Friday, August 24, 2018

White Helmets, black blocs, red flags

Rohini Hensman
In his epilogue to Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon calls for a “new history of man,” separate from the fake “humanism” preached by colonial Europe, which was itself the negation of humanity. In the same vein, those of us who believe in the ideals of socialism must articulate a new conception of democratic internationalist politics informed by a radical humanism, to pit against the synthetic “anti-imperialism” of neo-Stalinists, Assadists and soft isolationists. We must also reclaim the poetry and vivacity of human rights that have long been sterilized by legalism and instrumentalized by liberal hawks and neo-conservatives for their own nefarious agendas.
That's a quote from Ralph Leonard's review of Rohini Hensman's important new book Indefensibile: Democracy, Counterrevolution, and the Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism, published a couple of months ago by Haymarket Books (here's another review by Paul Hampton). For some reason, there is a lot of Ralph in this month's (mercifully shorter than usual) round-up of essential reads from across the web. This spirit - the renewal of democratic internationalist politics - is, I guess, what animates this blog in general and today's post in particular.

One of our key challenges is combating what the French call "confusionism" and the Germans call the "querfront: the strange and unsavoury alliance between the far right and parts of the left. We can see elements of this convergence currently articulated around two key themes: the defense of national sovereignty against a supposed "globalist" elite and the rejection of key truths as a "mainstream narrative" that needs to be countered by amplifying alternative "truths".

While adherents of the querfront often do so in good faith, out of ideological conviction, its politics also serve the purpose of the Russian state in its hybrid war against Western power, and so the Russian state invests resources in amplifying confusionist voices and narratives.

Syria has been one litmus test of this confusionism, with the growth of a Russian-resourced disinformation and propaganda network tasked with winning the battle for global hearts and minds for the criminal Russian war in Syria. That network scored a major victory last week when Labour MP Chris Williamson endorsed one of the key nodes of the network, Vanessa Beeley.

In the New Statesman, Oz Katerji wrote this essential piece: Labour can be Jo Cox’s party or Chris Williamson’s – it cannot be both. If you only click on one of today's links, make it this one. Here's an extract:
Beeley’s conspiracism doesn’t stop with Syria; she has written crank conspiracies on the Charlie Hebdo massacre, which she described as “oxygen for this dying piece of shit Zio media”. A Swedish university also triggered a backlash and was forced to apologise after hosting a lecture by her that was widely condemned by visiting students. 
In 2014 Beeley appeared on a panel in Paris alongside French “comedian” and convicted anti-Semite Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, notorious for creating the inverted Nazi salute “la quenelle”, and far-right former Belgian MP and convicted Holocaust-denier, Laurent Louis. 
Beeley also has a history of anti-Semitic statements, including saying “Zionists rule France” and that French-American journalist Shawn Carrie was likely an “Ashkenazi Jew” and labelled him a “Zionist agent” after he published an article questioning the dubious funding behind the pro-Assad activism of Bartlett and Beeley and their associates. Speaking to the New Statesman, Carrie accused Beeley of anti-Semitic abuse, claiming her purpose was to “slander journalists and stir up hatred”.
The other key site (with some overlaps with the Beeley network) for the UK version of the querfront is in the pro-Brexit scene that includes the Morning Star, Counterfire, Blue Labour, Labour Leave, the Arron Banks-funded Trade Unionists Against the EU, Full Brexit and the former Trotskyists at Spiked. Here's Andrew Coates on one of their recent initiatives and on why anti-fascists need to shun them.

Everything else