John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

How did Communist parties handle issues of internal discipline and democracy in Lenin’s time? The recent intense discussion within the British Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) and beyond has heard claims that the SWP rests on the traditions of democratic centralism inherited from the Bolsheviks.

John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Some extended thoughts about Stephanie Bottrill, the woman who committed suicide because of the bedroom tax.

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the killing of Blair Peach by the police. David Renton looks back at Blair Peach’s life as a poet, trade unionist and committed antifascist

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Bunny La Roche of RS21 on Nigel Farage's visit to Kent

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Financial Appeal

We're up and running! An appeal for funds to kickstart the IS Network

Financial Appeal

Charlie Hebdo: the responsibilities of the left

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Brief reflections on the shootings at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo and the ensuing debate.

The mood in Paris seems very reminiscent of the mood shortly after 9/11 following initial reports from New York. This began by drawing in many who were genuinely shocked by what had happened- but over a period hardened into a hugely reactionary current of opinion whose consequences we are all familiar with. Its very clear that it will take very little to transform the defence of 'our values' into attacks on minorities. The difference seems paper thin. Already, it is all about 'our' values and 'theirs', Bernard Kouchner holding forth on the need to bring democracy to the Middle East, others speaking of the need for Muslims who have 'chosen to live among us' to reform their religion etc, and much worse to follow it is suspected. Charlie Hebdo magazine was at the sharp end of promoting these kinds of resentments about Muslims in France for a very long period of time (and yes it was indeed a magazine with a background in the left in '68, but this doesn't change much: if anything it makes it worse).

What is rapidly becoming an almost compulsory ideological gesture of solidarity is one which means that, like after 9/11, many will be too frightened to tell the other side of this story: the racism, the disenfranchisement, the discrimination, the utter lack of solidarity every day and in every way. This is not anti-racism, this is not solidarity, this is not opposition to fundamentalism, this is not freedom of speech. This is a kind of compulsory loyalty oath and is really about intimidating anyone who wants to speak otherwise and not according to the script. Its considerably more difficult to speak out against this script than it is to talk about how 'its time to have an open discussion about Islam' (a conversation that has been going on non-stop now for a decade).

The left need to break this silence: not help impose it. The left should be speaking about the urban uprisings against police oppression, about the near segregation in employment and in housing, about the disenfranchisement, about the discrimination, about the wars ravaging large parts of the world. None of which is happening because of a failure of Muslims who live here to 'reform their religion'. This idealist rubbish about evil ideologies masquerading as the values of Enlightenment and Secularism is in fact the dominant ideology of a world where these horrors actually occur. Those who are being left isolated are not those who think that it is a priority to establish the right to mock the religious beliefs of minorities, but those minorities worried and frightened by what the future holds living in a society caught up in a triumphalist chauvinism where every basic liberal and leftist value appears twisted and upside down. And those are the people the left has a duty of solidarity towards, whether or not we agree with this or that religious belief. That actually is the real meaning of Voltaire: the defence of minorities against majorities, not the other way about.

Je ne suis pas Charlie. Je suis Ahmad.