Drawing clear lines

Today’s battles

1. The Popular Front has been one of the great dead ends of the socialist movement. Today, a terrible version of it has emerged in the NO2EU electoral front in the UK, an alliance of Stalinists and Stalinoid trade union hacks with the most reactionary Little Englanders, with a smattering of anorak left groupuscules to give it some hard left legitimacy. Reminiscent of some of the dangerous alliances created by the Communist Party of Great Britain in the 1930s, when they allied with reactionary war-mongerers simply because they were anti-Nazi.  Yourfriendinthenorth neatly analyzes No2Eu here.

2. Historically, the flipside to the “anti-Nazi” Popular Front was (objectively pro-Nazi) pacifism. The argument for pacifism has recently been made by Nicholson Baker in Human Smoke. As mentioned already, Max Dunbar has been taking up the metaphorical cudgels against Baker (here, then here and then here). Terry Glavin has taken note:

I’m happy to see that Max Dunbar has now joined Anne Applebaum, William Grimes, Adam Kirsch and others in helpfully rubbishing Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke for being an ahistorical apologia for pacifism. Baker’s efforts at redeeming pacifism’s ill-deserved reputation in the context of the Second World War appear to follow exactly the same lines as Mark Kurlansky’s Nonviolence: Twenty-Five Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea, which I was happy to rubbish a while back.

George Orwell was there, of course, long before us, when he noticed that pacifism is “a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security.” Will I still be able to refer approvingly to Orwell’s many expressions of contempt for the bourgeoisie if the Liberal Party proceeds with granting the CHRC its greater powers?

You have to read the whole post for that last sentence to make sense, so please do.

3. The pacifist tradition that Baker and Kurlansky inherit is not an ignoble tradition. In the UK, its home was, for many decades, the Independent Labour Party. I have a lot of respect for the ILP and its heritage. Ken Coates is the contemporary figure who probably most represents the political tradition of the ILP. Over the years I’ve been influenced considerably by Ken Coates, his humanist socialism, his advocacy for workers’ control, his sense of industrial democracy as an extension of the republican liberties fought for by the likes of Tom Paine. However, in his little magazine, The Spokesman, I have long noted an unpleasant drift towards sloppy conspirationist thought, anti-American hysteria, a “New World Order” mentality. Habibi at Harry’s Place nails this trend, and shows how it spills over into very unpleasant antisemitic territory.

After the fold: Historical Notes, From the Archive of Struggle, Book notes, Blog notes.

Blog notes and periodical notes

Historical notes

From the archive of struggle, no.12

Book notes

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Via a thread on Hitchens at

    Another review of the wretched Nicolson Baker, by democratic socialist rum drinker and Orwell fan, Ian Williams,
    http://deadlinepundit.blogspot.com/search?q=Buchanan Books discussed in this essay:

    Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost its Empire and the West Lost the World
    By Patrick Buchanan
    Crown, 544 pages, $29.95

    Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization,
    By Nicholson Baker
    Simon & Schuster, 576 pages, $30

    Chamberlain and the Lost Peace
    By John Charmley
    Ivan R. Dee, 257 pages, $27.95 (clothbound 1989)

    Churchill: the End of Glory: A Political Biography
    By John Charmley
    Harcourt, 742 pages, $34.95 (clothbound 1993)

    1940: Myth and Reality
    By Clive Ponting
    Ivan R. Dee, 273 pages, $24.95 (clothbound 1991)

    Armageddon: The Reality Behind the Distortions: Myths, Lies, Illusions of World War II
    By Clive Ponting
    Random House, 376 pages, $27.50 (clothbound 1995)

  2. good post

  3. […] Poumista: Drawing Clear Lines […]

  4. […] Green Stalinist? I don’t tend to use this site for real time political polemics (see here for a rare example), However, I followed the recommendation from Socialist Unity for the new issue […]

  5. […] I once wrote this about Ken Coates: The pacifist tradition that Baker and Kurlansky inherit is not an ignoble […]

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