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Friday 31 July 2015

Racist @Redbull Obama event in Russia

Racism against black people in Russia has been making news lately because of the 2018 World Cup.

The Guardian reports about worries concerning the reception non-white players and supporters could receive in Russia.
A recent report by the Fare network and the Moscow-based Sova Centre for information and analysis has documented 99 racist and far-right displays and 21 racially motivated attacks by Russian football fans during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.
“The likelihood of a racist incident [during World Cup 2018] is very high. It’s not just that it might happen but that it happens very often,” said the Sova Centre director, Alexander Verkhovsky, at a panel of Russian and foreign football observers last month to discuss discrimination in Russian football.

Racism in the Russian stands has already drawn the ire of international and Russian authorities in recent months.
Ghanaian news site Starr FM says African concerns are so high they could spark a boycott:
Unlikely occurrence, you think?

Well, think again. It really wouldn't be the first time the Dark Continent would have turned its back on the sport's greatest event. Sixteen African nations boycotted the 1966 edition in protest of a 1964 FIFA ruling that required the three second-round winners from the African zone to enter a play-off round against the winners of the Asian zone in order to win a place at the finals, with the Africans asserting that winning their zone was enough in itself to merit qualification for the finals.
Piara Powar, the executive director of the Football Against Racism in Europe and a member of FIFA's anti-discrimination taskforce, has also said a boycott is a possibility, "and without them there will not be a World Cup in Russia."

Starr FM points out that there are other black players who could boycott outside Africa, in the Americas and in Europe.

Prior to the European football Championships in Ukraine and Poland in 2012 there were very similar concerns about racism. The BBC aired a documentary just before the event which led to calls for fans to stay away.

However the Championships went ahead without any significant incidents. Russia is presumably hoping that it can pull off the same trick, they are talking the talk and have been for a while now. But an incident this week has underlined just how much the international limelight may not shine kindly unless they get serious about racism.

The energy drink Redbull sponsors a 'Flugtag' around the world, including in Russia. It involves groups in costume jumping from height with a contraption over water trying to fly. It's a lot of fun.

But in Russia one of those groups (pictured above) involved a group in blackface with one in an Obama mask chasing a banana. Classic, 'blacks are monkeys' hideous racism that happens all around the world.

Here's a street sign in Lysva, in the Urals from July 2014.(via ).

Here's the picture that Irina Rodnina, an MP from Vladimir Putin's United Russia party and a triple Olympic champion figure-skater, posted on Twitter. (She later apologised.)

Last August Moscow police allowed students to project a laser light show depicting Obama fellating an unpeeled banana onto the US Embassy. This sort of imagery is 'normal' and officially allowed, despite Russia have plenty of laws covering racism and 'extremism', so why should the geniuses at Redbull in Russia think twice when they dreamt up a 'Obama Banana' group?

But Redbull is an international brand so what happens in Russia does not stay in Russia. Tell @redbull what you think!

Edited to add: The video has been removed from the Redbull website but a GIF was captured by Nikolay Nikolov.

Edited to add: The Guardian says:
Vadim Shevchenko, a spokesman for Red Bull, denied that the footage was meant to be racist and said the banana chase had not been planned.
Reporter Alec Luhn also notes something I'd forgotten:
Photoshopped memes showing Obama with bananas and calling the US president a monkey have appeared frequently on the Russian internet, including on a site of images often used by paid pro-Kremlin trolls.

Edited to add: Red Bull has now given this statement given to TIME:
The organizers of the Red Bull Flugtag in Russia regret our oversight in allowing these participants to tarnish what was otherwise an enjoyable event. It is never our intention to give a platform which would promote an offensive message. For the future, we will take more effective measures to prevent this sort of thing happening again.
Edited to add: This is what happened to one guy who tried to publicise Redbull's actions in Russia. The company issued a copyright claim to Youtube and as a result he got banned until 2016!

HT: ,

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Obama ‘kills it’ in another African speech

[Crossposted from Little Green Footballs]

Whilst American media and seemingly all the Americans in my timeline are otherwise engaged, Obama is ‘killing it’ on his state visit to Africa.

Here’s South Africa’s leading newspaper picking up on African Twitter.
To break-outs of rapturous applause, laughter and cheering, President Barack Obama became the first US president ever to address the 54-member African Union at its headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

The speech, which touched on a variety of issues, lit the audience and also set twitter ablaze with poignant and often-pointed messages to Africa’s leaders and partners.
More: Obama ‘Kills It’ in His African Union Address - Here Are the Tweets to Read if You Missed It

Said South Africa’s Daily Maverick:
When he was finished, after nearly an hour at the lectern, the audience rose as one. “If you build the Africa you believe in, you will have no greater friend than the United States,” Barack Obama concluded, to raucous cheers and even a few ululations. Finally, the most powerful African in the world had come home – and he did not disappoint.
As with African Twitter, the New York Times’ main takeaway was the criticism of ‘Presidents for life’. Others noted the veiled criticism of China’s African presence, which reflected African concerns, and veiled LGBT rights support.

Obama specifically addressed supposed American hypocrisy - what Russia in particular loves to point to - saying:
Our American democracy is not perfect. But one thing we do is we continually re-examine to figure out how can we make our democracy better. And that’s a force of strength for us, being willing to look and see honestly what we need to be doing to fulfill the promise of our founding documents.
HT: Charles Onyango-Obbo

Watch the full speech after the jump:

Tuesday 28 July 2015

An overview of Ukraine's left

Party pieces: admiring Kiev’s utopian socialist mosaics, before they disappear
Reblogged from Open Democracy Russia.

By Denys Gorbach

The events of the past two years — the mass protests that led to the deposing of President Viktor Yanukovych, the subsequent annexation of Crimea, and Russian aggression in the east — have changed much in Ukrainian society.

These events have split the global left, dividing the so-called ‘anti-imperialists’ (who support Putin’s aggression) and those who condemn it. Meanwhile, inside Ukraine, left-wing activists are currently re-grouping in response to the events of the past 15 months. Indeed, the changes taking place inside the radical left community began in 2011-2012; the events that followed served as a catalyst.
From the ground up

When Ukraine became an independent state in 1991, the left movement was in the process of being built from the ground up.

Traditions of left-wing protest had long been eradicated, and talk of a continuous tradition of an organised left, stretching back to Nestor Makhno or the Trotskyists, was preposterous.

Traditions of protest under left-wing rubrics had long been eradicated

In the late twentieth century, the language of democratic protest against Soviet power, leftist at its core, was liberal conservative.

Indeed, in the late 1980s, the Soviet press used to call conservatives, who supported a more authoritarian regime and an end to the democratic process of perestroika, ‘right wing’ (although formally speaking, they were communists), and the opposition (including conservative liberals like Boris Yeltsin)—‘left wing’.

Later, in independent Ukraine during the 1990s, the term ‘leftists’ became popular when referring to the Stalinist and post-Stalinist parties, which, having taken root in the debris of the recently dissolved Communist Party, went on to exploit people’s nostalgia for the Soviet Union.

These parties included the Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU), which drifted away from Stalinism to social democracy; the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU), self-declared successor to the old Soviet Communist Party of Ukraine; the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, which broke off from the SPU and quickly took up a nationally-oriented ‘socialist’ position, with an ‘anti-globalisation’ bent grounded in religion; and, last but not least, the Peasant Party of Ukraine, rocked by a series of scandals in the past 15 years.

Throughout the 1990s, these political forces made up the majority in the Verkhovna Rada, and acted as the opposition to President Leonid Kuchma. It was precisely these parties, emerging from the Stalinist tradition (indeed, the majority of them never left it), which came to embody left-wing principles for ordinary people in Ukraine.

Thanks to their efforts, socialism and communism are still closely tied to ideas such as Slavic nationalism, a pro-Russian geopolitical orientation, the police state, the death penalty, social conservatism, the defence of ‘canonical Orthodoxy’, and the wholehearted approval of the Soviet experience.

Gradual regression

In the past 15 years, however, these parties have lost their political influence. This slow defeat has come about not just as a result of demographic processes (the inevitable ageing and diminishing of their supporters), but also due to their own miscalculations.

During the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko, the once powerful SPU squandered its political capital, as it entered unscrupulous coalitions, made bad political deals, and was exposed in a series of corruption scandals.

The Communist Party, which was practically in a governing coalition with the Party of Regions under Viktor Yanukovych, supported the infamous dictatorship laws of 16 January 2014, and in so doing, bound its political future with that of the regime, which quickly fell apart a month later.

After Maidan, with a large portion of their electorate in annexed Crimea and the territories of the ‘People’s Republics’, the communists had little hope of returning to parliament.

‘The left swamp’

At the same time, new left-wing organisations of a different breed have emerged: genuinely anarchist initiatives, Trotskyite groups, radical offshoots from the bureaucratic structures of the CPU, left-leaning nationalists, anti-fascists, social democratic circles — the wide spectrum of left organisations and movements typical of any western country.

To distinguish these groups from the post-Stalinist parties, which monopolised the left flank of national politics, Ukrainian journalists coined the term ‘the new left’. They did this without paying much attention to the fact that this term refers to a concrete political tradition; and one, which, not every young leftist who doesn’t love the CPU belongs to.

Aware of their minimal numbers and influence, these movements kept close to one another: they organised common protests and May Day demonstrations (for Kyiv, with a population of three million, a 500-strong May Day march was considered a success), operated general mailing lists and leased spaces for collective use.

Members of one group would move to another or create their own, but would remain, nevertheless, in the same friendship groups. New people also found themselves here.

This is how a phenomenon that came to be known as the ‘left swamp’ formed: a relatively stable, close-knit social environment where many people hated one another on political and personal grounds, held different political ambitions, but nevertheless felt a sense of belonging to a common cause.

Drying out the swamp

Monday 27 July 2015

Is Donald Trump a Fascist?

"Think of Bane, the would-be dictator of Gotham in Batman, who promises an end to democratic corruption, weakness and loss of civic pride. He sought a revolution against the prevailing elites in order to gain total power unto himself."

[Crossposted from Little Green Footballs]

I posed this question to a few of my American friends because I had noticed that no one seemed to be asking it.

It seemed like it was verboten to even consider. Libertarian author Jeffrey A Tucker has thought it through though and his essay on the question got republished by Newsweek.
[Trump’s] speech was like an interwar séance of once-powerful dictators who inspired multitudes, drove countries into the ground and died grim deaths. I kept thinking of books like John T. Flynn’s As We Go Marching, especially Chapter Ten that so brilliantly chronicles a form of statism that swept Europe in the 1930s. It grew up in the firmament of failed economies, cultural upheaval and social instability, and it lives by stoking the fires of bourgeois resentment.

Since World War II, the ideology he represents has usually lived in dark corners, and we don’t even have a name for it anymore. The right name, the correct name, the historically accurate name, is fascism. I don’t use that word as an insult only. It is accurate.

Though hardly anyone talks about it today, we really should. It is still real. It exists. It is distinct. It is not going away. Trump has tapped into it, absorbing unto his own political ambitions every conceivable resentment (race, class, sex, religion, economic) and promising a new order of things under his mighty hand.

You would have to be hopelessly ignorant of modern history not to see the outlines and where they end up. I want to laugh about what he said, like reading a comic-book version of Franco, Mussolini or Hitler. And truly I did laugh as he denounced the existence of tech support in India that serves American companies (“how can it be cheaper to call people there than here?”—as if he still thinks that long-distance charges apply). But in politics, history shows that laughter can turn too quickly to tears.
More: Is Donald Trump a Fascist?

Writing for Free Press Houston Nick Cooper notes that:
Right-wing, anti-immigrant fear mongering is quite familiar around the world, from parties like France’s National Front, The U.K. Independence Party, Greece’s Golden Dawn, Italy’s Northern League, and Germany’s National Democratic Party. These European parties are associated with neo-nazism and other forms of fascism, whereas Donald Trump is perceived by many Americans as a blow-hard who says some wacky things.
And, says, Cooper:
The historical precedents are being ignored. These two myths are familiar from fascist propaganda: a dead national dream can be revived by a heroic white male leader darker-skinned outsiders are coming to rape the women
Could be why a European like me looks at Trump and thinks 'Fascist'!  

H/T Steve M

Sunday 26 July 2015

Obama's Kenyan hit trip

If you're an American you possibly have no idea about this but President Obama just knocked it out of the park in Kenya.

Obviously the first "Kenyan-American" president was going to be well received but Obama's speeches addressing Kenya's problems and extolling its strengths and uplifting its future have been extremely well received. That is if my timeline of Kenyans on social media is anything to go by.

Kenya has a booming technology sector, which I have written about extensively, and Obama paid it a visit. The more that the rest of the world knows about African science and technology the better. He just boosted that.

In the speech above he raised a series of issues which the Kenyans I know know need to be raised. Issues like corruption, tribalism and the status of women.

Nancy Le Tourneau has noticed the Obama feminist foreign policy and noticed these clips from his speech:
Treating women as second-class citizens is a bad tradition. It holds you back. There’s no excuse for sexual assault or domestic violence. There’s no reason that young girls should suffer genital mutilation. There’s no place in civilized society for the early or forced marriage of children. These traditions may date back centuries; they have no place in the 21st century.

These are issues of right and wrong in any culture. But they're also issues of success and failure. Any nation that fails to educate its girls or employ its women and allow them to maximize their potential is doomed to fall behind in the global economy.
I also think his staunch defence of LGBT rights in the context of human rights and of diversity as strength - which is what Obama did - will pay out across Africa. It absolutely did not derail the visit and anyone saying so is a fool.

There's a lead in in the video before his sis Auma appears to introduce him (and she's great) but the music in the stadium's pretty good. Heck, we are in Africa after all.

Saturday 25 July 2015

Bernie Sanders' black problem

The rest of the world loves to laugh at America's never ending election process. Heck, Americans laugh at it. Jon Stewart for one. But those vaguely playing attention, especially those reading The Guardian, will have had their ears prick up at the campaign of one Bernie Sanders.

Senator Sanders is that rarest of things in the good ol'USA, an actual socialist. His rallies for the Democratic party's nomination have been massive so of course a Guardian writer, Mary O'Hara, is waving to get Brits attention yelling that "it’s invigorating to witness what’s happening in the US." My friends at Shiraz Socialist are no less dizzy saying that the Sanders' campaign is "probably the most exciting development in US politics since the 1930s."

Oh my.

Thing is the Sanders campaign just got knocked sideways by black activists. So much so that one of the largest grassroots progressive groups, Democracy for America, has now changed its nominating process. They "will ask how candidates will support the Movement for Black Lives and confront racism and our "culture of white supremacy"." Other groups are certain to follow. That is, that all the assumptions about why a self-proclaimed socialist would automatically win progressive endorsement have been changed. For ever.

Sanders has consistently polled low numbers with minority voters but things came to a head when he did not react well to a stage invasion by #blacklivesmatters activists at the Netroots Nation conference, a big leftwing shindig. Those theatrics drew the attention but the warning signs were already there, as Tommy Christopher points out in this analysis of an earlier interview with George Stephanopoulos.

Says Christopher:
Sanders decided to tell Stephanopoulos that black voters would love him if they just understood things better, an idea that is uncomfortably similar to the conclusion reached by the Republican Party’s infamous 2012 “autopsy report,” and an echo of the GOP’s point man on minority outreach, Rand Paul.

Sanders’ argument, that the policies he advocates for everyone should also be particularly attractive to black and Hispanic voters, is an approach that is favored by politicians who take minority votes for granted, as well as those who take for granted that they won’t get those votes. Sanders’ problem is that Hillary Clinton supports all of the policies he cites, but he has not taken up any of the issues that Hillary Clinton has used to solidify her support with the Obama coalition.This is no accident; Sanders has long emphasized winning white voters by deliberately avoiding what he considers “demographic stuff” in favor of economic issues.
Sanders problems are not just presentational, they're political. As one of the biggest black websites bluntly puts it "a job isn’t going to stop a bullet". Christopher:
Substantively, Sanders’ philosophy misses the point that many of those “demographic” issues are economic issues. For black Americans, the criminal justice and policing reforms that Hillary Clinton has advocated are directly tied to their economic well-being, or that of their close friends and relatives. And while Sanders decries the role of money in politics, the Obama coalition is much more urgently concerned with whether they’ll even be allowed to vote in the next election.
The political problem for Sanders is underlined in another area in this article by Jesse Berney on abortion access, which is a enormous issue in America where access remains under constant attack.
In an interview with Rolling Stone a few weeks ago, Bernie Sanders spoke about the economic populism driving his campaign. “Once you get off of the social issues — abortion, gay rights, guns — and into the economic issues,” he told writer Mark Binelli, “there is a lot more agreement than the pundits understand.”

This formulation isn’t uncommon, even among progressives like Sanders. It’s easy to ascribe the fierce debates on issues like abortion and LGBT rights to cultural differences, and to wish we could just push them aside and finally convince rural white voters to vote for their “economic interests.”

But putting abortion rights in a box separate from economic issues ignores the reality of the women who find it increasingly difficult to obtain an abortion in this country. Abortion is an economic issue: wealthy women will always have access to abortion, while restrictions and obstacles affect low- and middle-income women disproportionately.
Berney explains how Clinton is getting it right.
Sanders puts economic inequality and corporate power at the top of his agenda, and deliberately excludes reproductive rights from that list.

In a recent event in Iowa where she shared the stage with Sanders and the other Democratic White House candidates, Hillary Clinton made a point to say traditional “women’s issues” are actually “economic issues.” Clinton has mostly stuck to issues safer than abortion – like family leave and child care – when talking about the economic impact of issues that have traditionally been “women’s issues.”

But she’s doing the work to erase that distinction, while Sanders draws that line ever more clearly. These priorities matter, and the candidates’ words matter.
Berney warns that Sanders risks losing a whole other part of the Democrats base, the majority, women:
Abortion rights are under severe threat in this country, and exiling them to an imaginary “social issues”category necessarily relegates them to second-class status
Immediately after the Netroots Nation fiasco the Sanders campaign made some tweaks, as Imani Gandy notes in her fabulous, excoriating piece 'You’re White and Marched With Dr. King: So What?' - But Sanders' supporters are giving a very good impression of learning nothing at all from the exercise.
Progressives are complaining that the protesters were disrespectful and rude. They’re whining that interrupting a speech isn’t an “invitation for solidarity.”

I’ve seen some white folks complaining that they no longer feel safe at Netroots because—you know—unruly Black women. The horror! Still others don’t think the protest “looks good.” (Because as we all know, change comes when you politely ask for it, not when you disrupt and demand it, which, by the way, is what Dr. King did. White people tend to forget that Dr. King was a disruptor when they are using him as a Pokémon to shut Black people up.)

Rather than support these brave Black women activists in what is quite literally a fight for the lives of Black people, there you are in all your pearl-clutching glory talking about how disrespectful the activists were, and how it’s such a shame that the uppity Black people were being so rude to an obvious ally, and how the #BlackLivesMatter movement is so disorganized and is protesting the wrong things at the wrong time in front of the wrong people.

    “Why are you alienating allies?”

    “Don’t you know how much Bernie cares for you?”

    “What’s wrong with you people?”

    “Hillary would be worse!”

    “What are you going to do, vote for Donald Trump?”

    “Why won’t you ever be satisfied?”

    “You’re doing it all wrong!”

    “You’re going to make us quit caring about Black lives if you don’t shape up and act the way we want you to.”

Most Black voters want the answer to one question: What is Sanders’ plan to address the police brutality crisis in the Black community?

And the answer to that question is never: “Bernie marched with Dr. King.”
I can vouch for this reality because even I got whiny tweets after retweeting Gandy, who tweets at @AngryBlackLady.

And it is not like there aren't black people trying to patiently explain what Sanders' may be doing wrong. Here's Roderick Morrow, who got so fed up with reaction from so-called 'progressives' that he started the joke hashtag. #BernieSoBlack.
It's like they're almost trying to outblack us. "Oh, you're a black person, what could you possibly understand about our candidate? He was marching before you were even born!" Okay, that's cool, but you gotta stay on top of it. So I made a joke that's like, "Bernie's blacker than us! Bernie's SO BLACK!" That's how it feels when they come into our mentions and tell us that we don't know what we're talking about, and even though [Sanders] doesn't talk about #BlackLivesMatter right now, we should just kind of shut up. So I was just like:

Honestly, the joke is not even on Bernie Sanders. That's what's so funny — the joke is on the defense of him, which is, if you extrapolate to the furthest extent, he can do no wrong on race. Like, we should not even expect anything of him, he put in his time already, we need to just shut up.

I'm sure it does happen, but I can't imagine people doing this to other constituencies, because you do rely on those votes. At Netroots Nation, you're going to be addressing a very diverse but very black-centric audience, and to not really be prepared to talk about race there is a little bit of a slap in the face. So for us — and when I say "us," I just mean black people, I'm not any level of an activist or anything — for us to just say, Hey, you kind of did a bad job, hope you do better in the future, and then get bombarded with "He marched in 1968!" it's like, All right, man, I don't know what to tell you.
That. That right there.

Edited to add@BobFromBrockley has pointed out this socialist response, not to this but to the entire movement (I think)! A progressive I have followed for years, Martin Bowman, has also written despairingly here, comparing the movement to a marriage and fearing that we're heading for divorce.

I won't Fisk either but I would point out one thing. I'm a white gay man and I'm from the generation that lived through HIV/Aids. So there is a connection I have to a 'crisis' of people dying and there is also a connection to having to yell and scream to get attention - from everybody. So we had Act-Up and Peter Tatchell invading pulpits, but then we also had lobbyists and McKellan having tea with John Major. Movements always piss people off. From what I can tell the people supporting Sanders are pissed off and from my perspective, as another minority, then I don't know why that's a bad thing.

Edited to add: It's also worthwhile noting these comments (via Nancy LeTourneau) from Dara Lind:
There is a legitimate disconnect between the way Sanders (and many of the economic progressives who support him) see the world, and the way many racial-justice progressives see the world. To Bernie Sanders, as I've written, racial inequality is a symptom — but economic inequality is the disease. That's why his responses to unrest in Ferguson and Baltimore have included specific calls for police accountability, but have focused on improving economic opportunity for young African Americans. Sanders presents fixing unemployment as the systemic solution to the problem.

Many racial-justice advocates don't see it that way. They see racism as its own systemic problem that has to be addressed on its own terms. They feel that it's important to acknowledge the effects of economic inequality on people of color, but that racial inequality isn't merely a symptom of economic inequality. And most importantly, they feel that "pivoting" to economic issues can be a way for white progressives to present their agenda as the progressive agenda and shove black progressives, and the issues that matter most to them, to the sidelines.

So Sanders' performance at Netroots confirmed the frustrations that his critics felt. And Sanders' supporters' reaction to the criticism was just as predictable.
Edited to add: Here is an excellent critique of #blacklivesmatter by Oliver Willis.

Willis argues that as with Occupy Wall Street the demands of the movement are unclear and they need to be. He says that history shows us that demands must be concrete.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Russian Orthodoxy's growing "pogrom-like" violence

The BBC recently reported on a "stand off" between local residents in a Moscow suburb and activists from the Russian Orthodox church (ROC). The residents were protesting plans to illegally erect a church in their local Torfyanka park, taking precious green space, which is against Russian law, and despite there being numerous other usually empty churches in the vicinity.

Sarah Rainsford reports that the locals are scared of the activists, most of whom are not from their suburb, and that those protesting the church are called "sinners". The ROC activists told Rainsford that 'the West' was behind those protesting the new church.

The government wants hundreds more churches in the capital, when the real need is for more mosques for Moscow's two million Muslims, one sixth of Moscow's population. There are also only five synagogues and two Catholic churches. Worshipers have been trying to get permission for over a decade for one Krishna temple.

Despite the constitution's Article 14, which defines Russia as a "secular state", only the Orthodox church is allowed to teach religion in Russia’s public schools and it also has the right to review any legislation before the Russian parliament. In 2013 a blasphemy law was passed. The church has backed Putin and bad-mouthed the opposition. Any priest who criticises the government faces being defrocked.

Notes Paul Coyer:
Taking this a step further, the view of Putin as a quasi-sacral figure is becoming increasingly widespread throughout Russia. In St. Petersburg, Putin’s hometown, he has been portrayed as an angel reaching out his hands and blessing the city’s inhabitants. Just this past weekend St. Petersburg unveiled a bust of Putin in the attire of a Roman Emperor.
Sects within the ROC revere Putin as the reincarnation of the Apostle Paul and even pray to him. Drawing an analogy between the Apostle Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus, this sect believes that, just as Paul persecuted Christians and then became their leader, Putin once was part of the KGB, which persecuted the Church, and he now works to strengthen it. (Although it is perhaps of more than passing interest to note that the leader of this sect began praising Putin so highly only after her superiors in the ROC asked the FSB (the successor to the KGB) to begin tailing her. After beginning her sect, the government surveillance stopped.)
In this article by Paul Goble, reblogged with permission from Window On Eurasia, Goble reports on what is being called the increasingly "pogrom like" violence associated with Orthodox activists.


Staunton, July 19 – An article in the current issue of “Sovershenno Sekretno” asks whether there is a line between Russian Orthodox Church activists and those who engage in pogrom-like violence. It concludes sadly that there is not -- and that church activists and those engaged in attacks on other groups are increasingly one and the same people.

The monthly’s Dmitry Rudnyev writes that he decided to focus on this issue after the fights between those who want to build more Orthodox churches in Moscow and those who oppose these being put in what are now public parks and Father Dmitry Smirnov’s shutting down of a concert that he said was disturbing prayer (

Such incidents, he continues, “are taking place ever more frequently, and the causes which generate among Orthodox [activists] such an incommensurately stormy reaction are becoming ever more varied.” That raises the question as to why Russian Orthodoxy has “suddenly acquired hysterical aspects” and seems to be trying to find occasions to be upset.

“Five to ten years ago, the phrase ‘Orthodox radicalism’ would have elicited a condescending smile,” Rudnyev says. “Today however, this has become one of the realities of Russian religious life.” So far, “thank God,” it hasn’t claimed human victims in the way that nationalist or Islamic radicalisms have.

“But the problem of radicalism in the church exists,” he continues, “and today people talk about it in a serious way.”

Yevgeny Nikiforov, head of the Orthodox Radonezh Society, says that “the percent of radically inclined people among believers is absolutely equal to the percent of radicals in society as a whole.” It generally “’infects’” recent converts, but at times, it involves those who have been active in Orthodoxy their entire lives.

An example of the latter is Father Dmitry Smirnov, Nikiforov continues. He is nominally only a priest, but “in the structure of the church he has already for a long time occupied the slot of a bishop. This is like in the army where a colonel may serve in a general’s place” and where he enjoys the trust of those above him.

What Father Dmitry did, Archdeacon Andrey Kurayev says, reflected “a free decision” on his part. Each of us is complicated, and each makes his choice as a result of a multitude of causes pressing on him.” What makes his action of concern is that Father Dmitry had the kind of access that would have allowed him to solve this problem without any conflict.

He “could have made a single telephone call,” Kurayev continues, and there wouldn’t have been a problem. But “of all the mass of possible resolutions of the problem, Father Dmitry chose the path of open and forceful intervention. And this is not a result of shortcomings of his mind or experience.” Instead, it reflected his judgment of “the general atmosphere of today’s dialogue between the church and society.”
Via Oppositum

Since 2012, Kurayev says, some in the church have felt “called upon to show that we also are a force agency,” that the people of the church are part of the foundation of the secular authorities, that they can act on that basis, and that they may move against anyone confident that they won’t be punished even if we go beyond the bounds of legality.

In this, they are not different from the pro-Putin bikers, and this propensity to engage in violence won’t end as long as the powers that be continue to support. Indeed, Kurayev continues, actions like those of Father Dmitry “will be a regular feature” of Russian life.

What makes this situation somewhat of “a paradox,” Kuryaev says, is that Patriarch Kirill “is one of the most educated of all the hierarchs of the Russian Church” but because of his dramatic expansion of the number of bishoprics, he has brought into the hierarchy many who are uneducated and thus inclined to settle things not by negotiation but by violence.

Roman Lunkin, a senior specialist at the Center for the Study of the Problems of Religion and Society at the Russian Academy of Sciences, agrees. “Earlier under Aleksii II, the church did not use in its political goals various kinds of radical groups … this would have been unnecessary and quite dangerous in a democratic society where the church suddenly wouldhave been associated with the worst kind of nationalists suffering from xenophobia.”

“However,” Lunkin says, “the situation in [Russia] has changed.”

The Church needs the help of the state to achieve its goals, he continues, and consequently, “radical Orthodox tricks are called upon to convince the authorities that Orthodoxy is a powerful force. Therefore, often the hierarchs themselves make declarations in defense of the Orthodox” in ways that offend others.

However, “the paradox is that the more official representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church demand from the government and even impose on it its own ideology, the more such people come into conflict with what church life really needs,” Lunkin says.

The church radicals, he continues, have little support: “the majority of believers have no desire … to prohibit plays or break up rock concerts.” Instead, they properly understand that “the single task [which the church must fulfill in the future] is the construction of an Orthodox community in a democratic society in which believers support one another, life according to the law, and respect even non-believers” rather than use force to address problems.

Moving in that direction is a long and slow process, Lunkin says, and the actions of some who speak for the Russian Orthodox Church are not helping. “But the process is inevitable and it is already in course.”

There have always been radicals in and around the church, but in general, the hierarchy has kept them on a short leash as was the case with Bishop Diomid of Sakha* in 2008, the scholar says. His views were quite radical then, but now they would be viewed as more or less mainstream.

Indeed, the “Sovershenno Sekretno” journalist says, there is evidence that some in the church hierarchy like Father Dmitry are actively sponsoring radical groups like the Movement in Support of 200 Churches and the Movement of 40 by 40 and encouraging their members to go from one place to another to push their views, something ordinary believers would not do.

And many of those in the leadership of these groups are not only followers of Father Dmitry but show both his intolerance and willingness to engage in force, two things that alienate many ordinary believers even if they are not inconsistent with the kind of values being promoted by the Putin regime.

  • Jim Kovpak writes on the difference between the Orthodox/state propaganda version of Russia and the reality:
In the minds of many of these drooling morons, Russia is this simple, fairy tale land where men are respectable fathers and patriots, and women are demure, modest maidens waiting patiently to get married and start bearing children.  The reality is something quite different.

Update October 9: The activists won! The construction of the church has been cancelled.

Monday 20 July 2015

The Kremlin's maltreated soldiers

The maltreatment of conscripts in Russia's still largely conscript army has been an open secret for years. In the days when Russia's media was allowed to report on Russia's problems a newspaper like Pravda could report that:
According to the UN International Panel for Struggle against Sexual Exploitation, the Russian army is plagued with male prostitution. A small amount of money is enough to find a Russian soldier-prostitute in the center of Moscow.

Servicemen may become male prostitutes in the Russian army for various reasons. There are young men who voluntarily offer sexual favors to their homosexual clients; others are forced into prostitution against their own will. Newcomers, especially those who finished higher schools before joining the army, suffer from sexual harassment more often than others. Brave soldiers try to protect their honor and rights, although there is no one to help them: commanders and military officials may often be involved in the sex business too.
But that was 2007 and nowadays the deaths of, potentially, thousands in the state secret that is the war in Ukraine must be hidden. The civil society groups set up to deal with the mistreatment of conscript soldiers, like the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers quoted in this 2011 Russia Today article, are now being silenced as they dare to ask questions about the soldier's deaths 'on holiday' or 'on maneuvers'.

If that was not bad enough even when there is an accident the deaths of soldiers are being ignored. Last week a barracks collapsed in Omsk killing 23 young men. State TV barely mentioned it.

This so outraged RFE/RL’s Elena Rykovtseva that she wrote an open letter to those TV network's and her fellow Russian journalists. It has gone viral and has been translated by Kevin Rothrock for Global Voices.


    R.Shaihulin, October 5, 1994
    B.Sudnikovich, January 4, 1995
    A.Polegenko, January 17, 1997
    R.Yumagulov, March 29, 1991
    M.Ignatenko, January 20, 1996
    R.Filyanin, July 24, 1996
    M.Ivanov, October 22, 1996
    V.Chemezov, October 19, 1996
    Filatov, August 18, 1996
    R.Altynbaev, June 14, 1994
    D.Kenih, November 16, 1996
    A.Gritskov, January 30, 1996
    E.Belov, December 3, 1995
    B.Nafikov, 21.09.1996
    O.Kortusov, March 16, 1996
    A.Shokaev, November 5, 1994
    E.Herman, July 30, 1995
    F.Mamliev, September 2, 1996
    E.Reshetnikov, September 30, 1996
    AM.Igoshev, April 6, 1996
    A.Shingareev, April 24, 1997
    V.Lomaev, January 29, 1997

Five of them were buried today in Omsk. Another two went into the ground in Novosibirsk. They’ve declared a day of mourning in Orenburg, too. The dead are also arriving in Irkutsk, Bashkiria, and St. Petersburg. People are crying across the whole country, but it’s no longer an issue for the national TV networks. “[Ukrainian nationalist group] Pravyi Sektor is marching on Europe. The Ukrainian authorities can’t manage the radicals.” This is how their goddamn news broadcasts begin. And there’s not a word about our dead boys.

At this moment, there are funerals happening in Omsk—already for the second day in a row. But there’s no news coming out of there. Not a single live broadcast. And I remember well how Rossiya-24 aired around-the-clock coverage of Lugansk separatist [Alexey] Mozgovoi’s funeral. I remember how it went on endlessly, as the mic was handed off to family, then friends, and then locals, and how everyone cried in their speeches about what a great and wonderful patron and protector he was. When it comes to our own boys in the Russian army, who incidentally wanted fanatically to serve as paratroopers, there’s not a thing on television. Nobody broadcasts the reactions, or the condolences of a single living mourner—apart from Putin’s sympathy, as retold by [his press secretary Dmitry] Peskov. And this was only on the first day.

Yesterday, on the second day, now speaking before a group of students in Klyazma, [Putin] no longer remembered these other young men. He smiled and he beamed and he congratulated the crowd on the day’s fine weather. It was as if the Omsk barracks never happened. The victims’ names were never read on a single national TV network. The men are nameless—all 23 of them.

It’s nothing personal, guys.

But each of these boys has his own social media page, and there are photographs. And it would have been possible at least to say something—anything—about these men, and about their families. Something about Oleg Kortusov, for instance, who was a promising fighter and whose fiancée is expecting a child. Or something about Egor German, another local from Omsk, who leaves behind a baby born less than a year ago.

And this is to say nothing about helping the victims’ loved ones—those close to the men who died and who survived. They transferred another Omsk soldier, Volodya Petrov, to Moscow, and the Defense Ministry is paying for his treatment, but they didn’t allocate any money to his family for their train transportation or accommodations in the city. And his mother has nothing. That’s why the city of Omsk banded together and raised money to help her.

For some reason, they don’t want to talk about this on their national TV networks, with their audience of millions. For some reason, they don’t want to say even one human thing about these guys, or ask the country if maybe it, too, would like to offer some help, in addition to the one-time assistance their families received from the state (which they don’t get right away, incidentally)?

But I don’t want to talk about these people and their TV stations anymore. Let them live with their shame. I just want to tell those boys goodbye. And also in their memory, I want to publish this photograph [see above], which I found on the social media page of one of them, Sergei Filatov. He’s the one second in from the right in the last row in the back. In the front is Valery Lomaev from St. Petersburg. He died, too. The photo is from July 12, a few hours before the tragedy, inside the very same barracks.

Friday 17 July 2015

MH17: Russia did it, endof?

#MH17 victims of #RussiaInvadedUkraine Mo, Evie and Otis Maslin
A year ago today hundreds of Western bodies tumbled out of the sky in the middle of a European war zone.

Nobody predicted the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 but with hindsight they could have. The war in Eastern Ukraine was at a turning point. Despite a corrupt and crumbling army and 92 thrown together groups of ragtag militia, the Ukrainians were turning the tide on the rebels.

But if it was not obvious that the exact same 'little green men' scenario played out in Crimea was being played out in the Donbas it should have by the time that the first planes started getting shot down. The fighter jets started going down and then the high flying transport planes.

Those transport planes were being shot down by some very sophisticated weapons, ones that took a lot of coordination and a lot of training to operate. They did not, to turn around Putin's joking phrase, from when he was still pretending that those in Crimea were 'local volunteers', 'come from a shop'.

We now know thanks in large part to the work of one British man, Eliot Higgins, almost beyond all reasonable doubt, that MH17 was shot down by a Russian missile system. This means a Russian crew, precisely because of the training required to operate such a system and Higgins just said that his Bellingcat team now have Russian names and have provided them to the official investigators, the Dutch Safety Board, where he is an official witness.

How could they know Russian names? Because those Russians posted the evidence themselves, on social media. After the jump watch the film by Vice News' Simon Ostrovsky where he follows up on evidence gathered by Higgins of one Russian soldier's presence on the Donbas battle fields. Ostrovsky finds the exact same spots where one soldier took his selfies. That soldier was from Buryatia, a Russian region whose people are Mongols. Hence the soldier got noticed in Eastern Ukraine.

After MH17 the tide turned back and the rebels with their Russian 'volunteer professional assistants' ensured that the war did not end last August but carried on, as it still does today, Minsk 'peace' or no 'peace'.

10% of Ukraine lost, 6000 dead and over 2 million displaced.

Russia has come up with five, to date, explanations for MH17, none blaming themselves of course and some out of science fiction. One by the Defence Ministry is described by Bellingcat as Russia's "Colin Powell moment".

That moment when the former American Secretary of State went before the UN Security Council to argue for war on Iraq has become a poster for Russia's lavishly funded international propaganda TV network RT. You may have seen it on the Washington Metro or on London's Tube. But just as the West tolerates RT so does Western media have 'balance' and thus MH17 will remain 'he said, she said' until the official report comes out in three months time.

That 'balance' and essential fairness which underpins our Western societies is used against us by Russia. Their security services and their 'political technocrats' know full well that with something like MH17 they can muddy the waters enough that many in the West won't blame Russia. They can somehow wriggle out of this.

The FSB and the Kremlin will find willing partners on both the left and the right but they will also find unwitting ones like journalists. Journalists such as one Mike Kelly writing today for the Newcastle Chronicle. (Newcastle is where two of the British victims hail from.) Kelly presents MH17 as a tale of 'versions' and he condemns the 'squabbling' over whodunnit, comparing this notion of his with the 'quiet dignity' of today's memorials.

Putin could not have said it better - in fact he has said it with his talk of the politicisation of the MH17 inquiry. But just as climate change is not about 'sides' of equal veracity neither is MH17, to say otherwise is to damn the whole profession of investigative journalism and to sign up to the Russian propaganda meme of there being no such thing as the truth! And it is no service to the victims' loved ones to pretend otherwise.

Tomorrow Ukraine will disappear from people's radar but come October we know what the Dutch report will say. Not because we are arrogant but because others have done the hard work.

Even when we then have a Russian war crime spelt out in black and white I predict we will still hear the siren voice of appeasement, from the left and from the right. Business will still go on and London palaces will still be bought with corrupt money.

For shame.

  • Others than Higgins have of course investigated. Two are James Miller and Michael Weiss and they have a long read at the Daily Beast spelling out how come we know Russia dunnit.

Watch Simon Ostrovsky's astonishing report tracking down one Buryat soldier to one of Russia's remotest regions.

Thursday 16 July 2015

A children's treasury of Labour MPs backing homeopathy

So I got inspired by Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn's defiant, proud even, support for the royal favourite that is homeopathy. And also by the idea that water 'retains a memory' - stop laughing at the back or I'll get out the ruler again - and I dredged the memory (geddit?) banks of the Parliament website ..


This is the list of Labour MPs who have at one time or another backed a homeopathy Early Day Motion (EDM). There are plenty of others, of course, LibDems and Tories and ... Ian Paisley, and ... Alex Salmond. But for the purposes of purely laughing at comrades (as well as for this poor comrade channeling Princes Leia), let's stick to Labour.

Abbott, Diane
Anderson, Janet
Bailey, Adrian
Banks, Tony
Barlow, Celia
Barnes, Harry
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Benton, Joe
Berger, Luciana
Best, Harold
Bradley, Keith
Brennan, Kevin
Buck, Karen
Burgon, Colin
Campbell, Ronnie 
Clapham, Michael
Clarke, Tony
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Cook, Frank
Corston, Jean
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cryer, Ann
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Jim
Dalyell, Tam
Davis, Terry
Dean, Janet
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Docherty, Thomas
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Eagle, Angela
Edwards, Huw
Elliott, Julie
Etherington, Bill 
Field, Frank
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Gapes, Mike
Griffiths, Win
Hall, Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, David
Hamilton, Fabian
Hepburn, Stephen
Hodge, Margaret
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George
Jackson, Glenda
Jones, Barry
Jones, Lynne
Kennedy, Jane
Kilfoyle, Peter
Kumar, Ashok
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lewis, Terry
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Mahon, Alice
Marsden, Gordon
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
McAllion, John
McCafferty, Chris
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Anne
Meale, Alan
Michie, Bill
Naysmith, Doug
O'Hara, Edward
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget 
Primarolo, Dawn
Quin, Joyce
Robertson, John
Ross, Ernie
Roy, Lindsay
Russell, Christine
Sarwar, Mohammad
Sawford, Phil
Sharma, Virendra
Sheridan, Jim
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Geraldine
Stringer, Graham
Taylor, Dari
Taylor, David 
Wareing, Robert N
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Rudi
Walley, Joan
White, Brian
Wyatt, Derek

[NB: You can unsign EDMs.]

Wednesday 15 July 2015

Time for Larry Levan Way

Any DJ who knows anything will know who Larry Levan is. The pioneer of club/dance/whatever the kids are calling it music. Infamous for his 80s sets at the NYC club Paradise Garage.

Levan was a gay black DJ, killed by AIDS, whose rep transferred to the gay white Sydney friends who I knew who had experienced his genius - and that rep transferred to countless others and that rep lives on.

This is the faaabulous street party to promote the project to rename a NYC street in his honour (petition - sign!).

DeBlasio - make it so!

[Also. someone is trying to make a movie. Hell yes.]

It features STACKS of old farts (just like myself :]) getting down (via François Kevorkian, David DePino, Joey Llanos and Jocelyn Brown - they get down too! + some of the DJing reminds me of me at my most inept, but it doesn't matter!) to the greatest hits of the Garage. And it is f-ng, life affirming, insanely wonderful. I love this crowd. Just viewing this crowd is joyful.


Video of the day starts with Jean Michel Jarre, which if you understand Levan's deejaying is sooo appropriate. Then right into my fave track of forever. Kill. Me. Now.

"Oooh, make me move. Make me feel like my whole world is on FIRE."

"You make me feel. Mighty, mighty real."

".. the light of love will shine on us, forever and a day."

"And you may ask yourself, how did I get here?"

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Anti-semitism fuels Donbas 'rebel' infighting

Reblogged with permission (via Ukraine Solidarity Campaign).


By Halya Coynash

It was bad enough for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s narrative about ‘anti-Semitic hordes’ seizing power in Kyiv when the Kremlin’s proxies in Donbas dismissed Ukraine’s leaders as “pathetic Jews”. Now foul anti-Semitic attacks are being used as part of an internal struggle for power between various militant leaders.

Viacheslav Likhachev, researcher on anti-Semitism and xenophobia, reports that the fighting for position within the part of the Donetsk oblast under the control of Kremlin-backed militants appears to be intensifying  He stresses that the lack of reliable information makes it difficult to be certain what is going on, but that some of the information coming out suggests that the battle may be heating up due to the state of health of the leader of the so-called ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ [‘DPR’], Alexander Zakharchenko. As well as political power, he says, the infighting between certain militant leaders is probably about control over smuggling channels.

What is more interesting, however, are the methods used, and what kind of supposedly compromising information or ‘dirt’ is being flung around.

One of the militant leaders most under attack is Alexander Khodakovsky, a former commander of the Ukrainian Security Service [SBU] Alpha special force unit and then commander of the Kremlin-funded and largely manned Vostok Brigade (initially battalion). He became ‘security minister in the so-called ‘republic’ last summer and since autumn has been calling himself secretary of a self-styled ‘security council’.

He first came in for criticism back in late August when the Vostok Battalion, with a large contingent of supposed volunteers from Chechnya and Ossetia in Russia, suffered heavy losses when trying to seize Donetsk Airport. Then, however, he was merely called a “traitor”. Later they added the detail that supposedly ‘explains it all’, that Khodakovsky is Jewish.

Likhachev notes that there has been a noticeable change in the level of such anti-Semitic attacks.  If initially they were anonymous comments like “well what would you expect from a Jew [an offensive word used]?”, the anti-Semitism developed into a major component. The blurb about a film against “Jew Khodakovsky” posted on YouTube states, for example, that: “Jew Khodakovsky did not betray the insurgents. Being a Jew and citizen of Israel, he simply acted in accordance with the Torah”.

People’s negative comments about Khodakovsky are accompanied by his photo with a star of David or the emblem of the Israeli intelligence service.  He is alleged to be a specially trained Mossad agent who has been planted in the ‘DPR’ leadership to carry out sabotage, plan doomed operations, etc.

There is, unfortunately, nothing at all exceptional about this attack.  As LIkhachev puts it:
“Anti-Semitism has long become an important component of the official ideology and propaganda of the puppet regimes declared on the territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, occupied by Russia. It is used, for example, to discredit the President and leaders of the country”,
The most outrageous example was in early February when Zakharchenko and the leader of the so-called ‘Luhansk people’s republic’, Igor Plotnytsky, publically referred to Ukraine’s leaders as “pathetic Jews”.

Plotnytsky recently demonstrated his level of linguistic knowledge as well as his primitive anti-Semitism by claiming that Euromaidan referred to ‘Jewish Maidan’, not European Maidan  (in Russian the word Jewish has the same first letters as European).

Back in April last year, after militants seized control in Sloviansk, they removed Ukrainian channels, replacing them with Russian propaganda channels as well as one with an overtly anti-Semitic bent.  They were, they claimed “inflicting a powerful information conceptual blow to the biblical matrix … to Zionist zombie broadcasting”. One of the militant groups had shortly before that come up with anti-Semitic attacks against Boris Filatov, aide to the then governor of Dnipropetrovsk Igor Kolomoisky (who was also attacked in similar mode).

Likhachev notes that Plotnytsky’s own anti-Semitism did not stop him being called a Jew (with the offensive term used).

The level is pitiful, but those using anti-Semitic attacks in their power struggle are assuming that this will find a receptive audience, and in the Kremlin-backed ‘republics’, the assumption is probably correct.

Monday 13 July 2015

Lessons from George Galloway's loss

Last week Bradford West MP Naz Shah gave her maidan speech to Parliament. She did not hold back. Talking about her opponent, George Galloway, she said:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his actions, which united the people of Bradford West. Their patience – and, indeed, mine –certainly paid off when we handed him his P45 on 8 May. The spandex cat has truly left the building.

Here she is referring to Galloway's infamous performance on the reality TV show Big Brother, where he at one point pretended to be a cat whilst dressed in clingy bright red spandex. That appearance happened whilst he was an MP for ‎Bethnal Green and Bow. When he entered the Big Brother House his interests were announced as including "sunbathing and sex."

The details of the campaign Galloway ran against Shah are well known. Shah called it, correctly, "misogynistic".

Yet there were many on the left who backed Galloway despite the appalling comments and behaviour. He was seen by them as a 'great man'. They saw him entirely through the prism of foreign affairs and as the only man able to challenge 'imperialists'.

Despite the previous experience in Tower Hamlets, where the sight of their MP embarrassing himself on reality TV just underlined his distaste for the job of representing his constituents, where he said he just loved elections and being an MP was a base for his international media appearances. Despite all that recent history Galloway won Bradford West - including with the vote of Shah herself.

Another vote for Galloway came from a Bradford socialist teacher, John Atkinson, whose tweets during the 2015 campaign under the moniker of 'Angry of Bradford' became a must follow.

Atkinson has blogged about the Galloway legacy and I think he should be read by anyone putting their faith in a 'great man'.
When I voted for Galloway, which I did in 2012, Bradford’s political landscape was one of ignorance and abuse. There we were, a big city, in the north, with a multi-cultural electorate and suffering from the post-industrial diseases of poor education, poor skills and poor job prospects. Labour ignored us; the Tories punished us.

The left wrung its hands and watched us decline, ignoring our kids’ failure as first London then Manchester and Birmingham got their Challenge initiatives, ignoring our City of Film and Media Museum to send Aunty Beeb to Salford, and ignoring our lack of infrastructure to give Sheffield & Manchester trams and London whatever it wants.

The ConDem coalition, well, they trimmed our funding to the bone, taking far more from Bradford and giving it to their fattened southern heartlands, a punishment made worse by 3 of 5 Bradford MDC MPs being coalition partners. Respect, such a laughable misnomer as it now seems, were the answer, and their firebrand standard-bearer was a shoo-in.

I truly believed that Bradford West and her partners within the city, so long stalwarts of Labour and painted red religiously at almost every election, would actually get something, anything, out of this slavish, parasitic relationship if once, and it needed only to be once, we bit the hand that barely fed us and said, categorically, ‘Please, sir, can we have some more?”

In short, I thought Galloway’s election would stop Labour taking us for granted.
Atkinson says that the so-called 'Bradford Spring' really was "a movement in which popular and progressive community activists, young people and disaffected Labour voters were [sic] brought into a broadly socialist political project that shook the city, region and country."

But Atkinson documents in his blog his own and others growing disillusionment and laments that:
If Galloway had put the interests of his party, the movement of young women who brought him the seat and the socialist movement at large before his own ego and career, we would be potentially looking at a very different Bradford.
And that the 2015 election showed that Labour had not changed in Bradford:
What is unconscionable is the execrable manner in which she came to power which was entirely despite Labour’s activities. The Labour Party put up council lambs to be slaughtered by wolfish George; picked a southerner without experience and watched her scamper back down South; then picked an unknown, inexperienced candidate who, by luck rather than judgment, had the balls to take on one of the most seasoned, vicious, uncompromising opponents in British politics… and win! 
Although Atkinson has hopes for Shah he backed the Greens.
In a seat like Bradford West, the Greens should be fighting to be known as RESPECT without Galloway.  They are standing nationally on an anti war, anti austerity and pro migrant program. An offer that could be made in a way that cuts across traditional patterns of ethnic and “neighbourhood” politics in Bradford.  They are the ideas that put Galloway on top of that bus in the first place, and they are ideas that can win. 
But his biggest takeaway from Galloway's defeat is one which needs to be heard far more widely across the left.
Personally, I won’t put so much faith, trust and responsibility in politicians. Perhaps his greatest legacy is to teach us that we must do it for ourselves and not rely on politicians who are, like us, human, fallible and frail. Galloway, a promised panacea that turned out to be a placebo, has, maybe, taught us to do things for ourselves and use politicians as conduits, as tools, for us to use and, when they have been worn out, discarded and traded in for new.

What a legacy for George it would be if we treat politicians as we should, and make them fear being picked for Bradford West, a constituency with such active, vociferous, uncompromising, unforgiving voters that the incumbent trembles and the upstart shivers; a constituency which sends chills down the back of the media and SPADs alike; a constituency that becomes the rocks on which careers are smashed.

What a legacy it would be if George has taught us to push politicians to perform and produce or be punished.
Watch Shah's maidan speech after the jump. If it is not working go to the Parliament website.

Thursday 9 July 2015

Frankie Boyle and the Aborigines

If you enjoy laughing and have ever watched the British (knowing laugh) nihilistic comedian Frankie Boyle I very much doubt that you have never laughed at his jokes.

The joke about the Queen's vagina being haunted? If you heard it I would bet that something akin to laughter ensued.

Yet that and other comedic transgressions has resulted in transgressive Frankie being banished by the evil English establishment.

Except it hasn't.

Oh no. We have the BBC commissioning a show headed by Boyle after the Scottish referendum and then another commission for online after the UK General Election. Some banishment. The Boyle election show was on the BBC iplayer homepage for weeks.

In his election show Boyle had two female comedians to bounce off and a 'Grime' commentator - aka a black British bloke. All of whom polished his mantle.

Now I can think of a number of bitchy conservatives who could have been a perfect foil to Boyle. Were they even considered? It would have made for great TV.

But why I am even asking this? Multi millionaire Boyle needs his 'safe space', bless. He has no history of stepping outside of his comfort zone but let's try. Here we go Frankie. Here's me puncturing your safe space.

The treatment of Australia and Australians by Boyle and his 'Grime' commentator Akala was colonialist and racist.

Boyle cherry picked a brief extract from Australian morning TV to showcase how Australians are all stupid fucking colonials and so so racist. This was as bad as the treatment of the 'colonials' by the Brits going way back has ever been. Barry Humphries, Private Eye and Humphries' Barry McKenzie character were satirising this Brit attitude in the 1970s (the 70s FFS).

We recently had the Gallipoli hundredth anniversary. Gallipoli in the Australian imagination is all about how the Brits have traditionally treated Aussies as subaltern. This stuff has form.

After his cherrypick, Boyle, backed by Akala, then underlined by calling Australia, quote, "the most racist country in the world".

Worse than Mali? Worse than Russia? Worse than India? Worse than Brazil?

Akala cited the utter revelation, to much of the audience I would assume, that Australian Aborigines 'used to be ruled by the Flora and Fauna Act'. This is actually a myth (the Act is) but the bigger point is that nearly fifty years ago Australians voted to end that mythical status, change the  Constitution and grant Aborigines citizenship by 91% in favour. Right now Australians are 85% in favour of proposals to change the Constitution to recognise Aboriginal people.

Why does Akala mention the (non existent) Flora and Fauna Act? To back Boyle's claim that Australia remains "the most racist country in the world".

Boyle's claim, with Akala's backing, does two things: it denies that white Australia has moved one centimeter on from the 1960s; it denies that Aboriginal and progressive activism has had any impact.

Obviously both are wrong. Clearly they are wrong. But both Akala and Boyle have an investment in denying the reality in Australia: their British audience will love to hear Australia called "the most racist country in the world" - and Akala and Boyle know it.

In order to make that claim both have to behave exactly like colonialists. Racist, British colonialists. And they have to fail to listen to Aboriginal people.

I wrote about this a few years back. Listening involves understanding that Aboriginal people have different opinions on how to advance the interests of their communities. (Of course they effing do.) There are some who want sovereignty to be central. (If Akala knew anything he would mention the absence of treaties.) Then there are others working with capitalism to create Aboriginal owned business and create jobs. And then there's the mass in between, trying to get on.

Outside of this we have white people like leftie icon John Pilger and environmentalists like newly minted BBC star Professor Tim Flannery who also have opinions. And don't they ever have opinions - and the whites always know better than the bad blackfellas.

Who is going to get the attention of the likes of Boyle/Akala (and countless other Brits)? Short answer: the white people. They'll know and trust someone like Pilger (Akala's comment is a 'tell' here) and have never heard of the likes of Professor Marcia Langton.

Langton has slammed Flannery and the "racist assumption in the green movement about Aboriginal people being the enemies of the wilderness." She is a leading light in the national debate around Aboriginal advancement and particularly the role of mining and is one of the most well known Aboriginal people in Australia. Yet when Pilger covered the area of Australia she has focused on in a film he flat out ignored her because she was an inconvenient black woman. What would you call that?

It is not going to even vaguely occur to Boyle/Akala what they're doing, namely that Aboriginal people in their world view may as well be regarded as 'flora and fauna' - invisible, lacking any agency. They're just going to be led by presumptions and ignorance and what white leftie icons say, for that is what it is.

Invisible: Two examples