by Chris Bertram on September 16, 2005

Alan Johnson of Labour Friends of Iraq emails to tell me of a new online journal he’s editing, “Democratiya”: . It won’t be any great secret around here that we’ve not exactly seen eye-to-eye recently with people who call themselves the “pro-liberation” left (or similar). But Demokratiya includes writings from some people who didn’t think the war was such a great idea, such as Gideon Calder (who has an “interesting review of Walzer on war”: ), and involves some others whom I continue to like and respect. And I certainly share with them the hope (against hope) that Iraq somehow turns into a flourishing democracy. So surf over there and take a look.



A Nonnie Mouse 09.16.05 at 7:28 am

Shouldn’t they be called “Labour Friends of Headchoppers in Iraq”?

Iraqi Defence Minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi –

“We are warning those who have given shelter to terrorists that they must stop, kick them out or else we will cut off their hands, heads and tongues as we did in Tal Afar..”

Yup, looks like it. I bet Harry “Headchopper” Hatchett is in on this.


abb1 09.16.05 at 10:18 am

He says:

It was a paradox, to say the least, that the opportunity was being created by the United States under a reactionary president, but that did not make it wrong: it was what leftists used to call dialectics, though fluke might be a better word.

And then a couple paragraphs later:

And what of the decision of the ‘Marxist’ leaders of the Stop the War Coalition in the UK, and similar groups elsewhere, to view fascism as a legitimate ‘resistance’ to bourgeois democracy? This is such a remarkable adaptation of even Leninist tactical flexibility that it surely merits a book in itself.

Wanna have it both ways, man, ain’t you? When you like it – it’s ‘dialectics’, when you don’t – it’s ‘Leninist tactical flexibility’. An Iraqi peasant fighting the occupation represents ‘fascism’, while the Bush/Cheney regime merely ‘bourgeois democracy’. What a fool.


Quintin Hoare 09.16.05 at 10:24 am

Surely, Chris, the point is not what we hope may happen, but what we argue for or against in our own tiny corners of the political arena. Whatever the merits or otherwise of the US-led invasion of Iraq and toppling of the Ba’ath regime, whatever the lies told to justify it before or after the event, and whatever the incompetence and even crimes of coalition officials or military personnel since the invasion, the issues confronting anyone saying or writing anything about Iraq are still the following (just for starters):
1. Do we, as outsiders, especially in the countries with troops in Iraq, accept the validity of the elections and the institutions they produced? If not, in what conceivable circumstances could more valid ones occur?
2. Do we support the attempt currently under way to put a popularly ratified constitution in place? If not, in what conceivable circumstances could a more authentic one be arrived at?
3. Should the US-led coalition, or any individual member of it, withdraw now – or at some predetermined date in the future – irrespective of the ability of the existing elected Iraqi bodies to survive? If the answer is yes, what should our government/s say to the people and politicians of Iraq (apart from offering asylum to the defeated in the predictable all-out civil war, who ironically enough would in all probability be today’s homicidal jihadist zealots and former Saddam loyalists, given the demographic weight of their Sunni base in the overall population)?
4. How might events in Iraq unfold following a coalition withdrawal, and how might the governments of the world – starting with Iraq’s neighbours – be expected to relate to them?

It would be easy to continue…


Chris Bertram 09.16.05 at 10:46 am

Hi Quintin,

My purpose in posting on this was just to point people to the journal, and my motive was merely to be friendly to Alan, Gideon and some other collaborators in the project. My brief remarks were simply intended to make clear that a bit of friendly publicity doesn’t imply endorsement.

The points you raise are all perfectly reasonable ones. I would register a reservation about (3) though. It is simply this: that an open-ended commitment to “stay the course” can itself become part of the problem as the various parties build reliance on an indefinite foreign presence into their strategic calculations.


Uncle Kvetch 09.16.05 at 5:56 pm

I would register a reservation about (3) though. It is simply this: that an open-ended commitment to “stay the course” can itself become part of the problem as the various parties build reliance on an indefinite foreign presence into their strategic calculations.

Not to mention the fact that “all-out civil war” remains a distinct possibility even if coalition forces remain in Iraq. Quintin’s list of issues should reflect that, IMHO.


A Nonnie Mouse 09.16.05 at 6:27 pm


How does your agenda for inaction relate, say, to me (or you, hint hint) getting off my butt and pestering my MP about Britain’s failure to lobby hard for the cancellation of Saddam’s odious debt?

Points 1 through 4 may be important considerations but they clearly don’t apply to “anyone saying or writing anything about Iraq”.


Luc 09.16.05 at 6:49 pm

All nice questions, but what is the point?

If you are against war as a method in democracy promotion, if you recognize the mess the coalition has created in Iraq, what need is there to support either the war coalition or their policies? Instead, this would call for opposition, specifically to the policies promoted by Democratiya, and their version of a new left ideology, to prevent it going wrong a second time.

But yes, there is though a somewhat more objective need to fulfill the obligations created by the (IMO failed) policies of the war coalition.

The question then is, is that what is happening now in Iraq a proper way of dealing with those responsibilities? I doubt it. But since it is not a simple choice, you could easily accept the current process and its outcome as legitimate (having the seal of approval of both the UN, and the current Iraqi government), while simultaneously being opposed to it, because it remains a fucked up process.

In the current situation, the argument about what to say to Iraqi’s when things go wrong after a withdrawal, is a bit daft given that you could use that argument against any position taken in this discussion.

Since May there have been more than 400 civilian deaths a month in Iraq (*), so the civil war is already there. And who is answering for that?


Doctor Slack 09.17.05 at 1:24 pm

in what conceivable circumstances could more valid ones occur?

At any point where this question comes up, the correct answer is “in circumstances where ‘the Coalition’ effort is not being led and crafted by corrupt political hacks who don’t give a damn what you think.”


gerard 09.18.05 at 7:03 pm

I’d like to remind people here about Quintin Hoare’s use of the libel laws against the Bookmarks bookshop

his new site claims, ‘Democratiya aims to contribute to a renewal of the politics of democratic radicalism by providing a forum for serious analysis and debate. We will strive to be non-sectarian and ecumenical, and our pages are open to a wide range of political views, a commitment to pluralism reflected in our advisory editorial board.’

He forgot to add…

‘But if we don’t like what you say about us we’ll sue.’


Marko Attila Hoare 09.19.05 at 1:54 am

Gerard might do well to recall that in 1993, the SWP mobilised a mass demonstration to close down the headquarters of the BNP following the latter’s Millwall by-election victory in 1993.

In the words of the Anti-Nazi League: “Every time a racist speaks it gives confidence to the thugs who attack and murder blacks and Asians. This is why we say ‘No Platform for Nazis’. It is why we oppose the BBC and other TV stations showing BNP election broadcasts. It is not harmless or a defence of free speech to let a Nazi speak out. It is disastrous.”

So it is perfectly OK for the SWP to rouse a rabble to silence a rival group of extremists, despite the inevitable violence that results. This is ‘No Platform for Nazis’. Yet when the SWP – who have done more than any other British group to sabotage resistance to fascism in the Balkans and the Middle East – are sued for libel for telling lies, then this is a violation of their right to free speech !

God forbid that one should use the ‘bourgeois courts’ when one can resort to street violence…


A Nonnie Mouse 09.19.05 at 1:50 pm

Given Quintin’s idiotic point made above (3) it seems he is perfectly capable of tarnishing his own reputation without assistance.


Gerard 09.19.05 at 5:36 pm


Marko, I don’t take lessons on freedom of speech from former members of the WRP become cheerleaders for imperialsm. Besides can’t your daddy defend himself against mere words?

As for your equation of the SWP with the BNP – you’ve exposed yourself there mate.

Perhaps you’d like to explain your support for the Islamofascist Izetbegovic and his Mujaheddin in Bosnia?


Lee Bryant 09.19.05 at 8:30 pm

“the Islamofascist Izetbegovic and his Mujaheddin in Bosnia”

What a funny thought. You clearly never met the man … unless of course by “Islamofascist” you mean “far too polite and philosophical to run a book group let alone a country under attack.” As for “his Mujaheddin,” was that some kind of backing group?

I disagree with equating the SWP and BNP, but that is no reason to besmirch an honourable, if somewhat ineffectual, former Bosnian President. Insult each other by all means, but leave Alija out of it please ;-)

For what it’s worth I cannot bring myself to recognise the occupation and its remote control Iraqi government as a step towards democracy, but I also oppose the sectarian barbarism of the insurgents.


Marko Attila Hoare 09.20.05 at 4:12 am

Lee, I’m a bit offended that you don’t mind this bloke insulting me, but you object to his insulting Izetbegovic; there’s no ‘each other’ here, as you know…

Gerard knows something about me, but as he lacks the courage to put his full name on his posts, I’ve no idea who he is. But the SWP spent the Bosnian war supporting its own Conservative government’s efforts to destroy Bosnia, so the question of who are the real “cheerleaders for imperialism” are is one they might wish to avoid…

The SWP marched alongside Serb fascists against the Kosovo war, and alongside Islamofascists against the Iraq war. Ten years after the genocide of the Bosnian Muslims, carried out with the complicity of the British government and its supporters on the left, the latter are still denigrating the genocide victims as ‘Islamofascists’, even while they support the real Islamofascists in Iraq !

Funny how blowing up Shiite civilians in Iraq makes you a ‘resistance to imperialism’, but defending your home town in Bosnia from ethnic-cleansers makes you a ‘reactionary nationalist’ – that ‘revolutionary left’ logic never ceases to amaze me…

As for the smear that Izetbegovic was an ‘Islamofascist’ – this has been refuted by Evan Kohlmann in his book ‘Al Qaida’s Jihad in Europe’. You can read my review at the following link:


Lee Bryant 09.20.05 at 5:46 am

Sorry Marko, it was late and I was not trying to imply that you had said anything to warrant his insult to you.

You are of course right about the SWP – these days they couldn’t spot an anti-fascist movement if it jumped up and bit them on the bum. In fact, my comment in the libel thread he links to makes that point in greater detail.

I don’t share your views on the occupation of Iraq, but I also recognise that others who similarlly oppose it are often coming at this from a simplistic “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” POV.


Marko Attila Hoare 09.20.05 at 8:05 am

No problem, Lee; I agree one doesn’t always have time to choose the perfect wording for blog entries.

I think the SWP has gone beyond the ‘enemy’s enemy’ standpoint to fully-fledged ‘red-brown’ politics. After all, they have the Saddam-admiring George Galloway as their leader in ‘Respect’. And Saddam’s Baathists make the BNP look like choir boys…


Chris Bertram 09.20.05 at 8:26 am

Just returned to this thread after a period of inattention. Gerard and A Nonnie Mouse: please keep it civil. Gerard: your second post is being disemvowelled. I’m not tolerating nasty personal attacks delivered from behind a veil of anonymity.


Marko Attila Hoare 09.20.05 at 8:48 am

Another interesting fact: the SWP’s friend Galloway sued the Daily Telegraph for libel. Funnily enough, on that occasion the SWP didn’t condemn this violation of freedom of speech…

Comments on this entry are closed.