… some swing madly from the chandeliers

by Chris Bertram on August 1, 2007

The British pro-war “left” and its hangers-on (such as the crypto-neocon Oliver Kamm) are busy screaming abuse at traitors to the cause in the aftermath of “apostate-from-decency” Johann Hari’s Dissent review of Nick Cohen (see Chris Brooke for links ). The contrast between the current scene and the “heroic” early phase of “decency” (the early days of the Iraq war) reminds me of some lines from Auden’s Letter to Lord Byron:

Today, alas, that happy crowded floor
Looks very different: many are in tears:
Some have retired to bed and locked the door;
And some swing madly from the chandeliers;
Some have passed out entirely in the rears;
Some have been sick in corners; the sobering few
Are trying hard to think of something new.

Conor Foley will no doubt add to their discomfort with his own brilliant dissection of Cohen . The highlight of Foley’s piece is a hilarious quote from Nick Cohen himself in which he characterizes his opponents:

Rather than accepting the psychological consequences of confessing error, people lose their bearings. They talk only to friends. They imagine conspiracies as they seek the worst possible motives for their critics. They retreat into coteries and speak in code … To cut a long story short, they go a little mad.

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Continuing the theme… « The Patch
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1

john m. 08.01.07 at 11:24 am

Nice piece by Foley and it sets out what I’ve been saying to folk for a while: that it is both natural and understandable that elements of the left and the neo-cons/Bush admin should see eye to eye as both are fundamentally interpreting the world the same (deeply flawed) way.
Or as Conor Foley puts it so nicely: “Reading Cohen is like listening to debates that I had over 20 years ago with people who simply could not understand why the real world was not like the one that they read about in obscure theoretical books”. It’s possible to subtititute 5-10 years ago for 20 and point that statement directly at the neo-cons.

2

ejh 08.01.07 at 11:28 am

To the neo-cons, yes, but did the Decents have any theory, obscure or otherwise? (Of course one may argue that if not, they were none the worse for it, though it’s not something I’d agree with.)

3

Ginger Yellow 08.01.07 at 1:31 pm

I think Cohen forgot one thing: they start projecting like crazy.

4

Timothy Burke 08.01.07 at 1:40 pm

Interesting piece. I found the essay that Foley links to at Indecent Left useful also.

It isn’t just the difference between theory and practice (an old question with a very particular history within the British Left). It’s about a theory of power: how it’s gotten, how it’s used, what it can produce. The Decents do have a theory of power, and it’s a pretty consistent one from their left arguments to their current ones. Power is derived from violence or more specfically the state’s monopoly on same and it can be used to produce, well, pretty much anything within human subjects.

Stacked up against that I think is a kind of Western Marxist/Gramscian line that looks more like the Stuart Hall about about Thatcherism, that power is mysterious and supple in the ways it affects consciousness, and that changing the way people think and behave in the world is a very hard thing to do and cannot be accomplished through command of the state or violence. In one form, I think this approach is what led to the entanglement of the Anglo-American left with civil society and civic institutions and with the production of mass culture. But it also led a lot of folks to have a kind of skeptical regard for projects of cultural or ideological transformation.

What’s interesting to me is that each of these movements aligns with a historic tendency on the right. There’s a ready alliance between a left faction who believe in using the power of the state to command transformations in everyday practice and consciousness and religious conservatives (primarily American ones) who believe in the same thing, as well as a kind of paleoconservative/quasimonarchist tradition that venerates the absolutist possibilities of state power. On the other side, there’s at least some overlap between seeing consciousness as a really messy and complicated reservoir of unmanageable history that has to be approached very cautiously and a kind of Burkean libertarian conservatism that argues against instrumental or utopian meddling with “tradition”.

5

Marc Mulholland 08.01.07 at 2:11 pm

It all shows the power of the internet too. I saw that Hari review of Cohen in the non-virtual Dissent weeks ago. It was only when Hari posted it electronically that the whole brouhaha erupted.

I’m not sure that Conor’s red-baiting attack on Cohen is his finest hour, frankly (and he has had many).

6

aaron 08.01.07 at 2:40 pm

‘every day in britain, more than ten million people are mad. that’s the worrying conclusion contained in a report just published entitled “is britain turning into a nation Of mad people?” dr. mijory marjorie is with me now. dr. marjorie, just how serious is this problem…’

7

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 08.01.07 at 3:12 pm

OT: Isn’t Conor Foley the guy who was famous in 1980’s UK student politics for putting together the “Sectarian Songbook”, a compliation of songs sung by left-wing groups slagging off other left-wing groups?

[Good times…]

8

Conor Foley 08.01.07 at 3:19 pm

I hope that it did not come across as red-baiting Marc, it certainly was not intended to be. Part of what I was addressing was the various reviews of Cohen’s book by people like David Clarke (who comes from the same Democratic Left background as me) and who basically said ‘Cohen is caricaturing us as Gallowayites but we are not like that’. I saw one response from Cohen to that review (which was slightly less personally abusive than that towards Johann Hari)in which he took pains to point out the main target of his assault was the liberal-left. Having read the book I now agree with him and I was simply responding to that attack.

I wrote the piece before I read most of subsequent commotion about Hari’s piece and (while I think Hari was completely crazy to threaten legal action) you must agree the way in which some of his former comrades have denounced his ‘treachery’ is reminiscent of some of the worst aspects of the British ultra-left.

9

Conor Foley 08.01.07 at 3:23 pm

Great Satan. Yes. [Blushes and retreats humming ‘One Trot faction meeting in a hall . . .’]

10

ejh 08.01.07 at 3:44 pm

you must agree the way in which some of his former comrades have denounced his ‘treachery’ is reminiscent of some of the worst aspects of the British ultra-left

I made this point on Aaronovitch Watch (yesterday, I think) although I think one could interpret it as demonstrating that said aspects aren’t particular to the ultra-left but can be (and are) replicated in defence of any other political position including the centre.

11

Marc Mulholland 08.01.07 at 3:49 pm

Hi Conor,

I suppose I was struck by the irony of an avowedly Blairite attack on Nick’s liberal-interventionism: Cohen, Geras, Aaro et al celebrate and defend the foreign policy of the Bush-Dubya era; why should historical Blairism get to congratulate itself in this affair?

But yes, I take your point on Decent-left utopianism and moral-grandstanding which doesn’t care to dwell upon unpleasantries such as the collateral dead.

As my own experience of the ultra-left was in Northern Ireland rather than GB, I don’t find their anathemas too disturbing relatively; as you’ll appreciate better than I.

12

Marc Mulholland 08.01.07 at 3:52 pm

I mean ‘Blair-Dubya’, not ‘Bush-Dubya’. Bah!

13

Roy Bland 08.01.07 at 4:16 pm

I do not think it ought to be assumed that the “pro-war left” are any more indifferent to the carnage in Iraq (or not inclined to “dwell upon unpleasantries such as the collateral dead.”) than anybody else – if anything, supporters of the war ought to feel the pain more keenly than those that opposed it (as much of any of use can, sat safe and sound away from it all).

The pro-war crowd had its fair share of idiots, and you may make that accusation of them, but there was no shortage of idiots against the war who may be also be accused of indifference to the suffering in Iraq (it’s grist to their mill).

I don’t think anybody has any basis for slinging around slurs like that.

And, as I’m here, while I am no particular supporter for Cohen, who tends to undermine any reasonable points he may have by his somewhat demented rhetoric, it’s fair to say that his defenders have more bones to pick with Hari than merely his “treachery” – some of their objections to his review look sound, to little old me at least. But there’s such a lot of crap thrown around, I suppose it’s hard to say for sure.

14

Conor Foley 08.01.07 at 4:17 pm

A fair enough point Marc. I was thinking about that 1984 Labour student conference when Brown announced his new Cabinet and I remembered so many of its members from those days (it sounds like someone else here remembers them to). I suppose it could be argued that we helped create Blairism and so should hold ourselves at least as responsible for his susequent actions as a leftist journalist, who happens to support his greatest folly. Mainly it makes me feel that middle age must be approaching when the politicians start looking younger.

15

Steve LaBonne 08.01.07 at 4:30 pm

there was no shortage of idiots against the war who may be also be accused of indifference to the suffering in Iraq

What utter horseshit. Anybody who knows anything about 1) the realities of the way modern warfare impacts civilians, and 2) the artificialty and fragility of the Iraqi state and the extreme likelihood of the country’s descent into violent chaos if that state were overthrown, could have predicted that unprecedented suffering would be unleashed by the war. And so it has been. The supposed human-rights arguments for the war were never anything other than a disgraceful sham.

16

Marc Mulholland 08.01.07 at 4:44 pm

I don’t doubt that pro-war people expected on balance that intervention would improve the human rights situation in Iraq in pretty short order (I could hardly …); however, what was striking was the long period denying or ignoring evidence of the actual catastrophe as it unfolded. Extreme demonising of everyone who pointed out reality seems to have been quite a common reaction; some kind of ego-defence I suspect. As ejh points out, it’s far from being uniquely characteristic of the (ex-) ultra-left.

17

roger 08.01.07 at 5:16 pm

I didn’t think Hari went far enough, really. For instance, accepting the idea that the true forebears of al qaeda are the ‘fascists’ seems totally and completely nonsensical – it is as if the one book these people ever read about Middle Eastern history was by Paul Berman, of all people. Al qaeda is pretty obviously inspired by a wahabi line that goes back to the 19th century in Arabia and had no need of Georges Sorel, Mussolini or Hitler to give it its underpinnings. Hari’s idea that, for instance, the Taliban’s banning of music was fascist shows not only no sense of what the Taliban was about, but even what European fascism was about (Hitler banning music?). It is stupid and sloppy to mischaracterize one’s enemy, but it is also telling: getting a blurred fix on Islamist groups like the Taliban and al qaeda was essential to pretending that they were of the same set as the Iraqi Ba’athists. This slipperiness was part of warmonger propaganda before the war. It is a shame Hari can’t give it up.

Hari also didn’t go after the most puzzling thing about Cohen and the other decents – this fetishizing of the left. Cohen uses ‘Left’ so often in his writings that he must have a macro key for it. I used to consider myself on the left , and associated with that crowd until, of course, the term – always rolled out with appropriate histrionics – began to sicken me. I wonder if the Shriners are always talking about Shrinerism? In any case, the only sane reply is: who cares? when the left was important, it was important not because it was the “Left” (the historic left, the left tradition, the left this and the left that) but because it was a good idea to unionize, to provide national health care, to agitate for peace, disarmament, human rights for gays, women, people of color, and all that other good stuff. Of course, now Left parties come to power to cut national health care, encourage de-unionization, and abridge civil rights for citizens (the New Labour agenda), so screw them. The typical radical Leftist in Latin America in the seventies is now the typical advocate of the Washington Consensus – like the slippery Jose Castaneda that friend of the PAN.

The ‘decent left’ is so whacky that they have – like all pro-war people – made up an imaginary Iraq in which the unions are all carrying photos of Bush and Blair to liberation rallies. Of course, the real Iraq was discussed yesterday by Oxfam in a report that was dropped by the U.S. media, much more interested in Clinton’s cleavage at the moment – but the report showed that, thanks to Iraq’s liberation, a third of the country has now slipped into a poverty level that is close to the humanitarian crisis point reached in Ethiopia in the seventies, and in Rwanda, and in the Cambodian refugee camps in the seventies.

18

Barry 08.01.07 at 5:41 pm

Roy: “I do not think it ought to be assumed that the “pro-war left” are any more indifferent to the carnage in Iraq (or not inclined to “dwell upon unpleasantries such as the collateral dead.”) than anybody else – if anything, supporters of the war ought to feel the pain more keenly than those that opposed it (as much of any of use can, sat safe and sound away from it all).”

They have a funny way of showing it – denying that it’s happening, and then continuins to endorse policies which brought it about.

“…but there was no shortage of idiots against the war who may be also be accused of indifference to the suffering in Iraq (it’s grist to their mill).”

By that standard, those who did not bring about a catastrophe are judge vs those who did solely by their concern – as opposed to having done it.

19

engels 08.01.07 at 5:49 pm

there was no shortage of idiots against the war who may be also be accused of indifference to the suffering in Iraq

This is exactly right: they can be accused of indifference to the suffering in Iraq and they were accused of it, vociferously and almost continuously; it is just that these accusations were for the most part groundless slurs promulgated by the pro-war clamourers, who insisted on misrepresenting their opponents’ motivations rather than admitting the possibility that anyone might be motivated to reject the invasion by a principled opposition to or scepticism of aggressive wars, and that such a view might be grounded partly in a concern for the very people the “liberal interventionists” claimed to want to help, a concern which has been tragically vindicated by events.

20

Luis Alegria 08.01.07 at 7:18 pm

Mr. Bertram,

Auden is amusing, but the fact remains that Byron risked and gave his life in a noble and worthy – and successful – cause, that would have failed without a large number of Byrons.

To expand on the subject, without the heroic, men are not led. A cause without poetry and myth is badly handicapped. An army, or a people, fighting for “good government, eventually” is much weaker man-for-man than one that is passionate about fighting evil. I have seen this first-hand.

If your side cannot bring on board at least a few with the true belief, or if there is no true belief, you have a side of certain losers, when the stress comes. All you have going for you is inertia.

And you seem to have placed your side in a curious place, where the true believers do not believe in what you claim to be your ideals at all. Who will die for nuance and passivity ?

21

engels 08.01.07 at 7:39 pm

Can somebody please explain what point, if any, is being made in #20?

22

Steve LaBonne 08.01.07 at 7:41 pm

Many people in Iraq are dying horribly for the lack of “nuance and passivity” of the warmongers. More heroic ignorance and more willingness to inflict death and destruction for supposedly “noble” causes are hardly the qualities the human species needs these days.

23

Timothy Burke 08.01.07 at 7:43 pm

Where have you seen it first-hand, Luis?

It seems to me that a very wide range of World War II memoirs testify to the opposite: that the American men who fought that war were frequently cynical about their leaders and about the propaganda, shunned starry-eyed hero worship, and nevertheless rolled up their sleeves to fight as ordinary men because, what the hell, it was a job that needed doing. Not to mention in many case, because they didn’t want to disappoint their buddies, which is still a basic part of small-unit cohesion in warfare.

I’m guessing that most of the “first-hand” examples of what you’re talking about are found in war movies and comic-books. This kind of heroic mythology might be what people on the home front need to believe in order to keep giving political support to a war: it isn’t often what the men and women in the trenches need.

As far as Byron, his main contribution to the Greeks was financial. He could have died anywhere from incompetent doctoring after coming down with a cold. Come to think of it, some of the keyboard brigades might yet manage to make a heroic contribution to the cause if this is the standard they have to meet.

24

Backword Dave 08.01.07 at 7:49 pm

21 Engels, I think the point Luis was trying to make was best put by a third poet: “The best lack all conviction; while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” ;-)

25

Luis Alegria 08.01.07 at 8:06 pm

Mr. Burke,

Manila, 1983.

Senator Aquino gave his life for liberty. That heroic example instantly generated a movement of millions, who risked “lives, fortunes and sacred honor”, in unprecedented defiance of the dictator, and kept it up in the face of all discouragement for three years, until victory. I was at Aquinos funeral, and the astounding experience of that gathering of a million people under such circumstances was a revelation.

I have also seen at first hand the Philippine NPA (communist rebels) who sustain themselves through myth, and have survived for forty years in a bad and hopeless cause.

The heroic myth is not limited to worthy endeavors, but no worthy endeavor can succeed without a heroic myth.

“This kind of heroic mythology might be what people on the home front need to believe in order to keep giving political support to a war”

Yes.

“As far as Byron, his main contribution to the Greeks was financial.”

Not so. His biggest contribution was to make the Greek cause popular in Britain and western Europe. What he died of is immaterial – he went there to risk his life, and he is rightly counted as a martyr.

26

Luis Alegria 08.01.07 at 8:13 pm

Mr. Dave,

You are correct. That is indeed the present situation. Unfortunately too many in this chat group (soem of “the best”, perhaps ?) are taken up with perpetuating a lack of conviction.

Let us go further –

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, “

Indeed, all this scrabbling at each others innards risks precisely that.

27

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 08.01.07 at 8:17 pm

“Great Satan. Yes. [Blushes and retreats humming ‘One Trot faction meeting in a hall . . .’]”

OMG!!! We’re not worthy!!!

I owe my copy of the “Sectarian Songbook” to Duncan Chappel, a former Socialist Organizer cadre who now owns his own equity research firm.

[“There is a town far away without a single Trot…”]

Conor said:
“I was thinking about that 1984 Labour student conference when Brown announced his new Cabinet and I remembered so many of its members from those days (it sounds like someone else here remembers them to). “

It was a bit before my time to be honest: you were the legends we looked up to. I was more the Twiggy & Fitzsimmons & Jim Murphy generation: the Trots were on the wane then (though Dougie Blackstock was still knocking around).

Missed a crucial career-enhancing opportunity when, in 1991, Miliband, then at the IPPR gave me his card after being impressed with some questions I asked him and told me to give him a call as the IPPR were just getting going. Figuring that the IPPR didn’t have any money and being sick of student poverty, I never called him back. If I had, it’d be “Ambassador Sock Puppet” now.

28

Doctor Slack 08.01.07 at 8:30 pm

Roger has it exactly right.

29

John Quiggin 08.01.07 at 8:38 pm

Mademoiselle Alegria, please keep your hero-worship to yourself.

To everyone else, please don’t feed the trolls.

30

Luis Alegria 08.01.07 at 8:45 pm

Mr. Quiggin,

Run out of heroes, have you ? Thats not a good thing.

31

Ben P 08.01.07 at 8:56 pm

One thing I”m interested in – all that talk about Iraqi trade unions. How much have this lot had to say about the fact that the Iraqi government has recently declared the country’s oil unions illegal? Anybody?

32

omar shanks 08.01.07 at 9:39 pm

I missed the part where Sen. Aquino led a US-backed invasion of the Phillipines. I also missed the part where the “Left” were firm backers of Marcos, though I seem to recall that Nixon and Marcos were pretty cozy around the time the latter declared martial law.

33

roger 08.01.07 at 9:58 pm

Ben p, good point. There was an excellent article about the oil workers on the American Prospect site.
Here it is.

Luis, your point that great political movements need myths seems to me to say nothing about the worth of those movements. Myths, or a mythos, a narrative, are, in fact, what drives the anti-war movement. The narrative is a powerful one. It is about resisting the irresponsible usurpation of power by an entrenched elite that uses its position in the executive branch and in the media to create a misleading smokescreen behind which it can manipulate issues of war and peace. It is the kind of smokescreen that accomodates, at the same time, bogus charges about Iranian ‘interference’ in Iraq with selling the Saudis, longtime supporters of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, 30 billion dollars worth of WMD. It is about a small circle of ideologues who leveraged a sadly necessary war against the Taliban in Afghanistan into an unnecessary and terrible war in Iraq, and in the process both failed to achieve even the minimum aim that would justify the invasion of Afganistan – the destruction of the terrorists that attacked America – while creating the greatest humanitarian crisis in the Middle East since the Iran Iraq war. Unfortunately, this story is not supplied with heros – only villains so far.

34

Luis Alegria 08.01.07 at 9:58 pm

Mr. Shanks,

The “Left” were firm enemies of Marcos of course, except for some of the moderate-center left, who were warm collaborators. This was because Marcos successfully co-opted a lot of them through his socialist policies of nationalization and “social justice”. If you want a model for Chavez, look no further. He would have picked up a lot more of the left if he had gone more anti-American than he did. But that would have been political suicide in the Philippines.

What is more interesting than that is the nature of the anti-Marcos coalition, which was a unified front of all ideological tendencies, from far left to far right, all united to a commitment to democracy. For that reason we sat through any number of Red manifestations. For that reason also the Reds restrained themselves from excesses.

Nixon and the US were blindsided by Marcos. Nixon was no great democrat of course, but this was unexpected. Post-coup the US dealt with him as a fait accompli – which most of the Philippines did also, all under the assumption that he was inevitable and that there was no realistic alternative. Until August 21, 1983. The US government took more convincing but came around as well.

35

omar shanks 08.01.07 at 10:14 pm

#29: As Tina Turner observed, running out of heroes isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if all you want is a life beyond Thunderdome. Or as Bertolt Brecht more prosaically put it: “Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes.”

36

Steve LaBonne 08.01.07 at 10:34 pm

Meanwhile, much as I hate to break up the tea party, here’s reality.

37

josh 08.01.07 at 11:08 pm

In another response to #29: There’s a difference between having heroes, and worshipping them. I’d argue that it’s a crucial one.
In case Conor Foley is still reading this thread: well done sir.

38

SG 08.02.07 at 1:55 am

is miss alegria trying to say only the pro-war types have literary heroes? That we who oppose war aren’t aggressive enough in our views to write a decent anti-war polemic? Presumably we’re so overburdened with nuance we can’t write a good story.

Obviously miss a is unaware of “Johnny got his gun”, or its recent modern offshoot, the video “One” by that most nuanced and non-aggressive of bands, Metallica.

God these pro-war people spout unadulterated shit.

39

Luis Alegria 08.02.07 at 4:29 am

Mr. Shanks,

Indeed, people need heroes when things aren’t going as well as they should. But then, few places are “beyond thunderdome”.

40

omar shanks 08.02.07 at 4:33 am

34: So basically you’re saying that your Aquino/Marcos analogy is not particularly apt. I suppose that’s not going to stop you from prattling out of both sides of your mouth as you insist that it isn’t. But then again, the whole fuzzy notion of hero worship as a substitute for public policy and/or foreign relations is such a nebulous concept that only a determined luftmensch would embrace it as actual insight.

Hmmm, I always thought leftists were supposed to be the emotional/irrational ones. Whoda thunk?

41

Luis Alegria 08.02.07 at 4:47 am

Mr. Sg,

I’m afraid I’m a bit short of maidenly delicacy, sad to say. Oh well, I do my best anyway.

Who said anything about literary heroes ? Real ones will do better. What I am saying is that there are such things as heroes, and they are important, significant, even critical.

If by “Johnny Got his Gun” you mean Dalton Trumbo, well, I suppose you could make him into a hero if you wish, blacklisted and all that. Perhaps it is because I am on the other side of the ideological line that I can’t see it. Trumbo was working for Stalin, in the case of “Johnny” in particular, in support of a “peace” line, which didn’t last long. He turned pacifism on and off at the behest of the Party, as it suited his masters. I read “Johnny” in a Vietnam-era reprint – re-published for a reason methinks.

I have no clue about Metallica, being too old for that. They don’t sound terribly heroic if you ask me, but I have no ear for that music.

42

SG 08.02.07 at 5:04 am

luis, only the dead are too old for Metallica. Here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwW9L_qzqp8

Would you like to get into the task of smearing the other sides’ heroes? Could be a long night … but I wouldn’t end up smearing Nick Cohen – he’s already a grubby little skidmark, no help needed there.

43

Luis Alegria 08.02.07 at 5:52 am

Mr. Shanks,

You brought up a number of points that were off the topic under discussion, and I offered comments on these.

The rest of what I mentioned was in response to other tangential questions.

The point I was making was that Mr. Bertram was dismissing the role of the hero, the myth, and that if you want to insist that the prosaic defines your movement you have nothing. Your “public policy and foreign relations” are pointless and fatally weak without a genuine, live belief that is strong enough to drive bold action. The nebulous is real, although, ahem, hard to grasp.

Conservatives have traditionally accepted the importance of belief, myth, what have you. There is nothing more conservative than “the ashes of his fathers, And the temples of his Gods”.

The left merely substituted different fathers and different Gods.

Lord Byron was an example of a liberal crusader, who succeeded through martyrdom, and Aquino was another. Both achieved their ends through their “nebulous” influence.

To summarize terribly, people like Cohen, et. al. want the “left”, or whatever you fellows call yourselves, to act, to fight, to do something effective against the direct opposite of your ideology, your most natural enemies. The majority however prefers to dither, to blame their nearby political rivals (which are very little different from themselves) for this and that, to pretend to action while avoiding it. They want Byrons and Aquinos, your lot want to go to sleep.

44

Luis Alegria 08.02.07 at 6:16 am

Mr. Sg,

De gustibus non est disputandum I’m afraid.

45

Doctor Slack 08.02.07 at 6:19 am

Many thanks to Steve Labonne for that link.

46

SG 08.02.07 at 7:52 am

Miss A,

while your tastes may be completely inexplicable, your inability to read any critical opinion you didn’t write yourself is painfully clear. A repeated observation here has been that in his calls for the left to “do something effective” he has become exactly like that which he claims to fight. Is this position too nuanced for your muscular conservatism to comprehend?

47

ejh 08.02.07 at 8:23 am

Twiggy & Fitzsimmons & Jim Murphy

God, what a crew.

One of the above, by the way, despite being loyal to the Blair line to even more than the usual embarrassing degree, bas been noticeably quite on the question of the evil of drugs.

My brother reckons that this may be because he fears that people would remember him smoking cannabis at university. Which they would, because my brother shared at least one of the joints in question.

However, so as not to spoil the secret, I won’t tell you which one of the above three I am referring to…

48

useless eustace 08.02.07 at 9:21 am

“Twiggy & Fitzsimmons & Jim Murphy
God, what a crew”.
Indeed. It is my belief that most of the political ills Britain suffers from could be cured through the introduction of a law banning anybody who had ever held office in the National Union of Students from standing for public office.

49

bad Jim 08.02.07 at 9:31 am

Fuck Hillary, fuck Obama. I’ve had it with hawks.

(I have a bird feeder in my yard made from a 2-liter pitcher, with ports I carved and perches I made, kept full of sunflower seeds, to which flocks of finches throng, upon whom hawks periodically prey.)

There are good reasons to think that most Americans are not only tired of being afraid but learning to be suspicious when fear’s on the menu.

50

Conor Foley 08.02.07 at 12:27 pm

EJH: I take it you do not remember the Littleborough and Saddleworth by-election campaign then?

51

Steve LaBonne 08.02.07 at 12:29 pm

I wish I shared your optimism, bad jim. I think most ordinary Americans have been too thoroughly brainwashed to be able to grasp any time soon that the American Empire exists solely for the profit of their “betters”, and that all they get out of it is the shaft. And all it will take is a few dozen people blown up by some nitwit (who will slip through the net by “accident” when the powers that be decide it’s time for a booster inoculation) to bring the fear right back to fever pitch.

I never used to be anywhere near this cynical before our government was taken over by hardened criminals…

52

ejh 08.02.07 at 4:37 pm

I take it you do not remember the Littleborough and Saddleworth by-election campaign then?

A bit, yeah, but remind me. Does it count my story out or does it merely eliminate one of the suspects?

53

omar shanks 08.02.07 at 5:10 pm

Allegra:

I think I understand your point as well as its inherent fuzziness permits. So you think Aquino is a “liberal hero” whom “the Left” should emulate? OK. But how has “the Left” failed to emulate him? Aquino did not lead an invasion. He didn’t call for an invasion. He was assassinated while returning to his country, presumably to lead the nonviolent, political opposition to Marcos. So Aquino is not a particularly apt example for how “the Left” should have addressed the situation in Iraq, is it? You do see that, right?

For that matter, if “the Left” lacks an Iraq hero, who is the hero of “the Right”? Is it Commander Codpiece, the boy king widely considered across the political spectrum to have lost the war through sheer indifference, incompetence, and ineptitude? It would seem that passion and conviction are counterproductive unless they’re married with a little sense and reason.

Of course, if you have a little sense and reason, then you don’t have to resort to hero worship. But I suppose those overly emotional conservatives can’t understand the logic of that proposition.

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Luis Alegria 08.02.07 at 6:03 pm

Mr. Shanks,

Yes indeed, Aquino is a genuine liberal hero and martyr. So was Byron. The circumstances don’t matter – Byron was organizing a military offensive in a war for liberal principles, Aquino, as you say, was risking his life to pursue a non-violent campaign. The connecting thread is their value as heroic martyrs in furthering their cause. Both inspired others to victory.

You will find plenty of genuine liberal heroes and martyrs today, in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, who are fit to inspire a generation in the west and around the world. Some of them worked through peaceful means and others through war, some through the US military, and some through non-US civilian institutions, some Americans, many Iraqis and Afghans and people of many nationalities, but to the same ends.

But they get no attention, no publicity, no hero worship, no emulation and aspiration. The result is a deplorable lack of morale and a narrowing of goals. Because of this – or maybe this is an effect and not a cause – your side, save people like Cohen, thinks in myopic terms. The rest of you do not want to slay dragons, just win against GWB. That makes about the same amount of sense as the British Labor party of 1940 declaring Churchill their primary enemy.

This makes no sense to me. In my day these liberal (in the old, broad sense) goals were shared across party lines. We had Democratic and Republican politicians and officials help us in the Philippines, long before the US government moved officially to back us, and the US and international press was solidly behind us.

Today ? Iraqi and Afghan liberals are non-entities or even enemies to western liberals, and even Karzai is deplored by people who effusively admire Chavez.

Does the “right” have heroes ? A few more than the left I think, but as usual the right is very poor with the tools of art. Michael Yon and his emulators do an excellent job as far as that goes, but their reach is narrow and they are reporters, not poets.

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Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 08.02.07 at 6:14 pm

“One of the above, by the way, despite being loyal to the Blair line to even more than the usual embarrassing degree, bas been noticeably quite on the question of the evil of drugs.”

Well, it ain’t Fitzsimmons, and it probably ain’t Twiggy (whose main vice was trying to hump any bipedal primate with a Y chromosome), so it doesn’t take much to work out which one it is.

“It is my belief that most of the political ills Britain suffers from could be cured through the introduction of a law banning anybody who had ever held office in the National Union of Students from standing for public office.”

Well, speaking as someone who knew them from those days, it ain’t that surprising that they turned out the way they did.

Any student organization is going to have limited organization stability, and so very easy to get screwed up by disciplined Leninist factions. If NUS and NOLS would have been even more chaotic organizations than they were (and probably have went the way of LPYS or the SDS) if said Trots weren’t opposed by a similarly disciplined democratic left, how didn’t what to see an organization destroyed so soem cult-like political sects could recruit a few more newspaper sellers.

Unfortunately, it means a cadre of UK left politicians coming out of that who have it coded into their political DNA at a young age that unity and message discipline are everything, and everything gets fixed in smoked-filled rooms.

The most talented, sharpest person I knew in NOLS junked her political career a few years later ‘cos she hated what she was becoming, and went into a more spiritual bent. I won’t fault the trio above ‘cos of the sacrifices they made in terms of principles and their personal life. I wasn’t prepared to make them (not that I had the talent to be in that league anyway).

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Randy Paul 08.02.07 at 6:22 pm

The rest of you do not want to slay dragons, just win against GWB.

Perhaps it’s time to remind you of the old saying about opinions.

Even Orwell recanted his “objectively pro-fascist” label:

In December 1944, (Orwell) used his regular “As I Please” column in the Tribune to specifically repudiate the term “objectively,” and apologized by name to individuals whose views he’d caricatured and whose loyalty to England he’d unfairly questioned. Blaming “the lunatic atmosphere of war,” he explained that the habit of accusing political dissenters of “conscious treachery….is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people’s motives, it becomes harder to forsee their actions.” The example Orwell gave was a pacifist asked to be an enemy spy. An honorable pacifist, he argued, would never betray his country. “The important thing is to discover WHICH individuals are honest and which are not,” he wrote “and the usual blanket accusation merely makes this more difficult. The atmosphere of hatred in which [political] controversy is conducted blinds people to considerations of this kind. To admit that an opponent might be both honest and intelligent is felt to be intolerable. It is more immediately satisfying to shout that he is a fool or a scoundrel.” [my emphasis]

So, Mr. Alegria’s problem is that he is either lazy and making sweeping generalizations about the beliefs of those who he does not really know gives him the warm tinglies, or he is delusional and believes that he what everyone on the “left” believes.

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ejh 08.02.07 at 6:24 pm

Well, it ain’t Fitzsimmons, and it probably ain’t Twiggy (whose main vice was trying to hump any bipedal primate with a Y chromosome), so it doesn’t take much to work out which one it is.

You may or may not be right, but I won’t be enlightening you as to which (although I wish I had not rendered quiet as quite).

everything gets fixed in smoked-filled rooms.

Surely not smoke-filled, these days?

By the way, Lorna Fitzsimmons = Madame Mao.

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Brownie 08.02.07 at 7:08 pm

I wrote the piece before I read most of subsequent commotion about Hari’s piece and (while I think Hari was completely crazy to threaten legal action) you must agree the way in which some of his former comrades have denounced his ‘treachery’ is reminiscent of some of the worst aspects of the British ultra-left.

Whatever your other talents, conor, you are clearly chronologically challenged. Since his descent from decency, Hari has made numerous assaults on what were his “former comrades”. These have gone way beyond the “I’ve changed my mind; I wish they would too” variety and culminated in his recent articles on the subject in which he has been scathing of those of us who remain decent and made all sorts of fanciful assertions about our guiding principles and motivations. The only difference this time around was that some of us who’ve had a bellyful of his sanctimonious lecturing decided to give him something back.

You can put ‘treachery’ in quotes if you wish, but I’m not aware that this is word Cohen, Kamm, or anyone at HP has used or would use in relation to Hari. For what it’s worth, I just happen to think that Hari is not an especially good writer, and I’m reassured by the fact that this is a conclusion I came to long before he jumped ships over Iraq.

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engels 08.02.07 at 7:19 pm

I’m reassured by the fact that this is a conclusion I came to long before he jumped ships over Iraq.

I don’t think he really needed to jump; just put on a lifejacket or something and float towards the surface.

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Brownie 08.02.07 at 7:26 pm

The ‘decent left’ is so whacky that they have – like all pro-war people – made up an imaginary Iraq in which the unions are all carrying photos of Bush and Blair to liberation rallies.

Hmmmm. I know, both virtually and in, ahem, ‘real life’, a fair few people on what for sake of argument we’ll call the ‘pro-war left’. I can’t be certain, but I’d hazard there’s a good chance I know more people in this camp than roger. I have to say, I’m not aware of a single ‘decent’ who meets the description roger provides above. I don’t mean that there are only a few pro-war people who think like this; I mean I don’t know one.

It’s funny. I keep hearing from you guys how the anti-war side have won all the arguments and been fully vindicated by events in Iraq, and yet you still have to resort to making shit up.

Go figure.

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Brownie 08.02.07 at 7:28 pm

I don’t think he really needed to jump; just put on a lifejacket or something and float towards the surface.

Have you seen Hari in the flesh? He doesn’t need a lifejacket to float.

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Walt 08.02.07 at 7:41 pm

Luis, it’s time for you take a step back, and think about how conservative ideas, ideas that you have endorsed, have so ill-served the United States.

Everyone has heroes. Members of the left have heroes, just like everyone else. There is no universal Hero of the Left because the left is not a movement in which people submerge their individuality. It is a coalition of people trying to advance political goals. If someone on the left is looking for a savior, they turn to religion, not politics.

The right in this country has deliberately embraced an arational, emotional world-view, one that advocates action for the sake of action. Liberals would be happy to see liberalism triumph in the Middle East. But the desire is not enough, it requires planning and a practical understand of limitations. Conservatives have substituted mystical notions of will for pragmatic notions of planning. This has, predictably, led to disaster.

You abetted that disaster, Luis. Your need to find dragons to slay has contributed to the predicament that we find ourselves in. It’s time for you to take some personal responsibility, and at the very least make some minimal effort to learn from your mistakes.

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Brownie 08.02.07 at 7:50 pm

This is exactly right: they can be accused of indifference to the suffering in Iraq and they were accused of it, vociferously and almost continuously; it is just that these accusations were for the most part groundless slurs promulgated by the pro-war clamourers, who insisted on misrepresenting their opponents’ motivations rather than admitting the possibility that anyone might be motivated to reject the invasion by a principled opposition to or scepticism of aggressive wars, and that such a view might be grounded partly in a concern for the very people the “liberal interventionists” claimed to want to help, a concern which has been tragically vindicated by events.

engels,

If I were to do a mea culpa over Iraq, it would probably involve an admission on my part – I don’t and won’t speak for anyone else – that I didn’t engage sufficiently with the principled opposition to the war. This is nowhere near the same thing that you allege – namely, that I/we failed to admit the exisitence of a principled opposition. We certainly did on our blog and there are numerous, principled oppositionists who will testify to this. But you would be correct to claim that we spent too long battling the apologists and not enough debating with mere objectors. One small defence would be that it’s not our fault that the formally organised opposition to the war in this country was an SWP front organisation with a steering committee that reads like a who’s who of the derelict rather than decent left.

If, as a result of my support for the war, I’m repeatedly asked to defend siding with Bush and Cheney, don’t expect me to ignore the fact that the speaking order at most anti-war rallies read “Galloway>Rees>German>Corbyn>Benn”.

Lastly, consider how you ended your last comment (my emphasis added):

…and that such a view might be grounded partly in a concern for the very people the “liberal interventionists” claimed to want to help, a concern which has been tragically vindicated by events.

“Claimed to want to help”? J’accuse. Isn’t this the flip side of your own argument? Namely, denying the possibility that support for the war *could* be motivated by genuine humanitarian concern? Seriously, what do you think motivated Vaclav Havel’s support? Or Jose Ramos Horta’s?

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Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 08.02.07 at 7:57 pm

“Lorna Fitzsimmons = Madame Mao”

Lorna guilty of ultraleftist deviation? I am surprised!

To be honest, I’ve no idea how she turned out, ‘cos I’ve been living outside the UK for more than a decade. She always was very career-directed, but I’m not telling you anything you didn’t know already.

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Luis Alegria 08.02.07 at 8:43 pm

Mr. Walt,

As far as I am concerned I see the big picture going reasonably well, considering that it is a war. I am not impatient.

The idea behind the war was not in fact conservative at all – it is a policy that has carried over from US liberal ideas, Wilson Roosevelt, Truman, etc. It was born out of ideology but it has proven to be of great practical value. It has served the US well since WWII, and it will serve it still. The funny thing was that it was abandoned by its originators and found a niche among conservatives – sometimes an uncomfortable niche.

The US liberal-left is full of hero-worship; Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Cesar Chavez, etc., all legislated into public veneration and invoked as a secular sainthood. As a Catholic I have found it amusing how closely this resembles the cults of the saints. Among many these cults include people like Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Huey Newton and these days Hugo Chavez.

The liberal-left has a problem – they decry the lack of strategy and planning, etc., but this is merely a mask for a lack of will – because there are no plans, no strategy. By their fruits shall you know them, as the saying goes.

The other indicator is the level of interest in non-governmental efforts. Where is the privately produced pro-west, anti-terrorist propaganda ? Where are the independent efforts to reform the Pakistani (or Palestinian) educational system ?

In my day we had US Congressmen marching in Manila, not in accord with official policy, by their presence deterring the regime from a crackdown – thank you, Stephen Solarz !
What Congressmen are marching with Pakistani democrats ?

Yet another indicator – countries opposed to US strategies are perfectly free to implement their own active if pacifistic strategies, often urged on the US. The level of effort put into these things seems to indicate a distinct lack of enthusiasm.

My conclusion is that the real problem is indeed a lack of will.

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Walt 08.02.07 at 9:13 pm

Yes, your lack of will to learn from your mistakes. You have helped drive this country into the ditch. I know it’s hard to admit responsibility when you mess up so badly, on something so momentous. You don’t want to admit that you helped kill thousands of your fellow citizens, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of strangers that did you no harm. It is a heavy burden to bear, but if you want to help right the wrongs that you have committed, you must shoulder that burden.

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Conor Foley 08.02.07 at 9:51 pm

Brownie I will defer to you on that. I have also been living outside Britain for many years now and had never heard of half of these people (Hari, Kamm, et al) before I started contributing to Comment is Free. I studied at Manchester in the mid-80s where Norman Geras was Prof, incidentally, and I would definitely not put him in the same category as Cohen.

Two other ex-Manchester NOLSies, and now Govt Ministers, are John Mann and Phil Woolas (both of whom I have a soft spot for). Phil was candidate in the by-election I mentioned and one of his campaign leaflets described his Lib Dem opponent as ‘high on taxes, soft on drugs’, which showed a level of intolerance that many of us at the time felt to have been a little hypocritical. It was also the first by-election managed by Mandelson after his return to grace. The tactics used were universally regarded as very scary.

So who is the ‘talented NOLS woman’ who went spiritual? Surely not Vicky Philips? Jo Moore maybe!

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Uncle Kvetch 08.02.07 at 10:14 pm

As far as I am concerned I see the big picture going reasonably well, considering that it is a war. I am not impatient.

How noble. I’m sure your patience provides great succor to the people doing the actual bleeding.

The US liberal-left is full of hero-worship

Several dozen posts ago you were pointing out that the left doesn’t believe in heroes.

Christ on a cracker, doesn’t anybody know how to troll anymore?

69

terence 08.02.07 at 10:44 pm

Brownie:

Whatever your other talents, conor, you are clearly chronologically challenged. Since his descent from decency, Hari has made numerous assaults on what were his “former comrades”. These have gone way beyond the “I’ve changed my mind; I wish they would too” variety…

Funny, I must have missed these, can you provide any links?

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Donald Johnson 08.02.07 at 10:45 pm

“Seriously, what do you think motivated Vaclav Havel’s support? Or Jose Ramos Horta’s?”

Jose Ramos Horta, I suspect, was thinking of American aid and didn’t want to piss Bush off. I read his autobiography many years ago. I loaned it to someone (who didn’t know what the US had done to East Timor) and never got it back, but as I recall, he was quite the pragmatist, willing for entirely understandable reasons to get support for East Timor from any source whatsoever.

It’s possible he also really thought that an American invasion was just what Iraq needed. But he seemed like such a smart, cynical in a good cause person in his autobiography that I find this hard to believe.

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Steve LaBonne 08.03.07 at 12:15 am

luis, read the f’ing Nation article on widespread, vile and largely unpunished US troop mistreatment of Iraqi civilians to which I posted a link (@ #36), and let us know if that’s your idea of “going reasonably well”. Christ.

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engels 08.03.07 at 12:52 am

Brownie: saying that someone “claimed to want” something doesn’t “deny the possibility” that they did. I didn’t simply write “wanted to help” because although I’m sure this was true of some of the liberal interventionists, for others I’m not sure what their motivations really were.

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Randy Paul 08.03.07 at 2:28 am

As far as I am concerned I see the big picture going reasonably well, considering that it is a war. I am not impatient.

How very Lord Farquar of you.

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ejh 08.03.07 at 8:50 am

Conor: Phil was candidate in the by-election I mentioned and one of his campaign leaflets described his Lib Dem opponent as ‘high on taxes, soft on drugs’, which showed a level of intolerance that many of us at the time felt to have been a little hypocritical

I remembered that, but he wasn’t one of the three people I referred to! Am I missing something?

The loathsome brownie from HP: don’t expect me to ignore the fact that the speaking order at most anti-war rallies read Galloway>Rees>German>Corbyn>Benn

I think somebody needs a lesson in the word “fact”, don’t they? I seem to remember a lot more people than these being involved – though of course the HP method is to say that if people share a platform with somebody HP doesn’t like, then therefore they, too, are damned. So they win either way.

sock puppet: She always was very career-directed

You’re not kidding. Horrendous, Me-driven, haranguing, thuggish personality. Now, I believe, working for Bomb Lebanon for Freedom or some similar organisation.

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Brownie 08.03.07 at 11:29 am

The loathsome brownie from HP:

Standards, Justin. Do you realise the damage that such crude directness does to the enigmatic, online identity you’ve spent years cultivating?

I seem to remember a lot more people than these being involved

You’re absolutely correct. I forgot to mention piss-poor non-comedians like Mark Steel and the sundry Muslim Brotherhood mouthpieces.

I would write more, but what is “more”? And if I write more here, then somewhere else there is less. Less, more, more or less. Who put the ram in ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong?

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Conor Foley 08.03.07 at 11:57 am

Phil was NUS President before Vicky Phillips and then Maeve Sherlock (another gifted NOLS woman). Twigglet and Lorna came next followed by Jim Murphy (who I remember as a very young Celtic supporter from Strathclyde). I think that you can take Jaqui Smith’s recent ‘confession’ as covering the rest of us as well.

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ejh 08.03.07 at 12:39 pm

Personally I’m finding it difficult to reconcile the terms “gifted” and “NOLS”….

I may be unusual in having smoked joints but never having had a legal cigarette. As I cough for weeks every time I’m ill (“bronchial hyperactivity”, apparently) I’m not sure why I bothered. Or didn’t bother.

Do you realise the damage that such crude directness does to the enigmatic, online identity you’ve spent years cultivating?

If anybody ever works out what this means, could they let me know?

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Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 08.03.07 at 2:52 pm

Conor:
“So who is the ‘talented NOLS woman’ who went spiritual? Surely not Vicky Philips? Jo Moore maybe!”

After your time, Conor: Lucy Bailey. Was a full-time NOLSie when Paul Richards was Chair. Was smart, I thought she was a good organizer. It was the dark days of 1992, so the opportunity cost of dropping out of Labour politics didn’t look so bad.

“Personally I’m finding it difficult to reconcile the terms “gifted” and “NOLS”….”

Ah come on Justin, bury your hatchet in the dustbin of history. We’re engaging in nostalgia here, not reliving ol’ unimportant battles over who got the platform to recruit sellers of future fishwrap.

I can remember Dougie Blackstock & Duncan Chapple with some fondness, and thought they were smart people even if I was a bit player on the other side.

“You’re not kidding. Horrendous, Me-driven, haranguing, thuggish personality.”

Well, that’s your view as someone who I suspect was formerly in the newspaper distribution business: I’d have put her as being very sharp, good insight in people, and not afraid of a fight. She was a protege of Simon Buckby, who *was* someone you didn’t want to cross.

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ejh 08.03.07 at 3:14 pm

bury your hatchet in the dustbin of history

Well, I never had any direct conflict with these people as I wasn’t ever really involved in student politics (never been anywhere near NUS Conference and I’m not sure I was ever in the SU offices when I was at Oxford). But as they all got the careers and salaries they were after and don’t seem to regret a thing, it’s not so straightforward to forgive and forget as one might anybody else.

Besides, my point is that while, for all I know, they may have individually combined the talents of Shane Warne, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Leonardo Da Vinci, they were very good at hiding it. Apparatchiks are like that.

Fitzsimons. The Madame Mao thing comes from some evening watching Newsnight when I had a déjà vu moment. Lorna was denouncing away like a good ‘un – I think another interviewee may have suggested that there was some small blemish on Mr Blair’s otherwise spotless record – and I knew I’d seen something like it before. It wasn’t until some time later, though, that I realised it was Mao’s old lady at her trial.

Horrid, horrid person.

I think in some ways that makes it very hard to look at the politics involved. I don’t stand where I used to stand (where I am now, I don’t know – 42 and abroad, I guess) but I still have an instinctive horror of people who pursue their careers by denouncing leftists.

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Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 08.03.07 at 3:27 pm

“I don’t stand where I used to stand (where I am now, I don’t know – 42 and abroad, I guess) but I still have an instinctive horror of people who pursue their careers by denouncing leftists.”

Sorry, ejh, but the “no enemies to the left” is just naive. It certainly was frickin’ naive in the 1980s and early 1990s in the Labour Party.

I’m not gonna say anything on Lorna, ‘cos, well, she kipped on my couch once, and one feels a certain camaraderie from that.

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ejh 08.03.07 at 3:36 pm

“no enemies to the left” is just naive

It might well be, but it’s not what I said and not close to it.

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Conor Foley 08.03.07 at 4:29 pm

Funny someone mentioned Simon Buckby on my CiF piece yesterday.

I liked Lorna as well. You have to have a certain admiration for someone who can claim short-sighted dyslexia as part of her ‘Speaking as a . . ‘ credentials.

Dougie Blackstock was a gem though. As the song went . .

Oh Doogie he’s terrific, Doogie he is swell
He gives out all his papers free then buys the beer as well
Just why he’s in the Militant not one of us can tell
For Doogie’s much too nice to be a Millie

If it is wasnae for Doogie, where would the Millies be?
They would have a membership of slightly less than three
They’d be hanging around the conference with just the RCP
(and that is all I remember)

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ejh 08.03.07 at 4:43 pm

Me, I’ve never heard of him.

He’s not related to Les Blackstock, I suppose? (British chessplayer, wrote books in the Seventies, rumoured to be on far left).

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Flying Rodent 08.03.07 at 5:58 pm

Galloway>Rees>German>Corbyn>Benn

Damn, Brownie, I didn’t realise we were meant to choose our opinions on the war based upon who had the coolest gang.

I thought it was meant to be a weighty moral issue or something.

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Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 08.03.07 at 6:44 pm

“Simon Buckby on my CiF piece yesterday.”

Absolutely scared the shite out of me.

“Dougie Blackstock was a gem though.”

‘L – he follows Ted Grant’s line, allll the time
Dougie, Dougie, Dougie’

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omar shanks 08.03.07 at 9:34 pm

Alegria:

So you admit that Byron and Aquino have no relevance to the current situation. But the important thing is that they became heroes, you say. And what should a liberal hero have done? Why, he should have clicked his heels and marched off in support of a war masterminded by murderers and kleptocrats.

Never mind that the war has turned out so badly for the Iraqis. Never mind that they perish in greater numbers that they did under Saddam. Never mind that civil society and rule of law, fragile as they were under Saddam, have ceased to exist in Iraq. Never mind that these are consequences of the occupation, either by callous negligence or calculated design. We have to act on principle!

Never mind that respect for the dignity and welfare of all persons is a liberal principle just as much as concern for their liberty. Never mind that, in any event, you can’t stick and gun to somebody’s head and demand they become free. Never mind that Jefferson democracy rarely arises from military occupations occasioned by extensive collateral damage.

The right has its heroes, but they lack art. I rather think they have no shortage of talent. But I imagine its rather difficult for any artist to put a pretty gloss on the massive dung-heap they’ve made of Iraq.

The real heroes of this War are precisely those who opposed it, who suffered for their opposition, who faced the taunts and persecutions of braying idiots such as yourself because they had the vision and foresight to understand that this war was not the way to promote liberal values.

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Chris Williams 08.05.07 at 4:39 pm

Ah, the NOLS scum were giants in the earth in those days. Me, I had to put up with likes of Pakes, who jumped onto the conveyor belt just too late. Ha ha ha. Fitzsimmons once told me that ‘I spoke well’. I mumbled something indistinct, rather than say what I was thinking. Which I am now too polite to write. “I’ve got cancer and I wish you had it instead” was one part of it, but alas “My head really hurts – the sixth pint was a mistake” was another.

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