Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Nick at the Alliance for Workers' Liberty

Nick Cohen speaks out at the annual beanfeast of the Alliance for Workers' Liberty (as far as I can tell, they're the favourite Trots of the Harry's Place crowd). Surprisingly they agree on two key matters, those being one, that it's all the fault of those bastards in the People's Front of Judea SWP and two, that matters would be helped by a lengthy and impenetrable rant about fin-de-siecle Russia. If that's the sort of thing you think you'll like, give it a look in parts one, two and three.

Highlight for Watchers relates to the lofty ambitions of the Euston Manifesto, which apparently doesn't believe that the pile of bodies in Iraq is anything to do with them (no really; recall that the official Decent line on this from their chief theorist Norman Geras is that the insurgents were morally obliged to help all Iraqis enjoy the benefits of democracy, therefore the coalition was morally entitled to assume a cakewalk, therefore any baleful consequences of said cakewalk not showing up are Not Our Fault Guvnor).

When people like me say these things, we are accused of putting forward a pusillanimous programme in the Euston Manifesto, when in fact it is an achievable programme, and a programme which actually has not murdered tens of millions of our fellow citizens as totalitarian societies, which begin in Europe in the twentieth century with Lenin, the first of the great totalitarians, have done.

I am reminded of Jay Gould's joke on hearing that an office-boy had been caught fiddling the petty cash:

"don't be too hard on the young man; remember we started small ourselves"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

bitheway, in order to start the clock at Lenin for totalitarian societies which killed millions of their citizens, you really really have to engage in what a bowdlerised version of Orwell would call "Not Counting The Empire"

7/11/2007 12:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Lenin was so bad, why is Nick hanging out with a bunch of Trots?

7/11/2007 02:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose a good place to start with regard to the 20th century would be the United States' actions in the Philippines. Around 1,000,000 civilians killed during the 1899-1901 war, scorched earth campaigns destroying huges numbers of villages, widespread torture, immense numbers of civilians placed in concentration camps, etc. He's right about Lenin obviously, who is too often lionised by some on the left (including Lenin's Tomb, who wrote a hagiography of him the other week which claimed that his main fault was not spending enough time listening to music, as opposed to him being a mass murderer, which is dismissed on the grounds that some other people around the same time killed comparable numbers, so it's OK then), but choosing to start the 20th century totalitarian death count with him is curious to say the least. The U.S. actions in the Philippines would be the obvious place I imagine, even before you've started with the British Empire and the rest of the freedom loving democracies of Europe.

7/11/2007 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

And in second place. We really were pretty ghastly not all that long ago.

7/11/2007 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Marc Mulholland said...

I vote for the Herero Genocide.

Sparts rehabilitated back into respectable bourgeois society are required to ritually condemn Lenin as the original ogre to prove their ideological purity. It's the oepidal moment.

On which point, ideological purity is very important for the Decents. It is essentially moral and protestant; justification by faith rather than by good works. As long as you incant the nostrums of 'anti-totalitarianism' at every turn, you cannot possibly be held responsible for any nastiness that might arise from wars of liberation.

7/11/2007 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, the Boer War did occur to me, but I figured the death count was likely to be far lower than in the Philippines. Still, 24,000 dead civilians is fairly impressive (and I do seem to recall reading that it was the concentration camps we set up during the Boer War which proved very 'influential' on the Nazis).

A more recent example of British Empire atrocities which makes for interesting reading is Kenya in the 50's/early 60's. Widespread murder, torture (the details of which are truly shocking) and the setting up of concentration camps which are described as having worse conditions than the average Nazi concentration camp in WW2. Of course, these are just a couple of dozens of possible examples, none of which appear to be registering with Norman Geras. Wasn't it Orwell who came up with the concept of the 'memory hole'?

7/11/2007 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Indeed, Mark. And how's this for hateful rhetoric? "It was our Guantanamo Bay exactly" US-bashing liberals, hmmph!

7/11/2007 04:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't the Herero genocide a couple of years later? Still, it is impressive that Norman Geras is treating it as though it dosen't exist and pins the blame on Lenin for kick-starting 20th century mass murder. Herero must have slipped his mind, I don't know much about it to be honest but wasn't it purely and simply a deliberate attempt by Germany to wipe out a whole people, rather than the er, 'collateral damage' in the Phillipines and elsewhere? Some might accuse Norman of genocide denial here, after all he's ignoring any number of acts of mass murder, including genocide in Africa, and going to straight to the approved Communist villian. Is this simply a case of poor memory/ignorance or is this for doctrinal/idealogical reasons? I hope it's not the latter but I suspect it might well be.

7/11/2007 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting, I never knew that about Steel's father. Mark Curtis is well worth a read on these subjects, if anyone here hasn't already. The facts he unearths about British behaviour in Kenya are truly horrifying, all the more so when you consider it happened fairly recently. I'd love to see a debate between Curtis and Andrew 'Springbok Club' Roberts.

7/11/2007 05:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually I think there is a more significant reason why the AWL has become the House Trotskyites for the decent left. It's their rather uncritical support for the current state of Israel.

The AWL is great for the decents - they have a little touchstone by which they can assure themselves that they are still on the left.

I'm just waiting for the time that the AWL pisses all over the decents carpet. After all, it's in their history.

7/11/2007 08:37:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

One might also observe the slaughter of many hundreds of thousands (and more) "of our own citizens" in the trenches and elsewhere in the Great War, which may help put other catastrophic events in perspective (which is, I suspect, the sort of observation that appears to annoy Mark B above - sorry about that). Many of the governments involved were, of course, advanced Western democracies.

I tend to think that the loudest advocates for the societies of the West tend to have been the biggest supporters of overseas wars, military occupations, interventions and what you will, precisely because they're so aggressive and zealous in proclaiming the virtue of those societies and the moral obloquy of everybody else. Paradoxically (or not) this tends to mean they have as much historical blood on their hands as the people they consider the enemies of humanity. Oddly, their approach to argument tends also to resemble the people they think of as their opposites.

7/12/2007 09:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely the reason Nick is happy to debate with the AWL is they are so easy to beat. Sean M's response to Nick's speech is rambling and useless - really I would say Nick wins the debate 2-0. Debating any ordinary lefty and Nick would be more likely to lose.

Nick's point is - the left is dead, so lets find the progressive bits of the establishment and cling to them ( a variant of the argument made by , for example, the Marxism Today crew or, latterly, in their own way, the "Living Marxism" crowd). Except Nick seems to think the "progressive" wing of the bourgoise is George Bush. So its a simple counter argument - the left aint dead, and your new friends aint that progressive: I am sure any one of the commenters above could put those points reasonably eloquently. and point out that MArtin Amis is not some disinterested observer but a right wing creep etc etc.

but Not Sean M of the AWL, instead he tries to disarm Nick by beating himself up , with some weird masochistic attack on the left, leaving Nick and open goal.

Most extraordinarily, the main proof and impetus of Nicks new argument is that the left were terribly wrong on Iraq - when it is easy to show made a catastrophic error on the war. But, wierdly, Sean M goes all Basil Fawlty and doens't mention the war

Ann On

7/12/2007 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Bloody hell, I hadn't bothered to read Sean M's bit as I'd never heard of him or his party.

... I've spent the best part of a year, on and off, trying to put together a collection on the same subject as Nick Cohen's book, under the working title, The Suicide of the Left. ...
We [the AWL]were very cautious thereafter, and we didn't focus on or support an "anti-war" campaign.
The SWP organised the first of its "mass anti-war activities" around the Kosova war. ...
The left has been like this for a very long time.

Gosh, could 'the left' be code for 'the SWP'? AWL says SWP commits suicide. Hard-hitting stuff.

7/12/2007 05:54:00 PM  

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