• 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 ...

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"It imperative that loyalty to a state be secured, and the nation is the means. Workers have often been asked to accept rises in interest rates, cuts in wages and services, or participation in imperialist wars, but never for the benefit of capitalism, always for the benefit of a particular nation, for “the national interest”. It is not only the state which makes such appeals. The organisations of the working class themselves reinforce reformist class consciousness within a national context. At the most elementary level this is because such organisations are unwilling to challenge the nationalism within which political discourse is conducted, for fear of being labelled unpatriotic. More importantly, however, it is because they seek either to influence or determine policy within the confines of the existing nation-state. Typically, therefore, nationalism is invested with the contradictory character of the reformist world view."

The National Question, Class and the European Union
“A lot has changed in the past 300 years,” Captain Picard explains to a cryogenically unfrozen businessman from the 20th century in an episode of a later “Star Trek” franchise, “The Next Generation.” “People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We’ve eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We’ve grown out of our infancy.”

In The New York Times

'Star-Treck" and its debt to revolutionary socialism


My brother loves dogs. He's git a huge dog. My mum doesn't like dogs. She prefers cats. We have always had cats in our house.

Dogs in Ancient Islamic Culture

Monday, July 24, 2017

"Muslims were always ready to learn from other cultures, and in the late fifteenth century they did so from the heirs of Genghis Khan. The Ottoman Empire in Asia Minor, the Middle East, and North Africa, the Safavid Empire in Iran, and the Moghul Empire in India would be created on the basis of the Mongol army state and become the most advanced states in the world at the time. But the Mongols also unwittingly inspired a spiritual revival. Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207–73) had fled the Mongol armies with his family, migrating from Iran to Anatolia, where he founded a new mystical Sufi order. One of the most widely read Muslims in the West today, his philosophy is redolent of the refugee’s homelessness and sense of separation, but Rumi was also enthralled by the vast extent of the Mongol Empire and encouraged Sufis to explore boundless horizons on the spiritual plane and to open their hearts and minds to other faiths.

But no two people will respond to the same trauma identically, however. Another thinker of the period who has also achieved great influence in our own time was the “fighting scholar” Ahmed ibn Taymiyyah (1263–1382), also a refugee who, unlike Rumi, hated the Mongols. He saw the Mongol converts, now fellow Muslims, as kufar (“infidels”). He also disapproved of the suspension of ijtihad: in these fearful times jurists needed to think creatively and adapt Shariah to the fact that the ummah had been weakened by two ruthless enemies: the Crusaders and the Mongols. True, the Crusaders seemed a spent force, but the Mongols might still attempt the conquest of the Levant. In preparation for a military jihad to defend their lands, Ibn Taymiyyah urged Muslims to engage in the Greater Jihad and return to the pure Islam of the Prophet’s time, ridding themselves of such inauthentic practices as philosophy (falsafah), Sufi mysticism, Shiism, and the veneration of saints and their tombs. Muslims who persisted in these false devotions were no better than infidels. When Ghazan Khan, the first of the Mongol chieftains to convert to Islam, invaded Syria in 1299, Ibn Taymiyyah issued a fatwa (“legal ruling”) declaring that despite their conversion to Islam, the Mongols were infidels, because they observed the Yasa instead of the Shariah, and their Muslim subjects were not bound to obey them. Muslims had traditionally been wary of condemning fellow Muslims as apostates, because they believed that only God could read a person’s heart. The practice of takfir, declaring that a fellow Muslim has apostatized, would take on new life in our own times, when Muslims have once again felt threatened by foreign powers."

— Karen Armstrong, Fields of Blood - Religion and the History of Violence, Vintage 2015, pp. 200-201
A reminder to those who oppose Trump's camcellation of the CIA programme in Syria. Against amnesia and not to forget the criminal role of US imperialism.

"The main role of the CIA, from the time it first intervened in 2012, was to block the anti-Assad opposition forces from acquiring the arms necessary to bring down the regime. The most the CIA was prepared to allow was for the opposition to put sufficient military pressure on Assad to force the regime to accept a negotiated settlement.

"The rationale for the arms program was, from early on, muddled. It wasn’t supposed to make rebels win outright. ... instead, the U.S. government tried to use a remotely managed proxy war to force an extremely delicate, negotiated political resolution."

So much for your fantasies about "regime change".

After Daesh took Mosul in 2014 even that limited support was increasingly withdrawn, as the US tried to push the opposition into abandoning the struggle against Assad and taking up a fight against Daesh instead. The Southern Front of the FSA has been completely demobilised since the beginning of 2016 because the CIA withdrew all support from FSA groups that continued to fight Assad.

I've read that Turkey and Qatar had already proposed to step in and support the Southern Front. If that's the case, Trump's cancellation of the CIA programme could be a good thing. The opposition would be able to resume the struggle against Assad, without being pissed around by the US as they have been for the last five years." 

— Bob Pitt
“Political economy, in the widest sense, is the science of the laws governing the production and exchange of the material means of subsistence in human society. Production and exchange are two different functions. Production may occur without exchange, but exchange — being necessarily an exchange of products—cannot occur without production. Each of these two social functions is subject to the action of external influences which to a great extent are peculiar to it and for this reason each has, also to a great extent, its own special laws. But on the other hand, they constantly determine and influence each other to such an extent that they might be termed the abscissa and ordinate of the economic curve.

The conditions under which men produce and exchange vary from country to country, and within each country again from generation to generation. Political economy, therefore, cannot be the same for all countries and for all historical epochs. A tremendous distance separates the bow and arrow, the stone knife and the acts of exchange among savages occurring only by way of exception, from the steam-engine of a thousand horse power, the mechanical loom, the railways and the Bank of England. The inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego have not got so far as mass production and world trade, any more than they have experience of bill-jobbing or a Stock Exchange crash. Anyone who attempted to bring the political economy of Tierra del Fuego under the same laws as are operative in present-day England would obviously produce nothing but the most banal commonplaces. Political economy is therefore essentially a historical science. It deals with material which is historical, that is, constantly changing; it must first investigate the special laws of each individual stage in the evolution of production and exchange, and only when it has completed this investigation will it be able to establish the few quite general laws which hold good for production and exchange in general.” 


— Engels, Anti-Dühring, 1877

Sunday, July 23, 2017

"The climate movement made an enormous mistake. We focused all our attention on fossil fuels, when we should have been pointing to something much deeper: the basic logic of our economic operating system."

Indeed.

Clean energy won't save us
France, "anti-semitism", the state, the left

A good dissection.

"First, it is important to establish some of the political and ideological conditions in today’s France. Aside from Germany, France is the European state in which it is most difficult to criticize Israel explicitly. It is the country in which it is possible to be prosecuted for articulating a pro-Palestine position — even a relatively moderate, two-state position. The prosecutions of the journalist Daniel Mermet, the philosopher Edgar Morin, the political scientist Samir Naïr, the novelist Danièle Sallenave, to cite a few instances, make this clear."

The Anti-Zionism of Fools

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Friday, July 21, 2017

"Clearly the so-called “sectarian civil war” in Yemen is a recent permutation of the self-declared Sunni monarchies’ geostrategic rivalry with the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as those ruling dynasties’ discrimination against their own Shi`a populations. Overall, ample evidence is presented that the problems that provoked Yemen’s Southern Movement (hirak) and the 2011 popular demonstrations, respectively, are rooted in militarism and corruption rather than religion, and that the Gulf’s royal families have for decades feared mass mobilization in the most populous, least prosperous, perennially restive part of the Peninsula."

Arabia Incognita: Dispatches from Yemen and the Gulf

Thursday, July 20, 2017

I hear now and then that this or that person is on the left, this or that university is leftist, Le Parti Socialiste Français and the Spanish Socialist Party are socialists, etc.  The term " left" has become very loose and misleading over the last decades, and the blurring of the distinction has been deliberate. 

What it means to be on the left
Between fine art and comic art

On the Arab page
When Nasser [the Egyptian leader] nationalized the canal [the Suez Canal] , Eden erupted with egotism, bluster, and outrage. “What’s all this nonsense about isolating Nasser,” Eden berated his foreign affairs minister. “I want him destroyed, can’t you understand? I want him murdered, and if you and the Foreign Office don’t agree, then you’d better come to the cabinet and explain why."

— Stephen Dorril, Inside The Covert World Of Her Majesty's Intelligence Service, 2002, p. 613

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"In Volume 3 of Capital  Marx had described Venice and Genoa as urban republics where the merchants ‘subordinated the state more securely to themselves’, and implicit in some combination of Ruthven’s argument with my own is the further crucial thesis that this singularly failed to happen anywhere in the Islamic world. This ties in with a second and to me even more self-evident explanation , which is the one Mielants proposes in his book The Origins of Capitalism and the “Rise of the West”, namely, that the failure of commercial capitalism in the Islamic world was essentially a failure of mercantilism. It is a striking fact that there was never any Islamic counterpart of the West’s violent mercantilist expansion. Again, the decisive factor here is the very different ways in which commercial capital and the state were linked to each other. The powerful state backing that English merchants received from the monarchy, what Brenner calls the ‘Crown-company partnership’, had absolutely no equivalent among the numerous dynasties that, like the Ottomans, were willing to encourage trade but unwilling or incapable of the kind of aggressive expansion that the Portuguese monarchy unleashed in the opening years of the sixteenth century. Of course, once the European powers embarked on their expansion into Asian markets, Islamic commercial networks were a prime target across the whole region. The violence with which the Portuguese attacked and dismantled those networks was lucidly documented in the Kerala historian Zainuddin b. ‛Abd al-‛Aziz’s late-sixteenth century history called Tuhfat al-Mujāhidīn."

Islam and Capitalism

Note: I think there is an overgeneralization when the aithor talks a out "Islamism" nowadays. "Islamism" has different colours.
Correction: Shadly ben Jedid overthrew Boumédienne in Algeria not in Tunisia. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"The point I try to make in that article is that the debate on whether Jews should be accorded full political rights in 1840s Prussia presents some striking similarities with the debate on Muslims’ integration into French society today. More precisely, my point is that the French state’s demand that religious minorities (and let’s be frank, Muslims in particular) respect the principle of secularism in the public space is reminiscent of Bruno Bauer’s position on the Jewish Question. Bruno Bauer believed that the Jews deserved to be granted political rights only if they stopped being Jews and embraced Enlightenment thought. In other words, he conceived of political emancipation as a kind of award that individuals receive only if they renounce their own religious identity and embrace the identity that the secular state deems as appropriate. Likewise, the French state demands that Muslims get rid of their religious/cultural practices if they want to show willingness to integrate into French society."

An interview with Sara Farris
The Guardian's "progressive" Macron

"During Netanyahu's official visit to Paris on Sunday, the French president condemned anti-Zionism as the new form of anti-Semitism. But what is the zionist project and how did it all begin?"

Where it all began 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

"The scandal is that Lula's personal and political trajectory suggests it is impossible for anyone in Brazil, no matter how well-meaning, to get elected to public office and govern from that office without actively playing the corruption game. Dilma Rousseff, it appears, refused and was impeached for it by a bevy of Congressmen busy lining their pockets. The tragedy of Lula is not just that a good man was brought down so low, but that there seems such scant chance that the system which forced him to kneel at the trough of corruption is likely to meaningfully change any time soon."

Lula's corruption conviction
"[M]any of the arguments against Islamophobia in anti-racist circles turn out to replicate rather than subvert the underlying logics that attack, demonize and dehumanize Muslims. Challenging the Islamophobic far-right cannot simply be about upholding the same capitalist and imperialist — even if slightly less racist — stances that have destabilized much of the Global South in recent decades, furthering war and displacing Muslims who have travelled to Europe’s shores only to be met with an explosion of nativist hatred."

The Problem with Liberal Opposition to Islamophobia

Note: the 8% of the UK's Muslim population is inaccuarte. I have checked a few sources (BBC, wikipedia). In fact it ranges between 5% and 5.5% of the total population.


Thursday, July 13, 2017


France

"In the first round of the elections this year, the number of workers who voted for it [the Front National] was far ahead of any other party—37 per cent; in the second round, 56 per cent. As inequality of income and insecurity of employment steadily increased under the system of collusive alterna- tion, so have those willing to cast their ballot for the fn: 4.8 million in the Presidential election of 2002, 6.8 million in the regional elections of 2015, 7.7 million in the rst round in 2017, 10.6 million in the second round—the last gure, however, an arti ce of the distortions imposed by the double tour. Its real level of support is about a fth of the elector- ate, less than those—mainly workers too—who abstain, vote blank or spoil their ballots.12 There was never the slightest chance that Marine could win the Presidency. Far from being a deadly threat to the system in place, the fn is an eminently functional part of it, clasping together all respectable opinion that might otherwise waver or question it, in an anxious or self-righteous defence of the status quo: the ideal scarecrow of a neoliberal republic." 

— Perry Anderson

I personally once swallowed the propaganda of the defenders of the "neoliberal republic" such as the Financial Times portrayal of Le Pen. However, the BBC actually had a more objective analysis of the Front National, tracing its trajectory and adaptation to the new realities.

The Centre Can Hold
Some interesting arguments from a liberal:

"Even when they did empirical analysis, Leontief said economists seldom took any interest in the meaning or value of their data. He thus called for economists to explore their assumptions and data by conducting social, demographic and anthropological work, and said economics needed to work more closely with other disciplines."

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"There is usually a noisy crowd who deride any such review with shouts of “Lighten up! It’s only a movie!”–as though popular culture is neither popular nor culture, the soundtrack to our lives that slowly shapes our assumptions and our values, and does so at a level we rarely examine critically."

Wonder Woman: The hero of The military-industrial complex

See also

My 2006 interview with Lina Khatib: Filming the Middle East

My interview with Johnathan Cook: Blood and Religion
The crimes of Winston Churchill

I recommend

Churchill's Empire by Richard Toye
Britain's Gulag by Caroline Elkins
The Syrian government is essentially a family dictatorship rooted in the anti-leftist military wing of the Ba'ath Party. Virtually the only "liberalization" that has taken place under the younger Assad has been economic, privatizing once-public assets to various crony capitalists who pledge fealty to the regime. Just because the United States and other Western governments oppose a particular leader out of their hypocritical imperialist interests doesn't thereby make that leader "progressive."

How Syria Divides the Left

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

It is to precisely such contradictions that Collins was drawn. “He was bound to the system in a way that a lot of us are,” he says. “His resistance within the system is very familiar. There is no anterior position now, no position outside the system. You take an easyJet to an environmental conference. We are all compromised by the system and articulate resistance within it. He’s a perfect reflection of our problems today.”

Why I took a Soviet statue of Engles across Europe to Manchester
"In the last twenty-five years (since when, in February 1991, a ship loaded with 26,000 Albanians entered the port of Brindisi) we have known that the great migration had began. Two paths were possible at that point.

Opening its borders, starting a global distribution of resources, investing its wealth in a long lasting process of reception and integration of young people coming massively from the sea. This was the first path.

The second was to reject, to dissuade, to make almost impossible the easy journey from Northern Africa to the coasts of Spain Italy and Greece.

Europeans have chosen the second way, and they are daily drowning uncountable children and women and men.

Auschwitz on the beach."

Is Bifo being harsh on the "civilised Europeans"?

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Six Questions about Islam

Chapter 1 from What is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic by Shahab Ahmed
I have just read a review of Gareth Stedman Jones' book Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion. 
Then I've found a good comment.

Timothy Shenk quotes Gareth Stedman Jones as saying that ‘the left ought to give up the idea that there’s some other system waiting in the wings instead of capitalism’ and that ‘there’s going to be some end of history where there’s some magical transformative solution and a completely different system takes over’ (LRB, 29 June). I will shortly be 68 years old and have been a Marxist all my adult life, yet I have never heard anyone on the left express these ideas. Stedman Jones is using an old ploy: attribute to the target of your criticism a viewpoint that they don’t actually hold, then proceed to knock it down." — John Cunningham

The review itself requires a subscription (institution or university one).

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

A good analysis, but with a disappointment.

Bellamy speaks of the "periphery" and "weak link", but has not touched at all on a major series of recent uprisings which have taken place in "the periphery". The US, Britain, Russia, France with their allies like the Saudi monarchy and the UAE have played a major role in the counter-revolution of aborting or diverting the uprisings (or "revolution") in the Arab countries. The only mention of counterrevolution was half a sentence about the "Islamic State" as a product of geopolitics.

Revolution and counterevolution - 1917-2017

"It imperative that loyalty to a state be secured, and the nation is the means. Workers have often been asked to accept rises in inter...