Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Seumas Milne on 9/11: some comrades more equal than others

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.

14 comments:

harpymarx said...

"but I appear to have been banned by Seumas's comment page and Comment Is Free,"

Comment is Free? That's a larf then, and Seumas, I thought you were better.... Obviously not!!

Great post (and I do love that pic at the top, wonderful!) and I think you are spot-on when you say:

"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,"

The Left has a tendency to ignore comrades at the frontline doing what is necessary and then being f*cked over. There's a specific place for comrades doing the real work without pay and without say, certainly, "know your place"... And don't be part of the decision making as only the special few can do that. The problem is many don't know what a good committed comrade they have instead they mistreat and exploit because they are the preening self-obsessed leaders arrogant and ignorant... Now they're the ones who utterly and totally damage the Left.
Health and safety in these orgs are appalling, if this happened in your average workplace then it would be taken up as bullying and harassment but this don't happen on the Left now, does it......

Harry Paterson said...

And there, in a nut shell, is the problem the left faces. From itself and its treatment of, and behaviour towards, each other.

Quasi-Marxism-as-religion sectarians on one side and authoritarian middle class control freaks on the other.

We should be making hay during the 'sunshine' of times like these, instead it's the usual farce.

Carry on, Comrade Chen. Your class needs you.

Oliver Shykles said...

Brilliant article Anna.

James Williams said...

In my experience most of the left in the UK are simply ideological foils for the right. In fact, paradoxically, they allow the right to be 'more' right... how else did Cameron get to power? Their role is to water down any real left wing consciousness. For example the modern Labour party is a simply a machine to absorb left wing values and aspirations and cleverly pacify them like a giant sponge - and obviously rotten to the core.

Martin Robb said...

Not a big surprise:

http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/overrated-september-11-seumas-milne-michael-mosbacher-guardian-china-communism-lenin-stalin

bobbydigital said...

Milne must have some pretty hefty balls not to include his dealings with you in his moment of glory, knowing that there is an internet and all.
I't seems a little like Craig Murry calling people 'ugly souled' or that they made the devil giggle or whatever, because feminists were saying people he supported (assange and straus-khan) should stand trial for very serious crimes. It's like some kind of wierd moral tunnel vision or something.
It does seem like political writing seems to attract people with various personality disorders, I don't think this is just confined to the left.
Also why do you have 'coolie' written on your arm in that picture.
here is a song about cats
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpl5mOAXNl4
big fan of this blog,keep up the good work and all.

Madam Miaow said...

Thanks for your kind words, everyone.

Bobby, I labelled myself "coolie" because I felt like their coolie labour. Although, at least coolies got paid something and didn't have to descend into debt in order to keep up the massas' end of things.

Laban said...

I must confess I would never have thought of Anna as working class. Do working class people have "careers" which they "put on hold" ?

You learn something new every day.



(Milne is indeed unspeakable. But he was unspeakable long before you ever worked with him ...)

parvus said...

i think you are a very talented writer and i really enjoy your work. I am sorry for the negativity you have encountered but i hope it makes you more determined, and that you keep up the good work

Mellie said...

You're missing the wood for one tree.

The problem the left faces is the huge setback to the class struggle represented by the overthrow of the Soviet Union and other worker's states in Eastern Europe. Those states have disorientated the left because there was so much wrong with them, and their disappearance has convinced lots of other people that socialism can't work. (Combine the economic model of China, Vietnam & now Cuba with Venezuelan democracy and you have a counter-argument to that.)

I.e. the left's weakness in Britain is a result of a series of massive political defeats for the working class internationally and domestically after about 1979. Infighting is a symptom of that, not a cause, and is a British left thing, not a "left" thing in general.

Plus the left in Britain has always been a bit backward - because while being the first working class in the world, it was also the first to have its leadership bought off by imperialism.

The sort of infighting you describe here is trivial.

Mellie said...

You're missing the wood for one tree.

The problem the left faces is the huge setback to the class struggle represented by the overthrow of the Soviet Union and other worker's states in Eastern Europe. Those states have disorientated the left because there was so much wrong with them, and their disappearance has convinced lots of other people that socialism can't work. (Combine the economic model of China, Vietnam & now Cuba with Venezuelan democracy and you have a counter-argument to that.)

I.e. the left's weakness in Britain is a result of a series of massive political defeats for the working class internationally and domestically after about 1979. Infighting is a symptom of that, not a cause, and is a British left thing, not a "left" thing in general.

Plus the left in Britain has always been a bit backward - because while being the first working class in the world, it was also the first to have its leadership bought off by imperialism.

The sort of infighting you describe here is trivial.

Madam Miaow said...

And thus, in true Darkness At Noon fashion, I'm expected to embrace my exploitation with not a murmur. Aren't you worried, Mellie, that this is how socialist activists are being treated when they enter the fray? How are you going to build a movement?

Mellie said...

I think people in the movement should be comradely. I don't at all think you should allow yourself to be badly treated.

But really I was responding to your remark: "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."

I think the left is in nowheresville in this country for much bigger reasons than the infighting you ascribe it to there.

Madam Miaow said...

I trust you don't categorise fighting back as "infighting", Mellie.

Yes, of course, there are complex reasons why the left is failing to play an effective role. But while the will to oppress others, to put your personal power first, to create hierarchies and class structures where you take the master position, where all this remains unchallenged, the whole project can only be built on sand.

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