Friday, January 07, 2011

Left/Right Alliance and the Propagandist

Long ago, I intended to comment on left/right alliances and the limits of said groupings in response to a post at Bob's that a was a response to Waterloo Sunset’s piece about Propagandist Magazine. Both the posts, as well as the comments that follow (Terry Glavin’s defense of the project being most notable) are worth your time if you have not already done so. However, I have not given my rational for working with the website, if only nominally. Due to a few recent events, both personal and blog related, I feel the need to sum up a few of my thoughts on this issue.

WS brought to my attention an event advertised at the Propagandist that was organized by the Jewish Defense League that I must have missed a few months prior. I was surprised to see an event for a group that I consider to have engaged in terrorist activity, but also a reactionary anti-modernist Kahanist organization that is opposed to the secular and pluralistic society I support advertised at the site. I need not list the litany of criminal offenses done by the organization, but their violent activity is surely not a thing of the past, nor is it inconsequential to larger events. In 1994, a JDL member named Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 innocent Palestinians while they were praying in the city of Hebron. The JDL did not disown the man or his actions, but claimed "Goldstein took a preventative measure against yet another Arab attack on Jews."

In sum, the JDL is no friend of liberals and secularists (or like minded conservatives for that matter). They are a group that has received condemnation from Jewish organizations around the globe. I recognize that I don’t know much about the group’s recent exploits; perhaps the Canadian JDL has renounced violence. But I do find it troubling that an event for the group was advertised at the site.

I have posted two pieces with Propagandist Magazine, one on the trend towards faith based assumptions in our political discourse, and another on the ridiculous success Tom Tancredo had running for Governor in Colorado on an openly theocratic party ticket (which was also posted at Harry’s Place, and reminded me how bizarre the comments section at the site had become). I was more than happy to be a left-leaning commenter on the site (and still do) for a number of reasons. In the past, I have been part of other multi-author projects where I disagreed vehemently with other contributors to the site. Nearly four years ago I wrote a few pieces for short lived site discussing aspects of the Euston Manifesto. I found my blogging feet writing for Indymedia Watch, and wound up getting to know a number of folks I am still in contact with today. I wrote pieces for Neoconstant, a neoconservative centered website. That project ended at an opportune moment, as I recognized I could not continue down the hole with Weekly Standard types and the editor wound up embracing more traditional paleoconservative positions. I knew that Propagandist Magazine was more “conservative” than my liking from the get go, but the fact that it included writers I greatly respected like Terry Glavin, Lauryn Oats, Eamonn McDonagh, and Ben Cohen made me see that this was a project worth getting behind.

In each one of these ventures, but especially the last two, I found myself rationalizing working with people that were in many ways opposed to the society I wanted to see develop. I knew we agreed on some key points, but there was a gorge between us on others.

Yet, I still think the Propagandist project is worth doing and engaging in. While I understand WS’s criticism of the linking policy and the tone, I have always seen the general tenor of the site to be highly tongue-in-cheek. While the issues covered on the site are not of the comedic variety, I got the sense that the bravado and machismo was a bit. Perhaps I am wrong about this, but my conversations with the editor have not dissuaded me from this belief.

And to be honest, I have always been more of a talker than a brawler when it came to political differences. I recognize that there are forces and groups that need to be fought until they surrender (fascists and theocrats come to mind). Yet, when it comes to debate among individuals that are disposed to deliberate, I find that a policy of time-consuming discussion to be the strategy best suited to turning individuals to your cause. I have met more than one young man who was pulled into a racist party or gang in their youth, and who was yanked out of it thanks to the efforts of an activist who recognized that they could change this person’s perspective. But to turn people to your cause, it requires that you act in their vicinity and not in some pure community that speaks only to itself.

Having said that, I don’t believe that working with Propagandist is akin to hanging out at Stormfront. A site linking to Hak Mao, Bob, and Internationalist Workers Tendency as well as shit like Defend Geert Wilders and Infidel Bloggers Alliance, is clearly not endorsing all of these websites' positions. But spending time with folks who are inclined to read the site may provide an opportunity to pull them toward positions I find bearable. I don’t have to like everyone on a blogroll or agree with every contributor writing for a communal website. I just need them to be the type of individual who is capable to change their point of view, and willing to agree when they are wrong on an issue and prepared to discuss larger points candidly.

Recognizing all of this, I would like to see some kind of comment made about the JDL issue.

More on this later. I encourage everyone to comment on this, as I would appreciate your input.

14 comments:

Rooster said...

Great post. I just skimmed over that article the first time I saw it. I had no idea about the JDL till now. Thanks for the info. I have posted a comment asking the Propogandist to consider pulling it from the blog. This is a group that should not get support in any way especially from the right wing. We can not call ourselves lovers of peace and condemn those like Hamas for their Terrorist acts then turn a blind eye to a group like this

The Propagandist Magazine said...

A very thoughtful post. I'll be putting up a response back at The Propagandist as well.

1) The post linking to the Blazing Cat Fur event hosted by the JDL was not an endorsement of JDL, but done out of recognition that BCF is (like it or not) a strong voice on the Canadian scene publicizing the activities of Islamist terrorists and associated violent wingnuts. He deserves the support of those with like-minded goals.

2) While it is true that individual members of the JDL have in the past committed terrorist acts, let's be very clear here: they are not an officially recognized terrorist entity in North America. If they were, you can bet that in the post 9/11 era, they would be shut down and that would be that. As I understand it (and I claim no expertise on the JDL) they are more akin to the boy scouts than Hamas. Surely there is a reason why Hamas is officially recognized as a terrorist organization in Canada and the USA and the JDL is not (and the first one to suggest it's because parasitic Zionists are pulling the strings on these governments gets a punch in the throat from my Jewish fists of fury -- and I've never even been asked to be a member of the JDL).

UCD Rob said...

It seems clear that while you and I might disagree on some policy positions, we are in agreement as to what is necessary in political debate today. Sometimes in my columns for the school newspaper I'll take heat from the right for sounding too moderate or wishy-washy to them. But, as long as I stay true to myself, I think it is important to emphasize a measure of common ground in order to have a debate with substance and accomplishment. I very much look forward to more discussions with you in the future.

Terry Glavin said...

Hi Roland. Great post.

The JDL in Canada is, you should know, not the same as its American and Israeli precursors, but that's really besides the point. In defence of the Propagandist, all it did was run the interwebs equivalent of a classified-ad event announcement thing.

I contributed a few small essays to the Propagandist to help get it going, and expect to contribute in future, and I support the project precisely because it makes room for writers like you (and lately, I think we should all be proud to notice, Karl Pfeifer). It's expanding its reach.

Throughout the Anglosphere, there are a lot of people out there like yourself - of the left, anti-totalitarian, committed to working-class internationalism, anti-racism and acutely aware of epistemic relativism, apologetics for anti-semitism and other such reactionary and retrograde currents on the bourgeois left.

We need places where we can expose contradictions, engage with new ideas, let off some steam, learn about other writers, keep informed about anti-totalitarian struggles, and have a larf. We will find people in our company who are to the right of us and to the left of us. When that happens, let's do be self-critical, but we should also relax about it just a bit.

The Propagandist needs you and more writers like you. If your politics ever makes you feel lonely at the Propagandist, don't mourn. Recruit.

Waterloo Sunset said...

Firstly, thanks for the links.

There's a lot of points raised in your post, so I'll try to cover as much ground as possible in my reply.

For those unfamiliar with some of the background to this, it's probably worth making sure that people are clear that this hostility to the Propgandist project is not coming from the anti-zionist/anti-imp section of the left. Indeed, it's coming from people that are extremely critical of that particular trend on the left. It's mostly coming from the anti-state left, although not exclusively. (Modernity of Modernityblog fame has expressed serious unease about what's going on).

My opposition to the JDL seems to be based on somewhat different grounds to yours. It isn't that they use violence as a political tactic. So do Antifa, who I support. (That strikes me as a somewhat odd argument from a supporter of liberal interventionism anyway). Nor is it that they carry out "criminal offenses". Or that they're "terrorist", which I find a rather apolitical designation. (Although if you want to go down that road, I will point out the FBI have specifically accused them of carrying out terrorist activity in the US, even if they're not proscribed in Canada). And, to make sure there is no room for misunderstanding on this, it has nothing at all to do with them being "Zionist". As far as I'm concerned, militant antifascism is strictly agnostic on the issue of Israel. I've previously been perfectly happy working along Zionists who are in the 43 Group tradition. It's highly likely the same will apply in the future. In the same way my opposition to Hamas is based on the far right reactionary nature of their political program, my opposition to the JDL is based on the ideology lies behind their tactics, not the tactics involved. I have no great attachment to legality or pacifism.

In each one of these ventures, but especially the last two, I found myself rationalizing working with people that were in many ways opposed to the society I wanted to see develop. I knew we agreed on some key points, but there was a gorge between us on others.

We are all Hezbollah? That does strike me as remarkably similar to the argument that leads some leftists to supporting reactionary middle east movements because they're "fighting imperialism".

Apart from anything else, we're currently in a period of economic stability, where the far right has traditionally done well. To ally with our enemies is not the way forward. Or to put it more bluntly, I still fucking hate Tories.

The reply from the Propagandist confirms my analysis on this. This lashup with the far right isn't a mistake, it's a natural evolution of the Propagandist project. All that's important is that

BCF is (like it or not) a strong voice on the Canadian scene publicizing the activities of Islamist terrorists and associated violent wingnuts.

In other words, as BCF agrees with the Propagandist on Islamism, his support for a far right racist organisation like the JDL is less important than the overall objective. That is many things. But one thing it isn't is a stance of the "anti-fascist left".

Waterloo Sunset said...

While I understand WS’s criticism of the linking policy and the tone, I have always seen the general tenor of the site to be highly tongue-in-cheek. While the issues covered on the site are not of the comedic variety, I got the sense that the bravado and machismo was a bit. Perhaps I am wrong about this, but my conversations with the editor have not dissuaded me from this belief.

Quite probably. But "doing it for the lulz" is not always a legitimate defense. Humour is a very powerful weapon and it's what the Propagandist are using it to achieve that I think is most relevant here. And, from a personal perspective, their stealing of the rhetoric of militant anti-fascism to support a project that seems to me to run counter to our aims of opposing the far right wherever they may be found.

And to be honest, I have always been more of a talker than a brawler when it came to political differences.

It's no secret that I come from the 'sharp end' of antifascism.

Yet, when it comes to debate among individuals that are disposed to deliberate, I find that a policy of time-consuming discussion to be the strategy best suited to turning individuals to your cause.

I have met more than one young man who was pulled into a racist party or gang in their youth, and who was yanked out of it thanks to the efforts of an activist who recognized that they could change this person’s perspective.

So have I. But in no cases have I ever met one who moved away from that via a tactic of pandering to and allying with the far right.

I have met more than one young man who was pulled into a racist party or gang in their youth, and who was yanked out of it thanks to the efforts of an activist who recognized that they could change this person’s perspective.

Yes, but it requires at least some common ground to exist. I have no common ground with the likes of "JihadWatch". And I see little evidence that the Propagandist is challenging those views, as opposed to merely promoting them at arm's length.

Having said that, I don’t believe that working with Propagandist is akin to hanging out at Stormfront.

Neither do I. But that's because I don't believe that the issue is that the Propagandist are linking up with the NeoNazi section of the far right. Instead, they're linking up with the racist populist nativists like Pamela Geller.

I mentioned in my previous post that the Propagandist is uncritically linking to open supporters of the English Defense League. The EDL recently linked up with the "boy scouts" of the JDL in Canada, as it happens. If you're unfamiliar with them, the EDL are a group set up by football hooligans. They claim to be merely against "Islamic Extremism", but a quick perusal of their forum shows they are actually against Muslims in general. And they've been talking about attacking student demonstrations against over here. And have turned up to disrupt several left wing meetings already. In other words, when I talk about the Propagandist having links to the far right, it's not a hypothetical future developement. It's already the case. And I'd query whether you'd be anywhere near as forgiving to anti-imps linking to far right Islamist groups.

I just need them to be the type of individual who is capable to change their point of view, and willing to agree when they are wrong on an issue and prepared to discuss larger points candidly.

What useful conversation do you think can be had with JihadWatch? The Propagadist have made it very clear that they're not interested in dialogue with their enemies. (Which is fair enough). And I consider JihadWatch to be a fair bit worse than misguided liberals.

Roland Dodds said...

*Sorry for the backlog of comments. I approve all comments to avoid the massive amounts of spam I get. Hopefully everything has appeared now.

Roland Dodds said...

Thanks for the well reasoned comments everyone. There is a lot to respond to before I head off to work, so I will see what I can get through.

“My opposition to the JDL seems to be based on somewhat different grounds to yours. It isn't that they use violence as a political tactic. So do Antifa, who I support.”

I am no pacifist, so I would say that my distaste for the JDL stems from a reaction to their fundamental goals. I did want to highlight that elements of the group do commit acts of violence and intimidation, and thus puts them on a different level than orthodox or traditionalist religious adherents who may also have pious designs on the world that I do not share (which may have nothing to do with the Canadian JDL I realize. I admit that I am ignorant of that group’s foundation or aims; I simply assumed they shared the goals of the JDL I am familiar with).

“We are all Hezbollah? That does strike me as remarkably similar to the argument that leads some leftists to supporting reactionary middle east movements because they're "fighting imperialism".”

I think this is an unfair characterization. I’ll put the JDL issue aside for the moment, and just address the issue of contributing on the two neoconservative blogs I mentioned. When I make alliances with folks who are of the Weekly Standard/Commentary mindset, I am not sacrificing my core foundations in the process. While I can’t speak for anyone labeled “neoconservative” (a rather muddled term in my estimation), I can say that none of the people I read consistently (Joshua Muravchick, Max Boot) are totalitarians or anti-liberal in their policy prescriptions and worldview. The differences between us on some of the issues may be significant, but they do not plan or desire to kill people like myself in their hypothetical endgame. In fact, I have had more honest debates about social spending and the welfare state with self-described neocons that I had been absent with my socialist comrades. I was not successful at moving them towards my position, but they also did not disregard my position as just some commie conspiracy to destroy America.
For liberals or lefties to make an alliance with Islamist groups like Hezbollah seems, in my estimation, a disregard for their fundamental positions. To support a group simply because they are fighting a world power or “challenging hegemony” tells me little about that individuals politics, other than they believe “hegemony” is bad. Is that the ideological position that activists will build inroads with different political groups? Perhaps more importantly, these groups were not the types that were going to engage in a debate on other core principles these western activists hold: pluralism, freedom of speech, defending the gay community, etc. Groups like Hamas and Hezbollah actively oppress and murder those who support those aims in their own societies. Say what you will about neoconservatives, but they are not trying to destroy me or turn the United States into a fascist dictatorship (regardless of what some cranks may believe).

Roland Dodds said...

“To ally with our enemies is not the way forward. Or to put it more bluntly, I still fucking hate Tories.”

Again, our different approaches are pretty clear here. I don’t hate (most) Tories (or most Republicans). As long as they are open to new ideas, I can have a conversation and even friendship with folks who belong to those groups. During my time in Edinburgh, I became friends with a SSP activist who was completing the same program I was. It goes without saying that we had some pretty significant differences, and had some heated debates. We both attended the march against the SDL in Edinburgh (he wrote a very good piece about the march at Though Cowards Flinch), and enjoyed kicking the shit tossing around Marxist jargon. I could have this very same conversation we are having with someone of a conservative bent who could argue that my proximity and friendship with an individual in an un-reformed Leninist organization is a betrayal of my liberal persuasion. But I think otherwise.

I’ll tackle some of your other points this evening.

Graeme said...

JDL Canada is holding a "support rally" for the EDL next week: http://www.nationalpost.com/m/story.html?id=4064770

ModernityBlog said...

I'm coming to this very late and have been out of circulation for a few weeks so apologies if I've missed things.

I have to say I'm quite happy to work with anyone who is an antifascist, a serious antifascist, whatever their political views and although I am vehemently anti-Tory I can think of at least two Tories who are decent active and serious antifascists.

So I don't have problems with people who have different views from me as I am a pluralist, however I draw the line at the type of sneering and contrarianism found at the Propagandist.

I looked in when it first was released and was disappointed.

It is not serious (although there might be some serious articles that I missed), it seems a product of the polarised politics of North America and, more importantly, it is rather unconvincing.

If others wish to read it or contribute to it, fine, your choice, but I wouldn't touch it with a political bargepole.

ModernityBlog said...

I posted some stuff on the Canadian JDL and the English Defence League at Bob's.

If there was any question, surely that's enough?

Waterloo Sunset said...

@ Roland

You were working on the weekend? My sympathies.

which may have nothing to do with the Canadian JDL I realize. I admit that I am ignorant of that group’s foundation or aims; I simply assumed they shared the goals of the JDL I am familiar with

They do. If you look at their site they're openly Kahanist. And they recently organised a joint activity with the EDL. The attempts to paint them as a fluffier organisation aren't convincing.

think this is an unfair characterization. I’ll put the JDL issue aside for the moment, and just address the issue of contributing on the two neoconservative blogs I mentioned. When I make alliances with folks who are of the Weekly Standard/Commentary mindset, I am not sacrificing my core foundations in the process.

While I disagree with that, for reasons I outline, this isn't the same situation. These are alliances with people of the Eurabia/Gates of Vienna mindset.

Take Blazing Cat Fur as an example. That's who the JDL event in question was set up to support. Not only does BCF link to Gates of Vienna (which is a pretty good sign of a blogger being dodgy in my book, unless they are overtly disassociating themselves from the politics there), he thanks them for their support here. This is the same Gates of Vienna that openly supports the Vlaams Belange. And yet the Propagandist suggest, over at Bob's that

The question Waterloo Sunset needs to consider is why he wants to distract from the main struggle for freedom of expression for one of the few bloggers in Canada noted for exposing radicalism and extremism and scooping newspapers in the process.

In other words, the Propagandist offers unconditional support to the far right who aren't, apparently, "extremist". And it's clear why. The Propagandist have no problem with BCF's links to Gates of Vienna, for


The event might have been hosted by Russian Cultural Center, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Communist Party or the Conservative Party of Canada. That's beside the point. The aim was to support the blogger.


This would explain why they are happy to advise people to go to events organised by groups who work hand in hand with the EDL. Indeed, that quote suggests strongly they wouldn't have cared if the EDL were there.

In other words, this isn't about Gates of Vienna allying with the centre right. They directly support the Eurabia crowd and indirectly are linked to the EDL. If you think I'm exaggerating, ask youself why the editor of the Propagandist has still not uttered a single word condemning the politics of the JDL. Instead defending them on the grounds they aren't listed as a terrorist organisation and quibbling about whether promoting their events counts as active support. And why they describe discussing the politics of far right extremists as a "distraction".

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Hi Roland,

Long time no visiting. This long discussion after your excellent post should, I believe, only strengthen your conclusion. Where we all will be with the kind of remorseless examination and selection offered by some of the commentators? Should we all start tracing the links all of us keep to folks who keep links to folks who... where does it end, in short.

While I sometimes avoid linking to some sites too, a measure of sanity should be kept, I would suggest.