30 October 2003


I missed the news that Quintin Hoare and Branka Magas had extracted a grovelling apology, small-scale damages and (apparently much larger) legal costs from Alex Callinicos, Lindsey German and Bookmarks Publications (respectively leading ideologue, editor and publisher of the Socialist Workers' Party's theoretical journal, Socialist Review) for repeating the libel that Hoare and Magas were apologists for the late Croatian president Franjo Tudjman. But I've belatedly caught up now that Paul Foot has sent out an appeal for funds to pay the bill, arguing that Hoare and Magas offended against left protocol by resorting to the capitalist courts to resolve an argument among comrades.

There's good material on this on Harry's Place (click here) and Crooked Timber (click here), to which I've only a couple of observations to add.

First, although I hold with Foot's antipathy to resorting to the libel laws to resolve arguments (even with most enemies), this case is something of an exception. The SWP's campaign of denigration against those on the left in the 1990s who argued for an end to appeasement of Serbian military agression in former Yugoslavia was so vile that it is difficult to see Hoare and Magas as anything but heroes for taking it on. I do have an interest here. As editor of Tribune in the early 1990s I took much the same position on Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia as Hoare and Magas - though with little of their expertise - and was vehemently denounced by SWPers in meetings as a scumbag ally of Holocaust-deniers and fascists. Hoare and Magas became close political friends: during the mid-1990s, when I was deputy editor of the New Statesman, Magas wrote regularly and forcefully on the Bosnia war for the magazine, and I went to many meetings of the Bosnia Institute, which they set up and has done more good in its modest way than the SWP will ever do. Whatever, my solidarity remains with them, and I'm not coughing up for Foot's appeal.

Second, Foot's attitude to comrades who sue comrades seems to depend entirely on who is doing the sueing. I assume from the tone of his appeal for funds that he considers Hoare and Magas to have excluded themselves from the proletarian milieu (or whatever the current jargon is) by their actions against the SWP. Yet he used his column in the Guardian on Wednesday (for which click here) to give a massive plug for the meeting organised by the SWP at which one George Galloway announced plans to join the SWP and assorted leftists and Muslims in running candidates against the Labour Party in England and Wales in next year's European elections.

Could this be the same George Galloway who, many moons ago, threatened a libel action against Tribune over a 50-word classified advertisement mildly taking the piss out of him -- and managed to extract £2,000 from the paper out of court on the advice of m'learned friends? Indeed it could . . .

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