Another case of a hero of the left who turns out to be working for the enemies of liberal democracy. It's almost like there's a pattern. Mike Harris on Julian Assange:
Assange’s alliance with Donald Trump looks, on the face of it, like one of the most unusual political alliances in recent history. The players in this dangerous alliance may share a fondness for the conservative patriarchy of Vladimir Putin’s Russia but, for Assange, Trump is part of his calculations to escape his room in the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge. A presidential pardon may stop him facing jail in the US (though no charges have been brought against him there so far), but it won’t stop his extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations....
WikiLeaks is leading the attack on Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, with leaks that have so far cost the job of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the former Democrat party chair. Just last Thursday, another 2,000 internal emails from the Clinton campaign were released. And moments after the infamous video of Trump allegedly boasting about groping women was put online, Wikileaks responded with leaked emails of Hillary Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street banks.
Robert Mackey of The Intercept, a site that has done much to give whistleblowers a global voice, says WikiLeaks has “started to look more like the stream of an opposition research firm working mainly to undermine Hillary Clinton than the updates of a non-partisan platform for whistleblowers.”
It seems odd that the world’s most prominent whistleblowing website has leaked nothing on Donald Trump and his mysterious tax records, yet is leaking the personal details of Democrat party donors. It seems highly likely that Wikileaks received these leaked emails from hackers working for the Russian Government....
With ammunition from Wikileaks, Trump is hammering home his case that the first female nominee from a major party for the presidency is unfit for office. Trump has lavished WikiLeaks with praise, telling a rally in Pennsylvania, “I love Wikileaks”.
It is claimed that support for Wikileaks is rising among US right-wingers. FoxNews TV shock jock Sean Hannity went as far telling Assange in a live interview, “I do hope you get free one day.” This is perhaps Assange’s strategy - damage Clinton (who ran the State Department when Assange leaked the embassy cables) to secure a Trump win and a presidential pardon....
If Donald Trump becomes US President, it will be in no small way thanks to the efforts of Julian Assange. After they’ve defended Assange against allegations of rape and helping the dictator of Belarus, will the liberal left continue to defend him if he gets Trump elected?
The Guardian - where else? - allows the Russian ambassador Alexander Yakovenko space for some shameless apologetics over Syria:
Russia didn’t come to Syria to fight the war. We came to deliver the country from terrorists and extremists, and to create conditions for a peace process. With Isis gangs no longer threatening Damascus and many other cities, Syrians have a chance to settle their political, ethnic and religious differences at a negotiating table. Talks have started between the government and many patriotic opposition groups. At local level, many villages and towns have joined the ceasefire regime (783, and the number grows daily) brokered by the Russian military.
The combat is tough in Aleppo, where the Syrian army is wrestling with the rebels, over half of whom belong to Jabhat al-Nusra, an offspring of al-Qaida, internationally recognised as terrorists. After long talks, the US agreed to exert influence on the moderates to separate them from the proscribed terrorists. This didn’t happen.
Those who fight in eastern Aleppo shamelessly use civilians as a human shield, block their passage to safety through established humanitarian corridors, and hamper the delivery of humanitarian aid (they say they didn’t want a ceasefire and humanitarian aid). Our military does what it can, verifying the targets to make sure these are not civilian objects, to exclude any loss of life and limit damage to civil infrastructure. (We are always ready to concede concrete evidence that our strikes have hit civilian targets, and investigate accordingly – but we have so far seen none.) Human suffering, a horrible byproduct of any war (the expression “collateral damage” wasn’t invented by us or President Assad), is being exploited to rally to the terrorists’ cause. Britain and France’s suggestion of a no-fly zone would lead precisely to this – leaving the terrorists in charge and in control. Our goal is to defeat terrorists, which will ensure humanitarian relief for all.
And so on. Who knew all those dead children were really terrorists?
The top comment, much recommended:
More truth here than we are usually served on Syria, thank you.
And all culminating in the predictable warning… “our western partners will have to forget about regime change in Syria, and leave it to the Syrians to decide for themselves”.
Mr Putin is certainly no saint. However, sadly and rather embarrassingly, he remains a more credible source of truth than both our own lot and the transatlantic team.
A Corbynista, no doubt.
That's today's left: Putin homeboys.
A particularly powerful piece from Nick Cohen today:
The far left’s ideology is not “leftwing” in any sense that a socialist from the 19th or 20th centuries would have understood. It is simply opposition to the west whatever the west does. Occidentalism explains the appearances of Labour’s leaders on Iran’s propaganda channels , the endorsements of Russian imperialism, and the silence that greets the Syrian massacres.
There is no secret about the nihilism and double standards. Both have been obvious to me at any rate since the bulk of the left failed to show solidarity with the victims of Saddam Hussein in the Iraq war of 2003 . Nor does the far left, if we can call it a left, try to hide its prejudices. When asked why the streets of London were not heaving with demonstrators protesting against Russia turning Aleppo into the Guernica of our times, Stop the War replied that it had no wish to add to the “jingoism” politicians were whipping up against plucky little Russia. The left’s task was “to oppose the west”. That was all.
I have criticised the hollowed-out leftism of the 21st century many times, and could fulminate about how no one has yet provided a satisfactory answer to the question: why is it “leftwing” to support the gangster-capitalist Russian state?
I could note that the mainstream media has not realised that British Islam is overwhelmingly Sunni, but its supposed defenders on the “left” are now allied with Putin, Assad and the Iranian and Hezbollah death squads – the Shia side in the Sunni/Shia religious war, in other words.
But let me be generous instead. Jeremy Corbyn does not often give me the chance to defend him, and it is therefore all the more of a pleasure to redress the imbalance today. When his supporters say he is consistent, they are telling the truth. His illiberal worldview is entirely coherent. The trouble is, it is wholly despicable, and provokes the troubling question whether it is so different from the worldview of the west’s “respectable” leaders.
There have been repeated opportunities for Barack Obama to take a lead on Syria. The Syrian revolution was political, rather than sectarian, in its initial stages, but he looked away. He might have responded when Assad imitated Saddam and used chemical weapons against civilians, or raised the conscience of the world when Islamic state engaged in the industrial-scale rape of Yazidi women.
As it was, the practical effect of Nato policy has been to give Russia a free pass, as Corbyn does....
Meanwhile, Andrew Gilligan in the Sunday Times (£) - Stop the War linked to Putin puppets:
An organisation funded by the Kremlin to undermine the West has named Stop the War, the hard-left group chaired until last year by Jeremy Corbyn, as its official UK partner.
Stop the War has also organised at least three British rallies for Boris Kagarlitsky, a Putin apologist paid by the Russian government, it can be revealed. Corbyn spoke at one of the UK events. He even agreed to travel to Russia to address Kagarlitsky’s Kremlin-funded front group....
Both Stop the War and Kagarlitsky took a strongly pro-Putin line over Moscow’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, blaming it on Nato, not Russia. Nineham wrote at the time that Ukraine was a “crisis created by the West . . . threatening Russia’s core interests”.
At the height of the crisis, Stop the War organised a rally for Kagarlitsky in London on August 27, 2014, at which he dismissed what he called the “supposed” shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, killing 298 people, by pro-Russian rebels, saying those who blamed Putin’s allies had “refused to produce any evidence”. In fact, clear evidence had been produced that the missile which downed the jet was launched from a rebel-held area.
Stop the War also hosted Kagarlitsky at a “No to Nato” summit in Cardiff on August 31, 2014, at which he attacked western media “lies” about Russia’s role in Ukraine and claimed: “Don’t believe what they’re saying, that Russian troops are there. They are not.”
Kagarlitsky spoke alongside Corbyn at a third Stop the War rally in London on October 25 that year. Seumas Milne, another strongly pro-Putin figure who is now Corbyn’s director of communications, also spoke....
In 2014 and 2015 two Stop the War leaders, Lindsey German and Andrew Murray, joined Kagarlitsky at meetings of an even more pro-Russian group, Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine, which attacks the “Kiev junta, a coalition of neoliberal thieves and fascist thugs brought to power after the western-backed coup”.
Corbyn stepped down as chairman of Stop The War after being elected Labour leader, but has refused to break his ties to the group.
And so on.
As has been said often enough: they're not just against the West; they're for the West's opponents.
David Aaronovitch, reviewing Catherine Merridale's Lenin on the Train in yesterday's Times (£), had this Lenin quote: “He is not a socialist, who does not, in a time of imperialist war, desire the defeat of his own country.” Corbyn and co. are nothing if not good socialists.
More on North Korean workers abroad. In Russia, this time:
A number of North Korean construction workers dispatched to Russia have reportedly escaped from a worksite near St. Petersburg and made a request for asylum to the South Korean Consulate General in late August. Immediately following the mass defection, the manager and Ministry of State Security agent (assistant manager) in charge of the supervision of these workers in Russia were summoned to North Korea by the authorities.
Daily NK has learned that the number of escaped workers is between 6-10 people, including the team leader, who seems to have played a central role in the defection. The workers are known to be affiliated with a North Korean construction enterprise called "Mokran," to which more than 150 workers belong.
On October 10, a local source familiar with inside information about the enterprise informed Daily NK that the company is now faced with an "up-turned beehive" as the president (manager) and the State Security Department agent were recalled to Pyongyang right after the news of the group defection reached home.
"After repatriation, it is highly likely that the managers will be held to account for the incident and possibly executed," the source said....
Meanwhile, North Korean workers dispatched to Russia for construction and forestry are known to receive harsh physical punishments if they are caught attempting to defect. According to statements given to a Daily NK team dispatched to Russia last May, North Korean workers in Russia often face hard labor for more than 20 hours a day to pay state quotas (payments sent directly to the regime) of up to 1,000 USD per month.
Punishments for attempted defection include the deliberate severing of an Achilles tendon or having limbs mutilated with an excavator, inflicted by monitoring agents from the State Security Department. These agents use such punishments to create an atmosphere of fear to prevent further potential defections.
My post two weeks ago, England Then, on the photographer Wolf Suschitzky, was badly timed. The poor man died a few days later. That's the risk you take, I suppose, when you write about someone who's 104 years old.
Born in Vienna in 1912, Suschitzky was the son of Wilhelm and Adele, a secular, Jewish couple who ran a small bookshop in Vienna that included titles which warranted them, at that place and time, the title of ‘radicals’.
And so, in the 1930s, after his father had committed suicide as the consequences of Nazism became clear, Wolfgang, a young man in his twenties, sought refuge in the UK....
Wolfgang created atmospheric photographs of London shortly after his arrival in the 1930s. Charing Cross Road, the centre of London’s bookselling trade, became an early fascination – a hark back, maybe, to his parent’s bookshop, such an integral place in his childhood. Later, he began to collaborate with artist Paul Rotha, with whom he developed his career in motion pictures.
Brett Rogers, director of The Photographers’ Gallery, who displayed an exhibition of Suschitzky’s work in the London gallery in January this year, said of the late photographer: “Tempering the social conscience of a documentarian with the eye of a German expressionist, Suschitzky created classic works that are both an invaluable documentary of the long vanished time but also brilliantly captured.”
Fortunately there are more than enough photos for another post, as a tribute to the man:
[All photos © Wolfgang Suschitzky]
The new Turbine Hall installation at Tate Modern - Anywhen, by French artist Philippe Parreno - does at least make the effort to utilise the huge Turbine Hall space. There are large screens which go up and down, lights which move about, speakers which rise and fall, sometimes together, sometimes separately.
In short, things happen: which is such a change from the usual sad efforts - the ridiculous allotments which constituted the previous installation, for instance - that the initial impression can't help but be positive. At last, someone is making the effort to engage with the space; to do something with some ambition. Though it has to be admitted that the sorry history of these installations means the bar is set very low in terms of expectation.
Prepare to have your senses activated and stimulated by a spectacular choreography of acoustics, sound lighting, flying objects and film, each connected to the other and playing their part in a far bigger score. Tate’s Turbine Hall becomes a universe of inter-related and connected events and parallel realities. Events will unfold anywhen.
Anywhen is a site-specific exhibition that changes throughout the day and that will evolve during the six-month period of the commission. The exhibition is conceived as an automaton which guides the public through a constantly changing play of moving elements, light configurations and sound environments. The artist states that ‘the exhibition is a construction of situations or sequences in a non-linear narrative’.
Naturally the language has its fair share of pretension. Parreno would be thrown out of the artist's union, never to be heard of again, if he failed to provide the necessary gnomic gloss about non-linear narratives and the like. The micro-organisms and the "bioreactor"are a nice touch:
The commission responds to the Turbine Hall’s position at the centre of the museum, an open space connected to the city itself. The artist combines aspects of chance and control: the sequences of events are triggered by software which is informed by micro-organisms. These react to and activate elements of the commission through a bioreactor visible at the far end of the Turbine Hall.
But this is mild stuff compared to the usual guff about subverting norms and challenging preconceptions - for which we must be grateful.
They've even gone to the trouble of laying down a carpet, to make the floor more comfortable. Which helped with the larger-than-normal crowds:
Reviews have been mixed. The Times' Rachel Campbell-Johnson gave it only two stars, and declared it to be "visually understated to the point of being dull." By contrast Adrian Searle in the Guardian gave it the full five star treatment:
Anywhen is astonishing, mesmerising, magnificent and unmissable. It is filled with constant surprise. But superlatives aren’t sufficient. Over this weekend, I spent five or six hours here during technical rehearsals and run-throughs, and still can’t say that I have seen and heard everything.
Well, I spent maybe 30 minutes, so I certainly didn't see everything. And this constantly changing "non-linear narrative" means that any negative conclusions you draw can always be countered by the claim that you just happened to hit a dull spot. There are meant to be large model fish floating around. I didn't see any. And films - all sorts of stuff. But not while I was there. The micro-organisms, clearly, were having the morning off.
So yes, I'll go again. Better than your average Turbine Hall installation. But as I say, the bar is set very low.
Jeremy Corbyn, the grim, controversial, and recently re-elected leader of Britain's Labour Party, rejects the idea of protesting outside Russia's embassy in London against that country's brutal bombing of Syria. “The focus on Russian atrocities or Syrian army atrocities,” said a Corbyn aide this week, distracts attention from “very large scale civilian casualties as a result of the U.S.-led coalition bombing.”
In case this is a bit obtuse, let's go over to Britain's Stop the War coalition, which Corbyn chaired before he was elected Labour leader. In a radio interview, current vice-chairman Chris Nineham said that protesting Russian atrocities would increase “hysteria and jingoism.” The way to end the Syria conflict, he said, was to “oppose the West.”
In another words, when we say we're against war, we don't mean Vladimir Putin's war. We mean war waged by Western imperialists.
To fill in some dots: The idea of protesting outside Russian embassies, not just in London but around the world, reportedly came from Labour MP Ann Clwyd. It's true that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson endorsed the proposal. But ignoring Russian war crimes because Johnson opposes them is a bit like ignoring Donald Trump's misogyny because some Republicans also object to it....
Putin's far-left cheering squad, it seems, is still living sometime in the Cold War, dividing the world into Western imperialists and their opponents, and placing Moscow on the side of the opponents. This is a grotesquely simple moral universe. Strangely, it also combines living a few decades in the past with a lack of historical perspective. Russia's imperialist goal of extending its power into what were once Ottoman lands began before 1917, carried on in Soviet days with an ideological overlay, and continues today. To preserve its foothold in Syria, Russia is prepared to destroy whatever is left of that country.
One more speaker at that Moscow conference last December was retired general Michael Flynn, who became a campaign surrogate for Donald Trump. This points to the final, immense irony: The far-left apologists share the stage with Trump and his fellow admirers of Putin's authoritarian regime. The extremes meet—useful idiots all.
Update: more, from Sam Hamad:
The SWC [Stop the War Coalition] has, at every step, sought to demonise the rebels and portray the Assad regime and its allies in a favourable light. Following Assad's gassing to death of over a thousand Syrians at Ghouta, the SWC, a supposedly objective anti-war group, immediately published an article denying Assad's responsibility.
Along with this, it rallied to the defence of Assad by holding 'Hands off Syria' demos due to the remote threat of the US and UK carrying out strikes against Assad's war machine. Unsurprisingly, not one Syrian was on the platform and, in the same week as we saw Syrian children convulsing to death on hospital tables due to Assad's sarin attacks, the SWC saw fit to use Ba'athist flags to publicise their demos....
And this is the most disturbing element of the SWC and its counter-revolutionary, pro-fascist politics – they are now essentially reflected at the highest levels of the Labour Party. The current leader of the party, Jeremy Corbyn, is a founding member of the SWC and continues to speak at their conferences.
One must never think that Corbyn has somehow forsaken their politics - on the contrary, as we've seen since he's been leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, he's elevated these monstrous politics to new heights and, most dangerously, allowed them to have concrete influence on people's lives.