Our subject this week has been Seumas Milne, Guardian columnist turned British Labour Party spokesman. Before we move on, a quick question: have you taken a good at his pictures? Yes, he’s handsome. But what about that look in his eyes? Is it just us, or – no, no, never mind.
Anyway, on to our final couple of points. We’ve already witnessed Milne’s readiness to stand up for Stalin in the face of criticism. But it’s worth underscoring that he gets especially worked up whenever anyone dares to mention Stalin’s name in the same breath as Hitler’s. This is a thread that runs throughout his work, but two examples will have to suffice.
First, in a 2002 article, Milne slammed Martin Amis’s new book Koba the Dread, a passionate polemic about the evils of Soviet Communism and the moral obloquy of its Western apologists. In response to Amis’s cogent indictment of the Kremlin dictator, Milne argued strenuously that Stalin was nowhere near as bad as Hitler: “Despite the cruelties of the Stalin terror, there was no Soviet Treblinka, no extermination camps built to murder people in their millions.”
No. But there was a deliberately engineered Ukrainian famine that took millions of lives; there was a policy of forced collectivization that also led to millions of deaths; and there was a national network of prisons, the Gulag, in which yet more millions perished. Unlike the Nazi death camps, the Gulag endured for decades; yet it has never received even a fraction of the attention in the West that has been devoted to Hitler’s atrocities.
Example #2. In a 2009 piece reacting to Niall Ferguson’s statement that Stalin was “as much an aggressor as Hitler,” Milne again rushed to Stalin’s defense, insisting that “Soviet and Russian acknowledgment of Stalin’s crimes already goes far beyond…any such apologies by Britain or France for the crimes of colonialism” and fervently denying that “Soviet repression reached anything like the scale or depths of Nazi savagery – or that the postwar ‘enslavement’ of eastern Europe can be equated with wartime Nazi genocide.” As part of his effort to whitewash Stalin, Milne shamelessly smeared some of the nations Stalin subjugated – namely, Poland and the Baltic republics – as Nazi allies and collaborators.
Enough. One last, unsavory detail: on top of everything else, Milne turns out to be a world-class hypocrite. While championing the public sector over the private, posing as a champion of working people, and cheering on totalitarian regimes that force “equality” on the proles at the point of a gun, Milne lives like any other man of privilege, luxuriating in a £2 million mansion in the exclusive London suburb of Richmond and sending his kids to a fancy private academy when there are at least four free public schools (note: we’re speaking American here) closer to home.
No wonder foreign correspondent Kate Godfrey was so exercised over Milne’s appointment. Addressing Corbyn directly in an article for the Independent, she asked:
How could you? How bloody could you? How could you appoint Seumas Milne to be your voice, your eyes, your hands?…Mr Corbyn, you say that you want to listen to us, the people; and then you pick Seumas Milne – the one journalist who always knows better than the people who were there….You pick a man who never heard an opinion that he didn’t filter; a truth that he didn’t dismiss as an orthodoxy, or a story of pain on which he didn’t have superior information.
Citing her own background reporting from places like Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Algeria, Lebanon, Yemen, and so on, Godfrey wrote:
I’ve seen a bit bloody more than Mr Winchester-and-Balliol Milne. And yet, it is Seumas Milne who is the expert on foreign affairs. And although, somehow, his is always the foreign affairs of dictators misjudged, and chemical weapons unused — of pure ideology and never people.
Godfrey’s conclusion: “The decision to appoint Seumas Milne devalues everything that Labour stands for, and everything that Labour is. It is morally and ethically wrong.”
We couldn’t agree more.