Letters: Bothered by the mob; Not singling out; QAnon in the UK

Submitted by AWL on 26 January, 2021 - 5:39
A lynch mob

Bothered by the mob

John Cunningham objects ( letter, Solidarity 578) to the word “mob” being used to describe pro Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol. He argues that “mob” is often misused by the right wing politicians and their media lackeys to describe strikers.

That was certainly the case during the 1980s miners’ strike, though of course the real violent mob at Orgreave and elsewhere were those wearing blue uniforms. Thatcherites at the time were also in the habit of calling Nelson Mandela a “terrorist”. By John’s reasoning we should therefore not call anti working class outfits like Daesh (ISIS) or the Proud Boys “terrorist” because the right has misappropriated the label.

Mob has been a word commonly used by the radical left. In 1933 James P Cannon wrote The Lynching Wave and American Fascism attacking a pre-Trump demagogue. The article has a lot of resonance today. In it Cannon uses the word “mob” more than a dozen times to describe the perpetrators of reactionary violence.

Such violence litters the history. In 18th century Britain there were the “Church and King” mobs in the Priestley and Gordon riots. Marx was not averse to using the term — that classic of Marxist terminology, Lumpenproletariat, variously translates as “mob” or “rabble”.

Then we come to the attackers of the Capitol, who were a lunatic fringe of the Trump movement. Sure, it is important to win over some of the millions of misguided workers who voted Trump. Yet I doubt many in the Capitol crowd were coal miners from Kentucky or elsewhere, unless the QAnon shaman guy had a habit of going down the pit with organic food in a snap tin.

A lot of the rioters seem to have police or military backgrounds. But should we even use the term “rioters”, because that’s what Fox News calls BLM protesters, after all?

The crowd of attackers was armed, some carrying nooses and zip-ties. They were out to murder elected representatives. How to describe them? The term lynch mob springs to mind.

Barrie Hardy, Merseyside

Not singling out Israel

As John Nihill himself notes in his letter in Solidarity 578, the article in Solidarity 577 on Israel’s “vaccine nationalism” was accurate. It was also perfectly reasonable and measured in its tone.

No rational critic could accuse Solidarity — a paper with a long history of criticising irrational demonisation of Israel on the left — of “singling out Israel”, attacking it disproportionately, or applying standards to it not applied to other states. There has been plenty of criticism inSolidarity of the pandemic policies of other states — including Britain, the USA, China, Brazil, Singapore, and others.

Oppressive or discriminatory practices of many sorts by states are “common misdeeds”, but we can surely identify distinct types of “misdeed” without suggesting the states that practise them are somehow uniquely evil.

Israel is by no means unique in its direct national oppression and occupation of another people — Russia in Chechnya, Morocco in Western Sahara, the Han Chinese state in East Turkestan/Xinjiang, Turkey’s oppression of the Kurds, and the Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan state’s oppression of the Tamils are all other examples. Analysing the specificities of each of these situations, and others, is not “singling out” the states involved.

While the powers of the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas-run semi-state in Gaza are real, they are radically constrained. Israel is ultimately the de facto ruling — or, at least, controlling — power across pre-1967 Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. As such, its “vaccine nationalism” is not comparable to other states prioritising their own citizens for vaccination rather than the citizens of other states. The difference is qualitative, not a mere “twist”

Other states’ actions may be immoral on its own terms — certainly a rich nation like Britain taking care of its own vaccination programme whilst cutting foreign aid to countries less able to roll out their own programmes is worthy of extreme condemnation — but a situation of direct occupation is distinct and specific.

A specific injustice deserves specific condemnation. The job of a paper like Solidarity and a group like Workers’ Liberty, first and foremost, is to analyse the world as we see it and to tell the truth about that world. Holding back from saying what needs to be said out of fear it might be misheard or misinterpreted is to make ourselves merely reactive to the worst elements of our movement, rather than positive advocates for our own perspectives.

Daniel Randall, North London

QAnon in the UK

I think Luke Hardy (Solidarity 578) is right that anti-lockdown and anti-vax politics are likely dead ends for the far right.

One qualification: the antisemitic conspiracy theory QAnon. QAnon, which claims the world is run by a secret cabal of paedophiles and child traffickers, started in the US and coalesced around support for Donald Trump. The BBC estimates that after the USA the UK is the country where this conspiracy is growing the quickest.

Social media companies have taken action to ban overt QAnon terms but those involved in the conspiracy have taken to hijacking hashtags used by genuine anti-trafficking organisations, such as #saveourchildren, and posing as legitimate NGOs.

In the summer of 2020, there were dozens of “save our children” marches across the UK organised by Freedom for the Children UK. That group denies links to QAnon, but its founder created it after engaging with anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist David Icke and various QAnon influencers.

Activity appears to be at a lower level now, and social media companies have tightened controls against it. However, we shouldn’t underestimate the potential of such playing on peoples’ desire to help the vulnerable, or posing as more legitimate NGOs, to mobilise people would not otherwise engage with the far right.

Where QAnon goes now that Donald Trump has left the White House is also hard to say. Some people may drop away. Others may become even more radicalised in their beliefs. In that situation the conspiracy could continue to gain ground here.

Wilson Gibbons, Croydon

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