Strange Bedfellows?

I’ve never been one for a drawnout introduction, so I’m going to kick straight off with a project from the wacky world of decency. I’m going to be looking at an online magazine that calls itself The Propagandist. (h/t Bob for drawing it to my attention).

They describe themselves as being aimed at

political junkies, thinking conservatives and the anti-fascist left.

They further clarify that selfdescription by suggesting they are

underground conservatives and revolutionary propagandists are waging a war of words against the resurgent enemies of democracy and modernity.

Would it be churlish to ask whether our brave antifascists actually have any kind of verifiable record of antifascist activity? Possibly. But it does seem rather telling that they’re making these grandiose claims while seemingly having very little interest in actual homegrown fascist movements. There’s very little on the BNP, or the National Alliance or the EDL or any of the traditional far right in their magazine. A potential explanation can be found in their Manifesto. Their rather flowery rhetoric about their enemies suggests that the tactics they will use are a

combination of media scrutiny, public protest, diplomatic pressure, international law enforcement and military force.

Now, apart from the suggestion of public protest (show, don’t tell. Anyone can type a good fight on the Internet) you’ll notice something very interesting about that list. All of it is, at its core, shit that someone else does for you. What kind of revolutionary manifesto is a justification for inaction as opposed to a call to arms?

So, yeah, that’s why they don’t really tackle the issue of the traditional far right in my view. They might get hurt or even arrested. Antifascism is all very well, but not at the cost of a quiet life.

It has to be said that, from an antifascist perspective, the kind of synthesis of right and left they’re attempting doesn’t have a great track record. The idea that the right and left are meaningless distinctions is beloved like by such scum as the National ‘Anarchists’ and the National Bolsheviks. Fascists by another name. (There is an alternative position taken by groups like the IWCA which suggests that the left is so discredited in the working class that calling yourself such or a “socialist” is no longer sensible or meaningful. That’s beyond the scope of this post, but suffice it to say that it isn’t the same thing. What The Propagandist are suggesting is that calls for “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” are the same as calls for “King, God, Country”).

They seem to already be taking steps to accomodate themselves with their new allies. They add to their list of enemies this telling little claim:

Political correctness is strangling free speech.

As always with this old straw man, they don’t see fit to explain what the fuck they’re bleating on about the dumb reactionary bastards. *Ahem* I apologise. I have no idea what came over me. I meant to say that they neither clarify what they mean by “political correctness” nor give any examples of how it is “strangling free speech”.

Perhaps they’re annoyed that a Harry’s Place guest poster can’t so much as throw a few racial slurs around, without the PC thugs objecting.

You may think that I’m being overly hostile here and that the suggestion that they would condone racism is merely a rhetorical trick. No. They have a section called

Allied Propagandists

which is their blogroll. Telling name though. It means that these are the people that The Propagandist considers on the same side as them, whatever small political differences may exist. (In the interests of fairness, I should point out that not all of the blogs they list necessarily agree on the claimed allying). But let’s look at one of the allies, which is their chosen descriptor, not mine, The Propagandist is promoting. The charming “Infidel Bloggers Alliance”.  Which you can see at http:// ibloga.blogspot.com/  (Link broken.  I don’t want the Propagandist’s racist mates shitting up my comments).  A quick glance at the blog shows you what they’re about.  No smokescreen about only being against extremist Muslims here, no siree.  It’s Islam itself that the IBA is very clear is the enemy.  It’s true that the Propagandist’s allies seem a bit more moderate then the Gates of Vienna crowd.  But that’s much like describing Jared Taylor as more moderate than David Duke.  Technically correct, but it’s missing the point.   rather.  And IBA lists in its allies Jihad Watch.  The same Jihad Watch that openly supports the English Defense League.

Protip:  If your choice of allies has led to you being only three steps away to a direct connection to a bunch of violent anti Muslim thugs, you aren’t a fucking antifascist.

It is true that some of the people involved in the Propagandist, like Terry Glavin have stated that they are “uncomfortable” with this kind of things.    But that’s really not good enough.  One thing the Decents were very clear on that was that you couldn’t critically support a reactionary group without condoning its politics.  So, for example, it wouldn’t matter if you were “uncomfortable” with Hamas having the Protocols in their charter, if you supported them anyway you were still a fellow traveller of their antisemitism.  That, for me, was the single strongest point the Decents raised.  Even if it was rather quaint that they seemed to be under the impression that they were the first people ever to point that out.

Is there a way to avoid that trap?  I think so, as the Gaza demonstrations showed.  You do what the anarchists did.  You march in your own bloc.  You put out your own propaganda.  And you aggressively distance yourself from the arguments and the groups you disagree with.  So yes, if Terry actively does that with the Propagandist.  Attacks those people who are allying themselves with racists.  Makes it clear that he is utterly opposed to their politics.  At that point his discomfort matters.  Until then, I’m not sure that it will be that reassuring to someone having their head kicked in by the EDL, friends of his friends.  Or, as geek favourites They Might Be Giants put it:

Can’t shake the devil’s hand and say you’re only kidding.

It’s  also very noticable that these supposed leftists have almost nothing to say about the fight for social justice, against poverty, for working class liberation in their own countries.  Much like the Maoists, liberation is only sexy for them if it happens elsewhere.  They are the very embodiment of Fat Man on a Keyboard’s wonderful descriptor

There are those that are firmly anti-totalitarian but have little or no critique of domestic politics. They have made their peace with the establishment and the legacy of Thatcherism. However dramatic their declarations of human rights, they are Tom Paines abroad but Edmund Burkes at home.

And, y’know, fuck that shit.  There’s a quote from Orwell, that funnily people like  those at The Propagandist never seem to cite, despite their fondness for pretending he was one of them.  Mirrors can be ugly things indeed:

In every country in the world a huge tribe of party-hacks and sleek little professors are busy ‘proving’ that Socialism means no more than a planned state-capitalism with the grab-motive left intact. But fortunately there also exists a vision of Socialism quite different from this. The thing that attracts ordinary men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it, the ‘mystique’ of Socialism, is the idea of equality; to the vast majority of people Socialism means a classless society, or it means nothing.

To conclude, there is, and always has been, a genuine anti totalitarian and anti fascist left.  Who have always refused to support bigoted far right movements under the guise of ‘anti imperalism’.  ho have no truck with racists and are out on the streets fighting fascism all over the world.

But don’t kid yourself, propagandists.  You aren’t part of us.  And we’ll deal with you the same way we dealt with the National ‘Anarchist’ filth trying to bring racism into our movement.

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  1. excellent post.

  2. Dear Waterloo Sunset.

    I am writing to thank you for this thoughtful and highly critical assessment of the Propagandist and this odd thing that has come to be called “decency.” Much of what you’ve written here is helpful and necessary. I hope you will take my comments here as encouragement, but I should begin with some minor but (I think) necessary corrections that might help us do away with the extraneous bits and get to some substance.

    Firstly, you are mistaken if you think that the Propagandists’ contributors – and indeed I was an early one, I have encouraged others to contribute, and I wish the place well – are the authors of its “manifesto.” And you do take it a bit too seriously anyway – I mean, after all, look at yours: “A mixture of juvenile ultraleft posturing, obnoxiously pretentious hipster chicanery and the occasional bit of geekgasm.” I may be making the mistake of not taking that seriously enough, but I’ll soldier on regardless, only pausing briefly here to mention that I only just noticed the “Allied Propagandists” thing, and if you hadn’t pointed it out I would have been unaware that this “Infidel Bloggers Alliance” was on the list, and they do seem like some sort of Yankee crackpot outfit to me. Anyway. . .

    Secondly, you mistake what I mentioned being “uncomfortable” with. Specifically it was what I called “the ostensible distinction between ‘western’ values and universal values,” and if you look at it again you’ll see I went on to explain why; I think that explanation makes it plain that I was being something close to sarcastic by using such a timid term as “uncomfortable.”

    Thirdly, you write: “There’s a quote from Orwell, that funnily people like those at The Propagandist never seem to cite. . .” Well there’s lots of Orwell that remains uncited at Propandist, and I do seem to recall at least two full posts citing Orwell unedited and at some length.

    But you do get into some substantive criticism, as does Jamie Bloodworth, I see ( http://bloodworthweb.blogspot.com/2010/09/decent-left.html ).

    “Would it be churlish to ask whether our brave antifascists actually have any kind of verifiable record of antifascist activity? Possibly. But it does seem rather telling that they’re making these grandiose claims while seemingly having very little interest in. . .” A very good question, not especially churlish, and I was very pleased to see you recalled Peter Ryley’s early observation about “Tom Paines abroad but Edmund Burkes at home.” But your answer doesn’t do me much good. Mimic the anarchist bloc at Gaza demonstrations? Would you mind terribly if I tried something a bit different?

    I can only speak for myself, and you have me at a bit of a disadvantage because I don’t have an invented intertubes identity, I write under my own name, writing is something I’ve always done for a living, and still do, and for all the constraints journalism presents to the tradespeople who engage in it I still think I can say, hang on a minute, fuck yes, come to think of it I do have something of a verifiable record.

    From when I was a labour reporter, back when I was a kid, right or wrong I have tended to ignore distinctions between “domestic” and “foreign” concerns while at the same time cleaving to a quaint respect for national sovereignties. Still, I do not live in Americaland, and I don’t live in the UK, and the only way I can answer a Burke/Paine rebuke is to point out that what passes for “left” politics in Canada is, in the main, the frivolous preoccupations of the bourgeoisie (most noticeably the white Anglo-Ontarian section of it). Yes, over the past few years, I have written from Russia and India and so on, and for the past couple of years I have spent a great deal of time in Afghanistan doing journalism and doing anti-fascist work, and much time in Canada active in Afghan solidarity work.

    “You aren’t part of us,” you say. I don’t think you were addressing me, exactly, but the statement does invite some questions of its own. What does it take to rightfully claim to be “anti-fascist” these days? Do you qualify if you have a blog and you can show that by the use of a Google search someone else with a blog has linked to some website with a blogroll that links to another website that appears to be racist? Just what brave and dangerous anti-fascist work have you done lately, Waterloo Sunset, whoever you are?

    This question, I concede, is indeed difficult to answer: How much time and energy does one spend on matters peculiar to one’s home front, as opposed to the pressing duties of international solidarity, and how does one make it a single, coherent effort?

    As for my case, I would like to think that the Canadian left could get along well enough without my intimate engagement for a while. Perhaps I wouldn’t spend so much time noticing the ubiquity of antisemitism and its variants if the mainstream left in Canada wasn’t so busy finding ways to excuse it all or be actually actively ignoring it. And despite my efforts (let’s suspend disbelief for a moment and pretend that they would even matter), in the main, the “left” in Canada has aligned itself against – and I mean diametrically opposed to – the politics, the demands and the immediate interests of my Afghan friends.

    So I am forced to choose on any number of points, but let’s just pick that one. Do I abandon my Afghan comrades? The answer to that one is easy: No fucking way. I think you would agree that whatever mischief “actual homegrown fascist movements” might be making in Saskatoon, Westmount, the Toronto-Danforth or Point Grey at the moment rather pales in comparison to the actually-existing fascism that obtains in various degrees of violence and degeneracy in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kandahar and Herat.

    This seems sufficient to confirm the pedestrian choices I appear to have stumbled into with no lantern brighter than the dim “idea of equality” that Orwell mentions in your brief citation. I may be wrong about a lot of things, but this is all I have. It is all that is left.

    Solidarity,

    TG

  3. @ Terry

    Firstly, thank you for your detailed and constructive reply. I hope I manage to do it justice. (And the post I was planning on boardgames can wait for another day!). I’ll pick out the points I think are most relevant, but do say if you think I’ve missed anything important out.

    Firstly, you are mistaken if you think that the Propagandists’ contributors – and indeed I was an early one, I have encouraged others to contribute, and I wish the place well – are the authors of its “manifesto.”

    That’s reasonable. Is the manifesto penned by anyone specific or is it deliberately set up as ab anonymous collective document? I do think it’s reasonable to suggest that those who are listed as contributers on the Propagandist are, at the very least, condoning what’s contained in the manifesto. Indeed, I see little point in having one at all if it’s not supposed to be a statement of collective principles.

    And you do take it a bit too seriously anyway – I mean, after all, look at yours: “A mixture of juvenile ultraleft posturing, obnoxiously pretentious hipster chicanery and the occasional bit of geekgasm.”

    Seriousness is not the same thing as authenticity. It’s the latter, not the former. And there is at least a strong element of truth to it. I am indeed part of what is commonly called the ultraleft and I do have a tendency to sloganise and write propaganda. I think MGMT are a fine band and have been known to wear ‘ironic’ retro pop culture icons on my chest. And I like games, comics and even the odd bit of live action roleplaying. So, while it’s a (self) caricature, it’s not inaccurate either.

    There’s a more important point here though, I think. Quite obviously, the mockery in that self description is directed at myself, not outwards. That’s a very different context. I’m all in favour of using humour and writing creatively to get a point across, but I don’t think that means the underlying message can be ignored. Nor does it allow me to escape responsibility for what I say. (The post above this one is a good example of what I’m talking about, as it’s something of a polemical manifesto of my own). “It was just a joke” is the defense of school bullies worldwide and not one that I think we should accept.

    I only just noticed the “Allied Propagandists” thing, and if you hadn’t pointed it out I would have been unaware that this “Infidel Bloggers Alliance” was on the list

    That’s fair enough, although I would suggest that it’s vital to check carefully things like that when you’re giving your support to a project. Not so much with bloggers like Bob from Brockley, who take a very wide approach to who they link to. But when a site is quite obviously only linking to bloggers they consider to be ‘fellow travellers’ of a sort, I think it’s very different. Especially when their stated purpose is to build an alliance between the right and the left. The same applies to me, as I obviously take a similar approach in my links. While most of the blogs linked share some kind of ‘three way fight’ analysis with me, there are a handful who take a much more orthodox ‘anti imperialist’ approach to issues like Afghanistan. While I obviously don’t share those views, neither do I think I can fairly deny that I am to an extent condoning them with their simple presence.

    Well there’s lots of Orwell that remains uncited at Propandist, and I do seem to recall at least two full posts citing Orwell unedited and at some length.

    Indeed, but I think Orwell is important here, partly because of attempts by many decents to claim him as their own. (Although Orwell is obviously a complicated political figure. In particular, I think there’s a very strong case for differentiating between early period Orwell and later). It’s especially of interest because of the fact that references to the Spanish Civil War are prominent in many decent arguments. I think the argument about the differences between a volunteer and a state army have been played out. More important is the analysis that decents apply to issues like Afghanistan and Iraq. There, the stance is very much “forget about the revolution while we win the war”. Not only is that very different than Orwell, it’s also the polar opposite of POUM and the CNT/FAI. I do suspect that’s one reason why Homage to Catalonia is not as popular as a source of quotations. It may be uncomfortable for decents to state that they side heavily with the Stalinists in their analysis, but it’s undoubtably the case that they do.

    Mimic the anarchist bloc at Gaza demonstrations? Would you mind terribly if I tried something a bit different?

    To be very clear, I am absolutely not suggesting that you should mimic the tactics of the anarchist ghetto necessarily! Anarchists have as many problems as the rest of the left, which is a subject I may return to in a later post. And the situation is different in the UK, where we at least have the staunch internationalist pole of attraction of Libcom. NEFAC, who I believe are one of the most prominent groups in your area, are soft on ‘national liberation movements’ in my view. That is merely an example of how to distance yourself from elements that you need to, not a wider tactical suggestion of any sort.

    I’m not sure what you’re trying is that different though. The ‘lesser evilism’ approach, followed in their own way by both anti imps and decents, is nothing new. And, in my view, the Iranian counterevolution should have killed that tactic off for good. More specifically, I’m not convinced that the position taken by decents is significantly different then that followed by the right wing of the Social Democrats USA in Vietnam. Actually, I think the ultraleft “a plague on both your houses” approach to these issues hasn’t been tried to the same extent.

    the only way I can answer a Burke/Paine rebuke is to point out that what passes for “left” politics in Canada is, in the main, the frivolous preoccupations of the bourgeoisie (most noticeably the white Anglo-Ontarian section of it)

    That, sadly, is not unique to Canada I’m afraid. But is the answer to abandon the fight for social and economic justice all together, or is the answer to bypass the last century left and get on with it as best you can. That’s the issue I have with both sides of the anti imp/decent divide. The anti imps support groups abroad they wouldn’t dream of supporting at home and seem to feel that different standards apply outside of the west. But the decents seem to feel that the fight at home is no longer important and that the battle no longer needs to be thought. Iran or Greece? Can’t we support the fight in both?

    Do you qualify if you have a blog and you can show that by the use of a Google search someone else with a blog has linked to some website with a blogroll that links to another website that appears to be racist? Just what brave and dangerous anti-fascist work have you done lately, Waterloo Sunset, whoever you are?

    That’s an equally fair question. (Although, just for the record, the chain of my ‘investigations’ was in the order of a link over at Bob’s place, to the Propandist. From there, I checked out the IBA and saw JihadWatch. I was already aware that JihadWatch were supporting the English Defense League. Google wasn’t involved at all). And considering this blog was only set up less than a week ago, it would be strange if I was using blogging as the political litmus test! In my links section, there are several antifascist groups listed of the type I support (militant, community based, democratic, indepedent).

    Of my own background, I was an active member of a group called Anti Fascist Action for approximately twelve years. Since that group disbanded, I’ve been broadly indepedent, though I’m happy to work with other antifacists on the ground. My current main focus is trying to counter the activities of the English Defense League (Malatesta’s blog, in my links, is a good introduction to them), by turning up to counter them when I can and also some analysis in the hope it may be of some use to other activists in the same position.

    If you want a more detailed background description, I’d be happy to email you one. I don’t know if you’ve come across the site “Redwatch”, it’s a Neonazi site that posts photos and personal details of their political opponents. That, combined with the obvious issues that arise from the fact I’m very much from the physical force tradition of antifascism, may go some way to explaining why I am not publically revealing my real name. And my caution about going into detail about specific activities.

    This question, I concede, is indeed difficult to answer: How much time and energy does one spend on matters peculiar to one’s home front, as opposed to the pressing duties of international solidarity, and how does one make it a single, coherent effort?

    I have to say, I also think that your situation is different than many decents, because of both having the will and the means to do your work overseas. Which I do have more respect for, one of my many issues with decency is precisely that so many of its proponents seem to only do ‘activism’ online, or in the mainstream press at most.

    But, from my perspective, localism is the only sensible tactic I can take. Sure, I could write a full ‘position paper’ on Nepal. It would have as much effect as me writing a passionate screed about international space travel. On the other hand, I can spend half an hour each week doing the shopping for the old lady down the road who has trouble walking. Might not be as glamourous. But I know which I think has an actual effect on people’s lives. Community work is not just important. It’s vital.

    As for my case, I would like to think that the Canadian left could get along well enough without my intimate engagement for a while.

    How about the Canadian working class? Has poverty been eliminated? Are there no community campaigns or industrial disputes that need support? The fact that much of the left are shit (on that, if nothing else, I think we would be in full agreement) in no way makes the fight for economic and social justice less important. If anything, the opposite is true.

    So I am forced to choose on any number of points, but let’s just pick that one. Do I abandon my Afghan comrades? The answer to that one is easy: No fucking way. I think you would agree that whatever mischief “actual homegrown fascist movements” might be making in Saskatoon, Westmount, the Toronto-Danforth or Point Grey at the moment rather pales in comparison to the actually-existing fascism that obtains in various degrees of violence and degeneracy in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kandahar and Herat.

    Indeed. I think that one major bone of contention between us is that I don’t believe that the Western ruling class can ever bring liberation, through military action or otherwise. And yes, to be self critical, I accept that there is a real problem in that what I actually am ending up doing from your comrades perspective is sitting on the sidelines refusing to get my hands dirty. And I honestly have no real answer to that charge yet.

    Still though, a question. I’m an unashamed utopian. I believe in the overthrow of capitalism and full political and economic democracy in its place, even if I don’t think we’re in any position to get there yet. At the moment, I think the only realistic option is to fight for a slightly better world, but without compromising those ideals for an easy life. If I was to suggest that it was only people in the west who deserved that, if I was to dream of something different for your Afghan comrades, would that not be far more offensive than anything I might have said here?

    Comradely,

    WS

  4. “If I was to suggest that it was only people in the west who deserved that, if I was to dream of something different for your Afghan comrades, would that not be far more offensive than anything I might have said here?”

    Aye and aye.

    “I’m very much from the physical force tradition of antifascism.”

    Me too, I guess:

    Pleased to make your acquaintance.

    tg

  5. I haven’t fully digested your reply to TG yet, WS, but I’m thinking that you (a) take the Propagandist’s Manifesto and its whole purpose way too seriously. Clearly, they don’t think they are starting a movement, and clearly they don’t think that they will be doing the sabotage and the diplomatic pressure and so on. I also think you overdo the sense in which bridging left and right is their stated aim – they don’t make that big a deal of it. Their “allied propogandists” page is quite hard to find, and I think it is hard to really think that you can be fellow travellers of both Geert Wilders and Shiraz Socialist.

    I’ll read your comment properly now.

    • Bob
    • September 12th, 2010
    • Duncan
    • September 12th, 2010

    Glad to see you’ve finally got a blog Waterloo Sunset and this is a cracking first post. I’ve had a look through the website of ‘The Propagandist’ it’s embarrassing stuff, real teenage macho posturing.

    • Bill
    • January 18th, 2011

    The Propagandist is much closer than 3 steps away from fascism. Their editor Jonathon Narvey has proposed in the pages of the Propadandist that western Muslims be banned from attending the Hajj and that any Muslim residents of western countries that have attended the Hajj in the past be forced to take loyalty oaths to the state. He also enthusiastically got on board with Pamella Geller’s racist campaign against building Mosques in southern Manhattan. Terry Galvin is more than willing to turn a blind eye to these disgusting episodes in his quest to demonize some strawman version of the “Left” that he feels personally aggreived by.

  6. Bill :

    The Propagandist is much closer than 3 steps away from fascism. Their editor Jonathon Narvey has proposed in the pages of the Propadandist that western Muslims be banned from attending the Hajj and that any Muslim residents of western countries that have attended the Hajj in the past be forced to take loyalty oaths to the state. He also enthusiastically got on board with Pamella Geller’s racist campaign against building Mosques in southern Manhattan.

    Have you got a link for those?

    • Bill
    • January 19th, 2011

    Here is Jonathon Narvey’s proposals to ban Hajj pilgamages and loyalty oaths:

    http://propagandistmag.com/2010/11/16/death-america-declaration-war-traitors

    Opposition to mosques in southern manhattan:

    http://propagandistmag.com/2010/08/02/why-ground-zero-still-matters-america

    His defence of the EDL in the comment section of this post:

    http://propagandistmag.com/2010/09/29/londonistan-revisited

    He has at other times defended Geert Wilders as well, though I can;t find the link right now. He is an anti-Muslim extremist of the worst sort.

      • George
      • February 8th, 2011

      That’s weird. When you read the articles from the links Bill provided, they pretty much prove the opposite of what he contends (ie. no fascism here).

      Bill appears to be a propagandist of another sort. How appropriate.

        • Bill
        • April 18th, 2011

        Is that right George?

        Claim: Jonathon Narvey proposed to ban Hajj pilgamages and inplement loyalty oathes.

        Direct quote from link:

        “It is with a sad heart and a disillusioned spirit that I make the following proposal:

        •The governments of Western countries ban travel to Saudi Arabia, so as to pressure the Saudi government, as caretakers of Mecca, to depoliticize the Hajj pilgrimage and end calls for genocidal war by Hajj participants;
        •That the governments of Western countries also require of any citizens who have attended the politicized Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca to make a formal statement declaring their loyalty as citizens of their country, repudiating those Islamist extremists who would call for the death of their beloved countries.”

        Claim: Jonathon Narvey supports facist movement to prevent building of Mosque by private property holders.

        Direct quote from link:

        “Yet there is no precedent for this. There is no giant Shinto shrine at Pearl Harbor. There is no monument to Stalin and the Gulag Archipelago in Washington, D.C. This is celebration of diversity to the point of submission.”

        Claim: Jonathon Narvey defends the EDL:

        Direct quote from link:

        “a couple of yahoos who infiltrate and [sic] EDL rally to shout offensive slogans ought not to tarnish the rest of the movement.”

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