Sunday, January 16, 2011

Oops, an apology to Michael Ezra

I don't understand Blogger's spam detection algorithm, but that's no excuse for not noticing when it wrongly dumps a pertinent comment into the 'spam' directory and doesn't let the public read it. As long ago as the 10th, Michael Ezra replied to the last post, and blogger hid his reply. I didn't notice until now, so to make amends, I will print it below. (I've also published it in the thread.) I don't agree with what he says, but I'm mortified that he might have thought that I'd censor him.

I may be an enormous hypocrite, but not that enormous. Once again, sorry.

Cian's point sums up what is wrong with the indecent left. He dismisses the decent left because they prioritise fighting fascism and cheers on those who take a stance against the state. It is exactly this sort of indecent thinking that led to the German Communist party in the early 1930s providing a unified support with the German Nazi party - united they were against imperialism. Who cares against fighting fascism when there are wider things at stake such as overthrowing the state? A little antisemitism? A little homophobia? Who cares? It might be of interest to the indecent left - but they wouldn't want any of that to be a shibboleth would they? Cian also is incorrect that my opinions are solely from reading neoconservatives such as Adam Garfinkle. I have actually read a number of books on the Vietnam anti-war left, including some by those who have remained on the left such as Mark Rudd's relatively recent book, Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen. This excludes countless contemporaneous newspaper articles from newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times. One anecdote from a journal article comes to mind: the radicals in the antiwar left were so detested that when 400 radical students were interviewed in the aftermath of the bloodshed at Kent State University, it was reported that "at least 25 per cent declared that they were told by their own parents that it might have been a good thing if they had been shot." (Lewis S. Feuer, "Student Unrest in the United States," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 404, November 1972, p.175.) One thing is quite clear: however much the Vietnam war was hated, the far left radical protesters were hated more. An honest assessment would also show that the radicals were not particularly effective. Mark Rudd acknowledges this in the preface of his memoirs: "In general we played into the hands of the FBI - our sworn enemies. We might as well have been on their payroll."


I've been very pleased at how civilised the discussion in the last thread has been. Please keep it that way.

205 Comments:

Blogger ejh said...

In all seriousness: don't you think it would be better to do what you said you were going to do, and close this blog down?

For several months, practically every post on here has either been directly about HP, or has become about them. And it's not an interesting topic. The post you quote here might lack the hatred and hysteria which it would normally possess had it been written on home ground, but it's intellectually and historically incoherent and if discussing contributions of this standard is going to be the priority of this blog, then it's really not worth the logging on to. Apart from anything else, if I wanted to read this nonsense, I could go to Idiot Central and read it there. And I don't.

Look - why was AW interesting, for a number of years? Because it concentrated on stuff like this? No. That's not interesting. I mean you can always say "God, have you seen what HP/Melanie Phillips/Ed West/Toby Young are saying now", but it's a really one-dimensional thing to do, because there's nowhere you can go with it. All you do is just gawp (or laugh) at it over and over again. You can't even engage with it very much, because there's no real engagement with people whose preferred method of communication is the shriek and whose preferred terms of description for people with whom they disagree are "fascists" and "anti-Semite".

AW was intersting, for really quite a long time, because instead of going down this route, it analysed, and traced, and discussed. It looked at people's political origins, and trajectories. It discussed why certain political trends had developed, investigated their historical antedcedents, tried to understand their peculiarities. It analysed how David Aaronovitch, in particular, had come to see the world, but also other notables such as Norman Geras and Nick Cohen. And it did so with a great deal of knowledge and a great deal less by way of rancour: and, occasionally, some symapthy. Anyway, it developed: it also saw how other people, ideas and movements developed. Maybe that's the key.

I dunno. I think it's lost its way, and not just because of the paywall: perhaps partly because the Iraq War, which defined politics for half a decade, is no longer such an overwhelmingly important element in politics.

If you're going to keep Watching, can I suggest that possibly Norman Geras might take the place of an invisible Aaronovitch? At least you have somebody there who is interested in ideas (rather than just allowing words like "fascist" to substitute for them) whose knowledge of his subjects (whatever his opinions) is beyond question, who has a thoroughly interesting intellectual and political background and who might be somebody genuinely interesting to discuss and engage with.

But at the moment, genuinely, it's poor stuff. Apart from the last thread, where my word, we actually had an interesting discussion of an important work, carried out by people who, though of varying opinions, actually knew and cared what they were talking about and were also capable of generosity of spririt towards people who disagreed. (And just because I personally don't read contemporary novels, doesn't mean other people don't.)

That was good. For several months, though, very little else has been.

It's your house, not mine, and I've enjoyed it here, but really, HP-every-time is rubbish. It really is.

1/16/2011 09:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Gosh.Thank you very much. I did think I had been censored and I thank you for this post.

I doubt that I originally wrote it as one paragraph, but that is a small issue.

I do not expect people on this blog to always agree with me. The way I understand the situation is that many on this blog are proud, card-carrying, indecent-leftists. And, of course, there is nothing indecent about me. ;)

Irrespective of any differences we may have, I fully understand that the problem was a technical one and, as such, the apology is fully accepted. No hard feelings.

Having said that, are there any Trotskyists in the house?

1/16/2011 09:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wissd said...

It would've been better for Michael Ezra had that comment remained in spam heaven, because boy is that embarassing to read.

He doesn't just misread Cian completely, but seems to think repeating mistaken cliches about how the communists worked together with the NSDAP to overthrown the Weimar republic consists of a refutation to those expressing concern with him and his mates seeing islamofascists under every bed. Let's leave unmentioned that writing blogposts about how so and so is an evil islamophobe != fighting fascism.

On the topic of the Vietnam war, it's interesting to see that Michael thinks that quote about the 25 percent of anti-war students reporting that their own parents wouldn't have minded if they been shot at Kent State reflects badly on the "the radicals in the antiwar left" rather than on these parents.

Let's not forget btw that the students murdered at Kent State were not antiwar protesters or any sort of radicals, but just people minding their own business when these guardsmen started to shoot. Not that it had been better had they been radicals of course, but it indicates that you should not hold up the people who glorify these murders to the extent of wishing it had been their children as moral paragons.

1/16/2011 09:35:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

And an apology to Justin: Blogger ate your contribution too. I'll think about that, and I am grateful for your positive remarks about AW. Actually, I think, as per the previous thread, HP is much more nuanced that the people you name. I understand Justin's suggestion about watching Norman Geras, but I think his time in the blogging firmament has passed (as has ours). This blog should die, but every time I post something, there's a small rush of comments. Unlike many blogs, while we get only a few comments, I really appreciate how well thought out the critical ones are. So, I lack the Herod instinct for the moment.

I haven't stopped being fascinated by Harold Wilson's description of Tony Benn, he immatured with age. I think if AW had a covert agenda, it was to explore why certain articulate leftists (the sort you could actually quote rather than ascribe motives to largely based on guesswork) moved 'to the right' as they 'matured'. I don't think we got anywhere, but I do feel reassured that I didn't miss out in not following them.

I think D2 was luckier than he knew at the time when he chose Aaro as the subject of this blog. I find Aaro likeable, though I consider his credulity re Iraq almost perverse. Trying to disentangle his arguments at least allowed us (that is, AW posters) to consider our own positions.

Michael, you're welcome. When I say I was mortified, I mean, I was mortified. I didn't check the spam for a while, and have no intention of censoring anyone, unless they're clearly abusive.

Blogger sends all new comments to my gmail account, which I can read on my phone. I meant to reply to Michael, but the draft-in-my-head became so long I gave it up as a bad job (and never checked the site). I thought others would come up with more succinct retorts, but I wasn't that interested, and didn't really notice that no one did; instead I was pleased that the discussion settled down to mutual backstroking between OC and HP's Rosie.

1/16/2011 10:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Martin Wissd states that my comments about the German communists working with the Nazis are "mistaken cliches."

Let us be absolutely clear. It is not me who is mistaken and Martin Wissd would do well to check his facts before he resorts to suggesting that I am mistaken:

There was for example, Hermann Remmele, a speaker from the German Communist Party, the KPD who went along to a debate by the Nazi Party. He said, "At the very beginning, I wish to make one thing clear. The National Socialist Party, like all other socialist organisations, has within its ranks a number of convinced and honest people." He went on to say, "This courage and bravery we honour and respect." [1] Or there was a different Communist speaker at a political rally in Germany in 1924 who said, "The time is not far off when Völkische and Communists will be able to unite." [2] Or we can look to Heinz Neumann a young KPD party leader who said, "Young Socialists! Brave fighters for the nation: the Communists do not want to engage in fraternal strife with the National Socialists." [3] The actions of the KPD were completely shameful. As Conan Fischer points out, In 1932 the KPD proposed United Action and posters appeared in Germany "showing Communist, Nazi and Socialist workers standing shoulder to shoulder in class solidarity against the bourgeoisie." In fact, the term United Action was used because the Communists did not want to use the term Anti-Fascist Action as it would alienate the Nazis! [4] The KPD, backed by Russia, ensured that Hitler could finally take power. One former German Communist commented that Zinoviev said to him in 1933, "Apart from the German Social Democrats, Stalin bears the main responsibility to history for Hitler's victory." [5]

Of course, in August 1939, the Russian Communists and the German Nazis cemented their friendship with the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Communists such as Sean O'Casey who was on the editorial board of the Daily Worker demanded peace with Hitler. [6]

And it was not just those Communists who supported Stalin that were making pacts with Hitler - those Communists who supported Trotsky did not want "Imperialist" countries such as Britain or America to fight Hitler either. In America, the Trotskyist Labor Action took the position that World War II, like World War I, is "a war between two great imperialist camps … to decide … which … shall dominate the world." It is "a war of finance capital … a war for stocks and bonds and profits … a war conceived and bred by world capitalism." Labor Action went so far as to attack the trade unions who supported Roosevelt's decision to go to war. Max Shachtman used the paper to launch an assault on another socialist for jumping "into the War Camp." [7]

The conclusion of all this is clear: The Stalinists made a pact with the Nazis and the Trotskyists did not want America or Britain fighting the Nazis.

References:

[1]Abraham Ascher and Guenter Lewy, "National Bolshevism in Weimer Germany: Alliance of Political Extremes Against Democracy," Social Research 23:1/4 (1956) p. 468
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid. pp. 477-478
[4] Conan Fischer, "Class Enemies or Class Brothers? Communist Nazi Relations in Germany 1929-33," European History Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 3, July 1985 p. 271
[5] Robert C. Tucker, "The Emergence of Stalin's Foreign Policy," Slavic Review Vol. 36. No. 4. (December 1977) p.584
[6] George Watson, "The Eye-Opener of 1939 or How the World Saw the Nazi-Soviet Pact," History Today Vol 54. No. 8. August 2004, pp. 48-53
[7] Edward Alexander, Irving Howe: Socialist, Critic, Jew (Indiana University Press, 1998) p. 13

1/16/2011 10:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

It is also not true that I see "islamofascists under every bed." What I do see, and what the main writers (and I do not speak for those in the comments boxes)for Harry's Place do see, is Islamists in certain mainstream Islamic organisations such as the Muslim Council of Britain or Islamic Forum Europe and the like. There is plenty of evidence for this and Harry's Place has provided an awful lot of it in numerous blog posts. Incidentally, I do not tend to write those posts as my main interest is Communists.

The quote I used about the parents of the students at Kent State was to highlight an example of what was the case that "however much the Vietnam war was hated, the far left radical protesters were hated more." I see Martin Wissd has not tried to refute this claim and as well he should not: because it is part of the historical record.

1/16/2011 10:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Chardonnay Chap,

I completely understand. As I said, I fully accept your apology.

1/16/2011 10:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Sheesh, Michael and Dave - get a room, already.

I know...maybe HP and AW should merge?

Justin, would you like to do the introductory post?

1/17/2011 01:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Actually, I might not agree with it, and other writers of HP might not agree with it, but within reason, I should be happy to accept a guest post at HP highly critical of the general view of "decency" provided on the blog. All that would need to be done is a very short intro by myself such as:

"This is a guest post by XYZ of Aaronovitch Watch. It is presented for the purposes of discussion and not because we necessarily agree with its contents. Please behave in the comments boxes. Thank you."

Please do let me know if you would like to take me up on the offer. As I said, it should be some kind of reasoned criticism rather than a simple stream of abuse.

1/17/2011 09:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

As I said, it should be some kind of reasoned criticism rather than a simple stream of abuse.

We of the AaroWatch tribe are simple folk - we sing, we dance, we comment - so perhaps you could let us know which of the posts here you'd class as "reasoned criticism" and which you consider to be "a simple stream of abuse". I can't immediately recall any of the latter.

1/17/2011 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I was thinking of writing a post about Nick Cohen essay in the Spectator Liberal England Dies Again, but don't know what to make of it. I've started to think that he writes down his ideas and better phrases on old style library index cards and just shuffles them when he writes for the Observer. Here, he tipped the box out. According to Nick, the Liberal Party (surely a different thing than England?) died between the World Wars. Some time later it went on a 'long march' [facepalm]. How did this miracle happen? Nick doesn't say.

So far, Nick's essay has three comments, the third being published as I checked it to write this. (The essay is spread over six pages, and when I went from pages 5 to 6, the comment count went up.) It ends:

The article struck me as the wish being father of the thought.

This is very often true of NC.

NB The essay appeared today in the Mail, subbed so every sentence is a paragraph. [Headdesk]

1/17/2011 01:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Phil,

I must admit that I have not, by any stretch, read all the posts on this blog and as such I am not really in a position to comment. My offer pretty much stands. If you wish to write a reasoned critique of a Harry's Place post or type of post and would like it to appear as a guest post on Harry's Place then please send it my way. There is no reason for me to make this offer if I did not mean it.

1/17/2011 01:18:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

One more point. Nick:

Conservative-minded readers may think that the British liberal-left is good for nothing, but, trust me, we are world leaders when it comes to the vituperative art of denouncing sellouts.

One wonders if he was aware of the spats between Little Green Footballs and the rest of the right blogosphere not so long ago.

Nick:

They [Liberals] ought to have known it, because they, more than anyone else, revelled in deploying the wild language of betrayal against Tony Blair.
He had taken Britain into an ­‘illegal’ war, they claimed, although no court ever said it was unlawful; he was a ‘liar’ who had knowingly sent British troops to their deaths on a false premise.


Been a while since I read it, so here's Pretty Straight Guys on Amazon: "'Cohen's ridicule of New Labour is masterly.' Michael Portillo, The Times" It's OK for Nick to call Blair slippery, but not for anyone else.

1/17/2011 01:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Michael - my point (if it wasn't obvious) was that, although your invitation was presented as a friendly gesture, its wording implied that AW contributors if left to themselves will write posts consisting of "a simple stream of abuse". I think that's a fairly unflattering characterisation, and I'm slightly surprised to find it's not based on any evidence.

(Some of the things I don't personally like about the Decent Left can be summed up in the words "judgmental", "passive-aggressive" and "evidence-free". Not that any of us are immune to those vices, but some Decents seem to treat them as virtues.)

1/17/2011 05:02:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Mr.A(senior) isn't entirely stuck behind the paywall.

I think this might be the hateful and hysterical sort of post ejh refers to:http://hurryupharry.org/2010/06/11/from-the-vaults-the-times-december-18-1917/. Perhaps "Mikey" as he sometimes styles himself on HP should be flattered by this comparison to Christopher Hitchens.

Though in general I'd agree with ejh that to focus on such characters rather than the more reasoned and articulate representatives of Decency(and here I'm not sure we're even talking about Decency, but just those who hang around it to try and focus it as an anti-communist project) is to diminish the quality of thinking. Both CC and Flying Rodent seem to have been quite willing to go to HP to point out their failings, is there any reason why that has to drag over to here(except that some of the brilliant prose they use there is lost every time the Augean comment boxes are cleaned out)?

1/17/2011 05:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Phil,

Actually, I have often made such an offer to my political opponents. The caveat that the post is not simply a stream of abuse is not directed simply to writers for this blog but as a general caveat. Hence, I do think you are being slightly harsh or possibly judging my motives for writing that here. I simply do not know who you are or who any of you are. The fact that you all use pseudonyms does not help matters. If I knew your name, and possibly your reputations, I might be in a better position to judge whether you would launch into a stream of abuse. You are correct that this could be checked if I went through all posts on this blog and looked through all comments, but it is easier to just make a general caveat.

Moreover, I have good reason for my concern, as I have been the subject of abuse on more than one occasion. One only needs to consider the comments on this post at the Socialist Unity blog. I trust that any impartial reading of those comments will concur that the abuse I suffered was uncalled for, unjustified and, quite frankly, disgraceful.

1/17/2011 06:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

I'd be interested to read the kind of piece Michael suggests. 'Decents' and 'Indecents' both sometimes exaggerate the evils of the other side, or perhaps judge the other side by its more extreme or aggressive followers/manifestations. I've found that on the odd occasion when I've been able to have a sustained, detailed and civil internet exchange with someone who seems in a different camp, as it were, to my own, we've sometimes realized that the gap between us is narrower than we'd thought ...

1/17/2011 10:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Michael - yes, the abuse you came in for on that SU thread was pretty disgusting stuff. But the post itself was quite a long way from being a stream of abuse - and the number of people who came to your defence on that thread is a credit to SU and its readership, particularly given that you've described many of them as potential murderers.

1/17/2011 10:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the follies and crimes of Stalin's 'social fascism' policy are well known, but it's a lie that the KPD refused to fight the Nazis; to give one example,there were 14 Nazis killed in gun battles with the KPD in Oct-Nov 1931, and this struggle was continued despite the suicidal and schizophrenic policy pursued by the KPD leadership. As Trotsky recognised, they should have worked with other groups on the left, but to point the finger of blame exclusively at the KPD ignores the policies pursued by the SPD leadership which were equally responsible for the schism of the German Left. After all, the SPD were complicit in the suppression of the Left by the Freikorps and they had the blood of many German revolutionaries on their hands. The SPD continued their attacks on the communists throughout the last years of Weimar - on May Day 1929 the SPD chief of Berlin police turned the guns of his officers on a KPD demonstration and then attacked working class areas on KPD support, killing 30. While exclusively blaming the Communists is convenient for right-wingers, it's far from the whole story.

A final word on Trotskyism. Trotskyists lacked neither the courage nor willingness to fight fascism, and had been dying in this cause in Germany, Italy and Spain for years before 1939, and would continue to do so as members of the resistance. However, cheering on an Imperialist war in which the Left becomes an accessory to the ruling class is a different matter. You'd need to engage with the reality of the policies of the Western Allies - the massacres of thousands of German and Japanese workers in bombing raids, their continued suppression of colonial independance movements during the war, their restoration of fascist collaboraters after liberation, their attacks on the Greek Left in 1944 - to appreciate the Trotskyist position here, rather than merely indulging in the usual finger-pointing.

1/17/2011 10:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, AW has lost its way. The pay wall is responsible. What about RW, Rentoul Watch? Good idea?

Rentoul Watcher

1/17/2011 11:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Sarah,

Thank you for your comments.

@ all

I am very willing to engage with those whose opinions I do not agree with. If this were not the case, I would not have commented on this site. What I am offering is more than a comment in the comments box, but a post which could potentially lead to a lengthier debate about "decents" vs "indecents" or Hitchens vs Chomsky or even the democratic left vs the revolutionary left. I also think that Harry's Place would be quite a good place to host it - I am theoretically happen with somewhere else, but HP is quite a "big" blog and is well read and as such it would enable the views of "indecents" to gain from an audience that that they would not normally gather. A more neutral blog would probably get a lot less readership. It is an idea. If it appeals get back to me.

Phil,

I am glad you concur that some of the comments on that SU post directed at me were "pretty disgusting." You add, "the post itself was quite a long way from being a stream of abuse." I am not sure if you noticed but I wrote the post! Andy Newman simply cross posted one of my HP posts without my permission, but not to my annoyance, with a short introduction to SU. It is also true, as you say, that some came to my defence - but the point I was really making was the one about if there was a guest post written for HP, I would not want one with a stream of abuse. It was some of the comments on that site SU post that I had in mind.

You also say that I have described many of the SU readers as potential murderers. Well, yes, I did describe Trotskyists as potential murderers. I am really not sure why they should be upset about this. Surely they have studied the Russian Revolution? Surely they know about the Cheka and the Red Terror? Surely they know a little as to what went on at Kronstadt? Aren't some of them current or past supporters of the type of Trotskyist who used to sing "Hang the Tories from the lampposts when the Red Revolution comes"? They might not have done, but that is because they are lazy, but have they read, Trotsky's Terrorism and Communism: A Reply to Karl Kautsky? Trotskyists may not be Maoists, but surely they would not disagree with Mao's famous line: "Revolution is not a dinner party"?

1/17/2011 11:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/17/2011 11:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Sarah,

Thank you for your comments.

@ all

I am very willing to engage with those whose opinions I do not agree with. If this were not the case, I would not have commented on this site. What I am offering is more than a comment in the comments box, but a post which could potentially lead to a lengthier debate about "decents" vs "indecents" or Hitchens vs Chomsky or even the democratic left vs the revolutionary left. I also think that Harry's Place would be quite a good place to host it - I am theoretically happen with somewhere else, but HP is quite a "big" blog and is well read and as such it would enable the views of "indecents" to gain from an audience that that they would not normally gather. A more neutral blog would probably get a lot less readership. It is an idea. If it appeals get back to me.

1/17/2011 11:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'You also say that I have described many of the SU readers as potential murderers. Well, yes, I did describe Trotskyists as potential murderers.'

Well, from a who supported the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Gaza, this is some chutzpah. I trust describing our friend here as a 'cheerleader for mass murder' will merely be considered a hat-tip to historical accuracy.

James O

1/18/2011 12:12:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

What about RW, Rentoul Watch? Good idea?

No. A terrible idea. What we found out at Aaro Watch was that Aaro was worth watching. We thought Nick Cohen might be worth watching, too, and it turned out that we were wrong about that (but we had some fun along the way). But it's just crazy to think that Rentoul might be worth a smidgeon of a fragment of anybody's attention. He isn't.

1/18/2011 12:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Anonymous,

You can't simply dismiss the fact that the KPD denounced the SPD as "social fascists" as one of Stalin's well known follies and move on. This was very important. Both the KPD and the Nazis were after the same working class supporters. The Nazis had actually more success in recruiting the working class. Because, also, the Nazis attracted the support of the Protestant "petite bourgeoisie" they began to have a substantial electoral advantage. It was the success that the Nazis had in recruiting the working classes by 1930 that started to worry the KPD.The idea of the United Front of the KPD with Nazis was used by the KPD as a way of trying to recruit Nazis who they believe had been led astray. Noting the working class support that the Nazis had, the KPD argued for strikes to be successful, the Nazis needed to be involved. The Central Committee advised against Communist individual terror and the net result was that "activists" in the Communists left for the Nazis for some action. Because they both supported civil disturbances, it is not surprising that in some areas the Nazis were very receptive the KPD with their strike calls. This was all great for the "United Front" and it was a result of such "success" that led to United Front calls to drop the use of names such as Anti Fascist Action.

It is true that there had been fights in 1931 between Nazis and Communists but Conan Fischer (earlier reference p.273)explains it quite well:

"The fighting between Communists and Nazis, ritualized by the wearing of tattered, makeshift uniforms and insignia, probably helped to maintain a degree of distinction between the bedraggled followers of the swastika and the followers of the hammer and sickle. However, the KPD’s United Front tactic in particular had enabled extensive grass-roots links to develop between these two apparently hostile camps. Ordinary Nazis were assured that the KPD had no quarrel with them, ordinary Communists were told to recognize working-class Nazis as their misled class brothers. The KPD even argued that because of the economic crisis, petit bourgeois Nazis were objectively part of the proletarian movement."

Of course, the history told by many sympathetic to Communism, leaves out much of this.

1/18/2011 12:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Anonymous (and I can very well understand why he does not wish to put his name to what he has written - he should be ashamed) has said:

"Trotskyists lacked neither the courage nor willingness to fight fascism..." blah blah blah.

He then goes on to denounce the "imperialist war" and seems more worried about Allied bombing of Germany and Japan - both of which he is keen in his anonymity to mention - but doesn't bother with what he might consider "mere details" such as the Nazi occupation of Poland, France, Holland, Hungary, the Nazis expansionist tactics, the Blitz, nor the Holocaust.

But we do not need to worry too much about anonymous said because his disgraceful position does not in the slightest surprise me - Such people are not known as indecents for nothing.

The Trotskyists not only opposed support for the democracies in WWII, they put Great Britain and France on a moral equivalent level as Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy:

"But isn't the working class obliged in the present conditions to aid the democracies in their struggle against German fascism?" … We reject this policy with indignation. Naturally there exists a difference between the political regimes in bourgeois society just as there is a difference in comfort between various cars in a railway train. But when the whole train is plunging into an abyss, the distinction between decaying democracy and murderous fascism disappears in the face of the collapse of the entire capitalist system… The victory of the imperialists of Great Britain and France would be not less frightful for the ultimate fate of mankind than that of Hitler and Mussolini. Bourgeois democracy cannot be saved."

But it gets even worse. Here is Trotsky himself arguing that the chances for the revolution will be better if democracies collapse and the Nazis conquer Europe:

"From the standpoint of a revolution in one's own country the defeat of one's own imperialist government is undoubtedly a "lesser evil." Pseudo-internationalists, however, refuse to apply this principle in relation to the defeated democratic countries. In return, they interpret Hitler's victory not as a relative but as an absolute obstacle in the way of a revolution in Germany. They lie in both instances.
… Even in the event of a complete victory over England, Germany in order to maintain her conquests would be compelled in the next few years to assume such economic sacrifices as would far outweigh those advantages which it might draw directly from her victories… Hitler will have too many worries in Berlin to be able successfully to fulfill the role of executioner in Paris, Brussels or London. [Emphasis added]"

How absolutely disgusting. What a morally sickening position. Staying anonymous indeed!

1/18/2011 12:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Michael - yes, the abuse you came in for on that SU thread was pretty disgusting stuff. But the post itself was quite a long way from being a stream of abuse

I think most of us posting at HP would settle for consistent application of this principle whereby an effort is made to distinguish between op-ed and comments.

1/18/2011 01:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Witchsmeller Pursuivant said...

Michael Ezra - given your postings over at HP I'm shocked that you'd even consider yourself of the Left.

Brownie - you never seem to post at HP any more, you just pop up on other people's blogs on HP's behalf defending its reputation. Is it because almost all the HP commentariat is now far-right loons or Zionist wingnuts? Why do you think that is?

1/18/2011 08:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Witchsmeller Pursuivant said...

Michael - I should be happy to accept a guest post at HP highly critical of the general view of "decency" provided on the blog.

With deepest apologies to ejh, perhaps you'd like to engage with the points that he made in his critique of the Decent Left, nearly three years ago on this very blog;

1. The "Decent Left" is, essentially, an anti-left movement: criticism of the Left, not only criticism but basically damnation, is its main thrust and purpose. It is a contemporary phenomenon although nothing that it says is basically new, nor is the way in which it says it. It has a great deal in common with the old Atlanticism of the rightwing of the Labour Party, the more aggressive rightwing and anticommunist strands within the Labour movement, and Cold War liberalism.

2. Its proponents, broadly speaking, come from two basic political backgrounds. One is the number of small leftwing groups outside the Labour Party, mostly, in Britain, Trotskyite in nature where they were not the Communist Party: but also the old Right of the Labour Party, especially that part which was most hostile to CND and Bennism and yet did not leave the Labour Party. In either case the Decent Left has attracted a minority of these political trends (which were, of course, hostile to one another).

3. We therefore have those who were always deeply pro-NATO and opposed to the Left and to peace movements, or those who used to be on the opposite side but have renounced those positions. In both cases a certain visceral hatred of the Left is central to their outlook.

4. In the case of the ex-members of the far Left, there is a great deal of score-settling involved, which may in part reflect distress at the amount of time they feel they wasted in a politics they now consider harmful. As is not uncommon with the politics of the "ex", their hostility can be utterly unbalanced and disproportionate and they will tend to be unaware of this. Issac Deutcher's comments are still of relevance here.

5. The ex-far-leftists in particular can be accused of importing a number of bad rhetorical habits from their old politics, including an extremely aggressive polemical style, a fondness for identifying betrayers and apologists, a keenness for denunciation and for requiring their adversaries to disassociate themselves from one another, and a liking for inference in analysing other people's statements, so that they are made to say what they probably do not. They are unaware of the aggressive, bullying character this gives them. They also have the old red-baiter's liking for a witch-hunt.

1/18/2011 09:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Witchsmeller Pursuivant said...

6. Although, as said above, there is nothing entirely new about either the politics of the approach, they are like all political trends, formed by political characteristics particular to their times. These would include the invasion of Iraq and the Afghan and Yugoslavian interventions that preceded it, all of which they not only supported enthusiastically, but took as an opportunity to denounce people who did not. (It does not follow that because one supported any or all of those actions, one is on the Decent Left: what matters is the enthusiasm and the denunciation.) It would also be impossible to understand their emergence without reference to the general worldwide decline in socialist belief over the past generation, or the contemporary problem of radical Islam, which they are in favour of tackling with the same aggression that is their most obvious characteristic. Other political trends, including a certain aggressive pro-market liberalism (e.g. the Progressive Democrats in Ireland) tend to resemble them in their attitude to the Left.

7. In some ways their development can be seen as a problem of agency. In either of their backgrounds, they used to be attached to a labour movement which was considerably more powerful, in a number of ways, than it is today, and whose decline is perhaps the most important background factor in influencing contemporary politics. In a way similar to that observed (fairly or otherwise) by Orwell in locating enthusiasm for Stalinism as a transferred patriotism, they have shifted their allegiance to the Western democratic state in general but to its overseas military interventions in particular. They expect it to perform a world-transformative role in a way analogous to that which they previously expected (or hoped) of the proletariat and they retain the belief that the casualties will ultimately be proven to have been worth it.

8. Their enthusiasms extend to Israel, which they support critically in theory but enthusiastically in practice. They take a psychopathologising view of the opponents and critics of Israel. They also tend to be enthusiasts for the politics and personality of Tony Blair.

9. Their domestic enemies, whom they lump together, include the remaining far-Leftists, leftwingers in general and opponents of military action in Iraq. They see themselves as the left because they wish to define themselves as the furthest point Left in acceptable political discourse. In this desire to exclude the Left from the bounds of acceptable politics – and to see it as essentially violent and pathological in nature – they are not entirely unusual among those closer to the political mainstream.

10. A certain philistinism can be detected in their output, perhaps reflecting a dislike and distrust of intellectuals, who may be suspected of relativism. This, in turn, perhaps reflects their propensity to see the world in black-and-white terms and to take a position that who is not with them is against them.

1/18/2011 09:16:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Michael Ezra is just a poor man's Oliver Kamm - a hardline blairite 'amateur historian'. not in the slightest bit left-wing, with questionable obsessions. claims to admire both Tony Blair and Nick Cohen.

best to just ignore him.

though there IS something here about Decency as a political movement - since it's entirely defined by what, and who, it opposes, it can unite someone who is intellectual, reasonable, and undoubtedly left-wing such as Aaro, and someone like Michael Ezra.

1/18/2011 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Justin's list still looks pretty authoritative to me. A shorter summary of Decency, though - like The Bottom Inspectors from Viz, parsing technicalities to denounce half the country's population for political badthink rather than for piles.

I've always thought that, if there's one thing that defines Decency in all its fierce intellectual honesty and its laser-like focus on truth, it's the mind-boggling amount of time that Professor Norm, Nick C., HP and various other figures have devoted to the pretence that the word "understand" means "condone and support". Because all of our political foes can be proven despicable, if we pretend that they've wholeheartedly endorsed nail-bombing pizza restaurants.

Thus do we get Paul Berman penning novel-length denunciations of the things that minor French political figures don't say. Ladies and gentlemen, your Decent Left, where "Resisting fascism", "Making shit up about people we don't like" and "Banging on about ninety-year old ideological squabbles" are synonyms.

1/18/2011 10:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Witchsmeller Pursuivant,

Firstly, I am always amused when people make comments such as yours:"given your postings over at HP I'm shocked that you'd even consider yourself of the Left." The views I express at HP are, and I have never denied it, anti-Communist.You might have correctly guessed, given some of my comments about Chomsky, that I am opposed to the anti-American and anti-British left. Beyond that, what do you know about my political positions? Probably not much, for the simple reason that I do not often give my own position. I am more interested in highlighting what I find to be perverse or obscure - typically the rantings from communists of various stripes. Now, I hope I do not need to remind you that some of the most effective anti-Communists have been people on the left. One only needs to consider what Michael Foot did with Militant. But perhaps you think Michael Foot is of the right? Maybe you would like to elaborate?

Secondly, in relation to the points from ejh, I could, with his approval, publish them as a guest post on HP for comment, but I do not really think it is that interesting. What those points try and do is define decent leftism. Now, of course I would disagree with some, but not all, of what comes up in those points, but it is not really a critique of decency is it? It is an attempt at a definition. Consider the following from point 1:

"It has a great deal in common with the old Atlanticism of the rightwing of the Labour Party, the more aggressive rightwing and anticommunist strands within the Labour movement, and Cold War liberalism."

What is there for me to say about it? I could simply say "And? So? What is your point?" Consequently why I could accept these 10 points for a guest post, don't you think it would be better to have a critique? If you wished to write something as to what was wrong with cold war liberalism then, I am sure, we could have a better debate. Is that fair?

1/18/2011 12:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

For clarity, as I have been asked, it looks like the comment I made yesterday at 11:39:00 PM has been removed by a blog administrator. The fact is that it was a double post of mine. It was not a comment that I had written that was censored.

1/18/2011 01:12:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

Michael Ezra's free to write whatever he likes (just as I'm free not to read it) but one thing I will say is that I'm not sure mixing analysis of Soviet atrocities with empty bitches about powerless Marxist groupuscules is quite what Solzhenitsyn had in mind. The Berlin wall has fallen, dude.

1/18/2011 01:55:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

The thing I will most when this blog disappears is Ejh's comments. That analysis of the Decent Left was absolutely masterful and beautifully written. Considering the fact that most blogs are written by people who either can't write or have nothing worthwhile to say, it is a crying shame that he doesn't update his own blog more regularly.

1/18/2011 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

I was originally a fan of the Indecent Left blog. I migrated here when that became dormant foe want of an alternative, not because I thought Aaro was worth watching. Since he has signed up to every coalition policy, what's the point now.

There was a need for a critique of 'decency' and the Eustonians, but that movement died in the blood-soaked sands of Iraq. How I wish that was the only death.

Most of the 'decent' left have either retired - as in the case of 'Harry Steele' (I wonder what he makes of his site being run by an avowed anti-communist), re-ratted - Hari is the only example I can think of, or moved unambiguously to the right - Aaro, Cohen, Bright etc.

As for Ezra - what do you think is the point of debating with him? He's only a politer incarnation of Kamm.

1/18/2011 02:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Cian also is incorrect that my opinions are solely from reading neoconservatives such as Adam Garfinkle.

Its the fact that you quoted Adam Garfinkle as being an authority that destroys your credibility. There are all kinds of credible historians on the right and the left who have grappled with the extremely complex political eddies of the late 60s and early 70s. But rather than use them, you instead used a tired old hack like Garfinkle. Nobody can stop you pretending to be a historian, but we will laugh at your pretensions.

1/18/2011 02:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Blogger just ate my post. Dave, don't bother reposting it, it was crap.

Michael you completely misread what I wrote. Look its simple. A core tenet of being a socialist is not fighting fascism, and one can fight fascism without being on the left. Yes left wingers may find themselves in a position where they might think its necessary to fight fascists, but its hardly what defines them.

I don't dismiss the decent left because they fight fascism, I just find it curious that they are so anxious to prove their "left wing" credentials, despite never actually saying anything very much about left wing topics. So Michael, you claim to be on the left. What is it about your views that you consider left wing?

1/18/2011 02:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian, I utilised Garfinkle for one thing and that is his central thesis that the anti-Vietnam war radical activists hindered more than assisted the possible shortening of the Vietnam War. But my general point can be made using a number of sources. This point being that the anti-Vietnam War movement was more unpopular than the war was and, if anything, they put people off.

E.M. Schreiber comments ("Anti-War Demonstrations and American Public Opinion on the War in Vietnam", The British Journal of Sociology Vol. 27, No. 2 [Jun., 1976]pp.225-236):

"The unpopularity of Vietnam war protesters, plus the lack of association between public opinion on the war and feelings toward protesters suggest that demonstrations largely were irrelevant to Vietnam-related opinions.... The assumption that anti-Vietnam war demonstrations reduced, or helped to reduce, the American public's support for the Vietnam war, then, is not supported
by the evidence."

But, more importantly, Schrieber comments on the Berkowitz study of numerous demonstrations between 1965 and 1971 with over 10,000 participants in the USA and compared them to subsequently published opinion polls. "The major finding was that American public opinion did not appear to respond to anti-Vietnam war demonstrations in terms of either disapproval of American involvement in Vietnam, disapproval of the President's handling of the Vietnam situation, or disapproval of the President's handling of his job. There was, however, a modest relationship between the occurrence of a demonstration and a subsequent increase in favourable opinion of the President's handling of the Vietnam situation."

In other words, if there was any effect of all those demonstrations, it was more likely to strengthen support for LBJ/Nixon!

Regarding my own political positions - have you seen my views on the death penalty (against), the Federation of Conservative Students (deserved of ridicule), the journalistic output of socialist writer, Laurie Penny, (in favour)? I guess not. My political views are quite decent, which is far better than them being indecent.

1/18/2011 04:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian, I utilised Garfinkle for one thing and that is his central thesis that the anti-Vietnam war radical activists hindered more than assisted the possible shortening of the Vietnam War. But my general point can be made using a number of sources. This point being that the anti-Vietnam War movement was more unpopular than the war was and, if anything, they put people off.

E.M. Schreiber comments ("Anti-War Demonstrations and American Public Opinion on the War in Vietnam", The British Journal of Sociology Vol. 27, No. 2 [Jun., 1976]pp.225-236):

"The unpopularity of Vietnam war protesters, plus the lack of association between public opinion on the war and feelings toward protesters suggest that demonstrations largely were irrelevant to Vietnam-related
opinions.... The assumption that anti-Vietnam war demonstrations reduced, or helped to reduce, the American public's support for the Vietnam war, then, is not supported
by the evidence."

But, more importantly, Schrieber comments on the Berkowitz study of numerous demonstrations between 1965 and 1971 with over 10,000 participants in the USA and compared them to subsequently published opinion polls. "The major finding was that American public opinion did not appear to respond to anti-Vietnam war demonstrations in terms of either disapproval of American involvement in Vietnam, disapproval of the President's handling of the Vietnam situation, or disapproval of the President's handling of his job. There was, however, a modest relationship between the occurrence of a demonstration and a subsequent increase in favourable opinion of the President's handling of the
Vietnam situation."

In other words, if there was any effect of all those demonstrations, it was more likely to strengthen support for LBJ/Nixon!

1/18/2011 04:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian,

Regarding my own political positions - have you seen my views on the death penalty (against), the Federation of Conservative Students (deserved of ridicule), the journalistic output of socialist writer, Laurie Penny, (in favour)? I guess not. My political views are quite decent, which is far better than them being indecent.

1/18/2011 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Moderator,

It seems that one of my posts - commenting on Adam Gardinkle and the Vietnam War anti-War left has disappeared. Can you please retrieve it?

Thanks.

p.s. Have you thought of moving over to WordPress?

1/18/2011 04:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

yes, I did describe Trotskyists as potential murderers. I am really not sure why they should be upset about this.

See above re: "passive-aggressive", "judgmental" and indeed "evidence-free" - neither you nor I can possibly know which way any given present-day Trotskyist would jump in any given moment of revolution or counter-revolution. Denouncing people for what you think they would do in a hypothetical situation, based on your interpretation of their stated beliefs, may be an enjoyable pastime, but it's no fun at all to watch.

1/18/2011 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Am I up to date in de-spamming everyone's posts? It was me who deleted Michael's duplicate comment. If Cian wants his earlier reply back, I can do it.

1/18/2011 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Can someone tell me where the original Adam Garfinkle mentioning comment was? The only post I intentionally removed was the one I thought was a duplicate of Michael's. Blogger tells you that this isn't permanent, but not appear to offer a way to retrieve 'content removed' comments.

As for moving to WordPress, we're still trying to retire altogether.

1/18/2011 04:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Chardonnay Chap,

You are currently up to date withh my posts. Thanks for checking.

Phil,

Seriously, have you ever read any of Trotsky's output? He explicitly calls for the violent overthrow of the bureaucracy. I cannot think of a single Trotskytist party/organisation that would not declare that they supported, in Britain as an example, the violent overthrow of parliamentary democracy. If you are aware of one of one, I shall be pleased to know, but you will not find one as they would all, virtually by definition, support such violence and a dictatorship of the proletariat being installed. And do not be under any illusions, the Bolsheviks surely were not: this violence involves killing people.

So, if I am being "judgmental", it is because I have good cause to be so.

1/18/2011 05:03:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

...have you seen my views on the death penalty (against), the Federation of Conservative Students (deserved of ridicule), the journalistic output of socialist writer, Laurie Penny...

I can't claim to be a leftist of much standing but I've always thought that if the term describes anything it's a belief in overcoming the exploitation of class structures through the redistribution of power/wealth. Much as I admire Laurie I'm not sure that holding favourable views towards her allows one to claim a place within the broad socialist tradition.

Moreover, a term like "decent" and "indecent" doesn't signify a lot. Proud Nietzscheans or Stirnerites aside, perhaps, everybody likes to think they're nice people.

1/18/2011 05:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Chardonnay Chap

My comment referencing Garfinkle was on this Harry's Place post. I responded to a comment by Flying Rodent on January 7, 2011 with the following:

"You suggest that the idea that Nixon’s election can be blamed on the antiwar movement is “comically blinkered, to say the least.” You would be wrong in this view. I suggest that you read Adam Garfinkle’s book, Telltale Hearts as this is his thesis – and he is not the only one. Had the radicals rallied round someone such as McCarthy and had they encouraged people to vote for him and and campaign for him rather than denouncing him and Kennedy as “Li-be-rals” or “McKennedy” then he could have possibly been elected as the Presidential candidate and defeated Nixon in the 1968 election -and end the war much sooner than it did do."

1/18/2011 05:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

I am off out now, but a post of mine is missing - one responding to Phil on Trotskyists. Please retrieve thanks!

1/18/2011 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Bensix gets it part right, IMO. I'll come to where he's right in a minute. If I vote at all again, I'll probably vote Green, but I'm drawn to both the Monster Raving Loonies and the Pirate Party. Ever since I outgrew a t-shirt with pirates on it when I was about seven, I've known that Pirates are not, in fact, terribly romantic people and piracy is not a sensible career path.[1] Lunacy allegedly disqualifies one from being elected to the House of Commons, so party of raving loonies and moster ones at that should not hold the appeal it does.

On the other hand, if I were to get a knock on my door from a canvasser from a party with an appealing name, like 'Justice' or 'Freedom' or something innocuous, like 'English Democrats', the patina of civilisation will fall.

See, I *like* identifying as an 'indecent'. It sounds a little naughty in a Frankie Howerd kind of way, and I just don't trust people who have to tell you that they're good. I much prefer those secure enough in themselves that they don't need piety.

Everyone thinks they're decent, and we're never going to all agree on what 'decent' is. Although if I had a webcam on now, a consensus might form pretty rapidly.[2] This is where Ben is right: 'decent' doesn't mean a lot. At least when Aaro referred to himself as 'decent' I think he meant it in the best way, sort of beige and reliable rather than shining white and virtuous.

I have to go out now. I think the rule of thumb is: blogger doesn't like long comments. Keep 'em short and you should be fine. Michael, it may be lost, but I'll do what I can to unlose it when I return.

[1] Unless one is offered the part of the Dread Pirate Roberts, of course.

[2] I kid.

1/18/2011 05:32:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

incidentally - in light of EJH's request for other topics - has anyone else on here read hatherley's obok on Blairite town planning vs utopian modernism and brutalism? It's really, really good. not finished it yet and no time to review, but still.

EJH stop looking nhow:

cor, HP troll invasions (and make no mistake Mr Ezra is an uber-troll) of Aarowatch, back to the 'good' old days...

in any case, I'd have thought that Mr Ezra's politics are prtty clear to work out. he loves Tony 'such a wonderful PM' Blair and is immensely proud of the work he does with hedge funds. He also manages to really love nick cohen, whose most important books are blair-bashing.

what more do you need to know? he's just a troll who pretends he's well-read historically. best to just ignore him.

just as an aside, though, i do find it funny that anyone's actually using the phrase' decent left' as som sort of badge to be proud of. the whole reason the phrase is ridiculous, and the reason we use it as a term of ridicule over here, is that it's by definition a self-regarding phrase, delineating what counts as 'decent' and indecent' - sadly, Mr Ezxra doesn't seem to have noticed that.

to go back to the beginning - in my beginning is my end, after all - i was just looking over how good old cuddly David Toube treated Owen Hatherley, a while back. clearly 'decent' doesn't have to mean 'pleasant', 'fair', or 'grounded in reality'.

1/18/2011 05:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

If Cian wants his earlier reply back, I can do it.

No, I consider it a mercy killing.

1/18/2011 05:41:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

...has anyone else on here read hatherley's obok on Blairite town planning vs utopian modernism and brutalism?

No (because I'm a dreadful skinflint and flinch from paying for hardbacks). Still, I think that Anna Minton's Ground Control covers similar ground - as a diagnosis, at least - and that was very good. Recommended. N' shit.

1/18/2011 05:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

I hardly think "organic cheeseboard" is being fair in calling me a troll. This thread was really directed at me as can be seen from the title. Moreover, the reason I commented on the previous thread, the one that ultimately led to this being published was because the first comment on that thread was about me. Responding to something that is written about you is hardly trolling.

1/18/2011 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

indeed not.

but this:

My political views are quite decent, which is far better than them being indecent.

and this:

the history told by many sympathetic to Communism

and this:

As I said, it should be some kind of reasoned criticism rather than a simple stream of abuse.

most definitely are instances of trolling.

1/18/2011 11:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Michael, my problem with Garfinkle is not particularly his politics (there are very good historians on the right), but the fact that the man's a hack. The fact that you chose to use a hack from the right...well, I return to my point about why do some people claim to be on the left. I'm sure that all kinds of points both ways can be made if one is sufficiently selective with the sources one uses. An honest, or competent, scholar would acknowledge that its actually very difficult to make an argument either way, due to the sheer complexity of public opinion at the time. That's the difference between a historian who's actually interested in the subject (one of the more fascinating moments in US political history), and a dull monomaniac with a political axe to grind.

Regarding my own political positions - have you seen my views on the death penalty (against), the Federation of Conservative Students (deserved of ridicule), the journalistic output of socialist writer, Laurie Penny, (in favour)? I guess not. My political views are quite decent, which is far better than them being indecent.

Oooh, look at her. You do realise that none of those things make you left wing. I know a fair few right wing Catholics who vehemantly oppose the death penalty (and do something about it), Tory MPs ridicule FCS and plenty on the right admire Eric Blair. Being on the left means that one is trying to redistribute power/wealth from the various elites to the masses, and overcome the exploitation, blah, blah. Its kind of a central tenet. I'm kind of amused that you think you're on the left, but also a little baffled.

1/19/2011 08:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Organic Cheeseboard,

I do think it unfair for you to take the odd comment of mine - admittedly I made them - to imply that what I am is a troll. Even if those comments themselves are trolling (and I am not saying they are), it does not detract from the fact that many of my comments are quite detailed with which I perceive to be a serious point to make. I also often reference (with full details of the reference so it can be checked) books or scholarly articles. Anyone viewing this thread can see what I do.

Besides, I should say that I am much more polite on this blog and other blogs that I disagree with than those on the far-left who comment on my posts on Harry's Place. Even though this is the case, I do not accuse them of trolling. Possibly unlike you I welcome debate. And if that last sentence is trolling, so be it.

1/19/2011 09:51:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeesboard said...

Possibly unlike you I welcome debate. And if that last sentence is trolling, so be it.

indeed it is. 'politeness' and a 'willingness to provie sources' don't really make up for your stedfast refusal to actually engage with the points other commenters have made on this thread while trying to bait commenters into making 'mistakes', in order to help move you away from any uncomfortable questions or topics - such as, for example, the fact that your political beliefs are fairly clearly right-wing.

and that, i'm afraid, is the (or at least my) definition of internet trolling.

as i've said, you're a low-rent version of that other tedious right-wing amateur historian oliver kamm, and you're very obviously trying to follow his career path. it won't wash.

1/19/2011 10:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian,

Telltale Hearts is a very good book. Have you read it? I doubt it. The problem is that many other books dealing with the similar subject - including Tod Gitlin's The Sixties (which I have read) romanticize the anti-war movement.

For the purpose of my comment in the Harry's Place box, and that is all it was, a comment to a blog post such as this - in fact arguably less important than this - as Harry's Place comments are on line are on line for a maximum of 7 days - the reason I mentioned Garfinkle was because of his central thesis - one that I shall return to. Had I discussed another matter of the anti-War movement - for example the breakup and problems that developed between the Maoists and those who supported Ho Chi Minh at the point of the ping-pong diplomacy then I would have referenced Max Elbaum's Revolution in the Air because it was when reading his book that I first considered some of the more severe ideological problems that would have arose in the anti-Vietnam War New Left movement. If I were to refer to the beginnings of the anti-War movement, a book that comes to mind that I might have referenced would have been Thomas Powers' The War at Home and so it goes on: If I wanted to discuss what happened in Chicago, I might use John Shultz's The Chicago Conspiracy Trial, if I wanted to discuss some of the music that influenced New Leftists, I might indeed use Gitlin's book, and if I want to discuss American public opinion during the Vietnam War towards the war or the anti-War movement - I might use one of a number of academic journal articles that I have, including the one I have referred to earlier in this thread. I see nothing wrong with this approach - and in fact I see it as far better than someone who would look at a book - say it was written by Garfinkle - and hence determine it worthless.

But now let me come back to that central thesis of Garfinkle. You do not need to read his book, in fact you do not need to have read any book on the anti-Vietnam War movement, all you need is some general awareness of what went on for the following point I wish to make. Some in the anti-War movement like to take credit for various outcomes in the political decision making of the war. They like to think that they won or at least had great successes. Thomas Powers, in his book mentioned above dealing with the period 1964-1968(p.318), as an example, gives "the antiwar movement" credit for creating "the necessary conditions for the shift in official policy from escalation to disengagement." For the point I wish to make it actually does not matter whether he was right or wrong, but what does matter is what was the outcome of all these demonstrations which reached a peak in 1967-1968? It is a matter of historical record that in November 1968 that President Nixon, a Republican, won the Presidential election. One wonders if many of those activists who believe they were successful in changing American public opinion or even creating conditions that assisted in official policy being changed have stopped to consider what kind of success they can really claim if the result was the election of Nixon.

You state, "Being on the left means that one is trying to redistribute power/wealth from the various elites to the masses, and overcome the exploitation, blah, blah." All I can say is no, that is being a Marxist. I am certainly not a Marxist and please do not substitute (to use a word from Trotsky) being a Marxist for being on the left.

1/19/2011 10:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian,

Telltale Hearts is a very good book. Have you read it? I doubt it. The problem is that other books dealing with the similar subject - including Tod Gitlin's The Sixties (which I have read) romanticize the anti-war movement.

For the purpose of my comment in the Harry's Place box, and that is all it was, a comment to a blog post such as this - in fact arguably less important than this - as Harry's Place comments are on line are on line for a maximum of 7 days - the reason I mentioned Garfinkle was because of his central thesis - one that I shall return to. Had I discussed another matter of the anti-War movement - for example the breakup and problems that developed between the Maoists and those who supported Ho Chi Minh at the point of the ping-pong diplomacy then I would have referenced Max Elbaum's Revolution in the Air because it was when reading his book that I first considered some of the more severe ideological problems that would have arose in the anti-Vietnam War New Left movement. If I were to refer to the beginnings of the anti-War movement, a book that comes to mind that I might have referenced would have been Thomas Powers' The War at Home and so it goes on: If I wanted to discuss what happened in Chicago, I might use John Shultz's The Chicago Conspiracy Trial, if I wanted to discuss some of the music that influenced New Leftists, I might indeed use Gitlin's book, and if I want to discuss American public opinion during the Vietnam War towards the war or the anti-War movement - I might use one of a number of academic journal articles that I have, including the one I have referred to earlier in this thread. I see nothing wrong with this approach - and in fact I see it as far better than someone who would look at a book - say it was written by Garfinkle - and hence determine it worthless.

1/19/2011 10:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Organic Cheeseboard,

I find it astonishing that you say that I have a "refusal to actually engage with the points other commenters have made on this thread." All I have done is actually do that - consider their points and respond. Take a look at my responses to Martin Wissd.It has taken me time and effort to prepare those responses.

Right-wing I guess is all relative. Compared to Stalin, yes, I am on the right. Are you happy now?

1/19/2011 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

the reason I mentioned Garfinkle was because of his central thesis etc.

Having wasted a considerable amount of time speaking to you on that thread Michael, I'll remind you that you mentioned Garfinkle because you were flailing around for poor excuses to avoid talking about the conduct, aims or outcome of the Vietnam War. Then, as now, you continually widened out your points to ask me and others a variety of questions on the minutae of numerous lefty microgroups over a span of years, while refusing to answer some very direct and specific questions yourself.

As I said then and will repeat now, you don't need to be a genius to work out why you'd far rather discuss the ten-member Revolutionary Resistance Army Of Fucko's activities in nineteen-sixty-arse than one of the century's most pointless military adventures and mass slaughters*.

It's unusual for the poster to troll the commenters but it's impressive that you and your fellow bloggers attack convention with such enthusiasm.

*And note that "Hey, I have an academic interest in the Revolutionary Restistance Army of Fucko and my opinion on the Vietnam War is irrelevant" is a particularly stark example of trolling, equivalent to climbing under a bridge and waiting to jump out on unsuspecting billy goats.

1/19/2011 11:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Telltale Hearts is a very good book.

I have, though not recently. A (Very right wing) friend lent it to me, and because I like him and didn't want to offend him, I skim read it. Having tried to dredge my memory of the book, I find that most of it is lost to me (thank God): but a couple of things stuck because they were highly irritating:

1) Mel Small doesn't make the argument that Garfinkle attributed to him. I know this, cos I've read him. Whatever the merits, or otherwise, of Small's arguments - Garfinkle's inability to characterise his argument properly gives me little confidence that he treats any of his other material more honestly/carefully. This kind of thing really pisses me off, and is part of why I call him a hack. I'm not sure that I agree with Small, but his argument is at least worth engaging with, rather than dodging entirely.

2) Nativist Anarchism. Seriously, WTF. Ahistorical, dumb, stupid. That's up there with Jonah Goldberg's definition of fascism. Because when I think of 60s protestors my mind is instantly filled with the "Know-Nothings". And if he didn't mean that, then he's obviously too ignorant to realise what such a term would mean to people with some knowledge of US political history. Hardly a point in his favour.

The rest as I recall was the usual tedious, and unconvincing, arguments about how the war was winnable, but those damn hippies undermined them. I have just one phrase for the doofus: "Gold Standard".

Then the ending was some kind of David Horowitz style rant about environmental protestors, or something, via fairly demented praise of Saint Reagan.

So yeah, anyone who could take such a deeply partisan and flawed book seriously, is not someone who I'd take very seriously as a historian. Sorry.

Todd Gitlin is not an objective source on anything to do with the 60s, incidentally. He has what is called "an agenda".

1/19/2011 11:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

You state, "Being on the left means that one is trying to redistribute power/wealth from the various elites to the masses, and overcome the exploitation, blah, blah." All I can say is no, that is being a Marxist.

So the majority of the Labour party along with Social Democrat parties in Europe have historically been Marxist. I'm not sure that you're a troll, but you're certainly too stupid to bother with.

1/19/2011 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

I'd also add the following:

1) that whatever the merits of the tactics, the protesters were right. It was a pointless, astonishingly vicious and bloody slaughter.

2) Whatever the sins of the protesters might have been, the state treated them far more savagely than anything they ever did remotely justified.

3) Why would anyone think that Johnson's mute VP would end the Vietnam war - a war started by a Democrat, and escalated by his successor. I mean is that even a serious argument?

1/19/2011 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Flying Rodent,

I find it amazing that you cannot comprehend that someone such as myself might have much more interest in the Vietnam antiwar movement than in the Vietnam war. I also have a lot more interest in the activities of the Stop the War Coalition and those organisations such as the SWP and MAB who jumped into bed with each other to form it, than I do in the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq. I accept that my interest is not a common one, but surely an interest in far left wing organisations is not beyond the realms of comprehension.

On the subject of trolling, by the definition that it seems you and organic cheeseboard like to use, your behaviour of Harry's Place is that of trolling. But have I ever denounced you on that blog as a troll or said that you should be ignored? The answer is no; on the contrary, I often take the time to respond to you.

1/19/2011 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

I find it amazing that you cannot comprehend that someone such as myself might have much more interest in the Vietnam antiwar movement than in the Vietnam war. I also have a lot more interest in the activities of the Stop the War Coalition and those organisations such as the SWP and MAB... than I do in the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq.

On the contrary, Michael, I understand this urge very well indeed, better than you'd think. I've been watching columnists and bloggers fulminating over these two-blokes-and-a-dog outfits while studiously avoiding ongoing foreign policy fuckups and bloodbaths for years. Frankly, the whole act is no more convincing now, dressed up in a history professor's academic threads, than it was when it was wearing desert fatigues and urging us all to condemn Tony Benn, or some other globe-straddling political titan.

...have I ever denounced you on that blog as a troll or said that you should be ignored?

No, and no, and fair dues. Still, I'll leave it up to you to decide whether asking others their opinions on Vietnam-era protests, while simultaneously refusing to answer any and all questions on the actual war itself constitutes "Trolling" or not. I don't think it's indicative of an open-minded spirit of rational inquiry, myself.

1/19/2011 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian,

Firstly I should apologise for the assumption that you had not read Garfinkle's book. I do not mind that you have a difference of opinion, but at least you read it, or skimmed it.

I note that in your three messages, you do not deal with the central matter that I discussed - that how can the anti-war left consider that they had a victory if the net result of all their activities until 1968 was the election of Nixon?

You also refer to Humphrey as LBJ's VP, but you ignore the point that the radicals in the antiwar movement, SDS etc, refused to get behind specific antiwar Democrat candidates such as Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy.

On one side, the antiwar movement marched on the street chanting for revolution while the other side there was a presidential election and Nixon walked into the White House!

1/19/2011 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

but you ignore the point that the radicals in the antiwar movement, SDS etc, refused to get behind specific antiwar Democrat candidates such as Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy.

????!!!!!

Get Clean for Gene!

I don't answer your question, incidentally, because I think its ridiculously narrow and completely misses the wider picture. And I never said, incidentally, that I think the [retracted] won a great victory. You've inferred that just because I don't think much of your argument. I don't think much of Naomi Klein's books either, but I don't think that makes me a neoliberal.

1/19/2011 12:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Incidentally a far more nuanced and interesting book on the peace movements is deBenedetti's book. That actually grapples with the complexities of the time, and the disparities of the various movements. It also presents a very powerful framework for understanding public opinion of the time, and how political narratives were formed/constructed. Good history basically...

Unsurprisingly its a much more interesting book, and one which doesn't really much time for the pieties from either side.

1/19/2011 01:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Flying Rodent,

I find it odd that you feel that because I start a thread on Harry's Place that ridicules a report from 1963 that said that the war was going to end in 9 months, that you can (and in an impolite fashion)demand that I answer any single question that you throw at me on any matter of the Vietnam War. This is irrespective of the fact that I make clear that my interest is not so much the Vietnam War but the anti-Vietnam War movement.

1/19/2011 02:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian,

I have not read deBenedetti and Chatfield's book on the anti-War movement, but I do trust that it makes very clear that the only thing more unpopular than the Vietnam War was the anti-Vietnam War movement, as this was certainly the case.

I am really not sure why you have chosen not to respond to my point about the anti-war candidates as your explanation that my question is narrow and misses the point is somewhat lost on me. Surely rather than spending time marching and chanting "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, the NLF is gonna win!" that made them despised, they would have been better off ensuring a great campaign for Kennedy (his assassination could hardly be predicted) or McCarthy? Instead they simple ridiculed these candidates as "McKennedy" and "Li-be-rals." Meanwhile, Nixon walked into the White House and soon started bombing Cambodia.

1/19/2011 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

I find it odd that...

IIRC, I asked you about it because you were talking about "revisionism" in your umpteenth post on Vietnam. I thought that was a bit rich, given that you're forever on about all the awful things the leftissess did in the sixties, but you always go out of your way to avoid placing them in the context of an utterly pointless bloodbath of a war.

This is irrespective of the fact that I make clear that my interest is not so much the Vietnam War but the anti-Vietnam War movement.

On a website that's made a point of beating the modern antiwar movement while keeping mentions of the actual aims, conduct and outcomes of modern wars to a minimum. Are we seeing a theme developing here? Self-serving political utility, perhaps?

Anyway, I'll leave it at that. I doubt this is the kind of informative back and forth EJH was talking about earlier.

1/19/2011 03:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

I have not read deBenedetti and Chatfield's book on the anti-War movement, but I do trust that it makes very clear that the only thing more unpopular than the Vietnam War was the anti-Vietnam War movement, as this was certainly the case.

Well in passing, but they also show a bunch of other things and make a pretty convincing case that they shifted the debate in several significant ways, and that failures ultimately had more to do with elite opinion formers. I'm simplifying horribly of course, given its a short paragraph.

I am really not sure why you have chosen not to respond to my point about the anti-war candidates as your explanation that my question is narrow and misses the point is somewhat lost on me.

Because either you win 100%, or you lose. And winning is all about the right candidate? Why would you think that's a historically interesting question? Its designed to force the "debate" onto a narrow terrain of your own choosing. Hey, I know all the internet "debate" techniques.

Surely rather than spending time marching and chanting "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, the NLF is gonna win!" that made them despisedthey would have been better off ensuring a great campaign for Kennedy (his assassination could hardly be predicted) or McCarthy?

So the anti-war protestors who cleaned themselves up and campaigned for McCarthy don't count then? Fascinating.

Incidentally I'm actually fairly ambivalent about the anti-war protestors, but I really despise simplistic, ideologically driven, history. From either side. Just so you know.

1/19/2011 03:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Okay that's it from me. I have work to do, children to feed, squirrels to shoot.

1/19/2011 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Flying Rodent,

I know you keep on and on referring to the Vietnam War as "utterly pointless," but that is not everyone's view. Michael Lind, and I refer to him as it is the central thesis of his book, believed that the Vietnam War was necessary. His book is actually entitled, Vietnam the Necessary War.

1/19/2011 03:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian,

Your comment, "Because either you win 100%, or you lose" is interesting. Does that mean that you aim for the final outcome: revolution, if you get it you win, otherwise you lose? If so, it does not really matter if McCarthy of Nixon wins since a win by either is a loss or immaterial to the revolutionary movement? It seems a bit bizarre to me, but that is my interpretation of your comment.

Regarding the activists who joined McCarthy's electoral campaign, I have not complained about them. My argument is that had all the anti-war activists done exactly that, then perhaps as opposed to Nixon walking into the White House, he would have done, and perhaps the war would have been brought to a close much earlier than it did in 1975. If this had occurred then I would grant the anti-war movement with a victory. But looking at what did occur, all I can grant them with is the election of Nixon.

Enjoy shooting squirrels. I hope that it is not in training for shooting people. (Note to organic cheeseboard: that was a joke - I trust we are allowed those or will you highlight that as another example of my trolling?)

1/19/2011 04:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian,

Your comment, "Because either you win 100%, or you lose" is interesting. Does that mean that you aim for the final outcome: revolution, if you get it you win, otherwise you lose? If so, it does not really matter if McCarthy of Nixon wins since a win by either is a loss or immaterial to the revolutionary movement? It seems a bit bizarre to me, but that is my interpretation of your comment.

Regarding the activists who joined McCarthy's electoral campaign, I have not complained about them. My argument is that had all the anti-war activists done exactly that, then perhaps as opposed to Nixon walking into the White House, he would have done, and perhaps the war would have been brought to a close much earlier than it did in 1975. If this had occurred then I would grant the anti-war movement with a victory. But looking at what did occur, all I can grant them with is the election of Nixon.

Enjoy shooting squirrels. I hope that it is not in training for shooting people. (Note to organic cheeseboard: that was a joke - I trust we are allowed those or will you highlight that as another example of my trolling?)

1/19/2011 04:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry T said...

my interest is not so much the Vietnam War but the anti-Vietnam War movement

Similarly, my own interest is not so much in wars, or in anti-war protests (and I will not be drawn into analysis of either). My interest is solely in the phenomenon of anti-war protesters being demonised and red-baited on blogs such as Harry's Place.

1/19/2011 09:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Lobby Ludd said...

Michael Ezra, of course you are more interested in anti-war movements than the wars themselves. Their (the 'antis') weaknesses allow you to ignore the bloody destruction of the wars themselves.

Just keep beavering away, Mr Ezra, and tell us who killed whom, and why they did it. (Just for a starter, it wasn't the anti-war demonstrators who killed people.)

1/19/2011 09:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Larry T,

Why does that interest you so much?


Incidentally, I do not red-bait people because they are anti-war protesters,I "red-bait" them because they are SWP members or in some other obscure Trotskyist (as that is what is normally) sect. There are a number of anti-war protesters who are not red. In fact, some are far from red, they are quite far-right Islamists. I simply watch with amazement how the so-called left and so-called socialist, SWP ended up in bed with these far-right Islamists. Perhaps it is because the totalitarian SWP is not left at all.

1/19/2011 09:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry T said...

Well, to be very honest, for 'interest' read 'irritation'. But I'm in agreement with other posters that the moment has passed.

There are a number of anti-war protesters who are not red. In fact, some are far from red, they are quite far-right Islamists.

Yes. And there are a good deal more who are neither. But because they keep on their eye on the ball, and focus on wars that are after all their primary concern, they've been subject to years of smears and guilt-by-association-mongering by certain enthusiatically pro-war bloggers (and their friends who take no view on the wars but happen to have a purely academic interest in the endless treachery and perfidy of the left).

1/19/2011 10:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

I tried to rise to Michael Ezra's challenge, admittedly from a 'decent' (I suppose) perspective over on HP.

1/19/2011 10:38:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

At the risk of feeding the troll, to be honest, this has become pretty boring. The main point being that - when there is an imperialist war going on where "my country" or one of it's allies is bombing the shit out of some "ragheads" - the important thing is THE WAR, not who is standing alongside of me in the protest, maybe trying to exploit the situation to increase their paper sales.

1/19/2011 11:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Larry T and gastro george,

You will find I do not attack someone simply because they are against the war. In fact there are many decents who are opposed to the war in Iraq.

As Professor Norman Geras has said:

" The founding supporters of [the Euston Manifesto] took different views on the military intervention in Iraq, both for and against. We recognize that it was possible reasonably to disagree… etc’ — and that several of its original signatories (including Michael Walzer) opposed the Iraq war."

Dismissing decents as all "pro-war" is designed as a smear and it is not true. While I did support the war, I have great respect for Michael Walzer and many others who did not. In fact, it was Michael Walzer himself, who, in 2002, wrote his now famous essay, "Can There Be a Decent Left?"

Consequently, you have not seen me writing articles attacking anyone simply because they did not support and were opposed to the war in Iraq. Those I attack are because either they are Communist or part of the Chomsky cult.

I also attack people who cannot think straight as a result of their opposition to the war. I shall provide an example. I met a journalist for a national newspaper who shall remain nameless, not least because it was a private argument, and I do not think it would be honourable of me to publicly disclose the journalist's name. This was in 2006 or 2007 and the journalist went on a rant to me against the war. A whole diatribe about "Bliar," that "it was obvious to any idiot that there were no weapons of mass destruction" about the "one million deaths" and on and on it went in this passionate tirade. Finally, I managed to get a word in. My point was that even if the war was wrong then what did they advise now; it is no good going on and on about the reasons why the war was wrong to get into if there was no practical solution now that the war was under way. The response I received was that the troops should be brought home. As this conversation was during in a period of regular suicide bombings in Iraq, I asked a reasonable question: what did the journalist think would be the effect in Iraq if the troops were immediately brought home. The response was a classic: "I don't care what the effect is", the journalist screamed at me, "they should just be brought home as they should never have been sent there to murder in the first place."

I emphasised part of the response: "I don't care what the effect is", for a reason. It goes to show how disgusting some on the antiwar left actually are. They really "don't care" about Iraqi lives - all they care about is their own ideological position - the war is wrong, bring the troops home.

Such people are deserved of derision and insult. They are morally bankrupt and beneath contempt.

@SarahAB

All your comments and posts on HP are very welcome. I hope to see many more of them.

1/20/2011 12:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Larry T and gastro george,

You will find I do not attack someone simply because they are against the war. In fact there are many decents who are opposed to the war in Iraq.

As Professor Norman Geras has said:

" The founding supporters of [the Euston Manifesto] took different views on the military intervention in Iraq, both for and against. We recognize that it was possible reasonably to disagree… etc’ — and that several of its original signatories (including Michael Walzer) opposed the Iraq war."

Dismissing decents as all "pro-war" is designed as a smear and it is not true. While I did support the war, I have great respect for Michael Walzer and many others who did not. In fact, it was Michael Walzer himself, who, in 2002, wrote his now famous essay, "Can There Be a Decent Left?"

Consequently, you have not seen me writing articles attacking anyone simply because they did not support and were opposed to the war in Iraq. Those I attack are because either they are Communist or part of the Chomsky cult.

1/20/2011 12:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

(cont)... I also attack people who cannot think straight as a result of their opposition to the war. I shall provide an example. I met a journalist for a national newspaper who shall remain nameless, not least because it was a private argument, and I do not think it would be honourable of me to publicly disclose the journalist's name. This was in 2006 or 2007 and the journalist went on a rant to me against the war. A whole diatribe about "Bliar," that "it was obvious to any idiot that there were no weapons of mass destruction" about the "one million deaths" and on and on it went in this passionate tirade. Finally, I managed to get a word in. My point was that even if the war was wrong then what did they advise now; it is no good going on and on about the reasons why the war was wrong to get into if there was no practical solution now that the war was under way. The response I received was that the troops should be brought home. As this conversation was during in a period of regular suicide bombings in Iraq, I asked a reasonable question: what did the journalist think would be the effect in Iraq if the troops were immediately brought home. The response was a classic: "I don't care what the effect is", the journalist screamed at me, "they should just be brought home as they should never have been sent there to murder in the first place."

I emphasised part of the response: "I don't care what the effect is", for a reason. It goes to show how disgusting some on the antiwar left actually are. They really "don't care" about Iraqi lives - all they care about is their own ideological position - the war is wrong, bring the troops home.

Such people are deserved of derision and insult. They are morally bankrupt and beneath contempt.

@SarahAB

All your comments and posts on HP are very welcome. I hope to see many more of them.

1/20/2011 12:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Larry, _my_ own interest is not in wars, nor in anti-war protests, nor the phenomenon of anti-war protesters being demonised and red-baited on blogs such as Harry's Place: it's in the way that we here at AW have analysed that last-mentioned phenomenon.

Perhaps it's time to stick a fork in it and move on? Ezra's obviously an idiot ("I am not interested in the fact that the house is on fire, but on the bad things that some of the firefighters are alleged to have said last week.") and I doubt that any of us can better the Rodent's dissmissal sarcastic, or ejh's characterisation intellectual. Nor can the decents, apparently, answer either.

Time to stop, surely?

Chris Williams

1/20/2011 01:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

I'm a bit bemused that anyone could describe Michael Ezra as a troll - but I'll still repeat my invitation to come along and join in here

http://hurryupharry.org/2011/01/19/intimations-of-indecency/

I find the (small?) differences between moderates in both camps interesting. I feel we should have enough in common to benefit from talking to one another.

1/20/2011 07:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Moderator,

A comment of mine has gone missing. I posted it twice, once in full and once in two halves, last night. I should be grateful if you would be so kind as to retrieve it.

Thank you in advance.

1/20/2011 08:39:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I'm a bit bemused that anyone could describe Michael Ezra as a troll

it's not hard to work out. See, above, his comments about what makes him left-wing for example. trolling in excelsis.

Ezra's obviously an idiot ("I am not interested in the fact that the house is on fire, but on the bad things that some of the firefighters are alleged to have said last week.") and I doubt that any of us can better the Rodent's dissmissal sarcastic, or ejh's characterisation intellectual. Nor can the decents, apparently, answer either.

indeed. the only interesting thing is the fact that decency can accomodate the right-wing cranks like ezra and reasonable types like sarah AB and Rosie.

and that's because, as I've said up there, it's a 'movement' which is united by what it opposes as opposed to what it supports.

1/20/2011 09:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Your comment, "Because either you win 100%, or you lose" is interesting. Does that mean that you aim for the final outcome: revolution, if you get it you win, otherwise you lose?

I have no idea what you're getting at here. My point is simply that you've set up success for the anti-war protesters as getting a president elected who would have ended it. Either you get him elected, or you don't. Pass/Fail. And that's before one starts to look at the election in question... Like I said, its a ridiculous way to assess the protesters.

1/20/2011 09:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

organic cheeseboard,

Just to clarify, referring to me as "obviously an idiot" on this blog, despite the fact that the main post is an apology to me, is not trolling, but if I say that I am prepared to accept a guest post to Harry's Place from the writers for this blog that is "reasoned criticism rather than a simple stream of abuse", you can determine it, "most definitely" an instance "of trolling."

On 1/17/2011 at 12:58:00 PM, Phil said that he could not "immediately recall" any posts that were a stream of abuse. Perhaps he should consider Chris Williams' comment at 1/20/2011 01:07:00 AM where he refers to me as "obviously an idiot" and organic cheeseboard's post of 1/20/2011 at 09:22:00 AM not only concurring but adding that I am a right-wing crank and implying that I am unreasonable.

1/20/2011 09:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

I simply watch with amazement how the so-called left and so-called socialist, SWP ended up in bed with these far-right Islamists. Perhaps it is because the totalitarian SWP is not left at all.

Ah yes, because it is far better to maintain moral purity, than to try and get things done in alliance with people you disagree with on a variety of topics. Hell, you might even help change their mind on a few topics as a side affect. It has happened, not that you'd know anything about that because HP doesn't actually DO politics. Of course you guys don't even bleat about anything terrible relevant. We have a huge financial/economic disaster, financial ogliarchs and HP have nothing to say about it. Some "leftists". Ironically you guys now resembles those far left groupsicles you sometimes run into, still fighting the battles of the early 70s. Enjoy the ghosts.

1/20/2011 10:02:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

the thing is that i genuinely think you're unreasonable, Michael. you claim to 'believe in debate', yet you've been given a fair few opportunities on here to state your political views - and the best attempt you made at staking a claim to not being right-wing was that you think Laurie Penney is a decent writer. I think Alex Massie and Simon Jenkins are pretty good as well, i like reading Evelyn Waugh. that doesn't make me right-wing.

after that you've stedfastly avoided any other discussion of your own political views despite having it repeatedly pointed out to you how flimsy that 'evidence' is. either that's idiocy or it's wilful ignoring of the debate - ie trolling.

and that's linked to a core problem with decency. you're fairly obviously right-wing, and that's fine. loads of my mates are.

yet the only way you can characterise your political views is being 'anti-communist'. Decency is a movement united not by what it supports, but what it opposes. which is why it's genuinely funny to see you embracing the term.

1/20/2011 10:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

SarahAB,
the problem is that while the "Decent" left tend to define themselves by their opposition to people who disagree with them. Those who disagree with them don't, on the whole. There was a time, long since past, when there was a big debate to be had about the Iraq war, and the GWOT, so the focus of the "Decents" was relevant. But now, well it just seems dated. It has some relevance, but the terrain of the debate has moved on, but it seems that the Decents have not.

But on the topic that concerns most people, the financial crisis, inequality, shock neoliberalism by the Tories, Banking, etc, etc - do the Decents even have a position on this? Do they care? Do they understand it? Who knows. Its probably not helped by the fact that Decents seem to encompass people like Ezra who doesn't even seem to understand what left wing poltics is, to people who at least have some background in left wing politics. There's no common cause there.

But I think that it also points to an identity crisis. With the collapse of communism/eurocommunism, much of the left assumed that capitalism won and looked to find ways to accommodate/soften neoliberalism. An impossible project, but one which meant one basically lost the central identity of the left. So everyone dissipated into identity politics of various kinds with a loose connection to an idealised enlightenment. This also allowed people who were quite comfortable with the economic status quo (because they were wealthy - see for example Harry Toube), to kid themselves that were still fighting for the excluded.

But the financial crisis has torn that to shreds. Its not really possible to hide behind the rags of identity politics when class war is both so naked and so one sided. I don't really know where that leaves the Decents, and I don't terribly care. My own concern is how "we" can rebuild some kind of alternative to capitalism, given the failures of the last 30 years on the left. Red baiting doesn't terribly worry me, while I'll leave worrying about the GWOT to the marketing departments of the security services.

So Sarah, do you disagree? Do you think you guys are still relevant?

1/20/2011 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

To sort of make my point Sarah, I had a look on HP. I couldn't actually find a single post on anything even terribly political. Certainly nothing left wing. The closest were Libby's stupid posts on alcohol (stupid because of the argument used, than because of her conclusion) and on the fifth page an odd post on feminism. Oh and something about the by-election.

1/20/2011 11:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

On 1/17/2011 at 12:58:00 PM, Phil said that he could not "immediately recall" any posts that were a stream of abuse. Perhaps he should consider Chris Williams' comment at 1/20/2011 01:07:00 AM where he refers to me as "obviously an idiot" and organic cheeseboard's post of 1/20/2011 at 09:22:00 AM not only concurring but adding that I am a right-wing crank and implying that I am unreasonable.

Don't be silly. A comment and a post are very different things - and even those comments, while certainly not flattering, had rather more about them than a "stream of abuse".

More to the point, you obviously didn't have those comments in mind when you accused us - politely - of being prone to writing posts consisting of streams of abuse.

This - far more than any particular political stance - is what characterises Decency: it's consistently self-righteous and judgmental in a way that's confrontational, disruptive and rude. Your own insistence on using the term 'indecent left' is a very small example of this - just how many people would be happy to have an opponent label them in this way? If you want debate, that's not how you go about it.

1/20/2011 11:46:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

iirc i think the decent response to the economic crisis was, and is, to blame gordon brown for everything.

1/20/2011 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Slight return here - Michael, Euston signatory Francis Wheen used to be a big fan of the following quote from Susan Sontag, and would haul it out at the slightest excuse...

Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Reader's Digest between 1950 and 1970, and someone in the same period who read only The Nation or the New Statesman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of Communism? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?

I put it to Michael that somebody who read only, say, my blog or even the Guardian, would be perfectly aware that the Taliban are bastards; that the Iranian regime a bunch of awful shits, and also that I'm an overly-verbose smartarse who likes to complain about things.

On the other hand, a person who read only Harry's Place, Professor Norm, Nick Cohen and so on might know the same things. Crucially, I think they'd also believe that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were actually qualified successes rather than horrifying catastrophes, and that all criticisms of them are motivated by either smug, posho contempt for the victims of tyrants or by active support for tyranny;

That talk of whatever torture, murder and extrajudicial detention the US had been proved to have committed was at best wildly overblown; that the world's leading human rights organisations are infested with Islamists and communists, all of them in cahoots with murderers;

That almost all criticisms of the Israeli state are motivated solely by near-Nazi levels of racist hatred; That they're actually an entirely reasonable bunch who rarely put a foot or a cruise missile wrong; that they've barely killed or persecuted anyone, this last thirty years, and that those who have been killed either wholly deserved it or, worse, were not killed at all because their deaths were a hoax invented by anti-semites...

And so on, and so forth. Far from being an honest outlet for information, Decency evinces none of the characteristics of independent and objective analysis. Rather, it's a worldview that shares much in common with conspiracy theory, riddled as it is with baleful mobs of malevolent, psychopathic political foes whose motives are never pure and not merely misguided, but are, in their own small way, actively working towards the destruction of western civilisation itself.

Honestly Michael, it's your own patter writ large. An HP reader would have an encyclopedic knowledge of the internal politics of minor UK parties that have never even managed to get a candidate elected to the PTA, let alone Parliament... But they'd have no idea that coalition forces in Afghanistan have by now killed thousands upon thousands of civilians.

So who would have a better grip on reality, Mike? Someone who read only the Readers' Digest, or a committed Saucer? The answer, I think, should give you pause.

P.S. Much hilarity to be had by Michaael declaring himself an "anti-Communist". If you can describe the entirety of your political worldview as "Opposition to an ideology that has been a total irrelevance in global politics for more than twenty years" - with a straight face! - it's back to the drawing board.

P.P.S. Much, much comedy to be had at HP, where I'll repost this comment if I get a minute. I love Brownie declaring that what upsets him most is that the non-Decents won't admit that it was possible to support the war without being a neo-conservative or a belligerent retard. Because of course, the fact that you can't even call for pointless and murderous violence without some joker being rude to you about it. Truly, that's possibly the most horrible thing that's happened so far this century.

1/20/2011 01:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) The consensus in foreign policy circles now is that the decision to invade Iraq was a disasterous one.

2) A useful thing to do might then be to look at how our formal system of government took that decision: what did Parliament do? what did our political parties do? what did our leading newspapers say about the issue and how it was being analysed?

3) This might be useful, even though the invasion of Iraq was 8 years ago, because it might reveal some systemic problems about how our political system makes decision. Steve Richards suggests in today's Independent (2 January) that fear of appearing soft on defence or of appearing anti-American, and fear of the Murdoch press, were factors in inflencing the analysis of the threat of Iraq. It would be useful to consider what other unstated fears lie behind other poltical decisions, such as the lackadaisical attitude to the financial sector. Are there some systematic biases to the way our political system analyses key issues that prevents asking the key questions and prevents consideration of certain options?

4) It might also be useful to look at what questions were being asked about the issue at the time, in letters to newspapers, in public meetings, or in pamphlets. This is likely to show that the "anti-war movement" was made of many people with various views asking very rational questions; and that these questions were the ones that those inside the political system failed to ask?

5) If some people want to look at the anti-war movement as an alliance between the far-left and the far-right, and draw parallels with an event in Germany 80 years ago, that is OK with me. But when this goes on and on then you cannot help thinking that it has become an excuse for not looking at the big picture.

Guano

1/20/2011 01:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve Richards. Imdependent. 20 January 2011.

Guano

1/20/2011 01:32:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

as an aside, linked to Rodent's correct identification of Decency being about anything BUT objectivity:

i can't help wondering if Michael's enthusiastic promotion of books which claim Vietnam was, in fact, necessary might lead him to also enthusiastically endorse a book like Nicholson Baker's 'Human Smoke'?

Much hilarity to be had by Michaael declaring himself an "anti-Communist". If you can describe the entirety of your political worldview as "Opposition to an ideology that has been a total irrelevance in global politics for more than twenty years" - with a straight face! - it's back to the drawing board.

indeed. it also rather belies his clear self-identification as a historian. Hardly an objective approach...

1/20/2011 01:40:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

I feel we should have enough in common to benefit from talking to one another.

If you work it out, tell me what you find.

1/20/2011 01:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian says:

My point is simply that you've set up success for the anti-war protesters as getting a president elected who would have ended it. Either you get him elected, or you don't. Pass/Fail. And that's before one starts to look at the election in question... Like I said, its a ridiculous way to assess the protesters.

No, my point is if, and it is a big if, the purpose of the anti-Vietnam War protesters was to stop the Vietnam War, then they can hardly claim success. The war did not end until 1975. How can this possibly be a success? Had an antiwar President been elected then that might have brought forward the end of the war somewhat and then the protesters would have had something to cheer about.

The point that I wish to get across, and one you seem to wish to ignore, is that the behaviour of some of the leading groups in the antiwar movement including SDS and its various factions as well as other far-left wing organisations, were more of a hindrance to stopping the war than a benefit.

Earlier I posed whether deBenedetti and Chatfield's book on the anti-War movement makes it "very clear that the only thing more unpopular than the Vietnam War was the anti-Vietnam War movement." You responded briefly that it did "in passing" and went on to make a different point. This is a very important piece of information, one that you seem to believe only deserves the most fleeting of mentions. It doesn't, it deserves much more. Had the antiwar movement not alienated vast sections of American society, many of whom may well have either been always against the war or had moved to an antiwar position, then many more people might have demonstrated against the war. They didn't. This was in part due to being disgusted with the Vietcong flags that some proudly waved at these demonstrations.

Consider the following: one of the more famous events against the Vietnam War was the national march to the Pentagon in October 1967. According to the organisers, and that is the high estimate, 100,000 people attended that march. Other estimates suggest it is closer to 50,000 and even more reliably at 35,000. It actually does not matter which figure we select. Let us select the high estimate. At that point in time, a draft was occurring, American teenagers were being sent to Vietnam to fight in a war irrespective if they liked it or didn't, the population size of America is huge and all the organisers could gather is 100,000 people! Even the very biggest demonstrations (e.g. November 15, 1969 on Washington) probably had no more than 250,000 demonstrators.

If we put it in context that some claim that a million people demonstrated in London against the Iraq War in early 2003, it does expose how small these US demonstrations actually were. Had the antiwar demonstrator organisers been more sensible, the achievements in terms of active participants could have been much greater and arguably had a much greater effect. Meanwhile, what did the organisers care - as long as they could show great admiration for Mao Zedong: "Dare to struggle! Dare to Win!" that is what really counted.

What a disgrace they were.

1/20/2011 02:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

organic cheeseboard asks if I would "enthusiastically endorse a book like Nicholson Baker's 'Human Smoke'?"

The answer is no. In fact one of the most memorable lines in a book review for me was the one by Andrew Roberts when he reviewed Human Smoke for The New Criterion in June 2008:

"it is impossible to escape the conclusion that Baker would have done better to stick to phone sex and masturbation rather than to undertake this foray into nonfiction."

1/20/2011 02:19:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

so we've got that sorted.

for you, revisionism is valid when it's about Vietnam but not WWII.

also it's very difficult to take your enthusiasm for history seriously if you're citing Andrew roberts.

1/20/2011 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

What a disgrace they were.

Yes, again, normal human beings would probably lay the blame for America's involvement in the Vietnam catastrophe at the door of successive US governments, rather than complaining that the antiwar protestors of the day were too beastly for citizens. I suggest that waving a North Vietnamese flag is a good deal less offensive than launching long years of horrifying death and destruction, and that anyone who makes a big song and dance out of the former and point blank refuses to discuss the latter at all is probably Up To No Good.

Further, I love the idea that Them Dirty Hippies are responsible for the election of Nixon, curse them! I'd blame the electorate of the United States of America for that little disaster, but there you go...

And again, it's entertaining to watch someone discuss that election without using the words "bussing", "Civil rights" or "Millions of black guys coming to burn your house down and miscegenate with your wife and dog". These were, after all, quite important and controversial issues at the time. I think it's fair to conclude that a person who would ignore them and focus instead on the awful hippies would be Pulling a Fast One or attempting to Pull The Wool Over Somebody's Eyes.

In fact, you can put one of those on your banner at HP, if you like.

1/20/2011 02:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Earlier I stated:

"I simply watch with amazement how the so-called left and so-called socialist, SWP ended up in bed with these far-right Islamists. Perhaps it is because the totalitarian SWP is not left at all."

Cian made an intentionally sarcastic response:

"Ah yes, because it is far better to maintain moral purity, than to try and get things done in alliance with people you disagree with on a variety of topics."

This is exactly the sort of idiotic political posturing that led to the German Communist Party, the KPD, involving themselves in a United Front with the Nazis - a point I made in a previous response to Cian when he made an equally ridiculous comment on another post. It is that comment that is the one that has been copied into the main post of this this thread. What does a little antisemitism really matter if we can work together against Imperialism and the bosses? Sickening!

1/20/2011 02:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian talks of "class war." I have often asked about what the term "working class" means in the modern day and I have never received a sensible answer.

Is a doctor working for the NHS earning £100,000 a year working class? Is a lawyer working for a city firm earning £300,000 a year and who has an expensive lifestyle working class? After all he has to continue working to pay for the fees for his darling children to go to public school and for his family to take holidays in St. Moritz for skiing and Barbados for the sun. What about the mandarins of Whitehall who bend their knee and say "Yes Minister"? I could go on. Is a school teacher working class and, if they are, if they get promoted to head mistress or head master are they still working class?

I asked one Marxist and he responded, working class people are those that do not own the means of production, it is the ruling class that do that. I asked this Marxist if the company he worked at had a pension scheme that he belonged to, he answered in the affirmative. He didn't seem to like it that I said that by his own definition (a Marxist one) he was part of the ruling class. I have also been told that the working class are those that identify with the working class. I said that is a silly response if the working class is not properly defined in the first place.

Given that this idea of "working class" and "ruling class" is so important to Marxism, I think my request for people to define working class and what it actually means in the 21st century is a valid one. I will therefore pose the question to those on this blog. I do not hold out any hope that anyone can give me a sensible answer: those that think in terms of working class and ruling class are lost in 19th century Europe. They are as ridiculously out of touch as Trotsky was when he addressed a gathering in New York and began with the memorable words, "Workers and peasants of the Bronx...."

1/20/2011 03:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

organic cheeseboard,

Do you like the work of David Irving and of other WWII revisionists such as Gar Alperovitz? Do come clean.

In so far as Andrew Roberts and other mainstream historians, I read the positive and negative reviews. Hence I am familiar with Richard Evans' scathing review of Andrew Roberts' Storm of War published in the TLS and the controversy that this started. This review does not take away from the amusing line that I quoted from Roberts' review of Baker's book.

1/20/2011 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

While I'm thinking about this, I feel I should point out that teh awful hippies weren't exactly operating in a vacuum.

The damn longhairs - even down to the nuttiest - may have had some barmy ideas, but among them were the idea that women weren't property; that sex between consenting adults wasn't shameful; that people who didn't have white skin were people too, and deserving of rights; that the country's wars were doomed and murderous enterprises and that bombing and incinerating people tended to kill them, rather than set them free

Meanwhile, the right-wing cranks who would form the basis of neo-conservative thought were fulminating about the dangers of "negroes" and their commie civil rights, and hawks right and left were calling for even more men, women and kids to be burned up with napalm in order to show the Russkies who was boss. But still. Dammit! Those damn sixties longhairs were anti-American, a notion that is surely intolerable to all Britons in 2011!

The radical left of the sixties may have had some ludicrous notions, but I think it'd be difficult, if not impossible, to pretend that they weren't on the right side of history.

1/20/2011 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Phil,

Earlier in this thread Coventrian said, "I was originally a fan of the Indecent Left blog." You then attack me for using the term "indecent Left" and say my use of the term is "confrontational, disruptive and rude." How can it possibly be "confrontational, disruptive and rude" to refer to people by a term that they publicly call themselves and are generally not criticised for doing so? I cannot recall there being calls to shut down the indecent left blog due to its name.

It seems to me that you are grasping at thin straws to attack me.

1/20/2011 03:36:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

if we were in any doubt as to whether you are a troll or not, i refer you to the above post on the working class. for someone who seems to claim to be left-wing you sem to have absolutely no clue about anything to do with left-wing politics.

Do you like the work of David Irving and of other WWII revisionists such as Gar Alperovitz?

not at all, and i'm not much keen on the Baker either.

But you are surely not too partial a reader - or too much of a troll - to note the point i'm making here. it's not a difficult one.

on Vietnam you repeatedly cite the title of a work of revisionist history - not that you agree with it, OF COURSE - as evidence that the case against that war isn't cut and dried.

By that logic, whatever you think of Baker, his book is evidence that the case for WWII isn't cut and dried either.

thus...? well, what, exactly?

why do you bring this Vietnam stuff up? Either you side with the revisionists, or you're just making the entirely dull and obvious point that there's a few revisionist histories out there which not many people take seriously.

which is it to be?

1/20/2011 03:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Flying Rodent states:

Decency evinces none of the characteristics of independent and objective analysis. Rather, it's a worldview that shares much in common with conspiracy theory, riddled as it is with baleful mobs of malevolent, psychopathic political foes whose motives are never pure and not merely misguided, but are, in their own small way, actively working towards the destruction of western civilisation itself.

Flying Rodent's choice of phrase, "the destruction of western civilization" is an interesting one. Something is not really a conspiracy theory if it is known to be true.

On this link is the strategy memo of the Muslim Brotherhood dated May 22, 1991. The memorandum is original – it is not a secondary source reporting on these issues. The document was accepted as original by the United States in a Federal Court. (You can see the government stamp on the front of the document) The strategy of the MB is very clear (page 7 of 18 of the English language version at the back).Ikhwan is the name that the Muslim Brotherhood use to refer to themselves:

" The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah's religion is made victorious over all other religions. [Emphasis added]"

It should not be necessary to remind Flying Rodent that the Muslim Association of Britain, the organisation that the SWP got in bed with in the formation of the Stop the War Coalition, is, to all intent and purpose, the UK arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

1/20/2011 04:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Moderator and Flying Rodent,

A comment of mine has just disappeared. It was a response to an earlier post by Flying Rodent about the world view of decents being like a conspiracy theory. I trust it should reappear soon.

I thank you in advance

1/20/2011 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

How can it possibly be "confrontational, disruptive and rude" to refer to people by a term that they publicly call themselves

Are you familiar at all with the popular singing group NWA?

Or as I wrote, in the comment you purported to be responding to:

"just how many people would be happy to have an opponent label them in this way?"

Emphasis added.

1/20/2011 04:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Flying Rodent,

I find it astonishing when talking about the 1968 election that you bring up the matter of civil rights. It was of course President Lyndon B. Johnson who got the Civil Rights Act through: the very same President that the antiwar protesters repeatedly referred to as a baby killer: "Hey, Hey, LBJ, How many kids did you kill today?" With such chants, one should not be surprised why the radical protesters were more despised than the war itself.

1/20/2011 04:32:00 PM  
Anonymous org cheese said...

or in other words, forget the child-killing using indiscriminate napalming of villages, won't someone please do something about those who bring it up in a slightly glib manner?

also i note you've not responded to my revisionism posting.

1/20/2011 04:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Moderator and Flying Rodent,

Yet another one of my posts has gone missing. This one about Flying Rodent's ludicrous suggestion that the neocons were against civil rights.

I should be grateful if this can also be retreieved.

1/20/2011 04:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Phil has been very selective in his quotation of mine. He quotes me as saying:

How can it possibly be "confrontational, disruptive and rude" to refer to people by a term that they publicly call themselves

The full sentence was:

How can it possibly be "confrontational, disruptive and rude" to refer to people by a term that they publicly call themselves and are generally not criticised for doing so?

The last few words are relatively crucial.

1/20/2011 04:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Earlier I posed a question to writers from this blog. I asked for a sensible definition of the term "working class" that would work in the 21st century. I posed a few jobs and asked if people who carried them out could be classified as working class. As part of that post I stated: "I do not hold out any hope that anyone can give me a sensible answer."

Well, as of yet I have had no sensible answer. Organic Cheeseboard has been the only person to comment and he has said that the question itself is evidence that I am a troll! I still do not hold out hope that anyone will provide me with a reasonable answer to my questions about what working class means in 2011. I have asked it in a number of threads and I have never had a decent answer, I see no reason why those on Aaronovitch Watch can answer what others cannot.

1/20/2011 05:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Organic Cheeseboard,

I think it is pretty cut and dried that Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. That was indeed cause for war.

Now, Communists of all stripes were arguing against that war in 1939, but the Communist Party changed their tune after Germany invaded Russia and the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact fell apart. That pact was, of course, another despicable act of Communist treachery: doing a deal with the Nazis. Sickening!

1/20/2011 05:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Waterloo Sunset said...

He dismisses the decent left because they prioritise fighting fascism

"Prioritise fighting fascism" is not an accurate descriptor of decency for several reasons. (And it's utterly selfserving).

Firstly, the waters are muddied by the decent tendency to use "fascist" as synonymous with "political views I disagree with". To be fair, that's not unique to decency. It's an unfortunately common element in political discourse. But some decents take it further by denouncing anybody who doesn't share their simplistic analysis. So, the fact that I consider Hamas a reactionary right wing anti working class movement, but not fascist (they aren't nationalist, apart from anything else) is, in the wacky world of decency, "support for Hamas".

The second point is that, quite obviously, "anti-fascism" is only used by decents to mean "support for invasion of other countries". Outside a handful of exceptions on the fringe of decency (like Bob from Brockley) decents don't actually have a record of actively fighting the traditional far right in the UK, either historically or today. There's no support for Antifa, for example, despite Antifa being the prime advocates of the "physically smashing fascists" tactics decents claim to espouse. In fact, when the choice is between anti-fascism and legality, decents invariably choose the latter. Besides, to claim that prioritising fighting fascism is a defining trait of decents would make Red Action some kind of proto-decents. That's obviously laughable.

Finally, decents are selective about alliances with the far right anyway. You happily cite Andrew Roberts, who describes himself as "extreme far right" and has previously addressed the racist Springbok club.

It is exactly this sort of indecent thinking that led to the German Communist party in the early 1930s

In this context, the Stalinists are a big far strawman. (If this debate was taking place on Socialist Unity, you'd have a stronger argument). Nobody involved is at all likely to either be a Stalinist or to work with Stalinists. In fact Michael, you have more direct links with Stalinism than anybody else here. You are a poster on a blog set up by a Stalinist who named the blog after him. You've previously uncritically cited attacks by Stalinists on Trotskyists. And your "from the vaults" series carefully avoids issues like Labour students being closely allied with Communist Students throughout the 80's in NUS. On top of that, decents as a whole seem to have decided that Searchlight/HnH are their favourite antifascists, yet never say anything about the strong influence of Stalinists on many leading Searchlight personnel.

More important than the Second World War here (where everyone was hostile to Nazis. Despite what you seem to think, not supporting the British state doesn't mean people actively supported Hitler) is the Spanish Revolution.

1/20/2011 05:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Waterloo Sunset said...

The problem for decents here is that, actually, all the anti-fascist criticism of the Stalinists was coming from their left (in the shape of the anarchists and the Marxist POUM), not the right, who were supporting either neutrality or Franco. While decents sometimes try and claim Orwell as one of their own, a simple quote shows that you are utterly opposed to Orwell, indeed, his views are what you have described as "Marxist".

I am well aware that it is now the fashion to deny that Socialism has anything to do with equality. In every country in the world a huge tribe of party-hacks and sleek little professors are busy 'proving' that Socialism means no more than a planned state capitalism with the grab-motive left intact. But fortunately there also exists a vision of Socialism
quite different from this. The thing that attracts ordinary men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it, the 'mystique' of Socialism, is the idea of equality; to the vast
majority of people Socialism means a classless society, or it means nothing at all.


The other issue for decents is that their current analysis is actually close to the Stalinists at the time. One major bone of contention is that the Stalinists wanted to fight merely to uphold the republic and the anarchists/POUM wanted to fight for social transformation. "Win the war" versus "Win the revolution". It's reasonably obvious that it is the former policy that the decents advocate in places like Iraq. They're the natural inheritors of the Stalinist tradition.

For a simple one-line description of "decency" versus "indecency", I think the most useful over on the Harry's Place thread is this from DocMartyn:

If you look at the society around you and think that the world would be a better place by changing the emphasis of laws and institutions; you are part of the decent left or right.
If you look at the society around you and think that the world can only be changed for the good by destroying the institutions and legal/policing system; you are part of the indecent left or right.


While it arguably misses some of the nuances, that has several important advantages. It's an objective measurement as opposed to a subjective one. It's broad enough that it's not easy to find exceptions in it. And it's a value-neutral definition; in other words, which side people find themselves on is entirely reliant on whether they consider the first or the second position more convincing.

1/20/2011 05:18:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

If you look at the society around you and think that the world can only be changed for the good by destroying the institutions

i love this. Remind me again of the Geras/Toube/etc line on the 'League of Democracies'? or Nick Cohen on international law... etc etc.

it's proably the worst attempt on that pisspoor, self-regarding thread.

as for michael ezra - you've managed to ignore my very, very straightforward question - again - and answer one you've invented.

if that ain't trolling i dunno what is.

by the way, the reason why nobody's answered your working class question is because a) it's boneheaded and b) you're trolling.

1/20/2011 05:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Waterloo Sunset,

You state:

all the anti-fascist criticism of the Stalinists was coming from their left... not the right.

That is total rubbish. The right was highly critical of the Stalinists for the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.

1/20/2011 05:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Much to my amusement, organic cheeseboard now declares that not only is my question asking for what the term "working class" means in the 21st century trolling but that it is also "boneheaded" and that this is the reason that my question has not be answered.

I suspect that he is wrong. I believe the real reason is that neither he , nor others who have read the question on this post and have contributed to this thread, can answer it.

1/20/2011 05:33:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

As someone who's been a "decent" - and I must say a singularly ignorant one - and an *ahem* "indecent" I'd say the most significant distinction is the differing opinions as to the benevolence of the state and military. The former would see them as near-wholly benevolent while the latter, er - wouldn't. This can lead to manichaeism, exclusionism and colossal failures of perspective but, hey, those crop up in all kinds of ideologies. What's so fun with the most bitter of partisan squabbles is that most of their combatants act in pretty much the same way. Some of them are just dressed in smellier uniforms.

That pact was, of course, another despicable act of Communist treachery: doing a deal with the Nazis. Sickening!

Michael, dude, who disagrees? I'd bet my life and several others' that no one in this thread supports the Soviet's dealings with Nazis (Or, indeed, other people's.) If you want to be a historian of the Cold War then, damn it all, good luck to ye! It's a little late to be a Cold War polemicist, though.

I should stop commenting. In these civil lands internet debates are to us what potions were to Dr Jekyll.

And, besides, there's no position to defend here. No dichotomy to be explored. In the camp of "indecents" I note socialists, liberals and at least one anarchist: one can't be defined by opposition to a little gaggle of military interventionists any more than one can by opposition to a cause that - as it relates to world affairs, at least - is in the final gargles of its death throes.

1/20/2011 05:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Waterloo Sunset said...

That is total rubbish. The right was highly critical of the Stalinists for the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.

I'm talking in the specific context of Spain. (Which you may have reasonably missed, as my first comment obviously got temporarily swallowed).

1/20/2011 05:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Waterloo Sunset,

You state:

There's no support for Antifa, for example, despite Antifa being the prime advocates of the "physically smashing fascists" tactics decents claim to espouse. In fact, when the choice is between anti-fascism and legality, decents invariably choose the latter.

I am not sure what Antifa is, but i assume it is like the old AFA? In any event, you would be basically correct, at least in so far as I am concerned. I would prefer the police to do the job. (I wish they also do it with the SWP).

I am not quite sure why, if you consider Hamas a reactionary right-wing movement, that this, in itself, should be determined "support for Hamas." by decents as you claim.

You state:

quite obviously, "anti-fascism" is only used by decents to mean "support for invasion of other countries".

This is total nonsense. As you are aware I write for the blog Harry's Place. You can see numerous posts on that blog, in fact a substantial amount of posts, attacking the BNP. Many of these posts have had in depth analysis.

You attack me for citing Andrew Roberts, but you do not comment on the fact that I have also mentioned Richard Evans' scathing review of his book Storm of War.

You have misread my argument about the KPD and doing deals with the Nazis. I did not say that people here were supporters of Stalin. What I did say was that the crass analysis of working with people you do not agree with on some matters, however despicable they might be, because they agree with you on a different matter is the sort of thinking that led to the KPD doing deals with Nazis. The SWP getting into bed with the Muslim Brotherhood because they are against Western Imperialism is a prime example of this thinking.

It is true that I have published Stalinist attacks on Trotskyists without much comment. Not much comment was needed. I have also published numerous attacks on Stalinists - also without much comment.

Regarding NOLS doing deals with Communists in the 1980s, the main reason I have not published any of it is that I do not have a suitable document that can be extracted, and that in itself is easily understandable by many people and interesting to many people, not just a few NUS hacks from that time. If you have something that you believe might be suitable, please scan it in and email it across.

You have suggested that I never say anything about the Stalinist influence of leading Searchlight personnel. I am no fan of Stalinism as I have made clear - but post 1941 and the collapse of the disgraceful pact, the Stalinists did fight fascists. The Trotskytists, on the other hand, were obstructing the war effort, arguing for workers strikes, and this alone could have harmed the war effort from ammunitions made in the factories. In fact this was the very subject of the Stalinist material I published on HP. The Stalinists referred to the Trotskysists as "agents of fascism." Well, they might has well have been. As you have mentioned George Orwell, I shall quote him:

"If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other"

The Trotskyists: writ large!

1/20/2011 07:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Moderator and Waterloo Sunset,

A comment In have written has gone missing. This seems to be happening a lot. Please retrieve!

Thanks in advance.

1/20/2011 07:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

You responded briefly that it did "in passing" and went on to make a different point. This is a very important piece of information, one that you seem to believe only deserves the most fleeting of mentions. It doesn't, it deserves much more.

Actually no it doesn't, at least not without the context of the other things discussed in the book. Anyway I'm not interested in this discussion because quite frankly you're not very interesting. Its not about your politics (such as they are), or the fact that we disagree (though point in fact far less than you seem to assume), its the way that you try and force complex social phenomenon into pre-determined moralistic boxes. Who tries to analyse history with a score-card - well other than you.

1/20/2011 09:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian has now thrown his toys out of his pram. What has upset him is that I have pointed out what should be obvious: the anti-Vietnam war movement ("The Mobe", SDS, Yippies, Weathermen, "Up against the wall motherfuckers" and the various other radical groups) caused more harm than good for the cause for which they claimed that they were fighting. This is not a "pre-determined moralistic box", but a reasonable conclusion from considering both their antics and their substantial unpopularity.

1/20/2011 09:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

This is exactly the sort of idiotic political posturing that led to the German Communist Party, the KPD, involving themselves in a United Front with the Nazis - a point I made in a previous response to Cian when he made an equally ridiculous comment on another post.

Ah the Nazis. I knew we'd get to Goodwin sooner or later.

Here are some coalitions I'd be happy to make, if it advanced things. A community coalition that helped save a hospital. Sure. A coalition to help refugees. Hell yeah, I know somebody who helped build a very effective group that involved some local very pious muslims (good thing about muslims, they tend to take their charity seriously). A group that was working on environmental issues? Most probably. SWP is less likely, but that's more for practical reasons, than ideology. The point is to help people, or to improve things.

I mean to put it another way. You backed a war because you thought it would help some people. Right? And in wars people die, lots of people usually, most civillians. So what's the difference.

1/20/2011 09:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

No Michael, I'm no more interested in discussing with you, than I would be with somebody who insisted on discussing WWII in terms of the NAZIs WERE EVIL/BAD MEN. Its not that I disagree with it particularly, but its not a terribly productive or intelligent way of engaging with the material. Read those books, engage with their argument and get back to me. They have a much wider sense of where the anti-war movement succeeded and failed than you seem to be aware of. Without that scope, the discussion is frankly pointless. Not interested.

1/20/2011 09:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Cian talks of "class war."

Can I just point out that the class conducting war are the rich elites. And there's nothing specifically Marxist about this analysis. I mean Simon Johnson wrote a bloody book about it last year. You don't get any more establishment than him.

Given that this idea of "working class" and "ruling class" is so important to Marxism

Is it now. I must have missed that memo.

Its important to certain strains of post-marxism. It was hardly central to Marx's thinking. Most Marxists have some definition of it, but then so do most sociologists and political scientists.

I think my request for people to define working class and what it actually means in the 21st century is a valid one.

Well any request is valid. Not sure why you think you have a right to an answer. Is this a contractual arrangement, or more of a moral one?

I asked this Marxist if the company he worked at had a pension scheme that he belonged to, he answered in the affirmative. He didn't seem to like it that I said that by his own definition (a Marxist one) he was part of the ruling class.

Okay, so you found a not very bright Marxist. This is relevant how?

I mean do you seriously mean there is no such thing as a ruling class (hardly a concept exclusive to Marxists)? That there are rich people who live off the returns from capital, while the rest of us are largely dependent upon income from working (small pension funds notwithstanding)? I mean what's the scale of your disagreement here?

They are as ridiculously out of touch as Trotsky was when he addressed a gathering in New York and began with the memorable words, "Workers and peasants of the Bronx...."

Has it never occured to you that that story must either be apocrophyl, or that some important context is missing (i.e. it was a joke, mistranslated, or just a stock phrase he used everywhere). I mean they had cities in Russia, Trotsky was a city boy. He probably knew that there peasants were fairly thin on the ground in cities. So not really a mistake he was very likely to make. And no I'm not a Trotskyist, or even very interested in the man. So don't start your ranting on that score me man.

1/20/2011 10:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

The full sentence was:

How can it possibly be "confrontational, disruptive and rude" to refer to people by a term that they publicly call themselves and are generally not criticised for doing so?

The last few words are relatively crucial.


No, they're not. NWA were "generally not criticised" for referring to themselves under that name. It would still be grossly confrontational, disruptive and rude for someone who didn't share that label to apply it to them. Start again - by which I mean, (if I thought you were interested in a civil discussion, I think you would go back to the original comment and) start again.

1/20/2011 11:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian,

I have not a clue what you are talking about in your post of 9.36pm so I shall ignore it. In your post of 9.42, I have read a number of books and articles on the Vietnam antiwar movement, many more than I have so far discussed. I cannot claim to have read all of them and after a while much of the information is repetitive. (How many more times do I have to read about Jerry Rubin and an attempt to levitate the Pentagon?)Incidentally, one of the best books that I have read, you would probably dismiss as you will not be a fan of the author: Guenter Lewy's, Peace & Revolution. The way Lewy describes the moral degeneration of Quaker based organisations that should have been pacifist to increasingly siding with or apologising for the NLF is somewhat shocking. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the general subject.

You encourage me to read their material and engage with what they have to say and get back to you. But I do not just consider what they say, I consider what they might not have said. So for example, when they discuss a "massive" demonstration of 100,000 people, I wonder how "massive" that really is in the context of the size of the country. This is particularly so if the 100,000 figure is that determined by the organisers. How can that 100,000 be particularly massive for a demonstration in Washington in 1967 if, in 2003, organisers claim that 2 million marched against the war in Iraq in London? (Comparing organisers claims). I therefore wonder why the demonstrations were so small! And that is why I believe that public opinion of the demonstrators is more important than you give it credit for.

1/20/2011 11:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian, in relation to your post at 10.56pm, you state:

That there are rich people who live off the returns from capital, while the rest of us are largely dependent upon income from working (small pension funds notwithstanding)?

This is, I will say a Marxist way of looking at things. It seems to ignore the middle class. You might argue that it doesn't, but I would like to ask you for your opinion on some of the people/professions that I asked earlier. I will repeat them below:

Is a doctor working for the NHS earning £100,000 a year working class? Is a lawyer working for a city firm earning £300,000 a year and who has an expensive lifestyle working class? After all he has to continue working to pay for the fees for his darling children to go to public school and for his family to take holidays in St. Moritz for skiing and Barbados for the sun. What about the mandarins of Whitehall who bend their knee and say "Yes Minister"? I could go on. Is a school teacher working class and, if they are, if they get promoted to head mistress or head master are they still working class?

It is certainly true that I do not an automatic right to receive an answer to this question, I am just interested. I have asked many people before and I have not had an answer.

According to an Encyclopedia of Marxism, the term "Petty-bourgeois" includes not just small business owners but management:

"While these workers are a part of the working class because they receive a wage and their livelihood is dependent on that wage, they are seperated from working class consciousness because they have day-to-day control, but not ownership, over the means of production, distribution, and exchange."

I am interested to know if the Senior civil servant who bends his knee to the Minister is part of this petty-bourgeoisie, part of the working class (he does what his boss tells him) or if he is part of the ruling class?

What about the school teacher? She is working class. Suddenly she is promoted to head mistress. Delighted with the pay rise and promotion, she accepts.She is now responsible for people and tells them what to do. Does her category shift from working class to petty-bourgeois the day she accepted this promotion?

So many questions - I know. You do not need to answer them - I know that too. But I can assure you this is not trolling, I wish to know if a bank boss at RBS who earns a multi-million pound bonus is, or is not, working class. He does not own the bank and with the amount of money his wife is spending furnishing his multi million pound house in Holland Park, combined with the school fees, his taste in fine wine and flying his family first class to Barbados, he cannot really stop work. If he is working class, then why are the demonstrators attacking the bank bosses - why not show solidarity?

1/20/2011 11:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'the sort of idiotic political posturing that led to the German Communist Party, the KPD, involving themselves in a United Front with the Nazis'

Except, of course, the KPD wasn't involved in a United front with the Nazis, and in 1929-32 were the main political group in Germany actively resisting the NSDAP, through Antifaschistiche Aktion and other groups. As Eve Rosenshaft states in 'Beating the Fascists?The German Communists and Political Violence 1929-33':

'The National Socialists claimed thirty killed and 1241 wounded in 1928 and 1929 alone . . . (in 1930)the NSDAP reported 17 deaths and over 2500 injuries, and 42 dead and 6300 wounded in 1931; the figures for the last year before Hitler's seizure of power were 84 and 9715 respectively.' (p.6) Analysing police figures on the political groups involved, she notes 'these figures suggest . . . the very high participation of Communists and secondly the tendency for Communists in particular to direct their attacks on Nazis' (p.7)

Now, i'm not interested in debating Ezra, but i don't like to allow a lie to pass unnoticed.

1/21/2011 01:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Is it because almost all the HP commentariat is now far-right loons or Zionist wingnuts?

I'd dispute "almost".

I've always thought that, if there's one thing that defines Decency in all its fierce intellectual honesty and its laser-like focus on truth, it's the mind-boggling amount of time that Professor Norm, Nick C., HP and various other figures have devoted to the pretence that the word "understand" means "condone and support". Because all of our political foes can be proven despicable, if we pretend that they've wholeheartedly endorsed nail-bombing pizza restaurants.

Firstly, I think you'd struggle to find a quote from Norm/Nick C/any HP author where they/we suggest "understand" in these contexts is just a synonym for "support" or "condone" or some oblique "endorsement" of mass-murder. The use of "understand" is bad enough; we really don't have to insinuate the speaker means more than what s/he says.

No-one who shied away from being thought of as an extremist could get away with "understadnaing" David Copeland or Timothy McVeigh; so it should be with those claiming to "understand" the pizza parlour suicide bomber or the guy self-immolating on the Victoria Line.

I can understand why young-men lving in the Bogside shortly after Bloody Sunday might have gone along to the next Provo open day, and I have no problem understanding why some Palestinians living in the OCs join every Intifada that comes along, but the mass-slaughter of innocent men, women and children isn't and never could be my bag whatever the provocation.

The only way you can "understand" these actions is if you can envsiage circumstances in which you might undertake them yourself. If, however, you could and would never countenance involvment, this is a de facto preclusion of any level of understanding. By definition, you don't 'understand'.

So Bunting, Tonge et al are effectiely saying, "In the right circumstances, that could be me pulling the pin and decapitating random children having their lunch."

I firmly believe that everyone who thinks this way should be ridiculed and no amount of opprobrium heaped on them can be too much.

So who's "pretending"?

1/21/2011 01:20:00 AM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

If, however, you could and would never countenance involvment, this is a de facto preclusion of any level of understanding. By definition, you don't 'understand'.

There's "understanding" in two senses. Firstly, "understanding" as an intellectual exercise: rooting out the grievances, ideas and bogus logic someone might have followed on their way to grotesque acts. If that's so terrible there's a whole field of criminal psychologists waiting to be heaped with your opprobrium. Then there's "understanding" as an empathetic exercise - claiming that a grotesque act was a reasonable if unwise response to someone's circumstances - and, yeah, I think you've got a point with regards to that.

1/21/2011 01:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Anonymous, who sensibly remains anonymous does not seem to like to admit that the fact that the KPD wooed the Nazis with the United Front strategy. Below I extract from an academic journal:

"...by late 1931 the KPD employed the United Front tactic to attract ’misled SA [Nazi] workers’ to the Communist movement....

"the KPD accepted tacitly during 1931 that it would not easily eradicate working-class backing for the NSDAP and that the ’United Front from Below’ tactic would indeed have to extend to Nazi supporters....

"the United Front tactic, initially aimed at SPD members, was then extended to Catholic workers and now, logically, in 1931, to the NSDAP. In June 1931 a briefing for strike leaders stressed that if strikes were to succeed, all workers, including Nazis, needed to
be involved.....

"On 16 September [1932] a KPD conference recognized that the whole Nazi movement, not just the SA, faced difficulties and therefore recommended replacing the term Anti-Fascist Action with United Action. ’We should no longer say Anti-Fascist Action so bluntly, because the conception behind this watchword very much excludes the National Socialist workers from the struggle against Papen.’ Before long, United Action posters appeared, showing Communist, Nazi and Socialist workers standing shoulder to shoulder in class solidarity against the bourgeoisie. These tactics were relatively effective. The KPD’s Factory Press Service commented in October on the growing tendency of Nazi workers to join Communist-led strikes and similar reports mounted up as the autumn went by. Nazi proletarians were urged repeatedly to achieve their economic and social goals by joining the United Front. Thus by November the notorious Berlin transport strike was simply one example of relatively widespread Nazi involvement in KPD-organized strikes....

"[In 1932]The struggle to involve working-class Nazis in the United Front was stepped up....

"Ordinary Nazis were assured that the KPD had no quarrel with them, ordinary Communists were told to recognize working-class Nazis as their misled class brothers. The KPD even argued that because of the economic crisis, petit bourgeois Nazis were objectively part of the proletarian movement."

Source

Conan Fischer, "Class Enemies or Class Brothers? Communist Nazi Relations in Germany 1929-33," European History Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 3, July 1985 pp. 266-273.

1/21/2011 03:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

Michael - I agree with your point about 'working class'. Marx' analysis (full disclosure - I think I tried to read some Marx at school but didn't get very far) was, I assume, prompted by a wish to reduce the massive inequalities in society, and at that time there was a strong correlation between being rich and owning the means of production (whether land or factories or whatever). But it seems absurd to say that a judge or vice chancellor is w/c whereas a small businessman who can't draw his salary because he has to make sure his employees are paid first (I have a friend in mind who has often been in that situation) isn't.

I think most people use w/c in different ways - to some degree you can see it as something cultural, which you inherit and don't shed even if you become quite well off. Again because it's partly cultural I wouldn't use income as the only indicator of class - middle class, like working class, denotes more than just your income bracket. (And given the fact that wealth is passed down through the generations there may well be a substantive difference between a 'w/c' person on a low salary and a 'm/c' person, because the latter may be given help with a mortgage down payment or inherit something at least.

Now that the state pays so many people very high salaries (and private businesses with well paid employees who don't own any of the company are in a similar category) the definition of working class as someone who doesn't own the means of production seems unhelpful if you are trying to define class as a means to an end - creating a more equal and fair society.

1/21/2011 06:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Marko Attila Hoare said...

[I posted the following comment at HP in response to 'Larry Teabag', and I hope you won't mind me reposting it here, as it's really a plea for a debate between AW and HP/Decents that gets to the heart of the matter.]

The sin of which you are accusing the Decent Left – of thinking ‘we’re decent and the rest of the left isn’t’ – is something much of the left has traditionally been guilty of: sectarianism. If leftists didn’t spend much of their time bashing other leftists, they wouldn’t be proper leftists. In the case of Aaronovitch Watch and the Decent Left, it may be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Having said that, there are two different propositions: 1) that all elements in the the non-Decent left are ‘indecent’ or reactionary; and 2) that the left as a whole is problematic, because of some of the elements it accepts as its own. The first proposition is clearly unfair, but it’s the second proposition that could more broadly be ascribed to the Decent Left as one of its central tenets.

It’s certainly how I feel: my problem with the model of left-wing politics upheld by people like the Aaronovitch Watch bloggers isn’t that their actual political positions aren’t respectable; it is that they uphold a model of the left that is inclusive of some horribly ‘indecent’ elements, but don’t see this as problematic, or respect the right of us Decents to call the left to account for it.

This would be a worthwhile debate: Harry’s Place vs Aaronovitch Watch – Can a left include the ‘indecent left’ and still remain a left in any positive sense of the word ?

How about it, comrades (from both camps) ?

1/21/2011 08:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Waterloo Sunset said...

@ Michael


I am not sure what Antifa is, but i assume it is like the old AFA? In any event, you would be basically correct, at least in so far as I am concerned. I would prefer the police to do the job.


Antifa are in the same tradition, despite being a different group. (As an aside, have you read "Beating the Fascists: the untold story of Anti Fascist Action" yet? If not, I suspect it will be of interest). But that illustrates my point. "Leave it to the police" really isn't prioritising fighting fascism; particuarly when it comes to groups like the BNP which operate entirely legally.

(I wish they also do it with the SWP).

That's because, despite your paranoia, the SWP aren't capable of mustering up enough force to storm a kindergarten. If you want a 'red scare' group to play with, I'd suggest Class War would be a better option. They at least play up to that whole thing.

I am not quite sure why, if you consider Hamas a reactionary right-wing movement, that this, in itself, should be determined "support for Hamas." by decents as you claim.

Because of the insistence by many decents on using a ridiculously broad definition of "fascism".

This is total nonsense. As you are aware I write for the blog Harry's Place. You can see numerous posts on that blog, in fact a substantial amount of posts, attacking the BNP. Many of these posts have had in depth analysis.

That's hardly actively campaigning against the BNP though. And I do remember when HP were heavily promoting "Nothing British About the BNP" as the way forward for new anti-fascism. Then Nothing British lost interest after the election. That suggests a real lack of commitment to the long fight on this one.

You attack me for citing Andrew Roberts, but you do not comment on the fact that I have also mentioned Richard Evans' scathing review of his book Storm of War.

No, I'm suggesting that if someone was else was using a member of the "extreme far right" as a source you'd have a serious issue with it. Also have a look at The Economist (hardly a bastion of the far left!) review of "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples since 1900". Apart from anything else, Roberts is notoriously inaccurate. He only appeals to political partisans.

What I did say was that the crass analysis of working with people you do not agree with on some matters, however despicable they might be, because they agree with you on a different matter is the sort of thinking that led to the KPD doing deals with Nazis.

It depends what the matters are, surely? I'm assuming you draw lines, rather than insisting everyone who you'd work with agrees with you on absolutely everything, down to what to have for breakfast? (Fried egg sandwich, if you were curious).

1/21/2011 09:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Waterloo Sunset said...

It is true that I have published Stalinist attacks on Trotskyists without much comment. Not much comment was needed. I have also published numerous attacks on Stalinists - also without much comment.

Comment is absolutely needed, to place them in historical context. This is a major weakness with your approach to historical documents. I accept you read more than just the right, but your approach seems to be to start from a position of "do I agree with this or not". Which leads to pretty much all your work in this area suffering from serious confirmation bias.

Regarding NOLS doing deals with Communists in the 1980s ... If you have something that you believe might be suitable, please scan it in and email it across.

Before my time I'm afraid. But what you need to do is grab one of the collections of the manifestos from that time. Pay particular attention to who is nominating who, which is highly significant in NUS politics. Before that, in the late 70's, check out the "Broad Left". (Note this is a different group than the later "Student Broad Left" who are a Socialist Action front). Never say I don't do anything for you. ;-)

You have suggested that I never say anything about the Stalinist influence of leading Searchlight personnel. I am no fan of Stalinism as I have made clear - but post 1941 and the collapse of the disgraceful pact, the Stalinists did fight fascists.

That is precisely the position you've previously criticised the SWP for! And it doesn't answer the question of why you aren't covering Stalinism in relation to Searchlight.

The Stalinists referred to the Trotskysists as "agents of fascism."

The Stalinists were claiming that the Trotsykists were full allies of fascism. While I'm no more a Trot then you are, that was an ungrounded slur. As was their attacks on the POUM. By repeating this uncritically, you're allowing yourself to be a conduit for old Stalinist lies.

As you have mentioned George Orwell, I shall quote him:

"If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other"


He was wrong, put simply. And inconsistant. For surely you'd agree his opposition to the Communist Party in Spain in no way made him a supporter of Franco? Which is a logical development of that argument.

"A plague on both their houses".

1/21/2011 09:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Brownie,
a very wise man once told me that the type of person who said they could never envisage cirumstances in which they might do something bad, was exactly the kind of person who would in difficult/stressful circumstances do something bad. Its easy to be a saint if you live in the lap of luxury.

I have no idea how I would behave if I lived under the conditions in the Gaza strip, and you don't either. The fact that you think you do despite living in easy, luxurious, circumstances is quite telling.

Cian

1/21/2011 09:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

Marko - I broadly agreed with the distinctions being made on HP between the 'indecents' (and I know all these terms are quite silly, sorry) and those who simply don't identify with the 'decents'. Whereas I don't have any truck with genuine indecents (while fully acknowledging that their numbers are sometimes exaggerated) I think the main difference between decents and many others on the left are to do with means/emphasis rather than ends/principles. I think Marko's comment about who one is willing to be associated with - which people who should be our opponents we are in practice happy to tolerate - is interesting. There are faults on both sides here of course.

1/21/2011 09:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Michael,
the reason I don't want to discuss the 60s anti-war protestors with you is three fold:
1) The argument has strayed way from my original point, which was that your choice of author (a neoconservative propogandist) to back your argument up was quite revealing. The fact that since then you've cited Vietnam apologists, that most historians find highly unconvincing, only strengthens that point I think. Your efforts to steer the conversation into other areas does you credit as a troll, mind.

2) Because it would require me to summarise a fairly complex argument from a book that I read several years ago. This would take a fair bit of work, and for what? You'd disagree with it, and so either I'd be in the tedious position of trying to defend the argument of a book, that the book makes better, or just ignoring you entirely.

3) I don't take you very seriously as a "historian" when you haven't read two of the most important books on the Vietnam war protestors, but you have read Garfinkle. Either you're an intellectual lightweight (your pub bore comments on class certainly would support that analysis), or you're only interested in stuff which confirms your prejudices about political protest. Either way, you're not really worth the effort.

1/21/2011 10:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

I have not a clue what you are talking about in your post of 9.36pm so I shall ignore it.

Good lord. Okay in very simple language. If I was building a coalition to oppose the closing of a local hospital, it probably wouldn't bother me if one of the groups held other "Islamist" views. I certainly wouldn't condemn my friend who built, with the help of some local Muslim organisations, a small organisation that helped refugees. If you would condemn him for that - well that's quite revealing of your priorities.

1/21/2011 10:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

Cian - what if the BNP wanted to work with you over the hospital?

1/21/2011 10:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've got a better idea for the terms of a debate - "can a left include the Decents?" After all, if there's a case for condemning the SWP for hanging out with Yvonne Ridley (and there is indeed such a case, as I've argued in several places including, but not limited to, HP's comments boxes) there's also a case for condemning the decents for hanging out with John Negroponte, et al. The kilodeaths, forex.

Your problem, O decents, is that the main argument you extend to defend your capitulation in the face of a murderous imperialism, is that all of your opponents on the left have capitulated in the face of a murderous crypto-fascism. Hence Ezra's attempts, again and again, to shift the Vietnam argument onto the antics of some Maoists.

But it's not good enough, for two reasons:
1) So what? Your capitulation is still wrong.
2) It's not true. Rather a lot of us have capitulated neither to Islamism nor imperialism.

PS - Ezra, I have doubts about your characterisation of the relations of the KPD and the NSDAP. I've not read the whole of Fisher's article yet, but currently I suspect that you are cherry-picking quotations which refer to an attempt by the KPD to split it along class lines: a rather different relationship than the 'support' which you appear to be claiming. But I'll ask Fisher about it next time I see him.

Chris Williams

1/21/2011 10:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

This is, I will say a Marxist way of looking at things.

Well that will certainly surprise many non-marxist economists. You could add a third group which is people who work at small enterprises built on personal debt. But its fairly marginal compared to the other two groups, and while debt seems rather too sophisticated concept for you. Baby steps. And as one developed more sophisticated and finer-grained units of analysis one would start to address managerial roles, power analysis, etc. But that's way beyond your capabilities I'm afraid, so we're stuck with simple models.

And you're the person who insists on calling people who work "working class". I haven't used the term.

It seems to ignore the middle class. You might argue that it doesn't

Well yes. I think most sane people would probably say that the middle class are dependent upon earned income. I was just asking if you agreed with a broad division that I think most students of political economy would consider useful/relevant. Apparently not.

If you're expecting anyone to try and explain the complexities and nuances of class, social power to you at the fag end of a comments thread from any perspective, Marxist or otherwise. Well you're going to be disappointed aren't you. Most people haven't time, and especially when on the same thread you consistently misread what people write. Why would anyone bother.

Particularly when you seem to think even using the word "class" makes somebody Marxist. Or for that matter when you don't know much about Marxism as a theory, but still think that your criticisms of it are somehow of interest/relevant.

So many questions - I know. You do not need to answer them - I know that too.

Given I'm not a Marxist, at least not in the sense that you're using the word, it would be hard for me to defend a theory/analysis I'm not terribly familiar with.

1/21/2011 11:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

One major difference between decents and "indecents", is that decents define themselves as being in opposition to "indecents".

Whereas "indecents" don't define themselves as such, or see themselves as having much in common. And certainly would consider their identity as having anything to do with decents.

1/21/2011 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Cian - what if the BNP wanted to work with you over the hospital?

Probably not, but its hard to say categorically no in every situation. To pick an example. If there was a factory that was causing severe health problems due to pollution, and the BNP genuinely represented a significant proportion of the local population (this seems unlikely to me), were able to mobilise them and they were willing to work with other groups (equally unlikely, but for the sake of argument), then there might be an argument for forming some kind of alliance to try and fix the situation, however reluctantly.

Yes obviously there'd be all kinds of negative effects as a result of such an alliance (though equally it might help undermine their grip on the local whites), but people's health/lives are also important. The decision ultimately would have to be a pragmatic one.

1/21/2011 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Waterloo Sunset,

My approach to the From the Vaults series is to highlight interesting documents. For what it is worth, I started it on a bit of a whim. I have files full of articles, many on the far left (my interest) that I have collected over the years. I have often wondered what to do with them all - and I suspect the time will come when I shall dump much of it in a skip. In the interim, I believe some of it is amusing, and potentially deserved of wider circulation than it had at the time, or can, in the 21st century, be looked at with some amusement or sadness. We can, as an example, consider my recent post in the series where I selected an old newspaper article from 1963 that cited a report that suggested that the Vietnam War would end within nine months. Based on how long the War lasted, it is reminiscent of the claim "It will be all be over Christmas" from an earlier conflict.

The specific post that you are complaining about can be seen here. Despite your suggestion that there was no comment by myself, as can be seen I did provide an introduction:

One thing that is true about the Trotskyists is that they never supported Britain and America’s war effort against Nazi Germany. While the Allies were fighting against Nazi tyranny, the Trotskyists were calling for workers in Britain to strike. The effect of this was to hamper the war effort. It is therefore no surprise that opponents of Trotskyism argued that the Trotskyists were acting in the interests of the Nazis and were in fact “Hitler’s agents.” The extract below is from a small pamphlet produced by the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1942 which had that exact line.

What is therefore clear is that I make it known that it was a contemporaneous pamphlet produced by the CPGB. It would known by anyone that is actually interested in this, that the CPGB was Stalinist.

Now we can revert to the main point. It is 1942, Britain is in the middle of a war with Nazi Germany. In order to fight the war, Britain needs weapons. The Trotskyists would like strikes so that the weapons are not produced. They also do not want Britain to fight Germany - they campaign against Britain entering the war to stop the Nazi onslaught. It does not matter what the Stalinists did or did not say, such behaviour only assisted one side: the Nazis.

This disgraceful Trotskyist position has been recognised by many. I was recently told of a meeting that occurred in the 1980s or perhaps early 1990s of a whole bunch of old timers who had been in the Workers Party (This was the Trotskyist group of those such as Shachtman, Howe, Draper etc) in New York during the period in question. The position on WWII was discussed and many recognised that the position that they took, attempts to keep America out of the Imperialist war, brought "shame" on the party and was a horrible stain on their record.

1/21/2011 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Waterloo Sunset, (part 2)

Regarding your suggestion that I should obtain old NUS manifestos, even if obtaining old manifestos was simple for me to do, and it isn't, it does not mean that I could do what you request without knowing the names of all who were in such organisations. Let us say, for example, I found an old manifesto that said that Jane Smith of Scunthorpe College of Hairdressing had nominated Rose Seaman of Aberdeen Sixth Form College for a post on the NUS executive. Even if I could work out that Rose Seaman was a NOLS person, how would I be supposed to know that Jane Smith was in the CPGB? Even if I did know that was the case, it is hardly of interest and it is not funny. If on the other hand, you had in your files a scandal sheet that had a little ditty written by Lembit Opik who subsequently has become more famous, and that ditty referred to links between the CP and NOLS, I would be delighted to print it.

I am not hiding things from being printed, but most things are not of interest apart from to an incredibly small selection of people. What you are suggesting would even bore most readers of Harry's Place.

Regarding Searchlight and Stalinists. I am aware that Gerry Gable who had been a long term editor of Searchlight had been a member of the Communist Party. And? So? Does this discredit the amazing work that magazine has done- including using those such as Ray Hill to act inside the BNP in order to destroy it. In the course of his history in his work against the far right, Gable has suffered attempts on his life, including most notably a letter bomb. He was lucky to suspect that particular package and it was defused before he was killed. Quite frankly, I have no interest in attacking such a man, only praising him. The fact that in his younger days he had been a trade union organiser for the CP really should be a footnote when, and I hope it is many, many years away, his obituary comes to be written.

1/21/2011 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

@Cian,

You might not take me seriously as a historian, but since you are an anonymous nobody who writes comments on blogs, I do not really care what you think. You are even too scared to put your full name to your comments.

@Sarah

Parts of the left have a strange history of working with fascists. I have previously highlighted the case of Eric Tomlinson, who, in the early 1970s was arrested for conspiracy and sentenced to prison after a disgusting display of violence occurred by pickets at a building site in Shrewsbury. Despite the fact that Tomlinson supported the National Front and had in the past even stood as a candidate for them at an election, it did not stop those such as the SWP supporting him. Presumably, for the SWP, far more important than the fact that he was a racist, and far more important than the fact that other workers were physically hurt in the violence for which he was known ringleader, was the fact that he was fighting against the bosses. This act of anti-capitalism trumps all.

@Chris Williams,

I suggest that you do read Conan Fischer's paper that I have referenced. It makes interesting reading.

By the way, I do not simply shift "Vietnam argument onto the antics of some Maoists." An interesting book on the various different Marxist sects involved in the New Left is Max Elbaum's Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals turn to Lenin, Mao and Che. Before I am jumped on, I should make it clear that Elbaum, who was active in the SDS, remains, to the best of my knowledge, on the left. Consequently, I trust that my choice of author isn't attacked.

I must say that I find the attitude to the political stances of authors as opposed to what they say interesting. It seems to me that there are those on this thread who would go in for book burning anyone more right wing than Tony Benn.

1/21/2011 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Marko Attila Hoare said...

Chris,

Are you then excluding all Decents, who 'capitulate to murderous imperialism', and Indecents, who 'capitulate to crypto-fascism', from membership of the 'true' left, which capitulates to neither ?

In that case, your problem with the Decents is not that they are wrong to attack the Indecent left, or that their criticisms of them are unjustified. Rather, you are saying that they themselves are 'indecent', and that your own left-wing current is the truly 'decent' one.

Fair enough if that is what you think, but it seems to me to contradict the position I associated with this blog: that the Decents are guilty of an excessive and divisive hostility to the rest of the left.

1/21/2011 01:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

If there was a factory that was causing severe health problems due to pollution, and the BNP genuinely represented a significant proportion of the local population (this seems unlikely to me), were able to mobilise them and they were willing to work with other groups (equally unlikely, but for the sake of argument), then there might be an argument for forming some kind of alliance to try and fix the situation, however reluctantly.

So your minimum criteria for acting in solidarity with the BNP on a specific issue is that they stop behaving like the BNP? Good, that’s mine, too, but to take Iraq as an obvious example (although it is by no means the only one) this is precisely what the indecent left never required of the SWP, MCB or others. It was sufficient that there was some overlap of opinion on Iraq itself for the steering committee of the StWC to look the way it did. Nothing was a shibboleth, indeed. The SWP and MCB were asked to repudiate nothing whereas your hypothetical alliance with the BNP demands that they reinvent themselves as local activists who’ll probably join the Lib Dems.

This is to analogy what Andy Coulson is to journalistic standards.

1/21/2011 01:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

I must say that I find the attitude to the political stances of authors as opposed to what they say interesting. It seems to me that there are those on this thread who would go in for book burning anyone more right wing than Tony Benn.

Its not the politics, its the objectivity. I wouldn't consider anyone who was involved in the movement at the time an objective source on what happened, to the extent that anything can be. These are books that are either written by people with particular political agendas (Gitlin) in the present, or by people who are score settling on battles fought long ago. They're going to tell people what they wish was true, or perhaps believe was true because after all why would they have fought all those battles long ago. I wouldn't expect this to be a terribly difficult point to grasp, but it seems I am wrong.

That's not to say what they think/say isn't important, but you can't use it as proof that X happened. They all had agendas, whether its Todd Gitlin who's agenda is (or should be to anyone with eyes) fairly obvious, to somebody like Adam Garfinkle who's an extremely partisan advocate for neoconservative foreign policy and who wrote a book that happened to perfectly support his views/agenda. Which I'm sure is entirely coincidental.

1/21/2011 01:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

a very wise man once told me that the type of person who said they could never envisage cirumstances in which they might do something bad, was exactly the kind of person who would in difficult/stressful circumstances do something bad. Its easy to be a saint if you live in the lap of luxury.

Sheesh, ‘wise’ isn’t what it used to be. Some of us have moral red lines even if you’re wise friend doesn’t. Not to mention that I hardly think my aversion to mass-murder of civilians renders me ‘saintly’.

As it is, I can imagine being driven to all sorts of extremes by circumstances; killing my wife and her lover having discovered their affair; murdering the guy who molested my child; supporting United had I been born in Salford; all sorts of crazy shit. But just because you have doubts that you’d be able to resist the urge to dismember and decapitate innocent women and children under extreme provocation, there is no rational, coherent justification for projecting that onto me. Your failings are not mine.

I have no idea how I would behave if I lived under the conditions in the Gaza strip, and you don't either.

See above. But for the record, how would you react if you’d had a privileged upbringing and university education in middle-class Cairo, spared all the daily iniquities of Gazan life? Highjack an airliner and fly it into a skyscraper, perhaps? Understandable? With the requisite provocation, of course?

1/21/2011 01:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

After all, if there's a case for condemning the SWP for hanging out with Yvonne Ridley (and there is indeed such a case, as I've argued in several places including, but not limited to, HP's comments boxes) there's also a case for condemning the decents for hanging out with John Negroponte, et al.

This is not nearly analogous. In what sense did decents ever ‘hang out’ with Negroponte? It is undoubtedly true that in the matter of what we might call 'decent foreign policy’ there is some overlap with the neo-conservative world view, but there was and is no alliance. So whilst Amnesty will whore Begg around the Europe reading poetry written about his time in Gitmo because on this narrow issue there is a common interest, the invitations to Negroponte and Cheney and Wolfowitz to speak at the relaunch of the Euston Manifesto are yet to be posted. Notice the difference?

Of course you do.

1/21/2011 02:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

I meant 'similar' rather than 'analogous'.

1/21/2011 02:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry T said...

there was and is no alliance

Of course there was. It was called the 'coalition of the willing'.

Or is it only in the important world of blogs and manifestos that these things matter, not in trivial situations such as the battlefield?

You followed these guys into war.

Isn't that as bad as reading out their poetry?

1/21/2011 02:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Or is it only in the important world of blogs and manifestos that these things matter, not in trivial situations such as the battlefield?

The British Government and others allied themselves with the US government to prosecute a war which I supported from a classical lef-liberal interventionist perspective.

There is no political alliance. Just ask Vaclav Havel, Jose Ramos Horta and Adam Michnik.

1/21/2011 02:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fork, the fork already.

Chris Williams

1/21/2011 02:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Sheesh, ‘wise’ isn’t what it used to be. Some of us have moral red lines even if you’re wise friend doesn’t. Not to mention that I hardly think my aversion to mass-murder of civilians renders me ‘saintly’.

More of an aquaintance, but one who'd spent a lot of time in some pretty desperate places. His point was a pretty simple one, which I'm guessing was based upon experience. You don't know how you'd react in difficult, dangerous, etc situations and that its often very different to how you think you'd react from the perspective of a safer situation. I think its usually phrased in terms of walking a mile in somebody else's shoes.

But just because you have doubts that you’d be able to resist the urge to dismember and decapitate innocent women and children under extreme provocation, there is no rational, coherent justification for projecting that onto me. Your failings are not mine.

Having never been seriously tested I have no idea what my failings might be. Given I'm a pacifist I like to think I'd choose another path, but I really don't know how I'd react if my children were blown up. Or if my daily experience since childhood had been regular humiliation punctuated by occasional random acts of violence. Obviously my powers of imagination and empathy are very limited in comparison to yours if you think that you can imagine it. Congratulations, you are obviously an extraordinary human being.

See above. But for the record, how would you react if you’d had a privileged upbringing and university education in middle-class Cairo, spared all the daily iniquities of Gazan life? Highjack an airliner and fly it into a skyscraper, perhaps? Understandable? With the requisite provocation, of course?

Do you have any evidence that I supported the 911 bombers, Brownie, or is this just another random slur you've pulled out of your arse? Is this a "decent" way to engage with somebody?

I'd say its about as understandable as having a privileged education in the west and then one day joining the airforce and dropping bombs on civilians below. Actually slightly less, the former does at least require a fair bit of courage I guess.

1/21/2011 03:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Congratulations, you are obviously an extraordinary human being.

Or put another way, I'm like 99.99% of Gazans, Iraqis and Afghans who don't strap explosives to themselves and set out to exterminate as many innocent civilians as they possibly can regardless of the horrors many have endured. Making me altogether unextraordinary, I'd say.

Do you have any evidence that I supported the 911 bombers, Brownie

Since I'm not accusing you of supporting them I'm not sure I need any. The point about 9/11 is that the bombers weren't by and large products of a brutalised existence at the hands of anyone in particular. They weren't refugees from a Gazan hell at all. They did, however, have one thing in common with the 7/7 bombers and sundry Shaheeds who have scattered themselves and their victims to all four corners of the globe from Bali to Bombay...do you know what that is? Big clue: it's not a shared faith.

1/21/2011 03:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

So your minimum criteria for acting in solidarity with the BNP on a specific issue is that they stop behaving like the BNP?

My minimum criteria would be that it would, as best as one could tell at the time, achieve more good than harm. In practice I doubt that's ever going to be tested as a principal, but certainly I know of people in the US who've allied with fairly right wing libertarians on issues. And plenty of athiests have partnered with religious groups who probably had different views on abortion, gays and the like. Who was it on this thread who attacked sectarianism?

Good, that’s mine, too, but to take Iraq as an obvious example (although it is by no means the only one) this is precisely what the indecent left never required of the SWP, MCB or others. It was sufficient that there was some overlap of opinion on Iraq itself for the steering committee of the StWC to look the way it did.

I have absolutely no idea what your argument is here. Not a clue. If I was to work with the BNP (which seems unlikely given how disruptive and chaotic they are, not to mention how small their base is, and how unpleasant their activists are. This is highly theoretical - perhaps assume a more European style fascist group. Le Pen, or something) I'd want to be sure that they were willing to work with others who they disagreed with and they had something positive to contribute, and they were seriously commited to the cause. But that's not really an ideological point, but a practical one. Are you saying that these things weren't true of the SWP, or the MCB?

I'm also a little baffled by who the "Indecent Left" are here. Presumably you wouldn't include me as a member as I never had anything to do with the StWC, SWP, or the MCB, other than the march. What has it got to do with me?

I don't know of anyone anywhere who has ever built a successful coalition by asking people to repudiate things. Have you built a successful coalition across a diverse group of people this way Brownie? As a way of creating divisions from the outset it is brilliant, and in fact if I was a police infiltrator its probably the tactic I'd use.

Oh and incidentally the suggestion that either the SWP, or MCB, are comparable to the BNP is insane and unpleasant.

1/21/2011 03:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

I do realise that Bali and Bombay/Mumbai are not on opposite sides of the world.

1/21/2011 03:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

They did, however, have one thing in common with the 7/7 bombers and sundry Shaheeds who have scattered themselves and their victims to all four corners of the globe from Bali to Bombay...do you know what that is? Big clue: it's not a shared faith.

Shoe size? Bad breath? They were all male? Eye colour? An obsession with the later works of Yusef Lateef?

Or put another way, I'm like 99.99% of Gazans, Iraqis and Afghans who don't strap explosives to themselves and set out to exterminate as many innocent civilians as they possibly can regardless of the horrors many have endured. Making me altogether unextraordinary, I'd say.

Oh I think you'd do just fine in the IDF, Brownie. Or Bomber Command.

1/21/2011 03:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Oh and incidentally the suggestion that either the SWP, or MCB, are comparable to the BNP is insane and unpleasant.

The BNP hypothetical was posited (by Sarah) to test the primciple (of cooperation). There is no requirement that the BNP and SWP/MCB are thought of as "comparable" to test the principle in this way. Indeed, the purpose of using the BNP is to examine what limits are placed on the principle, if any. That said, another decent/indecent differentiator would be that the latter think the BNP and SWP/MCB are more different than they really are, but this is a digression.

In order to reconcile cooperation with the BNP in our hypothetical, you had to effectively reform the BNP; you'd work with *this* mythical BNP that did all of the things even you say they would be unlikely to do, but you wouldn't work with *the* actual BNP who would never countenance doing such things. You're conceding the limitation on cooperation with (what should be) political foes whether you realise it or not.

The point about the some of the red-brown alliances we've seen in recent years is that the reds and the browns in both cases have not transformed to make each more palatable to they other, rather, both sides have simply agreed not to talk about this stuff. Shibboleths are so last year.

How did what was once a mass anti-war movement come to be led by an alliance of Trots and proto-facsit religious reactionaries whose speechs were cheered by people voting Labour and Liberal?

1/21/2011 04:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Marko Attila Hoare said...

'Oh and incidentally the suggestion that either the SWP, or MCB, are comparable to the BNP is insane and unpleasant.'

The suggestion that mainstream Tories, US Republicans or neocons are equivalent to fascists, terrorists or tyrants and their supporters (e.g. Hezbollah, Hamas, Milosevic, Saddam, the Islamist insurgency in Iraq and their respective supporters) is insane and unpleasant.

1/21/2011 05:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, so terrorists, inter alia, are all beyond the pale...

Where do stand, Marko, on the terrorists who have been supported by (some of) your list of acceptable rightists? Tudjman, Thaci, bin Laden, Abdul Haq, etc. Oh yes, and yr man Saddam? Does the Rumsfeld handshake not taint every neocon forever? If not, why not?

Chris Williams

1/21/2011 05:35:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Or alternatively Marko who has more blood on their hands - Hassan Nasrallah or John Negroponte?

1/21/2011 05:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

The suggestion that mainstream ... US Republicans ... are equivalent to fascists

Um Marko, I hate to break this to you, but some of them are pretty indistinguishable.

1/21/2011 05:47:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

The suggestion that mainstream Tories, US Republicans or neocons are equivalent to fascists, terrorists or tyrants and their supporters (e.g. Hezbollah, Hamas, Milosevic, Saddam, the Islamist insurgency in Iraq and their respective supporters) is insane and unpleasant.

Well, Marko, I'm not going to compare these people to other criminals as that would be unseemly. Still, people who've lied to advance pre-emptive war; helped to cover up the deaths of thousands and been complicit in torture are far more immoral than mere rhetoricians, however disgraceful or misguided they could be. And people who airbrush killings, torture and terrorists are as or more immoral and, as they've got power, more dangerous.

1/21/2011 07:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

Thanks Cian - I see your logic but am quite strongly inclined to disagree about working with the BNP. I think working with the BNP is completely different from working with 'fairly right wing libertarians'!

@Brownie and Cian - I used the example of the BNP as a direct parallel to the term 'Islamist groups'. That might include people I'd find quite as objectionable as the BNP.

1/21/2011 07:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

BenSix,

I enjoy many of your comments, but the persuasiveness of your contributions is inversely proportional to the number of hyperlinks you embed. At least, it will be until you find better sources.

I thought you should know.

1/21/2011 10:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian,

It is not just people who are involved in the Vietnam antiwar movement and write about it that have agendas, I would guess that many who were not involved but write about it also have an agenda of some kind.

I have just spent some time looking through the back issues of Peace and Change: A Journal of Peace Research that both Charles Chatfield and late Charles DeBenedetti had edited. This journal is hardly agenda free. One of the papers I read was that by Melvin Small who you have also mentioned. This one, from April 1984 (Vol. 10, No. 1)is entitled, "The Impact of the Antiwar Movement on Lyndon Johnson,1965-1968: A Preliminary Report." Small's conclusion is based on weak and circumstantial evidence: "Mrs. Johnson’s accounts of her travels are sprinkled with comments about the protestors. In New Zealand in 1966, she saw in the crowd a 'now familiar ‘Hey, hey . . .’ sign.' On the same trip, she was pleased in Bangkok when there was 'not a protest banner in sight.'" Based on such asides and confirmation from Johnson merely that he had heard demonstrators Small makes his conclusion. Much of Small's observations are that Johnson or his aides must have known about the demonstrators and what they were up to. He then comes to a conclusion "During the Johnson years, and especially from the middle of 1967 through to the spring of 1968, the antiwar movement was a major factor in the making of American foreign policy." The conclusion simply does not follow from what went before!

Another article I read in the journal was by Charles Chatfield: "At the hands of the historians: The antiwar movement of the Vietnam Era," (Vol. 29, No. 3&4, July 2004). Chatfield spends a lot of time criticising numerous books on the antiwar movement, but then praises his and DeBenedetti’s volume. He is hardly an unbiased commentator!

I am not criticising these books being read, but I do find it amusing that you spend so much time attacking Garfinkle and accusing others of having an agenda and have not considered the agendas of those authors that you suggested.

1/21/2011 10:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Oh god Ezra, you're like a 17 year old smart aleck. Do you really not see that there's a difference between a political activist of the time writing their memoir, and a historian writing about it from a more detached position. If I was looking for a decent survey of the Russian revolution, I'd hardly start with the memoirs of Bolsheviks, Mensheviks or fucking White Russians now, would I.

Do you not really see that there is a difference between a political operator, who has spent many years pushing a political agenda then writing a book that, hey surprise, perfectly supports that agenda. Like who'd have thunk it.

But thank you for pointing out to me that historians are not likely totally objective and have biases. Like wow man, you completely blew my mind.

1/21/2011 10:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian declares that he is a pacifist. Presumably he believes that this is an admirable quality. It isn't. it is morally repugnant.

Let us assume a man was raping a woman and let us assume that given his physical size that Cian could potentially stop this act of violence with the use of his own force. As a pacifist he would not do so. Of course he would oppose the rape occurring, but at the same time he would oppose the use of force to stop the rape. This is hardly the morals of someone to be admired.

Since pacifists will not fight back, they are at the mercy of the first ogre who tries to take their possessions. They would not use force to physically prevent a thief from stealing the watch on their wrist and the wallet in their pocket. As such - and this is the key point - pacifists allow violent people to be rewarded. Non pacifists would be prepared to use force themselves to stop the theft or approve of force by an intervening third party to stop the theft.

While I disagree with her on other matters, the highly acclaimed philosopher G.E.M. Anscombe was right about pacifism - it is a "false doctrine" and a "very harmful doctrine."

1/21/2011 11:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian,

If you were looking to know what went on in the Gulag, you would not be ill advised if someone suggested that you read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's three volume work, The Gulag Archipelago.

And if you are interested in the Russian Revolution, perhaps you should try the works of Richard Pipes. Or are you going to rule out Pipes for some spurious reason that you will invent because you do not like the fact that he is not left-wing?

1/21/2011 11:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Brownie:
I don't think its a huge leap to imagine a fascist organisation like in Austria, Italy, France, etc. The problem with the BNP for the analogy is that they're a dysfunctional group of thugs. But that's not really a political comment. And yes its very hard to imagine such a thing ever happening, as I struggle to think of any possible area of common interest. Environment possibly, which is why I suggested it.

In contrast I don't have to think very hard with the MCB and SWP. There are areas of common interest, and while the tactics of the SWP give me pause, they're certainly not, neither of which are a bunch of dysfunctional thugs, no matter what you think of their politics.

The point about the some of the red-brown alliances we've seen in recent years is that the reds and the browns in both cases have not transformed to make each more palatable to they other, rather, both sides have simply agreed not to talk about this stuff. Shibboleths are so last year.

Sorry, but how is this different from most coalitions, or umbrella organisations? If the stuff wasn't relevant to the goals of the coalition, why would you talk about it? Would you expect Catholics and Muslims working together on running an assylum centre to discuss religion? Or accuse them of having sold out their principles? So what's the difference? I mean seriously, welcome to the real world. Its imperfect, people disagree, stuff's hard.

How did what was once a mass anti-war movement come to be led by an alliance of Trots and proto-facsit religious reactionaries whose speechs were cheered by people voting Labour and Liberal?

Because both groups were good at organising, and shared a common political goal. The former is why quakers and police spies often end up running these things. The latter is what keeps disparate groups of people with different beliefs roped together. Not exactly rocket science.

1/21/2011 11:11:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

At least, it will be until you find better sources.

I thought you should know.


Typing out the details of Abrams' involvement in El Salvador, say, would bore even people who've waded through a 180-comment thread on "decency", anti-communism and the rhetorical status of Michael Ezra. If you've got a problem with any of the claims then - hey! - let's chat about it. (This thread couldn't go more O/T if I started musing on paleolithic diets or the sad decline of Peter Frampton's hair.) If, however, you're just not fond of the sources I've used I'll have to live with not persuading you.

1/21/2011 11:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael E - have you ever read Thouless's _Straight and Crooked Thinking_? You see, I have, and I'm loving this. It's 'SaCT bingo night' here on the Watch.

Chris Williams

PS If Conan Fisher is as keen as you that the KPD used United Front as a 'strategy', then why did he persist in using the word the 'tactic'?

1/21/2011 11:14:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

(On that note, isn't it alarming how much time and energy we spend trying to convince small numbers of strangers that our views are justly held. All I've left to justify it is the knowledge that (a) that's true of many academics and (b) at least I don't watch Jeremy Kyle.)

1/21/2011 11:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Ezra. Rape. Really. Well that took the thread to a new low. At least I wasn't the rapist in that sordid little analogy/fantasy. And who was that little speech for anyway, a jury of my peers?

And yes I think everyone got your point. You're a real man with your big manly fists, and your square jaw. And I'm a girly boy. Well done.

Are you calling G.E.M. Anscombe a highly acclaimed philosopher as an appeal to authority? In which case what is the concerned reader to make of you disagreeing with her on other matters? Should we be concerned?

1/21/2011 11:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Ben my justification is mainly procastination. I always get sucked into flamewars when there's a deadline on the horizon...

1/21/2011 11:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

I have read an appendix of Thouless's book.

Re the KPD and Nazis. I apologise if I said that that wooing Nazis was a strategy of the KPD if it were only a tactic. As if it makes a massive difference. It did not stop the KPD, as Fischer points out, of having "United Action posters ...showing Communist, Nazi and Socialist workers standing shoulder to shoulder in class solidarity against the bourgeoisie."

1/21/2011 11:41:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

That is a good one! Sadly, though, I've nothing better to do...

(It strikes me that the best way to gracefully leave a flamewar is convince your interlocutor that while he's won the battle you've won the war. So, "I'd love to chat but I've got to finish my latest novel before Kirsty Wark arrives" or "Ooh, I've got to go, the wife's back from her latest modelling shoot and you know what they're like...)

1/21/2011 11:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

(On that note, isn't it alarming how much time and energy we spend trying to convince small numbers of strangers that our views are justly held. All I've left to justify it is the knowledge that (a) that's true of many academics and (b) at least I don't watch Jeremy Kyle.)

I work from home a fair bit and The Jeremy Kyle Show is my televisual wiggly tooth.

My favourite cartoon depicts a haggard wreck of a man crouched over his keyboard whilst his wife in the background points at the clock reading 2:30am.

"Are you coming to be yet, love?" she asks.

"Not yet, darling. Someone on the internet is wrong."

Time for some more wine.

1/21/2011 11:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian,

It is not a question of being a "girly boy" it is a question of holding a morally repugnant position: that of pacifism.

My reference to G.E.M. Anscombe of being highly acclaimed is because she is indeed highly acclaimed. If you wish to view that as an appeal to authority then so be it. I actually used her words of "false doctrine" and "very harmful doctrine" and I did not want to take the credit myself for what I got from her; as such I put the terms in quotes and linked to my source. I see no harm in this.

Re your question as to if she is an authority and if I disagree with her then should we be worried. The answer is no, not really. Elizabeth Anscombe's specialist subject is philosophy. The area where I disagree with her is one of history. I feel she lacked a full understanding of the decisions surrounding the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima and the position of the Japanese in advance of the bomb being dropped. It is not really necessary for me to go into these disagreements for this purpose, as it should be sufficient to say that they have been done by someone else: Robert P. Newman, a historian noted for his work on the Hiroshima decision. The reference for this is Robert P. Newman, Truman and the Hiroshima Cult, (Michigan State University Press, 1995), pp.123-127.

1/22/2011 12:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Yeah she was a consequentialist, which means depending upon the circumstances she might well support that rape. Hurrah for analytic philosophy and all who sail in her.

No, more wine didn't help. Pity.

1/22/2011 12:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

If you were looking to know what went on in the Gulag, you would not be ill advised if someone suggested that you read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's three volume work, The Gulag Archipelago.

Fun fact, Richard Pipes accused of Solzhenitsyn of anti-semitism. He's possibly right, though his explanation was pretty weird. Like father, like son, perhaps.

Solzhenitsyn might be an exception I guess, though I have no idea what its contemporary reputation is. I'd be wary of using it as my sole source, for what should be fairly obvious reasons.

And if you are interested in the Russian Revolution, perhaps you should try the works of Richard Pipes. Or are you going to rule out Pipes for some spurious reason that you will invent because you do not like the fact that he is not left-wing?

Well it is interesting that you mention yet another hard right winger. Some might see a trend.

Err, no, I don't find Pipe's school terribly convincing. Its been a while, but isn't his argument that essentially it was a coup. That just ignores so many other factors, that I can't take it very seriously as an argument.

The only thing I did like about him was that he emphasised the way that the social aspects of Russian society/politics influenced the way the post-1917 society went, but even there his account of this is so eccentric. Also his argument that essentially the fascist dictatorships and the Russian regime were essentially identical seemed like as good an example of ideology eating somebody's brain as you're ever likely to see.

I like Sheila Fitzpatrick. I though her popular account of the Russian revolution was pretty good popular overview. And her book on life under Stalin is a brilliant analysis of how totalitarianism actually functions. I also thought Kotkin's book on Magnitogorsk was outstanding. And I really like Kenez' books on propoganda and the cinema. I haven't read his survey book.

1/22/2011 10:32:00 AM  

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