Tuesday, February 08, 2011

If we change our name, I suggest 'Doublethink Watch'

Nick has been rather busy recently, and I see that our readers are not short of opinions about his recent efforts. So here are a few points, which no doubt you will expand on or disagree with as you see fit.

I've not read What's Left in book form, though I have read the original Observer columns, but, as I understand it, the 'argument' of the book is best summed up by the Amazon five star review by 'HuddsOn'

These typically liberal traits - an effortless moral superiority, instinctive support for the underdog, and opposition to the status quo - are undoubtedly very easy to ridicule. But they are not inherently malign or wicked. They only become dangerous when they are un-coupled from any sort of genuine altruism. This is what Cohen means when he says the Left has lost its way.

In Cohen's view, substantial segments of the left are in danger of allowing their movement to degenerate into a trite, self-indulgent counter-culture, in which an angry anti-establishment posturing conceals a lack of a positive political programme. mpaigns, are defined by what they're against, not what they're for. Many people on the left are far too ready to draw an artificial moral equivalence between true tyrannies overseas and the very real but usually much milder moral failings of our own leaders and institutions. The author sets out to explore what's gone wrong and why.


That's from a positive review, and it sets out Nick's position as something has "gone wrong" with the left. It used to be good; now it isn't.

Here is Nick on Eric Hobsbawm

No one killed as many communists as the communists did. If Hobsbawm had followed the logic of his convictions and moved from Nazi Germany to seek a home in the Soviet Union rather than Britain, his chances of surviving would have been slim. Either the party would have shot him in the great purge for being foreigner and a Jew to boot, or he would have been forced to denounce innocent comrades to save his skin.


Shorter Nick, the left was always rotten. I did not study PPE at Oxford like Nick, so perhaps I lack his philosophical training. I cannot see how one can believe both 'the left used to be good' and 'the left was always bad'. I only observe that Nick manages to do so.

HuddsOn on "What's Left" again:

The influence of the postmodern theorists, Cohen explains, has also been thoroughly disastrous. Despite, or because of, their impenetrable jargon - "homogenizing epistemic logic", "representationalist discursive areas", etc - many of these obscurantists were able to achieve a high degree of credence in university humanities departments.


Nick on Hobsbawm:

When he stops trying to persuade us to avert our eyes from some of the worst crimes in human history, his merits peek through the fog of obfuscatory prose.


Obfuscation is both new, and the result of post-modernism, and old, and somehow entangled with Marxism or something. Ray Noble's observations on love aside, again I can't see how something can be old and new at the same time.

Elsewhere, Nick reveals that he's heard of Johnson and Boswell, and quotes the former. He's sure that Huffington Post bloggers are unpaid. I'm not. I can't find submission guidelines on the site, but it clearly requires a lot of editorial staff and recruits very like a newspaper. Besides, while it's not as if the blogs are its major draw, I can't believe that Dan Rather would write for free. Many of the HuffPo bloggers aren't, but he a professional journalist. Even if some HuffPo bloggers did write for nothing, none could have thought that it was anything other than a business.

Then there's the Foreign Office.

What set the Foreign Office apart from other cynical western chancelleries was that it was not content with appeasing today's secular dictators. It went on to embrace the theocrats of the Muslim Brotherhood it expected to become the religious dictators of the future.


This seems wrong to me. I admit to a certain glibness in my analyses also known as "they're all as bad as each other" (this works for banks, politicians, countries, religions, women, Top Gear hosts, and much else besides) -- but given, as we all know, that the US supported the Taliban and armed it during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, I find it hard to credit the idea that other countries are marked by a distaste for 'theocracy'. Of course, I also don't know what counts as a theocracy. Does Saudi Arabia (with fairly nasty Sharia laws)? Does Israel? Does Pakistan?

101 Comments:

Anonymous gastro george said...

I know I'm an appeaser, but it has been pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood is not on the USs terrorist list and has renounced violence.

OK, I know they might be lying, but sometimes you have to cut people a bit of slack (viz. the IRA) - it's not like they're lying because they're, well, foreign.

So we don't like them in Egypt because ... we find the idea of democracy led by the wrong people distasteful (I find the Tories distasteful). Or they remind us of the Brotherhood of Man. Or ...

2/08/2011 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

But George, they've got 'Muslim' in their name! The prosecution rests its case.

Also, how could I have forgotten the Oliver North Iran-Contra scandal. Yes, the US is really averse to theocracies, as you were.

I meant to look up Mockbul Ali, because the Times piece Nick linked to is simply horrible. MPs have voiced concern about Ali’s role at the heart of government. He was a 26-year-old civil servant. When Robin Cook was alive, he wasn't at the heart of government, and he was Foreign Secretary. At the heart of government is just disingenuous for 'being a civil servant.'

David Cameron seems to be prepared to stand up for elementary principles.

Remind me, when did Cameron take office? Because in the Queen's Birthday Honours List last June, Mockbul Ali, still a civil servant, was awarded the OBE. I have to assume that the doubters Nick talks about didn't include the new PM. I'm no fan of honours, but I don't believe that Mr Ali is quite the al Qaeda front person Nick claims he is.

2/08/2011 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Let's just note for now that not one decent of note - not Norm or Hitch or Nick or Aaro or even the nutters at HP - has acknowleged that the Egyptian revolt has been immensely popular with lefties in the UK.

They haven't even noted it to say How come you support the Egyptians, but hated the invasion of Iraq?, largely because they know the answer to that question and really don't want to go there.

The only comment on the response to this - i.e. precisely the "support for democrats" they've angrily demanded all these years, in such a non-self-serving and sincere fashion - has been a few HP comments-creatures pretending that "The Left" is cheerleading the Muslim Brotherhood to genocide, or something.

why do we think that is, folks? It's been pretty hard to miss, especially to people on social media networks. does it shed any light on all those critiques of the left and its antipathy to freedom and democracy?

I think it does, you know. I don't think it reflects at all well on Nick, for starters.

2/08/2011 06:09:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

You know what the line is going to be don't you?

They only support the Egyptian protestors because they are opposing an American ally. Its just more anti-Americanism dontchaknow.

BTW anybody else notice that the wonderfully absurd phrase, so beloved of Decents, - 'muscular liberallism'- has recently been resurrected by Cameron?

2/08/2011 06:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

In elucidation rather than defence of Nick, what he's saying is that Communists always were apologists for mass murder and liars (they even denied being apologists for mass murder), but that the Left used to be better than that - and now it isn't. Cf. Michael Ezra's do you realise these people are actually Trotskyists? shtick. It's easier to understand if you read it backwards - Nick (and indeed Norm) used to hate Communists and love the Left, but now they hate Communists and the Left, and the reason for that is of course that the Left has changed.

2/08/2011 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I mentioned before, I think, that I was made aware of the Tunisian revolt by various Twitter and Facebook messages from precisely the sort of antiwar leftists who Decents

(a) really don't like at all ; and
(b) were supposed to not be mentioning Tunisia because it's not Israel.

Anyway, it occurred to me that the late Chris Harman, editor of Socialist Worker, actually died after a heart attack suffered when attending a socialist conference in Cairo.

Just for the record, as they say.

2/08/2011 08:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

I liked 'What's Left' and the two things which struck me about it were 1) that it had been mischaracterised by both right and left and 2) that, although good, it excluded some middle ground - perhaps represented by some of you.

Flying Rodent - if decents haven't acknowledged 'leftie' support for the Egyptian protests as much as you'd like - it's also true that non-decents haven't acknowledged decent support for the Egyptians as much as I'd like.

(Even in our agreement we manage to find something to quarrel about.)

gastro george - it's possible to recognize that a group has renounced violence but still not be a fan of the group's ideology - and even if not a fan, still think it's up to the Egyptians what kind of government they choose.

Chardonnay Chap - to note one possible objection one might have to the MB - it seems they wouldn't allow women or minorities to hold high office. See here for example.

http://www.adnkronos.com/AKI/English/Politics/?id=1.0.1683938792

2/09/2011 07:40:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Whether that would explain why the Est supported Mubarak's dictatorship is another question, though, given the sexual politics of some other local recipients of much Western money and firepower.

On the general subject of doublethink, I've thought for a while that one of the principal themes of Decent commentary has been the attribution to one's opponents of characteristics most visible in oneself. Perhaps most common is "Israel is being singled out if it isn't allowed to break all the rules" but "I condemn the Left for not previously writing about the Tunisia I've never written about" would be a good example.

I wrote something about "bad rhetorical habits" once but whenever Cohen starts trying to channel Orwell (which is whenever he writes) I always find myself recalling Orwell's "sniff, sniff - are you a good anti-Fascist?" with the difference that at least in the Thirties one was talking of real Fascists rather than applying them term to whatever and whoever takes one's fancy. Second time as farce indeed.

What's Left was very well taken apart in postings and comments on this blog shortly after its publication, but a short summing-up might be that it gave every impression of being written by somebody who

(a) didn't know his subject very well
(b) had read it up very quickly, but from dicky, partisan sources
(c) was possessed by an overwhelming sense of grudge.

None of these tend to produce particularly good, thoughtful or accurate writing, and they didn't.

On the other hand, if you just want soembody who'll stick it to people you don't like, and you don't like the people he don't like, then Nick's your man. A good hater, sure. But not much of a good anything else, any more. Which is a shame.

2/09/2011 08:09:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

While typing I hear on Radio Three that Oxford are going to charge the maximum wedge possible in fees. Well, that would have seen off both Nick and myself, I reckon (my debt on graduation: five hundred nicker). What has fucking Aaro to say about this, as if I didn't know?

2/09/2011 08:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Donna said...

it's also true that non-decents haven't acknowledged decent support for the Egyptians as much as I'd like

Perhaps you'd like to point us in direction of this Decent support?

2/09/2011 08:26:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Marko, I believe. I have no reason to think it's just him.

2/09/2011 08:29:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

it's also true that non-decents haven't acknowledged decent support for the Egyptians as much as I'd like

It's been pretty clearly acknowledged on this backwater of the web...

Rodent's core point surely stands. In the face of the British left unhesitatingly getting behind a mass democratic movement in Egypt, a lot of Decents don't know what to do. witness Cohen and his lame 'tunked' and 'wtf' gags.

For me the weird thing is the lack of Decent support in comparison with their ostentatious support for the Iranians a while back.

As I've often said, i tihnk the main reason for this is because it's a movement united by what it dislikes, not by what it likes.

2/09/2011 08:54:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

Also Geras, and Gene from Harry's Place. The Jacksonauts came down on the ohnoesmuslim side, as did a few others.

I always find myself recalling Orwell's "sniff, sniff - are you a good anti-Fascist?" with the difference that at least in the Thirties one was talking of real Fascists rather than applying them term to whatever and whoever takes one's fancy

Always worth remembering that for a very long time in the 1930s, Orwell was dead against war with Hitler, and thought that the German threat was being hyped up as an excuse for imposing something not wholly unlike fascism on the British working class. In January 1939, he wrote in a letter "I believe it is vitally necessary for those of us who intend to oppose thecoming war to start organising for illegal anti-war activities".

The sniff-sniffing you refer to took place in the 1940s, and was the result of a volte-face every bit as startling as Nick "Why It Is Right To Be Anti-American" Cohen's.

(Christ I've just reread that. The dateline is just over four months from 9/11).

2/09/2011 08:55:00 AM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

SarahAB
gastro george - it's possible to recognize that a group has renounced violence but still not be a fan of the group's ideology - and even if not a fan, still think it's up to the Egyptians what kind of government they choose.

Thank you for describing my position.

2/09/2011 09:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Donna said...

For me the weird thing is the lack of Decent support in comparison with their ostentatious support for the Iranians a while back.

It's not weird when you accept that nearly everything in their world view has to be seen through the prism of Israeli interest first. Hence the Iranian regime is an enemy, whilst the Egyptian one, which has colluded with Israel in crimes against the Palestinians, is not.

And as Mr Blair has so kindly clarified for us; a pro-Western/U.S./Israeli military dictatorship is infinitely more desirable than a democracy in which there is a danger of Islamic parties holding power.

2/09/2011 09:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Sarah: The thing that struck me about "What's Left" was that most of his "facts" weren't in fact true. My fundamental problem with that book isn't the argument, but that almost everything verifiable that he states in it is bollocks. And the few things that he does focus on in there that are true, are also irrelevant (e.g. the obsession with far left grouplets that were never popular, had little influence and which are largely forgotten). I mean Gerry Healy? Seriously?

2/09/2011 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

The Healy thing stuck out, and was much-discussed here at the time, I think. While, then, what struck me was that anybody really involved in the left would have known that Healy had already been a pretty insignificant figure for two decades and more (it's like thinking Militant were important in 1968, or the Socialist Review group in 1956) by the time of the WRP's implosion.

Looking at it now, what also strikes me is the grudge element: Cohen doesn't like Ken Livingstone, Livingstone went to Healy's funeral, hence Healy's importance in Cohen's mind. But you know, really. You had to work really hard to even come across their paper by the time Nick and I came of age.

2/09/2011 11:03:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Well yes I think that Decent output generally involves a great deal of axe grinding and score settling. The problem is that it is very obvious that this is going on. It also makes you look a little unhinged when you have to constantly dig out what someone said/might have said/insinuated/implied/failed to condemn many decades previously in order to blacken their name. Especially so when they are long dead and can't even defend themselves

This happens so often - digging up Raymond Williams and Hobsbawn's views circa 1939 or what Chomsky said about the Khymer Rouge in the 1970s that it's almost one of the defining characteristics of the movement.

2/09/2011 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Spot the irony with Lucy Lips...

http://hurryupharry.org/2011/02/09/solidarity-with-egyptian-democracy-activists/

2/09/2011 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

"Oh let's not, and say we did"

2/09/2011 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

EJH can ignore this if he likes - and I know he does - but it's high comedy to me, at least.

So, you've got "Lucy Lips" of "Amnesty hearts Cage Prisoners: Dynamite!" fame, urging the Saucers to go on an Amnesty International march in solidarity with the Egyptians...

But Lo! Some gang of Islamist so-and-soes are helping to organise the march in some capacity thus incurring Lucy's wrath!

In short, HP are now encouraging their readers to march with those they accuse of being fascists and collaborators with the Taliban, for a good cause.

Will the Saucers allow themselves to be led by the enemies of democracy? What if the BNP had been involved in the march, would Lucy think that was okay?

Either way, you have to ask - can there be a Decent Decent Left that doesn't make common cause with far-right wing extremists? Answers on a postcard...

(While I'm at it, HP contributor Alan A. invites Saucers to show up and argue with any wrong 'uns they meet. If I've read Splintered Sunrise right in the past, this sounds like a very AWL thing to do. Marching with people you basically hate, for a cause you support only in highly conditional terms, with the explicit intent of picking fights with everyone else there... Well, it's not my idea of fun, but I live about 400 miles from London so I've no idea what the natives do for recreation).

2/09/2011 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Read the internet, mostly.

2/09/2011 01:18:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

It is a small point, but I am unhappy that the coalition supporting this demonstration includes the Muslim Council of Britain. The Muslim Council of Britain is a Jamaat-e-Islami controlled organisation, which favours the very opposite of liberal democracy

might it ... possibly ... be that the MCB isn't quite as Jamaat-controlled as you thought it was, Dave?

2/09/2011 01:37:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Either way, you have to ask - can there be a Decent Decent Left that doesn't make common cause with far-right wing extremists? Answers on a postcard...

Yes, the supporting Israel thing is problematic as it seems that both the BNP and the EDL have decided that they do -- white people who are armed to the teeth and who hate Arabs, there aren't many boxes for the far right Israel doesn't tick at the moment.

Sarah, the MB may not be altogether pleasant, although Islam is a broad church, so to speak, and not every 'political' Muslim agrees with the Taliban. I don't like making political parties illegal whatever their views. And I've seen a lot of footage and still images from Egypt, and most of the men who've been protesting look like regular Westerners: very few have beards at all, let alone chest length ones, very few wear 'traditional' clothes. In short, I don't like the argument that Egypt shouldn't have free elections, because one party is portrayed as being nasty. I think that infantilises Egyptian politics. And I don't really buy the argument that the MB will dominate any elected parliament.

I think there's every reason for the EU (for example) to put diplomatic pressure on Egypt -- post election -- to pass equality and human rights legislation.

Well, it's not my idea of fun, but I live about 400 miles from London so I've no idea what the natives do for recreation

I know what I do for fun when I visit London at the moment (apart from annoying Paul Weller, but I think FR missed that), and I'm certainly not sharing it with any of you...

BTW, on Nick's point about totalitarianism. I consider it significant that two of the great anti-totalitarian novels -- Darkness at Noon and Nineteen Eighty-Four -- were originally published in the UK. I think Nick underestimates how British history is entwined with French and American, and how important the French Revolution was here. I think the idea of a collective memory or national sensibility is complete nonsense, but Britain has seen tyrants (Cromwell for example), the French Revolution certainly mattered to Edmund Burke and contemporary parliamentarians. If there's a "frivolity about our dealings with totalitarianism" it might be the same ironic one Mel Brooks exhibited in 'The Producers'. Laughter and mockery may be the best responses anyway.

I think Nick's trying to sneak in "I understand Nazis and you don't, chum" here. If he wants to go about admiring Labour members who've fought Nazis, he can damn well start with Tony Benn, who was a pilot in WWII, but there's no chance of that.

Why doesn't he lump the US in with us if he's criticising countries which weren't invaded by the Nazis? And didn't he or Francis Wheen have a go at Foucault for supporting the Iranian Revolution? I really don't think the French Communist Party and the French Left handled relations with Stalin any better than their UK equivalents did. What about Brecht (who Nick also hates)? He chose to live in East Germany, and he'd seen Nazism. Hegel got history right. We learn nothing from it.

2/09/2011 04:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Yes, the supporting Israel thing is problematic as it seems that both the BNP and the EDL have decided that they do -- white people who are armed to the teeth and who hate Arabs, there aren't many boxes for the far right Israel doesn't tick at the moment.

Well its government certainly ticks most of their boxes, so there's that.

2/09/2011 08:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked 'What's Left' and the two things which struck me about it were 1) that it had been mischaracterised by both right and left and 2) that, although good, it excluded some middle ground - perhaps represented by some of you.

You're serious, aren't you? Aside from the exclusion of "some middle ground" his factually-challenged melange of old newspaper columns and random insults strung together without even the pretence of a coherent thesis was "good"? How so? What did you learn from it?

2/09/2011 11:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Would anyone like to discuss the WRP? They were a particularly fascinating Trotskyist group.

2/09/2011 11:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Darkness at Noon? You are surely not promoting a book by a serial rapist are you? Perhaps my eyes deceive me.

2/09/2011 11:55:00 PM  
Blogger Gerard said...

Hi Michael, welcome back.

On a previous thread I asked you a question which you failed to answer.

To give you another opportunity, do you believe that the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki constituted war crimes and genocide?

2/10/2011 12:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Gerard,

I am not sure what the Hiroshima decision has to do with either this thread or the previous one I commented upon, but if you are interested in my view on the subject I detailed it in a specific blog post that can be seen on line
http://bit.ly/g8Ozml

I trust that helps.

2/10/2011 01:52:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Michael, THIS is the nub of our disagreement and/or differences. Others have given their views on what makes a Decent a Decent, but you have, as Jeeves would say, touched the matter with a needle. Decency's, and especially Harry's Place's, defining feature is playing the man, not the ball.

Thus, David Toube, under his nom-de-guerre-a-terroir [is that 'terror' in French, or is it 'ground', it's probably funnier if the latter anyway], which isn't fooling anybody, considers solidarity with Egypt would be a good thing, but frets that this might be spoiled if some chaps with beards think likewise. Not only do I not share your moral compass, I cannot even comprehend your metaphysics.

Post-modernists (and I'm a po-mo fellow traveller, or 'for but not of' as Sartre styled himself with reference to the Partie Communiste) consider that the text is absolute and the author is irrelevant. You, by contrast, seem to have fallen for the biographical fallacy. If some scholar proves tomorrow that Shakespeare was a serial axe-murdering black lesbian, it will not change the plays one bit.

I have mentioned Koestler here before. I know he was a rapist. I still think that 'Darkness at Noon' is an excellent novel about Russia. And I think that 'The Sleepwalkers', 'The Lotus and the Robot', and 'The Ghost in the Machine' were splendid as well. Much the same goes for wife-stabber and all-round thug Norman Mailer. What of it?

2/10/2011 06:26:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

It should be noted that in the comments to that thread, there are several HP commenters who are specifically refusing to demonstrate solidarity with Egyptian democrats because the march is organised by Amnesty.

2/10/2011 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Stupid people in "are stupid" shock.

2/10/2011 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

It's difficult to pick out the funniest thing. Is it "lucy" encouraging his readers to march in solidarity, even with the Muslim council of Britain - a heinous crime, when millions did so to protest the Iraq invasion? recall the pious denunciation - "there were principled reasons to oppose the war, but that's no excuse for going on a march that also involved some bad 'uns you've never heard of! The Left has gone berserk and lost its moral bearings!"

Is it the chickens coming home to roost on their bullshit campaigns against Amnesty et al? They were warned at very great and tedious length where their suicide tactics re: human rights orgs would logically take them, but to no avail*.

Or is it just the same old irony that the decents have so thoroughly alienated absolutely everyone on the left that they're stuck explaining why democracy and human rights are important, to a huge gaggle of ultra-belligerent, small minded bigots?

Schadenfreude is never edifying, but I can't resist when the bathos is as clownish as this. who knows, maybe Tony "douglas Hurd" Blair could show up and address the demonstrators on the urgent need for... a dictator to stay in power, in the interests of stability. As BB says, you'd love to hear rentoul's take on that one.

*did we ever get a response from Hitch, Nick or Aaro to the news that the US fulsomely praised Moazzam Begg for his sterling work? Oh Uncle Sam, your moral compass is broken!

2/10/2011 07:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

This is all very interesting, but can we discuss the WRP?

2/10/2011 07:59:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Something tells me that's not the real Michael Ezra. He'd usually whap a long essay on the perils of anti-Imperialism or something in front of a bare-faced attempt to change the subject to some neolithic lefty microsect.

2/10/2011 08:12:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

This is all very interesting, but can we discuss the WRP?

t.r.o.l.l.

2/10/2011 08:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But OC, you say that about the real Michael Ezra too.
I did wonder if we had an impersonator, but the reply about Hiroshima made me think it was the real Michael Ezra. I think my point re Decency stands, but I would say that wouldn't I?
DW

2/10/2011 09:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Oh yes, organic cheeseboard referring to me as a troll. I think I have made it quite plain in the past that I do not respond to people who make such provocative accusations.

A good example of why not is this one. Earlier in this thread Cian had referred to Gerry Healy who was the leader of the WRP and ejh had referred to both Gerry Healy and the WRP. Neither of them get accused of being trolls for bringing up that subject but as soon as I do and wish to elaborate on it, as it is a subject that I am very interested in, I get referred to as a troll.

Unless he wishes to apologise, and I doubt he will be man enough to do so, I will not be responding to any further comments from organic cheeseboard.

2/10/2011 09:05:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

the WRP were sepcifically mentioned because Cian and EJH both point out that they were a micro sect of no interest to almsot anyone on the left.

If you find them 'fascinating', fair enough, but we were done dsicussing them when you arrived on this thread. the only reason they were brought up is to say 'they are not of any interest, and Cohen's focus on them belies his scattergun, partisan, grudge-based approach to writing'. you intentionally ignored that.

ergo, you're trolling.

Since Michael is here though, I'd be interested to know whether he'll be marcinh alongside David 'lucy lips' toube?

2/10/2011 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

A nation mourns

2/10/2011 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Given that Healy - who died when I was 12, and who I first heard of when I was about 30, thanks only to your mate Nick - was raised explicitly in terms of deceny's huge preferene for psychologising long-irrelevant microsects in the face of massive historical events that make deceny's adherents look like slapstick clowns and idiots...

don't you think it's a little bit ironic that you want to talk lefty mirosects while Egypt explodes and Tony Blair publicly backs Mubarak, Michael? The point is that you'd rather talk shit about anonymous non-entities* than important world events, and you've responded with an appeal to discuss non-entities. do you realise that this makes you look a bit silly?

Your point looks less like trolling to me than it does Sideshow Bob from the Simpsons repeatedly stepping on rakes and muttering...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzL8secQBkA

*Note here that if you respond "But commie (x) was very important in lefty history", that's not "making an interesting point". It's you stepping on your 14th rake.

2/10/2011 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Would anyone like to discuss the WRP?

No.

They were a particularly fascinating Trotskyist group.

you left out the word 'not'.

2/10/2011 09:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

flying rodent,

I only came on to this thread and posted because the WRP was mentioned! Had it not been, I would not have bothered.

It just so happens that it is a subject that I am interested in. Is this site a place where someone can determine something irrelevant, (the WRP), other people can concur, and anyone who might wish to discuss the matter is evading the more important subject of what is occurring in Egypt?

It is a bit ridiculous isn't it?

2/10/2011 09:52:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

So let me get this straight - Michael only came on here cos the WRP was mentioned, and didn't notice:

a) the topic of the blog post

or

b) the context in which the WRP was mentioned

or

c) any of the other comments?

2/10/2011 09:55:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

http://www.spectator.co.uk/nickcohen/6685718/feminists-for-cameron.thtml

Nick's back on his feminst-spotting kick again.

His book sounds really, really shit...

2/10/2011 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Shorter Michael...

whap! MrrrMrrrMrrr... whap!

2/10/2011 09:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Marko Attila Hoare said...

'The Jacksonauts came down on the ohnoesmuslim side, as did a few others.'

The HJS has come down unambiguously on the side of the Egyptian protesters:

http://henryjacksonsociety.org/stories.asp?pageid=49&id=1945

'Neither of them get accused of being trolls for bringing up that subject but as soon as I do and wish to elaborate on it, as it is a subject that I am very interested in, I get referred to as a troll.'

Michael, I'm afraid you can't really expect fair play from the regulars here.

But I agree with Dave that 'Darkness at Noon' is an excellent novel; it makes Stalinism comprehensible better than anything I've ever read.

2/10/2011 10:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

flying rodent,

I do not get your point. What does "whap! MrrrMrrrMrrr... whap!" mean?

Surely you are not evading important subjects to talk gibberish?

2/10/2011 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Ho hum, again...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzL8secQBkA

2/10/2011 10:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Marko,

I also think Darkness at Noon is an excellent novel. I have some interest Koestler and attended an interesting lecture early last year at the British Library given by Michael Scammell, a biographer of Koestler, on his life.

Having said that I do think that if one is to recommend Darkness then one should note this stain on his personal life. I had this discussion with a friend of mine who teaches English at an all girls secondary school. She was going through Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four and Huxley's Brave New World with one of her classes. I brought up two books that she may wish to suggest to the girls for reading around the subject - one being Zamyatin's We and one being Darkness. The first thing I did when I mentioned Darkness was to bring up the rape business. My friend teaches teeenage girls and I think it would be very wrong to leave out this fact about Koestler's private life. It is an aside that Scammell thinks that Cesarani gave far too much weight to Jill Craigie's allegations.

2/10/2011 10:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Marko Attila Hoare said...

'Having said that I do think that if one is to recommend Darkness then one should note this stain on his personal life.'

It's an interesting question, which one could put differently: if Decency's 'defining feature is playing the man, not the ball', and if 'the text is absolute and the author is irrelevant', does it then follow that an article by Nick Cohen would be discussed here in exactly the same terms as it would if it had been written by someone other than Nick Cohen, and without reference to Nick Cohen's past record ? If it had been written by someone other than Nick Cohen, would it even be mentioned ?

Discuss.

2/10/2011 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

I thought Victor Serge far better understood the mentality of those who capitulated to Stalinism than did Koestler, but then I'm probably biased.

2/10/2011 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

It's an interesting question, which one could put differently: if Decency's 'defining feature is playing the man, not the ball', and if 'the text is absolute and the author is irrelevant', does it then follow that an article by Nick Cohen would be discussed here in exactly the same terms as it would if it had been written by someone other than Nick Cohen, and without reference to Nick Cohen's past record ? If it had been written by someone other than Nick Cohen, would it even be mentioned ?

It depends on the context in which it was discussed: whether one was discussing the idea or the evolution of a given individual's ideas. This site manifestly does both: plainly,though it's not only possible, but often necessary, to discuss the idea in itself and only in itself. Otherwise one is always acting ad hominem, anbd that's not ony a limited way to discuss literature and philosophy, it's a dmaned tedious one as well.

But you know this, Marko.

2/10/2011 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Ditto for Victor Serge's novel, by the way, though I think Darkness at Noon (which I've mentioned on here before) an even better one. We could also mention We, of which, as Isaac Deutscher observed, Nineteen Eighty Four is a rip-off, albeit a brilliant one.

2/10/2011 11:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Marko Attila Hoare said...

'It depends on the context in which it was discussed: whether one was discussing the idea or the evolution of a given individual's ideas. This site manifestly does both'

*familiar sound of goalposts being moved*

2/10/2011 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

What would be the sound of goalposts being moved?

2/10/2011 12:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

ejh,

I have already mentioned Zamyatin's We in this thread, but as you are commenting on what Deutscher had to say about Zamyatin and Orwell, it is incumbent on me to mention that Leopold Labedz (The Use and Abuse of Sovietology [Transaction Publishers, 1989]pp.51-2) showed that Deutscher made many errors in his comments on Zamyatin. But this should not be surprising because as Labedz also notes in some detail (ibid, pp. 59-93), Deutscher's portrayal of Stalin was atrocious.

2/10/2011 01:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a slightly scrapy clang, followed by some heavy footsteps and breathing, another metallic scrape, and a closely-set pair of thuds. HTH.

But how can Toube go on this march, and not be tarred instantly by the guilt of the fascist-appeasers, when this option apparently wasn't available to us poor things in 2003? Is there some kind of new nanoparticle DecencyRetainer spray on the market?

Chris Williams

2/10/2011 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick in the Spectator:

She [Joan Smith] is one of the few true feminists left in Britain?

That 'true' is just begging an explanation, for starters. I'm also having difficulty reconciling the feminism of Joan Smith the 80s throwback version of that other 'true' feminist Julie Bindel. And if Smith - let alone Cohen - think that the Tories could 'capture' 'liberal/secular values' (rather than hoover up the anti-Muslim vote while maintaining their religious headbanger faction), then one or both of them are fools.

[redpesto]

PS: Three more words - Jack. Straw. Veils.

2/10/2011 01:08:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I'd invite anybody who wants to compare We and Nineteen Eighty Four not to take my word for it, nor indeed Isaac Deutscher's, but to read them. The similarities are very striking.

2/10/2011 01:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

ejh,

As I said, I mention Zamyatin's We before you in this thread in relation to Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four. I do not know why you would think I might not like a comparison. My point was not on whether or not it is reasonable to make a comparison but that Deutscher's comments contained numerous errors.

2/10/2011 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Yes, Michael, but y'know, I honestly don't care all that much what your point is, since I mentioned the two books with the intention of drawing attention to their similarities, not to invite you to discourse on what somebody else reckons Deutscher said about Zamyatin, Orwell, Stalin or Denis Compton.

Tell you what, though, this'll excite you. You know Deutscher invited my great-aunt to be his secretary?

2/10/2011 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

ejh,

It was you who specifically mentioned Deutscher's comments on Zamyatin. If all you wished to do was draw a comparison between Zamyatin and Orwell, that is one thing, but you went to the trouble of backing this up by mentioning Deutscher's discussion. As you had done so, readers may have been tempted to look up what Deutscher had said. Based on this, I wished to draw people's attention to what Labedz had said about Deutscher's comments.

I really do not see why you are creating a fuss about this. It seems to me that you are simply being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative.

2/10/2011 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

It may be, Michael, that I can tell the difference between the meat of a discussion and the gristle.

2/10/2011 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your great-aunt? No way! Tell us more.

CW

2/10/2011 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Yeah, she actually turned him down because of his body odour, or so the family story goes.

She worked on a magazine for Polish emigrés in London towards the end of the War - not sure why, since I don't believe she knew Polish, but they must have met in those circles.

2/10/2011 02:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Onto more interesting topics. The new LRB has three rather interesting essays on events in the Middle East (well two and a half. One degenerates into apologetics for Obama about half way through). Think they're free to non-subscribers.

Unfortunately there's no discussion of the "fascinating" WRP though. There is however a piece on Winstanley, which concludes he was of no significance whatsoever. Which is rather sweet.

2/10/2011 02:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Cian,

The London Review of Books have previously mentioned the WRP. See, for example,Phillip Whitehead's essay, "Images of Violence," published in the September 17, 1981 issue.

2/10/2011 02:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Oh my god Michael you're right.

The mention in full:
Those familiar with his earlier work will not be surprised to find the prolific General Clutterbuck producing a new work on the role of the media in political violence. Unfortunately for him, his book went to press before our long and sullen summer, so this intrepid monitor of the initialled armies of the WRP, SWP and IMG is not able to analyse their role in the recent troubles. If you want the evidence that it was Vanessa Redgrave in a Gucci balaclava who dunnit, you will be disappointed.

Good to see you're operating at your usual high standards, Michael.

2/10/2011 03:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The London Review of Books have previously mentioned the WRP.

Yes, the WRP is the key to all mythologies.

By the way, the LRB, just like the WRP, is a singular noun.

Michael Ezra is Paul Bogdanor in disguise?

K

2/10/2011 03:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Yes Cian,

Try also D.A.N. Jones's essay, "Rough, tough and glamorous" in the May 24, 1990 issue and James Fox's essay, "Silly Buggers" in the March 7, 1991 issue.

2/10/2011 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Please tell me you have a card index on this, Michael. This would make me so happy.

2/10/2011 03:45:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

Can I just mention that I might have some ancient politico/punk fanzines in my attic that make obscene references to the WRP.

Just in case anybody was interested.

2/10/2011 03:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

gastro george,

Actually, yes, I would be. Any chance you scan the relevant pages and upload them to a website that you can direct me to?

ejh,

I do not have a card index but I do have some very obscure WRP things on file.

2/10/2011 03:51:00 PM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

the LRB, just like the WRP, is a singular noun

Only sometimes, depending whether the individuals within are behaving collectively or not: The WRP is united on this policy; the WRP are divided on that policy is (in effect) Fowler's neat formula to dramatise the point.

2/10/2011 03:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

belle le triste

The WRP were united on all policies. Dissenters would have been beaten up or expelled.

2/10/2011 04:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The WRP was a big time-waster on this rainy Thursday afternoon

(word verification: unnitya)

K

2/10/2011 04:27:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

Marko - thanks for the update, and it is indeed interesting to see that the H'S'JS position has undergone a certain degree of evolution from

http://www.henryjacksonsociety.org/stories.asp?pageid=49&id=1927

2/10/2011 04:28:00 PM  
OpenID yorksranter said...

Michael, how's your campaign to amend all signage that uses Gill Sans* type getting on? Been arrested yet?

I can just see him painting little serifs all over the place.

(*designed by Eric Gill, whose private life is probably well known?)

2/10/2011 04:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Okay Ezra you're just depressing me now.

2/10/2011 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Not raining here. I was able to drag myself away for the WRP and go and dig the garden for an hour. But I kept my mind on Gerry, all the same.

2/10/2011 04:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

I asked my son what he thought of the WRP and he said "five".

2/10/2011 05:12:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Actually, yes, I would be. Any chance you scan the relevant pages and upload them to a website that you can direct me to?

You're beginning to parody yourself Michael.

2/10/2011 05:13:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

I've started fantasising about Cash in the Attic. How sad is that?

2/10/2011 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

George, if you were to dig about your attic for those mags, and found the relevant articles, and were to scan them, I'd have no problem in being the 'website' bit of the arrangement.

2/10/2011 05:37:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Michael Ezra is Paul Bogdanor in disguise?
Ezra does collaborate with the latter a lot, but probably not.I'm more curious about whether this charge is true:
"One Michael Ezra, was busy acting as Atzmon's private detective in the latter's attempt to discredit me."
I know don't feed the troll, it makes them think they've got stones. Though if his hobby, while he's not hedge fund managing, is to sniff out details of left-wingers in the hope of discrediting them, might make him a person of concern to the community.

2/10/2011 05:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Skimarx,

Of course it isn't true. I have no time for the sort of politics that Atzmon espouses. I leave that to the SWP who repeatedy hosted him.

Greenstein's false claim stems from a debate I entered into in the comments boxes of the Peace Palestine blog. It is a long thread and I really cannot be bothered to reread it all. What I do recall is that I repeatedly challenged Tony Greenstein to a more formal debate on Zionism and the Holocaust, a debate that he refused to enter. This did not stop him attempting part of that debate in the thread in question. In the midst of all of this - and as I said it was a long thread - I was going through some archival material about Greenstein's past record mainly from the Jewish Chronicle archive. This was for my own benefit. Gilad Atzmon was on that thread as was Paul Eisen.

In my first contribution to the thread, I ridicule the debate that was occurring: "this thread is a farce. We have Tony Greenstein being accused of being a Zionist by Gilad Atzmon and Gilad Atzmon accusing Tony Greenstein of being a Zionist." I also stated that Paul Eisen "thinks no Jews were killed at Auschwitz." Eisen decided to enter into a debate with me but all I wanted to know was one thing that I asked him in that thread: "does Paul Eisen believe Jews were killed by gas in gas chambers at Auschwitz. A simple yes/no will do." Despite earlier trying to evade the question, he finally gave his answer: "I am not sure but the evidence for the use of homicidal gas-chambers is not good at all. The evidence against it is much, much stronger." I had achieved what I wanted to do: getting Paul Eisen to admit on the Internet in very clear language what his position on the Holocaust actually was.

To suggest that I was doing all this as "Atzmon's private detective" is simply a figment of Greenstein's wild imagination.

2/10/2011 06:28:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

Michael, your original purpose in entering this comments thread was to ask if anyone wanted to talk about the WRP, and I think we've now pretty exhaustively established that the answer is "no".

Everyone else: please stop baiting Michael.

2/10/2011 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

I've looked at the link that Ezra gave above which sent me to Harry's Place.

Not somewhere I wanted to go.

Ezra said that it would have been a crime NOT to drop atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagazaki. In his own words, Ezra supports the indiscriminate killing of tens of thousands of civilians.

Just remember that the next time he tries to adopt a moral stance. I shall.

2/10/2011 09:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Coventrian,

Please DO NOT misquote me. I did not say "that it would have been a crime NOT to drop atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagazaki." What I said was that I concurred with Henry Stimson who himself had said that utilising the bomb was the "least abhorrent choice." I added, "To those who argue that the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a crime, I reply: it would have been a greater crime not to use it."

You might not be able to tell the difference between your claim of what I said and what I actually said, but I can assure you that there is a difference, so please quote me accurately.

2/10/2011 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Before this threads descends to HP or Socialist Piggery levels, can I suggest somebody winds it up?

2/11/2011 06:47:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

Unfortunately, blogger.com doesn't give you that sort of control. I would agree that the point of diminishing returns has long since set in.

2/11/2011 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

(I've purged the thread. Apologies if anyone's valuable contributions were collateral damage along the way. Any more WRP-related content will be deleted on sight.)

2/11/2011 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Marko Attila Hoare said...

'Any more WRP-related content will be deleted on sight.'

Thank you, CK; you could begin by deleting that new attack on me that Daniel just posted.

Are these the rules ? A lie is posted about me; I complain about it; Dave quite correctly offers to delete it, I accept the offer, then Daniel takes the opportunity to make a wholly gratuitous personal attack on me.

It appears there is really no point in complaining about dishonest and malicious statements being made here, because to do so simply provides a pretext for further attacks. It's a system of comments moderation that's wholly weighted in favour of anonymous individuals making defamatory comments, and against the members of the Decent Left that form the subject matter of this blog.

Sorry, Dave; I know you tried to do the right thing, but your ethical behaviour appears to have been undermined by your partner here.

2/11/2011 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

If you can tell me what the personal attack was, I will remove it. I've set out the facts about you and the WRP(WP) as I see them - if you dispute them, please tell me. And then I've asked you, in return, for an apology for a time when you insulted me. That's not a personal attack.

We are not going to let anyone make defamatory comments, and if you can identify any, I'll delete or amend them. But this also means that we have to treat other people fairly; you accused someone of making a completely baseless and crazy accusation, or of lying, when it was much more likely that they'd made an honest mistake.

2/11/2011 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I mean seriously you ridiculous man, "personal attack"?

To the best of Aaronovitch Watch (incorporating "World of Decency")'s ability to research, there is no evidence anywhere that Marko Attila Hoare was ever a member of the Workers' Revolutionary Party or any of its successor grouplets.

This is simply true and is confirming what you have said.

He was an associate of Cliff Slaughter, and has spoken favourably of the post-WRP grouplet "Workers' Action".

This is also true, and you have specifically said you are proud of it.

He wrote at least one article for the newspaper "Workers' Press",

As far as I can tell, this is true; if it isn't, I will immediately amend it.

which was published after the WRP split, by a group led by Slaughter which continued to claim the WRP name;

Simply historical fact.

however, the bad name attaching to the WRP is largely attributable to Gerry Healy as a person, and Healy had no involvement with Workers' Press at the time when Marko wrote for it

Also historical fact and makes an important point about which people are regularly confused.

2/11/2011 02:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Workers' Aid, I think, not Workers' Action - I was later involved in this, and I think that Phil E was too.

Chris Williams

PS I have this lovely anecdote about Healy, which I will post on any thread which is deemed to be WRP-compatible.

2/11/2011 02:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Marko Attila Hoare said...

I'm not disputing the accuracy of your account of my relationship with Slaughter's WRP (except that I'm not aware it ever called itself 'Workers Action'). I'm objecting to the fact that your correction of a falsehood about me, to which I drew your attention and which you accept was a falsehood, involved a defence of the person repeating the falsehood and an attack on me on other grounds.

Hence 'much of the "collateral damage" was actually more bad-tempered and witless than the actual target' - I assume that's a reference to me ?

'Marko did not do himself many favours by not clearing this up himself and leaving it to others to mention the Workers' Press articles,'

I'm sorry, but the onus is not on me to provide this information. The onus is on people like Coventrian not to make unsubstantiated allegations about people, and on the proprietor of a blog not to tolerate that sort of thing. And since Coventrian repeated the allegation after I already said it wasn't true, I cannot accept your claim that he made an innocent mistake.

'I'll finally note in this context that I think I am being really rather generous here, to someone who does not actually treat others as he wishes to be treated himself. In the past, Marko has accused me of...'

That's what it's all about, isn't it ? You're still upset about something I said about you three years ago.

But we've been through this before. If you are free to describe me as a 'bloodthirsty loon', then I am free to describe you as having 'a complete absence of integrity'. I don't believe either of those descriptions are libellous; they merely represent our respective evaluations. But you really can't expect me to be nice about you when you are invariably rude and aggressive toward me (and have been since practically the day I launched my blog).

2/11/2011 03:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Marko Attila Hoare said...

PS Daniel, I have saved the thread in which you describe me as a 'bloodthirsty loon', and I have a printout of the thread in which Splintered Sunrise describes human-rights activist Sonja Biserko as an 'agent of imperialism'.

So please, let's drop the nonsense about it only being members of the Decent Left who are guilty of extreme language.

2/11/2011 03:25:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

That's what it's all about, isn't it ? You're still upset about something I said about you three years ago.

Since it was a direct and clearly unjustified attack on my integrity, yes I am. And yes, that's certainly one reason why I'm never inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt.

You, on the other hand, seem to think it's a "personal attack" if I say that someone might have been innocently mistaken if they say that you were a member of a political party whose newspaper you wrote for. All on the basis of a confusion that you could easily have cleared up but chose not to, instead trying to pretend that the claim that you were a member of the party whose newspaper you wrote for (and which you later said you were proud to be associated with) was some weird and incomprehensible lie. Dog's not gonna hunt.

Hence 'much of the "collateral damage" was actually more bad-tempered and witless than the actual target' - I assume that's a reference to me ?

You assume wrongly. Both in this specific case, and just generally, you assume wrongly.

2/11/2011 03:46:00 PM  

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