- Headlines for August 23, 2019
- Sen. Merkley Condemns Trump's War Against Migrant Families as U.S. Moves to Indefinitely Jail Kids
- Sen. Merkley on the Dangers of a New Nuclear Arms Race & Why He Backs the Green New Deal
- "Our House is On Fire": Brazil Faces Global Outrage as Massive Fires Spread in Amazon Rainforest
- Headlines for August 21, 2019
- Meet Alvaro Enciso, the Artist Placing Crosses in Sonoran Desert to Memorialize Migrant Deaths
- Over 500 Lawsuits Already Filed Days After Child Victims Act in New York Goes into Effect
Narendra Modi’s scrapping, earlier this month, of Article 370 of the Indian constitution comes as little surprise against a larger backdrop of tyranny and human rights abuses. The revocation of Article 370 means that rather than having a separate constitution, Kashmiris are now forced to follow Indian laws, thus stripping them further of voice and autonomy.
Indian authorities have also placed the region under lockdown. All lines of communication have been cut; Kashmiri politicians have been placed under house arrest, and other prominent figures have had their movements and activities restricted. Such a move can be seen as part of the expansion of Modi’s neo-colonial, apartheid project, which fundamentally seeks to oppress, contain and destroy Kashmir’s Muslim population. This ties in with Modi’s broader Islamophobic, BJP ideology, which has paved the way for the widespread abuse of Muslims throughout India itself. From lynchings, to scare mongering propaganda around ‘Islamization’ and population control, Modi and his BJP thugs seem intent on the elimination of Muslims.
As Modi’s fascistic, paranoid fantasies about the Muslim ‘enemy’ continue to spiral out of control, the lives of Muslims — whether as a majority in Kashmir, or a minority in India — are under real threat. Just to give a snapshot of the deeply disturbing ongoing human rights abuses in Kashmir, a report published in May this year by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) revealed that tens of thousands of detained Kashmiri citizens have been tortured over the past three decades.
The majority of those subjected to this abuse are dissenters, human rights activists and even children. In fact, a reported 70 per cent of all torture victims have been civilians. Torture tactics include solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, sodomy, and rape, as well as electrocution, beatings, skin burning and water-boarding. Muslim-majority Kashmir is currently occupied by over half a million Indian security forces, deployed to suppress dissent in the region. As Professor Salman Sayyid points out, “Kashmir is the most heavily policed place on the planet in terms of security personnel to the population.”
Across India, the story is much the same as in Kashmir. For example, savage lynchings of Muslims by Hindu nationalist mobs have been the norm since Modi took power in 2014. Alongside the toxic Islamophobic rhetoric of the BJP and its affiliates, India’s beef ban has been used to legitimise thousands of brutal attacks and cold-blooded killings of innocent Muslims. There has been case after case of Muslims being beaten with wooden planks, dragged and kicked to death in broad daylight, and with very few convictions for the perpetrators. The Hindu lynch mobs of India operate with impunity, protected by the police and the state.
In addition to this, thousands of Rohingya Muslims seeking refuge in India have been subjected to surveillance, harassment, regular beatings and limited access to services. They have also been banned from owning property. The housing market more broadly in India is underpinned by discriminatory Islamophobic practices. Today, Hindu landlords are unlikely to rent or sell property to Muslims.
Tragically, this only scratches the very surface of the daily horrors experienced by Muslims under Modi. It is also vital to acknowledge that other minorities, particularly Dalits (so-called ‘untouchables’) and Christians are also under great threat. Dalits are routinely threatened, attacked and killed for mundane reasons ranging from wearing the wrong shoes, eating in front of ‘upper-caste’ men and reporting crimes to the police. Similarly, the persecution of Christians in India is widespread, including regular attacks on Christian schools, churches, priests and bishops by Hindu extremist mobs.
These abhorrent abuses on minorities across India and Kashmir reveal the wider insidious workings of Modi’s cruel and violent regime. The idea of a ‘vibrant’ ‘democratic’ and ‘progressive’ India couldn’t be farther from the truth. India is, in fact, a terrifying authoritarian state, run by right-wing, nationalist extremists who use fear and hate to terrorise non-Hindus on a daily basis.
The recent events in Kashmir should therefore not be treated in isolation from the wider workings of BJP rule. Muslims, and indeed other religious minorities, both in Kashmir and in India, deserve a future in which fear and brutality no longer dominate. For too long, the BJP bullies have dispossessed and dehumanised minorities, it’s time for the global community to wake up and challenge Modi’s tyrannical enterprise once and for all.
- Headlines for August 20, 2019
- Emerald Garner, Eric Garner's Daughter, Says Firing Pantaleo "Should Have Happened a Long Time Ago”
- Portland Rejects Proud Boys & Other Ultra-Right Groups As Trump Tries to Criminalize Antifa
- Deadly Bombings Devastate Afghanistan As U.S.-Taliban Peace Talks Continue Without Afghan Government
- Headlines for August 19, 2019
- Activist Scott Warren, Facing Federal Charges for Aiding Migrants, Says He Won't Be Deterred
- "Humanitarian Aid Is Never a Crime": No More Deaths Volunteers Drop Water in Desert to Aid Migrants
- "They Are Irreplaceable, and They Mattered": Group Identifies Human Remains Along the Border
- Headlines for August 15, 2019
- Horror at MCC: "Gulag" Conditions at NYC Jail Were Known for Decades Before Jeffrey Epstein's Death
- Jeffrey Epstein Is Dead. Civil Rights Lawyer Says Civil Charges Against His Estate Will Continue
- Child Victims Act: Hundreds File Suits as New York Extends Statute of Limitations on Sex Abuse Cases
Comment | Is the Labour Party against empirical sociology? Some notes on power, elites and anti-racism
As part of its efforts to deal with allegations of antisemitism in the party, the Labour leadership recently launched an antisemitism minisite offering advice and educational resources to party members. In our view, this may signal a potentially more fruitful approach than the often haphazard and opaque disciplinary procedures that have predominated until now. Several years of significant disinformation and factional political manoeuvring seem only to have deepened the crisis in Labour and, if anything, weakened the fight against antisemitism. But we have serious concerns about the contents of the advice, which we think is sociologically problematic and has the potential to weaken the Corbyn project.
In this article, we want to take issue with one key aspect: the section that addresses the question of conspiracy theory. The advice warns Labour members against seeing capitalism and imperialism as the product of ‘plots by a small shadowy elite rather than a political, economic, legal and social system’. This, it says, is ‘just one step away from myths about Jewish bankers and a secret Jewish plot.’
In associating any analysis of actual elites with antisemitic conspiracy theory, this one sentence not only threatens to undercut a significant body of empirical research in sociology and history, but also undermines our ability to deal with current political realities. To take the latter problem first, we agree with Aditya Chakrabortty when he argues that ‘whatever the critics might allege, Jeremy Corbyn’s complaints about a rigged economy aren’t populism at all; they are a fundamentally accurate depiction of a vastly unpopular system.’
On the question of social systems, the obvious issue here, as one of us has argued previously, is that such systems (capitalism, feudalism, fascism) don’t exist merely in the abstract. This is clear in Marx’s writings, which combine an analysis of the abstract dynamics of capital accumulation with very specific analyses of political struggles and crises.
Social systems like capitalism, are developed and managed – and, in the case of feudalism and fascism, ended – by the actions of actual human beings; though perhaps not, as Marx famously wrote, in circumstances of their own choosing. So whilst capitalism is, of course, as the Labour party advice puts it, ‘a political economic, legal and social system’, this does not in the least invalidate the idea that it is shored up or changed as a result of practical actions by particular people and groups in specific contexts.
In sociology, the academic discipline in which we both work, the question of the relationship between structure and agency is a foundational puzzle. How should we understand the relationship between individual, and indeed collective, social action, on the one hand, and the rigid, seemingly unchanging brute facts of hierarchy and inequality on the other?
There is a long and venerable tradition that examines the structure of power in society, as well as how this changes or remains the same. In addition to the work of Marx and most Marxist sociologists – or, for that matter, those working in the Weberian tradition – are we now to ignore or hold in suspicion widely recognised classic works such as C Wright Mills’ The Power Elite (1956) or, in the same tradition, William Domhoff’s Who Rules America (1967), published in its sixth edition in 2017?
Here in Britain, eminent sociologists have trodden a similar path. John Scott has devoted much of his career to examining the ruling class. In his landmark work, Who Rules Britain, published in 1991, his conclusion, agree with it or not, was that:
Britain is ruled by a capitalist class whose economic dominance is sustained by the operations of the state and whose members are disproportionately represented in the power elite which rules the state apparatus. That is to say, Britain does have a ruling class.
Such a statement, if we are to take the Labour Party’s new advice seriously, must now be seen as being one step away from antisemitic conspiracy theory.
Another great sociologist who wrote about such matters was of course Ralph Miliband, the father of the former Labour leader, Ed Miliband. His excoriating study of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Parliamentary Socialism (1961), is still relevant today, and the arguments sparked by his The State in Capitalist Society (1969), a study of the British ‘state elite’ influenced by C. Wright Mills, remains a point of departure in sociology degrees up and down the country. Are we now to disregard influential works by this Jewish refugee from Nazism as part of the fight against antisemitism?
The tradition of examining power structures in sociology continues to this day, with most of the running being made by studies that grapple with the arguments over the extent of the transnational nature of economics and politics. We can note the work of the celebrated sociologist Leslie Sklair, who followed in Miliband’s footsteps working at the LSE. His very widely cited book, The Transnational Capitalist Class, examines the role of ‘social movements for global capitalism’ in many of the transformations of recent decades, including neoliberal reforms and, of course, the formation and development of the European Union. Are we also to disregard the books of this eminent sociologist, a Glaswegian Jew by origin?
As both Miliband and Sklair’s work show in some detail, capitalism is managed by actual human beings. Today these include politicians, corporate executives, central bankers, lawyers, investors, technocrats, lobbyists and PR people. Some are capitalists in the sense of owning, controlling or managing capitalist enterprises, but most are simply aligned politically with capitalists through their material stake in the system. This, incidentally, is why the term ‘elite’ (if used with sufficient clarity and precision) is useful, since it allows us to analyse capitalism not merely as an economic system composed of two classes, but as a complex social system organised in large part via states.
Many of the powerful people in the capitalist and imperial power structures in the UK and beyond are well known, but some are indeed ‘shadowy’ in the sense that they have relatively little public profile. Moreover, even the very public members of the elites (e.g. government ministers) have stage-managed public personas and will make key decisions in private when they feel they can. Noting this is obviously not antisemitic, and nor is it a step towards antisemitism. Neither, for that matter, is the discussion of ‘bankers’ or ‘financiers’, who are obviously central to contemporary capitalism.
Finally, it is worth mentioning specifically the role of certain organisations and groups usually referred to as ‘Zionists’ or the ‘Israel lobby’. That such organisations and groups in fact exist, and have, as we have previously shown, a certain amount of influence in some contexts, is obvious enough, and is something that can, and should, be examined empirically. Indeed, it is important we don’t find ourselves in a position where any mention of Zionism as a political movement, or the Israel lobby as a set of actually existing organisations, is immediately assumed to be an oblique or dishonest reference to antisemitic notions of Jewish power. The Israeli state, like any other, acts in line with its own perceived interests, and does so in alliance with other states, organisations and movements. The challenge is to integrate an understanding of such organisations into a wider analysis of contemporary capitalism and imperialism, and of course not to conflate them with Jewish people as a group, or to allow other racist ideas to cloud our thinking.
The Labour minisite warns against ‘theories [that] ascribe to Israel influence on world events far beyond any objective analysis.’ This sounds reasonable enough, but who then should be the judge of what is ‘objectively’ acceptable? More research on this topic would likely help the movement to navigate such questions for itself, but this has only been made less likely and more difficult in the febrile political atmosphere that has taken hold around this issue.
- Headlines for August 13, 2019
- "Today the Lynch Mob Only Needs an Assault Rifle": Ibram X. Kendi on White Supremacist Violence
- Ibram X. Kendi: IQ Tests, SAT Scores and Other "Intelligence" Tests Propagate Racism
- How to Be an Antiracist: Ibram X. Kendi on Why We Need to Fight Racism the Way We Fight Cancer