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CounterPunch Diary

Islamo-Anarcs or Islamo-Fascists?

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

I guess the lesson of the week is, Don’t run away from an English cop in the London Underground, or anywhere else, particularly if you’re brown or black. This means, don’t run for a train or a bus, particularly with a bag in your hand. If you want to run, or even surrender to the cops, take all your clothes off and put all your hands up, as Eldridge Cleaver recommended in Soul on Ice. One in every ten of these London cops is heavily armed and will kill you without compunction.

"Hey, Alex: Werbe here from the Anarchist Anti-Defamation League. How can you publish Tariq Ali’s remark in his July 8 CounterPunch essay that the London bombers are "Islamo-anarchists," when, if any label is descriptive, they are Islamo-fascists? Rather than aiming for voluntary association as anarchist do, those planting the bombs want authoritarian, theocratic rule, something I suspect Ali would be comfortable with, at least the first adjective. Remember, you can take the boy out of the party, but you can’t take the party out of the boy.

Best wishes,
Peter

Yes, this is the Peter Werbe associated with an anarchist publication called The Fifth Estate, and host on a Detroit-based radio show, Nightcall, which goes out on Sunday, and on which both your CounterPunch editors have been sometime guests. Peter’s a nice boy who probably flosses every morning and evening, but I fear he slips into the frilly black negligee of anarchism only as a kind of diversion when the stakes are, in his estimation, low. Comes election time and Werbe heeds the siren call, tosses his copies of Bakunin and Kropotkin in the trashcan and starts waving the blood-mottled banner of the Democratic Party.

He did it late last year, writing hysterically to all and sundry that this time the states were SO high (they get that way punctually every four years, round about November) that the common good required all anarchists to vote for John Kerry who was at that time calling, as he still does, for more troops and a wider war. I remember being on Werbe’s radio show and he turned apoplectic when I derided both major parties. Years ago I was in Detroit and went to a local gun show called Gunstock and wrote a column about it, extolling the cranky constitutionalists and UN haters as a spirited and genial bunch, united by a commendable hatred of authority, which is surely the heart beat of anarchism.

Werbe had me on his show and acted as though I’d praised a bunch of cat-torturers.

I forwarded Werbe’s note to Tariq Ali who swiftly responded:

I have received a number of letters from anarchists along similar lines though, unlike Peter Werbe, nobody has accused me of wanting ‘authoritarian’ rule anywhere for the simple reason that I don’t. I have always been a great admirer of Durrutti and Bunuel’s movies. I coined Islamo-anarchism to counter the ‘Islamo-fascism’ of American and Brit neo-cons. What the 9/11 bombers and their London brethren believe in is the propaganda of the deed. That is the similarity with anarchism and situationism. Clearly the social program of anarchism is far removed from their thinking. It is this notion favored by anarchists of the 19th and early 20th centuries (but not Durrutti) that assassinations, bombings, etc were impactful and might induce change. That is why Lenin referred to this brand of anarchists as ‘liberals with a bomb’….it was pressure politics, i.e., the notion that you can pressure the ruling class to dissolve itself.

Thank you Tariq, although "Liberals with a bomb" seems snotty. Reviewing the intensity of anarchist bomb attacks and their decimation of crowned heads on presidents around the dawn of the twentieth century I sometimes wonder whether "propaganda of the deed" had an effect of inducing the ruling classes to take some stumbling steps into the progressive era and launch some basic social reforms. True, you can’t pressure the ruling class into dissolving itself. But you can pressure them into doing things different. The IRA demonstrated that successfully in London some years ago.

Tariq, who draws inspiration from Trotsky, took the same stance as Werbe towards John Kerry last year. Oh, they may be on different sides on Kronstadt, but when it came to Kerry they marched shoulder to shoulder under the banner of the Democratic Party.

Incidentally, in his memoirs Bunuel was extremely caustic about the anarchists in Barcelona, some of whom used the cellars of Gaudi’s Palau Guell, on the south side of the Ramblas, to torture their opponents.

 

John Roberts, Phony

When it comes to Roberts, nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, the focus is almost entirely on his posture vis a vis Roe v. Wade. On pretty much everything else he gets a pass in the press, even A Double Plus. Your editors were almost alone in pointing out last week that Roberts’ prime function has been as a shill for big business. We wrote:

Roberts’ record may be opaque when it comes to Roe v Wade but on corporate issues it’s as clear as daylight. When he was deputy solicitor general he ran the government’s case when the Supreme Court issued what was probably the most devastating ruling on environmental issues in the last generation. This was the Lujan v National Wildlife Federation decision in 1990. It tightly restricted the doctrine of "standing" which gives environmentalists the right to challenge destructive practices on federal lands.

Add to this his actual, as opposed to professed stance on federal power. When it comes to wiping out endangered species Roberts is all for the right of states (i.e., developers) to defy federal guidelines. When it comes to torture and war he’s wags the federal flag.

It’s Roberts, foe of federal power, except when it comes to police powers, as in the Gitmo trials, and the French Fry case. Even last week, Roberts took time out from preparing for his confirmation hearings to issue a dissent in a case involving an illegal search of a car. Roberts was alone on the Appeals Court in siding with the cops, who conducted a full-blown car search after pulling the vehicle over for a faulty tail-light. There may be some haze obscuring Roberts’ views on Roe v. Wade, but there’s nothing disguising his animosity toward the 4th Amendment.

As for hauling water for the White House there’s the Gulf War vets’ case. The vets brought suit against Saddam for Gulf War illnesses, encouraged to do so by the Bushies. Then, when Saddam was toppled, the Bush administration invoked "immunity" for the new Iraq government, a move which Roberts supported.

Mrs Roberts sounds fun. I like the thought of her driving to Dewey Beach in her orange VW Beetle, where she spotted Mr Roberts sitting in his ample Midwestern bloomers, reading Dr Johnson and said to herself, He’s the One. Jeffrey St Clair, another Hoosier (though one more likely to be caught reading Lord Rochester than Dr. J), tells me that this was around the time his wife Kimberly was driving to Rehoboth Beach just next door, in her own orange VW Beetle. Just think, I told him, a couple of wrong turns and a Shakespearian twist or two and Kimberly could have ended up as Mrs Roberts and vice versa.

 

Re: Abortion

DNC Chairman Howard Dean told a student audience last week that "I think we need to talk about this issue differently. The Republicans have painted us as a pro-abortion party. I don’t know anybody in America who is pro-abortion. [But surely he's read Katha Pollitt.] We do have to have a big tent. I do think we need to welcome pro-life Democrats into this party.

"I think that we must be absolutely firm in being the party of individual freedom and personal freedom, which means that in the end the government doesn’t get to decide, we do We believe a woman has a right to make up their own mind and they believe (House Majority Leader) Tom DeLay should make it up and Rick Santorum should make it up for them."

Much of the time Dean gets it wrong. But here he gets the tone right.

 

Animals and Expressions

I took issue here last week with Roger Scruton’s view, expressed in the Times Literary Supplement that "human beings are alone among the animals in revealing their individuality in their faces. The mouth that speaks, the eyes that glaze, the skin that flushes, all are signs of freedom, character and judgment, and all give concrete expression to the uniqueness of the self within."

In the course of my reproofs to the foolish Scruton, intent like the creationists on asserting the God-conferred uniqueness of hom. Sap., I should of course have mentioned Charles Darwin, an ardent dog owner , who loved to study faces, of humans and animals and in 1872 published The expression of the emotions in man and animals. Darwin included in his concept of "expression" body movement and posture as well as facial expression. His intent to show ­ with hundreds of examples ­ that both man and beast exist within the same continuum.

As I did with my dog Jasper, Darfwin noted the delicacy of an animal expression: "The study of Expression is difficult, owing to the movements being often extremely slight, and of a fleeting nature."

What an ass that Scruton is. He has bought a house in Rappahannock, Virginia, fro which to hunt foxes, whose expressions will be only too clear.

The Times Literary Supplement was the site of my first job after leaving Oxford in 1963. I rattled along the District Line from Chiswick, got off at Blackfriars and entered the Times’s new building. The editor then was Arthur Crook, who’d started his career at Printing House Square at the age of 14, in 1926, and gradually worked his way up to this distinguished position. He was a charming man, with enough of the editorial martinet in him to keep one up to par in editorial duties. Arthur died last week at the age of 93, a great age, though I’m told that these days half the under-fifteens one sees will live to be a hundred, though I’m sure the American food industry still has a few tricks up its sleeve to bring us back to the biblical norm.

It was a golden era at the TLS. John Willett was assistant editor and anonymity of contributors was still the rule. Arthur or John used to write in pencil the name of each anonymous reviewer on the index card of the book reviewed. Almost books about America bore the name of D.W.Brogan and all books about the Soviet Union that of E.H.Carr, who sent in his reviews written in long hand on the back of the galleys of his history of the CPSU.

I was given a slim Times house style book to memorize. I think it was selectively taken from Fowler and from the Reader’s style book published by the Clarendon Press, then given a final polish by the London Times’ editor in the early Sixties, William Haley. One entry began, "The Arabs have an unfortunate vagueness about their names". Note here the placing of the quotation marks inside the full stop, an English style I much prefer and try, futilely, to impose on all CounterPunch materials, though I have some moderate success with the newsletter. Haley had many lonely usages, including "oversea".

My first day at work we went to the pub for lunch. I duly bought my round for Crook and Willett (Scotches), Charis Ryder, Nicholas Bethel and Derwent May and saw half my weekly salary of 12 pounds and ten shillings vanish into the till. "I can’t afford to go to any more lunches", I complained to my fellow copyeditor, Nicholas Bethel. Then Willett threw a reprint of a grammar of Sanskrit on my desk and asked me to prepare a note on it for Books Received, known informally as The Graveyard. If you reviewed a book, you got to sell it at Gastons in Chancery Lane, off Fleet Street. It all had a whiff of Grubstreet and you half expected to see a decayed poet lying in the corner complaining about Pope’s treatment of him in The Dunciad. I turned in a polished note on the Sanskrit grammar, and many other costly reprints and was duly rewarded at Gastons, enough to pay for my rounds and more.

Arthur was a natty dresser, in rather elegant pinstripe and candy-striped shirts. I don’t think the TLS was ever better than in his and Willett’s tenure. Willett supervised the exciting special issues such as the two on the avant garde that rubbed the noses of the Garrick Club in concrete poetry and situationism. Crook reassured the Garrick Club and the Warden of All Souls that tradition was secure.


Those Google Ads

Dear Alex and CounterPunch,

I’ve recently read that some of the readers of CounterPunch are upset with the Google ads that are on the page. I personally have no problem with them. Even though almost all of them are Republican websites. I do wonder how all the ads are for Republicans though? Is this Google’s doing or are Republicans specifically trying to get their ads on CounterPunch? If they are I find it laughable.

Thanks,

Jacob Sargis David
Toledo, Ohio