Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Foley on Cohen

All-round good-guy Conor Foley writes about What's Left? over at the Guardian's Comment is Free. A sample:

Cohen's book has been very thoroughly "fisked" for factual errors, of which there are many, but I think that this is to miss its real point. The chapters on Bosnia-Herzegovina, for example, are so ludicrous that no one who knows anything about the Balkans would take them seriously. But that is not Cohen's intention. Asking him what he would actually do about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur is like quizzing a Militant paper-seller on the impact that "nationalising the top 200 monopolies" might have had on Britain's public sector borrowing requirement (PSBR). "It is a transitional demand, you idiot," I hear someone screaming from a historical dustbin.

10 Comments:

Blogger ejh said...

I think Conor may be a little out of date, as Militant has been called The Socialist for a very long time now - I'm sure it was called that the last time I bought it, which would be some time between 1995 and 1997. Mind you he may respond that he was referring to the historical dustbin, which would be fair enough.

I'd be a little more cautious than he is about using the term "the success of global capitalism" (actually I wouldn't use it at all without a stack of qualifying terms) but I don't think that's necessarily the direct reason for the disorientation of the left anyway: that would be the dramatic shrinking of the political movement of organised labour over the last generation or so.

Which has left some of those who were dependent on it simply repeating old slogans to which no-one is listening, caused others to become as devoted followers of capitalism as they were previously critics, and sent a third set of people towards the project of bombings and invasions in pursuit of values which they would previously have pursued through labour channels.

Oh, and others have retreated into playing chess and making occasional ironic commentary on the internet...

8/01/2007 10:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Mark B said...

Militant is now known as The Socialist Party and the namechange occured some time ago, early 90's I think.

Slightly odd that Conor is criticising Cohen and seemingly questioning his left credentials for attacking Tony Blair in the 90's. However he's quite correct that in his implication that Cohen's response to 9/11 - that he felt it was nothing more than a "nuisance" - leaves him less than well placed to criticise the left now for failing to sufficently oppose Islamist terror. Once again, Cohen is rightly getting stick for attacking groups - in this case Amnesty International - who actually take risks (unlike Nick himself) to promote the values and ideals that he himself claims to adhere to.

8/01/2007 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Aarowatch (inc Cohen watch) had some good posts on this, saying it was clear Nick was insincere in his current view that, while they were right to oppose the war, supporting the Iraqis after is for what the Left and Liberals should be despised. This is because those groups that took this line - Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and even the Liberal Democrats, get nothing but scorn from him.

That Nick's reaction to 9/11 was much more like his view of Edward Said's than Edward Said's is pretty well known.

Both wrote in The Observer on September 16th, 2001 - compare and contrast.
http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,6903,552764,00.html
http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,552763,00.html

8/01/2007 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

"not supporting the Iraqis", obviously.

8/01/2007 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Mark B said...

Nick's lost it, and lost it a long time ago. It's easy to attack Said, he isn't here to defend himself, at least Christopher Hitchens didn't wait until Said had died to attack him (he, er, attacked him while he was on his deathbed). Nick's hatred of the left seems to far exceed that of Hitchens (although he hasn't reached anything like the level of absurdity and depravity that Hitchens has in his writing, Hitchens is no longer worthy of being taken remotely seriously, he's transformed into an absurd crank). Strikes me that Cohen is simply enraged by being proven wrong and the left being proven right on Iraq, and he's lashing out in desperation, attacking the objects of his derision in any way he can and failing to make anything like a coherent argument and making rather a fool of himself (not to mention demonstrating some serious hypocrisy too). Others are doing this, such as Aaro of course, but Cohen has filled a whole book with his twaddle on this subject and it's rather embarrasing, it's obscuring any reasonable points he might actually have. With the Hari attack, matters are only going to get worse in my view.

8/01/2007 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger StuartA said...

I feel bound to point out that yesterday I finally persuaded Nick Cohen that What's Left? does create a misleading impression of Edward Said's views of the 9/11 hijackers. He tells me he plans to correct this in the next edition.

That's only one part of what he said about Said, of course — the standard stuff about blaming it on America will apparently stand — but I find it vaguely encouraging that he accepted he was wrong on something. His defenders at Harry's Place characteristically took a different view.

8/01/2007 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Hitchens is no longer worthy of being taken remotely seriously

Except in his writing about religion, where he's rediscovered some of his wit and his perspective.

Oh, back to Foley - is he really arguing (I'm not sure and I don't want to make him say something he's not) that the reason Labour Party membership has plummeted was "the success of global capitalism"? I'd have thought disillusionment with the Labour government was the major cause, rather than people giving up because the economy was doing so well under their rule.

There's also, of course, the degeneration of the Labour Party internally into a series of rallies and a fast-track for automatons and careerists. I think this aspect of Blairism is much overlooked: it's all very well to discuss it in terms of policy, how New Labour differs from Old Labour in that regard - which is scarcely irrelevant of course - but it's far more than that, it's the complete change in the way that Labour politics operated. As the result was to make party membership irrelevant in any democratic way, it just wasn't worth being a member any more.

8/01/2007 04:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Mark B said...

"Oh, back to Foley - is he really arguing (I'm not sure and I don't want to make him say something he's not) that the reason Labour Party membership has plummeted was "the success of global capitalism"?"

Yes I think he is. All the points you make further down about the 'careerist' aspect of New Labour I think are correct, but I do think the "success of capitalism", though it's not exactly how I'd put it, is one reason out of many that certain people have abandoned Labour. Rather than "capitalism", I suppose "neo-liberalism" is the better term. Neo-liberalism is rather successful by and large provided you measure success in terms of strong economies, low inflation, rich countries getting richer, etc., and regard social concerns and the plight of the third world as not entering into the equation. The almost universal "there is no alternative" consensus I imagine is rather disheartening for those who oppose this idealogy, and since the Labour leadership have enthusiastically embraced this consensus, what is the point of anyone who opposes it joining the Labour Party (other than in the hope of trying to change the party from within)? 20 years ago, there were plenty of people opposed to the neo-liberal orthodoxy in the Labour Party, I imagine their numbers have rather shrunk and are probably getting smaller all the time, aside from the few hard-core left-wingers who still imagine they can "take back" the party.

8/01/2007 07:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scores on the doors

Hari - came out swinging, couple of good blows, a few miss the mark. Has Cohen on back foot. 6

Kamm - oh look, Ollie's wanking on about grammar and reaching for his history books again. 3

Norm - looks up from cricket, shakes big head sadly, back to Trent Bridge. 7

Cohen - couple of stiffeners, lurches off the stool. BAM! There goes the SWP. BAM! There goes Neil Clark. BAM! There go some Islamofascist nazi appeasers. But Hari's still standing and, yes, he's pointing and laughing. Dear oh dear. 3

HP - in a desperate attempt to distract attention from Cohen's pisspoor performance, David T pulls down Hari's shorts and gets disqualified. 0

Kamm (2,3,4 etc) - yep, he's still here. He's very well connected you know. 2

Hari (2) - straight back out, slapping Cohen silly. It's men against boy, and the boy is winning. 9

8/01/2007 08:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"He tells me he plans to correct this in the next edition."
Can we have a running tally of things he's promised to correct in the next edition? The Paul Wolfowitz thing, yes? (Or was that promise from his publishers?) This Edward Said thing. And did anyone challenge him on the wilful misquotation (twice) of Chris Harman - inserting the word "secretly"?

8/02/2007 12:54:00 PM  

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