Long-time readers will be aware that this blog has historically been critical of prominent pro-war left site Harry’s Place, whilst nevertheless continuing to link to it and regarding it as an important part of the political blogging landscape. We have attracted criticism from members of the SWP and others for that stance, and I for one do not envisage it changing. That having been said, I cannot let some of their recent output pass without comment.
Harry’s Place has for a long time had very obviously different politics amongst its various posters, as indeed we do here. There is nothing wrong with that – blogging is not like party politics, still less like hard-left party politics, and there is no need for any one blog to have a set political “line” on any one issue. However, Harry’s Place at its inception had carved itself out a very deliberate niche as an advocate for the use of military force to ensure workers’ rights around the world. Whilst I do not agree with them over the war in Iraq, I do not think that anyone could deny the power of the single, raised ink-stained finger picture that marked the first Iraqi general election, nor the righteous fury of the writing which underlay it. It’s in the archive on their site, somewhere.
So, what has happened recently? In place of all this, we have increasingly bilious attacks on essentially random individuals who oppose Israel’s gross and nauseating military actions in Gaza, which do not even make the pretence of protecting democracy for the Palestinian people. We have attacks on the protests against those military actions and in my view, intimations of anti-semitism. I have attended three such demonstrations in the past fortnight, one in London, one in Coventry and one in Birmingham, and the idea that their tone was an anti-semitic one is quite simply arrant nonsense. I myself was sickened by the “We are all Hezbollah” chants that could be heard on London demonstrations against Israel’s war in the Lebanon – the protests that I have been on categorically did not have that tone, and anyone who says that they did was either watching something else, is desperate to fill out a pre-existing narrative or is simply an outright liar. Further, as people who constantly ask why Israel is held to different standards than other democracies (a contention which is often spurious: imagine what would have happened if the UK launched air strikes against the Shankhill Road in the 1980s), perhaps these supporters of Israel’s actions would like to explain why they seem always to be automatically willing to offer any Israeli administration a blank cheque to do anything at all when it is attacking Arab civilians?
Another thing, which has been particularly galling, is the recent descent into red-baiting. I have already blogged about the bizarre McCarthyism which surrounded the apparent attempt to get Owen Hatherley sacked from the New Statesman for writing a review of Lenny Seymour’s book that didn’t accord with David T’s (or Oliver “I’m left-wing, honest” Kamm’s) opinions. I fully endorsed Lenny Seymour’s comments at the time, and I gladly do so again here. For those who do not remember what they were, this summarises them quite well:
Describing the reviewer, Owen Hatherley, as the “Dilpazier Aslam” of the New Statesman (recalling a case in which a trainee journalist was fired from The Guardian, having written an article that included praise for Hizb Ut-Tahrir while he was a member of said organisation), the post on Harry’s Place claims that Owen Hatherley is a member of the Socialist Workers’ Party. He is not, and never has been. But it is on the basis of this single fabrication that the author of the post launches a lengthy diatribe effectively demanding that the New Statesman publish a correction and fire the reviewer. It is a small irony that, while in effect demanding a purge on the basis of an invention, David T fantasises that it is SWP members who are ‘totalitarian’.
More recently there was this, with an even more blantant exhibition of the most disgusting red-baiting from one “Lucy Lips”. In reference to people of “far left” views getting democratically elected to positions and putting their politics up for discussion, she says:
This is why the far Left needs to be kicked out of all elected positions in the Union movement. They’ve no interest in pay and conditions. They’re happy to wreck a union, as long as it helps them to recruit. They’re waiting for the Revolution, after all.
If that isn’t a classic 1950s-era “reds under the bed” style tissue of lies and paranoia then I don’t know what is. Political arguments aside, as someone virtually whose entire family in some way was born, bred and worked on the left of the labour movement, I find it personally insulting to see some superannuated metropolitan middle-class tosser (forgive me if you’re a destitute M & S worker Lucy, but somehow I doubt it) chooses to tell me what our movement can and cannot discuss in our own forums. And if you don’t like your union officials then vote them out without indulging in McCarthy-style ideological purges. Anyone who does not support that basic level of labour movement democracy is scum pure and simple, and that is the impression which the author gives to me in that post.
And finally we have the ultimate descent into utter Bullingdon crap, with a post taking the piss out of a middle-aged woman’s looks. “LOL TROTZ!”. Jeezus, next week it’ll be “Hey, that Roosevelt, get him and his funny wheelchair!”, “LOL HAWKING!” and “Pavarotti was fat! LOL OPERASINGERZ!”. Either that or a guest post by Roy “Chubby” Brown – hey don’t laugh, I’m sure he probably wants to Defend Freedom too.
Maybe it’s a case of watching Shachtman’s descent (from fascinating dissident left-winger to outright supporter of the political right) in fast-forward from the comfort of my living room. Or maybe they just always were the political equivalent of American Dad mixed up with Beavis and Butthead. Either way I won’t pretend that it isn’t deeply disturbing to see a group of people engaging in tactics worthy of the lowest form of witch-hunting pondlife whilst claiming overtly that they are doing so in the interests of pursuing a progressive political agenda.
Guys, I hope this recent spate of behaviour represents a loss of political bearings and not a display of your true colours. Sort your shit out.