The Early Days of a Better Nation

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Muscular Marxism?

The other night I dreamt that I'd asked the folks at SiaAoW to meet me down the pub. Which I guess shows: (1) I should get out more, and (2) my subconscious must still be fairly fraternal towards them, despite their recent (scroll down) burchilling [*] of this post. The latter may be because I'd always prefer to read a punchy polemic against ideas I hold than a dull defence or clunky statement of them. (Over the years this frivolous penchant has dragged me into, and kicked me out of, countless curiosities.) The substance of their criticism is:

(1) That by banging on about the less than accurate threat assessment widely and loudly proclaimed before the war, I'm snootily underestimating the intelligence of the people who supported, and fought in, the war.

(2) That by pointing to the possibility of things going very badly in Iraq, I'm indulging in Cassandra-like predictions of doom, for the sheer malicious pleasure of looking forward to saying 'I told you so' if they turn out to be true.

(3) That both of these betray my position as out-of-touch lefty radical, compensating for the disappointment of earlier fervent expectations by scorning the working class for not being revolutionary and cursing the capitalist system for not obliging me by collapsing in conformity to some now-faded perspectives document.

Well, that's not how I see myself, but if that's the impression I give, it's my own damn fault, and one I intend to correct. Seeing yourself on CCTV can often do more to make you straighten up your posture than seeing yourself in the mirror.

Who are these guys? Their main site, BICEPS (acronymed for their former incarnation as the British Institute for Contemporary Economic and Political Science) contains a lot of material which is interesting whether you agree with it or not (that frivolity again) but no ideological genealogy. First impressions might suggest some Colletts'-back-room joy-of-sects episode resulting in a bizarre cross-fertilization of the SPGB and B&ICO with a dash of genetic modification from the RCP, but this is surely false, and hardly relevant. What matters isn't where they come from, but where they are, and where they're going. Given that they can argue with a straight face that the Iraq war was (among other blessings) defensive because it helped secure Western oil supplies, and that they're broad-minded about possible future Western military intervention in China, one wonders whether they shouldn't rethink their retrospective opposition to such past adventures as, say, Suez, Aden and Vietnam. In an Internet cafe by a virtual Lake Geneva, some unknown disciple of Lenin may already be writing the definitive dissection: 'The nascent trend of imperialist Deutscherism'[**]. I'd read it. But I'd also go on reading SiaAoW, because it's interesting and well-written. Confusing strong writing with solid reasoning is a known weakness of the political-journalism junkie, and political journalists know it. The world-view that Julie Burchill (back in the day) parleyed out of a girlie pash for Stalin and soldiers may have been as reprehensible as it was lightminded. But how we laughed.

[*] You figure it out.
[**] Ibid.


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