Anna Chen, anti-war press officer (Pic Sukey Parnell)
Seumas Milne writes in today's Guardian about the 9/11 attacks and the shameful silencing of voices who spoke out against the anti-Muslim hysteria. Anticipating the Bush administration's cynical use of the tragedy as an excuse to settle business in Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein, many of us were active in opposing the coming war on Iraq.
The anti-war movement was proven correct. There were no weapons of mass destruction. As awful as the West's old ally Saddam was, he had nothing to do with the attacks.
Seumas also writes that: "... Arab writer Rana Kabbani warned that only a change of policy towards the rest of the world would bring Americans security (for which she was grotesquely denounced as a "terror tart" by the US journalist Greg Palast)."
This all sounds very noble, but Seumas's selective solidarity has always puzzled me.
I had been doing some publicity on Greg Palast's excellent book, The Best Democracy Can Buy. Now, Greg is more often than not on the side of the angels but he does suffer the odd brainfart. I took him to task over his comment: as did, I believe, his wife and at least one of his assistants. However, Seumas thought Greg's comment a good enough reason to courageously phone me at home in order to tear into me personally.
What was interesting was how this confirmed that some comrades are more equal than others.
I'm glad that Seumas emphasises in his piece how important it was to speak out at the time. I had also been a sister in the anti-war movement, single-handedly establishing and then — with one other person writing some of the press releases — running the anti-war press office under the Socialist Alliance, Media Workers Against The War and the Stop The War Coalition and getting results. Working for no pay while Seumas's friends leading the left organisations drew wages — many of them the same politicos who had assured me there was no point in engaging with the media because "the bourgeois press ignore us" — I went into debt to ensure we had a press operation: my credit cards paid for the anti-war publicity machine leading up to the huge demonstration of February 2003. I put my own career on hold because I believed that trying to prevent a bloody war on Iraq was the important issue of the time. Seumas knows I did the work because he was one of the regular recipients of my press releases.
While it's touching to see Seumas defending his mates, I did wonder why he was never moved to defend the grunts actually doing the work, challenging the monolithic perspective in the media, putting information out there while, among other things, being whacked in the face with a balloon by one of his mates (OK, only my pride was hurt), ripped off for wages and otherwise abused. (Being a working -class ethnic woman places you at the bottom of the left's food chain — we will always be trumped by middle/upper-class ethnic women and 57 varieties of men.) It's all very well for Seumas to bleat, " ... my column in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 was a particular target of hostility ..." as if soliciting our sympathy, but this has to be two-way traffic, without Seumas himself playing traffic cop.
The princes and princesses of the left don't like being on the receiving end of "hostility". Well, no-one does ... especially when it's gratuitous. But this only applies to them. Since making strides in the media for our side in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, not only have I received no solidarity, but I appear to have been banned by Seumas's comment page and Comment Is Free, something they have in common with the Great Firewall of China (which has banned my blog). As they say, your opponents are in front of you but your enemies are behind you. It's a pity I had to find out the hard way.
We often wonder why the left is nowheresville now that the rivets are popping and capitalism is creaking into decrepit old age. I'd advise searching no further than the actual practices of this wannabe ruling-class-in-waiting.
Gary Younge: Can the US get beyond the narcissism of 9/11? The war on terror has been disastrous abroad and divisive at home.
- About: British Chinese poet, writer and broadcaster Anna Chen
- On the radio
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- Foot and Mouth Campaign
- RSC The Orphan of Zhao controversy
- A Bad Case of the Trots
- Reaching for my Gnu: poetry
- Print Room protest: In the Depths of Dead Love chronology
- Poetry Live!
- Yellow Peril Orientalism