Saturday, July 23, 2005


Unite against Terror initiative, again

If you haven't signed the statement at Unite against Terror yet, please do so. There should be little you disagree with, if you walk on two legs and are in the possession of a neocortex.

The initiative has drawn some predictable ire here and there. I really don't give a damn whether the people behind this initiative are pro-war or anti-war or card-carrying devil-worshipping Blairites. I just submitted the below statement to their "why we signed" section:

I oppose the War on Terror, as it is being waged, in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am aware that many who signed the petition with me support it. This cannot keep me from signing, as opposition to the war must not entail indifference and complacency towards the fundamentalist murderers.

The massacres in New York, Bali, Madrid, London, most recently Sharm El-Sheikh admit no rational “explanation”, no distinction between political goals and violent means. The means and the aims are the same – mindless slaughter of Muslims and non-Muslims alike, of people going to their work one morning, or people on vacation visiting a foreign city for the first time. The nature of terrorism shows itself here, naked and grotesque. The response of part of the Left which I consider myself a part of exhibits, by reflexively blaming the West, a worrying insensitivity towards violent islamic fundamentalism – which is aimed, first and foremost, against the very Enlightenment values that gave birth to the modern Left, rather than being some understandable if misdirected strike against Imperialism.

Instead, the unspeakably vile act of blowing yourself, and the strangers and fellow human beings going about their business around you, up in a crowded bus or train is a denial of humanity which should be met with outrage and an assertion of the humanity that unites us, regardless of political or religious differences.

Monday, July 18, 2005


Red herrings

The Drink-soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for War and Ophelia Benson at Butterflies & Wheels mention an interview with Christopher Hitchens in which Hitchens disputes that there were no connections between Saddam Hussein and terrorism. Ophelia Benson seems interested in the logic of Hitchens' argument - which is impeccable, to be sure. Of course, it's impossible to prove a negative, but the proposition that there might have been links between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda (which there seems to be no evidence for) or that Saddam Hussein might have stockpiled Weapons of Mass Destruction (also, no evidence) is, on the face of it, more reasonable than the proposition that there might have been an armada of invisible pink elephants flying low over central Bagdad last Saturday - and more worthy to discuss.

Still, I'm surprised that Hitchens (as well as more on the pro-war Left) jumps on this. As far as I understand, their case for military intervention does not hinge on Saddam Hussein's possession of WMDs or links to terrorism - but more on the idea that removing a particularly brutal and bloody dictatorship was a good idea. It seems to me as well that the anti-war movement has been similarly led astray by the WMD/terrorism angle. I would have been still opposed to the war even if Saddam was convincingly linked to terrorism or possession of WMDs. I gather the same would go for the bulk of the anti-war movement. Nagging doubts that I had - and have - about the anti-war position had nothing to do with Anthrax or mustard gas but more with the fact that Saddam Hussein was a particularly nasty piece of work and that it's a great thing that he has gone - and the Iraqis may finally have, despite the terrorists that killed 150 people last weekend in an ongoing effort to drag the country to full-blown civil war, an opening to determine their own fate that they did not have before 2003.

I guess that a big chunk of the anti-war movement's focus on the failure to find WMDs, the evidence that some leading politicians may have lied (shock!) or were planning to attack Iraq anyway is pretty much a symptom of totally reactive, lowest-common-denominator politics. Instead of finding a principled basis on which to oppose the slaughter in Iraq, you hack away and hack away at any weakness that shows up in the pro-war narrative. One would wish that the Left had exercised the same criticism back in 1999 more widely - but that was then, and then it was a Democrat president waging war... Galloway's despicable comments after the London bombing are testimony to the same rank opportunism. But you see the same phenomenon in Hitchens' "maybe Saddam did really have links to Al-Qaeda" argument.

What would such a principled opposition be? As usual, I'm seeing two candidates. On the one hand, the Communist position which aims to increase the political strength and political independence of the international working class. The War on Terror indisputably creates an atmosphere of nationalism, political paranoia and increased state powers in the main country that's waging it - and should therefore be opposed (in the way it is currently being waged). The argument would also be that the occupation of Iraq will strangle the opportunities of working class independence that may have sprung up after the removal of Saddam (the slaughter and destruction with which this was achieved would be an argument in itself) - still, there's probably some room for debate here (compare the differing positions of the Iraqi Communist party and the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq).

On the other hand, there is the Libertarian anti-interventionist argument, exemplified by the excellent and Lew Rockwell. There may not so much distance between the Libertarian and the Leninist on this point: the Libertarians' main fear, which seems to be well on the way of becoming reality, is one of war and everything that accompanies it leading to the voracious state gobbling up more and more potentially oppressive power. But opposition to war seems to be based here on an iron-clad respect of national sovereignty - whereas in the Communist view, borders tend to be as meaningless to socialist tank columns as to the international working class.

But in both positions, no quarter must be given to radical islam - a movement militantly opposed to both Communism and Libertarianism and everything else that traces its roots to the Enlightenment. Regardless of whether we're dealing with strikes in London or with the monotonous, ongoing slaughter of hundreds upon hundreds in Iraq. And here there's a difference with the political mush that goes for the mainstream Left these days - which seems to be drifting from seeking political nuances to outright apologetics for islamic terrorism, and from opposition to the occupation of Palestina to anti-semitism.

Recently, I'm drifting more towards the national-sovereignty position. Because if there's one thing Communists should have learned from the past century, it's that imposition of socialism by armoured columns doesn't really work. And I suppose the same may well go for liberal democracy.

Merlijn de Smit

Saturday, July 16, 2005


Unite against Terror initiative

My apologies for the very light blogging lately to all of the probably two people that actually read this weblog - I have been ill throughout much of June, and currently on holiday in the Netherlands. I'll get back into it a bit later, to be sure, but here's a link to an initiative that I should mention. The petition listed is one that I fully subscribe to and that I think will appeal to many people, on a basis of common humanity and decency, regardless of other political differences.

Merlijn de Smit

Monday, July 11, 2005



A short and late comment on what happened in London. If Ken MacLeod's response, or the reactions described by this article in Sp!ked are any indication (and from my neck of the woods, they seem to be), then at least the scumbags, whoever they are, are failing in their aim of spreading chaos and fear.

The response of part of the left, exemplified here and here and reliable pounced upon by Harry's Place - but see also Butterflies&Wheels here, is inadequate. Not just because it is dubious to the extreme that the Iraq war was a causal factor in all this - violent Islamic fundamentalism was rolling on well before 2003. That's not to say that Iraq may be one of the many causes here - but surely not the main one. But that's a political point, and one that should be met with argument rather than outrage. What is inadequate is that the bombings were not some kind of misdirected strike against imperialism, which happened to kill, goodness gracious, anti-war people as well (would the SWP and Galloway, who stress this point, condemn the atrocities less fiercely if the victims were staunch neocons?). This is not some case of good end + horrible means. The means are horrible, and so is the end. Islamic fundamentalism is a deeply reactionary, downright nasty ideology mortally opposed to the same Enlightenment values that spawned Socialism as well as Bush and Blair. And I would like to see a somewhat stronger position against it among the Left, instead of nihilistic (and dubiously opportunistic) "we brought it down upon ourselves!" hand-wringing.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


Friday, July 01, 2005


Time to fight back

The line must be drawn here.

For years now, governments around the world have hounded the significant parts of their population which smoke, while gladly accepting ever-increasing VAT taxes on cigarettes. While we smokers gladly take full responsibility for the damage we incur to our own health, we have been made responsible for others' healths on the flimsiest evidence. Accross Europe, smokers have been chased out of clubs and pubs - and a new British government campaign childishly insults smokers' looks and sexual prowess.

Smokers have thus far responded to all this bullying way too passively. Sure enough, many of them want to quit - smoking is addictive, and not good for your health. But far too few have stood up for individuals' basic right to do enjoyable things bad for your health just because you want to without disturbing anyone else.

Now, the fightback has started. Forward the Smokers' Liberation Front!

Smokers Liberation Front - Blogging Smokers

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