Friday, December 24, 2004

What Next? 29

A new issue of Bob Pitt's What Next? has at last been announced. Of course, the fact is that most of the articles had already been available on its excellent web-site for a few months. The magazine can be found in Housmans bookshop or purchased by subscription (details on the web-site), but the editor has made it clear that he's not that keen on print subs - he loses money on them. The web-site is pretty functional but has all sorts of goodies on it, including valuable sections on socialist history, Marxist theory and left politics, plus a link to a few old articles from New Interventions and forthcoming articles for What Next?

This issue has a good round in the on-going debate about secularism and the Hijab. 'THE DEFENCE OF MILITANT SECULARISM' by Andrew Coates puts one side, very familiar to habituees of various e-lists. On the other, a strong case is put by Salam Yaqoob in 'HIJAB: A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE' . This is the text of Salma's speech to the London ESF, a speech which certainly delighted her supporters. This is taken from the web-site of the National Assembly Against Racism.

Other articles deal with some other aspects of the politics of the current multicultural clashes in the intersections between identity and racism. I almost used the phrase 'clash of civilizations', but must remember that that is a right-wing self-fulfilling prophecy, coined by a particularly noxious and sinister political specimen. The events in Birmingham over Behzti show how this political field is live, potent and not going away. The aspects dealt with here include: 'THEO VAN GOGH: HERO, ANTI-SEMITE, MISOGYNIST OR ISLAMOPHOBE?' by Herman de Tollenaere. This is nowhere near as controversial as the (in)famous Index on Censorship web article by Rohan Jayasekera) and clearly condemns the murder, but doesn't have much time for van Gogh. 'QARADAWI, KEN BIGLEY AND ISLAMOPHOBIA' by Robert Wilkins is a critical take on the media response to the invite to Yusuf al-Qaradawi to Britain and subsequent kerfuffle. And then 'A ‘CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS’, SENDING PINK SPARKS FLYING? by Yoshie Furuhashi from the US. Furuhashi's website, Critical Montages, should be visited for trenchant anti-war commentary, although his strong anti-imperialism leads him to some one-sided positions that I would draw back from (see his 'Why Progressives must NOT embrace the Ukrainian 'pro-democracy' movement' from Dec 23rd a reply to Stephen Zunes arguing the opposite case for Foreign Policy in Focus). He re a web-site posting from June starts with the case Pym Forteyn to go on to criticise Peter Tatchell for taking up what Furuhashi calls the 'Pink Man's Burden'; "the White Man’s Burden in queer left drag": focusing on one aspect of oppression and missing the wider contexts of racism and imperialism.

One article that is already contentious is Geoffrey Brown's 'WOMBLING FREE? ANARCHISTS AND THE EUROPEAN SOCIAL FORUM'. There is clearly a political battle going on about the London ESF and its impact, and posing the question: where next for the movement? (Well, Athens in early 2006 is the literal answer, but I predict a rough and ideological ride before we all get there.) One of the features of the movement has been its diversity, whether that can survive, whether the movement is mature enough to let it survive is being tested in these arguments. I'm going to return to these arguments, but for the moment let me say that this is one salvo in the dispute. Geoff (In think I know him, but he hasn't laid out his precise political affiliations so far as I can see, so let's just say he's a Marxist, so this can be seen as just one more episode in the long historic battle between Marxists and Anarchists) follows the majority and maybe even hegemonic line (SWP, Socialist Action, but also some key trade union figures and NGO's, etc.) that the ESF was a huge success and it was built pretty openly with mass organisations, except for the disruptive violence from an ultraleft minority at a couple of events.

To quote the 'Statement on the Third European Social Forum in London' (conveniently available on the What Next? web-site in the section on 'Left Politics' ) , by Billy Hayes, Paul Mackney, Lindsey German and other trade union and NGO figures, a new great and the good, but our great and the good (*):
"The European Social Forum in London was entirely inclusive with more than 20,000 people attending 500 plenaries, seminars, workshops and cultural events with more than 2,500 speakers representing every shade of opinion within the social justice movement"
Or, to quote Geoff Brown: "THE 2004 European Social Forum, held in London on 15-17 October, attracted more than 20,000 participants. The event featured 500 plenaries, seminars, workshops and cultural events, with more than 2,500 speakers representing every shade of opinion within the global justice movement."

Anyway, Geoff's still pretty angry about the disruption of the anti-racist, anti-fascist rally at which Livingstone was meant to be speaking (did Ken cry off cos he knew what was going to happen?) and he doesn't like them WOMBLES ('White Overall Movement Building Liberation Through Effective Struggle' according to Geoff) who come across as undemocratic and cynical operators on the fringe of the movement, peeved that the democratic involvement by bigger and far more important forces mean that they can't be at the centre of things.

Geoff's perspective has a lot of merit - putting on something as big as the ESF, getting and maintaining the involvement of the GLA and trade unions, having something that can appeal to wider numbers of people than those already involved in direct action, etc. are all important points. But there is a danger of something getting lost in all the political deals that sort of approach entails. Just one point, for the moment, this argument isn't going to go away so we will come back to it, Geoff refers to an article by Les Levidow in a recent Radical Philosophy and kind of aligns it to the bad violent WOMBLES - hmm, bit of an 'amalgam' argument I thought. I thought Les's argument very interesting and worthy of consideration, so am eager that people read it, and am interested in what he'll have to say in retrospect.

And as a sign that the argument is going away Dean, a veritable WOMBLE ('White Overall Movement Building Libertarian Effective Struggles' he insists) has already replied in a letter to the next issue of What Next? available on the web-site. Dean mostly takes up what Geoff had to say about the WOMBLES' alleged bad behaviour at a MayDay rally in Dublin, but also gives us a link to the WOMBLE's own account of what happened at Ally Pally: 'Reflections & Analysis: the WOMBLES, the ESF & Beyond' . Their conclusion: "it (the SWP) has clumsily revealed the true nature & intentions of the ESF - a party political conference in a safe, controlled environment from which the ESF (through its leadership) can declare itself a credible negotiating partner, not the enemy, of both capital & governments."

(*) there are some factual problems with the Statement by our Great and Good, including the quoting of inflammatory threats which are attributed to the WOMBLES, but it seem came from vulgar situationist (of a sort) pranksters.

Ooh, I've already got a huge dossier of material on the ESF debate and can hardly wait for Weekly Worker (where is it when you need it!?) to report on the ESF Preparatory meeting in Paris last weekend.

EXTENDING THE CIRCLE OF COMPASSION: SOCIALISM AND ANIMAL RIGHTS' by Terry Liddle makes the case why socialists should support animal rights. Hmm, sorry, not interested right now.

In 'BROWNSHIRTS IN BLAZERS? THE RISE OF UKIP' Martin Sullivan updates a piece carried in Labour Left Briefing in July. Add it to Phil Hearse's article (which I would give a bigger plug for if I could easily find it on either the Marxsite or Socialist Resistance site) for when UKIP comes back into the news - next year's general election campaign I guess.

Dave has written a pretty good book about New Labour and used to be an independent mainstay of the Socialist Alliance ('grumpy old socialist' branch).

Martin Sullivan's 'RESPECT COALITION: NO JOKE' criticises the politics and prospects of RESPECT (yet again, yet again) and defends the idea that socialists should stay in the Labour Party. He's (still) just not going to be convinced by the idea that RESPECT is anything like a viable alternative. He's got some good points to make about RESPECT (well SWP and Galloway) bombast and hype, but completely fails to see what is good about the new coalitions that RESPECT has built - but only in some geographically limited areas. But then although Martin makes much of the result in Hartlepool as a bad performance I missed what he had to say about a good local result in a not-very Muslim area in Tower Hamlets.

In 'PROSPECTS FOR THE LEFT IN SCOTLAND' Vince Mills (a member of the Labour Party in Scotland and secretary of the 'Campaign for Socialism') explains why the Scottish Socialist Party isn't the way forward.

In 'THE END OF AN ENDURING ALLIANCE? TRADE UNION-LABOUR RELATIONS', Gregor Gall (of the SSP) deals with a crucial issue in current leftwing politics. I met Gregor once, hanging around at 'Marxism'.... he seemed such a nice guy I've been interested in what he's had to say ever since. His stuff in the International Socialist Movement magazine(Frontlines) has been very good, see his very good detailed analysis of the Scottish Nursery Nurses' Strike in Frontlines 14. Turns out that he's now Professor of Industrial Relations at the University of Stirling as well as being a member of the Scottish Socialist Party. The article is also being carried on the excellent website for the radical bookshop in Edingburgh Word Power (and as Gregor has an article on union-busting at the British maybe it is time to give up buying books there).

Ian Donovan explains why he left the Communist Party of Great Britain (do I need to say, 'no not that CPGB, but the current one') in 'CPGB: CENTRISM, VACILLATION AND CAPITULATION' which will be of interest to all readers of Weekly Worker and followers of one of the smallest groups on the far left. Got a feeling I've already seen this around quite a bit.

There are two very interesting historical pieces. Wang Fanxi's 'THE STALINIST STATE IN CHINA: THE SOCIAL MEANING OF MAO TSE-TUNG'S VICTORY' was written in 1950 and carried by both the Schachtmanite New Internationalist and Cliffite Socialist Review in 1951. A very interesting bureaucratic collectivist analysis by the engaging author of 'Memoirs of a Chinese Revolutionary'.

'A DANISH TROTSKYIST IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR' is an interview with one Åge Kjelsø and does what it says in the title. This should appeal to anyone with an interest in the Spanish Revolution (which should be everyone, of course).

There are also Book Reviews and Letters, but the only point I want to draw to your attention is
Bob Pitt's trenchant criticism of Francis Wheen's rather well-received How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions. 'Mumbo-Jumbo' as a term is entirely rooted in the history of racism: shame on you Mr Wheen, shame! But Bob does admit he is one of the targets of the book!

Overall I think Bob should be congratulating for putting together a cheap magazine that contains so much stuff for debate.


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