Monday, June 05, 2006

Take the Waterloo train

I was unfortunate last night to catch The Westminster Hour on BBC Radio 4 (listen to the archive if you dare) about the Euston Manifesto bowel movement. The reporter cheerily informed us of its origin in the blogosphere. (Why is it that when political blogs get a mention in the mainstream media, it's dominated by the Right or 'pro-war left'?). The main interviewee Brian Brivati said the movement emerged in response to the response by "part of the Left" to 9/11. The reaction of some, such as "Tariq Ali and others", he said, was "to celebrate" the attack. Is this true? No reference was given. Perhaps it is the same kind of "celebration" whereby the Haditha massacre is placed in context?

The only voice on the programme against the EM came from an ex-advisor to Robin Cook who admitted he was for 'liberal intervention' but that Iraq had been 'a mistake'. He also worried that those behind the manifesto were on a political journey from left to right. If only Lenin's Tomb had been interviewed instead. Or, heaven forbid, someone from the Respect Coalition perhaps, itself a popular movement. They would have been able to explain that this was nonsense. The journey was over long ago.

The main problem I have with the manifesto is its focus on the undefined phrase 'anti-Americanism'. They "reject without qualification the anti-Americanism now infecting so much left-liberal (and some conservative) thinking." Again, no reference was given. It's a meaningless, catch-all cliché.

What it means in effect is that while one is permitted to criticise aspects of US foreign policy, as soon as one puts it into historical context, shows how it pursues the policies demanded by almost-unaccountable multinational corporations, or makes any effective challenge that might actually institute a genuinely self-determining and/or egalitarian society (like Chavez), one is immediately "anti-American". Thus, the cycle of lofty ambitions betrayed by "mistakes" can continue; the Eusties' overt celebration of mass murder (i.e. welcoming the invasion) can go on.

It's no coincidence that the main presenter of The Westminster Hour is Andrew Rawnsley.


  1. Anonymous8:21 am

    No doubt you're right. And no doubt "anti-americanism" is (increasingly) not only a propaganda term.

    And there's little hope those who use it much like McCarthy once did will ever provide more light than heat, of course.

    But it's only "meaningless" when used this way, to smear all critics with a single brush. It's also something very real, reactionary, and unfortunate.

  2. "Meaningless" was perhaps a slightly sloppy word to use. But from reading the manifesto, their use of it is loose to the point of meaninglessness.

    I wrote that partly because I've seen almost nothing else online putting these EM tosspots in their place.

    Thanks for the link to Charlotte Street. Oh how unfortunate for Carol Gould suffering and witnessing the abuse of cretinous British people (there are a lot of them about though). Fortunately, she needn't worry about receiving the kind of abuse someone got recently using the tube at Stockwell.

  3. Anonymous4:28 pm

    I think the Beeb could be forgiven for interviewing a politics professor (Norman Geras) over a politics student (Lenin's Tomb).

    Also, the Euston Manifesto is not aligned to any political party, Respect are a political party.

    I'd also take issue with your use of the word "popular", unless by popular you mean "communalist". Just who are Respect popular with? Big Brother fans?

    By all means push your friend's blog and big up Galloway's party but at least be honest about why you're doing it. Respect don't have the monopoly on left thought. There are plenty of voices on left disillusioned with either set of arguments but here you're presenting it as a self-answered dichotomy.

  4. The BBC's report makes a fuss about the manifesto being a phenomenon of the blogosphere, so the distinction between politics professor and politics student is irrelevant. Both are bloggers. I'm sure it wouldn't have been a problem had the student possessed the correct opinions.

    FWIW, Lenin is not my friend. I have never met him or swapped emails. I am not even a supporter of the SWP or any other left-wing party.

    The thing is, Lenin is incontrovertibly one of the most impressive writers I've read since
    discovering blogs. He is never less than coherent and always backs up his arguments with precise references. (I'm still waiting for evidence from EM supporters to show that Tariq Ali "celebrated" the 911 attacks).

    There are plenty of other bloggers I could have mentioned. Some might even be professors. I don't judge them that way however. It's the quality of writing that's important to me. It's clear the BBC were more interested in limiting the debate to suit acceptable post-Hutton discourse.

    And by 'popular' I mean something that it is organic - built from the ground up rather than media driven. Respect has this in common with the EM. And for a new, tiny party, they are remarkably popular in the other sense too. The BBC's lack of coverage of their recent election victories was astonishing.

    Finally, the only dichotomy on offer that I can see is: Pursue politics by A) flying planes into buildings and invading countries or B)
    through peaceful, democratic means - or 'anti-Americanism' as the EM calls it.

  5. Anonymous11:59 am

    I think you are sincere but misguided.

    You said:

    "by 'popular' I mean something that it is organic - built from the ground up rather than media driven. Respect has this in common with the EM. And for a new, tiny party, they are remarkably popular in the other sense too. The BBC's lack of coverage of their recent election victories was astonishing."

    Respect is a creation of medialand, its leader (he and the other candidates stood in 2004 for the Euro elections as 'Respect Party - George Galloway') is more a media-savvy D-list celeb than a serious politician these days. Respect is essentially a cult of him, him as a media personality who coincidentally has a few views on Palestine but boy could he stick it to those Yanks in that Congress etc etc. Respect is actually a failure for the far left, the SWP in particular. By abandoning its strategy of not contesting elections, the SWP has sold its assets to get an ex-Labour MP and a couple of ex-Labour councillors elected in Tower Hamlets. Not a good yield after all that trying when not a single Trot gets elected under its banner, just the communalist element.

    You call for definition of "anti-Americanism". The EM may not have been as explicit on this you would have liked but I shall try. Anti-Americanism is the juvenile state of affairs when the likes of Tariq Ali prefer to put their eggs in the basket of the oppressed (the Iraqi 'resistance') as a means to achieve a victory again the aggressor (the US). My enemy's enemy is my friend. Doesn't matter that they slit train drivers' throats and advocate the stoning of insubordinate women and gay men. They're not American so they'll do.

    In fact, I think Alan Johnson (the EM sponsor, not the Labour Deputy Leader in waiting) summed this pervasive thread up perfectly at the launch of the EM:

    "Today, many people feel politically homeless. They feel they have not left the democratic left, but the democratic left has left them.

    > After all, what the hell were you supposed to do when Seamus Milne opened the Guardian Comment pages to apologists for terrorism and to apologists for authoritarianism and to members of the Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosovic?

    > What the hell were you supposed to do when Ken Livingstone embraced the anti-gay, misogynist, anti-Semitic cleric Qaradawi?

    >What the hell were you supposed to do when Michael Moore said the fascistic Iraqi resistance were the reincarnation of the 18th century American revolutionaries, and he bid them on to victory?

    > What the hell were you supposed to do when Alex Callinicos, a Stop the War and Socialist Workers Party leader, sneered at the global labour movement outcry against the torture and murder of the Iraqi union leader, Hadi Saleh, by the fascists of the so-called resistance, as a 'hullabaloo' about a collaborator?

    > And what the hell are you supposed to do when Martin Jacques poo-poohs the idea that freedom and democracy are universal values?

    Every generation, it seems, has to rediscover anti-totalitarianism for itself."

    You won't get that level of consistency on Lenin's Tomb.

  6. I don't see anything in those comments listed by Johnson to make me want to support US/UK terror in Iraq or Afghanistan. I could go through each one to explain that they are not necessarily wrong or incompatible with average political discourse. (Interesting today, for example, to see the bloodlust of the PM and others with the death of Al-Zaq. They really DO welcome the death of a war criminal, but look what happened to Galloway when he gave a dispassionate assessment of justification for murdering our own dear war criminal in No 10 yet also said he didn't support it. Also, how do they know A-Z was there - perhaps there weren't dozens of Iraqi civilians blown to bits like normal?).

    But I realise, from the contextual isolation into which they have been placed, that EM signatories are driven by their faith rather than a concern to stop mass murder, much like those they happily allow to be slaughtered in their name, paid for by their taxes. There's no point arguing. Thank God the democratic left has left them.

  7. Anonymous10:16 pm

    Well, thank God the morally repulsive school of Norm Geras isn't the only option either.

  8. ...Not a good yield after all that trying when not a single Trot gets elected under its banner, just the communalist element.

    I see "communalist" is now a synonym for "Muslim". Revolting stuff.

    There's an article in SR this month that roundly trashes arguments to this effect.



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