Friday, November 30, 2007

The ABC of "anti-imperialism"?

My debate with Southpawpunch on British imperialism versus Soviet totalitarianism continues. Clicking around the relevant links, I followed a link from Histomat to Lenin's Tomb, and this post: The ABC of anti-imperialism. The post argues against criticising the oppressiveness of Iran's current regime, because Iran is at risk of attack from America.
When an imperialist country is threatening to attack a less powerful country, anti-imperialists everywhere must focus all their energies on preventing the imperialist country from starting a war by aiming all their political firepower on the imperialist country. This is to recognise the difference in their respective capacities to exploit and oppress people around the world. This is particularly true if you happen to be living in either an imperialist country or a nation that supports an imperialist power. To criticise both the imperialist country and the country they are threatening equally is to re-enforce the inbuilt inequality in the situation and thus to favour the imperialist power. It is always in the interests of anti-imperialists to see the imperialist power defeated. Any defeat for any imperialist power is a blow against imperialism in general.

Thus the defeat of the Israeli Army (IDF) by Hezbollah last year should be seen as a victory for anti-imperialism regardless of any criticisms you may have of Hezbollah. Many of us gave Hezbollah unconditional, but not uncritical, support.
I couldn't disagree with this position more. If my daughter gets beaten up every day on the playground by a large, violent bully, and then one day the bully is beaten up by a larger kid, I am not tempted to rush to the defence of the bully. (In this case, of course, the position of my daughter is occupied by the citizens of Iran, not least the women of Iran and the working class of Iran.) Unconditional support for regional imperial powers like Iran or for fascist rackets like Hizbollah is a dangerous, reactionary, stupid policy.

The ridiculous Leninist "unconditional but not uncritical support" formula should have been thrown away long ago. It is a prime example of the bankruptcy of the movement that calls itself "anti-imperialist".

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blake day

William Blake is one of my heroes. A great post by V about him here: "Prophet of Freedom".

P.s. More from Jams and Neil.

The demise of Respect as literary effort

Version 1: Madame Miaow, in the style of Milton's Paradise Lost.

Version 2: Splintered Sunrise, in the style of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

George Orwell: state tout or anti-Stalinist hero?

I have added a long comment about George Orwell's fingering of Stalinist fellow travellers to the British state just before he died, to this post, in response to a comment by Southpawpunch accusing me of Stalinist tactics and bad spelling. You might or might not want to read it.

As a Histomatist post inspired the original post, you might care to visit these two other posts there: Deutscher on the importance of class struggle (as we've been talking about Isaac Deutscher here too [talking of bad spelling...]) and a notice about the forthcoming Black Jacobins Conference, as I put CLR James and Orwell in very similar places in my mental filing cabinet. (The Deutcher thing leads on to this piece by Mike Davis, who also cropped up in this post.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Rowan Williams on good and bad imperialism

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has managed to get himself into the headlines again with another inane comment on foreign policy. Here are the controversial comments:
America seems so intrinsically involved in everything. The Archbishop recognises that: “We have only one global hegemonic power at the moment.” But, he propounds, “It is not accumulating territory; it is trying to accumulate influence and control. That’s not working.” Far from seeing this positively, he describes it as “the worst of all worlds,” saying, “it is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources into administering it and normalising it. Rightly or wrongly that’s what the British Empire did – in India for example. It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put things back together –Iraq for example.”
His whole interview (in the glossy Muslim "lifestyle" magazine Emel) is worth reading in full (here it is, found via Ekklesia), because the comment on American power and British imperlism is only one small part in an actually fairly far-ranging and thoughtful discussion.

Not suprisingly, though, I am going to focus on the controversial bit.

In particular, the positive depiction of British imperialism is outrageous. The balance sheet of the British empire is incredibly poor. Starting with the plantations in Ireland and mass appropriations of land from Irish farmers, condemning them to generations of poverty, moving on to the role of the Empire in the slave trade (3.5 million African slaves to the Americas, a third of all slaves transported across the Atlantic).

And in India, Williams' model, there was the privatised and unaccountable system of plundering India's wealth under the East India Company, which makes Halliburton and Blackwater and the private contractors in Iraq look like charities. The East India Company habitually used torture against Indian people and forced farmers to convert from subsistence crops to cash crops for export, resulting in horrific starvation. They destroted Indian industry by flooding the market with cheap goods, the market being rigged by a system of duties and subsidies. And this was nothing compared to the thirty or forty million peasants who died in the British-induced famines that Mike Davis describes in his grim highly recommmended Late Victorian Holocausts.

As for the British Empire and Iraq...Well, it was off course the British who, rather than diligently and thoughtfully "pouring energy and resources into administering it and normalising it", Britain invented it out of thin air, combining three Ottoman provinces that had little in common with each other culturally or linguistically. Britain proceded to pump oil and wealth out of the country, through the Turkish Petroleum Company. More seriously, Britain bombed Kurdish and Arab uprisings. (Churchill famously advocated using chemical weapons against the "uncivilised" Kurdish tribes.) [More here.]

So what allows someone of Williams' intellectual stature to be so stupid? I don't have enough knowledge of or interest in the Archbishop to comment (Martin's very good post here gives some explanations). The fact is, Williams is not alone. An insanity has gripped Western elite opinion, rendering it unable to see with any proportion, unable to make moral judgements. America, Israel and Blair are magnified into the worst possible monsters; all other crimes are relatavised away; all good things America does are literally invisible and unthinkable for these people. As Martin points out,
Needless to say, the archbishop had little to say about America's role in liberating Kuwait from Saddam, protecting the Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo, or rescuing Afghanistan from the repressive grip of the Taliban.
Williams is blind to the inter-imperialist rivalries that mean that America as a "global hegemon" is in active competition with other powers, not least China, Russia and Europe, who severely curtail America's ability to act on the global stage.

This worldview speaks a radical language ("global hegemon"). It is endemic amongst people who like to think of themselves as liberal or even radical. But it is essentially conservative. The Archbishop's idiotic nostalgia for the terrorist regime that was the British Empire is intimately related to his anti-Americanism. As with the likes of Chirac, this is the politics of reaction, not the politics of emancipation. Hence its easy alliances with Islamic theocrats and other reactionary forces.

P.S. Was I wrong to use the word terrorist in the last paragraph? Possibly. See comments at Snoopy's blog.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Cosmopolitan intent: two appeals

1. Az Theatre is showing Life on the Borderline, a play by a young Iraqi Kurdish refugee, at four venues in London 27 November-2 December, including the Albany in Deptford on Wednesday 28th. (Flier pdf)

2. Sam Harris is publicising the launch of the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Security Trust, to protect this brave woman. More here. (Via Snarkmithy. Read more on Hirsi Ali at Greater Surbiton.)

What's in a name: Islam, Islamism, Jihadism

Two related things:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Today's blog is brought to you by the letter B

Moly's Blog gives us the low-down on the best blogs beginning with the letter 'B'. I'm pleased to be included in the list, which I reproduce here:
*The Balkan Anarchist blog has an extensive discussion about the Serbo-Croat language and its dialects. Great for anybody with an interest in languages and the Slavic ones in particular. Entitled 'Divanimo naski' (Don't ask me to translate-but the article is in English). Much of this was way over Molly's head as the only Slavic language that she has a "travelling acquaintance" with is Czech, with a smattering of Russian and Ukrainian. Still, a very informed presentation.
*Balkan Baby has an article entitled (take a deep breath) 'I Wanted Freedom. Bound and Restricted, I Tried to Give You Up, But I'm Addicted'. Whatever it may sound like it's all about the situation in Kosovo and well worth reading.
*Janet Biehl's blog continues the presentation of her graphic novel about the life of Murray Bookchin with an aside into the politics of the 1930s ala Stalin's machinations.
*Bill Bumpus continues to present the latest news about the IWW, along with an ever fresh selection of general labour news. Great site to help you keep up with things wobbly.
*The Blork Blog has an interesting piece about the new Airbus A380 airplane and its overstated claims to "green credentials". A great piece of myth-busting.
*The Blue Voice has an useful links reference to Joschka Fisher's (the ex-leader of the German Greens) more recent writings.
*Bob From Brockley reprints a piece from Venezuelan anarchists critical of the Chavez regime. The title is 'Hallucinating the Bolivarian Revolution'.
*Butt Darling has a report from the recent No-Borders camp on the US-Mexico border entitled 'Lost Patrol'. Find out what went down down there.
That's it for now. See you at the C.
Bob adds: I liked this attack on the word "analysis" at Molly'sBlog. This post at Balkan Baby made losing to Croatia at the football even harder. I loved Janet Biehl's graphic novel series, perfect for the blog format, can't believe I never saw it before. I've also never seen Butt Darling before, but there is some interesting stuff there about Islamo-fascism in Chechnya, and the failure of the statist left to respond.


Meanwhile, Jim Jay asks you to vote for the people's choice of best green blogs of 2007. From my manor, Green Ladywell is a contender.

Does the left learn?

New Centrist has an excellent post, starting from the Mitchell Cohen essay mentioned here, and addressing the same question that Marko Attila H's first couple of blog posts also raises, and the question worried away at in the meme that included this post, namely: is the left worth saving from itself or should it be left to rot?


Transmontanus has a post about a similar issue, prompted by Zizek's recent LRB essay. He (Terry) responds to Hoare's fairwell to the left thus:
Fighting words, so fair play to him, but to be really fair you'd have to concede that there is a "Left" that is anti-capitalist but is still capable of facing the facts Hoare demands we face. For starters, you could read "Against the Anti-Globalization Critiques" or this treatise, "Regional War in the Mid-East Calls for Class Struggle and Solidarity with Israel." Even the "anti-war" movement has clear thinkers: here's an anti-war movement I can really get behind.

The Contentious Centrist has given us links to places she has commented lately, including the above-mentioned post. These are very worth reading.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Who should decide who makes a good Jew?

Another thought-provoking and wonderfully written piece by Noga on what Anne Carson calls "the economy of the unlost" and the shrinking of meaning of terms (complete, of course, with obligatory Arendt quote). The starting point of the piece is the question of whether David Hirsh should or shouldn't be called a "loyal Jew" or an "ultra-Zionist" provoked by the Gilad Atzmon piece referred to here.

I still have to make up my mind about this, because I share Hirsh's distaste for the parade of progressive secular Jews (Klugs, Roses, Finks and so on) denouncing the views of most Jews while "speaking as a Jew".

P.S. Isaac Deutscher's "Non-Jewish Jew" essay is the licence the Klug-Roses use, and some day I may get around to writing up my critique of Deutscher.

P.P.S. I have terrible trouble spelling Deutscher's name, just as most people seem to have terrible trouble with David Hirsh's!

P.P.S. This relates, of course, to the whole Independent Jewish Voices debate, on which read Keith Kahn-Harris at Liberal Conspiracy. (Keith previously featured here - read the comment from the Contentious One.)

Chavez: a shimmering model?

Johann Hari: Chavez must avoid the trap of dictatorship.

Personally, I think Hari is right to be sympathetic towards the Bolivarian revolution; he is right to highlight the positive dimension's of Chavez's rule; he is right to emphasize the forces of reaction arrayed against Hugo. But I think Hari does not give Chavez enough credit for his authoritarian actions. By describing the drift into dictatorship as reaction to his enemies' actions ("is there a danger Chavez will play into the hands of his critics, and become dictatorial after all?"). Hari underestimates Chavez's own megalomania and power-lust.

Finally, the notion of Venezuela as a "shimmering model of pro-poor democratic development" is pure hyperbole, and undermines Hari's claims to be an authoritative commentator on the subject.

Monday miscellany

The incomparable Ella:
  • Jim refuses to compare "spoiled, middle-class brat" Amy Winehouse with the sublime Ella Fitzgerald.

The left that doesn't learn:

Who are the Paulistas?
  • Sultan Knish dishes the dirt on the "Jews for Ron Paul" scamsters. Meanwhile, Roland takes apart the "leftists for Ron Paul" nutjobs.

The heroic resistance targets women:
  • Jim nails the gynophobic barbarity of the Iraqi insurgents.

A beacon to the world:

Another round-up:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hallucinating the Bolivarian revolution

A truly radical perspective on Hugo Chavez, from some Latin American libertarians:
In this part of the Caribbean we don’t suffer ‘deja vú’ for the CNT-FAI of 1936 nor do we allow ourselves to be confused by the re-semantization of demagoguery. Last year 402 prisoners, coming from the popular classes, died violently in the prisons of the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’. More than 60 leaders of trade union and neighbourhood groups were in court because of their participation in strikes, blockades and demonstrations to demand their rights. As Bakunin said, the people will not feel better to see that the club with which they’re beaten with bears their own name. We, the libertarian creoles, have assumed the attitudes of any consistent anarchist: to confront power and stand side by side with the oppressed, gathering together means and ends, constructing free spaces and refusing to be either victim or tyrant. We leave the ‘tactical alliances’ and ‘critical support’, the smokescreens and mirrors to the politicians, of whom there are so many in Venezuela today, fattening their egos and bank accounts, hallucinating a 21st Century socialism that is both military and imperialist by nature, with its epicentre in Caracas.
Read the whole thing at Divergences.

Theo Bikel

Read this lovely appreciation of Theodore Bikel at Meretz USA.

Images here from:, Hippocampus Music, History Co-op, Dick Rosmini.
Bob's beats genre keywords: folk
See also: Molly Picon, Majer Bogdanski

If it's not the striking postal workers, it's the Jewish lobby

My 12th October issue of the Jewish Chronicle mysteriously arrived through my letterbox yesterday. I read it at 2 this morning suffering from insomnia. I liked Daniel Finkelstein's op-ed on Richard Dawkins' stupid and racist claim that "the Jewish lobby monopolises" US foreign policy, and Gordon Brown's stupid and racist call for "British jobs for British workers". I also found out about this video of Steve Colbert taking on Israel lobby conspiracy theorist John Mearsheimer.

More at Finkelstein's blog on Gordon Brown and the BNP: 1, 2, 3.
More on Walt and Mearsheimer at Engage, Boycotted British Academic, Judeosphere, Jeff Weintraub.

The politics of assimilation

Comment is free: The politics of assimilation
Keith Kahn-Harris' wise words on the Chief Rabbi's attack on multiculturalism.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Atzmon: A Spinoza for our times?

Read this excellent piece at Contentious Centrist about Gilad Atzmon (including obligatory Arendt refrence - a particularly beautiful one).

P.S. As Will noted in the comment, I originally posted this as "Gilad Atzmon: A Spinoza for our times". I've changed it to "Gilad Atzmon: A Spinoza for our times?" Crucial difference!

P.P.S. A good Atzmon post at Judeosphere.


Dablog by DaSLOB: One Track Mind: Randy Newman "Rednecks" (1974)

Read this thoughtful post about one of the greatest songwriters of our time. For me, the post resonates with the recent kerfuffle over Ann Coulter's supposedly (but actually not at all) anti-semitic talkshow comments, which so upset the liberal intellegentsia.

Follow the link to his post on Aaron Neville's version of Randy Newman's greatest song, "Lousiana 1927". (Both versions put in an appearance on my Katrina anniversary post, which has mp3 links if you don't know the song, but I haven't checked if they're still working.)

Bob's beats genre keywords: country music, soul
Bob's beats artist keywords: Aaron Neville, Randy Newman

Lineages of the American anti-Stalinist left

1. The new issue of the American magazine New Leader is out in pdf. Articles on Ahmenijad, Walt & Mearsheimer, Irène Némirovsky, and more. The New Leader (see also here) has its roots in the Socialist Party of America, the anti-Stalinist democratic socialist organisation of which Irving Howe was a member, which (in Trotskyism's "French turn") was entered by Max Shachtman, CLR James and other Trotskyists. It is now thoroughly in the "decent left"/centrist/social democratic section of the spectrum.

2. I know this is old in blog terms, but I've got a backlog to clear, and it follows on from the more current preceding material: Matt Zeitlin has a very interesting post, that takes as its starting point this interesting review of Irving Howe's biography of Leon Trotsky, on why Trotsky was so influential on the American left, and why it matters.

Previous: Bayard Rustin; Orwell's legacy; Wikipedia & the anti-Stalinist left; Seymour Martin Lipset; Leo Strauss; Social democratic New York.

More reading

Some great stuff in the new Dissent:
And a couple of interesting things in WSJ:
The first of those comes from Azure. There you can find:
Cap tips: Arieh and Jogo

A couple more on Chavez

Two more posts on Hugo Chavez, this time on his brutal repression of the Venezuelan pro-democracy movement: Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, writing (in charmingly odd English) at Moderate Voice, and Civatensis, on the hypocrisy of Hugo's use of the word "fascist".

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Chomsky on Chavez

In a similar vein to my shocking realisation that I shared the views of the SWP on Hugo Chavez's Bolivarian revolution, Molly is shocked to find herself agreeing with Chomsky on the same issue. Here's a clip:
>Now Molly has to admit that she doesn't like Noam Chomsky very much. This dates back to a six month exchange in the early 90s when Molly learned exactly what Chomsky was all about in terms of the 'Third World'... All that being said, as one of the few anarchists on earth who has actually had real experience about what Chomsky is like, I have to commend him in his comments in his 78th year about Venezuela. Watching Chomsky over the decades I expected nothing more than cheerleading for Chavez and the usual childish leftist excuse for everything the dictator-to-be wants to do while blaming everything up to Chavez' hemorrhoids on the machinations of the USA. To say the least I was pleasantly surprised by a recent interview with Chomsky on Z-Net.* Yeah, some of the interview was actually quite bizarre, shading into Chomsky's view of the discontent in America today as a "pre-revolutionary" situation. That's fine. Noam hasn't had more than a "street passing" connection with ordinary Americans for almost 40 years, and his opinions are not exactly the best informed in the world. Mostly he's chummy with his academic and leftist friends and very few other people.
Read the rest here.

*16 November: I changed the link to Venezuelaanalysis, where ZNet got the interview, to deny the appalling ZNet any google juice. You can also read the interview at Divergences.

Previous: The President and the supermodel; Pilger & Chomsky on Cambodia; Chavez versus real socialists; The new Stalinism; Saluting dictators; Chavez v Pat Robertson; The Hitch and Cambodia; What's wrong with Chomsky?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Today indexed

Well, it's either feast or famine. After a relative slow period here, I had a bit of a blogging binge today, and there's too much new stuff. Here are the newer posts, plus recently updated ones, for ease of reference:

The left?

Marko Attila Hoare has started blogging, at Greater Surbiton. So far, two long posts on the meaning of the two words "the left" today (1 & 2). I'm not sure I agree with them - need to read them more thoroughly - but well worth reading.

Hugo Chavez/Ron Paul

Today's Jewish music track

I've long played with doing something with the words "Acidic Jew", and it looks like I've been beaten to it. Today's Jewish music track of sorts is Fred Doest's mash-up of Missy Elliot's "Get Your Freak On" with some ecstatic Hasidic melody. You can download the mp3 here (check the cover art) or here (along with a whole album of "ethnic" music mashed up).

Previous: Jewish cowboys etc; Yiddish Beatles; Yael Naim and the Harlem Experiment; Yiddish metal, JAP-hop, etc; Hebrew indie, Jewish exotica, etc; Hava Nagila with Harry Dean Stanton; Hybrid musics; Bagels and Bongos.

Bob's beats genre keywords: electronica

Remembrance Sunday

I am profoundly ambivalent about Remembrance Day. My father's family, like most British families, lost many men in the two world wars. My grandfather served during both wars, in the navy, having lied about his age to join up in 1914 (he was fourteen). Even at my most ultra-left, I always felt it was important to honour the working class people who were sent to die for their country.

Listening to some of the ritual from the centotaph on Sunday, though, I found myself getting angry at what seemed largely to be a celebration of the British royal family, as one after another member of that dyfunctional family was paraded before us, their subjects. (The day before, I had a conversation with Comrade Transpontine about Orwell's famous likening of England to a "family with the wrong members in charge.") I wish that I had - as in most years - just given myself a couple of minutes of private reflection.

Richard listened to the whole ceremony, and reacted very differently; maybe I should have kept the radio on.

A range of perspectives from the Contentious One, Dave Osler, Pickled Politics, Eugene P, Flesh is Grass. Featured link: Aftermath.

P.S. I missed this from Jim.

Last year's post (also linking to Dave Osler's piece), complete with soundtrack, here.

Related: Remembering 7/7, St.George's Day, Walthamstow anarchist honour the war dead.

Deconstructing Che

C/o Jogo, from Frontpage (Source)

Praise for Ahmenijad

Jogo writes:

From this morning:
The hardline president also said that Iran "could not care less" about UN Security Council resolutions aimed at halting Tehran's nuclear drive.
I salute Mahmoud.

Unlike 95% of American people, he has used the expression correctly: "COULD NOT CARE LESS." Most people say "I could care less," which is completely wrong, and the opposite of what they mean.

Bloggers with an appreciation for the finer things of life will note my observation with pleasure.

But lead-sinker, psychically depressed, doomsaying, corpse-channeling, Spectacle-obsessed bloggers might not.

The Scorpions: A Home Movie - snuff films from the war in Yugoslavia

An event worth going to:

The Scorpions: a Home Movie
3.00 pm Wednesday 21 November 2007 Small Hall, Richard Hoggart Building,
Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW

In the summer of 1995, 8000 men and boys were murdered in and around Srebrenica region by Serbian forces. These forces included the Scorpions, a Serbian paramilitary unit active in Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo. The Scorpions filmed their activities, including the murder of six Bosnian Muslim civilians. This footage (and related evidence) was subsequently used in the war crimes trials of the Scorpions unit in The Hague and Serbia.

The Scorpions: A Home Movie uses this footage, together with statements of former members and materials recorded by the unit itself in the course of its campaigns, to explore the functioning of a typical paramilitary unit in the Balkan wars - and in other contemporary wars - and to cast light on the personal, intimate aspect of these crimes.

The first UK screening of the documentary (50 mins) will be followed by a presentation and a Q & A session by leading human rights lawyer, Natasa Kandic, Executive Director, Humanitarian Law Centre, Belgrade and producer of The Scorpions, and the acclaimed film-maker and director of the documentary, Lazar Stojanovic.

No tickets are needed to attend this event, but please reserve a place by contacting Jane Offerman (, as we anticipate high demand for places. Please note that this film contains scenes of violence and killing, and is unsuitable for young audiences. Adults may also find it distressing.

This event is supported by the Humanitarian Law Centre (, in partnership with Manchester Aid to Kosovo and its Fragile State - Art from Kosovo outreach and education programme (, and the Global Justice Unit, Goldsmiths (

For further information about this event, please go to:

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


A guest post by Jogo

It came recently to light that a star of the Barak Obama campaign was the charismatic preacher and gospel singer Reverend Donnie McClurkin.

This was not a matter of concern to very many people until the homosexual magazine The Advocate, and other gay activists, brought to light something else -- that Donnie McClurkin is a 5-star homophobe. His homo-theme is quite interesting, and different from that of most, because McClurkin bases a good deal of his authority on homosex-matters upon his own "prior homosexuality" (my ironic quote-marks) that, he says, Jesus "delivered him from." So, when he thunders, he thunders with the embodied knowledge of his own Fallen Condition, his own Struggle, and his own Redemption. This very personal experience of deliverance -- we are talking about deliverance not only from urges but from sin -- means that, for him, deliverance is possible for anyone who truly gives himself over to Jesus. Implication #1: if you want to be delivered from homosexuality, give yourself to Jesus. Implication #2 is the implied deliberate persistence-in-sin of homosexual people who do not take this simple and unfailing opportunity of deliverance.

At the same time, McClurkin thunders, as well, that he does not "hate" anyone, and is not "bigoted against" anyone -- and this claim is strengthened by his own life-journey. How can he "hate" that which is also himself? And you can see, once you accept a premise or two, that this makes sense. Donnie McClurkin also denies (quite rightly, in my opinion) that he is a homo-PHOBE because that word means "fear of homosexuals" and he is not afraid of them ... or of "it." (I believe, by the way, that the word "homophobe" ought to be retired because it is not the correct word for what we MEAN.)

Well, none of this sat quite right with The Advocate, which published a number of articles about Obama-Donnie, including this one. You can find the rest of them if you type into the Advocate website search box.

At the first blush of kerfuffle, Andrew Sullivan dismissed the Advocate's and others' discomfort with Rev. Donnie McClurkin. Andrew was "surprised" at this discomfort, and thought thought it was "blown up," i.e., overblown. Excessive.

Then Andrew watched Rev Donnie in action. Whoa! Check it out. Now he doesn't think that the discomfort is overblown. And neither will you if you catch the performance. When it comes to homosexuality, Donnie McClurkin's message comes right out of the Christianist playbook. Which is really not surprising because the man is a typical black fundamentalist Christian. If you understand the Bible as the Revealed Word, and you believe the social justice portion of it, well, you believe the homosex-as-sin portion of it, as well. Were people born yesterday, or what?

The National Black Justice Coalition, a black/gay activist organization, was not so dismissive of the McClurkin/Obama campaign relationship. Someone who was obviously not born yesterday composed, on behalf of NBJC, this very strong and unambivalent position against that relationship.

But Donnie McClurkin is not the first problematical black fundamentalist Christian who is close to Obama. He's the second. The first one, the main one, is Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor of Obama's church and, more interestingly, Obama's mentor.

When FoxNews learned of Reverend Jeremiah's relationship to Barak Obama they, completely predictably, brought him onto the Hannity & Combs show and tried to skewer him. Well, of course, FoxNews is widely known to be a gang of rightwing consent-manufacturers, therefore many people "distrust its motives" rather than pay a minute's worth of attention to what is presented and do a bit of research of their own. It would not surprise me if most Liberals saw this Reverend Wright business as something of a Red Herring.

But Jeremiah Wright is not exactly a red herring. If you actually listen to him -- and not just to what people say about him -- he believes not only in black struggle, not only that a black church and a black pastor should help energize that struggle, not only that American black struggle resonates with other gobal struggles, but in a "black theology." Those are his own words. He associates his beliefs with "Liberation Theology," and for some that linking confers depth, respectability, scholarly underpinnings and unquestionable legitimacy.

But Wright really does believe in "black theology." When I first became interested in Jeremiah Wright I visited the website of his church, the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, which is also Barak Obama's church. There, on the page, I found its Afro-Centrist platform plainly stated.

And then I cruised youtube and found a number of videos of Reverend Wright's fiery, revolutionary sermons preached from his pulpit. And I found out for myself -- not from FoxNews -- what the man is about. But just now, when I visited youtube again, I found that those sermon-videos had been removed. There remains only one clip of Jeremiah Wright, and is it of a radio sermon. The clip is a curious thing because it was recorded in a moving taxicab, so all you actually see is the dashboard and windshield of the taxi. What you hear is the voice of Reverend Wright coming over the radio. Because of the recording conditions it is a bit hard to understand, but if you want to give a listen here it is.

Supporters of Reverend Wright might like to cast the controversy about him in terms of the value of the Liberationist message he preaches. But to me, the controversy should not be about whether Liberation Theology and Black Theology are valid or good. Nor about whether pastors ought to preach those doctrines. Of course they should preach them if they believe them.

The controversy is properly about whether it is appropriate for a US Presidential candidate to belong to a church whose pastor preaches those things ... and in Obama's case, whether a candidate for President of the United States should take a man like Jeremiah White not only for his pastor, but also for his mentor.

So .... if anybody on the Progressive side is worried about Christianism they could step forward now. This Biblical stuff, and Christ and whatever, does not belong in political campaigns, not as a way to justify social conservatism, nor as a way to justify Liberal social and foreign policy agendas. The use of Christ and the Bible and theatrical preachers should also be opposed as a tactic to attract voters to Obama, or to anybody, or away from anybody. It should also be opposed as "faith symmetry" -- the emergence of a "Religious Left" to counter the Religious Right -- in the Signifier Game that is played in the theater of polarized politics.

Bob does not, and others on the Left may not, agree with me that religious ideas and textual references have no place in political campaigns. But I think they are pernicious in politics, not because they aren't of social value, or because I don't believe in any of them (in fact, I do believe in some of them), but because they are complex and powerful signifiers -- carriers of tremendous weight and authority -- that can be cast in any light one chooses to shine on them, thereby to make or refute any number of points, or to support or undermine any number of positions. I think public political positions -- especially those of persons seeking office -- ought to stand on other merits. But I do realize that my position is somewhat idealistic because it's actually not a good thing that the so-called "language of faith" in American politics has been so completely dominated by the Right. Yes, it's a problem, but I don't like the easy solution to it. You may sue me, if you wish.

I like Barak Obama. Actually, I have not ruled out voting for him! I understand his desire to bring multitudes into his tent. I also have the impression that he is a man of sincere Christian belief, something I have absolutely no problem with. But I also think that he, his supporters and others on the Earnest Left need to walk a lot more carefully and wisely on the tricky terrain of the Politics of Faith.

Recommendations? None at present.

More Jewish music

1. I think there's been some Jewish cowboys on this blog before, and Yiddisher cut&paste/hip hop artist SoCalled. Well, here's both together: SoCalled's "You're Never Alone (Jewish Cowboy)" on mp3 at I Guess I'm Floating. You can also find Harold Stern, Jewish cowboy, here at Our Lady, and Al Tijuana and his Jewish Brass at this bizarre podcast at Digital Debris (found via Music for Maniacs).

2. Literate gig reviews: Gogol Boulevard (Blog Critics) and Golem (Mr Mammoth).

3. If you live near Hoboken, celebrate Hanukah with Yo La Tengo. (I'll be celebrating it at the Booze for Jews event at the Honor Oak - look out for my post on this next week if you live in South London!)

UPDATE: Noga takes us from Jewish rednecks to the Sages to Hannah Arendt, in a perfect blog post.

Previous: Yiddish Beatles; Yael Naim and the Harlem Experiment; Yiddish metal, JAP-hop, etc; Hebrew indie, Jewish exotica, etc; Hava Nagila with Harry Dean Stanton; Hybrid musics; Bagels and Bongos.
Bob's beats genre keywords: hip hop, country music, rock

Natascha Atlas

If you followed the Natascha Atlas issue (here, then here), Richard S at Rough in Here has commented thoughtfully on it in a comments thread at this post, thanks to prompting from Comrade Transpontine. Next week, when I have more time, I will write about this again and post some Natascha Atlas mp3s, including, for Noga, "Yalla Chant".

P.S. History is Made at Night and Rough in Here added to "Bob's Beats" section of the blogroll, down on the right there.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cameron's Powellism

I have been meaning for a while to write something about the new Tory anti-immigration agenda, but have been too busy. This, from Olly's Onions, sums it up.

Lewisham '77 event this Saturday

From Lewisham '77:

The Lewisham '77 event is at Goldsmiths College, London New Cross this Saturday, from 1 pm to 5 pm in the Great Hall. Two more speakers have been confirmed: John Lockwood, who we believe was the only person imprisoned for his role in the Battle of Lewisham, and Jarman Parmar, Lewisham councillor and eyewitness to the Battle.

We will screen the Rock Against Racism documentary I Shot the Sheriff as people arrive, and there will be exhibitions and stalls. Speakers will be from 1. In the first session, speakers include Ted Parker, who organised the anti-fascist demonstration in August 1977, Balwinder Rana of the ANL, Martin Lux, author of Anti-Fascist: A Foot-Soldier's Story, Lez Henry of Nu-Beyond, and John Lockwood. There will be more film screenings from 2.30 to 3. The second session, on the contemporary significance of Lewisham '77, will be opened by Paul Gilroy, author of Black Britain: A Photographic History, and will feature Les Back of Goldsmiths, Dave Landau of No Borders, and councillor Jarman Parmar of the Lewisham Anti-Racist Action Group.

The films screening at 2.30 will be the UK premier of films specially commissioned for the event from Deptford.TV and from the Goldsmiths MA Screen Documentary students. This will include: a 10 minute film of the Lewisham '77 commemorative walk on September 13 and a series of 2 and 5 minute films made by the MA students, featuring: Red Saunders and the story of Rock Against Racism, Morgan O'Brien and the 1977 British Steel occupation, Martin Lux and the Battle of Cable St, and Amina Mangera and other veterans' memories of the day.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Heard the one about the President and the supermodel?

Read Heard the one about the President and the supermodel? (The Poor Mouth), on Naomi Campbell meeting Hugo Chavez. I love the phrase "a revolutionary and exquisite white dress" (what Naomi was wearing).

Plus, SHOCKING NEWS: This will suprise regular readers, but I find little to disagree with (to use Scoop Shachtman's phrase, on a similar experience with Robert Fisk) in Mike Gonzalez's article on Hugo Chavez in the current Socialist Review. It's actually pretty spot-on, apart from the rather icky last paragraph.

MORE HERE: But, I am a Liberal!: Hitchens, Ron Paul, Sean Penn, and Hugo Chavez: All in One Post!

Blogging about the Middle East

This is a small round-up of some posts I liked about the Middle East in the last couple of days.

MORE HERE: A Second Hand Conjecture