The Diffused False Flag: Salafi-Jihadism as Western Policy


It should by now be safe to assume that among those of any seriousness on the left, a number of points are beyond dispute: (1) that the capitalist powers, both domestically and abroad, make extensive use of false flag attacks; (2) that the various species of Political Islam we will group under the general header of Takfirism* are of thoroughly Western-Capitalist provenance;  (3) and finally that the contradictions of global capitalism have reached a point at which the majority of the core working class can no longer be maintained as compliant junior partners to their bourgeoisies’ imperial project.

This last point is simply to say that we must now really reckon with what has always been obvious to those unseduced by such chimeras as Euro-communism and Trotskyism: that the relative comfort of the metropolitan labor-aristocracy (not to mention the imperial clerical classes and lumpen-aristocracy) derives essentially from the coupling of…

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The British Government & the Waffen-SS Galitsia Division

Written by Andrey Panevin / Edited by @GBabeuf

Obstruction of Justice: How the British Government Protected 8,000 Soldiers of the Waffen-SS Galitsia Division

Ukrainian volunteers of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division-SS Galitsia march past (L to R) Fritz Freitag, Heinrich Himmler and Otto Wachter

Amid the continued support given to the fascist politicians and military of Ukraine by western governments, many people are asking how such a betrayal of the sacrifices of the Allies in World War Two could take place. However, what most people are unaware of, in large part due to an ever-more corrupted media, is that these governments have a shocking history of protecting the perpetrators of some of the most terrible crimes of that war. One of the most egregious examples of this practice of shielding war-criminals from justice was confirmed in 2005 with the declassification of British Home Office papers showing that the British government…

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zora said there are years that have answers

but I can only find them in fugitive windows of time

night constellations stringing my insomnias

into a garland

of anxieties that begged articulation

pleaded with me to chase the frames

to find the ways of seeing

(did we ever learn to do that?)

until one moment one night perhaps an incipient morning even as if those demarcations absolve us of something

something breaks quietly imperceptibly and gently spills

an offering at my feet

a surfeit of words

that write me

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Lenin, ‘On Retreat’

The years of reaction (1907-10). Tsardom scored victory. All the revolutionary and opposition parties have been defeated. Depression, demoralization, splits, discord, renegacy, pornography take the place of politics. There is an increased drift toward philosophical idealism; mysticism becomes the shell of counter-revolutionary sentiments. But at the same time, it is precisely this great defeat that gives the revolutionary parties and the revolutionary class a real and very valuable lesson, a lesson in historical dialectics, a lesson in the understanding of the political struggle and in the skill and art of waging it. One gets to know one’s friends in times of misfortune. Defeated armies learn well.

The revolutionary parties must complete their education. They have learned to attack. Now they have to realize that this knowledge must be supplemented with the knowledge how to retreat properly. They have to realize — and the revolutionary class is taught to realize it by its own bitter experience — that victory is impossible unless they have learned both how to attack and how to retreat properly. Of all the defeated opposition and revolutionary parties, the Bolsheviks effected the most orderly retreat, with the least loss to their “army,” with its core best preserved, with the least (in respect to profundity and irremediability) splits, with the least demoralization, and in the best condition to resume the work on the broadest scale and in the most correct and energetic manner. The Bolsheviks achieved this only because they ruthlessly exposed and expelled the revolutionary phrase-mongers, who refused to understand that one had to retreat, that one had to know how to retreat, and that one had absolutely to learn how to work legally in the most reactionary parliaments, in the most reactionary trade unions, cooperative societies, insurance societies and similar organizations.

Left-Wing Communism

Gramsci, ‘A Dialogue’

Something has changed, fundamentally. This is evident. What is it? Before, they all wanted to be the ploughmen of history, to play the active parts, each one of them to play an active part. Nobody wished to be the ‘manure’ of history. But is it possible to plough without first manuring the land? So ploughmen and ‘manure’ are both necessary. In the abstract, they all admitted it. But in practice? Manure for manure, as well draw back, return to the shadows, into obscurity. Now something has changed, since there are those who adapt themselves ‘philosophically’ to being ‘manure’, who know this is what they must be and adapt themselves. It is like the problem of the proverbial dying man. But there is a great difference, because at the point of death what is involved is a decisive action, of an instant’s duration. Whereas in the case of the manure, the problem is a long-term one, and poses itself afresh at every moment. You only live once, as the saying goes; your own personality is irreplaceable. You are not faced abruptly with an instant’s choice on which to gamble, a choice in which you have to evaluate the alternatives in a flash and cannot postpone your decision. Here postponement is continual, and your decision has continually to be renewed. This is why you can say that something has changed. There is not even the choice between living for a day as a lion, or a hundred years as a sheep. You don’t live as a lion even for a minute, far from it: you live like something far lower than a sheep for years and years and know that you have to live like that. Image of Prometheus who, instead of being attacked by the eagle, is devoured by parasites.

Prison Notebooks

War Within a War

Robespierre Monument


Over the past week, the news media have made noise about the unlikely but certainly not unwelcome prospect of an end to the Syrian war. If the general attack on the Syrian state does end, however, it will not likely bring an end to every arena of conflict in Syria. Among those arenas is that of the much-discussed Kurdish liberation movement. Less commonly discussed are Syrian liberation efforts against Israel waged in occupied Golan Heights. In this arena, the substance of colonialism and resistance are being shaped for the future. It is an arena worthy of serious attention, as it informs other aspects of the war, the region, and the information in circulation.

For starters, those Syrian liberation efforts in the Golan account for much of the context of recent propaganda targeting Hezbollah in the Western press. For unbeknownst to far too many Western observers, including those on the left holding a…

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On Pens and Swords

Two aporias and an exegesis.

Joe Sacco: On Satire – a response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks

An unfortunate lapse in historical sensibility compels us — once again — to return to this question. First, let’s take one facet of the issue in the abstract, since that’s how it’s been presented to us by all the dedicated journos and self-appointed legal experts: is the barrel of a gun more lethal than a pen? Preempting the too obvious and expected (embarassingly misappropriated) Marx quote on “Freedom of the Press” (let’s keep in mind Marx was writing on political developments in the Prussian Empire and not a modern liberal republic having in fact already established the goals he was advocating under the historic conditions of the bourgeois revolutions of the time, that is to say, we are no longer battling feudal overlords in Germany or France–but what is specificity for the 140-character-frenzied reaching of dedicated experts?), I will merely point out that in our current historical moment, pens (keyboards, other such metonymic figures of ‘expression’) facilitate, some would say produce, lethal results. In the context of what is sadly still considered journalism these symbols of enlightenment might not sign off on orders to kill, bombs to drop, sanctions to impose, but they can repackage dominant tropes that further enable the dissemination of imperialist mantra. Satire, one should say, only works if it is subversive, and to be subversive means to challenge–not reinforce–hegemonic symbolic orders. All this, of course, does not a “censorship” necessitate–one does not even have to broach that subject–but it does belie the notion that the executed staff of Charlie Hebdo were martyred in the name of freedom, progress, and modernity.

Second, not so abstractly and more crucially I should say, the inability to interpret acts of terror in a non-caricatured light is painfully ironic, and in perceiving this irony Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons seem less a satirical commentary than a realist take on a caricature-infused popular imaginary. It comes with great shock to the average European citizen to hear that speech might not in fact be the issue; that the “ISIS” PR campaign might have nothing at all to do with the…hypocrisy of liberal values; even less to do with some reaction to the tropes of racist empire. This last point arrives to the great dismay of European Trotskyists and beautiful “left” souls who seem hellbent on convincing public opinion that takfiri insurgency is an “indigenous reaction” to empire, which more or less reproduces Cold War discourse and hasbara on Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. More cynically, the offensive content of the images could even be highly strategic a choice for targeting, as it will polarize precarious segments of the popular classes, and such a target functions well both strategically and symbolically for the purposes of war. The French state armed and trained FSA “rebels” in Syria that would later be declared terrorists in both contexts of domestic security and “defection” to Nusra and ISIS in Syria. That is, volatile situations where shifts in location and allegiances (the Islamic Coalition that saw the convening of all the Syrian opposition groupuslces into a belligerent front) curiously transformed their epithets. This inability to get past the clash of civs vernacular is more a reflection of Western “left” myopia, a refusal to look past cartoonish tropes it steeps itself in as well as the tropes it manhandles Others into, than such looming threats to “our civilization.” That is to say, all that has been discussed in the broader echo chambers of French “how could this happen” is that modern secular values are imperiled at the hands of intolerant cave dwellers.

Fruitless it would be to engage in another debate teeming with contextual acrobatics over if the cartoons were *really* intended as commentary against the right or meta-critiquing the racism contained within the images, when such images are so ripe for ideological re-purposing, such pliable clay as to be so readily appropriated by the French state in its current demands for national unity. The endless hand wringing in the capitalist west over free speech, its martyrs, and the necessity for such freedom’s “redistribution” totally and deliberately elides some inconvenient facts: a) that freedom of expression, like any other right in bourgeois law (to assembly, property…), is form without content, scarce and highly concentrated (like capital, to the propertied); b) that terrorists seek out precisely those avenues of action which heighten and sharpen social tensions and foment precarious conditions–that is to say, by playing right into the hands of expanding French fascism they actively engender a situation where the most vulnerable Muslim citizen and immigrant workers will be alienated by the increasingly xenophobic and violently racist community of “national unity.” That is, perhaps, acting in hopes that they will be rendered vulnerable enough to sympathize (it is no wonder then that, already, IS, Al-Qaeda in Yemen, and Al-Qaeda in Syria have scrambled to compete for the spotlight). This desperate refusal to see potential strategy in the imperial spawning of terrorism and its domestic false flag attacks that generate endless justification for the permanent state of exception and aggressions in Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Yemen is more a reflection of your own decayed-civilization complex, one that is being exploited to oil the war machine and continue plundering Syrians. And these stubborn facts, so unfortunately overlooked, sort of totally neuter Europe’s mighty pen.

News as Human Interest Story; The Politics of Dead Children

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“The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”
-Karl Marx. 18th Brumaire

It is no longer our ancestors who most haunt us. If anything, they seem but pale spectres compared to the horror which afflicts us daily in every paper, on every news channel and site, torn from the restless grave to be conjured up again and again for so many indignant statuses and tweets: the ghosts of dead children.

And what is the political significance of these dead children whose countless lurid stories permeate any and every discussion of current affairs? Perhaps the fact that to even broach such a question feels horribly inappropriate and heartless is somewhat indicative: by virtue of their a priori innocence, the death of a child is the universal tragedy par excellence, for which no rationalization or justification can be offered.

This very true fact, however, has been subtly elevated into a deafening taboo on contextualization: a child’s death is so utterly beyond explanation that to even discuss, in any meaningful way, its particular conditions is taken as a loathsome muddying of a crime so purely despicable as to make desperate handwringing the only remotely acceptable response.

But, of course, children do die in particular circumstances– as do many men and women often elided by this discourse for lacking the same ability to shock and disturb. And they almost always do so under conditions which intentional human acts played a significant part in bringing about.

However emotionally unpalatable a terrain it may be to navigate, the discourse of dead children which dominates so much media coverage and public discussion, particularly of foreign affairs, must be soberly recognized for what it is: part and parcel of a concerted war on context. If theory strives to grasp particular events in their dialectical relationship to a historical totality, ideology offers us the, at best, sterile juxtaposition of pure particularities and hollow ‘universal truths.’

The potency and utility of this coupling of the event devoid of context on the one hand, and the empty universality of the cliche on the other, should not be underestimated: it is often mobilized towards a sort of reactionary synthesis of thought without abstraction and abstraction without thought– the culmination of which is perhaps best illustrated in what we might call the growing phenomenon of ‘news’-cum-’Human Interest Story.’

For quite some time, one could say with relative confidence that few modes of ‘journalism’ were more attractive to the savvy media mogul than that of “Human Interest Stories.” Simple, vapid, neutered– no one to offend, no sponsors to upset, and some saccharine sweet takeaway, always ‘non-partisan’ and commonsensical in the most ideological way: “Wow, forget the big stuff, a few simple good deeds on all our parts, really will make the world a better place!” But perhaps a human interest story’s most attractive characteristic is precisely what it is not: news.

Human Interest stories are journalism without content, non-events in any sort of world-historical sense and as such offer much more pliable clay than those stubborn facts about this or that tricky geopolitical issue. To wrangle up the details of some real, important issue into a narrative palpable for sponsor and ‘base’ alike is no easy task, particularly for those with, say, a conscience or vague concern for the truth– somehow, bless their souls, dedicated journos from the New York Times to CNN do these fardels bear. But a man saving a cat from a burning building, or someone defending a homeless person, or founding another masterbatory charity: these are supple subjects, liable to all sorts of narrativization and presentation.

There is, however, one unfortunate setback to Human Interest Stories, at least in their traditional form, which severely delayed their ascendance: however naively, many journalists have quite stubbornly insisted on being able to call the bulk of their work actual journalism; the population, too, has persistently held on to the notion that they want the news, or at the very least held on to the warm, self-affirming idea that they’re ‘aware’ and ‘up-to-date’– have held onto the idea, that is, that they would very much like to be the kind of person who reads the news. Even what would probably best be understood as journals of imaginative fiction, like the Daily News, still come packaged in that old Newspaper format– a sort of ironic anachronism, like how you can buy iPod Cases that look like cassettes.

Of late, however, it must be said: something better has indeed been found. Instead of merely replacing news with Human Interest stories, it may very well be accurate to suggest that we’ve entered the era of News as Human Interest story. News as the universal outrage of ‘dead children’. News as the timeless tragedy of the depoliticized ‘refugee’. News as executed journalists and the grief of their families. In short, News not as facts, nor even stories, but as cliche morality fables.

This mode of presentation fixates upon the ‘relatable’ ‘human’ element in the event– in its more left-oriented guises, often under the pretext of using this to stimulate empathy or identification that might be mobilized towards some vague future action. In reality, however, these real events, in all their concrete horror, become transmuted into empty tropes easily stripped of such ‘cynical’ and ‘cold’ analyses of their broader causes and reconstituted as empty tropes easily absorbed into the dominant ideology which masked and enabled their occurrence in the first place.

This is why decontextualization of this sort, it must be stressed, is not merely de-politicization, but re-politicization. If capital ‘vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks,’ the peculiar perversity of modern imperialism is its penchant for zombification: unsatisfied with leaving its victims mangled and lifeless, it re-animates and re-casts them as set pieces in narcissistic bourgeois morality plays.

This is why when the more virulently reactionary voices try to reduce Palestinian children to “little terrorists,” or inform us that unarmed teenage African American victims of police brutality are “no angels,” the left must resist the temptation to collapse in desperation into the liberal discourse of decontextualized innocent victims. Even the most cursory scan of one’s own twitter or facebook feed should be more than enough evidence of the fact that those of all sorts of liberal imperialist to reactionary political persuasions can join in the sanctimonious choruses impotently bemoaning these tragedies as such.

The whole framing must in fact be inverted: the geopolitical coordinates in which these tragic events occurred ought to be foregrounded, not made background noise, in our discussions of them; the melodramatic characterization of victims in terms of cliche archetypes not only repudiated but deemed irrelevant. The innocence or age of this or that victim of Israel’s wanton terror; the criminal record or lack thereof of the latest African American victim of the white-supremacist state– in short all these particular narratives which may be pulled in this or that direction (that is to say, between liberal and outright reactionary) have no bearing on the structural injustices of which the particular instances are particularly provocative manifestations.

The way in which we engage with ‘newsworthy’ events ought to be through the analysis of facts, not the consumption of stories steeped in ideology ripe for repurposing. There may be a certain practical utility to the striking anecdotes or statistics that are often absorbed into these discourses; their potential to do any good, however, hinges precisely on our ability to articulate them in the context of the politico-economic forces which undergird them.

What is more, these ‘victims’ which populate reports figuring either as the inhuman objects of reactionary contempt, or the helpless and innocent objects of impotent liberal pity, must be identified first and foremost as oppressed agents with a right to resist– which is to say, with a right not to be ‘innocent.’


Film as Weapon: A study of Mrinal Sen’s Calcutta 71

“I wanted to interpret the restlessness, the turbulence of the period that is 1971 and what it is due to. I wanted to have a genesis. The anger has not suddenly fallen out of anywhere. It must have a beginning and an end. I wanted to try to find this genesis and in the process redefine our history. And in my mind this is extremely political. I found a continuing link in the film—a young man of 20, uncorrupted. He has lived this age of 20 for the last 1000 years or more. He has been passing through death and squalor and poverty. And for the past 1000 years or more he has bridged despair and frustration. For him the history of India is a continuous history not of synthesis but of poverty and exploitation…I took three or four stories of poverty: grinding, ruthless, unrelenting poverty, poverty that is not glamorous. We have always been trying to make poverty respectable, and dignified…You can find plenty of this in Bengali literature. As long as you present poverty as something dignified, the establishment will not be disturbed. The establishment will not act adversely as long as you describe poverty as something holy, something divine. What we wanted to do in CALCUTTA-71 was to define history, put it in its right perspective. We picked out the most vital aspect of our history and tried to show the physical side of hunger is the same. Over time, the physical look of hunger is the same. But there is a marked change in the people—their perception changes. In a way I call this the dialectics of hunger, the dialectics of poverty. How people move from resignation and from callousness to cynicism and being beaten-down, and anger and self-destruction… and finally to anger and violence which can become very creative in the process.”

Mrinal Sen interviewed by Udayan Gupta (1976) 

It is under the overarching steel frame of the Howrah Bridge, amid the routes of the sedate trams that plod through the crowded streets, and within the amphitheatres of sport and leisure that Mrinal Sen’s sentient gaze in Calcutta 71 situates the corollary of centuries of humiliation, exploitation, and oppression – the history of Calcutta’s impoverished working class. Collating together the political sentiments of the urban workers, the rural poor, and the dispossessed lower middle-classes, Calcutta 71 emerges as a chronological narrative that charts the evolution of class-consciousness. Here, this development is located within a wide range of historical and geographical settings: the disintegrating slums where the urban poor strive to maintain a semblance of dignity as depicted in the 1933 episode, the vacated houses of the rich in which the lower middle-class family live in the 1943 episode, and the migratory route of rice smugglers from the countryside to the city in the 1953 episode.  Though the separate episodes of Calcutta 71 are recounted in chronological order, they are distinctive in form and structure, and therefore defy the constraints of normative linearity. It is the very graduation of political consciousness necessary to overturn the existing order of post-colonial Indian society formed in the image of middle-class and elite interests that links them together.

Calcutta 71, Original Brochure designed by Abhijit Gupta
Calcutta 71, Original Brochure designed by Abhijit Gupta
Disembodied head of the martyr
Disembodied head of the martyr

In combination with the separate episodes and their distinctive plots, Sen uses a variety of techniques – depending heavily on collision editing where successive shots of the poor dying from starvation during the Bengal Famine of 1943, symbols of political parties (such as the Indian National Congress, Communist Party of India (M), and Communist Party of India (M-L), and stylised rock music are interspersed amongst the dialogues of the characters, most markedly perhaps in the fourth episode. In one particular instance, an upper-class young woman attending the politician’s party complains about the discomfort she underwent while collecting funds for Bangladeshi refugees on behalf of her organisation, she concludes with a laugh that afterwards they (the troupe of women engaged in the collection of funds) demanded that they each be offered a Kwality Wall’s ice-cream for their efforts. Immediately, the screen jumps to a tracking shot of bunker beds at a refugee camp where the starving either lie or sit huddled together, and the tempo of the background music from the rock band at the party soars coupled with the off-screen echo of the woman’s voice.[1]  This aforementioned example which illustrates the use of dialectic through the superimposition and interplay of contrasting scenes of poverty and prosperity is methodologically influenced by Eisenstein and Soviet Montage theory. In so far, the combined impact upon the viewer is that of the synthesis – where the hypocritical nature of elite philanthropic work is made visible. Through the lens of spatiality, the contrasting environs of elite philanthropy and the abject misery of the poor are at distinctive odds with each other, engendering a critique of social inequality that suggests it is enmeshed in the segregated geography of Calcutta. In this guise, the container of the filmic medium and the particularities of the visual techniques it offers can be read as the tools of a clandestine didacticism. The theatrical image of the assassinated revolutionary who appears in the final scenes serves to identify the dialectic, drawing from the collated experiences of misery that have been shown on film, a new experience, a gradual development of the revolutionary consciousness of anger.

Solanas and Getino had identified the role of revolutionary cinema as engaged in the transformative process by “providing thrust and rectification” not simply illustrating or reproducing images of a pre-existing situation.[2]  Along this vein, Sen’s film is as much a representation of the socio-political causes that contributed to the growth and popularity of the Naxalite movement in Calcutta as it is in itself a call for mobilisation vis-à-vis a didactic interpretation of these causal events. In the denouement, the revived revolutionary who had been declared dead in the first scene of the film speaks out to the audience, both the audience of the party which he has interrupted and the audience of the film. He recounts the circumstances of his death but does not reveal the names of his murderers and instead explains, “I want you to find out their names on your own. And on this search even though you may feel pain and sorrow, at the very least you won’t be able to indulge in idleness. Tell me, why are you all so idle, why so worriless, why so blind? As citizens of this nation do not you wish to avenge my death? Do not you feel anger or even guilt?”[3]  A collaged trajectory of the previous episodes are presented in brief clips, at the end the disembodied head of the revolutionary emerges again floating in a sea of darkness, he prophecies that “A language is evolving out of the depths of death, it is the language of protest – it asks ‘How much longer?’”[4]  The screen jumps to scenes of public demonstrations and the figurative presentation of a group of advancing soldiers who chase the revolutionary down the streets, and eventually murder him again. In this sense both the visuality and aurality of the medium of film are conducive in producing the sense of unease, a deep-seated instinctual and emotional response. This is not a practice in the art of escapism, the grit of reality is juxtaposed with the jarring nature of the fantastical – the man who speaks from the dead and the advancing masked men who represent the killing force of the Indian army – the result is an agitation of the audience that morally draws them within the revolution itself. The camera, as Solanas and Getino’s called it, had become an “inexhaustible expropriator of image-weapons” and the projector, “a gun that can shoot 24 frames per second.”[5]

[1] Calcutta 71 directed by Mrinal Sen (Calcutta: D. S. Productions, 1972)

[2] Getino and Solanas, “Toward a Third Cinema,” 6.

[3] Calcutta 71 directed by Mrinal Sen (Calcutta: D. S. Productions, 1972).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Getino and Solanas, 8.