Today’s Left and its Blindspots
The following exchange of views, on Twitter, between myself and the comrade who uses the name Southpawpunch, is worth reproducing as it illustrates how even some of the most revolutionary-minded elements on the existing left have crucial political blindspots and preconceptions about political events, that prevent them from seeing the obvious when it is before them.
Southpawpunch objects violently to my headline describing the removal from office of Lutfur Rahman, the elected mayor of Tower Hamlets, as a “Neocon/Zionist coup” and argues that to make such a characterisation is a sign of ‘leaving the left’ on behalf of the person who made it (i.e. myself).
But the problem with this is that it is easy to demonstrate that main ruling class forces pushing for the removal of Lutfur Rahman do have such sympathies, are neo-conservative and Zionist in their politics, and have a strong anti-Muslim agenda on the basis of those politics. The chief being the Tory Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, who as I pointed out in the leaflet whose headline Southpaw is objecting to, is a stalwart of the Conservative Friends of Israel, and who has been instrumental in attacking academic freedom, i.e. free speech and freedom of debate, concretely over the Southampton University conference on Israel and ‘international law’, which was supposed to take place on 17-19 April. It is instructive, when looking at Pickles’ role and politics, to examine his own political profile on the question of free speech, as shown here (clicking on the image will take you to the original page on the Conservative Friends of Israel website):
It is probably worth also looking at the response of the legal system, as representing the ruling class, to see that Pickles is not just, for argument’s sake, an individual maverick politician abusing his power, but reflects wider ruling class policy. For instance, the page below from Southampton University’s website contains a summary of the legal arguments used by the judges in the High Court to back up the University’s cancellation of the conference in the face of threats and lobbying from Zionists, with Pickles at their head (again, click on the image to open):
It does not take any great insight or logical talent to see the Orwellian language, which reaffirms the right of free speech in words, while denying it in practice, in the court judgement as reported by the University.
Is it then correct for the actions of Pickles in this case to be characterised as an action of Zionists, or supporters of Zionism, against democratic rights? Does the evidence above show that this political characterisation is correct, and that the bourgeois state is backing up this action and making it stick.
I submit that the evidence cited above is decisive, both formally, and in terms of content. The banning of a conference such as this is not simply a reflection of ruling class interests in the abstract sense, but of concrete ruling class elements who politically support Zionism.
How can any Marxist object to this on grounds of either formal logic, or anything higher?
With the Lutfur Rahman case, the same prominent forces are obviously involved. This whole project of overruling the electorate in Tower Hamlets was driven politically by Eric Pickles, the very same minister with the very same politics. Other individuals were involved, of course, who petitioned the courts. But the same legal system was also decisively involved, in deciding on the basis of ruling class interests on a similar basis to the Southampton University case.
In terms of concrete political interests driving this, it should be borne in mind that the electorate in Tower Hamlets is the same section of the population, broadly speaking, that elected George Galloway, a hate figure for Zionists and Neoconservatives, in 2005. I pointed out the political background of this in the leaflet/article whose headline Southpaw objects to so vehemently.
But it does not require some improbable or outlandish theory about motives to discern why pro-Zionist ruling class elements like Pickles should receive the backing of the courts to pursue a political vendetta against such a Muslim electorate. Western support is very important to Israel, and the growth of political influence and power of a disaffected Muslim electorate whose natural sympathies are with the Palestinian victims of Israel, and is capable of electing politicians like Galloway, is contrary to Israeli interests. Therefore it is in Israeli/Zionist interests that such a development be curbed. For a politician like Pickles, with both his own views, and representing a government dominated by a party 80% of whose MP’s support the Conservative Friends of Israel, to do this is an obvious case of simple causality.
This is not some outlandish or esoteric theory. It is so mundane and straightforward in its logic that many would call it “stating the bleeding obvious”.
But for Southpaw, this logic is some sort of ticket to hell, an exit from the left, and a very dark place. I reproduce the rest of the exchange below:
To give this a bit more context, the reference to ‘Coates and co’ is a reference to the website of Andrew Coates, who I would today describe as a ‘far-left’ neoconservative, an advocate of military intervention particularly in the Muslim world to bring ‘democracy’, and a fellow traveller of the overtly Zionist so-called ‘far left’ trend known as the Alliance for Workers Liberty.
Southpaw is someone who regularly comments on Coates’ blog and others of the same ilk, promoting quite reasonable and principled left-wing, anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist views against these social-imperialists. But there is a flaw in his understanding, as can be seen above. He still regards them as part of ‘the left’.
Southpaw considers that the logic behind my headline indicting the “Neocon/Zionist coup” is reminiscent of “LaRouche, not Lenin”. This refers to a one-time leftist leader in the United States, Lyndon LaRouche (aka Lyn Marcus) who in the 1970s, through the medium of strange obsessions about sex, homophobia, and paranoid obsessions about persecution by the forces of the US state and ‘Zionists’, who, having developed highly sophisticated techniques of brainwashing his followers to believe strange and esoteric things, evolved politically from the far left to the far right.
But there is no esoterica lurking behind the logic that justified my headline. It is very straightforward and simple, as noted above.
The real, underlying reason why Southpaw recoils instinctively from my slogan is not because of any similarity with the bizarre logic of LaRouche. It is rather in part because of cultural conditioning, and in part because of a flawed, politically soft conception of what constitutes ‘the left’, which includes people like Coates.
The cultural conditioning is regarding the fear that if you acknowledge that Zionists, i.e. at core, supporters of a kind of Jewish pseudo-nationalism (“pseudo” because Jews are not actually a nation), are involved in activities that undermine the democratic rights of sections of the population in Western countries, then the very admission of such a thing evokes nasty stereotypes of Jewish perfidy and untrustworthiness that were characteristic of anti-Semitic demonology. Hence his speaking of a likely “dark” destination as a consequence believing that my headline is politically accurate.
But here cultural conditioning comes up against social reality. Is either my evidence or my political logic, faulty? If so, in what way? Southpaw does not actually say how it is faulty, or challenge its accuracy. Surely, if anything can feed false generalisations about Jews or anyone else, it is the sense that oppressive behaviour by some Jews (and even non-Jewish fellow-travellers of Zionism) cannot be challenged without a sinister motive being impugned.
Then there is the second aspect – the conception that Coates and co are part of ‘the Left’. Implicit also in Southpaw’s conception is that by being too strident against ‘Zionism’ etc, one is writing oneself out of a ‘Left’ that includes the likes of Coates.
As evidence of this, I would point to his own tweeted remarks that their anti-Muslim racism is merely ‘unconscious’, and the separation in his conception. He says that their Zionism is ‘irrelevant’ to, and therefore not the source of, their anti-Muslim racism. Instead, their specific anti-Muslim racism is said to flow from their pro-Labourism.
This again, is illogical. First of all, virulent chauvinist hostility as is regularly displayed by Coates and co is rarely completely ‘unconscious’ of its racist component. There are different levels of conciousness about racism, but advocating bombing people and occupation of countries to bring ‘civilisation’, however defined, certainly contains an element of consciousness.
Secondly, if as Southpaw says, their highly specific form of concentrated anti-Muslim chauvinism/racism derives from their pro-Labourism, how come there are people on the Labour left who strongly disagree with them? Including prominent figures such as Ken Livingstone, who spoke up in Rahman’s defence and who himself has publicly expressed his unease about the anti-democratic nature of what has taken place. No doubt in due course he will get a torrent of abuse from Coates and other similar types.
Again, this logic is not esoteric. It is straightforward: their anti-Muslim racism flows from their specific Zionist/Neoconservative politics, not from their reformism in an abstract sense.
Finally, regarding phenomena that are akin to LaRouchism: Southpaw is looking in the wrong place. Take a look at the graphic below: it is taken from Coates’s site and it is by way of a sampler. It shows links to three articles, all about opposing George Galloway in the current election in Bradford West. All are tagged with the keyword ‘anti-fascism’. Click on the picture, and it will take you to the section of Coates’ site defined by the keyword ‘anti-fascism’, the majority of the articles in which are not about ‘fascism’, but about Muslims and/or Galloway.
In other words, these neocons are putting about the idea in fighting to defeat Galloway, his various opponents are engaged in an ‘anti-fascist’ struggle and therefore Galloway is a fascist.
It may be that many on the left have become so familiar with this kind of ranting from the AWL and its fellow travellers that they have become blasé. On the other hand, it may be that cultural conditioning, that I spoke of earlier, is leading to a excessive sensitivity by many on the left, including serious people like Southpaw, to justified and evidence-based criticism of oppressive and anti-democratic Zionist activities, and an under-sensitivity to the truly grotesque nature of such equations of Muslims in general, and George Galloway as a defender of Muslims in particular, with a fascist threat.
If Galloway is a fascist threat, then almost anything is permissible against him. And there Coates and co really do (or logically ought to) drift onto real LaRouche territory. It is worth recalling that one of the earliest manifestations of the grotesque evolution of LaRouche’s group was Operation Mop-Up, where they defined the American Communist Party as ‘fascists’. The consequences of this were as follows:
“between April and September 1973, during what LaRouche called ‘Operation Mop-Up,’ NCLC members began physically attacking members of leftist groups that LaRouche classified as ‘left-protofascists’; an editorial in LaRouche’s New Solidarity said of the Communist Party that the movement ‘must dispose of this stinking corpse.'” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyndon_LaRouche)
Not that Coates and co, who are mostly aging ex-leftists whose activity is solely confined to the internet, are capable of carrying out anything like ‘Mop-Up’ against Galloway or anyone else. But others – of the Neil Masterson ilk for instance – have already tried their hand at this. More to the point is that this ranting against Galloway and his defenders as ‘fascists’, does not ring the ‘LaRouche’ alarm bells for serious people like Southpaw, but my headline over Tower Hamlets, which can be justified by evidence, does ring those bells.
This is an example of false consciousness and a socially conditioned inversion of reality in mind of the British Left, including serious and thoughtful elements. It is an example of a political weakness that needs to be overcome.
And finally, I trust that it will be obvious to readers familiar with Lenin’s method of argument, that this polemic, despite its use of multimedia, is quite in tune with Lenin’s spirit, contrary to what Southpaw currently believes. The purpose being to change conciousness through rational argument in a Marxist framework.