Proud to be ‘indecent’


8:11 pm - May 12th 2008

by David Semple    


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A guest-post over at Harry’s Place by ‘Ben’ advertises what it means to be a ‘Decent.’ Seemingly this is shorthand for someone who supports the war, is opposed to anyone further left than Jon Cruddas and genuinely thinks that the Parliamentary Labour Party should be staffed by people like Oona King.

With these blanket labels flying around, it is difficult to know the extent to which any given author is perpetrating a deliberate slander, or to which they’re simply caught up in their own misguided rhetoric.

I’m not sure which is the case when guest-poster Ben makes the following declaration about why he turned from Stopper to idiot:

“Because so many of them opposed the democratic self-determination of the Iraqi and Afghan people, the former of whom I had seen with their purple fingers. The flowering of trades unions. The sheer belief that a better world existed outwith the Stalinist miasma. And it became sickening for me to think of the very fact that I had given my personhood to a vile and reactionary counter-revolutionary demonstration in central London, which I would forever be tarred with. The utter scum who would forever call my name in favour of the defence of the latest popular anti-western dictatorship.”

It would be easier to think that Ben is just a bit unsophisticated, that, like so many impressionable young people he was caught up in the populist tone of the anti-war movement and was later disillusioned by its failure. There’s no zealot quite like a convert, as they say. Nevertheless, I think that’s too light on him.

No one, particularly not the anti-Stop the War crew, can legitimately be under the impression that all the Stoppers were part of a giant Islamist movement to perpetuate the second-class treatment of women and minorities, also aimed at crushing freedom of dissent. This is what Ben contends. In his own words:

“And so it was very easy to attack those on the left for the idiocies they promoted. Because they were utterly wrong. Their disgusting communalism. Their horrific defence of the most reactionary elements of Islamist thought. Their pathetic peacnick [sic] hippy shit. Their attacks upon our demonstrably relevant nuclear deterrent. Their opposition – with no hyperbole – to our very way of life, and to the way of life we wanted others to be able to enjoy.”

Stoppers: September 27 2003I’m a Stopper, but I’m not caught up with the SWP and their dalliances with Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the other insane Islamists. When I marged in 2003 and again in 2007, I was not singing “From the River to the Sea” – the first time, I was leading chants for the Socialist Party about defeating imperialism. The second I was trying to get off the march into a quiet corner of Hyde Park because the Islamic ethno-religious sectarianism bothered me.

None of that reduces my opposition to an insane war which managed to do the unthinkable: establish an armed Al-Quaeda insurgency in Iraq. My abhorrence for Islamism has no effect on my abhorrence for the crass politics of invasion – which, for all that Ben might protest, originally cracked down on trade unions.

We should remember that the trade unionists who go missing in Iraq from day to day are kidnapped by the very same militias which we needed to put the country into some sort of order in the aftermath of the invasion. The Iraqi people are reaping what we sowed. I hated Saddam Hussein and the Iranians in equal measure, but this does not escape that the invasion has caused more problems than it solved – as was always going to be the case.

As many posts on my blog have addressed, there is a populist crowd which jumps from dictatorial opponent of the USA to dictatorial opponent. Characterising the many millions of people who marched against the war like that is not simple-mindedness, it’s intellectual dishonesty. That’s simply the inverse of each Trotskyist sect claiming the march was an explicit endorsement of itself alone.

How much of Iraq still doesn’t have regular access to water and electricity? With Turkey killing Kurds and Iran backing the Sadrists, with the Iraqi Army shown to be utterly ineffective, how long til we realise that the invasion was always going to snap the centripetal forces which held the country together, not in the interests of self-determination, but in the interests of local and not-so-local imperial interest?

Though I do not agree with the AWL on the matter, it might interest this person to know that the AWL do not support the slogan “Troops Out Now” because they believe that the troops are providing a window for the trade unions to grow up a little. As I said, I think that stems from a fundamental misinterpretation of the political machinations of the USA – but perhaps ‘Ben’ should consider that other Stoppers have different views from his narrow-minded caricatures.

They key to understanding the post at Harry’s Place is the unadulterated vitriol; phrases like ‘Stalinist miasma’ are not intended to be words of engagement, they are intended to shock and obfuscate the real issues at stake. Simply put, RESPECT doesn’t offer the socialist alternative that it would like to believe – but that does not at all impact the wider arguments against the war, for which no refutations have been offered.

I was and am proud to be a Stopper, and of the indecent sort who want the overthrow of capitalism coupled to the most democratic and representative system devised by human-kind. I am of the indecent sort who rejects the clichéd privilege which Ben represents and one of those against whom the supposed ‘decent’ intellectuals have always railed. I will remain so until someone convinces me otherwise – which Ben has categorically failed to do.

If we invade Iran, having not yet managed to finish up in either Iraq or Afghanistan, I wonder what such people will say then.

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About the author
David Semple is a regular contributor. He blogs at Though Cowards Flinch.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,Middle East ,Our democracy ,Trade Unions ,Westminster

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Reader comments


1. Innocent Abroad

There’s no meaningful sense in which Ben is part of the left. He’ll be voting Tory at the election after next. We’ve all seen his sort before, and we will see them again.

As to the morality of being a Stopper, I take the point about the fact that if you don’t want to keep dubious company on the question, you won’t take any position on it – or perhaps on anything – at all.

What’s worrying me at the moment is something slightly different. Take an ethnic group – any group – anywhere in the world, and see if it is comfortable with itself. If it is, it’s almost certainly because at some point in the past it has conquered the territory it lives in, and nobody has conquered it. It seems to me that the evidence is that self-respect is a consequence of the exercise of power. And as most people don’t have much power, so we get Freud’s famous “ordinary unhappiness”.

So, which is the left-wing programme? To promise people more power (and if so, at whose expense?) or to promote the breakage of the link between power and self-respect?

2. douglas clark

David,

You hated Iranians? Why, what had they ever done to you?

Excellent post.

I would also wonder why Harry’s Place, with their abhorrence of those who ‘opposed…democratic self-determination’, carry a picture of a suspicious looking gentleman who called King Fahd ‘a man of great vision and leadership’ who ‘served his country with the utmost dedication and dignity’. Galloway would blanche.

the SWP and their dalliances with Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the other insane Islamists

Instead of pandering to HP Sauce propaganda, you ought to aim for accuracy. The SWP is not in any ‘dalliance’ with the Hizb, and never has been. If you are referring to Respect, as you appear to be, the Hizb was one of the most hostile voices against that coalition. We have worked with members of the Muslim Association of Britain who were willing to participate in a left-wing platform, and with Islamic Forum Europe, a mixed bunch who support New Labour, the Lib Dems, whoever. None of the people we have worked with turned out to be insane, although they were to the right of us on some issues. Respect has sadly been split for some time between left- and right-wing factions. But while it was never in the position of being able to offer a full-blooded socialist programme, it was in its way the closest thing to a successful left-of-Labour coalition to exist in British politics. Unseating Labour in a heartland East London seat, and coming close to doing the same in Birmingham, is no small feat. And in all, I am proud to have been part of such a coalition, which was never the caricature depicted on HP Sauce and its periphery.

Incidentally, I wouldn’t be doing myself any favours if I didn’t plug my upcoming book on this ‘pro-war left’ ‘anti-stopper’ rabble:

http://www.versobooks.com/books/nopqrs/s-titles/seymour_r_the_liberal_defense_of_murder.shtml

You might find it useful for rebutting these nasty decents.

Crikey – are those “who want the overthrow of capitalism” now part of the liberal conspiracy?

And the site is now attracting someone who, apparently without irony, chooses to call himself “lenin”.

There’s a ‘decent’ line of assault if I ever heard one, although the old-fashioned term is McCarthyism. I am sure the author of this post will be happy to point out that he is not now, nor has he ever been, a communist.

8. Innocent Abroad

[5] Some of us have ironical noms de blog.

I’m sure your book is excellent, Richard, but the real trick is to get Slavoj Zizek to review it in the London Review of Books – well, he won’t review it, he’ll talk about his own ideas, but you know what I mean.

(Apologies if the attempt at italics failed.)

“Crikey – are those “who want the overthrow of capitalism” now part of the liberal conspiracy?”

That’s why it’s a conspiracy. It’s not actually liberal!

Liberal Conspiracy is a political magazine and discussion site in the form of a multi-author blog. It is intended to be a forum and resource for those who see themselves on the liberal-left.

Should that therefore now say simply “left”, or “hard left” or (cliche alert) “loony left”?

Should that therefore now say simply “left”, or “hard left” or (cliche alert) “loony left”?

wow, and you still haven’t got bored of repeating yourself every other comment on here cjcjc. Have to admire your cut and pasting skills.

Also, didn’t the Euston Manifesto have hard words for commentators who devoted undue ‘energy to criticism of political opponents at home’. I can’t believe that I signed that pious little document.

I can’t believe that I signed that pious little document.

It’s too your credit that you now realise that. But late than never eh? 😉

I’m not sure that I’d even read it at the time.

There’s something about political organisations that begin in obscure pubs…

Lenin,

I will purchase your book when it comes out – hopefully it’s as good as your blog when you’re on top form. Or better still, I should send you the money and you can send me a signed copy. When I’ve read it, I’ll take the subject up again with you. Perhaps with regard to Hizb-ut-Tahrir that is flawed editorial on my part, but too many of the Broad Left in the NUS – that is, of the SWP part of said left, are willing to stand pretty close to some nutty Muslims. I’m not Islamophobic – I dislike all religious nutters equally. Which is why I can also point out how close the SWP was to George “No Abortions” Gallows-Humour.

Everyone else:

I don’t hate Iranians, I dislike the Iranian government intensely for, among other things, its lack of democracy.

I would on several occasions have called myself a Communist, provided one makes the distinction between Communist and Stalinist. I would call myself that still if pressed, but I find labels to be inconvenient and inaccurate as they more often than not rely upon the perceptions of the person doing the labelling than the views of the person being labelled.

Very simple cjcjc. This is a forum for the liberal-left. Sometimes someone from the hard-left may post. Interaction and debate, and all that.. “Lenin” however doesn’t continually bomb each post this site makes with snide attacks. You do. All the time.Monotonously. Endlessly. In web parlance that’s called “trolling” dontchaknow. You are clearly of the conservative Right. Fair enough. If you came up with reasoned arguments against the posters on Liberal Conspiracy from a right-wing perspective, that would be fair enough too. You don’t. Instead, you turn up with increasingly yawnsome and facile quips around the use of the word “liberal”, which could generously be termed “arse-clenchingly pedantic” if you hadn’t already been continually informed why this left-liberal site is called why it is. You have been continuously informed of course. Either “eye-wateringly moronic” or “yobbishly abusive” is therefore closer to the mark.

In the meantime, I would respectfully suggest that unless cjcjcjcjcjcjcjcj makes a point even vaguely worth replying to, of which there has been no evidence as yet, that all posters should simply ignore him in future. I will never respond to the goading and neither should you. Have the debate without the gnat. Deal?

Give the guy a break, cjcjc is clearly a liberal of one sort or another, so I don’t think any bridges should be prematurely burnt.

cjcjc means well and wants to offer a valid critique, but I agree a tight leash is necessary to stop anybody veering off into overly digressive pedantry and alienating meaninglessness.

I will never respond to the goading and neither should you.

Doh!

You are clearly of the conservative Right

No. Definitely liberal I’m afraid.
Far more liberal than the likes of “lenin” I think you’ll find.

I’m fairly sure anyone who uses the term “loony left” loses the right to describe themselves as “liberal”. Or indeed, as “not a tit”.

It’s one of those phrases like “Islamofascist” or “fat cat” or “Zionist conspiracy”, which marks a commentator out as having nothing worthwhile to say…

Give the guy a break, cjcjc is clearly a liberal of one sort or another, so I don’t think any bridges should be prematurely burnt.

Labels count for squat here and Ben G is spot on. I don’t care if he’s a liberal or a national socialist. He doesn’t actually say anything useful apart from keep parroting the line that this website doesn’t follow what he thinks it should do. Its beyond inane its downright idiotic. He could simply be a bot who keeps repeating it endlessly. Hell, I have more respect for people like Matthew Sinclair and Bishop Hill who, though on the right, at least come here with substantive points to make!

cjcjcjcjcjc is like Morgoth, the man who’s answer to everything on Harry’s Place was to brand them an Islamofascist.

The HP guy makes a mistake, one that you repeat, though it’s more his than yours. A ‘Stopper’ is not anyone who didn’t support the Iraq War for any reason. A Stopper is the kind of person who swallows the SWP line, carries the ‘WORLD’S NUMBER ONE TERRORIST’ banner without any conception of what they’re actually saying, and totally unaware of or simply apathetic to any counterveiling arguments.Or the prize example is people like ‘Lenin’, who think that opposition to ‘neo-imperialism’ is the only thing to be concerned about in any given situation (you can save yourself the price of his book by repeating that to yourself about 2000 times).

People who looked at the situation and decided that, for whatever reason,military action against Saddam Hussein was not a priority, that it was unlikely to be successful, that the costs were likely to be too high, that the US government would make a pigs ear of it and Iraqis would have to live with the consequences etc are not Stoppers, they’re just anti-war, there is a difference.


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