The Null Device

Judean People's Front again

Rifts are emerging in the anti-war movement in the US (yes, there is one), with some activists (from moderates to anarchists) claiming that anti-war umbrella group is a Communist front. ANSWER stand accused of being a front for doctrinaire Marxist groups, supporting the governments of Iraq and North Korea, having backed Slobodan Milosevic and having defended the Chinese government's Tienanmen Square crackdown as recently as 2000.
"Basically, ANSWER is dominated by the IAC, which is largely a front for the Workers World Party, a Marxist-Leninist group that has been around since the 1950s," said Stephen Zunes, chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco. "They are very effective at organizing because they are hierarchical. The main problem that I have with them personally is they have been very reluctant to acknowledge the nature of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Sounds much like the S11/No Logo movement, which became little more than a brand name for the Democratic Socialist Party (the "cops of the protest movement") and Socialist Alliance, and indeed the local Indymedia site (which is apparently controlled by Resistance or someone and censors posts inconsistent with Marxist principles, or so some anarchists have claimed). Then again, who would you expect to organise mass movements: the anarchists?

"They are uncritical of anybody that the United States and NATO oppose, from Milosevic to Saddam Hussein," said David Walls, a sociology professor at Sonoma State University. "That's the weakness of their position. They won't acknowledge that there is something despicable about Saddam's regime and violations of human rights; they think it's too much of a concession to the imperialists. But it leaves them without a lot of credibility themselves."

A timely reminder that no one side has a monopoly on stupidity.

There are 26 comments on "Judean People's Front again":

Posted by: Graham Sat Jan 18 14:13:41 2003

Indeedy. The maxim "the enemy of my friend is my friend" is such a strange one.

And then there are the white supremecists who tend to jump on any bandwagon critical of Israel's policies.

Posted by: mark Sat Jan 18 15:38:53 2003

Once being a commie who constantly denounced Stalin and Mao and co. and complained about their particular brands of evil being named "Communism", to now being someone who's given up that particular fight, and also realised a little selfishness once in a while is a Good Thing, I get incredibly uneasy whenever someone brings up "they're bad cos they're damn commies!"

Of course, these guys look like morons. Why not denounce Saddam Hussein? Even if he followed Communist ideology, which he most certainly does not.

Yes, I think all that made sense.

Posted by: acb Sat Jan 18 15:46:27 2003

Because he's standing up to Western Imperialism.

It's not just orthodox Marxism/Maoism, but the particularly daft fallacy that (a) all evil comes from Western Imperialist hegemony, and (b) non-Western governments/cultures are by definition less oppressive. The extreme conclusion is to consider the likes of Saddam Hussein to be struggling for third-world liberation, and excusing their human-rights boo-boos in the name of the Greater Good (if not claiming that "human rights" is a bourgeois western liberal idea).

One conclusion I've come to is that the whole idea of liberalism, human rights, rule of law, freedom of speech and such is a form of post-enlightenment Western cultural imperialism, and one which should be helped to spread to as many fiefdoms and dictatorships as possible.

Posted by: acb Sat Jan 18 15:49:20 2003

Which is not to say that all Western ideas (i.e., McDonalds, intellectual-property absolutism, neo-liberal economics, &c.) are good. They're not. The one I'm singling out is the meme complex known (somewhat imperfectly) as humanism.

Posted by: Ben Sun Jan 19 02:14:40 2003

The worst thing the West has ever given the world is Dumb-Ox-Racy, which is entirely unsuited to the third world.

Posted by: acb Sun Jan 19 13:57:44 2003

"Democracy is the worst possible system, except for all the alternatives." -- Churchill (I think)

The thing about dictatorship is that it's fine and dandy if you're the dictator; otherwise, it's a bit of a drag.

Posted by: Ben Mon Jan 20 05:57:33 2003

Some dictatorships have been among the most enlightened and best societies to live in. 'Democracies' include places like Columbia, Pakistan or Egypt. Some model 'dictatorships' (in modern times) would include Libya and Cuba. There is a vast variety of societies, and some of the poorest people on earth can be found in the largest and mightiest democracies.

Posted by: acb Mon Jan 20 06:31:00 2003

If you lived in Cuba, you would be prohibited from owning a computer (in case you use it to communicate "counter-revolutionary" ideas) or obtaining any books but those on a shortlist of ideologically-sound Communist literature. Is this the sort of "enlightened" society you'd want to live in?

As for Pakistan and Colombia being "democracies", I'd say that they're so only in name. Mind you, one could say the same about the US (the World's Greatest Democracy), where corporations buy favourable laws as last-minute riders on unrelated bills, you have to be a millionaire to be elected to Congress, and the last President was elected by a tiny minority of the population.

Posted by: mark Mon Jan 20 09:29:56 2003

Cuba is probably the dictatorship with the best living conditions, at least, based on the limited information we're privy to.

That said, it's still a dictatorship. And the little ideologue in me adds that it's a perversion of Communism besides. On both counts, not a pleasant place at all.

Posted by: acb Mon Jan 20 11:39:42 2003

That's assuming a strictly materialist view of living conditions; i.e., that food, housing and physical health were the sum of human needs.

And the Cubans who rely on begging or prostitution to make the hard currency required to buy goods on the black market (like all command economies, Cuba is rife with shortages and queues) would probably disagree with you even there.

Posted by: Fidel http:// Mon Jan 20 12:13:13 2003

I think that food, housing and physical health are pretty much the sum of human needs. People in Cuba don't need computers, they have fantastic art and entertainment everywhere. Most 3rd world countries don't have high computer ownership due to the poor infrastructure and ISPs. While Cuba bans some books, it is nowhere near as bad as is commonly thought. All societies ban some books (including the USA and Australia), however Cuba has a higher literacy rate than either the US or Australia (100%).

Posted by: acb Mon Jan 20 12:37:17 2003

Surely you don't mean to suggest that censorship in Cuba is on the same scale as in liberal democracies? Australia has a somewhat puritanical censorship regime, but it only affects pornography and things which offend conservative right-wingers. I don't agree with this (for example, the Baise-Moi fiasco last year), but it's nowhere near the scale of Cuba.

In Cuba, anything not explicitly allowed is prohibited. Which leads to absurd situations such as a Cuban government-published newsletter intended for audiences abroad being banned locally (because to not be laughed out abroad they'd have to allude to things Cubans are not allowed to know about).

As for Cuba's art, I'd dispute the range of it, in a country where people are imprisoned for expressing themselves in ideologically unsound ways. (Just try writing a book/publishing a zine/recording some songs without submitting it to the Party beforehand, and see how long until the secret police show up.)

Posted by: mark Mon Jan 20 12:49:20 2003

acb, yes, but we're speaking of Cuba in relation to places like Iraq, and Pakistan.

Posted by: acb Mon Jan 20 13:03:08 2003

Ah; well, their interrogation facilities are probably more humane than Saddam Hussein's. Then again, the same could be said for the former East Germany, the USSR, China, &c.

Posted by: Fidel http:// Tue Jan 21 03:01:50 2003

Hmm, let's see. In the glorious people's republic of Victoria, any book can be banned which 'instructs in or glorifies crime'. So that's just about every detective or spy novel ever written. Any book dealing with suicide, homosexuality (is that still a crime on the books?), blasphemy etc. is technically banned. Far more than have ever been explicitly banned in any Iron Curtain country.

Posted by: acb Tue Jan 21 04:46:15 2003

At least in Victoria, books have to be explicitly banned, rather than being explicitly approved (as in Cuba).

Also, the fact that they can ban things which "glorify crime" doesn't mean that they do. If they did, there'd be an outcry (like when the government banned screenings of the Exorcist on Easter Sunday or something), and the law would be amended or repealed.

Posted by: acb Tue Jan 21 04:46:38 2003

Btw, "Fidel", you don't perchance run a bookshop in Northcote, do you?

Posted by: mitch http:// Tue Jan 28 00:39:13 2003

I wouldn't be surprised if ANSWER is ultimately run by the FBI.

Posted by: acb Tue Jan 28 02:38:05 2003


Posted by: mitch http:// Tue Jan 28 03:02:01 2003


Posted by: Ben Tue Jan 28 04:13:55 2003

Either the FBI or the Moonies.

Posted by: Graham Tue Jan 28 12:50:31 2003

And what of Indymedia? Might that just be a front to gather names of dissidents?

(NB: I'm not being sarcastic for once.)

Posted by: mitch http:// Tue Jan 28 23:46:12 2003

Half of Indymedia's posters are anonymous, though. I'd focus more on organizations that do collect names (e.g. petitions). And even then, The Authorities care the most about individuals and groups who contemplate violent 'direct action'; outside of genuine police states, they have better things to do than investigate every last dissident.

Posted by: acb Wed Jan 29 02:38:06 2003

What about the Green Party activists who got onto the "no-fly" list in the US? I've heard that the US Greens are more like raving Maoists than their laid-back Aussie counterparts, though to lump them in with apocalyptic religious nutjobs still seems a bit absurd. And it implies that the US government is keeping track of dissidents/subversives.

Posted by: acb Wed Jan 29 02:38:36 2003

Also, would you classify the USA in J. Edgar Hoover's time as a "police state"?

Posted by: mitch http:// Wed Jan 29 09:41:38 2003

No, to me a police state is somewhere like East Germany, where anyone and everyone was a target. The case of the grounded Greens illustrates a different peril, basically that of wrongful accusation - the western state 'targets' only a few types (Communists, terrorists) for maximum harassment, but it's certainly possible for people to be placed mistakenly or unjustly in those categories, and the only way out is for the state itself to acknowledge officially that a wrong was committed. My guess with the Greens, btw, is that someone didn't know the difference between the Green Party and the Earth Liberation Front, basically.