Thursday, December 02, 2004


Censorship daily digest

Apparently, a number of Dutch muslims have hired a lawyer, R. Moszkowicz, to try and ban the planned sequel to Ayaan Hirschi Ali and Theo van Gogh's film Submission - the first part of which criticized violence and oppression of women in islamic culture, and was probably the reason why the filmmaker, van Gogh, was shot and stabbed to death by an islamic extremist early this month. Also, the idea of the lawsuit is to prohibit Hirschi Ali to make "offensive" statements about islam.

I expect the judges to laugh this lawsuit out of court immediately - the Netherlands have never been really big on censorship ever after a christian bid to censor the writer Gerard Reve for a passage in a novel in which the protagonist has sex with God in the guise of a donkey failed some decades ago. And banning a film before it is even made is of course the height of pre-emptive censorship.

Then again, nothing really surprises me these days.

Let's not forget, of course, that there are not only muslims in support of censorship. In the US, a republican representative from Alabama, one Gerald Allen, is preparing a law proposal to ban books with gay protagonists and textbooks suggesting that - horror! - homosexuality is natural from libraries.

His solution: "I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them."

I fear that the only reason Mr. Allen proposes this is his frustration at not being able to dump gays and lesbians themselves into that hole. Mr. Allen seems to be quite a dangerous fellow to me.

Aside from this, of course this ban is pretty much an all-out assault on human civilization itself. As a librarian reports in the article linked to above: "Half the books in the library could end up being banned. It's all based on how one interprets the material."

I am deeply ambivalent about anti-war MP George Galloway's victory in a libel case against the Daily Telegraph today, which accused him for, among other things, being in pay by the Saddam Hussein regime. When these charges became known, it seemed to me to be a smear against the anti-war movement as a whole. It may well have been so.

This notwithstanding, socialists, or people interested in free speech in general, have no reason to cheer the court decision - as the British Socialist Workers Party, currently in an extremely odd alliance with Galloway and islamic religious groups, of course does.

The British libel laws are pretty draconic, and only a few years ago, the British magazine LM, quite possibly the best political magazine on the left of the past one-and-a-half decade (archives linked to in sidebar), was gagged in a libel suit by media giant ITN. The outcry among the socialist left that should have been there during that time was, well, eeriely absent. Of course, a number of leftists, Noam Chomsky being one example, principledly defended LM. There were however also individuals mistakingly regarded as part of the left - green reactionary George Monbiot one of them - one rather toxic example here, who made a career out of going after LM in top conspiracy-theorist fashion.

This aside, going to the bourgeois court to repress someone else's speech - even if that speech is, indeed, libelous - cannot but strengthen those libel laws themselves.
Perhaps next time they'll be employed against the left again.

Anyway, George Galloway is the last thing the anti-war movement, or the socialist movement in general, needs: a deeply conservative stalinist, who strongly opposes a woman's right to choose and who visited Saddam Hussein, greeting him with the words: "Sir... we salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability... We are with you. Until victory! Until Jerusalem!”"

Excuse me - to Jerusalem!!?

I am not a very good Marxist, to be honest. I would like to be a good one - but I'm way too wobbly with my own politics (which is one of the reasons I am building the PSSST(KA)). But I much prefer principled Trotskyist opposition to both the imperialist war as well as Ba'athism and islamic fundamentalism - say, the line taken by the ICL:

"As revolutionary Marxists, we have a side in the current situation, against the U.S., its allies and Iraqi lackeys. Our starting point is to demand the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. troops, and their allies. We defend the peoples of Iraq against any U.S.-led attack and repression. Insofar as the forces on the ground in Iraq aim their blows against the imperialist occupiers (including the over 20,000 private mercenaries operating in the country), we call for their military defense against U.S. imperialism. Every blow struck against the imperialist occupiers is a blow struck against the enemy of workers and the oppressed all over the world.

But we do not imbue the forces presently organizing guerrilla attacks on U.S. forces with “anti-imperialist” credentials and warn that in the absence of working-class struggle in Iraq and internationally against the occupation, the victory of one or another of the reactionary clerical forces is more likely to come about through an alliance with U.S. imperialism. We are intransigent opponents of the murderous communal violence against other ethnic, religious and national populations oftentimes carried out by the very same forces fighting the occupation armies. And we condemn the kidnappings and executions of foreign civilian workers in Iraq.

We are external to the situation inside Iraq and our task at this point in time is therefore necessarily largely propagandistic, but no less crucial. While making clear that the main enemy is U.S. imperialism, a revolutionary party with roots and influence in Iraq today would mobilize against the reimposition of sharia, against communalist sectarian attacks, for organizing the vestiges of the workers movement and the legions of the unemployed on a class basis through strikes and workplace occupations against the thieving imperialist occupiers and parasitic clerics."

Or the AWL:

"In the event the American forces met less resistance than they expected from the political Islamist “insurgents” in Fallujah. Although pockets of fighting continue, operation Phantom Fury was over much quicker than we (or they), expected. Many of the Islamist/Ba’athist fighters seem to have deserted their “stronghold” before the attack. They will regroup and may fight in other Sunni cities. Right now the US forces are in Mosul “clearing” what they call “pockets of resistance”.

The fact that less damage was done than might have been will be very little comfort to the people of Fallujah when they return to their bullet-ridden homes and a city devastated by the Americans and the “resistance”. Or who stayed inside the city, who are living with dead bodies in the streets, the threat of snipers, and the lack of food and water.

Reports of civilian casualties are only just beginning to come out. In true Ba’thist fashion Prime Minister Iyad Allawi claimed that no civilians had been killed in Fallujah!


What do those on the left who back the occupation, who put their faith in the big powers, think now? No matter how much we want to see reactionary militias marginalised — forces that would annihilate the fledging workers’ organisations — we cannot rely on, trust or back forces with such a lack of care for civilian life, those who are concerned essentially with their own “big power” strategy to secure Iraq for “normal” capitalist plunder and not with the needs of the Iraqi people.

The US and British are trying to bring into their fold “mainstream” Islamism in the form of Sistani and SCIRI (the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq). Moqtada al-Sadr could be part of a Sistani-led grand coalition. These are not friends of the working class.

As to those on the left, the SWP and others, who back the “resistance” — the events of the last weeks flatly contradict their position. The people of Fallujah did not “resist”.

By and large they fled the city or stayed in their homes. There is probably a lot of passive support for the armed resistance and much misery and discontent, but most of the people of Fallujah seem to have regarded themselves as victims of the Islamic militants."

(even if the two of them probably don't want to be mentioned in the same post) - anyway, I much prefer nuanced socialist analyses like the two linked to, above cheering for islamic fundamentalism or Ba'athism as the latest reincarnation of the fight against Empire - if we have to rely on the liked of Galloway, that fight is in dire straits, indeed.

- Merlijn

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