• 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 ...

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

Thursday, June 29, 2017

There’s cladding everywhere. Political cladding,
Economic cladding, intellectual cladding — things that look good
But have no centre, have no heart, only moral padding.
They say the words but the words are hollow.
They make the gestures and the gestures are shallow.
Their bodies come to the burnt tower but their souls don’t follow.
Those who were living are now dead
Those who were breathing are from the living earth fled.
If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower
See the tower, and let a world-changing deed flower
Grenfell Tower
A poem by Ben Okri

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

"[T]he current blockade is a play by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to fully assert their hegemony over the region and to put Qatar back in its place.
But this is not just about Saudi Arabia and the UAE; it fundamentally expresses a general counterrevolutionary process that has been present since the beginning of the uprisings — restoring the status quo of authoritarian neoliberal states that has served the interests of the GCC as a whole (including Qatar) for several decades. All of this must also be seen through the lens of the Gulf’s continued and ever-strengthening alliance with the US and other Western powers."

The Qatar crisis

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

France


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

Robespierre sans masque