Thursday, August 25, 2011


Andrew Coates sums up the honourable leftist position on Libya here, and weighs into the chav debate here. // I think I've already linked to Juan Cole on Libya, but I'll do it again anyway. // I haven't looked at False Dichotomies for ages, and am not sure why, because it is excellent, with some fascinating recent material on Kashmir among other things. // New to me: The Arid Zone. // Here's Roland and TNC on postmodernism and the death of solidarity - well worth your time. // Hizballah in America - scary stuff. // Dave Rich on Latuff in the Guardian. // Apologies for the messed up formatting and dissappeared blogroll on the blog. I'll sort it out after the Bank Holiday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mermaid dawn

Post of the week: 
The Pitman’s Requiem, by Harry Barnes.

Congratulations to the people of Libya, who, supported by NATO forces, are taking their destiny into their own hands. I have been pessimistically and with many qualifications supportive of the intervention, so, although this may not be the time for gloating and I-told-you-so-ism, it’s hard not to feel a twinge of vindication. Jeff Weintraub writes up Sunday’s world-changing events, the latest chapter in the Arab 1848. He also passes on some of the analysis:
As Juan Cole pointed out in a Sunday morning post on "The Great Tripoli Uprising", it's also valuable that the uprising against Gadaffi's dictatorship wound up spanning the whole country, rather than taking the form of a regional civil war...

Ever since the uprising against Gadaffi began in February, Cole has "unabashedly" sided with the "liberation movement" in Libya and argued that it deserved support and assistance from the outside world–a position that produced consternation and dismay among many of his usual fans, who expected him to share their knee-jerk opposition to any kind of western involvement or intervention. (In March Cole came out swinging against that perspective in his Open Letter to the Left on Libya, a cogent and persuasive piece which is worth reading wherever you fall on the political spectrum.) So I think he's entitled to feel some vindication, too.
Jeff wisely concludes:
At such moments, any temptations toward euphoria have to be restrained by a recognition that future developments are unpredictable and potentially unpleasant. Overthrowing oppressive and tyrannical regimes is often hard, but successfully reconstructing the societies that they've damaged, distorted, and poisoned by their rule is usually even harder. Still, a certain degree of satisfaction is appropriate. We seem to be witnessing the overthrow of an especially ugly and contemptible dictatorship, which over the decades piled up a lot of crimes at home and abroad, by a genuine popular uprising. That's something to be celebrated. The hangover will come later.
Juan Cole also has a fine post here, on the ten myths of the Libyan intervention. My comrade Terry Glavin has been a strong voice in favour of the intervention. He writes:
You know what? I'm not going to say "I hate to say I told you so." I don't hate it at all this afternoon. I am raising a glass to the Libyan rebel front, to their bedraggled courage and persistence, to the crew of the HMCS Charlottetown, and to France. As for the frightwallah Robert Spencer, the red fascist anti-rebel George Galloway (Gaddafi "has the men, he has the money, he has the track record, by jingo if he decides to come out fighting. . ."), the interference-running reactionary isolationist Canadian Peace Alliance - which was "opposed to any military intevention in Libya", the NDP party brass that has opposed regime change all along, the delicate footdraggers, the hollow boasters, the "quagmire" cassandras of the right and of the demented-hippie left, even though it's nowhere near over yet (the revolution will never be "over"), you can all kiss Libyan rebel ass, and my rosy Irish ass while you're at it. 
Norm has also tracked some of the ways in which the Guardian's infoolectuals have been confounded, including the Stalinist Seamus Milne and fellow traveller Jonathan Steele.
While the liberals are confounded, the Stoppers are disgusting in their torturous, slimy, patronising bullshit. More sane, but therefore more pernicious, than the truly unbelievable Healyite WRP (h/t Phil and Andy. Phil takes a different position from me, but is well worth reading. I've stolen the pic above from him.)

The Arab 1848:
As well as Libya, here's an interesting report from Syria. Another from Egypt, about women's freedom post-revolution, and Bahrain, on labour militancy

The riots:
A couple of addenda to my long riots round-upMartin Robb (highly recommended). And Zizek via Norman Geras, who takes the opportunity for an interesting digression on Marxism. And Zygmunt Bauman. And here's the Hackney heroine.

The myth of Anwar al-Awlaki: 
This post by J.M. Berger is a fantastic exercise in piercing the bloated idiocy of the liberal commentariat (exemplar: Glenn Greenwald) and their empty platitudes about Islamism. Although Berger doesn’t say this, one implicit point is that when liberal infoolectuals talk about the essential unknowability of someone like al-Awlaki, they are basically being racist, and repeating the age-old trope of the “inscrutable” orient. In fact, al-Awlaki, like bin Laden, is very easy to understand: All you have to do is press "play."

EDL news: 
Malatesta once again dishes the dirt on the English Defence League. In this dispatch, we get the struggle between ex-EDL Roberta Moore, supporter of terrorism, and Hel Gower, certified Nazi and ex-Combat 18, who represent the two souls of the EDL, neither of them pretty. We also get some cover of the Infidels, who we might call the Continuity EDL, the ones who have no time for fake Zionist posturing and don’t mind if everyone knows it’s all Muslims they want to kill, not just the immoderate ones. The Infidels, worryingly, seem to be gaining ground, especially in the North.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Slowly catching up 3: Other things

OK, we're nearly there folks.

Especially highly recommended:  
Peter Ryley’s “A matter of life and death”, written under the Greek stars after the Norway killings, on what an emancipatory politics, in Greece, in Israel/Palestine and here, should be. (This interview with anti-fascist veteran Karl Pfeifer exemplifies some of Peter’s points, I think.)

The Arab spring and its stormy summer:  
The wave of liberation that swept has swept the Middle East in 2011 continues to crash against the rocky shores of authoritarianism. The US debt crisis, Republican Party soap opera, British social unrest and Eurozone meltdown have pushed the Middle East out of the mainstream media’s fickle gaze, but there is a lot going on. In Tunisia, the revolution has stalled somewhat, the labour movement is demanding a new revolution, and the state turns on the people with teargas. In Syria, the brutal Assad regime is becoming more and more homicidal against its citizenry. Some 5,000 Palestinian refugees have been forced to flee a camp in the Syrian port of Latakia amid shelling by government forces, to very little attention from those who describe themselves as pro-Palestinian. In Gaza, Hamas forcibly disperses protestors in solidarity with Assad’s Palestinian victims, showing which side of the conflict it is on.

In Egypt, the revolution is also moving really slowly, if at all. I strongly recommend Yasmin Salem’s blog, Chronicle of a (post)revolution, documenting life on the streets of Cairo. Here’s an interesting interview with Jano Charbel, an anarcho-syndicalist based in Egypt, and here is his blog, not updated since July. From Libya, here is an optimistic article on civil society breaking through in the rebel territories. And Israel is of course not immune from this wave of dissent. Finally, from a very different angle, a great post on the difficulty of naming a baby for an Israeli Arab.

The Atzmon dossier: 
 The appalling “professional ex-Jew-turned-Judeophobe” and saxophonist Gilad Atzmon continues to get more and more malignant. I’ve already mentioned his suggestion that Anders Behring Breivik might be “a Sabbath Goy”, killing Norwegian leftists in vengeance for boycotting Israel. Another new leaf in the Atzmon dossier, reported in the previous comments by Morbid Symptoms, is the planned publication by Zero Books of something by him. (Related stuff from David Aaronovitch.) Reuben at the Third Estate leads the call for a publicity boycott of the publisher. Reuben catches a glimpse of why Zero made this terrible decision: “I have encountered [people] amongst my political milieu who seem to react with cynicism to every claim of anti-Semitism, and indeed only seem to mention the word for the purposes of asserting what isn’t anti-Semitic.” I wouldn’t really want to give any publicity to the publisher of Richard Seymour and Laurie Penny myself, but to be fair to Seymour (who once called for my ankles to be cut off), even he once recognised that the SWP’s favourite sax player is “disgraceful, incoherent and completely at odds with what the SWP stands for”.
Update: I note Zero also publishes Owen Hatherley, who I do have time for, so I take some of that back. Maybe he might disassociate himself from the Atzmon decision?
Update 2: I just spotted the following admirable sentiment at Lenin’s Tomb, from December, so maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on Seymour either:
In an even more alarming example, the radical US magazine Counterpunch has published an article co-written by a notorious antisemite and Holocaust denier who prefers to be called 'Israel Shamir', which imputed the rape allegations to a CIA plant, and called for the protection of Assange from "castrating feminists". Shamir claims to represent Wikileaks in Russia, though he was outed by Searchlight magazine as an ex-pat Swedish neo-Nazi named Joran Jermas some years ago. Not everyone knows who Shamir is, but if Wikileaks doesn't have the sense to check him out, I would expect that Counterpunch should. Still, if they can tolerate a clown like Gilad Atzmon, opening the magazine up to a closeted neo-Nazi to spew misogyny may not be a big step. And if so, that reflects a wider degeneration of Alexander Cockburn's political judgment, which has also manifested itself in some quite kooky output about global warming.
But if you read only one thing about Atzmon, especially if you also love jazz, read Jim Denham’s open letter, “Listen, Atzmon, you piece of shit”.

I keep failing to add Rob Marchant’s Centre Left to my blogroll. Although a few notches to my right, Rob’s blog covers many of the issues I touch on here, and I recommend it. I also plan to add Joan Smith to my commentariat section: she blogs at Political Blonde.

I have mentioned Steve Hanson’s excellent blog in my last couple of posts too, but I don’t link to it often enough: found objects, radical psychogeography, nostalgia, anti-nostalgia, the urban uncanny, Old Labour and militant particularism. Another blog I’ve mentioned a few times in the last couple of posts but which has been on particularly good form lately, is the youthful and contrarian leftist group blog, The Third Estate. See, for example, Reuben on David Starkey and the National Secular Society, and the other pieces on the riots I already linked to. I’ve also linked to a few History is Made at Night posts, but here are some more: on a Lebanese reggae arrest, and a historical materialist critique of the Star Wars myth. And another sad loss to the blogosphere: Modernity.

South Londonism: 
 I am a big fan of Danny Baker, not quite a national institution in the way he should be, but certainly a London institution. I’ve been listening to BBC London (or GLR as I still call it) in its various incarnations and ups and downs since I moved to the capital as a teenager. I have loved the late Charlie Gillett’s world music show, Norman and Joey Jay’s archetypally London Good Times, the dry wit of Fi Glover, Peter Curran and Sean Hughes. Some of these have gone on to national radio fame, while Danny has toured the national scene and settled back to BBC London, his natural home. He was on Desert Island Discs while I was away. Transpontine pays tribute to him here, and George Szirtes here and here. Sad and strange when someone you don’t know, but feel is a friend, is gravely ill.

Also: From Steve’s blog, here’s my old local, the Marquis of Granby in New Cross. Here is Transpontine on a SE London mural walk and on the Laurie Grove Baths. The Deptford Dame on what a Deptford pudding is. Crosswhatfields has a post on the Convoys Wharf site in Deptford, which I have blogged in my South London and global capital series over the years (and my bigger, Chinese imperialism series). The site is owned by Hong Kong based megacorporation Hutchison Whampoa who are exhibiting new plans to create a massive luxury housing complex there (the previous application was accepted by Lewisham a few years back, but sabotaged by Ken Livingstone in one of his last acts as mayor of London). The post highlights the continuing role of the previous owners, the utterly discredited Murdoch family empire, News International.

 I checked in on Spiked to see if they’d have anything interesting to say on the riots. Some was worth reading, if completely predictable cut and paste of the Spiked take on everything else. And, as usual, Nathalie Rothschild’s reports from Israel and Palestine make a welcome break from the usual fare on the left. However, other stuff made my stomach churn, such as the fact they gave Thilo Sarrazin a platform. I disagree with very little Brendan O’Neill says here (not least his critique of the anti-multiculturalism backlash), but just because someone is vilified by the chattering classes does not make them worth taking the effort to defend. Similarly, Angus Kennedy is right to argue against the banning of Mein Kampf and other “hate” books, but to reduce the attempt to keep fascism out of the public sphere to mere “elitist fear” is morally bankrupt. Dennis Hayes on the Doha debates is appalling, with a claim that the West is more censorious than the Arab world, which is a mirroring of the Western-centrism they accuse liberals of and is an insult to all of the dissidents being shot in Syria, still languishing in prison in Egypt, silenced in Saudi, and so on. And last months defence of the Murdoch empire and the News of the World, as heroic exemplars of free speech stifled by the liberal elite, is also sickening (although they are right to decry the chattering classes’ disparagement of tabloid readers).

Bob’s beats: 
 Read Jim Denham on why Louis Armstrong is still the greatest. And we conclude with Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”, in honour of bassist Grant Marshall, who died this month, whose distinctive style defines the sound we think of as Cash’s:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Slowly catching up 2: Counter-jihad and right-wing terror

In this post: Andres Breivik, Counter-jihad, the English Defence League, its "Jewish" Division, Zionist conspiracies, cultural Marxism, Lyndon LaRouche, and more...
The horrific massacre in Norway occurred just before I went away, and I was too busy to put my thoughts down then, and most of what I would have said then has been said by others since. It was striking to see the way that many of my allies in the battle against the clear and present threat posed by militant Islam reacted almost with morbid glee at the first reports of the massacre, when it was assumed it was perpetrated by an al-Qaeda operative or suchlike; the outrage confirmed their diagnosis that Europe is fast becoming enflamed in the clash of civilizations. It was similarly striking several hours later, as it became clear the perpetrator was a right-wing Aryan, to see the similar, gloating glee of the pseudo-anti-fascist left.

In my view, we need to avoid both sorts of either/or, with-us-or-against-us monochromatics, and take a more sober look at the threats we face. Much of the commentary took the form of whataboutery, or rhetorical points about double standards, or saying I told you so. A tiny number of commentators, such as Joan Smith, Francis Sedgemore and Nick Cohen, made more sophisticated points.

The fact that the atrocity was committed by an Islamophobe does not mean we can take our eyes off the Islamist danger. But it does impel us to take a hard look at the global counter-jihad movement (“the Vienna School of Thought” as he calls it) from which Anders Breivik emerged, as well as its terrorist fringe.

First, it is important to be clear that this movement, and Breiviks’ own ideology, cannot be reduced to fascism, at least not in its straightforward generic form. For a start, as the CST’s Dave Rich argues, his framing is culture not race; Breiviks explicitly rejects racism and fascism. This is not the empty rhetorical re-branding of the post-fascist Griffinite BNP, but a more profound post-racial reconfiguration of right-wing thought.

As always, Chip Berlet is a knowledgeable source of description of this ideology and milieu. He draws attention to the “Cultural Marxism” element of the worldview. The term “Cultural Marxism” appears some 600 times in Breivik’s manifesto. It is a meme which circulates widely on the conservative internet to the relative ignorance of liberals. At Talk2Action, Berlet writes that “The theoretical lineage of Breivk's thesis is primarily from cultural conservatives William S. Lind and the late Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, and to a lesser extent articles published by the LaRouche network.”

Friday, August 19, 2011

Slowly catching up 1: Flames lambent in Britain

Riots in Lewisham: Image from Guardian
Note: I have been writing this post since Monday, and keep seeing more stuff to add to it, so it has swollen quite a bit, and some of the stuff I have extracted from has been extracted from elsewhere before I got a chance to publish. Not my best blogging moment, but I hope you find something of interest here!

I was out of the country and away from the TV screen and internet during the week that apparently shook Britain. I’m still digesting the news and analysis, and the Bobist party line has not yet taken shape. A Demos bean-counting exercise found a huge gap between the language of left-wing commentators, blaming political and social structures, and right-wing commentators, stressing moral responsibility and the breakdown of community.  Thankfully, however, there is a third line, which attempts to show the complexity and ambivalence of the riots. Exemplary here would be Steve Hanson. Some choice quotes from his “The riots”:
The riots were a kind of consumerist individualization gone loco, the ultimate ‘me’ of the looter, not the ‘us’ of a wider social fabric. I don’t condone the riots, the destruction was immense and the trauma for those affected will be profound, nor do I think they were in some way a political cry, but I cannot bring myself to express admiration for the parents who shopped their son over a packet of chewing gum picked from an already smashed shop window either.
Terrible damage is being done to the language. 'Excuse' 'understand' and 'explain' are under attack. To understand is now to excuse. This is a disturbing political development. As embodied in the words of David Davies MP/ Special Constable: "Anyone who ever blamed the police for kettling or brutality [is] to blame." If that isn't a latter day Angry Brigade invitation to a police state, I don't know what is. The abuse of the word 'community' has been particularly interesting. Diane Abbot especially allowing herself to be trapped by retrospective community disease, inventing 'communities' which hadn't existed for 20 years. Burning Western Union is not burning 'The Community'. Communities don't create mobs who burn the high street. Communities create order and consensus. What they mean by community is a row of identikit corporate outlets, defining what we respect and aspire to.
Property defines our culture, morals, and politics, the destruction of property is therefore by definition a political act, conscious or not. Crime is political. And law and order only fails when political trust has failed. When the social contract breaks down, laws and morals are meaningless. And they are only the product of our value-system, anyway. Last night was what No Such Thing as Society looks like.
There have been a number of interesting reports on the riots in my corner of South London. Transpontine reported on riots and rumours of riots in New Cross and Deptford and sums up some of the local coverage. Lia Gilardi reported from Brixton. Brockley Central, of course, have huge amounts of coverage from the area, including the faint echoes here in Brockley itself, and published an interesting anatomy of the riots in Lewisham. There was a carrotmob in Lewisham, to support local businesses, organised by Councillor Mike Harris (an occasional guest poster here), and Lifetime Barbers soldiered on. Francis also reports from Lewisham. Crosswhatfields from Deptford. Little Richardjohn reports from Peckham. Heather Wakefield analyses the causes in Lewisham as a borough. 853 has a series of reports on Woolwich, one of the worst hit London town centres but more or less ignored (along with Bromley, Walworth and to a lesser extent Catford) by the mainstream media: for example looking at  the Woolwich wall, and the aftermath and the media coverage.

Raven reported from Eltham and Malatesta pithily sum up the English Defence League rioters there:

Slowly catching up

I was away for a while, and before and after was too busy at work to spend any time blogging. Since returning, however, I have been slowly trawling through my inbox, links, Twitter and so on, and reading up about the riots, about the far right in the UK, about Gilad Atzmon, and various other things. I am about to post one long post I have been slowly assembling all week about the riots, and then I will schedule two more posts, one on right-wing extremism and one on everything else, to go live on Saturday and Sunday. I normally try and spread out long posts, but I've got a backlog to get through. Please tuck in in the comment boxes, and avoid abusive language or boring screeds about Zionism.