14 July 2003

UNITED FOR PEACE - 10

These are excerpts from notes for a speech by Mike Marqusee to a Signs of the Times seminar that will be published at greater length on the Signs of the Times website.

THE SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY AND THE STOP THE WAR COALITION

The SWP is the only organised force on the left that can mount a serious national initiative. Because of its internal discipline and access to resources, it was able to move quickly to establish the Stop the War Coalition and then to go on to build the big national demonstrations (though certainly not without the essential collaboration of much wider forces). The SWP should be given credit for its work in this regard: without a single, nation-wide organising centre, a clear public focus, the anti-war movement would not have been able to make the mark that it did - which is not to say that there aren't many serious criticisms of the SWP's handling of the Stop the War Coalition.

For the most part, independent leftists have failed to organise and failed to focus; in critical moments - like the run-up to war - we are unable to act collectively, to take and shape initiatives. So criticism of the SWP must be accompanied by self-criticism. This is partly a problem of our making, a reflection of our inadequacies over many years.

The answer to the frustrations many of us have felt with the SWP is not to demonise them. Many individual SWP members all over the country make real contributions to numerous struggles for social justice. We should beware of SWP-bashing and reverse sectarianism, and of any form of red-baiting - the organised far left has a right to contribute and take part; we should not dismiss initiatives simply because they come from the SWP - in fact, those who stayed away from the Stop the War Coalition in its early days because of the SWP's prominence within it merely helped ensure the SWP's ultimate domination of it.

Most importantly, we mustn't dismiss the classical Marxist tradition with which the far left groups are associated. In my view that tradition is incomplete, but we need to know about it and engage with it and respect its struggles. If we walk away from that heritage, there is a danger that too much time will be spent reinventing the wheel.

We should also remember that the foibles we associate with the SWP - the control freakery, the intellectual dishonesty, the casual attitude towards democracy - are not confined to that group - in various measures they are shared by other far left groups, and by much of the Labour and trade union left, and the independent and anarchist left is not untainted by them.

And we should also remember that the two political initiatives often cited as relative successes by critics of the SWP - the Scottish Socialist Party and the PRC in Italy - both emerged out of groups spawned by the Leninist tradition.

Finally, the desire for unity in action is strong. Without that unity people can never fully realise their own potential power. That unity is a goal for which it's worth making sacrifices, gritting your teeth, working with people you distrust - though it must stop short at silence and complicity with what you believe to be wrong.

Having registered those caveats, I have to say, on the basis of my experience in the Socialist Alliance and the Stop the War Coalition, that I believe the SWP is constitutionally incapable of working with others on an equal, honest and transparent basis. In the end, their aim is dominance, and anything that threatens or undermines that dominance will always, in their eyes, be suspect.

I've never agreed with the SWP's programme - or the programmes offered by any of the Leninist groups - but that's not the core of the problem. It's not about programme, it's about method.

Everyone here will have had the experience of attending a meeting ostensibly to discuss or organise an initiative or campaign only to find themselves faced with a block of SWP members who have arrived with a pre-determined line and set of priorities. The non-SWPers present may hold a variety of views or doubts, but these end up rotating around the axis established by the SWP. It's a lop-sided and ineffectual discussion because a key participant - the SWP - is playing by a different set of rules, and not engaging openly and fully with the debate as others see it.

More broadly it's my experience that the SWP leadership have an alarmingly contemptuous attitude towards democracy and a knee-jerk hostility to any challenge to their views or priorities. In particular, the concept of accountability seems virtually absent from the SWP's collective consciousness. SWP members who are officers of wider bodies tend to treat them like playthings, and rarely make an effort to account for their actions and decisions to the broader movement.

The SWP consider themselves THE vanguard and despite the lip-service to pluralism retain the conviction that they ALONE offer the movement proper leadership. They seem to be driven by a highly competitive dynamic: the group and its claims must be sustained at all costs. A premium is placed on having the answers and exercising leadership. Doubt or agnosticism have no place - indeed they are regarded as weaknesses. Truth is reified in the form of a jargon - and any nuance that cannot be expressed in that jargon is ruled out of consideration.

In the end, the SWP is imbued with an authoritarian ethic - most recently confirmed by their readiness to dub as "divisive" or "disruptive" anyone who voices political preferences contrary to theirs. We've seen this in the Socialist Alliance, where they have dumped dissenters from national officer positions and crudely packed a meeting in Birmingham in order to force out one of the few genuinely independent (and respected) trade union activists the SA could boast. We've also seen it in the Stop the War Coalition where decisions are taken by the SWP leadership and foist on the STWC with barely a semblance of democratic consultation, where SWP members appear on platforms as "STWC" spokespersons, though they have no links to any STWC structures, where the priorities of the SWP leadership (at the moment, campaigning for George Galloway), take precedence over the priorities of the wider movement (surely, at the moment, stepping up the pressure on Blair regarding the absent WMD and building a long-term campaign against the occupation of Iraq) - and where anyone who wanted a slightly greater emphasis on direct action, or a broader approach to the choice of speakers on the big demonstrations, or didn't totally buy into the crude construction of "the Muslims" as a homogenous (manipulable) entity was effectively excluded. And in both the SA and the STWC, on the rare occasions when initiatives not under the direct control of the SWP emerged from democratic discussion, they were either ignored or undermined by the SWP.

It's hardly new to note that blind loyalty to an organisation is a dangerous state of mind, and it saddens me that despite all the evidence of the left's past errors, the SWP by and large will not engage in critical examination of their own history or current analysis and practise. When events embarrass them, the error is buried in silence. There is a fear of looking harsh realities or awkward questions in the face and a reluctance to spend time addressing them. There seems to be an imperative to move on to the next campaign or issue or intervention without pausing to assess the success or otherwise of previous efforts. I suspect that some of the leaders fear that if the membership is not kept constantly distracted, they might begin to ask awkward questions.

The competitive dynamic that drives the SWP also leads to an air of unreality in its assessment of events and movements. Instead of sober assessment of our success and failures, strengths and weaknesses, we're offered empty boosterism - the numbers attending meetings or demos are routinely inflated, and the complexity of multi-faceted developments is unacknowledged. This habit was a problem for the SWP in the Socialist Alliance - where election results could not be inflated and the realities of public opinion could not be massaged away. And it is a problem in the STWC - where it is self-evident that, for all our achievements, we did not stop the war, and people are rightly asking now: how we can do better in the future? To which the SWP can answer only: let's do more of the same!

Large-scale demos and rallies top-heavy with speakers are the SWP's preferred type of activity because these activities lend themselves to top-down control and offer the best ponds in which to fish for new members.

Finally, what has disturbed me most in working with the SWP has been their flagrant ethical relativism. This is an ancient foible of the left - a conviction that the class struggle, or the building of the revolutionary party, or the sheer evil of the forces we find ourselves up against justifies any behaviour, no matter how dishonest, duplicitous, or destructive to others. In their competition with the rest of the left, in their drive to maintain control (including control of their own members), anything goes. Meetings can be packed, democratic decisions circumvented, dissenters smeared and threatened, cheques forged and money misappropriated.

Over many years on the left, it's my experience that mutual trust is far more important than detailed political agreement - and in my bitter and abundant experience, it is impossible to trust the SWP. They are too willing to sacrifice our common goals, values and principles for their own short-term advantage.

It's been obvious for years that this kind of practise on the left - from whatever source - puts people off in droves. It hampers honest discussion, distorts debate, obstructs participation, leads to tactical and strategic errors.

However, we should remember that all of this is a part of a much greater problem. We are all the products of the society we aim to challenge and overturn. In their hunger for status, their competitiveness, their reified perception of social realities, and their ethical relativism, the SWP mimic the dominant forces in the society they oppose.

So how can the deformed products of a deformed society overcome this dilemma? Part of the answer is democracy. We're all weak, were all fallible, and it is only when we work together within democratic, transparent, accountable, participatory structures that our weaknesses and fallibilities, our ego-driven errors and arrogant myopia, can be corrected and disciplined. It's argued that the Leninist party provides this correction and discipline but the evidence - quite overwhelming at this juncture in history - is that it actually institutionalises and reifies those weaknesses and fallibilities, cocoons them from the harsh winds of social reality, and insulates them from collective scrutiny.

THE STASI AND THE PEACENIKS - 2

Most comment on Anthony Glees's book on the operations of the Stasi in the UK, The Stasi Files, has concentrated on his case against John Roper, an obscure former Labour MP who defected to the SDP and is now a Liberal Democrat peer. During the 1980s, Roper was one of the big-wigs at Chatham House, the establishment foreign affairs think-tank. In this role, Glees says, on the basis of archival material from the now-closed Stasi archives, he employed a Stasi agent as a researcher and generally acted in an over-sympathetic way towards Erich Honecker's deeply unpleasant regime. Glees identifies Roper as an "agent of influence"; Roper says Glees is a right-wing axe-grinder; the rest of the world wonders what the fuss is about.

But there is material in Glees's book that is more interesting - at least to me. A substantial chunk of the book is taken up with an account of the Stasi's attempts to infiltrate and influence the British peace movement, in particular European Nuclear Disarmament, the small but influential group set up by Edward Thompson and others that campaigned against both Nato and Warsaw Pact nuclear arms in Europe and made a point of making common cause with Soviet-bloc dissidents.

Here I have to declare an interest. I was the deputy editor of END Journal, the group's magazine, from 1984 to 1987, and the people Glees is writing about were comrades and friends. I also have a walk-on role in the story, in that in early 1985 I went to East Berlin with my colleague Patrick Burke and met the dissident peace and human rights group there that the inaptly named German Democratic Republic was so keen to suppress. My report on that (extremely boozy and fun, but rather inconsequential) meeting was circulated to END in London - and it ended up in the Stasi's files because one of our supposed supporters was in fact a Stasi informant. The Stasi also had an agent at the meeting in East Berlin: he or she filed an account that survives. I remember plenty of black humour at the meeting about who was the stooge.

I've known about the Stasi informant in END for some time: my report was one of several documents the journalist David Rose turned up four years ago when he was trawling the Stasi files, with the help of Glees, for a TV documentary. What's new in Glees's book is that he identifies (it seems) the London ENDer who was passing on the not-very-hot poop to East Berlin - as well as fingering Vic Allen, the hardcore Stalinist CNDer, as a GDR embassy informant. There's also a mass of documentation that shows just how important the Stasi thought it was to target END.

The problem, however, is that Glees has looked only cursorily at the evidence at the Brit peacenik end that shows the Stasi's efforts were laughably ineffective, and he consistently exaggerates their impact. Glees has it that the END GDR working group collapsed after one of its members, Barbara Einhorn, was arrested in East Germany in late 1983. Not so: the working group was not even set up until after she was released, and it beavered away, with a regular newsletter, until 1989. There are also some passages where Glees's interpretations of ENDers' motives are little short of libellous - he comes close to accusing John Sandford, the Reading University academic who was one of the mainstays of the group, of being at least a useful idiot for the GDR regime, which he most certainly was not.

This is an important story. The actions of the Soviet Union and its surrogates against the non-aligned 1980s peace movement in western Europe were not on the level of their assault on the non-Stalinist left in Spain in the 1930s, but they were the some of the last of that vile police-state system's great betrayals of the left. The tale deserves a better chronicler.

10 July 2003

BRITAIN'S IRAQ DOSSIER ROW -1

Paul Anderson, Tribune column, July 11 2003

I spent an afternoon this week poring over the report of the House of Commons foreign affairs select committee on the decision to go to war with Iraq, and I agree with those commentators who dismissed it as an inconclusive document that does nothing apart from guarantee that the row over government dossiers on weapons of mass destruction will rumble on well into the summer.

There are still four possible scenarios for what will happen next, just as there have been since the row began (which as I remember was pretty much on the day of publication of the first dossier last September, which was widely criticised at the time for being old hat).

The first, which seems to be to remain perfectly plausible even though most people I know greet it with loud guffaws every time it is suggested, is that evidence soon emerges -- in the shape either of the weapons themselves, of production facilities or of a credible witness from the very top of Saddam Hussein's regime -- that Iraq really did have ready-to-use WMD at the time the dossiers were compiled.

In this case, both the government and the intelligence services will be off the hook, though there will doubtless be claims that the evidence is inadequate or even forged, and there will remain the suspicion that the evidence available to the government at the time it decided to go to war was flimsy in the extreme.

(There will also remain the strong argument that a country’s possession of weapons of mass destruction is not in itself an adequate reason for other countries to invade it, but that’s another question.)

The second scenario is that it turns out that the intelligence services told the government they were pretty certain that Saddam Hussein had ready-to-use WMD and the government acted in good faith on that advice - but, er, actually, ahem, whoops, Saddam didn't have WMD or at least didn't have them in a usable condition. In this case, the story is one of intelligence failure, and heads should roll in MI6 and GCHQ, though the chances are they won't.

The third scenario is the real killer for Tony Blair - that it transpires that the intelligence services told the government that they couldn't really be sure about Saddam's WMD capacity but the government decided it needed cover to invade Iraq so sexed up the evidence. In this case, heads not only should but would roll in government, and it’s difficult to see how Blair himself could survive.

The final possibility is that nothing very conclusive emerges from the whole affair, at least in the near future. Nothing much in the way of Iraqi WMD, no credible Deep Throats from Saddam’s inner circle, the funnies or Number Ten, no smoking-gun memos – just an ever-growing pile of circumstantial evidence, single-sourced gossip and inspired conjecture that turns the start of the war against Iraq into one of those stories that never dies, the assassination of JFK de nos jours.

For what it’s worth, I think it’s worth putting a small bet on scenario four. My guess is that the sequence of events in the run-up to war went something like this:

First, the Bush administration made it clear to the Brits by the beginning of 2002 at the latest that it was going to take out Saddam come what may for a whole string of reasons – his connections with terrorists, his military capacity, his continued defiance of the west.

Second, the Blair government, having at first been sceptical about this policy, came round to the idea of removing Saddam – but only if it were not done either unilaterally or without a credible and legal casus belli.

Third, the British and US governments decided on the basis of (largely accurate) intelligence reports that the hardy old issue of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was still the best way to broaden international support for an ultimatum to Saddam.

Fourth, as US rhetoric and military deployments became increasingly bellicose during 2002, Saddam dismantled his WMD factories and stocks, with the result that neither the readmitted UN inspectors nor the spooks managed to find anything.

Fifth, the rest of the world announced it was unconvinced by the argument that WMD provided a good reason for urgent action against Iraq and refused to back a second UN resolution.

Sixth, the US and Britain – faced with the alternative of stepping down and ceding Saddam a major victory -- went ahead regardless and invaded.

Now it could be that I’ve got this completely wrong. The point, though, is that it’s one of several plausible narratives in which (a) every one of the UK players can claim to have acted in good faith throughout; and (b) every one of them can be accused by any other of consistent incompetence and procrastination. Which is a recipe for this one to run and run.

1 July 2003

YOU CAN SPOT THE DIFFERENCE

Paul Anderson, Tribune column, June 27 2003

The other day, while I was looking through my files for something else, I turned up a clipping from the Oxford Mail in 1980. It was a news story about a demonstration by the Oxford Anarchist Group (of which I was then a member) on the occassion of the Soviet ambassador’s visit to speak at the Oxford Union, accompanied by a photograph of the dozen or so demonstrators.

Normally when I find things like this my first reaction is to sigh nostalgically. Weren’t we young — and wasn’t X a real stunner? How the hell did she end up marrying that chump who got that flash job in the City?

But this time I winced with embarrassment — and it wasn’t because of the haircuts or the clothes but because the slogans on our hand-painted placards were so asinine. One in particular stood out: “H-blocks, Gulag — Spot the difference, smash the lot!” (For younger readers, the H-blocks were the prison buildings in Long Kesh gaol just outside Belfast where IRA and other Northern Irish terrorist and paramilitary prisoners were held.)

We were protesting against a vile police-state, which was and is an entirely honourable thing to do. But we gave the impression that we were doing so because we thought that conditions in that vile police state were just as bad as here — rather than far, far worse. The British state’s policies in Northern Ireland at the time certainly deserved criticism, but to claim that the H-blocks were indistinguishable from the slave-labour system of Stalin’s Soviet Union was simply barmy. In our enthusiasm to make a point about our own society and its failings, we’d lost all sense of political perspective.

Ah well, you might think, that’s anarchists for you — and I’d agree insofar as anarchism’s blanket anti-statism does mean that many anarchists are peculiarly incapable of distinguishing among states. But anarchists are not the only leftists who are so keen to attack developed western capitalist democracy that they lose any sense of how much worse things are and have been elsewhere.

Indeed, cringe-making “spot-the-difference” comparisons of the “H-blocks, Gulag” type crop up time and again in leftist discourse. In the 1930s and again in the 1960s, the fashion was to describe anyone even vaguely right-wing as “fascist”. Since the 1980s, it has been the vogue in some leftist circles to describe the Labour Party’s internal regime as “Stalinist” — not because members are periodically rounded up, tortured into confessing crimes they have not committed and then shot, but because Trotskyists have been non-violently expelled from the party and outspoken critics of the party leadership have not been given plum jobs in government.

But “H-blocks, Gulag” thinking has been most noticeable of late in the post-September 11 anti-war movement. Time and again, in attacking the United States’s aggressive “war on terror”, Leftist writers and speakers have made preposterous claims about the supposed likeness of the Bush administration and al-Qaida, the Taliban in Afghanistan or Saddam’s regime in Iraq. Which is not to argue that the US is right or that it should not be criticised. It’s just that crass stupidity can undermine even the most righteous cause.

On a different matter entirely, the Guardian deserves congratulation for finding and publishing the infamous list of Soviet sympathisers that George Orwell handed over to the Information Research Department, a Foriegn Office propaganda unit, just before his death. The Guardian did rather sex up the news angle on the story, asking whether Orwell handed over the list because he fancied Celia Kirwan, a young woman friend who had just started working for the IRD — its front-page headline ran: “Blair’s babe: Did Orwell’s love for this woman turn him into a government stooge?”

But on the assumption that the list is genuine (and it appears to be), its publication should lay to rest the myth that Orwell was doing anything more sinister with it than advising the IRD that it should not hire certain people to write its anti-communist propaganda.

The 38 names on the list are all, with the exception of Charlie Chaplin and Michael Redgrave, authors or journalists; and all those with whom I’m familiar (which is not all of them) had publicly expressed pro-Soviet opinions in print at some point.

There remains the question of whether Orwell was right to hand over a list to a secret state agency not knowing whether it might be put to a use different from that for which it was prepared. But the claim that he produced some sort of “hit list” of targets for a British McCarthyism just isn’t true.

28 June 2003

ORWELL'S LIST - 2

The Guardian has followed up its publication of George Orwell’s list of writers he couldn’t recommend as anti-communists last week with a mixed bag of material. I’ve already mentioned the “hit-list” news story (click here); this weekend it has been augmented by an email exchange between D J Taylor and Scott Lucas, both of whom have recently published books on Orwell (for which click here; see below for Tribune reviews); a piece by Corin Redgrave, son of Michael, the actor who figures in the list (click here); and some letters (click here), two from relatives of Douglas Goldring and one identifying the "Aldred (Christian name?)" on the list.

The Taylor-Lucas exchange is hilarious: Taylor obviously thinks (with good reason) that Lucas is a moron, but is too polite to say so. But the Redgrave piece is mendacious. Comrade Corin - a leading member of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party when it (lest we forget) received large-scale subventions from Muammar al-Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein during the 1980s and was not averse to tipping off the Iraqi secret police about dissidents - has a go at Orwell on the grounds that his dear old dad was victimised as a fellow-traveller.

To cut a dull story short, he says that although his father was a decent cove, who only cared about the conditions of the workers and did nothing more subversive than support the January 1941 People’s Convention demanding a people's government and decent pay for all, he was politely refused work by the BBC for a few months.

What Redgrave doesn't mention is that the convention was a Communist Party front designed to encourage not just anti-war but defeatist feeling – the furthest the CP dared go with its Nazi appeasement policy in the period when Stalin and Hitler were allies - at a time when Britain stood alone against the Nazis.

As Harry Pollitt, general secretary of the CP, put it in his speech to the convention, it represented "the gathering of those in deadly seriousness . . . who want to see the victory of the people of this country over its real enemies in the Churchill government and the policy it is pursuing at the present moment". It's my emphasis, but the quotation is taken verbatim from the report of the convention's proceedings, which I have in front of me as I write. Pollitt is clearly saying that Churchill and his Labour supporters are a greater enemy than Nazi Germany, and that Britain should sue for peace with Hitler. The rest of the speeches make the same point: that the real problem is not Nazi Germany but the British ruling class and British imperialism, and that the only friend of the workers is Stalin's Soviet Union (which at the time was inconveniently supplying Hitler with the means of waging war). Krishna Menon, the Indian nationalist leader, sums up the attitude perfectly: "There is no use in asking whether you would choose British imperialism or Nazism, it is like asking a fish if he wants to be fried in margarine or butter. He doesn't want to be fried at all!"

Redgrave junior has it that, although the event was “organised by the Communist Party at a time when the pact between Hitler and Stalin was still in place”, it merely “addressed a very widespread suspicion of the government’s intentions” and “resentment at the lack of provision that had been made for the protection of people in the Blitz”.

Bullshit. Anyone who signed up for the People’s Convention in 1941 was either a CPer or one of the CP's useful idiots. It is not McCarthyism to suggest that signatories to that particularly brazen pro-Soviet initiative should not have been encouraged to write anti-communist pro-social democracy pamphlets for the Foreign Office of a Labour government.

Orwell was right.

27 June 2003

LIBERTARIAN SOCIALISM – 1

The Gauche email inbox is being overwhelmed by protests from free-market libertarians who object to their brand being filched by supposed imposters. “Libertarian”, they say (I surmise), can only legitimately be appropriated as a tag by apostles of John Locke, Robert Nozick and other advocates of property-rights-and-law-and-order minimal-statism.

Well, tough: it’s staying on the subtitle of this weblog, with no apologies. Historically, “libertarian” has been used for more than 100 years by various sections of the left – mostly by anarchists but also by plenty of others of an anti-statist, anti-militarist, anti-capitalist, self-managementist bent – and there’s no reason we shouldn’t continue to use it.

In the UK, I’d class as libertarian leftists, as well as the anarchists, the William Morris socialists of the late-19th century; most of the syndicalists and guild socialists of the 1910s; much of the Independent Labour Party in the 1920s and 1930s; the most anti-Stalinist elements of the Tribune left of the 1940s and 1950s (Orwell and friends); the radical end of the New Left and the first wave of CND in the late 1950s and early 1960s; rather a lot of the extra-parliamentary left of the 1960s and 1970s, including the International Socialism group before it went Leninist, Solidarity (which drew on the ideas of Cornelius Castoriadis’s Socialisme ou Barbarie group in France), to a lesser extent Big Flame (which had close links with Lotta Continua and other far-left groups in Italy), and various short-lived magazines, notably Inside Story and The Leveller ; much of the “social movement” left since the 1960s (in the squatting movement, in the second wave of CND, in the environmental movement and a lot else besides); and a substantial minority of mainstream reformist social democrats in the same period and later who were increasingly drawn to decentralist, co-operative market socialism as the corporatism-plus-nationalisation model of social democracy lost all credibility. (Click here for the late Jim Higgins's history of the early International Socialists; here for a selection of Solidarity pamphlets; and here for Castoriadis and S ou B.)

By the mid-1980s, it was quite unexceptional to find Labour leftists who described themselves as “libertarian socialists”: although they probably wouldn’t want to be reminded of it today, both Peter Hain and David Blunkett (I kid you not) argued at length for what they called “libertarian socialism” in the pages of Tribune and elsewhere, and they were backed by the main faction of the Labour “soft left”, the Labour Co-ordinating Committee, which later collapsed into cheer-leading for the party leadership (its veterans now publish Renewal). Much of the 1980s non-Labour left – particularly those in and around Beyond the Fragments, the Socialist Society, the E P Thompson parts of the peace movement and Charter 88 – was on the same wavelength. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, New Statesman and Society (as it then was) explicitly identified itself as “libertarian” as it searched, on occasion quixotically, for a popular front of Labour leftists, direct-actionist anti-roads protesters and bohemian intellectuals.

Now, I’m quite prepared to accept that at least some of the people involved with it all were or are mountebanks. For some, “libertarianism” was or is little more than wishy-washy PC lifestyle liberalism; for others, merely a vague enthusiasm for decentralisation; for still others just a convenient label to distinguish themselves opportunistically from the Leninist sects and social democracy’s discredited technocrats. The moment libertarianism went mainstream on the British left was fleeting, illusory and long ago.

But I’m still an enthusiast for egalitarian self-managed market socialism; and I still want the state to leave us all alone as much as possible. My big difference with libertarians of the right is that my ideal minimal state concentrates not on maintenance of property rights and defence of the realm but on redistribution of incomes and wealth to provide basic needs to everyone as of right (citizen’s income and free healthcare, education and housing) so we can all get on with whatever we want. And OK, I know that’s utopian. But so what?

More to come on this.

26 June 2003

THE STASI AND THE PEACENIKS - 1

I'd clocked David Leigh's piece in the Guardian earlier in the month on Anthony Glees's book on the Stasi's activities in the UK (click here) - but I'm afraid the story, about East German spooks hanging around Chatham House and getting various establishment has-beens to be nice to them, left me cold. Not so cold, however, that I didn't pick up the book - The Stasi Files: East Germany's Secret Operations against Britain (Free Press, £20) - at which point I discovered that it includes rather a lot of material on the 1980s peace movement that is very interesting. The Stasi were obsessed with European Nuclear Disarmament, the anti-Soviet and anti-Nato current in the peace movement (for which I worked for three years as deputy editor of END Journal), and Glees has turned up some fascinating stuff. There's one big problem, though: his presentation of his Stasi archive findings is laughably sensationalist and poorly researched at the Brit peacenik end. But there's definitely more to come on this . . .

24 June 2003

ORWELL'S LIST -1

The Guardian's scoop last weekend on George Orwell's list of fellow travellers (click here for the news story) was sexed up, to use the current jargon, but it is a scoop none the less.

Orwell's private, for-his-own-use, list of communist sympathisers was published in Peter Davison's edition of his collected works in the mid-1990s (updated for the paperback earlier this year). But no one until last Saturday had unearthed the list culled from this list - are you still following at the back? - that Orwell gave to Celia Kirwan (whom he fancied something rotten) when she started working for the Foreign Office Information Research Department, an anti-communist propaganda outfit, and asked him for help.

The Guardian's presentation of the story on its front page was cheap but clever - "Blair's babe: Did love for this woman turn Orwell into a government stooge?" asked the headline - and its subsequent coverage of the story in its news pages has taken the line that Orwell had a "hit-list" (click here). But the feature by Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian Saturday review that actually told the story of the list was balanced and fair.

The list has not been put on the web, so here it is, scanned in: any mistakes that are not Orwell's are down to the technology.

And remember, it should have been titled: "I don't recommend you commission these people if you're looking for reliable anti-Stalinists working for your propaganda unit." It isn't a hit-list or anything like it: it's a list of writers and intellectuals Orwell thought were dodgy on the Soviet Union. Further posts will take this up.

Anderson, John
Industrial correspondent (Manchester Guardian) Probably sympathiser only. Good reporter. Stupid.

Aldred (Christian name?)
Novelist (Of Many Men etc.) Qy whether open CP member

Beavan, John Editor (Manchester Evening News) and other papers.Sentimental sympathiser only. Not subjectively pro-CP. May have changed views.

Blackett, Professor PMS Scientific populariser (physics)

Carr, Professor EH The Times. Aberystwith University. Books on Bakunin etc. Appeaser only.

Chaplin, Chas Films ?

Crowther, J Q Scientific populariser. Qy whether open CP member

Childe, Professor Gordon Scientific populariser (anthropology and history of science) ??

Calder-Marshall, Arthur Novelist and journalist. Previously close fellow traveller. Has changed, but not reliably. Insincere person.

Deutscher, I Journalist (Observer, Economist and other papers) Sympathiser only. Is Polish Jew. Previously Trotskyist, and changed views chiefly because of Jewish issue. Could change again.

Duranty, W (Anglo-US) Well-known foreign correspondent. Books on Russia etc.

Driberg, Tom MP for Malden, and columnist (Reynolds' News, previously Daily Express). Usually named as "crypto", but in my opinion NOT reliably pro-CP.

Dover, Cedric Writer (Half Caste etc.) and journalist. Trained as zoologist. Is Eurasian. Main emphasis anti-white (especially anti-USA), but reliably pro-Russian on all major issues. Very dishonest, venal person.

Goldring, D Writer (mainly novels) Disappointed careerist.

Hooper, Major (initials?) Military expert. Pamphlets, books on USSR.

Jacob, Alaric Foreign correspondent (D Express and other papers).

Kohn, Marjorie Teacher and journalist (New Statesman and other papers). Silly sympathiser.

Litauer, Stefan Foreign affairs expert, News Chron. Polish correspondent circa 1943-46
Obviously dishonest. Said to have been previously Pilsudski supporter.

Morley, Iris
Foreign correspondent (Observer and other papers). Very strong fellow-traveller. Qy whether open CP member.

Macmurray, Professor John SCM National Peace Council. Personalist movement. Many books. ?? No organisational connection, but very pro USSR subjectively. It is worth noticing that the French branch of the Personalist Movement is partly dominated by fellow travellers.

Martin, H Kingsley Ed New Statesman. ?? Too dishonest to be outright "crypto" or fellow-traveller, but reliably pro-Russian on all major issues.

Mackenzie, Norman Journalist (New Statesman). Qy whether open CP member.

McLeod,Joseph

Mitchison, N Novelist. Silly sympathiser. Sister of JBS Haldane.

Moore, Nicholas
Poet. ? Anarchist leanings.

McDiarmid, H (CM Grieve) Poet and critic. Scottish Nationalist Movement. Dissident Communist but reliably pro-Russian.

Mende, Tibor Foreign affairs expert. Books. Hungarian. Perhaps sympathiser only.

Neumann, R
Novelist. Edited German "International Authors" for Hutchinson's, for some years.

O'Donnell, Peader Critic. Qy whether open CP member.

Parker, Ralph Foreign correspondent (News Chronicle and and other papers)

Priestley, JB Novelist and broadcaster ??

Padmore, George League against Imperialism, and kindred activities. Many pamphlets.
Negro. Dissident Communist (expelled from about 1936) but reliably pro-Russian.

Redgrave, Michael
Actor ??

Smollett, Peter (real name Smolka?) Correspondent, D Express etc. Russian section of MOI during war. Said by CPers to be mere careerist, but gives strong impression of being some kind of Russian agent. Very slimy person.

Schiff, Leonard (the Rev) C of E parson (modernist). Knowledge of India. Pamphlets?

Werth, Alexander
Foreign correspondent (Manchester Guardian and other papers). ? May not be fellow-traveller but gives that impression.

Young, Commander EP (RN)
Naval expert. Pamphlets. Almost certainly "crypto"

Stewart, Margaret
Journalist (News Chronicle, Economist and other papers). Active in NUJ. About 5 years ago was underground member of CP. May just possibly have changed her views. Very able person.

UNITED FOR PEACE - 9

My little spat with Stephen Marks over whether Christopher Hitchens should still be considered "of the left" has been taken up on the new improved Harry's Place weblog (click here for the new home page, here for the Hitchens discussion).

I've just read Hitchens's instant book on the war on Iraq, and I'm unconvinced by the argument that he's "passed over to the other side". The position he has consistently taken in his polemical writing and reportage on Iraq, and before on Afghanistan - that imperialism (in the shape of the US) is generally a lesser evil than fascism (in the shape of Osama bin Laden and Saddam), and that in extreme circumstances the only responsible and decent option is to support imperialism against fascism - has an honourable leftist precedent in the second world war.

Whether or not Hitchens would vote for Bush is neither here nor there - I voted for Tony Blair (as I imagine Marks did) and Blair, whom Hitchens hates, has taken the Bush line - and it doesn't really bother me whether the Hitch considers himself to be part of the left these days: he deserves serious consideration for his arguments not ritual denunciation. And OK, I admit he's sometimes his own worst enemy . . .

23 June 2003

UNITED FOR PEACE - 8

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.