Saturday, May 26, 2012


From below the line: First, this post from the start of the month seems to have developed an interesting comment thread, on friends, allies, enemies, and enemies of enemies in the pro-/anti-Israel camps. Read this for reference.

Over at Bob's Beats, my “first and last”series, on the first and last purchase of different recorded music formats started this week with the seven inch single. I posted mine here, and rustyfruitjuice did his here, and Martin’s is here. Next week, we’re moving on to the EP – again, contributions welcome – and the following week we’ll do the twelve inch. Rustyfruitjuice tweets here, and Martin tweets here and blogs here.

From the archive: Wildcat: "SWP - the Party of God" (1988). This is from the first Gulf war, between Iran and Iraq, in which the SWP supported the Iranian theocracy because it was fighting American "imperialism". It shows how corrupt the SWP was even then. While I don't go along with the full No War But The Class War line Wildcat took, the critique of revolutionary defeatism and Leninist pseudo-anti-imperialism is sharp. (H/t Entdinglichung.)

From the blogs: Paul on the perversion of science and the chavification of Scotland’s alcohol laws; Marko on Bosnian Muslims in WWII. Some important CST posts on antisemitism today: Boycott Israel: Zionists are “the most hateful people imaginable”; Iran: how Zionist Jewish money runs Western media; BBC HARDtalk: any qualms that you could be feeding antisemitism?; Greek neo-Nazis & Egyptian Islamists: Signs of the Times.

From the left: interview with Syrian leftists; a Trotskyist analysis of the Arab left; Yassamine Mather on Hands Off the People of Iran; a new pamphlet from the AWL on the Perdition affair.

From the magazines: Dave Rich reflects on Ken and the Jews. On Jews and the Left: The TabletAmerican Thinker, Commentary, Forward. Ralph Seliger on Did the kibbutz really fail, responding to Michael Lerner.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

War crimes, and those who deny them

With Ratko Mladic in the dock in the Hague and warlords' friend Tomislav Nikolic winning the elections in Belgrade, it is time again to remember the atrocities committed in the former Yugoslavia two decades ago, but also the sides people took. 

At the time, the Tory media and the John Major government (who largely pursued a policy of neutrality, appeasement and realpolitik) span the conflict as the re-emergence of ancient atavistic racial hatreds, with all sides as bad as each other.

This line found had a ready audience on the Stalinophile left, who had seen the Titoist one-party state as a progressive bulwark against such tribalism (much as some “anti-imperialists” have viewed Ba’athist Iraq and Syria, and even Gadhafi’s Libya), and played to a left-wing pro-Serbian sentiment formed in WWII, which (wrongly) framed the Serbs as anti-fascists and the Catholic Croatians and Muslim Bosniaks as Nazi collaborators.

Key figures on the left, many of whom now have very influential positions in our media world, played a major role in denying, minimising or downplaying the violence perpetrated by the Serbian side. To talk about this brutality (mainly inflicted against Muslims) was to buy into some “Western” or “imperialist” narrative.

The deniers and minimisers included the magazine LM, then recently rebranded from Living Marxism and the outlet of the Revolutionary Communist Party. When the Guardian’s Ed Vulliamy and ITN’s  Penny Marshall and Ian Williams exposed the Serb-run concentration camp at Trnopolje in northern Bosnia, LM claimed they were fabricating evidence.

ITN sued LM for libel, which put it out of business. It now trades as Spiked, and its commentators have high profile roles in the establishment media, regularly appearing on the BBC and given columns in papers such as the Times and Telegraph. As Michael Mosbacher puts it, they have taken the long march through the institutions – rather more successfully, we might add, than other Marxist groups who have followed the Rudi Dutschke dictum.

They have been supported over the years by the cranky pseudo-anarchist celebrity professor Noam Chomsky. Chomsky has given comfort to Milosevic’s regime and its apologists: “[Milosovic] did all sorts of terrible things, but it wasn’t a totalitarian state. I mean, there were elections, there was the opposition…” Chomsky once told Serbian television. It is worth re-reading what Vulliamy said in 2009 when Chomsky was invited to speak by alleged human rights defenders Amnesty:
Prof. Chomsky was not among those (“Novo” of Germany and “Living Marxism” in the UK) who first proposed the idea that these camps were a fake. He was not among those who tried unsuccessfully (they were beaten back in the High Court in London, by a libel case taken by ITN) to put up grotesque arguments about fences around the camps, which were rather like [Frederick] Leuchter’s questioning as to whether the thermal capacity of bricks were enough to contain the heat needed to gas Jews at Auschwitz. But Professor Chomsky said many things, from his ivory tower at MIT, to spur them on and give them credibility and energy to spread their poisonous perversion and denials of these sufferings. To use the analogy of Holocaust denial, he was more David Irving than Leuchter - the man with academic pretentions, doing it all from a distance, and giving the revisionists his blessing. And the revisionists reveled in his endorsement. In an interview with the Guardian, Professor Chomsky paid me the kind compliment of calling me a good journalist, but added that on this occasion (the camps) I had “got it wrong”.
Got what wrong?!?! Got wrong what we saw that day, August 5th 1992? (I didn’t see him there.) Got wrong the hundreds of thousands of families left bereaved, deported and scattered asunder? Got wrong the hundreds of testimonies I have gathered on murderous brutality? Got wrong the thousands whom I meet when I return to the commemorations? If I am making all this up, what are all the human remains found in mass graves around the camps and so painstakingly re-assembled by the International Commission for Missing Persons.

Chomsky disciples Edward Herman and David Peterson have also claimed that the “Western” narrative about what happened in Yugoslavia (as well as the genocide in Rwanda) is mere propaganda. Their book, The Politics of Genocide, has a foreword by Noam Chomsky and an endorsement by John Pilger. In a column last year, George Monbiot demolished the core arguments they make there

Today, Monbiot argues in the Guardian that "On trial beside Mladic in The Hague is a disturbing case of infectious idiocy and denial which the left can no longer ignore". (The version on his website is fully footnoted, and supported by expert statements ; I've put clickable versions of his hyperlinks into the bottom of this post.) He describes how Chomsky, Pilger, ZNet’s publisher Michael Albert and others have continued to defend Herman and Peterson and their lies.

Pilger, for instance, said that “Chef Monbiot is a curiously sad figure. All those years of noble green crusading now dashed by his Damascene conversion to nuclear power’s poisonous devastations and his demonstrable need for establishment recognition – a recognition which, ironically, he already enjoyed.”

Bizarrely, because Monbiot and Vulliamy write for the Guardian, these uber-radicals have now decided that the Guardian is part of the demonic Amerikkan coalition of the willing trying to destroy heroic truth and resistance. (Herman and Peterson responded to Monbiot’s last column on this with over 16,000 words and 93 footnotes, including the claim that because Emma Brockes and Ed Vulliamy make the same spelling error they must be conspiring. Chomsky’s allies at CounterPunch actually described the Guardian as “a dangerous cult” and “a thought police for the internet age”, although this was also for publishing Andy Newman’s criticisms of Gilad Atzmon’s antisemitism as much as for its Yugoslavia line.)

Monbiot concludes:
The people I criticise here rightly contend that western governments and much of the western media ignore or excuse atrocities committed by the US and its allies, while magnifying those committed by forces deemed hostile. But they then appear to create a mirror image of this one-sided narrative, minimising the horrors committed by forces considered hostile to the US and its allies. 
Perhaps this looks to you like the kind of esoteric infighting to which the left too often succumbs, but this seems to me to be important: as important as any other human rights issue. If people who claim to care about justice and humanity cannot resist what looks to me like blatant genocide denial, we find ourselves in a very dark place.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Minds fixed on pelf and place

Laban Tall has blogged about one of my old posts (actually Michael Ezra's old post, and specifically Waterloo Sunset's comments there). I might get around to writing some kind of reply later this week.

Meanwhile, over at Bob's Beats we have songs for Israel's 64th birthday and punky klezmer cabaret, Vidal Sassoon's jazz cuts, and, tomorrow, some anarchic drum and bass from Luton town. The Israeli music comes from Hillel Schenker's new blog, which I will be keeping an eye on.

Here's a Sarf London blog recommendation: South London hardcore, currently featuring May Queens. There's also loads of great stuff (as always, but especially so) on Transpontine at the moment, including a great post about "The Red Flag", one of SE4's most important cultural products, but also the sadder news of the passing away of the lovely Pete Pope, a true local hero.

Not South London specific, I'll leave with this from Transpontine's piece about the pensions strike last week, which seems a very astute piece of analysis of our current political moment in the UK:
It sometimes feel sthat we are living through a re-run of the 1980s. The Thatcher Government of that period destroyed industries, threw millions on to the dole and ruthlessly deployed its forces against opposition. But however much it was hated by many, it also maintained its domination by winning the active support of parts of the population including many working class and middle class people who felt their living standards were rising. The police were obvious beneficiaries, but they weren't the only ones. The difference this time round is that there is virtually no 'positive buy in' to the Government. Hardly anybody feels that they are better off, the most the Government can rely on is a widespread despair about alternatives and fuelling a brooding resentment against 'better off' public sector workers. Even it were true that public sector pensions are better all round (they are for some, but not for everybody), making them worse won't help people working in the private sector. In fact the worse conditions are for public sector workers, the less private sector employers will have to do to compete and attract staff - so conditions are likely to deteriorate all round.
(By the way, for those less dyed red in the wool than me, the title of this post comes from the most baffling line of "The Red Flag", semi-explained here.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Whiskey, stetsons, punch-ups, drunkards and mayors

I'm trying to write a few substantive pieces (on Eric Hobsbawm, Spiked, Occupy, militant anti-fascism, anti-anti-Zionism and various other subjects) but they've all stalled.

In the meantime, check out my new side project, Bob's Beats. My plan is to open its pages to other folks as well, and Waterloo Sunset has kicked off in fine style with Stetsons and Whiskey, featuring some of my favourite country singers. If you're interested in participating, you should know how to contact me.

 A couple of places I've left comments lately. At Transpontine, on a far right attack on SWP paper sellers in my local shopping centre, in Lewisham. And I started an argument with Tony Greenstein about Zionist involvement in anti-fascism, but I have no idea why and am withdrawing un-gracefully.

Two recent lovely posts: by Flesh is Grass, pinging the world, and by Noga on the Roma of Europe. Below the fold, loads of Ken and Boris links, cut and paste from my machine-generated Daily newspaper.