23 June 2003


Stephen Marks writes:

I have no wish to be taken as a defender of Andrew Murray, but I wonder if Paul Anderson has been reading the same article as me. I took Murray's reference to the attack on the antiwar movement as referring to a political attack. I don't think even the neo-Pravda style of Murray's leaden prose included the words "imperialist assault", and it did not occur to me, or I think any other reader of his piece, to interpret it as implying some sort of police-state repression of dissidents. So I fail to see the relevance of Anderson's observation that "opponents of war are sitting happily or unhappily at home, going about their everyday business unmolested, now and again having an argument in the pub".

I have a lot of respect for Nick Cohen. His sincerity and good faith are obvious as is his passionate identification with those at the bottom of the heap. But why should Anderson should refer to Christopher Hitchens as someone who is in any sense at all still on the left, however ecumenically defined? I have no wish to initiate a definitional witchunt or start expelling people from some mythical left fraternity. But to extend the term "left" to someone who on his own admission admires George Bush and intends to vote for him at the next election really is to empty the term of all meaning.

However many happy hazy memories Anderson and I may both have of boozy evenings with the Hitch (not to mention mornings and afternoons) the time has really come to apply to him the classic words of John Bunyan: "the trumpets sounded and he passed over to the other side".

I don¹t personally "engage on civilised terms with people who defend suicide bombings or defend theocratic regimes" but I may well go on demonstrations with them and unless Anderson can say he has never been on a demo with Stalinists or the SWP and never will again, so does he. The assumption that all those who support single-issue campaigns can be smeared with the politics of those they march with has been the stock-in-trade of the right as long as I can remember, back to CND and Anti-Apartheid.

And while I have no difficulty in engaging on civilised terms with "people who argue that al-Qaida Islamism is the new fascism and Saddam Hussein was such a tyrant that all right-thinking people should rally round the destruction of his regime", I do find it difficult to have a high regard for the political judgement of those who think that the most reactionary US administration in history is capable of advancing any progressive agenda whatsoever, or that applauding its arrogant assertion of its unbridled military power can do anything other than make the world a more dangerous and miserable place.

I will wager that the great majority of the 2 million who marched in February knew little and cared less about who was running the Stop the War Coalition. But they did know enough not to fall for the sophistry that if a democratic imperialist power goes to war with a third-world country ruled by a dictator, we should support the imperialist power in the name of democracy. On that basis we should have supported Anthony Eden at the time of Suez. And, as the mounting anger over the WMD fraud shows, they are far from changing their opinion since.

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