• Books: Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild, Endless War: Hidden Functions of the "war on terror" by David Keen, Capital Vol. 1, Tin Drum by Günter Grass, What is Islam? by Shahab Ahmed, Desiring Arabs by Joseph Massad, Spies, Soldiers and Statesmen by Hazem Kandil, La Condition Humaine by André Malraux, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Imagined Community by Benedict Anderson, Culture and Imperialism by Edward Said, The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon, The Richness of Life by Stephen Jay Gould, Children of the Alley by Naguib Mahfouz, The Mass Psychology of Fascism by Wilhelm Reich, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell, Noli me Tangere by José Rizal, Age of Extremes by Eric Hobsbawm, ذهنية التحريم لصادق جلال العظم, Karl Marx by Francis Wheen, وليمة لأعشاب البحر لحيدر حيدر, Candide by Voltaire, النزعات المادية في الفلسفة العربية الإسلامية لحسين مروة, Listen Little Man by Wilhelm Reich ..
  • Films: Alexanderplatz by Rainer Fassbinder, Clockwork Orange, Apocalypse Now, The Battle of Algiers, films by P. P. Passolini, Persepolis, Midnight Express, 1984, Papillion, Gangs of New York, Sophie Scholl, Life of Brian, Ivan the Terrble, Battleship Potemkine ...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Other critics, especially on the left, complain that Morton’s conception of the Anthropocene glosses over issues of race, class, gender and colonialism by blaming the entire species for the damage inflicted by a privileged minority. The focus on the human enshrined in the term Anthropocene is a particular target for critics. By referring to humans as a unified whole, they argue that Morton effaces distinctions between the affluent west and the other members of humanity, many of whom were living in a state of ecological catastrophe long before the notion of the Anthropocene became trendy on campuses in Europe and North America. Others say that Morton’s notion of politics is too woolly, or that the last thing we need when facing ecological challenges are abstract musings about the nature of objects."
According to a U.S. army strategist:

"In sum, U.S. policy in the Middle East is confused, contradictory, counterproductive, and dangerous. It could leave Washington involved in a war with Iran. (And given our recent wars in the region, imagine where that’s likely to land us.)"

The worry is what would a war with Iran cost the U.S. Who cares of what would cost the Iranians? There are some interesting arguments though by this enlightened mind in the most dangerous imperialist army on earth.

"America's Iran hysteria"

Monday, June 19, 2017


There are plenty of colourful characters in the Macron camp, ranging from a retired bullfighter in Arles, Marie Sara, to Rwandan refugee Hervé Berville, éclair entrepreneur Brigitte Liso and horror film producer Laurent Zameczkowski.
One of the better known figures is mathematician Cédric Villani, known for his unique dress sense including large spider brooches. Having won over 47% of the vote in the first round, he looks unbeatable.

"They tend to be very middle-class, very white on the whole, and half are absolute newcomers to politics," says Prof Marlière. (The BBC online)

The politice of celebrities, of media image-making.

"A physician, in order to be admitted to practice, must demonstrate his theoretical and practical knowledge of medicine. A politician, on the other hand, who, unlike the physician, purposes to decide the fate not of hundreds of people, but of millions, does not have to show such proof of knowledge. This fact seems to be one of the fundamental reasons for the tragedy which, for thousands of years, has devastated human society with periodic outbreaks.

The practical worker, no matter whether he comes from a rich or a poor home, has to go through a certain schooling. He is not elected "by the people." Working people who have proved themselves over years in their profession should determine whether or not the future worker should be a socially potent factor. This demand may be ahead of the facts, but it is indicative of a tendency. Every cobbler, carpenter, mechanic, electrician, mason, etc., has to fulfill very strict demands made on his abilities.

A politician, on the other hand, is not subject to the necessity of such legitimation. All he needs to reach the highest positions in human society—particularly when social conditions are chaotic—are a good dose of cleverness, neurotic ambition, and ruthlessness. 

— Wilhelm Reich

Saturday, June 17, 2017

"The coming together of Qatar, Iran and Turkey against Saudi Arabia and its allies, showed that coalitions now forming to compete with each other are not strictly based on the Shi’a-Sunni divide.  The alliances currently confronting each other are fighting over the control of the region, its capital,  and aim  to repress any movements for social justice."

The threat of wider wars in the Middle East
"Take a step or two further back in the production process, and the picture gets bleaker still. To function at all, the smartphone—like all electronic devices—requires raw materials that have been wrested from the Earth by ruthlessly extractive industries. The cobalt in its lithium-ion batteries was mined by hand in the Congo, often by children; the tin in the soldered seams that bind it together most likely comes from the Indonesian island of Bangka, where the water table is irreparably fouled, 70 percent of the coral reefs have been destroyed by mine runoff, and on average one miner a week is killed on the job. The damage caused by the processes of extraction fans out across most of a hemisphere, mutilating lives, human communities and natural ecosystems beyond ready numbering. And so the polluted streams, stillborn children and diagnoses of cancer, too, become part of the way in which the smartphone has transformed everyday life, at least for some of us.
Though these facts might give us pause in just about any other context, we don’t appear to be too troubled by them when it comes to the smartphone. The smartphone isn’t like any other product, and in fact ranks among the most rapidly adopted technologies in human history. And so we suppress whatever qualms we may have about the conditions in the mines and factories, the environmental footprint, the energetic cost of the extended supply chain, or the authoritarian governments we ultimately support through our act of purchase. To the degree that we’re even aware of it, we leave this deniable prehistory behind the moment we plunk down our cash and take home our new phone."
A sociology of the smartphone
"As a reporter on British politics and economics, I haven’t seen the ruling class of England in a panic like this for a long time."

The British ruling class is in full panic mode
"The promise of Brexit was steeped in ideology from the very beginning, a fairy tale based on dark chauvinism. The Spanish Armada, Napoleon, Hitler and now the Polish plumbers who allegedly push down wages..."

"A wave of anger crashes over Britain"

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"Fewer than one in five perpetrators was a convert to Islam, with a significantly higher percentage in North America than in Europe. 
However, the converts were significantly more likely to have a criminal background and to have served time in prison.
Overall, most of the attackers had a prior criminal background."

"Who was behind the jihadist attacks in Western Europe and North America?"

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The buildng is not in Egypt or India. 
The main causes are:
- The developer
- The cuts in the fire brigade services
- People with authorities did not listen to the warnings of an action group in last November

Playing with fire in London
"Communists believed that organizing the working class would work only if white workers realized that their liberation, too, was bound up with the fate of black workers. Facing this threat, anti-Communists and segregationists worked hard to sustain the fractures. They blamed Communists for fomenting "race mixing," evoking sexualized fears that social equality would mean black men having sex with white women--the very fears that put the Scottsboro Boys on trial. In turn, when black people agitated for civil rights, the Bull Connors of the world called such demands Communist-inspired, returning to the same narrative of dangerous outsiders."

"The unexpected afterlife of American communism" (NYT)
"The whole theme of Lebanese partying and consumerism that so many Western observers dutifully inflict on their respective audiences serves an important Orientalist function: Beirut may be “exotic” and different in its own way, but it’s also enough “like us” to render it a safe space for those wishing to travel without risking any fundamental alteration to their worldviews."

How not to write about Beirut

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"The most cherished myths of American culture tell us that, while war is terrible, our wars are noble, fought only under duress, and in the service of freedom, human rights, and democracy. If we fail in our ventures, as we did in Vietnam and Iraq and probably will in Afghanistan and Syria, that failure was not in our intentions, which were righteous, but merely in our execution. Our worst sins, in these myths, are not ambition, cruelty, or greed, but hubris and lack of foresight. Against such myths, which can be found articulated in the latest Hollywood movies, in the editorial pages of The New York Times, in Brookings Institution essays, and in Amazon’s “Hot New Releases in World War II History,” Brecht’s ideological critique, which is founded in its own mythology of good and evil, can do little or nothing. Indeed, it’s not clear what one can do about such myths at all, since the power they have is precisely that which deforms and obscures reality into something comprehensible, tractable, and bearable; they are not only gratifying but in some sense also necessary. Those who insist on conveying the bitter truth that we live in a world of suffering beyond human understanding and control should expect no thanks for delivering their message, unless they have also brought along a salvific god or compensatory utopia. The best that can be done under such conditions, it seems, is to work to save something concrete from the ruinous tides of time and delusion that wash over us anew each hour. An artifact, a book, a collection of photographs or etchings or poems, a specific moment in which a specific human being lived, brought up out of the dark waters of myth into the light of knowledge: the stuff of history."

The shipwreck of history
"The high Conservative vote, and some signal defeats for Labour in the areas where working class xenophobia is entrenched, indicate this will be a long, cultural war. A war of position, as Gramsci called it, not one of manoeuvre.
But in that war, a battle has been won. The Tories decided to use Brexit to smash up what’s left of the welfare state, and to recast Britain as the global Singapore. They lost. They are retreating behind a human shield of Orange bigots from Belfast."
"Corbyn has won the first battle in a long war"

But he is

"A mainstream [Scandinavian] social-democrat"

Saturday, June 10, 2017

1967 War

"One of the methods Israel used to deal with the Egyptian prisoners was rounding them up and killing them en masse"

The part about the Oslo Accords is weak and the proposals to end the Israeli occupation won't work. A change in the power relations in the Arab countries as well as of the imperialis states which support Israel. Personally, I don't think there is anything that could come from within the Israeli society to impact a radical change in the balance of forces which could favour a sort of justice to the Palestinians.
Imeprialist and criminal regimes have to be inconsistent sometimes. That is build in they strategical calculations whether at home or abroad.

Gaddafi, Manchester, etc and the lesson the British still to learn?

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

"IS might find itself being pushed back militarily, but its logics are not only still firmly intact, they are being bolstered by the very forces that allegedly seek to destroy them.
And it's the logics, beyond videos on internet sites or radical preachers, that are visible for almost everyone in the world to see - to Muslims, they are even more striking. IS is a product of counter-revolution - an active symptom of savage destruction of hope. If the Arab revolutions represented progressive antagonism towards a regional order determined by the brutal denial of basic liberties, IS are fed by the brutal backlash against this."

Inetresting to read, but the healine is not

Jospeh Stiglitz says that the British people should vote Labour ...

Changing the rules of the game?

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

"I stood on those Lesbos beaches in floods of tears"

Note: You should read the most liked comment after reading the article. A comment that reflects a lot of how many British people think. And this is not the Daily Mail or The Sun.

Monday, June 05, 2017

In the West we solemnize the deaths of our regular troops carefully and recurrently honor the memory of the soldier who dies for his country. Yet the civilian deaths we cause are rarely mentioned, and there has been no sustained outcry in the West against them. Suicide bombing shocks us to the core; but should it be more shocking than the deaths of thousands of children in their homelands every year because of land mines? Or collateral damage in a drone strike? “Dropping cluster bombs from the air is not only less repugnant: it is somehow deemed, by Western people at least, to be morally superior,” says British psychologist Jacqueline Rose. “Why dying with your victim should be seen as a greater sin than saving yourself is unclear.” The colonial West had created a two-tier hierarchy that privileged itself at the expense of “the Rest.” The Enlightenment had preached the equality of all human beings, yet Western policy in the developing world had often adopted a double standard so that we failed to treat others as we would wish to be treated. Our focus on the nation seems to have made it hard for us to cultivate the global outlook that we need in our increasingly interrelated world. We must deplore any action that spills innocent blood or sows terror for its own sake. But we must also acknowledge and sincerely mourn the blood that we have shed in the pursuit of our national interests. Otherwise we can hardly defend ourselves against the accusation of maintaining an “arrogant silence” in the face of others’ pain and of creating a world order in which some people’s lives are deemed more valuable than others.

— Karen Armstrong, Fields of Blood - Religion and the History of Violence, 2014, p. 365

More than a spat

Qatar and its Gulf neighbours

See also

The deal

Sunday, June 04, 2017

"[T]ere is something that still resonates about the work of the Frankfurt School. The insight to which it called its readers to awaken was that human consciousness in the age of mass society was becoming wholly enclosed within the walls of an ideological fortress, caught in the endless circulations of capitalist exchange and those repetitive entertainments and distractions that were designed to obscure the truth. Nothing about the theory of the culture industry lacks traction in a world where the commodity form reigns supreme. Blockbuster CGI movies; the relentless extrusion of Greatest Hits CDs by the megastars of the recording industry; the all-encompassing mania for video gaming, in which mature adults have been co-opted into the shamelessly infantile principle of mindless play; the transmutation of collectivity into social media’s mere connectivity: these are the lineaments of a culture that is not the spontaneous production of free human beings, but rather something done to them in their unfreedom."

Theory from the ruins
"In breaking the Greek Resistance, the British had precipitated a civil war that would last — in open or latent forms — for some thirty years, with a brief lull between 1963 and 1965. It would only end with the fall of the colonels’ dictatorship in 1974. This “coup in Athens” reminds us that through its history, modern Greece has only enjoyed a very limited sovereignty. This, indeed, is its painful experience once again today."

How Churchill broke the Greek resistance
Theresa May: "We are experiencing a new trend in the threat we face as terrorism breeds terrorism." 

For the first time ever, I am in agreement with  May.

I will only be more accurate in future. I will try to avoid the term "terrorism". I will use "violence" instead.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

"The conscious capitalism model is appealing. It’s simple, easy. We can avert looming environmental catastrophe by becoming conscious consumers who frequent conscious companies. After all, shopping at Whole Foods is a heck of a lot more fun than lobbying for regulations on corporations or convincing people to consume less. More Whole Foods, less Walmart. Problem solved."

Whole Foods' "conscious capitalism"
"Deamonte Driver’s death was the direct result of a system of commoditized dental care. Some 114 million people lack any sort of dental coverage in the United States, and about half of children on Medicaid did not receive a single dental service in 2012. We could implement a system of universal coverage that would make treatment available on the basis of health needs, not means. But we have not. As Otto traces the history of modern dentistry, from eighteenth-century surgical experiments to the founding of the first American school of dentistry in 1840, she explains how the United States instead developed a “carefully guarded, largely private system,” one that is “enormously difficult to reach for those without mobility or money.” The state of our teeth, she argues, reveals—and reinforces—deep inequalities in society."

Note: to be accurate, some dental treatment in the UK is free or cheap, and that depends on whether you have an income or unemployed, but implant, for example, is expensive. A few people people go to Poland and Romania to have an implant.

The devastating effects of dental inequality in America

There is no money for infrastructure, free high education, more hospitals, housing, etc.

"Assuming the £13tn mountain of assets [hidden offshore wealth] earned an average 3% a year for its owners, and governments were able to tax that income at 30% [like in the US, Brazil, India, for example], it would generate a bumper £121bn in revenues – more than rich countries spend on aid to the developing world each year."

That is not a revolutionary solution, but one can see that it makes a significant difference.
"The coming struggles will show the 90% of Parisians-for-Macron for what they are; an undreamt-of diversion, or a transitional object, as psychoanalysts say when they talk about children’s comfort blankets. The fall to ground will be harder."


Thursday, June 01, 2017

Matzpen, 1967: “Our right to defend ourselves against annihilation does not grant us the right to oppress others,” the ad stated. “Conquest brings in its wake foreign rule. Foreign rule brings in its wake resistance. Resistance brings in its wake oppression. Oppression brings in its wake terrorism and counterterrorism. The victims of terrorism are usually innocent people. Holding onto the territories will turn us into a nation of murderers and murder victims.” And in large font at the end: “Let us leave the occupied territories now.”
Note the loose use of the term "Islamism" in the article.

"Were I 20 today, would I be attracted to Islamism or desire to become a soldier of Islamic State.?"

Today’s angry young Islamists are not interested in the fight against austerity, the defence of the NHS or even in the struggle against racism. They are obsessed, rather, in showing solidarity with the peoples of Palestine and Chechnya and Syria. In an age in which anti-imperialist movements have faded and belief in alternatives to capitalism dissolved, radical Islam provides the illusion of being part of a global movement for change."

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"The Lebanese institutions, its infrastructure, airport, power stations, traffic junctions, Lebanese army bases – they should all be legitimate targets if a war breaks out,
"That's what we should already be saying to them and the world now. If Hezbollah fires missiles at the Israeli home front, this will mean sending Lebanon back to the Middle Ages."
Israel, Lebanon and Hezbollah: a potential for another war
"British interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan were disastrous and created resentment among many Arabs and Muslims - as does leaving Bashar al-Assad to drop barrel bombs and use chemical weapons against innocent civilians. 
But Libya was different. It was a popular uprising. It was a civilian revolution and not a religious one. Britain was willing to support us because it was in line with their foreign policy at the time. We also weren't linked to groups like al-Qaeda. 
I say "at the time" because many of us who fought are upset that Britain continues to support General Haftar, who has been condemned by leading rights group, including Amnesty International, for committing a series of war crimes."

And here is what the Telegraph reported in February

"Gen Haftar, who  enjoys strong backing from Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's government in Egypt, is seen by some as a potential secular “strong man” ruler who could re-establish some degree of security and crack-down hard on Islamist movements there.

"Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, said earlier this week that Gen Haftar should be integrated into the current government of national accord. "

"I fought in Libya: please don't call us terrorists"

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Whether it is Thatcher or Reagan, Blair or Holland, Trump or Macron, Temer or May ...

"[I]n the name of a narrow and strict conception of rationality as individual rationality, it [neoliberallism] brackets the economic and social conditions of rational orientations and the economic and social structures that are the condition of their application."

The essence of neoliberalism 
(Pierre Bourdieu, 1998)
"Strong and Stable" 
Silverdale, Hamstead Road, London

A lit crit of the party manifestos

Friday, May 26, 2017

"It's a weird time. This week I'm noticing two rather disturbing bandwagons rolling, both arising from Manchester. One is about UK domestic politics and the other international politics but they are linked by an understandable desire not to see the attack as being used to advance the agenda of the Tories and specifically, to help their election campaign. Both though are ultimately very unhelpful. One is about the need for soldiers on the streets because Theresa May cut police budgets as Home Secretary. I've seen unlikely people sharing tweets from redundant cops. Tempting to undercut May this way, but wrong - more armed cops do not equal fewer attacks like Manchester. The other is pinning the blame for Manchester on the UK intervention in Libya. Again, understandable. 

But it's important to see that the problem in Libya was not the attempted regime change as such but the regime that people tried to change i.e. Gaddafi's tyranny. It was a regime that - like Saddam Hussein's and Assad's - had been alternately sanctioned/attacked and supported by the west. If you leave out that context, and focus on 'regime change' you are in effect saying that it would have been better to leave dictatorships in place, because look at all the mess. You are saying, Arabs can't have democracy and if they try, all they get is armed militias fighting each other and bombing 'us.' Of course foreign intervention is part of the problem - including Russia's and Iran's in Syria - but it's not the whole story. 

Unlike Iraq, there were popular uprisings in Syria and Libya, and there probably would have been one in Iraq as well. You can't expect such revolts in countries with colonial borders, ethnic and religious sectarianism encouraged by colonial and post-colonial regimes, and brutal dictatorships, to be straightforward and over quickly. People in Libya and Syria are in it for the long haul and they are suffering far more than we are and need our support, not a crass dismissal of what they are trying to fight for, freedoms we already have."

— Sue Sparks

I would use "neo-colonialism instead of the academic misleading term "post-colonialism".
On deploying British troops, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, said he would tell them: "Under my leadership, you will only be deployed abroad when there is a clear need and only when there is a plan that you have the resources to do your job and secure an outcome that delivers lasting peace".

So, in principle, and fundamentally, he would not break with the imperialist interventions of the British regime. He would deploy troops in a better and organised way, probably with popular support. Although Corbyn opposed the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, he sees that Britain has a mission to deploy troops and intervene to "secure peace". Since when an imperialist power intervenes and wages wars for peace?

How ironic from a socialist? A socialist who would use the state apparatus of an imperialist state. 
A great scientist. I recommend The Richness of Life. When I started reading it I couldn't put it down.

"Homo sapiens, I fear, is a “thing so small” in a vast universe, a wildly improbable evolutionary event well within the realm of contingency. Make of such a conclusion what you will. Some find it depressing; I have always regarded it as exhilarating, and a source of both freedom and consequent moral responsibility."

Thursday, May 25, 2017

"The United States has admitted that at least 105 Iraqi civilians were killed in an air strike it carried out in Mosul in March." (The BBC)

Another "collateral damage". 

Those killed are Iraqis not Mancunians and those injured do not have a Queen to visit them.
A couple of days ago someone asked me a mainstream question: "when will the war between Sunnis and Shiite end?"


— Some Alawite (Shi'a) generals and officers defected from the Syrian army at the beggining of the uprising and joined the Free Syrian Army.
— The Sunni bourgeoisie in Damascus is not fightng Assad.
— The main force which has been fighting ISIS on the ground is a Kurdish one. The Kurds are Sunnis and ISIS fighters are Sunnis, too.
— Many Syrian Sunnis who have been displaced because of the war have fled to "Shiite" areas. They haven't been killing each other.
— The rest is geopolitics. Example: The Northern Alliance in Afghanista,  although it included some Shiites, was mainly led by a Sunni-Tajik, Ahmed Shah Masoud. The Aliance was supported by Iran, among others such as Pakistan and the US. Masoud was assassinated by Taliban, a Sunni organisation.
The liberals of the Guardian are in arms defending "democracy" and "liberties" against the state reaction. Simon Jenkins, for example, is right that deployment of tanks and soldiers will not prevent "terrorism", but he is, like most of the liberals, not to speak of the right-wing media in general, fails, intentionally or unintentionally, to tackle the real sources of acts of violence like the one which took place in Manchester a couple of days ago.

Jenkins: "Terror bombing is the one foolproof weapon of the weak against the strong. We cannot screen every public space or search every pedestrian. There is nothing new to this. The car bomb and the terror grenade are as old as Conrad’s secret agent, and his “pestilence” which stalks the street with death in its pocket."

Jenkins: "All we can hope to do is enter into the minds of the bombers and their associates to prevent them at source. That is essentially a covert activity, and is clearly in its infancy. We can try to clean the pool in which fanaticism swims, the ideological grooming and conditioning. The security services must relentlessly infiltrate Islamist networks. That is their job – they claim to foil a dozen attacks a year – but publicising it cannot be necessary."
A bankrupt idea/strategy It has been tried already, but their advocate choose, for blind ideological reasons, to continue advocating it.

Jenkins: "Today’s terrorist wants to frighten the enemies of Islam into curbing liberties and oppressing Muslims."

Wow! That's even worse. Another failure, probably deliberate, to identify the sources of "terrorism". This narrow-minded people should also be held responsible for propagating false, harmful ideas. They choose to be impaired intellectually, for they ignore striking evidence published by their fellow liberal researchers.

Jenkins is even suggesting working with "the Muslim leaders" in the UK! Which leaders? Those who allied themselves with the state in the invasion of Iraq, for example! Jenkins is also naive in thinking that "Muslim leaders" have complete control over Muslims. They have never had and they will never have such a control.
"Farsad leaves us with only one conclusion: that Muslims who are fully assimilated into the habits and customs of mainstream liberal culture are the “normal” ones."

The liberal fascination with "Islam-lite" and the humanizing Muslim industry
Although I don't like Owen Jones, the plight of the cleaners at one of the most prestigious university in the world is a disgrace.

LSE cleaners

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

China Miéville's book October "is very deliberate in what it covers and, more importantly, doesn’t cover."

John Medherst: "As someone with a book on the Russian Revolution out later this year (August 17th) with a different and more critical take on Lenin and the Bolsheviks, I had to buy and read China Mieville’s October.

It is, as you would expect, a great read. Vivid and immersive, it skilfully recreates how kinetic, stressful, confusing and exciting February-October 1917 in Russia must have been.
But it is very deliberate in what it covers and, more importantly, doesn’t cover. Although it has a brief prologue and epilogue, 95% of the book sticks tightly to the nine months of February-October. As such it is, surprisingly for a Marxist writer, a rather old-fashioned narrative history. Considering that nearly all the main issues and controversies of the Bolshevik revolution arise from events post-October, the decision to barely address that period prevents wider analysis and understanding. Surely no accident? I imagine China chose this focus because concentrating on the “heroic” period of the revolution is more emotionally inspiring, and raises fewer awkward questions, than examining what the Bolsheviks did once in power, and the extent to which Leninism and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat were the perfect seedbed for Stalinism.

In that sense the epilogue, even as a summary, is unreliable. It simply doesn’t mention that the Bolsheviks shut nearly all Russia’s newspapers within days of October. And that in the first eight months after October, well before the outbreak of civil war, they had shut down or gerrymanded the large number of Soviets that in the first half of 1918 were returning Menshevik or SR majorities. Its reference to the only national election during the period – that for the Constituent Assembly in November 1918, in which the SRs won easily, with the Bolsheviks securing about ¼ of the vote – is that after after it refused to recognise the supremacy of the Soviets “the radicals” (i.e. the Bolsheviks) “left” it, and it then “wound down ignominiously”.

In fact the Assembly, which opened with delegates singing the Internationale, pledged a massive land redistribution policy and to work with the Soviets, but after an only a few hours of existence in which Bolshevik soldiers continuously threatened delegates it had to shut down. It was then immediately banned. Demonstrations in its support were fired on. All socialist except the Bolsheviks protested. To characterise it as China does is gross historical misrepresentation. His total failure to mention or assess the mass strikes against the Bolshevik government in 1918 and 1919, and the Kronstadt rebellion of 1921, are misrepresentation by omission, and very disappointing for a writer of China’s intelligence and discrimination.

Also, the book has no reference notes! While I am sure his research was extensive and the statements, events and quotations in the book are sound, the reader is simply not able to check that. Which considering he acknowledges the help of seven professional historians and other sundry mates to check drafts, correct and feedback, is quite astonishing. Still, he can turn a phrase."
— "I think [Olivier] Roy underplays the historical context within which forms of modern jihadism find expression. Not all jihadis have the same background, but I’ve found — certainly in France — a fertile ground to radicalisation is produced when you have a disaffected immigrant population whose ideas and concerns are not taken seriously, who do not enjoy access to the power and wealth they see around them, and who remember a background of colonisation in Algeria or elsewhere in north Africa that fuels a historical sense of grievance. I think it’s a mistake to downplay that context." 

— "Liberalism was associated with the western powers. Within the west there was a contest between liberalism and other forms of political thought. But in the Middle East liberal thought — ideas about democracy, empowerment, emancipation, the privileging of the individual over the collective — was linked to the European powers that carved up the Ottoman Empire and subjugated the Middle East either directly or indirectly."

— "There’s a very good book that I’m reading at the moment called Sectarianization: mapping the new politics of the Middle East (2017), edited by Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel. I find the basic idea in that quite convincing: sectarianism is a tool that is used for political ends rather than the cause of all the instability in the Middle East now."

Christopher de Bellaigue

Was/is there an Islamic enlightenment?

Moroccan fish canner DOHA drops charges against union leader - now the company must reinstate 540 dismissed workers!