment on, except to say that the far right, in its various guises, has killed quite a lot of people in America in the past decade. Depending how you count it, there have been well over a hundred incidents of multiple homicide or attempted multiple homicide - see, from different political perspectives, reports by the ADL, SPLC and PRA.

One of the reasons these incidents tend to get classed as "hate crime" rather than "terrorism" is that they are typically carried out by "lone wolves", often "self-radicalised" rather than networked. But typically they have made connections - sometimes online, but often face-to-face - with far right groups. It is far right ideology, not (just) visceral racist hate, that inspires them to mass murder.*

Worth noting is that conspiracy theory, and almost always antisemitic conspiracy theory, rather than racial prejudice, that is usually at the heart of their ideology (as John-Paul Pagano shows here, exposing the antisemitic conspiracism central to Dylann Roof's worldview, in which blacks are the manipulated pawns of Jews, the real enemy).**

Although Fox News and its ilk like to portray the left as full of hate, there have only been a small number of comparable left-wing attacks in the last decade or so: Joseph Andrew Stack and Lee Malvo, and earlier Ted Kaczynski, the eco-primitivist Unabomber.*** It's striking, though, that their worldviews were conspiracist too, and that they shared more memes with survivalists and fringe right groups such as the militia movement and sovereign citizens than with the socialist far left.

British liberals like to chuckle and sneer at American political wackiness, but this is a British problem too. This week we have seen the trial of Zack Davies, Britain's would-be Dylann Roof, who carried out a machete attack in a Tesco's supermarket in Mold, on a Sikh man he thought was Muslim, attempting to behead him as Lee Rigby was beheaded. Thankfully, a former soldier bravely intervened and saved Dr Bhambra's life.

Davies is not the first. Since David Copeland's nail-bombings at the end of the last century, we've had Robert Cottage, Martyn Gilleard, Nathan Worrell, Neil Lewington, Pavlo Lapshyn, Ryan McGee. In 2013, the Home Secretary
disclosed that one in ten cases referred to a Home Office scheme to stop youngsters being caught up in terrorism related to the Far Right. Seventeen right-wing extremists are serving prison sentences linked to terrorism, including a man who built up the biggest arms cache uncovered recently in Britain, two men convicted of preparing to use home-made poison in an attack and another jailed for circulating terrorist literature.
For some reason, these attacks are not newsworthy in Britain in the way Islamist terrorist attacks are, which is why many of the names I've listed might not ring a bell.

Again, most of these British attackers are "lone wolves" - but most have connected to far right organisations. McGee, for example, had a mum who was active in the EDL.

Zack Davies was connected with a particularly unsavoury far right group, National Action.**** Matthew Collins writes about him and his NA connection here. While Davies thought his victim was Muslim, the heart of National Action ideology (paralleling Dylann Roof) is conspiracist antisemitism.

Davies also admired ISIS in a twisted way, and at his trial clearly emphathised with Lee Rigby's killers even as he claimed he wanted to avenge Rigby's death. This is not so surprising: Davies' fascism mirrors jihadi Islamism in many ways. It is disappointing that many anti- and "counter"-jihadis fail to take the far right seriously, just as many anti-fascists fail to take Islamism seriously.


Saturday, June 06, 2015

On Jewish privilege

The term "Jewish privilege" has been circulating around the identity politics scene, and specifically among Jewish leftists, for some time now - at least since 2010 when deployed particularly ickily by the Canadian Jewish-born Jennifer Peto and by Leah Berkenwald who said Jews need to "own" their Jewish privilege, whatever that means.

The concept draws on the concept of "white privilege" (which ultimately comes from WEB DuBois' insight into the "public and psychological wage" that white workers got by virtue of their whiteness in the Reconstruction period), but subverts it by saying that Jews, not being "people of color", are privileged in the system of white supremacy. This dear, sweet self-flagellating member of the 1%, for example, thinks that being Jewish is part of his privilege that he needs to check.

Maybe I'll write more one day about this, but now I'm not going to go into why I think it's a completely ridiculous line of argument, as that's been done brilliantly by my comrade Disillusioned Marxist already, and byAdam Levick from the opposite end of the political spectrum.

Of course, many Jews are positioned as white in this racist world and therefore do experience many of the "wages" of whiteness -- but not as Jews.

What I want to note here instead is how the idea has travelled.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Morris Beckman z''l

I was very sad to read today of the passing of Morris Beckman, a great anti-fascist, mentsh and citizen historian.

Photo credit to Janette Beckman -
Dan Carrier's obituary of him is nicely titled "Morris Beckman fought fascism, home and away". Here's some of it:
WHEN Morris Beckman returned to London at the end of the Second World War, having risked his life as a radio operator on ships crossing oceans filled with U-Boats, he was disgusted to see British fascists peddling their views on the streets of Camden. Morris, who passed away this week aged 94, would not stand idly by as the far right made speeches and sold pamphlets that denied the Holocaust. Instead, he and other Jewish ex-servicemen set up the 43 Group – an organisation that fought fascists on post-war London’s streets.

Morris was born in Hackney in 1921. He had tried to join the RAF in 1939 but was turned down – instead he learned Morse code and became a radio operator on ships making the dangerous Atlantic crossings. During the Battle of the Atlantic in 1942, two of his ships were torpedoed.  
Morris went into the clothing trade after the war, running a menswear business until the 1970s. In the 1980s, he turned his hand to writing, documenting his life in the Merchant Navy and the 43 Group. Books included The Hackney Crucible, The Jewish Brigade: An Army With Two Masters, Flying The Red Duster and Atlantic Roulette. In his 1992 book The 43 Group, he wrote of the shock servicemen felt when they saw the doctrine they had defeated in Europe still alive in Britain.

He recalled how he was moved to act after he and his cousin Harry Rose watched a fascist rant on the corner of Star Street in Kilburn. Harry had fought with General Wingate behind Japanese lines in Burma.

“He said to me: ‘I’m going to shut that bastard up’,” recalled Morris.
“I calmed him down but we asked ourselves – what is anyone going to do about this?”
They tried lobbying MPs and using lawful means but with no success. Instead, they set about disrupting inflammatory demonstrations by fascists. 
He saw his bravery as merely a twist of fate that put him in extraordinary times and he believed he acted as anyone else would do.
This is from a Guardian piece, with Beckman describing why they set up the 43 Group:
"I had been in the merchant navy, survived two torpedo attacks on the Atlantic convoys, and I came back home to Amhurst Road, Hackney to hugs and kisses. My mother went out to make some tea and my dad said, ' The bastards are back – Mosley and his Blackshirts'."
"The Talmud Torah (religious school) in Dalston had its windows smashed. Jewish shops were daubed 'PJ' (Perish Judah). You heard, 'We have got to get rid of the Yids' and 'They didn't burn enough of them in Belsen'." 
With the Labour home secretary James Chuter Ede refusing to take action and the Jewish establishment urging peaceful protest, the demobbed Jews had had enough.
Famously, Vidal Sassoon was a member. Sandy Rashtry's JC obit explains why it was called the 43 Group:
43 people (38 men and five women) who formed the group at the Maccabi House sports club in Hampstead in 1946. ...[By] 1947 [it] had more than 1,000 members in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Newcastle....
“We were one of the very few groups of diaspora Jews who took a stand against Jew-baiting by fighting it instead of passively accepting the situation.” 
He said: “Make no mistake. Mosley was very well connected with the upper echelons of British society. If Hitler had succeeded in invading Britain, there were powerful people in double-breasted suits who would have pinned swastikas on their velvet lapels and supported the deportation of British Jews.”
Paul Stott writes:

Graeme Kennedy and Andrew French's Unfinished War:

Watch his 2010 talk in Bristol on the secret war against the fascists. Listen to an interview at Last Hours.