The work of God?
New Labour’s encouragement of religious schools is nothing new, but it was still something of a shock to discover that Ruth Kelly, the newly-anointed Education Secretary, is receiving “spiritual guidance”, as she puts it, from Opus Dei. She can’t be a proper member, because she is a woman.
Opus Dei is often presented as a kind of Catholic equivalent of the Freemasons. Only successful members of the bourgeoisie are invited to join, and members are supposed, rather than becoming priests or nuns, to apply their Catholic faith to their secular jobs.
However, Opus Dei is ideologically much harder than the Freemasons. It was founded by Josemaria Escriva, a Spanish priest, in the 1930s and quickly became associated with Franco’s fascist regime, its members holding several posts in his cabinet. Escriva was an outspoken supporter of fascism, and indeed his own sect was run along similar lines.
Maxim 941 of The Way, a bizarre collection of Escriva’s ramblings which is the basic textbook of Opus Dei, demands “unreserved obedience to whoever is in charge” of the sect; other “Maxims” enjoin “silent obedience”. No wonder Ruth Kelly is campaigning against “backchat” in the classroom!
Apologists for Opus Dei point out that its members included one conservative opponent of fascism who had his newspaper shut down by Franco and was exiled. This is true, but one righteous man hardly makes up for all the fascist ministers. And it is clear which side Escriva was on. He welcomed Pinochet’s coup in Chile, and never tired of urging meekness on the poor while telling the rich to “Ask God for money, but ask Him for millions! He owns everything anyway, so it’s as easy to ask Him for fifty million as five million!”
Understandably the appointment of an Opus Dei member to the sensitive post of Education Secretary, at a time when religion and creationism are a hot topic, has caused apprehension and anger among teachers and scientists. One unnamed “senior Catholic source” is reported to have said that Kelly “is a fully paid-up member . . . on contraception, abortion, euthanasia and other issues such as stem-cell research, Ruth is very straight down the line”.
With these views and these connections, Ruth Kelly is not fit to take charge of our children’s education.
The work of the CIA?
In a debate with Christian Parenti at the Iraq Occupation Focus conference last December, Sami Ramadani asserted that the Iraqi “resistance” never targeted civilians.
Ramadani, an Iraqi exile academic who has lived in Britain since the mid 1960s and often writes for the Guardian, has become the prime spokesperson for a section of the left on the issue of the “resistance”.
You might think that his confidence would be shaken by the activities of the “resistance” in the run-up to and at the 30 January elections: killings and kidnapping of trade unionists, death threats against anyone who went to the polling stations (“centres of atheism”), attacks on Shia politicians and on ordinary Shia just as Shia.
Ramadani’s argument back in December was that all the attacks on civilians were the work of undercover CIA death squads. That the Americans have undercover death squads in Iraq can be taken as certain, and that they are not too fussy about their targets.
That they would be organising suicide bombings, or kidnapping foreign aid workers, or attacking polling stations, is unlikely.
The February 2005 edition of Labour Briefing carries an article by Ramadani on the murder by the “resistance” in January of Hadi Saleh, a leader of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions.
Ramadani writes that people are killed by the resistance only if they “work for or cooperate with the occupation forces”.
Ramadani’s view is that the IFTU, because of its reformist attitude, is “Vichyist”. So Hadi Saleh was a fair target? Ramadani goes on to condemn Saleh as having “Nazi tendencies” on the grounds of the Iraqi CP’s deals with Saddam Hussein in the mid-1970s.
But he never quite says straight out that Saleh was a fair target. Instead, in his final paragraph, he describes Hadi Saleh’s murder as “heinous” and spirals off into suggesting that it was done by the Americans.
“If Saleh had views different from his party’s leadership [Ramadani presents no evidence that he had]… then the occupying authorities would have found his presence highly inconvenient.”
During the Cold War, the inverted myth of American omnipotence — the idea that all bad deeds everywhere were the work of the CIA, secretly if not directly — served to whitewash Stalinism. It is just as ridiculous today when used to whitewash the Islamist and neo-Ba’thist militias in Iraq.
Then whose civilians are they?
In a recent TV interview, George Galloway, the Kilroy-Silk of the “anti-imperialist” crowd, also objected strongly to the statement that the Iraqi “resistance” was murdering Iraqi civilians. He said: “Actually, the Iraqi resistance does not target its own civilians”.
Who were the victims, then? His explanation is a bit different to Ramadani’s. “The people who are working for the occupation.”
Given the size of the state sector in Iraq, that’s a lot of people, and presumably the 57% of Iraqis who voted in the election last week are “working for the occupation” as well, since they have been targeted by the “resistance”. Not to mention all trade unionists and socialists.
Galloway went on to say the resistance was legitimate because “there is no difference at all” between the occupation of Iraq and the Nazis! All said in the week of the Holocaust memorial…
Unto us a child is born
We hear that Steve Pound, Labour MP for Ealing North (who, coincidentally, recently spoke at an Opus Dei-run student hall) has been reunited with his long-lost daughter, Lucy.
Lucy’s mother, unable to reveal the shameful secret that Lucy was an MP’s daughter, apparently told her that her father was “a nutter who died at sea in the 1970s”.
It is not anticipated that Blunkett’s child will be so lucky…