Friday, February 26, 2010


Duncan on premature obituaries for Nick Griffin's BNP. A report on the Scottish Defence League's Edinburgh mobilisation and the divided anti-fascist response (my comment here). (See also AWL and

English antisemitism
Keith Kahn-Harris at CiF on Anthony Julius: "the book will be read like an issue of Playboy: the equivalent of the articles on classic cars – the majority of the book that deals with pre-second world war antisemitism – will be skipped as readers rush to the "juicy bits" that deal with contemporary anti-Zionist antisemitism."

Gita Sahgal/Southall Black Sisters
I have continued to update my Gita Sahgal post, but will stop doing so now. Here are some more things, and my next set of updates may also appear here.
Eric Lee  is standing for the Amnesty International UK Section Board. He has set up a new website to promote his campaign. His manifesto is here. If you are an AI member, please support him, not just because of the Gita Sahgal issue but also because he is a very good and experienced person who would make a good board member. If you haven't heard of him, you may be familair with the excellent trade union site he created, LabourStart.
Also: My kind of secularism: Secularist of the year prize goes to Southall Black Sisters.
[Update: More on this from Eve Garrard, Seismic Shock.]

Anti-Germanism, Bahamas, the English Defence League, and the Gates of Vienna
AGT clarifies the controversy which simmered at Contested Terrain.

Does it exist?

Other elsewheres

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fascism/anti-fascism notes

First, an item of parochial London interest, and below that some discussion of anti-fascist strategy.

Tess Culnane
Transpontine: Lewisham Nazi working at City Hall
Never let it be said that the BNP is not an equal opportunities employer. Why, they are happy to employ people with a background in all sorts of neo-nazi factions, not just those who have been consistently loyal to leader Nick Griffin.

According to Adam Bienkov at Liberal Conspiracy, BNP London Assembly member Richard Barnbrook has employed Tess Culnane, who stood for the National Front in competition with the BNP candidate for the London Assembly seat of Greenwich and Lewisham in 2008. She has also associated with the openly Hitler-worshipping British People's Party.

Seemingly she has now been welcomed back into the BNP, which she left in 2006 citing differences with the leadership. She stood for the BNP in the February 2009 Lewisham Council byelection in Downham ward. You can get a flavour of her supporters on various far right forums which I won't link to here. Here's once choice comment: 'Thank you Tess, The foreigners and queers who run Lewisham on behalf of our parasite enemies did not have an unchallenged contest'.
More from Socialist Unity.

How to defeat the BNP and EDL
Andy has an interesting post on British fascism past and present, partly in response to some predictable re-spouting of the tired useless formulae of the SWP front Unite Against Fascism. I think he is mostly right and partly wrong. I might get around to the partly wrong bit at some point, but I wanted to highlight two contributions from the comment thread. First, Paul Stott at #43:
#29 [Richard Seymour] wrote "The Nazis are in control of the organisation. They run its publications, its media relations, its electoral strategy etc, its strategy regarding street activism, etc. Its two MEPs are hardcore Nazis, whatever their public protestations to the contrary. Its major regional organisers are Nazis. Its advisory council is packed with Nazis. The Nazis can’t be marginalised because they lead and direct the party from top to bottom.”
This is rubbish with bells on - like calling a member of the Socalist Party a Stalinist who worships the USSR.
The BNP is not a nazi organisation. I would argue its leading members are fascists, but it should not be beyond the wit of Socialists to spot that there is a difference between fascism and Nazism.
Worse the like of Searchlight, the BBC and the UAF have wasted the best part of a decade trying to pin the nazi tail on the BNP - it has not worked, mainly because it cannot work.
What is urgently needed is a recognition that grasps the need to separate the BNP from its voting base (a base that I would argue is not largely made up of fascists, and certainly not made up of Nazis) and possibly even its supporters from its permanent membership. Its supporters are pissed off white working class people in unfashionable areas who have no voice - in large part because the Labour party (and the wider left?) long ago lost interest in them.
Then again - the left could just carry on shouting Nazi at everyone?
Second, David Rosenberg at #21 (Atzmon link added by me):
 If you haven’t read it, “East London for Mosley 1933-40″ by Thomas Linehan is worth looking at - it backs up what you say about the class basis of fascism against the received wisdom of orthodox marxists, showing wide support across a range of working class occupations and communities in East London and South West Essex for Mosley’s BUF.
You’ve given part of the story of the aftermath of Cable Street.In the week before the march 77,000 people signed a petition organised by the Jewish People’s Council against Fascism calling on the march to be banned - the Home Secretary refused to consider this, though a few weeks earlier when Mosley was marching through Leeds the local police took a decision to divert the march away for the Jewish area.
A point that is not fully appreciated about Mosley’s plans for October 4th is that if you look at the ad in the BUF’s paper the week before it refers to “four marching columns” and “four great meetings” - so it really was an attempt at a military style invasion of the area. Whatever meetings the BUF had after that they didn’t try that style of operation again. After Cable street, the BUF did have some further street meetings on the outskirts of the area it had wanted to march through on October 4th. It didn’t attempt to meet in the streets it had been denied by 250,000 to 300,000 anti-fascists on October 4th.
They picked up some 2000 new members in the 6-8 weeks after the Battle of Cable Street - but mainly young bruisers up for a fight rather than ideologically committed recruits and they soon fell away again. Meanwhile as a result of the recriminations after Cable Street many who had dedicated themselves to Mosley stopped believing in their leader’s ability, and split off or gave up. Mosley’s paper, the Blackshirt, acknowledged Cable street as a humiliation (but vowed revenge). Overall it was a powerful blow to the fascists and a massive boost to the confidence and unity of anti-fascists.
You refer to the “alliance between the hard left and the Jewish community”as if these were seperate entities. Much of the hard left of the area sprung from the Jewish community, but it succeeded in bringing into the fight the hard left from outside the Jewish community - and convincing them that the fight against antisemitism was their fight too - and many Jews who were less political but outraged both by the fascists and by the local rabbis and Jewish communal leaders urging them to stay in and ignore the fascists.I think you overestimate the success with getting local clergy on board - some like Father Groser played a key role but many others continued to spout antisemitism from the pulpit and some of the Irish catholic labour Councillors in Stepney openly supported Franco in the Spanish Civil war. The real work in bringing together the Jewish and Irish catholic communities of the East End was done through the Tenants Defence committees.
Anyway, thought provoking post. Just noticed elsewhere that the SWP’s (former?) favourite sax player has distinguished himself with a new piece in something called “dissident voice” telling us how prophetic the protocols of the elders of the elders of Zion were - seems like as the film concludes Mosley’s antisemitic messages live on after his death.
But I do think Mosley was offering his recruits more than racist rhetoric and I think Griffin does as well - so in developing our tactics for confronting and winning first-time BNP voters away from them we have to understand the appeal of fascism as well as simplistic racist narratives.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mixing it up

Post of the week:

Hagley Road to Ladywood: A plea to the Left: ditch the pompous language!

The Left's most important challenge: attracting activists and MPs that don't stem from the inner circle of academia, research and "think tanks".

One thing at the back of my mind has been bugging me for a while.

It was brought back to the fore by a paper called Culture and Society, Then and Now that I recently attempted to read/decipher. Published not long ago in the New Left Review journal, it was written by a critical theorist called Francis Mulhern.

In itself the paper contains a number of interesting thoughts and analyses from a leftist perspective. One, for instance, is Mulhern's critique of 'multiculturalism' as a sort of fig leaf for the liberal establishment to deflect from fundamental questions about class and inequality. This is, however, a summary. A very crude summary of an incredibly complex piece.

Which begs the question: the revolting, inaccessible, superelitist way so many people on the Left insist on writing/speaking, effectively putting off a massive pool of people with a potential to find both hope and political inspiration in certain ideas. [READ THE REST.]
Related: the IWCA on New Labour's crocodile tears for the white working class, and why the right-wing press sometimes get it better than the Guardian does.

Other things:

Fascism and anti-fascism:
AGT on so-called Autonomous nationalists and national anarchists. LFF on Nick Griffin and the Holocaust deniers.

UK politricks:
A campaign against the Tories and the fascists - as discussed by the Shirazites and the Coatesists. Meanwhile, Phil leaves the Socialist Party, finding life in the Labour dog yet.

Next Left marks the passing of the great Colin Ward. As does Five Leaves. (Latter via La Brigada.) And just saw lots more from Andy.

Bob's beats
Graeme on an awesome event in musical history, the birth of Black Sabbath. Louis Armstrong at his best with "Go Down Moses" from ANABlog. Mark Steyn on Bobby Charles (who we met here), via Mick H. And Latino border music from Mick himself.

Me elsewhere:
I have had a few posts lately at Contested Terrain, a platform against antisemitism and for emancipation. Most recently, this post is simply a collection of resources on antisemitism in the "anti-globalisation" movement, which I collected when the wikipedia page on that topic was nominated for deletion. Along similar lines, I posted sections from Wikipedia article on Press TV at AGT, when had large sections deleted from it and moved to a new article Press TV controversies which was also  nominated for deletion (so far still there). And here's me inserting myself, and Alabama 3, into Harpy's miserable song meme, which no one tagged me for.

Me here:
Two posts recently had extensive comment threads, which you might have missed, as there was a bit of a timelag: on the New Israel Fund and, earlier, on Chomsky and the Vietnam war. A couple of posts I added updates to, so again you might have missed, include on 22 Bahman in Iran and on Gita Sahgal at Amnesty.

Other recommended miscellanies:
Roland, Modernity, Poumista.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I know this is rather late, but I just read this long and moving piece by Kateland about the Porajmos, the Nazi Holocaust against the Roma people. It is not easy reading, but please read it. And as you read and as you listen to the first song below which I've taken from there, think of three-year-old Mate Csorba, a Roma boy from Tatárszentgyörgy in Hungary, whose father and older brother were shot dead a year ago by racists as they tried to flee their home, which was burnt down; think of the residents of the 40-year old Casilino 900 camp in Rome, which is being bulldozed by the municipal governement of post-fascist Gianni Alemanno; think of the 100 Romanian Roma evicted from their homes in Miercurea Ciuc last year and encarcerated in metal cabins behind a sewage plant where they remain.

From Greece, Abravanel posts some 1940s music by Alekos Gouveris and Vassilis Tsitsanis, a song of longing for a Jewish girl who escapes deportation to the Nazi extermination camps.Scroll down for the English - although this is perhaps a better translation of the middle verse:
I ache when I think of the beautiful evenings
when you tenderly gave me promises, kisses, caresses.
And when you listen to that, think of the Tree of Life synagogue in Chania, Crete, attacked by arsonists twice in 19 days, after many other violent attacks and desecrations on Jews across Greece last year, and several attacks on migrants in Chania by neo-Nazis; and think of the dozens or possibly hundreds of migrants who drown every year in the Aegean sea, trying to escape unliveable lives.

UPDATE: Donate books to Crete's synagogue. UPDATE 2: Greek Shoah monuments in Israel.

Previous: Never again, Remembering (2009), Fascism watch: Italy, Mr. Alemanno strikes again…, Saban Bajramovic z''l, , Far Outliers in Salonica, Miserilou.
See also: Strange coalitions of the third kind, Pogroms and Death Camps, Rebetika, Poemas del rio Wang, Racism in Italy.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Marxism, Moonbattery... and Marxism

The recent welcome return to blogging of Judeosphere has meant a return of his occassional series, "Marxists versus Moonbats", In the series (1, 2 and 3), as he puts it, he records "the latest debate between the Moonbats (a.k.a. the nouveau Loony Left) and the Marxists (a.k.a. the Dinosaur Left)". I took the liberty of adding a contribution to the series while 'Sphere took time off. Any leftist not shamed by the antics of Yvonne Ridley and James Petras and their ilk is seriously deficient.

I have a somewhat different conception of Marxism than Judeosphere, however. For me, it is a central article of my faith (and I admit that there is a sense of religious faith about this) that Marx's ideas are an absolutely necessary element in understanding our world today, a world in which the relentless destructive creativity of capitalism is depleting the earth's resources at a breakneck pace, a world in which the vast majority of humans live unliveable lives, a world in which wars continue without end, a world shaped for the profits of the few and not the happiness of the many. Marx's analysis is, for me, confirmed and not refuted by the changes we have seen since his death, such as the entry of lands like China into the capitalist system and the immense misery resulting from that (without any accompanying development of the liberal freedoms capitalism's defenders claim is the system's inevitable accompaniment).

On the other hand, if Marxism is necessary, it is not sufficient. It is not sufficient, for example, for understanding and confronting the human capacity for cruelty exemplified by events like the Holocaust which have only an indirect relationship to capitalism. Marxism is not sufficient either, for example, for understanding the enormous qualititive difference between capitalist liberal democracies and their genuiune and worth fighting for freedoms, on the one hand, and equally capitalist but far more monstrous totalitarian states. Marxists who are not also defenders of freedom and democracy are not on my side.

With this in mind, I strrongly urge you to read Terry Glavin's post here, which approaches this issue from a number of angles. I also urge you to read, if you haven't already, Peter Ryley's pair of posts about the false analogies some folks draw between fascism and Stalinism and fascism and liberalism. And I strongly urge you to read the two fine talks on the history of antisemitism by two important left-wing members of my trade union, at least one of whom remains a Marxist: Robert Fine and Phillip Spencer. Finally, I urge you to read this interview with Moishe Postone, one of the most important Marxist theorists alive today, on Zionism, antisemitism and the left.

Not of quite the same calibre as those pieces of writing, this seems like a good place, too, to flag the issue I've been interested in recently and wrote a short post about at Contested Terrain: the failure of some sections of the Marxist left to understand the moral difference between fascism and ordinary capitalism, and where that failure leads. And I also recommend this, via CT, 'The Anti-Imperialism of Fools’: A Cautionary Story on the Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard of England’s Post-9/11 Anti-War Movement (pdf) by the AWL's Camila Bassi.

Related posts: Iran, drawing clear lines; Iran and the left, continued; Between Burke and Paine in the twenty-first centuryThe left's old neighbourhood; The conservatism of the anti-war "radicals"; The trad left; A lexicon for our times.

Israel and Iran

Meanderings from Martin Meenagh. (The post he refers to, which has occassioned a lively Bob From Brockley debate, is this one.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

God’s only excuse…

From Tehran with love. (Via Noga, who calls it a howl of desperation from Selma, in response to this.)

Update 11 Feb/22 Bahman: Follow today's protests in Iran at the Guardian (via Stotty). (Other sources linked to here likely to also have coverage. More links here.)

Update 12 Feb/23 Bahman: They stand together, where are we?

And look at this disgraceful response from MRZine (via NeoResistance).

Update 15 Feb/26 Bahman: Dissappointed to notice that Lenin's Tomb saw fit to publish what I referred to above as a disgraceful response - by Yoshie and entitled "The Islamic Revolution Defeats Western Hopes for Regime Change". Richard Seymour and the SWP have much more sensible views on the Iranian uprising. Why on earth to they continue to give airspace to these pro-fascist views?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Defend Gita Sahgal!

A courageous feminist sacked for blowing the whistle on Amnesty's relationship with the Moazzam Begg's Islamist front Cageprisoners. More from Stroppy and Martin Bright.

Update: More from HP 1 & 2.
Update 2: Also Airforce Amazons, FiG, Terry.
Update 3: And Francis Sedgemore, Paul Stott.
Update 4: And David Aaronovitch.
Update 5: Comrade Coates, on Andy Newman's disgraceful cultural relatavist attack on Gita.
Update 6: For the sake of balance, HarpyMarx.
Upate 7: Via Harpy, Gita Sahgal vs Asim Qureshi on the BBC. Transcript from Earwicga.
UPDATE 8: Again via Harpy, Women Against Fundamentalism and Southall Black Sisters statement on Amnesty International. (Original here.)
Update 9: Dennis MacShane's open letter to Amnesty.
Update 10: Stroppy on the boys at IslamophobiaWatch; Rahila Gupta on Amnesty's double standards; loads more at the excellent Spittoon.
UPDATE 11: Gita on the Today Programmetranscript via FiG. Alternative transcript Earwicga.
Update 12: Joan Smith.
Update 13: Gita Sahgal interviewed in Variant 2002 (via Mod).
Updates 14 (February 15): Gita profiled; Sam Zarifi supports Gita; Tom Gallager on AI's flight from universalism.
Update 15: From this side, Christopher Hitchens. From the other side, Harpy again and Sunny. From the fence, Dave Bones. And keep checking The Spittoon.
Update 16: Women Living Under Muslim Laws statement (via Harpy once more).
Update 17: Salman Rushdie statement, a bit excessive in his sweeping denunciation of AI (via you guessed it, where Rachel Davenport's comment is close to my own views.)
Update 18: I missed these two from Nick Cohen, not sure how: Amnesty Int. & Megagreed Plc; Tyranny's Friends at Amnesty (includes extract from  Waiting for the Etonians "on how everything started to go wrong for Amnesty in the middle of the last decade").

Previous: Wimmin and cohesion; Kamm, Rushdie and the secular left; Decentism and defectors, lumpen and otherwise (on the politics of unsavoury alliances.
Background: Martin M on Southall Black Sisters. Women Against Fundamentalism. Southall Black Sisters. Human Rights for All. Amnesty International UK.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Local blog for local people 2

Max has been blogging incredibly prolifically late, and any Lewishamites among my readers should check it out: crazy golf in Hither Green, Mayor Bullock's school place idiocy, sentimental attachment to un-regenerated Lewisham, the possible imminent death of another great local pub, it's all there folks.

And a little newer in the localsphere, Green Crofton Park, whose main author's other blog is already on my roll. Topics include: fear of crime, ghost trains, Brockley as a transition town. Hat tip: Sue.

(Nice and ecumenical me: that's one Lib Dem and one Green. For balance, there is the People Before Profit party standing for Lewisham Mayor, and the Socialist Party campaigning in Telegraph Hill. Still, I'll be voting Labour this year.)

I already linked to this tirade against "tedious trade union turncoats" by Julie Burchill. I forgot, though, to mention her mention of the battle of Lewisham:
I suppose I haven’t really moved on, intellectually, from when I was 17 and broke ranks to run at the National Front, as they were marching through Lewisham, screaming: “You hate Jews, you will die!” and coming this close to being crushed by a police horse.
But then I have not changed sides, either, unlike a lot of other so-called left-wing people who certainly have — by becoming the kind of antisemitic fascist who has driven so many good socialists out of the UCU.*

Less politically, I have added the Brockley Jack Film Club to the blogroll. Here's why.

(Image: Malpas Road, c/o Nick Barron, from here.)
*Hyperlinks added. -B.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Urgent action: support the New Israel Fund

That’s what happened last week when a new organization made a big splash in Israel by accusing the New Israel Fund and its grantees of being behind the Goldstone Report. Timed to capitalize on the anger many Israelis feel about the Goldstone conclusions, and personalized with a particularly despicable attack on NIF President Naomi Chazan, the attack was the latest salvo in a coordinated attempt to de-legitimize civil society, repress the activities of the human rights community and weaken Israeli democracy. It comes as no surprise to discover that this new group is funded by the same abundant money that flows to extremist settlers’ organizations, including a sizable contribution from John Hagee’s “Christians United for Israel” – a group that once stated that “Hitler was carrying out God’s will.”

To our many friends and supporters who have already leapt to our defense, thank you. To those of you who know the New Israel Fund as the leading organization advancing democracy and equality in Israel, with a thirty-year record of serious accomplishment, we ask you to support us as we combat the increasingly authoritarian and extremist ideology taking hold in Israel.

This is the latest in a series of attacks on the social justice community in Israel.
Read the rest. (H/t Arieh)

UPDATE: Read this excellent post at Greens Engage, on defending democracy in Israel and defending Jews outside Israel.

UPDATE 2: More links: The attacks against NIF and why J Street could use a little schooling from Peace Now (Ron Kampeas, h/t Judeosphere); Centrist Organization Im Tirtzu Decried as “Fascist” By Israeli (and Jewish) Left (The New Centrist); and several from Meretz USA: "Im Tirtzu" - a creature of John Hagee?, Meretz MK Horowitz: Inquiry Committee against the New Israel Fund is "political persecution", Chazan, Burg, Indyk at NIF forum. See also the comments thread below.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Blues for Bobby Charles

January was a bad month for soul music, with the passing of Teddy Pendergrass and the great Willie Mitchell. Perhaps less significant than either of them but a personal favourite of mine was Bobby Charles, who died in the same week. If the name is not familiar, the songs may be: "See You Later, Alligator", "Small Town Talk", "Walking To New Orleans". I first knew him from “Down South in New Orleans” on The Band's Last Waltz (which you can see in the video below, with Dr John playing guitar and beret). Read some lovely appreciations at Home of the Groove, Groovescapes, Aquarium Drunkard, Naive Harmonies and Groover's Paradise.

Another passing to mark: that of Mick Green, British guitar hero.

Previous: Soul Power, Jerry Wexler, Ellie Greenwich.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Gnome Chomsky 3: Illiterate graffiti for a post-literate age

Continuing my monthly series of garden Noams.

From Jeff Trexler:

Gnome Non-Chomsky, originally uploaded by samwibatt.
Graffiti in Salt Lake City apparently tries to go for a Gnome Chomsky joke, but the artist appears to confuse intellectuals--though Chomsky's propaganda model resonates with McLuhan's media theory, "the medium is the message" is, of course, not a quote from Chomsky, but McLuhan.
Check back the 1st of next month