Friday, November 13, 2015

Syrian voices silenced by Stop the War

Stop the War (StW) have a track record of denying a platform to Syrian voices when they hold events about Syria. As I've said before, this is like an organisation holding repeated #BlackLivesMatter events with all-white panels. As far as I know, StW have only come close to having Syrian speakers twice, both in 2013: first they gave platform to a Baathist and then they invited a Lebanese-French nun (Mother Agnes) who they said was Syrian - which backfired when no one would sit on the same platform as her. The Syria Solidarity Movement have written about a whole sequence of instances when they have denied a platform to Syrians at events about Syria.

I've already linked to Paulo Canning's "Have Stop the War Coalition finally jumped the shark?" and
James Bloodworth's "Stop the War refuse to listen to Syrians during debate…on Syria", which describe a recent parliamentary meeting to which StW invited no Syrians and at which chair Diane Abbott effectively shut down their voices.

Paulo's piece was reblogged elsewhere, but he has since added a series of updates, which are important. Here are some extracts, with my emphases and a couple of hyperlinks added:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Stalinists versus migrants on Lesbos

This post is about events at an occupied social space in Mytilene (Μυτιλήνη – Mitilini), the capital of Lesbos (Lesvos), on 10 November 2015. The text is translated from Musaferat by Glykosymoritis with my help, and is cross-posted from here-Bob
As events unfolded at the Mytilene squat the 10/11/2015 two things came to the surface. First, the authoritarian, anti-democratic nature of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), to the extent that it will crash any left organised movement that dares to challenge it and that it can't control and manipulate. Second, its major problem particularly with the Syrian refugees/migrants that it can't assist because by doing so it would find itself challenging its close political alliance with Assad and his regime. – Glykosymoritis


CTeFi4UWcAAhY9l.jpg large
Image from Musferat

“On Saturday at dawn a group of migrants occupied [Palesviakou Labour Centre] the abandoned building of the former workers center located in a building that currently belongs to the state agency of OAED⁰. From the onset people showed their support and solidarity with the migrants. Members of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) came to asses the situation, and in doing so depleted the building of all items within (cutlery, crockery etc.).

For four days in the town of Mytilene, a free migrant-managed occupied space covered the housing needs of hundreds of people and remained open and accessible to all that wanted to express their solidarity (with the exception of NGOs). On Tuesday afternoon 10/11, a few hours prior to a scheduled first statement to be announced by the squatters, some people decided that it wasn't to take place.

A group of members of the KKE* escorted by helmeted thugs entered the building and targeted a specific member of the migrants squat. They grabbed and kicked him out of the building, forbidding him to re-enter the squat.

From then on they were to be in control of people's access to the building. Only the ones that they were sure fitted their criteria were allowed enter. In other words only the blind followers of the Party and any migrant that did not want to make a decision for themselves but did as they were told by the Party.

Well, it just goes to demonstrate that yet another party is trying to undermine and suppress the struggle, and is not willing to make any exceptions whatsoever regardless of the circumstances. The migrants once again have to wait with their arms outstretched waiting for the KNAT^ to feed them. Or at best to be used for photo opportunities for the party's self-promotion. Any effort for migrants’ self-emancipation is to be presented as a devious conspiracy plan from some external foreign power or from other powers in an effort to undermine sometimes the nation and other times the party.

It's the other dodgy side of the story. For all these migrants that manage to hold their heads high after going through the war, the hunt during the border crossing, the illegality and the state suppression – they arrive here only to find themselves facing the NGOs that treat them like lesser people, the local mafias or the political parties.

Now is the time that we stand alongside the migrants with all means possible, now is the time that they try to find the weaponry to resist, to organise themselves as they see fit, within the terms they choose to live their lives.

Joint struggles of locals and migrants against the bosses, state, para-state and the party armies!

Musaferat - November 2015


*KKE Communist Party of Greece (Κομμουνιστικό Κόμμα Ελλάδας, Kommounistikó Kómma Elládas)
^KNAT Term used for thugs of the Communist party youth – KNE is the Communist Youth, MAT is the state riot police
⁰OAED Οργανισμού Απασχόλησης Εργατικού Δυναμικού (ΟΑΕΔ) or Organismou Apascholisis Ergatikou Dynamikou (OAED) – Manpower Agency of Greece, a public authority that handles vocational training, job search assistance, labour and policy development, and unemployment and maternity benefits, equivalent to a UK job centre.

“…It is no coincidence that the Communist Party [KKE] supported and supports the Assad regime, nor a coincidence that when we marched in Athens against the Syrian regime we were accused as provocateurs of Mossad and the CIA. Nor was it an accident that the emergence of the thugs at the labour center reminded most families of Assad Shabiha [para-state militias]….”

Note: For more details, see Grassrootreuter, which confirms the story above and adds some details, including the fact that the building was used by the KKE-led unions to store electrical items before the migrant occupation - it was under pretext of retrieving these that the KKE thugs in helmets entered the building, first removing cooking utensils brought by the migrants and then occupying the space. As far as I can see, they did not forcibly evict all of the migrant residents (only the activist leaders), but acted in an intimidating manner which led the remaining families to depart. The story is also reported at Insurrection News. -Bob

Original by MUSAFERAT translation and additional context by Bob From Brockley and glykosymoritis

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Seven reasons Stop the War are wrong about Syria

Back in September, I started a series of posts entitled "Six things your government can do about Syria". I argued then for a No Fly Zone. Shortly after I wrote it, the situation on the ground changed in Syria with massive scale Russian intervention; this, along with lack of time, means I haven't managed to write parts 2-6 of the series.

The Russian intervention killed 254 civilians from 30 September to 26 October, and since then, MSF have reported, there have been several deadly strikes on civilian targets including hospitals and markets.

However, I still believe the principle of a No Fly Zone (or, better put perhaps: a No Bomb Zone) remains correct, and remains mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 2139, which demands immediate cessation of violence – even if the practicalities around achieving it have changed. It also remains a key demand of Syrian civil society and the Syrian diaspora. Sensible voices within the political establishment – notably Labour MP Jo Cox – have attempted to put a No Bomb Zone on the UK policy table, despite the resistance of the Kissinger-style "realist" Tories who dominate the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and despite Cameron's overwhelming lack of interest in addressing the too-difficult Syrian crisis.

The Stop the War Coalition (StWC) supporters generally attempt to portray all forms of intervention as "bombing Syria", which misses the point that Syria is already being bombed, mainly by the Assad regime and now its ally Russia. The logical response is that what we need is not to "bomb Syria" but to stop the bombs, and it might require intervention for that to happen.

StWC consistently hold their meetings and rallies about Syria in a way that excludes Syrian speakers -  even going to far as to veto Syrian refugee speakers at Refugees Welcome marches. This is because they know that most Syrians know that a simple rhetorical commitment to non-intervention will not "stop the war". A war is going on in Syria, and something concrete is needed to stop it, not empty words. StWC's approach to stopping the war is in reality continuing the war, just without our direct involvement.

StWC - increasingly influential, it seems, in the UK Labour Party - have now responded at more length to calls for a No Fly Zone, in a briefing entitled "Syria: Safe Havens and No-Fly Zones". On social media, they link to it as "Seven reasons why Stop the War opposes UK military intervention in Syria". Here are their seven reasons, and why each one is wrong.

1. "The creation of safe havens or no-fly zones requires the ability to engage in military operations and to take out the enemy’s air defence systems."
This point is true. But it is not even vaguely an argument against safe havens or no-fly zones. A No Bomb Zone would of course require military operations - but it would also prevent other, more deadly, military operations from occurring. 

2. "Military intervention would risk a military clash with Russia."
Clearly this is a risk. However, that does not mean that we should therefore simply accede to Russia's right to military intervention and take civilian protection off the table. Instead, the West should show it is serious about civilian protection, and take that seriousness to the negotiation table in order to pressure Russia against forms of military intervention which endanger civilians on a large scale. 

3. "Islamic State would not be threatened by a no-fly zone since it lacks an air force. The Assad government and those supporting it can be the only target of such military operations: the goal is regime change."
Coalition aerial support has helped Syrian Kurdish fighters establish relatively safe havens in northern Syria, repulsing Islamic State. In contrast, Russian strikes have targeted Syrian rebel anti-IS fighters, allowing Islamic state to advance into rebel held territories. So, even with IS, control of the air makes a difference between civilian life and death. But it is true that a No Fly Zone would not primarily target Islamic State. Rather, it would properly target the far greater killer, the Assad regime. 
Deaths in Syria October 2015 by perpetrator. Source: Syrian Network for Human Rights
Does this mean the goal is "regime change"? No, the goal is simple: civilian protection. But actually why would socialists, internationalists, humanitarians and democrats oppose "regime change" in the context of a totalitarian regime that kills civilians on such a large scale? In the long-term, if civilian protection could be established, wouldn't a free and democratic Syria be a desirable end game? However, that's for the Syrian people to decide - but there is no meaningful self-determination when bombs rain down on liberated areas. 

4. "Previous no-fly zones did not prevent attacks on minorities and endangered populations (e.g. the Iraq government’s attack on the southern March [sic] Arabs) but escalated the levels of violence."
It is again true that some previous No Fly Zones and Safe Zones have had extremely negative un-intended consequences – most often because they were proclaimed without being (adequately) enforced, as in Yugoslavia. I think the example of Southern Iraq, however, is a poor one for StWC to use. The Shia Marsh (not March) Arabs had already been victims of genocide under Saddam Hussein, who drained the marshes in the decades before the Gulf War in order to destroy their homeland. After the war, the Marsh Arabs engaged in a popular uprising against Saddam, with no ground support from the Coalition; massive aerial bombardment was Saddam's reprisal for this. The No Fly Zone curtailed death from above, but Saddam's switched to artillery attacks - that is, it didn't escalate violence but changed the form it took. In contrast, the No Fly Zone in Iraq Kurdistan created the possibility for the emergence of an autonomous region there, now a haven of relative stability and freedom in a grim region. (Admittedly, a consistent Coalition policy which went beyond a No Fly Zone and actually removed the Saddam regime in 1991 – "regime change" – would have avoided the whole nightmare of Gulf War II, but I doubt Stop the War would have supported that.)

5. "The 2011 no-fly zone in Libya helped to create a full-blown war, tens of thousands of casualties, regime change and a collapsed state."
It is true that Libya is not a good example of successful Western intervention, although there are arguments that it was still the right call: "Faced with a popular revolution, Qaddafi had used fighter jets within a fortnight and promised a ‘house by house’ massacre of Benghazi." How the full-blown war that happened without aerial bombardment would have been worse than a full-blown war with regime aerial bombardment is hard to imagine. And, quite simply, Syria is not Libya. In Syria, we've already had full-blown war, hundreds of thousands of casualties and a collapsed state – all without a No Fly Zone. 

6. "The war in Syria includes a complex combination of actors: the Assad government and Russia, IS, the US and its international and regional allies (including Saudi Arabia, the Free Syrian Army and the local al-Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front), as well as Kurdish groups (some of which are being attacked by Turkey)."
Again, this is factually true - but not even vaguely an argument against a No Fly Zone or safe havens. It is simply a description of a complicated situation. Clearing the skies and stopping civilian death shifts the relationships between them. 

7. "Instead of getting involved militarily in this dangerous quagmire, Britain can provide much greater help to the people of Syria by seriously focusing on humanitarian aid and on helping to facilitate peace talks."

This is also an absurd argument. It is true Britain could provide humanitarian aid and facilitate peace talks. But - as the Crisis Group outlined in their call for a reboot of Syria policy towards civilian protection - delivering humanitarian aid is practically impossible under current conditions, and in particular in a context of aerial bombardment. Similarly with peace talks: there have been negotiations as long as there has been fighting in Syria, and the bombs keep falling. Civilian protection - a No Bomb Zone - is not an alternative to peace talks, but a short-term necessity. 


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Three reasons why Milne's appointment was wrong, wrong, wrong

You'll have heard by now that Seumas Milne has been appointed executive director of strategy and communications for the Labour party. This is a disastrous decision for (at least) three reasons.

1. He has no expertise whatsoever on strategy. Shouldn't a director of strategy have some experience of, you know, strategy? What is the point of the Labour Party if it can't get elected? Has Milne ever been involved in a strategy that got someone elected to public office? (Rather, than, say, to the executive of the National Union of Journalists?)
2. He hasn't got much more expertise on communications. True, he's earned his living as a journalist all his adult life. But only three publications he's worked for are Straight Left, a Communist Party weekly, The Economist and The Guardian. In other words, his communication has overwhelmingly been with the already converted middle class left. If Corbyn is to usher in a new form of politics, he needs to reconnect the Labour Party with "ordinary" voters, with those who don't vote and those who've drifted to UKIP and the Tories. How can you do this, if your career is wholly within the activist bubble? This is a dreadful signal that Corbyn's Labour does not want to reach out to the ordinary working class people who make up the majority of the unconverted, but to mobilise a social movement.
Footnote: Many of Corbyn's left-wing domestic policies do resonate with voters outside the bubble; his foreign policies, with which Milne is closely associated don't:
YouGov for Prospect, via John Rentoul

3. His own views are just appalling. I won't bother to exhume all of the awful things Milne has said in his columns - on whether Lee Rigby's killers were terrorists, on whether Stalin was good for gender relations, on whether Milosevic deserved to be tried for war crimes, on whether we provoked Putin to invade Ukraine, on whether the UN-verified mass chemical attack on Ghouta happened, etc - because the right-wing press will be combing his easily accessible Guardian archive as I write and we'll be seeing plenty of this, making any leftists with a moral compass squirm with shame.
Further reading:
I also went through old links mentioning Milne on this blog. Here are some nuggets from the archive:

Friday, October 09, 2015

Twlldun: The socialism of fools

This is a guest post by Twlldun, republished with permission, from It was posted during the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. I have added a couple of hyperlinks, plus the extra links at the bottom of the post. Since then, more allegations have been raised about the protests at the Tory party conference, as summarised in Sarah's post here.

It’s 2012 and Tower Hamlets council – which, as you may remember, was at the time run by a dubious group with links to Bangladeshi Islamists – orders the removal of this mural:

It’s not really hard to guess why. I mean, even the most charitable of us could see that a picture of a bunch of large nosed businessmen sat around a table made from the bodies of the poor, plotting their rule of the world, may be a teensy weensy bit “problematic”, as I believe the kids have it.

The artist in question – in true tabloid terms – “takes to Facebook” to angrily protest it being taken down. And in the thread of comments that follows, a voice pops up. An MP from a near-by constituency.

Now. Leaving aside the congestion of this paranoid stoner’s work with Diego Viera, the thing that stands out for me here is the opening – “Why?”.

When the Labour leadership election was in full swing, a lot of people misidentified as “Blairites” or “neo-liberals” (the latest meaningless buzzword that seems to encapsulate “everything I don’t like”, like its comrade-in-arms “Zionist” but with the racial element removed) asked some serious, hard questions about Jeremy Corbyn’s associations.

We – because I was one of that motley group of voices – were accused of accusing Jeremy of being antisemitic. But the truth is, I wasn’t accusing him of that. I don’t know many who were. My accusation – which ties into the “Why?” here – was a lot more simple. We were concerned that he didn’t know what antisemitism was. He didn’t acknowledge its existence when it came from sources he viewed as “progressive”. To him, antisemitism is Mosley marching through Cable Street.

Such a blindness may be excusable in any human being – it can mark you out as ignorant, or a naive holy fool rather than malign. It’s a flaw in an elected politician. It shows lack of judgement to a serious degree.

And it’s a huge flaw in an elected politician who has made as his foreign policy cause the one area that (as well as the decent and honest, or – as Anthony Julius describes them in his “Trials of the Diaspora” – the rational enemies of Israel – i.e. those who have a legitimate connection to the conflict and have cause to be *on the other side*) lures in Jew haters of all stripes. If you want justice for Palestine to be attainable, you have to put a firewall between the racists and the cause. Both as a moral consideration and as a tactical one.

But, as the stories show and the above illustrates, Jeremy isn’t very good at recognising that.

Again, this wouldn’t be a huge issue. All political parties have their outliers, their cranks and seers, their wild-eyed men of the back-benches, their awkward squad with awkward associations and awkward views.

But what is infuriating, for me, is that on being told of this, the Labour Party members dismissed or glossed over it. Ignored it or pretended it wasn’t an issue. And elected him. Made the decision that it’s support of Corbyn’s economic proposals could override any other considerations.

Today, there’s a protest march in Manchester. The usual assembly of union members and fringe groups are there, proclaiming a message that I in large part agree with. Protesting cuts and talking about public service. 13 year old Morgan is there with this banner:

What strikes me most about this is not Morgan. Look, he’s a 13 year old boy with silly reductionist ideas of the world. Fine. We were all stupid at 13. But he made this banner. His parents watched and let him. And let him leave the house. People are helping him carry it. People are standing around it. Nobody is saying to him “HANG ON, Rothschild bankers? LAD!”.

Excuse it all you like. Until the left accepts that it glosses over antisemitism in its ranks, that it turns a blind eye, or makes some hand-waving justification, until the left wakes up to this shit, then it betrays the morals that it claims to stand for.


Bob adds:
I like the way Mr Corbyn compared a minor graffiti artist with the great Uruguayan footballer Diego Viera, rather than Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Six things your government can do about Syria, no.1: Clear the Skies

Liberated Kafranbel, Syria, September 2015
Lots of people believe that it is basically too late to do anything about Syria. It's such a mess. There are so many sides. It's hard to tell who the good guys are. Yet there are practical steps we can take, and which our governments can take. In this series, I will post six things that Western states can do to make the situation better, primarily based on calls made by Syrian civil society. When I finish that, I will post a series of things that we ourselves, as citizens,  can do. 

The most urgent task facing us is to reduce the killing. Dozens of people die in Syria every day, and this is what drives the refugee exodus from Syria. The vast majority of the deaths are due to the Assad regime. And the vast majority of the regime-caused deaths are due from above, caused by air strikes and in particular barrel bombs. 
Recent history - from Afghanistan and Iraq to Libya - makes most of us instinctively wary of military intervention. Most Syrian and Kurdish radicals are not calling for Western boots on the ground. However, stopping the bombs - clearing the skies - has to be the first priority in Syria. This means a No Fly Zone.

There are lots of strong arguments against a No Fly Zone, and you can follow the debate here, but on balance, I think that the arguments in favour are stronger. A No Fly Zone is not a panacea that will solve all problems. At a geopolitical level, it does not preclude or avoid the need for wider diplomatic efforts.

Stopping the deaths from above, creating safe havens, is not sufficient either in terms of the ultimate aim of a just, peaceful, democratic Syria, which can ultimately come about through the active will of the Syrian people and not through foreign intervention. But while the bombs continue to fall, hope for that outcome diminishes daily. Clearing the skies is not sufficient, but it is necessary.

Planet Syria, a network of over a hundred Syrian civil society groups, has made the following statement:
1. The government of Bashar al-Assad is killing at least 7 times more civilians than Isis.*
2. More than 11,000 barrel bombs made of scrap metal and high explosives have been rolled out of government helicopters onto hospitals, homes and schools since the UN banned them. These aerial attacks are the biggest killer of civilians. They drive extremism. 
3. These barrel bombs are a leading cause of displacement, forcing refugees to cross the Mediterranean and other borders. 
4. Many of the barrel bombs are dropped on areas under siege. More than half a million people in Syria live in areas with no access to food, water or medicine since 2013, including the areas of Ghouta that were targeted by the sarin gas attacks in the same year. 
5. The international anti-Isis coalition is flying in the same airspace where many of these barrel bombs are dropped, choosing to look the other way. 
There is no military solution to the fighting in Syria. But like in Bosnia, a no-fly zone can help protect civilians from the worst of the violence and encourage the fighting parties to come to the negotiating table. 
It’s time to #ClearTheSky. Join over a hundred non-violent Syrian groups in asking for the international community to enforce the UN ban on barrel bombs with a Bosnia-style no-fly zone.
A No Fly Zone is not only necessary; it is possible. Coalition air strikes on ISIS targets indicate that the West has the capability to take control of the sky out of Assad's hands.

There is some political support for safe havens. Labour MP Mike Gapes, for example, has called for them, as has Labour MP Jo Cox. We should lobby our politicians to get them to follow suit. (If you are in the UK, write to your MP here. If you are in the US, write to Congress here.)

It is true that Russia is likely to block such an action if conducted through the UN. Peter Tatchell suggests that a UN General Assembly could override any veto. But the UN already has a mandate for action: UN Security Council Resolution 2139. The resolution demands an immediate end to all violence; it specifically demands an end to barrel bombs and other forms of indiscriminate aerial attack on urban areas where civilians live; it demands that unhindered humanitarian assistance be allowed; it demands that all parties take "appropriate steps" to protect civilians. Finally, it expresses "intent to take further steps in the case of non-compliance with this resolution".

That was February 2014. There has been no compliance from the Syrian government. The time to take further steps is now.
Further relevant reading, mainly via the Syria Solidarity Coalition and NFZ Syria:

Monday, August 31, 2015

Quick thoughts on Russia/Ukraine

[UPDATED 1 Sept 07:25, 08:29, 19:11]

This quick blog post is a response to a discussion (actually a couple of discussions) I’ve had on Twitter, relating to Jeremy Corbyn, his associates in Stop the War, and their positions on Russia/Ukraine. My comment got a bit long so I have semi-polished it (not much) and am posting it here. Take it as provisional thinking aloud not as a definitive statement of position. 

The context is the claim (e.g. by Tom Porter, James Bloodworth, Edward LucasAnne Applebaum, and the Telegraph) that Corbyn is excessively pro-Putin, a claim dismissed as a "smear" by his supporters. 

I have updated it three times now, the first time to engage more closely with Corbyn's own position, the second time to add more links, and the third to correct a misreading I made of one of Corbyn's comments (see end of post for the correction).

On taking sides

First, I don’t think that it is possible to be entirely non-partisan, neutral and objective when looking at politics or geopolitics. My view is partial. It is shaped by the sources I read, including anarchist and leftist sources from the countries that I am interested in, e.g. the voices of Syrian revolutionaries, of the Ukrainian left, of dissidents in Russia.

I take a lot of effort to read sources carefully, to avoid unreliable sources, to triangulate information between different sources, and to track where bits of information come from. But there are sources which I trust more than others. I take the Western mainstream media with a pinch of salt – but I trust it more than I trust state media in countries such as Russiaor Iran with high levels of censorship and little press freedom. I trust left-wing papers more than I trust right-wing papers – but I prefer to consider (on the basis of evidence) the track record of integrity and authority of specific journalists and editors rather than assume that their ideology determines what they publish.

On Russia/Ukraine specifically, I do not side with the Ukrainian state, which I see as a capitalist liberal democracy dominated by patriotic neo-liberal capitalists who have an authoritarian, anti-union and social conservative streak (i.e. not much different from several other states in Europe). But I do defend them against the much larger, much more reactionary, much more powerful geopolitical force on their border, which is actively militarily violating their sovereignty.

Ideally, my position would be in the “third camp” – neither Kiev nor Moscow. But taking a neutral stance when the second most heavily armed country in the world is invading a small democracy is objectively to side with the bigger power.

I recognise that there are fascists on both sides, but it is clear to me that one side (the pro-Russian) is soaked full of fascists. Fascism is highly influential in the Kremlin, in Russia’s “hybrid army” and in the so-called People’s Republics of eastern Ukraine. Moscow supports and funds fascists in both eastern and western Europe. In Kiev, in contrast, fascist groups are currently in insurgency against the government. 

Who has been the greater antagonist?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Strange alliances: Jeremy Corbyn and the Holocaust deniers

Jeremy Corbyn's candidacy for leadership of the Labour Party continues to arouse strong emotions. There has been a lot of focus on the company he keeps. On the one hand, critics (including many sympathetic to his domestic political agenda) have raised concerns about his continued association with antisemites within and beyond the anti-Israel movement. On the other hand, supporters have argued that these charges represents guilt by association, that Corbyn couldn't have known about the antisemitism of those he has associated with, or that they were only slightly antisemitic anyway.

Nobody serious has suggested that Corbyn himself has an ideological commitment to Judeophobia or that he is personally prejudiced against Jews. But even among Corbyn's more serious supporters, there is an acknowledgement that there is something to be concerned about. Owen Jones, for example, has a very good piece in the Guardian about the need to confront antisemitism in this milieu. Corbyn supporter Jane Carnall links to a Tumblr called "How to criticize Israel without being anti-semitic", which goes through some of the issues.

Sarah Brown suggests that even Jones' clear denunciation still seems to suggest that those calling out Corbyn's associations are doing so in bad faith (as a "convenient means to undermine political opponents", as Jones puts it), which means not taking antisemitism seriously. And David Paxton takes on the "guilt by association" argument, showing that it is failure to root out the prevalent antisemitism in the anti-Israel and pro-Corbyn scenes that is the issue.

Eisen and Atzmon

Yesterday, I posted on Jeremy Corbyn's connections with the LaRouche movement. Today, I turn to a second allegation: that he has repeatedly endorsed a small group of Holocaust deniers who have attached themselves to the Palestine solidarity movement. At the centre of this group is an organisation called Deir Yassin Remembered, its organiser Paul Eisen, and Paul Eisen's associate Gilad Atzmon.

I mentioned Paul Eisen frequently on this blog in its early days in 2005. In 2004, he was arguing that "Jewish power" is destroying the world. Late in 2004 he began flirting with Holocaust denial. In 2005, he became a supporter of Holocaust revisionist and Hitler fan Ernst Zundel.

Deir Yassin Remembered was founded by the American Daniel McGowan, a retired professor and Holocaust denier. Also connected to DYR and Eisen is Israel Shamir, a Swedish Holocaust denier now based in Moscow. Their supporter Gilad Atzmon is a jazz musician who in 2004 told SOAS students that burning synagogues is rational and has been circulating antisemitic conspiracy theories for the last decade or more. All of these people are regularly published by fascists such as David Duke.

From 2007, here is Tony Greenstein on Eisen and DYR:
The British Director of DYR, Paul Eisen, has penned three essays - Jewish Power,The Holocaust Wars (a tribute to Nazi apologist and Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel who was sentenced last week to five years in a German prison for inciting racial hatred and defaming the memory of the dead) and In Clear Sight of Yad Vashem.

The latter essay argues ...

Over the last 50 years, revisionist scholars have amassed a formidable body of substantial evidence, which runs in direct opposition to the traditional Holocaust narrative. "Where is the evidence," they say, "for this alleged gargantuan mass-murder? Where are the documents? Where are the traces and remains? Where are the weapons of murder?"
Eisen's views regarding Holocaust denial are quite clear. Among DYR's supporters is Gilad Atzmon, a musician whose album, Exile, won the BBC Jazz Album of the Year in 2003. In an email to me of June 6, 2005, he described Eisen's Holocaust Wars as a "great text".

Atzmon, although not himself a Holocaust denier, is certainly a believer in the world Jewish conspiracy theory. In his web article, On Anti-semitism he wrote: "We must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously." After attention was drawn to this quote, Atzmon changed "Jewish people" to "Zionists" but the in the context of his argument the meaning is clearly the same.

This was why, when the Socialist Workers Party first invited Atzmon to give a talk at their Bookmarks bookshop in London in June 2005, a large picket was organised by Jews Against Zionism.
In fact, when Atzmon spoke to the SWP in 2004, many members noticed he was dodgy (Richard Seymour called him a disgraceful crank). The SWP, however, continued its association with Atzmon until 2010, due to his friendship with its secretary Martin Smith

The Corbyn link

Corbyn's connection to these people is a bit hard to disentangle. Louise Mensch puts the prosecution case in the second part of this post, building on the Daily Mail's attack. It seems that Corbyn associated with Eisen in 2005, when it was just emerging that Eisen was a Holocaust denier, and again in 2013, by which time the mainstream Palestine solidarity movement had long severed all links with him. Gilad Atzmon performed at the 2005 event organised by Eisen which Corbyn attended; again, this was at the time when it was becoming clear Atzmon was antisemitic. It seems that attending the event is the only connection between Atzmon and Corbyn.

Eisen has claimed that Corbyn stood by Eisen during the period when the Palestine solidarity movement was ostracising him, but there is no evidence of that beside his words. Charlie Pottins, who was there at the time, gives a clear account of how Eisen's toxicity became clear at this time, but questions whether Corbyn had any continued association with the man.


The first issue then is the extent to which Corbyn should have been aware of Eisen or Atzmon's racism at this time, April 2005.

My view is that he probably should have been becoming aware. The Palestine solidarity movement, Jews Against Zionism, LabourNet and others were starting to raise the issue at exactly this time. But it was only a month or two later that these criticisms were really gaining momentum and the full scale of Eisen's toxicity became clear. For example, if we look at Joel Finkel's response to Eisen's "Jewish Power", written in early 2005, he is starting to raise the problems of the metaphysical, raciological vision of Jews at the heart of Eisen's worldview, but it is only in a June 2005 postscript that he notes that Eisen has gone full fascist. This account by Mark Elf from June 2005 lays out the timeline, showing that people were noticing Eisen's racism but that the full extent of it was only becoming clear.

My verdict, then, is that Corbyn should have listened more carefully at that time to those who were raising alarm bells, but that there was not yet a strong case being made in April 2005 - so this does not constitute a serious error of judgement.

Corbyn at 2013 DYR event

I agree that Corbyn could have put more effort into weeding these kinds of people out of the Palestine solidarity movement. But Tony Greenstein reports that Corbyn supported the moves to expel DYR supporter, Francis Clarke-Lowes, from PSC at the 2012 AGM for holocaust denial. And one of Eisen's posts claiming association with Corbyn that Mensch cites is actually bemoaning Corbyn's support for John Mann's EDM implicitly criticising of Paul Flynn for being antisemitic about the British ambassador to Israel. In short, I don't think this part of the case against Corbyn is particularly strong if taken alone.

If the 2005 part of the story was all there was, then, I'd say we need to chill out. But the problem is Corbyn seems to have gone back to a Deir Yassin Remembered event in 2013 (along with Labour MP Gerald Kaufman) - see Express, Jewish Chronicle, DYR website.

That Corbyn should be associating with DYR six years after the PSC formally severed links with DYR because of Holocaust denial does not mean Corbyn is an antisemite (and noone serious is saying so). But it does seem really worrying. Just four months earlier Eisen had written a blogpost “How I became a Holocaust denier”. Corbyn should have abided by the PSC decision and kept well away from them. That he didn't says something very depressing about him - either that he doesn't believe serious anti-racists when they talk about Holocaust denial, or he doesn't care.

What about the Tories?

Jane Carnell's criticism of Mensch's take on this spends a lot of time on some of the parallel associations others have had with Holocaust deniers. She spends time in particular on Tory links with Polish right-wing politician Michal Kaminski, to which Louise Mensch has never objected and which Stephen Pollard has defended.

I wrote about this at the time, and linked to several pieces attacking the Kaminski link, including several by those who are attacking Corbyn now. Consistent opponents of antisemitism were right to raise the alarm against Kaminski; they are right to raise the alarm against Corbyn now. Just because Tories have dodgy links does not mean we should let Corbyn off the hook for his dodgy links.

Further reading:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Over recent weeks, there have been an increasing number of allegations and exposés of Jeremy Corbyn's associations with antisemites. Nobody serious is suggesting that Corbyn is the least bit antisemitic. The issue, rather, is why he keeps sharing platforms and associating with antisemites, and whether his responses (and those of his supporters) indicate any understanding of why contemporary antisemitism might be problematic. (For two of the better statements of the issue, see David Hirsh and Stephen Daisley. For more general issues, follow Martin's links.)

This post looks at just one of the allegations. Back in July, Lawrence Alexander noticed that Corbyn had spoken for the Citizen's Electoral Council (CEC), the Australian affiliate of the LaRouche network.

This allegation was subsequently taken up by the Daily Mail and Louise Mensch, and is the first of the three key points made in Mensch's important post about Corbyn's antisemitic associations.

What is the LaRouche network?

I'll try to keep this brief, but here is the basic story of you don't know about Lyndon LaRouche and his followers. LaRouche, born in the US in 1922, was a Trotskyist from the 1940s, involved in the American SWP (a totally different party from the British SWP). He left the SWP as a follower of British Trotskyist leader Gerry Healy (best known for sexual abuse of female party members and being Vanessa Redgrave's guru) before setting off on his own, increasingly bizarre, course from the 1960s. His m.o., learnt from the Communist Party, was the creation of anodyne-seeming front organisations to suck in gullible punters.

From the 1970s, he increasingly deployed the classic techniques of religious cults to enforce discipline in the party, including micro-management of party members' sex lives. From 1974, the movement began to cultivate links with far right libertarians and fascists, including the Ku Klux Klan and the Liberty Lobby, and increasingly emphasised the evils of "Zionism" rather than those of capitalism. Since then, the movement has repeatedly featured in lawsuits and criminal cases for its strange cult practices.

Hallmarks of the current LaRouche movement include denial of climate change, 9/11 denialism, naked antisemitism, bizarre conspiracy theories and futurist fantasies such as a Eurasian Land Bridge and Mars colonisation: think Scientology or the Moonies with a vague dash of leftist rhetoric.

Among their obsessions is the need for a "Glass-Steagall" law separating investment and saving arms of banks, an obsession related to their wider obsession with finance capital; apparently Corbyn also supports a "Glass-Steagall" law.

Among the scandals associated with LaRouchites is the murder of British student Jeremiah Duggan. The best resources on the movement are those assembled by American anti-fascist Chip Berlet.

The Citizens' Electoral Council (CEC) is the Australian branch of the movement. Here is a 2011 briefing paper by the Australian B'nai B'rith on the CEC. The CEC was originally a far right Austrialian nationalist group, associated with the Australian League of Rights, but came under LaRouche influence in the later 1980s and then LaRouche control by the 1990s.

Although a micro-party of a few hundred members, it has managed to raise considerable funds, mainly solicited through cold-calling phonebanks staffed by cult members.

The Corbyn connection

The Corbyn connection to CEC is slight: earlier this year, along with his close associate Michael Meacher and a right-wing Tory euroskeptic councillor called Robert Oulds, who leads the Bruges Group, a right-wing pressure group advocating a pivot from Brussels to Moscow, participated in a CEC conference. His contribution was in the form of a half-hour interview with CEC's leader, conducted in London. Corbyn's bit is here (transcribed here); the whole thing is here; Meacher's bit is here. Here's the introduction to their panel. Meacher and Ouds signed a bizarre petition, circulated by the LaRouche network's European branch, the Schiller Institute, associated with the conference, calling for closer alignment with the Kremlin; Corbyn's name does not appear among the signatories. The LaRouche group regularly praise Corbyn.

Is Mensch smearing Corbyn?

Jane Carnall, in her Edinburgh Eye blog, is publishing a series of posts responding to Mensch's attacks on Corbyn. The first deals with the LaRouche connection. She argues that Corbyn wasn't to know, that CEC are a micro-party so no big deal, and that Corbyn didn't say anything offensive when interviewed by CEC, let alone anything antisemitic. I agree with that final point, but disagree on the other issues. Here is the comment I left there.

Jane, You make a strong and convincing case that Louise Mensch misrepresented what Corbyn said at the CEC event, and that taking the whole quote in context he does not posit this “choice” between IS and the US. But I think that the question of what he was doing talking to CEC at all remains. 

You say 
"there is absolutely no reason why anyone in the UK should ever have heard of CEC Australia” and add that “had Corbyn, Meacher, or Oulds looked this microparty up in Wikipedia before they were interviewed” they’d have found some weird stuff. But if a political body you’d not heard of asked for an interview, wouldn’t you quickly google? The group’s own page displays LaRouche’s name prominently, and the Google results for the page says “Proponents of the LaRouche movement fighting for peace through economic development.” 
Surely most people involved in politics would at least have heard of LaRouche? The Wikipedia page, as you say, suggests that CEC might be fascist. (Here is the version they’d have seen when the invite was made:
"The Citizens Electoral Council of Australia (CEC) is a minor nationalist[1] political party in Australia affiliated with the international LaRouche Movement, led by American political activist and conspiracy theorist[2] Lyndon LaRouche. It reported having 549 members in 2007.[3] They have been described as “far right”,[4] “fascist” and “lunar right,”[5] as well as “ideologues on the economic Left.”[6]” You say “Since 1992, CEC Australia have been affiliated with the La Rouche movement, which is described in a Washington Monthly feature in 2007 as “a vast and bizarre vanity press.”” But it’s worth noting that before LaRouche took them over, as the Wikipedia article notes, they were a product of the Australian League of Rights, basically a more conventional fascist party. So why would Corbyn associate himself with them? (And Meacher and Oulds too – but they’re not potential leaders of the opposition and therefore potential next prime ministers.) You say: “I think Corbyn, Meacher, and Oulds all agreed to be interviewed because, well: a speaking engagement is a speaking engagement, especially one that can be completed on your lunch hour (you can hear Big Ben strike one during Corbyn’s interview).” 
So would Corbyn or Meacher agree to ANY speaking engagement? Would they accept a speaking engagement with the EDL, the BNP, the Ku Klux Klan or the Jewish Defence League? I am sure that they wouldn’t. And rightly, because socialists don’t give fascists any legitimation or association. 

So, at the very least, agreeing to speak with CEC represents a total lack of due diligence from Corbyn and Meacher and their staff: poor judgement that we are right to draw critical attention to.

The only other possibility is that Corbyn and Meacher knew a bit about CEC but thought it was acceptable. That would be worrying. But it might not be totally out of the question. Meacher, along with Oulds, signed a petition circulated by the LaRouche movement associated with the conference they were beamed to which strongly advocates for Putin’s foreign policy goals in Eurasia. Oulds’ Bruges Group of extreme right-wing eurosceptic Tories has long been associated with a pro-Putin geopolitcs, and it is disturbing to see the language used by the Bruges Group and the LaRouche movement echoed by lots of people on left, including lots of Corbyn’s close supporters. Paul Canning’s blogpost here (written some time before the Mail and Louise Mensch got hold of this story) discusses this in more detail and puts the LaRouche association in context. From a left-wing, anti-fascist perspective, this is very worrying, whether or not Mensch’s other allegations hold water.

The mainstreaming of LaRouche thought

I don't know whether the failure of diligence explanation is the right one, or that Corbyn thought CEC is OK. But the bigger issue it points to is how LaRouche's ideas, which fit closely with many of the ideas circulating in the pro-Putin ideological world, are being mainstreamed.

This point is made in an excellent post by Richard Barth. Here's an extract:
the Mail‘s focus on the LaRouche movement as an obscure cult actually overlooks a more interesting point: that LaRouche is not quite a political pariah so much these days. Panos Kammenos, who heads Greece’s right-wing minority coalition partner, has spoken at LaRouche events, and there’s some cross-over appeal on the left. Back in January, I noted one well-known LaRouche group boasting of having 200 “prominent signers” on a petition... 
As I noted that the time, these “prominent” signatures were gathered despite the text’s self-evident bad faith: first, some bland comments about “cooperation” against ISIS, al-Qaeda and ebola; then, support for Russia’s opposition to “a Nazi coup” in Ukraine, and condemnation of the US and Europe’s current “suicidal geopolitical policies of the past which led to the two previous World Wars”. 
Last year, [Spencer Sunshine of] Political Research Associates noted the presence of the LaRouche movement at Occupy Wall Street. 
...The [LaRouche-connected pro-Putin group] WPF, like Putin’s Russia in general, has crossover appeal for elements both on the left and on the right, and one WPF event saw Helga Zepp-LaRouche billed alongside Noam Chomsky (who spoke by video link). The WPF has also endorsed and promoted the LaRouche petition noted above.
It seems to me that the LaRouche movement is benefiting from same kind of generalised discontent that the television station RT articulates so well, but packages so speciously. It will be interesting to see whether Corbyn’s rejection of the group prompts any kind of reaction.
Good question. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

From Bob's archive: Between Burke and Paine in the twenty-first century

This post is from April 2008. It responds to two posts by close blog-comrades of that time. The comment thread is worth reading too. (Jura Watchmaker is Francis Sedgemore, then part of the much-missed "Drink-Soaked Trots" group blog.) I wrote a follow-up post here, and then some more later, mostly collected under this category. These posts probably represented peak Bobism. 


Marko Attila Hoare “It is no longer Left vs right, but pro-Western vs anti-Western

The broad picture Hoare paints here is right: a growing centrist consensus in the West around welfare capitalism (although this part of the picture might seem less accurate in America, where the welfare state is far from universally accepted); and strange, new and not always predictable alliances on the left and right.

His description of the anti-Westerners’ faux “anti-imperialism” is deadly accurate. His genealogy of its alliance with the far right is spot-on.

But here are a few tangents and quibbles.

1. I worry about all grand narratives of this sort. Can we ever talk about “the principal ideological divide”? Surely, there are many important divides, and trying to reduce the political world into a two- (or even three-dimensional) chart loses something.

2. I am not sure I recognise Hoare’s description of the old left-right battle lines: “redistribution of wealth, public vs private ownership, a planned economy vs the free market”. Firstly, this reduces the left to its social democratic version, leaving out more radical positions, such as Marxism.

In particular, it completely misses the libertarian left. Even at my most left-wing (ca.1994), I never advocated redistribution, planning or state ownership. Instead I believed in mutual aid and voluntary co-operation and a radically decentralised form of social ownership; I saw the Plan (whether the versions advocated by pro-Soviet fake-Marxists or the versions advocated by Keynesian and social democratic Western leftists) as state capitalism, just a more bureaucratic sort of exploitation, whether more brutal (the Soviet model) or gentler (the Old Labour model).

It also obscures the fact that the term “the right” has always been about something other than the free market: it has been about race and nation, blood and soil, conserving the old ways, family values.

3. But my most important quibble is that the West, whatever that is, has all too often not been the embodiment of the values Hoare describes here as “Western”: “he extension of the liberal-democratic order across the globe, through the politics of human rights, promotion of democracy, universal values and interventionism (not necessarily always military)”.

Most importantly, while the West was on the right side in the fights against fascism and Stalinism, its involvement in the third of what Hitchens calls the great questions of the twentieth century, colonialism, has tainted its claim to represent freedom and democracy.

While fighting totalitarianism in Europe, the Western powers unleashed horrific violence against people all over the world, from theBelgian Congo to extermination of the Herero and Namaqua, from the “late Victorian Holocausts” of Bengal to the Trail of Tears. Indeed, more recently, in the name of the fight against totalitarianism, the West has sponsored some of the most blood-thirsty regimes in history, including Saddam’s, Pol Pot’s, Pinochet’s and Stroessner’s; it bombed the people of Laos and Cambodia; it undermined democracy in Haiti, Guatemala and scores of other places where the voters supported leaders whose politics did not coincide with the interests of free trade.

Even leaving this legacy aside, imagining it is too far behind us to matter now (which would be wrong in any case), the West today continues to sponsor the most profound suffering. In its voracious hunger for diamonds, oil and coltan, in its ruthless promotion of the privatisation of basic utilities in the countries where the most vulnerable barely struggle to survive, in its imposition of structural adjustment policies, the West is not a beacon of hope for many.

Because of this, I would never want to be identified as primarily of the “pro-Western” camp. Surely there is a better term for militant support of human rights and democracy?

New Centrist pushes in the same direction, and I like his conclusion:
“I agree that it useful to analyze contemporary conlficts as between the forces supporting economic and political liberalization and those opposed to this opening. However, like Ignoblus, I am rather uncomfortable being lumped in with president George W. Bush. My political opponents on the radical left have often reduced my nuanced centrist position to that of neo-conservatism but there is no need for Hoare to fall into the same trap. After all, part of the appeal of the Euston Manifesto among self-described leftists was it provided an opportunity to be robustly anti-totalitarian (i.e. “decent”) without being right-wing or conservative. Hoare also ignores the existence of ultra-leftists, anarchists, and other self-styled revolutionaries who advocate a third perspective that is classically “anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist” while also critical of Jihadist terrorism. I’m refering here to Three Way Fight, World War 4 Report, etc.
All in all, I find much affinity with what Hoare is writing on these issues and this diagram is a good first attempt at describing political alignments in the post September 11, 2001 era. I’m very interested in seeing Hoare and others develop these ideas further. For example, if muscular liberals are lumped in with neo-conservatives into some sort of political coalition, where does Hoare see the potential for political cleavages developing between these two groups?”

Given these lines of critique, it is good to turn to Peter Ryley’s review of Andrew Anthony’s Fall-Out. Riley criticises those who turn away from the left because of its lunacies (its anti-Westernism, in Hoare’s terms), but slip into a complacent bourgeois conservative liberalism as a result:
“those that are firmly anti-totalitarian but have little or no critique of domestic politics. They have made their peace with the establishment and the legacy of Thatcherism. However dramatic their declarations of human rights, they are Tom Paines abroad but Edmund Burkes at home.”
I love that phrase: Paines abroad but Burkes at home. A good example would be Nick Cohen’s justified hatred of Ken leading him to support Boris Johnson. Perhaps the support some of my comrades give to John McCain (1,2) falls into the same category: McCain may be Paine in Iraq, but he is Burke in the US.

The Jura Watchmaker, who takes up Ryley’s standard brilliantly, sees Alan Johnson’s position on the American primaries (already discussed on this blog) as more Burkeanism (unless I’m misunderstanding him). He also sees Hoare himself as an example of such Burkeanism. I wouldn’t go that far, but I see it as a danger.

Hoare concludes his piece with this:
"we have a left-right alliance of our own: the alliance of all honourable socialists, liberals and conservatives in defence of liberal-democratic values and our fellow democrats abroad.”
Ryley concludes his piece by identifying the counterweight to the new Burkeans on the decent left:
“There are humanist Marxists, left libertarians, social democrats, Old Labour diehards, those who would combine Marx with Mill, querulous liberals, and others who place human emancipation at the centre of an ecological understanding of the diversity of the natural world. It is where I feel most at home and where the more interesting, and idiosyncratic, writing is taking place.”
I think I’m happier amongst the second lot…

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

From Bob's archive: Tibet, a confession

Still off-line, here's a post from March 2008. 

When I was younger - say, 15 years ago - I was deeply dismissive of the Free Tibet campaign. It was not that I was against the rights of the Tibetan people; I just didn't care that strongly for them.

Partly, as a pretentiously iconoclastic radical secularist, I was suspicious of a national liberation movement led by the Dalai Lama, who I saw as basically a huckster (I also hated Mother Theresa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Gandhi. I'm no longer sure which ones of those I was right about), and suspicious of the filthy rich Buddhists who led the campaign from the West, such as Richard Gere. That was, to me, sufficient cause to differentiate myself from it.

Probably more significantly, I saw the support given to the movement (which was very fashionable then, probably second to the anti-apartheid movement in being generally accepted as right-on) as an easy option, because it fit in so well to the anti-Communist Cold War ideology that was dominant in the Thatcher/Reagan era.

I now diagnose this dismissiveness as part of the Stalinophilia that afflicts much of the left, even in its ostensibly anti-Stalinist varieties. By Stalinophilia, I mean the worldview that sees the Peking and Moscow families of state socialist regimes as bulwarks against the "real" enemy, Western capitalist/imperialism, and therefore, despite their evident evil, worth supporting (albeit "critically").

I am ashamed of that.


Thursday, August 06, 2015

From Bob's archive: The conservatism of the anti-war "radicals"

As I often do when likely to be off-line for a while, I dig out some stuff from my blogging archive. This post is from February 2008, from the fifth anniversary of the massive march against the Iraq War. (I wrote up my own views on that day a couple of years ago on the tenth anniversary.) Looking back now, the way the US-led coalition prosecuted that war is impossible to defend - although we might still defend some of the reasons the coalition made its ill-fated decisions.) 

This post feels quite timely now, with Jeremy Corbyn, an MP associated with Stop the War and the Morning Star, whose appeal to an imaginary golden age of Labourism has a kind of retro feel to it. 

Item 1: Andrew Murray, of the Communist Party of Britain, Morning Star and Stop the War, and formerly of the Soviet Novosti news agency, wrote an op end in yesterday's Grauniad celebrating the fifth anniversary of the massive 15 February 2003 stop the war march. I'm not going to comment on the piece in general, apart from noting one thing. This is from early in the article:
In the wake of February 15, Washington told Blair he could stand down our army if he wanted to.The prime minister ignored that offer and the people he represents alike.
And this is from later on:
Emily Churchill, a Birmingham school student at the time, described the experience as "trying to steer the course of our country with our own hands". Of course in 2003 other, American, hands were on the wheel.
In other words, Blair clearly made the decision that engagement in Iraq was the right thing independently of Washington, yet still America's hands were on the wheel. When the evidence within the article itself shows there was no conspiracy, we are obviously dealing with a paranoid conspiracy theory.

What Murray is exemplifying here is one of the defining features of the anti-war movement - a movement, which the article makes clear, was a movement of Daily Telegraph readers British Muslims and wishy-washy Lib Dems. What links Little England Tories, Little England Stalinists and members of the Muslim umma is an irrational, reactionary, anti-modern hatred of America. And, in this case, a hatred of America which expresses itself in deranged conspiracy theories.

Item 2: Simon Jenkins, in the same issue, attacking David Miliband's zeal for liberal interventionism, which Jenkins likens to old-fashioned imperialism.

Jenkins seeks to parade his learning by liberally quoting Immanuel Kant, but demonstrates his lack of learning by not being able to tell the difference between self-determination and sovereignty.
Self-determination, warts and all, has been the defining essence of the nation-state throughout history, which is why the UN charter qualified it only in cases of cross-border aggression and humanitarian relief.
Actually, of course, what he's talking about here is not the self-determination of peoples, but the sovereignty of nation-states. A dictator like Saddam Hussein does not represent the determination of any self other than the dictator. (Lenny Henry sketch about a Mugabe-like figure: "I introduced the policy of one man, one vote. I was that one man.") Liberating Iraq from Saddam was not denying its self-determination, but making its self-determination possible.

In my view, self-determination must always trump sovereignty, and if a sovereign is governing without the consent of the people, then fuck sovereignty.

As with Murray's anti-Americanism, Jenkins' fundamentalist faith in the sovereignty of nation-states is essentially conservative, not radical.

Item 3: A couple of weeks ago, the Gruaniad staged a mini-"debate" on CiF about some pronouncement of failure on the Iraq adventure by their resident foreign policy idiot Jonathan Steele. I say "debate": all but one of the contributors agreed with him. They included a Chatham House Arabista member of the Council for Arab British Understandinga Tory grandeea member of a US "progressive" thinktanka King's College cold war don, and, as the one voice of dissent, Oliver Kamm.

Quite a spectrum of opinions, but all united (all except Kamm that is) in a commitment to a realist approach to international politics. This realist position is well summed up in the Miliband speech that Jenkins attacks: 

We must resist the arguments on both the left and the right to retreat into a world of realpolitik. The traditional conservative ‘realist position’ is to say that values and interests diverge, and interests should predominate. This will not do. Yet in the 1990s, something strange happened. The neoconservative movement seemed to be most sure about spreading democracy around the world. The left seemed conflicted between the desirability of the goal and its qualms about the use of military means. In fact, the goal of spreading democracy should be a great progressive project; the means need to combine soft and hard power. We should not let the genuine debate about the ‘how’ of foreign policy obscure the clarity about the ‘what’.
Miliband is correct to call the realist position conservative, and the basic conservatism of the position is demonstrated by the leftist Steele's approving quotation of Douglas Hurd, and then by Hurd's ringing endorsement of Steele.

Hurd, of course, an old Etonian, was part of the war cabinet during the first Gulf War, a war that was about oil and defence of the sovereignty of the reactionary Kuwaiti monarchy (and which, in true realist fashion stopped short of unseating dictator Saddam and in fact helped him crush the Marsh Arabs' insurgency against him). Hurd was a leading advocate of refusing to allow the Bosniaks to defend themselves against Serbian ethnic cleansign (saying that allowing them to arm would create a "level killing field"; he preferred an uneven killing field in which genocidaires are allowed to flourish). Hurd retired from politics to be a director of the NatWest (in which capacity he spent time in Yugoslavia, courting Milosevic, the man who benefited from the uneven killing field Hurd had promoted).

Once again, anti-war "radicalism" is revealed as a conservative project.