This is a really
disgraceful and disingenuous argument. By the same logic, Ben and the SWP should
have formally (as opposed to informally) have abandoned the idea of socialism
because of what happened in the Soviet Union! Do we always take our enemies
descriptions of their actions at face value?
In fact the same
French state which banned Muslim children from wearing headscarves in school is
the same state which allows artifacts such as crosses of the Christian religion
in schools and which subsidises religious schools.
What Ben and the
SWP can't get their heads around, or more likely they don't wish to offend
Muslim religious leaders, is that the French actions weren't motivated by
secularism at all, but RACISM. A particular group, those of the Islamic faith,
were targeted for punitive treatment as a result of the 'war on terror'.
Secularism might have been the excuse but it certainly wasn't the reason.
There was a time
when the SWP would have questioned the reasons for actions given by the
bourgeois state. Just as it would question the declaration of Bush and Blair
that their only interest in Iraq is the pursuit of democracy. Maybe the SWP and
Ben are now opposed to all manifestations of democracy because of the war in
Iraq? Come to think of it they certainly are inside the SWP, where members have
no rights, so maybe that isn't a good example!
the separation of church and state. The confining of religion to the private
sphere. It means we make no concessions to religious chauvinism and, at the same
time, we oppose all attacks and discrimination against people by virtue of their
faith (or none).
means that we oppose the state funding all religious schools (no it doesn't mean
closing them, it means the state taking direct control of them, rather than
allowing their Governors to be controlled by the Church/Mosque/Synagogue etc).
But I suspect Ben knows exactly what the implications of such a policy are.
It means giving
support to people within religious communities who want to escape the tyranny of
their religious leaders. It means no special privileges for religion and it also
means complete freedom of worship, not only on democratic grounds but because
there is no better way of weaning people off religion than removing all forms of
oppression based on religion. Religious oppression in fact reinforces the power
of religious leaders, which is why one of the themes of Jewish religious and
Zionist leaders was always that anti-Semitism had within it the ‘divine will to
good’ (Theodore Herzl) because it helped preserve the Jewish faith.
In their rush to
the right, the SWP and Ben would rather live in 'a tolerant religious state than
an intolerant secular one.' Leaving aside whether Britain is a tolerant
religious state vs France (internment without trial?) I assume that by the same
token that Ben would rather Britain was a tolerant monarchical religious state
rather than an intolerant republican state.
When I was in the
forerunner of the SWP, the International Socialists, we were warned of the
perils of the electoral road. Once you set out on that road you compromise your
politics for the sake of getting elected. What I didn't realise was how quickly
the SWP would discard excess ideological baggage in order to cuddle up to the
leaders of the Mosque. And all in the name of tolerance. There was also a time
when the SWP would have been at the forefront of attacking this liberal, wishy
washy concept of 'tolerance' and 'diversity'. Black and White Unite and Fight
was their slogan. Anti-racism not 'tolerance' was the way forward.
John Rees, the
SWP's very own Bernstein, is fond of using the analogy of what the SWP is doing
vs the Muslim community with what the Communist Party did in respect (!) of the
pre-war Jewish community. The difference is that the CP didn't compromise on its
anti-fascist politics. On the contrary it consciously fought a battle with the
rabbis and community leaders to wean away class conscious Jews, which is why the
CP had such a large Jewish membership and achieved considerable electoral
success in the East End as a result of e.g. the Battle of Cable Street which the
Jewish Board of Deputies and the Chief Rabbi vehemently opposed. It resulted in
Phil Piratin being elected in 1945 as MP for Mile End. The SWP, rather than
conduct such a battle, adopts all the terminology of the clericalist leaders of
the Muslim communities (Islamaphobia etc.) rather than engage in class and
anti-racist politics. But then that would also mean linking up with the white
working class which has all but been abandoned to the BNP.