Comrade Paul Demarty’s article was a welcome breath of fresh air (‘Getting out of the culture wars’, December 10). As a 19-year-old communist, my entire political life has existed under the shadow of identity politics and the question of gender. It was therefore extremely uplifting to read an analysis identical to the one I have been putting forward to various comrades at the last two Communist Universities: destroy the social construct of gender.
It has always surprised me how some veteran comrades fall into the trap of reaction - on both sides of the current debate - rather than adopting a historical, and indeed Marxist, understanding of gender. Whilst the content of its function in a society may necessarily stay the same, the form it takes is socially malleable. Much like class, gender is not necessary for society - let alone human existence. By altering its form and resolving its contradictions, the social foundations of its content disappear and are essentially abolished.
As Marxists would we say that these social structures are timeless and necessary? No. We have to understand the historical element and approach it in a political and revolutionary way, recognising that the form it takes today is only temporal and that what we really want to do is tackle the question of its content. This is what the current sex/gender debate is missing.
Rather than look outwards (embracing politics) and question the nature of the society which is producing such evils, they instead look inwards, to the individual and identity. Much like depression and eating disorders, gender dysphoria is the mental manifestation of a wider social crisis. Therapy, pills and surgery may help the individual. However, this is a society-wide problem that will keep on reproducing itself until we see revolutionary change.
The debate (as it is currently framed) will only produce heat rather than light. It is therefore extremely important for communists to not only engage with it, but also to fight within it on Marxist terms. Otherwise, in the words of James Connolly, you can expect “a carnival of reaction” on both sides.
Perhaps, as the CPGB is currently tweaking its Draft programme (see ‘Words as weapons’, October 8), it could think about taking this approach to gender seriously and include the call for its abolition.
In his article last week (‘A joint oppressor’, December 10), Jack Conrad is pretty soft on Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, who is widely believed to have been in favour of the re-enserfing of Scots miners - serfdom had not long been abolished in Scotland and was not yet off the agenda.
Secondly, Paul Demarty in an otherwise excellent article, in which issues of consent and of what is voluntary are central, most unfortunately lets this slip in: “... nor had it taken steps to evaluate the effectiveness of what is, at the end of the day, an off-label use of drugs designed to fight particular cancers (and in some cases also used for the voluntary chemical castration of serial sex offenders)” (my emphasis). Was, for example, Alan Turing’s chemical castration that “voluntary”? And he is only the most famous - having indeed been retrospectively pardoned.
Recently in the hallowed halls of Lambeth Palace, London, a meeting of several self-interest groups took place. The topic for discussion could be described as ‘how to move forward in Northern Ireland and beyond the unresolved legacy issues’.
The past in Northern Ireland continues to impinge on the present. Closure for the victims has proven frustratingly elusive for all who want truth and justice for those directly affected by ‘the Troubles’ (1968 to 1998). The real ‘trouble’, however, may stem from the composition of those assembled in London, which stands in stark contrast when compared to those who were absent.
The first meeting took place on November 2, in the rarefied atmosphere of a Church of England Palace and was arranged, if media reports are to be believed, at the instigation of Harold Good, a former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and James Roddy, a leader in the ‘business community’ in Derry City - the epicentre of the Bloody Sunday Massacre of January 30 1972.
These two pillars of the church and business communities have taken it upon themselves to try to devise a mechanism through which some of these outstanding legacy issues may be resolved, put to bed or finally put to rest? Some pertinent questions to ask would be: are they acting alone or with a remit from the state and who suggested Lambeth Palace as a venue?
The unresolved legacy issues revolve around the various victims and their families, who as a direct result of the violent conflict here have had to live with the injustice of being maimed, bereaved, deprived of work or of family and loved ones.
We are led to believe through the media that representatives of the Irish and British governments were in attendance, along with a senior republican and a senior loyalist. They were joined by senior British army generals (and perhaps others representing the intelligence services and state?), as well as a British army veterans commissioner, a previous victim’s commissioner for Northern Ireland and an academic whose policy document was the focus of discussion.
While the names of all those who attended may not be in the public domain, one name does stand out: Jon Boutcher, previously chief constable of Bedfordshire Police, now retired and current chief investigations officer of Operation Kenova. He is currently presiding over a team of officers investigating possible links and criminal acts perpetrated or orchestrated by state agents (to include informers, police and military officers?). Surely his attendance is a conflict of interests?
What we appear to have is all those who in one way or another were combatants in the ‘conflict’, whose remit was possibly to find a mechanism by which all those in attendance could agree to resolve ‘legacy issues’ and move on. Victims were supposedly front and centre to the process at hand, yet there were no victims voices being represented, it seems - the fig leaf of having a previous victims commissioner in the room would be for many purely window dressing, and optics for the media.
So we had British generals, intelligence representatives and the veterans commissioner presumably not calling for any British overt or covert personnel to be charged, prosecuted or jailed for their nefarious acts of murder and collusion in possibly hundreds of deaths - of mainly nationalist and republican civilians. We had a senior republican, who was defending the corner of the ‘on the run’ republicans, presumably given a ‘get out of jail’ card. Plus a senior loyalist wanting to play the blame game, agreeing to come and justify their sectarian murder campaign by publishing information supplied to them by the British securocrats, army and police, which they used to target some of their victims, if they are guaranteed no prosecutions.
The British government wants to protect senior establishment figures, politicians and their legacy by keeping the truth of their involvement in the ‘dirty war’ far from public scrutiny, while the Irish government may be there as a participating party in the peace process and indeed it may have some truth of its own which it might want to suppress.
The essence of resolving legacy issues, in this case, may be to bury the past. Closure, truth and justice do not always walk side by side and hand in hand when political expediency is involved, and protecting the guilty may be more important than protecting the truth. Will the victims get justice? Will the truth be heard? Will they receive closure as well as compensation? Who knows?
What we do know is that those charged, and in many cases not charged, in Lambeth Palace with bringing closure to this aspect of the conflict may well be doing the opposite. No victims’ voices were heard. No cries for justice answered. Those charged with delivering justice may well deliver further injustice and a cover-up. The mechanism already exists where ‘Troubles’-related prosecutions mean those found guilty of ‘Troubles’-related crimes would serve a maximum of two years in prison.
Perhaps they should all bite the bullet so to speak, tell the truth, and do the time. It may not be justice to many. The jail terms may not reflect the crime in the eyes of the victims. Justice may not be served fully. Yet truth disclosure and accountability may help heal the physical and emotional wounds inflicted on the people here due to the continued partition of the country.
Letting those who committed the grief, the pain and the violence decide who says what, where they say it and when they say it is tantamount to allowing a rapist to decide their sentence - putting the foxes in the hen house, allowing the lunatics to take over the asylum. They may claim with some veracity that it is only those in the room in Lambeth Palace who can deliver closure. But is that closure for the victims, whose voices go unheard in that room, or closure for the combatants, with a huge collective sigh of relief around that table, followed by a round of drinks? Will that sigh of relief in London be mirrored by sighs of anguish or silence around the dinner tables in the north of Ireland, many with an empty chair this Christmas?
I believe there are rumours this junta will reassemble soon for further discussions. Perhaps a football match will break out at Lambeth Palace, reminiscent of the trenches of World War I. Maybe they will even decide to call it a draw.
One thing is for sure though: the real victims will be sidelined, as the main players continue to take centre-stage.
After reading Jim Nelson’s latest miasma of phosphorescent nothingness (Letters, December 10), I would like to issue a challenge to the comrade: tell me something I don’t know and that wasn’t in a recent edition of The Guardian.
I wonder who he thinks his audience is, given that some of his missives rely on the most rudimentary, dog-whistle anti-Toryism. Forgive me, but I think most readers of the Weekly Worker know that times are somewhat hard, and Boris Johnson is not exactly the workers’ friend. When you get down to the points being made, these seem to me to be, at best, half-baked.
I wouldn’t overstate the influence of the Daily Mail and The Sun and I wouldn’t underestimate the ability of working class Brexit voters to rationally work out that the European Union was an establishment tool that they thought would be good to give a bloody nose to. I’ve no doubt that all kinds of reactionary ideas were at play too, but it simply won’t do to be reductive on the matter. Remainer dog whistles are even less effective than anti-Tory ones.
Neither do I think it’s plausible to state that “this government wants to send as many black and brown … people out of the country as possible and as soon as possible”. I think the current Conservative administration wants to use the issue of immigration in a chauvinist (not racial) manner to underscore the point that only the ‘right kinds’ of people are welcome here. Presumably if 10,000 black African multi-millionaires suddenly arrived on cruise ships and showed interest in donating to the Conservatives, then some way would be found to make them welcome.
Also, I think it’s another silly dog whistle to state that Conservative ministers are stupid. I realise that this is a joke doing the rounds, but it’s not funny any more, just like jokes about Donald Trump’s lack of intelligence aren’t funny, when you think how many people voted for him recently. While I wouldn’t overestimate politicians’ intelligence, I wouldn’t underestimate it either. They are part of the ruling class after all, and that does have a collective intelligence that it exercises in defence of its power.
How very good to read Eddie Ford’s ‘Taste of things to come’(December 10). It was like stumbling out of dense forest into sun-dappled meadows, with its sense of unanticipated encouragement, of new energy, almost of reassurance. The fact that clear and categorical stances were taken in cultural, aesthetic and even philosophical terms, rather than just political, also brings the comrade’s article especial credit. The point is that those considerations are so strangely absent from most other Marxist literature around.
One consideration that might be worthy of mention, however, is how those particular thoughts popped into my head during the pagan season of Yuletide and New Year: by which I mean the Solstice (on December 21) rather than any later fabrications such as ‘Christmas’. And, with exactly that in mind, may I wish all comrades everywhere far better political fortune than has been the case in the past period. Of course, the marking of change from long nights to lengthening days was so significant to ancestors of ours, as part of their intimate connection to Mother Earth. How those ancients can now provide a template for humankind’s future viability is surely one of the most ironic elements of our current lifestyles.
One final point, albeit not so seasonal. If the terrorist activities of radical Islamism are to be considered as the work of medievalist madmen, how come that far greater - certainly in historical terms far more sustained - terrorism that floods out from priests, officials and dignitaries of the Catholic church are not subjected to the same ruthless description or to the same deployment of armed special forces resources to eradicate it?
I refer, of course, to those paedophiliac attacks upon youngsters whilst under their so-called pastoral care!
Muslims to blame
In his letter of November 12 Bernard Mattson argues: “People can follow whatever religion they like, as long as they leave the rest of us alone.” But just look at Britain: if Sharia Councils, the establishment of Muslim-only zones (whole towns like Bradford and parts of major cities: eg, the area around the mosque in Leicester), corrupt Labour councils, a 40-year tragedy of Muslim rape gangs and a constant trickle of terrorist attacks is ‘leaving us alone’, then I wonder what will happen when things get serious! I live in a fairly small industrial city - why does it need 32 mosques? The only answer is an Islamic drive to establish territorial influence.
Mattson says of religious people: “they can still join the rest of the working class in taking power”. This will come as a revelation to those of us who until now had thought that religion, which pushes most solutions to the after-life, was contradictory to Marxism, which seeks solutions in transforming the actually existing structure of society.
Mattson asks why Islam is different. Christopher Hitchens, in his God is not great, explains at some length that Islam is hardly a religion at all, but rather a plagiarism of Judaism and Christianity. Here is the first catalyst for conflict. Unable to challenge the other Abrahamic religions (or atheists for that matter) theoretically, the Hadith and the ruthless proscription of everyday behaviour become all-important in order to differentiate Islam. Bill Warner has suggested that no less than 83% of the Koran is concerned with condemning non-believers of one type or another. Put this together with claims (ludicrous actually) to be the final and one true religion, and conflict is woven into Islam.
There has been no enlightenment within Islam and it is a relatively young and vibrant religion, lacking the self-doubt of Christianity, for example. Religions must be examined on a real-time basis and Islam is the religion of mass terror and suicide bombings - far ahead of Christian fundamentalists, who generally bomb more limited targets. In any case, the death toll is in the handful versus many thousands. Every Muslim has an obligation to jihad and, notwithstanding nonsense arguments that this means jihad of the self only, the crude apologist will believe this when presented with the overall evidence.
If the ideology of Islam - misogyny, organised crime, promotion of paedophilia, torture of animals, homophobia, lack of all respect for human rights, hatred of Jews - were presented under a political rubric they would immediately be denounced for what they are: a vicious fascist doctrine. Because they are presented under the guise of religion Mattson and epigones rush to ‘respect’ the people promoting such barbaric ideas.
Mattson says: “New immigrants tend to keep their heads down (apart from the European ones mentioned above), but their children and grandchildren have gone to local schools, have local friends and feel that they belong - or at least that they should do.”
Again this is highly problematic. The reputable Pew Research Center surveys indicate that, for whatever reason, third-generation Muslims can be the most fundamentalist. Certainly this is counter-intuitive, but it is best to stick to data rather than imagine things as we would like them to be. Incidentally the Pew surveys are worth looking at in terms of incidents such as the Manchester bombing. As one would expect, the support for this from Muslims in places such as Pakistan is massive, but in Britain too it is not insignificant.
A Gatestone Institute report entitled ‘What British Muslims really think’ suggests: “The 615-page survey found that more than 100,000 British Muslims sympathise with suicide bombers and people who commit other terrorist acts. Moreover, only one in three British Muslims (34%) would contact the police if they believed that somebody close to them had become involved with jihadists.” Contrary to Mattson making a joke about the number of Muslims involved with jihad, it would actually only take a few percent for them to make society chaotic.
The list of incidents he mentioned - presumably as a kind of virtue-signalling, attempting to show his morally superior credentials - indicates that he makes the mistake of viewing Islam, either deliberately or not, as a race rather than a religion. He is, of course, correct to condemn the bombing of Muslim countries, but like many Islamic apologists ‘forgets’ the Nato terror bombing of Serbia in support of the Kosovo Liberation Army. The KLA was so bloodthirsty and corrupt that a couple of years after the ‘war’ Nato itself termed its former creature a “terrorist organisation”. The idea that terrorism in the west is a sort of ‘payback’ for the bombing of Afghanistan or Iraq is as mindless as it is incorrect. This took place after 9/11 and was a direct response to that terrorist act. Interestingly enough, we rarely hear from people like Mattson any condemnation of Saudi bombing Yemen to pieces - presumably because it is Muslims bombing Muslims and therefore insensitive to mention.
In throwing Anders Breivik into the mix, Mattson is presumably attempting to make the point that there are non-Islamic terrorists too. He actually makes my point: Breivik is a really isolated individual, whereas Islamic attacks are a constant threat. Breivik’s ‘manifesto’ (freely available on the internet) reveals a highly intelligent and knowledgeable opponent who begins with a critique of “cultural Marxism”, which would not be out of place in many academic books about the Frankfurt School - in contrast to the rather pathetic types that the Islamists tend to sacrifice in terror attacks.
Yes, I do occasionally read the Mail. A short while ago they had a reasonable two-page article opposing Julian Assange’s extradition, which, with a very few honourable exceptions, is two pages more than I have seen in any left paper. I have just finished reading Undercover war by Harry McCallion, which was reviewed in the Weekly Worker a few weeks ago, so I suppose by Mattson’s lights I am an SAS stooge. This nonsense of censoring reading to prevent one from gaining the ‘wrong’ ideas was a mainstream concept within Gerry Healy’s radically misnamed Workers Revolutionary Party and was as reactionary then as it is now. In a period when free speech is under sustained attack - not only from Scottish ‘justice’ minister Humza Yousaf, but from major universities as well - it is even more important not to have any truck with people like Mattson.
Taking a comment in my letter completely out of context, Mattson reckons on being able to read my mind: “Ted is also worried that French Muslims can buy knives in the supermarket. We’re lucky not to be in the US, where they can buy machine guns!” This is nonsense. Apart from federal regulations, it is not easy to obtain a fully automatic weapon, even in those States with the laxest gun laws. Obtaining a fully automatic weapon requires one to pay a $200 fee, provide photographs and fingerprints and a fair amount of other paperwork, with up to a year’s wait. There are quite severe restrictions on suitable applicants: things such as ever having a criminal conviction or mental health problems may act as a bar to gun ownership. So, far from a completely inappropriate jokey dig at knife purchase, I think that the average citizen should be concerned when terrorists start using knives and driving cars into crowded areas. It brings the terror to a new level of everyday banality.
Mattson is in favour of a “voluntary assimilation of immigrants in a free flow of human beings”. This would have some credibility if Muslim immigrants showed any sign of wanting to assimilate, but quite the reverse applies. The Islamic plan, which is in no way concealed by them, is to simply outbreed the residential population. In April 2006 Muammar Gaddafi in one of his long rants on Al Jazeera announced that “Islam will conquer Europe without firing a shot”. Mass immigration and the much higher birth rate of Muslims would do the job. This is clearly illustrated in the pronouncements of the Islam Party in Belgium, where in places such as Molenbeek it is necessary to obtain a Muslim vote in order to be a local functionary. In Belgium the Islamists are so strong that they do not need to bother about taqiyya (deception) and can say exactly what they think.
Another factor which Mattson and his ilk choose to ignore is - surprise - that Europe is a much smaller geographical area than non-Europe. It is simply not feasible to have so called open borders. I cannot think of a more relevant book than Douglas Murray’s Strange death of Europe to explain this fact even to the most obtuse - a fact which should be self-evident.
The policies of Mattson and company see immigrants as cheap labour. It is no coincidence that the two main groupings in favour of unrestricted mass immigration are the left and the Confederation of British Industry. Mattson wants immigrants to have “democratic and trade union rights”. Of course strong trade union representation would at least limit the pressure on wages for residential workers. It is a nice idea. However, let us remind ourselves where we really are.
The World Socialist Web Site reports: “The three trade unions represented at Lufthansa have agreed to wage cuts, benefit reductions and dismissals that surpass all the concessions made by the unions to date. The pilots’ union Cockpit (VC), the Independent Flight Attendants Organisation (UFO) and Verdi, which represents the approximately 35,000 ground workers and functions as Lufthansa’s house union, are literally outbidding one another with concessions. According to their own statements, they are offering the Lufthansa board of directors a €1.2 billion cut in the income of union members. In the spring, Cockpit agreed to reduce pilots’ salaries by up to 50% and to maintain that level until the end of the year. On Wednesday, Cockpit announced that this salary cut would be extended until the end of June 2022.”
This example is from Germany, but represents, I assert, pretty much what unions everywhere are doing. Living in the past, Mattson conflates what ought to be happening with what is happening.
The awful thing about the Islamic apologists is that they offer zero support to those people attempting the dangerous journey of breaking from Islam. Without its restrictions on apostasy and its penchant for forced conversions Islam would be a considerably smaller body. I recently saw Ayaan Hirsi Ali vigorously denounced as a ‘white supremacist’ and at this point you realise that with this level of bad faith there probably is going to be a religious war between Islam and its opponents.
A badly needed initial start could be ‘one law for all’. It is totally unacceptable that Muslim rapists in Rochdale who were ordered to lose their British citizenship at their trial are still, after serving a remarkably short sentence, stalking their original victims. As the girls say, they have been “failed again”.