The organisers of the “March For Free Expression” (against political Islam) planned for 25 March are advertising you as a prominent supporter — alongside the Freedom Association, an extreme right-wing movement best known for its strike-breaking efforts during the Grunwick strike of 1977.
It may be that you are unaware of this, and the organisers have enlisted your support by misrepresentation or misunderstanding. In any case, we urge you to withdraw. We should not let the cause of “free expression” be appropriated and defined by the class-warriors of the bourgeoisie, and activists of the left be annexed by them.
The working class certainly needs to fight for freedom — including against the threat from political Islam. But we cannot fight for the freedoms which will serve the working class hand-in-hand with the Freedom Association! Our enemy’s enemy is not necessarily our friend.
The Freedom Association’s sort of “freedom” is, first of all, the free market, free enterprise, the freedom to exploit, the “freedom” of workers from union organisation and class solidarity, and a bigoted nationalism, dressed up as “freedom” of “Britain” from “Europe”.
It is diametrically opposed to the freedom of the working class to organise for emancipation from wage-slavery and from the ravages of the “free market”.
If the Freedom Association and its friends come to us talking of “freedom”, then, even if there is an immediate issue on which we seem to agree — that the press should be free to mock and lampoon Muhammad, like other religious figures — we must look at their basic drive and purpose, not just at the slogans or plausible immediate pleas which they use to promote that drive and purpose.
To ally with the likes of the Freedom Association, on the purely negative basis of opposing political Islam, is as self-destructive as would be allying with George Bush on the purely negative basis of opposing Iranian president Ahmedinejad, or Ahmedinejad on the basis of opposing Bush.
There is another issue. The mainly-Muslim communities in Europe suffer from racism. Our solidarity against racism with people who are Muslims, or of Muslim background, should not and must not stop us fighting political Islam. Indeed, it is Muslims or people of Muslim background who suffer worst from political Islam.
At the same time, our fight against political Islam must not diminish our solidarity against racism with Muslim people, as people. Any alliance with the Freedom Association and their like is destructive here, too. The Freedom Association opposes Islam — but in the name of Christian “values” which it considers proper to “Britain”. Other organisers of the 25 March event associate with a website called “The Gates of Vienna”, which evokes the memory of the wars of centuries past between Christendom and Islam culminating in the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683.
If not quite so rabid as the fascist British National Party, which has taken up the Danish cartoons as an issue to promote its opposition to immigrants in general, the Freedom Association and its allies are certainly bigoted. They will be among your worst enemies in the battles you have to wage for the rights of Iranian and Iraqi refugees, Muslim or otherwise, in Europe.
No, political Islam cannot properly be fought by attaching ourselves to the likes of the Freedom Association. We must fight political Islam as the principled Marxists fought Stalinism — on a working-class basis, on the basis of a “Third Camp”.
We can unite with other working-class forces on particular issues when we disagree with them on others — but with working-class forces, or at least forces close or friendly to the working class, and only when the agreement on the particular issue has real substance, and is not just a coincidence of words hiding radically different drives.
This problem also arises with the manifesto you have recently published with Salman Rushdie and others. Against “the new totalitarianism” of political Islam, it “appeal[s] to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism”. With the words on paper we cannot but agree. But is the fight for enlightenment and democracy one to be carried out by an alliance of “democrats and free spirits” of all classes — detaching it, somehow, from the issues of workers’ rights, class struggle, and social provision as against free market — or is it one that can only be successful if pursued in close alliance with the general struggle of the working class for its emancipation?
The manifesto’s twelve initial signatories include several right-wing figures — not, to be sure, as right-wing as the Freedom Association, but clearly alien to the labour movement. The French writer Bernard-Henri Lévy, for example, is there. A note to the manifesto presents him as “French philosopher... engaged against all the XXth century ‘isms’ (Fascism, antisemitism, totalitarism, terrorism”. Against those? But for what? Lévy made his name, in the 1970s, when he switched from his youthful Maoism to attacking the “isms” of... socialism, communism, Marxism.
We have criticised your erstwhile comrades of the Worker-communist Party of Iraq on their “Iraqi Freedom Congress” project, a project which purports to launch a movement outside all class allegiance to win “for six months” a democratic but neutral regime in Iraq so that worker-communism can subsequently triumph. Politics, in our view, can never be cut loose from class struggle. But the “Iraqi Freedom Congress”, at least, involves no actual alliance or complicity with bourgeois or right-wing political forces: it is in fact (which does not justify it, of course) little other than a “front” of the worker-communists.
You have criticised the “Iraqi Freedom Congress”. But a political coalition with the likes of Bernard-Henri Lévy — or, worse, with the likes of the Freedom Association and “Gates of Vienna” — is worse.
Martin Thomas, AWL
• Mariam Mamazie is a leading member of the Worker-communist Party of Iran. See