Sunday, August 05, 2007

Placing Harry

In the last item I posted, I was critical of the standard of debate in the comment box at "Harry's Place". So what have I been doing since, but contributing to these very debates here and here. Others will have to judge about the standards.


ModernityBlog said...

funny, but afterwards of I was a bit critical of my own comments, but in defence I feel that a fair few commenters at HP do not post in good faith and that causes disputes

an example was the "anti-imperialist crowd" at HP, happy to support the resistance when it is killing trade unionists, bombing street markets or firing mortars at Americans, but unwilling to see the contradictions between the two points, and they not prepared to admit openly how dishonest it is to support the resistance and then occasionally cheer on trade unionists in Iraq, if it suits them

it is posture politics and needs to be pointed out

Perhaps you could open a group at Facebook? And start the debate again?

Harry Barnes said...

Modernityblog, you are testing my PC skills somewhat. I am not even sure what a Facebook is. I will have to talk to my son who is my IT expert.

A problem arises in that many are polarised into two opposing camps. At the extremes are (1) anti-imperialists with a tendency to see anything that is anti-Western as justified, whilst (2) the anti-fascists see anything that faces up to terrorism as justified. Yet we need an approach that is influenced by both an anti-imperialism AND an anti-fascism. And which also stands for some positive values (To me democracy and socialism).This needs to recognise that there is much about say America on the one hand and say Islam on the other, that we can side with. Although we have to be highly selective. The complexities of having a foot in both camps is that you are seen as a traitor to both by lacking their fixed positions. It leads to what others perceive as odd behaviour. So I was on the platform of the launch of Labour Against the War, but some time after the invasion resigned because it only saw the anti-imperialist side of things. So I became a traitor to the cause with assumptions that I must have joined the pro-invasion camp - which I had not.

Alec said...

Traitors, all three of us, then. It may sound counter-intuitive, but I blame the "anti-war (sic) movement" for allowing the war to go ahead. It was initially a genuine mass movement - crossing political, ethnic, age, class divides - which was hijacked by middle-class vanguards as well as crackpots and entriests and racists. Even had it been the final three, without the self-regard and need to be in the limelight of the first bunch - Mr Pooters and Mrs Jellybys - a counter attack could have been arranged and regained Manor Farm.

So, there was no sensible organized opposition to the war: just ulterior agenda and rhetoric every bit as ridiculous as the public case for war. Those wretched “Not In My Name” badges, for one. So, the war ground on in Iraq without sensible criticism. Just a bunch of monstrous egos bashed it out back home, both demanding absolute loyalty.

David Kelly (who believed Saddam was hiding something) and the Hutton Report, on one side. On the other, the disgusting campaign at one point against the Iraq Body Count site because it didn’t give a sufficiently high toll - I remember John Pilger describing it as being complicit with the Occupation. Really nasty pieces of work.

Alec said...

I'll add, Harry, you would have encountered the inner political organizers during your support for the Kosovo intervention. Then and before, while Milosevic was arranging tens of thousands of racist murders of Muslims (and others), they were likely arguing for him because he was "anti-imperialist".

Now, about face, they've found their Muslim friendly credentials. I have no shame in saying just how much contempt I hold them in.

Harry Barnes said...

Modernityblog, Benn in his Diary wrote "we went to the Commons and we had the Campaign Group entirely devoted to Kosova....Harry Barnes, who favours the war, gave a long convoluted story about being in a better position to criticise the Government because he supported the war. He is a very muddled man".

TheIrie said...

[ I'm repeating this from a post I made on HP, and which wasn't answered - it is a serious question, I'd appreciate a serious answer.]

On the TUC website is a statement from the Iraqi trade Unions, the first point being "1. Rejection of the occupation in all its forms and with all its consequences."

In the Guardian its reported that Hassan Juma'a Awad said this:

"We as a union call for the withdrawal of foreign occupation forces and their military bases. We don't want a timetable - this is a stalling tactic. We will solve our own problems. We are Iraqis, we know our country and we can take care of ourselves. We have the means, the skills and resources to rebuild and create our own democratic society.",3604,1417222,00.html

Therefore, how can one claim to support the Iraqi Trade Unions, if one is not actively opposed to the US occupation. When they list their goals, the number one, first goal, is an end to the occupation. You could say, I support the Trade Unions in all but there most important of demands - I'm sure they really appreciate that kind of support. Or, if your serious, you could recognise that we in the West and actually in a far stronger position to act on their most pressing of demands than they are. For, it is we who have some form of democratic influence over the US occupation of Iraq - not them. Then, all talk of support is completely hollow, unless you are going to active try to provide them with the kind of help they are desperately asking for. They are risking their lives, quite literally, for this cause. For us in the West, we risk merely a bit of verbal abuse. This is inexcusable.

Harry - are you opposed to the US occupation of Iraq, as the Unions very clearly are? Isn't the best way to support the Iraqi Unions to help them in the sphere over which we have more influence than them - namely ending the occupation?

Harry Barnes said...

Theirie, I answered you at HP at 2.59 pm. This was 3 hours and 47 minutes after you raised your points. As I went shopping, had lunch and washed up, I could not have responded any quicker. I don't live near my PC all the time. Sometimes, I even go on demonstrations.

ModernityBlog said...

I would completely agree as you concerning the extremes

you put your finger on when you said "antifascist"

I opposed the war but was alarmed at the content of the "anti-war" movement, simple slogans, little content and a desire to hijack the issue for wider purposes

It is a great pity (as Alec writes so eloquently) that the biggest mass movement in 60 years (?) in Britain is lost to political cranks and extremists, whereas it could have been the foundation for a wide radical political mass movement, very sad, a great chance missed

I have read most of the Benn diaries, I thought they were great entertainment, his judgements are very strange at times (look at his time in power and the decision on nuclear power, he blames civil servants, if I remember well)

which Benn diary did he write that?

Harry Barnes said...

This is my response at Harry's Place to TheIrie's question -

TheIrie, sorry I have been out shopping. The shops are just a minute away from my home.

(1) Coalition forces in Iraq operate a very mixed role. They stimulate opposition, yet offer some sort of protection against terrorism. They could be replaced by troops from Islamic nations (other than from nations bordering Iraq). The wealthier nations in say the G8, would need to provide the funding via the United Nations - so US money would need to be forthcoming, whilst looking for ways in which the piper did not play the tune. The Iraqi Parliament would need to accept this alternative. For whilst the Iraqis did not asked us to invade them, they should have the say over the terms of our removal.
(2) There is also a need to remove the 2nd largest foreign force in Iraq. These are mercenaries provided by private security firms. These could be removed at the same time as the Coalition troops. In the meanwhile urgent action needs to be taken by the UK and other Governments (along with Iraq's) to control the operations of firms which are subject to their authority.

I believe that these are the practical avenues for troop withdrawals which we can press in the West, which would meet the demands of the Iraqi Trade Unions. How would TheIrie and others remove foreign troops, whilst seeking to cater for the consequences of their proposals?

Harry Barnes said...

Modernityblog, it was from "Free At Last!" (1991-2001). Tony was a neighbouring MP. The Constituency I represented lapped around his at Chesterfield in a "C" shape. We once had a debate in front of a joint Constituency meeting on Northern Ireland, but it is edited out of the diaries. Basically he was pro-Sinn Fein when they were into para-military activity and I was against them. So I have been into these matters over the years. Just as I helped set up "Labour Friends of Iraq", the same occured on Northern Ireland over a group which became "New Dialogue". Plus work with the pre-established "Peace Train". There are, of course key differences as well as similarities.

Alec said...

A) Is Benn not almost old enough to be your father?

B) Did he not once appear to blame Chamberlain for WWII? (We allowed militarism and one day woke up to be at war.)

C) Have the toothpicks of the anti-war movement dislodged even one piece of food?

D) Smack Irie's botty with your slipper.

TheIrie said...

Harry - Sorry for my impatience. I appreciate your answer.

Harry Barnes said...

Alec, Tony was only 11 when I was born and 14 when WW2 broke out. If he had been my father then my son would probably now be a Cabinet Minister. A luckly escape he will feel. If I get to the Iranian Embassy demo, I will go in my in my slippers.

But seriously TheIrie, our civilised debate continues at HP.

ModernityBlog said...

thanks harry, I will look it up when I find my copy, which could be in a box in the garage or upstairs

I think many people will try to explain away Benn's views in political terms but I think part of it is psychology, he likes to play the iconoclastic antihero after his quest for power was thwarted.

I'm sure you as an MP have met many of these characters, and what they do when they have power is entirely different than when they are without, IMHO

did you ever read the Paxman book on politicians/politicos? I think one of his conclusions was that people who are seriously involved/interested in politics are a bit strange (present company excluded, of course)

I wonder how much of the Benn diaries have been sanitised?

Harry Barnes said...

Modernityblog, the important Socialist Campaign Group meeting I describe here with only 7 of us present does not appear in the published version of Benn's Diaries -

I haven't read Paxman. Met his brother once. He is a diplomat! Michael Meacher fits your pattern.

Here is a quote from Ian Aitken from Tribune 22.9.06 - A youthful Tony Benn who had been a pupil at Oxford with Tony Crosland said "that he needed to shed the stigma of intellectualism now he had been elected to Parliament." To which Crosland replied "You'd better acquire the stigma before you start worrying about shedding it." I suppose this tells us something about both Tonys.

I am afraid I was always more of an old Bevanite than a Bennite. Although Nye might also be seen as fitting your psychological profile at the end. Under Blair,
thankfully there was never any chance of people like me being put to the test.

ModernityBlog said...

the Paxman book, the Political Animal : An Anatomy is a good read

I well remember the daily express cartoons of Wilson, Benn and Healy portrayed as stooges of Moscow, then antihero halo of Benn adopted by some on the Left

I am not one for hero worship, so I have found people's attitude towards Benn to be peculiar

to be honest I like people that actually do something so I have a soft spot for Clement Atlee

I should read up more on Nye, but his struggles creating the NHS are more than enough for one man

there seems to be a peculiar, occasionally cult like, admiration for certain individuals in politics, look at the circus around Tony Blair (history will be very harsh to him I suspect) or Galloway and his indoctrinated supporters

this whole alpha male adoration is decidedly unhealthy, in my view

PS: I have included something on my blog about Facebook, I think you'll like Facebook

it doesn't require any software to be installed just a browser (like the one you're using to read this text)

Harry Barnes said...

Modernityblog, I have linked to your Facebook item so that I can return to it. For I might take a week off soon from blogging matters.

Clem is said to have wanted Nye to follow him as leader. Nye shattered those of us who were unilateralists when he told the Party that we could "not go naked into the Conference Chamber". But, he had done more than enough for the Left to dismiss him. Michael Foot's 2 volumes are, of course, the classic on Bevan. I have a few spare copies of a 43 page pamphlet by David Howell entitled "The Rise and Fall of Bevanism", which was published by the ILP. It isn't dated. But was probably printed in the early 1980s. I used to run an ILP stall at Chesterfield May Day -in the pre-Benn days.

ModernityBlog said...

sorry I didn't mean to be mean about the ILP web site (I assumed that you were connected to them!) but it does them a disservice, eg. a poor site is a bit like handing in an essay written in faint smudged pencil, when it could have easily been wordprocessed, nice tidy and readable

if they need a few pointers in updating their website, please ask. I like people to make full use of technology, it ain't hard, just unfamiliar and I think most people can pick it up with a bit of application

on Nye and the ILP, could you recommend some scholarly books (aside from Michael Foot!) on those topics?

I have forsworn partisan books, wherever possible, and tend to normally go for leading historians, as bought so much crap in the past my books shelves are growing under the dross

Enjoy your break

Harry Barnes said...

Modernityblog, I agree that the ILP web-site is poor. I am not as fully involved with them as I was from the mid 70s to the mid 80s, but I will raise it with them later.

I feel that Michael Foot has put off other serious work on Nye Bevan. I will, however, check with a friend and former University colleague who is involved with the Society for the Study of Labour History. There should at least be someone who is undertaking serious research.

I am, however, now signing off until around next Tuesday.